Topic 1 - Introduction to Social Psychology
This week’s textbook chapters were numbers 1 & 2.
Chapter 1 - The Mission and the Method:
This chapter focuses on a brief history of social psychology and also covers relevant issues to social psychologists; these include what they do, their place in the world, why people study social psychology, how they answer their own questions, and how much of social psychology is true.
The main aspect of this chapter that I enjoyed and found most informative were the examples used to illustrate the topics. In the introduction to the chapter for example, there a numerous examples of social human behaviour, such as sixteen thousand people gathering in California to support world peace and harmony, and the number of decisions you need to make to order your favourite cup of coffee (apparently this is 25 000 at Starbucks). Social psychology therefore helps us make sense of the bizarre diversity of human behaviour, as well as each individual’s own social world. It can help people understand the basic principle of social influence, as well as principles of social behaviour. One excellent point was also that while people are shaped by their culture collectively, the power of culture also has limited power to shape the individual. Some people will actively rebel against their culture, or simply allow it to guide their decisions and actions instead of determine them.
My favourite part of this chapter was probably the section on social psychology’s place within psychology. It explained that while psychology is simply the study of human behaviour, it may also be thought of as a big tree with many branches. Social psychology is but one of those branches, and is furthermore one which intertwines with many other branches. This section of the chapter then goes on to describe the other branches of psychology (biological psychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and personality psychology) and explains how social psychology is involved in each of them. Personality psychology for instance focuses on important differences between individuals, as well as their inner processes. Social psychology is thought to be both complementary and competitive to personality psychology, as psychologists need to recognise both the importance of inner processes and circumstances or situational factors. I myself am also very fascinated by the person-situation debate, so find these comments particularly appropriate.
Behaviorism – theoretical approach that seeks to explain behavior in terms of learning principles, without reference to inner states, thoughts or feelings.
Freudian Psychoanalysis – theoretical approach that seeks to explain behavior by looking at the deep unconscious forces inside the person.
Social Psychology – the branch of psychology that seeks a broad understanding of how human beings think, act and feel.
ABC Triad – Affect (how people feel inside), Behavior (what people do), Cognition (what people think about).
Anthropology – the study of human culture; the shared values, beliefs, and practices of a group of people.
Sociology – the study of human societies and the groups that form of those societies.
Philosophy – ‘love of wisdom’; the pursuit of knowledge about fundamental matters such as life, death, meaning, reality and truth.
Applied Research – research that focuses on solving particular practical problems.
Chapter 2 - Culture and Nature:
This chapter is about the influences of culture and nature on human behaviour. It covers such topics as explaining the psyche through nature, evolution, and culture, the social brain theory and whether or not people have evolved for culture, the facts of life such as food and sex as needs, and important features of human social life such as social acceptance and social competence. This chapter also introduces prominent themes in social psychology such as ‘bad is stronger than good’, ‘the duplex mind’, and ‘nature says go, culture says stop’.
The introduction to this chapter featured the story of David Reimer, the man on whom the book ‘As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl’ was based. This true story is basically about a pair of infant twins born in Canada in 1967, one of whom suffered a terrible accident during a circumcision which destroyed his penis. The boy’s parents were convinced by psychologists and other experts that the best way for the child to live a normal life was to completely remove any remains of the penis and raise him as a girl. Some psychologists saw this as the best opportunity for a study on gender and sexuality because the subject had the perfect control, and identical twin.
I have in fact read the book ‘As Nature Made Him’ before and found it quite fascinating. I found many aspects of this book interesting; however the story about David, (originally named Bruce, changed to Brenda by his parents after the accident, and then changed to David by himself) is just one aspect of the account. The author John Colapinto also provided lots of information about the controversial nature of the treatment of this matter by the psychologists of the time and other researchers who reported on the matter. While the child was being raised there were many research reports published which reported that the experiment was a complete success, however much of what they wrote was fallacy as the child never took to his new identity as a girl. Any evidence that the child could grow into a happy, well adjusted female would have been proof of the importance of environment over biology in the differentiation of the sexes. The lies of researcher Dr Money brought him great fame and acclaim as a medical psychologist and sex researcher until 1997 when the truth surfaced; David had found out about his gender reassignment and underwent surgery more than 15 years before to be restored to the correct gender in his genes (Colapinto, 2000).
Another aspect of this story that I find quite interesting is how often I have read accounts of it which are incorrect. While there are certain parts of the story that have had many different renditions reported, those delivered in the book by John Colapinto appear most accurate. In the introduction of this chapter for example, there are many errors that are contradicted by the accounts in Colapinto’s book. For example, in this chapter it is reported that the boy was circumcised just after his birth, when in fact the twins were eight months old and the circumcision was a medical procedure recommended as treatment for phimosis, a condition which causes a male infant’s foreskin to constrict and make it painful and difficult for the child to pass urine. Secondly, the doctor’s hand did not slip and the penis was not cut off, but was burned by a combination of the unusual laser device that the doctor had chosen to do the cutting and the metal clamp around the penis. After being burned the penis was left attached to the child’s body, before it dried up and broke away in pieces over the following few days. Lastly, it is commonly reported that he killed himself, but it is not usually mentioned that his twin brother Brian had also killed himself a few years before. This may suggest that it might not have been the influence of the happenings of his life which is commonly implied, but perhaps some other aspect of the twins upbringing or personality.
The other aspect of this chapter that I found particularly interesting was the part on the social brain theory. This theory proposes that the human brain has evolved to enable us to develop large and more complex social structures. It also proposes that the large human brain is not for understanding the physical world around us, but instead for understanding each other. Human beings are distinctively social animals, so therefore it is not absurd that the making of culture is one of the evolved functions of the human brain and psyche.
Psyche – a broader term for the mind, encompassing emotions, desires, perceptions, and all other psychological processes.
Natural Selection – process whereby those members of a species that survive and reproduce the most effectively are the ones that pass along their genes to future generations.
Praxis – practical way of doing things.
Culture – an information based system that includes shared ideas and common ways of doing things.
Social Animals – animals that seek connections to others and prefer to live, work, and play with other members of their species.
Cultural Animal – the view that evolution shaped the human psyche so as to enable humans to create and take part in culture.
Duplex Mind – the idea that the mind has two different processing systems (conscious and automatic).
Automatic System – the part of the mind outside of consciousness that performs simple operations.
Conscious System – the part of the mind that performs complex operations.
This week’s learning was a good introduction to the topic of social psychology. The two textbook chapters were easy to read and used practical examples from both real life scenarios and experimental cases. As of yet we have not had any tutorials for this social psychology unit, however I’m expecting them to be very interesting indeed.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Colapinto, J. (2000). As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. Sydney: Harper Collins.
Topic 2 - Social Self
This week’s textbook chapters were numbers 3 & 4.
Chapter 3 - The Self:
This chapter focuses on the concept of the ‘self’ in social psychology. It covers such topics as what is the self, where self-knowledge comes from, self and information processing, self-presentation, and self-esteem, self perception and positive illusions.
