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Archive for the ‘Self Presentation’ Category

2016 storytelling1Every once in a while, I read something and think, “I could have written that!” and today it happened again. There is a deceptively simple blog post over at the Scientific American site that is actually a wonderful treatise on how to bring life to something complicated and esoteric so that people will actually understand and even care about what you are saying.

You likely remember Alan Alda from the TV show MASH but may not know that he has quite an interest in science and has spent a great deal of time and effort helping scientists figure out how to tell their stories of discovery in an engaging way. The blog post we are pointing you to today is written by a theater professional who works with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science but we think it’s a post easy to apply to high-tech patent or IP cases or other cases about an esoteric concept, a complex process, or medical mysteries that do not involve the living (as is the case with the upcoming blog post). .

The post tells the story of a scientist who’d won a contest for discovering something novel and significant but as he told the story of the discovery, it was dry and filled with jargon. This brief blog post shows how the scientist was helped tell a story that grabbed the emotion of the listener and you can even see before and after videos of the story itself.

Here’s the blog post: How to tell an engaging story of scientific discovery.

And here is the before and after video (with the differences in video quality explained in the blog post itself).

We like to say “every story is about people” and based on the blog post linked to above and the video showing you how the story presentation was changed—it looks like Alan Alda agrees.

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We’re unsure if this strategy would work for women but it seems to work for men—at least in medical schools and teaching hospitals. We do presume those male leaders with mustaches do not have the sort of mustache illustrating this post but what do we know? We also tend to believe that if a woman were to grow this sort of mustache, she would also not be selected to advance as a leader. But, we digress. On to the real point of this blog post.

Each year, the British Medical Journal publishes a Christmas issue where they offer a more light-hearted look at important issues of the day. We posted about one of their articles on Christmas Day. Here is another important paper that (alas) reflects what women know all too well when it comes to women in leadership. These researchers (two medical residents, a professor of law ,and a professor of dermatology) examined (carefully and presumably visually) “clinical department leaders (n=1018) at the top 50 US medical schools funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)” to see if they were male or female and whether they had mustaches. None of the women in the sample had a mustache. The researchers defined a mustache in the following way: “the visible presence of hair on the upper cutaneous lip” and they included the presence of both standalone mustaches and mustaches in combination with other facial hair. They specifically did not include facial hair such as “mutton chops” or “chin curtains” as mustaches.

According to the researchers women accounted for only 13% of department leaders in the sample (137 women out of 1,018 department leaders).

Leaders with mustaches (none of them, as mentioned earlier, women) accounted for 19% of the sample (190/1,018 total leaders). And according to them, less than 15% of men in the country have mustaches so mustached men are over-represented among medical department leadership. .

The proportion of female leaders ranged from 0% to 26% across institutions and from 0% to 36% across specialties.

Only seven specific institutions and five specialties had more than 20% of female department leaders.

The researchers developed a novel unit of measure called the mustache index. (Essentially this is computed by looking at the number of mustached leaders versus the number of female leaders.) “The overall mustache index of all academic medical departments studied was 0.72 (p<.004). In other words, a medical department is much more likely to be led by a man with a mustache than by a woman. Only six of 20 separate medical specialties had “more women than mustaches” (for a mustache index > 1).

The researchers recommend that “mustachioed” individuals should number less than the number of women in medical department leadership (and they state they clearly do not mean a “no mustache” policy). They want to call attention to the disparity in these leadership positions between men and women—hence the tongue-in-cheek “mustache index”. They offer a number of suggestions to help increase the number of women in leadership positions that revolve around developing job criteria prior to evaluating candidates, flexible work schedules as well as increased personal control over work time and cite the high levels of satisfaction among women physicians in specialties that allow “controllable lifestyle” such as dermatology and anesthesiology.

From a litigation perspective, this really applies most to law office management and we’ve written before about the importance of hiring practices that do not discriminate against applicants by gender or race and ethnicity (as well as other descriptive characteristics). You can see all those posts by looking at our blog category on law office management. Do a quick count in your own office. Do leaders with mustaches outnumber leaders who are women?

Wehner MR, Nead KT, Linos K, & Linos E (2015). Plenty of moustaches but not enough women: cross sectional study of medical leaders. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 351 PMID: 26673637

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Four (new) ways to identify a liar…. 

