The Situationist

Archive for March, 2011

The Situational Effects of Iqbal

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 30, 2011

Victor Quintanilla recently posted his paper, “Beyond Common Sense: A Social-Psychological Study of Iqbal’s Effect on Claims of Race Discrimination”  on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This article examines the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009) from a social-psychological perspective, and empirically studies Iqbal’s disparate effect on claims of race discrimination.

In Twombly and then Iqbal, the Court recast Rule 8 into a plausibility standard. Under Iqbal, federal judges must evaluate whether each complaint contains sufficient factual matter “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” When doing so, Iqbal requires judges to draw on their “judicial experience and common sense.” Courts apply Iqbal at the pleading stage, before evidence has been presented, when judging the plausibility of all claims, including claims of discrimination by members of stereotyped groups.

Decades of social-psychological research suggest that, when judges deliberate on the plausibility of discrimination claims without evidence based on “common sense,” intuitions, stereotypes and implicit associations will likely affect their judgment. This article draws on this science and performs an empirical study showing that Iqbal has significantly increased the dismissal rate of Black plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination in the workplace.

A statistical analysis of 212 cases examined judicial decision making at the pleading stage for Black plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination in the workplace. Three studies demonstrate that the underpinnings of Iqbal are unsound. Study 1 shows that the dismissal rate increased from 20.0% pre-Twombly to 54.6% under Iqbal for these claims. Study 2 shows that the dismissal rate increased from 32.0% to 67.35% under Iqbal for these claims when Black plaintiffs were pro se. And finally, Study 3 shows that White and Black judges are applying Iqbal differently. White judges dismiss these claims at a higher rate (57.4%) than Black judges (28.6%). Study 3 suggests that it is 2.0 times more likely that a White judge, compared to a Black judge, will dismiss these claims.

In short, Iqbal rests on an inaccurate theory of judgment and decision making. As Roscoe Pound once observed there are, “distinctions between law in the books and law in action, . . . between legal theory and judicial administration. . .” It is hoped that by introducing the science behind judgment and decision making, stereotypes, and implicit associations, and by studying human nature in law, we will broaden our knowledge of how Iqbal has affected claims of discrimination by members of stereotyped groups.

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Download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

SALMS Lecture – Tonight

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 29, 2011

Jon Hanson Evening Lecture and Reception

On Tuesday, March 29th, Professor Jon Hanson will give a lecture entitled “Law, Psychology, and Inequality” at 6PM in Harvard Law School’s Austin East.  A reception with free food and drink will follow!

Posted in Distribution, Events, Law, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Power of the Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 28, 2011

From Discovering Psychology:

This program explores psychologists’ attempts to understand human behavior within its broader social context. It also examines how beliefs and behavior can be influenced and manipulated by other people and subtle situational forces.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Classic Experiments, Morality, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

An Inspiring Story or Another Distorted Messages on Obesity?

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 27, 2011

Earlier in the week, I wrote about the problems I saw with Joe D’Amico’s all-McDonald’s diet “experiment” leading up to the L.A. Marathon.

It turns out that that was not the only potentially troubling obesity-related story coming out of the marathon.

The media was also very excited to report on Kelly Gneiting becoming the heaviest person to ever finish a marathon.

He is a 405-pound sumo wrestler and ran the race in 9 hours, 48 minutes, and 52 seconds.

At first, I thought that this might have a net positive influence on the obesity epidemic, encouraging the overweight and obese to see exercise as a positive and realistic pursuit.  But as I gave it more consideration, I became more concerned.

Might this story and others like it actually be sending a very different message: that obesity — even morbid obesity in Kelly’s case — can be healthy?  As Kelly explained to the L.A. Times,  “I honestly think I’m one of the best athletes in the world.”

There is sound research by Steven Blair and others that shows that some people who are overweight can also be fit, but I think there is a real danger in celebrating Kelly’s accomplishment — or, at least, in failing to capture the nuances to the story.  For many people, carrying around an extra 200 pounds (Kelly was 205 pounds when he married his wife) is a major threat to their health and although Kelly himself appears to be relatively healthy now, in the long term, maintaining his current weight is likely to greatly increase his risk of a number of serious conditions.

In a world in which the obese face considerable discrimination and abuse (just read the L.A. Times article to learn about some of Kelly’s own experiences), there is part of me that sides with Kelly’s desire to show the world that “[b]ig people can do the unimaginable.”  But I expect that the overall effect of publicizing his accomplishment may be negative.

What do you think?

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Posted in Life | 2 Comments »

Psychology of Inequality

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2011

Elaine McCardle wrote a terrific review of last month’s Fifth Annual PLMS Conference.  Her article is the spotlight piece on the Harvard Law School website and includes several excellent videos, photos, and links.  Here’s the story.

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While equality is a fundamental principle of American law and the bedrock of the national psyche, inequality has actually increased in the past four decades in the distribution of wealth, power, opportunity, even health. Yet the topic of inequality has received relatively little attention from legal theorists, and, for the most part, it is ignored in the basic law school curriculum.

A conference last month at HLS, “The Psychology of Inequality,” presented by the Project on Law & Mind Sciences (PLMS), stepped into that vacuum, bringing together scholars, law students, and others to examine inequality from the standpoint of the latest research in social science, health science, and mind science, and to reflect on the implications of their findings for law. The HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS), together with a group of roughly 20 students, were instrumental in organizing the conference.

“Inequality matters in ways that are not commonly understood, including in how people see and make sense of the world,” saysJon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law and Director of PLMS. “Indeed, the way people respond to instances of inequality – either by equalizing, or by rationalizing – appears to be a very significant factor in how they view markets, regulation, and many important policy and social issues. So when we engage in policy debates, mustering all our best arguments and evidence in favor of a given policy conclusion we shouldn’t be perplexed when our opponent doesn’t budge,” says Hanson. “Such recalcitrance on both sides of a discussion often reflects, not the inadequacy, but the irrelevance, of the reasons being exchanged. Behind it all may be a conflict between largely subconscious urges: some people would rather rationalize inequality while others lean toward equalizing.”

Hanson was one of more than a dozen scholars who spoke at the Feb. 26 conference, the fifth annual conference by PLMS, founded by Hanson six years ago to promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration between the mind sciences and the l

egal community. PMLS supports research, writing and conferences in order to dislodge the prevailing “dispositionist” approach of law – which holds that human beings, for the most part, make rational choices based on logical preferences – in favor of a “situationist approach.” Situationsim recognizes that social sciences and mind sciences, including social psychology, social cognition, and cognitive neuroscience, have repeatedly demonstrated that human behavior is influenced by countless factors ignored by the dispositionist approach, which collectively are known as “situation.”

Jaime Napier, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, presented her research on the ways in which high-status and low-status groups differ in their rationalizations of inequality. High-status people tend to place blame on individuals for their lot in life, while low-status people tend to see theirs as the natural order of things. Eric Knowles, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, discussed his theory of “malleable ideologies,” through which different groups with a same core ideology – say, “life is sacred” – can come to different outcomes on issues such as abortion or the death penalty. Adam Benforado ’05, a former student of Hanson’s and an assistant professor at the Earl Mach School of Law at Drexel University, presented on the mind-body connection in decision-making, including how seemingly innocuous environmental influences such as room temperature might have significant influence on decisions made by juries and judges. Ichiro Kawachi, a Professor of Social Epidemiology and Chair of the Social/Behavioral Sciences Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, discussed research showing that people of lower social status lead shorter, sicker lives, while other speakers discussed ways that social disparities influence health, how even young children favor high-status individuals, and the drive among humans to view the world as essentially fair.

In addition to national experts in the areas of health, psychology, and mind sciences, a number of HLS faculty contributed to the discussion from their areas of expertise in a panel discussion (see video below), including John Palfrey ’01, the Henry N. Ess III

Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, an expert on the internet; Lucie White ’81, the Louis A. Horvitz Professor of Law, who specializes in poverty law and international economic and social rights; Robert C. Bordone ’97, the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program; Stella Burch Elias, a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law and Andrew Woods ’07, a Climenko Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in politics at Cambridge University.

In that discussion, Hanson shared some provocative ideas. The good news, he said, is that humans have an egalitarian impulse, so that inequality causes them discomfort; some resolve the conflict by redistributing so that there is more equality, while others rationalize with reasons that explain the inequality. The bad news, Hanson added, is that it’s not terribly hard to move someone away from the equalizing impulse.

“When you experience fear and threat – personal threat, group threat, system threat – you become a hardcore dispositionist,” said Hanson, snapping his fingers, “just like that!”

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More here. Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Education, Embodied Cognition, Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

If It’s Evitable, I Don’t Like It!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 24, 2011

Situationist Contributor Aaron Kay as well as Peter A. Ubel and Gavan Fitzsimons wrote the following editorial for the Detroit Free Press.:

This week it will be one year since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. Despite all the controversy that preceded the bill’s passage, most health policy experts confidently predicted that the public would soon embrace the legislation.

