TIME psychology

Science Points to the Single Most Valuable Personality Trait

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Research is pointing to conscientiousness as the one-trait-to-rule-them-all in terms of future success, both career-wise and personal.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

“It would actually be nice if there were some negative things that went along with conscientiousness,” Roberts told me. “But at this point it’s emerging as one of the primary dimensions of successful functioning across the lifespan. It really goes cradle to grave in terms of how people do.”

What is it? Basically, it’s being “efficient, organized, neat, and systematic“:

Conscientiousness is the state of being thorough, careful, or vigilant; it implies a desire to do a task well. Conscientiousness is also one trait of the five-factor model of personality, and is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being efficient, organized, neat, and systematic. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, self-organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement.

Yeah, that sounds like a trait we all respect. What’s amazing is just how predictive it is of so many things we all desire. It’s pretty crazy really:

Money and job satisfaction? – Check.

“Measured concurrently, emotionally stable and conscientious participants reported higher incomes and job satisfaction.

Finding a job? – Check.

“…the personality traits Conscientiousness and Neuroticism have a strong impact on the instantaneous probability of finding a job, where the former has a positive effect and the latter has a negative effect.”

Long marriage? – Check.

“…our findings suggest that conscientiousness is the trait most broadly associated with marital satisfaction in this sample of long-wed couples.”

Healthier life? – Check.

“Among adults over age 45 (n = 2,419), Neuroticism and low Agreeableness were associated with metabolic syndrome, whereas high Conscientiousness was protective. Individuals who scored in the top 10% on Conscientiousness were approximately 40% less likely to have metabolic syndrome…

Long life? – Check.

“Conscientiousness, which was the best predictor of longevity when measured in childhood, also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood.

And let’s not forget good grades and staying out of jail.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

…conscientiousness was the trait that best predicted workplace success. What intrigues Roberts about conscientiousness is that it predicts so many outcomes that go far beyond the workplace. People high in conscientiousness get better grades in school and college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer. They live longer – and not just because they smoke and drink less. They have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Can life really be that simple? Isn’t there something conscientiousness doesn’t predict that we all respect and desire? Yes.

Creativity and independence.

So the question is, to what degree is conscientiousness universally good — and to what degree is our society merely structured to reward it?

Our schools love to pay creativity lip service, but those aren’t the students that get celebrated.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

Teachers rewarded repressed drones, according to Bowles and Gintis; they found that the students with the highest GPA’s were the ones who scored lowest on measures of creativity and independence, and the highest on measures of punctuality, delay of gratification, predictability, and dependability.

Teachers often say they love creative students. They don’t:

Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity. Students displaying creative characteristics appear to be unappealing to teachers.

The workplace isn’t any different.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

Bowles and Gintis then consulted similar scales for office workers, and they found that supervisors judged their workforce the way teachers judged their students. They gave low ratings to employees with high levels of creativity and independence and high ratings to those workers with high levels of tact, punctuality, dependability, and delay of gratification.

Are you a creative person? Want to be a CEO? Good luck. You’ll need it:

In sum, we show that the negative association between expressing creative ideas and leadership potential is robust and underscores an important but previously unidentified bias against selecting effective leaders.

I have no doubt that conscientiousness is a valuable trait pretty much anywhere. To be blunt, having your shit together is a respectable quality.

But we should all be concerned that our system may be too extreme in rewarding conscientiousness and punishing creativity.

 

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Opinion

Scooby Doo and the Unfortunate Case of Fat Shaming

The latest Scooby Doo film "curses" Daphne by turning her from a size 2 to an 8

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Tuesday marked the release of Frankencreepy, Warner Bros.’s latest straight-to-video Scooby Doo feature. But it turns out the real villain in the kid’s flick isn’t the monster. It’s Warner Bros. Here’s why.

The movie begins innocently enough. Velma inherits her uncle’s haunted castle, unleashing a curse on the Mystery Gang that makes them lose what they “hold most dear.” Scooby, for example, loses his snacks. And what fate, pray tell, befalls stylish and slender Daphne? She transforms from a size 2 to… a size 8.

That’s right, it is a “curse” to be a size that’s considerably smaller than the national average, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates at 5’4″ and 166 pounds. Cue the tears, screams and shattered cartoon mirrors! Because according to this supposedly feel-good-flick, weight gain is the ultimate horror.

This screengrab from the film shows how “cursed” Daphne is portrayed in the film. Which is still below the average size of an American woman:

Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy

Here’s a self-reported actual size 8, exhibited by the beautiful Mariska Hargitay:

Haley & Jason Binn Host A Memorial Day Party
Mariska Hargitay attends Haley & Jason Binn’s Memorial Day party Johnny Nunez—Getty Images

And here’s Christina Hendricks, another redheaded icon who displays her reported size-14 curves with pride:

Cast member Christina Hendricks poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series "Mad Men" in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014.
Cast member Christina Hendricks poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series “Mad Men” in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014. Mario Anzuoni—Reuters

But back to Daphne:

Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy

We don’t need to call the Mystery Gang to figure out where kids pick up unrealistic body expectations and weight stigma.

“It’s sad to think that my daughter can’t even watch a cartoon about a dog solving mysteries without negative body stereotypes being thrown in her face,” blogger Tom Burns wrote. And for a mere $3.99 on Amazon Prime, you too can subject your elementary-school-age daughter to an early dose of fat shaming

In a statement to the Huffington Post, however, Warner Bros. said that while Daphne does lose “her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair)”— implying that an actual realistic figure isn’t, in fact, an attractive one — the message is one of empowerment since Daphne realizes she was being superficial and Fred still thinks she’s hot.

While Daphne is at first upset by the sudden change, there is a touching moment where Fred points out that he didn’t even notice a change and that she always looks great to him.

At the end, when Velma explains how they figured out the mystery, she points out that the curse actually DIDN’T take away what means the most to each of them: their friendship.

The loss of Daphne’s regular appearance is proven to be a superficial thing, and not what actually matters the most to her.

There’s a good message for your 10-year-old. Not having an almost unattainably perfect figure doesn’t matter “the most.” It just matters a lot.

Jeepers.

(Warner Bros is owned by Time Warner, which spun off TIME parent company Time Inc earlier this year.)

TIME faith

Yes, You Can Be Gay and Still Be Attractive to the Opposite Sex

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This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Last week, U.K. Christian singer Vicky Beeching won some queer friends — and lost some Christian ones — when she came out as gay in an interview with The Independent.

Right off the bat, Beeching crushed the notion that you can’t be simultaneously gay, Christian, and content with yourself. In an interview with notorious homophobe Scott Lively, she shot down every one of his bigoted remarks, including his suggestion that she look to God to “change” herself.

Beeching went on to say that we need to “accept our sexual orientation as a God-given gift.”

Lively replied, “There is no such thing as a gay person. It’s this identity you adopt.”

“I believe God has made me the way he’s made me. It’s taken me thirty-five years to come to terms with that, and I believe that’s it’s part of my God-wired identity,” Beeching retorted.

After Lively said that God has the ability to help her “overcome your sexual inclinations,” Beeching replied, “That kind of thinking has been so damaging to me and it damages so many people.”

Beeching is easily a role model for LGBT people (Christian and otherwise) who need the validation and affirmation they don’t get from most churches. That’s why it’s so upsetting that Ed Vitagliano, a writer for the Christian site Charisma News, is not only “disappointed” in Beeching’s coming out, but claims she’s “broken” for saying it.

First, Vitagliano states that he loves homosexuals. It’s literally his first sentence: “I love homosexuals.” He “feels compassion toward them,” he says later, because he simply can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a crush on a boy as a kid. Then, he tests my ability not to throw my computer out a window by saying it’s hard to imagine Beeching is gay because men find her attractive:

I think most men would think that Vicky is a pretty lady, and those sorts of appraisals are usually made without thinking. This makes the subject of sexual orientation rather difficult to understand at times.

