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Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category

spiral of silenceWe’ve blogged a fair amount on the impact of the internet and social networking on jurors but here is something unexpected. People that engage in social media are less likely to discuss heated topics in the news, not more likely. This is according to a recent Pew Research report.

Back in 1974, Noelle-Neumann described the “spiral of silence” which basically describes a tendency to not speak up when we perceive our own beliefs and opinions to be in the minority. With the advent of intense social media involvement, researchers had hoped there would be more willingness to engage in discussion that truly reflected a variety of beliefs and values. Alas, it is not so.

The new report on the Pew website essentially says the relative anonymity afforded by the internet doesn’t make us (or at least most of us) brave enough to stand up for what we believe. It’s a sad commentary and what it seems to say is the “new transparency” of social media is just another public facade people who hold minority opinions feel they must maintain. Perhaps it is due to FoMO–another recent blog post of ours.

Regardless, here is some of what the Pew report finds in data collected from 1,801 adults between August 7th and September 16th, 2013–using the example of the Edward Snowden-NSA story. As background, the Snowden story was chosen since previous Pew surveys found the public was split on this story: 44% said the release of classified information harms the public interest and 49% said it serves the public interest. Of the 1,801 adults surveyed, 80% of the adults in this survey were internet users. 71% were Facebook users and (only) 18% of them were Twitter users.

While 86% were willing to have an in-person conversation about the Snowden-NSA story, only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users said they were willing to post about it online. The researchers believe social media users are particularly attuned to the opinions of those around them and are thus less willing to disagree with them.

Even when holding other factors (like age, gender, education, race, and marital status) constant, social media users are less likely to say they would join in (even in person) than non-social media users of the internet. Facebook users are only half as willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story at a physical public meeting as a non-Facebook user. Twitter users are less likely to be willing to share their opinions in the workplace than internet users who do not use Twitter.

Social media users who think their social media friends and followers disagree with them on the Snowden-NSA issue were “more likely to self-censor their views on the story in both social media and in face-to-face encounters”.

In both face-to-face and online environments, people were more willing to openly express their views if they thought others agreed with them. 86% said they were “very” or “somewhat” willing to have a conversation about the story in at least one face-to-face setting, but only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users would discuss the story on social media.

The Pew Foundation graphic illustrates this clearly:

Pew spiral blog insert

 

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the chilling effect of social media involvement on one’s willingness to state a differing opinion is of great concern. We have always taken the lone naysayer in pretrial research seriously and expressed appreciation for their courage in speaking up in disagreement. This survey highlights the need to establish a friendly and receptive juror-centric tone (rather than one of client advocacy and confrontation) in voir dire. And it is yet another reason to teach jurors in actual trials how to deliberate and to make clear for them the importance of allowing disagreement and the expression of differing opinions.

One day perhaps we will all feel able to express what we believe to others. Social media, contrary to the expectations of many, has not changed the desire to not make waves and to self-censor opinions we believe will be unpopular.

We have all seen the evidence of what are commonly known as “trolls” on comment pages for various news sites and high-traffic. These people are not those identified by this Pew Report and we’ve covered a research study that helped us to understand those who actually comment on major news sites are probably not people we want as jurors!

KEITH HAMPTON, LEE RAINIE, WEIXU LU, MARIA DWYER, INYOUNG SHIN, AND KRISTEN PURCELL (2014). Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’. Pew Research Internet Project.

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disgust 2014We’ve covered a lot of the disgust research so it is curious to us that somehow we missed sharing the actual Disgust Scale with you earlier. The Disgust Scale was developed by the infamous Jonathan Haidt (his surname is pronounced “height”) back in 1994 before disgust was considered cool.

In brief, the Disgust Scale was designed to “assess sensitivity to seven domains of potential disgust-eliciting stimuli (i.e., Food, Animals, Body Products, Sex, Body Envelope Violations, Death and Hygiene) and levels of Sympathetic Magic (i.e., beliefs about the transmission of contagion)”. The Disgust Scale was psychometrically refined by Olatunji et al. in 2007, reduced from 32 to 25 items, and from eight factors down to three factors of disgust. The citation on this post reflects the most recent iteration of the Disgust Scale-Revised.

