Dateline: June, 2007, Issue 2

Does ingratiation in voir dire affect trial outcomes?

Attorneys frequently try to ingratiate themselves to jurors, judges, and courtroom personnel to increase their personal likeability and improve trial outcomes for their clients. Tactics used to bond with jurors range from exaggerating confidence in the venire, offering extreme courtesy towards jurors, joking with the panel, feigning concern about the health and welfare of jurors, and making mutual acquaintances known.

Attorneys face a dilemma in their ingratiation efforts. If ingratiation is too subtle, then it will go unnoticed and no liking will be generated for them or their clients; on the other hand, if ingratiation is laid on too thick, the ingratiation can backfire with jurors questioning and suspecting, rather than liking, attorneys.

Brodsky (2006) tested how much ingratiation is too much during the voir dire process for three different panels of jurors. One panel of jurors watched a voir dire involving no ingratiation attempts. A second panel of jurors watched the same attorney in a voir dire involving 37 ingratiation attempts that included compliments, empathy/concern for jurors, and humor as the primary means of ingratiation. The third panel of mock jurors watched the same attorney in a voir dire involving 91 similar ingratiation attempts.

Men and women responded differently to the attorney's ingratiation attempts. The attorney was equally likeable to men whether the attorney tried no ingratiation, a moderate amount of ingratiation, or a high amount of ingratiation. By contrast, women liked the attorney best when the attorney used a moderate amount of ingratiation. For both men and women, the high amount of ingratiation was responded to no differently than if the attorney had not ingratiated himself at all; many jurors felt that the highly ingratiating attorney was excessively flattering to them and that this was off-putting.

Interestingly, while ingratiation sometimes generated liking for the attorney, the ingratiation was unrelated to verdicts of guilt, for either male or female jurors.

In sum, female jurors like attorneys more when they use moderate amounts of ingratiation, but jurors' liking of attorneys is not related to, and so cannot predict, verdicts in a case (for both male and female jurors).

Source Brodsky, S. L. (2006). Ingratiation in the courtroom and in the voir dire process: When more is not better. Law & Psychology Review, 30, 103-117.