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Archive for the ‘Internet & jurors’ Category

This issue has been the banner of a number of well-known male bloggers who encourage their readers to pile on [with their generally anonymous screen names] when commenters do not agree with the blogger.

These bloggers make comments like, “it’s my blog and I make the rules” to justify boorish behavior. Granted. We don’t choose to interact with bullies—online or otherwise. We have been the subject of the entire spectrum of comment for our writing over the years of The Jury Room, including bizarre and wildly over-the-top trash-talking from a few other bloggers. We do not like it. We ignore it. We move on–as does our readership.

So we were glad to see this article released by the Pew Research Center on Online Harassment in 2017. The really good news is, they released a survey on the same topic in 2014 and so can compare some of the data to see if online harassment is increasing. In a word? Yes. Pew begins by introducing the problem of online harassment this way:

To borrow an expression from the technology industry, harassment is now a “feature” of life online for many Americans. In its milder forms, it creates a layer of negativity that people must sift through as they navigate their daily routines online. At its most severe, it can compromise users’ privacy, force them to choose when and where to participate online, or even pose a threat to their physical safety.

As usual, Pew offers information on just whom they surveyed. In this case, they surveyed 4,248 nationally representative US adults and found that 41% have been harassed themselves and 66% have witnessed the harassment of others online. In some cases, the behaviors are nuisance behaviors like name-calling or efforts to embarrass someone, but 18% of Americans (that is, nearly 1 in 5) “have been subjected to particular severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, harassment over a sustained period, sexual harassment, or stalking”.

Social media platforms are an especially harassment-prone area but there are multiple places survey respondents report they have been harassed. Most of them believe harassment is facilitated by the anonymity offered by the internet (and, we would add, the frequent use of pseudonyms). Here are a few of the numbers Pew offers on how many Americans have experienced harassment.

41% of respondents [increased from 35% in 2014] have been personally subjected to at least one type of online harassment: 27% were called offensive names, 22% say efforts were made to intentionally embarrass them, 10% were physically threatened, and 6% reported sexual harassment. The 41% total includes those who’ve experienced particularly severe forms of harassment (Pew defines this as stalking, physical threats, sexual harassment, or harassment over a sustained period of time).

Young adults (aged 18-29) are especially singled out for harassment (67% have been harassed—41% severely). At the same time, 30-49 years olds experience harassment frequently as well (49%—up 10% since 2014). Americans age 50 and older report harassment at a lower rate (22% also up 5% since 2014).

Harassment online is typically very personal. 14% reported being harassed for political views, 9% for their physical appearance, 8% for their race or gender, 5% for their religion, and 3% for sexual orientation.

When we look at specific racial groups, 25% of Blacks have been harassed online for race or ethnicity as have 10% of Hispanics. The number among Whites is much lower at 3%. In terms of gender, women (11%) are twice as likely as men (5%) to report having been targeted as a result of gender.

62% of Americans see online harassment as a major problem and only 5% think it is not at all a problem. There are significant gender differences of opinion that Pew addresses in detail when it comes to the problems with online harassment. There are also significant differences among those who have been severely harassed (regardless of gender) and these differences include serious emotional distress and damage to their reputations.

These are good things to review at the report itself to help you understand how the exact same behavior is perceived so very differently based on both gender and experiences online. There is also disagreement on who should manage online civility. Some think it is the responsibility of online services while others think the services should just offer better tools to help people address harassment online. Still others think bystanders witnessing abusive behavior online should play a direct role in stopping it.

In addition to the actual survey, Pew also includes a Q&A article explaining how and why they chose to study online harassment. If you are interested in a brief summary rather than reading the entire article (which isn’t that long), they also have a key points summation.

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Here’s another post combining the things we’ve been collecting to blog about and presented together so we can clear the desk off with newer stuff!

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

At least, this is the best known quotation of the 19th century British politician Lord Acton. But in 2017, we have an article courtesy of The Atlantic that tells us power does more than corrupt, it actually damages your brain’s abilities that helped you rise to power in the first place. It’s called the “power paradox”: once you have power, you lose some of the skills needed to gain it in the first place. They describe a loss of empathy (i.e., “the empathy deficit”) and a general decrease in the ability to “read” others. They wonder if the impact of gaining power should be called the “hubris syndrome” (which shows itself through “manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence”). Interestingly, some hubris can be corrected by recalling past experiences in which the powerful one was less powerful. You may want to read this one.

