Social Psychology E-portfolio
Hi guys and welcome to my page! Throughout the semester I will be adding my thoughts and ideas about our unit materials and learning activities. Hope that these will contribute to our unit discussions & looking forward to hearing others ideas! :)
At first glance I supposed this unit was very much like most other psychology units but after attending our first tutorial was pleasantly surprised! I am particularly pleased with the fact that we can choose from a range of essay topics which means that, hopefully, the essay will be more of an interesting task rather than a mandatory one. Another surprising part of the unit is that we have an ‘open book’ exam. My first ever! As James pointed out, in the workforce rarely will we be stripped of materials to complete a task, rather the opposite occurs – in most, especially public service type, workplaces.
In terms of the content of this unit, I would have to say I am especially interested in topics that provide some insight into how certain social groups or cultures differ to others in terms of life expectancy, reported happiness levels, certain rules and regulations etc. I think a lot of how our particular culture works is sometimes taken for granted and most of our knowledge comes from very similar Westernised cultures. For this reason I think it would be interesting to understand how other cultures live and how we might apply some of their ideas to enrich our own culture. A particular interest within social psychology also is that of reality TV and why (some people) are almost addicted to watching other peoples interactions. Could this be a form of vicarious learning? Or do some people just want to watch others in the hope of some negative drama of which they can watch from afar and not be implicated in?
Culture and nature was also an interesting chapter in our text which described the rich and complex systems that makes up our culture. One example that portrayed our enormous reliance on this system was through the way we obtain our food – how it must pass through a massive number of people and processes before we can take it out of our cupboards and eat it! The other interesting idea which was definitely clarified for me was the distinction between humans as social compared to cultural animals, how although humans are social like other animals, they are set apart by our complex and rich cultural practises. Again it would be interesting to learn about how other cultures work in the world and the implications for people belonging to certain cultures.
Social roles and there purpose were of interest to me in this week. Particularly, how the primary role of the self is to be accepted by its relative society. In that way it would be interesting to be able to find out what each of us would be like had we been born into another culture, even ones similar to us on many dimensions but that me maybe more collectivist in nature.
The looking-glass self refers to the idea that we learn more about ourselves from other people. Although I was always aware of this concept I would not have realised just how much we need to compare ourselves to others around us and obtain constant feedback in order to learn and keep track of ourselves and our self presentations. Upward social comparisons are useful to help set standards or goals for the future but if they are unreachable or too difficult this may cause discouragement or even misery! Read: don’t buy glamour magazines! The other very interesting topic in this particular chapter was that of high self esteem and how depressed people usually have pretty accurate perceptions of their own abilities and others opinions of them whereas people with high self esteem seems to have the inaccurate perceptions! Although this seems illogical it may help give us all some tips to perhaps help us in harder times to try lift our self esteem a little!
I think it was important that the text book discussed ideas of whether and how the self concept can be changed. I believe this is a particularly issue as I personally believe more people need to feel better about themselves than they currently do. The fact that there are so many articles on self help in books and in magazines is a testament to this. Basically our identity can change, albeit slowly. Ideas to help promote change in our self concept include the following:
- revising self-knowledge – one way is to basically change how you think about yourself, and your actions will come round to reflect this change in thinking. Another way is the opposite of the above, that is change your actions and they may change the way you think about you self. A barrier however is that ones social world generally expects the same of you (old self) and that there is much evidence that suggests this acts to prevent change. Stick with these approaches and eventually and hopefully those around you will treat you like the new you rather than the old you, just keep persisting.
- changing the looking glass – this is basically the idea that the self concept changes most easily when the social environment changes, so changing a social circle for example is one way to change your own self concept.
- promoting change – persuading everyone else that you have changed. It is not enough to just think you have changed, but getting others to understand that you have also, may set the wheels in motion for them to treat you differently and hence support your own cncept of your new self.
- new self, new story – changing the way you remember facts and life events may also help to promote self-concept change. This way they may forget the events and facts that do not support the new self-concept you wish to achieve.
All of these seem like great ideas for those wanting to change their self-concept, as I mentioned I believe many people would like to feel better about themselves, in various domains whether that be academically or relationship wise. Regardless, these ideas give some options that can be utilised to change our own self-concept, hopefully for the better.
