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Archive for the ‘Internet & jurors’ Category

no internet post insert 2015We know who they are and we’ve done a lot of pretrial research with them! It’s like walking backwards in time. Perhaps the most shocking example we’ve seen was one in very rural Texas which we blogged about in a post on working in very rural areas:

“Other very rural venues have shown us the extent to which the internet has passed by some Americans completely. At one site, of 36 mock jurors, only 4 had internet access. At another, of 48 jurors, only 11 had ‘smart phones’ while a majority didn’t understand the question. Most had “not heard of” Amazon.com’s website. One called a major social networking site, “the devil’s work” and others nodded somberly.”

Granted, this was about 5 years ago, but I am confident that this remains one of those corners of the “late-adopter” universe. You have to do a very different presentation for jurors who have never heard of Amazon and don’t know what you mean by “a smart phone”. Especially when smart phones have become pretty ubiquitous across the country. This disconnect from technology is the sort of information you want to know prior to trial since it can require a significant retooling of the case narrative for these jurors to understand the case facts—especially when the case is one of a high-tech nature.

Here is what the Pew study reported about those 15% of Americans who don’t use the internet:

34% of those who do not use the internet say it is because they have “no interest” or the internet is “not relevant” to their lives. 32% say the internet is “too difficult to use” and 8% say they are simply “too old to learn”. 19% said it was too expensive.

40% of older adults (65 and up) say they do not use the internet (compared to only 3% of the 18 to 29 years olds).

33% of adults with less than a high school education say they never go online.

Adults with household incomes below $30K a year are about 8x more likely than most affluent adults to not use the internet.

Rural Americans are about 2x as likely to never use the internet than are urban or suburban residents.

20% of Blacks and 18% of Hispanics do not use the internet compared with 14% of Whites and 5% of English-speaking Asian-Americans (which are the group least likely to be offline).

In other words, people who do not use the internet look identical to those in our large research project described earlier. And their world view is different from that of the urbanite/suburbanite. A woman in a mock trial referred to social media as “the devil’s work”. She was an older, White, retired schoolteacher who had apparently been distressed by the participation of students in social networking sites prior to her retirement. While her statement generated giggles and good-natured hisses from counsel who allegedly represented the devil (from the privacy of a closed-circuit viewing room)—there was no mirroring humor in the mock juror presentation room to her remark. They simply nodded with somber expressions. And after that understanding was seen (through the miracle of modern technology) in the observation room, all frivolity was gone. It was a big case with multiple defendants and they had all just realized they were not in “Kansas” (or New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, DC, Atlanta, et cetera) anymore.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, presenting a case to people who do not use the internet means you have to think about what you are going to say, examples you will use, effective metaphors, whether you will use computerized presentations or visual evidence boards, and so on. You need to be sure that what you say is understood by the listeners. If that isn’t a scary thing to you, it probably should be a scary thing. Once you step into rural America, you are likely to be unfamiliar with the world view shared by your jurors.

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pruny fingersHere again is a collection of tidbits we don’t deem worthy of a complete blog post but which might be of interest or even amusing to you.

Social media is how we get our news these days

While you may think Twitter is receding in importance, the numbers beg to differ. A new Pew Research study tells us that ever-increasing numbers of Americans get their news from Twitter and Facebook. Sixty-three per cent of users on both platforms say they use the social media sites for news outside the realm of friends and family. (These percentages are up from 52% for Twitter users and 47% for Facebook users in 2013 so the use of the platforms for news gathering is growing fast.) Both of the sites are preparing to launch news services that will undoubtedly be tailored to who you follow on Twitter and to what you “like” and what your gender is on Facebook. Social media involvement continues to be important for us to follow as we consider potential jurors but it just got a lot more complicated. To what headlines and stories has your potential juror been exposed just prior to trial?

Don’t eat fish for lunch when in trial 

Recent research examined whether people were made more suspicious when they were completing a task in a room with a “fishy smell” or a room with a neutral smell. Sure enough, the researchers conclude that “exposure to fishy smells is sufficient to elicit feelings of suspicion and distrust, which are associated with a focus on how things may differ from what meets the eye”. Probably better to not have that fish sandwich for lunch when in trial.

