IU Health & Vitality: Too old to trick-or-treat, the benefits of crying wolf

Oct. 28, 2013

Research and insights from Indiana University


The October issue of IU Health & Vitality discusses the following topics:

Too old to trick-or-treat? 
Crying wolf: Who benefits and when?

Too old to trick-or-treat?

Although Halloween is celebrated by many ages young and old, the act of trick-or-treating has generally been associated with childhood. So, why are we seeing adults trick-or-treating without kids, going house-to-house in search of candy? 

"It could be some people trying to relive a childhood experience that was fun.  Or, maybe they just like candy," said Jonathon Beckmeyer, assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington. "Quite frankly, it probably makes people uncomfortable if you're in your twenties and you’re coming trick-or-treating and don't have kids with you."

In a college town, it may be more acceptable to see young adults trick-or-treating in groups. If a group of students wants to go, others will follow because "college students are still very socially based and peer-based and will support more of a collective desire to go trick or treating," Beckmeyer said.

However, in the last few years some towns have adopted age restrictions on trick-or-treating in fear of opening their doors to high school students and adults. These towns, located in Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi and Virginia, ban children over the age of 12 from trick-or-treating.

Other states, including Indiana, have adopted curfews for the holiday. A majority of these curfews don't go later than 9 p.m.

That being said, it is not uncommon to see adults trick-or-treating with their family or children. In fact, this activity is encouraged in many regions, especially when accompanying young children. "Now whether or not that means you should go around asking people for a Snickers bar takes it to another realm," Beckmeyer said.

Beckmeyer says that when adults are seen partaking in activities outside the norm, such as trick-or-treating alone or with other adults, it can call into question why these behaviors are happening.

"You have people who just want to try on a new identity, and they want to do something fun, so they go out and get dressed up," he said. "Just try to do it in a way that is going to be most appropriate for your age."

To speak with Beckmeyer, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 and traljame@iu.edu. Top

Crying wolf: Who benefits and when?

A crisis at work can bring out the best in colleagues, often inspiring more cooperation and self-sacrifice. A new study from Indiana University and the University of Guelph has found the benefits are not shared equally, with higher-ranking group members having the most to gain by perceived threats to the group.

"Sociologists have known for a long time that groups tend to come together when they face adversity," said social psychologist Stephen Benard, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. "What our research highlights is that there is a downside to our tendency to stick together when things are tough -- powerful group members can exploit that tendency to distract us from competing with them."

The study, "Who cries wolf, and when? Manipulation of perceived threats to preserve rank in cooperative groups," was published in the online journal Proceedings of the Library of Science One in September. Pat Barclay, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Guelph in Canada is the co-author.

Benard and Barclay tested their theories by creating three-person groups and having them play a cooperative group game in which people could pay money to increase the perception of threat to their group. They found that people with higher-ranking positions paid more to manipulate the threat and the action helped maintain their privileged positions.

"With this approach, we find people in high-ranking positions are more likely to manipulate apparent threats when their position is precarious, compared to when it is secure," Benard said.
But this doesn't mean the next crisis at work is a ploy by the boss to boost her job security. Social science predictions involve the average person, in general, not specific people or situations.

"When groups face potential threats, it's important to judge those threats carefully," Benard said. "On one hand, you want to be alert to the fact that other group members might have an incentive to exaggerate the threat. On the other hand, it's also important not to underestimate threats that could be real."

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the Minerva Initiative of the U.S. department of Defense and the Cornell University Institute for Social Sciences.

To speak with Benard, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 and traljame@iu.edu. Top

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