Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category
If you try to identify what it is that makes someone trustworthy, you might list their forthrightness, values consistent with your own, or even their willingness to embrace unpopular positions. And that is all well and good but it likely is untrue. Instead, researchers tell us, we draw “relatively stable trustworthinesss impressions from facial appearance”.
Apparently, based on the photo illustrating this post (taken from the research article) we define trust as having less prominent eyebrows and jawlines, softer lips and slightly narrower noses. Overall, a softer appearance. The more “trustworthy” photos in the left column look younger, with less prominent brows and generally more traditionally feminine than the “untrustworthy” photos in the right column. But this is merely how they strike us— we should point out the researchers described the more trustworthy faces as neutral, neither masculine nor feminine.
In this research, participants were asked to imagine they were moving to a new area and had asked real estate brokers to find a home for them. To add to the realism of the task, the participant’s only clues as to the skill of the realtor were these photos and typed statements ostensibly made by each realtor in describing the home they had identified for the participants (sensible factors for how we ourselves would choose a realtor for a cross-country move). After seeing the photos and statements, the participants were asked to respond to how willing they would be to pick the house this realtor recommended and then how trustworthy the realtor seemed to them.
Across four different experiments (and more than 400 undergraduate student-participants), the researchers found that participants spontaneously presumed trustworthinesss from facial appearance alone.
While we have blogged on this idea before, it has been in the context of not trusting men with wide faces (which is simply based on higher testosterone levels). This research is not from evolutionary psychologists but we can see the “untrustworthy” faces in the right column of the graphic illustrating this post are clearly wider. While today’s researchers say facial trustworthiness may have “pervasive consequences in everyday life” we would say you always want to assess if a witness or party would look more trustworthy with a few appearance tweaks.
We already pay attention to attire and accessories but we’ve also written about things like covering tattoos or even something as seemingly unnecessary as telling a witness to not place their fist in their mouth when testifying. And speaking of those “pervasive consequences in everyday life”, recent studies have shown us that men with wide faces are more likely to receive the death sentence (even when the conviction is later found to be wrongful).
While it may seem ridiculous to consider shaping a witness or party’s eyebrows or considering makeup techniques or glasses to make deep-set eyes appear more wide-set—it is also ridiculous to infer trustworthiness based on appearance alone. But we do it all the time. Just add this as “one more thing” to consider in preparing your witness or party for the courtroom.
Klapper, A., Dotsch, R., van Rooij, I., & Wigboldus, D. (2016). Do we spontaneously form stable trustworthiness impressions from facial appearance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111 (5), 655-664 DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000062
Image taken from the article itself (the researchers used software to morph the faces)
A recent symposium for IT executives included a presentation that pitched the idea of genetic screening of job applicants for traits like “honesty, leadership, being a team player, and having a high level of emotional intelligence”. While we think you may want to hang onto your checkbook if offered this sort of service, it is a disturbing outgrowth of the burgeoning research into genetic testing for almost everything. Here is a quote from the Seeker website which brought this possibility to our attention:
Although federal and states laws prohibit employers from requesting or using an employee’s genetic information, genetic testing is mainstream. Millions of people voluntarily pay to have their genomes analyzed thanks to inexpensive DNA kits available from companies like Ancestry DNA , Genome , 23andMe, Family Tree, to name a few. And research is moving forward in fields such as psychiatric genetics, trying to find correlations between genes and behavior.
“We fully appreciated the lack of legality and some of the issues with the science,” Furlonger told Seeker by email. “Nonetheless, it seems clear that work is being undertaken and therefore the current state should not be ignored.”
We are glad they appreciate the “lack of legality”. (Some researchers do not acknowledge the legal concerns—like this group on how to hire the “good psychopath” by testing them pre-hire.) The actual best answer to this question is that there is no gene for leadership (or honesty, or being a team player, or having high emotional intelligence) and there is no way testing of this sort would be useful to a company trying to figure out who to hire.
