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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

2015 this and thatHere’s another collection of interesting tidbits that don’t rate an entire blog post on their own but that we think worthy of mention. Think of them as our contribution to your conversational contributions over dinner, drinks, or to fill that awkward silence that pops up unexpectedly.

Be thin, White and attractive for crowdfunding success!

It’s disappointing to read the research on leadership and find that still, in 2015, people think the best leaders are “tall men”. While I understood that finding back in the late 1970s, the idea that it still works today is disturbing. But that isn’t all! Crowdfunding is a big deal now and, if you are like me, some of you may have contributed to various crowdfunding projects to see worthy projects become a reality. So if you have a good idea and want to try crowdfunding—we have information on how you can succeed! Just be thin, White and attractive! How easy is that?! (And how sad.) The good news is that when only experienced investors are examined on crowdfunding sites, you don’t see this sort of biased financial support to the thin, White and attractive. Otherwise, it seems to track with a high school popularity poll.

Pupil mimicry: Yes, it’s a thing (and it leads to increased trust)

You know all that psychological research where they show that if you mimic someone’s posture or facial expressions you are seen as more likable and trustworthy? Well, here’s another one although it’s a bit odd. New research shows that if you mimic someone else’s pupil dilation (now how in the world can you do that intentionally?) during an investment game, they will trust you more. But! And this is a big but. It only works if you are both part of the same ethnic group. A check of the actual article (cited below) tells us the researchers think we mimic pupil size unconsciously/unintentionally which is a relief since we had no idea how to do it on purpose. On the other hand, if we mimic pupil size only to those of our own ethnicity—what does that say about our implicit bias toward those different from us? We imagine you can see how this is oddly intriguing, but not worth dwelling on.

Tough love performance reviews (in 10 minutes)

Some estimates place the improvement in performance following a typical performance review at about 3-5%. So here’s an idea from the Harvard Business Review blogs on how to increase the effectiveness of performance reviews (and perhaps shorten the time you spend on them). This article presents a 10 minute breakdown of the entire (tough love) performance review and it is never mean-spirited. The author says it has changed team dynamics, helped individuals understand how their behavior could keep them from being truly effective, and ultimately, helped the financial bottom line. This is well worth a read if you are interested in making your performance reviews more useful.

If you are often cold in the office, you are likely a woman

“Why?” you say? Because office cooling systems are designed for men who have higher metabolisms and generate more heat than do women. According to a recent article in Vox

“The formulas used to design and calibrate most heating and cooling systems are based on a single estimate of the metabolic activity of a 40-year-old, 155-pound male.This formula for the human body’s level of comfort, created in the 1960s, made no attempt to take women or people of different sizes or ages into account — and hasn’t been touched for decades.”

A recent study in Nature found that if you use real women’s metabolic output (based on skin temperature) to program the air conditioning system, they were much more comfortable in their office building. (Of course, the men were likely wondering if the air conditioning was malfunctioning.)

Does your smartphone maybe know a little too much about you?

New smartphones have a lot of sensors and they can, if you have not carefully shut the sensors all off, they track how active you are physically, how much you sleep, and where you go on an average day. By comparing that data over time, your smart phone could know if you are depressed as a reflection of your behavior changes. Wow—really? You may lose interest in activities, sleep more or less, withdraw socially, and more. A new study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (who knew there was such a journal?) examined whether smartphones could identify your behavioral changes and conclude you were depressed. Sure enough! People who were more depressed had more irregular movement patterns (going to work at a different time each day while those who were not depressed left at about the same time each day). They also were less mobile and changed locations less. And in an odd twist, people who are depressed use their phones more often and for longer periods of time—not to make phone calls but to text, play games, read, or something similar. It’s something Louis CK knows all about based on this video from the Conan O’Brien show.

Kret ME, Fischer AH, & De Dreu CK (2015). Pupil Mimicry Correlates With Trust in In-Group Partners With Dilating Pupils. Psychological science PMID: 26231910

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no internet post insert 2015We know who they are and we’ve done a lot of pretrial research with them! It’s like walking backwards in time. Perhaps the most shocking example we’ve seen was one in very rural Texas which we blogged about in a post on working in very rural areas:

“Other very rural venues have shown us the extent to which the internet has passed by some Americans completely. At one site, of 36 mock jurors, only 4 had internet access. At another, of 48 jurors, only 11 had ‘smart phones’ while a majority didn’t understand the question. Most had “not heard of” Amazon.com’s website. One called a major social networking site, “the devil’s work” and others nodded somberly.”

Granted, this was about 5 years ago, but I am confident that this remains one of those corners of the “late-adopter” universe. You have to do a very different presentation for jurors who have never heard of Amazon and don’t know what you mean by “a smart phone”. Especially when smart phones have become pretty ubiquitous across the country. This disconnect from technology is the sort of information you want to know prior to trial since it can require a significant retooling of the case narrative for these jurors to understand the case facts—especially when the case is one of a high-tech nature.

Here is what the Pew study reported about those 15% of Americans who don’t use the internet:

34% of those who do not use the internet say it is because they have “no interest” or the internet is “not relevant” to their lives. 32% say the internet is “too difficult to use” and 8% say they are simply “too old to learn”. 19% said it was too expensive.

40% of older adults (65 and up) say they do not use the internet (compared to only 3% of the 18 to 29 years olds).

33% of adults with less than a high school education say they never go online.

Adults with household incomes below $30K a year are about 8x more likely than most affluent adults to not use the internet.

Rural Americans are about 2x as likely to never use the internet than are urban or suburban residents.

20% of Blacks and 18% of Hispanics do not use the internet compared with 14% of Whites and 5% of English-speaking Asian-Americans (which are the group least likely to be offline).

In other words, people who do not use the internet look identical to those in our large research project described earlier. And their world view is different from that of the urbanite/suburbanite. A woman in a mock trial referred to social media as “the devil’s work”. She was an older, White, retired schoolteacher who had apparently been distressed by the participation of students in social networking sites prior to her retirement. While her statement generated giggles and good-natured hisses from counsel who allegedly represented the devil (from the privacy of a closed-circuit viewing room)—there was no mirroring humor in the mock juror presentation room to her remark. They simply nodded with somber expressions. And after that understanding was seen (through the miracle of modern technology) in the observation room, all frivolity was gone. It was a big case with multiple defendants and they had all just realized they were not in “Kansas” (or New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, DC, Atlanta, et cetera) anymore.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, presenting a case to people who do not use the internet means you have to think about what you are going to say, examples you will use, effective metaphors, whether you will use computerized presentations or visual evidence boards, and so on. You need to be sure that what you say is understood by the listeners. If that isn’t a scary thing to you, it probably should be a scary thing. Once you step into rural America, you are likely to be unfamiliar with the world view shared by your jurors.

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It makes sense. If someone is rude to you, you might become grumpy and be rude in response, or rude to those who cross your path in the wake of the mistreatment. You may think of this as a small issue but new research shows us that rude behaviors are actually harmful—and, in fact, as harmful as other negative but illegal behaviors such as harassment or discrimination. This is not really a new finding as it’s been around since the initial introduction to workplace incivility. Some would say that workplace rudeness and workplace incivility cause the “death of a thousand cuts” and we would not disagree. While not fatal in and of themselves, the cumulative effect results in much distress. And if distress isn’t enough to promote change, it also produces job dissatisfaction, decreased productivity, and employee turnover. It’s about feelings, and it’s about money.

Today’s researchers wanted to figure out if rudeness in the workplace was contagious—much like the common cold. So they conducted three separate studies to explore this question.

In Study 1, the participants were 90 graduate students (average age 25; 65% White and 62% male) enrolled in a 7-week negotiation course. Over the duration of the course, students met weekly and were paired with up to 16 different classmates to practice various negotiation exercises. Following each negotiation exercise, participants completed an online questionnaire about their experience with the fellow student.

The researchers found that when the participant felt they’d been treated rudely by a negotiation partner, their own behavior toward future negotiation partners deteriorated. In other words—the rudeness contagion can occur on the basis of a single encounter.

For Study 2, the researchers wanted to see if being treated rudely would result in what they refer to as “activation of the associative network” for rudeness. Participants were 47 undergraduates (average age 20.35; 57% female; 68% White, 16% Hispanic, 8% Asian, and 4% African-American) enrolled in a management course. Participants arrived at the experiment in groups of six and first completed a personality questionnaire. That really was just a way to kill time though as the researchers were really more interested in what would happen after the “rudeness manipulation”.

After the 6 participants had all completed the personality questionnaire, there was a knock at the door of the experiment room and someone arriving late. The investigator was either rude to the late arrival (“I don’t know how you expect to hold any sort of job in the real world with this type of behavior but it’s too late for you now”) or not rude (“Email me later and we’ll see if we can find another session to get you in”). Then the real experiment began: participants did word identification tasks where they were asked to identify the category for each word (i.e., a rude word, a noontide word, an aggressive word, or not a word at all).

Individuals who’d seen the experimenter behave rudely responded to categorize the rude words more quickly than individuals who’d seen the experimenter behave politely. The researchers say that in this sort of task, a faster response time to rudeness words only means the concept of rudeness was activated by the experimenter’s rude behavior.

In Study 3, 147 undergraduate students in a management course (age range from 18 to 54 with a median age of 20; 68.5% White, 6.8% African American, 13.7% Hispanic, 7.5% Asian, and 3.4% “other”) were asked to participate in a study involving rudeness in the workplace. Participants were divided into groups and first saw videos of either an employee acting rudely (or politely) to a fellow employee. In the second stage, they saw emails of a customer addressing an employee rudely (or neutrally, or aggressively). After they had seen the videos and emails, participants were asked to decide how to divide up a reward for participation between themselves and a customer who’d expressed concerns (rudely, neutrally, or aggressively).

The results were similar to Study 2. Participants who saw the rude employee were more likely to not share resources equally with the customer whose email they’d seen. In other words, rudeness not only is contagious but also results in negative behavior from the person who was rudely treated.

Overall, the researchers conclude that rudeness is indeed contagious and that the contagion can result from a single exposure. Further, the contagion is not just about being verbally rude but can result in rude behaviors as well. The researchers recommend that workplaces pay attention to the “impact of low-intensity negative behaviors” like rudeness (or incivility). They believe that if these low-impact behaviors (e.g., rudeness and incivility) are not curtailed in the workplace, they will spiral into “higher-impact behaviors” with negative consequences (although employees may not understand the source of their rude behavior and may be unable to stop themselves from passing it on). The implication of this is that it can create a cascade of negative behavior, and result in a negative work culture that undermines job satisfaction and cooperation.

It’s an interesting study when considering the current-day law firm (or any organizational setting). While there are laws against harassment and discrimination, there are no laws against being rude or uncivil and many organizations simply tolerate rude behavior with a shrug of “that is just how that person behaves”. Yet, this research says that allowing rude behavior to remain in your workplace heightens the probability that you will see rude and otherwise inappropriate behaviors escalate until they potentially reach legal liability level. Unlike ten years ago, we now have tools to teach workplace managers so a workplace absent-rudeness can be achieved. It’s a worthwhile goal. For both worker happiness and the bottom line.

Foulk, T., Woolum, A., & Erez, A. (2015). Catching Rudeness Is Like Catching a Cold: The Contagion Effects of Low-Intensity Negative Behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology DOI: 10.1037/apl0000037

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group_discussion-300x157Want to see a lively argument? Ask a couple of legal professionals if jurors can detect deception in witnesses or parties— and then slowly back away. It’s a hotly debated topic with some saying “jurors usually get it right” and others pointing to reams of research saying no one is a very good lie detector.

We’ve written about deception a lot here and you are likely aware that accuracy rates in detecting deception are only slightly greater than chance (even among trained professionals). But today’s research may change your mind. This is terrific news!

While individuals are never that great at figuring out when someone is lying—groups do better at figuring out deception. But if you are nodding and muttering “the wisdom of the crowd” under your breath—that isn’t why. Instead, it appears to be something about the actual process of group discussion that improves the accuracy of lie detection.

The researchers who carried out experiments described in the article featured here today say there are three reasons a group might detect deception better than individuals. They cite the “wisdom of crowds” effect; the “truth bias” (individuals are more trusting than groups and groups will more actively consider that anyone who is talking is being deceptive more often); and the idea that the very act of group discussion can offer additional information to increase accuracy in lie detection.

The researchers conducted a series of studies. They tested small lies (aka “white lies) and large-stakes or intentional lies. Experiments varied whether individuals or groups of people were determining whether lies were being told. In some experiments, participants made individual decisions about deception without discussion, and in others groups discussed and then made group decisions about deception. What the research found is simple (and cause for rejoicing unless your client is the liar).

Groups were better at detecting both small “white” lies as well as high-stakes or intentional lies.

Groups were not simply maximizing the “small amounts of accuracy contained among individual members” but, say the researchers, “were instead creating a unique type of accuracy altogether”.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this research supports the “jurors usually get it right” perspective but it also tells us something very important: there is a certain magic in jury deliberations. Thus, it’s important you teach jurors how to deliberate so their work is efficient and effective. While the researchers featured here today don’t know just how the magic happens, it is clear the magic does happen during group discussion (aka jury deliberation). It is a compass pointing to Truth that is unavailable in bench trials, and arguably in arbitrations as well.

