Parable of the Fingernails

fingernails

Photo Credit: adaenn via Compfight cc

How did it get so late so soon?  It’s night before it’s afternoon.  December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?
–Dr. Seuss

I was sitting at my desk today trying to prioritize the things that need to be done to finish the semester.  I looked down at my fingers and noticed my fingernails. They were a little too long, so obviously it was time to cut them again.  Not a big deal. But just a minute, didn’t I cut them just last week? That couldn’t be, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t that long ago that I cut them.

Now remember I’m a scientist, I know how fast fingernails grow.

3 millimeters per month, 0.1 millimeter per day, that means they grow 1 nanometer per second.

Now as Americans, we don’t have the concept of millimeters in our heads much less nanometers. A nanometer is about the width of a molecule. Which means a human hair averages about 100,000 nanometers wide…100,000 seconds for my nails to grow the width of a human hair.

Okay, outside of ‘nerdsville’ that means fingernails grow slowly. So, if you are using your fingernails as a timekeeper, you have a very slow clock.

It also means it was about a month ago that I cut my nails.

You’ve heard of these sayings:

  • Time flies when you are having fun.
  • A watched pot never boils.
  • Be there in a second…
  • Just a minute…
  • A minute is not long, unless you’re waiting for the bathroom.

These sayings allude to some interesting facts about our timekeeping. You see, time is not something we sense. There needs to be a receptor to have a sensation. That makes time invisible, but we are able to perceive time or intervals of time.

However, perceiving time involves some psychological and physiological tricks. If you are engaged in an activity, you lose track of time and so it flies by, and if you are bored, time seems to drag along. If you have an urgent need, the seconds seem to last for hours.

Oddly enough, when the brain becomes engaged, it seems to record more memories than normal. This acts more like a slow motion camera, so more details are remembered which acts to slow time down. An example of this is when someone is in a car wreck and the details are remembered in slow motion. Time has not been perceived at a different rate, just more details are recorded during the time interval.

So if the brain filters out details, we perceive time differently than if it records all details available. And if you record more details, then the world around you seems to run in slow motion.

That is one way to explain Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If ADHD kids record more information with their brains for particular time intervals, then the world runs too slow for their attention system.

Or if you noticed that the years seem to go by quicker as we get older, it might be because we recorded more new information during our adolescence which slowed down the perception of time. Now our brains don’t need to record as much and time passes quicker. In order to recover some of that youthful perception, we need to add novel experiences and information to our lives. Then the years would stop zooming by.

That is what happened with my time perception the past few weeks. With the lack of novel experiences, time was whizzing by and I didn’t notice until I looked at my fingernails. The sight of my talons brought my world back into focus.

Or maybe it was just that I had so much to do trying to finish up the last weeks of the semester that I lost track of time. I probably just need to manage my stress, kick off my shoes and…hey, my toenails seem a little long…

dsb

 

Lightbulbs

In my last week of teaching organizational leadership this semester, my students were asked to make presentations to their classmates surrounding some sort of ethical leadership dilemma. The students were asked to advise the class on what decision should be made by the leaders in the case from an ethical standpoint while paying attention to what made good business, financial, and legal sense. They were then to use the leadership techniques, models, theories, ideas and perspectives from the semester to present a plan of action to address the case.

They did a remarkable job.

In fact, they did such a wonderful job in pulling together all of those pieces, that the presentations gave me new perspectives on a couple of leadership decisions currently facing one of the organizations that I serve as a member of the board of directors. Of course the presentations weren’t perfect. I questioned the accounting on a couple of proposals and some of the ethical justifications were a little weak. Others lacked detail in applying the leadership models we had discussed. All of which gave me one last opportunity to help students make connections to the material as I asked one final set of questions.
And I saw it…

While I was asking those final challenging questions, I saw a couple of final light bulbs come on.

Some were students who had excelled in gathering the information, but had not yet fully put it into practice. Others I had watched struggle to knit the pieces together all semester long. Watching it all begin to click for them is remarkably rewarding. I am so proud in those moments for the students who continue to work until the light finally dawns.

And in those moments, I’m reminded of why I teach leadership. Because they can learn. (Tweet This)

Many of them come with a great deal of leadership potential. Some are naturally influential with their peers. Others are able to speak eloquently and persuasively. Still others think critically and apply ideas readily. But they still need research and theory and practice to really begin to excel in leadership.

Hopefully, my classes give them the opportunity to gain the knowledge they need and to practice in a relatively safe environment.

Though at this point in the semester, I am weary, it is these moments where they succeed in pulling all of the pieces together, that I am inspired anew to

  • Tweak a classroom exercise
  • Find an even better textbook
  • Edit and refine a lecture
  • Try out a new teaching tool or technique

Because I’m not done learning any more than my students. (Tweet This)

So, we’re off to a summer “break” where my reading list is longer than the one I had during the semester.  But maybe I’ll grab a quick nap first.

-ep

Take me out to the ball game…

Ahhh… We’ve made it to that time of year again… Halcyon days, verdant, pristinely-manicured turfs where “the boys of summer” beguile leisurely spectators tucking away peanuts and cracker jack and… beverages. The “Great American Pastime” is in full swing (pun) in renowned parks all over the landscape. Just relax, and take it all in…

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

What’s missing?

Umm, let’s see… Got my glove (just in case!), my over-worn and under-washed cap (soap dilutes good luck), flip-up shades (that’s how I roll), smart phone (duh!), XL cup of Dr. P (yeah, I will drink it all!), foot-long carcinogen-filled, cardiac arrest inducer (I mean, hot dog). That should do it. Still, I can’t shake this feeling I’m missing something… Wait, I know what it is! It should be here anytime now! I’ll just sit back and wait for

the melee!

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

the almost inevitable brawl, the brouhaha,  the fracas, the altercation, the scuffle, the skirmish, the… kurfuffle? Yes, I’m talking about that other Great American Pastime… watching a good fight! (or even a bad one)

Where did the halcyon go? I can’t see the verdant turf for all the… Wow! That shortstop has a mean right jab! I wonder what that guy said about his mother?

Wait, I digress… I was talking about the all-too-common tendency for disagreements among “professional,” “adult” baseball players to be settled like children on the playground, complete with foot stomping, theatrical arm (and hand) gesturing, and tete-a-tete bad mouthing at the top of their lungs. And let’s not forget the wrestling, punching, and rolling on the ground. What recess rumpus would be complete without those?

Sports commentators–and the media in general–generally give a wink and a nod to these demonstrations of poor judgment, and that’s when I come off the bench to critique broadcasters’ apathy and general misunderstanding of the troubling attitudes that major league fights belie.

  1. You’re making 6 and 7 digit salaries, so…. Shut up and play!
    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    In 2013, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million, while the average U.S. salary in 2012 was $42, 500.  (Why don’t they talk about that on the nightly news?)

  2. You’re role models to thousands of young people! (Do I really have to mention that?) Here’s a list of 10 players who ARE doing it right.
  3. This is not going to last. Enjoy playing baseball while you can! This requires the humility to understand that, even if you’re Babe Ruth, you won’t be forever.
    Leave a positive legacy.
  4. You’ve beaten the odds. Why jeopardize that? (Is anybody still reading this?) A college baseball player has only about a 11% chance of making it in the MLB, and the average career length is about 5 1/2 years. Why are you so angry?

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

While the typical textbook tells budding journalism students that their highest calling is objectivity in reporting, the reality is that hardly anyone ever practices it. At best, some broadcast journalists practice selective objectivity, carving out a niche of issues on which they feel comfortable riding the fence and making a show of detached professionalism on largely irrelevant topics. The vast majority of broadcasters these days likely couldn’t define objectivity. Never mind do they know why it’s important. So yeah, that’s not happening. But we’ll keep teaching it, just in case a few of our students are listening.

Most of our students are at the age where they would find video clips of baseball brawls hilarious, not discerning the implications for the sport, the audience, and society in general. That’s why broadcasters must not simply report about fighting in sports; they must help educate viewers about the negative effects of bad behavior. One small way to begin making a difference would be for sportscasters to resist the urge to editorialize on camera after reporting these stories, especially with the typical tongue-in-cheek approach that conveys lighthearted disdain, but also their enthusiasm for having a sensational “get” story. Tosses between anchors at the news desk are usually brief, but laughing and vocal inflection gives the impression that nothing that happens during a game is to be taken too seriously.
What a shame!

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

A wonderful benefit of Christian liberal arts education is that it challenges students to apply moral values to practical career situations. In this vein, I would encourage my students to temper their enthusiasm for all things raffish with reading from Scripture, such as the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself
(Proverbs 22:24-25, NASB)

 

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

‘I was gazing at a shooting star, wondering why it was getting bigger and bigger…then it hit me.’

This week contained the peak viewing for the Lyrid meteor showers. Meteor showers occur when the earth’s orbit takes us through the remnants of a comet tail. Comets are covered in ice or other frozen substances that flow off the comet as it orbits the sun. The dust from the tail makes up our meteor showers. The particles are usually smaller than a grain of sand and burn up completely in the atmosphere. The meteor is that flash of light as the dust vaporizes. If a particle makes it through the atmosphere then it’s called a meteorite (or maybe a meteoroid until it hits the earth).

While looking up some information on meteor showers for this year, I found a very unusual video of a skydiver’s near miss (really a near-hit…) with a meteorite. Well, if it was really a meteorite, that is absolutely amazing. There is still some doubt, but that would be scary. Could we get hit from above?

The answer of course is no… I mean the chance is so small that one astronomer stated “You have a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time.”

Yet there have been people hit right? Well, just one documented case. An Alabama woman in 1954 was sleeping on her couch when a meteorite crashed through her roof and hit her in the hip (see account of incident here).

peekskill meteorite car

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But there was a dog killed in Egypt in 1911 by a meteorite. And one hit a woman in the UK in 2004, that boy in Florida in 2007…wait there have been more than 30 people and homes hit in the last 200+ years along with 6 animals and 7 cars…

That sounds like a lot of tornado/lightning/hurricanes happening…I’m getting scared.

These are reports from around the world, and that means several billion people involved…so maybe it’s not something to worry about.

Then last week a group took data from  the nuclear test ban monitoring station network that shows 26 asteroids impacting the earth for the past 13 years. The impacts ranged from 1 to 600 kilotons in power (Hiroshima was 15 kilotons) and were primarily in the upper atmosphere so no real damage occurred at ground level, but like little earthquakes precede the big one, that killer asteroid maybe out there.

A low atmosphere explosion over Chelyabinsk in 2013 was 500 Kilotons and caused building damage that injured over 1000 people. In 1908 a low atmosphere explosion estimated at 1.5 Megatons destroyed 850 square miles of forest and 1000 reindeer in Siberia. Another near miss…

The asteroid that finished off the dinosaurs was 10 Megatons and it impacted the surface of the earth. Life is changed when a killer asteroid hits. There is evidence of many killer asteroids hitting the earth in the past. And life goes on…

Killer asteroid

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What should I do about the killer asteroids?

There is nothing that can be done. Worrying or losing sleep over it is just wasting energy. The biggest ones can be tracked, but not diverted. The smaller ones are not able to be detected before impact. The earth is 70% oceans, so that is where most impacts occur. Again, worrying about nothing.

boy looking at stars

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I suggest instead, that we focus on those beautiful meteor showers. Take time to enjoy the magnificence of space. Focus on some quality time with your family and friends. In fact,the next major meteor event will happen next week, around May 5. This shower is associated with the tail of the famous Halley’s comet. Take time to teach your kids about the meteors and comets. And maybe explain about the asteroids also, but don’t make them too paranoid to enjoy the night sky.

dsb

 

A Pound of Flesh

Well, here it is the middle of April and my New Year’s resolutions have been crushed, twisted and destroyed. I have actually gained 8 pounds rather than lose any…

resolution

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lose weight

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Come on… this is simple, isn’t it?

It’s not rocket science and I do have a Ph.D.

Just use more calories than you take in.

That means eat less calories and/or do more activities. Eat Less and Exercise More, Got It!

Wait, what about nutrition? You know, the vitamins,minerals, fiber and stuff.

bacon burger

Photo Credit: Pamela Graham via Compfight cc

OK. It’s not just calories, but some of what you eat. I remember there are bad foods out there, but they keep changing as new studies emerge (see blog last month) .

Maybe closer to rocket science that I first believed.

food pyramid

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So, maybe I need to utilize a plan, but which plan? The food pyramid……no that was done away with for the choosemyplate system.

myplate_yellow_livetype copy

Photo Credit: USDAgov via Compfight cc

ChooseMyPlate is  a good plan. It has the 5 food groups in the best proportions to provide the proper nutrition. Yet it doesn’t give the actual foods to eat. I need something more. Like a real diet plan.

Where do you find a good diet?

Dr. Oz, Oprah, The Doctors, Morning News shows…they all tell you about different miracle diets. And most of them are bogus… without scientific validation.

