- 1 Initial Thoughts
- 2 Introduction to Social Psychology
- 3 Culture and the Social Self
- 4 Communication
- 5 Is Aggression Innate or Learned?
- 6 Prejudice
- 7 Attraction and Exclusion and Relationships
- 8 Groups and Leadership
- 9 Prosocial Behaviour
- 10 Australian Zeitgeist
- 11 Final Thoughts
My area interest not only lies in psychology, but also Human Resource Management, so I am really looking forward to being able to use this subject to further my knowledge in both areas. I really like the idea of this learning journal or area of reflection, as these always allow me to piece everything together and to grasp the concepts and links between areas as the weeks go on. I also enjoy it as it means I am constantly thinking about the subject and looking for examples in my everyday life to highlight the recent things I have learnt. This is wonderful because everyday allows me to reinforce my learning as I find things in the environment that support my learning.
I am particularly looking forward to gaining a greater understanding of prejudice. I have a passion for equality, and making everyone feel included, regardless of race, religion, gender etc. Therefore I am really hoping to gain insight into why prejudice stops others from being included in groups, and maybe what I can do to help. Another area I am interested in is relationships and love and why some people drawn to others. Further I am getting married at the end of this year so I hope to understand why my relationship is the way it is, and how love works.
From overlooking the text it appears that this subject will allow me to draw a lot of ideas from other subjects together, and I am glad it is one of my final subjects as I think it will be a good note to finish on. I am hoping that the topic of leadership will be an available option for me to do as my essay, as I am passionate for HR. This will allow me to make some links between both psychology and HR, and hopefully I can truly come to understand what a good leader is, and how it is that they use certain behaviours, emotions to influence others.
Introduction to Social Psychology
What is social psychology?
It is human behaviour in the social context. I personally like the definition by Gordon Allport, which states social psychology is the study of how thoughts, feelings, behaviours of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others. This definition was really interesting for me as for most of us we don’t imagine we are in the presence of others, but this is a reality for some people. And certainly there are numerous effects that the imagined presence of others has on the lives of those with schizophrenia for example. Also I liked the example of the war memorial to describe the idea of implied presence of others.
Social psychology is influenced by: ABC
- Affect (feelings)
- Cognition (thoughts)
Social psychology is comprised of:
- Social perception: how we interpret social objects
- Social influence: attitudes and behaviour brought about by others
- Social interaction: how we interact with others in the social world
Tutorial 1 – Introduction
Wow, could it be possible that after three years of university, someone has figured out how to engage me in a tutorial? At the start of the tutorial we were asked to move into different groups according to our answers on several questions such as where we live in Canberra, religion, marital status, eye colour, and political view. Two questions in particular were interesting in terms of class and personal reaction, these were religion and marital status. I was 20 years old when I got engaged, and often being that age when people find out you are engaged you are met with confused looks, and that one comment “Im so happy for you, but you're so young”. I’m met with this reaction probably because it definitely goes against social norms. The current trend in Australia is definitely to get married later in life, and this is the cause for the different perception of my relationship. It was interesting that when we split up into groups I was the only one to be in the ‘engaged’ group, and as such I got a lot of attention. I think this was a mixture of the age factor, and just the normal wedding factor. The next question I found of interest was religion. I found it interesting that those who identified themselves as Catholics, did not go into the Christian group but rather separated into their own group, even though both groups worship the same God. Further I noticed one other difference was two people commented ‘I am a catholic, but I am not really, I don’t really practice it’ so were really unsure where they fitted and what to identify themselves with.
Our second task was to split into groups of three or four and create a definition of what we thought social psychology was. This is what we came up with: ‘Social psychology is the examination of individuals and groups’ behaviours, emotions, and cognitions whilst in the presence of others’. This was a pretty good definition, however we were forgetting one thing. What is the definition of the presence of others? We had defined it simply as in the real presence of others, not including imagined or implied presence of others, which is the true definition of social psychology. I really enjoyed this tutorial because it truly was an introduction to the topic. I learn best through being able to visualize and personally experience what I am being taught, so these exercises were wonderful for my personal learning.
Culture and the Social Self
Culture is an information based system which includes shared ideas and common ways of doing things. I had never really thought of the implications in which culture can have until last year, when I truly started thinking about what culture really meant, and its role in psychology. Last year I did some psychological tests that were from other cultures (very culturally specific) I did terrible on (even those from American which one would presume to be somewhat similar to our culture). This really showed to me how culture is incredibly specific and individual to only those within that social system. Some of the simplest questions on those tests all our class was unable to answer, showing how even easy common shared ideas and known facts in certain cultures, are simply impossible for anyone out of that social system to grasp. One question that I sometimes ask is whether Australia has its own culture, other than that expressed through languages etc. I refer to it in the sense that there are not many traditions of culture that Australia has. I think this is why we are so open to other cultural practices because we are quite a young country. Reading about the advantages of culture I had to question one. The advantage of progress where a culture stores accumulated knowledge of one generation and passes it to the next. I can see how for 99% of things this is progress and certainly useful, e.g. the best way to eat food… where would we be without knives and forks? However I wonder whether it can always be said to be progress when culture can get set in ways that are not always positive?
