By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
I don't like the phrase "mind reading," particularly as applied to juries and judges. It invokes some inaccurate stereotypes of what trial consultants do and of what is possible when watching or modeling a jury. Whenever I'm asked to sit in court to observe, I make sure the client is aware that I'm doing many things, but mind reading isn't one of them. But generally, the clients are still motivated to have someone there whose main job is to think about how the fact finders might be perceiving and recalling what they hear. And it is a good thing to have that motivation. In fact, a recent research article (Carpenter, Green & Varcharkulksemsuk, 2016) proposes this as a new construct: a "Mind Reading Motivation." They call it "MRM" (because they're academics), and it refers to a psychological preference for noticing and using small pieces of social information in order to gain insight into another's mental state. It is similar to the idea of "Theory of Mind" (Yes, they call that "TOM"), which refers to our understanding of another person's perceptions. The new construct, however, emphasizes the ingredient of motivation. After the age of 4 to 6, we all have an understanding that others see things differently, but some of us are motivated to think about that in detail while others aren't.
The researchers define "Mind Reading Motivation" as a "willingness to effortfully engage with other people's perspectives and mental states." One of the authors, Dr. Melanie Green, clarifies in a piece in Psyblog, "We’re not talking about the psychic phenomenon or anything like that, but simply using cues from other people’s behavior, their nonverbal signals, to try to figure out what they’re thinking.” That tendency is distinct from actual mind reading ability, but nonetheless conveys a number of persuasive advantages. “Those high in MRM," Dr. Green continues, "seem to develop richer psychological portraits of those around them," and as a result, they do a better job of analyzing their target audience and are more effective in collaborative settings. This construct adds to the list of personality factors that influence persuaders. It carries implications for litigators as well because it goes to the issue of audience awareness which is at the heart of persuasion.