Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category
Unless you live under a rock, you have heard about the Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) book: Leaning In. She has been in the middle of a media whirlwind for the last few weeks. A couple of weeks ago, I turned the TV on while eating a late lunch and found myself watching the Katie Couric talk show with Sheryl Sandberg and other guests. They were actually talking about research, which is not what I expect to hear on an afternoon talk show! I finished my lunch and sat and watched the rest of the show. Then I went to the TED site to view Sheryl’s TED talk. Then I went to Audible.com and ordered the audiobook and ordered it in hard copy at Amazon as well. Intriguingly, the printed book is 2/3 text and 1/3 endnotes that offer complete research citations so you can go see ANY research study she discusses.
As I listened, it was clear that what Sheryl was doing was applying the social sciences research to the experience of women at work– her own experience and that of other women. I read a lot in this area so there was no particularly new research for me, but what was new was the way she brought that research to life by talking about how it made sense in her own life and in the lives of relatives and friends and women who’d written to her after they watched her TED talk. It wasn’t so much informative as it was meaningful.
I came of age in the late 70s and in the midst of the Free To Be You and Me heyday. I attended graduate school in the early 1980s and remember feeling as though women were on the cusp of change. I learned about generic he’s and the salary gap and women and our relationship to power. I was ready and I waited for things to change. And someplace along the way, the “change” we waited for never really came. So I am cheering Sheryl Sandberg. She is 11 years younger than I am and a Gen Xer. And she is saying things that make perfect sense to me although she is saying they won’t really come to pass for another generation. Which is both sad and, at this stage of my life, hopeful in an odd sort of way.
The original idea of societal hierarchical change making a place for women to step into in the workplace has not come to fruition. What Sheryl is saying is that we can’t keep waiting for that veritable Godot–we have to recognize our own internal obstacles and the way we shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly and lean in to our goals and not sit back and wait to be invited.
If we choose to have children, we need to choose partners that support our careers and not partners who expect us to only support theirs.
We need to stop calling our girl children “bossy” and our boy children “leaders”.
We need to remain engaged in work and step up to new opportunities even while deciding (if we so decide) to have children.
When we turn down opportunities because it would be hard, sometime down the road, to do that job and have a family–we make ourselves more likely to choose not to return to work after our children are born. If, that is, we are fortunate enough to have that choice.
Reviewers either love her or hate her. In the book Sheryl says, “if a man had written this book he would be pilloried”. Absolutely. And she has been pilloried a few times herself by readers who (in my opinion) have misinterpreted her message (or perhaps have not actually read the book). But it’s a message long overdue and one all of us (male and female) can benefit from reading.
This book is a wonderfully approachable synthesis of the research on gender bias. She focuses on societal obstacles as well as internal obstacles to success and leadership in women. But it’s also an allegory of sorts on multiple isms out there. If you listen [ahem, read] her book with an ear to race, age, disability, sexual orientation, and other protected categories–it is truly an amazing accomplishment. This is an approachable, easy listening, non-threatening and informative plain language but intelligent book. Given the prevalence of bias in the work of litigation advocacy, in forms both obvious and subtle, this book is a wonderful one for both women and men. It will give you new ways to frame very familiar scenarios, ideas on how to talk about sensitive issues in the workplace, strategies to change the world one interaction at a time, and a very different understanding of what the younger generation’s demand for work/life balance could mean for generations to come. (Hint: It is very likely a very good thing when it comes to all of our work and personal lives.)
So, is this blog post about litigation, persuasion, and trial advocacy? Of course. The evolution of social justice, equity, and the American culture is the fuel for everything that happens in a courtroom. And, as an aside, maybe Sheryl is wrong about it taking another generation for equity to come to pass. No one could have envisioned the speed at which marriage equality has gone from being a ‘wedge issue’ to a mainstream value. What’s clear is that it won’t happen without focused and persistent attention.
Sheryl Sandberg (2013). Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Knopf Publishing.
