Social Psychology E-Portfolio
Social Psychology is just so broad and covers so many aspects of life. I am interested in looking deeper into this subject throughout the semester and hope by the end of semester my knowledge will be broader. Psychology concepts seem to be embedded in so many newspaper articles and I have not realised this until starting this subject. It’s hard not to come across an example of social psychology in almost every newspaper I read. My e-portfolio will consist of examples of social psychology entrenched in our society, often un-noticed by those not looking deeper into the context of everyday articles and stories.
Chapter 1 Short Summary
- Social Psychology began to come into its own field in the 1950s and 1960s
- At this time Psychology was divided into Behaviourism and Freudian psychoanalysis
- Social Psychology is about understandings people’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
- The three building blocks of Social Psychology are Affect, Behaviour and Cognition (ABC model)
- Social Psychology focuses on peoples reaction to the world around them
- Social Psychology is based on the scientific method
- People generally become Social Psychologists out of curiosity
This week’s tutorial was an interesting introduction to understanding social psychology. We looked at the definition of social psychology in small groups with each group devising their own meaning based on understanding before studying this unit. The main ideas surrounding this topic were on people’s beliefs, feelings and actions around “social” issues and “psychology” (Psychology in the social context). We conducted a simple, yet meaningful experiment which aimed to show how people can be treated differently in society based on physical characteristics and beliefs. This experiment showed how our one small tutorial group can be so similar yet so diverse based on everyday occurrences. We are all students, all studying the same subject (many in the same degree), yet we all differ in some way which may (or may not) affect how we are treated in society. This activity was an example of Jane Elliot’s “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” which was administered on young children to teach them what it would be like to be treated differently based on physical characteristics. I think society today has changed somewhat for the better, but still has a long way to go. When saying this, I am referring to our western society. People seem to be more tolerant and understanding towards people of different cultures based on physical features like eye colour and skin colour. I know however, this is not always the case, with the religious differences between Muslims and Christians coming to mind as a prime example of this. I don’t think however, that different cultures will ever fully be able to embrace each other’s views.
Chapter 2 Short Summary
- Nature versus Nurture debate – The opening story is about a boy raised as a girl. As much as ‘his’ parents tried to make him a ‘girl’ through nurture, nature succeeded in making him maintain his maleness.
- Nature and Nurture have shaped each other
- Natural selection chooses which traits/genes will successfully reproduce into the next generation
- Culture is a system – a network linking many different people together
- Culture works on the idea of praxis – practical ways of doing things
- Culture consists of a number of different ideas/views, however culture is everywhere. The text describes it as in our genes. Cultural differences are not in our genes.
- Humans are both social and culture beings. Other animal species are just social.
- Culture animals (humans) share knowledge among each other so it can be passed onto the nest generation. i.e. we work together
- Bad things in our lives have a stronger psychological impact than the good ones
- Humans (meat eating animals) chose to become vegetarians; this is not seen across other meat eating animals groups.
- Sex morals and behaviours vary significantly across different cultural groups
- Positive Psychology – “the branch of psychology that studies ways of making human life better, enriching human experience, and helping people cultivate their potentialities” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008, p 50).
- The mind has two different processing systems – the conscious and the automatic mind.
A note on Positive Psychology
A relevant article titled "Upbeat street" published in The Sunday Telegraph August 10, 2008
- When we are surrounded by negative, pessimistic people who lack passion or energy, then we can be pulled back or slowed down
- In contrast, if we're living or working with others who are positive and inspirational, then it's almost impossible not to be pulled along in their wake, inspired by their energy and enthusiasm
- Happy and successful people tend to surround themselves and have more relationships with other happy and successful people
- You'll be more happy if you actively work to harness the energy and enjoy the company of those who live in the "fast lane"
- Live life with a purpose; have healthy habits; think optimistically and foster positive relationships.
Chapter 3 Short Summary
- The self consists of three main parts –
- Self-knowledge- self awareness > develop beliefs about themselves
- Interpersonal self- social connection > impress others
- Agent self- gets things done, make choices and exert control
- Self Impulse – Inner thoughts and feelings
- Self as Institution – Ways people act in public
- Private awareness- looking inward on the self
- Public awareness- looking outward on the self
- Alcohol reduces self awareness
- Looking glass self- idea that people learn about themselves from others
- Intrinsic motivation – Doing something because you want to – for your own sake
- Extrinsic motivation – Doing something for an external factor – a reward
- Overjustification Effect- Has occurred when you stop doing an activity for intrinsic reasons and do it only for extrinsic purposes
- People actively seek out information about themselves because they want to know themselves better – They want self-knowledge
- Self –Handicapping- Has occurred when one puts obstacles in the way of performance
- High self esteem is when someone favorably evaluates themselves. They consider themselves competent, likably, attractive, and morally good. Low self esteem is the opposite.
