Michael Perlin: Maybe They Brought in the Wrong Priest

Michael Perlin reflects on a case he took early on as a public defender that would forever shape his career in mental disability law.

Listen on iTunes!

Michael L. Perlin is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York Law School (NYLS), founding director of NYLS’s Online Mental Disability Law Program, and founding director of NYLS’s International Mental Disability Law Reform Project in its Justice Action Center.  He is also the co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates. He is also the co-author of Sexuality, Disability, and the Law (2016).

Caught Being Stupid

Wishing to show the humanity and complexity of the lives of people who turn to drugs and crime, criminologist Heith Copes embarks on a photo ethnography of methamphetamine use in rural Alabama. But what begins as a research project quickly becomes a life-altering lesson in the truth behind stereotypes, the importance of empathy, and the unparalleled power of human connection.

Listen to Heith recount his time spent on Sand Mountain and meet the individuals from his story, captured in the emotional photo series GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain by Jared Ragland.

Listen on iTunes!

Hover over each photo to view captions and click to enlarge. Additional photographs and expanded captions can be seen at jaredragland.com.​

All photos by Jared Ragland, from the series GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama, 2015-2016.

 

Col. Robert B. Lim: Keeping Your Eyes Open in the Storm

Col. Robert B. Lim  must perform surgery in the middle of a sandstorm in the Iraq War.

Listen on iTunes!

Robert B. Lim, MD is a General Surgeon on active duty in the United States Army. He specializes in Advanced Laparoscopic Surgery, which includes robotics, single-incision laparoscopic, and bariatric surgery. He is also the editor of Surgery During Natural Disasters, Combat, Terrorist Attacks, and Crisis Situations (2016).

Scientists, They’re Just Like Us

We asked The Story Collider’s Artistic Director, Erin Barker, to share her behind-the-scenes experience working with Springer Nature authors in preparation for our live storytelling events. Here Erin remarks on a single moment from Col. Robert Lim‘s story, explaining how personal stories have the power to humanize science in an unparalleled way. Stay tuned for Col. Lim’s story airing this Friday, February 17th! 

Written by Erin Barker

At the Story Collider’s “Surgeons” show with Springer Storytellers in DC last October, military surgeon Col. Rob Lim described standing at the border of Iraq in darkness before the initial invasion began in 2003, counting down, waiting for shock and awe. “We saw the planes go over, heard the artillery fire, it’s happening,” Lim said in his story. “I turned to one of my buddies and said, ‘How do we do our laundry?’”

Erin Barker, Artistic Director of The Story Collider

This, to me, is the perfect example of what makes the kind of true, personal stories The Story Collider and Springer Storytellers produce so special. We often hear about medicine and international conflict, but we don’t often hear about the everyday, human aspects of being a person embroiled in these things. We can learn countless facts and figures, but to really understand what it feels like to be a part of it, in the moment? You can’t find that anywhere other than a true, personal story from someone’s life. These stories allow us a temporary window into someone else’s heart and mind, into an experience that we may never have. They allow us to connect with someone we’ve never met. And building this connection between scientists and the public is becoming ever more important.

These stories allow us a temporary window into someone else’s heart and mind, into an experience that we may never have.

For example, Stanford psychologist Susan Fiske has found that the general public respects scientists, but doesn’t quite trust them. According to Fiske, there are two factors that influence our perceptions of strangers: competence — how knowledgeable and capable we seem; and warmth — whether we have our our audience’s best interests in mind. In order to be seen as trustworthy, and communicate effectively with the public, we need to be perceived as both competent and warm. And in fact, warmth matters a lot. In her 2006 paper “Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence,” Dr. Fiske tells us, “warmth is judged before competence, and warmth judgments carry more weight in affective and behavioral reactions.”

Unfortunately, when she conducted her study, asking her subjects to rate different professions and groups of people according to these qualities, scientists ranked high in competence but low in warmth.

I probably don’t need to tell you that scientists often focus on competence, and even deliberately tamp down perception of warmth to emphasize competence. It makes sense when you consider that, in many ways, scientists are trained to reduce their intrinsic warmth. It’s a natural instinct for a profession that, quite rightly, values objectivity. But when we focus on competence at the expense of warmth, we miss out on a valuable opportunity to connect with and inspire our audience.

So can scientists emphasize our warmth? According to Dr. Fiske, people trust people they think are like themselves — people who share their values and goals. And not only that, but they will go out of their way to support these folks. When we share stories that reveal our humanity, our imperfections, our vulnerabilities, our humor, we show our audience that we’re like them, and that we’re trustworthy.

When Col. Lim shared his story with our audience, he became something even more than a surgeon who has saved lives on and off the battlefield — he became a real, live human being. Someone we feel like we know, and want to root for. When I worked with Col. Lim on his story in the weeks leading up to the show, I encouraged him to include not only the kind of details that let the audience visualize the experience, but also those that let us in on his mindset. For example, the fact that he was unable to shower for eighteen days as they made the long, slow trip into Baghdad. Hearing his human reactions to these things makes us think, Scientists–they’re just like us.