Category Ask the Psychologist

How certain toys and colours came to be associated with certain genders?

Studies and media reports suggest that for centuries children were dressed in white till they were a few years old. And gradually, in the early 20th Century, gender-based colours in clothing came about. Interestingly, pink was for boys, and blue for girls. This changed after World War II when men returning from war were expected to get back to work, and women, to return from work and stay at home to look after kids. One of the reports says women shed their factory blues” and embraced the “pink apron”. It is also said that the segregation that pink is for one gender and blue for another is a marketing tactic that came about in the U.S. after World War II, so parents couldn’t hand down the older kid’s clothes to the younger one. Slowly, the colour association spread to other aspects such as toys and furniture for kids, and was used even to segregate adults based on gender. What is now more or less a global phenomenon is basically a conditioning over several decades. This forces individuals to follow the majority rather than their own heart out of fear of being ridiculed or left out. And initially, why was pink chosen for boys, and blue, for girls? Apparently, to show that boys are strong, and girls are dainty. But does it reflect reality? Well, that’s a story for another day!

Toys matter

Every toy, game or sport has the ability to teach the player something. Studies have shown that construction block play can help with spatial (relating to space) awareness, Maths, problem-solving, etc. Playing with dolls can increase empathy, social and nurturing skills, processing of information, language skills, and such. By playing a group sport, you can learn teamwork and sharing, while playing by yourself, you can develop creative ways of keeping yourself occupied. These are just a few examples. Boardgames, DIY kits, toys and sports offer a lot of benefits such as improving motor skills, hand-eye coordination, promoting generosity, physical fitness, mental agility, time management independence, planning, diplomacy, sympathy, self-esteem, confidence, etc. So who needs to develop all these skills? Everyone!


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How does scraper box machine work?

To build new roads, workers move huge amounts of earth and rock. They flatten high ground and fill in low places.

A machine called a scraper box is used to move earth from one place to another. It is a huge open box with a slot at the bottom. The box is slung between two diesel engines. Its huge rubber tyres are over 3 metres high.

The engine roars. The scraper lumbers over the ground. A blade at the front bites into the ground at an angle. In seconds, over 30 tonnes of earth are scraped into the box.

Powerful shovels also dig up the earth. Each scoop is as big as a bus.

The scraper box and shovels dump their loads, and bulldozers push the piles to fill in low spots. More rocks are rammed into the ground to make a solid base for the road.

Grading machines carefully level off the top layer of small stones. Another machine lays asphalt-a mixture of sand, small rocks, and tar. Finally, road rollers press the surface absolutely flat.


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I want to forget her

I love my girlfriend even though we have broken up. I just can’t live without her. Since I came to know that she doesn’t love me anymore, I want to forget her but I am unable to do so. This is affecting my studies. What should I do in order to forget her and lead a successful life?

Looks like you feel much pain at breaking up with your girlfriend. It must hurt that she doesn’t love you anymore.

Firstly, be aware of and acknowledge your feelings — the hurt, sadness, and pain because you have broken up. Take time for this, for it will help you to feel calmer and more peaceful.

Imagine that you are in charge of lighting the stage of your life. What you’re doing at present is placing your ex girlfriend at centre-stage and putting a spotlight on her. This blinds you and leaves the rest of the stage – all the other people and things present in your life – in darkness. Remember, the switch of your mind’s spotlight is in your hands. Move the spotlight onto other people and things new friends, your studies, hobbies. Acknowledge and be grateful for whatever you have, and which brings you joy. This way, the entire stage of your life will light up!

You say you ‘just can’t live without her’, know that you are already living without her and have asked for advice on how to ‘forget her! This shows that you have taken the first step to moving on!


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I am not sure if she likes me

I am a student of Class 9. I like one of my classmates, but I’m not sure if she likes me. I want to concentrate on my studies and exams, but whenever I take my books in my hands I start thinking of her. My parents have great expectations of me. I want to fulfill their dreams which are my goal in life. What should I do?

Thinking about a classmate you like and not knowing if she likes you is distracting you from your studies.

Since this girl is your classmate, make friends with her, if you haven’t already. Get to know her as a person. If you are already friends, enjoy the friendship. If she thinks of you as a special friend, it will be quite obvious, and if she doesn’t, you will also know soon enough.

