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Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category

A new issue of The Jury Expert 

Monday, June 29, 2015
posted by Rita Handrich

TJE_logoWe try to post the Table of Contents for new issues of The Jury Expert here when it publishes and there is a new issue up now. Here’s what you’ll see if you visit.

Does Deposition Video Camera Angle Affect Witness Credibility?

by Chris Dominic, Jeffrey Jarman, and Jonathan Lytle–all of Tsongas Consulting. Many of us have had spirited discussions about how the angle of the camera in deposition affects the impression of witness credibility. We all have strong ideas and sound reasons behind those ideas. These authors had the same sort of discussions but actually did research on it so you could benefit from this knowledge as well.

Looks Like Science, Must be True! Graphs and the Halo of Scientific Truth

by Aner Tal from Cornell with responses from visual evidence specialists Jason Barnes and Karyn Taylor. Ever wonder just how much difference there is in how persuasive charts and graphs are in the courtroom? This researcher looked at whether a simple (very simple) graph with no bells and whistles would be more persuasive to triers of fact. You will find the results odd and somewhat unsettling. Jason Barnes and Karyn Taylor respond with their perspective on making visual evidence compelling.

Jury Instructions: Work In Progress

by Steven Perkel and Benjamin Perkel, both of Perkel and Associates. The question of plain language jury instructions has been around for a while but we wanted to bring you the most recent findings and thoughts on making jury instructions easier for jurors to understand and interpret.

“Soft” vs. “Hard” Psychological Science in the Courtroom

The terms “soft science” and “hard science” are commonly applied to different scientific disciplines, and scientists have investigated and theorized about features that apply when placing scientific disciplines on a soft-hard continuum. In the minds of laypeople, however, the difference may lie in the more simple perceptions of different scientific disciplines. The very words themselves, “soft” and “hard”, may hint at different reputations. Soft sciences are fuzzy and less rigid, suggesting lower reliability, validity, and rigor than hard sciences possess.

Favorite Thing: The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Here’s another favorite thing and this one is all about research being done (both brain and biological) that touches on ethical issues we need to understand.

Using The Other Side’s Strikes: Regulating The Information Flow To Steer Your Opponent In Voir Dire

by Roy Futterman of DOAR. Jury selection is a strategic activity that requires you to imagine how the other side will react. This author suggests you take that imagination a step further by behaving strategically to get opposing counsel to strike jurors you want them to strike–effectively giving you twice the number of strikes when you are successful. How could you not read this one?!

Loyalty, Longevity and Leadership: A Multigenerational Workforce Update

by Doug Keene and Rita Handrich, both of Keene Trial Consulting. Recently we were asked to conduct research on whether jurors of different generations responded to case themes differently. In preparation for this, we updated the generational research completed in the past few years. This article summarizes what we learned about the “real” (as opposed to anecdotal) differences between generations and how you can use a sensible approach to managing your own multigenerational office.

Top 10 Most Widely Read Jury Expert Articles Since 2011! 

Every year we have been giving you a list of the top ten articles on The Jury Expert’s website for the past year. We thought we would also show you our top ten most highly trafficked articles since we began to publish online. It’s an interesting list with some of what readers say is our best work. Don’t miss it!

Image is TJE logo

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jon_stewart 2015We are going to miss Jon Stewart. Even as we prepare for the return of Stephen Colbert and watch John Oliver on Last Week Tonight—Jon Stewart is the best voice of the satirical news and we will miss him immensely. Mostly, we think what puts him at the head of the class is that his satire is obviously authentic, and an expression of deeply held beliefs and unflagging sincerity. Not what you expect from a satirist, but Jon Stewart is an exceptional person, even setting aside the humor. Last week showed us just how much.

Shortly after the Rachel Dolezal story, and Donald Trump’s Presidential announcement, Jon was beside himself—“I’m just so happy right now. This is a gift from God”. For fans of the Daily Show, it was vintage: gleeful Stewart lampooning the simply ridiculous. But a few days later, we had the shootings in Charleston and it left Jon Stewart at a loss for funny words. On this occasion, authenticity offered no humorous outlet. Rarely has he been more eloquent in expressing heartbreak, disillusionment, and sadness.

We write a lot here about bias in all its shapes and forms. But Jon Stewart spoke for all of us who are so disheartened by the ongoing racism and violence in this country. Watch the intro to his show even if you’ve already seen it. It will break your heart—and remind you of what is truly important— all over again.