This week's topic consisted of various socially based subtopics including social cognition, attitudes and influence and persuasion.
In the initial first week of this unit, I posed my own question regarding why reality tv shows are so popular, wondering whether this be a form of vicarious learning, or whether people take enjoyment from potentially watching the socially based misfortunes of others in the comfort of their home. It seems both are right. The text book (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008) state that people think of other people more than any other topic! As per the primary theme of the text, the authors note that the human brain was evolved to participate in society’s complex environment, and in order to be a successful participant we must think about the topic that will most help us – that is ‘other people’. This is in order to infer information and knowledge we can observe others and generally gain information and skills that will help us participate in social situations. So, I guess that seems to answer my question regarding the immense popularity of reality TV shows whilst also highlighting the fact that the majority of tv shows at present are based on people and their socially based interactions.
The other topic of interest was that of Attribution Theory and how people use the information around them (as well as past and present experiences) to come to some conclusion for particular events. The lecture covered the idea of why we make attributions suggesting we do so in order to be able to apply some sort of order and cognitive control whilst assisting us to predict similar future events and respond accordingly. This seems similar to the cognitive dissonance theory (chapter on attitudes) whereby there is a discrepancy between beliefs and actions, so a person rationalises their actions or change their attitudes to combat the negative psychological discomfort. I believe it is similar in that there is a common goal to strive for cognitive contentment – events that seem haphazard and unpredictable could clearly cause intrapersonal discomfort and stress. Therefore the attribution theory is a plausible solution to imposing order on a seemingly random and chaotic world in which we live.
Problems with attribution were also discussed one being the fundamental attribution error – the tendency to attribute others behaviour to themselves because of underestimating situational influences and overestimating dispositional influences (Baumeister & Bushman). I agree with this theory and have noticed that I myself tend to underestimate situational influences when judging or evaluating other peoples actions. In undertaking this unit not only will we gain knowledge about our social
world, but also how better to interact with it – such as reminding ourselves or myself how not to quickly judge others actions and take into account the fundamental attribution error that we so readily make.
Influential characters and how they gain the loyalty and sometimes blind following of other people has always intrigued me. The beginning story in chapter 13 of the Baumesiter and Bushman text was horrible and fascinating at the same time. Jim Jones influenced his religious followers and convincing over 900 of them to commit suicide is a true and extreme example of the power of influence of others and the potential manipulability of people. This led me to wonder how Jim Jones came to be such a manipulative and influential person. I found this clip on youtube which outlines some major events in his childhood and past that gives some explanation as to how this past events lead to him deciding undertake such a path. Pretty interesting. 
Class tutorials focused on communication, the levels thereof (i.e. shallow to deep) verbal versus nonverbal and so forth. What I particularly took interest in was transmission breakdown and the idea that language constrains our thoughts feelings and emotions. Transmission breakdown typically occurs when the intended message is altered or distorted before or when it is being received. In modern days, this is usually found, I believe, in emails and sms (or phone messaging). The amount of times myself or those around me have commented or complained about receiving messages that seemed ‘rude’ or distant’ is amazing. What’s even more interesting is the idea that friendships and relationships can bear there own ‘breakdown’ from this exact transmission breakdown and may even cause a relationship to end! For instance, a sent message to a friend never gets received, unless these two people are good friends and likely to talk in the near future, there is a high probability that the sender will automatically assume the receiver is ignoring their message and decides to not get in contact with that person again. Also, in my own experience in the workplace, emailing can be quite an effective and efficient medium to communicate with, in terms of speed – however, many times the content of an email is vague, or incomprehensible, and needs more clarification. In this instance, emails are rephrased, resent etc, when talking in person may have actually saved time. Technology within the communication field undoubtedly saves people a massive amount of time and effort and is indeed extremely effective, however, I think we must make sure that the users of such technology are knowledgeable enough to be able to actually use it effectively and not to its detriment. One solution to transmission breakdown that was discussed in class was that of the utilisation of multiple channels, e.g. verbal and nonverbal, and also the use of feedback, the receiver can reiterate the message before acting on it to ensure the right message, literally, has been received. As mentioned, with the technology and its fast pace of development that exists in today’s world, we must ensure we are adequately prepared to use it effectively.