To back up these predictions, they pointed out that Medicare was quite controversial when it was established in the 1960s, but rapidly grew in popularity. Much the same happened more recently with Medicare Part D, the law championed by President George W. Bush to extend Medicare coverage to medications.

Recent polls belie these predictions, however, as support for health care reform has hit an all-time low. Why has the ACA failed to capture public support? Our research provides a novel explanation, one that pundits have failed to recognize to date.

Obama’s health reform bill is unpopular not simply because it is complicated, nor simply because it costs government money at a time when people are in a mood to balance the budget. Instead, it is unpopular in large part because it no longer feels inevitable.

And the key to gaining widespread support for Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation is not to help the public better understand the intricacies of the bill, but instead to convince the public that the bill is here to stay.

Uncertainty can play a large role in reducing support for legislative actions. Consider a study we conducted, in which we asked people to imagine their local government had recently passed a bill to lower the speed limit, legislation spurred on by new evidence that such a law would save lives. The people we surveyed embraced the new rule, feeling thankful that legislators were paying attention to public safety.

However, in assessing public attitudes toward this bill, we conducted an experiment in which we told some of the people we surveyed that the legislature was about to pass the law but hadn’t yet voted on it – that is, it wasn’t officially a law yet. These people, in contrast to the first group, felt strongly that such legislation would be heavy-handed and paternalistic.

The same bill, when passed into law, was viewed more favorably than when it was merely pending legislation.

What about health care reform then? It has passed into law. Shouldn’t it be gaining in popularity?

Not if people don’t believe the bill is the law of the land. When the Republican-led House voted to repeal the bill, Washington insiders recognized the action as a symbolic gesture with no legislative consequence.

But many Americans thought this vote had actual legal implications. In fact, recent polls show that a fifth of the American public currently believe the ACA has been repealed, and another fifth is unsure if the bill still stands as law. This misperceived state of affairs provides no reason for these Americans to embrace a law they believe no longer stands.

Recent court rulings have created even greater uncertainty about the legal standing of the ACA. While most rulings have focused solely on the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate, one judge went as far as to opine that the entire law should be voided. This has left even more people wondering where the bill stands: as current law, pending law or past law?

Behavioral science has shown us that most people find uncertainty to be a very difficult pill to swallow, especially when it surrounds a proposed change to their lives. Half-hearted attempts at change often produce knee-jerk, negative reactions; people are not inclined to adapt to a change that may never occur or seems unlikely to stick. These are the types of situations most likely to breed backlash.

But when the uncertainty is removed, backlash reactions tend to dissipate and sometimes even reverse. When people know what cards they have been dealt – when they feel confident about what to expect in the future – people tend to begin the process of rationalizing the change and adapting to it.

The real battle over health care reform in the next few months will extend beyond the specifics of budget debates and regulatory wranglings. Instead the fate of health care reforms stands mainly on how soon, if ever, the public comes to feel that the legislation is enduring. If the permanence of the Affordable Care Act continues to feel unsettled, that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Choice Myth, Emotions, Law, Life, Politics, Situationist Contributors, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Sending the Wrong Message

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 23, 2011

Joe D’Amico probably had the best of intentions when he set out to eat an all-McDonald’s diet for thirty days leading up to the L.A. Marathon. And, in fact, as a result of internet buzz, his “food challenge” ended up raising $26,000 for Ronald McDonald charities.

At the race a few days ago, D’Amico set a personal record and improved his cholesterol levels in the process!

So a clear win-win-win!

But isn’t there some Grinch out there to point out the dark side of all of this?

Not at the Huffington Post, which has been nothing but complementary (see here and here), . . . leaving it to the Situationist to rain on everyone’s parade.

Why am I skeptical about this stunt?

Well, for starters it fits in quite neatly with previous strategies by big tobacco and big food to employ salient counterexamples to show that cigarettes don’t cause cancer and eating copious amounts of fast food has no ill effects on a person’s health.

As Situationist contributors Jon Hanson, David Yosifon, and I chronicled in the 2004 article, “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” Don Gorske, the six foot tall, 170-pound world record holder for eating Big Macs (over 20,000 as of July 2004), has been repeatedly cited as proof that plentiful fast food doesn’t cause weight gain. The problem, in part, is that “we use positive-test theories to analyze the evidence we confront. If we want proof that fast food does not make people fat, and that it is, in fact, a matter of genes or watching too many Friends reruns, all we have to do is go into any McDonald’s and our eyes and minds will fix on the one or two skinny people wolfing down Big Macs.”

