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older adults and fraudOf course you did. But you may want to take a look at this study because, maybe, it isn’t true after all. It certainly is a well-known myth if it is not true. This appears to be one of those situations where we add up what we know and then come up with a conclusion that just doesn’t appear to be true. Here’s what we know: research on cognitive age-related changes and emotional age-related changes tells us there are indeed shifts that can increase the vulnerability of the older adult to consumer fraud. We conclude, thus, they are defrauded more often.

This research, which is actually simply a review of the actual data on consumer fraud, says the older adult may be more at risk but there is no data-based evidence to say they actually are defrauded at a higher rate than younger adults. In fact, the older adult may be more savvy than we assume–these researchers say perhaps it is the protective factor of “increased experience and changes in goals, lifestyle, income, as well as purchasing and risk behaviors”. Or, in less geeky language–with age comes both wisdom and caution, as well as awareness of the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…”.

So why is it so commonly believed that senior citizens are taken in by con artists and scammers? The writers of the current article identify 5 reasons we may hypothesize older adults are more often victims of consumer fraud (and these are drawn from research):

Older adults have less accurate episodic memory and are at increased vulnerability to misinformation.

Older adults have slower cognitive processing and therefore take longer to review and process information than younger adults.

Abstract reasoning and novel problem-solving ability peak about age 30 and then decline across the remainder of the lifespan. (This is such a bummer, but we can slow the decline by continuing to challenge ourselves through learning new things, playing music, learning languages, and stimulating a brain that functions better under the stress of new thinking).

Mild cognitive impairment is associated with a reduction in math and financial skills such as managing a checkbook and understanding bills. (This could result in increased vulnerability to fraud.)

After experiencing a financial loss, consumers can be uncertain whether their particular loss comes from a legitimate business arrangement or from deceitful practices. None of us like to be deceived and there is conjecture that older adults may not want to believe they have been tricked and therefore do not file reports as victims of fraud.

Those 5 findings are backed up by research. Older adults could be more at risk simply by virtue of aging and some of the issues we will all face at one time or another. But being at risk does not mean you will necessarily fall prey to consumer fraud. Yet the belief that older adults are victimized by consumer fraud at a high rate relative to other age groups is part of our social fabric. We all “know” this is true. Except it does not appear to be true.

Part of the issue is that researcher interpretations about what their findings might mean have been misinterpreted by the media as fact rather than mere conjecture or hypotheses for future work. Then the ‘facts’ are picked up by other media outlets and blogs and we hear things like “fraud prevalence has reached epidemic levels in older adults” or “older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to frauds”. Hypotheses, conjectures or questions become perceived as fact and become part of our popular “wisdom” about older adults. The following graph is taken from the article cited at the end of today’s post. The graph presents the fraud reported during 2010, 2011 and 2012. Contrary to our expectations, those who are actively defrauded are more likely very young or in the middle of their lives.

You may opine that the elderly are just too embarrassed to report their being defrauded, but there is no data to support it. In fact, the authors say at this point we can neither say older adults are subject to more or less fraud. There is simply no evidence to support the idea that older adults are disproportionately the victims of consumer fraud.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is one more reason to never assume that a given belief is true. Widely held stereotypes are often untrue. This apparently is but one of those widely held (but not supported by data) beliefs.

Ross, M, Grossman, I, & Schryer, E (2014). Contrary to psychological and popular opinion, there is no compelling evidence that older adults are disproportionately victimized by consumer fraud. Perspectives on Psychological Science.



The American Bar Association is seeking nominations until August 8, 2014 [THAT's TODAY!] to help it decide on the Top 100 law blogs (“Blawgs”). We have been in the ABA Top 100 for the past 4 years and would like to make it 5! If you like this blog, please nominate us (it’s fast and free) here. THANKS! Doug and Rita

angels_and_demonsThis isn’t a teaser for Dan Brown’s book. In fact, don’t get us started on that. Instead it’s a report on two newer (circa 2013) measures of more credible interest: the Belief in Pure Evil Scale and the Belief in Pure Good Scale. We know. You’ve been waiting forever to have good and evil more clearly quantified. But don’t be so quick to dismiss. If you work in the criminal courts, these could be very useful for you.

