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ToiletTexting-infographic2People take selfies at funerals and text during sex. Others text while in the shower or while using the toilet (which apparently is not just for newspapers and books any longer). And wherever there are social faux pas’ you can bet academic researchers are not far behind. In fact, today we have research on just when young adults think texting is unacceptable behavior (but do it anyway).

The research question may strike you as odd: “Is texting while in the shower, or during sex, or while going to the bathroom the new normal?” but on such odd questions, professorial tenure is granted. Participants were 152 students (88 women, 64 men; average age 19.7; 55.1% White, 21.1% Asian, 8.8% African-American, 6.8% Hispanic, 2.7% Middle Eastern, and 5.5% other) at a “mid-sized university in the northeastern US”. Students completed the survey online and responded to questions about their texting behavior and what they saw as an appropriate situation/environment for texting. Their responses provide an amusing, sometimes surprising and disconcerting, view into their texting behaviors.

More than 1/3 (34.3%) reported sending or receiving 100 or more text messages a day. They reported checking for text messages an average of every 3.78 minutes (with one checking 200 times an hour!).

Students rated a number of situations as socially acceptable for texting. They thought for example, it was socially acceptable to send texts for flirting and romance, to stay connected to friends, to escape boredom, and while going to the bathroom.

Of note is that 83.3% had sent texts while going to the bathroom.

There were many texting situations not deemed socially acceptable but often done regardless of acceptability. For example, texting during class was not acceptable, but 84.7% had done this. Texting in the shower is unacceptable and 34% have done this. Texting during the Pledge of Allegiance is unacceptable and 11.3% have done it. Texting while having sex is unacceptable and 7.4% have done it. Talking to a friend and texting another at the same time is unacceptable and between 79% and 84% have done it. Texting one person in whom you are romantically interested while on a date with someone else is unacceptable and 21.5% have done it. Breaking up by text is unacceptable and 26% have done it. Sending text messages while at a funeral is unacceptable and 10.1% have done it. Texting during a job interview is unacceptable and 2.7% have done it. Fighting with some via text is unacceptable and 66% have done it. Sexting is unacceptable and 42% have done it.

Overall say the authors, texting is obviously an important means of communicating. They conclude by saying:

“Text messaging is not necessarily creating a new culture—a new normal—but it is conducive to allowing someone to believe they transcend social boundaries or that those social boundaries do not apply to them in the texting moment”.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this study tells us how ubiquitous texting is for young adults across many different types of situations. Whether having sex, using the toilet, taking a shower, talking to a friend, or interviewing for a job—texting may happen whether it is seen as socially acceptable or not. This should likely be, as we say in Texas, “cause for pause” as to the effectiveness of the courtroom directives to not communicate about a case during trial.

Harrison, M., Bealing, C., & Salley, J. (2015). 2 TXT or not 2 TXT: College students’ reports of when text messaging is social breach The Social Science Journal DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.02.005

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Hipsters, SnapChat, Beer Goggles, and Pain 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
posted by Douglas Keene

hipsterHere is another post detailing things you simply must be aware of but to which we don’t wish to devote an entire post. These might be seen as water-cooler topics or simply things that make you a much more interesting conversationalist. Or something like that.

Why hipsters all look the same (it’s just math)

You know you’ve wondered about this and now (thanks to us) you have the answer. The hipster tries to be a unique individual, but, over time, we (the non-hipsters) begin to emulate their dress and it ends up in collective conformity, says Paul Smaldino in the journal Royal Society Open Science. You can read about this in the actual math-heavy article, or you can read a summary over at Discovery Blogs where they conclude with this life-altering statement:

“Your self-expression may make you look like everyone else, but it could also throw a fork in the cultural evolution of the entire world.”

Drink alcohol and be at your most attractive

You know about the idea of beer goggles, wherein an adequate level of alcohol consumption make others look more attractive (at closing time). But did you know that drinking also makes you look more attractive to the sober observer? At least if you don’t over-do it! Researchers had sober people look at two photographs of the same person—before and after consuming a “low dose of alcohol”—and indicate which photograph the sober person thought most attractive. Two “small glasses of wine” made people seem more attractive but four of those same “small glasses of wine” made them less attractive. The authors speculate about this finding. “In addition to perceiving others as more attractive, a mildly intoxicated alcohol consumer may also be perceived as more attractive by others. This, in turn, may play a role in the relationship between alcohol consumption and risky behavior.” Using alcohol to enhance charm appears to be a slippery slope.

Gender, pain and internet commenters

Here’s another interesting experiment written up at The Crux blog. To the long-standing debate over whether males or females have higher pain tolerance, here is an answer: it is men. At least according to this (male) writer. He does comment that the heightened sense of pain women experience is made worse by bias: “According to research, nurses devote more time to treating a male patients’ pain. It’s also why, when they wake up from surgery, women get fewer pain killers, weight for weight, than men”. There are other interesting factoids in the post and the comments from readers are an interesting read. Off-topic comments by trolls are just not a thing at this blog’s site!

Jealousy? Facebook yes, but Snapchat? More!

As the younger generation departs Facebook for Instagram, Pinterest, and the “self-destructing app Snapchat”, it should not come as a surprise that academic researchers are not far behind. We’ve all seen the studies of Facebook and divorce or relationship breakups—but Snapchat may end up being even more powerful than Facebook in this regard. Researchers examined whether Snapchat or Facebook use elicited more jealousy and found that Snapchat did since “Snapchat was used more for flirting and finding new love interests”. This is, according to the authors, the first direct comparison of Snapchat and Facebook. There will likely be more to come.

Utz S, Muscanell N, & Khalid C (2015). Snapchat elicits more jealousy than facebook: a comparison of snapchat and facebook use. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 18 (3), 141-6 PMID: 25667961

Smaldino, P., & Epstein, J. (2015). Social conformity despite individual preferences for distinctiveness Royal Society Open Science, 2 (3), 140437-140437 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.140437

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democrat-republicanToday’s researchers are finding political party differences consistently on hot button issues. They simply ask if political affiliation is Republican, Democrat, or Independent, and have found it predictive. In case this paragraph is the only part of this post that you read, we hasten to add [spoiler alert!] that while on some cases it is useful to know (especially those involving tort reform issues or other politically linked controversies), there is often no predictive value related to party affiliation.

These researchers commissioned an October 2013 national survey with 2000 respondents (i.e., registered voters interviewed online) to see if Americans see science as relevant to policy making/writing. They were particularly interested in “how political attitudes, along with religious faith and education, impact views about the proper role of science in shaping public policy”. What they found was that, “most Americans view science as relevant to policy, but that their willingness to defer to science in policy matters varies considerably across issues”.

The results of this paper are complex and we are only going to focus on how they found Republicans and Democrats to be different. The survey asked about 16 different issues (with many of them being potentially divisive): embryonic stem cell research, fetus viability, global warming/climate change, gay adoption, childhood obesity and diet restrictions, AIDS prevention, birth control education, legalizing drug use, mandatory health insurance, regulation of coal production, mandatory background checks for gun permits, producing biotech food and crops, regulation of nuclear power, animal testing for medical research, mandatory childhood vaccinations, and teaching evolution and the origins of humans.

And here is what they found:

Republicans and Democrats do disagree across all 16 items surveyed with Democrats much more likely to defer to science across all 16 issues. It is not that Republicans are anti-science. It is that Democrats are very pro-science and willing to defer to scientists strongly on almost all policy issues.

Republicans and Independents have only slight differences in their responses about deference to science on policy issues. What this survey shows is that Democrats stand alone while Republicans and Independents have a more similar  perspective on scientific findings as the foundation for public policy.

What the researchers say is that identifying as Democrat is connected to a strong, pro-science stance but identifying as Republican is not indicative (at all) of being anti-science. Instead, religious beliefs and political ideology (whether you see yourself as liberal or conservative) is more important than political affiliation.

The researchers think the majority of the American public is comfortable deferring to science on public policy issues and indicate that identifying as Republican was only correlated with decreased willingness to defer to scientific opinion on gay adoption and mandatory health insurance and those decreases did not reach statistical significance.

In short, they conclude, if you want Democrats on your side, use scientific research to back up your policy positions.

From a litigation advocacy position, we see this as indicative of the importance of not making assumptions that your Republican jurors will be conservative and anti-science. While it appears you can make the assumption that Democrat jurors will be very pro-science, you cannot make the opposite assumption about Republican jurors. It is far more likely to come down to attitudes, values and beliefs—and not demographic categories like gender, race, and politics.

Blank, J., & Shaw, D. (2015). Does Partisanship Shape Attitudes toward Science and Public Policy? The Case for Ideology and Religion The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 658 (1), 18-35 DOI: 10.1177/0002716214554756

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female serial killerOur posts on women stalkers are often listed in internet searches that bring people to our blog. Women stalk. Women also kill. In fact, it is believed that about 16% of serial killers (about 1 in 6) are female. Although it is hard for many to see women as capable of extreme crimes like murder, the researchers whose work we feature today have no such illusions. [If you can’t wrap your brain around that notion, we suggest you spend an evening alone in your house with all of the lights turned down, and watch the film Monster, an account of the convicted female serial killer Aileen Wuornos.]

“Contrary to preconceived notions about women being incapable of these extreme crimes, the women in our study poisoned, smothered, burned, choked, shot, bludgeoned, and shot newborns, children, elderly, and ill people as well as healthy adults; most often those who knew and likely trusted them.”

This is a chilling article to read (likely because of our stereotypes of women as nurturing caregivers). The researchers used murderpedia.org to identify female serial killers and then followed up with research in newspapers, police reports, et cetera. They were able to verify every female serial killer listed in murderpedia.org as having killed in the United States between 1821 and 2014.

They ended up with a sample of 64 female serial killers who killed in the United States and were almost entirely (98.4%) born in the US as well. Here’s what female serial killers (FSKs) look like in the United States:

Most were White (55, 88.7%) with six (9.7%) being Black and one (1.6%) Latina.

They were married (54.2%), divorced (15.3%), widowed (13.5%), in long-term committed relationships (8.5%) and single (8.5%).

