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Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category

In voir dire and jury selection, seemingly small differences can help you make decisions that are good for your case facts. Recently, the Pew Research Center put out a survey showing that gun owners who are also NRA members have a “unique set of views and experiences”. Pew says something we love—and that we’ve said for decades—demographics don’t really help to choose a jury.

“While the demographic profile of NRA members is similar to that of other gun owners, their political views, the way they use their firearms, and their attitudes about gun policy differ significantly from gun owners who are not members of the organization”.

So what are the ways in which NRA gun owners appear to differ and that you can perhaps use to winnow down to the values and beliefs and attitudes that potentially make a difference? Read on.

NRA members skew more heavily to the political right than other gun owners.

Gun owners who belong to the NRA own more guns (the report says five more) than those who do not belong to the NRA (the report says perhaps just one).

NRA members are more likely to carry a gun with them outside their house all or most of the time.

Nearly half of NRA members say owning a gun is “very important” to their overall identity while only 20% of non-NRA-members say the same.

NRA members are more likely to say that owning a gun is essential to their personal freedom (92%) than non-NRA members (70%).

NRA members are more likely to contact a public official about a gun policy (46%) than are non-NRA members (15%).

The full report explores the political affiliations of NRA members and non-members and looks into some of the differences between and within the political groups of NRA members and non-members. Depending on your case facts, some of these differences may be useful to you in voir dire. Regardless, if your case facts involve guns—this is a must read for trial.




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Perhaps we should lower our standards on what sources are good for an entire blog post as these combination posts seem to increasingly inhabit our blog. We simply run across a lot of things that we want you to know about but we don’t want to repeat what you can find elsewhere. So, sit back and click some links and see some of the stuff we thought too interesting to pass up!

Cross-examining a psychiatrist or a psychologist (aka shrinks)

Much has been written on the intricacies of cross-examining mental health professionals and a quick internet search will give you more than a million things to read. Rather than taking all that time, we’ll just send you to the ABA Journal and their brief article on how to be effective while cross-examining  these witnesses. We’ll help convince you to visit the article by sharing just a few of their recommendations: confine your questions to their reports, determine whether they have taken a complete patient history to support their eventual diagnosis, verify entries (even degrees) on their resumés, and much, much more.

If you want more, here is a resource-rich webpage on deposition and cross-examination questions for mental health experts. Finally, having a trial consultant with a background in expert testimony and psychological testing can also be very helpful.

Digital gaps between urban and rural America

We’ve done research in Los Angeles and witness preparation in France a number of times recently but you will often find us in rural areas, in places the internet forgot, and in areas the people are so charming and gracious you may just want to stay. One of our favorite stories about rural pretrial research is this one which involved multiple high-tech company clients who were stunned at the dearth of technological savvy among the mock jurors only a few years ago:

Other very rural venues have shown us the extent to which the internet has passed by some Americans completely. At one site, of 36 mock jurors, only 4 had internet access. At another, of 48 jurors, only 11 had ‘smart phones’ while a majority didn’t understand the question. Most had “not heard of”’s website. One called a major social networking site, “the devil’s work” and others nodded somberly.

While we were taken aback during that research, a new Pew Research report tells us the urban/rural digital gap still remains. It is less pronounced than it once was, but the divide remains. You will want to read this report—even if you don’t do much rural work. It’s a way to keep track of just how different urban and rural jurors are and how access to information (as well as the value placed on that access) varies dramatically between city and rural residents.

Empathy gaps in the brain of the psychopath

We’ve written before about the psychopath (quite a lot, actually) but here is another review of the many ways the brain of the psychopath differs. The writeup summarizes the work of a team of researchers from Harvard who studied inmates in two Wisconsin medium-security prisons. These researchers believe that psychopathy reflects a “brain wiring dysfunction”. Alas for some of us, the researchers say this (and we wonder just how convincing it would be to jurors who like their food and drink perhaps a little too much):

“The same kind of short-sighted, impulsive decision-making that we see in psychopathic individuals has also been noted in compulsive over-eaters and substance abusers.”

Gender pay gaps—it’s worse than you may think for women of color

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has released a new report that is pretty much certain to make you want to overeat M&Ms or ice cream (but that could just be me). In one of more depressing and heavily hyper-linked summaries of the gender pay gap—they include this discouraging information on the realities for women of color.

“Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.”

We won’t make you do the math. That is 232 years for Hispanic women and 108 years for black women. That’s beyond ridiculous. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Read this report and be informed. Then do something about it.

