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Time for another combination post of various things you will want to know that will improve your conversation skills and general life knowledge. We are not saying that it will make your hair shiny or inspire your kids to do their homework. Kernels of wisdom, that’s what they are, in truth.

Talking to your kids about stereotypes

The Conversation website has a brief and very good article on how to talk to your children in order to combat stereotypes. They address the best ways to speak to kids at different ages, how to combat generalizations kids might make about whole groups of people, using specific language rather than making general claims, and rebutting gender stereotypes. They even tell you how to have sensitive conversations about generalizations kids bring home so you can actually talk to them about things that are bothering them. Put simply, “words matter”. Here’s how this psychologist-author ends her article:

“With our language, we can help children develop habits of mind that challenge, rather than endorse, stereotyped views of the people around us”.

Miss Manners on rudeness from the leader of the free world

Speaking of talking to our children, Miss Manners is not one to shy away from saying what she thinks (in the most polite and considerate way, of course) and this Atlantic article is no different. She asks, after years of mostly good manners from our political leaders, why did “so many citizens elect a president of the United States who unabashedly—even proudly—violated those expectations?” She answers by saying virtues have been redefined and we now have “alternate virtues” (which will no doubt remind you of the “alternate facts” memes). She thinks that perhaps, after “eight years of a dignified president with an exemplary family life, people are hungry for the pleasures of scandal”. It is an interesting and a bit depressing read.

Hungry or sleepy—judges are more punitive when they are uncomfortable

You probably remember the study showing judges issues harsher sentences when they were hungry. Well, it turns out they are also harsher when they are sleepy (measured on what the researchers coined as “Sleepy Monday”—the Monday after the ‘spring forward’ time change and then compared to other Monday sentences). One of the authors did a TedX talk on sleep deprivation and how it impairs us without us realizing we are impaired. Apparently, judges suffer from it along with the rest of us and their sentencing decisions on “Sleepy Mondays” are reported to be 5% longer than on other Mondays when they were (ostensibly) more well rested.

You know what assuming does…

And yet, we all seem to make assumptions about other beliefs and biases based on seeing or hearing a single biased expression. New research in the Psychological Science journal shows us that women tended to believe a person who expressed a racist belief would also be sexist and men of color thought someone who was sexist was likely also racist.

In other words, participants who saw a sexist, assumed they saw a racist as well. And those who saw a racist, assumed the person described was also sexist.

Question: How often do birds fly that high? Answer: At least once

A few years ago, we were doing pretrial research on a helicopter crash caused by a bird flying way too high (one last time) and the pilot losing control when the controls were not in an intuitive place. Our mock jurors were aghast at the freakish nature of the crash and one of them earnestly inquired just how often birds of that particular type flew that high. The moderator deadpanned, “Well, we know it has happened at least once” and the mock jurors and the observation room of attorney-clients burst into laughter. As it happens, birds are struck by aircraft more than any other type of animal—at least 70 bald eagles in the last decade alone (and that is only counting bird strikes in Alaska, Florida and Michigan).

The Atlantic probably thought they were being pretty novel asking the question in this article—How often do airplanes hit deer? Or alligators? Or bald eagles? Or armadillos?—but that’s what we love about trial consulting. We see and hear it all. But this article has more than even we could imagine (and they have pictures linked if you are ready for some pretty gruesome photos of birds (posthumous). They offer a description of aircraft hitting almost every living animal. Some of them beg for explanations as you will see, but we’ll leave that to someone else.

Also in the past decade in the United States, airplanes have hit bats, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, dessert hares, prairie dogs, cats, dogs, foxes, bull snakes, turtles, armadillos, alligators, badgers, at least one woodchuck, an elk, an antelope jackrabbit, and several rather ominous-sounding “unknown terrestrial mammals.”

After that list, I take it back. We have not seen “everything”. Just almost everything.

Sanchez DT, Chaney KE, Manuel SK, Wilton LS, & Remedios JD (2017). Stigma by Prejudice Transfer: Racism threatens white women and sexism threatens men of color. Psychological Science

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It’s time again for another combination post featuring fascinating tidbits you may have missed were it not for our eagle eyes and constant efforts to keep you informed. And yes, we’ll start at the end since we know you are wondering if smart-phone blindness is really a thing. Would we steer you wrong?

Smart-phone blindness (Yes. It’s really a thing)

You can think of this as a public service announcement meant to protect you from lying in bed and reading your phone when you should be sleeping. Or at least making sure you are looking at your phone with both eyes rather than just one. The condition itself is “transient smartphone blindness” which doctors say is caused when you lie on your side and look at your smartphone in a dark room with one eye inadvertently blocked. Apparently the condition only lasts a few minutes but it is frightening enough that (at least two) people sought medical treatment for it. Let that be a lesson to keep your hands off the phone at night.

Bias at work and at home

Many of us are speaking up when we see or hear bias these days and here are two good resources to help you do that effectively. First, from Harvard Business Review is an article on speaking up when you see bias at work. They offer a three-step process to confront bias that will not embarrass the biased speaker and will not leave you feeling ineffective. It’s a face-to-face process for confronting difficult topics. [Note: The internet is not a face-to-face environment.]

Second, you may wonder how kids are taught social biases and researchers think they learn biases from the adults around them. A recent Scientific American blog explains how the nonverbal behavior kids observe from adults is contagious when it comes to transmitting social biases. So it is not enough to simply not say biased things. When we send mixed signals, kids pick up on them and learn who we like and don’t like, who we think of good and who we think of as bad. The researchers say, in fact, that the nonverbal behavior of adults is especially powerful and formative for kids since they are looking to us to understand their world.

Who judges you if you do not change your surname after marriage?

This research comes from a study of data collected in 2010 from 1,243 US residents. According to this study, done based on reactions to Hillary Rodham Clinton, women and highly educated men do not think about this issue much. However, men with lower levels of education have a more negative view of women who do not take their husband’s name after marriage. According to the research, men with lower education think a woman who does not change her last name is less committed to her marriage and that her spouse had more grounds to divorce her!

We think it quite possible that this study is confounded with attitudes toward Hillary Rodham Clinton since she is something of a lightning rod—and likely especially so among men with lower levels of education.

Share, EF (2017). Hillary Rodham versus Hillary Clinton: Consequences of surname choice in marriage. Gender Issues

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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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