Sari's Social Psychology E-PORTFOLIO!
Alright well I've never had a blog-type portfolio for a class before so this is a first! Lets hope this all turns out the way its 'supposed' to! :)
Introduction to Social Psychology
This week’s lecture was an introduction to the overall social psychology unit. To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed as James went through the list of topics to be examined throughout the semester and freaked out even more when I finally got my text book and flicked through it the first time: SO MUCH INFO!!! Each chapter is approximately 40 pages and covers a lot of sub-topics involved within a particular topic of social psychology. I came to realize that social psychology is not just based on cultures and differences amongst various cultures; (which perhaps i had just been ignorant about and had always assumed as the result of the presence of the ‘social’ keyword in the subject?!) The depth of this subject is absolutely immense! To top it off, this e-portfolio thing is something i haven’t really had much experience with before and considering its allocated weighting to the overall unit: I'm freaking out even more! I'm not sure whether my usual ramblings about my beliefs and/or opinions on matters will actually be accepted and appropriate! Also, I'm not too keen on sharing my opinions and views so publicly; but hey, its a new assessment task with a different approach so lets try it out and see how it works out :)
Welcome to Sari’s Portfolio!! :)
** SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY: How the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of individuals are influenced by the actual imagined or implied presence of others - Allport, 1935.
In tutorials this week, we worked in groups to brainstorm topics revolving around 'Social Psychology.' My group members and I came up with the following:
** OUR definition of Social Psychology we came up with a list of keywords which we believed described the many aspects of social psychology:
- groups dynamics
- conformity/ variability
- social expectations
- pro-social vs. antisocial
- altruism vs. individualism/ self preservation
- change in behaviours/ attitudes
- worlds within worlds
- social context
In summary, we referred to Allport's definition (1935) and agreed that it was the most simple, yet informative explanation of 'Social Psychology' in terms of highlighting the many aspects involved.
* What we ALREADY KNOW about Social Psychology
- that awareness is continuously developing
- social norms is an influence - eg, conforming to social norms
- social authority - eg, certain figures in society are highly regarded and looked upon (such as police, doctors, etc) and therefore an individual's behaviour dramatically changes in the presence of these authoritative figures.
- social roles - individuals may change their behaviour(s) depending on their social role in various contexts (eg, teacher vs mother)
- diffusion of responsibility
- social loafing vs. increased industry
- social identity
** What we DON'T KNOW (YET!) about Social Psychology and wish to further investigate
- how much is group mentality a product of situation or person
- why people act altruistic against their own interest
- prejudice and exclusion
- cross cultural perspectives and its influence
OVERALL, this introductory tutorial, as well as the opening chapter of the textbook, helped me realize the numerous sub-topics and issues that are involved with Social Psychology and the huge role that social psychology plays in communities all throughout the world - Something i had not really thoroughly considered about before! This unit actually looks interesting!! :)
After thoughts: Although we are all human beings, each of us differ greatly! We all have different likes/dislikes, prefer certain things to be of a certain way, enjoy different activities and have varying beliefs and views. However, despite such differences, we get along with a number of different people and have large social networks. During our life-spans, we travel and move from place to place, meeting new people all the time. How is it that we learn to adapt to these environments and learn to get along with the great variety of people we meet! Why is it that even though your best friend might have completely conflicting views with you about an issue, you still get along with them and remain best friends? How do we accept such differences and agree to live in a community full of such diverse cultures, beliefs, values and customs? I guess these are issues all explored in the huge field of human social psychology -
The Social Self
* CULTURE & NATURE:
Key Terms (from text book readings and lecture notes)
- Psyche = a broader term for mind, encompassing emotions, desires, perceptions, and all other psychological processes.
- Nature = is the physical world around us, including its laws and processes. Involves theories of natural occurring processes, such as Evolution.
- Culture = used to refer to what a large group of people have in common.
-"Shared ideas, shared underlying beliefs."
-"No single person has culture by himself or herself."
-"Exists as a network linking many different people."
-"A system consisting of many moving parts that work together."
--> Culture is an information-based system, involving both shared understandings and praxis (practical ways of doing things), that allows groups of people to live together in an organized fashion and to satisfy their biological and other needs.
- Social Animals = humans are social animals: we make connections with others and prefer to live, work, and play with other members of our species.
- Cultural Animals = uses language and ideas to organize social interactions. Evolution has shaped the human psyche to enable humans to create and take part in culture.
- THE SOCIAL BRAIN:
From this weeks text book readings, I found the Social Brain Theory to be particularly interesting. The author makes several comparisons between human beings and other animals, and although it has always been obvious that humans are much more complex in regards to their ways of forming and living in communities and the processes which they carry out in order to survive, the underlying question of WHY this is so and why other animals fail to form such structures has not been something I have looked into in depth before. Hence, I found the Social Brain Theory quite fascinating in terms of explaining such differences between humans and other animals. This theory suggests that 'the human brain evolved in a way to allow humans to have rich, complex social lives...for understanding each other' (pg 42 of text book). We are obviously social animals, and as the text book points out: we seek to form relationships and communicate with others - we live in communities and have social contact with other humans every single day! By having this 'social' trait, we are able to share ideas and learn from each other. The sharing and learning from each other allows us to advance further and strengthens the likelihood of the survival of our species. The social aspect in human beings is definitely a unique and valuable element! Without it,we would be a struggling species and definitely would not have made the advanced accomplishments which exist today due to 'the power of mankind.'
- THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN BRAIN:
Below is a short clip which suggests an 'empathy' component present in the human brain. After reading the explanation on the 'social brain,' this clip further helps to explain why the human brain is generally so efficient in socially interacting with others. We are able to relate to others, share experiences, learn from each other, discuss issues, empathize and sympathize. Why is this so?? Are other animals capable of these functions also?? This clip suggests that perhaps there are components in the human brain that are responsible for these processes and serve as the underlying mechanisms of the 'social brain.'
- THE SELF:
The text book goes in to great depth about the “Self.” personally, I found referring to ‘the self of the person’ rather weird! In common conversation, we do not talk about the self of a person, we talk about the person as a whole. Therefore, getting used to the idea that the self is a separate concept was a bit weird at first; however, after reading the entire segment on the topic in the text book, it became apparent that the self is actually an established and distinct model.
Some key notes from this section which I thought were worth highlighting: Three parts of the self:
(1) self-knowledge; self concept – humans have a sense of self awareness which enables them to develop elaborate sets of beliefs about themselves. (“tell me something about yourself”). Involves self reflecting on one self and the storage of information about one self.
(2) Interpersonal self; public self – helps an individual connect socially with other people. The image they try to showcase to other people. Not the same to the individual’s self concept, yet is similar. May not be completely truthful and therefore, accurate. Varies according to the significance and role of that person in ones’ life. Eg, boss vs friend. Gain social acceptance and maintain good interpersonal relationships.
(3) Agent self; executive function – the part of the self that is involved in control, including control over other people and the self. Allows the self to make choices. The ‘doer’ in an individual.
- The self of a person is structured to serve a function - designed to enable you to relate to others, giving you a place in society/culture which allows you to connect with other people.
- Selfish impulses – to do what is best for themselves; designed to know and do what is best for themselves in particular situations
- Social consciousness – being aware of social morals and values to avoid ‘selfish’ behaviours
- Self as an impulse – refers to the person’s inner thoughts and feelings.
- Self as an institution – refers to the way the person acts in public situations. Role performance.
- Self construal – a way of thinking about the self.
- Independent self construal – emphasizes what makes the self different and sets it apart from others. Unique traits.
- Interdependent self construal – emphasizes what connects the self to other people. (society and culture influences towards being independent or interdependent).
- The self has to gain social acceptance; people are not designed to live by themselves. By learning how to act properly and how to conform to social rules and norms, people can improve their chances of social acceptance.
- Changing and adapting the self in order to appeal to others.
• THE SELF & CULTURE: Another topic from this chapter which I found interesting was the discussion on the self and culture. It highlights the influence that a person's social context has on the self and how it affects in the shaping of the self. The concepts of independence and interdependence (Markus and Kitayama) are explained:
- independence - seeking social identity, making a name for yourself, becoming independent, striving for independent success
- interdependence - taking others' in to consideration whilst achieving goals
The text book makes the comparison between Asian communities and western communities. Asian communities are indicated to be interdependent which reflects in their lifestyles: caring for family members, maintaining family values, working towards goals around community traditions and customs. In other words, success is achieved as a community/group effort. In contrast, independent communities, such as western societies, seek to achieve success individually. They do not rely on assistance from others' but strive for independent success.
“People think about people more than any other topic combined” (textbook pg 47). This statement really struck out to me. Following on from last week’s ‘social self’ and discussion on humans described as being ‘social animals’ is really re-emphasized by the fact that we spend so much time thinking about other people! I guess it is important to do so, I mean, after all, being social creatures: we need to consider all the components relevant in our social context and what is more obvious then our main species (our idols, role-models, enemies, best friends, etc) = other people! I guess what I’m trying to say is that we consciously do not think about the fact that we think about others, let alone how much time we spend actually doing so! However, when it is actually stated like that it makes us realize that yes, in fact we do think about other people ALOT; its just part of normal human behavior which is relevant to our functioning as ‘social creatures.’ The textbook provides some examples of this. I particularly liked the television shows example in which it was highlighted that the majority of TV shows are focused on people and their relationships, activities, and just overall life. Why is it that we spend so much time watching TV shows based on human characters? And whilst doing so, we get so involved! We assess each character, we judge them, and we even take sides (when there is a dispute of some sort in the storyline amongst certain characters). Why don’t we instead take this time to assess ourselves and improve aspects of our own lives? This just demonstrates the INTEREST that we, as humans, have in other people and their associating relationships/activities/etc and the natural tendency to get involved with/in other peoples’ lives. In regards to this, can the human species perhaps be considered as nosey? Spending so much time focusing and thinking about other people makes it seem as though we are more concerned with others’ and their issues, almost as if we are intrusive! But remembering that we are ‘social creatures’ highlights the importance and relevance of us thinking about other people. By doing so, we are engaging ourselves with each other (even if this is not occurring directly; as in watching TV shows based on other people) and are ‘thinking’ about other people – clearly a characteristic of a ‘social animal.’
