Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Widening of the Achievement Gap Due to Stereotypes

It has always been the case that no matter the situation, stereotypes have been ever precedent in our culture. From race to gender, it has always been a struggle to defeat those prejudices even in an age where there is such an emphasis to stop these types of patterns. With already so many pressures that one has to face, there is no doubt that the bar has been raised for achievement. With such high demands to even get into college, these small factors that make one feel inferior make all the difference.

If testing wasn't already strenuous enough, a small reminder of these stereotypes can effect ones scores widening the achievement gap. In a study conducted by psychologists Claude Steele PhD, Joshua Aronson PhD, and Steven Spencer PhD, they examined how the idea of inferiority can affect ones academic performance. With this in mind, they took two groups of black and white strong, motivated college students and put them through the same half-hour testing period using difficult terms from the Graduate Record Exam with two different conditions. In the first group, the stereotype-threat condition, they were told that this exam would diagnose intellectual ability which may elicit that the stereotype that blacks are less intelligent than whites. In the second group, the no-stereotype threat condition, they told the students that the test was a "problem-solving  lab test" that does not record anything about intellectual ability. After the studies were conducted, they resulted in the fact that when in a stereotype threat condition those students who were Black did less well than their white counterparts and in the the non-threat condition both races did equally well. This same idea was enacted by giving a math test to determine how gender stereotypes affect performance by having a group of women with top performance in math and men. They told half of the women in the class that the test shows no gender differences which then resulted in them performing equal to their male counterparts, while the second half of the women in the class were told that the test proved to show gender differences which of course then resulted the women doing poorly on the test, worse then the men.

Although this research almost seems mundane  it is highly important in the fact that with this research they can alter teaching methods to lessen the achievement gap and give importance to the fact that these negative stereotypes indeed do effect how one can perceive themselves. Nonetheless, when reading this I couldn't help to think that within all of the testing I have encountered in my life how easy it is to manipulated into thinking that your either a genius or dumbest in the class. I will never forget how my junior year math teacher took it upon herself to single me out in not the exactly fondest way. Even though I was an adequate student who always handed in my assignments and raised my hand, I was never a good tester, and she of course had a strong disliking towards me and stereotyped me as being stupid. Even one day after class when I asked if she could explain one of the problems to me that was going to be on the upcoming exam she told me that I was "stupid" to my face which I immediately disregarded, but it did not help to have that always burrowing in the back of my mind that I was merely inferior to the rest of the class just because I needed a bit of extra help. With this said, considering this study was conducted in 2006, I hope that within these years these results will help frame how to elevate equal opportunity for academic achievement rather than have students being burdened by these inferiority complex's.

The official article, "Stereotype Threat Widens Achievement Gap"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Will the Spotlight on Bullying Reduce its Frequency?

The issue of adolescent bullying is one that has been present for so long that it would be difficult to determine a point in history when it first began. Undoubtedly, it is a facet of ego and human behavior that manifests itself differently at the different stages of maturity and lifetime. 

It is hard to ignore the spotlight that has been put on bullying in the media as of lately. Teenagers possessing mobile recording devices has enabled the world easy access to online content featuring fights between individuals, harassment and other social offenses. The disadvantage to the original posters, of course, is that their videos are responsible for getting their selves into trouble. Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor, made headlines across the nation this year when students uploaded a video of others verbally tormenting her at the back of a school bus. Viewers of this video were so shocked by the video that Klein received an unprompted $700,000 in donations to compensate for her grief, enabling her to to found the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation. Karen Klein is not the only one to receive public praise for being victimized this year. After having his car vandalized four times for being openly gay, Jordan Addison of Virginia was given a free and very impressive auto-body tune up that was publicized. Even more recently, Whitney Kropp, a Michigan teen, has been receiving nationwide support after being elected homecoming queen because of a vicious joke created by a group of other students.

Cases like these are neither new or unheard of. According to this study by the American Psychological Association, 17% of students reported being bullied sometimes between middle school and early high school. So why is there suddenly a nationwide spread of empathy? I hypothesize that the videos that are being posted enable outsiders to become first-hand witnesses to the harassment, sparking a deeper sense of offense and thus provoking the support for change. The same article mentioned above refers to a program being implemented in schools called Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which primarily uses the method of adults treating students like adults to successfully achieve the 30-50% drop in bully frequency that it reports.

