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Archive for the ‘Bias’ Category

Time for an update on who lies, why they lie, and how you can spot them. We’ve written a lot about deception in the past but there’s always more to say (believe it or not). We’re going to cover several articles in this post and discuss each of them briefly so you can explore the items in greater depth if they strike a chord of interest.

60% of us lie in everyday conversation 

When we think of liars, we often think of “them”. But new research out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst says it is more common than not to lie routinely and often. The study used 121 pairs of undergraduates who were told the purpose of the study was to examine how people interact when they meet someone new. They all had ten minutes to converse but some were told to make themselves seem likable, some were told to make themselves appear competent, and others (the control group) were not told to present themselves in any specific way. After the interaction, the research participants were shown videotapes of the interaction and asked to point out any lies they had told.

The researchers found that, in their research sample, “60% lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two or three lies”.

It’s hard to say if this rate of lying would occur in interactions where no one is told to behave or present themselves in a certain way. But it makes it clear that if you are trying to make a good impression, you may lie more often than not. And if you are talking with someone who is likely attempting to impress you, take their claims with a grain of salt.

Spotting a liar

We routinely see how-to articles on spotting a liar but it is easier said than done. Here’s one from NBC News that tries to summarize the research on deception but ends up sensationalizing the results a bit (aka perhaps lying). They say that if you say you never lie, you are a liar and they comment on how poorly people fare when they attempt to detect deception. And then they give you “five steps to becoming a human lie detector” and give glossy explanations of how to understand the research. We think this one is worth your time if you want a quick overview of the research and want to see how people learn their information and misinformation on spotting deception.

Are scheming and dishonesty just part of being human?

Finally here’s an article from National Geographic on “why” we lie. This is a really wide-ranging article that shares a lot of information on various types of lies and liars as well as the motivations for lying by various people. It will teach you a lot about hoaxers, con artists, and visual artists that try to fool you, and enlighten you on things that are, in fact, lies—but also very cool and funny. It’s a weirdly wonderful journey through the neuroscience of lying and all the motivations behind various kinds of lies. They even get to fake news and its proliferation as well as the advantages to us of all the technology available to us—and the reality that technology has opened up “a new frontier for deceit”.  And if you want even more, there is a good writeup in The Guardian of a pathological liar who was also very bright and a medical researcher. Despite his accomplishments, he just couldn’t stop lying.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, these are important areas on which to keep informed. It is important to maintain an awareness of what jurors see as “indicators” of deception—whether those indicators are truly indicative of deception or not. The more you know about what people assume, the better you can prepare witnesses and the better you can monitor your own distracting non-verbal behaviors that might just make some juror solemnly declare to others in the deliberation room that you were obviously lying in your closing statement.

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Today’s highlighted research looks at ways to communicate with people who ignore evidence that contradicts their beliefs and values. This tendency is called “dogmatism” and essentially reflects one’s (un)willingness to revise their beliefs when presented with new evidence. And some people simply will not revise their beliefs no matter what the evidence! We’ve all seen it—the self-appointed expert who knows they are right while others are so very wrong. In fact, we’ve seen it so often in pretrial research that we wrote a post on a way to dethrone that self-appointed expert.

This is a very interesting study that may be much more broadly applicable to cherished beliefs in general (e.g., your eating habits, your political opinions, and your beliefs about climate change and evolution) rather than only to religion (which is what these researchers studied). In brief, the researchers looked at what factors drove dogmatism in people who were religious versus those who were not religious.

And they found a strange similarity: Regardless of whether you were in the religious or not-religious group—if you were a critical thinker, you were less dogmatic. But when you factor in moral concerns—the two groups have very different responses.

For religious people, emotional resonance (i.e., something that ‘feels’ right to you) results in more certainty—if a position is more morally correct from their perspective—the more certain they feel.

So, the researchers say, to effectively communicate your information, you should appeal to the religious dogmatist’s sense of moral concern. Identify their strongly held position, and support the way it applies to your case, and emphasize that “wrong is wrong”.

For nonreligious people, a position involving moral concerns actually results in less certainty.

For this group, the researchers say, to effectively communicate your information, you should appeal to the non-religious dogmatists unemotional logic. Reinforce the moral position (to the extent that it is widely held) and offer the evidence and reasoned judgment that everyone wants.

The researchers also say that whether the person was religious or not, the more rigid the individual (whether rigidly religious or rigidly logical)—the less likely the person was to be empathic (i.e., consider the perspectives of others).

From a litigation advocacy perspective, you want to be able to talk to both extremes (the religious dogmatist and the nonreligious dogmatist). Of course in an ideal world, you would not have people with strong dogmatism and/or rigidity on your jury. Since the world of voir dire and jury selection is an imperfect one, you want to build both moral concerns and logic into your case narrative.

