Category Archives: Social Influence

Gendering responsibility for child obesity

The Daily Mail’s recent article ‘Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?’ serves as an example of the mediated discourses which hold feminist values and therefore women, as responsible for the so-called child obesity epidemic (WHO, 2010). The argument centers on three discourses – morality, science and gender.

In contemporary societies the responsibility for health is increasingly that of the individual (Petersen 1997). That is, we are held morally responsible for the quality and quantity of food that passes our lips, the amount of exercise we take and so on. So weight gain is presumed to be a result of health-defeating practices. However unlike adults, children are clearly not able to self-regulate and manage their own health because children cannot be responsible for food production and consumption themselves. That responsibility, it is argued, resides with parents and specifically with mothers. Drawing on natural science discourses, advocates of this position argue that due to biology ‘women possess a greater nurturing instinct than men’. Therefore mothers are presumed to have primary responsibility for their children’s health. If children are overweight it is mothers and not fathers who are held accountable.

Maher, Fraser and Wright’s (2010) research on media representations of mothers has identified two ways in which they are held accountable. The first, like the Daily Mail, points to the increasing absence of the family meal. It suggests that if women didn’t follow feminist values and work so long or so hard, then they would have more time to spend at home creating nutritious meals. It is their absence from the home that is blamed as the reason children eat at junk food outlets far too often, survive on processed meals and eat too many snack foods. The second way mothers are held accountable is through pregnancy. Scientists argue that ‘diet, exercise and women’s attentiveness before and during pregnancy are linked to specific disabilities, to childhood health generally and, more recently, to childhood obesity’ (Maher, Fraser and Wright, 2010).

It is these mediated discourses that hold mothers specifically responsible for the battle of the bulge, but more generally they argue ‘it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.’

Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?

Is it really women’s fault our kids are fat?

WHO – Obesity and overweight

Obesity

Expert Accounts and Their Ability to Attenuate Loss

Group dynamics can be quite difficult and even then things can go wrong. In such situations experts are given the important responsibility to provide an explanation and in effect attenuate any hard feelings. In these instances, according to Frey and Cobb (2010), individuals in the group consider the level of expertise, specificity or clarity of social account, and most important degree of loss when something goes wrong. Further, and contrary to expectations, experts are not always the best individuals to attenuate negativity, which tends to vary depending on the degree of loss (Frey & Cobb, 2010).

At the macro level, these findings can be generalized to the current economic crisis. For instance, the show “This American Life” recounts the economic meltdown and concludes that governments, companies and a number of individuals are to blame for the economic crisis. Thus, some individuals were affected economically more than others. To address the problem the experts, or those in charge of the economy, are creating their own social accounts to make things better. However, CNN reports that the skeptics or critics are not quite convinced of the expert accounts.

It is in this context of uncertainty or bad turn out that the expert is tasked with attenuating hard feelings individuals may have. Frey and Cobb interestingly found that, “under conditions of higher loss, expertise actually becomes a sizable liability, indicating a boomerang effect”. The researchers explain that the experts, in all their wisdom, should have used their knowledge to stop any mistakes that may have occurred. So whatever social accounts are presented, to some, will fall under the backdrop of the mistakes that caused the economic crisis.

Hear more: Return of the Giant Pool of Money: This American life

Read more: Bad timing could sink the democrats

Frey, F.M. & Cobb, A.T. (2010). What matters in social accounts? The roles of account specificity, source expertise, and outcome loss on acceptance

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The Moral Universe of Role Players in Genocide

Just after the Rwanda genocide broke out in 1994, white expatriates were speedily evacuated from the place. Adam Jones (2006) wrote of a video record at the Caraes psychiatric Hospital in Ndera Kigali showing white individuals being evacuated while Hutus were almost outside the gates, and the Tutsis begged the military men for protection. One soldier yelled, “Solve your problems yourselves!”

The UN Genocide Convention has defined genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy in part or whole a national, ethnic racial or religious group as such.” Staub (2000) provides the social context which makes genocide of one group by another likely—difficult life conditions and group conflict. Cultural differences also come to play such as blind respect for authority, inflexible stratification within classes, and a history of devaluation in a group.

