Tag Archives: New York Times

Affirmative action for women in Iraq

Iraqi Minister for the Environment Narmin Othman, at a women’s conference in Ramadi, 29 March 2008. Othman is one of the few women in Iraq who has reached the post of Minister. Photo by: Cpl. Erin A. Kirk

A recent Human Rights Watch report outlines ways in which women’s rights became more limited in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.  According to the report, women had a better place in politics and society during the 1970s than at present.  Similarly, an article in yesterday’s New York Times explains how the current struggle for power in the political arena has curtailed women’s rights despite a 25% quota for women in parliament.  Some people think there should be a quota for women in the ministries as well, while others feel women are not qualified or do not belong in politics.

In social psychology research, the study of attitudes about affirmative action has expanded to include gender inequality.  A survey study conducted by Boechmann and Feather (2007) examined attitudes about affirmative action for women in Australia.  For male participants, they found that unfair male advantage was negatively associated with a belief in women’s entitlement to affirmative action. However, when men’s perceptions of personal responsibility and guilt were entered into the model, unfair male advantage was positively related to women’s entitlement and deservingness.

In Iraq, efforts to secure more basic human rights for women might be advanced not just by pushing for more quotas but also by complimentary efforts to increase civic-mindedness and awareness among men.

Boeckmann, R. J. & Feather, N. T. (2007). Gender, discrimination beliefs, group-based guilt, and responses to affirmative action for Australia women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 290 – 304.

Iraqi women feel shunted despite election quota by Michael S. Schimdt and Yasir Ghazi, published March 12, 2011

At a crossroads: Human rights in Iraq eight years after the US-led invasion, Human Rights Watch, February 2, 2011.  See Section I. Rights of women and girls

Motivation and dopamine

Dopamine_chemical_structureWhile we might be able to explain some human behavior with intrinsic motivation, the source of this motivation is difficult to pinpoint. The New York Times reported several studies focusing on the effects of dopamine, revealing that dopamine should no longer be thought of “as our little Bacchus in the brain.” Until recently, dopamine was thought of as a provider of “pleasure and reward.”

In one study, mice with significantly less dopamine seemed satisfied to lounge around as their bodies withered away, choosing death over the hardship of staggering a few inches to the food dish. These same mice acted normal when nibbles of food were brought to them—chewing, swallowing, even “wriggling [their] nose in apparent rodent satisfaction.”

These new studies on dopamine suggest it’s more about survival—“drive and motivation” as the New York Times writes—than some kind of adrenaline counterpart. If this is the case, then social psychologists can join up with behavioral geneticists to talk about motivation. We know, for example, of the social origins of motivation, but it’s quite another approach to suggest that even the motivation for getting out of bed has origins in the brain. The next step is to determine how dopamine is affected by social life.