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big-governmentFor a number of years now, we have been asking our mock jurors what role they think government should play in our society and giving them a number of options among which to choose. Most of them say government should play a smaller role and we certainly have all heard the media messages that tell us “smaller government is better”. The research we are covering today says that, in truth, big government (or at least bigger government) makes people more satisfied with their lives (at least if they live in advanced and industrial democracies).

The researchers examined World Values Surveys between 1981 and 2007 and focused on a question asking about life satisfaction.

“All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life these days?”

On the survey, respondents can rate their life satisfaction on a 10-point scale (with higher scores indicating higher satisfaction). The researchers were interested in examining life satisfaction in the context of how much the government intervened in the market economy. They looked at the size of the government, the country’s total social welfare expenditures compared to its GDP, used a measure of welfare state generosity (that includes how easy it is to get benefits among other things), and measured the degree of labor market regulation. (All these measures are explained in their full article which is available online here.) They also used multiple statistical controls to attempt to isolate the impact of government intervention into the economy.

What they found, over and over again, was that “citizens living in countries where the government more actively intervenes in the market economy report higher levels of life satisfaction even after accounting for a host of alternative explanations. Moreover, the substantive effect rivals or exceeds that of other traditional predictors of life satisfaction.” Poor people were no more positively impacted by government intervention than were the wealthy. That is, personal or household income had no relationship to the effect of government intervention upon life satisfaction.

The researchers are quick to state that they are not attempting an ideologically based defense of progressive public policies. They are simply attempting to answer the question of whether more or less government helps or hinders human happiness.

“We found what we believe to be conclusive evidence that indeed it does. Further, we can add that politics itself matters. Specifically, the preferences and choices of citizens in democratic polities as we have shown, have profound consequences for quality of life. In short, democracy itself thus matters.”

It’s an intriguing article when considering the debate over equalizing income differentials and the impact it would have on American society. This research would say that perhaps many of us are parroting the media and saying we think smaller government is better, when, in truth, the opposite appears to be true. In our pretrial research, we don’t care so much about whether the opinion endorsed by our mock juror is “true” or not. We care a lot more about whether their pre-existing opinion is related at all to their eventual verdict for the Plaintiff/Prosecution or the Defense. And sometimes, it is. So we’ll keep asking the question. But we’ll know (and you will know) that those citizens who live in advanced industrial democracies where government plays a larger role are most satisfied with their lives–whether they are rich or poor.

Flavin, P., Pacek, A., & Radcliff, B. (2014). Assessing the Impact of the Size and Scope of Government on Human Well-Being. Social Forces, 92 (4), 1241-1258 DOI: 10.1093/sf/sou010

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forgiving infidelityAccording to new research, you can’t have both. Inspired by women who told them they “would not vote for Hillary Clinton [in the Presidential primaries a decade later] because she forgave then-President Bill Clinton’s infidelity”, these researchers looked at how male and female observers viewed male and female victims of infidelity based on how they responded to their partner’s behavior.

The researchers did three separate experiments:

The first experiment used 100 male fraternity members (aged 18 to 24 years) who read a story about (ostensibly) a member of their own fraternity whose significant other had posted photos of her infidelity on Facebook. (This is tempting to visualize–what sort of photos do you imagine were purportedly on Facebook?) When confronted, the woman apologized and in response, the fraternity brother either forgave her, broke up with her, or slashed his (ex-)girlfriend’s vehicle tires.

In the second experiment, 114 “female voters” (aged 20 to 79 years) read the story of a woman who was presented as a political candidate. Her spouse of 25 years had an affair with his secretary and when confronted, he apologized. The “female voters” in this study read that the woman either forgave him, divorced him, or slashed his car seats.

In the third experiment, (dare we anticipate the use of a knife again?), 94 male and 131 female undergraduate students (ranging in age from 17 to 55 years of age) participated. Half of them read the story (ostensibly published in their college newspaper) of “Natalie Lewis, a student at a “sister” campus who learned that her male partner, a student body president at another campus and chair of the statewide student senate, was unfaithful”. The other half read a similar scenario but in this case it was a male student leader (“Brandon Thomas”) who learned his female partner had been unfaithful. When confronted, as in the other two experiments, the unfaithful partner apologized. In response to the infidelity, the victim either forgave the partner, broke up with the partner, or (wait for it) posted embarrassing details about the partner’s sexual inadequacy on Facebook. (Well, at least the aggression avoided knife-play!)

