Thursday, December 16, 2010

Violence in Media

Finals week included student presentations in my Introduction to Mass Media class. We've all heard that continuous exposure to violent behavior through visual, audio and print sources will cause violent behavior in the persons being exposed. We've all heard that this is not true. What is the truth behind this issue?

Unfortunately, there is still no definite answer. Whether or not there is a correlation between violent media and actual real world violence depends on what researcher you're talking to.

What are the causes of violence, and because of the subject we are discussing, especially the causes of violence in adolescents? Many factors make up these causes. First is upbringing. How was the subject raised? History of domestic/community violence, how aggressive behavior was dealt with by the parents, etc. Did they grow up in a good economic situation? Another consideration is substance abuse history, psychological disorders, and other personal elements. These make up the fundamental causes of violence.

It is my belief that exposure to violent media is only one small factor in real life aggressive behavior. Reading back on my post Aggressive behavior and environmental causes, you can see that I point towards parental influence only slightly increasing the chances for aggressive behavior. In my opinion, violent media does not breed violence. However, it can aid to catalyze violent behavior IF the subject has violent tendencies to begin with. I do not believe that any amount of violent media can create a violent person.

I'm not sure that this issue will ever be formally resolved. When a person gets an idea, they will oftentimes not change their thinking. If a person--especially a prominent researcher, states that exposure to media does NOT play a role--they likely will not take the opposite stance because they don't want to have been wrong, even if they see evidence to the contrary. At the same time, certain groups/persons have much to gain if media is not believed to play a role in aggressive behavior. For example, a video game design company who wants to create First Person Shooter games would definitely prefer people to believe that simulated violence will lead to real world violence.

The issue is just too controversial to ever become unanimously agreed upon. The best we can do is look at the research, look at the facts, and use their own common sense to come up with the best opinion on the issue that they can.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sorry I've been gone

Hello everybody, sorry I haven't taken the time to update the blog in forever, but here we are!

I recently began watching a TV documentary called This Emotional Life. It's a three part program hosted by a social psychologist. The first episode (I've yet to finish the entire 2 hours) is about relationships.

A large part of this episode pertains to two Eastern European children adopted and brought to the US in the '90s. Normally I'm not one on developmental or child psychology, but it ties in with Eastern Europe and social psych, so why not make a post?

The two children Alex, age 13 at the time of filming, and Nadia, age 11 at the time of filming, are very different. Nadia's very outgoing and the life of the party. On the other hand, Alex is very isolated and doesn't relate well with others.

There are multiple theories why this happens. One pertains to the fact that Nadia is naturally outgoing and loves people. Alex is naturally withdrawn and a bit of a loaner. So therefore, Nadia was given more attention by the orphanage workers, while Alex was not. Possibly this caused Alex's emotional and social issues. But, as I stated above, these same problems have happened to many many Eastern European orphans. So sure, that theory could explain this one case. But when there are large numbers of orphans from a specific region are growing up with these issues, it doesn't explain it.

To look deeper into the issue, you're going to have to move from the realm of psychology. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it ever further destabilized the region, especially the economy. Russian citizens are making money in whatever way they can. This includes the illegal sex trade and prostitution (both underaged and legal aged), which causes many more pregnancies out of wedlock, which in turn causes a much higher population of orphans; both on the street and in shelters.

A higher number of children in the shelters coupled with a limited number of caretakers creates an atmosphere in which each child is given less attention. Obviously, this is not because the caretakers don't want to give the children attention, it's because there simply are not enough caretakers to give each child as much attention as they need. Because of this, the children do not learn the social skills they should learn as infants and toddlers. Recent studies show that we are wired to develop relationships from a very young age. Without the physical (and emotional) connections young children normally have, these orphans are not able to learn how to make and keep relationships, as well as they are unable to interpret social gestures and cues.

There are two more parts to the series, so I'll update my blog with more information from those two when I see them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Irish Language Revival Attempts

As my current linguistic obsession is the Irish language (Gaeilge) I decided that today's post would be about modern attempts to revive the language. Not to say that it is dead! According to Wikipedia's article, there are 355,000 fluent/native speakers (1983); 538,000 everyday speakers (2006); and 1.86 million speakers with some degree of knowledge of the language (2006), a statistic I am proud to be a part of.

As Wikipedia is pretty much my favorite website and the first place I go when seeking knowledge, I am go there to read about modern language revival. Gaelscoileanna are schools were Gaeilge is the working language. With approximately 50,000 students enrolled, the Gaelscoileanna project has became the most succesful minority language immersion program in all of Europe.

In 2006, Gaeilge was added as the 21st official language of the EU. This of course gave Irish more exposure and I'm sure many people have undertaken a study of the language as a result.

The Constitution of Ireland/Bunreacht na hÉireann recognizes Gaeilge as the official language of the Republic of Ireland. All publicly-funded schools in the Republic of Ireland are required to teach Gaeilge.

There are some sections of Ireland known as Gaeltachtaí where Gaeilge is the primary language spoken.

