Monthly Archives: November 2009

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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

Collective Action in the Age of Twitter

How are technological advances that allow for the rapid dissemination of information, such as Twitter, changing methods of protest and collective action movements across the world? Although there is no single or simple answer, psychologists, sociologists and other interdisciplinary scholars are engaging the question.

During the protests in Iran Twitter was hailed as a powerful medium that was able to engage supporters across the world as well as serve as one of the only news outlets that could permeate efforts of censorship. Months later, however, Twitter was again implicated in protest action in the United States. Although this time it was grounds for arresting an activist who was using Twitter to inform protesters about police location.

These two examples show both the ingenuity of protesters who make use of new technology and the subsequent need for those in positions of power to develop new ways of regulating or suppressing collective action. The most recent issue of Journal of Social Issues looks more closely at the social and psychological components of collective action and asks a number of questions about what motivates individuals to participate in movements and what steps are involved in engaging individuals to move from sympathizers to more active members of a movement. The authors also examine social movements formed around race, gender, class-status, and political opinion and note the things we can learn from seeing how these movements operate differently. At Queens College, in New York, scholars are also gathering to understand and theorize on the ways in which governments are changing their methods for dealing with protests and collective action.

In what ways do you think technology, globalization, and the economy have changed collective action and protesting? Does individual motivation to join a movement seem more or less likely in this era than in the past? How has the role of the “state” shifted in response to these changes?

square-eye Journal of Social Issues, The Social and Psychological Dynamics of Collective Action

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Just-World Beliefs and the Impact of Random Violence

Sniper

The D.C. sniper was executed yesterday for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers. In all ten people were killed by sniper fire in the D.C. area in the Fall of 2002. The region’s residents spent twenty three days in fear until the shooters were finally captured. What was so terrifying in this case was the sheer randomness of the shootings. Walking the dog, buying groceries, or simply getting gas could get you killed. Such crimes violate just world beliefs – the sense that the world is a fair. Victims of random crime can sometimes be derogated by observers who want to distance themselves from thoughts of being victims themselves. New research by Van Zomeren and Lodewijkz (2008) shows that such random senseless violence does generate greater self-concern but should not influence observer’s concern for victims. The execution yesterday may represent justice, but it seems like small comfort to the grieving families of the victims and those who are still affected by the fear and anxiety induced by the sniper’s killing spree.

square-eye

Van Zomeren & Lodewijkz (2008)

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DC area relives terror as sniper’s execution nears

 

The D.C. sniper was executed yesterday for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers. In all ten people were killed by sniper fire in the D.C. area in the Fall of 2002. The region’s residents spent twenty three days in fear until the shooters were finally captured. While everyone is afraid of death what was so terrifying in this case was the sheer randomness of the shootings. Walking the dog, buying groceries, or simply getting gas could get you killed. Such crimes violate just world beliefs – the sense that the world is a fair or just place. Victims of random crime can sometimes be derogated by observers who want to distance themselves from thoughts of being victims themselves. New research by Van Zomeren and Lodewijkz (2008) shows that such random senseless violence does generate greater self-concern but should not influence observer’s concern for victims. The execution yesterday may represent justice, but it seems like small comfort to the grieving families of the victims and those who are still affected by the fear and anxiety induced by the sniper’s killing spree.

The D.C. sniper was executed yesterday for the murder of Dean Harold Meyers. In all ten people were killed by sniper fire in the D.C. area in the Fall of 2002. The region’s residents spent twenty three days in fear until the shooters were finally captured. While everyone is afraid of death what was so terrifying in this case was the sheer randomness of the shootings. Walking the dog, buying groceries, or simply getting gas could get you killed. Such crimes violate just world beliefs – the sense that the world is a fair or just place. Victims of random crime can sometimes be derogated by observers who want to distance themselves from thoughts of being victims themselves. New research by Van Zomeren and Lodewijkz (2008) shows that such random senseless violence does generate greater self-concern but should not influence observer’s concern for victims. The execution yesterday may represent justice, but it seems like small comfort to the grieving families of the victims and those who are still affected by the fear and anxiety induced by the sniper’s killing spree.

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Retribution or rehabilitation?

supremecourtThe Supreme Court on Monday began hearing arguments on two cases involving life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders. In Graham v. Florida, Terrance Graham pled guilty to burglary and assault or battery. He was sentenced to probation, but then at the age of 17, he was arrested for home-invasion robbery and eluding police. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for violating probation.

The upcoming decision has implications for social psychology because of presumptions about the impact of prison on rehabilitation, as well as the potential distinction between young (highly transformable) and older minds.  

While the Court seems to be leaning toward allowing for a legal distinction between adults and juveniles in sentencing guidelines, Justice Scalia expressed early dissent, suggesting that sentencing is not only for deterrence: “One of the purposes is retribution, punishment for just perfectly horrible actions.”