The Social Self
The self is a human tool for gaining social acceptance and participating in culture. What comprises ‘the self’? The self is an interaction between the following:
- Self knowledge: information about the self, self-awareness, self-esteem and deception
- Interpersonal self (public self): self presentation, member of groups, relationships, social roles and reputation.
- Agent self (executive functioning): decision making, self control, taking charge of situations and active responding.
What is ‘the self’? This I guess could be summed up briefly as ‘who am I’?
- What do I promote/defend
- What are my social roles: gender, social identity, group memberships and ethnicity?
- Psychologically the self is, a collection of cognitively held beliefs that a person possesses about themselves. This also includes psychologically meaningful personal possessions and personal space.
I touched on this back in personality, and we talked about how these things just mentioned become such a part of our identity. A change in just one of these can be very difficult to cope with and one almost has to start asking themselves who am I all over again. To highlight this, when my fiancés father died several years ago after the stage of grieving had passed by, his mother and his younger brother went through a stage of trying to figure out who they were again. His mother had defined herself as having a husband, and she no longer did, and further to this, many roles which her husband had done were now hers to do. Her life was really different and she didn’t really know who she was, and it has taken her a while to redefine her social self and her new roles in society and to her family.
I think that I use social comparison a lot, which is I often gauge my own performance of how I am doing through the comparison to similar people, in similar situations. I am achievement motivated so I am proud of my efforts when I know that I did better than others on their assignments etc. Thus I use downward comparison to make myself feel good, and build my esteem. Also at work if one person sells something, I have to sell more than them or make more money than them to feel as though I have achieved success.
Why people seek self-knowledge
In my readings, this was the section that I enjoyed most for this week. Probably because I can often be quite obsessed with what people think of me regardless of whether it’s bad or good, and sometimes it can be to the extent that it is annoying. So I enjoyed learning that it was normal for humans to have this thirst for self-knowledge!! Three reasons for wanting self-knowledge:
- Appraisal motive: the simple desire to learn the truth about oneself whatever it is. I think for me it is the desire to know not so much what people like about me, but what they don’t like about me, even if it is unpleasant it feels natural to still want to know.
- Self-enhancement motive: the desire to learn favourable or flattering things about the self. I think this is the good old ‘fishing for compliments’ thing that everyone does from time to time… ‘does my butt look big in this’, and lets face it we certainly do not ask this question to be told ‘yep it does’.
- Consistency motive: a desire to get feedback that confirms what the person already believes about themselves. I think an example of Australian Idol could be used here. Most people enter this competition thinking they are wonderful singers and enter to receive feedback from the judges that confirms that they are great singers.
Influence of Technology
In the week three tutorial we were asked split into groups and asked to discuss communication. My group discussed how channels such as email, SMS, and chatting online can really change the dynamics of communication. With books being written on how to effectively communicate via email, it is evident these modes are changing how we communicate on a day to day basis, and how our message gets received. Recently at work I received a short email from my regional manger, only comprising of 5 words. However she wrote it in capitals, which makes the message come across very strongly, and can appear rude, and angry. Almost as soon as I had opened the email, she called me to say, I’m so sorry I wrote that in capitals, it wasn’t meant to be, that was a totally friendly email. This clearly shows how something as simple as capital letters can completely change how the message was received. Therefore email and these other technological means of communication require close attention to assure that the message encoded will be the same message that is received.
Body language is a major part of communication with around 70-90% of importance of a message being in the non-verbal elements. This can include, position of the body, appearance, tone of voice, eye contact, touch and facial expressions. I think for some situations non-verbal is vital to express a message. Take for example you want to express to another that you are attracted to them. We do this through predominantly non-verbal behaviour such as touching, entering into the others personal space, positioning our body closer to them, and facial expressions. I believe that appearance can be a very strong channel of communication. Certainly my cousin is a really beautiful and kind on the inside, however she wears black, has evil looking tattoos, has a bull ring through the middle of her nose and goes by the name of Dark Lord. So she communicates one thing on the outside and another when you actually speak to her.
