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Just how diverse is this group, really?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

Diverse PeopleWe often make assumptions when discussing diversity that we all perceive a group’s diversity in the same way. Today’s research shows that simply isn’t so. That is, you and I (depending on our racial in-group) can look at the same group and you might say it is diverse while I say it is not. What makes the difference? It’s an intriguing question.

These researchers discuss how diversity means different things to different people and yet, we often discuss diversity as though “everyone ought to know it when they see it”. In other words, we often conceptualize ‘diversity’ as objective rather than as something that will vary across individuals and situations. Their belief is that racial minorities look at groups and assess whether there is anyone else in the group from their own in-group since they believe that is the best predictor of whether they would be treated fairly by the group. The researchers review the lengthy history of research and polling results showing varying perceptions of race relations by Whites and minority group members. They then focus on differences in how groups are perceived (in terms of diversity) by African-Americans and by Asian Americans.

African-Americans, say the researchers are often lower status, have more negative stereotypes and report more discrimination than do other minority groups.

Asian Americans, on the other hand, are often granted higher status and report lower levels of discrimination than other minority groups. (We would point out that just because Asian Americans report less discrimination doesn’t mean they do not experience discrimination.)

The researchers completed three separate studies to see if there were differences between African-American and Asian Americans in terms of the perception of group diversity.

Study 1 included 1,899 American (391 Asian American, 620 African-American and 888 non-Hispanic White) members of a polling panel maintained by GfK. Participants read a short statement about a large corporation forming a management team for a new project and saw a photograph of the 6 managers. The racial composition of the management team was manipulated so there were 4 conditions: the Asian representation condition had 2 Asian-Americans and 4 White managers; the African-American representation condition had 2 African-American managers and 4 White managers; the Asian + African-American condition pictured 1 Asian American, 1 African-American and 4 White managers, and the final group was composed of a WhiteOnly condition that pictured 6 White team members. Participants were asked how diverse they thought the group pictured was.

Asian Americans thought the Asian representation group more diverse than the African-American representation group. African-American participants thought the African-American representation group was more diverse than the Asian representation group. This relationship was stronger for African-American participants than for Asian American participants.

Asian-Americans saw more diversity in the Asian + African-American representation than did African-American participants. The researchers say this means Asian-Americans and African-Americans responded differently to racial minority “out-group representation”.

Study 2 included 1,080 Americans recruited by Qualtrics of which 471 were Asian American and 574 were Black. The group was 57.8% female and ranged in age from 18 to 72 years with an average age of 34 years. 13% had graduate degrees, 32% had bachelor’s degrees, 39% had some college coursework completed and 15% had completed high school or earned a GED. Some participants in this study read that a research group found prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans had increased in recent years especially in terms of employment. Others read the same article but the words “Asian Americans” replaced “African Americans”. Then they looked at either the Asian representation, African-American representation, or Asian + African-American representation photos used in the first study and rated how diverse they thought the group pictured was.

Both Asian American and African-American participants saw the teams as more diverse when it included members of their racial in-group compared to when it included members of another racial minority group. (The effect was once again stronger for African-American participants.)

The need for in-group representation to see a group as diverse was stronger for Asian-Americans who read about higher levels of discrimination against their group in the workplace. For African-American participants, however, the level of in-group representation was equally important whether they had read about higher levels of discrimination against their group or not. The researchers thought this indicated discrimination was more chronically salient for African-American participants than for Asian American participants.

Study 3 included 380 upper-level undergraduate business majors (210 non-Hispanic White and 126 Asian American). Participants read that a large company had formed a new management team and saw headshots of eight people in business attire. Altogether, there were four racial compositions for the management team: Asian Majority (5 Asian and 3 White team members), African-American Majority (5 African-American and 3 White team members), Asian + African-American diversity condition (2 Asian, 3 African-American and 3 White team members), and White Only (8 White team members). Again they were asked to rate the diversity of the team and also asked to indicate how likely they thought the team was to be able to manage discrimination issues.

Asian American participants saw each team as differently diverse. They saw the Asian + African-American team as most diverse, then Asian Majority, then African-American Majority, and finally, White Only.

White participants saw the Asian + African-American condition as most diverse and the White Only condition as least diverse but thought the Asian Majority and African-American Majority conditions were the same in terms of diversity.

This research highlights the complexity of “diversity” and the importance of assessing perceptions of different racial groups when it comes to diversity. Overall, say the researchers, African-Americans are more chronically attuned to issues about race than are Asian-Americans. Therefore, how diverse a group is seen as being depends on how many African-Americans are represented.

There are many more details to be found in this complex and nuanced work. It’s also interesting to consider in light of the research on race and death penalty juries. Perhaps part of the reason African-Americans are so sensitive to whether a group will treat them fairly is because so often they are not treated fairly. We write a lot about bias. In this line of work, we see a lot of it. This particular research helps us understand some of the nuances more fully.

Bauman CW, Trawalter S, & Unzueta MM (2014). Diverse According to Whom? Racial Group Membership and Concerns about Discrimination Shape Diversity Judgments. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin PMID: 25106545

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RIP Demographics? Well, probably not…

Friday, August 22, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

RIP demographicsWe’ve just published a new article in The Jury Expert that “should” signal the death of the simplistic use of demographics in voir dire and jury selection. Will it? Not likely. Partly this is the fault of courts that are becoming increasingly restrictive of time and the scope of questions posed to jurors. If litigants cannot ask substantive questions, they are left to rely on the broad impressions, which are often wrong and are generally based on stereotypes rather than knowledge of individual biases.

Be that as it may, we still think it’s important for all of us to know how changes in society as a whole will make a difference in how we need to think about voir dire. There are changes that have shifted the landscape of our communities and venires, and even our basic assumptions about there being a continuum from liberal to conservative with a moderate center. Some of these big changes have now been documented. You know that moderate center? Well, to the extent it is still there, it is vastly more complex, and defies labeling. You know how Democrats are more liberal and Republicans are more conservative? We can no longer make those blanket assumptions.

Americans are now more focused on specific issues. You will find, for example, a Democrat who leans left on many issues but is more conservative on issues involving faith and family. You will find, as another example, Republicans who lean right on many issues but support other issues that “Republicans just don’t support”. And in the center, you will find many people (indeed, the majority) who are not consistently liberal and not consistently conservative. On the other hand, they are also not consistently moderate. We’ve been watching this shift for almost a decade now with political affiliation simply no longer being an effective way of understanding individual mock jurors.

It really is about the issues. It’s something we have said for years– it isn’t demographics, it is the person and what matters in their life experience. Demographics (even tidy, long-standing descriptors like political affiliation and whether one is liberal or conservative) do not tell the story nearly as well as the individual’s values, attitudes, beliefs and experiences. But, don’t just take our word for it. How about considering the results of a 2014 survey of more than 10,000 Americans (randomly selected and nationally representative)? The results represent an eye-opener that allows us to compare American opinions and how they have shifted and turned upside down in the two decades since Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution of 1994.

Please visit our new articleDemographic Roulette: What Was Once a Bad Idea Has Gotten Worseover at The Jury Expert. We are pleased and flattered that Paul Begala (Democratic strategist, author and CNN Contributor) reviewed the issues and our article, and offered his take on the study.

Tell us what you think. We think it should be a game-changer.

Douglas L. Keene, & Rita R. Handrich (2014). Demographic Roulette: What Was Once a Bad Idea Has Gotten Worse. The Jury Expert, 26 (3.)

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narcissism savage chickenWe are all about short measures of psychological constructs. You might say watching the development of various scales is a hobby here (just look at all these posts!). With rare exception, courts don’t permit lengthy questionnaires, or questions that sound like a psychological screening test. So when the Neuroskeptic blogged about a new one-item scale for narcissism, it got our attention quickly. True to his name, the Neuroskeptic isn’t so sure this is a good measure of actual narcissism–although it is highly correlated with other self-report measures of narcissism.

