THREE HELPFUL PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY
Thought for the day:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for any purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw Man and Superman
Here are three principles of psychology which can be helpful to you in trial.
Reciprocity refers to motivation to make a response to an action towards us. If the action directed towards you is positive there is a compulsion to respond with an equally positive reaction. if the action was negative or hostile, then there is a motivation to respond in the same way. This aspect of human nature is so strong that a person feels obligated to return a favor regardless of whether they like the person who originally did the favor or didn’t even want the favor in the first place. Psychologist Robert Chialdini in his book Influence, discusses examples where simple acts create a feeling of obligation in the receiver to respond. This is why we receive in the mail small gifts as part of an advertising or charitable giving effort by trying to invoke the reciprocity principle. This principle of reciprocity is powerful and built into our human nature at an unconscious level. In jury selection the principle of reciprocity works for us when we share something about ourselves before we ask a juror to share something about themselves with us. Human nature motivates the juror to respond in kind by sharing information which they might not have shared honestly.
The psychological principal of anchoring is well known in widely used by businesses and corporations. When we see the McDonald’s logo we do not have to have also see the name to know what it stands for. Through continuous repetition of the logo and the name in advertisements, it has become connected in a way it does not requirem it to be spelled-out. Advertising jingles or slogans can work in the same way by connecting to an automatic mental response or feeling. We can connect an object or symbol to a thought, name or feeling through the concept of anchoring. For example, if we had a picture of a wrecked automobile and we held it up to the jury and the said that the photo proves the driver was speeding, it is possible to anchor that idea to the photograph. It can be done by holding the photograph in exactly the same way, while standing in the same place, and speaking the same words in the same way several times over a period of time. Once it is anchored, all that one has to do is hold the photograph in exactly the same way while standing in the same place without saying anything and the jurors will automaticaly think words we previously used or the thought conveyed.
The psychological principal of commitment is also well-known among marketing and advertising experts. We have built in to our human nature a need to be consistent. Research has shown the great lengths people will go to to be consistent. One of the byproducts of this part of our human nature deals with our public positions. For example, when we have taken a position publicly we are loath to change our position. In jury selection, a juror who assures the lawyer or a judge about a commitment, as for example to follow the law is given by the court, that juror is very unlikely to make a contrary argument or take a contrary position in the jury room. The juror has an unconscious need to stay consistent and be consistent. While we are ordinarily prohibited from asking jurors to make promises it is possible to explore publicly their positions on important issues to our advantage and by their expressing their position out loud, and making it very difficult for them to change their mind later. This principal is particularly useful when we are planning to challenge a juror for cause by getting their commitment regarding their bias expressed out loud. They are unlikely to change their position under additional questioning by the judge or opponent when done correctly.