Tag Archives: culture

Women must be slim?


Alice Dogruyol’s article ‘Big girl in a skinny world: Killer heels are fine for tiny girls, but I’m carrying 90 kilos on spikes’ (Daily Mail, 8 June 2010) lends itself well to feminist psychology, and specifically the ways in which the female body is socially constructed and the implications this can have for women’s psychological (and physical) health. For example, Dogruyol describes herself, after having caught sight of her own reflection in a shop window, as ‘shapeless’ and ‘huge’, or as the title suggests ‘Big girl in a skinny world’. Her self-perception mirrors the strongly entrenched view that in order to be considered attractive and of value in Western culture women must be slim (Bordo 1993). Dogruyol’s self-perception of her body is part of a medium of culture in which the physical body becomes a reflection of the social body, such that, the central rules and hierarchies of Western culture determine how the body is seen (Bordo, 1993). Therefore, the body becomes a direct form of social control, in which greater restrictions and less tolerance is imposed on girls and women than on boys and men (Lee, 1998). The significance of physical attractiveness means that ideals such as ‘women must be slim’ have psychological implications for women in that they experience some degree of dissatisfaction with their bodies and that this may lead to a sense of alienation from the body, a fragmented self and a lack of autonomy. In order to regain a sense of autonomy and self, Dogruyol opts to make her body appear ‘slimmer’ by purchasing new clothes that will produce ‘a stylish, confidence-boosting new look.’

Big girl in a skinny world: Killer heels are fine for tiny girls, but I’m carrying 90 kilos on spikes

The overwhelming habit of biases and self-evaluation

Differences amongst groups of people tend to be most salient at the cultural level. A comparison often cited is that of Eastern and Western cultures. These group differences, however, tend to be caricatured stereotypes of people that may not hold true in all contexts.  Take for instance, the cultural differences in East vs. West explained pictorially. Life for those in the Eastern culture is pictured as having multiple individuals holding hands signifying collectivism. In the Western culture there is a picture of one individual, depicting the concept of individualism. Another cultural difference is portrayed as Westerners addressing problems directly, and Easterners indirectly addressing problems.

Brown (2010), on the other hand, argues that Eastern and Western cultures may not be as different as people think. At a basic level, for instance, Brown writes that people want to feel good about themselves and those around them.  The researcher notes that when given negative feedback individuals tend to feel worse about themselves; tend to compare themselves to each other, and see themselves and those close to them in better light than others as a result. Comparisons such as self-evaluations require that the individual see him or herself independent from others, regardless of culture.

Self-serving biases that occur during social comparisons or self-evaluations are important for purposes such as competition—especially in one to one combat or group sports. In one to one combat, for instance the individual is accountable for oneself only.  In group sports, the team is meant to act as a unit but the individual is held accountable or readily replaced should he or she not be cut out for the task.  More to the point, as the FIFA 2010 world cup draws closer, individuals will observe similar behavior from different cultural groups. Such behavior is expected since individuals are likely to get football fever. Eastern and Western cultures therefore are similar; people adapt.

See more: East vs. West explained pictorially

Brown, J.D. (2010). Across the (Not So) great divide: Cultural similarities in self-evaluative processes

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Valentine’s Day or Chinese New Year?

For the first time since 1953, Valentine’s Day falls on the same data as the Chinese New Year. For most Chinese people, the Chinese New Year will trump Valentine’s Day because the Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in the culture’s calendar and is also the traditional family reunion date. However, much of China’s Generation X/Y population, who are catching on to Western cultures and holidays such as Valentine’s Day, are forced to choose between Eastern and Western traditions, and between mothers and girlfriends/boyfriends.

According to Chui and Cheng (2007), when both cultural representations are activated simultaneously, they are placed in cognitive juxtaposition and attention is directed to their contrastive differences. As a consequence, the perceived differences between the two cultures and the perceived impermeability of their boundary tend to be exaggerated. Thus, individuals constructing a cultural identity will find it easier to compare their personal values with the value representations of the two cultures. For most Chinese people, their personal values are more consistent with the value representation of Chinese culture than that of American culture. These individuals will choose to identify with Chinese culture and be ready to reaffirm their cherished culture in anticipation of globalization’s erosive effects. However, when the context calls for the creative use of ideas from diverse cultural sources, simultaneous activation of American and Chinese cultures will facilitate creative performance by enlarging the perceived distinctiveness of the two cultures and placing them in cognitive juxtaposition. For Chinese young people who have to choose between “the West’s ideal of a paradise for two” and the “Chinese New Year’s ideal of a reunited family”, the creative performance might be trying to do both – spending the morning with the family and the night with their girlfriends. Of course, they have to be delicate in explaining it to both mother and girlfriend.

Chiu, C. &  Cheng,  S. Y. (2007).Toward a social psychology of culture and globalization: Some social cognitive consequences of activating two cultures simultaneously. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 84 – 100.

Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year fall on same day this year, a rare occurrence.

Behind Workplace Abuse

People finding themselves in a job where a boss or supervisor is aggressive should consider the reasons for the boss’ behavior. A survey from NPR news revealed several anecdotes describing how bosses abused their employees. The “double-dealing” supervisor, for instance, is said to be one of the worst type of bosses; this type of boss will threaten (perhaps with insults) an employee, then at a later time compliment the employee and completely ignore previous behavior. “The User” is said to be an aggressive type boss who has other individuals to assert his authoritative position. Basically telling others to be aggressive toward their peers. When this person receives negative feedback from their peers the boss turns on the individual.

Driving these behaviors, according to Fast & Cheng (2009) is the perception of incompetence on the part of the boss. However, when perceived competence has been restored, via self-affirmation, the aggressive behavior is reduced. The show “Talk of the Nation” discussed the psychology of the boss and speakers talked about culture as a contributing factor to the boss’ aggressive behavior.

In sum, company culture dictates whether the boss can get away with aggressive behavior. Also, the perceived competence on the part of the boss determines the likelihood of the boss being aggressive toward workers. It appears that complementing your boss is just as important as selecting where to work.

Read more: exploring the psychology of the boss

Read more: types of bosses

Fast, N., Chen, S. (2009) When the boss feels inadequate: power, incompetence, and aggression.

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Virtual Conference Report: Day Eight (28 Oct, 2009)

Japanese_textbooksBy Paula Bowles

Day eight of the conference was once again marked by some excellent contributions. The first paper ‘Cultural Sociology and Other Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity in the Cultural Sciences’ by Diane Crane (University of Pennsylvania) suggests that for many scholars ‘disciplinary isolation is the norm.’ However, Crane proposes that by utilising what she describes as ‘free‐floating paradigms’ such barriers can be removed.

The second paper of the day by Christine Mallinson, (University of Maryland) entitled ‘Sociolinguistics and Sociology: Current Directions, Future Partnerships also takes sociology and interdisciplinarity as its main themes. Mallinson’s paper concludes with practical advice as to how best to achieve research partnerships.

Together with these exciting papers, Catherine Sanderson (Amherst College) offered advice in her publishing workshop: ‘The Joys and Sorrows of Writing an Undergraduate Textbook.’ There was also an opportunity to spend time in the Second Life cocktail bar with the Compass Team.

Virtual Conference Report: Day Seven (27 Oct, 2009)

By Paula Bowles800px-Three_chiefs_Piegan_p.39_horizontal

The seventh day of the conference has continued with the key themes of ‘breaking down boundaries’ and interdisciplinarity. Roy Baumeister (Florida State University) began the day with his keynote lecture entitled ‘Human Nature and Culture: What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By utilising the concepts of evolutionary and cultural psychology, Buameister is able to explore the intrinsic significance culture holds for humanity.

Two other papers were also presented today. ‘Text as It Happens: Literary Geography’ by Sheila Hones (University of Tokyo) and Stefan Müller’s (University of Duisburg‐Essen) ‘Equal Representation of Time and Space: Arno Peters’ Universal History.’ These contributions have utilised a wide and diverse range of disciplines including history, cartography, geography and literature. Finally, Devonya Havis’ publishing workshop entitled ‘Teaching with Compass’ offers some interesting ideas as to how best implement technology within the classroom.

Keynote Lecture – ‘What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By Roy F. Baumeister

Baumeister Polaroid

Professor Roy F. Baumeister

Professor Baumeister’s Keynote lecture ‘ What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ is now live

Roy F. Baumeister is currently the Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology and head of the social psychology graduate program at Florida State University. He grew up in Cleveland, the oldest child of a schoolteacher and an immigrant businessman. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton in 1978 and did a postdoctoral fellowship in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent over two decades at Case Western Reserve University, where he eventually was the first to hold the Elsie Smith professorship. He has also worked at the University of Texas, the University of Virginia, the Max-Planck-Institute, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Baumeister’s research spans multiple topics, including self and identity, self-regulation, interpersonal rejection and the need to belong, sexuality and gender, aggression, self-esteem, meaning, and self-presentation. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and from the Templeton Foundation. He has over 400 publications, and his books include Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, The Cultural Animal, and Meanings of Life. The Institute for Scientific Information lists him among the handful of most cited (most influential) psychologists in the world. He lives by a small lake in Florida with his beloved family. In his rare spare time, he enjoys windsurfing, skiing, and jazz guitar.

You can view his keynote at http://compassconference.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/baumeister/