anthropology · behavior · children · culture · education · family

Children’s past role and identity as worker

Children in Jerusalem.
The role of children has changed significantly over the past 100 years. Image via Wikipedia

This call for paper submissions from the The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past got me thinking about how actively children used to participate in the daily household and economic life of families, from general maintenance like sweeping the kitchen to vital income by helping during harvest time.  Children used to have to help out on the farm, and later work in factories, in order to help their families make ends meet. While some of the work was dangerous and unhealthy, some of the work was beneficial to both the kid and the family. Kids felt like they contributed to their family, and learned skills from farming to general entrepreneurship. I wonder what kids are missing out on by not having as many daily chores to do, or summer jobs like mowing lawns and lemonade stands, and how children fit into our idea of work now.


In 2011, the themed session will be on children and work. The aim of the themed papers will be to bring together scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines who are studying any aspect of children and work in the past – children as economic contributors, children as slaves, elite children taking on adult roles, children as carers, children as consumers, the impact of working in childhood on children and society. The aim will be to advance cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of childhood and children in the past, and in particular to evaluate the varying nature and impact – social, economic, cultural, medical – of work performed by or for children in the past. Archaeology, history, literature and other sources will be explored.
In providing this opportunity for scholars of childhood to present their work to an international, interdisciplinary audience, the SSCIP International Conference aims to generate new perspectives on existing knowledge and to stimulate new avenues of research for the future.

I’d be interested to hear what jobs you had growing up, before the age of 18. Did your parents encourage you to work? Did you get an allowance or did you get paid by the job, or were you just expected to “earn your keep”? How is it different with your own kids, or nieces and nephews?

anthropology · behavior · community · happiness · mental health · Social

Transparency: Which Countries Are the Happiest?

Thanks Facebook for directing me to this follow-up to my earlier post!

For decades, the World Database of Happiness has tracked down how happy people are—not at all happy, not very happy, quite happy, or very happy. As it turns out, most of us are mostly happy, even when things aren’t going so well. Here is a look at how happy people said they were (on average) over the last 30 years.

Find out more at Transparency: Which Countries Are the Happiest? – Culture – GOOD – StumbleUpon.

autism · behavior · brain · children · emotion · learning · Mental · psychology · robotics · Social

AP News: Kaspar the friendly robot helps autistic kids

I have heard of this kind of therapy before, how autistic kids tend to respond better to robots teaching them emotions and proper social responses; the robot acts as a sort of bridge, or neutral third party for the kid:

STEVENAGE, England (AP) – Eden Sawczenko used to recoil when other little girls held her hand and turned stiff when they hugged her. This year, the 4-year-old autistic girl began playing with a robot that teaches about emotions and physical contact – and now she hugs everyone.

“She’s a lot more affectionate with her friends now and will even initiate the embrace,” said Claire Sawczenko, Eden’s mother.

The girl attends a pre-school for autistic children in Stevenage, north of London, where researchers bring in a human-looking, child-sized robot once a week for a supervised session. The children, whose autism ranges from mild to severe, play with the robot for up to 10 minutes alongside a scientist who controls the robot with a remote control.

The robot, named Kaspar, is programmed to do things like smile, frown, laugh, blink and wave his arms. He has shaggy black hair, a baseball cap, a few wires protruding from his neck, and striped red socks. He was built by scientists at the University of Hertfordshire at a cost of about 1,300 pounds (US$2,118).

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_6418/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=X0CCVnY5

It’s also nice to hear a story about robots helping people, rather than the usual scenarios we hear and see like from Matrix and Terminator.

Uncategorized

Math shows crime hot spots and how they move

Sorry I’ve been neglecting this site lately. Lots of birthdays, holidays, life, etc.

From Wired Magazine and Science News: Not all crime hot spots are created equal, a new mathematical model suggests. For some areas repeatedly hit hard with crime, police intervention can shut down lawlessness and keep it down. But for others, police involvement just shifts the trouble around.

Uncategorized

Beauty is only city-deep

From MSNBC (with a few edits because I can’t help myself):

Women’s magazines often spread the same message: Money may not buy you happiness, but beauty certainly will. A new study has actually proven that the women’s magazines were right — so long as you live in the city. But if you’re a country girl, it’s more of a case of “pretty is as pretty does.”
Researchers have found that happiness for city women is quite dependent upon physical appearance. But in the country, looks don’t count for much in terms of overall life satisfaction and happiness, according to a new study in the journal Personal Relationships.
 
“City women who were the most attractive got a lot of bang for their appearance buck,” says the study’s lead author, Victoria Plaut, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and an assistant professor at the University of Georgia. “And if you were even slightly below average, you were very clearly worse off.”
When it came to women living in the country, there was no connection between physical appearance and happiness. Even more interesting — there was a slight trend in the data for women in the country to be happier if they were chubbier, Plaut says.
For the new study, Plaut and her colleagues interviewed 257 women who lived in the city and 330 from the country. The women were asked to rate their satisfaction with life, their connectedness with friends and community, and their general level of happiness. For a measure of satisfaction, they were asked to rate their lives on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “worst possible life you can imagine” and 10 listed as the “best possible life you can imagine.”
To get a sense of the women’s attractiveness, researchers asked for waist and hip measurements. Other studies have shown that the ratio of waist to hips is a reliable indicator of attractiveness, Plaut explains. The lower the ratio, the slimmer the waist — and the more attractive a woman is considered to be.
The new findings fall in line with other research, says Michael Cunningham, a psychologist and professor in the department of communications at the University of Louisville, Ky. “In competitive and individualistic cultures you have to compete for limited social attention,” Cunningham says. “Physical attractiveness is one of the variables that gets you social attention and other positive outcomes. But in communal cultures and rural areas, family reputation and other longer-term variables have a bigger impact on your well-being. As a consequence, physical attractiveness doesn’t have as big an impact.” 
I’m not sure yet if I buy Cunningham’s reasoning why this is true; I think it’s more complicated than competition for attention. But I’d love to hear what other people think.
play

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – and bonding

Okay, first I just have to get it out of the way that Frans de Waal is a giant hippie. Big ol’ bio-anth hippie! The article I’m posting below undoubtedly reflects that. BUT, if you look past the hippiness, I think he’s onto something.

Okay, cue posting of Discover Magazine, general audience article about bonobos:

What intrigues me most about laughter is how it spreads. It’s almost impossible not to laugh when everybody else is. There have been laughing epidemics, in which no one could stop and some even died in a prolonged fit. There are laughing churches and laugh therapies based on the healing power of laughter. The must-have toy of 1996—Tickle Me Elmo—laughed hysterically after being squeezed three times in a row. All of this because we love to laugh and can’t resist joining laughing around us. This is why comedy shows on television have laugh tracks and why theater audiences are sometimes sprinkled with “laugh plants”: people paid to produce raucous laughing at any joke that comes along.

The infectiousness of laughter even works across species. Below my office window at the Yerkes Primate Center, I often hear my chimps laugh during rough-and-tumble games, and I cannot suppress a chuckle myself. It’s such a happy sound. Tickling and wrestling are the typical laugh triggers for apes, and probably the original ones for humans. The fact that tickling oneself is notoriously ineffective attests to its social significance. And when young apes put on their play face, their friends join in with the same expression as rapidly and easily as humans do with laughter.

Shared laughter is just one example of our primate sensitivity to others. Instead of being Robinson Crusoes sitting on separate islands, we’re all interconnected, both bodily and emotionally. This may be an odd thing to say in the West, with its tradition of individual freedom and liberty, but Homo sapiens is remarkably easily swayed in one emotional direction or another by its fellows.

Read the full article. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back? Good.

I think he has a good point. There are lots of other data that really point out to me how important it is to have other individuals around, how much we learn from them, and how it’s hard for us to be the “lone wolf” (which doesn’t actually exist either, but that’s a different post all together).

The first type of play that humans participate in is imitating their moms and dads. Smiling at them, opening and closing their mouth the same way they do. Kids learn by mimicking and playing, trying the same stuff those around them do.

I don’t know if you need to go so far as to call it the new field of “embodied” cognition, but it is important to acknowledge that that part of us as social creatures definitely exists, and that basically, no man is an island. This is being re-shown every day.

Uncategorized

Good smells equal good acts

People are unconsciously fairer and more generous when they are in clean-smelling environments, according to a soon-to-be published study led by a Brigham Young University professor.

The research found a dramatic improvement in ethical behavior with just a few spritzes of citrus-scented Windex.

Katie Liljenquist, assistant professor of organizational leadership at BYU’s Marriott School of Management, is the lead author on the piece in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science. Co-authors are Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

The researchers see implications for workplaces, retail stores and other organizations that have relied on traditional surveillance and security measures to enforce rules.

“Companies often employ heavy-handed interventions to regulate conduct, but they can be costly or oppressive,” said Liljenquist, whose office smells quite average. “This is a very simple, unobtrusive way to promote ethical behavior.”Perhaps the findings could be applied at home, too, Liljenquist said with a smile. “Could be that getting our kids to clean up their rooms might help them clean up their acts, too.”

The study titled “The Smell of Virtue” was unusually simple and conclusive. Participants engaged in several tasks, the only difference being that some worked in unscented rooms, while others worked in rooms freshly spritzed with Windex.

Read more about the results and see a video clip of Katie Liljenquist talking about her study: byunews.byu.edu/smellofvirtue

technology

TV abates loneliness

From The Frontal Cortex (the Blog):

Over at Mind Matters, there’s a cool post by Fionnuala Butler and Cynthia Picketton on the benefits of watching television when lonely, which seems to provide the same sort of emotional relief as spending time with real people:

In a recent article published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Jaye Derrick and Shira Gabriel of the University of Buffalo and Kurt Hugenberg of Miami University test what they call the “Social Surrogacy Hypothesis.”

The authors theorized that loneliness motivates individuals to seek out relationships, even if those relationships are not real. In a series of experiments, the authors demonstrated that participants were more likely to report watching a favorite TV show when they were feeling lonely and reported being less likely to feel lonely while watching. This preliminary evidence suggests that people spontaneously seek out social surrogates when real interactions are unavailable.

Read more!

Uncategorized

Baboon buddies

Researchers recently found that baboons will have opposite gender friends, but they’re not sure why, particularly what the males get out of the male-female friendship. I love the BBC headline, that baboon females will “exploit” their male friends. Great attitude, guys…

“Male and female baboons form platonic friendships, where sex is off the menu.

Having a caring friend around seems to greatly benefit the females and their infants, as both are harassed less by other baboons when in the company of their male pal.

But why the males choose to be platonic friends remains a mystery.

The finding published in Behavioral Sociobiology and Ecology also suggests that male baboons may be able to innately recognise their offspring.”

The male buddies were not the genetic fathers, nor had they copulated with the female around the time the infant was conceived.

Nguyen, the baboon researcher, suggests “that by chaperoning a female in a platonic relationship, a male might advertise his parental skills to other females, who then might consider him a worthy partner. But as yet, there’s no evidence for this or any other reason why males become chaperones. However, for the females, the benefits of having a chaperone are clear.”

Females and their infants don’t get harassed as much when there’s a dude around.

happiness · play

C’mon, get happy!

Why? For one thing, your smile predicts how happy you’ll be in marriage. However, love at first sight might be genetic, so don’t take it too hard if you don’t feel immediate sparks.

If you need help getting happy and connecting with others, try playing. Why? Because play is the glue that keeps societies together, according to Peter Gray.

“Hunter-gatherers used humor, deliberately, to maintain equality and stop quarrels, Gray contends, and their means of sharing had game-like qualities. Their religious beliefs and ceremonies were playful, founded on assumptions of equality, humor, and capriciousness among the deities. They maintained playful attitudes in their hunting, gathering, and other sustenance activities, partly by allowing each person to choose when, how, and how much they would engage in such activities.”

Just remember, play is important to your social well-being.

You know what also works? Tickling and scritching.

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