By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
The fact that we ourselves are bracketed in time makes us want to see that span - a generation - as terribly important to who we are. Projecting that onto others as well, we tend to see people as products of their generation. That is the frame of mind that leads us to draw conclusions about what older jurors and younger jurors are like. In the case of the younger jurors, the stereotype-driven reaction might be something like this:
Great, here is a juror with an attention span of two minutes. They'll have a sense of personal entitlement, but a sphere of moral concern extending only to themselves, their friends, and their favorite celebrities. They'll be cynical and distrustful of every representative of "authority" including me and this court. They'll love technology but even if I could use holographic projections as demonstratives, they'd still believe that they have better technology in their own pocket. And they'll feel a need to post, tweet, check-in, follow, like and share on that device roughly every two minutes. They'll devote less mental attention to this case than to their latest piercing or tattoo because the claims, the law, and the broader notions of "justice" aren't personally relevant. Ultimately, me, my client, and this case will be about the most boring thing they've done all day.
While your own perceptions may be different, many of those elements are shared when it comes to thinking about younger jurors. But there is a problem when it comes to perceptions and stereotypes: They can be compelling, particularly when they're formed on the basis of your own experience, but that doesn't make them reliable. Effective litigators and other persuaders should work hard to set aside stereotypes in order to deal with the true target. To the greatest extent possible, our analysis of our audience should be based on data and not assumptions. In this post, I review a bit of what is believed and known (mostly believed) about the newcomers to the venire and provide some ideas on the best ways to communicate across the generational divide.