The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Situation of Criminal Defense

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 8, 2014

Debo Adegbile

An op-ed by Situationist friend, Sam Wheeler in (Talking Points):

On November 27, 1770, John Adams began the most important trial of his legal career. His clients were eight British soldiers who, when confronted by an angry gathering of Boston patriots, fired into the crowd, killing five. The soldiers were accused of murder and threatened with the death penalty. Adams was a patriot, openly and adamantly opposed to British occupation of the colonies, with no love of the British army. He took the case, which he called “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country,” because in this nation, even before its founding, every accused criminal is entitled to zealous legal defense.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate blocked the confirmation of Debo Adegbile President Obama’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Every Senate Republican voted against Adegbile’s nomination. They were joined by eight Democrats: Senators Casey, Coons, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Pryor, and Walsh. The main charge against Adegbile is that, during the ten years he worked with the NAACP, he worked on a brief that successfully commuted the death sentence given to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man convicted of murdering a police officer thirty years ago.

Sen. Casey said in a statement explaining his vote: “I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime.” It is difficult if not impossible to reconcile this statement with his vote against Mr. Adegbile. The right of every citizen to competent legal representation simply cannot survive in a climate where politicians punish lawyers for the acts of their worst, most despised clients.

***

Our justice system is fundamentally flawed, and many of the cracks and imperfections manifest in stark racial and economic disparity. . . .

Men and women like Adegbile spend their careers trying to fix these cracks and imperfections, striving to make sure that American citizens are only punished after they have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers, are only executed after having exhausted all appeals, and not a moment before hand. They throw their bodies between a prosecutor and their client so that the government must move mountains of incontrovertible evidence before it can take the life and liberty of a citizen. They are paid next to nothing, they work excruciating and unforgiving hours, and they go to work each day representing the people who can afford no other defense, who no one else will help.

They do these things not necessarily because they believe in the virtue or innocence of every client. Rather, they go to work every day because they understand that the only way to ensure that the rights and freedoms of virtuous men and women are not taken away without cause is to fight for the rights and freedoms of every person, regardless of crime or character.

I am currently a second year student at Harvard Law School. I go to school with some of the brightest young legal minds in the country, with the men and women who will undoubtedly shape the laws and legal institutions of the United States.

My classmates think seriously about what doors their choices will open and close. It’s incredibly hard to sell my friends on spending our careers like Adegbile knowing that it is now the practice of the United States Senate to punish public service.

There are already tremendous barriers to such a career. My school, like so many other prestigious institutions, is designed to be a waterslide to big law firms in New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. The vast majority of my classmates will end up in corporate law, eschewing a chance to make their living working for the common good. The choice is simple and understandable: corporate firms pay roughly three times what a first-year lawyer can receive in a public interest job, these jobs are secured during the summer of your second year, and they provide incredibly enticing job security in an increasingly competitive and precarious legal market.

Even my classmates who want to go into public service are wary of indigent criminal defense. They worry about the hours, the stress, and the compensation. They worry about being responsible for whether or not their clients spend their lives in jail. They worry about job security in a political climate where budgets in public defenders’ offices are routinely slashed. And they worry that the acts of their worst clients – the murderers, the rapists, the child molesters – will be held against them by their friends and family, by voters, and now by legislators in Congress.

So, the sell has just gotten harder. The Senate has sent an unequivocal message: that lawyers must beware of whom they represent. Should they have the opportunity to serve their country in high office, the men and women in the Senate will judge them not by their actions, not by their character, not by their achievements, but instead by the reputations and crimes of their clients.

In the aftermath of the Senate vote to block Adegbile’s nomination, I am left with only questions for the Senators who voted no.

What should I tell my classmates who are considering a career in indigent criminal defense? Should I tell them that they should not spend their lives representing the wretched, the despised, the friendless, for fear that they will be judged by people like you? How can we ensure everyone gets a zealous defense when lawyers are condemned for public service?

And while we’re at it, would you have voted against John Adams for defending the British soldiers that fired into the crowd during the Boston Massacre? Would you have voted against Thurgood Marshall for his defense of young black men accused of murder? Did you vote against John Roberts for representing eight-time murderer John Errol Ferguson? Does your humanity not teach you that the despised and the rejected are the most in need of help, compassion, and counsel?

