E-portfolio for Social Psychology
Lecturer: James Neill
Due 1 November 2008
- 1 Topic One: Lecture 2-Social Self,
- 2 Topic Two: Lecture 3-Social Thinking
- 3 Topic Three: Lecture 4-Aggression,
- 4 Topic Four: Lecture 5-Prejudice and Stereotypes
- 5 Topic Five: Lecture 6 - Relationships,
- 6 Topic Six: Lecture 7 -Groups and Leadership
- 7 Topic Seven: Lecture 8 -Prosocial Behaviour
- 8 Topic Eight: Lecture 9 -Environmental Psychology
Topic One: Lecture 2-Social Self, 
Tutorial 2 (Week 2)-Introduction
(29 July 08)
There seems to be some sort of evolutionary explanation for most of the things we do and that are part of our being. That is, the theories have some evolutionary point of view. It is therefore not surprising that even the social self can be reduced to some sort of purpose for survival. For example, whether or not we are born as a blank slate, we still have the potential to learn. That combined with biological factors taken into account, we survive until we can reproduce. This is where the selfish gene point of view comes into play; our “self” is used to ensure our genetics are passed on.
In reflecting on the social self in an e-portfolio, we are revealing things about ourselves such as our self-knowledge (self-concept), our behavioural self, and our public self. When we think of ourselves, in trying to describe who we are, there is no quick and easy way to do it. Everything we do, how, when, where, and why is because of who we are. Even the things we don’t do are because of the self, short of physical or mental challenges. The self can be loud and obvious or shy and subtle. I believe the self is flexible, and in addition to the things discussed in the lecture that define it, another descriptor would be useful. A person’s feeling of, or awareness of their general physical wellness can affect how a person feels about what they are capable of doing. This affects and controls their self-concepts, attitudes, self-beliefs, self-images, and confidence.
People are unknowingly self-centered. This is seen in social comparisons, reflected appraisal, spotlight effect, and the transparency effect in social feedback. Self-centeredness and selfishness also seem to be part of the self-reference effect and endowment effect. What ever the reason is that we value an item in our possession, we many times fail to reason that it will not have anywhere near the same value to someone else. Maybe some of the over-emphasis on our self is due to our competitive drives. We don’t share the same levels of competitiveness, but there does seem to be a desire to appear, to feel, or to be thought of at least as well as the next person. Unfortunately, over-obsessing in social comparisons could sometimes sabotage the reasons for it.
I dreaded the first tutorial for Social Psychology, as I pretty well did for all previous tutorials, but this one was refreshing. Having only known other students in passing or that somewhere along the way we had been in a class with each other, is about as far as knowing other students goes, at least for me. Being put into groups though, sort of gave everyone immediate identities. No small talk in numerous lectures or tutorials was necessary to draw conclusions about each other. We looked at the terms we use to describe ourselves and identified some of our social roles. The groupings resulted in plenty of diversity with a student from Australia, the Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Great Britain, and America. I found it interesting to watch people move towards the religious groups to which they belonged. I was a little surprised how it all turned out. The first to identify themselves were the atheists, then the agnostics, and next I think the Catholics, with one or two Buddhists, a protestant, and a few who identified as being general Christians. There was quite a variety, but interestingly, there were no Muslims. Some people were a little unsure about their political affiliation, and I definitely have a lot to learn in this area. We tried to define where a US Republican would fit in here. I do not consider myself a staunch; card carrying Republican, of the old days, even though I am registered as a Republican. Apparently, the US demographics for the two parties are shifting and the younger, more liberal Republicans (who are not quite Democrats) are now referred to as “Starbucks Republicans”. Democrats and Republicans have always seemed so far apart, it is hard to accept all that either stand for.
Most of the groupings in the tutorial were culturally constructed, changeable and cognitively influenced. Interestingly, the first group division was for eye colour, which other than the siblings and country of birth groups, was something that none of us had any real control over. We formed a line and looked where we fell when considering the Person-Situation Debate. Someone made a very good point that we are all people before the environment has a chance to act on us. I thought I was predictable as a person, but the more we talked, and the more I thought about it, it became clear that there was a very thin line between who we are and how we are affected by the situation. It was an exercise that revealed social identities and was conducted in such a way that no one’s self-esteem was damaged or belittled. Respect was shown for everyone.
Topic Two: Lecture 3-Social Thinking 
(5 August 08)
Lecture 3, covered social thinking, attitudes, and influence and persuasion. The explanations for why we think the way we do and different theories about our behaviour, sound a bit like we could run on auto pilot and at times would have to be reprogrammed, not necessarily to learn something, but just to be able to understand it, or take in the information, as with the duplex mind. If we didn’t have schemas, scripts and stereotypes to rely on, our auto pilot, or automatic thinking would not be safe, efficient, or reliable.
The reasons behind why we think, and behave in the ways we do make us seem shallow. Not only are we physically lazy, but our brains get lazy too. It seems many of us are guilty of looking for a quick fix, or a short cut to many of the things we do in our daily routines. Further evidence of this is seen in the heuristics, errors and biases we use, due to the idea of the cognitive miser.
Since we are naturally curious, we want answers to why a person does what they do. We have even asked and figured out why we want to know “why”. We need to be, or feel in control and when we do not understand why, we do not feel in control. The attribution theory lends reason to why people behave the way they do either due to internal or external causes. Internal causes are biased, may not be anywhere near accurate and seem to involve negative thoughts about someone. While external causes may be true, they don’t usually involve harsh judgments of someone’s character.
Most of us do not like making mistakes, or to be proved wrong. If we have an attitude or certain belief about something and whether we notice or someone points out to us that our attitude and behaviour don’t match, we will try to find a way to gracefully explain the difference through the cognitive dissonance theory. Fortunately, many children who “thought” they didn’t like any vegetables, try them, like them, and start eating them, and form a new positive attitude about liking vegetable.
Topic Three: Lecture 4-Aggression,
Tutorial -4 (Week 4) Communication
(12 August 08)
For lack of a better description, I can only say shock horror was my reaction to watching the Ghosts of Rwanda during lecture 4. I was stunned at the lack of knowledge, or involvement I had in the genocide of 1993. I truly did not know the background of what all this was about or just how it came about. It is unbelievable that this sort of atrocity could go on in modern day times, or that anyone anywhere could believe they had the right to commit such crimes against humanity, and even more so that they actually did it. There was little regard for human life.
The video was shocking: the US claims of no friend, no interest, an no incentive in Rwanda; Madeleine Albright’s lack of concern or care; the United Nation’s Force Commander, Canadian General Dellaire’s abandonment by his own organization; the machete armed people of the streets; interviews; and the aftermath of the massacres. This was about more than the technicalities of words, definitions, and policy intervention. Sadly, the world never took it seriously, or cared…enough.
In the end, it came down to the colour of skin that determined whether people would live or die. When a white woman was recued from a large crowd, I just could not believe the path way made for her by the blacks. They just calmly let her pass through with a bag or something, so it seems. They must have already gone numb with fear and confusion, with no resentment left. Maybe they had just come to accept that white meant being saved, but being black meant they would not get to leave, and would not be protected. They had no belongings; they had only their lives left, and could lose them at any moment. It was ironic that the only American that stayed there in Rwanda during the hostile aggression was a white man, Carl Williams. Extreme harm was definitely the goal of the violence experienced in Rwanda. We do have an unimaginable capacity for evil and as far as another holocaust, we should never say never. When the video was over, it clearly affected the viewers, as we all filed out, practically speechless.
Chapter 9, in the text refer to external causes of aggression and the weapons effect tested both in the lab and outside the lab. In the latter situation, a confederate, truck driver stopped in traffic and purposely held up traffic to measure peoples’ aggressive responses. The scenario was that the truck driver either had a gun in a gun rack and bumper sticker with the word VENGENCE on it, or they had no gun in the gun rack and a sticker that said FRIEND, or they had no gun, no gun rack and no bumper sticker. The aggression of the motorists behind the truck was measured by their car horn honking. The more signs of aggression (e.g. gun, gun rack, VENGENCE bumper sticker) showing from the truck led to more horn honking. It is believed the duplex mind was involved. The text states that someone would be crazy to honk at a vehicle with a gun in a gun rack, and a VENGENCE bumper sticker. I think another thing to consider is that many people in the United States carry guns, not just because they are aggressive, but for protection. Perhaps though, the ones that honked their horns in this study were also aggressive and had quicker and easier access to smaller handguns (not in a gun rack) in their cars to protect themselves. Guns in the hands of the wrong people spell disaster.
The communication tutorial introduced us to relationship instructional exercises. We explored simple interpersonal communication models. In pairs we stood apart facing each other and moved closer and closer. Most people expressed being uncomfortable invading the personal space of the other person, or having their personal space invaded. We noted that as we moved closer and closer, it was more difficult to face each other straight on and started turning so that we were more side-to-side the closer we got, rather than still facing each other. The exercise with the same pair of people (maybe named Mine Field) was as challenging for the blindfolded person as for the one verbally communicating to them to navigate them from one end of the room to the other without bumping any of the “mines” in the pathway. In this channel of communication, body language, eye contact, stance, touch, and even proximity were of no use. Since 93% of person-to-person, face-to-face communication is non-verbal, the Mine Field navigation can present quite a challenge.
Topic Four: Lecture 5-Prejudice and Stereotypes
Tutorial Week 5 - Prejudice, Aggression, and Prosocial Behaviour
(19 August 08)
In one of Jane Elliott’s exercises in America, she emphatically states that racism and cultural bias is taught every day in favour of white people. Referring to the reinforcement of the position of power of white people, she notes with regards to education, the culturally biased text books, pictures on walls, history lessons, and even maps. Her statements, exercises and the issues she addressed were real eye-openers. It seems a shame and very naïve of someone to think that only their culture mattered and that because they didn’t know about or understand another’s culture, that it is unimportant. This attitude causes intolerant people to really miss out on the spice of life.
This subject reminds me of an old movie I saw as a young child, starring Sidney Poitier, a black school teacher in a school (probably in London), and the white prejudiced high school students he taught. Seeing the movie again as an adult, with my children, it affects me differently today. My children can’t comprehend that not too long ago, people in America (among other places) had slaves and that they actually “owned” other human beings. In the US, during the time of slavery, it was the weak that were targeted. Often the minorities are targets, but this was not necessarily so in the case of plantations with sometimes large numbers of slaves as compared to the wealthy, white, owner of the plantation and the slaves. Being stolen from their own village, taken across the sea to a foreign country, separated from their family, unable to read, or sometimes speak English, and no financial resources, slaves were at their master’s mercy. They were kept weak and uneducated (few were fortunate enough to learn to read and/or write and had to do so in secrecy). Retaining power eliminates the fear of the loss of superiority. Making a conscious effort to be fair and equal in treatment of others sets a good example for young children who are “colour blind”, but the fact that the model would even have to make a conscious effort to be fair, is disingenuous.
Maybe life experiences increase tolerance for others who are different. I was on the receiving end of reverse racism in a store in Hawaii, owned and operated by immigrants whose country of origin will remain nameless. Interestingly and rather ironically, the store specialised only in western ware, as in cowboy and Native American leather goods and jewelry. I looked around a while and was quite happy to not be pestered by a sales person. After a while, still no one approached me, which was okay, as I didn’t want to buy anything. But when I did find something I wanted to ask about that was in the display case, no one would even acknowledge my presence. It was as if I was not there and very clear that I was the wrong race to be shopping in that particular store.
I lived in a town in Ohio in the US. It was a town started by people of the Quaker religion, in a well-know historical district popular for its involvement in the Underground Railroad (a secret movement by white people who helped slaves escape to Free states in the US). A trip to the cemetery was part of the historical tour in the town. I always thought that it was strange that even in a town where white people were helping black people escape slavery and find their freedom in the northern Free states, that there was still a section in the cemetery for the separate burial of black people and another area for white Quakers and other white people.
Someone said that even in death, the two races can’t be neighbours. This is an example of holding egalitarian values and negative feelings, as in aversive racism. Things have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. Until we are all perfect, the need to deflect our shortcomings will always exist and other out groups, races, or cultures will be the targets.
With regards to the upcoming presidential election in the US, it will be a historic and new day regardless of who wins the presidential election, as the president and vice-president team for both parties do not fit previous stereotypes for the president and vice president. I find it interesting the black folks in America refer to Obama as “black”, and the whites call him “bi-racial”. Many whites are concerned about whether he is white enough and blacks are critical of him for being too white. Either way, it will be a novel situation with Obama and his white male VP, or with McCain and Plain as the first white female VP in the White House.
Topic Five: Lecture 6 - Relationships,
Tutorial 4 (Week 10) - Cross-cultural Training
(23 September 08)
There is a difference between a want and a need and one of our basic needs is to belong. A strong word used in relationships is connection. The text refers to a sense of connection as a fan of a certain sports team. I think that certain television shows probably provide the connection for elderly people who find themselves lonely. Their children have moved on, and their circle of friends begins to dwindle. They may find their connection in a show, the news, or any irregular program.
