Monthly Archives: July 2009

Divorce hurts health even after remarriage

man woman hands holding broken heartLove is a miracle and happy romantic relationships might be the best gift for most people in the world. In fairy story, marriage is always the ultimate happy ending of romantic relationship. In reality, about 2.4 million American couples marry each year; during the same time period, half or more of these marriages fail as the result of the departure or death of a partner, most often during the second to sixth years of marriage (US census bureau, 2005). What happens when the sweet dream of marriage falls into pieces?

A new study shows that divorce or losing a spouse to death can exact an immediate and long-lasting toll on mental and physical gains, even after remarriage. Romantic relationships don’t end easily because they involve the investment of one’s time and feelings, the exchange of powerful rewards, and commitment. However, once the romantic relationships end up, people will experience not only the loss of caring, affective support, intimacy, and companionate love, but also extremely stressful and miserable feeling of pain, loneliness, helplessness and hopelessness. Besides, people ignore their health; they’re less likely to go to the doctor; they’re less likely to exercise; they’re sleeping poorly. Remarriage helps people get back on a healthy trajectory, but it puts people back on a healthy trajectory from a lower point, because they didn’t take care of themselves for a long time! Divorce operates like a traumatic event in one’s life; it damages not only your romantic relationship, but also your health.

Speed-DatingMSNBC news: Divorce hurts health even after remarriage

Speed-DatingP. F. Moffitt, N. D. Spence, & R. D. Goldney. (2006). Mental health in marriage: The roles of need for affiliation, sensitivity to rejection, and other factors

Speed-DatingA. Mastekaasa (2006). Is marriage/cohabitation beneficial for young people?

Dating in the Dark: A Love Reaction?

727px-1805-courtship-caricatureA new reality series is trying to answer a question that has plagued social psychologists for decades: Do looks matter in love? Dating in the Dark, which puts a unique twist on dating that only a reality program could, features single men and women who are brought together in a dark room to date. At the end of the episode, the couples are finally allowed to see each other in the light of day and decide whether they wish to pursue a relationship.

From an empirical standpoint, both men and women report that physical attractiveness is important in a romantic partner, though men seem to value it more. However, recent research indicates that while sex differences may exist for perceived importance of physical attractiveness, people might actually overestimate its impact. Finkel and Eastwick (2008) have found that men and women are equal in the degree to which physical attractiveness influences romantic interest in speed-dating. Moreover, for both men and women, people who reported physical attractiveness as important were no more likely than others to pursue relationships with individuals they rated as attractive.

While Dating in the Dark falls well short of an empirical test for understanding the importance of physical attractiveness, it nonetheless provides an entertaining way for us to observe the extent to which it affects human behavior. The show airs Monday nights on ABC.

Dating in the Dark Dating in the Dark

Speed-Dating Speed-Dating (Finkel & Eastwick, 2008)

Ageing, beauty and women’s bodies

696px-Anti-aging_creamThe recent article in the Daily Mail newspaper ‘No longer the bees’ knees: Should any woman show her legs after 40?’ tells us much about the social expectations of feminine identities. In Western societies femininity is presented, in various media discourses (e.g. film, newspapers), in opposition to hegemonic masculine identities. Although media discourses constitute ‘ideal’ femininities, many women act upon and determine their own individual identities in relation to them. ‘Ideal’ femininity typically encompasses aspects of beauty, slenderness and stylishness, which are commonly linked to the youthful body. The individual can attempt to gain or maintain those aspects of femininity by consuming a myriad of anti-ageing and grooming products, cosmetics and various diet and exercise programmes. As social psychologists, understanding the pressure to conform these discourses exert on the individual, helps us understand the growth of more extreme forms of body maintenance such as eating disorders and cosmetic surgery.

square-eye Daily Mail ‘No longer the bees’ knees: Should any woman show her legs after 40?

square-eye Body talk: Questioning the assumptions in cognitive age

square-eye Body weight preoccupation in middle-age and ageing women: A general population survey

Forgive and forget?

Chris Brown

Conflict is a part of any human relationship, which unfortunately can lead to physical or even psychological aggression. Transgressors will often later seek forgiveness in order to maintain the relationship in question or to repair their image to friends, co-workers, and in the case of celebrities, fans.  What factors influence a victim’s (as well as outsider’s) willingness to forgive?

R&B singer Chris Brown plead guilty to a felony assault charge for an episode of domestic violence involving his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, on February 8, 2009. Just a few days ago Brown released an apology to fans and Rihanna conceding “deepest regret” and shame for the incident, calling it inexcusable, and expressing his desire to become a role model once again.

