As Editor of The Jury Expert, I get to see everything we publish early and so I’m always really excited (and relieved) when we upload to the web. We have a new issue for your reading pleasure. And if you haven’t seen it, the time is now. Here’s what you can expect to see at the Jury Expert site:
by Michael Forster, Gernot Gerger and Helmut Leder
Another addition to the literature on how wearing eyeglasses changes how others perceive us. We’ve heard about the “nerd defense” and that glasses often make you less attractive. Well, guess what?! If you wear a certain style of glasses, you not only look more intelligent and trustworthy, but you are no less attractive. Whoa! Schedule time for a quick visit to an optical shop once you see this.
by Charli Morris
Ever had an expert witness object to a question posed by opposing counsel? Or have your expert’s testimony include an expletive like ‘Holy Mackerel!’? If you have not, be grateful and read this article so you are prepared when it does happen. If you have, you will be grateful for this article from Charli Morris on how to prepare your expert to testify in a way that is credible and likable to jurors.
by Chris Rodeheffer, Sarah Hill and Charles Lord
When we are in plentiful economic times, Whites label Biracial faces as White. When we are in times of scarcity, Whites label Biracial faces as Black. Three evolutionary psychologists present some basic research on our tendency to define in-group and out-group members differently depending on whether we see our world through a lens of plenty or poverty. Four ASTC member trial consultants respond and some of them don’t like what they see here.
by Jim McGee
How does our sense of social power influence how we respond to evidence and argument in the courtroom? Jim McGee gives us a summary of his original research and specific ways we can apply his findings to various sorts of cases and tasks throughout the case preparation process.
by David Mykel
How can you use your litigation graphics most effectively to tell a visually compelling story suited to today’s demanding courtroom audience? David Mykel offers three tips and provides examples of graphics that tell the story you want your jurors to hear.
by Adam Alter
Adam Alter’s new book is titled ‘Drunk Tank Pink’. If you know what this refers to, your life has been more exciting than mine. This book contains a plethora of fun-to-know facts that are based in research and not anecdote. There are ample “oh, that’s why that happens!” moments along the way. And you can listen to a 5 minute excerpt about just what “drunk tank pink” means on the web to see if this is something you would enjoy.
Image: Jury Expert logo
You know we don’t think much of the nerd defense here at The Jury Room. But we bet this one is going to be added to the nerd defense strategy soon (if it hasn’t been already). In addition to sticking glasses on your defendant, you may also want to use tinted contact lenses to modify your client’s eye color to brown! “Do tell…”, you say. And of course, we will do just that.
A new Scientific American blog write up of a study in the online journal PLoS ONE trumpets the news that people with brown eyes appear more trustworthy to others. According to the Scientific American account,
“…238 participants rate[d] the faces of 80 students for trustworthiness, attractiveness, and dominance. [snip] Female faces were generally more trustworthy than male ones. But that’s wasn’t all. A much more peculiar correlation was discovered as they looked at the data: brown-eyed faces were deemed more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones. [snip] All the participants, no matter what eye color they had or how good-looking they thought the face was agreed that brown-eyed people just appear to look more reliable.”
Voila! Fake glasses. Brown contact lenses. A sure-fire formula for acquittal. And then again, maybe not.
The dilemma for nerd defense advocates is that they simply only read the popular media headlines and not the actual research article. And the popular media got it wrong. If you do that again here, you’ll be wasting your money on those brown contact lenses.
In this study, the researchers next swapped eye color on the photographs so that photos that used to feature brown-eyed photos were now of the same people, but with blue eyes, and photos that had been blue-eyed photos now had the same people appearing to have brown eyes. And something strange happened. The ‘eye color’ explanation blew up. Now the blue-eyed photos were judged more trustworthy and reliable. It wasn’t about eye color at all. It was about face shape. And this time, the popular media got it right. Good job, Scientific American! (Although it probably helps that the blog post was written by a PhD student in Cell and Molecular Biology!)
“To get at what’s really going on, the researchers took the faces and analyzed their shape. They looked at the distances between 72 facial landmarks, creating a grid-like representation of each face. For men, the answer was clear: differences in face shape explained the appeal of brown eyes. “Brown-eyed individuals tend to be perceived as more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones,” explain the authors. “But it is not brown eyes that cause this perception. It is the facial morphology linked to brown eyes.””
Note these findings declare the results are for men. And just for fun–the original research article says that more trustworthy men (i.e., the brown-eyed men) had “rounder and broader chins, a broader mouth with upward-pointing corners, relatively bigger eyes, and eyebrows closer to each other” while less trustworthy men (i.e., the blue-eyed men) had “more angular and prominent lower faces, a long chin, a narrower mouth with downward pointing corners, relatively smaller eyes and rather distant eyebrows”.
Women, on the other hand, were a bit different. The shape of women’s faces was much less variable than was the face shape of men. So the findings didn’t reach statistical significance for women–although the researchers say they “trended in that direction”. What makes for a trustworthy female face requires more research.
The goal of this post is to arm you against misinformation when the popular (and less informed) press and blogosphere starts to spin the study in errant directions. As far as trial advocacy goes, it’s obviously a lot easier to tweak someone’s eye color than it is the shape of their face. The good news is that we have no reason (yet!) to think that this initial photo-impression would survive even a brief exposure to the person live, in person, or on a witness stand. Sometimes, reality trumps expectations.
Kleisner K,, Priplatova L,, Frost P,, & Flegr J (2013). Trustworthy-Looking Face Meets Brown Eyes. PLoS ONE, 8 (1).
It’s New Year’s Eve and many are reviewing the events of the past year. We thought it likely an opportune time to take a look at what you, our readers, thought were are most intriguing posts during the year of 2012. These are the Top 10 most visited posts during this calendar year. We list them in order of their popularity during 2012.
Walk with us down memory lane. And happy anticipation of 2013 when we will continue to bring you the latest in research and insights from our ongoing work in litigation advocacy!
- “The glasses create a kind of unspoken nerd defense“. This is our original post on the “nerd defense” (put glasses on your criminal defendant and the jury will acquit). This idea has surprising staying power (even though the actual research does not really support this strategy) and we’ve posted half a dozen additional times on the nerd defense (as it evolves) since the original post.
- “No one makes a deal on a handshake these days“. Mock juror reactions to handshake deals in the oil and gas industry and Dan Ariely’s work on “handshake deals” inspired this post. It’s always of interest to see “real people” reacting in the same ways our (randomly selected, jury eligible) mock jurors react prior to being told a story that helps them understand how something like a handshake deal involving millions of dollars still does happen “these days”.
- “Women who stalk: Who they are and how they do it“. We tend to visualize men as stalkers but women, not so much. This is scary research and useful since only limited work has been done on describing female stalkers.
- “Simple Jury Persuasion: Tattoo you?“. Ahhh–the age-old question: Should a trial lawyer be tattooed? Hmmm. The research may surprise you!
- “A screwdriver: The new addition to your trial toolbox? (We think not)“. Sometimes we publish research we do not recommend you try at home (or in the courtroom). And sometimes you all pass it around to each other and it joins our most read posts. Such is the case with this post which describes research wherein they tinkered with the chairs in which decision-makers sat to make the chairs tilt slightly to either the right or the left. To take a look at what happened. And again, don’t try this at home.
- “Simple Jury Persuasion: The alpha strategies“. Sometimes we struggle with posts that are lengthy and complex. We wonder if you will really embrace them since we try here to keep the information easy to digest. It’s heartening to have one of those tougher to digest posts hit the Top Ten List this year.
- “Excuse me potential juror, but just how big is your amygdala?“. Neurolaw research is exploding in size. And some of it says the size of your individual amygdala matters and may actually set your political orientation at birth. Oy. This post is an example of debunking popular interpretations of research. And it’s one you need to read!
- “Men: Exude confidence, masculinity, authority and power!“. The combover has never ever been “in”. This post is about shaved heads on men (but does not address women with shaved heads). We looked up the researcher’s picture. Yes. He has a shaved head.
