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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Phubbing_creationIt’s time to run down some articles that are curious, but not substantial enough to justify a full blog post. Once again, we have kept a few pearls in our virtual filing cabinet, and have combined them here for your curiosity and possibly entertainment. This is one of those combination posts that will offer you conversation topics and also, this time only, give you hope for the future when it comes to reading. So, if you want more water-cooler conversation fodder or more material that cements your reputation for knowing very weird trivia, get ready to take notes.

Phubbing makes you unhappy (so knock it off already!)

Phubbing is the practice of “snubbing your partner in favor of your phone” and you add an extra ‘p’ to the word (Pphubbing) if the partner involved is actually your romantic partner. This is the first time we’ve heard of this word so we’re guessing the 2012 advertising campaign for which it was coined wasn’t really that successful. But we all know when we’re doing it, and when we are having it done to us. In the research study cited at the bottom of this post, they found that Pphubbing was a particular problem for those with anxious attachment styles, and that pphubbing related to depression through relationship satisfaction and even life satisfaction. So. It hurts them and makes you feel bad. Put the phone done and make some eye contact. Unless, of course, that message is very important and you are really, really busy…

FOMO (Oh no!)

While we know it is unlikely, you may have forgotten our post on FOMO—“fear of missing out”. FOMO is “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you”. Apparently it hits young people harder than it does older folks. There’s a Texas A&M University authored suggestion for combatting FOMO over at Science Daily.

Will this finally end blonde jokes?

Probably not, but if you missed the extensive media coverage about blonde women having higher IQs than non-blonde’s—here is a link to the original article asking the question, Are Blondes Really Dumb? from the open access journal Economics Bulletin. We do want to comment that the IQ scores in the article are not statistically significant differences. Actually, Vox recently took this article to task and has a pretty heated critique on the research. But the headline is inflammatory, so it got wide attention.

People still read for pleasure!

A new paper has just been released by the Brookings Institution analyzing more than 400,000 digitally recorded stories to see what holds our attention in 2016. If you’d rather look at a summary of the report, Poynter has an exceptionally nice one. In brief, to hold our attention an article doesn’t have to be short; readers are not indiscriminately drawn to images or photos; and doing your research thoroughly pays off. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to the negative predictions we often hear about the future of reading for pleasure.

Roberts, J., & David, M. (2016). My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 134-141 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.058

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mckayla_impressed_ap_328Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney had a bad day at the Olympics in 2012 and the facial expression illustrating this post went viral. She was “not impressed” said the internet—and today’s researchers would say the internet was half right. What McKayla Maroney was really showing us, according to today’s research, was the universal “not face”.

Researchers from Ohio State University wanted to know if there was a universal facial expression that spans multiple cultures. They found one and McKayla’s brief expression captures it perfectly. The researchers wanted to see if they could find clues to the evolution of spoken language. It is apparently a common belief that, before humans developed language, we had a collection of facial expressions to communicate emotions. So the researchers filmed 158 Ohio State University students while speaking in their native languages. The researchers used participants who spoke in English (a Germanic language), Spanish (based in Latin), Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language (ASL).

Past research had established that facial expressions of anger, disgust and contempt could be found in all cultures. The researchers wondered if the three universal negative facial expressions had been combined over time into a single negative facial expression. And yes it has. Here is what the researchers call the “universal not face”. You will note the similarity to McKayla’s “not impressed” face. The researchers describe the expression like this:

It consists of a furrowed brow, pressed lips and raised chin, and because we make it when we convey negative sentiments, such as “I do not agree,” researchers are calling it the “not face.”

not face

Even in American Sign Language (ASL), the researchers found the “not face”. The researchers explain the word “not” can be signed with hands or it can simply be indicated by a shake of the head. However, sometimes, the researchers found, the “not face” was occasionally used in ASL without either the hand sign for “not” or the head shake. In other words, at times in ASL, the only way you know that the word “not” has been used is from the expression these researchers call the “not face”.

This study required hours and hours of painstaking frame-by-frame video analysis. The researchers now plan to automate the painstaking study of thousands of frames of films they analyzed while completing this study and then analyze one billion frames (for 10,000 hours of data) of YouTube footage of people speaking in an attempt to identify other “facial grammatical markers”. If you’d like to read more about this study, Newswise has a nice writeup.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we think the lesson here is clear. If jurors listen to you with this expression (which is, as you recall, a combination of anger, disgust and contempt) it is likely not a good thing for your case. We’ve all seen this look. Most of us have probably mimicked this facial expression. Now it has a name and we can fear it in the jury boxes not just in the United States but of the world.

