Call for papers

Get reacquainted with the Amsterdam Social Science: A postgraduate journal for publication of academic articles and essays on contemporary, everyday analyses.

Amsterdam Social Science (ASS) is a biannual journal jointly funded between the UvA, VU and Nuffic. The journal was founded in 2012 by students who wanted to create a platform for high quality work that often doesn’t go further than a marker’s desk. We are a multidisciplinary home for fresh perspectives, new ideas, tryouts, untested methods and unknown territory. Currently, ASS is organized by students and alumni from both participating universities. The journal publishes double-blind peer-reviewed articles and essays written by Master, PhD and postdoc students from Amsterdam and abroad. Available both digitally and as a hard copy, ASS is the leading journal in Amsterdam for discussions related to the Social Sciences.

The journal has a new board and the team is looking to bring it back up to speed with more frequent issues as of September 2017.

Submit!
Do you have an essay or article that you think should be read by a wider audience, do you want to publish the results of your thesis, or are you wanting to contribute to a future focussed publication? With ASS Journal, postgraduate students have an opportunity to realize these wishes.

During the revision process writers can expect excellent support from the our editors, working in tandem with them to ensure that our style and quality requirements are met. Due to our peer reviewed, double-blind process, published work in ASS obtains a mark of quality.

The journal is open to receiving papers all year round. More information can be found at socialscience.nl

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Volunteer: gain hands on experience alongside fellow students by becoming a board member. When vacant, positions are listed at socialscience.nl/category/vacancies

We are often looking for editors and peer reviewers, e-mail: info@socialscience.nl


 

How to go from black tie to bathing suit? Gendered reflections on conference processes that shape our careers

By Luzan Koster & Thijs Willems | Reading time: 8 minutes

For many scholars, summer time means conference time. In winter we write an engaging abstract or paper to get accepted for a relevant conference. In summer we present our work to our scientific community who can challenge our line of thought. We hop from conference room to conference room to attend the presentations of others and engage in stimulating conversations during breaks and social events. Indeed, participating in conferences entails learning how to become a scholar and includes network activities that help sharpening our paper’s argument. The process therefore is a valuable and vital part of our work. But is this process as easy breezy as it sounds?

Smart debating does not only take place in the formal setting of conference buildings. Participants meet in various foreign countries, where one location is even more exotic than the other. In fact, so we argue in this blog, the informal events during conferences may potentially mark how our careers unfold. During such events, the boundaries between the formal/informal and professional/personal become blurred. This should urge us to be more aware of our role and that of others during conferences. We address this issue from one specific perspective: we show how our gender may shape how informal events at conferences are experienced.

Sunny setting

The following story takes place with the beautiful emerald blue Ionian Sea as its background. Here, at a yearly symposium, scholars gather to overthink theory and methods based on the theme ‘Process Philosophy’. The protagonists of the story are two PhD students, one male and the other female, who try to find subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to blend in with ‘the professionals’. The convenor opens with: “This is not just a conference but a symposium, emphasizing the importance of good food, drinks, and company”. Work goals and holiday moods might seem contradictory, but scholars widely agree that the open and relaxed atmosphere is inspiring. Yet, it may be hard to follow work ethics when you are invited to after curriculum activities…

Conference evening of a woman: “Gender trouble”!

Tonight is the conference dinner, so I do my hair and put on a black springy gown. The long dress has a closed neckline and small see-through at the back, nothing too revealing. There normally are no strict dress codes, but most women do their best and bring their party clothes. When my Dutch colleagues and I arrive at the open-air venue, almost all tables covered with white linen at the seaside are already taken. The last table is held by only one man, so we ask if we can join him. We start talking and laughing, and when his group of friends arrives, we mingle. It turns out, the man is a renowned professor, but hierarchical positions do not matter now.

We move to a beach club to have more drinks. Everyone gets a big summery cocktail and sits down at the luxurious lounge. One of our new friends starts chartering everyone to go for a dive in the sea under the moonlight. While our group of the evening seems to have no problem to take their suits off, the rest of the conference participants raise their eyebrows. I feel somewhere in between, which presents a dilemma. On one hand, I do not want to be a spoiler and break the newly forged bond with an interesting group of scholars. On the other hand, I wonder how the image of my half naked body could harm my reputation in this scientific community! I hear a splash; the professor has dived in.