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halo effect devil effectThis is one of those clever studies where you would never guess the real purpose of the experiment. Researchers from Eastern Kentucky University wanted to see if homely men would be punished more for violating social norms than would attractive men. So they chose a black and white photo of a homely man and an attractive man (described only as “white males with brown hair, facial stubble, similar eye shape and wearing white t-shirts”).

It always bugs me when researchers do this. They tease that they used a homely man but then they won’t show you the photo so you can check to see if it’s your cousin or old classmate. They tell you they also used an attractive man (“with more prominent brow and chin and a greater degree of facial symmetry”) but again, they don’t show you what that “attractive man” looks like. They slyly say “the two faces clearly presented different levels of attractiveness”, but don’t show us so it leaves us having to trust their sense of what is attractive and what is not attractive. They do say they retrieved the male faces from an “online facial database” which is, again, unnamed. It’s very irritating. Especially for those of us who are more visually inclined.

So, the researchers recruited participants (170 female students who are not described demographically) for their study and presented them with one of two scenarios accompanied by a photo of either the “attractive man” or the “homely man”.

The first scenario involves a male asking a female classmate to borrow a pen.

You arrive early to your first class of the day. As you enter you notice only a few people are already there. While waiting for the class to begin, you search your bag for your textbook and decide to take the few extra minutes to study for today’s quiz. You flip through the chapters and find the material for today’s test. After a few minutes of going over the chapter, the individual in the next desk over coughs and speaks up: “Hey I’m sorry but do you have a pen I could use? I guess I forgot one.” You glance up and see he man sitting beside you. You do not recognize him from your class, but perhaps he changed seats.

The second scenario is about a male approaching a female on a college campus and asking to take her photograph for modeling opportunities.

After finishing your last class of the day, you decide it’s time to head home and tackle the last homework before the long weekend. You enjoy the walk to the car and think about your plans for later tonight. As you glance around you see that campus has already cleared off. Your path branches off towards the library and the parking lot beyond. You notice a man ahead around the entrance of the library. As you approach, the man stops you. “Excuse me, would I be able to take your picture? I think you would be a great model for a project I’m working on. Have you ever tried modeling before?” You don’t recognize the man from around campus.

The salient twist of course, is not whether the creepy photographer or the pen-requestor is the scenario you received but whether you are given the photograph of the attractive man or the homely man. What the researchers were interested in was whether we cut attractive men more slack when they “violate social norms”. That’s what the researchers call a man lurking in a deserted area of campus with a camera asking a lone female if she’s ever modeled before: a violator of social norms. We’d have a different term than that but then, this is not our study.

And to make a long story short—we might call this the Ted Bundy effect—attractive men get more slack when they are creepy than do homely men. While both attractive and homely men in the creepy photographer scenario were seen more negatively—the homely men got what the researchers labeled the “double devil effect”.

Specifically, when the man was “homely” and creepy, the female participants responded much more negatively.

Level of attractiveness didn’t matter when participants were asked to loan a pen in a class. But take the situation to a “creepy” one and attractiveness matters in terms of how we respond. (You will be happy to know that 93% of the women approached did not let the creepy man take their photo—although no doubt you are worried about the 7% who did pose for a photo taken by a creepy man in a desolate and deserted area of campus). And as for the pen? Ninety-six per cent of the participants would loan a pen whether the man was attractive or homely.

The researchers say this has ramifications for online dating and for the “judicial system”. We cannot make things like this up. They actually compare those two realities as settings in which these findings matter. They say that if a male posts “unusual or alarming information” in their online dating site profile and attach a homely photo—that man is “at risk for an attractiveness devil effect to occur”. Oddly, the researchers say that a “facially attractive male posting the same information” would not have the same reaction. So, on dating sites, you are supposedly only seen by others signed up to that same site—so they know (or can look to see) whether you are homely or snazzy or creepy or sweet. But in court, you are only known by what they learn by looking and listening.

Okay. This is sort of ridiculous and insulting. The researchers seem to be saying that women are so swayed by a pretty face that they would completely overlook “unusual or alarming profile information” on an online dating site. Seriously? I thought to myself that these researchers must be young. That resulted in an online search to see if that were true and the LinkedIn profile for Jeremy Gibson (who has just graduated college) and the faculty profile for his co-author, Jonathan Gore. Someone should let Dr. Gore know to not teach his student writers to make comments like the one above.