Benitez-Quiroz CF, Wilbur RB, & Martinez AM (2016). The not face: A grammaticalization of facial expressions of emotion. Cognition, 150, 77-84 PMID: 26872248

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manipulatorWe’ve written a lot about those with what are called the “dark triad” of personality characteristics. Narcissists. Psychopaths. Machiavellians. These are not people we recommend doing business with—either personally or professionally. Their only interest is self-interest. So this is an interesting study as it shares a possible way to inoculate yourself against these untrustworthy folks who can be (for brief periods of time) quite persuasive and charming.

Here is how the authors of today’s article describe those with dark triad personality characteristics:

They “are callous and interpersonally exploitative. [snip] Psychopathy is related to an antisocial lifestyle, Machiavellianism to  calculated manipulation and being goal-oriented, and narcissism to grandiosity and self-adoration.”

Or as my kids would say, “they will cut you”. In short, they are not nice people and cannot be trusted. The authors note that there is ample evidence of exploitative behavior from these “dark personalities” in face-to-face interactions but that no one has yet explored whether their negotiation skills will be preserved when forced to negotiate in a text-based (“computer-mediated”) environment (which would delete their interpersonal presence and non-verbal behavior).

To cut to the chase, what the researchers found was that when you take away the impact of interpersonal presence—dark triad personalities are much less persuasive in text and they are much less threatening to those intimidated by interacting with them face-to-face.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it is unlikely you will be able to conduct actual negotiations via text. However, if you end up in mediation, remember that much of the bluster of the machiavellian, the manipulation of the psychopath, and the preening behavior of the narcissist will be eliminated when they are interacting with you not in person, but through the mediator.

Make yourself think concretely—not “what does that really mean?” but, “what was offered?”.

If you find yourself feeling threatened or charmed, remind yourself that the person embodying the dark triad is not in the room; give yourself time to step back and consider how to respond.

The reality of the dark triad character is that there is a large display of style but not much substance. When you distance yourself from their interpersonal impact (by texting, memorandum, or an interacting through an intermediary) they simply become bad people, but not particularly productive, persuasive or threatening people at that.

And when you have to interact in person, say in the courtroom—focus on being as likable, sincere, and straightforward as you can and trust that the jury will see your genuineness. The contrast will be refreshing for them. You are there to do a job for your client and that means advocating for them and not focusing on the malevolence of your opponent.

Crossley, L., Woodworth, M., Black, P., & Hare, R. (2016). The dark side of negotiation: Examining the outcomes of face-to-face and computer-mediated negotiations among dark personalities Personality and Individual Differences, 91, 47-51 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.052

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rich chocolate cake cutMuch like the chocolate cake staring at you from the dessert tray in that fine restaurant, the narcissist initially seems irresistible—but like the cake, when you indulge in a relationship with the narcissist, you will probably end up sick to your stomach. It’s called the Chocolate Cake Model of narcissism. And it’s  how today’s researchers begin their article on leaders who are narcissists:

“The first bite of chocolate cake is usually rich in flavor and texture, and extremely gratifying. After a while, however, the richness of the flavor makes one feel increasingly nauseous. Being led by a narcissist could be a similar experience: Narcissists might initially be perceived as effective leaders, but these positive perceptions may decrease over time.”

When I was first studying personality disorders in graduate school, a professor discussed how in social interactions narcissists are often delightful for the first couple of dates, and rapidly become very burdensome.

Today’s researchers did two separate studies, one using a group of students who were strangers to each other (first semester, first year students in their first week at a university) and a second using a group of students who knew or had information about each other (third and fourth year students psychology majors at a university) to study the relationship between narcissism and leadership.

Yes, there could be an age component to the results, but hey—not everyone does much growing up during college. Arguably, there is a range…

Essentially, in each group, the student-participants completed measures of narcissism, leadership (using a measure described in this article) and transformational leadership (using a modified version of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire) at the very first meeting of a 12 week course. Then during the next 12 weeks each group was assigned weekly tasks to complete for points in a class competition. After completion of the weekly tasks, individual participants completed the leadership and transformational leadership questionnaires.

What they found will likely not come as much of a surprise if you have ever encountered a narcissist:

In the first experiment (where the student-participants did not know each other), initially the participants who were higher in narcissism were seen as good leaders. But that perception dissipated over time (the experiment ran for an entire semester).

