Christmas Trees Not So Harmless

“Reminders of Christmas can make religious minorities feel ill at ease — even if they don’t realize it. When people who did not celebrate Christmas or who did not identify as Christian filled out surveys about their moods while in the same room as a small Christmas tree, they reported less self-assurance and fewer positive feelings than if they hadn’t been reminded of the holiday, according to a new study.” The full news story is here.

The researcher Michael Schmitt, a social psychologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada said, the presence of the tree caused non-celebrators and non-Christians to feel subtly excluded.
“Simply having this 12-inch Christmas tree in the room with them made them feel less included in the university as a whole, which to me is a pretty powerful effect from one 12-inch Christmas tree in one psychology lab,” said Schmitt. Study participants did not know the study was about the effects of Christmas trees.

The reference “Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion
Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion,”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (November 2010), 46 (6), pg. 1017-1022. It’s here.

We’ve always had a Christmas Tree in our department common room and we have thought of it as harmless. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider.

Guest post: Major rape case in Germany

Reader T has generously offered to fill us in on a rape case that has been dominating the news in Germany for some time, but which has been little-reported elsewhere:

I am actually surprised how little you read in the English speaking media about what is considered to be *the* court case of the year in Germany. It’s not only that it’s so spectacular because the secret love life of a celebrity is revealed to the public, but also because it triggers a probably long due debate about gender equality in Germany.

In May of this year (2010) Jörg Kachelmann, a famous TV presenter who is particularly known for his weather forecasts, was arrested and accused of rape in a severe case. His former girlfriend of many years claims that he raped her in her flat while holding a knife to her throat. The lawsuit against Kachelmann started in September with Kachelmann continuously insisting that he didn’t commit any such crime. (For one of the few English-speaking media – finally – commenting on the case see here.)

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The downside to us all of racial disadvantage?

Following on the news about Oxbridge whitewash, the quote below is pretty depressing.  But it is interesting that the concern is not just about justice and fairness.  Rather,  the stress appears to be on the kind  of society being built:

Black applicants have less than a one in a 100 chance of being recruited to Britain’s Civil Service fast track, figures published for the first time reveal.  Last year the Civil Service took on less than five black people to its “fast stream” recruitment scheme out of over 450 black-African applicants. In contrast, white applicants had a 1 in 20 chance of being accepted into the scheme – a success rate four times higher.The figures, seen by The Independent, were described as “deeply worrying” by the former Labour Minister David Lammy, who was patron of a mentoring scheme for ethnic minority civil servants. “The people who are recruited into fast stream are the next generation of Permanent Secretaries and if we are not able to recruit young black people into the Civil Service today then it will a detrimental effect long into the future,” he said.