Not all members of the dominant group become perpetrators. There were the ‘ordinary Germans’ who did nothing while the Holocaust happened, while there were also countless Germans who defied authority and managed to rescue Jewish families in peril. In a genocide setting, there are the perpetrators, bystanders and rescuers. These categories can also be fluid, as noted by Monroe, when constant bystanders turn into rescuers, or when perpetrators who have engaged in massacres, rescue an individual from the other group. Monroe defines six critical aspects gathered from summaries of reports of these three groups which play a part in the role a group or individual makes: self image, personal suffering, identity, relational identity, integration of values with the individual’s sense of self, and a cognitive classification of the other. Perpetrators may perceive of themselves as victims and justify causing harm to the other group. Bystanders and perpetrators may hold greater value for community, and authority, rather than self-assertion. Personal suffering may also cause a group or an individual to empathize with the aggrieved group, but it may also heighten fear and defensiveness. While cultural and social aspects are important in determining attitudes and behavior, self images can also determine if people will act or remain passive in the face of genocide. Individuals who feel they have control over the situation may be forced to do something about it, as opposed to bystanders who, even if they also empathize with the aggrieved group, may feel helpless over the situation.

Jones A. (2006). Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction

Monroe K. R. (2008). Cracking the Code of Genocide: The Moral Psychology of Rescuers, Bystanders, and Nazis during the Holocaust

Staub, E. (2000). Genocide and Mass Killing: Origins, Prevention, Healing and Reconciliation

Photo: “#46/365” by Leonie, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

Despite claims, children of same-sex parents doing no worse than other children

By Erica Zaiser

In Mexico the Supreme Court just decided to uphold gay adoption despite some arguments that children of gay parents are at risk of increased discrimination. Meanwhile, Australian senate hopeful, Wendy Francis, stated on her Twitter account that children of gay parents suffer from emotional abuse. She argues that gay parents deprive their children from having either a mother or a father and that this is tantamount to abuse. She isn’t the first politician to try to argue that homosexual couples should not be allowed to have children because non-straight parents can’t be as good as straight parents. However, there is little evidence to back up claims that children of gay parents are deprived or less well-adjusted than children from straight couples. In fact there is ample research showing just the opposite.

Beyond the research that has shown that gay and lesbian relationships are no less stable than heterosexual relationships, there is also research showing that the benefits children receive by being raised by two parents of opposite genders are the same for children of two same-sex parents. In fact if there are any differences, many researchers are now finding that gay parents might have even more well-adjusted children than some straight couples (especially when two women are raising a child). Very recent work looking at adopted children of gay couples versus adopted children of heterosexual couples finds that when examining their development and behaviour, children of gay couples do just as well. All this research supports what seems entirely obvious to me: children from two loving parents of any gender will probably turn out better than children of parents who don’t want them or can’t handle them. It does seem reasonable that on average children of gay couples would be even more well-adjusted than many other children because usually the choice to have children for a same-sex couple is very conscious and particularly, when adoption is involved, can require a great deal of time and resources. So, two parents who work so hard to have a child can’t possibly be worse than two parents who don’t really want a child in the first place but happen to fill the 1:1 male female quota that makes up a traditional “family.”

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.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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Is it irresistible: How can we stop drinking?

When the economy is in the tank, more Americans drown their sorrows in alcohol. The number of U.S. adults drinking booze is at a 25-year high, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup, which has been keeping track of U.S. drinking habits for the last 71 years, reports that while the numbers move up and down slightly each year, the statistics on American drinking are surprisingly steady. Is drinking a habit that is impossible to stop?

Well, one of the most consistent and robust findings in behavioral sciences supports the notion that our behavior is, to a great extent, habitual and that we encounter difficulties in changing our behavior for the better because we are creatures of habit. However, Chatzisarantis & Hagger’s (2010) recent study indicated that implementation intentions have been shown to be an effective self-regulatory strategy influencing habit performance. In general, implementation intentions are conditional statements of intentions, commonly known as if–then plans, taking the form “If a performance context z arises, then I will do x.” In the case of stopping drinking, implementation intentions were operationally defined as strategic plans linking socializing goals to strategies facilitating refusal of alcohol. For example, if it is Friday night at the local pub, as soon as a friend or a fellow student offers me an alcoholic drink, I will refuse it by . . . (report what you are going to do or say.). Their study demonstrated that goal-related implementation exercises linking socializing goals to behavioral tendencies to refuse alcohol reduced the acceptance of an offer of a free alcoholic drink among habitual drinkers, as well as nonhabitual drinkers. These findings indicate that goal-related implementation exercises are effective in obstructing habitual health risk behaviors, such as drinking alcohol.

Americans drinking alcohol hits 25-year high

Nikos L. D. Chatzisarantis & Martin S. Hagger (2010). Effects of Implementation Intentions Linking Suppression of Alcohol Consumption to Socializing Goals on Alcohol-Related Decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,   40, 1618 – 1634.

RIP Cpt. Phil. You’ve earned it!

(image from deadliestcatchwiki.wetpaint.com)

Last night, Discovery Channel aired its tribute to Phil Harris, captain of the crabbing vessel Cornelia Marie. Cpt. Phil died of a massive stroke at the untimely age of 53 on February 9th, 2010, while tapping the latest season of the hit series Deadliest Catch.  While I enjoyed the series, I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan; I just learned of Cpt. Phil’s death earlier this week. However, I am an admirer of the man. When I did watch the show, I noticed something familiar about the grizzly captain. There was something about his spirit, his attitude, that seemed to shout “I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.” I liked that. But during last night’s show, learning about the man through the stories told by his closest friends, it was like reliving my own father’s death and listening to his friends tell similar stories.

Both men—my father, Joe, and Phil—where thickheaded men who lived the way they wanted. They both had two sons, but saw them far less than they would have wanted to. They both worked their ass off all of their lives. They lived hard and they played hard. They smoked, drank, and ate some of the best tasting, cholesterol-filled, artery-clogging foods that a person could consume. While their personal habits may be seen to some as crude or even selfish—in the sense that their habits lead to their untimely deaths—those who were closest to them seemed to admire their rebel spirits. That spirit that lead my Dad and Phil to continue working like dogs, drinking like fish and smoking like chimneys until their early 50s, when it finally caught up to them.

While I admire these men, I also remember that they were fathers who left their loved ones behind far to early. So I must ask myself, should we (me, my brother, Joe Jr., and Phil’s sons, josh and Jake) live like our fathers who we loved and admire dearly, or change? Should we realize the unbalanced natures of the rebel lifestyle, filled with packs of smokes, gallons of coffee and cases of beer every day, or embrace the rebel and say ”to hell with the consequences, I’ll live my life the way I God-damn please!” The same way I have for the past fifteen years? Can we? Though I can’t speak for the other sons in this story, I can speak for myself. I am changing.

I have recently learned of my own paternity. In the next six months my first son or daughter will be born. And for him/her I have quit smoking, cut-down on the coffee and alcohol, but my diet still needs some work; I love butter…. Every day I must ask myself if I want to be like my Dad and leave this earth never seeing my child venture off to college or pursue their talents, whatever they may be. I don’t. I don’t want them ask themselves the same questions about their father that I have. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes and to endure the pains of changing their entire lifestyle. It is very difficult, but I must. I want to see them grow up. I want to be a different type of role model.

Usually, I would include some applicable research to this story. Some article addressing how a son’s understanding of his father relates to his own identity and behavior would do well. Frankly, I couldn’t find any. It seems that fatherhood has been neglected in the literature (Samuels, 2007). I did find that even at an early age, our Father’s seem to be a source of a good time and congruent positive arousal (Feldman, 2003). And perhaps that is the difficulty in separating ourselves from our fathers: they know how to have fun. We must remember them for who they were, the great times they brought us, but try desperately not to make the same mistakes. I think they would want that. Perhaps there is a way to embrace the rebel while not ingesting the copious amounts of poison that seems to come with it. In the words of another fallen rebel father, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, I will ponder this rotten assignment and learn how to cope with it. Until then, I will close with an appeal to The Great Magnet: May these men rest and be remembered fondly. They’ve earned it.

A Relation Called Father Part 1: The Father in Depth PsychologyA Relation Called Father Part 1: The Father in Depth Psychology

Infant-mother and infant-father synchrony: The coregulation of positive arousalInfant-mother and infant-father synchrony