Comp II - Research

Final Research Essays


The Positive Effects of Negative Emotions

Lee Bongey

Fear. Anger. Stress. Anxiety. What do these words connote to most people? All of these words typically evoke thoughts of negativity and annoyance. These emotions are not looked upon favorably by society. Negative emotions are not pleasant; largely because of the negative experiences associated with them. These feelings are uncomfortable and hard to cope with, and can be caused by traumatic, life-changing events that seem only to make everything worse. People are always trying to find solutions to rid themselves of negative emotions through therapy, drugs, and consultation. But people do not always realize that these emotions are not completely detrimental. In fact, negative feelings can actually be beneficial to people in many ways. Though society views certain negative emotions as harmful, in reality they can have positive effects when they exist in moderation.

When negative traits are uncontrolled or overly powerful, they can be disastrous. As the phrase, “negative emotion” implies, these emotions have some definite damaging effects. For one, negative emotions are frequently associated with declining health. According to a study conducted by professors from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, a variety of negative emotions, especially anxiety and anger, can contribute to lowered immune systems, prolonged healing time for wounds, and diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s (Kiecolt-Glaser, et al. 83). Negative emotions, when in excess, can produce some very harmful effects, both in the short and long term. Detrimental traits can also incite people to commit acts of violence. In a 2012 study, researchers found that verbal expressions of contempt, anger, and disgust preceded many hostile acts (Matsumoto, Hwang and Frank 7). Very serious acts of violence like murder and terrorism are usually induced by strong feelings or beliefs. When people experience passionate negative emotions, it can be extremely harmful to the people around them. Injurious feelings can also lead to mental instability. For example, suicide and depression are heavily influenced by emotion. Palestinians who have committed suicide while under Israeli occupation, were found to have committed the suicides due to feeling repressed, frustrated, and depressed (Dabbagh 201). When someone has a surplus of negative emotion, it can be very damaging to that person, as well as to the people surrounding him or her.

Despite the potential harm, several negative emotions have benefits, such as anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion considered very detrimental, but in many circumstances it is beneficial. Anxiety can help to avoid threats; both survival-wise and in social interactions. There is a section of the brain called the anterior insula that predicts harm and learns to avoid it. Stanford University researchers found that people with higher levels of insula activation are better at learning when to be more cautious in their investments and business dealings than those with lower insula activation levels (Samanez-Larkin, et al.). Being an anxious person can cause one to be more cautious, which is helpful in many situations, from decisions in business investments to sensing danger. In addition, anxiety can increase performance levels in the workplace by motivating people to meet their goals (Rosen, Robert). When people are worried about an outcome, they will work harder to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Anxious people tend to be more intense and effective in completing tasks than those less anxious. Participants in a 2006 study took part in a simulated air traffic control task, and it was found that the more anxious individuals put more effort into the task and had higher efficiency (Smillie & Yeo, et al. 141). Those with higher anxiety levels demonstrate increased caution, motivation, and efficiency.

Embarrassment can prove advantageous as well, especially in social situations. Embarrassment can improve others peoples’ opinions of a person who is embarrassed. When someone shows obvious signs of embarrassment, people tend to consider him or her more sincere and trustworthy as a person (“The Advantages of Being Embarrassed”). Embarrassment as a result of a mistake that one has made can causes others to sympathize, and consider him or her a better person for displaying humility. If someone were to do something rude or make a big mistake, and they did not express any embarrassment, people would probably judge that person more negatively than if someone were to show embarrassment. The desire to avoid humiliating oneself also affects how people act in public. People do not want to be viewed negatively by others, so the threat of embarrassment changes the way people conduct themselves (Miller, Rowland 30). Embarrassment is effective as an unspoken means of apology as well. When someone is embarrassed by a mistake, and consequently blushes, people unconsciously view the blush as an apology (“The Advantages of Being Embarrassed”). People recognize blushing as sincere because blushing is an irrepressible, reflexive action that cannot be imitated. Embarrassment influences the way people consider others and can serve as a tool for apology.

Anger is an emotion that can be beneficial as a social motivator. Though anger may seem like an emotion that we could easily do without, it can be necessary to create changes with society and domestic relationships. Anger instigates change and helps people to move forward and progress (Rosen, Marjorie 51). It helps people obtain what they desire when they feel dissatisfied. Most civil rights movements throughout history began because of the sense of anger demanding something unjust to be changed. In some situations, anger is necessary to motivate change in society. If the women’s suffrage movement was not driven by assertiveness and anger, it never would have happened (DeAngelis 44). Anger also improves communication and understanding in relationships. It can be constructive in conveying one person’s feelings and problems to another, allowing beneficial changes to be made (DeAngelis 44). People are more blunt when they’re angry, and say exactly what they mean, which can help to rectify issues in a relationship. When people are angry, they can incite change in society and benefit relationships.

If people don’t express their anger in moderation, it can actually be as damaging to their health as being overly angry is. According to a 2002 study by Professor Sally Stabb, repression of anger can cause people to be more critical of their bodies and have a lower self-esteem (Foltz-Gray). When anger isn’t expressed, it can also lead to heart disease, depression, and premature death (Foltz-Gray). The suppression of anger can cause people to try and find alternate methods to release their emotions, such as overeating, drinking, and smoking, all of which can lead to health issues. If people are unable to express their anger, they will blame themselves, stifle their frustration, deny their anger, or redirect it to someone or something else. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Dr. Ernest Harburg, higher death rates occur among couples who repress their anger. Harburg conducted the study over a period of seventeen years with middle aged couples, taking age, weight, smoking, and other variables of the couples into account. Harburg found that the couples with both of the spouses containing their anger had a death rate that was almost twice as high as that of the other couples (Hitti). When anger is correctly expressed, it can improve self-esteem and health, and can even lengthen one’s life-span.

