Monthly Archives: February 2012

Can you judge a book by its cover?

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I’d like to think that we live in a world where we judge a person based on their inner qualities rather than on physical appearance. According to research that is not the case, we make snap judgments of others based soley on their physical appearance. For example, the more attractive we find someone the more likely we are to like them and think that they possess positive qualities (Feingold, 1992, p. 333).

A good illustration of this phenomenon would be my friend; she is gorgeous and looks like she could be the missing Kardashian sister. It has become a running joke among my friends that no matter what she says to people (whether it’s offensive or just plain awkward) they always respond well to her. It would be impossible to say that all that positive feedback is due to attractiveness (she also has a very bubbly personality, but I definitely think it’s a contributing factor.

But what does this mean for people that are considered unattractive? According to Halprin, Regina Turner states “[an ugly black woman] has only her ugly self in whom few people believe. This means that beyond the strength she can muster from her family and loved ones—usually other Black women—no institution, no media will endorse her existence.” As much as we would all like to believe that we live in a perfect world that is not so concerned with outward appearance, I found there is some truth in that statement. It has been found that from a young age our physical attractiveness has an effect on how we are treated by others. Attractive school children are more likely to receive personal attention from their instructors and are also given more understanding when it comes to behavioral issues in the classroom than unattractive children (Richmond, V.P., McCroskey, J.C., & Hickson III, M.L., 2011, p. 24).  In job settings levels of perceived attractiveness influence who gets hired for jobs and also the level of success attained in the workplace. (Hosoda, Stone-Romero, and Coats, 2003, p. 459). These factors offer truth to Turner’s statement that whether we like it or not physical appearance has a significant effect on the ease in which we are able to navigate the world.

According to Richmond, much of what we consider to be attractive is culturally influenced and changes over periods of time. For example, today the ideal of physical body type for women is well-toned and athletic, whereas a more curvaceous full-figure was favored in the past. There are also cultural differences in what we define as attractive, there are some African cultures in which people scar their bodies and bind their heads to flatten them to make themselves more attractive (Richmond, V.P., McCroskey, J.C., & Hickson III, M.L., 2011, p. 19). Attractiveness is not something that is conceptualized in isolation but is determined by the time and culture in which we live. I definitely feel that there is a lot of pressure in our society to strive to fit the standards of physical attractiveness.

http://youtu.be/I4urDuwJzuI (This is a link to a video about “America the Beautiful” which is a documentary based on the American standard of beauty)

 Our physical characteristics allow others to make interpretations about us without ever saying a word. We automatically make judgments about others based on their sex, race, and level of physical attractiveness. It has been found that when people solely focus on the physical attractiveness of women they are generally perceived as being less warm, moral, and competent. This does not have the same effect when focusing on the physical attractiveness of men (Heflick, N. A., Goldenberg, J. L., Cooper, D. P., & Puvia, E., 2011). From this it can be drawn that women are treated differently than men based completely on their outward appearance alone. It has also been found that race has an effect on how trustworthy we perceive others to be and that we are more likely to evaluate someone of our own race as trustworthy (Stanley, D. A., Sokol-Hessner, P., Banaji, M. R., & Phelps, E. A, 2011).

Sheldon’s method of somatyping asserts that people are classified as having certain characteristics based on their body type (Richmond, et al., 2001, p. 31). According to this method, people with oval-shaped heavier bodies (endomorphs) are seen as being more emotional, forgiving and relaxed. People with more muscular triangular body shapes (mesomorphs) have a psychological type that is more confident, energetic and dominant. While individuals with a more fragile thin physique are categorized as tense, awkward, and meticulous. I think that this method contains some truth on the assessments we make on people when we are only taking into account their body type and appearance. However, I feel that these assumptions vary in truthfulness once we get to know someone on a deeper level. I know plenty of overweight people that are less than jolly and really thin people that are very relaxed. I think that it’s important to be mindful that no one fits into their stereotype as much as you would think.

I think that it’s important to be mindful of the significant effect that physical appearance has on our judgments of others. We naturally categorize people and stereotype them based on how they look, but I think as a society we put too much emphasis on physical appearance.  By looking at others from a deeper perspective I think we can combat this overemphasis on outward appearance.

Works cited

Feingold, A. (1992). Good-looking people are not what we think. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 304-341.

Halprin, S. (1995). Ugliness and cultural stereotypes. In Look at my ugly face: Myths and musings on  beauty and other perilous obsessions with women’s appearance (pp. 186-207). New York: Penguin Group.

