Introduction to Psychology: the Brazilian protests and the Social Mind

Last week I just finished one more course at Coursera: Introduction to Psychology, with Steve Joordens (University of Toronto). As a last assignment, I chose to relate the class to a world event – the protests in Brazil. I was quite pleased to do this task, and my peers who reviewed and evaluated the article made valuable observations. 

As a Brazilian journalist (although being based abroad), the news story I would like to discuss is the ongoing protests wave in my homeland. Topics studied during Week 6 (“The Social Mind”) can be notice in these happenings. Although this is still a in developing story, one could also imagine what might be the result of some aspects in future as well.

On the first days of the movement, mainstream Brazilian newspapers had adopted a similar position. Their headlines highlighted actions by vandals and the use of the police force to supress them. Not only it was a clearly generalisation of the people who joined the manifestations, as it also had a touch of “Just World Hypothesis” in it: some were attacked by the police, “but they deserved, as they were vandals”. Soon the audience in Brazil saw a quick shift in the headlines’ tone, as the increasing number of genuine supporters and their claim for peace during the manifestions were heard. Vandals are usually present, but do not represent the vast majority of who join the cause.

However, good people do bad, and now I am refering to the police force. A policeman in Brazil earns a ridiculously low salary for the high risk his occupation has. So they should feel as part of the movement, since its causes go from high bus fares to the huge amount of money spent in stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, instead of being invested in hospitals, education and even better salaries for the police, right? That’s not what has been happening. The police force action has been highly criticised. Its non-lethal devices are being used even against pacific protesters and journalists. So we highlight Zimbardo here: if the actual context we find ourselves in encourages a certain kind of behaviour, and if everyone around us is ok with that, suddenly our dark side comes out.

Plus, policemen have been removing the identification from the uniforms (not allowed), so they cannot be recognised. It reminds me Milgram about authority. In our lecture, we learnt that 2/3 of us seem to have a willingness to harm another person if an authority figure is looking over your shoulder, as we transfer the responsability of our behaviour to them. Without an identification, the fault is transferred to the body and their superiors, and the policemen don’t need to feel personally culpable or inhibited.

Finally, I see a difusion of responsability through distance by the governments (especially in the state and city levels, which actually control the different police forces). Since the politicians are not coping directly with the masses, I think they don’t feel responsible for adjusting the police behaviour. The result has been an increasing violence in all manifestations.”

Peers’ Feedbacks

> “Também fiz sobre os protestos no Brasil, e explicou muito bem (melhor que eu até rs)”

> “Brazilian Protests has been covered by media around the globe. I think my peer made and excellent choice and made a great explanation of this event.
My peer not only related the event with one Psych Phenom, but with 4 of them. I think he did a very good job. Protests are a rich example of social movement, for that same reason they are also a rich example of the “social mind”. A series of social forces are involved in Brazilian protests, and they are an object of study.
(…) Social Protests are a mirror in which media, government, citizens and powerful groups reflect. I think, the way my peer develop his/her essay was great.
Brazil situation is just the prove that it’s democratic system is alive. I really think that my peer’s observation is very worthy because it gives a profound view of the event, it helps to understand.
My peer’s effort and compromise with his/her country is expressed in the essay. Brazilian protests are a very important event for latinamerican future. It reflects the social and economical changes in a country, which it people still have the power to ask or demand for change.”

> “More information about background of protests and consequences would be valuable.
I would suggest to concentrate on one theory/phenomena and explore more that one. Also more information about mentioned theories, experiments would add value to this essay.
Many phenoms used, all related.
One, common conslution would be better.
Too many phenomena were pointed out, but not in detail”

> “The explanation is relatively clear, but left me wishing for a bit more.
Perhaps sticking to one phenomenon and making that argument would assist the reader.
The relation between the event and the phenomenon was clearly described.
I did not see a stated conclusion.
Efficiently written, thank you!”


Introduction to Art (3): Correspondence with Memory

Arte e foto: Melissa Becker

* Assignment for the course Introduction to Art: Concepts & Techniques, on Coursera.

“Letter to Aunt Vera”

In this work, I used 200gsm white paper. I dyed the envelope with redbush tea, then did the collage. Also, the details in blue at the back of the envelope were done, in part, while blowing the wet ink. On the postcard, collage only.

Arte e foto: Melissa Becker 

This piece recalls the correspondence between my aunt who lives in Rio and me, when I was on my early teen years at my hometown, in Southern Brazil. At that time, I used a typewriter and spent some time decorating each letter. Child-like icons such as ice-cream, dog, the globe, jewellry etc, were the most frequent drawings.

Arte e foto: Melissa Becker

My aunt kept all the letters, and some time ago, she sent me them back, so I could have them as a memory of that time of my life.

Arte e foto: Melissa Becker

Now I live in England. This artwork is a “grow-up version” of the letters I used to sent her. However, the piece will be complete once my aunt receives and opens this envelope (that’s why I left a blank space, to write her address).

Related posts:

Introduction to Art (1): Introduce Yourself
Introduction to Art (2): Fantasy and You


“Making-of”: dyeing paper with tea

Arte e foto: Melissa Becker Arte e foto: Melissa Becker Arte e foto: Melissa Becker Arte e foto: Melissa Becker Arte e foto: Melissa Becker

Reativando o BrummieBR

Me inspirei para reativar o BrummieBR, um blog que criei e 2010 e abandonei depois de quatro posts. Na época, eu tinha uma ideia para o que seria aquele espaço, mas agora tenho outros planos e pretendo reformular. Posts que eu normalmente publicaria aqui, agora, vão para lá. Tipo: o show do Bon Jovi que fui no domingo, no Villa Park (estádio do Aston Villa). E esse é só o começo.

Foto: Melissa Becker

Show em Birmingham, da turnê Because We Can (09/06/2013) –  Foto: Melissa Becker

A ideia é que não seja apenas um blog para brasileiros em Birmingham, mas um blog de lifestyle em Birmingham, sob uma perspectiva brasileira. Por isso, todos são bem-vindos. Fique à vontade para comentar e participar nos canais do BrummieBR:


Twitter: @brummieBR


Introduction to Art (2): Fantasy and You

I said before that I don’t have talent (and maybe I’m making a fool of myself when sharing my exercises here), but I feel like, someday, I would like to see what I did and what I wrote during the Introduction to Art lessons I’m taking and this is the best place to keep a record of them. So I don’t care – one more attempt of art work and art statement below. Last week’s subject was Fantasy and You:

What Goes Around... Comes Around (or The Garden of Earthly Torments), by Melissa Becker, 30cm x 21cm

What Goes Around… Comes Around (or The Garden of Earthly Torments), by Melissa Becker, 30cm x 21cm

What Goes Around… Comes Around (or The Garden of Earthly Torments), 30cm x 21cm.

“For this drawing, I used grafite (pencils HB and 4B) and knead eraser on 200gsm white paper. My first source of inspiration was the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch – in particular, a figure with has a bird head and eats a human being. That’s the main element in my art work: a body being vertiginously dragged to somewhere unknown – perhaps for regret, perhaps for the system’s oppression, or the daily stress that push us towards the edge of a burn-out.

I had done this main element some days before I found my second source of inspiration. I was photographing plants in a garden, and the disposition of succulents in a little corner made me think about my drawing (click here to see the picture).

I thought that their round format would be interesting to add some unexpected, fantastic element in my artwork, and increasing the sensation of dizziness and disorientation.”

What Goes Around... Comes Around (or The Garden of Earthly Torments), by Melissa Becker, detail

What Goes Around… Comes Around (or The Garden of Earthly Torments), detail

Introduction to Art (1): Introduce Yourself

So here I am, enrolled in a art course after 20 years (that makes me sound quite old, hm?) without doing any sketches. I simply could not resist when I saw the Introduction to Art: Concepts & Techniques on Coursera. I am convinced already that I don’t have any talent to be an artist, but I’m free to have some fun preteding that, some day, brushes and I will get well together, ok?