And maybe not! If you read our blog regularly, you know we like to write about generations. (And race, and tattoos, and gender issues, and other stuff too.) So it won’t surprise you to see us peering at one of the first articles we’ve seen to say the Millennial Generation is finally beginning to form into groups after “cataclysmic events that have occurred since 2008”. Yes, we remember that blog post we wrote back in early 2012 when a marketing firm tried to convince us there were 6 (count ‘em) types of Millennials. We didn’t see that characterization as useful but this one at least has some data behind it.
According to these writers, the ongoing “Great Recession of 2008” could shape the 17-23 year olds coming of age during the Recession because they experienced “limited job opportunities, greater student loan debt, a return to their parents’ households and a delay in becoming an economic adult” in comparison with older Millennials. In other words, the writers see the recession as a “defining moment” for younger Millennials. (We’ve written a lot on generational issues and you can see our work here on the blog as well as in The Jury Expert.)
These researchers looked at the values of 350 college juniors and seniors (aged 19 to 23; 54% male, 46% female) in the US and compared them to the values of 266 older Millennials (aged 27 to 31; 54% male, 46% female) to see if a new cohort (a group within a generation) was forming. The younger Millennials and the older Millennials completed the questionnaires at the same point in time–this was not a case of having measured the values and attitudes of older Millennials a few years ago when they were aged 19-23 and then comparing them to the values of those younger Millennials who are now in that same age range. Instead, the researchers simply measured the same things in both groups of Millennials at the same point in time. In brief, the researchers wanted to see if measurable differences between the younger Millennials and older Millennials existed in a group of behavioral descriptors and values.
There were no significant differences between the younger and older Millennials on the values of having confidence, being one’s own boss and being a part of a team. There were also no differences on the behavioral measures of multitasking and hopefulness about future opportunities. Both younger and older Millennials endorsed these items positively.
However, there were differences between the older and younger Millennials as follows:
Younger Millennials see less value in “piety” as measured by religious beliefs about maintaining virginity until marriage.
Younger Millennials see less value in “thrift” as measured by whether they see saving as more important than spending. (Older Millennials endorse thrift while younger Millennials are less enamored of thrift.)
To a lesser degree, younger Millennials are less patriotic (measured by faith in country and pride in country), less political (measured by voting behavior and current involvement in politics), less green (less likely to be avid recyclers), and less worried about making mistakes in life (it might happen).
The authors do some intense factor analysis and report that there is “strong support” for the idea that a new sub-cohort is emerging.
They report that younger Millennials have more of a “live for today” attitude and are more self-centric and pleasure-seeking. While there are questions as to whether this represents a phase of life (i.e., age effect) as opposed to a true generational shift, the authors see it as indicative of a true shift although they acknowledge the younger Millennials have not yet internalized the impact of the economy on their lives. (We should note here that there was no earlier comparison of how the now older Millennials would have scored on these measures when they were the age of the younger Millennials. It’s hard to say whether what we are seeing here is a true cohort differentiation/segmentation or simple maturing on the part of young adults.)
The older Millennials, according to the authors, are facing stressful circumstances with the plummeting economy and are struggling to cope. When they came of age the economy was less daunting then it has become. They face circumstances that require them to save (unlike the younger Millennials who’ve moved back in with Mom and Dad).
As a whole, write the researchers, this generation is paying less attention to politics and are less likely to vote than older generations. (Note: The data for this study was collected in 2009 prior to the reelection of Barack Obama in 2012. Millennials represented 19% of all voters and 60% favored Obama).
It’s hard to say at this point, whether these researchers are correct in their beliefs that a new and less careful cohort is emerging as younger Millennials come of age. And it’s more than simply the miss about whether Millennials would turn out in the 2012 re-election of Barack Obama.
There is typically a large shift in what is seen as important between the ages of 18 and 25 and so we tend to think college juniors and seniors are still a bit young to have clearly formed the principles that will guide their lives. Nonetheless, this was obviously a much more rigorous effort than that engaged in by a marketing company early in 2012. We simply think we need to wait longer for the emergence of specific cohort groups within this still very young and emerging generational group.
Debevec, K, Schewe, CD, Madden, TJ, & Diamond, WD (2013). Are today’s Millennials splintering into a new generational cohort? Maybe! Journal of Consumer Behavior, 12, 20-31
One of our most often accessed posts is in our Simple Jury Persuasion series and titled When to Talk about Race and When to Stay Silent. In the year following that post, two researchers examined when making race salient was useful for defense attorneys.
The article, with authors residing in and research done in the U.S., was published in a British journal and so they spell defense with a c instead of an s. To avoid confusion, and questions as to our proof-reading, we’ll spell it our way except in the actual citation below the post.
The researchers recruited 151 White college students and then had them read doctored trial transcripts. The transcripts varied based upon 1) Defendant race (either Black or White) and, 2) whether the Defense attorney made statements regarding race. In other words, the students were randomly given one of four possible scenarios: Black Defendant with race made salient by the Defense attorney; Black Defendant with no racially salient statements made by the Defense attorney; White Defendant with race made salient by the Defense attorney; or a White Defendant with no racially salient statements made by the Defense attorney.
The (12 page) trial transcript described a trial wherein a Defendant had been accused of simple assault after starting a bar fight following watching a football game on the bar TV where his favored team lost. The crime was interracial–that is, if the Defendant was Black, the victim was White and if the Defendant was White, the victim was Black. The Defendant was described as an out-of-towner who was traveling on business. The injuries to the victim were described as a “broken nose and a black eye”. In conditions where race was made salient by the Defense attorney, the following statements (from opening and closing statements) were included in the trial transcript:
“The defendant did what any (Black/White) man in this situation would do.”
“The only reason the Defendant, and not the supposed victim, is being charged with this crime is because the Defendant is (Black/White) and the victim is (White/Black).”
In those conditions where race was not made salient, the preceding statements were not included in the trial transcript. The research participants rated the guilt of the Defendant (on an 11-point scale ranging from definitely guilty to definitely not guilty) and those who found the Defendant guilty were asked to sentence the Defendant to a prison sentence ranging from 1 to 60 months in prison. They were also asked to rate the influence of Defense and Prosecution attorney statements and the race of the Defendant. (A previous mass testing session gave the researchers access to all participant scores on the Old Fashioned Racism Scale–see page 65 of the linked pdf for the scale questions.)
What the researchers found is intuitively compatible with our reading of the literature on what is now called “modern racism”.
In short, when the Defendant was Black, the racially salient statements of the Defense attorney helped with some White jurors.
Deviating from previous studies of the relationship of prejudice and the impact of making race salient, the difference in favor of the Black Defendant was not the same across all White participants. In previous studies, the use of racially salient statements lowered the proportion of White respondents finding the Black Defendant guilty across the board. That was not the case in this study.
Participants higher in prejudice/racial bias were more likely to find the Black Defendant guilty and more likely to find the White Defendant innocent.
The researchers say that it is important to consider that the research on this effect has been conducted using interracial crimes and it may not effect White jurors when both the Defendant and the victim are Black. They also discuss previous research that showed racially salient statements result in higher levels of cognitive processing among jurors. Thus, some jurors may focus more on the evidence and that may result in more Black Defendants being found guilty. Other jurors may be led by the increased cognitive processing to an over-emphasis on race and thus, the researchers say, more prejudiced jurors could find Black Defendants guilty.
These are nuanced findings and those very nuances are part of why it is so important to read original research sources and do pretrial research to see if the specific facts of your case are strengthened by making race salient or not. Also, we wouldn’t recommend the statements used in this research for any prosecutor or defense counsel. For research it’s fine, but not for the real world.
Despite Americans having elected (and re-elected) a biracial President, the impact of race in your specific case, with your specific Defendant or Plaintiff, and with your specific case facts and venue is anything but certain. For us, this is a both fascinating and very sad area of our work. We’ll keep reading the research. You keep coming back to check it out!
Bucolo, D., & Cohn, E. (2010). Playing the race card: Making race salient in defence opening and closing statements Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15 (2), 293-303 DOI: 10.1348/135532508X400824
Do we think a football player should be punished for performing a celebration dance? It depends on his race. Even non-football fans have seen the celebration dances done by athletes following touchdowns. If the football player is Black, that arrogance should be punished. If White, it may still be arrogance, but that’s okay. Because they are White.