Before you pooh-pooh the idea as ridiculous, these concepts are “reliable, unitary and stable constructs” with eight “theoretically independent dimensions”. What that means is, there really is something tangible and concrete here to measure. And the reason it matters is that those who score higher on a belief in pure evil were more likely to support the “death penalty and preemptive military aggression” and less likely to support “criminal rehabilitation, proracial policies and beneficial social programs”. It doesn’t stop there. Those who score higher on a belief in pure good are more likely to oppose “proviolent foreign relations and torture) and to support “criminal rehabilitation and diplomacy”. In other words, say the researchers, these are concepts that relate to “aggressive and prosocial” orientations toward others.

The Huffington Post covered this work and had this to say about those who believe in pure evil:

Those who believe in ‘Pure Evil’ consider bad or criminal behavior is willful, conscious and driven primarily by the wish to inflict harm, merely often for pleasure. If you believe in ‘Pure Evil’, you also deem that evil-doers will implacably continue being dangerous. This necessarily follows if certain culprits are indeed the embodiment of undiluted viciousness. On both sides of conflict, if each sees the other side as ‘evil’, this inevitably results in reciprocal and escalating prejudice with violence. People scoring higher in ‘Belief in Pure Evil’ feel that pre-emptive violence and aggression are justified to root out evil-doers.”

And they had this to say about those who believe in pure good:

Believers in ‘Pure Good’ accept the existence of pure altruism, that some people, though rare, intentionally help others just for the sake of helping, with no personal benefit or hidden agenda. They also judge that even the most ghastly perpetrators – i.e., wayward criminals, can see “the error of their ways” and reform, i.e., they are not ‘Purely Evil’. Those who more strongly believed in ‘Pure Good’, supported criminal rehabilitation and opposed the death penalty. Those who score higher in ‘Belief in Pure Good’ are more likely to believe that doing good means not harming others (unless one’s country or allies are directly endangered).” 

That’s the good news. These concepts appear to have merit and to be distinct constructs. The other news is that these scales are way too long and the individual questions are much too controversial to be permitted in most courts or most cases. But the concepts are powerfully evocative and we thought it was worthwhile to let you know they were out there and give you a glimpse of the items measuring them. We’ve done this before with the GASP Scale, the Depravity Scale, the Islamophobia Scale, the CAST Scale and even the Spitefulness Scale. So why not the Belief in Pure Evil Scale and the Belief in Pure Good Scale?

Here are a few questions from the 22-item Belief in Pure Evil Scale:

Evil people hurt others because they enjoy inflicting pain and suffering.

Evil people have an evil essence, like a stain on their souls, which is almost impossible to get rid of.

If we catch an evildoer, we should just lock them up and ensure they never get out.

Evil people are so narcissistic and full of themselves.

Here are a few questions from the 28-item Belief in Pure Good Scale:

People have to believe in “pure good” to have a peaceful and orderly society.

Purely good people always try to avoid hurting others, even when it means helping those in need.

The forces of evil will fail when they try to corrupt pure-hearted people.

Pure-hearted people respect all life and therefore believe anyone is worthy of being helped and cared for.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we look forward to these concepts being measured in language admissible in court (less creepy and much shorter). Until then, however, it is curious whether case narratives naturally evoke a variation on this theme.

Our mock jurors routinely talk about their task as being one of assessing which side is “most right” or what decision is “fair”.

Sometimes they talk about their disgust with a Defendant and, in those cases, their themes are not far from “pure evil”. We’ve also seen instances where mock jurors discuss a Plaintiff (or the spouse of a Plaintiff) in themes closely resembling “pure good”.

It’s an intriguing idea to consider. How can this narrative be framed in ways that elicit the sense of a conflict between good and evil, fair and unfair, right and wrong. Those themes often emerge in mock juror reactions to case narratives and that is the intent. The question this research raises though is just who will react in the opposite way than we expect? That is, who will choose evil over good, unfair over fair, and wrong over right? Based on the mock jurors we’ve seen, we can’t see that happening in a deliberation room and having any measurable impact on the majority of jurors. But it’s intriguing to consider.

Webster RJ, & Saucier DA (2013). Angels and demons are among us: Assessing individual differences in belief in pure evil and belief in pure good. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 39 (11), 1455-70 PMID: 23885037




The American Bar Association is seeking nominations until August 8, 2014 to help it decide on the Top 100 law blogs (“Blawgs”). We have been in the ABA Top 100 for the past 4 years and would like to make it 5! If you like this blog, please nominate us (it’s fast and free) here. THANKS! Doug and Rita

gay or straightAt least so says CBS News. Recently, CBS News reported on the results of a 2013 Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey (the National Health Interview Survey) of almost 35,000 adults. This was the first time the CDC asked people to report their sexual orientation as part of the survey and while the numbers may be a bit low, here is how CBS described the survey respondents:

The survey, conducted in 2013, included nearly 35,000 adults. Among the participants, 96.6 percent identified themselves as straight, while 1.6 percent identified as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identified as bisexual. The remaining 1.1 percent didn’t select any of the options.”

