Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category
Six months ago, we began to be inundated with comments from what were obviously students in entry-level psychology classes. When it reached a volume of about twenty comments a day, we did some research and discovered they came from a community college in Missouri. They were all using falsified email addresses and names so we could not even explain why their low-level and often poorly written comments were not being published. Last week, we got a very indignant comment [from the same community college] on our post regarding disturbing allegations by some of black people not feeling pain the same way white people do. There was a snide aside about the inevitability that we would not publish their comment. To be clear to all, we do publish comments submitted to us on our posts, but we limit the comments to those which are civil, contribute substantively to the discussion, and are tolerably well written.
The commenter rebuked us for seeing race everywhere and for endangering others by propagating such ridiculous information. “Everyone knows” insisted the commenter, that after all those years in medical school, medical professionals are not going to treat people differently because of race–just like employers always hire the most qualified applicant they have without regard to race. The commenter (who used a bogus email address and name) was obviously very angry and just as obviously uninformed on the prevalence of disparate treatment due to race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and other differences among us. S/he was also though, very certain of how right s/he was and how wrong we were and that our wrongness was endangering others. “It isn’t as though you will learn though”, the commenter wrote.
I thought of him or her as I read an article highlighted by Tom Jacobs over at Pacific Standard magazine. Tom’s piece is three pages long (and as usual, very well done and an easy read). The original article is 60 pages long and arguably a harder read, so you can choose which you would like to review! It is slated for publication in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology but is also posted on SSRN so you can access it now.
In essence, the article discusses how we are increasingly living not just in red and blue states–but we are relocating so we are also in red and blue towns and communities. The authors call the trend the ideological migration hypothesis:
Those who lived in a community where they did not believe they shared the same ideology with their neighbors were more likely to move to communities where neighbors shared the same beliefs.
Those who found their own ideology a mismatch with their community’s, felt they did not belong and wanted to move (or, as the authors say, migrate).
Those who were made to believe (i.e., told by the researchers) their community was growing even more incongruent with their own ideology expressed a decreased sense of belonging and an increased desire to move.
Overall, say the authors, “Ideological migration may contribute to the rise in cultural, moral, and ideological segregation and polarization of the American electorate.”
The authors explore the increased mobility of the American population and the varied explanations behind how the “de facto segregation” has occurred as people increasingly relocate to communities that are ideologically consistent with their own views. To be sure, this has something to do with income and occupation, but the writers believe it to be more than that since, “in some cases, people may find the ideology of their current community disgusting, ideologically objectionable, or threatening, eliciting unpleasant existential anxiety”.
Additionally, say the authors, “Communities with liberal ideologies do tend to have more organic food markets, bicycle trails, and a greater proportion of hybrid vehicles on the road. In contrast, communities with conservative ideologies do tend to have more “big box” stores, a higher gun-store-to-bookstore ratio, and a greater proportion of sport utility vehicles on the road. It is possible that these characteristics enable people to discern the ideological leanings of communities.”
The authors think this sort of ideologically based migration has both positive and negative points. However, we run the risk of limiting communication between conservative and liberal peoples and thus reinforcing an “us versus them” mentality. Supporting this conclusion is that the most likely migrators are those who identify as either liberal or conservative. Moderates tend to stay put.
It’s a dilemma we often face in pretrial research. In a random sample of jury-eligible citizens, you are bound to get people with ideological differences. A jury is meant to be composed of people from different walks in life, different neighborhoods, different life experiences and different ideologies. Certain themes in the case narrative can elicit a knee-jerk reaction from individual jurors. Our goal is always to identify what themes— or impressions— elicit that reaction. Recently, for example, we had a witness who wore a large, ornate cross around her neck during deposition and, even though it was never mentioned during the testimony or during case presentations, both liberal and conservative jurors thought it was an effort to influence them–for better or worse. We always recommend careful evaluation of story features, fashion accessories, and story elements that distract the jury from the universal themes and values of the case itself.
We don’t believe our blog is harming anyone. We know a good many of our readers, and are aware that they work in respected law firms, they study and teach at good universities, and they follow us here and on Twitter because together we constitute a community of diverse perspectives and common interests.
