Tag Archives: anxiety

Novelty and Gadgetry

In a society saturated with technology individuals must find a reason (or not) to justify their purchase. Gadgets nowadays come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of features and applications. Indeed, the more novel the device the more press it receives, and if curiosity is aroused, then perhaps there will be more buyers as well. The topic of discussion is the iPad, and following the anticipation people have either settled on buying the device or not.

The New York Times produced a video asking people on the street if they were going to buy the iPad. Some people rejected the idea completely citing that the device is “in-betweener”; that is, a device that can do a task that other devices already do. Yet, another group of people noted that they were willing to purchase the gadget because it is different.

The reason why the gadget might be getting mixed feedback is precisely because the technology is novel. Viscerally people who are getting put off by the novelty of the device might be experiencing anxiety (Maner, 2009). Perhaps these are the individuals The New York Times notes that are not quite sure what to do with the device. On the opposite side of the spectrum, individuals who find the device appealing are attracted to its uniqueness. These same individuals tend to be curious and are trying out new things (Silvia & Kashdan, 2009).  Although the approach-avoidance dimension can be applied to many things in this instance it is the allure of technology.

Read more: The iPad Math.

Maner, J.K. (2009). Anxiety: Proximate processes and ultimate functions.

Silvia, P.J. & Kashdan, T.B. (2009). Interesting things and curious people: Exploration and engagement as transient states and enduring strengths.

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Mad Scientists: Can we ever revisit Milgram’s diabolical studies?

By Erica Zaiser

Every student of social psychology remembers studying Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment. His studies shaped future thinking about authority, extreme group behavior, and morality. Many of those same psychology students, captivated by the lure of such exciting and revealing studies, would have also learned that you can no longer actually do that kind of research anymore.

The BBC recently reenacted the Milgram experiment for TV and now, the French have added their own twist. The BBC recently reported on a French TV documentary, which showed that under the guise of a game show, contestants were willing to send an electrical shock to other contestants– sometimes at dangerous levels. These types of TV “experiments” are not subject to the same ethical considerations social psychologists are. Of course, this also means they are also not subject to the same expectation of scientific rigour.  It’s always somewhat exciting to see confirmation (even in a highly unscientific setting) that what was shown by Milgram in the 60s may  still hold true today. However, the potential harm to participants from that type of experiment justifies the ethical limitations preventing such research.

Is there a middle ground?

Some psychologists have found that they can still re-do old experiments but also reduce potential harm to their participants by moving the experiments from the physical world into a virtual world. Two researchers in France used virtual reality to re-examine Milgram’s ideas. Like Milgram, they found that participants showed more obedience when they couldn’t see the victim and they also found that participants felt less distress when the victim was from North Africa than when he was of their same ethnic background.  Virtual reality has opened up a way for psychologists to do research on extreme behaviour, but minimize harm to participants.  Perhaps both psychologists and participants can benefit from future use of virtual reality as a medium for experiments.

Read more: Reopening the study of extreme social behaviors: Obedience to authority within an immersive video environment

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Pink Ribbon: Charity or hitting in the face?

Pink_Ribbon_Ducks_16_836Every October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a sea of pink ribbons washes over products. This cute and soothing pink ribbon which represents companies’ promise to donate into cancer research, however, leaves some breast cancer survivors feeling suffering rather than appreciating.  “I think that the pink ribbon, as symbol, tends to pretty up what is a pretty crappy disease. But a pink ribbon is easier to look at than the disease itself.” Like Zielinski, many breast cancer survivors feel overwhelmed by the constant pink reminder of a disease that has forever altered their lives.  

The diagnosis of breast cancer, the most common type of cancer among American women, elicits greater distress than any other diagnosis, regardless of prognosis. Medical and psychological research suggests that patients’ reporting of somatic symptoms is more closely related to emotional variables (particularly negative affect) than to their actual health as determined by external criteria (Koller et al, 1996 ). A supportive social environment (broad social network, presence of a significant other, availability and reception of social support) has beneficial effects on patient’s health whereas negative emotions, most of which are evoked by stigma, could be very harmful to patients’ health (Eccleston , 2008).

Stigma means that the individual possesses an undesired anomaly and is therefore disqualified from full social acceptance. People may think breast cancer is less stigmatized than mental diseases or other physical diseases such as HIV because the most significant risk factors for breast cancer (such as genetics and age) can’t be altered by women, which is why it’s often regarded as a “blameless” disease. However, besides negative responses (anxiety, disgust, sadness, anger, or helplessness), the effects of stigma may also contain positive emotions such as empathy or overconcern. Both emotional responses, however, reflect the attitude that the stigmatized person is unfavorably different from “normal” individuals (Koller et al, 1996).Imagine a breast cancer woman who is constantly reminded by this pink ribbon and thus is forced to be aware of the disease so often. Is it a charity or a torture?

square-eyeEccleston, C.P. (2008). The Psychological and Physical Health Effects of Stigma: The Role of Self-threats. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 10,1345–1361.

square-eyeMichael Koller, M., et al. (1996). Symptom reporting in cancer patients: The role of negative affect and experienced social stigma. Cancer, 77, 983-995.

square-eyeSick of pink.