Monthly Archives: June 2010

Guns and aggression

By, Adam K. Fetterman
A Supreme Court decision once again sparks debate of gun control. The Court decided that citizens have the right to keep guns in all states and cities in the United States challenging some strict gun bans, like those in the Chicago area, according to the Associated Press. Guns are one of the hot-button issues that always seem to lead to great division. Some proponents argue that it is their right to own and carry guns and therefore, want to exercise that right, while others proclaim they want guns for fear of victimization. Opponents of guns argue that guns cause more harm than good and sometimes fear the people that want guns for protection.

While there are some anecdotal instances when citizens carrying guns have resulted in positive outcomes, these are quite rare. However, there has been research on the negative effects of guns. For example, Klinesmith, Kasser, and McAndrew (2006) found that interacting with guns led to increases in testosterone and aggressive behavior in males. While the aggressive behavior in the experiment, adding hot-sauce to a cup of water, is not all that reflective of real-world aggression, the effects show some increase in the willingness to harm others. There are probably not many people that would promote getting rid of guns altogether, however, some questions need to be further researched. For instance, should states and cities be able to ban guns if the area is deemed particularly aggressive? What type of people cause a threat to safety if they have access to guns? And on the other side, what are the benefits to the presence of guns?

Justices extend gun owner rights nationwide, by Mark Sherman – Associated Press

Klinesmith et al. (2006). Guns, Testosterone, and Aggression: An Experimental Test of a Mediational Hypothesis. Psychological Science, 17, 568-571.

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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Why flee when you can fight: the counter-evolutionary practice of bullfighting

A bullfight conjures many images, such as cheering crowds, brave matadors, and rushing bulls. A bullfighter earns respect and attention because, unlike most of the population, he dares to step into the bullring and face a bull. In the process the bullfighter asserts control over the body and controls the innate response to run and instead seeks to fight the bull. So when a bullfighter decides to run from a bull instead of fight it, albeit a natural evolutionary response, it becomes a newsworthy event.

A news report shows a video of a bullfighter who, took the traditional evolutionary route and fled from an attacking bull. Although running from bulls is a common practice for bullfighters when in a pinch, this event was particularly important. The news report explains that the bullfighter had been gored the previous year. So, after almost getting gored again by the bull the bullfighter made a run for it. This time around the bullfighter thought it best to get out and stop fighting the bull—in effect ending his career as a bullfighter.

Matsumoto and Hwang (2010) explain that the context of a bull rushing toward an individual should elicit a host of evolutionary responses.  An emotion such as fear, manifesting itself as the bullfighter running from the bull, is part of a set of responses that occur. The fact that bullfighters train to control their fear and fight the bull, the authors argue, is part of an adaptive “open system” of emotional appraisal. Thus, making bullfighting possible as a counter-evolutionary practice. On the other hand, a bullfighter that takes the evolutionary route and runs is worthy of making the news.

See more: Fleeing Matador

Matsumoto, D. & Hwang, H.S. (2010). Judging faces in context.

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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.

England players wear their emotions on their faces

By, Adam K. Fetterman
One of the most anticipated matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place on the second day of the tournament. The US and England faced off and ended the game in a 1 – 1 tie. Both teams should be happy with the result. While the US is definitely happy, as they were considered the underdogs, England does not share the enthusiasm. With a one point lead, the goalkeeper from England, the game’s proclaimed country of origin, allowed an easily blocked ball to sneak into the goal off the foot of one of their US rivals, a country in which soccer has yet to catch on. The disappointment over the goal, and the subsequent tie with the little favored underdog, left despair on the faces of those associated with the team. Indeed, the news media and bloggers have devoted much space to writing and showing pictures of dejected England players, including goalkeeper Robert Green and injured star David Beckham.

The facial expressions depicted in these images can give us insight to what these men were feeling. When someone sees a facial expression of emotion humans automatically mimic the expression of positive and negative emotion (Dimberg, Thunberg, & Elmehed, 2000). Through these mimicked facial movements, we are able to recognize the emotion being expressed. Therefore, when someone sees a picture of a sad-faced David Beckham, then one can get an idea of how he is feeling in that moment. In fact, we may even be able to feel what he is feeling. Ruys and Stapel (2008) showed that facial expressions are indeed emotion messengers, but are also emotion elicitors. So, one may feel bad for Robert Green when presented with his saddened face. However, since facial recognition acts the same with positive emotions (Dimberg et al., 2000), a different emotion would likely be recognized on US soccer players’ and fans’ faces: Happiness.

Dimberg, U., Thunberg, M., & Elmehed, K. (2000).Unconscious facial reactions to emotional facial expressions. Psychological Science, 11, 86-89.

David Beckham’s Matchface!: a gallery. By, Brian Phillips – Dirty Tackle Yahoo! Blog

Ruys, K. I. & Stapel, D. A. (2008). Emotion elicitor or emotion messenger? Subliminal priming reveals two faces of facial expressions. Psychological Science, 19, 593-600.

Rob Green makes no excuses, reminds us that he’s 30. By, Brooks Peck – Dirty Tackle Yahoo! Blog

U.S. fans discover use for tie. By, Les Carpenter – Yahoo! Sports

Does isolation reduce violent behavior among psychiatric inpatients?

