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Archive for the ‘Case Preparation’ Category

It is very cold outdoors (even in Texas) and it is time once again for a number of important things we decided did not merit an entire post but wanted to share. Think of it as a series of holiday gifts for you…

Ever wonder why white-collar criminals did what they did? 

Wonder no more. The Atlantic has an article by a writer who spent much of the last seven years trying to sort out why respected executives would choose to engage in fraud, embezzlement, bribery and/or insider trading. It is a fascinating read although these are not redemption stories and here’s a shocker: there are liars among those white-collar prisoners! If you wonder how these former executives weighed the costs and benefits of illegal activities—the answer is, mostly they did not. They simply did not think of consequences. The author concludes with a quote that may make you blink a few times:

“What we all think is, ‘When the big moral challenge comes, I will rise to the occasion’, but there’s not actually that many of us that will actually rise to the occasion,” as one former CFO put it. “I didn’t realize I would be a felon.”

Scientists can predict what sort of iPhone you own based on individual characteristics

At least they think they can. According to a Science Daily write-up of the article, iPhone users are more likely to be: younger, more than twice as likely to be women, more likely to see their phone as a status object, more extraverted, and less concerned about owning devices favored by most people. In contrast, Android users were more likely to be: male, older, more honest, more agreeable, less likely to break rules for personal gain, and less interested in wealth and status.

Good to know—I guess those white-collar criminals were non-traditional iPhone users. You can review the entire text of this paper (free) online. We aren’t validating or endorsing their findings, we’re just your humble messengers.

Raise your salary with this negotiation strategy: A dumb joke (which is not really what this strategy is)

Back in 2011, we blogged about research on how to negotiate a higher income. Now the Science of Us blog has resurrected that article and instead of calling the effect the generally accepted “anchoring effect” they apparently decided that they would reinterpret that finding as “you can tell a dumb joke” [i.e., “I want a million dollar salary”] and raise your salary in negotiations.

There’s a name for the conventional wisdom about starting with a high number: It’s called anchoring. As in, the first number that gets tossed out is the one that anchors the discussion, the number with the most influence over how things eventually play out. And according to the study that the APS highlights, published in 2011 in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, that holds even when the first number is something clearly ridiculous, like saying you want a million dollars for a job that obviously won’t pay anything in that ballpark.

When we track back the links on the Science of Us post, it seems there was a recent NPR interview that cited this research and so they were simply passing it on. So, that crack about your salary expectations doesn’t qualify in our book as a dumb joke but so it goes. Here’s a really stupid joke that we don’t think will raise anyone’s salary: What was a more important invention than the first telephone? The second one.

And the real lesson here is not what constitutes a stupid joke but rather, if you want to hear news like this research result in a more timely (not to mention accurately interpreted) fashion—just keep reading us. We actually read and don’t just recycle.

You will feel pain with this one and find yourself nodding your head and thinking of more…

Sometimes we see things on the web that are just begging to be shared. This one is from David Shall at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is actually a video titled “The Secrets of Memorably Bad Presentations”. He even mentions the idea of telling a bad joke (but he doesn’t want you to really do that). Enjoy.

The audio on the video is horrible (likely not intentional) so if you want to read a quick list of his points you can visit Retraction Watch. If you choose to do this, PLEASE read the comments on that page as they make you feel the pain of horrible presentations even more acutely.

Shaw, H., Ellis, D., Kendrick, L., Ziegler, F., & Wiseman, R. (2016). Predicting Smartphone Operating System from Personality and Individual Differences Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19 (12), 727-732 DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2016.0324

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2016.0324

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We’ve seen the reports of hate crimes skyrocketing—both in general, and specifically for Muslims. Now a new report says the self-reports of discrimination from Latinos have doubled in the past decade. The study used data from the National Latino Health Care Survey (a telephone survey of 800 Latino adults completed in 2013). The lead author says this is particularly chilling given the verbiage used during the US presidential elections toward immigrants and immigration. In a news release on the article, the lead author says the research suggests an “increasingly negative immigration policy environment and anti-immigrant sentiment is likely to engender higher levels of discrimination”.

Here are some of the main points in the article:

68.4% of the survey participants reported discrimination. This is comparable to the level of discrimination reported by Blacks in the US (although more than twice as high as the rate found in 2002-2003—which was 30%).

More anti-immigrant state level policies were associated with higher levels of discrimination (perhaps because the government was seen as sanctioning discrimination against immigrants).

Both foreign and US-born Latinos were stigmatized by anti-immigrant policies.

Although anti-immigrant policies are not about health, they can negatively impact health (in part through exposure to increased discrimination).

The authors conclude their article by saying this:

As the recent political rhetoric serves to further marginalize (Latino) immigrants, and comprehensive immigration reform remains a political topic, it is more important than ever to understand the health impact of anti-immigrant policies on all Latinos.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, as Texas-based trial consultants we have always seen anti-immigrant sentiments [typically surrounding questions of legal status] in our pretrial research and have blogged about it a number of times. What this says to us is that, regardless of where your case is to be tried in the US—you need to pay attention to anti-immigrant sentiments if your client, the parties, the witnesses, or you yourself—are non-White. You will need to evaluate whether race or ethnicity is salient to your case and then make decisions about how to best advocate based on that reality.

Almeida, J., Biello, K., Pedraza, F., Wintner, S., & Viruell-Fuentes, E. (2016). The association between anti-immigrant policies and perceived discrimination among Latinos in the US: A multilevel analysis SSM – Population Health, 2, 897-903 DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2016.11.003

Article is available open access at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352827316301471

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It’s a great question just in general in terms of thinking about events that have shaped you as an individual. For us though, it’s a great question because it also speaks to generational differences (a favorite topic of ours!).

As each of us grows up, major events happen and they are called (in generational research speak) “defining moments”. They are seen as shared experiences for generational groups who were all there and experienced the event in varying (but nonetheless) life-altering ways.

So what are your own defining moments? The first moon landing? The Vietnam War? The first great depression? The second great depression? 9/11? The JFK assassination? The MLK assassination? The fall of the Berlin Wall? Stonewall? Woodstock? Watergate? The Challenger explosion? The Enron scandal? The prime mortgage meltdown? The Obama election? The recent presidential election results?

While each of us may have a few that are idiosyncratic or individual—the bulk of our “defining moments” will be those shared with others despite the fact we may never have met those “others” or discussed these events. Recently, Pew Research Center asked Americans for their individual 10 most significant events of their lifetimes.  The answers, as you might expect, reflect views through the lenses of individual respondent’s lifetimes—although 9/11 over-shadows all other events listed. Other events naturally show up on the radar of older people (such as Watergate or the Reagan election) but are not within the lifetime of the younger respondents. Here are the top 10 events listed across all respondents in the Pew survey: 

Those that surprise you are those that were not on your radar (either due to your age or priorities). But—and this is why we admire Pew Research—they do not stop with a simple rank order listing of the important events in the lifetimes of respondents to their survey. They go on to divide us up into various generational groups:

The Silent and Greatest generations remember WWII.

The Boomers remember the assassination of JFK and Vietnam.

Millennials and Gen Xers focus on 9/11 and the election of Obama.

Further, five of the Millennial generation’s Top 10 defining moments do not appear on the Top 10 for any other generation. You will want to read the article to see more on this but we will tell you which five are not on any other generation’s top list (Sandy Hook, the Orlando/Pulse nightclub shootings, the death of Osama bin Laden, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Great Recession). It is testament to the power of age and developmental phase when it comes to how defining moments are experienced.

Participants were also asked to name the historic event that made them feel proudest of their country and the events that made them most disappointed in their country. While the “I was disappointed in America” responses are more partisan than the others, it is an intriguing list to peruse. Finally, Pew looked at responses by “race and ethnicity, gender, income, education, political party, and region of the country”.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is a fascinating example of how differently we see and experience and evaluate major events differently (depending on our phase of life, age, geographic location, and our attitudes, beliefs, and values–and it is required reading for anyone wanting to keep up on attitudes of importance to potential jurors.

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As Editor of The Jury Expert since 2008, I’m happy to share the table of contents of our new Winter 2016 issue! As always, The Jury Expert is brought to you free of charge by the excellent trial consultants who write for us and by the academic researchers who take their time to summarize their research and share it so we can use it in our day-to-day work for litigation advocacy.

Trial Consultants, TV Law, and a Load of Bull

Richard Gabriel takes a close look at the new television show ‘Bull’ and muses about how the show does and does not represent reality as well as how it may affect perceptions of the justice system by potential jurors (who do watch TV).

