Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Social Psychology
UNIT: Social & Cultural Influence
Issue: Is There a "Prejudiced Personality" Type?
YES: Kevin O. Cokley, et al., from "Predicting Student Attitudes About Racial Diversity and Gender Equity," Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2010
NO: B. Corenblum and Walter G. Stephan, from "White Fears and Native Apprehensions: An Integrated Threat Theory Approach to Intergroup Attitudes," Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 2001
This team of psychologists from Texas present data supporting the idea that three personality traits (social dominance orientation, authoritarianism, and openness to experience) predict college students' attitudes about racial and gender diversity. Using data from White and Native Canadians, researchers Corenblum and Stephan argue that prejudice stems from a combination of factors, including feelings of group threat, anxiety, history of intergroup conflict, and more.
Issue: Is Terror Management Real?
YES: Jeff Greenberg, from "Terror Management Theory: From Genesis to Revelations," American Psychological Association, 2012
NO: Daniel M.T. Fessler and C. David Navarrete, from "The Effect of Age on Death Disgust: Challenges to Terror Management Perspectives," Evolutionary Psychology, 2005
Jeff Greenberg, one of the original creators of Terror Management Theory (TMT), reviews its main hypotheses and several findings from a variety of studies that support the main principles of the theory. Fessler and Navarette, both professors of anthropology, present research and arguments against Terror Management Theory. Instead, they find that as age increases, sensitivity to death decreases, and that TMT predictions may be bound to certain cultures.
Issue: Is Viewing Television Violence Harmful for Children?
YES: Mark Sappenfield, from "Mounting Evidence Links TV Viewing to Violence," The Christian Science Monitor, 2002
NO: John Grohol, from "TV, Violence, & Children: More Weak Pediatrics Studies," Psych Centra, 2013
Mark Sappenfield, writer for The Christian Science Monitor, describes a new scientific report that links television viewing with violent behavior, even in adults. John Grohol, an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, asserts that the studies that condemn television watching in children fail to consider a myriad of factors involved with children that might also be the cause of negative outcomes.
Issue: Is High Self-Esteem Really Beneficial?
YES: Sarah E. Lowery, et al., from "Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Male and Female First Year College Students," Journal of College Student Development, 2005
NO: Jennifer Crocker and Lora E. Park, from "The Costly Pursuit of Self-Esteem," Psychological Bulletin, 2004
Health and clinical psychologists here argue that positive self-esteem in college students predicts better body image, fitness, and other health-related behaviors. Researchers Crocker and Park believe that while high self-esteem leads to short-term gratification, it also leads to long-term negative effects, including poor self-regulation and poor mental and physical health.
Issue: Is the Fear of Bullying Justified?
YES: Oyaziwo Aluede, et al., from "A Review of the Extent, Nature, Characteristics and Effects of Bullying Behaviour in Schools," Journal of Instructional Psychology, 2008
NO: Helene Guldberg, from "Are Children Being Held Hostage by Parental Fears?" Spiked, 2007
This team of researchers from Nigeria review a long list of negatve outcomes from both being the victim of bullying and from being the bully. Negative consequences of being victimized include "physical, academic, social and psychological problems." Developmental psychologist Helene Guldberg believes that parents' fears of bullying have gone too far. Controlling teachers and parents are restricting children's freedom, teaching them not to trust adults, and preventing children from learning how to resolve conflicts.
UNIT: Close Relationships
Issue: Is Hookup Culture on College Campuses Bad for Heterosexual Girls?
YES: Amy Julia Becker, from "Hookup Culture Is Good for Women, and Other Feminist Myths," Christianity Today, 2012
NO: Timaree Schmit, from "Hookup Culture Can Help Build Stronger Relationships," Original Work, 2013
Amy Julia Becker argues that hookup culture demeans women. From a Christian perspective, she argues that sex leads to greater life fulfillment when removed from the hookup culture. Timaree Schmidt argues that hookup culture is nothing new and that it can be healthy for people to have different sexual experiences.
Issue: Are Extremely Homophobic People Secretly Gay?
YES: Henry E. Adams, Lester W. Wright, Jr., and Bethany A. Lohr, from "Is Homophobia Associated with Homosexual Arousal?" Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1996
NO: Mark E. Johnson, Christiane Brems, and Pat Alford-Keating, from "Personality Correlates of Homophobia," Journal of Homosexuality, 1997
Researchers Adams, Wright, and Lohr present an empirical study which shows that highly homophobic men become sexually aroused when exposed to gay male pornography. They argue that these men are homophobic due to their own secret sexual interests. Researchers Johnson, Brems, and Alford-Keating find evidence that homophobia is related to many other variables, including gender, age, empathy, religiosity, and coping style.
UNIT: Gender & Sexism
Issue: Are Male Teens More Aggressive Than Female Teens?
YES: Lori Rose Centi, from "Teenage Boys: From Sweet Sons to Narcissistic Teens," The Washington Times, 2012
NO: Frances McClelland Institute, from "Aggression Among Teens: Dispelling Myths About Boys and Girls," Research Link, 2009
Lori Rose Centi addresses the differences in male and female brain development, and how gray and white matter in the brain can impact adolescent behaviors. She also discusses other brain changes that may contribute to males being more impulsive and less careful than their female peers. The Frances McClelland Institute shares a fact sheet which dispels "myths" about the differences in male and female teens. It reports on a meta-analysis of 148 studies and the resulting major findings. Different types of aggression are defined and discussed.
Issue: Should Parents Be Allowed to Choose the Sex of Their Children?
YES: Z. O. Merhi and L. Pal, from "Gender â€˜Tailoredâ€™ Conceptions: Should the Option of Embryo Gender Selection Be Available to Infertile Couples Undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology?" Journal of Medical Ethics, 2008
NO: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, from "Sex Selection," Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2007
Physicians Z. O. Merhi and L. Pal discuss the conditions under which selection of the sex of a child does not breach any ethical considerations in family planning among infertile couples. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsâ€™ Committee on Ethics supports the practice of offering patients procedures for the purpose of preventing serious sex-linked genetic diseases, but opposes sex selection for personal and family reasons.
UNIT: Race & Intergroup Relations
Issue: Is Racism a Permanent Feature of American Society?
YES: Derrick Bell, from "Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism," Basic Books, 1993
NO: Russell Niele, from "'Postracialism': Do We Want It," Princeton Alumni Weekly (2010
Derrick Bell, a prominent scholar and authority on civil rights and constitutional law, argues that the prospects for achieving racial equality in the United States are â€œillusoryâ€ for blacks. Russell Niele, a lecturer in politics at Princeton, works for the Executive Precept Program sponsored by Princetonâ€™s James Madison Program. He has written on affirmative action and the origins of an urban black underclass. Niele argues that American society is moving toward a meritocracy, which is post-racist (not post-racial). For him, race, ethnicity, and religious identity are less determinant than they were in earlier American history.
Issue: Is Race Prejudice a Product of Group Position?
YES: Herbert Blumer, from "Race Prejudice As a Sense of Group Position," Pacific Sociological Review, 1958
NO: Gordon W. Allport, from "The Young Child," Basic Books, 1979
Herbert Blumer, a sociologist, asserts that prejudice exists in a sense of group position rather than as an attitude based on individual feelings. The collective process by which a group comes to define other racial groups is the focus of Blumerâ€™s position. Gordon W. Allport, a psychologist, makes the case that prejudice is the result of a three-stage learning process.
Issue: Is the Emphasis on a Color-Blind Society an Answer to Racism?
YES: Ward Connerly, from "Don't Box Me In," The National Review, 2001
NO: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, from Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003
Ward Connerly is a strong critic of all attempts at racial classification and believes that in order to achieve a racially egalitarian, unified American society, the government and private citizens must stop assigning people to categories delineated by race. To achieve this goal, Mr. Connerly is supporting the enactment of a â€œRacial Privacy Initiative.â€ Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that â€œregardless of whitesâ€™ sincere fictions, racial considerations shade almost everything in Americaâ€ and, therefore, color-blind ideology is a cover for the racism and inequality that persist within contemporary American society.
Issue: Does the Implicit Association Test (IAT) Measure Racial Prejudice?
YES: Shankar Vedantam, from "See No Bias," The Washington Post, 2005
NO: Amy Wax and Philip E. Tetlock, from "We Are All Racists at Heart," The Wall Street Journal, 2005
The performance of most White Americans on the Implicit Association Test reflects hidden or â€œimplicitâ€ racial prejudice. Because implicit prejudice can result in discriminatory behavior toward African Americans, it is appropriate to consider scores on the Implicit Association Test to be a form of racial prejudice. Most White Americans are aware of the negative stereotypes of African Americans that exist in American society, even though they may not believe those stereotypes to be true. So, the performance of Whites on the Implicit Association Test likely reflects their knowledge of these negative stereotypes, rather than true racial prejudice.
Issue: Do Whites Associate Privilege with Their Skin Color?
YES: Paul Kivel, from "Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice," New Society Publishers, 1995
NO: Tim Wise, from "The Absurdity (and Consistency) of White Denial: What Kind of Card is Race?" Counter Punch, 2006
Paul Kivel, a teacher, writer, and antiviolence/antiracist activist, asserts that many benefits accrue to whites solely on the basis of skin color. These benefits range from economic to political advantages and often include better residential choice, police protection, and education opportunities. Tim Wise, an author of two books on race, argues that Whites do not acknowledge privilege. Instead, Whites are often convinced that the race card is â€œplayedâ€ by Blacks to gain their own privilege, something that Whites cannot do. Hence, Whites simply do not see discrimination and do not attach privilege to their skin color.
Issue: Do Minorities and Whites Engage in Self-Segregation?
YES: Beverly D. Tatum, from "Identity Development in Adolescence," Basic Books, 1997
NO: Debra Humphreys, from "Campus Diversity and Student Self-Segregation: Separating Myths From Facts," Diversity Web Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1999
Peter Beinart, senior editor for The New Republic, examines the complexity of the issues of multiculturalism and diversity on the nationâ€™s campuses, and he asserts that one examine how a broad spectrum ofgroups responds to the challenges of identity and â€œfitting inâ€ within increasingly multicultural and diverse communities. Debra Humphreys is the director of Programs, Office of Education and Diversity Initiatives, at the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC. She notes that todayâ€™s university students are matriculating on very diverse campuses that are â€œleading to significant educational and social benefits for all college students. In such an environment, students have many opportunities to interact and associate with students of different backgrounds than themselves.â€ She cites research that tends to show that rather than self-segregating, students are interacting across racial and ethnic lines in significant numbers.
Issue: Does Intergroup Contact Work to Reduce Prejudice?
YES: Muzafer Sherif, from "Experiments in Group Conflict," Scientific American, 1956
NO: Jennifer C. Cornell, from "Prejudice Reduction Through Intergroup Contact in Northern Ireland: A Social-Psychological Critique," Journal of Conflict Studies, 1994
In a classic and famous article, social psychologist Muzafer Sherif describes studies he completed in which young boys learned prejudice in a summer camp setting. While simple intergroup contact failed to decrease this prejudice, working together toward common goals did work. Sherif discusses how this particular type of intergroup contact is therefore successful for producing harmony and cooperation between groups. Jennifer Cornell argues that in Northern Ireland, attempts at peaceful intergroup contact have been tried for several decades. Even though the contact is structured, collaborative, and long-term, it has not worked to reduce prejudice and anger between Catholics and Protestants in that country.
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