Wow. Researchers from Northwestern University wondered if Black football players would be seen more negatively (they call it “punished”) for celebration dances following touchdowns. There is research saying that members of high-status groups can behave arrogantly without penalty but that low-status group members cannot. The researchers conducted three different experiments:
The first experiment sampled 74 part-time MBA students (29 female, 45 male) who were all US born, “non-Black” and knowledgeable about American football. They read a description of Black or White football players who either celebrated with a “signature dance” following a successful touchdown or did not celebrate. They were then asked if the athlete should get a salary increase for the successful play.
Black football players who danced were punished financially more than Black football players who didn’t dance (and were therefore seen as more humble). White football players were not penalized similarly–that is, there was no difference in the recommended financial award for the arrogant versus the more humble White football player.
Study 2 sampled 54 non-Black males who could report the length of a football field. This was an age (19 years old to 75 years old) and income diverse (average income slightly below $73K/year) sample. The participants reviewed the same story as those in Study 1 had reviewed and were then asked this question: “If the average wide receiver in the NFL makes around $1M, how much do you think Malik Johnson (or Jake Biermann if the player was reported to be White) should make?”
The results were similar to Study 1 with Black football players celebrating being financially punished while White football players were not.
For Study 3 (now satisfied that Black football players were going to be punished for their arrogance) the researchers wanted to see why and when Black football players would be penalized. Again, 105 White participants able to report the length of a football field were gathered from an online sample. It was again a diverse sample: age ranged from 17 to 68; household income was on average $44K; and women (67 women, 38 men) were included in this sample. This time the participants read similar vignettes to the first two studies with some modifications: the football players in the vignettes were all Black and either celebrated against a White player, celebrated against a player who race was not specified, did not celebrate at all, and in a “humble” condition, the player simply immediately surrendered the football to a referee as prescribed by the official playbook.
Black players in the celebration against a White opponent condition were rewarded significantly less than the Black player in the no-celebration condition or the humble condition. Similarly, the Black player in the celebration condition not specifying the race of the opponent was also rewarded significantly less than those who did not celebrate and “marginally less” than the Black players in the humble condition.
When the Black football players celebrated, they were penalized more than those who did not celebrate/were humble.
The researchers call this effect the “hubris effect” and refer to the “historical” notion of the “uppity Black” who needed to be taken down a peg or two. This research shows what they describe as “robust evidence” for this sort of hubris penalty against Black athletes but no similar effect for White athletes. In other words, we think it’s okay for White athletes to be arrogant, but Black athletes should know their place.
They cite other disturbing and recent research finding similar patterns:
From a 2010 study: Blacks are penalized for over-performance academically and downplaying achievement or feigning incompetence helps to avoid backlash.
From a 2009 study: Black CEOs benefitted from features that made them seem less competent than “ordinary Blacks”. The assumption here was that too much competence could be threatening to Whites.
It’s a sad and frustrating window into the state of race relations/perceptions in the current day. From a litigation advocacy standpoint, this has multiple implications. [Please understand that we are no more enthusiastic over the following recommendations than we are with the bias that spawned them. We're taking life as it comes here, and trying to optimize a bad situation.]
Prepare your witnesses and parties with awareness of this dynamic and the expectation that Blacks must be humble.
If your Black client, party, or witness is of higher education, SES, attractiveness, et cetera–pay special attention to evoking juror awareness of “universal values” your client shares with the jurors so the jurors see your Black client as more like them than not like them. The goal with this strategy is to decrease the likelihood of your White jurors being threatened by a high achieving Black party or witness). It’s a case of being more ‘humble’ than should be appropriate. It’s wrong, but it helps.
Consider mitigating the tendency to lower awards to Black plaintiffs or to penalize Black defendants too harshly by using one of our favorite litigation advocacy techniques.
