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Here’s an update on the stash of tattoo posts we have here. This is a collection of new research on tattoos (to make sure we are up to date) that will undoubtedly help you decide what your individual ink means/will mean, and of course, what it suggests about your jurors, your clients, your kids, and maybe you, too! We’ll start out with the punch line from one of the articles (Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz 2017): women do not find tattooed men irresistibly attractive despite what men think about other men with tattoos.

Do women really “dig” tattoos? (Not so much)

Men apparently believe that a man with tattoos is likely to be serious competition for the attention of a woman. Women themselves do not generally see tattooed men as the be all, end all. That (perhaps surprising) conclusion is according to new research out of Poland where 2,584 heterosexual men and women looked at photos of shirtless men. In some of the photographs, the man’s arms were marked with a smaller black symbol (see graphic illustrating post for one of the photo pairs). Men rated these tattooed men higher in terms of what (they thought) women would look for in a long-term partner. Women did not agree and rated the tattooed men as worse candidates for long-term relationships than the men pictured without tattoos. Once again, men don’t seem to understand what women find attractive. The authors wanted to figure out if women or men were more drawn to tattoos on men and they conclude this way: “Our results provide stronger evidence for the second, intrasexual selection mechanism, as the presence of a tattoo affected male viewers’ perceptions of a male subject more intensely than female viewers’ perceptions.”

In other words, when men get tattooed, other men are going to be more impressed than will women. For men who are homophobic, this could be a traumatizing study.

Are tattooed adults more impulsive? (Not really)

There’s been a plethora of research done on whether the personalities of tattooed adults are different from the personalities of adults with no tattoos. And, after multiple grants of academic tenure—the answer is….not really. This study (Swami, et al.), done in Europe, had 1,006 adults, complete psychological measures of how impulsive and prone to boredom they were. About 1/5 of the participants (19.1%) had at least one tattoo but there were no real differences in terms of gender, nationality, education or marital status. There were also no strong differences in either impulsivity or  likelihood of becoming bored—not for those with one tattoo and not for those with more than one tattoo (the highest number among the individual participants was 23 tattoos).

The authors concluded that tattooed adults and non-tattooed adults are more similar than different. (This doesn’t really surprise us as tattoos have become much more normative, although—there is nothing normative about having 23 tattoos.)

So are tattooed women less mentally healthy than non-tattooed women? (Nope)

Women with tattoos have been seen as deviant and anti-social in past research.

If that seems odd to you, know this: When I was in graduate school, there was a widely held view that women with multiple ear piercings as more likely to have personality psychopathology. Multiple piercings were outside the norm of behavior then, and are now, much more common.

So—here’s a study out of Australia (Thompson, 2015) looking at whether that is still the case. This study was completed using an internet survey (710 women) which asked participants to complete the Loyola Generativity Scale. The term generativity comes to us from psychological research and is, very simply, the desire we have (or do not have) to contribute positively to the future. You will often see generativity used to describe the desire to mentor younger people in career or other life areas.

The people who developed the scale describe it this way: “Generativity is a complex psychosocial construct that can be expressed through societal demand, inner desires, conscious concerns, beliefs, commitments, behaviors, and the overall way in which an adult makes narrative sense of his or her life.” (With no offense intended to the scale developers, it is likely easier for you to think of generativity as a desire to positively contribute to future generations.) Essentially, this researcher wanted to see if women with tattoos would have the same level of generativity as women without tattoos.

As in the study of risk-taking and impulsivity that preceded this one, there were no differences between tattooed and non-tattooed women in terms of their level of generativity. What was seen as edgy and counter-cultural 30 years ago is now merely a personal expression and fashion statement.

Finally, can we trust tattooed adults if they have a tattoo with a Christian-theme? (It depends)

This research focused on what they identified as “mixed signals” which they defined as a signal projecting untrustworthiness (in this case, a tattoo) but where the theme or content of the signal suggests trustworthiness (in this case a tattoo of a religious symbol, the cross). Interestingly, this researcher chose to place the tattoos on the neck (either on the side or centered under the chin). While  the third photo may look like a necklace to you, it is actually a tattoo. Some were photos of men or women with cross tattoos, others were men or women with star tattoos, while still others saw men or women with no tattoos.

