Monthly Archives: June 2010

Guns and aggression

By, Adam K. Fetterman
A Supreme Court decision once again sparks debate of gun control. The Court decided that citizens have the right to keep guns in all states and cities in the United States challenging some strict gun bans, like those in the Chicago area, according to the Associated Press. Guns are one of the hot-button issues that always seem to lead to great division. Some proponents argue that it is their right to own and carry guns and therefore, want to exercise that right, while others proclaim they want guns for fear of victimization. Opponents of guns argue that guns cause more harm than good and sometimes fear the people that want guns for protection.

While there are some anecdotal instances when citizens carrying guns have resulted in positive outcomes, these are quite rare. However, there has been research on the negative effects of guns. For example, Klinesmith, Kasser, and McAndrew (2006) found that interacting with guns led to increases in testosterone and aggressive behavior in males. While the aggressive behavior in the experiment, adding hot-sauce to a cup of water, is not all that reflective of real-world aggression, the effects show some increase in the willingness to harm others. There are probably not many people that would promote getting rid of guns altogether, however, some questions need to be further researched. For instance, should states and cities be able to ban guns if the area is deemed particularly aggressive? What type of people cause a threat to safety if they have access to guns? And on the other side, what are the benefits to the presence of guns?

Justices extend gun owner rights nationwide, by Mark Sherman – Associated Press

Klinesmith et al. (2006). Guns, Testosterone, and Aggression: An Experimental Test of a Mediational Hypothesis. Psychological Science, 17, 568-571.

LAPD seeks to restore relations with bicycle commuters

By Kevin R. Betts

“As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.” Although it is unclear who first said this, there is no doubt that many people feel this way. In California, this recently became clear when an officer of the LAPD was filmed kicking a bicycle commuter who followed several hundred others riding in Critical Mass, a monthly mass bicycling event. Making matters worse, officers then surrounded and tackled the cameraman! Unfortunately, cities across the U.S. have seen similar confrontations between police and bicycle commuters in recent years.

While friendship may not be in the cards, peaceful relations between police and bicycle commuters are essential as the popularity of bicycle commuting grows. Every day, thousands of people around the globe commute to work, school, and other locations by bicycle. In one U.S. city, bicycle couriers were found to deliver between 3000 and 4000 items per day at a financial steal of only about seven dollars per delivery (Dennerlein & Meeker, 2002). Indeed, bicycle commuting offers an important contribution to society as it is cost-effective, as well as reduces pollution and traffic congestion. Standing in the way of these societal advantages, however, may be fears among potential bicycle commuters about confrontation with aggressive police. For these cyclists, it is imperative that police understand their role as protectors of those that legally share the road. When bicycle commuters abide by traffic laws, they should be treated by police in the same manner as motorists.

In response to the incident in California, LAPD officers joined a Critical Mass ride this past Friday to show their support for lawful bicycle commuting. Whether most bicycle commuters in California have taken this peace offer at face value is unclear, but nonetheless, the actions of the LAPD are commendable. Considering the societal advantages of bicycle commuting and the potential role police can play in protecting lawful bicycle commuters, peaceful relations are imperative.

Read more:

LAPD officers attack Critical Mass riders

LAPD pledges to join Critical Mass ride

Dennerlein, J.T., & Meeker, J.D. (2002). Occupational injuries among Boston bicycle messengers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 42, 519-525.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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Why flee when you can fight: the counter-evolutionary practice of bullfighting

A bullfight conjures many images, such as cheering crowds, brave matadors, and rushing bulls. A bullfighter earns respect and attention because, unlike most of the population, he dares to step into the bullring and face a bull. In the process the bullfighter asserts control over the body and controls the innate response to run and instead seeks to fight the bull. So when a bullfighter decides to run from a bull instead of fight it, albeit a natural evolutionary response, it becomes a newsworthy event.

A news report shows a video of a bullfighter who, took the traditional evolutionary route and fled from an attacking bull. Although running from bulls is a common practice for bullfighters when in a pinch, this event was particularly important. The news report explains that the bullfighter had been gored the previous year. So, after almost getting gored again by the bull the bullfighter made a run for it. This time around the bullfighter thought it best to get out and stop fighting the bull—in effect ending his career as a bullfighter.

Matsumoto and Hwang (2010) explain that the context of a bull rushing toward an individual should elicit a host of evolutionary responses.  An emotion such as fear, manifesting itself as the bullfighter running from the bull, is part of a set of responses that occur. The fact that bullfighters train to control their fear and fight the bull, the authors argue, is part of an adaptive “open system” of emotional appraisal. Thus, making bullfighting possible as a counter-evolutionary practice. On the other hand, a bullfighter that takes the evolutionary route and runs is worthy of making the news.

See more: Fleeing Matador

Matsumoto, D. & Hwang, H.S. (2010). Judging faces in context.

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Vuvuzela: cultural symbol or plain annoying?

The vuvuzela, a plastic horn, has become the official villain of the 2010 World Cup. There was a debate about whether vuvuzela should be banned before the World Cup. Recently, FIFA president Sepp Blatter cleared the air on Monday, saying he fully supported the use of vuvuzelas and that it would be disrespectful for FIFA to come in and change an African tradition. It will always be difficult and controversy to make the banning decision. On the one hand, the vuvuzela makes life difficult for players and audiences, both at the match or watching from home. Players have trouble hearing the whistle or their teammates, audiences at home have trouble hearing the commentary on TV, and chanting fans at the match are drowned out by the monotonous vuvuzelas. However, as Trmon Zamba, a South African fan, said “It’s our culture. It can be loud, but it’s good for us supporters.”

People may wonder, dose every South African fan really enjoy the noise made by vuvuzela. Probably not. However, because the vuvuzela has been determined by the South African culture to be the “right” way to show fans’ supports in that situation, personal value and preference do not matter anymore. Psychological research has shown that the psychological processes that shape the effects of personal values on behavior are strongly affected by the social context in which people operate. These processes are strongly cultural bound. As previous research has showed, one of the best-known factors believed to moderate the effect of personal attributes is ‘situational strength’: when the social context provides uniform expectations regarding appropriate behavior, the situation is defined as strong. In strong situations, all people follow the same course of action, and there is little variation in behavior. Thus, let’s face it. The vuvuzela which is rooted in South African tradition has been considered as an appropriate way to show fans’ passion and supports in its culture. No matter people like it or not, fans of every team will keep blowing them delightedly to show support for their national teams in this World Cup. 

But, really, I don’t mind it so much

Question of the day: Is the vuvuzela a cultural delight or just plain annoying?

Sonia Roccas & Lilach Sagiv (2010). Personal Values and Behavior: Taking the Cultural Context into Account. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 30–41.

England players wear their emotions on their faces

By, Adam K. Fetterman
One of the most anticipated matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place on the second day of the tournament. The US and England faced off and ended the game in a 1 – 1 tie. Both teams should be happy with the result. While the US is definitely happy, as they were considered the underdogs, England does not share the enthusiasm. With a one point lead, the goalkeeper from England, the game’s proclaimed country of origin, allowed an easily blocked ball to sneak into the goal off the foot of one of their US rivals, a country in which soccer has yet to catch on. The disappointment over the goal, and the subsequent tie with the little favored underdog, left despair on the faces of those associated with the team. Indeed, the news media and bloggers have devoted much space to writing and showing pictures of dejected England players, including goalkeeper Robert Green and injured star David Beckham.

The facial expressions depicted in these images can give us insight to what these men were feeling. When someone sees a facial expression of emotion humans automatically mimic the expression of positive and negative emotion (Dimberg, Thunberg, & Elmehed, 2000). Through these mimicked facial movements, we are able to recognize the emotion being expressed. Therefore, when someone sees a picture of a sad-faced David Beckham, then one can get an idea of how he is feeling in that moment. In fact, we may even be able to feel what he is feeling. Ruys and Stapel (2008) showed that facial expressions are indeed emotion messengers, but are also emotion elicitors. So, one may feel bad for Robert Green when presented with his saddened face. However, since facial recognition acts the same with positive emotions (Dimberg et al., 2000), a different emotion would likely be recognized on US soccer players’ and fans’ faces: Happiness.

Dimberg, U., Thunberg, M., & Elmehed, K. (2000).Unconscious facial reactions to emotional facial expressions. Psychological Science, 11, 86-89.

David Beckham’s Matchface!: a gallery. By, Brian Phillips – Dirty Tackle Yahoo! Blog

Ruys, K. I. & Stapel, D. A. (2008). Emotion elicitor or emotion messenger? Subliminal priming reveals two faces of facial expressions. Psychological Science, 19, 593-600.

Rob Green makes no excuses, reminds us that he’s 30. By, Brooks Peck – Dirty Tackle Yahoo! Blog

U.S. fans discover use for tie. By, Les Carpenter – Yahoo! Sports