Children often have a new best friend everyday. As adults, our friendships develop differently. They do take work and are valued. People who are good judges of character would probably not be fooled by ingratiation. People are usually open to forming new friendships. Maintaining a plutonic or a romantic relationship takes work. It is not one-sided and good friends, and partners cannot be taken for granted. This may be why we are so reluctant to end relationships, as compared to how easily we form them.
Those who look for similarity in the people they have relationships with tend to compartmentalize the social aspects of their life. They are high in self-monitoring and are probably less likely to maintain relationships as compared to people who are more interested in long-term relationships and feelings. One of the least surprising things, similar to the mere exposure effect, is that nearer we are to others and the more often we see them, the more the probability of a friendship developing increases.
Topic Six: Lecture 7 -Groups and Leadership
(30 September 08)
Groups need to have diversity. It provides networking capabilities and opportunities to specialise in certain areas, and the group benefits of role differentiation and division of labour. Diverse groups can still experience unity. Examples could be in the diversity would be with sports teams, or with teachers in a particular school. The optimal distinctiveness theory probably operates everywhere and in more than organised groups. People like to belong, but also like to retain some individuality. The optimal distinctiveness theory is an outlet for all people in either a situation where they want to stand out or blend in.
Working together as a group allows for far more to be accomplished than when individuals try to take on projects larger than they can handle. They may simply need skills that others in a would-be group would possess. Temporary groups of people sometimes feel less pride in the work they are doing and do not care about group or individual responsibility or accountability, and therefore don’t do the best they are capable of doing. Unfortunately this can be a reflection of the entire group if the person who is slacking is not identifiable. This is seen in groups of volunteers in cleanup crews. It is not the same as, but is similar to social loafing. If people with less power in groups try more to promote more harmony and peace within the group, this is probably exactly why they have less power. They would never want to make waves or upset any other group members. High authority people are not completely uncaring, but they realise they can’t please all the people all the time and therefore don’t try to. This is how they make being in power work for them. The world really would be a boring place if it lacked diversity in both groups and with individuals.
(7 October 08)
Prosocial behaviour is a voluntary action that is performed to benefit or help another individual or a group. It is a positive function of behaviour that contributes to relationships and is the opposite of antisocial behaviour which destroys relationships. The fact that there is usually a personal cost involved is a reminder of the saying that, “no good deed goes unpunished”. On the other hand though, there is usually some type of self-interest involved, which is why it must not be equated with altruism.
The question was asked in the lecture if people help mainly for selfish or altruistic reasons? I would like to think it is for altruistic reasons, and I do believe that is why some people help, some of time. Mostly though I think people help for any number of selfish reasons. Maybe it is because they owe someone a favour, or they don’t want to wish later that they would have helped, or they wanted to look good for helping, or maybe they were going to receive some sort of reward for helping. Regardless of how they helped or what they helped with, it was to get a reward or to avoid being looked upon negatively by others, or to avoid feelings of sadness later for not having helped. For those reasons, it seems that people are helpful, but selfish because their behaviour is in their own self-interest.
Topic Eight: Lecture 9 -Environmental Psychology
(15 October 08)
As people become more concerned with, aware of, and involved with our natural environment, they will enjoy it, preserve it, become more protective of, and appreciative of it. With the increase in concern for the environment in many areas, there will also be an increase in the need for specialists in the areas where the environment suffers. Some concerns are in the areas of water scarcity, water quality, soil loss, salination, and impacts of logging, and mining to name a few. After years of abuse and neglect by humans, we are starting to see the damage we are capable of doing to the environment. However, it’s never too late to change our attitudes about saving the environment. The affects we have on it and the affects it has on us travel a two-way street. Our environment has been resilient and good to us. We must consider long term effects on it and in turn how that will impact future generations, and how future generations will affect it. The indigenous Australians have an understanding of the natural environment as living, breathing, and capable of perception and feeling.
If, as Edward Wilson, an etymologist proposed, that if there is an instinctive affinity for nature due to human evolutionary theory, known as Biophilia hypothesis, then it seems there should also be a natural desire to protect it. A top social concern is the protection of the environment. What is particularly disturbing is that we are consuming more than the environment is naturally able to create, rather than population growth being the problem. There should be more control in the amount of landfill we allowed to produce. Recycling efforts could be better. More efforts should focus on recyclable items. More homes should be equipped with solar panels. New homes should meet stepped up environmental ratings. Sustainable homes should be made affordable.