Archive for the ‘Trends and Goofy Stuff’ Category
From time to time we post tidbits from research that we have not turned into entire posts but which may (or may not) inform your practice. This is one of those times. Some of the findings are a stretch to accept (and we are not endorsing them by sharing them here, merely raising them for your consideration and discussion).
Stealthily disempower opposing counsel: Race to the courtroom door and open the door for opposing counsel. This simple courtesy (if both you and opposing counsel are male) will diminish opposing counsel’s self-esteem and self belief. Practice saying this with a totally sincere smile: “After you!” (Note: It doesn’t work with women.) The alternate view of this is that an attorney who has the audacity to hold open a door might actually have been raised with good manners. Mom would be proud.
Stop doing that on your smartphone while driving! The Atlantic has an article on the most dangerous things to do on your phone while driving. While taking off or putting on a jacket or pulling up your socks does not make the list, lots of other things do–although the more experienced you are, the less likely you are to have such high risk factors. In light of the “better than average effect”, we know this means most of you will dismiss this information.
Shortage of medical malpractice attorneys: Here’s a powerful statement on the outcome of tort reform. 90% of the people looking for a medical malpractice attorney to take their case will not find one. This statistic disproportionately impacts women, children and the elderly.
Crafty and sly font designers: The Economist has an article on the “science behind fonts and how they make you feel”. For example, Helvetica makes us think of the government, while commonly used news headline fonts seem untrustworthy. This is not good. The article includes specific suggestions for optimizing how the reader feels when reading your text.
Mugshot websites exploit both the guilty and the innocent. Mugshot websites are not associated with law enforcement. They simply take photos from law enforcement websites and post them (and then charge you a fee to have your photo removed). While there are a few states with laws about when mugshots should be removed, mostly it’s an unregulated practice. An arrest (and the accompanying mugshot) does not necessarily reflect a conviction. Or even a justified arrest.
You really should always watch your back! Because sharks like to approach humans from behind. This research refers to sharks that live in the sea and not to excessively competitive, sometimes unethical humans–although the same lesson likely applies.
Zimmerman acquittal and changes in the size of juries. Two states have passed bills to increase the size of juries. Wisconsin now requires 12-person juries for all criminal cases, including misdemeanors. Florida has approved 12-person juries for all cases where the sentence could result in a life sentence and a companion bill (pending in the Florida House of Representatives) would require 12-member juries for all criminal cases.
Are you convinced you’re a multitasker? This infographic will make you stop doing so many things at one time. It’s pretty amazing. No wonder sometimes we feel as though we get nothing done! We are, of course– we’re just not doing any of it as well as we would if our concentration was all on one task.
If you want to prevail at trial, would it be useful to be able to control the weather? New research would say it depends on whether you want the jurors to help the plaintiff or defendant or not. Seriously? Seriously. It’s called the Sunshine Samaritan Effect.
“Your Honor, I’d like to recess until the sun shines…”
European researchers looked at the prior research on human social interactions and sunshine. What they found was that people are more likely to grant interview requests by surveyors when the sun is shining. Food servers who tell you weather conditions are pleasant as they deliver food to your windowless hotel room (a windowless hotel room?) receive larger tips than those who tell you it’s nasty outside. When a restaurant server writes either nothing, a favorable weather condition for the next day, or an unfavorable weather condition for the next day on the back of your check–those customers given a favorable forecast leave a bigger tip. So, curious researchers that they are, the authors of this paper wondered if the good weather effect would translate to spontaneous helping activity toward strangers.
They conducted experiments on sunny and cloudy days between 9am and 1pm in two towns near the Atlantic Coast in France. They did not conduct the experiment in the rain and were careful to only work when the outdoor temperature was between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Eight confederates (4 male and 4 female, all around 21 years old and dressed in jeans, t-shirts and boat shoes) approached 221 men and 243 women (estimated to be between age 20 and age 50) at random while they were walking alone in pedestrian streets.
We assume the confederates did not look at all threatening even though they were told to avoid anyone who was “a child, a teenager, an elderly man/woman, or a member of a group”.
The confederates (who carried a handbag–presumably a “man bag” for the males) would identify a target passerby and begin walking in the same direction but about 10 feet in front of the target. Then, they would “accidentally drop a glove”. (Why they would have gloves on sunny days was not explained.) Observers (strategically placed 164 feet away and with apparently excellent eyesight or good binoculars) noted the reaction of the passerby, his/her gender and an estimate of the target age.
“Responses were recorded if the target passerby warned the confederate within 10 seconds of dropping the glove. If not, the confederate acted as if he/she was searching for something within his/her handbag, looked around in surprise, and returned to pick up the glove without looking at the participant.”
And here’s what happened. When it was a sunny day, 65.3% of the participants spontaneously helped the confederate by alerting them to the dropped glove within 10 seconds. On cloudy days, only 53.3% of them did. This, the researchers inform us, is statistically significant at the p = .009 level. They conclude we are more likely to help spontaneously on predominantly sunny days.
And that is why you may want to consider the impact of the weather on helping behavior. There is research that says asking for help is more successful on sunny days. Now this research says spontaneous helping is more likely on sunny days as well.
Guéguen, N., & Lamy, L. (2013). Weather and Helping: Additional Evidence of the Effect of the Sunshine Samaritan The Journal of Social Psychology, 153 (2), 123-126 DOI: 10.1080/00224545.2012.720618
Sometimes stuff just comes up that we think you need to know but it isn’t enough to fill an entire blog post. This is one of those times. Think of it as things you didn’t know you needed to know until you knew it!
Why do we love it so? Well. M&Ms are not only in focus group facilities waiting to ensnare the frustrated trial attorney watching mock jurors behind darkened glass. They also apparently lurk in rat mazes to see why chocolate so appeals (to us and to those rat stand-ins for us). As it turns out, chocolate is like opium for rats. And presumably, it’s a bit like opium for us as well. I, for one, would be quite willing to gorge myself on M&Ms for the good of science. So, we’re thinking maybe someone should do some research on what is really in Starbuck’s coffee!
Does your non-working nose mean you’re a psychopath?
We’ve written about psychopaths here before and they are a pretty scary bunch. But now we have a simple test for you to use at home to determine whether you are potentially a psychopath. How’s your sense of smell?
Psychopaths seem to have a very poor sense of smell. [Wow. I want to be in the court the first time a detective testifies that the suspect’s inability to smell was one of the tip-offs to their guilt!] Researchers think this is a good test to use since expectations of performance are unclear and the subject may be less able to fake good (or bad) responses. Of course, this research doesn’t mean just because you have a poor sense of smell that you are a psychopath. You could also have schizophrenia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. We thought that was reassuring. Oh– plus, seasonal allergies can also be a factor.
Annoying co-workers? There are actual benefits to this! Be thankful.
While you may not have a Dwight Schrute in your office, you may have someone equally odd, annoying, or even deviant. New research focuses on the benefits you may gain from working with oddballs–even when they are very annoying. Specifically, in comparison to the deviant coworker–you can feel better about yourself. That’s always a good thing, e.g., “I’m an idiot, but at least I’m not that idiot!”. Second, by observing other’s reactions to the deviant colleague, you can gain invaluable information as to unwritten workplace norms. If this doesn’t bring you a sense of gratitude for your own odd coworkers, you might try buying them lunch.
Think you’re better off up-front in that plane?
Whoa. Think again. ChartPorn has come to your rescue by publishing a visual of the safest seats on a commercial jet. To do this, they looked at a review of every commercial jet crash in the US since 1971 where there were both fatalities and survivors. That’s pretty thorough. And the verdict? Sit in the rear and arrive alive! Hmmm. You might also want to check the directional capabilities of your pilot.
It’s the economy!
Along with the other bad news on the economy in the US for the past few years, here’s another feel-bad fact from our friends at the Atlantic. Income inequality is worse in the US today than it was in 1774. Yes. 1774. Not a typo. Although the Atlantic says this isn’t as demoralizing as it sounds–they are totally right as to how demoralizing it sounds. As they say, America is richer and better off today than we were 240 years ago. (That’s good news, right?) There are, however, sharper delineations between the have’s and have-nots (the 99%) today than there were then. It reminds us of another (and more uplifting) story we saw in the Atlantic recently. Sometimes, it seems like things are getting better.
Mehmet K. Mahmut, & Richard J. Stevenson (2012). Olfactory Abilities and Psychopathy: Higher Psychopathy Scores Are Associated with Poorer Odor Discrimination and Identification. Chemosensory Perception. DOI: 10.1007/s12078-012-9135-7
Blogging requires a curiosity for odd facts, and a passion for reading and writing. This blog is a terrific outlet for our curious selves, where we can spend time monitoring new research and current events, and share it with you. Usually, the items are meaty enough to form a blogpost on the issue. Sometimes, though, we find random factoids that we think you might want to know about and we save them for days like today. Think of these as delectable tidbits of information that bring a smile or a ‘hmmm’ to your day. Or as our Cajun friends would say, “lagniappe”. Enjoy.
