Press coverage from other years
SIRC in the News
Press coverage from 1999
- Express – 27.12.1999.
Never mind the horses, the human race is a better spectacle. There are not many people who can call the Queen "the greatest Anorak of them all" and mean it as a compliment. Then again, there are not many people like Kate Fox. Miss Fox is both a delightful and a dangerous woman. You think you are having a normal conversation with her – an extremely enjoyable one, for Miss Fox is wonderful company – but then it dawns on you. She knows your secrets. As you talk to her, she sees beyond your words. She sees what you don't tell her. Miss Fox, you see, is a social anthropologist – a woman who makes her living analysing the hidden relationships between people, revealing the true feelings and thoughts which we have learned to conceal from each other. Even worse, she discovers things about us which we have concealed from ourselves. What image does the word anthropologist conjure up for you? Tweed jacket with elbow patches, slightly craggy expression. Afraid not. Try Twiggy and Gwyneth Paltrow on the outside, with a dash of Kirsty Wark and Zenab Badawi on the inside, and you are nearer the mark. Brains, charm and beauty. Mark our words. Miss Fox is the Next Big Thing.
- Independent – 26.12.1999
No matter how bad the horse, you never blame it for losing. Kate Fox was adopted as the official anthropologist of the "racing tribe" – owners, jockeys, stewards, trainers, bookies, punters, corporate hospitality givers-and-takers – and spent a year absorbing their culture. For those who are true initiates, racing overshadows everything else. Their map of Britain has the same outlines as a conventional one but shows only the symbols for race courses; anywhere else, including the capital city, simply doesn't exist. Kate Fox, on pointing out that London was missing, was told: "Well, surely you can figure that out for yourself. I mean, it's near Kempton, obviously."
- Express – 07.12.1999.
Viewpoint. Kate Fox on scares that ruin festive fun. The "warning season" has now officially started. Forget Merry Christmas and Happy Y2K, the message seems to be: "Be afraid. Be very afraid." The run-up to Christmas and New Year celebrations has always been something of a scarefest with every interest group in the country issuing dire warnings and lists of instructions – on everything from food poisoning to unsafe sex. Many of these campaigns are well intentioned but the cumulative effect is damaging and this year we have millennium-related scares on top.
- Glasgow Herald – 29.11.1999
A bit of what you fancy. Kate Fox, social anthropologist at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, who analysed the Martini survey, says the report defies the flirtatious behaviour exhibited on American TV shows such as Ally McBeal. She believes Brits should be wary of succumbing to an American phenomenon at the crux of flirtophobia. "It has been identified as the culture of pervasive anxiety," she says. "Americans are in a constant state of worry about their lifestyles and flirting is one of the casualties."
- Times – 20.11.1999.
Why we fall for the fad-gadget sales con. "Cars communicate how we wish to be seen," says psychologist Dr Peter Marsh of the Social Issues research centre. "Cars are just expensive toys and the decisions we make when choosing them are fundamentally irrational. Most people don't know what half the things they buy are, but find it reassuring to know that they have them."
- Oxford Mail – 20.11.1999
Beware of Millennium warning-fatigue. Well, a team of Oxford researchers has now found that the effect of all the safety warnings is extremely worrying. Kate Fox, director of Oxford's Social Issues Research Centre, is anticipating widespread Riskfactor-phobia, with many people becoming anxious and totally neurotic as the big countdown begins. The disturbing psychological side-effects of the high doses of health and safety campaigns are examined in the centre's Millennium report. It finds that people will fall into three groups: worriers, people who have just switched off, and those determined to party whatever the cost. Kate said: "We have identified three typical responses to the warning campaigns and they are all potentially problematic."
- Singles Monthly – October 1999.
