The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

The Situation of Political Polarization

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 11, 2012

From This American Life:

Everyone knows that politics is now so divided in our country that not only do the 2 sides disagree on the solutions to the country’s problems, they don’t even agree on what the problems are. It’s 2 versions of the world in collision. This week we hear from people who’ve seen this infect their personal lives. They’ve lost friends. They’ve become estranged from family members. A special pre-election episode of our show.

Listen to the episode here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Conflict, Ideology, Naive Cynicism, Podcasts, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Carol Tavris Interview – Podcast

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 10, 2012

From (For Good Reason):

Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Book, Ideology, Illusions, Marketing, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

RADIOLAB on the Situation of Badness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 19, 2012

From RADIOLAB:

Cruelty, violence, badness… This episode of Radiolab, we wrestle with the dark side of human nature, and ask whether it’s something we can ever really understand, or fully escape.

We begin with a chilling statistic: 91% of men, and 84% of women, have fantasized about killing someone. We take a look at one particular fantasy lurking behind these numbers, and wonder what this shadow world might tell us about ourselves and our neighbors. Then, we reconsider what Stanley Milgrim’s famous experiment really revealed about human nature (it’s both better and worse than we thought). Next, we meet a man who scrambles our notions of good and evil: chemist Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize in 1918…around the same time officials in the US were calling him a war criminal. And we end with the story of a man who chased one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, then got a chance to ask him the question that had haunted him for years: why?

Go to the RADIOLAB website to listen to the podcast.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Classic Experiments, Conflict, History, Morality, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Sheena Iyengar’s Situation and the Situation of Choosing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 7, 2010

Last week, Situationist friend, Sheena Iyengar, was interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show (American University Radio) about her new book, “The Art of Choosing.”

The show’s description is as follows:  “The power of choice: Understanding the motivations, biases, and cultural influences that determine the choices, large and small, we make in our lives.”  As interesting as those issues are, the interview itself is at its best when Sheena discusses her own remarkable situation and how that influenced her research.

You can listen to the entire podcast here.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Sheena Iyengar on ‘The Multiple Choice Problem,’”Can’t Get No Satisfaction!: The Law Student’s Job Hunt – Part II,” “Dan Gilbert on the Situation of Our Decisions,”and “Just Choose It! “  To review all of the Situationist posts that discuss the problem with, or illusion of, choices, click here.


Posted in Book, Choice Myth, Classic Experiments, Life, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situational Effects of Experimental Situations

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 31, 2010

Situationist PodcastFor some interesting listening, here is an excellent BBC podcast looking at the 1920s experiment in a Chicago factory that gave rise to the phenomenon known as the Hawthorne Effect.

From the BBC MindChangers Series:

Hawthorne Effect: (30 minutes)

Claudia Hammond presents a series looking at the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century.

* * *

In the 1920s, at the enormous Western Electric Hawthorne Factory in Cicero outside Chicago, management began an experiment which was to improve the working life of millions and give rise to a phenomenon that anyone planning a psychology experiment would have to take into account in their design.

* * *

Keen to improve productivity at a time when the telephone industry was growing and Western Electric was building the components for all the telephone exchanges in the United States, management decided to see whether working conditions affected production. But the initial ‘illumination studies’ were inconclusive; whether lighting was increased or decreased to no better than moonlight, productivity increased. Whatever the intervention, it seemed to promote faster work.

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Confused, management turned to economists from Harvard Business School to design a more complex study. So, in April 1927 five women were removed from the factory floor and put in a separate room – the relay assembly test room. For the next five years, as they assembled the complex relays they were minutely monitored. Their working conditions were regularly altered, but whether breaks were included or removed, their working day lengthened or shortened, their productivity continued to rise.

* * *

The study improved working conditions throughout the factory, as breaks were introduced for all, but it also gave rise to a phenomenon known as The Hawthorne Effect, which has to be taken into account in the design of any experiment – the mere fact that subjects know that they are being studied may alter their behaviour.

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Yet The Hawthorne Effect is widely questioned. How can an experiment using such a small sample – five women, two of whom were changed during the study – have given rise to such a ubiquitous theory?

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With the help of the Hawthorne Museum in Cicero, the Baker Library archive and Professor Michel Anteby at Harvard Business School, Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale Business School who met the original participants in the study back in the 1970s, and Mecca Chiesa of the University of Kent, Claudia Hammond re-examines the classic Hawthorne Studies.

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To review a collection of  Situationist posts discussing other classic experiments, click here

Posted in Classic Experiments, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Revisiting Arden House and the Situation of Aging

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 20, 2010

Situationist PodcastFor those of you who would like to do some interesting listening, here is an excellent podcast featuring Situationist friend Ellen Langer.

From the BBC MindChangers Series:

Arden House: (30 minutes)

Claudia Hammond presents a series looking at the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century.

* * *

She re-visits Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin’s 1976 study, conducted in a New England nursing home, Arden House.

* * *

When the two psychologists set up the experiment so that residents on two floors of the 360-bed home for the elderly would experience some changes in their everyday life, they had no idea that they were introducing factors which could prolong life.

* * *

While residents on both floors were given plants and film shows, only those on the fourth floor had the opportunity to control these events: choosing the plant and looking after it themselves, and choosing which night of the week to view the film.

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Eighteen months later, when Langer and Rodin returned to the home, they were astonished to discover that twice as many of the elderly residents in this ‘choices’ group were alive, compared with the control group on the second floor, who had been given plants that the staff tended, and were told which was their film night. It appeared that taking control made you live longer.

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These findings fit in well with the work on learned helplessness in dogs which Martin Seligman had done in the late 1960s, and on Langer and Rodin’s own studies on the perception of control.

* * *

Claudia Hammond meets Ellen Langer, now Professor of Psychology at Harvard, and hears about Arden House and the work she has gone on to do on what she calls ‘mindfulness’. She visits Arden House, which is still a nursing home, and is shown around by current administrator Joanne Scafati.

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For a ssmple of relate Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Time and Mind,” The Situation of Health and Aging,” “Time and the Situation of Marshmallows,” and “January Fools’ Day.”

Posted in Classic Experiments, Life, Podcasts, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Cruelty of Children

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 26, 2009

Situationist PodcastThe always outstanding and very situationist This American Life, has a terrific episode on the “The Cruelty of Children” that relates closely to yesterday’s post and makes excellent weekend listening.  You can listen to the episode here and download the podcast here.  Here’s the program description.

* * *

Stories about kids being mean to each other.

Prologue.Bully Book. A first-grader explains to host Ira Glass how bullies become bullies. His explanation: They read a book on how to be a bully. According to his reasoning, how else could you explain why kids are mean to each other? It couldn’t be that they’re just bad. (2 minutes)

Act One. I Like Guys.

David Sedaris reads one of his funniest and most affecting stories from his book Naked before a live audience. As an adolescent boy, David feared he might be a homosexual. He explains how his secret plan was to win the lottery and then hire doctors who would purge him of his homosexual impulses. Sometimes kids in his class at school would taunt the boys they thought were sissies, and when they did, he tried to be the loudest and meanest. He figured if he didn’t act that way, they’d all turn on him next. Then he goes away to summer camp and meets a boy named Pete, who seems like an outsider in the same way he is. At first they get close. Then Pete turns on him. (26 minutes)

Song: ” None of Your Business,” Salt ‘n Pepa

Act Two. The Man in the Well.

Original fiction by Ira Sher about a group of children who find a man trapped in a well but decide not to get him any help. First published in the Chicago Review. (17 minutes)

Act Three. Human Nature, The View from Kindergarten.

Author and kindergarten teacher (and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient) Vivian Paley tells the story of an experiment she conducted in her classroom to make children less cruel to each other. She instituted a rule: “You can’t say ‘You can’t play.’” In other words, if two children are playing, and a third child comes over and wants to join them, they can’t tell him or her to get lost. They can’t reject him or her. This is the cause of unending pain in most classrooms and playgrounds. The experiment was a remarkable and immediate success. (12 minutes)

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Jane Elliot’s Situationist Pedagogy,” “Examining the Bullying Situation,” The Situation of Bullying,” Dueling Stereotypes and the Law,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part III,” and “The Devil You Know . . . .”

Posted in Abstracts, Conflict, Education, Life, Podcasts | 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.

* * *

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 »

The Situation of Birthers’ Belief

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 11, 2009

Obama Uniquely AmericanScientific American has an interesting, “60-Second Podcast” by Steve Mirsky about research by Situationist Contributor  Mahzarin Banaji and San Diego State’s Thierry Devos finding that white Americans inherently regard white Europeans as somehow more “American” than Asian- or African-Americans.  Here are some excerpts from the podcast, which you can link to here.

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The so-called birthers can’t accept that President Obama is really a natural-born American citizen. Part of what’s behind this seemingly irrational belief may lie in what’s called implicit social cognition—the deep-rooted assumptions we all carry around, and may act on without realizing it.

Harvard’s Mahzarin Banaji studies such implicit cognition. Last fall she talked to journalists at the annual conference of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing about research into bias against Asian-Americans. “So we thought, what if we picked Asians who are very well known to be American. What about Connie Chung? Are they going to be seen as less American than, let’s say, Hugh Grant? And so we thought this was a bizarre study to do but we did it anyway.”

Amazingly, white Americans did see a white European like Hugh Grant as being somehow more American than the Asian-American Connie Chung. And similar research in 2008 found that whites thought of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair as somehow more American than Obama. So the mental framework to believe that Obama is foreign probably was, to use a health care term, a preexisting condition.

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To read a closely related Situationist post, see “The Situation of Being ‘(un)American’.”

For some posts examining the the role of implicit associations in elections, see “Patricia Devine on Resisting Implicit Associations,” The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters,” On Being a Mindful Voter,”Lopez-Torres, Justice Scalia, and the Situation of Elections,” “Your Brain on Politics,” “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,”The Situation of Political Animals,” “Political Psychology in 2008,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,The Psychology of Barack Obama as the Antichrist,” and “The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters.”

To review all of the 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 other Situationist posts on the 2008 Presidential Election, click here.

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

The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 8, 2009

Situationist PodcastA BBC podcast of an interview with Situationist Contributor Brian Nosek about Project Implicit’s recent gender-science stereotypes article is available at the BBC World Service’s Science in Action series.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts about gender and science, see The Situation of Gender and Science,The Behavioral Consequences of Unconscious Bias,” “Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Education, Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Implicit Associations – Podcast

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 22, 2009

Undecided Voter

From the Science Podcast: Robert Frederick interviews Bertram Gawronski on how automatic mental associations predict future choices.

“Bertram Gawronski and colleagues report that they could predict the decision of 70% of those who indicated they were undecided about a controversial political issue. The prediction was based on testing people’s automatic mental associations, or how quickly people responded to and correctly categorized images and words. The results indicate that decision makers often already have made up their mind at an unconscious level, even when they consciously report they are still undecided.”

Open the file here or link to Science Podcast page here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Politics, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Predictably Irrational

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 10, 2008

Predictably Irrational Dan Ariely, Professor of Economics at Duke University, has an article in the UK publication “The Independant,” in which he details some of the scenarios his team studied that show how people can behave irrationally in various situations. Part of the article is excerpted below.

* * *

Relativity

Next time you hit the town in search of a date, take a friend who looks similar to you, but is slightly less attractive. We presented participants with two portraits – Mike and John – and asked them to choose whom they’d rather date. For half the participants we distorted the picture of Mike and added it to the set, so they had John, Mike and an ugly version of Mike to choose from. For the other half of the students, we distorted John, so they had Mike, John and an ugly John.

When the ugly version of Mike was presented, the attractive version of Mike became the most desirable date. And when the ugly version of John was presented, John’s attractive version became the most desirable.

It is very hard for us to evaluate things in absolute terms. So, we evaluate products and people in relative terms, which makes us vulnerable to this kind of trap, called the asymmetric dominance effect.

Spending power

We asked a group of MBA students to write down the last two digits of their Social Security number next to the descriptions of a few products. We then asked them if they would pay the amount of money indicated by these numbers (79 became $79 and so on) for each of the products.

We then asked them to bid on the items in an auction. It turned out that people with higher Social Security numbers were willing to pay more.

What was going on? It’s not that people with high Social Security numbers are willing to pay more for everything in general. Instead, it is what’s known as the power of first decision. Once people start thinking of something as having a specific value, they do so not just once, but repeatedly.

***

Dan Ariely’s book is called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions. Below is an excerpt from the book.

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So we live in two worlds: one characterized by social exchanges and the other characterized by market exchanges. And we apply different norms to these two kinds of relationships. Moreover, introducing market norms into social exchanges, as we have seen, violates the social norms and hurts the relationships. Once this type of mistake has been committed, recovering a social relationship is difficult. Once you’ve offered to pay for the delightful Thanksgiving dinner, your mother-in-law will remember the incident for years to come. And if you’ve ever offered a potential romantic partner the chance to cut to the chase, split the cost of the courting process, and simply go to bed, the odds are that you will have wrecked the romance forever.

My good friends Uri Gneezy (a professor at the University of California at San Diego) and Aldo Rustichini (a professor at the University of Minnesota) provided a very clever test of the long-term effects of a switch from social to market norms. A few years ago, they studied a day care center in Israel to determine whether imposing a fine on parents who arrived late to pick up their children was a useful deterrent. Uri and Aldo concluded that the fine didn’t work well, and in fact it had long-term negative effects. Why? Before the fine was introduced, the teachers and parents had a social contract, with social norms about being late. Thus, if parents were late — as they occasionally were — they felt guilty about it — and their guilt compelled them to be more prompt in picking up their kids in the future. (In Israel, guilt seems to be an effective way to get compliance.) But once the fine was imposed, the day care center had inadvertently replaced the social norms with market norms. Now that the parents were paying for their tardiness, they interpreted the situation in terms of market norms. In other words, since they were being fined, they could decide for themselves whether to be late or not, and they frequently chose to be late. Needless to say, this was not what the day care center intended.

But the real story only started here. The most interesting part occurred a few weeks later, when the day care center removed the fine. Now the center was back to the social norm. Would the parents also return to the social norm? Would their guilt return as well? Not at all. Once the fine was removed, the behavior of the parents didn’t change. They continued to pick up their kids late. In fact, when the fine was removed, there was a slight increase in the number of tardy pickups (after all, both the social norms and the fine had been removed).

This experiment illustrates an unfortunate fact: when a social norm collides with a market norm, the social norm goes away for a long time. In other words, social relationships are not easy to reestablish. Once the bloom is off the rose — once a social norm is trumped by a market norm — it will rarely return.

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To listen to an interesting, nine-minute All Things Considered interview of Dan Ariely, click here. In addition, a podcast with an interview of Professor Ariely and describing more of his research can be found at Open Source, while an interview with him from ABC Radio National can be heard by clicking here. Image from Harper Collins. We’ll have another post on Ariely’s book later this week.

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Book, Podcasts | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Warren on the Situation of Credit

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 5, 2008

Image by The Consumerist - FlickrFrom the Harvard Law School Website.

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Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren was recently featured on the NPR program “Fresh Air.” During the show, Warren spoke extensively about the intricacies of the credit system, including how lenders, employers, and even cell phone companies are using credit ratings to determine an individual’s purchasing power.

Host Terry Gross opened the program by describing how several egregious clerical errors in her husband’s credit report lowered his credit score extensively, and asked Warren how these errors can occur.

“It happens because there’s no real check on the system,” Warren said. “Estimates are that about 80 percent of credit reports contain at least one error, and one in four credit reports contain errors big enough to make a difference in your credit rating.”

An expert in bankruptcy law, Warren writes about bankruptcy and credit issues facing middle-class Americans. She has recently called for the creation of a financial products safety commission, which would regulate credit products in the same way the government regulates other consumer goods. Warren is the author of The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke . . . .

Listen to the interview of Warren, here.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of the Mortgage Crisis,” “Financial Squeeze: Bad Choices or Bad Situations?,” “The Situation of College Debt” – Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Posted in Life, Podcasts, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of the American Middle Class

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 11, 2008

Last month, NPR’s On Point (with host Tom Ashbrook) had a one-hour show titled “Falling Behind Our Parents.” Here’s the show’s description.

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Nan Mooney is thirtysomething, well-educated, the child of baby boomers who herself grew up with all the accoutrements of what was very recently thought to be a regular middle-class American life. Nothing fancy, but the full basics: a nice little home with steady income, housing, health insurance, and a summer vacation somewhere.

Now, Nan Mooney and millions of others of her generation have none of those.

And she’s not sure she ever will.

Her new book is “(Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents.” And she’s mad.

This hour, On Point:

  • Nan Mooney, and a generation, not keeping up.
  • Peter Gosselin, national economics correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and author of the forthcoming book “High Wire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families”

* * *

You can listen to the story on Real Player here or on Windows Media Player here.

For a worthwhile interview transcript from Salon, click here. Below we’ve pasted an excerpt from Nan Mooney’s book.

* * *

Since the 1950s, what we’ve considered the American experience — be it sock-hopping, suburban living, or SUV buying — has been largely dictated by the professional middle class. In her 1989 social critique, Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, Barbara Ehrenreich defined this mainstream population in terms of education, occupation, lifestyle and tastes, but also in terms of income. “Middle class couples,” she wrote, “earn enough for home ownership in a neighborhood inhabited by other members of their class; college educations for the children; and such enriching experiences as vacation trips, psychotherapy, fitness training, summer camp and the consumption of ‘culture’ in various forms.”

This thriving middle class didn’t develop by accident. It emerged with the introduction of government and social policies designed to lift the country out of the Great Depression and sustain economic health in the postwar era. By the 1950s, a combination of social programs including Social Security, unemployment insurance, the GI Bill, and federal housing loans helped middle class salaries stretch. Employers supplied health insurance and pensions. A surge in suburban building made housing widely accessible. You no longer had to be a doctor or a businessman to afford a two-story Colonial with a dishwasher and a color TV. For a white male supporting a family — the typical middle class profile at the time — it was possible to work in an array of professions whereby you didn’t necessarily get rich, but you could count on being fairly comfortable. A house, a job, a car or two in the garage, a fun summer vacation, these were absolute indicators of middle class success.

by Daniel Y. GoEconomic realities have undergone seismic shifts since our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Education and housing cost more. Incomes have leveled off for all but a small minority. Employers and the government supply few social safety nets, cutting health insurance and pensions and replacing them with new “benefits” like 401(k)s and health savings plans that benefit only those with income to set aside. But many of those middle class expectations set in place back in the ’50s still hold.

Alongside our schooling in philosophy and economics, today’s college-educated professionals have been conditioned to see ourselves as among the financially stable, mainstream haves. Many of us attended what are considered strong academic institutions. Others come from families with comfortable financial backgrounds. Our childhood friends, our college roommates, the couple we met at that holiday party are those same lawyers and financiers who’ve hit the financial jackpot, driving multiple Mercedeses and buying $2 million starter homes. We know we aren’t like them. We’ve aspired to different career and financial goals, those more rooted in education, the arts or public service. But, given our often-similar backgrounds and educations, it’s clear we aren’t entirely unlike them either. This rising and dramatic economic inequality among college-educated professionals, leaving so many of us to struggle while a select few enter the strata of the “super rich,” was not supposed to be part of the package.

When we read about the middle class squeeze, we tend to think blue collar — the machinist who used to make $25 an hour now making $15, the vocationally trained worker whose job just got cut. But what about the social worker who makes $30,000 a year, the environmental scientist who makes $40,000, the college professor who makes $50,000? The rules of the game have changed. The educated professional middle class experience no longer guarantees two cars in every driveway, or even the driveway itself. Instead we face relatively low-paying jobs in fields requiring a high-cost education, increasing mortgages, student-loan and credit card debt, less employer or government help with health care, retirement, education and child care, and an overall higher cost of living. As the gap between the rich and the middle class widens, a huge segment of that once-comfortable center section is finding that reality means plummeting financial and emotional security and lack of control over our lives.

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For related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of the Mortgage Crisis,” The Financial Squeeze: Bad Choices or Bad Situations?,” “The Situation of College Debt” – Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Posted in Abstracts, Book, Choice Myth, Education, Life, Podcasts | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Music

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 1, 2008

Situationist PodcastFrom Radiolab: Pop Music

Abstract: Why do some songs mercilessly stick in our heads and repeat themselves over and over? What makes these hooks so hooky? And how does a songwriter will a song forth from the ether? Nightmarish stories of musical hallucinations, songs that transcend language, and the triumphant return of the Elvis of Afghanistan.

Listen to show by clicking here.

For a related Situationist post, see “The Science of Songs Stuck in Your Head.”

Posted in Life, Podcasts | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Panic

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 19, 2008

Situationist PodcastFrom Radiolab: War of the World

Abstract: An examination of the power of mass media to create panic. In Radio Lab’s very first live hour, we take a deep dive into one of the most controversial moments in broadcasting history – Orson Welles’ 1938 radio play about Martians invading New Jersey. And we ask: Why did it fool people then? And why has it continued to fool people since? From Santiago, Chile to Buffalo, New York to a particularly disastrous evening in Quito, Ecuador.

Listen to show by clicking here.

Posted in Abstracts, Entertainment, History, Podcasts | Leave a Comment »

Situationist Podcasting

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 3, 2008

Situationist PodcastFor those of you who would like to do some listening, here are a few podcasts.

From Scientific American:

The Slow Down of Time in Crisis: (1 minute) Recent research from the Baylor College of Medicine tackles the fascinating experience we have of time slowing down during a terrifying event, like a car accident. Does our brain track time differently during crisis? They say no, it’s more about a trick of memory.

Fear Gets Us to the Gym: (1 minute) Research from the University of Bath reveals that the kind of messaging that persuades us to get to the gym is based on how we see ourselves in the future.

From New Scientist:

Quirkology: (8 minutes) Professor Richard Wiseman takes listeners a tour of the weird, the wonderful and the human mind.

From BBC Radio:

All in the Mind: (30 minutes) Dr Raj Persaud finds out how the very latest computer gaming technology is being developed into a therapeutic tool and asks if psychologists have finally unlocked the secrets of attraction.

Posted in Podcasts | Leave a Comment »

 
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