Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jonah Lehrer’s Guide to Life

I recently discovered author Jonah Lehrer by reading his book Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Based on that book I recently bought his latest, How We Decide.

How We Decide looks at human decision-making, based on insights from current neuroscience research.

As a mediator and negotiator, I have long been interested about our decision-making process. Lehrer is a brilliant science writer looking at interesting scientific research, writing about it in an understandable way and connecting it to real life.

He recently spoke at Stonehill College about college education; something in which I have an interest as the parent of two college graduates and one college sophomore.

Lehrer’s perspective can be found on Metacognitive Guide to College from the Stonehill college web site:

"College isn't about learning new facts or filling your head with new thoughts. It's about learning how to think in the first place," said Jonah Lehrer to Stonehill students…

Lehrer told the students they will discover new ideas throughout their college experience. "These ideas will become the most important things anyone has ever told you. This is what makes college exciting." What's the dirty secret about these ideas though?" You will forget nearly all of them," said Lehrer, who believes the real value of a college education is learning how to think.

Made up of five strategies and tips for undergraduate students, his guide aims to make students successful thinkers.

#1 Be an Outsider

"Every semester take at least one class you know very little about...Force yourself to experiment with new ways of looking at the world."

#2 Learn to Relax

"I'm talking about a very specific kind of relaxation, which is useful when you're stuck on a really hard problem."

#3 Don't Push the Fat Man Off The Bridge

Using the popular hypothetical scenario first developed by Philippa Foot, the philosopher (Her obituary has a good explanation of this famous mind experiment). Lehrer said people should listen to their moral feelings.

#4 Make Friends with Lots of Different People

"This might seem pretty easy to most of you but it turns out to be really hard," said Lehrer. He described the self-similarity principle as a natural tendency to associate with people who are like themselves and avoid people who are not them.

#5 Don't Eat the Marshmallow

In the 1970s, Stanford psychology professor Walter Mischel conducted experiments with four-year-olds at a nursery school to explore delayed gratification. The children were told they could have two marshmallows if they could wait 15 minutes to eat them. If not, they would only be given the one marshmallow placed in front of them. Mischel's results were that only 20% of the children, unsurprisingly, waited the full 15 minutes. In examining video of the children as they waited, Mischel realized that the children who could wait were able to distract themselves.

Interesting stuff and useful advice to everyone, not just college students.

Friday, October 22, 2010

BASESwiki: A Dispute Resolution Community

For those of you familiar with Wikipedia, a new wiki web site, this one for the Dispute Resolution Community, is up and running. For those unfamiliar with wikis, a wiki is a collaborative Web site oriented to providing knowledge in some domain. Anyone can enter information, or change or comment on anyone else's contributions. Some wikis (such as BASESwiki) serve specific purposes in which cases material considered “off topic” is removed.

BASESwiki is an initiative sponsored by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, in cooperation with the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and with the support of the International Bar Association, the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman of the World Bank Group, the JAMS Foundation and the Open Society Institute.

BASISwiki was established to develop a self-sustaining online community where stakeholders can share information, analysis, and learning about business-to-society dispute resolution. It is built on wiki-style contributions from a virtual network of individuals, companies, organizations, and groups who share an interest in dispute resolution.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that non-judicial mechanisms provide a vital means to address grievances between companies and the communities or individuals they impact. Yet stakeholders from all sides report that the lack of readily available information about these mechanisms creates a fundamental barrier to accessing them and to understanding how to improve their performance.

BASESwiki seeks to address this gap by exploring different models for non-judicial mechanisms, stakeholders’ experiences of them, and what makes them more or less effective in practice. It is a forum where anyone can share, access and discuss information about non-judicial mechanisms and the resources available around the world to help resolve disputes. It is a resource for all stakeholders - companies, NGOs, mediators, lawyers, academics and government officials.

BASESwiki covers mechanisms based in companies, industry associations, multi-stakeholder initiatives, government agencies, national, multilateral and international institutions. It is now driven by a set of tools including:

  • a fully searchable database of Mechanisms, Resources, Case Stories, and Country Profiles
  • A seek assistance tool to connect users with experienced contributors; and
  • Social media integration (Discussion Boards, Event Calendar, User Profiles, Twitter, RSS)

For more information, visit the BASES website.

For inquiries, contact Kyle Stone, Project Leader at or +1 (617) 495-1446.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FTC Cracks Down on “Green Washing”

We’ve all seen product claims that something is “eco-friendly” or that contain environmental seals or certifications purporting to be an environmental “good housekeeping seal of approval.” According to the Ecolabel Index, (which is an organization with which I am unfamiliar, but which, according to their web site, is “the largest global database of ecolabels”) there are currently 349 seals and certifications for marketing green products worldwide, 88 of which are used in North America.

According to a recent study of the TerraChoice Group, now part of the Underwriters Laboratories (a familiar and I believe reliable source), there has been a large increase in green advertising in magazines since the 1990s and a proliferation of eco-labeling. This has become very confusing.

The Federal Trade Commission has finally stepped in and revised their “Green Guides,” from the 1998 version. The rules require much more specific information about supposed environmental benefits and require more disclosure about certifications and seals of approval, among other changes.

Here is a link to the proposed revisions to the Green Guides. If you are so inclined, here is the link to file a comment on the proposed rule. All comments must be received by December 10, 2010.

