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Breona duncan

Joined 28 July 2008

Week 1 and 2 reflectionsEdit

Hmm one of the first things that I find interesting when investigating social psychology is that everyone can relate and have an opinion on the subject. There are numerous theories that are relevant to social psychology but often research where these theories are based come from observations from individuals who have developed them further and gathered data on them. Although the definition of social psych can be debatable the broad definition includes how groups and individuals behave in a social setting. It incorporates ideas and concepts from various disciplines including anthropology, sociology and subgroups of psychology including evolutionary psychology. The definition that is within the text book states that social psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks a broad understanding of how humans, think, act, and feel.

The first topic that this unit is covering is the self and therefore people have unique opinions and experiences which not only guide the development of the internal self but also how an individual presents themselves to others. Often the individual is influenced by what they feel are important aspects, for example they may believe that being skinny is more important and more successful in gaining and maintaining friends than being smart. Other people may believe that there needs to be a combination of different aspects with various weighting given to each aspect, for example an individual may think that being smart, funny, friendly and fit are all necessary to feel fulfilled and to socialise with other people. Often if people want to change the way they are behaving or the way they look there are various ways, for losing weight there are gyms and specialist organisations, there are hair dresses and make up to hide ‘imperfections’ and there are courses and professionals who focus on such areas as anxiety or improving confidence.

However, if an individual feels that one area is not important to them then they will not try and change it. The individual forms opinions through such agents as family, peers and the media. The popularity of such shows as the Biggest Loser and America’s Next Top Model as well as the analysis of content in popular women’s magazines reveals the high importance on body image. Therefore if individuals are made aware of how their self image is created they can then consider the biases and if they want to change they are able to. Awareness of how the self is created allows/gives a greater understanding of other individuals as well and hopefully can give greater tolerance.

Social Psych AssignmentEdit

Further comments and thoughts about social psychology I have just been doing some observations in regards to the assignment which I am looking at caffeine culture. Will try and make this one not too long so that people might read it and make some comments. The preliminary observations were made at bars where people were mixing alcohol and caffeine and at cafes where the most common drink ordered was coffee of various sorts. In addition the way that the media portrays caffeine as an innocent drug through such domains as not having negative advertisements for caffeine as they do for alcohol and tobacco and the way caffeine is portrayed in films and television. I think one of the reasons that caffeine is used so often and is the drug of choice for so many people is due to the accessibility of it and the fact that individuals often grow up with chocolate and chocolate flavouring. I feel that individuals do not have a clear view on the dangers of caffeine, similar in a way to adolescents who begin their experimentation with alcohol through alco-pop drinks as the alcohol is disguised by the sweetness of the drink. Therefore I was wondering if people:

  • A had opinions about why there is such a reliance on caffeine
  • B what the consequences of this reliance is
  • C any interesting research/studies or media influences/thoughts on this matter


Responses to readings for social psych (Ch 13)

From the beginning of this unit I found it interesting that social psych has a strong focus on how people act in a variety of situations including social context. Previous units of psychology have commented on the person situation debate and may have looked at literature and research on certain aspects of a person’s behaviour in the presence of others but none as thorough as this. Chapter 13 in respect to an individual’s conformity within a group environment and experiment such as Asch I found could be related to numerous examples within people’s lives.

These examples included within the work environment and social gatherings where a person’s want to fit in and conforming to group norms may lead to a person laughing at a joke which they don’t find funny and may even find offensive due to the other members of the group responding in such manner. Group body language also can influence an individual, if other members are all sitting down or having their arms crossed it is probable that the individual will follow and complete the same action. One final example is that from the tv show The Chaser’s War on Everything. This particular example [1] (at 1 minute 41 seconds) involves numerous people obeying one minutes silence because the people around them were doing it. They did not want to be considered outcasts even though the minute of silence was just a stunt performed in a public domain.

Group conformity is sometimes not just an innocent matter of an individual conforming to those around them. Group conformity has in the past lead to negative repercussions as shown in the brown eye/blue eye experiments and the stereotypes and racism that individual’s receive. Although the conformity to group norms has played a vital part in the evolution of human’s in this day and age I believe it is necessary for individual’s to sometimes stand up for themselves and be true to their beliefs, especially if the behaviour would be contrary to their beliefs. However, also being a realist I understand that this is not always possible for various reasons (including loss of life in extreme examples). In conclusion group conformity is a complex issue and is applicable to most people’s lives often on an everyday basis.

Week 3 (Ch 5 & 7) Social Cognition and Attitudes, Beliefs & Consistency 7th August 2008Edit

Social Cognition is defined as a change in social psychology commencing in 1970s after the rise of behaviourism that concentrated on thoughts about social relationships and individuals. It has been proposed that there are three key forms of goals guiding how people think; they want to find the right answer to some problem or question, the want to reach a particular preferred conclusion or the want to reach a pretty good answer or decision quickly. An experiment that has proved the power of the unconscious mind and the want for a quick answer even if it is not the correct is the Stroop Test. The results of such tests have been called the Stroop Effect and refer to the participant’s preference for saying the automatic response of the name of the colour rather than the colour itself.


Schemas are knowledge structures that represent substantial information about a concept, its attributes and its relationships to other concepts. This differs from scripts that are specific knowledge structures that contain information about how people behave under varying circumstances. Therefore they define situations and guide behaviour with such examples as the normal order when you go to the movies, you decide what movie you want to go to, you go buy the ticket, if you want food or drinks they are purchased, then you give your ticket to the usher, you find the cinema, the trailers and ads start and finally the lights dim and the feature presentation is shown. This would be odd if events did not progress in this order and you buy your tickets after the movie has finished etc.

Heuristics are another topic covered in chapter five and are useful as they provide quick estimates for decisions about uncertain events. The four most common heuristics are representativeness, availability, simulation and anchoring and adjustment. Representativeness refers to the tendency to judge the frequency or likelihood of an event due to the resemblance to the typical case. Availability refers to differences due to the ease with which relevant instances come to mind, simulation relates to the ability to imagine an event and finally the use of a starting point and then making adjustments is the anchoring and adjustment heuristic. An example of anchoring and adjustment heuristic may be that due to past experience that short people are louder than the rest of the general population, however after meeting a short person who is quiet in nature due to a variety of reasons the person may adjust their thinking to some short people are louder but not all short people.

Finally chapter 5 deals with numerous cognitive errors that occur within individuals including confirmation bias, illusory correlations, false consensus effect, illusion of control and magical thinking. It is important to understand such concepts as they affect many areas of society including individuals’ belief systems, thoughts and actions. For example magical thinking refers to assumptions that diverge from rational thought of the greater population while illusion of control often occurs with superstitions and relates to an individual’s belief that they have ultimate control over a situation depending on their actions. For example a student may wear a certain perfume, jewellery or pair of socks for an exam due to the belief that this will ensure that they receive a good grade.

Questions Do you believe that heuristics can be useful? In what other psychology topics do you think they occur?

Chapter 7 9th August 2008Edit

Often the words attitudes and beliefs are used interchangeably however beliefs are opinions or facts about something while attitudes are global evaluations towards an object or topic. Therefore beliefs are for explaining while attitudes are for choosing. Attitudes are necessary and adaptive for humans and are formed in a variety of ways including through mere exposure, classical and operant conditioning and social learning. Cognitive dissonance is central to numerous disciplines including counselling, human resources, personality and individual differences and social psychology. The theory focuses on change of behaviours or rationalisation of attitudes occurring due inconsistencies produce psychological unease. For example if an individual is shy in nature but believes that people should be outgoing there might be a need to change their behaviour in order to meet this assumption. Another example is if a person believes that people should care for the environment but they use their car all the time and they leave lights on all the time there may be a need to change the belief that the environment is important or change behaviour to help this cause.

In regards to the thought behind the greater population there are three assumptions that contribute to the happiness, healthiness and safety of individuals. These are the world is benevolent, life is safe, good happens most of the time and people are nice in nature. The next is that the world is just and fair and finally that the individual is a good person and therefore they deserve good things to happen to them.

Question What do you think is the primary influence for the formation of attitudes and beliefs?

Chapter 9 Week 4 Aggression and Anti-Social Behaviour 14th August 2008Edit

Although the term aggression is used in a variety of contexts the definition of aggression focuses on any behaviour that is intended to harm an individual who is motivated to avoid the harm. This disputes the notion that aggression is an emotion or a thought but that it is a behaviour. The different forms of aggression include hostile, instrumental, passive and active. Central to hostile aggression is impulsivity and angry behaviour which differs from instrumental where it is considered to be cold, and pre-mediated and motivated by a different goal. Passive aggression focuses on the harm being caused by withholding a behaviour while active aggression is produced by performing a behaviour. Different theories referring to aggression include instinct theories and learning theories including social learning theory where modelling is the key. This has been studied largely in conjunction with the introduction of violent television, movies and video games and what impact this has on children. The most famous of these were Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment where children copied and then acted out violent behaviours that they had witnessed the actors doing. What is also interesting about modelling is that this re-enactment does not always occur immediately with this knowledge stored in the children’s memory for further use.


Linked to aggression is frustration with varying hypothesis proposing that frustration will always lead to some form of aggression. Frustration can occur for many reasons including not having the opportunity to vent while others suggest that the mental state of being in a bad mood and whether the participants could change their mood or whether it was believed to have a particular amount of time associated with it. Gender, temperature, age and chemical imbalances including testosterone and, alcohol and MAO are all contributing factors towards the frequency and intensity of aggressive outbursts. Evolution including the flight or fight response is an aspect when discussing aggression and this is subsequently influenced by age and gender with males just passed puberty being most likely to have aggressive behaviour. Aggression may occur as an impulsive attack on an innocent target rather than the cause of the anger. This is known as displaced aggression or kicking the dog effect.

Two other forms of antisocial behaviour addressed in week four were cheating, stealing and littering with different causes for such actions including peer group pressure, de-individualisation and lack of understanding of societal norms. It is often stereotyped that there is a higher proportion of individuals from lower SES that engage in such deviant behaviours while the other two main causes are due to stress and to impress others.



  • How do you think aggression can be controlled?
  • What do you believe are the main forms of deviance?

Chapter 12 Week 5 Prejudice 21st August 2008Edit

Prejudice refers to a negative feeling towards an individual due to their membership to a particular group. A specific form of prejudice is racism that is targeted towards an individual’s race. In this day and age of globalisation it would appear from an outsider’s point of view that there is little to no racism occurring these days but unfortunately this is not the case. Racism can be subtle as is the case with aversive racists who feel uncomfortable towards minorities and therefore avoid them and many individuals believe that they do not hold racist views or beliefs but when in the situation due to negatively change their behaviour. Stereotypes may have their foundations in truth but they are generalisations that often are exaggerated and blown out of proportion. Not all stereotypes are considered bad and it is an effective way for individuals to group similar types of information. For example you may only have experienced red apples and therefore you may stereotype all apples as red or you may believe that all French people are arrogant and eat croissants and frogs-legs all the time as that is what is portrayed in the media and passed on through friends and family. However, it is what is done with these beliefs and how strongly they are held especially in regards to such minorities as race, religion and gender preference that can lead to a gamut of negative consequences. One of the most common of these is discrimination which relates to unequal treatment based on different groups that the individuals belong to. Such cases that have received attention include where gay people or females receive lower employment positions although they are more qualified at the job.

Experiments that reveal the true nature of discrimination due to racism and the feelings that are felt by people in the minority were explored by Jane Elliot and her famous blue eye/brown eye experiment as shown in the tutes this week. It shows how easily individuals conform to the character given to them and the impact of being stereotyped and discriminated against. This experiment has received widespread attention due to the initial participants being grade three children and the ethical issues and negative affect it had on these individuals. Since then this experiment has been conducted all over the world with different minority and majority populations.


In such a global society it is hard to understand why prejudice still exists with one of the theories stating that it is due to limited resources and therefore competition arises. This has been associated with various wars that have occurred with resources including food, water and oil and current wars have at least been partly over such domains with this theory being named realistic conflict theory. This theory has been criticised for being a form of the frustration/aggression theory that is applied to group conflict. However there are numerous societies especially in the oceanic regions that co-operate instead of fighting when resources are low and then there are tribes that are sustainable that move around in different seasons and when food is low to ensure that there will be beasts available for hunting next time they are in the area.

Another theory focuses on the lack of contact between different groups enhances prejudice with stereotypes not being able to be disproved. However, the flaws in this theory include children often stick to their own racial groups rather than mingling and that when interaction is made it is often negative and increases prejudice. Prejudice can also increase self-esteem with the majority as if the minority appears inferior then it is only natural that the majority and their norms and values are superior. This also relates to scapegoat theory that proposes that by blaming problems on the out-groups negative attitudes towards others are increased. One example of prejudice and aggression combining with atrocious consequences was that of the Rwandan Genocide as shown in the video Ghosts of Rwanda. This was also an example of group think and with the uprising of the minority the influence a handful of people with the media can have. One of the reasons that this tragedy went on for so long was due to outsiders not paying any interest or helping. This was a chilling reality of what happens in war and how it is often the innocent bystanders that are attacked and killed with nothing against them except being from the wrong group. Finally prejudice can be overcome by making a conscious effort to be fair and equal.


  • What do you think are the necessary steps to try and combat prejudice?
  • Do you think that positive discrimination can go too far to benefit the minority?

Chapter 10 Week 10 Attraction and Exclusion 9th September 2008Edit

Attractiveness is something that is often pushed by the media and celebrities while in reality it is an individual’s preference while also recognising the reality of their situation and environment. Attraction has a loose definition of anything that draws two or more people together and perhaps leading to a long-term relationship. Both attraction and exclusion have foundations in evolution with one of the primary needs of early humans being to procreate and exclusion increases the ability to find food, shelter and water. Social exclusion is also referred to as rejection and is the opposite of attraction resulting in prevention from keeping or forming social bonding. Maslow describes belongingness as one of the essential needs with individuals want to have regular social contact and stability of an ongoing relationship with a focus on a mutual concern for both individuals. It has been proposed that belongingness also has a positive impact on the health of an individual and when it is not present there is a high risk of death and more mental and physical issues.

There have been numerous debates to whether there is a higher level of attractiveness between individuals who are similar and those who are opposite to each other. There are numerous theories that support both sides of the argument including similarity breeds boredom while opposites are two extremes placed together. However research supports that the majority of individuals are attracted to similar people. In regards to females there is a phenomenon called the bad boy where males who are deviant appear attractive and this is often explored in the media. Matching hypothesis states that there is a tendency for individuals to date people of similar attractiveness. This hypothesis not only refers to romantic relationships but also friendships.

An interesting finding is that annoying habits that partners have increase in the level of annoyingness over time. On the other side of attraction and belongingness is unfortunately rejection and ostracism which refers to being rejected, ignored and excluded by others. Rejection has a multitude of effects including negatively interfering with the cognitive process, damaging self regulation and becoming hypersensitive to rejection when it occurs. Children are rejected for three key reasons with aggressive children being rejected, due to initial withdrawal from others and due to deviant behaviour.


  • How important do you believe it is to belong in a group?
  • Do you think there is such a thing as love at first sight?

Chapter 11 Close Relationships 25th September 2008Edit


Although passionate love can have different meanings on an individual basis a general description is strong feelings of desire, excitement and longing toward a particular individual. Different cultures have different norms and values on love, marriage and sex although it appears that the majority of relationships need passion, intimacy and commitment in order for the relationship to work. If there is too higher level of one of these areas and a disagreement between the individuals for their needs then there may be a falling out between these individuals. However, there are also differences depending on length of relationship with the longer the relationship the higher focus on commitment.

There is a tendency for individuals to attribute good things to internal factors and bad things to external, for example if you failed a test you might blame having a late night beforehand whereas if you were in the same situation and did well you might say it is because you studied lots. This is similar to the relationship-enhancing theory that for an individual to ascribe good acts to internal factors and bad acts to external factors. This is reversed if the couple is unhappy and is called the distress-maintaining style of attribution.

Different theories are proposed in regards to sexuality with social constructivist’s theories founding on socialisation while evolutionary theory believes that sex drive is through natural selection. Social exchange theory is focused on a cost versus benefits approach in regards to interaction with others. This is more likened to the economics or stock exchange approach with market demand between males and females. When in a relationship concerns include extradyadic sex and the effects of jealousy. There have also been debates about the reasons that individuals prefer partners of the same sex including genetic arguments, evolution, social influences and boredom.


  • Do you believe that sexuality is influenced by nurture or nature or do you think that it is an *equal balance of the two? Why/Why not.

