Archive for the ‘Case Preparation’ Category
Research shows, even though it’s now 2013, that stereotypes of women as passive, not ambitious, and not energetic continue to abound. Researchers wondered whether the proportion of women in a mixed-gender group doing a male-stereotyped task would affect gender-related evaluations of the group process.
Researchers recruited 110 students (71 women, 39 men) enrolled in a graduate level introductory management course. The average age of the participants was 26.4 years and 52% of them were White. The 110 participants were divided into 22 different five-person groups. The number of women was varied in the groups: 2 of the groups had two women among the 5 workers, 13 groups had 3 women, and 7 groups had 4 out of 5 female workers. They were assigned a group task to “build a replica of a complex model made of Legos”. They were given 30 minutes to plan a strategy and then 30 minutes to build their replica. Once they believed their replica was complete, they presented it to the judges. If it was not accurate, it was returned to them without feedback on flaws.
Following successful completion of the replica, they filled out questionnaire about their experience working with the group. Ten weeks later, they were asked one question via a web-based questionnaire: “To what extent would you be willing to work with your Legoperson team on a graded group project?”. And here is what the researchers found:
The proportion of women in the group (whether 2 members, three members, or four members in the 5 person group) had no relation to performance on building the Lego replica.
In groups that had higher proportions of female members, group members rated each other as having contributed LESS to the task completion. (It did not matter if the rater was male or female. The more women in the group, the lower the level of individual contributions was perceived to be to task completion.)
In groups that had higher proportions of female members, group members also rated the group itself as less effective. (Again, it did not matter if the rater was male or female. The higher the proportion of women in the group, the less effective the group was rated.)
Finally, in the follow-up question task (to which 65% responded) groups with higher proportions of women were less willing to work together again. (And again, it didn’t matter if the rater was male or female. If there were more women in the group, members didn’t want to work together again.)
Let’s say that again. No matter if you were a male group member or a female group member–belonging to a group with a higher proportion of women and being assigned a male-stereotyped task meant you thought more negatively of individual group members, that you had a negative sense of group effectiveness, and that you were less willing to work with the group again. And all this when there was no difference in the actual objective effectiveness of the group in terms of task completion: all groups performed equally well, but the groups with more women felt less good about it.
It’s a disturbing study. Men denigrate women. Women denigrate women. The researchers suggest that perhaps it is because gender composition has impact on how the group functions so that even high-functioning teams with higher proportions of women may not wish to work together again.
Or, it could be that men and women members of groups with predominantly more women are evaluated negatively “by association”. That is, they are in a group largely composed of women and so are all negatively evaluated by each other. Perhaps, as the researchers say, it’s a case of “catching stigma” from all those women.
And all this with no actual difference in objective outcome. It’s all about subjectivity. How do I feel about this group and perceive this group’s effectiveness? It’s sobering to consider the impact of gender composition on work groups, special project groups, and on juries.
While more research is obviously essential, it highlights the importance of educating jurors (and work groups) on what is needed for successful task completion. The jury in the Rod Blagojevich trial was 11 women and 1 man and that jury was widely lauded for effective function. Given this research, it would be curious how the individual members of that jury would rate their group function, and whether they would like to work together again.
West, T., Heilman, M., Gullett, L., Moss-Racusin, C., & Magee, J. (2012). Building blocks of bias: Gender composition predicts male and female group members’ evaluations of each other and the group Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (5), 1209-1212 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.04.012
You’ve probably heard the story of Jonah and the Whale from the Bible. This, however, is a “big fish story” of a completely different kind and features an entirely different Jonah: Jonah Lehrer. If you have not followed Jonah Lehrer’s fall from grace here’s a brief description of what happened from Ethics Alarms:
“When we last looked in on writer Jonah Lehrer last summer, he had detonated his career and credibility with a series of incidents of serious professional misconduct that led to his ignominious firing from The New Yorker, where he once was regarded as a rising star. First he was caught plagiarizing himself, recycling a previously published work as an original essay for the magazine. That led to an investigation showing that this was not the first time he had taken such an unethical short-cut. Finally, it was discovered that he had fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his best-selling book about, ironically enough, creativity. When confronted about this, Lehrer lied. Soon he was out of a job and condemned to the limbo reserved for writers who deceive their readers: Jason Blair, Stephen Glass, James Frey, Janet Cooke, and others. It is not a pleasant or profitable place to be.”
From the beginning, Jonah Lehrer said he would apologize. But it never came. He was asked multiple times to apologize and he said, in effect, he was “working on it” while intimating he would write about why he had lied. Because of his history of saying “he would get to it”, many wondered why he had agreed to speak on his misdeeds recently. Why, indeed after stalling on previous requests? The tipping point for Mr. Lehrer appears to be exactly $20,000. In an ironic twist, the Knight Foundation, long known for quality journalism, offered Mr. Lehrer $20,000 to discuss his plagiarism and deception. (The Knight Foundation has since apologized for paying him and says they regret rewarding someone who violated the basic tenets of journalism.)
While Jonah spoke, a giant Twitter screen beside him filled with tweets castigating him, making fun of him, describing his apology as manipulative and self-serving, and ultimately, serving as a final humiliation. Here’s a screenshot of what it looked like on the Knight Foundation stage. Many writers stepped quickly forward to complain about Lehrer’s apology–pointing out it’s arrogant, conniving and misleading nature, how lucrative his apology was, how he should be apologizing not for intellectual dishonesty but for intellectual laziness, how his apology only fueled the anger toward him, how his apology and explanation was really a non-apology and a non-explanation, and accusing him of cashing in on his notoriety.
Ethics Alarm was perhaps the only website to say that Lehrer’s apology was a terrific one. But they were not rating him on sincerity nor credibility. The Ethics Alarms site has an Apology Scale that rates the ethical levels of various apologies. They say Lehrer’s apology is a Level One Apology–the highest level of ethical apology possible. Yet, alas for Lehrer, they wouldn’t hire him. Because no matter the artfully crafted language–no matter that his apology contained remorse, regret, and contrition–they just don’t trust him.
This is the fate of liars, once they are exposed—they never can completely regain their previous level of trust, except with the unusually kind, forgiving, and gullible. Yes, it is a magnificent apology, but if I had to choose, I would gravitate to distrust. I wish I didn’t feel that way. That does not diminish my admiration of Lehrer’s apology, however. I hope it is read, studied and recited in school. It is truly the ethical way to say, “I’m sorry.”
And often, saying “I’m sorry” even if artfully crafted–is simply not enough. Especially if you’re in the business of reporting the truth. It’s a good lesson for all of us as we issue apologies. Whether we are liars or not. Because ultimately, we are all responsible for reporting the truth.
Please feel free to join us in disbelief at this post title. How can this be? New research just released says, according to Pacific-Standard, Wal-Mart could expect more business from conservatives than from liberals. And why? Because conservatives prefer brand name products. Apparently, it isn’t about whether you prefer the clientele at one store or the other. Nor whether you think one of the stores is cleaner than the other. No. Just whether you are liberal or conservative. Hmmm.
Somehow this sort of statement seems like the old (and wrong) ideas that women jurors are always good for plaintiffs or Lutherans are prone to convict. So we had to take a closer look. For a start, we go to the actual research article rather than the main stream media publication where we found this headline about Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s.
The researchers gathered data from a “comprehensive scanner database that tracks weekly store sales of thousands of products”. Data were “obtained from 1,860 stores belonging to 135 supermarket chains and spanned a period of 6 years (2001-2006)”. Based on traditional dictionary definitions of conservatives as preferring the status quo and resisting change, the researchers expected conservatives to prefer name brand and existing products to either generic or newly released products. They used county-level Republican voting patterns and county-level data on religiosity (e.g., either being a member of a congregation or a non-member who attends services regularly) to identify conservatism in the various geographic areas data had been collected. The researchers indicate that the “correlations suggest that both Republican voting and religiosity capture aspects of conservative values, independently of each other”.
And what they found is indeed odd. In counties that were higher in conservatism (based on proportion of Republican voting patterns and religious attendance/adherence), more name brands and existing brands were purchased.
