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Posts Tagged ‘stereotypes’

Sapna Cheryan on Stereotypes as Gatekeepers

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 29, 2012

on Apr 27, 2010 Stereotypes as Gatekeepers -

Sapna Cheryans research broadly examines how cultural stereotypes impact peoples choices and behaviors. She is particularly interested in the role that stereotypes play in determining peoples sense of belonging to important social groups.

In this talk, she asks why do women consider a future in computer science to a lesser extent than men? Might this be because the powerful image of the male computer geek makes women feel like they do not belong in the field?

A sample of related Situationist posts:

Posted in Ideology, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Research on the Dangers of Private Law Enforcement

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 22, 2012

In my last post on the Trayvon Martin shooting, I suggested that the dispositionist narratives being offered by many in the media might be missing the real story of why this tragedy happened.  Indeed, it might come down to “a toxic combination of negative stereotypes (linking blacks and crime) and a culture increasingly encouraging private law enforcement.”  (The focus of this law review article.)

This suggests that the debate taking place over the case perhaps ought to be shifted to the implicit biases of private citizens engaged in “policing” activities.  To this end, I thought it was worth introducing some fascinating new research by Jessica Witt and James Brockmole to be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.  According to a Notre Dame press release focused on the paper,

Wielding a gun increases a person’s bias to see guns in the hands of others, new research from the University of Notre Dame shows.

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In five experiments, subjects were shown multiple images of people on a computer screen and determined whether the person was holding a gun or a neutral object such as a soda can or cell phone. Subjects did this while holding either a toy gun or a neutral object such as a foam ball.

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The researchers varied the situation in each experiment — such as having the people in the images sometimes wear ski masks, changing the race of the person in the image or changing the reaction subjects were to have when they perceived the person in the image to hold a gun. Regardless of the situation the observers found themselves in, the study showed that responding with a gun biased observers to report “gun present” more than did responding with a ball. Thus, by virtue of affording the subject the opportunity to use a gun, he or she was more likely to classify objects in a scene as a gun and, as a result, to engage in threat-induced behavior, such as raising a firearm to shoot.

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“Beliefs, expectations and emotions can all influence an observer’s ability to detect and to categorize objects as guns,” Brockmole says. “Now we know that a person’s ability to act in certain ways can bias their recognition of objects as well, and in dramatic ways. It seems that people have a hard time separating their thoughts about what they perceive and their thoughts about how they can or should act.”

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The researchers showed that the ability to act is a key factor in the effects by showing that simply letting observers see a nearby gun did not influence their behavior; holding and using the gun was important.

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“One reason we supposed that wielding a firearm might influence object categorization stems from previous research in this area, which argues that people perceive the spatial properties of their surrounding environment in terms of their ability to perform an intended action,” Brockmole says.

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For example, other research has shown that people with broader shoulders tend to perceive doorways to be narrower, and softball players with higher batting averages perceive the ball to be bigger. The blending of perception and action representations could explain, in part, why people holding a gun would tend to assume others are, too.

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. . . .

All of this raises the possibility that the tragic shootings of unarmed men like Trayvon might reflect the mistaken determination by the shooters that the victim posed a lethal threat caused, in part, by the simple act of the shooter carrying a gun.

Posted in Abstracts, Embodied Cognition, Implicit Associations, Law, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Miss Representation – Premieres Tonight on OWN

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 20, 2011

The documentary explores how the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. It will premiere in the US tonight at 9pm ET.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Entertainment, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sarah Haskins on “Ladyfriend” Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 21, 2011

From :

The best part about being a girl is your girlfriends. They keep you happy when you’re sad and make you laugh when you want to cry, and most importantly, tell you what to buy.

Related Situationist posts:

 

Posted in Entertainment, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Life, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Breastfeeding Prejudice

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 20, 2011

From Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

A study conducted at Montana State University finds that even though breastfeeding is healthy, cheap and beneficial to mother and child, there is a strong bias against nursing mothers among both men and women.

Jessi L. Smith, psychology professor at MSU, found that participants in three studies thought nursing mothers were not as mentally competent as other groups of women and said they’d be less likely to hire breastfeeding mothers for a job.

The results of Smith’s study were published this summer in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Smith and her co-authors questioned MSU students in three double-blind studies about how they perceived breastfeeding moms’ competence and hire-ability compared to non-breastfeeding people.

In all three studies, the students rated breastfeeding women as significantly less competent in general and particularly less competent in math.

Smith, who became a mother in 2007 after the study was under way, chose to breastfeed her child and said it’s not surprising that new mothers considering breastfeeding are often daunted just thinking about the task.