Once again, one of the most interesting parts of this chapter was in its introduction, where it told a story of a Hungarian nobleman named Count Miklos Zrinyi. In the late 1500s, the count was targeted by a Sultan who enlisted his entire army to conquer the count; in midst of the count’s demise he made the curious decision to put aside his armour and go into his final battle in his wedding suit of silk and velvet. He furthermore wore gold chains around his neck and filled his pockets with gold. The reason for his absurd act was that the count was so concerned with his projected self image, that even in death he wanted the person who killed him to know that he was an ‘important’ person. The story about the count is an excellent demonstration of the importance of self-presentation. The task of making a good impression on those people of whom we interact (even perhaps those who will be killing us) appears to be a large part of human nature. In everyday life I myself must admit to taking careful consideration to the way I present myself in order to make a good impression; whether it be on my boss, my classmates, my boyfriend, and even my boyfriend’s ex girlfriend (as I recently discovered). This need that we seemingly have to impress others with our ‘self’ apparently stems from the notion that the human self is an important tool in social society, which we must wield in order to satisfy our needs. While evolution might suggest that our projected self should serve the goals of survival or reproduction, today it has become more a representation of our being than a tool. As demonstrated by the count in the previous story, the care for his projected self was certainly not one of survival.
Another part of this chapter that I found particularly interesting was the section on the ‘looking-glass self’ theory. This theory proposes that people learn about themselves from others, and that people learn more everyday through their interactions with others. The theory proposes three components to the looking-glass self: (a) you imagine how you appear to others, (b) you imagine how others will judge you, and (c) you develop an emotional response as a result of imagining how others will see yourself. You may then alter your projected self accordingly and begin the cycle again. I think this theory is excellent as it is applicable to developmental psychology and social maturation. For example, when a child is young and largely egocentric, they have a fairly limited self concept such as ‘I have brown hair’, ‘I go to pre-school’, and it is by these things that they define themself. As a child matures however, they attend school and spend more and more time with people outside their immediate family; people who judge them based on their projected self. By high school it is evident that most young teens care mainly about what others think of their projected self, and furthermore judge themselves accordingly. They begin to use self comparison to define their ‘self’ in accordance with others, and furthermore may regulate their projected self using the ‘looking-glass’ to reflect the person they think they are or may want to be. From attending a public high school with very lenient uniform requirements, I found that teenagers will do almost anything to manipulate how others perceive them; they may go to great lengths to be stereotyped by others as a ‘sporty’ person, a ‘popular’ person, an ‘academic’ person, a ‘musical’ person (more often called muso), and even a ‘nerd’ or a ‘gothic’ person. Funnily enough it was not the nerds who were rejected at my high school, but the people who did not fit into any of these stereotypical categories. As people leave high school and become adults they realise that the outside world does have stereotypes and categories, however these are not as clear and distinct as those found in school. They may then begin to integrate various other aspects of their projected self as they begin to serve different roles in society (employee, work mate, partner, parent) and over time perhaps become more and more of their true self.
Self Concept – the set of beliefs about oneself.
Public Self – the image of the self that is conveyed to others.
Agent Self – the part of the self involved in control, including both control over other people and self-control.
Independent Self-Construal – a self-concept that emphasises what makes the self different and sets it apart from others.
Interdependent Self-Construal – a self-concept that emphasises what connects the self to other people and groups.
Self-Regulation – the process people use to control and change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
Looking-Glass Self – the idea that people learn about themselves by imagining how they appear to others.
Self Comparison – examining the difference between oneself and another person.
Self-Perception Theory – the theory that people observe their own behaviour to infer what they are thinking and how they are feeling.
Self-Esteem – how favourably someone evaluates himself or herself.
Self-Serving Bias – a pattern in which people claim credit for success but deny blame for failure.
Self-Presentation – any behaviour that seeks to convey some image of self or some information about the self to other people.
Chapter 4 - Behaviour Control: The Self in Action:
This chapter focuses on the topic of behaviour control. It covers such subtopics as action identification, freedom, choice, self-regulation, irrationality and self-destruction.
Action identification refers to how people experience what they do. Almost every action may be described at numerous levels of meaning; this section of the chapter describes low levels of meaning (making marks on paper), medium levels of meaning (taking an academic test), and high levels of meaning (proving knowledge). Furthermore, the higher the level of meaning of an action, the more meaningful the purpose and the richer the emotions involved. This is therefore the theory behind why we deal with positive events by focusing on higher levels of meaning and negative events by focusing on lower levels of meaning. I find this section applicable to my life as I do find myself dealing with test anxiety by breaking it down to ‘just two hours of writing in the gym’. I don’t however think that this is the best mind set to be in while studying for an exam because it also lessens the motivation to study. This thinking however might be helpful if someone is nervous before a soccer grand final, because if they just think of it as ‘an hour and a half of running around with a soccer ball’ they might pay more attention to their own influence on the game and performing the skills well during this.
Entity Theorists – those who believe that traits are fixed, stable things (entities) and thus people should not be expected to change.
Incremental Theorists – those who believe that traits are subject to change and improvement.
Learned Helplessness – belief that one’s actions will not bring about desired outcomes, leading one to give up and quit trying.
Panic Button Effect – a reduction in stress or suffering due to a belief that one has the opinion of escaping or controlling the situation, even if one doesn’t exercise it.
Zeigarnick Effect – a tendency to experience automatic, intrinsic thoughts about a goal whose pursuit has been interrupted.
Self-Determination Theory – the theory that people need to feel at least some degree of autonomy and internal motivation.
Risk Aversion – in decision making, the greater weight given to possible losses than possible gains.
Temporal Discounting – in decision making, the greater weight given to the present over the future.
Certainty Effect – in decision making, the greater weight given to definite outcomes than to possibilities.
Omission Bias – the tendency to take whatever course of action does not require you to do anything.
Capacity to Delay Gratification – the ability to make immediate sacrifices for later rewards.
Tutorial 1 - Introduction:
This tutorial provides an introduction to the Social Psychology unit, sociometric exercises to explore student social groupings, and helps to develop student understandings and interest in social psychology.
The first introductory tutorial in most university courses is usually consumed by endless games aimed at learning other people’s names (which I think are usually useless because I forget 90% of them anyway), luckily we didn’t have to do this. We did have to wear nametags, however in my opinion that is a small price to pay to not have name-games forced upon you. The first tutorial for social psychology began with an interesting exercise which involved the class being divided into various groups or sub-cultures. The divisions used were eye colour, number of siblings, country of birth, where you live in Canberra, religion, political views, relationship status, and opinion on the person-situation debate. I thought this was an extremely valuable exercise and an excellent way to start a unit on social psychology. While it was evident that some people were uncomfortable disclosing their political views, religion, and some even their country of birth, I found it enlightening & had no problems with it. I myself have hazel eyes (brown on the inside, green around the outside), I have one and a half siblings (that is a sister and a half-brother), was born in Australia (in Canberra even), I live in Kingston which is technically south however I think of it as central (Canberra only really has north and south), have no religion (raised without any), voted for labour (however by political views may change), am in a committed relationship, and think that both sides of the person-situation debate are correct (as well as interactionism).
The point that I took away from all this was that for every descriptive characteristic you can think of for yourself, there is a corresponding sub-cultural of other people who describe themselves in the same way – perhaps this is your ‘social self’. I must say that I have never really thought about this notion before; sure you think there are hundreds of people who you know and are associated with for social or cultural groups such as school, sport, work, family, suburb, town, country, etc, however you don’t really think about things such as ‘I have the same eye colour as these people’, or ‘I am in a committed relationship like these people’. These things are just the same as social groups in that they revolve around a singular common bond to identify with, however it is not as obvious as say being a member of a soccer team. Furthermore, whatever issues you may have with this feature of your existence, there are others who no doubt share your issue. It also made me think about issues related to cultural groups such as exclusion, racism, prejudice, stereotypes (which I’m sure will come in good time in this social psychology unit), and how they may stem from such silly and almost insignificant things such as the place you came from or the colour of your eyes (or skin). The nature of culture now has me deeply interested.
