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Article On The Reptile Brain In The Jury Box

From Stephanie West Allen’s blog on Neuroscience and conflict resolution.

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With Jeff Schwartz and Diane Wyzga, I have coauthored an article for the new edition of The Jury Expert. From "Atticus Finch Would Not Approve: Why a Courtroom Full of Reptiles Is a Bad Idea":

INTRODUCTION

Some members of the trial bar have taken a keen interest in a model of trial advocacy that features manipulating jurors by fostering fear. What is this model? It claims you can predictably win a trial by speaking to, and scaring, the primitive part of jurors' brains, the part of the brain they share with reptiles. The theory may sound intriguing on its face, but advocacy is not reducible to mere technique not only because people are much more than their brains, but because advocacy is as much art as science. (If science is relied upon, we think it should be good science, not pop science which presents the brain anatomy incorrectly.) To reduce the human being to a body organ, even the brain, disregards the value of the reflective mind – something no reptile possesses. From time immemorial we have used imagination and supporting evidence in narrative to persuade. A reptile hears no human story. It reacts as a coiling rattlesnake or a slithering lizard. To equate men and women serving on a jury with reactive sub-mammals is both offensive and objectionable. Bringing together decades of experience, research, and insights in the law, healthcare, social relationships, and narrative we posit an alternative viewpoint for lawyers interested in reevaluating the wisdom of 'reptiling' the jury.

Click to read the rest of "Atticus Finch Would Not Approve: Why a Courtroom Full of Reptiles Is a Bad Idea" and feel free to comment along with others who are posting their opinions. I will be writing a comment on idealawg later this week.

Note (added May 21, 2010): Click to read my comments at idealawg on the article.

                        author

Stephanie West Allen

Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive… MORE >

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