We think maybe these researchers have some anger issues (and what is it with all these knives and public shaming?), but here is what they found:

The young fraternity brothers in Experiment 1 rated the “brother” who forgave as about the same level of maturity but as less competent than the brother who left the relationship. However, they did see the forgiving brother as violating shared values as to how one should respond to a publicly revealed infidelity. They rated the brother who forgave as more competent and less damaging to their group reputation in comparison to the brother who slashed her tires. (This is reassuring.)

The “female voters” in experiment two rated the forgiving politician as less competent, slightly weaker, and less worthy of support in comparison with the politician who divorced her philandering spouse. The female voters thought the forgiving politician damaged the group’s (presumably all of womankind) power and status and violated their shared values. They did see the car seat slashing politician more negatively than the forgiving politician (which again, is reassuring).

Finally, in the third study which included male and female undergraduates and featured male and female student leaders with unfaithful partners–observers rated the leader who forgave his or her partner as just as mature as the leader who broke up with the partner and as more mature than the one posting scandalous information on Facebook. However, the one who forgave was seen as weaker, less competent and less worth voting for than the student leader who left the relationship. The one who forgave was seen as violating shared group values and damaging the group’s power and status more so than the one who left. Overall, they preferred the leaver to the forgiver, but in one final gesture of reassurance, these undergraduates preferred forgiveness to retaliation.

In other words, even though participants across all three studies agreed that forgiveness can be mature–it also can make the forgiver appear weak and incompetent. In every experiment, the participants preferred the partner who left the relationship (despite the researcher’s insistence on incorporating slashing knives and public shaming into the scenarios) to the one who forgave–although they preferred the one who forgave to the one who retaliated.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, you need to think carefully about how to repair perceptions of competence and strength if your client has chosen to remain in a relationship after a public infidelity. Obviously, this is more often in the news with male politicians publicly apologizing to their constituents and to their spouses who stand (publicly shamed and likely humiliated) behind them. But, regardless of whether your client is male or female–choosing to stay has consequences. Mature but incompetent and weak political candidates are less electable. We’d guess Hillary’s consultants are on this one, and, if not, she can call us.

It would be interesting to see whether there are correlates of these findings for other forms of trust betrayal. What happens if a company finds an employee has used company assets improperly for personal reasons? Or violated confidentiality? Or violated behavioral guidelines (drinking or drugs on the job, or making sexist jokes, or aggressive behavior). Certainly the current controversy about the degree to which domestic violence should result in workplace ramifications is the biggest headline in professional football right now. Is this going to be treated as an anger management problem that calls for treatment, or misogyny and thuggery that is intolerable? This is an intriguing first phase of a research design with huge social ramifications.

J. Smith, H., Goode, C., Balzarini, R., Ryan, D., & Georges, M. (2014). The cost of forgiveness: Observers prefer victims who leave unfaithful romantic partners European Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2054

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female in surgical researchMore than two decades after the 1993 Revitalization Act was signed (stating women and minorities must be included in NIH funded research), females are still under-represented in both “basic science and translational surgical research”.

The authors acknowledge that medical research on human subjects is only a small subset of all medical research. However, even those studies using animals and cells have females under-represented. Why? Females, whether cell, animal or human (due to hormonal fluctuations) are harder and more expensive to study and including them may make the research much more complex to analyze. They are simply not as predictable as male cells, animals or humans.

Yet, there is a growing body of research showing “men and women may manifest diseases differently, experience illnesses differently, and benefit from treatments differently”. The authors list disease processes where male and female patients respond differently, including “but not limited to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, depression, obesity, osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease”. Yet, the authors tell us, in 2014, “all medications except for zolpidem (Ambien) are dosed the same for men and women, including anesthetics and chemotherapeutics, drugs that can be lifesaving”.

This is a fascinating (and disturbing) article to read and we will simply hit the high points (or should that be low points?). The authors looked at the top 5 surgery journals (i.e., Annals of Surgery, American Journal of Surgery, JAMA Surgery, Journal of Surgical Research, and Surgery) from January 2011 through December 2012. Here is some of what they found on medical research:

One-third of all publications using animals or cells did not specify the sex studied, and when they did specify, 80% studied only males.

For research on cells, 76% did not specify the sex of the subject from whom the  cell studied was drawn. When they did specify, 71% studied only males.