- Cognitive miser = the notion that people are reluctant to do extra thinking: thinking too hard; thinking too much. ALTHOUGH: this may be a result of a biological-evolutionary tactic? We all take shortcuts; we tend to take the easy way out when there is that option. Why? This saves time and energy, which therefore leaves us more time and energy for more complex situations. Therefore, I believe that this is not a result of not WANTING to do the extra thinking (as the textbook suggests: it is not that we are lazy), it is simply a survival tactic.
- Relevance of Stroop test in highlighting automatic and controlled thinking: Some thinking occurs automatically, where as other thinking might involve conscious awareness. Overriding of automatic control can be difficult.
- Distinction between automatic and conscious control =
1. Intention – not present in automatic
2. Control – cant control in automatic some thoughts just ‘pop up’
3. Effort – no effort required in automatic
4. Efficiency – automatic more efficient as a result of it occurring involuntarily, meaning less effort (time, energy, etc). Occurs faster compared to conscious (in which the ‘thinking’ takes time!).
- Attributions – are the reasons/excuses people make to justify things that happen to them and others’ which affect them. Textbook example of two people getting the same bad grade: Person A concludes this as being a result of not studying hard enough = studies harder; whereas person B blames concludes the subject being too hard = gives up! Highlights the various thoughts and thinking patterns we, as individuals have; all of which contributes to the differences between us all!
- Self-serving bias – the tendency to take credit for success but deny blame for failure. I think we can all relate to this! How many times have we felt feelings of self-pride and achievement after receiving an incredibly high score on an exam and conclude it to be a result of study and commitment? Compared to another exam in which we might have not done so well? The common ‘reasons’ we use to justify this are things like ‘Omg it was so hard!’ or ‘Omg the lecturer was so bad! He/she couldn’t explain anything properly!’ How many times have we actually said things like ‘oh yeah i did really well on that exam, pretty much because the LECTURER teaches really well’ ?? The fact is, I don’t think we ever give credit to someone else for things that turn out good; we think of it as US being responsible for good stuff that happens and tend to blame others/other factors for things that don’t go our way!
Before i began reading this week’s chapter, i realized that i never really perceived ‘aggression’ to be such a serious issue in that so much research and psychology was dedicated to the topic! To me, aggression has always referred to anger in individuals and the associated violence and shouting behaviours, and i guess my understanding of this has been influenced from our everyday referral to aggression. For example: when we encounter someone shouting and punching another person, we talk about that person as being so ‘aggressive.’
===>> aggressive behaviour??
The opening discussion of the chapter refers to the cruel behaviors which Saddam Hussein engaged in throughout his role as President of Iraq. Honestly, after reading this, I would think that Hussein’s acts were not a result of aggression but perhaps a psychological disorder? In order to act so brutally and heartlessly, surely there has to be some psychological dysfunctioning!! Anyways, the textbook uses Hussein’s activities as an example of defining aggression. According to the textbook, aggression is defined as:
Any behaviour intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm.
- Aggression is a behaviour
- Aggression is intentional - the intent is to harm
- The victim wants to avoid the harm
...Back to Hussein and his activities, I still think that justifying his acts as a result of aggression is just too simple! I guess i need to continue reading on and need to really grasp the psychology perspective and notion of aggression in order to understand where the author is coming from!
So i thought the passage on Saddam Hussein in the textbook was bad enough, little did i know that the next bit was going to be even more disturbing (story of Meiwes and Brandes)! Its interesting and significant to note that both these cases are used as examples of aggression despite how different the involved behaviors are. Aggressive appears to be a lot more broader then i had first assumed and according to its distinct components (behavior, intent and victim wanting to avoid the harm) can be used to understand a huge range of behaviors. The textbook further suggests two categories of aggression:
1. Hostile aggression = hot, impulsive behaviour that is motivated by a desire to harm someone (eg: taking out revenge on someone who has murdered a loved one)
2. Instrumental aggression = cold, premediated, calculated harmful behaviour that is a means to some practical or material end (eg: murdering someone to obtain their large sum of inheritance).
- Different types of aggression varies according to motives.
- Distinctions in aggression types:
o Passive aggression = harming someone by means of purposely withholding a behaviour. Eg: a doctor purposely hiding crucial life threatening information which results in the patient’s death.
o Active aggression = harming others by performing a behaviour. Eg: Punching someone.
o Verbal aggression = yelling, shouting.
o Physical aggression = punching, hitting, kicking, etc.
Aggression, i believe, is to an extent an evolutionary trait in human beings. It is a survival tactic. We display acts of aggression (in most cases) when we perceive a threat approaching, or have experienced a feeling of threat to some aspect of our lives. It may also be a response. It might be an act of retaliation, revenge or self-pride. We act in this way to protect and stand up for ourselves. Saddam Hussein attacked anyone and anything that seemed as a potential threat to his leadership. If someone spoke against him, he responded with aggression.
Overall, the most important point which i have noted from this chapter’s reading, as well as the associated lecture on the topic, is that in psychological terms, aggression is referred to any act committed by an individual which has the intention of causing harm. When you think about this, i guess you can say that we have all engaged in some sort of ‘aggressive’ act. It might be something minor, such as spreading rumours of a classmate/colleague whom you dislike (passive aggression), or getting revenge on your sister for borrowing your perfume without her asking you by means of shouting and yelling (verbal aggression), or could be something a little more serious, such as intentionally running over someone you saw making a pass at your boyfriend (hostile aggression). So yes, aggression incorporates numerous types of acts/behaviours which we see occurring all the time (however, up until now we may not have perceived these to be acts of aggression!) What distinguishes us from other serious cases of aggression is the extremity of the acts we carry out.
The topic of prejudice reminded me of an episode of Comedy Inc. that I had watched on fox just a while ago which i thought demonstrated the notion of prejudice particularly well. Below is a 2 minute extract from the episode:
Extreme Prejudice - Comedy Inc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vrknlrz8WI
The clip, although extremely short, powerfully depicts and highlights some of the common stereotypes and attitudes that western society holds towards various issues in our community. Surely, after viewing this clip, you and I could probably refer to some of the issues that were brought up as very familiar! In other words, some of these particular beliefs, (such as those towards the Indigenous community and homosexual members of our community) have existed for a long time and therefore, whether or not we agree with these beliefs, we do tend to come across them.
Prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination, i believe, is an inevitable part of human culture. We hold these beliefs in order to map where we, as members of a particular group (based on factors such as sexuality, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.) hold place in society compared to other individuals belonging in different groups. It is a way of differentiating amongst people who are ‘like’ us, compared to those who are somewhat ‘different.’ ‘Different’ is defined by the members of each group. By means of engaging in discriminating and/or stereotyping acts/beliefs towards members of another group, it functions to boost the esteem of members of our own group, and more importantly, our own personal self esteem. It gives us the rare opportunity to perceive ourselves slightly superior than others and gives us a feeling of ‘higher’ status in society.
I personally believe that we all engage in prejudice acts at some level throughout our daily lives. Most of the time we are not even aware of it, but when you go back and analyze certain thoughts/behaviors, it is apparent that such thoughts/behaviors were possibly the result of prejudice influences. For example, working in retail, you come across many people differing in social aspects such as religion, race, economical status, etc. and with experience you tend to learn how certain customers are going to act (the questions they are likely to ask, they way in which they will react to the product, the products they buy, etc.). As a result, we tend to approach differing customers in varying manners according to our ‘expectation.’ However, our expectations do not always fit the person, and in some instances, you become so caught up on your ‘expectation’ of certain customers that when they act in a differing manner it completely hits you in the face and you realize that you may have made the wrong judgment and assumed things as a result of your prejudice beliefs.
In my opinion, prejudice occurs as a result of experience. For example: HOW do particular beliefs and opinions about a certain group of people form in the first place? Generally, people have encountered, been involved in and/or witnessed certain behaviors of a particular group of people sharing distinct characteristics. This experience is further passed on to friends and family members of that person, a bit like the snowball effect. As a result, this experience is shared and the feelings/beliefs/attitudes towards the initial experience are passed on. I think this whole concept has an evolutionary aspect to it. Prejudice beliefs are usually (in my opinion) based on negative characteristics. As a social animal, we use these prejudiced beliefs as a means to guide us of various behaviors in individuals. It is a way of functioning in a social culture and is a quick-way of forming judgments in order to know how to act towards/with them. I do not by any means to suggest that prejudice is a good thing; I am simply just proposing ideas as to why the human race is inclined to make such judgments.
Whilst browsing on Youtube, I typed in 'prejudice' just out of curiosity and was amazed at how many people around the world had posted up videos of their personal experiences and thoughts in regards to prejudice and discrimination directed at them, or, at people of their ethnicity and race. This indicates the strong affect that prejudice has on individuals and how much of an issue it really is to those affected. As future psychologists and social psychologists, I believe it is extremely important to pat attention to the affect of prejudice on individuals and in terms of long term psychological consequences (for example, issues of social acceptance, self-esteem, etc.), and work towards how such effects can be minimized.
