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“Smart people ask for (my) advice!”

Monday, September 15, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

smart people ask for adviceWe are often wary of asking for advice for fear of looking dumb or appearing incompetent. Oddly enough, our fears may be unfounded based on some new research out of Harvard Business School. According to the researchers, asking for advice does not make you appear either dumb or incompetent. Instead, asking for advice makes you seem more capable.

While initially this may seem unlikely, think about how much people love to give advice. When someone is asked for advice, they experience a boost in self-confidence, which, say the researchers, in turn enhances their opinion of the person seeking advice. It is, in truth, a win-win situation. The person asking for advice gets some feedback and they are seen as more competent while the person being asked for advice feels better about themselves (and about the person asking for advice).

The researchers (we’ve covered some of their earlier work here) conducted 5 separate experiments and here is what they found:

Asking for advice actually increases other’s perceptions of your competence.

When the task is difficult, asking for advice causes the person seeking advice to appear more competent than when the task is not difficult. However, even when the task is easy, seeking advice did not lower perceptions of the person’s competence!

When someone is asked for their specific advice, they see the asker as more competent. However, if they see the person asking someone else for advice, they do not see the advice seeker as more competent. The researchers believe there is a “direct flattery” component involved here since “being asked for advice caused advisors to feel more self-confident, and, in turn, to view the advice seeker more positively”.

Finally, the advice-giver needs to believe themselves competent and experienced in the area in which they are asked for advice. [Of course, a lot of people have an inflated sense of the scope of their qualifications…] If the advice seeker asks for guidance in an area of the advisor’s expertise, the advisor sees the seeker as more competent. However, if the advisor is obviously not experienced in the area, “then the advice seeker seems less competent than if s/he had not asked for advice” at all.

The researchers say our fears about appearing incompetent by asking for advice are unfounded and that, in truth, there are benefits to both being the advice-seeker and being the advisor. They believe that organizations benefit from encouraging advice-seeking as it will help spread useful information and improve relationships between colleagues and co-workers. The dilemma is that if you educate your employees on the advantages of advice-seeking to both the advice-seeker and the advice-giver–you run the risk of the advice-giver feeling manipulated and the advice-seeker wanting to “not be that guy/gal”. The authors do not offer advice to the manager looking for ways to build this dynamic into their office culture–they simply say it would be a positive and productive thing. (See the full text of the paper here.)

This explains why one of our favorite strategies for both debriefing mock jurors and conducting voir dire are so productive. At mock trials and focus groups, I introduce the process by sharing with the mock jurors my hope that through their collective wisdom we can tell the disputing parties and their lawyers what ‘real people’ think about the issues, and guide a resolution that doesn’t require a trial. It elevates them from being there for a couple hundred dollars to being there to solve a problem. They really like it. At trial, asking the venire questions framed in terms of “help me understand” and “Is that important to you?” makes them feel that you are seeking their perspective, not quizzing them or boxing them in. It credits them with having a contribution to make, that they are smart enough to have a valid opinion, and that you recognize the validity of their point of view. It’s not about you or your client at that point, it’s about the jurors. And that can’t hurt.

Brooks, AW, Gino, F, & Schweitzer, ME (2014). Smart people ask for (my) advice: Seeking advice boosts perceptions of competence. Harvard Business School Working Papers

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smartphone distractionsWe know smartphones can be really annoying when they distract our lunch or meeting companions from our scintillating repartee. There is even recent (2013) research showing women are twice as likely to be annoyed by smart phone interruptions as are men.

But that research is already a year old and perhaps we’ve gotten used to being ignored in favor of some unknown other. So here’s some very new (July, 2014) research showing that no, we have not gotten used to being disrespected as our companions choose their smartphones over us.

These researchers say that smartphones create a state of “polyconsciousness” wherein our attention is divided between the people we are with in person and those to whom we are connected by our mobile device. They examined the effect by going to “selected coffee shops” (surely it had to be Starbucks…) in the Washington, DC area and asking 100 random pairs of people (109 women and 91 men; average age 33; 72% Caucasian) to chat for 10 minutes discussing their “thoughts and feelings about plastic holiday trees” (a trivial topic) or discussing the “most meaningful events of the past year”.

Researchers observed “from a discreet distance” and documented if one of the people either put a mobile device on the table or held one in their hand. After the 10 minutes had elapsed, the two people filled out questionnaires about the conversation and about their conversational partner. The participants were asked to rate the closeness of their relationship on a Likert Scale (from “not at all close” to “extremely close”), asked how “connected” they felt to their companion during the conversation (via the connectedness subscale of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory), how “empathic” they saw their companion as being (via the Empathic Concern Scale), and their age, gender, ethnicity, and positive or negative mood (as measured by the Emmons Mood Indicator) so the self-report of mood could also be factored in to the results.

And here is what they found:

Of the 100 dyads, 29 dyads had mobile devices present and the remaining 71 dyads did not. (This is not to say that they didn’t have smartphones in a purse or pocket, but they weren’t ‘present’ during the conversation.)

If either member of the dyad placed a cell phone on the table or just held it in their hand, the “quality of the conversation was rated to be less fulfilling compared with conversations that took place in the absence of mobile devices”.

When mobile devices were present (on the table or in the hand), participants in the conversation also reported they felt their companion was less empathically concerned about them (and the closer they had rated their relationship, the more they felt the lack of empathy).

And get this: It didn’t matter if the dyad was discussing “festive holiday trees” or “important events”. The mere presence– not necessarily the use of– the cell phone was enough to cast a chill over the conversation, especially when the conversation is between close friends/confidants.

The researchers say that smartphones are just way too distracting since “in their presence, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and other worlds”.

It’s a fascinating series of results (and not just for the idea of how hard jurors would find it to not just “check something” or communicate with friends about what they are doing). It’s another reason to consider the ubiquitous presence of the phone and how it may affect the person with whom we are conversing. Whether it is a new client, a long-standing client, a co-worker, a significant other, or merely an acquaintance–everyone is effected by the mere presence of that smart phone. And if you should by chance stroke it, look at a message, respond to a message, or pick up a call….who knows what could happen?

Those of us who live (and in many cases sleep with) our phones tend to take them for granted and often use them to gather information without consideration of the impact on others. This research should give us all pause (as we say here in the heart of Texas).

Misra, S., Cheng, L., Genevie, J., & Yuan, M. (2014). The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices. Environment and Behavior DOI: 10.1177/0013916514539755

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why-we-lieI listen to a lot of audiobooks while traveling. But sometimes I want something less lengthy than a full book and so I turn to podcasts. Recently, I was on a plane and turned on an episode of the NPR TED Radio Hour podcast on Why We Lie. It’s an interesting and wide-ranging look at all the reasons we lie and the research that’s been done on identifying liars. Some of it we have covered on the blog and some of it was new to me. But it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour in the middle seat of a sold-out plane.

So when I saw the research report that inspired this blog post, I wondered just how differently these researchers would perceive deception from the more entertaining TED speakers (who, in some cases, were also researchers). Today’s researchers say having a face-to-face interaction promotes honesty. And they didn’t look at face-to-face interactions where there was back and forth conversation. Instead, they did a simple hallway face-to-face where two research participants exchanged a paper form indicating their gender and age (and were then more honest with each other during the experiment than the participants who did not have that face-to-face experience).

Researchers recruited 297 participants (148 were male) to participate in a task with another research participant. In the task, participants were informed that they would “engage in a one-shot strategic game with another research participant and that their payment would depend on the choices made by both players”. Participants then circled their gender and age on a written introduction form and either saw the other participant in the hallway as they exchanged introduction forms or were informed the experimenter would deliver the introduction form to their research partner. Then the individual participants chose whether they would send a truthful or deceptive message to their partner. (The message was telling the partner to choose one of two options because it would result in their being paid more money for participation in the experiment. The participant could either tell the truth or instead, send a message that was false to their partner.)

The research found that those participants who looked at another research participant (even without speaking) were more honest than those who did not see the other participant (since the form was ostensibly delivered by the experimenter).

While this research offers a feel-good answer that we want to believe (when people look at you, it’s harder for them to lie), not all researchers agree with it. It’s an interesting example of how research can find many different things even when researching the same topic. The TED Radio Hour podcast offers a variety of findings, some of which will surprise you (like, we are more honest in email with people we know than we are when on the phone).

When you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear Dan Ariely talk about how introducing some (even small) amounts of moral accountability can increase honesty but there is a slippery slope to which all of us are susceptible. In another segment, Pamela Meyer talks about how to spot a liar and how we practice various lying strategies throughout our lives. Jeff Hancock talks about whether technology makes us more honest or not, while Michael Shermer tells us why we believe in unbelievable things. Finally, Eric Mead talks about how magicians help us see reality in a very different way. Overall, it’s a quick and easy way to get a diverse understanding of what we now know about deception. The information is not all consistent, but it is consistently interesting.

Van Zant, A., & Kray, L. (2014). “I can’t lie to your face”: Minimal face-to-face interaction promotes honesty Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 55, 234-238 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.07.014

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immigration 2014We’ve blogged about immigration a number of times here and now it’s popped up again.  After the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, we found a question on attitudes toward immigration successfully differentiated between Plaintiff and Defense jurors for several years. Attitudes differentiating “us” versus “them” have always had utility when anticipating some kinds of juror attitudes, but the lines seemed to become more sharply drawn after 9/11/2001. The Christian Science Monitor recently published the results of a Reuters survey on attitudes toward immigration and cited the following:

70% of Americans (and 86% of Republicans) believe that undocumented immigrants threaten traditional US beliefs and customs.

63% said undocumented immigrants place undue burden on the US economy.

45% think the number of immigrants allowed to legally enter the country should be reduced and only 17% thought the number should increase.

17% see immigration as the #1 national problem (up from just 5% in July, 2014).

The authors of the CSM article think this sudden shift may be due to the 50,000 unaccompanied children apprehended at the border since October 2013. They also suggest that these revitalized attitudes against immigration may spur Republican votes in upcoming elections. The new Pew political typology report (and our interpretation of the key Pew findings to the jury trials) certainly highlights the “issue-specific” way in which voter turnout can swing in our “new normal” political environment.

It’s as though the political landscape is becoming more like the deliberation room, wherein the attitudes, values and beliefs of those gathered together can be more important than the actual evidence presented. Some of our most vociferous and verbal mock jurors actually have very limited information on the topic at hand. We always listen carefully and question thoroughly as to why they came to their expressed belief. That process typically results in their losing ‘authority’ in the discussion, because the emptiness of their reasoning is less persuasive than their passion. But their questions and comments offer us valuable information on how to patch holes in the case narrative so their loudness will gain little, if any, traction in the (unsupervised and unobserved) deliberation room.

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TJE_logoThe August issue of The Jury Expert is up and we think you’re going to want to see this. Here’s a rundown of the articles you’ll find at the website.

Demographic Roulette: What was once a bad idea has gotten worse. Authored by Doug Keene and Rita Handrich with a response from Paul Begala, this article takes a look at how the country has changed over the past 2 decades and our old definitions of Democrat or Republican and conservative or liberal are simply no longer useful. What does that mean for voir dire? What should it mean for voir dire? Two very good questions those.

If it feels bad to me, it’s wrong for you: The role of emotions in evaluating harmful acts. Authored by Ivar Hannikainen, Ryan Miller and Fiery Cushman with responses from Ken Broda-Bahm and Alison Bennett, this article has a lesson for us all. It isn’t what that terrible, awful defendant did that makes me want to punish, it’s how I think I would feel if I did that sort of terrible, horrible awful thing. That’s what makes me want to punish you. It’s an interesting perspective when we consider what makes jurors determine lesser or greater punishment.

Neuroimagery and the Jury. Authored by Jillian M. Ware, Jessica L. Jones, and Nick Schweitzer with responses from Ekaterina Pivovarova and Stanley L. Brodsky, Adam Shniderman, and Ron Bullis. Remember how fearful everyone was about the CSI Effect when the research on the ‘pretty pictures’ of neuroimagery came out? In the past few years, several pieces of research have sought to replicate and extend the early findings. These studies, however, failed to find support for the idea that neuroimages unduly influence jurors. This overview catches us up on the literature with provocative ideas as to where neurolaw is now.

Predicting Jurors’ Verdict Preference from Behavioral Mimicry. Authored by Matthew Groebe, Garold Stasser, and Kevin-Khristián Cosgriff-Hernandez, this paper gives insight into how jurors may be leaning in support of one side or the other at various points during the trial. This is a project completed using data from actual mock trials (and not the ubiquitous undergraduate).

Our Favorite Thing. We often have a Favorite Thing in The Jury Expert. A Favorite Thing is something low-cost or free that is just fabulous. This issue, Brian Patterson shares the idea of mind mapping and several ways (both low-tech and high-tech) to make it happen.

The Ubiquitous Practice of “Prehabilitation” Leads Prospective Jurors to Conceal Their Biases. Authored by Mykol C. Hamilton, Emily Lindon, Madeline Pitt, and Emily K. Robbins, with responses from Charli Morris and Diane Wiley, this article looks at how to not “prehabilitate” your jurors and offers ideas about alternate ways of asking the question rather than the tired, old “can you be fair and unbiased?”.

Novel Defenses in the Courtroom. Authored by Shelby Forsythe and Monica K. Miller, with a response from Richard Gabriel. This article examines the reactions of research participants to a number of novel defenses (Amnesia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Battered Women Syndrome (BWS), Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), Post-Partum Depression (PPD), and Gay Panic Defense) and makes recommendations on how (as well as whether or not) to use these defenses.

On The Application of Game Theory in Jury Selection. Authored by David M. Caditz with responses from Roy Futterman and Edward Schwartz. Suppose there was a more predictable, accurate and efficient way of exercising your peremptory strikes? Like using a computer model based on game theory? In this article, a physicist presents his thoughts on making those final decisions more logical and rational and based on the moves opposing counsel is likely to make.

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