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Category contains 32 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Career Counseling? A Must in Today's Competitive Envirnoment - By Cindy Eldridge

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Just graduated college and you’re unemployed?  Yen (2012) reveals a bleak reality for college graduates reporting: “…the job prospects for bachelor's degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade” (para. 7).  Describing the dismal underemployment rate for college grads, Yen reports many are waiting tables, bartending, and performing clerical work; all of which fall short of their capabilities and desires.  Depending upon the undergraduate degree, job prospects vary significantly.  Choosing a career, where to live, settling into a lifestyle, estimating rates of pay and figuring out how to achieve it all, warrants substantial thought.  Yen (2012) suggests people need to be scoping out the projected growth areas of occupations, scanning rates of pay and informing themselves about the demand of jobs, in order to reach their goals with today's job market trends.  “About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years” (Yen, 2012, para. 17).  Sharing the plight of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Yen discovered the graduate now works as a construction worker.  His lack of experience, and non-specialized degree has left him underemployed and at times, unemployable.  Yen (2012) surmises those with highly specialized degrees and training, and people holding a high school education are the ones most likely to gain employment while people in the middle are left floundering.  Yen emphasizes that now, more than ever, career decisions have multiple, long-lasting implications for the remainder of life.

Whether you are Generation Y (Echo Boomers) or a Baby Boomer, people from all stages in life appear to have three commonalities: 1) achieve balance between work and personal life, 2) obtain a high level of life satisfaction, and 3) pay the bills.  Katharine Brooks (2012) encourages job seekers to think about the career fields they are considering and evaluate how job experience and education fit into those fields.  Career counselors can help and if you think that seeing a career counselor is simply matching a person to a job, think again!

These specialized counselors are trained to treat the whole person, (a holistic approach) taking into consideration much more than a desired occupation.  Zunker (2005) states: “Career counseling touches all aspects of human life… In the career counseling process all aspects of individual needs (including family, work, personal concerns, and leisure) are recognized as integral parts of career decision making and planning” (p. 3).  Gone are the days of career counselors simply showing you how to write a resume’ and cover letter or how to conduct a successful interview.  While these services are provided, the process of planning a balanced life entails more.  Career counselors are equipped with an array of assessments, counseling techniques, and useful job information specific to geographical areas, but the process cannot be simplified to a person completing an assessment and finding a job.  Today’s career counselors are keenly aware that:  “Choosing and entering an occupation essentially involves a process of clarifying and implementing a work self-concept (Super, 1951, 1953)” (Taber, Hartung, Briddick, Briddick, & Rehfuss, 2011, p. 274).  To assist people, factors such as values, interests, family, self-efficacy, goals, personality, skills, aptitude, motivation, and desired lifestyle can be examined to successfully guide people into balance, reaching salary goals and high life satisfaction.  Rath & Harter, (n.d.) report: “We spend the majority of our waking hours during the week doing something we consider a career, occupation, vocation, or job” (p. 1).  People seek out help for physical problems so why not enlist the expertise of a career counselor to guide you through a career decision or work transition?  According to Robison (n. d.) one of the five essential elements of wellbeing is career wellbeing, i.e., “how you occupy your time – or simply liking what you do every day” (p. 3).  “People with high Career Wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall” (Rath & Harter, n.d.).

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Hit the ground running

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Well, one thing is for sure: when visiting Hong Kong, you have to hit the ground running or get swept away in the chaos. We are staying on the Kowloon side, which is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. So far, we have witnessed or expereinced cabs being snatched (from us as well as from others) by folks with too much hurry and not enough social conscience, elevators crammed into in the most uncomfortable of ways, and even hotel shuttles where British and Austrailian tourists have been pushed out of the way by mainland Chinese tourists desperate to get as much shopping into their vacation as possible. One learns quickly to adapt and survive in such an environment; for example showing cabbies your hotel card BEFORE entering the taxi, rather than once you are speeding down the road. 