Fun, Free and Flirty! – The Return of the Fine Art of Flirting. According to Kate Fox of the Social Issues Research Centre, the group commissioned to carry out the report, "men have a tendency to mistake friendly behaviour for sexual flirting. This isn't because they are stupid or deluded," she said. "But because they tend to see the world in more sexual terms than women. There is also evidence to suggest that women are naturally more socially skilled than men, better at interpreting other peoples behaviour and responding appropriately."
- Sunday Times – 23.10.1999
Who dropped the ball in World Cup chaos? After exhaustive inquiries, this column exonerates continental footballers accused of introducing spitting to Britain … The social psychologist Dr Peter Marsh, of the Social Issues Research Centre at Oxford, gave compelling evidence that spitting was essentially a feminine act. So I am surprised to name the winner, by a number of votes, as Manchester United's former strongman Paddy Crerand.
- Times – 16.10.1999.
Trainers treated like gods in this tribal society. Kate Fox has become racing's very own anthropologist, and has produced various scientific papers on her findings. Now she has come up with a popular account of her work, and her book, The Racing Tribe, is quietly hilarious.
- Telegraph – 09.10.1999
A race apart. If you think a day at the races is simply a matter of men waving their arms, women wearing silly hats and horses thundering down the course, think again. Anthropologist Kate Fox has conducted a study of the racing world's extraordinary tribes. Andrew Baker accompanied her on a field trip to Newmarket … Fox, who is 37, has a degree in anthropology and philosophy from Cambridge and is based in Oxford at the Social Issues Research Centre. As previous projects on violence in pubs and crowd trouble at football matches indicate, she is not afraid of putting herself in tricky situations, but she never wanted to be a latter-day Margaret Mead. "Proper anthropologists do their fieldwork while living in a mud hut in the jungle," she says. "But frankly I'm a bit of a wimp and I don't like insects or disgusting food. This way I get to do my fieldwork in rather more pleasant surroundings." She glances down at her racecard and scribbles a note. "In any case, most jungles are overpopulated with anthropologists, and the situation is not much better in some areas at home. There are more social scientists at football grounds these days than there are hooligans."
- Canada News – 24.09.1999
The dating game. As for the art of mating, the field is as complicated as ever. According to Kate Fox, an anthropologist and director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, England, a seemingly innocent stare is still one of the most powerful sexual signals you can give. That eye-to-eye contact begins in the animal kingdom, she explains, where male chimpanzees will stare at a female and flick their penises to show interest.
- World New York – 19.09.1999
Social Issues Research Center "In the pub, by contrast, we gather haphazardly along the bar counter. This may appear contrary to all native instincts and customs, until you realise-and this is spooky-that the queue is still there, and the bar staff are aware of each person's position in the 'invisible' queue." - The British penchant for a queue surpasses even spatial boundaries, as detailed in an interesting monograph on British pub etiquette.
- Feed Magazine – 17.09.1999.
Britain will soon reverse the law which forces pubs to close after 11 PM -- a First World War era code which was meant to increase worker productivity. Celebrate by checking out the Social Issues Research Center's Guide to British Pub Etiquitte. "There is no waiter service in British pubs. You have to go up to the bar to buy your drinks, and carry them back to your table. One of the saddest sights of the British summer (or the funniest, depending on your sense of humour) is the group of thirsty tourists sitting at a table in a pub, patiently waiting for someone to come and take their order."
- Telegraph – 07.09.2000
Games with a dual purpose. The majority of those in traditional medicine would regard "disease networking" as being irresponsible with children's health. Indeed, only last week, the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford published a bulletin warning that Britain is on the brink of a measles epidemic, thanks to scaremongering over the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, linking it with autism. However, not all medical opinion is against the networkers.
- GP Magazine – 03.09.1999.
Move to reduce impact of scares. A government move to develop media guidance on the reporting of health scare stories has been welcomed by GP's. The guidance will come in the form of an official code of practice set out by a working party of academic scientists and media representatives and will be completed early next year. The project is being co-ordinated by the Social Issues Research Centre, an Oxford-based independent research organisation and the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a scientific research body that promotes public understanding of science.
- Independent – 02.09.1999.
Danger! Phobia alert. Allow me to introduce you to a new syndrome. It is called 'riskfactorphobia' and it is said by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, which apparently coined the term, to be a side effect of health scares.
Riskfactorphobia is sweeping the population, according to the SIRC, which monitors social and cultural trends. A significant proportion of people have become hypersensitive to health scares and warnings and increasingly anxious about the risk factors in their diet, lifestyle and environment, they say.
I couldn't agree more. The things people worry about are truly worrying. For some people it must take courage to open the fridge. Perils lurk on every shelf. If the listeria in the cheese doesn't get them, or the 17 kinds of pesticide on the lettuce, the salmonella in the chicken surely will.
- Daily Telegraph – 02.09.1999.
Games with a Dual Purpose. The majority of those in traditional medicine would regard "disease networking" as being irresponsible with children's health. Indeed, only last week, the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford published a bulletin warning that Britain is on the brink of a measles epidemic, thanks to scaremongering over the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, linking it with autism.
- Express – 29.08.1999.
Why DIY's no longer inferior decoration. Last week the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford published a report on the behaviour of the DIY tribe. It identifies five types of DIY-er. The biggest is the Territorial Marker (almost 75 per cent of those questioned), who feels obliged to stamp a bland home with creative touches. Next largest is the Frustrated Artist. This species sees DIY as a chance to express their dormant talent as a Michelangelo. Then there are the sub-groups: those who can't afford to hire a professional; those who think all builders are cowboys and (the smallest group of all) those who think it's "fun". And the one thing that links all the DIY tribes? They love DIY programmes.
- World New York – 29.08.1999.
The Collective Amnesia Rule: the law of racecourse etiquette states that 'after each race, thou shalt conveniently forget all erroneous predictions, prophecies and comments made before the race regarding the relative abilities and chances of the horses involved.' This rule is absolutely essential to the maintenance of good relations between race goers." From a summary of the Social Issues Research Centre publication "The Social Behaviour of Horsewatchers."
- Express – 25.08.1999.
Bank holidays? As a DIY nation we prefer sandpaper to a sandcastle. Based on the new findings, Dr Marsh has divided DIYers into six categories. Many young homemakers (38 per cent of those surveyed) see no option but DIY, for their new home often requires essential refurbishment or even structural repair. Some would prefer to hire professionals but cannot afford to. Putting a "personal stamp on the place" was one of the most frequently reported motives for DIY, with 72 per cent keen to ensure their homes were not bland and expressionless. An overwhelming majority of respondents (84 per cent) said DIY gave an outlet for creativity which was otherwise frustrated in their everyday working lives. They spoke at length at their sense pride in completing their very first DIY task.
- Evening Standard – 25.08.1999.
The real reason we love DIY. The August Bank Holiday is officially the busiest do-it-yourself weekend. And now, for the first time, a team of social scientists from Oxford has published a report on the behaviour of the DIY tribe. The report by the Social Issues Research Centre was commissioned by the makers of PG Tips and identifies five different types of DIY-er, each of them drawn to the booming hobby for a different reason: P The biggest group of DIY-ers – almost three-quarters of those questioned – are the ones who feel compelled to disguise a bland and characterless "starter home" with their personal touches; a species identified by the researchers as a Territorial Marker.
- Irish Times – 23.08.1999.
Letter. Sir, – I hope I can, even as a "foreigner", be allowed to applaud Kevin Myers's brilliant piece on the non-Irish activities of the anti-GM protesters (An Irishman's Diary, August 19th). It is high time that these fanatics, most of whom I regret are British, were subjected to the sharp end of such a fine bit of caustic Irish wit.
- Pakistan Business Recorder. – 21.08.1999
Is science a sham? Amidst a rash of sometimes contradictory messages about what is good for your health, British medical experts worry that the biggest loser could be trust in science. "All this scare-mongering is not good for us," said Dr Peter Marsh of Oxford's independent Social Issues Research Centre. "Not only do people not trust the message, they no longer trust the messenger. Our faith in science is on a steady decline." Marsh said the psychological fallout was easy to detect, with people reacting in three distinct ways.
