Friday, April 27, 2012

Can Visuals Interfere With Your Argument/Testimony?

Our world has become a ‘world-in-pictures’ with virtually everything translated into a visual format, or at the very least, accompanied by an icon or picture of some related sort. Given this reality, litigators have been encouraged to create visuals and graphics to support the presentation of their case, to the maximum allowed by the Court.

All this is well and good, and indeed, has been proven effective in case after case. However, which visuals, and how they are designed to be most persuasive, can be elusive.

Lawyers are often tempted to load up visuals with as much information as possible, understanding that the visual is more compelling than the spoken word. In theory, this is accurate. However, you and your witnesses still need to be heard as well as visually represented. Too much information on any given graphic can lead to “inattentional deafness” (Macdonald and Lavie, UK, 2011). Simply stated, the more complicated and comprehensive the visual material, the less subjects were able to respond to what they heard.

This is true for jurors as well. Over-complicate your visuals, and jurors will not be able to absorb what you’re saying. If your case is such that you must present an information-loaded visual, be that in still or video form, be quiet while that information is imparted visually, at least for a few moments, and then speak, preferably with the information-loaded visual out of view.