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Archive for the ‘Self Presentation’ Category

curious-but-lazyIt is yet another installment of things you want to know for voir dire, your personal appearance and choices, and how our country rates on caring for others. Sit back, educate yourself, and return to the fray with tidbits that will heighten your reputation among your co-workers for useful and inspirational pieces of information.

“Need for cognition” sounds good for a juror—right?

Usually we would say the answer to that question all depends on which side of the case you represent. But here is a study that asks if the price of intellectual curiosity is [physical] laziness. Sure enough, they found those low in need for cognition (known in some circles as ‘low information voters’) were more physically active while those high in need for cognition (wanting greater amount of  information before making decisions) were less physically active. Fortunately, we really don’t need to worry about this one since what the researchers also found (after more analyses) was that for those high in need for cognition, there was lesser physical activity on weekdays but those physical activity differences [between those low or high in need for cognition] ceased on the weekend. We don’t know for sure, but it seems possible that the study might see effects for blue-collar workers versus white-collar, level of education, et cetera. So, not to worry, those curious jurors are going to be focused and alert mentally even if they sit in uncomfortable jury box chairs all day long Monday through Friday. Truth be told, sitting in those chairs might be what they do all day during the workweek.

Going bald? You may want to think about hair transplants!

So it has been more than four years since we posted about the appeal of the bald head. Heres what we said then:

You’re cute and confident with a full head of hair. You’re not seen as abnormal with thinning hair but not thought of much otherwise. And when you have a shaved head, you are dominant and tall and even more of a leader. The only real downside for men with shorn scalps is that they were perceived as significantly less attractive than men with thick and luxurious hair.

The shaved head (as opposed to the comb-over) meant you stood out and were seen as a leader. Times may have changed. A new study was just published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal saying that when 122 adults (between the ages of 18 and 52) looked at 13 separate photos of men pictured side-by-side—all experiencing age-related hair loss but half having had hair transplants—they thought the men with the hair transplants were more attractive. Specifically, the participants in this study thought the men with the hair transplants were not only more attractive, but also younger, more successful and more approachable!

[We would point out, as a public service, that the men with age-related hair loss but no hair transplants did not have shaved heads and so perhaps that is why they were not preferred to the men with transplants. Also, while the first study was published in an academic research journal by psychologists, the second was published in an academic journal by professionals who may have a vested financial interest in increasing the number of hair transplants…].

America is #7 when it comes to empathy

While it may seem like being in the Top 10 in the list of countries in which empathy was measured is a good thing—it puts us behind countries like Peru, Korea, and even Saudi Arabia. Researchers out of Michigan State University compared 63 different countries on empathy and conclude that the US may be becoming less empathic than we once were (as they found in an earlier study of US college students and empathy). Also important to note is that the study did not differentiate between empathy for those in ones own country as compared to those outside your country. Some think that may be part of why so many Middle Eastern countries (with a lengthy history of aggression against each other) rate so high on empathy.

This may be the last chance for Boomers and our elders to get it right!

Uh-oh. Boomers are often blamed for messing up the economy, not respecting the institution of marriage, ignoring our children in pursuit of dual-career marriages, and likely a few more things not mentioned here. However, according to Pew Research Center, this may be the last time Boomers ever dominate the presidential elections. So. If you are a Boomer, please get out and vote and make sure you get it right!!! Unless you want us to also be blamed for sending not just the economy but the entire country down the chute—apparently we won’t be able to blame the Millennial generation for this one.

Chopik, W., OBrien, E., & Konrath, S. (2016). Differences in Empathic Concern and Perspective Taking Across 63 Countries Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology DOI: 10.1177/0022022116673910

McElroy T, Dickinson DL, Stroh N, & Dickinson CA (2016). The physical sacrifice of thinking: Investigating the relationship between thinking and physical activity in everyday life. Journal of Health Psychology, 21 (8), 1750-7 PMID: 25609406


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hot-hot-hotIt’s time again for a combination post of things that didn’t make the cut for a full post but that we thought interesting (or odd) enough to want to share with you. We hope you enjoy this latest collection of factoids that will make you memorable when (and if) you re-share them.

Hot, hot, hot: And it isn’t a good thing for good behavior

We’ve written about the negative impact of hot, hot, hot weather before and here’s another story supporting the idea that there is a link between summer heat, bad moods, and poor self-control. When, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research, people report they lack energy or feel tired during the heat of the day, they were also more likely to report being stressed and angered. Lest you think this is a small scale study, the study looked at the reactions of 1.9 million Americans. The researchers think that, even if you live in a very warm climate, you are no better at adapting to it than those living in a cooler climate. (This is bad news for those in the southwest.)

