Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, February 1, 2013

'If it doesn't fit, you must acquit!'

This is a video clip of the legendary attorney Johnnie Cochrane arguing at California Superior Court in the defence of O. J. Simpson, who was tried on two counts of murder subsequent to the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman. Albeit substantial amount of evidences pointing to Simpson, he was rendered not guilty. During the trial, Cochrane convinced the prosecutor to let Simpson try on the pair of gloves that were found at the crime scene, the gloves were previously soaked in blood and was frozen several times; it had shrunken when it was tried-on. As expected, the pair of gloves did not fit, but unfortunately at the time no one noticed about the fact that it had shrunken and so no one argued against it. Cochrane subsequently said, ‘if it doesn't fit, you must acquit!’

Here, Johnnie Cochrane made use of the mnemonic device which is a method that enhances memory in order to persuade the jurors in favour of Simpson. The statement made sense to everyone and its mnemonic nature enhances the jurors’ memory. Therefore, the jurors could recall it easily when they were deciding on a verdict. Research showed that if a message can be recalled easily, it will also be much preferred. 

To elaborate, in Stafford and Grimes (2012) experiment, 2 classes of psychology undergraduates took part in the experiment during lectures. In the first phase, 20 logos that were not yet publicized at the time were used as stimuli, in which10 were located in the top right corner of each lecture slide. Three days after, they took part in a test phase in which responses were gathered from all attending students on that day using the ComTec Audience Response system. Each participants pressed buttons on a handset that wirelessly transmit their response to a centralized receiver. Also, they stated their confidence after each judgment. The results indicated that in general, people preferred the logos that were exposed in the first phase and were correctly recognized in the test phase. Additionally, participants most preferred the logos that were exposed and that they were highly confident in. 

To conclude, we prefer messages that are easily accessible to our mind, in the case of the jurors, they much preferred processing Cochrane’s mnemonic message when judging whether Simpson was guilty or not.

Stafford, T., & Grimes, A. (2012). Memory Enhances the Mere Exposure Effect. Psychology & Marketing, 29(12), 995-1003.

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