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Archive for the ‘Internet & jurors’ Category

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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jury_room_525The options for online searches of potential jurors seem to be a fast-moving target. Our experience is that often there is simply no time for more than the most cursory efforts that often happen during a very short voir dire session itself. In other cases, if there is time to conduct such research, sometimes the information required to do accurate online research (i.e., full name, address, date of birth) are not provided. Yet presentations talk about the importance of a thorough search and some go so far as to say it is not ethical to forego such background internet research into potential jurors [citing the 2010 Missouri Supreme Court standard]. So it was good to see this (hard to obtain) article from last year on what is actually being done in the trenches.

Researchers did their own background search of an actual jury venire using the following sites as search tools: Google, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoogleBlogSearch. They actually found information on more than a third (36%) of the jurors (in our experience, this is a fairly high proportion, and suggests that this was probably an urban venire).

They performed four separate searches on each of the five sites: full name, full name + state, full name + city, and full name + date of birth.

However, 94% of the information they found was procured via simple Google searches. Only 6% of the information they found was unique to other internet sites. On the other hand, their strategies for ensuring they had the correct “Joe Johnson” were not as intensive as we actually do in our internet searches where accuracy is critical.

The researchers’ [common sense] interpretation of finding the vast majority of information in one spot was that it really was not particularly efficient nor effective to search multiple sites– it is more efficient to stick with Google.

They then turned to lawyers, trial consultants, law students and undergraduates to see the level of information known on social media, attitudes toward use of that information in jury selection, and what was actually being done (and taught) in the trenches of litigation advocacy and law school classrooms about juror’s right to privacy as well as the possible ethical issues in using online search tools for jury selection.

Study participants identified four areas wherein they saw ethical issues:

  1. juror rights [either a right to privacy or the idea that they should not post information online if they wanted privacy],
  2. defendant/accuser rights [a fair and impartial jury is a constitutional right but some thought these online searches ethical and indicative of competent lawyering while others did not],
  3. court processes [some felt the jury selection process should be uniform across individual jurors and those with online presence would be subject to unfair scrutiny] and,
  4. the sites themselves [using the sites for purposes other than social networking is inappropriate and the information is of questionable validity].

It’s an interesting article although the sample sizes are quite small (175 undergraduates, 27 law students, and 11 trial consultants and trial lawyers). The authors see this as an initial foray with follow-up work to be done in the future. The takeaway for us is this: when time pressure is intense–the most bang for your buck comes from a Google search. When you have ample time and budget (perhaps for the high-profile trial) using other searches may be worthwhile if the extra 6% is critical information to have. If, for instance, the value of their home, the model of car they drive, the level of their education, or the number of people who live with them is crucial, there are better ways to find it unless you do a lot of drilling-down through Google links. The authors also recommend the use of paid search sites and perhaps, even a private investigator.

We think we’ve seen the gamut of investigations, ranging from none to those using both paid search sites (in the event you don’t know this, “privacy” is largely a pleasant fiction) and private investigators. Even in the latter cases, though, our work in slogging through site after site after site (in search of that elusive 6%) did yield information previously unknown. Whether it was essential information or not is highly variable. The overall cost benefit analysis of social media research during voir dire remains, for us, an open question. It just depends.

Neal, TMS, Cramer, RJ, Ziemke, MH, & Brodsky, SL (2013). Online searches for jury selection. Criminal Law Bulletin, 49 (2)

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A new issue of The Jury Expert!

Friday, February 7, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

TJE_logo-300x99The Jury Expert is a trial skills magazine for attorneys, written by trial consultants, and published by the American Society of Trial Consultants as a (free) service to the litigation community. The February 2014 issue just published and it was worth waiting for!

Here’s a description of what you will see in our latest issue when you visit The Jury Expert’s website:

The ABCs of Religiosity: Attitudes, Beliefs, Commitment, and Faith: Gayle Herde writes this practical article on how you can understand the role religious beliefs could play in juror deliberations. How to measure religiosity (by looking at attitudes, beliefs, commitment and faith), how to listen to responses in voir dire to “hear” religiosity without asking for direct expressions on the role of religion in a potential juror’s life, the relationship of political persuasion and religion, the role of non-belief, and how to structure your SJQ effectively.

Neuroscience, The Insanity Defense, and Sentencing Mitigation: Adam Shniderman gives us a very current, plain language review of the neuroscience arena. What does all the conflicting media coverage mean? What does the research really say? How can you best defend a client with neurological issues? This is a terrific summary of how to understand the “my brain made me do it” media coverage distortions, learn what the research actually says, and then plan accordingly.

A (Short) Primer on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Culture in America: Alexis Forbes brings us all up to date on research, why it’s important to understand this culture, and terminology. She includes helpful charts that visually demonstrate the relationships between common terms and even a “say this” and “don’t say that” graphic to help you communicate without offending. You may think you are up to date. Here’s a simple question: Do you know what ‘cisgender’ is? Go read this!

Defense Responses to Jailhouse Informant Testimony: Brittany Bates, Rob Cramer, and Robert Ray bring us this information on how to defend against allegations about your client by a jailhouse informant. From reviewing the literature to offering ideas for pre-trial research and SJQs, this is a practical article for when you are faced with damaging testimony from your client’s alleged jailhouse confidant.

