Researchers Promote Stereotypes Of Their Own Ivory Tower

October 29th, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized

Researchers are stereotyped as elitists sitting in ivory towers conducting studies of topics that no one cares about and that don’t have any material benefit for the common person. I do not share this stereotypical view of researchers. Of course, I am one so this may account for my perspective.

Yet, my admiration for researchers can be swayed.

Researchers can promote ivory tower stereotypes when they conduct studies that fit this stereotype. In doing so, they inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes that are used against them.

I must admit that researchers do sometimes study topics that have no vital importance to real life practical applications of any merit. Although this is not the norm of researchers, it does happen.

A study titled, “Women’s use of red clothing as a sexual signal in intersexual interaction” from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology is a case in point.

We tested whether women use red clothing as a sexual signal in intersexual interaction. Women expecting to talk with an attractive man were more likely to choose a red shirt. This draws a parallel between human and nonhuman females’ red ornamentation.

It is interesting to note the red shirt preference identified in the study conducted by Andrew J. Elliot, Tobias Greitemeyer,and Adam D. Pazda. Reading it you may even have a moment of curiosity about the findings and their applicability to your own life. However, this moment reflects a common passing fancy for things superficial and unbelievable. This same response happens, for example, when we flip through the channel and stay a little too long on a daytime soap opera or when we rubberneck during a traffic jam despite knowing their is considerable traffic behind us.

Regardless of this passing fancy, when it comes to this red shirt research I am left to ask only one question: Who cares? This study fails a fundamental and integral test of good research. We might be curious, find it fleetingly interesting, view it as a good talking point for a social conversation later in the day, but as far as research goes, the study simply does not pass the “So what?” test.

Instead, the study promotes inadvertently provides fodder for those who would stereotype academics as existing in their ivory tower detached from the reality or everyday life.

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  1. Jacquelin91
    November 28th, 2012 at 22:44

    I definitely see where you are coming from when you say some researchers partake in some very pointless experiments that do nothing but simply appeal to human interest. Despite this, I do believe an experiment like this can be used for further research. For example, this can lead to how the color red influences people and how it is used to manipulate emotions. The women are wearing red in attempt to appeal to the opposite sex and, in a sense, are sending those around them a message simply with the color they are wearing. Yet red was always used to represent anger and aggression, so why is it used for sex appeal? Another direction this experiment could be taken is if we look at culturally. Women in the United States are using red to gain attention, yet in the Chinese culture red represents happiness and good fortune. Those of Chinese decent wear red in order to show warmth and happiness, they give red gifts to friends and family to wish them good fortune. Although the experiment does seem pointless, the findings can be used to further research.

  2. mrradz
    November 29th, 2012 at 12:41

    It might be a bit unfair to assume that some research is “useless” or lacks significant substance. Even in the example you provided, the research could be analyzed/probed even deeper and encompass grander matters. For instance, the research proved that women may choose to approach the opposite sex using a red shirt. Someone analyzing this data could make inferences about gender and sexuality norms. Women, a particular sex, seemed to be more confident and sexually assertive when donning the color red. This could mean that women either subconsciously or consciously choose colors to “stronghold” their sexuality. It could also placate to gender norms that are experienced daily. Many individuals still believe that such colors as blue or pink specifically denote a particular sex: blue for boys and pink for girls. The colors even signify particular sexualities. Historical evidence suggests that Nazi officers forced speculatively or actually homosexual men to wear pink triangles to “reveal” their “femininity.” Also, this research example points to another interesting concept: women subconsciously feel that they must construct an image in order to achieve sexual attraction and even attention from the opposite sex. This may or may not suggest subordination. Regardless, the research example you provided could open up thousands of more questions and lead to thousands of more discoveries. It never hurt to learn more about the human condition.

  3. Anastacia Kurylo
    December 5th, 2012 at 11:20

    Thanks for defending researchers (like me)!

    Check out my related blog about whether stereotypical behavior promotes stereotypes. http://thecommunicatedstereotype.com/does-stereotypical-behavior-promote-stereotypes/

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