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Leftover treasures: This and that

Monday, December 8, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

We are again honored by our inclusion in the ABA Blawg 100 list for 2014. If you value this blog, please take a moment to vote for us here in the Litigation Category. Voting closes on December 19, 2014. Doug and Rita

leftovers

Like that cranberry sauce* shoved to the back of the refrigerator, this post contains small “leftover” treasures to which we do not want to devote an entire post but which we would like to share with you.

Tattoos, Piercings and the Workplace

You may have noticed we have quite a collection of posts about tattoos here at The Jury Room. We’ve said it is because we may have some tattooed 20-something kids but it is also perhaps because we are very curious about anything that stirs up bias or strong feelings in the observer. While tattoos may seem like yesterday’s news, in some people they still arouse strong reactions. And apparently in some corporations as well. A recent post at The Act of Violence identifies various corporate policies against tattoos and body piercings: Starbucks, for example, allows no tattoos that show (and now no “gem-encrusted rings or diamond-heavy wedding rings”).   Other companies ask that tattoos not carry “racist, anti-religious, demeaning, profane, or hostile” messages. Still others apparently have a “percentage policy” wherein they say you may not have more than 30% of your exposed skin showing visible tattoos! Piercings, embedded jewelry, branding, scarring, and other body modifications are undoubtedly giving HR personnel across the country heartburn as they figure out how to respond to individual employees. This is an interesting post well worth visiting.

Don’t send that cover letter!

Speaking of the workplace, if you are on the job market, don’t just get in touch with your own pain–get in touch with the pain of the hiring manager. Here’s a Forbes piece on what they call human-voiced resumes. It’s a way of communicating to that hiring manager that you not only understand, but that you would be terrific to work with, rather than using a cover letter and making the mistake of leading with your “passion”.

“Meanies” online get more attention

So if what you want is attention, just be mean. Snarky. Sarcastic. People will think you are smarter and you will get re-tweeted a lot when you are mean (at least according to this Wired article). It’s called the “negativity bias” and this is how Wired describes it: “when we seek to impress someone with our massive gray matter, we spout sour and negative opinions”. So, when you see people being mean online, just know they are trying to impress you with how smart they are.

Do I want to vote for brains or potential lifespan?

Speaking of how smart people are, let’s take a look at how people decide who to vote for when faced with several political candidates. You guessed it, here’s a study (presented in a podcast that hit boingboing.net) saying when choosing whom to vote for, people prefer candidates who look healthy over those who seem smart. Here’s a website with an example of what, in this study, constituted a healthier looking person versus an intelligent looking person.

Would that be a homonym, homograph, or homophone?

Many people have trouble with words that sound alike but mean different things. You may have noticed that popular word processors often share that trouble. Here’s a terrific infographic that may even help you figure out the difference between “affect” and “effect”. If you know the difference you do not have to creatively use “impact” in place of either “affect” or “effect”.

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*And as for that leftover cranberry sauce, try it on a grilled cheese sandwich with a hearty bread the sauce will not penetrate.

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We are again honored by our inclusion in the ABA Blawg 100 list for 2014. If you value this blog, please take a moment to vote for us here in the Litigation Category. Voting closes on December 19, 2014. Doug and Rita

offensiveThe research we are covering today focuses on feedback that is subtly offensive and what observers make of it in comparison to constructive and destructive feedback. In case you are wondering just what “subtly offensive feedback” is, the researchers believe that subtly offensive feedback communicates that the recipient is “rather stupid” without saying so directly. Even when presented in a friendly fashion, say the researchers, the words hurt. Since prior research had neither focused on nor defined “subtly offensive” feedback, the researchers had to operationalize the ways in which they would offer the subtly offensive feedback to their participants. This study was seen as a pilot study upon which to develop future research.

The researchers defined three different types of subtly offensive feedback to test in the pilot study:

overkill (overly long and excessive dwelling on details);

exaggeration (explicitly exaggerating the significance of the mistakes); and

banality (declaring that a mistake is so easy to see no one should have missed it).

The researchers believe that feedback does not have to be presented in a destructive manner to be seen as negative. Their hypothesis, therefore, was that recipients would find the feedback less fair and acceptable than constructive feedback, and more fair and acceptable than destructive feedback. The hypothesis makes intuitive sense and you will likely not be surprised that they were correct.

132 Swiss undergraduate students (86 female, 46 male, average age 22.5 years, and participating in groups of 20 to 25 students) viewed a video of a man who was introduced as a professor and was allegedly giving feedback to a student about a course-related paper. Participants rated how fair they felt the feedback was after each (of 7 total) video.

