Social Science Recap [June 30-July 14, 2011]

Social Science Roundup--June 30-July 14, 2011 Interesting internet finds linking anthropology, sociology, psychology (other ologies) to design, user experience, and technology. In this post: proving 'retail therapy' as a method to fix negative feelings, useful mechanics for cooperative gaming, authentic materialism, sustainability barriers, and culture influences biological studies...

There is a reason why the term 'retail therapy' exists. A recent study by Atalay and Meloy in Psychology and Marketing shows that a person's bad mood does increase the number of spontaneous purchases one makes. Stopping oneself from using shopping as a form of therapy to feel better is only successful if stopping oneself improves mood.

Game mechanics to enhance cooperation. Travis Ross at Motivate.Play wrote an interesting blog post on game mechanics that can be used to satisfy gamers who want to partake in "unselfish play." Real life social dilemmas such as pollution, and overuse of non-renewable resources generally are spawned from doing what is best for ourselves and not necessarily what is best for others. Known as the n-player social dilemma, acting selfishly may have negative consequences for society at large. Ross explores game mechanics, adopted from social science theory to inform the design for cooperative games.

Stories of objects you love. The Portland Museum recently launched a website chronicling people and the objects they love. It makes me think about the random things I love, and why--like my sewn-together green Care Bear that my mom made for me before I was born. That thing is tattered, but sitting on my bed stand!

American need for space in conflict with sustainable design? Katherine Frederich claims, on Scientific American, that American's need for personal space is in direct conflict with major charges by environmentalists: reusing something, and minimizing non-renewable energy consumption. People don't want to buy clothes that other people have worn because it's seem as a violation of hygienic standards, and people want to live outside of the city for some peace and quiet. She offers a couple of solutions to these two problems, but takes a very one-dimensional view into what environmentalism is all about.

Gender and sports. Rosemary Joyce (awesome anthropologist at UC Berkeley, I listen to her iTunes U Podcast!) recently posted an article on genderizing sports, on her blog. Differentiating the sexes in sports is probably a recent phenomena (maybe late 19th century). Sport was all about competition, which promoted excess--a masculine trait. The bottom line is that suddenly biological (empirical) studies were coming out supporting the claim that men's and women's muscles are different and thus sport competition should be different for both. Just goes to show the power of culture over something like biology shaping lived reality. My favorite quote from those early studies was that women have more "expressive muscles," which are better suited for making "elegant movements."