The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Katrina’

Nicole Stephens on “Choice, Social Class, and Agency”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 31, 2009

Nicole Stephens is a Ph.D. student in Social Psychology at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the ways in which sociocultural contexts – such as those delineated by social class, race, and gender – shape the experience and the consequences of choice. In one line of research, she examines how people of different social classes define and respond to choice. In a second line of research, she examines how the common American belief that individual choice drives all actions blinds people to the sociocultural sources of inequality.

At the third annual conference on Law and Mind Sciences, which took place im March of 2009, Stephens’s fascinating presentation was titled “Choice, Social Class, and Agency.” Here’s the abstract:

Across disciplines we tend to assume that choice is a fundamental or “basic” unit of human behavior, and that behavior is a product of individual choice. In my talk, I will present a series of lab and field studies that question these assumptions about behavior, and suggest that these assumptions reflect primarily the experiences of college-educated, or middle-class, Americans, who tend to have access to a wealth of choices and an array of quality options among which to choose. I will discuss the implications of these assumptions for the (mis)understanding of behavior across diverse contexts.

You can watch her presentation on the three (roughly 9-minute) videos below.

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For more information about the Project on Law and Mind Sciences, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Blame Frame – Abstract,” “The Situation in New Orleans,”Examining Why Estimated “Costs” of Racial Inequality Vary by Race,” and “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?.”  To review all of the Situationist posts that discuss the problem with the illusion of choices, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Ideology, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Blame Frame – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 13, 2008

Situationist Contributors Jon Hanson and Kathleen Hanson recently posted their article, “The Blame Frame: Justifying (Racial) Injustice in America” (Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 41, 2006) on SSRN. Here is the abstract.

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This Article attempts to elucidate how our forebears, who were presumably as devoted to justice and liberty in their times as we are in ours, failed to condemn behaviors that are today widely viewed as patently oppressive, unfair, and even evil.

Our argument unfolds in several Parts. Part II summarizes evidence from social psychology and related fields that helps explain how people who imagine themselves fair and just routinely blame the victims of inequities and excuse the perpetrators or passive observers through blame frames.

Because humans crave justice, salient suffering or inequalities activate an injustice dissonance within us. Too often, we alleviate that dissonance, not by addressing the injustice, but by creating an illusion of justice through assumptions, arguments, or stereotypes about the blameworthiness of the victim. Part II then describes three powerful blame frames that have coexisted, while alternating in dominance, throughout American history: the God frame, the nature frame, and the choice frame.

Part III elucidates through a few prominent examples how blame frames have operated throughout history to relieve our forebears’ injustice dissonances and to perpetuate systems of oppression. The motivated attributions underlying those blame frames acted to legitimate laws, customs, and practices that today – with the benefit of hindsight and the lens of a new frame – are recognized as clearly unjust.

Part IV argues that we suffer an equally great confusion today, but the injustices that haunt our generation are soothed less by the God and nature frames and more by conceptions of choice. Choicism attributes disparities to the preferences and character of individuals and their groups. Although choicism purports to be colorblind and non-discriminatory, it is, unfortunately, just the latest cloak veiling racism and other groupisms while allowing us to blame victims and excuse non-victims. Part IV, by examining public reactions to Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath, then shows how Americans experienced an unusually powerful and intractable injustice dissonance when the winds, water, and desperation exposed inequalities that choicism could not readily justify. For at least a moment, Americans faced what seemed to be strong evidence of racial injustice. Part IV reveals some of the ways that a set of overlapping and largely camouflaged blame frames obscured and confused the public discourse regarding Katrina and the injustice dissonance she wrought.

Finally, this Article argues that only by understanding the sources and effects of blame frames can we ever hope to end oppression and thereby live according to the fundamental values we espouse.

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To download the article for free, click here. For related Situationist posts, see “‘Situation’ Trumps ‘Disposition’- Part II” and “Black History is Now.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, History, Public Policy, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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