The same breakneck pace has defined my teaching experience here in Hong Kong as well. Teaching from 7 - 10:30 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night certainly takes its toll, but the students are warm and eager to learn. On Sunday afternoon I delivered a translated seminar on Sexual Addiction for over 50 individuals at the Hong Kong Institute for Christian Counselors that was well received. Many of the pastors and counselors in attendance communicated their appreciation for our willingness to discuss such a problematic issue so openly. Their consensus was sexual addiciton is a deeply concerning issue in Hong Kong culture that is fueled by similar dynamics faced in the West: accessibility, affordability and anonymity. Additionally, the church in Hong Kong, per the report of those in attendance, has remained largely silent on the issue. As Mark Laaser suggests, "Silence is the greatest enemy of sexual health."

In spite of the hecticness, we were able to escape to historic Stanley Market on the south side of the island and enjoy the local flavor for awhile on Monday. More shopping and relaxing today and tomorrow, then hopefully Macau island on Thursday morning until Friday morning. This week will build up steam quickly. Teaching again Friday night, two conference presentations on Saturday afternoon, teaching Saturday night, Sunday afternoon Sexual Addiction undergraduate class begins, and another lecture for the Assessment class on Sunday night. Adapt. Survive. Hit the ground running.

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Leavin', on a jet plane...

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go." Ok, at least all of the physical details of travel have been checked, double-checked and accounted for. Carry-ons are loaded with snacks and assessment materials. Dress slacks and ties have been dry-cleaned and meticulously placed in the checked luggage. Lectures have been developed and all my devices have a full battery. For all intents and purposes I am ready to travel. With that being said, the line from John Denver's haunting ballad that seems to stir the strongest emotion in my this morning is "Already I'm so lonesome I could die." Ok, not in some melodramatic, woe-is-me, fashion, but more specifically as I think about my two boys, Ethan, 5, and Graham, 3. The greatest blessing I have ever received is my family, and the love that Rebekah and I share for our boys. They aruly are the apple of my eye and the object of so much of my affection. The uncomfortable truth that I have wrestled with in the past 48 hours centers around the fact that I often place more faith in my abilities to raise, protect, comfort and nurutre them than I do in commiting them to the Lord. For whatever reason, I have faith that the Lord will do that for me in every way, but the solid rock becomes sinking sand with the thought of not being there for them and trusting that the Lord will meet their needs, protect their hearts and grow their faith. In many ways, this letting go will be a first of many: kindergarten, driver's license, college, etc. The call to serve in my life has always come with some corresponding sacrifice. As I step into this most incredible of oppotyuinties to use my gifts to serve the Body of Christ, I simumtaneously surrender the fear that I have clung to for so long in my life by trusting that whatever may happen, good, bad or otherwise, that my children are entrusted to the unsurpassed love and affection of their heavenly father. There is no better place for them to be.

As for now, off to the airport, onto the plane and then Tokyo and eventually Hong Kong.

Catch you on the flipside...

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Photo shared by on in Behavioral Sciences

The power of turning, revolution or rotation. As I reflect on the 19-day journey of teaching and speaking I will do in Hong Kong, this word has taken on a more personal meaning for me. The world of physics and magnetics is a far cry from the internal verticity I find myself enduring in recent days. I have noticed a subtle, yet growing, shift in myself during the hecticness and excitement of all this busy year has entailed. From speaking engagements to book writing to managing SATP and beyond, the tectonic plates that are my personal and professional identity on have undergone considerable movement. There is a rotation of perspective and belief that I am keenly aware of as I a prepare myself for what I trust will be an envigorating, challenging, rewarding, demanding, thrilling and taxing whirlwind of a trip. As of now, my greatest insecurity lies in the two presentations I will conduct at the international SOCIAL MEDIA 2013 conference, one titled "Social Media as a Gateway for Internet Addiction, Sex Addiction and Other Addictive Processes", and the other titled "From Geek to Sheik- The Role of Online Education in Training Counselors and Other Service Professionals". As I step into these moments of stress and uncertainty, I will be forced to believe in the essentials of my faith more completely. And what is more terrifying, I will be forced to believe in myself in a different way. In the face of these dynamics, I am reminded of the words that guided me through the peaks and valleys of ministry while directing the Oklahoma State University Nazarene Student Center:

Iasiah 41:8-10

“But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

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Career Article Assignment - By Kristen Donnelly

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Career Article Assignment
Kristen Donnelly
Mid America Nazarene University
Career Article Assignment
In the 2010 article entitled Domestic Violence and Financial Dependency posted on Forbes.com, author Nancy Salamone (a survivor of domestic violence and financial expert) explored the impact of financial and employment woes on victims of domestic violence (DV) and their ability to leave their abusers and/or survive after leaving. Salamone's (2010) article points to several financial barriers to leaving that exist for many victims which include: having dependent children, lack of access to bank accounts, lack of property ownership, and not having employment outside of the home. Salamone (2010) asserts that often when victims or survivors of DV experience these types of roadblocks many of them either end up impoverished, or are forced to go back to their abuser. The article goes on to describe a program founded by Salamone that seeks to help women trying to escape domestic violence by teaching them skills in personal money management, budgeting, and planning for their financial future. (Salamone, 2010, p.1)
While this article highlights the crucial need for victims of DV to achieve financial stability in order to remain free of their abusers, there seems to be something missing. What's missing? The answers to these two questions: 1) How can DV survivors obtain gainful employment that allows them to utilize the skills mentioned above? and 2) How can they work on emotional healing when they have to focus so much on financial survival? This is where the holistic approach of career counseling would play a pivotal role. Consider the notion of self-efficacy, described by Peterson and Gonzalez (2005) as a concept that "...centers on people's sense that they exercise some personal control over events affecting their lives" (p.212). The ability of a victim/survivor of DV (who may've had little control over their own lives) to internalize this concept would be a valuable tool in both their emotional "rebuilding" process and their search for adequate employment.
One career counseling approach that has this construct at its core is the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT). (as cited in Peterson and Gonzalez, 2005, p. 244) SCCT incorporates the client's past and present experiences, descriptive demographics, view of their own abilities, expectations of self and of perceived outcomes, and potential barriers to moving forward successfully, into one large contextual framework from which to begin working on career development. (Peterson and Gonzalez, 2005, p.245)
From this perspective the concept of career counseling for this population is much larger than simply helping an individual to find a job; it becomes a place from which to help them start rebuilding their self-concept and sense of self-worth. In an article by Morris, Shoffner, and Newsome (2009) promoting the relevance of SCCT with battered women leaving abusive relationships, the authors put forth that "...a woman leaving an abusive relationship faces significant psychological barriers to finding a career or job. Her work with a career counselor can be instrumental in changing her negative self-perceptions of abilities, available supports, and barriers" (p.45). It's clear that the career counseling process would likely cause a ripple effect of positive changes in the life of a victim or survivor of DV.
So how does a career-centered counselor begin guiding a victim or survivor of DV through the career counseling process? If using the SCCT approach, the counselor would begin by figuring out what setting is most appropriate and safe to meet with that particular client (i.e. the local library as opposed to a counseling office) in order to explore career possibilities (Morris et. al, 2009, p.48). Here, the client and clinician would work together to set small measurable goals involving either the client's immediate needs and/or career goals. The counselor would assist the client in identifying skills learned for survival (i.e. staying a step ahead of their abuser's moods) and reframe them to fit with career appropriate skills; particularly if the client has never worked outside of the home. (Morris et. al, 2009, p.48)
Morris et. al, (2009) purport that "By accomplishing smaller goals, the client can build her repertoire of personal performance accomplishments...contributing to her career-related self-efficacy and helping her work toward longer term goals" (p.48). As the number of victims of domestic violence continues to climb, it is incumbent upon advocates and clinicians not to ignore the various needs of this population; but to seek ways in which to create safe havens, aid in emotional healing, provide guidance and support, offer resources for employment, and promote self-efficacy. Self-efficacy equals empowerment, and empowerment triumphs over the scars left behind by domestic violence.
References
Peterson, N. & Gonzalez, R.C. (2005). The role of work in people's lives. (2nd ed.).
Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole.
Salamone, N. (2010). Domestic Violence And Financial Dependency. Forbes.com.
Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2010/09/02/women-money-domestic-violence-forbes-woman-net-worth-personal-finance.html
Wachter-Morris, C. A., Shoffner, M. F., & Newsome, D. W. (2009). Career counseling for
women preparing to leave abusive relationships: A social cognitive career theory approach. The Career Development Quarterly, 58, 44-53. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST.

