Sunday, May 3, 2009

Politics and Psychology

During the course of the semester, I focused my studies on politics and psychology. I never knew there were so many psychological aspects that went into deciding whether to vote and who to vote for.

Firstly, I never knew there were so many biological reasons for my political behavior. I've learned that my genes may determine whether I choose to vote or not. I also discovered that if I have low physical sensitivities to loud noises, I may be more likely to support foreign aid and liberal immigration policies. If the opposite is true, I probably favor the death penalty and the Iraq War. I also learned that certain parts of my brain get "excited" depending on what candidate I look at. What this means is controversial, but it shows that politics and psychology are linked.

I also didn't know that some of my political responses were due to my unconscious. I always thought that making a political decision was a conscious effort but this project has shown me otherwise. I've always been against negative political campaigning because I think it's tasteless, but unconsciously I'm drawn to it! One of the reasons is because negative campaigning activates my "fight or flight" response because I think I am in danger. Therefore, I actually respond more to negative campaigning than I do to the tame stuff!

I really enjoyed studying psychology and politics at the same time. It even has prompted me to pursue a double major in Political Science and Psychology. I liked that I was allowed to choose topics that interested me and didn't have to read what someone wanted me to read. I also liked that I had to write a summary and an interpretation. The summary made me work hard to understand what the study was about and the analysis made me understand why the study was important and what it actually meant. To make it better, I would suggest having group meetings instead of just writing blogs. Sometimes I would forget about posting a blog and I think having meetings would help me schedule better and also understand my peers' work more fully. I will add that doing one a week is far better than writing a 10 page research paper which I have to do for my other class :(. I also think some of my classmates would have been interested to hear about our work but I'm not sure the PSYC 100 schedule would be able to accommodate class presentations. All in all, this was a really interesting project and I learned a great deal! I'm sure it will be something I will be studying for a long time!

Voting may be due to nature, not nurture

James H. Fowler and his associates conducted a study on twins in the Los Angeles area in an attempt to discover if political participation was due to genes. Many studies related to political participation have focused on environment and personality factors, such as efficacy and reinforced learning through parents' behavior. The biological aspect of participation has often been cast aside. Using the Los Angeles County voter registration records and the Southern California Twin Registry, Fowler attempted to prove his hypothesis that political participation has a hereditary factor.

Fowler matched up 396 twins from the registry and voting records. He separated monozygotic (identical; share 100% of genes) and dizygotic (fraternal; share 50% of genes) twins to determine the extent that genes have on voting. Only same-sex twins were used in order to limit variables. The voting records used included eight elections from 2000 to 2005.

The results of their findings found that 53% of the variance in voting behavior can be accounted for by genetic affects; in simpler terms, genes play a role in political participation. Shared environment accounted for 35% of the variance. It is widely assumed that MZ and DZ twins share comparable social environments. If this happens to be false, the genetic effect is much greater.

This study confirms outcomes of similar studies, but for different reasons. The voting behavior of parents has been known to have an effect on the political participation of their children. This was often assumed as a result of social influence, but this recent study shows that biological factors may play a great role since shared environment only played a small role in this study. Also, this study confirms that voter behavior is habitual. What was always assumed to be reduced from reinforcement learning may actually be due to genetic variation.

Although this study finds genes as a predictor for political participation, we still do not know which genes are responsible or why. This study will begin to help political psychologists understand biological reasons for voting and open up the minds of many others.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Whoa, I just realized that there were comments on most of the posts! The only suggestion I have, now that i realized this, is maybe to emphasize the comments a little more. I cant believe i didnt see those until after I wrote my last post... I feel kinda dumb now :)

Aggerssion- Final Post

Over the course of this semester, I wrote my weekly blog posts on the topic of aggression. I read articles that covered aggression in everything from the media to animals and to humans. One thing that I can conclude indefinitely from my research is that aggressiveness, like so many other traits, has strong biological, psychological, and social implications. For instance, in the case of rhesus monkeys, there were two distinctly different promoter genes that controlled the amount of serotonin receptors in the brain. However, monkeys that were genetically prone to aggressiveness could overcome this precursor if they were raised by their mothers. I learned that the biological components involved in aggression were mainly the neurotransmitter serotonin (levels, receptors, re-uptake...) and the hormone testosterone. Higher levels of testosterone as well as lower levels of serotonin can have a hand in aggressive behavior. Overall, ones upbringing is also a good indication of how aggressive he or she will be. This is evident in the case of the rhesus monkeys, as well as in humans; those who are raised in around violent behavior are much more likely to exhibit violent behavior themselves in childhood and adulthood. The media also plays a role in aggressive behavior, although this is easily overcome by good parenting and effective reinforcement. Children, when exposed to violent media , tend to emulate the behavior unless they know that there is a consequence to the action. Popular culture also tends to glorify and reward violent behavior, as in professional wrestling, movies, websites, and even childrens cartoons. However, it is not only physical aggression that is glorified, but verbal aggression is given its fair share of the limelight too. TV shows such as MTV's Yo Momma, rap battles, and again, professional wrestling all tend to reward the contestant who can more offensively verbally assault his opponent    Together, all of these factors (social, psychological, and biological) can explain why we see as much violence and aggressive behavior as we do now-a-days. It is clear that most of this aggressive behavior can be prevented if the warning signs are detected in early childhood, and the proper parental measures are taken.

