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exploding head syndromeI do not recall ever having heard of this sleep disorder before but apparently it is much more common than previously thought. At least by me, since to me it sounded like a”Jackass” stunt. This is an actual sleep disorder in which you are suddenly awakened by a loud sound akin to an explosion but there is no external noise in your environment. It is literally like an explosion in your head.

Here’s what the Daily Mail had to say about what exploding head syndrome is:

It’s estimated between 10 and 20 per cent of people have experienced this bizarre condition, in which a person is woken up by an abrupt loud noise they soon realize is imaginary, a study found. The phenomenon strikes as a person is dropping off to sleep. And the type of noise can vary from explosions and fireworks to slammed doors, the sound of a gun firing, an enormous roar, shouting, thunder or a crack of lightning. The noises start suddenly and last for a few seconds, and some people also experience visual disturbances, such as seeing lightning or flashes. The condition stops people from sleeping and leads to other psychological problems as they sometimes believe they are having a seizure or being attacked, experts said. For some, the condition is so bad it significantly impacts their lives.

Previously, the disorder was thought to occur in people over the age of 50 years old but a new study shows it also occurs in 18% of college students—that’s almost 1 in 5 young adults! And almost a third of those that had exploding head syndrome also experienced isolated sleep paralysis (awakening and being unable to move for anywhere from a second or two up to a couple of minutes). The author says that as people with exploding head syndrome disorder attempt to make sense of their experience, they can sometimes think they are having “a seizure or a subarachnoid hemorrhage”. Or, says the author, “Some people have worked these scary experiences into conspiracy theories and mistakenly believe the episodes are caused by some sort of directed-energy weapon”.

The researcher interviewed 211 undergraduate students (average age 19.7 years; 70.6% female; 59.5% White, 10.5% Hispanic, 9.1% Asian, 8.6% African-American, 1.0% Native American and 11.4% mixed-ethnicity or other) using the Fearful Isolated Sleep Paralysis Interview and the Exploding Head Syndrome Interview (which the author developed so it is not yet available online). Administration time for these interviews is about 20 minutes each. Here are some of their findings:

18% of the sample (of 211) were found to have experienced exploding head syndrome at least once and 16.6% had experienced it repeatedly.

Exploding head syndrome was equally experienced by men and women. (In previous samples of older people, exploding head syndrome was more common among women. The researcher thinks perhaps it becomes more common as women age.)

Exploding head syndrome was more commonly found in those also reporting fearful isolated sleep paralysis (41 participants in this sample).

The overall level of fear/severity during the experience of exploding head syndrome was moderate but some people (2.8%) experienced clinically significant distress and/or impairment in functioning.

Obviously, this would be a very frightening thing and those who experience it are often very secretive since they think they might be crazy (having never heard anyone else talk about it). There is no treatment, although one of the medications prescribed for it can “turn the noise down” so it is not as frightening. A case study on a 57-year-old Indian male says that simple education and reassurance could be sufficient to decrease reactions to the experience.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is an example of an odd phenomenon that is very real and more common than previously thought. Listening without judgment to (even unusual) reports of odd experiences from potential or existing clients can go a long ways toward building rapport. While there are likely times the reports will exist only in the other person’s mind, this is an identifiable condition that is “all in their head”—just not in an imagined way.

Sharpless BA (2015). Exploding head syndrome is common in college students. Journal of Sleep Research PMID: 25773787

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smartphones-thumbJust when you thought you could relax a little about jurors accessing the internet during a jury trial, we learn this factoid from the smart folks at Pew Research Center:

“64% of American adults now own a smart phone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.”

Yes. Smartphone ownership has almost doubled in the past four years. While a smart phone is now more likely than not, for some Americans, the smart phone is almost the only way they can access the internet and that particular group is different from those with multiple access points in some important ways.

Here are some of the findings from the Pew survey of 2,002 adults in the United States completed between December 4th and 21st, 2014 by telephone:

10% of Americans who own a smart phone do not have any other form of high-speed internet access.

15% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are heavily dependent on a smart phone for online access.

13% of Americans who earn less than $30K a year are smart phone dependent for internet access. (As a comparison, only 1% of American households earning more than $75K per year rely on their smartphones for internet access.)

While 12% of African-Americans and 13% of Latinos are smart phone dependent for internet access, the same is true for only 4% of Whites.

Those who are smart phone dependent for internet access are also less likely to own another type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to have health insurance, and more likely to rent or live with a friend or family member as opposed to owning their own home. Further, nearly half of those who are smart phone dependent have had to shut off their cell phone service for a period of time since the cost was prohibitive.

Among younger smart phone users, the smart phone is popular for avoiding boredom and to avoid interacting with others. They also use their phones more often than older users to watch videos, listen to podcasts, and get turn-by-turn directions to a desired location.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is one more reminder to remain vigilant about educating jurors on why smart phone research is a problem when deciding justice. On the other hand, this may also be a good question for determining financial stability and socio-economic status if you are unable to assess it otherwise.

“Do you have other means of internet access in your home besides your smart phone?”

The answer to that question could potentially give you insight into your potential juror’s life and their access to information that other questions cannot.

Pew Internet Research. 2015. US Smartphone use in 2015.

