Okay, testing out this user page thing and seeing if it works firstly and then I'll come back later and start adding information.
First Impressions and Thoughts 
Okay, time to talk about my first impressions of the subject. After seeing what the unit involves, I've realised that social psychology is basically all the stuff I signed up to Psychology to learn about. I'm fascinated and curious by the interactions between people and all the rules and patterns that go along with that. Social psychology is something that we can see around us everyday. It's such an integral part of our lives and it is affected by and affects everything in our lives, to different degrees. Humans are such social beings that we can't help but socialise with the people around us, even at work. Social psychology covers so many different things that it would be almost impossible not to be able to find some element that fascinates us, whether you prefer relationships, cultures, communication, etc. I've had so many things going through my head even from just our initial tute.
The activity where James split us up by various elements really interested me and made me think about a lot of things. Like the part where we had to divide by our religious beliefs. There were a lot of people that really didn't have any religious beliefs, we don't really care either way. And it made me wonder whether that's a reflection of our age or Australian culture in general. There is no over-riding religion in Australia, there is a mix of everything. So is that why a lot of people just fall through the gaps and don't really care?
Another activity we did was our relationship status. Most of the class was in a relationship or married. But within the 'in a relationship' group, there was a still a range from committed to dating etc. It made me think about how we define relationships. Or how do we measure the seriousness of a relationship? Can we definitively say that two people who have been together 6 months are more committed than two people that have been together for 6 weeks? Everyone treats their relationship differently and will probably be looking for different things out of it. Some people are just looking for company, or affection. Whereas other people are looking for something more, emotionally. They want someone they can depend on, no matter what. Others are looking for financial benefits. Or a relationship could be more about getting married and having children together. Age could play some role, because as you get older, your priorities tend to change. So younger people might be happy with a more superficial relationship or even an open relationship. But as people get older, they probably start to think more about getting serious and being more committed to each other. I've always been interested by relationships and how they work and how they're defined. In so many surveys etc, they have really limited definitions or choices, some are literally only married or single. Whereas relationships are much more flexible and can come from a range of different circumstances. There is a difference between casually dating and being in a 'committed' relationship. But as someone in the tute said, well what's committed?
I've also been thinking a lot about cultures and sub-cultures. And just how many 'cultures' we really belong to. I mean, you have the broad ones like Western culture and Australian culture. But when you really deconstruct it, every social circle or acitivity etc. that we belong to has its own culture. Each family has its own beliefs and ways of doing things, every workplace has its own rules and procedures.
I have to go now but I'll be back. I've still got way too many thoughts to stop now. LOL.
Social Self 
It’s always an interesting challenge when we’re prompted to think about ourselves and try to figure out who we are and what we are and where we belong. A lot of people find it quite hard to define themselves. We are constantly changing yet so much stays the same. Are we defined by what we do, what we look like, who we’re with, what we own, what we don’t own? There are so many elements that make a person who they are. How do you narrow it down to one concise description? Is it possible to have several ‘selves’? For example, I act differently around my parents than I do around my friends. Does that mean I’m a different person with my family? Or is it just different elements of the same person? I know that my sense of self has changed over the years. Some people say I am exactly the same as I was ten or twenty years ago, whereas others say I have totally changed from 4 years ago. So obviously, some elements have been stable, whereas others have developed or changed. I would probably describe myself as a fairly self-aware person, yet I obviously have to account for the fact that my image of myself could be totally wrong. The concept of self-esteem can be quite thought-provoking sometimes. Because you can see people who don’t seem to have much going for them, yet they’re okay with that. Yet there are people who have every reason to be happy with themselves and they just cannot seem to find the contentment within themselves to believe in their own strengths and opportunities.
