Should Trial Attorneys Use Complex Language? It Depends…

Today’s Read:

Alivia Zubrod, Lucian Gideon Conway III, Kathrene R. Conway, and David Ailanjian, Understanding the Role of Linguistic Complexity in Famous Trial Outcomes, Journal of Language and Social Psychology 2021, Vol. 40(3) 354–377,

I suppose starting off with a quote from one of the most famous trials in U.S. history is appropriate:

“If [the glove] doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Johnnie Cochran, Defense Attorney for OJ Simpson, June 15, 1995

Regardless of your opinion about the outcome of the OJ Simpson trial, you have to admire the beauty and simplicity of this contention by the defense. It does not employ any complex legal arguments, and it does not twist itself in circles trying to explain why the defendant is innocent. It just appeals to the common sense of the jury. Memorably, it even rhymes. And, clearly, it worked.

The article I’m reviewing today, published last year in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, provides a fascinating look at the use of complex language in “famous” trials.

As their corpus, the researchers used Famous Trials, an open-access database established and maintained by Douglas O. Linder of UMKC School of Law.

The idea behind the research was to figure out whether and how the use of complex language by prosecutors and defense attorneys in their opening and closing statements appears to have impacted the outcome of the case.

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Keep Calm, Carry On, and Wash Your Hands

Today’s Occasional Read:
Dori B. Reissman et al.
Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Adaptive Responses to an Evolving Challenge
Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
V. 3, No. 2, Article 13, 2006

Welcome to our new reality.

As the country slowly shuts down due to the CoronaVirus pandemic [], I decided to return from my long hiatus of reading and writing about a scholarly article to focus on the literature that discusses the psychological impact of dealing with a global health crisis like this.

This article was written in 2006, in response to the avian flu virus, but it honestly could have been written yesterday. I found so much content here that is extremely relevant to life today.

The authors begin by defining a pandemic virus as having four characteristics; (1) it’s a new virus emerging from an animal-related source; (2) people don’t have immunity to it; (3) people get sick from it; and (4) the virus spreads easily and efficiently, “through coughing, sneezing,or a hand-shake.” (p.1)

Check, check, check, and check.

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Most of Your Worries Are Probably Irrational

L.S. LaFreniere and M.G. Newman, Exposing Worry’s Deceit: Percentage of Untrue Worries in Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment, Behavior Therapy,

So I decided to change it up a little bit today, and read an article about what is probably my truest nemesis: worrying. This article has been making the rounds on Twitter over the last few days, so I rearranged some stuff to fit it into my Daily Read schedule for today.

The authors undertook a study in which people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) recorded their worries and then reported on whether or not they came true in a therapeutic device called a Worry Outcome Journal (WOJ). Their hypothesis? At least 75% of the worries these people experience will not come true, and the more this happens, the better the persons therapeutic treatment outcome will be.

The participants in this study were 29 undergraduates with GAD, 26 of whom were women and over 75% of whom were white. The authors do note that this means that there will be “restricted generalizability” of study results, given that the participants were “largely white, female, young adult undergraduate students.”

(I’m glad they said that, because seriously? And note that I am a white female too, albeit not so young anymore.)

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“Subjective Senses” in Psychology

Fernando L. Gonzales Rey, Subjectivy and Discourse: Complementary Topics for a Critical Psychology, Culture and Psychology, 2019, Vol. 25(2) 178-194, DOI: 10.1177/1354067X18754338.

I am not a psychologist, but I have long been interested in how personality, thoughts, motivations, and emotions affect behavior, especially regarding how we interact with and respond to others. This comes partially from my own experience in psychotherapy, through which I learned a lot about myself and why certain people and life situations create in me a lot of anxiety, confusion, frustration, and anger.

I am also working on a paper right now in which I am exploring the acculturation process of foreign students, and how the acculturation experience can shape the student’s experience with scholarly research during their time abroad. During my research for this paper, I found myself drawn to articles about culture and subjectivity. That is why I decided to pick this article for today’s Daily Read.

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Law Students and Stress

Lara Dresser (2005) Promoting Psychological Health in Law Students, Legal Reference Services Quarterly, 24:1-2, 41-72, DOI: 10.1300/J113v24n01_02

Since I am currently working on an article that discusses law school culture, albeit one that focuses on acculturation issues faced by foreign law students, I thought this would be as good an article as any to start this project with.

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