Archive for the ‘Beliefs & values’ Category
When your evidence is weak, how can you be more persuasive? Precision. Observers want to see certain things to have confidence in what you are saying. The more precise you are, the more likely the observer is to see you as knowledgeable and accurate (even when negotiating for salary!). So what does the observer look for to assess your confidence? For eyewitnesses, the researchers say, observers (such as jurors) rely on speech rate, eye gaze, posture, and use of nervous gestures to assess accuracy. There is a longing for certainty that draws people to rely on these cues even when they are told of the gap between eyewitness accounts and actual accuracy. More recent research has focused on the use of precision to elicit confidence in you from the observer.
The researchers conducted two separate experiments: one with the ubiquitous undergraduate (N = 187) and one with Mechanical Turk (online research) participants (N = 163).
The undergraduates read answers to questions about the lengths of rivers and the heights of mountains (which had ostensibly provided earlier by other participants. They were asked to indicate their belief in the accuracy of the answers. The manipulation by the researchers was that the answers were presented as either “imprecise” (rounded to the 100s, e.g., 2600 miles) or “precise” (rounded to the first place, e.g., 2611 miles). The undergraduates were more confident in the “precise” answers to the questions.
The Mechanical Turk participants played a game akin to “The Price is Right” game show. The participants were asked to price three different products and were given help in the form of “audience suggestions”. The audience suggestions either ended with a 0 (imprecise) or ended with a 1 through a 9 (precise). Half the subjects were given estimates over the true value and half were given estimates under the true value. Then they were asked to “choose” the audience member who would “advise” them in the upcoming round of the game. The Mechanical Turk participants were more likely to choose an “advisor” who had provided a precise number (i.e., a number ending in 1 through 9).
Both undergraduates and Mechanical Turk participants believed more precise estimates were made by more confident (and likely more accurate) people. There is no real truth to this belief, but there you have it. If you are more precise, people think you are more confident and therefore are more likely to believe what you are saying. The authors use the example of “sports pundits often discuss[ing] National Football League draft prospects to hundredths of milliseconds–more precision than measurement error allows for”. People prefer precise estimates, say the researchers, “which creates incentives for such overprecise and misleading reporting”.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, the weaker your evidence, the more precise you want to be in identifying damages, settlement requests, or life care amounts. An example is to establish the amount of a life care plan to the penny, even though it is a projection and by its nature, imprecise.
“The weaker the data available upon which to base one’s conclusion, the greater the precision which should be quoted in order to give the data authenticity.” Norman Ralph Augustine
Jerez-Fernandez A, Angulo AN, & Oppenheimer DM (2014). Show me the numbers: precision as a cue to others’ confidence. Psychological Science, 25 (2), 633-5 PMID: 24317423
Last fall we wrote about how having a dark-skinned avatar in an immersive virtual reality experience can reduce your implicit bias against dark-skinned people. Now Illinois researchers show us that the avatar assigned in online gaming also influences behavior. How? If you are assigned to be a hero, you do good. If you are assigned to be a villain, you do not do good. Okay. That makes sense in an online role-playing game–-but the point of the research is that the online role-play (as hero, villain, or neutral geometric figure) made a difference in the real world after the online gaming ended.
The researchers did two separate experiments:
Experiment 1: 194 undergraduates (95 male, 99 female, average age 20.3 years) were told they would be involved in two separate studies: a game usability test and a blind tasting test. They were randomly assigned an avatar (a hero–Superman, a villain–Voldemort, and a neutral avatar–a simple circular shape). After they battled their opponents for 5 minutes online, they were asked how much they identified with their avatar on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). Then they were told they were moving on to the second study–the blind taste test. They were given tastes of both chocolate and chili sauce and then asked to choose one or the other to give a a (fictitious) future participant to consume. They were told the future participant would eat all of the food provided and the participants could pour as much as they wanted into a container for the future participant.
While the conscious level of identification with the avatar made no difference, participants with heroic/Superman avatars gave more chocolate to the fictitious future participant than did either those with villainous/Voldemort or neutral (circular) avatars. Participants with villainous/Voldemort avatars gave more chili sauce than did participants who had heroic/Superman avatars or neutral/circular avatars.