We need our young lawyers to aspire to be the next John Adams and we must ask ourselves, in light of the Senate’s decision, how many will be willing to play that part. The number of lawyers who will stand and fight for those that society has condemned and who cannot advocate for themselves – already too few – will become vanishingly small. The Senate has told young lawyers that they must cast aside personal goals and ambitions if they choose to dedicate their careers to the belief that every citizen is entitled to a fair trial and a vigorous defense.

The Senate has raised the cost of such patriotism. I can only hope that there are those who remain willing to pay.

Read the entire op-ed here.

Posted in Law, Politics | Leave a Comment »

“The Future of Equality” ACS Conference – This Weekend

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 15, 2013

The American Constitution Society Northeast Regional Student Convening will bring together lawyers and law students from across the Northeast to hear leading practitioners, government officials, judges, and academics discuss a progressive vision for the future of equality across a number of salient policy issues. Learn more here.

acs future of equality poster 2013

acs 2013 schedule

Posted in Events, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Leave a Comment »

The Financial Situation of Think Tanks

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 23, 2013

think-tank-map from FAS Research

For The Nation, Ken Silverstein has a revealing article, titled “The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks.”  Paying special attention to the Center for American Progress, the article shows how ideas, policies, and people gain credibility, legitimacy, and influence through unseen corporate investments in think tanks. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Nowadays, many Washington think tanks effectively serve as unregistered lobbyists for corporate donors, and companies strategically contribute to them just as they hire a PR or lobby shop or make campaign donations. And unlike lobbyists and elected officials, think tanks are not subject to financial disclosure requirements, so they reveal their donors only if they choose to. That makes it impossible for the public and lawmakers to know if a think tank is putting out an impartial study or one that’s been shaped by a donor’s political agenda. “If you’re a lobbyist, whatever you say is heavily discounted,” says Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University and an expert on political ethics. “If a think tank is saying it, it obviously sounds a lot better. Maybe think tanks aren’t aware of how useful that makes them to private interests. On the other hand, maybe it’s part of their revenue model.”

* * *

[M]any [think tanks] lure big donors with a package of benefits, including personalized policy briefings, the right to directly underwrite and shape research projects, and general support for the donor’s political needs.

Most think tanks are nonprofit organizations, so a donor can even get a nice tax break for contributing. But it’s their reputation for impartiality and their web of contacts that makes them especially useful as policy advocates. “Think tanks can always draw a big audience to your event, including government folks,” a Washington lobbyist who has worked with several told me. “And people generally don’t think they would twist anything, or wonder about where they get their money.”

While think tanks portray themselves as altruistic scholarly institutions, they emphasize their political influence when courting donors. “If you have a particular area of policy interest, you can support a specific research effort under way,” the Brookings Institution says in one pitch for cash. Those interested in 
”a deeper engagement”—read: ready to fork over especially large sums of money—get personal briefings from resident experts and can work directly with senior Brookings officials to draw up a research agenda that will “maximize impact on policymaking.”

The Center for Strategic and International Studies advertises itself as being “in the unique position to bring together leaders of both the public and private sectors in small, often off-the-record meetings to build consensus around important policy issues.” It allows top-tier donors to directly sponsor reports, events and speaker series.

Read the entire article here.

Related Situationist posts:

Image Source.

Posted in Deep Capture, Ideology, Marketing, Politics, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

The Interior Situation of the Climate Change Skeptic

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 23, 2013

global warming from davidllorito.blogspot.com/search/label/governanceFrom the APS Observer, an article by Situationist Contributor John T. Jost and Erin P. Hennes

A multitude of environmental scientists, among others, worry that future generations will look back at the present era as one in which the human race could have — and should have —taken decisive action to prevent (or at least mitigate) the most menacing costs associated with global climate change. According to public opinion surveys, however, only 38 percent of Americans believe that global warming will seriously affect them or their way of life (Newport, 2012), and 42 percent continue to believe that global warming claims are “generally exaggerated” (Saad, 2012). When it comes to beliefs about climate change, men are more skeptical than women, and political conservatives are more skeptical than liberals. In a Gallup survey conducted in 2010, 42 percent of men and only 30 percent of conservatives agreed that “effects of global warming are already occurring,” as compared to 56 percent of women and 74 percent of liberals (Jones, 2010; see also McCright & Dunlap, 2011).

In a recent book, the philosopher Stephen Gardiner (2011) argues that environmental inaction is the consequence of a “perfect moral storm.” Specifically, he points to the conjunction of three unfortunate causes: 1) a tendency for the richer nations of the world to foist the burden of environmental risks upon poorer nations; 2) the present generation’s temptation to defer the costs of the crisis to future generations; and 3) pervasive ignorance concerning science, ethics, international justice, and the interdependence of life. Gardiner writes that the last factor “not only complicates the task of behaving well, but also renders us more vulnerable to the first two storms” (p. 7). Gardiner provides an astute analysis of the problem of environmental inaction, but he overlooks the possibility that climate change denial may not merely result from ignorance. Rather, many members of the public may possess a relatively strong motivation to deny and minimize environmental realities. Specifically, our research team has found that the social psychological motivation to defend, bolster, and justify aspects of the status quo — what we refer to as system justification (see, e.g., Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004) — contaminates the public’s understanding of anthropogenic climate change.

In research published in 2010, we discovered that individuals who score higher on Kay and Jost’s (2003) General System Justification scale (which measures responses to statements such as “Most policies serve the greater good,” and “In general, the American political system operates as it should”) exhibit greater denial of environmental problems and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, system justification statistically mediates the effects of gender and political ideology on support for the environment. That is, men and conservatives are more likely than women and liberals to believe that American society is fair and legitimate, and these differences in system justification explain, at least in part, why they are so skeptical about climate change and are reluctant to take pro-environmental action (Feygina, Jost, & Goldsmith, 2010; see also Feinberg & Willer, 2011).

More recently, we have conducted a series of studies corroborating the hypothesis that system justification motivates skepticism about climate change. Specifically, we have found that the denial of environmental problems is facilitated by information-processing distortions associated with system justification that affect evaluation, recall, and even tactile perception (Hennes, Feygina, & Jost, 2011). In one study, we found that individuals who scored higher (vs. lower) on Jost and Thompson’s (2000) Economic System Justification scale (which measures responses to such statements as “If people work hard, they almost always get what they want,” and “It is unfair to have an economic system which produces extreme wealth and extreme poverty at the same time,” reverse-scored) found messages disparaging the case for global warming to be more persuasive, evaluated the evidence for global warming to be weaker, and expressed less willingness to take action to curb global warming.

In a second study, we extended these findings by demonstrating that motivated processing biases recall of information about climate change. Specifically, we exposed research participants to clips from a televised newscast and later asked them to recall details from the program and to evaluate scientific evidence concerning climate change. Once again, we found that high system-justifiers evaluated the quality of the evidence to be weaker, were less likely to believe that climate change is occurring, and viewed it as a less important policy issue, in comparison with low system-justifiers. High system-justifiers also recalled the information to which they had been exposed as less serious (i.e., remembering smaller increases in global temperatures, lower sea levels, and less reliable historical data concerning climate change) than did low system-justifiers. Poorer recall was associated with skepticism about climate change. Thus, individuals who misremembered the evidence provided in the video to be less severe were less likely to support efforts to address climate change.

In an experimental investigation, we demonstrated that temporarily activating system-justification motivation produced memory biases and exacerbated skepticism about global climate change. More specifically, we adapted a system-dependence manipulation developed by Kay, Gaucher, Peach et al. (2009; see also Shepherd & Kay, 2012) and found that when people were led to believe that the political system exerted a strong (vs. weak) impact on their life circumstances, they were more likely to misremember details from a newspaper article they read earlier in the session. Importantly, all of the memory errors were in a system-exonerating direction: The proportion of man-made carbon emissions was recalled as being less than actually reported, and the scientists who reported errors in the much-maligned 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were misidentified as skeptics rather than believers in anthropogenic climate change (Hennes et al., 2011).