The second task we were asked to do was to find a partner and experiment with personal space. This activity started out just pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone by finding a conversation that was too far away and too close in personal space. This was interesting for me because I often go into people’s personal space boundary, and so for me this exercise wasn’t incredibly uncomfortable however for my partner this was really awkward. I think this was far more uncomfortable for those who did not know there partner at all, or they were an unfamiliar member of the opposite sex. The next task was how long can you maintain eye contact for… not very long. I have a particular dislike to eye contact. I found this really awkward, as did my partner. Interestingly, James commented that he always noticed that I seem to give good eye contact to him in the tute. To which I replied that I have become accustomed to making it look as though I do through various means. I would be looking at the top of his head for example or his neck, not his eyes. I learnt this from doing a lot of performing where I am meant to connect with my audience so I learnt tips such as those just mentioned or looking at the back wall. I find for me it’s not so much the looking into someone’s eyes, its just I don’t know how to break eye contact, and when is there too much eye contact that the other person finds it awkward. Although I must mention that these tricks are almost impossible to use when you are close up and one on one with a person, thus this task was really unpleasant. For me the final task of holding hands and staring into my partners eyes was not as intense. I am unsure why; maybe it was because we had started getting to know each other by doing this other awkward tasks.
I also mentioned in the tute the role that culture can play on personal space. When you go to Japan for example a whole escalator can be empty and two people will happily stand on the same step together. However in Australia one would find this incredibly uncomfortable and this would be avoided at all costs. We see this trend with many western cultures wanting more personal space and they become very uncomfortable when this space is ‘invaded’ as we so commonly term it. Also eye contact with certain people of different culture can be extremely offensive or no eye contact can be extremely offensive.
Is Aggression Innate or Learned?
Here I really wanted to take the time to analyze the validity of the theories of aggression. The three I will look (briefly) are psychoanalytic theory of aggression, frustration- aggression hypothesis and social learning theory. The reason I chose to do this comparison is because I find these theories very interesting. Regardless of the distinct lack of empirical research behind the psychoanalytic view it is hard not to find this view fascinating. My source for this information was from Jerry M. Burger, 2008.
Classical psychoanalytic theory
The psychoanalytic theory of aggression view posits that the cause of aggression is a part of our unconscious and motivated by internal drives. According to Freud behaviour is motivated by two internal drives which are known as libido and it is the repression of these drives that manifest as aggression. These two drives are in conflict, and this conflict causes an energy that when released forms the basis for aggression. Apparently by releasing this energy on others it prevents self-harm. Also according to this view the id ‘pleasure principle’ requires immediate gratification and gives us the impulse to strike back against things that aggravate us, thus aggression. This psychoanalytic view states that aggression is innate and not learnt.
Frustration-aggression hypothesis (neo-Freudian)
The frustration-aggression hypothesis posits that aggression is always caused by frustration, therefore the existence of frustration will lead to some form of aggression, or the occurrence of aggressive behaviour suggests that there is underlying frustration. Frustration is caused when there is an intent to satisfy a primary drive, aggression occurs when the drives gratification is blocked and therefore cannot satisfy this drive. This theory poses that the reason that aggression is not always manifested in frustrated people is that they understand that their actions may bring punishment. However this suggests that learning has occurred which conflicts with this theory, which posits that aggression is innate.
Social learning theory
Albert Bandura created the social learning theory and it is a very well researched and supported theory. This theory states that people do not inherit aggressive tendencies, but rather learn aggression through the process of observational learning. This is learning that occurs when an individual observes and imitates another’s behaviour. The famous bobo doll experiment supports this view, finding a staggering 88% of participating children imitated aggressive behaviour modeled to them on a video. Bandura also argued that aggression could be modeled and reinforced by family members, the media and the environment, many studies support this.
In my opinion the social learning theory is the most useful of these three theories in explaining aggression, as the social learning perspective is more complete in evidence than the other two perspectives. Psychoanalytic thought has no empirical evidence, and is unable to be researched; the frustration aggression hypothesis however is supported. It is clear however that the social learning theory is valid with solid empirical research to support all its areas. It is also easy to understand and to apply to everyday situations, explaining not only the development of aggression but also its maintenance. All of these perspectives offer valuable contributions to the understanding of aggression. The demise is that we do not have access to our or others unconscious minds and therefore cannot shed more light on the psychoanalytic perspective. Because of this, even though we do not have empirical research on this theory it cannot be dismissed. The social learning theory has well established itself, and it is certainly evident that the modeling of aggressive behaviour increases the likelihood that the observer will imitate the action. Although I have stated that my personal opinion is that aggression is learned I am not sure of how greater a role that influences such as media plays. If you had have asked me this several months ago I would have said yes TV, movies etc play a major role in how people learn aggression, however a recent study changed my mind. I cannot remember who did the study, however it was based on looking at how much more violence and aggression was displayed in movies, TV and video games, yet how violence in society (New York) had decreased significantly. The study showed a negative relationship between viewing violence and aggressive behaviour. A very interesting study.