Heflick, N. A., Goldenberg, J. L., Cooper, D. P., & Puvia, E. (2011). From women to objects: Appearance focus, target gender, and perceptions of warmth, morality and competence. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(3), 572-581. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.12.020

Hosoda, M., Stone-Romero, E.F., & Coats, G. (2003). The effects of physical attractiveness on job-related outcomes: A meta-analysis of experimental studies. Personnel Psychology. 56(2), 431-462

Richmond, V.P., McCroskey, J.C., & Hickson III, M.L. (2011). Nonverbal behavior in interpersonal relations (7. ed.). Boston:Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Stanley, D. A., Sokol-Hessner, P., Banaji, M. R., & Phelps, E. A. (2011). Implicit race attitudes predict trustworthiness judgments and economic trust decisions. PNAS Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 108(19), 7710-7775. doi:10.1073/pnas.1014345108

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Understanding Your Brain Type

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Before this assignment I had never given much thought to how much our dominant brain hemisphere impacts our behavior. Through learning more about the different characteristics associated with right and left brain orientation.  I’ve come to realize how large of an impact our brains have not only on how we approach our environment, but how we relate to one another.  According to the Pink (2005, p. 13), the left brain is more sequential, specializes in text and is concerned with detail. The right brain is simultaneous, specializes in content and is concerned with the big picture of things. Throughout history and even now our society has seemed to favor individuals that are more left-brained oriented and are skilled at math and science and more deliberative thinking (2005, p. 29). As a right brain oriented person I have found it frustrating that creative ability has seemed to hold little value as far as intellectual aptitudes are concerned. The quiz seemed to be a pretty accurate reflection of my right-brained orientation; I scored a 14 on right brain dominance and a 5 on left brain dominance.

I’ve always considered myself more right-brained, I’m artistic, I absolutely hate math, and I really hate being given a set of direct instructions for anything. But part of me has always wished that I could be more left-brained, mostly because I grew up believing that my “creative talents” would lead to a life of struggle in low paying jobs. While my best friend’s high aptitude in math and science (she is now a Mechanical Engineering major at UT) would lead to success and a high-paying career.

According to Pink (2005, p. 46), due to the current shift that outsourcing and technical advancement have brought over the past decade, the right brain oriented among us might start having the upper-hand in the working world. I think this shift has yet to occur in a very noticeable way for most of us – my engineering friend will still start of making a great deal more than I will as a school psychologist, but I can see where he’s coming from with this argument. With most left-brained oriented jobs – from computer programming to law are becoming less and less dependent upon people and American people at that.

One of the main issues with automation and outsourcing that Pink and that I have also noticed is the lack of personal contact that these two options offer consumers (2005, p. 61). For example, I’m constantly having technical issues with my cable and instead of getting to talk directly with a repairman of some sort; my phone call is transferred to someone in India that then attempts to help me solve the technical issue myself. This might be a great deal for Time Warner; I’m sure it saves them lots of money, but as a costumer I end up less than satisfied with my service. There is definitely a niche is costumer service that only the right-brain can fill– I would much rather talk face to face with someone who can not only empathize with me being stressed at the thought of missing The Real Housewives reunion episode but can also physically come and fix the problem for me.

As someone who is predominantly right-brained I feel like put extra emphasis and value on interpersonal interactions. This is why I think it bothers me so much when I can’t communicate effectively with others. According to (Shamay-Tsoory, Tomer, and Goldsher, Berger, and Aharon-Peretz 2004, p. 1114), it has been found that the right brain is responsible for mediation of emotions and that people with damage to the right hemisphere of their brain show deficits in empathic responses. It can be drawn from this that right-brained individuals might show slightly more empathetic responses than those that are more left-brained oriented. I think this may make me a more effective decoder of nonverbal messages in the behavior of others. The empathy that I’m able to feel for others may make it easier for me to decode those nonverbal cues than it would be for someone more left-brained. One thing that I think definitely affects my communication is I tend to notice more how something is being said rather than what is being said. This can be problematic when someone may say something harmless in a negative tone because I tend put more emphasis on the delivery rather than the message, even when the tone may have not have anything to do with me.

According to Szaflarski, Holland, Schmithorst, and Byars (2006, p. 202), It has been found that genetic factors contribute to lateralization in brain, which makes sense in my case because from what I’ve observed of my parents, both of them seem to be predominantly right-brained oriented. If genetics have anything to do with brain lateralization I was destined to be right-brained. I was also encouraged to embrace my tendency towards more creative activities rather than being forced to do math flash cards.

I think that my right-brained cognitive composition has good and bad effects on my relationships with others. As far as being able to be supportive of my friends by listening to them and offering support and advice I feel that being right-brained is definitely an advantage. I also think that I’m pretty good at reading the emotions of my friends which is a good skill to have, especially if you live with five roommates like I do. A downside of being right-brained is that I’m really disorganized and tend to be pretty messy and I’m also not very detail oriented in my planning – all things that have caused frustration in my relationships.

This quiz gives a little more detailed breakdown of what it means to be right or left brained and what areas of orientation you most fall under –  http://www.wherecreativitygoestoschool.com/vancouver/left_right/rb_test.htm

 

References

Pink, D. H. (2005). A whole new mind. New York: Penguin Group

Shamay-Tsoory, S. G., Tomer, R. R., Goldsher, D. D., Berger, B. D., & Aharon-Peretz, J. J. (2004). Impairment in Cognitive and Affective Empathy in Patients with Brain Lesions: Anatomical and Cognitive Correlates. Journal Of Clinical And Experimental Neuropsychology, 26(8), 1113-1127. doi:10.1080/13803390490515531

Szaflarski, J. P., Holland, S. K., Schmithorst, V. J., & Byars, A. W. (2006). fMRI Study of Language Lateralization in Children and Adults. Human Brain Mapping, 27(3), 202-212. doi:10.1002/hbm.20177