Irrational Thinking in Personal Injury Trials: Effectively Countering Emotional Arguments

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Thursday, June 25, 2020

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This CLE course will discuss how counsel litigating claims arising from commercial vehicle accidents, toxic exposure, and other personal injury claims can recognize, leverage, and counter emotional thinking by the jury. The panel will discuss the prevalence of illogical thinking and show how to harness or confront it during all phases of the case.


When someone concludes that his/her emotional reaction to something defines its reality, that person is engaged in emotional reasoning. Facts, statistics, and research are often disregarded in favor of the "truth" of the feeling. Indeed, numerous studies demonstrate that most decisions are driven by emotion and then justified by rationalization.

Jurors and judges are no different. If jurors can be convinced to fear a product or a defendant, then they are more likely to view them as dangerous, despite facts to the contrary. Litigators count on and anticipate the fact that emotion impacts how jurors process information, assess blame and responsibility, and impose consequences.

Moreover, studies have shown that human beings, including jurors, tend to substitute feelings they do not like with ones they do. For example, people are generally uncomfortable with uncertainty, so they replace it with certitude. They replace complexity with simplicity.

Listen as the panel describes how to recognize appeals to simplistic, emotional thinking in a personal injury case and learn how to refocus jurors and judges on facts, science, and other concrete evidence.



  1. Emotional thinking and why it can be effective
    1. Uncertainty and certitude
    2. Us vs. them
    3. Power/choice vs. lack of control
  2. Understanding how these beliefs benefit listeners
  3. Finding ways to make jurors recognize faulty thinking


The panel will review these and other essential steps:

  • How to recognize arguments based on emotions
  • How to neutralize emotional thinking
  • How to recast and replace emotional thinking


Johnston, Robert
Robert E. Johnston


Mr. Johnston's practice focuses on trials and appeals of complex litigation matters, with an ‎emphasis on...  |  Read More

Malinowski, Matthew
Matthew J. Malinowski


Mr. Malinowski focuses his practice on highly complex, "bet the company" trials and litigation. He has...  |  Read More

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