Presumably, this will help put better and clearer information in the marketplace. Always useful to have good information.

If anyone wishes to post comments on the draft rule, feel free to share them here so we can all see and perhaps add our comments to yours.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lie to Me?!

Sometimes I wish I could just attend courses all day. Am I strange to really like CLE and other professional education courses?

Here is a really interesting seminar sponsored by the UC Hastings College of Law Center for Negotiation & Dispute Resolution:

lie to me?! how emotions matter in negotiation

Scheduled for Friday, October 22 from 8.30 AM to 5:00 PM (Pacific Time). This looks very worthwhile. Here is how you can sign up to register for the online version (assuming you aren’t in San Francisco, in which case you should definitely try to attend).

Hastings describes the course this way:

    Featuring renowned scientist Paul Ekman, inspiration for Fox TV’s Lie to Me, and other leading scientists and negotiation experts from law, business, and public service, this live symposium explores several related topics around the hub of emotion and negotiation. Leading scholars will address what we know about the way emotion affects negotiation, how we can better manage emotion, and finally, where does attention and management of emotion take us. Is it a tool for greater cooperation? Ethics? Does it keep us from being duped? Better outcomes for society and for ourselves?

Here are some highlights from the Symposium Schedule:


Dean and Chancellor Frank Wu

From Papua New Guinea to Lie to Me to Compassion and the Dalai Lama:

Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Francisco Medical School, scientific advisor to Fox TV’s Lie to Me, and author of the book Telling Lies, interviewed by Clark Freshman.

The Science of Emotion and Dispute Resolution: Connections and Perspectives:

Peter Carnevale, Professor, University of Southern California School of Business, will discuss the history of research on emotion and negotiation from years of simulated negotiations—and the newest technology of studying negotiation with computer-generated images.

Michael Wheeler, Harvard Business School Professor, will share his research on psychoanalytic perspectives on negotiation from interviews with people and their images of negotiation.

The Science of Working with Emotion: Mindfulness and Other Types of Meditation:

Shauna Shapiro, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, Santa Clara University, and co-author of a recent American Psychology Association book The Art and Science of Mindfulness, will discuss scientific studies of mindfulness meditation.

Erika Rosenberg, Scientific Consultant, Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, and advisor to the Stanford Compassion Project, will discuss research on meditative and contemplative techniques studied in the Shamatha Project, a controlled intervention trial of the cognitive, emotional, and neurophysiological effects of sustained meditation.

Cliff Saron, Associate Research Scientist, University of California, Davis, will discuss other findings of the Shamatha Project, including the effects on the ability to pay attention.

Choices and Consequences of Working with Emotion: Compassion, Lie Detection, and Deal Making:

Charlie Halpern, former Dean of CUNY Law School and author of Making Waves and Riding the Currents: Activism and the Practice of Wisdom, will explore using mindfulness to cultivate inner wisdom and foster mindful social activism. (Video on Meditation and the Practice of Law)

Clark Freshman, Professor of Law, Hastings College of the Law, will discuss how emotion and lie detection may lead sometimes to greater compassion, sometimes to better deals, and sometimes to exploitation.

Jason Meek, Adjunct Professor of Law, Hastings College of Law, will discuss how emotion and contemplative practices affect his teaching and work as a lawyer and advisor to businesses.

Madeleine Bernhardt, Adjunct Professor, Berlin School of Economics and Law, will provide an international perspective to how the science of emotion can be applied in courts, arbitrations, and court

Frank Wu, the recently appointed Dean of Hastings is a very distinguished scholar and author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. He was previously Dean of my alma matter, Wayne State University Law School and is a very good guy.

And by the way, has anyone seen Lie to Me yet? I have not. Is it any good?

I guess now that I’ve seen who inspired the series I’ll have to make a point of seeing it. Thank goodness for TiVo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ADR and the Rule of Law

Is there a tension between various forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Rule of Law? Many argue there is. Critics suggest that ADR represents the privatization of dispute resolution to the detriment of society because public litigation allows for the refinement and development of the law and published decisions are necessary to define and protect individual rights.

Others argue that ADR weakens the less powerful members of society (See, e.g., Harry T. Edwards, Commentary, Alternative Dispute Resolution: Panacea or Anathema?, 99 Harv. L. REV. 668, 675–82 (1986); Owen M. Fiss, Commentary, Against Settlement, 93 Yale L.J. 1073, 1075 (1984); David Luban, Settlements and the Erosion of the Public Realm, 83 Geo. L.J. 2619, 2622–23 (1995); Trina Grillo, The Mediation Alternative: Process Dangers for Women, 100 Yale L.J. 1545 (1991)). I think those views have lost the argument. Clearly, we are not without written decisions by the courts at all levels, produced through the most vigorous use of litigation.

The University of Missouri Center for the Study of Conflict, Law and the Media, along with the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution is sponsoring a Symposium that will take a close look at the supposed tension between the Rule of Law and ADR.

Scheduled for October 15 at the University of Missouri School of Law, the Symposium claims to be the “first-ever convening of scholars and practitioners from across the globe to consider this relationship more deeply.”

It looks very interesting. Wish I could attend.

If anyone attends and has any comments or responses, please let me know or post your comments here.