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Archive for the ‘Trends and Goofy Stuff’ Category

random little tidbits 0610Every once in a while we find tidbits that we don’t wish to devote an entire post to but that we think worth sharing. Think of these as party trivia or sound bytes to help you seem intriguing and perhaps more well-read.

The importance of moving:

You’ve seen that infographic on how sitting is killing us all? New research says there are simple ways to counteract that deadly habit. To make it even better—it’s free and something everyone can do. Move. The research itself focuses on walking and you may prefer running, rowing, biking, yoga, or some other activity that suits your fitness and ability level. The formula is simple: Two minutes of walking offsets health harms of an hour sitting. Just standing alone doesn’t do it. You have to move.

You are unique. Your parents are the ones who are so predictable:

Privacy on the internet is really not a thing. But a couple of websites purporting to be able to guess your age (here and here) could make you think you are embarrassingly predictable. They ask for your given name and then tell you how old you are—it’s mortifying. But. We are here to support you. You, yourself are a truly unique and spontaneous creature. Your parents, though? Totally predictable. There are other websites that will (given your responses to a few questions) guess your educational level, your gender (this one pegged me incorrectly), and pretty much anything else you plug into an internet search (e.g., guess my __________). It’s all based on statistical algorithms but still often a bit unnerving.

Online harassment in the form of menacing behavior:

There is an online debate as to whether online harassment truly exists. Of course it exists. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, up to 40% of adult internet users have experienced some form of harassment online (mostly involving name-calling or attempts to embarrass someone). Pew offers a nicely designed graphic looking at how men and women experience differing varieties of online harassment. Women are more distressed than men by online harassment. This is a good data-based evidence of the existence of online harassment. Although, one might consider that the person who says online harassment does not exist is likely not worthy of the effort expended to educate.

online harassment

Is it worth your time to publish in academic journals?

It may seem an odd question given the imperative of publication in peer-reviewed journals if you want to achieve tenure at nearly all universities. The answer to the question appears to be “it depends on whether your goal is sharing the knowledge”. Recently, an opinion column on this issue saying only about 10 people ever actually read papers in academic journals. And just last year, a more comprehensive paper argued that sometimes only the editor(s) and the actual author(s) of the paper actually read articles published in academic journals. That’s a pretty sad (and lonely) number of people who are not racing to the library to read your hard work. We know a place (The Jury Expert) that does a whole lot better than that at seeing your hard work to print and getting it read. You might want to think about doing two versions of your work: one for tenure and one for people to actually read and learn from your efforts.

Banish the ear worm!

Finally! In January of 2013 we wrote about some ways to get rid of an ear worm (that thing that happens when a song gets stuck in your head). The recommendations for removing the pesky ear worm just didn’t seem that credible but it was the findings from the research study so we went ahead with it. Now, science marches on and finally, two years and some months later, we have a new study saying you don’t have to not play Sudoku or take on mentally challenging tasks. Instead of depriving yourself, buy some gum and chew it. As the abstract explains so very clearly: “The data support a link between articulatory motor programming and the appearance in consciousness of both voluntary and unwanted musical recollections.”. (All that means is you now have a research-backed reason for chewing gum: It helps remove ear worms.)

Beaman, C., Powell, K., & Rapley, E. (2015). Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? B(u)y gum! The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68 (6), 1049-1057 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1034142


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lumbersexualWe know it’s important for you to keep up on new stereotype labels. You know what labels like metrosexual, hipster, and perhaps even lumberjack mean. But lumbersexual?

Tom Puzak, over at GearJunkie wrote about it first a couple of weeks ago and then the term went viral.

“He looks like a man of the woods, but works at The Nerdery, programming for a healthy salary and benefits. His backpack carries a MacBook Air, but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s axe. He is the Lumbersexual. Seen in New York, LA and everywhere in between, the Lumbersexual is bringing the outdoor industry’s clothing and accessories into the mainstream.”

According to Sociological Images blog, the definition of the lumbersexual continues to evolve:

“Lumbersexuals are probably best recognized by a set of hirsute bodies and grooming habits. Their attire, bodies, and comportment are presumed to cite stereotypes of lumberjacks in the cultural imaginary. However, combined with the overall cultural portrayal of the lumbersexual, this stereotype set fundamentally creates an aesthetic with a particular subset of men that idealizes a cold weather, rugged, large, hard-bodied, bewhiskered configuration of masculinity.”