Overall, I have always found this topic interesting. The textbook reading as well as the associated lecture, provided me with more in depth knowledge in to the topic and presented other aspects which I had not considered before to further think about.
Some Important Definitions:
- Prejudice = a negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his/her membership in a particular group. Eg: the belief that all members of the Islamic religion are terrorists.
- Racism = prejudiced attitudes toward a particular race. Eg: segregating African Americans from European Americans and excluding their acceptance in certain social facilities.
- Aversive racism = believing in racial equality and equal opportunity yet still feel uncomfortable when around members of a certain group (which is portrayed through behaviors when engaging with members of that group.) Eg: avoiding eye contact, sitting away from them, etc.
- Discrimination = unequal treatment of different people based on the groups or categories they belong to. Eg: Members of different caste groups in India not being allowed in certain community facilities.
- Stereotypes = beliefs that associate groups of people with certain traits. Eg: All Asians are super-smart.
I was amazed at all the terms associated with the social psychology aspect of relationships in this week’s textbook reading! Who would have thought that everyday relationships, which you and I are part of, is such a complex matter and involves so many theories and concepts?! Anyways, some key terms which i thought were worth noting for later revision of this topic are:
• Attraction – anything that draws two or more people together, making them want to be together and possibly to form a lasting relationship.
I was surprised at the textbooks definition of attraction! I had always assumed that attraction simply referred to the so-called ‘positive appealing vibe’ between two individuals; never did I think that it incorporated the ‘long lasting relationship’ element of it. Just because you might find someone attractive and consequently be attracted to them, does not necessarily mean you want a relationship out of it?! I am sure we all come across a lot of individuals who might be attractive; however, we do not want or intend to make it into a relationship! I guess the distinction likes between “Attraction” and finding someone “attractive.” Although I still find the textbook’s suggested definition of attraction to be somewhat misleading...!
• Social Acceptance – a situation in which other people have come to like, respect and approve you. As a result, you are included in groups and relationships.
As the textbook has already discussed in previous chapters, humans are social animals and therefore strive to achieve social acceptance by members of their community. It makes sense that once acceptance, in terms of respect and approval is achieved, then groups and relationships are more easily formed. I guess you can say that groups and relationships are a function of social acceptance!
• Rejection/ Social exclusion – being prevented by others from forming or keeping a social bond with them. This made me think about WHY we reject others. I mean, we all differ in regards to expectations, what we like/dislike, want, need, etc. I might accept something which you may reject, and visa versa! Rejection is based on a personal bias (is bias the right word to describe it?). Anyhow, my point is that an individual may be rejected by person A; however, person B might happily accept! I find this rather intriguing; it provides an explanation towards how everyone in this world manages to be part of a relationship. If this phenomenon did not occur then we would have a lot of so-called ‘loners’ in our society!
• The need to belong – the desire to form and maintain close, lasting relationships with other individuals.
As emphasized on numerous occasions throughout the textbook: humans are social animals. As a result, we have a ‘need to belong.’ It therefore makes sense to say that this NEED is a driving force towards gaining social acceptance in order to create and form relationships.
Just on a side note, it is interesting to note how all these concepts link with each other in order to create the social human being!
• Ingratiation – what people actively do to try and make someone like them.
I guess this is true; if person A seeks approval of person B, then yes, it is likely that they will go out of their way to emphasize positive aspects of themselves in order to make person B accept them. This leads into the textbooks discussion on similarity (page 333). How many times have we met someone who is obviously seeking approval of you, and in initial meetings when you are just getting to know each other, and they find out your hobby they exclaim and emphasize “Oh wow, me too!” This notion of liking others similar to you seems to be an innate understanding and we try to find commonalities and similarities without even consciously realizing (in most cases!). Another example of this is when person A and person B, who had been dating for a while, might have decided to stop seeing each other. When you ask what happened, they might respond “Oh, we were too different; we had nothing in common.’ Again, this suggests that individuals seek similarities in one another.
• Self-monitoring – the ability to change one’s behaviour for different situations
• Matching hypothesis – the idea that people tend to pair up with others who are equally attractive.
Just from personal observations, I do not particularly agree with this notion. Bluntly said, you often see couples in which person A might be extremely attractive (in terms of looks) and you question why on earth would they be with person B?! Yes, it sounds horrible! But I am sure we have all said/thought something along those lines at some point. “Person A could do so much better! What do they see in him/her?!” Sound familiar? Like I said, it does happen and it’s natural! We expect good looking people to be with someone who is also good looking (as the Matching Hypothesis somewhat indicates); however, in reality, this is not always the case.