However, it looks as though simply looking at pictures of cold weather can help you to improve your self-control. All you need to do is look at cold photos and imagine yourself being there—it will improve your self-control (which is good news for those in the southwest since we sure don’t want to live “there”). Perhaps hot and muggy locales need to post large billboards of icy landscapes and encourage viewers to think about what it would be like to be there rather than in the heat. Hmmm.

And as a helpful aside, the summer of 2016 has been, according to the NASA Earth Observatory, the hottest on record in 136 years! That’s hot! If you’d like to see the graphic illustrating this post in an animated gif form that covers 35 years, look here.

Will you learn more in a physics lecture if your instructor is attractive to you?

Apparently so. This is a research paper that attempted to test information from the popular website which apparently now asks students to “rate the hotness” of their instructor. (As though the tenure process was not difficult enough—now you have to suffer the indignity of how “hot” your students think you may be? Wow.) According to research published in The Journal of General Psychology, physics students who thought their instructor was attractive actually learned more as measured on quizzes following the lectures. The difference was “small but significant”. While you can read the full text of the article here, it was summarized accurately by Christian Jarrett over at BPS Research Digest.

Are pot smokers increasing or are people just responding more honestly to survey questions?

It’s hard to say but Gallup tells us that 13% reported being current marijuana users in an August 2016 survey—and that number is up from just 7% in 2013. The more often you attend church services, the less likely you are to report using marijuana. Further, one in five adults under the age of 30 report current use—and this is at least “double the rate seen among each older age group”. Gallup points out that nine different states are voting on marijuana legalization this fall and legalities could significantly shift. Perhaps Gallup should speak to the Drug Enforcement Association who recently announced marijuana would stay a Schedule 1 drug (like heroin and other drugs with “no medicinal value”).

How often do you check your smartphone? 

You will have trouble believing this one! According to a recent survey, the average American checks their smartphone between 150 times a day and in the UK, it’s even higher! . We’ve written a lot here about smartphones and our increasing use and dependence on them—as well as the distractions caused by them while walking, working, and serving on juries. Time Magazine recently published an article on smartphone addiction that is worth reading—it’s eye-opening (which is the first time many of us grab our smartphones—even before we get out of bed).

Who owns your tattoo? The answer is apparently not entirely obvious

A recent article in The Conversation, tells us that while more than 20% of Americans have at least one tattoo (and 40% of Millennials)—your own tattoo could be violating either (or both) copyright and trademark rights and tattoo-related lawsuits are not uncommon. If you have or plan to have a tattoo—you likely want to read this one!

Identifying liberals and conservatives in voir dire (a shortcut when time is tight?)

This is a ridiculous study out of the UK which concludes that the taller one is, the more likely they are conservative. We do not recommend using this in voir dire, but here are a few author quotes:

“If you take two people with nearly identical characteristics – except one is taller than the other – on average the taller person will be more politically conservative,” said Sara Watson, co-author of the study and assistant professor of political science at The Ohio State University.”

How big were these differences? “The researchers found that a one-inch increase in height increased support for the Conservative Party by 0.6 percent and the likelihood of voting for the party by 0.5 percent.”

And there were gender differences—although they were not statistically significant! “The authors discovered that the link between height and political views occurred in both men and women, but was roughly twice as strong for men.”

The article itself was published in the British Journal of Political Science but there seems to be a version of the paper here. We will not use this one as our eyesight is not good enough to tell a 0.6% difference in height when potential jurors are seated.

Noelke, C., McGovern, M., Corsi, D., Jimenez, M., Stern, A., Wing, I., & Berkman, L. (2016). Increasing ambient temperature reduces emotional well-being Environmental Research, 151, 124-129 DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.06.045


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ppi-rWe wrote about this scale in our last post when researchers (trying to convince the reader there is such a thing as a good psychopath for you to hire) used it in a study of German adults. The PPI-R is apparently a measure of psychopathy that is able to “detect relatively mild levels of psychopathy traits in non-forensic samples” (the Psychopathy Personality Inventory—Revised—the measure is on page 82 of the pdf to which this link takes you—although it has more than 180 questions on it which is different from what is advertised for the final scale).

The researchers featured in our last post also say this scale is useful for workplace settings since it measures subclinical psychopathy and thus, will not run afoul of the ADA with regard to employment discrimination. We question their conclusion and should perhaps mention the scale has 154 questions on it and some of them are quite odd. We think you could use the administration time for this test much more productively with more face-time spent with your applicant.