The authors also, almost as an aside, toss out the concept that those who are attractive are often given lighter sentences than “homely” defendants and cite the ample research literature to that effect.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we see this as a study that speaks to the importance of what we think of as a witness preparation basic. You need to help your witnesses speak to the universal values we all share.

Jurors may see the witness (or party) as so very different from them and your goal is to help the witness testify to their family and community involvement, church attendance, school involvement, volunteerism, and so on.

When we see that even someone so very different from us shares our same values, we tend to like them more and thus, also see them as more attractive. What this research says to us is that when your client has potentially violated norms already by being party to a lawsuit, you want to make your witness, party, or client as attractive to jurors as possible.

Gibson, J., & Gore, J. (2015). You’re OK Until You Misbehave: How Norm Violations Magnify the Attractiveness Devil Effect Gender Issues DOI: 10.1007/s12147-015-9142-5


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facebook creeperYou’ve likely run across the statistics on Facebook being the cause of many divorces or relationship failures as unhappy individuals reunite with past loves lost. There is also of course, often heartbreak as online loves turn out to be not quite who you thought. Now Facebook is also implicated in prolonging the unhappiness after a relationship breakup with 88% (!) of Facebook users “creeping” ex-partners. Imagine a darkened room, a pint of ice cream, a laptop with a high-speed connection, and you are never far away from seeing what your ex is up to now that you are no longer part of his or her everyday life.

Researchers in Canada asked 107 participants (ranging in age from 18 to 35 years with an average age of 23 years) who reported relationship breakups in the past 12 months to complete questionnaires and participate in a structured face-to-face interview on the relationship between Facebook ‘creeping’ and their ongoing distress following relationship breakup. On average, these participants reported their (now defunct) relationship had lasted 2.29 years (with about half having broken up in the past six months and the other half having broken up 7-12 months prior to the study).

In brief, here is what the researchers found:

The more “creeping” (also referred to as “internet electronic surveillance”) one does, the more emotional upset is reported related to the breakup.

The most commonly distressing factor was the ex-partner’s Facebook profile and 88% of the participants reported “creeping” their ex following a breakup. When the participant had remained Facebook friends with their ex, 100% monitored the behavior of the ex after the breakup.

“A breakup without Facebook, you can’t really see what your ex is doing, but with Facebook you just have to click and you know exactly what they’ve been up to. That’s a little frustrating.”

The second distressing factor was the Facebook “relationship status” feature. Changing the relationship status to “single” after “in a relationship” involved multiple questions from “friends” (for 62% of the participants) which raised distress level.

“In some weird way, it kind of feels like you’re breaking up all over again when the status comes down. It angered me at the time that something as trivial as a Facebook status could make me feel so shitty.”

The third distressing area was content posted on Facebook by the participant’s ex-partner which was then seen in the participant’s newsfeed. Participants seeing new content found themselves ruminating over happy memories and wondering why the relationship had ended. Unexpectedly, those who “unfriended” their ex on Facebook had more emotional distress than those who kept the ex as a Facebook friend. For some, like the participant quoted below, “unfriending” helped manage the emotional distress but that was untrue for the majority of participants.

“I would say pull off the Band-Aid as quickly as possible and block the person if you’re finding it as painful as I did to see their continuing existence in your sphere. You’ll immediately feel better, or at least I did.”

It’s an intriguing study that highlights the differences in breaking up in public as opposed to having a private (non-Facebook) breakup. While it is easier to keep up with family and friends on Facebook—it is also more painful post-breakup since your “relationship status” trumpets your pain to all your Facebook friends. The more “creeping” done, the more emotional distress experienced.

The authors also developed a new scale to measure Facebook distress related to creeping an ex after a breakup. The scale does not appear to be named yet but here are a few items from it:

I over-analyze old messages, wall posts or photographs of me and my ex together.

I can’t help feeling angry about content my ex posts on Facebook.

I feel paranoid that people posting on my ex’s wall are potential romantic interests.

