Why We Sometimes Hate The Good Guy

“Why we sometimes hate the good guy,” by Pat Barclay, University of Guelph

Everyone is supposed to cheer for good guys. We’re supposed to honour heroes, saints and anyone who helps others, and we should only punish the bad guys. And that’s what we do, right?

Well, sometimes.

Most of the time, we do indeed reward co-operators. We also often punish uncooperative people who harm others, who aren’t good team players or who freeload on the hard work of others. But sometimes the good guys also get punished or criticized, specifically because they are so good.

Why would anyone punish or criticize someone for being good? This seems puzzling because it brings down group cooperation. However, it is no anomaly.

This punishment of good co-operators has been discovered in multiple fields, including experimental economics, social psychology and anthropology, where it is variously called “antisocial punishment” or “do-gooder derogation.”

Cooperation and punishment are often studied using economic games with real money, where people can either cooperate or be selfish and can pay to “punish” others for their actions.

While most punishment in these studies is directed at uncooperative group members, approximately 20 per cent of all punishment is directed at the most cooperative group members. Furthermore, while the rates of antisocial punishment vary, it has been found in every society where it has been investigated. Researchers are at a loss to explain why antisocial punishment exists.

“You’re Making Me Look Bad!”

Our research suggests a simple reason why we sometimes hate the good guy: They make us look bad by comparison. Many of us have heard of people saying: “Stop working so hard, you’re making the rest of us look bad.”

Are you a Mother Teresa?

This is the same phenomenon: When one person looks really good, others look bad by comparison. They then have an incentive to stop that person from looking good, especially if they can’t (or won’t) compete.

Just like every other trait, generosity is relative. Someone is only deemed good or generous based on how they compare to others. In the land of Scrooges, a normal person seems like Mother Teresa. In the land of Mother Teresas, a normal person seems like Scrooge.

When faced with a Mother Teresa, how can a normal person compete? One option is to step up one’s game and actively compete to be more generous (“competitive altruism”). A second option is to bring the best co-operators down, Scrooge-like, via do-gooder derogation and antisocial punishment.

Or are you a Scrooge?

This manifests as suppressing someone’s cooperation or work ethic, inferring ulterior motives for altruistic actions, implying real or imagined hypocrisy (“He’s a vegetarian, but wears leather shoes!”), attacking them on unrelated dimensions or outright punishing them.

We recently ran an experiment to test whether competition to look good is what drives antisocial punishment. Our participants were assigned to either a control condition or an experimental condition where they had an incentive to appear more generous than others.

Suppressing The Good

In our control condition, participants played an economic game known as a “public goods game,” where they could donate money to a “public good” which benefited everyone, or keep the money for themselves. We then let participants pay to punish others, and we calculated how much punishment was targeted at the best co-operators.

Our experimental condition was the same as the control condition, except that an additional participant was an observer who could see how much everyone donated to the public good. The observer could choose one person as a partner for a subsequent cooperative task, which prompted everyone in the group to appear more cooperative than others.

We hypothesized that when there was this competition to be chosen as a partner, there would be more punishment of the top co-operators because that’s when social comparisons are more important.

Our results unambiguously supported our hypothesis: There was five times as much punishment of the good co-operators when people competed to be chosen compared to the absence of such a competition.

Furthermore, this antisocial punishment was effective at suppressing the good co-operators, thus preventing the good co-operators from making the bad co-operators look bad. In other words, antisocial punishment worked.

Hating the Good Guy – Why Does It Matter?

Critics often attack the motives of people who protect the environment, seek social justice, donate money or work too hard in organizations. Such good deeds are dismissed as naïve, hypocritical (“champagne liberals”) or as mere “virtue signalling” by those who do not perform those deeds. If left unchecked, this criticism may ultimately reduce how often people do good deeds.

Our research helps us recognize these attacks for what they are: A competitive social strategy, used by low co-operators, to bring others down and stop them from looking better than they do.

By identifying this strategy and calling it out, we can make it less effective, and thus allow good deeds to truly go unpunished.The Conversation 


Pat Barclay, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Guelph

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Earth Day: ‘Green Muscle Memory’ And Climate Education

“Earth Day: ‘Green muscle memory’ and climate education promote behaviour change,” by Preety Sharma, University of Toronto and Ayeshah Haque, University of Toronto

This year, organizers of Earth Day are calling for widespread climate education as a critical step in the fight against climate change.

A new report, released in time for global attention for Earth Day on April 22, highlights the impact of climate education on promoting behaviour change in the next generation.

Despite people’s deep connection to their local environment — whether it’s blackouts in Toronto caused by raccoons, communities gearing up for a total solar eclipse lasting only minutes, chasing northern lights or hundreds of Manitoba kids excited about ice fishing — there remains inertia in climate action.

Sparking global momentum and energy in young people can go a long way to addressing climate change now and shortly, says Bryce Coon, author of the report and Earth Day’s director of education.

How Knowledge Becomes Ingrained

Educators aspire to prepare learners for the global challenges of the times. Teachers have become increasingly concerned about best practices for supporting their charges as young people express anxiety about environmental futures.

In his report, Coon outlines the benefits of climate education, starting with supporting educators to impart “green muscle memory” — habits, routines and attitudes young people develop to perform eco-friendly actions repetitively and consistently. This, he notes, contributes to alleviating climate-related despair and anxiety.

climate educationSimilarly, Finnish researchers use biking as an analogy to describe the process by which knowledge becomes ingrained in people’s memory. Just as all of the parts of a bike need to work together for the bike to ride smoothly, so does climate education need to draw upon many different components for climate education to effectively influence new habits. The bike model advocates ways of learning that consider knowledge, identity, emotions and world views.

Young people have come to flex their green muscle memory when they load reusable water bottles each day. That small action has become a part of the daily routine for millions of families, and when added together reduces plastic litter.

