The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘bias’

Implicit Juror Bias

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 1, 2011

Anna Roberts posted her article, “(Re)Forming the Jury: Detection and Disinfection of Implicit Juror Bias” (Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 44, 2012) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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This Article investigates whether one of the most intractable problems in trial procedure can be ameliorated through the use of one of the most striking discoveries in social science. The intractable problem is selecting a fair jury. Current doctrine fails to address the fact that jurors harbor not only explicit, or conscious bias, but also implicit, or unconscious, bias. The discovery is the Implicit Association Test (“IAT”), an online test that aims to reveal implicit bias.

This Article conducts the first comparison of proposals that the IAT be used to address jury bias. They fall into two groups. The first group would use the IAT to “screen” potential jurors for implicit bias; the second group would use the IAT to educate jurors about implicit bias. These proposals merit deeper consideration. Implicit bias is pervasive, and affects crucial juror functions: evaluation of evidence, recall of facts, and judgments of guilt. Juries are generally told nothing about implicit bias. The judiciary has expressed concern about implicit juror bias, and sought help from the academy in addressing the problem.

I provide what the proposals lack: critique and context. I show that using the IAT to screen jurors is misguided. The educational project has merit, however, since implicit bias can be countered through knowledge of its existence and motivation to address it. To refine the project, I identify two vital issues that distinguish the proposals: when jurors should learn about implicit bias, and how they should learn.

On the issue of when, I argue that the education should begin while the jurors are still being oriented. Orientation is not only universal, but, as research into “priming” and “framing” has shown, a crucial period for the forming of first impressions. On the issue of how, I argue that those proposals that would include the jurors taking an IAT are superior to those that would simply instruct jurors on what the IAT shows. In an area fraught with denial, mere instruction would likely be dismissed as irrelevant. I use pedagogical theory to show that experiential learning about bias is more likely to be effective.

I bring when and how together, proposing a model that would include the use of the IAT as an experiential learning tool during orientation. It would harness the civic energy of jurors to an educational purpose, rather than letting it morph into boredom; by putting jurors in an active mindset, it would enhance their satisfaction with the process, and their ability to perform optimally. As for potential jurors who are never selected, their participation would honor the long-standing educational function of jury service.

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Download the article for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Juror Bias

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 30, 2011

Jessica West recently posted her article, “12 Racist Men: Post-Verdict Evidence of Juror Bias” (Harvard Journal of Racial & Ethnic Justice, Vol. 27, p. 165, 2011) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Federal Evidence Rule 606(b) and similar state rules prohibit post-verdict admission of juror statements, including racist or biased remarks, made during deliberations. The roots of the evidentiary prohibition are historically deep and the interests underlying the Rule implicate the very existence of the jury system. Constitutionality of the post-verdict evidentiary exclusion is based upon the presumption that pre-trial and trial mechanisms exist to discern juror bias prior to deliberations. Empirical studies and recent cases indicate, however, that these mechanisms do not currently operate to adequately expose or remove juror biases. This article argues that the expansion of these mechanisms, including more diverse jury venires, more robust and effective juror voir dire, less discretion for parties to remove jurors on the basis of race, and the development of jury admonitions directly addressing bias, will reduce juror expressions of bias during deliberations. Even with these reforms, however, not all juror bias will be disclosed and, whether for reasons of embarrassment, inattention or intent, some jurors will misrepresent material biases during voir dire. To address juror misrepresentations during voir dire, the article proposes a narrow exception to Rule 606(b) permitting inquiry into juror bias for the purpose of showing juror misrepresentation. The article’s unique approach of combining enhanced pre-trial and trial mechanisms with a narrow exception to the rule to address juror misrepresentations strikes a balance between upholding the goals underlying Rule 606(b) and the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

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Implicit Gender Bias in Legal Profession

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 9, 2011

Justin Levinson and Danielle Young posted their excellent article, “Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession: An Empirical Study” (Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2010) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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In order to test the hypothesis that implicit gender bias drives the continued subordination of women in the legal profession, we designed and conducted an empirical study. The study tested whether law students hold implicit gender biases related to women in the legal profession, and further tested whether these implicit biases predict discriminatory decision-making. The results of the study were both concerning and hopeful. As predicted, we found that implicit biases were pervasive; a diverse group of both male and female law students implicitly associated judges with men, not women, and also associated women with the home and family. Yet the results of the remaining portions of the study offered hope. Participants were frequently able to resist their implicit biases and make decisions in gender neutral ways. Taken together, the results of the study highlight two conflicting sides of the ongoing gender debate: first, that the power of implicit gender biases persists, even in the next generation of lawyers; and second, that the emergence of a new generation of egalitarian law students may offer some hope for the future.

