Tuesday 31 December 2013

Year of the Horse

"This" year, Chinese New Day will arrive on 31 January and the Year of the (Wood) Horse will start. While Chinese New Year falls on different dates in the Gregorian calendar, in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (via). Calendars differ, the Gregorian 2014, for instance, is the year 2964 in the Berber calendar, 4347 in the Korean calendar, 1376 in the Burmese calendar, 6764 in the Assyrian calendar, and 2558 in the Buddhist calendar (via).
Apart from the horse, 2014 is dedicated to the brain. The European Year of the Brain aims to raise awareness and educate since this most complex structure has a huge impact on both individuals and society (via).

Again, best wishes to all of you - no matter what year you celebrate and when.

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Photograph by Norman Parkinson via

Friday 27 December 2013

The -ism Series (3): Sexism

Sexism has different faces. The two most well-known ones are hostile and benevolent sexism - both convey information about the position of men and women in society and the division of their power. Both share assumptions about women's inferiority but differ in some aspects. Hostile sexism communicates openly an iron hand approach, an "antagonistic attitude to women" and is therefore rather easily identified. Benevolent sexism, however, is sometimes more difficult to grasp and therefore more difficult to challenge. It refers to a more positive attitude to the fragile woman that needs to be protected and provided by men. As benevolent sexism with its velvet glove approach makes women feel better about their disadvantaged situation it is said to have "a paliative, system-justifying function" (Calegoro & Jost, 2010).

In a campaign created for United Nations Women, Google autocomplete suggestions were used to raise awareness for sexism.The autocomplete feature is based on the search terms other people have used before.

The campaign used autocomplete searches from 9 March 2013. It was launched in October and inspired a series of spin-off advertisements.

An article in The Guardian says: "Google has become something of a secular equivalent of a confessional box. Within the confines of a search bar you can ask questions or express opinions you would never admit to in public. Our most popular searches are, to some degree, an uncensored chronicle of what, as a society, we're thinking but not necessarily saying. What makes the UN Women campaign so powerful is that it pulls back the curtain of publicly acceptable rhetoric and lays bare just how widespread gender prejudices still are."


The following clip is part of the campaign:

Calegoro, R. M. & Jost, J. T. (2010) Self-Subjugation Among Women: Exposure to Sexist Ideology, Self-Objectification, and the Protective Function of the Need to Avoid Closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(2), 211-228; photos via

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Father Christmas, Martians, an Ironing Table and a Hoover for Her

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), a science fiction film that is often on the lists of the "worst films ever made", is about Martians that are worried about their children. They are afraid that the children on Mars (who by the way like watching Earth TV) might become more and more unhappy due to the rigid societal structures on the planet. The Martians come to the conclusion that the children need to be allowed to have fun and decide to bring Santa Claus to Mars (via). However, Santa Claus does not seem to have a positive effect on everybody...

... as being in the presence of Christmas display has different effects on people depending on the fact whether they celebrate Christmas or not. In their study, Schmitt et al. asked participants (Christians, non-Christians and non-celebrators) to complete questionnaires on psychological well-being in different conditions, i.e. in the presence and in the absence of Christmas symbols. The authors came to the conclusion that Christmas display had a negative effect on both non-celebrators and non-Christians making them feel less integrated in society.

A good time to all of you - no matter if and what you celebrate.

And now for something completely different (as Monty Python wonderfully put it). If you have not yet decided which Christmas present could be a good idea, here are some inspirational advertisements.

Wives. Look this ad over carefully. via

They all want the same thing, Santa ... my ironing table! via

Even Mrs. Santa Claus wants this one! via

Look at all the Pyrex ware you can give her. via

Make it merry, make it Mojud. via

Christmas morning she'll be happier with a Hoover. via

Give her a Hoover and you give her the best. (...) Lucky woman! Her husband's giving her the Hoover (...) via

She'll be happier with a Hoover this Christmas. via

For Christmas ... I'll love it! via

For a Sentimental Person with a Practical Side! ... What could the lady of your heart cherish more than a gift to preserve youth? via

This Christmas ... treat him like a millionaire! via


The ideal gift for all occasions. Oh darling, how lovely ... I've just longed for a (...) via

Be a "Real Santa Claus" to "the Wife" via

What a wonderful present for her. via

A Barcalounger is two Christmas Gifts in one! via

O-o-oh Santa - I just love that Microsheen shine! via

Schmitt, M. T., Davies, K., Hung, M. & Wright, S. C. (2010). Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(6), 1017-1022; photos via and via and via

