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pew-researchWe like Pew Research here and wanted to bring you two new articles they’ve recently posted that may have relevance for knowing your jurors. It’s been a while since we’ve heard the term “boomerang generation” in regard to Millennials and maybe it’s because they are not planning to go anywhere anytime soon. Yet, if you look at the definition of “boomerang generation” now, it isn’t about moving out and moving back and moving out and moving back again, it’s about staying in place. And Pew has a new article addressing the issue.

Multigenerational households: 2016 

According to Pew Research, we now have a “record 60.6 million Americans living in multigenerational households”. That translates to 1 out of every 5 Americans living in a multigenerational household (defined as two or more adult generations or a home that includes grandparents and grandchildren). Further, the trend is growing among nearly all racial groups (whites are less likely to live multigenerationally) as well as Hispanics in the US, among all age groups, multigenerationaland across genders.

While older adults used to be the ones most commonly living in multigenerational households, now it is young people for whom this living arrangement is most common. It is becoming more common for not just two adult generations to live together but even common for three generational groups. Pew thinks this is the result of immigrant families increasing in the country and a more frequent tendency in those cultures to share households. It is interesting to examine the graph (taken from the Pew site). The number has increased but not sharply. It is a gentle upward trend reflecting the changing demographic of America. As the nation  changes, so do our housing norms.

Religious affiliations of “none”: 2016

Between 2007 (16% of those surveyed) and 2013 (23% of those surveyed), Pew Research says the number of religiously unaffiliated (aka the “nones”) grew rapidly from 35.6 million Americans to 55.8 million Americans saying they had no religious affiliation. Recently, Pew interviewed religious “nones” to see why they had left the church. Their reasons vary widely and as Pew says, the “nones” are far from monolithic. Here is the largest reason those who were raised in the church say they ended up leaving as adults:

religious-nonesAbout half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

The others may have objections to organized religion, be religiously unsure, or simply inactive due to other obligations. Pew describes the “nones’ as composed of three groups:

They can be broken down into three broad subgroups: self-identified atheists, those who call themselves agnostic and people who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”

From a litigation advocacy perspective, these findings are important. We need to realize both living arrangements and religious affiliations are changing. Some of this reflects the changing racial and ethnic makeup of the country and some of it reflects changing values and beliefs in our society. Sometimes these changes catch us off guard and other times we just think what we knew “back then” still applies today. Pay attention. Don’t be surprised when your assumptions (based on outdated information) are just wrong.


Comments Off on Two facts about potential jurors: Multigenerational  households and a religious preference of “none”

icky-sickWe’ve written about American attitudes toward interracial marriage a fair amount here and (at least once) questioned poll results suggesting dramatic improvement in attitudes toward  interracial marriage among Americans (an 87% approval rating?!). While interracial relationships may be more acceptable to many more Americans, there is also the recent report of an attack on an interracial couple in Washington State. Additional reports about the self-proclaimed white supremacist who stabbed the interracial couple without provocation said if he was released by the police he would attend the Trump rally and “stomp out more of the Black Lives Matter group”.)

Recently, we found an article that reflects some of what we think about the state of race relations and attitudes toward interracial marriages. And, as if in response to the event linked to above (which had not yet happened at the time the article was published), here is how the authors close their paper (after reporting that interracial couples were dehumanized relative to same race couples):

“These findings are meaningful given the negative consequences associated with dehumanization, most notably, antisocial behaviors such as aggression and perpetration of violence”.

The researchers say that they skeptically question the increased approval poll numbers when it comes to comfort with interracial marriage. They also express a general belief that if the poll questions used subtler measures about racial attitudes (rather than asking explicitly how approving the respondent was of interracial marriage)—the results would reflect significantly lower levels of approval for interracial marriage.

They refer to, as an example of attitudes toward interracial marriage, a 2013 Washington Post column by Richard Cohen saying that the interracial family of New York mayor Bill de Blasio must result in a “gag reflex” among conservatives.