Yet people use the diets and lose weight. Pick any diet and someone has lost weight on it. And someone else didn’t lose anything.

Low-fat, Low-carbohydrate, Balanced fat-carbs-protein. Pick the type and you can lose weight. It goes back to the statement: Eat Less and Exercise More.

As long as the diet you pick is not too extreme and lowers calories…it will work,

for some people.

A pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories. In order to lose the fat, your diet must create a calorie deficit and your weight will go down. Maybe not one pound for every 3,500 calories, physiology bodies just don’t work that way, but less calories will mean weight loss.

Along with calorie deficit, you need exercise. Exercise will burn more calories and build muscle which burns more calories.

A good place to look for diets is in U.S. News Best Diets report. You can find it HERE.

Look at the different diets and try some. Stick with the one that works for you. I personally like the protein diets (low-carbohydrate). I enjoy the meals and don’t feel hungry on this type of diet. You have to like eggs on this type of diet.

The studies seem to show that low-carbohydrate diets are easier to stick to for the long haul, but the evidence is not overwhelming. The is a lot of back and forth with the studies. So the best thing is to find a diet that you can stick with. It means changing your life habits.

The DASH diet ranks high on several websites. It is a balanced diet that  was designed to lower high blood pressure (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), so it is not intended for weight loss per se. It does lower blood pressure and usually weight if you lower calories.

Evaluate the different diet types and find one with some favorite foods. As long as you stick to the diet and it has adequate nutritional value, you will benefit compared to the average American.

It may not be rocket science, but it is also not as easy as falling off a log or picking up burger and fries on the way home…

dsb

 

Wabi Sabi

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

It’s nearing the end of the semester.  The air has grown warm, students are reading out of doors and hanging from the trees in hammocks.  In a little more than a week, black caps and gowns will dot the scene as we celebrate a new chapter in students’ colleagues’ lives. A long-anticipated summer break is only a few days away. There’s so much warmth and joy in the air.  Still, there’s just a hint of sadness lingering about the edges of all this excitement.

And I’m feeling a bit wabi sabi today.

Yes, I know that I misuse this term. From my admittedly flawed recollection, wabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that sees beauty even (or perhaps especially) when it is mixed with imperfection. I first ran across this proposed use of wabi sabi in Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was looking for a word to express that feeling of being both happy and sad at the same time and wabi sabi seemed to fit the bill.

Her use of the term really resonated at the time and so wabi sabi comes to mind occasionally when I encounter imperfect beauty in my own life experience or more often when I feel a great deal of joy mixed with just a tinge of sadness.  As the semester draws to a close, this phrase floated into my mind once again.

There’s plenty of beauty to be seen at the end of the semester:

  •     in the once quiet, insecure, uncertain student who stands to give a strong, thoughtful, and thorough end-of-semester presentation.
  •     in the smile of a senior with only a couple of final exams standing between her and graduation.
  •     in the freshman who says, “I’ve learned how much I really do have to study to be successful.”
  •     and in the student who sits across from my desk with a giant grin on his face and a biology exam marked “A” in his hand, the same student who sank into that chair 13 weeks ago close to tears and wondering how to move forward.

Still, there’s just a hint of imperfection mixed with the beauty.  This time of year calls so many of my students to introspection and reflection on the semester past and it becomes more difficult to gloss over those flaws:

  •     Just a hint of anxiety in the student who is still unsure what direction he’s headed.
  •     A whiff of sadness in the student who is sitting out for a semester because of health struggles back home.
  •     The grief I feel as I read an email from a student who tells me he regrets the level of effort he’s shown and is afraid he might have disappointed the people who care about him.

Yet, even here there is room for hopeThere’s beauty mingled with the imperfection. (Tweet This)

I have hope to share with the student who can’t see his own potential.

I have hope to share with the student who feels that life is on-hold.

I have hope to share with the student who faces regret.

And I feel anew a sense of gratefulness that I teach at a school where we embrace faith as we learn. I don’t have to bite back these words of hope when yet another student drops into my office to share a bit of life’s imperfection.  So, I take a deep breath and plunge ahead, sharing just a hint of this great hope.

-ep

Tonight at 10: Mack the Knife!

Do you remember

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Photo Credit: Devin.M.Hunt via Compfight cc

that iconic song made notoriously famous by Bobby Darin, a tongue-in-cheek parody of the 1920′s German play, “Die Dreigroschenoper” (“The Three Penny Opera”)? The song was first made big in the U.S. by jazz legend Louis Armstrong in 1955, but it was Darin who made it a night club-style “classic,” winning a Grammy for Best Record of the Year in 1959 and becoming that year’s second best selling song, taking it to #1 for nine weeks.