Research has shown that differences in one’s willingness to forgive depend on the type of aggressive act concerned. When aggression was physical (relative to psychological) more weight was given to the intention of the aggressor to harm than to an apology (Gauché & Mullet, 2004).  It could also be important to consider whether Brown’s public apology was sincere. Or was it driven by career ambitions and a desire to fall back into public favor. This distinction may make all of the difference in whether he receives the forgiveness he seeks from his fans and more importantly his victim.

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Chris Brown Domestic Abuse Incident

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Chris Brown’s Apology

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Forgiveness for Physical vs. Psychological Aggression

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‘Thinking outside the Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’

Ich bin Brüno!Brüno, the latest work by British comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen, has just achieved the highest-grossing opening weekend for an 18-certificate (i.e. adult-rated) film in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

This ‘mockumentary’ revolves around the reactions of various celebrities and members of the public to Baron-Cohen’s portrayal of the eponymous flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista. Since those involved believed they were dealing with a genuine rather than fictional character, their responses to his outrageously exaggerated portrayal of stereotypical homosexuality provide a satirical comment on the prejudice and hypocrisy present within a supposedly enlightened modern society.

Extreme reactions provoked by the filming led to Baron-Cohen being both threatened with assault and arrested multiple times, as well as facing subsequent legal action. This mirrors the response to his previous controversial film of the same format, in which he played ‘Kazhakhstani’ Borat. Not only did this similarly result in legal action, but the ensuing furore culminated in an international diplomatic incident.

Whilst such films may claim to provide a revealing insight into homophobia, anti-semitism, and the like, they also raise uncomfortable questions for the audience themselves. For example, it is debatable as to whether they are truly viewed by all cinema-goers as a sophisticated piece of social commentary, or whether they simply allow the ‘politically correct’ an opportunity to laugh at otherwise unacceptable stereotypes.

In terms of their technical approach, many of the humorous scenarios featured within these films echo the ‘breach studies’ of ethnomethodologist Garfinkel, which examined the responses of unsuspecting participants to deliberate violations of social norms.

In a further psychological link, Sacha Baron-Cohen is the cousin of Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge.

(And in case you were wondering, ‘Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’ is German for ‘speed-limit’!)

Square-eyeBrüno’s official MySpace page

Square-eyeFilm review from the Guardian

Square-eye£1.99 - smallSmith, J. R. & Louis, W. R. (2009). Group Norms and the Attitude–Behaviour Relationship

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Appearance Matters

Kelis_perfect_smileWhat advice would a tourist board give to the local community when the tourist numbers drop? Smile! The Paris tourist board concluded that appearance matters. The tourist board proceeded to request that the residents of Paris smile.  After conducting a travelers survey it was found that among the high cost of travel, tourists experience included the perception of unpleasantness.  The tourist board concluded that the impressions people form about Parisians affect the overall tourist economy.

However, asking the locals to smile is not enough. When visiting Paris expect to be greeted by specialists known as “smile ambassadors”. On certain days you may even experience roller skaters gather to form a smile.

The story featured in the Reuters section, Oddly enough, may not be as odd as it is presented to be. Social Psychologists, Leslie A. Zebrowitz and Joann M. Montepare, 2008, explain why first impressions start with looking at a persons face and how people make judgments about others. A safe conclusion is that smiling will give the best impression, tourists or not.

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Read more: Reuters article on Paris smile campaign

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$1.99Zebrowits, L.A. & Montepare, J.M (2008) Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters

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Why Harry Potter?

harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-princeThe sixth installment of the Harry Potter series will hit theaters with no shortage of fanfare. It’s not surprising that Harry has suddenly soared to the peaks of popularity in schools across the world. Not just pleasures, Harry Potters series provide important fantasy and illusions to our children.

Clinicians and theoreticians have demonstrated that children often use fantasy play to express and cope with realistic concerns and worries. Additionally, the thematic content of fantasy may also be a significant predictor of children’s adaption. As an example, Harry Potters’ books, movies, games and television all involve the imagination which directs and facilitates child’s feeling, cognitive process and creative thinking ability. Children don’t read Harry Potter merely to reach the conclusion and resolve the suspense, and they also delight in identifying with “good” wizards in this mystical world.

“Good stories capture the heart, mind, and imagination and are an important way to transmit values”( Louise Derman-Sparks, 1989) . On the other hand, some people worry that the discernibly polarized depiction of good and evil in this popular story could cultivate a perception in children that the real world is similarly organized. They question whether the dichotomized view of good and evil presented in such fantasy story are in fact stereotypes that far from enlarging children’s construction of individuals, groups and movements within broader human society.

square-eye Harry Potter hits theaters (The New York Times)

square-eye Laurie Kramer (2006).What’s Real in Children’s Fantasy Play?

square-eye Neil Robinson (2008).Good and Evil in Popular Children’s Fantasy Fiction.

