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Hi to fellow adventurers! I am loving this, although it is a bit bewildering!! I would rather listen to your voice and discuss rather than write this all down!! I like the full experience, seeing the physical, hearing the tone and seeing the body language. Ahh well, this will be something different.

I am a mature age student who is studying psychology for pleasure. I am fascinated by culture, attitudes and behaviour. I spent my childhood and teenage years in a religious sect, and left at age 17, because I wanted to be in charge of my life, and not let my lifes path be dictated by others. The majority of my family remain in the sect, bound by the rules and regulations and unable to communicate willingly with me. During and since this childhood, I have been fascinated by what people do, what motivates them to do it, and the choices they make in life.

I am looking forward to this new experience and hope we can share along this journey called life.

THE SELF - Who am I?Edit

Self knowledge, interpersonal self and our agent self make up the three parts of the inner core of the individual. Our self knowledge comes from an awareness of ourselves and makes up our values, beliefs and behaviours. Our interpersonal self is the face we portray to others and at times dictates what we choose to become involved in, what we say and how we apply. Our agent self is that part of the executive functioning control mechanism which assists in our internal decision-making and enables us to make and action choices.

Within ourselves, there are parts of independence, interdependence and dependence and these are often interchangeable, dependent on the situation we find ourselves in. Different cultures view these differently. Within individualistic societies, independence or reliance on self is much more acceptable, than in collectivist societies where interdependence and dependence is much more acceptable.

A balanced individual usually includes elements of physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual into their way of life, and these elements develop through self awareness, intuitiveness and by using emotional and intellectual intelligence. An individual’s self concept whilst relatively stable can be triggered to change when experiences and knowledge trigger a curiosity or a need for something different. Expectations from within ourselves or from others can trigger us to analyse our thinking and our position in life and these can occur from within the psyche or through a process of introspection, comparison with, and feedback from others.

Bergman & Bell (1998) discuss the concept of emotional fitness and suggest that the four core competencies of emotional health are feelings identification and tolerance, empathy, insight and assertiveness and these coupled with training techniques of meditation, visualisation, journaling and health entitlement will identify existing habits, attitudes and behaviours and become a conduit to making and embedding new strategies for life.

What drives an individual to change? Often an individual’s motivation may be linked with the desire to learn more about how they perceive themselves and a comparison of their traits, characteristics and behaviours against others. Often society measures and judges the individual on how they present themselves and this can lead to misplaced perceptions, expectations and categorisation. They may feel that life has become unexciting and boring or their goals are not being fulfilled. They could be transitioning into a different life stage and identify the desire to have a different life. The drive to delve deeper into thoughts and feelings is not just to seek validation but also to seek information and knowledge in order to realign their psyche and to develop strategies for areas of life they wish to focus on. Often we find this process difficult and deny that change is required. Motivation and incentive are the necessary ingredients and if these are available, change should occur at the end of the process – however long it may be.

Branden (1994) defines “self esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness” and suggests that it is shaped by internal and external factors. Self esteem has two interrelated components – self efficacy and self respect and he identifies six pillars – the practice of living consciously, self acceptance, self responsibility, self assertiveness, living purposefully and personal integrity. Baumeister & Bushman (2008) refer to self esteem as how the individual evaluates themselves and how these tie into the individual’s attitudes, style and behaviour.

Self esteem leads to a feeling of self worth and can be seen as the value the individual views themself and their fit into society. Self esteem is not something an individual is born with but is built in a number of different ways – from personality traits, individual differences, and experiences occur which shape the individual. It continues to evolve and whilst it becomes relatively stable as an individual reaches their 20’s, it continues to change as the impact of experiences tease out and change an individual’s perception of themselves.

Emotional intelligence was first coined by Salovey and Mayer in 1990 and was defined as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor own and others feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide ones thinking and action”. Goleman (2002) suggests that there are four levels of emotional intelligence – self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management and that these are not innate talents but learned abilities.

Every individual has a different perspective on life and will live it according to their levels of confidence, awareness and feeling and level of power and control. Two of the benefits of high self esteem are initiative and good feelings and these often provide the impetus to undertake an activity especially when times are tough. At times, an individual with poor self esteem can show signs of self handicapping, especially in the areas of self sabotage and self deception which often lead to negative experiences, emotions and outcomes. Similarly, behaviours of self protection feed the self esteem in a negative manner with all these behaviours having the potential to limit the individual to live a successful and fulfilling life.

It should be the goal of society to have individuals who are healthy emotionally and physically who in turn lead productive lives which leads to an increase in social human capital which supports a healthy economy.


  1. Bergman, R.L. & Bell, A. W. (1998). Emotional Fitness Conditioning, 1st Ed, Berkley Publishing Group
  2. Brandon, N. (1994). The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, 1st Ed, Bantam Books
  3. Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature, 1st Ed, Thomson Learning Inc.
  5. Goleman, D. (2002). Primal Leadership. 1st Ed. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

As earlier mentioned I was born and brought up in a fundamentalist religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren (referred to as EB) until I left at 17 years of age. Life as a woman in the sect was very different that one we know in the open world. As an EB woman, you were silent, controlled by the male in your life - whether that was your father, brother, husband or priest, your role as a woman was to serve and be compliant and obedient. It was a life of suppression, repression and second class citizenship.

I made a conscious decision as a teenager that I wanted a different life and so after leaving, I went through a process of reviewing the beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours I was brought up with in order to live the life I wanted. The biggest changes in my life have been my role as an individual and in society, the ability to be an equal, to be assertive, to have access to information and knowledge, to have an education and meaningful work, to make choices and decisions about how I want to live my life and most of all to be able to make my own decisions as to how I live my life. This has meant analysing the characteristics and elements that make up my self concept, my self esteem and identifying and embedding change.

