Intersection Neuroscience Technology Theatre

The Justice Syndicate

Fanshen is a theatre company that develops audience-centric plays which are experimental. It devised a piece with Dr. Kris De Meyer, a neuroscientist of the King’s College and Joe McAlister, a computational artist (Fanshen, 2019). This piece, a game’s technology, gathers information from participants and tests various psychological theories particularly about how individuals make decisions as well as how the decisions made by a group affects a person’s acts. The players in the Justice Syndicate are encouraged to consider a tendency of rational intuitions over rational fact analysis (Fanshen, 2019).

As the play begins, the setting includes an empty room with 12 iPads on a wide table. The large table also contains name desk holders for 12 people (designating jurors) and 12 note pads. The Justice Syndicate is an interactive play which is about a jury that deliberates concerning sexual assault case, a high-profile case. The Justice Syndicate emerges as an excellent interactive theatre example which is certainly pushing dramaturgy to higher levels. Fanshen is a firm which is incredibly playful and politically engaging as they combine research, game, and performance in the company’s theatrical productions. They are thus able to synthesise sociological ideas and complex topics that exist today into experiences which an audience can relate to, understand, and be part of (PASKETT, 2019).


By combining decision-making and research with a meticulous model of inclusive research, the play delivers an experience that is mind-changing (Rooms, 2018). The premise of the play is a court case in which Dr. Simon Huxtable is accused of sexual assault by Sally Hodges. The story is provided to a juror through iPads as small evidence pieces for this case.

In such a situation, it is possible to imagine that there could be information overload particularly if the audience becomes swamped with numerous texts from the court arguments. Fanshen manages to portray a masterful psychological and theatrical craft by making the jurors go through several news coverage or statements. The jurors' engagement is thus maintained with the information influx as well as their involvement within the story (Talbot, 2019). Additionally, every element of the play is constructed carefully. Each character, occasionally shown on videos, is demonstrated as a sophisticated character that has many possible motives.

Moreover, it is interesting to note that the topic of the play as well as its plot, are developed to trigger an audience’s passionate opinions and biases. The Justice Syndicate talks about the current topics like sexual assault. Within this context, the demonstration of contrast in class between Dr. Huxtable and Sally Hodges, his wife, come out as a powerful influence source for the jurors’ verdict. In this manner, Fanshen manages to create an extensively engaging structure which absorbs an audience personally (Talbot, 2019). However, this story is merely a part of the entire piece. The actual theatrical experience is found in the interaction of the audience.

Throughout the time given to jurors in their juror room, members of the audience have some opportunities of discussing whether they should declare Dr. Huxtable innocent or guilty. As the juror runs out of time, their last decision comes closer, and their debate intensifies. It is within the discussions they hold which the play’s ideas become alive as well as embodied by the jurors (BRISCOE, 2017). The way the jurors interact with other spectator and material defines the experience that the spectator has. The Justice Syndicate play advances through this interactivity which without, the theatrical event would be absent.

The play entirely embodies the aspect of interactive theatre by putting the interaction of the audience as a centre stage of dramatic tension. The other aspect which makes the play unique is the link between theatrical experiences and psychology research. Fanshen elaborates the main reason for the play as the ability of people to fill in the blanks as well as how they deal with their preconceptions. Another purpose is how participation in a group can affect an individual’s ability to fill in the blanks and their prejudices. Candent topics of classism and sexism illustrated above are used in the play as a tool for exploring what is covered by human behaviour and how people make decisions (BRISCOE, 2017).

History has demonstrated different outcomes from group decision making such as in referendums, elections, and corporate policies. Collective decision-making has led to surprising outcomes. The process of decision-making has been analysed for long by social psychology since the 50s. Many exciting discoveries have been made like how people are likely to adjust their opinion for it to be in line with that of a group, or how individuals stick to their earlier decision for them to remain self-consistent. A majority of people usually base their decisions or opinions on their instincts, which are constituted by biases (Thibaut, 2017).

Sometimes these instincts make people stick to their opinions or decisions regardless of the available evidence. Many of the processes of psychology occur automatically, and sometimes people are not aware of them. They can, therefore, become exploited so that a person’s or group’s core beliefs are influenced. The only defence against unwanted influences and personal biases is awareness (Pronin, Gilovich and Ross, 2004). The connection between psychology and the Justice Syndicate is working both on how theatrical plays can provide data to the sphere of psychology and how this sphere is impacting the globe directly.