Power poses are continuing to get bad (very bad) press

In December 2016, we blogged about challenges to Amy Cuddy’s “power posing” research and her famous TED Talk. One of the most recent commenters on the controversy is a blogger over at Mind the Brain blog (one of the PLOS|BLOGS). According to the blogger, the narrative has become overly focused on the harassment of a junior scientist and the need for greater civility in academia (link to the blog post on that in this series of posts). The real narrative, and thus this attempt to restart the conversation, should be (again, according to blogger James Coyne), whether the paper itself had merit in the first place. Coyne thinks the original paper should never have been published and goes to some lengths to develop his argument. If you are interested in a look at why the power posing paper may be a great motivational talk idea, but not particularly good science—take a look at this Mind the Brain blog post.

Do smartphones make us stupid?

Yikes. We know our smartphones are apparently making efforts to control us, but they also apparently “significantly reduce our cognitive capacity” just by being within reach. As you can see in Science Daily:

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

The question that must now be answered is whether leaving our cell phone at home (or locked in our car) is less distracting than having it with us. You’ll want to see our blog post on nomophobia. And maybe our blog post on the FOMO Scale as well. This (being distracted by stuff) is obviously a complicated area and much more (tenure-granting) research is likely needed.

You’ve heard of the imposter syndrome—but what about the racial imposter syndrome?

The imposter syndrome has long been discussed as the secret fear (that is not really so secret) that we will be exposed as imposters pretending to know more than we actually know. The researchers who initially described it, thought it was an experience solely experienced by women. This belief was not accurate.

Now, in 2017, we have the racial imposter syndrome. This is an experience shared by biracial and multi-ethnic people who find they feel “fake” or inauthentic in at least part of their racial heritage. We first heard about this at the NPR podcast Code Switch and their summary of how this works is fascinating if you are interested in identity and how we fail to embrace our full selves through some sense of guilt or shame (or something else). Beyond this episode, Code Switch is a terrific podcast on bias and how to circumvent it.

S-Town: An object lesson in empathy

And speaking of podcasts, if you have not listened to the NSFW (“not suitable for work” listening due to profanity) podcast S-Town—it is amazing. It is like a real life mystery of identity, racism, bias, hidden gold bars, and the state of Alabama. If you are interested in listening to it, do not read the spoilers which are filled with questions of ethics and fair play. Just know there is a very good reason why this is now the most downloaded podcast of all time. If you like mysteries and thrillers or suspense novels, you will love S-Town. Here’s where you can find it–prepare to binge.

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When facing a panel of prospective jurors for voir dire and jury selection it is important that you update your perceptions of who these people are in 2017. It is hard to keep up with change and to replace our outdated ideas of “how North America is” but here is some data to help you do just that. These facts are wonderful perspective changers and we hope some of them will surprise you (since that will help you remember and update your perceptions of those potential jurors).

“Normal America is not a small town of white people”

The people over at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com site did us an incredible service with this article first published in spring 2016. So—before you go look, when you think of “normal America”, what picture comes to mind? For those of you who think of a scene more consistent with 1950s America, this is a must-read. Things, times, our citizens and what is now “normative” has changed a lot since the 1950s. Here’s a look at the communities most like 1950s America and the communities most like the America of the present. The two sets of communities are incredibly different. It is a nod to why it is so very important to know the demographics of your venire but also an imperative to update that mental picture you have of “normal America”. We are so not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Digital news and followup by race of online news consumer

So…when you think of who reads news online and who follows up on that news—would you think those who follow-up more likely to be Black or White? You don’t have to answer out loud,—just think to yourself and read on. Pew Research just published an article based on questioning more than 2000 online news consumers twice a day for a week.

As part of that questioning, Pew asked the news consumers if they took any of six pre-identified follow-up actions: speaking with someone either in person or over the phone; searching for additional information; posting, sharing or commenting on a social networking site; sending an article to someone by email or text message; bookmarking or saving the news for later; and commenting on a news organization’s webpage.

As a reminder, you are predicting whether Black or White online news consumers are more likely to do any of these six follow-up actions. Got your prediction? Here’s what Pew found:

Black online news consumers preformed at least on of these actions 66% of the time on average. For Whites it was 49%.

There are other fascinating differences by race in this recent report from Pew. You can read the entire (brief and succinct) summary here.

Who counts as Black anymore?

This is an opinion piece that mentions the Dark Girls and Light Girls documentaries and the difficulties both groups (Blacks with dark skins and Blacks with light skins) face in being Black in the current day. The author encourages us to stretch (and update) our perceptions of what constitutes race and Blackness. A worthwhile read from the website The Conversation.

How many US homes have televisions? 