We have discovered that system-justification motivation can even affect perceptions of ambient temperature. Our research assistants approached pedestrians in New York’s Washington Square Park during the summer months and asked them a series of questions, including their estimates of the temperature outside. Individuals who scored high on system justification or who were assigned to a high system-dependence condition reported that the current temperature was significantly lower than did individuals who scored low on system justification or who were assigned to a low system-dependence condition. These findings suggest that people may be motivated to feel (or not feel) the evidence of global warming when system-justification needs are either chronically or temporarily heightened.

Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, a former skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, made headlines last summer when he declared that not only is climate change real, but that “humans are almost entirely the cause” (Muller, 2012). If catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy become more common, they may shift hearts and minds, albeit slowly. Given economic and other crises facing the nation (many of which probably exacerbate system-justification motivation), it still remains to be seen whether Americans and their elected officials will follow suit in embracing the scientific consensus. Climate change was a non-issue during the 2012 election campaign, and President Obama (2013) was criticized resoundingly by Senator Marco Rubio and other conservatives for emphasizing the issue in his most recent State of the Union speech. Suffice it to say that neither politicians nor the voters who back them appreciate the suggestion that the opinions they hold are motivated, even in part, by social and psychological factors that are probably outside of their awareness. American society and many others have yet to find a way of allowing the facts — scientific and otherwise — to trump special interests, political posturing, and motivated reasoning when it comes to the development of public policy. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

References and Further Reading:

Carroll, J. (2007). Public: Iraq war still top priority for President and Congress. Gallup Poll. Retrieved April 9, 2007, from http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27103&pg=1

Feinberg, M., & Willer, R. (2011). Apocalypse soon? Dire messages reduce belief in global warming by contradicting just world beliefs. Psychological Science, 22, 34–38.

Feygina, I., Jost, J. T., & Goldsmith, R. (2010). System justification, the denial of global warming, and the possibility of “system-sanctioned change.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 36, 326–338.

Hennes, E. P., Feygina, I., & Jost, J. T. (2011). Motivated evaluation, recall, and tactile perception in the service of the system: The case of anthropogenic climate change. Paper presented at the Princeton University Conference on Psychology and Policymaking, Princeton, NJ.

Jones, J. M. (2010). Conservatives’ doubts about global warming grow. Gallup Poll. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/126563/conservatives-doubts-global-warming-grow.aspx

Jost, J. T., Banaji, M. R., Nosek, B. A. (2004). A decade of system justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo. Political Psychology, 25, 881–919.

Jost, J. T., & Thompson, E. P. (2000). Group-based dominance and opposition to equality as independent predictors of self-esteem, ethnocentrism, and social policy attitudes among African Americans and European Americans. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 209–232.

Kay, A. C., & Jost, J. T. (2003). Complementary justice: Effects of “poor but happy” and “poor but honest” stereotype exemplars on system justification and implicit activation of the justice motive. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 823–837.

McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2011). Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Global Environmental Change, 21, 1163–1172.

Muller, R. A. (2012, July 30). The conversion of a climate-change skeptic. New York Times, p. A19.

Newport, F. (2012). Amercans’ worries about global warming up slightly. Gallup Poll. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/153653/Americans-Worries-Global-Warming-Slightly.aspx

Obama, B. (2012). State of the union address. Retrieved March 6, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/us/politics/obamas-2013-state-of-the-union-address.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

Saad, L. (2012). In U.S., global warming views steady despite warm winter. Gallup Poll. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/153608/Global-Warming-Views-Steady-Despite-Warm-Winter.aspx

Shepherd, S., & Kay, A. C. (2012). On the perpetuation of ignorance: System dependence, system justification, and the motivated avoidance of sociopolitical information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 264–80.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Environment, Ideology, Politics, Public Policy, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology, System Legitimacy | 2 Comments »

Frontier Tort – Selling Beer in Whiteclay

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 15, 2013

Alcoholism Cover Small

At Harvard Law School in the fall of 2012, the 80 students in Professor Hanson’s situationist-orient torts class participated in an experimental group project in their first-year torts class. The project required students to research, discuss, and write a white paper about a current policy problem for which tort law (or some form of civil liability) might provide a partial solution.  Their projects, presentations, and white papers were informed significantly by the mind sciences. You can read more about those projects, view the presentations, and download the white papers at the Frontier Torts website.