The Justice Syndicate play has thus become a significant attempt to ensure that individuals question underlying assumptions through taking part in theatre pieces. The play surprisingly demonstrates that even though people can reason, they are still capable of making numerous mistakes. The play also shows that individuals can cling to irrational or extreme views even where facts are bare. The play drives us to wonder; therefore if psychology can provide some insight and lead people into making more rational decisions (Fanshen, 2019.).

Festinger (1951), an American psychologist, who studied the primary human desire, claimed that humans compare themselves to others when evaluating their abilities and opinions. This psychologist says that those individuals in groups and who have divergent views will either come to a consensus, develop entrenched factions or ostracise other people with different opinions. Festinger (1951) also demonstrated how humans suffer a psychological discomfort known as cognitive dissonance when they contradict their actions, beliefs or ideas.

Tavris and Aronson (2008) demonstrated how when people contradict their beliefs, actions, and ideas they can make poor decisions especially when it’s about something which is important to their self-image. Tavris and Aronson (2008) says that when an individual sees themselves as smart, kind and competent, when they are given information that they have done a foolish, hurtful or immoral thing, they have a choice to revise their view about themselves or dismiss the presented evidence, a choice which is often less painful to them. Such pressures can result in confirmation bias which is the possibility of only paying attention to data which confirms a person’s existing beliefs.

During the 70s, Tversky and Kahneman (1973) outlined various mental shortcuts which can result in people to stray. Tversky and Kahneman (1973) gave an example by saying that heuristic may convince a person mistakenly that traveling by car is much safer as compared to flying. Moreover, due to the anchoring effect, a person may look at a 200-pound pair of jeans as a bargain when reduced from 400 pounds, even when they cost 3 pounds to make. Further, representativeness heuristic may mislead a gambler to think they are about to win after several statistically different loses.

Tversky and Kahneman (1973) outlined the way people’s brain uses quick, intuitive processes in decision making. They also described how the brain uses slow, deliberate and conscious methods in other situations. It is argued that cognitive biases in humans only appear strange when human reasoning is looked at individualistically (Tversky and Kahneman, 1973). Mercier and Sperber (2017), who are cognitive scientists, claim that because humans are very social animals, they are more concerned about looking trustworthy, competent and wise to others. Human reasoning is thus evolved to justify their positions and help them argue their case. These psychologists say that the brain is not evolved to arrive at solutions which are most logical but to do the above mentioned functions (Mercier and Sperber, 2017).

Mercier and Sperber (2017) say that humans are thus always justifying themselves and looking to convince other people that they are the type which should be cooperated with. From this point of view, holding on to an opinion or argument which contradicts to one’s view makes no sense. However, having a confirmation bias makes some sense. People take different opinions on the bits of data that are important. Furthermore, people have many unusual and different biases as has been demonstrated by the play (Mercier and Sperber).

The play leaves its readers, listeners or participants to question their ethics as well as whether they made the correct decisions. Reflecting on the play as an approach or a concept also leaves one questioning the roles in collaborations (Banaji and Greenwald, 2016).

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  • Banaji, M.R. and Greenwald, A.G., 2016. Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people. Bantam.
  • Fanshen, 2019. The Justice Syndicate.
  • Festinger, L., 1951. Architecture and group membership. Journal of Social Issues, 7(1‐2), pp.152-163.
  • Ludic Rooms, 2018. FanSHEN 'The Justice Syndicate' - Random String 2018 and The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry.
  • Mercier, H. and Sperber, D., 2017. The enigma of reason. Harvard University Press.
  • Pronin, E., Gilovich, T. and Ross, L., 2004. Objectivity in the eye of the beholder: divergent perceptions of bias in self versus others. Psychological review, 111(3), p.781.
  • Rachel Briscoe, 2017. The Justice Syndicate
  • Sophie Talbot, 2019. Heart vs gut in The Justice Syndicate.
  • Tavris, C. and Aronson, E., 2008. Mistakes were made (but not by me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Thibaut, J.W., 2017. The social psychology of groups. Routledge.
  • Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D., 1973. Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology, 5(2), pp.207-232.
  • Zoe Paskett, 2019. The Justice Syndicate: The interactive courtroom play challenging the bias of decision-making. [Accessed 16th March 2019]

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