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Graduation and Career - By Rebecca M. Perkins

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Graduation and Career
Rebecca M. Perkins
MidAmerica Nazarene University

Graduation and Career
There are times when students may choose to graduate a semester early, or for various reasons find that they need to delay graduating by a semester. While this may be the best choice for the student either financially or personally, it can make it difficult to find a job (Glazer, 2012). Potential reasons for the difficulty faced is that businesses frequently do their recruiting in the fall for summer openings, and others will wait until the spring to hire entry-level positions (Glazer, 2012). It is important to note that graduating either late or early is not all bad. It can allow graduates to get a jump start, make more connections, and sometimes land positions earlier than those who graduate in May. Graduates should make connections through as many sources as possible: Facebook, friends, holiday parties, LinkedIn, and "fellow alumni, even if you don't know them personally" (Glazer, 2012). Additionally, potential employers may be curious about the timing of the graduation so graduates should be ready to provide a positive response to the inquiry and be able to show how their odd graduation time can be beneficial for the company (Glazer, 2012). Regardless of why the graduate finished up early or late, the graduate should always be honest about the reasons (Glazer, 2012). During the interview, graduates should emphasize responsibility with finances, previous workforce experience, successes with handling a heavy work load, as well as internships and pertinent classes (Glazer, 2012).
Finding a job after graduation can be tough no matter when graduation occurs and needing a job soon after graduation may mean taking something other than a "dream" job. While the job that is landed may not be what the graduate has always hoped to do, it is important that he or she find something that is meaningful and provides joy in order to help maintain an overall sense of wellbeing and keep stress at bay (Rath & Harter, 2010). Common sense says that when a person does something day after day that he or she does not like, then the person's overall level of happiness decreases which can lead to all sorts of problems.
Counselors can be utilized to help address issues related to job dissatisfaction as well as a variety of other issues. Considering that job dissatisfaction is an underlying factor to other problems such as physical health, happiness, and relationships, it should come as no surprise that the use of a counselor for problems related to "the job" are beneficial (Rath & Harter, 2010). Counselors working with clients who struggle with career issues—known as career counselors—can offer a plethora of tools, interventions, and strategies to help guide the client.
Career counselors can offer assessments to help the client determine areas of interest, as well as areas of strength. Using theories related to career counseling, such as Holland's Theory, counselors can use the results of the assessment to help a client find possible career paths that might be more enjoyable. Career counselors can also help clients who struggle with asserting their wants and needs to coworkers and supervisors through assertiveness training. Other areas that career counselors can assist with include résumé writing and interview skills. Needless to say, career counseling can be useful for persons who are entering the job field for the first time, looking at making a transition, needing assistance with "moving up the ladder," or are simply just struggling with their current job placement.

References
Glazer, E. (2012). Off-season job hunting. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324407504578187832521393330.html?mod=e2tw
Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). Your career wellbeing and your identity. Gallup Business Journal. Retrieved from http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/127034/career-wellbeing-identity.aspx

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Crowdsource Your Dating Life

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This interesting article was sent to me by a MidAmerica alum. It describes a woman who sets up a smartphone and a second device, which she uses to video stream her first dates to the internet, and pays for feedback from a crowdsourcing agency. First is the interesting sociological idea of turning over your personal life to a group of strangers. Sociologists Georg Simmel talked about the phenomenon of the role of "the stranger" in our lives. It is like the person we sit next to on an airplane, or the taxi cab driver-- we are willing to share intimate details of our lives with this person because we will never see them again, and they are not connected to our social networks.

Which brings us to the second interesting idea, crowdsourcing. This woman in the article is essentially paying for feedback from strangers, and allows them to send her instructions about what to do next on her date. This idea of crowdsourcing is taking Simmel's idea of the stranger to the next level that technology allows. We can now pay strangers to watch our lives and give us feedback. 

To read the full article, click here. 

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Understanding the Other

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photo  Haiti 

I was challenged recently about the power of the other to reorient one’s perspective and thinking.  The top left picture you see is from a recent vacation cruise my family and I enjoyed as a celebration of my daughter’s high school graduation.  It was a grand trip with lots of food and sun.  The second picture is a stock news photo of the tent cities that still exist in Haiti.  The devastating earthquake of 2010 displaced 25% of the population and over 350,000 people still live in makeshift housing.  The dissonance I so acutely experienced during this particular trip is that both photos are taken in Haiti.  The one on the left is from a sanitized outcropping of the Haitian shoreline acquired by Royal Caribbean Cruise lines as a stop over for its massive seafaring hotels.  The picture on the right is representative of the view many thousands of Haitians experience each day. 

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (2011) began a recent essay with the following words:  “The great challenge of this century, both for politics and for social science, is that of understanding the other.”  He goes on to suggest that there are two ways of knowing.  The first knows an object – like knowing the dimensions of a table, or the solution to an algebraic equation.  This preferred scientific mode of operating involves knowing something to the point that I may gain full intellectual control - so that it can’t “talk back.”  To a large extent my discipline, psychology, has attempted this mode of knowing as it seeks to understand the behavior and mental processes of humans.  It would take too long to outline the less than satisfactory outcomes this mode of operating has produced in the human sciences, suffice to say that the modern scientific project has significant limits when attempting to understand the experience I had in Haiti.  Yes Festinger’s theory of dissonance is an apt description, but it does little to highlight the complex cultural, psychological and religious factors swirling in my mind

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How My Intro to Sociology Class Could Have Predicted the Election

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This 2012 election year I had no prediction for the presidential race. “It’s too close to call,” I would say. But others, like Nate Silver, were able to use statistics to make accurate predictions. I wondered-- why couldn’t sociology help me predict this election?

It turns out it could. With sociology, and some very simple logic, it turns out that sociological ideas could have easily predicted the election. I know, I know. Hindsight is 20/20. But I’m not talking complex social theories. It turns out, that at this point in the semester, my introductory course students had all the sociology information they needed to predict the election-- if they knew what to look for.

So, here are the simple steps to predicting the election, using basic sociology:

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ANTIDEPRESSANTS: EFFICACIOUS OR NOT?

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It’s been 60 years since the original serendipity.  A drug with potential to alleviate tuberculosis was found to improve depressive moods symptoms instead.  In short time, whatever gains were seen in elevating mood was countered by a sustained hypertension that soon became life threatening.  But the race was on to find a psychotropic drug selective for depression.  Tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been and are currently used to treat a large chunk of the population in the US.  More than 1 in 10 Americans take one or more antidepressant medications.

In 2010, 3 books were written uniformly challenging the usage of this #1 medication.  Clinical psychologists Irving Kirsch’s book:  The Emperor’s New DrugsExploding the Antidepressant Myth; journalist Robert Whitaker’s book: Anatomy of an Epidemic—Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness; and psychiatrist Daniel Carlat’s book:  Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry—A Doctor’s Revelations About a Profession in Crisis, all from different perspectives seriously challenging the efficaciousness of these drugs.  A major premise in these books recognizes it is time to lay to rest the old and now discredited theory of chemical imbalances that began this pursuit in the first place.  Kirsch argues that at least 100 studies have over the last few years have failed to support the idea that when the critical neurotransmitters ( norepinephrine and serotonin) have been artificially depleted in normal people, depression becomes the expected consequence.  Furthermore, when the expected imbalance is corrected with medication, advantageous therapeutic effects are not seen for at least 3 to 4 weeks following if seen at all.

Is the advent of antidepressant medications over or should a more incipient variable be considered? A treatise written by Anita Slomski and covered by Brain in the News, May 2012 (www. dana.org) suggests the latter.  She points out that a large per-cent of studies on this issue are sponsored by pharmaceuticals and contain scientific methodological errors.  1.  Subject pools are generally small and consequently a few positive or negative results skew the conclusions.  2.  Subjects selected for trial participation generally have mild to moderate depressive ratings and are rarely the garden variety patients who often have accompanying symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders.  3.  Patients in these trials often show the methodological confound called the “Hawthorn Effect”.  That is, those on a placebo also want to “please” the investigators and report they are getting better.

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The (Sociological) Truth Behind U.S. Embassy Attacks

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A few weeks ago, a U.S. citizen released an anti-Islamic video, which sparked reaction around the world, particularly in Muslim countries which were affected by the rapid changes associated with the Arab Spring of 2011. In the aftermath, several U.S. embassies were overrun, and most notably the U.S. Ambassador to Lybia and other Americans were killed.

The question from a sociological standpoint is: why do these things happen? What is the reason for this strong reaction? And especially important... why did they happen in these countries (Lybia and those who have recently experienced toppled governments), and not other Muslim nations? It is because of a conflict between Islam and Christianity? Is it a conflict between religion and free speech?

As usual, sociologists would look to other hidden factors. Many sociologists of religion have noted that fundamentalism is very often concerned with rejecting or resisting the current cultural trends that are going on around them. Specifically, they are reacting to globalization.

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Beasts of the Wild

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Every once in a while you watch a movie that you think to yourself, I did not have a “good time,” but I would not trade the experience. Beasts of the Southern Wild was just such a film.  Although it made its appearance only briefly in the main movie houses it has been showing at some art houses on a more prolonged bases.  I saw the film a few weeks ago, but the images and emotions of this film still linger and are resonating in my head today. Briefly, the film follows the experiences of a young girl and her father who live in coastal Louisiana as they deal with the onslaught and aftereffects of a hurricane.  From a psychological perspective I found it a delightful invitation to join the subjective experience of a young girl (Hushpuppy) as she traverses the chaos and fracture of her precarious world.  Not only is this world rife with fantasy and vivid characters; her own processing, embedded deeply within her shivery external contexts, is displayed with artful elegance and raw immediacy.  Disconnected and abrupt, without preoccupation to an overarching moral narrative, viewers are drawn into the fragility of personal experience, socioeconomic status, and geography.  It is an emotionally evocative film that does not let one rest even when the credits role. 

The subtext of clashing cultures is also fascinating and brings to mind the admonition of Al Dueck and Kevin Reimer (2009) in their book A Peaceable Psychology.  In this book Dueck & Reimer warn about the implicit assumptions of psychological models that are based on western democratic liberalism.  Although effective in most of the western world, these implicit value assumptions are often based on the eschewal of thick cultural contexts in favor of thin scientific hegemonic solutions.  Dueck & Reimer's caution is that these unreflected assumptions may do violence to the least the last and the lost of our society.  Not only does the film deconstruct current models of helping and institutionalized care, it blatantly highlights the disjunction between those who see themselves as part of an established sociopolitical economic structures tasked with helping the less fortunate and the actual less fortunate, who's suspicion and resistance reflects deep psychological and cultural experiences that are not easily amenable to irresistible benevolence.  This film is an imaginative social and human science case study: Two thumbs way up or 5 popcorn bags (depending on your rating scale).

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Narcissism required?

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Studies have been done that look at personality traits of politicians. In at least one study (Hill & Yousey) that compared politicians, university faculty, clergy, and librarians regarding personality traits an interesting finding occurred. Though not statistically significant, thus the results could be due to chance, politicians were found to score higher than the other groups in Superiority/Arrogance and Exploitativeness/Entitlement. Therefore a question arises, does one need to have some narcissistic qualities to survive the tumultuous journey that is known as politics? What do you think?

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Oh, My Fateful Brain

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Our brain is wired to find meaning in stimuli even when the stimulus lacks clarity of form.  Most notably, we find ourselves constructing images or meaningful features out of clouds and rock formations.  This tendency is called "pareidolia".  Defined; it acknowledges a misperception of a vague stimulus as having distinctiveness.  Such is the case of the well recognized man-in-the-moon image.

Not surprisingly, individuals suffering from hallucinatory tendencies in the schizophrenic syndrome often aggravate pareidolia.  In so doing, they believe the images to be personal revelations just for them.  Unfortunately, many of these images are recognized as threatening or evil, which seems to be true even for the normal brain.

The fusiform cortex sitting underneath the brain in the posterior region is responsible for facial recognition.  Researchers from Dartmouth College have found the brain to be lateralized with respect to objects resembling faces vs. actual faces themselves.  That is, the left fusiform gyrus was more active during fMRI imaging of look-alikes than was the right.

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Can you do it?

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The Olympics are here. The more birthdays I have the more amazing it is to watch the abilities of the Olympic athletes. I have discovered something about myself as an observer and I would like to know where you stand on it?

With twitter, text, and all of the other options available, it can be pretty tough to wait till the evening prime time Olympic coverage to find out the results of that days events. I thought I was someone who was pretty good at delayed gratification. I can wait for things I value, I believed.

Well, what I have found out about myself is that immediate gratification may be more a part of my world than I want to admit. In the last couple of weeks of the Olympic games, I have not turned away once when the news commentators have said "spoiler alert", even though I enjoy watching the events later in the evening during prime time.

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The Olympic Medal Count Leader Is… Grenada?

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Every few years at the Olympics the media and others keep track of the number of medals won by any given country. All the reports this week were topped by the United States and China leading all nations in the number of medals won by athletes from these countries. It makes it appear that the US and China dominate the Olympic sporting world. 

But is that really the case? If we look at the same medal count through sociological eyes, adjusting for important social factors that sociologists study, such as social class, we find that the US and China fall to the middle of the pack. 

For example, let’s adjust for the number of medals won per capita-- this would compare country wins by adjusting for the pool of athletes available to the country. I remember this being a factor as a high school athlete. In my school of 1200 students, we were constantly having to compete with schools that had over 4000 students. We did pretty well considering that we had a much smaller pool of talent from which to draw. So, what happens if you observe the number of medals won taking into account the population of the country? The medal leader in the number of medals per capita is... Grenada. 

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Therapist Liability and the Colorado Theater Shooting

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Should the school psychiatrist who worked with alleged shooter James Holmes be held legally responsible for failing to prevent Holmes from engaging in the attack by notifying the police? How about the university where Holmes was a student, should they be held liable?

According to the Denver Post, Holmes’ psychiatrist at the University of Colorado-Denver contacted the university’s Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team about Holmes, but that the matter was not pursued because he began the process of withdrawing from the institution. This Christian Science Monitor article discussing potential legal liability notes that Colorado requires doctors to inform the police if a patient makes a specific threat against an individual. These types of laws recognize that psychiatrists have a duty to protect individuals threatened by their clients. If a psychiatrist fails to warn the police or the threatened individual, and the client carries out the threatened harm, then the psychiatrist can be sued for monetary damages. Many of these laws stem from Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, a case from 1976 where a college student killed an ex-girlfriend after telling his psychologist that he was going to commit the murder.