“It’s the 21st century,” she said. “We have come a long way today in educating ourselves about the health and economic benefits of nursing to both mother and child, but we have done nothing to talk about the fact that breast milk actually comes from the breast and not bottles.”

Promoting breastfeeding to increase the number of nursing mothers would help stem the bias by letting people see that it isn’t a rare thing, Smith said.

“Right now, it’s not surprising that nursing mothers feel isolated,” she said.

Employers could also do their part to encourage breastfeeding by providing a private place for mothers to nurse their children since many mothers are required to return to work just six weeks after the birth of their babies.

“You can’t establish a good breastfeeding bond in six weeks and make a good assessment if breastfeeding will work for you and your child,” she said.

She pointed out that health organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health, stress the economic and health benefits of nursing and advise that breastfeeding protects babies, benefits mothers’ health and society.

Smith has taken her research a step further with an INBRE-funded grant to study actual social psychological barriers to breastfeeding mothers. She has collected data from new mothers in Billings, Bozeman, Kalispell, Miles City and Missoula. She is now analyzing the data and plans to publish the results early next year.

More.

Related Situationist posts:

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Policy Implications of Implicit Social Cognition

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 4, 2011

Situationist Contributor Brian Nosek and Rachel Riskind recently posted their paper, “Policy Implications of Implicit Social Cognition” on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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Basic research in implicit social cognition demonstrates that thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness or conscious control can influence perception, judgment and action. Implicit measures reveal that people possess implicit attitudes and stereotypes about social groups that are often distinct from their explicitly endorsed beliefs and values. The evidence that behavior can be influenced by implicit social cognition contrasts with social policies that implicitly or explicitly assume that people know and control the causes of their behavior. We consider the present state of evidence for implicit social cognition and its implications for social policy. We conclude that considering implicit social cognition can contribute usefully to policy, but that most uses of implicit measures themselves as selection or evaluation devices is not easily justified.

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Download the paper for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Susan Fiske on “Inclusive Leadership, Stereotyping and the Brain”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 28, 2011

From :

[Situationist Contributor] Susan Fiske of Princeton University discusses the psychology of stereotyping in her keynote address to Columbia Business School’s research symposium, “Inclusive Leadership, Stereotyping and the Brain,” co-sponsored by the Program on Social Intelligence and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics. Professor Fiske is introduced by Professors Malia Mason and Bruce Kogut of Columbia Business School.

To learn more about this symposium, click here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Implicit Associations, Law, Life, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Negotiating the Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 9, 2011

Lu-in Wang,  has posted an intriguing situationist paper, titled “Negotiating the Situation: The Reasonable Person in Context ” (forthcoming Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 14, p. 1285, 2010) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This Essay argues that our understanding of the reasonable person in economic transactions should take into account an individual’s race, gender, or other group-based identity characteristics – not necessarily because persons differ on account of those characteristics, but because of how those characteristics influence the situations a person must negotiate. That is, individuals’ social identities constitute features not just of themselves, but also of the situations they inhabit. In economic transactions that involve social interaction, such as face-to-face negotiations, the actor’s race, gender, or other social identity can affect both an individual actor and those who interact with him or her, because those characteristics often create expectations, based largely on group-based stereotypes, that influence the parties on both sides of the transaction. Individuals’ social identities thereby can influence their constraints and incentives, and accordingly their choices, behavior, and outcomes.

This Essay offers a couple of well-known examples of the influence of social stereotypes on individuals’ choices, behavior, and outcomes in economic transactions. It then provides a more extended examination of the effect of social identity on economic transactions by drawing upon a recent, growing, and fascinating area of social psychological research into the effect of gender on negotiations. The findings of this research are both disturbing and promising: disturbing because they show that stereotypes can influence the behavior of both women and men in negotiations, to the detriment of women, even if the individuals do not believe the stereotypes to be true, and that stereotypes can interact with other features of the situation to aggravate their tendency to promote unequal outcomes. The findings are promising as well, however, because they also show that gender stereotypes can be moderated or even counteracted by yet other features of the situation. Appreciating the situation-altering yet situation-sensitive influence of social identities such as gender provides us with a richer understanding of the circumstances in which people interact and shows that, sometimes, common economic transactions take place in different places for different people.

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Download the paper for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Gendered Situation of Recommendation Letters

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 3, 2011

From Rice University:

A recommendation letter could be the chute in a woman’s career ladder, according to ongoing research at Rice University. The comprehensive study shows that qualities mentioned in recommendation letters for women differ sharply from those for men, and those differences may be costing women jobs and promotions in academia and medicine.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Rice University professors Michelle Hebl and Randi Martin and graduate student Juan Madera, now an assistant professor at the University of Houston, reviewed 624 letters of recommendation for 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at a U.S. university. They found that letter writers conformed to traditional gender schemas when describing candidates. Female candidates were described in more communal (social or emotive) terms and male candidates in more agentic (active or assertive) terms.

A further aspect of the study involved rating the strength of the letters, or the likelihood the candidate would be hired based on the letter. The research team removed names and personal pronouns from the letters and asked faculty members to evaluate them. The researchers controlled for such variables as the number of years candidates were in graduate school, the number of papers they had published, the number of publications on which they were the lead author, the number of honors they received, the number of years of postdoctoral education, the position applied for and the number of courses taught.

“We found that being communal is not valued in academia,” said Martin, the Elma Schneider Professor of Psychology at Rice. “The more communal characteristics mentioned, the lower the evaluation of the candidate.”

A follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health is under way and includes applicants for faculty and research positions at medical schools. In the new study, enough applicants and positions will be included so that the researchers can use the actual decisions of search committees to determine the influence of letters’ communal and agentic terms in the hiring decisions.

Words in the communal category included adjectives such as affectionate, helpful, kind, sympathetic, nurturing, tactful and agreeable, and behaviors such as helping others, taking direction well and maintaining relationships. Agentic adjectives included words such as confident, aggressive, ambitious, dominant, forceful, independent, daring, outspoken and intellectual, and behaviors such as speaking assertively, influencing others and initiating tasks.

“Communal characteristics mediate the relationship between gender and hiring decisions in academia, which suggests that gender norm stereotypes can influence hireability ratings of applicants,” Martin said.
The “pipeline shortage of women” in academia is a well-known and researched phenomenon, but this study is the first of its kind to examine the recommendation letter’s role in contributing to the disparity and evaluate it using inferential statistics and objective measures. It’s also the first study to show that gender differences in letters actually affect judgments of hireability.

“This research not only has important implications for women in academia but also for women in management and leadership roles,” said Hebl, professor of psychology and management at Rice. “A large body of research suggests that communality is not perceived to be congruent with leadership and managerial jobs.”

The research team also noted that letter writers included more doubt raisers when recommending women, using phrases such as “She might make an excellent leader” versus what they used for male candidates, “He is already an established leader.”

“Subtle gender discrimination continues to be rampant,” Hebl said. “And it’s important to acknowledge this because you cannot remediate discrimination until you are first aware of it. Our and other research shows that even small differences — and in our study, the seemingly innocuous choice of words — can act to create disparity over time and experiences.”

Martin, Hebl and Madera’s study, “Gender and Letters of Recommendation for Academia: Agentic and Communal Differences,” was published last year in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Applied Psychology. They are currently beginning data collection on their next study on recommendation letters for medical faculty positions.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Susan Fiske Discusses her Work on Different Types of Prejudices

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 4, 2010

Situationist Contributor Susan Fiske discusses her research on stereotypes and prejudice and the systematic principles that influence how groups are treated in society.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Objectification,” Women’s Situational Bind,” Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” and “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes.”

Posted in Conflict, Distribution, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Neuroscience, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Sarah Jones on Stereotypes and Stereotyping

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 26, 2010

We highly recommend a 13-minute podcast in which Sarah Jones (a Tony Award winning playwright and performer) reflects on morals, racial stereotyping, and the perils of West Coast jaywalking.  You can listen to the podcast (recorded  live at The Moth Main Stage) here.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas,” The ‘Turban Effect’,” “Journalists as Social Psychologists & Social Psychologists as Entertainers,” “The Situation of Racial Profiling,” The Situation of Prejudice: Us vs. Them? or Them Is Us?,” “Do We Miss Racial Stereotypes Today that Will Be Evident Tomorrow?,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and The Psychology of Barack Obama as the Antichrist.”

Posted in Entertainment, Implicit Associations, Podcasts | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Stereotype Threat

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 19, 2010

Randy Khalil has a nice article, “‘Stereotype threat’ negatively affects students,” in Wednesday’s Daily Princetonian.  Here are some excerpts.
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Princeton students fall victim to the “stereotype threat,” according to a study led by Adam Alter GS ’09.

The “stereotype threat” is the phenomenon in which reminding people of negative stereotypes associated with their group identity can encourage the fulfillment of those stereotypes.

“When reminded of their group membership, for example, white people struggle athletically, black people struggle academically, women struggle mathematically and men struggle linguistically,” Alter explained in an e-mail. Alter wanted to find out if the way that people are reminded of their group membership determines the magnitude of this effect.

Alter examined the stereotype which holds that students from high schools with low representation at the University feel more unsure about their academic ability when they arrive as freshmen than students from high schools that send many students to Princeton. In a survey of 19 undergraduates, 16 said that students from poorly represented high schools are more anxious about their academic ability than other students.

In Alter’s experiment, which tested 124 students, those from poorly represented high schools performed worse than those from highly represented high schools when the test was presented as a “reliable measure of [their] basic quantitative ability,” according to the study. When the test was presented as a measure of students’ ability to “do as well as [they possibly could],” however, the gap between students from different high schools disappeared.

Alter concluded from the experiment that the presentation of a test as either a “threat” or a “challenge” determines whether negative stereotypes are fulfilled.

“People cope much better with challenges than with threats, so we expected the effects of a stereotype threat to be diminished or eliminated when we framed the threat as a challenge,” Alter explained.

Psychology professor [and Situationist Contributor] Susan Fiske said that Alter’s research adds nuance to the current understanding of stereotype threats.

“What is new here is Alter’s finding ways to overcome stereotype threat by framing the problem as a challenge instead of a threat,” Fiske said in an e-mail.

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Posted in Abstracts, Education, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Nerdy, Gendered Situation of Computer Science

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 1, 2010

From University of Washington News (by Joel Schwarz):

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In real estate, it’s location, location, location. And when it comes to why girls and women shy away from careers in computer science, a key reason is environment, environment, environment.

The stereotype of computer scientists as nerds who stay up all night coding and have no social life may be driving women away from the field, according to a new study published this month. This stereotype can be brought to mind based only on the appearance of the environment in a classroom or an office.

“When people think of computer science the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food,” said Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author. “That stereotype doesn’t appeal to many women who don’t like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes.”

Such objects help create what Cheryan calls ambient belonging, or the feeling that you fit or don’t fit in somewhere.

“It is the sense you get right away when you walk into a room. You look at the objects and make an instant appraisal of how you would fit with the objects and the people who are typically found in that environment. You also make a judgment of ‘I like it here’ or ‘I don’t belong here,'” she said

Cheryan set up four experiments involving more than 250 female and male students who were not studying computer science to look at possible reasons why the proportion of women in the field is dropping while the proportion of women in such disciplines as biology, mathematics and chemistry is increasing.

In the first experiment, students entered a small classroom that either contained objects stereotypically associated with computer science such as Star Trek posters, video game boxes and Coke cans, or non-stereotypical items such as nature posters, art, a dictionary and coffee mugs. The students were told to ignore these objects because the room was being shared with another class. After spending several moments in the classroom, the students filled out questionnaires that asked about their attitude toward computer science.

Women exposed to the stereotypical setup expressed less interest in computer science than those who saw the non-stereotypical objects. Men placed in the same situations did not show a similar drop in interest in computer science. Cheryan said this study suggests that a student’s choice of classes or a major can be influenced by the appearance of classrooms, halls and offices.

The other three experiments which asked student to imagine stereotypical and non-stereotypical objects in various environments, found that:

• When women were given the choice of joining one of two all-female teams at a company, and the only difference between the teams was the objects found in the teams’ workrooms, 82 percent of the women picked the team with the non-stereotypical workroom.

• The stereotypical and non-stereotypical objects were the determining factor for both women and men when they were given the choice of taking similar jobs at one of two companies that had workforces evenly split by gender. Both genders had a preference for the job in non-stereotypical work environment, but women’s preferences for the non-stereotypical environment were significantly stronger than men’s. Women also felt less of a sense of ambient belonging in the stereotypical work environment than men.

• After being questioned about their attitudes toward a Web design company, males and females were asked to choose between identical job offers from two such companies. The only difference between the firms was the objects in each company’s workplace. Women were more likely to accept an offer with the non-stereotypical company while men had the opposite preference. The more women perceived the stereotypical environment as masculine, the less interested they were in that company.

“These studies suggest objects such as science fiction books and Star Trek posters communicate whether or not a person belongs in an environment. “Instead of trying to change the women who do not relate to the stereotype, our research suggests that changing the image of computer science so that more women feel they fit in the field will go a long way to recruiting them into computer science,” said Cheryan.

“We want to attract more people to computer science. The stereotype is not as alienating to men as women, but it still affects them as well. A lot of men may also be choosing to not enter the field because of the stereotype. We need to broaden the image of the field so both women and men feel more welcome. In workplaces and universities we can do this by changing the way offices, hallways and labs look. The media can also play a role by updating the image of computer science. It would be nice for computer scientists in movies and television to be typical people, not only computer geeks.”

Co-authors of the research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are psychologists Victoria Plaut of the University of Georgia (now visiting at Boalt Hall); Paul Davis of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan; and Claude Steele of Columbia University.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Brenda Cossman on the Situation of Women in the Workplace,” “Social Psychologists Discuss Stereotype Threat,” “Seeing Your Interior Situation through your Exterior Situation,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes.” A Rose by any other Name Might Become a Judge,” The Gendered Situation of Chess,” The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situational Bind,” The Situation of Gender and Science,Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” “Your Group is Bad at Math,” What Our Exterior Situation Reveals About Our Interior Situation,” “The Situation of Ideology – Part I,” and “The Situation of Ideology – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Stereotyping Political Ideology

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 29, 2010

Susan Perry has a terrific article in yesterday’s Minneapolis Post, titled “How we use stereotypes to identify people’s political affiliations.”   Here are some excerpts.

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. . . . According to a study published this month in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, people can identify with remarkable accuracy (more than by chance guessing) whether another person is a Republican or a Democrat by simply looking at that person’s headshot.

How do we do it? By relying on stereotypes, the study found. Republicans, apparently, look “powerful” in our minds, and Democrats appear “warm.”

Of course, these kinds of stereotypes can lead to perceptual errors. “Not all Democrats appear warm and not all Republicans appear powerful,” wrote the study’s authors. “However, the linearity of these effects is noteworthy: appearing warmer led to a greater chance that a target would be perceived as a Democrat and appearing more powerful led to a greater chance that a target would be perceived as a Republican.”

Experiment #1
The study, which was conducted by Nalini Ambady, Ph.D., a social psychologist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and Tufts doctoral candidate Nicholas Rule, involved three separate experiments.

In the first experiment, 29 undergraduates were asked to categorize the faces of 118 unnamed professional politicians (2004 and 2006 U.S. Senate candidates).The photos (cropped to be of identical size and converted to grayscale) included women candidates, but minority candidates were excluded to avoid race-based stereotypes.

After the data was analyzed, the study found that participants had categorized the photos correctly at a rate that was significantly better than chance guessing. Those results held even when the responses of 10 participants who said they recognized at least one of the candidates were excluded from the calculations.

Experiment #2
To see if the results of the first experiment could be extended to other groups of people, the researchers conducted a second experiment. . . . [involving] the political affiliation of photos take from the senior yearbooks of a private U.S. university. . . .

Again, the participants’ categorization of the political affiliations of the students in the photos was significantly greater than chance guessing.

Experiment #3
Intrigued by these findings, the researchers decided to determine what, exactly, people were using to determine if someone were a Democrat or a Republican. . . .

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Faces perceived to be that of Republican scored higher on the “Power” scale and those perceived to be that of a Democrat scored high on the “Warmth” scale.

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Other research has pointed out that we’re quick to make snap judgments about the people we meet based on their appearance — and often, of course, unfairly. “People are known to form impression of others from their faces instantaneously and automatically,” write Rule and Ambady. “Moreover, these perceptions can have highly consequential outcomes, such as affecting the jobs that individuals are offered, their outcomes in court, and their financial success.”

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To read the entire article, including the conclusion, which summarizes “some truly provocative research about how election results can be predicted by the candidates’ facial traits,” click here.

To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Social Tuning and Ideology – Part 1 and Part 2,” The Situation of Ideology – Part I,” “The Situation of Ideology – Part II,” “Ideology is Back!,” A System-Justification Primer,” “Barbara Ehrenreich on the Sources of and Problems with Dispositionism,” ““Yuck!” “EWW!” and Other Conservative Expressions,” Unclean Hands” and “The Situation of Political Disposition,” Ideology is Back!,” “The Situation of Confabulation,”

Posted in Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stereotyping Stories

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 22, 2009

Getting Pegged

Our favorite radio program, This American Life, broadcast an especially situationist episode in July, which you can listen to here.   The program’s description is as follows.

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Prologue.

Amy Roberts thought it was obvious that she was an adult, not a kid, and she assumed the friendly man working at the children’s museum knew it too. Unfortunately, the man had Amy pegged all wrong. And by the time she figured it out, it was too late for either of them to save face. Host Ira Glass talks to Amy about the embarrassing ordeal that taught her never to assume she knows what someone else is thinking. (8 1/2 minutes)

Act One. The Fat Blue Line.

While riding in a patrol car to research a novel, crime writer Richard Price witnessed a misunderstanding that for many people is pretty much accepted as an upsetting fact of life. Richard Price told this story—which he describes as a tale taken from real life and dramatized—onstage at the Moth in New York. Price’s most recent novel is Lush Life, which he’s adapting for film. (12 minutes)

Act Two. Stereotypes Uber Alles.

When writer Chuck Klosterman got back from a trip to Germany, friends asked him what Germans were like. Did nine days as an American tourist make him qualified to answer? In this excerpt of an essay he wrote for Esquire magazine, Chuck explains why not. (6 minutes)

Act Three. Yes, No or Baby.

