User:Jenny O/Tutorial reflections

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Tutorial One: Introduction[edit]

Additional resource: Tutorial One Outline

I was somewhat ambivalent about the first tutorial. While I dislike icebreaker exercises and new groups, I also dislike the lack of interaction in most psychology tutorials. (It has always struck me that psychology classes are not very sociable). However, I was surprised how quickly everyone became so animated when we were asked to get to know the others in the room. (Does that say something about the need to facilitate a group?).

What I found most interesting were the categories James then used to demonstrate groups to which we belong – eye colour, number of siblings, country of birth, where you live, religion, political persuasion and relationship status. It seemed to me that as these categories progressively became more socially sensitive some people seemed less eager to immediately align themselves with a particular group (It would be interested to know if other people thought that). It might be that these things are not so clear-cut or that people are less inclined to disclose that information. Having said that, some people had no trouble aligning themselves with a group or developing a group that fitted them (They may have had very strong views or beliefs in these areas).

The activity on exploring social psychology in a group was a useful exercise. It is always interesting to hear other people’s views and share ideas. I was amazed how quickly some of the groups came up with such well-structured essay questions. I am still not sure what I don’t know…I think it’s a lot!

Tutorial Two: Communication[edit]

Additional resource: Tutorial Two Outline

The goal of our second tutorial was to “explore interpersonal communication models and to participate in some introductory communication skills exercises” (James Neill).

Again, I was pleasantly surprised how animated we were during this tutorial. (This has challenged my stereotypical view that psychology classes are not very sociable). Obviously, the tutorial activities facilitate a level of interaction, but even the simple act of wearing name badges enables us to make some connection with each other, and personalises our communication and interactions. Following this tutorial I have been able to remember the names of a number of other students, remember particular comments made by others, and put faces to some of the other e-portfolios.

Our tutorial group initially discussed the levels and channels of communication (see Table 1). During this discussion it was interesting to hear that face-to-face (1-to-1) communication can be considered as 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. The non-verbal communication component can be further divided into 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language.

I wondered how non face-to-face communication was managed. Does that mean that we are only able to communicate 45% of a message during a telephone conversation, or if we were blind, and as another group member suggested, only 7% if we were autistic?


Table 1: Levels and channels of communication

Levels of communication

(Nature: Shallow to deep)

Channels of communication

(Types or modes)

Greetings

Small talk

Information facts

Thoughts

Emotions/feelings

Unconscious communication


Verbal

Words



Non-verbal

Body language

Facial expression

Hand language

Tone of voice


It was difficult to find anything in the research literature about the percentage breakdown of verbal to non-verbal communication. According to a Wikipedia article this has been named the ‘7% - 38% - 55% Rule’ (verbal, vocal & visual) and attributed to Albert Mehrabian.

Aparently, this rule is often misinterpreted. The Wikipedia entry contends that the non-verbal components of communication:

1. Do NOT convey the “bulk” of the message “in all senses”

2. Relate to the affective perception (feelings & attitudes) of the communication (Particularly when verbal & non-verbal aspects are incongruent)


If this is so, then this breakdown into percentages does not apply to all forms of communication. It only seems to apply to communicating affect (Mehrabian refers to ‘liking’). Specifically, greater affective weight is given to non-verbal aspects of the communication when verbal and non-verbal elements are incongruent.

During small group work within the tutorial we were asked to consider other aspects influencing communication channels. Some of the groups were quite ingenious in their approach and included elements such as:

    • Context situation, environment, cultural influences
    • Type of communication (text, email, telephone etc)
    • Related issues of hierarchy, complexity, content, said-received message
    • Conscious Vs unconscious aspects of communication
    • Interaction of shallow levels & deep channels combined with deep levels & shallow channels (‘Star of David Model’)
    • Combining levels & channels - shallow (above) to deep (below). Mediated by emotion (‘Iceberg Model’)
    • Language tools & barriers (foreign languages, vocabulary, encoding & decoding problems)


Models of communication generally include encoding, transmission and decoding (e.g., Transmission Model). However, more effective communication is achieved by incorporating feedback from the receiver to the sender (e.g., Shannon-Weaver Model). These models can be augmented with strategies such as: ‘multi-channeling’, limiting system ‘noise’, repeating / echoing, and chunking information. However, the most important message I got from the review of effective communication models was the importance of reflective, or active, listening and feedback in communication. This was demonstrated in our Minefield activity, where my partner and I discussed, planned and practised the codes we would use to successfully traverse the minefield. Once we understood them (using listening techniques and feedback), we applied them to work through the minefield. Our approach worked - until I lost concentration (a cognitive malfunction) and failed to give an adequate instruction (a behavioural malfunction) and he was blown up on the very last mine.

Thus, the prevailing message I received from this tutorial is that communication is influenced by the context, and by a range of affective, behavioural and cognitive factors.

Tutorial Three: Prejudice, aggression and prosocial behaviour[edit]

One purpose of this tutorial was to gain an understanding of Jane Elliott’s approach to anti-discrimination and prejudice training (James Neill). Another was to explore the socio-psychological theories of prejudice, aggression and pro-social behaviour demonstrated in her documentary The Australian Eye. A second documentary, Ghosts of Rwanda, is discussed with reference to these theories in the main body of the e-portfolio.


Additional resources:


Elliott is renowned for her discriminatory blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercises, first used on her third grade class in the US during the 1960's to demonstrate the effects of prejudice. The Australian Eye documents a similar exercise conducted by Elliott in Australia.

This documentary was incredibly confronting. For the purposes of her discrimination exercise, Elliott quickly established a position of power over the group. She then used this power to cleverly and effortlessly create a physical and psychological demarcation between the blue-eyed and brown-eyed participants.

From the outset Elliott's behaviour was intentionally antisocial and actively aggressive in the social context. This was reflected in her verbal and non-verbal communication. Her behaviour clearly breached contextual social norms. It was uncomfortable to watch the early pro-social behaviour of the participants (e.g. the initial participant interviews and their polite comments about their expectations) being eroded by Elliott’s blatant disregard for individual needs and social norms in the beginning of the film.

In-group: brown-eyed, smart
Out-group: blue-eyed, ignorant

Using arbitrary categorization (eye colour), authority, aggression, humiliation and applying a range of descriptive norms (e.g., blue-eyed are ignorant, brown-eyed are smart), Elliott swiftly separated the participant group into an in-group (brown-eyed) and an out-group (blue-eyed).

The groups were segregated. Elliott worked with the in-group to establish a level of in-group favouritism. This was achieved through social categorisation and creating out-group stigmas and stereotypes (blue-eyed people are ignorant, lack curiosity and don’t care about others who are different). During this time Elliott also asked the in-group to publicly declare their commitment to the discrimination exercise (by raising hands), possibly engendering general conformity, but also public conformity within some of the participants (e.g., a member of the brown-eyed group voiced her concerns about engaging in this discriminatory behaviour, but agrees to participate).

The groups were brought together. It was interesting to note the ease with which in-group members began to engage in the humiliating prejudicial behaviour modeled by Elliott. During this time Elliott also made use of instrumental aggression (e.g., rigging a test in favour of the in-group, which later fuelled a self-fulfilling prophecy for the ignorant out-group). As this process ensued the many out-group members became uneasy and appeared concerned, disillusioned and even tearful. Many kept quiet and appeared to comply. However, other out-group members became defiant and outspoken – these participants were soon silenced by the in-group members’ comments. Eventually, under the burden of Elliot's relentless prejudice, most members of the out-group conceded defeat (e.g., I am insignificant, I am worthless, and I must conform to the way you want me to be) and demonstrated obedience and compliance. Essentailly, Elliott succeeded in creating overt discrimination within a group, based on a physical characteristic over which the participants had no control.

While I appreciate that Elliott’s approach has a significant impact, is designed to appeal to one’s sense of empathy and morality, is confronting and may generate a level of discomfort in one’s mind about the effects of prejudice, I also wonder about the value of her approach. What evidence does Elliott have to show that this is effective in increasing prejudical awareness or more importantly changing behaviours? In some ways it may make some people more hostile toward others. Although this is not a research study per se, I also believe there are a number of un-addressed ethical issues in Elliott’s approach. I felt that few of the participants were aware of the nature of this activity before participating and to that extent may have been deceived. While participants were told they were free to leave, they were harrasssed if they chose to do so. I am not convinced that the benefits of this approach outweigh the risks. The benefits have not be measured and there is no indication that any of the participants are debriefed or provided with access to psychological support after being subject to Elliott's activity. Furthermore, isn’t her approach discriminatory in its self?

Surely there are more constructive ways to increase awareness of prejudice, particularly discrimination. I believe there are more pro-social (or civilised) ways to educate others such as this enlightening example from an American high school program implemented to manage such issues in their student group: Lines That Divide Us.

Tutorial Four: Cross-cultural training[edit]

Additional resource: Tutorial Four Outline

I really enjoyed this tutorial, as I found the content, exercises and discussions very interesting.

Cultural Identity Interview[edit]

We were initially asked to conduct a cultural identity interview with another person in the class, and then share this information with the whole group. The purpose of this interview was to consider each other’s cultural heritage by exploring the story of our names (origin, meaning, history and use) and our cultural identity (cultures and sub-cultures with which we identify). I thought this was an interesting and non-threatening way to approach a cultural identity, as some group members could find this a sensitive issue.

A name is generally a good measure of a persons cultural identity. When you think about it there is quite a lot wrapped up in someone’s name. For instance, there might be a very emotional story attached to a surname as a result of a divorce or an adoption, or a name could remind you of a particular person or time in your life and an associated emotion. It is also interesting to see just how much a name reveals (See The story of my name). The textbook also mentions the importance of a name in relation to 'the self': people develop an affinity for and connection with their names (p.91). (Apparently, in some cases, a name or letters of a name can be sub-consciously used select a career or a place to live!).

Figuring out our cultural identities was not so straightforward. In determining these identities we had to think beyond ethnicity as a source of culture. Some of the sources identified included: belonging to groups (e.g., army/navy, sport, work, being a student), ways of ‘doing’ (e.g., shopping, communicating, thinking), or hobbies/leisure pursuits (e.g., reading, art, exercising). Overall, I was quite surprised how many of us came from a white Anglo-Saxon background, and must admit I found the stories of those who didn’t come from this background were far more interesting or ‘exotic’.

The cultural heritage exercise then led us to (very briefly) consider “What is culture?” and how can it be “defined”. I’m not sure how culture can be de-contextualised and I wonder if such an abstract concept can actually be “defined” (Also see Culture & Introduction). I think the following comments are also useful:

Culture...[edit]

  • There are no shortage of ways in which culture can be conceptualised (Singelis, 2000)
  • Culture is the man-made part of the environment (Herskovits, 1955)
  • Culture is the set of artifacts and mentifacts (ie ideas, beliefs, conventions) more common among its members than among outsiders (Poortinga & van Hemert, 2001, p.1034)

Culture shock and adaptation[edit]

Culture shock refers to the difficulties experienced when one is exposed to, and must operate in, a different cultural environment. Most importantly this is not limited to visiting another country. It can apply to changing schools, becoming part of a group, moving to another suburb or city – any entry to a new culture. (Also see cultural adaptation and outdoor education: Fabrizio and Neill (2005)). I have tried to think about some of the symptoms one might experience in culture shock:

  • Affective components: feelings of insecurity, irritability, frustration, unhappiness, dread, fear or anger. (possibly: reactance).
  • Behavioural components: maladaptive or anti-social behaviour: poor interpersonal interactions, restricted or limited functioning, withdrawing from the environment, role change (possibly: learned helplessness, altered self-regulation, self-handicapping)
  • Cognitive components: disorientation, confusion (possibly: negative self-talk, altered attributions).
Culture shock is not limited to visiting another country. It can apply to changing schools, becoming part of a group, moving to another suburb or city – any entry to a new culture.

There several phases of adaptation are related to culture shock (Winkelman, 1994):

Honeymoon Phase – tourist phase – excitement and fascination

Crisis Phase – culture shock sets in

Adjustment Phase – accepting the culture and developing a more positive attitude

Acceptance and Adaptation Phase – feel at home and participate in the new culture

(Re-entry shock can also be experienced on return to the original culture)

Indeed the amount of time spent and one’s role or purpose in the environment would have some bearing on culture shock. A good example of this was given in the tutorial: Tourists generally only experience the Honeymoon Phase (and not complete culture shock) as they move from one foreign country to another. Thus these phases would be more relevant to independently living in a foreign country rather than visiting as a tourist or being on assignment for work. I naively found myself in this situation many years ago when I thought I’d go and live in Berlin (not even being able to speak the language!). You suddenly realise how much of your existence depends on language (spoken and written) – I was painfully aware of not even being able to engage in simple small talk. One of my most vivid memories was standing in the supermarket trying to figure out which product on the self was actually washing powder! Such apparently absurd things become so meaningful. (I didn’t get past the Crisis Phase and went to London). I can't imagine how I would have managed in a non-Western environment.

The affects of being thrust into another cultural environment were clearly demonstrated in a recent television series (e.g., Family Footsteps), in which adult children of Australian immigrants are relocated to their parents’ homeland to experience life (including work), as it would have been had they not migrated. The visitor is assigned to a local person, of similar age, who acts as a cultural guide to assist them in their cultural assimilation. The two-week visits do not provide enough time to adapt to the environment – but the responses of the participants are enlightening nevertheless.

We briefly considered cultural mapping is a training technique used to assist people with cultural adaptation. I thought this was a very useful and skilful method of managing some of the many problems that could be associated with cultural adaptation. It involves identifying and mapping behavioural steps used to manage a situation in the cultural context. A person familiar with the local culture facilitates this process. Mapping behaviours ultimately enables the visitor to develop a script for specific behaviours in the new cultural context. An example provided in the tutorial was developing the skills of a foreign student to ask for assistance from a university lecturer. Also see: Tutorial Four Outline – Cultural mapping.


Tutorial Five: Australian zeitgeist[edit]

Additional resource: Tutorial Five Outline

Concepts: Social capital, social disengagement & zeitgeist[edit]

Early 21st Century American zeitgeist?

Three key concepts were explored in this tutorial: social capital, social disengagement and zeitgeist:

Social capital seems to refer to that which is invested in a society. In this context, investment does not (necessarily) refer to capital investment – but social investments such as relationships, a sense of community, social networks, positive goodwill etc. The community members can draw on these investments. The members of the society create the tangible and intangible aspects of social capital. Social capital must be kept alive through facilitation and reinforcement. In many societies I expect a governing body (or similar) would provide some support for a society’s social capital (e.g. by maintaining and providing facilities and making resources available to facilitate social capital). This could effectively link social and capital investments.

Social disengagement can be described as the lack of connected, collective social involvement. It is marked by decreased community activities (e.g., the demise of weekly church attendance, poor or limited interaction with one’s neighbours), decreased or distant family connections (e.g., smaller, isolated family units), and increased individual activity (e.g., lost sense of community at university). The fact that we need formal programs such as Neighbourhood Watch and Safety Houses indicates how socially disengaged our society has become.

Zeitgeist is a term used to capture the spirit or flavour of the age and its society (Also see: Zeitgeist).

The Australian zeitgeist[edit]

The Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay covers the concepts of social capital, social disengagement and zeitgeist in his lecture:

Social disengagement: A breeding ground for fundamentalism

Mackay's address provides a description of the Australian zeitgeist by summarising the effects of a 30-year cultural revolution that has systematically eroded our social capital by facilitating social disengagement. He considers this social degradation under the themes: gender, economy, technology and identity. In brief, Hugh Mackay tells us, over the last thirty years Australians have become more self-centered, more individualistic, ‘me’ obsessed and materialistic, less community minded, and less socially aware. They are unwilling to commit for fear of missing out on something better, marry later, divorce more frequently, have less (or no) children. Fewer people live in bigger houses, and have bigger debts. There is a sense of job insecurity, and the gap between rich and poor is wider. We confuse data transfer with communication, we lack a national identity and understandably, this distresses many people.

Mackay also condemns the current fundamentalist approach to managing this shift, and as a wise alternative suggests we embrace social re-engagement to change our social course.

Family-House-1969.jpgExpecting family.jpgDoing the best she can.jpgMale Couple With Child-02.jpgBasKastSina.JPG

The changing face of the Australian family: 4 children (1969), 1.7 children (2005), a single mum, two dads, a childless couple


I can completely relate to Hugh Mackay’s ‘zeitgeist’ but can’t help wondering if this connection is age-related. My husband and I often find ourselves discussing the issues raised by Mackay, but I usually conclude that we are now at an age where we may be less accepting of change and the activities of youth. (Or maybe we try to hang on to what is comfortable - Isn’t that what happens when you’re middle aged? Mind you, I think Hugh might be a bit older than us and he has a wealth of research to support his comments). I recently read a report from a scholar who suggested parents should actually participate in some of their children’s computer/on-line games to see what they are really like rather than passing ill-informed judgement on their worth. A similar report explained the (seemingly endless and meaningless) use of technology (chatrooms, instant messaging, mobile phones and text messaging etc) as the very essence of social connection in teenagers and young adults.

Maybe, as someone suggested in the tutorial, this state of affairs is just another era in our social existence to be recorded in history and why should we actively try to alter it? I thought that was a very interesting approach.

Nevertheless, we were asked to create a practical strategy to manage some of the issues raised in Mackay’s address. Interestingly many of the responses related to educating the young (No hope left for the old ones). These are some of those ideas:

  • Create a school-based community area for environmental engagement
  • A ‘slow-down-stop and share’ campaign (~ Slow Movement)
  • Introduce a school program valuing social connections e.g., volunteering (~ Civic Education)
  • Ban PCs – deconstructing fictional gaming
  • Establish a rewards system for the use of green bags
  • Educate children in social engagement and the role of government in our society (~ Civic Education)
  • Severely limit retail shopping hours, so people could spend more time relating to each other. This could be extended to restricting household media access…


Even more worrying is the violence we do to our personal relationships when we let media consume time we might otherwise spend with each other

Hugh Mackay