One of the group projects involved the sale of alcohol to members of the Oglala Sioux in Whiteclay Nebraska outside the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Here’s the Executive Summary of the white paper.

Native American Alcoholism: A Frontier Tort

Executive Summary


Since its introduction into Native American communities by European colonists, alcohol has plagued the members of many tribes to a disastrous extent. The Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge have especially suffered from alcoholism, enabled and encouraged by liquor stores just outside the reservation’s borders. Despite the complexities of this situation, media outlets have often reduced it to a pitiable image of dirty, poor Native Americans, degraded by the white man’s vice.

Upon further analysis, however, it becomes evident that there are a variety of factors influencing the situation of Native American alcoholism. While neurobiological, psychological, and genetic factors are often thought to offer plausible internal situational explanations as to why Native Americans suffer so much more potently from this disease than the rest of the nation, high levels of poverty in Native American communities, a traumatic and violent history, and informational issues compound as external situational factors that exacerbate the problem.

Unfortunately, the three major stakeholders in this situation (the alcohol industry, the State of Nebraska, and the Native Americans) have conflicting interests, tactics, and attribution modes that clash significantly in ways that have prevented any meaningful resolution from being reached. However, there are a variety of federal, state, and tribal programs and initiatives that could potentially resolve this issue in a practical way, so long as all key players agree to participate in a meaningful, collaborative effort.

The key to implementation of these policy actions is determining who should bear the costs they require: society as a whole through the traditional federal taxes, the alcohol companies through tort litigation, or the individuals who purchase the alcohol through an alcohol sales tax. Ultimately, an economic analysis leads to the conclusion that liability should be placed upon the alcohol companies and tort litigation damages should fund the suggested policy initiatives.

You can watch the related presentations and download the white paper here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Food and Drug Law, History, Marketing, Morality, Neuroscience, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Leave a Comment »

Eliot Spitzer – Today at HLS

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 27, 2013

spitzer cover

Discussion with Eliot Spitzer on Corporations in America.  Wed., March
 27, 12 – 1 P.M.  Austin North.  Lunch served.

Courtesy of Professor Hanson’s Corporations class (aka “Like a Virgil”), please join us for a conversation with Governor Eliot Spitzer on Corporations in America.  A graduate of Harvard Law School, Eliot Spitzer has served as Governor and as Attorney General of New York, he conducted “The Wall Street Cases.”

Co-sponsored by ACS and the HLS Democrats.

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Events, Politics, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Carl Hart on The Drug War – SALMS Talk Today!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 12, 2013

drug war

The Drug War: A Psychological Problem-A Conversation with Carl Hart
Tuesday, March 12th, 12pm-1pm
Langdell South

Lunch talk featuring Dr. Carl Hart, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, and author of the forthcoming book High Price. Dr. Hart was featured in the film “The House I Live In” where he discussed his research on the effects of meth on human subjects.carl hart high price

Non-pizza lunch served.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Politics, SALMS | 1 Comment »

Ryan Enos – SALMS Talk

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 1, 2013

obama_romney

SALMS hosted Ryan Enos at Harvard Law School on October 11, 2012, for a talk entitled “Mitt Romney Is Really, Really Good Looking: Do Attractiveness and Other Trivial Things Affect Elections?” The talk was part of the Mind Sciences & the Election series, which was cosponsored by American Constitution Society, HLS Republicans, HLS Democrats, and the Black Law Students Association. Click the link below to watch the video – enjoy!

Ryan Enos video

Related Situationist posts:

More posts on the situation of politics here.