First assignment of the course Introduction to Art: Concepts & Techniques, on Coursera - Photo: Melissa Becker

First assignment of the course Introduction to Art: Concepts & Techniques, on Coursera – Photo: Melissa Becker

Must admit I didn’t cross my comfort zone on my first assigment: introducing myself with a photography, instead painting or collage. But on the photo above you can have a glimpse of a drawing I did the other day (or should I say a attempt of doing a drawing?). Below, the “Art Statement” I shared with my colleagues – I am having kind reviews about it:

“For this assignment, I decided for the medium I feel more comfortable with: photography. I had some photojournalism lessons at university. My equipment is quite simple, and I must admit I’m not very patient to try different settings. However, my passion is composition and colours.

I’ve tried to bring a little of both in this picture, in an attempt of introducing myself through this photo. The objects represent different aspects of my life. Could you guess some?

I live in England, but I am from Brazil – not exactly from the place where that idyllic beach is located, but still same country. I am from the Southern part actually, and my hometown hosts the Mercosul Biennial, which promotes Latin American art.

I am a journalist – my interest switched from drawing to writing when I was a teenager. My last sketches date back to the early 90s (when I was 11-13 years old!). But now here I am: attempting some works on a sketch pad again.

I am enjoying every lesson of this course, but still feeling a little bit shy to have my hands dirty with acrylic paint or to try charcoal for the very first time. My main goal in this course is exactly to change this feeling and learn new techniques”

My beauty box

I bought a (very pink) make-up box some years ago, but it’s the first time it’s getting full (but definitely I can find space for more, that’s not a problem!).


What a change from some years ago, when I used to use make-up (I mean, foundation and eye shadow) just to go out. For work, I was ok with mascara and sun lotion only. Yeah, that was in sunny, hot Brazil.

In England, the weather demands a completely different treatment to my skin (and I am applying skin care products, mainly by Kiehl’s, every day). I feel that even the light has other result on my complexion. Probably the age plays a role in it as well. All I know is that I’m having fun in trying and learning about new products and how to apply them.

* * *

Yesterday I got a few new things:


> Rimmel London Match Perfection Bronzer: I have never used a bronzer, until the day a Dior consultant applied one on me, very lightly, to “work as a frame on the face”. I loved that, but decided to buy a cheap brand to try by myself first. I have a love/hate relationship with Rimmel – some products are ok for their cost, others are so bad that they don’t even worth their low price, believe me.

> Superdrug Bronzing Brush: Same idea here: cheap one for a try, only £ 2.99. As soon as I remove from the pack, I saw it loses bristles easily. Bad start.

> EcoTools Airbrush Concealer Brush: I usually apply concealer with my fingers, but I felt the difference the day I’ve tried the M.A.C. Select Cover-Up Concealer (which I have been using since then) and the consultant used a not-flat brush. I had a very positive experience with EcoTools bamboo brushes before (very light and soft bristles, I do recommend!), so this “airbrush brush” seemed perfect!

> L’Oreal Lumi Magique Highlighter Pen: Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a YSL Touch Eclat addicted. I am in rehab at the moment (I was spending a whole pen, which costs £25, in two months! Must confess I had used it as a highlighter AND concealer). I’ve tried a Brazilian brand before (Boticário), but didn’t like it and went back to YSL. As now I am happy with the M.A.C. concealer, I decided to try again a highlighter as a highlighter ONLY.

> L’Oreal Color Rich lipstick, 235 (Nude): First impressions: not my favourite texture perhaps and not long-lasting, but it has a soft gloss and would do the job.

> MaxFactor Face Finity All Day Flawless 3 in 1 Foundation: I have been trying foundations for months (I’m the Queen of Samples). So many that, at some point, I was confused: the one I loved the first times, did not work after a while, then I found perfect in another day and so on. But having available samples of products with diverse coverages and textures make me realise that I should buy more than one foundation, so I could use according to my skin (which seems to change from one day to another) and occasion – call me make-up industry victim. So I chose this one for a daily, cheaper (£11.99) product, while I’m still planning to purchase the wonderful Giorgio Armani Maestro Foundation (£ 38, ouch!) for special days. * Important alert about the MaxFactor foundation: don’t be impressed by the “3 in 1” and the “all day” promises. I keep using primer and concealer, and after eight hours you realise it does need a retouch. However, I do like the coverage – it covers, without being heavy.

> Sample of the day: Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Make-up: haven’t tried yet, but they have a wide range of shades. If you have trouble in finding the right one for your skin tone (as I frequently do), worth taking a look.