The Police and Law Enforcement (PLE) Scale

This is a new 8-question scale meant to document Black men’s perception of bias and discrimination directed toward them by members of the police force. Here is a bit of what the researchers say about their reasons for developing the measure:

The researchers note that most scientific literature on the subject typically includes the police’s point of view of the experience and rarely that of the person who had the interaction with the police. The new Police and Law Enforcement Scale can help to balance out the record so that it includes the perspective of individuals who have interactions with police.

“There is a substantial gap between what you hear from black men regarding their experiences with law enforcement officials during their lives and what is in the scientific literature,” said Devin English, a psychology Ph.D. student at the George Washington University and lead author of the study. “We see our study as helping to document what black men have been experiencing for centuries in the United States.”

This measure is meant to assess the level of institutionalized racism experienced by community members and is also seen as a step to improve public health (since discrimination is known to decrease physical as well as emotional well-being. The researchers are hopeful the scale can improve dialogue across the US on racial discrimination in policing.


Comments Off on Cross-examining shrinks, rural vs. urban America, pay & gender, black men & the police

Just this week I saw the Gallup survey on trust in the US government to protect citizens against terrorism and knew immediately we needed to blog about the survey here. While I’ve seen people say that politicians will go to war for more favorable showings on polls, in focus groups, or in the ballot box—I never really understood how it could be used well until the last two seasons of House of Cards, a [fictional] Netflix show.

Here’s just one way fear was manipulated on House of Cards.

And now, the proof that this is not just made for TV (or Netflix) but even more powerful in real life is before us in black and white. Gallup sampled actual citizens here in the US (a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 70% cell phone respondents and 30% landline respondents, all selected by random-digit-dial methods) on how much trust we have in our government to protect us against terrorism.

These are just a sampling of Gallup’s entire findings, please review the survey results here for full information. As one might expect, concerns about terrorism are high immediately following a terror attack and lower when there has been no recent terrorist activity.

70% of Americans trust the US government either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” to protect us from future acts of terrorism. (This is up from when Gallup last asked this question in 2015 [then the percentage was only 55%] immediately after the San Bernadino, California terrorist shooting where 14 people were killed.)

42% of Americans are “very” or “somewhat” worried that we (or our family members) will be victims of terrorism. (Also down since the San Bernadino shootings when it was 51%.)

60% of Americans believe a terrorist attack is “very” or “somewhat likely” in the “next several weeks”. (After San Bernadino, that percentage was at 67%.)

Gallup believes that these percentages are susceptible to flaring up again when there are terrorist events here in the US or abroad. From a litigation advocacy perspective, this tells us that fear is a powerful thing. In recent years there have been some very popular books written on how to inject fear into the jury box, even if when it is outside the scope of the actual testimony. And, as those Defense attorneys faced with a Plaintiff attorney using fear-based approaches to influence jurors know, it can work quite well.

If there is an element of fear in your case, it can be exploited (or spontaneously perceived by fear-driven jurors) and you will want to be ready to inoculate jurors with information telling them there is not a real and present threat.

Or, as in this blog post, you may want to help them experience safety through being loved and cared for by some authority figure—perhaps in the form of your own Defense client.

Gallup Organization. June 19, 2017. Seven in 10 Trust US Government to Protect Against Terrorism.


Comments Off on How afraid are we of terrorism? Very afraid.  

Here’s another post combining the things we’ve been collecting to blog about and presented together so we can clear the desk off with newer stuff!

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

At least, this is the best known quotation of the 19th century British politician Lord Acton. But in 2017, we have an article courtesy of The Atlantic that tells us power does more than corrupt, it actually damages your brain’s abilities that helped you rise to power in the first place. It’s called the “power paradox”: once you have power, you lose some of the skills needed to gain it in the first place. They describe a loss of empathy (i.e., “the empathy deficit”) and a general decrease in the ability to “read” others. They wonder if the impact of gaining power should be called the “hubris syndrome” (which shows itself through “manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence”). Interestingly, some hubris can be corrected by recalling past experiences in which the powerful one was less powerful. You may want to read this one.

Power poses are continuing to get bad (very bad) press

In December 2016, we blogged about challenges to Amy Cuddy’s “power posing” research and her famous TED Talk. One of the most recent commenters on the controversy is a blogger over at Mind the Brain blog (one of the PLOS|BLOGS). According to the blogger, the narrative has become overly focused on the harassment of a junior scientist and the need for greater civility in academia (link to the blog post on that in this series of posts). The real narrative, and thus this attempt to restart the conversation, should be (again, according to blogger James Coyne), whether the paper itself had merit in the first place. Coyne thinks the original paper should never have been published and goes to some lengths to develop his argument. If you are interested in a look at why the power posing paper may be a great motivational talk idea, but not particularly good science—take a look at this Mind the Brain blog post.

