Archive by Author

Barbie Commercials Across the Decades and the Implications on Female Identity and Objectification

20 Apr

In the past weeks, the Law and Mind Sciences blogposts have included observations about media influences and gender, including  Misogyny in MusicMindfulness and Identity in the context of yogurt advertisements, and the conformity in appearances at HLS job interviews.   As these posts described, pop culture,  advertisements, and cultural norms all have the power to influence  perceptions of gender. No where does this media influence appear to have a wider or longer lasting impact than Barbie. From the first Barbie television advertisement ever (portrayed in the above video) to the introduction of Ken, to current television advertising, Barbie has maintained a prominent presence as a commercial phenomenon, a fashion icon, and source of gender socialization.

The focus of investigations and attitudes towards Barbie differ, but all seem to recognize that the Barbie is not just a doll, but a cultural phenomenon. Since Barbie first arrived at the World Toy Fair in 1959, wearing a Zebra bikini and stilettos, over a billion Barbies have been produced in 150 countries.  According to Mattel on Barbie’s 50th Anniversary in 2009, 90%  of U.S. girls ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie doll. In a Newsweek article commenting on this anniversary, Eliza Grey described Barbie as “the original bimbo, a relic of postwar paternalism that teaches its young to worship at the altar of blond hair, peach skin and formidable cleavage atop a waistline the size of a pinkie ring.”

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Richard Hackman on Teamwork

15 Apr

I will be interviewing Profesor Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard. Hackman conducts research on the secrets of effective teamwork, “ranging from airplane cockpit crews to musical ensembles.”

Hackman suggests five conditions that must be met to foster successful teamwork.  These conditions are: (1) the team must be a real team, rather than a team in name only; (2) the team must have a compelling direction for its work; (3) the team must have an enabling structure that facilitates teamwork; (4) the team must operate within a supportive organizational context; and (5) the team must have expert teamwork coaching.

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Dr. Marty Seligman

28 Mar

As an undergraduate, Dr.Marty Seligman and his research on positive psychology had a major impact on not only on my academic pursuits, but on my personal life.  When Mary Seligman became president of the American Psychological Association in 1996, he declared that he would spend his tenure at the APA on helping psychology move  away from the empirical study of depression and pessimism towards the empirical study of happiness and optimism.  This Positive Psychology model is an alternative to psychology as the “mere” prevention of distress and disorder to a model that explores human greatness. Given the opportunity to interview Dr. Seligman, I would ask him questions about his empirical findings, the creation and future of the positive psychology movement, and his own personal experience with the findings of positive psychology.

Seligman describes that “there are human strengths that act as buffers against mental illness: courage, future-mindedness, optimism, interpersonal skill, faith, work ethic, hope, honesty, perseverance, the capacity for flow and insight,” and that in the new century, a large task of prevention will be “to create a science of human strength whose mission will be to understand and learn how to foster these virtues in young people.”

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Three Scholars Worth Your Time: Part 4

6 Mar

Dr. Marty Seligman

Dr. Marty Seligman Dr. Marty Seligman is the founder of Positive Psychology and a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. One afternoon, while he was weeding, his five-year-old daughter, Nikki, took the weeds and threw them in the air playfully.  He became angry and sent her away with an irritated impatience that he claims he often exhibited.  She later returned to confront him.   She told him that all her life, she had been a whiner, but that on her fifth birthday, she had decided she was going to stop whining.  And she did.  And if she could stop whining, he could stop being such a grouch.

Dr. Seligman uses that story as his positive introduction, how he describes himself as his best.  In that moment, his five-year-old daughter made him realize that he as a parent, and that psychology as a disciple, had focused on correcting weakness instead of nourishing strength.  Seligman’s most famous work had involved inducing a form of depression in dogs that he termed learned helplessness.  He moved his research from learned hopelessness to learned optimism.

In 1996, as president of the American Psychological Association, he declared the Positive Psychology Movement: psychology’s movement away from the empirical study of depression and pessimism towards the empirical study of happiness and optimism.