The best argument for childhood vaccinations thus far!

A new study just published in Science magazine pretty much kills the theory that it is better to build natural immunity than to take on the false immunity offered by vaccines. There’s never really been any fact to support that argument but here’s a huge finding from this new study: catching measles destroys any natural immunity and “resets” your immune system to that of a newborn. And, it takes two or three years for your “natural” immunity to recover. BUT WAIT! Before you share this with anyone who has an anti-vaccine stance—remember that could backfire on you.

The Stanford Prison Experiment is now a movie

You might recognize this experiment as the one where undergraduates were divided into prisoners and guards and locked in a campus building where after six days the experiment was stopped due to the guards being abusive and the prisoners becoming depressed and feeling helpless. Now it’s a movie. So if you’d rather see a movie than read about the experiment, check out The Stanford Prison Experiment.

Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome (SSSS): Do you have it?

Here’s a new disorder—although those who experience it would likely say it’s an old disorder that’s finally been given a name. It appears to result in everyday sounds being painful to the sufferer. According to a recent write-up in Pacific Standard magazine: “Those who suffer from misophonia recoil from human-made noises like chewing and whistling. The risks of being tormented by everyday experiences, like going to the movies only to find themselves sitting near a popcorn-cruncher, can make them too anxious to leave the house.” The jury is out on whether SSSS is a neurological or a psychiatric disorder.

Lee, D., Kim, E., & Schwarz, N. (2015). Something smells fishy: Olfactory suspicion cues improve performance on the Moses illusion and Wason rule discovery task Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 59, 47-50 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2015.03.006

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facebook creeperYou’ve likely run across the statistics on Facebook being the cause of many divorces or relationship failures as unhappy individuals reunite with past loves lost. There is also of course, often heartbreak as online loves turn out to be not quite who you thought. Now Facebook is also implicated in prolonging the unhappiness after a relationship breakup with 88% (!) of Facebook users “creeping” ex-partners. Imagine a darkened room, a pint of ice cream, a laptop with a high-speed connection, and you are never far away from seeing what your ex is up to now that you are no longer part of his or her everyday life.

Researchers in Canada asked 107 participants (ranging in age from 18 to 35 years with an average age of 23 years) who reported relationship breakups in the past 12 months to complete questionnaires and participate in a structured face-to-face interview on the relationship between Facebook ‘creeping’ and their ongoing distress following relationship breakup. On average, these participants reported their (now defunct) relationship had lasted 2.29 years (with about half having broken up in the past six months and the other half having broken up 7-12 months prior to the study).

In brief, here is what the researchers found:

The more “creeping” (also referred to as “internet electronic surveillance”) one does, the more emotional upset is reported related to the breakup.

The most commonly distressing factor was the ex-partner’s Facebook profile and 88% of the participants reported “creeping” their ex following a breakup. When the participant had remained Facebook friends with their ex, 100% monitored the behavior of the ex after the breakup.

“A breakup without Facebook, you can’t really see what your ex is doing, but with Facebook you just have to click and you know exactly what they’ve been up to. That’s a little frustrating.”

The second distressing factor was the Facebook “relationship status” feature. Changing the relationship status to “single” after “in a relationship” involved multiple questions from “friends” (for 62% of the participants) which raised distress level.

“In some weird way, it kind of feels like you’re breaking up all over again when the status comes down. It angered me at the time that something as trivial as a Facebook status could make me feel so shitty.”

The third distressing area was content posted on Facebook by the participant’s ex-partner which was then seen in the participant’s newsfeed. Participants seeing new content found themselves ruminating over happy memories and wondering why the relationship had ended. Unexpectedly, those who “unfriended” their ex on Facebook had more emotional distress than those who kept the ex as a Facebook friend. For some, like the participant quoted below, “unfriending” helped manage the emotional distress but that was untrue for the majority of participants.

“I would say pull off the Band-Aid as quickly as possible and block the person if you’re finding it as painful as I did to see their continuing existence in your sphere. You’ll immediately feel better, or at least I did.”