Conference evening of a man: Free your mind

Getting back to my room after an exhausting conference day, I take a cold shower to cool off. I unpack my suitcase to select the most fitting attire for tonight’s conference dinner. But what to wear? Stay on the safe side and wear something formal and too warm for the Mediterranean summer nights? “They won’t dislike me because of my choice of clothes”, I convince myself, “and besides, I’m a man and they would probably respect my laissez-fair attitude”. I hop on my comfortable short and airy t-shirt, and a few minutes later I am sipping a lovely local white wine with colleagues. Once seated, I notice that, while most women are dressed in a similar style as the luxurious setting of the restaurant, the other men wear their shorts, sandals, and half open shirts too.

At our table, theoretical approaches are casually merged in dinnertime stories. A heated discussion arises on Judith Butler’s ideas of ‘gender performativity’, referring to the fact that our gender is not given by nature, but very much socially constructed; the meaning of gender is created by humans as we act according to socially accepted and desired behavior. We leave the issue and move to the seaside bar where waves rhythmically hit the shore. When my mojito is almost finished, some part of our crew has raised the idea of a midnight swim. I waver for a second, hesitant to the idea of taking off my clothes in front of future colleagues. But the crowd clearly expects me to show some bravery, and shouts: “Come on man, don’t worry too much”. We jump in.

“Bodies that matter”: normative chains?

The work of Judith Butler (1990, 2011) shows that our gendered behavior is always to some extent prescribed by roles, gestures, clothing, and speech that are socially desired, depending on our male or female body. Our stories above indeed reflect how our body and gender influenced our thoughts, doubts, emotions, and choices for action. Whereas females usually ‘have to’ behave according to some undefined feminine standard, their scholarly male counterparts can break the rules as this portrays some undefined sense of ‘masculinity’. A woman may be frowned upon when dropping her dress, showing her body, to dive into the water, while a man may be applauded for having the guts to do so.

In no way, of course, we mean to say that women are determined to behave as women, and neither that there would only be one way that a man is expected to behave. The variations are endless and gender comes in many different shapes. However, what we want to address with this blog is that conferences are not some self-evident trips just for fun (in Dutch: ‘snoepreisjes’). When it comes to informal events at conferences, it matters ‘who we are’ and ‘how we are seen’. Especially so when we consider that there may be a difference, or tension even, between who we are as a scholar and who we are in private time. There are certain rules and expectations we should be aware of, which can play out differently for men and women.

In the process of becoming a scholar, PhD’s are often asked what kind of scholar we want to be. Seniors advise us to carefully think through our written work and to reflect on producing novel, exiting work as opposed to automatically following the main stream. However, what about informal factors? Who we meet at conferences affects our research perspectives and interests, opportunities for future projects and jobs. If conferences and informal networking are career changers, do we really have a choice to break conventions? What are the consequences if we do or don’t? How do these choices differ for men and women?

We hope this blog has inspired you to better reflect on your own role during informal events. For now: Happy conference season! 


Luzan Koster is a PhD candidate in the department of Organization Sciences. Her research focuses on ‘the interpretation of the new discourse by patients, professionals and informal caregivers and on the way this affects their identities‘.

Thijs Willems is a PhD candidate in the department of Organization Sciences. His research focuses on ‘The role of collaborative routines during disruptions in the Dutch railway system’. 

References

Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (2011). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex.” London: Routledge.

Brexit: Dirty, Spicy or Hairy? Why Metaphors Matter

By Britta Brugman | reading time: 6 minutes

Even for me as a teacher and researcher in political science, explaining world politics to students is often a challenge. The main reason is that many political issues and events are also difficult to understand. Fortunately, politicians often use metaphors that help me explain the political world to my students better. The metaphors I choose to use, however, considerably influence how my students understand the political issues and events under discussion.

Metaphors are figures of speech that define one concept in terms of another concept. In politics, metaphors work by connecting political concepts to non-political concepts. Political debates that are often explained metaphorically are EU debates. For instance, the most common way to discuss Brexit is by referring to a “hard Brexit” or “soft Brexit”. Yet, what does it mean when Brexit is described as “dirty”, “spicy” or “hairy?

Hard or soft Brexit

The metaphors “hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” compare the negotiations between the EU and UK to the firmness of objects like rocks or pillows. They define how much the EU and the UK are prepared to compromise on issues such as UK’s access to the EU’s internal market. A “hard Brexit” implies firm positions of both parties and therefore a total divorce of the UK from the EU. In contrast, a “soft Brexit” implies that both parties will maintain as close a relationship as possible.

