Kevin Lewis

March 09, 2012

Unseen Disadvantage: How American Universities' Focus on Independence Undermines the Academic Performance of First-Generation College Students

Nicole Stephens et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

American universities increasingly admit first-generation college students whose parents do not have 4-year degrees. Once admitted, these students tend to struggle academically, compared with continuing-generation students - students who have at least 1 parent with a 4-year degree. We propose a cultural mismatch theory that identifies 1 important source of this social class achievement gap. Four studies test the hypothesis that first-generation students underperform because interdependent norms from their mostly working-class backgrounds constitute a mismatch with middle-class independent norms prevalent in universities. First, assessing university cultural norms, surveys of university administrators revealed that American universities focus primarily on norms of independence. Second, identifying the hypothesized cultural mismatch, a longitudinal survey revealed that universities' focus on independence does not match first-generation students' relatively interdependent motives for attending college and that this cultural mismatch is associated with lower grades. Finally, 2 experiments at both private and public universities created a match or mismatch for first-generation students and examined the performance consequences. Together these studies revealed that representing the university culture in terms of independence (i.e., paving one's own paths) rendered academic tasks difficult and, thereby, undermined first-generation students' performance. Conversely, representing the university culture in terms of interdependence (i.e., being part of a community) reduced this sense of difficulty and eliminated the performance gap without adverse consequences for continuing-generation students. These studies address the urgent need to recognize cultural obstacles that contribute to the social class achievement gap and to develop interventions to address them.


The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words

Kyle Jasmin & Daniel Casasanto
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, forthcoming

The QWERTY keyboard mediates communication for millions of language users. Here, we investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings. Some words are spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard and others with more letters on the left. In three experiments, we tested whether asymmetries in the way people interact with keys on the right and left of the keyboard influence their evaluations of the emotional valence of the words. We found the predicted relationship between emotional valence and QWERTY key position across three languages (English, Spanish, and Dutch). Words with more right-side letters were rated as more positive in valence, on average, than words with more left-side letters: the QWERTY effect. This effect was strongest in new words coined after QWERTY was invented and was also found in pseudowords. Although these data are correlational, the discovery of a similar pattern across languages, which was strongest in neologisms, suggests that the QWERTY keyboard is shaping the meanings of words as people filter language through their fingers. Widespread typing introduces a new mechanism by which semantic changes in language can arise.


The Relationship Between Selective Exposure and the Enjoyment of Television Violence

Andrew Weaver & Matthew Kobach
Aggressive Behavior, March/April 2012, Pages 175-184

The existing research on the appeal of media violence has led to an apparent incongruity: violent content tends to increase selective exposure to media, but violence often decreases enjoyment. In this experiment, we used two independent manipulations to assess the role of violence in both selective exposure and enjoyment in order to examine the relationship between the two. Program descriptions for four prime-time television dramas were altered to create violent and nonviolent descriptions for each episode. Then the episodes themselves were edited to create violent and nonviolent versions of each. Participants (N = 191) were more likely to choose violent descriptions to watch, but enjoyed the nonviolent episodes more than the violent episodes. Moreover, the nonviolent episodes were rated as more enjoyable even when the participants had chosen to watch a violent program description. From a theoretical perspective, these results suggest the need to move beyond explaining the appeal of violence in terms of increased enjoyment and instead further explore other motivations that could be driving selective exposure to violent content.


Death and Television: Terror Management Theory and Themes of Law and Justice on Television

Laramie Taylor
Death Studies, March 2012, Pages 340-359

Based on terror management theory, it was hypothesized that media choices may be affected by the salience of death-related thoughts. Three experiments with samples of undergraduate students were conducted to investigate whether such a process would affect preferences for law and justice television programming. In the first experiment (n = 132), individuals for whom mortality had been made salient through experimental induction preferred more programs with law and justice themes than individuals for whom mortality had not been made salient. In the second experiment (n = 161), this effect was observed regardless of trust in law enforcement and only for participants induced to think about death, not those induced to think about pain. In the third experiment (n = 163), participants for whom mortality was salient who watched a crime drama that showed justice being carried out showed a diminished self-enhancing bias compared to participants who watched a version of the same program in which justice was thwarted. Results indicate that entertainment choices are influenced by thought of death beyond simply seeking distraction and that entertainment programming emphasizing justice can effectively ameliorate existential anxiety that arises from thoughts of death.


Generational Differences in Young Adults' Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009

Jean Twenge, Keith Campbell & Elise Freeman
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Three studies examined generational differences in life goals, concern for others, and civic orientation among American high school seniors (Monitoring the Future; N = 463,753, 1976-2008) and entering college students (The American Freshman; N = 8.7 million, 1966-2009). Compared to Baby Boomers (born 1946-1961) at the same age, GenX'ers (born 1962-1981) and Millennials (born after 1982) considered goals related to extrinsic values (money, image, fame) more important and those related to intrinsic values (self-acceptance, affiliation, community) less important. Concern for others (e.g., empathy for outgroups, charity donations, the importance of having a job worthwhile to society) declined slightly. Community service rose but was also increasingly required for high school graduation over the same time period. Civic orientation (e.g., interest in social problems, political participation, trust in government, taking action to help the environment and save energy) declined an average of d = -.34, with about half the decline occurring between GenX and the Millennials. Some of the largest declines appeared in taking action to help the environment. In most cases, Millennials slowed, though did not reverse, trends toward reduced community feeling begun by GenX. The results generally support the "Generation Me" view of generational differences rather than the "Generation We" or no change views.


US Cultural Involvement and Its Association With Suicidal Behavior Among Youths in the Dominican Republic

Juan Peña et al.
American Journal of Public Health, April 2012, Pages 664-671

Objectives: We examined how US cultural involvement related to suicide attempts among youths in the Dominican Republic.

Methods: We analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of youths attending high school in the Dominican Republic (n = 8446). The outcome of interest was a suicide attempt during the past year. The US cultural involvement indicators included time spent living in the United States, number of friends who had lived in the United States, English proficiency, and use of US electronic media and language.

Results: Time lived in the United States, US electronic media and language, and number of friends who had lived in the United States had robust positive relationships with suicide attempts among youths residing in the Dominican Republic.

Conclusions: Our results are consistent with previous research that found increased risk for suicide or suicide attempts among Latino youths with greater US cultural involvement. Our study adds to this research by finding similar results in a nonimmigrant Latin American sample. Our results also indicate that suicide attempts are a major public health problem among youths in the Dominican Republic.


Rebel Manhood: The Hegemonic Masculinity of the Southern Rock Music Revival

Jason Eastman
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, April 2012, Pages 189-219

Southern men occupy a contradictory place in U.S. culture as the rest of the country stereotypes them as backwards and deviant, yet simultaneously celebrates Southern males as quintessential exemplars of American manhood. I explore this contradiction using interviews with musicians, participant observation of concerts, and an ethnographic content analysis of contemporary Southern rock lyrics and websites. I find marginalized men embrace a Southern rebel identity to meet hegemonic masculine ideals shared across social classes and geographic regions. Rebels reject the middle class roles and cultural capital most men use to signify their manhood by accruing authority and resources through education, career, and family. Instead, southern rebels empower the masculine self by protesting authority figures, dominating women and signifying their independence by drinking, using drugs, and brawling. While rebels define their selves in contrast to middle-class morals and practices, dismissing them as deviant and backward overlooks how rebels use the symbolic resources they have at their disposal to meet the hegemonic masculine ideals celebrated throughout the country.


Nightmare on Nevsky Prospekt: The Blue Bird as a Curious Instance of U.S.-Soviet Film Collaboration during the Cold War

Tony Shaw
Journal of Cold War Studies, Winter 2012, Pages 3-33

Combining cinematic and diplomatic history, this article examines a curious relic of the détente phase of the Cold War, the fantasy-musical The Blue Bird. Released on the silver screen in 1976, The Blue Bird was the only U.S.-Soviet cinematic coproduction during the Cold War. The movie was made for a variety of commercial, artistic, and ideological reasons but failed to live up to expectations. The production was shambolic, critics were disdainful, and the film was a dud at the box office. The Blue Bird is largely forgotten nowadays, but the story of the film's production and reception sheds valuable light on the economics and politics of cross-bloc filmmaking. It also provides insight into the importance of cinema as an instrument of public diplomacy at the height of détente.


Is America's National Pastime too time consuming?

John Burger & Stephen Walters
Economics Letters, May 2012, Pages 204-206

World Series telecasts are now an inferior good. Income and the time cost of consumption interact so that a ten percent income increase reduces viewership by 1.8 million households. Increased availability of substitutes reduces ratings but increased drama improves them.


The trap of intellectual success: Robert N. Bellah, the American civil religion debate, and the sociology of knowledge

Matteo Bortolini
Theory and Society, March 2012, Pages 187-210

Current sociology of knowledge tends to take for granted Robert K. Merton's theory of cumulative advantage: successful ideas bring recognition to their authors, successful authors have their ideas recognized more easily than unknown ones. This article argues that this theory should be revised via the introduction of the differential between the status of an idea and that of its creator: when an idea is more important than its creator, the latter becomes identified with the former, and this will hinder recognition of the intellectual's new ideas as they differ from old ones in their content or style. Robert N. Bellah's performance during the "civil religion debate" of the 1970s is reconstructed as an example of how this mechanism may work. Implications for further research are considered in the concluding section.


Consensus and Contrasts in Consumers' Cinematic Assessments: Gender, Age, and Nationality in Rating the Top-250 Films

Dean Simonton, Jeremy Graham & James Kaufman
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, forthcoming

Motion pictures provide among the most conspicuous manifestations of worldwide popular culture. One specific manifestation of this universal presence appears in the cinematic assessments compiled and updated on Internet Web sites. This empirical inquiry investigated the consumer ratings that the Internet Movie Database used to determine the "Top-250" all-time great movies. Of particular interest was how these ratings depended on gender (male vs. female), age (under 18, 18-29, 30-44, and 45 or over), and nationality (U.S. vs. non-U.S. voters). In addition, the investigation explored how any evaluation discrepancies in these three demographic categories might be attributed to year of release (e.g., classic vs. contemporary films), movie honors (viz., Oscar vs. non-Oscar nominations and awards), and the MPAA rating (R, PG-13, PG, and G). Correlational, principal components, and multiple regression analyses indicate the following core conclusions. First, a very broad and impressive consensus permeates all evaluations no matter what the gender, age, or nationality contrasts. Second, although gender and nationality both exhibit contrasting assessments, age provides the main contrast that supports departures from the consensus: Those under 30 have strikingly different assessments than those 30 and over. Third and last, although movie awards and MPAA ratings clearly have a role to play in these differences, the year of release was by far the most critical predicator. Older consumers prefer older movies while younger consumers prefer movies that are more recent. After some conjectures regarding the reasons for this pronounced contrast, the discussion closes by mentioning the dynamic nature of these popular ratings.


Inflation in weekend box office estimates

Neil Malhotra & Edmund Helmer
Applied Economics Letters, Fall 2012, Pages 1411-1415

Do movie studios inflate box office estimates that they report every Sunday? Is the pattern of this inflation consistent with the studios' strategic incentives? Analysing actual and estimated box office returns of major movie releases between 2003 and 2010, we find that movie studios substantially overestimate weekend box office performance and that this overestimation is highly unlikely to be due to chance. Our findings also suggest that box office inflation is strategic because (1) inflation is substantially higher in the first weekend of release when the incentives are greatest to generate positive word of mouth and (2) inflation for the top two films in a weekend increases with the degree of competition between the films.


The Best and the Rest: Revisiting the Norm of Normality of Individual Performance

Ernest O'Boyle & Herman Aguinis
Personnel Psychology, Spring 2012, Pages 79-119

We revisit a long-held assumption in human resource management, organizational behavior, and industrial and organizational psychology that individual performance follows a Gaussian (normal) distribution. We conducted 5 studies involving 198 samples including 633,263 researchers, entertainers, politicians, and amateur and professional athletes. Results are remarkably consistent across industries, types of jobs, types of performance measures, and time frames and indicate that individual performance is not normally distributed - instead, it follows a Paretian (power law) distribution. Assuming normality of individual performance can lead to misspecified theories and misleading practices. Thus, our results have implications for all theories and applications that directly or indirectly address the performance of individual workers including performance measurement and management, utility analysis in preemployment testing and training and development, personnel selection, leadership, and the prediction of performance, among others.


"So Truly Afflicting and Distressing to Me His Sorrowing Mother": Expressions of Maternal Grief in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia

Lucia McMahon
Journal of the Early Republic, Spring 2012, Pages 27-60

In 1781, Lowry Wister produced an eight-page account of her three-year son's death from small pox. Lowry Wister's narrative offers important insights into the emotional landscape of mothering, mourning, and religion in late eighteenth-century America. Religious and cultural prescriptions stressed restraint throughout the mourning process, and in particular admonished women to avoid excessive displays of grief. Lowry Wister's emotional struggles as a "sorrowing mother" enable us to examine the relationship between individual experiences and prescribed expressions of grief and mourning. While eighteenth-century conventions stressed quiet resignation to God's will, emerging cultural changes increasingly enabled - indeed, encouraged - women to give public voice to their private emotions. By the nineteenth century, sentimental views of childhood, along with a culture of mourning, inspired parents - especially mothers - to give full expression to intense feelings of loss and sorrow. Lowry Wister's narrative reveals how women responded to and negotiated various religious, cultural and literary conventions that shaped their understandings of motherhood and mourning. Her narrative illustrates the various ways in which individual women challenged cultural norms and helped usher in new forms of emotional and literary expression. Comparisons of Wister's narrative to other eighteenth-century women's writings on grief and mourning further illuminate the interplay between cultural convention and individual expression.


Culture and the Historical Process

Nathan Nunn
NBER Working Paper, February 2012

This article discusses the importance of accounting for cultural values and beliefs when studying the process of historical economic development. A notion of culture as heuristics or rules-of-thumb that aid in decision making is described. Because cultural traits evolve based upon relative fitness, historical shocks can have persistent impacts if they alter the costs and benefits of different traits. A number of empirical studies confirm that culture is an important mechanism that helps explain why historical shocks can have persistent impacts; these are reviewed here. As an example, I discuss the colonial origins hypothesis (Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, 2001), and show that our understanding of the transplantation of European legal and political institutions during the colonial period remains incomplete unless the values and beliefs brought by European settlers are taken into account. It is these cultural beliefs that formed the foundation of the initial institutions that in turn were key for long-term economic development.


Debating Immortality: Application of Data Envelopment Analysis to Voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame

Thomas Miceli & Brian Volz
Managerial and Decision Economics, forthcoming

This paper applies data envelopment analysis to voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF). The approach interprets a player's career statistics as inputs and the percentage of votes that he received for the HOF as the output. A constructed frontier based on past voting defines the maximum number of votes that a player should receive based on his statistical profile. Our results suggest that about a third of the current members of the HOF (excluding Negro League players, managers, umpires, and executives) should be replaced by more deserving players. Our conclusions, however, do not account for those aspects of a player's career (both positive and negative) not captured by statistics.


Writing Hollywood: Rooms With a Point of View

Patricia Phalen & Julia Osellame
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Winter 2012, Pages 3-20

Americans watch, on average, 5-7 hours of television every day - most of it entertainment programming. Yet the process of creating prime time television remains a mystery to most viewers. This article describes one of the most influential institutions in the process of television production: the "writers' room." Based on interviews with writers, the authors analyze the culture and politics of "the room" - what makes this institution work and who survives its demanding environment.


Black-white differences in beliefs about the U.S. restaurant tipping norm: Moderated by socio-economic status?

Michael Lynn & Jerome Williams
International Journal of Hospitality Management, forthcoming

A re-analysis of two national telephone surveys found that black-white differences in awareness that it is customary to tip a percentage of the bill declined as socio-economic status increased. However, black-white differences in awareness that is customary to tip 15-20 percent in restaurants was unrelated to socio-economic status. The practical as well as theoretical implications of these findings are discussed along with directions for future research.