Hall, E., & Livingston, R. (2012). The hubris penalty: Biased responses to “Celebration” displays of black football players Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (4), 899-904 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.004
Brain researchers are increasingly focused on whether our brains are red or blue–as in Democrat or Republican. And there appears to actually be something to it. But it reminds me of that Dr. Seuss book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I confess the charm of Dr. Seuss wore off for me a great deal faster than it did for my kids… Even after reading his books aloud over and over and over and over again to my kids they still loved them. Once they began to read, I had to listen to them read them aloud over and over and over and over again. Of course, my antipathy toward Dr. Seuss was nothing compared to my feelings about a giant purple dinosaur whose name will not be spoken here. Suffice to say, his affections were most assuredly not returned by me. I couldn’t even listen to the YouTube video of that song without shuddering and I shut it off after the first line.
But I digress. In this study (freely accessible online thanks to PLoSONE) researchers look at how having either a Democrat or Republican political affiliation may change how your brain functions during risky decision-making. It is also important to note that these researchers use the descriptors Democrat/Liberal and Republican/Conservative interchangeably. They believe that this idea is valid and point to a 1998 article to explain:
“While party registration is not a perfect proxy for ideology, a realignment that started in the 1970s has caused the two to become increasingly correlated over the past 40 years. Political polarization at both the mass and elite levels have created a period where ideology and partisanship are substantially overlapping concepts. This trend has been even stronger in California (where the participants in this study resided) than in other states.”
Their use of a Democrat = Liberal and Republican = Conservative assumption is further supported by a more recent 2008 article:
“However, our evidence indicates that since the 1970s, ideological polarization has increased dramatically among the mass public in the United States as well as among political elites. There are now large differences in outlook between Democrats and Republicans, between red state voters and blue state voters, and between religious voters and secular voters. These divisions are not confined to a small minority of activists—they involve a large segment of the public and the deepest divisions are found among the most interested, informed, and active citizens. Moreover, contrary to Fiorina’s suggestion that polarization turns off voters and depresses turnout, our evidence indicates that polarization energizes the electorate and stimulates political participation.”
The current researchers cite prior research on what the brains of liberals and conservatives look like structurally. Using a “simple gambling game”, prior research found that “liberals and conservatives have significantly different brain structure, with liberals showing increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and conservatives showing increased gray matter volume in the in the amygdala”.
For the current research, the researchers looked at what areas of the brain were used during those gambling tasks and found a difference in what parts of the brain were activated during those decisions. When considering risky decisions:
Democrats relied on the left insula (associated with social awareness and self awareness).
Republicans relied on the right amygdala (associated with the fight or flight system).
What was particularly surprising is that looking at the brain activity alone could show with 82.9% accuracy whether a person had voted Democrat or Republican. (In comparison, a model using the political affiliation of parents to predict a child’s political affiliation has only 69.5% accuracy!) The researchers believe that this information shows that Democrats and Republicans use their brains differently. They also believe that this research may result in new research on voter behavior that can help us understand better how people think.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is yet another finding that makes us wish for added functionality to Google Glass so we could see the “color” of potential juror brains. On the other hand, we sure would want to back up this assumption that political ideation equates to liberal vs. conservative attitudes with pretrial research on a pretty large scale. The size of the researcher’s sample for this study (N = 82; 35 males, 47 females) leaves much to be desired. Even the researchers wish they could have inquired more closely:
“Ideally, we would have also directly inquired about the individuals’ ideological self-identification and attitudes about a set of political issues. However, we were not able to re-contact the participants.”
So it isn’t quite perfect. But it’s a start. So, once having determined that Democrat = Liberal and Republican = Conservative, we have to determine whether it matters. And what the role might be in a particular case of such social or political alignment. In our experience, it has more salience in personal injury cases or cases involving ethnic minorities than it does on complex commercial or intellectual property cases. But ultimately, research on understanding jurors is interesting when it is descriptive, but only worthwhile when it becomes predictive of verdicts.
Schreiber D, Fonzo G, Simmons AN, Dawes CT, Flagan T, Fowler JH, & Paulus MP (2013). Red brain, blue brain: Evaluative processes differ in Democrats and Republicans. PLoS ONE, 8 (2) PMID: 23418419