This lecture gave me one major insight.
- Firstly, it is natural to hold stereotypes and we shouldn’t feel bad about it. However we must learn to know when these stereotypes are influencing us, and not to let them cloud our judgement. Try to redefine and change the stereotypes. Stereotypes are only bad when they are incorrect and when they effect our decisions and behaviours. We need to learn to identify when wrong stereotypes are being activated.
Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes
This movie was wonderful and something that I think everyone should see. It was so eye opening to see how Indigenous Australians and other minorities living in Australia feel everyday. There were some things in this movie that shocked me to my core and moved me to tears. Some things that really stood out from this movie, moved me and made me really think, and what I want to share with others.
- A physical characteristic that they were born with and cannot change (just like eye colour) its not their fault, they have done nothing to cause prejudice against them but be born.
- Indigenous Australians feel as though they are in consentration camps in Australia
- Don’t we as Australians stand for ‘a fair go’? but do we really give Indigenous Australians a fair go?
- Blue eyes are more comfortable within their own groups and were extremely uncomfortable in the middle of the room, for once being looked down on. However this was good as it let them know only briefly what it is like to be a minority, and have everyone look at you and judge your every move.
- The blue eyes being the minority had to conform to what Jane said, conform to her rules. This is how minorities in Australia feel everyday. Even though this is the Indigenous Australians land, they cannot do things that are within their own culture they must conform to what the white people have said to conform to. But what gives the whites the right to make the Indigenous Australians conform.
- It was interesting how Jane Elliott was able to make the participants feel worthless, take away their sense of self worth in only 45 mins. Imagine how living a life of this treatment effects minorities in Australia?
- We as Australians make excuses for our treatment of minorities, such as ‘they took the comment wrong’, ‘they are taking everything the wrong way’. We need to stand up and take responsibility for our role in this prejudice.
- Some people ignorantly say to Indigenous Australians ‘go back where you came from’! They cant go to another country, this is their country, their land. If anyone should go home it is those who invaded this country, stolen and taken their land.
- I was incredibly moved when one elderly Indigenous man said he was taught only about white settlement in school, and he didn’t even know where he came from. Also one lady said she went in for an operation and the Dr. took out her ovaries without her consent for no medical reason. This disgusted me, who has the right to do this to anyone… we are not God… people should refer back to the first point I made. People are born this way they did nothing to deserve it.
- Minorities are forced to conform to an unfair system.
- We don’t know what their life has been like and what they have been through.
- People need to learn more about the stolen generation!!
- As white Australians we tend to make assumptions and sit up on a high horse judging people without knowing a thing about them. We need to challenge our stereotypes, our views and stop being so neive.
Jane Elliott talked a lot about blue eyes in their little comfort zone, and that we hate being out of our comfort zone. Although I could see how uncomfortable the experiment made the blue eyes, I still wasn’t sure exactly how valid this point was. I have plenty of friends from other races and cultures, and I have never felt uncomfortable with them, so I thought this point was not really on the money. However a few weeks after this tutorial I went to the Hellenic Club to watch a comedy show. I walked in blonde hair, extremely fair skin, and blue eyes, to be greeted with a room filled with around 400 people, I am not lying when I say everyone else was tanned skin, brown hair and brown eyes. I stuck way out in this crowd, and for the first time I was hit with this immediate feeling of discomfort. I think this is what Jane Elliott was referring to when she says that blue eyes are always surrounded by their own kind, and we comfortable with the other blue eyes. It was a wonderful eye opener to experience this for myself. And I was felt uncomfortable for about 2 hours of my life, let alone standing out every single day.
Attraction and Exclusion and Relationships
I found this chapter on rejection particularly interesting because it made me understand some things about myself. It may have not been something that I feel particularly happy talking about. But as this journal is about reflection, I think it is important to reflect. When I was much younger I did not fit in well in school and was rejected a lot, and I really related to feeling low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. However what I have noticed is even when people tell me how likeable I am I always feel as though I will be rejected by others in many social situations. And many times I couldn’t even be bothered trying to make friendships as I was so sure people would reject me and I would be socially excluded. Therefore I believe I have rejection sensitivity. Earlier on in this journal I remarked on the appraisal motive which is the simple desire to learn the truth about oneself whatever it is. I think this motive can correspond with rejection sensitivity, because you want to know what people like about you, but also what it is that people don’t like about you. You want to know what it is about you that people reject.