Looking at my ex’s Facebook page is self-destructive.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it seems important to recognize the power of a relationship breakup disclosed through social media, and the identification young people in particular could have with a party publicly shamed, belittled, discarded, or otherwise rejected. In this case, social media (i.e., Facebook involvement) makes the emotional pain last longer and be more intense and it is likely that shame feeds the flame of that sense of public rejection or perceived failure. Every time a Facebook post is re-mentioned (like, for months on end following a breakup when yet another person comments about it after not checking their timeline in a while) it can be traumatizing. If someone feels that they were wrongfully terminated (or are just embarrassed about it) and they get questions about the change in their LinkedIn status from “District Manager at Acme Industries” to something less clear, it can be very difficult for them to explain. That which was once self-promotion can quickly blow up. It’s a potentially powerful theme for case narrative. And it raises questions about how a company might want to guide the use employees make of social media when it involves references to employment status.

Lukacs, V., & Quan-Haase, A. (2015). Romantic breakups on Facebook: new scales for studying post-breakup behaviors, digital distress, and surveillance Information, Communication & Society, 18 (5), 492-508 DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1008540


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caitlyn-jennerCaitlyn Jenner has been in the headlines pretty continuously since the publication of her Vanity Fair cover photo. And many of us have heard the voiceover quote from her about the number of years she has been in hiding, protecting secrets, and feeling imprisoned.

“Bruce always had to tell a lie. He was always living that lie. Every day he always had a secret, from morning till night. Caitlyn doesn’t have any secrets. As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.”

I thought of Caitlyn Jenner when I saw this new research from the Harvard Business School. This is a research team whose work we’ve written about before. Essentially, the authors say that hiding your true self can leave you feeling morally tainted. If these results are true, hiding transgender status would surely leave you feeling morally tainted. It’s as Shakespeare wrote so long ago, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” [Johns Hopkins has a webpage on transgender identity and the importance of being able to honestly show your true self.]

So today’s researchers conducted 5 separate experiments to assess the impact of behaving inauthentically by having participants recall times they’d acted authentically or inauthentically and how each type of behavior (authentic vs inauthentic) resulted in them feeling. Here are some of their findings:

When participants behaved inauthentically, they felt more impure and less moral than they did when behaving authentically. It did not matter if the inauthentic behavior involved only lying to themselves or lying to others as well. Inauthentic behavior left the participants feeling badly.

Participants who behaved inauthentically reported an increased desire to cleanse themselves. This is a common theme in the disgust research—if you want to wash yourself, then that disgusting thing you did probably left you feeling unclean.

Behaving inauthentically was rated more negatively by participants than was failing an exam. The negative feelings elicited by acting inauthentically resulted in more participants attempting to “cleanse themselves” through what the researchers called “moral compensation” (offering to help the experimenter by completing an unrelated 15 minute survey).

Even when participants chose to write about being inauthentic versus being authentic, their desire for cleanliness following inauthentic behavior remained the same. In other words, even if you consciously choose to be inauthentic, it still leaves you feeling dirty.

Participants only chose “moral compensation” when they did not “cleanse themselves” during the experiment. (In this final experiment, half the participants were asked to clean their hands thoroughly and then rate the cleanser while the other half [the control group] were asked to hold a pen in their hands and examine it carefully and then rate the pen. The pen-holders were more likely to participate in the cleansing moral compensation task than the hand washers [who presumably had already been cleansed]).

The researchers conclude that behaving inauthentically leads to a sense of moral tainting or impurity and that this research is the first to tie together the experience of being inauthentic and wishing for cleanliness.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is a powerful example. We have all had experiences of being untrue to ourselves (or inauthentic) and we know how bad that can feel. Using that emotional identification with inauthenticity as part of your case narrative can help jurors empathize with your client’s dilemma. And, circling back to Caitlyn Jenner—in her last interview as Bruce, she commented to Diane Sawyer that part of her reason for publicly sharing her decision was to make a difference.

“What I’m doing is going to do some good,” Jenner said of the very public interview. “And we’re going to change the world.”

At another point in the interview, Jenner made a statement that affirms Shakespeare’s insight so long ago and the conclusions the researchers made in this research:

“I want to do the right thing and be true to myself.”

Obviously, we cannot know from these statements if Caitlyn felt “morally tainted” when she lived as Bruce. What it sounds like though, is that Caitlyn plans to live the rest of her life in a way that allows her to match her insides and her outsides and in so doing, to “change the world”. A noble goal to be sure.

Gino F, Kouchaki M, & Galinsky AD (2015). The Moral Virtue of Authenticity: How Inauthenticity Produces Feelings of Immorality and Impurity. Psychological Science PMID: 25963614


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