So, what is going on with this page?????
Hello to anyone reading this!
So here it is - my wikiversity eportfolio for social psychology at the University of Canberra. Through this page I will discuss my learning relating to the lectures, tutorials and readings for the unit in order of the major topics covered throughout the semester.
Lecture 1 
So after the first lecture, I am feeling afraid! No not really, I just get freaked out hearing about all the assessment in one sitting. I think what I really took away from the introductory lecture is social psychology and the focus on culture, hearing myself say that now makes me feel a bit silly though. I have thought about cultural differences, and considered how these differences can clash and impact on the world but had never given that much thought to this idea of humans being a ‘cultural animal’. I suppose in the past I would have considered culture as being something created by humans, and having as having certain benefits but it never really occurred to me what a huge role it plays, and that it is tied into our evolution.
While doing research for an assignment found an article that discusses an interesting perspective on the roles of culture, biology and evolution in the wearing of high heels in western women. Just thought I’d share it as it was pretty entertaining and stood out to me with my new found appreciation of culture and evolution.
Lecture 2 
What caught my attention most in this lecture was the clip of the Beijing Olympics advertisement played during the break. I must say though I wasn’t a big fan of the ad itself, the first minute was entertaining but it was about 10 minutes too long! I’ve never been a big sport fan but have probably paid more attention to the Olympics this year than ever due to the political and social debates that the host country has attracted.
I think it really demonstrates the diversity of human society and culture, and provides insight into how people assess other cultures, ideals, and political systems. Not being all that passionate about sport I would have thought the Olympics are still the Olympic no mater where they’re held? But it seems this year the athletes may have to share the spotlight with some very heavy issues.
So thought I’d share some headlines and clips I felt show the diversity in people’s response to this Olympic Games.
Tutorial - 1 Introduction 
I got the feeling this tutorial was designed to ease us into the subject material and to get us talking to one another. I enjoyed the activity where we had to organize ourselves into groups (eg. country of birth, marital status); I felt it showed the differences in people’s styles of communication and the dynamics of a big group working together. Each time we were given a new category you could see some people sort of take charge, announcing where one of the categories would group, while others (like myself I guess) would sort of wait till the groups had been established and then find their place.
Culture shock and cross cultural training 
The tutorial on cross cultural training looked at exploring the cultural meaning of names, the issues of culture shock, and adaptive strategies.
I enjoyed the activity where we conducted a ‘cultural interview’ with a partner to learn about the personal significance of their name. The exercise was good for learning everyone’s name and it was interesting to hear people’s individual stories. I think it highlighted the cultural differences of naming children, and showed how something as seemingly arbitrary as a name can carry a lot of cultural significance by merging into an individuals self concept to become an important part of their identity.
Winkleman (1994) defines culture shock as a ‘multifaceted experience resulting from numerous stressors occurring in contact with a different culture’. This can most obviously occur when travelling or moving to another country, however as societies become increasingly multicultural culture shock can occur within societies and their various subcultures. Culture shock can create psychological problems and decrease wellbeing. The author states that while culture shock is a normal reaction there can be a wide range in how people cope and respond, and that interventions to promote cultural adaptation are crucial.
Anita Mak at UC is one of the co developers of EXCELL (Excellence in cultural experiential learning and leadership) which helps international students to learn and implement effective communication strategies in school, work, and social settings while helping them to understand why these new behaviours are culturally appropriate. The program enables less stressful and more effective social integration using a technique called cultural mapping.
In the tute we discussed how growing up in a society we all unknowingly become ‘experts’ in our culture. We understand the norms and expectation for countless situations without even realising. Having spent my whole life in Australia and only visiting very western countries (such at the US) I have never really experienced anything like this, and it made me think about the ‘cultural struggle’ so many people must face.
The Social Self 
Baumeister and Bushman (2008) describe the self as a mechanism through which human beings travel through life, interact with others, enabling them to satisfy their needs. The very process of trying to define the self make you realize how complex an idea (if you can call it that) it is. In psychology it is common to learn about topics such as mental processes that we can’t actually see, but somehow the more I think about this idea of the ‘self’ the more abstract it seems.
I felt this quote summed up my thoughts quite well
“On the one hand, the self is rich, messy, and complex...On the other hand, the self is structured, consistent, and coherent; it does fit together”
(Fiske, 2004, p. 179).
In the reading Fiske (2004) described the many aspects of the self and how they relate to one another. He takes a cognition-affect-behaviour approach to the study of the self and highlights the importance of situational factors. Above all he stresses that the self is dynamic, not a fixed unchangeable construct. From the article I felt the concepts would be most easily understood (by myself and others) in a sort of concept map.
