Posted in Psychology

Psychology of Pop Culture: Synthesis

For the last 3 weeks, I have talked about the psychology of pop culture. For this week’s blog, I will create a synthesis by looking at how escapism, conformity, and sense of belonging that occur in pop culture are elements of  a bigger picture of pop culture. The underlying theory behind pop culture from a psychological view brings to light the theory that pop culture provides people, not only with a way to escape, and a sense of belonging, or even forces people to conform, whether we like it or not, but that pop culture part of our social identity.

To take a step back, what is pop culture? Pop culture is everywhere and is a part of everything. This is due to the simple fact that pop culture today is no longer an underground wave of comic nerds, and movie buffs trying to uses pop culture just to pass the time or escape from everyday life, like it was in the past, pop culture has become mainstream and is eveuywhere..

Before pop culture became so mainstream, it was an activity that the uneducated lower classes did to pass the time, and escape from the life after the WWI. So even back in the 1910’s, pop culture was a form of escapism from the aftermath of WWI. During these times, pop culture was viewed as mindless activity. It wasn’t until after WWII, did pop culture start to become more mainstream, appealing to the masses. This was seen through comic books, advertisements, music and other forms of mass consumption that occur during those times, as pop culture became a type of propaganda in the form of comic books, posters, and advertisements.

With the example of these images, pop culture became a way to connect with people and strive towards a common goal, and represented a line of conformity where you should fight the good fight, just like the poster and Captain America says. with falls in line with the thinking of pop culture today in terms of a way to connect. But within this line of  history it leads back to the idea of conformity, and using pop culture to get people to conform even though it wasn’t a mainstream idea at that time. It still had impact on people’s behaviors and thoughts whether they agreed with it or not.

Today with pop culture as it has become so mainstream and appeals to the masses, it has a much larger effect on us. Pop culture is not just some games, comic books, movies, and TV, that was experienced only by some uneducated people like it was in the past. Pop culture is defined as “cultural activities or commercial products reflecting, suited to, or aimed at the tastes of the general masses of people” (“the definition of pop culture”, 2017). Pop culture includes areas like food, sports, TV, film, internet, virtual communities, technology, art, tattoos, folk art, and even language. Leading to the synthesized theory that part culture is who we are, it’s our social identity.

Here are a few good examples of how pop culture revolves around our lives, and becomes part of our identity.  I am part of a psychology lab here at the University of Lethbridge. In the lab, there is a guy named AJ. One day after talking about cognitive psychology and members of the lab it reminded him of characters from the popular TV show “the office”. So, he decided that he wanted to try to assign each lab member with a character that they portrayed from this TV show. So, you had the Dwight, the Michael Scott, the Meredith, etc…, so what does the Office and their cast of crazy characters have to do with cognitive psychology…? Nothing, which is the point. We try to use characters from random TV shows, movies, and games to try to explain things in our live. Another good example of this would be the Buzzfeed, and other personality quizzes that we all are guilty of taking. We take a personality quiz to determine what Disney princess we are, “which Leo DiCaprio character is our Soulmate?”, “Which Beyoncé hit are you based on your Zodiac sign?” Or even “Order Starbucks and McDonald’s, Then We’ll Guess Your Boob Size quiz”.  Leading again to the conclusion that pop culture weaves it’s way into our social identity.  Because pop culture is no longer for the uneducated lower classes, it’s for the young, old, rich, poor, everyone, it’s how we relate and connect with the world.

So, to get back to the synthesis of pop culture. What was the point of writing the past three blogs? Pop culture has become our identity and how we relate socially. Pop culture is our social Identity. In the first blog on pop culture I talked about escapism that occurs by using pop culture. we use pop culture as a shield to protect us from the stresses of everyday life. The reason that we can escape using pop culture is because we can relate to the characters that we watch, we identity with them. In my second blog, I discussed conformity that occurs with pop culture consumerism and mass media, it can be difficult, if not nearly impossible not to conform because of the reason that pop culture is everything. pop culture is part of the non-conformers, rebel against popular culture that is consumed by all. but with even the anti-pop culture groups still create their identity around pop culture, and their distaste to it, but it still provides them with an identity which is that they don’t fall victim to popular culture. (it’s kind of a double negative). In my third blog of pop culture, I discussed how pop culture gives us a sense of belonging. how just like we define ourselves by our family and friends, we also define ourselves by what type of pop culture we like and indulge in. A classic example of how pop culture defines us is with the movie the breakfast club, leading to the idea of stereotypes.


We fall victim stereotypes and labels, whether we give the stereotype or live the stereotype. In the Breakfast club, you have the criminal, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the brain. These stereotypes or labels are defined by what activities, or pop culture we participate in such as what type of music we listen to. with pop culture and a sense of belonging, we also use pop culture to relate to other people, so with the help of pop culture it gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling of being accepted, and helps define, by how we relate to others socially.

These three blogs post lead to metaphor that Pop culture is like a crazy friend that we just happen to meet and never leaves us alone.  It’s there when we need it, and it’s there even we don’t want it to be there. With pop culture being part of our social identity. we use Pop culture to help define who we are, to try to make sense of this crazy world, we use it to shape and create a social identity with other like-minded people, and we use pop culture to find others. Through pop culture, we use it to identify who other people are, try to understand and gain a sense of their personality by means the pop culture. through social media, we look at a person’s Facebook about me page to gauge a sense of who they are by what music they listen to, what activities they do, which unfortunately can often lead to a false sense of social identity, but an identity none the less.

So, there it is, wrapped up and topped off with a nice plaid bow. Pop culture is part of our social identity, and helps define who we are.

For this weeks, featured photo, I have chosen to feature a mixed media piece that I had done in art school a few years ago, called Identity. it features wooden Venetian mask that I imprinted and coloured using prism colours. the gentian mask, I think is a good representation of pop culture. that when you put a mask or even a cosplay costume, it becomes you. Our behaviours and sometimes even thought soon match the mask or costume that you put on, which is similar to what happens with pop culture, that it becomes a part of you.


Black, R. (2006). Language, Culture, and Identity in Online Fanfiction. E-Learning And Digital Media3(2), 170-184.

Quizzes on BuzzFeed. (2017). Quizzes on BuzzFeed. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from

the definition of pop culture. (2017). Retrieved 30 March 2017, from–culture

Vanden Berghe, P. (2017). How popular culture defines identity. The Newsletter, (73), 23.

Williams, B. (2008). “What South Park Character Are You?”: Popular Culture, Literacy, and Online Performances of Identity. Computers And Composition25(1), 24-39.



Posted in Photography, Psychology

Psychology of Pop Culture: Sense of Belonging

My third post analyzing the psychology behind pop culture will focus on the notion that pop culture provides a sense of belonging. This effect is known by a few names such as need for affiliation, sense of belonging or belongingness. The need for affliction is defined as a person’s need to feel a sense of involvement and belonging within a social group. This was coined by David McClelland. To have a sense of belonging means to have a human connection or emotional need to be accepted by someone or a group. As social beings, we have a need for human contact and belonging.

One famous study or theory on the topic belongingness is A.H. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. After basic needs, there are the psychological needs. This features belongingness and love which comes from relationships and friendships. Psychological needs can be defined as mental or emotional needs that help us to achieve self-actualization. This can even stem to Harry Harlow’s idea of belonging and attachment. With the work of Harry Harlow and his adorable baby rhesus monkeys. he discovered that we need social contact to thrive, whether that connection comes from a wire mother, cloth mother, family or more accurately social contact that provides us with happiness, satisfaction, and security. This I believe can apply within pop culture as well.

Normally when we think about having a sense to belong, it’s about family, friends, or high school social cliques, but having a sense of belonging can also appear in pop culture. When you belong to a group, you get feeling of acceptance, where you feel all warm and fuzzy inside because you are no longer socially isolated. For example, here at the University of Lethbridge there is a club for just about everyone. You have a Religious club, Native American club, Amine club, Object Manipulation club, Fraternities, Sororities, and the ever-popular Gamers club. So, with so many exclusive clubs, it is more than probable to find a group that suits one’s interests to obtain a sense of belonging with a group of friends that share the same interest. Which is part of the reason why you get that warm and fuzzy feeling. Because of being around other people who understand you and share similar interests.

Within the realm of pop culture, although it is mainstream, some people who have more obscure interests like gaming, cosplay, or even drag don’t normally have a sense of belonging within their standard circle of family, and maybe not even with their circle of friends, causing a social isolation. This leads to the in individual seeking out other social relationships and social bonds where they can express their interests with like-minded people. This is where we have the comic cons and hobbyist conventions. After some intense research, I have discovered that there is a club, group, and convention for everyone. Here are some examples:

The Fetish Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, is an annual convention and trade show focusing on the adult entertainment industry. This includes bondage, latex and their mascot Bernie the Bondage Bunny.

Another unique convention is Bronycon in Baltimore, Maryland. “BronyCon is the world’s largest convention for and by fans of the animated TV series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” It’s a convention where people from all over the globe come to take part in all activities of My little pony. Including costumes, Bronypalooza which is market for all things of My Little Pony, and just connect with other “Bronies”.

Anthrocon is a convention for people who love to dress up in furry animal/ mascot costumes, known as Furry fans. These like-minded people participate in workshops, seminars and collectively celebrate Furry Fandom. They even have a Fursuit Parade.

Burning man is an annual gathering for people to explore various forms of artistic self-expression. This festival includes a temporary self-made community where one can freely express themselves without judgement. Their list of ten principals include: “radical inclusion, self-reliance and self-expression, community cooperation, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy and leaving no trace”. (“Burning Man – Welcome Home”, 1989)

These crazy conventions although unique and ridiculous to some all have one thing in common: a sense of belonging for people who have abnormal but similar interest which in this case would be pop culture, giving the people a sense of belonging within pop culture.

One reason why we want to have a sense of belonging is that is can be a form of therapy. Having the opportunity to talk and relate to other like-minded individuals who understand some of the issues that one faces and how to deal with them can be very therapeutic. In the sense that you are not alone. This is like the concept of venting to a friend about family or relationship issues.

Per the relational-cultural theory, we develop a sense of belonging and a connection to others when we feel like we are in a healthy relationship and have a sense of growth as an individual that occur when with that group (Shaw, & Hammer, 2016). This type of belonging occurs in a community like setting, where you are surrounded by other people with similar hobbies or views that you can connect with and develop relationships through acceptance, promoting a sense of belonging. But what about the connection and sense of belonging to a fictitious group of characters that you see in in TV, movies, and pop culture? This occurs in a similar fashion to community based belonging. With the idea that you can relate and share similar experiences with that character. An example of this is with the movie “Perks of Being a Wallflower” starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. Whenever I watch this movie I become so sweep up in the story and events, because I experience similar situations and feelings as the character Charlie. The relatable character of Charlie just wants to live a normal life without his mental illness of schizophrenia getting in the way, so through fate he becomes friends with a group extroverted high school seniors who introduce him to a world that he has always observed from a distance or through other people, or by being a wallflower. As I watch the movie I relate to Charlie and start to feel that I am part of the misfit group. Going through the moments that occur and feel the same emotions that the group experiences. Giving me a sense of belonging, and a connection with Charlie, Sam, and Patrick while on the island of misfit toys.