D’Amico may not know it, but he’s just a tool in McDonald’s box of strategies aimed at fighting the science on obesity that links the high calorie, sweet and salty foods that the fast food company sells with serious health problems.

In interviews, D’Amico hems so closely to the company line that it’s hard to believe he’s not an official spokesman: “If you make good choices and better choices more often than not, you’re going to have good results . . . . There’s diet, there’s exercise, there’s stress. There’s a lot of things. That’s something I try to tell people to keep in mind. Don’t focus on one aspect look at things as a whole.”

Ronald himself couldn’t have said it better: go ahead order that Angus Bacon and Cheese, large fries, and Chocolate Triple Thick Shake.  What’s a 2400 calorie lunch (with 91 grams of fat) going to do?  Probably lower your cholesterol!

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Posted in Deep Capture, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Relations, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Gender Quotas on Company Boards

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 22, 2011

When: Wed, March 23, 12:00pm – 1:30pm

Where: Langdell South (map)

Sponsor: The Harvard Women’s Law Association in cooperation with Prof. Hanson’s Corporations class.

Description: Women on Board? A discussion on gender stereotyping in business and the pros & cons of gender quotas on company boards March 23, 12pm-1.20pm Langdell South.

Speakers: Prof. Amy Cuddy (Harv Business School) and Prof. Darren Rosenblum (Pace Law School)

Question: A mere 15% of board members of companies are women, the European average is 11.7%, in China it is approx. 7% and in Japan it is even lower. What are the reasons for this disparity and what are measures against it? Some countries, notably Norway, have taken the step to mandate gender quotas for boards of companies. Other countries are debating similar laws. Are gender quotas for boards of companies the right tool to address the problem, or do they lead to unintended consequences?

The discussion will address these questions and the underlying sociopsychological issues.

Co-sponsored by the Harvard Association for Law and Business, the HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences, ACLU and the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.

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25 Mil­lion Years of Us vs. Them

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 21, 2011

From World News:

Like peo­ple, some of our mon­key cousins tend to take an “us ver­sus them” view of the world, a study has found. This sug­gests that the ten­den­cy for hu­man groups to clash may stem from a dis­tant ev­o­lu­tion­ary past, sci­en­tists say.

Yale Un­ivers­ity re­search­ers led by psy­chol­o­gist Lau­rie San­tos found in a se­ries of ex­pe­ri­ments that mon­keys treat mon­keys from out­side their groups with the same sus­pi­cion and dis­like as their hu­man cousins tend to treat out­siders. The find­ings are re­ported in the March is­sue of the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­ity and So­cial Psy­chol­o­gy.

“One of the more trou­bling as­pects of hu­man na­ture is that we eval­u­ate peo­ple dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on wheth­er they’re a mem­ber of our ‘in­group’ or ‘out­group,’” San­tos said. “Pretty much eve­ry con­flict in hu­man his­to­ry has in­volved peo­ple mak­ing dis­tinc­tions on the ba­sis of who is a mem­ber of their own race, re­li­gion, so­cial class, and so on. The ques­tion we were in­ter­est­ed in is: Where do these types of group dis­tinc­tions come from?”

The an­swer, she adds, is that such bi­ases have ap­par­ently been shaped by 25 mil­lion years of ev­o­lu­tion and not just by hu­man cul­ture.

“The bad news is that the ten­den­cy to dis­like out­group mem­bers ap­pears to be ev­o­lu­tion­arily quite old, and there­fore may be less sim­ple to elim­i­nate than we’d like to think,” San­tos said. “The good news, though, is that even mon­keys seem to be flex­i­ble about who counts as a group mem­ber. If we hu­mans can find ways to har­ness this evolved flex­i­bil­ity, it might al­low us to be­come an even more tol­er­ant species.”

San­tos and mem­bers of her lab stud­ied rhe­sus ma­caque mon­keys liv­ing on an is­land off the coast of Puerto Rico. Mon­keys in this popula­t­ion nat­u­rally form dif­fer­ent so­cial groups based on family his­to­ry.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­ploited a well-known ten­den­cy of an­i­mals to stare long­er at new or fright­en­ing things than at fa­mil­iar or friendly things. They showed mon­keys pic­tures of oth­er mon­keys who were ei­ther in their so­cial group or mem­bers of a dif­fer­ent group. They found that mon­keys stared long­er at pic­tures of oth­er mon­keys who were out­side their group, sug­gest­ing the crea­tures spon­ta­ne­ously de­tect who is a strang­er and who is a group mem­ber.