In brief, what Olatunji and colleagues found is that disgust sensitivity is linked to being neurotic, behaviorally inhibited, and having low self-esteem. They cite three types of disgust: core, animal reminder, and contamination disgust.

Core disgust occurs when we consider spoiled milk or other foods, body wastes (e.g., feces and urine), and small animals (the researchers identify rats and cockroaches) often associated with trash and garbage. When we have an actual “oral incorporation” or feel we are threatened with one–then we experience “core disgust”. The researchers use the example of “eating monkey meat” or “meat covered in maggots” as an elicitor of core disgust.

Animal-reminder disgust occurs when we are reminded of our own mortality or our “inherent animalistic nature”. The researchers identify our attitudes toward various sex acts, injury to the body or death. When we think of these things, our sense of “animal-reminder disgust” can be activated. An example of an experience that can elicit animal-reminder disgust would be touching a dead body.

Contamination disgust is related to core disgust (and to animal-reminder disgust too) but has more to do with germs and disease. An example of this would be accidentally drinking from the cup of someone who is obviously ill and our fears we would catch whatever they have elicits contamination disgust. Another example could be concerns about contagion from HIV or the ebola virus.

These researchers were interested in the relationship of disgust to clinical mental health symptoms and report the anxiety disorders are particularly sensitive to disgust. For example, spider phobias, contamination-based obsessive-compulsive disorder, fear of animals, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder are all closely related to one’s “disgust sensitivity”.  So, we know you are wondering what kinds of questions would help you measure disgust sensitivity and, for once, we don’t have to tell you since you can see for yourself. You can take the Revised Disgust Scale to see your own scores by going to Haidt’s website, YourMorals.org and registering. (Then go to the ‘explore your morals’ page and choose the disgust scale).

From a litigation advocacy perspective, there are multiple ways disgust can factor into your case. We’ve seen it play often unanticipated roles in personal injury cases, contract and IP disputes, corporate misconduct cases, and even in family estate disputes. The important thing is that you know how disgust will be relevant to your case and that you work to help jurors see something that is initially disgusting as a reason for empathy, hope for the future, or as a call to action for change.

Olatunji, B. O., Haidt, J., McKay, D., David, B. (2008). Core, animal reminder, and contamination disgust: Three kinds of disgust with distinct personality, behavioral, physiological, and clinical correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1243-1259

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“Smart people ask for (my) advice!”

Monday, September 15, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

smart people ask for adviceWe are often wary of asking for advice for fear of looking dumb or appearing incompetent. Oddly enough, our fears may be unfounded based on some new research out of Harvard Business School. According to the researchers, asking for advice does not make you appear either dumb or incompetent. Instead, asking for advice makes you seem more capable.

While initially this may seem unlikely, think about how much people love to give advice. When someone is asked for advice, they experience a boost in self-confidence, which, say the researchers, in turn enhances their opinion of the person seeking advice. It is, in truth, a win-win situation. The person asking for advice gets some feedback and they are seen as more competent while the person being asked for advice feels better about themselves (and about the person asking for advice).

The researchers (we’ve covered some of their earlier work here) conducted 5 separate experiments and here is what they found:

Asking for advice actually increases other’s perceptions of your competence.

When the task is difficult, asking for advice causes the person seeking advice to appear more competent than when the task is not difficult. However, even when the task is easy, seeking advice did not lower perceptions of the person’s competence!

When someone is asked for their specific advice, they see the asker as more competent. However, if they see the person asking someone else for advice, they do not see the advice seeker as more competent. The researchers believe there is a “direct flattery” component involved here since “being asked for advice caused advisors to feel more self-confident, and, in turn, to view the advice seeker more positively”.

