The Litigation Psychology Podcast - Episode 11

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on jurors' attitudes & decision making

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc

In this episode of The Litigation Psychology Podcast, CSI Litigation Consultants Dr. Steve Wood and Dr. Lorie Sicafuse discuss what the research says about how jurors' attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and decision-making might be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They discuss how thought processes and decision-making processes could be influenced by the COVID-19 crisis and what affect juror attitudes about Asian-Americans, as well as those on the front lines of the pandemic such as nurses, doctors, and truck drivers, might have on their evaluation of case facts. Plus, they cover what companies should be doing now in preparation for future litigation. 




Podcast summary:


Dr. Steve Wood

Thanks for joining us. My name is Steve Wood and we're back for another podcast brought to you by Courtroom Sciences, Inc. and today with me I have Dr. Lorie Sicafuse. We originally had a thought about doing a podcast on damage awards and these nuclear verdicts, but I think between the two of us we talked and we thought with this time of Covid-19 that it would be more appropriate to dig in a little bit and talk about how Covid-19 affects juror decision making. I just want to start off, actually the big question is, is the Covid-19 crisis going to have a long-term impact on juror decision making and if so, what do we think those impacts are going to be?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Well, I'm certain that the Covid-19 crisis is going to impact juror decision making. I'm not sure how long the impacts will persist; there's so much uncertainty right now. It all depends on the trajectory of this crisis and how things continue to unfold. We don't know when civil jury trials will resume and what the Covid-19 situation will look like at that time. And what kind of adjustments the courts will be making in terms of social distancing and things like that. But we don't currently have a lot of data about how this particular crisis has impacted prospective jurors attitudes and decisions. But we do have a lot of prior psychological research and data that we can draw on in determining what the likely effects will be.

Dr. Steve Wood

And I think that's one of the things I've actually seen in, you probably saw the same article as well, is that there's discussion now about potentially doing real trials online where you're actually having a platform like Zoom or a WebEx where jurors are logging in and then they're actually sitting through trials without actually being in the courtroom, which I think from a psychological perspective - we can talk a little bit about this later - it's just a strange dynamic in a way for individuals to interact with one another, I'd be interested to see how that's going to influence the outcomes versus sitting in an actual courtroom. And one of the things that actually I wanted to talk to you about is, and they briefly mentioned in that article about changes in people's behavior, have you observed any changes in people's behavior as a result of Covid-19?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

That's a great question. I think that you and I are both really kind of attuned to this because of our backgrounds, but yes, absolutely I have. And what I'm seeing is more polarization really drawn across political lines and ideologies. And we can always learn from crises like 9/11 but the behavior of the response is not the same. You know, in the aftermath of 9/11 really everyone came together. Most people were on the same page trying to protect themselves or fight against this common enemy. And here we're not seeing that; we're seeing a fracture across political lines right away where we didn't see that in response to 9/11 for some time. And that could partially be due to just, you know, social media and the internet that we have nowadays. But the response is not the same. There's more polarization. You'll see people posting, we're all in this together and people are being nice to their neighbors and things like that, but there's just not the same sense of camaraderie. So really more polarization. You don't see people trying to meet in the middle. I think they're more divided than ever.

Dr. Steve Wood

Yeah, and I've noticed that too. Like you said the, we're all in this together, but if you go out in public, it doesn't really seem like that. It's almost like everybody is suspect of everyone else and we're all fighting for scarce resources. I mean, I can think back to the jokes initially about the issues over toilet paper and now that some of that stuff is coming back and people aren't rushing to it, I think the new issue now that we've seen is the use of masks. And I read an article the other day that was critical of individuals that were using masks and talking about how the use of masks has, per this article, has made people dumber and more suspicious of other individuals and actually more hostile towards other individuals. And I think it's been interesting because I don't know what it's like there in Las Vegas, but here in Texas it's about 50/50 on people wearing masks in the stores. And then you have the people who are wearing masks looking sideways at the people who are, and then the people who aren't wearing masks, looking at the people who are as if, you know, they're foolish for wearing a mask. So, I think it's a strange time and you can't even really cough nowadays either being in a supermarket and have someone look at you like maybe you're sick. So it's just really a time of suspicion and anger and hostility towards one another.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Right. I think that you're absolutely right and it's interesting, but it does cohere with the psychological research that's out there. And we can talk more about that in a second. But you know, people are generally drawing closer to their family and friends, you know, even if they're apart. I think a lot of people are making more efforts to reach out to do video chats, to just check on people and see that they're okay. I know that that certainly occurred in my life. You know, where I'm talking to family members and friends a lot more. So I feel closer to my inner circle. But outsiders, you know, the outsiders, the strangers at the grocery store, people that aren't in your circle, I think that people are, as you said, really becoming more judgmental of others, impatient with others, combative with others sometimes.

Dr. Steve Wood

Lorie, you had mentioned a little bit about psychology and the social psychological research. So let's talk about some of that. I know you have a background in terror management theory, so why don't you talk to our listeners a little bit about that theory and how that really plays into Covid-19.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

So terror management theory is a really well-researched and well supported social psychological theory. And here's what it's about. So humans are the only living beings understand that one day that they'll die and we're the only organisms that are aware of our own mortality. So, terror management theory proposes that we're all kind of subconsciously managing the anxiety that comes with that realization. When people are reminded of death and their mortality, say through the Covid-19 crisis, they're going to do certain things to minimize that anxiety. Specifically, they're really going to cling tightly to their preexisting ideologies, the attitudes and beliefs that are important to them. For example, if a person's religious, their religion is going to become even more important. If a person's politically conservative, they're going to become even more so and more rigid in those beliefs. Same thing with a political liberal. And clinging to these worldviews and ideology, what it does is, it helps people feel calmer and more meaningful when confronted with what psychologists term mortality salient, basically the conscious awareness of death and in your own mortality. People become more rigid in terms of their beliefs and affiliations and they don't consider alternative perspectives or are much less likely to entertain them at least or listen to others who are different from that and have different ideas than them.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

So, with jurors, if the courts open back up, and there's still this threat of Covid-19 and social distancing and that kind of related anxiety, jurors are likely going to become more polarized and more extreme. So let's say your anti-corporate jurors are going to become more anti-corporate and your free market jurors will be more extreme in their beliefs too, and they're going to be less likely to consider jurors perspectives that differ from their own. Now, if you think this sounds nuts, I will tell you, and you know this as well, I spent a ton of time in my graduate career researching and writing about this theory. It actually holds up really well and it has been successfully applied to juror decision making context. So trial attorneys should be aware of it, I think.

Dr. Steve Wood

That sounds a little extreme though, doesn't it? I mean depending on the state of affairs, when the courts reopen, I mean all jurors aren't really going to be in this death anxiety state of mind though, are they?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

No, maybe not. But it's something to keep in mind. And we can actually spend a whole other podcast talking about the implication of terror management theory on juror’s decisions in a variety of contexts. But this is really the tip of the iceberg. And so you look at research, psychological research about how people typically respond to fear. How do they typically respond to stress and uncertainty? You know what they do? They cling to their preexisting beliefs, and sometimes more strongly, they become more rigid in their thinking. They rely on what they always believed or they knew; they're not in a position to consider, interpret, and incorporate new information and perspectives into their decision making. And that's especially true if this information and ideas are different from their own. And I mean, you see it when people that are under a lot of stress or are fearful, you don't see them calmly and logically considering all options available to them, right? It's a fight or flight mode. They're running away from the issue, or they're doing the same thing frantically over and over, which is not working.

Dr. Steve Wood

Right. And like you said, it's going to affect juror's ability to focus on the case facts. And as we know, when we look to pick jurors, who are one of the most volatile type of jurors, one of those jurors we don't want to have, it's the emotional ones, right? It's the ones who are going to be thinking with their gut, not their head, wearing their emotions on their sleeves. So sometimes those people are a little bit easier to pick out during voir dire and make sure you get them off. But like I said, I think even those individuals who might not have been as emotional for you might see them turning a little bit more emotional now.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah, especially if you're a defense attorney and an emotional juror is not good for you. But I think you're absolutely right. And you know, we're getting a lot of questions from clients about jurors’ potential reactions to the Covid-19 crisis. And one of the questions we got yesterday was something like, you know, is experiencing this whole crisis going to cause jurors to think more scientifically and pay more attention to scientific evidence since people are using science right now to slow the spread of the virus and things like that. And I would say generally, no, no it's not. I think that the more analytical types, for sure, might be more focused on science and more likely to analyze at trial. But really like you said, what we're primarily going to see is jurors shifting to what we call the mode of experiential processing or emotional processing.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Just like you said, more reliant on their intuition and gut feelings when making case decisions. I also think that jurors are going to be motivated to reach a conclusion about cases more quickly, at least at the individual level, because this helps control their feelings of uncertainty, even if the feelings of uncertainty aren't related to the case. Jurors really do this unconsciously or subconsciously. So it's not like they're going to say to themselves at the beginning of the trial, well, you know what? I'm under a lot of stress and things are kind of uncertain right now, so you know what I need to do is not let this affect me and not make any hasty decisions in this case to make me feel better psychologically there. They just don't have that level of awareness.