As for your future, do ensure that the dreams you are trying to fulfil are also what you want, not just those that your parents want for you. If you are only working to fulfill their dreams, you will not put in a wholehearted effort. Take up your books because you want to learn.

To study, set a 25-minute timer and commit to focusing. When you get distracted, say I will think about that later’ and get back to studies. After 25-minutes, take a 5 to 10-minute break and allow yourself to think about or do whatever you like. Then back to another 25-minute session. With a little determination, you can achieve your goals. Good luck!


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Our friend’s girlfriend tries to control him

We have a group of close friends, all boys. One of our friend’s girlfriend tries to manipulate and control him. She has brought about a lot of changes in his behaviour. He often disrespects or causes hurt to our sentiments. The girl often tries to defame us in our friend’s view. Day by day our friend is getting away from us.

You’re hurt and angry with your friend’s behaviour and fear losing him. Yet, the reality is that other halves’ will enter all your lives sometime. Whether they become the “better’ or ‘bitter’ half is up to you.

So, come to the same side as your friend: Tell him you are happy that he has someone special in his life; that you know that he is torn between friends and her. Express your hurt when he disrespects you. Share that as a group your goal is to balance your personal lives and still keep the bond you share as a group. Discuss three scenarios: how/when you will a) spend time alone as a group; b) spend time away from the group (alone with a girlfriend) and c) include girlfriends in group activities. The end goal: your friendship remains intact.

Finally, get to know his girlfriend. Acknowledge her importance in his life. Reassure her that while he is free to spend time with her, it would be nice if he spent some time with his friends too, and that you all will include her in the group sometimes.

To balance group bonds with personal ones, it is necessary to be accepting and have open communication. Only then can there be harmony.


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I suffer from nightmares related to my study

I am in Class XI and a JEE aspirant. Due to the pandemic our Class X exam results were delayed and hence the upcoming session, which resulted in a loss of time for my JEE exam preparation. I am left with just a year for the preparation. I hate online classes as I learn 0% from it. I was one of the toppers in Class X but now I don’t think I can make it. Recently our tests and exams were taken online and I know I did not perform well. My parents bought me a specialized online coaching package, but I am not performing well even then. I have changed my school because of my father’s job and I hate the place in which we live now. My father has so many visitors that the whole day is wasted in serving outsiders. I get no time for studying as my mom tells me to do household chores. I think because I am a girl they treat me like that. I wish I was a boy because then I would never have to do all this. I even suffer from nightmares related to my study. I don’t think I can crack JEE if the situation remains the same. I want to go back to my school and to the place I lived in before. I often end up in tears when I think about it.

Sounds like you just hate everything that is happening to you. You feel powerless, out of control and a failure, and you’re ready to give up. Yet, when you are rock bottom, you can only go up.

You can choose to look backwards at all the things that have not worked, label them as terrible, play a victim, pity yourself and spiral into despair; OR you can look forward to your future, label your challenges as opportunities to grow, be a ‘growth-mindset’ person, and make things happen. The truly successful people in the world went through tremendous tough times before emerging winners.

If you want to win over yourself and your mind:

a) Accept the new place and school. A growth-mindset person can grow where planted. What if you were stuck in an IIT and this situation arose?

b) Set boundaries: If your priority is studies, set aside time slots to study and tell everyone not to disturb you then. Be firm. Set aside a different time to help your parents.

c) Inspire yourself: Find ways to encourage yourself towards your JEE goal and success. Examples: A vision board on the wall. An image of yourself with a medal saying ‘JEE’. A voice recording to play when you’re discouraged.

d) Sort your study difficulties: Your feelings of resentment prevent you from focusing. Rewire. Online learning can be recorded, played back a million times, is in small chunks and there are a thousand references for a topic. If you’re missing company: Phone a friend. Teach another. Video call an expert (teacher). Get a study buddy or group. People are often happy to help.

Even one second ago is the past. Work in the present to create your future.


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What are the types of engineers?

Our world is full of mechanics that help us use things, go places, and communicate. Engineers help make all this possible. Here are just a few types of engineers and what they do.

Architectural engineers

Architectural engineers develop better ways of building homes and other buildings. They also find ways to make buildings taller. They apply the latest scientific knowledge and technologies to the design of buildings. Architectural engineering as a relatively new licensed profession emerged in the 20th century as a result of the rapid technological developments. 