Neurolaw researchers (like Hank Greeley) are speaking up against this strategy:
“Why would an employer rely on imperfect, and generally weak, associations between genes and test scores instead of relying directly on the test scores?” said Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University and the chair of steering committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics. It’s like running, he said. Rather than look for genetic variations that indicate whether someone is a good sprinter or not, just watch a person sprint. That ought to tell you all you need to know.
We agree and are glad to have voices of reason speaking out against the desire to “push the hiring envelope” into areas that make no sense and violate medical privacy (as well as statistical integrity). Because while the genetic testing can’t tell you anything about the purported target traits, they can tell you things about the person that should not be a factor in hiring (including gender, possibly ethnicity, and medical issues). Will genetic testing results be a tool to worsen the problems of women and non-Asian minorities in breaking into STEM fields? Here’s what we wrote in August 2016 when we came across the “good psychopath” workplace fit test. We think it works for this idea too.
From a law office management perspective, we really would urge rejecting this sort of strategy. What they seem to intimate is that you want to find the 10% of the psychopathic population who have moderate psychopathic tendencies and then, divide them into primary and secondary psychopaths and then, figure out which of the primary psychopaths have really good social skills so their behaviors will not wreak havoc in your workplace.
Putting on our duly licensed Psychologist hats for a moment, the distinction seems to be a very slippery slope. Secondary psychopaths are trouble from the beginning. Primary psychopaths have better social skills so they can manage the day-to-day more successfully, but under stress they are going to create havoc, too. And we have never seen a trial team that isn’t under terrific stress. It is the nature of litigation, and stress tolerances need to be higher than average, not a potential area of weakness.
The authors put a troubling amount of faith in a psychological trait scale, when you can assess the same things by looking at work history, length of relationships, and having your own warning signs on high alert during the interview process. Use your intuition about whether someone will be a good fit. It is also risky to assume you can “get around” the Americans with Disabilities Act by using the PPI-R scale with job applicants when what you are measuring is psychopathy and resulting goodness of fit in your workplace.
And a high-functioning psychopathic attorney is just the kind of person to drag you through a lawsuit by claiming that you rejected him or her based on an ADA protected factor.
We’ve written about atheists here (and how unpopular they are in North America) a number of times. The first time was in 2010 when we wrote an article in The Jury Expert because we were so taken aback by the level of vitriol we’d seen in a blog post describing a new research article on atheists. We found the level of vitriol reserved for atheists hard to believe but, when we went to the literature, it was a consistent theme for decades.
It is hard to believe six years has passed since we wrote that article, but the authors of the original research article have published an update ten years later. Despite some religious groups improving their images in the eyes of the public in the last decade, the level of dislike for atheists has remained (although they are now statistically tied with Muslims) as “most disliked”.
In their ten-year update (drawing from the 2014 version of the nationally representative survey they used for the first article in 2003) the researchers tell us about how attitudes have not changed toward atheists and that the negativity toward atheists also colors perceptions of those who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. Here are a few quotes pulled from the new article that illustrate some of their findings.
While Muslims have surpassed atheists as the least-accepted group, Muslims and atheists still receive the most negative evaluations compared to all other groups in 2014, as they did in 2003.
…moral concerns about atheists are, in fact, relatively common in American society; for example, over a third of Americans (36 percent) either somewhat agree or strongly agree that atheists “lack a moral center”.
…it seems that the term “atheist” denotes a cultural category that signifies a general and diffuse sense of moral threat.
…public distrust of atheists is primarily motivated by cultural values, and private distrust of atheists is motivated by cultural values and private religious beliefs, but both effects are substantially mediated by respondents’ moral concerns about atheists.
Moral concerns about atheists have consequences for how Americans perceive the overall decline of religious affiliation. Overall, the spiritual but not religious (SBNRs) are more favorably perceived than are atheists; beliefs that atheists are immoral increase negative sentiment toward SBNRs.
Our analyses show that anti-atheist sentiment in the United States is persistent, durable, and anchored in moral concern. A substantial percentage of Americans see atheists as immoral, and are therefore significantly more likely to say that atheists do not share their vision of America and to disapprove of their son or daughter marrying an atheist.
Overall, atheists are still seen as “other” and devalued for having fewer morals than those with religious beliefs which may be weak but are not a complete repudiation of religiosity. The FBI has just released a report that hate crimes against Muslims are up by 67% in 2015 so (given that this survey was completed in 2014) Muslims are probably even more unpopular now.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, it behooves us to pay special attention to atheists and Muslims involved (even as non-party witnesses) in jury trials. In the effort to overcome “otherness” regarding atheism, there are testimony topics that might be helpful. Atheists are thought of in terms of what they don’t believe, leaving open the question of what they do believe. Of course the answer to that is as diverse as the population, but it is a potentially positive association, rather than a negative one. Also, given the recent presidential elections and the aftermath protests and demonstrations, we would do well to pay special attention to bias against any party to litigation who is not White, and possibly also not male.
Only time will tell if the slightly more than ⅓ of the US electorate that elected Donald Trump will be emboldened in the deliberation room to actively and openly express discrimination toward parties of color. In the meantime, prepare witnesses and clients to espouse universal values and be vigilant to hidden (and not so hidden) biases whether anticipated or complete surprises.
Edgell, P., Hartmann, D., Stewart, E., & Gerteis, J. (2016). Atheists and Other Cultural Outsiders: Moral Boundaries and the Non-Religious in the United States. Social Forces, 95 (2), 607-638 DOI: 10.1093/sf/sow063
Image taken from article itself
You are not seeing double. Over the last month we’ve kept reading and reading and reading but many of the articles we read for the blog were fun but just not substantive enough for a full blog post. So. Think of this as the director’s cut version of the blog—full of things you wish we’d blogged on but that are included here for your pleasure and edification.
Women just need to ask for a raise, right? It is 2016, after all!
It is 2016. And yet, managers treat some women differently than they treat men who ask for raises. Women do ask for raises. They just don’t get them—according to a new study summarized over at Pacific Standard Magazine and looking at Australian salaries in 2013–14. The large survey—it features responses from 4,600 workers at 840 workplaces, just over half of them female — asks specific questions about pay raises, of both the requested and granted variety.
Women are 25% less likely than men to receive the raises they request and there is no evidence women do not ask because they are afraid their relationship with their manager will be compromised. It is not that women need to be more assertive. We will leave it to you to think of what this really represents.
Keep yourself from designing in discrimination
Remember that Snapchat filter that got pulled because users said it was racist and mimicked a ‘yellowface’ caricature of an Asian face? Snapchat said it meant to evoke anime characters and removed the filter within hours of uploading it due to negative feedback. Lena Groeger (also writing at PacificStandard) says this is what happens when you don’t have a diverse team working on your products and services—it makes you blind to design decisions that are hurtful or discriminatory to your customers. This is a thought-provoking and easy-to-read article on how we make choices that bring indignity and discomfort to others.
More hairy information
We’ve written about beards, baldness, lumbersexuals, and more on hair that we’ve likely forgotten—but we cannot avoid this study (and we know you would not want us to miss pointing you toward it). Women (says a new study and since it is research it must not be wrong) prefer men with beards when they are looking for long-term relationships. The researchers showed women pictures of men who were either: clean-shaven, had light stubble, heavy stubble, or full beards. Stubble was rated most attractive overall but only for short-term relationships. Full beards were the most attractive when considering longer relationships. The researchers say this is likely because hirsuteness in the form of a full beard “is a signal of formidability among males and the potential to provide direct benefits, such as enhanced fertility and survival, to females”.
Oh man. They were doing so well. Then they gave themselves away as evolutionary psychologists. Admittedly, this blog has a long-standing tradition of poking those psychologists. Sometimes they hit on stereotypes we all apply (like in the “wide-faced men are thugs” research on how we stereotype by appearance) but more often they do ridiculous things like saying men are attracted to women shaped like Barbie dolls and other things our readers just know are totally untrue. For a rundown of the posts we’ve done on the work of evolutionary psychologists see this—and don’t count on the accuracy of women choosing bearded men for their virility and survival skills.
