By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
The common challenge in jury trial, and often in arbitration and bench trial as well, is to get your fact finders to follow, to understand, and to care. In pursuit of these goals, litigators will employ many tactics to continually gain and regain attention. One of those strategies is the use of graphics. Even when they are not strictly needed, photos, charts, timelines, and diagrams are common tools. What is less common, but perhaps should be used more often? Cartoons. That's right, a cartoon-strip style where one or more cells are used to tell a story or convey a process, can often be an effective way to convey complex material in the courtroom. Recent research even suggests that it may be more persuasive than the alternatives.
A release in ScienceDaily drew me to the recent article from the Journal of Visual Literacy (Rodriguez & Lin, 2017). In the study, 2000 Iowa residents responded to one of two versions of a brochure on the merits of wind power. The versions were identical except that one included a cartoon and the other included a photograph. It turned out that persuasion on the merits of wind energy was more successful when it used the cartoon rather than a photograph. Those who saw the cartoon version found it more informative, interesting, and cognitively engaging. They also displayed stronger intentions to support wind energy, including a greater willingness to vote for pro-wind candidates, to pay more for wind energy, and to learn more about the issues. Oddly, respondents reported that the photo was more "credible," but that did not prevent the cartoon from being ultimately more effective in changing reported behavior.