- 1 Week 1: Introduction to Social Psychology
- 2 Week 2 – Social Self
- 3 Week 3 – Social Thinking
- 4 Week 4 – Aggression (Ch9) + Ghosts of Rwanda
- 5 Week 5 – Prejudice
- 6 Week 10 - Attraction, Exclusion and Close Relationships
- 7 Week 11 Groups
- 8 Week 12 Prosocial Behaviour
- 9 Week 14 Environmental Psychology
- 10 Wrap up
Week 1: Introduction to Social Psychology
What is Social Psychology?
- Social Psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks a broad understanding of how human beings think act and feel within a group – Baumeister & Bushman.
- Understanding human behaviour in a social context – James Neil.
- How the thoughts feelings and behaviours of others are influenced by the actual imagined of implied presence of others – Allport.
- Social psychology is the study of how people and groups interact – Wikipedia
My own thoughts on what social psychology is – a broad definition may be that social psychology is the study of individual behaviour within a group situation. Where as sociology is the study of society as a whole, and psychology studies the processes within the individual, social psychology studies the individuals within a society, how and why they act within, and are influenced by groups and society as a whole.
- Social Psychology can help you make sense of your social world.
A few key terms and concepts that came up during the readings and the lecture:
- Social Perception: How we interpret social objects
- Social Influence: Attitudes and behaviours brought about by others
- Social Interaction: How we interact with others in a social world
- Person vs. Situation debate: is a person influenced primarily by their biology or the situation they are in?
The person/situation debate surrounds the issues of what influences behaviour? Is it the person or is it the situation? I currently sit somewhere in the middle in this debate, not because I am unable to decide, but because I have witnessed plenty of evidence for both sides, highlighting that the topic is neither black nor white, but rather some shade of grey.
I find myself asking many questions regarding this - Why a person might behave one way in one situation, yet another way in a different situation? How would a different person behave in the same situation? How would have they behaved across different cultural and time dimensions?
I am personally aware that my behaviour is often influenced or guided by the situation that I am in, for instances there are certain sets of acceptable behaviour that differs across settings (friends vs. grandparent or university vs. work), but is this because of my personality or that society and culture dictate how we must behave in various settings.
On the other hand I know other people who’s behaviour is relatively stable across all situations, whether it be around friends, family, colleagues, at work or at home. So this is evidence for both sides, and where does this leave us? What I am hoping to learn from this course is the ways in which different factors dictate or influence how individuals behave in society.
Culture and Nature (Ch 2)
Social psychology aims to answer the fundamental question surrounding how people think, feel, and act? When investigating this question many look into the important aspects of culture and nature.
- Genes, hormones, brain structures etc.
- Turn to the evolutionary theory to explain behaviour. Looks at how change occurs in nature
- Natural selection demonstrates that traits that increase one’s chances of survival or reproduction will endure, and those that reduce these chances will not.
- Survival means living longer than others.
I take nature to mean everything that is essentially innate, where as culture could be conceived as everything that is gained from socialisation.
- What people learn from parents, society, and from past experience.
- What people share, ranging from language, values, food styles, to styles of government.
- Consists of shared ideas and meanings. Ideas are mental representations that can be expressed through language.
‘ Culture is an information based system, involving both shared understandings and praxis (practical way of doing things), that allows groups of people to live together in an organised fashion and to satisfy their biological and other needs.’ – Baumeister & Bushman
Human beings are often referred to as social and cultural animals. That is we seek connections to others, we prefer to live work and play with other people (social side). But whereas many other animals can be classified as social animals, humans are distinct in the fact that we are cultural animals in the way that we can take part in this culture.
- Gustav, J. (1986). Nature, culture and social psychology. European Journal of Social Psychology, 16, 17-30
Tutorial 1 - Introductory tutorial
To be perfectly honest this was one of my last tutorials so I had already been through the usual get to know you exercises, and wasn’t to thrilled at the prospect of doing another. However, I was pleasantly surprised. For this get to know each other exercise we were required to form groups based on a certain characteristic (i.e. eye colour, number of siblings, where you were born etc). As we moved on it became slightly more challenging, as we were required to form groups based on beliefs (i.e. religious and political).
The thing I think I found most interesting about this tutorial was just how quickly and easily individuals create groups. Even though people may hardly know one another, we are all willingly to form groups on the basis of some characteristic or quality. It is as if this would guarantee that everyone had at least one thing in common. Another thing I found interesting was how easily you related to the people in your groups, and excluded those in another, because in some way or anther they were different.
What I know/what do I expect –
Well to be perfectly honest before this course I cant say that I know too much about social psychology. After doing a brief overview of social psychology in psychology 102 last year, I became very interested in social psychology as a field of study. And not knowing as much as I do now, I enrolled in a few sociology units thinking (very naively) that it would be somewhat similar to social psychology, and became quite disappointed as it wasn’t answering all the questions I had running through my head. So upon enrolling in social psychology this year I wasn’t too excited to say the least, however, so far I have been pleasantly surprised, and look forward to learning more and more throughout the semester.
What I want to know –
This is a bit of a difficult question to answer, as there is just so much about human beings I want to understand. What drives people to act the way they do? Why are human’s so eager to form groups, and readily exclude others from those groups? What makes people like and dislike other people? If I primary drive of humans is to form social connections, why do we exclude so many people from these connections? Why are humans so eager to follow the latest trends and fads, is it just to feel socially connected or is there something more? Why are some people happy being law-abiding citizens and others ‘driven’/ ‘attracted’ to crime?
Essay ideas –
Not quite sure about essay ideas, maybe something to do with crime rates in different cultures, or social influences on crime, or other factors affecting crime rates (i.e. temperature).
Week 2 – Social Self
The human ‘self’ is a tool that we all use to help us cope with human society and satisfy our needs. The self is designed to help us relate to one another as well as helping us connect more intimately with others. Building and maintaining relationships is one of the primary needs of human beings. The purpose of the self is to gain social acceptance, as well as to play social roles.
We may underestimate the need to belong but in reality it is a fundamental human need - The idiot's guide to social acceptance
There are no firm or tight boundaries around the self; the self appears to be everything that we do both in the public and private areas of our lives.
The concept of the self could be looked at as a result of evolution or a product of society. Which has a greater influence, our brains, neurons, hormones, and other biological processes, or the requirements of the society we are living in? This does not appear to be such a clear-cut distinction, as both appear to play an importance and crucial role. It would be difficult to imagine a ‘self’ without either nature or culture.
It has been proposed that the self is made up of several parts, including
- Self-knowledge (or self-concept): this is information we possess about the self.
- Interpersonal self (or public self): as the name suggests this is the self that helps connect socially with others.
- Agent-self (or executive functioning): this is the self as a doer; makes decisions, active responding, self-control etc.
Self-construal- is a way of thinking about the self (i.e. independent vs. interdependent self-construal), either seeing the self as separate and distinct from others, or a self that emphasizes connections with others.
Where self-knowledge comes from?
Some believe that people learn about themselves through everyday interactions with others, where individuals learn how others perceive them.
- This is also known as the looking-glass self, and consists of three components;
- You imaging how you appear to others
- You imagine how other perceive you
- You develop an emotional response as a result of imaging how other may judge you.
This idea was then expanded to include the notion of feedback from others. Essentially other people tell us who we are? Although I find this notion a little hard to understand, because when you meet people for the first time, they may ask you to tell them a little about yourself, not let me tell you a little bit about yourself…
Other ways that we may learn about ourselves include -
- Introspection: People have direct knowledge of what they are like; they only have to look inwards.
- Social comparison: you learn not the facts about yourself, but what value they hold, by comparing themselves to others. This can make people either feel better about themselves (through downward social comparison) or worse about themselves (through upward social comparison)
- Self-perception: We learn about ourselves in the same way that we learn about others, though observing behaviour and drawing conclusions (self-perception theory).
- Phenomenal self or working self we are only aware of a small portion of information about ourselves at any point in time.
Why do we seek self-knowledge? We need self-knowledge as to enable us to fit in better with others. Although people learn about themselves there are some things they would rather know than others. There are 3 general motives that shape peoples quest for knowledge.
- The simple desire to learn knowledge about one’s self (appraisal motive)
- The desire to learn flattering things about the self (self-enhancement motive)
- The desire to confirm what one already believes about one’s self (consistency motive)
I’m sure we can all relate to times where people have asked our opinion on something about themselves (i.e. does my bum look big in this), and no matter what you tell them, if it is not consistent with what they possibly already think they wont believe you. I wonder if this is because the desire to find out the information is driven by the consistency motive, and maybe if information doesn’t align, it is not accepted? I guess this is where the question of telling people what they want to hear comes in?
Swann, W. B., & Read, S. J. (1981). Acquiring self-knowledge: The search for feedback that fits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 1119-1128. 
Ulrich, K., Hannover, B., & Schubert, B. (2001). The semantic-procedural interface model of the self: The role of self-knowledge for context-dependent versus context--independent modes of thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 397-409. 
Self-esteem could be referred to as how favorable a person evaluates himself or herself, or their global feelings of self-worth. Self-esteem is often based on the comparison of one’s self to others.
In western society it is usually accepted that it is better to have high self-esteem than low self-esteem. Possibly indicating that high self-esteem is ‘good for us’, and people who have high levels of self-esteem are happier and healthier. We are often told that if we all just had higher levels of self-esteem, our lives would be perfect (this is highlighted in a lot of ‘self-help’ books or programs).
This, however, does not appear to be the case. For humans to be healthy functioning individuals it is best not to have overly high levels of self-esteem, but more a balance of positive self-esteem and realism. As people with low self-esteem are prone to depression, and individuals with overly high levels of self-esteem are considered narcissists (excessive self-love). Narcissism Rules Narcissism Lesson
The textbook also mentions the fact that it is not individuals with low self-esteem who have a distorted view of reality (which is what I always thought until now), but those with high self-esteem who distort reality. I finding this interesting that high self-esteem is related to a distorted view of reality.
Even though it would appear that there are no benefits to having high self-esteem besides a distortion of reality, it has been suggested that there are actually many benefits of high self-esteem -
- Fosters confidence that you can do the right thing.
- More willing to speak up in groups.
- More likely to try again after failure.
- More willing to do what they think is best.
Raskin, R., Novacek, J., & Hogan, R. (1991). Narcissism, self-esteem, and defensive self-enhancement. Journal of Personality, 59, 19-39. 
Bogart, L. M., Benotsch, E. G., & Pavlovic, J. D. (2004). Feeling superior but threatened: The relation of narcissism and social comparison. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 26, 35-44 
Riketta, M., & Dauenheimer,D. (2003). Manipulating self-esteem with subliminally presented words. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 679-700. 
Hannover, B., Birkner, N., & Pohlmann, C. (2006). Ideal selves and self-esteem in people with independent or interdependent self-construal. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 119-133. 
Week 3 – Social Thinking
Human beings exert a large amount of time and energy thinking about other people. This may because one of our primary needs as human beings is to be accepted and to participate in society. What this means for humans is being able to manage relationships and deal with other people.
Attribution Theory suggests how we explain someone's behaviour - by either crediting the situation or the person's disposition. When we think of the cause of our own bahaviour, we are likely to attribute the causes of our actions to the situation, whereas when we think of the causes of other people's behaviour we fall into the trap of the fundamental attribution error. This is the tendency for observers, when analyzing another's behaviour, to underestimate the impact of the situation and to overestimate the impact of personal dispositions.Although the fundamental attribution error can be witnessed in all cultures, it is suggested that it is especially strong in individualistic Western cultures. In everyday life we struggle to explain other people's actions. For instance a jury must decided whether an action was intentional or self-defense. In a job interview, the interview has to judge whether the applicant is genuine. When we make such judgments, our attributions, either to the person or the situation, have important consequences.
I think that a lot of road rage is the result of the fundamental attribution error. We interpret others bad driving to internal dispositions - such as that they must just be a bad driver.
Attitudes and Actions
Attitudes are feeling, often based on our beliefs, that predispose us to respond in a particular way to objects people and events. Attitudes can affect our actions, but also our actions can affect our attitudes. This can be seen in the foot-in-the-door phenomenon - the tendency for people who have first agree to a small request to comply later with a larger request. It has also been suggested that role playing may affect our attitudes. When you adopt a new role to strive to follow the social prescription. At first your behaviours may not feel natural because you are playing a role, however, before long what began as action becomes you. There is a saying that i think particularly suits this notion - 'fake it, until you make it'. When we act in ways that do not align with our attitudes we may experience cognitive tension, or cognitive dissonance, an to relieve this tension we have to being our actions inline with our attitudes.
Social cognition: Thoughts about people and social relationships.
Tutorial 2: How do we undertake effective interpersonal communication?
Levels (depth of communication)
- Shallow – Factual information (time, date etc.)
- Clichés/scripts (common greetings, e.g. hey how’re you? An act of feeling obliged to ask).
- Opinions/ attitudes/ thoughts
- Deep – Feelings/emotions/affect
Channels (relative amount of importance we attribute to part of information)
For example in face-to-face contact we may place 50% on verbal cues and 50% on nonverbal cues (for example body language, facial expressions, tone of voice).
Whereas in other forms of communication (e-mail, phone, SMS), the weight we give to verbal and nonverbal cues may change. In e-mail you are highly reliant on written words as there is a lack on nonverbal cues (although we now have the use of emoticons). On the phone you may presume that this would be the same, but I have found that the focus drastically shifts from a focus on verbal cues, to nonverbal cues like the tone, and volume, of voice. You would find it hard to believe someone who is telling you that they are really happy and excited, while they sound sad and depressed. I don’t know if everyone places the same weight on different cues, but I know that I rely very heavily on nonverbal cues as opposed to verbal ones.
Body language that tells someone that you are engaged in the conversation: smiling, eye contact, and body front on. Where as things like crossed arms, wondering eyes, looking away, and changing orientation of your body are likely to inform someone that you are attempting to withdraw from the situation.
When then did an exercise on eye contact … I don’t know what to say; I thought that I was pretty good at keeping eye contact with people (I always use to win staring competitions), until today. We were required to stand close to another person (someone we didn’t really know) and maintain eye contact for between 30-60. That might not sound like a very long time, but this activity got more intense as the time went on, and it seemed to go forever. It was also noticeable that there is a certain distance for optimal eye contact, anything that it too close or far away was the hardest to maintain. The first thing that I wanted to do was to laugh, because it was getting pretty awkward. I was surprised at how weird it felt. It really made me wonder how much eye contact I actually make with other people. However, I think it would make a big difference holding eye contact with someone you know well (friend, family, or partner), than someone you don’t know at all, as there seems to be a certain level of intimacy involved. They always did say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and up until now I never believed just how powerful the eyes are.
The Shannon weaver model of communication- It embodies 6 concepts including; a source, an encoder, a message, a channel, a decoder, a receiver.
- The emphasis here is very much on the transmission and reception of information
Week 4 – Aggression (Ch9) + Ghosts of Rwanda
- Aggression is any behaviour that is intended to or motivated to harm another person. Aggression is not a thought but an action.
There are many different ‘types’ of aggression:
- Hostile aggression, which is, Impulsive (heat of the moment) behaviour intended to harm someone.
- Instrumental aggression, which could be thought of as the opposite of this hot impulsive behaviour, as instrumental aggression is premeditated, calculated behaviour. This could be something like spreading a rumor intended to ruin a person’s reputation.
- Verbal aggression: yelling, screaming etc.
- Physical aggression: hitting, kicking, physical fighting etc.
- Passive aggression, which could be described as the intentional harming of others through withholding behaviour (failing to tell someone that a person called regarding the job they applied for, and consequently the person does not get the job).
- Active aggression, this is harming someone by performing some behaviour.
Aggression is not only found in humans.
How do we develop aggression-?
- Some people propose that aggression is not learned, but developed through the process of evolution as a means of survival – Lorenz
- Others believe that aggression is learned like any other behaviour – Bandura
Like everything else I don’t think that it is as simple as explaining it through one view. Both learning and instincts may be relevant to explaining aggression. There has to be some innate aspect of aggression because it can be seen all over the world. Although I don’t think that it can purely be explained by instincts either. This may be another one of those situations where nature says go and culture say stop. As socialized beings we learn that in a lot of situations it is neither appropriate nor necessary to use aggression.
Inner Causes of Aggression-
Frustration/aggression hypotheses: the occurrence of aggression is presupposed by the existence of frustration, and the existence of frustration generally leads to the occurrence of aggression.
Relative deprivation theory: the sense of having less than one is entitled to, which leads to a feeling of frustration and then aggression.
Excitation transfer – arousal from one situation may carry over to another, and possibly lead to heightened aggression – Zimmerman. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why people become more aggressive when they drink alcohol? Is it because they are already in an aroused state because of the alcohol, and then they misinterpret another situation (someone accidently bumping into them), which leads to aggression?
Bjorkqvist, K., Legerspetz, K. M. J., & Kaukiainen, A. (1991) Do girls manipulate and boys fight? Developmental trends in regard to direct and indirect aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 18, 117-127.
Reflections on Ghosts of Rwanda
I’m not exactly sure where I’m supposed to start. This was quite possibly one of the most emotive films I have ever seen. I would find it hard to believe that anyone could watch this film and not find it thoroughly tragic and heartbreaking. One of the most tragic things was that this could be going on and all over the world people turned a blind eye. One could only hope that if such an event were to happen again the world would be more responsive. But I have a feeling that was what a lot of people would have been saying after the holocaust, yet look what happened only 50 odd years later. There were a few questions that were continually running through my head as I was watching the film, so I though I would just outline a few of them.
- I cannot understand how people can be so cruel in their killings. Is it possible to kill people in they way they did without feeling any remorse or emotion what so ever?
- How could situations get so bad as to lead one group to massacre another? What kinds of situations bread such hated for fellow human beings?
- What is the point of the United Nations; if in times of conflict they cant intervene? I understand their not wanting to interfere with internal conflict, but when almost 1 million people were killed, is that really an option?
- What could be the psychological mechanisms at work that possibly exaggerate the aggression? Could the drive-theory, or frustration-aggression hypothesis (the occurrence of aggressive behaviours presupposes the existence of frustration and the existence of frustration leads to some form of aggression) explain it? The Hutus were already frustrated by what the Tutsis use to do to them, and used this as propaganda when rounding up support.
- Did the Weapons effect come in to play? Emotions were running high and weapons were readily visible and available.
- Did the fact that they acted as a ‘group’ instead of individuals lead to more violence? As this may have served as a sense of anonymity and deindividuation, which would encourage more violence and more killing.
- The next striking thing about the movie was how the world turned a blind eye and failed to respond. They were all too afraid to use the ‘g-word’, but whatever you want to call it, it should not matter, when 800,000 or so innocent people massacred.
- Clinton never apologized for his lack of response (no friends, only interests).
Even though there was a lot of tragedy, there were some acts of kindness, and some people, who made me want to believe that good does actually exist.
The red cross were among the few who to decided to help.
- What made some people have the courage to stay, putting their own lives at risk to potentially help people that they don’t even know?
- Why were some people be prepared to stay behind by themselves and possibly save hundreds, when others just completely turned their backs.
- It is amazing that some people could be so brave, putting others needs before their own, while so many others turned their back stating that there was nothing they could do. It helps balance humanity, if there were only people who killed and no one who was willing to reach out and lend a hand, what would this be saying about humanity?
Smith, D. (1998) The psychocultural roots of genocide: Legitimacy and Crisis in Rwanda. American Psychologist,53, 743-753.
Week 5 – Prejudice
Prejudice and Intergroup relations (Baumeister & Bushmen Ch 12)
The KKK (Klu Klux Klan) is a right-wing fraternal organization in the United States that advocates white supremacy to the exclusion of other 'races'.
Prejudice is a negative attitude of feeling held towards another individual based solely on the individual (perceived) membership to a certain group. Prejudice like other attitudes is a mixture of beliefs (stereotypes) and emotions (such as, hostility, envy or fear), and the predisposition to action (discrimination). Where as prejudice is a negative attitude, discrimination is a negative behaviour.
Even though prejudice seems very irrational, it is something that occurs all the time, in areas of life. I see prejudice as arising partially from human’s desire to categorize everything. If we come across something we have not encountered before, we have no category to put this person or thing into, we may become confused and don’t know how to act towards it. Social categorization cannot only often be very ill informed, but also I see it as the root of most prejudice. We are all humans; most of us like to believe that although we may belong to some groups, they do not determine our fate. Even though we like to believe this about ourselves we often fall into the trap of the outgroup homogeneity bias – where we believe all members of the ‘other’ or outgroup are similar to one another, but we as the ingroup are not as similar to each other.
Where does prejudice come from?
As mentioned above prejudice can result from social categorisations that particularly emphasis the difference between groups. In that respect prejudice is a result of culture. We are taught that different is bad, and that other groups are different. There are many aspects of this view that I agree with, and some not so much. Much information that we know about other groups or stereotypes are learned through socialization, they are not something innate. However I also believe that humans are designed to form categories and stereotypes, but it is the content of these stereotypes or the emotions felt towards other groups that is learned through society.
Social Roots of Prejudice
Prejudice also arises through inequalities, social divisions, and emotional scapegoating. Prejudice rationalizes inequalities. Us Vs. Them - thanks to our need to belong we are a group-bound species. We define who we are in part through our groups. We associate ourselves with certain groups and contrast ourselves with others. This not only tell us who you are, but also who you are not. The desire to distinguish ourselves from others predisposes us to prejudice against strangers. Prejudice stems not only from the division of society but also from emotions such as anger and fear. When something goes wrong, we want to find someone whom we can blame. Like the worlds outlast at many innocent Arabs, following the 9/11 attacks.
Common targets of prejudice
- Arabs- Prejudice and discrimination increased in U.S after September 11 2001.
People who are overweight- another highly visible characteristic of individuals subject to prejudicial attitudes is obesity. Unlike racist and sexist attitudes, many people will openly admit and even act upon their negative attitudes towards obese people.
- Stigma by association- rejection of those who associate with stigmatized others.
- Homosexuals- Although one’s sexual orientation is not as readily visible as
ones race or gender or weight, anti-gay prejudices are often quite strong, leading sometimes to violence and discrimination.
- Homophobia: excessive fear of homosexuals or homosexual behaviour. Both men and women are intolerant of homosexuals in their own gender. Perhaps this is because of a fear of being the target of a sexual advance from homosexuals. May fear a positive response to homosexual advances.
- Other potential targets of prejudice include elderly, jews, and people with stigmas.
- Stigmas: characteristics of individuals that are considered socially unacceptable (e.g. being overweight, mentally ill, sick, poor, or physically scarred).
Tutorial 3 – Prejudice – ‘The Australian Eye’ (Jane Elliot)
Building on from the lecture on Prejudice, we watch the video ‘The Australian Eye’ By Jane Elliot. This video was about an experiment conducted by Jane Elliot. Although there were many interesting things about this experiment, and many individuals appeared to learn a lot, I disagreed with the ethics of this experiment and the way it was conducted.
Jane Elliot played (I presume she was acting) the role of an authority figure, and she made her ‘power’ known early on. The purpose of this experiment was to demonstrate the power of prejudice (the negative feeling towards an individual based solely on their membership to a particular group). This was not done through promoting acceptance and cohesion, but through demonstrating what it is like to be treated differently on the basis of a characteristic that you have no control over. I personally didn’t agree with the way that she went about doing this. I think there are other ways to promote acceptance and demonstrate the destructive nature of prejudice, other than giving one group (the people with brown eyes- the majority of which in this case were of Aboriginal descent) power to discriminate (the unequal treatment of different people based on the groups to which they belong) against another group (the people with blue eyes – the majority of which were of European decent).
