Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blaming the Victim - Ellen Langer - Harvard University - Psychology Today

When I give lectures around my book, Counterclockwise, not infrequently someone will ask whether the idea I'm espousing--that we have far more control over our illnesses than most of us realize--inevitably leads to blaming the victim. Their reasoning must be that if we can control either the severity of our symptoms or the entire disease process, than those who suffer are suffering by their own hands since they did nothing to help themselves. This understanding couldn't be further from the truth.

We have been explicitly and implicitly taught by our culture to be mindless. We have been taught absolutes when none really exist independent of context. When we think we know something absolutely, we have learned that it is reasonable never to question it, nor to pay attention to how it may be otherwise. Beliefs and behavior always make some kind of sense from the actor's perspective or else the actor would have done otherwise. Blame suggests mindlessness on the part of the blamer who does not recognize this. We are not at fault for what we do not know just because someone else can see a way we could have known it.
Read more: Ellen Langer - Harvard University - Psychology Today

Ellen Langer is a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. Her books written for general and academic readers include Mindfulness, The Power of Mindful Learning, On Becoming An Artist, and Counterclockwise.

Langer has described her work on the illusion of control, aging, decision-making, and mindfulness theory in over 200 research articles and six academic books. Her work has led to numerous academic honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest of the American Psychological Association, the Distinguished Contributions of Basic Science to Applied Psychology award from the American Association of Applied & Preventive Psychology, the James McKeen Cattel Award, and the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize.

Her PT blog is Counterclockwise.

Belief In A Just World
The Just World Theory
By Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez
Santa Clara University

Afterwards, they said that the 22-year-old woman was bound to attract attention. She was wearing a white lace miniskirt, a green tank top, and no underwear. At knife-point, she was kidnapped from a Fort Lauderdale restaurant parking lot by a Georgia drifter and raped twice. But a jury showed little sympathy for the victim. The accused rapist was acquitted. "We all feel she asked for it [by] the way she was dressed," said the jury foreman.

The verdict of the jurors in the Fort Lauderdale rape trial may have been influenced by a widespread tendency to believe that victims of misfortune deserve what happens to them. The need to see victims as the recipients of their just deserts can be explained by what psychologists call the Just World Hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, people have a strong desire or need to believe that the world is an orderly, predictable, and just place, where people get what they deserve. Such a belief plays an important function in our lives since in order to plan our lives or achieve our goals we need to assume that our actions will have predictable consequences. Moreover, when we encounter evidence suggesting that the world is not just, we quickly act to restore justice by helping the victim or we persuade ourselves that no injustice has occurred. We either lend assistance or we decide that the rape victim must have asked for it, the homeless person is simply lazy, the fallen star must be an adulterer. These attitudes are continually reinforced in the ubiquitous fairy tales, fables, comic books, cop shows and other morality tales of our culture, in which good is always rewarded and evil punished.

Fundamental Attribution Error

12 Angry men [movie 1957] notes & discussion

1. What kinds of attributions were used by the jurors and how did these attributions affect their initial judgment of the boy?

Henry Fonda: Made more external attributions for the boy’s behavior. For example, Fonda commented on how the boy had been slapped around all his life and was treated poorly. This kind of thinking leads to more external attributions—it was the way the boy was treated in life, not something inherent about the boy or his character.

Ed Begley (the racist guy): Referred to the boy as a slum kid. He relayed the idea that there’s something about slum kids who belong to certain ethnic groups that makes them inherently rotten. These are internal attributions which lead to more of a guilty verdict.

Lee J. Cobb (the angry guy): Also made more internal attributions for the boy’s behavior. He agreed with the slum kid idea, but also focused on the notion that kids today don’t have any respect or sense of morality.
Another type of attributional process that could be seen in 12 angry men was Kelley’s principle of augmenting. For example one of the jurors argued that if the boy went back to get the knife, even though he might get caught then he must have really been motivated to cover up the evidence. Thus, the boy is really guilty.
Read more:

Ex: 12 Angry Men - movie

· people do what they do because of the kind of people that they are, not because of the situation they are in
· people tend to underestimate external influences when explaining other people’s behavior
Read more:

Fundamental Attribution Error

Attributional Biases and Violent Soccer Play
Nicholas Herrera, Ph.D.
DePaul University

On November 5, 2009, during a soccer match between the University of New Mexico and Brigham Young University, UNM defender Elizabeth Lambert behaved badly. She kicked and punched other players and even pulled another woman's pony tail, causing her to fall to the ground. A video of Lambert's behavior was quickly posted on the internet causing her much embarrassment and shame. In an interview with the New York Times, Lambert admitted that the video makes her look like a monster. She also said, "That is not me," "I can't believe I did that," and "That's not the type of player I am." Most people, however, disagree with her, and explanations of her behavior have focused almost exclusively on her personality.

People seem to think that Lambert's actions on the field reflect a deep-seated anger, moral defect, or unconscious conflict. It has also been suggested that Lambert has "a lot of sexual aggression" (Longman, 2009, p. B11). In support of this "poor character" hypothesis, one blogger, a psychologist, even quoted scripture stating, "a good tree cannot bear bad fruit" (Matthew 7: 18-21). These simple explanations are comforting, because they reaffirm what most people already believe: Good people do good things and bad people do bad things. However, they neglect the findings of social psychology, which show that behavior is a function of the person and the situation.

Blaming The Victim

The Psych Files Podcast
Episode 7: Blaming the Victim and other Attribution Biases
Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Blaming the victim – why do we do it? For example, are rape victims responsible for what happens to them? Are victims of car crashes or other accidents responsible for what happened to them? These are the kinds of questions we examine as we look at the strange human tendency to blame the victim.

Here’s the link to the video of the Bill O’Reilly show during which he appears to be blaming the victim.

Related links:

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
By Philip Zimbardo - Stanford University

Belief In A Just World - - - Separation of Church and State - - - Wrongly Condemning Homosexuals

American Academy of Pediatrics
The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on
the Health and Well-being of Children – 2006

American Medical Association - Policy Regarding Sexual Orientation
GLBT Advisory Committee

Children with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – 2006

National Association of Social Workers (NASW),
Calls Proposition 8 Decision
“A Great Day in the Struggle for Human Rights” August 11, 2010

Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists
Support of Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Civil Marriage – 2005

Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage - Research Summary –
American Psychological Association – 2004

Psychologist testifies on 'remarkable similarities' of
gay and straight couples
By Maura Dolan - January 14, 2010
Los Angeles Times

"No sensible person can imagine that the
sexes differ in matters of love
as they do in matters of clothing.
The intelligent lover of beauty will be attracted to beauty in whichever
gender he finds it."

California - Prop 8 judgment, August 4, 2010
Gay marriage
“Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”
Judge Vaughn Walker

On Prop 8, it's the evidence, stupid
By Lisa Bloom -
and related links:

The Quality Of Lasting Homosexual Relationships
Deserve Respect
Roman Catholic -->Cardinal Christoph Schönborn,

Gramick: Equality is a Catholic value
by David Taffet – Dallas Voice

Roman Catholic - hierarchy child sexual abuse “cover-ups” ordered by Benedict XVI to avoid public outrage
& criminal charges - falsely accused gay priests

Who Can Mock This Church? - By Nicholas D. Kristof – The New York Times

Does Not Give Churches Or Benedict XVI
The Freedom To Abuse Children or Adults.
July 2010 - By Fr. Marty Kurylowicz

Jack Drescher, M.D.

Galileo protest halts pope's [Benedict XVI] visit
January 15, 2008 - Cable News Network (CNN)

Vatican Science Panel Told By Pope: Galileo Was Right
November 1, 1992 – The New York Times

Galileo Condemned As A Heretic - Misinterpretations Of The Bible
Homosexuality? Natural Law?
Benedict XVI?
Kids Are Being Hurt!!!

Gay Marriage -> Restores
“Hope of Love”
To Children In Early Childhood

Sexual orientation is less about sex and more about love,
being one with another human being - Attachment Theory
Gay Marriage

Hate Crime Bill vs Attacks But No Facts -> Fear And Ignorance Of
The Blind Leading The Blind
October 27, 2009 – Fr. Marty Kurylowicz

“Someday, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well considered and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit.”
Erik Erikson

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