Monthly Archives: September 2009

Governments Sanction Happiness

EnthusiasticBillyMurrayA new political trend appears to be evolving—the search for happiness. A case in point is the country of Bhutan, which measures “gross national happiness” according to NPR and Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007). An NPR story reported how the country of Bhutan is growing alternative resources to reduce the cutting down of its forests. The depletion of forests may reduce the countries happiness the story reports. On the same note The Associated Press, reported that French President Sarkozy declared that happiness should be implemented as part of an economic indicator.  For instance, it is noted that factors such as “distribution of wealth and income, education, health and leisure” would be considered instead of GDP.

The search for happiness seems to be elusive even for those who study the concept, according to Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007). One similarity in the review was that happiness does depend on factors such as the distribution of wealth, income, education, health and leisure and so on. Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007) also noted however that when everything is equal other variables are more important. The authors conclude that the search for happiness starts at an individual level with consistent pursuit and appropriate goals. However the governments opening up the discussion may be the start of the pursuit of happiness.

square-eye Read more:  “Bhutan Hopes Bamboo Boosts National Happiness”

square-eye Read more: The Associated Press: Sarkozy wants happiness used as economic indicator.

square-eye Sheldon, K.M., Lyubomirsky, S. (2007) Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?)

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What’s in a name?

hello-my-name-is-stickerBy Erica Zaiser

According to the BBC, a recent survey carried out by parenting advice website Bounty.com found that nearly 50% of teachers in the UK thought they could predict the personalities of students before meeting them, just by looking at their names. Results from the poll suggest that teachers believe students with names like Alexander and Elizabeth are more likely to be smart, while students with names like Chelsea or Callum top the list for students predicted to behave poorly.

The idea that people associate names with certain personality traits is nothing new; across cultures many people give their children names that represent desirable qualities like strength, patience, or grace. In general, people with common and more desirable names are seen as more intelligent, healthy, and popular (Young, et al., 1993). Furthermore, name stereotypes are not limited to the classroom and are even found to impact voters’ preference for political candidates, although (thankfully) the relationship between a candidate’s name and receiving votes is no longer significant when would-be voters are presented with more information about the candidate (O’Sullivan et al., 2006).

One obvious reason for the link between personality and name is that perceptions of names act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, when a teacher assumes a student will perform well/poorly, that belief might influence the quality of teaching the student receives. However, the link between personality and names may be more complex than it appears. According to the name letter effect (NLE), just the first letter of your name can influence your preference for places, activities, and people. Furthermore, one study found that students with names starting with letters associated with poor performance (for example the lower mark of C’s and D’s in the American school system), actually performed worse than students with names starting with A or B (higher marks) (Nelson & Simmons, 2007). This, according to the researchers, is because students with C and D names have less aversion to the letters themselves. The theory is that we all have a subconscious preference for anything starting with the same first letter as our name. So, poor Callum may have it extra hard, having to overcome both his teacher’s negative first-impression and his subconscious love for a low-achieving grade.

square-eye Read more:  BBC article-  “Teachers Spot Trouble in a Name”


square-eyeNelson, L., Simons, J. P. (2007). Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success  Leif D. Nelson. Psychological Science, 18, 12. <br>

square-eyeO’Sullivan, C.S., Chen, A., Mohapatra, S., Sigelman, L., Lewis, L. (1988). Voting in Ignorance: The Politics of Smooth-Sounding Names. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 13.

 

square-eyeYoung, R. K., Kennedy, A. H., Newhouse, A., Browne, P., Theissen, D. (1993).  The Effects of Names on Perception of Intelligence, Popularity, and Competence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23, 21.

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A late apology: What’s wrong with being gay?

homosexual-gayThousands of people signed to call for a posthumous government apology to the computer pioneer, Alan Turing, for the unfair treatment he received for being gay fifty-seven years after his death. Alan Turing was most famous for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during WWII, helping to create the Bombe that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. However, after his coming out of closet as a gay in 1952, Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency. Even worse, he was given experimental chemical castration as a “treatment” and his security privileges were removed, which led to his unemployment. As a result of this “appalling” treatment, Turing killed himself two years later.

Although sexual prejudice remains widespread in the world, attitudes toward lesbians and gay men have become somewhat more accepting in recent years. At the same time, a growing body of sociological and psychological studies deal with the attitudes of heterosexuals toward homosexual behavior. Studies show that one important determinant of attitudes toward lesbians and gay men has been identified in personality variables such as authoritarianism, religiosity, and sex stereotypes. A further important factor is the national or cultural context as shown by the results of international surveys. For example, based on an international survey about attitudes toward homosexuality, the highest tolerance score was found for The Netherlands and the lowest for the Philippines and Chile (Kelley, 2001). Furthermore, psychological research also show that media has significant influence on people’s attitude toward gay and lesbians (Levian et al, 2006).

While more and more people believe homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, some still violently object. The struggle for homosexual people to obtain visibility and representation in society is perhaps best embodied in the slogan that was popularized by the Queer Nation group in the 1990s, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”.

square-eyePM apology after Turing petition (BBC NEWS)

 

square-eyeLevina, M, Waldo, C.R., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2006). The Effects of Visual Media on Heterosexuals’ Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians.