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The Informational Situation of Voters

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 19, 2011

Michele Margolis and Anthony Fowler, have posted their paper, “The Bias of Uninformed Voters,” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Survey researchers and political pundits bemoan the lack of political information within the American electorate. Not only do Americans fail to meet the democratic ideals of an informed electorate, but this lack of knowledge also has political consequences. An empirical analysis of survey data finds that informed voters are more likely to vote for Republican candidates; however, these correlational findings may be plagued by reverse causation and omitted variable bias. We present a model of an election with uninformed voters and experimentally test the effect of political information. Our results suggest that the lack of information in the American electorate typically biases election results toward the Republican Party. When uninformed citizens receive political information, they systematically shift away from the Republican Party.

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Download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Education, Ideology, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Ideological Bias in Social Psychology?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 2, 2011

On January 27th, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt gave a provocative talk at the annual convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.  His presentation has since received a lot of press (including John Tierney’s New York Times article on the talk). Edge has posted a version of Haidt’s talk as well as a variety of responses (here).  Below, we’ve posted the response by Situationist Contributor, John Jost.

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Social psychology is not a “tribal-moral community” governed by “sacred values.” It is wide open to anyone who believes that we can use the scientific method to explain social behavior, regardless of their political beliefs. Nor is our “corner” of social science “broken” when it comes “race, gender, and class,” as Jonathan Haidt claimed in response to Paul Krugman. Rather, social psychologists have made cutting edge advances in understanding the subtle, implicit, nonconscious biases that perpetuate inequalities concerning race, gender, and class.

Haidt’s essay sows confusion; he misrepresents what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. By focusing on scientists’ personal beliefs rather than the quality of their work, Haidt perpetuates the myth that social scientific research simply exemplifies the ideological biases of the researchers. No doubt this energizes those who are eager to dismiss our findings. But polling firms are paid by clients, including political campaigns, and this fact neither determines nor invalidates the poll’s findings. Similarly, the personal beliefs of social scientists may (or may not) be one of many factors that affect the decision of what to study, but those beliefs are, at the end of the day, scientifically irrelevant.

This is because we, as a research community, take seriously the institutionalization of methodological safeguards against experimenter effects and other forms of bias. Any research program that is driven more by ideological axe-grinding than valid insight is doomed to obscurity, because it will not stand up to empirical replication and its flaws will be obvious to scientific peers — all of whom have been exposed to conservative perspectives even if they do not hold them.

If we do concern ourselves with the results of Haidt’s armchair demography, we should ask honestly whether social scientists are too liberal or society is too conservative. After all, when experts and laypersons disagree, we do not usually rush to the conclusion that the experts are biased. Haidt fails to grapple meaningfully with the question of why nearly all of the best minds in science find liberal ideas to be closer to the mark with respect to evolution, human nature, mental health, close relationships, intergroup relations, ethics, social justice, conflict resolution, environmental sustainability, and so on. He does not even consider the possibility that research in social psychology (including research on implicit bias) bothers conservatives for the right reasons, namely that some of our conclusions are empirically demonstrable and yet at odds with certain conservative assumptions (e.g., that racial prejudice is a thing of the past). Surely in some cases raising cognitive dissonance is part of our professional mission.

We need science, now more than ever, to help us overcome ideological disputes rather than getting bogged down in them. We do not need conservatives to become conservative social psychologists any more than we need liberals to become liberal social psychologists. Our “community” still holds that policy preferences should follow from the data, not the other way around. Sadly, Haidt puts the ideological cart before the scientific horse. I simply cannot agree that — especially in this political era — it would be good for our science to reproduce the ideological stalemate and finger-pointing that has crippled our government and debased our journalism.

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Read the other responses here.

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Posted in Education, Ideology, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Geoffrey Cohen on “Identity, Belief, and Bias”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 12, 2009

Situationist Contributor, Geoffrey Cohen spoke at the Second Project on Law and Mind Sciences (PLMS) Conference (in March of 2008).  His talk, titled “Identity, Belief, and Bias” summarized research exploring the way in which motivations to protect long-held beliefs and identities contribute to bias, resistance to probative information, and ideological intransigence.  You can watch Cohen’s outstanding presentation in the following videos (each roughly 9 minutes in length).

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of the Achievement Gap,” “The Project’s Second Conference – ‘Ideology, Psychology & Law’,” “Women’s Situational Bind,” and “The Implicit Value of Explicit Values.”

