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We have blogged a few times here on the ways conservatives and liberals differ — in fact, for a while it seemed there was new research coming out about differences between those two groups routinely. But now we have another one—narcissism apparently shows up in different ways depending on whether you are liberal or conservative.?

The researchers were looking at the relationship between social narcissism and political behaviors and values. They surveyed 750 American adults (a nationally representative sample) between October 26 and November 1, 2016. They used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (a measure commonly used in social sciences research) and found that, overall, levels of narcissism were about the same between liberals and conservatives. But when they looked at specific aspects of narcissism—there were differences between the two groups.?

Liberals were more exhibitionistic and conservatives were more entitled.?

For example, conservatives were more likely to agree with statements like, “I insist upon getting the respect that is due to me”.

Liberals were more likely to agree with statements like, “I get upset when people don’t notice how I look when I go out in public”.?

The researchers believe this finding means that “activation of one’s sense of entitlement appears to be related to moving an individual to the right. On the other hand, activation of one’s need to display their values is related to left leaning political positions”. However, they also say that the larger takeaway is that narcissism is part of all of us.?

It is tempting to view labels (liberal, conservative, narcissist, et cetera) as entities, as if the label means the same thing to two different conservatives, or that narcissism only takes a single form. But the research points out the fallacy of that view. As a psychologist, narcissism is an interesting concept to me. It takes healthy and unhealthy forms, it can be provoked during times of stress, and it can be less visible at other times. But everyone likes to have their ego gently stroked, if done properly. And that is playing to narcissism.

What this study suggests is that if you want to appeal to the narcissism of conservative jurors, include language that discusses issues around what justice demands in recognition for work and fairness.

With liberals, they want to be admired and to be seen as admirable, so they want to be credited with striving to make the world better and want recognition for their efforts.

This is a nuanced distinction, but the focus on looking past the label and considering how it will mean different things to different people is very worthwhile.

Peter K. Hatemi Zoltán Fazekas (2018). Narcissism and Political Orientations. American Journal of Political Science,


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As you probably know by now, we read a lot of articles for inclusion on this blog but also de-select many potentially worthy pieces because they just do not spark our imaginations. It’s time again for a collection of miscellany—articles that didn’t merit a full post but that we wanted to share because they are worthy tidbits.?

“I’m a scientist and I changed my mind about an earlier publication”

This is a controversy we have blogged about before (a number of times). Dana Carney did research with Amy Cuddy on power poses but later changed her mind as to whether the conclusions of the work were “real”. There was much argument in the academic community with some supporting Carney and others supporting Cuddy. But now—instead of bickering—here’s a real solution for scientists who have “changed their minds”.?

We are currently watching the work of the new site “Undark” ( Their tagline is “come into the undark” and they have just started a way for scientists to submit “loss of confidence” statements mainly focused on psychology studies, and with ground rules for submissions. The project is creatively named the dang ky nhan tien cuoc mien phiLoss of Confidence Project. The author needs to take responsibility for the issues (since this is for publication and not for whistle-blowing), and the collective results will ultimately be published in an academic paper. You can read more about this program and other ways academics are expressing a change of heart here.

Can screen time increase moral awareness? Apparently, yes.

Here’s some work out of the University of Texas at Austin that culminated in the development of an open access “video-based behavioral ethics curriculum” that has been adopted by educational institutions around the world (that was fast—the press release was in mid-August, 2018!). The video was based on a two-year survey of 8,600 UT Austin undergraduates. Here is how the press release described the development of the video series:?

Before being exposed to the Ethics Unwrapped videos, more than half of the students surveyed reported a lack of confidence in their ability to identify, discuss, or apply ethics concepts such as conflict of interest, conformity bias and relativism. After viewing the videos, 88 percent reported feeling either “confident” or “very confident.” And 90 percent reported that watching the videos helped them better understand ethics concepts. [snip]

“Millennials and Gen Zers spend more than 50 percent of their waking time on screens,” said Cara Biasucci, creator and program director for Ethics Unwrapped. “This program meets them where they’re at, with a video format that appeals to their emotional and moral sense as well as the thinking part of their brain.”

And here is the page for the open access (i.e., free) video series entitled dang ky nhan tien cuoc mien phiEthics Unwrapped. This is likely a good example of where your visual evidence should go to attract and retain the attention of younger jurors.? ?

How we can predict trustworthy intentions and behavior in others

Here’s a new research article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers look at what makes people more or less trustworthy (which they say is a shift from the prior literature focus on what makes us more or less trusting). The researchers completed six separate studies and here is what they found.?

If you are high in guilt-proneness, you are more trustworthy than someone low in guilt-proneness. Specifically, those high in guilt-proneness feel a higher level of interpersonal responsibility when they are trusted by others and are less likely to exploit those who have trusted them.?

The authors conclude that guilt-prone individuals are good risks for us to trust and urge further research (because they have tenure to achieve). Here is a press release summarizing the work and here is an open access link currently available for the full text of the article.?

Levine, EE Bitterly, TB Cohen, TR, Schweitzer, ME (2018). Who is trustworthy? Predicting trustworthy intentions and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(3), 468-494.?


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We often find things we want to pass along but about which we do not wish to write an entire blog post. Here’s another installment of things you really (maybe, kind of) want to know.?

So, who is trusted more? Scientists or the government??

You have probably heard about research on “nudges” (which is the idea that if people are given small informational “nudges” they are likely to modify their behavior). If you read the popular news telling us scientists are in so much credibility trouble—you will be surprised by this one. Scientists are seen as more credible than the government even when their “news” is outlandish. This research came out of large-scale samples in both the US and the UK.

Keep in mind that people have actually been convinced that this is accurate information. Go figure! Here’s a quote:

“The nudges were introduced either by a group of leading scientific experts or a government working group consisting of special interest groups and policy makers.

Some of the nudges were real and had been implemented, such as using catchy pictures in stairwells to encourage people to take the stairs, while others were fictitious and actually implausible like stirring coffee anti-clockwise for two minutes to avoid any cancerous effects.”

Being a good leader

Forbes has a nice article on how to be a good leader. It is an edited and condensed interview with Elizabeth W. Smith, the new president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. It’s a quick read and filled with insights you can use in your own office/practice. This is a continuation of an earlier talk with her and the story links back to the earlier discussion if you want to learn more.?

Remember the “nerd defense”? Apparently it works with salary offers too

The Economist is a serious publication that often has very intriguing (and well written) social science articles. Here they tell us in all seriousness that people who wear eyeglasses earn more money.?

The use of the death penalty in the United States

Here’s a recent report from Pew Research on how often the death penalty is actually used in those states that still have a death penalty law. Here’s a quote from that brief report:?

Overall, 31 states, the federal government and the U.S. military authorize the death penalty, while 19 states and the District of Columbia do not [snip]. But 11 of the states that allow executions – along with the federal government and the U.S. military – haven’t had one in at least a decade.

Yes, it’s especially hard to be accepted as a woman when you are also an attorney

The Atlantic often has pithy, well-written, informative articles on a variety of topics. This time, they took a look at the uphill challenges faced by female attorneys (and guess what, it’s written by a female attorney). This is likely a story you should not read first thing on a Monday morning. Here’s an excerpt from near the end:?

In 1820, Henry Brougham, a lawyer tasked with defending Queen Caroline before the House of Lords against allegations by her husband, King George IV, that she had committed adultery and should be stripped of her crown, explained his role this way: “An advocate, in the discharge of his duty, knows but one person in all the world, and that person is his client. To save that client by all means and expedients, and at all hazards and costs to other persons, and, among them, to himself, is his first and only duty.”

I’ve always loved that definition of a lawyer’s work and its description of the sacrifices we make for our clients. But in the courtroom, whether as an attorney or as an instructor, I’m constantly reminded that women lawyers don’t have access to the same “means and expedients” that men do. So I tell my female students the truth: that their body and demeanor will be under relentless scrutiny from every corner of the courtroom. That they will have to pay close attention to what they wear and how they speak and move. That they will have to find a way to metabolize these realities, because adhering to biased expectations and letting slights roll off their back may be the most effective way to advance the interests of their clients in courtrooms that so faithfully reflect the sexism of our society.


Comments Off on Stirring coffee to avoid cancer, leadership, death penalty, wearing glasses, and women attorneys

We like PSMag for their ability to summarize scientific research in clear language. Here’s an article written by Nathan Collins that offers some insights from a researcher who has ideas on how to get some people who are conspiracy theorists to consider another perspective.?

Apparently there is a growing body of research supporting the idea that we can take a direct approach to debunking conspiracy beliefs. Perhaps it is all the focus on “fake news” and the sheer numbers of people now fact-checking when they see a somewhat unbelievable story. Whatever has caused this to happen—it is good news for those of us who are unfortunate enough to find we have conspiracy fans on our juries. (We’ve blogged about conspiracy theorists a lot here and you might want to go read our collection for additional insights and recommendations.)

Here are two strategies Nathan Collins recommends to more effectively debunk conspiracy beliefs based on new research:

Make sure the debunking information you present comes from a reliable source—and remember—different people find different sources “reliable” or not. One of the researchers recommends you go with people who are speaking against their own interests since they are often are more credible.?

The question is asked about who you would find more credible if you listened to sources saying “don’t eat french fries”: McDonald’s or the Surgeon General?

Take a cue from late-night comedy “news” shows and use “contextual fact-checking”. This is a fancy term for a sidebar containing additional and accurate background information on a news story. This debunks without the speaker actually addressing it.?

Stephen Colbert used to do this brilliantly on The Colbert Report. Here’s an example.?

There are some intriguing additional details in this story and we encourage you to read the whole thing (it’s about three and a half pages long). Here’s the closing paragraph:?

Yet there remains some hope. Fact checking politicians might help keep them honest, Nyhan and frequent co-author Jason Reifler found in 2014—and fact checking is something news media is generally taking more seriously. Then there was the news on Monday that Apple, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify all but booted one of the most popular sources of conspiracies, Alex Jones, from their sites, suggesting that maybe something might start to change.

As another resource, the Poynter website has complied a list of eight different two-minute videos to teach people to identify “fake news”. You may find this useful to ponder as you consider debunking firmly held beliefs for your next trial.?

From a litigation advocacy perspective, there is always room for learning new strategies to attempt to mitigate powerful influences on juror-decision-makers. These two resources will give you several strategies to consider incorporating into your next trial.?

Collin, N. (August 8, 2018) How to tackle?conspiracy theories in politics. PSMag:


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We can likely agree that the answer would not be 65% but that is what two nationally representative surveys (N = 2,821) report Americans think. Yes. 65% of Americans think they are above average in intelligence. Researchers presented the question this way and respondents were asked to agree or disagree:?

“I am more intelligent than the average person”.?

In both survey groups, men were more likely to express confidence in their intelligence than women and younger people more likely to agree than were older people. Maybe it has to do with wishful thinking. On the other hand, most Americans have taken a course in a college or university (65.9% in 2014, with numbers climbing since then due to an increase in online study), and they might imagine that having done so puts them in the upper half. If you would like to read the entire article, it is available here.?

From our perspective, this is another example of the “better than average effect” which we’ve blogged about before. The label is fairly self-explanatory: we tend to see ourselves as above average whether we look at good citizenship (and are in prison), our keen observational skills (no one can see us even as we observe all of them intently), our moral superiority (totally), and now we know that we also see ourselves as just smarter than others too.

From a litigation advocacy perspective—this sort of study gives you specific things to focus on. We’ve addressed this before across all these different areas mentioned in the preceding paragraph and encourage you to visit our earlier blog posts to see the specifics.?

As a spoiler, you will find direction on witness preparation (give the over-confident witness video feedback), case narrative (embed “universal values” into your case narrative and make efforts to “redeem” your client), courtroom behavior (you are never, ever off-stage), and even potential juror characteristics (women or men depending).?

Patrick R. Heck, Daniel J. Simons, Christopher F. Chabris (2018). 65% of Americans believe they are above average in intelligence: Results of two nationally representative surveys. PLoS ONE,


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