You may confuse this description with your stereotypes of lumberjacks. There is a critical difference however. Sociological Images continues:

“One of the key signifiers of the “lumbersexual,” however, is that he is not, in fact, a lumberjack. Like the hipster, the lumbersexual is less of an identity men claim and more of one used to describe them (perhaps, against their wishes).”

So, the lumbersexual isn’t really a lumberjack, but more of a costume we could see as the opposite of the metrosexual. Gawker continues to educate us on the lumbersexual:

“To facilitate an easy discussion, it might help you to think of a Lumbersexual as a foil to the Metrosexual, the alleged nadir of masculinity from last decade. So, instead of slim-legged pants, envision pants with a little extra leg room (see: “regular cut”). Rather than be clean-shaven, the Lumbersexual has an unkempt beard. The Metrosexual is clean and pretty and well-groomed; the Lumbersexual spends the same amount of money, but looks filthy. Sartorially speaking, a Lumbersexual is a delicate tri-blend of L.L. Bean, Timberlake, and Sears.”

In case you have not yet figured this out, it’s a label with a bit of sneer in it. The Atlantic calls them “bearded, manly men” while the Daily Beast opines the lumbersexual  represents yet more blurring of the lines between gay and straight as they are “all beards, flannel shirts and work boots”. Jezebel compiles a tongue-in-cheek reference guide to the lumbersexual subtypes (e.g., the Metrojack, the Advanced Lumbersexual, and the Urban Woodsman).

“In conclusion, it’s a nice look, but somewhat misleading—reading these pieces feels like meeting a retro sexy librarian type who isn’t actually into books. With the Lumbersexual, the very things that might draw to you such a manly dressed man are likely to disappoint when you discover he won’t be building a campfire, crafting some bookshelves, or investigating that weird noise outside the tent. But hey, fashion is fashion. And the lumberjack look is still pretty hot, right?”

As far as we can tell, the lumbersexual is an urban male (typically White and heterosexual) who dresses like a lumberjack even though he is far from a lumberjack. While it is a recognizable fashion statement, there are (as yet) no attitudes, values and beliefs attributed to the lumbersexual. While there is a sense that these are men trying to look “like real men” according to a hyper masculine definition—there is no evidence that their attitudes, values and beliefs would line up with what we think of as stereotypically masculine.

In other words, while you know an evocative pop culture label to assign, you have no real idea who that lumbersexual really is on the inside. Appearances have limited value. Obviously, that’s not a good decision-making strategy for voir dire. Even though it might be good for a laugh.


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Do you smell red or blue? 

Monday, November 3, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

al pacino scent of a womanThis post might well fall into the category of “the route to tenure-track publication credits is not always the high road”. We discard lots of dicey research reports (such as this one) because they add nothing to our goal of improving litigation advocacy. But this one was so weird we found it amusing. Enjoy. But don’t bet your case on anything you learn today.

Al Pacino made fragrance tangible in his role as a blind man in the film Scent of a Woman. Today’s research is not on how women smell, but rather on how we all smell differently based on our own political ideology and the particular ideology of the sniffer. Good grief. You smell like a Libertarian? How exactly does a Libertarian smell? Perhaps a good business plan would be to develop deodorants to either mask or enhance your “political smell” depending on the situation in which you find yourself?

Before you sniff and toss your head in disbelief, the authors would like you to hear that it is well-known that many people choose spouses or partners who are more similar to them in political preference. In fact, say the researchers, political similarity is often more similar than almost any other trait in spouses and long-term partners. (James Carville and Mary Matalin are perhaps the exception that proves the rule.)

The authors say that we are simply drawn to the body odor of those who share our political ideology. And, they set out to prove it (in the inimitable style of sincere and committed researchers). They recruited 146 participants between 18 and 40 years of age (half from a university and half from the general population) and asked them to rate their political ideology on a seven point spectrum ranging from “very liberal” to “very conservative”. The researchers selected the 10 liberals and 11 conservatives with the highest scores on each end of the spectrum and collected “body odor samples”.

This collecting of body odor samples is actually quite an involved process.

“Target participants washed in fragrance free shampoo and soap and then taped one 2×2 Johnson & Johnson gauze pad to each underarm using Johnson & Johnson paper tape, all of which we provided. Participants wore these pads for 24 hours following a strict protocol that prohibited smoking, drinking, deodorants, perfumes, being around strong odors or candles, animals, eating strong-smelling foods, having sex, or sleeping in a bed with any other people or pets.”

