Archive for the ‘Pre-trial research’ Category
For a number of years now, we have been asking our mock jurors what role they think government should play in our society and giving them a number of options among which to choose. Most of them say government should play a smaller role and we certainly have all heard the media messages that tell us “smaller government is better”. The research we are covering today says that, in truth, big government (or at least bigger government) makes people more satisfied with their lives (at least if they live in advanced and industrial democracies).
The researchers examined World Values Surveys between 1981 and 2007 and focused on a question asking about life satisfaction.
“All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life these days?”
On the survey, respondents can rate their life satisfaction on a 10-point scale (with higher scores indicating higher satisfaction). The researchers were interested in examining life satisfaction in the context of how much the government intervened in the market economy. They looked at the size of the government, the country’s total social welfare expenditures compared to its GDP, used a measure of welfare state generosity (that includes how easy it is to get benefits among other things), and measured the degree of labor market regulation. (All these measures are explained in their full article which is available online here.) They also used multiple statistical controls to attempt to isolate the impact of government intervention into the economy.
What they found, over and over again, was that “citizens living in countries where the government more actively intervenes in the market economy report higher levels of life satisfaction even after accounting for a host of alternative explanations. Moreover, the substantive effect rivals or exceeds that of other traditional predictors of life satisfaction.” Poor people were no more positively impacted by government intervention than were the wealthy. That is, personal or household income had no relationship to the effect of government intervention upon life satisfaction.
The researchers are quick to state that they are not attempting an ideologically based defense of progressive public policies. They are simply attempting to answer the question of whether more or less government helps or hinders human happiness.
“We found what we believe to be conclusive evidence that indeed it does. Further, we can add that politics itself matters. Specifically, the preferences and choices of citizens in democratic polities as we have shown, have profound consequences for quality of life. In short, democracy itself thus matters.”
It’s an intriguing article when considering the debate over equalizing income differentials and the impact it would have on American society. This research would say that perhaps many of us are parroting the media and saying we think smaller government is better, when, in truth, the opposite appears to be true. In our pretrial research, we don’t care so much about whether the opinion endorsed by our mock juror is “true” or not. We care a lot more about whether their pre-existing opinion is related at all to their eventual verdict for the Plaintiff/Prosecution or the Defense. And sometimes, it is. So we’ll keep asking the question. But we’ll know (and you will know) that those citizens who live in advanced industrial democracies where government plays a larger role are most satisfied with their lives–whether they are rich or poor.
Flavin, P., Pacek, A., & Radcliff, B. (2014). Assessing the Impact of the Size and Scope of Government on Human Well-Being. Social Forces, 92 (4), 1241-1258 DOI: 10.1093/sf/sou010
According to new research, you can’t have both. Inspired by women who told them they “would not vote for Hillary Clinton [in the Presidential primaries a decade later] because she forgave then-President Bill Clinton’s infidelity”, these researchers looked at how male and female observers viewed male and female victims of infidelity based on how they responded to their partner’s behavior.
The researchers did three separate experiments:
The first experiment used 100 male fraternity members (aged 18 to 24 years) who read a story about (ostensibly) a member of their own fraternity whose significant other had posted photos of her infidelity on Facebook. (This is tempting to visualize–what sort of photos do you imagine were purportedly on Facebook?) When confronted, the woman apologized and in response, the fraternity brother either forgave her, broke up with her, or slashed his (ex-)girlfriend’s vehicle tires.
In the second experiment, 114 “female voters” (aged 20 to 79 years) read the story of a woman who was presented as a political candidate. Her spouse of 25 years had an affair with his secretary and when confronted, he apologized. The “female voters” in this study read that the woman either forgave him, divorced him, or slashed his car seats.
In the third experiment, (dare we anticipate the use of a knife again?), 94 male and 131 female undergraduate students (ranging in age from 17 to 55 years of age) participated. Half of them read the story (ostensibly published in their college newspaper) of “Natalie Lewis, a student at a “sister” campus who learned that her male partner, a student body president at another campus and chair of the statewide student senate, was unfaithful”. The other half read a similar scenario but in this case it was a male student leader (“Brandon Thomas”) who learned his female partner had been unfaithful. When confronted, as in the other two experiments, the unfaithful partner apologized. In response to the infidelity, the victim either forgave the partner, broke up with the partner, or (wait for it) posted embarrassing details about the partner’s sexual inadequacy on Facebook. (Well, at least the aggression avoided knife-play!)
