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Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category

millennialsWe have written a lot about generations in general and a lot about the Millennial generation in particular. The Center for Women and Business at Bentley University published a new survey of Millennials this year and if you are interested in tracking how this maturing generation sees the world, you will want to take a look at their report on Millennials in the Workplace. Here are a few highlights from an easy-to-read but comprehensive (read: long) survey report sampling the attitudes of 1,000 college-educated men and women born since 1980.

Is there really an ambition gap? That is, are the Millennials lacking in ambition and do they think they deserve careers and perks handed to them? This has been a favorite mantra of grumpy Boomer writers who see the Millennials as lazy and entitled. According to the survey results, Millennials (like Gen X before them) want to express their personal and family values and, if your workplace doesn’t allow that expression, they are not interested in compromising their values. Millennials are not lacking in ambition as much as they are focused on having a personal life and a family life–as opposed to only having a work life.

There seems to be less of a gender gap. The attitudes and goals of men and women in the Millennial generation are closer than they have ever been in generations past. There are some intriguing findings on Millennial men and their willingness to raise children, to have their female partner earn more than they do and even be the primary breadwinner. These are different trends than we have seen in generations past.

Their moms are supportive! It is common among surveys of adults to blame mothers for falling short in some aspect of parenting. Among the Millennials in the study, both males and females often describe their mother’s career as important in them seeing a career as a normal part of a woman’s life. And what’s more, when asked who is most supportive of the career goals of the Millennial–guess who? Mom. (Moms everywhere are beaming…)

Many of them disagree with Sheryl Sandberg. Despite the phenomenal success of her book Leaning In, almost 2/3 of the Millennials disagree with her assessment of women’s ambition. Sandberg says women are not leaders in the workplace because they are not ambitious. Millennials resoundingly disagree: 61% of the Millennial women in this survey say they are ambitious, compared to 63% of the men. They just want to have some balance in their lives to be able to meet professional aspirations while abiding by personal values.

There are many intriguing data points in this report and it’s well worth your time to read. As with every generation, this one is growing up and changing before our eyes. Keep up with them so you are not caught applying outdated stereotypes to potential jurors.

Center for Women and Business at Bentley University. 2014. Millennials in the Workplace.




dialysis-graphicWe do a lot of pretrial research where complicated processes, inventions, ideas, software, tools, widgets, and other intellectual property ideas are explained. And we do a lot of pretrial research where something that doesn’t seem complicated (like a family estate, for example) gets very complicated, very quickly. We’ve found there are often vocal mock jurors who will pontificate on whatever the topic is (from highway guard rails, to heated patches for sore backs, to hair straighteners, to types of pizza crust, to coin counting machines in grocery stores, and more) and so we defer to their expertise by politely and with great interest asking them to explain to the group how it works, in their own words. They rarely can. They often sheepishly say they guess they don’t really understand after all and their standing as an expert rapidly evaporates.

Today’s research speaks to this issue directly by saying that extreme political views are often based on a false sense of understanding. That is, people typically know a lot less about complex political policies than they think they know. Their understanding is typically quite simplistic (like that of our mock jurors) and when they are asked to explain how a policy works–they are unable to do so (like our mock jurors).

What the researchers found in their first experiment is that when people who loudly support a particular policy are asked to explain how it works in their own words, they are unable to do so. Subsequently, they report their support for the policy they initially supported so strongly has become only moderate. In other words, the initial strong support for a policy was based in “unjustified confidence in understanding” the policy. When asked to explain the policy, the research participants (like our mock jurors) realized they didn’t really understand the policy after all.

The researchers designed another study where participants were asked to rate their position on a given policy and then either explain how the policy worked or list their reasons for supporting or opposing it. Finally, they would choose whether or not to donate a bonus payment to a relevant (i.e., either pro or con) advocacy group. Since prior research shows, according to the authors, that enumerating your reasons for supporting or not supporting a policy reinforces your support/lack thereof, they hypothesized that those who enumerated reasons would be more likely to donate than those who explained how the policy worked. They were right. Those who enumerated reasons were more likely to donate the bonus payment to the relevant advocacy group.

The authors explain their findings as follows:

Asking people to explain how a policy (for example) works, leads them to endorse more moderate positions on the policy and makes them less likely to donate to advocacy groups. The authors say these people are forced to confront their own ignorance.

Asking people to list reasons they support a policy (when those reasons can include values, hearsay and general principles) merely reinforces their belief systems and makes them more likely to donate to relevant advocacy groups.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, you can assist jurors in “confronting their own ignorance” by using the strategy we discussed here earlier on embedding skepticism into your case narrative. [Tip: This strategy is designed to gently embarrass the opinionated extremist, so it’s crucial that you do this gently and politely so you aren’t seen as humiliating him or her. Appearing to be a bully will result in voir dire ending sooner than you had in mind, as no one will talk to you.] As the attorney expresses skepticism (or a lack of understanding of how something works), the jurors resistance to hearing the full explanation is weakened.

