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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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You Are Not So Smart

19 Apr

This great post by Rachel the week before last reminded me of an excellent blog I came across recently and thought meshed really well with the themes we address here. Over at You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion, a self-described “journalist who loves psychology, technology and the internet” is summing up all manner of ways that our own brain doesn’t work the way we like to think it does.

For instance, in a recent post called The Sunk Cost Fallacy, the author gives a great explanation for something I’ve always wondered: what exactly is the appeal of Facebook games like FarmVille? He explains how humans experience loss more acutely than gain, so when we’ve invested time or money in something, we are extremely reluctant to abandon it even after we’ve quit having fun, earning profits, or whatever else led us to the activity in the first place. We routinely throw good money in after bad, as the saying goes.

After the jump: my thoughts on the legal implications of this and other You Are Not So Smart topics. Continue reading

Hormones, Ethnocentrism, and Casuistry

18 Feb

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that has been linked in a variety of studies to various activities such as fostering trust in relationships, social bonding, sexual pleasure, increased emotional comprehension, and mother-infant bonding.  Its effects in these areas are fairly well-recognized; perform a Google search for “oxytocin” and immediately below the obligatory Wikipedia page you’ll find it described as the “hormone of love”, along with advertisements touting the various sprays and homeopathic remedies that promise to improve your relationships (read: sex lives).  All of this attention, however, brings to mind a question: how much emphasis should we place on the role that hormones play in our decision-making processes?

Of primary discussion in this post will be a new study described by the New York Times linking exposure to oxytocin and increased intergroup bias.  The study was authored by Carsten DeDrew, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, who was intrigued by the literature linking oxytocin to increased cooperation.  He posited that evolutionary pressures would require that some sort of limit be placed on this relationship-building behavior, because unbounded trust would not increase chances of survival.

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Using Images to Say “Born Gay”

11 Feb

Of all the ways the Internet is used for humor and commentary, an especially successful format is the photo blog populated with reader submissions around an interesting theme. For instance, Awkward Family Photos became a sensation in mid-2009 for its priceless arrays of dated clothes and questionable poses, while My Parents were Awesome celebrates contributors’ relatives in their attractive, fashionable younger years.

Isaac, age 7, Western Australia

A new site, Born This Way, is now using the same format to address the important mind science question of whether homosexuality is a choice. As the article that alerted me to Born This Way puts it, the blog “pairs a snapshot of a gay person as a kid with a personal essay about what he or she sees when looking at the photo,” yielding results that are both “totally delightful… often thoughtful and funny” and “wading in contentious waters.” In multiple contexts now, from its own comments section to those of the NPR and articles about it, the site has sparked debate over the influences of choice, nature, and nurture in the development of homosexual adults.  Continue reading

Law & Mind Blogs: Part 9

3 Feb

The mind is a fascinating place. The blogosphere is a fascinating place. Together, magic happens. If you’re interested in getting a closer look, below are reviews of a few mind science blogs that are well worth checking out.

1. Sociological Images, whose tagline is “Inspiring Sociological Imaginations Everywhere”, is a fascinating blog where people can submit images that they find sociologically compelling, which thus far have included graphs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrating the gender wage gap, pictures of consumer products differentiating between “female” and “normal” versions, political cartoons dehumanizing historically marginalized groups, and optical illusions that seem to be perceived differently by people from different cultures. Both the images and the bloggers’ sociological discussions about them are extremely interesting and thought-provoking.

More blogs, including the featured blog, after the jump. Continue reading

Law & Mind Blogs: Part 8

3 Feb

The internet abounds with blogs taking on topics related to the mind sciences.  One particularly impressive blog with an eye to social psychology is, well, Social Psychology Eye.

Boasting an impressive list of contributors and frequent updates, Social Psychological Eye puts a psychological spin on current events, often citing (and linking) academic articles.  Content is driven by both current news and recent studies, often using the latter to analyze the former, touching on such areas as hindsight bias, intergroup threat, and the effects of priming on political attitudes, among others.  You can follow the blog on Twitter, subscribe by email, or just visit the website.


Social Psychology Eye has good company in the blogosphere; check out several more fascinating blogs in the realm of the mind sciences after the jump.

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Law and Mind Blogs: Part 6

2 Feb

Neuroanthropology: Featured Blog

Neuroscience and anthropology, culture and environment, past and present.  This blog seeks to find relevant connections between various disciplines to better understand the encultured brain and body.  From the authors:

Although we believe that human neural structure is biological and the product of evolution, we also recognize that the development processes shaping each individual include a host of other forces as well, including internal dynamics, so that we cannot privilege any single cause over all others.

The blog was originally created as an independent blog here(check it out for old posts), but moved to become part of a network of blogs on mind sciences.  Its principal bloggers are Daniel Lende, anthropology professor from the University of South Florida, and Greg Downey, anthropology professor at Macquerie University in Sydney, Australia.

Why neuroanthropology?  This post explains that the brain itself adapts to its environment, and thus to fully understand it we need to look both at biology and at culture.  It further states four roles for neuroanthropologists:

(1) understanding the interaction of brain and culture and its implication for our understanding of mind, behavior, and self; (2) examining the role of the nervous system in the creation of social structures; (3) providing empirical and critical inquiry into the interplay of neuroscience and ideologies about the brain; and (4) using neuroanthropology to provide novel syntheses and advances in human science theory.

The blog generally presents academic research, and features a number of guest bloggers.  It seeks to both explain things clearly and to rigorously analyze the accuracy of findings in popular science.  One article criticizes the idea of memes, while another exposes faulty reporting regarding a finding connecting having sex and willingness to take financial risks.  Another, very relevant to legal questions about culpability and rationales behind punishment, discusses how we should think about the ways that culture shapes our morality.  Do we act in a certain way because we’ve been shaped by evolution to do so?  In what sense are our decisions actually self-determined?  These topics, and many more, make reading the blog a fascinating and multifaceted experience.

See below for other interesting blogs relating to mind science. Continue reading

Law & Mind Blogs: Part 5

2 Feb

Have you ever wanted to know what blogs out there discuss mind sciences, law, or both? This is your lucky day. In this post I briefly review five blogs that relate to law & mind sciences. I feature one blog, Mind Hacks, and explain it in a bit more detail than the others.

The blogs:

1. The Jury Room.

Run by Keene Trial Consulting, The Jury Room–as the name suggests–is about juries! Specifically, the site focuses on how juries make decisions and react to behavior–and it generally explores questions of jury psychology (e.g., bias). The blog includes posts about current psychological research, events, and legal trends. One recent post, for example, discussed research showing how specific words correlate with individuals’ levels of trust.

2. Laura’s Psychology Blog.

Laura Freberg is a professor of psychology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she studies biological psychology. Her eponymous  blog is a mostly a collection of psychological literature that she is reading currently. It is a great aggregator of current information on psychology.

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