Here are some of the ways those respondents who self-identified as gay, lesbian and bisexual described their health differently than those who self-identified as straight. We point out that this is self-report and the numbers of those identifying as lesbian/gay/bisexual total only 2.3%, which is dramatically lower than population estimates from other sources. (This begs the question of how those who self-identified as lesbian/gay in the survey may differ from the actual community of people who are lesbian/gay. Is this sample representative of the lesbian/gay community, or does it differ in a meaningful way?) Nonetheless, it is the first time we’ve had a national survey that allowed respondents to self-identify sexual orientation and it is a useful tool for beginning to describe health issues and how they differ across subgroups in our society.

Gay/lesbian (35.1%) and bisexual (41.5%) respondents said they had 5 or more drinks on one day at least once in the past year compared to just 26% of those who identified themselves as straight. A higher percentage of gay/lesbian/bisexual people said they were smokers when compared to straight respondents.

Bisexual people (11%) reported higher levels of “serious psychological distress” in the past 30 days than did their straight (3.9%) counterparts.

There were no differences in level of physical activity or in the numbers of men and women saying they were in excellent or very good health. However, a lower percentage of lesbian and bisexual women had “a usual place to go for medical care” than did straight women. On the other hand, straight respondents were more likely than gay or bisexual respondents to not seek medical attention due to cost.

The new report discusses the significance of being a minority group member when  health issues are concerned, and cites differences in health based on race and ethnicity, gender, and income which are well-documented. This is the first time being a part of a sexual orientation minority has been studied on such a large scale. Hopefully, as people feel more comfortable acknowledging sexual orientation in such research the number of respondents reporting being gay, lesbian or bisexual will become more realistic. This will help us know more about specific health concerns, targeted interventions, and access to or use of healthcare. In addition to understanding more about health differences, researchers will also examine the role of social stressors (stemming from unequal treatment) in the reported health disparities.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is yet another reminder that we need to identify differences and similarities between our clients and the jury pool. The comments following the CBS article make it clear there is much anger and hatred directed at gay, lesbian and bisexual people. And it affirms our general impression of the kinds of people who make comments on popular news websites.

Health of gay and straight people compared in first major survey. CBS News: 



The American Bar Association is seeking nominations until August 8, 2014 to help it decide on the Top 100 law blogs (“Blawgs”). We have been in the ABA Top 100 for the past 4 years and would like to make it 5! If you like this blog, please nominate us (it’s fast and free) here. THANKS! Doug and Rita

pinnocchio motivational speaker

The deception research is enough to make you lose faith in humanity. You are left to conclude that everybody lies. You can trust no one. And to make matters worse, most of us can’t identify a liar very well. We’ve written a bit about the deception literature but the work we are covering today is good for the soul. Overall, the researchers say lying is a less frequent occurrence than one might think based on the deception research and the frequency of lying is not distributed evenly across the population. In other words, not everyone lies after all!

The large majority [95%] of us are “everyday liars”–we tell small lies that are not particularly hurtful. Think of an everyday lie as “Those pants don’t make your butt look big”. But a small minority of us [5%] are “prolific liars” who lie about big and small things. The prolific liar is the one to beware of, as they are responsible for 50% of the lies told. Most of us are able to distinguish between what we think of as “small lies” and what lies constitute “big lies”. For every single big lie told by the everyday liar, the prolific liar tells 19 big lies! Maybe for entertainment, or for personal gain, or just out of habit.

The researchers found patterns and differences between everyday and prolific liars in the US and then found very similar patterns in the UK except they lie more frequently across the pond with almost 9.7% of the UK sample being prolific liars compared to 5% in the US. Here are some of the differences found between the everyday liar and the prolific liar:

The everyday liar is most likely to lie to their mother while the prolific liar is most likely to lie to their partners and children.

Prolific liars are more likely male, younger and to work in management roles.

Prolific liars were more likely to say their lying had led to losing jobs and relationships.