Social Thinking 
Social thinking is about how we think about others, form impressions or perceptions about others. Framing is about how we view an event, picture, person etc based on our own personal experiences and beliefs. Several people can look at the same thing and make completely different inferences about what is going on or the causes for example. The self-serving bias was another concept that fascinated me. Its about whether people attribute success or failure as internal or external. Personal success is generally attributed to internal factors such as I studied hard, I am a good driver etc. personal failure, however, tends to be attributed to external factors, such as the exam was too hard or the other driver cut me off. When it comes to the successes or failures of other people however, the trend reverses. Success is attributed to external factors such as they had an easier exam. Failure for other people is attributed to internal factors, for example he is dumb.
Another element of social thinking is the concepts of attitudes and beliefs. Wikipedia describes attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's like or dislike for an item. Attitudes are positive, negative or neutral views of an "attitude object": i.e. a person, behaviour or event. People can also be "ambivalent" towards a target, meaning that they simultaneously possess a positive and a negative bias towards the attitude in question. . A belief however, is described as the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.  . Attitudes are developed through experience and acquiring knowledge of the item. Attitudes can also be influenced by a range of sources, including parents, friends, and the media. We never really stop and take the time to assess our attitudes towards things, they are just there and ready to surface at the right moment when the item is displayed. We also rarely attempt to justify our attitudes or determine if they are the ‘right’ attitude.
Aggression is defined in our textbook as ‘any behaviour intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm’. The textbook also mentions that this definition involves three elements. Firstly, aggression is a behaviour, which is observable. So it is not an emotion, such as anger. And it’s not a thought, such as mentally rehearsing or merely visualising the action. Secondly, aggression is intentional, and that intent is to harm. And finally, according to this definition, the victim wants to avoid the harm. The aggressive act does not have to be successful, in order to fulfil the definition either. For example, if a person shoots a gun at another person but misses, it is still an act of aggression. There are also several different types of aggression, including passive and active and also hostile and instrumental. There can also be distinctions made between verbal and physical aggression.
This definition raises a few interesting points that challenged my own perceptions of aggression and probably some societal perceptions. The word ‘aggressive’ is often used to describe someone who is merely determined or energetic in their pursuit of their ends. It is also used in sports and even in poker, to describe a playing style attributed to people who play a lot of hands, raise, and bluff frequently. None of these situations involve intent to harm another person.
It has been said that aggression is increasing in today’s society. As people get more impatient, they become more aggressive. And we have increasing rates of road rage and the new emerging trend of ‘trolley rage’. We’ve all been in situations where someone cuts us off and we get upset and yell or honk our horns, but is that an act of aggression? We don’t really intend harm to the other person, we’re just frustrated. The frustration-aggression hypothesis claims that aggression is always preceded by frustration and that frustration always leads to aggression. A later revision changed the second part to reflect that frustration may or may not lead to aggression but the first element remained. The other important part of this is that aggression has been shown to be a learned behaviour, with some genetic influences. So is it inevitable that the rising rate of road rage will continue to propagate a cycle where the newer drivers learn from the older drivers and maintain the aggressive patterns of behaviour?
Prejudice is somewhat of a touchy subject. We like to think that there is little or no prejudice in this world and that everyone is treated fairly. However, we all engage in prejudice on some level. Prejudice, in a broad sense, is prejudgement, making a decision before being aware of the relevant facts . Every time we look at someone and make a snap decision without really knowing them, we are technically being prejudiced. We judge people everyday based on the clothes they wear or the car they drive. We use stereotypes to quickly and easily classify people in terms of set frames we have in our minds. For example, someone who is wearing all black is a goth or an emo. A girl in a short skirt and low-cut top would probably find herself being labelled or prejudiced against as promiscuous.
On the extreme level, we have cases such as racism. Racism, by its simplest definition, is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. People with racist beliefs might hate certain groups of people according to their racial groups. . in a society like Australia, we like to think that racism is not a prevalent thing. However, as with prejudice, there is probably some level of racism in most people. Its just not a form of racism that leads to discrimination or violence. But in our minds, we might put certain labels or make certain assumptions about people by their race. For example, Asian people are generally seen as geeky squares who always study and watch anime.
Racism and prejudice, at their basic levels, will never be truly eradicated. We will always judge people at first glance because it is easier to just cram someone into our pre-conceived pigeon holes, rather than take the time to get to know them.
I’ve read some really interesting articles about this topic lately, which have challenged my perceptions. There is a general perception that relationships mean more to the female, and the male is just along for the ride. Girls seem to put more time and effort into a relationship and it is generally high on their priorities. I found these articles which suggest that relationships are more important to males than we thought. Romance has been shown to boost a man’s self-esteem. The study referenced was a study study into opposite sex friendships and determined a hierarchy of relationships for young men in terms of their impact on self-esteem. A romantic relationship with a woman topped the list, followed by female friendships and then friendships with other men. The article also stated that being in a relationship comes with a sense of social achievement for men. A romantic partnership for men may also fulfil unmet intimacy needs. []. the article was a result of a Australian Psychological Society media release which also stated that men who are in romantic relationships have higher levels of self-esteem than those without a partner. The media release also claimed that the study found romantic relationships had little impact on women’s self-esteem.  Which surprised me, I always thought relationships were more likely to affect a woman’s self-esteem rather than the man’s. The APS also released a media release about relationships, stating that the strongest predictors for maintaining a healthy, long-lasting relationship are shared, realistic expectations, effective communication, working at the relationship as a life priority, and the ability to manage stress.  I recently received this article in an email from my boyfriend. It was kind of an inside joke at the time but it also demonstrates an interesting insight into the journey of a relationship. The article, which is referencing a recent study claims that the ups and downs of the female weight-cycle showed happiness - or the lack of it - in a relationship is the biggest factor. The article had the catchy headline ‘Men make women gain weight’ and discussed how a woman’s weight fluctuates at certain points of a relationship . The early courtship usually brings with it a strict diet regime resulting in the loss of around 5lb or 2.2kgs. but then as the woman gets comfortable with her partner, the weight begins to pile on. Wedding plans mean another sprint to shed a few pounds before the arrival of a baby reverses that weight loss, followed by a reinvention - which again sparks a diet drive. So now the women have someone to blame for our weight loss. The men.
Human beings are quite social and we often crave other people and we seem to have a constant need to be part of a group. At its simplest level, a group is at least two people who are doing something or being something together. Groups can be large and diverse, or smaller and have a more common set of goals and beliefs. Groups provide somewhere for a person to fit in and interact with other, similar people. Groups can also make tasks more efficient and easier for each individual person. As with the sub-cultures that were discussed weeks ago, every person also belongs to many groups. And in some ways, those groups reflect the sub-cultures.
Groups have a lot of influence over the people within them. The very act of being in a group opens up the doors to being influenced in some way by others or by the dynamics of the group itself.
Prosocial behaviour is defined as doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole. It includes behaviour that respects others or allows society to operate. Prosocial behaviour can be as simple as obeying the laws of society and abiding by safety signs. It can also be more altruistic and involve things such as volunteering or donations. Participating in charities or helping out at a working bee at a school are examples of prosocial behaviour as well. Most people do gain some sort of pleasure from helping others. Males are more helpful in a broader public sphere such as in emergencies, whereas females are more focused on the family sphere, in close relationships and in volunteering.
The bystander effect is an interesting concept which is also pretty scary. The diffusion of responsibility concept is quite shocking. The idea that having more people around you actually decreases the chances of being helped.
The idea of the environment having an effect on our psychology is quite intriguing. There’s no denying that a rainy day seems to make people more down and that a nice day filled with sunshine increases the chances of people being upbeat and happy. But is it something that is consistent and can be measured? It is a relatively new concept and environmental psychology is a new ‘discipline’ that encompasses many fields.
