Monthly Archives: May 2010

Changing (who bakes the) Roles

By Erica Zaiser

A recent article in The Independent discusses the issue of sharing housework in a marriage. Despite the fact that husbands do much more housework than they did 50 years ago, statistics in the UK show that women still do more housework than men. However, given the increase in women working full-time, inequality in household chores has become a larger strain on marriages. This is supported by recent research showing that divorce rates are lower in families where husbands do housework.

One study looking at young unmarried people’s ideal and expected participation in housework and childcare sharing, found that young women expected to end up doing more housework than their husbands. However, men wanted to and expected to split household chores equally. Additionally, there was a difference between people who ideally wanted a career oriented partner versus a family oriented partner. Both men and women looking for a career oriented partner desired to participate more in household chores while those looking for a family oriented partner desired less involvement in household chores and child rearing.

This discrepancy between men and women’s expectations and desires for chore sharing may shed some light on why equality in the home has been slower moving than expected. The authors suggest that this type of research can help promote changes in attitudes towards men’s involvement in household chores. It also provides some evidence that in order for change to occur men need to follow through with their professed desire to be involved in housework but women also may need to change their expectations of doing more work, as men also seem to want equality.

Read more: Men want equality, but women don’t expect it: Young adult’s expectations for participation in household and childcare chores.

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Social communication and SHOUTING MATCHES

Although it may seem like a breeze at times, the back and forth of social interactions is replete with intricacies. When two or more persons are interacting subtle events such as pauses, gestures, eye movements etc. may signal the need for a response. Van Kleef (2010) and others include the expression of emotion to the repertoire of social information. Originally presented as the manifestation of physiological arousal meant to prepare the individual to respond adaptively, researchers have found that the expression emotion can also provide social signals. A good example could be an escalating shouting match that is typical of sports games. Usually an individual will begin shouting and another person reciprocates.

However, shouting is the outcome; before shouting the expression of anger more than likely takes place. One individual more than likely expressed anger. As Van Kleef notes, anger is usually reciprocated with more anger; and so the cycle continues. The end result is the always entertaining and viscerally charged shouting match. Van Kleef writes, that the processing of social information occurs unconsciously and so how one ended up shouting or even reciprocating the anger of another may not be clear to the individual. Thus making an escalated shouting match fun to observe.

Moreover, the social signal of emotion is not limited to bouts of anger such as when two people are laughing and commenting about the shouting match.

See more: The Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera Bust Up

Van Kleef, G.A. (2010). The emerging view of emotion as social information.

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Does Racial Profiling Give White Criminals an Advantage?

The New York Times recently reported a study from the Center for Constitutional Rights in which it was revealed that Black and Latino people were nine times more likely to be stopped and frisked by police in New York. As the article notes, this study was a response to issues that the organization feels are a result of a Supreme Court decision to allow officers to “briefly” detain people for “reasonable suspicion.” What they found is that even though people of color are stopped for “reasonable suspicion” more often, they are not arrested any more often than white individuals. Interestingly enough, white people were found to be arrested and possess a weapon slightly more often.

Numerous scholars have shown the obvious negatives effects of police stereotyping, or profiling as it is termed, on people of color. However, an interesting consequence to think about is the amount of White “blue-collar” criminals not getting stopped because they do not fit the stereotype, or profile, of a “blue-collar” criminal. In fact, in a 1996 study, Gordon, Michels, and Nelson, showed that people significantly underestimated the amount of “blue-collar” crimes that White criminals commit. Moreover, Gordon and his colleagues found that White criminals are overly estimated to be “white-collar” criminals, as opposed to “blue-collar” criminals. Therefore, it is likely that some of the results presented in the New York Times article are due, at least to some degree, to the fact that white people do not fit the stereotype (i.e. profile) of a “blue-collar” criminal. Consequently, racial profiling may be allowing some criminals to walk free because they do not fit the profile and are therefore not eliciting “reasonable suspicion”.

“New York Minorities More Likely to Be Frisked” New York times article.

Gordon R. A., Michels, J. L., & Nelson, C. L. (1996). Majority Group Perceptions of Criminal Behavior: The Accuracy of Race-Related Crime Stereotypes. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26, 148-159.

Meals or luxury? The intricate choice of Chinese consumers

The rate at which China’s luxury market has grown is tremendous, and China is now home to both the world’s second-largest diamond market and the number-one automobile market. However, it is important to note that not all luxury consumers in China actually have the salary to support such purchases. China’s online message boards are filled with accounts of young Chinese white-collar workers who skip meals and only eat instant noodles in the evening in order to save up for a luxury purse made by Richemont or Louis Vuitton. Post-80’s-generation Chinese refer to these individuals as “modern Madame Bovarys.” This type of Chinese luxury consumer lives beyond their means to attain a luxurious lifestyle like that of the main character in Gustave Flaubert’s famous novel.

