Tag Archives: attention

Why Jurors Often Fail to Understand What’s Important…Even When It’s Obvious


By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

Before you read any further, watch the above 1 minute and 41 second video, which will provide incredible insights into your trial presentation strategy as discussed below.

Did you pass or fail? As they tell you in the video, almost half of all of the people who watch this video (and have not seen it before) fail the test by not seeing the gorilla. Even more interesting, we learn that even those who have seen this kind of experiment before (and expect something odd to happen) failed to notice the second change, which was the color of the curtain in the background.

Your first reaction may have been that this is an interesting little party trick kind of experiment that you can forward along to your friends, but upon further glance, this experiment provides critical insights into what happens at trial as jurors listen to your case presentation. Describing this experiment, Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman noted that “intense focusing on a task can make people effectively blind, even to stimuli that normally attract attention.” Continue reading

Boring Jurors to Death in Your Witness Examinations

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By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.

A while back I was interrupted by a doorbell as I was telling a group of friends a particularly riveting story. Once the person had left, I waited for someone to ask me, “What happened then?” I mean – weren’t they all dying to hear the rest?  Turns out, the answers was no. The conversation resumed, but no one seemed to remember that I was in the middle of a story.  Now, this doesn’t happen to me very often, so I of course stewed about it and tried to come up with a justifiable reason why they weren’t interested. All I could come up with was the painful truth – no one cared.

This situation stuck with me and since then I pay attention to what happens when someone is interrupted during a story: Do people ask questions to get the story-teller to continue? Does the conversation move on with no one remembering that someone was in the middle of a story? Does the story-teller take up where they left off even though no one seems to care? What I noticed in my non-scientific investigation is that it is fairly rare that someone asks the story-teller a question to get them to continue – the story must be particularly intriguing, or was only missing the big finale. When the person continues without being asked, most of the time you can sense the disinterest as people politely let the person finish. Often, everyone simply forgets someone was telling a story and they move to the next subject. Continue reading

Jury Duty is So Much More Boring Than You Realize (And How It Impacts Your Presentation Strategy)

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By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

It finally happened this past week. I was called for jury duty. I have spent my entire adult life studying jury behavior and decision-making. I spent years in graduate school and wrote a dissertation on juror sense-making to receive my Ph.D. in legal communication and psychology. I’ve read thousands of studies on juries. I’ve worked in the field for over a decade. I’ve watched hundreds of mock juries deliberate. Yet, I had never been called for jury duty.

There were many surprising things about the experience, but most surprising were the distractions and the boredom. I know jury duty can make life difficult for jurors. I know jurors sit around and wait a lot. I know the process can be quite boring. Yet, before this experience, I had not appreciated the reality of it. Continue reading