What is interesting about aggression is its definition - It seems the term aggression is (a) a behaviour rather than an emotion or cognition (b) aggression is intentional and the intent is to harm and (c) the victim of the aggression wants to avoid the harm. The concept that aggression is used with intent to harm is the part of the definition that I was definitely not aware of. In this case it seems we use the term much more often when it is needed, and I know I myself have referred to people as aggressive when perhaps the term energetic or pushy should have been used. Causes of aggression are interesting also in terms of noting that, as with many psychological phenomena, there is a complex interrelationship between nature, nurture, internal and external factors. Some of the internal factors include:
- affect – for instance being frustrated (frustration-aggression hypothesis)
- Being in a bad mood (venting)
- Hostile cognitive bias (aggressive people may believe others will act aggressive to them, view ambiguous acts as aggressive, and assume others harm was intentional)
- Selfishness (using aggressive behaviour to obtain things or gain control/exert influence)
External factors can include
- Seeing aggressive-related objects (eg. weapons effect)
- Mass media (e.g. violence in certain mediums)
- Environment (even hot temperatures!)
- Chemical influences (internal and external sources; testosterone, serotonin and alcohol)
Generally speaking though, even though some internal factors such as low levels of serotonin and high levels of testosterone can influence aggressive behaviour, it is more important to note that the environment and cultural ways of behaving and responding have a massive influence on aggression. That is, culture can encourage or restrain aggression.
The weapons effect
.... as mentioned above is an interesting concept. The weapons effect theory suggests that’s the mere presence of a weapon will increase aggression in some individuals. Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage (1967) conducted a study in which angry participants were seated at a table with neutral objects such as sports equipment, or a shotgun and a revolver on it. They found that the participants seated near the shotgun/revolver displayed more aggressive behaviour, as measured by the amount of electric shock they wished to deliver to a confederate. This theory or the underlying assumption that the presences of aggressive tools can increase aggressive behaviour is found in everyday situations. One of which is national security. An online article tells of how, after the terrorist attack on the US on September 11th 2001, many discussions were debated regarding how best to deal with terrorists on planes. It was suggested that pilots be allowed to carry guns, however this caused a great deal of controversy with the Transportation Secretary states that lethal weapons should not be allowed in the cockpit. However, off-duty police officers, civilians with concealed –carry licences and armed passengers is accepted and allowed.
It is proposed that the weapons effect theory explains the uproar of having pilots carry weapons, that basically the accessibility of caring a firearm permits the ‘instantaneous metamorphosis of a law-abiding person into a murderer’, in other words, guns provoke impulsive, violent responses from those carrying the gun as well as others, and the presence of guns is to be feared (unless in the hands of police officers). However illogical this seems, especially in the case of the armed pilot suggestion, it seems the weapons effect hypothesis is alive and strong in our culture, or at least in the US. However, the article goes on to discuss the idea that replicated and other studies show no support for the weapons effect… “Criminologist Gary Kleck reviewed twenty-one "weapons effect" published studies, and concluded that "none of the studies provided any evidence directly supporting the idea that possessing a gun encourages physical aggression, or that the 'trigger pulls the finger.'" As Kleck further observed, "the more closely the experiments simulated real-world situations…the less likely they were to support the weapons hypothesis." That shouldn't come as any surprise. Berkowitz and LePage carried out their experiment in a laboratory setting, and the consequences of the actions of the experimental aggressors were neither serious nor permanent. It is quite another thing when the consequences of one's actions can be lethal, and when there is a significant risk of punishment by the law” additionally, they state that the best predictor of violence is not the proximity to a weapon but that persons prior history of violence. Also, interestingly, the article points out that if the weapons effect hypothesis were true, then as the number of firearm sales increase, so should fire-arm related violence however, at least in America, this relationship is the opposite: in the last 25 years, the per-capita supply of firearms has doubled, while homicide and other firearm related crimes have declined.
Although the weapons effect theory appears to make some logical sense, it may also be a kind of excuse over people’s actions. (Most) humans are capable of controlling themselves and most take responsibility over their actions. The weapons effect hypothesis poses some underminment to this responsibility over our own actions. Ive added the link in case you want to read the full article, which contains more interesting ideas and examples. 
This week’s topic was based on that of prejudice, which is a negative attitude or feeling toward an individual based wholly on that individual’s membership to a certain group. We should be all aware of the definitions of racism, discrimination and stereotypes, what I particularly found interesting in the text book was the definition of aversive racists which are those who simultaneously hold egalitarian (believe in equality and opportunity) values whilst also negative feelings toward minorities. In my opinion, a lot more people are aversive racists than they are willing to admit, should it be sexist, racist or stereotypical views, I believe many people like to say they do not hold discriminatory views per se, but may possess negative feelings toward minorities. If I look around my workplace for example I see many more ‘white people’ - defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East - than I do any other race or nationality. Those hiring staff usually say they prefer potential employees that ‘fit in’ with the existing work culture, but if the culture is predominately ‘white’ isn’t that in itself active discrimination?
The media has also brought attention to this with many popular shows and news programs conducting their own experiments, particularly with racism, to ascertain the average citizens response to people of different races, for example, having a ‘white’ person pretend to be ‘black’ or of African American appearance with the help of make up and special effects.
!!MUST WATCH!!– After a long search I was able to find a clip on you tube that shows precisely what the text book defines as aversive racism. This clip is essentiality an experiment by the ABC called ‘What would you do’. It features two groups of three teenage males both vandalising a car in the middle of the day. The experiments purpose was to find out how many onlookers would report the incident to the authorities, and whether there would be a difference between the black and white groups. At this point in time I recommend you watch the clip..  however, if your running short of time I will briefly describe the surprising (?) results.
When the white teenagers were seen vandalising the car, one person made a call to the police. When the black teenagers were seen vandalising the car, ten (!) people called the police… nine more calls than then made for the white teenagers – how many people witnessed the events though was not determined, which may have effected the results. When questioned about potential racism – i.e. witnesses that phoned police or called out to the vandals were asked whether they would have done the same had the vandals been white in appearance. All the witnesses suggested that in fact they would have done the same had the vandals been of white appearance – could this be case of simultaneous holding negative feelings (ie calling the police when witnessing the black teenagers vandalise) whilst simultaneously holding egalitarian beliefs (ie. ‘I would have called the police if the teenagers were white too). Whether or not these people would have is something which cannot be determined, however this keep in mind that 10 calls were made regarding the black teenagers compared to one call for the white teenagers. Additionally……… and even more concerning was the fact that when the white teenagers were in the midst of vandalising the car, two phone calls were made reporting two ‘suspicious’ black people ‘laying low’ in car, perhaps up to something. In actual fact, these were the family of the black teenage vandal actors, who were merely sleeping in their car. There isn’t much to say regarding this last finding, it is horrible to think that whilst vandalising is going on, witnesses may be more concerned with two black people sleeping in their car.. I guess it’s the racist associations and expectations that people hold, even though surely they wouldn’t openly admit it..
In today’s lecture we watched a horrifying and eye opening tribute and documentary to the Rwandan genocide, a state induced massacre where approximately 800,000 Rwandans were murdered by Hutu extremists. What is equally horrifying is the fact that the U.S and other international countries stood by and refused to help. Watching this documentary made me feel horrible for not watching enough news!! To know that this kinda of thing can go on without me having ever heard of it. When I told my friend, who claims to be interested and knowledgeable in history and news, they had never heard of the genocide either! Yes it was in 1994 but nevertheless to have never heard of such a horrific mass murder was unbelievable. It made me feel ashamed to be apart of our Americanised ‘western’ culture, which, in the case of the nil support offered to Rwanda, could be classified as a selfish and heartless culture. Although im aware there are a multitude of political issues within the genocide that I am not aware of, I still find the international response to the murders as selfish and frightening. What would happen if similar issues arose in Australia? would our beloved Americans lend a hand to help or would it be “…not in the interest of American to save these people” ???