- Australasian Business Intelligence – 20.08.1999
Is Breast Best, Wine Worse or Science a Sham? British medical experts believe public trust in science is declining because of the conflicting messages about what is good for health. Peter Marsh of the independent Social Issues Research Centre in Great Britain says people's faith in science is dwindling.
- Toronto Star – 18.08.1999.
Beware: Reading this story could make you sick. Amid a rash of often contradictory messages about what is good for your health, medical experts worry that the biggest loser could be the public's trust in science. "All this scaremongering is not good for us," Peter Marsh of Oxford's independent Social Issues Research Centre said. "Not only do people not trust the message, they no longer trust the messenger. Our faith in science is on a steady decline."
- Business Today – South Africa – 17.08.1999.
Experts fear public is losing faith in science. British medical experts worry that the public could lose trust in science due to a rash of sometimes contradictory messages about what is good for one's health. "All this scare-mongering is not good for us," said Dr Peter Marsh of Oxford's independent Social Issues Research Centre. "Not only do people not trust the message, they no longer trust the messenger. Our faith in science is on a steady decline."
- Sunday Express – 25.07.1999.
How legs can give away your secrets. Forget fluttering your eyelashes, pouting gorgeously or crossing your arms – it's the way you arrange your legs that provides a window to your soul, says a British scientist. Social Anthropologist Kate Fox believes that our pins speak volumes about our inner thoughts and that leg language could hold the key to a romantic encounter … Crossed legs can mean many things, says Ms Fox, director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. "Amateur psychologists assume that crossing is a defensive or hostile gesture," she says, "but it can also show that someone is relaxed. The important thing is direction – if the other person is friendly they will cross a leg towards you. If they mistrust you, they will cross it away."
- Express – 13.06.1999.
Warning: Health scares are bad for you. Behaviour expert Kate Fox reckons most woman, are riskfactorphobics, changing their shopping, eating and lifestyle habits at each alert, only to change them back when health advisers take a U-turn. Others are split between having warning fatigue, greeting each piece of news with a dismissive sigh of having seen it all before, and the Forbidden Fruit syndrome, which makes them want anything described as unhealthy all the more.
- Observer – 13.06.1999.
Warning fatigue and riskfactorphobia. These are reactions to the fact that we're awash with health warnings and health-scare stories. According to the Social Issues Research Centre, warning fatigue kicks in when we overdose, become desensitised and end up 'exhibiting diminishing response'. Riskfactorphobia means overreacting to these stories, and living in fear.
- Guardian – 08.06.1999.
Fighting the fizz. A report from the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford last month claimed that people were becoming desensitised to repeated health warnings. Carey's suggestion is to harness star power. "Let's get rock icons and sports heroes talking about how great it is to eat properly.".
- Irish News – 07.06.1999.
Thank goodness I’ve been vindicated. I feel like taking up smoking on no-smoking days but now I know I’m not a freak, I’m pretty normal. The Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford has monitored the public’s response to repetitive health campaigns and found them wanting.
- Irish Times – 31.05.1999
Lifelines. Do shock tactics for health campaigns work? No – according to researchers at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, who have found they have the opposite effect.
- Guardian – 27.05.1999.
Science Update – Fear eats the sole, etc. "Riskfactorphobics" read health pages and overreact to each new scare. Then there is the "forbidden-fruit effect" which drives some people to scramble to beat the ban on beef-on-the-bone. Similarly, antismoking campaigns coincided with significant increases in teenage smoking. Most people suffer from "warning fatigue" eventually paying no attention at all, according to the Social Issues Research Centre at Oxford.
- Mirror – 26.05.1999.
