Tag Archives: culture

Vuvuzela: cultural symbol or plain annoying?

The vuvuzela, a plastic horn, has become the official villain of the 2010 World Cup. There was a debate about whether vuvuzela should be banned before the World Cup. Recently, FIFA president Sepp Blatter cleared the air on Monday, saying he fully supported the use of vuvuzelas and that it would be disrespectful for FIFA to come in and change an African tradition. It will always be difficult and controversy to make the banning decision. On the one hand, the vuvuzela makes life difficult for players and audiences, both at the match or watching from home. Players have trouble hearing the whistle or their teammates, audiences at home have trouble hearing the commentary on TV, and chanting fans at the match are drowned out by the monotonous vuvuzelas. However, as Trmon Zamba, a South African fan, said “It’s our culture. It can be loud, but it’s good for us supporters.”

People may wonder, dose every South African fan really enjoy the noise made by vuvuzela. Probably not. However, because the vuvuzela has been determined by the South African culture to be the “right” way to show fans’ supports in that situation, personal value and preference do not matter anymore. Psychological research has shown that the psychological processes that shape the effects of personal values on behavior are strongly affected by the social context in which people operate. These processes are strongly cultural bound. As previous research has showed, one of the best-known factors believed to moderate the effect of personal attributes is ‘situational strength’: when the social context provides uniform expectations regarding appropriate behavior, the situation is defined as strong. In strong situations, all people follow the same course of action, and there is little variation in behavior. Thus, let’s face it. The vuvuzela which is rooted in South African tradition has been considered as an appropriate way to show fans’ passion and supports in its culture. No matter people like it or not, fans of every team will keep blowing them delightedly to show support for their national teams in this World Cup. 

But, really, I don’t mind it so much

Question of the day: Is the vuvuzela a cultural delight or just plain annoying?

Sonia Roccas & Lilach Sagiv (2010). Personal Values and Behavior: Taking the Cultural Context into Account. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 30–41.

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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