Everyone is biased, including you: the play designed by neuroscientists

We all cling to beliefs despite the evidence. Immersive theatre experience The Justice Syndicate aims to show why

“It’s her word against his,” says a middle-aged male juror in thick-rimmed glasses. “Someone of his experience wouldn’t do something so risky.” A woman to my right says the defendant is probably guilty, but maybe not beyond reasonable doubt. “But why would she lie?” asks another female juror.

Eleven strangers and I are discussing whether renowned children’s surgeon Simon Huxtable tried to rape Sally Hodges, the mother of a former patient. She says he tried to kiss her and then force himself on her. Huxtable says Hodges made up the allegation after he spurned her advances. Mobile phone records show he was at her home for 26 minutes but he told police he was there for only 10. His browsing history reveals he has an interest in rape porn.

I fiddle with a yellow label that says I’m juror number 11. Except I’m not really. The witnesses are actors, and we’ve been watching their testimonies on tablets at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry. The case is fictional, but shared pretence is engaging and our deliberations become heated.

The Justice Syndicate is part interactive play, part psychology experiment developed by audience-centric Newcastle theatre group FanSHEN and Kris De Meyer, a neuroscientist at King’s College London. It explores how we form and change opinions, our tendency to stick to initial instincts and how groups influence our views. De Meyer hopes that data gathered during the shows and their immersive nature will generate new insights into human decision-making.

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