Social Psychology E Portfolio
This unit already seems to be more interesting than what I first thought. I assumed it would be an extension of Personality and Individual Differences, but the discussions that we were having in the first tutorial made clear that there is a lot more to social psychology. We have been looking at social psych experiments throughout the course, such as Zimbardo's prison experiment, or the experiment where participants delivered electric shocks to others, and they have always interested me. I would like to think that in the same situation I would not act as the participants did, but it makes me wonder whether that would be the case. Another topic that came up that interested me was whether true altruistic behaviour exists. Any act that a person does for another with seemingly no personal gain will deliver satisfaction, and so then is the behaviour truely altruistic? Or do people do good towards others to feel better themselves? The lecture, and mostly the tutorial, opened my eyes to how much I don't know about social psychology, and so I am very interested in learning more!
Culture and Nature 
I found it interesting to think about culture through an evolutionary perspective. That we have evolved brains to handle and process complex social situations and are able to change behaviours to fit into what is culturally appropriate for each situation, and that evolutionarily speaking, we do this to fit into social standards, find a mate, and reproduce. The idea of the selfish gene is very interesting. I enjoy thinking about the evolutionary reasons behind behaviours. In the first week, we began discussing that even the least prejudice people will experience physical changes, such as increased heart beat, when standing next to someone of a different race. Perhaps this is due to a tribal instinct, in that people who look different to us were once seen as a threat. It could be protectiveness of culture, or of genetics.
I am currently studying an environmental governance unit, which of course focuses on the importance of sustainability. It would be interesting to see what happens with the growing population and the limited resources available, and how the social structures will form. With competition for space and resources, there will probably have to be a much stronger community base than what we have now, with communication and sharing of available resources being inevitable, rather than the ability to now not know your neighbours.
Communication and the self 
The tutorial this week looked at communication in regard to levels and channels. The exercise of standing in front of a person at a distance that was felt to be uncomfortably close, reflected the point of the self being extended to the space around the individual, which was discussed in the lecture. I had never really thought about seeing my own personal space as an extension as myself, but I guess I do see it as belonging to me. Also, it is interesting that this can also be extended also to the car you are driving. I’ve noticed that a person can be so impatient when driving, and won’t let people in, won’t wait in the cue, and hate being held up, but if that was happening in a public area, out of the car, the person would not necessarily feel the same impatience. I guess this shows the pluralistic nature of the self.
Ghosts of Rwanda 
I found Ghosts of Rwanda to be heartbreaking, eye opening, and extremely interesting. Since watching the film Hotel Rwanda, I have been interested in the act of genocide and why it happens. Clearly the individuals that are involved are not monsters themselves, but do monstrous acts within the situation. Out of the situation, these people would probably not have ever thought about committing the acts that they did.
The one American that stayed in Rwanda during the genocide seemed to against the theories of social psychology. Others within his group left Rwanda, and he could have as well, with the group situation taking away the sense of individuality, and therefore taking away the heavy load of criticism that would otherwise be placed solely on his own shoulders. Instead, he seemed to act truly altruistically, having no gains for himself, in fact he was putting himself and his family in danger of being killed. I do not know if I could have done the same thing, although I would not like to think that I would have sat back and not done anything like so many others did.
In another class, my textbook highlights the issue of individuals strongly identifying with a single identity. As an example, a woman might describe herself as a feminist, and have this identity strongly dictate many of the decisions she makes. She will then see herself as not identifying with others that do not share her feministic values, even though they may have other values in common. This then can create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mentality. Perhaps this is one of the causes of genocide. When an individual identifies strongly with one identity, it takes away their sense of individuality, and instead they see themselves as a member of that group. Their actions can then be placed as an extension of that group, taking away the sense of responsibility.
I saw a short film that was made after the Cronulla riots. The film was about the first two guys who arrived for the riots. One of the guys was a white Australian, the other was a Muslim. They arrived early and starting talking, ended up playing around together, laughing and having fun. One of the guys then gets a phone call, saying that he was in the wrong place. He gave the other guy a lift to the riots, where they forgot about how they got along just moments before. This film showed how different people behave when they are in a group, and also how strongly identifying with one identity, and ignoring the similarities that the person may have with others can lead to negative behaviours.