Chapter 14 Week 11 Groups 5th October 2008Edit

A group is a collection of at least two people who are being something or doing something together. Groups play a vital role in society and can have a variety of effects on both the individual and society. Power can often come from groups and deindividuation which relates to lower level of self-awareness and individual liability in a group. This has happened in numerous circumstances with terrible repercussions including wars and genocides. Optimal distinctiveness theory addresses the issue of seeking to be different when in a group and then seeking to be similar. When working in groups for example for a university assignment there may be one person who does not work but expects everybody else to do it for them. This has been named the free rider or social loafing problem with reduced effort compared to when working alone.

Groupthink is a concept that was developed by Janis (1982) and has had plenty of research focused on it. It is known as the trend of members of groups to think alike. If the group is similar and cohesive with a strong leader, isolated from others and if the group has high self-esteem has a higher chance of groupthink. Pressure towards conformity, appearance of unanimous agreement, illusion of invulnerability, moral superiority and underestimate opponents are all key signs of group think. Leadership is a key area when discussing groups with it considered that a good leader is decisive and sticks to their decisions. In addition to this integrity, honesty and moral character appear to be good qualities for a leader. Power however can have an effect on leaders and their groups with power being a control over another, corrupting people that would otherwise be considered decent. This is due to many reasons including emotion, rewards, chance in think patterns and reliance on automatic processing. Power of the leaders in a group can affect the members with leaders becoming more like role models and the followers trying to be more like them. Finally when groups work towards a positive goal they can achieve more than individuals on their own while when working towards negative consequences these are more easily achieved as well.


  • Have you had a situation where you felt pressured due to being in a group dynamic?
  • What are the benefits of being in a group?

Chapter 8 Week 12 Pro-social Behaviour 10th October 2008Edit

Pro-social behaviour although it may appear rare is the act of doing something good for other people or society as a whole. Rule of law is relevant to pro-social behaviour as it relates to the effectiveness and appropriateness of the laws of a society. This influences the behaviour of the society with a higher proportion of individuals behaving when they believe the rules are fair. There is controversy over whether people feel the need to reciprocate when good things are done to them and if there is a norm within society or due to social learning. When in a situation where sharing of resources is necessary people are often divided between sharing, over usage and hoarding. Age is related to hoarding with the likelihood of this act decreasing as age increases.

Forgiveness is related to seeking retribution and leads to better relationships and benefits for the forgivers. It is linked to avoiding cognitive biases and religious people are more likely to forgive while narcissistic people are at the lower end of forgiveness frequency. Finally there are key concepts with helping strangers and factors that influence this including helpful personality, similarity, gender and beauty. Emotion and mood with individuals in a good mood have a higher probability of helping others. The bystander effect occurs when there is a group of people and in such an environment they are less likely to help a person in trouble. This is partly caused by the thought that someone else will help and that the individual is not responsible also known as pluralistic ignorance. This happens in such situations as assaults and fires where people may not realise the full situation where ambiguity occurs and therefore are less likely to intervene. Therefore co-operation may be necessary in addition to being able to read the environment and understanding the messages from the alleged victims.

Questions Do you believe that there are certain times that there is an increase in people acting altruistic? Please explain your answer. What circumstances do you believe would increase your assistance in an emergency?

Environmental Readings Week 13 18th October 2008Edit

Environmental issues are receiving even more attention as the global resources are becoming more and more limited. These are intensified due to such concerns as crowding and density while global warming is becoming more of a reality as society is not willing to make the effort and making small changes to contribute to the environmental causes. These are hyped up or dulled down depending on the mood that the media and politicians wish to create. By thinking outside the square individuals have and can make a difference. This can also be related to cognitive dissonance with a belief that the environment is a cause that needs help while on an individual basis recycling and walking instead of driving may not be performed. By increasing awareness and information there may be an increase in participants who care for the environment.

In relation to environmental designs there are such issues as lighting, sound, colour and temperature. There is also a need to service the community with such buildings as schools, police stations and hospitals. Arousal, privacy and stress change with the buildings components such as lightening, sound and walls to create a private setting. Work can also be influenced by such concepts and therefore these need to be considered when choosing buildings for workplaces and for creating new buildings. Therefore multiple theories contribute to the current understanding of environmental psychology in regards to buildings and the effects they have on individuals.



  • What colours do you think promote calmness and what do you think promote thinking?
  • What issues do you believe are involved when creating a building?