Fernbach PM, Rogers T, Fox CR, & Sloman SA (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, 24 (6), 939-46 PMID: 23620547



sheep-goatsSeriously. Sheep are believers and goats are doubters. In the paranormal, that is. The Australian Sheep Goat Scale is not a measure we’d ever heard of prior to writing about skepticism as a narrative tool in convincing others of a paranormal event. Perhaps it never really caught on. But we knew you would want to know about it, so, like the Spitefulness Scale, the Guilt and Shame Proneness Scale, the Depravity Scale, the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies Scale, and the Islamophobia Scale, here it is. Besides, we would have published this blog post  just so we could share that adorable photo.

The Australian Sheep Goat Scale is a simple tool for assessing your beliefs in the paranormal. If you endorse a high number of statements on the 16-item scale as true, you are a sheep (a believer) and if you endorse a high number of statements as false, then you are a goat (a doubter) when it comes to the paranormal.  Here are a few sample items:

I  believe  I  have  had  a  personal  experience  of  ESP.

I  have  had  at  least  one  dream  that  came  true  and  which  (I  believe) was  not  just  a  coincidence.

I  believe  that  it  is  possible  to  gain  information  about  the  future before  it  happens,  in  ways  that  do  not  depend  on  rational prediction  or  normal  sensory  channels.

I  have  had  at  least  one  vision  that  was  not  an  hallucination  and from  which  I  received  information  that  I  could  not  have  otherwise gained  at  that  time  and  place.

I  believe  that  inexplicable  physical  disturbances,  of  an  apparently psychokinetic  origin,  have  occurred  in  my  presence  at  some  time in  the  past  (as  for  example,  a  poltergeist).

As you can see, a positive response to the item indicates support of the existence of paranormal experiences and negative responses indicate rejection of the paranormal. A ‘true’ response merits a score of ‘1’ and a ‘false’ response gets a zero score. This is a fairly dated scale at more than twenty years old.

There are newer measures. Here is one from 2004: The Revised Paranormal Belief Scale. It has more interesting questions (26 items in all) than the Sheep Goat Scale but the name is not as evocative. Here are some samples from the Paranormal Belief Scale.

Your mind or soul can leave your body and travel (astral projection).

The abominable snowman of Tibet exists.

Witches do exist.

If  you break a mirror, you will have bad luck.

The Loch Ness monster of Scotland exists.

A person’s thoughts can influence the movement of a physical object.

Through the use of formulas and incantations, it is possible to cast spells on persons.

It is possible to communicate with the dead.

Overall, we cannot see a single way either of these measures might find their way into a litigation setting, but we suppose it is possible if your case involved alleged paranormal events. And if it does, you read it here first! But insofar as we are in the business of figuring out why people believe in their verdict choice, it isn’t entirely out of place in The Jury Room. Well, maybe. But at least it’s fun. And that photo…

Thalbourne, MA, & Delin, PS (1993). A new instrument for measuring the sheep-goat variable: Its psychometric properties and factor structure. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 59, 172-186



bolshevik revolutionWe read a lot and routinely run across tidbits we think you might enjoy and that we would not really want to use an entire blog post to discuss. So here are a few things from here and there that we’ve found in our travels…

Can’t remember all those complicated passwords? It’s a complication of modern-day life. Many sites want complex or at least lengthy passwords and if you don’t use a password manager software–you can spend a lot of time typing in various password combinations and end up locked out for 24 hours (or forever). So here are a few tricks from Slate Magazine. Hint: It’s The Bolshevik Revolution.

Think narcissists can’t be empathic? Think again! Apparently it’s all about shifting their perspective. New research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows narcissists are actually capable of empathy for others. How can it be, you may find yourself thinking? You simply have the narcissist take the other person’s perspective. British researchers measured the heart rates of their research participants to have an objective measure rather than relying on self-report. They report that when participants are instructed to take the perspective of someone who is suffering, all of their heart rates increased whether low in narcissism or high in narcissism. The researchers conclude it is possible, given instruction to take another’s perspective, for the narcissist to be “moved by another’s suffering”.