So what can we do as individuals to add to the revival attempts? Well, learn Gaeilge of course! Try to get friends and family interested, talk about the language on whatever sites you frequent or blogs you own, start your own conversation groups, etc. The fact that you read this blog means that you're probably interested in linguistics so you probably have plenty of ideas of your own. Don't underestimate the power of YouTube! If you're interested, type "as Gaeilge" into YouTube's search box, there are several people who post videos speaking only Gaeilge.

Adh mór ort, agus slán!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Care About Constructed Languages?

To those of you interested in the psycholinguistics field, constructed languages might seem like some sort of a dark art. The people who make them generally are a little different, there are few of them (good ones at least), and most people don’t talk about them very much. Even, the world famous J.R.R. Tolkien called them a “secret vice;” however, constructed languages can be so much more than that.

The act of constructing a language gives insight into all languages in general and, most importantly, your own mind. It makes you think about language in a whole new light. It does this, because it not only forces you to examine the logic behind your own language but examine the possible logics of other languages. Also, it highlights the biases that your native language has bestowed upon you—something that any linguistic scientist must be aware of. Language creation isn’t just for personal benefit, though.

Many constructed languages are created to see how linguistic concepts affect people. Probably the most fundamental example would be Loglan. This logical language was created to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (the idea that language shapes our reality). This hypothesis is the underlying assumption of many of the concepts in the psycholinguistic field.

Now that it is clear why language creation is important to psycholinguistics, the next step is to explore the process of artificial language creation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I recently purchased the February 2010 issue of Psychology Today. In the How To section (p 28), there is a technique called brainwriting.

Oftentimes during a brainstorm session people get off topic, differing views clash, and time is wasted. Usually someone will have to wait for several minutes as others present their ideas, and God forbid being the last person to speak because you'll have everybody else to go before you.

A recent study, undertaken by business professor Perter Heslin of Southern Methodist University, shows that brainwriting can produce ideas with higher quality and efficiency than traditional brainstorming methods. Because there is no need for facilitators and there is no "production blocking," brainwriting appears (to me) to be better, although I have not had a chance to put the technique into practice but will report back when I have done so.

The Process:

1. Everyone in the group sits at the table with a pen (each team member must have different-color ink) and paper. Each member writes out a single idea on the piece of paper and passes it to their right. According to Heslin, "Using different-color pens can be stressful, but more people participate and everyone is accountable for their ideas."

2. Upon receiving a piece of paper, read the idea(s) and add your own. If you can't think of anything, just pass the paper and wait for the next one.

3. When each paper has about five ideas, place it in the center of the table. When all slips are done, begin the pass-and-read cycle again for analytical purposes. "After the ideas are out there, there's a nedd for systematic consideration of each idea."

4. Each participant makes a list of their favorite idea, and the most popular are recorded. "When the group is committed, they are usually surprised with what they achieve."

I'll apply this technique as soon as possible, but any feedback is appreciated as always!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Language Awards

I found this list on a new blog (find here) and thought I'd repost with my own answers. Comment back with your own!

Best Pronunciation: Russian
Most interesting script, non-Latin: Sogdian
Most interesting use of the Latin script: Vietnamese
Script best suited to the language: Hebrew
Script worst suited to the language: Arabic
Prettiest non-Latin script: Lepcha
Prettiest use of the Latin script: Irish

Most interesting phonology: Klingon
Least interesting phonology: Spanish, English, French
Most interesting use of loans: Russian
Least interesting use of loans: English

Happiest language: French (not sure)
Angriest language: German
Hardest language: Arabic, Japanese/Chinese
Easiest language: French

Coolest IAL:
Dumbest IAL:
Coolest conlang:
Dumbest conlang:

Coolest conscript: Nirichaen
Dumbest conscript: Chromaphonoglyphics

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Agressive behaivor and environmental causes

Ok, this is my first psychological blog post.

Is aggression and anger caused by childhood environmental issues, such as abuse by parents, or is it choice based?

A lot of times, people will try to justify aggressive actions (verbal or otherwise) by saying that they cannot be blamed because the way they acted is not their choice, it is caused by their environment. Often they blame their childhood, 'well my parents were abusive, my parents divorced,' etc. Is this true? Do you aggressively react to a given situation because you are mentally incapable of reacting in any other manner, or do you choose to do so?

I am mainly opposed to the theory that such behavior is caused through environmental issues. You can only blame others for your feelings to a certain degree, and in my opinion that degree is incredibly small. There is a point where it becomes a crutch allowing you to rationalize outrages actions. Something I've often read and heard during my discussions with friends on this topic is "you're not your parents". Ultimately your actions are your own, and you must take responsibility for them. You cannot continue to blame outside influences for internal reactions, it just is not a plausible occurrence.

The use of this justification shows emotional immaturity. In addition, victimized feelings can cause many harmful feelings and even some psychological disorder.

In the end, I do not have the basis to definitively say that the environmental cause justification is false. But it is definitely my opinion, and a subject I plan to continue researching.

Any feedback would be much appreciated!