Need to belong
I think that the need to belong and to be socially accepted is natural for everyone that is it feels wonderful for anyone to have others like you, respect you, approve of you and most importantly be included in a group of friends. I do not think many people understand how much we have this need to belong as for most people they are accepted by family and a group of friends. Most people have regular contact with others and close relationships whether friends, family or both. I never realized how important this sense of belonging was until I left my home town and moved to Canberra. For my first year here when I was not at uni, I had very few friends for the first few months, and I strongly felt this need to belong. I had a certain desire to make and retain relationships in this new town. It is amazing how quickly this need to belong turns into loneliness and you start to feel like a different person. Therefore it is simply easy to see that not belonging is bad for ones mental and physical health.
An interesting observation is that I have several friends who know plenty of people who they go to parties with; drink with etc. however they do not have a real relationship with them. They do not feel they can rely on them for things, and they feel that their ‘friends’ do not have a genuine concern for them. This is an important observation because there are two ingredients to belongingness. Firstly, people want regular social contacts, but secondly, people want stable relationships that are ongoing and where people share a genuine concern for each other. This highlights why my friends who meet the first criteria, regular social contacts, still feel this need to belong and feel like they need something more. This is because they don’t meet the second criteria of genuine concern and stable relationships.
I noted back in the very first week that one of the subjects I was looking forward to learning about was relationships particularly because I am getting married, so reading this chapter was a good opportunity just to check I was making the right decision. I related very much to how relationships move from passionate love when you first get together, into compassionate love which is good because compassionate love is what is necessary for successful marriages. I recently heard that in the first stage of a relationship one sees the other through ‘rose coloured’ glasses, in that one does not tend to see the faults of their partner. Interestingly the text makes mention that people fall in love with an idealized version of each other. Certainly in some cases one might find it hard to see how they overlooked certain traits in the beginning, and I think it is fair to say many people would never have fallen in love if they had have known all the faults in the beginning. I think this is and important point and I feel as though we have evolved to have this trait of rose coloured glasses. They allow us to fall in love and then once we are in love and those glasses come off, the love seems to allow us to tolerate and forgive those not so fantastic traits. One other thing that stood out in this weeks readings was how people eat differently in the presence of those they like. When I first started dating I could not even stomach the thought of eating in front of people that I liked. Many women feel this wonderful feeling of having a first date, and going out for dinner, yet at the same time hate the thought of eating in front of their prospective partner. The idea of spaghetti on a first date can scare any girl off. Interestingly enough the text states that we tend to restrain our eating for self-presentational reasons, mainly so we make a good impression on our potential dating partner, however knowing this certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
Groups and Leadership
What comprises a group?
I would have said a group is comprised of 3 or more people doing something together, however it is actually defined as only 2. However I do not believe most people would define 2 people as a group. A group is a collection of people who interact with each other, accept rights and obligations and share a common identity. Group members:
- Feel similar to each other
- Share a common identity
- Work towards a common goal
- Are distinguished from outgroups
- Depend on each other
Although looking back to the idea of social acceptance, we all want to fit in, and in some cases people will go to any length to do so. Many people try to fit into a group because the group is ‘cool’ but they personally do not share this common identity or feel in any way similar to the others. In fact some may feel not good enough, not pretty enough to be in that group and go to extreme lengths to make it appear that they are similar and do share this common identity. So I think it is maybe not right to say that all group members feel this way. Further to this, take for example a group or team in the workplace who are all working towards a common goal, can we say that knowing how this group is comprised (whether there is one engineer, one psychologist, one economist, etc.) all feel similar to each other, share a common identity and depend on each other. Certainly not. Some people may be in a group but feel none of them feel these things. And in many cases some people wish not to depend on each other and go their own directions, and may be somewhat competitive within the group. So whilst I think group members fit this guideline the majority of the time, I do not think we can state it as a rule.
Social loafing is particularly interesting because it can make even those who usually extremely motivated and put 100% of effort into a task decrease their effort substantially. From HR perspective this is particularly concerning, and I found it interesting to read about to see what causes it and what some recommendations could be to overcome it. Social loafing is a reduction in individual effort when working on a collective task compared to working alone. It may be caused by a
- loss in coordination of individual members
- loss of motivation by individual members
- people may not be individually accountable or identified
- a diffusion of individual responsibility as group size increases
I found interesting the experiment by Ringelmann where when people played tug of war in a group there was less effort per person than when done with just individuals. Also finding that performance decreased as group size increased. Therefore my recommendations to overcome social loafing would be.
- Effective leader who empowers every member to give 100% and who is able to coordinate individual members
- A leader who can increase motivation, and promote a good team environment
- Making everyone accountable for their work effort, not just the output of the group
Groupthink is the tendency of group members to think alike. Some signs of group think are.
