Tagged / the conversation

Conversation article – Women’s football: record crowds and soaring popularity – here’s how to keep it that way

Dr Keith Parry writes for The Conversation about the increasing popularity of women’s football and how to ensure gains in women’s sport are not lost…

Women’s football: record crowds and soaring popularity – here’s how to keep it this way

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University

On Boxing Day 1920, a sell-out crowd of 53,000 watched a women’s football match at Liverpool’s Goodison Park, with others waiting outside. With more than 900,000 women working in munitions factories during the first world war, many factories set up women’s football teams to keep the new female workers healthy and safely occupied. At the time, women seemed to be breaking barriers in sport and society.

But it would be almost 100 years before similar numbers of spectators were seen again at women’s sports matches, and in 2022 crowds are now breaking world records. In March, for example, 91,553 people watched Barcelona play Real Madrid in the UEFA Women’s Champions League – the highest attended women’s football match of all time.

The reason why it took so long to get here is that after the first world war progress for women slowed, and even went backwards. By 1921 there were 150 women’s football teams, often playing to large crowds. But on December 5 1921, the English Football Association’s consultative committee effectively banned women’s football citing a threat to women’s health as medical experts claimed football could damage women’s ability to have children. This decision had worldwide implications and was typical of attitudes towards women’s sport for many decades.

Women’s professional sport is now seeing dramatic changes. England will host the 2022 Women’s Euros later this year, and tickets for the final sold out in less than an hour. There is clear demand from fans and not just for women’s football, but other professional women’s sports.

In 2021, 267,000 people attended the women’s matches in English cricket’s new domestic competition, The Hundred, making it the best attended women’s cricket event ever. A year before, another cricketing record was set with 86,174 spectators at the Women’s T20 World Cup final between Australia and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Record crowds for professional women’s matches have also been seen recently in rugby union.

There is increasing investment in women’s sport and a rising number of professional athletic contracts for women. Clubs and organisations are finding that if people know about women’s sport they will attend games and watch it on television.

TV coverage is vital

In a sign that the times really may be changing, the current minister for sport, Nigel Huddleston, and the home secretary, Priti Patel, announced that they are minded to add the (FIFA) Women’s World Cup and the Women’s Euros (UEFA European Women’s Football Championship) to the list of protected sports events. Set out in the 1990s, these are the “crown jewels” of English sport, deemed to be of national importance when it comes to television coverage. The list has not included any women’s events until now, and the proposed change is crucial to keep women’s sport visible for as large an audience as possible.

Football has also seen considerable growth in participation. In 2020, 3.4 million women and girls played football in England and the world governing body FIFA aims to have 60 million playing by 2026.

The wider picture is perhaps less rosy. There are 516,600 more inactive women than men in England. Girls are less active than boys, even though their activity levels increased comparatively during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonetheless, this pandemic-related increase also points to positive changes. During the lockdowns, there was a shift away from traditional team sports to fitness classes and walking, which have traditionally appealed more to women and girls. In a similar way Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, which was relaunched in January 2020, aimed to break conventional ideas that physical activity and sport are unsuitable for women. Sport England’s evaluation states that 2.8 million women were more active due to the overall campaign.

With traditional masculine ideals slowly being replaced across society, these changes can also be seen in sport. Sport is also becoming more inclusive for minorities.

And, as happened around 100 years ago, women’s rights and equality in society and workplaces are improving. The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment to the forefront of public awareness and is gradually shifting workplace culture.

Threats ahead

However, this is not time for complacency. The pandemic has affected women more than men and in different ways, slowing progress. Greater domestic responsibilities impacted on women’s free time more than men, reducing time for physical activity. Similarly, funding cuts in sport may threaten the gains that have been made in women’s sport. And many males continue to hold unfounded, stereotypical views such as women in sport being more emotional than men.

Recently, my colleagues and I mapped out five actions needed to make sure that recent gains for women’s sport are not lost, see below. With changes in society, widespread support for gender equality, and the current popularity of women’s sport, now is the time to act on these changes to ensure that it is not another 100 years before we see the recent attendance records broken. Gender equality is a societal goal and it should be in sport too.

Roadmap for the success of women’s sportThe Conversation

Author provided

Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Event Management, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Pet therapy – how dogs, cats and horses help improve human wellbeing

Professor Ann Hemingway writes for The Conversation about the benefits of Animal Assisted Interventions…

Pet therapy: how dogs, cats and horses help improve human wellbeing

Monkey business images/shutterstock

Ann Hemingway, Bournemouth University

We’ve all heard of the psychotherapy couch, and the dynamic between a client and their human therapist. But perhaps less well known is the increasingly popular pet therapy. And no, that’s not therapy for your pet – it’s the relatively new phenomenon of therapy for humans, which involves animals.

These animal assisted interventions (AAIs) – which also include a trained human professional – are proving beneficial to people of all ages, leading to significant reductions in physiological responses to stress – such as heart rate – and associated emotions, such as anxiety.

It’s a longstanding and widely accepted fact that people of all ages can benefit from partnerships with animals as pets. From the joy of the human-animal bond, to companionship and improved mental health, there is no doubt that cats, dogs and other pets enhance our lives immeasurably.

But over the last ten years or so, animals have started to help humans in settings away from the home – such as hospitals and care homes for the elderly, as well as schools, universities, prisons and rehabilitation services.

The Royal University Hospital Emergency Department in Saskatchewan, Canada, for example, has been welcoming therapy dogs (and their handlers) since 2016.

A recent study based at the hospital set out to investigate whether canine therapy had any impact on the wellbeing of patients – the majority (around 70%) of which had been admitted and were waiting for a hospital bed, and all of whom were experiencing pain.

They each received a ten minute visit from a St John Ambulance therapy dog in addition to the usual hospital care. Using a detailed psychometric survey, the researchers assessed patients immediately before the visit, immediately afterwards and 20 minutes afterwards. They were encouraged to find that the patients reported a significant reduction in pain, anxiety and depression following the visit by the therapy dog – and an increase in general wellbeing.

Therapy involving dogs can also reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

Cats and horses also help

Over the last ten years, cats have also joined the AAI movement – and have been used in settings such as schools and care homes to improve wellbeing. Just being in the presence of a cat has been shown to improve mood and reduce feelings of loneliness. Playing with a cat, and physical contact through stroking and hugging, can induce a sense of calm, especially for children and frail elderly patients in long term care.

Elderly women in wheelchair cuddling a cat
Stroking and interacting with a cat can improve our mood and reduce loneliness.
Toa55/shutterstock

In fact, even a cat’s purr can bring emotional relief, especially when we’re feeling stressed.

One study – with patients living with chronic age-related disabilities in a nursing home – found that those who were assigned a cat therapy session three times a week, for six weeks, had improved depressive symptoms and a significant decrease in blood pressure.

Horse assisted therapy is particularly useful for young people experiencing mental health and behavioural issues. In many cases, those who have not benefited from traditional, talk-based therapy, may experience benefits – particularly an increased feeling of calm and emotional control – when participating in horse therapy, during which they learn how to communicate with and care for the horses.

Similarly, therapeutic horse riding therapy provides physical and emotional benefits to children with disabilities, helping to improve their balance, posture and hand-to-eye coordination. It can also help children to learn to trust and become more socially aware.

Therapeutic horse riding has been shown to improve symptoms of PTSD in adults, too. And equine therapy, where there is no riding – but instead feeding, grooming and leading the horse – can help people to process and change negative behaviours, such as those associated with addiction.

Why pets are good therapists

Building relationships and social connections through socialising and human interaction is a key part of maintaining and improving our mental health.

Animals, when left to their own devices, also make and work to maintain and enhance emotional relationships and connections with others. We are extremely lucky that – when it comes to dogs, cats and horses – this tendency also extends to humans, as long as we behave in a way that is comfortable for the animal.

And science has shown that they can understand what is happening in our interactions with them, too.

Young boy stroking horse on the nose before a horse therapy session
Horses can read our emotions and adjust their behaviour accordingly.
Goodmoments/shutterstock

Horses can read and tune into human emotions. They can even learn about a person from watching them interact with another horse, and adjust their behaviour accordingly – such as approaching and touching the person more if they appear to display discomfort around the other horse.

Research with dogs and cats has found that they too can read and respond to our body language, facial expressions and voices.

