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Crystal Clear app kfm home.png This user is a participant in the Social psychology unit.
Writer1.gif This page is an e-portfolio. Also see other participants' pages.


Hello to those 'dropping by'. My name is Leigh and this is my E-Portfolio. This page is an assessment piece for the third year subject 'Social Psychology (7125)' at the University of Canberra. This E-portfolio will entail my views and acquired knowledge on various aspects of the field of Social Psychology, I will (hopefully!) give my insight on a week by week basis.

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Social Psychology (Week by Week)[edit]

Intro, history, & research

A brilliant start! I am a little bit behind but I have been reading the text from top to bottom in my work lunch break.

1. A unique definition of social psychology (this should not be a regurgitation of the lecture/textbook).

To me, Social Psychology is the study and investigation of human interaction & behaviours in individual & group settings.

2. What you already know about social psychology (and closely related topics).

Very little...

3. What you don't know (and would like to know).'

One of my interests is Criminology, I would like to know facets and formation of criminal behaviour and the impacts of such behaviour on society and the individual. Another aspect of Social Psychology I would like to explore is that of Consumer Psychology, specifically the psychological measures used by marketers in advertising and product placement. I have been watching the Gruen Transfer. For those who haven't seen it, the show uses marketers to interpret various Ad campaigns and outline their foundations and the marketing techniques used throughout. A blurb is below

The Gruen Transfer (TGT) is a show about advertising, how it works, and how it works on us. Hosted by the inimitable Wil Anderson, TGT will decode and defuse the commercial messages that swirl through our lives, with the help of a panel of ad industry experts.

4. Essay ideas and topic(s) you're interested in.

I think I'll go down the path of the topics I mentioned above.

Culture, nature, & the social self

Our culture plays a immeasurable role in shaping our identities and our perceived notions of ‘self’, as a result it is important that we establish that humans are cultural animals and differ from social animals in we use extensive division of labour, deliberately share knowledge, have a broader sense of community and use a range of measures resolve conflict including compromise, the rule of law and moral principles. Essentially humans have been shaped by evolution to participate in culture, though there are tradeoffs, living in a culture has many demands and requires us to resist self demands. This interaction between our culture and our social self builds upon the three parts of self which include; self knowledge or concept, the interpersonal self or public self and the agent or executive function. From this the main important role of self includes gaining social acceptance and playing social roles.

As suggested in the textbook, cultures are so diverse but have commonalties permeate throughout, these include cooking, language and money which are found all round the globe. Moreover these facets create the building blocks of ‘cultural animals’ and enable the advancement of the human race through greater advancements in knowledge, healthcare and interpersonal interactions.

Behavior, social cognition, attitudes, influence, & persuasion

There are some of the facets of this module I definitely relate to on many levels. I can recount many instances where I have used my social cognition to problem solve, think about others and my past experiences. But then again, who hasn’t? This very process makes us humans. It allows us as humans to explore, explain and perceive our social environment and the player’s actions within that environment. With exposure to the environment it has been apparent there is an ever-dynamic internal shift in attitudes and behaviours in humans, I have found in the last five years through socialising have these facets of my self have expanded dramatically. The way I perceive and think about my social connections are very different to what they once were, call it maturity kicking in but things I once found funny for example are no longer for example.. In some ways I have become more conscious of my behaviour and the reasons that I might behave in such a way, as the text book suggests behaving in one doesn’t necessarily represent your attitudes, feelings and thoughts, furthermore behaving depends on meaning. Moreover as we have free will we have the ability to make choices. We can therefore control behaviour. Along with my new found maturity I found that adult decisions are often hard! As the text suggests, hard choices can often be delayed and to keep options open. Sometimes in delaying choices we are able to get a better perspective, avenues that were not present at the initiation of the problem can sometimes crop up later on. On the whole it is evident that behaviour, social cognition and attitudes are not stagnant but really on environmental forces as well as the individuals we meet throughout our lifetimes.