What’s truly offensive is his stream-of-consciousness attempt at explaining the origins of homosexuality. To preserve its horridness, here’s the bulk of his rant:

What causes homosexuality? I think there’s probably a web of causes — some apply to this group, some to that, etc. I believe that some homosexuals have endured sexual abuse or other trauma; others suffer from a deficit of some sort that turned them toward the same-sex side of the aisle in an attempt to heal.

At this point I realize I have offended most of the homosexuals reading this. So let me even the score and offend some Christians: I believe some percentage of homosexuals (I have no idea how large or small) simply grew up just like me — only different. Instead of having a crush on an opposite-sex person, they experienced a crush on a same-sex person. To them it appeared just that natural.

But if there’s a God who designed us — and I believe there is — then we obviously aren’t designed to be attracted to the same sex. With my apologies to the Vicky Beechings of the world, the human race is clearly designed as male and female, with sexually complementary equipment. We are obviously intended to grow through childhood and enter puberty attracted to the opposite sex — because that’s the only thing that makes sense of the biological design inherent in humankind.

So for Vicky and Ray and Jennifer and Clay — how do we explain the fact that their attraction developed in complete disregard for design? Here’s the short answer: They’re broken. Why is that so hard to say? Sexual and romantic attraction was supposed to develop one way, and it developed another. Maybe it was because of something that was done to them or around them; maybe it wasn’t. But it is different.

His conclusion isn’t new, but that doesn’t make it any less awful. He’s claiming, as so many do, that love, relationships, and basic human existence have no significance beyond reproduction. Never mind that most LGBT people are still physically capable of producing offspring (and they do); Vitagliano’s perspective is that nothing about us as human beings matters except our ability to pop out kids. Personal experiences? Nope. Emotions? Glitch in the system. Would he use this logic to call elderly different-sex couples broken? Or those who can’t have their own children?

Actually, he might. He goes on to compare homosexuality to blindness, both “conditions” that make a person broken. He says this over and over:

Are we not all broken in small and large ways? As a fallen race, isn’t there a web of characteristics about us all that doesn’t reflect the way God designed us? If a child is born blind, does that mean God approves? Isn’t it a sign that something is not as intended?

Eyes were created to see. To not see is not the same as being able to see. The blind are still human, but their brokenness is still brokenness. But isn’t that what we’re doing with homosexuality? Aren’t we denying the obvious — that there’s a disconnect between design and operation in the homosexual? Aren’t many in our society applauding as courageous those who declare their brokenness to be wholeness?

If by “we are all broken,” he means that we all deal with unique challenges over the course of our lives, then yes, we are all broken. But my fear is that he’s being far more literal than that. He perceives LGBT people — and apparently blind people, and people who are paralyzed, and who knows who else — as somehow unable to live and exist freely, happily and, yes, wholly. And he shames people who embrace their differences, an accusation that I can only assume extends beyond LGBT people, but also to other groups of people he considers “broken.”

Only God can make a broken person whole. Sometimes it is done as a miracle, as when Jesus healed a blind or lame or paralyzed person. Sometimes we must wait for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven, when all brokenness is finally healed.

I believe God can make homosexuals whole in this life. Despite the ridicule that follows such a statement, I believe that does happen. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 says so. However, for many — or even most — homosexuals, in order to be Christians they will have to accept that their “orientation” is a manifestation of brokenness, not wholeness. Like the rest of us who are broken in some other way, they will have to reject that lameness and give it to God. They will hobble through life learning to love Him more and more — and yes, learning to obey Him.

In that way, homosexuals are just like me. No better and no worse, but broken nonetheless.

(For the record, I don’t see Vitagliano standing up to proudly claim his own “brokenness” the way Beeching and so many others have. But that’s beside the point.)

