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Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category

Climate changeWe blogged recently on how to talk about climate change without eliciting automatic (knee jerk) negative reactions from listeners. Shortly before that post, we blogged about scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief to persuasion. So we were happy to see a wonderfully clear writeup on the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication’s survey on American beliefs about climate change over at the Sociological Images blog.

The Yale researchers asked 13,000 Americans whether they thought the climate was changing and what they thought was causing climate change (if it indeed existed). They found that responses clustered in six separate types. Here’s how Sociological Images described those types [as defined by the Yale group]:

• The Alarmed (18%) – believe climate change is happening, have already changed their behavior, and are ready to get out there and try to save the world

• The Concerned (33%) – believe it’s happening, but think it’s far off or isn’t going to affect them personally

• The Cautious (19%) – aren’t sure if it’s happening or not and are also unsure whether it’s human caused

• The Disengaged (12%) –  have heard the phrase “climate change,” but couldn’t tell you the first thing about it

• The Doubtful (11%) – are skeptical that it’s happening and, if it is, they don’t think it’s a problem and don’t think it’s human caused

• The Dismissive (7%) – do not believe in it, think it’s a hoax

What is truly wonderful is they offer an interactive map so you can see how beliefs about climate change vary by state and even by county. While some might say this shows how different our beliefs are about climate change—one commenter at the blog says it shows how similarly we (for the most part) feel on the issues. It is well worth your time to take a look at Sociological Images post of the highlights of the Yale study and then, if you want to know more, take a look at the Yale site itself for the complete writeup.


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five minutesThere are many things we read and discard rather than sharing them (and our take on them) with you, but other things we read and grin and think you might want to know. We’ve described these before as odd facts for sharing over drinks or dinner or around the office. It isn’t the most pivotal research we’ve read, but it is usually amusing. These are not the really “important” things, but they might make you grin and result in others looking at you with awe (or at least curiosity).

Altered consciousness using the person next to you (if they will cooperate)

Tina Fey and Steve Martin did this in a fairly unmemorable movie, but only for five minutes. However, if you want to go beyond “rewarding” someone with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact, you can actually experience “dissociation and hallucinations”. Is that cool or what? The lights must be dim to better bring on a “natural” altered state and if you choose to question whether this is a real study, the citation is at the bottom of this post.

An easy test to see if your new friend is secretly a psychopath

We’ve written before about psychopaths but never seen such a quick-and-dirty test to see if your new friend is someone from whom you want to quickly distance yourself. According to a new study from researchers at Baylor University, people with psychopathic tendencies are less likely to be “affected by contagious yawning”. Yes. You know how when someone yawns and then you yawn back? It’s contagious. Except, the act itself is apparently based in empathy (which the psychopath does not have). The researcher cautions us to NOT presume that “if you yawn and someone else doesn’t, the other person is a psychopath”.

Another way to tell if someone is suicidal

In 2012, we wrote up a study that seemed strange to us on being able to simply look at someone’s face and determine if they were suicidal. Here’s another one where they look at blood tests to assess changes in genes that appear to indicate suicidal thoughts. According to a press release, a questionnaire and blood test together predicted with 92% accuracy which of 108 men receiving psychiatric treatment would develop suicidal feelings over the next year. That is pretty accurate.

Fool people into thinking you are younger than you really are (online anyway)

We’ve all heard the saying “no one knows you’re a dog on the internet”—although, we told you back in 2012 that common wisdom really isn’t true. But this is a way to fool people online into thinking you are younger than your real age. LOL is often used as internet shorthand for “laughing out loud”. By old people anyway. Researchers analyzed Facebook posts for how people expressed laughter and as it turned out, LOL is used by old folks. If you want to be seen as young and tuned in—remove LOL from use and write “haha” or “hehe” instead. Read the researchers blog post here.

Strangers in your mirror and Donald Trump in your refrigerator?

