by: Dr. Kevin Boully
Can tales of survival in extreme conditions inform your next jury trial?
Employment jurors are uniquely different from jurors in nearly every other case type. Each brings a level of expertise to jury service that jurors in other case types typically cannot: personal experiences as employees that they directly apply to the facts of the dispute. Some experiences (e.g. supervisory experience, past terminations, education level) are more influential than others.
Chart from Persuasion Strategies 2009 National Juror Survey, n=500.
Cognitive psychology shows us that past experiences help jurors create mental models of how interactions ought to occur – essentially generalized expectations for what should transpire in a given set of circumstances. Employment jurors are consistently displeased if an employer’s behavior, when dealing with an employee, violates their mental models of that interaction. A recent employee termination mock juror argued firmly against a defendant company whose conduct in the process of an employee termination failed to follow the steps of the process she had in mind. Her model, based on her own experience, was her template for ideal conduct and the standard by which she judged the defendant.
None of this is surprising, but when I recently finished reading a handful of books on survival and surviving extreme conditions, I got to thinking about how survival psychology applies to juror decision-making.