As expected, participants rated the “subtly offensive” feedback as in between the fairness of constructive and destructive feedback. The researchers were surprised to find that the subtly offensive feedback conditions differed from each other. Participants saw overkill as most fair of the offensive conditions, then banality, and finally exaggeration. The researchers suggest that workplace supervisors can learn from their results that feedback can be negative and hurtful even if they are not insulting and rude. While this may seem an obvious conclusion, we would certainly agree.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, the awareness and sensibilities of jurors is a moving target. Not too long ago, it was sometimes an effective tactic to focus (and focus and focus) on whether an expert witness was being paid. That is no longer true, as the following experience connotes.

At the conclusion of a recent trial, as jurors were debriefed, they commented that they knew expert witnesses were paid and reported feeling that opposing counsel’s lengthy questions to experts about how much they were paid were insulting to their (i.e., the jurors’) intelligence. The attorneys did not mean to offend, but they had (in the words of today’s researchers) “subtly offended” their jurors.

Jurors have become increasingly sophisticated and aware of expert and fact witnesses and, like these jurors said in the post-verdict interviews: “We know experts get paid!”. This isn’t the only example of these faint lines between constructive, subtly offensive, and destructive statements. The research does a good job of establishing the distinction, but it doesn’t help at all in determining where those lines are– within a particular jury, subculture, region, nation, or anything else. Surely cultural values, differences in individual sensitivity, and life experiences all affect a person’s reaction to such things. If you wonder about that, consider how a hilarious joke that seemed innocent enough to you invariably strikes some listeners as offensive. Sometimes it is hard to tell. Play it safe. Stay away from jokes about anyone other than yourself, and carefully consider ways to be inviting- not critical- in when you present explanations and examples.

Krings, R., Jacobshagen, N., Elfering, A., & Semmer, N. (2014). Subtly offending feedback Journal of Applied Social Psychology DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12287

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We are again honored by our inclusion in the ABA Blawg 100 list for 2014. If you value this blog, please take a moment to vote for us here in the Litigation Category. Voting closes on December 19, 2014. Doug and Rita

trusting too much kills youBack in August we wrote a post on a study saying women are lied to more in negotiations. One of our readers re-tweeted the post and added, “Happy Women’s Equality Day”. Another article from the same research group says women are more likely than men to trust a liar again after they learn of deception.

The authors we are studying today conducted three separate studies to assess gender differences in trust following deception (or what the authors refer to as a trust violation). Their findings were consistent:

Women trust more than men after a deception.

Women are less likely than men to lose trust in others following transgressions.

Women are more likely than men to re-establish trust after repeated transgressions.

It seems to be about socialization–women want to maintain relationships and that desire results in a gender difference in trust after a “trust violation”. If these results are accurate, it is no wonder men keep lying to women. Women are willing to believe the apology. Women, say the authors, are more forgiving, and more motivated to work through relationship problems.  We could go on at some length about these findings but instead we want to focus on one of the measures they used to assess the importance of maintaining a relationship. We had never heard of this scale before but it has a terrific name: The Unmitigated Communion Scale. And the 9 items in the scale below (taken from the article published in 1999) highlight the differences we continue to see between men and women in 2014.

 

Unmitigated communion scale

The items in this scale were designed to measure a focus on others even when that focus resulted in one’s own detriment back in 1999. And we still get gender differences in responses to the seemingly dated questions from this scale in 2014? Wow. Just wow.

Haselhuhn, M., Kennedy, J., Kray, L., Van Zant, A., & Schweitzer, M. (2015). Gender differences in trust dynamics: Women trust more than men following a trust violation Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 104-109 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.09.007

Fritz, H., & Helgeson, V. (1998). Distinctions of unmitigated communion from communion: Self-neglect and overinvolvement with others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75 (1), 121-140 DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.75.1.121

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euphemism treadmillIt’s a constantly moving target. Just over a year ago, we wrote about this on-going question and cited a Gallup Poll saying 65% of Black Americans have no preference when it comes to labels used to describe their racial or ethnic group. The authors of today’s research article would disagree. They say there are consequences (and loads of meaning) behind the two labels.

Stephen Pinker first coined the phrase euphemism treadmill in 1994. The phrase refers to a descriptive term that was once acceptable, but has now become pejorative. An example would be the word “crippled”, replaced by “handicapped”, which was then replaced by the phrase “person with disabilities” or, in some circles, “differently challenged”. When you write, and use an outdated, once acceptable but now pejorative phrase, you run the risk of being seen as biased, unaware, old school, or downright insensitive.