Personally, I was surprised by the low 17% report of students being bullied. From what I have witnessed and heard of, it seems like that number should be much higher. What do you think? Do you think that the rise in media attention will have a positive impact on the frequency of bullying?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


"Sex scandals engage the politically uninterested with more culturally proximate
narratives of recognizable themes of broken hearts, broken families and broken marriages, which
mimic soaps and enable moral reflection on larger social issues."

In a recent study done by Iowa University the affects of scandals towards a politian's career was done. This test was an experimental test, where the scientist used fictional newspaper clippings to create fictional scenarios in which people's reactions where then tested based on "four types of accounting strategies: concessions (admissions of wrongdoing or apologies and remorse), excuses (acknowledgement of wrongdoing but denial of personal responsibility or blaming others or circumstances), justifications (accepting responsibility but redefining the act or its consequences as less serious), and refusals (denials)." I found this study to be a good example of an experimental study, yet I am able to find issues. One issue that is clear from the start is the test subjects, "The non-probability, opportunistic sample was drawn from two university subjects (one undergraduate introductory political science subject and one postgraduate public administration subject). Two hundred and forty students (93 males and 147 females) aged between 18 and 46 years (mean age was 22 years) participated (a response rate of over 95 percent), with the skew towards female and younger participants reflecting the general composition of the courses. In terms of partisanship, the sample was broadly representative of the general population. " But my question is, is this an accurate test group, if each test subject is taken from two coures of study are not many social and cultural groups left out? The researchers state that this study is an accurate representation of the general publie but they have rejected the non-college educated class, as well as anyone not currently enrolled in college courses. I think that it is clear that while attending college peoples views can be swayed or changed by peers and collegiate perspectives but the view of the college student typically diminishes shortly after graduation. Yes, there is a large range of age differences and a balanced range of gender but not of educational background. And who's to say that someone who has not experienced the diversity of the college experience would share their same options on what is morally acceptable. It is important to also notice that each survey was taken at a single college. Which allows for many cultural differences such as political, social and religious beliefs. This is important to know when analyzing their data. The researchers state that "scandalous transgressions can seem more remarkable when characteristics of difference are involved, particularly race, gender, class and sexual orientation." This could be caused by the limited study group and could possibly be drastically different if this exact study was performed in New York City. To me this study is a generalization of human views and not a study of general population but of the views of a college student.

Read more into the study here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Binge Drinking Students Happier?

While discussing in class the comparisons between correlative and experimental studies and how to detect poorly reported research, I thought back to a newspaper article from August that I found to be startling and questionable. The headline read, "Study Finds Binge Drinking Students Happier" and could be found in many news outlets that day. The AMNY article that I read stated that, " 'Lower status' students -- identified as poor kids, minorities, females, LGBT students and non-frat members -- mimic wealthier, heterosexual, white, male, students by abusing alcohol just like the frat boys, said Colgate University's Carolyn Hsu, co-author of 'Social Status, Binge Drinking, and Social Satisfaction.' " Several things about this stood out, including the detail that regarded females as college minorities and her use of language with "poor kids" and "frat boys", not to mention the fact that she is declaring that alcohol, a depressant, is directly associated to social satisfaction.

I decided to find the root of this research and located this press release from the American Sociological Association detailing the paper in question. I am happy to note that there is clarification in titling these minority groups. As opposed to being considered a literal population minority, these social groups face more harassment and prejudice than their "wealthier, heterosexual, white, male" counterparts. Regardless of this, the nature of the experiment surely demands that the research be correlative instead of experimental, as I am sure that the IRB would not allow for researchers to encourage binge drinking to conduct research. Because it is correlative, it is safe to say that binge drinking does not cause happiness, but rather it is practice amongst the college social elite.

Given that the social elite (in predominantly white, residential campuses with a large presence of Greek life, as the press release outlines) in college also binge drink, what other factors or elements do you think cause their higher levels of social happiness? Do you think that these findings would be identical at Pratt, despite the fact that it is a trade school that does not possess these same qualities?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Sustains social norms and how they evolve?

Social norms or in other words the unwritten law of human interaction always intrigued me. Especially
our drives, meaning our reasons for conforming to these regulated and preconceived manners of interacting with our fellow humans is of critical importance for me to understand.
This study focuses on what sustains social norms and their evolution.

 Taking the act of tipping as a case study, it studies the motivational drives between choosing to either follow or  disobey a social norm.Unlike what one might suggest, tipping good or tipping of any kind is not motivated by a better service in future or a good service you have just received.
Looking at the history of tipping and the constant rise of tip percentages suggest that this specific social norm has not eroded(disappeared due to flux of social dynamics over time), suggesting the fact that it is not difficult or "costly" as the author puts it. In this case, there are two distinct kinds of drives,internal norms and external norms that influence our decisions. External norms result in a perceived peer pressure such as impressing, approval and disapproval of others by feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, guilt and shame and internal one that are consequences of empathy for the worker.
Through a conclusion driven by a theoretical model based on historical information, paper concludes that tipping in addition to just conforming to a social norm provides certain emotional benefits for the one who chooses to conform or not.

cognitive responses to being unfriended on Facebook

cognitive responses to being unfriended on Facebook

This is a study concerning how people respond to being unfriended on Facebook, based on factors like frequency of Facebook use, what their relationship with the unfriender was, etc. The most intriguing claim of this study is that when someone unfriends someone else on Facebook, it can often be seen as a termination of the relationship as a whole. This is not a revolutionary idea, which is why this is so interesting to me -- we live in a world in which it is naturalized to dissolve a relationship by clicking a link that says "Unfriend." I have only unfriended a few people over the course of my having a Facebook (I've had one since I was sixteen or seventeen, and I'm now twenty-three), and I only know of being unfriended by two people. In both of these situations, I wasn't heartbroken or anything when I found out (which took probably a few months, because I'm not one of these people who communicates only through Facebook), but I did mention it to a mutual friend of myself and the unfriender in one of the situations (as a joke, but the fact that I mentioned it says something). I took the virtual friendship termination into the real world by sharing it with other people face to face. Neither of the people who unfriended me were ever especially close friends, so it's informative to think about why the loss of a friendship that was never actually strong or even realized was impactful to me at all.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Appeals Court Blocks Graphic Warnings on Cigarettes

 A proposed law requiring tobacco companies to put graphic warning labels on their packages and advertisements has been recently denied by a federal appeals court. It was a 2-to-1 decision; the FDA administered law is said to violate corporate free speech rights. The FDA has not provided any evidence that proves this method of smoking prevention is viable. It has been estimated that 45 million adults in the US smoke cigarettes. They are the leading cause of preventable death in the US and the World Health Organization predicts smoking could kill eight million people each year by 2030.

Do you believe that stricter laws need be implemented to reduce smoking? It was said that forcing tobacco companies to put graphic labels on their packages is going beyond their obligations and undermining their economical interests. Is it more important to protect the industry and their rights than the health of millions? With the increasing number of non-smoking campaigns and advertisements in the US today, would this law really make a substantial difference?

It is true that as a population we are directly affected by social media and the viewpoints of those around us, so these loud graphic labels could indeed turn many people off to cigarettes. I have seen many international cigarette packages and it seems as though overseas, graphic warning labels have already been administered. In my opinion, images like those could definitely cause a stir amongst the smokers in the US.

Helping & Cooperation at 14 months

Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello

I am always interested in watching how young children interact with each other. It's the time of our lives that we are the most influential to being molded to the person we later become. The article talks about the experiments that were performed to show the cooperation level and understanding of children who were over a year old. 

Warneken's and Tomasello's controlled social experiments with these children tested the "...prosocial behaviors such as helping and cooperation [which] are interesting both cognitively and motivationally: To help someone with a problem, the helper must understand the other's unachieved goal and possess the altruistic motivation to act on behalf of the other....cooperative activities are based on the formation of a shared goal. That is, two or more persons have to perform interdependent roles directed at a shared goal and possess the motivation to mutual support each other's action to reach that goal. These kinds of prosocial behaviors are at the core of the human condition."(Page 1; "Helping and Cooperation at 14 months of age" By Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello; Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig, Germany. INFANCT, II(3), 271-294. Copyright 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.) 