Participants included 326 people who were shown 26 photographs and asked to rate trustworthiness of the person pictured on a scale from 1 (extremely low trust) to 7 (extremely high trust). Only after they had rated the photos were the participants asked whether they would identify as Christians (58.9% did) and if they had tattoos themselves (31% did). The results here are (ironically) mixed.

Christian participants rated the face without tattoos (which perhaps would have communicated shared values) as more trustworthy than the tattooed faces but they also rated faces with the religious tattoo as being more trustworthy than non-Christians did. Non-Christian participants thought the religious tattoo face less trustworthy and the star tattoo face more trustworthy.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this series of articles on tattoos and what they mean in the present day to the observer, tells us you cannot rely on knowledge from a few years ago to inform you on what a tattoo means now. It is the same with venires—old knowledge is old knowledge. Do not assume that the venire is the same as it was 5 years ago—or that neck tattoos are always signs of deviance. Update yourself. Jurors will probably feel it and be more open to your message.

Galbarczyk, A., & Ziomkiewicz, A. (2017). Tattooed men: Healthy bad boys and good-looking competitors Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 122-125 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.10.051

Swami, V., Tran, U., Kuhlmann, T., Stieger, S., Gaughan, H., & Voracek, M. (2016). More similar than different: Tattooed adults are only slightly more impulsive and willing to take risks than Non-tattooed adults Personality and Individual Differences, 88, 40-44 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.08.054

Thompson, K. (2015). Comparing the psychosocial health of tattooed and non-tattooed women Personality and Individual Differences, 74, 122-126 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.10.010

Timming, A., & Perrett, D. (2016). Trust and mixed signals: A study of religion, tattoos and cognitive dissonance Personality and Individual Differences, 97, 234-238 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.03.067

Images from Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz  and Timming et al. articles

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Last week the Shark Tank television show was apparently shown during a time my DVR was trying to record another show for me. As I watched it, I was amused to see a couple of entrepreneurs whispering to each other to do “power poses” before they pitched to the shark-investors.

I was amused, because I’d just read the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article on new research that was unable to replicate the benefits of power posing in terms of performance. The idea (which we’ve blogged about here in the past) catapulted Amy Cuddy to the second most watched TED Talk of all time (almost 38M views at this writing) has become so mainstream her work is even cited in this webpage on doing the most perfect Shark Tank presentation!

The Chronicle article is hard on her ideas and refers to the power pose as imminently “clickable” and seems to deride Cuddy for being an “Ivy League professor” . They go on to say that while Cuddy personally became a celebrity (calling power posing a “free, low-tech, life hack”), the actual research article was crumbling with other teams failing to replicate the finding that power poses lead to hormonal changes. Even her co-author (Dana Carney) said (in a fairly unprecedented move) that she didn’t think the research effects were real—not just once, but at least twice—both on her personal website and in a story broadcast on NPR.

Bartlett, the Chronicle writer, says this story is a sign of how research used to be practiced (referencing the failures to replicate many of social psychology’s most popular findings) and perhaps a sign of how things are changing for the better (with Dana Carney’s disavowal of the results).

As you might expect, Amy Cuddy has responded to criticisms and expressed “concern about the tenor” of the discussion and that the criticisms could have a “chilling effect on science”. Some other well-known psychologists have agreed with her (questioning whether the criticism would be as vicious if Cuddy were a male researcher) and other well-known psychologists have stood with her detractors. Even officials at TED have added the following disclaimer (displayed in bold font) to the video description on their site:

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. (Note: Some of the findings presented in this talk have been referenced in an ongoing debate among social scientists about robustness and reproducibility. Read Amy Cuddy’s response under “Learn more” below.)

It is a dilemma for blogs like this who follow emerging research in social psychology. But, know this: there was research, there was a peer-reviewed and approved paper published, and there is an ongoing controversy that has apparently gotten both personal and nasty.

Yet, as the Chronicle article points out, “power posing gains enthusiastic new adherents every day. [snip] Some people do find it inspiring. Besides, we are not talking about a cure for cancer here. Why does it matter if people stand like Wonder Woman in front of the mirror for two minutes every morning? Really, what is the harm?” [Here’s a video of surgeons using the pose prior to doing brain surgery on the Grey’s Anatomy television show.]

