Monthly Archives: September 2009

Feeling the Weight of our Decisions

ClipboardThe embodied cognition perspective has gained notable attention in the last few years by demonstrating the powerful relationships between the mind, body, and environment. At the center of this perspective is the idea that cognition is grounded in sensory processes, such that bodily sensations can affect cognitive processing. Evidence for this idea has been found in physical warmth affecting ratings of interpersonal liking (Williams & Bargh, 2008), as well as head movements influencing agreement with arguments about university issues (Wells & Petty, 1980).

Most recently, Jostmann, Lakens, & Schubert (2009) found that the concept of importance can be understood in sensory experiences related to weight. Jostmann and colleagues predicted that individuals who had a physical experience that involved more weight would consequently judge issues as being more important. They found support for this idea across 4 studies. In particular, they found that people who held a heavier clipboard rated issues relating to money, justice, and policy as being more important when compared to individuals who made the ratings using a lighter clipboard. Moreover, in a study where participants made ratings about subway construction in the city, they found that people holding the heavier clipboard (and thus viewing the issues as more important) engaged in more cognitive elaboration and were more confident in their decision compared to those who held a lighter clipboard.

Work of this type gives us a deeper appreciation for the relationship between sensory experiences and cognition, and how easily our judgments might be influenced by our physical states.

square-eyeJostmann, N. B., Lakens, D., & Schubert, T. W. (2009). Weight as an Embodiment of Importance.

$1.99 Balcetis, E., & Cole, S. (2009). Body in Mind: The Role of Embodied Cognition in Self-Regulation.

Gender, spiders, and media

090908_spiderOf the literally thousands of scientific journal articles published every month, only a select few receive media attention. From among the new research, the BBC recently chose to report on an infant study claiming a disproportionate fear of spiders among women.

The study reportedly showed 20 babies—10 boy and 10 girl—pictures of spiders paired with happy versus fearful human faces. The girls “looked longer” at the picture of the spider/happy face, evidently showing “that the young girls were confused as to why someone would be happy” when paired with a spider.

The BBC follows the leap of the researcher to conclude that evolutionary biology determines that women (who were “natural child protectors”) are more likely to be afraid of animals.

Notwithstanding the alleged evolutionary implications (some research has linked phobias to nurture, rather than nature), research has shown links between gender stereotypes and media content. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology even revealed measurable effects on cognition from exposure to stereotyped commercials.

It’s frightening, to say the least, that behavior might be related to gender stereotypes. While doubtful that pre-arachniphobe females will read the BBC article, existing gender stereotypes are still reinforced, while all of those other scientific articles remain unnoticed.

‘Teen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC’: Standardised Relational Pairs and Membership Categorisation Analysis.

male_sex_relationship_symbolThe ‘Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships’ research by the NSPCC and Bristol University provides us with an interesting (and alarming) glimpse at ‘standardised relational pair’ categories (Sacks, 1992) and the moral accountability attached to them (Jayussi, 1984). Sacks’ work on categories and their deployment found that certain categories go together like ‘boyfriend–girlfriend’. Members of these categories which form ‘standardised relational pairs’ have rights, responsibilities and duties to each other. In our example ‘boyfriend–girlfriend’, it is presumed that each person should provide a safe, supportive, caring and respectful relationship environment for each other to grow and develop. It follows then that category pairs and associated predicates (rights, responsibilities etc) are relational in the sense that one may be expected to follow the next with accountability as a moral-procedural requirement. Breaches between these categories and predicates ‘one in six said they had been pressured into sexual intercourse and 1 in 16 said they had been raped’, tend to generate moral outrage/alarm and interactional repair solutions ‘parents and schools can perform a vital role in teaching them about loving and safe relationships, and what to do if they are suffering from violence or abuse’.
square-eyeTeen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC

square-eyeGender-Based Violence

square-eyeObjectification Theory and Psychology of Women: A Decade of Advances and Future Directions

square-eyeA tutorial on membership categorization

Selling Social Warmth not Coffee

Tasse_KaffeeLarge companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s are, according to Reuters, taking part in a coffee war.  The end game seems to be higher percentage sales increases for both companies. However once the dust settles the individual will still have the option of traditional or gourmet coffee. Yet, behind all the percentages, profit margins and price promotions might be more than a habit of a favorite caffeinated beverage.

Consider a recent investigation by Ijzerman and Semin (2009), which concluded that the mere exposure to a warm drink allows the perception of being closer to another individual compared to individuals holding a cold drink.  One interpretation could be that individuals are seeking social warmth from their favorite stimulating warm drink.

This conclusion does not appear to be such a long shot when considering freelance writer David DiSalvo’s take on the investigation.  DiSalvo argues that the investigation by Ijzerman and Semin (2009) and others is evidence that our perception is influenced by unconscious factors. It is no wonder then that warm drinks such as traditional or gourmet beverages have become so popular that companies are competing to be the top choice. Individuals in turn experience the perception of feeling closer to another, albeit unconsciously.

square-eye Read more: Link to Reuters article

square-eye Read more: Article commentary

square-eye Ijzerman, H., & Semin, G. (2009). The Thermometer of Social Relations: Mapping Social Proximity on Temperature

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Being a Good Girl Is Bad?

gender role2Bing a good girl is bad? If you think that a good girl should be dependent, quiet, obedient, and shy, then Rachel Simmons, the author of the best sellers Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl, might tell you:  No! Simmons talked with TIME that girls were taught early on to suppress their emotions and not live as loudly as they might be inclined to, and her new book aims to show how to raise girls who aren’t afraid to be assertive and even a little less than perfect.

The good-girl identity is associated with traditional femininity gender role which refers to the attitudes and behaviors that class a woman’s stereotypical identity. Girls internalized their gender role during the process of socialization. In western culture, femininity has been associated with traits such as dependence, intuition, submissiveness, and emotionality whereas masculinity has been associated with traits such as independence, rationality, competitiveness, and objectivity. Thus,  a good girl used to be expected to act elegantly and restrainedly, and repress their strong emotions and feelings.

However, the content of socially accepted gender roles changes over time, and roles that may have not been acceptable at an earlier point in one’s life may become socially desirable at a later point. A recent meta-analysis of changes in masculine and feminine traits among college student found that since 1973 women have increasingly reported stereotyped masculine personality traits for themselves (Twenge, 1997). At the same time, some researches shows that women who were gender role typed as stereotypically masculine or androgynous would exhibit significantly greater levels of psychological well-being than women who were typed as stereotypically feminine or undifferentiated. It seems likely that being “good” is no longer the only or preferred option for girls.

square-eyeWhen Being a Good Girl Is Bad (TIME)

 

square-eyeKendra J. Saunders, K.J., & Kashubeck-West, S. (2006). The relations among feminist identity development, gender-role orientation, and psychological well-being in women.

 

square-eyeTang, T.N., & Tang, C. (2003). Gender role internalization, multiple roles, and Chinese women’s mental health.