User:Alex Topfer

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Crystal Clear app kfm home.png This user is a participant in the Social psychology unit.
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So as a component of my Social Psychology unit at University of Canberra I need a series of posts on here about the unit (or just Social Psychology probably). I'm not sure if this'll be any use, or if I'll stay a member after the unit ends, but I get marks for this. Considering the content that will probably be posted here I could probably just use my blog, but that would risk boring the few people who read it even more.

Second week[edit]

As I have no idea what to post here at the moment, I'm just going to stick up a couple of thoughts: Is the concept of the self an actual evolutionary adaptation, or is it the product of the collective averaging power of our neurons? So basically the self could be a result of the complexity of our brains, with our neurons averaging out their activity to lead to what seems like one train of thought. Or it could be that our society requires its members to be aware of themselves (and by extension each other) for it to exist. My guess is that it may have been both to a degree, with the early human society having to deal with animals which had a basic concept of the self due to neurological complexity, so it built on this. Once the society go going a sense of self became a requirement for existing in it, thus leading to a co-evolutionary cycle.

On the purposes of self mentioned in the lecture notes, it seems that this only applies to human (and maybe vertebrate) societies. Communal insects seem to be able to gain social acceptance and play social roles with no sense of self. Linking into the above bit, this is probably due to neurological complexity.

It was also interesting to note the division of groups in the tutorials. For the first tutorials we did an exercise where we divided up according to the groups we are members of (marital status, political, eye colour), and the result of the religion divide was quite interesting. We ended up with the six men standing in the atheist group, and a large group of women (10?) in the agnostic group. Objectively these groups seem the same, neither of us go to church or pray (I presume), so the divide seems rather strange.

From the welcome message: "Good job on setting up your account". Isn't setting this up just the basic technological ability that you need in society? It's not like it's ram overclocking or anything. It seems to me to be the equivalent of saying "congratulations, you can read".

Oops, I completely misunderstood all this. In the areas of the internet where I normally spend time this level of technological literacy is assumed, and so remarking that someone has signed up for an account is broadly similar to saying "congratulations, you managed to put on pants". Of course in this area of the internet it is entirely appropriate, at least judging from Erkan_Yilmaz's comment on my talk page, so what we have here are different schemas, to bring this back to social psych terms. Based on the schema I was working from the welcome message was condescending, however this is not a community of computer geeks and my schema was inappropriate instead of the message. This was just a cultural misunderstanding, albeit an embarrassing one.


We did an exercise this week where we dissected peoples names to what they meant, and also talked about the grroups people saw themselves as members of. The name bit was not that interesting, as most people had their names chosen for them, thus limiting the scope of the names saying anything about them. For instance my name, Alex Topfer: my first name was chosen by my parents, I merely shortened it because I thought the full version was a mouthful. The Topfer is derived from the German Toepfer, which means potter, we lost an e somewhere. Neither of these really say much about me (I'm no good at pottery).

I think a more useful, though probably limited exercise, would be the use peoples screen names. My most common screen name is Dangerous Beans, which is the name of a Terry Pratchett character, so it already says more about me than my actual name. The character is effectively the shaman of the tribe, he is also weak, half blind and an albino. Despite this he is the smartest of the tribe, and because of that has huge political power and gets the most attractive woman in the tribe.

The fact that I would use this name says much more about my views, rather than my actual name that says where some of my ancestors came from, which to me is more useful information. I'm sure that some other peoples screen names would carry similar information, though some just make it up.

This is kind of like the names int he Iain Banks Culture series of novels: where the citizens, upon reaching adulthood, choose a name as part of their full name. As always there is a wiki article [[1]].

The other part was the groups we identify with. This one seemed weird to in that I was the only one who said a political group, though that might have been a slight misunderstanding of the question (it's more a philosophical group than a cultural one). Still I was the only one who listed political idea, and also the only one who said a religious group (kind of, atheist), where as others were much more likely to list geographical or occupational labels. This just seems weird to me, I'm much more of a nerd than an Australian: I know what to do in a Zerg rush, have no idea about a rugby game. Though I never really did get the whole nationalism thing, and this is probably just a facet of that.


I now have an essay question: What is constructivism? Consider within the context of social psychology.

This is really confusing, large chunks of it make absolutely no sense.

For instance there is someone called Maturana, who said that reality is a construct of observers, there is no independently existing world for us to observe (Raskin, 2002). He does suggest that there may be a communal reality created by a network of observers via language, however this seems impossible to me. Lets say that we have observer A, who creates his own reality. Now in this reality there is an entity called B, which may or may not be an observer, but there is no shared language between A and B.

If B is an observer then B will construct its own reality, thus removing itself from A's reality. If B was both an observer and existant within A's reality then there would be a reality independent of B. According to Maturana's theory there is no independent reality (Raskin, 2002), so if B is an observer then it cannot be in A's reality.

Therefore no object in A's reality other than A can be an observer, everything other than A must be some type of philosophical zombie. As I am able to observe the world around me, I must be the sole observer in this reality (unless your the sole observer and I was just claim that I can observe), and thus the creator of this reality. Which prompts the question: why did I make republicans?

It might be argued that both A and B have created their own realities, and that via language these realities can come into contact. However if B ever observes part of A's reality, then A's reality is no longer purely dependent on A's observation. There is, for A, an independently existing reality, and as was already said that is not allowed.

Now it may be that reality is dependent on a primary observer, but it exists independent of all other observers; reality is created by one observer but contains other observers of which reality exists independently. This primary observer my be a group of observers united by language, as per Maturana's theory, but as there are multiple languages uniting different social groups not all observers are part of the primary observer (there is no requirement that we are even aware of the primary observer). So as we do not know who the primary observer is, this reality would be indistinguishable from a truly independent reality. All this bit is of course a complete mauling of what Maturana was saying, but I'm trying to be generous here.

So at best this theory predicts that reality will look like it does, whether or not it is true, and at worst it is solipsism. A theory that predicts that the world will look like the world cannot be disproved, and it thus a waste of time. If it is just solipsism then I cannot be bothered arguing about it, and I am going to go do something productive instead.