Here are two odd things. One, if you ever see a stranger (who closely resembles you) in your mirror—there’s a name for that: Capgras syndrome for ones own mirror image. A recent publication highlights a case study of a man who came to believe the reflection in the mirror was someone else who lived behind the mirror glass (because he talked to the stranger and the man knew an awful lot about him). And if that isn’t weird enough for you—did you hear about the woman who saw Donald Trump in her refrigerator? Apparently it was pretty shocking for her when she opened a new tub of spreadable butter and saw Donald Trump’s face on her butter. Researchers call this “pareidolia”—it’s when we see familiar patterns that really do not exist or when we see faces in random patterns. They say it’s like the people who see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in their food. Somehow we think the Donald would like joining this small but highly regarded group.

Caputo, G. (2015). Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through interpersonal gazing Psychiatry Research, 228 (3), 659-663 DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.04.050


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kinsey-scaleIllustrating this post is the Kinsey Scale of Sexual Behavior. As you can see, the scale asks people to describe themselves sexually on a scale ranging from “exclusively heterosexual behavior” to “exclusively homosexual behavior”. In the wake of Caitlyn Jenner’s emergence into the public eye, there’ve been many articles about gender identity and sexual preference as people attempt to sort out how a hyper-masculine Olympian has always felt like a woman on the inside.

A well-regarded polling company ( decided to ask 1,632 adults in Britain to simply place themselves on the Kinsey scale. They made some interesting discoveries about age and sexual identity.

72% of the British public identifies as “completely heterosexual” and 4% identify as “completely homosexual” while 19% say they are somewhere in between. (Kinsey classified the in-betweeners as “bisexual in varying degrees”.) Of those in the 19% in-between group, 15% are closer to the heterosexual end, 2% place themselves directly in the middle, and 2% are closer to the homosexual end of the scale.

However, reports that “with each generation, people see their sexuality as less fixed in stone”. They say the results for 18-24 year olds are particularly striking with “43% placing themselves” in the “in between” areas and 52% placing themselves at one end or the other. In this group 46% say they are “completely heterosexual” and 6% say they are “completely homosexual”.

The authors say that people (regardless of age) now accept the idea that sexual orientation is on a continuum (60% of heterosexuals and 73% of homosexuals support this idea) rather than a completely binary choice. They see this as indicative of an increasing open-mindedness to sexuality.

The full results of the study can be seen here. In the first URL, you can see from the intensity of the comments that this entire idea remains one which inflames the senses for some people.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is important information of which to be aware. While Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transition has precipitated a national (and perhaps international) discussion on sexual identity and sexual orientation, the bottom line is that younger jurors may well have more fluid definitions of their individual sexual orientation. It’s one more thing to remain cognizant of as you present cases where sexual identity may or may not be an issue.


Comments Off on Who among the British people is 100% heterosexual? 

gaydarstickerA study a while back showed ‘above chance’ guessing of sexual orientation based on photographs of faces alone. The results were explained as proof of gaydar. Now, a new study says gaydar is not real and is a way to stereotype others that is seen as more “socially and personally acceptable”. They point to a difference in photograph quality in the 2008 study saying gaydar was real—apparently the gay men and lesbian women whose photographs were used in the study had “higher quality pictures than their straight counterparts”. When the photo quality difference was removed, participants were unable to say who was gay and who was not.

The current researchers conducted five experiments to see if gaydar was real. What they found, in brief, was that when you are told gaydar is real, you tend to use stereotypes to identify sexual orientation based on appearance. However, when you are told that gaydar is not real, you use stereotypes less to identify sexual orientation. In other words, when you know calling your stereotyped assumptions “gaydar” is really just a stereotyped assumption—you use it less. It’s what we see over and over again in our pretrial research. When you alert people to the existence of a stereotypical bias, they use it less. When you don’t alert them, they use it and form conclusions based on stereotypes.

These researchers used descriptive sentences to either communicate gay stereotypic ideas, neutral stereotypic ideas or straight stereotypic ideas. Like this: “He is an interior designer” (gay stereotype); “He likes spaghetti” (neutral stereotype); or “He drives a pickup truck” (straight stereotype). Participants were very willing to endorse someone being gay or straight based on being given these stereotypes unless they were told gaydar was not real but merely the application of stereotyped inferences.

