When the women’s movement spoke up for the value of women it rebelled against the traditional gender stereotypes and proclaimed equality between the sexes. It quite rightly opposed any idea of male superiority and female subservience. Some fear that any talk of gender is only a short step from women being different to being inferior … Continue reading Gender – Are there deep differences?
Morality has a bad press. It smacks of being judgemental and a blaming attitude. Discrimination is out and tolerance is in. Anything goes these days as long as it doesn’t cause harm. Many people do not think in terms of morality yet they feel that decisions should be made on the basis of the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Those, who deny there are any personal rights and wrongs, nevertheless, emphasize the ideals of love, holism, and self-improvement. And even criminals usually acknowledge their crime is wrong deserving punishment if they are caught. So the question remains just how does one know what really is right and wrong?
Is it good to talk about the private lives of public figures? Like the sexual seductions of Dominique Straus-Khan, managing director of the IMF? This is someone who was heading for high political office. Or the widely reported affair of footballer Ryan Giggs with Big Brother star Imogen Thomas? What is more important — the human right to a private life or the media’s freedom of expression? Can talking about people we know be a good thing?
Some people are just harder to get on with than others. Obvious examples are those who are highly strung, aggressive or manipulative. They may need spiritual healing, but what do we need? What is the secret to avoiding unpleasant scenes with people who cause us a bit of grief from time to time? To better deal with the awkward mob?
A clue can be found in the study of social perception. Research psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert, University of Texas at Austin has pointed out:
“We may strive to see others as they really are, but all too often the charlatan wins our praise and the altruist our scorn. Juries misjudge defendants, voters misjudge candidates, lovers misjudge each other.”
Social psychologists have researched the way we see others in terms of attribution theory. This is studying how people make inferences about the causes of a person’s actions. One thing they have observed is how our expectations about how other people will behave can distort our interpretations. We may assume that the little old lady who bumps into us at the supermarket is someone with unintended poor balance whereas the tattooed hooded youth might be thought to be trying to pick our pockets. Mistaken perception can thus arise from social stereotypes, such as race, sex and age.