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The Yale team’s re­sults sug­gest that the dis­tinc­tions hu­mans make be­tween “us” and “them”— and there­fore the roots of hu­man prej­u­dice—may date back at least 25 mil­lion years, when hu­mans and rhe­sus ma­caques shared a com­mon an­ces­tor.

“So­cial psy­chol­o­gists in­tro­duced the world to the idea that the im­me­di­ate situa­t­ion is hugely pow­er­ful in de­ter­min­ing be­hav­ior, even in­ter­group feel­ings,” said [Situationist Contributor] Mahza­rin Ba­naji of Har­vard Un­ivers­ity, a co-author of the pa­per. “Evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­rists have made us aware of our an­ces­tral past. In this work, we weave the two to­geth­er to show the im­por­tance of both of these in­flu­ences at work.”

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More here.

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Posted in Conflict, Evolutionary Psychology, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Paul Bloom on Disgust

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 19, 2011

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Posted in Choice Myth, Ideology, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »


Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 18, 2011

From Eureka Alert:

Along with the excitement and anticipation that come with heading off to college, freshmen often find questions of belonging lurking in the background: Am I going to make friends? Are people going to respect me? Will I fit in?

Those concerns are trickier for black students and others who are often stereotyped or outnumbered on college campuses. They have good reason to wonder whether they will belong – worries that can result in lower grades and a sense of alienation.

But when black freshmen participated in an hour-long exercise designed by Stanford psychologists to show that everyone – no matter what their race or ethnicity – has a tough time adjusting to college right away, their grades went up and the minority achievement gap shrank by 52 percent. And years later, those students said they were happier and healthier than some of their black peers who didn’t take part in the exercise.

“We all experience small slights and criticisms in coming to a new school” said Greg Walton, an assistant professor of psychology whose findings are slated for publication in the March 18 edition of Science.

“Being a member of a minority group can make those events have a larger meaning,” Walton said. “When your group is in the minority, being rejected by a classmate or having a teacher say something negative to you could seem like proof that you don’t belong, and maybe evidence that your group doesn’t belong either. That feeling could lead you to work less hard and ultimately do less well.”

Walton’s paper, co-authored by psychology and education Professor Geoffrey Cohen, reports that the grade point averages of black students who participated in the exercise went up by almost a third of a grade between their sophomore and senior years.

And 22 percent of those students landed in the top 25 percent of their graduating class, while only about 5 percent of black students who didn’t participate in the exercise did that well. At the same time, half of the black test subjects who didn’t take part in the exercise were in the bottom 25 percent of their class. Only 33 percent of black students who went through the exercise did that poorly.

Walton and Cohen split about 90 second-semester freshmen at a top American university into “treatment” and “control” groups. About half of the students in each group were black; the others were white.

All the test subjects – who were unaware of the full purpose of the exercise – were told the researchers were trying to understand students’ college experiences.

Those in the treatment group read surveys and essays written by upperclassmen of different races and ethnicities describing the difficulties they had fitting in during their first year at school. The subjects in the control group read about experiences unrelated to a sense of belonging.

The upperclassmen had reported feeling intimidated by professors, being snubbed by new friends and ignored in their quest for help early in their college careers. But they all emphasized that, with time, their confidence grew, they made good friends and they developed strong relationships with professors.

“Everybody feels they are different freshman year from everybody else, when really in at least some ways we are all pretty similar,” one older student – a black woman – was quoted as saying. “Since I realized that, my experience . . . has been almost 100 percent positive.”

The test subjects in the treatment group were then asked to write essays about why they thought the older college students’ experiences changed. The researchers asked them to illustrate their essays with stories of their own lives, and then rewrite their essays into speeches that would be videotaped and could be shown to future students. The point was to have the test subjects internalize and personalize the idea that adjustments are tough for everyone.

“We didn’t want them to think of difficulties as unique to them or specific to their racial group,” Walton said of the black test subjects. “We wanted them to realize that some of those bad things that happen are just part of the transition that everyone goes through when they go off to college.”

The researchers tracked their test subjects during their sophomore, junior and senior years. While they found the social-belonging exercise had virtually no impact on white students, it had a significant impact on black students.

Along with improved GPAs by their senior year, the black students who were in the treatment group reported a greater sense of belonging compared to their peers in the control group. They also said they were happier and were less likely to spontaneously think about negative racial stereotypes. And they seemed healthier: 28 percent said they visited a doctor recently, as compared to 60 percent in the control group.