The article appraoches the self as a group of constructs that work together in a complementary fashion, while also building on one another. When considering the motives of the self this approach demonstrates the importance of the many various aspects in fulfilling such motives, leading to understanding and self enhancement and our ultimate need to belong.
Fiske’s article and drawing up the concept map helped me to fuse together all the different facets of the self that we have been learning about. And while the whole concept still scares me a little, I feel like I have a better understanding of how it all fits together!
Social Thinking 
This topic covered issues such as social cognition, attitudes beliefs and consistency, social influence and persuasion.
Cognitive dissonance 
I found this topic to be very interesting in particular the theory of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance holds that inconsistencies between an individual’s attitudes and behaviour produce ‘psychological discomfort’. Therefore the individual rationalises their behaviour in order to bring it into line with their attitudes, reducing the dissonance between behaviour and attitudes (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). This theory related back to the idea that humans strive for consistency, and that our attempts to maintain this motivates much of our mental processes. I enjoyed learning about this topic because it is so relevant to everyday life, it seems that many an argument is started over someone being a ‘hypocrite’. People generally see them selves as being fairly consistent, but are quick to point out inconsistencies in others. Baumeister and Bushman (2008) refer to a study by Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliancewhich demonstrated that an individuals attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance was a stronger motivator for ‘true’ attitude change than even monetary reward.
I felt I had to discuss Bandura’s article on film mediated aggression because it’s one of my favourite pieces of research. Banduras Bobo doll experiments were actually one of the first things I ever learnt about psychology back when I was in college. I think I always remember the experiment because when I first learnt about it I was like “well obviously children imitate violence” but then it occurred to be that these classic experiments were probably the source of my common knowledge!
The article focuses on the ‘modelling influence of pictorial stimuli’ and raises an important point when asking whether this demonstrates the modelling of true violence or simply children playing aggressively with a toy (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1988). The study also states that although the majority of children appeared to be affected by the aggressive media conditions most do not indiscriminately perform such aggressive acts. They believed this could be due to negative reinforcement on the parent’s part with them quickly prohibiting such behaviours. I thought this related back to the theme in the text ‘nature says go and culture says stop’ children are perhaps capable of and predisposed to easily model and learn various antisocial behaviours and it is up to parents and society to shape more prosocial behaviours.
Ghosts of Rwanda 
As for the documentary Ghosts of Rwanda I don’t even know what to say. It is one of those events that people look back on in disbelief, wondering how could something like that happen in this day and age, how could everything have gone so wrong, and why didn’t anyone intervene sooner. 800 000 killed in 100 days, I found it really hard to actually comprehend such a loss of life. I think a number of psychological concepts potentially contributing to/relating to the genocide can be drawn from the documentary:
- Instrumental aggression
- Humiliation (experienced by the Hutus due to their oppression)
- Frustration aggression hypothesis
- Triggered displaced aggression
- Scapegoat theory
Disturbingly I found a recent article by the BBC suggesting that many of the Hutu malitiamen who feld to Congo and are still a threat to local Tutsis. Tutsi rebels are said to be arming themselves due to a lack of confidence in the UN and international organisations.
I must say I really enjoyed chapter 12 in the text as it discussed a lot of different aspects of prejudice and how people develop and maintain them. Today’s society is so focused on multiculturalism and breaking down prejudice (which is great) that I wonder if people somewhat suppress or deny their prejudicial thoughts rather than addressing them. Baumeister and Bushman (2008) describe prejudice as resulting from a variety of things ranging from boosting ones self esteem, competition over resources, rationalising oppression to mental heuristics. I really agree with the author’s stance on prejudice being a part of human nature, and as something that we are perhaps inclined toward and need to actively work at.
An interesting realisation I came to was that due to living and growing up in Australia I most likely think about racism, prejudice and discrimination in overly simplistic terms. The text discusses how an individual can suffer discrimination both in the presence and absence of prejudice. An interesting article I found Gay refugees face prejudice across the world points out the problems faced by gay refugees, that although people face jail for committing ‘homosexual acts’ in 76 countries, sexual orientation is not considered a valid plea for asylum in Australia. This was an issue that had never even occurred to me and I think highlights how the complexity and diversity of the modern world can readily result in the discrimination of certain groups. Whether or not this is also an issue of prejudice I feel is too big a topic for me to tackle here!
Aversive racism and the Australian eye experiment 
I found the issue of aversive racism interesting as it relates to a point I made in the class discussion after watching the Australian eye video. While I found Jane Elliot’s experiment very interesting I did understand how people (both observers and participants) could see it as a bit extreme, and at times find it difficult to take seriously. While Australia is hardly free from racism I think a lot of younger people have never really witnessed the kind of blatant and overt racism that Jane Elliot demonstrates. Although it may have been more prevalent say 50 years ago I think a lot of racism today is very covert, and that a lot of discrimination may in fact be unintentional or due to ignorance. Aversive racism refers to a relatively modern form of racism where an individual will hold egalitarian beliefs and attitudes while at the same time harbouring prejudicial attitudes toward certain groups (Dovidio & Latane, 2000). Research has shown that aversive racism is often somewhat unconscious on the part of the perpetrator and tends to be evident in situations where prejudices will not be easily recognised by the individual or others, and can be rationalised by some other means. A longitudinal study by Dovidio and Latane (2000) concluded that while overt racism has decreased more subtle forms of prejudice have persisted.
