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Women often think that “one day” they will garner the professional respect and standing that will stop men from interrupting them when the woman is speaking. Today we are presenting two studies of women who’ve reached heights in their professions which most women (and most men for that matter) will never achieve. Both studies tell us the fantasy of speaking without interruption is likely untrue.

Harassment of female “Space Scientists

Despite all the professed desire to increase the number of women in STEM fields, the working environment experienced by women scientists continues to be hostile. A recent survey of astronomers and planetary scientists asked whether they had been harassed either in school or at work. The survey (for those who like to know such things) was distributed online in early 2015. The researchers received responses from 474 planetary scientists and astronomers.

What is important to know here is that this was not a random sample. The authors report the sample was different from the entire field of space scientists in the following ways: the participants were earlier in their careers than would be a randomly selected sample, were more likely to be women or racial minorities, and were probably savvier about social media than the average space scientist. The researchers say the results are not generalizable to all space scientists but the results do answer (with a resounding yes) the question of whether there really is a problem.

The results were even worse than expected by the supervising professor. Here are a sample of the findings:

Female scientists were more likely than male scientists to report having heard racist or homophobic remarks and to have experienced both verbal and physical harassment (at work and at school) during the five most recent years.

Scientists who were ethnic or racial minority group members were more likely than white scientists to have heard racist and homophobic remarks and to have been harassed.

40% of scientists who were women of color said they had felt unsafe at work because of their gender.

Among female non-white scientists, 28% reported feeling unsafe because of their race.

White women (12%), women of color (18%) and one man of color (6% of his male of color cohort) reported having skipped at least one class, meeting or other professional event because they felt unsafe.

The authors of this paper (which is available on-line) make some recommendations for reducing this harassment. They suggest both schools and labs have diversity training as well as a code of conduct that is enforced. They suggest leaders in the field model “appropriate behavior” (unlike, for example, the example set by leading “planet finder”/space scientist and tenured professor Geoff Marcy who harassed women in his field for decades), and that the profession actually follow their written codes and sanction offenders quickly and fairly.

Surely women who are Supreme Court Justices are free of interruptions!

Nope. Not even. “There is no point at which a woman is high-status enough to avoid being interrupted”. The Harvard Business Review recently summarized the results of a new empirical study [available at SSRN] by Northwestern University researchers. The results mirror the results from the survey of space scientists. If you are a female or a minority (or both) and happen to be a Supreme Court Justice—prepare to be interrupted (and keep reading to see the strategies used by real Supreme Court Justices who are women to decrease the number of interruptions from men).

The HBR summary first tells us that Neil Gorsuch will fit in well at the current Supreme Court since he “repeatedly interrupted” liberal female senators during his Senate hearings. Then, they move on to summarize the new study (the result of reviewing transcripts from 15 years of Supreme Court oral arguments) which shows the following disheartening information:

As more women join the Supreme Court, male justices are increasing their interruptions of the women justices rather than decreasing them (as one might hope). As an example, in the last 12 years, women were 24% (on average) of the Supreme Court composition. During that time frame, 32% of the interruptions were of the female justices (by either their male colleagues or by the male advocates arguing cases). In comparison, only 4% of the interruptions came from the female justices. The researchers looked at transcripts all the way back to 1990 to see if the pattern of interrupting women was the same when there fewer female justices.

In 1990, Sandra Day O’Connor was the only female justice and 35.7% of all interruptions were directed at her.

In 2002, there were two female justices (O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and 45.3% of all interruptions were directed at them.

In 2015, there were three female justices (Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) and, maintaining the increasing frequency of interrupting female justices, 65.9% of all interruptions were of those three women.

In fact, in 2015, Sonia Sotomayor (the only woman of color on the bench) was the most common justice target for interruption by male advocates. (This despite the Supreme Court rule mandating advocates stop talking immediately when a justice begins speaking). The total number of interruptions by male advocates was 10% of the interruptions with 8% (of the 10%) directed at Justice Sotomayor.

Conservative justices are more likely to interrupt liberal justices (70% of the interruptions made by conservative justices) than to interrupt their conservative colleagues (30%).

“Junior” status on the bench also results in more interruptions (at a statistically significant level) from senior justices. However, the researchers say gender is about 30x more powerful a predictor of interruption than length of time on the bench. The researchers expect the introduction of Gorsuch as the most junior colleague will result in an intensification of the gender over seniority interruption relationship.

So if both male Supreme Court advocates and male Supreme Court Justices are increasing their interruptions of women justices, what does a woman do to make a difference? The women who are Supreme Court justices adapt, according to the researchers. They change their speech patterns to mirror those of the male justices. They are, again according to the researchers, less polite. Here’s how the researchers summarize it:

Early in their tenure, female justices tend to frame questions politely, using prefatory words such as “May I ask,” “Can I ask,” “Excuse me,” or the advocate’s name. This provides an opportunity for another justice to jump in before the speaker gets to the substance of her question.

We found that women gradually learn to set aside such politeness. All four of the female justices have reduced their tendency to use this polite phrasing. Justice Sotomayor adjusted within just a few months. Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg gradually became less and less polite over decades on the court, eventually using the polite phrases approximately one-third as much as they did initially. Justice Kagan is still learning: She uses polite language more than twice as often as the average man, although half as often as she did in 2010. We do not see a similar trend with the men, because male justices rarely use these polite speech patterns, even when they first enter the court. It is the women who adapt their speech patterns to match those of the men.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the results of this study are instructive. Female litigators would perhaps do well to modify their speech patterns to mirror those of men. This raises the question that has dogged women in authority forever—conduct and speech which is acceptable and expected from men often results in women being viewed as emasculating or ‘bitchy’. There is a double standard, and ignoring it risks alienating jurors on the one hand, or getting run over by men on the other. Women litigators and female witnesses would do well to review our blog posts on traditionally feminine speech patterns and work to minimize their frequency.

The researchers also call upon the Chief Justice to intervene in the interruptions of women justices and we would say the same for senior partners at law firms. If women are interrupted, speak up and demonstrate an environment that is receptive to both female and male opinions. (It matters.)

Clancy, K. B. H., K. M. N. Lee,E. M. Rodgers, and C. Richey (2017). Double jeopardy in astronomy and planetary science: Women of color face greater risks of gendered and racial harassment, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. 122. Open access pdf at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017JE005256/epdf

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Think back to your Psychology 101 class in college or an upper level Social Psychology undergraduate course and you will probably remember the famous case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered in a brutal attack outside her Queens, NY apartment in 1964. According to psychology textbooks, at least 38 onlookers witnessed the attack (mostly through hearing her screams) and yet no one came to her aid or called the police.

Psychologists labeled this “seeing but not helping” phenomenon as “the bystander effect”. Essentially, they say, the presence of others observing someone who needs help, diminishes the likelihood that any individual person will help (since we presume others will come to the person’s aid).

But, as it turns out, the Kitty Genovese story we know is not accurate. Saul Kassin, perhaps the most famous of the false confessions researchers, reviewed the historical records on this case and discovered the facts have been misreported for decades. According to Kassin (who is one of the responders on a paper we wrote for The Jury Expert when working a false confessions case), bystanders did respond, several came to her aid, and others called the police.

There were also a number of people who gave false confessions for her murder.

Police arrested a 29-year-old Black man named Winston Moseley for burglary and said he gave a “full and detailed confession” to Genovese’s rape and murder as well as several additional women. However, the police already had a confession for one of the other women Moseley confessed to killing.

The second man, a White 18-year-old male named Alvin Mitchell had been “interrogated by the police seven times over 50 hours” and then signed a confession. He swiftly recanted and said he was threatened and physically abused while in police custody. Unfortunately, he was ultimately convicted and served 12 years and 8 months before being released. When asked why he’d falsely confessed, Mitchell told Kassin he would have “confessed to killing the president because them people had me scared to death”.

It is astonishing that the urban mythology surrounding Kitty Genovese’s murder has been so widely accepted. As psychologists, we were presented with false facts of the Kitty Genovese murder and schooled in the “bystander effect” theory which arose from the lack of help she allegedly received. This is a stunning reversal. And, for us, the relationship of false confessions to the Kitty Genovese case is a second interesting twist. The summary of the writeup we’ve linked to in this post has a lot of information, but the article itself is filled with facts you have not likely heard before.

For example, did you know Genovese had a same-sex partner, that it is questionable whether there were really 38 witnesses—let alone 38 witnesses who took no action whatsoever, that the police helped shape the story told in newspapers, or that there are a lot of parallels with the Genovese case to the facts (25 years later) surrounding the false confessions in the Central Park Jogger case?

If you find this information and analysis is as important to you as it is to us,  this article is well worth the effort to access and read it. The story of Kassin’s meeting with Alvin Mitchell (who served such a long time in jail due to his false confession) alone is riveting.

Kassin, S. 2017. The Killing of Kitty Genovese: What Else Does This Case Tell Us? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(3).

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Perhaps we should lower our standards on what sources are good for an entire blog post as these combination posts seem to increasingly inhabit our blog. We simply run across a lot of things that we want you to know about but we don’t want to repeat what you can find elsewhere. So, sit back and click some links and see some of the stuff we thought too interesting to pass up!

Cross-examining a psychiatrist or a psychologist (aka shrinks)

Much has been written on the intricacies of cross-examining mental health professionals and a quick internet search will give you more than a million things to read. Rather than taking all that time, we’ll just send you to the ABA Journal and their brief article on how to be effective while cross-examining  these witnesses. We’ll help convince you to visit the article by sharing just a few of their recommendations: confine your questions to their reports, determine whether they have taken a complete patient history to support their eventual diagnosis, verify entries (even degrees) on their resumés, and much, much more.

If you want more, here is a resource-rich webpage on deposition and cross-examination questions for mental health experts. Finally, having a trial consultant with a background in expert testimony and psychological testing can also be very helpful.

Digital gaps between urban and rural America

We’ve done research in Los Angeles and witness preparation in France a number of times recently but you will often find us in rural areas, in places the internet forgot, and in areas the people are so charming and gracious you may just want to stay. One of our favorite stories about rural pretrial research is this one which involved multiple high-tech company clients who were stunned at the dearth of technological savvy among the mock jurors only a few years ago:

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.

While we were taken aback during that research, a new Pew Research report tells us the urban/rural digital gap still remains. It is less pronounced than it once was, but the divide remains. You will want to read this report—even if you don’t do much rural work. It’s a way to keep track of just how different urban and rural jurors are and how access to information (as well as the value placed on that access) varies dramatically between city and rural residents.

Empathy gaps in the brain of the psychopath

We’ve written before about the psychopath (quite a lot, actually) but here is another review of the many ways the brain of the psychopath differs. The writeup summarizes the work of a team of researchers from Harvard who studied inmates in two Wisconsin medium-security prisons. These researchers believe that psychopathy reflects a “brain wiring dysfunction”. Alas for some of us, the researchers say this (and we wonder just how convincing it would be to jurors who like their food and drink perhaps a little too much):

“The same kind of short-sighted, impulsive decision-making that we see in psychopathic individuals has also been noted in compulsive over-eaters and substance abusers.”

Gender pay gaps—it’s worse than you may think for women of color

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has released a new report that is pretty much certain to make you want to overeat M&Ms or ice cream (but that could just be me). In one of more depressing and heavily hyper-linked summaries of the gender pay gap—they include this discouraging information on the realities for women of color.

“Hispanic women will have to wait until 2248 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.”

We won’t make you do the math. That is 232 years for Hispanic women and 108 years for black women. That’s beyond ridiculous. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Read this report and be informed. Then do something about it.

The Police and Law Enforcement (PLE) Scale

This is a new 8-question scale meant to document Black men’s perception of bias and discrimination directed toward them by members of the police force. Here is a bit of what the researchers say about their reasons for developing the measure:

The researchers note that most scientific literature on the subject typically includes the police’s point of view of the experience and rarely that of the person who had the interaction with the police. The new Police and Law Enforcement Scale can help to balance out the record so that it includes the perspective of individuals who have interactions with police.

“There is a substantial gap between what you hear from black men regarding their experiences with law enforcement officials during their lives and what is in the scientific literature,” said Devin English, a psychology Ph.D. student at the George Washington University and lead author of the study. “We see our study as helping to document what black men have been experiencing for centuries in the United States.”

This measure is meant to assess the level of institutionalized racism experienced by community members and is also seen as a step to improve public health (since discrimination is known to decrease physical as well as emotional well-being. The researchers are hopeful the scale can improve dialogue across the US on racial discrimination in policing.

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Here’s another post on a variety of things too good to bypass completely, that we didn’t want to use for entire posts. You will see, as before, these combination posts are educational and help you become a scintillating conversationalist. At least we think so.

We’ve worked at lot in East Texas [and elsewhere] on patent cases so you might think the recent TC Heartland decision would make us mourn the end of an era [see the coverage at SCOTUS blog]. Instead, it’s a chance to return to my home state (Delaware) for IP cases more often than I do them in my adopted state (Texas)! You don’t meet many people from Delaware when you are not in Delaware, but I can tell you that it was a great place to grow up and attend college. I’ve been following the legal publications analyses of this SCOTUS reversal with interest, but this plain language post from the Harvard Business Review caught my eye. It is one of the clearest explanations I have seen of the likely impact of the decision.

If you want to get away with financial misconduct on Wall Street—be a man

You may think this is a pretty obvious one since fewer than 10% of the CEOs and CFOs in the financial services industry are women—but here’s a hard fact from a new study on financial misconduct among more than 1.2M financial advisors between 2005 and 2015.

Compared to men, women disciplined for financial misconduct were 20% more likely to lose their jobs and 30% less likely to get a new job in the industry within a year.

Women were punished more despite the fact that male misconduct cost the companies more ($40K compared to $32K).

For men, only 28% of the financial misconduct charges came from within their firm. This compared to 44% of misconduct charges for women coming from within their own firm.

And among both men and women who were disciplined, females were punished more severely (despite the fact that men were three times more likely to have a prior record of misconduct and twice as likely to be repeat offenders).

Intriguingly, only in companies where women were in at least ⅓ of the management roles was misconduct dealt with the same way for male and female employees.

Dodgy politicians—is this déjà vu

Way back in 2010, we wrote a blog post on an article referring to “artful dodgers” (who happened to also be politicians) who did not answer questions posed to them but answered other questions instead. So when we saw this article from BPS Research Digest, we were sure we’d seen it before! The authors think witnessing question dodging makes the observer think the dodger is less trustworthy. We thought that too and back in 2010, made the following recommendations in the event you are faced with a ‘not-so artful dodger’ opposing witness.

In this instance, you are drawing the witness’ (and ultimately the jury’s) attention to the fact a question was not answered. Pay attention in deposition when witnesses do not answer questions. Get it on tape: “I asked you this but you answered something else. Try again.” You do not have to be nasty. Simply patiently ask for the answer to your actual question. When jurors see taped deposition like this, it can be devastating to witness credibility.

Don’t allow opposing witnesses to be non-responsive. Ask them if they recall the question. Ask them to repeat the question (which makes it more difficult to ignore it). Politely correct their paraphrasing. Make it clear to the jury that they are dodging, and that is not okay. It may seem a simple thing but when we have data showing people forget the actual question posed—the witness’ style may be more important than the substance of a less ‘artful dodger’.

Do honest people get their dream jobs? Maybe…

Remember the job interview technique that has the applicant volunteer a critique of themselves as a worker and potential employee? The advice often dispensed some years ago was to say things like, “I’m a workaholic” or “I am often over-responsible” or something else akin to what is now called humble bragging. Here’s a fun piece over at the Daily Mail that tells you “honest people are up to three times more likely to land their dream role when up against other high-ranking candidates”. Commenters do not take the earnest tone of the article particularly seriously, you may want to make a point of reading the comments.

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Recently, several articles have come out on Millennials and women but neither were enough to fill an entire post—so we’re combining them into a single post so that we do not miss passing on the information.

“Psychologically scarred” Millennials are “killing industries”

This article is almost funny but they are blaming Boomers (the parents of the Millennials) for the “industry-killing” habits of the Millennials. They quote Millennials who say this is “just some more millennial-blaming BS” and apparently, headlines saying Millennials have “killed off” another corporation or even industries are very common.

The buying habits of Millennials are very different from their parents’ habits. They do not, according to this article in the Business Insider, buy napkins, play golf, buy homes or cars, nor do they want to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings or Applebee’s. They have also been accused of damaging industries like retail in general, movies, Home Depot, the love of running, McDonald’s, wine, classiness (this is pretty funny although it is hardly an ‘industry’), the diamond industry, the crowdfunding industry, and the credit industry.

Naysayers say it isn’t the Millennial Generations fault—no, no, no! It is the fault of their Boomer parents who created the environment that has “restricted their income and shaped their financial perspective”. An analyst at Morgan Stanley (whom, we are sure, has no financial interest in this generation at all) says the Millennials have “a very significant psychological scar” from the great recession. They want to avoid risk and they enjoy independent restaurants more than chain restaurants.