The researchers say that the “folk concept of gaydar” provides a “legitimizing myth” that allows people to think they are expressing intuition rather than making judgments based on stereotypes. Their discussion section at the end of the paper offers an education on the fallacies behind stereotypic reasoning. Here is just one paragraph from their general discussion section:

“In some ways, the idea of gaydar—being able to tell who is gay versus straight—seems useful at best and harmless at worst. The very fact that it seems harmless, however, may ultimately be responsible for its most pernicious effects. Our findings from Study 5 demonstrated that belief in gaydar perpetuates the use of stereotypes to jump to conclusions about orientation. [snip] Thus, the gaydar myth may not only promote the use of stereotypes to make inferences about orientation but may also indirectly facilitate discrimination—even aggression—based on these inferences.”

It is common to want shortcuts to categorize people and we see that not only in our pretrial research but also in many approaches to voir dire using demographic stereotypes. In fact, we see it so routinely in voir dire approaches we wrote a full length paper on it, published in The Jury Expert. We see stereotypes based on occupation, gender, race, and age. For example, teachers are cheap and critical. Young jurors are selfish and don’t care. Women and minorities are good for the Plaintiff and men for the Defense. Engineers have no feelings. Old people can’t keep up cognitively. Men with pink shirts are gay and women with short spiky haircuts who wear pants are lesbian. People of color will always support each other.

None of those generalizations are any more true than the one these researchers explore: you cannot predict sexual orientation based on someone’s appearance. So don’t bet your case on it.

Cox, W., Devine, P., Bischmann, A., & Hyde, J. (2015). Inferences About Sexual Orientation: The Roles of Stereotypes, Faces, and The Gaydar Myth The Journal of Sex Research, 1-15 DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1015714


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beer goggles and coffeeWe write blog posts about so many different topics that you would be surprised how much ends up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. Here are a few more that didn’t make the cut but with whom we thought you might want to have a passing familiarity.

How is coffee good for you? Let us list the ways…

We’ve written about coffee so much here that Doug has accused me of pandering to the coffee industry. This time, however, we are showing you an infographic with a must-see summary of how coffee “really affects your health”. Sure it’s written by someone who appears to be in the coffee industry but we’re sure it’s all true! Did we say “must see”?

Want more life satisfaction? 

We’ve just found a secret to how you can make that happen. Researchers think life satisfaction is really largely about how much you are able to achieve your goals and “assert your will” on circumstances. They call this “primary control”. New research tells us that “secondary control” may be an avenue for life satisfaction as well. You might think of secondary control as adjusting yourself to accommodate your circumstances. And the researchers (cited at the end of this post) say adapting and accommodating can enhance your life satisfaction!

It’s 2015. Do women and men agree on workplace equity for gender?


If you need more than that concise—yet accurate— answer, here’s a Gallup poll from less than two weeks ago. Gallup says nothing has really changed since 2013. Women remain twice as likely as men to feel overlooked for promotion and 17% of women feel they’ve been denied a raise at work due to gender while only 4% of men feel the same way. So. No. Okay? (This might be a good time to refill that coffee cup since coffee is so good for you.)

Do beer goggles really exist?

These researchers took their research to the “real world” of pubs in the United Kingdom. They chose three different pubs and walked in between 5pm and 11pm and recruited volunteers. Altogether, they recruited 311 pub customers and performed breathalyzer tests to determine blood alcohol level. Then they asked them to rate the attractiveness of various photographs of people. They found no relationship at all between alcohol use and how attractive the participants found the photographed faces. It’s good to see this sort of naturalistic research being done. Of course, others are doing this too. Did you hear about the social psychologists who wanted to measure male testosterone levels? Naturally, you may think, they went to a “adult social club”. The researchers do not name the club but they do say it is also referred to as a “swingers club” or a “sex club”—and they describe it as 18,000 square feet so if you want to do your own naturalistic research, it shouldn’t be hard to find.

Helzer, E., & Jayawickreme, E. (2015). Control and the “Good Life”: Primary and Secondary Control as Distinct Indicators of Well-Being Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6 (6), 653-660 DOI: 10.1177/1948550615576210


Comments Off on Coffee, beer goggles, and workplace equity: More stuff you want to know