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G'day! I'm Thomas and the following will be summarised personal notes and thoughts regarding the Social Psychology tutes and lectures.

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Week 1 - Introduction to Social Psychology[edit]

What is social psychology? These are just come definitions about what social psychology is: • Social Psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks a broad understanding of how human beings think, act and feel. Thoughts, actions, and feelings and a joint function of personal and situational influences (Baumeister & Bushman).

Social psychology is the study of how people and groups interact – Wikipedia • Social psychology examines interactions of individual psychology and group phenomena; examines the influence of real or imagined others on the way people behave (Westen, Burton & Kowalski). Social Psychology is the science that studies individual beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in settings where other people are present (or merely implied or imagined--which makes the definition pretty broad). Notice the focus is quite different from sociology, where groups of people are studied, but closer to psychology, where individuals are studied. The focus of social psychology is the individual within the group. As such, it is an ideal venue for studying those forces that change humans-- their beliefs, their attitudes, and their behaviors (

I believe that social psychology is the process whereby the individual is studied within a society. How humans act and why they behave a certain way as well as how groups, communities and societies influence people.

Some terms that were raised in the lecture: • Social Perception: How we interpret social objects • Social Influence: Attitudes and behaviours brought about by others • Social Interaction: How we interact with others in a social world • Person vs. Situation debate: is a person influenced primarily by their biology or the situation they are in?

The Person vs. Situation debate is about what influences behaviour (this debate is similar to the nature vs. nurture debate). I believe both personality traits and environmental/situational influences influence our behaviour. Recent research done by scientists, research which involves mapping of the genome, has uncovered that specific genes can be linked to individual behavioural qualities. Although this is early days for this exciting new research maybe in the future this will lead to more information about what motivates behaviour. I believe that this debate can not be resolved but it propagates new and interesting research about human behaviour which is more rewarding than a resolution. Another topic examined in the lecture was culture and how does culture and nature influence how people think, feel and act. Nature: • Brain structures, hormones, genes (human physiology) • This approach uses the Darwin’s theory of evolution to explain human behaviour. • A key element in Darwin’s theory is ‘natural selection’ which states that traits that increase an animals chance of survival or reproduction will survive while others with lesser traits will not. ‘ Culture is an information based system, involving both shared understandings and praxis (practical way of doing things), that allows groups of people to live together in an organised fashion and to satisfy their biological and other needs.’ (Baumeister & Bushman) Culture is not derived from human physiology but from socialisation. Culture can be defined as: • Learning from parents, society, and from past experience. • What people share i.e. language, values, food, style of government. • Shared ideas and meanings.

Week 2 - Social Self[edit]

What is the ‘self’? • A collection of cognitively-held beliefs that a person possesses about themselves • The self usually includes social roles such as: gender, ethnicity, social identity, group membership etc. • The self is an important tool with which the human organism makes its way through human society and thereby manages to satisfy its needs. • Traditionally the self was seen as representing stable, genetically determined “character” – or later, “personality”. • More recently the self was understood to evolve during a lifetime, so although it is relatively stable it is also plastic. • More recently the “self” is been seen as: dynamic & changeable, multiple/plural, hierarchical, situationally & cognitively influenced and culturally constructed. In the lecture it states that the psychological self includes: ● Attitudes ● Cognitions ● Emotions ● Group Memberships (Social Identity) ● Ideal / Imagined Selves ● Memories ● Possessions ● Self-Beliefs ● Self-Concepts ● Self-Images ● Social Roles

Therefore the self is and ever growing stream of information collated from experience, belief systems/values and innate tendencies. This got me thinking about what can cause unrest to the harmony of the self. For example, do people have tendency towards violent behaviour and is that something that social influences restrain within the individual. Is this person’s self in a state of conflict between external and internal influences and can this lead to problematic behavior?

“Self” conflict has long been the topic of investigation of psychodynamic theorists. Sigmund Freud devised a theory of the self regarding ego, superego and the id which battle internally for influence over a person. I quite like Carl Jung’s theory of self whereby a personal believes in an ideal self and the more congruent the actual self is with the ideal self the less inner conflict in people. Internal incongruence between the ideal self and true self can result in mental anguish. I believe this is quite apt for young people coming to terms with who they really are and the delusions that they may believe in. In a sense the happier you are with yourself the less chance of mental unrest. Although sounding simple it can be hard for some people to come to terms with who they really are.