But the judge who sentenced Mr. Graham did not seem to have retribution in mind when he told the boy, “I don’t understand why you would be given such a great opportunity to do something with your life and why you would throw it away … if I can’t do anything to get you back on the right path, then I have to start focusing on the community and trying to protect the community from your actions.”

The New York Times published an editorial expressing disapproval of such strict sentences for children. While Roberts and Gebotys (2006) found that “the public is more concerned with the principle of just deserts than with the utilitarian sentencing aims,” there is little support for sentencing a child for life. In fact, Scott, Reppucci, Antonishak and DeGennaro (2006) found that adults in their study believe there is a significant and consequential difference between juveniles and adults, and that sentences should reflect that difference.

The Restraint Bias: Another reason why a diet won’t work

Chocolate_chip_cookiesAs it happens people underestimate control over situations. Take the classic example of a student who waits until the last minute to study for a final exam because “they have it all under control”. This example is a type of bias that surprisingly is more common than expected. Another example of bias is a person who walks into a café to only get a coffee and is temped to get a tasty pastry. The phenomenon referred to is the restraint bias, or the perceived ability to have control over an impulse. Apply this concept to any vice when someone feels or is biased into perceived control and a similar conclusion is likely to occur.

Take the new fad: the cookie diet. People are purportedly allowed to eat cookies in addition to one meal. And it is precisely because of the name that people underestimate their ability to control the impulse, according to the New York Times report. However because people see the feasibility they are likely to try the diet and nevertheless fall for the impulse of eating that extra cookie.

As an example, Nordgren, van Harreveld & van der Pligt (2009), asked satiated and hungry participants to select a snack which was to be returned a week later in exchange for money. The authors reported that the more restraint bias experienced by satiated participants the greater the likelihood of not returning the snack. More importantly is the fact that the satiated participants chose their first or second favorite snacks while the hungry participants reportedly accounted for the bias by selecting a second or third favorite snack. The cookie diet then is an important example because it sounds harmless and increases the likelihood of bias. However based on the experiment by Nordgren et al., (2009) it can be concluded that because a cookie seems harmless people are more likely to be biased for that extra snack.

square-eye Read more: The Cookie diet

square-eye Nordgren, van Harreveld & van der Pligt (2009) The restraint bias-How the illusion of self-restraint  promotes impulsive behavior.

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Love is blind?

broken_heart_by_starry_eyedkid-1Rihanna, a pop star, decided to break up with singer Chris Brown after being beaten by him, and said that she felt embarrassed that she fell in love with the type of man he was.

Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by intimate partners in the United States annually, experiencing an average of 3.4 separate assaults per year (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Physical intimate-partner violence victimization could not only lead to physical harmful consequences such as injury, chronic pain disorders, but also negative mental consequences such as post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), depression, substance abuse and suicide. However, many abused women still choose to remain with their abusive partners and approximately 40% to 60% of women who have successfully left the abusive relationship return to live with their partners. The decision to terminate abusive relationships appears to be a complex and difficult one. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, researchers have identified a variety of practical and personal considerations that influence women’s decision to leave or stay in an abusive relationship. These include economic factors, fear, commitment, belief that the abusive partner will change, and societal attitudes and expectations about intimate relationships. More recently, Byrne and Arias’ study (2006) found that women would hold stronger intentions to end their relationships if they held positive attitudes toward ending the relationship and believe that they will have control over ending the relationship. It seems that women choose to stay in abusive relationships not because Love is blind, but because it’s hard to leave.

square-eyeChristina A. Byrne & Ileana Arias (2006). Predicting Women’s Intentions to Leave Abusive Relationships: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior.

square-eyeRihanna “Embarrassed” She Fell for Man Like Brown.

Marriage and Parenting: For Better AND For Worse

Couple_01 A recent New York Times Science article documents the efforts that family clinics and parenting groups are making to get fathers more involved in parenting. However, the issue is not only getting them involved, but in getting the mothers to let them be involved in their own ways. The biological connection that a mother and child share is undeniable but, as the article explains, our social and cultural constraints on fathers, and what is expected of them, can often make parenting confusing and unbalanced.

This article comes only a few days after another article on family relationships in the Times Magazine — one documenting the Obamas’ marriage. That article presents the Obamas as committed to one another but also not afraid to have conflicts, experience difficult times, and turn them into “teachable moments.” As a recent article in Social Development argues, conflict can actually be productive — if it occurs under the right circumstances. As the authors explain, both the type of conflict (constructive or coercive?) and the type of relationship in which it occurs (positive or negative?) can help predict the consequences of conflict.

So, whether the task is negotiating a balanced parenting arrangement in a society with fairly prescribed gender (and parental roles) or negotiating a marriage, psychology reminds us that conflict can be productive, and the process of working through the conflict can be beneficial to the relationships in the family.

square-eye Laursen and Hafen (2009). Future directions in the study of close relationships: Conflict is bad (except when it’s not).

square-eye Fathers gain respect from experts (and mothers). New York Times.

 

square-eye The Obamas’ Marriage. New York Times.

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