- Low self esteem is seen in many social and psychological problems.
- Narcissism is when someone has excessive self love and a selfish orientation
- Self-Presentation – conveying the self or something about the self to the public
- Self-Presentation is associated with increased risky behaviours as people try to make themselves stand out in society.
The ‘self’ is an interesting concept. A person has so many different components of themselves. It sounds strange, but it seems like many different selves condense themselves into the one self- the 'being'. People have an interpersonal self, public self, agent self, self awareness, phenomenal self, self as impulse and self as institution. It’s the later two ‘self as impulse’ and ‘self as institution’ that trigger some thoughts in my head. I find it interesting how one person can be so different depending on the surrounding circumstances. For example, one would think that if a person’s impulse self (a person’s inner thoughts and feelings) was deeply depressed, their institution self (the way a person acts in public, especially in official roles) would resemble this. But this is often not the case. People’s public self and private self can be so different. Why and how is a depressed person able to continue on with their job without their employer even being aware that they are depressed? How can the impulse self be so sad and the institution self be so happy? I think this is a contributing factor to why the suicide rates are so high in our society. It’s like the ‘selves’ are competing against each other. Because people on the outside can’t see the impulse self, they have no way of knowing that someone is considering suicide.
The following article is also relevant to the self. This article was about the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in Beijing this year, published in The Canberra Times on August 13, 2008. The 9 year old girl that appeared on stage to be singing was in fact only miming. The 6 year old girl that was singing had been deemed not pretty enough to sing on stage despite her wonderful singing voice. It made me wonder if society in general really cares about how one looks? The world watched a ‘pretty’ girl on stage, one that is socially more acceptable than another girl (the singer), based purely on looks. The unseen singer could not sing on stage because she had crooked teeth. Isn’t this morally wrong? Would the world really judge this little girl on her appearance – her ‘baby’ teeth that happened not to be perfect? Would the world really care? Secondly, it isn’t mentioned anywhere about how the young girl who wasn’t pretty enough feels. I believe that this young girl although only 6, understands what is going on. I’m sure her self awareness and self esteem would have been negatively impacted.
Chapter 4 Short Summary
- Behaviour can be guided by the values and systems of culture
- Behaviour can be self defeating
- Behaviour can have different levels of meaning.
- Entity theorists believe people have fixed, stable traits
- Incremental theorists believe traits can change and improve
- People tend to be more realistic in the short term compared to the long term
- Delayed Gratification – Sacrificing a small reward now for a bigger one later
The Self In Action
It was interesting to read about ‘capacity to delay gratification’ in the text and then about suicide. Suicide is devastating and occurs too much in our society. A reason people commit suicide is sadly because of 'capicity to delay gratification'. Suicidal people tend to be so caught up in their negative thinking that they fail to think about the future. Often suicide occurs because people have so much internal hurt that they just want it to go away and do not care about anything else at that moment. Suicide is the only thing they think they can escape. I came across an article in the The Sunday Telegraph on August 10, 2008. The article was titled ‘The tragic face of a hidden condition’. Above the text was a large photo of a young mother, holding a toddler and cradling her young baby in her arms. The mother is smiling and her young son smiles too. It wasn’t until I started reading the article that I realized what the title was implying. This young mother (34 years old) had committed suicide by driving her car off a cliff, leaving behind her two young children. Initially, I thought how could a mother do that when she has a new baby and a two year old son. In the photo she appears so happy. The sad truth is however, this mother was suffering from undiagnosed post-natal depression. It made me think about what this mother was thinking when she did this. I believe that this is a prime example of what capacity to delay gratification is. This mother couldn’t have been thinking clearly at the time. I wonder if she would have been thinking about anything at that moment, except I want this pain to stop – I can’t go on feeling like this anymore. Perhaps she thought she was a useless mother and wife and wouldn’t be missed, so suicide was the only option. The sad truth is however, there is help available but suicidal people do not think about that. In their minds, nothing can help them except ending their life (then and there) permanently.