Regret is a valuable emotion in regards to learning. With regret, people are able to learn from their mistakes, thereby preventing that same mistake from being made again. Multiple surveys have been conducted to determine peoples’ opinions on regret, and results indicate that the majority of the subjects found the emotion helpful in making decisions (Miller, Michael). Past experiences with regret are helpful in evaluating the risks and benefits of an action that one is considering taking. Regret also contributes to learning from the mistakes of others. By seeing the outcomes of choices that others make, people learn what decisions tend to produce favorable or unfavorable results (Miller, Michael).  On a larger scale as well, governments and economies frequently learn from previous mistakes that the country and its surrounding countries have made (Vivian). Regret allows people and governments to learn from both their own mistakes, and the mistakes of others.

Fear also functions in positive ways through adrenaline. When one hears the word “fear”, he or she initially thinks of fear’s negative connotations, but fear is actually an emotion that many people enjoy. For example, when people ride roller coasters, they ride them for the adrenaline rush, the fear. The nervousness and excitement that is felt when a roller coaster plummets, loops, and speeds, attracts people because they get to experience thrill and terror while still knowing that they are safe. Adrenaline is a chemical released when one feels fear, and it is extremely helpful to people for survival instincts. Adrenaline produces a “fight or flight response”, which has been and continues to be necessary for survival. This response gives people the instinct to either retaliate or retreat when they sense or confront danger (“Understanding Adrenaline”). Adrenaline also increases blood flow to one’s extremities and sends more oxygen to the lungs, giving people extra strength when adrenaline is released. In emergencies, adrenaline is vital. People, who ordinarily would not have enough strength, can achieve amazing feats of strength when enough adrenaline is released in emergency situations (“Understanding Adrenaline”). For instance, after a car accident in 2006, a man from Arizona lifted a car by himself to free a boy who was trapped under a car (Clark). In other kinds of dangerous situations as well, adrenaline can be very beneficial.  In a fight for example, fear and adrenaline have certain effects on the human body that increases one’s fighting capabilities. In addition to increasing overall strength, it increases one’s alertness and dilates the pupils, thus improving their vision (“Adrenaline (Epinephrine)”). In a fight, or any other moment of panic, these effects could be lifesaving. Fear produces adrenaline, which gives one necessary survival instincts and strength when needed.

To conclude, emotions considered negative are, in many circumstances, beneficial. While an excess of negative emotion is detrimental to one’s health and relationships, some degree of these same emotions can prove useful. Anxiety can prompt cautionary procedures and improved work performances. Embarrassment changes the way people view each other. Regret allows people to learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. Anger can prompt positive change in society and in individual relationships. One’s health and how long one lives can also be influenced by anger. Fear and its associated release of adrenaline contribute to survival instincts and help in dangerous situations. When under control, negative emotions can have beneficial effects; they are natural feelings and people experience them for a reason.

Works Cited

“Adrenaline (Epinephrine)”. Vitamins & Health Supplements Guide, 2006. Web. 17 Apr. 2012.

“The Advantages of Being Embarrassed.” The British Psychological Society, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2012.

Clark, Josh. “How Can Adrenaline Help You Lift a 3,500-pound Car?” 11 Dec. 2007. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Dabbagh, Nadia Taysir. “Narrative Expressions Of Despair Under Occupation.” Anthropology & Medicine 11.2 (2004): 201-220. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

DeAngelis, Tori. “When Anger’s a Plus.” American Psychological Association 34.3 (2003): 44. American Psychological Association, Mar. 2003. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.

English, Andrea, and Barbara Stengel. “Exploring Fear: Rousseau, Dewey, And Freire On Fear And Learning.” Educational Theory 60.5 (2010): 521-542. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.

Foltz-Gray, Dorothy. “Go Ahead…Get Mad!” Prevention, Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.

Hitti, Miranda. “Spousal Spats May Have Health Benefits.” CBS News, 26 Jan. 2008. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.

Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Lynanne McGuire, Theodore F. Robles, and Ronald Glaser. “Emotions, Morbidity, and Mortality: New Perspectives From

Psychoneuroimmunology.” Annual Review Of Psychology 53.1 (2002): 83. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.

Matsumoto, David, Hyi Sung Hwang, and Mark G. Frank. “The Role Of Emotion In Predicting Violence.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 81.1 (2012): 1-11. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.

Miller, Michael C. “The Value of Regret.” MSN Health, 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

Miller, Rowland S. “On the Primacy of Embarrassment in Social Life.” Psychological Inquiry 12.1 (2001): 30. Taylor & Francis, Inc., 2001. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.

Rosen, Marjorie. “The Positive Power Of Anger.” Biography 6.2 (2002): 48. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.

Rosen, Robert H. “The Anxiety Advantage.” Chief Executive Group, 23 July 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2012.

Samanez-Larkin, Gregory, Nick G. Hollon, Laura L. Carstensen, and Brian Knutson. “Individual Differences In Insular Sensitivity During Loss: Anticipation Predict Avoidance Learning.” Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell) 19.4 (2008): 320-323. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

Smillie, Luke D., Gillian B. Yeo, Adrian F. Furnham, Chris J. Jackson. “Benefits Of All Work And No Play: The Relationship Between Neuroticism And Performance As A Function Of Resource Allocation.” Journal Of Applied Psychology 91.1 (2006): 139-155. Business Source Premier. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

“Understanding Adrenaline.” FitDay. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2012.

