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Generational labels, researching emojis, and two persuasion  landmines

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
posted by Rita Handrich

We read so much for this blog (and just out of general curiosity) that we often find these small bits of information which don’t justify an entire blog post but that we want to share with you because they are just too good to ignore. Here’s another one of those combination posts that you simply must read!

Generational labels are so passé

We are so used to hearing generational labels (like Boomer, Gen Xer, Millennial) tossed about in marketing presentations and in casual conversation but Harvard Business Review thinks these labels are obsolete. These labels don’t add additional information and are increasingly used as a substitute for age ranges, says HBR. Further (they opine) the cut-off dates for generations are entirely arbitrary, and frankly, there is a fair bit of variability in what birth-years ranges are thought to apply to these labels. They suggest, rather than the generational name labels, we use age or even age ranges to describe groups of people.

They call this “old way” of using generational monikers “generational segmentation” and say it is an artifact of (way back when) when marketers could not easily do “individual level targeting”. It’s an interesting perspective that rings pretty true to our minds especially considering this recent post (and we’ve done a lot of generationally-themed writing).  The most distorting aspect of the generational labels is that they are frozen in time—the members of each age cohort are often viewed as being alike in key ways, as if these characteristics don’t evolve as a person grows older. The “old way” combines generational identity (obviously, since a 30-year-old in 2017 is also a Millennial) with the idea that they are also a 30-year-old, period. That person will be 50 in 20 years, clearly a different stage of life, but they will still be a Millennial. How do we understand that? It is much more complicated. Just use actual age ranges, just like the cool kids at HBR.

Emoji’s and the pursuit of academic tenure

If you had considered this (although, in truth, who would?) you would have realized that the ever-more-popular emoji would be studied by academics in pursuit of tenure. And of course, that which was coming has now arrived. The researchers say that emojis (the modern version) and emoticons (the originals designed with punctuation symbols) have developed to communicate the appropriate facial expression to go with a string of text. The first reported use occurred in discussion forums in the 1980s (say the researchers) when this emoticon symbol 🙂 was included to communicate the message was meant in fun. Now, up to 92% of the online population uses emojis (the more modern version uses cartoonish emojis like this one 🤗). The researchers use easy to understand language (not) as they communicate the meaning behind emojis:

“They disambiguate the communicative intent behind messages, serve important verbal and nonverbal functions in communication, and can even provide insight into the users personality.”

“Drawing on the method of corpus linguistics, the bountiful occurrence of emojis in real-world online text provides a new means to examine the function of contemporary interactional communication and emotion portrayal.”

We don’t think we’ll be covering much of this work as it evolves but wanted you to be aware it is out there. Frankly, we think it is—how should we say? 💩

And as an example of how emoji research can help you in your real life, the poop emoji was “invented” in Japan and is most widely used in Canada.

Persuasion landmines: When facts fail and your most salient points are the least informative 

After more than 25 years, we still love doing pretrial research but it is still very common to see attorneys chewing peanut M&Ms in frustration while their important facts are dismissed (or ignored) by mock jurors. Here are two articles (both happened to be published in Scientific American just this month) to help you increase the likelihood your story will be heard and remembered accurately. The first article focuses on the reality that pre-existing beliefs will trump your facts when jurors listen to your narrative. The author summarizes the (frightening) research and then offers suggestions (six in all—most of which we’ve blogged about here before!) to try to convince your listeners to consider your information. It is well worth the 5-7 minutes it will take you to read.

The second article, uses the example of noting a person has purple hair to remember Amanda’s name (which means if Amanda changes her hair color, you will be stumped). The point of this article is to help us learn how to categorize important information accurately and not be side-tracked by red herrings like purple hair. The author talks to a researcher who says that if you want to overpower attention-getting facts (like purple hair), your counter-evidence needs to be eye-catching and quickly understandable. Let’s hear it again for the power of visual evidence!

Kaye LK, Malone SA, & Wall HJ (2016). Emojis: Insights, Affordances, and Possibilities for Psychological Science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences PMID: 28108281

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