Bartlett, T. (2016). Power Poser: When big ideas go bad. Chronicle of Higher Education. (December 4)

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You have probably been fooled a few times as well. Facebook friends post their scores on various silly quizzes and sometimes you go take that test as well. It’s just silly fun and means nothing, right?

Wrong. Apparently, Cambridge Analytica has been using Facebook quizzes to create “a tool to build psychological profiles that represent some 230 million Americans”. They sell this data for a price—but only to Republican candidates and our new President-elect benefitted from their insights on winning the 2016 electoral college vote.

So how are they doing it? We don’t know for sure but it appears they are combining publicly available information on you with your Facebook ‘likes’ and your responses on Facebook’s innocent little quizzes to predict how you will respond to various political messages. They have used a variation on the Big Five trait theory (called OCEAN) often used in psychology research to figure out who you are and what seems to motivate you. They claim to have 3,000 to 5,000 data points on each individual they profile.

Here is how Cambridge Analytica describes what they do:

“We use the established scientific OCEAN scale of personality traits to understand what people care about, why they behave the way they do, and what really drives their decision-making.”

Their website offers to let you take the OCEAN (which measures your Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) test to see how you score. We would really not recommend that you do this…unless you want to just give them what tattered scraps remain of your privacy.

And here is how the New York Times describes Cambridge Analytica:

“A spinoff of a British consulting company and sometime-defense contractor known for its counterterrorism “psy ops” work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seeding the social network with personality quizzes. Respondents — by now hundreds of thousands of us, mostly female and mostly young but enough male and older for the firm to make inferences about others with similar behaviors and demographics — get a free look at their Ocean scores. Cambridge Analytica also gets a look at their scores and, thanks to Facebook, gains access to their profiles and real names.” [snip…]

“In the age of Facebook, it has become far easier for campaigners or marketers to combine our online personas with our offline selves, a process that was once controversial but is now so commonplace that there’s a term for it, “onboarding.” Cambridge Analytica says it has as many as 3,000 to 5,000 data points on each of us, be it voting histories or full-spectrum demographics — age, income, debt, hobbies, criminal histories, purchase histories, religious leanings, health concerns, gun ownership, car ownership, homeownership — from consumer-data giants.”

You may be interested in knowing that Cambridge Analytica worked for the “Leave” side in the UKs Brexit campaign. The NYT article is frightening in the detail it offers on how individual Facebook users were targeted with different messages based on what would be most persuasive given their psychological profiles. The newspaper story refers to this process as “weaponizing Facebook” and this does not seem an exaggeration. Even more disturbing is the intimation that they don’t even need all those Facebook quizzes to know enough about you to do a psychological profile. Freedom of information laws in the US give them lots and lots and lots of private information about you.

So, next time your brother’s spouse’s sister-in-law posts the results from her quiz on introversion versus extraversion, think about how the information is going to be used to manipulate your decisions and even your private voting decisions and maybe, take a little swing at the data brokers—and just say No.

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school lunches repulsiveIt’s time for another installment of strange tidbits we’ve gathered as we have read potential articles for blog posts. This week we have information on why you would stick something icky and repulsive into your mouth, online anonymity, bias against homosexuals, and what horrible things can happen should you choose to ‘unfriend’ that person on Facebook who really annoys you.

Disgusting and repulsive is what that is—tell me more!

The popularity of television shows like Fear Factor tells us that we humans are drawn to disgusting and repulsive things. Some researchers (Hsee and Ruan cited below) think our curiosity drives us to risk negative outcomes (much like Pandora). There is a thorough write-up on this article over at Scientific American that is worth your time to review—although it is likely a good idea to not eat while doing so.

You are likely not as anonymous online as you think

Now this is sort of scary. Many of us want to be anonymous online as we go about our daily business. But a new research study says they can identify who you are just by the way you browse the internet. Apparently, each of us creates a “unique digital behavioral signature” and “they” can know way too much about you based on how you wield that electronic mouse or touchpad. Within a half hour of monitoring you, the researchers say they can measure personality characteristics like “openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism”. That’s pretty scary. The researchers appear to be very excited about this and appear to long to sell their strategies to online marketers. [I think these researchers should be denied tenure just on principle.]

How do we feel now about lesbian women and gay men?