It’s an intriguing study that highlights the differences in breaking up in public as opposed to having a private (non-Facebook) breakup. While it is easier to keep up with family and friends on Facebook—it is also more painful post-breakup since your “relationship status” trumpets your pain to all your Facebook friends. The more “creeping” done, the more emotional distress experienced.

The authors also developed a new scale to measure Facebook distress related to creeping an ex after a breakup. The scale does not appear to be named yet but here are a few items from it:

I over-analyze old messages, wall posts or photographs of me and my ex together.

I can’t help feeling angry about content my ex posts on Facebook.

I feel paranoid that people posting on my ex’s wall are potential romantic interests.

Looking at my ex’s Facebook page is self-destructive.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, it seems important to recognize the power of a relationship breakup disclosed through social media, and the identification young people in particular could have with a party publicly shamed, belittled, discarded, or otherwise rejected. In this case, social media (i.e., Facebook involvement) makes the emotional pain last longer and be more intense and it is likely that shame feeds the flame of that sense of public rejection or perceived failure. Every time a Facebook post is re-mentioned (like, for months on end following a breakup when yet another person comments about it after not checking their timeline in a while) it can be traumatizing. If someone feels that they were wrongfully terminated (or are just embarrassed about it) and they get questions about the change in their LinkedIn status from “District Manager at Acme Industries” to something less clear, it can be very difficult for them to explain. That which was once self-promotion can quickly blow up. It’s a potentially powerful theme for case narrative. And it raises questions about how a company might want to guide the use employees make of social media when it involves references to employment status.

Lukacs, V., & Quan-Haase, A. (2015). Romantic breakups on Facebook: new scales for studying post-breakup behaviors, digital distress, and surveillance Information, Communication & Society, 18 (5), 492-508 DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1008540

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random little tidbits 0610Every once in a while we find tidbits that we don’t wish to devote an entire post to but that we think worth sharing. Think of these as party trivia or sound bytes to help you seem intriguing and perhaps more well-read.

The importance of moving:

You’ve seen that infographic on how sitting is killing us all? New research says there are simple ways to counteract that deadly habit. To make it even better—it’s free and something everyone can do. Move. The research itself focuses on walking and you may prefer running, rowing, biking, yoga, or some other activity that suits your fitness and ability level. The formula is simple: Two minutes of walking offsets health harms of an hour sitting. Just standing alone doesn’t do it. You have to move.

You are unique. Your parents are the ones who are so predictable:

Privacy on the internet is really not a thing. But a couple of websites purporting to be able to guess your age (here and here) could make you think you are embarrassingly predictable. They ask for your given name and then tell you how old you are—it’s mortifying. But. We are here to support you. You, yourself are a truly unique and spontaneous creature. Your parents, though? Totally predictable. There are other websites that will (given your responses to a few questions) guess your educational level, your gender (this one pegged me incorrectly), and pretty much anything else you plug into an internet search (e.g., guess my __________). It’s all based on statistical algorithms but still often a bit unnerving.

Online harassment in the form of menacing behavior:

There is an online debate as to whether online harassment truly exists. Of course it exists. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, up to 40% of adult internet users have experienced some form of harassment online (mostly involving name-calling or attempts to embarrass someone). Pew offers a nicely designed graphic looking at how men and women experience differing varieties of online harassment. Women are more distressed than men by online harassment. This is a good data-based evidence of the existence of online harassment. Although, one might consider that the person who says online harassment does not exist is likely not worthy of the effort expended to educate.

online harassment

Is it worth your time to publish in academic journals?

It may seem an odd question given the imperative of publication in peer-reviewed journals if you want to achieve tenure at nearly all universities. The answer to the question appears to be “it depends on whether your goal is sharing the knowledge”. Recently, an opinion column on this issue saying only about 10 people ever actually read papers in academic journals. And just last year, a more comprehensive paper argued that sometimes only the editor(s) and the actual author(s) of the paper actually read articles published in academic journals. That’s a pretty sad (and lonely) number of people who are not racing to the library to read your hard work. We know a place (The Jury Expert) that does a whole lot better than that at seeing your hard work to print and getting it read. You might want to think about doing two versions of your work: one for tenure and one for people to actually read and learn from your efforts.