While being gay does bring some people hardship, asserting that it will inherently affect a person’s quality of life — or worse, take away from their very worth as a person — does nothing except drive more LGBT people to deny their true selves, resent and loathe their feelings, and, as Beeching said, live a lie. We are more than the function of our bodies. I don’t know what’s taking so many people so long to realize it.

Vitagliano claiming that he feels “compassion toward homosexuals” is an outright lie. It’s gravely offensive to me, to Vicky Beeching, to my fellow queer folks, and even to Christians that he would dare say it.

runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

Read more from Patheos:

TIME Opinion

Matthew Weiner Is Wrong. The Gender Wage Gap Is Real, Even In Hollywood

Matthew Weiner
Matthew Weiner Mike Pont—FilmMagic/Getty Images

In some ways, we're still living in a Mad Men world

In a recent interview, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner delved into a sensitive subject about the way women are treated on the job. No, he wasn’t talking about the women who work at Sterling Cooper circa 1969. He was talking about his fellow showrunners circa 2014, who don’t earn the same amount of money that he does.

“I don’t think that’s a gender issue,” Weiner said in a recent interview with HuffPost Live. “Jenji’s entitled to every dollar but you have to fight for it, male or female. No one gives you anything.”

The Jenji he was referring to is Jenji Kohan, the showrunner of Orange is the New Black, who recently spoke out about the gender wage gap in television to The Hollywood Reporter. From the THR‘s story:

“I don’t think I’m getting paid as much as the men in my position, still,” [Kohan] says, “and it’s extremely frustrating.”

Gender inequality has been a thorn in Kohan’s side since she was a young girl and her novelist mother told her that men were “funnier” and “better at this.” That Kohan’s own studio, Lionsgate, is paying Weiner a reported $30 million for Mad Men‘s final three seasons adds another layer of complexity. “It’s hard when one of your best friends is Matt,” she says, then carefully adds: “I don’t begrudge him for one second; it’s more of just, ‘Why am I not making that?'” (Lionsgate declined comment.)

It’s apparent from her comments that Kohan isn’t pulling in the same amount of money as Weiner, but is the Mad Men producer correct in his belief that gender had nothing to do with it? Considering that across the board full-time working women earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts make, is it really possible that this trend isn’t the case in showbiz? Sadly, no. While there aren’t hard, public figures for many of the people who work in the film and television industries, there is enough information out there that gives a strong indication that a discrepancy does, in fact, exist.

Weiner suggests in the HuffPo interview that if only Kohan was fighting for a higher salary — like he has throughout his career — than she’d be getting a bigger pay-check. But that logic falls flat when you consider the fact that Kohan likely has fought throughout her career, in ways that Weiner might not be able to imagine, to just get her foot in the door at all.

Kohan is repeatedly ranked among the best showrunners working right now, but she’s also one of a handful of women working in the field. Take a look at THR‘s list of the top 50 TV writer/producers of 2013: it features a total of 14 women on it, and many of them work as part of a team with a man. (Weiner and Kohan were both named.) If you’re part of a vast minority working in a hugely competitive industry, it’s likely that you already had to work pretty damn hard to be there. To suggest otherwise smacks of unacknowledged male privilege. What’s more, women who work in other male-dominated fields don’t make as much as the men they work with; to assume it’s different in the television and film industry seems absurd.

Just look to other areas of show business for a clearer idea. Women behind the camera in the film industry are also a tiny minority. According to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’s annual Celluloid Ceiling survey, women accounted for only 16 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the 250 top-grossing films last year. That 16 percent is part of a pretty consistent trend in Hollywood. (The Celluloid Ceiling survey has been conducted every year since 1997.)

While many of the women in that tiny minority have worked on some pretty impressive films, it still hasn’t landed them in the realm of top-salaries. A Vanity Fair breakdown of Hollywood’s top-earners in 2011 looked at the incomes of actors, directors, producers and writers to see who landed in the top 50. Only six women in total made the list, and they were all actresses. The group didn’t include a single woman director or producer or writer.

