Monday, June 26, 2006

There Goes June

And how'd that happen?

When I say I've been "mostly" working on my data, what I really mean is that I have been really struggling to get my "quota" done, every single day. I didn't even shower over the weekend (sorry, TMI, but there it is.) It's a bit discouraging, as every morning I enthusiastically think that I will not only get my 10 surveys scored but also one or two of the other five dozen things I need to get done over the summer... and then by sunset each day I'm still just desperately trying to crank out the last of the ten surveys. I have a lot of additional unrelated things I really have to also get done before the baby comes (including preparations for applying for internships yet a-freakin'-gain.)

So basically I'm back to grad-school mode in which everything else in my life has to drop by the wayside as I try to get the work done (surveys scored and entered). This is so I can start doing the analyses and write at least a draft of my results section before the baby comes and changes everything.

Oddly, this feeling of intense continuous pressure always makes me blog more. This is partly because I spend more time in the house near the computer, and partly because I just feel more stressed and need some kind of outlet. (For complaining no doubt.)

Since a big part of the thesis of my research regards how individuals' ages and the time they've spent in college affects their level of prejudice, I am going to scream (more) if I continue to encounter primarily surveys filled out by 18-year-old freshpersons who've been in school exactly two weeks. I think they comprise 98% of the surveys I've scored so far; no exaggeration.

This is okay for the process of getting my actual dissertation done, as far as that goes, since one has only to show correct form in research and not necessarily results. However, as far as furthering the field of prejudice research, this is nearly useless and I am frankly surprised to see even the few significant correlations that are appearing so far.

An analogy would be that it's like trying to examine the coping mechanisms of people using prosthetic limbs solely in a population of professional athletes. Sure, if you get enough respondents, there will be a couple of people that may show the characteristics you're looking for, but you're sure looking at an awfully skewed sample.

I didn't realize that all the classes taught by my colleagues last fall included nothing but brand-new first-years. I really hope as I get further into the pile, I will encounter some groups of classes that include more people from other years. But I've done 70 out of 330, so that's considerable already.

The other thing that's annoying about this is that the very young can be so damned prejudiced and dichotomous in their thinking, due to their developmental stage. ("I'm right, everyone else is wrong," variety of self-righteousness.)

So I end up seeing page after page (these are loooong surveys even though they're mostly multiple-choice) of people selecting answers resembling the following: "African-Americans are lower in intelligence than other races: AGREE;" "Two women are jogging in sports bras and shorts and two men appear and rape them. The women provoked the rape: AGREE;" "AIDS came into being to punish the homosexual lifestyle: AGREE;" "Asian-American business owners are greedy: AGREE;" and even (you won't believe this) "Hitler had some justification in persecuting the Jews" AGREE." !!!

--and then on the final page, where they get to write in what has influenced their perspectives on cultural diversity, they write things like "I am very open-minded and have learned not to judge others by their race" and so forth. In fact it may be one of my findings that the higher the prejudice scores, the more likely they are to write about how open-minded they are.

Prejudiced and hypocritical little jerks. It's quite depressing and exhausting to have my face rubbed in this for hours every single day and to think that society is even worse than I imagined. It's making me prejudiced against undergrads!

So anyway. I hope that I get into some more older students soon, and I hope that I see what I predicted: they've dropped in prejudice as they've been in school.


Melanie said...

I'd be happy to help out with the data stuff. :)

liz said...


Did someone with N's for initials contact you?

You might be one of the few people I'd trust to do this--but I wouldn't want you to bite off more than you can chew!

argotnaut said...

But wait ... I _am_ right, and everyone else _is_ wrong!

argotnaut said...

I don't suppose there's a long-distance way to input data...

liz said...

Inputting the data is not the problem. It takes about 30 seconds per survey.

But before the data can be entered, each actual individual survey has to be physically looked at and each instrument on it has to be scored, item by item. (I have 330 surveys here in my office at home.) So that's the back-numbing aspect.

Well, it's okay to be convinced you're right if you have valid evidence backing up your conviction!

Judy said...

No wonder your kid has hiccups! Do you want to send me a bunch to score, or would that be cheating?

liz said...

Oh, it wouldn't be's just that each individual instrument on the survey requires training to learn how to score.

Even my brainy husband has withdrawn his initial suggestion that he help me with that part, since he's been watching me and has now seen how complicated they are to do.

Melanie said...

No, N-squared didn't contact me.

I'm still happy to help. I see it as both a learning opportunity and a way to help out a friend (wait, did that just get interviewy?)

Perhaps we should chat...

argotnaut said...

Ohhh, I see.

By the way, the results you're getting are horrifying.

liz said...

Never trust anyone under 30? Or in the case of these surveys, maybe 21?

I just hope that my hypothesis is correct and we get less prejudiced as we get older.

Certainly there is some evidence here that the longer a person has been in school, the lower their score on one of the prejudice-related instruments.

Tim said...

I agree with Argo, it is rather horrifying, though I have to say I'm not particularly surprised. The kind of pre-conceptions we see in kids (including college kids) at the museum is rather eye-opening.

I think your hypothesis may be correct though. We get a rather large number of petitions from college students for internships by their junior and senior years, so I find that encouraging.

liz said...

Well, my hypothesis aside, junior and senior year is when they're actually thinking about their futures and their resumes, and begin looking for volunteer opportunities.

But, not to be too cynical--hopefully it's also that other thing!

Tim said...

I think in our case we wind up with kids who are truly sensitive to these issues. Most of them come here with something specific they'd like to work on, rather than just getting hours out of us.

Just out of curiosity, does your data include what kind of HS they went to (public or private) and what sort of geographic region they're coming from? I was just wondering if that played a part in their attitudes?

liz said...

Private? We're talking Eastern Michigan U students, here, so I doubt that's an issue for more than a tiny handful.

It doesn't specifically ask about their HS in that way (we already have tons of other demographic data questions), though it does ask about family income. However a lot of them write in something about their school in the open-ended questions at the end.

Also, one of the scales I'm looking at is an index of background diversity, which rates how diverse they perceived their schools and neighborhood were, as well as the emphasis on understanding those issues in their home of origin.