Banish the ear worm!

Finally! In January of 2013 we wrote about some ways to get rid of an ear worm (that thing that happens when a song gets stuck in your head). The recommendations for removing the pesky ear worm just didn’t seem that credible but it was the findings from the research study so we went ahead with it. Now, science marches on and finally, two years and some months later, we have a new study saying you don’t have to not play Sudoku or take on mentally challenging tasks. Instead of depriving yourself, buy some gum and chew it. As the abstract explains so very clearly: “The data support a link between articulatory motor programming and the appearance in consciousness of both voluntary and unwanted musical recollections.”. (All that means is you now have a research-backed reason for chewing gum: It helps remove ear worms.)

Beaman, C., Powell, K., & Rapley, E. (2015). Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? B(u)y gum! The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68 (6), 1049-1057 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1034142

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NomophobiaThe smartphone has changed our lives. Just last fall, we wrote about the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Scale. As a reminder, that post was about how smartphones allow us to obsessively check our email and social media sites to see what our friends and followers and family members are doing— out of a fear of the grave danger that we are missing out on something somehow. Now, the smartphone has inspired yet another concept and another yardstick to measure it, as academicians struggle to find novel paths to tenure. This scale isn’t about obsessively checking your phone—it’s about how you feel when the phone is not available to you. Nomophobia is considered “a 21st century disorder resulting from new technologies” and even has an entry in the Urban Dictionary which is suitably brief so as to more succinctly illustrate the horror that is nomophobia:

Fear of being away from a mobile phone.

“That guy has serious nomophobia.”

Technically, nomophobia refers a fear of being unable to communicate via a mobile phone or via the internet. It is seen as a “situational phobia” and obviously, a phobia this severe demands a scale to measure our level of nomophobia (which stands for No Mobile Phone Phobia). Researchers in Iowa wanted to measure reactions to being without use of a smartphone and so, set out to create a scale to measure our fear of being without our smartphones. Does not having your phone create anxiety? Are you in a full-blown panic at being off the grid, even for a little while? Researchers interviewed 300 undergraduates who “heavily depended on their smart phones” and ultimately devised a 20-item scale to measure nomophobia. [As an admittedly cynical aside, we would like them to find a sample of 300 undergrads who are not “heavily dependent on their smart phones”. A far more challenging research project.] They validated the questionnaire on a small group of students to ensure the scale produced reliable scores and then they administered the scale to the sample of 300 undergraduates to perform exploratory factor analysis.

Here are a few of the 20 items on the NMP-Q scale:

If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.

If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.

If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.

If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.

If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would be anxious because I would be disconnected from my online identity.

The authors identify four separate factors that emerged in their analysis. When participants were without their cell phones, these concerns arose: not being able to communicate instantly with others, losing connectedness with others, not being able to access information, and giving up convenience of having a smartphone to use if one chose to do so. While many of us would undoubtedly worry about being stranded someplace without a smartphone—many of the items on the scale refer to losing a sense of connection to your social media identity/persona. Like the fear of missing out, nomophobia is likely more pronounced among the young.

From an outside perspective, there is nothing terribly surprising about the research. If you are accustomed to wearing a wristwatch every day and it is the only timepiece you have available, you will be uncomfortable if you are without it. You will worry about being late. You will wonder whether there will be problems associated with your not knowing what time it is frequently. We get accustomed to tools we use frequently, and we don’t like them to be suddenly unavailable to us.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this study (again) speaks to the power of court admonitions to not use smartphones or social media during jury service. The smartphone is ubiquitous these days and increasingly, current studies are showing us that being unable to use one’s smartphone is a bitter pill for some to swallow. Last fall, we summed up the Fear of Missing Out Scale (FOMO) post this way:

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.

Now you can say, “this juror is very nomophobic” and consider if you want that level of angst in the jury room.

Yildirim, C., & Correia, A. (2015). Exploring the dimensions of nomophobia: Development and validation of a self-reported questionnaire Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 130-137 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.02.059

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