Author Archives: Erica Zaiser

Essay Writer for Hire- Who is worse, the cheater or the enabler?

By Erica Zaiser

If you haven’t read this yet, you should. It is the story of a man (using the alias Ed Dante) who writes essays and exams for students in higher education for pay. The article sheds light on this completely undetectable method of cheating,  the inherent flaws in higher education, and the shocking number of people completing undergraduate and even graduate degrees with someone else’s work. The author claims to have written for on nearly every subject and completed 12 graduate theses in his time doing the work. He also has said that he plans to retire and wants to reveal to academia this underground ring of cheating.

Perhaps even more interesting than the article is the discussion which has followed, with many people berating the author for his involvement in cheating. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem that people are angry at the student cheaters, they are angry at the man making money and actually writing the essays. What is it that makes people so angry? People seem particularly mad that he makes money off the whole thing. Does that make it worse? On one hand you could argue that without him students would just find someone else to help them cheat. On the other hand, he knowingly allows and enables the cheating. Which is worse?

Interestingly, there is research on this topic. In a set of studies by Whitley and Kost (1999), people were asked to evaluate the people who help students cheat. In general, people in their studies viewed cheaters as being more morally culpable than those who helped them cheat. However, there was some evidence that when people are paid for cheating, they are viewed more harshly than when they do it to “help a friend”. Although this only rung true for women in their study, it seems to ring true for many responders to the story. There is surprisingly little research out there on attitudes towards cheating or those who help cheaters. But with the apparent rampant use of this method of cheating, as claimed by the author, it seems like an important area for more research to be done.

Read More: The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story.

Read More: College students’ perceptions of peers who cheat.

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“I just don’t trust you with that accent”: Non-native speakers and the fluency effect

By Erica Zaiser

The other day I was at a pub quiz and a question had been asked which I didn’t know the answer to. While discussing possible answers, one team member said what she thought was the right answer. It just didn’t sound believable to me. Then another team member said the exact same thing and it suddenly sounded like it was probably the right answer. Now, there are lots of reasons why that might happen. I might just have been convinced by two team members voicing the same opinion. Or maybe the second team member simply sounded more confident in her answer, which led to me placing my confidence in her. Or, it occurred to me, it may have been because the first team member was not a native English speaker and the second was.

In an interesting recent set of studies researchers found that when people hear information they are less likely to believe it when the speaker has a non-native accent. According to the researchers, this isn’t just because of prejudice, as one might assume. It’s actually to do with the fluency effect. The ease at which a message is processed is assumed to be indicative of how truthful the message is. In their studies, even when people heard messages which were originally from a native speaker and simply being passed on by the foreign speaker, people still were less likely to trust the message than when it was said directly by a native speaker.

In studies looking at children, researchers found that children were more likely to endorse actions done by a native speaker than a foreign speaker. Although that research wasn’t specifically looking at the fluency effect, it’s quiet possible that it plays a role in guiding children’s choices in selecting to trust information.

The worst part is that I had read this article just before the quiz, so this process was fresh in my mind and it still caught me up. So, for those non-native English speakers out there who are wondering why nobody believes things they say… you may want to put on your best native English accent and try repeating it. Some of us just can’t seem to override the fluency effect.

Read more: Children’s selective trust in native accented speakers.

Read more: BPS Research Digest Blog- Speakers with a foreign accent are perceived as less credible.

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Friends and Facebook: Online social behavior- not that different from the real world?

By Erica Zaiser

Continuing with my previous post about Facebook, TIME recently reported on another study using the social networking site. According to the article, researchers in Denver wanted to understand why people “defriend” others in Facebook and what types of behaviours are likely to lead to a break in the online friendship. Unsurprisingly, they found that things are pretty similar in an online social network to a real-life social network. People defriend others much for the same reasons they end real world friendships. People who go on an on about a subject on Facebook were most likely to get defriended followed by people who talk about politics or religion and people who post racist or offensive comments.

As Facebook has grown in popularity so has interest in it as an area of research for social psychologists. Another study looking at Facebook found a relationship between number of friends and impressions about a persons attractiveness and popularity. Generally more friends made participants in the study believe the person was more attractive and popular, but only to a point. When the number of friends became very large (more than 300) people then began to doubt the users popularity and rated the user as being almost as unattractive as those who had very few friends. According to the research, people began to doubt that people had accrued their large number of friends simply because they were extroverted and instead may be making assumptions that the profile owner added friends for other reasons (like they are actually desperate for friends and are just adding whomever they can to look popular).

