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Archive for the ‘Decision-making’ Category

The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) Scale

Friday, September 12, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

Fomo-Meme 2Social media applications have made it much easier for us to know what our friends are doing. While this knowledge can have positive benefit, it can also result in a paralyzing fear of missing out (popularly known as FoMO). FoMO has even made the Oxford Dictionary and is defined there as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website”. Researchers in 2011 and 2012 defined FoMO as “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”. The researchers from today’s article define FoMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent” and say that “FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected  with what others are doing”.

FoMO is apparently one reason people are so drawn to multiple social media sites. Someone who actively uses Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Instagram and Pinterest (for example) could be experiencing FoMO (along with not having time to perform an actual job). FoMO could also be a reason behind the obsessive checking of smartphones during actual face-to-face conversations. There are multiple articles devoted to overcoming FoMO. Obviously FoMO is a serious problem for some people, so it is good academics have come to our rescue and developed a scale (the first) to measure the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO).

The researchers developed a 10-item Fear of Missing Out Scale and their results indicated something shocking: “the young, and young males in particular, tended towards higher levels of FoMO”. Further, they mention those high in FoMO tend to use Facebook during university lectures and compose and read emails and texts while driving. You may wonder what sorts of questions are used to measure something as clearly destructive as FoMO. We are here to serve. This is a 10 item measure and we will share 4 of those questions with you so you have a sense of the kinds of questions that will measure FoMO. These questions are rated on a 5-point Likert scale of “not at all true about me” to “extremely true of me”.

I fear others have more rewarding experiences than me.

I get anxious when I don’t know what my friends are up to.

Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time keeping up with what is going on.

When I go on vacation, I continue to keep tabs on what my friends are doing.

From our perspective, it makes sense that this is a phenomena largely experienced by the young. Social media activities can take a tremendous amount of time if you really engage in it. The preoccupation with all things social media is a constant concern for trial lawyers and court personnel who worry about what we used to call the Google mistrial. The one benefit of the FoMO Scale we can see for litigation advocacy is the way the scale designers asked about social media involvement.

Rather than asking if participants used social media platforms, they asked very specific questions. They asked participants if they used social media “within 15 minutes of waking up”, “while eating breakfast”, “when eating lunch”, “when eating dinner”, or “within 15 minutes of going to sleep”. They asked how often in the past week (from “not once” to “every day”) they had used social media during all those times. Those with more extreme usage responses were (not surprisingly) higher in FoMO. The lesson?

Heavy social media users are likely to be more distracted, have a shorter attention span, more likely to reflexively use social media during trial, and want to get jury duty over ASAP so they can get back to tracking what really matters. You probably already knew that but with this new information you can impress everyone you know by saying, “This juror is going to be trouble for us since s/he has a high FoMO”. Thank goodness for academic research on scale development.

Przybylski, AK, Murayama, K, DeHaan, CR, & Gladwell, V (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1841-1848

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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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“S/he is just not one of us…”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

she-is-not-even-one-of-us.american-apparel-unisex-long-sleeve-tee.black.w380h440z1b3Just over a year ago, The Jury Expert published an article on bias and ambiguity in times of economic stress. The article was titled Does This Recession Make Me Look Black? –and it focused on how White Americans see racially ambiguous appearing others as in-group members until times are tough and then we see them as out-group members (i,e, Black). In that case, it was about multi-racial targets who were seen as White in times of economic plenty but as African-American in times of economic recession.

Today’s article looks at very similar patterns but through the lens of social dominance orientation and right wing authoritarianism. These are two long-studied ideas in the social sciences but they apparently have not been looked at before in terms of how we see [racially] “ambiguous others” as either “one of us” or “not one of us”. As a review, let’s briefly look at a summary of these two ideas (as presented by the researchers):

Social dominance orientation: If you are high in social dominance orientation (SDO), you favor maintaining anti-egalitarian, hierarchical relationships between social groups and favor the domination of “inferior” groups by “superior” ones.

Those high in SDO will be primarily concerned with the status of the ambiguous targets, since they are concerned about maintaining and strengthening group boundaries. High SDO people are likely to cast out those with low status (since they might bring the status of the SDOs superior group down) but to maintain the membership of [racially] ambiguous targets who have high status.

Right-wing authoritarianism: If you score high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), you are concerned with tradition, submission to recognized authorities, and aggression toward those who violate the social norms of the in-group.

Those high in RWA will be especially sensitive to the conformity of [racially] ambiguous targets in their willingness to identify them as members of the in-group. When ambiguous targets do not conform to group norms, those with high levels of RWA would see the target as a threat to group cohesion and thus be more willing to see them as out-group members.

The researchers completed four separate studies where they used racially ambiguous targets to see how those high in SDO and/or RWA might react to them. They were curious about what drives in-group versus out-group attributions/assignments when the target is racially ambiguous. Instead of working our way through the four separate studies, we are going to skip to the findings.

Individuals high in SDO were less likely to perceive a low status ambiguous target in in-group terms. Those high in RWA were less likely to perceive a nonconformist ambiguous target in in-group terms. (These two findings were based on participant reactions to two different and highly negative news stories with racially ambiguous villains.)

Individuals high in SDO were less likely to see a target as White if they were low status rather than high status. (In this study, the participants were asked “how White the target looked”.) Those low in SDO did not differ significantly in their sense of “how White” the target appeared. The researchers saw this as reflecting the high SDO individual’s desire to resist “contamination” of their superior group with low status targets but also the desire to adopt high status targets who might enhance the status of the group to outsiders.

Those high in RWA saw targets that conformed as “more White” than targets that did not conform. For those low in RWA, there was no such relationship. The researchers saw this as the high RWA individual’s desire to maintain conformity within their group.

The results are consistent with what the article in The Jury Expert found–we welcome those that are racially ambiguous as long as we are in financial plenty (and they won’t leave us hurting for resources), or if they are high status (and will make us look good), or if they conform (and won’t make us look bad).

It’s a chilling and current assessment of race relations in America. As long as the boat doesn’t get rocked, you’re okay. If I perceive any sense of threat, you’re not okay. All the more reason, given the fickleness of our sense of whether we are threatened, to work to help jurors see your racially ambiguous or racially different client/witness/party as being as similar to the jurors as possible by using universal values in descriptions and testimony.

Kteily, N, Cotterill, S, Sidanius, J, Sheehy-Skeffington, J, & Bergh, R (2014). “Not one of us”: Predictors and consequences of denying in-group characteristics to ambiguous targets. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin

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