The real heroes

Thank you so very much for including me and the Center in the December issue. While I am not sure about the "rock star" billing (my children would argue...), the notion of "hero" is actually a pretty poor fit to me. The real heroes are those living in difficult circumstances with pitifully little materially. They have taught me so very much about what is important-compassion, love, kindness and inclusiveness. I feel I have gained more than I have ever given. I know anyone can do the things I have (and I'm happy to prove it), but many others have done way more, and that's my goal.

Chris E. Stout, PhD
Kildeer, Ill.

Blaming the messenger? 

In the November article on Internet pornography and children, Tori DeAngelis acknowledges that because all the research tends to be correlational, it is impossible to determine causality. However, she then offers only one interpretation of the data, namely that exposure to Internet porn fosters unwholesome adolescent sexual attitudes. Isn't it equally plausible that individuals with pre-existing attitudes about women and sex are the ones who deliberately seek out certain sites? This supports research findings from other studies of mass media consumption: specifically, that people tend to seek out messages that reflect and reinforce previously held views. Targeting the Internet, while convenient, seems to me like blaming the messenger, while the problem may be more systemic.

Karen Hwang, EdD
 West Orange, N.J.

Topics in psychology

I read with some dismay the Monitor article (October 2007) "Why hasn't psychology studied that?," citing comments by Paul Rozin, PhD, lamenting psychologists' inattentiveness to three areas: positive versus negative events, food and eating, and cultural environment. Although I agree that these are important research topics, it is misleading to suggest that they have been neglected by behavioral researchers. Research on these and related topics is thriving both within and outside the United States. One only need look to psychology's sister discipline-marketing-for ample evidence. The research often is conducted by psychology-trained investigators employed (like myself) in business schools and the marketing profession and is regularly reported in non-APA journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research.

Consumer researchers have long focused on the experiential aspects of shopping, the joys accrued from identification with brand communities and consumer "tribes," and consumers' passionate relationships with brands. Perhaps Rozin's comments reflect less an issue of untapped areas so much as a need for American psychologists to broaden their focus beyond psychology's benchmark journals and geographical borders.

Allan J. Kimmel, PhD
Paris, France

Defining 'grit'

Dr. Duckworth's research ("Grit: It's what separates the best from the merely good," November 2007) on the important role of grit in success provides empirical support for my consistent observations throughout college and graduate school. All my friends and acquaintances who did not graduate had high academic intelligence-they just lacked the required stick-to-it-iveness. Duckworth's findings will bolster my unsystematic observations when I tell aspiring graduate students that if they want to get into graduate school enough, they will as long as they persevere.

I have just one correction regarding the report. The reporter equates grit with "backbone, chutzpah, fortitude, guts and a stick-to-it-iveness." If these words were the choices for a pick-the-one-that-doesn't-fit question, the answer would be chutzpah, a Yiddish term for an exaggerated and socially inappropriate type of nerve. The prototypical example of chutzpah is the woman who intentionally kills her husband and then asks the judge for leniency because she is a widow. Chutzpah is not the same as grit, backbone, fortitude, etc., which is fortunate.

 Michael D. Spiegler, PhD
Providence, R.I.

Further Reading

Please send letters to Sara Martin , Monitor Editor, at the APA address. Letters should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for clarity or space.