Friday, 30 August 2013

Brett Sinclair, Danny Wilde and Accent Prestige Theory

Studies on intercultural encounters lead to the widely accepted findings that individuals who speak with a standard accent (of the dominant group in society) will be rated higher in intelligence, education, social class, success, friendliness, trustworthiness, kindness (Anderson et al., 2007), ... and lower in guilt. Ratings of a recorded exchange between a British criminal suspect and a policeman showed that the suspect was rated as significantly more guilty when he employed a Birmingham rather than a standard accent (Dixon et al., 2002).

Prejudices based on accent can advantage and disadvantage people in job markets. In the US, for instance, Spanish-accented applicants are more likely to be considered for semi-skilled jobs and American-English-accented applicants for supervisory jobs. However, there are differences in the perception of "foreign" accents as British English, the French accent and some Asian varieties do not always seem to be perceived negatively (Nguyen, 2010). According to a study carried out in the US, individuals with a British accent are even rated as having a higher status than those speaking American English (Weyant, 2007).


British accent meets US-American accent: "The Persuaders" starring Tony Curtis as Danny Wilde and Roger Moore as Brett Rupert George Robert Mark Anthony Andrew Sinclair, 15th Earl of Marnock. Brilliant.


- Anderson, S., Downs, S. D., Faucette, K., Griffin, J., King, T. & Woolstenhulme, S. (2007) How Accents Affect Perception of Intelligence, Physical Attractiveness, and Trustworthiness of Middle-Eastern-, Latin-American-, British-, and Standard-American-English-Accented Speakers. BYU Undergraduate Journal of Psychology, 3, 5-11
- Dixon, J. A., Mohoney, B. & Cocks, R. (2002) Accents of Guilt. Effects of Regional Accent, Race, and Crime Type on Attributions of Guilt. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 21(2), 162-168
- Nguyen, L. T. (2010) Employment Decisions as a Function of an Applicant's Accent. San Jose State University: Master's Theses. Paper 3882
- Weyant, J. M. (2007) Perspective Taking as a Means of Reducing Negative Stereotyping of Individuals Who Speak English as a Second Language. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(4), 703-716
- images via and via

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Star Trek Opening Monologue

Captain Kirk (1966-69)
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Captain Picard (1987-1994)
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

According to the linguistic relativity hypothesis, the language we speak shapes our cognition. It claims that certain properties of our language have consequences for our patterns of thought about reality, i.e. perception and attention. Language influences thought about our reality (Lucy, 1997). In other words, linguistic differences yield differences in speakers' thought (Pae, 2012). Hypothetically, what differences did the opening monologues yield in Kirk's and Picard's thought?...

Lucy, J. A. (1997) Linguistic Relativity. Annual Review of Anthropology, 26, 291-312
Pae, H. K. (2012) Linguistic Relativity Revisited: The Interaction between L1 and L2 in Thinking, Learning, and Production. Psychology, 3(1), 49-56
(monologue literally from Wikipedia, photos via and via)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Ford Motor's Archbishop and Religious Pluralism

"(...) to assist the company in becoming a worldwide corporate leader in promoting religious tolerance, corporate integrity, and human dignity. We strive to act in accordance with our beliefs and out of love for human being and all of creation, promoting understanding and respect for the various faiths. We help management to increase and maintain religous diversity, attract, develop, and retain talented employees of faith, and be more aware of religious consumers' and investors' needs." (via)

Ford has received hundreds of awards for its diversity policies. And Ford started very early. In 1916, the company employed people from 62 nationalities and more than 900 people with disabilities. A few years later, Ford hired ethnic relations experts to promote a tolerant work environment, in 1950 it hired its first African American senior manager (via), 1950 - at a time of "legal" segragation in some states. The Ford Interfaith Network, one of several company-approved employee groups, was founded in 2001 to promote dialogue and tolerance; different religious groups and atheists can join. Among other activities, the network sponsors community and interfaith events, sends its "Insights & Inspirations" mails to more than 3.500 employees, and discusses food and flexible hours (via). And Ford Motor's Archbishop?...

... The Ford Cortina was built by Ford of Britain from 1962 to 1982. It was originally to be called "The Archbishop". (photos via and via and via)

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Nurse Stewardess and the Rebel Airline

In the 1930s, "the" new job was created for women: the stewardess. She became to US-American girlhood what policemen, pilots, and cowboys had become to US-American boyhood. Ellen Church, a nurse and trained pilot who wanted to work for the airlines but could not since airlines did not consider hiring women as pilots, proposed hiring nurses - an idea that among others led to the feminisation of the cabin service. From the start, the history of this profession was marked by a restriction to white, young, single, slender, and attractive women ... for a long time. Some airlines only hired single women as marriage would detract their devotion to serving passengers and in addition interfere with their wifely duties. In the 1940s, weight rules were taken so seriously that supervisors suspecting a stewardess to have put on an extra pound could ask her to jump on a scale and make sure that she got rid of it (Barry, 2007). And women only was a strict policy - in 1971, a male applicant sued Pan American because he was denied employment (via).


Here and then there seem to be some setbacks. Last year, flight attendants of an airline complained because they were told not to put on more weight. Another airline requires even teeth, a husband and children ... Nevertheless, situation, image and job description have changed, the former stewardess became a flight attendant, some airlines have raised the age limit for recruits to 45 years, since 1980 the median age of flight attendants in the US rose from 30 to 44 (via).

In 1965, Emilio Pucci (1914-1992) designed the so-called Space Bubble Helmet for the "rebel airline" Braniff Airlines. The glass bubble domes were supposed to protect from rain. Braniff Airlines on YouTube: e.g. The End of the Plain Plane here, the envisioned future here and the Air Strip here (photos via and via).


Barry, K. (2007) Femininity in Flight. A History of Flight Attendants. Duke University Press

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Parlez-vous cliché? Paris, romance, baguette, frogs, beret, black and white striped shirts, red wine, and pink onions.

"The stereotype is properly speaking an opinion, but an opinon which seems to arise from a caricature" (Rautenberg, 2010) - caricatures that seem to be communicated by mass media, by e.g. mainstream films portraying the stereotypical romantic, seductive, and artistic French. And, the less familiar the viewers are with French culture and the less real experience they have with French people, the more they are likely to believe media display an accurate picture of the French culture (Ferber, 2008). By the way, the stereotypical Frenchman on the bicycle, wearing a striped shirt and a beret has an interesting history that started with pink onions. In the ninenteenth century, beret wearing, bicycle riding Breton farmers - the Onion Johnnies - went to Great Britain in order to sell onions (via). While today there are almost no Onion Johnnies left, the stereotype of this little, regional phenomenon did not only survive in media but was extended from Brittany to the rest of France.


Ferber, L. (2008) Pardon Our French: French Stereotypes in American Media. All Volumes (2001-2008). University of North Florida: Paper 7
Rautenberg, M. (2010) Stereotypes and Emblems in the Construction of Social Imagination. Outlines - Critical Practice Studies, 2, 126-137

Photo by Melvin Sokolsky via

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Closet

"Who am I to judge on gay people?", Pope Francis in July 2013.

Being open about one's sexual orientation at the workplace is a decision that needs to be made every time gay people meet new colleagues, clients, suppliers, etc. It is not an easy decision as coming out of the closet can lead to homophobic harassment and bullying. On the other hand, those who are not able to come out feel that they expend enormous amounts of energy on avoiding being outed with negative effects on their performance and integration. In fact, being forced to lie about one's private life and hide certain personal aspects can lead to isolation in the long term (Miles, 2011).

Miles, N. (2011) Straight Allies. How they help create gay-friendly workplaces. Stonewall Workplace Guides; photos: New York 1974 via and via

Friday, 16 August 2013

Nazia, Mariam, Alison, and the Labour Market

In a field experiment, a British research group sent 2961 applications to 987 advertised job vacancies between November 2008 and May 2009. For each vacancy, three applications were sent: one with a "white name" and two with different minority ethnic group names (African, Caribbean, Chinese, Pakistani/Bangladeshi), e.g. Nazia Mahmood, Mariam Namagembe and Alison Taylor. There was an even split in the proportion of the applications that were male and female. The researchers made sure that the fake applicants did not differ in their qualification but only in their names and the associated ethnicity. While the levels of discrimination between male and female applicants were similar, there were high levels of name-based discrimination. A ratio of 1.74 was found, in other words, 74% more ethnic minority than non-minority applications needed to be sent to get the same number of positive responses.


Wood, M., Hales, J., Purdon, S., Sejersen, T. & Hayllar, O. (2009) A test for racial discrimination in recruitment practice in British cities. A report of research carried out by National Centre for Social Research on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.
Photo by Clifford Coffin (1949) via

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Anorexia Nervosa and the Forgotten Gender

Women have always been the gender associated with anorexia, starting with Richard Morton's description of an anorectic girl in 1691. In the following centuries, the eating disorder was referred to by various authors who observed the disorder primarily in young women (Lange, 2012). Today, not much seems to have changed as statistics clearly show that - although the number of anorectic men is rising - more women than men are affected. However, ...


... eating disorders may be overlooked in some groups, i.e. in boys and men as they might not show the "typical" symptoms. Males are less likely to use purging behaviours (vomiting, using laxatives to control weight). In addition, they don't talk about the desire to be thin but to be fit and healthy - which does not set off the alarm bell that quickly. As a result, they are underdiagnosed, undertreated and misunderstood (Strother et al., 2012). Wooldridge calls men the "forgotten gender" when it comes to eating disorders. Since diagnosis and treatment criteria were developed with girls and women in mind, one of the four features of anorexia nervosa (according to DSM IV) is the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles - quite a challenge for boys and men and therefore criticised for its gender bias.


