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Here’s another post combining the things we’ve been collecting to blog about and presented together so we can clear the desk off with newer stuff!

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

At least, this is the best known quotation of the 19th century British politician Lord Acton. But in 2017, we have an article courtesy of The Atlantic that tells us power does more than corrupt, it actually damages your brain’s abilities that helped you rise to power in the first place. It’s called the “power paradox”: once you have power, you lose some of the skills needed to gain it in the first place. They describe a loss of empathy (i.e., “the empathy deficit”) and a general decrease in the ability to “read” others. They wonder if the impact of gaining power should be called the “hubris syndrome” (which shows itself through “manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence”). Interestingly, some hubris can be corrected by recalling past experiences in which the powerful one was less powerful. You may want to read this one.

Power poses are continuing to get bad (very bad) press

In December 2016, we blogged about challenges to Amy Cuddy’s “power posing” research and her famous TED Talk. One of the most recent commenters on the controversy is a blogger over at Mind the Brain blog (one of the PLOS|BLOGS). According to the blogger, the narrative has become overly focused on the harassment of a junior scientist and the need for greater civility in academia (link to the blog post on that in this series of posts). The real narrative, and thus this attempt to restart the conversation, should be (again, according to blogger James Coyne), whether the paper itself had merit in the first place. Coyne thinks the original paper should never have been published and goes to some lengths to develop his argument. If you are interested in a look at why the power posing paper may be a great motivational talk idea, but not particularly good science—take a look at this Mind the Brain blog post.

Do smartphones make us stupid?

Yikes. We know our smartphones are apparently making efforts to control us, but they also apparently “significantly reduce our cognitive capacity” just by being within reach. As you can see in Science Daily:

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

The question that must now be answered is whether leaving our cell phone at home (or locked in our car) is less distracting than having it with us. You’ll want to see our blog post on nomophobia. And maybe our blog post on the FOMO Scale as well. This (being distracted by stuff) is obviously a complicated area and much more (tenure-granting) research is likely needed.

You’ve heard of the imposter syndrome—but what about the racial imposter syndrome?

The imposter syndrome has long been discussed as the secret fear (that is not really so secret) that we will be exposed as imposters pretending to know more than we actually know. The researchers who initially described it, thought it was an experience solely experienced by women. This belief was not accurate.

Now, in 2017, we have the racial imposter syndrome. This is an experience shared by biracial and multi-ethnic people who find they feel “fake” or inauthentic in at least part of their racial heritage. We first heard about this at the NPR podcast Code Switch and their summary of how this works is fascinating if you are interested in identity and how we fail to embrace our full selves through some sense of guilt or shame (or something else). Beyond this episode, Code Switch is a terrific podcast on bias and how to circumvent it.

S-Town: An object lesson in empathy

And speaking of podcasts, if you have not listened to the NSFW (“not suitable for work” listening due to profanity) podcast S-Town—it is amazing. It is like a real life mystery of identity, racism, bias, hidden gold bars, and the state of Alabama. If you are interested in listening to it, do not read the spoilers which are filled with questions of ethics and fair play. Just know there is a very good reason why this is now the most downloaded podcast of all time. If you like mysteries and thrillers or suspense novels, you will love S-Town. Here’s where you can find it–prepare to binge.

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While you may think most of the things we write about here are on litigation advocacy (and you would be correct) we also care about you, dear reader.

We have written often about smartphones and their ubiquitous presence in our lives. This is a post to update you on the increasingly cruel reality of the role smartphones play in our emotional experiences, how they accentuate our personality traits, and the ways they affect our work lives.

Excessive smart phone use leads to emotional problems

This finding stems from research at SUNY Binghamton where they found smartphone use could result in “depression, social isolation, social anxiety, shyness, impulsivity and low self-esteem. Females were most likely to exhibit susceptibility to addiction.” The researchers surveyed 182 undergraduate students by asking them questions about their smartphone use on a typical day. They then categorized the respondents based on their answers into the following categories: Thoughtful, Regular, Highly Engaged, Fanatic and Addict.

If you wonder how they developed these categories and why the labels sound judgmental—the researchers answer that question this way: “building on the analysis of 15 in-depth interviews and 182 exploratory open-ended surveys collected from smartphone users, we apply the concept of liability to addiction in the IT use context and propose a typological theory of user liability to IT addiction. Our typology reveals five ideal types; each can be associated to a user profile (ADDICT, FANATIC, HIGHLY ENGAGED, REGULAR AND THOUGHTFUL).”

[Essentially, what this means is they made it up. And as to why some of the labels seem judgmental—we will leave that for you to ponder.]

