Monthly Archives: July 2010

Protecting the powerful

By, Adam K. Fetterman
Minnesota representative Michelle Bachmann has had her share of questionable moments in the past. For example, she once referred to President Obama and his wife as “anti-American”. She also seems to side with the powerful. The most recent example of this comes in regards to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the lack of safety measures, BP has been expected to take responsibility and face the consequences of the disaster. While most people are concerned about the victims that have lost their livelihoods, Michelle Bachmann seems to be worried about BP and has warned that BP should be wary not to be “fleeced and ma[d]e chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest”. She went on to say “The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from.” These comments appear to indicate that Rep. Bachmann is more interested in protecting the oil company, than the people suffering from the spill.

System justification theory is a process in which individuals tend to justify the status quo, regardless of the fairness of the practices (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004). For example, one may defend unfair actions or even blame (Napier, Mandisodza, Andersen, & Jost, 2006) the less fortunate in order to maintain the view that the current system is fair and/or to maintain one’s own status. Therefore, perhaps Rep. Bachmann feels that BP needs protection because it may challenge the current power hierarchy. As mentioned in her second quote above, she feels President Obama “wants to get more power from” BP. It may also be that she is worried that if the government is too hard on BP that it will lead to significant change in the way the government regulates powerful companies. Or maybe her only worry is that this will result in “paying $9 for a gallon of gas“. Either way, it seems she is worried more about the perpetrators than the victims.

“Michele Bachmann Channels McCarthy: Obama “Very Anti-American,” Congressional Witch Hunt Needed” By, Sam Stein – Huffington Post

“Bachmann to BP: Don’t ‘be chumps'” By, David Weigel – Right Now – Washington Post

Jost et al. (2004). A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo. Political Psychology, 25, 881-919.

Napier et al. (2006). System Justification in Responding to the Poor and Displaced in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 6, 57-73.

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Sh*t my grandpa says (about cautious drivers)

By Kevin R. Betts

Sitting next to my grandpa in the back seat of my mom’s car last week, I listened to him critique his daughter’s driving: “I could have made it through that gap three times by now.” “How do you get anywhere?” “How come Kevin isn’t driving?” Seemingly unaffected by my grandpa’s comments, my mom and grandma discussed the things they wanted to do before our family vacation in Traverse City, Michigan was over. Reminiscent for me of the humorous website http://shitmydadsays.com/, I just laughed.

Although my grandpa’s comments are humorous, the aggressive driving habits he hopes my mom will adopt are not. Just a month earlier than our vacation, a man in the same city sped down a local road and rolled his vehicle, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another. Around the world, similar stories are heard. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 37,261 people died on U.S. roads in 2008 alone.

Hoping to shed light on factors that influence aggressive driving like that resulting in the abovementioned accident, Michele Lustman and colleagues (2010) surveyed a sample of motorists, collecting information about their driving habits and personality characteristics. Results revealed a link between trait narcissism and both perception of intentionality following road incidents and aggressive driving behaviors. Specifically, motorists with high self-esteem were more likely than those with low self-esteem to perceive ambiguous road incidents as intentional, and to react to those incidents aggressively. The researchers suggest that the aggressive reactions of these drivers may be in response to threatened high self-esteem that results from perceived offenses by other drivers.

Read more:

Man charged in fatal rollover accident

FHWA road safety fact sheet

Lustman, M., Wiesenthal, D.L., & Flett, G.L. (2010). Narcissism and aggressive driving: Is an inflated view of the self a road hazard? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 1423-1449.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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Bad Relationships Can Hurt… Literally

By Erica Zaiser

Jake and Vienna have called it quits. A recent, much talked about interview with the celebrity couple with the host of The Bachelor revealed numerous problems between the two. Each accused the other of being responsible for their irreconcilable problems and the dramatic interview included much yelling and many tears. It isn’t hard to see that such a stressful relationship could have lasting consequences on their emotional well-being.