While there are apparently more liars in the UK, the researchers explain how to determine if someone is “just” an everyday liar or is a prolific liar. The cutoff number of lies told (to categorize someone as an everyday liar versus a prolific liar) is different for the US and the UK.

In the US, it is common for people to report telling 0 to 2 lies a day. In the UK, it is common for people to report telling 0 to 4 lies a day.

So, the researchers say that in the US, the prolific liar will tell 3 or more lies a day while the UK prolific liar will tell 5 or more lies a day.

Everyday liars say they tell perhaps one small lie a day and one big lie a week. The prolific liar tells almost 3 big lies a day in addition to the 6 small lies they acknowledge each day.

You may question whether prolific liars would admit their lying ways. The researchers say that self-reports of lying seem to be quite accurate (based on past research) and that since these “how much do you lie?” surveys were completed anonymously, they think that gives the data more credibility since social desirability responding would have been minimized.

Everyday liars say they lied more as children but the prolific liars have practiced their craft throughout their lifetimes. The prolific liar tells lies in every area of their life–whether it is work, friendships, or intimate personal relationships. And their behavior has consequences. Prolific liars are 4x more likely to report losing a significant other due to their lies and 9x more likely to have been fired for dishonesty.

Prolific liars feel, however, no more guilt about lying than everyday liars. The prolific liar has a high frequency of lies and a low-level of guilt while the everyday liar has a low-frequency of lies and a low-level of guilt. The researchers point to this discrepancy as a reason the two groups should be studied separately.

As the researchers say, “it is normal for people to tell a few lies, and many lies are minor transgressions or simply efforts to avoid being hurtful”. The prolific liar (whether in the US or the UK) operates outside the norms for lying and thus needs to be studied separately.

Alas, there is nothing in the article to tell us how to differentiate between the everyday liar and the prolific liar except asking them how often they lie. Then we are in the ironic position of relying on a liar to tell us the truth (face-to-face) as to who they really are and thus, how we can expect to be treated.

Serota, K., & Levine, T. (2014). A Few Prolific Liars: Variation in the Prevalence of Lying Journal of Language and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1177/0261927X14528804



The Silent Generation: Who are they now?

Friday, August 1, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

The American Bar Association is seeking nominations until August 8, 2014 to help it decide on the Top 100 law blogs (“Blawgs”). We have been in the ABA Top 100 for the past 4 years and would like to make it 5! If you like this blog, please nominate us (it’s fast and free) here. THANKS! Doug and Rita


The US Department of the Census just released a report on what it is like to be 65+ in the United States and we are sharing some of the highlights with you. We recently wrote about our youngest jurors (the Millennials) and this report highlights our oldest jurors–those 65 years of age and beyond (the Silent Generation makes up the bulk of this group). The very thorough report is 192 pages long but here are a few tidbits about our oldest jurors.

The percentage of the population aged 65 and over among the total population increased from 4.1% in 1900 to 12% in 2010 and is projected to reach 20.9% by 2050. Of course, average life expectancy in 1900 was only until ages in the 40’s.

In 2010, Alzheimer’s was the fifth leading cause of death among those aged 65 and older. (While other causes of death were largely in decline, death from Alzheimer’s rose more than 50% between 1999 and 2007.

Almost 40% of those 65 and above had one or more disabilities in 2010. The most common issues were walking, climbing stairs and doing errands alone.

The older White living-alone population was less likely to live in poverty than the older Black living-alone, older Hispanic living-alone and older Asian living-alone populations.

States with the highest proportions of age 65+ residents were Florida, West Virginia, Maine, and Pennsylvania. Each of these states had above 15% residents aged 65+.

In 2010, internet usage among the 65+ population was up 31% points from a decade earlier.

This group was the only age group to have higher voter participation in the 2012 presidential election than in the 2008 presidential election.

Obesity is not just a problem of the young. Between 2003 and 2006, 28.7% of older men and 30.6% of older women were obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30).

In other words, they are a lot like every other mock juror in the room.

About the same time the Census Department issued their report on being 65+ in America, Gallup released a new report on confidence in physical appearance. And here’s something to help those of us on this side of 65 smile with anticipation as we age. We’re going to get better looking each day.

“Though many may pine for the physical appearance they had in their younger years, America’s seniors are the most confident in their looks. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans aged 65 and older “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they always feel good about their physical appearance, compared with 61% of 18- to 34-year-olds. Middle-aged Americans (54%) are the least likely to report feeling good about their appearance.”

US Department of the Census. 2014 65+ in the US.