Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 281–302 | Cite as

Attorney communication and impression making in the courtroom

Views from Off the Bench
  • Daniel Linz
  • Steven Penrod
  • Elaine McDonald


This study investigated the effectiveness of attorney communication and impression making in the courtroom. Trained in-court observers rated attorney presentations for factual and legal informativeness, organization, articulateness, and rapport during the opening statement phase of 50 trials. After the trials, jurors were asked to evaluate the attorneys' overall articulateness. enthusiasm, and likableness during the trial. The attorneys were then questioned about their own performance on these indices. The results revealed that the opening statements of prosecuting attorneys were judged by observers as better organized and more factually and legally informative than defense attorneys. However, these variables were not related to trial outcome. Juror evaluations of prosecuting attorneys more closely agreed with these attorneys' self-perceptions of courtroom performance while defense attorneys rated themselves significantly more favorably than did jurors. More courtroom experience did not generally lead to better courtroom performance during opening statements for either prosecuting or defense attorneys, and often resulted in significant overestimations of general performance relative to juror evaluations, particularly among defense attorneys. System constraints operating in favor of prosecutors and performance feedback mechanisms available to prosecutors but not to defense attorneys are discussed. These mechanisms may account for the discrepancies between juror perceptions of attorneys and attorney self-perception.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, R. C., & Pickert, J. W. (1978). Recall of previously unrecallable information following a shift in perspective.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 17, 1–12.Google Scholar
  2. Bartlett, F. C. (1932).Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge. England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bobrow, D. G., & Norman, D. A. (1975). Some principles of memory schemata. In D. G. Bobrow & A. Collins (Eds.),Representation and understanding: Studies in cognitive science. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Boland, B. (1983). INSLAW, Inc.The prosecution of felony arrests. Washington Bureau of Justice Studies.Google Scholar
  5. Bower, G. H. (1975). Cognitive psychology: An introduction. In. W. K. Estes (Eds.)Handbook of learning and cognitive processes (Vol. 1). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Bower, G. H., Black, J. B., & Turner, T. J. (1979). Scripts in comprehension and memory.Cognitive Psychology, 11, 177–220.Google Scholar
  7. Brewer, W. F., & Treyens, J. C. (1981). Role of schemata in memory for places.Cognitive Psychology, 13, 207–230.Google Scholar
  8. Burger, W. (1973). The special skills of advocacy: Are specialized training and certification of advocates essential to our system of justice?Fordham Law Review, 42, 227.Google Scholar
  9. Carter, R. E. (1981). Improving the quality of trial advocacy in civil litigation in the federal courts.Federal Bar News Journal, 40, 291–295, 301.Google Scholar
  10. Crary, W. G. (1966). Reactions to incongruent self-experiences.Journal of Consulting Psychology, 30, 246–252.Google Scholar
  11. Cronbach, L. J., Gleser, G. C., Nanda, H., & Rajaratnam, N. (1972).The dependability of behavioral measurements: Theory of generalizability for scores and profiles. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Evans, F. R., & Norwood, J. M. (1975).A comparison of the availability of legal representation provided by licensed and student attorneys. Report to the Law Enforcement Assistant Administration (LEAA) University of New Mexico Law School. Albuquerque, NM.Google Scholar
  13. Feldman, S., & Wilson, K. (1981). The value of interpersonal, skills in lawyering.Law and Human Behavior, 5, 311–324.Google Scholar
  14. Forston, R. F. (1975). Sense and non-sense: Jury trial communicationBrigham Young University Law Review, 1975, 605–606.Google Scholar
  15. Frankel, M. E. (1977). Curing lawyers' incompetence: Primum non nocere.Creighton Law Review.10, 613–639.Google Scholar
  16. Greenberg, M. S., & Ruback, R. B. (1982).Social psychology of the criminal justice system, Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  17. Haddad, F. E. Jr. (1979). The criminal case: The opening statement.Trial. 41, 34–35.Google Scholar
  18. Heberlein, T. A., & Baumgartner, B. (1978). Factors affecting response rates to mailed questionnaires: A quantitative analysis of the published literature.American Psychological Review 43, 447–462.Google Scholar
