Integrated Wisdom

Attributing Motives in the Courtroom

A jury’s finding is often based on more than just the evidence. 

If you’ve ever sat on a jury for a criminal case, you know it’s an agonizing event because it’s a huge responsibility. As you listen to the arguments on both sides, in the back of your mind you know that you will have to decide what will happen to the defendant. You try to be objective — you listen carefully to the facts as they’re laid out, judge the veracity of the witnesses, and stay justice-minded.

But the truth is we all play amateur psychologists. It’s how we feel in control and make sense of the world. And this can come into play when we’re trying to decide on guilt or innocence in the courtroom, irrespective of the facts. Here’s what I mean. Psychologists — the real ones — argue that we develop global perspectives about other people. We size them up based on what we see and then classify them broadly: some people are successful, some can’t be trusted, that one’s a liar, and so forth.

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Successful business man?

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