Monday, October 31, 2011

Words, words, words!

Did you know that the very words you use in framing your question will encourage witnesses to think and respond differently?

For example, in a study in which a group of people were asked to estimate a basketball player's height, the response varied. When asked "How tall is he?" those in a study answered on the average, “79 inches.” When the question posed was, "How short is he?" of the same player, subjects answered on the average, “69 inches” a difference of almost a foot!

Choose words such as "fast" when you want to suggest speed, "far" for distance, "tall" to emphasize height, and "short" to minimize it. "How fast was the car going?" suggests high speed. "At what speed was the car traveling?" suggests a more moderate speed. "How far was the intersection?" implies that the intersection was far away; "How near was the intersection?" implies the opposite.

Choose the word that presupposes your desired answer. "How long did that go on?"
denotes a situation went on a long time. "How soon was it resolved?" indicates the situation did
not go on a long time. "How many people were involved?" implies many people were involved.
"Who else was involved?" implies just a few people were involved.

It is surprisingly easy to make deliberate word choices that better focus witness responses - and therefore juror perception - to your advantage.