108 posts categorized "Social Psychology"

April 17, 2014

Social Media: Windows, Mirrors and Bubbles

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

If you are anything like me, you have engaged in a heated Facebook exchange once or twice. Recently I’ve had two interesting chats with old friends—one of whom I’ve lost touch with for over two decades who has political views on the complete other side of the spectrum than me. Rather than a reminder of how technology connects people from far afield, both exchanges reminded me of just how rare it is for me to bridge wide social distances. Where do you get to interact with people who are different from you?

We imagine a time when an open public square was where a community could find that exchange of ideas. As German sociologist Jürgen Habermas wrote, the public sphere is “a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every public conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body.” But we don’t have a social space like this today.

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April 01, 2014

Jewish? Buddhist? Atheist? All of the Above!

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

I was asked recently by a colleague what religion I follow, and I was not quite sure how to answer. I was raised in a secular Jewish household, and I never considered myself religious in the traditional sense of the word. Unlike my Jewish peers, my family did not belong to a temple or synagogue, I did not attend Hebrew school, and I did not have a bar mitzvah or learn to read from the Torah. Instead, I attended a small humanistic Sunday school that was run as a cooperative, I learned Yiddish and sang folk songs, and I had a modest graduation ceremony where I had to read an essay I wrote on a notable Jewish figure.  

In my late twenties, I became interested in the teachings of Buddhism. I took classes at Buddhist meditation centers, I read books and magazines about Buddhist texts and philosophies, and I started practicing meditation. Although I never took a formal Bodhisattva vow like some of my Buddhist friends, I still try to live my life around many of the central tenets of Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism.

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March 06, 2014

Why My Paper is Late: Excuses and Justifications

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s the middle of the semester now, time for papers and exams. It’s also time to hear many excuses and justifications by some students about why their papers are late, why they can’t take an exam, or why they did not do as well as they could have on the exam.

Part of human interaction involves the explanations we provide about our behavior to one another, often to save face or create a positive impression of ourselves. In a classic 1968 article, sociologists Marvin B. Scott and Stanford Lyman define these explanations as accounts,  “statement(s) made by a social actor to explain unanticipated or untoward behavior.” They note that accounts come in two varieties: excuses and justifications.

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February 24, 2014

Sociology Lessons in Kindergarten

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I happen to know several children who are either in kindergarten or will be soon. Hearing about their experiences and those of their parents made me realize that kindergarten offers many sociology lessons, both inside the classroom and out.

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January 17, 2014

The Importance of Knowing Names

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Years ago, I took an evening class with about a dozen other students. It was a seminar style class, meaning we sat around a large conference table and discussed the material with the professor. On the last day of class, we each had to give a presentation. We were instructed to state and spell our name for the instructor before we began—she had not bothered learning our names that semester.

Now maybe she just had a hard time putting faces and names together. But as a student, it felt like she didn’t care about her students or the class enough to take the time to learn a few names. We had even learned each other’s names during that time; why couldn’t she?

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January 13, 2014

A Sociological Snapshot of Selfies

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 Twerking. Phablet. MOOC. Flatform. Bitcoin. Apols. Omnishambles. These are just some of the new words that were added to the Oxford Online Dictionaries in 2013. All of these words found their way into the popular vernacular of the English-speaking world during the past year and were used widely in various settings. But the unanimous choice for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was selfie. In fact, among the staff at Oxford there was not even any debate; selfie was the hands-down, clear-cut winner.

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December 16, 2013

Deadlines and Social Interaction

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

‘Tis the season…for deadlines. If you are a student, this means papers, exams, and assignments come due. For many workers, the holidays and the end of the calendar year can mean sales and billing deadlines, and wrapping up important projects before vacation.

Deadlines also represent a basic social interaction: an agreement between parties of when tasks will be accomplished. Meeting a deadline is about more than just the task itself; it represents the ability to keep a promise, a basic tenet of social life.

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November 18, 2013

The Sociology of Harassment

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Last year I wrote about pranks and I have received several phone calls over the last two weeks from sports radio folks wanting me to talk about the alarming story coming out of the Miami Dolphins football team. These talk radio guys seem to want to know: “Isn’t a prank just a prank?” The answer has to do with power, institutions, masculinity in sports and, in this case, race.

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August 19, 2013

Going on a Media Diet

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

For the last six months I have been undertaking an informal experiment: I have no television reception at home.

This is all the more unusual considering I am a sociologist who studies media and popular culture, and much of my writing focuses on media. Friends and family have been confused; “I figured you could write your cable bill off of your income taxes,” said one surprised friend.  (For the record, I never have used cable as a tax write-off, but I guess I could.) Even the lure of a potential tax write-off has not made me want to pay for TV any more.

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August 15, 2013

Reducing Bias and Prejudice

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

How can we work to reduce bias and prejudice?

In past research we have seen that working together on a common task with equal status reduces bias and prejudice. The film, American History X, has a good example of that as the main characters work together in the prison laundry and slowly get to know each other as human beings rather than as members of different races about which they have strong opinions. Homeboy Industries, the Los Angeles gang intervention program that Karen Sternheimer has blogged about, includes former gang rivals working together to eliminate conflict. However, considering the issues of confirmation bias, where we seek out information that reinforces our pre-existing beliefs,  not to mention the impracticality of setting up such situations, these might not always work to reduce bias and prejudice. What else can we do?

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