I see life as evolving through experiences, information and discussion and a journey to be enjoyed rather than one to be frightened of. I am thankful that I was brought up in the sect, because it has given me the drive to strive for something different and to be able to help others who too have experienced similar experiences.


Classical and operant conditioning were the original theories which described what we do and why we do it. Skinner was one of the first behaviourists who suggested that human behaviour was caused by reward and punishment as a key motivator, whilst Watson suggested it was part of our conditioning to different stimuli.

Culture is a network of meaning, and human beings who live in culture act based on meaning . Meaning depends on language, ideas and thinking with different cultures bringing an overlay of context to different perspectives. Individual process their thinking to make choices and to create meaning with their thoughts. There are two levels of thinking – the higher being more meaningful and richer in emotions but also at time unpleasant especially if they invoke guilt over violating moral standards. The lower level whilst usually evoked by negative emotions it is useful to help solve problems which in turn leads to the higher level of meaning.

Changing behaviour often uses a process of introducing lower level meaning before switching back to higher level meaning. This process of divergence influences the individual to make choices which make them “feel” more emotionally satisfied. Individuals are born with different traits which differential our uniqueness, and there are questions as to whether these are constant or change over time. Entity Theorists suggest these are fixed and stable and should not be expected to change, whilst Incremental Theorists suggest that traits are subject to change and improvement. On the other hand, some individuals believe that one’s actions will not bring about what they desire, and this in itself leads them to give up and quit trying.

Meaning connects to actions and goals. Goals reflect the influence of both inner processes and cultural factors, with the pursuit of goals involving two major steps involving different mental states. The first – includes setting goals, evaluating its difficulty or feasibility; the second is around pursuing the goal – planning and carrying out these behaviours. This process involves five stages of mindset and these include - function, attitude, mental focus, core question and style of thought.

Each individual is born with a duplex mind made up of conscious and automatic systems which help to achieve goals. The conscious assists with the goal setting, keeps track of the goals and initiatives behaviours to resume if the goal is blocked or derailed and can help with an alternative strategy. The automatic system signals the conscious mind that the previous goal is uncompleted and the Zeigarnik effect – an individual’s tendency to experience automatic, intrusive thoughts about a goal whose pursuit has been interrupted.

Usually individuals have a series of goals – short (proximal) and long term (distal) – with a hierarchy of importance allocated to each. This form of organisation helps the individual to achieve outcomes and this is supported by planning and executing actions.

The jury is still out on the issue of free will, that is that behaviour is caused and thus is not truly or fully free or on the other hand – that the individual makes a choice and could have chosen differently under other circumstances and therefore have freedom. This is linked to self determination – where individuals need to feel some degree of autonomy and internal motivation. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations form part of the individual’s motivation – the intrinsic – drive comes from within the individual; extrinsic – drive comes from an external pressure or force; and the central piece of the self determination theory is that individuals have an innate need to achieve some form of autonomy meaning that some activities must be motivated by inner drives and choices, not only external factors.

Research indicates that individuals using intrinsic motivation derive more satisfaction, and more interested and have greater passion for what they are doing, have greater confidence, perform better, persist longer and show greater creativity. Often external factors constrain the individual to make choices which they would make quite differently at other times. At these times the individual portrays relative freedom, but at other times greater freedom is indicated by greater flexibility, controlled processes and self regulation. The process for decision-making in this context takes into consideration abstract rules, moral and ethical principles, laws, plans, contracts, agreements.

Making a choice is usually a two step process – reducing the full range of choices to a few and then comparing the highlighted options. The assumption is that individuals use a mental cost-benefit analysis for each option, looking at pros and cons and adding these up and picking the option that comes out best. Some of the major patterns that guide an individuals choice includes – risk aversion – greater weight is given to possible losses than possible gains; temporal discounting – greater weight is given to present over future; certainty effect – greater weight is given to definite outcomes than to probabilities; and status quo bias – preference to keep things the way they are rather than change. Another pattern which leads to the individual doing nothing is known as the omission bias or the default option – where the course of action does not require any response from the user. The rationale behind this type of decision avoidance is anticipated regret on behalf of what may happen in the future.

Interestingly individuals desire to have freedom of choice and have a negative (reactance theory) aversive reaction when this choice is threatened by external forces. Reactance increases the desire and attraction to the forbidden option, spurs the individual to take steps to reclaim the lost option (reasserting their freedom) and you may feel or act aggressively toward the person who has restricted your freedom. Reactance theory emphasizes that individuals are motivated to gain and preserve their choices.

Self regulation is the self’s capacity to alter its own responses and is similar to self-control. It allows the individual to be flexible and adapt to different circumstances, rules and demands. It enables an individual’s social conscience to prevail over selfish impulses so that right and good is preferable to selfishness. Self regulation enables individuals and communities to coexist together and supports the general theme that inner processes serve interpersonal functions. It enables individuals to keep promises, obey rules, respect others, control their temper and do things that make for better interpersonal relations.

Self regulation or self control predict success or failure in many different spheres. Effective self regulation has three main components – standards, monitoring and strength. When individuals don’t measure up to their ideals or goals they often try to change themselves. Having clear standards without conflict is important for self regulation. Standards can be applied through cultural influence with standards being applied to protocol, dress and values. Monitoring tracks the behaviours and responses through self awareness. One monitoring mechanism for the self regulation feedback loop is Test Operate Test and Exit (TOTE). Strength or the capacity to change corresponds to willpower and can become depleted when used. When depleted, the omission bias (do nothing/default option) often kicks in. Studies have shown that fatigue, emotion or attitudes cannot account for the effects of willpower depletion.

Self defeating behaviour is where an individual carries out an action which brings failure, suffering or misfortune on themselves. Self defeating behaviour can include risky sex, taking drugs, gambling and often individuals behave in irrational self defeating ways. Freud likened it to the death drive that impels them to pursue their own downfall and death, but this was later argued by other psychologists that whilst individuals perform self destructive acts they do not do them out of self destructive intentions. Two possible reasons for self defeating behaviour is tradeoffs and/or self handicapping. Smoking is an example of tradeoffs smoking provides pleasure and pleasant sensations but can cause cancer. Self handicapping sacrifices real chances of success in exchange for protection from the implications of failure. Self defeating tradeoffs are likely when reward is immediate and cost is delayed! Sacrificing the future for the present. Faulty knowledge and reliance on strategies that don’t work is another element to self defeating behaviour. Procrastination is an example – leaving things to the last moment, because they work best under pressure. An opposite of this is the capacity to delay gratification by having the ability to made immediate sacrifices for later rewards.

Suicide often involves a trade off – fitting the now versus future pattern. It is a means to end the distress and feelings of worthlessness and death seems more appealing than living. It starts with a discrepancy between expectations and reality. Self awareness is high among suicidal people who find it painful and it supports their rumination of being worthless and a failure. Often potential suicides are emotionally dumb, having shut down their feelings and they have shifted to a low level of meaning as a way of escaping emotion.

One of the differences between individuals and animals is that individuals have an elaborate inner system for controlling behaviour allowing individuals to make choices in novel ways and link the here and now to future realities. Individuals are able to distinguish between meaningful and meaningless. The greatest advance for individuals is their ability to use meaningful thought, reasoning, and self regulation enabling them to free their actions from simply responding to their immediate surroundings.

So individuals have the ability to make choices and benefit from freedom.

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

Life without goals is meaningless. Goals provide a framework for future state and provide motivation and rewards to work for. There are short and long term goals and these change over time according to the knowledge, motivation and stage of awareness and personal growth the individual at the time.

Interestingly I was raised as a kid and teenager in a different culture and class system (google Exclusive Brethren) with a different belief and value set. I felt I was an observer in the real world. I knew the repercussions if I participated willingly in the real world. I saw the consequences of what happened to those who did this – the non compliance showed in families separated, individuals shunned, untrue rumours and innuendo’s, the barriers placed in the pathway – this all done to show the power and control of the leadership.

I left when the price to stay outweighed the price to choose my own life’s journey. So to me freedom and choice is the most important element to my way of life and I understand the price it has come at. The choices I NOW have include the choice of and access to an education, to travel widely without restriction, type of employment, where I live, the God I worship, my own friends, listening to music, watching television, surfing the net.

With these changes have come working through my foibles – procrastination, conflict avoidance, co-dependency, fear of failure, low self esteem and self worth and looking at the mask I portray you would never know this story. I am like everyone else on a life long journey of discovery.


Google "Exclusive Brethren"

Bachelard, M. (2008) Behind the Exclusive Brethren. Scribe Publications Pty Ltd

Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.


Cognitive processesEdit

Social thinking is about using your cognitive powers of thinking and perceiving when developing the self’s attitudes and behaviours. The human brain is complex and around the size of a large grapefruit weighing about 3 lbs or 1.5 kgs. It has two main systems: the automatic system - which makes quick, fairly accurate judgements and decisions; and the conscious system which works more slowly and thoroughly but can make more precise judgements and decisions. As humans have evolved they have adjusted their thinking patterns and introduced discriminatory behaviour and shortcuts to conserve the time spent on thinking. This is known as being a cognitive miser describes the individual’s reluctance to do much extra thinking. Connected to this, is our ability to use shortcuts or heuristics especially where we are already preoccupied and to counteract this individuals have learned automatic thinking behaviours.

Three main types of goals guide how people think – to find the right answer to the problem or question, to confirm the desired answer to a problem and to read the good answer of decision quickly. This introduces the question of automatic and controlled thinking – is thought automatic or is it controlled? The four elements that distinguish automatic from controlled thinking are intention, control, effort and efficiency. Automatic thinking is not guided by intention, are not subject to deliberate control, do not involve effort and are highly efficient. It involves very little effort because it involves knowledge structures – organised packets of information that are stored in memory, usually known as schemas or scripts. These are developed from early childhood through experience and guide the way we process information.

Schemas and scripts influence the way individuals perceive, interpret, judge and respond to events. Priming - the planting or activating of an idea stimulates further processing of a schema – is often used as a technique to trigger automatic processes and behaviours. Framing of messages is also used as a technique to influence – positively and negatively. Thought suppression uses two processes. One an automatic process that keeps a lookout for a reminder of the unwanted thought and the second is a controlled process that redirects attention away from the unpleasant thought. When the controlled process is relaxed the automatic process still watches for cues and may flood the mind with the unwanted thoughts.

Attributions give meaning to why individuals demonstrate different attitudes and behaviour. Attributions are the causal explanations individuals give for their own and others’ behaviours and for events in general. Heider (1958) put forward an explanation that explanations fall into two major categories: (a) internal factors such as ability, attitudes, personality, mood and effort and : (b) external factors such as task, other people or luck. Weiner (1971) proposed a two dimensional theory of attributions for success and failure. The first was internal versus external and the second was stable versus unstable. The four possible combinations of internal-external and stable-unstable yield the four main types of attributions that people make when they see themselves or someone else perform. Internal, stable attributions involve ability and this is very important because it involves permanent aspects of the self with people motivated to conclude that they have high ability. Internal, unstable attributions involve effort and this is unstable because it could change. Interestingly collectivist cultures emphasise effort whereas individualistic cultures emphasise ability. External, stable attributions point to task difficulty – success indicates task was easy, failure indicates it was hard. External unstable attributions involve luck – which indicates that there is very little credit or blame due to the person.

