Persuasion in Jury Selection
In jury trials, the lawyers begin each case with the process of selecting the jurors. In theory, these jurors are supposed to be representative of the larger community, much like a good, random sample in an experiment. The lawyers are allowed to question each juror, in an attempt to remove any individuals who might possess personal bias against either side. Once again, theoretically, this seems like a pragmatic approach for justice. However, it should be obvious, by the mere fact that there is a whole career field for psychologists as jury selection advisors, that some sort of abuse is occurring within the process. Perhaps more than any other area of Psychology, the Social realm emphasizes the vulnerability of the human mind to outside influences. Add to this natural predisposition in susceptibility of thought the persuasive appeal of an authority figure like a lawyer and it is seems highly probable that some sort of effect will manifest itself in the jurors' decisions.
Lawyers freely admit that for them, the success of their voir dire performance and the outcome of the selection process, is the most important determinant of a ruling in their client's favor, throughout the entire proceedings. Their voir dire allotment of time provides them with an opportunity to not only begin their case presentation to the jury, but also to use it as an opportunity for persuasion. One recorded study that surveyed a large range of jury selection, found that lawyers spent only around twenty-percent of their given time in attempts to identify and remove potentially biased jurors. The majority of their efforts and time remarking on "points of law, warning the panel about weaknesses in the case, and generally ingratiating themselves with the jurors."
A particular technique utilized, that of specific word choice within loaded questions, is interestingly enough, a factor in psychological research as well. Whereas in psychology, it is...
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