Five years ago, I began writing pieces for Looking in the Cultural Mirror. While psychology may define itself as the science of behavior, when it comes to people it often seems more like the science of American behavior than of human behavior everywhere. This, my 100th piece, discusses the blog’s background and aims. It offers links to the most popular 10.
Seventy-five years ago, Gone with the Wind was released, a movie that romanticized slavery with stereotyped images of African-Americans that remain familiar to this day. Slavery in Brazil was more widespread and lasted longer than in the U.S. The Brazilian movie Xica is also about slavery, but its stereotypes of Afro-Brazilians are very different from the American ones.
In the modern university, run as a business, students are getting good grades and piling up debt but aren’t learning that much. The professors feel powerless and alienated, but the administration looks at the bottom line, smiles, and says all is well.
Following the murders in Paris of cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, there has been a debate over whether the media should publish the humor magazine’s cartoons lampooning Muhammad and Islam. The debate so far has been between freedom of expression and cultural sensitivity; but I believe the matter is more complex.
The Senate report on the CIA torture program revealed that psychologists played a key role in its design and execution. What role did the American Psychological Association play, and how will it respond to these revelations?
Marijuana legalization victories in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia follow in the footsteps of previous ones in Colorado and Washington. Already we are learning unexpected lessons as the new policies are implemented; and the issues we are encountering are quite different from the ones many had feared.
Over the past few decades, the scientific study of culture has become marginalized, in very different ways, in both psychology and anthropology. Social phenomena exist at a social level of organization; but scientistic and anti-science trends impede progress in understanding them.
A lot has been written about the War on Drugs and about college student debt, but rarely are the two issues connected. I would argue, however, that the transfer of funds from higher education to the War on Drugs is one of the main causes of the dramatic rise in higher education student debt.
The World Cup created a lot of interest in Brazil, where I used to live. I went back this past winter, and–as always happens–within a few days something occurred that couldn’t possibly happen here in the States. Such events always cause a smile of recognition that, as Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Much of the debate triggered by Edward Snowden’s leaks is about deciding on the proper level of electronic surveillance. While important, this discussion involves a static view of the problem. I would like to call attention to a dynamic aspect of the relationship among government surveillance, security crackdowns, and leaks.
Ever since I first read Dreams From My Father, I’ve been struck by similarities between my family and the one that Barack Obama grew up in. As I read about the too-short life of Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, I couldn’t help wondering whether, if she had made a few different choices, she might have had a personal and family life that turned out more like my wife’s and mine.
When I was growing up, it was legal for 18 year olds to drink alcohol, but you had to be 21 to vote. Now, in a triumph of social engineering, it is legal for 18 year olds to vote, but you have to be 21 to drink. It took years of debate involving many layers of government to achieve these changes. Why was so much effort necessary to produce this result?
Both chambers of the General Assembly of Uruguay have passed legislation legalizing marijuana, and the president is expected to sign the bill soon. This will make Uruguay the first country to make marijuana legal. What does this mean for drug policy in the United States and the rest of the world?
Telling Silences: A Doctor’s Tales of Denial by Hillel Halkin M.D. is a book of invitingly-written clinical stories of patients in denial. The stories describe people whose symptoms are dramatic, who don’t tell loved ones or physicians about them, and who “forget” serious diagnoses, sometimes repeatedly.
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s ruling that New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional has been viewed as a blow against racial discrimination. Clearly, the targets of the policy are disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos. But are Latinos a race?
After graduating from college decades ago, I took my meager savings and went off to Paris. I wandered all over the city, and happened on a Jewish district with a lot of ethnic restaurants. I looked over the menus and was surprised that, where I expected to see pastrami, I found couscous instead.
George Zimmerman has been described as white, a white Hispanic, and mixed race—but what race is he really? Discussions of race in the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case have focused on issues of prejudice and stereotypes, but have generally ignored Americans’ confusion about the concept of race.
In the mid-1970s, while I was a visiting professor in Brazil, I supervised research studying the psychological development (cognitive, emotional, and motoric) of Thalidomide adolescents and preadolescents in the state of São Paulo. So you can imagine how upset I was to discover from the BBC News Magazine that the drug is once again causing birth defects in Brazil.
The New York Times “Invitation to a Dialogue: The Myth of ‘Race’,” (coincidentally the title of my recent book) concerned the assertion that the human species has no biological races, and that the race concept has a long history of being used in the service of social injustice. Unfortunately, the published Dialogue ignored cultural differences in the race concept.
Whole, by the author of The China Study, discusses nutritional evidence for a whole food plant-based diet, holism versus reductionism as scientific strategies, and problems confronted by researchers who challenge dominant research paradigms.
People often use the words envy and jealousy interchangeably, but there are important differences between them. Attempts to understand these two emotions usually focus on the ways they are experienced; but there is another way of looking at them that leads to unexpected insights.
In the wake of marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, the University of Oregon School of Law recently hosted a drug policy symposium. Many legislators attended; and there was a feeling among the participants that Oregon could well be the next state to take similar action.
The debate over New York City’s 16-ounce limit on sugary drinks has contrasted the need to combat the obesity epidemic with the need to protect individual rights. The regulation raises the same kinds of issues as the debate over legalizing marijuana and downsizing or ending the War on Drugs.
Many people argue as follows, “How can you say that the human species has no biological races, when blacks get sickle cell anemia and whites don’t?” The mistaken reasoning goes as follows: skin color is inherited, and sickle cell disease is inherited, therefore sickle cell disease is caused by race. Therefore races exist.
Rather than attacking drugs as the cause of crime, corruption, and disease, policy should be aimed at attacking the black market created by the War on Drugs, because it is the black market that causes crime, corruption, and disease.
Understanding race and culture helps us answer the question "Who am I?" and has implications for everything from personal relationships and therapy to social policy, international relations, and beyond.