- Becoming closed minded
- Pressure toward conformity
- Appearance of unamity
- Sense of moral superiority
Certain factors that promote group think.
- Cohesive group
- Strong, decisive popular leader, who has a vision
- When the group is isolate from others
- When the group has high self regard and moral self-righteousness
I have always found group think an amazing phenomenon and know from personal experience how frustrating it can be when the whole group gets stuck on an idea and cannot generate anything new, or look at something in a different way. As I mentioned back in my first entry I have a strong interest in HR and this is one of the theories that pops up a lot in HR theory. This is because group think can be terribly detrimental to an effective group. Particularly in industries that require the generation of new and unique ideas, and think outside the box. This is one of the major issues that group think tends to stop is the generation of original ideas and the ability think abstractly.
I will not go into depth on leadership because I am doing it for my assignment. Some things that I am finding interesting, and have an opinion on are:
- I do not think much of the trait theory, I mainly think leadership is up to certain characteristics. Of which I think people can learn through experience. I am not so sure that one can be taught all the necessary skills, however maybe a combination between being taught, and experience. This is not to say that there are not some who are clearly just born with what it takes to lead such as Oprah. However I might put this down to the characteristic of charisma.
- Not anyone can be a leader. There are some who have no desire to lead and are happy to follow. Leaders need to want to lead.
As I started reading this chapter it started to bring back a lot of what I learnt in business ethics, particularly the debate over Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). To put it simply there are three views of CSR. One is that the duty of business is to make money and helping others is the duty of the government. Secondly there is the view that corporations are only responsible to follow the law, and need not go further. This second view is a good example of the rule of law, in that members of society respect and follow rules, everyone is subject to these rules that govern society. However what is interesting when looking at law is that law often states what not to do, as opposed to stipulating what we should do. That is means that our duties and in the case of CSR the duty of corporations is only to do what the law states and it has no duty to go above and beyond the law. However the third view of CSR is that business has a responsibility to engage in prosocial behaviour, doing something that is good for other people or for the society as a whole. This means doing something good for others not just for the benefit of the company and the shareholders, essentially this is going further than what the law stipulates.
- Helping others
- Obeying rules: I really found Milgram’s study of obedience very interesting. Of particular interest was how others could do this to people, it is truly shocking how far people went. When I personally think about myself in this situation I could not imagine witnessing another in pain and knowing it was my actions causing it, and continue to follow authority. However I guess the amazing thing about this study is that psychiatrists predicted hardly anyone would deliver severe shock, yet 65% of participants did. So regardless of what I think I may do, it is hard to know how one would act until you are in that position. But I will hope that I would never obey authority if it meant causing severe harm to others. I think I will use Milgram’s study of obedience in my essay on leadership to highlight how those in authority have certain influence over others.
- Conforming to socially acceptable behaviour
- Cooperating with others
Prosocial behaviour builds relationships whereas antisocial behaviour destroys relationships. Antisocial behaviour may include hurting others, disobeying rules, socially unacceptable behaviour and conflict with others.
What is altruism, and is it really possible?
Prosocial behaviour may be engaged in for self interest. For example going back to the idea of CSR, prosocial behaviour may be a company who pays their employees more money. Although this money may benefit others (the employees) the employees in turn may work harder and therefore the company is gaining from this activity. It is in this sense when I say that prosocial behaviour may involve self-interest. It is at this point where the idea of prosocial behaviour differs to altruism. Altruism is helping behaviours that focus solely on the well-being of others, even when it may come at a personal cost. When I think of altruism I always think of Mother Theresa. She gave completely for others, for no self gain. In fact she lived in the slums of Calcutta simply to benefit the lives of others. The notion of helping solely for the well-being of others and for no self-gain has created a large debate. So is there really such a thing as altruism? We all know that feeling we get when we give to charity, that little buzz inside that makes us think we are great and caring human beings. Are we doing these nice things for others or simply to make ourselves feel good? If we are giving to make ourselves feel good then aren’t we really just being selfish? Although one part of my mind understands this argument, the other is torn. Certainly, I always love giving to charity because I really want to help, however I have to be honest and acknowledge that I do get this feeling of ‘I am a really nice person’ which makes me feel great. The other part of my mind finds it hard to conceive that someone such as Mother Theresa was in any way whatsoever giving to others for some selfish gain. One simply has to look at what she sacrificed, and no ‘good feelings’ would make up for what she suffered through for the benefit of others. So I personally doubt this debate will ever come to a solid conclusion, as both sides are very valuable. However one does wonder if Mother Theresa was simply the exception to the rule, as other than her I cannot think of many who give that receive nothing for it. Certainly even when we flip back to corporations we see that so often on televised fund raisers, companies such as the Commonwealth Bank will ring up and donate $20,000 dollars, and one at home may think wow how generous. However we cannot be naïve in thinking that companies do not receive gain, it is a tax break and they get free advertising (this is a better example of prosocial behaviour).
