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."



Monday, April 13, 2009

Lets get ready to TRASH TALK!

It is well known to most people that professional wrestling, as in the WWE and other such companies, is nothing more than a staged production for the viewing pleasure of the public, and that in reality the mortal enemies that we see fighting each other are actually a group of actors who probably get along very well. But is it that simple? Not according to researcher Ron Tamborini and associates. After carying out a study focused on the effect of "smack talk" on preadolescents and adolescents, the conclusion was reached that there is in fact a high corellation between the viewing of professional wrestling and the use of aggressive language amongst peers in that age group. Whats more shocking is this direct quote from Tamborini's findings "By far the most frequent reason for engaging in verbal aggression was amusement...", which, inconjunction with the finding that the most common type of language used was cursing and vulgarity, should send chills down every parent's spine.

Not only should we be worried that our own children watch this, but also that their pees watch too. It is not a stretch to say that these children may watch wrestling programs and not only emulate the speech that hear, but also the violent actions they observe. What if one child decides that he wants to "tombstone" or "pile-drive" your son or daughter one day? Scary thought huh? Sadly, this had happened before, in the case of Lionel Tate, who at twelve years old killed a six year old girl while immitating the wrestling moves he saw on TV. Now Tate's life is ruined, as he was sentenced to life in jail at the age of fourteen. Who's fault is this? A young boy's who just wanted to be like the "heroes" he saw on TV?

Wrestling used to be a wholesome sport in which rough housing was OK, but no one would cross the line into hateful violence. How can we allow our children to be exposed to such violent speech knowing that they will, most likely, go out into the world talking to others as though they were enemies? How can we risk the possibility that our children may turn into violent heathens as a result of the sometimes psychotic television programs that we allow them to watch? How can we sit another day as the findings of Tamborini and associates go ignored and the World Wrestling Entertainment continues to polute the minds of our children?

Tamborini, Ron, Rebecca M. Chory, Ken Lachlan, David Westerman, and Paul Skalski. "Talking smack: verbal aggression in professional wrestling.(Report)." Communication Studies 59.3 (July-Sept 2008): 242(17). Academic OneFile. Gale. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why beautiful people are more intelligent

From this short article we see that people perceive that beautiful people are overall more intelligent. Men and women are both equally as likely to classify someone as being more competent and intelligent due to facial attractiveness. But, we can see that even kindergartners are as likely to fall into the same set of data. Children were asked to pick which teacher would be more competent and intelligent which was no surprise when the children picked the more attractive female.

The researchers received very conclusive results when analyzing their data. They first began by measuring the attractiveness of an individual on a 5 point scale. 5 being the highest or most attractive and 1 being very unattractive. Then the individuals were asked to guess the person in the photos IQ. Females were slightly harsher in their graded while they had a net different in IQ of about 7 from 5-1 in attractiveness while males rated about 6 in IQ difference. But, this may be due to the fact that women seem to be more inclined to view men’s ability to provide and support a family, so it is logical that females would be slightly pickier.

This concept helps prove, to some degree, that you can judge a book by its cover. People prefer more attractive individuals because from me previous research shows the individuals the quality of genes the individual has. This is why people have so many prejudices toward other individuals involving intelligence because we attribute intelligence from our first impression.

But, I found it fairly funny when women rated men to be consistently lower in IQ as attractiveness dropped while men rated women in a consistent drop until reaching very unattractive to where they rated slightly higher then the previous set. Ugly chicks must be smarter than not so ugly chicks according to men.
I would love to see this research broken down in to different ages. I would love to see what college students perceive to be intelligent compared to what children or the elderly. I absolutely loved this article and am going try and find more on it next week.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Toy Guns

The press article I chose to read was entitled "Toy Guns: Do They Fan Aggression?" from the New York times. The article discusses the negative affect that toy guns, along with other violent toys such as GI Joe's, may or may not have on the children that play with them. It doesn't so much argue for one side or the other, but rather puts forth the opinions of several professionals in the field of child psychology/psychiatry. Some experts argue that playing with such toys actually fuels the aggressive behavior in children and leaves them more prone to violence in life, wile others believe that a certain level of aggressiveness is normal and necessary for the development of a child. Amongst the later group, there are two differing opinions as well. Some say that the playing of toy guns may in fact increase the level of aggressiveness, albeit by a small amount, and others who say that there is no difference whether or not the children play with toy guns or not. 