Friday 20 December 2013

Warm? Cold? Competent? Incompetent? The Stereotype Content Model and the Image of Made in Germany

The Stereotype Content Model defines two dimensions which seem to be universal features of social perception: warm vs. cold and competent vs. incompetent. Competence refers to people who are capable, skillful, intelligent, and confident while warmth describes those that are good-natured, trustworthy, tolerant, friendly, and sincere. According to this model, perceived warmth and competence differentiate group stereotypes which are applicable on e.g. nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and gender subgroups. In other words, groups can be classified as a) warm and competent, b) warm and not competent, c) competent and not warm, and d) not warm and not competent. Hence, ambivalent stereotypes are possible, i.e. a positive evaluation on one dimension and a negative one on the other.

Ingroups, in other words groups we belong to, are perceived positively on both dimensions. The group we belong to is both warm and competent (i.e. we are nice and work so well). Stereotypical examples for warm but not competent are the disabled, the elderly, housewives, the Greeks etc. (i.e. nice but not really efficient).

Asians or Germans are stereotypically perceived as competent but not warm (i.e. we think they are efficient but do not really like them). The stereotypical notion of the efficient German is also communicated in Marketing. Watch: Lufthansa Clip "These Germans"

Unmistakeably German: The Citroen C5 advertising campaign in the UK was themed "unmistakeably German". In 2008, it won first prize at the car advertising awards but was not spared criticism. The clip used various German stereotypes ranging from sausages, beer, lederhosen, dirndl to blonde women and many more. The "background" music is, by the way, Wagner's Ride of Valkyries - often used in filmmaking since Die Deutsche Wochenschau (via). Not only was Citroen accused of creating a caricature of Germany but also of using aesthetics and symbols that are associated with one of the darkest chapters in history (via). Attempting to understand stereotypes in Marketing on the basis of the Stereotype Content Model, one might encounter "positive stereotypes" not that rarely. Here, German is used as a synonyme for competence. And most interestingly, as we have the stereotypical background knowledge we get the message of what is meant when a French car is "unmistakeably German".

Cuddy, A. M. C., Fiske, S. T. & Glick, P. (2008) Warmth and Competence as Universal Dimensions of Social Perception: The Stereotype Content Model and the BIAS Map. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 40
Photos of Messerschmitt via and via and via

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Orchestras, Blind Auditions, Percentages & Removing Shoes

In the late 1970s, major US-orchestras had less than 5% women, in the 80s about 10%, in the 90s the percentage rose to 25% and today about 30% are women. The secret? With the change of gender constructions and orchestras' introduction of blind auditions into their hiring processes, the percentage started changing. In blind auditions, candidates play for a "gender blind" jury concealing their identity behind a screen. In order to make sure that the sound of their shoes do not tell their gender either, candidates are instructed to remove their shoes before entering the stage (via). Orchestras, however, are not the roots of gender construction in music. It is suggested to revise music education curriculum content encouraging women to play "male" instruments. Stereotypes, however, are not only created for women: "Frail women" on the harp, men in the brass section. In 2006, the first woman tuba player was engaged by a major US-American orchestra (Phelps, 2010). Applying blind auditions will not change gender constructions at their root, but they raise the probability that a woman will be hired by about 50% (Goldin & Rouse, 2000).

Goldin, C. & Rouse, C. (2000) Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians. The American Economic Review, September, 715-741
Phelps, A. L. (2010) Beyond auditions: gender discrimination in America's top orchestras. Iowa Research Online (via); photo via

Monday 16 December 2013

The -ism Series (2): Ableism

The term ableism refers to "a particular understanding of oneself, one’s body and one’s relationship with others of humanity, other species and the environment, and includes how one is judged by others".  Ableism reflects the value and promotion of abilities such as productivity and competitiveness over empathy and kindness. It has historically been used by certain social groups to justify their higher status in relation to "others", to justify a hierarchy and exclusion. The preference for "speciestypical normative abilities" might lead to the discrimination against people with disabilities as less able. This notion rejects the so-called variation of being, the biodiversity, the acceptance and accommodation of the people affected.

Most interestingly, ableism does not only refer to the obvious, to people one might automatically associate with. In fact, sexism is partly driven by ableism as it favours certain abilities and at the same time labels "the biologically fragile, emotional and incapable" woman as not having them. Like sexism, racism (claiming that some ethnic groups are less intelligent, i.e. less cognitively able than others) and other -isms are driven by ableism.

The Swiss organisation "Pro Infirmis" started the rather spectacular campaign "Because who is perfect?" in order to raise awareness for body diversity and the lack of representation of people with disabilities. Five persons with different disabilities were used as models to create mannequins that reflected their bodies. The mannequins were displayed in shop-windows next to the "perfect" mannequins. Here is a four-minutes clip (in Swiss German with English subtitles).

Wolbring, G. (2008) The Politics of Ableism. Development, 51, 252-258
Photos and clip via and via

Sunday 15 December 2013

Thursday 12 December 2013

Making Differences Matter

One aspect of Diversity Management is increasing the diversity of a company's staff. Positive economic outcomes are expected as it does not only mean increasimg the number of different perspectives and approaches but also competitively relevant knowledge. However, that implies that people are able to bring in themselves, to bring in their whole selves to the workplace - an aspect that is at the very core of Diversity Management (Thomas & Ely, 1996).

- Thomas, D. A. & Ely, R. J. (1996) Making Differences Matter. A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity. Harvard Business Review, September-October, 1-12
- photo "Lifeguard's Dream" by Joseph Szabo (1972) via

Monday 9 December 2013

The -ism Series (1): Ageism

"Our lives are defined by ageing: the ages at which we can learn to drive, vote, have sex, buy a house or retire, get a pension, travel by bus for free. More subtle are the implicit boundaries that curtail our lives: the “safe” age to have children, the “experience” needed to fill the boss’s role, the physical strength needed for some jobs. Society is continually making judgements about when you are old enough for something – and when you are too old." (Age Concern England, 2005)

In 1969, Butler coined the term "ageism" describing prejudices against other age groups (Tornstam, 2006). While prejudice based on ethnicity or gender has been studied extensively, prejudice based on age is an aspect that has been in the focus of comparatively few research projects (Nelson, 2005). Freire states that compared with gender, ethnicity or disability, age discrimination is a "silent type of discrimination" as the emotions attached to it are less powerful. In addition, a specific sense of inferiority is constructed ... the inefficient, sick old person that is not capable to learn anything (Sofica, 2012).
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Age Concern England (2005) How Ageist is Britain? via
Sofica, A. (2012) The social network of actors influencing age discrimination in the human resources recruiting process. Eastern Journal of European Studies, 3(1), 169-188
Nelson, T. D. (2005) Ageism: Prejudice Against Our Feared Future Self. Journal of Social Issues, 61(2), 207-221
Tornstam, L. (2006) The Complexity Typology. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 1(1), 43-68

Photo of "world's oldest supermodel" Daphne Selfe via

Thursday 5 December 2013

Quoting Paul Newman

“I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant.” (via)

Photo of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward by Lawrence Schiller (1967) via

Tuesday 3 December 2013

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. Around the world, persons with disabilities face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society (literally via UN).

This very day is dedicated to promoting an understanding of people with disability and encouraging support for their dignity, rights and well-being (via).

Timothy Archibald, US-American photographer, started taking pictures of his autistic son Elijah, now 12, six years ago. The aim of his three year-long series was to relate to his son better and to make people more accepting of the "imperfections". Reactions ranged from accusations of using his son as a "human guinea pig" to gratefulness for spreading awareness about autism (via).

Photo below: "Eli in my sweatshirt"

"My eldest son was born in 2001. He was always a kid who went to the beat of his own drummer. When he was 5, we began making photographs collaboratively as a way to find some common ground and attempt to understand each other. Soon after we began the project, Elijah was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. Though the diagnosis gave me the words and history to understand my son better, it didn't take away the mystery and the need to try to find an emotional bridge to him." (via)

Photos by Timothy Archibald via

Sunday 1 December 2013

7053. Or: Taking the Bus in 1955. Or: Rosa Parks Day

"When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.'"

Two days are dedicated to Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005), the "first lady of civil rights" and "mother of the freedom movement" who would have turned 100 in 2013: her birthday in February and the day of her arrest on 1 December 1955.

That day Parks refused to obey the bus driver's order to give up her seat in the "coloured section" to a white passenger as the "white section" was filled. It was, by the way, the same bus driver that in 1943 had told her to to leave the bus and  - following the city rules - enter it again from the back door. Parks exited the bus but could not reboard it as the driver drove off and left her in the rain.

Refusing to give up her seat meant violating the segregation law of the Montgomery City Code which had been passed in 1900. Parks was arrested for civil obedience. Only a few days later the Montgomery Bus Boycott was announced asking people to stay off the buses on the day of boycott. Some rode in carpools or took black-operated taxis that only charged the fare of the bus; most of the people walked, some of them for about 30 km (via)... Rosa Parks stood up by sitting down (via).

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

Photos via and via and via and via and via