A Research Based Take on Resistance

Persuasion is a hot topic for trial lawyers and psychologists alike. Lītigāre has received a fair share of these questions especially how to persuade judge and jury. It is one of the cornerstones of our work as trial consultants and trial lawyers. We are always seeking new, inventive, psychological and biological ways to circumvent or end resistance to our arguments and have the jury see our truth.

Some very interesting research articles have been written on resistance to persuasion that explores the validity of resistance as a static hurdle to overcome. In 2004, the book “Resistance and Persuasion” was published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates tackling the issue of dynamic versus static resistance. The findings from many of these research articles describe resistance as a dynamic process that is fueled by motivation, just like persuasion. Of course each juror in the vainer enters with a set of biases and mental models to navigate life, seek understanding and maintain psychological balance. These are necessary components to psychological homeostasis. The research, though, indicates that these biases are subject to increase and decrease depending upon how we structure our persuasive argument.

So when we deselect individuals from a jury this does not reduce the chance that the jury will resist our persuasive arguments. Since resistance is a dynamic process the possibility that the jury can change attitudes at any time increases and so the causes for motivating resistance also increase. This research indicates a need for a thorough reevaluation of the tools and techniques that we use to evaluate potential jurors and how we structure our persuasive arguments.

The good news is that psychologists are well trained in identifying defense mechanisms (biases) and using an assortment of practices specifically designed to circumvent bias and guide individuals and groups to new belief and feeling patterns resulting in behavior change. These techniques can be taught to trial lawyers.

Resistance and Persuasion
Psychology Press