Helpfulness is just exhausting
We’re here to tell you. Being helpful to others is just very tiring. But don’t take our word for it—new research agrees. People who are helpful (on a daily basis) in the workplace are less productive and get burned out. The authors (one of whom summarized their work at Harvard Business Review) offer take-aways for both helpers and help-seekers. We think their recommendations are also useful for managers and human resource personnel as they are concrete, practical, and easy to implement.
Lanaj K, Johnson RE, & Wang M (2016). When lending a hand depletes the will: The daily costs and benefits of helping. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 101 (8), 1097-110 PMID: 27149605
Dixson BJ, Sulikowski D, Gouda-Vossos A, Rantala MJ, & Brooks RC (2016). The masculinity paradox: facial masculinity and beardedness interact to determine women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 29 (11), 2311-2320 PMID: 27488414
Think of these as scintillating secrets to selectively drop into casual conversation to stun and beguile your co-workers and acquaintances. Or things we thought interesting but couldn’t work into full blog posts.
Boomers DO NOT have a stronger work ethic than later generations
Despite the popularity of this belief, it is a myth. It has been disproven in study after individual study and now, some researchers took a look at all the actual data (rather than relying on anecdotal information shared repetitiously and inaccurately on the web— largely by aging Boomers) and here it is again (currently open access) from the Journal of Business and Psychology. The article is summarized at Science Daily and here is a quote from the summary:
The analysis found no differences in the work ethic of different generations. These findings support other studies that found no difference in the work ethics of different generations when considering different variables, such as the hours they work or their commitment to family and work. Zabel’s team did however note a higher work ethic in studies that contained the response of employees working in industry rather than of students.
So. Boomers. Just stop it. Millennials and Generation X are no lazier than any other generation and Boomers have no corner on work ethic. Just ask their older (Silent Generation) peers how Boomers were when they first joined the workplace.
Quick and without looking! Which is longer—your ring finger or your index finger?
Apparently most people have fingers the same length but if you do not here’s a quick interpretation for you.
If your index finger is shorter than your ring finger, you are likely better at physical and athletic tasks (but are also more prone to ADHD and Tourette’s).
If your ring finger is shorter than your index finger, you are likely better at verbal memory tasks (but more prone to anxiety and depression).
This is all about how much testosterone you were exposed to in the womb and is probably also not really true about many of us. Read more about finger-length and masculine versus feminine traits and skills over at Science Daily.
Fracking is losing favor—in the UK, support is at an all-time low…
A few years ago we were hired to work on a fracking case and wanted to educate ourselves on public attitudes toward the practice of fracking. We wrote an article published in The Jury Expert looking at publicly available data. At that time, there was not much available that was not proprietary but what was visible made us not drink the local water on site at the pre-trial research! Four years later, there is a lot of data available (and mock jurors in other pretrial projects we’ve done on fracking-related litigation are often ambivalent).
Apparently, it is the same in the UK. A group at the University of Nottingham has been tracking public attitudes toward fracking since mid-2012. In a recent report of their work, they say support for fracking has fallen to an all-time low at 37.3% and opposition to fracking in the UK now at 41%. Scribd has the full report here.
Beyond dead salmon: What you need to know about fMRI research
We blogged about this issue but now there is an easily accessible and plain language web resource on what top neuroscientists want you to know about fMRI research and we wanted to share it with you. Brian Resnick over at the Vox site shares 7 points you need to know to knowledgeably speak on how fMRIs really work.
Secret rules on language English-speakers all know but don’t realize we know
This went viral a while back and you may have seen it but we both thought it was wonderful. So here it is again. From Mark Forsyth’s book The Elements of Eloquence on why we say Big Bad Wolf and not Bad Big Wolf.
“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”
Zabel, K., Biermeier-Hanson, B., Baltes, B., Early, B., & Shepard, A. (2016). Generational Differences in Work Ethic: Fact or Fiction? Journal of Business and Psychology DOI: 10.1007/s10869-016-9466-5
Currently open access here.