Their interest in this study is to find out how far a 14 month old's internal instinct is to help another. The interesting part of this experiment is the child was not told or asked to help and afterwards did not receive encouragement to keep helping. For example if you watch this video clip of the experiment, you'll notice that the child watched to try and figure out what the adult's goal was with the magazines. The child could process the goal after viewing and then act upon how to possibly help. 

What I found particularly interesting is Warneken and Tomasello also did a similar study but with chimpanzees. Their results was that the chimpanzees had no interest in the cooperative goal activities, thus showing "..that they had not formed a shared goal with the other."(Page 22; "Helping and Cooperation at 14 months of age" By Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello; Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig, Germany. INFANCT, II(3), 271-294. Copyright 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.) In comparison, the small children seemed to adapt to the idea of cooperative activities which they begin to comprehend as young as a few months after their first birthdays. The idea of helping others seems to be imbedded into our human psyche, and we can process the complex idea of working together to achieve a goal. 

Elizabeth Collica
Monday 2pm-5pm Social Psychology

factors of terrorism
This article was published in November 2002, so (obviously) it was written about a year after 9/11. Things were still very touchy back then, and it's clear in this article that the writer doesn't want to make any accusations or grand statements about why people become terrorists. However, a couple of interesting things are brought up here. First of all, there is a chart that shows how socioeconomic factors affect violence on nation-wide scales. The chart is broken up into two parts: ten underdeveloped countries (primarily in the Middle East and Africa) and the top seven more developed countries (the United States, parts of Europe, and Japan). Here we see how gender equity, education, and health affect peace in these nations. The other interesting section pertains to the demographic which makes up the bulk of terrorists: young, underprivileged males. In general, violence is most prevalent in this group (including in America, where gang violence is takes place among people in this group). One thing that was surprising to me in this article (though it makes sense) is that there are more young males in underdeveloped countries than in developed ones. With the constant tensions between the US and the Middle East, in which the US clearly has the upper hand economically, it makes sense that young men would band together and determine anti-US activity to be a worthy cause.

-kara fowler

The influence of social ties

A major theme in this article is the influence people have on others opinions and the decisions they make. Individuals seem to be more likely to follow the crowd, thinking the way their friends do, or following the leader or most dominant person in their group. When I was reading, I found that I could relate what I was learning to my experiences at Pratt. School is considered our work, and whether we are aware of it or not, our social ties influence the decisions we make. We end up going to close friends for support and their opinions on things that happen in our day-to-day lives, as well as their critiques on our designs. Our friends’ opinions are valued over our classmates’ that we have no relationship with. It seems as though society today is more interested in what is socially acceptable rather than what we know is morally correct.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Social Neuroscience & Technology

As our textbook so clearly defines, social psychology has a fairly short history of study and thus only as of recent, there have been several designations that have been made around differences in social psychology and other like-minded studies. Social neuroscience, a study regarding social behavior in regards to brain function, has apparently become a fairly hot topic. I find myself encountering some new type of published material on the best-sellers table every time I enter a book store.

Brian Christian speaks to several doctors and scientists in his non-fiction book, The Most Human Human (, which primarily elaborates upon The Turing Test, a test that uses a panel of humans that interact with competing machines all in the run to be deemed the Most Human Machine. Contrarily, the Turing Test also includes a separate test where a panel of humans interacts with other humans who are competing to be deemed the Most Human Human. The test influences Christian to break down the criteria and questions that could determine humanity as a measurable quality. To do this in a comprehensible manner, he will often times use everyday human interactions and behavior to exemplify  the qualities being analyzed by the panel. For example, in explaining social patterns as a result of the alternate functions of the left and right brain hemispheres, he determines that the reason why people appear more desirable when seen in person walking across a bridge is that the right hemisphere is detecting environmental fear from being above water, but the left hemisphere is rationalizing this spike in heartbeat to be a reflection of something more probable, like interacting with a person you are attracted to.

Aside from his discussion of social neuroscience, there arises a debatable point to make. How can our interactions with technology benefit, skew, or change the way we look at how humans interact with each other? The Turing Test enables us to observe what humans look to first when determining whether or not they are interacting with people or with robots. For those unfamiliar with Cleverbot (, I recommend having a conversation with him/her/it, or taking a look at conversations other people have had.