Posted in Ideology, Life, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Human Trafficking – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 12, 2009

Human TraffickingJonathan Todres has recently posted a fascinating article, titled “Law, Otherness, and Human Trafficking” (49 Santa Clara Law Review 605-672 (2009) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Despite concerted efforts to combat human trafficking, the trade in persons persists and, in fact, continues to grow. This article suggests that a central reason for the limited success in preventing human trafficking is the dominant conception of the problem, which forms the basis for law developed to combat human trafficking. Specifically, the author argues that “otherness” is a root cause of both inaction and the selective nature of responses to the abusive practice of human trafficking. Othering operates across multiple dimensions, including race, gender, ethnicity, class, caste, culture, and geography, to reinforce a conception of a virtuous “Self” and a devalued “Other.” This article exposes how this Self/Other dichotomy shapes the phenomenon of human trafficking, driving demand for trafficked persons, influencing perceptions of the problem, and constraining legal initiatives to end the abuse. By examining human trafficking through an otherness-aware framework, this article aims to elucidate a deeper understanding of human trafficking and offer a prescription for reducing the adverse effects of otherness on both efforts to combat human trafficking and the individuals that now suffer such abuses.

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You can download the article for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situational Effect of Groups,” The Situational Benefits of Outsiders,” Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” ‘Us’ and ‘Them,’” “Team-Interested Decision Making,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” and “March Madness.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Ideology, Morality, Public Policy, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Emily Pronin on the Situation of Bias

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 11, 2009

In March of 2008, at the Second Harvard Conference on Law and Mind Sciences, Situationist Contributor Emily Pronin presented her fascinating and important work in a talk titled “Implications of Personal and Social Claims and Denials of Bias.”  Below we have pasted the abstract and the four video segments of her presentation.

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People’s efforts to make accurate, fair, and sound judgments and decisions often are compromised by various cognitive and motivational biases. Although this is clearly a problem, the solution is less clear due to the fact that people generally deny, and often are literally unaware of, their own commissions of bias – even while they readily impute bias to those around them. I will discuss evidence for this asymmetry in bias perception and for the sources that underlie it, and I will discuss its relevance to three policy concerns – i.e., corruption, discrimination, and conflict. Finally, I will discuss solutions, with a focus on potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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To read a Situationist post containing a summary of Pronin’s work and some related links, see “The Situation of Biased Perceptions.”

Posted in Ideology, Legal Theory, Life, Naive Cynicism, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Biased Perceptions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 10, 2009

Pronin ImageEmily Aronson and Ushma Patel recently wrote a nice article (pasted below) about the important work of Situationist Contributor and psychology star Emily Pronin.

Pronin’s work takes on special significance this week in light debates about the Sotomayor nomination and this week’s Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., in which Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that “The judge inquires into reasons that seem to be leading to a particular result. . . . To bring coherence to the process, and to seek respect for the resulting judgment, judges often explain the reasons for their conclusions and rulings. There are instances when the introspection that often attends this process may reveal that what the judge had assumed to be a proper, controlling factor is not the real one at work. . . .”

At the Situationist, we take seriously the possibility that what Justice Kennedy suggests may sometimes occur generally does occur.

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For those who consider their judgments fair and their thoughts rational, social psychologist Emily Pronin offers this piece of cautionary research: Most people think they’re objective, but they’re not.

Take, for example, physicians who are accused of skewing their patient-care decisions in order to support drug companies that give them free gifts, or judges who are accused of decisions that reflect personal friendships or political ideology. Though these individuals’ biases may seem obvious to outsiders, those involved tend to claim objectivity, Pronin noted.

While some might doubt the sincerity of these individuals’ claims of objectivity, Pronin’s studies offer a different explanation for the discrepancy. She has found that individuals often recognize bias in other people but not in themselves. As her work has concluded, this “bias blind spot” is significant because it both prevents people from being objective, and also leads them to experience conflict with others, whether domestic strife between spouses or diplomatic discord between world leaders.

“This idea that basic psychological processes can have important social consequences really interests me,” said Pronin, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs who came to the University in 2003.

Pronin’s work contributes to a longstanding interest among her Princeton psychology colleagues in questions of psychological bias and social perception. While some of the faculty explore these questions by focusing on stereotypes or racial prejudice, Pronin looks broadly at humans’ unconscious partialities and how they influence decisions.

“Emily’s work is at the center of our department’s studies about human perception and decision-making,” said [Situationist Contributor] John Darley, the Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology and professor of psychology and public affairs. “What she has done is articulated individuals’ failure to see themselves as biased and solved the mystery for why this happens.”

In many studies, Pronin and collaborators have found that people tend to assume bias in others’ actions but are slow to acknowledge how bias shapes their own views. Even when participants are told of this phenomenon, most will still claim to be less partisan than their peers.

What causes this dichotomy? According to Pronin’s research, it is due to a basic aspect of cognition: People have access to their own thoughts and feelings, but not the thoughts and feelings of others. As a result, people tend to look inward to thoughts and feelings when judging their own bias, even while looking outward to actions for judging the bias of others. Because biases generally operate unconsciously, looking inward blinds people to their own biases, Pronin said.

