- 1 WEEK 1
- 2 WEEK 2
- 3 WEEK 3
- 4 WEEK 4
- 5 WEEK 5
- 6 WEEK 10
- 7 WEEK 11
- 8 WEEK 12
- 9 WEEK 13
- 10 Unit Evaluation
E-portfolio by Catherine Vaughan, 2008
What is Social Psychology?
“How the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, and implied presence of others” – Allport
- group dynamics and relationships
- social influence
- persuasion and manipulation
- conformity vs. individualism
- social expectations
- social roles
- pro-social vs. antisocial behaviour
- altruism - why people may act against their own self-interest and what characterises an altruistic act?
- aggression and war
- sub-cultures – smaller groups within larger societies
- social contexts and situations - influence in shaping people
- attraction and affiliation
- prejudice and discrimination
- in-groups vs. social exclusion and isolation
- social norms/ rules
- authority/ leadership/charisma
- social roles
- diffusion of responsibility
- social loafing vs. increased industry – how the presence of others can effect people in opposite ways
- social comparison
- social identity
- cross cultural difference
- how behaviour changes in public vs. private
(The above was influenced by group work in tutorial one, below are some thoughts of my own).
Social psychology is a blend of psychology and sociology. Studying psychology helps to gain an understanding of how nature and nurture come to shape an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Sociology and anthropology, on the other hand focus on social trends and how groups of people change over time and place in their beliefs, perceptions, values, and behaviours. Social psychology is important to study as it is a blend of both perspectives, as it still seeks to understand individual behaviour but taking into account how social context shapes them. While some characteristics may be inherent there is great diversity amongst cultures and the time and place of an individual’s environment has a huge influence on thoughts, feelings, and actions and how others react to them in turn.
Studying social psychology can also be important for helping humankind in general. Understanding phenomena such as aggression, war, prejudice, and genocide helps us recognise how much these things are a product of learning, nature, or context and if there is a way to overcome them. On the other hand learning what motivates and leads to pro-social behaviour and altruism is also important for promoting helpful and peaceful behaviour.
A topic I find personally interesting in social psychology is leadership and charisma. For example, what attributes do effective leaders have and are these innate or acquired traits. For example, what sort of personality traits do people such as Hitler, Gandhi, or Martin Luther king possess, and why do many people choose to follow them? In contrast, what situational and group contexts may cause certain leaders to emerge? I am also interested in leadership styles and which are the most productive.
Another area of social psychology I would like to know about is attraction and love. Some areas of particular interest are why people need companionship and long-term relationships? Furthermore, what makes people want to get to know and spend time with certain individuals over others? Also, what determines feelings of love over feelings of friendship? I am also curious about what makes and determines standards of beauty within certain cultures and time periods, or is there a more universal ideal of beauty? Moreover, why do people feel more positively towards attractive people? I am also interested in what makes certain relationships more successful and durable than others and how different types of marriages work, such as romantic as opposed to arranged marriage.
Adolf Hitler (left), Mahatma Gandhi (middle) and Martin Luther King Jr.(right) - very different examples of charismatic leaders
Reflections from chapter 1 & 2 - Baumeister & Bushman
I found it interesting how the textbook talked about what makes humans distinctive from other species of animals. Many animal groups are social in nature, as are humans, however the distinctive aspect of humans is language and culture. Language enables higher-level communication and culture contributes more than just shared values, ideas, beliefs, and practises. Both culture and language allow us to pass along and build on information from generation to generation. Without this ability humans would not be able to create such elaborate and complex societies, as any new knowledge or ideas would be lost with every generation.
In contemporary society we are able to study a huge variety of topics and our lifestyles are based around centuries of accumulated knowledge. The division of labour is an important element of our society as we have such an extensive collection of knowledge, it is impossible for anyone to become proficient in everything. Therefore we have our specialised niche in society. Sociologist Emile Durkheim, wrote about the concept of division of labour and viewed contemporary human society as an organism. He likened it to a working machine. Each person is a part of the machine with individuals varying in occupations and roles, making us interdependent for our varying needs. According to this perspective we rely on different types of people to fulfil different roles. Not everyone can be at the top and have prestigious jobs such as doctors and lawyers, as we rely on chefs, garbage men, labourer, and cleaners every bit as much. All work is vital and it is important to have people willing to do the undesirable jobs. Therefore, I believe there shouldn’t be so much status attached to some fields as opposed to others. Although there does need to be some incentive to ensure people continue to spend many years studying to do difficult jobs, such as surgeons, there also needs to be incentives for people to do the ‘dirty work’.
Karl Marx, on the otherhand, found that division of labour is related to inequality and that by segragating people into specific roles it causes work to become repetitious, boring and alienating. He felt that people would become detached from their work and find it spirtually void. Marx thought that social hierarchies were responsible for this and although it may seem necessary to have people divided into roles, this is always going to be less satisfying for the people with the 'bad' jobs. I guess Marx was correct to an extant, in contemporary society we are starting to overcome this problem as people are now changing careers several times throughout their lifetime.
Anther topic I found fascinating was the section about how in order to have a good life there needs to be a higher ratio of good events to bad events, as the negative make more of an impression than the positive. I think this is true, as people often define themselves through the struggles and hardships they have endured. Furthermore, it seems as though the good things in life such as, getting married, having a baby, or getting a promotion are often thought of as ‘normal’ and therefore rather ordinary. On the other hand one bad encounter has the capacity to destroy a person’s life.
It certainly appears that humans are more primed to be focused on the negative. For example, although many good things do happen everyday, unless they are sensational they are not considered noteworthy and negative items continue to dominate the news. Furthermore, I think that many people have a fascination with horror, the macabre, tragedies, crime, deviance, immorality, and corruption, either in reality or fiction. Being a good person is often not equivalent to being an interesting person, but by the same token people are judged more for their bad deeds than the good. A criminal record for example, can hang over someone’s head all their life and be held against the person, while nobody takes note of their kind acts or the struggle to turn their life around.
Reflections from chapter 3 & 4 - Baumeister & Bushman
I thought the section on self-esteem was really interesting. Firstly, it seems that people need just the right balance of self-esteem in order to be happy and fully functional. People with low self-esteem suffer depression and people with too much self-esteem may become narcissistic. Narcissistic people may feel very good about themselves, however they risk of alienating people as others may find them obnoxious and overbearing. Moreover, it was disturbing to learn that individuals with higher self-esteem tend to hold more prejudice and discriminatory attitudes and narcissistic people have a tendency to be more aggressive.
Another interesting concept is the self-serving bias and the fact that people with high self-esteem in fact have a largely inflated and delusional view of themselves. Depressed people do not feel they are hopeless, but rather mediocre, therefore making them more accurate in their perceptions. It makes wonder however, if a realistic appraisal of ones self always leads to depression, or is it possible to be realistic and happy all the same? Can people be happy about being mediocre?
It is also interesting that people with high-self esteem tend to over estimate their control over events in life and in fact are less likely to believe that bad things will happen to them. Although feeling in control can be positive in terms of not feeling trapped or experiencing learned helplessness, I wonder if it can set them up for a harder fall. If a depressed person already expects that bad events may occur they may not be surprised and therefore adjust better if this occurs. Furthermore, possibly someone who has does not believe bad things will happen may engage in riskier behaviour. Maybe however, high self-esteem leads to greater resilience?
It appears from the reading that an individuals sense of self can be drawn from those associated with them. For example, people try to create a better impression by affiliating with 'winners' and distancing themselves from perceived 'losers'. It is almost like they believe these categories are contagious, or they are worrying about how others may lump them in the same category. Or maybe they feel winners can offer them more in terms of connections and knowledge? Taken to the next level, is 'basking in reflected glory' where individuals will affiliate themselves to sporting teams or famous people who they do not even know, through being a supporter. However, this once again works both ways with people being more supportive when their teams are on a winning streak. Furthermore, the fact that people take more of a personal hit by their team losing as opposed to winning, goes back to chapter two regarding how the bad is stronger than the good.
In chapter three, it was discussed how females and males generally have similar levels of self-esteem, however the males are slightly ahead. This is mostly because of the females' general dissatisfaction with their physical appearance causes them damage to their self-esteem. I think this is really sad but very true and getting worse all the time in Western culture. Although men also have some pressure to appear attractive it is not on the same level. The obsession with youth, beauty, and weight is literally driving some women into death. The rise of eating disorders, the billion-dollar cosmetic, fashion, and diet industry are proof of this. Furthermore, the rise of plastic surgery is alarming and disgusting. The concept of carving up your perfectly healthy body for your image seems unnatural and unnerving and seems to go against natural survival instinct. Worse still, is that women do not always know who they are trying to please. The amount of times I have heard someone say they had breast enlargement or cosmetic surgery for 'themselves' is ironic. As the textbook stated, if one lived on an island by themself would they really care what they looked like? Not likely. Eating disorders are another scary example of this need to gain the perfect outside appearance and self-presentation, by any means necessary even if it means sacrificing self-preservation.
The textbook discusses how individuals may present themselves depending on the audience. By agreeing with something, a person may be trying to make a good impression of agreeableness. However by disagreeing, this still implies that you care, as indifference may cause you to agree just to stop a confrontation. This led me to think about how some groups of people claim to be 'alternative' and unconcerned with what society thinks or with fitting in. However the fact that they make a point of nonconformity and standing out probably implies that they do care. I find the concept of nonconformity interesting, because many people who claim to be an 'individual' are often merely conforming to a minority, but still significant other group, as in sub-cultures such as; punks, goths, and hippies. The true nonconformist would be one who is independent and has their own agenda without the need for a group to back them up. Also related to the topic of self-presentation and conformity, is how people in some of the above sub-cultures actually need to dress and present in a certain way in order to be considered a part of the group.
Different sub-cultures have different requirements regarding self-presentation, attitudes, and behaviours
Free choice is interesting, as it seems that having the option to choose is more important than making the choice. Self-determination suggests that people need to believe that they have some free-will. The panic-button effect is an example of this, as people are unbothered by situations as long as they know they can escape it if they wish. I can see why free-will is important, as it makes people believe they have control in their life, which as seen in cases of learned helplessness is crucial for happiness. Moreover, reactance, which is the 'forbidden fruit' effect, has an effect of making something they probably couldn’t care less about more attractive because it’s off limits. I guess this is interesting as sometimes laws can have the opposite effects of making people more interested in prohibited behaviour by outlawing it.
In terms of decision making risk aversion is the theory that people make descisions based around minimising losses rather then making gains. Once again, this fits with previous theories about how the bad holds more weight then the good. In chapter three, the text talks about how people are more attuned to anything that pertains to themselves. I was startled to learn the concept of not only preferring letters contained in your name, but actually making unconscious descisions based around them! Obviously, this is influenced by the automatic mind rather then the conscious mind and its persuasive effect would not cause someone to choose to something they were adverse to. However, it is uncanny that something that seemingly trivial may have been the difference between choosing one job over another, or where to live! It makes me wonder how many decisions I have made have been based around the letters in my name, without even knowing it!
Humans appear to be the only known species that choose to end their own lives, which goes against survival instincts. This phenomenon is a distinct product of human culture and society. On an individual level suicide is often completed in order to escape unbearable suffering, not as punishment to the self. This is a trade off of the long-term future, which they probably perceive to be unpleasant anyway, for short-term relief.
Durkheim wrote about anomie, which is a societal theory of suicide. He believed that societies with high suicide rates had certain characteristics such as; lack of social cohesion and absence of values and norms, which lead to feelings of alienation. He theorised this may be caused by social changes or lack of congruence between ideological beliefs and the reality of life. He believed that the division of labour (discussed previously) and the industrial revolution caused people to become self-focused and unconcerned with society as a whole. On the other hand, he felt that religion could compensate for the lack of ideals and values that are otherwise missing in these societies.