Self serving bias the tendency to take credit for success but deny blame for failure occurs because individuals want to interpret events that make them feel good. That means, they can discount their failures and maximise their successes. This links with the concept that individuals learn to think in ways that will help them get along better with others and thus accepted by others. Individuals also look and notice information that confirms their beliefs and discounts or ignores information that disconfirms their beliefs. This is known as the confirmation bias. Individuals love observing others and at times use their biases to make assumptions. The actor/observer bias is the tendency for actors to make external attributions and observers make internal attributions, put simply the actors attribute their behaviour to the situation and the observers attribute the actor’s behaviour to the actor. Within this is fundamental attribution error which is the tendency for observers to attribute other people’s behaviour to internal or dispositional causes and to downplay situational causes. The explanation for this is that behaviour is more noticeable that situation factors, individuals assign insufficient weight to the situation, the use of cognitive miser’s concept and language is richer in trait like terms than in situational terms.

Attribution uses the covariation principle which indicates that for something to be the cause of behaviour it must be present when the behaviour occurs and absent when the behaviour does not occur. Kelley proposes the attribution cube theory that people use three types of covariation information – consensus – whether other people would do the same thing in the same situation; consistency – whether the person typically behaves this way in this situation and distinctiveness – whether the person would behave differently in a different situation. Heuristics are used during the cognitive process to make judgements and inferences about the uncertain outcomes including the likelihood and frequency of an event. The four most common heuristics used are representative, availability, simulation, anchoring and adjustment.

As the information age has progressed, information is more freely and readily available. One of the issues raised is information overload or having too much information to comprehend or integrate to make a decision or remain informed. Common cognitive errors by individuals include the following heuristics – confirmation bias, conjunction fallacy, illusory correlation, base rate fallacy, gamblers fallacy, false consensus effect, false uniqueness effect, and statistical regression, illusion of control, magical thinking and counterfactual thinking. The following strategies are used to reduce cognitive errors – debiasing by providing information to improve decision-making, encouraging individuals to rely less on memory, to use explicit decision rules, to search for disconfirmatory information and to use meta-cognition or reflective approach to examine and reflect on the thinking process.

Attitudes, beliefs and consistencyEdit

Attitudes exist in substantial part to help guide behaviour. They are ideas that often determine how people will act. They differ from beliefs which are pieces of information about something, facts or opinions. Attitudes are for choosing, and beliefs are for explaining. Beliefs and attitudes both serve interpersonal functions. People have attitudes so they can differentiate between what they like and what they don’t like. They help us to adjust to new situations, seek out things that reward us and avoid those things that punish us. Attitudes influence what individuals do and won’t do. Individuals often have different evaluation of the same attitudes which can be unrelated and can serve different functions. Attitudes can be private not shared with others and at times individuals may not be aware of all of their own attitudes. Having an attitude often increases the speed, ease and quality of decision making. A meta-analysis of 88 studies found that attitudes are certain, stable, consistent, accessible, and based on direct experience are especially effective in predicting behaviour. Different explanations are given to how our attitudes are formed. Mere exposure effect, classical conditioning, operant condition and social learning all help form our attitudes. As individuals reflect on their attitudes they can become more extreme or adopt them more strongly. Studies have should that individuals are more accepting of evidence represented by in group members than by out- group members.

Belief and doubt are separate from understanding, but believing immediately automatically accompanies understanding. When given information, the automatic system automatically believes the information it is given. The conscious system can override this belief by deciding that it is false. Belief perseverance is the finding that once beliefs form, they are resistant to change, even if the information on which they are based is discredited. To validate and understand things correctly, individuals should cultivate the habit of trying out the opposite theory to whatever theory encountered. Assumptive worlds are the view that individuals live in social worlds based on certain beliefs or assumptions about reality. When problems or trauma occur individuals usually cope with the trauma and then go back to functioning normally. Coping can take many forms from self blame or blaming others and usually is part of a grieving process. Broadly, cognitive coping is the idea that beliefs play a central role in helping people cope with and recover from misfortunes. Within this, there are different elements, like downward comparison where individuals compare themselves to other individuals who are worse off. Other beliefs in cognitive coping relate to self esteem and control, the belief that all things have some useful or higher purpose. Beliefs help individuals cope with trauma or make the trauma seem compatible or even consistent with their beliefs. Religious beliefs appeals to some individuals who look to it to explain grand or small issues, to provide social support, a sense of meaning, purpose and direction for one’s life and an environment that fosters the development of virtues such as honesty or integrity. Religious beliefs can help people cope with stress and traumatic events. Individuals with irrational beliefs are usually more anxious, cope less well with terminal illnesses, become depressed, may be paralysed when needed to perform important behaviours and have lower levels of self esteem.