There are some situations where making judgments about people based on limited amounts of information is not only accepted, but required. One of those situations is open adoption, where birth mothers actually choose the adoptive parents for their child. TAL producer Nancy Updike talks to a pregnant woman named Kim going through the first stage of open adoption: reading dozens of letters from prospect parents, all of whom seem utterly capable and appealing. With so many likeable candidates to choose from, Kim ends up focusing on tiny details of people’s lives. (6 minutes)

Act Four. Paradise Lost.

Shalom Auslander tells the story of the time he went on vacation, pegged the guest in the room next door as an imposter and devoted his holiday to trying to prove it. Shalom Auslander is the author, most recently, of the memoir Foreskin’s Lament.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Alcohol, Hotdogs, Sexism, and Racism,” “TAL Animation on the Situation of Memory,” “A Rose by any other Name Might Become a Judge,” You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” and “The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes.”

Posted in Illusions, Life, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Stereotyping Sotomayor

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 9, 2009

Sotomayor PosterLast week, Situationist Contributor Adam Benforado wrote a second op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, titled “Stereotypes on Full Display,” about conservative reaction to the Sotomayor nomination.  We’ve pasted it below.

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If you thought race and gender politics were put to rest with the historic presidential campaigns of last year, think again. The excitement and controversy over Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court demonstrate both how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Although Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 17 years – longer than any incoming justice in the last 100 years – there is little hope that the confirmation process will focus on her judicial record. The order of the day is Sotomayor’s identity as a woman and as a Latina.

Some have suggested that Sotomayor brought this on herself by saying that her background and experiences as a Hispanic woman give her a unique perspective when judging cases.

Yet the isolated snippets of Sotomayor’s remarks that have become so contentious are hard to distinguish from some of the comments made by recent Republican appointees to the Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Alito, for example, explained during his confirmation hearings that when he gets a discrimination case, he takes into account the experiences of people in his “own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender.”

The general thrust of these comments – that personal perspective affects the way judges construe facts – is well-supported in the academic literature. But that has not stopped critics from assailing Sotomayor as an “activist” judge and casting Obama’s call for an empathetic appointee as code for one guided by feelings rather than the law. As freelance Inquirer columnist John Yoo put it in a recent blog post that echoed comments by Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and others, the danger is that Sotomayor will be “voting her emotions.”

Whether deliberate or not, such statements play on stereotypes of women as ruled by hormones, devoid of reason, and lacking the discipline to put aside their feelings and make hard decisions. The same assertions have been raised for centuries to prevent women from taking positions of power outside the home.

In 1872, when Justice Joseph P. Bradley concurred in the Supreme Court’s denial of Myra Bradwell’s admission to the Illinois bar, he justified the result on the grounds that women are naturally ill-suited to be lawyers because they lack the “decision and firmness which are presumed to predominate in the sterner sex.” Almost 100 years later, Edgar F. Berman, Hubert Humphrey’s personal physician and a political adviser to the Democratic Party, argued that women’s “raging hormonal influences” should disqualify them from taking on significant authority roles.

This harmful misperception persists. As one voter told the Irish Independent during the last presidential election, “Hillary Clinton should not be the next president of the United States. Women are emotional. They do not make good political leaders.”

And, as Hillary and numerous female business leaders, law partners, and politicians have discovered, counteracting this misperception through assertiveness brings comparable liabilities. Thus, the latest attempt to galvanize the public against Sotomayor has involved assertions that she lacks the proper judicial “temperament,” as revealed by her purportedly aggressive questioning and combative manner on the bench.

Sotomayor has been called “nasty,” “strident,” and “temperamental.” Whether these assertions have any basis in fact, they seem likely to be used during the confirmation battle to invoke racial stereotypes about “hot-blooded” Latinas and gender stereotypes about aggressive women.

Such criticisms reveal striking inconsistencies. When Justice Antonin Scalia exhibits a caustic demeanor during oral argument or tersely dismisses his colleagues’ positions in his opinions, it is characterized by some as a sign of backbone, toughness, and principle. When similar behavior is attributed to Sotomayor, it is seen as revealing the flawed traits of her type.

Sotomayor’s colleagues on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals have strongly denied the accusations about Sotomayor’s confrontational demeanor, suggesting that her behavior has been identical to that of other members of the court. According to Judge Guido Calabresi, the commentary about Sotomayor’s behavior on the bench has clearly reflected prejudice. “Some lawyers just don’t like to be questioned by a woman,” he said. “It was sexist, plain and simple.”

* * *

You can link to the the op-ed here.  To read Adam’s first op-ed on the topic (co-authored with Situationist Contributor Jon Hanson), see The Situation of Judicial Activism,” containg links to still other related Situationist posts.  For a sample of posts discussing gender stereotypes, click here.