Although a larger percentage of publications now state sex of the animal or cell studied than they did one and two decades ago, more male-only studies are being published. The authors say this reflects the sex disparity in basic research is growing rather than decreasing over time.

Thyroid and cardiovascular disease are female-prevalent disorders and so we might expect more female subjects in those articles. Only 12% of those publications studied females or both sexes.

The authors offer several memorable quotes:

“With robust and surmounting evidence that women are clearly different from men with respect to cardiovascular mortality, it is unacceptable that less than 25% of current cardiovascular trials are designed without apparent regard to sex in terms of trial design, patient selection, and analytic processes.”

“Furthermore, recent population-based outcome studies show that even as mortality has decreased in most counties in the United States from 1992 to 2006, female mortality increased in 42.8% of these counties.”

This, say the authors, is not simply a problem of surgical research, but rather, based on recent review articles, “sex disparity is pervasive across all disciplines for biomedical and clinical research, with most studies showing no improvements over time”.

The good news is that several of the surgical journals revised their requirements after receiving this information from the authors. Now all authors are required to state the sex of the animal or cell used and if they did not use both sexes, they need to give a rationale. It’s a good first step, but certainly not a solution to such a significant problem in medical research. This article does not address whether minorities also remain under-represented, but we’d take a wild guess they may be as well.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it is worth considering whether this work applies to a personal injury Plaintiff. If there are known differences between how male and female patients respond to a particular disease or surgical procedure or medication–check to see if their treatment was appropriate for their gender or if a female patient was treated “like a man”. These authors (some of them surgeons) cite a 2005 study showing “only one in five physicians across multiple specialties was aware that more women than men die from cardiovascular disease each year, and most of these physicians did not rate themselves as effective in treating sex-tailored cardiovascular disease”. Similarly, product liability cases involving medical products or medicines could be informed by this research as well.

What should they have known?

What should they have considered?

What would it have cost them to use both male and female research participants?

Yoon DY, Mansukhani NA, Stubbs VC, Helenowski IB, Woodruff TK, & Kibbe MR (2014). Sex bias exists in basic science and translational surgical research. Surgery, 156 (3), 508-516 PMID: 25175501

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spiral of silenceWe’ve blogged a fair amount on the impact of the internet and social networking on jurors but here is something unexpected. People that engage in social media are less likely to discuss heated topics in the news, not more likely. This is according to a recent Pew Research report.

Back in 1974, Noelle-Neumann described the “spiral of silence” which basically describes a tendency to not speak up when we perceive our own beliefs and opinions to be in the minority. With the advent of intense social media involvement, researchers had hoped there would be more willingness to engage in discussion that truly reflected a variety of beliefs and values. Alas, it is not so.

The new report on the Pew website essentially says the relative anonymity afforded by the internet doesn’t make us (or at least most of us) brave enough to stand up for what we believe. It’s a sad commentary and what it seems to say is the “new transparency” of social media is just another public facade people who hold minority opinions feel they must maintain. Perhaps it is due to FoMO–another recent blog post of ours.

Regardless, here is some of what the Pew report finds in data collected from 1,801 adults between August 7th and September 16th, 2013–using the example of the Edward Snowden-NSA story. As background, the Snowden story was chosen since previous Pew surveys found the public was split on this story: 44% said the release of classified information harms the public interest and 49% said it serves the public interest. Of the 1,801 adults surveyed, 80% of the adults in this survey were internet users. 71% were Facebook users and (only) 18% of them were Twitter users.

While 86% were willing to have an in-person conversation about the Snowden-NSA story, only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users said they were willing to post about it online. The researchers believe social media users are particularly attuned to the opinions of those around them and are thus less willing to disagree with them.

Even when holding other factors (like age, gender, education, race, and marital status) constant, social media users are less likely to say they would join in (even in person) than non-social media users of the internet. Facebook users are only half as willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story at a physical public meeting as a non-Facebook user. Twitter users are less likely to be willing to share their opinions in the workplace than internet users who do not use Twitter.

Social media users who think their social media friends and followers disagree with them on the Snowden-NSA issue were “more likely to self-censor their views on the story in both social media and in face-to-face encounters”.

In both face-to-face and online environments, people were more willing to openly express their views if they thought others agreed with them. 86% said they were “very” or “somewhat” willing to have a conversation about the story in at least one face-to-face setting, but only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users would discuss the story on social media.

