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Release: Oct. 4, 1999

UI journal features social psychology research

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Research on negative and sometimes violent reactions to childhood teasing, acting against gender discrimination, and avoidance of genetic testing will appear in the October 1999 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which is published at the University of Iowa and edited by Jerry M. Suls, a UI professor of psychology.


Teasing can lead to lingering hostility, violence

Individuals who tend to overreact emotionally are more likely to be teased than are those without this personality trait. These individuals also expressed more anger about being teased, were less likely to forgive their teasers, and were more likely to feel that angry, hostile reactions are the best way to respond to teasing.

These are the results of a study, led by John Georgesen of the University of Kentucky, which examined the relationship between personality and teasing experiences. It suggests that individuals with certain personality characteristics are at risk for being teased in childhood and for carrying those negative aspects into adulthood.

Relations between personality and teasing extended to the teaser as well as the victim. Individuals who were high in extroversion were more likely to tease others and less likely to feel remorse for teasing.

Teasing often has been ignored as a harmless part of childhood. However, with the recent spate of school shootings in which teasing has been implicated as a major cause, that attitude is now being questioned, Georgesen said.

To reach Georgesen, contact Doug Tattershall in the University of Kentucky Public Relations office at (606) 257-1754.


Preventing discrimination requires women to think of shared experiences

Research has consistently shown that most women do not believe gender discrimination will happen to them. This attitude makes women less likely to work to end discrimination, according to Mindi Foster of the University of North Dakota, who found that women's ability to recognize their own vulnerability to discrimination is related to how they describe women in general.

Women who think that women as a group share stereotypical characteristics, such as being emotional or overly sensitive, are less likely to recognize their personal vulnerability to discrimination. But women who think that women as a group share certain experiences, such as pay inequity or being victimized, are more likely to recognize that gender discrimination can affect them personally.

Based on these findings, Foster said the route to encouraging women to act against gender discrimination is for women to think of themselves as members of a group that share experiences, not stereotypical characteristics.

"Despite our tendency to think of ourselves as immune from bad events, it seems that just the opposite–thinking we are personally vulnerable–may be the key to acting against, and ultimately reducing, gender discrimination," Foster said.

Foster can be reached at (701) 777-4496.


Interest in genetic testing depends on potential benefits of test

People are more likely to seek genetic testing for diseases if the tests will lead to controlling disease, according to a team of researchers led by Shoshana Shiloh at Tel Aviv University in Israel. If the genetic test does not offer the ability to control disease, then potential testees will determine whether to undergo the test based on its ability to predict with certainty.

If the test can predict reliably whether a person will become ill, then people who cope with threat by seeking information are interested, while people who cope with threat by avoiding information are not.

The authors said their findings support the contention that educating prospective testees about the limitations of genetic testing may decrease interest in testing.

Shiloh can be reached by telephone, 972-3-6417451, or fax, 972-3-8409547.