How Focus Groups Help Identify Blind Spots

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc.

When making decisions, almost every individual relies on heuristics to help them reduce the complexity of the information they must process. These mental shortcuts are often used to avoid cognitive overload, as they allow individuals to make a decision, solve problems, and make judgments quickly and efficiently. However, as these heuristics are often individualized, they are also subject to many pre-existing biases

Because individuals almost universally impose their personal view of the world onto any evidence presented, relying on their prior experiences, personal commitments, and interpretations, they may see patterns between ideas that aren’t necessarily there, or they may miss other connections entirely. Although these snap judgments and assumptions may be honest mistakes, they can lead to blind spots. 

Blind spots can affect jurors, witnesses, and trial attorneys. Exploratory litigation research, such as focus groups, can be invaluable for uncovering information blind spots, allowing trial attorneys to drive critical settlement negotiations and trial strategy decisions, resulting in superior litigation outcomes. 

In trucking and transportation cases, what areas and topics do jurors consistently have issues with?

Specific behaviors and topics that jurors consistently have issues with in trucking and transportation cases often include dash cam video, unenforced policies, log falsifications, driver substance abuse, poor hiring practices, cell phone use by drivers, weak driver training, excessive speed, driving in inclement weather, sleeping hour violations, and social media posts.

Focus Groups Can Help Attorneys Evaluate a Case From a Juror’s Perspective

Attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and personality types are all various factors that influence a juror's decision-making. Jurors will evaluate each side of a case within the context of their own explicit and implicit biases. Both implicit and explicit biases can lead jurors to avoid information they may find unwelcome or uncomfortable.

Jurors use these heuristics, cognitive shortcuts, and biases as a foundation upon which the evidence is interpreted and stored, influencing how a juror recalls and interprets the information presented to them and, ultimately, how they determine the outcome of a case. The challenge for trial attorneys is identifying and understanding how the elements of your client’s case, including the litigants, evidence, themes, and witnesses, will likely be viewed by a potential jury.

Focus groups can assist defense attorneys in evaluating a case from a juror's perspective, exploring potential jurors' thoughts, beliefs, and/or attitudes about specific issues in a case, such as causation or negligence. 

Focus Groups Can Uncover Witness Performance Blind Spots

Intense emotions, such as fear or anger, can leave witnesses at risk for performance blind spots and cause them to be susceptible to making mistakes. While it is understandable for witnesses to be emotional about the testifying experience, these issues may cause witnesses to become confused, anxious, flustered, or unpredictable, negatively affecting their performance and litigation outcomes. 

Focus groups allow defense attorneys to determine how a potential jury will respond to a specific witness. There are generally three key factors that jurors are likely to consider when deciding whether or not they find a witness credible: expertise, objectivity, and communicativeness. Credible witnesses should be able to continue to appear confident, articulate, and non-defensive when being attacked by the attorney on the other side. 

Additionally, defense attorneys can use focus groups to help their client select the best corporate representative to testify. A corporate representative is often the face of a company at a trial; companies need a strong, knowledgeable, and well-trained corporate witness who can thwart a plaintiff attorney’s attack on the defendant’s policies, procedures, profits, and internal correspondence at deposition and trial. Using a focus group can help defense attorneys review potential candidates more thoroughly, analyze how they may perform during the trial, and gather feedback to determine the most effective candidate. 

Focus Groups Help Defense Attorneys Overcome Confirmation Bias

Trial attorneys may often struggle with confirmation bias in their cases. To combat this, attorneys need to find ways to obtain outside viewpoints. For example, a theme that may resonate with the attorney may not work well with the jury, and an outside opinion can help pinpoint those weaknesses. 

Focus groups allow attorneys to identify case strengths or vulnerabilities and gain knowledge and information that can help them determine which issues need the most scrutiny and where resources should be directed.

At Courtroom Sciences, our scientifically-valid research can help identify blind spots by eliminating guesswork and delivering invaluable insights. We can assist defense attorneys in achieving superior litigation outcomes by providing data that leads to actionable insights and predictive results. Speak with one of our experts to get started.

Key Takeaways

●  Blind spots can affect jurors, witnesses, and trial attorneys, and focus groups can be invaluable for uncovering information blind spots.

●  Focus groups can assist defense attorneys in exploring potential jurors' thoughts, beliefs, and/or attitudes about specific issues in a case.

●  Focus groups allow defense attorneys to determine how a potential jury will respond to a specific witness.

●  Focus groups are an opportunity for attorneys to identify case strengths or vulnerabilities.

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