What Television Can Teach Us about Trial Narrative

Stepping back, Richard Gabriel teaches us how television shows (like ‘Bull’ but certainly not limited to ‘Bull’) can help us craft more effective courtroom narratives.

Juries, Witnesses, and Persuasion: A Brief Overview of the Science of Persuasion and Its Applications for Expert Witness Testimony

Rebecca Valez, Tess M.S. Neal, and Margaret Bull Kovera team up to offer a primer on persuasion. What modes of persuasion will work best in the testimony of your expert witness? Then we have trial consultant responses from Jennifer Cox and Stan Brodsky, John Gilleland, and Elaine Lewis and a final reply from the authors.

Graphics Double Comprehension

Jason Barnes succinctly tells us how graphics can result in your words telling a much more effective story–even doubling comprehension of the listener.

Making It Moral: How Morality Can Harden Attitudes and Make Them More Influential

Andrew Luttrell offers this intriguing strategy (based on his research) to make attitudes stronger and more influential. Trial consultants Sonia Chopra and Charli Morris react to his work with commentary on how they would use this research in day-to-day litigation advocacy.

The Hidden Lives of Court Reporters

They are always present and always silent. But what is going on in the minds of those dutiful court reporters as they type everything said in cases ranging from the mundane to the traumatizing? Claire E. Moore, Stanley L. Brodsky, and David Sams talk to court reporters and share their perspectives and coping strategies.

More Techniques for Uncovering Juror Bias before It’s Too Late

Mykol Hamilton and Kate Zephyrhawke share how to uncover bias in change of venue surveys in criminal cases by using alternate wording for time-honored questions that result in very different answers (and higher bias).

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While you may think you have heard this line recently, this is really (based on new research) what most of us think about ourselves. It is called the “better than average effect” and it is very persistent. We might smirk at politicians who actually say things like this aloud, but that’s only because we tend to keep those thoughts to ourselves. We (persistently) view ourselves as just better than others, and of course, two new research studies underscore this point.

The first study (Tappin & McKay) recruited 270 adults and asked them to judge the desirability of 30 traits representing agency (e.g., hard-working, knowledgeable, competent), sociability (e.g., cooperative, easy-going, warm) and moral character (e.g., honest, fair and principled). Participants also were asked to indicate how desirable the trait was. how much this specific trait described both the average person and how much it described themselves.

While the agency and sociability traits were rated variably, almost all the participants rated themselves much higher on moral character than they rated the average person.

In an intriguing secondary finding, while the researchers found that overall self-esteem was not related to feelings of superiority, overall self-esteem was related to a sense of moral superiority.

In the second study (Howell & Ratliff), researchers used data from the Project Implicit website where people take various psychological tests that measure unconscious or implicit biases. They focused on people who took tests involving weight biases (these are tests that ask how much you—and the average person—prefer thin people to fat people).

Once again, participants rated themselves as less biased against fat people than the average person was and when given feedback that they were indeed biased against fat people, they were defensive. The more they had rated themselves as unbiased, the more defensive about fat bias feedback they were. They were then asked whether they thought the test was valid—unsurprisingly, they did not think it was valid since it contradicted their self-assessments.

The problem with this belief that we are better than others, both in terms of moral superiority and in our belief that we are less biased than others (which apparently we all share) is that it stops us from honestly assessing ourselves. Therefore, we are prevented from taking action to combat our own prejudices and biases (since we don’t think—or won’t admit—that we have them). Typically, when we hear information about those who are biased or less good than we are, we presume the speaker is talking to “those other people” and tune out.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, these studies have important implications for witness preparation, case narrative, and voir dire. We have discussed the importance of knowing when to raise juror awareness of their own biases and when to stay silent on this blog before. We’ve also posted before on when “playing the race card” works and when it doesn’t work.

This research seems to indicate the importance of using those previously published guidances to direct your decisions about witness preparation, voir dire and case narrative in your specific case. Additionally, it will be important to share “redeeming” information on your client’s involvement in positive activities and your client’s life reflecting the values shared universally by jurors (e.g., family, community, education, volunteerism, et cetera).

Tappin, B., & McKay, R. (2016). The Illusion of Moral Superiority Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550616673878

Howell JL, & Ratliff KA (2016). Not your average bigot: The better-than-average effect and defensive responding to Implicit Association Test feedback. The British Journal of Social Psychology. PMID: 27709628

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