Respondents are asked to answer each item with four choices: False, Mostly False, Mostly True, or True. They are also given the following instructions: “Even if you feel that an item is neither false nor true as applied to you, or if you are unsure about what response to make, try to make some response in every case. If you cannot make up your mind about the item, select the choice that is closest to your opinion about whether it is false or true as applied to you.”

The items on the test range from mundane to fairly odd. Here’s a random selection of 10 consecutive items from the many, many questions on this scale.

I would not mind wearing my hair in a “Mohawk.”

I occasionally forget my name.

I rarely find myself being the center of attention in social situations.

It might be fun to belong to a group of “bikers” (motorcyclists) who travel around the country and raise some hell.

I tell many “white lies.”

I often hold on to old objects or letters just for their sentimental value.

I am a good conversationalist.

A lot of people in my life have tried to stab me in the back.

I am so moved by certain experiences (e.g., watching a beautiful sunset, listening to a favorite piece of music) that I feel emotions that are beyond words.

I often find myself resenting people who give me orders.

Some of the more odd questions in the measure include those like “I look down at the ground whenever I hear an airplane flying above my head”, or “I have had “crushes” on people that were so intense that they were painful”, or “I frequently have disturbing thoughts that become so intense and overpowering that I think I can hear claps of thunder or crashes of cymbals inside my head”, or even “When I am under stress, I often see large, red, rectangular shapes moving in front of my eyes”. These are not really the sorts of questions one would think bear much relationship to work environment behaviors.

[NB: As we read over our work on this blog we are occasionally concerned about a critical edge that many posts have toward the research done by social scientists, and its lack of applicability to the legal arena. We own our guilt in that regard, but it has nothing to do with the value of much of the research, such as today’s post, that is worthwhile but not useful for litigators. In every endeavor (chemistry, engineering, genetics, sociology, etc.) there are many milestones that have no practical application, apart from their value as stepping stones for the next innovation. While we don’t see many psychological assessment indexes or personality tests as making a contribution to trial practice, we don’t mean to suggest that it has no value in another context or as a research tool. It is simply that our focus is intended to be more narrowly aimed, and very practical.]

From a law office management perspective, we don’t see this as a useful tool for screening new associates or staff. To the contrary, anyone who does not find this sort of employment test disturbing and intrusive would likely not be someone you would wish to hire. You have no real reason to be assessing an applicant for level of psychopathy and it would be difficult to justify why you turned people down for employment based on a psychopathy score on a screening test. A very slippery slope.

Lilienfeld, S. O., & Widows, M. R. (2005). Psychological Assessment Inventory–Revised (PPI-R). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.


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this-n-thatHere are a few articles that did not act as a catalyst to stimulate an entire post but that tweaked our fancy enough that we wanted to share them with you. Think of them as “rescue items” if you have social anxiety and want to seem scintillating….or something like that.

So have you seen this in the last second?

Here’s an interesting memory study where the researchers found that if participants didn’t know they were going to be tested on things they’d seen repeatedly, they would have no idea when asked to identify if they’d seen a specific item before. Specifically, they asked participants to do a simple memory test to replicate memory for different kinds of information (e.g., numbers. letters or colors). For example, participants would be shown four characters on a screen that were arranged in a square. They would be asked to report which corner the letter was in (when the other characters were either numbers or colors). The researchers repeated this task many, many times and the participants rarely made mistakes. But then (because researchers cannot leave well enough alone) the researchers asked the participants to respond to an unexpected question. Specifically, the participants were asked which of the four letters appearing on their computer screen had appeared on the previous screen. Only 25% responded correctly (which is random chance of accuracy). The question was asked again after the following task but this time it wasn’t a surprise and participants gave correct answers between 65% and 95% of the time. The researchers call this effect “attribute amnesia” and say it happens when you use a piece of information to perform a task but are then unable to report what that information was as little as a single second later.

Remember that post on uninterrupted eye contact causing hallucinations?

We wrote about it in one of these ‘tidbit’ posts back in 2015 and even included a very awkward video from a Steve Martin/Tina Fey movie. This time researchers were looking for the optimal length of uninterrupted eye contact that would be experienced positively by the most people. Think of this as a potential answer to the question witnesses often have about how long to maintain eye contact with individual jurors or just use this as a guide for comfortable eye contact with strangers at Starbucks. On average, the close to 500 participants were most comfortable with eye contact that lasted slightly over three seconds. The majority preferred a duration of eye contact between two and five seconds and no one liked eye contact of less than a second or longer than nine seconds. We conclude that less than a second is too furtive, and longer than 9 seconds is intolerably intrusive. One problem with the study was that it used filmed clips rather than actual live interactions but it is an approximate guide to “normal” eye contact versus “creepy” eye contact.