Clean or dirty Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May introduced alternative metaphors to the Brexit debate. She uses the metaphor “clean Brexit” to describe the UK’s strategy in the Brexit negotiations. Political opponents within the EU have responded that a “dirty Brexit” may instead be more likely. The words clean and dirty generally mean the degree to which objects or places are cleaned and organised. By using the metaphor “clean Brexit” Theresa May emphasises a “clean break” from the EU, meaning that the UK will leave quickly and completely. A “dirty Brexit” rather entails no agreement after months of deliberation.

Nevertheless, there are multiple interpretations of the metaphors “clean Brexit” and “dirty Brexit” possible. They may for example also encourage people to think about the integrity of the Brexit negotiations. A “clean Brexit” would imply that the EU and UK take their time to negotiate a precise, comprehensive and mutually beneficial deal. A “dirty Brexit” may indicate hasty and unfounded judgements. The interpretation of these metaphors thus depends on the context in which they are used and the politicians who use them. 

Spicy or mild Brexit

In one of their reports, the European Commission has spoken about a “mild Brexit” scenario, which would be the opposite of a “spicy Brexit”. The words mild and spicy usually indicate whether or not food has a strong hot flavour. In the context of Brexit, one of the most straightforward interpretations is that the words illustrate the degree of consensus between the two parties about important decisions. A “spicy Brexit” is for instance characterised by increased tension between politicians, while in a “mild Brexit” scenario there may not be as much political conflict.

Hairy or shaven Brexit

Finally, Boris Johnson has even warned the UK public for the possibility of a “hairy Brexit”. The positive equivalent of this metaphor would be something like a “shaven Brexit”. In ordinary language, the words hairy and shaven indicate the amount of hair on a body. However, with regard to Brexit, Johnson meant to stress the perceived complexity of the negotiations between the EU and UK. Whereas a “hairy Brexit” is complex and potentially dangerous in terms of the political and economic implications, a “shaven Brexit” may simply run relatively smoothly.

Metaphorical reasoning

Taken together, these examples show how different metaphors can influence our understanding of political issues and events differently. The metaphors “hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” limit our understanding of Brexit to what outcomes the EU and UK want to achieve. At the same time, metaphors like “dirty Brexit”, “spicy Brexit” and “hairy Brexit” focus on the nature of the negotiations (integrity, political conflict, complexity). These metaphors each emphasise a different aspect of Brexit, which means that they can only provide a complete picture of the political dynamics of Brexit when they are used in combination.

Previous research shows that the degree in which metaphors influence our understanding of politics depends on multiple factors. My own research also focuses on examining when political metaphors are most persuasive. One factor that already seems to be important is the complexity of the topic. The more a political topic is difficult to understand, the more likely people are to rely on metaphors to understand political debates. Since many political issues and events are considerably complex to begin with, metaphors can play a crucial role in our political reasoning.

Thus, explaining world politics to my students becomes easier by using metaphors but it is important to be aware of how these metaphors may influence their understanding of political issues and events. Because each metaphor uses a different non-political concept as the basis for comparison, each metaphor emphasises different aspects of the political concepts under discussion. Therefore, to do justice to the complexity of today’s political world, a diverse set of metaphors is necessary to make my students adequately understand world politics.


Britta Brugman is a PhD candidate in the department of Political Science & Public Administration. Her research focuses on ‘the effects of metaphorical frames on voters’ political attitudes‘.

References

Brugman, B. C., Burgers, C., & Steen, G. J. (2017). Recategorizing political frames: A systematic review of metaphorical framing in experiments on political communication. Annals of the International Communication Association, 41(2), 181-197. doi:10.1080/23808985.2017.1312481

Burgers, C., Konijn, E. A., & Steen, G. J. (2016). Figurative Framing: Shaping public discourse through metaphor, hyperbole and irony. Communication Theory, 26(4), 410–430. doi:10.1111/comt.12096

Lakoff, G. (2002). Moral politics: How liberals and conservatives think. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Annual PhD Day ’17

Friday afternoon May 19th from 14.00-17.00pm, we will have our annual PhD day! This lively afternoon is filled with a variety of research conducted by PhD candidates of the Faculty of Social Sciences from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We would like to welcome you all to drop by at the Department of Organization Science (3rd floor, Wing A).

PhD’s can join the PhD day by oral or poster presentations, you can register your contribution in a google document. Please provide:

  • Your name
  • Your department
  • A preliminary title (50 words max.)
  • A short intro of your topic (100 words max).
  • Select one option: A poster presentation or an oral presentation.

Previous PhD days were a huge success thanks to the large number of faculty members paying a visit to the presentations and we look forward to an even higher attendance this year.

Facts or myths about the brain? Check your knowledge after March for Science!

By Ewa Międzobrodzka | Reading Time: 4 Minutes

On April 22nd scientists around the world went out of their university labs and offices and joined the March for Science. They marched to show society how important evidence-based research is. I joined the March in Amsterdam.  As a young brain-researcher I would like to raise people’s awareness about popular fake information about brain that many people consider to be true. I decided raise awareness about brain facts and myths, because according to the international report (Howard-Jones, 2014) many teachers believe in neuro-myths and that may negatively influence the way they teach students at schools, or even at universities… For that reason, I prepared a short quiz about the brain for the March for Science. I shared it with the March attendees. Here you can learn more about popular neuro-myths and re-take the quiz!

Did you select your answers? Now you can check them: Only statement 3,7 and 10 were correct! All other statements are neuro-myths – popular fake believes about the brain. How many correct answers did you have? Are you curious how many teachers from different countries mistook brain-myths as brain-facts?

In 2014 Paul Howard-Jones published his report about neuromyths among teachers from the UK, the Netherladnds, Turkey, Greece, and China in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Recently, together with my colleauge, Krzysztof Cipora, we replicated the findings from Paul Howerd-Jones in Poland among a group of teachers, as well as undergraduates, high school students and adult readers of a popular-science Polish online portal (Badania.net).  Despite different countries, the most popular neuromyths are number (2), (3), and (4). Below, you can find detailed information about the percentage of people who agreed with false statement about the brain.

Does it matter?

Perhaps you’re wondering now “Well, I’m not a neuroscientist… does it matter at all if I believe in myths of facts about brain?”. Yes, it does matter. For example, if you’re a teacher or a student your misbeliefs about brain may affect the way you’re teaching or learning. Moreover, you could save a lot of time and money by not spending them on “brain-trainings” like Lumosity that may actually NOT train your brain according to the research.

Take action and march for science!

As a (young) scientist I feel responsible for good quality of science communication and science popularization. I personally think that our scientific research findings should be shared with society in a way more accessible manner to lay audiences. Perfect opportunities for that are science blogging (like the Socializing Science blog), popular-science presentations (e.g. TED), and popular-science books (e.g., see Kijken in het brein – book in Dutch about brain). I hope that thanks to scientists’ involvement in science popularization, we could limit the misbeliefs about science, for example in myths about brain. That is why we should take action and march together, march for science!

 

Below you may find a few pictures from March for Science:

 


Ewa Międzobrodzka is a psychologist and a PhD candidate at the Department of Communication Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In her PhD project she investigates possible effects of violent video games on social and cognitive skills of adolescents. Her passion is neuroscience and science popularization.

 

Dealing with the review process – The artist and the PhD

Thijs WillemsBy Thijs Willems / Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Imagine you’re an artist. You’re a painter currently carefully transforming an empty canvas into a magical landscape. No less than eight months you spent inside your musty little attic room to paint. But without complaining for a second, as you believe to be creating what will become your masterpiece. Autumn passed, as you were convinced that the colors of the leaves falling off the tree would be inspiration enough to turn the white canvas into a mosaic of playful colors. Winter was spent inside, to reflect the shadows and contrasts in the sky onto your painting in order to give it that necessary touch of drama. The summer passed and, instead of enjoying warm, long evenings in the park with your friends and a bottle of wine, you spent hour after hour to capture the right hue of color for the sunbeams behind the clouds.

Picture1

Eight months passed and, after much deliberation, you decide the time has come to show your masterpiece to the public. You invite an eclectic bunch of experts, big names and hotshots in the world of art, to give their initial thoughts and suggestions. They seem to love it! “Amazing colors, I can see you put your heart in it”, says one. “This is really interesting, it tells the Big Story of Life”, another adds.

The conversation continues for a while, and after all the compliments have been shared, the Cubist starts: “But…” As an artist you’re used to critique, so you recognize this word as the start of some, hopefully constructive, commentary.

“But… you really need to add some straight lines to make it more contemporary.” The others nod. The Minimalist: “I agree, but I also think you’ve painted way too much. Too much is happening on the sides of the painting, way too much.” Finally, the Impressionist adds: “I agree with the aforementioned comments. And yet… You haven’t captured the true essence of the sun. There’s too much detail and I’d rather see short, thick strokes of paint.” The experts leave and, slightly blown away, you start redoing your masterpiece with care. To satisfy the Minimalist, you cut off three inches from the sides of the painting; for the Impressionist to be happy, you transform the subtle colors of the sun into thick, broad patches of yellow and red; to make your painting more contemporary, as the Cubist requested, you fill the sky with random squares. You slowly step back to ponder your masterpiece and in awe you come to realize that this is not your work anymore.

This story could easily be told in a different context, where the PhD is the artist, the painting his/her paper, and the experts the reviewers of a journal. Getting your work published may be a daunting task, especially for new scholars. You spent a great deal of time, energy, and sometimes even love, in writing about your research. You are the proud artist of this text and you feel it is a worthwhile read for others in your field. You know you will have to reach this broader public by getting your paper published in one of the journals in your field. You finish the paper, submit it to a journal, wait, wait some more, wait a bit longer, and then you finally receive the review reports. It may be a desk rejection (the most common response of journals), a major or minor revision, or a straightforward acceptance (that seldom happens).

In my opinion, the major revision is the most challenging kind of review report to deal with. It often implies the editor and reviewers see, somewhere hidden between the lines of your text, the merits or contributions of your paper. The reviewers, then, often ask questions, critique your argument or provide suggestion on how to make the still implicit contribution of your paper more explicit. This may often involve serious and even impossible requests: “You position your paper in the context of Theory A, but we think it is more appropriate for Theory B, C or D. Please write a new paper”; “The theoretical point is really interesting, but the research is not convincing enough. Do the research again”; “We need much more detail in the theoretical and empirical part of the paper. Also elaborate your discussion further and include points 1 to 7. Oh… and please shorten the paper with at least 2,000 words”; “I don’t like your chosen methodology. Can you make a survey study out of your ethnographic data?”

I exaggerate a little bit, but the point I’m trying to make is that the review process is challenging, especially when you realize ‘your’ paper turns into a text that is different than you had intended. Below are some suggestions that may help you deal with this process:

  1. Even in case of a major revision, realize the reviewers and editors see considerable potential in your paper. Congratulations!
  2. In case of truly rigorous revisions you need to deal with a dilemma: re-write your paper to satisfy the reviewers with a chance on publication, re-write the paper and still end up with a rejection and a paper that only remotely looks like yours anymore, thank the journal and find another outlet (although the chances are pretty high the process at the other journal might be quite similar)
  3. When do you submit your paper? It might be easier to re-write a paper that was good enough but not yet perfect than a paper in which every word or punctuation mark has been deliberated at least three times. Maybe write a paper that is good enough to be taken in review? The perfect paper does not exist and reviewers will always have certain demands for a revision
  4. Make a careful choice about the fit between your paper and the journal you plan to submit to. Be aware of the current debates, what interests the readers of this journal, what is their writing style, etc. The reviewers need to understand why they should publish your paper instead of one of the other 50 submissions.
  5. Turn the problem around: journals have a ‘problem’ too (see Hollenbeck, 2008). They often have very limited space to publish interesting work, so the role of editors is to find the right paper to attract readers.
  6. Use footnotes. Sometimes, the reviewers want you to expand on certain concepts while you simply do not have the space to do so. You can still acknowledge their comments (and show the readers of your paper you have considered alternatives), without taking up too many valuable words.
  7. Treat the reviewers as experts, as in most cases they will be (provided you chose a respectable journal). So, their suggestions are not meant just as critique but are actually potential ways to make your paper more interesting.
  8. However, do not follow all suggestions religiously. Show some guts and refuse certain points of critique if you do not agree with them. However, always write an extensive cover letter when you submit the revision. Here you can explain choices made, how you went about revising the paper, and carefully argue why you did not follow some of the reviewers’ suggestions. In the end, this is all of help in constructing a more convincing argument.
  9. Leave the review report for a while. The moment you receive a report that contains more pages than your initial submission, it is quite difficult to digest it all at once. Read it, leave it, and then read it again after a week or so.
  10. Read the reports together with colleagues. They are a little more distanced than you are and will probably be able to distinguish the reviewers’ main points from only minor remarks.
  11. If all still does not go well, ventilate your aggression. I highly recommend the Facebook page ‘Reviewer 2 Must Be Stopped
  12. There may be many more tips… Please share your tips below!

In the end, the goal is to end up with a paper that has become better. A part of becoming a scholar is, perhaps, to learn how to deal with critique and use it to your own advantage. Even Albert Einstein’s applications have been rejected.

2

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Thijs Willems is a Phd candidate in the Organizational Science department. His research projects focuses on ‘The role of collaborative routines during disruptions in the Dutch railway system’.

References:

Hollenbeck, J. R. 2008. The role of editing in knowledge development: Consensus shifting and consensus creation. In Y. Baruch, A. M. Konrad, H. Aguinus, & W. H. Starbuck (Eds.), Journal editing: Opening the black box: 16 -26. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Congratulations to Andrea Bandelli

By Socializing Science / Watching Time: 10 Minutes

On April 18, 2016 Andrea Bandelli successfully defended his Phd thesis entitled Contextualising Visitor Participation:Science Centers as a Platform for Scientific Citizenship”.

Andrea Bandelli examined how science museums support this scientific citizenship from the perspective of the museum and its visitors. He found that these museums are places where the public is encouraged and empowered to talk about science, especially the less educated visitors, who have few other opportunities to get involved in science.

Science centers and science museums are not just places where visitors can learn about science; They are also a forum for discussions and debates on the role of science in society. They are, as it were platforms where visitors are “scientific citizens”: places where visitors learn about science and participate in the discussions that shape the role of science and technology in our society.

Bandelli notes that science centers play an important role in the “democratization” of public participation in science. At the same time however, there are barriers that keep them from fully engaging the involvement of the public. For example, fear of doing it wrong, which may block further action.

For more information on Andrea Bandelli, visit his website   at : http://www.bandelli.com

Socializing Science would like to congratulate him and invite you all to watch his defense in this clip.

Early Summer Workshops at the Graduate School of Social Science

socscivu

The Graduate School of Social SciencePh.D. Comic 1s (VU-GSSS) is happy to announce its upcoming (early) summer workshops which will take place in May 2016. The intensive workshops focus on specialized qualitative and/or quantitative methods, and provide you with hands-on experience. Summer workshops are a great way to develop and/or strengthen your skills in between busy semesters of study and work. This year VU-GSSS gives you the chance to start planning ahead with (early) summer workshops.

  • Conducting Meta-Analyses

    (By Prof. Brad Bushman, May 17-20, 2016)

Meta-analyses have become an increasingly important method to summarise a body of evidence on a specific question. More so than traditional narrative reviews, a meta-analysis allows you to objectively combine and test the result of several studies that focus on the same hypothesis. This hands-on workshop is aimed at researchers with general knowledge of conducting quantitative analyses, but who want to learn how to conduct a meta-analytic review.

  •  Programming and Analyzing in R.

     (By Dr. Wouter van Atteveldt, May 23-27, 2015)

R is a statistical toolkit that is becoming increasingly popular for more advanced analyses in the social sciences. Getting started with using R, however, can be quite challenging. This intensive hands-on workshop will get you started using R on your own dataset.

So, what are you waiting for???  Check the Summer Workshops Manual for more information on the courses, credits, fees and timetable here.

Remember to spread the news to fellow colleagues at the VU and at other universities.

To sign up for the courses, or to ask questions and request additional information, email the VU-GSSS at graduate.school.fsw@vu.nl

 

 

How campaigns for the good can adversely strengthen negative prejudice and stereotypes.

camiel photoBy Camiel Beukeboom / Reading time: 7 Minutes

Sometimes attempts to do good have adverse effects. Despite our good intentions we may do more harm than good. Some recent campaigns – all aimed at disproving negative stereotypes and prejudices – unfortunately appear more likely to strengthen negative stereotypic associations than to reduce them. Here is why.

I’m black, but I’m not…

One of these campaigns, published by BuzzFeedYellow and widely shared in social media, shows film clips of individuals from various social categories. One film clip shows black individuals, saying “I am Black, but I’m not…”. Another film clip shows homeless individuals saying “I am homeless, but I’m not…” and there are similar film clips about Muslims, Asians, Latino’s, fat people, and more.

The videos present us with Black people saying they are not “aggressive”, “ghetto”, “violent”, “on welfare”, “lazy”, etc. We see homeless individuals saying they are not “evil”, “drug addicts”, “committing crimes”, “homicidal maniacs”, or “trash”; and we see Muslims saying they are not “angry”, “dangerous”, “terrorists”, “hating America”, or “forced to wear a headscarf”.

black but not aggressiveNow, the tricky adverse effect that the negated messages in these film clips likely produce follows from our research on the negation bias. This research (and other) suggests that negations (as in “X is not aggressive”), are processed as if they were affirmations (i.e., X is aggressive). Even though the link is denied, the message strengthens rather than suppresses thoughts about X being aggressive. Thus, hearing “I am Black, but I am not violent” consequently most likely reinforces a mental association between Black and violent in an audience.

Second, the negated messages communicate what is typically expected for the social category – in other words the apparently existing negative stereotype. Watching the film clips thus teaches these negative associations to people who were still unknowing about them. People who already had (faint) awareness of these associations will have them confirmed.

The attempt to change the stereotypic views occurs in the second parts of the film clips. Here, the same individuals mention characteristics that are stereotype inconsistent (“I am Black, but I am actually …”). They contrast themselves to the generic stereotypic view. This presents them as exceptions to the rule, who happen to have some unexpected other (i.e., positive) characteristics. Unfortunately, this likely conveys that they are outliers; they can be set aside as odd individuals in the context of what everyone stereotypically expects. Such exceptions will more likely have the effect of proving the stereotypic rule in an audience, rather than changing it.

Not a joke (#geengrapje)

This week Dutch minister Jet Bussemaker launched another campaign in the Netherlands aimed at reducing sexism against women. The goal of this campaign says Bussemaker is to create awareness of daily sexism as expressed in denigrating remarks, jokes and ironic remarks. The campaign website (http://geengrapje.nl) presents a film clip in which a number of women provide examples of sexist remarks. These remarks imply that women should smile pretty, be sweet, take care of kids, have their period, serve coffee, become pregnant etc.

Indeed, our research on the irony bias shows that such jokes and ironic remarks have a stereotype confirming and maintaining effect. Just like negations, ironic remarks are most likely used in situations in which a person’s behavior deviates from what is stereotypically expected. For instance when a woman shows dominant behavior in a high status job, an ironic remark (“Well, she sure has a sweet pretty smile”) can function to introduce what is expected for a woman instead. The stereotype expectancies surface in such remarks and thereby have the effect of maintaining them.

#geengrapjeThe adverse effect of this anti-sexism campaign, however, lies in the fact that it confronts its audience with an abundance of the sexist remarks it actually aims to combat. Consequently, the campaign has the same negative effect as the sexist remarks: it activates and maintains negative stereotypic associations with women.

Moreover, the campaign website explicitly notes that making sexist remarks is very common behavior. Unfortunately, depicting an undesired behavior as occuring very frequently (i.e., the descriptive norm) has been shown to be a strong motivator of human behavior. Simply because people tend to do what many other people appear to do (Cialdini, 2003). To make it worse, the campaign invites people to show the unwanted behavior by sharing examples of daily sexism on social media using a hashtag (#geengrapje; not a joke). The consequence: social media are bombarded with sexist jokes with all their detrimental effects on impression formation of women.

The intended message of the campaign is that we should not make sexists jokes. Yet, simultaneously the undesired and stereotype maintaining jokes are demonstrated to us, and both implicitly and explicitly encouraged.

Resisting stereotypes

I realize that the campaigns I discussed stem from good intentions, and they may certainly have positive effects. One positive aspect of these campaigns is that they create awareness of both subtle and blatant forms of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Creating awareness is obviously good, as it may instigate public debates and brings unconscious forms of discrimination to the surface.

It is, however, frustrating to see that these campaigns simultaneously likely backfire to produce the opposite of what they intend to achieve; feeding negative associations. Stereotypes are highly resistant to change. This is partly due to biased language patterns (only some of which I described here) that serve to maintain them. Campaigns aimed at changing stereotypes must therefore be carefully designed in order to prevent potential unwanted and adverse side effects.

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Camiel Beukeboom is an Assistant Professor in the department of Communication Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is also Program Director of the VU Graduate School of Social Sciences and initiator and editor of the Socializing Science PhD blog. (@camielbeukeboom)

 

References

Beukeboom, C. J. (2014). Mechanisms of linguistic bias: How words reflect and maintain stereotypic expectancies (Chapt.). In J. Laszlo, J. Forgas, & O. Vincze (Eds.), Social Cognition and Communication (pp. 313-330). New York, NY: Psychology Press. Link: http://hdl.handle.net/1871/47698

Beukeboom, C. J., Finkenauer, C., & Wigboldus, D. H. J. (2010). The negation bias: When negations signal stereotypic expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(6), 978-992. Link

Burgers, C., & Beukeboom, C. J. (in press). Stereotype Transmission and Maintenance Through Interpersonal Communication: The Irony Bias. Communication Research. doi: 10.1177/0093650214534975 Link

Cialdini, R. B. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment. Current Directions in Psychology, 12, 105-109.
Link

Women’s suffrage: structural conditions & the suffragettes

PalmBy Trineke Palm / Reading Time: 6 Minutes.

Last December Suffragette was premiered in Dutch cinemas. The movie is a penetrating account of the hard fight for the introduction of women’s suffrage in the UK at the beginning of the 20th century. The movie is centered on the role of Emmiline Pankhurst and her suffragettes who strive to acquire this basic political right. Moreover, it provides insights into the societal circumstances of the UK at that time. The movie gets you thinking about (women’s) suffrage in general: how come some countries have been much quicker than others in introducing (women’s) suffrage? What are the factors that influenced this process? And, finally how to put the UK’s stance in a comparative perspective?

SuffragettesAlthough universal suffrage is usually meant to include suffrage for both men and women, well-known and established democratization theories, like the one of Samuel P. Huntington, take male suffrage solely as proxy for measuring democratization. In contrast, as soon as the bar is raised to include women’s suffrage, Huntington’s . Table 1 shows that the timing of male suffrage is not a proxy for the introduction of women’s suffrage. For example, France, Belgium and Switzerland were early in the introduction of male suffrage, but “late” with the introduction of women’s suffrage. In contrast, Austria and Sweden were relatively late in introducing male suffrage, but introduced women’s suffrage “already” just after the First World War. This reveals that an early introduction of male suffrage does not imply an early introduction of women’s suffrage.

As the table shows, both World Wars created a momentum for extending suffrage to women. However, a war cannot as such explain the timing of women’s suffrage as some countries introduced it after the First World War and others only after the Second World War.

Table 1 Introduction of women’s suffrage relative to male suffrage

quella giusta

Although the democratization literature focuses on male suffrage, suffragettes did not escape academic attention, focusing in particular on the success of women’s movement. For example, in her research Lee Ann Banaszak compares the women’s movements in the US and Switzerland. She focuses on the tactics used by the women’s movements in these two countries to explain their (lack of) success; while the US suffragettes were more confrontational, the Swiss movement used a more consensus oriented tactic. While these studies point at the agenda-setting role of suffragettes, they underestimate the constraining or enabling importance of structural conditions. Suffragettes did not emerge and did not operate in a political vacuum. To understand the conditions under which women’s suffrage was introduced early or late,, we have to look at the structural causes. To this effect, I have used Stein Rokkan’s cleavage theory, about fundamental divisions in society. These cleavages concern fundamental conflicts between different societal groups, which played an important role in the process of nation-building.

Political WomenRokkan distinguishes between 4 cleavages: 1) ethnic-linguistic, 2) religious, 3) sectoral (agriculture vs. industry), 4) class. It is expected that ethnic-linguistic fragmentation will delay the introduction of women’s suffrage, because the “women’s issue” is swallowed by other political conflicts. The same applies to the presence of a class conflict. With regards to the sectoral cleavage, we would that in a society with a relatively large agricultural sector women’s suffrage is introduced relatively early, because women stand on more equal footing with men than in an industrial society. These cleavages are not mutually exclusive – rather, it is the combination that matters.

In my research of 13 West-European countries the absence of an ethnic-linguistic cleavage is a necessary condition for an early introduction of women’s suffrage (with the notable exception of Finland).

Table 2 Early introduction of women’s suffrage

table 1

This is in line with the expectation that either suffrage is extended first to the men of the minority population (at the expense of extending suffrage to women), or this ethnic-linguistic cleavage divides women, preventing them to act as a united front. This absence of the ethnic-linguistic cleavage, however, is not sufficient – see France and Italy (table 3). In these countries a religious cleavage, combined with a class cleavage, result in the late introduction of women’s suffrage.

Table 3 Late introduction of women’s suffrage

table 3

Moreover, in contrast to Teri Carraway claims, my study shows that the class cleavage does not necessarily delay the introduction of women’s suffrage; it all depends on the presence of a religious cleavage.In short, to explain the timing of the introduction of women’s suffrage in Western Europe we have to take into account the societal conditions of a given country. However, this does not play down the importance of the agency of women to put the issue of women’s suffrage on the agenda, as highlighted by Lee Ann Banaszak.

Glass cealingA lot has changed since the introduction of women’s suffrage – the legal and actual position of women in the public realm has been much improved. Nevertheless, the discussion about the position of women in the public domain is still a matter of debate, e.g. the “glass ceiling” in academia and business.

The fight for formal political equality was just a start!

Which structural cleavages play a role in these “new” fights for equality?

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Trineke Palm MSc is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. Her research is funded by a NWO Research Talent Grant and deals with the character of the EU’s foreign policy.