Penetrating the Circle of Death: Why People are Dying (and Killing) Not to Die

Penetrating the Circle of Death: Why People are Dying (and Killing) Not to Die

Martin Luther King Jr., the social activist who represents for many the ideal of a meaningful life, foreshadowed his own assassination when he said, "A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live." These words may resonate with us, but Woody Allen spoke for many of us as well when he said, "I’m not afraid of dying – I just don’t want to be there when it happens." The idea of death occupies a unique place in our minds: it is both the sum of all fears and a kind of golden standard by which we measure an individual’s commitment to an ideal. We honor and understand King Jr.’s sacrifice insofar as almost all of us possess ideals for which we believe we would give everything, whether it’s the love of our children, fighting oppression in a foreign country, or protecting our personal freedoms. Yet we empathize with Allen because death seems like a terrifying and unfair fate for us, instilled as we are not only with drives toward self-preservation (we seek food when hungry, react quickly to external threats), but also an advanced consciousness that harbors love and a fear of loss for many aspects of our lives. / more

Social Judgment: Warmth and Competence are Universal Dimensions

Social Judgment: Warmth and Competence are Universal Dimensions

How do you make sense of Barack Obama and John McCain? The odds are that you judge them mainly on two dimensions: warm/cold and (in) competence. Depending on your experience of them, you may judge one of them as both warm and competent, evoking your admiration and pride; and perhaps the other as neither warm nor competent, which triggers a sense of contempt and disgust. Or perhaps you view one as warm but not competent, which... / more

Reconsidering Race in the Genetic Era

Reconsidering Race in the Genetic Era

Race is a topic that has been explored throughout the history of social psychology research. Typically, this research has focused on how our conceptions (or preconceptions) of race affect our attitudes and behaviors. There is a long line of research examining phenomena such as prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination, in-group bias, stereotype threat, self-fulfilling prophecies, and a whole range of related issues. One could argue that an underlying assumption of this research is that all humans are fundamentally equal, regardless of race. In the academic world, there has been consistent support for this notion (Anderson & Nickerson, 2005; Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Kidd, 2005); however, folk notions of race, as a fundamental biological difference, still persist in the United States and many countries around the world (Jayarantne, Ybarra, Sheldon, Brown, Feldbaum, et al., 2006;Smedley & Smedley, 2005; Williams & Eberhardt, 2008). / more

The Surprising Effect of Facial Appearance on Political Decision-Making

The Surprising Effect of Facial Appearance on Political Decision-Making

If your citizenship comes with the responsibility - and privilege - of voting, then every few years you face an interesting challenge. Who will you vote for? Whether you choose to support an incumbent, a celebrated war hero, an experienced government official, or a new face on the political scene, psychologists are incredibly curious about the process by which you come to that decision. There is reason to believe that, coming from a thoughtful and prepared voter, your ballot will... / more

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