By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
HBO's Game of Thrones is one of many shows that play on the ambiguity of characters who are not clearly good or evil. The Jaime Lannister who pushed young Bran Stark off a tower to his expected death on the stones below is the same Jaime Lannister who risked his life to rescue Brienne of Tarth from the bear pit. That same mix of kindness and evil colors other characters, like the Hound and Petyr Baelish.... Okay, I watch too much Game of Thrones. But that tendency to mix up the positives and the negatives has, not just a long history in literature and drama, but a long history in the real stories that make their way through our courtrooms. It is relatively rare when your client is able to wear the white hat without a spot of black, and equally rare when the other side's black hat doesn't at least contain a few shades of gray.
Some people have a problem coping with that kind of ambiguity and some don't. A recent study (Lomranz & Benyamini, 2015) gives a name to that coping ability and a scale to measure it. "Aintegration" is defined as "The human faculty to bear cognitive and emotional complexity, complex worldviews, to conceive and live with inconsistencies, discontinuities, incongruence, relativism, asynchronization, the absurd and paradox." It contrasts with "integration," which is a central part of the way we think, working our way through the world, relying on our ability to combine a very diverse set of stimuli into one coherent, consistent, and complete view of the world. It is what we're making when we are making sense. Only that tendency varies based on attitude and life experience. Some cope by wrestling those disparate facts into a (sometimes false or wishful) consistency (Jaime Lannister is really good...or bad), and others are okay simply living with the incongruence (Jaime Lannister is a complex character). Those with the later tendency are measurably higher in aintegration. Now, I have to confess that I am not sure whether you pronounce that as "a-integration" or "ain't-igration" -- probably the former, though the latter has an appeal. But either way, this ability to hold contradictions without feeling tension is an attitude that is likely to bear on how jurors react to your case. In this post, I will take a look at the concept and share some thoughts on when you would want to look for it in voir dire.