Yet even where women do seem to be pulling in top, competitive salaries — namely, in front of the camera — they still aren’t earning as much as their male co-stars. Take this year’s Forbes list for the top 10 highest-earning actors and actresses. Collectively, the top 10 highest paid men made a whopping $419 million last year. Meanwhile, the top 10 highest paid women earned $226 million — just 54 percent of what Hollywood’s actors were pulling in. For as much buzz as Jennifer Lawrence gets — with an Oscar win, a devoted fan-base and a beloved franchise under her belt — she still made $12 million less in 2013 than her American Hustle co-star, Bradley Cooper. True, these women aren’t facing any financial hardships despite the gap, but what about the women in the lesser-paid areas of the industry?

When you have a minority of women working in the industry’s top positions — and they are saying and sometimes proving that they’re earning less — than, yes, it is a gender issue. Of course, as Weiner himself points out in his interview, showrunners’ salaries aren’t typically made public. Which is too bad. If the hard numbers were out there for everyone to see, perhaps the gender wage gap — and Jenji Kohan — wouldn’t be so easy to dismiss.

TIME Infectious Disease

1,400 Are Dead From Ebola and We Need Help, Says Doctors Without Borders President

Workers prepare the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Ebola treatment center on Aug. 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. Tents at the center were provided by UNICEF.
Workers prepare the new Doctors Without Borders, Ebola treatment center on Aug. 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. Tents at the center were provided by UNICEF. John Moore—Getty Images

The epidemic won't be contained without more treatment centers, coordinated action, logistical assets and health workers 

Entire families are being wiped out. Health workers are dying by the dozens. The Ebola outbreak raging in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has already killed more people than any other in history, and it continues to spread unabated.

And the death toll is being exacerbated by an emergency unfolding within an emergency.

People are also dying from easily preventable and treatable diseases like malaria and diarrhea because fear of contamination has closed medical facilities, leading to the effective collapse of health systems. While I was in Liberia last week, six pregnant women lost their babies over the course of a single day for lack of a hospital to admit them and manage their complications.

Over the past two weeks, there have been some welcome signs but not enough action: the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and announced additional funds to fight the disease; the World Bank announced a $200 million emergency fund; and the UN Secretary General appointed a special envoy for Ebola.

But 1,350 lives have already been lost. To prevent more deaths, these funding and political initiatives must be translated into immediate, effective action on the ground.

We need medical and emergency relief workers to trace those who may be infected, to educate people about protection measures and to work in treatment centers. Many more people are needed in the field, right now.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams have treated more than 900 patients in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. We have 1,086 staff operating in these countries and we have just opened a 120-bed treatment center in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, making it by far the largest Ebola center in history. But it is already overwhelmed with patients and we simply do not have additional response capacity. Others must enter the breach.

In Kailahun, Sierra Leone, 2,000 people who came into contact with Ebola patients must be urgently followed up. But we have only been able to trace about 200 of them.

Health promotion campaigns and body collections are stalled for lack of vehicles or fuel. Epidemiologists are unable to work because of a lack of logistical support. And pervasive fears among communities that had never encountered Ebola have provoked riots against health workers.

The epidemic will not be contained without a massive deployment on the ground. WHO in particular must step up to the challenge. And governments with the necessary medical and logistical resources must go beyond funding pledges and immediately dispatch infectious disease experts and disaster relief assets to the region.

Additional resources are needed to properly map the epidemic, implement efficient general hygiene measures in all medical and public places, run safe treatment centers, trace suspected cases, train health workers, set up functioning alert and referral systems and, crucially, spread accurate information about how people can protect themselves from infection.

Equally important is fighting fear. Quarantines and curfews will only breed more of it. People need to have access to information, otherwise distrust of health workers will only increase and provoke further violence. Communities and governments need to work together to control the epidemic and care for the sick.

Some measure of humanity must also be restored in the fight against Ebola.

As doctors, we have been forced to provide little more than palliative care because of the sheer number of infected people and lack of an available cure. The extreme measures needed to protect health workers, including wearing stifling protective suits, also means we cannot remain bedside with patients to ease their suffering, or allow family members to do so. In their final hours, many people are dying alone.

While we try to find creative solutions to enable families to communicate with their sick relatives, they should at minimum be supported to participate safely in the burials of loved ones. This would also help rebuild trust between communities and those trying to contain the epidemic.

At the same time, additional support is needed to prevent health systems in Liberia and Sierra Leone from further collapse. After years of civil war, these countries already struggle to meet the basic health needs of their people, let alone cope with a public health emergency of this magnitude. Sierra Leone and Liberia, for instance, have just 0.2 and 0.1 doctors per 10,000 people, respectively (a rate 240 times less than in the United States).

Last week, all of Monrovia’s hospitals were at one point closed. There is no surgical care available in the entire country right now. Pregnant women cannot receive emergency C-sections. Health facilities must be re-opened or established to treat common illnesses. We will otherwise face a second wave of this health catastrophe.

Slowing and then halting this outbreak requires much more than money and statements. The only way to contain the epidemic is to increase the response capacity in affected areas, not by closing borders and suspending air travel.

Meaningful and coordinated action is needed on the ground today if we don’t want to be reduced to counting the dead for many weeks to come, whether from Ebola or other far less sinister diseases.

Dr. Joanne Liu is the international president of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

TIME Parenting

Millennials Are Selfish and Entitled and Helicopter Parents Are to Blame

Parent Child Climbing
Peter Lourenco—Flickr RF/Getty Images

There are more overprotective moms and dads at a time when children are actually safer than ever

It’s natural to resent younger Americans—they’re younger!—but we’re on the verge of a new generation gap that may make the nasty old fights between baby boomers and their “Greatest Generation” parents look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Seventy-one percent of American adults think of 18 to 29 year-olds—millennials, basically—as “selfish,” and 65% of us think of them as “entitled.” That’s according to the latest Reason-Rupe Poll, a quarterly survey of 1,000 representative adult Americans.

If millennials are self-absorbed little monsters who expect the world to come to them and for their parents to clean up their rooms well into their twenties, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves—especially the moms and dads among us.

Indeed, the same poll documents the ridiculous level of kid-coddling that has now become the new normal. More than two-thirds of us think there ought to be a law that kids as old as 9 should supervised while playing at a public park, which helps explain (though not justify) the arrest of a South Carolina mother who let her phone-enabled daughter play in a busy park while she worked at a nearby McDonald’s. We think on average that kids should be 10 years old before they “are allowed to play in the front yard unsupervised.” Unless you live on a traffic island or a war zone, that’s just nuts.

It gets worse: We think that our precious bundles of joy should be 12 before they can wait alone in a car for five minutes on a cool day or walk to school without an adult, and that they should be 13 before they can be trusted to stay home alone. You’d think that kids raised on Baby Einstein DVDs should be a little more advanced than that.

Curiously, this sort of ridiculous hyper-protectiveness is playing out against a backdrop in which children are safer than ever. Students reporting bullying is one-third of what it was 20 years ago and, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics, the past decade has seen massive declines in exposure to violence for kids. Out of 50 trends studied, summarize the authors, “there were 27 significant declines and no significant increases between 2003 and 2011. Declines were particularly large for assault victimization, bullying, and sexual victimization. There were also significant declines in the perpetration of violence and property crime.”

There are surely many causes for the mainstreaming of helicopter parenting. Kids cost a hell of a lot to raise. The U.S. Department of Agriculture figures a child born in 2013 will set back middle-income parents about $245,000 until age 17 (and that’s before college bills kick in). We’re having fewer children, so we’re putting fewer eggs in a smaller basket, so to speak. According to the Reason-Rupe poll, only 27% of adults thought the media were overestimating threats to the day-to-day safety of children, suggesting that 73% of us are suckers for sensationalistic news coverage that distorts reality (62% of us erroneously think that today’s youth face greater dangers than previous generations). More kids are in institutional settings—whether preschool or school itself—at earlier ages, so maybe parents just assume someone will always be on call.