Consistency theories have three elements – specify the conditions required for consistency and inconsistency of cognitions; assume inconsistency is unpleasant and therefore motivates people to restore consistency; and specify the conditions required needed to restore consistency. In general people choose the path of least resistance to restore consistency. Heider’s balance theory proposes the idea that relationships among one person, the other person and an attitude object may be either balanced or unbalanced. These relationships can either involve attitudes or evaluations (sentiment) or belongingness (unit). Cognitive dissonance theory proposes that inconsistencies produce psychological discomfort, leading people to rationalise their behaviour or change their attitudes. Within this theory is effort justification or the finding that when people suffer or work hard or make sacrifices they will try to convince themselves that it is worthwhile, even being demeaned or embarrassed. Inconsistency between attitudes and behaviours is shown in the gap between general attitudes and specific behaviours, behaviour aggregation combining across many different behaviours on different occasions; the prominence of the attitude in the persons conscious mind and influence and the accessibility of the attitude to the mind.

Social influenceEdit

Social influence is seen as two major categories – normative influence the going along with the crowd in order to be liked and accepted and informational influence which refers to going along with the crowd because you think the crowd knows more than you do. Usually with informational influence is produced by ambiguous situations, so that individuals do not know how to behave and crisis situation where individuals don’t have time to think for themselves. Humans have a fundamental need to be accepted and evolutionary theory proposes that humans survive better if they belong to a group. To live together individuals usually need to agree on common beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours that reduce in-group conflicts and act for the common good, thus conforming and behaving in a certain way. When individuals deviate from group norms they are usually rejected and studies found that people would rather agree with the group even though they knew it was wrong rather than suffer social rejection. Groups are quick to vote out the deviate or non conformist with rejection more likely when there are one or two non conformists that when there is a large number of nonconformists. Public compliance – where an individual outwardly goes along with the group but maintains a private, inner belief that the group is wrong is often practiced by individuals in order to comply.

Commitment by individuals to beliefs, attitudes or even to the group puts them in a position where they then find themselves acting consistently with that commitment. Not only do they feel internal pressure but also external pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. There are many techniques that individuals and groups use to influence individuals, usually based on the principle of commitment, consistency, reciprocation, scarcity and capturing and disrupting attention. These techniques are based on the individual doing something they would not usually do and the techniques are based on neutralising the conscious rational mind in order to bypass it.

The foot in the door technique is based on commitment and consistency, in which one starts with a small request in order to gain eventual compliance with a larger request. The low ball technique is also based on commitment in which one first gets the person to comply with a seemingly low cost request and only later reveals hidden additional costs. The bait and switch technique is based on commitment, in which one draws people in with an attractive offer that is unavailable and then switches them to a less attractive offer that is available. The labelling technique is another way of inducing compliance where one assigns a label to an individual and then requests a favour that is consistent with the label. This technique is also based on commitment and consistency and uses the individuals self concepts. Legitimization of paltry favours technique similarly, is based on the requester making a small amount of aid available.

The appreciation of reciprocity is deeply rooted in human nature where an individual feels guilty if someone does them a favour and they cannot repay it in some way. This loads up the threat of guilt feelings and increases compliance rates. Two techniques – door-in-the-face technique starts with an inflated request and then retreats to a smaller request that appears to be a concession. The request must not be too extreme so that it is seen as unreasonable and does not work if the requests made are done by separate individuals. That’s not all technique is similar, this is also based on personal obligation where one first makes an inflated request but before the person can answer yes or no, sweetens the deal by offering a discount or bonus. The techniques used with the scarcity principle are based on the product or service diminishing and so the individual’s chances to buy or be included are limited.

Individuals often try to catch the attention of others using the pique technique which uses a novel request to catch their attention. Similarly the disrupt-then-reframe technique is based on one disrupting critical thinking by introducing an unexpected element, then reframing the message in a positive light. Both these techniques try to capture or distract the individual with the pique technique placing emphasis on the individual thinking about the request more deeply and in the disrupt-then-reframe technique the individual is distracted and don’t pay too much attention to the original request or conversation.


Persuasion is an attempt to change an individual’s attitude. Aristotle proposed three components of persuasion being the speaker, the subject of the speech and the hearer to whom the speech is addressed. He suggests that the three elements necessary are emotional appeal, intellectual appeal and charisma. The key source of the message must usually be credible and likable. Credibility is based on expertise and trustworthiness of the source with likability based on similarity and physical attractiveness. Often convert communicators or individuals are perceived as credible sources because they are arguing against their own previously held attitudes and behaviours. The message given is usually based on facts or appeals to the emotions of the listener and often uses humour and/or fear as a slant.

Research has indicated that people who are in a good mood are more receptive to persuasive messages and fear appeals can change attitudes if they don’t induce too much fear and if the audience is told how to avoid the fearful outcome. The message must resonate with the audience’s intellect, need for thinking and concerns for now and in the future. The easiest people to persuade are young children followed by adolescents and young adults. By this stage attitudes are set in place and resistance to persuasion is evident. Cultural difference also plays a role with people from individualistic cultures placing more emphasis on the individual where the collectivist culture place more emphasis on the group. Alpha and Omega strategies are also used to persuade – when people are willing and able to listen to a message, strong arguments are more persuasive than weak arguments and vice versa.

Resisting persuasion is often much more difficult to put into practice. There are a number of techniques which can be used as resistance. One of these is the negative attitude change where we do exactly the opposite of what one is being persuaded to do. Others deal with delaying decisions in order to rationalise, reword the request in the individuals favour and pay attention to what other credible individual’s behaviours.

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

Communication takes many forms and levels from verbal to non verbal and small talk to in depth complex discussions. During these engagements a mixture of automatic and controlled thinking with their various schemas and scripts are used. Within this, a feedback loop checks whether our audience understand the message and respond and this helps to adjust language, tone, speed and type of message with the ultimate desire to keep the interest of the listener. Deborah Tannen’s “9 to 5” describes the differences between conversation styles of men and women and how these can either help or limit promotional opportunities. The male rituals of bantering or avoiding the one-down position are common with women tending to downplay their authority and avoid boasting. The way in which men and women use their styles are used to judge their confidence, leadership and authority.