Do smartphones make us stupid?

Yikes. We know our smartphones are apparently making efforts to control us, but they also apparently “significantly reduce our cognitive capacity” just by being within reach. As you can see in Science Daily:

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

The question that must now be answered is whether leaving our cell phone at home (or locked in our car) is less distracting than having it with us. You’ll want to see our blog post on nomophobia. And maybe our blog post on the FOMO Scale as well. This (being distracted by stuff) is obviously a complicated area and much more (tenure-granting) research is likely needed.

You’ve heard of the imposter syndrome—but what about the racial imposter syndrome?

The imposter syndrome has long been discussed as the secret fear (that is not really so secret) that we will be exposed as imposters pretending to know more than we actually know. The researchers who initially described it, thought it was an experience solely experienced by women. This belief was not accurate.

Now, in 2017, we have the racial imposter syndrome. This is an experience shared by biracial and multi-ethnic people who find they feel “fake” or inauthentic in at least part of their racial heritage. We first heard about this at the NPR podcast Code Switch and their summary of how this works is fascinating if you are interested in identity and how we fail to embrace our full selves through some sense of guilt or shame (or something else). Beyond this episode, Code Switch is a terrific podcast on bias and how to circumvent it.

S-Town: An object lesson in empathy

And speaking of podcasts, if you have not listened to the NSFW (“not suitable for work” listening due to profanity) podcast S-Town—it is amazing. It is like a real life mystery of identity, racism, bias, hidden gold bars, and the state of Alabama. If you are interested in listening to it, do not read the spoilers which are filled with questions of ethics and fair play. Just know there is a very good reason why this is now the most downloaded podcast of all time. If you like mysteries and thrillers or suspense novels, you will love S-Town. Here’s where you can find it–prepare to binge.


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Here’s another combination post to make sure you stay informed about the many things we come across as we seek out interesting blog posts. And we will get to it, but no. Gelotophobia is not a fear of gelatin.

Aha! Sudden insights or “epiphany learning”

You’ve probably had those rare moments of insight when you are suddenly able to see a solution to a vexing problem. Scientists call them moments of epiphany and they only recently discovered a way to study them. As it happens, the way to study this sort of learning requires eye tracking and pupil dilation software. Apparently, when scientists observe that participant’s pupils are dilating, they know the participant is both paying close attention and learning. What they found was that once the learning had ended (i.e., the ‘Eureka!’ moment had passed), pupil dilation decreased. They concluded that epiphany learning only occurs when you are thinking and focusing on the feedback you are given about your performance rather than looking to see what others are doing.

Secrets you keep and the development of the Common Secrets Questionnaire

If you’ve ever wondered what sorts of secrets people keep, wonder no more! Columbia university researchers have done this snooping for you and the ever-helpful Neuroskeptic blog has listed them in order of frequency. Sex plays a big role in secrets as do many other common issues like theft, ambition, money, trauma, mental health, and concerns about relationships.

Here, courtesy of those researchers, is a secret to well-being: Do not be preoccupied with your secret concerns—the more your mind wanders to them, the lower your overall well-being. Here’s a link to the Common Secrets Questionnaire if you would like to take it yourself.

Incivility in academia, and in medical offices

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently had an article on incivility at work that tells us this sort of behavior remains quite common is the US, Canada and Britain according to a 30-page survey completed by more than 830 people across the three countries. More than 64% of the respondents said they had been the target of faculty incivility and 77% had seen others targeted. Unfortunately, reporting the behavior didn’t always get results. Of the 71% who reported it, half said the behavior continued. In short, academics don’t just think and teach in universities—some of them use their power to bully and intimidate others.

Unfortunately, incivility is not just rife in academia but also in medical office — not just doctors, but by nursing staff and patients as well. The New York Times recently documented this and ended their article with a clear statement about the importance of civility for healing:

“Rudeness affects your spirit, your morale, your connection to your job, and your effectiveness in that job. It gets in the way of health, and it gets in the way of healing.”

Gelotophobia makes you think all laughter is bad laughter

We’ve heard a lot about laughter being the best medicine and its role in extending our lives and boosting the immune system. But not for the gelotophobic among us according to this article from Scientific American. Gelotophobes (as the article refers to people with this phobia) are phobic about being laughed at and are prone to think any sort of laughter is directed (maliciously) at them. The good news is that gelotophobia should respond to the same kind of therapies as do other phobias (if the person will actually pursue treatment).

Slepian, M., Chun, J., & Mason, M. (2017). The Experience of Secrecy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000085


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