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The last time we talked about an emerging demographic group, it was the lumbersexual [usually urban-dwelling bearded men who wear flannel but are unlikely to have ever chopped wood]. And as good social scientists we of course realize that by now you are longing for another social identifier. This time our emerging demographic could be either male or female and they call themselves sapiosexuals.

So what is a sapiosexual? According to the Urban Dictionary (knowledge cornerstone for all things hipster) a sapiosexual is:

“One who finds the content’s of someone else’s mind to be their most attractive attribute, above and before their physical characteristics. From the Latin root “sapien”, meaning wise. The term is now becoming mainstream with dating apps such as OkCupid and Sapio giving users the ability to define their sexual orientations as “Sapiosexual.”

For many, defining oneself as Sapiosexual is also a statement against the current status quo of hookup culture and superficiality, where looks are prized above all else.”

So—this isn’t a particular look visible to the eye whilst visually scanning your panel of prospective jurors. It is more about what one is drawn to and what a particular individual says they find attractive in a potential partner. In fact—there is an entire dating app where people are “matched by intelligence” for those who describe themselves as “sapios”.

Like many emerging demographic groups, the sapiosexuals are subject to ridicule and criticism. Some see it as pretentious, non-existent, or even as a facade adopted by those who wish to be seen a certain way (i.e., smart, smug, and superior). A 20-something who may be one of my children looked over my shoulder at this article and pointed to the illustration: “Yes [eye-roll]. That is precisely what anyone who calls themselves a sapiosexual looks like.”

Fortunately, there are always academics looking for tenure and so there actually is a study on sapiosexuality as a defining feature in partner choice. As it turned out, intelligence was not really a factor in determining whether research participants found a potential romantic partner attractive. At least, not usually.

There were a small group of people (8%) for whom intellect created a burning desire for the potential dating partner—unless the person’s IQ was above 120 which was too high for them to be considered desirable by even the sapiosexuals.

Before you ask, no—there are no photos of these sapiosexuals so we cannot know if they all look exactly like the person illustrating this research summary. What is intriguing is that those who found intelligent others attractive—were not necessarily intellectual giants themselves. [Which has to be horrifying for the truly intelligent sapiosexual signing up for a dating site assuming they will be matched with intellectual equals.] Fortunately for all of us, the researchers developed a scale to measure Sapiosexuality. You will wish (perhaps) you were in school again when you realize the researchers made up these questions with a group of students helping to generate this measure of sapiosexuality.

So. Is there another way [besides this strange scale that would never be admissible] to know if someone is a sapiosexual and more importantly, does it matter in the day-to-day practice of litigation advocacy?

Not really. It may be interesting but it probably doesn’t matter since we have only one study on a sample of about 500 people and we aren’t even sure sapiosexuality exists. What is a good thing to know as you are selecting a jury is whether someone is intelligent themselves (rather than simply attracted to those who are intelligent).

And to roughly estimate intelligence, you don’t just look at formal education. Look for people in creative professions, those who seem to be employed or in professional occupations above their level of formal education, those who work in high-tech areas (even in high-tech sales if they come from a technical background), and other characteristics as well. You may want to review our other blog posts on how to “see smart in voir dire” for additional ideas.

Gilles E.Gignac, JoeyDarbyshire, MichelleOoi? (2018). Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence: A psychometric evaluation of sapiosexuality. Intelligence, 66, 98-111.


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Here’s another post combining the things we’ve been collecting to blog about and presented together so we can clear the desk off with newer stuff!

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

At least, this is the best known quotation of the 19th century British politician Lord Acton. But in 2017, we have an article courtesy of The Atlantic that tells us power does more than corrupt, it actually damages your brain’s abilities that helped you rise to power in the first place. It’s called the “power paradox”: once you have power, you lose some of the skills needed to gain it in the first place. They describe a loss of empathy (i.e., “the empathy deficit”) and a general decrease in the ability to “read” others. They wonder if the impact of gaining power should be called the “hubris syndrome” (which shows itself through “manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence”). Interestingly, some hubris can be corrected by recalling past experiences in which the powerful one was less powerful. You may want to read this one.

Power poses are continuing to get bad (very bad) press

In December 2016, we blogged about challenges to Amy Cuddy’s “power posing” research and her famous TED Talk. One of the most recent commenters on the controversy is a blogger over at Mind the Brain blog (one of the PLOS|BLOGS). According to the blogger, the narrative has become overly focused on the harassment of a junior scientist and the need for greater civility in academia (link to the blog post on that in this series of posts). The real narrative, and thus this attempt to restart the conversation, should be (again, according to blogger James Coyne), whether the paper itself had merit in the first place. Coyne thinks the original paper should never have been published and goes to some lengths to develop his argument. If you are interested in a look at why the power posing paper may be a great motivational talk idea, but not particularly good science—take a look at this Mind the Brain blog post.

Do smartphones make us stupid?

Yikes. We know our smartphones are apparently making efforts to control us, but they also apparently “significantly reduce our cognitive capacity” just by being within reach. As you can see in Science Daily:

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

The question that must now be answered is whether leaving our cell phone at home (or locked in our car) is less distracting than having it with us. You’ll want to see our blog post on nomophobia. And maybe our blog post on the FOMO Scale as well. This (being distracted by stuff) is obviously a complicated area and much more (tenure-granting) research is likely needed.

You’ve heard of the imposter syndrome—but what about the racial imposter syndrome?

The imposter syndrome has long been discussed as the secret fear (that is not really so secret) that we will be exposed as imposters pretending to know more than we actually know. The researchers who initially described it, thought it was an experience solely experienced by women. This belief was not accurate.

Now, in 2017, we have the racial imposter syndrome. This is an experience shared by biracial and multi-ethnic people who find they feel “fake” or inauthentic in at least part of their racial heritage. We first heard about this at the NPR podcast Code Switch and their summary of how this works is fascinating if you are interested in identity and how we fail to embrace our full selves through some sense of guilt or shame (or something else). Beyond this episode, Code Switch is a terrific podcast on bias and how to circumvent it.

S-Town: An object lesson in empathy

And speaking of podcasts, if you have not listened to the NSFW (“not suitable for work” listening due to profanity) podcast S-Town—it is amazing. It is like a real life mystery of identity, racism, bias, hidden gold bars, and the state of Alabama. If you are interested in listening to it, do not read the spoilers which are filled with questions of ethics and fair play. Just know there is a very good reason why this is now the most downloaded podcast of all time. If you like mysteries and thrillers or suspense novels, you will love S-Town. Here’s where you can find it–prepare to binge.


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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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