By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm -
Judges, arbitrators, mediators: legally trained and neutral minds, without the juror's baggage of selective perception, predisposition, and bias, right? Not really. In the previous two posts on motivated thinking and instrumental argument, I wrote that an audience's reasoning and advocacy is driven by emotions and not just by logic. While a jury's decision making and deliberations might be the acts most obviously implicated in these findings, the mental processes are by no means unique to juries. The experience of going to law school and occupying a specific legal role does tend to refine legal understanding and decision making quality, but that doesn't provide a blanket exemption to human psychology and communications.
Indeed, the experienced legal practitioner is more likely than the novice to rely on heuristics, those rules and routines that tend to simplify and systematize decision-making. In some ways, that is what "expertise" means: an expanded reliance on heuristics. Rather than making non-jury decision makers neutral and above the influence of human factors, these very heuristics serve to ingrain a decision maker's habits and preferences. This post takes a look at some of the research on bias in non-jury legal audiences and shares some advice on addressing those factors.