But whatever the reasons for our insistence that we childproof the world around us, this way madness lies. From King Lear to Mildred Pierce, classic literature (and basic common sense) suggests that coddling kids is no way to raise thriving, much less grateful, offspring. Indeed, quite the opposite. And with 58% of millennials calling themselves “entitled” and more than 70% saying they are “selfish,” older Americans may soon be learning that lesson the hard way.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 21

1. Perspective matters: To tell the stories of Ferguson, America needs black journalists.

By Sonali Kohli in Quartz

2. After James Foley, America’s policy against paying ransom to kidnappers deserves a public debate.

By David Rohde at Reuters

3. To keep American democracy alive, citizens need to use their voice and their votes.

By Robert Reich in Guernica

4. Climate change will make the coffee of the future bitter and pricey.

By Jessica Leber in FastCo.Exist

5. Business school students have much to learn from the “Market Basket” family-corporate feud.

By Judith Samuelson in Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Retail

One Problem With Plus-Size Fashion: Customers Aren’t Buying It

A model walks the runway at the British Plus-size Fashion Weekend show during London Fashion Week last winter.
A model walks the runway at the British Plus-size Fashion Weekend show during London Fashion Week last winter. John Phillips—UK Press/Getty Images

The fashion industry may deserve plenty of blame, but if consumers want options, they must vote with their wallets

If plus-size fashion is a $17.5 billion industry, why are plus-size consumers still marginalized? The fashion industry takes a lot of blame, and to some extent the blame is fairly placed, but not entirely. As a plus-size fashion blogger and veteran fashion marketing consultant, I talk to women every day who are looking for more from the fashion industry. Limited variety has forced us to take a utility-vs-style approach, which is often confusing for the few trend-driven retailers navigating the space. If you’re one of the reported 100 million plus-size Americans, your own retail behavior could be more to blame than you think.

Naturally consumer behavior informs retailer decisions, but the most perplexing insight of my career was when a plus-size retailer tested shoppers, showing the same styles on size 8 and 14 models, each to a different customer segment. The size 8 model translated into more sales nearly every time, even as customers demanded on social media that the brand use plus-size women in their product photography. This was not an isolated incident; industry friends shared similar anecdotes about brand after brand. And retailers are going to continue to create online shopping experiences that lead to higher sales. For example, brands frequently reshoot a slow-selling item on a “higher converting” model (to use the industry term for earning potential) to move inventory. As essential as clothing is to our lives, fashion is first and foremost a business.

Plus-size blogger Chastity Garner recently revived a movement to pressure Target into extending the sizes of their designer collaborations on the heels of Melissa McCarthy’s claim that she was unable to find fashion designers willing to create gowns for her red carpet appearances. Although the perception of fashion traditionally has been that plus-size women are not desirable customers, Lane Bryant is stirring up the industry, collaborating with Isabel Toledo, Sophie Theallet, and most recently Lela Rose. Partnerships like these raise the profile of plus in the wider fashion industry while utilizing a brand’s established fit, patterns, and silhouettes. The success, perceived or otherwise, of these collaborations is invigorating and inviting.

But real change for plus-size fashion will come when customers make more conscious purchasing decisions. Aimee Cheshire, co-founder of Hey Gorgeous, an online retailer that carries established and independent fashion sizes 8 and up, shared, “The difference will be seen immediately when the plus consumer breaks the cycle and starts to take risks buying beautiful, high-quality pieces that she is proud to wear.”