Are Sports Betting Markets Prediction Markets? Evidence From a New Test

Kyle Kain & Trevon Logan
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Researchers commonly use sports betting lines as predictions of the outcome of sporting events. Betting houses set betting lines conditional on bettors ex ante beliefs about game outcomes, which implies that the predictive power of the sports betting market could be an unintended consequence of betting house profit maximization. Using this insight, the authors propose a new test of the predictive power of the sports betting market, which incorporates a seldom-used piece of complementary betting information: the over/under - the predicted sum of scores for a game. Since the over/under has the same market properties as the betting line, it should be similarly predictive about the actual outcome, while if bettors have different beliefs about this game feature it need not be predictive. Using the universe of betting lines and over/unders on National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college football, and NCAA college basketball games from 2004 to 2010, the authors test the predictive power of the sports betting market in a seemingly unrelated regression (SUR) structure that allows us to characterize both features of the betting market simultaneously. The joint test reveals that while the betting line is an accurate predictor of the margin of victory, the over/under is a poor predictor of the sum of scores. The authors consistently reject the hypothesis that the sports betting market overall functions well as a prediction market.


Explaining state-to-state differences in seat belt use: A multivariate analysis of cultural variables

Lisa Molnar et al.
Accident Analysis & Prevention, July 2012, Pages 78-86

There is considerable variation in seat belt use within the United States despite extensive evidence that the use of seat belts saves lives. Previous studies have identified some important factors that affect belt use rates, including gender, age, race, vehicle type, seat-belt enforcement laws, and amount of fine for belt-use law violation. In this study, we examined the influence of additional socio-demographic factors on state-level use rates: education (percentage of high school educated population), racial composition (percentage White), median household income, political leaning (percentage Democrat), and a measure of religiosity. These variables, which collectively characterize the ‘culture' of a state, have received little attention in seat-belt studies. The paper reports results from a multiple regression analysis of data from the 2008 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Many of the use rate patterns in FARS data were consistent with those found in other data sets, suggesting that conclusions based on FARS data are likely to hold for the population-at-large. Of the five cultural factors considered in the study, three were identified as important in explaining the differences in seat belt use at the state level: religiosity, race (percentage White), and political leaning (percentage Democrat). The other two variables - income and education - were not significant. Hold-out analyses confirmed that this conclusion was consistent across different subsets of data. The findings from this study are preliminary and have to be confirmed on other data sets. Nevertheless, they demonstrate the potential usefulness of cultural factors in explaining state-to-state variation in seat belt use rates. If factors such as religiosity are indeed important, they can be used to develop culturally appropriate programs for increasing belt use.


Platform Siphoning: Ad-Avoidance and Media Content

Simon Anderson & Joshua Gans
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, November 2011, Pages 1-34

Content providers rely on advertisers to pay for content. TiVo, remote controls, and pop-up ad blockers are examples of ad-avoidance technologies that allow consumers to view content without ads, and thereby siphon off the content without paying the "price." We examine the content provider's reaction to such technologies, demonstrating that their adoption increases advertising clutter (leading to a potential downward spiral), may reduce total welfare and content quality, and can lead to more mass-market content. We cast doubt on the profitability of using subscriptions to counter the impact of ad-avoidance.


Movies and holidays: The empirical relationship between movies and tourism

Heather Mitchell & Mark Fergusson Stewart
Applied Economics Letters, Fall 2012, Pages 1437-1440

Governments around the world believe that tourism will increase if locations within their nations are featured in films. Money and other inducements are often offered to moviemakers to encourage them to shoot within a particular constituency. This article finds a positive and statistically significant relationship between successful films and tourism.


Disrupting Flow: Seinfeld, Sopranos Series Finale and the Aesthetic of Anxiety

John Michael Corrigan & Maria Corrigan
Television & New Media, March 2012, Pages 91-102

This article examines how the Seinfeld and Sopranos series finales problematize a contemporary televisual ethos that Raymond Williams famously characterized as "flow." These finales at once question their status as product and, in the case of The Sopranos, offer a direct critique to the nature of televisual flow itself. The emergence of such avant-garde intentionality in network and cable television underscores, moreover, a fundamental tension between art and commerce. These finales draw much of their energy by evoking an aesthetic of disruption and subversion not from the outside of the production process but from within the corporate sphere.


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