Monday, January 4, 2016
posted by Douglas Keene

liar pinocchio 2015We’ve tracked the literature on deception detection for some time now and so were glad to see recent multiple new entries in the pursuit of identifying liars. Rather than blogging about these strategies one at a time, here’s a combined entry to let you know about them all in a single post.

Are children good liars?

Apparently, even kids are good liars. A 2011 experiment showed that 3-6 year old children who lied about parent’s transgressions were able to fool adults—although forensic interviewers were able to identify lies from older children at a higher rate of accuracy than they were with younger children.  Evidently, you really can’t trust a pre-schooler.

Need to lie effectively? Drink lots and lots of water

Here’s a strange one. Recent research (cited at the end of this post) shows that if you have to urinate, you are able to lie more effectively. The study is small (22 participants) and it is unwise to generalize from such a small group. Aldert Vrij, a leading researcher in the field of deception detection, questions whether we should even publish research telling people how to be better liars.

How do people behave when they are lying?

During focus group and mock trial deliberations, we often hear mock jurors discussing their ways of “knowing” when someone is lying. Usually this involves eye movements, gaze direction, touching one’s nose, covering one’s mouth, answering too quickly, answering too slowly, and other ‘foolproof strategies’ the individual mock juror has perfected for identifying liars. Unfortunately for the mock jurors, most of these strategies are useless. But the mock jurors think they are windows into the soul of the witness, so we work to remove those sorts of distracting nonverbal behaviors when prepping witnesses for testimony. New research from the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Applied says rather than relying on intuition to identify liars—we would do better to pay attention to specific behaviors such as whether the speaker appears to be thinking really hard while talking.

“We often think of nonverbal behavior when we think of deception. But it would be better to focus on the content of the tale people are selling us, and asking if it is consistent with other facts we know. But even then there is a large amount of room for error.”

In thousands of juror and mock-juror interviews about witness credibility, their judgments on credibility often seem to serve as methods for simplifying the case. If the witness is credible but contradicts another witness who also seems credible, what are they to do? Determining by any method available that one of the witnesses looked shifty when they looked to the side, or they drank water which means they are nervous about telling a lie, their job becomes simpler.

It might be better to let machines catch liars

We know most of us are not very good at identifying liars. Most people are barely above chance in their ability to know who is telling the truth and who is lying. But a new “machine learning algorithm” is purportedly able to identify truth-tellers correctly about 75% of the time. Wow. Here’s the pdf of the article and below is a snippet of information on how the work was done:

“Mihalcea and her colleagues took 121 videos from sources such as the Innocence Project, a non-profit group in Texas dedicated to exonerating people with wrongful convictions. This is superior to simulated conversation because the speakers are more invested in what they are saying.Transcriptions of the videos that included the speaker’s gestures and expressions were fed into a machine learning algorithm, along with the trial’s outcome. To hone it further, the team plans to feed in even more data. Such a system could one day spot liars in real-time in court or at airport customs, says Mihalcea, who will present the work at the International Conference on Multimodal Interaction this month in Seattle, Washington.”

Fenn, E., Blandón-Gitlin, I., Coons, J., Pineda, C., & Echon, R. (2015). The inhibitory spillover effect: Controlling the bladder makes better liars. Consciousness and Cognition, 37, 112-122 DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2015.09.003

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Tattoo women 2015We write a lot about tattoos here—perhaps because we have Millennial aged kids and at least half of them have tattoos.  Okay, more than half. The meaning of tattoos has changed over the years and there seems little stigma still associated with them any longer. The authors of new research on college students (2,394 of them from six different North American public universities, most between 18 and 20 years of age, 67% White and 59% female) opine that a “single rose or zodiac sign [tattoo] is no more edgy today than the Beatle haircut in the early ‘60s”.

In their review of the literature, the authors indicate that tattooed individuals are more likely to be risk-takers and to have a need to express their uniqueness. While historically the opposite, more women (23%) than men (19%) now have tattoos. However, women—in addition to being more likely to have tattoos—are also more likely to seek tattoo removal. There appears to be a relationship between having tattoos and having a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse and in fact, there is a relationship between having multiple tattoos and also having a history of suicide attempts.