Sample pads were then transferred into sterile containers and frozen for one week. Then, 125 participants sniffed and evaluated the body odor of the 20 liberals and conservatives (one had worn their gauze pads for 48 hours and was thrown out of the study) by smelling the vial containing the individual pads.

Each participant sniffed peppermint essential oils in between samples to “refresh the nasal canal”. Participants rated the “attractiveness” of the body odors and were asked to guess the political ideology of each body odor generator. (The researchers had already collected the political ideology of the sniffer-participants.)

So here is what they found (and given their hypotheses, you will likely be unsurprised):

Individual think those more ideologically akin to them smell better than those who are their ideological opposites.

Even more intriguing to us (as we do qualitative research) was one of the stories they told about their research participants:

“A participant asked the experimenter if she could take one of the vials home with her because she thought it was “the best perfume I ever smelled”; the vial was from a male who shared an ideology similar to the evaluator. She was preceded by another respondent with an ideology opposite to the person who provided the exact same sample; this participant reported that that vial had “gone rancid” and suggested it needed to be replaced. In this way, different participants experienced the exact same stimulus in radically different ways only moments apart.”

This seems totally ridiculous to us. We can tell you (from our pretrial research experience) that people react very differently to the same stimulus (although we never have and never will have them sniff the body odor of the witnesses, parties or attorneys). We often say that a story simply “doesn’t pass the smell test” but this particular scenario has never been what we had in mind. We have had mock jurors request to be reseated because of body odors in the room, but the requests have uniformly been motivated by repulsion, not attraction. And with good reason…

What is also odd to us is that we think political ideology is very tough to measure and we have never found that measuring it on a seven-point scale gives us any data at all relative to the mock juror’s eventual verdict. So why people’s self-description of their political ideology would make them more attracted to the body odor of politically similar others is odd to us. (Although not odd enough for us to find this worthy of further exploration.)

Hopefully, the very real consequences involved in courtroom disputes outweigh the potential attraction to the smell of an unknown other’s body odor. But, just in case, you might want to take special care (and have your client take special care) to not smell either red or blue when you appear in court (whatever that means).

McDermott, R., Tingley, D., & Hatemi, P. (2014). Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues American Journal of Political Science, 58 (4), 997-1005 DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12133


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bolshevik revolutionWe read a lot and routinely run across tidbits we think you might enjoy and that we would not really want to use an entire blog post to discuss. So here are a few things from here and there that we’ve found in our travels…

Can’t remember all those complicated passwords? It’s a complication of modern-day life. Many sites want complex or at least lengthy passwords and if you don’t use a password manager software–you can spend a lot of time typing in various password combinations and end up locked out for 24 hours (or forever). So here are a few tricks from Slate Magazine. Hint: It’s The Bolshevik Revolution.

Think narcissists can’t be empathic? Think again! Apparently it’s all about shifting their perspective. New research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows narcissists are actually capable of empathy for others. How can it be, you may find yourself thinking? You simply have the narcissist take the other person’s perspective. British researchers measured the heart rates of their research participants to have an objective measure rather than relying on self-report. They report that when participants are instructed to take the perspective of someone who is suffering, all of their heart rates increased whether low in narcissism or high in narcissism. The researchers conclude it is possible, given instruction to take another’s perspective, for the narcissist to be “moved by another’s suffering”.

The psychology of belief and the latest challenge: Gluten sensitivity. The recent research questioning the actual existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been popping up everywhere. We ran across an interesting perspective on it from Derek Halpern over at Social Triggers blog. Derek discusses this latest research finding and all those folks saying, “Yeah, well tell my gut there is no such thing as gluten sensitivity!” in the context of the psychology of belief. It’s confusing, and the science is far from consistent or complete. We’ve seen plenty of examples among mock jurors of data and evidence not having impact on their preexisting beliefs. The dilemma is in part one of which way the wind is blowing in the medical community, as well as the fact that it isn’t just belief if you had the problem before you heard the label. We think you’ll find Derek’s article an interesting foray into the psychology of belief and why it’s so hard to crack a deeply seated belief with data and evidence alone. And it also raises the question about the limits of scientific knowledge and the meaning of data…

If I can just get a bunch of business people on my jury, they will make decisions based on logic. Well, maybe not. The Wall Street Journal recently published a story on how some of the best business minds make decisions–and it isn’t based on data and evidence. The best decisions are made with a combination of data, evidence, and feelings–in a way the researchers see as exemplifying “visionary leadership”. This an interesting article to read for understanding decision-making and for thinking through organization leadership strategies.