As more details become public about the relationship between Holmes and his psychiatrist one crucial element will be the exact communications made by Holmes. Did he actually make a specific threat to shoot people in a movie theater? Why did the psychiatrist contact the Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team? Was it based on specific statements or a general view that the person may be a danger to himself or others? A person can seem dangerous without any overt, specific threats being made. What if the psychiatrist felt that Holmes was probably not a danger but contacted the Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team to get an additional opinion? How should the law deal with these liability issues without resorting to 20/20 hindsight?

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Colorado Theater Shooting and the Insanity Defense

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The shooting spree allegedly committed by James Holmes during the premiere of the new Batman movie in an Aurora, Colorado theater resulted in the death of 12 people. According to authorities and the New York Times Holmes planned the shooting far in advance. He gathered an arsenal of weapons, utilized some form of noxious gas, and set up a series of explosives to detonate in his apartment with the purpose of injuring investigators. In addition to this planning, the alleged shooter, Holmes, was a promising neuroscience student (not exactly a cakewalk subject).

Contrast this preparation and the identity of the shooter with the act itself. Motive: none readily apparent. Victims: random. This doesn’t fit with our conceptions of crime. I might understand to a certain extent (but never condone) a person killing another out of revenge, greed, or anger. When a disgruntled employee engages in a workplace shooting, at some level we can explain this behavior based upon our human experience. The shooter was angry and was seeking revenge. In the Colorado case the victims are unrelated to the alleged shooter. There was no profit motive beyond the apparent desire to murder as many people as possible in as dramatic a fashion as possible. When these types of crimes occur, oftentimes our default explanation is that the perpetrator must be crazy.

At this point it is unknown whether the defense in this case will attempt to use the insanity defense. As noted in the Christian Science Monitor, the Colorado insanity defense requires clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was suffering from a mental disease and failed to know the difference between right and wrong. This is a high standard. First, clear and convincing proof requires more than a preponderance of the evidence. The best way this legal speak can be broken down, albeit in a somewhat nebulous manner, is by saying that the clear and convincing standard requires the fact-finder to be more than 51% sure and less than 99% sure. Second, it will be difficult to argue that a person with Holmes’s level of education, combined with the obvious wrongfulness of the act, was unable to know the difference between right and wrong.

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Psychology and Assumptions

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Someone asked me once what I thought was one of the most basic psychological mistakes people make? After some contemplation I came to the conclusion that the "halo effect" was something I observed in others quite often. The halo effect, coming from studies in social psychology, is when an impression one has about someone (either positive or negative impressions) is generalized to their entire personality. For example, to assume that an attractive person is honest, hardworking, mentally healthy, and dependable; or,  that someone seen as unattractive is more than likely lazy, dishonest, mentally unhealthy, and likely to exploit others.

Difficulties can occur when one assumes various qualities about someone based simply upon initial observations. Also, those that understand the power of the halo effect can use it to their advantage and will therefore be very careful about how they come across to those they seek something from (such as money, opportunity, votes, etc.).

Being careful not to make quick judgements or decisions, allowing for time to pass to observe consistency, or really checking out formal or informal references, are bits of advice that have some valuable wisdom running through them. What about you? Can you think of a time when you incorrectly assumed someone was one way or another, based on some impression they made upon you? Are you becoming more effective at not committing the halo effect?

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Sociology Actually: Blanket Norms

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blanketparkJust for fun, a Summer sociology blog thought...

I was at the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in Kansas City, and sitting with a friend, we were talking about how sociology is actually, all around. Very often the invisible social rules that we all play by are in place to limit our individual desires, and to define the situation that might otherwise be undefined.

As we waited for the play to start, there we began discussing the social rules that govern our behavior. Right there in front of us were a number of rules related to seating in an open air park that were all put in place to balance the tension between what we want to do as individuals, and what we must give up as individuals in order to have the benefits of social order. There were some rules that were formal-- written down by the event organizers-- no sitting in the "aisles" (which in the grass field were outlined by yard lights), and there was a section for taller lawn chairs, and a section for blanket seating which were marked off by signs.

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About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.