Bystander Effect and Diffusion of Responsibility.
The bystander effect was one of the first things that came through my mind when I enrolled in Social psychology, probably because back in first year of uni when I first heard about it I was blown away. The bystander effect states that people are less likely to help when they are in a group or the presence of others than when they are alone. A few weeks ago I was watching Oprah and she had a guest who was doing a whole heap of social experiments, ranging from watching a woman be harassed, watching a woman not be served at a bakery because she was a Muslim, watching a group of teenage school girls tease another school girl and watching a drunk man with three children get into a car. Watching these scenarios be played out in real settings and to watch people’s genuine responses was just amazing! In a park a man started yelling at his girlfriend, pushing her and harassing her, she was in tears and he looked like he was ready for blood. People stared at them, told them to take it out of a public place. But after 67 people went past finally one lady with a baby walked over and said stop! Called the cops, and waited with the lady until they came (although this was a set up experiment). This reaction was the same for many of the scenarios only one in very few stepped in to take a stand. The only one experiment that saw almost everyone who witnessed the event and intervene was the drunk driver scenario. Onlookers watched as a clearly drunk male put his three children in the car and was just about to get in and drive away. Almost everyone who saw the man tried to stop him, and in some cases offered to drive him and his children home. Whether this scenario was different because it involved the lives of children I am not sure. However these first few examples demonstrate well the bystander effect.
Diffusion of responsibility is the assumption that the more onlookers the more others feel that someone else will help. So onlookers diffuse or pass on this responsibility to the others who are onlookers. This may explain why so few people acted to the couple fighting in a public place as I noted above. Reading about the studies and seeing it in front of me, has really opened my eyes that people need to know about this effect. Now that I know about the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility I hope that if I ever see someone in danger or in need of help I will take action and not leave it to others. We could possibly see an increase in helping behaviour if people are educated on the bystander effect, taught indifference and others model helpfulness.
In our fifth tutorial we looked at ways to analyse groups or cultures over 10,000 people. Thus we looked at social capital (social inclusion), social disengagement (social exclusion) and zeitgeist. However here I will discuss Zeitgeist, and our class ideas to make a change.
Our tutorial defined zeitgeist as the ‘spirit of the times’ or the ‘flavour of the times’. It is essentially the collective consciousness, that a group or culture focuses on. What is in the media, and in current social discourse, what has been flavoursome during the year. What are we as a country focusing on and interesting in? For example right now it is fair to say that the economy is very much the word on everyone’s mouth, taking the front line in the media etc. I found the outline by Hugh Mackay very interesting, and quite eye opening, he states that Australia is going through a cultural revolution and broke the social times into 4 main themes. Gender, Identity, Economy and Technology, seeing such major changes changes as:
- The role of women has changed (transforming marriage, family, work and birth rates)
- Higher rate of divorce and lower marriage rate – people prefer to keep their options open, and take a dislike to commitment
- Birthrate has dropped (population decrease), and a later age of child bearing – due to rise in highly educated women. Over-parented and over-indulged generation of children due to parents only have one child (something I found very interesting)
- I personally agree with the idea of this less compassion and more intolerance that we see on a day to day basis. No one cares about each other or those not in our own backyard. This is a certain sign of social disengagement where there are too many issues in society that we just need to switch off, and stop caring. This may be why we only care about ourselves, there is just too much to deal with.
- To my absolute shock was the figures of the gap between rich and poor. With the bottom 20% earning an average or $12,000, and the top 20% earning and average of $180,000
- Increase in mental illness – probably due to this overworked generation
Initially when we were asked to answer this question I thought I can’t even think of anything, and as we got started it was hard not to think of many more than three major issues.
Materialism and Self –Absorption
Our group came up with materialism or as I call it, the constant ‘me’ ideal. Society is becoming more and more obsessed with having everything that society tells us we need or that is fashionable. Even to the extent that some people are renovating or furnishing there home once a year to keep up which the changing fashions. People seem to do this regardless of the cost that it is having on their own lives, with debt at all new highs. Not to mention the cost that this materialism is having on the economy and it is for this reason the government really needs to take a stand and take action. At first we did not know how to tackle it, or where to begin but these are the ideas we came up with.
- Ban Credit Card (CC) payments in certain stores (such as Harvey Norman, where people make major and impulse purchases)
- Ban interest free periods and no repayments. Corporations such as Harvey Norman seem to use this a lot, and people see this as the easy way of buying things. However Australia should be promoting that we buy on that which we can afford, and you can’t afford it if you can’t buy it on the spot.