Finally, the advice-giver needs to believe themselves competent and experienced in the area in which they are asked for advice. [Of course, a lot of people have an inflated sense of the scope of their qualifications…] If the advice seeker asks for guidance in an area of the advisor’s expertise, the advisor sees the seeker as more competent. However, if the advisor is obviously not experienced in the area, “then the advice seeker seems less competent than if s/he had not asked for advice” at all.

The researchers say our fears about appearing incompetent by asking for advice are unfounded and that, in truth, there are benefits to both being the advice-seeker and being the advisor. They believe that organizations benefit from encouraging advice-seeking as it will help spread useful information and improve relationships between colleagues and co-workers. The dilemma is that if you educate your employees on the advantages of advice-seeking to both the advice-seeker and the advice-giver–you run the risk of the advice-giver feeling manipulated and the advice-seeker wanting to “not be that guy/gal”. The authors do not offer advice to the manager looking for ways to build this dynamic into their office culture–they simply say it would be a positive and productive thing. (See the full text of the paper here.)

This explains why one of our favorite strategies for both debriefing mock jurors and conducting voir dire are so productive. At mock trials and focus groups, I introduce the process by sharing with the mock jurors my hope that through their collective wisdom we can tell the disputing parties and their lawyers what ‘real people’ think about the issues, and guide a resolution that doesn’t require a trial. It elevates them from being there for a couple hundred dollars to being there to solve a problem. They really like it. At trial, asking the venire questions framed in terms of “help me understand” and “Is that important to you?” makes them feel that you are seeking their perspective, not quizzing them or boxing them in. It credits them with having a contribution to make, that they are smart enough to have a valid opinion, and that you recognize the validity of their point of view. It’s not about you or your client at that point, it’s about the jurors. And that can’t hurt.

Brooks, AW, Gino, F, & Schweitzer, ME (2014). Smart people ask for (my) advice: Seeking advice boosts perceptions of competence. Harvard Business School Working Papers

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The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) Scale

Friday, September 12, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

Fomo-Meme 2Social media applications have made it much easier for us to know what our friends are doing. While this knowledge can have positive benefit, it can also result in a paralyzing fear of missing out (popularly known as FoMO). FoMO has even made the Oxford Dictionary and is defined there as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website”. Researchers in 2011 and 2012 defined FoMO as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you”. The researchers from today’s article define FoMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent” and say that “FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected  with what others are doing”.

FoMO is apparently one reason people are so drawn to multiple social media sites. Someone who actively uses Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Instagram and Pinterest (for example) could be experiencing FoMO (along with not having time to perform an actual job). FoMO could also be a reason behind the obsessive checking of smartphones during actual face-to-face conversations. There are multiple articles devoted to overcoming FoMO. Obviously FoMO is a serious problem for some people, so it is good academics have come to our rescue and developed a scale (the first) to measure the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO).

The researchers developed a 10-item Fear of Missing Out Scale and their results indicated something shocking: “the young, and young males in particular, tended towards higher levels of FoMO”. Further, they mention those high in FoMO tend to use Facebook during university lectures and compose and read emails and texts while driving. You may wonder what sorts of questions are used to measure something as clearly destructive as FoMO. We are here to serve. This is a 10 item measure and we will share 4 of those questions with you so you have a sense of the kinds of questions that will measure FoMO. These questions are rated on a 5-point Likert scale of “not at all true about me” to “extremely true of me”.

I fear others have more rewarding experiences than me.

I get anxious when I don’t know what my friends are up to.

Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time keeping up with what is going on.

When I go on vacation, I continue to keep tabs on what my friends are doing.

From our perspective, it makes sense that this is a phenomena largely experienced by the young. Social media activities can take a tremendous amount of time if you really engage in it. The preoccupation with all things social media is a constant concern for trial lawyers and court personnel who worry about what we used to call the Google mistrial. The one benefit of the FoMO Scale we can see for litigation advocacy is the way the scale designers asked about social media involvement.

