The annual American Anthropological Association (AAA) meeting has ended! This is my 3rd year attending and it is still as crazy, overwhelming, and fun at the first time. 🙂
The 2015 meeting was in Denver, CO (gorgeous gorgeous city! My first time there) and I wanted to write down a couple of impressions and things learned from this year’s event.
SO, first of all- what I presented on.. This September I began collecting my dissertation data. I also got accepted for a poster session for the Anthropology Society for Food & Nutrition at the AAA, thus I knew I’d better have an interesting poster ready by mid November. :S
It was rushed & stressful (when is it not?), I had to put together the poster & print it from Finland (I was traveling constantly before the AAAs!) but it got done.
My poster showed some preliminary results of how people (from mostly urban southwestern US) talk about healthy eating. I mostly focused on results from the pile sorting interview (presenting visual “maps” of how the 42 cars people sorted can be represented in 2 dimensions when averaged over 30 participants). I also talked about the several distinct “theories” of healthy eating that emerged from the interviews (using Q sort agreement rankings). I got good feedback and some very crucial suggestions for further work!
Of course, I also attended a bunch of amazing talks! Some of my favorites are summarized here:
- Dr. Hruschka’s talk in the Environmental Anthropology session was one of the best (he is also my PhD committee chair :P). In his presentation, he mentioned the highly fashionable explanatory model called the reverse gradient. This is an observed pattern in the US (& other high-income countries) where poor women have higher levels of fat (on average) than women who are more wealthy (this is reversed when compared to the REST of the planet, where increasing resources correlate with increases in body weight).
Many assume it has to do with poverty and not having time and resources to eat well and exercise. But actually, a great deal of data supports a different explanation: the body capital hypothesis. This hypothesis proposed that the anti-fat discrimination in marriage and jobs actually limits the economic mobility of people (particularly females) who have more body fat. So- husbands and employees seem to discriminate against heavier women.
- Another cool talk I heard was by Dr. Tamar Kremer-Sadlik (UCLA) who looked at the “ecology of eating perspectives” or the context in which eating takes place. Her study video recorded typical dinners in US and French families. They noticed that the existence of courses (so like a salad, main dish, dessert) reduced competition between foods and resulted in kids eating more vegetables. In other words- if your dinner table’s meal structure has few divisions into course (US families tended to have a single course + dessert, so all foods were served together), the presence of vegetables an be easily overshadowed by everything else available. In order to “share” a meal, you need to collaborate- if you have a single course, that collaboration exists whether you specifically eat the vegetable part of the dish or not (as you take some of the food offered).
In the French family dinners, they saw a lot more division into courses (starter, main, salad, cheese, yoghurt and fruit). To be collaborative during each course, one has to eat some of whatever is served at each course. If most of the courses include vegetables, the kids would overall eat a lot more vegetables over dinner. To quantify this difference: 47% of American kids didn’t touch vegetables, while only 10% of French kids didn’t.
- One last fun lecture I went to was called “Pet Ownership as Cues of Character” by a group from University of Colorado Springs (Evolutionary Anthropology session). They began by saying that many studies have found that women and men attenuate to cues of attractiveness differently: women seem to pay more attention to cues of character os success. For example, one study showed that women rated men paying positive attention to an infant as more attractive, while men did not rate photos of women differently (whether they were paying attention to infant or ignoring it).
So this group hypothesized that perhaps women conflate cues of parenting ability into attractiveness. They tested it with pet ownership, instead of having a baby! They asked US respondents to rate photos of individuals in 3 scenarios: paying attention to a dog, ignoring the dog, and a neutral/reading book photo. To their surprise, they found that only MEN rated women as MORE attractive and as MORE desirable partners when shown the photo where women pay positive attention to the pet. Women were not rating males with pets as more attractive. While the study could have some important flaws, that’s a pretty cool and intriguing outcome.
There were a LOT more talks I found fascinating, but it is too overwhelming to mention them all 🙂 #AAA2015
Till next year!