• Reinforcement Theory – people and animals will perform behaviours that have been rewarded more than they will perform other behaviours.
To be honest, I found this theory to be rather obvious! In other words, it is logical and basic common sense! Obviously, the majority of us perform behaviours which we know will have gain positive appreciation and praise. Being acknowledged for behaviours we perform boosts our self esteem and leaves us with an overall good feeling. It indicates a sign of approval; which is the overall intention (well I believe so, especially in regards to the concepts we have come across so far in social psychology!). Being social animals, our instinct is to achieve social acceptance, and in order to do this, we involve ourselves in behaviours and activities which will be commended, and tend to discontinue engaging in behaviours which are not. However, the notion of social deviance arises which conflicts this point! But then again, there are other elements to social deviance (such as attention seeking, feelings of thrill, biological traits, etc.) which have some influence – which I won’t discuss here since its slightly off topic!
• Propinquity – being near someone on a regular basis.
• Social Allergy Effect – the idea that a partner’s annoying habits become more annoying over time.
I found this concept rather interesting! Could this be a result of boredom? Frustration? (in that the partner is unable to change such annoying habits!) You would expect that the partner would learn do deal with and accept such annoying habits; not find them more annoying over time! This idea definitely made me think twice about what it was proposing!
Overall, relationships are integral to the human species. We all seek relationships; it is an innate characteristic within us. Our social system and culture is based on relationships, and an individual has the capacity to engage and uphold numerous types of relationship bonds: family, friendship, lovers, etc. We expect others’ to form relationships, and those that do not are viewed as isolated members of the community who lack social attachment.
The human social structure is composed of numerous groups based on various characteristics, depending on the social context in which the individual belongs to. For example, at work, person A might be part of a group in which all the managers and higher level officers relate to; at home and within the community, this person might be part of a group based on ethnicity and/or religion, and in her children’s school, this person might be part of a group which helps promote health and safety (these are all just examples off the top of my head!). What I am trying to say is, individuals belong to varying groups in everyday life in which they associate with for varying purposes. Members of a particular group may engage in various behaviours, acts, traditions and/or customs that are distinct to only that group. This is a way to promote their identity as a group. For example, members of a particular group might have a standard dress code, such as a uniform, which clearly distinguishes them to be associated with a specific group (such as the picture on the right which portrays members of the Monk group all dressed the same in a distinct garments). This was my initial and basic ‘idea’ of what I would have defined a “group” to be. I would have described it as membership to a particular crowd of people in a social situation. However, as I began reading the social psychology textbook of this topic, it became apparent that the idea of a group somewhat differed to mine! The textbook discusses the influence and power of groups, and how the feeling of belongingness to a group significantly impacts on an individual’s psychological perception of themselves, their group members, and others who do not belong to that group.
The textbook, in my opinion, focuses greatly on the idea of the power of groups in human society. It goes into detail about group action, power, and leadership. This helps explain a number of events that have occurred throughout history. For example, Hitler and his Nazi group: Imagine Hitler on his own; WITHOUT his Nazi members to support and back him up! Do you think Hitler would have been as successful without the support of his group?? I highly doubt it! By having a group of people following his rules and obeying his orders, Hitler was able to successfully demonstrate his unethical acts. By having a group of people supporting him, Hitler was able to achieve power and even dominate!
Belonging to a group also involves having roles. Being allocated a social role within a group makes an individual feel significant, gives them a sense of authority, responsibility, and makes them feel proud of their role. For example, Hitler was the leader of his group – he held authority, and as a result, his group members treated him with respect and obeyed his commands. The group members were committed to their roles as followers of the Nazi group and therefore destroyed anything and anyone who came in the way of sabotaging their group and leader!
Another example of groups, leadership and power, is the famous Zimbardo’s prison experiment in psychology which I am sure we are all familiar with by now. It successfully demonstrates the impact of ‘belonging to a group’ has on an individual, the influence of social group roles, such as leadership, and the power which evolves as a sense of belonging to a particular group.
Overall, human society is structured in such a way that involves the formation of groups. Groups become particularly beneficial when a particular point needs to made to the rest of the community.
• Group = a collection of at least two people who are doing or being something together
• Power = one person’s control over another person
WEEKS 8 & 9 - Study Break
• Prosocial behaviour = doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole
The topic of prosocial behaviour has always been something I enjoy reading about and discussing in regards to its associated topic of altruism, and therefore I was looking forward to gaining a more in-depth understanding of it. However, even after reading the textbook chapter and attending the lecture, I still remain neutral in the debate of whether or not humans are capable of altruistic behaviour!
• Altruism = committing an act which seeks no benefit to the individual themself on a personal level and may in fact cause an expense to oneself whilst doing so.