Some research has demonstrated that marital relationships are linked to a number of both long and short-term physical health issues as well as emotional problems. According to Slatcher (2010), in a review of some of the research on marital relationships and physical health, there are two independent factors in marriage effecting health: marital strain (leading to negative health effects) and marital strength (which can have a positive impact on health).  Marriage has been linked to numerous physical responses including cardiovascular functioning, neuroendocrine output, and immunity; and marriage can even impact mortality rates. Although there is a great deal of research linking marriage to both positive and negative changes in physical health, the author argues that there is too little research explaining exactly what psychological processes occur in order to explain those changes.

News from CNN highlighted recent research which found that couples inflicted with small blisters who used hostile or aggressive communication styles healed more slowly than those couples that had better communication skills. They linked this to oxytocin levels which were higher in couples who used positive communication skills. This type of research gives some insight into the psychological processes which can explain the physiological effects of a relationship. So it is not the relationship itself, but the response to conflict within the relationship which is influencing physical well-being.

Read more: Slatcher, R. B. (2010). Marital Functioning and Physical Health: Implications for Social and Personality Psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 4, 455-469.

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A positive experience: Take my money and then some!

Events interpreted as aversive tend to elicit effects that influence our response. So if an average individual is in a casino gambling and he or she is on a losing streak the response is likely to be to stop gambling–withdrawal. Generally speaking the purpose of the response is so that the individual will have money left over to get home. This sort of response, however, is bad for business and casinos are doing something about it.

What can casinos do to keep me gambling my money, you ask? A Radiolab reporter found that, for starters, casino workers can be very nice to you in effect giving you a positive experience. The next thing casinos can do is reward you with, not money (they keep that), but with random gifts such as gift cards etc. These gifts are not of major significance by any means but make a whole lot of difference in the long run. So much so, that the casinos are making the practice standard protocol for the purpose of keeping their customers returning to the gambling table.

How the effect works: van Steenbergen et al., (2009) found that randomly rewarding participants in a conflict adaptation task did not affect their performance, a negative effect was found for those that did not get rewarded or even lost. The reward in this context is perceived as attenuating the negative effect or experience of the event.  The idea is that the effect of losing while gambling can be counteracted by rewarding customers with other smaller gifts leading to a more pleasing experience.

Hear more : Radiolab—episode on Choice

Van Steenbergen, Band, & Hommel (2009). Reward Counteracts Conflict Adaptation: Evidence for a role of affect in the executive control.

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Free love is innocent?Think clearly before you do it!

Free love has not ruled since the 1970’s but apparently unprotected intercourse among not only young adults but also older unmarried Americans is on the rise. According to a recent A.A.R.P. study of singles in the 45 plus category, only 12 percent of the sexually active single men and only 33 percent of sexually active women report using condoms. The behavior of having unprotected sexual intercourse provides a very interesting puzzle, as a high proportion of adults are aware of the possible negative consequences of having unprotected sex, and that individuals can greatly reduce their risk of causing a pregnancy or of  contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by using a latex condom. It is worthwhile to examine the reasons underlying this failure to use condoms as unprotected sex raises the risk of STD among people across all ages.

 According to previous research, intentions to use condoms clearly do not always translate into condom-use behavior. Ambivalent attitude towards sexual activity is one factor which could explain the inconsistence between intention to use condom and condom using behaviors. MacDonald and Hynie’s study (2008) indicated that participants who were ambivalent about sexual activity were more likely to engage in unplanned sexual activity than were participants who were not ambivalent. Furthermore, individuals who engaged in unplanned sexual intercourse were less likely to report that they used a condom than those who intended to have sexual intercourse. As a result, whether sexual activity was planned mediated the relationship between ambivalence and condom use. It seems reasonable that people who are less ambivalent about sexual activity are more likely to plan and correctly predict when they will have sexual intercourse, which allows for important preparatory behaviors (e.g., having condoms available).

More are doing it, less are using protection

MacDonald, T.K. & Hynie, M. (2008). Ambivalence and Unprotected Sex: Failure to Predict Sexual Activity and Decreased Condom Use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1092-1107.