by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Having assisted on a large number of jury selections, I know there are a few attorneys who will say, "Give me the dumb ones -- I'll tell them what to think." But by and large, the attorneys have what I call an "intelligence bias." That is, they think that their side of the case is essentially correct (because that is what advocates do), so they think the smarter jurors will understand that. But that can't always be right -- especially when that bias exists for both sides. Based on a research article in Political Psychology, there seems to be a lot more complexity to the question of whether the intelligent are going to be good or bad in any given case. Looking at a close cousin and companion of intelligence, sophistication, the study (Nai, Schemeil & Marie, 2016) looks at how that plays off against resistance to persuasion.
The researchers measured the political sophistication of 604 research participants, then asked their views on climate change. Specifically, they asked whether they supported a reduction in economic activity in order to reduce global warming. After they answered, they were exposed to arguments designed to refute whatever position they had just taken to see how much they could be persuaded. They also tested the role of induced anxiety (a fear appeal) as part of this process. The result? Sophistication has an effect, with higher sophistication translating into greater resistance to persuasion. Anxiety also had an effect, with higher anxiety meaning less resistance to persuasion. But the most interesting finding was an interaction between sophistication and anxiety. For those higher in sophistication, those who would otherwise be more resistant to persuasion, anxiety decreased resistance. In other words, expect the sophisticates on your jury to resist changing their minds, unless they're scared. That adds some nuance to the basic question of liking or hating intelligent people, and suggests a more careful look at what drives resistance.