Representing Sequence: The Influence of Timeline Axis and Direction on Causal Reasoning in Litigation Law


Can the representation of event sequence influence how jurors remember and reason in a legal case? We addressed this question by examining the interaction between an individual’s preferred spatial construal of time (SCT) for an external (visual- spatial) representation and the SCT of a courtroom graphic. One hundred fifty three undergraduates played the role of jurors in a fictitious civil trial. The details of a case were re- counted in a multimedia presentation featuring timelines animated in one of four orientations: left-right, right-left, top- bottom, and bottom-top. Participants were assessed on measures of comprehension and causal reasoning. Results indicated effects of timeline orientation and SCT choice behavior on comprehension and reasoning. We discuss these results in terms of the role of attention in temporal-causal reasoning, and implications for the design of multimedia materials for the courtroom.

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