Influence and persuasion

I currently work in an office environment and it never ceases to amaze me the tactics and variations of influence, persuasion & politics used everyday. From the subtle to the over the top, the 8 hours of the working day generally has one or two dramas based on inter-personal conflict and the use or misuse of such tactics. One that I noticed that was described in the textbook and lecture was used by a manager was the Door-in-the-face Technique. Our institutions budget is rather tight and any capital purchases are thoroughly scrutinised. The Manager suggested to the Managing Director that our department required a ridiculous budget for new computers, double the amount we actually required. This request was unduly rejected. The manager changed the request to actual amount and soon-thereafter the new request was approved.

Another technique I have recently witnessed is the use of the Scarcity technique. We often have door to door sales and company representatives approaching our firm for ‘once in a lifetime offers’. On the face of them they seem more valuable than plentiful ones however as I found, such offers are just periodic and are often repeated. For example we were offered a product at 60% off its retail due a to end of model clearout, later in the year when the product cycle again had declined the same offer with similar advertising literature was again offered. Perhaps with this new found skills I should start a commission based sales role?

Aggression - Genocide DVD: Ghosts of Rwanda

As per the lecture, the state of aggression is universal. To combat it, culture and its many regulators attempt to restrain aggression through laws and moral teachings. But as we have seen with ‘Ghosts of Rwanda ’ documentary, when culture breeds aggression it can have catastrophic results. The Rwandan conflict reminds me of the conflict in Sierra Leone. The West African country was gripped by civil war from 1991 to 2002, bickering over the lucrative diamond industry was regarded as the primary cause of the war. Approximately 75000 Sierra Leonean’s were killed during the conflict. A noted novelty of this war was the use of children as combatants in the conflict, Ishmael Beah author of ‘A long way gone, memoirs of a boy solider’ suggests in a his interview with Jon Stewart on February 14, 2007, Beah as a former child solider believed that returning to civilized society was more difficult than the act of becoming a child soldier—that dehumanizing children is a relatively easy task. In the interview he had to relearn to be normal, learn how to sleep without disruption, sit in one place due to brainwashing inflicted during his tenure as a rebel solider. Beah indicates that the rebel horde used ‘Brown Brown’, drugs to incite aggression. This substance made from cocaine and cut with gunpowder, irritates the bowels which increases aggression. Along with Brown Brown, the rebels used propaganda to inspire aggression in the child soldiers to fight. This situation of using individuals and brainwashing them to act upon the will of society is exemplified by the quote by Valentina Iribagiza in Ghosts of Rwanda: [through interpreter] I saw the soldiers come in, and they started shooting and shooting. All we had to defend ourselves were rocks. And our local governor, Gacumbizi, came in and stood in front of us. Gacumbizi said that everyone should know what they were there for. He said that all those who were there should be killed, that no one should survive. Then they started killing, hacking with their machetes. They kept doing it, and I was hiding under dead people. They didn't kill me. Because of the blood covering me, they thought they had killed me. Both cases highlight the power of society on the will of individuals and how the use of drugs and propaganda to incite aggression to intentionally harm others.

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Prejudice & intergroup relations

I am closely following the U.S presidential elections, other than the wide-ranging political tactics and war-like inter-play between parties I have noted even in a developed nation such as the U.S, an issue such as a race is still prominent feature of voter preference. Based on various polls, presidential hopeful Barack Obama appears to enough support in the electoral & popular vote as well financially (he declared fundraising $215 million (AU) dollars last month) to win by a convincing margin, however pundits and onlookers alike suggest that such a lead indicates a classic case of the ‘Bradley Effect’. Former NSW Premier, Bob Carr in a recent SMH article ( suggests ‘it originated in the 1982 defeat of black Tom Bradley for governor of California - 15 points ahead in the LA Times poll three days before the election he was defeated 45 per cent to 55 per cent. Estimated as being capable of slicing off 10 per cent of the vote, the Bradley effect is suggested as the reason for the slim victory margins of Dinkins and the black governor of Virginia, Douglas Wilder, in 1989 - despite their comfortable leads in the polls’. It amazing how this phenomena resembling social desirability bias can overtake and influence an individual’s candidate preference. To add to this recently two white supremacists plotted to kill Obama due to his race (,25197,24563773-5017121,00.html) Why oh why? Is because of Competition? Is It plain ignorance or fear for another culture? Or are they doing it purely to boost self-esteem and there notion of supremacy? So complex, my mind boggles. Such a complex tapestry of culture & environment colliding with personal values, attitudes and behaviours. I have to say that if Senator Obama were to win it would achieve not only a historical win but inspire hope in minorities, but one can only hope. Maybe we can educate others to have the same attitude as fictional political pundit Stephen Colbert? He does not "see" race (

