Faculty

Wilkins, Alumni Author Paper on Consequences of Perceived Anti-Male Bias

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

Men in the U.S. today increasingly believe themselves to be victims of gender discrimination, and there are a record number of recent lawsuits claiming anti-male bias. In a study published in March in Psychology of Men and MasculinityAssistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins and her co-authors assess the consequences of these perceptions of anti-male bias. Are men who perceive discrimination more likely to discriminate against women? How do beliefs about societal order affect men’s evaluations of men and women?

The article is co-authored by former post-doctoral fellow Joseph Wellman, now an assistant professor at California State University–San Bernardino, Erika Flavin ’14, and Juliana Manrique ’15, MA ’16.

In a blog post on the study, the authors write:

Traditionally men have had higher status than women in the U.S.; they have been better educated, more likely to be employed, and have tended to earn more than women with the same job and qualifications. People vary in the extent to which they believe that this particular ordering of society is fair and the way things should be. Some believe this type of inequality is legitimate, while others believe it should change. We expected that men who believed men should have higher status in society would be most upset about the thought that men now experience discrimination, and that they would react by favoring men over equally-qualified women. This effort would be a way to reestablish men’s perceived rightful place in society.

They conducted two studies to test this prediction. In the first, male participants read an article about increasing bias against men or another group, and then were asked to evaluate the résumé of a man or woman as part of an ostensibly unrelated study. The résumés were identical except for the name and gender. The researchers found that men who believe the social hierarchy is fair tended to give more negative evaluations of the female candidate relative to the male candidate after reading about bias against men. They also showed less desire to help the female candidate. The same effect wasn’t seen after male participants read about bias against an unrelated group. The researchers conclude that beliefs about the legitimacy of the hierarchy and perceptions of bias against men together seemed to disadvantage women.

In a second study, the researchers manipulated participants’ beliefs about society’s fairness by having them create sentences by unscrambling strings of randomly ordered words that suggested system legitimacy. For example, they created sentences like “effort leads to prosperity” – which makes people believe that hard work in society is rewarded. Or, they unscrambled other words to create neutral sentences unrelated to society. Unscrambling system-legitimizing sentences caused participates to believe the social structure is legitimate, and in turn, caused those primed to perceive discrimination against men to more negatively evaluate female targets. They also reported being less willing to help the female targets than male targets.

The researchers gave participants an opportunity to provide feedback on how to improve targets’ resumes. Those primed with beliefs that the social structure is legitimate reacted to perceiving bias against men by providing more constructive feedback to male targets than female targets. They write that these findings are striking, as the resumes were identical – only the names varied.

This research suggests that men who believe that men should be high-status in society react to perceiving bias against men by engaging in efforts to maintain men’s position of power. These individuals may be unaware that they favor their own group or disadvantage women; they may simply perceive that they are righting a perceived wrong. However, this explanation was not supported by other research results. When the researchers primed men to perceive discrimination against women, they did not react by favoring women over men. It seems as though they are uniquely concerned about maintaining their own group’s position in society, they write.

The researchers conclude that when high-status individuals perceive increasing bias against their group, those who endorse the legitimacy of the social hierarchy may perpetuate social disparities. Thus, if men increasingly perceive discrimination against their group, they may be more inclined to discriminate against women and provide other men with an extra boost. They recommend adopting hiring and evaluation processes that mask gender to prevent these potentially deleterious effects of perceiving bias against men.

Read the complete research article here.

Loui, Guetta ’17 Author Paper on Brain Connections Between Sound, Taste

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui and Rachel Guetta ’17 are the authors of a new paper exploring how people form associations between sound and taste. The article, titled, “When Music is Salty: The Crossmodal Associations Between Sound and Taste,” was published March 29 in the journal PLoS One.

Scientists know that music can be evaluated as sweet, sour, salty or bitter, depending on features in its composition such as pitch, articulation, or brightness. For example, higher pitches are often thought of as sweet or sour, and lower pitches associated with bitterness.

While previous research has studied this general area, Loui and Guetta implemented four experiments to explore if, and to what extent, humans form associations between complex sounds and complex tastes, and what mechanisms might underlie these associations. One experiment, conducted with 50 Wesleyan undergraduates, involved making matches between recordings of an original violin composition and four different flavors of custom-made chocolate ganache. Whereas past studies have used simpler auditory and gustatory stimuli (such as isolated pitches, or basic taste samples of flavored beverage solutions), “both violin music and chocolate ganache are categories of complex stimuli that enable fine-grained perceptual discrimination,” the researchers explain.

Loui and Guetta write, “Our findings suggest that perhaps everyone, to some extent, has the capacity to form mappings between auditory and gustatory modalities.” They found that individuals with musical training were no more accurate in their sound-taste associations.

The findings also support the idea that the pleasantness associated with each auditory and gustatory stimulus is a mediating factor in creating these sound-taste associations. That is, individual participants were likely to associate those music clips they found most pleasant with those chocolate samples that they enjoyed the most.

These findings may have applications for “food businesses and restaurant entrepreneurs in marketing products and optimizing consumer experience, capitalizing on emotional congruency between sound and taste.” For example, cafes might choose certain music to enhance their coffee flavors, and the taste of beer might be affected by music being played at the bar.

Loui also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences.

 

 

Students at Wesleyan, in Madrid Collaborate through Teleconferencing

On March 28, the Spanish 258 class, taught by Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish, interacted with a class at at Charles III University in Madrid, Spain over videoconferencing. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

On March 28, the Spanish 258 class, taught by Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish, interacted with a class at at Charles III University in Spain over videoconferencing. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

This semester, students in Antonio Gonzalez’s Spanish 258, “The Intercultural Stage: Migration and the Performing Arts in the Hispanic World” have been experiencing what they study. With the assistance of a videoconferencing system, the Wesleyan students are “joined” in the classroom periodically by a group of students studying at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Charles III University in Madrid, Spain).

Gonzalez, professor of Spanish, co-teaches the course with his colleague in Spain, Julio Checa. Checa also works on modern/contemporary Spanish theater and performance, and the two have collaborated on various scholarly projects over the years. They previously ran the trans-Atlantic teaching project in spring 2014 using Skype, which Gonzalez said was much more rudimentary than the videoconferencing technology available now.

As director of the Center for Global Studies, Gonzalez was deeply involved in planning for the Fisk Hall renovation project, which included choosing the video conferencing system installed in the new telepresence classrooms.

Yohe Joins Conn. Governor to Oppose Environmental Program Cuts

yohewide

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, joined Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy at a press conference March 22 at the Connecticut Science Center to speak out against major cuts to environmental programs proposed by President Donald Trump.

“As a scholar with more than three decades of experience studying climate change, I fear our new president is on a course to reverse this progress with extremely dangerous consequences,” Yohe said at the event, according to The Hartford Courant.

Yohe was a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—which received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize—from the early 1990s through 2014. He is past-vice chair of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee for the Obama Administration; the Assessment was released by the White House in 2014.

Yohe contrasted progress made against climate change by former President Barack Obama to the approach taken by Trump.

“By way of stark contrast, President Trump does not even have a science advisor,” Yohe said. “His administration has attacked climate science, and it has announced its intention to abandon any initiative designed to ameliorate climate risk in any way.”

Yohe also was interviewed by Fox CT, and his comments were featured in stories on WTNH and CT News Junkie.

Dance Department’s Krishnan ‘Slaughters’ Stereotypes

(photo c/o Michael Slobodian)

Hari Krishna (Photo by Michael Slobodian)

In the March 21 issue, the Toronto Star profiles Associate Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan in connection with his latest full-length work, “Holy Cow(s)!”

Krishnan discusses the ways in which he often endures “ridiculous if non-malevolent cultural prejudices,” such as assumptions that he practices yoga or doesn’t eat beef due to his Indian heritage.

Krishnan would prefer people to look beyond the stereotypes, beyond what he calls such false binaries as East/West, white/coloured, masculine/feminine, tradition/modernity.

Says Krishnan: “I’m brown. I’m a beef-eating Hindu from Singapore and I’m proudly gay. I’m not a tourism poster.”

Krishnan, an award-winning dancer/choreographer, is founder of the performing company inDANCE. The writer describes his style: “Krishnan’s dances, whether full-on Bharatanatyam — he’s won a coveted Bessie award in New York for his own performance of this Indian classical form — or a contemporary hybrid of styles is consistently exuberant, physically dynamic and often more than a little bit naughty.”

Of the latest performance, he writes:

Holy Cow(s)!, with a cast of two women and five men, is unusual in that while most of the choreography is Krishnan’s it also includes three solos, each made for him by an outside choreographer and expressing very different movement esthetics. The original intent was for Krishnan to perform these himself but a knee injury put paid to that. With the concurrence of American choreographers Sean Curry and David Brick and Vancouver’s Jay Hirabayashi, Krishnan has now distributed these among three of the cast’s men.

Watching a studio run-through of Holy Cow(s)!, it is clear Krishnan relishes the opportunity to explode any number of assumptions audiences might make about a choreographer of South Asian descent. The movement vocabulary at times references, even parodies, classical Indian dance but it also embraces a whole range of cultural forms. It pokes fun at the stereotypes of beguiling female and chest-thumping machismo. It is sensual to the point of overt eroticism. Krishnan even manages to work in some thinly veiled political criticism, alerting us to the dangerous bigotry that the current climate has unlocked.

Says Krishnan: “My mission is to slaughter every one of these holy cows.”

Fry to Be Honored at Electrochemical Symposium in May

Albert J. Fry will be honored at a symposium for the Electrochemical Society.

Albert Fry will be honored at a symposium for the Electrochemical Society.

Albert Fry, the E.B. Nye Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, will be honored at the Electrochemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans in May.

The symposium, aptly titled, “The 80th Birthday Trifecta in Organic Electrochemistry,” celebrates Fry, and his two colleagues, Professor Jean Lessard of Sherbrooke University and Professor Denis Peters of Indiana University, who will all be celebrating their 80th birthdays.

“Besides having carried on research in organic electrochemistry for many years, each of us has served as chair of the organic and biological electrochemistry division of the Society, and Peters and I received the Baizer Award in organic electrochemistry,” explained Fry. “Although I retired in January, I’m still carrying computational research in electrochemistry and will present a lecture on recent results of this computational work at the New Orleans meeting.”

McAlister Writes Op-Ed on ‘Demystifying Vodou’

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister, chair and professor of religion, is the co-author of an op-ed on CNN titled, “Haiti and the distortion of its Vodou religion.”

Together with her co-author, Millery Polyné, a Haitian-American professor of African-American and Caribbean history at the Gallatin School–NYU, she provides an introduction to the Vodou religion—the creation of African slaves who were brought to Haiti and converted by Roman Catholic missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. While Vodou shares much with Christianity, and its initiates must be Roman Catholic, it departs in its views of the cosmos. Vodou teaches that there is no heaven or hell, and humans are “simply spirits who inhabit the visible world in a physical body.”

They explain:

Historically, Vodou has been an emancipatory faith that enslaved people turned to when they were brutalized.

For that reason, French slave owners considered Vodou a threat and that is why it has been grossly misrepresented by white colonists and Haitian political and spiritual leaders alike.

Indeed, Vodou spirits inspired the revolution against Haiti’s French colonizers more than 200 years ago that established Haiti as the second independent nation in the Americas after the United States — and the first to abolish slavery.

It was during a religious and political gathering that enslaved Africans and Creoles mounted an insurrection against plantation owners in August 1791. This famous nighttime meeting — known as the ceremony at Bois Caïman — was a tremendous feat of strategic organizing, since it unified Africans assembled from different plantations and diverse ethnic groups.

At this clandestine ceremony, a leader named Dutty Boukman led an oath to fight for freedom. A priestess named Cecile Fatiman consecrated the vow when she asked the African ancestral spirits for protection during the upcoming battle.

Under a tree, she slaughtered a black pig as an offering.

Two weeks later, the rebels set plantations ablaze and poisoned drinking wells, kicking off the revolution.

Panicked slave owners throughout the Americas reacted by clamping down with extra force on all African-based religious practices.

They circulated stories that linked the religion with blood and violence, images that endure to this day.

McAlister is also professor of American Studies, professor of African American studies, professor of Latin American studies, and professor of Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies.

 

Yohe Talks Climate Change and Politics on ‘Where We Live’

Gary-YoheGary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was a guest on WNPR’s “Where We Live” recently to discuss climate change and politics. President Donald Trump’s newly released budget proposal substantially cuts the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and other agencies that conduct research and do work on climate change. (Yohe begins speaking around 2 minutes into the program).

Since the election, Yohe explains, he and others in the scientific community “have been concerned that part of the attack on science will be the eradication of scientific data scattered around all of the federal agencies. A lot of us have been spending an enormous amount of time trying to protect that data” by posting it to public websites outside the country.

Yohe says that for the next four years, most of the action against the effects of climate change is going to be at the local and state levels.

“That’s where people have the ability to tell their leaders that they want to be protected from the risks of climate change and want them to do something to reduce the sources of growth in the temperatures that they’re seeing,” he said.

Yohe also spoke about a recent visit by former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin ’79 to his class at Wesleyan. Shumlin’s message: “You can’t just sit here and study this stuff and be convinced that it’s happening. You have to go out and do something which means, in this environment, run for office,”

Fowler, Gollust ’01 Author Paper on Insurance Enrollment, Advertising

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler is an author of a new paper released in HealthAffairs examining the link between health insurance changes after the first Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period and the efforts of federal, state, and non-profit sponsors to market their products.

Fowler and her co-authors found that advertising worked—more ads for the ACA produced a significantly higher rate of insurance enrollment.

The study, conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Minnesota (including Sarah Gollust ’01), uses advertising and television news data from the Wesleyan Media Project. It is one of the key papers to come out of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation State Health Access Reform Evaluation (SHARE) grant for Wesleyan/University of Minnesota, on which Gollust is principal investigator and Fowler is co-PI.

The researchers considered the relationship between the volume of television insurance advertising in a given area during this time period and the area’s rate of uninsurance and Medicaid coverage before and after open enrollment (ie. In 2013 and 2014). They found that the percentage of the population younger than age 65 that lacked health insurance fell by an average of 2.9 percentage points between the two time periods. Counties with larger advertising volumes saw larger declines in uninsurance than other counties. For every increase of 1,000 insurance advertisements, there was a 0.1 percentage-point reduction in uninsurance. Furthermore, state-sponsored insurance ads had the strongest relationship with declines in uninsurance from 2013 to 2014, compared to ads from private, federal, and other sponsors. An increase of 1,000 state-sponsored insurance ads was associated with a 0.23 percentage-point reduction in uninsurance.

The researchers emphasized the particular importance of state-sponsored insurance advertisements in driving coverage improvements. They calculated that roughly 2.5 people gained insurance for every state-sponsored ad aired during the first open enrollment period, and that doubling this advertising would lead to a 1.19 percent reduction in the uninsured. While strategic investment in advertising will be important to increase the uptake of insurance going forward, the authors stress that the type of advertising might affect the responsiveness of consumers.

“Although Republican control of government and the recent American Health Care Act proposal brings much uncertainty to the ACA’s future, insurance advertising will remain an important feature of encouraging enrollment in any marketplace,” said Fowler.

Otake, Johnston ‘Fukushima’ Project Culminating Events in NYC on March 11

remembering fukushima e-vite 3.6 copy

Eiko Otake stands on the top of a breakwater in a dark gray kimono. To her right, the ocean crashes into piles of concrete cubes–their shapes, stacked together, seem almost too clean, like abstractions of stone. She clutches a large but frayed scarlet cloth that catches the wind and encircles her, hovering just inches from her skin. Following the breakwater into the distance, a large cubic structure is visible along the water’s edge. It is the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant, 12 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. She is standing at the midpoint between the infamous two, in the area where the tsunami wave reached 68 feet and the level of radiation remains very high.

Tableaux like this constitute A Body in Fukushima (2016), a series of photographs by Otake, visiting artist in dance and the College of East Asian Studies, and her collaborator William Johnston, professor of history, East Asian studies, science in society and environmental studies. The series shows her, a lone body in the landscape of Fukushima, Japan, in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This collaborative photo exhibition had been on Wesleyan’s campus from February through May 2015.

Currently in New York City as part of The Christa Project: Manifesting Diving Bodies, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the exhibit will culminate in Remembering Fukushima: Art and Conversations at the Cathedral on March 11, the sixth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns that followed.

Bloom ’75 Hosts Talk On Women’s Physical and Emotional Health

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom ’75, director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing and the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, leveraged her more than 30 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker to be a featured guest speaker at “Lady Parts: Car Talk for Women’s Bodies Fundraiser,” which took place March 5 at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

The afternoon was a blend of comedy and candid conversation. Bloom and co-host, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a Yale-trained OB-GYN, gave audience members an avenue to discuss everything from hormones and menopause, to lactation, STDs, contraceptives and pregnancy. “It was an opportunity to learn and ask all you ever wanted to know about you body, but were too afraid to ask.”

The event served as a fundraiser for the Women and Family Life Center (W&FL)—a place, which empowers women and their families to face challenges and transitions in their lives with grace and dignity. The Center offers individual guided referrals, as well as, support and wellness programs for women and their families to find help as they face divorce, violence, bankruptcy, bereavement or other major life challenges. Bloom and Dr. Minkin have done this show numerous times as fundraisers for organizations focusing on women’s lives and health, throughout the state.

Bloom is a distinguished author, having been nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her repertoire currently includes, three novels, three collections of short stories, a children’s book, and a collection of essays. More on Bloom and her work can be found by visiting her website.