So, in 2013, Gallup said it really didn’t matter. Today’s writers demonstrate, via four separate studies, that we have very different associations to the labels “African-American” and “Black”. Specifically, we make assumptions about “Blacks” being lower in social status, less educated, and less competent than the “African-American”. In brief, here are their findings:

The label “Black” signals lower social class and status than does the label “African-American”. Further, the label “Black” evokes more negative stereotype content (as well as assumptions of lower status and less feelings of warmth) than does the label “African-American”.

Media articles on crime reports are more negative in emotional tone when they use the label “Black” then when they use the label “African-American”.

Whites view a criminal suspect more negatively when s/he is identified as “Black” rather than “African-American”.

The dilemma with these two polarizing labels (“Black” and “African-American) is that White observers are attaching presumptions based on racial labels. Instead of using either of these long-standing descriptors, these authors propose the use of a new descriptor: Americans of African Descent (AADs). Their belief is that use of a new label will short-circuit the stereotypes (positive and negative) that accompany the currently used labels and require judgements to occur based on the individual. Whether this will catch on or not, is anyone’s guess. But, staying on top of trends and labels is an important part of the work for all of us.

So, is it “Black” or is it “African-American”?

Or, should it perhaps be “Americans of African Descent”?

As mentioned above, Gallup says it doesn’t seem to really matter to the target individuals being described. But today’s authors say it matters a lot to the listener as “Black” and “African-American” have become cognitive shortcuts for many of us. So what to say?

The cynical might say it all depends on the reaction you want to evoke in the listener. That would mean that if you want to evoke a less positive attribution to a person, use the word “Black”, and if you want to imbue them with more of an upscale aura, use “African-American”. Either can be used to evoke the more negative or the more positive associations.

Our guess would be it’s a lot more nuanced than that. While there were a few more than 370 participants across four studies, we would like to see a bit larger sample to ascertain whether this stereotyping of racial labels occurs across the country or if it is limited to certain regions. We also don’t really know what stereotypes might arise if someone was described as an “American of African Descent”. Further, who knows how long the new label will encounter resistance, or how and when it might be co-opted by time.

In short, it’s an intriguing variable to consider. Are we indeed evoking racial stereotypes when we describe individuals as either “Black” or “African-American”? Is that what we really mean to do?

Hall, EV, Phillips, KW, & Townsend, SSM (2014). A rose by any other name? The consequences of subtyping “African-Americans” from “Blacks”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 

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mother of all gender gapsWe follow, as you may have noticed, attitudes, values and beliefs toward a wide variety of issues. So we were surprised to see this 2012 national poll from Quinnipiac University pop up in a number of recent blog posts. According to their survey, while Americans favored the legalization of marijuana (51% to 44%) there were significant age and gender gaps.

“Men support legalization 59 to 36% but women are opposed 52 to 44%.”

Younger voters, “18-29 years old support legalization 67 to 29% while voters over age 65 are opposed 56 to 35%.”

For some reason, a number of blogs picked up the survey about 2 years after it was completed and questioned why the gender gap in attitudes toward marijuana legalization existed. Michele Martinez Campbell at Narcolaw wonders if, as others have posited, it is “just that more men than women are potheads” and scoffs at that explanation as glib.Instead, she believes, “female opposition stems from questions about the impact legalization will have on public health, crime and the social fabric”.

Over at TheMoneyIllusion, Scott Sumner calls this “the mother of all gender gaps” and gets 47 comments. One of the commenters points out a similar gender gap on marijuana legalization in a 2014 survey in Germany (although he did not provide a URL), but still none of the commenters seem to notice the “new” survey they are talking about is 2 years old.

Finally, the discussion goes over to Marginal Revolution and Tyler Cowen amasses 113 comments (at this writing)–many of which are sexist although some are quite funny (“it’s hard enough to get the man to take the trash out when he isn’t stoned”). And again, despite the proliferation of comments, not a single commenter mentions the Quinnipiac survey they are hotly debating is from 2012 and not 2014.

It’s a curious pattern for sure–men trending more liberal and women more conservative. It is at odds with what tends to happen and therefore we think it could be important. But, we can’t just take 2012 data and interpret it through a 2014, post mid-term election lens. We need to see if the gender gap Quinnipiac reported in 2012, remains the same in 2014. Why? Attitudes toward marijuana legalization have been changing very quickly. In November of 2014, we simply cannot know if the “mother of all gender gaps” really does still exist based on survey data from 2012.

When using survey data and hypothesizing as to meaning in the current day, you need to be very sure your survey data is also current.

And it would be wise to go to the original source rather than parroting what others have said and furthering the inaccuracies.

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