We have different goals than the Neuroskeptic. To our way of thinking, it isn’t so important whether the single-item scale measures actual narcissism–but rather, how the individuals answer the question. That is, if someone describes themselves as either low or high in narcissism–does that make a difference in their ultimate verdict preference? Without further ado, here is the question:

To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist? (Note: The word ‘narcissist’ means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.) Answer on a scale from 1 (not very true of me) to 7 (very true of me).

The article itself is published on PLoSONE and thus accessible to everyone (for which we thank the lead author, Sara Konrath). According to the researchers, people who score high on this single-item measure (aptly named the Single Item Narcissism Scale–SINS) also report both negative and positive traits.

“For example, they report more positive affect, more extraversion, and marginally less depression. Yet the SINS is also associated with less desirable intrapersonal outcomes, for example, less agreeableness, more anger, shame, guilt and fear, delayed/reactive aggression, having less committed relationships with others, and showing less prosocial behavior when ego threatened.”

In other words, say the researchers,

“…this scale may capture the more fragile, pathological and unhealthy aspects of narcissism. Not only do these people think they are great, but they also suffer from feelings of shame, guilt and fear”.

This single-item measure, while suspect to the Neuroskeptic, is of interest to us. It is both very brief (you can’t get much briefer) but also has the element of stealth. Who would know whether this query would be good or bad for their case unless they completed some pretrial research? From a litigation advocacy perspective, we don’t care whether a potential juror meets diagnostic criteria for narcissism. We just care whether their self-report is a variable that ultimately matters.

Konrath S, Meier BP, & Bushman BJ (2014). Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS). PLoS ONE, 9 (8) PMID: 25093508

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older adults and fraudOf course you did. But you may want to take a look at this study because, maybe, it isn’t true after all. It certainly is a well-known myth if it is not true. This appears to be one of those situations where we add up what we know and then come up with a conclusion that just doesn’t appear to be true. Here’s what we know: research on cognitive age-related changes and emotional age-related changes tells us there are indeed shifts that can increase the vulnerability of the older adult to consumer fraud. We conclude, thus, they are defrauded more often.

This research, which is actually simply a review of the actual data on consumer fraud, says the older adult may be more at risk but there is no data-based evidence to say they actually are defrauded at a higher rate than younger adults. In fact, the older adult may be more savvy than we assume–these researchers say perhaps it is the protective factor of “increased experience and changes in goals, lifestyle, income, as well as purchasing and risk behaviors”. Or, in less geeky language–with age comes both wisdom and caution, as well as awareness of the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…”.

So why is it so commonly believed that senior citizens are taken in by con artists and scammers? The writers of the current article identify 5 reasons we may hypothesize older adults are more often victims of consumer fraud (and these are drawn from research):

Older adults have less accurate episodic memory and are at increased vulnerability to misinformation.

Older adults have slower cognitive processing and therefore take longer to review and process information than younger adults.

Abstract reasoning and novel problem-solving ability peak about age 30 and then decline across the remainder of the lifespan. (This is such a bummer, but we can slow the decline by continuing to challenge ourselves through learning new things, playing music, learning languages, and stimulating a brain that functions better under the stress of new thinking).

Mild cognitive impairment is associated with a reduction in math and financial skills such as managing a checkbook and understanding bills. (This could result in increased vulnerability to fraud.)

After experiencing a financial loss, consumers can be uncertain whether their particular loss comes from a legitimate business arrangement or from deceitful practices. None of us like to be deceived and there is conjecture that older adults may not want to believe they have been tricked and therefore do not file reports as victims of fraud.

Those 5 findings are backed up by research. Older adults could be more at risk simply by virtue of aging and some of the issues we will all face at one time or another. But being at risk does not mean you will necessarily fall prey to consumer fraud. Yet the belief that older adults are victimized by consumer fraud at a high rate relative to other age groups is part of our social fabric. We all “know” this is true. Except it does not appear to be true.