The self has been broken down into different parts such as the self-concept: this is information we have about our self. The Interpersonal-self helps us interact socially with others. The Agent-self refers to the decision making self and is responsible for self-control. The way humans think about the self is referred to as the self-construal. This can either lean towards an independent vs. interdependent self-construal, which is either seeing the self as separate and distinct from others, or a self that seeks and emphasizes socially connecting with others. Other factors that can influence behaviour are self-esteem and self-awareness. Self-esteem can be influence by social groups, family members, social feedback, social comparison and society. Self-efficacy can also influence self-esteem; if an individual believes that one can succeed at a given task it heightens the person’s self-esteem.

I believe that self-esteem is a key element of the self that can regulate behaviour and if unbalanced lead to mental disorder. Low self-esteem has been strongly linked to eating disorders and depressive/mood disorders. Having a strong sense of self is integral to an overall sense of wellbeing.

Week 3 - Social Thinking[edit]

Naturally human beings think about other people and social interactions/relationships, this is referred to as social cognition. Reasons people think and evaluate others and social interactions is because of our need as humans to be accepted. To be involved in society at some level is greatly important to people feeling like they belong.

This is an interesting video I found on youtube about social perception:

Social perception refers to how people form impression of, and make inference about other people.

Social Thinking, Perception, Attributions, Heuristics, Errors and Biases all play toles in determining how we evaluate situations and interact. Attributions as stated by Cicaro “The causes of events always interest us more than the events themselves”. Errors can be ideas we have accumulated about certain things that can motivate behaviour but are not neccesarily correct. Biases are predispositions to a particular belief either subconsciously (e.g.say you were brought up getting only chocolate ice cream, now you only ever eat chocolate ice cream) or conscious biases. Heuristics refer to problme solving techniques we may have experienced and used with success, which can only lead to continous use of these problem solving systems.

Week 4 - Aggression & Ghosts of Rwanda[edit]

• Aggression is any behavior intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm. There are numerous types of aggression:

• Hostile aggression which is impulsive, angry behavior that is motivated by a desire to harm someone. • Instrumental aggression is premeditated, calculated harmful behavior that is a means to some practical or material end • Passive aggression is harming by withholding a behavior (e.g. purposely failing to convey an important message) • Active aggression is harming other by performing a behavior such as spreading vicious rumors. • Violence is aggression that has as it goal extreme physical harm, such as injury or death. • Anti-social behavior is that which damages interpersonal relationship or is culturally undesirable.

A question that has been the focus of many psychologists is how and why animals behave aggressively. From an evolutionary standpoint aggression helps provide a hierarchy among a group, acts as a protective function, defense of the young, within a species, aggression space out animals so that they don’t compete for the same resources, structuring animal society (ritualized fighting) and establishing bonds. Lorenz found that animals are more aggressive towards animals of the same species; this could be to exert dominance and attract resources and a mate. Freud proposed that human motivational forces are based on instinct. Sex (life giving instinct) referred to as Eros and Aggression (death instinct) referred to as Thanatos. Albert Bandura proposed that Aggression is a learning behavior and that humans perform aggressive behavior by modelling actions based on what they have seen others do. I believe all of these arguments make valid points. Humans must have innate tendencies towards aggressive behavior so that they can survive. Although humans are not like other animals, with our developed brain we are able to find solutions to problems that do not involve aggressive behavior. Although people talk about “having a short fuse” and just “seeing red” when they experience gushes of rage, this could be due to genetic traits or an environmental cause. It has been proven that boxers, who are repeatedly hit in the head, experience cognitive and motor skills damage. The damage done is received in the frontal and occipital lobe, both sections can be bruised when the head is hit hard enough which in turn sends the brain sliding on the cerebral fluid. The brain hits the back of the skull then the front which is humans receive repeatedly can incur damage to motor and cognitive function. It has been seen that when people are unable to solve problems that are performed the frontal lobe the neural energy is re-routed to the amygdale which can provoke an aggressive response. Internal conflict can lead to aggressive outbursts. When people are unbalanced they can react aggressively when feeling threatened or exposed. I believe that aggression can also be learned. This is demonstrated in children who have grown up in a violent or abusive family. Children who grow up in this environment are far more likely to commit violent acts later in life. It has become ingrained in them, either subconsciously or consciously, that aggressive behavior is an acceptable response.

File:DocumentaryisDeadArticle 2 0004.jpg GHOSTS OF RWANDA

This video is pretty heart-wrenching. I’m not sure exactly what to write. Although the blame game is played (and the finger pointed at the USA), mostly because humans need to feel like someone is responsible, it does not account for what happened. Why do humans commit such atrocities? Over the years numerous warlords and dictators have devised ways to annihilate hundreds of thousands of lives, sometimes millions, this is beyond me. Although is this something that is innately human. Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Hitler just to name a few who have orchestrated such genocidal actions. Time after time this happens, whenever people are put in such extreme positions of power. Is it human nature to abuse power and kill.

This is a video of Howard Zinn being interviewed about aggression:

Week 5 – Prejudice[edit]

Some key concepts: • Prejudice is a negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group. • Racism is prejudiced attitudes toward a particular race. • Aversive racism is simultaneously holding egalitarian values and negative feelings. • Discrimination is unequal treatment based on group membership. • Stereotypes are beliefs that associate groups with traits. • Subtypes are categories for people who don’t fit a general stereotype. • The ABC’s of intergroup relationships: Affective component (prejudice), Behavioural component (discrimination) and Cognitive component (stereotyping).

Everyone has to categorise others in order to properly evaluate social situations and function in society. We generally categorise people into groups on common characteristics, this is called social categorisation. When people assign negative connotations to a group and begin to stereotype every person they exhibits the same traits of individuals of that ostracised group it can lead to prejudice, discrimination and racism.

Prejudice and racism can be extremely damaging i.e. Hitler, Ku Klux Klan etc. Racism has directly influenced my life. It is hard to explain the feeling of being vilified and involved in violence for something completely out of your control.

Week 6 – Relationships[edit]

There are several different types of relationships: • Exchange relationships are based on reciprocity and fairness. • Communal relationships are abed on love and concern for each other, without expectation of direct, equal repayment. • Communal relationships are more desirable in intimate relationships, but exchange relationships are more powerful for driving progress and increasing wealth in larger groups.

There are 4 specified attachment styles: • Secure attachment, characterised by comfort with intimacy and no excessive fears of abandonment. • Dismissing avoidant attachment which is characterised by avoidance of intimacy and discomfort with close relationships while viewing partners as unreliable, unavailable, and uncaring. • Fearful avoidant attachment which is characterised by avoidant of intimacy and discomfort with close relationships while viewing the self as unlovable. • Preoccupied (or anxious/ambivalent) attachment, characterised by excessive desire for closeness to the point of desiring to merge with the partner, and worry about abandonment.

Relationships provide people with the feeling of belonging. Belonging involves regular social contact with others. A sense of belonging comes with close, stable and mutually intimate contact. People generally form 4 to 6 close relationships, then no longer to seek and create strong bonds with others.

What is love??? • Passionate love (a.k.a romantic love) refers to having strong feelings of longing, desire, and excitement toward a special person. • Compassionate love (sometimes called affectionate love) refers to a high level of mutual understanding, caring and commitment to make the relationships succeed.

Week 7 – Groups and Leadership[edit]

A group is a collection of at least two people who are doing or being something together (Baumeister & Bushman).

A group is a collection of people who interact with one another, accept rights and obligations and share a common identity. The theory of ‘social facilitation’ states that arousal is heightened with the presence of other people. Zajonc posited that if the dominant response facilitated from arousal was incorrect or incongruent to group actions the individual would feel social inhibition. Although if the dominant response was correct this would transfer to social facilitation. When an individual displays that they can perform they are more likely to repeat the action and join the group.

Dilemma’s of power come with being given authority. This was illustrated in Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment which gave some participants powerful roles and other participant’s submissive roles. Participants who were in the powerful positions soon conformed to their role as prison guards. They had no problems with punishing other submissive (inmate) participants. In the real world in order to stop power being abused leaders must maintain integrity. Trait theorists looked to explain leadership in terms of personality traits that can be attributed to great leadership skills. Specific traits leaders were thought to possess were ambition, drive, energy, desire to lead and motivate others to believe, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, intelligence and some level of relevant knowledge and technical expertise (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). According to Baumeister & Bushman (2008) traits identified of successful leaders were extreme persistence, humbleness and modesty

Week 8 – Prosocial Behaviour[edit]

According to Eisenberg & Mussen (1989) prosocial behaviour is “voluntary actions that are intended to help or benefit another individual or group of individuals”. What is prosocial behaviour? • Doing something good for someone in society • Building relationships • Helping society to function • Adding to “social capital” • Helping others • Obeying rules • Conforming to socially acceptable behaviour • Cooperating with others

File:Conformity.jpg" Prosocial behaviour builds relationships and antisocial behaviour destroys relationships. Some reasons stated in the lecture that were listed as why people engage in prosocial behaviour: self-interest, social status, reciprocity, conformity, rule of law, evolutionary and altruism. Now here is an interesting phenomenon, altruism. Helping behaviours focused only on the well-being of others (and often at personal cost). Is there true altruism or are people only helping because it makes themselves feel good, doesn’t this mean they are just being selfish? There is also the issue of reciprocity which is the obligation to return in kind what another has done for us. Although it would be interesting to know the motivations of someone like Mother Theresa, who devoted her life to helping others. The question of is altruism unique to humans. Just recently their was a case of a humpback whale stuck in an enclave near a beach. Marine biologists did not know what to do; they thought the whale would not be able to figure it’s way back out to sea. What they witnessed next left the scientists completely bewildered. Two dolphins came into the enclave and realised the whale was in distress. The then proceeded to make noises and attract the whale’s attention. The two dolphins then slowly swam towards the route between the rocks, which the whale could not have found, and guided it out to sea. This is truly an example of some empathy. Helping another animal in distress for no apparent gain….coincidence I think not!

File:251-altruism.jpg This is an inspiring interview with Mother Theresa about her work (this is just part 1):

Prosocial behaviour includes conformity, obedience, and cooperating with other, but may also includes disobedience. This is a reproduction of Solomon Asch’s Obedience and conformity experiment.

Week 9 – Environmental Psychology[edit]

“Environmental psychology studies the interactions and relations between people and their environments” (Oskamp & Schlutz, 1998, p.206). "Traditionally...environmental psychology has emphasized how the physical environment affects human thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. However, much recent environmental research has stressed the other side of the coin - how human actions affect the environment." (Oskamp & Schultz, 1998, p. 206).

This is regarded as a relatively new discipline which has grown from social psychology. It is an interdisciplinary scope which is related to anthropology, architecture, urban planning, politics and sociology. Environmental stressors can be identified as crowding, daily hassles and life events, noise and temperature. Environmental risks, gained from a risk perception studies, are natural disaster, diseases, pollution, food contamination, accidents, nuclear power and terrorism.

The Biolphilia Hypothesis proposes that human beings have a genetic predisposition towards “life-like” or “nature” processes. This hypothesis posits that humans have evolved to have strong intricate bonds with nature and have an affinity with nature ingrained in our genotype. I have to say I am quite sceptical of this idea. It seems that this innate sense of preserving the earth can be dulled into nothingness with greed and lust for things of the material world. Nobody is a saint in western society in terms of consuming but there are steps we can take as individuals and communities to improve the waning health of the planet. With awareness, public opinion and protest maybe policies can change that favour the planet rather than the industrial world. New initiatives regarding energy use, pollution, solid waste, environmental justice, natural resource management and population can only be welcomed at the point in time.


This unit, Social Psychology, has been interesting and thought provoking. Central debates regarding what influences behaviours, social interaction, groups, relationships etc have each taught me new, innovative ideas that are visible in everyday life. Because Social Psychology relates to all facets human life,it can reinforce learning when you notice little nuances that characterise theories or experiments that appear in everyday life....although to over-analyse can be counter-productive it sometimes proves to be insightful. I am taking away new found knowledge about how people and societies function which will not only help me understand others but help further introspection of myself.

Thanks James

Yours Sincerly, Thomas Haley.