These researchers wanted to update the research on tattoos and well-being and here are some of their major findings:

Females were more likely to report at least one suicide attempt and to have lower self-esteem and more depression.

The number of tattoos on any one individual had no association/relationship to suicidal thoughts (aka ideation) but was related to reports of at least one suicide attempt, to depression, and to self-esteem (higher self-esteem).

Suicide attempts were related to depression and suicidal thoughts. Higher self-esteem was more likely to occur in the absence of suicide attempts.

A fair reading of those two sentences raises some odd questions. How can it be that among those who report depression and suicide attempts there is a boost to self-esteem? It may speak to two (or more) subgroups within the younger tattooed population. So the researchers wanted to learn more—particularly as higher numbers of tattoos have been associated with greater amounts of deviant behavior in past research. So they dug in (statistically speaking) and found a bit more.

The level of self-esteem among those with tattoos increased as they got more tattoos. For example, those with four or more tattoos reported one or more prior suicide attempts (and this was at a rate three times higher than those with no tattoos at all). For women with four or more tattoos, the suicide attempt rate was even more dramatic—almost four times higher than among those without tattoos.

But where does the increased self-esteem enter the picture? Overall, the self-esteem of women was lower than the self-esteem of men participating in the study. (This is not really a news flash since women do tend to report higher depression and lower self-esteem than do men.) However, as the researchers continued to statistically delve into their data, what they found was that while women with four or more tattoos did have a history of prior suicide attempts they were also more likely to have higher self-esteem. It is, say the researchers, as though there is something restorative and life-affirming for women about getting tattooed.

“We know that breast cancer survivors sometimes get tattoos in an effort to express, control, or reclaim ownership of their bodies.”

Perhaps, they say, women who are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts seek out tattoos and imbue the process with meaning or symbolism that elevates their self-esteem and is therefore emotionally restorative. It’s an intriguing statement. And certainly a more positive one than saying that when you have multiple tattoos you are likely deviant.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this research tells us to, once again, keep up with the times and the changing meanings of tattoos. Rather than a sign of deviance—perhaps that young woman with at least four visible tattoos is a survivor of trauma who has reclaimed her life. And that simple fact may move her from being a juror you might think is anti-social or unreliable, to one with a compelling story and persuasiveness, who can lead a deliberation focused on themes of re-invention, reclaiming the self, and rising above negativity.

Koch, J., Roberts, A., Armstrong, M., & Owen, D. (2015). Tattoos, gender, and well-being among American college students. The Social Science Journal, 52 (4), 536-541 DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2015.08.001

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We are now in ABA’s Blawg 100 Hall of Fame!

Monday, November 30, 2015
posted by Douglas Keene

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We’ve recently been informed that The Jury Room has been inducted into the ABA Journal Blawg 100 Hall of Fame! Okay, it’s not a Pulitzer, but we are wildly happy about it. To our way of thinking, it is the greatest honor The Jury Room could be given. We appreciate the recognition. Closer to truth, we are shocked. Every December from 2010-2014 we have been delighted to be included in the Blawg 100, but this was not even on our radar screen. Here’s a link to the 2015 ABA Blawg Hall of Fame and a link to the 2015 Blawg 100 honorees.

Here’s how the ABA describes the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame:

In 2012, we established the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame for those blogs which had consistently been outstanding throughout multiple Blawg 100 lists. The inaugural list contained 10 inductees; this year, we added 10 more, bringing the total to 40.

And here is how they described this blog on their roster:

Trial consultants Douglas Keene and Rita Handrich find the research to alternately back up what you think you already know about human psychology (Is rudeness contagious? Yes.) and alert you to the unexpected (Are “beer goggles” real? No.) Posts are both fascinating reads and lessons on how not to base your cases on stereotypical assumptions.

We were inspired to begin blogging by Anne Reed (formerly of Deliberations blog and now leading the charge at the Wisconsin Humane Society). Once we got started blogging, we realized it was a wonderful way to keep up with the changing literature and to share what we were learning along the way. Looking back over the 900+ posts, we still find it interesting to blog as well as a great impetus for our own continuing education. Thank you, ABA Journal, for your recognition of our work over the last 6-1/2 years.

Doug and Rita

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