Posted in Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics, SALMS, Video | Leave a Comment »

Robert Lustig on Effects and Politics of Sugar

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 31, 2012

Dr. Robert Lustig (Sugar: The Bitter Truth) speaks at Yale’s Peabody Museum on the policy and politics of the “Sugar Pandemic.” Hosted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

Michael Pollan on the Political Situation of Food

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 29, 2012

Host Harry Kreisler welcomes writer Michael Pollan for a discussion of the agricultural industrial complex that dominates consumer choices about what to eat. He explores the origins, evolution and consequences of this system for the nations health and environment. He highlights the role of science, journalism, and politics in the development of a diet that emphasizes nutrition over food. Pollan also sketches a reform agenda and speculates on how a movement might change Americas eating habits. He also talks about science writing, the rewards of gardening, and how students might prepare for the future.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Education, Food and Drug Law, Ideology, Marketing, Politics, Video | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Political Polarization

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 11, 2012

From This American Life:

Everyone knows that politics is now so divided in our country that not only do the 2 sides disagree on the solutions to the country’s problems, they don’t even agree on what the problems are. It’s 2 versions of the world in collision. This week we hear from people who’ve seen this infect their personal lives. They’ve lost friends. They’ve become estranged from family members. A special pre-election episode of our show.

Listen to the episode here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Conflict, Ideology, Naive Cynicism, Podcasts, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Citizens United Cartography

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 7, 2012

From NPR:

Explore political ad spending through creative cartography. This animated map shows where superPACs and other outside groups spent their money — over a six-month period during the general election — to air political ads aimed at influencing the presidential race.

Read the related NPR article here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Ideology, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situational Effect of Negativity on Voting

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 5, 2012

From Forbes:

Two studies published this month uncover some of the influences that play on the mind as we approach the voting booth.

Think Negative, Think Certain 

The first study, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology uncovers the power of negativity in framing political attitudes.  Researchers presented participants with information about two fictional candidates – one conservative, one liberal – for a position on a government board.

After reading about the two candidates, some participants were asked if they “supported” or “opposed” the liberal candidate and some were asked if they “supported” or “opposed” the conservative candidate. Participants who were led to frame their opinions negatively (“opposed”) – regardless of their underlying preference – expressed more certainty about their attitudes than did participants who were led frame their opinions positively (“supported”).

A follow-up experiment reinforced this result, but also showed that the effect was much stronger when the participants were able to think carefully about the candidates.  The effect was diminished when participants spent less time thinking about the candidates.

Quoting George Bizner, the lead author of the study, “Our prior research showed that framing an opinion in terms of opposition yields stronger attitudes than does framing it in terms of support. The most interesting point from our latest research is that this effect is actually stronger when people process the messages more deeply – when they are motivated and have been able to think about the issue. So, perhaps counter-intuitively, the people who care the most about the issues or candidates seem more likely to be affected by the bias.”

Read the entire article, including the summary of the second study here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Ideology, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Citizens United Primer

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 3, 2012

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

Don Kinder on the Role of Race in the 2012 Election – Today

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 1, 2012

“He’s Still Black: The Role of Race in the 2012 Presidential Election”
With Dr. Don Kinder, University of Michigan Political Science
Thursday, Nov. 1, 12 pm
Austin North
Free Chinese food!

In 2008, Americans chose Barack Obama to be the 44th president of the United States. The following morning, The New York Times proclaimed that Obama had succeeded in “sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease.” With ease? No. There are good reasons to believe that Obama was elected president in spite of his race. But that was then. Four years later, are we any closer to post-racial politics? What role will race play in the 2012 election?

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics, SALMS, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Peer Pressure and Voting

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 30, 2012

From The Harvard Gazzette:

Many people believe that idealism motivates them to open their wallets for a favorite candidate or that civic duty motivates them to go to the polls to vote. But don’t discount peer pressure as an important factor in elections, a political scientist says.

“We operate as a family, a neighborhood, a team,” said Betsy Sinclair, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. “Family, friends, and neighbors affect” choices involving “the candidate, issues to support, the political party to identify with, whether to donate to political candidates, and whether we turn out to cast a ballot.”

Sinclair, author of the new book “The Social Citizen: Peer Networks and Political Behavior,” spoke Thursday at Harvard Law School’s Austin Hall about how social networks enforce behavior in American politics. Her lecture was titled “Mind Sciences and the Election: The Social Citizen.”

Why we write a check or cast a ballot is often for the same reason that we buy Girl Scout cookies or Tupperware: pressure to conform with a group. Sinclair came to that realization after observing a fundraising coffee session for a 2009 Democratic U.S. House candidate from Illinois, Julie Hamos.