The researchers conducted three separate studies (all with undergraduate student participants). We mention the participant pool for two reasons—one, because undergraduate students are perhaps a bit different from jury-eligible citizens, and two, because the Millennial generation is seen as most accepting of interracial marriages (according to Pew Research, Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll, and CNN) although PBS, Politico and the Washington Post question whether that really means Millennials are overall more racially tolerant. It would seem to us that, if Millennials show evidence of implicit bias against interracial marriage, older generations would likely show even more.

And sure enough, Millennials (the undergraduate participants) did show bias against interracial couples. The implicit measures showed reactions of disgust as well as a tendency to dehumanize the interracial couples compared to same race couples.

The researchers hypothesize there is still a tremendous amount of emotional and under-the-surface bias (aka implicit bias) against interracial couples and, they say, emotional bias (aka disgust) is more predictive of discriminatory behavior than are racially based stereotypes.

The researchers also describe what happens when we dehumanize others—as the participants in these experiments dehumanized the interracial couples. We do fewer nice things and increase our “antisocial behavior” toward dehumanized others. There is less empathy, and more avoidant behavior. We are less likely to help and more likely to use aggression and perpetrate violence against dehumanized targets. We are more accepting of police violence against a black suspect and more accepting of violence against black people in general. We see the dehumanized targets as less evolved and civilized. These statements represent past research findings summarized in the article by the researchers.

The researchers also say that their results indicate the individuals in the interracial couples would likely not be dehumanized if evaluated separately, but there was something about the interracial pairing that elicited both the emotional and dehumanizing responses.

From a litigation advocacy perspective, this is very disturbing and certainly brings to mind our work on when to talk and when to stay quiet about racial bias in court. We are not living in a post-racial society, and basing your case strategy on such a rosy assumption is likely to be hazardous to your client. When race is absent from the relevant facts— but not from extra-evidentiary optics—think carefully about how to proceed. Remember that when the case facts are not salient to the fact your client is in an interracial relationship—that is when the bias is most likely to emerge. It’s a tricky and frustrating situation.

Skinner, A., & Hudac, C. (2017). “Yuck, you disgust me!” Affective bias against interracial couples. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 68, 68-77 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2016.05.008


Comments Off on Interracial marriage is more accepted in 2016, except for those who find it “icky”

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


Comments Off on This and that: Heat, attraction, smoking pot,  smartphones, tattoos and stature

dont-trust-bookHere’s a round-up of articles that could be “all about voir dire” or simply interesting things to ponder as you go about your daily tasks.

You may not think of Lemony Snicket as an expert on voir dire but he may have a point with the quote illustrating this post when it comes to voir dire.

In this post, we are combining four separate research articles to give you multiple examples of how academic research can assist you in thinking as you complete voir dire.

Want people with more empathy for others?

We’ve written before about the power of a good story to transport the reader (or the watcher since it works with videos and films as well). When it comes to voir dire, new research tells us that people who read have more empathy for others and are thus, more capable of taking the other’s point of view. The important thing is that they are reading narrative fiction as opposed to non-fiction. The researchers say the process of entering a fictional world allows the reader to have more empathy than a non-reader or a non-fiction reader (citation below the post) would have.

And on another (not voir dire related) note, a new study from Yale University tells us those who read more than 3.5 hours a week live “a full 23 months” longer than those who do not read—so you may want to stop and buy a book once you’re done reading here! (Just for your edification, we’ve also included the citation to this article at the bottom of the post.)

On self-appointed experts in the jury pool…

We’ve also written about the self-appointed expert who is not really an expert (but thinks they are) who lands on your jury. Here’s some new research that explains why being over-confident can lead to poor decision-making (and why you want to read our earlier posts on this topic to teach jurors how to “de-throne” that self-appointed expert). The researchers in this new study say that when you are exceptionally confident in your knowledge, you are less able to carefully think through your decisions and so you make bad decisions.

It is like the group agreement that undermined decisions about the Bay of Pigs invasion during the Kennedy administration. Follow the preceding link for more information on how JFK changed decision-making processes after that horrible lesson in bad decision-making.

What happens to the disempowered when they become a juror?

Finally, here’s a fairly creepy study (summarized impeccably by Alex Fradera over at BPS Research Digest). The study examines how someone given “high power over another” on a temporary basis can result in sexualized aggression (like sending sexualized text messages to a co-worker whom you find attractive but who has never given you any reason to believe the attraction is reciprocal and other strange and creepy things). What the researchers found (and this is interesting to consider in voir dire) is that when you put temporary power in the hands of those who have been chronically powerless, they will be more likely to exploit their temporary power (by doing sexually inappropriate things in this example—and we’d hypothesize they might also be more prone to more extreme responses to whichever party they most dislike). We’ve written a number of times on the differences in how powerful people are perceived versus how powerless people are perceived—but haven’t really tapped into sexual aggression and powerlessness before on this blog. (You’re welcome for that.)

In the article itself, the researchers say that those who see  themselves as “chronically denied power appear to have a stronger desire to feel powerful”. They also note that there was no definitive demographic information (as we’ve always said!) to identify those with chronic feelings of powerlessness and they recommend future research to explore identification of a low subjective sense of power (and the hostility and aggression often accompanying it). Some researchers have said (according to the current researchers whose article is also cited at the end of this post) that there may be a difference “between construing power as an opportunity to do as one wishes, versus a responsibility to look out for others”. It’s an intriguing idea to consider during voir dire.

We should also note that three of the five experiments run by the researchers writing this article used exclusively male participants while the remaining two used both male and female participants—so these results may be more generalizable to men than women.

So there you have it. Who is reading fiction? Who is over-confident about their knowledge (when they clearly do not have a lot of it)? And who has likely been chronically powerless? Food for thought when conducting voir dire and otherwise preparing for trial.

Oatley, K. (2016). Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20 (8), 618-628 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.06.002

Bavishi, A., Slade, M., & Levy, B. (2016). A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine, 164, 44-48 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014

Williams, M., Gruenfeld, D., & Guillory, L. (2016). Sexual Aggression When Power Is New: Effects of Acute High Power on Chronically Low-Power Individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000068


Comments Off on Impaneling a jury? Remember this (and that) during voir dire! 

Pew on white aging in USPew Research often comes up with data-based pictures that tell us things we may have known, but in a very visual way.  Most of us have heard that minorities in the US will outnumber whites before long but this is a very clear depiction of how that is happening.

When you look at the ages of everyone in the US in 2015, there are more 24-year-olds than any other age. But—if you only look at white Americans, 55 was the most common age according to Pew’s review of US Government Census Bureau data. The graphic (one of several in their report) shows a comparison of white people and minority group members by age (in the US in 2015).

You can see by just looking at this graphic that as the Millennial generation ages and are replaced by the Post-Millennial generation (which has yet to receive a moniker although Neil Howe is trying to popularize Homeland Generation as a label for this upcoming group). In fact, Pew says that those under age 5 are already a “majority minority” although only by a small margin.

There are multiple facts in this brief report worth reading. Here are a few of them:

In 2015, more than half (56%) of minorities were Millennials or younger.

Americans identifying with two or more races were the youngest group (with a median age of 19 years) in the Census Bureau data. And, almost half (46%) of multiracial Americans were between the ages of 0 and 17 years (meaning they were not yet part of any named American generation).

In 2015, the relative youth of Hispanics was driven by the US-born Latino population—nearly 3/4 of whom are Millennials or younger.

Asians grew the fastest of all ethnic or racial groups in the US in 2015. The majority of Asians were Millennials (27%) and Gen Xers (25%)—so older than other minorities but younger than whites.

About half of blacks were Millennials (26%) or younger (25%) in 2015.

Take the time to read this report from Pew—your potential jurors are diversifying.

Pew Research Center, July 7, 2016. Biggest share of whites in U.S. are Boomers, but for minority groups it’s Millennials or younger.


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