Chemical engineers

Chemical engineers design ways to end pollution. They create drugs to fight cancer and other illnesses, too. Chemical engineers work mostly in offices or laboratories. They may spend time at industrial plants, refineries, and other locations, where they monitor or direct operations or solve onsite problems. Nearly all chemical engineers work full time.

Civil engineering

Civil engineering is the oldest kind of engineering. Civil engineers design bridges, subways, roads, dams, and canals. Civil engineering is traditionally broken into a number of sub-disciplines. It is considered the second-oldest engineering discipline after military engineering, and it is defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering.

Electrical engineers

Electrical engineers design equipment that produces electric power and sends it to our homes. They also design computer circuits and robots. Electrical engineers work in a very wide range of industries and the skills required are likewise variable. These range from circuit theory to the management skills of a project manager. The tools and equipment that an individual engineer may need are similarly variable, ranging from a simple voltmeter to sophisticated design and manufacturing software

Materials engineers

Materials engineers work out how to make the produces we use better. They develop new materials for making anything from hand tools to huge trains. They also find new ways to use the materials we already have.

Mechanical engineers

Mechanical engineers design new machines. Some mechanical engineers invent better ways of heating and cooling homes and buildings. The mechanical engineering field requires an understanding of core areas including mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, materials science, structural analysis, and electricity.

In many ways, engineers are helping to design the future.


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How do robots learn new jobs?

With a click and a whirr, a robot keeps busy in the factory. It joins steel panels together. All day long it works on brand-new cars.

Some robots push a metal pin called a rivet through metal sheets to join the pieces together. Others are welders. They heat the edges of the metal very quickly so that they melt and join together.

There are no humans working these robots. These robots work by themselves.

How are robots able to join the parts correctly every time? First, a human teaches the robot to do the job. As the human moves the different parts of the mahine in and out, up and down, reaching out and twisting around, every movement is recorded by the robot’s microprocessor. Now the robot has all these movements in its memory. It knows exactly what to do every time a car is put in front of it. As long as the cars are put in exactly the same place each time, the robot will move into action and carry out exactly the right movements for riveting, welding, or even spray-painting.


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How do tall buildings stay up?

Tall trees in the forest sway in the wind. So do tall skyscrapers in the city but you just don’t notice it as much. So how do these very tall buildings stay up?

The walls of a skyscraper are made of stone, concrete, glass, or metal. Under the walls is a frame of concrete or steel. This frame is strong enough to hold up the walls and floors. But it can also bend very slightly in the wind-like trees do. A tall tree has deep roots that hold the trunk and branches. Tall buildings have deep foundations. The foundation holds the steel girders in the ground.

The builders dig down until they find solid rock to build. The builders dig down until they find solid rock to build the foundation on. If there is no rock and the ground is soft, the basement is built on piles. Piles are deep holes bored into the ground. The holes are filled with steel and concrete. This gives the building a sturdy base to rest upon.


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What material are bridges made of?

Thanks to bridges, rivers and lakes will not interrupt a journey. People build bridges to make it easier to cross rough land or water. There are thousands of bridges in the world, but only five basic kinds: beam, arch, suspension, cantilever, and cable-stayed bridges.

Do you think bridges could be made out of glass? Inventors are working on this idea now. Concrete used in bridges is worn down by salt, ice, and wind. The steel used to make the concrete stronger often rusts. But a special glass called fibreglass is very strong. When glass fibres are held together by a type of “glue” ice, and wind. The steel used to make the concrete stronger often rusts. But a special glass called fibreglass is very strong. When glass fibres are held together by a type of “glue” called resin, they become stronger than steel or concrete. Fibreglass is also lightweight and can be easily shaped.

Beam bridge: This can be made of wood, steel, or concrete.

Arch bridge: A beam bridge can break easily in the middle. But a curving arch helps to carry the load on the bridge.

Suspension bridge: The roadway is suspended, or hung, from long steel cables. This type of bridge can be much longer than other types.

Cantilever bridge: One or more independent beams joined by a centre span make a cantilever bridge.

Cable-stayed bridge: This is one of the newest kinds of bridge designs. It takes less concrete or steel than a beam bridge. And it fits across narrow rivers better than a suspension bridge.


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