Welcome to my E-Portfolio! I have enjoyed compiling my thoughts, opinions and questions on the following topics - defined in the contents box above - relating to Social Psychology and hope you find the issues I have raised interesting...Tegan H.
It's always good to begin with some definitions...
So..Social Psychology is:
- "Aiming for a broad understanding of how human beings think, feel and act and how an individual's thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others" (Allport, 1935)
- "Concerned with the effects of personal and situational influences on such thoughts, feeling and behaviours (effectively, it involves the person-situation debate)" (Lewin)
- "An examination of social dynamics, being between two people, between a individual and a group and between groups"
- "Centred around three main fields; Social perception (How we interpret social objects), Social influence (Attitudes and behaviours brought about by others) and Social interaction (how we interact with others in the social world)"
- "Not content with just knowing what people do; it explores why they do it"
Now, as for the whole nature v. nurture debate...As a biology major I have heard about this more than enough! (and the following argument may reflect my biological background/persuasions). What interested me most (in the beginning of Chapter 2 in Baumeister & Bushman's "Social Psychology & Human Nautre) was 'Brenda's' story, who was raised as a female although biologically male. More about this story can be found at : . The important finding of this so called 'experiment' is that there are limits to the power of socialisation. Relating this issue to the concept of the 'self', we understand the 'self' to be partially stable (indicating a genetically determined character) and partially changing (able to adapt to life changes). If this is the case (again relating it to 'Brenda's' situation) it should be noted that this definition of the 'self' may indeed be more complex. Should it not be weighted to say that genetics play the most major role in 'self' determination and the malleability of self is only possible in certain circumstances (as malleability -in the end- most definitley did not apply to 'Brenda')? Rightly, the definition of 'self' has evolved into encompassing more complex ideas, including being situationally and cognitively influenced, but is it now totally correct? Supporting evidence is the following study on similar circumstances by William G. Reiner (2004) who suggested that "children who are born genetically and hormonally male may identify themselves as males despite being raised as females and undergoing feminizing genitoplasty at birth...clinical interventions for such neonates should be reconsidered in the light of these findings". It must also be noted that 'Brenda' suffered low self esteem, perhaps heightened self-awareness and as a result of her situation, had poor self-concept. However, this brings us back to nature v. nurture debate and although it is usually widely accepted that actions/behaviours are a result of a cross between the two, the round-about of argument between the two concepts begins again! From a more 'real life' perspective on this issue, what were the parents thinking raising a boy as a girl? Did they not expect medical technology to improve? Did they not question the doctors' suggestions of raising 'Brenda' and not 'Bruce'? How could you look at your own child as a girl knowing full well this was not as he was intended to be?....
Tegan H (07/08/08)
The issues of social perception and attribution.
Social Perception- “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, this is what we have always been told, right? Do we actually pay attention to this statement? Relating back to self complexity, I believe it true that we perceive ourselves as more complex than those around us. I also believe this effectively belittles most others’ aptitudes and competences. If we are social creatures, then judging others should be socially accepted. However, how often do we appraise someone we do not know as having positive qualities, especially someone who is seemingly, outwardly similar to yourself? Do you usually find something negative pertaining to a person that you would not attribute to yourself? Perhaps this negative judgement can be attributed to evolutionary history, in that we see all others as competition. It is also a way in which to elevate and justify our self-perceptions and self-esteem. As a self-professed ‘people watcher’, it is not until I sit and dwell over this issue that it becomes apparent to me that I may be too harsh on the odd passer-by. Are you in agreeance based on your own judgements of others? As discussed in the second tutorial, the main method of communication is revealed through body language. In relating this to negative judgements, I also find it interesting that based solely on this channel of communication we are able to make such strong judgements of a person. Has it not been shown that not all body language is decipherable? And does body language expression not change from individual to individual? Yet, we still make judgements based on this behaviour!
Attributions- Linking with the ideas just discussed, how many times have you found yourself evaluating someone’s actions, then within a group, attempting to find the cause of those actions? According to attribution theory, we do this as to reduce the discrepancy between observed actions and causal explanations. The negative judgements we make of others are well explained by the internal and external attributions theory. According to this theory we have a tendency to make internal attributions when thinking of others. Another theory that explains negative judgment is that of the correspondent inference theory which assumes that others’ behaviour is accredited to characteristics of the actor. In all of this, I find it amusing that we often judge others and their decisions and actions as negative, as, in all probability, they are like us! We are very much, ‘Self-Serving’ beings.