Dr. Steve Wood

Yeah, that's a good point and I wanted to switch gears a little bit on you and get your thoughts on some things I've recently seen in the media about reports regarding heightened suspicion of Asian-Americans or persons of Asian descent in the United States and that arises obviously based upon these assertions that Covid-19 originated in China and sometimes, unfortunately, people's fears and irrational beliefs about pandemics and Covid-19 in particular will lead to outright discrimination and mistreatment of individuals of Asian descent. You think we're going to see any of that translate over into jury trials at all?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

I think so, absolutely. I think you're going to be especially concerned about this when you're representing a company based in Asia or you've got a witness of Asian descent, but the bias that we're seeing is actually going to transcend beyond reactions to Asia. And the research suggests that the experience of living through the Covid-19 crisis is going to bias jurors, not necessarily all of them, but definitely has the potential to, against all types of out-groups. And so it could cause them to be biased against a European corporation or you know, all different kinds of foreign witnesses, even if it's not directly related to Covid-19. What terror management theory or what we see in that literature is that mortality salients causes individuals to express more negative attitudes and beliefs about others who don't share their ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs and other types of beliefs. Even a fan of an opposing sports team, that kind of thing. And again, the intense feelings of stress and uncertainty that people are experiencing are also causing them to cling to they're in-group and increasingly identify with people like them while rejecting out-group members.

Dr. Steve Wood

And I think that's incredibly interesting and I think that's why you and I wanted to do this podcast because our social psychological training has led us to see it from a different perspective and we get an understanding of why this reaction is happening versus the idea that we're all going to come together and we're all in this together and why hasn't that really resonated with individuals. Are there studies out there to show how pandemics can affect people's attitudes and beliefs?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah, there actually are studies out there, and I know it's been a while in the US, there are several studies examining the effects of pandemics or kind of localized illnesses in European countries and things like that. And so we see that yet in terms of core ideologies, studies do demonstrate that pandemics can change people's attitudes and beliefs. And you know what? It's consistent with everything that we've been talking about so far. These studies show that experiencing a pandemic leads to suspicion and sometimes outright derogation of outgroups and it doesn't have to be a specific outgroup. In terms of, Oh, that particular out-group is responsible for the pandemic. No, it's all kinds of different out-groups. And you know, we already talked a little bit about why this is, but in terms of a pandemic and experiencing that, it's hypothesized that the fear of contagion drives people to fear outsiders because they're just perceived to be more likely to be carriers of the disease. And you want to kind of stick with your inner circle.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

And so, you know, all of this can explain somewhat, our increased encounters with some rude and suspicious people at the grocery store and the increased distrust of strangers during this time. Another finding that is fairly consistent is that during and in the aftermath of the pandemic or among people who fear contagion for some reason, they tend to become more conservative in their beliefs. And I'm not talking with regards to policy per se, but these individuals are more likely to follow rules. They're more rigid and they're more likely to respect authority figures. And that's really based on the premise that if you follow protocol, if you follow the rules, if you do what you supposed to do, that's going to minimize their likelihood of becoming ill.

Dr. Steve Wood

So if you look at it that way, then this increase in following rules and becoming more rigid, respecting authority and all of that, I would think that would play better for defense attorneys or the defense and the cases in which the plaintiff might actually have been injured because they didn't follow the rules, what are your thoughts on this?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah, I think it depends on the case. I think it could benefit plaintiffs in some cases. I think it could benefit the defense in other cases. And, we're talking about rules, right? We're not talking about them becoming more politically conservative.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

And you know, conservatives and liberals may follow different rules. Let's think about this. So let's say this whole experience causes people to become more extreme rule followers. Well that sounds really helpful for plaintiff reptile attorneys, right?

Dr. Steve Wood

Yeah. And that's actually, that was one of the things too that was floating through my head was we know that reptile attorneys tend to focus on safety rules and all the rules that you should follow. And if you deviate from these rules and you increase the chances of risk and that risk could then potentially harm the client. So I could definitely see though how it would work both ways.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah. And, the aftermath of whenever we these jurors returned to court, defense attorneys are going to have to be really cognizant of that. I think they are going to be especially susceptible to reptile plaintiff approaches. And so the defense really needs to take extra measures to combat that and undermine it.