The coffee klatch was held in an affluent, politically engaged Chicago district. The two previous election cycles, this group backed another candidate. But this time, the hostess invited Hamos to speak. When the candidate finished her remarks, the hostess asked everyone to get out their checkbooks. Many wrote checks, according to Sinclair.

The candidate lost. Sinclair, in her post-mortem, learned that many guests regretted backing the loser.

Sinclair called the pressure to back Hamos “the Tupperware effect,” where people are invited to a party for the plastic container ware and drink coffee, hear testimony about its worth, and then pony up money for their own plastic ware, just like at the campaign meeting.

“People reported a sense of social obligation,” Sinclair said. “Campaigns know this works.”

Indeed, Sinclair pointed to another congressional candidate fundraiser invitation. It listed the names of all the invitees to pressure as many people who knew others on the list to attend as possible.

Fundraising is one thing. No one believes his or her vote can be influenced. Yet, Sinclair said, we all believe we can persuade an acquaintance to vote for the candidate we support. The ability of one person to influence another person can be demonstrated by analyzing a get-out-the-vote effort.

In 2009, Sinclair put her theory to the test after U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel stepped down from his seat to take a job in the Obama White House. She picked a tiny nine-digit ZIP code in his district to test voter turnout. Democrat Michael Quigley ran unopposed to fill the seat, so turnout would be low.

She contacted residents with a mailing that showed their lackluster voting record in previous elections. (Voting records are public.) It asked them to do their “civic duty and vote,” and pointed out they’d failed to make it to the polls in the past two elections.

Sinclair’s target wasn’t the mailing’s recipients, though. It was the person they shared their home with and who voted regularly.

Someone who lived with a rare or infrequent voter was less likely to make it to the polls. But Sinclair noticed that people voted when they lived with someone who always goes to the polls.

“There’s a shame effect,” Sinclair said. “It’s not the message but the messenger that matters.”

This election cycle, some people have learned through Facebook that their social networks aren’t politically uniform, leading to nasty arguments and “unfriendings.” Sinclair contends that people forge online relationships outside of politics. But holding onto those bonds with people who surprise and enrage can be politically enlightening.

“That’s the person most likely to hear what you’re saying and engage you about what you’re saying,” Sinclair said.

The Student Association for Law & Mind Sciences, Harvard Law School Republicans, Harvard Law School Democrats, and the Harvard Law School American Constitution Society sponsored the lecture. J.D. candidate Rebecca Matte ’14, vice president of the Student Association for Law & Mind Sciences, introduced Sinclair.

Learn more about Professor Sinclair’s book here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Ideology, Politics, SALMS | Leave a Comment »

Judge Nancy Gertner on the Situation of Discrimination Claims

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 27, 2012

From YLJO (the essay of an essay titled Losers’ Rules by Judge Nancy Gertner):

Each year, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts holds an extraordinary panel. All active judges are present to answer questions from the bar. A lawyer’s question one year was particularly provocative: “Why are the federal courts so hostile to discrimination claims?” One judge after another insisted that there was no hostility. All they were doing when they dismissed employment discrimination cases was following the law—nothing more, nothing less.

I disagreed. Federal courts, I believed, were hostile to discrimination cases. Although the judges may have thought they were entirely unbiased, the outcomes of those cases told a different story. The law judges felt “compelled” to apply had become increasingly problematic. Changes in substantive discrimination law since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964were tantamount to a virtual repeal. This was so not because of Congress; it was because of judges.