Besides self-enhancement perspective and motivation theory, the moral self-licensing effect provides an alternative interpretation of the paradoxical behaviors of Chinese young luxury consumers. The moral self-licensing effect suggests that past good deeds can liberate individuals to engage in behaviors that are immoral, unethical, or otherwise problematic, behaviors that they would otherwise avoid for fear of feeling or appearing immoral, such as political incorrectness, prosocial behavior, and consumer choice (Merritt, Effron &Monin, 2010). Consumer choice represents one major domain in which moral self-licensing is evident. Everyday purchasing decisions are tinged with morality. At the extreme, some utilitarian philosophers argue that it is immoral to spend disposable income on unnecessary things because that money could go to people in need elsewhere (Singer, 1972). Though probably few consumers subscribe to such drastic views, buying luxury items or frivolous goods is nonetheless associated with feelings of guilt and self-indulgence (Dahl, Honea, & Manchanda, 2003). According to the logic of self-licensing, individuals whose prior choices establish them as ethical and reasonable spenders (or ethical and reasonable people in a more general sense) should be more likely to indulge in frivolous purchases later on. In other words, one can self-license frivolous consumption by behaving in ways that establish one’s morality. For those Chinese luxury consumers who do not have enough salary to support luxury purchases, skipping meals or other ridiculous saving behaviors might license their feelings of guilt and self-indulgence because they feel that they have paid for their consumption in advanced.  In addition, the announcement that luxury consumption made important contribution to economic growth persuades luxury consumers that what they are doing is actually prosocial. In sum, imagining engaging in prosocial activities seems to license self-indulgent purchases and reduce of guilty feelings about the frivolous choices of Chinese luxury consumers and further courage them to engage in such irrational purchases.

What Are China’s Luxury Consumers Buying?

Anna C. Merritt, Daniel A. Effron,& Benoît Monin. (2010). Moral Self-Licensing: When Being Good Frees Us to Be Bad. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5, 344 – 357.

Ideological dilemmas and depression


Tim Lott’s recent article ‘Men are suffering a depression epidemic…’ in the Daily Mail argues that one of the causes of men’s depression is the fluidity of the roles they are ‘expected to play in modern life, both professionally and emotionally, and as fathers and husbands’, which ‘can lead to a lot of painful doubt about what the role of a man actually is’. That is, men are ‘expected to be strong yet sensitive, successful but not materialistic, caring yet masculine’. Whether it is fair, as he does, to blame women for this is a moot point. However, the article does provide an interesting example of how ideological dilemmas may affect mental health.

Billig et al (1988) first introduced the concept of ideological dilemmas in a book with the same name. Their aim was to make a contribution to the debate surrounding the nature of ideology by questioning the notion that ideologies are always constituted by integrated and coherent sets of ideas. Although they did not deny that ideologies could conform to this classical Marxist definition, they argued that a different kind of ideology existed. These ‘lived’ ideologies are the beliefs, values and practices of a given society. In other words, these ideologies are a society’s ‘common sense’ ways of doing things. Unlike their Marxist counter-parts, these ideologies are often characterized by inconsistency, fragmentation and contradiction, which do not provide clear and concise ways for people to think and act. Billig et al (1988) provide numerous examples, such as the dilemma between ‘many hands make light work’ and ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, or, ‘look before we leap’ and ‘he who hesitates is lost’.

Edley (2001) argues that the concept of ideological dilemmas can also inform our understanding of gender and gender relations. One such example is the dilemma of work versus family. That is, how do mothers and fathers fulfill their career aspirations as well as their parental obligations, and also find time to develop their own relationship by having quality time together away from the demands of children and work? In addition, men are today, confronted as never before with mediated messages that invite them to openly confront their emotions, be sensitive, caring and feel comfortable seeking help, whilst at the same time they are expected to be appear powerful, strong and self-reliant (Gough, 2009). It is these ideological dilemmas that Lott and MIND identify as often leading to men suffering depression.