Vivian, Bradford. “The Paradox of Regret: Remembering and Forgetting the History of Slavery in George W. Bush’s Goree Island Address.” History and Memory: Studies in Representation of the Past 24.1 (2012): 5. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

Consumerism: Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Amanda Renaud

Shopping is considered a fun pastime by many Americans.  Many TV programs demonstrate our culture’s love of and dependency on shopping.  An example of this can be seen in a recent episode of the Nick Jr. cartoon Wow Wow Wubbzy, which is a show written and produced for preschoolers.  In this episode, Wubbzy is supposed to sing on stage in front of millions of fans with the Wubb Girls.  Wubbzy is feeling anxious about the performance and suffering from a case of stage fright, so he goes to his friends for help.  His friends each give him different solutions to his problem; one tries hypnotism, one builds a robot clone, and the last friend recommends that he buys a new outfit because, “Looking good will make you feel good” (DeLisle, Miller, and Alazraqui). This seemingly innocent recommendation is an example of our culture’s tendency to be a consumer culture.  Of course, none of these recommendations is actually the solution to Wubbzy’s problem. Consumerism and materialism are not solutions to any of the problems our world and our country face today, regardless of what we have been led to believe.  Consumerism and overconsumption are the major part of our current economic problem.  Despite recent economic downturns, the pressures from society, the government, and media have, unfortunately, encouraged many Americans to continue to live above their means and take on high debt loads.

The current U.S. economic model was built on consumerism and is still dependent on it.  When consumer spending increases, businesses grow, and this leads to more spending. In an economy based on consumerism, this screams success. That is why consumerism is such an important part of the United States.  In Consumerism in the USA:  A Nation of Junkies, Evans shares data to support the fact that U.S. citizens own more homes and more cars than citizens of most other industrialized nations, and that these items are typically larger than those of other nations.  There is no lack of recreational activity options for U.S. citizens when compared to other nations too, with the number one recreational activity being shopping (Evans).  Americans are spending.  It is not the lack of spending that is the problem.  It is the unmanageable spending that occurred prior to the current recession that led us to our current economic woes.

The fact that Americans own more homes in comparison to other countries is not a surprise when considering the importance of home ownership in America.  It is a large part of the American Dream and what many consider a factor of success.  The housing market is also considered an important piece of the U.S. economy because it fuels consumerism, yet it is this very market that is largely responsible for our current crisis.  Homeowners spend more money to fill the home, fix the home, and purchase cars to fill their garage than non-homeowners (Evans).  But there were many Americans that were unable to obtain financing for a home until the creation of the financing tool called the “sub-prime mortgage.”  Sub-prime home loans are designed for consumers who have defaulted on payments sometime in the past, have little-to-no credit, or have other derogatory marks on their credit report.  These loans were often given out with interest rates that adjusted over time, making the payment affordable in the beginning but unaffordable over time. Of the seven million homebuyers that used a sub-prime loan as means to finance their homes between 1998 and 2007, one million had defaulted by 2007 (Atlas).  The sub-prime mortgage was used to fuel the economy and resulted in growth; however, the growth was not only in spending but in consumer debt as well.

Home loan defaults were not the only defaults that led to the Great Recession.  In his article “Introduction to Is American Society Too Materialistic?” Tom Bigg shares the statistic that “… there are over 785 million credit cards currently in circulation, used to charge $1.5 trillion each year.”  Further information from Bigg’s article shows that many Americans were choosing to purchase on credit during the economic downturn of 2001.  In 2000, the percentage of consumer debt was 96% of disposable income, and it rose to 113% in 2004.  Because of the increase in consumer spending, the market appeared to be in good shape to most.  The truth is, however, that much of the spending was being done on credit.  Overall consumer debt rose from $7 trillion in 2000 to $9.3 trillion in 2003. Once spending on credit reaches an unmanageable level, it is inevitable that it will most likely result in consumers finding it difficult to pay it back.  Credit card defaults, following the large increase in debt, rose to 4.81% in 2005 (Bigg).  After a period of spending and home loan and credit defaults, America found itself in a recession in 2007.

Americans continued to consume during the recession–at a slightly lesser volume, but still at an unsustainable volume.  In 2008, when the unemployment rate was at 5% (BLS Labor Statistics), Americans spent $44,881 on average on all expenditures excluding personal insurance and pensions per household, (BLS Consumer Expenditures).  Despite the fact that the unemployment rate nearly doubled to 9.7% in 2012 (BLS Labor Statistics), the average consumer household spending only dropped to $42,736 (BLS Consumer Expenditures).   That is only a $2,154 decrease in spending on average per household.  From 2009-2010, the category of spending that lost the most money was entertainment, followed by charitable donations and food outside the home. While these amounts did decrease, average entertainment and dining out combined still consumed 8% of the average gross income (BLS Consumer Expenditures), and during the 2010 Christmas shopping season, online purchases alone still managed to total  a whopping $30.6 billion dollars (Final Christmas Push Propels Online Holiday Shopping to $35.3 Billion, Up 15 Percent versus Last Year).  When looking at the increase in unemployment and actual amounts being spent in relation to the decrease in spending, it doesn’t seem as drastic as the news and media made it seem.  It does seem, however, that Americans spending habits do not change much even though they have every reason to.

So far the statistics that have been shared demonstrate that many Americans were in debt; some had houses they could not afford, many were defaulting on credit card payments, the unemployment rate was high, and consumers were still spending.  There are many reasons as to why people choose to spend the money they work hard to earn.  One reason is the consumerism myths that are circulating throughout society, such as the one that ties spending to social status.  Consumers are convinced by advertising, friends, neighbors, celebrities, and shiny new products that if they do not buy the latest style of pants, shoes, or cell phone they will be left behind.  ATT’s 4G commercials are a prime example of this.  In the commercial, two people are so immersed in their phones that they are not willing to give the courtesy of eye contact to the people that approach them looking for a conversation about the score of the game or the neighbor’s new baby.  But in place of a conversation, they are told that the topic they are wishing to discuss was public knowledge “so 26 seconds ago.”  This leaves the people without the latest and best cell phone model feeling that they will be out of the loop because their phone is not fast enough. People dislike being the last to hear about the score of the game or the new neighbor’s baby just as much as the actors in the commercial do.  So many customers frantically jump to upgrade their gadget to make sure it isn’t considered “so 26 seconds ago”(ShareATT).  Consumers experience these messages daily, and not just from AT&T, but from many, many companies that have a variety of messages that cause reactions of fear and alarm in consumers.   On average, Americans watch 2.73 hours of television a day (BLS Time Use Survey) and view nearly one million advertisements by the age of 20 (Leonard 163).  This constant pressure leads many consumers to be convinced that a new phone, insurance policy, or a car is actually a need and not a want, whether they have the money to purchase it or not.

So spending, both necessary and unnecessary, continues, but what would happen to the economy if it stopped?  If most consumers in America stopped spending tomorrow, it would result in an even deeper recession than the one we have recently seen.  This fear factor idea that is constantly present in the media is yet another reason consumers were willing to spend money during a period of time when debts should be reduced.  News stories that constantly flash headlines about the decrease in consumer spending, rising employment numbers, and business closings can cause feelings of worry and guilt about personal spending levels.  Who wants to be responsible for their neighbor’s job loss, after all?  But what are the chances that all excess spending will stop at once, and the economy will completely collapse?  Juliet Schor, well-known author and economist, has been tackling these issues for her readers in her books.  As explained in The Overspent American’s epilogue, the chance of all excess spending to cease at once is highly unlikely, both at an individual level and a national level.  Most likely, consumers will slowly adjust their spending habits, and this will allow enough time for the market and people’s lifestyles to adjust.  This might require creative responses from businesses such as shortened work weeks for employees to ensure a balance of wealth throughout the country.  Often much of this downshifting at work could or would be the employee’s choice (Schor 168-173).  While this adjustment in spending might not lead to the unlimited growth that is the goal of our current economic model, it could lead to sustainable growth and will not leave consumers feeling pressured into spending.

Consumers do feel pressured into spending, but there are also many strategies that fool consumers into spending or make spending unavoidable.  Obsolescence is one strategy that was actually strategically designed to fuel the economy.  Planned obsolescence was created as a result of too much supply and not enough demand back in 1920’s and 1930’s due to the increasing efficiency of production processes at that time.  In Annie Leonard’s book, The Story of Stuff, she explains planned observation:

In planned obsolescence, products are intended to be thrown away as quickly as possible and then replaced… this is different from true technological obsolescence… like telephones replacing the telegraph… Today’s cell phones, for example, which have an average life span of only about a year, are pretty much never technologically obsolete when we throw them away and replace them with new ones. (Leonard 161)

Cell phones are just one example. Obsolescence can also be observed in the lifespan of appliances, how difficult it is to repair broken goods, or with disposable products such as water bottles.  These items are designed to become obsolete.  Then there are the items that are not obsolete in any form at all, but are perceived to be obsolete.  In perceived obsolescence, products appear to be obsolete because they are not the current style, not the fastest phone, or do not have the latest safety feature.  Most of the time, the item being considered obsolete is still fully functional in today’s world.  Obsolescence was designed to encourage consumer spending, and it does.  In the current recession, consumers spent an average of $1,742 on apparel and services per person, per year between 2008 and 2010 (BLS Consumer Expenditures).  During that time, the fashion industry cycled an average of twenty-six fashion seasons per year (Leonard 162-163).  Consumers, not wanting to wear the unfashionable neckline or color, were pressured to spend again instead of saving or paying down debts.

Production processes and marketing strategies are not the only things that are created to fuel the economy.  Due to the fear of failure based on measurement tools such as the Gross Domestic Product, the U.S. government encouraged consumer spending by creating spending initiative programs.  Tax rebates for environmentally friendly upgrades and for first time homebuyers are included in this list, as is the well-known program “Cash for Clunkers.”  This program was an incentive for consumers to trade in their old “clunkers” and upgrade to a new car.  Positive effects of this program include more fuel efficient vehicles on the road and the avoidance of major car companies in America failing, which would have unarguably had a negative impact on many businesses and people.  However, this was yet another tactic to encourage consumers to consume.  Just fewer than 700,000 cars were sold with the program, but a total of $2.877 billion was spent by the government to give the rebate to the car dealerships (DOT Press Release).  Again consumers were encouraged to purchase, this time a new car and many do so on credit, during a time of rising unemployment numbers and rising credit default rates.

Although consumers are pressured to consume in many different ways, the truth is that overconsumption and materialism are not a solution; they are part of the problem.  It leads to excessive waste, puts a strain on our natural resources, creates pollution, leads to high levels of CO2, and causes deforestation. According to The Story of Stuff video, by Annie Leonard, “In the past three decades alone, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed.”  Many products that are available come from natural resources or a mix of natural resources and synthetic chemicals.  These products are also produced in factories, which require physical space on top of the materials to make the products, so forests are cleared.  Leonard also shares that it is estimated that “80% of the planet’s original forests are gone.”  Some of the planet’s resources are renewable, but even renewable resources have a difficult time keeping up with overconsumption.  Trees can only grow so fast, and water isn’t going to do much good if it is polluted.  Factories do not just make products for us to consume, they also create pollution.  In fact, Leonard points out in her video that, “In the U.S., industry admits to releasing over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals a day,” but factories are not the only reason consumerism causes environmental problems.  The waste created by consumers from packaging, disposable products, and other waste is adding to these problems.  U.S. citizens produce about 4.5 pounds of garbage a day, and 99 percent of what is purchased is trashed within six months.  On top of that, it is estimated that one garbage can of residential waste has already created 70 cans of waste during production (Leonard, The Story of Stuff).  With ever-growing desires and consumption rates, environmental problems will grow as well.

On top of environmental problems, there are many problems for individuals and communities, too.  As can be observed by statistics discussed earlier, debt loads can increase as consumers try to keep up with high levels of spending.  As debts increase, more hours must be worked to pay bills.  As consumers work more to pay for things they desire, the amount of time to spend with families and friends or participate in community activities is limited, and the fact is that many Americans want their materialistic society to change.  According to the BLS Time Use Survey, Americans spend an average of 4.91 hours a week socializing and 1.05 hours a week volunteering.  On average, 5.25 hours a week are spent purchasing goods and services (BLS Time Use Survey).  According to this information, Americans only spend 42.6 more minutes a week involved in social activities than they do shopping.  However, in a survey done by the New American Dream in 2004, 53% of Americans say they “would be willing to give up one day’s pay per week in exchange for one day off per week to spend more time with family and friends.”  Attitudes towards work are changing as well.  According to Public Opinion Quarterly, The Polls-Trends Attitudes About The American Dream, 29 % of those surveyed in 2007 said they were “not at all satisfied by the opportunity for the working class to get ahead by working hard” compared to only 12% in 2000 (Hanson and Zogby).  People are starting to see that working is not necessarily the route to happiness and fulfillment, but they will need to feel comfortable spending less in order to work less and earn less.

So many pressures were created to fuel the economy that actually fuel consumerism.  Fortunately, when these pressures are identified, understood, and dealt with, consumers have the ability and choice to avoid these problems.  Overconsumption does have a solution.  It  requires lifestyle adjustments, adjustments at work, or job changes. Many consumers are already opting to downshift in their lifestyles, and in most cases, the results of these choices lead to a life full of more time, fewer desires, more feelings of satisfaction, feelings of having more control in life, and less financial stress.  Downshifting levels vary by the individual and can be as extreme as quitting a job to as little as reducing work hours.  The American Dream Survey shows that some Americans are already making changes in their lives.  Of those surveyed, 33% have quit working outside the home, 28% changed to a lower-paying job, 26% have reduced work hours, and 16% have reduced the number of jobs they held.   Sixty percent “are happy about the change even if they admit that they miss the extra income” (New American Dream Survey Report).  Of course, along with a reduction in income. there must be an equal or greater reduction in spending.  By ignoring outside pressures, consumers can re-evaluate their spending and decide for themselves what they need and what they can do without.

A great quality of the US economic system is that the consumers are ultimately in charge.  This can be easily forgotten when there is always something telling consumers what they should buy and how.  Factors such as social status, impulse buying, fear, and other incentives can entice consumers to make regrettable purchases, but in the end it is the consumer’s choice whether or not to purchase.  Conscious consumers are proactive.  Becoming educated about consumer rights, fully understanding financial instruments, setting a budget, and learning to decode advertisements are ways that consumers can start to feel in control of their purchases again.  Proactive consumers make politicians and corporations aware that there is a demand for high-quality, versatile products from companies that make the environment, society, and safety a priority. They tell politicians that the country’s priorities should fall in the areas of society and education – not the unstoppable economic growth through overconsumption.  Children, family, and neighbors should be taught about conscious consuming.  Being in charge of purchases will make for a life free of clutter and dissatisfaction.  Spending time with friends and family will create irreplaceable memories, as opposed to spending time at the mall, which creates bills.  There is power in the hands of the consumer.  Corporations will change to win the business.  Eventually, if the consumers do not approve of the system, they will make it change.



Works Cited

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“Cash for Clunkers Wraps up with Nearly 700,000 Car Sales and Increased Fuel Efficiency, U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Declares Program ‘Wildly Successful.’” DOT Press Release. 26 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Apr. 2012.  Doc: DOT 133-09.

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Evans, G.S. “Consumerism in the USA: A Nation of Junkies?” Synthesis/Rengeneration (Winter 2012): 23+ Gale Opposing Viewpoints. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.

“Final Christmas Push Propels U.S. Online Holiday Spending to $35.3 Billion, Up 15 Percent versus Last Year.” comScore, Inc. comScore, 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.

Hanson, Sandra L., and John Zogby. “The Polls – Trends.” Public Opinion Quarterly 74.3 (2010): 570-584.  Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 April 2012.

“Introduction to Is American Society Too Materialistic?: At Issue.” Is American Society Too Materialistic? Ed. Ronnie D. Lankford. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. At Issue. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.

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New American Dream Survey Report. Publication. The Center for the New American Dream, Sept. 2004. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.

Schor, Juliet. The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer. New York, NY: Basic, 1998. Print.

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Battling Divorce

Briana Smith


Ever since I was a little girl, I knew my family wasn’t like all my friends’ families. I only had a mom; all my friends had moms and dads. Their parents were still married and seemed to have the “perfect” families. My parents divorced when I was three years old because my father was and still is an alcoholic. At the time it didn’t seem like many families were divorced, and I would always wonder if I was the only one. Nowadays, divorce is a lot more common within families. Traditional marriages are becoming less stable as divorce rates are rising,  and the unintended victims are children rather than the parents.

Generally speaking over the past couple decades there has been an increase in divorce rates in the United States. Since 1999, the divorce rate in America has skyrocketed from 42% to 50% (“National Vital Statistics Report”). Unfortunately, the United States has one of the highest divorce rates in the world (Pang). With the divorce rate being 50% for first-time marriages, couples are basically flipping a coin to see if their marriage is going to work. Even though the marriage cycle is very unstable, still about 85% of Americans will marry at least once in their life time (Campbell and Wright).

Even though the divorce rate is increasing, it isn’t stopping people from getting married once, twice or even three times. Many couples who are already divorced are likely to marry again (Fetto).  However, couples must not learn from their mistakes the first time, as the odds of getting a divorce rise for second and third time marriages. According to, the divorce rate for second time marriages is 60% and 73% for third time marriages. With the additional increase in divorce rate for multiple marriages, some would think it would scare people away from getting married, but as the data shows it seems to do the opposite.

In an interview with my grandma, who has been married three times, she states, “With my first two marriages failing, it gave me more encouragement for the third one to work. Everyone wants to feel loved in their life, and I don’t want to die alone.” This statement surprised me because I have never thought of it that way before. In my opinion, a divorce would would give me discouragement for my future marriages. However, my grandma has now been happily married to her third husband for seven years.

According to Cindy Heller, the “Platinum Expert Author” on Ezinearticles, people currently don’t think highly of marriage, and they don’t care much about their vows they say on their wedding day. The older generations were a lot more successful at marriage than what the current generations are. Apparently, the newer generations have lost the meaning of, “Until death do us part,” and take advantage of it. It seems like now when times get tough, most people just back out and don’t try to fight for their marriage, but is that why are the divorce rates increasing?

Although people may think there are some definite answers, there is no one- answer-fits-all to this question, but there are some ideas that are circulating through people’s thoughts. According to Heller, some reasons are due to the fact that the world is changing. Nowadays, people are taught to be independent and live on their own. Even though being independent has some useful benefits to it, it also has some negative effects. Being independent brings out the selfish side in people, and being selfish doesn’t always work well in relationships. A marriage isn’t about being selfish, it’s about working together as a team, coming together to make the right decisions, and being happy. As the saying says, “there is no ‘I’ in team.”

Additionally, according to Heller, another possible cause of the increasing divorce rate could be blamed on the level of temptation and infidelity. Nowadays women dress a lot less modestly, and access to porn websites and magazines is a lot easier than what it was in the past. Not only is there easier access to pornographic websites, it’s also more socially acceptable than what it has been in the past. According to Andrew Greely, 70% of all Americans engage in some sort of an affair sometime during their marital life. With the statistic of infidelity being that high, it isn’t surprising that the divorce rate has been rising.

With the divorce rates being so high, we must stop and think about how the children are being affected by this. In John Harvey and Mark Fine’s book, Children of Divorce: Stories of Loss and Growth, 50-60% of children in the United States will go through a divorce with their family before the age of 18. A lot of parents claim they are “happily divorced,” but are the children “happily divorced?” While some may not be affected at all, many kids suffer emotionally, physically, and academically from divorce; in fact, studies have shown that approximately 40% of children suffer from complications of divorced parents throughout their life (Yongmin and Yuanzhang). It can even be something as simple as negotiating two households.  Nobody denies that travelling from house to house can be very stressful. As a three year old who traveled between two parents, I was very confused.  As I grew up, I hated going from house to house. I went to my dad’s twice a month. It was hard because I was giving up time with my friends and gymnastics, but I didn’t want to be rude to my father and tell him that I didn’t want to see him. And even though my parents were divorced, it didn’t stop the fighting. The fighting switched from drugs and alcohol to child support, lawyers, and custody issues.

Not only was I having problems with living situations, I was also having some problems with my grades in school. I was always so stressed with the fighting of my parents; I had no motivation to do any of my schoolwork. Children of divorce who experience additional family transitions in late adolescence may also experience less progress in their math and social studies classes; also daughters of divorced families makes less academic progress over time than what sons do (Yongmin and Yuanzhang).

Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly’s article in Social Work show that children are affected by at least four out of the five stages in divorce. These five stages include: the pre-divorce family, the disruptive process, the social, economic, and psychological changes, changes in parent child relationship, and possible remarriage of parents. For me, the divorce of my parents had a significant effect on me. My grades did slip, but nothing dramatically. I went from an A student to a B student, but once I went into high school my grades went back up. However, I know this isn’t like this for all children.

My boyfriend’s parents divorced when he was four years old. The divorce had a big impact on his life. He was a daddy’s boy, and when his parents decided to split up, he couldn’t handle it. Although he was young, he went from being a well-behaved kid to being an out of control child. He was getting into trouble at school because he was losing his relationship with his father. Once things seemed to settle down, two years later his mom married his current stepfather. This was another hard time for Thomas. He had to transition to having a new man in the hous, and adapt to his way of living. After a couple years, thought, Thomas started to straighten out. He was lucky and was still able to maintain a relationship with his biological dad. By being able to maintain a father-son bond during the divorce, Thomas and his father were still able to have a good relationship.

With a loss of a father figure in a boy’s life there may be some serious outcomes. Boys who have little interaction with their fathers after a divorce are more likely to smoke, drink, and do drugs than boys who have a strong relationship with their fathers (Harvey and Fine). This is another way that children can be affected through a divorce. Most parents don’t want their kids to use drugs, drink or smoke. Why not try to prevent it? When people divorce, they should make sure their son maintains a strong relationship with their father, so their son isn’t more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.

Divorce doesn’t always have the greatest outcomes on our children. We may begin to wonder who supports divorce. From what I have found, the main divorce supporters are those who are happily divorced, and some divorce lawyers. Chicago lawyer Corri Fetman posted a billboard with photographs of an attractive young woman on one side, and a buff, bare-chested man on the other. In between the two photos it said, “Life’s short, get a divorce.” Fettman said the billboard was designed to remind unhappy or bored spouses that they have other options out there (Johnson). Fettman also says she is happily divorced herself.

With these kinds of billboards being posted it isn’t surprising that temptation and infidelity is playing a role as to why people are getting a divorce. It seems like when people are happily divorced themselves, they feel like everyone around them should divorce as well. Happy divorcées also seem to promote divorce themselves, and seem to have little or no morals. According to Lisa Warren, young people nowadays give bad advice, which could lead to the increased rate in divorces.

Overall, we have seen that the divorce rate has been on the rise in the United States, and who knows when they will stop. We can try to prevent it by staying committed to our marriages, and maybe wait longer to marry. Why rush into something beautiful that could end so drastically? We may not fully understand everyone’s reasons for divorce, but we can try to prevent our own because people don’t want to lose the ones that they actually love. We have also learned that divorce can have a negative effect on the children involved. Whether it’s grades, emotional health, or parental relationships, we want our kids to be healthy and happy. So, the next time a person is in a fight with their spouse, he or she should stop and think, “Is this really worth it?” Life is short, so why not spend it with someone that we love and have a healthy family, rather than being alone?


Works Cited

Campbell, Kelly, and David W. Wright. “Marriage Today: Exploring The Incongruence Between Americans’ Beliefs And Practices.” Journal Of Comparative Family Studies 41.3 (2010): 329-245. EBSCO MegaFile. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Divorce Rate. Divorce Rate Org. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Fetto, John. “… Do Us Part.” American Demographics 24.8 (2002): 9. EBSCO MegaFile. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Greely, Andrew. “Marital Infidelity.” Society 31.4 (1994): 9-13. EBSCO MegaFile. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

Harvey, John., and Mark A. Fine. Children of Divorce: Stories of Loss and Growth. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2004. eBook Collection, EBSCOHost. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.

Heller, Cindy. “Common Causes That Make Divorce Rates Increase.” Ezinearticles. Ezine, 5 Mar. 2009. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

Johnson, Dirk. “Pro-Divorce ad gets Chicago Talking.” New York Times. 13 May. 2007. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.

National Vital Statistics Report. Center for Disease Control. CDC. 31 Mar. 2000. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.

Pang, Linlin. “Divorce In The United States Vs. In China.” Journal of Popular Culture 27.2 (1993): 91-99. EBSCO MegaFile. Web. 17 Apr. 2012.

Saurbrey, Sandra. Phone Interview. 25 Apr. 2012.

Skraba, Thomas. Personal Interview. 25 Apr. 2012.

Wallerstein, Judith S., and Joan B. Kelly. “Children and Divorce: A Review.” Social Work 24.6 (1979): 468-475. EBSCO MegaFile. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.

Warren, Lisa. “Today’s Divorce Rate – Why Is It So High?” HubPages. HubPages. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.

Sun, Yongmin, and Yuanzhang Li. “Postdivorce Family Stability and Changes in Adolescents’ Academic Performance.” Journal of Family Issues 30.11 (2009): 1527-1555. EBSCO MegaFile. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.



Sex Trafficking: The Mother of all Traffic Jams

Callie Wilson

Through means of deception, Sandiswa, a South African girl, became a sex trafficking victim. Sandiswa grew up in a poor of family. At the age of sixteen, she was forced to drop out of school and support herself. In the summer of 2009, a woman from a nearby town offered promising work opportunities to Sandiswa and her best friend. The woman sold the two girls to a human trafficker in exchange for $120 and crack cocaine. The girls were forced into working 12 hour night shifts as prostitutes. Every morning their “owner” collected their earnings. Sandiswa’s friend tried to escape three times but was always found and beaten mercilessly. Since many of Sandiswa’s clients didn’t wear condoms, it didn’t take long before she contracted HIV. She was too sick to stand, and therefore useless as a slave, so she was thrown out on the streets. Once she was in the hospital, Sandiswa found out she was three months pregnant, had full-blown AIDS, and tuberculosis. Sandiswa’s life could have been saved if she was aware of sexual trafficking.

Trafficking is defined as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” (Batsyukova). There is not enough information, especially for those in poverty, on sex trafficking to prevent innocent women and children from this terrible fate. Specifically, we need to look at why traffickers are getting away with it, how sexual trafficking is the new form of slavery, and how education can act as a form of prevention for the future.

In the last few decades, many governments have set up several laws, acts, and protocols to regulate trafficking and slavery. Unfortunately, human trafficking isn’t a phenomenon from out of the blue. For centuries, the globe has been struggling with issues of slavery, forced labor, and trafficking. Throughout the last century, several assemblies have been held internationally to adopt trafficking laws. In 1989, the UN tried to step in and address trafficking in children through a convention focused solely on children’s rights.  However, it wasn’t until 2000 that the protocols to acknowledged trafficking as a form of transnational organized crime (Deane 493). This sparked the creation of two major protocols: the protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, and the protocol against smuggling migrants by land, sea, or air (Dean 166). These are just a few of the efforts that have been made in attempt to regulate human trafficking on an international scale.

Even though there are laws to regulate trafficking, they are not necessarily effective. For starters, human trafficking currently leads the charts of organized crime (Hodge 144). One factor contributing to the escalation of trafficking is that traffickers are not being punished harshly enough for violating the trafficking criminal offenses. Government reports estimate 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually, but there were only 52 trafficking cases with charges in 2010 (“Coalition to…”). According to Meryll Dean, an Oxford Brookes University graduate, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between sexual trafficking and migration for employment (169). With this in mind, the U.S. government increases border patrol as their way of enforcing anti-trafficking laws. Unfortunately, when they intensify border control, it causes migrants to increasingly look to smugglers for help. Basically, enforcing restrictive policies only increases smuggling because it provides the conditions of desperation, vulnerability, and dependency which trafficking thrives under (Vance 935). Even though there are protocols set in place to prevent and punish trafficking in persons, traffickers are still finding many loop holes in the system, which allows their industry to flourish more now than ever before.

The human trafficking industry has become the modern day form of slavery. Despite the international banning of slavery, there are more slaves today than at any point in history (Skinner). Slaves are people who perform services against their will for the profit of others who own them through fraud or violence (Skinner). The sexual trafficking industry forces women and children into unimaginable working conditions. Once in the hands of a trafficker, the nightmare soon begins. A common trafficking strategy involves stealing the victim’s passports and identity. Then, the first way to break them down is by coercing victims into pornography and stripping as a way of paying back their debt. Often times, the traffickers take pictures of the victims and threaten to reveal the degrading images to their family members (Hodge 147). If the victims still aren’t cooperating, pimps threaten to harm the victim’s family or resort to extreme acts of violence. The women may be stabbed, raped, beaten, strangled, and sometimes even murdered (Hodge 148). Once the women and children agree to becoming prostitutes, a typical shift can last anywhere from 12 to 18 hours without receiving a single penny (Deane 493). From there, the humiliating sexual acts continue. For instance, women have been whipped and urinated on in front of people who stand by and do nothing. On top of that, children have been handcuffed and forced to have sex with animals, compelled to drink from toilets, and eat from bowls on the ground as if they were dogs (Hodge 148). The horrifying images from these examples are almost unfathomable. By investigating these occurrences, formal accusations can be brought upon the human trafficking industry that forces people to work under slave-like conditions.

Analyzing and identifying the trafficker’s techniques can decrease the likelihood of innocents becoming victims. Studies have shown that recruiters have narrowed down four main ways to traffic women and children into this vile industry (Hodge 145). First, they use lies and deception to trick women and children, a technique known as false-front agencies. This method is also effective to target lower class families. The “businesses” approach the legal guardians and offer to purchase their daughters or wives, while making false promises about the future of the women. The traffickers market the U.S. and the opportunities of wealthier nations to young women, by coming to an agreement typically known as debt bondages; women agree to pay back the costs of transportation with their earnings from the “job” waiting for them in their new country (Hodge 146). Another commonly preferred tactic is using current working prostitutes. The recruiters usually succeed with this because the women are aware of the general work they will be performing; however, they are uninformed of the ghastly conditions they will undergo, similar to the slave-like conditions previously mentioned. Finally, if all else fails, the traffickers resort to abduction (Batsyukova). These are the four main ways recruiters are deceiving their victims. If we can raise awareness of these trafficking techniques, it can reduce the amount of women who succumb to these filthy methods.

Educating the public can be another form of prevention for the future. Sex trafficking is a worldwide problem that many countries have their own way of dealing with. For instance, there is a public focus on forms of prevention in London, for safety reasons, in the upcoming 2012 Olympics. These include adjusting the policies on training officers, increasing overall police presence, and supplementing funds for victim services (Bentley). China, however, has a different approach to prevention in their country. Currently, there are hundreds of centers for women. These centers concentrate on increasing self-confidence, learning new skills, and taking on leadership roles. They have had such a positive impact on preventing trafficking that the government has pledged to open several more in the near future (“Preventing Human…”). Lastly, the United States has yet another way of addressing the trafficking problem. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) started a month-long campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking – specifically in Los Angeles, because it is one of the top three trafficking cites in our country. The campaign will inform the public of modern-day slavery, motivate them to take action, and encourage victims to seek help. By educating the public now, it will decrease the number of sexual trafficking victims in the future.

Certain cultures and economies have justifications for the high demand in the industry. The trafficking industry has grown immensely over the recent years; it is currently a multibillion dollar enterprise (Dean 165). As sick-minded as it sounds, sexual trafficking is clearly fulfilling a high demand. In economic terms, it comes down to consumers and producers. Undoubtedly, the pornography and prostitution business is extremely profitable. It has been reported that 264 different magazines display young children in explicit sexual acts (Hodge 148). Traffickers are simply fulfilling the needs of their consumers. In other countries, such as India, it is merely a part of their culture. In fact, in many countries, males are the preferred child. Parents have been known to sell their daughters, as a dowry, into a marriage (Deane 492). After they have been wed, the girls/young women are forced to perform sexual acts against their will similar to the trafficked prostitutes. In cultures similar to India, the girls have limited access to schooling and health care, which makes them susceptible to poverty, illiteracy, and undernourishment. With the lack of opportunities for these women, some are making the conscious choice to make their money by selling their bodies in order to survive (Deane 491). Although sexual trafficking is extremely frowned upon, traffickers certainly have some justifications as to why the industry is booming with business.

To many Americans dismay, the U.S. has a major role in this industry as well. There are more U.S. victims of sexual trafficking than any other nation (Kotrla 181). The U.S. has developed a cultural tolerance because we support flourishing sex trafficking markets. Through media, television, and the internet, the United States has a way of glamorizing prostitution and pimps (Kotrla 183). In fact, terms like “pimp” and “ho” can sometimes be recognized as a compliment (“Preventing Human…”). Furthermore, I can personally attest to the fact that kids greet each other down the hallway by yelling things like, “Hey, slut!” Unfortunately, when people use these terms in casual conversation, they fail to acknowledge the degradation, beating, and demoralization that the majority of female prostitutes experience at the hands of pimps. The commercial sex trade business in the United States is alive and well due to the cultural tolerance we have seemed to develop.

Globally, human trafficking has grown into a multibillion dollar industry with working conditions inconceivable for women and children. Often times, children work 12-18 hour shifts, receive no pay, are held under acts of violence, contract fatal diseases, and are severely traumatized. Laws and human trafficking acts have been set in place, but traffickers are finding loop holes in the system. Over the more recent years, recruiters are finding ways to deceive women and children into this vile industry. They are using their four main trafficking techniques to target lower class families. If we act cautiously, we can reduce the likelihood of victims being forced into the industry against their will. Sandiswa’s death is a prime example of how people in poverty are unaware of the brutal consequences involved with sex trafficking. As wrong as it is, there is a high demand for sexual trafficking victims. It needs to be stopped to keep children, like Sandiswa, from performing sexual acts in a new form of slavery. In order to do so, trafficking needs to be acknowledged internationally to keep women and children from this terrible fate.



Works Cited

Batsyukova, Svitlana. “Prostitution and Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.” Gender Issues 24.2(2007):46-50. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 Mar. 2012.

Bentley, Rosalind. “Stopping Human Trafficking: Agnes Scott Student to Study Ways to Combat Sexual Exploitation. She Will Take Classes in London Next Year.” The Atlanta Journal (2008). ProQuest Newsstand. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking Launches Month-Long Campaign to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking in Los Angeles and the U.S.Business Wire (2010). Web. ProQuest Newsstand. 16 April 2012.

Dean, Meryll. “Sold in Japan: Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.” Taylor and Francis 28.2(2008):165-177. Academic Search Premier. Web. 26 Feb. 2012.

Deane, Tameshnie. “Cross-Border Trafficking in Nepal and India-Violating Women’s Rights.” Human Rights Review 11.4(2010):491-513. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

Hodge. David R. “Sexual Trafficking in the United States: A Domestic Problem with Transnational Dimensions.” Social Work 53.2(2008):140-148. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.

Kotrla K. “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the United States.” Social Work (2010):181-187. CINAHL. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

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Skinner, Benjamin E. “The New Slave Trade.” Time 175.2(2010):54-57. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.

Vance, Carole. “States of Contradiction: Twelve Ways to Do Nothing about Trafficking While Pretending To.” Social Research 78.3(2011):933-948. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 April 2012.