Durkheim discussed four types of suicide: anomic suicides; egoistic suicides, where people complete suicide for their own individual interests; fatalistic suicides, occurring mostly in oppressive societies, where individuals are trapped in terrible conditions and would rather die; and altruistic suicides, where people die for their society or beliefs, putting societal needs above their own.
A tragic but noble example of an altruistic suicide was seen in 1963 when Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, set himself alight and burned to death in protest of the persecution of Buddhists. His death was successful in raising awareness regarding the South Vietnamese Ngo Dinh Diem regime and was followed by several other Buddhist monks making the same sacrifice. International attention and pressure eventually led to the demise of Diem and Thich Quang Duc was honored by being named a Bodhisattva by fellow Buddhists.
Tutorial two reflections
The topic of the tutorial today was communication. In groups we discussed the different facets of communication, both verbal and non-verbal and the importance of each. Our group discussed how congruence is important in communication, as if any feature of verbal or non-verbal communication is out of sync, then it makes the receiver confused and unconvinced of the validity of the message.
Another important facet of communication is the context, as in varying situations different features of verbal or non-verbal communication will be more prominent. Over the telephone different elements of verbal language will be important, such as tone, volume, pace, accent, vocabulary, and articulation. It is generally thought however, that non-verbal communication is responsible for transmitting a significant portion of the message. Forms of non-verbal communication include: body positioning, gestures, stance, gait, eye contact, gaze, touch, facial expressions, sign language, tone, and appearance. I also think that there are other mediums of non-verbal communication, which can also convey ideas such as: dance, art, maps, graphs, music, books, poems, text and Morse code, although the message may be more limited or open to interpretation.
I believe that nature is most likely designed for non-verbal communication. Humans are the only species that have a developed verbal language. Every other species relate to one another through non-verbal cues. I also think that relationships can develop despite language barriers through other communication cues with both animals and other humans. An illustration of this is my grandparents who managed to develop a relationship despite the fact that they both spoke different languages and neither knew the other's language. They managed to get married, have children, and stay together for over 50 years. Eventually the language barrier was overcome, but initially it would have been difficult. This shows it is entirely possible to get by without verbal language, for a period of time. Also sign language has been developed for humans who are deaf and/ or dumb and are not able to verbally communicate.
Personal space and intimacy
Another activity we did in the tutorial was partnering up with a stranger and experimenting with personal space. The activity got increasingly more intense starting with finding the distance that is too far away or too close to have a conversation. Then we had to find how long we could maintain eye contact without feeling awkward, then we did the same things with holding hands, and then eye contact. Then we had to hold hands with the partner and maintain eye contact, despite feeling awkward. Everyone felt uncomfortable during these activities, as the partners were people we were not familiar with. Doing the same activity with a good friend or family member would have been less intense. I also think gender would have played a role, as I felt less uncomfortable partnered with a female then I would have with a male.
This activity is interesting because as a member of western culture we all had pretty similar limits, but these social phenomena change across cultures. When dealing with people from other countries it is important to remember some people require more or less personal space. When placed in this situation it is interesting how people automatically try to subtly put more space between themselves and the other person. Moreover, it is interesting how people naturally tend to space themselves out in public spaces such as the bus, lecture theatre, or waiting room. However, as the place gets more crowded, the more acceptable it becomes to sit next to someone else without feeling awkward.
It is interesting how eye contact is another thing that needs to be balanced, as too little can signal disinterest or awkwardness, whereas too much appears too intense. However, touch, intimacy, or staring into the eyes of a baby or an animal for extended periods do not cause unease. It is almost as if the lack of awareness of one party softens the uncomfortable factor. As a sidenote I think it’s really quite interesting how people are generally unwilling to touch a dead body. If someone is asleep or in a coma people are still comfortable touching them however, when the soul exits the body there seems to be real apprehension over the body. This is particularly illustrated in the unreasonable fear many people have of cemeteries.
Reflections of chapters 5, 7 & 13 - Baumeister & Bushman
Social cognition is the human propensity towards thinking about other humans, more so than any other topic. The human mind is apparently designed to engage in society and deal with other humans. I would agree with this as people seem to find it most interesting to watch, talk about, and analyse others. Our connection to people is also obvious with the joy felt when new babies are born and the intense grief felt when someone dies, which is seen as the ultimate loss.
Most people would agree that having social relationships and belonging to a group are important however, there are always exceptions to this. Some people live in seclusion, these people are divided into two main groups; people who have chosen to do this; and people who have been rejected, coerced, or punished. This category of people includes: people who are quarantined, banished, in solitary confinement, or people who are mentally excluded as they have no real social connections, despite living amongst others. People who are not isolated by choice often find this to be an anxiety provoking, depressing, and lonely experience.
On the other hand there are people who choose to exclude themselves from society perhaps from disenchantment, to get away from distractions, or to focus on a project. Commonly, people go into seclusion for religious purposes. People who choose solitude generally cope better and find it to be a positive experience. For example centuries ago, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, left the comforts of the palace life to meditate in seclusion. This subsequently led to his enlightenment making him the first Buddha and founder of Buddhism.
Our duplex mind is an interesting process with the automatic mind taking care of breathing, bodily functions, and well-rehearsed behaviours, such as driving and familiar social situations - through the use of scripts. The conscious mind, however, is needed to reason and to think logically. The four elements that distinguish the two parts of the mind are: intention, effort, control, and efficiency. The conscious mind is guided by intention, can be controlled, and requires effort, as it is slow and deliberate. Whereas, the automatic mind is more efficient and involves much less effort.
Thought suppression is interesting as we all have intrusive thoughts to some degree and these can be quite distracting or distressing. The automatic and conscious minds both have methods of dealing with intrusive thoughts. The automatic mind has a screening process where it keeps look out for any incoming cues or triggers. The conscious method is a controlled effort to redirect attention away from unpleasant thoughts. However, thought suppression can sometimes create a paradoxical effect where the more you try not to think of something, the more it stays in your mind.
This reminds me of when I was learning to meditate, as the point is to sit still and clear your mind. Having a clear mind is much harder then is seems as intrusive thoughts continually pop up and the more you try to get rid of them, the more they come! Some techniques I was taught to help overcome this was to not get annoyed or bothered, if you caught yourself thinking just gently push the thought away and get on with it. Another technique, was to concentrate on an automatic process like breathing. If you focus on breathing in and out continually it gives your mind something to focus on, while still improving concentration.
Counter-regulation is intriguing as regardless of whether people have really blown their diet they think they have and the ‘what the hell effect kicks in’! This is interesting in dieting behaviour as it shows how, when people break they go all out. It has important implications for other problem behaviours, such as drug and other addictions. This shows why abstinence when trying to quit something addictive is very important. Obviously, a relapse has the potential to bring the whole house down. If a drug addict has one taste of drugs this is clearly not enough to have become physically hooked again, but perhaps the shame or the thought that they have already done it so may as well go the whole hog and enjoy, may come into play. Obviously when people are addicted to anything the more they have the more they want, this can become a dangerous cycle.
Errors and biases
Humans have information overload therefore, we need to be able to sort through this information efficiently, and hopefully as accurately as we can. This is where heuristics (mental shortcuts) come in. Heuristics are obviously efficient despite occasional errors as they generally don’t let us down, if they did we would need to find new ways to process information. We are presented with two types of information; statistical, which come from a large number of people and case history, which comes from a few people we know well. It is interesting that people tend to believe the case history information despite the fact that we would be better off tuning into the latter.
This is interesting, because this piece of information stands out to me from the reading, not only because the textbook said so (which assumes that it is based on statistical information), but because in my personal case history I have found this to be true! I have found all throughout the psychology degree that people challenge many taken for granted psychological ideas simply because they have known someone who has done things to the contrary. I understand where they are coming from but I have always found this frustrating because nothing is 100% true of everyone and it’s the general trend not individual case studies that make the difference.
Another type of bias, that I found interesting is magical thinking. I suppose I relate to this one because it’s one that I do against my better judgement. This refers to the irrational assumptions that two objects that come in physical contact somehow pass properties to one another, though this is highly unlikely. Secondly, is that things that physically resemble each other share basic properties. The example used in the book is that people are reluctant to eat a chocolate shaped like a spider. I related very much to the textbook example as an arachnophobic I am guilty of this. I absolutely refuse to touch a fake spider or a picture of spider despite knowing it is ridiculous. Furthermore, this relates to the first example too as I will be unwilling to walk in or touch a spot that a spider has recently occupied, even though no physical trace remains.
I think this can be flipped the other way too where people assign positive values to things for these reasons. Firstly, autographs and items previously owned by celebrities, such as clothes, musical instruments, anything really, are highly valued due to the fact that the celebrity touched or used it. These items can fetch ridiculously high prices as fans clamour for them. Secondly, people do assign positive values to items that resemble things they like. People like to receive heart shaped chocolates or may like someone because they resemble someone they like.
We have attitudes towards most things and they are essential to us in order to guide our behaviour, make decisions, and to know what we like and dislike. It also important for social relationships, as we may decide whom to befriend based on attitudes in common. This is probably the basis for cognitive dissonance. This occurs when there is some kind of discrepancy between our actions and attitudes or between two conflicting attitudes. This causes anxiety and discomfort in ourselves but is heightened when other people perceive us to be inconsistent.
I think when we see inconsistency in others it confuses us about what is the real them and are they the person we know. In ourselves its unsettling as we often feel we should have good self-awareness and we should be in touch with our own thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes. I do believe however, that cognitive dissonance is common and although people try to adjust to get congruence, I think it occurs because humans are complex and so is the world. It is not a black and white world there is much grey area, so it easy to find inconsistent attitudes amongst the chaos.
I wonder if part of the reason we worry more about others perceiving us as inconsistent is because we are privy to so much added information about ourselves, which can justify holding conflicting attitudes and behaviours. However it’s hard for others to perceive that in us therefore, they are more likely to see us as dishonest or unreliable. An example of this would be that we may hold the view that cheating on a spouse is unacceptable but we may do it anyway due to varying reasons, such as; the other spouse is cheating already, spouse is abusive, or the couple may have be separated. We don’t always know the mitigating circumstances of others therefore, it is easy to see them as hypocritical or judge them harshly as in the self-serving bias.
Beliefs are different to attitudes. Attitudes are opinions about things, whereas beliefs are what you accept to be reality or fiction. The textbook claims we tend to be presented with information and then automatically believe it before the conscious mind steps in and decides whether or not to discredit it. I guess this explains why most people take things and people at face value unless something sounds particularly wrong or the person has been proved to be mistrustful.
Beliefs are also powerful and important, as they shape our perception of the world and effect how we see and deal with events. The textbook talks about how beliefs effect coping and how traumas can create damage, due to changing the way someone perceives the world. Trauma can destroy taken for granted assumptions such as: the world is benevolent, the world is fair and just, and that they are a good person. Apparently, people with explanations for traumas cope better even blaming the self helps, as it gives the person a cause and the power to control future actions. Furthermore, downward comparisons help as people take comfort in the fact that things could have been worse.
A big part of beliefs and world perception is religion. Religion prevails in all societies and has functions for both society and the individual. So in what way does religion help people? The textbook claims that it explains events, the unknown, provides social support, gives meaning, direction and moral guidance. Helps relive stress and overcome trauma. On the flip side it can cause cognitive trouble when inconsistencies are found and not explained satisfactorily, this may create fear, guilt, anger and resentment towards god or other religions. There is no doubt that religion can be a negative force with the amount of wars instigated in the name of religion, it has the power to destroy and discriminate.
On a sociological level, [[w:Talcott Parsons|Talcott Parsons believed that religion has a functional role in culture as it provides values, beliefs and guidance and social norms for behaviour. It also helps people to cope with tragedies, increase security and help explain our existence and purpose. He also felt that it increased social cohesion and stability through alleviation of frustration.
Karl Marx, however, viewed religion as the “opiate for the masses”. This means, that religion is designed to ease the pain caused by oppression, which is produced by society. He claimed this works through the four following ways: religion relieves current pain with promises of happy afterlife; religion offers hope of problems solved by a higher power; makes present unsatisfactory reality less painful; and it provides justification for the social stratification. His overall view, was that religion softens oppression and is also used to oppress. This works as, the people on top wish to keep things the same and the best way to pacify people or stop them questioning is to divert their attention to religion and make their suffering seem worthwhile. This may sound bleak but this is certainly an accurate potrayal in some societies such as the Indian caste system.
So where does this leave us in a secular contemporary society like Australia? If religion provides increased social and individual benefits, then what happens to societies and people that are gradually losing their faith?
Chapter thirteen was about social influence, conformity, and persuasion. I thought the normative influence was interesting, as I would have thought some people would prefer to be right rather then go along with the crowd, but I suppose that shows how with everyone disagreeing it causes self doubt. It is also interesting to note that as soon as there is dissension and other people disagree this breaks the spell and allows for individual expression.
Within persuasion, there are varying elements such as; the speaker, the audience, and the message. These determine whether persuasion is successful. The foot-in-door, lowball, and bait and switch techniques, revolve around peoples desire for commitment and consistency. Legitimisation-of-paltry-favours, door-in-face, and that’s-not-all techniques play on reciprocation. What strikes me the most about chapter thirteen is that all the persuasion techniques struck me as dirty tricks. I suppose amongst friends and people we know we may all be prone to using various techniques without meaning to. What got me thinking however, is the main purpose that these are used for in our contemporary society is sales and advertising. Within these fields these techniques are common practise and that got me thinking about what a capitalist, consumerist society we live in. It is comforting to know there are techniques to combat these with, but I am guessing that with the saturation of these marketing ploys everywhere we must be on guard all the time.
Reflections of chapter 9 - Baumeister & Bushman
What is aggression?
Many social psychologists agree that aggression is “any behaviour that is intended to harm another person, who is motivated to avoid the harm”. - Baumeister & Bushman
There are different forms of aggression; hostile aggression is hot and impulsive, whereas instrumental aggression is cold and premeditated. Passive aggression is intended to harm through failure to act whereas active aggression is intended to harm by doing something such as spreading rumours. Violence is also different from aggression as it is extreme behaviour and only certain aggressive acts are considered violence such as; murder, rape, assault, and robbery.
Theories of aggression
- Learning theories: social learning theory – modelling
- Inner causes: frustration, bad mood, hostile cognitive bias, age, gender
- Interpersonal causes: selfishness, influence, domestic violence, displacement
- External causes: weapons effect, mass media, unpleasant environments – heat, noise, pollution, chemical influences – excess testosterone, lack of serotonin, alcohol consumption
- Self and culture: norms, values, self-control, wounded pride, humiliation, culture of honour
Nature or nurture
Aggression is generally considered to be innate as aggression is found in all known societies and across many species. It is thought to stem from selfishness which makes sense, as animals that don’t look out for themselves would never survive to pass their genes along. Generally, aggression is seen as counter productive to society and culture aims to curb this tendency. There are however, variations among the levels of aggression seen in varying cultures. Anthropologists have discovered and documented the existence of societies where aggression and violence are minimal. It has been found that people do live fairly peacefully within cultures where violence is viewed as unacceptable, with no aggressive role models. However, in cultures where aggression is valued and modelled, violence and aggression occur frequently.
So it appears that aggression is an innate instinct but culture can play an important role of encouraging or discouraging this behaviour. Regardless of the intention of some societies they may inadvertently increase aggression, for example through violence on television. There was an example used in the textbook of kittens being raised with rats, in which case they did not kill them. If however, they were raised by a mother cat that killed rats, 85% killed rats. If they were raised alone with no influence then 54% killed rats. This shows how social learning can influence the increase or decrease of aggression in other species.
Another example of this, was on a documentary I watched. This was an extraordinary case of a lioness (named Kamuniak) who had no pride and was possibley infertile. Amazingly, Kamuniak played out her maternal instincts by adopting a baby oryx. Normally lions will prey on and eat oryx so this goes against nature and the instinct of the lioness. Kamuniak was absolutely amazing she protected her adopted oryx from predators, scared off a family of cheetahs, encouraged the oryx to feed from its own lactating mother, slept with the oryx, and even violated her own survival instinct by refusing to leave the oryx even to hunt. The oryx eventually got snatched up by another lion and Kamuniak was distraught, she actually grieved as if it was her own baby. She later proceeded to adopt another oryx. This was a fascinating documentary and a great example of how animals are not always slaves to instincts.
Baby oryx (right)would normally be food for a lion (left), but sometimes animals can go against their instincts
Weapons and aggression
Some studies have shown that pepole may be effected by the mere presence of weapons in terms of increased aggression. This is known as the weapons effect. This is interesting and I wonder if certain weapons increase aggression more than others. I also wonder how this effects a country like the US where it is exceptable and even encouraged to bear arms. In the case of the US it is generally firearms that people carry and you can see the problems this is creating in occurances such as the Columbine High School massacre.
I am also curious if people would be less likely to assualt or murder others if they did not have access to guns. For example, if you had to attack someone with your bare hands or a knife, and risk getting injured yourself or getting blood on your hands literally, would people be less likely to instigate attacks. Guns allow people to shoot from a distance and they are effective and deadly, do they make murder too easy? However, different countries tolerate and react to these occurances in various ways. When Australia had a similar mass shooting at Port Arthur, it prompted a rapid response regarding firearm legislation, sending out the message that this is not acceptable here. There hasn’t been any incidents of this magnitude since the change in legislation.
Also the invention of bombs and destructive weapons invented with the capacity to annihilate billions if not everyone on the planet, has certainly changed the face of the world. Without these, most violence would be limited to small scale acts. Although every society has an aggression and violence taboo, I think it is very ironic that governments are able to legitamely kill as in the case of war, or the death penalty. It is not ok to kill for your own personal reasons but it is ok to kill masses of innocent people on a large scale for political reasons? I wonder how this sets an example to the people living in socities whose governments perpetrate these crimes, or on the other side living in the target country.
I also wonder if some of the concepts regarding our biases are related to the prevalence of war. For example the self-serving bias, actor-observiar bias, or the fundamental attribution error, does this mean we can look at other groups of people and think that their actions and mistakes are a result of their internal flaws. Whereas, we look at ourselves and attribute success to our inner qualities and failures as situational. The presense of belief perserverance means that we hold onto our beliefs once they are formed and refuse to change them even if they prove to be incorrect. Does this stop us from seeing the other perspective which may start and maintain arguments and wars? The confirmation bias allows us to notice and look for information that confirms our beliefs and to ingore things that contradict our beliefs. I wonder if this process also helps to maintain wars? The false consensus effect allows us to belive we are right and most other people agree and see our side of it, which helps maintain the belief we are on the right side.
Culture of honour
The textbook explained why the people in the South of the US are more prone to aggression, violence, and homicide, as well as, why they have fewer gun restirctions and lenancies in shooting buglars and assailants. I found this fascinating as I have noticed this before and wondered about it. The book explains that it stems from the Scottish and Irish herders, who had to protect their stock by any means or risk losing not only all their stock and income, but their honour as well. The culture of honour refers to the acceptance of violence and aggressive responses to threats of ones pride or honour.
I did read about an example of this earlier in the year. A Texas man saw two men breaking into his neighbours house and told 911 operators he was going to kill them . Obviously, the operators advised strongly against this, but he did so anyway. However, he was acquitted of both murders due to the fact that he was protecting his neighbours property. Some however, did wonder if the fact that the two dead robbers were illegal immigrants from Colombia had something to do with the acquital. Earlier in the chapter on aggression it talks about self-defence and how it is often acceptable, but usually the defence must be proprtional to the attack. If someone goes to hit you or rob you, you can defend yourself but not kill them. When I heard this story on the news I thought that it was very out of proprtion to kill two people who are not even robbing you, but actually your neighbour. But since reading the textbook about the culture of honour in the South, this puts it into perspective. However, I still don't agree with it!
Road rage, is when people driving experience frustration with other drivers, sometimes to the point where vioence, or murder occurs. I think we can all relate to feeling annoyed and angry at the seemingly never ending amount of stupid things that other drivers do. When people are in their cars the sense of self extends out to the car around them. This means that any irritaing or stupid act by other drivers, can get taken personally. Such as, when other drivers cut you off or tailgate, it feels as though they are encroaching on your personal space. I would be interested to know what makes some people snap to the point of violence, whereas most people content themselves with honking the horn, or making obsecene gestures. I am also curious, whether road rage is more prevalent in bigger, crowded cities or if it occurs less as people may be used to driving in heavy traffic, or may be more curtious due to the difficult conditions for everyone? I also wonder, if the self-serving bias can effect road rage, as people tend to feel more annoyed at the mistakes of others, but brush of their own mistakes as not important.
I guess an intersting spin-off off from road rage is trolley rage. When I first heard about this, I thought it was kind of funny but actually being in the supermarket, especially when it is busy can be every bit as irritating as driving. Trolley rage is when people get angry, have tantrums, bang carts, or argue in a supermarket or shop. It is usually triggered by rude sales people, other customers, or stock shortage. So what is it about the supermarket? Is it the crowded isles and close proximity, or the waiting in ques? I have personally found it is the lack of common sense or social etiquette of other people, when they do things, like stand in front of particular shelves or stand in the middle of an isle having a conversatiion. It's intersting, but both road and trolley rage, are examples of modern forms of aggression and they show how ordinary inevitable situtions can be incredibly frustrating and turn ugly.
Experiences like driving and shopping can turn into episodes of rage for some people
This movie fits into this weeks topic of aggression and next weeks topic of prejudice. I doubt there are many people who have watched this film and did not found it thoroughly disturbing and tragic. I guess what is more depressing is that this is just one example, as there are wars and conflicts occurring all over the world, all the time. I guess the first thing that stands out is the inhumanity of the perpetrators. Obviously, there are always two sides to every story but even so, it is scary to think people can become so twisted with anger and prejudice that their hatred extends out to thousands of innocent people and children, who are being judged and persecuted simply because of their genetics.
The next thing that struck me about the film was the reactions of the United States, the United Nations, Belgium, and the rest of the world. You have to wonder how useful the UN actually is when the genocide of 800,000 people is not sufficient to make it act. Everyone was reluctant to get involved. What really irritated me was the reluctance of leaders, to admit it was genocide. I really think, that if nearly a million innocent people are slaughtered, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Furthering on from that, I was disgusted at the pretence on the part of the leaders who would not admit that they knew the extent of it. They then, had the audacity to tour through the country once the danger was over, act concerned and say, “yeah we should have done more”. Not good enough!!!
I guess what I felt from watching that movie was that the other countries were not looking through the lens of ‘we are all the same, we are all humans’. Instead, I felt they were thinking in terms of ‘well, this is their country and we can not risk losing any of our own’. I understand countries will always have a tendency to look after their own citizens first, but when it means that you would rather risk 800,000 of the ‘other’, rather then lose one of your own, then I think this is too extreme.