Facebook and other online  social mediums are interesting to look at for psychologists because its both possible to study unique social phenomenon in the online world but also because behaviours online may help researchers understand behaviours offline. Perhaps in real life, people who are seen as “too social” are sometimes viewed as negatively as people who have just a few friends.

Read more: Too much of a good thing? The relationship between number of friends and interpersonal impressions on Facebook

CNN on Long and ParrisRead more: TIME article: How to lose Facebook friends the fastest.

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Facebook and Narcissism.. Is that flashy photo a mask for low self esteem?

By Erica Zaiser
A recent study by Soraya Mehdizadeh has made the news because it made an interesting connection between Facebook profiles and personality traits like narcissism. The study found that the more times a person checked Facebook, the higher they scored on narcissism. Also, there was a significant relationship between self-promotional content and narcissism scales. According to the study, for women self promotional content tended to include images of “revealing, flashy and adorned photos of their physical appearance” while for men, their “about me” descriptions highlighted their intelligence and wit. However, the study also finds that people with low self-esteem also check their Facebook pages more often.
The link between self-esteem and narcissism has been hard to understand for years despite ample research on both topics. According to a review done by Bossom and colleagues the problem in understanding the connections between narcissism and self-esteem is that some research has shown that narcissism is actually a mask to hide low self-esteem, but other research has failed to show this pattern. According to the review there are several subtypes of narcissism that have different relationships with self-esteem. Furthermore, the research on self-esteem shows that different aspects of the self may be being measured depending on the type of self-esteem measure being used.
The research on Facebook adds an interesting piece to the puzzle as it reveals the way in which both low self-esteem and narcissism are manifesting as the same behaviour on social networking site. The mask theory of narcissism (that it is used to mask low self-esteem) might make sense here as people’s grandiose view of themself is being broadcasted through constant use and updating of their Facebook profiles;  while a need for validation that goes along with deeper low self-esteem is driving them to seek  instant feedback (something Facebook can uniquely provide) from their friends.

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Super(ordinate) identities to the rescue!

 

By Erica Zaiser

For over a month now, 33 Chilean miners have been trapped 2,300 feet underground. Just recently a team of American miners went down to Chile to help the miners get out. This rescue mission is very complicated and may take months to complete. It would have been easy for the American mining team to have felt it was not their responsibility to help; freeing the miners will be a difficult, time consuming, and expensive task. However, the American team seems eager to assist. One reason they might be so willing to help the Chileans is because they identify in these circumstances not as Americans but as miners. Thus, their identities as miners acts as a a superordinate identity linking the American men and the the trapped Chileans together regardless of their different nationalities.

Plenty of research in psychology has shown that when you identify with a superordinate social identity prejudice is reduced and that superordinate identity salience can reduce conflict between groups. In the case of the miners, this feeling of a larger group membership (being a miner) may have helped inspire the helping behaviour of the American miners. In an interview with CNN, one of the American miners explained why it was no question that he and his team wanted to help the trapped Chileans, saying, “We have the ability to help them out, and that’s the whole reason we are here. Miners are miners; it doesn’t matter what country they are from.”

Despite claims, children of same-sex parents doing no worse than other children

By Erica Zaiser

In Mexico the Supreme Court just decided to uphold gay adoption despite some arguments that children of gay parents are at risk of increased discrimination. Meanwhile, Australian senate hopeful, Wendy Francis, stated on her Twitter account that children of gay parents suffer from emotional abuse. She argues that gay parents deprive their children from having either a mother or a father and that this is tantamount to abuse. She isn’t the first politician to try to argue that homosexual couples should not be allowed to have children because non-straight parents can’t be as good as straight parents. However, there is little evidence to back up claims that children of gay parents are deprived or less well-adjusted than children from straight couples. In fact there is ample research showing just the opposite.

Beyond the research that has shown that gay and lesbian relationships are no less stable than heterosexual relationships, there is also research showing that the benefits children receive by being raised by two parents of opposite genders are the same for children of two same-sex parents. In fact if there are any differences, many researchers are now finding that gay parents might have even more well-adjusted children than some straight couples (especially when two women are raising a child). Very recent work looking at adopted children of gay couples versus adopted children of heterosexual couples finds that when examining their development and behaviour, children of gay couples do just as well. All this research supports what seems entirely obvious to me: children from two loving parents of any gender will probably turn out better than children of parents who don’t want them or can’t handle them. It does seem reasonable that on average children of gay couples would be even more well-adjusted than many other children because usually the choice to have children for a same-sex couple is very conscious and particularly, when adoption is involved, can require a great deal of time and resources. So, two parents who work so hard to have a child can’t possibly be worse than two parents who don’t really want a child in the first place but happen to fill the 1:1 male female quota that makes up a traditional “family.”

Emotional or Sexual Infidelity? If you have to pick one….

By Erica Zaiser

Which is worse, your partner being sexually or emotionally unfaithful? For most people either an emotional or sexual affair can inspire feelings of anger or jealousy. However, “Sugarbabe” author Holly Hill argues that, for men, cheating is normal and thus women should accept that their partner will probably cheat on them. She says, however, that women can regain control by allowing their partners to cheat but controlling the circumstances. According to her, by creating rules about your partner cheating you can structure their infidelity and dissuade them from keeping their affairs secret. In particular, Hill seems to suggest that it is emotional affairs which hurt, and by allowing sexual infidelity she keeps her partner from having an emotional relationship with someone else. For example she says that in her relationship, her boyfriend is allowed to have sex with other women but not sleep over or go on “romantic weekends”.

Although her ideas may seem inconceivable for many couples, there is empirical evidence showing that women are more likely than men to say that emotional jealousy is more distressing than sexual jealousy. So, for some women (particularly if they accept the idea that men are “destined to cheat”, which is really an entirely separate topic for debate and not particularly well supported in the psychology literature), it might seem like the lesser of two evils for a partner to cheat sexually if that discourages a possible emotional affair. Hill also says that in her relationship she too is allowed to be unfaithful, but both sexually and emotionally because her boyfriend is “okay with it”. However, it isn’t very clear how this arrangement reduces potential sexual jealousy for either her or her partner. Sexual jealousy, according to research, is equally distressing for men and women. This is despite the assumptions by many evolutionary theorists that men should be more jealous of sexual infidelity than women. What do you think of Hill’s arrangement? Do evolutionary psychology theories about jealousy support her ideas or not?

Read More: ‘Sugarbabe’ favors negotiated infidelity

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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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Winning Ali’s Heart: How men on The Bachelorette use gossip to improve their status

 

 

By Erica Zaiser

If you have been watching the new season of reality show The Bachelorette(don’t lie, I am sure you have), you know that in just a few episodes it has become clear that this season is rife with drama for the male contestants vying for Ali Fedotowsky’s attention. Much of the show relies on gossip about other contestants to the camera. Recently, gossiping about male rivals to Ali herself has been more evident. Furthermore, alliances are being formed with certain contestants being ostracized from the group because of damaging stories regarding their personal motives being spread through between-contestant gossip.

Evolutionary psychologists have long been interested in the evolutionary purpose of spreading gossip. Some researchers suggest that it may be a strategy for improving one’s status. In one study, researchers looked at the type of gossip people are more likely to spread and to whom. Not surprisingly negative stories are more likely to be spread when they are about rivals but positive stories are more for allies. You are least likely to spread a positive story about a rival and men are more likely to gossip with romantic partners than male friends. Also, the researchers found that certain information (sex and health topics in particular) about romantic partners is considered more worth “spreading ” than other types of gossip. Negative and particularly damaging information was considered the most juicy gossip when it concerned same-sex rivals (for both genders). According to the researchers, through gossip, we build our alliances and knock down our competition by spreading negative information about our rivals and building up our own “team’s” reputation by promoting positive stories about friends.

So, the men on the Bachelorette are not just gossiping for the entertainment value of reality TV. Instead, they are using gossip to promote their own agenda with the other men (by creating alliances which will probably allow them more access to future gossip). Then they use gossip to improve their chances with Ali by letting her in on all the dirty news about the competition.

Read More: Who Do We Tell and Whom Do We Tell On? The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2007

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