Now what happens when you are unable to obtain a sense e of belong to a social group or pop culture icon?  This is when the notion of social isolation and alienation comes into play. by not having a sense of belonging you can lack satisfaction in life. This can go back to Harlow’s rhesus monkeys. when his rhesus monkeys were socially isolated they became very depression, social damage, and behavioral ailment, and leading to physical ailment, where they even refused to eat. Now this is obviously an extreme case of social isolation, and goes way beyond pop culture and feeling accepted, but the principals are similar. When you are socially isolated from your friends or your pop culture fandom or anything that gives you a sense of belonging, it can be very lonely. An example for this would be it someone where to take your phone away leaving you without any form of social media. It would be very alienating, depressing, etc. But this is where the idea of pop culture comes into play. Thanks to the internet and technology and being more globalized and less localized. Pop culture and social groups are more accessible. through social media, I can feel like I am always connected and have a sense of belonging through virtual means. With Netflix, movies, TV shows, video games, and virtual communities, it provides people with more access and opportunities to relate to other and to always have a sense of belonging through virtual means.

With the crossover of virtual and communal sense of belonging. Is having a fictitious connection in the attempt to gain a sense of belonging as satisfactory as having real-life interactions with physical touch? For example, when we FaceTime or virtually connect with someone, we would probably prefer to be interacting with them in real life, so why do we choose virtual or fictitious over physical?  And is pop culture encouraging a false sense of belonging?

For this week’s Photo, I decided to do a collage of three photos that I took while at Globalfest in Calgary, Alberta. It features three Muslim women that have a sense of belonging through their religion and relationships. That although some people isolate themselves from people who have a connection to the Middle East, they still are happy and have a sense of belonging, despite all the hate. These three gorgeous women are what we should strive for, which is to be happy, secure and feel connected through a sense of belonging whether it be from religion, family, friends, fetish conventions, or pop culture.

Here is the link for The Harlow Monkey study:



Anthrocon 2017: Take Me Out To The Ballgame | “Fur, Fun, And So Much More!”. (1996). Retrieved 23 March 2017, from

BronyCon 2017. (2017). Retrieved 23 March 2017, from

Burning Man – Welcome Home. (1989). Retrieved 23 March 2017, from

Choenarom, C., Williams, R., & Hagerty, B. (2005). The Role of Sense of Belonging and Social Support on Stress and Depression in Individuals With Depression. Archives Of Psychiatric Nursing19(1), 18-29.

Cohen, E., & Lancaster, A. (2014). Individual Differences in In-Person and Social Media Television Coviewing: The Role of Emotional Contagion, Need to Belong, and Coviewing Orientation. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking17(8), 512-518.

Con, F. (2017). Our Official MascotFetish Con™ – August 10 – 13, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from

Hagerty, B., Williams, R., Coyne, J., & Early, M. (1996). Sense of belonging and indicators of social and psychological functioning. Archives Of Psychiatric Nursing10(4), 235-244.

Harlow, H. (1958). The nature of love. American Psychologist13(12), 673-685.

Harlow, H., Dodsworth, R., & Harlow, M. (1965). Total social isolation in monkeys. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences54(1), 90-97.

Harlow’s Monkeys. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 23 March 2017, from

Mellor, D., Stokes, M., Firth, L., Hayashi, Y., & Cummins, R. (2008). Need for belonging, relationship satisfaction, loneliness, and life satisfaction. Personality And Individual Differences45(3), 213-218.

Paston, B. (2009). An Exercise in Personal Exploration: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Surgical Technologist, 347-353.

Pillow, D., Malone, G., & Hale, W. (2015). The need to belong and its association with fully satisfying relationships: A tale of two measures. Personality And Individual Differences74, 259-264.

Shaw, P., & Hammer, T. (2016). Captain America: The Search for Belonging. Journal Of Creativity In Mental Health11(1), 118-124.

Posted in Photography, Psychology

Psychology of Pop Culture: Conformity

Conformity and individualism are both vital components of pop culture. It surrounds us, infiltrates every aspect of our lives, encouraging us to conform. We’re then faced with a choice: Do we conform? Or, do we rebel and emphasize our individualism. But, here’s the thing. When you try to be an individual, you end up conforming. When you go to Comicon, you dress up and think you’re unique, when in fact you’re not. You’re dressed like everyone else, behave like everyone else, and have conformed to that unique setting. When you are conforming to the group, and you actually come to enjoy it, you change your line of thinking, which is the definition of cognitive dissonance.

Conformity is where we adjust our behaviour or thinking to the rules or behaviours that we see around us. We all conform to social norms in everyday living because of society’s unwritten rules and norms. From an evolutionary perspective, those you stand apart from the group where the first ones killed. instilling in us that they only way to survive was to conform and blend in. Now with pop culture we are often so saturated with pop culture references through consumerism, where these large companies was to conform and purchase their merchandise.

When you see all the Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter merchandise and other references to pop culture it can be difficult not to conform, especially when friends, family and people who you know have already conformed. This has happened to me on a few occasions, where I have conformed and gave in to the temptation of watching certain shows because my friends were or it was what everyone was talking about. My friend Jorinda, recommend to me (on multiple occasions) to watch BBC’s Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. in order to get her off my back, I watched the first episode. I found it to be uneventful and boring. After I told her this, she told me to watch another episode, so I did. By the end of the second episode I enjoyed it. So,through conformity and mere exposure, it caused cognitive dissonance where I have become a fan of Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch (but can you blame me?)

Conformity occurs on the basis of power and the fear of being indifferent. you are more likely to conform to a larger group of people, or if you admire that group of people. But conformity can also occur out of fear, and insecurity. with that being said conformity occurs with pop culture because as a culture of social being, we put so much emphasis on pop culture which is driven by consumerism and brands. We given them power which is then fed back to us for us to further conform. A good example of pop culture conformity is  the documentary  “Generation Like”, which looks at consumerism of pop culture. The underlying message of the video is that we conform more than every before, but we are under the impression that we are thinking and behaving individualistically.

Now with conformity comes the idea of individualistic, which is the favouring freedom of independent action regardless of the group’s actions or behaviours, so being independent. When you reject the idea of conforming, you probably have the idea that it’s because you are a rebel, or a non conformist. But in reality your are still conforming to an idea or belief. A good example of this is with Comic cons. Prior to Comic Con expo, you get your costume of your favourite character, whether it be Jack Sparrow, wolverine, Harley Quinn, or a Disney princess. You think are being individualistic or a special snowflake, except that when are at the Comic Expo, you find many people are dressed as the same character.  not to mention that by dressing up as a character you are conforming to someone else’s appearance in order to be like someone else, which in this case is a fictional character.

The photo collage of cosplayers is a good representation of individualistic thinking leading to conformity of behaviours that occurs within pop culture and consumerism.

This goes to show that even with even in the generation of being different and standing out, it appears that we conform more than ever, under the impression that we are special snowflakes. I believe that the reason that conformity more visibly seen in current times, especially with pop culture is because of the large amount of access we have to different types of information that we are less able to think for ourselves.

With this being said, is there even such a thing as non conformity within the realm of social media, pop culture and consumerism?

For this week’s photo I decided to put to images that represent conformity. The first image (left) is of my sister and the Hulk. there are thousands of similar poses with this hulk and they all think that they are being original and individualistic. The second image (right) is of myself, where I conformed my behaviour. Normally I don’t take images of myself, and I don’t pose is creativity or embarrassing ways but I threw that out the window and conformed my beliefs and ideals at that moment, based on environmental influences of Vegas.

Link for the “Generation Like” documentary:


Chou, T., Chang, E., Dai, Q., & Wong, V. (2013). REPLACEMENT BETWEEN CONFORMITY AND COUNTERCONFORMITY IN CONSUMPTION DECISIONS1,2. Psychological Reports112(1), 125-150.

Cummings, W. & Venkatesan, M. (1976). Cognitive Dissonance and Consumer Behavior: A Review of the Evidence. Journal Of Marketing Research13(3), 303.

Escalas, J. & Bettman, J. (2003). You Are What They Eat: The Influence of Reference Groups on Consumers’ Connections to Brands. Journal Of Consumer Psychology13(3), 339-348.

Fischer, J. (2010). Why We Conform. Plos Biology8(2), e1000277.

Mandel, N., Rucker, D., Levav, J., & Galinsky, A. (2017). The Compensatory Consumer Behavior Model: How self-discrepancies drive consumer behavior. Journal Of Consumer Psychology27(1), 133-146.

Monin, B., Norton, M., Cooper, J., & Hopg, M. (2004). Reacting to an Assumed Situation vs. Conforming to an Assumed Reaction: The Role of Perceived Speaker Attitude in Vicarious Dissonance. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations7(3), 207-220.

PBS Frontline Generation Like. (2017).

Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 16 March 2017, from

Social Thinking: Crash Course Psychology #37. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 16 March 2017, from

Verhaagen, D., Gaskill, F., Hetterly, J., & Daley, K. (2017). Shrink Tank Podcast Ep.40: Pros of Cons – Shrink TankShrink Tank. Retrieved 16 March 2017, from

Posted in Photography, Psychology, Uncategorized

Psychology of Pop Culture: Escapism

This post is the beginning of a set of blogs that focus on one particular topic, analyzing the psychology behind pop culture. It will be divided into three sections, the first which will be the role of escapism in pop culture. Escapism is defined as a “mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an escape from the perceived unpleasant aspects of daily stress”.

Escapism is a way to mentally and emotionally escape from the reality when it hands you a shitty hand.  This can include everyday stresses of life, work, school, relationships, but it can also include more traumatic stresses like cancer, death, or any type of grief or distress, this can be seen in people who bury themselves in their work, indulge in their unusual behaviour, or take their usual behavior and take it to the extreme to avoid their stress and divert their attention to something more controllable. An example of this which we seen in pop culture is in the 90’s TV show Full House, in the episode of “Trouble with Danny, Danny tanner alters his behavior to the extreme where he goes from an ultimate neat freak to dirty mess after he overhears his family say terrible things and call him terrible names like “psycho with a dust mop” based on his over obsessed neat freak behaviors, this causes Danny to alter his behavior to the extreme and become very messy to combat his hurt emotions.

This is one way to escape, but the more popular form of escapism is with pop culture. People divert their focus away from their problems and focus more on happy or fulfilling pleasures to cope. By consuming pop culture to escape from our stressful reality, it can be seen by some as a survival mechanism, we spend so many hours a day be stimulating by our jobs, school, and life, that by the end of the day we are both mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, so by consuming stupid YouTube videos, playing video games for hours, watching Netflix or catching up on our TV shows it becomes a way to survive the rest of the day or recharge our batteries. Not only is pop culture a way to survive and recharge, but with some elements of pop culture, some movies like Perks of Being a wallflower, Eat Pray Love, and pretty much any Disney Pixar movie ever made can give you a glimmer of hope, can change the way you think about life. With movies like Harry Potter, or superhero/ villain movies, they tend to create a whole universe within the movie that allows you to transport into a fantasy world and leave your reality at the door.

From this point of view escapism and transportation to fantasy realms by indulging in pop culture are seen in a positive light as a coping mechanism, and entertaining, but is there a dark side of escapism in pop culture? One article that I looked “Escaping or Coping” (Knobloch-Westerwick, Hastall and Rossmann, 2009) looks at just that: the difference between the two terms. there are few types of coping, the first is Approach Coping which is defined as “an engaged coping strategies in which the goal is to reduce, eliminate, or manage the internal or external demands of a stressor”. The second type is Avoidance Coping referring to disengagement in which “the goal is to ignore, avoid, or withdraw away from the stressor or its emotional consequences”. The third type is problem focused coping which is defined as “seeking to change or eliminate the stressor itself”. So with this being said, do we use pop culture to disengage temporarily and avoid our reality and life stressors?  I believe that when faced not just with everyday life, but with more stressful events and problems we tend to escape and avoid coping rather than approach coping and dealing with your problems, but I think this leads to a larger issue at hand, has pop culture become an addiction?

With the technology that is available today, we have the ability to escape our reality at any time of the day by using our devices to watch Netflix or play games in order to escape our struggles, does this give us the opportunity to consume pop culture more than ever before, that we are more consumed with the trivial facts and information that is available about our guilty pleasures. I know that I am guilty of knowing more about my favorite actors, actresses personal and professional lives like the name of Channing Tatum’s first-born  daughter: Everly, or Ashton and Mila’s first born daughter: Wyatt, than about the material that is taught in class.  One movie that I think emulates this addiction perfectly is Fever Pitch, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, it about Ben who is a Boston Red Sox fan meets Lindsay, she soon discovers how his fandom is more of an obsession to which he life  revolves around the Boston Red Sox, which causes friction with their relationship, as he chooses the Red Sox over her, to which he regrets it when its to late. This is a good example of how addicting pop culture can be where it can affect our real life interactions.


With the extreme consumption of pop culture, the reality of how the world works and the stories and interactions that we see in film and TV shows tend to blur. this can occur when similar events happen both in real life and in pop culture, we expect that the outcome will resemble the events that take place in pop culture. an example of this would be that when I was younger I watched Sabrina the teenage witch, which is about a teenage witch who lives in the mortal world, but the magical realm and her mortal realm collide, where she uses her magical powers to make her life easier, from bringing in celebrities to meet her, to transporting herself to mystical places or to school when she is running late. Because I watched so much of this show, I would sometimes catch myself thinking what would happen if I could use my magical powers, thinking that the idea of having magical powers was actually plausible, Leading to the idea that fiction from film, TV, video games, characters and their stories can become fact and occur in real life.

Based on this more negative view of Escapism, one article called “Expressions of Fandom: Findings from a Psychological Survey of Cosplay and Costume Wear” looks at the cosplay and the psychology behind representing a particular character. By dressing up as a particular character where it be Sailor Moon, Hello Kitty, Disney or Marvel characters, it is a way to further connect to that fantasy universe, giving you the opportunity to temporarily become that character and live their fantasy driven life. Within the realm of Escapism, participating in Cosplay and dressing up as your favourite fictional character is one reason why Comic cons  and cosplay are so popular.

I believe that from an escapist perspective dressing up in cosplay, looking into the lives of you favorite celebrity is a way to further connect to a character and their universe, in order to further bridge the gap between pop culture and real life.

In sum, by watching hours of tv and movies trying to live the lives of our favourite characters and celebrities and being a part of pop culture although is a way to recharge one’s batteries, and retreat from life’s stresses by transporting to a fictional world. It can also negatively lead to blurred lines between fact and fiction, in which when we return from our fantasy, our troubles will still be at the door waiting for us.

This week’s photo is of my cousin Elisabeth who participated in Comic Con in Calgary Alberta, in may,2016. She is standing next to the human version of Ariel from the little mermaid, holding a Flounder.  Ariel really played the part of Ariel, not only the costume but the attitude and behaviour to fully become Ariel, she spoke in a high-pitched voice and used many sea terms, and was very endearing, so she transformed into Ariel from the little mermaid, minus the tail.


Addis, M. & Holbrook, M. (2010). Consumers’ identification and beyond: Attraction, reverence, and escapism in the evaluation of films. Psychology And Marketing27(9), 821-845.

Escapism – The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia. (2017). Retrieved 9 March 2017, from

Green, M. (2004). Transportation Into Narrative Worlds: The Role of Prior Knowledge and Perceived Realism. Discourse Processes38(2), 247-266.

Henning, B. (2001). Psychological escapism: predicting the amount of television viewing by need for cognition. Journal Of Communication51(1), 100-120.

Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Hastall, M., & Rossmann, M. (2009). Coping or Escaping?. Communication Research36(2), 207-228.

McCain, J., Gentile, B., & Campbell, W. (2015). A Psychological Exploration of Engagement in Geek Culture. PLOS ONE10(11), e0142200.

Rosenberg, R. & Letamendi, A. (2013). Expressions of Fandom: Findings from a Psychological Survey of Cosplay and Costume Wear. Intensities: The Journal Of Cult Media5, 9-18.

Shrink Tank,. (2017). episode 70Guilty Pleasures & Pop Culture Escapism. Retrieved 9 March 2017, from

Sonnentag, S. (2012). Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time. Current Directions In Psychological Science21(2), 114-118.


Posted in Photography, Psychology

Las Vegas Biases

Over reading week, I went to Las Vegas, NV, and of course being Vegas I thought I would talk about Gambler’s Fallacy, but after studying the human behavior and relating it to  cognitive effects that  often occur in social situations, I decided to write on the observed cognitive and social effects outside the realm of gambling.

One effect that I found to reoccur is the whole idea of labels and categorization. Throughout Vegas there are hundreds of fancy restaurants with celebrity chefs, and more local restaurants that are less formal. These celebrity restaurants that are supposed to have extraordinary food because they are celebrities should have amazing cuisine. So, when sampling cuisine from Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill in Caesar’s Palace, and Buddy Valastro’s Restaurant in the Venetian there was a bias that was instilled because of their famous name and status. I am a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay, so when given the chance to eat at one of his famous restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill, I was ecstatic, I thought the food was amazing even down to the mushy peas, while my sister isn’t a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay had the same meal, and thought it was sub par and overpriced: This is the power of Labeling and Categorization.

With this labelling bias, we tend to have higher opinion of something or someone based on the label that is applied. Another example of this labelling bias is that while in the casino, I was approach by an elegant younger woman who was looking for someone to hang out while playing video poker. She was a black, single mother of 2 who was dresses in a nice cocktail dress and high heels and a clutch, her name was Sophia. Over the course of the night we were drinking and gambling and having a grand old-time. The next day I was told that Sophia was a hooker/ escort because of how she was dressed and how men kept approaching her and buying us drinks. This is where the Labeling bias come in, I had met nice women who was out having fun, getting free drinks from guys and gambling, to which I was included. When this was told to other people like my family people jumped to stereotyped conclusions about “being careful that she didn’t slip something into your drink” and “she used you as a cover to remain in the bar so she could get picked up”. These stereotyped conclusions were placed on a label of hooker; I however did not view it this way. This again is the power and demise of labels and how it can lead to unnecessary stereotypes that are a lot of the time false. Labels are so powerful that once they are applied, it completely alters your perspective, and further interactions and behavior, but why?

Another effect that I observed was conformity in social environments. While attending a BlueMan Group Show, I observed several  people taking selfies with their provided     ribbon on their head, I normally don’t indulge in selfies, but I passively broke my rule and    took a few selfies. This is an example of Conformity bias which is a “tendency to behave similarly to the others in a group, even if doing so goes against your own judgment.”(Wikipedia, 2013).

Selfie with Nicole @ Blueman Group Performance

One other form of conformity that I experienced was Situation specificity, which means that “relevant features of the behaviors of the same person are different in different situations.”(Patry, 2011) This hypothesis can be witnesses in many ways. You might normally indulge in drinking and gambling, but when in a city life Vegas, you become tempted and soon indulge in such temptations.  The reason I believe that is very impactful, and very passive is because we aren’t fully aware that environmental cues can cause behavior modification just as much as social conformity and social influence to alter one’s behavior. the two photos below are two street performers on Fremont Street, in downtown Las Vegas. One first photo (left) is an adult baby who is dressed up at Donald Trump’s son. This costume features Trump’s red power tie, and orange hair and a holding a sign that says “Trump is His Daddy”. The second performer (right) is a drag version of Marilyn Monroe, with his full on beard and white Monroe dress, he entertained the crowd by twerking and acting like a complete fool. in relation Situation specificity, these acts appear right at home on the crazy street  of Fremont, but put in any other context, like in a hotel lobby, and they would appear to be mentally deficient, and would be asked to leave, but not on Fremont street, it’s expected.

One article that I found examines how people’s decision-making skills of gambling can be skewed because of more risk taking and distracting environment from the gambling tables in Las Vegas. more money is lost when some is active, aggressive or distracted which I believe the hotel/casinos in Vegas play on these cognitive effects. While in the casino, I was offered free drinks, smokes, roses, and even massages while I play their games, this I believe is because of distraction and more risk taking occur when playing, while getting massaged by a beautiful woman and getting served free drinks, you feel like you are on top of the world and nothing can go wrong which results in more risk-taking behavior and more money that the casino is payed. Is it a ploy that hotel owners use, by adding such distractors as masseuse, drinks, bright lights and graphics of slot machines and fancy casinos and hotels that make us feel like we are living the high life and become more risk taking to give the casinos more of our hard-earned money?

Or what about the largest distraction of them all, which is the high life of Las Vegas. the fancy themed hotels that make you feel like a million dollars, so when you get home you are broke. This effect known as misdirection is not only being used by magicians but the entire sphere of  Las Vegas. A cognitive effect relating to misdirection is Inattentional blindness which is also known as perceptual blindness, is a “psychological lack of attention that is not associated with any vision defects or deficits. It may be further defined as the event in which an individual fails to recognize an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight.” (Wikipedia, 2017) But with misdirection that occurs, at least we are being doomed by some pretty amazing sights and places: Venetian Hotel, Caesar’s Forum Shoppes and Bellaggio Hotel, and the rest of what Las Vegas Has to offer.

With that being said, I have posted some other of my photographs that I had taken while in Vegas that I believe related to this blog post, other observed human behaviour and some photos that I are unique and just look awesome.

Heart Attack Grill Restaurant
Jellyfish @Sharkreef aquarium Talk about Conformity
Slotzilla Zipline experience @ Fremont Street
Chocolate Fountain @ Jean Philippe’s Cafe.
Statue of Licorice Liberty @Hershey’s World.
Pure Human behaviour of non conformist sleeping on the monorail



Foroni, F. and Rothbart, M. (2013) ‘Abandoning a label doesn’t make it disappear: The perseverance of labeling effects’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(1), pp. 126–131. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.08.002.

Hearts of Compassion Publishing (2015) Las Vegas – Misdirection. Available at: (Accessed: 3 March 2017).
Ian Carlin, B. and Robinson, D.T. (2009) Fear and loathing in Las Vegas: Evidence from blackjack tables. .
Kim, R. and Shams, L. (2017) What can magicians teach us about the brain? Available at: (Accessed: 3 March 2017).
O’Doherty, K. and Lecouteur, A. (2007) ‘“Asylum seekers”, “boat people” and “illegal immigrants”: Social categorisation in the media*’, Australian Journal of Psychology, 59(1), pp. 1–12. doi: 10.1080/00049530600941685.
Patry, J.-L. (2011) ‘Methodological consequences of situation specificity: Biases in assessments’, Frontiers in Psychology, 2. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00018.
Spranca, M., Minsk, E. and Baron, J. (1991) ‘Omission and commission in judgment and choice’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 27(1), pp. 76–105. doi: 10.1016/0022-1031(91)90011-t.
Wikipedia (2013) Conformity bias – Lesswrongwiki. Available at: (Accessed: 2 March 2017).
Wikipedia (2017) ‘Inattentional blindness’, in Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 3 March 2017).
Posted in Psychology

Valentine’s Day Post: Love Story of Humans and Computers

“I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It’s a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity.” – Amy Adams from the movie “Her” (Jonze, 2013)

This week’s post is a special edition in honor of Valentine’s Day, which is all about love, romance, relationships, and connections. When we think about love we view it as a human to human connection, but with growing technology there is another type of love connection: humans and their technology.

For this post, will be examining a psychological effect known as the “Tamagotchi effect“.  The Tamagotchi effect is where you develop emotions and become attached to computers, technology, and machines, which you then reflect human emotions and characteristic and even a personality onto this inanimate piece of technology. This love story took off in the late 1990’s when such toys like the Tamagotchi and Furby were introduced and became the hottest toy around, where everyone had to own one, including myself. for those who don’t know what a Tamagotchi is, it was a virtual pet in the palm of your hand that you named, and took care of, and if you didn’t, it would die.  Furby was a robotic pet resembling a hamster or an owl. Furby talked and learnt, and was one of the first forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI). But throughout the years, the has been a huge evolution of this love story, where furbys and Tamagotchis have been replaced with cellphones, and Siri. This emotional attachment of a love story has become more intense because of the current technology that we use everyday, such as our smartphones, or computers. We rely on our technology so much that most our generation has developed Nomophobia. Nomophobia is a specific phobia of no having a mobile phone or “No-phone-phobia“. This phobia suggests that we have developed an emotional attachment to an inanimate object.

The psychology behind this love connection coincides with a few cognitive effects such as attachment theory. Attachment theory is defined as an emotional bond that connects to humans where they both become sensitive to each other behaviors and needs. Normally attachment theory is between two people or an adult and infant, but in this case the attachment is between a human and their technology

One article that I read examines the impact of the connection between a person and their virtual technology. With indulging technology, it can be a form of entertainment and enjoyment. for older people, a virtual pet can be a companion. Retirement homes in Japan and Hong Kong are giving their residents robot babies and seals. The idea behind this is to provide lonely people with social interaction. Another article that I read examines a similar experiment where Paro a robot seal is introduced to the elderly as a form of therapy. The elderly’s social interaction with Paro elevates their mood, which in turn causes physiological changes for the better. People who suffer with dementia are given Paro to provide them with constant social interaction resulting in increased levels of happiness and enjoyment which stimulated their brains and reduced their symptoms. This is one of the positives of human-technology interaction.

But like most love stories, there is a dramatic point in our love story of humans and technology, where we examine the negatives that humans will endure because of this connection.

With current technology, people are becoming more dependent on it as it becomes part of our everyday life. For example, in 2013, a movie call “Her” was released, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson. “Her” is about a lonely writer who develops a relationship and falls in love with an operating system. this I think, although can appear to far-fetched has a large grain of truth to it. With technology, today, people are more comfortable with have a relationship with a computer for technology than with an actual human being where the love is reciprocal.  “You always wanted to have a wife without the challenges of actually dealing with anything real and I’m glad that you found someone. It’s perfect.”(Jonze, 2013) This quote from “Her” I think emulates the relationship between AI and humans because technology inhibits our real-life interactions, where we begin to talk to our technology like it’s a living being.

Screenshot from the movie “Her”

This movie leads to the negative effects that occur because of our preference to technology versus human interaction, because of this choice we become more vulnerable and are more impacted by psychological issues. One article looks at the negative psychological effects of technology overuse, illustrating that there is an increased chance of having depression, anxiety, and stress. Because of the non- reciprocal interaction that occurs, people become less adaptive to other people’s needs and are less able to interact with different types of people who have different views, experiences, and personality.

Throughout this post and researching articles, I came across robotic girl where I believe that a line has been crossed is in the case of Erica: The Android Robot. She is a Japanese robot who can partake in actual conversation, and can make various facial expressions.

Erica demonstration Video Link

I wonder where we draw the line between artificial intelligence and human intelligence? What will occur if we keep creating AI at the fast pace that we create them?

For this week’s photograph, it is a neon sign that says “Progress”. I believe this photo emulates what can occur to the progress that we make in technology, that it might look good now, but it can shift to be less progressive and more degenerative, and thus we come to the end of our love story.

The End.



CGTN (2015, August 6). Talking with a beautiful robot girl Retrieved from
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Jonze, S. (Director). (2013). Her (2013)
Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukophadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist53(9), 1017–1031. doi:10.1037//0003-066x.53.9.1017
McLeod, S. (2009). Attachment theory. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from
Ostovar, S., Allahyar, N., Aminpoor, H., Moafian, F., Nor, M. B. M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2016). Internet addiction and its psychosocial risks (depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness) among Iranian adolescents and young adults: A structural equation model in a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction14(3), 257–267. doi:10.1007/s11469-015-9628-0
Quora. Why do humans sometimes get emotionally attached to ordinary inanimate objects? Retrieved February 15, 2017, from
Shibata, T., & Wada, K. (2011). Robot therapy: A new approach for mental healthcare of the elderly – A Mini-Review. Gerontology57(4), 378–386. doi:10.1159/000319015
Wikipedia (2017a). Nomophobia. In Wikipedia. Retrieved from
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(N.D.). INMIGRANTS FROM THE FUTURE. Retrieved 15 February 2017, from





Posted in Psychology

Ugly Duckling Syndrome

For this week’s blog, I will be writing on Ugly Duckling Syndrome, of which there are two definitions. The first definition is one that we are all familiar with which is a “person, especially a child, who turns out to be beautiful or talented against all expectations”. A prime example is Matthew Lewis who plays Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter Series

Matthew Lewis (right) 2001, and Matthew Lewis Left (2015)

The second definition created by Stanford University describe what they call the Duckling Syndrome as “a person who appears calm, cool and collected externally, but internally they are stressed, frantic and uneasy.” With both of these definitions, they revolve around the same cognition effect known as Illusion of Control.

The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events.  People who express illusory control believe that they have control over different aspects of their life, but this mindset is overestimated. This effect can be viewed in both a positive light or negative dimness.

When somebody shows a lack of illusion of control or real life control they underestimate the amount of control that they have on their lives, believing their life choices are fixed. This can lead to an increased chance of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); they try to compensate with reactions of anxiety, compulsive behaviors,  and destructive eating habits in order to establish some control whether it be illusory or actual.

With a lack of illusion of control, some people can have body image and beauty issues, which can lead to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and have the belief that beauty is and body image is fixed. This is where the Ugly Duckling syndrome appears because only when you remove the illusion of control and believe that beauty and body image are malleable, is when control is gained, which is when transformations from an ugly duckling to a swan happens, or from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The result was this removal of illusory control can be reflected in their appearance, self-esteem, and confidence.

But what happens when you overestimate the amount of control you actually have?  You would think that you would have the opposite result but in actuality, it can lead to similar results such as increased stress, and mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and OCD. This is because when you have overestimated the amount of control, it can result in pursuing unrealistic goals and use harmful behaviors to reach their goal. where over time having unrealistic goals can hurt your self-esteem and confidence as you strive to reach impossible goals and fail. this is especially true with body image and appearance. For individuals who have an unrealistic goal of beauty or and ideal body image, they might use harmful methods or procedures like surgeries or unhealthy eating habits that lead to eating disorders to obtain unrealistic standards. A prime example of having such unrealistic beauty standards is Justin Jedlica.

Justin Jedlica has spent over $100,000 on plastic surgery, as he believed that he had control over his body as a form of expression, and he modeled his Ken doll as wanted his body and his lifestyle.

This leads to the discussion about what is the right amount of control?

For this week’s photograph is a photo that I took in Calgary at Globalfest. These two Brazilian dancers who appear to be happy, confident women who are comfortable in their own body on the outside, but from this photo we can’t determine what experiences or issues drive these two gorgeous women, and these two women and the ducks in the duck syndrome both have feathers which can express their personality, and emotions.

So with that being said, instead of trying to be an ugly ducking or a Barbie doll: Be a Flamingo in a flock of pigeons; be unique, and true to yourself.


Announcements: (2017). Retrieved February 5, 2017, from
Burkley, M., Burkley, E., Stermer, S. P., Andrade, A., Bell, A. C., & Curtis, J. (2014). The ugly duckling effect: Examining fixed versus malleable beliefs about beauty. Social Cognition32(5), 466–483. doi:10.1521/soco.2014.32.5.466
Hoorens, V., & Buunk, B. P. (1993). Social comparison of health risks: Locus of control, the Person-Positivity bias, and unrealistic optimism1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology23(4), 291–302. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1993.tb01088.x
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Reuven-Magril, O., Dar, R., & Liberman, N. (2008). Illusion of control and behavioral control attempts in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology117(2), 334–341. doi:10.1037/0021-843x.117.2.334
US weekly Magazine. (2016, April 20). Meet 7 real-life Barbie and Ken Dolls. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from