Employment discourses

EmploymentWith unemployment figures reaching new heights and markets conditions deteriorating, employers need to recruit the most talented employees if they are to maintain their competitive edge and have a workforce that reflects their consumer base. Arguably then, that means recruiting employees from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Overt discrimination of race, sexuality, disability, religion, age and gender is, of course, illegal and employers seem to be proactive in their attempts to eliminate barriers to recruitment, retention and progression. Yet the egalitarian discourses that employers draw upon in these practices, often account for less diverse workforces as a result of external forces e.g. particular groups do not tend to apply. However, these can often be caused by an organisation’s own internal discourses, which inadvertently deselect potential candidates with particular attributes and personalities e.g. advertising a vacancy in magazine targeted at younger people is unlikely to be seen by more mature candidates.

In a more challenging business environment, it may therefore, prove fruitful for employers to review their recruitment methods and dispositions.

square-eye The Times ‘Unemployment hits a 12 year high’

square-eyeThe Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (formerly DIUS) ‘Professional Recruitment Guide’

square-eyeOverlooked and underutilized: People with disabilities are an untapped human resource

square-eyeSense-making of employment: on whether and why people read employment advertising

‘Spanish practices’

BullfightFirstly it was bonus payments for bankers seen as largely responsible for the ‘credit crunch’, and then excessive expenses claims by members of parliament (MPs).

Although these activities were not necessarily illegal, the British public has been enthusiastically encouraged by the press to denounce them as immoral.

This common view that dubious morality is endemic amongst those in positions of power has been highlighted recently by the ironic election success of a Croatian politician with a campaign slogan of ‘All for me, nothing for you’.

From a psychological perspective, such beliefs illustrate the ultimate attribution error, where negative behaviours of individual members are seen as typical of an entire out-group.

On closer inspection, however, this simple moral dichotomy is more complex than it may first appear. For example, MP’s expenses have been likened to so-called ‘Spanish practices’, a derogatory British term that continues to be surprisingly widely-used despite its racist implications. Such practices are questionable non-contractual working arrangements that benefit the employee and have become accepted as normal over time. These typically occur within heavily unionised industries, and have previously been the subject of industrial disputes.

Rather ironically then, many of those claiming the moral high-ground in terms of MP’s expenses commonly take advantage of exactly the same kind of ‘unofficial benefits’, suggesting that morality is a somewhat flexible concept.

Interestingly, the very term (mis-)used to describe these practices is a further example of the ultimate attribution error, being one of a number of historic British slurs attributing negative behaviours to foreign nationality out-groups.

Square-eye‘Spanish practices’ of MPs from the Mail Online

Square-eye£1.99 - small Sunar, D. (2009). Suggestions for a New Integration in the Psychology of Morality

Square-eye£1.99 - smallGiles, D. & Shaw, R. L. (2009). The Psychology of News Influence and the Development of Media Framing Analysis

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The entertainment value of human nature

800px-Video_CameraA natural human tendency is to form groups to fulfill our social needs, navigate a world full of obstacles and threats, and also provide us with a sense of identity and self-esteem. The latest season of CBS’s Big Brother, set to premier this Thursday, July 9, will exploit this innate proclivity. The show puts a dozen willing wannabes in a house under surveillance for approximately three months. Once a week the contestants vote to evict one member of the household until only two remain, when the formerly evicted contestants vote for a winner who will receive $500,000. This season the show will split the houseguests into three age-old high school cliques: “popular,” “athletes,” and “brains.” 
Cliques create a unique experience of power and dominance with highly specific intra-group stratification and provide a sense of identity and purpose for members (Adler & Adler, 2007). They have a strict code of membership (e.g., what one wears, how one acts) and are exclusive (e.g., members are not free to socialize with outsiders, initiation to the group is difficult to obtain). The show’s format already ensures that contestants form alliances in order to win and labeling these groups from the outset that already have stereotypes and expectancies associated with them only accelerates a process that would have occurred anyway with or without the cameras. While we’d all like to believe that cliques exist only in the cafeteria or on the playground they can be found in nearly any place where human beings interact.

 

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CBS Big Brother

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Meet the Cast of Big Brother 11

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Preadolescent Clique Stratification and the Hierarchy of Identity

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Teens Health: The Nature of Cliques

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