Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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

Legally Blonde Courtroom Scene


In this court scene clip from Legally Blonde (2001) the character of Elle is currently training to become a lawyer and renowned for her knowledge in hair, beauty and fashion. In this scene (from 2:00 onward) she uses this to her advantage when she structures her explanation of how she believes the witness is lying in a story format. This technique enables the jury to visualize the order of events and thus pick out where the witness had lied and how the lawyer’s previous questioning had uncovered this.

Hastie & Pennington (2000) state that plausible stories guide thought, determine the creditably of information and ultimately direct evaluation about story-related decisions. This can clearly be seen within this clip as the story framed the evidence and facts Elle’s character had just discovered about the witness’ whereabouts at the time of the murder.

This is supported by Slusher and Anderson (1996) who discovered that they were more effective in arguing that the AIDS virus is not spread by casual contact when they used facts embedded in a casual structure on how the disease is transmitted compared to when they used statistical facts. They also found out that such casual stories or social theories tend to persist even if they are facing strong, discrediting information. Therefore, reinforcing the effective use a particular structure- such as that of a story- to explain the evidence and facts in a more influential way. 

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