Here’s another shifting reality. In the not too recent past, most US homes had televisions and often multiple televisions. That is changing. Again, from the Business Insider: the number of homes that do not include a TV set has “at least doubled since 2009”. While the percentages are still low (2.6% of American homes now do not include a TV) they are growing quickly and are a reflection of people turning to computers and mobile devices to access media. Percentages of homes without televisions is expected to continue to increase as young people grow older and continue to use alternate screens for viewing programming.

Who reads newspapers anymore? Older or younger Americans?

Young Americans have been less likely to read newspapers than older Americans for some time. But, recently, Pew Research looked closely at newspapers with a more national focus (e.g., The New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today). While readership of election news was roughly equal for USA Today, the other three (NYT, WaPo, WSJ) attracted more readers under 50 than over 50 when it came to election news coverage. This is different from the patterns for local newspaper which are read more by older readers. Pew concludes that digital outreach efforts are working for these national papers in attracting younger readership.

Just how common is crime by immigrants? (Not at all common.)

Despite ongoing political rhetoric about victims of crimes by immigrants, it is simply not a significant problem. The Business Insider summarizes the statistics this way:

According to a September 2016 study by Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, some 3,024 Americans died from 1975 through 2015 due to foreign-born terrorism. That number includes the 9/11 terrorist attacks (2,983 people) and averages nearly 74 Americans per year.

Since 9/11, however, foreign-born terrorists have killed roughly one American per year. Just six Americans have died per year at the hands, guns, and bombs of Islamic terrorists (foreign and domestic).

According to Nowrasteh’s analysis, over the past 41 years (January 1975–December 2015), and including the 9/11 attacks:

The chance an American would be killed by a foreign-born refugee terrorist is 1 in 3.64 billion per year, based on the last 41 years of data.

The chance of an American being murdered by an undocumented immigrant terrorist is 1 in 10.9 billion per year.

The chance an American could be killed by a terrorist on a typical tourist visa was 1 in 3.9 million.

This article contains tables of numbers that are easy to read and point out the reality behind the rhetoric. The political rhetoric is about fear and not about reality. Read beyond the rhetoric to get to the facts.

How America changed during Barack Obama’s Presidency 

If you have looked at any of these changes with some level of surprise, it would also prove useful to look at another Pew Research report examining changes in America during the eight years of the Obama presidency. This report covers attitudes important in voir dire and jury selection as they reflect values and beliefs relevant to case decision-making. So many changes have taken place in the past eight years that it is staggering to see them all summarized in this report. There are sure to be some changes (and corresponding shifts in attitude) that will be related to your own upcoming cases.

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Here’s another combination post offering multiple tidbits for you to stay up-to-date on new research and publications that have emerged on things you need to know. We tend to publish these when we’ve read a whole lot more than we can blog about and want to make sure you don’t miss the information.

Juror questions during trial and the prevalence of electronic and social media research

The National Center on State Courts just published a study authored by a judge in the Pennsylvania Lawyer on whether allowing jurors to ask questions during trial will help resolve issues of electronic and social media research during trial. The judge-author suggests the judicial directives to not conduct any form of research (the instructions usually itemize various forms of social media as examples of “what not to do”) do not stop the research from happening—it simply makes the research surreptitious rather than public. Since this publication is in the Pennsylvania Lawyer, they focus on Pennsylvania jury instructions but also discuss how other venues have used (and controlled) juror questions during trial. The article offers suggestions developed in the subcommittee on civil jury instructions. It is well worth a read if you have questions about the practice of allowing juror questions.

We should question alibis and the weight we place on them during jury deliberations

Given all the concerns about the accuracy of eye-witness testimony, it only makes sense we should also closely examine alibis and whether we simply accept them as true. A new article in Pacific Standard magazine says we need to pay attention to alibis as new research is telling us that accuracy of alibis resemble the vagaries of faulty eye-witness testimony. According to the new research, we tend not to remember mundane events (like where we were on August 17, 2009). The authors of the study described say that the wrong people can end up in jail due to alibi inconsistency and eyewitness mis-identification.

The curious impact of donning a police uniform

New research published in Frontiers in Psychology tells us that putting on a police uniform automatically affects how we see others and creates a bias against those we consider of lower social status. Essentially, say the researchers, the uniform itself causes shifts (likely due to the authority communicated by the uniform) resulting in judgment of those considered to be lower status (i.e., in this study those wearing hoodies were identified as having a lower social status). The researchers think it possible that police officers (who put on their uniforms) may perceive threat where none exists.