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Millennial-NewsThe popular perception is that Millennials are passive and uninterested in civic issues and that they do not pay attention to traditional “news” since they are glued to their smartphones. According to a very recent survey, these beliefs, like many stereotypes, are simply wrong. The Media Insight Project recently published a survey of 1,046 adults aged 18-34 years (did you realize some Millennials were that old?). The findings show that Millennials actually keep up with traditional “news” stories as well as stories connecting them to friends, hobbies, culture and entertainment. The authors say that the “first digital generation is highly engaged” and that “if anything, the enormous role of social media appears to have a widening impact, not a narrowing one, on the awareness of this generation”.

Here are just a few of the results from their survey:

Millennials News Insert

Contrary to popular belief, Millennials do not see themselves as “constantly connected”. While more than 90% of them owned smartphones and half had tablets, only 51% said they were online “most or all” of the day.

Social media involvement did not narrow their perspectives. Social media network feeds exposed them to a “diverse mix of viewpoints” some similar and some dissimilar to their own, according to 70% of those surveyed.

Of interest to the trial attorney is that 73% of those exposed to different views said they investigated the differing options of others at least sometimes with a quarter saying they investigate “always or often”. (This might indicate Millennials are more willing to consider viewpoints or evidence at odds with what they currently believe.)

69% of the Millennials said they get news at least once a day and 40% got news several times a day. This does not mean they watch a television news program or visit news sites to find news. More typically, news comes to them through social contexts (social networks or friends) and then they do research to learn more about the information.

Facebook use is pretty universal although younger Millennials are expressing growing frustration with Facebook and are more likely than older Millennials to have cut back on Facebook use or even dropped it entirely.

There are news-gathering differences by age within the Millennial generation. Younger Millennials (those under age 25 and even those out of college) use social networks more to identify news stories of interest to them and they use alternative news sites more. Older Millennials see social networks as “social” rather than sources for gathering information about the world around them.

This is a good resource to challenge your stereotypes about this particular group. They (in life, and as jurors) are not all the same. There are differences within this generation by age and by gender and even by ethnicity that may be surprising to you. Millennials are maturing and changing and popular beliefs about them are often seriously in error. And the Millennial may be more open to evidence contradicting their current point of view than are older jurors. That alone may make you want to look a little more closely at the Millennial in the box.

The Media Insight Project. 2015. How Millennials get news: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation.

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beard and tattoosRecently we blogged about an emerging demographic subgroup: the lumbersexual. After reading the flurry of mainstream media articles about this group, here is how we described them:

“As far as we can tell, the lumbersexual is an urban male (typically White and heterosexual) who dresses like a lumberjack even though he is far from a lumberjack. While it is a recognizable fashion statement, there are (as yet) no attitudes, values and beliefs attributed to the lumbersexual. While there is a sense that these are men trying to look “like real men” according to a hyper masculine definition—there is no evidence that their attitudes, values and beliefs would line up with what we think of as stereotypically masculine.”

This was an emerging demographic subgroup observed in society fashion pages and written up in the mass media. We wondered if there would be research emerging to tell us more about the lumbersexual as a group. Are they conservative like the “real men” they emulate in dress or are they hipsters in search of a new look? We did not have to wonder long because, just like that, the academics weighed in with a refinement of the emerging stereotype.

You may notice that the male illustrating this post looks less like a nerd wearing lumberjack clothes and more like a male model with a colorful tattoo sleeve and an untrimmed beard. That is no mistake. The researchers we write about today see the beard and the tattoo (along with any existing piercings) as a way the male decorates himself to be more attractive to potential sexual partners. Yes, these researchers would be of the evolutionary psychology persuasion.

The researchers look at coloration and various “ornamentation” (think orange butts, big brightly colored noses, the beards of howler monkeys, and so on) and related sexual prowess in monkeys of various sorts and then apply their thoughts to human males who decorate themselves with beards and tattoos because, well, it just makes perfect sense to the evolutionary psychologist to make this (gigantic) cognitive leap.

They cite research showing that human males with beards, for example, receive higher ratings of aggressiveness, age and masculinity, but not attractiveness compared with non-bearded men. This means, say the researchers, that other men are cowed by the physical superiority of the bearded man and so they step back which leaves the bearded (and perhaps tattooed and pierced) man more access to the partner of their choice. They also attribute the same level of success to the bald man since baldness is a sign of increased testosterone and thus intimidates other men.

We actually wrote about how bald men cannot help but exude authority, confidence, power, and masculinity back in 2012. [If that sounds crazy, read the post!]

From a litigation advocacy perspective, these researchers would probably say that the bearded (and otherwise adorned male) human would be more of a leader than the non-bearded male human—their rationale would be that from physical observation the bearded male would be seen as more masculine and powerful. They would likely hold the same view of the man with the bald head (or shaved head).

We are not evolutionary psychologists and we beg to differ. Sometimes men with beards are leaders in the jury room and sometimes they are not. It isn’t so much about having or not having a beard or having or not having a full head of hair—it’s about life experiences, beliefs, attitudes and values (one of which may be presenting oneself as a more masculine man), and charisma. Overall, despite this research, we would encourage you to look for other indicators of leadership than the presence of a beard or a bald head (even when both are present in the same potential juror!) as you engage in voir dire and jury selection.

Grueter, C., Isler, K., & Dixson, B. (2015). Are badges of status adaptive in large complex primate groups? Evolution and Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2015.03.003

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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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