Friday, December 30, 2011

The Economics of Well-Being - Harvard Business Review

The Economics of Well-Being - Harvard Business Review

Your Use of Pronouns Reveals Your Personality - Harvard Business Review

Your Use of Pronouns Reveals Your Personality - Harvard Business Review

Trauma Boosts Toughness

Have you ever heard the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” 

New research done by Mark Seery and colleagues at the University of Buffalo has found that there may actually be some truth in it.  

Some horrible experiences, such as being assaulted, can cause psychological damage, but less drastic life challenges can help you develop psychological resilience.  

People that have gone through negative life events also have the highest level of mental toughness.  

These people who have been through difficult experiences have had an opportunity to develop their ability to cope and to learn how to get help from family and friends when they need it, Seery said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interesting Article Predicting Case Value

When predicting potential jury verdicts, trial attorneys often seek second opinions from other attorneys. But how much weight do they give to these opinions, and how optimally do they use them? In a four-round estimation task developed by Liberman et al. (under review), pairs of law students and pairs of experienced trial attorneys estimated actual jury verdicts. When participants were given access to a partner's estimates, participants' accuracy improved in both groups. However, participants in both groups underweighted their partners' estimates relative to their own, with experienced attorneys giving less weight to their partners' opinions than did law students. In doing so, participants failed to reap the full benefits of statistical aggregation. In both groups, requiring partners to reach agreement on a joint estimate improved accuracy. This benefit was then largely retained when participants gave final individual estimates. In a further analysis, we randomly sampled estimates of various-sized groups. The accuracy of mean estimates substantially increased as group size increased, with the largest relative benefit coming from the first additional estimate. We discuss the implications of these findings for the legal profession and for the study of individual versus collective estimation.

What's an Apology Worth? Decomposing the Effect of Apologies on Medical Malpractice Payments Using State Apology Laws

Benjamin Ho 

Vassar College

Elaine Liu 

University of Houston

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 179-199, 2011 

Past studies find that apologies affect the outcomes of medical malpractice litigation, but such studies have largely been limited to laboratory surveys or case studies. Following Ho and Liu (2010), we use the passage of state‐level apology laws that exclude apologies from being used as evidence in medical malpractice cases, and estimate that apologizing to a patient in cases of medical malpractice litigation reduces the average payout by $32,000. This article seeks to unpack the mechanism of apologies by examining the differential impact of apologies laws by various subsamples. We find that apologies are most valuable for cases involving obstetrics and anesthesia, for cases involving infants, and for cases involving improper management by the physician and failures to diagnose.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Learning from our failures it seems is a better teacher than paying attention solely to our successes!

Neural Correlates of Effective Learning in Experienced Medical Decision-Makers

Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto and Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2 Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Hospital, Duarte, California, United States of America, 3 Human Neuroimaging Laboratory, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Department of Physics, Virginia Tech, Roanoke, Virginia, United States of America, 4 The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom

Jonathan Downar1#, Meghana Bhatt2#, P. Read Montague3,4*

Abstract Top

Accurate associative learning is often hindered by confirmation bias and success-chasing, which together can conspire to produce or solidify false beliefs in the decision-maker. We performed functional magnetic resonance imaging in 35 experienced physicians, while they learned to choose between two treatments in a series of virtual patient encounters. We estimated a learning model for each subject based on their observed behavior and this model divided clearly into high performers and low performers. The high performers showed small, but equal learning rates for both successes (positive outcomes) and failures (no response to the drug). In contrast, low performers showed very large and asymmetric learning rates, learning significantly more from successes than failures; a tendency that led to sub-optimal treatment choices. Consistently with these behavioral findings, high performers showed larger, more sustained BOLD responses to failed vs. successful outcomes in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and inferior parietal lobule while low performers displayed the opposite response profile. Furthermore, participants' learning asymmetry correlated with anticipatory activation in the nucleus accumbens at trial onset, well before outcome presentation. Subjects with anticipatory activation in the nucleus accumbens showed more success-chasing during learning. These results suggest that high performers' brains achieve better outcomes by attending to informative failures during training, rather than chasing the reward value of successes. The differential brain activations between high and low performers could potentially be developed into biomarkers to identify efficient learners on novel decision tasks, in medical or other contexts.

Is Judicial Decision-Making Unbiased?

Judges are expected to be unbiased and impartial.Research has shown that judges are as much prone to the same biases in decision making as the rest of us. The recent article, Real, Daniel L. and Irwin, John F., Unconscious Influences on Judicial Decision-Making: The Illusion of Objectivity (October 23, 2010). McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 43, 2010 is worth reading.

Another excellent article on the subject is Jeffrey J. Rachlinski et al., Does Unconscious Racial Bias Affect Trial Judges?, 84 NOTRE DAME L. REV. 1195, 1221 (2009).

If you have an interest in learning how you can use psychological science to your advantage in your case, please contact David A. Wenner, 602.224.0005 or 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hypothetical Questions: Are they Innocent?

Hypothetical questions are everywhere. "Would you vote for so-and-so if they hired illegal immigrants, or raised taxes?" For the most part, we rarely give these questions much thought. But are they as innocent as they seem?

Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, believes that something considered innocent may very well have a big impact on an individual.

He and his colleagues say that hypothetical questions can sway opinion and even affect behavior.

In 2001, Shiv and his colleague Gavan Fitzsimons performed an experiment which looked at voting behavior. It was found that those types of questions used in push polls decreased the percentage of participants voting for the targeting candidate.