Dr. Steve Wood

And as you think about what we've talked about before, based upon what you just said about the rule following and then double that with what we've talked about highly emotional jurors, it's now you have a highly emotional juror who's looking for a rule following. And now if you have a corporation that puts profits over safety and it looks like they broke the safety rule, I mean you're in for trouble as far as from a defense perspective. But one of the things I wanted to talk about too, we've been talking about these general worldviews, but I wanted to touch a little bit more about case specific attitudes. For example, there's been speculation about how jurors are going to feel about essential workers who've put their life on the line to serve the public. The discussions that I've heard have been surrounded primarily around trucking companies and medical personnel. Do you have any thoughts about kind of what's going to happen going forward as far as people's perceptions of these essential workers from pre-COVID to post-COVID?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah, and we know with the most recent data that most Americans are highly supportive of all the healthcare professionals out there on the front lines. The respect for them has increased for some individuals dramatically. And I'm sure that most Americans are also really supportive of transportation professionals and others who are exposing themselves to serve the public. And I think yes, this will affect juror attitudes so that it could improve your chances if you do have, you know, a truck driver who's a defendant or you do have a nurse or a doctor who's a defendant or another healthcare professional. But it's really going to depend on the case and a lot of other factors; I mean if the case isn't related to Covid-19 it could be great for you. Now, if you have a nurse suing her employer, right? Or you have a truck driver that's suing his or her employer, it could be really bad for the defense.

Dr. Steve Wood

And I wanted to ask you too about attitudes towards companies, more specifically attitudes towards corporate defendants. I know we've been getting a lot of interest in kind of how Covid-19 is impacting the way people look at corporate defendants. So, what are your thoughts on that?

 

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

A specific corporation’s responses during this time can certainly affect attitudes toward them and subsequent decisions in litigation. We don't have any evidence so far that this crisis has had a significant impact on people's attitudes towards corporations in general. We do know that people are expecting corporations to do the right thing right now and that people are divided as to whether they actually trust the corporations to do the right things. I also think some survey data from a marketing research firm called Morning Consult to illustrate this, and this firm has a ton of publicly available data about public and consumer reactions to Covid-19 and they update it weekly.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Their methodology is really solid if you want to check out their website. So survey data that was published last week indicate that 68% of individuals think that CEOs are somewhat or very responsible for helping people through this crisis. But most didn't think that CEOs have been very helpful so far. Here's another survey question. How much do you trust each of the following to lead us through the Coronavirus pandemic? 65% say they trust the local government to do it. 62% said they trust small businesses to lead us through this crisis and only 50% say they trust large companies or corporations to lead us through, 46% trust President Trump and less than half, it's 41% trust the CEOs of large companies to do the same to lead through this crisis. And these data don't really represent a big departure from the faith that the public had in corporations before the Covid-19 crisis.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

So we're going to have to see how this plays out. But if I had to make a prediction right now, I think that the jurors who were strongly anti-corporate are still gonna feel that way after Covid-19 and the jurors who were strongly pro-corporate before are still gonna feel that way too. And they'll probably actually become more polarized for the reasons that we discussed. Anecdotally, like in my life, I've seen a lot of anti-corporate individuals seize on this opportunity to post about all of the unsafe, unfair working conditions and strikes and punishments for trying to unionize and that kind of thing. I've noticed fewer social media activity and news stories and that kind of thing about the positive things that corporations are doing. There have been some big stories like Shake Shack returning it's bailout money and we're also seeing stories about companies paying full salary and benefits to employees who can't be working right now. But I think that the positive stories are likely only affecting people's attitudes towards those specific companies and it's not translating to corporations in general.

Dr. Steve Wood

Right. So yeah, we talk a lot about companies and the perceptions that people had about the actions of corporations during this time. What would you recommend then that corporations should be doing?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

So what the current data say is that these long rambling emails about how the corporation cares about us and how they're working to protect our health and safety oh, wait, Isn't that guarantee your health and safety, right. Ensure health and safety. The public doesn't care about that and jurors aren't going to care about that either. And as you know, that's really going to hurt you if you get sued. And then a plaintiff's reptile attorney shows that you couldn't ensure a hundred percent safety, right.