Part of the joy of building a connection with an animal is discovering who they are and what they enjoy – and it goes without saying that their welfare must always be a top priority. But if think you have a superstar therapy pet in the making, then do consider reaching out to a pet therapy organisation in your area, such as Pets As Therapy in the UK. They’d be glad to meet you and your animal companion.The Conversation

Ann Hemingway, Professor of Public Health and Wellbeing, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Protecting children in the metaverse – it’s easy to blame big tech but we all have a role to play

Professor Andy Phippen writes for The Conversation about child safety in virtual spaces…

Protecting children in the metaverse: it’s easy to blame big tech, but we all have a role to play

Newman Studio/Shutterstock

Andy Phippen, Bournemouth University

In a recent BBC news investigation, a reporter posing as a 13-year-old girl in a virtual reality (VR) app was exposed to sexual content, racist insults and a rape threat. The app in question, VRChat, is an interactive platform where users can create “rooms” within which people interact (in the form of avatars). The reporter saw avatars simulating sex, and was propositioned by numerous men.

The results of this investigation have led to warnings from child safety charities including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) about the dangers children face in the metaverse. The metaverse refers to a network of VR worlds which Meta (formerly Facebook) has positioned as a future version of the internet, eventually allowing us to engage across education, work and social contexts.

The NSPCC appears to put the blame and the responsibility on technology companies, arguing they need to do more to safeguard children’s safety in these online spaces. While I agree platforms could be doing more, they can’t tackle this problem alone.

Reading about the BBC investigation, I felt a sense of déjà vu. I was surprised that anyone working in online safeguarding would be – to use the NSPCC’s words – “shocked” by the reporter’s experiences. Ten years ago, well before we’d heard the word “metaverse”, similar stories emerged around platforms including Club Penguin and Habbo Hotel.

These avatar-based platforms, where users interact in virtual spaces via a text-based chat function, were actually designed for children. In both cases adults posing as children as a means to investigate were exposed to sexually explicit interactions.

The demands that companies do more to prevent these incidents have been around for a long time. We are locked in a cycle of new technology, emerging risks and moral panic. Yet nothing changes.

It’s a tricky area

We’ve seen demands for companies to put age verification measures in place to prevent young people accessing inappropriate services. This has included proposals for social platforms to require verification that the user is aged 13 or above, or for pornography websites to require proof that the user is over 18.

If age verification was easy, it would have been widely adopted by now. If anyone can think of a way that all 13-year-olds can prove their age online reliably, without data privacy concerns, and in a way that’s easy for platforms to implement, there are many tech companies that would like to talk to them.

In terms of policing the communication that occurs on these platforms, similarly, this won’t be achieved through an algorithm. Artificial intelligence is nowhere near clever enough to intercept real-time audio streams and determine, with accuracy, whether someone is being offensive. And while there might be some scope for human moderation, monitoring of all real-time online spaces would be impossibly resource-intensive.

The reality is that platforms already provide a lot of tools to tackle harassment and abuse. The trouble is few people are aware of them, believe they will work, or want to use them. VRChat, for example, provides tools for blocking abusive users, and the means to report them, which might ultimately result in the user having their account removed.

A man assists a child to put on a VR headset.
People will access the metaverse through technology like VR headsets.
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

We cannot all sit back and shout, “my child has been upset by something online, who is going to stop this from happening?”. We need to shift our focus from the notion of “evil big tech”, which really isn’t helpful, to looking at the role other stakeholders could play too.

If parents are going to buy their children VR headsets, they need to have a look at safety features. It’s often possible to monitor activity by having the young person cast what is on their headset onto the family TV or another screen. Parents could also check out the apps and games young people are interacting with prior to allowing their children to use them.

What young people think

I’ve spent the last two decades researching online safeguarding – discussing concerns around online harms with young people, and working with a variety of stakeholders on how we might better help young people. I rarely hear demands that the government needs to bring big tech companies to heel from young people themselves.

They do, however, regularly call for better education and support from adults in tackling the potential online harms they might face. For example, young people tell us they want discussion in the classroom with informed teachers who can manage the debates that arise, and to whom they can ask questions without being told “don’t ask questions like that”.

However, without national coordination, I can sympathise with any teacher not wishing to risk complaint from, for example, outraged parents, as a result of holding a discussion on such sensitive topics.

I note the UK government’s Online Safety Bill, the legislation that policymakers claim will prevent online harms, contains just two mentions of the word “education” in 145 pages.

We all have a role to play in supporting young people as they navigate online spaces. Prevention has been the key message for 15 years, but this approach isn’t working. Young people are calling for education, delivered by people who understand the issues. This is not something that can be achieved by the platforms alone.The Conversation

Andy Phippen, Professor of IT Ethics and Digital Rights, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Mosquitoes might be attracted to certain colours – new research

Dr Cassandra Edmunds writes for The Conversation about new research which explored mosquitoes’ attraction to different colours…

Mosquitoes might be attracted to certain colours – new research

Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Cassandra Edmunds, Bournemouth University

There’s no question that finding yourself covered in mosquito bites quickly takes the shine off a pleasant summer evening. But mosquitoes are more than a nuisance. They’re also the deadliest creatures on Earth, owing to the diseases they spread.

A lot of research on mosquitoes is dedicated to understanding their behaviour and preferences for who they bite. Vision is an important sense in biting insects, including mosquitoes. Although they don’t rely on their vision alone – smell and temperature work with visual cues to help mosquitoes locate a host.

Previous research has sought to link particular colours (or the wavelengths of light which we see as distinct colours) to mosquitoes’ host-seeking behaviour. However, the results have been mixed, with the same mosquito species showing preferences for different colours in different studies.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications is the latest to explore mosquitoes’ attraction to different colours. Could this research tell us how to avoid being bitten simply by adjusting the colours we wear? Let’s take a look.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments on three disease-spreading mosquito species: primarily Aedes aegypti, but also Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus.

In one experiment they used a wind tunnel equipped with cameras to track the mosquitoes’ flight patterns. The tunnel was designed to encourage them to behave as naturally as possible.

On the floor of the tunnel were two small coloured spots; one to represent the colour (wavelength) of interest and a control (white). Some of the colour samples were chosen to mimic different skin tones, including one to represent the colour of tanning lotion.

In mosquitoes, only the females bite, because in most species they require a blood meal to complete the reproductive process. So 50 mated but unfed female mosquitoes were released into the wind tunnel, where they would naturally search for a host.

After an hour carbon dioxide (CO₂) was released into the wind tunnel. CO₂ is exhaled by humans and other mammals. While it’s odourless to us, mosquitoes can smell it and use this scent to help guide them to a source of blood.

Seeing red

Before the odour stimulus was released, the Ae. aegypti mosquitoes largely ignored the coloured circles on the floor, instead exploring the ceiling and the walls of the tunnel. But once CO₂ had been introduced they started to investigate the coloured circles, particularly as the wavelength increased from 510 nanometres (nm) to 660nm.

These longer wavelengths represent colours in the orange and red end of the spectrum, though the Ae. aegypti mosquitoes were most attracted to the red, and then black. Notably, these orange to red wavelengths are the same as those given off from human skin tones. Blue, green and violet weren’t any more attractive to the mosquitoes than the control.

When the skin tone spots were used, they were more attractive to the mosquitoes than the control, but no preference was observed for any particular skin tone.

A mosquito on skin.
The researchers wanted to explore the role of colours in attracting mosquitoes.
nechaevkon/Shutterstock

Previous experiments have shown mosquitoes are more attracted to contrasting colours, like a chequerboard pattern, than one solid colour. The researchers also showed the mosquitoes different spots against both similar and contrasting backgrounds. Ae. aegypti were more interested in spots with a high contrast to the background. Scientists believe this helps the mosquitoes distinguish between an object (person) and the background, even in low light. The contrast was more important in attracting the mosquitoes than the colour itself.

Similar to Ae. aegypti, An. stephensi were attracted to black and red, with little interest in the lower wavelengths. Cx. quinquefasciatus showed interest in violet/blue and red (interestingly, opposite ends of the tested spectrum).

The researchers conducted a separate experiment in insect cages to explore the mosquitoes’ attraction to real skin tones. Six volunteers from different ethnic backgrounds were recruited to help with this test. The control was a white glove in one window and the volunteers’ hands were held one at a time in the other window to see if the mosquitoes were attracted to any particular skin tone.

The mosquitoes were more attracted to the hands than the white glove, but as with the dots, there wasn’t a preference for a particular skin tone.

What does this all mean?

This study shows that mosquitoes are attracted to the colours found in human skin, but only in the presence of CO₂, suggesting the smell of human or mammal respiration may act as the initial cue. This confirms previous research which has found CO₂ attracts mosquitoes.

The researchers found that colour and contrast were important factors for Ae. aegypti who showed a preference for red, then black. An. Stephensi were interested in colours similar to Ae aegypti, though preferring black over red. Meanwhile, Cx. quinquefasciatus were interested in a range of colours.

As the researchers recognised, their experiments didn’t account for some of the other factors that affect mosquitoes’ choice of host. These include chemicals released from human skin, the temperature of the skin, and sweat on the skin. It would be interesting for future experiments to include these factors.

So what does this mean for the average person who doesn’t want to get bitten? You could try wearing white, blue or green and avoiding black, red and orange. Definitely avoid red and black checked patterns.

While adjusting your clothing may reduce your risk of being bitten, there’s no guarantee it will, or how effective this will be, particularly given the apparent variation in colour preferences between species. But these findings do suggest that with more research, colour could potentially be used as a tool in mosquito control.The Conversation

Cassandra Edmunds, Lecturer in Forensic Biology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Fiction can change the world – five books that made a difference

Dr Hywel Dix writes for The Conversation about the ways fiction novels can influence social change…

Fiction can change the world: five books that made a difference

Hywel Dix, Bournemouth University

Activist Jack Monroe recently used Terry Pratchett’s “boots theory” to explain the vicious circle for people on low incomes only being able to afford clothing that constantly wears out. Monroe has now used the Vimes index (named after a Pratchett character) of inflation to persuade the Office of National Statistics to review how it calculates the cost of living.

Raymond Williams’s classic 1977 book Marxism and Literature broke new ground arguing that fiction could influence social change. Here are five contemporary examples.

1. Bitter Fruit (Achmat Dangor, 2001)

In this novel, a bi-racial South African civil servant comes face-to-face with the white member of the state security forces who had raped his wife during apartheid. The book explores the consequences of political violence for both perpetrators and victims. There are no easy winners, pointing to the need for reconciliation – even when this feels impossible.

Reviewing the novel, South African academic Ronit Frenkel has shown that Bitter Fruit raised through fiction the questions South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission tried to answer for the whole country after apartheid. Nelson Mandela was said to be a fan and Dangor went on to head the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

2. Then We Came to the End (Joshua Ferris, 2007)

In Joseph Heller’s anti-war classic Catch-22, the pilots joke while one by one they get shot down. The combination of bleak humour with a serious message played out numerous times throughout the 20th century. Franz Kafka had already used the same logic in The Trial, where Josef K is executed for an offence he never understands. Ferris’s novel is an heir to both of these. It is set in the late 1990s among a group of advertising executives as they lose their jobs. But although it was written immediately before the financial crisis of 2007-08, it can’t help but feel like a tragicomic social critique of it.

As the characters are laid off, their dreams shrivel up and their solidarity collapses. Researcher Alison Russell describes the tension between the office workers’ desire for security being in conflict with their desire for individual achievement in Then We Came to the End. It brings to mind Pastor Niemöller’s poignant words about standing up for others, or being left with no one to defend you. It comes across as a stark warning of what happens when corporate culture is left unchecked.

The story of Martin Niemöller.

3. Elena Knows (Claudia Piñeiro, 2007)

Argentinian author Claudia Piñeiro’s fifth novel to appear in English is narrated by Elena, a 63-year-old woman with Parkinson’s disease. She measures out her day through doses of medication, between which, she knows, she will barely be able to move. And yet this is not the most interesting things about Elena Knows. Her daughter Rita has died, apparently killing herself. When no one is willing to investigate, she calls for assistance on Isabel – a woman whom she and Rita had earlier dissuaded from having an abortion.

What ensues is a subtle and skilful exploration of how far women have the right to control their own bodies. This has been of particular importance in Argentina, where Piñeiro was at the forefront of the campaign to legalise abortion as recently as 2020. Its readership was huge by South American standards – Piñeiro is the third most widely translated Argentinian writer ever – and its effect has been dramatic.

4. Girl, Woman, Other (Bernadine Evaristo, 2019)

There are so many good things about this book it’s hard to know where to begin. Some readers would have been familiar with the struggles of African-American women through the work of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Black British women writers, rightly or wrongly, had not received as much attention. Until now.

The wide varieties of speech used by Evaristo’s women from many different backgrounds makes Girl, Woman, Other a joy to read. Along the way it debunks a number of mistakes about ancestry and race. And the way it handles the often-fraught politics of trans rights is both sensitive and accessible, cutting through to a far more mainstream audience than would normally consider this still-emerging issue.

5. Broken Ghost (Niall Griffiths, 2019)

This is Brexit fiction, or BrexLit. The rapidly changing political landscape of the past ten years has been just too tempting for authors to ignore, but Brexit novels are often tame and twee. Invariably they portray educated cosmopolitan types thrown into disarray. That is, BrexLit often reinforces the social divisions it should be the job of the writer to break down.

Griffiths does something different. His cast of characters – a “slut”, a “junkie” and a “thug” – are worlds away from the middle-class lives of most Brexit novels. When he takes readers to a hippie commune up a Welsh mountain to see what happens to them, they might end up understanding the world from somebody else’s perspective. In healing the divisions in Britain post-Brexit, the importance of this book can hardly be overstated. This is why in the desert of Brexit fiction, Broken Ghost is a novel oasis.The Conversation

Hywel Dix, Associate Professor in English, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: How the sports world is still stacked against top women

Dr Keith Parry writes for The Conversation about the disparity in pay and opportunities between male and female sport…

How the sports world is still stacked against top women

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) recently awarded full-time professional contracts to 12 women players. However, the value of the contracts has not been revealed and the 12 contracts are not enough to make up a full rugby union team, let alone a squad.

These contracts are still unusual and top sportswomen continue to face more funding issues than men at the same level. Contracts offered to top women athletes are often short term, covering the weeks of a sporting competition, or part-time, and, until recently, lacking maternity leave. Women’s teams frequently face poor pitches, lower wages/prize money, and inferior conditions compared to men.

Sport has been (and largely still is) governed by male, hypermasculine former athletes. One theory argues that these managers of sport make decisions that benefit themselves and (white, heterosexual, middle/upper-class) males. As a result, women’s sport has, at many times, been misunderstood and treated poorly.

History of discrimination

Women’s sport is getting more backing, but this comes against a long history of discrimination. Last year’s Women’s FA Cup Final took place 100 years after the Football Association banned women’s football in Football League grounds. This ban fed into historic hostility towards women playing sport.

That has not gone away completely. The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) stoked controversy with its views shortly after women’s boxing was accepted as an Olympic sport. AIBA suggested that women boxers should wear skirts when they competed to help them stand out from the men’s competitions.

While 22-year-old Ema Klinec from Slovenia, the current World Champion, is one to watch for the women’s ski jumping at the Winter Olympics this year, women were excluded from this sport for years. As recently as 2008, the International Olympic Committee cited the “technical merit” of women’s ski jumping as justification for its exclusion. Another reason was also the misguided belief by the governing body that ski jumping would damage women’s reproductive health. Following international pressure and unsuccessful court cases, it was finally accepted in 2011 and appeared for the first time at Sochi 2014.

This type of view has heavily influenced the way women’s sport is treated and its funding and resourcing.

Equal pay

Just over 50 years ago, Billie Jean King and eight other professional tennis players launched their own tennis tour to ensure that they were paid and treated on a par with men’s tennis players. Yet it was not until 2006 that the last Grand Slam tennis tournament, Wimbledon, agreed to pay equal prize money to men and women. The men’s World Number 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic argued in 2016 that men should earn more than women players.

Even when women’s teams have successes, they are frequently paid significantly less than men. The US Women’s national soccer team filed a wage discrimination act (and later a gender discrimination lawsuit) against the governing body of their sport. Despite winning World Cups and generating more income than the men’s team, they were paid a quarter of what the men’s team earned prior to their legal action.

There are signs that change is coming. The Welsh national football association has recently pledged to introduce equal pay for its men’s and women’s teams by 2026. They have joined a growing number of national associations to have equal pay agreements for their men’s and women’s teams.

In cricket, The Hundred was the first professional tournament that put women’s and men’s teams on an equal footing, with women’s matches played on the same grounds as the men’s. Attendances for the women’s matches was higher than for previous tournaments.

Increased attendance show that when women’s sport is marketed suitably, spectators see greater value in it and are more likely to attend.

At the Winter Olympics, the inclusion of sports such as mixed team ski jumping and women’s monobob mean that there are not only more events for women but also greater opportunities for sponsorship. At the 2020 Tokyo Games, sponsorship of women athletes grew. Sponsors increasingly see value in backing women athletes.

The FA and Professional Footballers’ Association have finally agreed to include maternity and long-term sickness cover in the contract of women footballers. At the same time, the Women’s World Cup and European Championship are likely to be recognised as
two of the protected sports events made available to free-to-air broadcasters.

Progress has been made in women’s sport but until the attitudes of those running sport change, top sportswomen will continue to face more obstacles than men.The Conversation

Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Event Management, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article – what Djokovic row means for unvaccinated elite athletes

Dr Keith Parry answers some of the most pressing questions about what tennis star Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia means for unvaccinated athletes in this article for The Conversation

‘We’re entering unprecedented territory’: sports expert Q&A on what Djokovic row means for unvaccinated elite athletes

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University

Tennis star Novak Djokovic is out of the Australian Open after the country’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, cancelled his visa “on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”. This follows an earlier quashing of the original decision by Border Force officials to cancel the Serbian player’s visa when he arrived in Australia because he didn’t have a COVID vaccination. Djokovic’s lawyers headed to court to seek an injunction against his deportation, which has now been dismissed.

Djokovic was seeking a tenth title at the event, as well as the world record for men’s Grand Slam wins. At the age of 34, it this makes it harder for him to now be able to fulfil his potential on the court before he retires.

At a time when multiple countries have been introducing restrictions on unvaccinated people, it raises questions about whether other sports stars will run into similar issues. We asked sports management expert Keith Parry about what the visa struggle might mean for sports stars and teams around the world.

Will Djokovic’s visa saga have implications for other sports in Australia?

Yes it will. Now they’ve set the precedent, I think we could see other players fall foul of this system when entering Australia. Clearly the federal government do not want unvaccinated players coming into Australia so it will deter some (unless they agree to isolate for two weeks).

Are significant numbers of sports stars unvaccinated?

In the US the public know if players are unvaccinated because of regulations there. For example the National Basketball Association has released a list of unvaccinated players. There’s no requirement to name players in the UK, but there’s been coverage about Premier League footballers not being vaccinated.

What are other teams likely to do to avoid trouble?

Liverpool FC manager Jürgen Klopp has said that he won’t sign an unvaccinated player. So there’s an implication for players’ livelihoods. Players who are unvaccinated may have limited choice not just in terms of where they can go and travel, but also in terms of the clubs that are prepared to sign them. So we’re entering unprecedented territory now. Other managers may follow Klopp’s lead.

Some managers will see the Djokovic decision as further evidence of the challenge that unvaccinated players pose to clubs. Another challenge for sport managers may be sponsors and partners, who may exert influence on athletes or teams if they have strong views on vaccinations. We see many sponsors end relationships with teams or players if they feel it is bad for their image.

Teams and organisations will also now think carefully about where they play or host matches. Teams will pay even closer attention to the regulations in countries and ensure that they have sufficient time to meet the requirements for isolation or bubbles. Countries that have stricter rules may look less appealing in the future.

Will sports stars worry about their statements on vaccines making a difference to them playing?

Players are very affluent. They’re young and feel indestructible. But they may think twice now about what they say on social media about vaccines. It will be interesting to see how athletes who refuse to be vaccinated are viewed. Will it tarnish Djokovic’s image or, as is often the case, will he be forgiven and the episode written out of his story?

Which countries with upcoming tournaments could be an issue in future?

In Europe, Italy and Germany have vaccine mandates and so tournaments there, or European club competition matches in these countries, may present challenges. France just relaxed its travel rules but unvaccinated players are still required to isolate for ten days. This may be an issue for the Six Nations rugby tournament this spring.

Different state rules around the US may be a challenge for athletes. Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, for instance, cannot play in New York because of its regulations, but he can play in the team’s away matches in most other states.

Is this a sign that sports stars can’t always get around the rules?

In the past, organisations like international football association FIFA and the International Olympic Committee have operated outside of borders and outside of the rules. Often no one holds them accountable. Clearly these celebrities do expect to have preferential treatment. So this visa wrangle may be a bit of a shock.

Ordinary people have to go through immigration, fill in forms ourselves and follow the rules. But when you’re idolised by millions around the world, it’s very difficult to think that the rules apply to you. Sports heroes have crossed over into the realm of celebrity but there’s a need for athletes to uphold society’s values.The Conversation

Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Event Management, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Women’s sport is on the way up – but more needs to be done to secure its future

Dr Keith Parry and Dr Rafaelle Nicholson co-author this article for The Conversation about the challenges facing women’s sport… 

Women’s sport is on the way up – but more needs to be done to secure its future

Chelsea Women’s Sam Kerr takes a shot at goal during an FA Women’s Superleague match against Arsenal Women.
Andrew Orchard sports photography/Alamy

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University; Beth Clarkson, University of Portsmouth, and Rafaelle Nicholson, Bournemouth University

The delayed 2020/21 Women’s FA Cup final is finally taking place. Two London rivals, Arsenal and Chelsea, and some of the best players in the world make this a sporting event worthy of a grand stage such as Wembley Stadium. The timing of the final, December 5, is significant and ironic, as on December 5 1921 the Football Association banned women’s football.

The ban was because sports were believed to be unsuitable for females. Fifty years on from the end of this ban, women’s football is now where it belongs, at the “home of football”.

This is just one of many significant developments in women’s sport that have happened recently.

In summer 2021, English cricket’s new Hundred tournament attracted the highest attendance for a women’s cricket event ever, with a total attendance at the games of 267,000. The opening game of the American women’s soccer Challenge Cup, meanwhile, became the most-watched match in league history with 572,000 viewers, a 201% increase on the previous record. And in England, a “landmark £7m deal” was struck with broadcasters to show Women’s Super League football matches on free-to-air and subscription services.

It’s been claimed that interest in women’s sport is thriving. However, there are concerns regarding the future of women’s sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More needs to be done to assure its future.

The need for caution

We research key governance aspects of women’s sport and, while we agree there has been much improvement, our research also suggests that areas of inequality remain and more needs to be done by governing bodies, organisations and policymakers. While women’s sport is currently popular, changes are needed for its success to be sustained.

For instance, when men’s and women’s sports are governed by the same organisation, the decisions made typically prioritise men’s sport. Recent accusations of institutional racism highlight the issues when sports are run by hypermasculine, failed male athletes – they make decisions that benefit themselves and those that resemble them (men).

This is an issue that has worsened over time. Historically, many women’s sports were governed separately and run wholly or mainly by women – for example, the Women’s Football Association was in charge of English women’s football until the Football Association took over in 1992, and the Women’s Cricket Association ran women’s cricket until 1998 when the England and Wales Cricket Board gained control. But since the 1990s, women’s sport has typically been run by men with little knowledge of women’s sport, who tend to prioritise what they know.

This privileging of men’s sport was particularly the case at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exception to this was in North America where women’s football has its own governing body, and where during the pandemic, women’s football was prioritised – a new tournament introduced and new commercial partners found. In other countries, women’s sport was simply cancelled.

Another area of concern is that sports media coverage, which is now the way most people access sport, continues to be dominated by men’s sports. This pattern is not helped when those who talk and write about sport remain predominantly men. Our research shows that when women have greater involvement in sports journalism there’s greater coverage of women’s sport. The challenge is breaking into the “boys’ club” of sports journalism.

We also found that women’s sport is both under-valued and under-sold. Women’s sport often receives less investment in marketing and promotion. As a result, spectators see it as less exciting and less spectacular than men’s sport.

This research also found that women’s games are often scheduled in the middle of the workday or early on weekdays, rather than primetime slots on weekday evenings or weekend afternoons. This scheduling creates problems because spectators are often not able to attend when games are during work hours or when children’s sport is taking place.

Women’s sport is often only accessible on pay-TV, limiting the potential audience. Recent research shows that when matches are moved onto free-to-air channels, the sky is the limit. A study for the Women’s Sport Trust recently showed that the broadcast audience of women’s sport in the UK has grown from 46.8 million in 2019 to 51.1 million in 2021. Much of this increase comes from new coverage of women’s cricket and women’s football, and gender-parity in Olympic coverage.

A roadmap for sustained success

So, while the future of women’s sport looks bright, inequalities remain. We propose a five-point “roadmap” detailing the changes that are needed for the success of women’s sport to be sustained:

• Ensure that the governance of women’s sport has women in visible leadership positions, to prioritise it and ensure that any decisions support the interests of women’s sport. Otherwise, if men run both men’s and women’s sport they will continue to prioritise the male version.

• The sports media workforce needs greater diversity. Although we focus on gender here, sports media is dominated by white men.

• The marketing and presentation of women’s sport need to be on a par with men’s sport. While men’s sport has greater investment in these areas it will continue to be seen as superior to women’s sport. There needs to be unity in how sports clubs communicate with fans about their men’s and women’s teams.

• Women’s sport needs consistent prime time scheduling (as seen with women’s football in England this season), rather than during the day when the majority of fans are at work and cannot attend.

• Coverage of women’s sport needs to be on free-to-air television – if it is not, awareness of it will drop.

If these points can be addressed, we believe that women’s sport will continue to thrive, not just now, but well into the future.The Conversation

Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Event Management, Bournemouth University; Beth Clarkson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management, University of Portsmouth, and Rafaelle Nicholson, , Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: A new species of early human? Why we should be cautious about new fossil footprint findings

Writing for The Conversation, Professor Matthew Bennett and Dr Sally Reynolds discuss the potential discovery of an early human species…

A new species of early human? Why we should be cautious about new fossil footprint findings

Dawid A. Iurino for THOR, Author provided

Matthew Robert Bennett, Bournemouth University and Sally Christine Reynolds, Bournemouth University

A collection of fossil footprints at Laetoli in Northern Tanzania, preserved in volcanic ash and dated to 3.66 million years ago, are still yielding surprises almost 45 years after their discovery.

Based on a re-analysis of fossil footprints from one of Laetoli’s sites, the authors of a new study published in the journal Nature say they’ve discovered evidence of a previously unknown early human species at this spot. However, there are reasons to be cautious about this conclusion.

Before we delve into these new findings, let’s orientate ourselves. Laetoli, an area well-known for paleontological excavations, has a number of distinct sites, each denoted by letters of the alphabet. British paleoanthropolgist Mary Leakey and her colleagues first reported fossil footprints in 1978 at Site G, the main track site at Laetoli.

In 2016, a team led by Fidelis Masao, an archaeologist in Tanzania, uncovered additional tracks close to Site G, at Site S. The footprints from Sites G and S are usually assigned to the well-known ancestral human (hominin) species Australopithecus afarensis, of which the skeleton “Lucy” is the best-known example.

Less well-known is the fact that in 1976, two years before Leakey’s famous discovery, a set of five footprints were found at Site A. Importantly, all these sites occur on the same ash surface, so we know they date from the same time period.

But the five footprints from Site A were largely forgotten, eclipsed by Leakey’s later discovery. This was understandable because the footprints at Site A had poor morphological shape, or definition, and there were fewer of them (there are more than 30 individual footprints at Site G).

In 1987, American paleoanthropologist Russell Tuttle suggested that these footprints may have been made by a species of bear, or by a different hominin from those of Site G. He also cautioned that the diversity in the footprints’ form as compared to those at Site G might simply reflect the changing properties of the ash layer over which the hominin walked.

Seeking to find out who these footprints belonged to, a team of international researchers re-excavated the tracks from Site A in 2019. Their findings are the focus of the new paper in Nature.

The researchers used various methods including photography and 3D scanning to inspect the Site A footprints. They compared the width and length with footprints from black bears, chimpanzees and humans, as well as the tracks from Sites G and S. They also explored the bear hypothesis by examining video footage of modern black bears which, on rare occasions, walk upright.

The authors concluded that on balance, the footprints at Site A did not resemble bear tracks, and were different from the footprints at Sites G and S.

One particular feature they draw attention to is that the Site A trackway cross-steps, almost as if one was attempting to toe a line as part of sobriety test. Based on this and their other findings, the authors suggest that the tracks at Site A were made by a different hominin than those at sites G and S. They argue that two hominin species walked the Laetoli landscape 3.66 million years ago.

A footprint from Site A on the left and Site G on the right.
Image on left by Jeremy DeSilva and on right by Eli Burakian/Dartmouth.

The broader evolutionary context at this time suggests what the authors are proposing would be possible. There was more than one species of hominin on the African landscape during this period, and we’ve seen anatomical variation in the foot within some Australopithecus species. That said, it’s quite a significant leap to identify a second species based on a handful of poorly defined tracks.

Variation in trackways is the key issue here. Imagine going for a walk down a beach or sandy path. The footprints you make will vary from one step to the next. This reflects natural variability in human gait, as well as subtle differences in the characteristics of the ground you’re walking on.

In a recent paper we suggested that you need a minimum of between ten and 20 footprints before you can confidently quantify the variability in just one dimension, such as footprint length, let alone several. Others have suggested that you may need over 250 tracks to adequately quantify the three-dimensional form of a footprint.

Footfall and the resulting footprints are more variable than once thought and some have argued that even individuals of the same species may have highly unique gaits.

In this context it is rather surprising that the authors of this paper make inferences not just about one individual, but a whole species.

One way to strengthen their conclusions would be to use modern “whole foot” methods to statistically compare the best footprint at Site A with those at Sites S and G. This could be an approach for future research.

Certainly more evidence is needed to determine whether these footprints justify this excitement, and do indeed belong to another early human species.The Conversation

Matthew Robert Bennett, Professor of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Bournemouth University and Sally Christine Reynolds, Principal Academic in Hominin Palaeoecology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Clean eaters tend to have difficulty managing their emotions

What do you do when you feel anxious about an upcoming interview or angry about a friend’s unfair comment on your behaviour? You might take a few deep breaths and try to view the situation from a different perspective: it’s just an interview, not a matter of life and death. And, on calmer reflection, your friend may be right – you did react a bit strongly.

Alternatively, you may bury your feelings in a tub of ice cream. The latter is called emotional eating and some people use it to regulate their emotions.

But not everyone turns to unhealthy eating to regulate unpleasant emotions. Our latest research, published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, suggests that some people actually eat healthily to do so. You might wonder what’s wrong with drinking a GM-free raw vegetable smoothie. Surely it can’t harm you? And for most people, it is harmless. But eating healthy food can become an unhealthy obsession called orthorexia nervosa.

Pathological obsession

Orthorexia nervosa is a term coined by Steven Bratman in 1997, from the Ancient Greek “ortho” meaning right and “orexia” meaning appetite, to describe a fixation on healthy eating. As such, orthorexia nervosa has also been referred to as “clean eating”, although the term orthorexia nervosa suggests a pathological obsession, rather than yet another fad diet.

Because healthy eating and healthy lifestyles are generally considered desirable, it can be difficult to spot when healthy eating becomes an unhealthy obsession. But an obsession with healthy eating can be hard for your physical and mental health as well your relationships. It can cause arguments with family or friends over food choices and lead to social isolation.

While orthorexia nervosa is not yet a recognised diagnosis, it shares some similarities with other eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa. Research shows that people with eating disorders have trouble recognising and regulating their emotions, but this had never been shown in people with orthorexic tendencies, so this was the focus of our study.

Out of control

We recruited 196 people with an interest in healthy eating through Facebook (including 167 women in the UK with an average age of 28). We found that difficulties identifying and regulating emotions were associated with orthorexic tendencies. In particular, people with orthorexic tendencies were found to feel out of control when upset and to have difficulty knowing how to regulate their emotions. The participants in our study with orthorexic tendencies also had trouble identifying and accepting their emotional reactions.

People with orthorexic tendencies often struggled to regulate their emotions.
GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Similar to a recently published study that looked at bloggers’ experiences of orthorexia nervosa, our findings suggest that people with orthorexic tendencies may use restrictive dietary rules around healthy eating to feel perfect and in control. They also use it to cope with difficult feelings, potentially because they feel they don’t have other ways to make themselves feel better.

While not everyone who eats healthily will have orthorexic tendencies, people who use obsessive and restrictive dietary rules to regulate unpleasant feelings may be at risk of developing orthorexia nervosa.

With around half of people on Instagram using it to share food experiences, the increased prevalence of fad diets, mixed information around what we should and should not eat, health guidelines, and even climate change, more and more people may decide to eat more healthily and control what they are eating. While this may all be for a good cause, we recommend people to be conscious of when their healthy obsession may become unhealthy.The Conversation

Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Senior Lecturer, Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Is Brexit an opportunity to revive the EU-India trade deal?

Sangeeta Khorana, Bournemouth University

The European Union and India have been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) since 2007. Despite growing trade between the EU and India, talks stalled in 2013 after 16 rounds, only resuming in 2018. There has been talk in Brussels that Brexit might help remove some of the hurdles to an agreement. But this is unlikely to be the case.

If anything, the UK is better positioned to secure a trade deal with India than the EU, although this will not be straightforward. The UK’s desire to curb immigration is likely to lead to tough negotiations. But future UK-India FTA talks may well be an opportunity to negotiate a manageable set of strategic priorities.

The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for around 13% of India’s total trade in goods in 2017. India contributes around 2.3% of total EU trade and is the EU’s ninth biggest trade partner. Trade in goods between the EU and India grew by three times over 2002-18, from €28 billion to €91 billion.

Services are also an important component of EU-India trade. Eurostat data shows that Indian services exports to the EU were €16.6 billion in 2018, while imports were €17.1 billion. The sector has also attracted foreign direct investment from the EU, including Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Belgium, as well as the UK.

Sticking points

Talks between the EU and India broke down in 2013, after it became clear that reaching an agreement on the demands for tariff reductions and market access, as well as the inclusion of social, environmental and human rights clauses would be impossible. Discussions resumed in 2018, which led to the declaration of an EU-India strategic partnership. While this agreement helped to resume the talks, it mainly reaffirmed current ties rather than tackling any of the issues that caused the trade agreement discussions to stall initially.

From the EU’s perspective, the main sticking points were drug patents, tariffs for second-hand cars, agriculture, services, rules of origin and an unacceptable list of sensitive items. The EU is adamant about negotiating a stronger intellectual property regime and a sustainable development chapter with social and environmental clauses, which India is unwilling to include in the trade agreement.

Plus, the EU wants detailed provisions for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) after India cancelled 20 bilateral investment protection treaties with individual EU countries in 2016. The ISDS demand is not acceptable to India and current regulations require foreign investors to resolve their problems in Indian courts for a period of five years before pursuing a claim under international law.

India views the proposed trade deal as an opportunity to address issues it has with the way the two sides trade in services. In particular, India wants more visas to be granted to its skilled workers in the services industry. This has been a longstanding demand.

After Brexit, this demand is unlikely to fade. But, at a time when all EU member states are grappling with a “migration crisis” any loosening of visa rules is highly unlikely. India has also been demanding status as a “data-secure nation”, which will reduce compliance costs for Indian software providers. But, given EU concerns over regulatory norms and data-privacy standards it is unlikely that the EU will agree to this demand.

Opportunity for a UK trade deal?

The UK is among India’s main trading partners from the EU bloc. Trade totalled €13.6 billion in 2018, accounting for 17% of India’s overall trade with the EU. Moreover, trade between India and the UK increased at an average rate of 8.8% a year between 2002 and 2018.

Machinery and transport equipment constitute 40% of India’s exports, and accounts for nearly 20% of total UK’s trade with India. The UK’s exports of alcoholic beverages also registered a significant increase, from €14m to €162m from 2002-18.

Eurostat

The lack of progress in EU-India trade talks might just be an opportunity for the UK to launch its own negotiations for a trade deal with India. From an economic perspective, India is an attractive trade partner. It is projected to be the world’s fastest growing economy, with an annual GDP growth rate of around 6.5%. In the UK, GDP is predicted to grow by a mere 1.5% in 2019. India is also home to almost one-fifth of the world’s population. It could be a strategic partner for the UK in Asia, presenting an opportunity to increase Britain’s soft power in the region.

From India’s perspective, a trade deal with the UK could be an opportunity to increase pressure on other Asian countries, especially China, to liberalise their trade. This will also help India’s geopolitical considerations in the region given the history of tense diplomatic relations with Pakistan. And it could help strengthen India’s Commonwealth ties.

But other issues remain. The UK and India would still have to agree on reducing tariffs on their respective imports. Visa numbers and intellectual property would also be issues for the UK, as they were with the EU, and could yet prove contentious. So free trade talks between the UK and India could still be long and drawn out.

Recent political developments, however – including Brexit, eurozone uncertainty, sluggish global growth rates and trade tensions from the Trump administration’s pursuit of a protectionist agenda – all have serious implications for future trade talks. These could well nudge the partners to review their red lines and return to the negotiating table.The Conversation

Sangeeta Khorana, Professor of Economics, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How culture influences children’s development

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

By Dr Ching-Yu HuangBournemouth University.

From educational toys to governmental guidelines and detailed nursery progress reports, there are lots of resources available to help parents track and facilitate their children’s development. But while there are tricks we can use to teach children to talk, count, draw or respect others, a surprisingly big part of how they develop is determined by the culture they grow up in.

Child development is a dynamic, interactive process. Every child is unique in interacting with the world around them, and what they invoke and receive from others and the environment also shapes how they think and behave. Children growing up in different cultures receive specific inputs from their environment. For that reason, there’s a vast array of cultural differences in children’s beliefs and behaviour.

Language is one of the many ways through which culture affects development. We know from research on adultsthat languages forge how people think and reason. Moreover, the content and focus of what people talk about in their conversations also vary across cultures. As early as infancy, mothers from different cultures talk to their babies differently. German mothers tend to focus on their infants’ needs, wishes or them as a person. Mothers of the African tribal group Nso, on the other hand, focus more on social context. This can include the child’s interactions with other people and the rules surrounding it.

Masai children. Syndromeda/Shutterock

This early exposure affects the way children attend to themselves or to their relationship with others – forming their self image and identity. For example, in Western European and North American countries, children tend to describe themselves around their unique characteristics – such as “I am smart” or “I am good at drawing”. In Asian, African, Southern European and South American countries, however, children describe themselves more often around their relationship with others and social roles. Examples of this include “I am my parents’ child” or “I am a good student”.

Because children in different cultures differ in how they think about themselves and relate to others, they also memorise events differently. For example, when preschoolers were asked to describe a recent special personal experience, European-American children provided more detailed descriptions, recalled more specific events and stressed their preferences, feelings and opinions about it more than Chinese and Korean children. The Asian children instead focused more on the people they had met and how they related to themselves.

Cultural effects of parenting

Parents in different cultures also play an important role in moulding children’s behaviour and thinking patterns. Typically, parents are the ones who prepare the children to interact with wider society. Children’s interaction with their parents often acts as the archetype of how to behave around others – learning a variety of socio-cultural rules, expectations and taboos. For example, young children typically develop a conversational style resembling their parents’ – and that often depends on culture.

European-American children frequently provide long, elaborative, self-focused narratives emphasising personal preferences and autonomy. Their interaction style also tends to be reciprocal, taking turns in talking. In contrast, Korean and Chinese children’s accounts are usually brief, relation-oriented, and show a great concern with authority. They often take a more passive role in the conversations. The same cultural variations in interaction are also evident when children talk with an independent interviewer.

Children in the Western world question their parents’ authority more. Gargonia/Shutterstock

Cultural differences in interactions between adults and children also influence how a child behaves socially. For instance, in Chinese culture, where parents assume much responsibility and authority over children, parents interact with children in a more authoritative manner and demand obedience from their children. Children growing up in such environments are more likely to comply with their parents’ requests, even when they are reluctant to do so.

By contrast, Chinese immigrant children growing up in England behave more similarly to English children, who are less likely to follow parental demands if unwilling.

From class to court

As the world is getting increasingly globalised, knowledge regarding cultural differences in children’s thinking, memory and how they interact with adults has important practical implications in many areas where you have to understand a child’s psychology. For instance, teachers may need to assess children who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Knowing how children coming from a different culture think and talk differently can help the teacher better interview them as part of an oral academic test, for example.

Another important area is forensic investigations. Being aware that Chinese children tend to recall details regarding other people and be brief in their initial response to questions may enable the investigator to allow more time for narrative practice to prepare the child to answer open-ended questions and prompt them with follow up questions.

Also, knowing that Chinese children may be more sensitive and compliant to authority figures – and more obedient to a perpetrator within the family – an interviewer may need to spend more time in building rapport to help the child relax and reduce their perceived authority. They should also be prepared to be patient with reluctance in disclosing abuse within families.

While children are unique and develop at their own pace, the cultural influence on their development is clearly considerable. It may even affect how quickly children reach different developmental milestones, but research on this complicated subject is still inconclusive. Importantly, knowledge about cultural differences can also help us pin down what all children have in common: an insatiable curiosity about the world and a love for the people around them.


Dr Ching-Yu Huang, Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Anthill Podcast 27: Confidence

Shutterstock

By Annabel Bligh, The Conversation; Gemma Ware, The Conversation, and Holly Squire, The Conversation.

Includes interview with BU’s Professor Keith Brown discussing confidence artists in financial scamming. [31:50 – 36:38]

This episode of The Anthill podcast digs into the concept of confidence. We start by finding out how scientists define confidence and how it works in the brain.

Producer Gemma Ware takes a confidence calibration test with the help of psychologist Eva Krockow at the University of Leicester, who also shares some of her research findings on whether expressing confidence about something is a good marker of being right about it. And neuroscientist Dan Bang from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, helps explain how a person’s brain computes their level of confidence about certain tasks – and why we need to be aware of the variety in people’s levels of confidence when making decisions as a group.

Then we take a look at how confidence can get us ahead in life – and in the workplace especially. Can you really fake it until you make it? Westminster University’s Chantal Gautier shares some of the findings from her book, The Psychology of Work, where she interviewed a number of industry leaders to discover what it is that makes organisations successful. Confidence is important. But that includes the confidence to admit your shortcomings and ask for help when you need it, she says.

With numerous studies suggesting that men show more confidence than women, we also examine the extent that this explains the gender pay gap. Are women just not leaning in enough?

Lean on in. Shutterstock

Recent research by Amanda Goodall at Cass Business School found that women are actually asking for pay rises at the same rate as men. They’re just not getting them. She helps us unpick the idea that you can fake it ‘til you make it and explains why leaders that are real experts in their field are better than those who aren’t.

Lastly, we turn to the dark side of confidence. The Conversation’s Holly Squire delves deep into the murky world of confidence tricksters, to find out what makes a con man (or woman) tick. Professional magician Gustav Kuhn at Goldsmiths University of London, details the deception involved in card trick scams. And Keith Brown from Bournemouth University explains the reality of financial scamming – and the terrible impact it can have on victims.


The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. The song “I Have Confidence” is sung by Julie Andrews from the musical The Sound of Music by Rogers and Hammerstein. Music in the confidence definition segment is Into the Clouds by Nicolai Heidlas Music via YouTube.
Music in the confidence trickster segment is Curtains are Always Drawn by Kai Engel, and Land of Magic by Frank Dorittke from the Free Music Archive.

Click here to listen to more episodes of The Anthill, on themes including Twins, Intuition, and Pain. And browse other podcasts from The Conversation here.

Thank you to City, University of London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios to record The Anthill.


Annabel Bligh, Business + Economy Editor, The Conversation; Gemma Ware, Society Editor, The Conversation, and Holly Squire, Commissioning Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How farms can help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people

File 20180716 44103 awoywt.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

A visiting farmer tends the animals. Future Roots, Author provided

By Dr Sarah Hambidge (Post-Doctoral Researcher), Bournemouth University.

A couple of years ago, I met Adam (not his real name) at a farm in Dorset. Adam was 14 and had been excluded from mainstream education due to behavioural difficulties and a disruptive home life. He had consequently become involved in regular underage drinking and antisocial behaviour. Adam was being exploited and groomed as a drug runner for a London drug gang infiltrating rural areas. He told me that he had been given a knife by gang members and encouraged to use it to protect himself if necessary against rival gangs or local drug dealers.

The farm where I met him is not a normal farm, but a social one, where the therapeutic use of farming practices and animal assisted therapy is used to provide health, social and educational care services for disadvantaged young people that have become disengaged with mainstream education. Stories such as Adam’s are growing increasingly familiar to staff at the farm he attended, who see other vulnerable young people referred to their service.

Learning new skills. Sarah Hambidge

Many of the young people living in rural Britain who are being exploited by these gangs are, like Adam, those who are disengaged with mainstream education and are at risk of becoming, or currently are, NEET (not in education, employment or training). There are 808,000 young people (aged 16-24) in the UK who are NEET.

Being NEET has a long-term impact on a young person’s life, leaving them vulnerable to substance misuse, offending behaviour, physical and mental health problems, academic underachievement and reduced employment. These young people are subsequently regarded as a concern to the police, health, education and social care professionals.

Yet current interventions are failing to reduce the number of young people becoming NEET. These interventions typically focus on providing the young person with vocational education, despite the fact that the most common vocational qualifications in the UK have very little or no relevance to the labour market.

Interventions that offer a restorative approach, with therapeutic support and a focus on learning, however, are acknowledged to be more successful.

Farm animal therapy. Sarah Hambridge

A green future

Earlier this year, the government launched a 25-year environment plan. The plan acknowledged the importance of connecting children and young people to nature through learning, as well as the benefits of a physical, hands-on experience as a pathway to good health and well-being. The government has pledged £10m to support local strategies which use the natural environment and has further committed to a national expansion of social farming by 2022. This will treble the number of available places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England.

On social farms, health, social or specialist educational care services for vulnerable people are delivered through structured programmes of farming-related activities. Social farming is established in numerous European countries. Norway currently operates 1,100 social farms, compared to 240 in the UK.

Taking a break on the farm. Sarah Hambidge

Young people participate in a variety of seasonal farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management. Social farming has been found to have a positive impact on physical and mental health along with the opportunity to develop transferable skills, personal development, social inclusion and rehabilitation.

Social farming

When I met Adam, I was in the midst of a research project evaluating whether a year-long farming intervention can prevent disengaged young people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds becoming NEET. Participants typically attend a four-hour session once a week at the farm.

Future roots, the farm I researched, employs a mix of teachers, youth and social workers and therapists. It offers a different model of learning for those struggling in mainstream education. My research demonstrated that the use of the natural environment as a mechanism for change was effective in reducing the risk of becoming NEET.

The young people learn to care for a variety of animals. Sarah Hambidge

The young people I followed displayed a significant reduction in self-reported mental health risks and behavioural regulation difficulties; improved social relationships and coping; improved life and work skills; and re-engagement with learning. All of the young people were in employment or training six months after their time at the social farm finished.

Indeed, the social farm was the only place where Adam said he felt safe. He was able to develop a sense of belonging and trust which enabled him to talk about the difficulties he was experiencing in his life. Without the social farm intervention, staff said that Adam would likely have proceeded to harm himself or others. The farmer refers to the changes seen in the young people as a “chrysalis butterfly effect”: the positive transformation seen in these young people as they turn their lives around to look to the future are truly inspiring.


Dr Sarah Hambidge, Postdoctoral Researcher, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

World Cup online betting is the highest it’s ever been

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The 2018 World Cup inspires new gamblers. Shutterstock

By Dr Raian Ali, Bournemouth University; Dr Emily Arden-Close, Bournemouth University; Dr John McAlaney, Bournemouth University, and Keith Phalp, Bournemouth University.

Sports betting is worth up to £625 billion per year, with 70% of that trade reckoned to come from football. During big sporting competitions, such as the World Cup, even more money is spent gambling than usual. Over the 2018 World Cup, bookmakers are estimated to make a profit of US$36.4 billion (£41.3 billion). And in the UK, the amount of money spent on gambling during the World Cup is expected to more than double from £1 billion in 2014 to £2.5 billion this year.

Sports gambling is being driven by the unlimited availability of online betting and the fact that no physical money is exchanged, making financial transactions seem less real. The vast amount of data that online gambling sites collect also enables them to personalise offers to individual gamblers. Instead, this data should be used to help people gamble responsibly by warning users in real-time that they are exhibiting problematic gambling behaviours.

For many people, gambling isn’t just a fun novelty every four years. About 430,000 citizens in the UK can be identified as problem gamblers. These individuals have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds online, which has impacted not only the gamblers but also their families.

High profile but infrequent betting events such as the Word Cup exacerbate the issues that problem gamblers face. Seeing others engage in betting, coupled with the advertisements from betting firms, leads problem gamblers to attempt to convince themselves that they do not have a problem. Environmental cues can also trigger the urge to gamble in those who have a gambling problem. So, the intensive advertising used by betting firms during the World Cup, along with media coverage of the World Cup in general, may further push problem gamblers towards making harmful decisions.

Watching your habit

Online gambling sites have an infinite memory for bets – when made, for how much, regarding what, and so on. This data is a rich source that websites use for tailoring offers and marketing material to fit a gambler’s potential interests. But this personalisation exploits cognitive biases in gamblers and encourages them to increase risk-taking and by extension, gambling.

There is only a fine line between the legitimate marketing and personalisation of content and offers on the one hand and exploitation and manipulation on the other. For example, the tracking of a gambler’s betting pattern means the gambler can be targeted with offers following heavy losses, encouraging them to chase losses even further.

But this same data could also be used to support reductions in problem gambling, either led by gamblers themselves or with the support of a counsellor or software. Such transparency could enhance the image of the gambling industry and make responsible gambling a shared responsibility between gamblers and bookmakers.

A chance for change

In our EROGamb project, funded by GambleAware and Bournemouth University, we advocate a policy change where gambling sites provide gambling behavioural data to gamblers and their surrogates in real-time.

This data would provide an unprecedented opportunity to tackle problem gambling. For example, the data could lead to the app informing gamblers that they are exhibiting problematic gambling patterns. The real-time collection of information such as “the gambler has reached the monthly spending limit” could trigger a message visualising their past betting behaviour and a reminder of a commitment already made.




Read more:
Fixed-odds betting terminal cap must be just the start of gambling regulation


In our studies, digital addicts, including online gambling addicts, have indicated that having access to such data would act as a wake-up call, raising awareness. Digital media users, in general, like to be in control of their usage through labels and awareness tools.

Similar facilities have started to exist in mainstream digital media. For example, on Google, it is now possible to download your data and on Facebook to download your profile data history of interaction, but not currently as real-time streaming of data as actions happen.

How to retrieve and use gambling-related data for being more in-control of gambling behaviour.
The EROGamb Project

Challenges

We understand the barriers to implementing this vision. Gambling operators may not have such data readily available and may even rely on third parties to offer certain games. Some also fear that gamblers might share the data with competitor gambling sites, giving away information about marketing practices. But the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) right to data portability holds that gamblers shall not be prevented from accessing and sharing their data.

Given the advantages, and also the increased demand for transparency, this would eventually become the recommended practice for demonstrating advanced corporate social responsibility and inspiring the trust of the public and clients in the gambling industry. We are preparing a charter for the gambling industry towards a commitment for that.

The rise of online gambling, combined with the record amount of money being spent on gambling at this year’s World Cup makes this the perfect time to discuss what we can do to prevent and combat gambling addiction. Simply by using data to help people be better aware of their gambling habits, rather than hooking them back into their next bet, gambling sites could make a massive difference.


More evidence-based articles related to the World Cup:

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why this football tournament should be called the men’s World Cup

By Dr Jayne Caudwell, Bournemouth University

The globalisation of football means it can now be found in most parts of the world. It is celebrated as the national sport in many countries. But, we forget that “football” actually means “men’s football”. It’s the same with other popular sports – our habit is to refer to basketball and women’s basketball, cricket and women’s cricket, ice hockey and women’s ice hockey. This naming places men’s football as the dominant universal and natural norm, while women’s football becomes the “other” version.

If we want a level football playing field, then “football” should be redefined by changing our reference to tournaments, championships and leagues to “men’s football” if that is what is being played. It’s time we started referring to the men’s football World Cup, just as we refer to the women’s football World Cup.

Women and girls have long been treated as second-class citizens in the many worlds of football, including playing, officiating, governing and spectating. And indeed, in the build up to the 2018 men’s World Cup, there was much discussion about racism and homophobia – but practically none about football, gender, sexism and misogyny.

The histories of the development of football in most countries around the world show that women and girls have been denied access to pitches, equipment, coaches, training, stadiums and financial support. These material opportunities are important because they enable and validate participation – and full football citizenship.

Finland takes on Austria in a qualifier for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. EPA

Media sport pages cover men’s sport. During the football season, the coverage is dominated by stories of men’s football. Women footballers seem to not exist. The sport press obliterates them.

But women and girls are playing, officiating, spectating and commentating on the game in ever increasing numbers around the world. The England women’s team outperforms the men’s team on the European and world stage. They are currently ranked ten places higher, in second position. And yet, the gender pay gap in football is atrocious.

Ignoring sexism

While Russia, as host of the men’s football World Cup 2018, has been criticised for its poor record in dealing with homophobic and racist abuse, nothing has been said about gender-based abuse or discrimination.

Instead, ahead of the men’s World Cup, Russian MPs have been arguing over whether Russian women should or should not have sex with visiting (presumably male) football fans. The UK Foreign Office released advice on race and LGBT concerns, but there’s nothing on how sexist chanting can make men’s football a hostile environment for women. You only need to look at the sexism experienced by doctor Eva Carneiro and assistant referee Helen Byrne in the men’s premier league to see how this plays out.

What’s more, many of the concerns about homophobia and racism at the men’s World Cup stem from wider cultural issues in Russia. The same problems are evident with sexism and misogyny, yet they are curiously absent from the discussion when it comes to football. Cultural problems that affect men extend into the sporting arena, but not those that affect women.

In 2017, the Russian parliament passed legislation loosening laws on domestic violence. Russian women who support the #MeToo movement have come up against draconian assembly laws that say only one person is permitted to make a public protest.

There are no campaigns in international men’s football that aim to stop sexism, or call for anti-sexism and an end to gender-based violence.

Meanwhile, the women and girls who have fought hard to play football often encounter negative responses from the general public and from the media. Sport sociologists have found that sportswomen are trivialised, sexualised and experience symbolic annihilation – they simply don’t exist in images of the sport. A recent poster depicting Iranian fans is a prime example. Not a single female face features.

Women’s and girls’ sporting achievements are reduced as a result of ridicule. Their bodies are considered sexual objects rather than for playing sport. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s comment that women should play in tighter shorts to attract more fans to the game is a classic example of this. More recently, feminist author Laura Bates challenged FIFA for describing player Alex Morgan as “easy on the eye and good looks to match” as well as the FA for tweeting about “lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters” after playing in the women’s World Cup.

It’s easy to imagine that this men’s World Cup in Russia will continue to disregard gender, sexism and misogyny. And yet, sport, specifically football, has potential to incite change, and reform.

Renaming to men’s football is an easy and simple step in the direction towards equality. We may as well start with the men’s World Cup 2018.


Jayne Caudwell, Associate Professor Leisure Cultures, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The secret information hidden in your hair

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Shutterstock

 

By Dr Richard Paul, Bournemouth University.

Your hair can say a lot about you. It doesn’t just give people clues about your personality or your taste in music. It can also record evidence of how much you drink, whether you smoke or take drugs, and perhaps even how stressed you are. My colleagues and I research how hair can be used to provide more accurate testing for these attributes. And a recent court case shows how far the technology has come.

In 2008, a mother who had been struggling with alcohol abuse was asked by a UK court judging a child custody case to abstain from drinking for one year. To assess whether she managed to do this, scientists used a hair analysis that can detect long-term drug or alcohol abuse (or abstinence) over a period of many months, from just one test.

This case turned out to be a landmark moment for toxicological hair analysis. The labs analysing the mother’s hair suggested that she may have been drinking during the time she was supposed to be abstinent. The case ended up in the High Court, where the scientific principles underlying hair testing and, crucially, the way the results are reported were thoroughly debated. The judge was critical of the interpretation of the hair analysis data and disagreed with the scientists, ruling that there was no evidence to support drinking during the defined time-period.

Fast forward to 2017 and hair analysis featured in the High Court again. Yet this time the reliability of hair testing was confirmed. A lot changed in the intervening years between these cases. Technology advanced but, importantly, so did our understanding of what hair analysis data actually means.

The traditional samples for drug and alcohol testing are blood and urine. These provide evidence for cases where we require an indication of exposure to drugs and alcohol in a very recent time frame. These samples have what is referred to as a “window of detection”. This is a timeframe over which that sample can demonstrate exposure to drugs or alcohol. The window of detection for blood is often measured in hours, and urine can show evidence over a few days, possibly a few weeks.

By contrast, hair can show a retrospective history of your drug or alcohol consumption (or abstinence) over many months. This level of information makes hair testing invaluable in a wide variety of legal scenarios. If you need to screen potential employees for a safety-critical role, you can use a hair test to check they are not regular drug users. What if you’re concerned your drink was spiked at a party, but too much time has passed for any drug to still be found in your blood or urine? The drugs can remain trapped in your hair, which gives you a longer window of detection and allows scientists to find traces of the drug long after the actual crime event.

Ready for my close up. Shutterstock

My research group is investigating factors that affect the hair concentration of certain chemicals produced when the body ​processes alcohol (metabolites). This sort of work is important to give confidence to the results of hair testing when presented in court. We need the utmost confidence in the data, when a court judgment may have life-changing consequences.

We recently showed that hair sprays and waxes can greatly increase the level of alcohol metabolites found in hair, giving a false positive result in an alcohol test. In one of our experiments, a volunteer who was strictly teetotal tested negative for fatty acid ethyl esters (metabolites of alcohol) in head hair untreated with hair spray, but tested positive after application of hair spray. Not just a little positive either. The volunteer tested significantly over the threshold for chronic excessive alcohol consumption after using hair spray.

This may sound alarming for a test that is used in court, but now that scientists are aware of these limitations, procedures can be put in place to mitigate against them and guidance can be updated. Ethyl glucuronide (a different alcohol metabolite) is not affected by hair sprays and waxes and so is a better target to test when someone uses cosmetic products.

Other ways of testing

Hair is not the only alternative to blood and urine testing. I’m currently investigating whether fingernails might be a better sample to test in cases where we need to prove abstinence from alcohol. It has been shown that fingernails may incorporate significantly more ethyl glucuronide (an alcohol metabolite) than hair samples. This means fingernails may be more sensitive than hair and could be better at distinguishing low levels of drinking and complete abstinence.

Toxicological hair analysis is not about catching criminals. It’s not about penalty or punishment. It’s about helping people. Results from hair testing can help support people struggling with addiction. In the future I hope we will also be using hair analysis as a diagnostic tool in healthcare.

The research I’m conducting at the moment is evaluating the potential for hair to be used as a diagnostic marker of chronic stress. Stress can lead to very serious healthcare issues. We are examining the stress hormone cortisol to see if we can identify people at risk from future healthcare issues from the concentration of this hormone in hair.

If successful, this work will take hair analysis into a new realm. I’d like to see a future where hair testing is used for a national screening programme for older adults who are most at risk from chronic stress. This could allow scientists to target interventions to lower stress at people who need them the most, which could significantly improve the health and well-being of older people in particular.


Richard Paul, Principal Academic in Biological Chemistry, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.