"You are not a sketch. Say no to anorexia" is an anti-anorexia campaign that shows typical fashion sketches next to airbrushed models who would be the size the illustrations suggest. (photos via)


Holdcroft, A. (2007) Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence based medicine? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 100(2), 2-3
Lange, B. (2012) Untersuchung der Phospholipidderivate N-Acylphosphatideylethanolamin und N-Acylethanolamin sowie der Hormone Leptin und Ghrelin bei gesunden jungen Frauen und jugendlichen Patientinnen mit Anorexia nervosa vor und nach einer Standardmahlzeit. Freiburg: Dissertation
Strother, E., Lemberg, R., Stanford, S. C. & Turberville, D. (2012) Eating Disorders in Men: Underdiagnosed, Undertreated, and Misunderstood. Eating Disorders, 20(5), 346-355 (via)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

International Lefthanders Day

Historically, left-handedness was associated with evil, abnormality, pathology. Children were subjected to "re-education" (and to a lesser extent still are). The International Lefthanders Day aims at raising awareness for the left-handers' need to adapt a right-handed world to work for left-handers. Left-handedness is not a new phenomenon, the oldest evidence for the coexistence of both right- and left-handed individuals is from the Pleistocene (ca. 425.000 to 180.000 years before present). Homo neanderthalensis individuals, in fact, were right- or left-handed.


Faurle, C. & Raymond, M. (2004) Handedness frequency over more than ten thousand years. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 271, 43-45. Hand tree via

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Spaceflight and the Culture Assimilator

As spaceflights became more international and crews more multicultural, cultural awareness and sensitivity became one of the skills required for astronauts. Finding the right balance is crucial since overlooking cross-culturality might lead to cultural insensitivity and exaggerating it might promote stereotyping.
An approach to cross-cultural training (used in astronauts' training) is the so-called culture assimilator which consists of 100 to 200 scenarios where people from two cultures interact. Each scenario is followed by several explanations of why the member of the "other" culture acted in a specific way. The learner selects one explanation and then gets feedback for the chosen explanation. Trainees, after a while, start selecting explanations of the others' behaviour that are closer to the others' culture. In other words, the trainees' attributions become more specific, more complex, and less ethnocentric (Draguns & Harrison, 2011).


- Draguns, J. G. & Harrison, A. A. (2011) Spaceflight and Cross-Cultural Psychology. Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective; edited by Vakoch, D. A., 177-194
- Space age fashion à la Pierre Cardin, photograph via

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Women in Space

"Mom, my Martian friend got his footprints on the ceiling."
"Here's Tomorrow's Lestoil! Clean it up."


"Women of the future will make the Moon a cleaner place to live."


Lestoil 1968: Women of the future will make the Moon a cleaner place to live.
NASA 2013: Of the eight new astronaut recruits, four are women. (photos via)

Monday, 5 August 2013

East meets West: Context and Communication Patterns

The anthropologist Edward T. Hall describes two contrasting communication cultures: high-context cultures (messages are covert and implicit with use of metaphor and reading between lines, much nonverbal communication, reactions are expressed in a reserved manner) and low-context cultures (overt and explicit messages that are simple and clear, verbal communication, and visible, outward reactions).

Research on Korean (high-context) and US-American (low-context) communications practices show that Koreans' reserved manner is often mistaken for lack of assertiveness. Besides, Koreans generally create more ambiguous messages and prefer indirect communication as they tend to value Confucianism which emphasises harmony. Not taking a stand and being rather indirect helps others save face and therefore fosters harmony (Merkin, 2009).

Yang Liu designed pictogrammes that illustrate stereotypes and differences (some of them described by Hall) between Eastern and Western cultures. The blue images refer to Westerners, the red ones to Asians (images via).

Confronting a Problem

 Sense of Self


 How to Express Anger

Queue when Waiting



Weekend Activities

Merkin, R. S. (2009) Cross-cultural communiation patterns - Korean and American Communication. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 20

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Paper Bag Test

The so called "paper bag parties" required people to pass the "brown paper bag test" in order to be admitted. If you were lighter than a brown paper bag, you could go to the party. Since women could attempt to lighten their skin with make-up, the bag was usually placed against an exposed arm. However, not all paper bag parties had visible paper bags. And, although the practice is universally condemned, there is still the notion that the ideals behind the practice survived. In 1982, Alice Walker coined the term "colourism" which refers to the form of discrimination that is based on social values that are associated with skin colour.

- Kerr, A. E. (2006) The Paper Bag Principle: Class, Colorism, and Rumor and the Case of Black Washington. University of Tennessee Press
- photograph taken by Inge Morath (Saul Steinberg, "The Mask Series") via

Update 2017: Photograph has been changed

Friday, 2 August 2013

Judges doing their job

By now, there was the criticism that no single blind judge could be found in Austria (by contrast with its neighbouring country Germany that has 70 judges with visual impairment). People with completed education and training in law were rejected due to their vision disability (see). Now, finally, people have decided differently and two blind Austrian judges will start working in January 2014.


Britta Evans-Fenton's Hearing Braille: "A small microphone is placed behind the paper with braille script. As the viewer runs his or her fingers across the page to feel the braille, they hear their touch on the paper. It makes the viewer extremely aware of their touch, almost heightening that sense on the sheet." (photo via)