We think maybe these researchers have some anger issues (and what is it with all these knives and public shaming?), but here is what they found:
The young fraternity brothers in Experiment 1 rated the “brother” who forgave as about the same level of maturity but as less competent than the brother who left the relationship. However, they did see the forgiving brother as violating shared values as to how one should respond to a publicly revealed infidelity. They rated the brother who forgave as more competent and less damaging to their group reputation in comparison to the brother who slashed her tires. (This is reassuring.)
The “female voters” in experiment two rated the forgiving politician as less competent, slightly weaker, and less worthy of support in comparison with the politician who divorced her philandering spouse. The female voters thought the forgiving politician damaged the group’s (presumably all of womankind) power and status and violated their shared values. They did see the car seat slashing politician more negatively than the forgiving politician (which again, is reassuring).
Finally, in the third study which included male and female undergraduates and featured male and female student leaders with unfaithful partners–observers rated the leader who forgave his or her partner as just as mature as the leader who broke up with the partner and as more mature than the one posting scandalous information on Facebook. However, the one who forgave was seen as weaker, less competent and less worth voting for than the student leader who left the relationship. The one who forgave was seen as violating shared group values and damaging the group’s power and status more so than the one who left. Overall, they preferred the leaver to the forgiver, but in one final gesture of reassurance, these undergraduates preferred forgiveness to retaliation.
In other words, even though participants across all three studies agreed that forgiveness can be mature–it also can make the forgiver appear weak and incompetent. In every experiment, the participants preferred the partner who left the relationship (despite the researcher’s insistence on incorporating slashing knives and public shaming into the scenarios) to the one who forgave–although they preferred the one who forgave to the one who retaliated.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, you need to think carefully about how to repair perceptions of competence and strength if your client has chosen to remain in a relationship after a public infidelity. Obviously, this is more often in the news with male politicians publicly apologizing to their constituents and to their spouses who stand (publicly shamed and likely humiliated) behind them. But, regardless of whether your client is male or female–choosing to stay has consequences. Mature but incompetent and weak political candidates are less electable. We’d guess Hillary’s consultants are on this one, and, if not, she can call us.
It would be interesting to see whether there are correlates of these findings for other forms of trust betrayal. What happens if a company finds an employee has used company assets improperly for personal reasons? Or violated confidentiality? Or violated behavioral guidelines (drinking or drugs on the job, or making sexist jokes, or aggressive behavior). Certainly the current controversy about the degree to which domestic violence should result in workplace ramifications is the biggest headline in professional football right now. Is this going to be treated as an anger management problem that calls for treatment, or misogyny and thuggery that is intolerable? This is an intriguing first phase of a research design with huge social ramifications.
J. Smith, H., Goode, C., Balzarini, R., Ryan, D., & Georges, M. (2014). The cost of forgiveness: Observers prefer victims who leave unfaithful romantic partners European Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2054
More than two decades after the 1993 Revitalization Act was signed (stating women and minorities must be included in NIH funded research), females are still under-represented in both “basic science and translational surgical research”.
The authors acknowledge that medical research on human subjects is only a small subset of all medical research. However, even those studies using animals and cells have females under-represented. Why? Females, whether cell, animal or human (due to hormonal fluctuations) are harder and more expensive to study and including them may make the research much more complex to analyze. They are simply not as predictable as male cells, animals or humans.
Yet, there is a growing body of research showing “men and women may manifest diseases differently, experience illnesses differently, and benefit from treatments differently”. The authors list disease processes where male and female patients respond differently, including “but not limited to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, depression, obesity, osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease”. Yet, the authors tell us, in 2014, “all medications except for zolpidem (Ambien) are dosed the same for men and women, including anesthetics and chemotherapeutics, drugs that can be lifesaving”.
This is a fascinating (and disturbing) article to read and we will simply hit the high points (or should that be low points?). The authors looked at the top 5 surgery journals (i.e., Annals of Surgery, American Journal of Surgery, JAMA Surgery, Journal of Surgical Research, and Surgery) from January 2011 through December 2012. Here is some of what they found on medical research:
One-third of all publications using animals or cells did not specify the sex studied, and when they did specify, 80% studied only males.
For research on cells, 76% did not specify the sex of the subject from whom the cell studied was drawn. When they did specify, 71% studied only males.