Posted in Ideology, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Animated Gender Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 31, 2008

[via Sociological Images]

Posted in Blogroll, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The “Turban Effect”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 2, 2008

Christian Unkelbach, has authored a fascinating study which suggests the “turban effect” as a source of Islamophobia. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The following excerpts about this study are taken from a recent article in The Vancouver Sun.

* * *

A Muslim-style turban is perceived as a threat, according to a new study, even by people who don’t realize they hold the prejudice, dubbed “the turban effect” by researchers.

Research volunteers played a computer game that showed apartment balconies on which different figures appeared, some wearing Muslim-style turbans or hijabs and others bare-headed. They were told to shoot at the targets carrying guns and spare those who were unarmed, with points awarded accordingly.

People were much more likely to shoot Muslim-looking characters – men or women – even if they were carrying an innocent item instead of a weapon, the researchers found.

* * *

When the true intention of the experiment was revealed, Unkelbach says participants insisted they were not prejudiced and must have reacted differently from everyone else.

“The most common response was, ‘I’m sure I didn’t show that effect,'” he says. “They’re uncomfortable and I believe them – people are not doing this willingly. If they could, they would control that. Here, people are almost the victims of what they are fed by their environment.”

* * *

The entire article is here. To read other Situationist posts discussing the causes and consequences of implicit associations, click here. Image by Arriving at the horizon.

Posted in Conflict, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

On Being a Mindful Voter

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 3, 2008

Our intense scrutiny of the presidential candidates has produced a relentless stream of questions, some thoughtful and relevant, others spectacularly irrelevant and even embarrassing: Why are you not more likable, Hillary? How good a Christian can he be with the name Hussein?

With our focus solely on the candidates, however, we have neglected to examine the other powerful determinant of the election: the state of our own minds. And yet we know that the voter’s mind, the very thing doing the questioning, probing and judging, is itself prone to limitations no less profound than those of the candidates themselves.

Keeping one’s own mind “in mind” and being aware of its limitations is the first step toward making a conscious choice of who is best for us, the country and the world.

Human minds have a remarkable capability for self-reflection — the envy of every chimpanzee. This fanciest bell and whistle of the brain bestows on us the ability to consciously look into our own mind, recognize its contents, report on it and even change it.

As remarkable as this ability is, however, it tends to mask the fact that we are nonetheless unaware of the vast majority of our minds’ work.

It keeps us from knowing, and therefore from accepting, that the reasons we offer for our choices may not actually be driving those choices. This blindness should not be underestimated, because it is always accompanied by an insidious if honest denial of facts.

The mind sciences tell us much about the invisible mental gymnastics that end up dictating what we like and dislike, what we believe to be true and not, what drives us toward particular people and their ideologies.

My colleagues and I have posed two kinds of questions to understand these two sides of the mind, the conscious and the less conscious. Measuring the conscious side is familiar, tried and true. In the context of race, we ask, “Whom do you like? Whom will you vote for? Why?”

The other question is not only unfamiliar, it isn’t a question at all. To measure race preferences that may be less conscious, we measure the speed and accuracy of the mind at work. How quickly and how accurately do we — can we — perform the simple task of associating black and white with both good and bad? In the gender case, do we associate female or male more easily with “commander-in-chief”?

Such tests do not seek a reasoned answer but an automatic one, a response we form without “thinking.” From such responses we can derive an estimate of our less-conscious likes and dislikes, called automatic preferences. If the results of the two tests agree; that is, if you say you prefer black and you show the same level of preference for black on the automatic test, the two are boringly consistent.

But in ordinary people like me, we often don’t see consistency. Rather we see disparities between what we say and what we reveal. I, for example, report a seemingly genuine attitude of equal liking for black and white, but the automatic test reveals that I have a preference for white over black (as do the majority of whites and Asians in the United States and at least a third of African-Americans). Likewise, although I might express and even have an automatic preference for women, I struggle more than I’d like when I am asked to associate “female” with commander-in-chief.

Such disparity tells me that my spoken preference and beliefs, my intended egalitarian values are out of sync with my less explicit, less conscious preference for white (or for a male leader).

It tells me that I may not be fully aware of who I am or wish to be. What I take away from such a fracture in my own mind is a skepticism that I am color-blind or that I can look past gender to the truly competent candidate. Without awareness of the slippage in my own mind, I am likely to believe that all the relevant data are embedded in the candidates, not in me.

* * *

In the Democratic primaries, we have been given two candidates who represent what was unthinkable in any previous election. Both represent what it means to be American in the broadest, most optimistic sense possible.

One represents the gender of half the people of this country and half the people of the world, but who after 232 years of independence is the first viable female candidate for president.

