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Brent Holgate

Joined 23 July 2008


Tutorial 1Edit

What is Social Psychology?Edit

It appears there is no definitive or agreed upon theory of Social Psychology. However, these four definitions are similar and define social psychology as how we (humans) react to and interpret external information:

  1. “Human Behaviour in a social context.” James Neill
  2. “Branch of psychology that seeks a broad understanding of how humans think, act and feel.” Baumeister and Bushman
  3. “Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.” Floyd Allport
  4. “Theory that looks at human experience as a matter of interaction between the world and the self.” Dr. C. George Boeree (Social Psychology Basics: Shippensburg University. [1])

If this is the case it seems to me that social psychology is an incredibly broad area with many subcategories:

  1. Perception
  2. Prejudice
  3. Social Expectation
  4. Conformity
  5. Socio-biology
  6. Aggression
  7. Relationships
  8. Attraction
  9. Emotion
  10. Self
  11. Persuasion
  12. Social Learning
  13. Self-defence
  14. Obedience
  15. Beliefs

With such a diverse range of topics, if you’re a student wishing to pursue a career in psychology, there must be an area of social psychology that grabs your attention.

Suburban livingEdit

I’ve had a long interest in suburban living -- especially being a Canberrian which is essentially one giant suburb -- and the psychology behind it. By studying the above topics throughout the semester I hope to understand the workings of suburbia in greater detail.

Why do the new housing developments in Gungahlin, Harrison, Franklin, Casey look almost identical? (Conformity? Social Expectation?)

Why does my neighbour mow his lawn, immediately after I’ve finished mowing mine? (Social influence? Competitiveness? He has gone bonkers?)

Why do the majority of people living on my street drive four-wheel drives, and why do they park in their drive-way and not in their garage? (Fear of exclusion? Attraction? Social acceptance?)

Why do women still do the majority of house-work? (Beliefs? Gender role?)

Why do people living next to one another have contrasting beliefs (atheism vs. Christianity)? (Attitudes? Beliefs?)

These are just some of the questions that sprung to mind. I’ll leave my first portfolio entry with a suburban quote from Historians Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen:

“The suburbs had always promised prosperity, upward mobility, a healthy life in an unpolluted environment, safety and tranquility, and above all, the best place to bring up kids. Although this promise still fuels many dreams and infuses a nostalgic political rhetoric, the future is in doubt. Although most Americans today live in the suburbs, the elements of the covenant are elusive. What remains for many is a sense of quiet despair and faint hope.”

Tutorial 2Edit

What is Communication?Edit

What I learnt from the tutorial this week is that communication has many levels. On one level we deal with the process that takes place cognitively inside our head, at another level we deal with the complexities of the social and cultural principles in which the communication is happening. Beyond that we have levels of unpredictability. Overall, we are using communication which is based upon a code, system or language.

Johari Window Model of CommunicationEdit

The Johari window model is best described as the model of communication that illustrates the factors, conscious and unconscious, present when humans interact. Joharie’s window divides personal awareness evenly into four sections: open public self, private self, blind self and unknown self. The axis that divides the window moves as the interaction unfolds. The preferred or most comfortable composition of the axis depends on the individual or situation. It is natural for the individual to push or persuade the interaction towards their most comfortable composition.

Shannon Weaver Model of CommunicationEdit

The Shannon Weaver model was one of the first models of communication to be developed, around 1946. Its goal was to describe the phenomena of communication that occurred within a telephonic system. The model was later applied to human communication as a way of attempting to describe the elements and steps that occur within a communication event. One of the flaws or problems with the Shannon weaver model is that it is mechanistic by nature and linear.

Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’ and the Johari / Shannon Weaver Model of CommunicationEdit

Sleeper’s premise has Miles (Woody Allan) a clarinet playing health food store operator from Greenwich Village New York awaking after being cryogenically frozen in 1973. Miles went into hospital for a regular operation and awakes 200 years later to find the future a hilariously sterile and mechanistic place where everybody wears white.

The scene I have looked at involves Miles’s interrogation by a Doctor from the year 2173. The doctor tries to retrieve information from 20th century artefacts that he has collected.

I’ve analyzed this piece of communication against the Johari window which deals with the conscious and unconscious and the Shannon Weaver model which gives no consideration to the unconscious.

This scene can be viewed at: [2]

According to the Johari windowEdit

Miles expanded on his conscious panes throughout the communication. He continued to expand his consciousness by capitalizing on the Doctors large window of unconsciousness. This may have been a result of Miles preferred composition of the axis, therefore the effect of his communication on the Doctor was unintentional. If Miles was deliberately sending his answers into the Doctors unconsciousness, he was aware of the effect it had on the communication and wanted for it to continue in that direction.

According to the Shannon Weaver ModelEdit

Miles is the sender the Doctor is the receiver. Miles chooses to encode his message using language. A percentage of the language Miles uses is unfamiliar to the Doctor, this language becomes noise. Miles uses visual aids provided by the Doctor, the artefacts, and selects speech as his channel. Miles’ message is the social commentary he gives on each artefact. The Doctor fails to decode Miles’s message because he doesn’t understand satire, sarcasm, or humour, as a result these themes are also represented by noise. The feedback given by the Doctor is little and when he does contribute feedback its evident he’s failing to construct meaning from Miles’s answers. The Shannon Weaver model states that feedback should modify the communication process. However, Miles consciously or unconsciously rejects the feedback and continues communicating un-decoded information.

Tutorial 3Edit


“Ku Klux Klan were a group who originated in the southern states of North America who advocated white supremacy. They wore white sheets over their head.... strange I know.”

I finally recovered from ‘Ghosts of Rwanda’ and thought it would be appropriate to investigate racism. I read several journal articles over the weekend regarding the nature of racism and how growing anti-racist discourses have taken shape within societies aimed at refuting external and internal forms of racism and discrimination.

It appears, the nature of racism is influenced by historical, social, political and economic factors and is often the consequence of individual attitudes, institutional procedures and policies and socio-economic structures and values. Historically, these forms of racism reflected a biological ideology whereby certain individuals were deemed superior as a result of their natural genetic attributes, and as a result, racist attitudes were expressed through unequal power relationships, subsequently marginalizing those from minority groups. That description appears fitting after watching ‘Ghosts of Rwanda’ or for anyone who has seen films that depict the holocaust or slavery in South Africa.

Racism is not only a social problem that must be refuted by initiating campaigns against exclusion and exploitation but also a cultural problem of challenging ignorance and nationalist attitudes. As a result there has been the emergence of an anti-racism movement, which became specific in actions, policies and beliefs implemented to defy all approaches to racism. I was aware such actions existed however, not to the extent that I will demonstrate.


“I wonder if having these signs displayed around Canberra would reduce racism or prejudice.”

Within contemporary society, anti-racism has developed into symbolising and referring to the outlawing of explicit acts of direct discrimination, opposition to extremist racist, anti-Semitic, fascist and ultra-nationalist groups, the protection of minorities against the oppression of racial harassment and violence, and opposition to exclusionary immigration nationality and asylum policies.

Hand in Hand (HiH)Edit

“An image of marchers at an anti-racism demonstration in Glasgow. Ken Loach often makes films set in Glasgow with images similar to this one.”

One country that has initiated anti-racist strategies through both public policy and civil society in response to increasing forms of racism has been Belgium. The anti-racist movement Hand in Hand (HiH) initiated and developed a range of strategies to counter the success of the racist extreme right-wing party Vlaams Blok. In the 1991 elections, Vlaams Blok gained substantial support for their extreme nationalist programme whereby they advocated and upheld beliefs of national insecurity caused by Non-European immigrants and contended that the deterioration of cultural values was also as a result of Non-European immigrants. Subsequently they enlarged the issue of immigration into a major problem within Belgium society that focused and targeted Muslims as the sole problem. They successfully promoted this programme with ultra-conservative, authoritarian, and anti-democratic principles. Accordingly HiH launched a broad range of strategies not only to counter the right-extremist ideas of Vlaams Blok and limit their political power but also to challenge the issue of everyday racism.


One prominent example of mainstream anti-racism has been the discourse of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO throughout its history has aimed at promoting peace and cultural diversity through international, regional and local programmes. They have remained concerned with racism and constantly endeavoured to uphold anti-racist practices and strategies. As a result, their founding principles of anti-racism have influenced the current mainstream anti-racist discourse and been subscribed to by many European governments and also international and anti-racist organizations.

Journal ArticlesEdit

Lentin, A. (2006) Racism, anti-racism and the western state. Retrieved 31 August 2008 from

Lerner, N. (1981), New concepts in the UNESCO Declaration on race and racial prejudice, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol.3, No. 1, pp.48-61

Lentin, A. (2000), ‘Race’, racism and anti-racism: Challenging contemporary classifications, Social Identities, Vol. 6, No. 1. pp. 91-105

Films depicting RacismEdit

“One of the most influential film directors of all time, Steven Spielberg. He directed Schindler's List.”

Below are some of my favourite films that illustrate racism:

Schindler's List, 12 Angry Men, American History X, Hotel Rwanda, Crash, This Is England, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Far from Heaven, The Believer and Fond Kiss..., Ae.

Tutorial 4Edit


“For some reason couples love night carnivals and festivals. I went to Floriade Nightfest this year and saw couples everywhere. I even heard rumours you had to be in a relationship just to get in. A great idea if you ask me – it was too dark to see the flowers anyway – couples were just walking around bumping into one another.”

Annie Hall

I watched Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’ for the 6539th time this week and thought I would illustrate some of the social psychology characteristics that appear in the film – focusing primarily on relationships.

For the those of you who haven’t seen the film (I recommended stop reading this blog, drive down to blockbuster and hire it immediately) Annie Hall follows Alvy (Woody Allen) as he searches for the secret to successful relationships and ultimately concludes that love is fleeting and ridiculous but absolutely necessary.

Alvy Singer MonologueEdit

The film opens with Woody doing a monologue.

ALVY: “There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says: "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such ... small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly. The-the other important joke for me is one that's, uh, usually attributed to Groucho Marx, but I think it appears originally in Freud's wit and its relation to the unconscious. And it goes like this-I'm paraphrasing: Uh ... "I would never wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life in terms of my relationships with women. Tsch, you know, lately the strangest things have been going through my mind, 'cause I turned forty, tsch, and I guess I'm going through a life crisis or something, I don't know. I, uh... and I'm not worried about aging. I'm not one o' those characters, you know. Although I'm balding slightly on top, that's about the worst you can say about me. I, uh, I think I'm gonna get better as I get older, you know? I think I'm gonna be the-the balding virile type, you know, as opposed to say the, uh, distinguished gray, for instance, you know? 'Less I'm neither o' those two. Unless I'm one o' those guys with saliva dribbling out of his mouth who wanders into a cafeteria with a shopping bag screaming about socialism. Annie and I broke up and I-I still can't get my mind around that. You know, I-I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind and-and examining my life and tryin' to figure out where did the screw-up come, you know, and a year ago we were... tsch, in love. You know, and-and-and ... And it's funny, I'm not-I'm not a morose type. I'm not a depressive character. I-I-I, uh, you know, I was a reasonably happy kid, I guess. I was brought up in Brooklyn during World War II.”

Social Psychology in Annie HallEdit

“This is a bird’s eye view of Canberra in winter.”

Throughout this monologue Woody touches on numerous terms that are applied in social psychology. Social acceptance – being included in a group, need to belong – the desire to form and maintain lasting relationships, self-monitoring – ability to modify ones behaviour for different situations, loneliness – wanting more human contact and connection (one of my favourite writers Paul Schrader believes true loneliness can only be felt in crowded situations and the great American novelist Thomas Wolfe says that the whole conviction of his life rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare a curious phenomenon, is a central and inevitable fact of human existence), bad apple effect – the idea that if a person breaks the rules, other people can break the rules also, unrequited love – loving someone who does not feel the same way, passionate love – feelings of longing and desire toward someone and self acceptance – regarding yourself as a decent person.

Is Love absurd or necessary?Edit

According to Baumeister and Bushman (2008) there are two kinds of love that have emerged, passionate love and companionate love – a mutual understanding and caring to make the relationship succeed. However, Annie Hall states that a third type of love should employed, Absurdity love. Alvy resigns to the idea that relationships are absurd but that people need them, absurdity and all. He desperately tries to pinpoint what went wrong and why he broke up with Annie. Was it that book he read at age nine? His aggressive and overbearing mother? The cocaine fiasco? After coming up empty, he even asks anonymous pedestrians to identify the key to happiness in relationships. The answers, of course, are unsatisfactory and belie the arbitrariness and absurdity of love. Alvy’s relationships with his two ex-wives also underline the dilemma. How can he now feel so underwhelmed by both of these women whom he once vowed to love until death? But despite its eagerness to point out these paradoxes, the film ends by celebrating the romance between Annie and Alvy, though failed, adding weight to Alvy’s final monologue about the necessity of relationships.

Alvy Singer on LoveEdit

“These two look as if they’re in love. Is it passionate love, companionate love or absurdity love? From the picture I’d say all three. Love is like salt-water, it can cure anything.”

“It’s never something you do. That’s how people are. Love fades.”

A passerby makes this response to Alvy’s question, “Somewhere, she cooled off to me. Is it something that I did?” The pedestrian’s answer encourages Alvy to face reality and chalk up the relationship’s end as natural and inevitable. The comment suggests that we, as human beings, are helpless to control what happens to us. Alvy has nothing to do with the cooling of Annie’s feelings for him: she has just moved on to a different stage in her life that doesn’t include him. People change. Love fades. This idea doesn’t make things any easier for Alvy, who seems to want to pinpoint the exact moment and situation in which Annie’s feelings tempered. In a sense, it makes things worse, because he is left at a loss, with no one and nothing to blame for his unhappiness.

Tutorial 5Edit

This week I thought I would elaborate on a couple of the terms that we discussed in last week’s tutorial. I will also illustrate some personal experiences concerning the terms.

National IdentityEdit

National Identity seems to be problematic. It is sometimes defined as the “imagined community of a nation” (Healey, 2006 p 41). The word ‘imagined’ suggests that identity is held to be an individual’s concept of place relative to others. Employing this theory each of us could describe ourselves with a multitude of different identities. Therefore, no single definition of ‘national identity’ can exist. Sara Cousins (2006, cited in Healey) argues that national identity is shaped by society’s contemporary ideologies with political and social ideology impacting views on morality, character, race, values and religion. That seems fair and rational. So what is an Australian National Identity? When I was backpacking around South America, Australian’s were generally thought of as being a relaxed group of people that share egalitarian, classlessness, and mateship like qualities. I would say that is a pretty good description. I was often asked why Australians are so pre-occupied with sport and leisure activities – my answer was always the same, “that’s the Australian way of life.’ If we attempt to describe an Australian national identity our convict origins, indigenous people, the gold rush era, our unique landscape etc must be considered.

Healey, J. (2006). Australian Identity and Values: issues in society Volume 230 (pp. 15-44). NSW, Australia: The Spinney Press.

“I met numerous people in South America who assumed I surfed because I was Australian. Of course I told them I was a terrific surfer when in reality I can barely swim.”

Culture ShockEdit

Dr. Carmen Guanipa from the University of San Diego believes culture shock is an emotional and physical uneasiness one suffers when living in a foreign environment. Guanipa claims culture shock originates when the way a person lived before is not accepted or considered normal in the new environment. In addition, Guanipa proposes that culture shock has five stages. The first stage, incubation, is a pleasure one feels as everything one encounters is novel and stimulating. The second stage involves one having problems concerning daily life. This could be seen as having language barriers, trouble understanding local customs and transportation difficulties. Stage three involves some understanding of the new culture. This may provide one with confidence and mental stability as they may no longer feel lost and inadequate. In the fourth stage, one comes to understand the culture they are living in with greater clarity which promotes the individual to establish goals for living. Guanipa calls the final stage ‘re-entry shock’ whereby an individual returns to their country of origin and finds that their original way of living is different as they have acquired new customs. Guanipa makes some interesting points however I believe one can experience her definition of culture shock without having to live or settle down in a foreign environment. When I backpacked around Israel for six weeks I definitely felt myself moving through the five stages. Perhaps when I arrived home I didn’t experience ‘re-entry shock’ as Guanipa describes however it did take a little time to form a routine and adjust to your original customs. Guanipa’s webpage can be found at

“When I first arrived in Japan I experienced instant culture shock at the size of their apples. I mean look at the size of that thing…”

Tutorial 6Edit

As I have been flicking through the textbook in preparation for the exam, I stumbled across a few terms and concepts that we have discussed throughout the semester that appealed to me. The following explanations are my insights and 2 cents worth on the various ideas and terms.

Positive PsychologyEdit

Positive psychology is a branch of social psychology that I have no qualms endorsing. To quote Martin Seligman (the founder of positive psychology), “you feel the way you think” and I absolutely concur with that notion. The majority of psychology that I have studied over the past three years has focused much of its attention on negative states and I find it refreshing that some psychologists are dedicated to studying happiness, health, optimism and thriving. It is surprising that ‘positive psychology’ took so long to come to fruition. After hearing about Seligman’s work in, I think it was, the second lecture from James, I read ‘Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control’ and found it quite liberating. In a nutshell the main theory the book proposes is that an experience with uncontrollable events may give rise to the expectation that events in the future will also escape control which may lead to an interruption in motivation, emotion, and learning. In other words, if Joe fails his maths test he may attach that failure to other aspects of his life that are totally unrelated which may be detrimental to Joe’s health. This makes total sense to me. I find it incredibly interesting when the Sydney swans lose and Dad is livid for hours afterwards no matter what he is doing. This is an example of spreading bad news to every facet of your life.

“When the Sydney Swans lose Dad’s in a bad mood for days. However when the swans win the family gets take-away dinner. Martin Seligman knows why. ”

Prejudice and RaceEdit

I’m still blown away that only 60 years ago Hitler killed 6 million Jews and in North America black Americans were granted permission to work in McDonalds in only the early 1970’s. Baumeister and Bushman describe prejudice as a “negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group.” In the case described above it appears the term group translates to race. I have never understood discriminating against another group (racial) as we are told time and time again that race is a socially constructed notion and not based on any biological evidence. I read an article the other day (Smedley and Smedley, 2005) that claimed race was a term used in the 18th century as a form of classification, similar to and exchangeable with other terms like type, kind, and sort. If both statements are true they comply with the out of Africa hypothesis that those humans of whom we are descendants all lived in Africa. Disregarding any religious and spiritual mumbo jumbo about the origin of man there is evidence that our descendants first appeared 200,000 years ago and began to migrate out of Africa to all other continents, excluding Antarctica, 100,000 years later. Then as people began to migrate, they adapted to their new environment through cultural changes and genetic modification. This supports the idea that our ancestors in Africa were dark-skinned as dark skin provided superior protection against the environment. As our ancestors began to migrate to other continents, where the environment was vastly different and ultraviolet radiation was not as harmful, light pigmentation started to evolve resulting in lighter skin colour. As a result the difference in skin colour is suggested to be the result of migration and the means by which the environment contributed to changes in genetic evolution. If this is the case the concept of race serves as a social and not a biological purpose and suggests that only one human group exists. Why then does racial hatred exist in every corner of the world?

Smedley, A., & Smedley, B. (2005). Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is Real: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of Race. American Psychologist, 60,16-26.

“Hitler’s actions have inspired copious amounts of research in social psychology – most notably regarding race, authority and obedience.

Tutorial 7Edit

Mere Exposure EffectEdit

A term I found interesting in the final lecture last week was the ‘Mere Exposure Effect.’ James said it is basically a term that is used to describe the notion that the more we are exposed to something the more we come to like it. I assume this applies equally to both objects and people. In addition, Baumeister and Bushman describe it as people having more positive attitudes toward familiar stimuli than toward novel, unfamiliar ones and thus merely seeing or encountering something on a regular basis increases liking. The great idea regarding this theory is there are benefits to simply hanging around or being near someone that you're attracted to. For example, if you have a class with a girl you like or work with someone you like, these exposures are working to your advantage. When that special someone saw you for the first time, they may have thought you were a 4 or 5 out of 10 – which is a score that probably won’t get you a date. However, after seeing you at school or at work repeatedly over a reasonable length of time they might now rate you as 8 or 9 and you haven’t lifted a finger. How good is that?

However, I have a few qualms concerning this theory? The fact that people might have more positive attitudes toward familiar stimuli than non-familiar stimuli appears, to me, to be common sense. Of course, the more you’re exposed to something/situation, the more you will be comfortable in that situation. Is their evidence that this theory predicts longevity in romantic relationships or friendships? Does this theory originate because the more one encounters something, whether it is favourable or not, it is preferred by that person to look positive towards that stimuli because you encounter it so often. Thus it would be miserable to look unfavourable or negative at things we encounter often – basically it would make life incredibly hard.

Another problem I have with this theory is I believe the opposite can happen. When I was in South America I fell in love with every Brazilian woman I met. As it happens I had never met a Brazilian woman before the trip. Being deprived of such beauty for so long only increased my attraction. That’s why I mentioned earlier if there is evidence that this theory predicts longevity in romantic relationships or friendships. While it wasn’t practical to have a long term relationship with someone from that part of the world at that time I felt just as attracted to a women I had never seen before as to someone I had seen on a regular basis.

While I understand there are many variables to consider when it comes to relationships and attraction I’m not sure you can consider the mere exposure effect theory thorough without contemplating the preceding examples.

“How reliable is the Mere Exposure Effect? After attending the Brazilian Carnival I’m not so sure of its validity.