100 Milliseconds Is All It Takes

From the Mediation Matters Blog of Steve Mehta.

There is a common feeling amongst trial lawyers that the first moments of a trial are often the most important. Indeed, there is research that shows that the jury has made its mind up in voir dire. Well new research suggests that people make decisions very quickly and often those decisions are not on the merits; but instead on other superficial factors.

According to researchers Christopher Olivola from University College London and Alexander Todorov from Princeton University, voters’ choices are heavily influenced by superficial, nonverbal cues, such as politicians’ appearance. People such as voters (or in trials, a jury) make decisions about candidates’ (or parties’) competence based on their facial appearance. The researchers were able to reliably predict outcomes of votes based on facial appearances of the participants.

The researchers also addressed the fact that appearance is most likely to influence less knowledgeable voters who watch a lot of television. In essence the researchers discussed that because voters (or the case of a jury, the jurors) need to navigate their way through volumes of information about the candidate or the party, it is not surprising that they take unconscious “mental shortcuts” to make their final decision.

Based on a computer model, the researchers were able to manipulate the appearance of candidates, which affected the votes regarding competence. They found that facial maturity and physical attractiveness are the two main criteria used by participants to make competence judgments.

Olivola and Todorov explained that “Getting people to overcome the influence of first impressions will not be an easy task. The speed, automaticity, and implicit nature of appearance-based trait inferences make them particularly hard to correct. Moreover, often people don’t even recognize that they are forming judgments about others from their appearances.”

This research could be very helpful in understanding how juries may make their decisions. Just like voters, the jury has a huge amount of information to sift through in order to make its decision. There are already studies that show that the more attractive a person is the more likely that the jury will vote for that person. Moreover, studies have also shown that the more attractive people get higher verdicts.

In that light it is also helpful to explain this process to a party during mediation. The more that the parties realize that the trial process is less about the merits and more about a beauty contest, the more likely they will not want a jury to make the final decision regarding the supposed merits.

                        author

Steve Mehta

Steven G. Mehta is an attorney and mediator providing unique mediation services in a variety of types of civil litigation. His ability to understand the human process and complex emotional issues involved in legal negotiations enables him to effectively assist the parties in obtaining the best possible results during mediation.… MORE >

Featured Mediators

ad
View all

Read these next

Category

Los Angeles County Jails to Introduce Mediation

The last time you heard news from the Los Angeles County Jail, it had to do with Paris Hilton's claustrophobia.  Today, we bring you less sizzling but perhaps more important...

By Victoria Pynchon
Category

The Truth about Pirate Jenny –why revenge doesn’t solve workplace resentments

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine SegalWhen you feel like you’ve been wronged or treated unfairly at work it’s very natural to have resentments and perhaps a desire for revenge. Feeling...

By Lorraine Segal
Category

Online Dispute Resolution

Recently I had a conversation with someone in regards to Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) and how the person thought it had less human interaction compared to traditional ADR methods. I...

By Jeff Thompson

Find a Mediator

X
X
X