Dr. Manges Ph.D. | Forensic Psychologist | Expert Witness
“Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.” Carl Sandburg,
In matters before a civil court versus a military or criminal court, regardless of the venue, whether its New York, Illinois, Texas, Florida or Ohio, Forensic experts are typically asked: “ok, Doc, what does that mean to the plaintiff?”
In a medical matter, it may take the form of symptoms. In a vocational matter, it may take the form of earning capacity. In a human factors case, it may take the form of how much time the car driver had to react before they crashed. In many cases, the evidence is about numbers.
Numbers are neither good nor bad. Numbers are digits and when they are provided to a jury, they can be presented visually through graphs and or spoken with or without a visual display.
As we have come to understand the human condition, 70% of all humans prefer to see versus hear the evidence. When an expert relies solely on telling a jury versus also showing the jury, they may be committing an error in misunderstanding how their audience (the jury) attends, learns and remembers.
Kathy Kellerman in her article in Trial Diplomacy Journal, Displaying Numerical Information, gave some insights worth sharing.
When sharing numbers use both a table and a graph
Find a symbol that will convey the item that is memorable e.g barrels for oil, abbreviations for the months in a year for the amount of hospital time, icons that reflect symbols for types of work, a wrench, a scalpel, a book.
Pie charts help to show how much of the whole that portion of the loss or gain is compared to the rest of the person’s life.
Jurors prefer color to black and white.
When trying to make a comparison between items use a symbol on the left and right of average (the middle symbol) to give perspective to the juror. Show and tell them what average is then have your expert direct them to the impact or effect of the condition or intervention, speed, number of years etc.
Tables focus jurors on the importance of recalling precise quantitates.
Bar charts emphasize comparisons of one category to another.
Pie charts highlight judging the size of one category relative to another.
Line graphs focus the juror on trends.
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