Despite the impressive outcomes, Walton and Cohen say the social-belonging exercise isn’t a quick fix to closing the academic race gap – a problem fed by a host of issues tied to diversity, socioeconomics and public policy. But their research shows how addressing feelings of belonging can improve student performance. And similar exercises may succeed in addressing concerns about belonging among other groups, like first-generation college students, immigrants and new employees.

“This intervention alone is not the answer, but we know more about what types of things help,” Cohen said. “The intervention is like turning on a light switch. It seems miraculous when the lights go on, but it all hinges on the infrastructure that’s already in place.”

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Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Education, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors | 2 Comments »

Kennedy and Pronin on the Spiral of Conflict

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 16, 2011

A group of  Harvard Law students are blogging over at the Law & Mind Blog.  Here is one of their posts about a chapter by Situationist Contributor Emily Pronin and Kathleen Kennedy (forthcoming in from Situationist Contributor Jon Hanson’s  book, “Ideology, Psychology, and Law”).  The post is authored by HLS student Michael Lieberman.

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In their chapter, Bias Perception and the Spiral of Conflict, Kathleen Kennedy and Emily Pronin examine what they see as a major cause of breakdowns in negotiation, both small- and large-scale: a tendency of each side to view the other side’s position as biased and preference-driven (rather than based on objective facts). Kennedy and Pronin explain that we tend to see signs of bias all around us – some even posit that United States Supreme Court justices fall short of impartiality in their decisions. The only place, it seems, where the tendency to detect bias is weak is in ourselves: people have a tendency to perceive others as susceptible to the influence of biases while at the same time viewing themselves as relatively unaffected by those biases. That asymmetry has been referred to as a bias blind spot. One example of this bias blind spot with particular relevance to those of us in law school is the widespread disagreement over the validity of high-stakes standardized tests, such as the LSAT. High performers are inclined to resent the “obvious bias” of poor performers who claim that the test is invalid and should not be used; poor performers, by contrast, are inclined to resent the “obvious bias” of high performers who champion the tests’ use.

The first component of Kennedy and Pronin’s bias-perception conflict spiral is that disagreement leads to an even stronger perception that the other side is biased. That is, when people disagree, they view those with whom they disagree as biased or, more specifically, as unable or unwilling to view things as they are in “objective reality.” The reason is clear: “people generally have complete faith in the veridicality of their perceptions, and thus are suspicious of those who fail to share their perceptions.” Kennedy and Pronin offer support for this component with a review of several experimental and real-world cases of the tendency to perceive bias in action, including an experiment conducted among partisans involved in the struggle between Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland, in the wake of the “Good Friday Agreement” that established the conditions for peace in that region. Consistent with their hypothesis, partisans in the conflict tended to feel that those who led the opposing side were more prone to these biases than were those who led their own side.

The second component of the model is that the perception of the other side as biased leads to competitive and aggressive action, as opposed to cooperative and peaceful action. When dealing with an opponent whom one views as unable or unwilling to see things objectively, one may conclude that cooperative efforts (such as sitting down to talk things out, or providing relevant facts and arguments) are unlikely to be successful. The authors again cite several studies supporting the idea that people are likely to choose their responses to their opponents based at least in part on their assessment of the other side’s capacity for objectivity versus inclination towards bias.

Having outlined the framework of the bias-perception conflict spiral, Kennedy and Pronin proceed to apply their concept to the field of negotiation, both explaining when and how the spiral rears its ugly head and offering potential ways to stop it in its tracks. As the above outline would suggest, people seem to view their adversaries in negotiation as prone to bias, and that perception of bias leads them to act competitively in a way that interferes with efficient dispute resolution. After reviewing the weaknesses of strategies suggested by past research (perspective taking, epistemic motivation, and social grouping) Kennedy and Pronin suggest three strategies of their own to help achieve increased success in negotiations (strategies that may require bringing in a third-party mediator):

1. Non-counterarguing listening – Counterarguing listening, which the authors suggest most people engage in, involves thinking about ways in which one’s own position is superior and preparing counterarguments while an opponent is speaking. that can be leveled against the opposition when it is one’s chance to reply. An alternative to that listening approach would allow individuals to truly hear the other person by suppressing impulses to counterargue that content, so that individuals might reach a better understanding of their opponent’s actual position and of its underlying subtleties.

2. Introspective education – This strategy works to induce individuals to see themselves as less objective. By recognizing their own capacity for bias, individuals might be better equipped to resolve their conflicts peacefully once they realize that the other side, while biased, is no more biased than oneself and, therefore, likely has some rational reasons for believing what they believe. A mediator can implement this strategy by educating individuals on the psychology of implicit biases and providing them with concrete demonstrations of their own implicit attitudes (by administering the IAT, for example).

