Stories tagged sociology

In an age of Google Earth, University of Minnesota professor, Rebecca Krinke's, map of Minneapolis still manages to capture the imagination.
Krinke Pain and Joy Map: From UMNews: "Memories of pain permeate this part of the map, from places including the Minneapolis impound lot (upper left), Hennepin County Medical Center (bottom center, next to the Metrodome) and the interstate freeway system, presumably at rush hour. At least the river runs through it."
Krinke Pain and Joy Map: From UMNews: "Memories of pain permeate this part of the map, from places including the Minneapolis impound lot (upper left), Hennepin County Medical Center (bottom center, next to the Metrodome) and the interstate freeway system, presumably at rush hour. At least the river runs through it."Courtesy University of Minnesota

Krinke, an associate professor in landscape architecture, and a team of students, created a simple laser-cut maple vaneer map of the Cities this summer. Then they mounted it on plywood, armed themselves with both a gray and gold colored pencil, and hit the streets. That's where the magic happened and the map transformed into both a public art piece and an informal sociology investigation.

The map traveled to public spaces in both Minneapolis and St. Paul where curious passerbys were

"...invited to use the colored pencil of their choice—gold for joy and gray for pain (or both)—to express their memories of places.

The stories they told as they colored the impound lot nearly gray and entire city blocks gold provided a powerful emotional release. (To read more about the participants memories, read the full article here or check out Krinke's blog, Unseen/Seen: Mapping Joy and Pain.)

The physical map is preparing for it's final curtain call, but Krinke is thinking about putting it online and making it more interactive.

Dec
05
2008

The more happy people you know, the happier you're likely to be: But is it worth it?
The more happy people you know, the happier you're likely to be: But is it worth it?Courtesy ripleybsx
Okay, okay, y’all are getting stressed out about fear being contagious (I can smell it), so consider this:

Happiness is infectious too.

It’s not contagious in quite the same way as fear though. There are no pheromones directly involved—no, just being happy makes other people happy, they make people happy, and so forth (leave it to happiness to have such a milquetoast, touchy-feely method of transmission).

What’s remarkable here isn’t that being happy or sad can make other people happy or sad, it’s how happiness seems to have a cascade effect through social networks (you know, like Facebook, right, but in real life).

When someone is sad for whatever reason, their sadness doesn’t necessarily make a ton of other people sad. But when someone becomes happy, their happiness seems to flow into their social network by three degrees of the familiar six degrees of separation that divide any two people in a huge social network. That is, if you’re happy, your friends are more likely to be happy, and so are your friends’ friends, and so are your friends’ friends’ friends, but that’s about where it stops.

If you’re happy, friend living within one mile from you have a 25% increase in their chances of being happy, a co-resident spouse has an 8% increase, siblings a 14% increase, and next door neighbors a 34% increase in their likelihood of being happy. (Isn’t that odd? Your neighbors are more than 4 times more likely to be affected by your happiness than your spouse is.) And if any of these people do become happy, then the effect rolls over to their friends, neighbors, etc., and the system usually stretches to about 3 degrees from the original happy person.

Researchers figured the specifics of this out by mining through data on 5000 subjects over 20 years collected by the Framington Heart Study, which collected information on the social networks of its participants, as well as their ratings on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Index.

It’s kind of like that movie Pay it Forward, except without Kevin Spacey. See, Kevin Spacey is never happy. His childhood was haunted by a series of premature deaths of pet guinea pigs, his adolescence marred by a rare bone condition known as “wiggle fingers,” and on the day he would win the Best Actor award for “American Beauty” he swallowed a pen cap, ruining the whole evening. The chain of happiness ends with Kevin Spacey.

The study also confirmed that popularity does indeed lead to happiness. If you’re at the center of a social network (i.e. popular), you’re more likely to be surrounded by happy people, and so more likely to be happy yourself (because happiness cascades, but sadness doesn’t, more friends and associates just increases your odds).

Hmm. Now that I think of it, it’s not just like Pay it Forward, it’s like every zombie movie ever made. If you’re a zombie, people living near you and people who might try to band up with you in a zombie disaster are more likely to become zombies themselves (although we’d have to boost that spouse probability up from 8%). And, the same way the popularity increases your chance of happiness, being surrounded by zombies increases your chances of becoming a zombie (or at least your chances of getting your face eaten).

So I guess the take-home messages are as follows:

-Social networks aren’t just on the Internet. (Questionable)
-If you’re happy, that doesn’t mean Kevin Bacon will be happy, even if he knows your friends’ friends’ friends.
-If you’re happy, that certainly doesn’t mean that Kevin Spacey will be happy. (But don’t feel bad about it.)
-Being an individualist makes you less likely to be happy.
-Popularity is everything. But…
-Being popular also increases your chances of having your face eaten by a zombie.

Are y’all with me?

Dec
04
2008

The formula looks right...: But it's not happening.
The formula looks right...: But it's not happening.Courtesy FireFawkes
The journal Sexual Health has blown minds the world over with a new study’s assertion that, of all students, science students have the least sex. And male science students? They have the least sex of all, ranking neck and neck with amoeba.

Do you know who the study says has the most sex? Female art students. But I’ve never pretended to understand art kids, so we’ll leave that be and get back to our poor science nerds.

What gives? Is it the chicken or the egg? (The chicken being people who don’t often have sex, the egg being the study of science. Duh.) Does deciding to study science equate to putting on an invisible chastity belt? Is it (if we’re talking about chickens) a persistent rooster-block, if you will? Or are people for whom sex is not a huge priority, or even something to be avoided, attracted to the study of science?

The answer, according to the study, is “yes.”

The research was performed at the University of Sydney in Australia. The science department at the university has a high proportion of international students, who may have different cultural attitudes towards sex than those hedonistic, liberal arts, Australian-born students. Also, as we have discussed on Buzz, girls are often less attracted to studying math and science than boys, and boys, according to the psychotherapist quoted in the article, start having sex later than girls.

The demands of studying science, likewise, aren’t helping things. Students are kept out of environments where they would meet women, and spend most of their time “carrying on doing experiments, going to the library, and doing their assignments.”

A horde of very busy introverts—it’s the perfect storm. But don’t let this dissuade you from studying science, Buzzketeers—maybe this is just the sort of social environment you’re looking for. Or maybe you can start a brand new scientific revolution.

Oct
29
2008

He can teach you much, but give you nothing: Wait... Is this man even handsome? This IS complicated!
He can teach you much, but give you nothing: Wait... Is this man even handsome? This IS complicated!Courtesy monseurlam
Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but you aren’t just ugly ducklings—you’re just ugly. Or, if you are mirror-melting hot, those good looks are an invention all of your own, so skip the father’s day present, and get yourself something nice.

See, guys and boys, you’re dad may have taught you how to gut a possum, and he might even have given you your first possum-gutting knife, but he didn’t give you the looks that attracted all those hungry eyes at the possum market. He saved those for your sister.

It turns out that men don’t inherit their fathers’ “attractiveness”. Fathers do pass on masculine features to their sons, but there doesn’t seem to be any strong correlation between attractive fathers (or, technically, “hot dads”) and attractive sons. So says the journal Animal Behaviour.

By rating the images of hundreds of males and females, and their respective parents, the recent study hoped to test the theory that women seek out attractive mates to produce sexy male offspring, who will in turn pass on their mother’s genes.

Uh uh. The study found that hot dads didn’t necessarily have hot boys, and that unattractive fathers (or “ug dads”) didn’t necessarily have ug boys. In fact, the study found no evidence of male-to-male attractiveness inheritance at all. So that beautiful bone structure, those sparkling eyes, that indefinable something that makes you so, so foxy… where did that come from? Your mother, perhaps?

Nope, attractiveness doesn’t seem to come from your mom either. It seems that when boys are born, they’re cast out into the Land of Fug to fend for themselves, and if they find a sunny hilltop to build a face on, they have to do it on their own.

Mothers, the study found, do pass on attractiveness to their daughters. And, ironically, so do fathers—hot dads are likely to have attractive daughters. That means that daughters are getting all those good looks funneled into them from both sides! Ooooh, I hate them so much!

It’s like the legend of Puss in Boots, really. The wealthy old miller and his wife (who I believe was some sort of novelty hat heiress) were on their deathbeds at the same time (food poisoning, I believe), and were deciding how to divvy up their vast wealth between their two sons and one daughter. Keep in mind, this was before division was invented, so the two dying parents decided that the fairest thing to do would be to give all their money to the daughter and none to the sons. The daughter lived a long and very happy life, and no more needs to be said about her. One of the sons died more or less on the spot (food poisoning, I believe), and the other grabbed the miller’s cat and did a runner.

The stolen cat may or may not have had a plan for the surviving son’s well-being, but there was no way to tell, because the cat couldn’t speak English, and the son couldn’t speak Cat. So, making the best of what he had, the son forgot to feed the cat until it died, and then took its fur. (And this was clever in itself, because the son was still too poor to afford a knife, and he had to be creative—that’s where the saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” comes from.) The son then used the beautiful fur (it was a good cat) to make an attractive fur hat (a skill he learned from his mother), which he sold to a local eccentric. The profits from the sale were then invested in the construction of a new animal shelter/hat factory. The venture proved to be a lucrative one, and it kept the man in stockings and gin for the rest of his life, until he burned the factory down so that his own son couldn’t inherit it.

Do you see the connection? If you replace all references to money in the story with the word “hotness,” the analogy is particularly apt.

Oct
02
2008

You kids get out of here!: Are those cigarettes? What do you have under that hat? Is that a gang sign?
You kids get out of here!: Are those cigarettes? What do you have under that hat? Is that a gang sign?Courtesy fromagie
I’m tired of you hanging around with those riff raff friends of yours. I hear that they smoke. Do you think smoking is cool? Is cancer cool too, then?

And y’all listen to that loud gang music, and I know what that music is about: it’s about devil worship. Devil worship and gangs.

And no son of mine is going to wear eyeliner and dog collars. What do you think you are? A dog? A prostitute? Some kind of prostitute dog?

Didn’t I raise you right, Junior? Where’d all this garbage behavior come from?

And pause!

What’s happening here, folks? Where did Junior’s delinquent behavior come from? Well, I’ll tell you where it came from: it came from his parents, in more ways than one.

Recent genetic research has shown that the tendency of adolescent males to associate with delinquent peers has strong association with a particular variation of the dopamine transporter gene, DAT1. So, basically, there’s a genetic influence behind nogoodniks sticking together.

It’s sort of a disturbing finding, when you consider past efforts to isolate—and eliminate—“unfavorable” genetic traits (it’s called eugenics, and it’s bad, bad news). However, the research also demonstrated that not all males with the DAT1 variation were more inclined to associate with delinquent peers. In fact, a large group of boys with the genetic variation showed no increased tendency towards delinquent peer groups at all: boys with highly engaged and warm families.

Family environment seemed to be the deciding factor in a kid’s chosen social group. Boys most likely to run with a bad crowd had the DAT1 variations and a family life marked by maternal disengagement and lack of affection.

Once again, the answer to “Nature or Nurture?” seems to be, “yes.”

Beats me. But sociologists from Northwestern University are hard on the case: interviewing and testing singles, recording them as they meet, and interviewing them after they go on dates. All in the name of science.

Nothing we didn’t already know, but it’s nice to have scientific confirmation: women prefer men who are slightly sociopathic. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Sociologists have found that Brazilians who watch soap operas, or novellas, have a significantly lower birth rate than those who do not, even after controlling for other factors. They theorize that the glamorous fictional characters in the shows have small families, and their fans, consciously or subconsciously, are following suit.

May
07
2008

Nothing to worry about: the minimum wage is happy where it is!
Nothing to worry about: the minimum wage is happy where it is!Courtesy kandyjaxx
Oh, man, there are some funny jokes to make here about how conservatives are happy because, um, they…

I can’t do it. Conservatives don’t deserve to be made fun of. Or maybe they do? I can’t think of a good reason either way.

Ugh. I’m so tired out, you know? I just want to take a nap forever.

A recent study, funded by the National Science Foundation, seems to indicate that conservatives are generally happier people than liberals. The research supports a 2006 study in which 47 percent of “conservative Republicans” described themselves as “very happy,” compared to only 28 percent of “liberal democrats.” These new finds claim to pinpoint the specific reason for the disparity: conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.

The study found that conservatives were reported greater life-satisfaction and well-being than liberals, regardless of marital status, income, or church attendance. Conservatives also scored much higher on measures of rationalization, which “gauge a person’s tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.”

Statements such as “It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others,” and “This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are.” The idea of meritocracy, for instance, is often used to justify economic inequalities; people deserve their “social class attainment.”

However, if one’s beliefs are unable to justify gaps in status, one is generally left “frustrated and disheartened.” Like, why are more conservative people happier than me? I try to be happy. I try very hard to be happy. But here I am, just… just sitting, and and

My keyboard is filthy. It should be better than this.

I think I have asthma.

“Liberals,” states the report in the journal Psychological Science, “lack the ideological rationalizations that would help them frame inequality in a positive (or at least neutral) light.”

That might be true. I’m no scientist, though. That’s probably true.

The authors of the study believe that a similar logic lies behind other forms of inequality. For example, research has shown that egalitarian women are less happy in their marriages compared to their “more traditional counterparts,” because they are more bothered by disparities in domestic labor.

I don’t know. It just doesn’t…

Sometimes I feel like liberals are lonely more too.