The Pollyanna Principle

Posted under: food, health, philosophy, psychology.
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I often wondered why I recall events in my life as mostly happy and positive. PollyannaThen this last semester as I was taking a sociology course, I came across a theory called the “Pollyanna Principle”. This is named after the book Pollyanna, about a young girl who fervently held a naively optimistic and grateful outlook on life. According to the Pollyanna Principle, the brain processes information that is pleasing and agreeable in a more precise and exact manner as compared to unpleasant information. We actually tend to remember past experiences as more rosy than they actually occurred.

In 1978 researchers Margaret Matlin and David Stang provided substantial evidence of the Pollyanna Principle. They found that people expose themselves to positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli, they take longer to recognize what is unpleasant or threatening than what is pleasant and safe, and they report that they encounter positive stimuli more frequently than they actually do.

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Comments (4) May 20 2009


Traditional Marriage: An Outmoded Institution

Posted under: philosophy, psychology.
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weddingcaketopper

Adapted for Cogitations from a paper I wrote as part of my sociology coursework.

Human beings almost never have to be cajoled into pairing. Instead, we do this naturally. We flirt. We feel infatuation. We fall in love. We marry. And the vast majority of us marry only one person at a time. Pair-bonding is a trademark of the human animal (Fisher, 1992). In our pair bonding society we find our other half, become dependent, and walk off into the sunset of the nuclear family.

Men and women depended on each other from the beginning. Evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin suggested that on average men are more aggressive, and that they excel at higher mathematical problems, and at completing several visual-spatial-quantitative tasks. Women, on average, do more nurturing and exhibit more verbal skills and memory ability than men (Fisher, 1992). These gender differences make evolutionary sense. Aggression would have served men well as they confronted their predators and enemies, and nurturing capabilities of women caused them to show interest in their infants and tolerance of their needs. As ancestral males began to scout, track, and surround animals millennia ago, those males who were good at maps and mazes would have prevailed. Ancestral women needed to locate vegetable foods within an elaborate matrix of vegetation, so they developed a superior ability to remember the locations of stationary objects (Fisher, 1992).

In preindustrial Europe farming couples still needed each other to survive. A woman living on a farm depended on her husband to move the rocks, fell the trees, and plow the land. Her husband needed her to sow, weed, pick, prepare, and store the vegetables. Together they worked the land. More important, whoever left the marriage left empty-handed. Women and men were tied to the soil, to each other, and to a network of stationary kin (Fisher, 1992).
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Comments (7) May 05 2009


Petition Granted and Ordered

Posted under: philosophy.
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Certificate Of Change Of Name

Certificate Of Change Of Name

I recently changed my last name from Danley back to my maiden name Uhler. When Brent and I got married in 1995 I changed my last name to his family name without considering the significance or history of the tradition. Brent initially suggested that I go back to Uhler. I was resistant at first because I liked the name Danley. No one ever pronounced Uhler correctly (properly pronounced “yoo-ler”). I also liked the convenience of our family members all having the same last name. These concerns quickly became trivial, however, when I began examining the tradition. I now believe this custom is outmoded and misogynistic. My name represents my individuality, identity, and autonomy.

Under Christian doctrine the Bible made the husband the “head” of his wife—his wife’s superior—as Christ was head of the church. The common laws turned the married pair legally into one person—the husband. The husband was enlarged, so to speak, by marriage, while the wife’s giving up her own name and being called by his symbolized her relinquishing her identity. This legal doctrine of marital unity was called coverture, which meant the woman turned all her legal rights and obligations over to her husband.

–Nancy F. Cott, Harvard professor

Many women continue to take the last name of their husband when they decide to marry. Most of us are given a surname to connect to our progenitors. Under this conventional Western naming convention we are linked to our fathers; however we have no connection by name to our mothers. Many couples are now combining their last names. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6) May 02 2009


All American Children Are Above Average Act

Posted under: philosophy, politics, psychology, school.
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Liberal education is a vanishing ideal in the contemporary West. The aim of liberal education is to produce people who go on learning after their formal education has ceased; who think, ask questions, and know how to find answers when they need them. People who are better informed and more reflective are more likely to be considerate than those who are – and who are allowed to remain – ignorant, narrow-minded, selfish, and uncivil in the profound sense that characterizes so much human experience now.

Since the No Child Left Behind Act has been instituted, it has been counterproductive. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires public schools to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students, holding them accountable and withholding federal funding if they fail to meet requirements. I am infuriated and bewildered by this law.NCLB: A+

Many opponents of NCLB, including teachers and parents, do not like the idea of the testing that is provided in NCLB. They claim that “standardized testing, which is the heart of NCLB accountability, is deeply flawed and biased for many reasons, and that stricter teacher qualifications have exacerbated the nationwide teacher shortage, not provided a stronger teaching force.”

Deborah White

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Comments (6) Mar 19 2009


Name Change

Posted under: philosophy.
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As I mentioned in our family site, we are excited to be starting out the new year with new identities–well, the girls and I anyway. We have decided to change our last names. I will take back my maiden name, Uhler, because that is who I am. The girls will change their last name to Danler, as it is a combination of Brent and my family names; it connects them to each other, and to both of us. We are excited for this change and hope that the girls never acquiesce to changing their last name (if they are to ever get married) and give up their identity.

Read Brent’s post about women, marriage, and the tradition of women taking the last name of their husbands. I agree with Brent; these things are misogynistic and archaic.

Comments (3) Jan 20 2009


The Ethics of Lying

Posted under: philosophy, psychology.
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Some argue that lies are justified when truth would gratuitously cause or heighten conflict. What justifies the lie is the benefit of its outcome; if more good than harm flows from its telling, it is justified.

German philosopher and moral absolutist Immanuel Kant believed that lying is always wholly unacceptable. He based this on his general principle that we should treat each human being as an end in itself, and never as a mere means. As a deontologist, he focused on the motives or reasons behind action rather than its consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1) Jan 01 2009