3. Temporal distance – Kennedy and Pronin explain: “Manipulating adversaries’ temporal distance from a conflict situation may also work to alleviate the bias-perception conflict spiral. Temporal distance (how far into the future an event is), as well as physical and social distance (how geographically distant or socially removed an event is), can increase the extent to which individuals see events in more global, indirect, or abstract terms,” which allows adversaries to adopt a cooler perspective toward the situation, including toward the disagreement itself and the opposing party. which might lead them to be more open to acknowledging both their own biases and their adversaries’ objectivity. Resulting reductions in individuals’ perceptions of either the size of their disagreement or the extent to which they are uniquely objective could interrupt or prevent the bias-perception conflict spiral.

In sum, Kennedy and Pronin’s framework focuses on the tendency of individuals to impute bias to others, especially others who disagree with them, and on the consequences of that tendency for conflictual behavior. Their examination of the psychological forces behind the conflict spiral, as well as their suggestions for overcoming it, offers valuable insight to the field of negotiation and mediation, which is particularly useful in a world that is so often divided into opposing interests and groups.

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Go to the Law and Mind Blog here.

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Posted in Book, Conflict, Ideology, Naive Cynicism, Politics, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Milgram-Inspired Movie

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 15, 2011

For those of you who missed this 1975 CBS movie, inspired by Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments, here’s your chance to watch “The Tenth Level.”

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Posted in Classic Experiments, Entertainment, Morality, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Table of Contents

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 12, 2011

Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Volume 29, Issue 1 (January/February 2011)

Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Research Articles

Life and death in the lone star state: Three decades of violence predictions by capital juries, Mark D. Cunningham, Jon R. Sorensen, Mark P. Vigen, S.O. Woods

In search of the psychopathic sexuality taxon: Indicator size does matter, Glenn D. Walters Ph.D., David K. Marcus Ph.D., John F. Edens Ph.D., Raymond A. Knight Ph.D., Glenn M. Sanford Ph.D.

Measuring knowledge of the insanity defense: Scale construction and validation, Tarika Daftary-Kapur Ph.D., Jennifer L. Groscup Ph.D., Maureen O’Connor Ph.D., Frank Coffaro M.A., Michele Galietta Ph.D.

Stalkers and harassers of British Royalty: an exploration of proxy behaviours for violence, David V. James et al

Critical elements of the crisis intervention team model of jail diversion: An expert survey, Alan B. McGuire Ph.D., Gary R. Bond Ph.D.

Exploring separable components of institutional confidence, Joseph A. Hamm B.A. et al

Judging intoxication, Steve Rubenzer Ph.D.

Posted in Table of Contents | 1 Comment »

Selling Products With Sexism

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 11, 2011

Sexist products and advertising were once right out in the open.

Take this old advertisement from Honor House Products Corp. for “Stuffed” Girl’s Heads (highlighted this week over at Dangerous Minds).

A 1970 advertisement for Mr. Leggs slacks (shown below) played into the same notions of women as passive “conquests” and men as active “conquerors.”  As the copy explains,

Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her. That noble styling sure soothes the savage heart! If you’d like your own doll-to-doll carpeting, hunt up a pair of these he-man Mr. Leggs slacks. Such as our new automatic wash wear blend of 65% “Dacron®” and 35% rayon–incomparably wrinkle-resistant. About $12.95 at plush-carpeted stores.

While, in general, the sexism in advertising and marketing campaigns is less explicit today, it has in no way disappeared.

A recent example comes from an unexpected source: Jenny Craig.  One might think that the weight-loss company with its traditionally strongly-female consumer pool would be the last place to see sexism of any kind, but JC is looking for new customers: men.

I suspect that the controversial campaign was spurred by a worry that the gendered associations for the company would doom its efforts to make inroads with the male demographic unless they took bold action.  What type of man would turn to Jenny Craig for help?  That would imply his femininity — and, indeed, his weakness.

So what did the company come up with as a message?

“Jen Works For Men!”

In other words, it’s okay fellas: think about Jenny Craig as your secretary or maid.  As Mr. Leggs would have pointed out, “It’s nice to have a girl around the house.”

