Watch Out for Subliminal Messages in Trial Graphics

by Ryan H. Flax

trial graphics subliminal messages

A recent study by University of Arizona doctoral student, Jay Sanguinetti, found that people’s brains perceive objects and images in everyday life that we are not consciously aware of.  Even if you never actually know you see something, your brain can “see” it and process the related visual information. Here’s an example from the University’s study to the right:

When test subjects (that means human beings) were asked to look at abstract black silhouettes, their brains also perceived the real-world objects hidden in the negative space at the image border. Here, your brain perceives two seahorses, just as the test subjects’ brains did during the experiment, even though there are no seahorses in the graphic.

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6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid

by Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

In our view, many common techniques that lawyers use in making courtroom trial presentations actually represent very common errors.

“Error” is a strong word, since trial presentation skills and techniques are not an exact science. However, every litigator and courtroom professional should know that there is a strong body of evidence that supports the idea that these approaches are less desirable and likely to be less effective.

Don’t Split the Audience’s Attention..

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trial presentation errors mistakes avoid

Show, Don’t Just Tell: Part 1, Continuity (Persuasion Strategies Visual Persuasion Study)

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm

Eyechart continuity
We all remember “show and tell,” and at least back then we understood intuitively that if we tried to just tell, without showing, we couldn’t expect much attention from the class.  The same applies in litigation, and in a way you might not expect.  This post is the first in a five-part series, reporting for the first time on the results of our own large scale (1,375 mock jurors) original research study focusing on the effectiveness of visual persuasion in a litigation context.  These results have not been published anywhere, until now.  The conclusions I’ll be sharing in the next five posts do not focus on the obvious point that it is helpful to use graphics when talking to juries (we all pretty much knew that already).  Instead, my focus is on the best ways to use graphics, contrasting five different approaches, as well as on the specific effects that these approaches have on comprehension and the credibility assigned to different arguments.

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This is How to Address Witness Contamination in a Visually Persuading Manner

Witness contamination or tampering is something that rarely comes up in high-stakes litigation, but when it does, it’s typically met with foundation-shaking consequences.

In a recent matter, our client wanted to visually make the point that nearly all of opposing witnesses’ testimony contained cross references to other witnesses’ statements. In addition, when these witnesses were asked under oath about the other witnesses’ statements they relied upon or cited to, many of them were quite unfamiliar with the actual content which they had included in their own statements. Unbelievably, some witnesses testified that they had never even read the other witness statements.







Originally, our trial team wanted to attach a summary of the evidence supporting this argument to their brief. However, since their text version of the chart spanned 3 pages and they were constrained by a judicially imposed page limitation, they decided to forgo the attachment and defer presenting support for this point to the oral argument. Our client, knowing that 70% of the population is composed of visual learners, tasked us with developing a more concise, yet visually effective way of presenting this evidence at a later hearing. The VisuaLex consultants were able to transform 3 pages of dense text into a single base illustration with a handful of repetitive building screens that put some meat on the bones of the argument. The “web-like” quality of the graphic visually communicated the “contamination” aspect of the issue.
We repeated that visual foundation in subsequent screens, but only highlighted the reliance on other witness statements for a particular witness, so we could add relevant testimony showcasing their lack of knowledge of actual content and/or acknowledgement of never reading the statements they relied upon. Finally, we implemented a VisuaLex standard, by crafting a title that succinctly told our story and gave the “takeaway” of our argument.

After the hearing, our client happily reported to us that the Tribunal found this graphic series to be extremely helpful in understanding the facts buttressing our argument and, in fact, actually laughed when the graphic made its appearance on the display screens.

Do you want to know how we can transform your case information into a precise, visual communication strategy?

Do you want to experience the reasons why the top litigators in the country won’t go to trial without us? Contact us at or (914)674-2242.

24 Mistakes That Make For a DeMONSTERative Evidence Nightmare

Posted by Ken Lopez

demontrative evidence demonsterative halloween demonsteritive evidence

Demonstrative evidence is a general term for evidence introduced in litigation that is neither spoken testimony nor “real” evidence like an actual murder weapon. Demonstrative evidence is introduced in order to make evidence and facts in a case easier for the judge or jury to understand.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

  1. Waiting until it is too late. From the very beginning, plan your case with an eye toward its presentation to a jury. See our article on using a dual-track strategy in trial preparation.
  2. Cheating on your charts. There are many ways to lie using charts, including axis changes, using logarithmic scales, cherry picking data, and much more. These “black-hat” techniques are not only inappropriate but if you get caught, they are likely to draw sanctions or worse.

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How Does the Modality Effect Play a Role in Litigation Graphics?

Here’s a great article, recommended from a colleague, about how the modality effect works in multimedia learning.  If you’re a litigator in the 21st century, this is a must read.


The modality effect is a central issue in multimedia learning [see Mayer (Cambridge University Press, 2005a), for a review]. Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), for example, presumes that an illustrated text is better understood when presented visually rather than orally.

This article also widens the scope of the analysis of moderator variables (e.g. Pace of presentation, Type of visualization, Research group) as well as their potentially confounded effects. Finally, it is argued that, for theoretical reasons, the so-called modality effect cannot be based on Penney’s or Baddeley’s theories and must be explained in a different way.

See the entire article here:

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

Pre-Trial and Presentation Databases – Assembling Your Materials


Back in the analog days, a parade of lawyers and paralegals would march into the courtroom right before a trial started, carrying dozens of bankers’ boxes filled with documents and other evidence. These days, attorneys in most medium-to-large cases digitize everything from contracts to deposition transcripts, photos, and video and organize them in databases. As such, a trial presentation technician walks into the courtroom carrying just a laptop – but one loaded with a database that contains the equivalent of hundreds of bankers’ boxes of material.

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