The other stand out thing was the altruism of some people. This put a slightly positive spin on an otherwise ghastly and horrific documentary. Laura Lane, was prepared to stay behind by herself, to keep the American Embassy open as safe haven for others in need. She also tried to save as many as she could in the convoys as they drove out of the country. Carl Wilkens was the only American to stay behind and put himself in danger in order to help others. He literally saved the lives of hundreds. Who said one person can’t make a difference? The Red Cross workers were also incredibly brave and heroic. I find this amazing that some people have such as strong social conscious that they will put the needs of others before their own and fight all on their own, while whole nations cower away and say that there is nothing they can do. It offers some comfort that people like Laura and Carl exist, it helps you to remember there is a good side of humanity.
Reflections of chapter 12 – Baumeister & Bushman
The chapter on prejudice helps explain how atrocities, such as Rwanda occur and how people's thinking can get flawed. For example, viewing someone as a member of an ‘outgroup’ allows you to view them as different from yourself and ‘outgroup homogeneity bias’ means you view the outgroup members, as all being similar and different from your own group. Obviously, this is not true as often there would be more diversity amongst your group then what exists between groups. However, I guess this allows people to view other groups as less human and therefore lack empathy towards them and to believe that others, who are part of that group must have bad qualities. ‘Scapegoat theory’ means that people blame their problems on out groups and is another process which allows people to channel their anger at other groups. It is also interesting, how with the ‘discontinuity effect’ groups are more extreme and hostile than individuals. I guess this allows people to believe that they are right if other people in the group agree with them it confirms they are doing the right thing. Or maybe it ties in with diffusion of responsibility, as if everyone in the group agrees to do something then it is not on your conscious alone.
‘Minimal group effect’ is interesting, where people show favouritism towards members of their own group no matter how arbitrary the groups is. The textbook used the example of a coin toss. Obviously people know that they have no real similarity with their group but it shows that people seem primed to feel defensive of their own group. The textbook also talked about how prejudice seems natural to an extent, as children seem to reject anyone who is different. However, culture and learning can change this effect and encourage people not to do this. Certainly not everyone has hateful thoughts about others even if we do identify and prefer our own group.
Prejudice seems to occur all around the world in many forms. Religion, race, sex, and sexuality, seem to be some categories that people tend to become discriminatory towards. It is interesting, because some people are able to overcome prejudice and others may have slight prejudice but it is not an important part of their lives. I think the danger is when people become consumed with hate. Instead of concentrating on their own happiness and success they devote their thoughts and energy to destroying others. This is terrible for the victims but also for the perpetrators, as they ruin their own lives too by carrying around so much negative energy.
Prejudice in Australia
It's easy to point at countries like Rwanda and feel saddened by the horror but we do tend to forget that prejudice and racism have occurred on large scales in our own country. In fact Australia was built on attempted genocide. The white settlers that came to Australia wiped out a large percentage of the Aboriginal population, which is culture that we can never get back. They then proceeded to take Aboriginal children away from their families (know as the stolen generation) in an attempt to have them abandon their traditional cultural practises and have them assimilate into white society. It was thought (or hoped?) that the Indigenous Australians would die out and the government thought it could “sooth their dying pillow”. It is believed that between 1788 and 1901, 90% of indigenous Australians had been wiped out intentionally or through disease and illness, brought by the White settlers .
That may be in the past but there is no denying that prejudice and racism towards our Indigenous population still exist. They have on average shorter life spans, worse health, less eduction, lower quality of life, and higher levels of poverty. Attitudes towards these people are still not good. In a shocking true story a couple of years ago, a respectable Aboriginal lady who was on her way to work at the University, suffered a stroke and sat on a seat vomiting and passing out for over 5 hours while people wandered casually by . Eventually, two Japanese students alerted security and called an ambulance. So if we saw a white person vomiting and struggling on a bench would we walk right past? Or was it because people thought she might simply be drunk, did they see what they expected? Did the Japanese students who may not have had the cultural stereotype see her as an individual who needed help?
Furthermore, Australia has been guilty of more racism and prejudice. The Immigration Restriction Act was in place from approximately 1901 to 1973, to ensure that Australia would be a white country as non-whites were simply not allowed to immigrate here! Although this was abandoned eventually we still have no tolerance for refugees, as they are locked up in places possibly worse then prisons, due to our policy of mandatory detention . Many families and children may be locked up for years. The conditions clearly are not too good as in one detention centre, Iranian refugees sewed their own mouths shut and went on hunger strikes in protest .
Pauline Hanson is another embarrassing example of prejudice and racism. Although many Australians did not support her there was still a significant portion that did. Her policies were based on discrimination, racism and prejudice. She was especially against immigration of Asian people claiming that they were flooding into our country, stealing jobs, failing to assimilate, forming ghettos, and creating crime. She also targeted the Indigenous Australians as she feared reverse discrimination was occurring and that they were getting too much given to them! Her opinions were not supported or silenced by the Prime Minister until her comments began to create tensions with our neighbouring Asian countries that considered us to be a racist country.
Since September 11 however, the attention is now on Muslims and people from the Middle East. The Cronulla riots were viewed all over the world and were a complete embarrassment to Australia. Tension built up between Australians and Middle Eastern people and then spilled over. The frustration was targeted at anyone of the 'other' group, who were in the wrong place. This is really sad to see, I think both sides have wronged but this is such a horrible way to solve the problem. Both groups felt the other started it, as Australians were reacting to several incidents occurring at the beach. On the other hand, there are many foreign people who feel unwelcome, alienated, and frustrated in Australia, which causes them to stick with people of their own nationality which then creates 'gangs'.
Tutorial three reflections
Furthering on from the discussion of prejudice, we watched the movie ‘blue eyed/ brown eyed’ by Jane Elliot in the tutorial today. It was an interesting experiment and there were debates about the ethics of such an activity. I think it is ok when dealing with adults, the people that didn’t like it left early on in the piece and the people who completed the course all appeared to have learnt valuable lessons. The point was to expose people to the kind of treatment that victims of prejudice experience everyday of their lives. I think this was an eye-opener for some of the white people who buy into the common belief that inequality and racism don’t occur in ‘multi-cultural’ Australia. As Elliot said in the movie, white people not only have the privileged position but also it is part of their privilege to claim that inequality does not exist. I guess this occurs through ignorance, not meeting enough of the ‘other’ in their daily lives, or hearing the stories that they have to tell about racism and intolerance. I think also that the most privileged people in society never really want to relinquish their position as it feels nice to be on top. This was supported in her experinment as two of the older white men left early on, middle age white men tend to hold the most privledged position in Western society. I think the exercise was interesting and insightful but I firmly believe that the best way to change inequality is to bring the disadvantaged group up, rather then drag the superior group down.
Aggression and man
Another interesting thought that came up in the tutorial, is that a lot of aggressive acts tend to be committed by men. This is a generalisation, obviously we can all think of examples of women who are aggressive. However, majority of violent acts - from assault, rapes, robberies, war, and genocide, are generally perpetrated by men. In the chapter on aggression increased testosterone was pointed out to be a factor in increasing aggression. Men obviously have more testosterone then women. I wonder if there are other factors that influence woman to be generally more passive. Perhaps the fact that women create life and are designed to nurture and protect makes them more empathetic and compassionate? Perhaps the male role of providing for the family means he is more aggressive and competitive? These roles don’t necessarily have to be biology based it could simply be the roles that men and women are socialised into.
I guess this leads me to wonder if the world may be different if there were more women in power. Although women have greater equality in contemporary western society, I wouldn’t go as far as to say equality has been achieved. I think, when it comes to government and private enterprise, women’s presence at the top can be slightly token. I also think, that the women who have positions of power have sometimes had to take on masculine qualities to do so and to gain respect. I wonder if there was a more traditional feminine influence on government and society if there would be less prejudice, aggression, and war? This topic reminds me of a novel I once read by Anne Rice called ‘the queen of the damned’. In the book, the queen vampire after witnessing millennia of atrocities committed by man eventually awakens with a plan to wipe out three quarters of men, with the remaining men kept for reproduction purposes! Despite the madness you can’t help but wonder if she has a point and if her plan were carried out how it would shape the world? Would women be more fair and compassionate or would they become the way men in power are now?
In the tutorial, we also discussed various terms regarding pro-social behaviour, aggression, and prejudice. One concept I found particularly interesting was the ‘by-stander effect’. This is when people are less likely to act or offer help to someone else when they are in a group, as opposed to being alone with the person in need. I think it ties in with ‘diffusion of responsibility’ when people feel less responsible when there are others present due to the fact that the onus isn’t entirely on themselves. The most famous example of the bystander effect and possibly the incident that prompted social psychologists to study this concept was the case of the Kitty Genovese murder. The basic story is she was attacked and stabbed outside her apartment and called out for help, but despite her neighbours hearing her everybody failed to act.
I remember a few years ago on the news an Asian tourist was badly beaten in Sydney and was left on the pavement for over half an hour while people walked past and failed to call him an ambulance. Another incident occurred where  a 26 year old woman was raped in the corridor of her apartment building and security footage later retrieved revealed that at least ten neighbours peeked their heads out to have a look, one neighbour three times! They not only failed to intervene but didn’t call the police to come and help her. One man actually walked past and simply put his hood up! So what is going on here? Are people concerned that harm will come to them if they intervene? If so, why don’t they call the ambulance or police for them to deal with it? Are they just disinterested and think it is not their business? Do they lack empathy?
A concept I have previously read about, called ‘fear of social blunders’ or ‘audience inhibition’ means that by-standers are reluctant to act while other people are around for fear of misinterpreting the situation and then being seen as foolish. This may contribute to the occurrences of these types of situations. Another concept is ‘social influence’ which is where witnesses provide models for action (or inaction) to each other. Apparently this effect is heightened if the onlookers are strangers, as they may not communicate to each other. On the other hand, when bystanders know each other communication is much faster and they are more likely to prompt each other into action. Another factor that may determine whether people act is who the victim is. People are more willing to get involved if the victim is known to the onlookers, a child, or if the incident occurs in a very public place. Furthermore, The ‘bystander-calculus’ model, is when onlookers weigh up potential pros or cons of getting involved.
Tutorial four reflections
Culture is learned and shared beliefs, practices, behaviours, and attitudes, of a collective group which includes norms and taboos. According to anthropologists all people are biologically very similar with more individual differences amongst people of the same culture than differences between cultures, in terms of biology. Therefore, it is learning and culture that creates differences between us. The aim of studying cultures is to then find differences and similarities across cultures.
In a vast and diverse country like Australia, I find it hard to apply the idea of culture. I think this is partly due to what anthropologists refer to as 'emic', which is examining a culture through the eyes of somebody immersed in it. It therefore becomes difficult to notice ones own culture as everything is taken for granted as 'normal'. 'Etic' on the otherhand, refers to looking into a culture that is not ones own which is handy as you notice many things, but the drawback is that you do not have a full understanding of why people behave as they do and it is hard to leave your own culture baggage behind.
I also think it is hard for me to see Australian culture as it is a country of many people from many backgrounds who do not necessarily share beliefs, practices, and attitudes. Furthermore, there are many sub-cultures of people who think and act in different ways. I think these differences aside there is something that makes all these unique people able to come together and operate within the Australian system, regardless of what they really think. I think this is where norms and taboos come in, as they can guide your behaviour allowing you to fit into society.
Culture shock is when people are introduced into a new culture and initially feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and out of their element as they struggle to navigate through new language, norms, and taboos. Culture shock may happen when going to a new country or when coming into contact with a new sub-culture. I think a culture shock reaction is probably common amongst most people but could be experienced differently. Individual personality differences such as, sensation and adventure seeking may cause some to feel less overwhelmed and more excited. Preparation may also help soften the blow, as learning the language and about the culture beforehand may stop someone from making social blunders. Having friends already part of the new culture may also help as they may act as a guide.
