But if you’re a woman? Not so much. A new report put out by the American Historical Association shows us that career advancement varies by marital status for males and females. If you’re a man, being married makes you progress through the ranks faster: in 5.9 years rather than 6.4 years. If you are a woman, however, being married meant an average of 7.8 years to move from Associate to Full professor. If you were an unmarried woman, that same transition took an average of 6.7 years.
It is interesting to note that female full professors were 2x more likely than men to list their marital status as divorced or separated. They were also more likely to have never married at all than were their male colleagues. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.
Why does this happen? We thought you’d never ask. You can read the full report here but an article in the Atlantic goes through the report in specific detail and it isn’t a pretty picture. There is a hypothesis as to why men get tenure faster than women though and it’s basically about gender roles for women. (Who would have imagined it?!)
Female professors were more likely to have a spouse or partner with a doctoral degree, 54.7 percent to men’s 30.9 percent. Their partners were also more likely to work in academe, 49.6 percent to 36.3 percent.
“I have a theory about this,” said Tara Nummedal, an associate professor of history at Brown University. “It seems pretty clear that smart women are going to find men who are engaged, but I just don’t see that it works the other way.” She added that a female professor with a stay-at-home spouse is quite rare, but often sees men with stay-at-home wives, allowing them to fully commit themselves to their professions.
When Nummedal says women find men who are “engaged”–what she means is, that women with advanced degrees tend to marry men with careers and interests of their own that are not sacrificed for marriage. She goes further by saying:
“When we look at these kinds of issues, whether it is the wage gap or child care, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a fundamental problem with the professional workplace, which is still best structured for single males, or males with wives who support their careers.”
That may seem a hard conclusion but it is likely one that has women readers agreeing, and it’s well worth reading the entire article yourself. In an era where the number of substantive comments on blogs is way down, this article has almost 194 comments barely 48 hours after posting. They’re worth reading too.
It is an intriguing area. We spend much of our work time looking at bias and how to mitigate or minimize it. Yet, it’s always present. This example of gender bias is something you can only “see” in hindsight as we look back at average progression through the tenure process. But it is a bias likely “felt” by women faculty very, very regularly. As we are working cases, preparing witnesses, and hearing stories from parties–the importance of perspective is paramount. Just because we can’t “see it” doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Bias is all around us and it works to make us decide differently how justice will work depending on whether you are like me or not like me. The task for effective litigation advocacy is to figure out how to make the client as much “like” the juror as possible through the use of universal values that often show more about who we are than descriptors like skin color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.
Robert B. Townsend (2012). What Makes a Successful Academic Career in History? A Field Report from the Higher Ranks. Perspectives on History. (December)
Hindsight bias is always present in litigation, as it is in other aspects of life. And we are always looking for ways to monitor and assess its impact as jurors weigh issues in litigation. Recently we wrote about being aware of the hindsight bias and how it can be strengthened by the perspective taken by visual animations. Today, we want to highlight one of the most powerful ways to reduce hindsight bias: the “consider the opposite” strategy.
As you likely recall, hindsight bias refers to our tendency after-the-fact to see events that have already occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place. This bias is also known as ‘Monday-morning quarterbacking’. Our mock jurors provide lots of examples of hindsight bias in our pretrial research.
Your task is almost always to find ways to reduce the hindsight bias so that observers can better see the same picture your clients saw prior to whatever event now being litigated, or otherwise use this aspect of human nature to your client’s best interest. Today, we will explore research on how to minimize its impact.
To use the “consider the opposite” strategy, you ask participants to simply consider alternatives that could have happened and talk about how they might have occurred just as readily as the real outcome. When observers do this, they are able to see the multiple outcomes that “could have happened” much more clearly and their tunnel vision (aka hindsight bias) surrounding the event dissipates. According to the authors, the fact this strategy works has been shown in such diverse fields of inquiry as accounting, political analysis, policy analysis, legal judgments, and judgments of historical and scientific outcomes.
In fact, it is also commonly used in litigation. It often takes the form of “if only…”. “If only she had sought a second opinion…”; “If only he had gone in for the follow-up test”; “If only they had gotten a routine brake inspection…”.
There is, however, an interesting caveat. Research has most often focused on asking participants to identify one or two alternate outcomes. However, some researchers have asked their participants to identify as many as ten potential alternate outcomes. That’s a lot harder to do than identifying one to three. And participants don’t like it. So it backfires and makes the hindsight bias stronger, rather than weaker.
The authors explain it this way:
“If it feels subjectively difficult to generate many additional reasons for how an alternative outcome (i.e., counterfactual) could have occurred, then the decision maker may interpret this difficulty as an indication of the implausibility of those alternatives, which would then reinforce rather than mitigate hindsight bias regarding the outcome that did occur.”
In other words, if I have to do the work of generating (or evaluating) up to ten alternate outcomes for a given situation–that’s hard work. If it’s such hard work, the alternate outcomes must not be plausible or probable. So my initial explanation (reeking of hindsight bias) is likely still the best fit for the situation.
To avoid this sort of backfire in your strategy to reduce the hindsight bias, the authors recommend using no more than two or three alternate explanations. And the easier they are to imagine, the better.
You can accomplish this with expert witness testimony when you ask for alternate ways the data can be explained.
You can represent the alternate outcomes into visual evidence that accompanies jurors to deliberations.
And you can imbed them into your closing statement.
When it comes to reducing hindsight bias using the “consider the opposite” strategy, less is truly a whole lot more effective.
Roese, NJ, & Vohs, KD (2012). Hindsight bias. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7 (5), 411-426
We are big fans of effectively done visual evidence. And we are perhaps equally big fans of the hindsight bias, often referred to as the “I knew it all along” bias. The research literature review we are examining today combines the two (visual evidence and that pesky hindsight bias) in a frighteningly relevant way for the litigation advocate.
The authors essentially review the literature on hindsight bias and discuss ways to disrupt that particular bias. Specifically, they discuss how hindsight bias is composed of three levels: foreseeability (“I knew it would happen”); inevitability (“It had to happen”) and memory distortion (“I said it would happen”). We hear these aspects of hindsight bias routinely in our pretrial research. Hindsight bias is particularly tough to disrupt since (drumroll, please…) “hindsight is 20/20”. When we know what happened back then, it’s harder to believe the actors in the particular drama couldn’t have seen it coming. And we have an amazing ability to believe that we knew it before we knew it.
What you may not have considered is how visual evidence can work against you and reinforce hindsight bias! While this is only one aspect of what is a pretty impressive work on hindsight bias and how to disrupt it–we thought it was a particularly useful one for trial advocates to know. The naïve observer would think that clear and specific visual evidence would always be useful for lawyers in the courtroom. But they would be naïve (like we said).
“Ideally, these visual aids would clarify complex information and therefore confer fairer judgment. In practice, however, such forensic animation can obscure the inherent uncertainty of evidence and cause jurors to become overconfident.”
And overconfidence reinforces hindsight bias. In short, what can happen is that jurors believe the animation depicts what actually happened rather than a best approximation of the events. The writers review past research showing that animations more than doubled the hindsight bias (by enhancing viewers’ sense of the inevitability of the event) when compared to a low-tech text and diagram method of presenting information.
And they don’t stop there! Observers ascribe greater responsibility to whichever party dominates the visual scene. The writers refer to the prior research on camera angles in videotaped confessions–when the camera shows only the detainee rather than both the detainee and the interrogator–observers are more likely to believe the detainee is guilty even when the confession is inconsistent or implausible. If the camera shows both the interrogator and detainee viewed from the side, observers are more able to evaluate the videotape objectively.
Computer animations of, for example, traffic accidents can be readily created to depict an event from almost any point of view.
“In events with complex causality, such as traffic accidents, the hindsight certainty that the accident could have been avoided if not for the actions of a particular driver can be heightened if that driver occupies a position of visual salience within the computer-animated scene.”
While you can obviously ensure animations do increase hindsight bias by not paying attention to their recommendations, these writers recommend two strategies for ensuring animations do not increase hindsight bias.
Use multiple angle and points of views in animations.
Use simulated experiments during animation development where you remove some parts of the data set. How does the animation change? Does the change support or contradict the current interpretation?
Roese, NJ, & Vohs, KD (2012). Hindsight bias. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7 (5), 411-426
Or does it? Perhaps not. DNA evidence is powerfully convincing perhaps because “we’ve come to accept the idea that DNA is a sort of individual genetic ‘serial number’ that just needs to be ‘read off’ from a biological sample — but the reality is far more complex”.
Vaughan Bell (who usually writes on the Mind Hacks blog) has an article in the Examiner that alerted us to a study showing how even DNA forensic matching results are often decided in a “judgment call” and not by simply reading off the ‘genetic serial number’. DNA samples obtained at crime scenes may be the DNA of two or more people mixed together. It isn’t simply the victim’s DNA, the perpetrator’s DNA and the roommate’s DNA. It may be all three mixed together. These are called, fairly predictably, “mixed samples”. Vaughan describes the study by Itiel Dror and Greg Hampikian:
In Dror’s study, DNA experts were given results from a mixed sample that was drawn, unknown to them, from a previous real-world case that hinged on whether suspects were present at the scene. After analysing the samples, they not only disagreed with one another but also came to different conclusions depending on whether they had information about the case, or whether they had nothing to go on but the genetic data.
It is worth noting that these findings do not invalidate forensic evidence. Studies also show that despite biases, identification is mostly done reliably, but the fact that outside information can affect decisions remains a worry for the justice system.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, Vaughan’s explanation is much easier to understand than the actual article itself. It’s a good reminder that just like forensic evaluations of legal sanity (or insanity) are somewhat idiosyncratic and reflect the individual examiner’s judgment calls–so, apparently, are the analyses of mixed DNA samples. The story (aka case narrative) needs to make sense without the DNA evidence. Often, what seems to happen, is that the story is tweaked to match the DNA evidence since “DNA doesn’t lie”.
That’s right. DNA doesn’t lie. But it’s clear we don’t yet know exactly how to talk DNAs complex language so we might misinterpret.
If you want to reinforce the credibility of the DNA evidence, refer to it as fact, and frame your trial story with that ‘fact’ as a premise for the other aspects of the story. Jurors are likely to use hindsight bias, based on knowledge of the DNA evidence, to reinforce their views of the non-DNA facets of the story.
Dror IE, & Hampikian G (2011). Subjectivity and bias in forensic DNA mixture interpretation. Science & Justice : Journal of the Forensic Science Society, 51 (4), 204-8 PMID: 22137054
So did you hear about the lawsuit brought after a man got a toilet seat glued to his butt when he sat down in the restroom in a major home improvement center without looking first? Our mock jurors sure did.
When we debrief jurors we often ask about whether people think the case in hand is a frivolous lawsuit, and in the conversation the McDonald’s hot coffee mythology always arises. But in this instance, the case that came up in conversation (not the case that we were working on) was the story of the glued posterior that had gone viral on the internet.
“You know, it’s your own fault if you sit before you look.”
“That is such a great idea. I’m heading for that store and using some of my money to buy some glue like that!”
“So I get his mental anguish—but what about the mental anguish of the customers who saw him come out of that bathroom with his pants down? How did he get out of there anyway?”
The imagery of the situation was more than any of them could resist. [As an aside, we can attest that it takes more than a moment to regain control of a group that is imagining a man glued to a public restroom toilet seat.] Most of them were of the belief that anyone who sits on a public toilet without looking deserves their fate. None of our jurors would ever behave in this way no matter how badly they had to go.
It’s pretty amazing actually. The diverse jurors we randomly recruit to match the venue where our case will go to trial are truly unique, in a way that is not at all unique. Over and over again. They would:
Never be racist: “Others in this area may react that way, yes, but not us!”
Never fail to get a second or third opinion: “I take my health seriously and I would follow-through to find out if other doctors had different ideas.”
Never go without a seatbelt or without a motorcycle helmet: “That just isn’t safe and that’s what happens when you tempt fate. That’s why he has a head injury.”
And they never, never just accept the terms when presented with a website terms of service that is multiple pages of fine print. They read every single word and think about it before clicking ‘Accept’. “I always do that! How else do you know what you’re agreeing to?”
Lest you think we recruit a rarified sort of mock juror—this is really the result of hindsight bias or an effort of jurors to reassert their safety in a seemingly dangerous world. Don’t take what jurors say at face value. Instead, do what we do—struggle to understand what it means in the context of case facts.
You have to find out when (especially when it is unexpected) threats to jurors’ sense of security/safety will have unexpected (and potentially very, very expensive) impact on case outcome. What we’ve learned over the years is that you never know when fears about security will be triggered. But understanding the why of case-distorting assumptions is essential.
Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier (2008). Our Existential Death Penalty: Judges, Jurors, and Terror Management. SSRN.
Matthew B. Kugler (2009). Authoritarians Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals Do Not Share: A New Look at Moral Foundations Theory. SSRN.