Part of the issue is that researcher interpretations about what their findings might mean have been misinterpreted by the media as fact rather than mere conjecture or hypotheses for future work. Then the ‘facts’ are picked up by other media outlets and blogs and we hear things like “fraud prevalence has reached epidemic levels in older adults” or “older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to frauds”. Hypotheses, conjectures or questions become perceived as fact and become part of our popular “wisdom” about older adults. The following graph is taken from the article cited at the end of today’s post. The graph presents the fraud reported during 2010, 2011 and 2012. Contrary to our expectations, those who are actively defrauded are more likely very young or in the middle of their lives.

You may opine that the elderly are just too embarrassed to report their being defrauded, but there is no data to support it. In fact, the authors say at this point we can neither say older adults are subject to more or less fraud. There is simply no evidence to support the idea that older adults are disproportionately the victims of consumer fraud.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is one more reason to never assume that a given belief is true. Widely held stereotypes are often untrue. This apparently is but one of those widely held (but not supported by data) beliefs.

Ross, M, Grossman, I, & Schryer, E (2014). Contrary to psychological and popular opinion, there is no compelling evidence that older adults are disproportionately victimized by consumer fraud. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

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less than fully humanHere’s an intriguing article on how some nurses cope with stress. If you think, based on the title of this post, they do it by dehumanizing their patients, you would be correct. Somehow we think this is not a good thing to admit on the witness stand, but it is an understandable and human reaction to the stressful and often upsetting work that nurses have to do.

Essentially, what these researchers found was that “the more patients are perceived as rational and moral, the more nurses are likely to suffer from stress, while the more patients are perceived in terms of instinct, drive, impulsiveness, the less nurses suffer from stress. In other words, it seems that perceiving patients as less than human makes more bearable their suffering and protects nurses from stress symptoms”.

There is no argument that those in the nursing profession experience very high levels of stress. There are likely a range of coping mechanisms nurses employ to maintain their emotional balance and avoid burnout.

A few years ago, we were in Kentucky researching juror reactions to a wrongful death case and watching deposition excerpts of a nurse struggling to maintain her composure while answering questions about her own actions during the ultimately catastrophic delivery of a child. She was clearly distraught in our eyes. However, when mock jurors observed her, several saw her as cold, uncaring, and “not even shedding a tear for this poor baby”. It was so far from what the labor and delivery nurse was really feeling that the mock juror reactions were a shock to her.

It became important in witness preparation to help her share the joy and privilege she felt at assisting in the birth of a child, feeling the joy of each family over her years of service, and then juxtaposing the trauma of seeing a childbirth go terribly wrong despite doing everything she felt able to do to prevent it. She went from being cold and uncaring during pretrial research to being one of the best witnesses for the Defense. And the best way to prep her and to structure her direct examination would not have been clear without that pretrial research. Instead of being professionally aloof, she was encouraged to join with the jurors in their emotional distress, while talking about the reasons she was unable to prevent the tragic outcome. In this case it did appear that the responsibility for the birth trauma was not hers, and once she became more ‘real’ to the jurors, they saw it the same way.

It’s interesting, with that case in mind, to review this research. It is one thing to use various strategies to cope in the moment. It is another to use that same strategy in an attempt to seem strong and competent on the witness stand when the observing jurors want to see your humanity and your caring for the person (or in this case, newborn) who died. Part of being mentally healthy is being able to flexibly move between different modes of self-presentation depending on the situation in which you find yourself.

When we are under stress (like when testifying about our role in the death of a newborn in a wrongful death suit), it is natural to become more rigid and less flexible. Anyone who has a heart is deeply disturbed by the outcome, and the best nurses want to distance themselves from the tragedy. The challenge is to understand what the listener wants from you. They want to trust your skills, but also your humanity. They want to know you care. They want to know you feel sad for the parents that will never again hold their child. You don’t have to have done anything wrong to have those feelings and jurors will understand that. It’s a strange concept, but sometimes witness preparation is a lot like a mini-therapy session wherein  the goal is to learn to communicate the whole of your message effectively.

Trifiletti, E, Di Bernardo, GA, Falvo, R, & Capozza, D (2014). Patients are not fully human: a nurse’s coping response to stress. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 

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