Saturday, April 20, 2013

SWAG: Racial Bias in Pain Perception

Tom Brady is no stranger to pain (source)
Every Wednesday afternoon, I gather with a bunch of faculty and graduate students at the University of Illinois to discuss a journal article about social psychology, and to eat a snack. This blog post reflects the discussion we had during this week's seminar affectionately called Social Wednesdays and Grub (SWAG).

This week in SWAG we read an article about racial biases in perceptions of others’ pain. The American medical field has a long history of racial bias (Note: I think if you switched the words “medical field” with almost any other field, the sentence would be factually accurate. For example, “mathematics field” or “psychology field” but not “magnetic field”). American blacks tend to be diagnosed less accurately by medical staff than whites, to receive less optimal health care, and to be cared for less intimately. The authors, led by Sophie Trawalter of the University of Virginia, wondered about the source of this racial bias. They reasoned that it might arise in part from a belief that low status groups experience less pain than other groups in society. Blacks and other traditionally low status groups in America are perceived as having overcome greater hardships throughout their lives. As a result of contending with, and overcoming these hardships, low status groups are perceived to experience less pain than their more advantaged counterparts—their tough circumstances have made them tougher. This racial bias in pain perception is theorized to underlie the black-white treatment gap in medicine.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Daddy Chronicles: What Happened To My Testosterone?

Zoƫ at two weeks
I'm not sure how many of you know this, but on March 19th of this year I became a new daddy. It's hard to describe the meaning of this event and its impact on my life, but here is a useful comparison that might put things into perspective: My dissertation was accepted for publication on the same day that my daughter was born and despite the near month passing, I still haven't filed the publication forms for the paper. Fatherhood changes the way I see the world in radical ways!

And yet, despite knowing the changes that fatherhood has brought on in my own life, I was still shocked to read about this little finding published in 2011 by Gettler and colleagues--fatherhood reduces testosterone... a lot.

Friday, April 5, 2013

When Telling Others About Your Goals Compromises Them

As you think ahead about what you want to accomplish in the next few months and years, you probably have several goals that involve you “becoming” something – like a good athlete or a good doctor. These are called “identity goals” because they are goals to achieve a certain identity, and they can be attained by engaging in identity-relevant activities, like training for a marathon or going to medical school. In order to enact these behaviors, we might tell others about them – “Hey, I’m going to run a marathon this year!” or “Yay! I’m headed to med school in the fall!” Maybe we have the sense that telling others about our intended actions will help us complete them, and subsequently, help us get closer to reaching our eventual identity goals. However, in this post, I am going to describe evidence showing that this is not the case: telling others about our plans for identity-relevant activities can hinder our accomplishment of them.