- 1 O-kay...A bit of a delayed start but here we go!
- 2 Weeks 1 & 2: Lectures and tute
- 3 Sensory deprivation on the radio
- 4 Ghosts of Rwanda, followed by an amusing clip
- 5 The video I can't remember the name of...
- 6 Week 12: Tute
- 7 Aggression, Attitudes and Anti-Social Behaviour
- 8 Reflections on Childhood Bullying, and Aggression in general
- 9 Just out of interest: finishing up on serial killers
O-kay...A bit of a delayed start but here we go!
So, I'm doing Social Psych, and this is my grand attempt at a Wiki page. I'm finding this new set-up Wikiversity/UCSpace, etc, just a tad frustrating. I might be acting like a dinosaur, but I really do prefer WebCT. Just putting it out there.
Not sure what to write, so I'm just going to dive straight into it. I've been a bit slack in getting the textbook and doing the online readings so far - still getting myself in uni-mode again. However, the essay for this subject is about the only assessment I have this semester across all my subjects that I'm actually keen to do - may have something to do with the freedom to choose and research my own topic. On a broad scale, I'm thinking of looking into contributing factors to aggression, or perhaps to specific classes of criminal - still figuring out what I want to narrow mine down to. The bullying aspect has piqued my interest, but I have already done some research into juvenile aggression, so I don't really want to cover the same ground twice. Ho-hum!
While I'm on the topic of aggression, it never fails to annoy me (just a tad) that the general response when I voice that I am interested in studying aggression and criminal behaviour, is for people to say "Oh, I bet you watch all those crime shows on TV - SVU, CSI, NCIS?"
I only watch NCIS, and purely for the comedic value. And the brilliant role that Pauley Perrette plays.
Weeks 1 & 2: Lectures and tute
I really enjoyed last week's tute; it was certainly a different way to get to know one another. I was surprised at the amount of people in the tute - definitely the biggest one I've been in so far. Glad there are no presentations in this unit! It was nice to see some originality on the part of the lecturers/tutors. I did notice that some people seemed slightly offended by some of the topics, and categories that we were separated in to - from what I saw/heard; identifying relationship status seemed to ruffle a few feathers. I found it interesting that, while James selected the broad topic, it was the students that really defined the categories that we were fitting ourselves into, and yet a few people were still sniffy about the category that they put themselves in. I did enjoy collaborating with others on the 'what do you know/what don't you know/how would you define s.p' exercise, and I've come to these conclusions:
1. I don't know a lot.
2. I would like to know a lot. I would particularly like to look more into the mob mentality and the impact it can have on individual judgement.
3. I figure S.P as the study of behaviour and interactions relating to groups and individuals.
Also quite enjoyed discussing essay topics, simply due to the broad range of interests that people have. One man's trash is another one's treasure (not quite the best metaphor, but you get the idea).
I haven't been going to the lectures as I have a tutorial clash, but I have been listening to them online. I haven't really developed any strong opinions on the topic yet, but I've found what's been mentioned so far to be incredibly interesting, particularly the topics that discuss psychological and social abnormalities (Post-World War II atrocities, serial and violent offenders, etc). The statistics and background provided in the first lecture (which I did go to) on the planetary system and world population growth etc were really interesting - not quite what I was expecting to be discussed in a social psych lecture. I must admit that, being the first week, I wasn't really switched on enough to really enjoy the whole lecture - I did zone out a bit while we were going through all the basic, introductory stuff. Left a bit early to get to another class and missed out on the research participation bit, so I'm kicking myself for that. Just went up and check the psych board/office today for something and there's bugger all. Hoping I can get enough RRP to meet requirements between this and M&E (6hrs all up, grr. Thought I'd left RRP behind in first year).
Listened to the second lecture online during the week while I was getting ready for work, but I just had it playing as I was running around getting myself ready, so unfortunately I didn't really take in that much. I’ll have to sort something better out in the future. Did catch the bits about people overestimating their attributes and ability to control situations - isn't there some truth in that! I didn't have time to look at the slides whilst listening to the lecture recordings, but did go over them the next day at work, and I was a bit disappointed to find that nothing on the slides really jogged my memory.
Sensory deprivation on the radio
I don't know how many of you have heard of this yet, but it was news to me.
I was listening to fm104.7 last night (rare in itself, I'm normally a Triple J person) and was interested to learn that the fm104.7 crew are running a sort of sensory deprivation experiment all this week. Basically, they've put a 30-something mum in a white room that contains the bare neccessities, ie, a bed. The challenge is for this woman to last out 5 days and 4 nights in this room alone, with no stimulation, but with whatever crazy annoyances the radio team throws in. As of last night, when she entered the room, they had put 10 stick insects in the room, had a consistently flickering flurescent light and a 24-hr continuous looped recording of Richard Reid's hyena-laugh. Sounds pretty painful, and that was all just in the first twenty minutes of her being in there.
It's not a true set-up, as I'm pretty sure she will be giving updates on the radio at regular intervals, so there is going to be some form of human interaction, but it will certainly be interesting to keep tabs on her progress during the week, and it seems fairly reminiscent of the Big Brother "white room".
On the plus side, if she can last the week, she'll win $10,000, so there's a bit of incentive!
Ghosts of Rwanda, followed by an amusing clip
After having watched the Ghosts of Rwanda video, I have to admit that I wasn't shocked. For what is a generally considered a highly emotional topic, I experienced very little emotional response to the graphics and dialouge. I talked to a few people in the week 4 tute, and this seemed to be the common response as well. I questioned a few friends, family, and workmates about it a few days later as well, and from what I noticed, the younger generation (no disrespect intended) could discuss the genocide and politics of it without getting worked up, whereas older people were more opinionated, and generally just got more emotional and heated. And then there were some very unconcerned and unaware people...one person didn't even know where Rwanda was.
Generally, the younger people (I'll be honest, I know some of my friends and family are pretty uninterested in world events and current affairs, so for this purpose, I'm excluding them) were the who could discuss the ins and outs of the topic while remaining quite detached, whereas those a couple of generations up couldn't. Just goes to show how much technology has desensitised us.
And now for something lighter - a funny video!
I recently found this clip on YouTube - someone's got a great sense of humour! We all know there's some "type" of people that we go out of our way to avoid in public - this one reminds me of the woman that used to dance through one of the main streets in Florey around the time that school got out (minus the Walkman and fluro spandex).
The video I can't remember the name of...
But it was the Jane Elliot one. I don’t think there was much in this experiment that majorly surprised me, or challenged my perceptions, per se. It more confirmed the social roles that people adopt when in group and/or high-pressure environments. The intense emotional reactions were interesting, I think possibly more because they were so typically American (read: over the top), and I wasn't really expecting such a display of emotions in a televised experiment (oh, come on, who am I kidding?). I was mildly surprised that the guy at the start actually walked out – although my conclusion is that he did so out of sheer arrogance at being knocked down off his high horse, rather then opposing to the underlying theme of the experiment. I mean, honestly, surely they had an inkling of what they had agreed to participate in – if it’s not your cup of tea, why bother? And people scorn generation X and Y-ers from not committing…
I will look up her original "brown eyed, blue eyed" experiment (I wonder what they did to those poor green-eyed kids? They don't even get the privilege of being discriminated against, they just get ignored. Shunted off to another class, I imagine).
Week 12: Tute
Loved the Hugh MacKay audio. The jumps in the script kind of distracted me from listening, so I ended up giving up trying to follow the jumbled script to listen. The downside is that when something interesting, or important, came up, I had no idea where it was to mark it down. The comment on the falling marriage rate was spot on – that young Australians have grown up in an environment of constant change, as opposed to older generations where stability was the rule. Takes me back to my Family Law tutes a few years ago, when the tutor (not naming names) mentioned that approximately 49% of marriages end in divorce (that was current, in 2006). I haven’t forgotten the uproar that created in the tute – having grown up in a society where divorce doesn’t even rate as gossip, I was rather amazed at the scorn that statistic received from the older members of the tute, in particular, the few who were still married and never gone through divorce. I remember that camp blaming the younger generations, and someone (not sure who) said that “young ones (current 30’s and younger) didn’t appreciate commitment, and weren’t brought up to handle or commit to something long-term, apart from familial relationships” (or something along those lines). On the other hand, those that had a divorce or two under their belt were every bit as blasé as the young ‘uns. I remember that we had a couple of “young ‘uns” in the class who were very, very outspoken (completely opposite of me here), and one of the guys said that it wasn’t that younger generations were more reckless, or take things less seriously, it was that there wasn’t the societal pressure of having to stick something that was less than functional out, which was a totally fair call. Which caused a stink again. I’m fairly certain the class ended with a very uneasy “agree to disagree” treaty.
Anyway, Hugh MacKay, great lecture/audio/tute exercise, would like to hear it again, this time without a jumbled transcript to distract me. The concepts of social capital (being desireable) and social disengagement (being undesireable) were interesting. I beleive it was mentioned in the MacKay lecture that while humans have become quite socially disengaged in terms of , ie, living arrangements (one and two person households being incredibly common), we are actively seeking engagement and involvement as well, such as joining team activities (sports), and taking up group hobbies (say, cooking classes).
When I left class, I looked back on the poster that my little group had done up, on promoting personal responsibility by using recyclable/disposable shopping bags and realised how hard it was to come up with an original idea, that wasn’t at least based or inspired by something else. In the end, I ripped off the basis of the Commonwealth Bank’s rewards-for-dollars program and Aldi’s tough-love bag policy (which I completely and absolutely love). Anyway, the approach for our solution was derived from the theory on operant conditioning. Which, to my knowledge, didn't really come up in Social Psych.
As far as I’m aware, no group was awarded that fictitious “grant” either.
Aggression, Attitudes and Anti-Social Behaviour
I’ve spent the last fortnight reading the textbook, and I’m pleased to say I actually *gasp* enjoyed it (OK, not all of it, but most of it). I know I’m ratting myself out here, but for someone who hasn’t read anything more than the glossary in her textbooks for the last two years, I think that’s quite a compliment. Predictably, the chapter on Attitudes and Aggression ranked in at Number 1 on the interest scale. The top points of interest are:
1. Armin Meiwes. I’d already heard about this case, but the difference in perspective and reporting style between the textbook and whatever late night, murder mystery show I was watching? To quote MasterCard, “priceless”. While I wasn’t initially sure if I’d have classed Miewes’ crime as an act of aggression or not (I tend to think of more spur of the moment crimes like assault and rape as acts of aggression), the definition of an act of aggression was rather enlightening. It helped me make sense why I was undecided on the nature of Miewes’ crime (but was it really a crime if it was entered into willingly? To my mind, it was a case of assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia. Was it not carrying out someone’ final wish, with their full consent and blessing?). I agreed with the authors definitions/features of aggression as a behaviour, not am emotion; that aggression is intentional and intended to inflict harm; and that the victim wants to avoid the harm, and in light of those definitions, then yes, Miewes’ crime doesn’t class as an act of aggression. Great example.
2. The debate on whether aggression is innate or learned (the eternal battle, nature vs. nurture). As with N v N, I tend to go towards 50/50. The influences and drives co-exist. The whole theory and the surrounding debate are fascinating. The photos of the kids going psycho are something else. The look of unadulterated enjoyment on the girls face in the second picture, last row (p.298) is unbelievably creepy. She looks like one of those kids that pull the wings of flies for the fun of it.
3. The inner causes of aggression, particularly frustration (which incidentally, goes hand in hand with being in a bad mood). As I work in a call centre (a government one too – everyone likes to bitch about the public servants when things go wrong, no matter what department they’re in, what their role is of the sheer relevance of their job to you, the callers, problem). I tentatively agree with those who believe that Miller et al.’s theory was overstated (key word: always) – there can be aggression without frustration (I mean, getting punched in the face doesn’t get you frustrated, but it sure does make you want to retaliate). The suggestion that there can be frustration without aggression is valid too, but this is where I have trouble translating. Frustration in me personally tends to bring on aggressive thoughts (but hang on, aggression wasn’t a cognitive process, say the authors!), whether it’s frustration having to repeat myself for the tenth time in two minutes on a call, or the frustration of having my computer spaz and delete my entire social psychology essay 38 hours before it was due (yes, this happened. I didn’t hand it in at 4am Monday morning without doing a final spell check for the hell of it). I may not act, or even talk, aggressively, but in my head, there is the teensiest bit of intention to inflict harm.
I'd also never considered cheating as an anti-social behaviour. I'd rather associated it with laziness, or lack of preparedness or confidence. Learn something new everyday.
Other favourite chapters included Attraction and Exclusion (jealousy and possessiveness), Prejudice and Inter-group Relations (stereotyping), and Groups (de-individualisation and mob violence, and punishing cheaters and free riders, or loafers, as I like to call them).
Reflections on Childhood Bullying, and Aggression in general
So, I did my essay on bullying, specifically what the causes and consequences of childhood bullying where/are. I originally started with bullying in general, but found 95% of the literature focused solely on bullying in the school yard. It seemed rather logical to narrow it down to this, as I think the initial question was far too broad for such a small essay, word count wise (would really have loved to be able to have thrown another 1,000 words in there, James). Of particular inters to me were the gender differences between the styles or types of bullying (in being a bully, not necessarily a victim, although it reinforced my belief that girls are just so incredibly devious), and the consequences that have on each gender. My favourite line was one broached in Milgram (1974), who stated that some children are just evil (hence why they bully). It was quite refreshing and uncensored, doubly so after trawling through tens of suffocatingly scholarly articles that seemed to be acting as a mediator between bully and victim.
I found the topic very interesting, but not much of a challenge. Information was readily available, and there were few discrepancies between findings, conclusions, observations, opinions. It did surprise me that bullies by proxy were mentioned relatively few times – I found this to be of special interest, probably because of the motivational and social influences that those around can have on someone who is perhaps weaker willed, compelling them to take part actively in something they fear or loathe. The one thing I am disappointed in with my essay is that I don’t believe I pulled it off as a review of the literature, when comparing to the style and language of other recent review articles I read. If there had been a higher word count allowance (say, 5,000) I would have liked to evolve from looking just at the causes and consequences of childhood bullying, to a more detailed insight into the incidence rates of children, adolescents and adults who had been involved in bullying and crime (both petty and serious).
I can’t honestly say one group interested me more than the others – I found victims, bullies, bully-victims, bullies by proxy and bystanders all equally fascinating, and would dearly have loved to have been able to explore them each in more depth. Being able to research topics I am genuinely interested in is a great reminder of why I came to uni – and has certainly helped keep me here!! I think every research assignment that has come as a pleasure to do, rather than a burden or chore, has had something to do with criminality and anti-social or aggressive behaviours or deeds. I think this topic is something I can link back to earlier research assignments dealing with aggressive and anti-social behaviour in children and teenagers, whether it’s restorative justice or mental capacity, and I fully intend to go back over my old stuff with this new knowledge in mind, and see if there isn’t something that I would perhaps change or query.
Just out of interest: finishing up on serial killers
I was a bit miffed that someone else appropriated my topic for the essay (that’ll teach me for voicing ideas aloud in class), so once I finished my essay on my second choice topic, I did a bit of reading for myself on topics of interest, while masquerading as help my friend’s kid sister with her year 12 presentation on Hannibal Lecter and relating it to theories appropriate for a college class (in the end, I got too technical and engrossed to be of any real use – I progressed from Wikipedia to EBSCOhost and Expanded Academic. Wikipedia is, by the way, my new favourite time-waster. You can’t stop just at one topic’s page.).
I hopped on to Expanded and was surprised by the amount of scholarly articles devoted top picking apart how serial killers are portrayed in the media – fictitious movies, in particular. For instance, Greenberg’s (2004) (short) critical essay documenting Aileen Wuornous’ killing spree of truckies in Florida, and the later representations of Wuornous-inspired characters in Monster and Thelma and Louise, and representations and theories on female serial killers in general. The theme of serial killers being represented in the media and in fiction are also discussed in Goldberg’s and Crespo (2003), with a focus on the movie Copycat. Sundelson (1993) focused entirely on The Silence of the Lambs.
EBSCO was a bit more helpful, in terms with theories and real-life cases, etc, as opposed to elaborate movie reviews. Clinicide came up as a form of serial killing, being the unnatural death of multiple patients by a doctor, which is really quite interesting. Kaplan (2007) is well worth a read. Dr Marcel Petiot (France) was the original clinicitition (I know that’s not a word), and incidentally the worst serial killer in French history. Doctors from Britain and the US also get a special mention. Kaplan’s theory was that many clinicians have highly narcissistic personalities (so do bullies!), and have a grandiose view of themselves, or a God-complex over wielding the power over life and death. Winter (2007) discussed tight construing; violence as “slot rattling” (a process constructed at the opposite pole to which it was assigned); violence as an absolution of guilt, shame avoidance, and a dedicated act; and aggressive and hostile violence, as pathways to violence and homicide. Personal construct theory was the focus here, and the offender’s perceptions of their actions when compared to the degree of consistency in the behaviours and their constructions of the self and the world.
Makes for good bedtime reading, really.