This research really focuses on what we have talked about and blogged about for many years. You need to tell a story that resonates with the strongly held beliefs and problem-solving approaches to which jurors relate. Without appearing to pander, talk about moral right and wrong. For the dogmatic and non-religious jurors, go through the evidence that establishes the case. But you can also anchor it to the moral guideposts that the religiously dogmatic rely on, it deepens the connection.

The result of getting it just right is that both personality types will hear you supporting their sensibilities for reaching a verdict.

Friedman, JP Jack AI 2017 What makes you so sure? Dogmatism, fundamentalism, analytic thinking, perspective taking, and moral concern in the religious and nonreligious. Journal of Religion and Health.

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It is once again time for one of those combination posts that give you scintillating information you know you want to know. Think of these as fun factoids—that you can also use in casual conversation to amaze and educate your friends (or just make them look at you oddly).

The new ‘Educated single women over 40 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to get married’ belief 

If you are female and were reading Newsweek back in the 1980s, you may remember their early June 1986 cover illustrating this post. And you certainly remember the hubbub raised by the story itself.

Newsweek magazine waited 20 years to retract a 1986 story that educated 40-year-old women have “as much chance of marrying as being killed by a terrorist,” even though they knew it was bogus. The story became part of popular culture, mentioned in movies and television, and caused many women to panic.

Now however, in 2017, we have a new fear to replace this one—and this one is brought to us by Newsweek’s competitor, Time Magazine. Forget about settling so you can get married. In 2017, “Americans think a major terrorist attack on US soil is more realistic than Republicans and Democrats working together”. That is pretty scary so we’ll move on. Quickly.

Atheists just can’t win—even fellow atheists judge them harshly

A few years ago we did extensive research on attitudes toward atheists and ended up publishing a few blog posts and a full-length article on our findings. The level of negative attitudes and beliefs directed at atheists was very strong. Apparently, things have not improved much for atheists in the intervening years. According to a study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior and summarized at BigThink’s website, “atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous”. The research was conducted across 13 countries on 5 continents and participants self-reported their religious status (religious, agnostic, or atheist). Standardized measures were used to determine whether participants had an anti-religious bias or an anti-atheist bias. Here is what the researchers say about their sample:

“We conducted identical experiments in all 13 sites. We targeted at least 100 participants per experimental condition (anti-atheist bias versus anti-religious bias). There were a total of 3,256 participants for final analysis (69% female, age 16–70 years: mean = 25.07, s.d. = 7.84), with a median of 162 participants per country (range: 129–993). “

Here is how BigThink’s summary describes the research task:

The study’s participants had to react to a fictional situation where they were told to judge a serial killer who mutilated homeless people. Tellingly, when they had to guess the likelihood of the evil character being an atheist or a religious believer, the participants were twice as likely to suppose the sadistic serial killer was an atheist.

One of the surprising findings in this research was that while (as expected) religious people were biased against atheists, fellow atheists were as well. That is, even atheists were more likely think atheists were the “sadistic serial killer”.

Racism and online harassment and the problem of racism in American society

Recently we blogged about the problem of online harassment and included the reality than 1 in 4 Black Americans have faced online harassment because of their race or ethnicity. Now Pacific Standard’s website tells us that “more Americans consider racism a ‘big problem’ than they have at any other point in the last two decades”. In specific numbers, 58% of Americans believe racism is a pervasive issue in 2017. They base the article on a new August 29, 2017 survey out of the Pew Research Center which we also encourage you to read.

You really can do something to sharpen your brain in later life

By now, you’ve probably read the critics of companies promoting their ‘brain games’ as a way of keeping yourself sharp and cognitively clear in later life. So, as it turns out, you don’t really need those new-fangled tools to sharpen your brain. Just do crosswords and other word puzzles!

According to ScienceDaily (summarizing research out of the University of Exeter in the UK) “the more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life”. Lest you think this is a small-scale study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over. The study shows there is a link although it can’t tell us just what that link is. We’d say, keep doing that crossword puzzle!

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The graphic illustrating this post contains false data. It is just one example of the way false information has been used to heighten racial tensions in the past few years. The graphic is shown here with FALSE in big red letters to help you remember the data shown is simply not true (we’ve blogged about the importance of this visual strategy before here.

The information contained in this post IS true and comes from a new Marshall Project investigation into 400,000 murders by civilians between 1980 and 2014. They begin the report with these bold statements (which are backed up by actual data). Keep in mind that these statistics DO NOT include police shooting of citizens.

When a white person kills a black man in America, the killer often faces no legal consequences.

In one in six of these killings, there is no criminal sanction, according to a new Marshall Project examination of 400,000 homicides committed by civilians between 1980 and 2014. That rate is far higher than the one for homicides involving other combinations of races.

You may not find this statement as difficult to believe now given the racial tensions exploding all around us in the US but it is still alarming evidence suggesting that Black lives are less valued than other lives. This is not an isolated phenomenon:

“The disparity persists across different cities, ages, weapons, and relationships between killer and victim”.

This is a very important report for you to read if you want to understand the actual numbers surrounding the killing of Black men by White people who are not employees of law enforcement organizations. (That one is a whole different post!)

First, it is important to understand just what is considered a “justifiable homicide” and the Marshall Project defines the concept this way:

Little large-scale research has examined the role of race in “justifiable” homicides that do not involve police. The data examined by The Marshall Project are more comprehensive and cover a longer time period than other research into the question, much of which has focused on controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws.

In the United States, the law of self-defense allows civilians to use deadly force in cases where they have a reasonable belief force is necessary to defend themselves or others. How that is construed varies from state to state, but the question often depends on what the killer believed when pulling the trigger.

“If there are factors—even if they’re stereotypes—that lead the defender to believe he’s in danger, that factors in, whether it’s a righteous cause or not,” said Mitch Vilos, a Utah defense lawyer, gun rights advocate and the author of “Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States.”

As hinted at in the excerpt above, the Marshall Project Report highlights the reality that stereotypes and fears not based in facts may result in wrongful killings that are then not punished accordingly because “it was a mistake”. We wrote about these sorts of irrational fears and stereotypes in an article published after the Trayvon Martin killing as well as on the blog. You can see the full article which was published in The Jury Expert here: The ‘Hoodie Effect’: George, Trayvon and How it Might Have Happened.

Here are a few facts presented in the report (which, again, is based on actual data from the FBI and not just made up to inflame emotions).

The vast majority of killings of Whites are committed by other Whites, and the overwhelming majority of killings of Blacks is by other Blacks.

But killings of Black males by Whites are more than 8x as likely as all others combined to be labeled justifiable [killings].

In comparison, when Hispanics killed black men, about 5.5 percent of cases were called justifiable. When whites killed Hispanics, it was 3.1 percent. When blacks killed whites, the figure was just 0.8 percent. When black males were killed by other blacks, the figure was about 2 percent, the same as the overall rate.

Since this report is about killings labeled as “justifiable”, it doesn’t even address wrongful convictions of Black Americans. For that, you can review this March 2017 report from the University of Michigan: Race and wrongful convictions in the United States..

The actual report contains many graphics showing how the numbers compare to each other and the graphics are eye-opening (to say the least). If you want to be fully informed on the facts involved when it comes to race and murder in the US, you need to read this brief report.

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An effective way for women to #humblebrag 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
posted by Rita Handrich

We have blogged a number of times on the problems with humblebragging. Observers see you as insincere and self-involved. But Forbes recently published an article that just may allow you to promote yourself as well as promoting others. The practice of effective self-promotion for women is strewn with pitfalls. A well-known example is that women will offer ideas that are ignored in group discussion and then when a male colleague says the same thing—the idea is often embraced. Last week we posted on the challenges faced by female and minority managers and this strategy may be a good way around that dilemma.

The idea is a simple one: repetition. And we know it works based on research. The problem is that if you repeat yourself too often (either in meetings or in court) your input will likely be discounted. This strategy gets around that issue as well. And the idea is simple and just requires simple strategies:

Team up with your co-workers to humblebrag about each other.

How? There are several basic steps:

Amplification: First, know each other and reinforce each other’s good ideas in meetings. The article uses an example from the Obama administration. Women in strategy meetings were often not heard, so they banded together to do what they called “amplification”. When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it and give credit to the original woman. When this was done, a man in the meeting could not then take credit for the idea.

Brag Club: This is not like a Fight Club. A brag club is where you share your successes and attendees agree to promote the accomplishments of colleagues across the organization. Every month, you meet to update each other and change the content of the messages about you and the other members of the group that are shared across the organization.

Social Media Promotion: We are used to self-promotion on social media. This philosophy encourages you to promote each other on social media. Tweet about each other’s accomplishments and share and ‘like’ professional accomplishments on various social media platforms.

Get a mentor. This one has been around for a while. Choose someone credible and we would say, based on this research, choose someone who is demographically different from you.

Keep a success journal. Sometimes it’s hard to recall your achievements and successes. At the end of each week, make time to enter your achievements on a list so that you are aware of things you have achieved. Schedule regular meeting with your supervisor and keep them updated on the results of projects on which you are working. Use the journal at your monthly brag club meetings.

Overall, the idea of humblebragging on others (while others humblebrag on you) is a terrific idea.  But in truth, what is being proposed here is more meaningful—it is creating a culture of mutual appreciation and respect. You don’t get penalized for tooting your own horn while pretending not to, but, word of your successes—and those of others who share your ethos of mutual respect—spreads. It is possibly a way to avoid the penalties non-White and female managers receive when they promote other minorities within the organization. Have others you trust promote you through a coordinated network within your organization.

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