When travelling culture shock may vary depending on the way people travel. Some people lessen culture shock by travelling with a protective cultural bubble around them. For example, they may tour with other people from their country, have buses to take them to tourist destinations, accommodation already arranged so they can enjoy the novelty of a new place without the stress. However, when others travel they may wish to experience the culture more fully and immerse themselves in it or others may wish to stay awhile and therefore they need to assimilate. This can be a tough process as they have a lot riding on fitting in. They may need to gain employment, shop for goods, make friends, and use public transport, therefore it is important to learn cultural rules and language.
The power of culture
I think it is important to stress how much culture shapes our perception of the world. Although there are both similarities and differences amongst cultures, it can effect our beliefs and thoughts on many taken for granted phenomena. For example, pssage of time - since calendars and clocks are manmade measurements and some tribal societies would not measure there day by minutes or hours or with yearly calendars. Other examples are, kin and family systems; bodily practices - clothes, jewellery, tattooing, scarification, piercing; belief in magic, religion or witchcraft; thoughts on illness - scientific model or magic, sorcery; food - how we eat, what we eat; perceptions of death, dying, after life, spirits, whether we feel happy or sad about it; justice and legal systems, and many more. Two which I will look at a little more closely are perceptions of pain and gender.
Cross cultural studies conducted by anthropologists and psychologists have found that pain is not just relative to damage done to the body, instead pain is effected by previous experiences and understanding of the causes and definitions of pain. Cultural learning has a large role in how we perceive and then respond to pain. This is seen when practises that would be experienced as painful in some cultures are experienced with no pain by people in other cultures. An example of this, is some tribal groups in Africa such as the Nuer, Dinka, and Nilotic. They believe that pain is the result of societal transgressions. An Amazonian tribe called the Yanomamo find daily amusement from the young men participating in axe and club fights. The woman watch and cheer them on and the elders help prepare the boys through allowing them to paint and pierce their skin.
Another example of this, is the hook-swinging ritual which is practised in some places in India. Certain people are selected to have hooks stuck in both sides of their back which are stuck under their skin and muscle. The hooks then are hooked up to ropes and are the person is strung up onto a cart, which moves through villages. This is probably an important role as the person represents the power of the gods, as they go around and bless the children and crops. This is an interesting example, as in our culture this would be experienced as agonising and torturous.
Another striking example, is the Dugum Dani of Highland New Guinea where the men engage in spear fights for nightly entertainment. They stand in two lines about 30 yards away and then throw spears at each other. The woman of this tribe when they are children undergo surgical removal of the interphalanges joints in their hands, as they believe this will protect them from evil. These woman still manage to care for their young, cook, make fires, and wash clothes. Other cultures would certainly find these practices painful but for them they are normal and natural and pain is controlled or eliminated through their attitude towards it .
Gender, is another largely taken for granted concept in Western culture, as male and female are regarded as two distinct and different categories. However, gender could be seen more as a spectrum with apparently up to nine different categories of varying intersex states. It is thought as many as one in every hundred babies may be born as an intersex baby, on varying degrees, not necessarily full hermaphrodite. However, Western culture is rather intolerant of these varying states which means that many babies are given reassignment surgery at a young age in order to place them in one category or another. There are people that challenge these boundaries such as transsexuals but they are often a source of ridicule and are not socially accepted. In the West masculine and feminie social roles are so binding that when men or woman feel they don’t belong to their gender they often have to go through invasive, irreversible surgery to make their physical bodies match their outsides.
Different cultures treat intersex people in different ways. Some are less restrictive and have a third gender where intersex people fit in, such as in Thailand. The Berdache of North Amercia have their own gender category which includes people who have both male and females qualities or intersex biology. The Berdache are revered as they are thought to embody the perfect balance of both genders. On the other hand, The Hua of Papua New Guinea believe that people belong to either the male or female gender, but this is a more fluid process as their masculinity and femininity may shift balance over the course of their life, as body fluids change.
Reflections from chapter 10 & 11 – Baumeister & Bushman
Acceptance and attraction
Humans have a very powerful need to belong. Social brain theory proposes that the brain and intelligence developed in order for people to understand and relate to others and to create and maintain relationships. Social acceptance such as gaining approval and liking from others is therefore very important. The need to belong consists of two main needs; both quality and quantity. Quantity refers to having regular social contact with others and quality is about having satisfying relationships, with a reasonable level of closeness and stability. Failure to feel a sense of belonging or experiences of rejection both impact on both psychological and physical health in a negative way and place people at a greater risk of death.
Some factors that influence attraction are:
- Similarity – this is true of both friends and lovers
- Social rewards – favours and compliments
- Reciprocation of liking
- Exposure and familiarity
- Propinquity – being near someone regularly
- Good looks - this is found, even in three-month-old babies, furthermore, average and symmetrical faces tend to be more attractive.
Rejection and social exclusion are very unpleasant. If this occurs repeatedly people may acquire ‘rejection sensitivity’, where they then expect rejection to occur in future relationships. Rejection may also undermine self-regulation, lead to greater selfishness and aggression, as well as interfering with psychological and cognitive functioning. The textbook uses the example of how some high school massacres may occur from socially rejected children. This is very sad but the trend seems to suggest that this is the case.
The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 was committed by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, both depressed and victims of bullying and rejection. Seung- Hui Cho who was responsible for The Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007, suffered from social anxiety and was bullyied. The Jokela High School massacre in Finland 2007 was done by student Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who was a constant victim of bullying. Less then a year later in 2008 another massacre occurred in Finland, the Kauhajoki school shooting. Matti Juhani Saari shot ten people and then himself at a University in Kauhajoki. In his note he mentioned that he hated the human race. Interestinly, another school shooting also took place in Finland in 1989, at the Raumanmeri school in Rauma when a fourteen year old student shot two other students.
These occurances have some simlarities they all show that being outcasted can in fact cause people to become angry, agrressive, selfish, and vengeful. Also, two of the shootings occurred in the USA and three in Finland. This may be a reflection of firearm legistation but it may also reflect treatment at school, bullying, and cliques. Furthermore, all these incidents have been perpetrated by males. This is intersting as females also feel social exclusion but may choose to deal with it differently. I think sometimes when people feel ostracised they may turn their pain inwards and committ suicide. I wonder if it is a gender thing with females more likely to take it out on themselves. For example in 2007 two Melbourne school girls, Stephanie Gestier and Jodie Gater hung themselves in a suicide pact . Apparently both girls were part of an alienated emo culture, known for being sensitive and moody.
People become lonely when they do not have sufficient quality or quantity of human contact. Some people deal with loneliness by joining groups and organisations. Other people may combat loneliness through becoming engaged in television shows and the characters on TV who become like friends. Others, may turn to the Internet and computers for contact with other people through email, chartrooms, and online games. Another way to deal with loneliness is to find non-human companionship such as with animals and pets.
Loneliness and isolation in the city is interesting because it seems to me that the larger the city the more people may be alienated. In small towns and especially in tribal cultures people are integrated and connected into their society. In country towns people may live further away but they are more likely to know each other. In bigger cities people seem to have busier and more insular lifestyles, they rely on other people outside of their friends and family less. It is possible to live next door to someone and not even know them. This can leave people who may be older, incapacitated, or who don’t have family, quite isolated as they live amongst people without connecting with them. I think the Internet and virtual communication can be good in this way but I wonder if these relationships are as satisfying as really spending time with people. You can chat to people online and share details about yourself but you can’t really share new experiences with them.
Animals can have a very special place in people’s lives regardless of whether they are lonely or not. However, for the socially excluded this can be a lifeline for them. Having something to talk to, cuddle with, and to look after, may give people a sense of purpose in their lives. As I was thinking about the power of pets I started thinking of the film ‘I am Legend’. In this movie there is only one man left in the world, just him and his dog. There is a scene in the movie where the dog dies in his arms and everyone I know found the scene absolutely heart-wrenching. It is interesting though because the man does die himself later in the movie but his death does not bring on the same emotion. There were different circumstances but I think the reason why people found the dogs death to be so upsetting, is because they instinctively and empathetically imagined how devastating it would be to lose that last connection with another creature and to be all alone.
Animals and humans can have amazing bonds and animals sometimes have an uncanny knack of understanding humans in ways we can't explain. An example of this is the true story of Oscar the cat who was raised in a nursing home. At two years old Oscar has the ability to sense when a patient is within approximately four hours from death. He then goes into their room and curls up with them, as if to comfort them. Apparently Oscar has accurately predicted up to 25 deaths and his warning signal has given nursing home staff time to contact the family. Oscar is apparently better at reading the signs then the doctors and nurses at the nursing home and many families of the dead patients have been happy that he was there to provide comfort and companionship in the last hours.
Close relationships and intimacy
Good relationships can improve life and happily married people tend to be healthier and live longer than single or divorced people. There are two main types of love: passionate, which is exciting and new, but generally short-lived; and companionative love, which is more stable, commitment orientated, with a greater level of understanding. Companionative love is important for long-term happiness in relationships, however there is generally a transition where people start off passionate, changing into companionative love over time. Sternberg theory however, proposes that love consists of passion, intimacy, and commitment, which may vary in strength.
Within marriages the trend is for them to; either stay the same or get worse. Despite people thinking their marriage is getting better every year this is not actually the case. Maybe this is because it is not always easy to be with someone long-term and every year is an achievement, but also the longer you spend with someone the more integrated your lives become, you feel closer and life starts to seem scary without that person. Once a marriage starts going down the gurgler it is generally too late as it can be hard to revive a dying relationship. The trick is to recognise signs of deterioration and address them before they become serious. The investment model of relationships proposes that; satisfaction, alternatives and time investment explain why people stay in long-term relationships. When people feel satisfied and feel they have already invested much time into a relationship they will stick with it, but other available options also influences people. If they have no other alternatives they are happier to stick with their partner but if they have other good options, they may be enticed by them. This could explain why celebrity marriages often dissolve and why they often cheat on each other. Being rich, famous, and attractive ensures they have many other good options both from fans and other celebrities too.
I was shocked to learn recently that some states of America have an 'alientation of affection' law where the spouse of a cheating partner can sue the person who had an affair with their partner for "stealing their heart". This can be done regardless of whether they new their lover was married! This seems crazy to me after all, if you are in a marriage it problely already has issues if one party is cheating. Furthermore, if my partner cheated I think I would blame them not the woman, since they are the one who made a committment to me! I also don't think it is possible to steal somebody's heart. It also seeems cruel to punish a person if they have also been duped as the cheating partner has lied to them too, therefore they had no idea they were "stealing someones heart"!
There are three main theories of sexuality. The first, is the social constructionist theory which claims that socialisation and culture play a large role in shaping sexual attitudes and behaviours. Evolutionary theory on the other hand, believes that the sex-drive is basically innate and influenced by natural selection. Thirdly, social exchange theory views sex as something women have and men want. They believe that social behaviour weighs up pros and cons of interaction. Men are thought to be more sexual than woman however, woman suffer from a double standard where they are judged more morally harshly than men and seem to be condemned for enjoying and engaging in sex. Disappointingly, it seems to be woman policing other woman as men do not seem to think negatively of woman who enjoy and engage in sex!
Whatever the case, it certainly appears that men have a stronger sex drive than woman. A study by Russell, Clark, and Hatfield (1978) demonstrated this by sending average looking research assistants out into the University campus. They approached attractive people of the opposite sex and asked them if they would have sex with them that night. The results showed that all of the woman refused, some getting angry and asking to be left alone. On the other hand, 75% of the men said yes and some even asked why they had to wait till that night! They repeated their studies several more times and each time almost all women declined but more than half of men accepted. I find this quite amusing and I also wonder for the men that said no if it was because they already had a partner, or if they were not attracted to them and if this was the reason for declining?