As brands continue to tune into plus-size consumer feedback and behavior, we as a community must acknowledge that every interaction we have carries a responsibility. When The Limited shuttered ELOQUII due to a lack of resources, passionate team members used the community’s outcry as validation of what they already knew – that women want quality, current fashion at any size – and independently revived the brand. (Disclosure: ELOQUII is among the brands for whom I do consulting work.) True variety, whether that be more trend-driven styles, better fit, higher quality fabrics, model selection, or extended sizes, will come from the accumulation of our choices. Product reviews, feedback, tweets, comments, photos, and blog posts all contribute to a brand’s success. And so does consumer behavior at the cash register.

Sarah Conley is a social media marketing expert and blogger; you can find her take on plus-size fashion, beauty, and technology at styleitonline.com.

TIME

How Your Uber Rating Can Make You a Better Person

The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends
Uber's ride request is displayed on an iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Victor J. Blue—Bloomberg / Getty Images

If we all thought we were subject to being reviewed by the people around us, we might work harder to be on our best behavior

One of the many cool things about Uber is that it allows passengers to rate the driver. Not surprisingly, the drivers are very friendly. A recent hack of Uber’s site highlighted that the sauce-for-the-gander reverse is also true: the drivers rate us passengers. Even better, for a while it was possible to crack Uber’s database and see the driver’s ratings for you. With enough cleverness, you could even pry loose how others were rated.

At first this might seem a creepy invasion of privacy, especially if you’re less than a five-star passenger. But there’s a virtue to losing your anonymity. Once you know you’re being rated, just like the driver, you’re likely to be a bit nicer, sit in the front, and make conversation. The world becomes slightly more civil.

Plato in The Republic writes about the Ring of Gyges, a mythical piece of jewelry that allows its wearer to become invisible. His question is whether such a person would always be moral when assured that no one could see him. Plato’s brother Glaucon says it’s obvious that we’re more likely to behave like a jerk, or worse, when we know that we’ll never be caught or called out.

Civil liberties junkies sometimes confuse the worthy ideal of privacy with anonymity, a less exalted concept. The idea that we should be able to interact with other people anonymously is rather new in human history. It arose when people started moving from tight-knit communities to urban areas where they were generally unknown. When I was a kid in New Orleans, if I went to the local store and bought a pack of Marlboros, it would get back to my parents in about five minutes. Now we can buy anything anonymously and, worse yet, say anything.

This has not elevated the civic discourse. If I could conjure up a magic Plato ring, it would allow me to know and publicly reveal the names and addresses of all people who anonymously post vulgar rants and racist tweets. I would use it only sparingly, but I suspect that just a few such revelations would make the Twittersphere and Blogosphere suddenly a bit more civil, or at least subdued.

In the early days of the online world, people who posted in virtual communities such as The WELL knew that, even if they were using a pseudonym, they were creating an online identity and reputation that was worth tending. A year ago, the Huffington Post began requiring people to register in order to comment, and it has elevated the discourse on the site.

When the Internet Protocol was created in the early 1970s, it did not grant total anonymity to users. To this day, unless you take special precautions, a good hacker – or the NSA – can track down your I.P. address, location, and even your true identity. If a few white-hat hackers or NSA leakers published the names and addresses of, say, the trolls who hounded Robin Williams’s daughter, there would understandably be an outcry among privacy (read: anonymity) advocates, but it would have the silver lining of muting some of the haters.

Likewise, if we all thought we were subject to being rated, we might work harder to be on our best behavior. In the world of Yelp and TripAdvisor and HealthGrades, we get to rate our restaurants and hotels and doctors. I hope that expands. College students rate their professors in many places; it would be nice to allow kids and parents to rate their high school teachers. In the sauce-for-the-gander category, if teachers and waiters and hotels were all rating us, it might feel a bit Orwellian. Nevertheless, it’s a cool Ring of Gyges thought experiment to imagine how much better we would behave.

 

aspen journal logo

Walter Isaacson, a former managing editor of TIME, is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. A former chairman and CEO of CNN, he is the author of Steve Jobs (2011),Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and the forthcoming The Innovators (October 2014), as well as the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). This article also appears in the Aspen Journal of ideas

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