I find it interesting that all people are prejudice. I find that I consciously override most stereotypes that I hold about different races. I think this is because it is what I have always been taught to do. However, I remember as a child I had a few aboriginal friends, who I didn’t even notice that they had different skin colour, or if I did, I didn’t think it was any more important than having different colour hair. Is there certain ago when skin colour becomes an important factor for stereotyping? I guess these people were a part of my own in-group. I do remember stereotyping against other children who owned horses. A few of my friends who are from a country town hold strong prejudices against aboriginal people. I think that as they were growing up there was a tight aboriginal group, as well as their own group, and so an ‘us’ against ‘them’ mentality was built up, with no need or want to consciously override prejudices.
We were discussing in another class the theory that in the future we will all have the same skin colour due to increasing globalisation and multicultural societies. It was then brought up that maybe then people will not discriminate, and will relate to each other as on an equal plane of being human. However, it seems that to form a personal identity, we search for things that we have in common with others, and also search for things that are different. People are constantly placing themselves into groups, separating their in-group from their out-groups. Even in Canberra, people are separated into north side and south side. Identifying with one group does have positive outcomes, by creating a sense of belonging and the ability to relate to others, but everyone can find similarities, even if it is on the level of being a fellow human.
It makes sense that people seek the company of people who are similar to themselves. To have a partner who shares the same interests, has been brought up in similar settings, and have a similar IQ, it will mean that they will be more likely to be interested in the same things and find each other interesting as well. They will be on the same page when it comes to most things. It is interesting that people who have symmetrical faces are seen to be attractive. I have also heard that people are attracted to others through their scent. People who are biologically a good match and will produce healthier babies find each other’s scents attractive.
People have a strong need to belong, with contact with others being needed for health, and lack of company leading to bad health and even earlier death. It has been found that if one partner of an elderly couple dies, it is likely that the remaining partner will die shortly after. This shows the importance of company and regular contact with others. I find that nursing homes, although can be very depressing places and some are not of a high quality, are able to provide elderly people with this important contact, which they may not otherwise have. I know that I have a strong need to be around people, and enjoy almost constant company of others, and so as an elderly person, I will be happy to live in a retirement village with the company of others.
Groups and Leadership 
People have always been in groups, and work better as such. One important factor that I believe can be affected positively by group participation is the raising of children. Communities in the past have always been involved in raising children. Now, parents are expected to do it by themselves. This may be one of the reasons for postnatal depression as well as the high levels of child abuse. If there was less pressure on the parents, and a more involved community in the process of raising the child, these could be reduced with the work load and stress spread out between many individuals. Just because a person gives birth to a child does not mean that they have the means and ability to raise the child on their own. Nor should they be expected to do so.
Why people act differently in a group was one of my main interests before starting this course. The experiment that involved smoke coming into a room of a group of people, and the person being less likely to react with more people around who don’t react is an experiment that has always interested me. I would like to think that I would go against the group in situations like that, but with the results from such studies, it makes me question whether I would.
One question that I had before starting this course was whether true altruistic behaviour really does exist. I still do not think that I am sure of the answer. It seems that even when a person seems to be acting in an altruistic way, they may be doing it purely for the sense of satisfaction that they get when helping someone else. I know that my reason for giving money to a homeless person is that I would appreciate the generosity if I was in their situation, and I hope that that person would do the same if the situations were reversed. I don’t see this as altruistic behaviour though, as I am giving money with the expectation of maybe receiving something in return. I have mentioned before that it seems that the one American that stayed in Rwanda during the genocide acted truly altruistically, and I think that this was the case. He was putting the lives of himself and his family at risk, with this risk severely outweighing any sense of satisfaction that he would have received.
My friends and I were walking to the mall after college. We saw a man lying by himself in a park. One of my friends thought he was dead and that we should go over there. The rest of us said he was probably sleeping, and that if he was dead someone else that was in the area would have gone over to him. We also argued that if the person was sleeping, that he would have been angry if we woke him up. We later found out that he had died. This shows the bystander effect, not acting when we thought that there was a chance that this man needed help because we expected that others would help the man instead of us. Although there would have been nothing that we could have done, I am still disappointed in myself for not helping the man because I thought that others would do it.
The interaction that people have with their environment seems to be getting more important everyday. As people have had such a negative impact on the environment, and the environment is an important part in shaping who we are, it is important that we turn this around and impact positively on the environment.
I am currently writing a case study on a policy that involves the construction of a wind farm. I have found that the most problematic area in the implementation of this policy is around conflicting values, and that the best way in resolving these is through education to endeavour to change people’s attitudes and see the positive impacts of wind energy.
It is obvious that the natural environment has a positive impact on people, with individuals constantly seeking out natural environments for holidays, and also for their living environment. Because this interaction is so strong, it is necessary for people to take notice of their consumption and reduce their negative impact on the environment.