The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘gender’

The Situation of Gender and Science

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 28, 2009

Men and ScienceRachana Dixit wrote a worthwhile article in Daily Progress summarizing recent research illustrating the implicit links between gender and science.  Here are some excerpts.

* * *

A new study has found that both men and women hold unspoken stereotypes that males are more easily linked with science than females.

The work’s authors say the stereotypes may contribute to continuing underachievement and under-participation among girls and women in science, furthering the idea that science is a male career.

“I think this is pervasive in our culture, but it is changing,” said [Situationist Contributor] Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychology professor who led the study. . . .

The findings suggest that 70 percent of respondents harbored implicit stereotypes associating science with males more than with females. About 500,000 people from 34 countries — with roughly half from the United States — took part in the experiment.

The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is a part of Project Implicit, a publicly accessible research project headed by Nosek, Harvard University professor and [Situationist Contributor] Mahzarin Banaji and University of Washington professor Tony Greenwald.

* * *

The study attempted to measure gender bias in science without explicitly asking about the subject. For this study, respondents were asked to sort out four categories — male and female names and science and humanities words. During the first test, participants grouped male names with science words and female names with humanities words; the second time, they did the opposite.

Nosek said the study found that the test-takers could link male names and science words faster than female names and science words. The time difference was generally used to gauge the bias, he said. The gender stereotype could determine how women engage in science disciplines, and gaps in achievement could also reinforce the biases that exist, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, he added.

“It can go both ways,” Nosek said.

In comparing science and math test scores from the separate Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the implicit bias data showed that boys performed better in math and science in countries whose residents stereotyped the most. The implicit thinking measured in the study may also indicate a country’s health in promoting science to both genders, Nosek said.


* * *

Nosek said the investigators are trying to figure out when the stereotypes start pervading people’s psyches. Early data suggest that it could be as early as elementary school.

Getting rid of the stereotypes, Nosek said, will be a tricky thing.

“Even becoming aware of them doesn’t make them disappear,” he said. “Changing them is not so simple.”

* * *

To read the entire article, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts about gender and science, see “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 Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Human Trafficking – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 12, 2009

Human TraffickingJonathan Todres has recently posted a fascinating article, titled “Law, Otherness, and Human Trafficking” (49 Santa Clara Law Review 605-672 (2009) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

* * *

Despite concerted efforts to combat human trafficking, the trade in persons persists and, in fact, continues to grow. This article suggests that a central reason for the limited success in preventing human trafficking is the dominant conception of the problem, which forms the basis for law developed to combat human trafficking. Specifically, the author argues that “otherness” is a root cause of both inaction and the selective nature of responses to the abusive practice of human trafficking. Othering operates across multiple dimensions, including race, gender, ethnicity, class, caste, culture, and geography, to reinforce a conception of a virtuous “Self” and a devalued “Other.” This article exposes how this Self/Other dichotomy shapes the phenomenon of human trafficking, driving demand for trafficked persons, influencing perceptions of the problem, and constraining legal initiatives to end the abuse. By examining human trafficking through an otherness-aware framework, this article aims to elucidate a deeper understanding of human trafficking and offer a prescription for reducing the adverse effects of otherness on both efforts to combat human trafficking and the individuals that now suffer such abuses.

* * *

You can download the article for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situational Effect of Groups,” The Situational Benefits of Outsiders,” Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” ‘Us’ and ‘Them,’” “Team-Interested Decision Making,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” and “March Madness.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Ideology, Morality, Public Policy, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Situatiolympics – Abstracts

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 17, 2008

Today’s Boston Globe section “Uncommon Knowledge” abstracts several interesting studies related to the olympics, including two that are quite situationist: one discussing bias in Olympic coverage and the other examining the influence of expectations and counterfactual thinking among medalists. We’ve excerpted those two abstracts below.

* * *

Billings, A. et al., “The Games Through the NBC Lens: Gender, Ethnic, and National Equity in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (June 2008):

This study out of Clemson catalogued all commentary by NBC-affiliated personalities during the network’s prime-time coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Not only were men covered and mentioned more extensively (even when the women were more successful), but attributions of success and failure differed by gender, too. Male athletes were seen as more composed and intelligent in victory, and less committed in defeat. Female athletes were seen as more courageous in victory, and weaker athletes in defeat. The differences were more prevalent among on-site reporters than among the (more scripted) anchors. A similar pattern was found with regard to nationality. Americans were seen as having more concentration, composure, commitment, and courage in victory, while non-Americans were granted more athletic skill. The authors note that “parallels between long-held racial stereotypes (e.g., blacks being ‘born’ athletes and whites being superior intellectually) may transfer in similar ways within the domain of nationalism.”

* * *

McGraw, P. et al., “Expectations and Emotions of Olympic Athletes,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (July 2005) (pdf here):

After the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, a team of psychologists published a widely cited study showing that Olympic athletes who had just won a bronze medal appeared to be happier than those who had just won a silver medal. The psychologists concluded that athletes’ emotional responses were not explained by missed expectations but, instead, by close-call counterfactuals: Bronze-medal winners were focused on the fact that they had come close to not winning a medal at all, while the silver-medal winners were focused on the fact that they had come close to winning a gold medal. After the 2000 Sydney Olympics, another team of psychologists updated these findings with a renewed emphasis on the role of prior expectations. They repeated the earlier study – but this time with Sydney athletes, and not just with bronze- and silver-medal winners – and found that performance, relative to media predictions or qualifying-event finishes, was the primary determinant of athletes’ emotions.

Posted in Abstracts, Emotions, Implicit Associations, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fractured Bonds – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 7, 2008

Bela August Walker recently posted her fascinating article, “Fractured Bonds: Policing Whiteness and Womanhood Through Race-Based Marriage Annulments” (forthcoming DePaul Law Review) on SSRN. In it she explores the role of law in shaping stereotypes. Here’s the abstract.

* * *

In the hundred years before the United States Supreme Court declared miscegenation statutes unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia, state courts decided thirteen recorded race-based annulment cases. This article presents a unified analysis of all race based annulment cases for the first time. Simultaneously public and private affairs, these dramas impacted far more than the individual couples or courtrooms, sending out shockwaves that reverberated beyond their points of origin. The results of the cases are startling and contrary to previous work on the subject.

Using this unique set of cases, this article argues that while declaring these women white appears like a deviation from white supremacy, the courts’ decisions were used to preserve white racial dominance. Through the annulment case decisions, the court stepped in to protect women with a taint of blackness, declaring them pure and worthy of the mantle of whiteness. By legally erasing the women’s potential racial taint, the court seemingly chooses to protect obedient women against their husbands, affirming marriage and domesticity over racial prejudices. In contrast, the court acted to protect the ideology of whiteness. To preserve notions of white womanhood, this status had to be defended, even as it violated standards of racial purity.

Posted in Abstracts, Deep Capture, History, Ideology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 Situational Demographics of Deadly Force – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 4, 2008

Crime Scene Police Officers - from Flickr James P. McElvain and Augustine J. Kposowa have an interesting new article, “Police Officer Characteristics and the Likelihood of Using Deadly Force,” in 35 Criminal Justice and Behavior, 505-521 (2008). Here’s the abstract.

* * *

Past research on police shootings, when examining officer characteristics, has focused on the officer’s race, particularly when it is not the same as the race of the person shot. Data from 186 officer-involved shootings were used to examine whether race effects existed and, if so, would be eliminated or attenuated by controlling for officer gender, education, age, and history of shooting. Male officers were more likely to shoot than female officers, and college-educated officers were less likely to be involved in shootings than officers with no college education. Risk of officer-involved shooting was reduced as the officer aged. White, non-Hispanic officers were more likely to shoot than Hispanic officers; however, there was no significant difference between Hispanic and Black officers. Officers with a previous history of shooting were more than 51% as likely to shoot during the follow-up period as officers without a history of shootings.

Posted in Abstracts, Law | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

The Interior Situation of Infants

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 2, 2008

Image by Rose Lincoln for Harvard Gazette

From The Telegraph, here are excerpts from a terrific article by Roger Highfeld about Elizabeth Spelke and her remarkable research at Harvard’s baby brain research lab.

* * *

Welcome to Spelkeland, or, to give it its proper name, the Laboratory for Developmental Studies at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology, run by the cognitive psychologist Prof Elizabeth Spelke, which is dedicated to understanding what shapes the most powerful known learning machine – the infant mind. Great philosophers have mused for millennia about human consciousness and how it makes sense of its surroundings. Like any good scientist, Spelke has turned philosophical hot air into firm experimental data that suggests that we are born with a significant amount of ‘core knowledge’ hardwired into our brains.

Spelke is arguably the most influential figure in the relatively new field of baby brain research, and has been named by Time magazine as one of America’s best in a list of ‘brilliant researchers who are the envy of the world. . . .

The hub of Spelke’s empire occupies half of the 11th floor of William James Hall, a brutalist 1960s tower block named after the pioneering American psychologist. James himself once referred to the ‘blooming, buzzing confusion’ of a newborn’s senses. Spelke’s studies have revealed that, in fact, there is order in the chaos: from the moment we first open our eyes, we possess the essential mental equipment to make sense of the confusion around us.

We are natural-born mathematicians – for example, six-month-olds can distinguish the quantities eight from 16, and 16 from 32. Babies will infer that a rolling ball will keep moving. They also know that when that ball rolls behind a screen it should pop out the other side. And although they can only babble, babies tell us that the germ of our instincts about age, gender and race are laid down in the cradle.

But how can you ask burbling babies what they are thinking? They are much trickier to handle than rats and students, the usual mainstays of psychological research. None the less, the Spelkeland experiments are fundamentally simple, and rely on the one thing that humans of any age can do: get bored. . . .

* * *

To Watch Video Click on this Image

[To watch a six-minute video interview of Elizabeth Spelke about her research, click here.]

* * *

One area into which Spelke’s team would like to delve deeper is the origins of bigotry in human beings. In the case of skin colour, newborns respond to individuals of all races equally. By three months, however, a baby from a Caucasian household will prefer to gaze at a white face, and a black baby at an African American face. By the age of two or three, they are drawn to their own gender, too. ‘There are some very intriguing parallels between the patterns of social preference we find in infants and what seems to go on in adults,’ Spelke says. ‘But we don’t have them nailed. It is the work I will get most animated about, but the reason I am so animated is that we don’t have the answers yet.’ The effort to find how babies divide people into broad groups began only five years ago, ‘a blink of an eye’ in research terms.

Spelke’s studies found baby boys and girls have similar mathematical ability, an incidental finding that was at the forefront of her mind in January 2005 when the former Harvard president Larry Summers suggested that the relative lack of female engineers and scientists was down to innate gender differences. ‘When it comes to the basic modules we are born with, they are pretty much the same,’ says Spelke, who was in the thick of the verbal fisticuffs that followed (Summers was ‘wrong, point for point’). Summers resigned as controversy raged. Spelke does not deny that there are differences in the way men and women think but most of this, she believes, is learnt over time, and down to prejudice and the expectations of society.

Among some scientists there is a reluctance to ask questions about skin colour, so ingrained is the fear that conclusions will be exploited for political ends, or distorted by doublethink. Spelke is fearless. ‘The trouble is there, whether we do our research or not. Knowledge is liberating.’ The more we understand the foundations of how we think, ‘the more effectively we will be able to move in the directions we choose to go in. I am not so worried the research would be misused.’

Studies have already revealed why some old people mutter that all Chinese or Westerners look the same, depending on whether they are Western or Chinese. Six-month-olds are much better than us at discriminating faces of other races and can even tell individual monkeys apart. But that capacity evaporates at nine months, when they tune this skill to discriminate only faces of their own race.

Talee Ziv, another graduate student, is at Spelkeland to follow up some remarkable experiments she did at Tel Aviv University, Israel, with children from care homes. ‘The question was very simple,’ Ziv says. ‘We wanted to know whether children who are three months old have a certain preference for faces of certain races.’

Three groups of 12 babies took part: white Israeli children who had probably been exposed only to white faces; their peers in Ethiopia who probably had no exposure to white faces; and Ethiopian babies exposed to black and white faces because their families had emigrated to Israel. ‘We presented them with pictures of faces, side by side, one white and one African, and we observed where they preferred to look. The white children in Israel preferred white faces. Babies in Ethiopia preferred to look at Ethiopian faces. The third group showed no preference.’

More fascinating still is that Spelke’s lab has revealed a deep-seated prejudice, present in infants, that trumps racial bias: language. Dr Katherine Kinzler, though based in Harvard, spends much time running parallel studies in France. ‘Five-month-old babies will look longer at somebody who spoke to them in their language. Older infants want to accept a toy from someone who has spoken their language,’ Dr Kinzler says.

‘They like toys more that are associated with someone who has spoken their language. They prefer to eat foods offered to them by a native speaker compared to a speaker of a foreign language. And older children say that they want to be friends with someone who speaks in their native accent.’ Accents and vernacular, far more than race, seem to influence the people we like. ‘Children would rather be friends with someone who is from a different race and speaks with a native accent versus somebody who is their own race but speaks with a foreign accent.’

* * *

Does Spelke think her research can help reduce prejudice? ‘That is a very difficult question and probably a premature one since we have a great deal more to learn.’ But her hope is that the better we understand our predispositions, the more chance society has to deal with hate and bigotry.

* * *

To read more, click here. To glimpse how some of the basic experiments are run, take a look at the videos here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gender Images and Implicit Attitudes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 27, 2008

A new study from three social psychologists at the University of Granada in Spain examines how our minds categorize implicit attitudes about the two genders. Soledad de Lemus Martín, Miguel Moya Morales, and Juan Lupiáñez Castillo studied how an image of man connects to implicit attitudes relating to competence, while an image of a woman tends to relate to those relating to social skills.

A news story on the study further summarizes the study’s findings. Below we excerpt a portion of the story.

* * *

[W]hen we see someone in a concrete social context, the qualities associated with competence (efficacy, motivation, intelligence and their antonyms) are more activated when we judge men or women in their traditional roles (the man in an office as a leader and the woman as a housewife). However, the qualities related to sociability (kindness, understanding, sensibility and their antonyms) are notably more activated in counter-stereotype contexts (a man doing the housework and a woman as a leader).

* * *

For the rest of the story, click here. For other Situationist posts relating to gender and psychology, click here.

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

%d bloggers like this: