When Facts Don’t Matter

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We’d like to believe facts matter. In some situations, that is true, but I believe this quote attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche: “There are no facts, only interpretations.”

When facts might matter

As a former trial lawyer, I was confident facts mattered to jurors, and they do – to some extent. Jurors have no familiarity with the dispute before them. They are supposed to start without an opinion about who is “right” and who’s “wrong.”

I used to think of jurors as blank slates. Both sides would attempt to persuade them. The one who did the best job would prevail.

The reality is different. We all have biases. For example, the way we process information may be impacted by the racial and ethnic group to which we belong. Jurors often make decisions based on what are euphemistically called “extralegal factors” like race and gender. There’s evidence African Americans, “are treated the worst in criminal and civil cases.”

Tufts psychology professor Sam Summers believes, “expectations, biases and prejudices influence the way we see the world.” His research indicates that the racial composition of a jury can, “influence its decision making.” He notes that all-white juries are more likely to convict minority defendants than racially diverse juries.

If jurors charged with the responsibility of acting in a dispassionate and objective manner fall short, how does this knowledge impact the way you interact with others?