How to be Effective During Jury Selection: Access the Reptilian Brain

The fourth tip that I want to blog about in this series of posts concerning the voir dire process at trial concerns what is called “the reptilian brain”. Recent research has been performed concerning the reptilian brain and David Ball spoke on the subject at the 2008 American Association of Justice (AAJ) Winter Convention. The theory goes something like this: there is a primitive part of the brain that subconsciously causes us to make decision that will protect us and our offspring. If you can frame the issues in your case such that the jury associates them with their own well being and that of their families, then they are more likely to act toward and make decisions more favorable for you.

To tap into the “reptilian brain”, I use jury selection to look for traits or life experiences that are shared with my client. I try to emphasize those shared traits during the course of trial so that clients make that connection on their own, without me having to explicitly point it out. Moreover, assuming that the case is a motor vehicle accident case, I ask whether they consider the safety of themselves and their children while driving to be important. I expand upon that question and enter into dialogue with potential jurors about the applicable laws governing other drivers. I specifically ask those in the jury pool whether they believe that someone who breaks those laws should be held personally accountable for the harm caused.

While this is an area that I am still developing, studies suggest that it may be one of the most important. If done properly, appealing to one’s reptilian brain sparks a subconscious desire in jurors to find for your client.

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