In previous blogs, I have discussed the importance of "small talk" as a way to not only get to know people but to build rapport and trust. A key to helping parties settle their dispute is having a relationship with them and that relationship depends on trust. A party is NOT going to pay attention to someone she does not trust. And this includes the mediator!
I had an interesting mediation the other day. I say "interesting" as I am not sure what other adjective to use.
A recent online article by Richard Farrell on discovery.com reviews a study revealing that man's best friend may not always be as happy as we think. In "Bowl Half Empty: Dogs Can Be Pessimists", Mr. Farrell reviews a study that tested the "judgment bias" of dogs. As the study explains, this specific form of cognitive bias, "....refers to how animals interpret ambiguous signals and whether they expect more positive or negative outcomes. " (Study at p.1.).
Once again, the New York Times has published an interesting article in its Sunday Review section on September 5, 2014 entitled "Liking Work Really Matters" by Paul A. O'Keefe. The thesis is that when we really enjoy what we are doing, we can do it for much longer than if we find it to be tedious. Our mental gas tank is nowhere as depleted when we are in the "in the zone" or in "flow": "During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused; they lose themselves in the activity." (Id.)
Earlier this year, I posted a blog about a U. S. District Court case, Craig Milhouse and Pamela Milhouse v. Travelers Commercial Insurance Company (Case No. SACV-10-01730-CJC (ANx), C.D. Cal.), in which the court held that a "due process" exception applies to mediation confidentiality. Plaintiffs sued defendant for insurance bad faith. During trial, defendant sought to and was allowed to introduce statements made during mediation to defend itself against such claims. The trial court allowed in such evidence, finding that due process required that the defendant be allowed to present its defense.
Once again, The Economist has reported on an interesting study concerning artificial intelligence and psychology. In its August 16, 2014 edition, the authors of "The Computer will see you now" discuss a study in which the participants chatted with an avatar. More specifically, Jonathan Gratch at the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles, California led researchers in an experiment to determine if people, when asked the tough or potentially embarrassing questions, will be more forthcoming if responding to an avatar. They found the answer to be "yes".
In their book, The Invisible Gorilla, (Harmony 2010) Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris discuss the notion of Inattentional Blindness or how when we are looking at a scene, we may become so focused on one particular aspect of what we are viewing that we miss the other objects or stimuli that are in plain sight. "Inattentional Blindness occurs where attention to one thing causes us to miss what to others may seem to be blindingly obvious. We have a limited ability to focus and attention in one area can distract us from another area." (http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/inattentional_blindness.htm )
In the last few weeks, I have published blogs about the way we think. That is, while we use System 1 throughout most of the day, it is intuitive, lazy, and emotional and does not always lead us down the correct path. In contrast, our System 2 is analytical, deliberate, slow, effortful and rational. It takes effort to use it, uses up energy, and being the lazy souls that we are, we tend to default to System 1 thinking as much as possible.
Once again, another study has connected sleep deprivation with cognitive function. And, it provides some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that if a party witnesses an event while sleep deprived, and then is asked later to recall the event while still sleep deprived, she will recall it inaccurately; that is, she will have a false memory of it. However, the good news is that if she witnesses an event while sleep deprived but is allowed to get some sleep so that the event can be encoded in her brain, and then is asked to recall what she saw, her memory will be more accurate.