What we look for in research (both the studies posted here and the research we conduct for clients) is evidence of strongly held beliefs, indications of the route people took in decision-making, and what would be required for them to reach a different conclusion. In part, that leads us to see bias (in multiple forms) all around us because that’s an important aspect of what we do. And on this blog, we moderate all comments due to the level of spam and/or inarticulate commentary meant, at times, to increase someone’s SEO ratings. If you have a substantive comment on what we write about, please use a real email address so we can communicate with you. Otherwise, we are living in separate worlds.
Motyl, M., Iyer, R., Oishi, S., Trawalter, S., & Bosek, BA (2013). How ideological migration geographically segregates groups. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2013.10.010
As Editor of The Jury Expert since we moved to an online publication in May, 2008, I am proud of what The Jury Expert has become. We recently moved to a quarterly publication schedule to give us a little breathing room in the breakneck pace of the work. The latest edition of the Jury Expert is now available.
Taming the Reptile: A Defendant’s Response to the Plaintiff’s Revolution by Ken Broda-Bahm, Ph.D.
The Reptile Approach has been immensely popular among the Plaintiff Bar and many articles have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of this approach. Rather than going down that road again, we are publishing a look at how to attack the soft underbelly of that scaly reptile. How do you circumvent a snake? You start by reading this Defense approach to the Reptile Theory.
The Truthiness of Visual Evidence by Eryn Newman, Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine, and Neal Feigenson, J.D. from Quinnipiac University School of Law
Stephen Colbert has made “truthiness” a well-known concept. “You don’t look up truthiness in a book. You look it up in your gut.” So what happens when truthiness comes to your courtroom and then makes it into the deliberation room? Two researchers take a look at how truthiness interacts with visual evidence and a trial consultant (and visual evidence expert) responds.
Neutralizing Negative Pretrial Publicity: A Multi-Part Strategy by Adam Shniderman, M.A. from the University of California at Irvine
Negative pretrial publicity is a nightmare. You have to address it but how to do that effectively is often a puzzle. This writer presents a multi-part strategy (e.g., pre-trial, during voir dire, and during the case presentation) to not only addressing, but neutralizing negative pretrial publicity.
When Does a Defendant’s Impulsivity Exculpate vs Incriminate? by Clayton Critcher, Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, and Yoel Inbar, Ph.D. from Tilburg University, The Netherlands
Did your client make that decision fast or slow? As it happens, the observer may attribute immoral character to those that make a fast decision, or they may attribute a higher level of morality to those that seem to weigh the evidence and consider their choices before deciding. So what can you do to frame the decision made by your client in a way that will benefit and not harm them? Two researchers tell us about their work and two trial consultants respond with their thoughts on applications to litigation advocacy. The researchers also make a brief reply to the trial consultants comments.
We often have a “new” favorite thing in our issues of The Jury Expert. Typically, it’s something new (or new to many of us) and we are introducing you to something we’ve found that is just wonderful. This time though, it’s a little different. This has been around forever. Truly. But we think that just because you’ve known about it forever doesn’t mean it can’t be your new Favorite Thing too!
Inaccuracy in Political Self-Perception: Young Adults Are Not as Conservative as They Believe by Michael Bernstein, Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, Abington, and Ethan Zell, Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
There are basic things we all know about ourselves. You are tall or short. You have straight hair or wavy/curly hair or, perhaps no hair. Your eyes are brown, or blue, or hazel–more or less. And you are liberal or conservative. We know these things to be true. Except when we don’t. New research shows us that we may be inaccurate in what our politics truly are–especially when we are young. You may not be as liberal or as conservative as you think. Two researchers share their findings and two trial consultants consider this in the context of their day-to-day work in litigation advocacy. The researchers then make a brief reply to the consultants.
Book Review- Social Media as Evidence: Cases, Practice Pointers, and Techniques by Rita Handrich, Ph.D. of Keene Trial Consulting
Social media was fairly new not long ago and now it is a basic consideration of voir dire and jury selection (not to mention concerns over social media during the trial itself). This book (from two attorneys at DLA Piper) covers the basics of social media investigation, pitfalls, and offers multiple techniques for voir dire. Read this review and see if you’d like to add the book to your library.