"For example, in one experiment, the researchers gave a pretrial jury selection questionnaire to a group of actual prospective jurors. They asked some of them, hypothetically, how finding out that the defendant was a gang member would affect their impartiality in the trial. Even though the questionnaire explicitly told participants not to use the questions to draw conclusions about the case, participants who saw this question ended up giving more guilty verdicts and meting out harsher sentences, at least on paper, than did participants who hadn't been exposed to the hypothetical."

It seems like we are easily affected by innocuous-looking tactics.

Citation: "Nonconscious and contaminative effects of hypothetical questions on subsequent decision making," G.J. Fitzsimons and B. Shiv, Journal of Consumer Research, 28, 224–238, 2001.

If you have an interest in learning how you can use psychological science to your advantage in your case, please contact David A. Wenner, 602.224.0005 or

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Using framing to your advantage

It's Not All About Me: Motivating Hand Hygiene Among Health Care Professionals by Focusing on Patients

Psychologists Adam M. Grant and David A. Hofmann recently did experiments in a hospital to understand the effectiveness of signs that promote hand hygiene.

In the field experiments, there were interesting findings when it came down to the comparisons of different hand hygiene signs located near dispensaries, which either promoted the idea of “hand hygiene prevents you from catching diseases,” or “hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.”

At the Vienna General Hospital in 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis required health care officials to wash their hands, and the affects were dramatic. Death rates due to childbed fever decreased from 18.3% to 1.3%. After extensive research, it has since been found that hand hygiene plays an extremely important role in preventing the spread of diseases and infections.

In the study performed by Adam and Hofmann, the percentage of soap and hand-sanitizing gel were measured during 2-week periods before and after the signs were introduced.

Here are the results:

Personal consequence: 35% pre-experiment, 33% post-experiment

Patient consequences: 37% pre-experiment, 54% post-experiment

It was discovered that when it came to someone else’s life at stake when dealing with the potential spread of diseases, health care officials had better hand hygiene. But when it came to being reminded that washing hands prevents themselves from catching diseases, they didn’t seem to think twice about it.

Thinking about the patient is crucially important, and in the long run can help both health care officials and patients stay away from infectious diseases.

Cite: Psychological Science

If you have an interest in learning how you can use psychological science to your advantage in your case, please contact David A. Wenner, 602.224.0005 or

Monday, November 14, 2011

Case Plus Helps at Every Stage of Your Case

November 30, 2011 - December 3, 2011
Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel
Nashville, TN

Focus groups are invaluable tools for exploring key issues in your case before taking it into the courtroom. Register for Case Plus: The Next Step in Developing and Testing Your Trial Story to benefit from not one, but three focus groups—now with extended focus group time spent on your case. And you can bring a second member of your trial team from your firm at no additional cost.

Case Plus Helps at Every Stage of Your Case
• Explore the biases and beliefs surrounding your case in order to develop a
discovery plan and case themes
• Determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case in order to develop
your trial strategy
• Get feedback on your trial story
• Find the trouble spots in your trial story before you go to trial

Open Only to AAJ Plaintiff Members (Regular, Life, Sustaining, President’s Club, and Leaders Forum) and AAJ’s Paralegal Affiliates.

Weekend with the Stars: Evolution of Trial Advocacy,

December 9, 2011 - December 10, 2011
Hilton New York Hotel
New York, NY

At AAJ Education’s seminar, Weekend with the Stars: Evolution of Trial Advocacy, you’ll hear some of the nation’s preeminent trial lawyers discuss how litigation has evolved and their responses to those changes. This program gathers the who’s who of trial advocacy in one place, for you to learn from and meet.

Your Takeaways: State of the art strategies and practical ideas you can use right away.

Featuring: Gerry Spence

Widely recognized as one of the greatest trial lawyers of all time, Mr. Spence has spent his lifetime representing the poor and the injured. He has never lost a criminal case either as a prosecutor or a defense attorney. He has not lost a civil case since 1969. Mr. Spence has won more multi-million dollar verdicts without an intervening loss than any lawyer in America.

Weekend with the Stars: Evolution of Trial Advocacy offers an introspective view of several popular advocacy theories and if—and how—they should be applied to your cases. We’ll examine topics such as:

• Voir Dire
The Reptile: The First 2 1/2 Years
• Choice Theory
• Jury Relations
• Psychodrama in the Courtroom



Neurolaw: Differential brain activity for Black and White faces predicts damage awards in hypothetical employment discrimination cases


Currently, potential jurors' racial biases are measured by explicit questioning––a poor measure because people often hide their views to adhere to social norms, and people have implicit views they are not consciously aware of. In this experiment, we investigated whether two alternative methods of measuring racial bias––a standard Black/White, good/bad Implicit Association Test (IAT) and neural activity, measured by fMRI, in response to seeing faces of Black and White individuals––could predict how much money subjects would award Black victims in hypothetical employment discrimination cases. IAT scores failed to predict how much money subjects awarded victims. However, in right inferior parietal lobule (BA 40) and in right superior/middle frontal gyrus (BA 9/10)––which have both previously been implicated in measuring biases and implicit preferences––the difference in neural activity between when subjects viewed Black faces paired with neutral adjectives and when subjects viewed White faces paired with neutral adjectives was positively correlated with the amount of money the subjects awarded victims. This suggests that brain activity measures racial bias with more practical validity, at least in this situation and with our sample size, than a common behavioral measure (the IAT).