I think one thing that was really demonstrated, was the power of an authority figure to demand obedience. Even though you got the feeling that not everyone agreed with what was happening, they did not want to be seen as going against the group, and thus did not say anything. As far as I am aware the majority of these people didn’t know one another before this experiment. If this is the case it supported the minimal group effect – that is that people show favoritism towards ingroup members even when the groups are randomly determined. However, the minimal group effect may not be so relevant as; these groups weren’t so arbitrary for the reason that, they had all in one-way or another experienced discrimination from a member or members of the other group (not necessarily the individuals who made up the group in the experiment, but in a larger sense to incorporate all White Australians).
One thing that was really striking to me about this experiment was the fact that Jane Elliot presumed that all the Blue eyed members had had things fairly easily and had not experienced discrimination like the brown-eyed members had. This reflects the wrong assumption of the outgroup homogeneity bias – this is the assumption that outgroup members are more similar to one another than ingroup members are to one another.
Another issue with this experiment was that as much as it could be discouraging prejudice it could be encouraging it. This exercise focused on the negative aspects of the group that confirmed what the other group already believed about the Blue-eye group. As humans we tend to accept information that aligns with our beliefs and disagree with information that doesn’t. The more negative information that is highlighted about a particular group the harder it will be to eliminate these beliefs. When such deep prejudicial beliefs are held, that are continually confirmed, the more strained intergroup relations will be.
Key terms and their applications –
During this tutorial we also discussed various terms relating to prejudice, aggression and prosocial behaviour. I discuss a few that I found particularly interesting-
- Discontinuity effect: this is where groups are more extreme in their views and actions, than individuals. I have often found myself in a group situation or an observer of a group situation, and wonder if the people would act the same if they were not surrounded by a group of people. I think this may play role on group violence, if you imaging two groups ‘going to war’, would their actions be the same if it was just two individuals involved instead of groups?
- Outgroup homogeneity bias: (as outlined above) can be witnessed in such statements as, ‘they’re all the same’ ‘if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all’. I just question if individuals treated others as individuals whether prejudice would be reduced.
- Subtypes: when we make up a category for individuals who do not fit into our general stereotypes. Instead of re-evaluating the validity of our initial stereotype we just place people in separate categories within that stereotype. We continue doing this until the original stereotype we held virtually holds no meaning, as there are so many subtypes.
Two terms that I think help to understand the aggression in Rwanda.
- Deindividuation: a sense of anonymity, when acting in a large group, that makes people more likely to engage in aggression. When people act in groups they are no longer an individual that is accountable for their actions, but a member of a group that can’t be identified. Would the aggression that occurred in Rwanda been as severe if everyone knew that they were accountable for their actions? I think not, anyone is free to comment…
- Weapons effect: the increase in aggression as a result of the mere presence of a weapon. I think this is especially likely to occur when people are already acting aggressively, but may increase the intensity of that aggression. In Rwanda the Hutus were already frustrated, angry and hostile, once the killings started and weapons were readily available, the violence escalated (I know this is a generalization).
Can someone turn around his or her prejudiced views?
Around the time that we were studying prejudice I watched a program that demonstrated that prejudice can be reduce, and I thought I would share my thoughts on it here.
This program was about White supremacist. He believed that the White race was going to become extinct if we didn’t do anything to get rid of these ‘other people’. If you think to the absolute extreme Deep South white supremacist and times that by 10 that was this guy. Now the amazing thing wasn’t that he held such beliefs (although I really cant understand it), but how he dramatically turned his beliefs around. His ‘break-though’ moment didn’t come when his sons first words were ‘White is good’ or ‘nigger’ or when he was imprisoned for bashing a couple who he believe were Jewish (even though they weren’t), but when he was at the supermarket and his 3 year old son turned around and said ‘look daddy it’s a big Black nigger’. This man was able to turn his beliefs around from such extreme hatred and prejudice to acceptance and compassion. As horrible as it is to witness such hated, it is something that surrounds our everyday existence, it is encouraging to hear a story like his.
Week 10 - Attraction, Exclusion and Close Relationships
The Need to belong
Based on evolution, humans belonged to groups in order to ensure survival. Being a member of a group allowed members to distribute the workload and increase safety. More recently, however, most people no longer belong to tribes, but they still protect those in their groups and still have a desire to belong in groups.
Why do we form and maintain relationships (even bad ones)? Humans have many ‘needs’ and the need to belong is simply one of them.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs proposed that, needs vary significantly in terms of their importance. Some needs must be met before other needs can be addressed. Lower- level needs such as physiological or safety needs must be met before our belonging and love needs can be addressed. We all need to feel that we are needed and accepted by others. As social beings, humans need to feel as though we are rooted in communities, with ties to family and friends. It is this need for belonging that motivates us to develop relationships.
This need to belong is so powerful that it can lead people to behave in ways that would otherwise seem bizarre. An example of this is the prisoners at San Quentin who were sentenced to solitary confinement resorted to taking into toilets to have some connection with other humans. However, for most people their need to belong can be satisfied by simpler means, such as acceptance by family and friends. The need to belong is not simply satisfied by human contact, there also has to be an aspect of stability and mutual concern for one another. Having one of these factors without the other will only produce partial satisfaction. I think the clearest example of this is when you start university, although people may surround you, until you form new friendships, you may feel partially isolated. Once we have formed a few close relationships, this need to belong may be satisfied and we don’t feel the need to continuously seek new relationships. Some people may desire more close friends than other, but I think in general most people would prefer 2 to 5 close friendships than a dozen acquaintances, this comes back to the fact that to fulfil your need to belong there has to be some aspect of mutual concern. So in essence humans form relationships, whether they are friendships or intimate relationships to fulfil this need to belong.
What causes two people to be attracted to each other, either as friends or as romantic partners? When two people meet they may come to like each other, or they may not, what factors influence this? I general I think that we seek out friends and partners who are similar to ourselves in some way, either in interest, desires, goals, hobbies etc. But apparently it is not only these factors that guide who we seek out, the matching hypothesis states that people tend to pair up with other who are equally attractive. I find this fascinating. This could be rooted in the idea that men seek partner that are like their mothers and women seek partners that are like their fathers, I’m not sure how much I agree with this idea, but it could explain why people seek out partners who are equally attractive.
It is not that surprising that people like people who are similar to themselves, but one thing that I did find surprising was that people also come to like people based on familiarity mere exposure effect. I can see that this is targeted in marketing. Often using the idea that the more that you see something, the more you come to like it, and when faced with a range of options you will choose the one that is most familiar to you. So I guess in a way it could also work on people. But I disagree that just through exposure you will come to like someone; I think that factors such as lack of similarity or a bad experience with someone could potentially undermine the notion of mere exposure.
I think we can all relate to the fact that at one point in our lives we have been rejected. I think this really highlights one of the key themes of this textbook, that bad is stronger than good. When someone is rejected it can take a lot longer for that person to come to feel accepted again. I don’t agree with Freud on the notion that humans are innately evil, but I do think that rejection and exclusions are two instances that show the ugly side of humanity. We are so eager to reject people sometimes for no reason other than that of what a person is wearing, without considering what the possible disastrous effects may be on the other person (including rejection sensitivity). I could go on indefinitely about the long-term effects of rejection on individuals, but I find it a little depressing, so I think I will move on to something a little more positive, love...
There is no such thing as a person who doesn't want any friends 
Love no one really knows what it is, or how to get it, but it is something that it so desperately sought after in our society. Those three words, ‘I Love You’, are used in a variety of situations, and very rarely mean the same thing to everyone. I find love an intriguing and fascinating topic, yet when it came time to write about it I was lost with what to say. So I turned to my good friend Wikipedia, which told me that ‘love’ relates to any number of emotions relating to strong affection. Then I started thinking about it, are strong emotions of affection the key? People say that they love a food, or a sport, but do these kinds of love really consist of strong feelings of affection. May be it would be more accurate to say I like pears or I like tennis? However, this still does not satisfy my curiosity. I love my parents, and that definitely relates to strong feelings of affection, but it does not mean the same thing as when I say I love my partner. The range of situations in which love it used, combined with the intricacy of the feelings involved, makes love not only intriguing, but also difficult to define.
Romantic Love - Hatfield distinguishes two types of love: temporary passionate love and enduring companionate love.
Passionate love is an aroused state of intense positive absorption in another, usually present at the beginning of a love relationship. The theory assumes that emotions have two ingredients, physical arousal and cognitive appraisal, and that arousal from any source can enhance one emotion or another, depending on how we interpret and label that emotion.
If the inevitable odds against eternal passionate love in a relationship were better understood, more people might choose to be satisfied with the quieter feeling of satisfaction and contentment (Myer, 2007).
As love matures it becomes a steadier companionate love - a deep, affection attachment we feel for those with whom are lives are intertwined. One key to an enduring relationship is equity: receiving in proportion to what to put in. Mutually sharing the self and possessions, giving and getting emotional support, promoting and caring about each other's welfare, are the core to every type of loving relationship. Another important ingredient is self-disclosure (revealing intimate aspects of oneself to others, our likes and dislikes, our dreams and worries, our proud and shameful moments). As one person reveals a little, the other reciprocates, the first then reveals more, and so on, as friends or lovers move to deeper intimacy.
Tutorial 4 - Cross-cultural training
Culture shock refers to the feelings of anxiety that people experience when they find themselves in an unknown culture. This is definitely something that I can relate to first hand, from my travels through South East Asia.
I remember my first trip to Asia, I arrived in the Bangkok airport, I walked outside, and my immediate thoughts was what the hell am I doing here? (it was hot and humid, and on top of that it was smelly and covered in smog). Coming from a reasonably relaxed country, to a city that is crazy, I immediately felt like a fish out of water. However, my regret for being there did not last very long. Immediately I was fascinated by the culture and hospitality of the people who took us into their homes, and shared with us their culture, and again unfortunately this honeymoon phase did not last either. I soon became aware of the enormous child sex trade industry, with children as young as 9 or 10 being sold so their family can afford to eat. The contrast from where I came from and where I was, had never been so apparent, and unlike the first two phases this one stuck with me for much longer, as I did not have time to enter the adjustment phase.
When I returned to Asia a year later all that had happened the previous time was forgotten, and I started back at the honeymoon phase. However, this time I was pushed further out of my comfort zone, and although there was still the initial honeymoon period, this again soon ended. During this visit I saw things that I never believed possibly (both amazing and utterly tragic). But fortunately this time I believe I was about to come to terms with the differences between cultures,and move into the adjustment phase. I was able to accept a certain way of doing things, even if it was not what I was accustomed to.
Hendrick,C., & Hendrick, S. (1986). A theory and method of love. Journal of personality and Social Psychology. 50, 392-402.
Myer, D. (2007). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.
Sternberg, R. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119-135.
White, G. L., Fishbeinm S., & Rutsein, J. (1981). Passionate love and the misattribution of arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 56-62.
Week 11 Groups
Why do we form group?
We are members of many groups.
From the evolution point of view we formed groups as to provide protection from wild animals, and even though we may not need protection from animals humans still have the tendency to form and maintain groups. Why do we form groups?
A group is a collection of at least two people who are doing or being something together – Baumeister & Bushman. Although mostly agree with this definition, I find it hard to think of a group of only two people, i just have an idea in my head that a group must be more than 2. So i guess i will compromise, and accept that a group may consist of 3 or more people. People form groups for many different reasons, one of which may be to fulfil our need to belong. However, I think this may be a little to simple, if forming groups was purely to belong, then why do we naturally classify other people into groups? I think that the formation of groups stems form our tendency to being cognitive misers, or our tendency to classify objects in order to make sense of our world. The Self-Categorization Theory assumes that individuals divide and understand the social world through self-categorisations. Individuals see themselves as similar to some, and distinct from others and this is the basis on which groups are formed (Turner et al., 1987).