Following on from previous discussions and concepts which we have come across throughout the semester so far, humans are a competitive species whom seek to survive in a social context. If this is the case, WHY would we go out of our way to help another person for no personal gain? Doesn’t this contradict the whole notion of the evolutionary perspective, in that ‘each individual is striving for personal success??’ I guess committing such an act towards an offspring makes sense in that the offspring is helped and since they carry your genes it is an evolutionary tactic. BUT then again, in doing so, an altruistic act towards an offspring for the sake of prolonging their survival is not really an altruistic act since it is beneficial to you as it promotes the survival of your genes! Clearly, this topic can go around and around in circles! Honestly, I do not think the human race capable of committing altruistic acts! There is ALWAYS personal gain, in some or another, even if it is a simple sense of emotional satisfaction and gratification! We are functioned to strive for personal achievement in order for personal benefits. Even in collectivist cultures, although an individual might act so that their gains are beneficial to his/her family members and not particularly himself/herself, surely there must be a sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing that they were able to provide for their family?!
The other discussion that interested me was the idea of ‘who helps who.’ Interestingly, we tend to help others who are similar to us! Possible explanations for this might be that we can relate to others’ that are similar to us? For example, a new immigrant to the country might be helped by someone who has been living here for 20 years or so; however, this helper might have been an immigrant to the country themself once upon a time and can relate to the hardship and struggle which immigrants experience when arriving to a new country. Hence, the helper wants to help! Another example might be students helping each other in assignments and/or exam preparations because students can relate to the study stress and student life experience.
The notion that males are more likely to help females in any given situation, and more likely to not receive help themselves suggests the idea of the male ‘masculine and macho’ image; in which males are perceived as the stronger role. This is an evolved perception which has held significance for as long as human evolution traces back to! Also, such perceptions are further upheld and even EXPECTED by society and its members. Hence, males might feel obliged to helping females?
Overall, as a society, we all engage in helping one another on a daily basis. The extent to which we help and offer help to a person differs amongst individuals depending on personal benefits and gains. Also, I think another point to note is that we are limited and restricted to the aid and help we can offer according to our abilities and capabilities!
In tutorials this week, we started off by brainstorming the concepts of Social Capital, Social Disengagement and Zeitgeist.
*Social Capital = "The networks and social ties that are more or less active by means of which an individual or a community can gain access to resources (economic, political, cultural or human) that are required to achieve certain objectives" (Forgues, 2004).
- Commodification of people
- "Capital" - socially valued
- quality interactions
- A society with a high level of social capital = increased quality interactions
- Reflects the society's status; 'health status' of the society
- Nazi'ism had good social capital within that group; hence the reason they had so much power over others and their schemes were successful
- Overall, is the community goodwill!
*Social Disengagement = a state of separation between persons or groups.
- Alienation of an individual from society
- Individual isolation: can be a result of:
~ an individual choosing to isolate themselves; or, ~ being rejected by society
- Limited engagement; therefore lack of social capital.
*Zeitgeist = A German term meaning "spirit of the time." It refers to the moral and intellectual trends of a given era. www.gale.cengage.com/free_resources/glossary/glossary_tz.htm
- "The spirit/flavour/nature of the times"
- Differs in each culture.
After brainstorming and discussing the above concepts, we moved on to the next task. We listened to Hugh Mackay's talk: 'Social Disengagement: A Breeding Ground for Fundamentalism.' Although Mackay made some noteworthy points in his talk which are definitely relevant and valid to our society's current situation, it was a VERY LONG talk! Listening to the audio version in class was bad enough, I can't imagine having to sit through it LIVE! Nevertheless.. as already mentioned, Mackay addressed some essential issues current to Australian society which need to be dealt with in order to maintain Australia's rich social cultural system.
Working in pairs, we addressed some of the issues Mackay spoke about and created a "wishlist" - in other words, we focused on a particular issue and developed a hypothetical working-plan to address and resolve the issue. My partner and I dealt with the decrease in Australian birth rates. Mackay highlighted trends in the Australian population regarding women striving for career success, putting off commitment to relationships, decrease in marriage rates and higher divorce rates. My partner and I decided that all the mentioned factors are linked to the issue of decreased birth rates in Australia and therefore, in order to attempt in changing this, these related factors must also be dealt with and therefore need to be incorporated in to the plan. Below is a concept map of how these factors link with each other to result in the issue at focus:
EMPLOYMENT = Essential in order for individual to live accordingly with the standards of modern western society. | | | | CAREER-ORIENTED = Females in the Australian population tend to focus primarily on establishing a career; they strive to reach the top! | | | | MARRIAGE/ RELATIONSHIPS = Due to the above factors, there is little time left to establish a relationship. This reflects the decreased trend in marriage rates. Too much time is invested in to the career aspect of the individual's life. This also reflects Australia's high divorce rate and failed marriages for those who ARE married. | | | | CHILDREN = Career and ambition overrides other priorities in life and therefore there is little opportunity left, in terms of time and effort, for individuals to engage in stable and committing relationships which is traditionally the foundation for forming a family. All the above factors are associated with ----------->> A DECREASE IN THE AUSTRALIAN POPULATION!
As a means of overcoming this issue, this is what we proposed:
WORKING TOGETHER TO MAINTAIN THE AUSTRALIAN POPULATION - a working plan
- Provide MORE employment opportunities.
- Allow individuals flexible hours: providing them freedom to engage in social activites outside the working environment; more time to spend with friends and family. - Increase work salaries/wages: so individuals would have to spend less time working and have more time left for friends and family.
- More community based services, such as pre-marital counselling - to help re-store faith in relationships and marriages. The current decline in successful Australian marriages may be an influence towards individuals reluctant to committing themselves into a relationship? Such services may assist to eliminate false beliefs.
- More funding - family benefits. - Funding towards schooling, rich education and child-care services. A lot of people might be thrown back by the idea of having children due to the associated expenses! More government funding in such areas will provide support.
Although the above is simply a brainstorm of issues relating to the overall decline in Australian birth rates and the proposed plan is extremely basic in terms of resolving the issue, such factors that are mentioned need to be weighed and considered when developing a plan to improve and overcome a concern. It is important to address all factors that affect, either directly and/or indirectly to the matter at focus. Our above concept map attempts to demonstrate this.
Overall, today's activity was interesting! Instead of listening to or reading about theories and propositions which others' develop, today WE had the opportunity to pick a topic of our interest and propose a plan to overcome it. It allowed us to think outside the box and develop new ideas instead of simply accepting and evaluating others' works!
I have to say out of all the outlined topics for this unit, Environmental psychology was the one I was least looking forward to! However, by end of the lecture and the allocated readings, I developed a newfound interest for this topic!
- Environmental Psychology - studies the interactions and relations between people and their environments.
- How the physical environment affects human thought, feelings, and behaviours
- How human actions affect the environment
The use of environmental psychology's understanding is applied in numerous fields, particularly in the planning and development of the community's social structures. By means of understanding factors in the environmental context that effect human behavior and performance, developers can use this knowledge to create environmental conditions which are more appropriate for humans to function optimally.
- Schooling environment - understanding the effects of crowding and density can help re-structure educational institutions and facilities to ensure optimal learning takes place. The schooling environment is an important aspect of our community and therefore would greatly benefit from such understandings.
-Workplace environment - similar ideas to the schooling environment (as above!) to ensure optimal productivity takes place.
- Shopping centers - providing optimal conditions for community members to enjoy their shopping experience, which in turn profits the economical status.
- Tourist destinations - would help in creating attractive, welcoming and enjoyable destinations. Eg: This might be relevant to issues such as the current campaign of trying to attract more tourists to Canberra!
(definitions from e-reserve readings)
- Density = the number of people in a given space. Individuals can adapt to conditions with varying conditions. However, in cases of high density situations in which an individual is unable to adapt to, stressors (psychological, physical and social) can result.
- Crowding = the negative and subjective feeling that there are too many people in a given space
Environmental Stressor - conditions in the environment which have an effect on human functioning/performance. Examples include: daily hassles, noise, crowding.
Wow, so an entire semester has already passed and scrolling up and looking over my portfolio it is evident that we have covered A LOT of material! Overall, the unit "Social Psychology" did not turn out to be as I had expected; it turned out to be BETTER! The idea of undertaking this unit did not initially appeal to me, and since it is a core subject I didn't really have a choice but to enrol in it! Though surprisingly, I must say that I enjoyed this unit and its related content; even the textbook was an enjoyable read! Prosocial behaviour and prejudice were the topics that interested me the most, whereas the Social self and Aggression were probably the topics I gained most knowledge on.
Participating in this unit helped me gain an insight on a broader range of topics involved with social psychology; some of which I did not even know had such an influence in the field of social psychology (such as aggression!). Social psychology is definitely an important aspect in
understanding human life, and its theories and related principles are essential in promoting and maintaining a healthy social structure for our community. Although there is significant information already established in this field, it is important for research to continue in order for a more thorough understanding of human social functioning throughout the world. By doing so, we can work towards eliminating the not-so-good aspects, such as prejudice behaviours, lack of prosocial acts, etc. and find methods in which positive turns can be made in these areas. More studies of other cultures around the world would also benefit in our understanding towards the diverse differences portrayed by individuals in our multicultural society and help to acknowledge and appreciate these differences!
In regards to this E-Portfolio: well honestly, I was not too keen on it at first but eventually I grew to the idea and actually liked having some place in which I could put down a few thoughts; even though most of it might just sound like a bit of random rambling! Nevertheless, it was a fun task and I do think that it should continue to be an assessment item in the future :)
Overall, this unit was extremely interesting and has provided me with new appreciation towards the overall field of social psychology! :)