According to a 2022 survey by the Canadian charity Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) and Leger Research Intelligence Group, Canadians have increased awareness of climate change and have become concerned about climate action.

Many believe governments should do more, including making climate education a priority. The survey received responses from 4,035 people including educators, students and parents. More than half of the survey respondents were from Ontario (25 per cent) and Québec (29 per cent).

Challenges With Climate Education

However, the inclusion of climate education in formal school curricula has come with its own set of challenges.

In the survey, 50 per cent of educators nationally agreed that a lack of time in their course or grade to teach the topic of climate change is a barrier. Educators in Ontario reported a lack of classroom resources as a barrier when integrating climate change education within the curriculum.

climate changeEvidence is building about the benefits of implementing and expanding climate education. A 2020 American study documented how students enrolled in a year-long university environmental education course reported pro-environmental behaviours after completing the course.

Extrapolating the impact on learners to a wider scale, the researchers argued scaling climate education had the potential to be as effective as other large-scale mitigation strategies for reducing carbon emissions, like solar panels or electric vehicles.

More recently, research has demonstrated the value of how learning in climate education can lead youth to seek green choices, take green action and make green decisions. The United Nations has declared climate education “a critical agent in addressing the issue of climate change” as climate education increases across different settings and for various age groups.

Educators Finding Ways

More and more educators are taking steps to find ways to teach climate education in schools. Emily Olsen, an educator and now a doctoral candidate at Penn State University, began to explore climate education in greater depth after surviving the Almeda wildfire in Oregon that claimed her fiancé’s family home.

This wildfire’s severity can most likely be attributed to drier-than-normal conditions brought on by climate change in her then-town of residence.

Due to Olsen’s lived experience, developing community resilience to the effects of climate change influences her approach to studying climate education. As an instructor for several undergraduate-level courses, Olsen focuses on equipping budding educators with the skills and knowledge to incorporate climate education in their classrooms.

climate educationAll Aspects Of Curricula

Embedding climate education into all aspects of curricula can take a variety of approaches in and outside of the classroom.

In mainstream public education, climate education is becoming more common in Canada, but there is variation across provinces and territories. Environmental education has been packaged in different forms, including broadening school curricula with inclusion in science, but also subjects including English, math and art.

Teacher training as well as complementary programming is also being offered to meet demand.

Integrated education that taps into the “heart, head and hands” of young people can spread behaviour change at a broader level. Educators might find other opportunities, such as with climate-related challenges, experiential learning and project-based learning, all of which can have lasting impacts and promote behaviour change.The Conversation


Preety Sharma, Fellow, Dalla Lana Journalism and Health Impact, University of Toronto and Ayeshah Haque, Fellow, Dalla Lana Journalism and Health Impact, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Mothers’ Education Has A Powerful Role Shaping Their Children’s Futures

“Mothers’ education has a powerful role shaping their children’s futures,” by Yue Qian, University of British Columbia and Yang Hu, Lancaster University

Providing equitable quality education for all people is one of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. To meet this goal, international organizations and national and local governments have invested heavily in expanding education.

In Canada, for example, laws mandate that children stay in school until a certain age. Since the 1950s, policies related to post-secondary study have resulted in the establishment of new post-secondary institutions and increased post-secondary enrolment.

In theory, expanding education makes more opportunities available. But does this mean there is now greater intergenerational mobility as individuals rely less on their parents’ background to get ahead in education?

Our new research shows that
while decades ago, if a father was well educated, his child would likely achieve educational success as well, but this is less the case today. Conversely, the educational status of mothers has greater influence over their children’s educational status today than it did before.

a smiling woman seen next to a young person in a graduation cap.
Mothers have received far too little attention in terms of how they affect their children’s intergenerational mobility.

Gender Revolution

Research on intergenerational mobility often focuses on how children’s achievements are associated with those of their fathers.

Although mothers play a central role in child rearing, they have received far too little attention in mainstream understandings of intergenerational mobility.

Against the backdrop of global education expansion and the gender revolution, women have made substantial gains in education. In the United States, for example, women overtook men in education, receiving 58 per cent, 61 per cent and 55 per cent of all bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, respectively, in 2019–2020.

Similarly, in Canada, women have outnumbered men in higher education, bagging nearly 60 per cent of bachelor’s and master’s degrees as of 2020.

With women’s rise in education, educated mothers pass on to their children not only their cognitive ability and financial resources, but also aspirations, values and educational know-how, all of which help bolster their children’s educational status.

Education – Large Global Dataset

A woman seen reading to a child.
How have substantial gains in women’s education affected their children?

To understand how mothers matter for intergenerational educational mobility around the world, we combined data from 545 existing large-scale surveys from 106 societies in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America.

The dataset included 1.79 million individuals born between 1956 and 1990 who provided valid information on their own and both their mother’s and father’s education. As of 2022, the 106 societies we considered covered nearly 90 per cent of the world’s population.

Analyzing this global dataset, we compared how mothers and fathers impact their children’s educational status.

Mothers Taking The Lead

According to classic modernization theory, education expansion is expected to promote intergenerational mobility by equalizing educational opportunities.

This “equalizing” expectation holds if we only look at the association between fathers and their children. According to analyses of our global dataset, as education expanded over time, the father-child association in educational status has become weaker.

However, contrary to the “equalizing” expectation, the mother-child association in educational status has grown much stronger as education expanded over time.

In Europe, for example, women’s educational status has become more closely associated with their mothers’ than their fathers’ education. A similar trend is observed across other world regions, where the importance of mothers’ education has caught up with and even exceeded that of fathers in shaping their children’s educational status.

The Value of Mothers and Mothering

The lack of attention to mothers in intergenerational mobility reflects entrenched gender biases that emphasize father-child ties. For example, research has traditionally associated “family background” with fathers’ education, occupation, resources and social status.

Indeed, despite a consensus regarding the importance of mothers as care providers, the crucial role mothers play in their children’s social mobility is often overlooked in research, policymaking, and society at large.