The use of body language often discriminates or confirms the message being given with eye avoidance, body position and stance and gestures being the key. In some cultures, eye avoidance is normal and acceptable. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” describes the concept of thin-slicing where we recognise patterns and make snap judgements and we do this process of editing unconsciously. He suggests that by trusting our instincts a snap judgement can be far more effective than a cautious decision and gives the example of a simulated war to bring his point home.

The messages we use can captivate or turn off the audience. Social influence is used neatly in these messages, using reciprocity and interest to draw attention and then persuasion to influence the decision or outcome. Tied in with this is our need to comply, be part of the group and reciprocate when it is our turn. A good salesman can push all these buttons and usually the average Joe will comply even though in a rational moment a different decision may have been made.


Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.

Tannen, D. (1994). Talking from 9 to 5. Virago

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Penguin Books


Aggression is any behaviour intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm. Take Saddam Hussein’s acts against the Kurds and the Kuwaitians and similarly Adolf Hitler’s acts against the Jews. More recently the Hutu’s and the Tsutsi’s in Rwanda and Burundi. Once these nations lived in peace. The world watched, and in many of these cases it waited, and in some instance it worked through the system in place to become the aggressor.

In the example of the Saddam Hussein, the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2001 condemned the Iraqi regime for “widespread, systematic torture and the maintaining of decrees prescribing cruel and inhuman punishment as a penalty for offences”. Mass graves thought to hold tens of thousands of people were found. Saddam’s rule was aggressive and antisocial and in 2001 the US Government launched a pre-emptive war against Iraq based on their understanding that the Iraq Government supported terrorism.

Three features of aggression – it is a behaviour – you can see it; It is not an emotion, such as anger, it is not a thought. It is intentional and the intent is to harm. The victim wants to avoid the harm. Hostile aggress is “hot”, impulsive, angry behaviour that is motivated by a desire to harm someone. Instrumental aggression is “cold”, premeditated, calculated, harmful behaviour that is a means to some practical or material end, such as obtaining money, restoring one’s image or restoring justice. Passive aggression is harming others by withholding behaviour like purposely failing to convey an important message. Active aggression is harming others by performing behaviour like spreading vicious rumours.

Violence is aggression that has as its goal extreme physical harm, such as injury or death. FBI classifies four crimes as violent – homicide, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and robbery. All violent acts are aggressive, but all aggressive acts are not violent. Antisocial behaviour is behaviour that either damages interpersonal relationships or is culturally undesirable. Behaviours can be anti-social but not aggressive like littering and cheating. Some aggressive tendencies or impulses are natural. The rule of law through prosocial behaviour offers better ways of resolving disputes and avoiding aggression.

War is an extreme form of aggression with rules which govern the proper conduct in war. These rules address the treatment of prisoners, restrict armed conflict between Christians, honour surrenders and respect flags of truce. Self-defense is acceptable but only if the defender uses comparable force. Much aggression comes from selfishness with individuals wanting things and using aggression to get them. Our culture teaches restraint of aggression and suggests other ways to use reason and compromise to resolve the issue.

Aggression can develop through modelling and also weaken if punishment is provided. Freud’s innate and instinct theories of eros and thanatos suggest that humans have a life giving instinct as well as a destructive death instinct and that these together could be responsible for violence. The nature/nurture debate favours a role for learning – learning to behave aggressively and learning to restrain aggression.

Inner causes of aggression include frustration – the blocking or interfering with a goal, being in a bad mood with release of aggression to make them feel better, hostile cognitive biases - perceiving ambiguous and social interactions by others as aggressive, age and gender with suggestions that impulses emerge around puberty and with young men committing most of the violent crimes and acts.

Interpersonal causes of aggression include selfishness and influence, domestic violence and displaced aggression and these usually harm others or substitute one target of aggression for another. External causes of aggression include the sight of a weapon, environmental, chemical and media influences. These trigger an increase in aggressive impulses in the individual and if not managed can cause harm and violence. Recent research also indicates that there could be a link between diet and violence and that a more balanced diet may reduce rates of violence.

The link between culture and aggression and violence indicates the influence of old traditions can have a bearing on how aggression is handled by the perpetrator. In some cultures, it was acceptable for acts of aggression to occur, but this has changed with an emphasis on self control. In some cultures aggression in war is still valued much highly than cowardness, with examples of culture of honour being accepted in southern and western United States and ethnic Albania. This highlights the impact of shame or humiliation on the human psyche and how groups will fight to regain their honour for their country.

Other more common forms of antisocial behaviour found in the day to day lives of society include cheating, stealing and littering. Studies into these behaviours found that factors which contributed to them happening included the presence of others with a loss of individuality making people more likely to engage in antisocial behaviours. Norms – the social standards that prescribe what people ought to do may help to reduce the behaviour with individuals feeling guilty if they don’t follow them.

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

Aggression is a behaviour which is intended to harm another who is motivated to avoid the harm. In war, it usually evolves from an inability to accept another’s position or statement and to show anger and fear by acts of conflict. It has been around since the beginning of time. The early wars in the Bible – David and Goliath... then onto Alexander and the time began. Even the Greek mythology portrayed war... The Battle of Troy. Even today, continued acts of aggression exist. A small microcosm in our region include: • Tamil Tigers fighting for an independent region in Sri Lanka after years of discrimination and oppression from the country’s Sinhalese majority; • Cronulla race riots in 2005 between Australians of Middle Eastern ethnicity and Caucasians; • Continued civil unrest in Fiji – indigenous Fijians and the local Indian population.

Many conflicts like Rwanda, the World Wars, the Kuwait and Iraq conflicts demonstrate the inability of man to recognise or want to become involved especially where decisions to stop the ill treatment of others are concerned. One could also say that indigenous Australians have also suffered from the aggression of white men especially during early times with massacres’, poisoned flour and other subtle acts of aggression.

Aggression can be regarded as social influence. It works in the short term but backfires in the long run. It has many unintended consequences and side effects that limit its usefulness. Cultures frown on aggression and seek to restrain it and use influence to do this.

History of Major Wars and ConflictsEdit

War [Sort by: Date Name] Date(s) Egyptian Invasion of Asia 1479 bc Persia Empire Wars 546 - 539 bc Persian-Greek Wars 499 - 401 bc Peloponnesian Wars 460 - 404 bc Greek City-States Wars 395 - 362 bc Alexander & Macedonian Conquests 338 - 322 bc Hellenistic Monarchies, Wars of the 318 - 170 bc Punic War, First 264 - 241 bc Punic War, Second 219 - 202 bc Invasion of the Hsiung-nu 203 - 200 bc Third Macedonian War 168 bc Punic War, Third 149 - 146 bc Gallic Wars 58 - 52 bc First Triumvirate, Wars of the 53 - 45 bc Second Triumvirate, Wars of the 43 - 31 bc Roman Empire Wars 27 bc - 476 ad

Byzantine Empire Wars 395 - 1453 Muslim Conquests 624 - 982 Charlemagne, Conquests of 773 - 796 German States, Wars of the 891 - 1789 Norman Conquest of England 1066 Crusades 1096 - 1254 English-French Wars 1194 - 1337 Mongol Wars 1214 - 1402 English Scottish Wars 1314 Hundred Years War 1337 - 1453 Venetian-Turkish Wars 1416 - 1573 Wars of the Roses 1455 - 1487 Spanish-Moslem Wars 1481 - 1492 Spanish Conquest of Mexico 1519 - 1521 Mogul-Afghan War 1526 Spanish Conquest of Peru 1531 - 1533 English Spanish Wars 1588 Thirty Years' War 1618 - 1648 English Civil Wars 1642 - 1651 Spanish-French Wars 1648 - 1659 Jacobite Rebellions 1689 - 1745 Great Northern War 1700 - 1721 Spanish Succession, War of the 1701 - 1714 French and Indian War 1754 - 1763 Seven Years' War 1756 - 1763 American Revolution 1775 - 1783 French Revolutionary Wars 1792 - 1802 Napoleonic Wars 1803 - 1814 Indian Wars in United States 1811 - 1887 War of 1812 1812 - 1815 Peruvian War of Independence 1824 Texan War of Independence 1836 Afghan-British War, First 1839 - 1842 Mexican War 1846 - 1847 American Civil War 1861 - 1865 Seven Weeks' War 1866 Franco-Prussian War 1870 - 1871 Afghan-British War, Second 1878 - 1880 Zulu-British War 1879 Sudan, War for the 1881 - 1899 Spanish-American War 1898 Boer War, Second 1899 - 1902 Russo-Japanese War 1904 - 1905 World War I 1914 - 1918 Afghan-British War, Third 1919 Turkish War of Independence 1919 - 1923 World War II 1939 - 1945 French Indochina War 1946 - 1954 Arab-Israeli War 1948 - 1949 Korean War 1950 - 1953 Hungarian Uprising 1956 Vietnam War 1965 - 1975 Six-Day War 1967 October War 1973 Iran-Iraq War 1980 - 1988 Persian Gulf War 1991 Terrorism, War on 2001 - 0 Source:

Definition of Aggression, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX).Edit

Committee: 6

Vote: Adopted without a vote

Ref: 3105(XXVIII), 2967(XXVII), 2781(XXVII), 2644(XXV), 2549(XXIV), 2420(XXIII), 2330(XXII), 1181(XII), 895(IX), 688(VII), 599(VI)

The General Assembly,

Having considered the report of the Special Committee on the Question of Defining Aggression, established pursuant to its resolution 2330(XXII) of 18 December 1967, covering the work of its seventh session held from 11 March to 12 April 1974, including the draft Definition of Aggression adopted by the Special Committee by consensus and recommended for adoption by the General Assembly,[FN1]

Deeply, convinced that the adoption of the Definition of Aggression would contribute to the strengthening of international peace and security,

1. Approves the Definition of Aggression, the text of which is annexed to the present resolution;

2. Expresses its appreciation to the Special Committee on the Question of Defining Aggression for its work which resulted in the elaboration of the Definition of Aggression;

3. Calls upon all States to refrain from all acts of aggression and other uses of force contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;[FN2]

4. Calls the attention of the Security Council to the Definition of Aggression, as set out below, and recommends that it should, as appropriate, take account of that Definition as guidance in determination, in accordance with the Charter, the existence of an act of aggression.