The Pew Foundation graphic illustrates this clearly:

Pew spiral blog insert

 

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the chilling effect of social media involvement on one’s willingness to state a differing opinion is of great concern. We have always taken the lone naysayer in pretrial research seriously and expressed appreciation for their courage in speaking up in disagreement. This survey highlights the need to establish a friendly and receptive juror-centric tone (rather than one of client advocacy and confrontation) in voir dire. And it is yet another reason to teach jurors in actual trials how to deliberate and to make clear for them the importance of allowing disagreement and the expression of differing opinions.

One day perhaps we will all feel able to express what we believe to others. Social media, contrary to the expectations of many, has not changed the desire to not make waves and to self-censor opinions we believe will be unpopular.

We have all seen the evidence of what are commonly known as “trolls” on comment pages for various news sites and high-traffic. These people are not those identified by this Pew Report and we’ve covered a research study that helped us to understand those who actually comment on major news sites are probably not people we want as jurors!

KEITH HAMPTON, LEE RAINIE, WEIXU LU, MARIA DWYER, INYOUNG SHIN, AND KRISTEN PURCELL (2014). Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’. Pew Research Internet Project.

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disgust 2014We’ve covered a lot of the disgust research so it is curious to us that somehow we missed sharing the actual Disgust Scale with you earlier. The Disgust Scale was developed by the infamous Jonathan Haidt (his surname is pronounced “height”) back in 1994 before disgust was considered cool.

In brief, the Disgust Scale was designed to “assess sensitivity to seven domains of potential disgust-eliciting stimuli (i.e., Food, Animals, Body Products, Sex, Body Envelope Violations, Death and Hygiene) and levels of Sympathetic Magic (i.e., beliefs about the transmission of contagion)”. The Disgust Scale was psychometrically refined by Olatunji et al. in 2007, reduced from 32 to 25 items, and from eight factors down to three factors of disgust. The citation on this post reflects the most recent iteration of the Disgust Scale-Revised.

In brief, what Olatunji and colleagues found is that disgust sensitivity is linked to being neurotic, behaviorally inhibited, and having low self-esteem. They cite three types of disgust: core, animal reminder, and contamination disgust.

Core disgust occurs when we consider spoiled milk or other foods, body wastes (e.g., feces and urine), and small animals (the researchers identify rats and cockroaches) often associated with trash and garbage. When we have an actual “oral incorporation” or feel we are threatened with one–then we experience “core disgust”. The researchers use the example of “eating monkey meat” or “meat covered in maggots” as an elicitor of core disgust.

Animal-reminder disgust occurs when we are reminded of our own mortality or our “inherent animalistic nature”. The researchers identify our attitudes toward various sex acts, injury to the body or death. When we think of these things, our sense of “animal-reminder disgust” can be activated. An example of an experience that can elicit animal-reminder disgust would be touching a dead body.

Contamination disgust is related to core disgust (and to animal-reminder disgust too) but has more to do with germs and disease. An example of this would be accidentally drinking from the cup of someone who is obviously ill and our fears we would catch whatever they have elicits contamination disgust. Another example could be concerns about contagion from HIV or the ebola virus.

These researchers were interested in the relationship of disgust to clinical mental health symptoms and report the anxiety disorders are particularly sensitive to disgust. For example, spider phobias, contamination-based obsessive-compulsive disorder, fear of animals, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder are all closely related to one’s “disgust sensitivity”.  So, we know you are wondering what kinds of questions would help you measure disgust sensitivity and, for once, we don’t have to tell you since you can see for yourself. You can take the Revised Disgust Scale to see your own scores by going to Haidt’s website, YourMorals.org and registering. (Then go to the ‘explore your morals’ page and choose the disgust scale).

From a litigation advocacy perspective, there are multiple ways disgust can factor into your case. We’ve seen it play often unanticipated roles in personal injury cases, contract and IP disputes, corporate misconduct cases, and even in family estate disputes. The important thing is that you know how disgust will be relevant to your case and that you work to help jurors see something that is initially disgusting as a reason for empathy, hope for the future, or as a call to action for change.

Olatunji, B. O., Haidt, J., McKay, D., David, B. (2008). Core, animal reminder, and contamination disgust: Three kinds of disgust with distinct personality, behavioral, physiological, and clinical correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1243-1259

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