Rather than asking if participants used social media platforms, they asked very specific questions. They asked participants if they used social media “within 15 minutes of waking up”, “while eating breakfast”, “when eating lunch”, “when eating dinner”, or “within 15 minutes of going to sleep”. They asked how often in the past week (from “not once” to “every day”) they had used social media during all those times. Those with more extreme usage responses were (not surprisingly) higher in FoMO. The lesson?

Heavy social media users are likely to be more distracted, have a shorter attention span, more likely to reflexively use social media during trial, and want to get jury duty over ASAP so they can get back to tracking what really matters. You probably already knew that but with this new information you can impress everyone you know by saying, “This juror is going to be trouble for us since s/he has a high FoMO”. Thank goodness for academic research on scale development.

Przybylski, AK, Murayama, K, DeHaan, CR, & Gladwell, V (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1841-1848

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smartphone distractionsWe know smartphones can be really annoying when they distract our lunch or meeting companions from our scintillating repartee. There is even recent (2013) research showing women are twice as likely to be annoyed by smart phone interruptions as are men.

But that research is already a year old and perhaps we’ve gotten used to being ignored in favor of some unknown other. So here’s some very new (July, 2014) research showing that no, we have not gotten used to being disrespected as our companions choose their smartphones over us.

These researchers say that smartphones create a state of “polyconsciousness” wherein our attention is divided between the people we are with in person and those to whom we are connected by our mobile device. They examined the effect by going to “selected coffee shops” (surely it had to be Starbucks…) in the Washington, DC area and asking 100 random pairs of people (109 women and 91 men; average age 33; 72% Caucasian) to chat for 10 minutes discussing their “thoughts and feelings about plastic holiday trees” (a trivial topic) or discussing the “most meaningful events of the past year”.

Researchers observed “from a discreet distance” and documented if one of the people either put a mobile device on the table or held one in their hand. After the 10 minutes had elapsed, the two people filled out questionnaires about the conversation and about their conversational partner. The participants were asked to rate the closeness of their relationship on a Likert Scale (from “not at all close” to “extremely close”), asked how “connected” they felt to their companion during the conversation (via the connectedness subscale of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory), how “empathic” they saw their companion as being (via the Empathic Concern Scale), and their age, gender, ethnicity, and positive or negative mood (as measured by the Emmons Mood Indicator) so the self-report of mood could also be factored in to the results.

And here is what they found:

Of the 100 dyads, 29 dyads had mobile devices present and the remaining 71 dyads did not. (This is not to say that they didn’t have smartphones in a purse or pocket, but they weren’t ‘present’ during the conversation.)

If either member of the dyad placed a cell phone on the table or just held it in their hand, the “quality of the conversation was rated to be less fulfilling compared with conversations that took place in the absence of mobile devices”.

When mobile devices were present (on the table or in the hand), participants in the conversation also reported they felt their companion was less empathically concerned about them (and the closer they had rated their relationship, the more they felt the lack of empathy).

And get this: It didn’t matter if the dyad was discussing “festive holiday trees” or “important events”. The mere presence– not necessarily the use of– the cell phone was enough to cast a chill over the conversation, especially when the conversation is between close friends/confidants.

The researchers say that smartphones are just way too distracting since “in their presence, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and other worlds”.

It’s a fascinating series of results (and not just for the idea of how hard jurors would find it to not just “check something” or communicate with friends about what they are doing). It’s another reason to consider the ubiquitous presence of the phone and how it may affect the person with whom we are conversing. Whether it is a new client, a long-standing client, a co-worker, a significant other, or merely an acquaintance–everyone is effected by the mere presence of that smart phone. And if you should by chance stroke it, look at a message, respond to a message, or pick up a call….who knows what could happen?

Those of us who live (and in many cases sleep with) our phones tend to take them for granted and often use them to gather information without consideration of the impact on others. This research should give us all pause (as we say here in the heart of Texas).

Misra, S., Cheng, L., Genevie, J., & Yuan, M. (2014). The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices. Environment and Behavior DOI: 10.1177/0013916514539755

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