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April 11, 2023

Can't Hear negatives

Negatives don’t do well in the subconscious. A sentence with “not” in it is read by the brain as “this is true.”

We hear no negatives. Only positives. “I didn’t do it” is heard by the subconscious as “I did it.”

Can’t hear negatives. That concept is short and quite powerful.

The Jungians were firm believers that the mind does not hear negatives. If someone says “The car was not black,” the brain hears “The car was black. When a judge says “you must disregard all testimony dealing with red hats” they might as well give a cautionary instruction “give extra stress to red hats.”

I’ve put that in terms of the brain not hearing negatives, and have chosen word structure to avoid  it in presentations.

So a client saying “I did not do that” is, as a starting point, heard subconsciously as “I did that.”

I think of this especially in limiting instructions, jury instructions, and examining witnesses direct and cross. Voir Dire also of course.

Here’s a nice example of the point. Picture a blue bicycle please. Ok. Now  do not picture an orange bicycle. Did the “not” work for anyone?

I believe that this most powerful language process can be of win/lose importance in a motions hearing or in a trial to a jury or to the Judge. In fact, it applies generally to communications.

Instead of asking “You were not at the scene of this crime, were you?” consider “You were at home watching a western at 11:PM?” It’s easy from there. Lead as allowed, especially if it saves time. The judge might love it.




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