How Should Racism Be Defined?

The word racism has been used to refer to hostile acts, antagonistic emotions, negative attitudes, and specific beliefs. An anthropological definition offers conceptual clarity. 

Is Anthropology Scientific? Beats Me.

 As I tried to figure out whether or not anthropology was scientific, I was reminded of Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass.

Which Is In A Bigger Mess Over Culture—Psych. or Anthro. ?

I was dismayed, if not surprised, by Alice Dreger's post, No Science, Please. We're Anthropologists. The removal of references to "science" from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) mission statement pulled the rug out from under cross-cultural psychologists. 

The Trouble With Double-Blind Placebo Studies

Double-blind placebo studies have been called the gold standard for testing medications, especially psychiatric ones. Unfortunately, there are significant problems with double-blind placebo studies.

Who Is Asian?

 An Iranian immigrant to the US described to me his first contact with American racial concepts. He had to fill out a form and label himself with one of the listed options. When he chose Asian, he was told "You aren't Asian."

Leave Marijuana Regulation to the States

There are striking parallels between alcohol prohibition during the Great Depression and marijuana prohibition during our current Great Recession. The lessons learned from the repeal of Prohibition have a lot to tell us about the marijuana policy choices that we now confront.

Why Isn't There A French Race?

 There are all kinds of Latinos from all kinds of places...and there are also all kinds of French speakers and their descendants in the United States. But there is no folk term like Latino to group the French into a "racial" category. Why not?

Are American Friendships Materialistic?

In response to my last post, an immigrant from Eastern Europe expressed the view that Americans do not see others as "human beings with whom they can form deep and real relationships;" and the comment placed primary responsibility on "the materialist culture and some form of deep selfishness formed as a result."

Are American Friendships Superficial?

A German woman living in the United States was describing her likes and dislikes about the U.S.On the positive side, she was enthusiastic about the opportunities for work and advancement. On the negative side, however, she complained that American friendships are superficial.

The Census and Race—Part VI—Trends and Lessons Learned

Looking over the "race" questions on the censuses from 1790 through 2010--variously labeled as (a) free white/other free/slave (b) color (c) color or race (d) is this person (e) race--and the widely varied options for answering them, it is easy to see that they have varied greatly over time. Several trends are evident in these variations.

The Census and Race—Part V—Recent Censuses

1990 census, as well as the two subsequent ones, used only the term "race"--thereby insisting on this category definition. It allowed individuals to choose only one of six races.

The Census and Race—Part IV— Civil Rights and the Cold War

The end of de jure segregation and racial discrimination led to changes in American culture that were accompanied by changes in the "racial" categories and concepts used by the census. The 1950 census was the first to use the term "race" as the sole descriptor.

The Census and Race—Part III— Jim Crow

The 1890 census terms mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon reify the non-scientific American folk concept of blood. Blood is a biological entity, and many people inaccurately believe that it is the same as genes. The following explanation shows why they are wrong.

The Census and Race—Part II—Slavery (1790-1860)

The government's official census website justifies asking individuals to list their race by saying that the question has been "Asked since 1790." This is not an accurate statement.

The Census and Race—Part I--Key Issues

The 2010 Census is well on its way to completion. Its controversial questions about race have raised many issues that deserve to be explored in depth. This is the first post in a multi-part series dealing with the census's race questions and what we can learn from them about science, politics, and American culture. 

New Perspectives on the Science vs. Religion Debate

How does what psychology and the social sciences have to say about the science vs. religion debate differ from the perspectives of the physical and biological sciences? And in what ways has science contributed to anti-science?

Why Twin Studies Don't Separate Genes and Environment

Many claims have been made about the degree to which genes and environment affect personality, intelligence, and various forms of behavior. A key source of evidence is provided by twin studies.

Surprising Facts about Races

How can you say there are no races, when people from Norway, Nigeria, and Japan look so different from one another? And how can you explain the existence of racism, if races don't exist? 

Cultural Misunderstandings

At a psychology conference in England years ago, a woman said to me "I'll knock you up in the morning." I was initially taken aback by her bizarre suggestion, but it did occur to me that I might not understand her intent.


Humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos are three different but closely related species. What is a species? What can apes and mules tell us about humans and races?

Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages seem odd-or even wrong--to most Americans. Traditional cultures also have a negative view of Western love marriages. Why are arranged marriages so common around the world? What are their advantages and disadvantages? 


Are Latinos a race? Is there any difference between the terms Hispanic and Latino? The ways the 2010 census categorizes race conflict with American cultural categories.

Who Sits Where in the Car?

Who drives when men and women are in a car? Who sits in the front and who sits in the back?  


What should white people be called? Is Caucasian a scientific classification? What is the origin of the term?


What constitutes modest dress? What is the relationship between sexual behavior and the degree to which clothing covers or reveals the body?

Lula, Obama, and Race

When Brazil's President Lula said "I am a fan of Obama. He is the first US president who has our face." what did he mean? Was it a racially insensitive comment? Might it have different meanings to Brazilians and Americans? 

What Are You?

It is difficult to tell if some people are white, black, Latino, or something else. How do others react to them? In what way is their situation like that of Norwegian reindeer herders? 

Harry Potter and the Racial Misunderstanding

A black character doesn't appear in a German translation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. What does this mean?  

How Come Other Folks All Look Alike?

Most whites believe that whites look more different from one another than blacks, and most blacks believe the opposite. Why is this? Is either group right?

What is An Inter-racial Family Like?

What was it like raising a child in a family like Barack Obama's? What lessons can be learned?