Social Conformity- Another interesting topic for me! As much as we like to believe we are individual beings that stand up for our own beliefs, in fact, we stand up for others’ beliefs as well - according to social conformity. We all feel the need to belong to a group of some sort, but we portray ourselves as independent! A classic example of conformity is the Asch conformity experiment 
Tegan H (15/08/08)
I was completely devastated watching this documentary. I have never been more silent for two hours in my life, this film brought complete silence. Words that come to mind include disgust, anger, bewilderment, shame and shock. How could this have happened? The slaughter of 800 000 people. Although the plea for help was sent, the world ignored this slaughter, literally turning their backs. With all the strength the US military forces carry, the issue was ‘out of their hands’, ‘there was nothing they could have done’. Disgusting , ignorant and inexcusable. How do the people who did nothing sleep at night? “It’s not within our [Americans] interests”. What happened to morals and ethics and the basic human right? In 1994.... How could this have happened? One particular scene from the film saw me gasp. Shot from atop a hill, in the street in the distance lay bound Tutsi’s, a man wielding a large machete stood over them. He raised his machete and slammed it into one of the men lying bound on the ground. I still don’t understand the strong cultural rift, prejudice and racism between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s, let alone the deindividuation that allows human beings to slaughter other human beings and not think twice about it.
Tegan H (23/08/08)
Prejudice- “A negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group”
It can be said that prejudice evolved as a function of our evolutionary development as it is a protective mechanism for survival- Darwin’s famous ‘survival of the fittest’ principle. For primitive explanations, this principle works brilliantly. As for our more advanced society, it cannot be used as an excuse. I’m sure that there is someone or something you don’t like about a particular person and when someone else comes along that you perceive as having the same qualities as those u dislike, you are immediately ‘turned off’. It seems that we don’t have the cognitive resources to see everyone as unique individuals; hence we stereotype and are discriminatory beings. Do we not judge ourselves as being the complete opposite of this concept? We try to pride ourselves on giving everyone a fair go. But do we really? Perfect examples of this lack of ‘a fair go’ are racism and obesity.
Racism- Apparently there has been a decline in ‘old fashioned’ racism, which essentially involved segregation of dark-skinned individuals, however the ‘modernisation’ of racism suggests that we want equality for all, yet still have negative connotations toward others not of our own race. “. The following, recent study by Plant and Peruche in 2005 examined police officers responses to criminal suspects based on race.  Initial responses to the computer simulation of criminal suspects revealed that officers were more likely to ‘mistakenly’ shoot unarmed black compared to unarmed white suspects. Other studies using everyday participants have concluded that “when viewing an ambiguous scene with a possibly dangerous man who may or may not be armed, a person is more likely to shoot a black man than a white man”. It is therefore obvious that there really hasn’t been much of a decline in racist attitudes, perhaps it is just that these attitudes are no longer as strongly verbalised as they once were. This discussion could roll on and on, hence the reason I will move onto a very prominent issue in society- obesity.
Obesity- In Australia, in 2000, there were approximately 19.3% of men and 22.2% of women classed as obese. This problem is of high health concern as the chronic diseases that accompany it, such as: Type 2 diabetes- which can lead to further medical ramifications, including retinopathy (blindness), nephropathy (kidney failure), heart disease, and it is also associated with peripheral vascular disease, which often results in ulceration, gangrene, possible amputation and death; Heart disease- Contributing factors leading to the development of heart disease include obesity and diabetes, as well as high blood pressure and high cholesterol (which are prominent in those overweight); Some cancers- including breast (post-menopausal), colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney and prostate; and finally, ailing mental health is attributed to obesity. With all of this considered- we still divert attention from these important health issues and judge the overweight solely on appearance, stereotyping those even slightly overweight as ‘lazy and slow’, ‘always hungry or eating too much’, ‘and unhappy because they’re fat’. This has been exacerbated by the media and fashion industry- who always show prejudice against even ‘normal’ sized men and women (the average size woman wears a size 12-14), let alone the overweight. This is demonstrated with magazine titles dishing ‘Fat Celebrities” and by not having models that wear anything over a size 6. This causes and endless bound of problems for those who are ‘overweight’ in respect to this unrealistic image with which we are constantly presented. These problems include crash dieting- which is also harmful to long term health. Digressing- In a bid to change this Kate Ellis- the minister for youth- proposes to bring in a code of conduct requiring fashion magazines to feature normal-sized models and disclose the use of enhanced photos  . It’s about time!
Finally- here’s a video of a man discussing intolerance toward the obese. He makes some very valid and interesting points, including the quote “No human condition, not race, religion, gender, ethnicity or disease state compares to obesity in prevalence and prejudice, mortality and morbidity, sickness and stigma”. 
Tegan H (02/09/08)
This topic seems quite straight forward to me- especially when observing the first principle presented in the text, “The need to belong”. Affiliation- or the need to belong- is a defining human characteristic that involves forming and maintaining close lasting relationships with other individuals. This belongingness consists of the perception that we have quality contact with others. We seek balance, regularity and stability in out contact with others. Those who ‘do not belong’ suffer consequences such as increased mental and physical health problems. The subject of ‘not belonging’ can also be related to school bullying- as those who have few friends at school (whether it is for lack of those who share the same interests or shyness) are often ridiculed for being outcasts.
Attraction- What makes someone attractive to you? People often say they have little or no regard for appearance of a partner, however, how do u initially know if u are attracted to someone- of course it’s all about appearance. As stated by Bjorn Carey (2005)  “To figure out how we pick mates, scientists have measured every shape and angle of the human face, studied the symmetry of dancers, crafted formulas from the measurements of Playboy models, and had both men and women rank attractiveness based on smelling armpit sweat”. This article provides a condensation of a few scientific findings- it’s quite interesting! Beyond that, once you have an understanding of a person’s characteristics and traits- and you are attracted to them of course- I believe each individual seeks something difference from a relationship (based on personal history- which could include upbringing and previous relationships). I guess this then also stems back to attachment styles and personality. As for the principle of similarity in attractiveness- and speaking from personal experience- I’m not necessarily convinced you must be overly similar to your partner in order to stay together.
Love- The way you love a friend is different to the way you love your mother which is different again to the way to you your partner. A question I have on the two types of love- those being passionate and companionate- is when does the former turn into the latter? Does this depend on the couple? On how and when and what age they met? Can you not combine these two? Why does passion ‘die’? More importantly, why does it have to ‘die’?
Types of Relationships- The distinction made between Exchange v. Communal relationships was very interesting to me. Having seen both in action I definitely agree that A communal relationship-based on love which disregards concern of the expectation of repayment, reciprocity and fairness- is more desirable, however, can this induce problems as well, i.e. one partner doting on another constantly and not receiving a single thing in return- surely there has to a degree of give and take! For more on this see: 
Tegan H (25/09/08)
Groups and Leadership
A group is a collection of people who are doing or being something together. This includes sharing a common identity or definition and acting in accordance with that definition.
Every group has a unique personality of its own. This is due to the individuals that come together to form it, each often having different skills and interests. The group then takes on an identity of its own as these individuals come together, exchanging ideas and learning from each other. This then makes it difficult for social psychology to define groups on a specific level; rather, it must define groups using the larger more obvious traits and actions.
Think of your family. I’m sure you can identify some unique ideas skills and roles that makes yours different from all other families. When one of you is away, the group dynamic changes which affects functioning of the group. For example, another member of the family will have to compensate for your absence by, say, completing one of your chores. So in this light, groups influence and are dependent on every member to function as usual.
As you would know from working in a group at some point, as well all must do it, it can be a painful experience rather than a positive one. Loafing suggests that people often decrease effort when working in a group. Are you the person that often ‘picks up the slack’ for the loafer; are you the ‘sucker’? Some helpful pointers for reducing the incidence of social loafing include: making everyone accountable, placing a value on the task, giving everyone something unique to contribute and keeping group cohesiveness by holding regularly meetings.
One example of this loafing on a larger scale is global warming – the climate change initiative. We wish to do our part but do not want to be a ‘sucker’ and do as much as possible, spending all available funds, when other countries do nothing. This brings about what is known as a ‘commons dilemma’ which states that if all cooperate then all gain, whereas if all compete, all will lose. The latter represents the climate change initiative perfectly. We are doing the minimal amount (or nothing) to get the short term gains and recognition, but this is in disregard to future consequences with which we will suffer. As stated on A Current Affair “Of Course, it’s all our fault. If we don’t act now, if we don’t change our way of life, the world as we know it is finished....can we afford to sit back, do nothing and hope for the best?”  This is a perfect example of the disadvantages of groups, the ultimate social dilemma and competition that will lead to disastrous consequences for the human race.
Another disadvantage of groups is deindividuation. This term signifies loss of individuality, including individual accountability and reduction of self awareness, mainly due to the presence of others. Being anonymous makes people more willing to violate social norms. Thus, deindivduation makes people more willing to behave badly and they cease worrying what others think of them. Holding people accountable for their actions is one way to stop this behaviour. A fictitious example is played out in a scene from Law and Order 
The tutorial this week was very interesting! Firstly we discussed a few ‘fuzzy concepts’:
Social Capital- We discussed this as being the quality of social networks, community involvement and positive connections. My question is...has this somewhat disintegrated as we are now more technology centred? We would rather sit at home emailing someone or a collective group of people instead of meeting them as discussing issues face-to-face. Social capital is meant to be about building and facilitating healthy social contact- are we forgoing this now? Or are we changing the way in which it occurs?
Zeitgeist- We discussed this as meaning ‘spirit of the times’, the general culture, education and morals of a given era. This effectively answers my question above. The general culture is a technological one, hence, it can be seen that zeitgeist has influence on social capital.
Social Disengagement- Meaning social isolation from society and disconnection. This again links with my questioning above. Yes, zeitgeist influences social capital, but does it do this positively or in a negative fashion, inducing social disengagement? I agree with the negative effects, as does Bassuk, Glass & Berkman (1999) who examined social ties and cognitive decline. They found that those with fewer ties were at increased risk for incident cognitive decline 
We were then asked to outline what we believed to be the three most prominent social issues in society today. Mine were as follows:
- Lack of ‘Community’
Of these I am most passionate about the ‘lack of community’. I often reminisce of times when I was younger. I remember our somewhat small estate used to have a huge Christmas party every year. We would have a visit from Santa and all the kids would get a toy, the parents would chat and everyone would enjoy themselves immensely. The most exciting part was the ride-on mower race which all fathers took part in. This no longer happens and hasn’t for some time. I believe our community has suffered as a consequence as our streets are in desperate need to re-taring (among other things) and we have little or no contact with others in our street, let alone our estate. I’m sure there are many reasons why we can’t and aren’t taking the time to get together for a laugh and to discuss issues within our community, the main reason I believe pertains to the interlinked topics above- social capital, zeitgeist and social disengagement.
Finally- I found this inspiring video on Youtube - alittle corny, but it gets you thinking! 
Tegan H (03/10/08)
Probably the most interesting topic for me – Also my essay topic!
"In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us" - Flora Edwards
Firstly- what is Pro-social behaviour?
An example of such pro-social behaviour is the site you are visiting right now, Wikiversity! Relating to the previous post, this is a prime example of building ‘social capital’ through our current zeitgeist, technology.
Pro-social behaviour is a category of helping and a broad term that cites multiple motivations. These include the intent to improve the situation of the help recipient, to uphold moral values, to prevent damage to an object (practical concerns) and for self- reward which involves the desire for reciprocity or a reward (either concrete or based on social approval). As stated by Frey & Meier (2004) those acting in the interest of pro-sociality not only care about the utility of others but take their own utility into account.
A prime example of such behaviour, as given by Beirhoff (2002), is of a father who in teaching his daughter to use a new computer avoids aggravation of her incessant questioning over what steps to take next when attempting to complete a task. Acting out of personal distress, rather than empathetic unease, the motivation to instruct his daughter is self-centred, primarily assisting him.
This brings about the notion of helping for personal egotistic needs, a very prominently discussed issue around this topic. The debate supporting this egotistically centred viewpoint is only exacerbated by the notion of Altruism.
Altruism comprises the idea of a selfless act of providing aid to another that has no beneficial ramifications for one-self, often occurring at the expense of one’s own interests. In other words, it entails complete selflessness and the dedication to the welfare of others in a rather inspirational self-sacrifice (Mastain, 2006).
The question here is ‘does altruism exist’? Is all behaviour more pro-social in that we always receive some personal reward for helping another (even if it is just a positive emotion)?
Some points against altruism:
- Egoism is indeed a part of human nature and possibly part of helping another
- Human beings often help others because in doing so they are exposed to positive self-esteem or praise from their peers, reciprocity, a good reputation or even evasion of the guilt they would later feel if they avoided helping (as explained by the negative-state relief theory)
- An interesting study conducted by Clary & Snyder (1999) noted most motivations to volunteer were egotistic in nature. These included: The need to learn more about the world, psychologically bettering oneself, to gain career related experience and ‘get a foot in the door, to strengthen social relationships and volunteering as a way to reduce negative feelings such as guilt
Some points in favour of altruism:
- The fact that human beings are sometimes motivated to help other human beings in an attempt to satisfy their own egotistic needs does not prove that altruism does not exist
- Altruism does indeed exist (as shown by the theory known as the empathy-altruism hypothesis) especially in situations of kin involvement and when the helper is highly empathetically aroused
- An altruistic individual in a suitably stable environment will find themselves in the presence of other altruistic individuals
- A lesser number of individuals in a group will promote cooperation and thus altruism- this relates to the bystander effect
- Altruism will occur when the cost of an act is less than the benefit multiplied by relation to the one in need
- Altruistic helping increases in high need situations such as in raising money for cancer sufferers and in robbery situations where the victim appears poor
Drawing conclusions on this debate has proven very difficult over time. The conclusion I myself have drawn is that the debate over the existence of genuine altruism is a strong one (and it would definitely be a shame to disregard all helping as selfish); however the egotistical perspective of behaviour still makes many fine points. Therefore, it can be said that while in agreeance with the existence of altruism, a restriction in arguing in its favour is that the only one who truly knows the motivation for an act that has benefit for another is the actor.
Have you ever acted altruistically?
One question raised during this debate is whether an act can be originally altruistic - in that at the time you are only concerned for another – but can turn into something more of a pro-social nature - as after the activity you receive praise and are thus egotistically satisfied ? Should this then be classified as an altruistic act or a pro-social act? Or should it be categorised as something completely different?
An example around this question is of those that help another without thinking about it initially yet later receive praise in the form of a bravery award. There are many examples of such bravery, including the case of Grafton teenagers Corey Warburton and Michael Bethune who were awarded a NSW Police Force commendation for their bravery in saving an elderly Grafton woman, Joylyn Peneder, from drowning. Corey happened to be walking over the Grafton Bridge when he noticed Ms Peneder struggling in the water below. With no regard for his own safety, Corey jumped from the bridge into the Clarence River 15 meters below to save her. Michael, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, noticed the rescue from the banks of the river and entered the icy waters to help a tiring Corey and Ms Peneder back to shore. Corey said: "I saw her move her hand towards her face and I kind of, without hesitation, ripped me shirt off and me shoes and dove in". Chief Inspector Paul Klievens said "The boys appear to have acted distinctively and decidedly and haven't really thought about the possible consequences to themselves. They've just gone in with the aim of rescuing this woman" 
Frey, B.S., & Meier, S. (2004). Pro-social behavior in a natural setting. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54, 65–88.
Beirhoff, H.W. (2002). Prosocial behaviour. New York: Psychology Press.
Mastain, L. (2006). The lived experience of spontaneous altruism: A phenomenological study. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 37, 25-52.
Clary, E.G., & Synder, M. (1999). The motivations to volunteer: Theoretical and practical considerations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 156-159.
Tegan H (13/10/08)
“We shape our environments and our environments shape us”
Environmental psychology examines the interactions between humans and their environments specifying two types of investigation: Between humans and artificial (built) environments and also between humans and the natural environment. Originally environmental psychology only focused on how the environment effects human thoughts, feelings and behaviors, now however, it also outlines the effects human actions have on the environment. The latter has developed to the extent that it now has assumed greater importance. This has grown to such an extent that suburbs are now being designed to be environmentally sound- this indicates the recent impact environmental psychology has had on our society.
I have always been an advocate for ‘getting out there amongst it’. By this I mean outside, in nature! The idea that humans have an innate tendency to prefer natural environments over artificial ones and that these natural environments have positive psychological effects is most definitely something I believe in. The natural environment has many positive outcomes for human health. These include mood elevation. When was the last time you stepped out and ‘smelt the roses’, I mean literally smelt the roses?! If doing this doesn’t leave you with a smile on your face, I’m not sure what would!. An ‘out of the ordinary’, relevant study concerned with the effect of flowers on mood conducted by Haviland-Jones, Rosario, Wilson & McGuire (2005) found that flowers have instantaneous and enduring effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both females and males. 
The idea of a so called ‘Green Prescription’ was an eye opener for me. Stepping out of a dingy, dark, uninviting office and taking clients ‘walking and talking’ is a very inviting concept. Effectively you would be treating a patient as you consult them, with thanks to the environment. As for general practitioners merely prescribing outdoor activity such as exercise, one study by Swinburn et al. (1998),  suggested that sedentary patients who receive a ‘green prescription’ significantly increased their outdoor physical activity. However, I’m not entirely convinced that this would be as effective as actually ‘taking the consultation outside’ as a psychologist could.
Tegan H (21/10/08)