There has been a cultural shift underway in the US in attitudes toward homosexuals. Some have wondered if there really is a change underway or if people just feel pressured to express more support for gay men and lesbian women. Now there is research published in a new open access journal called Collabra that says this societal change really has occurred. A team of researchers found that implicit or unconscious bias against lesbians and gays was down 13% in 2013 when compared to 2006. Nearly all demographic groups showed decreases in bias against homosexuals over that 7 year period which suggests the change is not just politically correct but actually real.

You may want to consider alternatives to “unfriending” on Facebook once you read this

Imagine you live in a “sleepy mountain town” with your young spouse and infant child. Then imagine you have been murdered (although your child survived) and no one can figure out who did it because, “everyone” liked you. You don’t really have to imagine since you can read the story of what happened to a young couple after they ‘unfriended’ a woman on Facebook. It’s a sadly bizarre tale of catfishing and loneliness and perhaps some psychopathy. Here’s a quote from the assistant district attorney’s opening statement to the jury:

“This is going to be the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. This is going to be the craziest thing you’ve ever heard. There is nothing in your lives or background that has prepared you to understand the Potter family.”

And to that we say, “Amen”. And we would like also to mention you can ‘unfollow’ rather than ‘unfriend’ to get them out of your timeline but not incite homicidal rage.

Hsee CK, & Ruan B (2016). The Pandora Effect: The Power and Peril of Curiosity. Psychological Science, 27 (5), 659-66 PMID: 27000178

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naked millennialOnce again it is time for another installment of this and that and other things you need to know. These are tidbits we find here and there as we collect items to blog about and find that some are not substantive enough for an entire post but are amusing or quirky and about which you, dear reader, deserve to know.

Naked Millennials need pity too

Recently, the New York Times featured an article on locker room designers taking pity on the naked Millennial and illustrated it with this graphic. They describe the problem of showering and changing without actually being nude in front of others.

“It’s funny, they’re more socially open with everything—Facebook, social media—yet more private in their personal space,” said Kevin Kavanaugh, the president of David Barton Gym.

While 60-year-old men (according to this article) are comfortable with old-style open locker rooms and group nudity, not so for younger generations. So, there’s been a cultural shift in what is expected when you pay for a membership at a gym: privacy and space are now required.

How long before eye contact is “too long”?

This is, despite the title, not at all related to group nudity in locker rooms. It is instead about that subtle point when a look becomes an intrusive stare. In a presentation to the Vision Sciences Society 2015 conference, some London-based psychologists examined how much was too much when it came to eye contact. Their research found participants preferred for actors to maintain eye contact for about 3.2 seconds and then look away. They were okay with a longer duration of eye contact if they felt the actor was trustworthy and not threatening. Consider the implications of this when you are next asked by a witness “Should I look at the jury when I answer?”

You know Judge Judy and John Kerry have not served on the Supreme Court, right?

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni recently conducted a poll of 1,000 college graduates and asked questions to assess their level of civic knowledge.

“There is a crisis in American civic education. Survey after survey shows that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage. They cannot identify the term lengths of members of Congress, the substance of the First Amendment, or the origin of the separation of powers.  They do not know the Father of the Constitution, and nearly 10% say that Judith Sheindlin—“Judge Judy”—is on the Supreme Court.”

That isn’t all. Another 5.5% of these college graduates also think John Kerry has served on the Supreme Court in the past. The report summarizing the results expresses significant concern (as we think makes sense).

In a country that depends upon an educated populace, ignorance of our history and founding documents will be disastrous. An annual survey by the Newseum Institute gives point to the alarm: When asked to identify the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, one-third of Americans could not name a single right; 43% could not even name freedom of speech as one of those rights.

Social media and kids these days

They’re opting out of the publicly viewed social media in droves—apparently more than 11 million young people have left Facebook since 2011. Instead, apparently they are going to Facebook Messenger or Snapchat and sometimes Instagram where they can talk in relative privacy with their friends. While you may think you can view their Facebook page—what you see is an increasingly curated page meant for impression management (at least according to this article) while their “real selves” are shared in less permanent places. This is a nice article to read to get a sense of what is happening on social media as younger users take their “business” out of the public square and into private areas where no one is watching. And for those of us who are regularly shocked at the personal disclosures people make on Facebook, it may not be a moment too soon.

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