Which food additive do think is more dangerous?

  • #1–Hnegripitrom, or
  • #2—Magnalroxate

If you said #1, then you are like a high percentage of people in a series of studies on cognitive fluency. Actually, both “additives” are fictitious, but #1 is harder to pronounce (more complex), so it gets the bad rap for being the more dangerous.

Complexity = “bad” in the minds of jurors.

There are some very well done studies on cognitive fluency that directly relate to your presentation to a jury. Things like:

◊  Trying to impress with fancy language and complex sentences never worked in school and, by the way, makes jurors rate you as less intelligent (Oppenheimer, 2005).

    • LESSON:  keep your language simple and to the point. One idea per sentence—a noun and a verb

◊  Fluent speaking allows for effortless thinking. We think and decide in two basic ways—slow and analytical or quick and effortless (“intuition”). Make your argument easy for jurors to follow and they will do so automatically. When jurors have to analyze what you say there is no telling what will happen to their decision (Alter, et al, 2007).

    • LESSON:  “do their thinking for them” by removing their need to analyze. Provide the “why” when explaining behavior—the motivation for an act. This is the number one thing jurors want to know and it is the last thing attorneys usually provide. Motivation is not a fact, it is the reason a fact appeared. If you do not provide a motivation, I guarantee the jury will make one up—one that is unlikely to be the one you want them to have.

◊  A hesitation improves memory. Most spoken language is filled with dysfluencies (just read a depo transcript!). Corley, et al (2007) found that speeches with few to no dysfluencies were rated as more intelligent and informative. In addition, they also found that when a speaker hesitates, the next word out of their mouth is remembered better than when that same word is embedded within a fluent sentence. 

    • LESSON:  Rehearse your openings well to remove the “umms” and “uhs,” but also find a few spots where you can build in a hesitation, then follow with the key word to make it memorable. “The claims adjuster right there on the spot said the damage was . . . covered.”


None of this means you have to “dumb down” your presentation to jurors. Actually, making the complex simple is very . . . complex. But, I know you can do it.

The jury will tell you how much they appreciate your efforts by thinking (and deciding) your way.


“In simplicity lies beauty and the human mind finds it difficult to resist.”  ~Cicero

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