Tag Archives: Christmas

Yum! This imagined cake is as good as the real thing.

By Erica Zaiser

For some people, all the delicious calorific treats being pushed by friends and relatives during the holiday season can be a joyous and tasty time. But for others, the holiday season can feel like a constant battle of the wills due to the guilt-laden festive food. In the struggle for self-control many people force themselves to stop thinking about all the food they are attempting to avoid. It seems logical that if you think about eating it, you will want to eat it. But some psychology research has suggested just the opposite.

In a set of studies discussed in the Guardian online, participants who were asked to imagine eating large amounts of a treat actually ate less of the food afterwards compared to those who imagined eating a small amount or imagined interacting with the food in a different way. Although the difference was small, this might suggest that actually visualising the behaviour beforehand reduces the “wanting drive” for that behaviour. It would be interesting to see if this type of activity would work for other negative behaviours people want to avoid (smoking for example).

Some past research on behavioural intentions has shown that when imagining a positive behaviour, people report more intentions to engage in it. It’s interesting that with a positive behaviour, imagining it can increase willingness to do it; but imagining engaging in a negative (but wanted) behaviour can decrease the need to engage in real life.

Read more: Effects of Directed Thinking on Intentions to Engage in Beneficial Activities: Idea Generation or Mental Simulation?
Read more: Imagine eating if you want to lose weight, say scientists. Guardian.co.uk.


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A Week to Be Nice: Force Festive Feelings for this Holiday Season

By P. Getty

Since it’s the week of Christmas, my wife’s favorite holiday in December, I’ve been forced to promise not to write anything “negative” or “angry” for this weeks entry. Because I love my wife, and fear for my life, I go against my gut, which is telling me to give both barrels to the medical and insurance industries (the second part of my continuing series). Nevertheless, because I still have a mind to be bad, I will keep this short and sweet, adhering to that age-old proverb instructing me not to say anything if I don’t have anything nice to say.  Indeed, I will appeal to my clenched-teeth cheeky festive side and just say, “Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a colorful Kwanzaa, a prosperous New Year, and a swell whatever other day of merry making exists that I don’t rightly know about that others may observe!”

No one really wants to do work this week, including me, so rather than connecting this week’s thought to some piece of psychology, I would like to direct your attention to a couple of articles and Web sites that I found interesting, fun or in someway related to the holiday season.  Enjoy!

A Child’s Christmas in America: Santa Claus as Deity, Consumption as Religion, by R. W. Belk

Seasonal Variation and Meteotropism in Suicide…, by A Preti

The Best Christmas Song Ever Sung, “Merry F’ing Christmas” by Mr. Garrison.

The season for reason

By, Adam K. Fetterman
This Season, Celebrate REASON”, reads an American Atheists billboard by the Lincoln Tunnel. This is another in a long line of billboards and signs reminding people that atheists are out there. The apparent goal of this campaign is to let “closeted” atheists know that they are not alone. This seems particularly necessary during the holiday season as atheists may feel more like they are in the minority than other times of the year. For some, this time of the year requires them to pretend to be religious for fear of social reprisal. Therefore, being reminded (e.g. by billboards) that they are not alone can definitely have positive effects. However, as to be expected, the religious community (mostly Christian) is not responding with acceptance and positivity (though some are). Some have said the billboards are disrespectful and attacking. So, in response, religious organizations are putting up billboards of their own. According to the New York Times, there appears to be a quite interesting sign battle going on in Texas. The atheists’ sign reads “Millions of Americans are Good Without God” on the side of the bus, followed by a truck with a sign reading “I Still Love You – God” and another claiming “2.1 billion Christians are good with God”. While it would be a fairly funny scene to witness, it hits on an old argument about where morality comes from.

For many years, many have assumed that religion is the foundation or source of morality or pro-social behavior. In a recent review, Preston, Ritter, and Hernandez (2010) indicate that religion does not have a monopoly on morality and pro-social behavior. In fact, they indicate that religiosity only predicts moral or pro-social behavior in specific contexts and can actually predict increased anti-social behavior in certain contexts. The authors go on to discuss the differences between religious and supernatural beliefs in regards to moral and pro-social behaviors.

Another researcher arguing that religion is not the ultimate source of morality and pro-social behavior is Sam Harris. He has found (as well as others) quite compelling evidence of naturalistic or evolutionary foundations of morality and pro-social behavior. In fact, I have made arguments about certain motivations that would lead all people to be moral, in previous posts. In the end, it appears to be pretty clear that one can be “Good without God”. With some of the reactions to these billboards (e.g. defacing and anger), it seems apparent that religiosity does automatically make one moral.

More Sacramento-area atheist billboards are vandalized. By, Bill Lindelof, Sacto 9-1-1

Dueling billboards face off in Christmas controversy. By, Laura Dolan, CNN

Atheist bus ads rattle Fort Worth. By, James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times.

Sam Harris’ Website

Preston, J. L, Ritter, R. S., & Hernandez, J. I. (2010). Principles of religious prosociality: A review and reformulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 574-590.

Read all of Adam K. Fetterman’s posts here.

What Striking The Harp And Joining The Chorus May Say About You

The holiday season brings with it a number of traditions, including (my personal favorite) around the clock radio play of Christmas songs and music. And while one’s preference for Christmas carols may simply reflect an abundance of Christmas spirit, recent work has shown that your taste in music may also reflect certain aspects of your personality. Peter Rentfrow and Sam Gosling have found that traits from the Big 5 trait taxonomy relate to preferences for different musical styles. For instance, individuals high in Agreeableness and Extraversion are fond of upbeat and energetic music, those high in Emotional Stability and Openness to Experience listen more to styles that are musically complex, and those high in Conscientiousness prefer conventional music.

Based on these findings, Rentfrow and Gosling continued to investigate how musical preferences may relate to personality and social processes. In 2006, they found that individuals were able to accurately infer the personality of a stranger based on their music preferences. In this study, published in Psychological Science, when judging the personality of unknown others, people were most accurate in determining levels of Openness to Experience and Extraversion. Moreover, when making their judgments, observers used some of the musical attributes (i.e., energy) discussed above.

In other words, your musical tastes may inform both you and others about certain aspects of your personality. And because people use different musical attributes to make these judgments, your song selection may influence how others view you. When hosting your holiday celebrations, if you want to appear more sociable, you might want to choose songs that are especially upbeat and cheerful. I recommend starting with A Very Merry Chipmunk.

Alvin and the Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Song

Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2006). Message in a ballad: The role of music preferences in interpersonal perception.

Is Santa Claus ‘retrosexual’?

The British columnist Mark Simpson first identified and named a ‘new, narcissistic, media-saturated, self-conscious kind of masculinity’ – the ‘metrosexual’ – in an influential article entitled ‘Here Come the Mirror Men’ in the national newspaper The Independent in 1994. Apparently the ‘metrosexual’, is ‘a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis—because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are’ (Simpson, 2002). The point Simpson was making, was that men are becoming more involved in historically feminised practices, which centre on consumption and self-presentation. Since Simpson first coined the term, ‘metrosexual’ practices have grown exponentially and even seem to have reached more mature men (Mintel, 2006).

It seems then, that ‘metrosexuality’ is here to stay. However in contrast, many men still continue to follow more conventional masculine and gender distinct scripts and these men have been termed ‘retrosexual’ (Simpson, 2003). Retrosexuality aligns itself with more classical or ‘hegemonic’ masculinity (Connell, 1995) and includes typical characteristics such as heroics, strength, drive, ambition and risk-taking, along with a disinterest in health-related practices, body image and grooming.

Given this identity criterion then, Santa is clearly ‘retrosexual’. For example, his beard is long and unkempt and he doesn’t wear the latest fashions. He clearly has a disinterest in health-related practices and body image, evidenced by his large paunch and he is well known to eat numerous mince pies and drink copious amounts of alcohol (at least on Xmas Eve). I should probably not mention too loudly the risk-taking involved in controlling his sleigh under the influence of alcohol or not following HSE lifting guidelines when hauling his sack. And of course we all think of him as heroic since he manages to delivery on time (unlike the Royal Mail) all our presents in just a few short hours, even whilst it’s snowing.

Merry Christmas to all readers!

Analysing Discursive Constructions of ‘Metrosexual’ Masculinity Online: ‘What does it matter, anyway?’

Men’s Grooming Habits – UK – March 2007

The Journal of Popular Culture

A Metrosexual Christmas?

BiothermMetrosexual icons such as David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo have inspired a new generation of men to spruce up their act and embrace the ever-growing range of grooming products designed with men in mind. Many of these products as likely to feature in style magazines, newspapers, on television and billboards, in the run up to Christmas. With retailers expecting sales to be brisker than last year (Centre for Retail Research, 2009), one might also expect the market for men’s grooming products to follow suit. However, although Mintel (2007) estimated the overall market size for men’s grooming products was a good-looking £806m, it still continued to exhibit unfulfilled potential.

The slow uptake of these products seems to be because of the continued identification of grooming and self-presentation practices with women and femininity. Harrison’s (2008) visual semiotic analysis of male cosmetics advertised online by Studio5ive found that the organisation reframed mascara and eyeliner in masculine ways (‘manscara’; ‘guy-liner’) in order to distinguish it from women’s products. Those men who actively engaged with such products, risked being critiqued and rejected as non-masculine (hence accusations of homosexuality, effeminacy and narcissism) and so tended to invoke conventional masculinity signifiers (e.g. heterosexual prowess, self-respect etc.) in order to justify their consumption (Hall, 2009). The apparent difficulty men face in enjoying such hitherto feminine identity products shows how more conventional or ‘hegemonic masculinities’ (see: Connell, 1995; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005) still remain culturally available and are likely to influence men’s (and women’s) consumption patterns this Christmas.

square-eyeAnalysing Discursive Constructions of ‘Metrosexual’ Masculinity Online: ‘What does it matter, anyway?’

square-eyeThe Journal of Popular Culture

square-eyeMen’s Grooming Habits – UK – March 2007

square-eyeUK Christmas retail sales to rise 1.9 pct