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As discussed throughout the unit, humans are cultural creatures and yearn for social contact and relationships. This need builds our self esteem, our perception of self-presentation and interpersonal dealings. One of major facets I embraced in this module was that humans are reluctant to break the bonds of relationships even though the relationships are perceived as corrosive and negative. Recently one of my life-long friends decided to buy a home that was far too expensive, though he could afford it, it became apparent that to do so he would need to forgo life’s little pleasures as well as some basic needs (etc food). With this behaviour, in time the others in our friendship group have dubbed him the ‘Pincher’ as his penny pinching ways have become so bad that he is alienating the others and myself included. As its so bad, I often ask the others why don’t just not return his calls and avoid him, but much like the lecture material its always not that easy. Also to confront someone on faux par such as this again within interpersonal relationship is difficult! In conjunction with social faux par is the ‘Social allergy effect’ or when annoying habits become more annoying over time I laughed when I saw this phenomenon within the lecture, within my friendship group we have a friend who uses the word ‘wrapped’ as it appears the only adjective she knows to suggest contentment and fulfillment by her others actions. By Jesus it started as a novelty, a chuckle between mates and slowly escalated into resentment. As the result of these two interpersonal no-no is the by-product of rejection, I was reading within the text book that within a study conducted by Baumeister et al (2005) indicates people who are rejected are like to eat more as a result. The methods in which people cope with rejection is varying and extensive, why do people use self-defeating methods and other excel and use pro-social behaviours and succeed? There is something to consider, but overall humans are programmed to form and maintain social bonds. To break them is against these innate desires and overall makes the rejecter feel guilty! (I am guilty!)

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Groups & leadership

Whilst reading the Groups chapter of the text, I discovered that groups have varying roles in that they allow transmission of information, accomplish tasks deemed too difficult for an individual and encourage a sense of community. What surprised me was the power that groups can possess, in that the influence of the group can affect our ideas of personal roles and behaviour in those roles. I enjoyed reading the Sherif (1954) study highlighting inter-group relations at Robber’s Cave. This study found, In-groups formed even though friends were out-group members, to further this individuals identities seemed to diminish and take more of group identity mentality. Us vs them! Another thing, I learned through this study through common goals or super-ordinate goals the groups united together and allowed co-operation to fix common problems. This phenomena could perhaps be used to in industries such a medical research or government? I suppose you could be optimistic! This study also highlights subsequent findings that sometimes groups can be smarter than individuals, , through brainstorming and group think this can occur but on consequently groups can be incredibly stupid that stupid thoughts foster risky decisions . Moreover a group becomes more willing to take greater risks than individuals (on average). Another phenomena I took out of this module that relates to my own experience. The phenomena of the ‘Tragedy of Commons’. The ‘Tragedy of Commons’ or a situation or tendency where shared group resources to be squandered and not used in an optimal fashion. Often governmental bodies are accused this phenomena. My work in the public service has always amused me in this respect, I am currently managing assets (items purchased over $5000) in a medical research institution, it seems to me, accountability of using group or institutions resources and funds is lesser than if it was there own personal wealth. From the smallest of trivial resources like stationary to the excessive like computers, personal needs are sometimes overrule that of the groups. From groups to leadership, I am doing this unit in conjunction with Leadership, Innovation & Change. A major facet of that unit as well as a core question of this module is ‘What factors encourage leadership and what makes an individual a good leader? Some of the traits proposed include decisiveness, competence and vision. Other traits which come to mind include charisma, inspirational, diligence & credibility.