The reported findings will not surprise you if you own a smartphone. “Seven percent [of the participants were] identified [by the researchers] as “addicts” and 12 percent [were labeled by the researchers] as “fanatics.” Both groups [based on the researchers qualitative analysis] experience personal, social and workplace problems due to a compulsive need to be on their smartphones.”

You may also want to check out a brief list of “problem signs” in smartphone use which (the researchers say) may mean you need to consult “a professional”.

In addition to the emotional issues above, there is also concern about whether smartphones are (in combination with increased overall “screen time” reducing our social skills and causing increased shyness. The short answer, at least from these authors, is that we remain simultaneously shy and sociable and our smartphones allow new ways for us express that juxtaposition. [It is possible, based on the other entries in this post, that the authors with this pleasant explanation on shyness actually works for the smartphone industry.]

Smart phones are sneakily changing our morals

How you respond to an ethical dilemma requiring a quick decision (on something in either your work or home life where the stakes are high but the time frame for response is short) seems to depend on whether you are communicating your response on a smartphone or on a computer with a traditional keyboard. [This is so not good.] This study is out of London and was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Tom Jacobs (an always excellent writer over at PSMag) brought this article to our attention and he quotes the authors and then offers his own interpretation of their work:

“in general, more hurried or time-pressured responses are thought to be aligned with more emotional/gut feeling decisions.”

In other words, when we’re rushed, we tend to rely on our intuitive responses, which—in the case of moral questions—means falling back onto a set of basic rules we learned in childhood. But, oddly, Barque-Duran and his colleagues found that is not the case when the troubling information is conveyed via smartphone.

Instead, what the researchers found when the information was conveyed via smartphone screens, was that rather than falling back on our playground values, the small screen somehow encourages us to psychologically distance and to make practical or utilitarian decisions rather than emotional and intuitive ones. The researchers say the small screen seems to result in psychological distance and thus decisions are less emotionally based.

Regardless of how it works, we clearly need more research on how the ever-present small screens interact with how we make decisions.

There is some good news though!

The interruptibility model: Researchers are looking into ways to help us teach our smartphones when to interrupt us with notifications so we can actually get some work done. New research findings which shockingly report that “inappropriate or untimely smartphone interruptions annoy users, decrease productivity and affect emotions” is being presented this month at the “premier international conference on human-computer interactions”. The researchers refer to it as an “interruptibility model” and you can view their graphical representation here. Hopefully, it will not take them long to disseminate their results to the rest of us!

Lessons from research: There are also ways we can decrease our addictive (aka constant, obsessive, ritualistic) use of smartphones and you can see those results here. Be forewarned: the recommendations involve suggestions like keeping your phone out of reach, turning off the sound, and classifying your apps as good or evil.

Older adults are adopting technology: Finally! A record share (42%) of senior citizens (65+) now own smartphones. While this may mean Grandma may not look at you but instead, text her friends furiously and update her Facebook status constantly, it also means, older Americans are likely to develop the same ambivalence with which many of us view our smartphones.

Barque-Duran, A., Pothos, E., Hampton, J., & Yearsley, J. (2017). Contemporary morality: Moral judgments in digital contexts. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 184-193 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2017.05.020

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It is very cold outdoors (even in Texas) and it is time once again for a number of important things we decided did not merit an entire post but wanted to share. Think of it as a series of holiday gifts for you…

Ever wonder why white-collar criminals did what they did? 

Wonder no more. The Atlantic has an article by a writer who spent much of the last seven years trying to sort out why respected executives would choose to engage in fraud, embezzlement, bribery and/or insider trading. It is a fascinating read although these are not redemption stories and here’s a shocker: there are liars among those white-collar prisoners! If you wonder how these former executives weighed the costs and benefits of illegal activities—the answer is, mostly they did not. They simply did not think of consequences. The author concludes with a quote that may make you blink a few times:

“What we all think is, ‘When the big moral challenge comes, I will rise to the occasion’, but there’s not actually that many of us that will actually rise to the occasion,” as one former CFO put it. “I didn’t realize I would be a felon.”

Scientists can predict what sort of iPhone you own based on individual characteristics

At least they think they can. According to a Science Daily write-up of the article, iPhone users are more likely to be: younger, more than twice as likely to be women, more likely to see their phone as a status object, more extraverted, and less concerned about owning devices favored by most people. In contrast, Android users were more likely to be: male, older, more honest, more agreeable, less likely to break rules for personal gain, and less interested in wealth and status.

Good to know—I guess those white-collar criminals were non-traditional iPhone users. You can review the entire text of this paper (free) online. We aren’t validating or endorsing their findings, we’re just your humble messengers.

Raise your salary with this negotiation strategy: A dumb joke (which is not really what this strategy is)

Back in 2011, we blogged about research on how to negotiate a higher income. Now the Science of Us blog has resurrected that article and instead of calling the effect the generally accepted “anchoring effect” they apparently decided that they would reinterpret that finding as “you can tell a dumb joke” [i.e., “I want a million dollar salary”] and raise your salary in negotiations.

There’s a name for the conventional wisdom about starting with a high number: It’s called anchoring. As in, the first number that gets tossed out is the one that anchors the discussion, the number with the most influence over how things eventually play out. And according to the study that the APS highlights, published in 2011 in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, that holds even when the first number is something clearly ridiculous, like saying you want a million dollars for a job that obviously won’t pay anything in that ballpark.

When we track back the links on the Science of Us post, it seems there was a recent NPR interview that cited this research and so they were simply passing it on. So, that crack about your salary expectations doesn’t qualify in our book as a dumb joke but so it goes. Here’s a really stupid joke that we don’t think will raise anyone’s salary: What was a more important invention than the first telephone? The second one.

And the real lesson here is not what constitutes a stupid joke but rather, if you want to hear news like this research result in a more timely (not to mention accurately interpreted) fashion—just keep reading us. We actually read and don’t just recycle.

You will feel pain with this one and find yourself nodding your head and thinking of more…

Sometimes we see things on the web that are just begging to be shared. This one is from David Shall at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is actually a video titled “The Secrets of Memorably Bad Presentations”. He even mentions the idea of telling a bad joke (but he doesn’t want you to really do that). Enjoy.

The audio on the video is horrible (likely not intentional) so if you want to read a quick list of his points you can visit Retraction Watch. If you choose to do this, PLEASE read the comments on that page as they make you feel the pain of horrible presentations even more acutely.

Shaw, H., Ellis, D., Kendrick, L., Ziegler, F., & Wiseman, R. (2016). Predicting Smartphone Operating System from Personality and Individual Differences Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19 (12), 727-732 DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2016.0324

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2016.0324

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hot-hot-hotIt’s time again for a combination post of things that didn’t make the cut for a full post but that we thought interesting (or odd) enough to want to share with you. We hope you enjoy this latest collection of factoids that will make you memorable when (and if) you re-share them.

Hot, hot, hot: And it isn’t a good thing for good behavior

We’ve written about the negative impact of hot, hot, hot weather before and here’s another story supporting the idea that there is a link between summer heat, bad moods, and poor self-control. When, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research, people report they lack energy or feel tired during the heat of the day, they were also more likely to report being stressed and angered. Lest you think this is a small scale study, the study looked at the reactions of 1.9 million Americans. The researchers think that, even if you live in a very warm climate, you are no better at adapting to it than those living in a cooler climate. (This is bad news for those in the southwest.)

However, it looks as though simply looking at pictures of cold weather can help you to improve your self-control. All you need to do is look at cold photos and imagine yourself being there—it will improve your self-control (which is good news for those in the southwest since we sure don’t want to live “there”). Perhaps hot and muggy locales need to post large billboards of icy landscapes and encourage viewers to think about what it would be like to be there rather than in the heat. Hmmm.

And as a helpful aside, the summer of 2016 has been, according to the NASA Earth Observatory, the hottest on record in 136 years! That’s hot! If you’d like to see the graphic illustrating this post in an animated gif form that covers 35 years, look here.

Will you learn more in a physics lecture if your instructor is attractive to you?

Apparently so. This is a research paper that attempted to test information from the popular website RateMyProfessor.com/ which apparently now asks students to “rate the hotness” of their instructor. (As though the tenure process was not difficult enough—now you have to suffer the indignity of how “hot” your students think you may be? Wow.) According to research published in The Journal of General Psychology, physics students who thought their instructor was attractive actually learned more as measured on quizzes following the lectures. The difference was “small but significant”. While you can read the full text of the article here, it was summarized accurately by Christian Jarrett over at BPS Research Digest.

Are pot smokers increasing or are people just responding more honestly to survey questions?

It’s hard to say but Gallup tells us that 13% reported being current marijuana users in an August 2016 survey—and that number is up from just 7% in 2013. The more often you attend church services, the less likely you are to report using marijuana. Further, one in five adults under the age of 30 report current use—and this is at least “double the rate seen among each older age group”. Gallup points out that nine different states are voting on marijuana legalization this fall and legalities could significantly shift. Perhaps Gallup should speak to the Drug Enforcement Association who recently announced marijuana would stay a Schedule 1 drug (like heroin and other drugs with “no medicinal value”).

How often do you check your smartphone? 

You will have trouble believing this one! According to a recent survey, the average American checks their smartphone between 150 times a day and in the UK, it’s even higher! . We’ve written a lot here about smartphones and our increasing use and dependence on them—as well as the distractions caused by them while walking, working, and serving on juries. Time Magazine recently published an article on smartphone addiction that is worth reading—it’s eye-opening (which is the first time many of us grab our smartphones—even before we get out of bed).

Who owns your tattoo? The answer is apparently not entirely obvious

A recent article in The Conversation, tells us that while more than 20% of Americans have at least one tattoo (and 40% of Millennials)—your own tattoo could be violating either (or both) copyright and trademark rights and tattoo-related lawsuits are not uncommon. If you have or plan to have a tattoo—you likely want to read this one!

Identifying liberals and conservatives in voir dire (a shortcut when time is tight?)

This is a ridiculous study out of the UK which concludes that the taller one is, the more likely they are conservative. We do not recommend using this in voir dire, but here are a few author quotes:

“If you take two people with nearly identical characteristics – except one is taller than the other – on average the taller person will be more politically conservative,” said Sara Watson, co-author of the study and assistant professor of political science at The Ohio State University.”

How big were these differences? “The researchers found that a one-inch increase in height increased support for the Conservative Party by 0.6 percent and the likelihood of voting for the party by 0.5 percent.”

And there were gender differences—although they were not statistically significant! “The authors discovered that the link between height and political views occurred in both men and women, but was roughly twice as strong for men.”

The article itself was published in the British Journal of Political Science but there seems to be a version of the paper here. We will not use this one as our eyesight is not good enough to tell a 0.6% difference in height when potential jurors are seated.

Noelke, C., McGovern, M., Corsi, D., Jimenez, M., Stern, A., Wing, I., & Berkman, L. (2016). Increasing ambient temperature reduces emotional well-being Environmental Research, 151, 124-129 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.06.045

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smartphone 2015Most of us don’t know how much we rely on smartphone use and this is likely a very important piece of information to help us understand why it’s so very hard for many jurors to stay away from their phones while serving jury duty. While only a small study (29 participants between the ages of 18 and 33 years all using Android smartphones), the disconnect between how much we think we use our smartphones and how much we actually use our smartphones is striking.

Here are just a few of the findings from the study:

Young people in this study used their smartphones for an average of five hours a day (which is 1/3 of the time they are awake).

The average time participants thought they used their phones was actually only about half the time they actually spent on their phones.

During their waking hours, on average they checked their phones 85 times a day.

They used their phones for internet searches, to check the time, to look at email and social media and to listen to music.

The duration of smartphone use was highly skewed with 55% of all uses less than 30 seconds in duration.

The researchers comment that research often relies on individual estimates of mobile phone use but this finding suggests those estimates should be interpreted with caution (and are likely very wrong). The researchers placed an app on each person’s phone so they could compare estimated use with actual use. The app simply calculated the duration the phone was active (using screen on/off as the indicator). In addition, the researchers asked participants to complete the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale (MPPUS, a 27 item questionnaire that has “positive correlations with self-reported mobile phone use”). One of the issues we see with use of this scale is that it was developed in 2005 (before the current smartphone usage level) but the questions seem to still resonate with what we know of smartphone use in the current day.

Here are a few of the questions from the MPPUS:

When out of range for some time, I become preoccupied with the thought of missing a call.

Sometimes, when I am on the mobile phone and I am doing other things, I get carried away with the conversation and I don’t pay attention to what I am doing.

I have used my mobile phone to talk to others when I was feeling isolated.

I find it difficult to switch off my mobile phone.

The researchers say that, when compared to smartphone use from six years ago—the amount of time we spend on our phones has not increased. They also, like us, express concern with using the MPPUS in the current day as a measure of “problem” use since there is a difference between “heavy” use and “problem” use. Additionally, there was no correlation between scores on the MPPUS and either actual or estimated use of smartphones. It may be that the MPPUS has been outgrown as the technology changes. The researchers report, for example, that all but one of the participants in their study used their phone as an alarm clock and many indicated that they use their phone last thing before sleeping. As smartphones have added additional tools, many people are using them for the new functions.

Overall, the lesson from this research is that our estimated use of our smartphones is likely quite different from our actual use of them and that a measure developed in 2005 has a very different outcome today than it did in 2005 when mobile phone use was relatively new and researchers wanted to see when it might cause a problem for those who loved their phones too much. And from the perspective of litigation advocacy, we need to understand that for many of us, our own acknowledgement of just how much we depend on the ubiquitous smartphone severely underestimates our usage.

Andrews, S., Ellis, D., Shaw, H., & Piwek, L. (2015). Beyond Self-Report: Tools to Compare Estimated and Real-World Smartphone Use. PLosOne, 10 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139004

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