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This is a really disturbing and yet, so intuitively predictable article about what happens when you are a Black, Brown, and/or Female manager in your workplace. While past research has blamed the high achiever for acting as gatekeepers and keeping other minority members out of positions of leadership—today’s research has a more empathic explanation for why that gatekeeping happens. Essentially, these researchers say that successful minority managers “know it could spell disaster for their own careers” if they support diverse candidates for management positions. Regardless of how many male or White managers promote the candidates most similar to themselves, it often spells trouble for a minority manager who does the same thing.

Today’s researchers wondered if minority status (being an ethnic minority or female) made a difference in how diversity initiatives proposed by managers were received. So they recruited 350 executives from a variety of American organizations (10% were non-White and about 30% were women). These executives represented 20 industries and 26 different job functions. Their bosses and up to three colleagues were asked to rate their competence and performance, how ready they were to be promoted, and whether they valued working with a diverse group of people.

According to Alex Fradera, who summarized this article over at the BPS Digest blog, there were findings consistent with earlier research about the importance of valuing diversity—but there were also some more disturbing findings we have not seen before.

“Promoting diversity” is seen as important in many organizations and findings in this study were consistent with earlier work—those who were rated higher for diversity-valuing behavior also received higher ratings for performance and competence.

But. And this is a big but. For non-white executives and for female executives, the more they were seen as valuing diversity, the lower the scores they received on competence and performance. (And those in this group who did receive higher scores on competence and performance, also were rated as showing the least interest in diversity.)

The researchers saw this as reflecting attitudinal biases where minorities who value diversity are negatively perceived since they are seen as favoring “their own” rather than maintaining the status quo. So they did a second study to ensure this was an accurate interpretation. You likely know what the results of that study were.

If a female or non-White manager, hired a female or non-White Vice President and mentioned promoting diversity in the hire—research participants gave that hiring manager poor ratings.

However, much like the first study, when a White male manager made that same decision with the same explanation of promoting diversity—they were not negatively rated by research participants.

So, no wonder past research has found that high-achieving non-White or female employees do not advocate for others “like them” to move ahead in the organization. Perhaps, rather than wanting to serve as a gatekeeper and avoid competition—they simply realize the career cost is too high for them to stand up and welcome in diverse others. Additionally, it seems that they will have less organizational influence —in minority hiring and more generally—than if they said or did less. In other words, as the researchers say, “ethnic minorities and women who engage in diversity-valuing behaviors tend to be negatively stereotyped, and thus, receive lower competence and performance ratings”.

It’s  a research finding that is clearly disturbing, but these researchers actually have some ideas to successfully develop a diverse workplace without harming anyone’s career path. Some of their recommendations may seem odd at first, but they also make sense given these research results.

Here are their recommendations:

Stop focusing attention on diversity-valuing behavior and focus instead on leaders’ “homogeneity-valuing behavior”.

Why? This puts the burden of proof on those trying to maintain the status quo rather than on those trying to change it. The researchers acknowledge that this is likely often an unfair standard and suggest it is more practical to follow their second and third recommendations.

Reward any hiring manager who hires someone demographically different from the hiring manager.

Why? The researchers say this will automatically increase minority numbers in the organization because White hiring managers are going to be looking for good minority candidates.

Also, non-White and female employees who seek to hire White males are going to likely avoid the negative ratings they would receive if they hired more diverse candidates. The researchers go so far as to say that hiring White males may be a “beneficial career strategy” for non-White and female hiring managers.

Consider putting a White male in charge of your diversity initiatives.

Why? The researchers say these positions in organizations are usually staffed by women or non-White employees who—based on these research results, will be suspect for supporting diversity.

If, for example, the CEO of the company (or the senior partner of a law firm) is a White male, that person may be a good choice to lead a diversity-valuing committee since it will help all employees see diversity as a legitimate goal. A White male leader will not be suspect and the diversity messages may be more successful because of it.

One simple example was the manager Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures”, a film about the astonishing contributions of three African-American women during the Apollo program at NASA. Harrison was as blind to the institutional racism these women faced as anyone else, but when he realized the negative effects on the women and his program, he aggressively sought to desegregate his workforce.

Hekman, DR Johnson, SK Foo, MD Yang, W. 2017. Does diversity-valuing behavior result in diminished performance ratings for non-white and female leaders? Academy of Management Journal, 60(2), 771-797.


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Think back to your Psychology 101 class in college or an upper level Social Psychology undergraduate course and you will probably remember the famous case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered in a brutal attack outside her Queens, NY apartment in 1964. According to psychology textbooks, at least 38 onlookers witnessed the attack (mostly through hearing her screams) and yet no one came to her aid or called the police.

Psychologists labeled this “seeing but not helping” phenomenon as “the bystander effect”. Essentially, they say, the presence of others observing someone who needs help, diminishes the likelihood that any individual person will help (since we presume others will come to the person’s aid).

But, as it turns out, the Kitty Genovese story we know is not accurate. Saul Kassin, perhaps the most famous of the false confessions researchers, reviewed the historical records on this case and discovered the facts have been misreported for decades. According to Kassin (who is one of the responders on a paper we wrote for The Jury Expert when working a false confessions case), bystanders did respond, several came to her aid, and others called the police.

There were also a number of people who gave false confessions for her murder.

Police arrested a 29-year-old Black man named Winston Moseley for burglary and said he gave a “full and detailed confession” to Genovese’s rape and murder as well as several additional women. However, the police already had a confession for one of the other women Moseley confessed to killing.

The second man, a White 18-year-old male named Alvin Mitchell had been “interrogated by the police seven times over 50 hours” and then signed a confession. He swiftly recanted and said he was threatened and physically abused while in police custody. Unfortunately, he was ultimately convicted and served 12 years and 8 months before being released. When asked why he’d falsely confessed, Mitchell told Kassin he would have “confessed to killing the president because them people had me scared to death”.

It is astonishing that the urban mythology surrounding Kitty Genovese’s murder has been so widely accepted. As psychologists, we were presented with false facts of the Kitty Genovese murder and schooled in the “bystander effect” theory which arose from the lack of help she allegedly received. This is a stunning reversal. And, for us, the relationship of false confessions to the Kitty Genovese case is a second interesting twist. The summary of the writeup we’ve linked to in this post has a lot of information, but the article itself is filled with facts you have not likely heard before.

For example, did you know Genovese had a same-sex partner, that it is questionable whether there were really 38 witnesses—let alone 38 witnesses who took no action whatsoever, that the police helped shape the story told in newspapers, or that there are a lot of parallels with the Genovese case to the facts (25 years later) surrounding the false confessions in the Central Park Jogger case?

If you find this information and analysis is as important to you as it is to us,  this article is well worth the effort to access and read it. The story of Kassin’s meeting with Alvin Mitchell (who served such a long time in jail due to his false confession) alone is riveting.

Kassin, S. 2017. The Killing of Kitty Genovese: What Else Does This Case Tell Us? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(3).



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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.


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