One of the people cited in the article was Brian Sutton-Smith, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The NY Times cites him as believing that the research done on the topic cannot be conclusive due to the small sample size and the subjective definition of aggression. Rather, according to the Times, he claims that what the teachers call "aggressive behavior" is just normal play, especially for young boys, and is integral in the development of normal relationships with peers as well as in the development f a sense of competition. 

I found the article referred to in a database, and after reading it, I dont think that the article misrepresented Smith's thoughts, but rather condensed a fifteen page work into a meager paragraph. One thing from Smith's paper that I found rather interesting and wish that the press article would have dealt with more was his claim that when teachers don't allow children to play with toy guns, the children use other things, such as flashlights, as guns. And furthermore that the children will sort of hide this from their teachers.

This makes me wonder what is so appealing about guns and violence to children. It seems that from a very young age people are attracted to such things. Is it simply because of the media, or is there something more going on in our brains that associates some sort of positive feeling with aggressive behaviors and violence? I think this is a question that has been and continues to be debated. I wonder if we'll ever really know...

  • "Toy Guns: Do They Fan Aggression?" NY Times 16 June 1988.

    Playfighting as Folkplay amongst Preschool Children

  • Brian Sutton - Smith, John Gerstmyer and Alice Meckley
  • Western Folklore, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 161-176
  • Published by: Western States Folklore Society

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Physical Attractiveness and Access to Alcohol: What Is Beautiful Does Not Get Carded

This research focuses on the halo effect in attractiveness. This effect has been related to favorable social situations, positive personalities, higher salaries, and higher GPA’s. Overall, the advantages of being perceived as good looking. Much like the research I did last week with clothing and attractiveness, people attributed better personality traits to people that were good looking.

Researchers also found that individuals that work with someone that is physically attractive create a benefit to both the individuals that were working together. Also, by reversing this researchers saw that individuals perceived the other much differently in many aspects of their personality. Also within that article attractive male graduates had higher salaries even after controlling the initial salaries of their jobs.

These concepts are then narrowed down to giving alcohol to underage individuals. Researchers used the anchoring effect by using older and younger photographs of individuals and saw that they perceived the individuals much closer to the previous stimulus. These tests were used on store clerks, which scored similar results. An interesting aspect of this research was the environment also stimulated people in their beliefs upon someone’s age. If an individual had an infant they perceived the person to be 2.5 years older than their actual age!

Researchers then used these observations in an experiment which manipulated how likely you would ask for identification when it came to alcohol consumption. From the results they received that attractive individuals had a much lower chance of being carded.

Personally, I thought this was an extremely interesting article. The reason that researchers believe they allow them to buy alcohol is to increase the chance of interactions with the individual.

I would have liked to see what images these researchers used. Personally since I am a college student I can’t perceive the age that well between girls. This is why I would have loved to be a test like this. I want to see how bad/good I could possibly do.


The Psychology of Red and Blue America

(I read this article already so I'll post it and then I'll do the other posts that you wanted.)

"A House Divided?" by D. Conor Seyle (University of Texas at Austin) and Matthew L. Newman (Bard College) discusses "red" and "blue" America. The authors found that the increased use of these two terms is likely to increase conflict.

The article notes that "there is a growing perception of a divide in American politics." This can be attributed to the "red and blue map" which became popular in 2000. The map is used in elections and Democratic states are labeled blue whereas Republican states are labeled red.

One big problem with this map is that although the terms Democratic and Republican refer to membership in one group, the map seems to highlight regional and cultural differences among states, making Democratic and Republican refer to something much more than just membership in a group. The authors also point out that "public perception of the average group member tends to be affected by the accessibility of different characteristics, which is in turn driven by the positions of extremists in the group." This is slightly confusing since the labels Democrat and Republican signify moderate groups. The map also implies uniformity, for example in such instances where New York and California may vote Democratically, this does not mean that they share the same values.

An alternative to the "red and blue map" would be a purple map. Rather than just red and blue, this map would show states shaded differently based on how Democratic (or Republican) they are. This would better illustrate states who, for instance, vote 52% Republican and 48% Democrat. Rather than being just red, the state would look more purple.

Many times there are people like former president Bill Clinton- a Democrat, who is a Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists are often associated with the Republican party so this new purple map would help change peoples' views that a political party membership signifies other memberships and vice versa.