Experiment 2: 125 undergraduates participated (44 male, 81 female, average age 19.4 years). The design was the same except the researchers added a condition to test whether role play assignment (as either hero or villain) was more powerful in real world conditions than “common behavioral priming or perspective taking”. The researchers also simplified the experiment by dropping the neutral/circular avatar and focusing on how much chili sauce was given to the fictitious future participant. To clarify–some participants played the online game with either the heroic or villainous avatar while others were asked to be an observer of the online game for 5 minutes but “take the perspective of” either the hero or villain avatar/player.
Again, villains poured more chili sauce for the future participant than did the heroes. Those playing heroes poured less chili sauce than those observing and taking the perspective of heroes. Similarly, those playing villains gave more chili sauce than those observing and taking the perspective of the villain.
In short, say the researchers, “acting as a hero or villain” means you are more likely to repeat heroic or villainous behavior than you would if you are simply asked to “think of yourself as being” either the hero or the villain. They encourage game developers to design more heroic avatars to encourage more real-world prosocial behavior.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, you cannot ask people to actually “be” pro-Plaintiff/Prosecution or pro-Defense for a few minutes and then send them off to deliberate and expect a positive outcome for your case. All you can do is ask them to have empathy, or put themselves in the position of, your client. And, this research would say that isn’t nearly as powerful.
We would beg to differ. The researchers are talking about the impact of online gaming on the quantity of chili sauce or chocolate left for someone else to eat. It’s a little different from the real life and critically important issues often presented to jurors. We certainly don’t advocate asking jurors to take on the role of hero or villain overtly.
What we do advocate doing is asking jurors to take on the hero role (or to not take it on) without actually asking overtly.
From a Civil perspective: We would use the “be the very best you you can be” strategy. Obviously it would be a little differently framed for these two roles but the idea is to create empathy for either the Plaintiff or the Defendant. This would be akin to the request for the juror to take on a “hero” role. They are being asked to rise above petty bias and consider the situation from the position of the individual person involved. It is, in some ways, a “but for the grace of God, there go I” sort of strategy that encourages identification with the actual person or with the situational/genetic influences that may have driven the Defendant’s bad behavior.
From a Criminal perspective: Consider increasing the urge to punish the Defendant by focusing on the egregious nature of the crime. Create a virtual environment in which the jurors imagine that this is a threat to society that they can reduce. By focusing on the socially inappropriate behavior in the fact pattern, they become more inured to the aggressive punishment that is being sought. Of course, this is typically how a prosecutor would handle criminal cases, but the reason for doing so is endorsed by this research. Criminal defense strategy would be to focus on externalities, like the role that the defendant having been treated ruthlessly would affect him, or the way in which the conduct of anyone ‘primed’ him or her to act improperly. It is a way to make people identify with their own role in the trial, and orient them toward one frame of reference or another.
Yoon G, & Vargas PT (2014). Know Thy Avatar: The Unintended Effect of Virtual-Self Representation on Behavior. Psychological Science PMID: 24501111
There are some research models whose names seem silly, or at least named for a Taylor Swift song. Oddly enough, there is a large body of research on those who are “habitually sensitive toward victimization” and it turns out they tend to be uncooperative and immoral in “socially uncertain situations”. Apparently, the suspicion and mistrust generated when you are constantly on high-alert for mistreatment results in negative behavior and expectations. You might think of this as a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, which is a big problem for these people, because their victimization is also very real.
This article begins with a few descriptive sentences that eloquently describe the internal experience of the person who is “habitually sensitive toward victimization”.
“Trusting someone who should not have been trusted is certainly an aversive experience for everyone; however, people differ in how strongly they worry about becoming the victim of other people’s malicious intentions. And the more people are anxious about ending up being cheated, deceived, and exploited, the more they are sensitive to environmental or social cues associated with untrustworthiness, which, in turn, explains why these people also tend to behave uncooperatively in socially uncertain situations.”
This isn’t really a research article as much as a summary of where the research on the model is currently and where it needs to travel next. We are going to focus on an issue the authors identify as a “suspicious mindset” or “victim sensitivity”.
The authors describe a 10-item measure of “justice sensitivity” which allows one to categorize people with different levels of “sensitivity to mean intentions” through the use of questions such as the following:
It bothers me when others receive something that ought to be mine.
It takes me a long time to forget when I have to fix others’ carelessness.
It makes me angry when I am treated worse than others.
I can’t easily bear it when others profit unilaterally from me.
Our stereotype of “victims” is that they suffer silently. Counter-intuitively, on this scale, people who score high in victim sensitivity tend to “protest and retaliate more strongly” when they are treated unfairly. Of course, most people would reasonably reflect annoyance by the behaviors on the scale, but some people do so more intensely than others. Further, victim sensitivity as measured on this scale reflects concern for the self and not a more global concern of justice for all. Instead, victim sensitivity is related to “jealously, neuroticism, Machiavellianism, paranoia, and a belief in an unjust world, and it predicts uncooperative and even immoral behavior inside and outside the laboratory.”
What is important to know for litigation planning and jury selection is that having high levels of victim sensitivity will mean higher potential for a sudden leap to distrust and suspiciousness (and the resulting inability of the person to reconsider this initial judgment). This could result in an unpredictable negative view of the case facts. It is reasonable to see highly sensitive people as being hyper-critical of anyone who is viewed as victimizing others through their conduct.
Those high in victim sensitivity have what the researchers term a “suspicious mindset” which is negatively related to the willingness to forgive. These are people who would judge harshly and turn a deaf ear toward explanations for behavior.
They will be more likely to “see” cues of untrustworthiness in others but they are less likely to be accurate in their identification of untrustworthiness than those who are not so sensitive to victimization. That is, people who expect to be treated badly tend to see mean people everywhere and therefore exhibit a bias to “see” untrustworthiness where none exists.
It’s an intriguing area for mock trial research. The items on the justice sensitivity scale are not particularly objectionable in content/language, but may be seen as inappropriately personal for voir dire or a supplemental juror questionnaire. The challenge in trial planning may be to find questions or life experiences that correlate well with scores on the scale. For instance, when “The X Files” was a popular show, it also flagged people who were conspiracy theorists and (likely) these kinds of sensitivities. Would fans of other shows now popular be similarly sensitive? Would it correspond to differences between those who live in the exurbs versus the urbanites? Those who have had a bad experience in traffic court or with an insurance claim?
The researchers conclude that “victim sensitivity” represents a “latent fear of being exploited”. We routinely use some questions in our pretrial research that we think tap into that fear but will be adding a few new ones in an attempt to refine our ability to identify those potential jurors who could turn out to be very problematic when it comes to cooperative deliberating. Stay tuned!
Gollwitzer, M., Rothmund, T., & Süssenbach, P. (2013). The sensitivity to mean intentions (SeMI) model: Basic assumptions, recent findings, and potential avenues for future research. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 415-426 DOI: 10.1111/spc3.12041
The movie Her plays with the idea of Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with a computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). And today’s research article isn’t far off that track but….it’s much more applicable to litigation advocacy. These researchers took on the issue of trust in autonomous driving vehicles (computer-controlled, rather than driver-operated– which are expected to comprise 75% of the vehicles on the road by the year 2040). Participants used a simulator that either 1) drove like a normal car, 2) was autonomously able to control steering and speed, or 3) was able to control steering and speed but was also a simulator given a human name, gender and voice (although not Scarlett Johansson’s voice).
While no one reported falling in love with the anthropomorphized driving simulator, the researchers found “behavioral, physiological, and self-report measures” revealed that as the simulator became more “human-like” the participants thought the autonomous driving simulator was more competent. Specifically, participants liked the vehicle more, and they trusted the vehicle more.
However, an odd thing happened when they were involved in an “accident” in their vehicle–even though the accident was someone else’s fault. Those in the agentic (i.e., the car could steer and accelerate independently) and anthropomorphic (i.e., cars that could steer and accelerate independently but also had a name, gender and voice) blamed their vehicle more than did those driving a driver-operated vehicle. But, oddly enough, those in the anthropomorphic condition blame their cars less than those in the agentic condition whose cars could only steer and accelerate! Why would that be? The researchers believe that the more we see inanimate objects as being human, the more we see them as like us, and presumably, give those objects the benefit of a doubt.
For litigation advocacy, this has obvious implications:
Does your case involve a high-tech decision-maker–like a sophisticated piece of software that assesses and decides upon action? Or a robotic level of intelligence? Or, perhaps, it’s a very dry section of a computer program that does a very important but not very exciting thing. Perhaps your device is a surgical robot, or a temperature regulator, or a security algorithm.
The answer in all these situations is to anthropomorphize. Imbue the inanimate object with human characteristics: a name, a gender, a voice. Even cartoon characters can anthropomorphize inanimate objects as seen in this article by Jason Barnes giving high-tech objects human characteristics.
It is a dynamic to which those of us who’ve grown fond of our smart phone personal assistant or of our GPS system’s voices can attest. Why do you imagine that Apple introduced this function first by name (Siri), then by voice (soft, feminine) and only then by function (often imperfect). When our cable television or internet connection goes out, people are usually very irritated and intolerant. When our smart phone gives us inaccurate information or our GPS takes us in circles–we are bemused, confused, or even amused–but rarely as ticked off as with less personalized technology. This research would say it is because we have anthropomorphized our smart phone and our GPS.
So, did a widget or gadget cause troubles resulting in litigation? Give it a name!
Waytz, A., Heafner, J., & Epley, N. (2014). The mind in the machine: Anthropomorphism increases trust in an autonomous vehicle. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.01.005
The Jury Expert is a trial skills magazine for attorneys, written by trial consultants, and published by the American Society of Trial Consultants as a (free) service to the litigation community. The February 2014 issue just published and it was worth waiting for!
Here’s a description of what you will see in our latest issue when you visit The Jury Expert’s website:
The ABCs of Religiosity: Attitudes, Beliefs, Commitment, and Faith: Gayle Herde writes this practical article on how you can understand the role religious beliefs could play in juror deliberations. How to measure religiosity (by looking at attitudes, beliefs, commitment and faith), how to listen to responses in voir dire to “hear” religiosity without asking for direct expressions on the role of religion in a potential juror’s life, the relationship of political persuasion and religion, the role of non-belief, and how to structure your SJQ effectively.
Neuroscience, The Insanity Defense, and Sentencing Mitigation: Adam Shniderman gives us a very current, plain language review of the neuroscience arena. What does all the conflicting media coverage mean? What does the research really say? How can you best defend a client with neurological issues? This is a terrific summary of how to understand the “my brain made me do it” media coverage distortions, learn what the research actually says, and then plan accordingly.
A (Short) Primer on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Culture in America: Alexis Forbes brings us all up to date on research, why it’s important to understand this culture, and terminology. She includes helpful charts that visually demonstrate the relationships between common terms and even a “say this” and “don’t say that” graphic to help you communicate without offending. You may think you are up to date. Here’s a simple question: Do you know what ‘cisgender’ is? Go read this!
Defense Responses to Jailhouse Informant Testimony: Brittany Bates, Rob Cramer, and Robert Ray bring us this information on how to defend against allegations about your client by a jailhouse informant. From reviewing the literature to offering ideas for pre-trial research and SJQs, this is a practical article for when you are faced with damaging testimony from your client’s alleged jailhouse confidant.
Metaphors and the Minds of Jurors: We are very familiar with the power of the story model for case presentation but, according to Ron Bullis, we may not have paid as close attention to the power of the metaphor. Read this to learn how to listen for metaphors in deposition to hear (and know how to defuse) opposition arguments. This is a practical article that highlights the importance of the metaphor–how you can use the metaphor powerfully, and how you can defuse the power of opposing counsel’s metaphor.
Why Do We Ask Jurors To Promise That They Will Do the Impossible? Suzy Macpherson asks us to think about the impossibility of setting aside preconceived notions, life experiences, and values in order to be “fair and impartial”. This is a practical article that will leave you thinking about how to ask seemingly simple questions quite differently.
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The Top 10 Favorite Articles from The Jury Expert in 2013! Don’t you hate it when you don’t know about something many of your friends, colleagues, and opposing counsel know? Here’s a shortcut for you: This is a list of the top 10 articles our readers (your friends, colleagues and opposing counsel) explored in 2013. Catch up quick!
As Editor of The Jury Expert, one of the real benefits for me is reading all this information first. I love learning new things and being surprised by novel ways of considering complex issues. Please visit this new issue of The Jury Expert now.