- The government and banks needs to rewards people when they use debit and savings cards not CC’s
- Banks need to eliminate CC reward programs
- A government reward such as $5000 for giving CC back, or demonstrating that you can live without them.
- Free money seminars
- Ban CC advertising
- Ban bigger limit offers for CC’s
- Ban pre-approval and mail offers for CC’s
I think that by tackling this not only will it help debt for people and better the economy of the country. It may also be this materialism that we are seeing less births in Australia. I say this because people want to keep their money for themselves and keeping up with the times that they do not want to spend their money having children. Ultimately for most having children means a sacrifice in this lifestyle of ‘things’ and materialism.
As noted the increase in divorce rates is a noted issue for Australians by Hugh Mackay. Although there were some points raised in the tutorial on how to tackle this issue, my personal ideas are as such.
- Make the minimum age for marriage 18 (no exceptions)
- Make marriage preparation courses compulsory for EVERY marriage in Australia regardless of religion. This is compulsory for those getting married by a Christian pastor, and it runs through areas of strengths and weaknesses of the relationship, and where are how to improve. Giving a solid foundation and knowledge with which to start the marriage.
- It is compulsory in Australia for marriage counseling when people want to get a divorce before one year of marriage. However most marriages end in divorce around the 2 year mark. Therefore I think marriage counseling of at least 10 sessions should be mandatory regardless of the length of marriage.
One of the groups noted the issue that no one knows who stands for what in politics etc, and although we see the faces of people running who elections we know nothing more. I thought this groups idea of a website you can access to find out new policies, information of politicians and their policies etc. Also the idea of a 2 minute slot on nightly news about what is happening in parliament (without all the ‘politics’ associated).
This unit has really made me view the social world in a different way, noticing many more things than I never would have. It has also allowed me to analyse my own actions and thoughts in how I respond to the social world. Just last week I was on a train in Melbourne and I noticed this need for personal space that we learnt about way back in tutorial 2. People were sitting by themselves unless they knew someone else on the train. In some cases people would put their feet up on the seats in front of them to stop others sitting on the seats facing them. Interestingly as the train started to fill up the people coming on the train did not sit next to others and ended up standing instead of sitting next to others. In fact when some people saw people entering the train they would pick their bag up from the floor and put it on the seat next to them prohibiting others from sitting next to them. And some who were already sitting down had their feet up on the seats in front of them and they did not move, nor did those entering ask them too. And to be honest I was one of these people who did not move their feet or bag, but I just didn’t want a stranger sitting next to me. However those that entered the train were male and I think if they were female I may have allowed them to sit near me. This is a very cultural thing as in China this would not happen people would sit next to each other as this is their culture and more than likely they would not think twice about it. Whereas when I was on that train I was consciously thinking that I did not want others to sit next to me, as I think as Australians we are very aware of our personal space and do not want it invaded.
Although this unit has taught me a lot, nothing has moved me even close to the week on prejudice. This was such a valuable week and I think EVERYONE needs to see Ghosts of Rwanda but maybe for more relevance Jane Elliot’s experiment. I think so often because we claim this is a multicultural country we are under some belief that this means everyone in it has no prejudice. I think the wonderful thing about Jane Elliot’s experiment is not so much dealing with overt racism but the comments or shared beliefs and stereotypes (could we dare call this culture) we hold as a nation that maybe we don’t even know we have. The truly challenging part of this film it is not the question am I overtly racist? It is more what stereotypes and beliefs do I really need to challenge and rethink. Furthermore going back to the statement of this country being multicultural I sometimes feel we as a nation are more accepting of the culture of almost every country other than our own indigenous Australians. I remember as a child having a France day where we ate French food, played French games etc, this was the same for China, Italy etc. However we never even looked at the culture of our own country’s national people the indigenous Australians. I think it would go a long way for our schools to start sharing the culture of Indigenous Australians, this may actually help to rid some of the misguided stereotypes and long held false beliefs this nation has about the Indigenous people. Not to mention it may start healing some of wounds that we have caused. Also I think that Elders of the local Indigenous communities would be more than happy to share their culture, as doing some reading I have found that Elders want to share their culture as they fear it dying off.
James asked us to report on what we felt were important parts of this unit. I do not think that anything we have learnt is not important and certainly all that we have learnt holds very important implications not only to my future in psychology, but also to my daily social interactions. Also I think anyone interested in they way the social world works could find this subject interesting, as this relates to every person every day. It is important to note that all of which has been discussed in this learning reflection has all been very much seen through the eyes of western perspectives, and could be very different in other cultures.