On a lighter note, this week’s tutorial focused on culture, prejudice and cultural adaption. We conducted our own ‘cultural interview’ in which we interviewed our partner about the meaning of their name, its origin, why it was chosen and so forth. Although I am quite aware Australia is a multicultural society, I was still amazed at the number of people whose families came from other countries – and not even that long ago!- it was also amazing to find out why peoples names were chosen, I was quite amused with so many people in my tute being named after singers!! As my name was chosen just because my parents liked it, I figured id do the same if ever I have a child, but after listening to all the interesting stories I decided to hold off pre-picking a name and maybe wait to see whose who in music at the time :p. What I also appreciated in the tutorial was listening to some peoples stories of how they felt (eg. culture shock) when they came to Australia and the differences between Australia and their home country. One girl in my tute told of how here partner came from Europe and found Australians to be more ‘laid back’. I have lived here my whole life and although I had heard this statement before I never really saw it (or had to see it when compared to another country’s culture) also living in Canberra, hhmm I would say the lifestyle here is more uptight than anything seeing as we are overflowing with public servants! Although never having travelled myself and hence never experiencing culture shock (confusion of how to act /adapt etc in a new country) I was interested in University of Canberra’s Anita Mack, who runs the EXCELL course. When James discussed the course he mentioned that Anita uses role plays to help immigrants get to know how to act in their new country (I assumed Australia). this was a massive eye opener for me, who just assumed people would already know how to act! I indeed felt quite oblivious to the hurdles and challengers that face those coming to Australia, not just in terms of meeting new people and leaving friends and family behind but also acquiring the norms, values and rules of behaviour that I so readily take for granted :s
Much of what we learn when studying psychology refers to our genetic predisposition or biological evolution which can sometimes help explain modern complex phenomena. One of these is our need to belong (defined as the desire to form and maintain close lasting relationships). Although im sure there are many people that would rather be alone than with others, I would assume these people are in the minority. Many textbooks including our unit text book, have related this need to belong to a evolutionary view which suggests our ancestors relied heavily on social networks to survive, be it through food, protection, mating or so forth, the fact is in the past and now, we need each other to maximise our resources and hence survival and potential. What I found fascinating within both the lecture and the text book was that prisoners in san Quentin who were in solitary confinement communicated via their toilet!! They would sometimes not know who they were speaking with but nevertheless needed to hear their fellow prisoners to create some kind of social connection. The mere thought of that would drive me crazy!! And not without justification – the text book suggests that deaths from disease are higher among individuals without social connections than those with social connections. Belong to a group seems essential then but what types of groups? The text book goes on to state that basically any type of group is beneficial, whether it be a political or educational organisation. This is an interesting topic however it is one that provokes much thought and concern over the people we don’t see in our everyday lives, that is the lonely people. Someone once said to me ‘surely there’s not many around here, I don’t really see anyone sitting alone’, but that’s the point! These isolated people go unnoticed, they don’t sit around looking lonely (I assume!) And that’s what is concerning… Still relating to evolutionary theory, the idea of finding partners that are similar in looks to you is always something that has fascinated me. Particularly, all the couple (ive seen many) that look like brother and sister.. even celebrities seem to do it, whether or not they look the same psychically, there is a trend for them to modify there appearance to match each other, whether that be getting a tan or dying their hair blonde together. If any of you out there happen to take notice of brad pitt and hes previous and current girlfriends you’ll know what I mean!
Another feature of what is attractive that id like to comment on, even though we’ve probably all heard it before, is that of body shapes. What is ironic, and I cannot remember where about I read this, is that in societies where food is a rarity, voluptuous or plump women are found more attractive – due to the idea that they hold a higher social status which permits them to have more access to food. Conversely, those in well off westernised societies, where there is a plentiful supply of food - and not to mention an obesity epidemic! - the most attractive figure, at least for the moment, is that of extremely slim. I found a link that shows the pictures of the ideal women from the early 1900’s until late 1990’s. ive added the link as we cannot paste pictures in wikiversity, its worth a quick look! 
It is astonishing how in only a few years the ideal changes so much. This means not only pressure on females to (usually) lose and maintain a low weight, but to also put it back on if the ideal changes!! These fluctuations in body size and image would clearly be detrimental to the metabolism, health and stress levels of females, but also their mental health. When will society stop idolising ‘ideal’ body shapes? I do not believe there is such an answer. Rather, I believe society will always have majority or at least media views on what is and is not acceptable for any given society, and due to many peoples need to conform and belong as aforementioned, people will strive hard to achieve these ideals, even when they negatively effect other life aspects.
This week’s topic was that of groups, which can be defined as a collection of people, usually doing or being something together. This topic is quiet relevant to social psychology which itself comprises of the studies of people, who usually form groups.
