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January 30, 2023

Ideology and the Prince

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

While I haven’t read it yet, Prince Harry’s book Spare has been receiving a lot of coverage. (A search of the terms “Spare Prince Harry” yields 135 million hits.) The coverage of this book teaches us a lot about the concept of ideology, or ways of seeing that appear normal and natural. How people view this tell-all book reflect differing ideological perspectives, shaped by social context.

I watched Anderson Cooper’s interview of the prince on 60 Minutes, as well as Stephen Colbert’s Late Show interview, both offering sympathetic coverage that focused on the trauma of losing his mother when he was twelve. Both interviewers have shared their own struggles with grief after losing their fathers as children, so perhaps this focus was not a surprise.

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January 23, 2023

Our Social Caravan

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Each time I teach a Social Psychology course, I enjoy showing students excerpts from The Saturated Self by Kenneth Gergen. As described in the book, we live in a time when we can meet people from anywhere in the world, and those relationships can endure because of travel capabilities and technologies. The following passages can be applied to both romantic relationships and friendships, but the focus of my post is friendships:

A century ago, social relationships were largely confined to the distance of an easy walk. Most were conducted in person, within small communities: family, neighbors, townspeople. Yes, the horse and carriage made longer trips possible, but even a trip of thirty miles could take all day. The railroad could speed one away, but cost and availability limited such travel. If one moved from the community, relationships were likely to end. From birth to death one could depend on relatively even-textured social surroundings. Words, faces, gestures, and possibilities were relatively consistent, coherent, and slow to change (p. 61, emphasis mine).

Formerly, increases in time and distance between persons typically meant loss. When someone moved away, the relationship would languish. Long-distance visits were arduous, and the mails slow. Thus, as one grew older, many active participants would fade from one’s life. Today, time and distance are no longer such serious threats to a relationship. One may sustain an intimacy over thousands of miles by frequent telephone raptures punctuated by occasional visits (p. 62).

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January 16, 2023

Why Doctors Don’t Want Patients Like Me, and How it Impacts all of Us

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

People with disabilities experience substandard medical care, disrespectful doctor-patient interactions, and longstanding barriers to accessibility. A recent study published in Health Affairs helps explain why. 

When granted confidentiality in focus groups, doctors revealed personal aversion to and avoidance of patients with disabilities—patients like me. Their reasons ranged from prejudicial attitudes to the logistical and financial hurdles of treating patients with complex care needs.

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January 06, 2023

Macro Meets Micro: Time Management

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I’d like to think I’m pretty good at managing my time. At least until I start thinking about time as linked with structural forces, and then I realize there are a lot of factors at play in the regulation of time that are not solely up to the individual.

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December 19, 2022

Restrooms in Cultural Context

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Several years ago, I visited the Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island of Hawai’i. I was surprised and amused by a sign I saw in the visitor’s bathroom, instructing users how to, um, use the facilities. I had previously taken this action as self-evident once one was old enough to regulate one’s bathroom activities. But this turned into one of many important lessons that travel can offer:  It helps us learn about cultural practices that we might take for granted.

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December 12, 2022

Nonfiction for Beginners: How to Read Sociology Monographs

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I read lots of books in high school, both for school and for pleasure. Most of the books I read for school were for English class and were works of fiction. I read both fiction and nonfiction on my own, but I can’t recall writing a paper or taking a test based on a nonfiction book until I went to college.

I had no idea how to read a nonfiction book for anything but my own interest, so I didn’t know how to prepare for tests or write papers after reading a monograph. (A monograph is a scholarly book that focuses on a single subject; in sociology it is typically based on a specific research study).

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December 05, 2022

Here We Snow Again (But Not On Our Own)

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Nationwide, Buffalo is known for a few things: chicken wings, a football team that lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and a place that is cold and snowy. True, we happily claim our city as home of the chicken wing, we love our Buffalo Bills, and we take pride in being able to handle adverse winter weather conditions. Those of us on the inside refer to Buffalo as the city of good neighbors, and use slogans like “My city smells like Cheerios” and “Talking Proud.”

I’ve been through countless snowstorms, including what’s known as Snowvember in November 2014. Back in 2014, it wasn’t snow that was our biggest worry. It was the smell of gas in our basement that concerned us. We stayed with friends across the street who generously offered to take us in until a worker from the gas company was able to determine the leak was coming from outside our house and was able to solve the problem.

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