“Aspirational banking” and the Millennial

Recently, my 20-something daughter related a story to me about a friend who banked with a well-known bank and was concerned about their ethical failings widely reported in recent times. She told him she had been happy with her (also well-known) bank and he reacted dramatically, “The man who founded that bank had very poor ethics and so I could never bank there”. She thought it was amusing that while her friend’s bank was in current ethical issues — he would dismiss her bank due to the founder (who died in 1913).

Later when I saw this article from JWT Intelligence, I sent it to her. It is likely related to the “industry-killing” habits described earlier in this post but explains in detail how the financial industry is attempting to adapt and survive by appealing to Millennial’s spending practices. The Millennial wish to have their values reflected in the organizations they support appears to be resulting in banks working on online platforms and apps while simultaneously attempting to be transparent and honest.

Every entrepreneur responds to opportunities and this situation is no different. There’s an app for that. The American bank, Aspiration, has launched a new feature on their app to allow customers to see how their spending decisions line up with their personal values. The app is called The Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM). In response to the belief that Millennials are not just concerned but feel an obligation to the planet, other companies are launching apps to measure the carbon footprint of your purchases as well as sustainable investment options.

Who’s smarter? Men or women? Answers vary across the life cycle

When we are five years old, boys think boys are smarter and girls think girls are smarter. Not long after (about age 6 according to Sociological Images), gender stereotypes kick in and girls agree with boys—boys are smarter (and boys agree). The author (a sociologist) thinks much of this is passed down from parents (who are more likely to ask Google if their son is a genius and more likely to ask Google if their daughter is attractive). Sigh.

Let’s fast forward to college when most of these folks leave home. Again, the trend continues. Males overestimate male achievement in the sciences and underestimate female achievement in the sciences. Need facts? In a 2016 study, male students with a 3.0 GPA were estimated as “equally smart” to female students with a 3.75 GPA. It continues after college when “More so than women, men go into and succeed in fields that are believed to require raw, innate brilliance, while women more so than men go into and succeed in fields that are believed to require only hard work.”

Reading the rest of this post does not get better. There are many studies showing the diminishment of women’s intelligence and mercifully, only a few are documented here. But it is enough to know we still have a long way to go (baby).

The gender gap in criminal offending and heart rate

Recently we published a post on the gender differences in committing homicide and this is a follow-up piece of information that is odd at best. To clarify, this study is not about homicide but about criminal behavior in general. The researchers conclude that the lower resting heart rate of men “partly explains the higher rate of criminal offending”. We encourage you to read the rest of this press release since there is limited gender comparison in the literature on criminal offending.

“Researchers examined data from a longitudinal study that measured the heart rate of participants at age 11 and found that heart rate partly explains gender differences in both violent and nonviolent crime assessed at age 23.”

Is taking maternity leave a bad thing for women?

According to new work with participants from both the US and the UK—women are “damned either way” on maternity leave. The authors summarize these findings as follows:

Women who choose to take maternity leave are seen as less competent at work and less worthy of organizational rewards.

Women who choose not to take maternity leave are seen as worse parents and less desirable partners.

Reading information like this is disheartening. But then, on the other hand, we have programs like the one highlighted in this article on my niece who recently had a baby. There are good things happening. And we have a way to go.

An update on Andrea Yates who drowned her five children to “protect them from Satan”

This book chapter (also available at SSRN) updates us on the original trial facts and the eventual retrial and finding of not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite the fact that this case educated the world on postpartum depression and psychosis, according to the author, no real changes have been made in Texas’ insanity law.

This chapter explains how the states definition of insanity “influenced the first trial and both constrained and confused how the jury could view Yates’ actions”.

Deborah W. Denno. (2017). Andrea Yates: A Continuing Story About Insanity. In The Insanity Defense: Multidisciplinary Views on Its History, Trends, and Controversies, p. 367- 416 (Mark D. White, Ed. 2017) (Cal.: Praeger) Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2909041. On SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2909041.

Thekla Morgenroth, Madeline E. Heilman. (2017)  Should I stay or should I go? Implications of maternity leave choice for perceptions of working mothers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 72, p 53-56.

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