The psychology of belief and the latest challenge: Gluten sensitivity. The recent research questioning the actual existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been popping up everywhere. We ran across an interesting perspective on it from Derek Halpern over at Social Triggers blog. Derek discusses this latest research finding and all those folks saying, “Yeah, well tell my gut there is no such thing as gluten sensitivity!” in the context of the psychology of belief. It’s confusing, and the science is far from consistent or complete. We’ve seen plenty of examples among mock jurors of data and evidence not having impact on their preexisting beliefs. The dilemma is in part one of which way the wind is blowing in the medical community, as well as the fact that it isn’t just belief if you had the problem before you heard the label. We think you’ll find Derek’s article an interesting foray into the psychology of belief and why it’s so hard to crack a deeply seated belief with data and evidence alone. And it also raises the question about the limits of scientific knowledge and the meaning of data…

If I can just get a bunch of business people on my jury, they will make decisions based on logic. Well, maybe not. The Wall Street Journal recently published a story on how some of the best business minds make decisions–and it isn’t based on data and evidence. The best decisions are made with a combination of data, evidence, and feelings–in a way the researchers see as exemplifying “visionary leadership”. This an interesting article to read for understanding decision-making and for thinking through organization leadership strategies.

Hepper, E., Hart, C., & Sedikides, C. (2014). Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167214535812



Know what you did wrong

We first saw this article on Eye on Psych blog and thought it interesting for our use as well. The Eye on Psych blog had previously focused on the assumption that not being on Facebook makes you somehow unsavory (because, after all, everyone should be on Facebook!).

The study we are going to describe today looks at how often you visit Facebook and whether your reasons for those visits are social and personal or more informational in nature.

The researchers predicted that frequent Facebook visitors were caught up in a “culture of belongingness” and thus may not review posts with much cognitive depth. In other words, they may be cognitively lazy as they view Facebook posts and ‘like’ pretty much anything. However, they suspected that would vary between Facebook users with a need to belong and those Facebook users who instead visited more to find information.

Their research participants were 623 internet users (69% female, 18-66 years old with an average age of 23.7 years). The participants had accessed the study through a website of psychology studies. The majority (71%) were students and 94.7% of the sample had a current Facebook account.

Participants reported their frequency of Facebook use and the reasons for which they visited Facebook. After answering some demographic and background questions, participants saw a sample Facebook page of race-related persuasive messages written (ostensibly) by a 26-year-old white male named Jack Brown. “The file picture was a silhouette of the back of a male walking on the beach and no other details about the writer were provided.”

There were three versions of the page shown to the participants: two expressed negative racial attitudes (e.g., the racial superiority and Whites as victims conditions) and one expressed an egalitarian attitude (e.g., the egalitarian condition). The authors describe each stimulus at some length in the actual article.

The participants read the message for whichever condition they were assigned, and were then asked to describe how much they agreed with the message they read, how accurate they thought it was, how knowledgeable they thought the writer was, how much they liked the writer, and how similar to the writer they saw themselves as being. These items were combined to form a composite index of message attitude.

Then, those participants who had Facebook accounts (the vast majority) were asked how likely they would be to ask Jack to be their Facebook friend, click ‘like’ on his post, share his note with others, argue against his note, support his note in a comment, hide his posts, unfriend him, or suggest him to other friends. These items were combined to form a composite index of behavioral intention.

The researchers found the strongest motivation for Facebook use was to connect with others (and say this is consistent with prior research). Information seeking is a less common motivation. Reactions to the messages posted by “Jack” though, were mixed.

The egalitarian message was seen more positively than either the superiority message or a victim message. When it came to Facebook behaviors like “liking” or “unfriending”, research participants thought they would act in much the same way toward the victim message as they would toward the egalitarian message.

The more frequently users logged into Facebook, the more likely they were to agree with the negative messages Jack posted and more likely to have positive behavioral intentions toward Jack. Less frequent users were more likely to disagree with the negative messages.

Those who logged into Facebook for informational purposes were more likely to reject negative messages and more likely to accept the egalitarian message.

The researchers believe that frequent Facebook users process information less critically and agree with posts due to a need to be accepted and belong. Conversely, they believe that those Facebook users seeking information (and not so much acceptance or belonging) tend to more critically assess the information they see on Facebook and are not as interested in being accepted or belonging as they are in rejecting messages that promote racism and accepting messages that promote egalitarian thought.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it’s an intriguing issue to consider for voir dire.

If you know you want jurors who are not going to think deeply about your case–do you want Facebook users who log on for personal and emotional belonging and connection?

And if you want jurors who will carefully consider the evidence, do you want those who use Facebook more for informational purposes? And how do you ask those questions in voir dire?

As ever-growing numbers of people get their “news” from unvetted and unvalidated social media sources, these are not casual concerns. If there is a pattern (in general) across Facebook users to either log in for social/personal connection or log in for information and that pattern points to different kinds of cognitive processing–that’s an important voir dire consideration.

Rauch, S., & Schanz, K. (2013). Advancing racism with Facebook: Frequency and purpose of Facebook use and the acceptance of prejudiced and egalitarian messages Computers in Human Behavior, 29 (3), 610-615 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.011