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Archive for the ‘Generation or Age of Juror’ Category

Pew on white aging in USPew Research often comes up with data-based pictures that tell us things we may have known, but in a very visual way.  Most of us have heard that minorities in the US will outnumber whites before long but this is a very clear depiction of how that is happening.

When you look at the ages of everyone in the US in 2015, there are more 24-year-olds than any other age. But—if you only look at white Americans, 55 was the most common age according to Pew’s review of US Government Census Bureau data. The graphic (one of several in their report) shows a comparison of white people and minority group members by age (in the US in 2015).

You can see by just looking at this graphic that as the Millennial generation ages and are replaced by the Post-Millennial generation (which has yet to receive a moniker although Neil Howe is trying to popularize Homeland Generation as a label for this upcoming group). In fact, Pew says that those under age 5 are already a “majority minority” although only by a small margin.

There are multiple facts in this brief report worth reading. Here are a few of them:

In 2015, more than half (56%) of minorities were Millennials or younger.

Americans identifying with two or more races were the youngest group (with a median age of 19 years) in the Census Bureau data. And, almost half (46%) of multiracial Americans were between the ages of 0 and 17 years (meaning they were not yet part of any named American generation).

In 2015, the relative youth of Hispanics was driven by the US-born Latino population—nearly 3/4 of whom are Millennials or younger.

Asians grew the fastest of all ethnic or racial groups in the US in 2015. The majority of Asians were Millennials (27%) and Gen Xers (25%)—so older than other minorities but younger than whites.

About half of blacks were Millennials (26%) or younger (25%) in 2015.

Take the time to read this report from Pew—your potential jurors are diversifying.

Pew Research Center, July 7, 2016. Biggest share of whites in U.S. are Boomers, but for minority groups it’s Millennials or younger. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/07/biggest-share-of-whites-in-u-s-are-boomers-but-for-minority-groups-its-millennials-or-younger/

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Jamail depo tx styleSometimes these tidbit posts come around more often than usual—typically it happens when we’ve read a lot that is just not suited for an entire blog post but it made us laugh out loud or peaked our curiosity. Here for you are the last few things that made us look again or laugh uncomfortably.

Millennials are doing job search duties for their parents too

We hear so much bad press on the Millennials but here’s a really sweet article that shows how Millennials are helping out their parents too. The Atlantic has an article on what they describe as “employed and financially independent Millennials who are instead helping their parents find a job”. They are not only teaching their parents the basics of finding a job in 2016 but also using their social media skills and networking skills to find out who might be hiring in their parent’s professional areas of interest. It’s an uplifting and positive take on a generation currently maligned as freeloaders—plus there are some good resources embedded in the article as Millennials talk about what they have done to help Mom or Dad.

Political extremists are less susceptible to the anchoring bias

So here’s a point for the political extremist. If you are a regular reader here you know we tend to de-select the political extremist as just too unpredictable to serve as a juror on most cases. Often, the extremist is characterized as unthinking and knee-jerk in decision-making with stereotypes and biases guiding their thinking. However, new research tells us that political extremists sometimes think carefully about their decisions and are quite confident in their judgments. Here’s the abstract for the article, a blog post by the first author, and a Huffington Post writeup. The complete reference is at the end of this post. It’s an interesting article but we still won’t be choosing them to sit on the vast majority of juries.

Those Joe Jamail deposition tapes are so 1990

It’s been years since we first saw the “Texas style” depositions by Joe Jamail on YouTube. If you have somehow missed watching this epic video, you owe it to yourself to give it a look. You’ll realize just how long it’s been when you see these courtroom transcripts posted by Keith Lee over on Associate’s Mind blog. It’s enough to make one wonder how court reporters maintain their decorum and it certainly says something about how times change. Both of the authors of this fine blog have testified many times as expert witnesses. And one memory stands out prominently in which two lawyers nearly began brawling in the middle of the deposition. It was a good time to have a psychologist and dispute resolution specialist in the room!

What’s the best way to deliver bad news?

When companies downsize (or “right-size”) there are always myriad recommendations on the best way to deliver bad news to those who lose their jobs due to layoffs. Now, new research tells us it isn’t so much what is said when you notify an employee about layoffs as how it is said. Researchers publishing in the Journal of Applied Psychology tell us that when employees are given the information in a way that seems fair to them—their reactions are much less negative. According to them, “fairness” includes process transparency and treating employees with respect. You can read a summary of this article over at Science Daily. and we found a full-text source here.

Brandt MJ, Evans AM, & Crawford JT (2015). The unthinking or confident extremist? Political extremists are more likely than moderates to reject experimenter-generated anchors. Psychological Science, 26 (2), 189-202 PMID: 25512050

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middle aged womanIf you are seeking empathy and understanding from jurors hearing your case—go for middle-aged adults—and, in particular, middle-aged women. If you are thinking the sample size of this study cannot possibly be large enough to draw that sort of conclusion—think again! This is a study based on 75,263 adults in the US.