Tutorial Two- Communication 
For me, this was a particularly fascinating tutorial, given the issues I face with communication every day. I have a profound hearing loss in both ears and therefore, verbal communication doesn’t come as easily to me as it does for most people in this subject. I rely a lot on visual cues, such as lip reading as well as contextual cues. I was interested to hear someone refer to sign language as an example of non-verbal communication. When you think about it, sign language is actually a deaf person’s version of verbal communication. It has specific vocabulary and meaning on its own. And then they also have all of the other non-verbal stuff, such as body language, facial expressions etc.
I was also interested in the stuff about levels, and how communication content can go from shallow stuff like hello and how are you to the deep stuff about feelings and emotions. I was discussing it with someone else and we were comparing the stuff about scripts, with the levels of deep to shallow. At the shallow level, it is much more scripted and there are certain expectations about what will be said. However, as the communication gets deeper, it’s harder to predict what will be said and it’s also coming more from the heart of the person talking. So at the deeper level, it’s more personal and the content is also more unique. Every day, we have dozens of shallow conversations or communications with people, so we hear the same stuff over and over. Whereas a deeper conversation is more influenced by the people in the conversation and even if you have multiple deep conversations in a day, they will still have more unique content because it will be about the feelings of each person at each time.
We also talked about the ‘Transmission model’ for communication. It is interesting to think about that model and apply it to conversations I’ve had and try to identify the endless possibilities where the problems can lie. Obviously, with the hearing impairment that I have means that I, as the receiver, generally seem to hold a lot of the responsibility for when the message doesn’t get through. But it can be made harder when people have accents or mumble for example.
The last interesting part of the tute was the Minefield game. We had to pair up and one person had to guide the other person through a ‘minefield’ of various objects on the floor. It was interesting to watch the different approaches that people took and it was funny to see how people interacted. Some people totally trusted their partners whereas others seemed to completely ignore the instructions they were being given. Luckily for me, only one person in the pair had to do it. I would’ve been petrified if I had to be the person with my eyes closed. I know that I would’ve really struggled to make out what my partner was saying, especially with all the noise from other people.
Tutorial Three- Prejudice and Aggression 
This tute was pretty emotional and it bought up a lot of deep feelings in people and raised some pretty contentious issues. The ‘Ghosts of Rwanda’ documentary was obviously pretty distressing and some people described it as being particularly upsetting. It was interesting to note that as horrified as people were by watching the movie, very few people, even amongst the older students, seem to remember the event when it actually happened. For me, I guess I’ve become a bit desensitized, to be honest. Its not that I am not moved by what happened and I know it was a terrible thing. But the fact is, there are conflicts happening all the time. It is a natural part of life. There have been so many wars and terrible atrocities that have occurred all over the world, and this is just another example. I have watched other movies like this and it gets to the point where you kind of have to just accept it. I remember being in high school and we watched a similar documentary and it actually showed someone being killed. Being 17-18 years old at the time, I was horrified to watch this man being stabbed on the camera. It was filmed from up on a hill, several hundred metres away, but you could still see the evil in the killer’s eyes and the journalists couldn’t do anything but preserve it for the record. It is interesting that a few people blamed America for what happened. As powerful as America is, they can’t be expected to save everyone. The fact is, in their minds, the loss of one American life is worth far more than dozens of lives of someone they don’t know.
We also watched a video about Jane Elliott and her blue eyes/brown eyes experiments. This experiment probably upset me more, because it represented some things that really bother me about our society and about prejudice and racism. There seems to be this attitude that racism only exists or only matters if it is by a white person, against a black person. The aboriginal people in the video had no problems in treating the white people like garbage, even though they should know better than anyone how it feels. When the white man was talking about his experiences, no one seemed to care, because he was white and therefore ‘it wasn’t the same’. As shown on the key terms handout we were given, racism is defined as ‘prejudiced attitudes towards a single race’. It never specifies which race. There is racism against whites by the blacks when they assume that whites are arrogant or bad people or that all white people are racist. Racism can also be whites against whites, or blacks against blacks. I witnessed an interesting online exchange in a Facebook chat room earlier, where an Aboriginal girl was claiming that racism is only against blacks and specifically in Australia, against aboriginals. It was so frustrating and it really just reeked of the same ignorance that exists all over our society. Just because white people are the majority race in Australia, well presumably, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have people being racist to them. And within white people, you can have the Greek race being racist to Australians or Italians being racist to English people for example.