Hepper, E., Hart, C., & Sedikides, C. (2014). Moving Narcissus: Can Narcissists Be Empathic? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167214535812



Things You Should Know (Maybe)

Monday, March 17, 2014
posted by Douglas Keene

fudge_dog-poopIt’s already time for another installment of things you should (maybe) know. These are typically items that make us take a second look but don’t merit a full blog post on their own. Light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek fare good for party conversation (probably only at certain sorts of parties) or trivia games, but not really likely to aid you in litigation advocacy. Trivia that can both amuse and annoy your friends!

Fudge shaped like feces and other ways to get tenure. Thanks to disgust researchers we are often treated to the creative use of fart spray in experiments, but we have never before run across fudge-shaped-like-feces. For serious lovers of fudge, the shapes of this fudge apparently creates an emotional confrontation between the diner’s aversion to the action (“I can’t bring myself to put this in my mouth…”) and knowledge of the outcome (“…although I know it will taste delicious”). The fudge-shaped-like-feces are actually from a study published in 1986 that these 2014 researchers probably delighted in including in the discussion of their article just for the disgust factor. (It works. And, don’t invite us to the party where you deftly slide a tray of these delicacies onto the buffet.)

A new(?) legal defense for murder. Instead of the “my brain made me do it” defense, how about this one? “My mom made me do it.” A New York City attorney accused of beating and strangling his girlfriend says it happened because his mom devoted herself to her career when Jason Bohn was just ten years old. In turn, says the defense psychiatrist (Alexander Sasha Bardey, who, by the way, has consulted for the TV series, Law and Order), young Jason developed “intermittent explosive disorder”. Specifically, Dr. Bardey says Mr. Bohn “suffers from [maternal neglect initiated] intermittent explosive disorder” and that Bohn “blew up” and had no idea what he was doing when he killed Danielle Thomas in 2012. The ABC News site adds additional details and voicemail messages from Bohn and his victim. Bohn has pled not guilty and hopes for a lesser manslaughter charge. According to the New York Post, Bohn (also known as the “Ivy League killer”) authored a document called “101 Ways to Kill Your Father”. I guess we can keep an eye out for the sequel,  “My Parents Made Me Do It”.

Who believes in astrology? More Americans than you might think according to a new survey from the National Science Foundation. Only 55% of adults (from age 18-24) believe astrology is “not scientific”. To add to your pain, the percentage who think astrology is scientific is increasing. In 2010, 64% of respondents aged 35-44 believed astrology was not scientific. But in 2012, only 51% said it was not scientific. Of course, maybe 2012 was a less literate sample, and they thought it was about astronomy.  Would that help us feel better?

astrology not scientific

Wondering how Puritans communicated their affections for Valentine’s Day? Probably something along the lines of these Puritan valentines. You may want to bookmark them for next year.

Political affiliation and ultimate verdict. We’re seeing renewed interest these days in the relationship of political affiliation to jury and mock jury verdicts. Unfortunately, we are also seeing a very significant decline in the proportion of mock jurors who will actually identify as a member of a political party. There has been a rise in the proportion of the public who don’t identify with either party. Instead they are increasingly flocking to “politically unaffiliated” or “politically independent”. So here, courtesy of Big Think is a quick and sweet way to identify who is what among potential jurors. Pass around a bowl of assorted candy treats and make a note of who chooses what. (Democrats who are politically active prefer Almond Joy, Baby Ruth and Raisinets while less involved Democrats prefer Airheads and Nerds. Active Republicans prefer York Peppermint Patties and less active Republicans choose Skittles and Rolo candies.) This study was done by the same people who carefully assessed the relationship of politics to beer, sports and fast food. Fortunately for the education system, the authors are advertising experts and not faculty in search of tenure. We will leave it up to you to determine the rigor of their scientific method. But any research that provides a happy array of processed treats can’t be all bad.

Miller, RM Hannikainen, IA Cushman, FA 2014 Bad actions or bad outcomes? Differentiating affective contributions to the moral condemnation of harm. Emotion.