It’s also another vote for the jury system—a group listens and talks and intuits and proclaims (more accurately than any individual).

Klein N, & Epley N (2015). Group discussion improves lie detection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS], 112 (24), 7460-5 PMID: 26015581

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facebook creeperYou’ve likely run across the statistics on Facebook being the cause of many divorces or relationship failures as unhappy individuals reunite with past loves lost. There is also of course, often heartbreak as online loves turn out to be not quite who you thought. Now Facebook is also implicated in prolonging the unhappiness after a relationship breakup with 88% (!) of Facebook users “creeping” ex-partners. Imagine a darkened room, a pint of ice cream, a laptop with a high-speed connection, and you are never far away from seeing what your ex is up to now that you are no longer part of his or her everyday life.

Researchers in Canada asked 107 participants (ranging in age from 18 to 35 years with an average age of 23 years) who reported relationship breakups in the past 12 months to complete questionnaires and participate in a structured face-to-face interview on the relationship between Facebook ‘creeping’ and their ongoing distress following relationship breakup. On average, these participants reported their (now defunct) relationship had lasted 2.29 years (with about half having broken up in the past six months and the other half having broken up 7-12 months prior to the study).

In brief, here is what the researchers found:

The more “creeping” (also referred to as “internet electronic surveillance”) one does, the more emotional upset is reported related to the breakup.

The most commonly distressing factor was the ex-partner’s Facebook profile and 88% of the participants reported “creeping” their ex following a breakup. When the participant had remained Facebook friends with their ex, 100% monitored the behavior of the ex after the breakup.

“A breakup without Facebook, you can’t really see what your ex is doing, but with Facebook you just have to click and you know exactly what they’ve been up to. That’s a little frustrating.”

The second distressing factor was the Facebook “relationship status” feature. Changing the relationship status to “single” after “in a relationship” involved multiple questions from “friends” (for 62% of the participants) which raised distress level.

“In some weird way, it kind of feels like you’re breaking up all over again when the status comes down. It angered me at the time that something as trivial as a Facebook status could make me feel so shitty.”

The third distressing area was content posted on Facebook by the participant’s ex-partner which was then seen in the participant’s newsfeed. Participants seeing new content found themselves ruminating over happy memories and wondering why the relationship had ended. Unexpectedly, those who “unfriended” their ex on Facebook had more emotional distress than those who kept the ex as a Facebook friend. For some, like the participant quoted below, “unfriending” helped manage the emotional distress but that was untrue for the majority of participants.

“I would say pull off the Band-Aid as quickly as possible and block the person if you’re finding it as painful as I did to see their continuing existence in your sphere. You’ll immediately feel better, or at least I did.”

It’s an intriguing study that highlights the differences in breaking up in public as opposed to having a private (non-Facebook) breakup. While it is easier to keep up with family and friends on Facebook—it is also more painful post-breakup since your “relationship status” trumpets your pain to all your Facebook friends. The more “creeping” done, the more emotional distress experienced.

The authors also developed a new scale to measure Facebook distress related to creeping an ex after a breakup. The scale does not appear to be named yet but here are a few items from it:

I over-analyze old messages, wall posts or photographs of me and my ex together.

I can’t help feeling angry about content my ex posts on Facebook.

I feel paranoid that people posting on my ex’s wall are potential romantic interests.

Looking at my ex’s Facebook page is self-destructive.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it seems important to recognize the power of a relationship breakup disclosed through social media, and the identification young people in particular could have with a party publicly shamed, belittled, discarded, or otherwise rejected. In this case, social media (i.e., Facebook involvement) makes the emotional pain last longer and be more intense and it is likely that shame feeds the flame of that sense of public rejection or perceived failure. Every time a Facebook post is re-mentioned (like, for months on end following a breakup when yet another person comments about it after not checking their timeline in a while) it can be traumatizing. If someone feels that they were wrongfully terminated (or are just embarrassed about it) and they get questions about the change in their LinkedIn status from “District Manager at Acme Industries” to something less clear, it can be very difficult for them to explain. That which was once self-promotion can quickly blow up. It’s a potentially powerful theme for case narrative. And it raises questions about how a company might want to guide the use employees make of social media when it involves references to employment status.

Lukacs, V., & Quan-Haase, A. (2015). Romantic breakups on Facebook: new scales for studying post-breakup behaviors, digital distress, and surveillance Information, Communication & Society, 18 (5), 492-508 DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1008540

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