As far as this blog goes for the Jame's Scholar assignment, I liked it a lot. It allows for a great deal of flexibility, which is nice when you have so many other things to worry about. Also, I feel that delving so deeply into one specific topic really does give you a more thurough understanding of the subject than if we were to blog about, say, a different topic every week. All in all, I feel like I have gained a great deal of knowledge on the topic of aggression, and would not change anything about the assignment if i had the choice to.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Women Prefer Men with Stubble for Love, Sex and Marriage

Going off the study I did last week, I found a very interesting article on attractiveness with men’s facial hair. According to this study women prefer men with stubby facial hair compared to clean shaven faces or beards. Women characterized the men are being tough, mature, aggressive, dominant, and masculine. They were rated as being higher in romance in both short and long term relationships as well.
The researchers used 15 men faces that were visually altered so they all presented a degree of hairiness. They used 5 different types of facial hair including clean shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, light beard, and full beard. Then they researchers asked 76 women to rate the men are masculinity, aggression, dominance, attractiveness, age, and social maturity. And they desirability for a short term or long term relationship. Overall, men that were clean shaven were rated the lowest out of every group while men with light stubble were rated overall highest.
It is clear that women find certain facial hair attractive. I found that this was somewhat surprising because I would have thought that women would be more attractive to men with a clean shaven look. I thought that they also would present a higher rating in the terms of relationships since they would seem to be more mature, organized, and active. But, I found that the research was able to prove my theory wrong.
I would like to look further into this research and see if they have more studies on this subject. I find this extremely important and am excited to see what I might be able to find. Hopefully I will be able to see other studies that prove this study wrong (I have no facial hair)!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Men can 'laugh women into bed' with GSOH, say psychologists

Going off of last week’s findings I found a very interesting article on humor. From this latest research in the UK, supposedly researchers have found out the women are more likely to find you more intelligent and honest if the male counterpart is funny. Again women usually are looking for a intelligent male counterpart because they present their ability to provide for their family.

Within this study 45 women were asked to read short descriptions of themselves compiled by 20 men, 10 which were scored very funny and 10 scoring slightly funny. Then, the women were asked how intelligent and honest the men perceived to be. Then on top of this they were asked how likely they were to go into a long lasting relationship with the men.

This study resulted in funny men to be significantly rated higher in intelligence compared to the slightly funny descriptions. On top of this they were also rated to be more honest and were said they would be more likely to become friends with the people who had a funnier description. An interesting aspect of this study was men were less attracted to funny women when the study was reversed.

I thought this article was very informative. I consider myself funny and is always great when you see that women perceive you as being more honest and intelligent. I was extremely surprised that men find funny women less attractive. But, now that I think about it, I am not attracted to girls that can tell a good joke. Usually, if I am laughing with a girl it is because of my own joke.

Next week I think I will try and continue this research and maybe find out what other factors go into what women find so attractive about a certain guy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Tony Blair more American than President Obama?

NY Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof reported on a study that claims people think Tony Blair is more American than Barack Obama due to the color of their skin.

A study conducted with college students at San Diego State University measured whether race had anything to do with seeming "American." The columnist reported that most college students, when focused on race, found Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, more American than President Obama. 

Many people would automatically object to this study claiming they are not racist, and this may be true. This study, however, tested the unconscious mind. This research shows that most Americans associate being "American" with white skin.

The actual study asked participants in one group to focus on the personal identity (Barack Obama vs. Tony Blair) and another group to focus on race (Black vs. White). The group that focused on personal identity found Obama to be more American. But the group that focused on race found Tony Blair to be more American. Hillary Clinton was also brought into the mix to bring in gender identity. Still, Barack Obama was only seen as less American when the participants focused on race.

The popular press article got the study pretty dead on. They even brought up oppositions that people may have and shot them down. For example, they brought up the question of whether Obama is seen as less American because he has foreign relatives. Kristof noted that there have been other studies with famous Black sports stars that had the same result as this one. He even brings up talk about the amyglada and how it flashes a threat warning when it perceives people that look different and notes that this may have some evolutionary background.

This article brought an interesting perspective to me. I always claim to have no racial bias but would my unconscious mind prove the same if I underwent this test? As the author mentions, once "people become aware of their unconscious biases, they can overcome them."