  19. Kalven, H., & Zeisel, H. (1966).The American jury. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Katz, D., & Braley, K. W. (1933). Racial stereotypes of 100 college students.Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 28, 280–290.Google Scholar
  21. Kerr, N. L. (1982). Trial participants' behaviors and jury verdicts: An exploratory field study. In V. J. Konecni & E. B. Ebbesen (Eds.),The criminal justice system: A social-psychological analysis. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  22. Kim, J. (1975). Factor analysis. In N. H. Nie et al. (Eds.),SPSS: Statistical package for the social sciences (2nd ed.), New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  23. Kirk, R. E. (1968).Experimental design: Procedures for the behavioral sciences Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  24. Klecka, W. R. (1980).Discriminant analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Maddi, D. L. (1978). Trial advocacy competence: The judicial perspective.American Bar Foundation Research Journal, 1978(1), 105–151.Google Scholar
  26. Maddi, D. L. (1979). Judges' views of lawyers in their courts.American Bar Foundation Research Journal, 1979(3), 689–696.Google Scholar
  27. Markus, H. (1977). Self-schemata and processing information about the self.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 63–78.Google Scholar
  28. Mauet, T. A. (1980).Fundamentals of trial techniques. Canada: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  29. Minsky, M. A. (1975). A framework for representing knowledge. In P. Winston (Ed.),The psychology of computer vision. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  30. Mitchell, S. K. (1979). Interobservers agreement, reliability, and generalizability of data collected in observational studies.Psychological Bulletin, 86, 376–390.Google Scholar
  31. Morrill, A. E. (1973).Trial diplomacy. Chicago: Court Practice Institute.Google Scholar
  32. Neisser, U. (1976).Cognitive psychology New York: Appleton.Google Scholar
  33. Platt, A., & Pollock, R. (1976). Channeling lawyers: The careers of public defenders. In G. Bermant, C. Nemeth, & N. Vidmar (Eds.),Psychology ad law. Lexington, MA: Lexington.Google Scholar
  34. Pyszczynski, T. A., & Wrightsman, L. S. (1981). The effects of opening statements on mock jurors' verdicts in a simulated criminal trial.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 11, 301–313.Google Scholar
  35. Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On being sane in insane places.Science, 179, 250–258.Google Scholar
  36. Ross, L., Lepper, M., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self perception and social perception: Biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 880–892.Google Scholar
  37. Rumelhart, D. E. (1980). Schemata: The building blocks of cognition. In R. J. Spiro, B. C. Bruce, & W. F. Brewer (Eds.),Theoretical issues in reading comprehension: Perspectives from cognitive psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and education. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  38. Schank, R. C., & Abelson, R. P. (1977).Scripts, plans, goals and understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  39. Shrauger, J. S., & Lund, A. K. (1975). Self-evaluation and reactions to evaluation from others.Journal of Personality, 43, 94–108.Google Scholar
  40. Shrauger, J. S., & Schoeneman, T. J. (1979). Symbolic interactionist view of the self-concept: Through the looking glass darkly,Psychological Bulletin, 86, 549–573.Google Scholar
  41. Swann, W. B., & Read, S. J. (1981). Acquiring self-knowledge: The search for feedback that fits.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 1119–1128.Google Scholar
  42. Swann W. B., & Read, S. J. (1981). Self-verification processes: How we sustain our self-conceptions.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 17, 351–372.Google Scholar
  43. Walster, E., Berscheid, E., Abrahams, D., & Aronson, V. (1967). Effectiveness of debriefing following deception experiments.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 371–380.Google Scholar
  44. Weld, H. P., & Danzig, E. R. (1940). A study of the way in which a verdict is reached by a jury.American Journal of Psychology, 53, 518–536.Google Scholar
  45. Wyer, R. S., Henninger, M., & Wolfson, M. (1975). Informational determinants of females “self-attributions and observers' judgments of them in an achievement situation”.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 556–570.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Linz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Steven Penrod
    • 3
  • Elaine McDonald
    • 3
  1. 1.Wm. S. Middleton Memorial Veterans HospitalMadisonUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin at MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.University of Wisconsin at MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations