- 1 Nic's Social Psychology E-Portfolio 2008
- 2 Topic 1 - Introduction to SP
- 3 Topic 2 - Social Self
- 4 Topic 3 - Social Thinking
- 5 Topic 4 - Aggression
- 6 Topic 5 - Prejudice
- 7 Topic 6 - Relationships
- 8 Topic 7 - Groups
- 9 Topic 8 - Prosocial Behaviour
- 10 Topic 9 - Environmental Psychology
- 11 Nic's Final Thoughts
Nic's Social Psychology E-Portfolio 2008
What’s happening people? I would like to welcome you to my Wikiversity page. My name is Nicholas Brotohusodo and I am a 22 year old University of Canberra student completing my final semester of a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree. This page will be used to my record my progress as I travel along the journey that is the unit of Social Psychology (SP). All information will be separated by topic. With that being said, please feel free to delve deep into my thoughts, feelings and opinions as I enter the endearing realm of SP.
Topic 1 - Introduction to SP
So I have to say after attending the first SP lecture, I was excited by how interesting SP sounded – I was eager to learn. It seemed that SP was a unit which wasn’t as monotonous as certain stats units, but instead a subject that encompasses a broad array of issues from cultural customs to the relationships we maintain. According to the lecture, SP can be referred to as human behaviour in context. That is, thoughts, feelings and behaviours of people can be influenced: by the actual imagined or implied presence of others (Allport, 1935), and by a joint function of personal and situation influences (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). SP emerged between the 50s and 60s, and is an integral component of many other areas of psychology from biological to clinical. Whilst the lecture covered many areas, my most striking realisation probably arrived sometime during the first tutorial.
The first tutorial was very much an introductory one, as it was very informative and comprised of several interesting activities. Firstly, our lecturer/tutor James Neill (JN) gave us an overview of the assessment criteria for this unit. The assessments for SP are in a format which is completely foreign to me but I’m sure I’ll manage. I’m definitely not the only one floating in this boat. I particularly enjoyed the icebreaker exercise that involved arranging ourselves into the certain groups which we belong to. Examples of groups were eye colour, geographic location, and religious beliefs. This exercise gave me the chance to learn more about my fellow classmates. It also pushed me to think about the groups that I am a member of, and how they act to define me as an individual. This moment of reflection was pivotal in that it made me realise how broad SP really is, how SP encompasses a domain far beyond the boundaries of my naïve mind, and how I have so much to learn. I think I’m getting excited about the challenges I will face in this unit.
This notion was reinforced by the group activity which was held towards the end of the tutorial. It involved discussing in groups these four points: our definition of SP, what we know about SP, what we don’t know about SP, and potential essay topics. I can’t actually remember what our answers were, although I do recall referencing ‘Tabula Rasa’. I guess what this exercise, as well as the group discussion which followed, confirmed was that there is a lot that I do not know. In concluding my first week of the final semester of my degree, I have to say I was pleasantly suprised.
I have yet to really think about potential essay topics.
Topic 2 - Social Self
Before this week started, I posed myself with the question, how do I define myself in a social context? Well I’m not even sure if I can answer that now but if I did attempt to describe myself with an adjective which I know won’t suffice, I am sure that it would illustrate a painting which explains that I am a social creature commonly known as a human being. I thought to myself, the “self” surely doesn’t come from nothing. It has to somewhat be linked to variables such as environment, culture and the people you interact with. These experiences are what build character. I suppose one could argue that they’re all in the same category but it doesn’t really matter. Without them we would not be who we think we are. I was convinced that these variables are what set the foundation for one’s development of the “self”. These social variables are not things which we can necessarily control. It made me think about how much of myself is really myself?
The lecture this week provided me with insight into the “social self” and shed much light on my previous curiosities. It appears that there are many different theories about the purpose and function of the “self”. In studying psychology, I’ve maintained a somewhat eclectic view on most issues so I’ve always made an effort to absorb the various theories on display. Psychologically, the “self” is defined as a collection of cognitively-held beliefs that a person possesses about themselves. However “self” seems to extend beyond the body, to include psychologically meaningful, personal possessions and personal space. I took a particular liking to the quote in the lecture notes which describes the “self” as “an important tool with which the human organism makes its way through human society and thereby manages to satisfy its needs.
In recent times, the “self” has been further extended and increasingly viewed as: dynamic and changeable, multiple/plural, hierarchical, situationally and cognitively influenced, and culturally constructed. The psychological self includes things such as: attitudes, emotions, cognitions, group memberships, self-beliefs, self-concepts, social roles, and possessions. So it seems that humans are gregarious, group-based creatures, and a significant portion of our “self” and its “behaviour” is socially directed and influenced.
In line with my questions mentioned previously, some depict “self” as a construct of post-industrial, capitalist society and political systems which promote self-identity and choice-making, and then markets to the “self”. Relative to my curiousities, I found myself drawn to the areas which helped in finding answers. Self-constructs illustrate how psychologists study people’s selves, in cognitive, affective, and behavioral terms. Self-constructs comprise of elements such as:
Self-esteem: global feelings of self-worth; value placed in and degree of liking of self.
Self-concept: cognitive representations of the self.
Self-efficacy: belief in one’s capacity to succeed at a given task.
Self-awareness: attention directed at the self; usually involves evaluative comparison.
I guess I still haven’t found all the answers to my questions, but this week helped me move one step closer to truly understanding myself. Yeah that’s right, I said it.
Topic 3 - Social Thinking
This is an interesting clip my friend Thomas found on youtube. It deals with social perception, and how your appearance affects what people think of you: social perception. Social perception refers to how people: form impressions of, and make inferences about other people. A nice little quote courtesy of William James explains “whilst part of what we perceive comes through our sense from the object before us, another part (and it may be the larger part) always comes out of our own mind.” Simply beautiful.
Topic 4 - Aggression
Aggression is intriguing to me. It’s evident in a lot of the things that interest me from the most violent video game or movie to just plain wanting to watch two random men beat the crap out of each other. In this sense, I feel like aggression is an integral component of my being. I don’t know if it is just a guy thing but I personally just enjoy watching graphic depictions of rage and violence, particularly in movies and video games. I live life on the edge. If you don’t believe me, ask around. Haha...
Maybe watching an extremely violent movie functions as an outlet of some sort for me. Who knows? It’s another thing I can add to the list of stuff I need to learn. An example of such graphic depictions can be seen in the Takashi Miike’s film Ichi the Killer. The ultra-violent Ichi the Killer is one of his most controversial films, starring Tadanobu Asano as a sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer. The extreme violence was initially exploited to promote the film: during its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001, the audience received "barf bags" emblazoned with the film's logo as a promotional gimmick (one typically flamboyant gory killing involves a character slicing a man in half from head to groin, and severing another's face, which then slides down a nearby wall). The British Board of Film Classification refused to allow the release of the film uncut in Britain, citing its extreme levels of sexual violence towards women. In Hong Kong, 15 minutes of footage was cut. Check out the trailer here: Ichi the Killer trailer (note: this is really, really not for those with weak stomachs).
Aggression has been defined as:
“Behaviour that is intended to hurt another person or group” – Carr
“Behaviour that results in personal injury or destruction of property” – Bandura
“Behaviour directed towards the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment” – Baron
“The intentional infliction of some form of harm on others” – Baron and Byrne
“Behaviour directed towards another individual carried out with the immediate intent to cause harm” – Anderson & Huesmann
Thus aggression can be defined as antisocial behaviour, behaviour that either damages interpersonal relationships or is culturally undesirable. Aggression may be social or antisocial. It’s interesting how certain notions in studying psychology make so much sense when placed in a structured construct. Aggression is universal – there are certain cultural rules which restrain aggression. Moreover aggression aids social animals – culture offers nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts and problems. This information made me think of lyrics from the almighty Ill Bill which states “without order nothing exists, without chaos nothing evolves”. I feel like this sentiment relates to the mechanics of culture and what people deem “appropriate”. Maybe this is why I absorb myself in various mediums that display aggressive and violent actions. Haha not that I have any desire to commit such acts but beating up innocent pedestrians on a game like Grand Theft Auto definitely does fill a void in my existence.
The types of aggression are:
Hostile aggression: hot impulsive; intentional use of harmful behaviour; the goal is to cause injury to the victim
Instrumental aggression: cold, premeditated; intentional use of harmful behaviour; so that one can achieve some other goal
Passive aggression: harming others by withholding a behaviour
Active aggression: harming others by performing a behaviour
So it appears there are many different forms of aggression other than the ones I had previously considered. So what is aggression good for? The lecture notes explore an evolutionary perspective from Lorenz (1963). Lorenz’s account of aggression and the social life of animals, states: aggression in animals has a protective function. Aggression is exhibited in the defence of young. Within a species, aggression spaces out animals so that they don’t compete for the same resources. Aggression structures animal society. I really thought that this was an appealing source of information. Although I’m not sure if Lorenz’s claims can be generalised to humans, nor can I nullify flaws in this perspective, such as cross-cultural differences and social factors, I feel like I can relate to this research. Yeah they say that violent media exposure tends to be associated with increased aggression, but after learning about the potential positive benefits which stem from the concept of aggression, I have convinced myself (that doesn’t mean it’s justified haha) that my yearning for the observation of gunfire, explosions and beatdowns is just another healthy part of the “self” that I am still trying to figure out. Booyah.
Oh yeah with regards to Ghosts of Rwanda, well I don't really know what to say. Ghosts of Rwanda is a PBS documentary about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. A lot of this doco was too confronting and too much for me to stomach. A lot of discussion surrounding this horrible event results in finger-pointing. I don't really know how to approach this. I guess what we can extract from this tragedy is to remember Oskar Schindler, and realise the responsibility we have as a society to not ever just follow blindly.
Topic 5 - Prejudice
The issue of prejudice, stereotypes and racism has always been one which has fascinated me. This is probably because I can relate to these issues. I’m sure we have all been discriminated against in our lives. As for myself, being of Chinese Indonesian descent, well I have experienced it too. I really struggled to come to terms with my identity and where I fit in during the late stages of primary school to the early stages of high school. This was probably a result of being called “ching chong chinaman” in kindergarten and getting into a physical scuffle in high school which left me with twenty-one stitches in my left ear. This week was an interesting one so I guess we will explore the important areas as we go along in this entry.
The key concepts of this week’s lecture can be found as follow:
Prejudice: a negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group
Racism: prejudiced attitudes toward a particular race
Aversive racism: simultaneously holding egalitarian values and negative feelings
Discrimination: unequal treatment based on group membership
Stereotype: beliefs that associate groups with traits
Subtypes: categories for people who don’t fit a general stereotype
Social categorization: sorting people into groups on common characteristics
Most prejudice arises from external characteristics. Most people claim not to be prejudiced – behaviour sometimes differs from expressed values. Prejudice comes in many shapes from racism to sexism to ageism. So why does prejudice exist? The text book explains that it is due to:
A tendency to hold stereotypes and prejudice may be innate – content of stereotypes is learned through socialization
People automatically know stereotypes and have to work to override them; Ingroup favouritism – preferential treatment or favourable attitudes toward one’s own group members
Minimal group effect – ingroup favouritism occurs even when group membership was random
Rationalisation for oppression – powerful group retains power through use of stereotypes and prejudices
Prejudice and self-esteem – can be self-affirming; if other groups are inferior, my group (“I”) must be superior
Many stereotypes may be based on genuine difference, but then overgeneralised. Whilst stereotypes can be positive or negative, most seem to be unfavourable. Stereotypes are an odd thing. I mean I am Asian so does that mean I am a bad driver? Or am good with numbers? Maybe yes and maybe no – that’s beside the point. Stereotypes can form on the basis of salience. The scapegoat theory implies that people blame problems on the outgroup, which contributes to negative feelings. Self-serving bias refers to when people make internal attributions for success but refuse external attributions for failure. Discrimination reflects a difficult time and this might lead to individuals behaving in an aggressive manner to outgroups. Conflict and stress bring out stereotypes. People use their stereotypes as hypotheses to be tested rather than rules applicable to all.
Everyone deals with prejudice in their own way. Some take out their frustration with violence. Some keep it all bottled up inside. Some, like comedian Dave Chappelle deal with it with humour. It’s a strange thing I mean, his TV show is pretty hilarious. It uses humour to tackle racial issues, or at least bring them to the forefront. Despite the hilarity of his skits, Chappelle stopped making the show. There are a lot of ignorant people out there who don’t extract the lesson from the skits. Are these funny skits about racism educating people or reinforcing stereotypes? Chappelle felt that instead of bringing people together and teaching, his show was perpetuating these stereotypes and making the racial segregation that already exists in this world, even worse. There are a lot of initiatives going on currently to combat prejudice and discrimination, and I think it’s just a really great thing. I have been a victim of racism. I have a large amount of friends who have been discriminated against. The worst thing about this all is that it is still happening everyday, everywhere, all the time. I sometimes feel like these sorts of things will always be happening regardless of what era we are living in, but you know I guess you just need to put your best foot forward.
Check out one of Chappelle’s skits here from his ever-so-popular show ‘Chappelle’s Show’. Here Chappelle, along with John Mayer, proves that no matter what race you are, you CAN dance: White people CAN dance.
Topic 6 - Relationships
Ahhh relationships... we all yearn to belong and feel that ineffable connection to someone or something. The need to belong refers to the desire to form and maintain close, lasting relationships with other individuals. In the lecture I found it interesting to note that homosapiens:
- Appear to need contact with other members of their species
- Experience a powerful drive to form and maintain close lasting relationships
- Usually form relationships easily
- Are reluctant to end relationships
- Seek an optimal balance between social contacts and solitude
The Basic need to belong is not unique to humans – people can be similar on more dimensions, and people spend much time and energy to secure their place in the social group. Moreover belongingness consists of: regular social contact with others, and close, sable, mutually intimate contact. People do not continue to form relationships – typically seek four to six close relationships, even in people-rich environments. I find this to be true as I have many acquaintances, but only few friends I consider close to me.
Relationships are important to me. I place a lot of value on them and try my hardest to sustain the ones that I still have. I, like some of you, have been heartbroken, and it’s interesting to explore the concept of romantic relationships from a psychological viewpoint. I am aware that every relationship is different to an extent but I think it is worth highlighting certain studies and theories as they shed appropriate light on my interest toward relationships and how they might work.
The social exchange theory states that people are motivated to increase benefits and decrease costs in their relationships with others. The equity theory (balance theory) postulates that people are most satisfied with a relationship when the ratio between benefits and contributions is similar for both partners. That is, people prefer relationships that are psychologically balanced, and people are motivated to restore balance in relationships.
So what is love? I’ve been lead to believe that I was once in love. Whether I was or whether it was just infatuation is something I have yet to figure out. According to the text book, there are two types of love:
Passionate love – intense and strong feelings of longing, desire and excitement toward another person; involves physiological arousal; most cultures have romantic love, although forms and expressions vary; not always viewed positively
Companionate love – caring and affection for those with whom our lives are deeply intertwined; characterized by high levels of self-disclosure; mutual understanding; caring; commitment; calm, serene emotions; important for successful marriages
Romantic love exists in most cultures, however forms and expression vary by culture, where attitude varies by culture and era. Apparently passionate love is important for starting relationships. Conversely compassionate love is important for making it succeed and survive. In exploring “love” as a logical concept, it is of interest to investigate several of the theories we looked at this week. Sternberg’s triangular model of love comprises of passion (motivational), intimacy (emotional) and commitment (cognitive) components. The motivational component refers to physiological arousal, longing and sexual attraction. The emotional component refers to closeness, sharing, support, understanding and concern. The cognitive component refers to conscious decision, willing to define as love in the long term. Schacter’s 2-factor theory of emotion focuses on the two notions of physical arousal and cognitive appraisal (interpret arousal as love). Lastly, Hatfield and Walster’s 3-factor theory of romantic love consists of cultural exposure, physiological arousal, and the presence of an appropriate love object. Thus according to Hatfield and Walster, if all three of these stars are aligned, romantic love is highly probable.
Relationships and love are a strange concept with an aura of mystery surrounding it. It’s such a universal phenomenon in that we have all experienced things like love, belonging, rejection, attachment and jealousy. As mentioned previously, every relationship is different. I don’t really know if it is ever going to be possible to break relationships and love down into a science. Love is such a fuzzy concept that it really comes down to your own perspective. It’s all relative I guess. I think love, relationships and the rest of that jazz is best summarised in artist John Legend’s lyrics “…everybody knows, but nobody really knows…”
Topic 7 - Groups
Group - a collection of at least two people who are doing or being something together
Power - one person’s control over another person
Philip Zimbardo’s famous Stanford prison experiment always fascinated me a great deal. Despite no apparent ethical concerns, it was conducted and the results are extraordinary. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four undergraduates were selected out of 70 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Those selected were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities, in order to obtain a representative sample. Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited "genuine" sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatised and two had to be removed from the experiment early. After a graduate student objected to the inhumane conditions in the prison, and realising that he had been passively allowing unethical acts to be performed under his direct supervision, Zimbardo concluded that everyone including himself had become too absorbed in their roles and terminated the experiment after six days. Here is a link to a summary of the experiment: Zimbardo’s experiment. If you get the chance, track the footage down and watch it. The power of conformity within groups is incredibly influential. I guess it really makes you question what it takes to truly be a good leader.
So what is prosocial behaviour? Prosocial behaviour refers to “voluntary actions that are intended to help or benefit another individual or group of individuals” (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989). Prosocial behaviour involves doing something good for someone or society, building relationships, helping society to function, and adding to “social capital”. Prosocial behaviour is so important because culture is more than the sum of its parts; because prosocial behaviour builds relationships; and because antisocial behaviour destroys relationships.
The most fascinating aspect of this week was the notion of altruism and whether it is possible. Altruism refers to helping behaviours focused only on the well-being of others (and often at personal cost). Prosocial behaviour does not equal altruism because prosocial behaviour may involve self-interest. There have been arguments against the concept of altruism questioning: if altruistic helpers are only helping to make themselves feel good, aren’t they really just being selfish? Does the innate pleasure we get from helping points to the basic goodness of human nature? Is altruism, then, just as natural as selfishness?
I found the bystander effect extremely interesting. The bystander effect states that people are less likely to help when they are in a group (or in the presence of others) than when they are alone. This concept is best illustrated in the horrific story of Kitty Genovese. On March 13, 1964 Genovese was attacked by a rapist with a knife outside her apartment in Queens, New York. Her screams for help aroused 38 of her neighbours. Many watched from their windows while, for 35 minutes, she tried to escape. None called the police. That story is so upsetting. I would like to think that I am an exception to the bystander effect. I know it’s hard to make such a bold statement when it’s such a circumstantial thing, but next time I’m in a situation which resembles the bystander effect, I will not follow the trend - i will do the right thing. To conclude this week’s entry, here is a clip I found on youtube explaining the bystander effect.
Topic 9 - Environmental Psychology
The following quotes are all courtesy of Oskamp and Schultz (1998):
“Environmental psychology studies the interactions and relations between people and their environments.”
“Traditionally… environmental psychology has emphasized how the physical environment affects human thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. However much recent environmental research has stressed the other side of the coin – 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 capacity of humanity.”
Research reveals positive, healthy effects of nature-based experiences. I particularly found the ‘nature-deficit disorder’ of interest this week. Nature deficit disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ (2005). Louv argues that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in behavioral problems, exacerbated by parental fears, restricted access to nature, and technology. Apparently doctors and psychologists are being encouraged to consider “green” experiences (in touch with nature) as part of the physical and psychological health promotion, prevention, and treatment regimens. Howard Frumkin put together a literature review of the positive physical health effects of nature in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It seems there are positive benefits as research has revealed positive, healthy effects of nature-based experiences.
I found these findings and statements extremely encouraging. Over the last few years I have become a bit of a couch potato. I have surrendered to the forces of TV, X-Box 360 and fast food for far too long. Perhaps this is the reminder I needed to get out there and not only get healthy but too appreciate the beautiful environment I am grateful to be a part of.
In conclusion, I think that this quote from Deborah Winter sufficiently addresses the environmental problems that currently exist:
“Most psychologists still think that environmental problems are the concern of environmental scientists but environmental problems are caused primarily by human behaviours, feelings and attitudes. We can’t solve these problems without psychology’s help and we really need psychologists to go work on them.”
Nic's Final Thoughts
I have to say the unit of SP was a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. That's not to take away from the content of the unit, it's just that well uni work is uni work and it's just amazing to come across a unit which is so broad that there is bound to be an SP area you will find interesting - it was refreshing. As discussed at the very beginning of this semester, SP is a realm which relates to everything that we do in our daily lives. We as humans are social beings and are influenced positively and negatively by the social constructs and happenings around us. I think that's why I found this unit so enjoyable - because of the various areas with which we can relate to. This e-portfolio format was definitely something new to me but I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel like this unit has been one of those moments in one's uni career where they realise how lucky they are to be learning. I may be on the verge of completing this subject, and on a larger scale my degree, but I still have much to learn. This is only the beginning of my journey.
On that note, I would like to thank JN for a wonderful job teaching us this semester.
Peace. I'm out.
Nix to the Uno