Tutorial Four- Cross-cultural training 
Tutorial four started with a discussion about the story of our names, and we also discussed some of the sub-cultures we belong to. It was interesting to note that a lot of the ‘Australian’ students had names that resulted purely from their parents’ preferences and occasionally the name was in the family. But people from other countries were more influenced by particular expectations of where the name would come from. It was also funny that someone else in the class had the exact same first and middle name as myself. I come across a lot of people with the same first name or the same middle name, but to come across the same combination was pretty interesting. With the sub-cultures, people mentioned mostly hobbies or interests, such as shopping. We seemed to struggle a bit with that, mainly because we never really give much thought to the sub-cultures we belong to, but in hindsight, everyone belongs to dozens of sub-cultures. Our families are a sub-culture, the job we have, plus the specific workplace we are at, even random things such as being the youngest child, having blue eyes, the television shows we watch. Some people are proud to call themselves part of the Star Trek sub-culture or the sub-culture for viewers of Gossip Girls or Big Brother. You can find all of these media sub-cultures by surfing the net, where you can find websites and message boards/forums devoted to drawing together fans of a particular book, movie or TV show. Being a part of a particular sport is one sub-culture and the specific team you play for makes up another sub-culture. It is also interesting to think about how we get drawn into other sub-cultures through partners. My boyfriend plays soccer, so I have been drawn into the soccer sub-culture, both in general and I’ve also become a part of the sub-culture of his team, by meeting all the players and becoming friends with some of the other wives and girlfriends.
We also discussed culture shock. I’ve moved all around Australia and I’ve gone from the suburbs of Melbourne to the beach culture in Perth and then to inner city Sydney. And every time, I’ve had to adapt to new cultures. On a bigger level, others in the tute mentioned overseas trips where they had to immerse themselves in cultures that were very different to what they were used to. It was interesting when the topic of culture shock came up and a lot of people claimed they had never experienced it at all. But to some degree, we all experience culture shock all the time. Every time you start a new job, you have to adapt to a new culture. Starting university was a huge culture shock for me, getting used to a totally new routine and new methods of doing things. When we meet our partner’s family, we have to integrate into their culture and dynamics. So chances are, every person in this unit has, in fact, experienced some level of culture shock in their lives.
We also talked about cultural maps and the Excell program that was designed to teach international students about how to act and interact within Australian cultural guidelines.
Tutorial Five- Australian Zeitgeist 
We started this tute by talking about social capital and social disengagement. Social capital is a term that has been used across many disciplines, including business, economics, organizational behaviour, political science, public health, sociology and natural resources management. It is a somewhat fuzzy concept which induced a few thoughts or other concepts such as collective, positive social networks, goodwill, pro-social and altruistic behaviours and ‘investment’. It seems to basically mean the emotional and social investment that a society makes in itself. It was also described as engagement, and the opposite of social disengagement. With social disengagement, the society lives as individuals or couples. There is less community participation, and less investment in family or neighbours. There is also little or no contact with religion.
We also discussed the concept of ‘Australian Zeitgeist’. Zeitgeist has been loosely defined or translated as ‘the spirit or flavour of the times. James suggested we check out Google Zeitgeist, which was an interesting insight into Australian events or mindframes at any particular time. For example, you can pinpoint the time of the soccer world cup by the sudden surge in searches for the Socceroos and Harry Kewell. It is also interesting to see which searches are regularly in the top 15 searches. The online dating site, RSVP, is a consistent performer. As is the white pages. Myspace and youtube also make the top 15 a fair bit. And the various Australian airlines are another popular search.