Decades ago, law-and-society scholars offered an explanation for that phenomenon, evaluating the structural forces at work in law-reform litigation that lead to one-sided judicial outcomes. Focusing on employment discrimination claims, Marc Galanter argued that, because employers are “repeat players” whereas individual plaintiffs are not, the repeat players have every incentive to settle the strong cases and litigate the weak ones.Over time, strategic settlement practices produce judicial interpretations of rights that favor the repeat players’ interests.More recently, Catherine Albiston went further, identifying the specific opportunities for substantive rulemaking in this litigation—as in summary judgment and motions to dismiss—and how the “repeat players,” to use Galanter’s term, take advantage of them.In this Essay, drawing on my seventeen years on the federal bench, I attempt to provide a firsthand and more detailed account of employment discrimination law’s skewed evolution—the phenomenon I call “Losers’ Rules.” I begin with a discussion of the wholly one-sided legal doctrines that characterize discrimination law. In effect, today’s plaintiff stands to lose unless he or she can prove that the defendant had explicitly discriminatory policies in place or that the relevant actors were overtly biased. It is hard to imagine a higher bar or one less consistent with the legal standards developed after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, let alone with the way discrimination manifests itself in the twenty-first century. Although ideology may have something to do with these changes, and indeed the bench may be far less supportive of antidiscrimination laws than it was during the years following the laws’ passage, I explore another explanation. Asymmetric decisionmaking—where judges are encouraged to write detailed decisions when granting summary judgment and not to write when denying it—fundamentally changes the lens through which employment cases are viewed, in two respects. First, it encourages judges to see employment discrimination cases as trivial or frivolous, as decision after decision details why the plaintiff loses. And second, it leads to the development of decision heuristics—the Losers’ Rules—that serve to justify prodefendant outcomes and thereby exacerbate the one-sided development of the law.

Read the entire essay here.

Related Situationist posts:

For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here. To review a collection of Situationist posts discussing Nancy Gertner‘s work, click here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Law, Politics, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

The Social Situation of the Citizen – Today!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 25, 2012

When: Thursday, October 25, 2012, 12 – 1pm
Where: Austin North
Event type: Lectures
Sponsor: Student Association for Law & Mind Sciences, HLS Republicans, HLS Democrats, HLS American Constitution Society, PLMS

Do social networks really influence individuals’ politics? If social networks matter, how do they work? Utilizing a variety of experimental and survey data from settings as diverse as the wealthy suburbs of Illinois and the streets of South Los Angeles, Dr. Besty Sinclair will identify the social influences that underlie political activities ranging from voter turnout to political contributions. Rather than being merely a source of information, our social networks have a direct and immediate influence on members’ political behavior.

Learn more about Professor Sinclair’s book here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Choice Myth, Events, Ideology, Politics, SALMS | Leave a Comment »

Todd Rogers on “The Psychology of the Politics of Politics” – Today!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 18, 2012

Mind Sciences & the Election
“The Psychology of the Politics of Politics”
Dr. Todd Rogers (Kennedy School)
Thursday, Oct. 18, 12 p.m.
Austin North
Free pizza lunch!

Dr. Rogers will discuss research on two aspects of the politics of politics.  First, he will share a series of large field experiments (involving hundreds of thousands of people) exploring how behavior change insights from psychology can be used to increase the impact of get-out-the-vote efforts, and understand why people fail to vote.  These are now best practices in many practitioner circles, so this research will help you better understand the logic behind voter mobilization efforts in which you have been involved.  Second, Dr. Rogers will present a series of experiments exploring the cognitive reasons why politicians can dodge questions they are asked without voters noticing or punishing them for their evasiveness.  This work concludes with a practical intervention for preventing artful dodging.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Events, Ideology, Politics, SALMS | Leave a Comment »

SALMS Fall Speaker Series

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 3, 2012

SALMS is excited to announce its Speakers Series slate for Fall 2012. All of the following talks will take place at noon in Austin North unless otherwise noted.
  • Jon Hanson, Harvard Law School, “What Is ‘Law and Mind Sciences’ and Why Does It Matter?” – Monday, Sept. 24, Austin East
  • George Marcus, Williams College Political Science, “Conventional Wisdoms Versus Affective Intelligence: How Elections Are Really Won and Lost” — Thursday, Oct. 4
  • Ryan Enos, Harvard University Government, “Mitt Romney Is Really, Really Good Looking: Do Attractiveness and Other Trivial Things Affect Elections?” — Thursday, Oct. 11
  • Todd Rogers, Harvard Kennedy School, “The Psychology of the Politics of Politics” — Thursday, Oct. 18
  • Betsy Sinclair, University of Chicago Political Science, “The Social Citizen” — Thursday, Oct. 25
The four October events are part of a special speaker series, Mind Sciences & the Election, cosponsored by HLS Republicans, HLS Democrats, and HLS American Constitution Society.

Posted in Events, Ideology, Politics, SALMS, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 853 other followers

%d bloggers like this: