Category Archives: Guest Posts

If it looks like a compliment, and sounds like a compliment…is it really a compliment? [at Scientific American]

Today, I have a guest post at the Scientific American guest blog inspired by the Blogging Science While Female session at Science Online. The post is about benevolent sexism, those comments that may seem to be nice and flattering, but are actually insidious little gender equality ravagers.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 1996, Peter Glick and Susan Fiske wrote a paper on the concept of ambivalent sexism, noting that despite common beliefs, there are actually two different kinds of sexist attitudes and behavior. Hostile sexism is what most people think of when they picture “sexism” – angry, explicitly negative attitudes towards women. However, the authors note, there is also something called benevolent sexism:

We define benevolent sexism as a set of interrelated attitudes toward women that are sexist in terms of viewing women stereotypically and in restricted roles but that are subjectively positive in feeling tone (for the perceiver) and also tend to elicit behaviors typically categorized as prosocial (e.g., helping) or intimacy-seeking (e.g., self-disclosure) (Glick & Fiske, 1996, p. 491).

[Benevolent sexism is] a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealization, and affection directed toward women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men (Glick et al., 2000, p. 763).

Essentially, there’s now a formal name for all of those comments and stereotypes that can somehow feel both nice and wrong at the same time, such as the belief that women are “delicate flowers” that need to be protected by men, or the notion that women have the special gift of being “more kind and caring” than their male counterparts. And yes, it might sound complimentary, but it still counts as sexism.

To read the entire post, click here!

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“Anything but country”: What factor analysis reveals about our tastes for tunes [at Scientific American]

When asked to indicate their favorite type of music, plenty of people say they like “anything but country.” Is this really accurate? Why do rock music fans also tend to like punk and heavy metal? And why on earth would Pandora play a Britney Spears song on a Lil’ Wayne station?

I have a post over on the Scientific American guest blog today about musical preferences that answers all of these questions. Here’s a quick blurb from the beginning of the post:

There’s a strong appeal to the idea that we can study and categorize music preferences, and that these categorizations are somehow deeply unique and meaningfully representative of who we are as individuals. But what if I told you that when it boils down to it, we’re not all that different from each other – in fact, most of those seemingly “nuanced” differences in musical taste can be boiled down to a mere five musical factors?

In the rest of the post, I discuss the findings of the study, what it means for websites like Pandora, and how we can better predict our musical likes and dislikes. I also attempt to write a “general audience”-friendly explanation of how to interpret a factor analysis, step by step.
Click here to go read the entire post!


Rentfrow PJ, Goldberg LR, & Levitin DJ (2011). The structure of musical preferences: a five-factor model. Journal of personality and social psychology, 100 (6), 1139-57 PMID: 21299309

With pets like these, who needs people? [at The Thoughtful Animal]

This week, I was thrilled to write a guest post for Jason Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal, a blog about animal cognition, animal behavior, and the human-animal relationship hosted on the new Scientific American blog network.

The post went up on Wednesday; in it, I discuss a recent study examining the effects of pet ownership on self-esteem, happiness, and relationships with other people. Here’s a quote from the beginning, which sets up the story for the bulk of the post:

One would think that there’s a very clear tie between interpersonal relationships and the owner-pet connection. If lonely people anthropomorphize their pets, presumably as a means of coping with social isolation, then can’t we assume that the very people who derive high levels of social support from their pets are only doing so because of equally low levels of social support from the people around them?

Well, not so fast. There’s more to the story.

Click here to read the entire post over at The Thoughtful Animal!


McConnell, A.R., Brown, C.M., Shoda, T.M., Stayton, L.E., & Martin, C.E. (2011). Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology PMID: 21728449

Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J. (2008). Creating Social Connection Through Inferential Reproduction: Loneliness and Perceived Agency in Gadgets, Gods, and Greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19 (2), 114-120 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02056.x