Health Warnings Can Damage Your Health Too many government health warnings can make you ignore the lot – and put your health at risk. Shock tactics and Big Brother 'bullying' have the opposite effect of what is intended, research revealed today … An SIRC spokesman said: "Health promotion is a cut-throat industry. People are bombarded with scary warnings and conflicting advice. This is not in the public interest.
- Belfast Telegraph – 26.05.1999
Jane Bell on Wednesday: Warnings that Lead to Fatigue. The new study by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford says we're suffering from "warning fatigue " when a message is given so often it loses its impact. And they certainly have a point. The healthy eating and exercise message has been expounded loud and clear for donkey 's years now. Yet obesity continues to rise. Maybe what we need is less stick and more carrot.
- University of British Columbia. – 26.05.1999.
Shock health warnings backfire . Health promotion campaigns which use shock tactics to discourage people from harmful behaviour actually have the opposite effect, researchers have said. The researchers identified three types of unwanted effect: Warning fatigue – This is when people become desensitised to health messages and pay no attention whatsoever; Risk factor phobia – Some people become increasingly fearful about the hazards posed by their lifestyle and diet, often over-reacting; Forbidden fruit effect – A deliberate defiance of authoritarian health warnings. For instance, warnings about the dangers of eating beef on the bone resulted in a rush for just such products before they were banned by the government… A SIRC spokesman said: "That is the danger of crying wolf. When there really is a wolf, you come up against warning fatigue: your audience has simply switched off." Risk factor phobics tend to be avid readers of health pages and health magazines, the researchers found… SIRC found that the third response, that of doing the exact opposite, was particularly common among rebellious teenagers.
- BBC – 25.05.1999.
Health Shock health warnings backfire. Health promotion campaigns which use shock tactics to discourage people from harmful behaviour actually have the opposite effect, researchers have said. A survey by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), based in Oxford, shows that health scares and warnings can cause unwanted psychological side effects.
- The Herald – 25.05.1999.
Unhealthy Warning Signs. Too many government health warnings are backfiring because they make us rebel, research showed yesterday. It is not just teenagers who light up every time someone tells them smoking is dangerous.
- Daily Mail – 25.05.1999.
How health warnings put your health at risk. Too many Government health warnings can damage your health, claims a report…The study by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford says that health warnings can trigger psychological side-effects…A spokesman for the centre said: 'Health promotion has become a cut-throat industry with agencies, charities, politicians and academics vying for attention and funding. The result of all these competing vested interests is that people are bombarded with scary warnings and often conflicting advice, much of it based on very flimsy or dubious scientific evidence.'
- Times – 05.04.1999
When confronted, stay calm. If events become threatening, adopt appropriate language and behaviour. "When confronted by someone who is looking for a reason to hit you, don't give it to them," says Dr Peter Marsh, a social psychologist and research director at the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. "Any language perceived as dominant, hostile or threatening will increase conflict. A calm voice and non threatening language will do the opposite, though it is hard to keep an even pitch when scared." Body language is crucial. "Eye contact should be avoided," Dr Marsh asserts. "Obviously you must be aware if a person is about to punch you, but fixing the other person's gaze is a disaster.
- Independent – 14.03.1999
The beautiful and the damned. Dr Etcoff is not the only one to acknowledge the great power of good looks. "Attractive people do have a distinct advantage," agrees Kate Fox, social anthropologist with the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. "The bias for beauty operates in all social, work and educational situations. "Attractive children are not only more popular, but teachers have higher expectations of them, which improves performance. Good-looking people have better chances of getting jobs and higher salaries. And there is also a deep -seated if illogical conviction that what is beautiful is also good – that the good-looking must have other desirable assets."
- Evening Standard – 23.02.1999.
Jeepers peepers. So should we feel guilty about succumbing to Lighted Window Syndrome (LWS)? Not according to Dr Peter Marsh, who admits to looking in windows himself. "As a social psychologist, it's my job." The parts of a house you can see from the street are usually "the semi-public zones", the rooms the owners would display if they invited you in (as opposed to the den and that messy back bedroom). "It's like the concept of the old front parlour. These are the rooms that have the most attention to detail. The fact that people are letting you look reflects on how they see these spaces."