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy via Compfight cc

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear…

But can you imagine

Photo Credit: Shavar Ross via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shavar Ross via Compfight cc

a TV news anchor dancing atop the desk, SNL-style, gyrating his hips to a swingy beat in an irreverent mash-up of the day’s top stories? (Maybe you can, actually.)

And it shows them pearly white…

Agenda-Setting
An abundance of research has shown that the news media, while not telling us what to think, clearly tell us what to think about. McCombs and Shaw did seminal work in this area in the 1970s, and their findings are still highly regarded–and have been rigorously emulated–in the academic field of mass communication through the present. This body of work has been directing our attention to—and illustrating how—some issues, values, video clips, and a milieu of daily highlights are shuffled and re-shuffled in order of importance in our minds, some decreasing and some increasing in salience and prominence among our thoughts de jure.

Photo Credit: bionicteaching via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bionicteaching via Compfight cc

Just a jackknife has old Mac Heath, babe…

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

In both print and broadcast journalism classes we repeatedly stress the eight “newsworthy” elements that make a purported news story worth telling. We give examples of these and ask students to identify them both in participatory activities and on exams. The eight newsworthy elements are, in no particular order:

  1. prominence (of someone in the story)
  2. proximity (to the audience)
  3. timeliness (newness of the information)
  4. conflict (between parties in the story)
  5. overall impact (on the audience)
  6. emotional impact (on the audience)
  7. magnitude (how far the impact reaches)
  8. oddity (getting the audience’s interest)

A good understanding of these elements is essential to our students’ success in creating good, engaging news that daily readers, viewers, and web surfers will want to consume. Frequently, however, classroom discussions about which story elements would be most effective and appropriate to focus on for any given story reveal that, at least initially, students are generally unreflective about their own motivations for how their angle on the story will affect their hapless readers/viewers.

And he keeps it out of sight…

Moreover, because of the very influential power of news media to direct people’s attention and even, ultimately, to affect their attitudes, budding journalists must take their responsibility seriously as purveyors of information. Careless Unreflective Reckless fact gathering and reporting will inevitably have deleterious effects on everything from losing credibility (on the “big” issues), to creating unnecessary alarm, to enervating democratic processes.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

You know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe…

Clearly, sensationalizing violence  and gratuitously feeding the basest needs of audiences for graphic “news” is not an appropriate default strategy for journalists. There is much more to informing the masses than simply being “ambulance chasers” and “doomsday prophets.” There is a far higher plane to which academia can direct its acolytes, instilling within them the desire to inspire with their writing and pictures, to create a hunger for greater knowledge of the world around them, rather than soliciting knee-jerk reactions time and again.

Photo Credit: madamepsychosis via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: madamepsychosis via Compfight cc

Scarlet billows start to spread…

Failing to instill this concern in the classroom setting, however, perhaps journalism instructors should convey to students the apostle Paul’s concern, wherein he reminds us that, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9, NASB)

Thanks for watching! Good night, and have a pleasant evening!

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

There are no ugly cats!

Not all of my teaching takes place in a formal classroom.  One of the delights of my job is to help create leadership learning experiences for students that take place outside of the classroom.  This past weekend, 60+ students came together at Scottsville Retreat Center for Ignite, our student leadership retreat.

As we plan Ignite, we try to offer learning experiences around 3 different areas: developing in our faith as leaders, practical leadership skills, and foundational assumptions about leadership. So, for instance, this year we considered questions related to living out our calling and preparing spiritually for the tough days in leadership. And this year, for the first time, we explicitly discussed our foundational assumptions about leadership.

A couple of years ago, we sat down and wrote out 10 foundational assumptions about leadership which would guide the leadership development program at ETBU.  When I teach in class, when I select a textbook, when I consider bringing in speakers, I think about these 10 foundational assumptions.

We all have foundational assumptions don’t we?  These are the things we really believe, deep down, and that shape the decisions we make daily.

This year, we asked Dr. Dub to address several of our foundational assumptions during our Campfire & S’mores time at Ignite.  And so, there gathered around the fire, we talked about 3 of those assumptions:

  • Leadership Can Be Learned
  • Leadership is Action, Not Position
  • And, “There are No Ugly Cats!”
Photo Credit: asgw via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: asgw via Compfight cc

Well, that’s not our actual assumption, but I will forever hold the story of Dr. Dub’s grandmother telling him there are no ugly cats as a reminder of one of those deep truths of leadership.  Dr. Dub told the story about a cat of questionable cuteness that wandered past his grandma’s porch one day.  When he commented on its lack of attractive qualities (that is, he called it ugly), her response was, “There are no ugly cats!”

And the truth is, in leadership, “there are no ugly cats.” (Tweet This)  Difficult ones, yes.  Opinionated ones, absolutely. Cats of different colors, stripes, spots, and attitudes, no doubt.  But there are no ugly cats. And when I take the time to sit back and really listen to the differences of opinion and different personalities of all the individuals I’ve had a chance to work with or even lead, I am amazed at the beauty of the differences that God creates in human beings. And they all have the opportunity to bring something to the table.  Each person has something to offer, so long as I don’t deny them that opportunity by believing they are too ugly (or uneducated, or goofy, or traditional, or creative, etc).

Of course, in leadership it’s easier to lead people who all think like you do, work like you do, see things like you do.  But, in the end, are you even leading these people? Or would you all have gone in the same direction anyway?

Yes, my life would be easier if everyone always saw things my way.  But, because I really do believe that there are no ugly cats, I will choose to actively include people in the decision-making process who are quite different from me.  So, thanks Dr. Dub for that reminder…and the mental image to keep it fresh in my mind.

-ep

Cognitive Dissonance and Soap

Hey, buddy… try this!

Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin via Compfight cc

It’ll make you feel good! Real good!

You know you want this!

TRY THIS NOW!!

If a drug pusher or… a pimp… accosted you this way–as you strolled carelessly down the street. Maybe got uncomfortably close? Maybe yelled in your face? Maybe blocked your way?

Would you feel put upon? Call the police?

Would it ruin your otherwise perfect morning and disrupt the serenity of your innocent thoughts on your tree-lined, routine jaunt to Starbucks?

How dare someone!! That would be intolerable! Right?

Then why then do we tolerate such boorish behavior from advertisers who do the same things to us 24/7 on TV sets that we purchase and via cable programming we’re paying for? In short, why do we let advertisers invade our private property and infiltrate our personal space and time?

But seriously…

Am I suggesting that broadcast advertisers are basically pimps and drug pushers? No!

They’re worse. They’re much more influential. Much more pernicious. And despite a few regulations from the FTC, they are largely unrestricted. Drug dealers would like to have it so good!

Most people are blissfully unaware of how many “free choices” they think they are making in everyday life are really the end result of carefully crafted schemes launched on Madison Avenue (or some avenue). And much of the success of advertising is due to the effect of  cognitive dissonance, in which one’s mind is in a state of tension due to an unresolved dilemma. The culprit usually involves a choice which must be made, but there are competing advantages and disadvantages for making each choice. Thus, one experiences tension and stress until the issue is resolved. If the choice and, thus, the cognitive dilemma, is great enough, one may even wrestle with her conscience for some time–and with considerable angst–before deciding what to do.

What does any of this have to do with advertisers?

They create cognitive dissonance in people on purpose (see McLeod, 2008)! Estimates vary greatly, but the range of possible exposures to marketing messages is somewhere between 3,000 and 20,000 per day per consumer. Yes! Per day! Potential consumers are bombarded with dissonance-inducing solicitations designed to cause them to re-evaluate how comfortable they are with their status quo.

Don’t you know you could do so much better than… that?

Photo Credit: Professor Bop via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Professor Bop via Compfight cc

Part One of the sinister plan is to convince people that whatever product or service they’re using could be better… no, should be better! Right now!
Part Two of the sinister plan is to create the appearance of distinction between mostly similar items.
Part Three of the sinister plan is to play up trivial differences as being significant, very significant.

Using this approach, advertisers have convinced us to change out our perfectly good laundry detergent for soap with a more clever name. We have tossed out delicious potato chips for insane flavors, and we have ditched our insurance providers for products sold by lizards and ducks. Yes, you did! Fess up! 

Larry the Cable Guy, spokesman for Prilosec OTC, in one ad quipped humorously that, in this country, “We don’t just make things you want…We make things you didn’t even know you wanted!“ 

Despite the levity, what is missed by most viewers of this ad is that Larry has briefly pulled back the curtain on one of advertisers’ key motives.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

In class discussions about the effects of media on audiences (and consumers) I think my students see what producers of news, entertainment, and advertising are up to. They generally see the intentionality of the producers who are eliciting certain reactions and/or effects in the content of their messages. However, it’s another challenge to get students “fired up” about the ethical uncertainties of large and powerful groups (e.g., media conglomerates and their advertising shills) wielding almost limitless and generally unquestioned influence on the American psyche. Perhaps they would rather not consider the mind-boggling ramifications that advertisers’ psychological hegemony has on our current financial crises, both personal and institutional.

Jesus encourages us to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Paul warns us that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Finally, Peter warns us that “by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19)

So… Are you in debt? Hooked on Pringles?

Perhaps it all started with a dose of cognitive dissonance that grew into an unquenchable habit. (Tweet This) And, yes, advertisers intended for it to be so!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

 

Doppelganger

There are a few definitions of a doppelganger. I choose the one that defines it as a living person’s double, an unrelated twin. In some countries, the doppelganger is a bearer of bad news or an omen of death.

doppelganger

Photo Credit: c2k2e via Compfight cc

I remember going to a leadership conference in Georgia with Allan,  a former BSM director from ETBU. We were having lunch with other attendees and striking up a conversation with the waitress. Allan remarked how she looked exactly like one of our ETBU students and how it would be great to get them together. At that statement, the waitress got a horrified look on her face. It turns out that in her culture, they believe everyone has a double in the world, and if you meet your double, one of you will die. End of witnessing opportunity…

If this omen of death belief were more widespread, then maybe the topic of cloning would be less alluring. Making your own doppelganger would have dire consequences.

Many people are still enamored with making human clones. At the beginning of the 21st century, several groups claimed to have successfully cloned  a human baby, but there was never any proof to their claims. Cloning of humans was banned by the United Nations, but not all countries follow the resolution. Most agree on banning reproductive cloning, but some want to continue human therapeutic cloning efforts. Last year was a giant step forward in human therapeutic cloning science (see Attack of the Clones blog), and some labs continue to try to reproductively clone humans. It is still not possible to clone a human with current technology.

We know there are natural clones. We call them identical twins. An egg is fertilized with a sperm and the resulting zygote, for some reason, splits in two and develops into two people. Clones who share the exact DNA with each other. So when we attempt to clone ourselves, we want to replicate that process. Just take our DNA and make another person just like us.

twins with flower

Photo Credit: Len Radin via Compfight cc

The problem is that we are not just DNA. There is more to making a human than genetics. For instance, almost all of the cell contents come from the egg. Not just half the DNA, but all the organelles and cell proteins too. To clone ourselves, we need the exact cell contents that were in our zygote. That means our mother’s egg (the exact one we came from). And that’s weird on several levels.

Also, just the act of fertilization starts a timer for the genetics. Genes turn on and off at the proper timing to get development to work right. With cloning, we have to trick the cell into developing and it doesn’t work right 98% of the time. And the of the times that work, 80% are not normal.

Many of the abnormalities resemble genomic imprinting disorders. This happens when the DNA from mom and the DNA from dad don’t work right together. In most genes, having two copies working is perfectly fine, however in a small percentage, one set of genes needs to be turned off. This happens with conception, but not with nuclear cloning. The imprinted genes are not programmed properly in the clone leading to abnormalities. Genomic imprinting fits in the realm of epigenetics.

What about the clones with genetic defects? They will have high medical costs. Currently imprinting disorders that cause mental or physical abnormalities carry medical costs of several million dollars over the lifetime of the child. Who will cover that cost? The cloning laboratory? Insurance companies? Taxpayers?

Even with all the difficulties, scientists are still attempting to clone, and probably will succeed someday. So, what about the clone itself?

  • Will it be a zombie like person with only animal instincts to drive it?
  • Will it be able to think and learn like a human?
  • Will it have constitutional rights and protection?
  • Will it have a Spirit?

Remember that we have clones walking among us. Those identical twins. Do they have rights and thoughts and ambition and Spirits?

Of course they do.

So if we can manipulate DNA and produce a clone, we won’t nullify the humanity of the clone.

And does that mean that the Spirit lies within the genetics of humans?

Humans have a Spirit. Humans are genetic creatures. Therefore, Spirit and genetics have to be connected somehow. Maybe it is epi-epigenetics…

Makes my head hurt…it would be much easier to just avoid my doppelganger completely.

dsb