We also have a candidate who captures another aspect of a changing America: a person with parents from two continents, who is both black and white, from two cultures, rich and poor, with their own languages and religions.

But wait, we have a third candidate, whose demographics represent the familiar — a white, Southern male candidate — but whose actions reflect virtues so powerful that we might indeed set aside the strengths of the first two.

Everything that is tribal and ignorant about us should move us away from them. And that’s the mind’s natural, unexamined inclination. But I see millions taking these candidates seriously. The crossing over is thrilling to watch. Black, male and young, casting for Clinton. Women, white and elderly, voting for Obama. Northerners, the rich supporting Edwards.

These voters have overcome the easy inclination to go with the familiar past. They have broken a tribal cord that bound their predecessors. Their minds have seen through those candidates who create false fears of the enemy outside, who even now fail to recognize what is clearly a futile and unjust war, who lie about taxes, who hold religious beliefs contradictory to physical reality.

* * *

The next election will again be determined not by Democrats or Republicans but by the sizable bloc of independents. Independents cannot be proud of the opportunities they missed four and eight years ago.

But now, there’s a new moment. From the research evidence, I know that to support any of the three Democratic candidates will not come easily. They demand that you give up a preference for the status quo, for what looks familiar, for what sounds superficially “presidential.”

* * *
If that tribal preference is at all attractive, any of the throwbacks on the Republican slate will do.

But if Americans are ready to do what they have occasionally done before . . . the time to cast a similar vote is 2008.

Hillary, Barack and John, as much as we are testing them, are testing us.

* * *

To read the entire editorial, click here. To visit the Project Implicit website and find out more about implicit associations, click here. To review previous Situationist posts discussing implicit associations click on the “Implicit Associations” category in the right margin or, for a list of such posts, click here.

For a sample of previous posts examining situational elements of voting or, specifically, the 2008 presidential election, see “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,” “Lopez-Torres, Justice Scalia, and the Situation of Elections,” “Heart Brain or Wallet?” “Your Brain on Politics,” “Al Gore – The Situationist” and “Irrelevant Third Options in Presidential Campaigns.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Implicit Associations, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Only-Child Syndrome or Advantage?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 19, 2007

Only Child

Words like “selfish” and “self-absorbed” are commonly associated with only children. But are those stereotypes based on any evidence? And might only children actually be better off than those with siblings? JuJu Chang and Sara Holmberg of ABC News examines those questions in an article we have excerpted below.

* * *

The myth of the only child dates back to the late 1800s when G. Stanley Hall, known as the founder of child psychology, called being an only child “a disease in itself.”

Susan Newman, a social psychologist at Rutgers University and the author of “Parenting an Only Child,” says the myth has been perpetuated ever since. “People articulate that only children are spoiled, they’re aggressive, they’re bossy, they’re lonely, they’re maladjusted,” she said. “And the list goes on and on and on.”

But is there any science that makes the stereotype stick? “No,” Newman said. “There have been hundreds and hundreds of research studies that show that only children are no different from their peers.”

In order to find out for ourselves, “20/20″ gathered a group of onlies in New York and asked them whether they thought the stereotype is true.

While a battery of studies shows no difference with onlies when it comes to bossiness or acting spoiled, it turns out there is a significant difference when it comes to intelligence. A landmark 20-year study showed that increased one-on-one parenting produces higher education levels, higher test scores and higher levels of achievement.

What explains that apparent advantage? Newman says, “They have all their parents financial resources to get them extra lessons, to get them SAT training but more critical is the one-on-one time at the dinner table.”

Which means more reading time, more homework time and eventually better test scoresFamily Circus. [A mother] said of her son, “I think we felt as a family that we were able to give him more attention and spend more time together and really focus on him.”

A generation ago, only 10 percent of families had only children. Today that percentage has more than doubled. And it’s no wonder  it costs between $200,000 and $300,000 to raise one child to the age of 17, and that’s not including the cost of college.

“Families have changed,” said Newman. “I actually call the only child the ‘new traditional family.'”

And yet, despite the explosion of families with onlies, a recent poll suggests only 3 percent of Americans believe one is an ideal number. Could it be that the myth of the only child persists?

* * *

This post is one in a series tracing the influence of situational influences on the development of children from youth into adolescence. To read other posts on this topic, go to “Role-Playing Helps Adolescent Emotional Learning,” “Jock or Nerd?: Where Do You Sit at the Dinner Table?,” “Biology and Environment Affect Childhood Behavioral Development,” or “Growing up in a Sexualizing Situation.”

(August 10, 2008 Update:  For a worthwhile Chicago Tribune article summarizing research challenging the myths, stereotypes, and stigmas of the only child, click here.)

Posted in Emotions, Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | 78 Comments »

 
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