Tag Archives: Kevin R. Betts

Responding to violence in U.S. hospitals

By Kevin R. Betts

For several years, I worked at a psychiatric hospital as a mental health technician. For the most part, I found this job to be very fulfilling. Watching patients who arrived in disarray leave feeling content left me feeling that what I was doing was worthwhile, and the occasional thank you card or call from a previous patient didn’t hurt either. However, there were certainly challenges inherent to this job. One such challenge concerned how best to react to patients who became angry or aggressive. When confronted by such a patient, a common response among the staff was to corral other staff members in an attempt to intimidate the patient into submission. In contrast to staff expectations, however, these attempts were often met by the patient with obstinance, and they sometimes even appeared to encourage further aggressive behaviors.

The media has recently given increased attention to violence in U.S. hospitals like that captured in my account above. Events such as the recent shooting at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, as well as a recent Joint Commission report about increasing rates of violence in hospital emergency rooms, has earned the attention of health care workers and the general public alike. Unfortunately, one thing that can be gathered from these reports and my account above is that most hospital staff members receive only limited training in how to respond to angry or aggressive patients.

Research on the interindividual-intergroup discontinuity informs us that corralling other staff members to confront an angry patient who is alone, as often occurred at my workplace, will likely be ineffective in reducing that patient’s anger or aggression. The interindividual-intergroup discontinuity suggests that interactions between groups, or between groups and individuals, will be more competitive and aggressive than interactions between individuals alone (Meier, Hinsz, & Heimerdinger, 2007). There are three mechanisms that are believed to be responsible for this effect. One mechanism suggests that we fear and distrust other groups more than other individuals. A second mechanism suggests that group members can provide social support for antisocial actions, whereas individuals cannot. The third mechanism concerns identifiability, meaning that our (antisocial) actions are more identifiable when we act alone than when we act in a group. What is the implication of this research for health care workers? When it can be safely done, angry or aggressive patients should be confronted one-on-one.

Read more:

Violence in U.S. hospitals (CNN)

Violence on the rise in U.S. health care centers (Businessweek)

Meier, B.P., Hinsz, V.B., & Heimerdinger, S.R. (2007). A framework for explaining aggression involving groups. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 298-312.

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Reasons for love

By Kevin R. Betts

In a recent CNN article, columnist Stephanie Dolgoff attempted to describe the reasons why she had fallen in (and out) of love with each of her intimate partners since the age of sixteen. For me, the most interesting part of this article was that the author was able to identify these reasons. It seems that many people think that love is something that just happens. Can one have reasons for love? Should one have reasons for love?

Although many laypersons may be unaware of the reasons they fell in love with their past and present partners, reasons do exist. Robert Solomon attempted to capture some of these reasons in a 2002 article entitled, “Reasons for Love” (I borrowed the title). One unsurprising reason is attraction. Although looks in and of themselves may not sustain love over time, they produce a willingness to consider the possibility of being in love with another. Rationalization may also lead to love. When we consider the possibility of falling in love, we may justify the positive emotions we experience with our beloved with reasons for those emotions. These reasons may or may not be accurate; rather, it is the perception that reasons exist that matters. Love in and of itself may also be a reason for love. Solomon (2002) describes a common movie scene in which the protagonist makes a list with two columns. In the left column, he writes down all the reasons to leave his lover. In the right column, he writes, “I love her!” Simply feeling that one is in love may be reason to continue loving someone. One may also fall in love because of properties of the beloved. Properties may include things like attractiveness as described above, but they may also include things like a sense of humor, wit, or charm. Or more commonly, some combination of features may lead to love.

In this brief post, I only covered a subset of the reasons for love identified by Solomon (2002). What is interesting to me is not the specific reasons why love comes to fruition, but rather that reasons exist. For those of you in serious relationships, why do you love your partner? Can you identify the reasons for your love or do you “just know” you love them?

Read more:

Love lessons from bad breakups (CNN)

Solomon, R.C. (2002). Reasons for love. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 32, 1-28.

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A children’s peace force in the Koreas

By Kevin R. Betts

I stumbled across an interesting news story this weekend that detailed a 13 year old Korean American’s ambitious goal to restore peace between North and South Korea. His name is Jonathan Lee, and he is the founder of I.C.E.Y. H.O.P.E., a youth humanitarian environmental group that seeks to convince North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il to plant a children’s peace force in the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. Lee says, “What I would really like, if possible, like maybe the children from both countries could be able to meet and play with each other. Like a big playground.”

The contact hypothesis predicts that Lee’s efforts should result in at least some success. In general, the contact hypothesis suggests that interpersonal contact is the most effective way of reducing biases among conflicting groups (Wagner, Tropp, Finchilescu, & Tredoux, 2008). And although Lee’s efforts are geared toward children who may not yet have developed these biases, positive benefits may be seen in the unprejudiced views of these children as they age, as well as the views of watchful Korean nationals who observe this contact. However, for contact to truly be effective, research tells us that it must occur amid certain conditions. First, contact must be between equal status groups. If one country’s children are treated as subordinate to those of the other country, contact is unlikely to yield positive outcomes. Second, the two groups must share common goals. For children, one common goal may be as simple as having fun. For adults, these goals may revolve around reducing tensions among North and South Koreans in later generations. Third, intergroup cooperation must be present. For efforts at peace to be effective, cooperation on both sides of the Koreas is necessary. Fourth, authorities, law, or custom must support this intergroup contact. For Lee’s ambitious goals to stand a chance, both North and South Korean leaders must support his attempts.

The results of Lee’s efforts remain to be seen. Yet, the consistency of these efforts with the contact hypothesis gives us reason to be hopeful. Peace between North and South Korea still remains possible.

Read more:

Korean-American teenager shares ambitious peace plan

Wagner, U., Tropp, L.R., Finchilescu, G. & Tredoux, C. (Eds.). (2008). Improving intergroup relations: Building on the legacy of Thomas F. Pettigrew. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

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Should you trust the airline industry?

By Kevin R. Betts

On a recent flight out of Detroit, I overheard an elderly couple arguing about whether or not they should have shared a suitcase. Bringing individual suitcases cost the couple $100 roundtrip, whereas sharing a suitcase would have only cost them $50. Fees for checked bags, as well as hidden costs associated with services like ticket changes, insurance, and booking flights by phone are common in the airline industry. Although base prices for flights often appear inexpensive, these prices do not reflect additional hidden fees that are usually incurred. Moreover, airlines are well known among the general public for variable base rate pricing, whereby different customers are charged different prices for the same tickets.

Given these concerns, many airline passengers have developed a jaded view of the airline industry. Recent research by Heyman and Mellers (2008) suggests that this can be expected. Investigating perceptions of fair pricing, they found that consumers who learn about variable pricing often feel betrayed. Moreover, companies that use variable pricing, but are caught trying to cover their tracks, are perceived as even worse. Although the airline industry may see short term financial gains by incorporating hidden fees and variable pricing methods, these gains may be outmatched by future losses as passengers lose trust in the industry.

As consumers, should we trust the airline industry? That decision needs to be made by each potential passenger, but what we should all be careful to do is stay informed. Are you willing to pay $350 for a ticket that the person sitting next to you paid $225 for? Are you willing to pay a processing fee for booking your flight by phone instead of over the internet? As consumers, these are important questions that we must consider.

Read more:

Rising air fare (New York Times)

Hidden fees aggravate air travelers (CNN)

Heyman, J.E., & Mellers, B.A. (2008). Perceptions of fair pricing. In C.P. Haugtvedt, P.M. Herr, & F.R. Kardes (Eds.), Handbook of consumer psychology (pp. 683-697). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Xie, Y. and Peng, S. (2009). How to repair customer trust after negative publicity: The roles of competence, integrity, benevolence, and forgiveness. Psychology and Marketing, 26, 572–589.

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What is the future of immigrant relations in Arizona?

By Kevin R. Betts

Arizona’s controversial new immigration law is set to go into effect this Thursday. In short, the law requires that police officers determine the immigration status of individuals who are stopped, detained, or arrested when there is reasonable suspicion that they are in the country illegally. The law also makes it a misdemeanor for legal immigrants to not carry immigration papers. Fearing possible harassment by police and wrongful detention, many legal and illegal immigrants have fled the state since the announcement of the impending law. How might dwindling numbers of immigrants in Arizona impact immigrant relations in the state?

Research in the behavioral sciences has repeatedly shown that to achieve peace between conflicting groups, intergroup contact is necessary. Without frequent intergroup contact, unfounded prejudices often form about members of stigmatized groups. Based on this research, we might expect that fewer immigrants in Arizona will provide fewer opportunities for  contact between immigrants and natural born citizens, and consequently, more unfounded prejudices about immigrants. Indeed, research by Ulrich Wagner and colleagues (2008) provides evidence for this prediction. They looked at how the proportion of ethnic minorities in a region affects opportunities for intergroup contact, and how frequency of intergroup contact affects prejudice. Using East and West German samples, they found that lower levels of prejudice in West Germany could be explained by the larger numbers of ethnic minorities in the region, which allowed for increased intergroup contact.

Will Arizona’s new law be effective in its primary purpose of driving out illegal immigrants? It probably already has, but not without costs for immigrant relations in the state as legal and illegal immigrants flee the region.

Read more:

Hispanics flee Arizona ahead of immigration law

Wagner, U., Christ, O., Wolf, H., van Dick, R., Stellmacher, J., Schlüter, E., & Zick, A. Social and political context effects on intergroup contact and intergroup attitudes. In U. Wagner, L.R. Tropp, G. Finchilescu, & C. Tredoux (Eds.), Improving intergroup relations: Building on the legacy of Thomas F. Pettigrew (pp. 195-209). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

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Sh*t my grandpa says (about cautious drivers)

By Kevin R. Betts

Sitting next to my grandpa in the back seat of my mom’s car last week, I listened to him critique his daughter’s driving: “I could have made it through that gap three times by now.” “How do you get anywhere?” “How come Kevin isn’t driving?” Seemingly unaffected by my grandpa’s comments, my mom and grandma discussed the things they wanted to do before our family vacation in Traverse City, Michigan was over. Reminiscent for me of the humorous website http://shitmydadsays.com/, I just laughed.

Although my grandpa’s comments are humorous, the aggressive driving habits he hopes my mom will adopt are not. Just a month earlier than our vacation, a man in the same city sped down a local road and rolled his vehicle, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another. Around the world, similar stories are heard. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 37,261 people died on U.S. roads in 2008 alone.

Hoping to shed light on factors that influence aggressive driving like that resulting in the abovementioned accident, Michele Lustman and colleagues (2010) surveyed a sample of motorists, collecting information about their driving habits and personality characteristics. Results revealed a link between trait narcissism and both perception of intentionality following road incidents and aggressive driving behaviors. Specifically, motorists with high self-esteem were more likely than those with low self-esteem to perceive ambiguous road incidents as intentional, and to react to those incidents aggressively. The researchers suggest that the aggressive reactions of these drivers may be in response to threatened high self-esteem that results from perceived offenses by other drivers.

Read more:

Man charged in fatal rollover accident

FHWA road safety fact sheet

Lustman, M., Wiesenthal, D.L., & Flett, G.L. (2010). Narcissism and aggressive driving: Is an inflated view of the self a road hazard? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 1423-1449.

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LAPD seeks to restore relations with bicycle commuters

By Kevin R. Betts

“As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.” Although it is unclear who first said this, there is no doubt that many people feel this way. In California, this recently became clear when an officer of the LAPD was filmed kicking a bicycle commuter who followed several hundred others riding in Critical Mass, a monthly mass bicycling event. Making matters worse, officers then surrounded and tackled the cameraman! Unfortunately, cities across the U.S. have seen similar confrontations between police and bicycle commuters in recent years.

While friendship may not be in the cards, peaceful relations between police and bicycle commuters are essential as the popularity of bicycle commuting grows. Every day, thousands of people around the globe commute to work, school, and other locations by bicycle. In one U.S. city, bicycle couriers were found to deliver between 3000 and 4000 items per day at a financial steal of only about seven dollars per delivery (Dennerlein & Meeker, 2002). Indeed, bicycle commuting offers an important contribution to society as it is cost-effective, as well as reduces pollution and traffic congestion. Standing in the way of these societal advantages, however, may be fears among potential bicycle commuters about confrontation with aggressive police. For these cyclists, it is imperative that police understand their role as protectors of those that legally share the road. When bicycle commuters abide by traffic laws, they should be treated by police in the same manner as motorists.

In response to the incident in California, LAPD officers joined a Critical Mass ride this past Friday to show their support for lawful bicycle commuting. Whether most bicycle commuters in California have taken this peace offer at face value is unclear, but nonetheless, the actions of the LAPD are commendable. Considering the societal advantages of bicycle commuting and the potential role police can play in protecting lawful bicycle commuters, peaceful relations are imperative.

Read more:

LAPD officers attack Critical Mass riders

LAPD pledges to join Critical Mass ride

Dennerlein, J.T., & Meeker, J.D. (2002). Occupational injuries among Boston bicycle messengers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 42, 519-525.

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