The horror flick. Meant to terrify, torture, disgust, and delight. Love them or hate them they are difficult to escape this time of year. In the coming weekend there are at least four horror/thrill movies to be released including the latest in the Saw series (Saw VI, if you’re keeping track), Antichrist, The Stepfather, and The House of the Devil. While some people are always up for a good scare, others are adamant about avoiding anything even remotely gory. But why? Johnston (2006) has highlighted four possible motivations for viewing graphic horror (gore watching, thrill watching, independent watching, and problem watching). Her study found these distinct motivations to be associated with fearfulness, empathy, and sensation seeking as well as the viewer’s level of identification with the killers vs. the victims of the films.
Adolescents’ Motivations for Viewing Graphic Horror (Johnston, 2006)
Understanding the most effective ways to respond to and cope with stress has important implications for our longevity and well-being. Acute stressors are immediate and temporary while chronic stressors are more prolonged and involve ongoing threat and arousal. With regard to acute psychological stress, past research has indicated that those who exhibit large physiological reactions (i.e., cardiovascular responses) are more susceptible to negative health outcomes such as hypertension. New evidence, however, casts doubt on the assertion that large physiological reactions to stress are always bad for health. Carroll, Lovallo, & Phillips (2009) have shown that low reactivity to acute psychological stress is associated with a diverse set of negative outcomes including depression, weight gain, and compromised immunity. These findings make it much more difficult to label stress responses and coping strategies as “good” versus “bad” given that each seems to have both positive and negative consequences for one’s physiological and psychological well-being.
Carroll, Lovallo, & Phillips (2009)
Yesterday Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King was made commandant of the drill sergeant school at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and is the first woman to fill such a position in any of the Army’s schools across the country. According to a recent article by James Dao of the NY Times women constitute a very small percentage of Army personnel in general (13%) and an even smaller percentage of the Army’s highest-ranking enlisted soldiers in active-duty (8%). The lack of female personnel and those in high-ranking positions has been attributed to “pregnancy, long hours and the prohibition against women serving in frontline combat positions” by the Army. Experimental research, particularly in the areas of gender and stereotyping, indicates that women are evaluated differently than men in military training which may also explain the lack of women in higher-ranking positions.
Boldry, Wood, and Kashy (2001) found that although there were no actual performance differences between male and female cadets men were perceived as having the motivation and leadership to succeed in the military while women were thought to have more feminine attributes that would impair performance. Other research has shown that the proportion of women in a given unit is related to performance evaluation such that when women represent a smaller/token portion of the unit their performance is rated lower than men, but when there was a higher proportion of women performance was rated higher than men (Pazy & Oron, 2001). It seems that perception, not performance, contributes to the maintenance of gender barriers in the military among other domains for both men and women. Hopefully, one day more of us can see the world and ourselves as Sergeant Major King does: “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a female, I see a soldier.”
First Woman Ascends to Top Drill Sergeant Spot
Gender Stereotypes and the Evaluation of Men and Women in Military Training
Sex proportion and performance evaluation among high-ranking military officers
Earlier this week a detailed report of prisoner abuses in overseas CIA prisons was released. The report provides new information about the nature of the abuses inflicted on prisoners which included threatening to kill or sexually assault detainee’s family members, the use of guns or tools for intimidation, and even staged mock executions. Although some of the methods were not authorized by the Justice Department, the report claims that the methods used in interrogations yielded significant information that could be used to prevent future terrorist activity.
The moral implications of these reports is staggering, and it seems that in response some have begun to subtype the acts mentioned above in an effort to reduce the negative associations with the integrity, honesty, moral fortitude many would like to believe America represents. Journalists, military personnel, and academics have distinguished between torture, which is “violent, physically mutilating, cruel, and brutal,” and torture lite, or “interrogation methods that are more restrained and less severe” (Wolfendale, 2009). Wolfendale (2009) claims that using terms like torture lite minimizes the suffering of victims as well as the responsibility of torturers and additionally can lead to the normalization of torture in our culture. Sectioning out some forms of torture may make us feel better and allow us to retain our former representation of our country as a positive, strong, and moral force but in the end it stunts our ability to give the issue its full importance, take responsibility for our actions, and have a real debate about whether we as a country condone torture as a reasonable means for interrogation.
C.I.A. Abuse Cases Detailed in Report on Detainees
The Myth of “Torture Lite”
Preventative care and aggressive follow-up treatment may not be the only things one needs to combat maladies like heart disease and cancer. Optimism could also be critical for recovery and general well-being. This week the BBC highlighted a study in which optimistic women had lower risks of suffering from heart disease and death over an eight year period (Tindle & Steinbaum, 2009). While this study links optimism and longevity, positive outlook is also associated with better health (Kamen & Seligman, 1987), greater achievement (Seligman, Nolen-Hoeksema, Thornton, and Thornton, 1990), persistence in achieving high-priority goals (Geers, Wellman, & Lassiter, 2009), lower levels of stress (Crosno, Rinaldo, Black, & Kelley (2009), and better emotional health (Matthews & Cook, 2008). What is it about optimism that provides such a wide variety of positive health and psychological outcomes? It could be that optimists are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors and take better care of themselves. However, the research above suggests that above and beyond lifestyle differences the distinct outcomes associated with optimism could be attributed to optimists ability to recover from adversity better, view negative events as isolated and specific, as well as anticipate and respond proactively to stressors.
BBC: Optimistic women ‘live longer’
Optimism and Breast Cancer
Conflict is a part of any human relationship, which unfortunately can lead to physical or even psychological aggression. Transgressors will often later seek forgiveness in order to maintain the relationship in question or to repair their image to friends, co-workers, and in the case of celebrities, fans. What factors influence a victim’s (as well as outsider’s) willingness to forgive?
R&B singer Chris Brown plead guilty to a felony assault charge for an episode of domestic violence involving his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, on February 8, 2009. Just a few days ago Brown released an apology to fans and Rihanna conceding “deepest regret” and shame for the incident, calling it inexcusable, and expressing his desire to become a role model once again.
Research has shown that differences in one’s willingness to forgive depend on the type of aggressive act concerned. When aggression was physical (relative to psychological) more weight was given to the intention of the aggressor to harm than to an apology (Gauché & Mullet, 2004). It could also be important to consider whether Brown’s public apology was sincere. Or was it driven by career ambitions and a desire to fall back into public favor. This distinction may make all of the difference in whether he receives the forgiveness he seeks from his fans and more importantly his victim.
Chris Brown Domestic Abuse Incident
Chris Brown’s Apology
Forgiveness for Physical vs. Psychological Aggression
A natural human tendency is to form groups to fulfill our social needs, navigate a world full of obstacles and threats, and also provide us with a sense of identity and self-esteem. The latest season of CBS’s Big Brother, set to premier this Thursday, July 9, will exploit this innate proclivity. The show puts a dozen willing wannabes in a house under surveillance for approximately three months. Once a week the contestants vote to evict one member of the household until only two remain, when the formerly evicted contestants vote for a winner who will receive $500,000. This season the show will split the houseguests into three age-old high school cliques: “popular,” “athletes,” and “brains.”
Cliques create a unique experience of power and dominance with highly specific intra-group stratification and provide a sense of identity and purpose for members (Adler & Adler, 2007). They have a strict code of membership (e.g., what one wears, how one acts) and are exclusive (e.g., members are not free to socialize with outsiders, initiation to the group is difficult to obtain). The show’s format already ensures that contestants form alliances in order to win and labeling these groups from the outset that already have stereotypes and expectancies associated with them only accelerates a process that would have occurred anyway with or without the cameras. While we’d all like to believe that cliques exist only in the cafeteria or on the playground they can be found in nearly any place where human beings interact.
CBS Big Brother
Meet the Cast of Big Brother 11
Preadolescent Clique Stratification and the Hierarchy of Identity
Teens Health: The Nature of Cliques