What I particularly found interesting was idea that groups form best or work best when everyone specialises in something, or being an expert at his or her role. Each person in the group has a different role and responsibility which is well defined and distinct from others. What I liked about this idea of effective groups was that when you apply this idea to real world examples, you can see that it does actually fit in quite well. For instance, in terms of friendship groups, whether female, male or mixed, you can usually (in my experience) see who is the ‘joker’ the ‘loud mouth’ the trust worthy’ the ‘liar’ and so forth. Everyone seems to take on their role, or at least emphasise some particular personality traits which are distinct enough from others that they can work efficiently in their group. If there are two loud mouth attention seekers in the one group it may cause a certain degree of conflict between the two people, if one person backs down, however and maybe replaces being loud and dominant with being amusing, he or she may find a better match in his or her group and thus create a more cohesive group. Of course this idea is subject to the type of group, type of individuals and so forth, but generally speaking this idea of distinct individual roles within a group as working well makes sense and can even be seen in everyday applications such as peer groups.
This diversity within groups seems to be what helps them to work. Too much diversity and individuals may feel unrelated to the groups, and too much similarity may cause conflict within a group. Thus this balance of diversity and distinctiveness seems to be a driving force behind what makes up an effective group. Speaking of diversity, what I found very disturbing was the story of the painted black bird pecked to death by other birds because of its difference (pg482). The text book pointed out that animals, unlike humans, do not seem to value diversity and not only typically reject it but also find they must eradicate it all together. Humans sometimes do the same however. In the past, and sometimes currently, those who were labelled gay, lesbian, mentally ill, even ‘magical’ (i.e. witchcraft) were not only ostracised by society but in some cases killed and tortured. The text book even features a story of the murder of a young man for his sexual preferences. So many we, like animals are intolerant ourselves of certain types of diversity. Fortunately, as time goes by we seem, as a society, to accept rather than reject diversity, with many workplaces allocating specified job placements to go to those of diverse backgrounds (e.g. nationalities). Maybe the ever increasing acceptance of diversity comes from the understanding that diverse groups can be more flexible, creative, and offer more perspectives than a group with similar members can. Perhaps we just realise we can gain more from diverse people than what was originally assumed and hence a greater acceptance?
Also within the topic of groups is that of specialisation. The text book refers to idea that people must be adaptable in terms of the roles they take on. Whether that is a job or otherwise, society is constantly changing and adaptation to that change is essential for individuals to participate successfully. Personally I have thought about this concept for a while now, or ever since enrolling in university at least. Basically I feel that society seems to be moving at a faster pace than ever and this puts pressure on students to choose a field in which they will devote their studies and potentially their career. Whilst doing this though, students must be aware that there is an ever evolving change of roles and so forth so the field they were devoted to may change considerably or even disappear altogether. One of my lecturers once said also that not only does society and the workforce want students to be higher educated but to also be specialised in their field. This puts even more pressure on students and adults in general to make sure that when they do pick a field, and then specialise in it, that the ever-changing society and its demands for work do not suddenly decided they do not longer require their speciality :s
I particularly enjoyed this weeks tutorial – social disengagement speech by Hugh Mackay. He spoke of the changes Australia has been experiencing in terms of four main topics: Gender, economy technology and identity.
Gender changes encompasses mostly the change in opinion and attitudes, and behaviours of females, who have typically gained more status in society. This has impacted on many other related topics such as workplace gender composition, or the increase of female workers, and the declining marriage rate. Part of the reason for a decline in marriage rates is also related to the concept I wrote about earlier, in which the fast paced every changing society we live in is causing people to anticipate change and as such put of making decisions instead opting for a ‘wait and see’ approach. Always on the look out for something better or another opportunity, these values tend to clash with the ideology of commitment, marriage and creation of a family. So not only does our or my generation have a million and one opportunities and decisions to make regarding career and study choices (and continuous choices and change at that) but also continuous choices and opportunities regarding partners, marriage, divorce and so forth. Not that everyone must choose to be so flexible, but in keeping up with everyone else it seems we must or face missing an opportunity.
