The RDA Blog of Steve Cole

Steve Cole

According to my high school yearbook, I was going to be an MD. But by the time I finished pre-medicine and a major in psychology at the University of Virginia, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So, after I graduated, I worked in a hospital doing diagnostic cardiology and neurology during the day, and got an MA in developmental psychology at Columbia University at night. I then knew I wanted to be a research scientist in order to explore the relations between mind and body. And Emory University’s doctoral program in human experimental psychology provided that training.

At Emory, I focused on research design and statistics, and perception and memory. As a graduate student, I began applying that expertise to issues in medicine, law and other social sciences such as the reliability of eyewitness identification and statistical models for prediction of survival of horses with colic. Yet there was a bonus to earning a Ph.D. at Emory: I met another research psychologist and we founded RDA in 1982. Nearly 30 years later, we and our associates continue to provide research expertise to business, legal, medical, and other social scientific communities. In 1994, I moved to small horse farm and opened our New York office. I have remained active in Emory’s research community and currently am Adjunct Professor of Psychology. I continue to explore mind-body issues and have just begun an NIH-funded 5-year study of the effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, immune, and behavioral responses to psychological stress. For my own mind and body, I work an organic garden, ride an Icelandic horse, drive a 1959 Ford tractor, and care for 13 alpacas.

Reforming Eyewitness Identification

Since my last blog on eyewitness identification 3 years ago, there have been 40 new post-conviction DNA exonerations in the U.S.  That brings the total to 329 people proven innocent by DNA in this country.The Innocence Project reports that the true perpetrators have been identified in 140 (43%) of these DNA exoneration cases.

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3.29.2015
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Remembering Selma

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, and of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. And this year marks the 27th anniversary of Research Design Associates’ (RDA) first voting rights case. RDA’s voting experts are working on an Alabama redistricting case now. A half-century after Bloody Sunday, the fight for the right to vote continues.

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3.8.2015
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Battles Over Ballot Access

For the first time in many years, voters across the country are going to find it more difficult to vote in the November midterm elections. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, voters in 22 states will face tougher rules than they did in the 2010 midterm elections. In 15 of those states, the upcoming midterm elections will be the first major election in which voter restrictions are in place.The relationship between tougher restrictions and political party is startling.

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10.3.2014
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Battles Over Voting Laws Escalate

While the Presidential Commission on Election Administration has made recommendations to improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress recently introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, legislators in pivotal swing states have put in place rules and laws that restrict registration and voting. In a striking new tact, though, a federal judge this past week struck down Wisconsin’s law requiring voters to produce state-approved identification cards at polling places invoking a new legal basis: the Voting Rights Act.

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4.29.2014
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Voting in 2014

In his January 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced two bipartisan efforts to modernize elections. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration presented Obama with recommendations designed to improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress introduced a bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. In contrast to these efforts to expand voting access, laws and rules in pivotal swing states have been put in place that restrict registration and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused intense partisan battles.

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4.20.2014
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Tibetan Ancient Wisdom Challenges Modern Science

As part of his October visit to Atlanta as an Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama participated in a panel discussion of research scientists who presented results of their studies exploring the effects of meditation on physical and mental health. Through the perspectives of evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and educational research, a compelling rationale for the integration of modern science and Buddhist tradition emerged. A summary of the research presented follows including some of the work of one of my Emory research teams.

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12.22.2013
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Quantum Theory Meets the Karmic Cycle

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama recently completed his third visit to Atlanta as an Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor. The Dali Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, participated in events in October on the Emory campus and at the Gwinnett County Center that explored collaborations that draw from the best of Tibetan and Western traditions through science, religion, and mind/body medicine. At the turn of the century, the Dalai Lama challenged Western researchers to scientifically study contemplative traditions and since then Emory has been a leader in developing programs that draw on the strengths of Tibetan and Western traditions.

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12.15.2013
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U.S. Opens New Voting Rights Front

This country has made significant gains in voting rights since that time due in a large part to the landmark Voting Rights Act. In June, though, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the coverage formula of Section 5 of the Act ruling that Congress had not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out states for federal oversight. Section 5 of the Act required jurisdictions with significant histories of voter discrimination to “pre-clear,” that is, get federal approval from the Department of Justice (DOJ), for any new voting practices or procedures, and to show that they do not have a discriminatory effect. Within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision, some Southern states began putting in effect voting changes that had been blocked by DOJ and federal courts such as strict voter ID laws and reduction of opportunities for early voting. DOJ had blocked these proposed changes on the grounds that they would disproportionately affect the elderly, and black and Hispanic voters. However, even though DOJ has been deprived of Section 5 by the Supreme Court, it is using the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act to subject states to preclearance.

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8.12.2013
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Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part of Voting Rights Act

The U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling on the voting rights case Shelby County v. Holder came down on June 25th. A divided court invalidated the coverage formula of Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 ruling that
Congress had not taken into account the nation’s racial progress when singling out states for federal oversight. Importantly, though, the 5-4 decision did not strike down Section 5 itself, leaving it to Congress to devise a new coverage formula

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8.4.2013
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Supreme Court Considers the Fate of Section 5

Alabama is trying to end review of their election law changes by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Shelby County v. Holder considering the fate of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which requires federal approval of election law changes in nine southern states and jurisdictions in seven other states with a history of racial discrimination. Lawyers for Shelby County argued that Section 5 is no longer constitutionally justified by current conditions in Alabama. Alabama’s recent history alone should be proof that Section 5 should not be struck down.

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4.28.2013
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