Metaphors and the Minds of Jurors: We are very familiar with the power of the story model for case presentation but, according to Ron Bullis, we may not have paid as close attention to the power of the metaphor. Read this to learn how to listen for metaphors in deposition to hear (and know how to defuse) opposition arguments. This is a practical article that highlights the importance of the metaphor–how you can use the metaphor powerfully, and how you can defuse the power of opposing counsel’s metaphor.

Why Do We Ask Jurors To Promise That They Will Do the Impossible? Suzy Macpherson asks us to think about the impossibility of setting aside preconceived notions, life experiences, and values in order to be “fair and impartial”. This is a practical article that will leave you thinking about how to ask seemingly simple questions quite differently.

A new Favorite Thing: Hate spam? Especially hate how you are able to catch it at your laptop or desktop but it creeps onto mobile devices? Here’s a terrific and inexpensively priced product that will make you smile every time you get email showing you what they caught at the server level so you never have to waste time deleting spam from your smart phone or tablet again! (You are welcome.)

The Top 10 Favorite Articles from The Jury Expert in 2013! Don’t you hate it when you don’t know about something many of your friends, colleagues, and opposing counsel know? Here’s a shortcut for you: This is a list of the top 10 articles our readers (your friends, colleagues and opposing counsel) explored in 2013. Catch up quick!

As Editor of The Jury Expert, one of the real benefits for me is reading all this information first. I love learning new things and being surprised by novel ways of considering complex issues. Please visit this new issue of The Jury Expert now.

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Narcissism and Social Media Use

Friday, January 17, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

Twitter narcissistsWe’ve seen a lot of commentary about narcissistic Millennials and how that self- involvement shows up in their use of social media. Well, yes–and not so much– according to new research. The researchers focus on whether one is an active user or a passive user of social media. (Active users create content while passive users read content by others.) 

The researchers compare Twitter use and Facebook use and believe that Facebook is reciprocal and interactive (i.e., you have ‘friends’) while Twitter is not necessarily either reciprocal or interactive (i.e., you have ‘followers’). What they really wished to explore, however, was the motivation behind updating status (on Facebook) and tweeting (on Twitter). They completed two separate studies, one with college students and the second with adults:

Study 1 (the college sample): 515 participants, average age 20.8 years with a range from 18 years to 29 years. The participants were 60% female and 90.7% Caucasian.

Study 2 (the adult sample recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk): 669 participants, average age 32.5 years with a range from 18 years to 75 years. The participants were 55% female and 78.6% Caucasian. Slightly less than half (46.7%) had a bachelor’s degree or above.

In each study, the participants completed a measure of narcissism and were asked how many times each day they updated their Facebook status, or how many different times they tweeted each day. They were also asked about their motivations for participating in either or both social media platforms (e.g., to keep people updated on my life, to gain additional friends or followers, or to be admired by others).

The researchers found the narcissism score was a stronger predictor of the number of Facebook friends than of Twitter followers for both the college group and the adult group. (The researchers say this might be related to the platforms themselves. On Facebook, you can make direct friend requests but on Twitter you need to post interesting tweets to gain followers.) What is most interesting to us, however, is that the researchers found generational differences in their data.

Narcissistic college students preferred to post their content on Twitter.

Narcissistic adults preferred to post their content on Facebook.

The researchers say it may be because college kids grew up with Facebook and it is standard for them to update their Facebook status. Twitter, on the other hand, is newer and (perhaps) more linked to prestige (and therefore a boon to the young narcissist). Adults, on the other hand, see both networks as new technology and so, say the researchers, it is a more “intentional choice” to update their status and the results show active participation in Facebook is more reflective of narcissism among adults.

The Weekly Standard also has an interesting article on Twitter–which they refer to as the “Twidiocracy”. The point they make is that people used to write more intelligently than they spoke, “but now a scary majority tend to speak more intelligently than they tweet”. It’s a very negative article (as you can likely intuit from the word Twidiocracy) and offers random factoids like these:

28% of iPhone users check or update Twitter before they get out of bed (48% do it after they’ve gone to bed).

31% of 16-25 year olds update their social media accounts while “on the toilet” and 11% of those under age 25 allow interruptions “by an electronic message during sex”.

1 in 3 people who visited the Facebook site felt more dissatisfied with their lives after that visit and that dissatisfaction was related to feelings of envy or insecurity.

That list goes on and on. For us, the most interesting tidbit in the Twidiocracy article was this: “A yearlong Pew study…found that Twitter users tend to be considerably younger and more liberal than the general public. But whether tweets tended to skew liberal or conservative was almost immaterial. Twitter reactions to current events was often at odds with overall public opinion, and it was ‘the overall negativity that stands out’.”

Or, as Pew actually puts it, “Twitter is not a reliable proxy for public opinion”.

While not a big shocker, it’s a terrific reminder. Only 16% of US adults use Twitter. That means 84% of US adults do not. While it is easy to become convinced from tweets that an issue is critically important or an opinion is almost universally held–it just isn’t true. You have to read research and sample more broadly based opinions than the fairly small social media samples. We are thankful there is a Pew Research Center and that none of us are forced to accept either the Twitter search function or the Weekly Standard’s versions of the truth at face value.

Davenport, SW, Bergman, SM, Bergman, JZ, & Fearrington, ME (2014). Twitter versus Facebook: Exploring the role of narcissism in the motives and usage of different social media platforms. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 212-220

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