Psychology

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus – False

Being from analytics world, I enjoy keeping myself abreast with the problems that can be solved with data. Psychology is one such field that finds its roots in mathematical techniques employed to make predictions and test the foundations of assertions propounded by the society or the hypotheses of social experiments. Designing the experiments is of utmost importance and should be done meticulously as the outcome of the experiments makes the prediction for the entire population based on the sample selected.

Last week I skimmed through a book called Experiments with people by Abelson, Frey, and Gregg and I enjoyed reading the premise and the conclusion of various social studies conducted in the 20th century. One of the study was by Matthew Ansfield and the conclusion was if you want to sleep and someone is playing loud music then the rational thing to fall asleep early is try to keep yourself awake. I will definitely try this one when my juvenile delinquent neighbor will have a late night party. Another experiment conducted by Solomon Asch in 1955 dealt with the idea that how people change their behavior to conform to the groups. A group that knows the right thing to do ends up making more mistakes if there are agents present in the group who want to take the wrong steps. The desire to be liked is a dangerous one and as French sociologist Gabriel de Tarde said “Social man is a somnambulist”.

There was one very interesting experiment conducted in 1990 that caught my attention. It was called “Ackmians Are From Mars, Orinthians Are From Venus: Gender Stereotypes as Role Rationalizations”. Curt Hoffman and Nancy Hurst tried to show that gender stereotypes can arise as a direct result of two groups taking on different social roles ( jobs, household care etc), even when the members of those groups share similar traits. The chapter started with an image of a man and a woman both with stethoscope around the neck and a question in subscript, doctor and nurse or nurse and a doctor? Very keen and interesting question it was. Alice Eagly had studied in 1987 that the underlying differences between a woman and a man are typically small. They become magnified, however, because men and women tend to take on or be assigned to different social roles. The researchers claimed that the differences between men and women are too small for people to detect them. In the society, agentic roles that require assertiveness and independence are attributed to men while communal roles of nurturing, social care are attributed to women. This role assumption has given rise to gender stereotype despite there being a trivial difference between a man and a woman. When it comes to assuming an agentic or a communal role, each gender can perform it with utmost perfection given a chance.

Why do such stereotypes exist? In short – they are explanatory conveniences that allow people to justify the social status quo. Researchers exposed the participants to fictitious species from a planet and they named the two members of the species – Ackmians and Orinthian. They were told that the members of the two groups were either child raisers or workers involved in high tech business etc. The result from the experiment – Ackmians or Orinthians were considered agentic if most of them had a job such as business, high tech etc, or relatively communal if most of them were child raisers, even though no group personality differences existed to corroborate such biased impressions. Not only gender but racial stereotypes also have no roots but they are there and segregating and hollowing the society for ages. There were many extensions of this research and it turns out that gender stereotypes were unaffected by ethnicity. In a study by Niemann and others in 1994, women irrespective of African, American, Asian, Latin American descent were found to be gentle, pleasant, and friendly by the participants while men were taken as tough, alpha creatures.

The book “Men are from mars and women from venus – by John Gray (1992)” amplifies these differences to preposterous proportions. It obsesses with gender differences. Had Phyllis Schalfly read it, she must have been overjoyed for she found another follower of her conservative thought process. Let’s take height as an example, on an average men are taller than women but there are many women who are taller than men. Do we go on and make the unwarranted conclusion that all women are short while all men are tall? No, we don’t. Then why is there a black and white stance when it comes to jobs in the market? The recent incidents at Uber show how sexist the workplace can be. Susan J Fowler’s blog will tell you how a typical male chauvinist, sexist work culture might operate. The number of CEOs in the job industry is highly skewed towards males; people say that CEO is a high risk job that requires certain skills females don’t possess while the truth might lie in the fact that women have been assuming the communal roles for too long and that’s why they are not taken as assertive and strong.

This is a classic case of the logical fallacy – post hoc ergo propter hoc ( after this therefore because of this) and it is high time that we abolish such hypocritical stance and build an unbiased society.

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The 4 stages of life

Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud are said to be fathers of modern psychology. Each of them have different perspective on multitude of things. Freud gives us civilizations and its discontents, interpretation of dreams, a rehash of oedipus complex while Adler proposed 14 day cure plan for anyone who is depressed and emphasized on the importance of social factors in one’s well being. Carl Jung carved out archetypes for human life. Jung broadly classified the stages into 4 which might not be music to the ears of William Shakespeare who wrote seven stages of life. The 4 stages are the mirror for us and let us answer the rhetoric of self identity and motivation.

Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.’   – Carl Gustav Jung

The Athlete – The stage of self obsession. Mirror is a constant companion here. Aesthetic points are valued in this stage and narcissism can be the pivot. We might know few people in our lives who haven’t been able to come out of this phase or wind their lives around it. Few keep abreast with other stages while keeping the athlete alive.

The Warrior – Let’s go out and conquer the world. The world is our Troy and we are the Achilles, hopefully without arrows through our ankles 🙂 . We become more responsible and the vanity of the athleticism starts to fade. Achievement and tip of the pyramid are the alluring and driving factors. Some of us would die within the warrior stage due to multitudinous gratification.

The Statement – Ok, we have achieved few things in life but they aren’t making us happy to a large extent. We need more gratification and self fulfillment. There should be something that should be passed on as a legacy. Giving becomes important in this stage. What material possessions and money used to do for you might not be true in this case but you won’t shun them either. Egotistical self starts taking a back seat and leaving the world in a better place than when you arrived can be a mantra here. Few of us would associate the statement phase with parenting and being a provider rather than sucking the marrow out of life alone.

The Spirit – We eventually realize that the former 4 stages don’t define us but they are crucial to reach the spiritual phase. We realize that we are more than the money, friends, body, country. We are spiritual beings and something else is also there in the pandora box of the unknown world to which our physical bodies might not transport us. We start observing ourselves from an entirely different angle and acquire a wholistic perspective towards life and death, spirit and body. As an exercise in meditation, one has to step out of his thoughts and observe what is happening in the mind, we do the same in this stage of life. We step out and observe our mind and our body. We are the observer of the events as opposed to the beings of what we observe.

Laozi, the writer of Tao Te Ching – written over 2500 years ago, said “can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”

 

 

 

Service before self

Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud are considered fathers of the modern psychology.

Alfred Adler had this analysis which is “Fourteen-Day Cure Plan“.

Adler claimed he could cure anyone of mental illness in just fourteen days if they would just do what he told them to do. One day a woman who was extremely depressed came to see Adler. He told her, “I can cure you of your depression in just fourteen days if you will follow my advice.”

She was not very enthusiastic when she asked, “What do you want me to do?”

Adler replied, “If you will do one thing for someone else every day for fourteen days, at the end of that time your depression will be gone.”

She objected. “Why should I do something for someone else, when no one ever does anything for me?”

Adler jokingly responded, “Well, maybe it will take you twenty-one days.” He went on to add, “If you can’t think of anything you are willing to do for someone else, just think of what you could do if you felt like it.” Adler knew that if she would even think about doing something for someone else, she would be on her way toward improvement.

This is the beautiful concept of “service before self”