By revealing the increasing association between mothers’ and their children’s educational status around the world, our research shows the increasing contribution mothers make to intergenerational mobility. This new evidence demonstrates the powerful role mothers play in shaping educational and social equality and inequality, beyond seeing mothers’ child-rearing role at home.

As single-mother families become more common, changes in family structure may further increase the importance of mothers in intergenerational mobility. Future research could also examine how intergenerational mobility works in families with same-sex, transgender or non-binary parents.

Mother’s Day is a timely reminder of not only the immense importance of mothers in our personal lives but also a need to see and recognize the value of mothers and what they do for us all in broader society.The Conversation


Yue Qian, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of British Columbia and Yang Hu, Professor, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

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Shifts In How Sex And Gender Identity Are edfined May Alter Human Rights Protections:

“Shifts in how sex and gender identity are defined may alter human rights protections: Canadians deserve to know how and why,” by Debra M Haak, Queen’s University, Ontario

Recent education policy changes and protests about sex education reveal increasing concern and polarization over how sex and gender identity are taught in public schools in Canada. They also expose the significant role now played by school boards in constructing the meaning of gender identity and gender expression.

Marches took place across Canada in September under the banner, “1 Million March for Children.” Changes recently announced by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith will, if enacted into law, exclude students from lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation unless parents opt-in. Other provinces like Saskatchewan allow parents to opt children out of sex education classes.

Many fear that proposed policy changes — which extend beyond what is taught in sex education classes — will harm transgender and non-binary youth. The proposed Alberta policies have been condemned as anti-trans by organizations including Canada’s largest private sector union and Amnesty International.

Politicians across the political spectrum have been quick to politicize this issue, flattening it into a discourse pitting parental rights against trans children’s best interests. But amplifying rhetoric will not help us understand what is happening and what it means.

My research is focused on promoting conceptual clarity around human rights protections based on sex and those based on gender identity in a research project, “Sex in the Age of Gender.” This research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Bar Association Law for the Future Fund. I started this research because language matters to the law.

Changes in how words and terms are used can impact our ability to know about people’s lives and protect their rights. Significant shifts are taking place around how we define and understand sex and gender in education and public policy in Canada. We need to pay attention to what is changing and what those changes might mean.

gender identitySex, Gender and Law

“Sex,” “gender identity” and “gender expression” are distinct legally prohibited grounds of discrimination in Canada. Yet sex, gender identity and gender expression are not defined in human rights legislation in Canada.

My research has started to reveal changes and inconsistencies in how words and terms relevant to these human rights protections are defined and given effect in public policy, public education and data collection.

When the meanings of key concepts like sex and gender identity are unclear and definitions are inconsistent, people — including parents who generally support the implementation of a comprehensive sexual health curriculum — may reasonably be concerned about what is being taught to children and how it will affect youth and society at large. They should be able to express their concerns and participate in open discussions about the meaning of words we share.

Changes in The Definition of Sex

Women’s rights were forged using the word sex. The Charter of the United Nations prohibits sex discrimination. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights precludes discrimination based on sex. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women centres on equality rights and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex.

In Canada, women’s rights are protected and promoted in federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms using sex as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

The word sex is commonly used in law and public policy in Canada. Until 2018, it had a stable meaning that was usually linked to biological factors and the biological differences between men and women.

Changes Since 2018

Since 2018, the word sex has been increasingly defined by the federal government as something that is “assigned at birth.” However, there is no consistency across federal departments and agencies. Some continue to define sex as a biological question of male or female. Those that define sex as assigned at birth do not consistently explain how sex is assigned or by whom.

Conceptual Shifts Around the Word ‘Woman’

Similar conceptual shifts are taking place around the word woman. The word woman was formerly linked to sex and used to refer to female people. Now, government departments including the Department of Justice increasingly use the word woman to refer to all people who identify as women.

What will the impact of these changes be? A study recently completed in the United Kingdom considered the potential consequences of eliminating legal recognition of sex. However, social scientists maintain that sex and gender identity are distinct variables that both matter. Data on sex has long been understood as a fundamental demographic variable directly relevant to monitoring equality.

gender identityDefining Gender Identity

In 2016, the terms gender identity and gender expression were added to federal human rights legislation in Canada to provide legal protection for transgender and gender-diverse people. Similar rights appear in federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation across Canada.

When gender identity was added to federal human rights legislation, the Department of Justice defined gender identity as:

each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum …”

The Department of Justice now defines gender identity as:

“A person’s internal and deeply felt sense of being a man or woman, both or neither. A person’s gender identity may or may not align with the gender typically associated with their sex.”

School Boards Define Terms Differently

School boards, as local expressions of democracy with significant policy influence over children’s and youth’s lives, have started to construct the meaning of gender identity and gender expression in education. Researchers have identified that secular boards across Ontario define gender identity and gender expression differently from one another.

Some school boards now define gender identity as something everyone has. Whether the term should extend to include individuals beyond those who are transgender or gender non-conforming has not been settled in law.

Data Collection Shifts Away From Sex Towards Gender

A shift away from sex and towards gender (identity) has occurred in data collection practices at the federal government level. In 2018, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Department of Justice Canada recommended “ways to modernize how the Government of Canada handles information on sex and gender.”

They recommended that “departments and agencies should collect or display gender information by default unless sex information is specifically needed.” They used “sex” to refer to biological characteristics, and “gender” to refer to a social and personal identity.

parental rightsOpen Discussions are Overdue

As Canadian society shifts to accommodate the legal recognition of gender diversity, there will be tensions. Ultimately, courts will be tasked with deciding how some of those tensions are resolved, when sex, gender identity and gender expression are all protected in human rights laws.

In the meantime, as a society, we need to openly and transparently grapple with some increasingly important questions:

  • First, how will foundational concepts such as sex, gender identity and gender expression be defined and given effect in education, law, public policy and beyond?
  • Second, how will tensions between experiences, interests and rights associated with sex and those associated with gender identity and/or gender expression be resolved?
  • Third, who is best placed to decide how these questions are answered in education, law, public policy and beyond?

Everyone who may be impacted by the answers to these questions should be included in the conversation.The Conversation


Debra M Haak, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University, Ontario

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Online Wellness Content: 3 Ways To Tell Evidence-Based Health Information From Pseudoscience

“Online wellness content: 3 ways to tell evidence-based health information from pseudoscience,” by Michelle Cohen, Queen’s University, Ontario

“I drink borax!” proclaims the smiling TikToker. Holding up a box of the laundry additive, she rhymes off a list of its supposed health benefits: “Balances testosterone and estrogen. It’s a powerhouse anti-inflammatory…. It’s amazing for arthritis, osteoporosis…. And obviously, it’s great for your gut health.”

Videos like these prompted health authorities to warn the public about the dangers of ingesting this toxic detergent — and away from such viral messaging that promotes unsubstantiated and medically dangerous health claims.

Health information is increasingly being shared online, and often the borders between legitimate health expertise and pseudoscience aren’t clear. While the internet can be a valuable and accessible way to learn about health, it’s also a place rife with disinformation and grift, as unscrupulous influencers exploit people’s fears about their bodies.

Evidence And Influencers

Collage of quotes about drinking borax
Some TikTokers claimed drinking borax had health benefits. Borax is toxic and shouldn’t be ingested.
(Michelle Cohen)

In my medical practice, I can usually track online wellness trends, such as a patient refusing a medication because of online claims — many of which are false — that it lowers testosterone, or the several months when it seemed everyone was taking turmeric for joint pain, or the patients who request an ivermectin prescription in case they catch COVID.

So how does someone who simply wants to learn more about the human body sift through the information? How to separate bad-faith grift from good advice?

Wellness influencers tap into a truth about how we process information: it’s more trustworthy when it comes from a person we feel like we know. That’s why a charismatic personality’s Instagram account that uses intimate stories to promote parasocial attachment — the sense of being part of a community — is more memorable than a website offering dry recitations of evidence.

But as social media has become ubiquitous, health experts have caught on that sharing their side alongside reliable advice can be a good use of their platform. At first glance, these two groups may seem similar, but the following tips can help determine if the person posting health advice is knowledgeable on the topic:


1) Are They Selling Something?

Rarely do popular wellness influencers post out of the goodness of their hearts. Almost invariably these accounts are trying to profit from the virality of their content.

Whether it’s a supplement store, a diet book, a subscription to a lifestyle community or a Masterclass series, the end goal is the same: transform social media influence into sales. Gushing over life-changing benefits from something the promoter is selling should always prompt scepticism.

Some legitimate health experts also sell advice, usually in the form of newsletters, books or podcasts, and this is worth keeping in mind. However, there’s a big difference between selling a subscription to a health newsletter that discusses the evidence and promoting your supplement shop, where your financial motives shape how you present the information.

2) What Are The Boundaries Of Their Expertise?

True expertise in a subject requires years of dedicated study and practice. That’s why people are rarely experts in more than one or two domains, and no one is a pan-expert on everything.

If a wellness influencer promotes themselves as erudite on all health topics, that’s an excellent indication of their lack of knowledge. A real health expert knows the limitations of their knowledge and can call on others’ expertise when needed. So the podcast host who opines on every health issue is substantially less worthwhile to listen to than the podcast host who brings on guest experts for topics outside their scope.

3) How Do They Talk About Science?

Science is a process of discovery, not a static philosophy, so scientists emphasize talking about current evidence rather than “truth”, which is more of a faith-based concept.

If someone wants to post about their wellness philosophy or their spiritual journey and how it makes them feel, that’s fine. But dropping in biology jargon without explanation or name-checking one or two questionable studies without fulsome discussion isn’t a meaningful way to engage with the evidence on a health topic.

Science-based information should acknowledge where data are uncertain and where more research is needed. Using the pretext of science to lend credence to a personal “truth” is a form of pseudoscience and should raise red flags.

These three principles are a good framework for deciding whether an influencer’s health content is worth consuming or whether they’re simply trying to sell a new supplement or spread viral disinformation about something like borax.

As online health information becomes easier to find (or harder to avoid), this framework can help people quickly scan a wellness influencer’s profile and make a more informed decision about engaging with their content. This is an important type of media literacy that anyone spending time online should cultivate — for the sake of their health.The Conversation


Michelle Cohen, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, Queen’s University, Ontario

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Religion Does Not Determine Your Morality

“Religion does not determine your morality,” by Jim Davies, Carleton University

Most religious people think their morality comes from their religion. And deeply religious people often wonder how atheists can have any morality at all.

I’m going to use Christianity as my example, not because it’s representative of religion in general, but because there’s a lot of research on Christians, and because many readers will likely be familiar with it.

Christians will often tell you that their morality comes from their religion (or from their parents’ version of it). And if you ask them about what their religion tells them about what’s right and wrong, it will likely line up with their own ideas of right and wrong.

However, the causal link is not as clear as it first appears.

The Bible is complex, with many beliefs, pieces of advice and moral implications. Nobody can believe in all of it. Different branches of Christianity, and indeed every different person, take some things from it and leave others.

Many things in the Bible are unacceptable to modern Christians. Why? Because they do not sit right with contemporary moral sensibilities.

Let’s take magic as an example. Many Christians don’t believe in magic, but even the ones who do, don’t think they should kill those who use it, even though one could interpret passages in the Bible to suggest exactly that.

What’s going on?

In the case of the magic above, there is a moral behaviour advocated by the Bible that gets rejected by most people. Why? Because they think it’s morally wrong.

They ignore that part of the moral teachings of the Bible. Instead, they tend to accept those moral teachings of the Bible that feel right to them. This happens all the time, and a good thing too.

There’s more to a religion than what its scripture says.

When researching for my book Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movie Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe, I found that the source of morality doesn’t come as clearly from religion as most people think.

Free to interpret

Clergy interprets scripture, and cultural practices and beliefs are passed down, many of which have little or nothing to do with the Bible, like the Catholic idea of having fish instead of meat on Friday a cultural tradition never mentioned in the Bible at all.

Basically, people take or leave religious morality according to some internal moral compass they already have. They might even choose which church to go to, according to how well the teachings of that church match up with what they feel is right or wrong.

Some Christians convert to Buddhism or other religions based on what they think works for their beliefs.
Peter Hershey/Unsplash

In the modern Western world, some people feel free to choose the religion that feels right to them. Why might someone convert to Christianity from Buddhism, or become a Muslim? Often it’s because the new religion speaks to them in a way that the old one didn’t.

We see that people can choose religious beliefs, churches and even whole religions based on the morality that they already have. And this is the morality that atheists have too.

Religion: Right And Wrong

Experimental evidence suggests that people’s opinion of what God thinks is right and wrong tracks what they believe is right and wrong, not the other way around.

Social psychologist Nicholas Epley and his colleagues surveyed religious believers about their moral beliefs and the moral beliefs of God. Not surprisingly, what people thought was right and wrong matched up pretty well with what they felt God’s morality was like.

Then Epley and his fellow researchers attempted to manipulate their participants’ moral beliefs with persuasive essays. If convinced, their moral opinion should then be different from God’s, right?

Wrong. When respondents were asked again what God thought, people reported that God agreed with their new opinion!

Therefore, people didn’t come to believe that God was wrong, they just updated their opinion on what God thinks.

When you change someone’s moral beliefs, you also change their opinion of what God thinks. Yet most surveyed still clung to the illusion that they got their moral compass from what they think God believes is right and wrong.

Who Defines Our Morals?

If people are getting their morals from their conception of God, you’d think that contemplating God’s opinion might be more like thinking about someone else’s beliefs than thinking about your own.

But this isn’t the case. The same study also found that when you think about God’s beliefs, the part of your brain active when thinking about your own beliefs is more active than the part of your brain that is active when thinking about other people’s beliefs.

In other words, when thinking about God’s beliefs, you’re (subconsciously) accessing your own beliefs.

So where do our morals come from, then, if not from religion? That’s a complicated question: There seem to be genetic as well as cultural components. These cultural components are influenced by religion, to be sure.

This equation happens even for atheists, who often take up the mores of their culture, which happens to have been influenced heavily by religions they don’t even ascribe to. So it’s not that religion does not affect morality, it’s just that morality also impacts religion.

Atheists don’t score differently than religious people when given moral dilemmas. We all have morality.

Whether you’re religious or not, morality comes from the same place.The Conversation


Jim Davies, Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science, Carleton University

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Women’s Weight And Well-Being: Why We Need To Accept The Pregnant Body

“Women’s weight and well-being: Why we need to accept the pregnant body as a valued female form,” by Simone Holligan, University of Guelph

Pregnancy is a distinct life stage characterized by dramatic physiological changes, and medical tracking of those changes, including weight gain, is routine to monitor the health of the mother and the developing infant. What may be missing from weight monitoring is the psychological and emotional component of these changes.

Western society tends to view the female body as an object that should be constantly inspected and evaluated, and valued for its utility and ability to give pleasure. Women can also ascribe to these notions, engaging in constant self-inspection and evaluation of their bodies through the process of self-objectification.

A woman’s ability to meet societal standards for the female body can be a source of power, and any deviation from the ideal physical form can result in a loss of power. Exercise, diet or a combination of both are often seen as tools women can use to control their bodies to attain and maintain the ideal female form.

The ability to effectively control one’s body shape, size and appearance is seen as an accomplishment. Women who miss the mark — those who are unsuccessful in controlling their bodies — can be affected both physically and emotionally. These women may show signs of depression, disordered eating, negative body image and low libido.

Given the ubiquity of body objectification, these psychological repercussions can form part of women’s daily lives.

Body Image In Pregnancy

Societal pressures to maintain the ideal female body may be heightened during pregnancy. As women negotiate their new roles as mothers-to-be, previous research has shown that women report moderate declines in body image and body satisfaction as pregnancy progresses.

Interviews with young mothers exploring their experiences of weight gain during their first pregnancy revealed a view of the pregnant body that is distinct from the ideal female body. This falls into the larger context of how femininity is viewed: that women’s value lies in their appearance and ability to give birth.

In this perspective, the pregnant body is not only distinct from the ideal female body but deliberately conflicts with the view of the ideal female body as an aesthetic object. The pregnant body is still monitored and evaluated, but emphasis is placed on its utility and reproductive role.

Previous analysis of individual and group interviews with young mothers, along with examination of booklets and handouts given to pregnant women, showed discussions around pregnancy and childbirth are often filtered through a medical lens.body

This medical context has been described as reducing women’s power over their pregnant bodies by assuming women are less emotionally competent during pregnancy and are unable to make proper decisions for themselves about their bodies. It necessitates a separation between women’s minds and their bodies and prioritizes the developing infant.

Soon after pregnancy, women often use restricted eating and structured exercise to try to craft their bodies back into the societal ideal of a lean female form. If possible, they may try to remain close to this form during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman’s fixation on needing to return to pre-pregnancy weight could meet the criteria for the possible presence of body dysmorphia and increased risk for disordered eating.

When women continually monitor and evaluate their bodies for deviations from the ideal female form, their well-being can become largely dependent on their physical appearance. This can further result in lower psychological functioning and minimization of their lived experiences.

Defining Psychosocial Goals

While medicalized monitoring during pregnancy has done well to focus on the physical development of both mother and infant, psychosocial assessment may be a neglected part of this process.

There are defined psychosocial adjustment goals for several life stages. For example, emerging adults are encouraged to become independent, given space for identity formation, and are nudged towards leaving the parental home. Older adults are encouraged to accept the nature and extent of the physical and emotional changes associated with ageing, as well as changes in identity as these relate to family and career.

Similarly, outlining psychosocial adjustment goals for pregnancy would empower women in their acceptance of their body’s physical changes, and how those differ from societal expectations of the ideal female form. As the level of self-objectification is tracked during pregnancy, pregnant women can be encouraged to move from body dysmorphia towards body acceptance.

This could help establish positive behaviours in which food is used for comfort and nourishment, and structured physical activity is as much an enjoyable endeavour as a means towards improving health.The Conversation


Simone Holligan, Lecturer, College of Social & Applied Human Sciences, University of Guelph

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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If I Can Dream: The Elvis Tribute To Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If I can dream: The Elvis tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.,” by Robert Morrison, Queen’s University, Ontario

Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was standing on the second-storey balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, when he was gunned down by a sniper.

Only 39 years old at the time, King had, in the eight years that preceded his tragic death, transformed the American civil rights movement. It became a national crusade that inspired people from across the social spectrum and turned long-neglected economic and racial injustices into major political issues, not just in the United States, but around the world.

As a social activist, King’s greatest moment came in August 1963, when he helped to organize the March on Washington.

More than 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to protest against segregation and bigotry, and King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.

In the months that followed, younger and more militant members of the civil rights movement grew increasingly frustrated with King’s caution and his commitment to non-violent resistance, but King pushed on. And in the aftermath of his assassination, millions of people paid tribute to his courage, his eloquence and his determination.

Elvis Presley was one of them. He recorded the song “If I Can Dream” just two months after the murder, and the emotional intensity with which he delivers it still brings back the shock and grief that gripped America in the wake of King’s murder.

Presley was just six years younger than King, and both were born and raised in the Deep South (King in Georgia and Elvis in Mississippi), where they were surrounded by institutionalized racism.

King was not a great admirer of rock ‘n’ roll, but Presley greatly admired King, who was killed less than nine miles from Presley’s home at Graceland.

Presley was unable to attend the funeral in person as he was filming Live a Little, Love a Little, one of his many movies. But according to his co-star Celeste Yarnall, she and Elvis “watched the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. together over lunch in his trailer. He cried. He really cared deeply.”

A few weeks later, Elvis began to work on the one-hour TV show now widely known as his ’68 Comeback Special. Filmed in June and airing in December, the show was originally scheduled to close with Elvis singing “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” a plan enthusiastically endorsed by his Machiavellian manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

But in light of King’s assassination (and, as production of the show got under way, the murder of Sen. Robert Kennedy on June 6, 1968), Elvis balked. He wanted to conclude with a song that reflected his deep sadness at the racial and political strife dividing the country.

Steve Binder, the director of the Comeback Special, agreed. “I wanted to let the world know that here was a guy who was not prejudiced,” Binder declared, “who was raised in the heart of prejudice, but was really above all that.”

Binder and Elvis were able to outmanoeuvre Parker, and for once Elvis got to sing what he wanted to sing. The Comeback Special closes — unforgettably — with “If I Can Dream,” written by the vocal arranger Earl Brown and performed by Elvis in a white suit standing alone in front of large red letters that spelt out Elvis.

‘Why Can’t My Dream Come True?’

King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is Brown’s inspiration for the lyrics of “If I Can Dream.” Freedom, promise, redemption and darkness are at the crux of both, as the speech is variously echoed, adapted and rewritten in the lyrics.

King’s image of “a great beacon light” reappears in Brown’s reference to “a beckoning candle.” King’s “solid rock of brotherhood” corresponds to Brown’s vision of “brothers” walking “hand in hand.” King’s “sunlit path of racial justice” prompts Brown’s invocation of “a warmer sun / Where hope keeps shining on everyone.”

Above all, of course, both King and Brown “dream” of a better, more equitable society and future, though King’s optimism (“I Have a Dream”) contrasts sharply with Brown’s tentativeness (“If I Can Dream”).

Faced in 1963 with bigotry, gun violence and police brutality, King remains convinced that “somehow this situation can and will be changed,” and that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Brown struggles to be as confident. Confronted in 1968 by the assassinations of King and Kennedy, his lyrics — unlike King’s speech — are suffused with “doubt and fear,” though he maintains that he is “sure that the answers gonna come somehow.”

King did not deny “the difficulties of today and tomorrow,” but he dared to imagine a better world despite them, and had already spelt out the cultural, legal and moral changes that needed to take place for us to create that world.

In response, Brown asks the most pressing question of all. If the example of King enables us to “dream of a better land,” and if we and millions of other people believe in that same dream, “why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true?”

Still, We Dream

Brown’s lyrics are an impassioned reaction to the devastating news of King’s death, but it is what Elvis does with those lyrics that transform “If I Can Dream” into what is, I believe, one of the most moving tributes ever paid to the bravery and vision of King.

For the first time in almost a decade, and for one of the last times in his career, Elvis is singing — and knows himself to be singing — a song that matters. His voice is full of raw emotion that seems at times almost to overwhelm him, and that drives him in the bridge (“the strength to dream”) and at the climax (“right now”) to an intensity that approaches a scream.

Before us once again is the angry, urgent, anti-establishment Elvis who exploded onto the American music scene 12 years earlier, and who now, at 33 years old, closes his Comeback Special by honouring the country’s greatest Black leader.

Less than a decade later, Elvis himself was dead, and while “If I Can Dream” has been recorded by several other artists, and included on several different Elvis compilations, no re-mastering or re-release can replace the power of the song in its original context.

Martin Luther King, Jr. urged us to dream. After his assassination, Elvis hopes that we still “can dream.” The death of King half a century ago reminds us of how far our society still is from the equality that King imagined.

As his words continue to inspire us to more unified and purposeful action, especially in the current political climate, so too they inspired Elvis, and the trembling, soaring voice with which he sings “If I Can Dream.”

‘The 68 Comeback Special’ (‘Singer presents…Elvis’) aired on NBC, 1968.

‘If I Can Dream:’ Lyrics

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere

Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue

If I can dream of a better land

Where all my brothers walk hand in hand

Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true

oh why

There must be peace and understanding sometime

Strong winds of promise that will blow away the doubt and fear

If I can dream of a warmer sun

Where hope keeps shining on everyone

Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear

We’re lost in a cloud

With too much rain

We’re trapped in a world

That’s troubled with pain

But as long as a man

Has the strength to dream

He can redeem his soul and fly

Deep in my heart, there’s a trembling question

Still, I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow

Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle

And while I can think, while I can talk

While I can stand, while I can walk

While I can dream, please let my dream

Come true, right now

Let it come true right now

Oh yeah

Songwriters: Earl Brown
If I Can Dream lyrics © Raleigh Music Publishing
The Conversation


Robert Morrison, British Academy Global Professor, Queen’s University, Ontario

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Dating Apps: Lack of regulation, Oversight And Competition Affects Quality

“Dating apps: Lack of regulation, oversight and competition affects quality, and millions stand to lose,: by Neil McArthur, University of Manitoba

When Aleksandr Zhadan used ChatGPT to talk to over 5,000 women on Tinder, it was a sign of things to come.

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and easily available, online dating is facing an onslaught of AI-powered fraud. The industry, which is dominated by a small number of incumbents, has already proven slow to respond to long-standing problems on its apps. AI will be its moment of reckoning — there are even apps that can help people write their messages.

Opponents of dating apps may be happy to see the industry crash and burn. The rest of us should worry. Online dating plays an important, and I believe positive, role in our lives. It has made it easier for people to find relationships, and easier to find people with whom we are truly compatible.

As the industry careens towards disaster, regulators should be prepared to intervene.

Real Versus Fake Connections

Zhadan’s case shows one of the challenges AI poses for online dating. Now, when we chat with someone on one of the apps, we cannot know if their answers are written by a chatbot, nor can we know how many other people they are talking to simultaneously. We also can’t know if someone’s photos have been produced with the help of an AI image generator

But at least Zhadan was looking for love. Since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022, the amount of outright fraud on dating apps, much of it powered by AI, has skyrocketed. According to cybersecurity company Arkose Labs, there was, between January 2023 and January 2024, a staggering 2,000 per cent increase in bot attacks on dating sites.

And this is just the beginning. AI is getting more powerful, and more convincingly human, all the time.

Even before AI appeared on the scene, fraud on dating apps was already a serious problem. Sign up for one of them and you’ll instantly find your feed clogged with an endless number of fake profiles. Most of them have been created for a specific purpose, which is to steal your money. Unfortunately, it works.

In 2023, 64,000 people in the United States admitted to being the victims of romance scams, most of which happen through dating apps — we can assume this is only a small portion of the actual cases.

The Federal Trade Commission measures the losses for the year at US$1.14 billion. This has been going on for years, and the app companies have done little to stop it.

dating appsOnline Connections, Offline Threats

Fraud is not the only challenge faced by dating app users. A quarter of them, mostly women, have been stalked by someone they met online. Even more tragic are the cases of people being assaulted or murdered.

There are other issues: prices on the apps have gone up steadily and innovation has come to a grinding halt. Ever since Tinder introduced the card stack in 2016, the design of the apps has hardly changed.

You swipe, match, message and hope for the best. It should perhaps be no surprise that customers are getting fed up.

Dating Apps: Benefits To Society

While online dating certainly has its share of long-standing critics, I have argued that, on balance, the apps are a benefit to users and to society. They are an efficient way to find partners, get us out of our social bubbles and encourage connections across class and race.

Precisely because of the important role technology plays in our lives, we should pay attention to how the industry operates. The dating app companies are finally starting to do something to protect users.

But given how long fraud has plagued these apps, their response has been slow and pretty underwhelming. They need, at a minimum, better tools to detect fake accounts and remove them quickly. There is a lot more they could do as well.

They could require background checks for users, which polls show a majority of people support. They could put AI to use, to flag signs of fraud during people’s private chats. And dating app companies could implement safety features to protect users when they meet in person, for instance making it easier to share with your friends or family the profiles of people you are meeting up with.

Dominant Players – Dating Apps

One explanation for the companies’ sluggish response will be familiar to any observer of big tech: the concentration of ownership. The dominant player, Match Group, owns over 40 different apps, including most of the well-known: Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid, Hinge and Plenty of Fish. Its only serious competitor for market share is Bumble, which also owns Badoo and Fruitz.

In the United States, Match Group and Bumble control over three-quarters of the market.

Anti-trust authorities have never given the industry any serious scrutiny. Presumably, they do not think online dating is important enough to deserve it. But these companies have a lot of control over one of the most intimate aspects of our lives.

a woman's hand holding a phone displaying a yellow background with the word BUMBLE
In the United States, Match Group and Bumble control over three-quarters of the dating apps market.
(Good Faces Agency/Unsplash)

Thirty per cent of all adults in the U.S., and over half of people under 30, have used a dating app at some point. One in 10 Americans is currently in a relationship with someone they met online.

The costs of fraud and abuse, in both human and financial terms, are huge. And the anti-competitive pressures in the industry are strong, given the network effect built into online dating: we want to be on the apps that everyone else is on.

Regulators should finally get involved. They should hold the companies accountable for fraud and abuse on their apps to force them to innovate to protect users. They should look closely at the prices they charge customers for premium features. The ultimate solution may be to break up the sector’s dominant players, Match Group and Bumble, to create real competition.

The inventors of dating apps deserve credit for enabling millions of connections that would never have happened otherwise. But if things don’t change, the companies could be in trouble and millions of people could be lonelier as a result.The Conversation


Neil McArthur, Director, Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of Manitoba

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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How Whiteness Was Invented And Fashioned In Britain’s Colonial Age Of Expansion

“How whiteness was invented and fashioned in Britain’s colonial age of expansion,” by Beverly Lemire, University of Alberta

Fashion is political — today as in the past. As Britain’s Empire dramatically expanded, people of all ranks lived with clothing and everyday objects in startlingly different ways than generations before.

The years between 1660 and 1820 saw the expansion of the British Empire and commercial capitalism. The social politics of Britain’s cotton trade mirrored profound global transformations bound up with technological and industrial revolutions, social modernization, colonialism and slavery.

As history educators and researchers Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn note, the British “monarchy started the large-scale involvement of the English in the slave trade” after 1660.

Vast profits poured in from areas of plantation slavery, particularly from the Caribbean. The mass enslavement of Africans was at the heart of this brutal system, with laws and policing enforcing Black subjugation in the face of repeated resistance from enslaved people.

Western fashion reflected the racialized politics that infused this period. Indian cotton and European linens were now traded in ever-rising volumes, feeding the vogue for lighter and potentially whiter textiles, ever more in demand.

My scholarship explores dimensions of whiteness through material histories — how whiteness was fashioned in labour structures, routines, esthetics and everyday practices.

Whiteness On Many Scales

Enslaved men and women were never given white clothes, unless as part of livery (servants’ uniforms, which were sometimes very luxurious). Wearing white textiles became a marker of status in urban centres, in colonizing nations and colonies. Textile whiteness was a transient state demanding constant renewal, shaping ecologies of style. The resulting Black/white dichotomy hardened as profits from enslavement soared, with a striking impact on culture.

Whiteness in clothing, decor and fashion was amplified, becoming a marker of status. Elaborate washing techniques were used to achieve material goals.

British sociologist Vron Ware emphasizes “the importance of thinking about whiteness on many different scales,” including “as an interconnected global system, having different inflexions and implications depending on where and when it has been produced.” Accordingly, fabrics, laundry and fashion were entangled in imperial aims.

Pristine Whiteness In Garments

Laundering was codified in household manuals from the late 1660s, a chore overseen by housewives and housekeepers. Women with fewer options sweated over washtubs and engaged in ubiquitous labour with the aim of pristine whiteness.

In colonial and plantation regions, where lightweight fabrics were key, Black enslaved women were tasked with this never-ending drudgery. Only a few profited personally from their fashioning skills.

This workforce was vast. Yet few museums have invited visitors to consider the processes of soaking, bleaching, washing, blueing, starching and ironing required by historic garments.

A recent exhibit at Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University curated by Jason Cyrus, a researcher who analyzes fashion and textile history, examined slavery and North American cotton production.

‘Black Bodies, White Gold: Unpacking slavery and North American cotton production,’ video from Agnes Etherington Art Centre about Black life at the core of the Victorian cotton industry.

Laundry Labour Of Enslaved Women

The skilled labour of enslaved women was a core component of every plantation and an essential colonial urban trade, given the resident population and many thousands of seafarers and sojourners arriving annually in the Caribbean — all wanting clothes refreshed.

Ports throughout the Atlantic were stocked with wash tubs and women labouring over them. Orderly material whiteness was the aim. Mary Prince recorded her thoughts about a demanding mistress in Antigua, who gave the enslaved Prince weekly “two bundles of clothes, as much as a boy could help me lift; but I could give no satisfaction.”

Prince only earned money laundering for ships’ captains during her “owners’” absence. Within port cities, including the Caribbean and imperial centres, this trade allowed some enslaved women mobility and sometimes self-emancipation. But fashioning whiteness was a fraught process, with many historical threads.

Colour Scrubbed From Recovered Statues

From the 1750s, European fashion and artistic style were increasingly inspired by perceptions of the classical past. Countless portraits were painted of wealthy people as Greek gods, the classical past becoming, as cultural theorist Stuart Hall observed, a “myth reservoir.” These became sources for imagining Europe’s origins and destiny.

European scholars and the educated public viewed this cultural lineage as white. Remnants of polychrome colouring were scrubbed from recovered Greek sculptures.

‘Vox’ video about the white lie we’ve been told about Roman statues.

This supposed heritage of a white classical past defined what became known as neoclassical styles further expanding the craze for light, white gowns, a political fashion needing endless care.

In this era, “the term classical was not neutral,” as art historian Charmaine Nelson explains, “but a racialized term …” Nelson states that the category “classical” also defined the marginalization of Blackness as its antithesis.

Today, some scholars are wrestling with the legacy of racism built into classical studies.

Racialized Masquerade

Neoclassical gowns reflected this zeitgeist, as ladies disported themselves as Greek goddesses. Ladies’ magazines urged readers to play-act as deities. Simple socializing en vogue would not suffice. Fashion required a wider stage.

Masquerade balls became the venue where whiteness and empire aligned, as goddesses robed in white mingled with guests in blackface or regalia appropriated from colonized peoples.

Masquerades became staple occasions, revels led by royals, nobles and those enriched through trade and slave labour.

Race Hierarchies Enforced

Seemingly banal routines (and stylish affairs) reveal cultural facets of an empire where race hierarchies were reinforced. In this era, everyday dress and celebratory fashions demanded relentless attention.

These routines were enmeshed with empire and race, whether in the colonial Caribbean or a London grand masquerade.

The proliferation of white linens and cotton was purposefully employed to enforce hierarchies. The rise of white clothing and neoclassical style can be better understood by addressing mass enslavement as an economic, political and cultural force shaping styles, determining vogues and promoting the fashions of whiteness.The Conversation


Beverly Lemire, Professor, Department of History, Classics and Religion, University of Alberta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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