By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
“The whole problem with the world,” according to an adage attributed to Bertrand Russell, “is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.” Reading the comments sections in just about any online magazine, it is easy to see those confident extremists. There is something about positioning yourself to the outside of public opinion, either left or right, that conveys a certainty: a belief that you’ve seen a truth that’s eluded the majority. That certainty can be a strength, and it may be an explanation for why, in the political arena, those who get the most buzz are often at the edges, and there may never be a galvanizing and charismatic centrist.
When watching mock jury deliberations, that connection between extreme views and confident advocacy is often on full display. Those with leanings at the poles (the “one’s” or the “seven’s” as we measure their leanings on a Likert scale), are often brimming with confidence, ending up as the most vocal and influential jurors. And research confirms this link between extremism and confidence. But, interestingly, a new study covered in Psychological Science (Brandt, Evans, & Crawford, 2014) suggests that there may be psychological benefits to this extremism that extend beyond just confidence. Those who are on the extremes, the researchers show, are also more resistent to psychological biases – anchoring in this case – apparently because they are more confident in their own judgment. This post takes a look at what this research means to our understanding of leadership within a jury.