Some were well-educated with a third (34.6%) having college degrees, 19.2% had some college or post-high-school professional training, 15.4% were high school graduates, and 30.8% dropped out of high school.

They held a wide variety of jobs including nursing, teaching, and prostitution. Many (39.2%) worked in health-related positions (such as nursing, nurse aides, or health administration). Others (21.6%) had other direct caregiving roles (babysitter, homemaker with children). The remainder (39.2%) were employed in a wide variety of jobs ranging from “farmer, gang leader, custodian, prostitute, psychic, drug dealer, and waitress”.

On average, they were about 32 years old when they first began to kill, but the age range was from 16 to age 65 so there is considerable variation. Similarly, they had an average “killing time span” of 7.25 years but the range was from all murders being committed in a single year to murders committed over a 31-year period. The 64 FSKs in this sample averaged 6.1 victims with a range of 3-31 victims.

Nearly 40% in the sample experienced some form of mental illness, while nearly one-third (31.5%) had been either physically or sexually abused (or both) by either parents or grandparents in childhood, and by husbands or long-term partners in adulthood. Even in the absence of diagnosed mental illness, the authors report “dysfunctional personality characteristics” such as lying, manipulation or insincerity in many FSKs. It’s hard to imagine being surprised that serial killers might be insincere.

Most commonly they killed for financial gain but they also killed for power, revenge, notoriety, and excitement. Women did not generally sexually assault their victims, nor did they tend to mutilate or torture like we see with male serial killers.

Their tendency was to kill both men and women (67.3%) with some killing male victims only (20%) and others killing female victims only (12.7%).They knew all or most of their victims and, in fact, were related to most of their victims (e.g., their children, their spouse, fiancé, boyfriends, mothers, mothers-in-law, fathers, aunts, cousins, and nephews). In every case, they targeted at least one victim who had little chance of fighting back (e.g., a child, the elderly, or the infirm).

The upper class (socioeconomically) was rarely represented (4.3%) with most FSKs being middle class (55.3%) and a few less being lower class (40.4%).

Their most common method of killing was poisoning (they are four times more likely than men to drug their victims).

A summary table from the article itself shows the range of killing methods used by FSKs.

FSK post insert

 

 

 

 

In short, women (like men) kill. But, say these researchers, women tend to kill for resources (e.g., profit, comfort, control) while men kill for sex (e.g., rape, sexual torture, mutilation).

Harrison, M., Murphy, E., Ho, L., Bowers, T., & Flaherty, C. (2015). Female serial killers in the United States: means, motives, and makings The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 1-24 DOI: 10.1080/14789949.2015.1007516

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firesetterThere is a lot of literature on fire-setters but not, apparently, on how psychotic fire-setters differ from those who are not psychotic. As it turns out, there are some significant differences.

Researchers in The Netherlands examined the records of 124 fire-setters (30 psychotic and 94 non-psychotic) sent for pretrial forensic mental health assessments between 2000 and 2010. They were largely male (107 males and 17 females) and on average 32 years old. The researchers compared characteristics in the records and found these differences:

Psychotic fire-setters were older, more often single, more likely to set their fires alone, and more likely to be unemployed. They had a more “extensive and intensive” history of mental health care with higher levels of psychiatric admissions and were more likely to carry diagnoses of psychotic disorders. They had more problems with soft drugs (like cannabis) but showed fewer issues with alcohol. This group set fires for reasons related to their psychosis (e.g., delusions) and were more likely to set fire to their own property. They were often described as “pure fire-setters” (as in, that was all they did of a criminal nature).

Both psychotic and non-psychotic fire-setters were similar in having impulsivity and poor social skills. There were high levels of repeat fire-setting in both groups.

Non-psychotic fire-setters were more likely to have been physically abused as children and tended to set fires out of “anger and revenge or acting out and vandalism”. Non-psychotic fire-setters set fire to the property of others and were more likely to abuse hard drugs and alcohol. They most often set fires along with others and were often intoxicated when fire-setting.

The researchers are quick to point out the limits of their sample and to discuss differences between their findings and the findings in the prior literature. The differences between the two groups seem to be largely related to the mental illness in the psychotic group.

The mentally ill often do not have close relationships, and are often single and unemployed.

Those who start fires based on delusional beliefs are likely to act alone rather than with a group.

If fire-setting is triggered by delusional beliefs, it makes sense that fire-setting would be their only or primary criminal activity.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the psychotic fire-setter needs mental health treatment and medication. If the psychosis is controlled, the fire-setting should stop when the delusions cease or are minimized. The non-psychotic fire-setter, on the other hand, tends to set fires when intoxicated and with a group of intoxicated others. This fire-setter also needs treatment for substance abuse but a jury is more likely to see this defendant as having greater responsible than the psychotic fire-setter. Treatment options for the non-psychotic fire-setter are more likely to be secondary to their criminal sentence.

Dalhuisen, L., Koenraadt, F., & Liem, M. (2015). Psychotic versus non-psychotic firesetters: similarities and differences in characteristics The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 1-22 DOI: 10.1080/14789949.2015.1018927

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