Seligman later created the Values In Action Character Strengths and Virtues, a list of twenty-four strengths he believed contributed to human greatness. He developed a method to assess an individual’s top strengths, what he deemed “signature strengths.”  This inventory and other positive interventions can be found on his website. Continue reading

Is Battered Women’s Syndrome an Inappropriate Diagnosis for Self Defense Claims by Women Who Kill Their Husbands?

18 Feb

Judy Norman shot and killed her husband, John Norman, while he was sleeping. After she was convicted of voluntary manslaughter at trial, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, citing as an error the trial court’s refusing to submit a potential verdict of acquittal on the basis of self-defense. How could it be self-defense if her husband was asleep?  The answer is simple, she couldn’t.  However, battered women’s syndrome is no longer recognized by the psychological community and may be an improper diagnosis for women who kill their husbands to utilize for as a defense.

State v. Norman is one of a series of cases involving the admissibility of expert witness testimony on battered women’s syndrome for a self-defense to homicide for women on trial for killing their husbands. Dr. Lenore Walker uses the term battered women’s syndrome to describe the similar characteristics victims of prolonged physical and psychological domestic abuse exhibit after battering cycles, which include a tension building stage, an acute battering incident, and then extreme remorse and loving behavior on the part of the battering male. Walker believes the women eventually become trapped by their fear, fearing even more brutal attacks if they leave, and eventually exhibit learned helplessness.

For a self defense claim, a defendant usually needs to face an imminent threat of death or severe bodily harm, but defense attorney’s have tried to argue that the prolonged threat victims of domestic abuse face is in some sense imminent, even if they are not currently being attacked. Click here to read more about cases using battered women’s syndrome and why using the diagnosis is often inappropriate both psychologically and legally

Born To Kill?

2 Feb

On December 15, 1989, Chester Dean Dyer’s mutilated body was found inside his Phoenix apartment.  Jeffrey Landrigan (pictured) was later convicted by an Arizona jury of several direct criminal acts relative to Dyer’s death, including counts of theft, second-degree burglary, and felony murder.  Landrigan appealed his capital sentence by arguing that there was a genetic basis to his crime.  Could it be that he was born to kill?

There are biological and social risk factors that Landrigan argues made violence an inevitable outcome. Although he first did not wish to address these as mitigating factors for his punishment, he asked judges to reconsider the aspects of his background that put him at risk for committing the crime.  Landrigan was adopted when he was nine months old and never knew his biological parents.  However, on his biological side, there are at least four generations of males implicated in violent crime. His biological father, Darrell Hill, was also on death row for murder when Hill passed away. Continue reading

Law & Mind Blogs: Part 3

1 Feb

Everyday Sociology:  “What if sociologists ran the world?”, begins the “About this Site” section of the Everyday Sociology blog.  The description could not be more on point. The blog is a compilation of a wide-variety of commentary from sociologists across the United States about what is going on in the news, or “what should be in the news.”  The site truly does provide an entertaining point of view on current events.  The writing is informed, funny, and current.    The authors truly do put a unique spin on a variety of different topics.  For example, in Social Theory and Siblings, Sally Raskoff commented on a recent NPR story that included three theories on why siblings can be so different (i.e., a Darwinian Theory, an Exaggeration Theory, and an Environmental Approach).   She explained the theories with ease and cited other relevant examples of the theories to display how one can use theories to explain specific phenomenon.

Other posts are less academic, and are instead stories of the personal experiences and viewpoints of the authors.  For example, When Our Baby Was Born, outlined in very personal detail. Tod Schoepflin’s expectations and experience during and after his wife’s childbirth.  In Culture and Parties, Janis Prince compared the questions she was asked at holiday cocktail parties depending on the culture of the people with whom she was mingling.

Some posts also apply this sociological analysis to recent laws. There Oughta Be a Law? Formal and Informal Social Control, explores a recent law in San Fransisco banning the sale of toys with unhealthy children’s food through the formal social control theory.  She also believes the ban is an example of a symbolic law, designed for their ability to send a message even if they are not enforced.

This blog may be more fun than formal and more relaxed than theoretical, but I really enjoyed reading the posts and would definitely recommend skimming through.

Click here to read about deception, deliberations, developing intelligence, context discoveries, and free associations in the blogosphere

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