By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
It is conversation I frequently have when sending jurors off to deliberate as part of a mock trial.
"Can we ask the attorneys questions about the case?"
"No, just do your best with what you remember."
"But what if there are things we forget?"
"Don't worry, as a group you're going to remember more than you would as individuals."
That seems like it would be true, right? A group should have a stronger collective memory, operating as a sum of the individual recollections within the group. That is part of the reason why the legal system in this case opts for group rather than individual decision-making. But what if it turns out that this isn't true?
And it turns out, this isn't true. According to a recent meta-analysis of 64 studies on the recollection results of collaborating groups (Marion & Thorley, 2016), groups are less effective in recall than the individuals in those groups would be. Based on a process the researchers call "collaborative inhibition," the group actually remembers less effectively than the individuals would have remembered if they were working alone. This strikes me as a finding that goes to the heart of what it is that we think works about the jury system, and carries some implications for how we address group recollection. So in this post, I will take a look at this unexpected finding and share some thoughts on what it says about making your case stick with a jury.