Although a larger percentage of publications now state sex of the animal or cell studied than they did one and two decades ago, more male-only studies are being published. The authors say this reflects the sex disparity in basic research is growing rather than decreasing over time.
Thyroid and cardiovascular disease are female-prevalent disorders and so we might expect more female subjects in those articles. Only 12% of those publications studied females or both sexes.
The authors offer several memorable quotes:
“With robust and surmounting evidence that women are clearly different from men with respect to cardiovascular mortality, it is unacceptable that less than 25% of current cardiovascular trials are designed without apparent regard to sex in terms of trial design, patient selection, and analytic processes.”
“Furthermore, recent population-based outcome studies show that even as mortality has decreased in most counties in the United States from 1992 to 2006, female mortality increased in 42.8% of these counties.”
This, say the authors, is not simply a problem of surgical research, but rather, based on recent review articles, “sex disparity is pervasive across all disciplines for biomedical and clinical research, with most studies showing no improvements over time”.
The good news is that several of the surgical journals revised their requirements after receiving this information from the authors. Now all authors are required to state the sex of the animal or cell used and if they did not use both sexes, they need to give a rationale. It’s a good first step, but certainly not a solution to such a significant problem in medical research. This article does not address whether minorities also remain under-represented, but we’d take a wild guess they may be as well.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, it is worth considering whether this work applies to a personal injury Plaintiff. If there are known differences between how male and female patients respond to a particular disease or surgical procedure or medication–check to see if their treatment was appropriate for their gender or if a female patient was treated “like a man”. These authors (some of them surgeons) cite a 2005 study showing “only one in five physicians across multiple specialties was aware that more women than men die from cardiovascular disease each year, and most of these physicians did not rate themselves as effective in treating sex-tailored cardiovascular disease”. Similarly, product liability cases involving medical products or medicines could be informed by this research as well.
What should they have known?
What should they have considered?
What would it have cost them to use both male and female research participants?
Yoon DY, Mansukhani NA, Stubbs VC, Helenowski IB, Woodruff TK, & Kibbe MR (2014). Sex bias exists in basic science and translational surgical research. Surgery, 156 (3), 508-516 PMID: 25175501
We are often wary of asking for advice for fear of looking dumb or appearing incompetent. Oddly enough, our fears may be unfounded based on some new research out of Harvard Business School. According to the researchers, asking for advice does not make you appear either dumb or incompetent. Instead, asking for advice makes you seem more capable.
While initially this may seem unlikely, think about how much people love to give advice. When someone is asked for advice, they experience a boost in self-confidence, which, say the researchers, in turn enhances their opinion of the person seeking advice. It is, in truth, a win-win situation. The person asking for advice gets some feedback and they are seen as more competent while the person being asked for advice feels better about themselves (and about the person asking for advice).
The researchers (we’ve covered some of their earlier work here) conducted 5 separate experiments and here is what they found:
Asking for advice actually increases other’s perceptions of your competence.
When the task is difficult, asking for advice causes the person seeking advice to appear more competent than when the task is not difficult. However, even when the task is easy, seeking advice did not lower perceptions of the person’s competence!
When someone is asked for their specific advice, they see the asker as more competent. However, if they see the person asking someone else for advice, they do not see the advice seeker as more competent. The researchers believe there is a “direct flattery” component involved here since “being asked for advice caused advisors to feel more self-confident, and, in turn, to view the advice seeker more positively”.
Finally, the advice-giver needs to believe themselves competent and experienced in the area in which they are asked for advice. [Of course, a lot of people have an inflated sense of the scope of their qualifications…] If the advice seeker asks for guidance in an area of the advisor’s expertise, the advisor sees the seeker as more competent. However, if the advisor is obviously not experienced in the area, “then the advice seeker seems less competent than if s/he had not asked for advice” at all.
The researchers say our fears about appearing incompetent by asking for advice are unfounded and that, in truth, there are benefits to both being the advice-seeker and being the advisor. They believe that organizations benefit from encouraging advice-seeking as it will help spread useful information and improve relationships between colleagues and co-workers. The dilemma is that if you educate your employees on the advantages of advice-seeking to both the advice-seeker and the advice-giver–you run the risk of the advice-giver feeling manipulated and the advice-seeker wanting to “not be that guy/gal”. The authors do not offer advice to the manager looking for ways to build this dynamic into their office culture–they simply say it would be a positive and productive thing. (See the full text of the paper here.)