What was also really very startling was that suggestion that the single-person household was the most common household type!! This led to the idea that isolation, fragmentation and eventually depression may rise in the community (in addition to the fact hat antidepressants have tripled in the past ten years or so). Scary thought
Another result of this fast paced lifestyle is that what is appealing now is simplicity. I have actually noticed many companies trying to sell their product by offering a more simple style/product/service. One of these to illustrate is that of the new NRMA motor vehicle insurance advertisement campaigns. These basically feature an ‘un’ motto – un-worry, un-clutter etc, - Ive found a you tube clip of the ad in case you haven’t seen it before 
Our social psychology unit text book defines motives for prosocial behaviour of helping as either egotistic helping or altruistic helping. Egotistic helping is that when a helper seeks to in some ways benefit themselves by helping another, whereas altruistic helping is when a helper increases another’s welfare but expects nothing in return. This got me thinking about others who do help other people, and which category they would more likely fit in to. It has always been my view that
celebrities in this sense fall into a more egotistic helping category, whereby they help others in various ways, donations, visiting countries and so forth, but all of this is captured by the media and sprayed all over television. Is this more of an attempt to reach our and help others less fortunate, or an attempt to gain more (positive) attention from media and the rest of the rest. If the latter is true, this type of exposure and promotion would surely boost fan ratings and perhaps even end up boosting their job prospects and wages! Either way though I am all for celebrity charity – it brings help to those in need, it creates a global awareness of whatever problem they are supporting, and it acts as an example or model to others who may then be more influenced to also help. I did find a U.K news website which spoke about this particular issue and actually mentioned some cases (whether these are true is unknown) where unnamed celebrities were clearly behaving in selfish ways when supposedly attempting to help. After reading a couple of cases, I decided to paste the ‘best’ in here: 1. A popular young actress who was flown abroad by a development agency, only to fly straight back again when the hotel and car were not to her liking, and it was too hot and there were too many flies. 2. A rock star who would only travel first class and stay in five-star hotels, all expenses paid, and the actress who made the same demands, gorged on room service, made long-distance phone calls and drank the mini bar dry, eventually costing the host charity thousands of pounds. Like I said before these unnamed cases are definitely not backed up by any evidence so I can not determine how true they are. However……I can imagine that if these particular cases are not true, there would definitely be cases where similar things have happened. Reading the two examples anyway made me feel horrible about how materialistic we can be, that having ‘more’ seems to give people a right to be superior to others, even in their time of need. Im all for celebrity charity, as long as the benefits for the celbirty do not outweigh those for the actual people in need.
On a more positive note, when discussing helping other, the text book suggests there are six factors in determining who will be helpful. 1. a helpful personality – modelling of family, peers, possibility of a genetic influence 2. similarity – more likely to help people who are similar rather than dissimilar to ourselves. This could be inline with the cultural theme of the text book where helping those closer to you, in an evolutionary viewpoint, can raise your levels of success in society. 3. gender- the book mentioned that males are more helpful than females in the boarder public sphere, such as with strangers, and in emergency settings, whereas females tend to help in a more family sphere. This I would agree sounds correct, however I think there’s a few factors which may account for the difference. The fact males are meant to help more in the more public sphere I believe is because it is safer to do so. If I drove past a girl on the side of the road, or a male, I would be hesitant to help because of fears of my own safety. 4. beautiful victims – those of an attractive appearance receive more help than others. I tried my best to visualise what I would do in the instance that I was asking to give money to an attractive man or an unattractive one and I couldn’t imagine being so discriminatory, however the text book mentions studies that indeed found that people were more likely to help attractive people than unattractive people. Could it be, as the book also mentions, that attractive people are presumed to be more intelligent, healthier, and just generally as having more resources than unintelligent people. If this is the assumption then giving more freely to attractive people would even more so broaden the gap between the attractive and unattractive? Just a thought. Other factors that determine helping behaviour that were discussed included belief in a just world, and the emotion and mood that someone is in at the time of a helping opportunity.
Bystander effect The story of Kitty Genovese is one I have heard many a times, but always makes me cringe at the thought of a murdered and raped victim, being watched for 35 minutes with no one coming to her aid, which would have saved her life. After discussing the five steps that influence helping behaviour the text book suggests ways in which we can increase helping. The example of how to get help in a public setting I thought was pretty effective, I had never really thought about how to gain peoples attention in an emergency and like most others just assume that people will instinctively know when they should help. Clearly this assumption is incorrect. I do appreciate university text books that do offer essential and help advice like this!