Identifying lies with fMRI machines

We’ve written about identifying deception using fMRIs frequently at this blog and here’s a four-page “knowledge brief” from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. You can also download this summary at SSRN. This is a terrific (and brief) summary on everything you need to know about what fMRI machines can tell us about deception and what they cannot tell us about deception. You could think of this as a primer on fMRIs and how they work (and don’t work) as well as a guide to deposition testimony of an expert witness touting the deception-identifying abilities of the machine. This resource is very worth your time.

Ciro Civile, & Sukhvinder S. Obhi (2017). Students Wearing Police Uniforms Exhibit Biased Attention toward Individuals Wearing Hoodies. Frontiers in Psychology, (February 6,)

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We read so much for this blog (and just out of general curiosity) that we often find these small bits of information which don’t justify an entire blog post but that we want to share with you because they are just too good to ignore. Here’s another one of those combination posts that you simply must read!

Generational labels are so passé

We are so used to hearing generational labels (like Boomer, Gen Xer, Millennial) tossed about in marketing presentations and in casual conversation but Harvard Business Review thinks these labels are obsolete. These labels don’t add additional information and are increasingly used as a substitute for age ranges, says HBR. Further (they opine) the cut-off dates for generations are entirely arbitrary, and frankly, there is a fair bit of variability in what birth-years ranges are thought to apply to these labels. They suggest, rather than the generational name labels, we use age or even age ranges to describe groups of people.

They call this “old way” of using generational monikers “generational segmentation” and say it is an artifact of (way back when) when marketers could not easily do “individual level targeting”. It’s an interesting perspective that rings pretty true to our minds especially considering this recent post (and we’ve done a lot of generationally-themed writing).  The most distorting aspect of the generational labels is that they are frozen in time—the members of each age cohort are often viewed as being alike in key ways, as if these characteristics don’t evolve as a person grows older. The “old way” combines generational identity (obviously, since a 30-year-old in 2017 is also a Millennial) with the idea that they are also a 30-year-old, period. That person will be 50 in 20 years, clearly a different stage of life, but they will still be a Millennial. How do we understand that? It is much more complicated. Just use actual age ranges, just like the cool kids at HBR.

Emoji’s and the pursuit of academic tenure

If you had considered this (although, in truth, who would?) you would have realized that the ever-more-popular emoji would be studied by academics in pursuit of tenure. And of course, that which was coming has now arrived. The researchers say that emojis (the modern version) and emoticons (the originals designed with punctuation symbols) have developed to communicate the appropriate facial expression to go with a string of text. The first reported use occurred in discussion forums in the 1980s (say the researchers) when this emoticon symbol 🙂 was included to communicate the message was meant in fun. Now, up to 92% of the online population uses emojis (the more modern version uses cartoonish emojis like this one 🤗). The researchers use easy to understand language (not) as they communicate the meaning behind emojis:

“They disambiguate the communicative intent behind messages, serve important verbal and nonverbal functions in communication, and can even provide insight into the users personality.”

“Drawing on the method of corpus linguistics, the bountiful occurrence of emojis in real-world online text provides a new means to examine the function of contemporary interactional communication and emotion portrayal.”

We don’t think we’ll be covering much of this work as it evolves but wanted you to be aware it is out there. Frankly, we think it is—how should we say? 💩

And as an example of how emoji research can help you in your real life, the poop emoji was “invented” in Japan and is most widely used in Canada.

Persuasion landmines: When facts fail and your most salient points are the least informative 

After more than 25 years, we still love doing pretrial research but it is still very common to see attorneys chewing peanut M&Ms in frustration while their important facts are dismissed (or ignored) by mock jurors. Here are two articles (both happened to be published in Scientific American just this month) to help you increase the likelihood your story will be heard and remembered accurately. The first article focuses on the reality that pre-existing beliefs will trump your facts when jurors listen to your narrative. The author summarizes the (frightening) research and then offers suggestions (six in all—most of which we’ve blogged about here before!) to try to convince your listeners to consider your information. It is well worth the 5-7 minutes it will take you to read.

The second article, uses the example of noting a person has purple hair to remember Amanda’s name (which means if Amanda changes her hair color, you will be stumped). The point of this article is to help us learn how to categorize important information accurately and not be side-tracked by red herrings like purple hair. The author talks to a researcher who says that if you want to overpower attention-getting facts (like purple hair), your counter-evidence needs to be eye-catching and quickly understandable. Let’s hear it again for the power of visual evidence!

Kaye LK, Malone SA, & Wall HJ (2016). Emojis: Insights, Affordances, and Possibilities for Psychological Science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences PMID: 28108281

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