This explains why one of our favorite strategies for both debriefing mock jurors and conducting voir dire are so productive. At mock trials and focus groups, I introduce the process by sharing with the mock jurors my hope that through their collective wisdom we can tell the disputing parties and their lawyers what ‘real people’ think about the issues, and guide a resolution that doesn’t require a trial. It elevates them from being there for a couple hundred dollars to being there to solve a problem. They really like it. At trial, asking the venire questions framed in terms of “help me understand” and “Is that important to you?” makes them feel that you are seeking their perspective, not quizzing them or boxing them in. It credits them with having a contribution to make, that they are smart enough to have a valid opinion, and that you recognize the validity of their point of view. It’s not about you or your client at that point, it’s about the jurors. And that can’t hurt.
Brooks, AW, Gino, F, & Schweitzer, ME (2014). Smart people ask for (my) advice: Seeking advice boosts perceptions of competence. Harvard Business School Working Papers
Just over a year ago, The Jury Expert published an article on bias and ambiguity in times of economic stress. The article was titled Does This Recession Make Me Look Black? –and it focused on how White Americans see racially ambiguous appearing others as in-group members until times are tough and then we see them as out-group members (i,e, Black). In that case, it was about multi-racial targets who were seen as White in times of economic plenty but as African-American in times of economic recession.
Today’s article looks at very similar patterns but through the lens of social dominance orientation and right wing authoritarianism. These are two long-studied ideas in the social sciences but they apparently have not been looked at before in terms of how we see [racially] “ambiguous others” as either “one of us” or “not one of us”. As a review, let’s briefly look at a summary of these two ideas (as presented by the researchers):
Social dominance orientation: If you are high in social dominance orientation (SDO), you favor maintaining anti-egalitarian, hierarchical relationships between social groups and favor the domination of “inferior” groups by “superior” ones.
Those high in SDO will be primarily concerned with the status of the ambiguous targets, since they are concerned about maintaining and strengthening group boundaries. High SDO people are likely to cast out those with low status (since they might bring the status of the SDOs superior group down) but to maintain the membership of [racially] ambiguous targets who have high status.
Right-wing authoritarianism: If you score high in right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), you are concerned with tradition, submission to recognized authorities, and aggression toward those who violate the social norms of the in-group.
Those high in RWA will be especially sensitive to the conformity of [racially] ambiguous targets in their willingness to identify them as members of the in-group. When ambiguous targets do not conform to group norms, those with high levels of RWA would see the target as a threat to group cohesion and thus be more willing to see them as out-group members.
The researchers completed four separate studies where they used racially ambiguous targets to see how those high in SDO and/or RWA might react to them. They were curious about what drives in-group versus out-group attributions/assignments when the target is racially ambiguous. Instead of working our way through the four separate studies, we are going to skip to the findings.
Individuals high in SDO were less likely to perceive a low status ambiguous target in in-group terms. Those high in RWA were less likely to perceive a nonconformist ambiguous target in in-group terms. (These two findings were based on participant reactions to two different and highly negative news stories with racially ambiguous villains.)
Individuals high in SDO were less likely to see a target as White if they were low status rather than high status. (In this study, the participants were asked “how White the target looked”.) Those low in SDO did not differ significantly in their sense of “how White” the target appeared. The researchers saw this as reflecting the high SDO individual’s desire to resist “contamination” of their superior group with low status targets but also the desire to adopt high status targets who might enhance the status of the group to outsiders.
Those high in RWA saw targets that conformed as “more White” than targets that did not conform. For those low in RWA, there was no such relationship. The researchers saw this as the high RWA individual’s desire to maintain conformity within their group.
The results are consistent with what the article in The Jury Expert found–we welcome those that are racially ambiguous as long as we are in financial plenty (and they won’t leave us hurting for resources), or if they are high status (and will make us look good), or if they conform (and won’t make us look bad).
It’s a chilling and current assessment of race relations in America. As long as the boat doesn’t get rocked, you’re okay. If I perceive any sense of threat, you’re not okay. All the more reason, given the fickleness of our sense of whether we are threatened, to work to help jurors see your racially ambiguous or racially different client/witness/party as being as similar to the jurors as possible by using universal values in descriptions and testimony.
Kteily, N, Cotterill, S, Sidanius, J, Sheehy-Skeffington, J, & Bergh, R (2014). “Not one of us”: Predictors and consequences of denying in-group characteristics to ambiguous targets. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin