By: Dr. Amy Singer, Ph.D & Kristina Denius, JD.
The new CBS television hit series “Bull” follows Dr. Jason Bull, an extremely intelligent, cocky, yet charming trial/litigation scientist who is hired by attorneys to ensure that the verdict in the deliberation room is favorable to their client. Week after week, Dr. Bull achieves this by analyzing how a potential juror will react to certain facts in any given case, and whether their decision making process will lead that juror to vote for his client. Dr. Bull has an uncanny knack for discovering what makes people tick. He is an astute observer with a keen sense of intuition that borders on clairvoyant. He uses his observations about human behavior and attitudes to manipulate juror thinking in such a way that the panel as a whole ultimately finds in his client’s favor. All of this is achieved not without the usual Hollywood tactics, sometimes outlandish, made-for-television entertainment embellishments. For instance, no trial consultant who wants a long and successful career would actually treat their attorney colleagues as rudely and disrespectfully as Dr. Bull does.
A troubling off-shoot of the “Bull” phenomenon is the paranoia it fosters in its viewer-ship. The “Big Brother” type manner in which Dr. Bull is able to “dig up” personal information on potential jurors with the whisk of a keystroke is alarming to some viewers, even sparking concerns about the future of the American judicial system. Some find the possibility that certain “skeletons in the closet” could be unveiled by a trial consultant during jury research, or actual jury duty, downright scary. However, there is no need for panic. No trial consultant worth their salt would ever seek such information. Not only is it impractical to do so, it is well established in the trial science community that such information does not correlate to jury verdicts.
Ironically, the most revealing information about a juror is information that most people are happy to share with others, such asan individual’s core beliefs, aka their value beliefs. Value Beliefs are the core internal precepts by which people think and operate, and as such are very unlikely to ever change. For example, “I believe that taking care of one’s elders in their twilight years is essential to family structure” is a value belief, and to the delight of trial consultants everywhere, people take pride in their value beliefs and talk about them freely with no need for any invasive prying. This is the sort of information that people WANT to share with others, and it is the type of information that enables trial consultants to do their jobs so well.
In order to promote “Bull,” CBS has partnered with Vigiglobe’s “social media analytic platform” to launch “What Type of Juror are You?” a cyber-oriented experience that interacts with users on Twitter. Users who want to find out what “type” of juror Dr. Bull believes they might be enter the “Bull” Twitter handle (@BullCBS) with the tag #DrBullReadsYou. Based on an analysis of the individual’s previous tweets, Vigiglobe’s program then classifies the individual into one of six categories: BelievaBULL, GulliBULL, ReasonaBULL, DependaBULL, NoBULL, or SwayaBULL. While this “digital jury analytics experience” may have proven to be a slick and successful marketing tool for CBS and “Bull” the television show, what does this sort of technology mean for the attorney, the client, and the ultimate outcome of their case, in the real world? The simple answer is, “not much.”
Demographics, life experiences, and personality traits of people can certainly be interesting. But, the fact that you are a divorced female taxi driver with a golden retriever, and people think you are nice, does not tell us anything about whether or not you are going to award nine million dollars in a products liability case where the main issue is causation.
Interestingly, the question for the trial consultant is not “how do you go about determining who the best potential jurors are in this case?” Rather, because the jury selection process is actually a “Deselection®” process, the question becomes “what type of person are we looking to eliminate given the evidence, testimony and arguments in this particular case?” Selecting a jury is actually a process of using carefully tuned voir dire questions to “weed out” jurors who will be the most dangerous to an attorney’s case, based on core value beliefs.
For instance, the IBM Watson Program can tell us that a person has a low tolerance for ambiguity, and this is how it will affect their perception of the jury instructions for causation in a products liability case. Because causation is by its very nature intrinsically subjective, this type of juror is a red flag, one that must be carefully evaluated with other “tolerance for ambiguity factors” in order to advise plaintiff’s counsel about whether or not to use their precious peremptory challenges. In fact, given the arsenal of factor analysis for ambiguity available to the psychologist, this person would probably go for cause.
That isn’t to say there are not software systems out there that purport to have a magic formula, algorithms, or the key, to accurately predicting future juror behavior. There are plenty of software programs that say “this is who this person is.” But that’s not going far enough to actually predict juror behavior, to predict how a particular juror is going to internalize, and then vote on, a particular aspect of a case. To do that, a savvy trial scientist needs to step beyond the limited scope of the analysis performed by CBS with “Bull” viewers.
Wizpor technology and its Voltaire application are constantly evolving to meet this end. Wizpor analyzes information in real time as it is being gathered electronically from mock jury and focus group participants. Each response is coded by dependent variables, which include Questions, Observations, Judgments, Game Changers, Identification/Relating Statements, and Emotional Responses. These variables tell us what is important to the juror, and how the juror is internalizing the information presented about the case particulars. In this manner, Wizpor technology is achieving what “#DrBullReadsYou” has not, the ability to not only tell you what “type” of person you are dealing with, but more importantly the additional how this “type” will respond to your case. Telling somebody that this person is a dog lover is not as important as understanding whether dog lovers award more money for disfigurement. By the way, if you don’t know the answer, now understand why not: one variable does not a factor make.
Wizpor is complemented by the Voltaire Application, which mines social media information, market research information, and public record information with their proprietary analytics. Voltaire takes massive amounts of data, impossible for a human being to analyze, and analyzes it in milliseconds. The information that is mined goes through various algorithms to tell you how all of this information affects case strategy, and with Deselection® decisions, results in a much lower error rate than what the archaic “Bull” Made-for-TV methods are showing, “freaking out” the public. In this way, Wizpor and Voltaire not only give the attorney important data, but also tell the attorney what that data means for their case. And this is invaluable knowledge to have when precious principles of justice are at stake for the attorney’s client.
For more information on Trial Consultants, Inc.® and Wizpor® which features Persuasion Research Technology® please visit: www.trialconsultants.com or www.wizpor.com.
You may also email our firm at Trialconsultants@gmail.com or Jurydoctor@aol.com to speak with our team about these new and innovative methods for jury research and trial strategy.