Recently I was told by a person trying to convince me that an illogical but emotional appeal will have no effect upon a jury because logic has a way of overcoming emotional decisions.  I wondered if that really could be true since I have always believed that persuasion involves one part logic and two parts emotion.  I set about to investigate this issue and thought I would report some interesting observations about logic.

Before I show some observations, I would like you to answer logically and as quickly as you can, does the conclusion follow from the premises?

All roses are flowers

Some flowers fade quickly

Therefore, some roses fade quickly.

According to research, the majority of subjects would endorse this syllogism as correct.  The reality, however, is that the logic is flawed.   This is simply because it is possible that there are no roses among the flowers that fade quickly.

In this example, the plausible answer comes quickly “logically.” Overriding that logic, however, is hard work.  According to author Daniel Kahneman, in the book Thinking Fast and Slow, “This experiment has discouraging implications for reasoning in everyday life.  It suggests that when people believe a conclusion is true, they are also very likely to believe arguments that appear to support it, even when those arguments are unsound.” 

According to Mr. Kahneman, there are two systems of “logic” or “thinking.”  Both are in use all the time.  System 1 — intuitive thinking; and system 2 –analytical thinking.  At any time, the mind can switch between the two, yet the person believes that he or she is still being analytical.  People accept system 1 conclusions unless forced to recognize the answer in system 2.

Take another example.

here is a simple puzzle. Do not try to solve it but listen to your intuition:
A bat and ball cost $1.10.
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?” (p. 44)

Probably, the number ’10’ came to your mind. The correct answer, you think, is 10 cents.

But the correct answer is actually ‘5’ – 5 cents. System 1 intuitively takes control and answers 10.’  Only when system 2 gets to hard work, will the real answer come about. 

In this study, more than 50% of students at elite and intellectual colleges such as Harvard, MIT, and Princeton gave the intuitive—incorrect—answer. At less elite universities, the rate of incorrect answers was in excess of 80%.

The consequences of this “logic” is staggering in the legal field.  First, juries are not necessarily the elite thinkers.  They are a group of unwilling participants who are comprised of all demographic parts of society.  They — just as the average college student — are more likely to succumb to the easier path of intuition.

Second, when trying to persuade a jury or others, you must be aware that a logical argument may not be the right course to persuade them to the decision.  The reality is that the argument should have the appearance of logic so that the jury can accept it as being logical even though it may not be logical.  Is that logical?  Maybe, but it sure is intuitive.  You need to combine both a logical element and an emotional element in every argument.

By Steven G. Mehta