According to the Social Identity Theory, humans form and maintain groups in order to achieve a sense of social identity. The Social Identity Theory suggests that when individuals perceive themselves as sharing a common group membership they become highly identified with that group and become more connected with the welfare of the group. Individuals join groups that they perceive as similar (ingroup) and distinguish from those who are seen as different (outgroup) (Tajfel & Turner, 2004). These group members seek to find positive ingroup distinctiveness, differentiating their group from other groups. This distinction leads to not only ingroup favouritism; the individual treats their group more favourably than other groups, but also deindividuation; the loss of self-awareness and of individual accountability in a group. The more an individual identifies with his or her own group, the greater this distinction, and the more the individual’s identity depends on the welfare of the group. Although groups generally serve a positive role in society, these processes of ingroup favouritism, and deindividuation can produce terrible results.
Groups can have both positive and negative effects on individuals. Social facilitation demonstrates how the presence of others can increase one’s performance on a well-learnt task. The key here is that the person has to already be confident in performing the task, otherwise the presence of others can decrease performance. In some situations, our attention is divided between the task at hand and the presence of others (distraction-conflict theory).
We put in less effort hoping that other people will pick up the 'slack'
On the flip side of social facilitation, are negative effect of groups is social-loafing, this is when people reduce their individual effort when working in a group. This is one of the reasons why I am no to keen on group assignments. When working as part of a group, generally everyone receives the same mark no matter what their individual input was, when individuals are not identifiable for their work they may put in less effort. When individuals being to suspect that others are putting in less effort, they also put in less effort (this is know as the bad apple effect). The effects of social-loafing can be detrimental when you are trying to achieve something, however, though making individual efforts identifiable, and increasing the group cohesiveness it may be possible to reduce the effects of social-loafing.
How Groups Think?
When individuals come together as a group, the pooling of information can have great benefits for our society, but at times groups can be incredibly stupid. We are often encouraged to brainstorm when we are working in groups, thinking that it will produce a higher standard of ideas. However, it has been demonstrated that not only it the quantity of work in group lower, but the quality of this work was also lower as well. In order to perform effectively as a group, individuals must work separately before pooling information, and in these situations pooled group judgments may be better than single judgments.
Groupthink is the tendency for group members to think alike. When groups are working together they run the risk of conforming to the group, and not considering alternative plans of action. Groupthink is most likely to occur when the group is cohesive, there is a strong leader, groups are isolated from others, and the group perceives itself as superior to others. Even though individual members may have differing ideas or opinions, because of the pressure to conform to, and be accepted by, the group, they don’t express their ideas, enhancing the chances that groupthink will influence their decisions.
Tutorial 5 - Australia Zeitgeist
Social capital is a loosely defined concept; I take it to mean both the quality of human connection as well as community involvement. One concept that can be reflected in social capital is global warming, how much are people willing to put in to achieve a common goal?
Social Disengagement: I take this to be the opposite of social capital; it is isolation from society, exclusion and disconnection. The question can be asked, what is happening to society, when people are disengaging rather than engaging?
Zeitgeist: is used to describe ‘the spirit of the age and its society’, it is used to describe the intellectual, cultural, ethical, and political climate of an era.
In the tutorials this week we also listened to a talk by Hugh Mackay. Hugh Mackay talked about how we are going through a time of social change, this was demonstrated through noting some startling statistics: • Around 45% of marriages end in divorce, compared to less than 10% 25 years ago. • 500,000 children regularly move from the home of the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent. • 30 years ago 75% of people were married by the age of 30, now less than 30% will be married by the age of 30. • More than 50% of household contain one or two people.
Mackay talked about how these factors are leading to disengaging from the social scene. I think that this disengagement can also be witnessed in the marked increase in media use. The ipod, and mobile phones are prime examples of factors that contribute to social disengagement.Instead of connecting with our social world, we are caught up with what's going on with ourselves. But as I am aware that most of you all listened to this talk as well, I’m going to refrain from discussing it any more. What I do want to discuss, is what I see as the Australian Zeitgeist, and the Zeitgeist of the times in general.
Zeitgeist is used to describe the spirit or flavour of the times. I think that Australian and the world in general are going through a time of dramatic change. One only has to look at the American election to see such a change, when else is in American history would you see an African-American and a woman contending leadership, and later running for president. And although all have not welcomed him, I definitely think it is a huge step towards equality. Maybe ours is a time of transition.
Watson, G.B. (1928). Do groups think more effectively than individuals? The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,23, 328-336.
Tajfel, H. (1978). Social categorization, social identity and social comparison. In H. Tajfel (Ed.) Differentiation between social groups. (pp. 61-77). London: Academic Press.
Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 149-178.
Tajfel, H. & Turner, J. (2004) An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In M. J. Hatch & M. Schults (Eds.) Organizational Identity. (pp. 56-66). London: Oxford University Press.
Turner, J. C., Hoggs, M. A., Oaks, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell Ltd.
Prosocial behaviour is doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole. It can be seen in voluntary acts that are intended to benefit others. One purpose of prosocial behaviour is to be accepted. At times prosocial behaviour can come at a cost to the individual, so why do we engage in this behaviour, as mentioned above one reason is to gain acceptance and social status, others could include; self-interest, guilt, altruism, convenience etc. When we engage in certain prosocial behaviour we have an expectation that our good deeds will be both reciprocated and fair. Reciprocation can be both direct and indirect; we may help someone with the anticipation that they can help us later, or we may help someone and later when we need help someone else may help us (this can be seen in the notion of karma – what goes around comes around). We also act on the notion of fairness. One thing that intrigued me about fairness was the fact that individual’s feel guilty for having lived when others may have died (such as in a natural disaster) – also known as survivor guilt.
Why do people help?
Humans are unique in the way that they help strangers. According to the evolution we help people who have our genes (Kin selection). Yet this does not explain why we help people we do not know. Auguste Compte described two types of helping based on different motives; Egotistic helping, and altruistic helping. In egotistic helping the helper looks for something in return for their helping. In contrast in altruistic helping the helper seeks to help another without expecting anything in return, and is motivated by empathy.