Red lipstick and tipping behavior:
You likely recall our posts on wearing red (for both men and women) and the advantage in represents for how others see you. Here’s another twist to that research. Heterosexual men tip more when their waitress is wearing red lipstick! Adding credence to their finding–the research was conducted in France where tips are already included in the total bill, and tipping is not routinely expected. Thus, extra tipping is unusual. And here we find that waitresses with red lipstick got the bonus tips, and waitresses wearing other shades went without. We have no suggestions for any lesson for litigators with this news, but you might want to let your friends who are waitresses know about this. Also note– there is no current indication on what the tipping effect is for men who wear red lipstick. But we’re guessing that in most restaurants it isn’t nearly as helpful.
Is gaydar real?
We’ve blogged about gaydar before but the research on it keeps coming. [Did we need more research?] The Atlantic recently ran an article on the ability of college students to guess sexual orientation after 50 milliseconds to look at a photo of a face. And their accuracy was above chance even when the faces were upside down! It turns out that facial features, pupil dilation, and even right-brain or left-brain orientation has been found to accurately predict sexual orientation–although apparently it’s a bit more straightforward to predict in men than it is in women. (And a co-author of the pupil dilation study even claims their findings could be “used to help people who are confused about their sexuality sort through their desires”. Oy. We wish researchers wouldn’t say things like that. And there is no reason whatsoever for you to search out photos of the authors.)
What percentage of water on their fur can dogs shake off in 4 seconds?
That would be 70%. Now that is news you can use. For something. The Atlantic (again) brings us need-to-know information complete with a video of a wet canine shaking off wetness. Surprisingly, there is not a flexible spine to account for how efficiently dogs shake off water. It has to do with how loose the dog’s skin is and (again thanks to the Atlantic) that loose skin isn’t just so dogs look funny here.
Staying in the ICU? How many medical errors occur there anyway?
Let’s just say you want to avoid the ICU whenever possible. According to the Johns Hopkins Patient Safety Team:
Each year as many as 40,500 critically ill U.S. hospital patients die with an unknown medical condition that may have caused or contributed to their death. In a discussion of their findings, researchers say that diagnostic errors in the intensive care unit (ICU) may claim as many lives each year as breast cancer.
The actual numbers are staggering. Misdiagnosis in ICU patients is as much as 50% more common than it is in general hospital patients. In the US, about half of all deaths occur in hospitals and half of hospital deaths occur either in the ICU or immediately following ICU stays. In fairness, it isn’t called an “Emergency Room” or “Intensive Care Unit” for nothing. But this study controls for life threatening presenting problems (like massive heart attacks and gun shots), and deals with diagnostic errors. You can see a user-friendly interpretation of the study at the Atlantic.
If you walk with a swagger, are you narcissistic?
Maybe. And maybe not. Research Digest recently cited a study looking at how we interpret the personality of someone based on how they walk. That is, we see an expansive, loose walking style as related to adventurousness, extraversion, trustworthiness and warmth while a slow and relaxed walking style was associated with being neurotic. According to the personality questionnaires completed by the walkers, however, their style of walking was not correlated with their personality–but it was in the minds of the observers. We see this sort of assumption operating in our mock juror observations of witnesses. They look at witnesses or parties and “see” drug abuse, liars, conspiracy, jealousy and much more. It isn’t that those negatives are there in truth–but they are there in the minds of the observer.
So. Just because you walk with a swagger or a strut doesn’t really mean you are truly a narcissist–but if you’re being observed by someone prone to sensitivity to that trait, you could get tagged with it. Not sure what you should do about it, but don’t be surprised. People are constantly judging…
Nicolas Guéguen, & Céline Jacob (2012). Lipstick and tipping behavior: When red lipstick enhances waitresses tips. International Journal of Hospitality Management DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhm.2012.03.012
Rieger G, & Savin-Williams RC (2012). The eyes have it: Sex and sexual orientation differences in pupil dilation patterns. PLoS ONE, 7 (8) PMID: 22870196
Civility is just plain a good thing
The dangers (or perhaps the advantage) of sleepy jurors
Avoid seating sleepy jurors because they will engage in much counter-factual thinking. (On second-thought, don’t seat them unless you want jurors with bias.) If you see jurors yawning, perhaps it’s a good time for a short recess?
You need to own twenty pairs of underwear. This is every day, non-special-occasion underwear.
Finally got paid on that over-due account?
Alas. It may not be a reason to celebrate. Economists tell us you are much more likely to die after a payday. And it’s as consistently happening now as it was in the mid-1970’s. Yikes.
Avoid seating overtly hostile jurors but know not everyone will think you’re amazing
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