Archive | Emotions RSS feed for this section

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.”

Continue reading

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

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.”

Continue reading

A Proposal for the use of Psychodrama in Law School

27 Mar

Kingsfield lectures in "The Paper Chase"

The Christmas before I came to law school my parents gave me a DVD of The Paper Chase.  It’s a common gift for future law students even though it’s dated and lacks the acting prowess of Reese Witherspoon. The movie follows Hart during his first year at Harvard Law School, focusing on the adversarial relationship between Hart and his intimidating contracts professor, Charles Kingsfield.  In one memorable scene, Kingsfield calls on Hart to explain the case of Hawkins v. McGee–the case of the “Hairy Hand.” Though unprepared for class, Hart manages to fumble through the legal reasoning and arrive at the correct legal application. He emerges distraught but victorious.

Law School has become somewhat kinder since the era of Professor Kingsley, but the teaching method remains largely the same. The casebook and Socratic method endure.  Professors ask students how the law should be applied in a case then expose the logical flaws in students’ arguments.  The goal of this method is to teach students how to interpret theories, statutes and precedents correctly while also honing their legal reasoning skills.  Those students who best navigate the delicious ambiguity and grey areas of the law are rewarded with high grades and a spot on the law review.  The greatest of the legal reasoners take their skills to the Moot Court competition.  The winner there is whoever best argues that the law favors their client regardless of whether it actually does.

The law school pedagogy creates a culture that values the type of work law students pursue rather than the merits of their cases.  The legal community grants prestige to lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court but cares little about which side they represent.  I believe these values derive from a legal education that discourages sentimentality and feeling. The renowned trial lawyer Gerry Spence found similar fault in his own legal education.

“What we really experienced in law school was a lobotomy of sorts, one that anesthetizes the law student against his emotions and attempts to reduce law to some sort of science.” – Gerry Spence (Win Your Case p. 77) Continue reading

Three Scholars Worth Your Time: Part 6

8 Mar

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of the immensely intriguing New York Times bestseller Stumbling on Happiness. He also gave several intriguing talks at TED.

In one of his talks, he says that human beings have a unconscious cognitive process that could be called “a psychological immune system”. This system helps us change our view of the world so that we can feel about our position in the world.  For example, in an experiment he did, a group of people were asked to rank a series of paintings. Afterwards, they were given a painting that ranked low on their list for free. When these people came back weeks later and were asked to rank the paintings again, the painting they were given rose in rank. This shows that we unconsciously change our preferences according to what we have. His research also shows that when we have too many choices and much longer time to make a decision, we become indecisive and unhappy. This is very similar to the idea Barry Schwartz expressed in his talk The Paradox of Choice.

In addition, Professor Gilbert also does research on mistaken expectations. According to him, sometimes we are wrong about what will make us happy. For example, when there are three bottles of different wine in a store at $5, $20 and $30. We are likely to choose the $20 one, because we do not want to get the most expensive or the cheapest one. However, if there is another $50 wine on the same shelf, which makes the $30 one appear much less expensive than before, we might end up buying the $30. But when once we get home and start drinking the wine, we no longer have a comparison to make and the $30 wine might taste just as good as the $20 one. In a word, comparison changes the value of things when we are appraising a product but not when we are consuming it. This shift could impede our ability to make rational decisions.

Continue reading

Three Scholars Worth Your Time: Part 5

7 Mar

1. Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at UC Riverside and the author of a fantastic book called The How of Happiness.  Ms. Lyubomirsky is a researcher in the burgeoning field of positive psychology, and although positive psychology has been derided by many people as a bunch of unkosher baloney, I found her book to be thoughtful, accessible, and not-baloney. She details and synthesizes the research done on happiness to date (the book came out in 2008), and uses this work to suggest, quite simply, how we can be happier. Recognizing that not everyone enjoys the same things, she offers a plethora of different methods people can try to increase their level of happiness, as well as some tips on how to figure out which ones will work for you. For instance, some people might find that meditation enhances their happiness, where others would prefer writing down three things they’re grateful for each week. Her writing style is lucid and straightforward, and the content itself is intriguing and practical without being unbearably cheesy.

I think the importance of positive psychology for the legal profession cannot be overstated. More and more research is showing that lawyers are alarmingly likely to suffer from acute depression and have other severe mental health issues, such as addiction.

Continue reading

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

Fractal Conflict Spirals & the Abortion Debate

25 Feb

The epitome of a conflict spiral?

Since the 2010 election, there have been a variety of bills proposed by Republicans, at both state & federal levels, that may result in restrictions on a woman’s right to an abortion. This post is not designed to evaluate the merits of these proposals, but rather how the response to these proposals, particularly a recent bill proposed in South Dakota that would classify actions taken in defense of a fetus as justifiable homicide, represent the conflict spirals discussed in the article ‘Bias Perception and the Spiral of Conflict’ by Kathleen Kennedy and Emily Pronin. A brief analysis of the tone and nature of the debate over this bill shows the eagerness with which sinister motives were attributed to the opposing sides in this debate. Also worthy of note was the role of the media, which emphasized negative interpretations and furthered controversy, perhaps because it was the best narrative. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: