Social Psychology Student E-Portfolio 2008
Hello and welcome to my e-portfolio for Social Psychology (7125) at the University of Canberra. I look forward to learning more about social psychology, developing and sharing my thoughts and perusing the ideas of my fellow students. Please feel free to read and comment :) Please also feel free to check out my essay - The Factors that Determine Success in Attitude Change Programs.
Social Psychology, An Introduction
Social Psychology can be broadly defined as the study of how individuals and groups interact. When thinking about social psychology it is important to consider feelings (Affect), Behaviour/s and thoughts (Cognition). So a more thorough explanation of social psychology would be Gordon Allport’s definition: “to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings” (Allport, 1985).
I Googled social psychology  and the first hit is a link-based social psychology website.  I found the links to different social psychology subtopics very interesting, giving me a broader understanding of the terms under the umbrella of social psychology. It also has helpful links to professional journals, both related to general psychology and specifically social psychology, being a very good resource for future essay writing.
Youtube is another good forum for social psychology. One clip  shows 100 people merging toward a single pedestrian, changing the rules each time. Each individual in turn, runs, or falls to the ground, bar one. One person simply walks through the running crowd as if nothing had occurred.
Another clip  depicting a group of people in an elevator, tests the likelihood of separate individuals conforming to group rules. Each individual follows the group norms, one man is even seen removing his hat in accordance with the other males in the group.
These clips are very popular due to their hilarity, but the underlying themes are present in each situation. People conform to social rules, modelling group behaviour.
Allport, G. W. (1985). The historical background of social psychology. In G. Lindzey and E. Aronson, (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, 1(3), 1-46.
The Social Self
Are we all social beings? Is the concept of ‘self’ defined simply by our social interactions and surroundings?
Self-concept is an assessment of the self, or the beliefs we hold about ourselves. Our concept may include personality, education, abilities, skills, employment, hobbies and physical attributes.
Interpersonal Self is the self that is public, which is observed by others. Are there inconsistencies between our interpersonal self and our ‘true self’? Is our ‘inner’ self in fact our true self?
Agent Self: our control centre, involved in self control and attempts to control others.
Self-esteem refers to an overall evaluation or appraisal of our self worth, often termed a basic need. A meta-analysis of gender and self-esteem found a small, but significant result, indicating that males score higher than females (Kling, Hyde, Showers, & Bushwell, 1999). More importantly, what sources these differences? Do men and women share self-esteem sources, such as independence, or success…?
There are many self-help guides available to help ‘improve’ self-esteem. Simply search for self-esteem in Google and you will find 6-7 resources on the first results page – “overcome low self-esteem”, “build your self esteem” “how people get low self-esteem and what to do”. Is improving self-esteem actually possible though? Is self-esteem an internal process guided by internal values and beliefs, or can self-esteem be improved by external validation, such as praise, or good grades. Or is self esteem a product of both internal and external factors? Do university students ‘feel better’ about themselves following an HD, compared to a pass?
Self-esteem has often been described as ubiquitous. Is the term over-generalised and over-used? It seems that self-esteem is blamed for a variety of undesirable, often maladaptive behaviours, especially in the media. Consider eating and drinking behaviour, sexual behaviour, academic performance, bullying and violence etc. Low self-esteem has been associated with disordered eating (obesity, anorexia, bulimia), adolescent disobedience, illicit substances abuse and binge drinking, to name a few.
Low self-esteem has also commonly been associated with aggression, however, high self-esteem and narcissism have also been implicated in aggressive behaviour. Narcissism is defined by excessive self-love and a selfish orientation. Narcissists have been found to be more aggressive and violent that other people (Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996). A recent study found that narcissism is a predictor of violent and aggressive behaviour, ruling out both high and low self-esteem. The researchers point towards threatened egotism as an explanation of aggressive behaviour, finding that people are especially likely to be aggressive after receiving a blow to their ego.
Bushman, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2002). Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? Journal of Research in Personality 36, 543–545.
Baumeister, R. F., Smart, L., & Boden, J. M. (1996). Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103, 5–33.
Kling, K. C., Hyde, J. S., Showers, C. J., & Buswell, B. (1999). Gender differences in self-esteem: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 470-500.
Developed in the 1970’s, social cognition was a move away from behaviourism. In basic terms, social cognition is the thoughts about people and about social relationships. A more thorough definition includes the processing of social information, such as encoding, storage, retrieval and application to social situations. What are the processes?
Schemas: cognitive representations of social objects.
Scripts: knowledge structures that define situations and guide behaviour.
Priming: the activation of a concept in the mind.
Framing: context influences interpretation. Every decision has potential gains and losses.
Attributions: how we use information to find causal explanation for events.
People think about people more than any other topic. Our daily lives are filled with thoughts and discussions of others, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. We observe, learn and analyse what we see and hear. We can all be blamed for participating in ‘gossip’, especially about our peers and their relationships. It does not all have to be negative though. It is in our nature to learn from others' experiences, similar to a child learning from observation.
Errors in Cognition:
I think that people, (although they might not like to admit it), are definitely guided by self-serving bias. According to self-serving bias, we attribute our success internally, whereas we attribute our failures externally. For others it is the opposite, we attribute success externally, and failure internally. A simple (although shallow) example, is a student receiving a poor grade on an assessment. The student may think that they had to work too much and therefore, they did not have enough time to do a good job. Whereas if their friend received a good grade, the student may think the teacher was playing favourites! This is an extreme example, but I believe that everyone can be accused of being self-serving in this way.
Another cognition error is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias occurs when an individual more readily notices and searches for information that confirms one’s beliefs, whilst ignoring information that disconfirms one’s beliefs. I easily recalled this concept from Cognitive Psychology last semester and I remember the example our lecturer provided. She spoke of wanting to buy a Dyson vacuum cleaner, even though it was overpriced, she just knew it was the best. She looked for positive information, whilst ignoring all the other factors. She did buy the vacuum cleaner and was very happy with her purchase.
Final thought: Can social thinking be taught?
Michelle Winner is developing social thinking for school curricula in an attempt to improve social thinking amongst students with autism. Children with Asperger's Syndrome, or high functioning autism have difficulty in social situations. These children can learn social skills, however, can they learn social thinking? That is, can they be taught to “read” social cues such as body language, eye, tone of voice, or physical proximity? Michelle Winner says it’s not impossible. Social stories, video models and drama therapy can be great tools for helping children to learn about specific situations.
Prejudice was originally restricted to specific contexts, including race, class and religion. However, prejudice today, broadly describes any hostile attitude toward people, based solely on his/her membership of a particular group. Common sources of prejudice include age, race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, weight and religion.
Prejudice has three principal features:
- It is an attitude (i.e., an evaluation or judgment).
- It is directed at a social group and its members.
- It is negative, involving hostility or dislike.
Sexual Prejudice: In the 1960’s psychologist George Weinberg coined the term homophobia. A basic definition of homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexuality. Heterosexism describes the denial, denigration and stigmatisation of any non-heterosexual behaviour (Herek, 1990). Examples of heterosexism include: state and federal laws against same-sex marriage, the US banning gay and lesbian military personnel and general discrimination in many other areas of society. Sexual prejudice now refers to all negative attitudes based on sexual orientation, regardless of whether the target is homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual (Herek, 2000). What are the sources of sexual prejudice? High religiosity and low socioeconomic background are prime examples.
A recent American study  found a relationship between sexual prejudice and erroneous beliefs about AIDS transmission. A significant number believed that a homosexual or bisexual man who had sex with another uninfected man risked AIDS, compared to respondents asked about heterosexual encounters. This study is just one example of high levels of sexual prejudice, accompanied with poor education levels.
What about every day prejudice?
Pre-judgement is also important to consider when describing prejudice: making a decision or forming an attitude before becoming aware of relevant facts and information. As cognitive misers, we use stereotypes every day. Stereotypes are beliefs that associate groups of people with certain traits. I am sure that we can all think of an everyday example of when this occurs. For example, people often stereotype elders as slow, or wise.
Check out your prejudice rating!
Project Implicit has developed a series of online tests, which assess your Implicit Associations. There are a variety of tests available, including weight, race and gender-career. There is even a test for the 2008 American Presidential Election. This test requires the ability to recognise images of John McCain and Barack Obama. According to Project Implicit, this task often reveals an automatic preference for either Obama or McCain. I completed this test, with my data suggesting that I have a slight automatic preference for black people over white people, however, there was no difference in my automatic preferences for John McCain vs. Barack Obama. I was very surprised, I do not believe that I have a preference for either ‘white’ or ‘black’ people, however, I know I have a strong preference for Obama! Definitely some interesting tests, I recommend checking them out!
Reducing Prejudicial Behaviour
Beyond Prejudice provides some good tips for how to help reduce prejudices within ourselves and in those around us. The site describes reducing prejudice as a personal goal.
For an interactive learning experience, check out Understanding Prejudice There are interactive exercises about prejudice on the site, including a slide tour of prejudice advertisement, with the aim to identify whether prejudice is involved, and if it is, to explain why. There is also a test to find your hidden biases and unconscious attitudes.
Herek, G. M. (1990). The context of anti-gay violence: Notes on cultural and psychological heterosexism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 316-333.
Herek, G. M. (2000). The psychology of sexual prejudice. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 19-22.
Herek, G. M., Widaman, K. F., & Capitanio, J. P. (2005). When sex equals AIDS: Symbolic stigma and heterosexual adults’ inaccurate beliefs about sexual transmission of AIDS. Social Problems, 52, 15-37.