In the study, late middle-aged adults said they were more likely to react emotionally to the experiences of others and that they were also more likely to try to understand how things looked from the perspective of others. Both men and women “of a certain age” were more likely to report higher empathy but women were especially likely to do so. (And in case, like us, you are finding it more difficult to ascertain just when “late middle age” might be—the researchers define this as someplace between 50 and 60 years of age.)

Basically, the researchers examined responses from the General Social Survey which measured empathy in both 2002 and 2004. And surprisingly, these were the two smallest samples (1,353 adults in 2002 and 1,330 in 2004). Additionally, the authors conducted an online survey of 72,580 US adults between 18 and 90 years of age wherein they measured both empathy and perspective taking. (Note: While the GSS surveys are random and nationally representative, the researchers large online sample is not.)

Here is what they found on empathy:

Women reported higher empathy than men in all three samples.

In 2002, the GSS sample showed no significant differences in empathy based on ethnicity. In 2004, African-Americans had lower empathic concern than European-Americans. And in the online survey—African-Americans, Asian Americans and “especially Hispanic Americans” reported higher empathic concern than European Americans. (The authors make a point of stressing that the effects were fairly small.)

The effects of age were consistent across all three samples. Empathic concern was higher in older than in younger adults. The most common interpretation of this is that younger jurors haven’t experienced enough pain and suffering to appreciate its debilitating effects.

And here is what they found on perspective taking (which is akin to empathy and basically assesses how likely you are to attempt to put yourself in the “shoes” of another). Note: perspective taking was only assessed in the online sample and not in the GSS samples.

Women had higher self-reported levels of perspective taking than did men.

European Americans had lower perspective-taking than those of other ethnic origins (this effect was small).

And older adults had higher perspective taking than younger adults.

The researchers explain their results in clear and easy-to-understand language. “Specifically, empathy was expected to show an inverse-U-shaped function across the adult life span, with middle-aged adults scoring higher than young adults and older adults. Indeed, we found empirical evidence for this pattern in the case of both empathic concern and perspective taking in all three samples.”

For the non-statisticians among you, what that means is that both younger and older adults are less empathic and less likely to take the perspective of others than are middle-aged adults.

The researchers don’t know whether this is a true age effect or the result of generational experiences since this age range reflects younger Baby Boomers who grew up during sweeping societal changes that emphasized the feelings and perspectives of others.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is an intriguing study. If we know that women report higher levels of empathy than do men and we know the same pattern holds true for self-reports of perspective-taking—and, we know that empathy seems to peak between ages 50 and 60—when all else is equal—you likely would be better off choosing the woman between 50 and 60 for your jury.

As an aside, we always caution against blanket assumptions that “women are better for Plaintiffs and men are better for Defendants”. It simply is untrue. But this finding, when coupled with other information from careful pretrial research, can be instructive in voir dire and jury selection.

O’Brien E, Konrath SH, Grühn D, & Hagen AL (2013). Empathic concern and perspective taking: linear and quadratic effects of age across the adult life span. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 68 (2), 168-75 PMID: 22865821

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creepinessYou know what ‘creepy’ is and in the movie The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins personified creepiness. While it may be hard to believe, no one has ever “pinned down” what makes a person creepy. Since there must be a need for such information, enter academic Francis McAndrew of Knox University (in Galesburg, Illinois), for an impressive effort.

First he educates us on what creepiness is—as though we needed him to do that. We all know what constitutes “creepiness” and what results in us being “creeped out” but he does a pretty good job of defining it.

“Creepiness is anxiety aroused by the ambiguity of whether there is something to fear or not and/or by the ambiguity of the precise nature of the threat (e.g., sexual, physical violence, contamination, et cetera) that might be present. Such uncertainty results in a paralysis as to how one should respond.”

So in order to begin what will likely be a long academic exploration (he already has tenure!) on the topic of creepiness, he constructed a measure of just what “normal people” think is creepy. He asked 1,341 people (1,029 females and 312 males ranging in age from 18-77 with an average age of 28.97, via internet survey) to answer some questions about a hypothetical “creepy person” that a friend had encountered. He asked them to rate the person’s physical appearance, behavior and intentions on a scale from 1 (normal) to 5 (creepy). He later asked them to rate occupations and hobbies on a “creepiness scale”.

And here is some of what he found:

Participants were asked if “creepy individuals” were more often male or female. Both male and female participants thought men were more likely to be creepy.

Females were more likely to perceive a sexual threat or sexual interest from a creepy person than were males.

The creepiest occupations were: clown, taxidermist, sex shop owners, and funeral director. (Public service announcement: The full list of occupations deemed “creepy” was in the article and we carefully reviewed it. Neither attorneys nor psychologists were on the creepiness scale, although college professors were on the scale. Be careful out there.)