Environmental psychology is basically the relationship between people and their physical environments. The reading for this week mainly focused on findings regarding the aforementioned, for instance the effects of crowding and how, if one has control over their crowed conditions, this typically reduces the negative effect of crowding. What I found particularly interesting though was the topic of environmental problems. I remember back to my first year at university where a friend who was undertaking an environment degree, spoke to me about all the apart imminent environmental problems we are facing. I remember being very unconcerned about the topic, and seeing as I had not really heard of any environmental problems in the news or any media, thought that there was no problem! If there was wouldn’t the news be talking about it? Only two years later has there been a massive upsurge in environmental concern, she seemed to be right all along. It seems now that as soon as the environment appears to cause personal impact on people (ie flooding of houses, cost of energy and so forth) has society decided to take in a vested interest. Fortunately institutes such as schools are also becoming actively involved, apparently the University of Canberra is introducing more environmental degrees, whilst also considering (or has already done) making environmental units compulsory in each degree. The idea that our environment cannot support us, and is almost working against us (floods, draughts) is one of the most frightening thoughts I believe our generation if facing. Fortunately also, the government has begun to take a vested inertest in the problems facing today’s environment. Policies such as rebates on solar systems, water tanks, economical vehicles and so forth really are showing Australians that if you help, the government will help you. This is a change from previous ways of thinking whereby as the reading for this week (environmental issues-energy and resource conservation) suggest, the government predominately followed economic rationalist ideals whereby the market was left to do its own thing, no intervention was made. With the introduction of rebates and other incentives, the government is in fact interfering within the automobile industry (for example) which shows that there is commitment to hopefully reach our long term gaols (environmental conservation) as opposed to focusing on our short-term goals (growth of economy).
If any one has not watched the ‘An inconvenient truth’ – an American documentary about global warming - I really recommend that you do. I have heard some of what is presented may not be valid, but regardless the documentary makes logical sense and presents facts and information that all point to an imminent deterioration of our planet. For instance, the hottest 10 years ever recorded have all been within the last 14 years. Its definitetly a must see eye opening documentary, ive added the link to the trailer in case your interested and haven’t seen the film thus far  Over the next few years, I’m interested to see how the world and Australia in particular will go about encouraging citizens to use the planet wisely. When was younger I felt we had the world at our fingertips, we could buy, use, waste whatever we wanted. Now it is a much different story, and as Al Gore in An inconvenient truth points out, we have to pay for the mistakes that our parents (and ancestors in general) made. Now the thought of buying the new best v8 engine sports car is diluted by the guilt and thoughts of the effect the car would have on the environment. In saying this though, fortunately car manufactures have semi prepared for this issues and have already released economical hybrid cars which are a great deal better for the environment. Additionally, and as per my discussion of celebrities as society models previously, film stars such as Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, have all purchased hybrid cars, and we all know
the level of global influence celebrities such as these have on everyone. This brings me to my next point, we as consumers need to be in control of what type of cars, and basically anything else that effects of environment, is created for the market. Rather than the manufactures dictating what is and isn’t for sale, we need to show them that we are proactive in the fight for the environment and that in order to increase their profits and sales they must make available to us energy efficient environmentally friendly products. What I have learnt about environmental conservation at university thus far is only the tip of the iceberg. With much of my time spent focusing on university studies, I hope that the news and media, as well as university units discus in more depth this particular issue, so that we all have a chance to become aware of the factors contributing to our planets degradation and how we can all help. It needs to be a whole of society collective effort and governments need to be fair and strict with its citizens (ie. No rich green grass in the wealthy suburbs!) so that we all understand that our environment appears to be more of a privilege than a right, and to use it will have to be to use it responsibly.
On the whole, I enjoyed social psychology in that it gave more insight into social groups, which we are apart of. It also opened my mind up to the fact that it seems we are such cultural and social people, and to divorce this aspect from ourselves is difficult to say the least. In terms of the teaching of the unit, I particularly appreciated the freedom James allowed us in the two major assessment items; the essay and this e-portfolio. In the majority, if not all, of my previous units I have never had such freedom, especially in the choice of essay topics. This allowed me to actually take interest in my essay research and to learn about something I had prior interest in. Thanks James :)