In the second experiment, (with a group of students who were familiar with each other from majoring in psychology at the same school), those who measured higher in narcissism were not seen as good leaders initially but by the end of the semester their leadership capability was viewed negatively.

In other words, to strangers the narcissist was charming and thought to have strong leadership skills. Over time though, the narcissist was unable to maintain the pretense and stopped doing the things that initially curried favor with the group and was seen increasingly negatively over the course of the semester. Narcissists, say the researchers, always emerge as leaders in groups where they are unknown but over time, their leadership skills are seen to be lacking and they become increasingly unpopular.

When we are hired to work on a case, one of the early conversations includes a discussion of the style and manner of the attorneys, parties, and witnesses for both sides. A narcissistic witness often has a good bit of charm and initially comes across well. Over time, though, a skilled examiner can feed them enough rope for them to hang themselves on their own pride and arrogance.

What started out feeling bold and engaging devolves into shallow obnoxiousness (consider the current Presidential primaries for a case in point). Narcissists often love the limelight, but don’t realize when they have gone too far. A long trial (if it is an attorney or corporate rep) or a long examination (for the problematic witness) can grow old to jurors before it’s over.

Ong CW, Roberts R, Arthur CA, Woodman T, & Akehurst S (2016). The Leader Ship Is Sinking: A Temporal Investigation of Narcissistic Leadership. Journal of Personality, 84 (2), 237-47 PMID: 25487857

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internet_usage_statisticsWe work in venues from major metropolitan centers to counties with less than 20,000 people. Rural areas used to be where internet access and use was almost nonexistent in the past, but that is rarely the case any more. We’ve written about the reaction of our high-tech clients as they hear what rural mock jurors have to say about them, but we also think it’s important to remain aware of just how omnipresent the internet is among Americans. In truth, any case that may be influenced by internet issues needs to be examined carefully if the trial is set in rural America. The data on internet penetration and usage is changing so quickly that the profile changes dramatically from one year to the next.

“As part of the 2008 Broadband Data Improvement Act, the U.S. Census Bureau began asking about computer and Internet use in the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS). Federal agencies use these statistics to measure and monitor the nationwide development of broadband networks and to allocate resources intended to increase access to broadband technologies, particularly among groups with traditionally low levels of access. State and local governments can use these statistics for similar purposes.”

According to multiple sources (based on data that is at least a couple of years old), current computer ownership in the US is at 88.4% of all households. Internet use is at 78.1% across the US. They included this graphic in their report to illustrate the frequency of internet use by demographics.

Figure 2 internet use

Here are some narrative highlights from the most recent Census Bureau report on internet use in the US:

In 2013, 83.8 percent of U.S. households reported computer ownership, with 78.5 percent of all households having a desktop or laptop computer, and 63.6 percent having a handheld computer.

In 2013, 74.4 percent of all households reported Internet use, with 73.4 percent reporting a high-speed connection.

Household computer ownership and Internet use were most common in homes with relatively young householders, in households with Asian or White householders, in households with high incomes, in metropolitan areas, and in homes where house- holders reported relatively high levels of educational attainment.

Patterns for individuals were similar to those observed for households with computer ownership and Internet use tending to be highest among the young, Whites or Asians, the affluent, and the highly educated.

The Census Bureau report contains multiple facts and graphics on internet use and computer ownership across the country. This summary covers most of them but if you want additional information, look at the report itself.

Note:  The glaring omission in this study is cellular data. It is based on household computer use. For those under 30 (especially), smart phones and gaming consoles are major points of access for the internet. Some cable and satellite “television” providers are more accurately viewed as data streaming services, and offer direct access to the internet through their streaming platform.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, we think it’s important to always be aware of how different life (and the perspective of those living that life) is when the internet is not a daily part of your existence.

For attorneys presenting in those areas, the examples and analogies they use have to resonate with the lives of their audience and when you are an attorney representing a high-tech client—you don’t want to find out just how different those lives are when you are actually in the courtroom at trial.

Most of the time though, you will likely be presenting cases in venues where the internet ranges from commonplace to ubiquitous. Access to the internet is so widespread in the vast majority of trial venues that the question of internet access is often more a question of economics (with relatively poor people not having as much access to smart phones or computers) than age, gender, or race. Use this report to maintain awareness of how the internet is used differently by different people at different times.

Do not assume that all younger people are internet savvy or that all older people are not internet savvy. It is highly dependent on the individual (as well as their income and education) although, as seen in this report, the vast majority of Americans are internet users.

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