By Kevin R. Betts

The Joint Commission, an independent health care oversight group, recently expressed alarm over violence in U.S. hospitals. Russell L. Colling, a consultant who advised the Joint Commission said, “The reality is, there is violence every day in the emergency department.” On inpatient units in psychiatric hospitals, violent behavior among patients is often met with forced isolation. A primary goal of isolating these patients is to ensure their safety, as well as that of other patients and staff. However, isolation is also thought by many to act as a deterrent for potential future acts of violence. Having been directly involved in this process as a mental health technician, I often pondered the effectiveness of isolation as a way to combat violent behavior among patients.

Perhaps counterintuitively, research on social ostracism suggests that isolation may promote later aggressive acts (Williams, 2007). In order to understand why this may be the case, imagine yourself in the position of a patient involuntarily committed to an inpatient unit at a local psychiatric hospital. Disagreeing with your involuntary admission, you verbally express your anger to the staff. Told that you may not leave, you become even angrier, perhaps trying to access locked doors. You feel an utter lack of control over your situation. Making matters worse, the staff expresses concern that you may become violent as a result of your distress and “for your safety,” escorts you to a locked room so that “you may reflect on your acting out behavior.” You are in isolation. Your anger further increases and you find yourself behaving in ways you could not previously imagine, yelling “let me out” and banging on the only door in a windowless room. You think to yourself, “They will regret this once they let me out of here.” What you (and many other patients placed in similar situations) are experiencing is an impaired sense of belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence―direct consequences associated with social ostracism (Williams, 2007). In the eyes of an isolated patient, these needs may wrongly be perceived as restorable through aggressive means.

If isolation can promote violent behavior, what should be done to combat violence among distressed psychiatric inpatients? Solutions that prevent violent behavior in the first place may be most successful. Listening to patient complaints in a timely manner is essential. Empathizing with these complaints, helping patients manage their distress, and ensuring patients that their distress is temporary should also be effective.

Read more:

http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/639936.htmlViolence on the rise at U.S. health care centers (Businessweek)

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/120185263/abstractWilliams, K.D. (2007). Ostracism: The kiss of social death. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 236-347.

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Winning Ali’s Heart: How men on The Bachelorette use gossip to improve their status

 

 

By Erica Zaiser

If you have been watching the new season of reality show The Bachelorette(don’t lie, I am sure you have), you know that in just a few episodes it has become clear that this season is rife with drama for the male contestants vying for Ali Fedotowsky’s attention. Much of the show relies on gossip about other contestants to the camera. Recently, gossiping about male rivals to Ali herself has been more evident. Furthermore, alliances are being formed with certain contestants being ostracized from the group because of damaging stories regarding their personal motives being spread through between-contestant gossip.

Evolutionary psychologists have long been interested in the evolutionary purpose of spreading gossip. Some researchers suggest that it may be a strategy for improving one’s status. In one study, researchers looked at the type of gossip people are more likely to spread and to whom. Not surprisingly negative stories are more likely to be spread when they are about rivals but positive stories are more for allies. You are least likely to spread a positive story about a rival and men are more likely to gossip with romantic partners than male friends. Also, the researchers found that certain information (sex and health topics in particular) about romantic partners is considered more worth “spreading ” than other types of gossip. Negative and particularly damaging information was considered the most juicy gossip when it concerned same-sex rivals (for both genders). According to the researchers, through gossip, we build our alliances and knock down our competition by spreading negative information about our rivals and building up our own “team’s” reputation by promoting positive stories about friends.

So, the men on the Bachelorette are not just gossiping for the entertainment value of reality TV. Instead, they are using gossip to promote their own agenda with the other men (by creating alliances which will probably allow them more access to future gossip). Then they use gossip to improve their chances with Ali by letting her in on all the dirty news about the competition.

Read More: Who Do We Tell and Whom Do We Tell On? The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2007

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Mock Mission to Mars Pushes the Limits of Human Isolation and Olfactory Sensation

A joint effort by the Russian Space Institute and the European Space Agency to simulate the lonely and potentially brutish reality of extended space travel to Mars began last Thursday as six researchers were sealed inside a windowless cylindrical chamber, which will be their home for the next year and a half.  The all-male crew consists of three Russians, a Frenchman, a Chinaman and an Italian-Colombian, who will conduct regular space operations including scientific experiments and facility maintenance. The researchers’ only link to the outside world is via an Internet connection to mission control with regular disruptions and a 20-minute delay.

These men must truly have “the right stuff” to consider such a mission. Try to imagine, if you will, what it would be like to be trapped in a small space with five other guys for over 500 days. The smell alone could be enough to deter most people. I would imagine that by the end of the mission, the stench in that place would be similar to the Men’s room after the Super Bowl—foul. Still, the smell of six men may be the least of their problems, if not a catalyst for other, more potentially dangerous and psychotic episodes. According to Harris (1989; citing Kanas, 1987) with lengthy isolation come many potential interpersonal dangers including fits of rage, crew-members vying for dominance, deviance and a deterioration of group cohesion. To deal with these potential problems, they better have true grit, a strong desire not to kill each other, and lots of potpourri and Lysol to cover that not-so-fresh odor.

520-day Mars Mission Simulation in Russia Begins

Harris, P. R. (1989). Behavioral science space contributions. Behavioral Science, 34, 207-227.