Monthly Archives: September 2009

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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Feeling the Weight of our Decisions

ClipboardThe embodied cognition perspective has gained notable attention in the last few years by demonstrating the powerful relationships between the mind, body, and environment. At the center of this perspective is the idea that cognition is grounded in sensory processes, such that bodily sensations can affect cognitive processing. Evidence for this idea has been found in physical warmth affecting ratings of interpersonal liking (Williams & Bargh, 2008), as well as head movements influencing agreement with arguments about university issues (Wells & Petty, 1980).

Most recently, Jostmann, Lakens, & Schubert (2009) found that the concept of importance can be understood in sensory experiences related to weight. Jostmann and colleagues predicted that individuals who had a physical experience that involved more weight would consequently judge issues as being more important. They found support for this idea across 4 studies. In particular, they found that people who held a heavier clipboard rated issues relating to money, justice, and policy as being more important when compared to individuals who made the ratings using a lighter clipboard. Moreover, in a study where participants made ratings about subway construction in the city, they found that people holding the heavier clipboard (and thus viewing the issues as more important) engaged in more cognitive elaboration and were more confident in their decision compared to those who held a lighter clipboard.

Work of this type gives us a deeper appreciation for the relationship between sensory experiences and cognition, and how easily our judgments might be influenced by our physical states.

square-eyeJostmann, N. B., Lakens, D., & Schubert, T. W. (2009). Weight as an Embodiment of Importance.

$1.99 Balcetis, E., & Cole, S. (2009). Body in Mind: The Role of Embodied Cognition in Self-Regulation.

Gender, spiders, and media

090908_spiderOf the literally thousands of scientific journal articles published every month, only a select few receive media attention. From among the new research, the BBC recently chose to report on an infant study claiming a disproportionate fear of spiders among women.

The study reportedly showed 20 babies—10 boy and 10 girl—pictures of spiders paired with happy versus fearful human faces. The girls “looked longer” at the picture of the spider/happy face, evidently showing “that the young girls were confused as to why someone would be happy” when paired with a spider.

The BBC follows the leap of the researcher to conclude that evolutionary biology determines that women (who were “natural child protectors”) are more likely to be afraid of animals.

Notwithstanding the alleged evolutionary implications (some research has linked phobias to nurture, rather than nature), research has shown links between gender stereotypes and media content. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology even revealed measurable effects on cognition from exposure to stereotyped commercials.

It’s frightening, to say the least, that behavior might be related to gender stereotypes. While doubtful that pre-arachniphobe females will read the BBC article, existing gender stereotypes are still reinforced, while all of those other scientific articles remain unnoticed.

‘Teen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC’: Standardised Relational Pairs and Membership Categorisation Analysis.

male_sex_relationship_symbolThe ‘Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships’ research by the NSPCC and Bristol University provides us with an interesting (and alarming) glimpse at ‘standardised relational pair’ categories (Sacks, 1992) and the moral accountability attached to them (Jayussi, 1984). Sacks’ work on categories and their deployment found that certain categories go together like ‘boyfriend–girlfriend’. Members of these categories which form ‘standardised relational pairs’ have rights, responsibilities and duties to each other. In our example ‘boyfriend–girlfriend’, it is presumed that each person should provide a safe, supportive, caring and respectful relationship environment for each other to grow and develop. It follows then that category pairs and associated predicates (rights, responsibilities etc) are relational in the sense that one may be expected to follow the next with accountability as a moral-procedural requirement. Breaches between these categories and predicates ‘one in six said they had been pressured into sexual intercourse and 1 in 16 said they had been raped’, tend to generate moral outrage/alarm and interactional repair solutions ‘parents and schools can perform a vital role in teaching them about loving and safe relationships, and what to do if they are suffering from violence or abuse’.
square-eyeTeen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC

square-eyeGender-Based Violence

square-eyeObjectification Theory and Psychology of Women: A Decade of Advances and Future Directions

square-eyeA tutorial on membership categorization

Selling Social Warmth not Coffee

Tasse_KaffeeLarge companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s are, according to Reuters, taking part in a coffee war.  The end game seems to be higher percentage sales increases for both companies. However once the dust settles the individual will still have the option of traditional or gourmet coffee. Yet, behind all the percentages, profit margins and price promotions might be more than a habit of a favorite caffeinated beverage.

Consider a recent investigation by Ijzerman and Semin (2009), which concluded that the mere exposure to a warm drink allows the perception of being closer to another individual compared to individuals holding a cold drink.  One interpretation could be that individuals are seeking social warmth from their favorite stimulating warm drink.

This conclusion does not appear to be such a long shot when considering freelance writer David DiSalvo’s take on the investigation.  DiSalvo argues that the investigation by Ijzerman and Semin (2009) and others is evidence that our perception is influenced by unconscious factors. It is no wonder then that warm drinks such as traditional or gourmet beverages have become so popular that companies are competing to be the top choice. Individuals in turn experience the perception of feeling closer to another, albeit unconsciously.

square-eye Read more: Link to Reuters article

square-eye Read more: Article commentary

square-eye Ijzerman, H., & Semin, G. (2009). The Thermometer of Social Relations: Mapping Social Proximity on Temperature

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Being a Good Girl Is Bad?

gender role2Bing a good girl is bad? If you think that a good girl should be dependent, quiet, obedient, and shy, then Rachel Simmons, the author of the best sellers Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl, might tell you:  No! Simmons talked with TIME that girls were taught early on to suppress their emotions and not live as loudly as they might be inclined to, and her new book aims to show how to raise girls who aren’t afraid to be assertive and even a little less than perfect.

The good-girl identity is associated with traditional femininity gender role which refers to the attitudes and behaviors that class a woman’s stereotypical identity. Girls internalized their gender role during the process of socialization. In western culture, femininity has been associated with traits such as dependence, intuition, submissiveness, and emotionality whereas masculinity has been associated with traits such as independence, rationality, competitiveness, and objectivity. Thus,  a good girl used to be expected to act elegantly and restrainedly, and repress their strong emotions and feelings.

However, the content of socially accepted gender roles changes over time, and roles that may have not been acceptable at an earlier point in one’s life may become socially desirable at a later point. A recent meta-analysis of changes in masculine and feminine traits among college student found that since 1973 women have increasingly reported stereotyped masculine personality traits for themselves (Twenge, 1997). At the same time, some researches shows that women who were gender role typed as stereotypically masculine or androgynous would exhibit significantly greater levels of psychological well-being than women who were typed as stereotypically feminine or undifferentiated. It seems likely that being “good” is no longer the only or preferred option for girls.

square-eyeWhen Being a Good Girl Is Bad (TIME)

 

square-eyeKendra J. Saunders, K.J., & Kashubeck-West, S. (2006). The relations among feminist identity development, gender-role orientation, and psychological well-being in women.

 

square-eyeTang, T.N., & Tang, C. (2003). Gender role internalization, multiple roles, and Chinese women’s mental health.