Aggression is defined by psychologists as any behaviour intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm. It can be physical, mental or verbal. Antisocial behaviour is behaviour that either damages interpersonal relationships or is culturally undesirable. Common causes of aggression include: frustration, irritation, depressive symptoms, substance use and abuse, psychological disorders, mood disorders, depressive disorders and childhood learning disorders. There are many medical issues associated with aggression, a surprising find was menopause!
Currently, scientists agree that there are two main categories of aggression - hostile, affective, or retaliatory aggression, versus instrumental, predatory, or goal-oriented aggression. The aggression portrayed in the documentary, 'Ghosts of Rwanda’ has elements of both categories. The genocide was planned, demonstrating the goal-oriented nature of the Hutu militia’s acts of violence. The village Hutu’s who participated in the violent acts, are an example of hostile aggression.
I felt devastated watching the documentary. The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass killing of 800,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan Tutsis by Hutu militia. Anti-Tutsi hate-speech propaganda was distributed by print media and radio stations in Rwanda. This resulted in most of the Tutsi victims being killed in their villages or towns, often by their neighbours and fellow villagers. This is a prime example of the influence of aggression in the media. Aggression in the media has the greatest impact on those who are already prone to violent behaviour. However, this does not suggest a causal relationship, media may have only an associative or maintenance role in violent behaviour.
A fact that I found particularly disturbing, which wasn’t covered in the film, was the high prevalence of war rape during the genocide. Evidence suggests that military leaders encouraged the raping of Tutsi women, which was very public. It is estimated that 250,000 and 500,000 Rwandan women and girls were raped. It is also estimated that between 2000 and 5000 pregnancies resulted from the war rape. What makes a person think it is okay to sanction this type of brutality and cruelty?
Rwanda is still facing the reintegration of over two million refugees and the prisons are overwhelmed with over 100,000 prisoners.
In psychological terms, a group is a collection of people interacting with each other, acknowledging group membership, working towards a common goal and sharing a common identity. We are all members of many different groups, ranging from being part of a family, to being part of society. The environmental perspective favours groups, relating to survival and evolution. Our culture is defined by our membership in groups.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the group process?
Social facilitation is the tendency to perform well when others are present. Conversely, sometimes the presence of others makes performance worse, which is referred to as social inhibition. Social facilitation theory posits that the mere presence of others is arousing, which facilitates the dominant response. So familiar tasks, people perform well, because the dominant response is success, but for unfamiliar tasks, performance decreases, due to the dominant response being failure. >>> For a personal example, I grew up participating in competitive swimming. In competitions and swim meets, the added presence of the crowd increased my performance, due to the familiar nature of the task. I always improved my P.B time in competitions, rather than when training. People may say that this is also primarily due to racing against other swimmers and the thrill of the win, however, we regularly had races in training. Whereas if I was asked to juggle in front of an audience, my performance would certainly decrease!!!
The Hawthorne Effect occurs when people who know that they are being observed modify their behaviour consciously and unconsciously. The term was coined in 1955 by Henry A. Landsberger, after reviewing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works This is an interesting concept and I can think of many situations that would apply. Consider a child doing his homework in his room with the door shut, the risk of finding him playing with his Nintendo is very high! Whereas if the child were at the kitchen table, his performance would be much higher, as he knows that you are observing exactly what he is doing. Plus, he may want to get it over with quickly, just to get away from the observation!
Social loafing refers to when people do not contribute adequately to the group, which commonly occurs when there is no individual accountability. There are two factors involved in social loafing: Coordination loss (productivity loss due to group conflict) and Motivation loss (losses due to a decrease in individual members’ motivation). According to Latane, Williams and Harkins (1979), as group size increases, social loafing increases and performance decreases. >>> An example that applies to every student, is group presentations. I am sure that we can all think of a group assignment when social loafing occurred. From my experience, the larger the group, the more that people think that they can ‘slack off’. Also, once it becomes clear that one or two people are slacking, more students join the social loafing trend. This is termed the bad apple effect.
Deindividuation is a state of lowered awareness and a loss of personal identity. If anonymity is high, deindividuation can lead to antisocial behaviour as people are more willing to violate norms. >>> A good example of deindividuation, is the genocide in Rwanda, where two million Hutu’s (not involved in the militia) joined the violent rampage, brutally killing the Tutsis, regardless of their age or gender. In my post on aggression, I asked, how could these people be so inhumane? Well, deindividuation can definitely be implicated in the group process observed in Rwanda. The anonymity and high social arousal in the Rwandan example lead to individuals operating as part of a mob or a collective, losing their self identity. The diffusion of responsibility is another key point, as the Hutu civilians participating in the genocide were simply joining the collective that included the Hutu militia, which, in their mind, voided their responsibility. The Nazis during the holocaust is another prominent example. >>> Real life examples of deindividuation include, police officers, the military, universities, cults and sporting teams. Living on Ressies at university, I can definitely vouch for the occurrence of deindividuation! Students’ behaviour becomes part of the collective, making inappropriate behaviour socially acceptable. I am sure that everyone is familiar with the occurrence of deindividuation in professional sporting teams! There is always a team in the news for some inappropriate behaviour.
Latane, B., Williams, K., & Harkins, S. (1979). Many hands make light the work: The causes and consequences of social loafing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 822-832.
Are you a leader or a follower?
Leadership is the ability to influence a group towards the achievement of goals. Leadership is the process of achieving others' cooperation to accomplish a goal. Leaders are goal directed and must be non-coercive in their influence. Conversely, followers are individuals who identify with the leader and the leader’s ideas, goals and tasks. Followers must be willingly subordinate to the leader, whilst still feeling empowered.
Trait Theory: Successful leadership requires certain attributes. These may include, but are not limited to adaptability, flexibility, social awareness, ambition, achievement-orientation, assertiveness, cooperation, decisiveness, honesty, dependability, dominance, energy, persistence, confidence and stress tolerance. Four primary leadership traits have been identified: emotional stability and composure, admitting error, interpersonal skills and intellectual breadth (McCall & Lombardo, 1983). However, criticisms of trait theory include a lack of universal traits, which makes predicting successful leaders difficult. It also provides little avenue for training advice.
Behaviour Theory: This theory is based on acquiring leadership skills rather than being genetically predisposed to learning traits. So leadership capability can be learned, which provides a better avenue for the development and training of leadership.
Contingency Theory: This theory is a well-rounded approach to leadership. It posits that a leader’s ability is contingent upon situational factors, such as leadership style and the capability and behaviour of followers etc. Due to these situational factors, a leader may be successful in one situation, and unsuccessful in others.
An autocratic leader is authoritative, making all decisions. Conversely, a laissez-faire leader allows followers to make decisions. A democratic leader involves followers in decision-making process, whilst retaining final decision-making power. Leaders can be task oriented, people oriented, or environmentally oriented. >>> My personal preference is people-oriented, democratic leaders. This type of leadership elicits respect from followers, whilst still effectively achieving goals. I was surprised to read on Wikipedia,  about how the other leadership styles can be used positively. Every time I have covered leadership styles at university and even back in my school days, these styles have been criticised. Autocratic leaders are criticised for being authoritative, overly dominant and controlling. According to Wikipedia, this leadership style can be good for employees that need close supervision to perform certain tasks. I suppose that this could be true, but I still feel that an autocratic leader would never achieve followers’ respect. The laisez-faire leadership style is suggested for when followers have the ability to analyse the situation and determine the correct actions to be taken. Prior to reading this, laissez-faire has always been presented to me as a lazy style of leadership. Is there a point of being a leader if all responsibility (other than veto power) is left to the followers, are they then not the leaders??? Check out your leadership style. 
McCall, M.W. Jr. & Lombardo, M.M. (1983). Off the track: Why and how successful executives get derailed. Greenboro, NC: Centre for Creative Leadership.
Relationships and Attraction
From an evolutionary perspective, we tend to seek partners who are healthy, fertile and successful. These factors are generally associated with a high status and physical attractiveness. Males tend to choose partners that are young and attractive (fertile), whilst females choose partners who are older and financially secure (better providers for offspring).
Affiliation ‘The need to belong’
Affiliation is the desire to form and maintain close, lasting attachments with other individuals. A feeling of belonging requires regular social contact, as well as close, stable and mutually intimate contact.
Behaviour that is undertaken deliberately to gain favour or favourable acceptance from others. In basic terms, what people actively do to try to make others like them. A simple example is complimenting someone. Another tactic is to tell a third person flattering remarks in the hope that it ‘gets back’ to the person. Jones (1965) asserts that flattery should have an edge of negativity to add credibility to the statement. Also, exaggerating the compliment enhances plausibility and credibility. Jones offers some other, rather amusing suggestions. I have briefly summarised a few -
- Allow the target to ‘convince’ you of their opinion.
- Asking for assistance and advice can be gratifying to the target
- Revealing ‘sensitive’ personal opinions
- Doing a favour for the target
A related concept is self monitoring. Self Monitoring Theory proposed by Mark Snyder in 1974, refers to the process through which people regulate and change their behaviour to become more akin to those with whom they interact. Do you censor what you say? Check out Mark Snyder’s Self Monitoring Scale
Similarity is a common, significant predictor of initial attraction. According to meta-analytic findings, women value similarity more than men and men value physical attractiveness more than women (Feingold, 1991). We tend to like people who are similar to us. Attitudes, IQ, physical attractiveness, education and socio-economic status are some examples. Similarity is also important in the level of ‘liking’ one another, which is termed reciprocity. In relationship terms, reciprocity refers to the mutuality of the actual liking of one person for another. A study conducted by Sharma and Kaur (1996), found that the most powerful determinant of interpersonal attraction is an indication that one is liked. According to Kenny and La Voie (1982), reciprocity of attraction increases over time. I believe that yes, reciprocity is important, especially an equal reciprocity! If one person in a relationship has deeper feelings and is more invested in the relationship than the other, the relationship will likely fail.