“We know the thoughts, feelings and intentions behind our actions, and that knowledge can lead us to believe we are acting impartially. But because we don’t have access to this information in other people’s heads, we tend to assume they are biased when their actions look biased,” Pronin explained.

In a May 2008 study co-written with psychology graduate student Kathleen Kennedy, Pronin found that people in disagreements have a tendency to think the other person is biased. The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, measured the degree to which University students assumed bias in people expressing views on contentious issues. In one experiment, students read a mock interview with a college president about affirmative action, while in another they were presented with two fictitious students’ opinions about a proposed grading policy. Pronin and Kennedy observed that the more a student disagreed with a presented viewpoint, the more bias they imputed to the person expressing the opinion.

“You think your view is objectively justifiable, and you have factual reasons for why it is correct. But if someone disagrees with you, you think it’s because of their biases — their ideology or their emotions are preventing them from viewing things in a fair way,” Pronin said.

Further experimentation found that such biased perceptions often fuel arguments and conflict. This can have global consequences, Pronin said, citing as examples the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict and fighting political factions in Northern Ireland in the 1990s.

“Believing your adversaries are biased and that you are objective can lead groups to forgo negotiatory efforts in favor of more aggressive unilateral approaches,” Pronin said. “I find it fascinating that we could potentially trace ongoing world problems to something as simple and obvious as the fact that ‘I know my thoughts, but you do not.'”

Kennedy said working with Pronin has taught her how to “think like a scientist.”

“Emily has done really compelling work to help understand where the bias blind spot comes from and, together, we’ve explored the ways it can potentially impact everyday interactions without people realizing it,” said Kennedy, a fourth-year graduate student. “Among the many valuable lessons I’ve learned from her is perseverance — not to give up when things don’t quite go as expected — and this has helped me become a successful and productive researcher.”

Going forward, Pronin said she hopes to experiment with methods for overcoming the bias blind spot as a way to de-escalate disagreements.

Such work could help the master’s in public affairs students that Pronin co-teaches in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs course “Psychology for Policy Analysis and Implementation,” with Darley and other psychology faculty.

“The class translates what we know in psychology to what people need to know in order to be effective policymakers,” Pronin said. “Princeton is a real trailblazer in picking up on the importance of psychology for public leaders.”

Pronin said her joint appointment with the Woodrow Wilson School allows her to contribute to psychology’s connection to the broader intellectual community at Princeton.

“I always want to make sure my work has one eye turned toward the real world,” Pronin said.

This aim is seen in Pronin’s other research, including her recent studies on how fast thinking influences mood and may contribute to mental disorders such as mania and depression. Scientific American and ABC News have highlighted Pronin’s finding that people could improve their moods by undertaking activities that promote rapid thinking, such as completing crossword puzzles or brainstorming ideas.

Pronin first examined perceptions of bias as a graduate student at Stanford University, where she earned her Ph.D. in psychology in 2001. She extended her research to other topics, including effects of thought speed and perceptions of free will, while a psychology postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University from 2001 to 2003.

Her interest in the intersection of psychology and the public good dates to Pronin’s undergraduate days at Yale University, where she earned a B.A. in psychology in 1996. Pronin worked in the laboratory of psychology professor Peter Salovey — now Yale’s provost — who was using psychological principles to develop cancer prevention media campaigns, finding effective ways to encourage people to wear sunscreen or get regular mammograms.

“It’s the type of research that I am still interested in today: It made a real impact on people’s lives, and it was grounded in scientific evidence,” Pronin said.

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To read other Situationist posts by Emily Pronin or about her work, see “I’m Objective, You’re Biased,”  “Naive Cynicism – Abstract,” The Magic of Jonathan Papelbon’s ‘Knuckle Knock,’” “Red Sox Magic,” and “Think You’ve Got Magical Powers?

Tomorrow we will post a video of Emily Pronin’s 2008 talk about her work at Harvard Law School.

To read a sample of Situationist posts discussing sources of judicial decisions other than the reasons judges offer, see “The Situation of Judicial Activism,” Judicial Ideology – Abstract,” The Situation of Judicial Methods – Abstract,” “The Situation of Constitutional Beliefs – Abstract,” The Political Situation of Judicial Activism,” Ideology is Back!,” “The Situation of Judges (1),” The Situation of Judges (2),” Blinking on the Bench,” “The Situation of Judging – Part I,” “The Situation of Judging – Part II,” “Justice Thomas and the Conservative Hypocrisy,” The Situation of Reason,” and “A Convenient Fiction.”

Posted in Ideology, Law, Life, Politics, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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