Check out one of the television ads below:

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Marketing, Video | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

The Rhetorical Situation of Law, and the Situation of Rhetoric

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 10, 2011

Theresa Beiner recently posted her article, “Shift Happens: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Shifting Antidiscrimination Rhetoric” (forthcoming in University of Toledo Law Review) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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The United States Supreme Court’s discourse on discrimination affects how fundamental civil rights – such as the right to be free from gender and race discrimination – are adjudicated and conceptualized in this country. Shortly after Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Court established precedent that assumed discrimination, absent some other compelling explanation for employer conduct. While the Court was more reluctant to presume such discrimination by governmental actors, it was deferent to Congress’s ability to set standards that would presume discrimination. Over time, however, that presumption and the Court’s deference to Congress has dissipated, and today, the Court actually presumes non-discrimination, absent some evidence that shows an employer or governmental actor was intentionally discriminating. This article will describe the shift in the Supreme Court’s rhetoric over time, with an eye toward trying to understand why this shift has occurred and what the implications of this shift are for those who have suffered discrimination and wish to pursue their rights in court. In addition, this article will consider non-legal sources to determine whether such a shift is warranted by a decrease in race and gender discrimination in American society.

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Download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Law | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Table of Contents

Posted by sandraroseray on March 9, 2011

Psychology and Marketing, Volume 28, Issue 3 (March 2011)

Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company

Research Articles

Autotelic need for touch, haptics, and persuasion: The role of involvement, Joann Peck, Jennifer Wiggins Johnson

The impact of 3d virtual haptics in marketing, Seung-A Annie Jin

To touch or not to touch; that is the question. Should consumers always be encouraged to touch products, and does it always alter product perception? Nigel Marlow, Cathrine V. Jansson-Boyd

Multisensory design: Reaching out to touch the consumer, Charles Spence, Alberto Gallace

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Online Law and Mind Experiments

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 8, 2011

The Latest Online Study Clearinghouse Experiments

Over the last week, the following experiments have been posted on our new Law and Mind Science Online Study Clearinghouse, a repository for web studies pertaining to law and mind sciences.

Judgments of Interrogation Techniques

The purpose of this study is to measure the impact of mortality salience on experimental subjects’ judgments of the acceptability of torture, and specifically to determine if there is a greater acceptance of the use of torture on non-American prisoners relative to American prisoners.

Personality, Emotions, and Politics

Researchers from the University of New Mexico psychology department are conducting a study examining how personality relates to things like political attitudes and emotional reactions to common situations (like finding out that someone has forged a signature, or being romantically approached by someone you are not interested in). The study involves answering a series of questions online. The survey takes less than ten minutes to complete, and many people will finish in about five minutes. You must be at least 18 years old to complete the survey.

Amber Alert Research

Request for participants: The Psychology and Law Lab at University of Arkansas is seeking individuals from the public to participate in a brief online survey evaluating public perception of the Amber Alert system. Participation in this study will take less than fifteen minutes, and the entire study can be completed online. Your participation and responses will be anonymous.

Social Attitudes and the Punishment of Criminal Offenders

This study is concerned with the attitudes people hold about the punishment of criminal offenders. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete

The relationship between risk-taking and on campus crime

This study aims to investigate the relationship between risk-taking and being the victims of various on-campus crimes.

Current Attitudes of the Criminal Justice System

This short questionnaire examines participants’ views about the criminal justice system and how well it achieves its foundational goals.

Have You Been Questioned for Jury Duty Within the Last Year?

This study was designed to explore how people view the voir dire process.

Go to:

Posted in Online Experiment | Leave a Comment »

Feminism in 1L Curriculum

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 7, 2011

Looking for an opportunity to process and discuss your 1L experience? Curious about what a feminist analysis of the 1L curriculum might offer? Join [Situationist Contributor] Professor Jon Hanson and Lecturer Diane Rosenfeld of HLS and Professor Jenny Wriggins of the University of Maine for a panel on feminist perspectives of the 1L courses.

Today (Monday) in Pound 107. at noon.  Lunch served.

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Sample of elated Situationist posts:

Posted in Education, Events, Law, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Richard Hackman at Harvard Law School

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 6, 2011

Tomorrow, the HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) is hosting a talk, “What Makes for a Great Team?,” by Harvard University professor Richard Hackman in Austin East, from 12:00 – 1:00.

Professor Hackman has studied the secrets of effective teams ranging from airplane cockpit crews to musical ensembles. His talk on Monday will identify conditions that increase the likelihood of creating teamwork “magic.” As always, there will be burritos.

For a brief introduction to Professor Hackman’s recent research on teamwork, check out this Harvard Business Review article on “sand dune teams.”

For more information, go to the SALMS website, here.

Posted in Events, Positive Psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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