- “When you wear glasses you are less attractive but more smart and trustworthy“. Hmmm. Intriguing that three of our top 10 posts for 2012 have something to do with how we appear to others. This is research that shows you how to look as attractive as you can (as well as smart and trustworthy) if you wear glasses. Practical research to facilitate vanity. It doesn’t get much better than that!
- “Have you been keeping up with the ‘sexsomniac’ defense?“. Sometimes neurolaw defenses are disturbing. Sometimes they are fascinating. And sometimes, they are both disturbing and fascinating. This one qualifies as both.
And there you have it! The ten most accessed posts for 2012. It’s a good cross-section of what we write about in general–hard core thoughts on persuasion research, more light-hearted recommendations based on current research, lessons learned from our pretrial research and witness preparation, and other things we happen upon in our day-to-day work in litigation advocacy.
Now this is strange. We’ve written before on studies showing you can identify Mormons by faces alone. And Scientific American tells us you can also identify gay men by faces alone. So now we have research telling us you can also identify who is suicidal from looking at photos of their face. We’d caution you to not try this at home. And while you are not doing this at home, you may also want to take these findings with a grain of salt.
University of Toronto researchers decided to examine whether research participants would be able to identify the difference between those who successfully suicided and “living controls” based on yearbook photos alone. (How do you even think of ideas like this?) Photos of people who had committed suicide (40 photos in all, 12 women and 28 men) were culled from high school and university yearbooks. Each photo was then matched with the nearest photo in the yearbook of a student (who remained alive) and was of the same gender and race. (Because we know you want to know, the authors searched Facebook and other social networking sites to verify that the control photos were indeed of persons still living.)
The authors standardized the photos so that each was converted to grayscale and cropped close to the face/head (as in the A side of the graphic illustrating this post).
In Study 1A, 33 undergraduate student participants were asked to view all 80 photos (40 successful suicides and 40 living controls) and to quickly determine (“based on your gut instinct”) whether they believed the person in the photograph had committed suicide or was still alive. While it did not matter whether the research participant or the individual depicted in the photo was male or female, participants were able to successfully identify those who had suicided at a level significantly above chance (p = .01).
For Study 1B, the researchers wanted to be sure that hairstyle and photo backgrounds or face shape were not affecting decisions. So they cropped the photos further to show only “internal facial characteristics” (as in the photo marked B in the graphic illustrating this post). 30 participants examined the photos and again, were able to identify the individuals who had committed suicide at a rate better than chance guessing (p = .005).
For Study 1C, the researchers (who had by then exhausted their own yearbook sources and those of their friends) looked to the internet for photos of people who had committed suicide. Naturally, since everything is on the internet, they found a website. They gathered the “first 25 targets from the website between the ages of 14 and 19 years old and posing face-forward to the camera”. A research assistant (who did not know these were photos of people who had committed suicide) gathered matching photos of those who were gender and race equivalent to the photos of people from the suicide website. If the person who had killed themselves wore eyeglasses, so did their matched (and verified to be alive) photo-partner. Finally, all the photos were cropped to display only the internal facial characteristics as in Study 1B. This time 29 participants viewed all the photos and again (p = .02) they were able to identify those who had committed suicide at a level higher than chance.
For Study 2, 161 undergraduate students rated the photos from Study 1A for depression, hopelessness, satisfaction with life or impulsivity. Suicide victims were seen as evidencing more impulsivity (p < .05) but there were no differences seen on the other factors. When the researchers looked at the specific photos adjudged to have suicided, they found the participants saw those individuals as seeming more depressed. “Thus, inferences of depression and impulsivity contribute to individuals’ perceptions of suicidality. Distinct from depression, only inferences of impulsivity actually predict whether an individual commits suicide”.
For Study 3, the researchers asked 133 participants to rate each face in terms of how likely “they thought the person pictured might be to make an impulsive purchase, to engage in an impulsive sexual behavior (unprotected sex), or to be involved in an impulsive violent act (a bar fight)”. Successful suicides were judged more likely to be engaged in a violent altercation in the heat of the moment (p < .05) but not seen as more likely to engage in unprotected sex or an impulsive purchase. Researchers conclude that since suicide constitutes a violent act against the self, there is a cue in the facial appearance that indicates impulsive violence is possible to the observer.