Pro social behaviour

The undercurrent of the text-book is that it is often easier to be evil than good, where ultimately evil is stronger than good. It my opinion it really is true, often letting these darker attitudes let fly takes no consideration for others feelings, property or livelihoods, however what intrigues me that consistently humans can on many fronts assist others and be wholesome. An interesting slide in this lecture suggests ‘If altruistic helpers are only helping to make themselves feel good, aren’t they really just being selfish?’ A paradox in essence, but really isn’t helping yourself the foundation of survival? Scarce resources mean individuals fight (figuratively) for jobs, wealth, partners and other ‘commodities’. Perhaps it’s my westernized individualistic point of view but when the going gets tough as the saying says the tough get going? Or in other words when the times are tough, the tough see opportunities? Darwin’s theory of evolution lend to this idea that humans like other species will battle for supremacy, survival and to be on top of a pecking order. But in reality especially in civilised modern society its not so clear cut, as discussed humans often help others without self regard and expectation of reward. Though at times when they do consciously believe they will be rewarded this is through Direct reciprocity (Helping someone who may help you later) and Indirect reciprocity (Help someone; someone else helps you later). From this, the textbook suggests that we can encourage pro-social behaviour through educating others about bystander indifference, providing helpful models such as volunteering & teaching moral inclusion making others part of the in-group. In all a very complex and time consuming process, though a worthwhile one if we can instil this value in to society. On a lighter note, I was searching the web for current research on Altruism and found this….. ‘Other than good feelings that altruism brings, it has been recently discovered that altruistic acts can make you appear more attractive! Displays of altruism or selflessness towards others can be sexually attractive in a mate. Perhaps Altruism can have its other rewards! (

Environmental psychology

There can be no doubt there has been an influx of support for environmental concerns from the wider community in the last decade. A bold move towards ‘greener’ living including reducing waste, carbon emissions and overall a positive attitude to conservation has lead to a change in government legislature and awareness programs to protect the environment. That said why has this ‘awareness’ happened now? Why all of a sudden has the atrocities of deforestation, mountain top mining (the destruction of mountainsides in search of coal), and the continuing factor of air pollution reared in to the consciousness of ‘Joe-Six-Pack’ (I really wanted to use a Sarah Palin reference somewhere!). Call me a cynic but I am of the mind that people will only change when something affects them. Maybe this has occurred? The stark realisation from some circles of society that fossil fuels are in short supply and their V8 Hummer’s at 30L/100km are unstainable? In addition it seems to me that its ‘hip’ to be a conservationist. I don’t suggest that I am a perfect person and live off totally sustainable materials but I question the motives of individuals are trying to really help the cause or look like they are helping. Major Corporations for example insist they are ethical and ‘Green’ yet still perform un-ethical environmental practices. We need innovation to live sustainably; I am of the mind that simple changes in lifestyle can have a continuing positive impact on the environment. For example I am a guitar collector and recently found about Flaxwood Guitars from Finland. They have noticed the guitar industries (the most popular instrument in the world) excessive use of rare and un-sustainable wood, in response Flaxwood have created ‘moulded wood’ which resonates like a traditional tone wood but is sustainable. Flaxwood is created by breaking the grain structure of natural wood and injection-moulding it into shape together with an acoustically sensitive binding agent. below is an excerpt from there website regarding there vision. ‘Seeing exotic tree species dangerously coming closer to extinction each day, they decided to act. Looking both to preserve and to innovate, they set out to develop a revolutionary new moulded wood material, one that would resonate like the very finest of the fine traditional musical tone woods. The sound produced was to be warm and rich, yet the material also needed to be suitable for today's environmentally friendly production methods’. Innovations like these are needed to sustain the earth and insure appropriate resources for society in the coming decades. Though I understand this is not world bettering in energy sources for example, it is an example of move towards conservation.

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