Homosexuality is also an interesting topic as nobody is really sure why it occurs. There are three main theories: genetic, cultural and Bem’s exotic becomes erotic (EBE) theory. Genetic theory is basically that there is a gene that may contribute to homosexuality, however this has not necessarily been supported. Cultural theories believe that socialisation and learning may be responsible but it seems more likely that culture and genetics would both contribute as the identical twin of a gay person has a 50% chance of being gay also. Bem’s EBE theory proposes that gay people are different to their gender and be-friend people of opposite gender, meaning when they get older they feel more anxious and aroused with people of the same sex. On a television show I saw last week on homosexuality, the commentator said that people tend to see sexuality as being black and white, as in you are either gay or straight. However, they believed that it is a continuum with some people being completely straight, or completely gay, with others floating in the middle, such as with bi-sexualuality. A straight woman or man for example may engage in a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex on one occasion, but consider themselves straight. Someone else may consider themselves gay but oocassionaly find themselves attracted to the opposite sex. It is not necessarily clear-cut. Furthermore, sometimes when people have no acess to partners of the opposite sex such as in prisons, they may in fact engage in homosexual acts but still consider them selves heterosexual.
Homosexuality is not exclusive to humans, the above animals along with many others, all display homosexual behaviour
Tutorial five reflections
This week we listened to Hugh Mackay’s speech at the 6th annual Manning Clark lecture. We then reflected on some of the issues he raised and then brainstormed a ‘wish list’ for an ideal Australian society. Being a loyal feminist the first thing I picked up on was his glossing over of women’s issues. He stated that nobody would dare say women are second-class citizens anymore. I thought to myself people might not say or admit it, but in some ways we kind of are! According to Naomi Wolf in her book ‘the beauty myth’, the woman’s liberation movement did bring about some important changes and triumphs for woman. However, there was also a backlash that has been in operation since then where woman’s oppression changed forms. Mainly the ‘iron maiden’, which is the incredibly narrow, idealistic, and unrealistic notions of female beauty which woman are now expected to achieve by any means necessary. Woman go through much pain and suffering for beauty from the uncomfortable shoes and clothes to the death and suffering from eating disorders. The recent rise of the billion-dollar diet, cosmetic, fashion, pornography, and now cosmetic surgery industry are a testament to this. Woman definitely experience more pressure to look young and beautiful than men. According to Wolf, the more that woman have achieved power and broken through barriers of oppression the more strict and cruel ideals of female beauty have become. She says “more women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers.”
I also believe that woman are way over-sexualised in Western society. The media plays are large hand in this. Anyone who is a night owl like me, will notice after midnight every second advertisement is a scantily clad woman in a sexual pose selling images of herself or phone sex. Even watching video hits on a Saturday morning is a trial as some of the film clips containing mainly pretty woman, are semi-porn. Women belt out there songs in bikinis and skimpy clothes or virtual underwear. Anyone who has seen the Miss Universe contest has surely noticed that the woman all share similar shape and qualities: young, tall, thin, tanned, long lustrous hair, clear skin, even features, straight teeth, pouty lips, and big breasts. These competitions are very sexist as they objectify woman and have them judged mostly on their looks, comparing their bodies in various outfits such as evening and swimwear. They generally ask a token question at the end but only for the finalists. Magazine images of models are everywhere and what is bad about these images is the woman are often altered with cosmetic surgery, tonnes of make up, special lighting, and airbrushing. This means the ultimate female beauties are unrealistically flawless. Of course woman in the modelling, acting, singing, or entertainment industry must be beautiful, and many other jobs that don’t require someone to be beautiful will still favour attractive employees. Unfortuantely these women have a time limit as beauty is equated with youth, therefore in the most looks focused industries careers are over at forty. If they do continue such as, with actresses they will now play the mum or grandma not the sexy lead. Some singers like Madonna continue their career into their fifties, but these woman are rare and they are also expected to hide their age with plastic surgery, airbrushing, make-up and teenage outfits.
There is definitely gender inequality in the workplace. Woman are paid less for doing the same jobs and it is a fact that woman now earn more from their sexuality and bodies then their skills. According to Wolf, prostitutes and models are the only jobs where woman consistently earn as much or more than men and they often earn twice as much as other woman. This is attributed to the backlash against woman’s liberation, since professional beauties such as prostitutes or models in the time before feminism emerged were low status, low paid, and unrespectable. Furthermore, woman still have a glass ceiling and are consistently kept out of the top jobs. They tend to be in lower status jobs and lower levels of management. Young men in companies get groomed for higher management and woman are under-represented in politics, CEO jobs, judges, and the highest levels of just about any career. Of course woman can be at the top but this is not the trend, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be 50% of women in these roles. They are also missing from certain industries such as IT, engineering, maths, trades, mechanics, and others. On the other hand men tend not to enter into nursing, teaching, and secretarial work, which are traditionally female jobs. Interestingly, despite being professions teachers and nurses are paid less than other professionals.
There are many other ways that woman are not equal citizens. I don’t have time to discuss them all but I will briefly mention a couple of others. Firstly, in sport, men’s sport is real sport whereas woman’s is token and unappreciated. Moreover, they may be expected to sex up their image with revealing uniforms and sexiness of athletes can certainly help them to gain fame or approval. Anna Kournikova for example, has never won a major tennis tournament but is still one of the better known woman tennis players.
Another issue is rape, assault, and violence against women. The social psychology reading of last week, mentioned that woman are more likely to be victims of stalking. They are also more likely to be in physically abusive relationships, to be victims of sexual harrasment, and to be raped. This is bad enough as woman do not always feel safe in society, but worse still is society and the legal response to this. Domestic violence has traditionally been perceived as none of the law’s business. Rape is often considered the girl’s fault, woman are expected to be sexy but then if they are too sexy they are asking for it! Stalking and the like are often not taken as seriously as they should be and even when restraining orders are provided they are often simply ignored. There was one case of a woman being murdered on the steps of the court after getting a restraining order! Until woman are free to walk the streets at night, free from attack and rape from friends and family they are not equal citizens.
What to do about it?
So what can be done to help this? Firstly equal pay should be implemented, there is no reason why woman should not earn the same as men for doing the same job. Secondly, Hugh Mackay talked about how education is preventing woman from giving birth. I think this is because woman want children but also want independence and a career and do not like choosing. Therefore, lets help out women, both married and single. More childcare services should be provided, subsided childcare, childcare facilities for schools, and in companies, and more lenient maternity and paternity leave. Encouragement of men to take time out for childcare would be useful. The Scandinavian model is that whoever stays home with the baby receives 80% of their previous income. This is excellent, this would provide incentive to take time off for child rearing and may encourage men to take this on particularity if they earn more as they are nearly receiving all of their income anyway. There also needs to be a shift in the way housewives and unpaid domestic labour is viewed as it currently not considered ‘real work’. According to Wolf, if domestic labour were paid the household income would increase by 60%. Furthermore, there needs to be relaxing of gender roles as woman, despite working are still doing the lions share of domestic and childcare duties!
In response to the others issues, I think woman need to be respected more in the media. They should not be held to higher moral standards such as with the double sex standard and the Madonna/ whore ideology needs to be changed. The sex industry needs to be toned down and not so in our faces. Media representations should try to create a more realistic ideal and celebrate more natural and diverse types of beauty, as well as old age. Too often woman are portrayed on television as bimbos so stupid they wouldn’t be able to survive in the real world! It is degrading. However, it is not just men doing this to woman, we have seen as with the double standard that woman are policing other woman. Policy and the law need to change to respect and protect woman more and if women were allowed greater entry into politics, policy and higher positions then more balanced policy may follow. If there was greater gender balance in power we just might create a better society.
In the talk, I also picked up on several other points, which I will discuss briefly in less depth. Firstly, Hugh mentioned that Australia is now a multicultural country. I actually have to disagree with this, as I see Australia as a monoculture masquerading as multicultural. I think we do have a diverse population but I believe there is an expectation to assimilate into Australian culture and ideology or be ostracised. I have discussed racisms and prejudice in Australia previously so I wont go into it again, but I will mention one example. There has been debate in some Western countries including Australia about whether Muslim students should be allowed to wear their burqas to school . In another case I believe a teacher was made to stop wearing her burqa or be fired. If we are so multicultural than what is the harm of someone wearing a symbol of their culture and faith, such as a headress? The debate often claims to be about woman’s oppression but I think it is a rascist thing as Muslims are not popular at the moment. I also don't think a student wearing a cross necklace or other religious symbol would be a target of debate. I am a feminist but I am not convinced these woman interpret their burqa wearing as oppressive. Many say that enjoy wearing it as it liberates then from being judged by their looks or sexually harassed. I think if we are multicultural then we would let other people practise their culture without interfering. In another case, there was to be a Muslim school built (probably so they could avoid disputes about wearing burqas!). However, this school that was to be built in Camden was then targetted with up to a thousand people protesting and someone going as far as placing a pigs head on a stake. Disgusting behaviour and the issue was made out to be a counsel issue but I think it is another racist issue in disguise. .
Another issue I picked up on was the social/economic stratification that is emerging in Australia. The rich are getting richer and the poorer are getting poorer, with the gap in the middle widening. Another problem was unemployment or underemployment which is the new trend. This is because of the way they present their unemployment statistics, counting anyone engaged in more than one hour of paid work per week as employed. This is ridiculous as this is not going to significantly increase one's income or alleviate poverty in anyway. People tend to get caught in poverty traps as centrelink benefits are not enough to subsist on properly. They then cannot afford to be healthy or engaged in society meaningfully. They may feel hopeless and feel they lack control. Furthermore, the longer people are out of the workforce and unskilled, the harder it is to get the confidence to return to work. I think spending should go into social welfare. It is very good that Medicare is now helping to subsidise psychologists, so poor people can access them too. However, I think more needs to be done to help people find rewarding work. I think welfare benefits could be increased somewhat, without the fear that centrelink would become an attractive option. Even with increased benefits they are still a pitance compared with proper wages. Once again I believe Scandinavia has a much more generous safety net for social security, as people who have stopped working for periods are paid according to their previous income .
Selfishness, apathy and consumerism
Another problem Mackay raised, which I agree with is Australian's tendency to be isolated, selfish, uncompassionate, and to be overly concerned with individual success. I have often noted from Asian friends that they are much more generous and inclined to share wealth or goods with their whole family, neighbours, and community. This is not seen in Western culture; people accumulate personal wealth and often do not share it with anyone sometimes even their immediate family. My ex-boyfriend was from The Philippines and I was so impressed with him and his family. His mum was on centrelink benefits raising three children and she would still send a portion of her income back to her family in The Philippines, along with goods and presents. I have a friend from Thailand whose mother is also fairly poor but she still sends money back to her family and is willing to lend money, despite not having much for herself. On the other hand, my parents are not very wealthy and money has been tight in the past. However, my aunty is literally a millionaire. She does not help any family members with money or even give presents; she hasn’t even helped my grandma (her own mum) who is still fairly poor. I am not suggesting that we have to become a collectivist society like Asia, but a bit more compassion, sharing, and community spirit would be nice. It might even be good for us to get involved in charity and to think of others apart from our selves.
This brings me to my next point about consumerism and materialism. I think this is a big problem in Western culture. People seem to be so empty and lacking of fufillment and spirituality. I am not suggesting everyone turn to religion but it would be good if people could snap out of this need to buy and gain material possessions because I honestly believe this doesn’t create happiness. Teenagers have scary idols like Paris Hilton which typify that shallow, self-centred, not giving a damn attitude. Having cars, houses, nice clothes, and big televisions is the main goal for many Westerners though this never provides inner peace or lasting happiness.