A month after reading this article, I read about the suicide of Mark Priestley – An actor on the drama TV show All Saints. I didn’t know Mark Priestley but was upset by his death. Perhaps this was influenced from knowing what he was like as an actor. I was saddened because I realized that the happy, carefree actor on TV was in fact not like this in real life. Mark Priestley suffered from clinical depression and no one would know this judging Mark from the outside. This terrible tragedy brings me back to the delayed gratification principle. Mark appeared to have so much going for him, he was a talented actor and anyone would have thought he had a bright future ahead of him. It appears Mark too at that time in his life, could not see past the moment. People ask why didn’t he get help? I strongly believe that this did not cross his mind at that suicidal moment. He must have been so internally sad that suicide was the only way to escape. Why did nothing in his life, (not his talent, his work mates, his family) matter at that moment-delayed gratification? Baumeister & Bushman, 2008 state that suicide fits the “now-versus-future pattern” (p 139). To a suicidal person, “death may seem appealing, not as a punishment or violence suffering but simply as oblivion… they are willing to trade away their future and all its potential joys in order to gain this immediate relief” (p 139). Mark appeared to have planned his suicide because he checked into a hotel with a balcony 23 stories high and did not jump until 90 minutes later. I wish we could confirm what he was thinking in those 90 minutes before jumping, but the desperate need for escape seems the most logic.
- Self awareness is very high in suicidal people because they feel such a strong need to escape from themselves.
Psychology of self harm behaviour
Article from The Sunday Telegraph, 28, 2008
Self harm is an act that is often not talked about. It is also known as self-injury, SIB (self-injurious behaviour), self mutilation or cutting. It can occur in a number of forms and involves deliberately inflicting harm on oneself. Carving or cutting the skin is the most common form of self harm, but also includes burning, scratching, biting or punching, pulling out hair, swallowing toxic substances, self bruising, breaking bones and head banging. Self harm generally occurs without suicidal intent, but not always.
Self harm is linked to childhood abuse, eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, anxiety and personality disorders
Self harm is usually a secret activity and self harmers cover their injuries so others can not see
Why would anyone do this to themselves??
- Coping Method – A highly maladaptive one though
- Used to deal with emotional pain or numbness, anxiety, stress or pressure
- Need to feel in control
- Represent escape – Without finality – It is generally not a self harmers intention to commit suicide
- Self harm is addictive – After someone commits self harm once and it works (by distracting them from emotional pain) then often it continues to occur
Private self awareness – Aware of themselves in a bad, upsetting aspect and want to escape their self awareness. They evaluate themselves.
Public self-awareness – Self harmers must be high in public self-awareness because this would explain why they go to extensive lengths to hide their injuries from others.
Low self-esteem is often associated to self harming – Self harmers generally do not think very highly of themselves
Self-harm on rise in teen girls
The Sydney Morning Herald, September 24, 2008
- Teenage girls are more likely to be admitted to hospital for over-doses, slashed limbs or other forms of deliberate self harm than for any other type of injury, including road accidents
- Effects of intense academic pressure, changing family dynamics and rising drug and alcohol use
- Self harm rate in girls aged 13-19 has risen by one third in the past 8 years
- Low self esteem is a contributing factor
- There appears to be “a copycat” element to self harm
- Also a “cultural element” – Self harm is more socially acceptable in some countries than others
- Self harm is promoted within some youth subcultures
The Sunday Telegraph August 10, 2008
Anger gets a lot of bad press but it needs to be expressed like any other emotion. Just be careful how you do it.
Anger as an emotion is highly maligned. Basically, it’s like any other emotion – sadness, love, joy, anxiety. Like other emotions it also has a physical component: sweaty armpits, pounding head, shaky insides. But uncontrolled, it’s the only emotion that can be dangerous. No-one goes to “joy” or “love” management courses.
People talk about different ways of loving. But, apart from the difference between the platonic love you have for your dog and the sexual love you have from your lover, the way you love is the way you love. Even the way you love your children is the same, only it’s usually more unconditional.
But there are different types of anger
- Frustration: This is when you end up bashing the dashboard because the squeak in your car won’t stop.
- Impatience: Wanting to thump someone because the bus is late.
- Short Fuse: When you get angry with the pizza delivery man because your pizza is 10 minutes late.
- Hot Head: Such as road rage
- Taking Things Personally: When people suddenly say, “Who do you think you’re looking at mate?”
- Slow and Seething: Every time you go over a certain event in your mind, you work up an anger.
- Revenge: Time spent imagining the perpetrator of the crime dangling from a high rope, begging for forgiveness (which will never come).
- Jealously: Rage about someone taking something or someone that belongs to you. Potentially the most erosive and dangerous anger.
- Alcohol-Induced: Some people are angry and the lack of inhibition brings it out, but there are also those who, when sober, are completely placid.
Are you an angry person?
Do people often tell you that you’re overreacting? Can you be gracious when you don’t get your own way? Do you think life in general is fair and good to you? Do you think life is unfair and that you get ripped off a lot? Do you form relationships easily and keep them, and they are easygoing? Do you trust people? Do people feel safe around you?
Why are some people more prone to anger than others? Some babies by nature are colicky and grow up to be disgruntled, and others are content and go with the flow. Some people react to events in their lives that leave them feeling abused and ripped off. They feel life isn’t fair to them. Some feel bad about themselves but feel temporarily better if they make someone else feel worse. In defence of anger, which everyone experiences, it’s great to have that quiet but powerful place in your solar plexus that knows that if someone crosses your boundaries, you can react with sufficient force to say and mean: “That’s enough”. Healthy, appropriate anger is a sign of self-respect, self-commitment and self-worth.
Aggression and Alcohol
The link between agression and alcohol is seen far too much in our society. You just have to watch the news and current affairs to see the negative impact alcohol has on some people. It is interesting how reduced self awareness can lead to aggression in some people, while making other people withdrawn and depressed. I think that exposure to alcohol through advertising is partly response for the increase in people (particularily adolescents), drinking excessive alcohol. Young people seeem to believe that they have to drink alcohol to be socially accepted.
I found an article in The Sydney Morning Herald on October 21, 2008, that stated some alarming statistics. Almost one third of Australians suffer violence, arguments with or threats from drunk relatives. According to the Salvation Army, one in five people have had an argument with family members who were influenced by alcohol and one in ten have had fights with relatives. I find the saddest part of alcohol fueled aggession and violence is the impact it has on children. Aggressive and violent family members make children feel scared, embarrassed and anxious. Children are the innocent target of alcohol violence and aggression. Far too often, alcohol has a negative impact on children and families.
"The green, green grass of school"
The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday September 24, 2008
On the same day that I sadly read on another student’s e-portfolio page that they do not care for the environment, I came across an article about disadvantaged children that had high regard and love for the environment. The children are from more than 40 language backgrounds and 10 percent of them are refugees. When their concrete playground turned into grass the children were ecstatic. “Every single student came out to watch the turf get installed and they were amazed at how it went down”. The school has also planted fruit trees and a Japanese garden. The article emphasizes how at other schools, children would carelessly beat down the trees, but at the school in Merrylands East, the students go out of their way to protect them. The most important message to take from this article is the fact that children who have not been lucky enough to live in a precious environment have a lot more appreciation of the environment and the role they have in protecting it. The article says “A lot of our students come from Afghanistan so what they’ve seen and endured is land being misused and destroyed and as a result of that, when they come here [To Australia] they embrace everything we have”
It’s wonderful these children respect and are being taught to care for the environment. It is especially important that this generation of kids cares enough to change how generations before them have treated the earth. We would not be living and breathing here if it wasn’t for the environment.
Taken from: The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday September 24, 2008
September 23, 2008 marked the day the world used up all the natural resources the Earth will be able to produce this year.
For the rest of the year we will be living in the red, using resources faster than the planet can regenerate them
Overshoot day is calculated each year by the Global Footprint Network, based on our ecological footprint (our demand on cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries) compared with the ability of those ecosystems to generate resources and absorb waste
We are now using resources equivalent to 1.4 Earths a year
Prosocial behaviour means doing whats best for others. Generally speaking, I think that the majority of people in our society would help another person if the need arose. I grew up in a small country town and I know that almost everyone was willing to help others when they needed it. I've found in Canberra too, people seem to be quiet caring of others. I've observed simple acts of others caring, like stopping to see if someone is alright when they're stuck on the side of the road with a flat tyre.
While you come across these 'small' acts of prosocial behaviour everyday, it isn't very often you come across a story about a person willing to give up an organ for a stranger. I found an article in The Sunday Telegraph on September 21, 2008 titled "Free hugger who is willing to give the gift of life". It was about an inspirational man that stands on the streets of Sydney holding up a sign that says "free hugs" and hugs anyone that needs one. This however is not the inspirational part. Early next year this man in donating a kidney to a stranger. He says "I am young, I am fit, I am healthy, I have two kidneys. I don't really drink. I don't need that second one and someone will be able to get out of hospital". He is remarkedly among the first in NSW to undergo non-directed kidney donation. This is a special act of prosocial behaviour that I couldn't go passed.