The Matching Hypothesis
Proposed by Goffman in 1952, the matching hypothesis posits that people are attracted to and are more likely to form long-term relationships with others who are similar to them in physical attractiveness. Is this due to a fear of rejection from people that we perceive as more attractive than ourselves? Or can it be that we have a sense of what is ‘fitting’ or appropriate? An interesting blogger  presents some background information to this topic and suggests that if you covet the unattainable, simply hit the gym or revamp your wardrobe! What do you think? For those of you in a relationship, are you of similar attractiveness?
Developed in 1962 by John Stacy Adams, equity theory posits that relationship satisfaction is determined by our perceptions of fair/unfair distributions of resources. Generally, we prefer relationships that are psychologically balanced and we are motivated to restore this balance. People are happiest in relationships where the ‘giving’ and ‘taking’ are about equal. Common inputs include time, effort, loyalty, commitment, compromise, flexibility, tolerance, acceptance, enthusiasm and personal sacrifice. Common rewards or outcomes include love, companionship, sex, intimacy, security, emotional support and esteem. >>> I am sure that we have all experienced an inequitable relationship at some point or another. What were your reasons for leaving…what was the one factor that made the break?
The gain-loss hypothesis
The gain-loss hypothesis posits that we like people most if they initially dislike us and then later come to like us. Aronson and Linder (1965) proposed two explanations for the hypothesis - Anxiety reduction (1) When we experience rejection we experience anxiety, when the rejection becomes acceptance we experience relief and the pleasure of being liked. Going from one extreme to another increases this pleasure. (2) We may perceive people who like us straight away as undiscriminating and not discerning. If we have to fight for a person’s favour, we feel a greater sense of achievement and resulting pleasure. This is an interesting concept! I believe that this is true in some cases, but I would be wary of being in a relationship with someone who previously did not like me > it would always be, ‘how come you didn’t like me’, or, ‘what was it about me that you didn’t like’!!!
Playing hard to get
I laughed when I saw this! This concept describes our preference for people who are moderately selective, over people who are too readily available. I would definitely agree on this point. People enjoy the chase of a relationship and many of the foundations of a long-term relationship are established in this early stage. James mentioned that attractiveness increases towards bar closing time for those not in a relationship! Attention all singles! Go home before this happens :) People prefer a challenge. For some amusing reads, check these out   or the 1992 Hi-Five song ‘She’s Playing Hard to Get’ 
The best predictor of a relationship is physical or psychological proximity between people. The propinquity effect is the tendency to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often. This is closely related to the mere-exposure effect, the more that we are exposed to something the more we like it. >>> I can definitely vouch for the propinquity effect. Moving from my home town to university, I lost and gained a lot of friends along the way. It simply becomes too difficult to maintain the close contact with people in a different state. The new friends that I have made at university are close by, especially those on res and I see them very often. This makes them easily available and interaction is low cost (as James mentioned in the lecture). I just hope that I can maintain these new friendships next year, after graduation.
Final thought! Attractiveness is superior over other traits. It speaks volumes about a person, e.g. popularity, IQ, health, success etc. But does it? I don’t think so, these are assumptions in our society!>? Why are we so consumed with physical appearance? From generation to generation the ideal body shape and weight is ever changing, but still it is a topical point of society. You see it in magazines, on television, in the newspaper, on the radio, it is everywhere! When will people start focusing on our health and wellbeing, stalling society’s focus on physical perfection. These problems are the major cause of the continuing pandemic of obesity and eating disorders world-wide.
Feingold, A. (1991). Sex differences in the effects of similarity and physical attractiveness on opposite-sex attraction. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 12, 357-367.
Jones, E.E. (1965) Ingratiation: A Social-Psychological Analysis. Chapter 2. 
Kenny, D. A., & La Voie, L. (1982). Reciprocity of interpersonal attraction: A confirmed hypothesis. Social Psychology Quarterly, 45, 54-58.
Sharma, V., & Kaur, I. (1996). Interpersonal attraction in relation to the loss-gain hypothesis. The Journal of Social Psychology, 136, 635-638.
Prosocial behavior occurs when someone acts to help another person, particularly when they have no goal other than to help a fellow human.
Under the guise of kin selection, it is suggested that prosocial behaviour is a genetic response to supporting the broader gene pool. The textbook provides the example of helping a sibling, who shares half of your genes, in comparison with helping a cousin, who has an eighth of you genes. I can see the value of kin selection, but I do not believe helping behaviour within families is all about genetics. Going through older adoption, I am well aware of my biological parents, however, I am completely prosocial towards my real family, rather than my biological family. I am sure that this is a rarity, however, it definitely adds to the nurture debate! I think that the level of relationship is very important. The majority of people would care more about their family, due to their high level of closeness. Others, however, may be closer to their friends. I can only think of one friend who feels this way. He is not that close to his family, preferring friends. But again, this is a rare example, and there are situational influences implicated in both.
Reciprocity is the obligation to return in kind what another has done for us. The norm of reciprocity is also implicated in prosocial behaviour, which asserts that people help others, knowing that they may need someone to help them in the same unselfish way. Do people help others in the hope that they will one day return the favour? I do not think that this occurs consciously. It is an assumption that all of society holds. I can think of many occasions when reciprocity is a given. Family is a good example, I am there for my family in times of need, just as I assume that they would be there for me when the time arises. Friends are not always a definite though. Situational factors, such as time, effort, ability etc. can play a role in preventing a person helping without expecting a return. However, guilt plays a role when a person has already ‘helped’ you in some way or another. Take something simple, if I drove a friend to the Dr, I would hope that in similar situations they would return the favour. If a friend has helped me in any way, I definitely feel obligated to return the favour, as thanks.
Motivation of Helping
The textbook presents a few motivations for helping behaviour. I will briefly present them. Egoistic helping occurs when a helper seeks to increase his or her own welfare by helping another. Altruistic behaviour is when a helper seeks to increase another’s welfare and expects nothing in return. Empathy-altruism hypothesis posits that empathy motivates people to reduce other people’s distress, as by helping or comforting. The negative state relief theory proposes that people help others in order to relieve their own distress. These motivations all have merit. The big question: does altruistic behaviour really exist? Even volunteers gain something from their volunteer work. It may be self esteem, work experience for their resume, admiration from the people they help, their friends or their family. The options are endless. So does altruistic behaviour require a person to not consciously be aware or expect these gains? Is that even possible? It is in our nature to further ourselves, using what we can to achieve this. >>> Even as a blood donor, I feel good about myself for doing something for whoever my blood helps. I like to know that I am helping. Can I honestly say that this is altruistic behaviour? No. As a blood donor I gain people's respect, self-respect and other good feelings!
This is a topic that I believe is very important. Our environment is critical to our survival and we are not doing enough to stop the destruction. Studying Sustainable Communities last year, I was made aware of the varying problems facing our society. I feel that in Australia, we are not as heavily affected. Therefore, people in Australia are not as aware of the problems going on around the world. Yes, we have crazy weather, we are suffering a drought, and people do acknowledge these issues. But, I feel that people in Canberra are even less aware than people from my home, in the Blue Mountains. At home, we are so severely restricted with our water usage. More government action is required. People need to know the severity of the problems the world may be facing in just a few years. We are overpopulated and we concentrate too much on non-renewable resources.
Environmental psychology attempts to provide an understanding of the interplay between humans and their surroundings. At this point, environmental psychology is primarily orientated towards assisting design professionals to improve the human environment. Solar and wind energy is slowly progressing, along with electric cars. However, why not use environmental psychology with individuals. Environmental psychologists should be working to promote more sustainable living among general communities. Psychologists are working with government authorities focusing on attitudes and behaviours, but only to a point. Changing attitudes and behaviours is a psychologist’s forte. There is a need, however, to get back to our ‘grass roots’. Change needs to be achieved at the individual and community level. So when are we going to join the fight for healthy, sustainable living?
Final Thought! Nature is good for us! The rate of vitamin D (sunlight) deficiency is increasing. Over the past two years, personal medical sources report that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency has almost doubled. So, I say get out into nature! Respect it, cultivate it!
As many of my peers in the tutorial were third year students, we were a little disappointed to be asked to do more icebreakers as a part of the ‘getting to know you’. However, the tutor brought an interesting twist to the exercises, bringing our attention to the many social similarities and differences among the student group. We grouped into religion, voting opinions, suburb, eye colour, relationship status and more.
Students were then asked to develop a definition of social psychology. My group easily agreed on the importance of ABC and the different elements of social situations. However, it was interesting to notice how group conformity can result in some team members agreeing without much input on their behalf.
We also discussed what we do know about social psychology. Prior to the first lecture, I would have said that I had a fair understanding of what social psychology is about. Now I realise that there is much to learn, or a wide variety of interesting topics. As a group we agreed that we knew that many differences and similarities existed between individuals and groups. We also recognised that individuals and groups are heavily influenced by peers, norms and their social environment. Each student recognised their academic knowledge, however, I was more inclined to take note of the events that happen every day in our own social environment.
As a group, students were also asked to consider what they don’t know about social psychology. A prominent theme was a lack of knowledge of the theory surrounding these broad concepts that we have all come across during our lives. Including group norms, aggression, altruism, attraction, prejudice, the list goes on! I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to the unit and look forward to learning more.
Students were asked to discuss the different levels and channels of communication.
Levels – Small talk, facts, opinions and feelings.
Channels – 7% is verbal, 93% is non-verbal: 38% Tone of voice, 55% Body language
Factors in Effective Interpersonal Communication – Level of relationship, Ability, Culture, Active listening
Communication Models – Transmission Model, Shannon-Weaver Model (Feedback-Loop model)
I found this tutorial particularly interesting due to my knowledge of signed English. My mother works as a teacher’s aide for the deaf and I remember watching her sign to students at my school. It always fascinated me how easily they understood each other, without the use of verbal communication. As I understood much of the signed content, I could tell that they did not communicate using complete sentences often.
This is similar to communicating with family or a close friend. My mother can always predict how I am feeling, by my tone of voice, or even just by watching my body language. Of course, she is well skilled in this area due to her profession and many may not have the same intuition. However, I often do the same with my close friends. I can assess their mood, by analysing their facial expression, body language and tone of voice, even when greeting them. For these reasons I believe that verbal content can be relatively unimportant in communication. From experience, I believe that facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and mannerisms are far more important.
Prejudice and Aggression
I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions during this tutorial. The topic certainly got people talking! We watched Jane Elliot’s ‘The Australian Eye’. To demonstrate my understanding of this topic, I will define key prejudice and aggression terms, providing an example from either ‘The Australian Eye’ or ‘Ghosts of Rwanda”.
Key Prejudice Terms:
Aversive racism: Simultaneously holding egalitarian values and negative feelings toward minorities. Jane Elliot alerts the audience of this occurring when a blue eye made a brown eye reach for some papers when passing them. This behaviour suggests implicit racism, whilst expressing otherwise.
Categorisation: The natural evolutionary process of sorting objects into groups. This was the underlying basis of the blue and brown-eyed concept. The grouping of people may not initially have a prejudicial basis, however, the grouping and stereotyping of people is an important factor in prejudice.
Confirmation bias: The tendency to focus more on evidence that supports one’s expectations than on evidence that contradicts them. The US president, Bill Clinton, blatantly avoided the issues in Rwanda, hoping for it to be resolved without intervention, then following the massacre acknowledged the devastation, using empathy to further his popularity.
Contact hypothesis: Regular interaction between members of different groups reduces prejudice, providing that it occurs under favourable conditions. Bringing brown eyes and blue eyes together in the filming of Jane Elliot’s video, enabled them to broaden their understanding of historical and current prejudices brown-eyes suffer.
Discontinuity effect: When groups are more extreme and often more hostile, than individuals. This is well portrayed in both examples. In Jane Elliot’s film, as the groups were segregated into eye colour, the participants easily took antagonistic and relatively hostile roles, against the other group. In the Rwandan case, the groups and mobs that formed due to racial conflict, were very hostile.
Discrimination: Unequal treatment of different people based on the groups or categories to which they belong. In Jane Elliot’s film, many blue-eyed participants were made to sit on the floor, whilst all the brown-eyed participants were seated in chairs.
Ingroup favouritism: Preferential treatment of, or more favourable attitudes toward, people in one’s own group. Both the US and Belgian governments withdrew their soldiers from Rwanda. All white people and American people were then withdrawn from Rwanda. This ensured the safety of all white people in Rwanda, leaving the people of Rwanda to their devastating fate.
Outgroup homogeneity bias: The assumption that outgroup members are more similar to one another than ingroup members are to one another. This was portrayed in ‘The Australian Eye’ when the brown eyed people made the assumption that no hardship was experienced by the blue-eyed group.
Prejudice: A negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group. This was a prime reason for the violence between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda.
Racism: Prejudiced attitudes toward a particular race. Again well portrayed in Rwanda with racial prejudice present between the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s. The Australian Eye concept was also based on the historical racism towards Aboriginal Australians.
Realistic conflict theory: Occurs when competition over scarce resources leads to intergroup hostility and conflict. In Rwanda, survival instincts were prevalent.
Self-serving bias: The tendency for people to take credit for success but to refuse blame for problems and failures. Bill Clinton’s involvement in Rwanda was initially of ignorance, then empathic apology.
Social categorisation: The process of sorting people into groups on the basis of characteristics they have in common. Jane Elliot sorted the groups into people with brown eyes and people with blue eyes.
Key Aggression Terms:
Active aggression: Harming others by performing a behaviour. In Rwanda the deaths caused by violence was devastating.
Aggression: Any behaviour intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm. The people of Rwanda attempted to hide from the violence, however, even in a Church, the violence did not stop.
Deindividuation: A sense of anonymity and loss of individuality, as in a large group, making people especially likely to engage in antisocial behaviour. The violent groups in Rwanda displayed no remorse, no humanity, no regret in killing so many.
Fight or flight syndrome: A response to stress that involves aggression against others or running away. The Tutsis attempted to run away from the violence of the Hutu militia.
Humiliation: A state of disgrace or loss of self-respect (or respect from others). To demonstrate the result of prejudice, Jane Elliot targeted a blonde blue-eyed girl, calling her ‘blondie’ and making her feel inadequate and perhaps even dumb.
Magnitude gap: The difference in outcomes between the perpetrator and the victim. The Tutsis in Rwanda lost everything, what did the Hutu militia really gain?
Modelling: Observing and copying or imitating the behaviour of others. In Rwanda, when the Hutu militia began killing people, other Hutus modelled this behaviour, joining the massacre.
Weapons effect: The increase in aggression that occurs as a result of the mere presence of a weapon. In Rwanda, civilian people were given weaponry, encouraged to participate in the genocide.
I was unable to attend this tutorial, however, I will present a brief outline of my perception of culture. See full tutorial content on Wikiversity. 
The story of my names: Each person has “a story behind their name”.
When I saw this content I have to admit, I was quite relieved not to have attended the tutorial. As James stated, most students would feel more comfortable pairing with someone they know a bit. I appreciate the communication skills I may have gained from the tutorial exercise, however, for some people, this is a very sensitive topic. Students were asked to interview one another about their first, middle and last names. Students were to discuss what each name meant, why each name was chosen and what is the personal, familial and cultural history behind each name. Students were then to present the story behind their partners name to the tutorial group.
How Australian are you?
Students are to self-rate this on a 1-10 scale and compare with normative data, in 2009. Do I have an “Australian identity?” I would say yes, I have lived here my whole life, but I still have many other differing cultural influences around me. I have also been told that I don’t have an Aussie accent, that it is more English. So my version of an Australian identity is composed of many different cultural beliefs, values and traditions. But is that not the case with all Australians?
What is Culture?
Culture is patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Culture includes values, beliefs, traditions, attitudes and so on! Conversely a cult is a cohesive conforming social group devoted to beliefs and practices which are not widely accepted in mainstream society. A cult can have positive connotations, such as art, music and writing groups, however, when people think of cults, it is typically in a negative context. Cults are more commonly associated with religion and political extremists. Culture Shock: Culture shock refers to feelings of anxiety, disorientation, surprise and confusion, when people experience difficulties assimilating into a new cultural or social environment.
In this tutorial, we discussed ‘fuzzy’ psychological concepts: social capital, zeitgeist, social disengagement.
- Social Capital: I believe social capital is about community involvement, collective and quality social networks and social inclusion. Social capital facilitates a healthy and civil society.
- Zeitgeist: James put forward these terms - “spirit of the times” and “flavour of the times”. When I think of zeitgeist, I think of the collective conscious. For more information I checked out zeitgeist on Wikipedia. 
- Social Disengagement: I believe that being disengaged from society can result in isolation, exclusion and disconnectedness. However, for some it is a cultural choice.
Hugh Mackay 2005 -- Social disengagement: Breeding ground for fundamentalism. Students were asked to think of a social wish list.
My Social Wish List:
- Materialism/Consumerism: I believe that increasingly people are moving away from community and holistic values, towards selfishness and materialism.
- Isolation: As a result of materialism and selfism, people are being more oriented towards individual wants and needs, moving away from family and community values. This increases our isolation from society. I think of the older lady who was found in her apartment 3 weeks after her death, because she was rarely visited.
- Lack of commitment: The increasing rates of divorce in Australia and world-wide. There is also an increasing need to be committed to, and to act for our environment, rather than against it.
Where is our commitment to each other, our friends, our families, our communities, and our environment???
In groups we established an intervention for our wish list: We chose the issue of materialism. Our ideas included:
- No advertising of credit cards
- No pre-approval of credit
- Free financial seminars
- Eliminate credit card reward programs
- Eliminate interest free periods
At the start of Social Psychology this semester, I have to admit, I had my reservations. I love the topic, but I was very concerned about completing my e-portfolio. It is such a novel idea and I felt that I was completely unprepared, especially technologically. This unit, however, has definitely exceeded my expectations and I feel that I have learned more about Social Psychology than any other unit whilst at university. It has given me the opportunity to actually express my own opinions for once, making each topic more interesting. I feel that at the completion of this semester I will actually retain the information, because I have put my own stamp on it! I am also quite pleased with the end result, I learned alot about Wikiversity and HTML editing and I enjoyed finding information and pictures that I hope people will find interesting. I hope that all those who read the entirety of my portfolio will find it interesting and insightful.