April 25, 2009

"She tried to be chipper, and when they asked her age, she did this little shimmy" — because she was on TV.

"We could see that Susan Boyle thought "you’re supposed to be kind of sexy and personable, and she got it wrong... Nothing sort of triggers our contempt more than something trying to be acceptable and then failing."

Consider the brain and its stereotypes:
On a very basic level, judging people by appearance means putting them quickly into impersonal categories, much like deciding whether an animal is a dog or a cat. “Stereotypes are seen as a necessary mechanism for making sense of information,” said David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University....

Eons ago, this capability was of life-and-death importance, and humans developed the ability to gauge other people within seconds....

One reason our brains persist in using stereotypes, experts say, is that often they give us broadly accurate information, even if all the details don’t line up. Ms. Boyle’s looks, for example, accurately telegraphed much about her biography, including her socioeconomic level and lack of worldly experience.

Her behavior on stage reinforced an outsider image. David Berreby, author of “Us and Them,” about why people categorize one another, said the TV audience may have also judged her harshly because, in banter with the judges before singing, she appeared to be trying, awkwardly, to fit in....

[John F. Dovidio, a psychology professor at Yale] said that encountering discrepancies to stereotypes probably “creates a sort of autonomic arousal” in our peripheral nervous system, triggering spikes of cortisol and other indicators of stress. “That autonomic arousal is going to motivate us to do something in that situation,” he said, especially if the situation is dangerous.
But we're not out on the savannah in evolutionary times. We're sitting at home on our comfy sofas, experiencing the thrill that was once danger.

16 comments:

SMGalbraith said...

But we're not out on the savannah in evolutionary times. We're sitting at home on our comfy sofas, experiencing the thrill that was once danger.Tell that to our brains.

Evolutionary psychologists would argue that the reaction comes first - innate and hard-wired - and then we rationalize those sentiments later.

Our brains tell us we're in the wild but we then rationalize differently.

Trooper York said...

That's fashion profiling.

If Mort was awake he would say that was racist. Or sexist. Or uglydressist. Or something.

Oligonicella said...

She was being cheeky, not sexy.

Leslie said...

In other words, post-sixties feminism got it exactly backwards: socialization actually advances rather than retards what we are naturally.

Palladian said...

Jesus Christ, why don't they just do a vivisection of this woman on live global television?

Nothing sort of triggers my contempt more than someone trying to apply their half-assed pop sociology to a contestant on a television talent competition.

rhhardin said...

My brain uses cliches more than stereotypes.

Christy said...

I agree, cheeky, not sexy.

It wasn't until snarky curmudgeons told us better did we, too, want to be part of the kewl crowd and disdain her.

EDH said...

The say GWB liked to give people clever, stereotypical nick names.

GWB (to Susan Boyle): "I think I'll call you... Bushie! Heh, heh, heh (shoulders rapidly shrugging)."

traditionalguy said...

Why can't old Susan have her chance in the limelight without every one crying foul. She's hurt no one except the narcissist's property rights in the attention of everyone.She's a lot prettier than Mamie Eisenhower was, not to mention Eleanor Roosevelt.

Synova said...

Sounds like making excuses for someone who feels contempt for others.

"She was being cheeky, not sexy."

Exactly. And thus, I felt no contempt.

Penny said...

Perhaps we should save our contempt along with our dollars.

MrBuddwing said...

I've become personally convinced that stereotyping is a near-inevitable consequence of aging.

To put it one way: It's easy, when you're 10 years old, to say "the color of one's skin doesn't matter." But by the time you're 50, even you will be amazed at how much it matters to you, one way or another.

I try to take my cue from Edward R. Murrow: "Everyone is a prisoner of his own experience. No one can eliminate prejudices - just recognize them."

Jennifer said...

The rabid takedown of Susan Boyle skeeves me out even more than the adulation of same.

pj (not PJ) said...

Do they never tire of rationalizing their bitchiness? Can't wait for that tsk-tsking exposé next week on bulimia in neighborhood preteens.

I promise you that whomever wrote this was NOT one of the cute girls in junior high - most entertainment/fashion/bitch industry types weren't- kind of like Tina Fey/Jessica Parker weren't cute.

These industries cater to those who clawed their way up in an effort to transform themselves - which is fine, great, good for you, but for god's sake, they should stop bitching about their ghost self from the past who didn't bother (Susan Boyle) and still got some closeup time.

Penny said...

Taking it one step further, Mr Buddwing, it is a part of our human nature. In days long, long past, "sizing up", and doing so quickly, was a life and death matter. All of us are here because our forbearers, did just that.

The word "stereotyping", and its current negative connotation, is just a way of slowing down our innate tendencies to suit a more modern time in developed nations.

There are many in this world who don't have the luxury to stereotype.

kentuckyliz said...

I still like Susan Boyle's voice, even if she is too down-home for the elites. I'd buy her music on iTunes.

Even after the snarling crowds try to circle and pull her down.

We ugly middle aged women have to stick together.