“Our empirical results, based on extensive field data, provide strong evidence that more conservative ideology is associated with higher reliance on established national brands (as opposed to generics) and a slower uptake of new products. These tendencies are consistent with traits typically associated with conservatism, such as aversion to risk, skepticism about new experiences, and a general preference for tradition, convention, and the status quo.”
There is, however, nothing in the article itself comparing Wal-Mart to Trader Joe’s and store preferences of liberal versus conservative shoppers. This is why it’s important to go to the actual article rather than accepting the popular media headline. It’s also why we only write about articles we actually see ourselves rather than giving you information about them based on second-hand sources. You just never know when what you are seeing in the popular media is accurate and when it is not. Consider the now infamous example of Jonah Lehrer.
In terms of litigation advocacy, we will say a few things. This study does not say that a good voir dire question for identifying conservatism would be “Do you prefer Wal-Mart or Trader Joe’s?”. However, knowing how religiously observant a potential juror is or whether they vote Republican could well be good screeners of conservatism, which may or may not be relevant to your case. Both of these are much less flashy than the Wal-Mart vs Trader Joe question. But they are likely much more substantive when it comes to actual results.
Khan R, Misra K, & Singh V (2013). Ideology and Brand Consumption. Psychological Science PMID: 23381562
We’ve all known for years that jurors look at standard jury pattern instructions with confusion and sometimes, abject misery. In our pretrial research, we often encourage the use of a simplified jury charge so we are sure jurors will understand the questions they are asked to answer (and so the meaningless boilerplate doesn’t take them an hour to slog through). When we use standard pattern charges in pretrial research, there are often questions about definitions, debate as to double negatives in a sentence, and confusion amongst the group over what is being asked and how (pray tell) it relates to the case.
It’s part of why we encourage trial lawyers to teach jurors how to read, understand and respond to the charge as part of their closing statement. But how do you find some straightforward and current research on just how confusing the standard pattern language is? Right here.
The latest issue of The Jury Expert contains an article by Rachel Small, Judith Platania and Brian Cutler titled Assessing the Readability of Capital Pattern Jury Instructions. And that’s exactly what the article does. The authors collected as many capital pattern jury instructions as they could (from 32 of 33 states currently allowing the death penalty). They point out the general reading level of the American population is fairly “basic”.
“Literacy levels are rated according to the following performance levels: Below basic, no more than the most simple literacy skills; Basic, the skills necessary to perform everyday reading tasks; Intermediate, the skills required to perform moderately challenging tasks; and, Proficient, the skills needed for complex reading tasks. Prose literacy, which measures the skills needed to understand and use information from continuous texts, is the form most applicable to jurors’ abilities to comprehend and apply sentencing instructions.
On average, prose literacy level of adults is identified as Basic – possessing the skills necessary to perform everyday reading tasks. Specifically, NAAL’s (2003) survey found that 29% of adults possess a basic level of prose literacy. Additionally, adults over the age of 65 were found to be more likely to receive a below basic score on the prose literacy tasks compared to other age groups. Based on this finding, it is likely that below basic levels of prose literacy are present in a substantial portion of venire persons retained for jury service.”
The language in standard pattern jury instructions does not match the likely reading level of jurors. Instead, the language is quite difficult to comprehend. The authors report that all of the state instructions were categorized as “difficult to very difficult” using the Flesch-Kincaid scoring guidelines.
We often tell our lawyer clients that we want them and any expert witnesses to be “really good middle school science teachers”. They have to speak at a level that is clear and educative as well as accurate. That level of instruction gives jurors a sense of understanding and comprehension that helps them to wade into subject areas that are challenging and complex. During mock trial research, we often hear jurors express surprise that they were able to grasp such complicated information. They are able to grasp it because the attorney and the witnesses are speaking a language that is understandable to the individual jurors.
When jury instructions are written at a level best understood by those with college educations and the level of literacy in this country is quite a ways below that standard–there is a problem. You can use this research to buttress an argument that the language is too difficult in standard pattern instructions. If that fails, you can use this research to remind you to teach jurors how to interpret the charge, point by point by point.
Small, R., Platania, J., & Cutler, B. (2013). Assessing the readability of capital pattern jury instructions. The Jury Expert, 25 (1.)