For the final study, researchers wondered if the size of the effect seen in the previous studies (55% accuracy in identifying those who had suicided) would be higher in mental health professionals than in community laypersons. They asked 36 psychotherapists (master’s and doctoral level) and 39 community members to examine the photos used in studies 1B and 1C and identify those they thought had suicided and those that they believed to be alive. Again, both the community members (p = .009) and therapists (p < .001) but the therapists were not statistically more accurate than were the laypersons.
The researchers (accurately) point out that it is important to realize these sorts of judgments are inaccurate almost as often as they are accurate and that there is no evidence to support the use of facial appearance as a diagnostic tool in suicidality.
“Rather, this work speaks more to the basic phenomena surrounding the expression and perception of suicidality at rates that are statistically significant but perhaps only modest in practical significance (e.e., a mean identification rate of 55%).”
We are grateful to these writers for pointing out a flaw in their research and attempting to circumvent a rush to judgment (like the one we’ve seen in the nerd defense) wherein readers of this research think you actually can “see” suicidality on someone’s face. The discussion of how to understand the statistical nature of studies like this (and statistical base rates in general) is beyond the scope of this post, but expect to see it here soon. It’s an important concept too often glossed over by the popular media as they “cover” research findings.
***We appreciate being included in the ABA Blawg 100 for the third year in a row! If you like our blawg, take a minute to vote for us here (under the Trial Practice category). Thanks! Doug and Rita***
Kleiman, S., & Rule, N. (2012). Detecting Suicidality From Facial Appearance Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550612466115
Image: Study stimulus
While one might argue that times have changed and glasses are now “in”–recent research on the stereotypes of glasses-wearing criminal defendants and glasses-wearing civil defendants would beg to differ. In those studies, criminal defendants wearing glasses were seen as “less likely to be violent” despite their actual behavior. And civil defendants wearing glasses were seen as more likely shady and sneaky–they were not to be trusted. It was as though observers saw them as too smart and therefore as likely to be duplicitous!
There is also recent research saying glasses make you less attractive. So it may not surprise you to hear that we learn about the negative aspects of eyeglasses as children. And (even as children) we prefer to be friends with those who do not wear glasses.
BPS Digest recently highlighted this literature review (looking at studies since 1980) and since we’ve written about stereotypes of eyeglass-wearers frequently, we thought we’d point this one out as well. Here’s part of how BPS Digest described the article:
“Although the results showed glasses were far less salient to children than other identifying features, such as gender, their views on glasses-wearers were largely negative. For example, asked to compare pairs of children, one of whom was always wearing glasses, 5- to 9-year-olds consistently rated the child without glasses as prettier and better looking. Another study found that children were less interested in being friends with glasses-wearing peers.
The one positive caveat was that many children associate the wearing of glasses with superior intelligence. For example, asked to draw a smart person or a scientist, children tend to depict their creations as wearing glasses (but they don’t do so when asked to draw a stupid, nice or nasty person).”
These findings are eerily similar to what we see in the research on perceptions of the eyeglass wearer in adults. Children ages five to nine have the same stereotypes we see in adults. People who wear glasses are smart, but evidently ‘uncool’. And we’re guessing that if kids were asked who was most likely to be violent–a criminal with glasses or a criminal without glasses–they would likely choose the non-bespectacled thug–just as criminal defense attorneys espousing the “nerd defense” think adult jurors will.
In our minds, this is a terrific reminder of how early biases form and how they (often) remain consistent throughout our lives. It’s easier to be less judging of biased adults when we consider parents and society teach children how to view others–and those views often carry through to adulthood. Bias is pervasive and often invisible.
The key to shifting those views is to make your eyeglass wearing client “like” those adult jurors rather than having assumptions about “who” their weak eyes make them rule the day. That’s really a key to minimizing bias in general.
FC Jellesma (2012). Do glasses change children’s perceptions? Effects of eyeglasses on peer- and self-perception. European Journal of Developmental Psychology DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2012.700199