Google Map for Conference Registrants – A Global Spread!

Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference Registrants Google Map

Many thanks to all those of you who have already registered for the upcoming Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference. We’ve very excited to see so many delegates from around the world and look forward to a truly global conversation during the conference.

Why register?

The conference website will of course be free and open to all, but registrants will receive a Virtual Delegates Pack, which will include the full conference schedule, details of the discounts available on Wiley-Blackwell publications as part of our book exhibit, our new Online Author’s Survival Guide and much more.

To register, simply click here:
http://www.blackwellpublishingsurvey.com/survey/149278/29a8

To see the global spread of registrants on our Virtual Conference Google Map, just click here. Judging from the feedback we’re receiving, many of you are looking forward to participating in this online conference, as travel to a face-to-face event would be much more difficult (and less green!).

We’d encourage you to spread the word about the conference amongst your friends and colleagues. You can of course direct people to
http://compassconference.wordpress.com or also to our Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/CompassConf.

‘You are not welcome here’

For humans onlyThe science-fiction film ‘District 9′ is currently on cinematic release within the United Kingdom. Based on the short film ‘Alive in Joburg’, this feature film uses documentary style camera work to describe the plight of a large number of extraterrestrials that have become marooned on Earth. Referred to by humans using the derogatory term ‘prawns’, these aliens are confined to a militarised ghetto, where they face prejudice, discrimination, and exploitation.

With the film being set in South Africa, this has obvious parallels with the treatment of the black population during the apartheid era. This has been emphasised by the viral-marketing campaign for the film, which featured ‘humans only’ signs affixed to numerous public facilities, clearly mirroring the ‘whites only’ signs of apartheid. Consequently, the film joins a series of others that have utilised the medium of science-fiction to make social commentary on ‘real-world’ issues.

Rather ironically for an allegory about racism, however, ‘District 9′ has itself been accused of being racist, owing to its unflattering portrayal of Nigerians as gangsters, prostitutes and witch-doctors. This can be seen to follow the common practice of attributing negative characteristics to foreign nationality out-groups.

Whilst a return to the extremes of apartheid may seem unlikely , it is apparent that xenophobia is still prevalent within contemporary society. For example, the ‘Red White and Blue Festival’ of the far-right British National Party (BNP) took place recently only a few miles from my home. Clearly, the BNPs goal of keeping Britain British through the ‘repatriation’ of ethnic minorities has much in common with the ‘District 9′ tag-line of ‘You are not welcome here’.

Square-eyeOfficial ‘District 9′ website

Square-eyeFilm review from the Guardian

Square-eye£1.99 - smallPearson, A. R., Dovidio, J. F. & Gaertner, S. L. (2009). The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism

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Self-Serving Biases Influence Preventative Health Behaviors

423px-Influenza_virus_research

The upcoming cold and flu season promises to be a trying one. In addition to dealing with the usual aches, pains, and discomfort associated with illness this time of year many are becoming anxious over the resurgence of the swine flu. Symptoms that normally would not cause fear or panic are likely to be over scrutinized sending an abundance of patients to hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices over the next few months. While vaccines will be available in mid-October, psychologists have an interesting take on who is most likely to take advantage of them. Research has shown that while most people were biased in thinking that their health was superior to others, those who expressed the intention to get inoculated among other things expressed lower levels of health bias (Larwood, 2006). Self-serving biases are associated with a variety of positive and negative outcomes for the self, but in this case overconfidence could be deadly.

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Swine Flu: A Field Study of Self-Serving Biases

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Preparing for a Stressful Flu Season

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Scared Stiff: Does Fear Motivate or Paralyze Us?

480px-Scared_Child_at_NighttimeIf you’ve seen the recent viral video discouraging us from texting while driving, or the quit-smoking commercials that feature surgeries showing organs damaged by smoking, then you may find yourself wondering if these gruesome images actually cause us to change our behavior?

Social psychologists have asked the same question and have found a variety of results. When considering the persuasiveness of a message we have to consider the message itself, the audience watching it, and the context in which it is delivered. Messages that have graphic images have been shown to be effective in producing behavior change, but only if there is a message attached to the images about what a person can do. For example, quit-smoking messages are more likely to produce a change in behavior if they are accompanied with information about smoking cessation programs or a phone number to call to get help.

In addition, characteristics of the audience have to be considered. Self-esteem has shown to be influential in determining whether a person will actually follow through on change, but it can depend on a variety of other factors as well.

Finally, we have to consider the context in which the message is received. Major catastrophic events, such as 9/11, can enact a variety of policies and changes that influence how we perceive messages. There are even more recent theories, such as Terror Management Theory, that suggest that making our own mortality salient can powerfully influence our behavior and attitudes.

Can you think of examples where threat, fear, and mortality are used as persuasive devices in order to motivate people to engage in a particular behavior? In what ways could politicians or healthcare providers, for example, make use of these findings?

square-eye £1.99 - small Tales from Existential Oceans: Terror Management Theory and How the Awareness of Our Mortality Affects Us All

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