The second exercise we did in this tutorial involved writing up posters about what we know about social psychology. The four parts required were:
(a) Define social psychology – I had two definitions for this, which were: how society and human cultures influence individual people, and the interplay of genetic makeup, social interactions and the environment.
(b) What you know about social psychology – I wrote that so far I don’t really ‘know’ anything about social psychology other than general ideas, but I thought that so far it seemed interesting.
(c) What you want to know about social psychology – I want to know the extent of impact on social and environment on human behaviour.
(d) Essay ideas – the person-situation debate sounds really interesting, or perhaps something about the aging population and the related changing social dynamics.
For the actual poster my group drew up a diagram that James had used in the previous lecture which symbolised four types of social interactions: individuals acting upon individuals, individuals acting upon groups, groups acting upon individuals, and groups acting upon groups. Sure, this was a pretty simple way to describe social psychology, however our group decided that since we were all just beginning the course and didn’t really know much yet, the simplest diagram made the most sense to all of us. (Picture of diagram)
As previously mentioned, I particularly enjoyed the social division exercise in the first tutorial this week. It was good because it wasn’t just a mundane attempt to get to know a few people’s names, plus you got to know a few things about the other people who were in your tute. I was a good demonstration of how many subcultures a small group of people can be divided into, and interesting to see who shared the same opinions or characteristics as myself. As silly as the nametags were, I must admit that they too were better than just saying and remembering someone’s name.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Topic 3 - Social Thinking
This week’s textbook chapters were numbers 5, 7 & 13.
Chapter 5 - Social Cognition:
This chapter of the text book is on social cognition; this was a movement in social psychology that began in the 1970s that focused on thoughts about people and about social relationships. The topics of social cognition covered in this chapter are the goals of thinking, automatic and controlled thinking, attributions, heuristics, errors and biases, and how to reduce cognitive errors.
The topic of interest for me from this chapter would have to be attribution. Attributions are the causal explanations that people give for their own and others’ behaviours; they are also the inferences people make for events in their lives. I have read many times about the different types of attributions such as self-serving bias and the fundamental attribution error, however I find with myself that whether I fall into these patterns or not depends largely on the circumstances and the people I am dealing with. In relation to the fundamental attribution error, I find that I usually make the opposite mistake, in that I overestimate the situational factors of people’s behaviour and underestimate the internal factors. People often tell me that I am too trusting of others and I feel this is usually the reason. I do realise that these theories are not hard and fast and do not occur 100% of the time, however I suspect that individual differences may determine how likely a person is to make this error or not. With self-serving bias I feel that similar components may be involved. I believe that some people (perhaps people with a more central locus of control) are more likely to blame failure on themself, and share credit for success. I have played a lot of team sports in my life and have noticed that there are some people who have the tendency to ‘talk themself up’ about the things they did well in the game, and mention nothing of the things they did wrong. Alternatively, there are also types of people who will not accept praise for their successes, and commonly dispute their achievements with other things they did wrong.
Social Cognition – a movement in social psychology that began in the 1970s that focused on thoughts about people and social relationships.
Cognitive Miser – a term used to describe people’s reluctance to do much extra thinking.
Schemas – knowledge structures that represent substantial information about a concept, its attributes, and its relationships to other concepts.
Attributions – the causal explanations people give for their own and others’ behaviours, and for events in general.
Fundamental Attribution Error – the tendency for observers to attribute other people’s behaviour to internal or dispositional causes and to downplay situational causes.
Ultimate Attribution Error – the tendency for observers to make internal attributions about whole groups of people.
Heuristics – mental shortcuts that provide quick estimates about the likelihood of uncertain events.
Confirmation Bias – the tendency to notice and search for information that confirms one’s beliefs and to ignore information that disconfirms one’s beliefs.
Conjunction Fallacy – the tendency to see and event as more likely as it becomes more specific because it is joined with elements that seem similar to events that are likely.
First Instinct Fallacy – the false belief that it is better not to change one’s first answer on a test even if one starts to think a different answer is better.
Chapter 7 - Attitudes, Beliefs and Consistency:
This chapter is on attitudes, beliefs and consistency. It covers such topics as attitudes versus beliefs, dual attitudes, why people have attitudes, formation of attitudes, polarisation, consistency, attacking and defending behaviours, and beliefs and believing.
The section that I found most interesting in this chapter was the section on dual attitudes. Dual attitudes are different evaluations of the same attitude object, or an implicit attitude and an explicit attitude. Implicit attitudes are automatic and unconscious evaluative responses, while explicit attitudes on the other hand are controlled and conscious responses. Basically people can have different, competing attitudes in the conscious as opposed to the automatic parts of the mind. I find in my life this has been particularly apparent regarding attraction to certain members of the opposite sex (although I’m sure there are other issues at play here). For example, I have often spent time with somebody who is very attractive; however have found them so arrogant or annoying that I am totally repelled by them. The next time I see them I seem to have that initial attraction to them again, and then remember the painful encounter and begin fighting the attraction with repulsion. I must say I never have this problem with annoying members of the opposite sex who I am not initially attracted to; I furthermore find it particularly easy to remain in a negative attitude toward them.
Implicit Attitudes – automatic and non-conscious evaluative responses.
Explicit Attitudes – controlled and conscious evaluative responses.
Stigma – an attribute that is perceived by others as broadly negative.
Social Learning – a type of learning in which people are more likely to imitate behaviours if they have seen others rewarded for performing them, and less likely to imitate behaviours if they have seen others punished for performing them.
Attitude Polarisation – the finding that people’s attitudes become more extreme as they reflect on them.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory – the theory that inconsistencies produce psychological discomfort, leading people to rationalize their behaviour or change their attitudes.
Effort Justification – the finding that when people suffer, work hard, or make sacrifices, they will try to convince themselves that it is worthwhile.
Belief Perseverance – the finding that once beliefs form, they are resistant to change, even if the information on which they are based is discredited.
Cognitive Coping – the idea that beliefs play a central role in helping people cope with and recover from misfortunes.
Chapter 13 - Social Influence and Persuasion:
This chapter is on the topics of social influence and persuasion. It contains such subtopics as techniques of social influence (commitment, reciprocation, scarcity, and capturing and disrupting attention), persuasion, and resisting persuasion.
The part of this chapter that I found most interesting (and horrifying) was the story in the introduction about James Warren Jones, the leader of a cult called Jonestown. Jim Jones was so good at social influence and persuasion that he was able to convince 914 people to commit suicide. Social influence, be it positive or negative, is embedded in social life. It aids humans in their coexistence with others as they depend on others for survival and well-being, however for some it may also lead to poor life choices, and even death.
Normative Influence – going along with the crowd in order to be liked and accepted.
Informational Influence – going along with the crowd because you think the crowd knows more than you do.
Foot-In-The-Door Technique – influence technique based on commitment, in which one starts with a small request in order to gain eventual compliance with a larger request.
Low-Ball Technique – influence technique based on commitment, in which one first gets a person to comply with a seemingly low-cost request and only later reveals hidden additional costs.
Bait-and-Switch – influence technique based on commitment, in which one draws people in with an attractive offer that is unavailable and then switches them to a less attractive offer that is available.
Labelling Technique – influence technique bases on consistency, in which one assigns a label to an individual and then requests a favour that is consistent with the label.
Legitimisation-of-Paltry-Favours Technique – influence technique in which a requester makes a small amount of aid acceptable.
Door-In-The-Face Technique – influence technique based on reciprocity, in which one starts with an inflated request and then retreats to a smaller request that appears to be a concession.
That’s-Not-All Technique – influence technique based on reciprocity, in which one first makes and inflated request but, before the person can answer yes or no, sweetens the deal by offering a discount or bonus.
Pique Technique – influence technique in which one captures people’s attention, as by making a novel request.
Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique – influence technique in which one disrupts critical thinking by introducing and unexpected element, then reframes the message in a positive light.
Alpha Strategies – attempts to persuade others by increasing approach forces.
Omega Strategies – attempts to persuade others by decreasing avoidance forces.
Tutorial 2 - Communication:
The goal of this tutorial is to explore interpersonal communication models and to participate in some introductory communication skills exercises. It is intended, in part, to provide experimental participation in some ‘communication skills 101’ type exercises, but also to train undergraduate psychology students in ways they might themselves one day facilitate training of communication skills.
The second tutorial was focused upon communication; how do people communicate effectively and how do they learn to do this. The first thing we did was have a large tutorial group discussion about the levels of communication. Basically we decided that levels of communication range on a continuum from shallow to deep. This can also be thought of as a funnel, as there are a wide range of ways to use shallow communication, and only a few to use deep communication. Shallow communication for example consists of greetings, small talk, self disclosure, and the sharing of basic information. Basically we decided that shallow communication was predominantly aimed at the social acceptance of others; for example a simple greeting of ‘Hi, how are you?’ is often not really asking the person how they are, but is in fact a polite greeting or social ritual to signify that you socially accept them. Furthermore, the usual reply of ‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’ is also not really a question, but feedback to say that you appreciate their acceptance of you and that you reciprocate their acceptance too. Some people also brought up the issue that there are certain people who are lacking in communication skills who jump straight from shallow to deep communication too rapidly. This is effectively perceived as being too overbearing and may be a huge cause for social rejection.
Deep communication on the other hand is much more honest and personal; it may involve sharing one’s own ideas, thoughts, feelings, desires, and emotions. I does not involve the types of ‘scrips’ that shallow communication does and it is usually more cognitively demanding. Through the group discussion we also decided that it can really only be done face to face as it also involves the physical aspects of communication such as affect, expression and body language. These days with ever advancing technology the majority of human communication is however done on the phone, in letters, or in emails. Despite the fact that people try to use deep levels of communication such as sharing their thoughts and feelings, it really isn’t the same and we as a society are losing a lot of connectedness as a result.
The second aspect of communication discussed was channels of communication. At the most basic level these would probably be classified as verbal (word selection) and non-verbal (facial expression, body language, hand gestures, and tone of voice); the tutorial group collectively decided that verbal probably accounts for about 10% of the information received, while non-verbal accounts for about 90%. We were then informed that is was more like 7% and 93% respectively, which is good because we were pretty close. The non-verbal component is also made up of tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%). The next tutorial exercise was to split into small groups and come up with a more flexible or improved model of communication. My group’s model of communication was based upon a pyramid design with the most used levels of communication at the bottom, and the least used levels at the top. The bottom included telephone conversation, emails and text messages, the middle included polite greetings and superficial conversation, and the top included in-depth discussion and heart-to-heart conversation. We also discussed how similar our model was to the funnel design mentioned earlier; effectively ours is an inverted version of the funnel as the channels of communication at the bottom are for shallow communication, while the channels at the top are for deep communication.
The next section of this tutorial was a group discussion about the interpersonal communication model. This model consisted of two sections, (a) the transmission model, and (b) the communication feedback loop.
1. Transmission model:
• In this model messages are sent in signals and then decoded by the received.
• Humans are more organic than computers, so lots of ‘human’ variables interfere with the message; these include emotions, perceptions, language, motivation and ‘noise’.
• Lots or places exist where the message may break down between the sender and the receiver.
2. Communication feedback loop:
• The transmission model may be improved by reciprocating the message with active listening and feedback.
• The sender may also improve their communication by replicating the message and representing it in a variety of different ways.
• The message may also be broken down into manageable portions, also called ‘chunking’.
• The sender may also actively look for feedback.
The communication feedback loop, also known as the Shannon-Weaver model, may also be extended to the various channels of communication. The verbal and non-verbal channels discussed before are also applicable here, as feedback may simply be the receiver’s body language in response to the senders message. For example, if you are telling somebody some news and you are unsure if they will take it well or poorly, you can usually tell by their initial reaction or body language. You may also alter the message as you are sending it to account for this. Active listening is also a way to extend the feedback loop and improve communication, as the receiver of the message may consciously alter their feedback to the message through their own body language and even providing the sender with a summary of the message so they know that you understand. For example ‘so what you’re telling me is...’ may be used to clarify the message, and even allow the sender to alter the message if the receiver has in fact interpreted it wrong.
The last exercise for this tutorial was about body language, which is important because it accounts for more than half (55%) of communication when done face to face. For this exercise we were instructed to choose another person in the tutorial group who we didn’t know and demonstrate how close we could stand to each other comfortably to demonstrate personal space; most people stood about half a metre apart. Then we were instructed to make eye contact, when doing this most people took a step back; it wasn’t until then that I realised that my partner and I had in fact not been making direct eye contact in the first instance. Lastly, the tutor began placing random objects around the room on the floor; these included chairs, balls, toys, and even a rubber chicken. With our partner we were then instructed to have one person close their eyes and the other to direct the person across the room without them touching any of the objects. This was a fun exercise which was great for demonstrating communication and practicing communication skills, however being the person with their eyes closed was pretty difficult as you also had to trust this person who you didn’t really know, and furthermore try to hear their instructions while ignoring every other person in the room instructing their own partner. Luckily we made it successfully across the room without injury or embarrassment.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Topic 4 - Aggression
This week’s textbook chapter was number 9.
Chapter 9 - Aggression and Antisocial Behaviour:
This chapter focuses on aggression and antisocial behaviour. It covers such topics as defining aggression, instinct theories of aggression, learning theories of aggression, nature and nurture on aggression, inner causes of aggression, interpersonal causes of aggression, external causes of aggression, and other antisocial behaviour.
The aspect of this chapter which I found most interesting was that on the discussion regarding whether aggression is innate or learned. Instinct theorists such as Sigmund Freud argue that aggression is a basic instinct, much like sex. According to Freud’s theory, there is a life-giving instinct (eros), and a destructive, death instinct (thanatos). While I don’t often agree with much of what Freud wrote, I must say that I find myself agreeing with the notion of instinctual aggression. In order to survive, humans need to instinctually fight for their life if the need arises, which could be thought of as the eros instinct, and become aggressive to that which threatens us, which is the thantos instinct. In today’s society there are not many real dangers which would cause the thantos instinct to arise for its intended purpose, however it remains within us and will manifest itself if arousal similar to the threat of life occurs. People may experience life threatening arousal in a variety of ways, but to some the thantos instinct may surface in a reaction to anger, fear, or even passion. The type of aggression exhibited in a sports person for example stems from their passion for their sport and their desire to win; there are no threats to their life, but our instincts do not always know the difference.
Hostile Aggression – ‘hot’, impulsive, angry behaviour that is motivated by a desire to harm someone.
Instrumental Aggression – ‘cold’, premeditated, calculated harmful behaviour that is a means to some practical or material end.
Passive Aggression – harming others by withholding a behaviour, such as deliberately failing to convey a message.
Active Aggression – harming others by performing a behaviour, such as spreading vicious rumours.
Violence – aggression that has its goal extreme physical harm, such as injury or death.
Eros – in Freudian theory, the constructive, life-giving instinct.
Thanatos – in Freudian theory, the destructive, death instinct.
Hostile Attribution Bias – the tendency to perceive ambiguous actions by others as aggressive.
Hostile Perception Bias – the tendency to perceive social interactions in general as being aggressive.
Hostile Expectation Bias – the tendency to assume that people will react to potential conflicts with aggression.
Culture of Honour – a society that places high value on individual respect, strength, and virtue, and accepts and justifies violent action in response to threats to one’s honour.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Topic 5 - Prejudice
This week’s textbook chapter was number 12.
Chapter 12 - Prejudice and Intergroup Relations:
This chapter is about prejudice and intergroup relations. It covers such topics as common prejudices and targets, why prejudice exists, the content of prejudice and stereotypes, inner processes, and the impact of prejudice on targets.
The chapter on prejudice contained many examples of human behaviour in which prejudice is exhibited. There are numerous historical events which result from prejudice, but in Australia there is none as devastating as that of the stolen generation. The story in the introduction to this chapter was about the stolen generation, and it gave reference to the movie ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’. I watched this movie a few years ago when it first came out and was mesmerised by it; it was one of those movies which while watching it you are reminded of all the stories and reports you have read over the years about the true calibre of these events. The aspect of the stolen generation that always comes to my mind first is the fact that children were still being taken from their families in the 1970s. To me this is horrific and I am ashamed to think of the trauma which has been inflicted upon children’s lives, all because the government was prejudiced towards their race and the culture to which they were born.
Prejudice – a negative feeling toward and individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group.
Racism – prejudiced attitudes toward a particular race.
Stigma by Association – rejection of those who associate with stigmatised others.
Discontinuity Effect – groups are more extreme, and often more hostile, than individuals.
Salience – being obvious or standing out.
Jigsaw Classroom – a cooperative learning technique for reducing feelings of prejudice.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy – a prediction that ensures, by the behaviour it generates, that it will come true.
Self-Defeating Prophecy – a prediction that ensures, by the behaviour it generates, that will not come true.
Tutorial 3 – Prejudice & Aggression:
The purpose of this tutorial was to learn about Jane Elliott’s approach to anti-discrimination and prejudice training. It was aimed to allow people to identify examples of socio-psychological theory about prejudice, aggression and prosoical behaviour, which are evident in the films ‘Ghosts of Rwanda’ and ‘The Australian Eye’.
1. Ghosts of Rwanda (2004) – principles behind prejudice and aggression.
• August 1993: UN, Belgium and US peace-keepers in Rwanda; mission to help uniting leadership in Rwanda between two different groups/cultures.
• Only Americans/non-African people allowed to leave Rwanda.
• White people were rescued while black people were effectively left to be killed.
• They couldn’t keep the peace as it wasn’t their war to fight; what else were they to do(?)
• They had failed to keep the peace but were in no position to ‘fight’; they had underestimated the escalation of the conflict.
• A rescue mission was required for the Rwandans’ for survival.
• The Rwandans’ were being exploited due to their ‘culture of obedience’.
• The conflict was between the extremist Hutus, which were attacking the Tutsi rebels.
• Hutus were attacking innocent Tutsi’s who were not even resisting them, but were hiding in a church.
• They blamed the devil.
• A Tutsi girl survived the 5000 people massacre in the church by hiding alone among the dead bodies for 43 days.
• Tutsi survivors were seen by the Hutus as ‘those not yet finished off’.
• Hutu troops went so far as to stop a Red Cross ambulance and killed the six patients inside; this was made public to the media which embarrassed the extremists and made them agree to allow safe passage for the Red Cross.
• In the first two weeks, one hundred thousand Rwandans were killed.
• It was compared by some to the holocaust, however everybody knew what was happening to the Jews then while nobody knew about the Rwandans.
• They asked the US for stronger support, the US replied “The US has no friends they have ‘interests’, and no interest in Rwanda”; this quote was reported as said by a Rwandan lady who was saved and brought to the US to appeal for help.
• The world didn’t care.
• People wondered how the Tutsi people could do what they were doing: sometimes people kill once, and then to lessen the impact on their psyche they do it again and again.
• After three weeks three hundred thousand people had died.
• Asked to negotiate: ‘madam they’re killing my people’.
• Captain Mbye was a Senegalese officer who was conducting a secret rescue mission.
• Who has the better perspective: the people inside or the people outside?
• The negotiator had stopped seeing them as human, he felt as if he were negotiating with the devil.
• Bodies with their elbows tied behind their backs.
• Genocide? What did it mean? They stopped using the word...
• Dead body in the water: it looks like a dead frog, just another animal.
• Americans would not get involved in humanitarian conflict unless it was in their interest.
• Other conflicts were happening in other countries.
• Prime minister was convicted of genocide years later by the UN.
• Captain Mbye was killed while still saving people in his secret mission, there were no body bags left for his body. He had personally saved at least one hundred lives, possibly thousands.
• What should they have done? Should they have gone back and removed innocent Rwandans? Should they have gone back to fight? Should they have negotiated with them?
• I don’t think I had heard about this until now; in 1993 I was nine years old.
• In each one of us there is such a potential for good, and there is such a potential for evil.
• It lasted one hundred days: Tutsi won the civil war, however Hutu rebels killed eight hundred thousand people.
• After the fact: President Clinton claimed/admitted that he possibly could have saved about half of the Rwandans who had died.
2.The Australian Eye – Jane Elliot
• Picked an arbitrary physical characteristic (in this case it was eye colour) and used it to teach participants about prejudice and racism.
• Uses strategies to create in-group and out-group stigma; such as keeping the groups separate at the beginning of the study and making the in-group feel superior to the out-group.
• She takes away people’s power and reduces them to the stigma of their role.
• Makes people as if they’ve lost control over their environment.
• Helps the in-group (brown eyed people) by giving them answers to the test so that they will receive better marks than the inferior out-group (blue eyed people).
• Participants of this study would have had to receive a lot of debriefing as many appeared quite distressed.
• Emotionally loaded issues addressed.
While watching the Jane Elliott video we were also given a hand out which had definitions for prejudice, aggression and prosocial key terms. Of these terms, the ones I found most interesting and most related to the two films were:
Discontinuity effect – occurs when groups are more extreme, and often more hostile than individuals. This seems to be what was occurring to the Hutus in Rwanda; alone most of the extremists probably would never kill hundreds of people, but when they were part of the group and did not have to take personal responsibility for their own actions they probably felt as if they could and should do as the group did.
In-group favouritism – preferential treatment of, or more favourable attitudes toward, people in one’s own group. The blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiments are prime examples of this, because people act as if they identify with the people placed in their own group, even if they were only grouped by the colour of their eyes. Even people placed in the ‘out-group’ tried to defend and protect each other from the ‘in-group’ as if they favoured the members of their group as the in-group.
Minimal group effect – occurs when people show favouritism toward in-group members even when group membership is arbitrary or randomly determined. This appears how Jane Elliott managed to so easily manipulate the people in her experiments to abide to her arbitrary grouping.
Prejudice – a negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group. This was demonstrated in Rwanda, where Hutus were killing other Rwandans just like themselves, just because they classified them as Tutsi.
Stigma – characteristics of individuals that are considered socially unacceptable. Jane Elliott created stigma in those people who she condemned to the out-group. As well as blue eyes, she also stigmatised blonde hair as most of the people in the out-group were also blonde.
Active aggression – harming others by performing a behaviour. This was the main form of conflict in Rwanda.
Deindividualisation – a sense of anonymity and loss of individuality, as in a large group, making people especially likely to engage in antisocial behaviours. This was a huge occurrence in Rwanda, however also occurred on a smaller scale in Jane Elliott’s experiment as once on person in the in-group started putting down the out-group, many others followed suit.
Hostile attribution bias – the tendency to perceive ambiguous actions by others as aggressive. This was evident in Jane Elliott’s experiment, as comments by the out-group which were made in their own defence of Jane’s verbal attacks, were perceived by the in-group members as being aggressive towards their group.
Magnitude gap – the difference in outcomes between the perpetrator and the victim – the victim loses more than the perpetrator gains. I found this term interesting as I had never heard of it before; I think it is particularly fitting in the case of Rwanda.
Tend and befriend syndrome – a response to stress that involves nurturing others and making friends. This was evident in the actions of the few Americans and Belgiums who stayed behind in Rwanda and formed close connections with the Tutsis they were rescuing.
Weapon effect – the increase in aggression that occurs as a result of the mere presence of a weapon. The Hutus and their machetes.
Alturistic helping – when a helper seeks to increase another’s welfare and expects nothing in return. The people who stayed behind to help the Rwandans appeared to exhibit this type of behaviour.
Empathy – reacting to another person’s emotional state by experiencing the same emotional state. Another type of behaviour exhibited by the people who stayed to help the Rwandans.
Empathy-altruism hypothesis – the proposition that empathy motivates people to reduce other people’s distress by helping or comforting. This is another term that I had not heard of before, but one that I particularly like. When people see someone in distress and there is nothing that they can do to help them, they often still get the urge to try, particularly if it is somebody they are close to.
Negative state relief theory – the proposition that people help in order to relieve their own distress. This theory seems highly applicable in the aforementioned hypothesis; if effectively seeing somebody else in distress causes your own distress, then helping that person would also effectively relieve your distress.
Obedience – following orders from an authority figure. Jane Elliott clearly demonstrated this in her experiments were the out-group complied to her every demand.
The Ghosts of Rwanda and Australian Eye videos were two excellent examples of prejudice, aggression and prosoical behaviour. While some of the footage shown in the Ghosts of Rwanda video was quite horrific for a documentary, I felt that it was certainly necessary to get the full picture of the calibre of these behaviours. This is also applicable in Jane Elliott’s experiments; while many critics say that her methods are demeaning and sometimes unethical, in watching this experiment I felt that most of what she did was necessary to prove the point.
The Ghosts of Rwanda documentary showed lots of original footage of the killing and violence the resulted in the deaths of eight hundred thousand Rwandan people; my reaction to this documentary however surprised me. While the entire account of events was sad and devastating, I found that I did not initially have these reactions; this was probably partly because I watched it in a lecture theatre at uni with fifty of my classmates. Throughout the video I also felt as if I were being educated, as if I were looking at it from the perspective of a person analysing human behaviours; had I been watching it at home alone I might have had a different perspective and might have been more distressed by it. I guess it was probably a good thing then, as it allowed me to take closer attention to the events and appreciate it more for what it was.
In the tutorial when we discussed the video there were quite a few people who said that they were quite distressed and that it affected them for days. I noticed that it was the older members of the group who expressed this, perhaps this was because they could remember when it happened and were reliving their feelings retrospectively. On that note, I should also mention that something which really bothered me was that I cannot recall hearing about these events ever before. In 1993 I was nine years old and lived here in Canberra; I was raised by a single mother who encouraged me to be aware of worldly events and probably would have allowed me to know about these things and even watch them on the news. I am now wondering if I did hear about these things and simply don’t remember them, or if perhaps the happenings really were covered up so well that not too many other countries knew about it. Sure they controlled the information which got out during the 100 days of devastation, however from the documentary it appeared that everything got out after it ended. Perhaps I was just too young to understand and put the calibre of these events into personal perspective.
During this tutorial discussion I also found out the true history of the Rwandan culture. Apparently the Hutu and Tutsi tribes had been created artificially by the Belgium settlers who divided the Rwandan people into two groups according to the shape of their noses, flat or pointy. This just shows how huge the ramifications of in-group and out-group membership can be and how severely they can influence behaviour.
The Australian Eye video was also an excellent example of the dynamics of in-group and out-group behaviour. Jane Elliott’s work on prejudice and aggression is not new to me as I have seen one of her videos before on a primary school class that she aslocused the blue-eyed/brown-eyed scenario on. While this video was quite controversial as she had children treating each other as if they were superior or inferior based on an arbitrary physical characteristic, it appeared to be a good teaching method in discrimination as she gave both groups the opportunity to be the in-group or the out-group; both groups saw what it was like from both sides and appeared to learn a valuable lesson.
In Jane Elliott’s Australian Eye study however, it seemed like her behaviour was a lot more authoritarian and a lot more forceful on both groups to be the aggressors or the helpless. Being that she had recruited a lot of people from Aboriginal descent for the study, I also felt that not only had she divided people by eye colour, but she had also (either unknowingly or knowingly) divided them by skin colour. This furthermore made their discussion a lot more emotionally loaded as many of the participants had been through a lifetime of the type of discrimination she was demonstrating, and were clearly uncomfortable being on either side of the experiment.
While lot of other researchers have called Jane Elliott’s methods unnecessary or unethical, I do think that her processes are necessary for creating the type of group dynamics she requires. In teaching people about prejudice and aggression, what should one do but create prejudice and aggress amongst the participants. As long as all the participants are appropriately debriefed after the experiment, I do not see why these methods cannot be used in a controlled environment.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Topic 6 - Relationships
This week’s textbook chapters were numbers 10 & 11.
Chapter 10 - Attraction and Exclusion:
The topic of this chapter is attraction and exclusion. It focuses on the human need to belong to social networks and meaningful relationships, as well as the detrimental effects of social rejection. The three main themes of this chapter are belonging, attraction, and rejection.
Attraction – anything that draws two or more people together, making them want to be together and possibly to form a lasting relationship.
Rejection – being prevented by others from forming or keeping a social bond with them.
Ingratiation – what people actively do to try to make someone like them.
Matching Hypothesis – the proposition that people tend to pair up with others who are equally attractive.
Social Allergy Effect – the idea that a partner’s annoying habits become more annoying over time.
Ostracism – being excluded, rejected, and ignored by others.
Rejection Sensitivity – the tendency to expect rejection from others and to become hypersensitive to possible rejection.
Chapter 11 - Close Relationships: Passion, Intimacy, and Sexuality:
This chapter is about close relationships: passion, intimacy and sexuality. It focuses on the different types of attachment styles in romantic relationships, as well as romantic love, passionate love and compassionate love. It also looks at the concept of love from different cultural perspectives, as well as theories of sexuality.
Passionate Love – (romantic love), strong feelings or longing, desire, and excitement toward a special person.
Compassionate Love – (affectionate love), mutual understanding and caring to make the relationship succeed.
Passion – a romantic state characterised by high bodily arousal, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Intimacy – a feeling of closeness, mutual understanding, and mutual concern for each other’s welfare and happiness.
Commitment – a conscious decision that remains constant.
Exchange Relationships – relationships based on reciprocity and fairness, in which people expect something in return.
Communal Relationships – relationships based on mutual love and concern, without expectation of repayment.
Attachment Theory – a theory that classifies people into four attachment styles (secure, preoccupied, dismissing avoidant, and fearful avoidant) based on two dimensions of anxiety and avoidance.
Secure Attachment – style of attachment in which people are low on anxiety and low on avoidance; they trust their partners, share their feelings, provide and receive support and comfort, and enjoy their relationships.
Preoccupied Attachment – style of attachment in which people are low on avoidance but high on anxiety; they want and enjoy closeness but worry that their relationship partners will abandon them.
Dismissing Avoidant Attachment – style of attachment in which people are low on anxiety but high on avoidance; they tend to view partners as unreliable, unavailable, and uncaring.
Fearful Avoidant Attachment – style of attachment in which people have both high anxiety and high avoidance; they have low opinions of themselves and keep others from getting close.
The topics for this week were focused on attraction and relationships. I found these topics particularly interesting because for the first time in my life I am in a long term relationship. I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years, and I have never experienced a lot of the things I am experiencing as a result of this. While studying attraction I found myself applying most of the theories to my own relationship; most of these things I would not have had the same appreciation for two years ago. I was relieved to discover that we have a combination of passionate and compassionate love, and that I have secure attachment towards him. Of course I may be biased towards the relationship as I am looking at it from the inside, however these things pleased me none the less.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Topic 7 - Groups
This week’s textbook chapter was number 14.
Chapter 14 - Groups:
This chapter focuses on the role of groups in human social society. It covers such topics as group action, how groups think, power and leadership. It also contains theories on social facilitation and social loafing.
Deindividuation – the loss of self-awareness and of individual accountability in a group.
Optimal Distinctiveness Theory – proposition that when people feel very similar to others in a group, they seek a way to be different, and when they feel different, they try to be more similar.
Evaluation Apprehension – concern about how others are evaluating your performance.
Social Facilitation Theory – proposition that the presence of others increases the dominant response tendency.
Narcissists – individuals who regard themselves as better than others and are constantly trying to win the admiration of others.
Social Loafing – the finding that people reduce effort when working in a group, compared to when working alone.
Commons Dilemma – the tendency for shared or jointly owned resources to be squandered and not used in an optimal or advantageous fashion.
Groupthink – the tendency of group members to think alike.
Risky Shift – a tendency for groups to take greater risks than the same individuals would have decided individually.
Tutorial 4 – Cross-cultural training:
The purpose of this tutorial is to develop academic knowledge and experimental skills for developing effective behaviour in cross cultural contexts. Culture shock will also be explored, as well as the stages of cultural adaptation. The process of cultural mapping will also be discussed.
The first thing we did in this tutorial was discuss as a group our personal definitions of culture. Most of the group shared definitions which included the idea of groups of people who have shared beliefs, behaviours, experiences, and language. It was also brought to our attention by the tutor that the word culture contains the word ‘cult’. We collectively decided that a culture is different from a cult; a cult may be viewed as an extreme form of a subculture. We then went on to talk about the notion of culture shock. Culture shock occurs when somebody is suddenly forced to live in or deal with an entirely new or unfamiliar culture. The symptoms of culture shock include confusion or misunderstanding, language difficulties, anxiety or nervousness, and fearfulness. For some it might even begin with a honeymoon period in which the new culture looks interesting and exciting, however it is soon followed by the disorientation phase. As a group some people shared their experiences with culture shock; the most traumatic ones appeared to be for those people who had to move suddenly to a new culture, and the least sever were for people visiting another culture. In order to overcome culture shock, some find it helpful to make a cultural map. This is a kind of ‘cheat sheet’ which the person can write, add to and refer to with information about the new culture. Information such as polite customs, acceptable behaviour and rules for accepting or rejecting a social invitation are useful for a cultural map.
The second task for the tutorial was to conduct a cultural interview on another member of the tutorial, with the topic of focus being the storey of their name. We were also instructed to find out more about their cultural identity, including which subcultures they associate themself with. Since I did not think to get permission to put the information I got from my partner in my e-portfolio I think it will be best if I write about my own name instead. My first name (Kim) did not have any particular cultural significance to my parents, as far as I am aware it was the only name that they thought really suited me. In fact I think the only interesting thing about my first name is that it is just Kim and not Kimberley. My second name (Bowen) is actually my mother’s surname. When my sister and I were young my mother had the same surname as us to make things easier for us, however now that we are both adults she has changed it back to Bowen. Incidentally both my sister and I have it as a middle name, as well as our two cousins from our mother’s sister. My surname (Crocker) came from my father’s surname. My mother and father were never actually married, however as previously mentioned my mother did change her name to Crocker while we were young; the marriage thing never really made a difference to us really. Being that Kim is such a short first name, I am finding that I always get nick names that lengthen it; Kimbo and Kimmy are the most common ones, although occasionally I get ‘Slim Kim’ (I’m assuming because it rhymes), or Kimbo Jones (like Jimbo Jones on The Simpsons). The subcultures I find myself identifying with at this stage of my life are that of being a student, playing competitive women’s soccer, being a healthy and fitness-minded person, having a casual job at a sports store, and being in a committed long-term relationship.
In this week's tutorial I found that I particularly enjoyed the cultural interview involving people’s names. It gave me an opportunity to see how much cultural value some people place on their names, especially those who have come to Australia from another country where traditional names are quite different. It was also interesting to hear the amusing stories people told about their names (whether they liked or hated them) and how this impacted on their everyday lives. The only thing I don’t like about my name is that it is very short, and my sister’s name is Jill so hers is short too. I have been called by my sister’s name many times when we are doing things together (like playing soccer), and more often than not we get called Kill and Jim, instead of Jill and Kim.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
This week’s textbook chapter was number 8.
Chapter 8 - Prosocial Behaviour: Doing What’s Best for Others:
This chapter is about prosocial behaviour. The topics covered include what is prosocial behaviour, the commons dilemma, cooperation, forgiveness, obedience, conformity, why people help others, who helps whom, the bystander effect, and how helping can be increased.
The most prominent aspect of this chapter for me was that of obedience. Now I’m not entirely sure if I agree that obedience is really a prosocial behaviour, however it is noted that in many respects it is a desired aspect in cooperation and other social domains. The section on obedience in this chapter mainly focused on the infamous Stanley Milgram experiment which was conducted in 1963. I have read of this experiment many times, and still it perplexes me in its simplicity and magnanimous outcomes. Basically, Milgram wanted to test the extent to which participants would follow the instructions of authority figures, despite causing possible harm to another participant. The results of this study showed that as much as 62% of participants would deliver severe shocks to another participant, while they were being prompted to do so by an authority figure. Much has been said about the unethical nature of this study, however Milgram admitted that he never expected that anybody would deliver the most severe shock, let alone more than half of the participants.
Another part of this chapter which I found particularly interesting was the section on the evolutionary benefits of helping. In nature, the helping behaviours of animals are determined largely by costs and benefits; for humans, helping must have proven highly beneficial otherwise we would not have evolved to do so today. For example, if an animal makes too many sacrifices for others they may be less likely to survive and pass on their genes; however as helping behaviour is widely evident in humans today, this must have served as more a benefit than a cost.
Prosocial behaviour – doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole.
Reciprocity – the obligation to return in kind what another has done for us.
Equity – the idea that each person received benefits in proportion to what he or she contributes.
Equality – the idea that everyone gets the same amount, regardless of what he or she contributes.
Prisoner’s Dilemma – a game that forces people to choose between cooperation and competition.
Obedience – following orders form an authority figure.
Conformity – going along with the crowd.
Egoistic Helping – when a helper seeks to increase his or her own welfare by helping another.
Altruistic Helping – when a helper seeks to increase another’s welfare and expects nothing in return.
Negative State Relief Theory – the proposition that people help others in order to relieve their own distress.
Tutorial 5 - Australian Zeitgeist:
The purpose of this tutorial on the Australian Zeitgeist is to introduce the three related socio-psychological terms of social capital, social disengagement, and zeitgeist. The group will also consider Hugh Mackey’s ‘Social disengagement: A breeding ground for fundamentalism’ speech, and brainstorm ways to address current social capital issues in Australia.
(a) Social Capital – helping/volunteering.
• Prosocial and altruistic behaviour.
• Networks of collective positive networks.
• Stored good will.
• Environment capital – puts monetary value on that which can’t be measured in its value to the community.
• Physical capital – eg. churches and community centres.
(b) Social Disengagement – decreasing community participation.
• Decreasing sense of family.
• Doing things alone and at home – eg. exercise.
• Decrease neighbours (neighbourhood watch created to increase neighbour awareness).
(c) Zeitgeist – can only be retrospective.
• The word has no direct translation, however it means something like the spirit or flavour of the times.
• At this time, how would we be described by someone looking back from the future.
Hugh Mackay’s speech on social disengagement was quite interesting and enlightening. I must admit that until now I have not given much thought to social disengagement, however you do notice that people in Australia seem to be getting a lot more independent and self-reliant. I’m not really sure about my opinions on this because I am undecided as to whether it is entirely good or bad for society, however as in most cases I’m sure there is a happy medium were people can be independent yet still involved with their community on a personal level.
Baumeister, R., & Bushman, B. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. USA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Topic 9 - Environmental Psychology
This week there were no textbook chapters, but instead two articles on environmental psychology.
Article 1 – Environmental Issues: Energy & Resource Conservation:
This article is a chapter from the Applied Social Psychology textbook and it focuses on environmental psychology issues. Some of the most prevalent issues of environmental psychology concern such human stressors as crowding, environmental stress, environmental risks, architectural psychology, the natural environment, and environmental problems such as pollution. This chapter focuses on these issues in relation to social psychology, as they are highly influential to human behaviour.
Environmental psychology therefore studies the interactions and reactions between people and their immediate environment. Formally, the field of environmental psychology was concerned only by how the physical environment affects human thought, feeling and behaviour, however it has now evolved to encompass the opposite interaction; how human behaviour affects the environment. The section of this chapter that I found most interesting was that on behaviour settings. Behaviour settings refers to the notion that the physical and social settings in which people live and work have great influence on behaviour; this notion is furthermore a large counterpart in the person-situation debate. At work for example, people tend to act in a subdued and professional manner (although I guess that depends on what you do for a job), however at home they may play boisterously with their children, and then on a soccer field they may act seriously and aggressive. It is cues from our environment which determine which behaviours are appropriate and also which ones we chose to exhibit.
The section of the chapter on architectural psychology was also one which I found particularly interesting, probably because it relates so closely to the concept of behaviour settings. As a quote by Winston Churchill puts it so nicely “we shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us”; meaning that we could potentially design environments specifically for which behaviours people should be exhibiting there. This section of environmental psychology also assists in the designing of environments in accordance with human needs such as comfort and safety. This would furthermore be of the utmost importance to people designing office buildings who want to maximise employee output, sporting complexes which aim to assist peak performance, and childcare centres which need to meet strict safety regulations. If you think about it, almost every aspect of human life in our current society would be very difficult and dangerous if not for ingenious architectural design.
Article 2 – Environmental Psychology:
This article is a review of research and theory on the relationships between people and physical environments. Specifically, it focuses on contributions to theory and empirical research which was published in major journal articles between 1989 and 1994.
One of the topics featured in this article which I had not heard much of previously in relation to environmental psychology was that of arousal. This interested me as it is a concept that seems so simple and is related to the previously discussed concept of behaviour settings, but it appeared strange to be reading about arousal in an article on environmental psychology. Psychophysiological arousal may be impacted upon by numerous environmental factors such as sound and temperature; it is therefore not absurd that this topic be addressed by environmental psychologists. There is also an arousal hypothesis which predicts that optimum performance and satisfaction will occur under conditions of moderate arousal, however this also depends on task complexity. Studies on arousal have furthermore suggested that high temperature increases the likelihood of violence due to the increased arousal associated; this could possibly be extended to the issue of crowding and perhaps even the increased violence exhibited in overcrowded prisons. The article did touch on the notion of overcrowded prisons; however it was in relation to increased stress in general.
Another issue discussed in this article which caught my eye was the common’s dilemma, as it had been discussed a few times in the regular text book. The common’s dilemma refers to the self-interested abuse of shared environments and shared resources. It furthermore stems from inappropriate short-term use of a resource which has detrimental effects to the long-term welfare of the community, such as over fishing which destroys the fish population for future fishing. The article tells that research shows that division of the commons increases preservation, however it doesn’t exactly explain why it occurs that humans are so particularly bad at sharing on a large scale. This is the part of the common’s debate that interests me so; we as a social species have evolved to form cultures and intricate social networks, yet we can’t share resources unless we have a section of that resource to call our own.
The topic of environmental psychology was one that surprised me, as on initial review I dreaded having to read about it because I thought it would be exceedingly boring. I in fact fount this to be one of the more interesting topics, including the lecture; this was probably because I didn’t have time to do the readings until after the lecture and was pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, there are not many aspects of psychology which take basic environmental issues into account, such as noise and light, and how these might help or hinder human behaviour. I myself find that I am constantly attempting to alter my environment in order to be able to achieve the behaviours I desire, such as making myself as comfortable as possible before studying so that I can continue to do so for extended periods of time. I even find that bright, usually natural light helps keep me aroused while I’m trying to focus on completing a reading or an assignment, and have noticed that I often alter my environment unknowingly in order to achieve this desired environmental aspect. I generally sit at the desks by the windows in the library, and prefer studying in the dining room rather than the study.
Oskamp, S., & Schultz, P. (1998). Environmental Issues – Energy and Resource Conservation (Ch. 11). In Applied Social Psychology, 205 – 228. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pretence Hall.
Sundstrom, E., Bell, P., Busby, P., Asmus, S. (1996). Environmental psychology 1989 – 1994. Annual Review of Psychology, 47(1), 485 – 512.
Kim's Final Comments
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this unit on social psychology. I found the text book very well written and particularly enjoyed the stories in the introductions to each chapter. I liked that we were able to not only chose, but also create our own essay topics, and while it was a lot of work the e-portfolio was definitely worth its while. The lectures and tutorials were always interesting and engaging, with the right amount of interaction and group discussion. The only thing that I would change about this unit would probably be regarding the scheduling of assessment items; having them due all at the end of the unit makes for a great deal of pressure. I would also suggest a lecture or tutorial on an introduction to Wikiversity to allow students to learn its basics. My only problem regarding this was the time consuming nature of the editing required to get the information organised on the page.
Once again I thoroughly enjoyed studying social psychology; thank you for the experience.