Dr. Steve Wood

I think it's interesting that you say that though and that's why one of the things that we do at Courtroom Sciences is we have our critical communication services that we do and one of the areas that we help is corporations make sure that they're framing their message properly so it doesn't come back at a later point, you know, during litigation and cause problems for them. And one of the things I've actually seen recently was an airline company, on their website, they talked about how passenger safety is our top priority, but if a passenger gets sick or contracts COVID while it's on a flight, a savvy plaintiff attorney is going to point to this and use it in building their safety rules in the reptile script. For example, if the airlines say, safety is our top priority and it failed anywhere along the way to put customer or employee safety as a top priority, it's going to cause a big problem for them as far as in the minds of jurors who are already susceptible to reptile attacks. And even more so now after Covid-19.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah. And so many of these corporate messages to consumers and the public, they're all the same. They're not effective. The other day I got a really long email letter from a CEO of what may or may not have been an airline and it went on and on and on for pages. They're insuring my safety, they're insuring their employees safety and the public safety and they care so much about my wellbeing. And then it ended with a sales pitch and well, first of all, I was likely among the 0.5% that actually read that entire email. But I thought it was just really disingenuous and fantastic material, honestly, for a plaintiff reptile  attorney, Oh, you know, like you said, you're ensuring passenger health and safety but people got sick. You're ensuring employee safety and wellbeing, but people got sick and their wellbeing was compromised in a ton of other ways, and then you have the audacity to follow this heartfelt message up with a sales pitch. So that's a classic example of a company putting profits over safety.

Dr. Steve Wood

Like you mentioned briefly a little bit about what they shouldn't be doing. So I want to circle back though and get your thoughts on what you think companies should be doing then.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Sorry, I got a little off track. So some of the top things that the public and consumers want to see companies doing, they want to see companies making donations to food banks and other organizations to help people that are struggling right now. They want to see promises to rehire employees who have been laid off or furloughed because of this Covid-19 crisis and they want to see corporate executives taking pay cuts. There's also been a ton of appreciation for companies that are giving consumers a break during this time, especially the lenders and financial institutions they're letting borrows defer payments and making it easier for them to do it and making that interest free. A really good move at several insurance companies was to apply like an automatic 25% discount or something like that or a refund on auto insurance premiums, and responses like that demonstrate that these companies care about more than just profits and I think that will have an impact on some of the jurors who might serve on what we expect actually is going to be a tidal wave of Covid-19 related litigation.

Dr. Steve Wood

We’ve talked about companies and what they should be doing. So, what’s the number one thing that attorneys should be doing right now in response to this?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

There's a lot attorneys can be doing; in-house counsel, in particular, can be working with their partners on messaging and their organizational responses to the Covid-19 crisis. I think that the number one thing attorneys should be doing, litigation psychology wise, and in terms of managing juror’s perceptions in the near future, is to really focus on witnesses. There are a few reasons for that. First, you know now more than ever you're going to need really effective corporate reps even if a litigation isn't Covid-19 related, you got to have a likable, relatable professional corporate rep right now and as we talked about earlier, there are a lot of things that companies can do to improve public perceptions during this time. Yyou and I both know jurors tend to focus on the negative, right? They look to identify the entity that's like the moral villain or engaged in the worst conduct and then they side with the opposing side.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

So you’ve got to present the corporate defendant in the best light possible. And jurors trust witnesses more than corporate statements or attorney arguments. Another reason is jurors are most likely to trust the regular employee, like a nurse, a truck driver, construction workers, to provide an honest and accurate picture of what really working for a defendant corporation is like. And so it's especially important, I think, that attorneys realize the importance of preparing these witnesses too, and this is true, again, even if the matter isn't directly related to the Covid-19 crisis, because keep in mind, jurors can, and they do, differentiate between corporate defendants and employees who may also be named as a defendant. So if you've got a co-defendant or key witness who's no longer employed with you, who otherwise has grievances it's going to take several witness effectiveness trainings, it's gonna take a few sessions.