This issue aside I think Jane Elliot’s experiment is a very good example of prejudice in general as the film demonstrated a number of the prejudice concepts we have been covering in the unit such as:
- Ingroup/ outgroup memeber distinction
- Minimal group effect
- Outgroup homogeneity bias
- Discontinuity effect
- Self defeating and self fulfilling prophesy
- Self serving bias
- Social categorisation
In line with what I have previously discussed concerning the self, interpersonal relationships and the need to belong is fundamental to the study of humans in a social context. An article by Baumeister and Leary (1995) describes interpersonal human attachment as a primary human motivation and vital to wellbeing. They review research pertaining to relationships and propose that this primary motivation explains many finding relating to interpersonal behaviours such as:
- People naturally seek out social attachments - people with seemingly little in common form relationships, the concept of propinquity where people from relationships simply due to close proximity, people refrain form ending relationships even if they are unsatisfying or difficult to maintain.
- Forming and solidifying relationships produces positive emotions- relationships greatly effect human emotion and cognition with the threat to a relationship often producing unpleasant emotions, people spend a large amount of time thinking about relationships and belonging
- Deficits in relationships and belonging lead to psychological and physiological problems- behavioural problems such as eating disorders and suicide are more common in individuals who are ‘unattached’
They also state there are two aspects to the human motivation to belong; they need frequent interaction with the same individuals that are pleasant or positive, and such interactions need to occur within a long term framework of mutual care and concern (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).
Relationship satisfaction over time 
What I found very interesting concerning relationships was a section in the text ‘I love you more each day’ (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008, p.372). It discusses evidence concerning changes in relationship quality over time from a number of different researchers. The general findings were that despite many couples believing their relationships improved over time they in fact either got worse or stayed the same. Next year my husband and I will have been married for four years and before reading this I definitely would have said our relationship had improved over that time!! The text also mentions that research has found to maintain a happy relationship; good things need to occur about five times more often than bad things. This made me think about a couple of things. Firstly I think the main reason I would have considered our relationship as having improved is due to the fact that we don’t disagree or argue as much, which made me wonder does this also mean we are doing less nice things for each other?? Something for me to think about I guess!
Baumeister and Bushman (2008) define a group as more than two individuals ‘being or doing something together’. The groups that are of interest to social psychologists however are somewhat more complex, they tend to be ‘united’, sharing a common identity, common goals, beliefs, practices and values. The solidarity of a group is strengthened by feeling similar to one another, and often by the presence of an out group (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). Groups are important to both social and cultural animals, with human culture taking the meaning of ‘group’ to more than just a collection of something.
I was especially interested in the section of the text ‘Why do people love teams’ (p. 494). Research has shown that although team work does not necessarily foster better outcomes people often prefer to work in groups, believing that performance will be better. Baumeister and Bushman (2008) explain this occurrence due to the human need to belong, along with various other psychological benefits. I can definitely relate to this issue having done more than a couple of group assignment while at uni. I have noticed group members (myself included) will often to go great lengths to meet up (skipping class, changing work commitments etc.) only to get very little done in the time spent together. I think most people believe that the most productive work gets done individually yet there always seems to be this ‘need’ to come together.
In the tute relating to prosocial behaviour we discussed the concept of Australian zeitgeist, social capital and social disengagement.
In class we loosely defined social capital as:
- reciprocal relationships and investment in a society
- having positive and collective networks within a society
- a stored ‘goodwill’ that the society ca draw upon in times of need
It essentially deals with the meaning in a society, as opposed to material objects as is physical capital. Social capital both results from and requires engagement from members of the society. This engagement cannot be forced rather it must be the result of a collective agreement within the societies culture.
Then at the other end of the spectrum is social disengagement which is characterised by:
- complete independence
- lack of engagement (with community, family etc.)
- total lack of interdependence
The lecture presented by Hugh Mackay discussed Australian society and the ever increasing problem of social disengagement. He discusses the dramatic social change that has occurred within a very small amount of time as psychologically impacting on many Australians. Australian society has become a source of anxiety for its inhabitants and many people have therefore ‘disengaged’ become more focused on themselves and to employ somewhat reductionist techniques to reasoning to look for simple answers in a complex world.
An issue that really stood out to me was the problem of abdication of personal responsibility than can come with fundamentalism. I agree with this in that when people see things in too simplistic a manner they tend to ignore many relevant details. As I have previously mentioned the human self is already predisposed to protect its self by externalising blame (eg. self serving bias & scapegoat theory) therefore social conditions which further encourage such externalising could cause many problems.
Bystander effect 
Another concept which we covered in this topic which I was particularly drawn to was the bystander effect. The bystander effect is the consistent finding that individuals are less likely to help others when they are in a group as opposed to when they are alone (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). I think unless you live in a very isolated area almost everyone has been in the situation where a stranger has needed help; of course the situation and strangers need could vary greatly in severity.
The text refers to the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in which a young woman was murdered in the street while a reported 38 nearby neighbours overheard the incident but did nothing. This event prompted Darley and Lantané two psychologists to research bystander effect and its possible causes (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). Darley and Lantané (1988) propose that the lack of help is a result of the conflict experienced by bystanders as opposed to a lack of wanting to help or apathy. They propose people go through a number of steps when deciding whether or not to help an individual:
- Noticing an event
- Interpreting the meaning of the event (is it an emergency?)
- Taking responsibility for helping (the more people present the less responsibility felt- diffusion of responsibility)
- Having the capability or knowledge to help
- Providing help
At each stage there are a number of potential obstacles, however Darley and Lantané (1988) propose that ‘diffusion’ in responsibility for helping may be the critical factor to whether people help or not. In their experiment they staged an emergency in the form of someone experiencing a seizure, finding the presence of bystanders reduced participants’ feelings of responsibility for helping and subsequent reporting.
I can recall many instances where I have been in this sort of situation, and I will admit there have been times where I have helped and times where I haven’t. The text refers to a wide variety of obstacles to helping ranging from, lack of time, potential risks, ambiguity of situation, audience inhibition (fear of looking foolish if help is unwanted), and diffusion of responsibility. I agree with Darley and Lantané that diffusion of responsibility is the crucial determining factor, as in my personal experience when faced with this sort of situation one often confronts many of the obstacles listed and if there are a number of other people around I guess it’s easy to tell yourself ‘someone else will help’ when of course everyone else may be telling themselves the same thing.
I must admit I had never heard of the term environmental psychology until I heard it in the lecture! I suppose it makes all the sense in the world, as humans interact with the environment on a variety levels very single day.
Environmental psychology is the study of ‘people-environment interrelationships and transactions’. It emerged in the 1960’s and relates to fields such as:
- environmental perception and cognition
- place attachment and identity
- conservation behaviour and sustainability
- climate change
- natural resource management
- disaster preparedness and response
- urban and regional planning and design (Reser, 2008).
Green prescriptions 
What I found very interesting in the lecture was the concept of a ‘green prescription’ for psychological and physiological problems. A recent article from the Sydney Morning Herald The benefit of nature of nurture discusses the ideas of green prescriptions and refers to research findings on vegetation and crime rates. The study of 98 public housing development buildings in Chicago found apartment block with high levels of plant life had 48% less property crimes and 56% less violent crime than those with little or no greenery.
In Conclusion 
I must say I have found this exercise quite a challenge, it’s not everyday that you are given such free reign on an assignment at uni, and at first I found it quite overwhelming. I suppose what I have hoped to present here is a collection of what stood out to me and to convey my experiences in the unit. I honestly feel one would have to write a small novel to cover everything we have learned in this class as social psychology is such a far reaching field, it addresses human nature on so many different dimensions. Social psychology has perhaps been one of the most relevant psychology classes I have taken, and it seemed with every new topic illustrations from my life would come to mind. So to anyone who stumbles across this in the future (maybe after googling social psychology??) I hope you find my ramblings/notes of some interest and potential use ;-)
Bandura, A., Ross, D. & Ross, S.A. (1988). Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models. In Readings in social psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 159-168). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social psychology and human nature (1st ed.) Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
Darley, J & Latane, B, 1988, 'Bystander intervention in emergencies: diffusion of responsibility', in, Peplau, L [et al] (eds), Readings in Social Psychology, 2nd ed, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, pp. 179-187
Dovidio, J. & Latane, B. (2000) Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11(4), 315-319.
Festinger, L. & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-210.
Fiske, S. T. (2004). The self: social to the core. In Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. (Ch 5, pp. 169-214). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Mackay, H. (2005). Social Disengagement: A Breeding Ground for Fundamentalism, 6th Annual Manning Clark Lecture.
Reser, J. (2008) Environmental psychology an endangered species. InPsych, The Australian Psychological Society. Retrieved from: http://www.psychology.org.au/inpsych/endangered/
Winkelman, M. (1994). Cultural shock and adaptation. Journal of Counseling & Development, 73, 121-126.