Oh no! There may be a problem with all those fMRI studies!!!

A new article published in the journal PNAS tells us there is a fMRI software error that could result in the invalidation of 15 years (and more than 40,000 papers) of fMRI research. We know you are likely thinking of the article on that poor dead salmon who still showed brain activity. This article was cited all over the internet in July of 2016 as proof that all the work done on fMRI machines was likely flawed. Even though the bug was corrected in 2015, it was undetected for more than a decade and the researchers thought perhaps every study should be replicated to ensure accuracy in the literature upon which we rely. The fMRI software error and the resulting shambles of the literature was seen as a devastating bombshell with headlines like this one from Forbes suggesting “tens of thousands of fMRI brain studies may be flawed”. Fortunately, hysteria like this is likely why the Neuroskeptic was born and certainly why the Neuroskeptic blog makes such a contribution to knowledge in this field. Is this software glitch really serious? Yes, says the Neuroskeptic. It is a serious problem but it is not invalidating years of fMRI research. In fact, in an update posted to Neuroskeptic blog on July 15, 2016, the author of the paper in PNAS had requested some corrections to the publication to avoid these sensationalist headlines but PNAS refused so he put the updates onto another accessible site. Visit the Neuroskeptic’s excellent blog to read a common-sense and rational explanation of what the fMRI software bug really means and how those familiar with the fMRI work have known about this for some time now.

Yes, Virginia—women are still harassed for choosing STEM careers even though it is 2016

You’ve likely heard the lament that there are too few women in STEM careers and that we need to fix the problem. The Atlantic has published a very well-done article on how women are pushed out of STEM careers and that as many as 2 out of 3 women science professors reported being sexually harassed. And those are just the ones who made it through to graduation. The stories of those still in training having photos taken of their breasts, being harassed at conferences, or being hand-fed ice cream by male professors are disturbing. There is also “pregnancy harassment” and stories of PIs (principal investigators on grants who are typically faculty members) insisting pregnant postdocs return to the lab weeks after giving birth and then harassing the postdoc for having “baby brain” and questioning their experimental results. It is well worth your time to read.

Chen H, & Wyble B (2015). Amnesia for object attributes: failure to report attended information that had just reached conscious awareness. Psychological Science, 26 (2), 203-10 PMID: 25564523

Binetti, N., Harrison, C., Coutrot, A., Johnston, A., & Mareschal, I. (2016). Pupil dilation as an index of preferred mutual gaze duration Royal Society Open Science, 3 (7) DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160086


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polish-male-compositeTypical looking faces are not the most attractive in the view of others but they are the most trustworthy. This reminds us of the post we wrote a while back about how to appear intelligent, trustworthy and attractive when you need corrective lenses (i.e., wear rimless glasses).

In this case, (published in the journal Psychological Science) the researchers made a “digital average” of twelve attractive female faces. If you don’t know what a digital average is—the researchers used computers to combine the faces of twelve different women and came up with an “average” of their faces. (As an example, the photo illustrating this post is a digital average of male faces.) Participants in the current research (undergraduate females from universities in Israel) were asked to rate  the (eleven) face “morphs” they were shown on both trustworthiness and attractiveness.

As the face “morphed” closer to the digital average—it was more likely to be judged as trustworthy.

Conversely, the closer the face was to the original ‘attractive’ face, the more attractive it was judged.

The researchers did two additional studies with the same results. The research participants saw the typical (i.e., “digitally averaged”) faces as more trustworthy and the original “attractive female faces” as more attractive. The researchers suggest what this means is that we are more familiar with “typical faces” and thus are more comfortable and likely to find those faces “trustworthy”. The researchers turn an old phrase around into “what is typical is good” when it comes to trustworthiness.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is good news for most people, who we imagine are—on average— average. We have spent our lives learning that “what is beautiful is good” so it is indeed good news to think that if your face is more typical than beautiful, you appear more trustworthy to others. Paradoxically, pretty people in this case might be working under a disadvantage.

And remember—if you wear rimless glasses, you appear both attractive and trustworthy (not to mention intelligent).

Sofer C, Dotsch R, Wigboldus DH, & Todorov A (2015). What is typical is good: the influence of face typicality on perceived trustworthiness. Psychological Science, 26 (1), 39-47 PMID: 25512052


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