We also listened to the talk given by Hugh Mackay. It was a pretty fascinating speech and it really delved into some tough issues that are facing Australia. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that was said and some of it was a bit presumptuous but it was still really interesting. Afterwards, we discussed our ‘wish list’ for society, using some of the issues raised in the speech. We then had to design a program that could solve one of these problems. There were some interesting ideas. Unfortunately, changing a social problem is extremely difficult and the point is, these issues are already in motion and it would be hard to stop them from developing further without drastic action.
Tutorial Six- Assessment workshop 
Unfortunately I haven’t been well lately and was having a particularly bad day today, so I was unable to make the tutorial. I spoke to some friends and found out that the tutorial covered the assessments and went over some of the same stuff we found out in the first tutorial.
Case Study: Facebook 
To me, looking at Facebook seems like an interesting way of utilising the tools I have acquired to look at it from a social psychology perspective. As part of the wider technological issue, many people don’t approve of the internet and of these kinds of sites because it allegedly limits face-to-face interaction. However, I think Facebook is a great thing because it allows people to keep in touch with dozens or even hundreds or thousands of friends, acquaintances and family so easily. A single announcement can inform everyone at once of important changes in your life. Personally, Facebook has allowed me to re-connect with old school friends that I never would have spoken to again otherwise. It provides an opportunity to stay up-to-date on people’s lives, without having to spend hours on the phone each day or meeting up, to keep tabs on people. Instead, I can just go online, browse through the latest updates and immediately know what is going on in. I can even peruse their photos and remain informed on their physical changes. I have re-connected with friends from my first high school in Melbourne, whom I haven’t seen since 2000. Being able to see their photos allows me to update my image of them in my mind and have a clearer mental picture when I talk to them.
Obviously Facebook has its downsides. Watching relationships unravel via random and sometimes vindictive status updates is not a highlight. And there seems to be a trend of drunken photos being put online. There are so many friends who I would think were permanently drunk, if their photos are anything to go by.
Final Thoughts 
I have always been a pretty deep thinker and I spend a lot of time analysing the events around me. This social psychology unit has given me the tools to undergo this process with more meaning and it has also shown me new ways of looking at life and what goes on around me. I have learnt some interesting things from both the course itself, as well as the people in my tutorial who have given me some valuable insights into the topics we’ve discussed. It was an interesting social experiment in itself to see all the different viewpoints and it was also interesting to note which viewpoints were bought up more and that there was almost a tendency for people to be afraid to bring up more controversial viewpoints, which I later found out about in private conversations. It is pretty scary right now, knowing how close we are to the end. This is the last assignment to go in and then thats it. No more lectures, no more tutes and now, no more assignments. All I have left is three exams and then its over. Three years of hard work has come to its end. On the one hand, obviously it is a huge relief. But on the other hand, its pretty scary. Because, what now? University and being a university student has been such a big part of my life for 3 years now. So much has happened in that time, both at uni but also away from uni. My life has changed in so many ways and I've marked some important milestones since I started uni. I am in a very different place than I was when I started, both literally and metaphorically. I have gone on such a journey and its been an emotional rollercoaster ride. I've had some semesters where everything has been going really well and I'm on top of the world. And I've had other semesters where my whole life has just fallen in a heap and I've had so much going on. Uni has been the one reliable thing throughout all of this. Even when everything was going wrong, I still had tutorials to go to and assignments due. Like most students, uni has been a constant juggling act. Trying to figure out the right priorities from the numerous commitments. Balancing family, friends, a relationship, a job and uni as well as my own personal physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing is a constant battle and sooner or later, some of the balls will have to drop somewhere along the line. Coming to the end, I feel so many emotions. I'm excited, scared, relieved and in some ways, just exhausted. I just want to spend some time doing absolutely nothing and having no worries about anything being due or having to get to a tute or keep up with readings or anything. Just time to focus on myself and my own needs. Now I just have to face the culture shock of being a full-time worker, not a uni student. :)