Remember how the jury consultant, played by Gene Hackman, attempted to bribe jurors in the movie Runaway Jury? It seems that jurors can be swayed by much less – by the same cues that affect us all in other settings. Here’s how.
A college professor of Jayson Zoller described a past class project in which students were offered the opportunity, by a federal judge to research ways to improve the jury deliberation process. They researched factors as diverse as the mix of ethnic groups, ages, jury instructions and even the food jurors ate. They interviewed past jurors, trial attorneys and others players in the situation.
Much to their surprise, none of that mattered as much as one unexpected feature of the jury room.
According to Paul Smith in Lead with a Story, the shape of the table had the biggest impact. If it was rectangular, then whoever sat at the head of it “tended to dominate the conversation.” Jurors were less open in expressing their views. Conversely they were more egalitarian when the table was round or oval. Consequently, writes Smith, it was those juries with round tables that came up with the most accurate and just verdicts.”
But that wasn’t the biggest surprise. Learn what I discovered, reading the rest of this story at my Connected and Quotable column over at Forbes.