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.

Voting in 2013

In my January 2013 blogs, I wrote about how thousands of voters were still standing on line to vote as President Obama began his early morning acceptance speech and that many ballots were still being counted after Thanksgiving. In 2013, some state legislators are trying to make it easier to vote and shorten the long lines of citizens trying to vote. However, others legislators are promoting more restrictive voting bills. In fact, since the beginning of the year, restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 31 states.

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4.21.2013
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Let's Fix Our Election System

In my last blog I wrote about Florida voters who were still standing on line to vote as President Obama began his early morning acceptance speech and about Ohio ballots that were still being counted after Thanksgiving. With the President’s margin of victory sufficiently large in enough states, these issues did not require the attention of the Supreme Court. But prior to Election Day, state and federal courts were ruling on cases involving state laws that contributed directly to the voting hardships and delays in vote outcomes.

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1.14.2013
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The 2012 Election: Was Democracy Upheld?

When President Barack Obama began his victory speech at 1:40 AM ET Wednesday November 7th, there were people in Florida still standing on line to vote. Many thousands of others had waited hours to vote across the country. For weeks after the election, teams of Democrats and Republicans on Ohio county election boards decided which of 200,000 provisional ballots should be accepted. After Thanksgiving, they were still counting votes in Ohio. Our election system needs some fixing.

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1.6.2013
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Early-Voting Laws Contested

As of September 23rd, voters in 25 states will be able to vote before the November 6 election. By the end of the month, early voting will be possible in 30 states. However, in some states last minute partisan legal battles are raging about when and how early voting can occur. These cases are only a subset of over a dozen state and federal cases recently decided and appealed concerning voter identification requirements, early voting, and provisional ballots.

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9.24.2012
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Voter Suppression v. Voter Fraud

Last minute partisan legal battles are raging about when and how ballots should be cast and counted. One battle-ground state’s case is headed for a request for emergency review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Sound familiar? These cases are being fought in 2012, not 2000. In the last few weeks there have been over a dozen state and federal cases decided concerning voter identification requirements, early voting, and provisional ballots. Many of the cases have been appealed.It is unlikely that all of the cases will be settled before November 6 and there is a real possibility that tight races maynot be decided until after election day.

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9.18.2012
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Compassion Training a Promising Prevention Strategy for At-Risk Adolescents

Children in foster care experience higher rates of adverse life experiences than do children in the general population, resulting in a host of psychological and social problems that extend well beyond their years in foster care. Studies have shown that children in foster care have higher rates of chronic illness and developmental disability, and one recent study found that children in foster care report lifetime rates of post-traumatic stress disorder similar to that of US war veterans. Those foster children who meditated more had the greatest reductions in inflammation. Meditation appears to be an acceptable intervention for foster children with the potential to improve interpersonal functioning and perhaps to reduce the long-term biological consequences of chronic stress. The emphasis of compassion meditation on striving for interpersonal harmony appears to be particularly salient for this population.

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7.19.2012
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Can Meditation Help High-risk Populations Like Adolescents in Foster Care?

Compassion meditation may positively impact inflammatory measures relevant to health in adolescents at high risk for poor adult functioning. In my next blog, I will present results for the study’s psychosocial outcomes such as measures of anxiety and depression.While much attention has been paid to meditation practices that emphasize calming the mind, improving focused attention, or developing mindfulness, less is known about meditation practices that foster compassion. One of my research teams, however, has been investigating whether compassion meditation can affect our immune and behavioral responses to stress. We just learned that the results of our study of compassion meditation with foster care program adolescents will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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7.12.2012
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New Reports of Flawed Forensic Evidence

There have been 289 people proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in this country and that eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in nearly 75% of these exonerations, making it the leading cause of the wrongful convictions. The second greatest contributor to wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing is faulty forensic science. DOJ only made the findings available to prosecutors in the affected cases. And prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew had flawed evidence.

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4.23.2012
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Is Eyewitness Memory Common Sense?

Since my blog a year ago, "Why Do So Many Eyewitnesses Get It Wrong?", there have been 29 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the U.S. That brings the total to 289 people proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in this country. The true perpetrators have been identified in 139 (48%) of these DNA exoneration cases. Eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in nearly 75% of these exonerations, making it the leading cause of the wrongful convictions.

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4.16.2012
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Help for Audited Medicare Providers

CMS contractors audit providers of Medicare services on a contingency-fee basis to find improper overpayments. With intense pressure to investigate fraud, and audit contractors incentivized with contingency fees to find improper overpayments, the audit system itself is ripe for error and abuse. Statistical analysts at Research Design Associates have expertise in challenging the sampling and extrapolation process. Often working with law firms representing providers in Medicare overpayment disputes, we investigate every phase of the process. Errors in sampling design and/or statistical analysis can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of incorrect extrapolated overpayments. It is worthwhile considering a challenge to audit statistical methodology since a successful challenge could nullify the extrapolation.

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1.16.2012
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