How Should Lawyers Speak in Court?

The U.S. Supreme Court prides itself on being the country's most fair and intelligent judicial arena, but those robe-clad justices might not be completely impartial in one regard: the human voice. According to research, there's a correlation between how masculine a male lawyer sounds and how likely he is to win a case. It turns out that an authoritarian male voice does not necessarily please the court. The researchers asked a group of volunteers to listen to 60 audio recordings of male lawyers speaking to the high court, and then say how they perceived the speaker's attractiveness, education, intelligence, masculinity, and confidence. When the researchers compared the results to the ultimate decisions the court made in each case, the only factor that appeared to contribute to the court's ruling was the lawyer's perceived masculinity. The lawyers who spoke in softer tones were more likely to win. Lead researcher Alan Yu of the University of Chicago said the findings came as a surprise and require more study. "Lawyers who think they’re going to lose may project a different kind of voice, perhaps overcompensating by sounding more masculine,” he said.

Highlights of the high court:

  • Two justices have been depicted on U.S. currency: John Marshall ($500 bill) and Salmon P. Chase ($10,000 bill); neither is in circulation.
  • The Supreme Court was established in 1789 but didn't have a permanent home until 1935.
  • William Howard Taft is the only person to have served as both U.S. president and Supreme Court chief justice.
More Info: New Scientist

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