Tag Archives | Sociology

Democrats, Republicans See Each Other as Mindless—Unless They Pose a Threat

PIC: Roanoke (CC)

PIC: Roanoke (CC)

Via Newswise:

We are less likely to humanize members of groups we don’t belong to—except, under some circumstances, when it comes to members of the opposite political party. A study by researchers at New York University and Harvard Business School suggests that we are more prone to view members of the opposite political party as human if we view those individuals as threatening.

“It’s hardly surprising that we dehumanize those who are not part of our groups,” says Jay Van Bavel, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and one of the study’s co-authors. “However, what is interesting is that we may be motivated to perceive the presence of a mind among political adversaries who threaten us.

“It’s possible that when we believe our political opponents are formidable we may humanize them in ways we don’t with members of other out-groups.”

The study appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World: Here’s Why

WeirdTalesv36n1pg127_False_Teeth_ModelAnthropologist Joe Henrich and colleagues have studied the American mind, and comparing it to the rest of the world, their findings suggest that the nation’s citizens are the “weirdest” in the world. Must explain why journalists like Louis Theroux and Jon Ronson spend so much of their time here.

Via PSmag:

I had to wonder whether describing the Western mind, and the American mind in particular, as weird suggested that our cognition is not just different but somehow malformed or twisted. In their paper the trio pointed out cross-cultural studies that suggest that the “weird” Western mind is the most self-aggrandizing and egotistical on the planet: we are more likely to promote ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group. WEIRD minds are also more analytic, possessing the tendency to telescope in on an object of interest rather than understanding that object in the context of what is around it.

The WEIRD mind also appears to be unique in terms of how it comes to understand and interact with the natural world.

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Can Facebook Status Updates Indicate Psychopathy?

newsAnyone could certainly compose a valid argument that Facebook is a key indicator of narcissism, but it’s hard to say that liking the musical works of Phil Collins more than Huey Lewis and the News is genuinely indicative of psychopathy. Of course, for those who do not have a Facebook page, you can rest assured that you are just as likely to be psychopaths as well!

VIA Daily Mail

For most people, most of the time, Facebook is a bright and breezy place where they share holiday and baby photos and brag about great parties they’ve been to.

But the social media site has a darker side, because a new study reveals that status updates can reveal a range of personality traits, including if someone has psychopathic tendencies.

Researchers from Sahlgrenska Academy and Lund University in Sweden found that status updates that indicated psychopathy could concern prostitutes, decapitation, pornography and butchers.

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Nine Out Of Ten Men Say They Fake An Interest In Sports

soccerSo does anyone actually like professional sports? Fascinating ritual sociology from the UK’s Daily Mail:

Nine out of ten men lie about liking sports to impress friends or to get ahead at work, it was revealed today. Football was the game that men most faked a love of, with two out of three admitting they gushed to mates about the national sport to avoid being unpopular, a survey of 500 Britons found.

Football was the most fibbed about, with 61 per cent hiding their dislike. The national game was followed by F1, cricket, gold and rugby. One in three admitted to lying because they thought it would aid their career.

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The Musical Universe

Via orwellwasright:

What is it about music that moves us in so many different ways? The rhythm begins and we slide onto the dancefloor, gyrating to the beats; a guitar strikes a chord and we throw ourselves into the crowd, surfing across a sea of hands; a favourite song comes on the radio and we sing along at the top of our voices, oblivious to the looks of bemusement coming from other drivers stuck in the traffic jam. The right songs can change the way we feel in an instant, as effective as the mood pills consumed in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I recently had the good fortune to attend a live performance of Beethoven’s legendary 9th Symphony. While it is something of a cliché - and perhaps exaggeration – to call this “the greatest music ever written” it’s certainly an intensely powerful experience which has endured the test of time, remaining one of the most popular pieces on the classical repertoire.… Read the rest

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Libertarianism’s Deficient Models of Human Nature and Society

mmw-fair-society-0711Peter Corning writes at Psychology Today (two years ago):

Who can object to the libertarian principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the right to hold property – at least in the abstract?  The problem is that the real world is never “abstract.”  All philosophies must ultimately confront reality, and the more radical versions of libertarianism (there are many, from extreme anarchism to limited government “minarchism”) rely on terminally deficient models of human nature and society.  Let’s (very briefly) take a look at the problem.

The libertarian model of individual psychology is grounded in the utilitarian, neo-classical economics model of “Homo economicus” (economic man).  Our motivations can be reduced to the single-minded pursuit of our (mostly material) self-interests. Accordingly, mainstream economists seem to consider it their mission in life to help us do so more “efficiently.” The Nobel economist Amartya Sen many years ago scathingly characterized this simplistic model as “rational fools who are decked out in their one, all-purpose preference function.”

The selfish actor model of human nature was tacitly endorsed with the rise of “Neo-Darwinism” in evolutionary biology during the 1970s, as epitomized in biologist Richard Dawkins’ famous book The Selfish Gene.  As Dawkins summed it up, “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes….I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness….we are born selfish.”

A line from libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s path-breaking book, Anarchy, State and Utopia, says it all: “Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group [or state] may do to them without violating their rights.” (When asked to specify what those rights are, libertarians often cite philosopher John Locke’s mantra “life, liberty, and property.”)  Not to worry, though.

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A Cyborgologist On What Facebook and Google Glass Really Mean

jurgensonThis week the Mindful Cyborgs podcast interviewed Nathan Jurgenson, the co-founder of the site Cyborgology, co-founder of the Theorizing the Web conference, a contributing editor at The New Inquiry and a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland.

There’s a full transcript on Technoccult, or you can listen to or download the audio from Soundcloud or iTunes.

Here are some excerpts:

If you’ve taken a lot of photos, if you’re a photographer and you spend a lot of time with the camera in your hand or up your eye. You develop the thing that is called the “camera eye,” that is even when the camera is not at your eye you start to see the world through the logic of the camera mechanism. You see the world as a potential photo with a framing, lighting, the depth of field and so forth. And that’s called the camera eye and I think social media, especially Facebook, has given us the sort of documentary vision or the Facebook eye where you see the world as a potential Facebook post or tweet or Instagram photo.

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Loneliness Kills: What Do We Do About It?

Picture: Bert Kaufmann (CC)

Picture: Bert Kaufmann (CC)

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, then you may enjoy this New Republic article on the phenomenon of loneliness and its impact on physical health. It’s full of all sorts of interesting asides about who experiences loneliness and why.

The New Republic:

A famous experiment helps explain why rejection makes us flinch. It was conducted more than a decade ago by Naomi Eisenberger, a social psychologist at UCLA, along with her colleagues. People were brought one-by-one into the lab to play a multiplayer online game called “Cyberball” that involved tossing a ball back and forth with two other “people,” who weren’t actually people at all, but a computer program. “They” played nicely with the real person for a while, then proceeded to ignore her, throwing the ball only to each other. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that the experience of being snubbed lit up a part of the subjects’ brains (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that also lights up when the body feels physical pain.

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Feminism in the 21st Century

Via orwellwasright:

I’ve never really looked into feminism until recently. I’m aware of the fundamental principles feminists adhere to – the liberation of women from an oppressive patriarchal society and the somewhat problematic expression “equality for women” (which seems something of an oxymoron to me, since surely equality should apply to everyone) – but, having never come across feminism beyond an awareness of its existence as an ideology, and personally knowing no women who call themselves feminists, it’s been something of an “unknown” to me.

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The Mass Psychology of Torture

William Mason writes at Counterpunch:

Torture has its gradations: from the most extreme forms (such as waterboarding) to the most subtle expressions (such as passive-aggressive obstructionism in relationships).

In its most heinous forms, torture consists of confining a helpless victim, who is subjected to physical pain and torment, emotional abuse, and various other degrading humiliations.  Prohibited by both international and domestic laws, the torture of suspected “terrorists” is nonetheless now widely condoned by most American citizens (or so it seems).

A kind of  “torture-of-the-week” riveted the audience of the popular TV series 24.  The disturbing film Dark Zero Thirty rationalized and depicted graphic torture—and was praised by critics and the public alike.  Why, so many observers have asked, do Americans today tolerate (or even approve) of the illegal torture so routinely administered by their own government?

Of course, Americans have long been desensitized to violence.  Everyday life is in itself brutalizing to any humane sensibility.  The average U.S.

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