Category Archives: Health

Being bony is being attractive?

3mirrorsFindings from the field of evolutionary psychology, and mate selection more specifically, would lead one to believe that what the opposite sex finds attractive should be most important in determining how one is affected by appearance-related comparison information. While attractiveness has become more important to both males and females, it seems that today women and men should be especially sensitive to what the opposite sex finds attractive. However, research on body image demonstrated that perceptions of what the opposite sex finds attractive differ from what the opposite sex actually finds attractive. Moreover, this misperception was present especially among women. That is, women think that men want women to be thinner than men actually want. This thin ideal is conveyed and reinforced by many social influences, including family, peers, schools, athletics, and health care professionals. Nevertheless, the loudest and most aggressive purveyors of images and narratives of ideal slender beauty are the mass media. Young people are bombarded with stick-thin models images that can distort how they feel about themselves. In sum, this “perfect” female body image promoted by magazines, television and films forces women to strive to be thin for the sake of being “ideal” among other women rather than being attractive to men .

square-eyeGirls’ self-esteem coming under fire

 

square-eyeJ. Kevin Thompson & Leslie J. Heinberg (2002). The Media’s Influence on Body Image Disturbance and Eating Disorders: We’ve Reviled Them, Now Can We Rehabilitate Them?

 

square-eyeLisa M. Groesz, Michael P. Levine, Sarah K. Murnen (2001). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta-analytic review

Retribution or rehabilitation?

supremecourtThe Supreme Court on Monday began hearing arguments on two cases involving life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders. In Graham v. Florida, Terrance Graham pled guilty to burglary and assault or battery. He was sentenced to probation, but then at the age of 17, he was arrested for home-invasion robbery and eluding police. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for violating probation.

The upcoming decision has implications for social psychology because of presumptions about the impact of prison on rehabilitation, as well as the potential distinction between young (highly transformable) and older minds.  

While the Court seems to be leaning toward allowing for a legal distinction between adults and juveniles in sentencing guidelines, Justice Scalia expressed early dissent, suggesting that sentencing is not only for deterrence: “One of the purposes is retribution, punishment for just perfectly horrible actions.”

But the judge who sentenced Mr. Graham did not seem to have retribution in mind when he told the boy, “I don’t understand why you would be given such a great opportunity to do something with your life and why you would throw it away … if I can’t do anything to get you back on the right path, then I have to start focusing on the community and trying to protect the community from your actions.”

The New York Times published an editorial expressing disapproval of such strict sentences for children. While Roberts and Gebotys (2006) found that “the public is more concerned with the principle of just deserts than with the utilitarian sentencing aims,” there is little support for sentencing a child for life. In fact, Scott, Reppucci, Antonishak and DeGennaro (2006) found that adults in their study believe there is a significant and consequential difference between juveniles and adults, and that sentences should reflect that difference.

The Restraint Bias: Another reason why a diet won’t work

Chocolate_chip_cookiesAs it happens people underestimate control over situations. Take the classic example of a student who waits until the last minute to study for a final exam because “they have it all under control”. This example is a type of bias that surprisingly is more common than expected. Another example of bias is a person who walks into a café to only get a coffee and is temped to get a tasty pastry. The phenomenon referred to is the restraint bias, or the perceived ability to have control over an impulse. Apply this concept to any vice when someone feels or is biased into perceived control and a similar conclusion is likely to occur.

Take the new fad: the cookie diet. People are purportedly allowed to eat cookies in addition to one meal. And it is precisely because of the name that people underestimate their ability to control the impulse, according to the New York Times report. However because people see the feasibility they are likely to try the diet and nevertheless fall for the impulse of eating that extra cookie.

As an example, Nordgren, van Harreveld & van der Pligt (2009), asked satiated and hungry participants to select a snack which was to be returned a week later in exchange for money. The authors reported that the more restraint bias experienced by satiated participants the greater the likelihood of not returning the snack. More importantly is the fact that the satiated participants chose their first or second favorite snacks while the hungry participants reportedly accounted for the bias by selecting a second or third favorite snack. The cookie diet then is an important example because it sounds harmless and increases the likelihood of bias. However based on the experiment by Nordgren et al., (2009) it can be concluded that because a cookie seems harmless people are more likely to be biased for that extra snack.

square-eye Read more: The Cookie diet

square-eye Nordgren, van Harreveld & van der Pligt (2009) The restraint bias-How the illusion of self-restraint  promotes impulsive behavior.

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Love is blind?

broken_heart_by_starry_eyedkid-1Rihanna, a pop star, decided to break up with singer Chris Brown after being beaten by him, and said that she felt embarrassed that she fell in love with the type of man he was.

Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by intimate partners in the United States annually, experiencing an average of 3.4 separate assaults per year (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Physical intimate-partner violence victimization could not only lead to physical harmful consequences such as injury, chronic pain disorders, but also negative mental consequences such as post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), depression, substance abuse and suicide. However, many abused women still choose to remain with their abusive partners and approximately 40% to 60% of women who have successfully left the abusive relationship return to live with their partners. The decision to terminate abusive relationships appears to be a complex and difficult one. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, researchers have identified a variety of practical and personal considerations that influence women’s decision to leave or stay in an abusive relationship. These include economic factors, fear, commitment, belief that the abusive partner will change, and societal attitudes and expectations about intimate relationships. More recently, Byrne and Arias’ study (2006) found that women would hold stronger intentions to end their relationships if they held positive attitudes toward ending the relationship and believe that they will have control over ending the relationship. It seems that women choose to stay in abusive relationships not because Love is blind, but because it’s hard to leave.

square-eyeChristina A. Byrne & Ileana Arias (2006). Predicting Women’s Intentions to Leave Abusive Relationships: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior.

square-eyeRihanna “Embarrassed” She Fell for Man Like Brown.

Marriage and Parenting: For Better AND For Worse

Couple_01 A recent New York Times Science article documents the efforts that family clinics and parenting groups are making to get fathers more involved in parenting. However, the issue is not only getting them involved, but in getting the mothers to let them be involved in their own ways. The biological connection that a mother and child share is undeniable but, as the article explains, our social and cultural constraints on fathers, and what is expected of them, can often make parenting confusing and unbalanced.

This article comes only a few days after another article on family relationships in the Times Magazine — one documenting the Obamas’ marriage. That article presents the Obamas as committed to one another but also not afraid to have conflicts, experience difficult times, and turn them into “teachable moments.” As a recent article in Social Development argues, conflict can actually be productive — if it occurs under the right circumstances. As the authors explain, both the type of conflict (constructive or coercive?) and the type of relationship in which it occurs (positive or negative?) can help predict the consequences of conflict.

So, whether the task is negotiating a balanced parenting arrangement in a society with fairly prescribed gender (and parental roles) or negotiating a marriage, psychology reminds us that conflict can be productive, and the process of working through the conflict can be beneficial to the relationships in the family.

square-eye Laursen and Hafen (2009). Future directions in the study of close relationships: Conflict is bad (except when it’s not).

square-eye Fathers gain respect from experts (and mothers). New York Times.

 

square-eye The Obamas’ Marriage. New York Times.

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The Dangers of Thin Being In

Cp_LOreal_fashion_weekOne of the top stories this past week has been the model whose image was digitally altered to appear slimmer. The 5’10”, 120 pound model, Filippa Hamilton, was also fired by designer Ralph Lauren earlier this year for reportedly being “too fat”. She was shocked to see the retouched image, in which she looks to be emaciated with her waist appearing to be smaller than her head. While Ralph Lauren claimed the image was mistakenly released, Hamilton fears that the effect of the picture will have a lasting impact on women and their image of what a woman should look like.

Hamilton’s fears are legitimate and supported by a great deal of empirical data. In one study, Shorter and colleagues found that women who felt that their body-shape was discrepant from their favorite celebrity were more likely to report dysregulated and bulimic eating patterns. Moreover, Glauert et al. found that women who internalized a thin Western ideal reported being less satisfied by their body.

This relationship between celebrity ideals and body dissatisfaction is troubling given that many female celebrities and models are considered underweight. In an effort to create a more positive public image, as well as help protect the health of many models, some designers have started to use larger models. Last month, designer Mark Faust featured plus size models in his collection and Glamour magazine has pledged to feature more normal and plus sized models. By changing the standard for beauty, some hope to curb the unrealistic ideals held by many women.

square-eye New York Daily News. Model fired for being too fat.

square-eye London Fashion Week and Mark Faust

square-eyeShorter, Brown, Quinton, & Hinton (2008). Relationships between body-shape discrepancies with favored celebrities and disordered eating in young women.

square-eyeGlauert, Rhodes, Byrne, Fink, & Grammer (2008). Body dissatisfaction and the effects of perceptual exposure on body norms and ideals.

Alternative Pain Medicine: A Loved One’s Picture

Pain_PillsBeen to the doctor for a painful medical procedure lately? How about overexerted yourself over the weekend during a ballgame with your buddies? In either case, over the counter pain medication, or analgesics if you prefer, will do. An overwhelming number of pharmaceutical companies have some sort of chemical concoction waiting to be picked up at the local pharmacy.

Recent findings however may change the way people think about mitigating pain. Evidently the mere mental representation of a partner is enough to mitigate experienced pain (Master et al., 2009). Not surprisingly holding the hand of one’s partner during a painful procedure is better than holding a strangers if both were to stand behind a curtain. Would you guess that the picture of one’s partner is better than holding the partners hand while behind a curtain?  Masters et al., found that indeed the mental representation or picture reduced more pain. A question left unanswered is what to do if you’re single? Alternatively can a different source (i.e. grandma’s picture) replace the partner’s picture?

square-eye Read more: Pain medication

square-eye Master, S.L., Eisenberger, N.I., Taylor, S.E., Naliboff, B.D., Shirinyan, D., Lieberman, M.D. (2009). A picture’s worth: Partner photographs reduce experimentally induced pain.

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Working out for health, not for beauty

female-bodybuilding

People exercise more for health than for anything else including beauty, according to the results of a poll which was conducted by EveryDay Health and American Council on Fitness. It’s really a good news that more and more people realize that the motivation for exercise could significantly influent the exercise results.

 Exercise could not only benefit your physical health by lowering your blood pressure, maintaining your healthy joints, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, it also benefits your mental health. With respect to psychological wellbeing, participation in regular physical activity has already been shown to confer considerable benefit such as the reduction of anxiety, stress, and depression in individuals. However, research has also shown that not all individual benefit positively from physical exercise. The motivation for exercise has been found to be an important factor which influences the exercise results.

In particular, exercises sometimes could lead female exercisers to poorer body image and greater eating disturbance, if they overly focus on their physical appearances. Studies found that young women who exercise primarily to lose weight, to improve body tone, and to improve attractiveness were more likely to become more dissatisfied with their physical selves the more they exercise, regardless of the associated health and fitness benefits (McDonald & Thompson, 1992). It is because exercise is a slow and challenging means of appearance improvement that does not instantly change a woman’s shape. The long and frustrated processes often lead these women to feeling disappointed rather than a sense of achievement. Thus, it seems that the motivations women hold for exercise may play a significant role in the development and maintenance of body image concerns. Although research indicated that women’s motivation for exercise was more often related to weight and tone reasons than men, in general, for both genders, exercising for weight, tone, and attractiveness reasons was highly correlated with eating disturbance and body dissatisfaction. In contrast, exercising because of health was positively associated with self-esteem for both female and male.

square-eyeWhy Exercise? Health Trumps Beauty, Study Finds (Fox News)

 

square-eyeKaren McDonald, & J. Kevin Thompson (1992). Eating disturbance, body image dissatisfaction, and reasons for exercising: Gender differences and correlational findings.