Reflections from chapter 14 - Baumeister & Bushman
Groups and work
The purpose of groups is to provide safety, help, and to pass on information. When labour is divided and each person has their own specific role this is more beneficial for the group, as seen with Henry Ford’s assembly line, which increased production and maximised profit. The downside was however, for some people they may be doing boring and repetitious work which can be alienating for the individual. Another characteristic of work roles is that not everyone can do the same job. It is probably fortunate that individual personality, socialisation, socio-economic status, and education, tend to take care of channelling people into various positions in society. In the contemporary world some jobs such as athletes, entertainers, artists, and writers can only do what they do because we have enough people to do the other jobs and we also have an abundance of goods. Therefore, so long as you are earning money you don’t not have to be directly involved in producing tangible outputs. These people are highly valued for their entertainment value which people like to consume in their leisure time. In turn, we have leisure time because we do not have to spend all day everyday working. The culture creates the positions and the quantity to be filled and people apply and compete for these positions. Opportunity and vacancy shapes what people can do with the exception of a few entrepreneurs who may try to create their own opportunities, these however are still dictated by the market.
Social facilitation theory claims that the presence of others can make people perform better particularly with easy, familiar tasks. This may be influenced by evaluation apprehension, where people are worried about how other people will view them or it may be because people can become more competitive. I think the e-portfolio is a good idea because knowing that other people can view your work can make you more attentive to content and detail. Furthermore, seeing the standard of other students may inspire you to try harder. Sometimes the presence of others may cause people to do worse or ‘choke’, especially with hard or unfamiliar tasks. This is explained as the presence of other people can be arousing and distracting.
Social loafing is when people in groups become slacker than they would if they were working on their own. This is accentuated when people feel less noticed, accountable, or self-aware. This may be explained by deindividuation, where people feel more anonymous in groups. They may feel that the work will get done eventually and others will take care of it. It may also be because people don’t feel integrated into the group. Elton Mayo, in his Hawthorne Studies found that production would increase during his experiments but he realised this was not due to the manipulation of variables. He attributed this to the fact that the participants were part of an experiment and this feeling helped increase the team spirit which increased happiness and production.
Interestingly, brainstorming was perceived to lead to increased creativity and production rather than individual work. However, in reality this was not the case. This may be because groups tend to focus on information in common rather than different ideas. This is very detrimental to outputs as an individual will have more solo ideas than a group only concentrating on common information, which is limiting. Furthermore, in groups people may not always get their input heard, may feel less inclined to criticise bad ideas, and are more likely to go along with the crowd. In my experience group work is always harder than solo work. Coordinating and incorporating other peoples ideas into your own can be hard. It can be easier if you are with group members who have the same work ethic, motivation, and intelligence. What doesn’t work in my experience, is when some members are less concerned about the success or when some members dominate and others are too shy to have input. It is interesting that collective wisdom is more correct than expertise. The average of the crowd’s response is more likely to be correct.
Transactive memory refers to when members of small groups remember different pieces of information or different aspects of a situation. I can see how this would occur as people not only remember things differently but they perceive and encode things differently. As we move about in the world the amount of information flowing into our senses is phenomenal and our brain needs to filter incoming information. The best way to do this is to notice and pick out salient features and ignore minor details. However based on our experiences, attitudes, and perspective, people may notice or ignore very different elements.
Leadership and power
Large groups typically have similar hierarchies of power with someone at the top, various levels of management and the workers at the bottom. This is common among many businesses and organisations. Interestingly, it is also common in deviant sub-cultures like organised crime groups, such as the Mafia and Yakuza. These crime syndicates, along with many others have been hugely successful at generating huge profits and keeping their illegitimate groups running. The yakuza have been around for approximately three hundred years. Loyalty and obedience to the leader is often key to the success, as well as the underlings doing majority of the dirty work, protecting the leaders, and with the money flowing upwards. This seems similar to legitimate organisations where the money flows to the person at the top who delegates tasks to underlings and uses the profit to keep the organisation going.
Leadership seems to be important for success and successful leaders tend to have the following qualities: humility, modesty, honesty, good moral character, integrity, and the ability to be decisive. The social identity approach however, suggests that leadership is more the property of the group rather than the individual. Fiedler’s contingency model considers successful leadership to be due to a match between characteristics of the leader and the situation.
Power is when somebody has control over resources or other people. Power affects people that have it as it: feels good, alters attention to rewards and punishments, changes relationships between people, makes people rely more on automatic processing, and removes inhibitions about taking action. French and Raven’s framework for different ways in which power can be realised is: through rewards, coercion, responsibilities, access to knowledge and expertise, informational – ability to present logical and persuasive arguments and referent – capacity to be admired or respected.
Reflections from chapter 8 - Baumeister & Bushman
Pro-social behaviour is doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole. Anti-social behaviour on the other hand is seen as being negative and destructive for society and relationships. Conformity and obedience are therefore seen as good for society, without which society may collapse.
I don’t know that I completely agree with this as laws can be arbitrary and not inherently bad, as ideas of deviance take different forms across time and culture. Furthermore, the claim that society may collapse is a tad extreme as there has never been a society that has been free from the occurrence of crime and deviance. Durkheim saw crime and deviance as a normal phenomenon that was necessary in society. He believed that the complete annihilation of crime would only be possible if there were a punishment system that was so strict that there would be no deviation in people whatsoever. From this point Durkheim went from not only accepting deviance as normal, but embracing it as being useful because individual thought allows flexibility and innovation which allows social change to happen. If everyone were to think exactly the same and there were no deviance then there would be no original thought and no political, religious, artistic and scientific advancement. Durkheim logically concluded that a society with no crime or deviance is not only impossible but a contradiction in terms. He saw deviance as being a necessary condition for society to exist and is a result of the nature of every individual’s unique thought processes.
Durkheim and other functionalists not only see anti-social behavior as inevitable but also having a functional role in society. Durkheim claimed that crime has a very important role in upholding and strengthening common values. Other sociologists have agreed with this and thought that collective disgust felt towards the deviant has a vital role in uniting people together and gives the community a common purpose. Furthermore, it helps define boundaries, limits, clarifies social norms, may act as an outlet, and provides a contrast between good and bad. So while complete chaos, disobedience, and anti-social behavior may create huge problems in society a small amount may actually be healthy. Clearly, if everyone broke the law there would be chaos and I think it is apparant that some crime and anti-social behaviour are worse or more hurtful to others, however this is just presenting another view.
Reciprocity and fairness
Equity is about people getting benefits in proportion to what they contribute whereas equality is where everyone gets the same amount regardless of their contribution. In general, people like to feel that behaviour is fair and reciprocated. They like to take and give in fairly equal portions. There are some exceptions of course. Some people, for whatever reason are receiving more than they are capable of giving which often leads them to feel burdensome, depressed, and even suicidal. On the other hand, some people despite taking more do not perceive that they are doing this and therefore do not feel bad about it at all. Its ironic, because it is often the people who feel guilty about being a burden or being unable to reciprocate that people do not mind helping, whereas the oblivious obnoxious people who do not notice how little they give in return, are the ones who really are a burden or hassle.
Being underbenefitted refers to getting less than you deserve and being overbenefited means getting more than you deserve. Apparently both forms make humans uncomfortable as it contradicts our need for fairness. Animals on the other hand, apparently object to underbenefiting but not overbenefiting. I believe though, that most people can get used to being overbenefited they may feel a little guilty or unworthy at first but they would probably adjust, such as getting an undeserved promotion or winning the lottery. On the other hand, being underbenefited is really quite frustrating.
Obedience and conformity
Obedience can be good or bad for society. It is useful to have people abide by rules but as seen in Nazi Germany, it can also be a bad thing when people are expected to undertake abhorrent acts. I think the trick is for people to respect and obey but within reason. People should not switch off their brains and conform blindly but think about reasons, consequences and morals, when they are given orders or requests.
There is some ways that following rules and regulations can be highly important. I saw an Oprah show the other day where a health clinic in America had decided to cut corners by re-using syringes. This was devastating for the thousands of Americans that had potentially been exposed to HIV, Hepatitis, and other transmittable diseases. It is also scary as we all go to the doctor and take for granted that they will do the right thing since our lives are in their hands.
I think the same about conformity, it can be good but it is still important to keep your sense of self and not repress your individuality. It is interesting that people will answer a question that they know is incorrect just because the group does, such as in the Solomon Asch study. I suppose if it is relatively unimportant it may not seem worth making a fuss but I would hope people would speak out if the stakes were higher.
‘Normative social influences’ refers to the pressure to conform to the positive expectations or actions of other people. I think we do this all the time, everyday we conform and don’t really think about it. It is sort of easier to go along with social norms rather than rock the boat, I think we save that for issues we feel passionately about otherwise it would be too much effort to protest all the time. ‘Informational social influences’ are the pressures to accept the actions or statements of others as evidence about reality. I suppose we all do this everyday without thinking about it too much. We accept most things because we heard a lecturer say it, or a book, or we see something on television. When you consider it, rarely have we seen firsthand evidence of most things! I think the point is to be discerning and try to not accept anything as truth unless it is a reliable source.
It is interesting too that people do not just reject those that are different but actually seek to destroy them. Very sad but true I think. It reminds me of the story of Frankenstein’s monster. He was not really a monster at first but was fashioned into one throughout the book as he was abandoned, shunned, and attacked by humans, time and time again, simply because he was different. The book lets the reader determine who the real monster is.
Forgiveness is ceasing to feel angry toward or seek retribution against someone who has wronged you. Forgiveness is important for human relationships and helps them to last longer. The benefits of forgiveness for the person in the wrong are well documented. It helps them to eliminate the feeling of guilt and debt. Benefits are also gained for the forgivers as well as they enjoy better physical and mental health over people that hold onto their anger. I think this makes good intuitive sense as anger is not a pleasant emotion and the longer people cling to it the more it will be bad for the person. Some people have wondered whether forgiveness will cause the person to re-offend. Apparently this is not the case as people are often happy to be given a second chance and may even improve their behaviour. Factors which affect forgiveness, may be the severity of offence, commitment to relationship and remorse expressed. Apparently religious people forgive more and narcissists people less.
Since forgiveness seems to be a healthy thing for the victim and offender it is a shame that our justice system is really set up to help people hang on to their anger and get revenge. I think that the emphasis should be on rehabilitation, however that is best achieved not punishment or vengeance. I think restorative justice is a good way to deal with offenders. This emphasises a more peaceful and productive approach to addressing crime and may seek to heal the relationship between the victim and offender by having the perpetrator apologise and explain their actions. This can be mutually beneficial as victims may understand, forgive, and feel more compassion and the offenders may feel remorse and empathy for the victim, making them less likely to reoffend.
I think the rise of litigation especially in America, is quite ridiculous and reflective of the fact that people don't want to forgive or own responsibility in situations. I have worked in various law firms that practise litigation so I know there is a significant amount in Australia, however most of it seems fairly resonable. There are the few individuals that are highly litigious and use the law to try to solve all of their disputes. However, litigation seems off-the-charts in America, it seems as though everyone wants to blame someone else for something they don't seem to want to take any responsibility for themselves or let any slight go unpunished. I don't know if this is because of pride,finicial gain, or both?
Sometimes pro-social behavior is not totally altruistic as some people are inclined to act more pro-socially when others are watching, especially when there are costs for themselves. They are acting pro-socially for themselves so they may gain benefits such as social acceptance, this is called egoistic helping. Altruistic helping is when a helper seeks to increase another’s welfare and expects nothing in return. A major driving force behind altruistic behaviour may be empathy, as empathy directed at victims needs is altruistic, whereas motivation to make the self-feel good is associated with egoistic helping. Negative state relief is when people help others in order to relieve their own distress. So is it possible to be totally altruistic? Some people think not. I would like to think so, I think some people must be altruistic but it is semantics really, as anyone who does something altruistic is naturally going to feel good about it even if this was not the intentionn or driving force. It then gets turned into egoistic helping because they have derived pleasure from it. I guess at the end of the day if someone is helpful I am not too concerned whether it is pure altruism. I will take what I can get seeing as there is so much aggression and hate in the world! If someone is contributing and helping others as apposed to the many indifferent or worse the people that enjoy and thrive on others pain, then who cares?
