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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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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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TJE_logoThe August issue of The Jury Expert is up and we think you’re going to want to see this. Here’s a rundown of the articles you’ll find at the website.

Demographic Roulette: What was once a bad idea has gotten worse. Authored by Doug Keene and Rita Handrich with a response from Paul Begala, this article takes a look at how the country has changed over the past 2 decades and our old definitions of Democrat or Republican and conservative or liberal are simply no longer useful. What does that mean for voir dire? What should it mean for voir dire? Two very good questions those.

If it feels bad to me, it’s wrong for you: The role of emotions in evaluating harmful acts. Authored by Ivar Hannikainen, Ryan Miller and Fiery Cushman with responses from Ken Broda-Bahm and Alison Bennett, this article has a lesson for us all. It isn’t what that terrible, awful defendant did that makes me want to punish, it’s how I think I would feel if I did that sort of terrible, horrible awful thing. That’s what makes me want to punish you. It’s an interesting perspective when we consider what makes jurors determine lesser or greater punishment.

Neuroimagery and the Jury. Authored by Jillian M. Ware, Jessica L. Jones, and Nick Schweitzer with responses from Ekaterina Pivovarova and Stanley L. Brodsky, Adam Shniderman, and Ron Bullis. Remember how fearful everyone was about the CSI Effect when the research on the ‘pretty pictures’ of neuroimagery came out? In the past few years, several pieces of research have sought to replicate and extend the early findings. These studies, however, failed to find support for the idea that neuroimages unduly influence jurors. This overview catches us up on the literature with provocative ideas as to where neurolaw is now.

Predicting Jurors’ Verdict Preference from Behavioral Mimicry. Authored by Matthew Groebe, Garold Stasser, and Kevin-Khristián Cosgriff-Hernandez, this paper gives insight into how jurors may be leaning in support of one side or the other at various points during the trial. This is a project completed using data from actual mock trials (and not the ubiquitous undergraduate).

Our Favorite Thing. We often have a Favorite Thing in The Jury Expert. A Favorite Thing is something low-cost or free that is just fabulous. This issue, Brian Patterson shares the idea of mind mapping and several ways (both low-tech and high-tech) to make it happen.

The Ubiquitous Practice of “Prehabilitation” Leads Prospective Jurors to Conceal Their Biases. Authored by Mykol C. Hamilton, Emily Lindon, Madeline Pitt, and Emily K. Robbins, with responses from Charli Morris and Diane Wiley, this article looks at how to not “prehabilitate” your jurors and offers ideas about alternate ways of asking the question rather than the tired, old “can you be fair and unbiased?”.

Novel Defenses in the Courtroom. Authored by Shelby Forsythe and Monica K. Miller, with a response from Richard Gabriel. This article examines the reactions of research participants to a number of novel defenses (Amnesia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Battered Women Syndrome (BWS), Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), Post-Partum Depression (PPD), and Gay Panic Defense) and makes recommendations on how (as well as whether or not) to use these defenses.

On The Application of Game Theory in Jury Selection. Authored by David M. Caditz with responses from Roy Futterman and Edward Schwartz. Suppose there was a more predictable, accurate and efficient way of exercising your peremptory strikes? Like using a computer model based on game theory? In this article, a physicist presents his thoughts on making those final decisions more logical and rational and based on the moves opposing counsel is likely to make.

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RIP Demographics? Well, probably not…

Friday, August 22, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

RIP demographicsWe’ve just published a new article in The Jury Expert that “should” signal the death of the simplistic use of demographics in voir dire and jury selection. Will it? Not likely. Partly this is the fault of courts that are becoming increasingly restrictive of time and the scope of questions posed to jurors. If litigants cannot ask substantive questions, they are left to rely on the broad impressions, which are often wrong and are generally based on stereotypes rather than knowledge of individual biases.

Be that as it may, we still think it’s important for all of us to know how changes in society as a whole will make a difference in how we need to think about voir dire. There are changes that have shifted the landscape of our communities and venires, and even our basic assumptions about there being a continuum from liberal to conservative with a moderate center. Some of these big changes have now been documented. You know that moderate center? Well, to the extent it is still there, it is vastly more complex, and defies labeling. You know how Democrats are more liberal and Republicans are more conservative? We can no longer make those blanket assumptions.

Americans are now more focused on specific issues. You will find, for example, a Democrat who leans left on many issues but is more conservative on issues involving faith and family. You will find, as another example, Republicans who lean right on many issues but support other issues that “Republicans just don’t support”. And in the center, you will find many people (indeed, the majority) who are not consistently liberal and not consistently conservative. On the other hand, they are also not consistently moderate. We’ve been watching this shift for almost a decade now with political affiliation simply no longer being an effective way of understanding individual mock jurors.

It really is about the issues. It’s something we have said for years– it isn’t demographics, it is the person and what matters in their life experience. Demographics (even tidy, long-standing descriptors like political affiliation and whether one is liberal or conservative) do not tell the story nearly as well as the individual’s values, attitudes, beliefs and experiences. But, don’t just take our word for it. How about considering the results of a 2014 survey of more than 10,000 Americans (randomly selected and nationally representative)? The results represent an eye-opener that allows us to compare American opinions and how they have shifted and turned upside down in the two decades since Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution of 1994.

Please visit our new articleDemographic Roulette: What Was Once a Bad Idea Has Gotten Worseover at The Jury Expert. We are pleased and flattered that Paul Begala (Democratic strategist, author and CNN Contributor) reviewed the issues and our article, and offered his take on the study.

Tell us what you think. We think it should be a game-changer.

Douglas L. Keene, & Rita R. Handrich (2014). Demographic Roulette: What Was Once a Bad Idea Has Gotten Worse. The Jury Expert, 26 (3.)

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older adults and fraudOf course you did. But you may want to take a look at this study because, maybe, it isn’t true after all. It certainly is a well-known myth if it is not true. This appears to be one of those situations where we add up what we know and then come up with a conclusion that just doesn’t appear to be true. Here’s what we know: research on cognitive age-related changes and emotional age-related changes tells us there are indeed shifts that can increase the vulnerability of the older adult to consumer fraud. We conclude, thus, they are defrauded more often.

This research, which is actually simply a review of the actual data on consumer fraud, says the older adult may be more at risk but there is no data-based evidence to say they actually are defrauded at a higher rate than younger adults. In fact, the older adult may be more savvy than we assume–these researchers say perhaps it is the protective factor of “increased experience and changes in goals, lifestyle, income, as well as purchasing and risk behaviors”. Or, in less geeky language–with age comes both wisdom and caution, as well as awareness of the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…”.

So why is it so commonly believed that senior citizens are taken in by con artists and scammers? The writers of the current article identify 5 reasons we may hypothesize older adults are more often victims of consumer fraud (and these are drawn from research):

Older adults have less accurate episodic memory and are at increased vulnerability to misinformation.

Older adults have slower cognitive processing and therefore take longer to review and process information than younger adults.

Abstract reasoning and novel problem-solving ability peak about age 30 and then decline across the remainder of the lifespan. (This is such a bummer, but we can slow the decline by continuing to challenge ourselves through learning new things, playing music, learning languages, and stimulating a brain that functions better under the stress of new thinking).

Mild cognitive impairment is associated with a reduction in math and financial skills such as managing a checkbook and understanding bills. (This could result in increased vulnerability to fraud.)

After experiencing a financial loss, consumers can be uncertain whether their particular loss comes from a legitimate business arrangement or from deceitful practices. None of us like to be deceived and there is conjecture that older adults may not want to believe they have been tricked and therefore do not file reports as victims of fraud.

Those 5 findings are backed up by research. Older adults could be more at risk simply by virtue of aging and some of the issues we will all face at one time or another. But being at risk does not mean you will necessarily fall prey to consumer fraud. Yet the belief that older adults are victimized by consumer fraud at a high rate relative to other age groups is part of our social fabric. We all “know” this is true. Except it does not appear to be true.

Part of the issue is that researcher interpretations about what their findings might mean have been misinterpreted by the media as fact rather than mere conjecture or hypotheses for future work. Then the ‘facts’ are picked up by other media outlets and blogs and we hear things like “fraud prevalence has reached epidemic levels in older adults” or “older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to frauds”. Hypotheses, conjectures or questions become perceived as fact and become part of our popular “wisdom” about older adults. The following graph is taken from the article cited at the end of today’s post. The graph presents the fraud reported during 2010, 2011 and 2012. Contrary to our expectations, those who are actively defrauded are more likely very young or in the middle of their lives.

You may opine that the elderly are just too embarrassed to report their being defrauded, but there is no data to support it. In fact, the authors say at this point we can neither say older adults are subject to more or less fraud. There is simply no evidence to support the idea that older adults are disproportionately the victims of consumer fraud.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is one more reason to never assume that a given belief is true. Widely held stereotypes are often untrue. This apparently is but one of those widely held (but not supported by data) beliefs.

Ross, M, Grossman, I, & Schryer, E (2014). Contrary to psychological and popular opinion, there is no compelling evidence that older adults are disproportionately victimized by consumer fraud. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

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