Men are suffering a depression epidemic too… and some of it is caused by women

MIND – Men’s mental health

Ideological Dilemmas: A Social Psychology of Everyday Thinking

Gender fatigue: The ideological dilemma of gender neutrality and discrimination in organisations

NYC development may help reduce post 9/11 discrimination

By Erica Zaiser

After 9/11, many people had a hard time separating the extremest actions of terrorists and Islam in their minds. Many worried that innocent Muslims in western countries would become targets of discrimination. In a study looking at religious and ethnic discrimination in the UK for seven ethnic groups, the two ethnic groups surveyed that are primarily Muslim (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) reported the greatest increase in discrimination after the 9/11 attacks. The researchers argue that major world events like 9/11 can increase discrimination not just in the country in which they occur but also in other countries. Another study revisited Milgram’s famous lost-letter experiments in order to look at prejudice behaviour against Muslims. Their study, conducted in Sweden, found that when people found a lost, unsent letter addressed to a “Muslim sounding” name they were less likely to post the letter than if the name was Swedish sounding. However, they say that this was only the case when the letter contained money (so when the finder would benefit by not passing the letter on). The authors argue that this could provide evidence of discrmination against Muslims, although it also could simply be a confirmation of previous research showing that people are prejudiced against foreign sounding names in general.

Recent news that ground zero in New York City is the future site of a community center intending to include a mosque has become somewhat controversial. Some herald the decision as a step towards developing closer ties with the Muslim community, while others say that they feel a mosque would act as a reminder of the extremist views behind the 9/11 attacks. Much research in social psychology has shown that intergroup contact can reduce prejudice. According to a meta-analysis of contact research, this is because contact can increase knowledge about the outgroup, reduce anxiety about contact, and increase empathy and perspective taking towards the outgroup. So, the project could help to increase contact between Muslims and non-Muslims and hopefully lead to a decrease negative stereotypes and attitudes towards Muslims.

Read More:

Muslim Discrimination: Evidence from two lost letter experiments

Major World Events and Discrimination

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Mind reading gone awry

There are times when individuals are well synchronized with each other that they can finish each other’s sentences. These interactions seem almost magical in that people understand how each other feels about a topic or event. There are instances however when it is difficult to understand where the miscommunication occurred. How a simple exchange of words could go so wrong is anyone’s guess, but the fact that the individuals made up their mind about the event or another individual can be strikingly clear.

Take the example that the media popularized between an English politician and a political constituent. After a few words relating to political concerns were exchanged, the politician went on his way. Upon entering the vehicle, presumably a safe place to express his personal opinion with a microphone still on, the politician uttered how he perceived his constituent (refer to May 1st post).

One can only imagine how the politician made his conclusion about the interaction. Epley (2008) suggests that misinterpretations are likely to occur when individuals are under high cognitive load, where schemas seem to be the default interpretation of events. Further, Eyal and Epley (2010) suggests that when two strangers interact they seem to focus on different parts of the context (i.e. self or other). In the context of the political concern the constituent focused on the perceived problem, while the politician focused on his constituent. A solution to misunderstandings is to take part in perspective taking and to take more time to reduce the likelihood of biased interpretation (Epley, 2008).

Eyal & Epley (2010). How to Seem Telepathic – Enabling Mind Reading by Matching Construal.

Epley, N. (2008). Solving the (real) other minds problem.

“Me a bigot? No way, I hate them!”

See more: Brown overheard calling voter ‘bigoted’

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A New “Nightmare” Makes Us Feel Good.

A common trend in Hollywood is to remake old films and television shows. As an example, the remake of the 80’s horror film “Nightmare on Elm Street” was recently released. While getting horrible reviews, it still topped the box office. It is likely that nostalgia is to be thanked for this. According to Sedikides, Wildschut, Arndt, and Routledge (2008), nostalgia increases positive affect and reduces existential threat. So, it is no wonder why we flock to remakes that are ultimately going to disappoint us. In fact, we will probably go in groups to bask in the glow of a remade classic movie, as nostalgia brings about social connectedness (Sedikides, et al., 2008).  According to Sedikides and colleagues (2008), while in the past nostalgia was seen as a kind of homesickness or negative mood state, it is now more associated warm feelings of the past or one’s childhood. Accordingly, they changed the definition to “sentimental longing for one’s past” (Sedikides, et al., 2008, p. 305). Therefore, by going to remakes of older films, we can attempt to return to a time that we fondly long for (i.e. childhood). Although, the new films have the arduous task making us feel as good as fondly remembering the originals.

Perhaps the reason to remake these films is to update the classics with modern technology, or to retell the tails from a different perspective, or perhaps just to pay homage. No matter the reason, film makers have made quite a killing by invoking the happy feelings that are associated with nostalgia. While they may not live up to our rosy view of the originals, it can still feel good to get a “blast from the past”.

“‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ Slashes Box-Office Competition” – MTV News

“‘Nightmare’ fails to deliver the chills — and fun — of the original” – The Washington Post

Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2008). Nostalgia: Past, present, and future. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 304-307.