As absurd and biased as that may sound, it is something that many (both White and Black Americans) currently believe. An archival review and six separate experiments (with a total of 876 research participants) show this biased belief system.
This particular research is examining disparities in healthcare and the authors review the higher rates of disease, disability and death in the Black American community. Black Americans are more likely to receive lower quality healthcare and have less desirable medical procedures done, are 3x more likely to have limbs amputated as the result of diabetes, and are systematically under-treated for pain as compared to White patients. While racial bias has been suggested as a reason for this health care disparity, (that is, people assume Blacks feel less pain than Whites), the current researchers suggest that Black pain is simply not seen by the health care provider (due to the basic belief that Blacks do not feel pain in the same way Whites do).
The researchers began with an archival study using the National Football League’s 2010 and 2011 injury reports. Whenever a player is injured, coaches and medical personnel evaluate the injuries and rate the likelihood the player will be able to play the following week. The researchers hypothesized that if Black players were assumed to feel less pain, they would be rated as more likely to play after injury in comparison to White players. And they were correct. (The researchers discuss the fact there may be other variables at play. Perhaps Black players want to play even though injured or perhaps they have been trained to play “through the pain”.)
The researchers then conducted six separate experiments (you can read them all here), and in each case, the results support the view that experimental subjects assumed Blacks feel less pain than do Whites. The researchers refer briefly to the research showing that White Americans “condone police brutality against Black men relative to White men”. They also refer to the research on Whites not being as distressed seeing harm inflicted on Black people as they are when harm is inflicted on White people.
“While it may be that some Whites do not care about Black people and their pain, it may also be the case that at least some Whites fail to realize that Black people feel as much pain as White people. Although still alarming, this explanation is decidedly different from the claim that White people simply do not care about Blacks.”
It is a disturbing set of experiments about issues often referred to as the racial empathy gap. We’ve written a lot about bias on this blog, and about racial bias in particular, so this isn’t new information, it’s simply more to add to the pile. We wonder how much long-standing tendencies to dehumanize Black Americans are at the root of the assumption Blacks just don’t feel pain like White Americans do. As a society, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Trawalter S, Hoffman KM, & Waytz A (2012). Racial bias in perceptions of others’ pain. PloS one, 7 (11) PMID: 23155390
A new research review says thinking fast can improve our mood, and increase risk-taking, confidence and problem-solving. The author discusses the experiences of running, skiing, driving over the speed limit as all having the capacity to excite, elate and energize us. But we do not have to be moving fast in order to improve our moods. All that is required is for our thinking to shift into a rapid pace and our mood improves. It isn’t always clear whether we want relatively ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ jurors going into deliberations, but, according to the author, improved mood increases the sense of urgency to take action. There are times we want jurors to deliberate quickly (relying on pre-existing biases or heuristics to make decisions) and there are times we don’t want that at all.
And rapid thinking also increases the likelihood of taking risks. Here’s something a little scary drawn directly from the article.
“Thought speed was manipulated via three versions of a video that varied in pace. The videos shared the same neutral content (e.g., scenes of waterfalls, urban landscapes) but varied in average shot length. The result was that as the pace of the film increased, the participants reported greater intentions to engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and illegal drug use.”
In the research the author is describing, participants were polled on their likelihood of engaging in unprotected sex and using drugs illegally. In the deliberation room, whatever issues lie before the jurors are possible targets of the increased risk-taking that occurs when thoughts are racing.
In a recent mock trial, we put everyone supporting the Defense into a single deliberation group and added a strong Plaintiff juror who was articulate and worked in a job requiring constant decision-making with financial benefits and costs tied to those decisions. The jurors were instructed to think carefully as the jury charge was very complex. Their initial vote was 12-1 with the Plaintiff juror standing alone. When the Plaintiff juror quietly and confidently stated his perspective, the others listened and then, after some vigorous discussion, the presiding juror said, “Let’s slow things down and really understand this differing perspective”. The Plaintiff juror did not sway the others to his side but his damage award was less than 1/3 that of the other Plaintiff jurors who were all in pro-Plaintiff groups. The other jurors respected his opinions and ultimately, his damage award considered their opinions.
Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, fast and slow tells how fast processing can lead to a host of biases that compromise rational judgment. Again. Sometimes this is what we want in deliberation and sometimes it is not. Here are a few things to consider to either speed up or slow down thinking in your deliberation room:
Most people are uncomfortable with stillness. When a witness provides a crucial bit of information, the most natural thing to do is to immediately follow it up with a question that essentially causes them to confirm their earlier statement. What is often even more effective is to pause, allow the witness’ words to hang in the air for a couple of moments, and then respond. After slowing the examination and allowing the testimony to sink in before following it up, it creates a more lasting memory.
Give jurors permission to think fast (“This is really a simple case when you think about it”) or plea with them to slow down (“The temptation is to see this as a simple case, but simple cases don’t make it to trial. There are complexities here you need to carefully consider”).
If your goal is to slow jurors down, tell them how thinking fast can cause them to overlook important facts, and how thinking slow can allow the encouragement of well-reasoned decisions they can be proud of in the future. If your goal is to speed them up, remind them of how long they’ve had to consider the evidence during trial, and what a simple decision it really is.
There are obviously many other strategies you can use to slow down or speed up the deliberative process. The important thing is to think about (slowly) what you want to accomplish and to embed that goal into every aspect of your presentation, including the way in which you send jurors off to deliberate.
Pronin, E. (2013). When the mind races: Effects of thought speed on feeling and action. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22 (4), 283-288 DOI: 10.1177/0963721413482324
This comes as no surprise to us. We routinely look at mock jurors with extreme views on various issues as unpredictable and thus, dangerous for our case. We think of the extremist as dwelling on the “fringe” of beliefs held by the majority. They are often conspiracy devotees and “hear” facts through a nearly impregnable filter that has more to do with their own beliefs than anything being said by the trial attorney.
It isn’t even about the matter at issue. It is, instead, about the listener.
Researchers in this study asked 527 American members of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to respond to a series of questionnaires about 9 controversial political issues (e.g., health care, illegal immigration, abortion, government role in helping the needy, voter IDs, rate of income tax, torture to obtain information from terrorists, affirmative action, and the relationship between national and state laws and religious beliefs). Participants were asked two questions on each political issue: their attitude toward the issue (measured on a Likert scale ranging from a strong liberal position to a strong conservative position) and then they were asked how much more correct they thought their belief on that issue was in comparison with other people’s beliefs. Participants also completed a measure of dogmatism.
Participants who felt most superior for beliefs in voter ID cards, taxes and affirmative action scored higher in the conservative direction. Those who felt most superior for beliefs in government aid for the needy, torturing terrorists, and basing laws on religion scored higher in the liberal direction.
However, people at the extremes of the political spectrum (whether liberal or conservative) felt most superior about their beliefs.
In other words, it is not just liberals and not just conservatives who feel superior in their beliefs. Both can. What matters is not the direction of your beliefs but the extremity of them. The researchers point this out clearly:
“People at the extreme ends of ideological positions may be strongly motivated to maintain their viewpoints, and the fact their views lie at the extremes makes it less likely they will consider alternative perspectives.”
This is what we have seen repeatedly in our pretrial research. We do not necessarily know how a person with extreme views will react to our case narrative, but we do know whatever their reaction is, it will likely be extreme, rigid, closed-minded, and resistant to other’s pleas to consider alternate perspectives. Many is the time I have observed during jury selection “we can’t predict how that person will vote in deliberations, but s/he will be serious trouble for one side or the other”. These people do not negotiate well with others. And, in our experience, that makes for an unpredictable juror for both sides of the aisle. The caveat to this, of course, is if your goal is a hung jury. Then the extremists add sparks, and often, volatility to jury deliberations.
Toner K, Leary MR, Asher MW, & Jongman-Sereno KP (2013). Feeling Superior Is a Bipartisan Issue: Extremity (Not Direction) of Political Views Predicts Perceived Belief Superiority. Psychological Science PMID: 24096379