Does altruistic behaviour truly exist?
Although people assume that altruistic helping exists, it might not. Baumeister and Bushman
Oskar Shindler's factory where he saved 1200 Jews from concentration camps
Altruism is the idea of a selfless act of providing aid to others than has no benefits for oneself, this often occurs at the expense to one’s self. As humans are selfish in nature there is considerable question as to whether altruism actually exists.
The empathy-altruism hypothesis states that empathy motivates people to reduce other people’s distress, such as by helping or comforting them. When empathy is low, people can reduce their own stress either by helping the person in need or by escaping the situation so they don’t have to see the person suffer any longer. If empathy is high, however, then simply shutting your eyes or leaving the situation wont work because the other person is still suffering, in that case the only solution is to help the victim feel better. We decrease our distress by decreasing others distress. What I understood altruism to be was helping others with NO benefit to us. This hypothesis states that we help others to reduce our own discomfort, so can altruism truly exist if we are motivated to help others for personal gain (even if it is just to stop us from feeling bad)? Even in the smallest act that could be classified as altruistic, we gain some benefit, for someone just to say ‘thank you’ isn’t that a benefit in itself if it makes us feel good. The Negative State Relief Theory is no better at explaining altruistic behaviour, as it states that we are motivated to help others to relieve our own distress.
However such acts as that of Carl Wilkins in Rwanda that make you believe that altruism might just exist. Even after every other American had left Kigali, he alone stayed and contested the 800,000-person genocide. Despite death threats he stayed, saving lives time and time again. Such selfless goodness exemplifies altruism.
There have been many situations in which bystanders can help, and yet more often than not they don’t. Darley and Latane attributed this to an important situational factor, the presence of others. After staging emergencies under various conditions Darley and Latane came up with a decision making process for bystander intervention.
We will help only if the situation first enables us to first notice in incident, then interpret it as an emergency, and then finally assume responsibility for helping. At each step the presence of others turns people away from the path that leads to helping. When strangers are in a group on the street, they are more likely than individuals to focus on what they themselves are doing, and where they are going. If they notice an unusual situation, they may infer from other people's reactions that it is not an emergency, i.e. that person must be lying in that doorway because they are drunk. But in other situations, when the emergency is not ambiguous people still fail to help. They may notice the event, perceive it as an emergency yet fail to take any responsibility (this is also know as diffusion of responsibility, where we think that others will take responsibility).
The bystander effect is the tendency for any given bystander to be less likely to give aid if other bystanders are present. It has been suggested that helping decreases by 50% when we are in the presence of others. The best odds of our helping someone occur when:
- The victim appears to need and deserve help.
- The victim is in some way similar to us
- We have just observed someone else being helpful
- We are not in a hurry
- We are in a small town, or rural areas
- We are feeling guilty
- We are focused on others and not preoccupied.
- We are in a good mood.
It has been suggested that happy people are helpful people. No matter why people feel good, they become more generous and more eager to help.
Bystander Calculus Model- has also been proposed to explain why bystanders help in some situations and not others.
Bystanders calculate the (perceived) costs and benefits of providing help. 3 stages
- Physiological arousal: witnessing an emergency – physiological arousal – greater chance of helping.
- Labelling the arousal: is arousal labelled as a personal distress or empathetic concern? – usually labelled as personal distress.
- Evaluating the consequences: weigh up costs of helping, choose the action that reduces personal distress to the lowest cost.
- Costs of helping: Time and effort – less likely to help if it involves greater time and effort
- Costs of not helping: empathy costs (bystander experiences distress)
- Personal costs (bystander experiences blame or guilt).
- The greater the similarity to the victim the more likely the bystander is to help.
What are you going to do next time you see someone who may need help?
Week 14 Environmental Psychology
Environmental psychology studies the interactions and relations between humans and their environments. Environmental psychology looks at this in two ways; how the physical environment affects human thought, feelings, and behaviours as well as how human actions affect the environment. Ecological issues of people’s relationship to their environment, both natural and human-made, have assumed crucial importance to our quality of life, and even to the survival of humanity.
The environment can have both positive and negative impact on human. Crowing refers to the negative subjective feeling that there are too many people in a particular space, whereas density refers to the number of people in a given space. One example of this could be getting in to an elevator with 12 other people, although this may not be referred to as densely populated, people may have the negative experience that there are too many people in there.
Humans are having a deadly affect on the environment
One thing that really stood out at me in this weeks reading, was the trend in environmental concern. This reading was out of what I presume was an American textbook, it stated that in 1990 71% of Americans were concerned that there was not enough being done about the environment. All I have to say to that is WHAT (any of you who have been to the US may understand)? Okay let me explain, the US is the land of big, they want it big and they want it no matter what the cost to the environment (SUVs are a prime example of this mentality). I have never seen as much packaging and waste than I did in the US. The US has the most per capita waste.
However, we shouldn’t feel so good just yet, Australia is number 2. This is not to say that all states in the US are totally inactive, some states (such as California and Vermont) have made progress towards becoming environmentally friendly.But i don't think they contain the entire 70%. It just got me thinking about how attitudes really aren't a very good predictor of behaviour.
Wow, is it really that time of the year again? Boy how time flies when your having "fun". Well what can i say i got out of this course? I think it has really encouraged me to look at the things i do and think and possibly re-ass them. One example would be the fundamental attribution error, i know that i can fall in to its trap more often than not. In general i think the course has taught me a great deal, not only about social psychology but also about myself. I think that the e-portfolio gave us a chance to really understand, and reflect on, the course material. What feedback would i have for this course? In general i think that this course was great, the only thing i would comment on is the timing of the assessments, i would recommend that possibly the essay should be due a bit earlier (possibly wk 12 or so). I just think it is a little rough having all our assessment for the one unit within a space of 12 days. Okay so i'm signing off hopefully for the last time, not more battles with wikiversity!!! Take care, and happy marking James.