Dr. Steve Wood

Yeah. So you've talked a lot about the impacts that Covid-19 has had on jurors and other individuals and stuff. But I think one of the things we're forgetting is that witnesses will be impacted too, right? Going forward, how does that need to be taken into consideration?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Absolutely. That's also why now we really need to focus on witnesses and witness effectiveness training cause your key witnesses are probably not okay right now and they're probably not going to be okay in a few months when they're deposed either traditionally or virtually and they're not going to be okay in a few months when your trial is rescheduled. Just like the jurors, they're going to be fearful and uncertain, stressed out, even if the worst of Covid-19 is behind us and things are looking good; psychological effects are going to likely persist. Actually a few weeks ago the Lancet published a review of a study  examining the psychological effects of quarantine and you see that that leads to major depressive disorder symptoms, PTSD symptoms, really significant mental health effects that are persistent about 25% of the time; one out of four individuals who have been subjected to quarantine, for up to three years.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

So people are still experiencing these symptoms three years later. That's a pretty big deal and most of the individuals in those studies had only been quarantined for a couple of weeks as opposed to these few months like us. So you’ve got a witness who's already stressed out, they're uncertain. And then you couple that with the stress of testifying. Even if your witness presents to you as totally calm and collected, I can assure you that they're not, even if that's a corporate rep or some other high level employee, those types of individuals, really respect counsel and they don't want to reveal their weaknesses. But those weaknesses exist and they’re likely to come out at dep and trial. So really more than ever during this time, you need to be taking team approaches to working with witnesses, the litigation psychologist handling the psychological issues and you need the attorneys handling the legal issues. And it's important though that this all occurs together as a team.

Dr. Steve Wood

Yeah, and one of the things we've noticed too is that we've had to alter our approach to things now with social distancing and all other aspects, where we have actually gone to online witness training. You know, there's platforms out there, whether it be Zoom or WebEx or any of the other ones that we're actually able to get on an interface with witnesses or share documents with witnesses and do as much as we can as if we were in person. And we found this to be actually highly effective. And it's definitely something that because you can't be there in person, that doesn't mean that you can't actually move forward with witness training and can't move forward with making sure that witnesses are prepared for deposition.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Absolutely. And that's something you want to jump on now.

Dr. Steve Wood

So Lorie, we're almost out of time, but one thing I did want to address just generally because we could do a whole or podcast on it, and I touched upon it a little bit at the beginning, is the prospect and the value of online mock jury research during this time. So what are your thoughts about online research? I know that a lot of people are actually going to this path versus actually in person research.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah, like you said, we could spend a whole other podcast talking about this. You know, the value of online mock juror research depends on a whole bunch of factors, too many to discuss right now. What I will say is online mock juror research can be valuable as a valid means of addressing your research questions about a specific case that's going to depend on what your research questions are. It can be great for assessing mock jurors reactions to your key witnesses or corporate reps, if you want to assess juror's reactions to key case issues and potential themes at the individual level.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

I would also say that if designed appropriately online research can provide you with valid and reliable data. Now the value of the data and the results that you get from online research is going to depend on the methods that your provider uses. In terms of online deliberations, that's a more challenging issue because you and I both know that social influence just does not operate the same online or in a chat room than when you're actually in a deliberation room face to face. So, I would say online research for sure can be valuable and answering some questions. You want to make sure to talk to your provider about what the limitations are and if they say that there are no limitations, you need to find a different provider.

Dr. Steve Wood

Yeah, and I think to your point, Lorie, is that we've been a little bit on the fence about whether or not doing online deliberations or any sort of online focus group has value because it does create a different social dynamic that wouldn't necessarily exist in a room with other individuals. But as it is right now, it probably would provide useful information as long as you had the caveat of knowing that these individuals aren't in the room and social influence isn't operating and exerting its force on one another. And I think right now it's a little early though to tell whether or not in-person versus online is superior. But I think it's definitely something to look into as we move forward because right now we're in a completely different world and we're going to have to approach things differently than we did before.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Yeah, I agree with that.

Dr. Steve Wood

Well, Lorie, I appreciate you taking the time out to chat with me about Covid-19 and how its influencing juror decision making. I know you and I have a few more podcasts in the works, so we'll be back on shortly to chat more about other topics as it relates to jury decision making, but if people want to reach out to you, if they want to talk to you more about whether it be terror management theory or your thoughts and opinions on any of the things we touched on today, how would they get ahold of you?

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Anyone can contact me at lsicafuse@courtroomsciences.com.  And we have a lot more to talk about in terms of juror's responses to the Covid-19 crisis and our future podcasts are going to be more focused on what attorneys need to do when jurors are back in court, what kind of questions they need to be asking, voir dire, and that kind of thing. So stay tuned.

Dr. Steve Wood

All right, well that sounds good. I appreciate you taking the time out, Lorie, and I look forward to our conversations in the near future.

Dr. Lorie Sicafuse

Absolutely. Take care.