Apparently helpful people are more likely to be from warm nurturing homes with an altruistic role model and are more tolerant to difference. People are more likely to help those who are similar to them, also woman get helped more from both genders. Attractive people are also more likely to receive help. Men are more likely to help in emergencies but woman are more likely to do planned things like volunteer work.
Belief in a just world is the assumption that life is essentially fair and that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Interestingly, people with more blessed and prosperous lives tend to agree with this notion compared with those who have been unlucky and unfortunate. I suppose I sit in the middle where I believe in personal responsibility and that people reap what they sow but also birth and socialisation effect life chances, in many ways. The main problem with the belief in a just world is that it can make people blame the victim, on the other hand it can promote helping behaviour because people feel if they help out they will be more deserving themselves, similar to karma I suppose. I wonder if this belief in a just world mentality is what makes many of the rich refuse to help the poor. Earlier in the textbook it said that the top 10% in American society owned 83% of money and resources and the top 0.5% owned 44%. I would expect a similar trend in Australia.
It is quite disgusting when you think that the world does have the resources to make everyone on the planet comfortable at least but they are all clumped among a few lucky individuals. Sometimes these individuals have not necessarily worked harder or been more deserving but are simply born into lucky circumstances or overly rewarded for an ability such as with athletes, or for beauty. I often wonder why people with such vast wealth do not do more to help out people in third world countries or impoverished and homeless people in their own country. Some celebrities may denote some money but not enough to put a dent in their money supply and not enough to really fix things for anyone. Do people lose their conscious when they get rich?
I saw a documentary on television about a six-year-old Canadian boy named Ryan. In school he learnt about the African children and he became so upset he then set out to raise money for them. He worked hard to raise money, did chores, sacrificed his spare time, pocket money, and did plenty of fundraising. He did this because he wanted to buy a well, hand pump and drilling equipment for a village. Because of his heart and altruism many people made donations to the little boy and at last count he raised over $60,000, which had helped build thirty wells . Image what the world would be like, if there were more people like this in it.
By-stander effect continued
I previously discussed the concept of the bystander effect. This weeks readings had some information that helped me further my understanding of why people may not help and what you can do in an emergency to ensure that people do help.
Firstly people may not act in a crisis for the following reasons:
- They don't notice the event/ situation
- They don't properly interpret the meaning of the event, or recognise a crisis or emergency
- They don't take responsibilty for providing help - diffusion of resonsibility
- They don't know how to help
- They do not decide to help
The textbook suggests that if you are in an emergency sitution your best bet for receiving aid, is to look directly at someone and ask them for help and tell them what to do, such as calling the ambulance or police. This means that the person has noticed the event, will feel personal responsibility, doesn't have to worry about interpreting the situation wrong and they know exactley what to do.
Other ways that can help to reduce the bystander effect are to educate others about it, once people know about it they may be more inclined to help. Also providing helpful role models and teaching people to value and help any people, not just in-group members.
Reflections from environmental readings
Scenes of nature trump technology in reducing low-level stress – Science blog
This article was regarding the idea that nature may be good for us. It was found that looking directly at nature through a window was found to reduce heart rate whereas looking at the same scene, through a plasma screen was no more effective than looking at blank wall. Apparently humans are geared up to interact with nature and this helps psychological well-being. They discuss environmental generational amnesia, which is the phenomenon of where every new generation excepts their surroundings as normal and natural, therefore when they live in concrete or polluted environments they do not necessarily notice. This is really sad as the degradation and elimination of the environment should be noticed and mourned not accepted. It is scary to think what sort of world we may end up living in if we continue to clear away forests and pollute oceans while expanding our cities and technology.
A posted response to this article discusses how maybe looking at nature through a window is more enjoyable than actually interacting with it. They discuss how many people do not enjoy the outdoors and complain about the elements, wind, heat, and bugs. It is their opinion that people need to be retrained and conditioned to benefit and appreciate the interaction with nature. I see their point this is often true and maybe this is a result of this environmental generational amnesia? Maybe the lack of interaction with nature is normal for the younger generation and they are used to being pampered and undertaking most activities indoors. I do think however, there is a significant population who do enjoy being outdoors, with activities such as: picnics, walks on the beach, bush walks, fishing, bike riding, running, water sports, swimming, gardening, painting, and sun baking. Just being outside and soaking up the sun and feeling the breeze is enjoyable to some people. Maybe we do need to encourage children to get outside more rather then sitting inside on the computer or playstation. I know when I was a child I spent most of my free time outside. However, it sometimes feels like adult life isn't very compatible with nature as work, university, studying, cars, housework, cooking, and most of the daily activities are based indoors. It seems like now I really have to make the effort to put time aside for outside activities.
Green is good for you – Rebecca A. Clay
This article discusses the research of Rachel and Stephan Kaplan that explores natures impact on mental functioning, social relationships, physical well-being, improved job satisfaction, better physical health, and faster recovery from normal psychological “wear and tear”. They claim that using too much directed attention can lead to fatigue and is accompanied by impulsivity, distractibility, and irritability. Fascination with nature can apparently help this. They are basing this on William James' distinction of two types of attention, fascination and directed. It has further been found that children living close to nature had better attention spans and were able to delay gratification and control behavioral inhibition better and nature had a positive effect on childhood ADHD. Joeseph B. Juhasz believes that the current epidemic of depression may be related to the environment we live in and proposes that cities be planned to give everyone greater access to the environment by making them long and flat as opposed to round.
Certainly the outdoors is fascinating to many people. This is seen in art; as landscapes, flowers, plants, animals, and nature are very common themes for paintings and photographs as people like to look at these. I care for the environment but had never really thought about how it relates to psychology, so I found this topic very informative and interesting. I suppose I would think more about how people have effected the environment but I never really thought about how the environment effects us. I know I certainly feel better in the summer when I spend more time outdoors and my hatred for my flat stems from the fact that I have no balcony or courtyard. I have sub-consciously tried to overcome this by bringing as many plants and animals into the flat as I can.
Current trends in environmental psychology - Gary W. Evans
Environmental psychology is a specialised topic within the broad field of psychology. In recent times it does not always receive much attention on its own; rather it has been incorporated into other areas such as, health and social psychology. It has influenced numerous other fields, such as interior designing, town planning, architecture, and landscape architecture. Environmental psychology looks at environmental restoration, landscaping, aesthetic environment, open spaces, parks, transportation policies, as well as developmental of special facilities such as: low cost housing, day-care, schools, alternative living, medical and special facilities, for specialised populations such as; disabilities, the elderly, Alzheimer’s patients and people with drug additions.
Prominent topics of environmental psychology:
- Global environmental issues and psychology – motivations of destructive or positive environmental behaviour, human dimensions of global changes
- Role of culture in understanding human behaviour relationships – issues such as housing, environmental attitudes, mental health and the environment, privacy, crowding, noise, alterative work environment, transportation impacts, woman and housing, restoration of the environment
- Criminal behaviour and design – defensible space, physical environment's effect on crime, crime management, territoriality, prison research
- Life space – ergonomics, human and technology interactions and interfacing, indoor air quality, stress in the workplace
- Environmental stressors – noise, crowds, pollutants, natural or technological disasters and their impact on psychophysiologic health and cognitive implications, behaviour during emergencies, disaster policy, planning and minimisation
This article puts a different spin on things again. Not only is it looking the mutual interaction of humans and nature, it is examining the interaction in various contexts that include man-made environments and how this effects varying forms of negative and positive behaviour such as criminality.
This social psychology unit, in my opinion was thoroughly interesting, relevant, and one of the best psychology units I have undertaken. This is probably because my favourite subjects include psychology, sociology, and anthropology and this unit had elements of all these subjects. Apart from the interest factor, I do think this is an incredibly important psychology unit. I once heard an ANU student say that she had found social psychology to be boring and pointless. I couldn't disagree more, I doubt the ANU unit would have differed too much in its content, furthermore I can't believe that someone would not recognise the significance of studying social influences. Individual psychology in my opinion doesn't really cut it, since nobody lives in a vacuum, cut off from people or the environment and it is well established that the environment, situation, and other people have a huge influence on individuals. The presentation of the unit was great. Lectures were interesting due to the content and the tutorials were conducted really well. This was the first psychology unit where I actually learnt anything about my classmates!
The assessments were terrific. The E-portfolio has been absolutely fantastic. I think that knowing we need to summarise and reflect on the literature has prompted me to engage with the text at a much higher level than I would have otherwise. I also think it is brilliant to have an assessment piece that is less stuffy and structured than a typical APA essay or lab report, where there are rules and guidelines to follow every step of the way. I found that I could reflect on the text and then allow my thoughts to flow in any direction that was meaningful to me, my knowledge, and my experiences. I also think the web page medium has allowed for fun and creativity in presentation of my reflections, which as an artistic person is highly important to me. At first I was slightly nervous at other people being able browse through and look at my work, but in time I found that it possibly prompted me to work harder. In turn, I have also enjoyed reading other peoples E-portfolios, it is interesting to see how other people have interpreted the concepts and to see the effort some have put into the presentation. The portfolios that I most enjoyed reading were the ones that put their own ideas and thoughts in, rather than regurgitating or simply summarising the text and lectures. This was the most enjoyable assessment piece I have ever done.
The assignment was good also. I am sure most students would agree that when you are interested in a topic, it makes it so much easier to get motivated to work on the assignment. Being able to choose our topics and having everyone do something unique allowed that to happen. I enjoyed working on the essay and was pretty happy with my topic choice, but I suppose I didn't find this topic easy to handle at times in terms of finding underlying theory to match with the literature. One problem I encountered was that prison culture is essentially a microcosm within a larger society; therefore it is a very broad topic. Another issue I had was that there was a large amount of research available on prison life but it was not linked with any underlying theory, therefore I had to make my own connections with the research and general theoretical concepts. I also found the world count was restricting as I was not able to include everything I felt was important, however I realise that this is just something that people have to put up with at times and it can be good learning to write to a strict world limit.
Research participation is good, as it is a fairly easy and relaxing way to earn a few marks. I think it helps us to engage in the research process, particularly as some of us may later do honours and then we will appreciate having all the participants we can get! It also allows us to gain experience being on the other side of the study. My only issue with research partcipation was that I felt slighly uneasy about participating in the online studies, as I am a bit of a worry wort and I was unable (and still yet) to get any reassurance that my research participation was recorded properly.
Although we haven't sat the exam yet, I have to say this is the first time I have been able to bring any materials into a psychology exam. I think this is pretty great and it has not stopped me from studying hard in the meantime, as it is more worthwhile having the knowledge in my head rather than on paper.
In terms of highlights of the unit, I guess there were some topics that I personally found more interesting such as: the social self, aggression and prejudice, relationships, pro-social behaviour, and altruism. However, I still enjoyed and appreciated the other sections very much, the topics I listed are merely ones which suit my personal tastes slightly better. I think all the topics were highly relevant and indispensable for enhancing my knowledge and understanding of social psychology. The topic, which surprised me the most and allowed me to view social psychology in a different light, was environmental psychology. I had never really thought about the importance and relevance of some of the concepts regarding the interaction of psychology and the environment, in both directions. Overall this has been a fun, interesting and beneficial unit.
E-portfolio by Catherine Vaughan, 2008