The creepiest hobbies were collecting things (like dolls, insects, reptiles, or body parts such as teeth, bones or fingernails); variations on ‘watching’ others, bird watchers (who knows what they are really doing?); taxidermy, and a fascination with pornography or exotic sexual activities.

Older participants had less alarm over creepy people, were less likely to feel physical or sexual threat from a creeper and had less anxiety over interacting with a creepy person.

Finally, survey participants were convinced that creepy people do not know they are creepy.

Essentially, what this research says is it is the uncertainty or ambiguity surrounding the creepy person that leads us to think they are a potential threat. It’s good for us to recognize potential threats in our environment—although that birdwatcher wariness is a little odd, unless the concern it that they are really Peeping Tom’s, and the birding interest is a transparent ruse. And it appears that is precisely what our alarm over encountering someone creepy serves to do—detect potential threats.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this falls into the category of “be aware of the impression that witnesses create in jurors”. If you are prepping a witness and it occurs to you that “this person takes a while to warm up to”, consider what impression they created in you before the warmth took over.

If you conclude that you felt wary of them until they described X or Y, or told you a story about their family or background that you found reassuring—you might have a problem witness. Testing witnesses for credibility and likability is very worthwhile, and it can give you some ideas about how to reduce their potential for “creepiness”.

As an extra piece of information for you, here’s a video that is awkward but not really creepy (at least by the researcher’s definition).

McAndrew, F., & Koehnke, S. (2016). On the nature of creepiness. New Ideas in Psychology,, 43, 10-15 DOI: 10.1016/j.newideapsych.2016.03.003

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blackisbeautifulAt least according to this analysis of more than 14 million college student reviews on RateMyProfessors.com where students post anonymous reviews of their professors. In an open access article available at PLOS ONE, the authors found that students writing reviews on the popular website most often used the words “brilliant” and “genius” to describe male professors AND those two words were most often used in reviews of academic disciplines where women and African-Americans are under-represented.

It is disturbing that with 14 million reviews, just two words (brilliant and genius) effectively predict the fields where African-Americans and women are scarce. That is, those two words are not often used for women professors or African-American professors—they are mostly used to describe men (those are White or Asian men) who work in areas where there are typically few African-American and women faculty.

We’ve been seeing increasing reports of research similar to this, where the authors go to a website with many, many comments and use that data to answer questions in a more “naturalistic” setting than the laboratory where research participants are asked to respond to a set stimuli. You cannot beat the sample size these researchers drew from. The huge number of responses through which they sifted makes it pretty hard to say they are wrong either!

The researchers arrived at some interesting conclusions. Instead of saying college students are biased, what they say points back to research they did in 2015 which was published in Science. In that study, the researchers went to academics (i.e., graduate students, researchers and faculty) and asked them to name the qualities most predictive of success in their field of study. The researchers found that participants who emphasized the importance of “brilliance” or “genius” as necessary for success were from fields in which women and African-Americans were under-represented. I guess the smart folks are in engineering, math, and science, rather than humanities and the social sciences. The gender and racial distribution between these two general categories of scholarship is vastly different.

The researchers think perhaps stereotype threat (e.g., “a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of confirming stereotypes about their social group”) is at work here and that we need to change what is emphasized for success in traditionally male-dominated fields in order to increase the diversity of researchers in those fields.

“The present study suggests that a focus on inherent intellectual abilities may discourage participation by groups who are stereotypically portrayed as lacking those abilities. In light of these data it seems likely that turning the spotlight away from sheer brilliance—and toward the importance of sustained effort in achieving professional success—may bring about improvements in the diversity of many fields.”

While we applaud the sensitivity of the researchers, their very conclusion is somewhat offensive, as it still presumes that the smart kids are in fields in which African-Americans and women are underrepresented. Clearly, the researchers in those fields are very smart, but it is most obviously intelligence that favors a particular style of thinking and problem-solving, and they might struggle as mightily in translating a foreign novel or integrating social science research in analyzing a new problem as a psychologist might in understanding string theory. There isn’t evidence to conclusively support the assumption.

There has been a lot of research on how few women and African-Americans are in STEM fields. This research says we do need to encourage more women and African-Americans to enter those fields but, the researchers add, we also need to change the way we talk about success in those fields in order to welcome those who have traditionally been taught to think they are not as smart as White (and now Asian) men. And while that might be true, they might also want to understand that brilliance can take many forms. It is a trend that big business and technology firms are finally coming to appreciate, in their hiring increasing numbers of liberal arts graduates in addition to engineers.

Storage, D., Horne, Z., Cimpian, A., & Leslie, S. (2016). The Frequency of “Brilliant” and “Genius” in Teaching Evaluations Predicts the Representation of Women and African-Americans across Fields PLOS ONE, 11 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150194

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