- Guardian – 15.02.1999.
Bad habits die hard. "There is such a plethora of contradictory medical warnings, that people don't know what is worthwhile and what is cranky," says Dr Peter Marsh, social psychologist and director of the science and research unit in Oxford. But Dr Elizabeth Dowler, of Warwick University's department of social policy and social work, is doubtful that unhealthy eating has much to do with the public's distrust of nutritionists: "There is a strong view that the trouble with nutritionists is they are always changing their minds, and I don't think it is particularly true. There are a lot of popular myths around, but experts have always advocated a balanced diet, and recommended eating fruit and vegetables."
- Independent – 07.02.1999
Excuse me, but do you mind? Kate Fox, director of the Social Issues Research Centre, is not impressed. "Once you start banning things and littering the place with authoritarian, officious notices, you draw attention to this behaviour," she said. "This idea that people have to be told how to live their lives is wrong and does not work." She does not believe that things are getting worse. "There has always been, and always will be, antisocial behaviour. It is part of human nature. Greek and Roman literature is full of people bemoaning the behaviour of the younger generation. "When you give a name to something people imagine it is a new phenomenon, or on the increase. Road rage is nothing new. There are examples of it in Jane Austen, involving horses and carriages. There is a serious boy racer in Northanger Abbey."
- Marketing Week – 04.02.1999
Anthropological study into primitive social bonding rituals. A major new study by the Social Issues Research Centre paper is to be revealed this week. The paper is a result of exhaustive study at 16 locations nationwide using "participant- observation methods applied by anthropologists studying tribal societies", to reveal "the social dynamics and rituals" of the subjects. Which rite-riddled tribe could the document possibly be referring to? Why, none other than the corporate hospitality guest.
- Scotsman 17.01.1999
Road signs pointing in the wrong direction. A second survey published this week looks to be absolutely spot on. An academic study by the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre has proved that the dreaded White Van Man not only exists but that there could be as many as 2.5 million of them. Just in case you don't know what I'm talking about, White Van Man is always in a tearing hurry, jumps every red light going and treats speed limits as a challenge. And when he arrives at his destination he'll park his white van on a pedestrian's foot if necessary. The psychology, according to Dr Peter Marsh, is that White Van Man always knows exactly where he's going and has a strong territorial instinct. "When you obstruct the passage of a white van, you are preventing the driver travelling freely on what he perceives to be his road," he said. So the next time you are carved up by an oaf in a white van it will be comforting to know that the driver's only doing what comes naturally.
- BBC – 13.01.1999.
Rude White Van Man 'a myth'. 'White Van Man' became a term for rude and reckless drivers of white transit vans after it was apparently coined by a radio presenter in 1997. But a report by the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre, seeks to explode what it calls this "modern myth".
- BBC – 22.01.1999.
Is the art of flirting dead? Social anthropologist Kate Fox thinks men have a greater need to be taught than women: "All the research that's been done shows they're less socially skilled and not as good at non-verbal and verbal communication," she said.
- BBC – 13.01.1999.
Rude White Van Man 'a myth' Van drivers – once maligned as a menace of the roads – are actually polite and respectful, says a new report. But a report commissioned by Renault UK for the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre, seeks to explode what it calls this "modern myth". The authors of the report say that as with many negative stereotypes, their research shows that the perception of White Van Man is a "gross caricature of reality."
- Guardian – 11.01.1999.
Ready, steady, flirt. According to anthropologist Kate Fox, author of the Social Issues Research Centre's Guide to Flirting: 'We are experiencing a Victorian paternalistic revival.' As a result: 'Flirtophobic codes of conduct have been introduced in rife flirting zones such as universities and workplaces. People are confused as to how to behave and look for guidelines.'