2319th plenary meeting 14 December 1974


Definition of Aggression

The General Assembly,

Basing itself on the fact that one of the fundamental purposes of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security and to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace,

Recalling that the Security Council, in accordance with Article 39 of the Charter of the United Nations, shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security,

Recalling also the duty of States under the Charter to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in order not to endanger international peace, security and justice,

Bearing in mind that nothing in this Definition shall be interpreted as in any way affecting the scope of the provisions of the Charter with respect to the functions and powers of the organs of the United Nations,

Considering also that, since aggression is the most serious and dangerous form of the illegal use of force, being fraught, in the conditions created by the existence of all types of weapons of mass destruction, with the possible threat of a world conflict and all its catastrophic consequences, aggression should be defined at the present stage,

Reaffirming the duty of States not to use armed force to deprive peoples of their right to self-determination, freedom and independence, or to disrupt territorial Integrity,

Reaffirming also that the territory of a State shall not be violated by being the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State in contravention of the Charter, and that it shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from such measures or the threat thereof,

Reaffirming also the provisions of the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,

Convinced that the adoption of a definition of aggression ought to have the effect of deterring a potential aggressor, would simplify the determination of acts of aggression and the implementation of measures to suppress them and would also facilitate the protection of the rights and lawful interests of, and the rendering of assistance to, the victim,

Believing that, although the question whether an act of aggression has been committed must be considered in the light of all the circumstances of each particular case, it is nevertheless desirable to formulate basic principles as guidance for such determination,

Adopts the following Definition of Agression:[FN3]

Article I

Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition.

Explanatory note: In this Definition the term "State": (a) Is used without prejudice to questions of recognition or to whether a State is a member of the United Nations; (b) Includes the concept of a "group of States" where appropriate.

Article 2

The First use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact that the acts concerned or their consequences are not of sufficient gravity.

Article 3

Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of article 2, qualify as an act of aggression:

(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof,

(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;

(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;

(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State;

(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;

(f) The action of a State in allowing its temtory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;

(g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.

Article 4

The acts enumerated above are not exhaustive and the Security Council may determine that other acts constitute aggression under the provisions of the Charter.

Article 5

1. No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression.

2. A war of aggression is a crime against international peace. Aggression gives rise to international responsibility.

3. No territorial acquisition or special advantage resulting from aggression is or shall be recognized as lawful.

Article 6

Nothing in this Definition shall be construed as in any way enlarging or diminishing the scope of the Charter, including its provisions concerning cases in which the use of force is lawful.

Article 7

Nothing in this Definition, and in particular article 3, could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right and referred to in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination: nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration.

Article 8

In their interpretation and application the above provisions are interrelated and each provision should be construed in the context of the other provisions.



Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.


Prejudice seems to exist because of competition, ignorance, rationalisations for oppression and it boosts the self esteem. Frequently, negative information associates middle eastern cultures with terrorism, obesity with less intelligence, success and attractiveness and homosexuality with fear of attraction. These stigma’s are directed at those who are considered socially unacceptable and include other strata’s of society like the mentally ill, those who are poor, sick of physically scarred. These stigmas also target those who associate and can include direct and indirect prejudice and discrimination. Stereotypes and prejudices appear to be innate but also reinforced through socialisation with cultures round the world practicing stereotyping. Social scientists have concluded that the tendency to align with similar others and square off against different others, including forming negative stereotypes of them and discriminating against them is deeply rooted in the human psyche.

Classical conditioning could explain the development of prejudice against social groups. Group dynamics indicate that members of the group have favourable attitudes towards their own members rather than members of another group. Often a them vs us competitive spirit is evoked especially in contests with high arousal and incentives. According to the realistic conflict theory the competition over scarce resources leads to intergroup hostility and conflict. This supports the competition situation in which people can attain their goals only if others do not. Both these support the findings that due to the scarce resources, negative attitudes towards rivals are stronger because of the need to compete for them. Groups are more influenced by competition than individuals and thus are more extreme and hostile motivated by fear and greed. Regular interactions between different groups tends to reduce prejudice and conflict, providing it occurs under favourable conditions such as people of equal status, positive contact and outgroup members who are seen as typical of their group.

The inner processes that can contribute to prejudice and stereotyping can occur just because the individual or group stood out from the rest and this was reinforced by mental processes without any influence of emotion or motivation. Scapegoat theory proposes that individuals blame the problems and misfortunes on outgroups which contributes to the negative attitudes forms against these groups. Emotional stress can activate stereotypes and lead to distortions in how individuals see the world. Prejudice could operate simply based on their assumptions from previous experiences or knowledge (not necessarily right) about the individual or group.

Overcoming prejudice can only be successful when a conscious effort is made within an individual’s thought processes to overwrite the existing thought processes and replace these with thoughts which support values of tolerance, fairness and equality.

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

Prejudice and stereotyping are still within our cultures today in various forms. Jane Elliot’s “The Australian Eye” movie indicated how our prejudice can be so entrenched within the individual that they don’t recognise its existence. Within the movie, the presenter separated the audience based on their race and then role played the in-group against the out-group. It was fascinating to see the reaction with even group think becoming evident in the in-group. Aggression can also start from prejudice. In following up after the “Ghosts of Rwanda” film, one understands that the conflict was as the result of prejudice motivated by different ethnic groups against the other. Prior to this they had been a peaceful tribe living together in harmony. Similarly this was seen in the riots in Fiji in the 1990’s where the native Fijians felt they had been taken over by the Indian traders.

Throughout life, generalisations and stereotyping is made especially when using heuristics and in describing situations. Loosely we may not see this as wrong, but taken out of the context it could be discriminatory. Prejudice can be subtle – where one goes along with it not recognising it until it is identified. In France in the early 2000’s, the French Government banned the wearing of Hi-jabs by students at school. The impetus for the Cronulla riots was that the Middle Eastern men felt that they had been discriminated against and so they were going to aggress.

Even today, we discriminate against the poor, the obese, those that dress or look different to the norm. This is no different than just after World War II, when those who emigrated from Europe were subject to name calling and the like, with fun being made of their language, the food they ate and their different to the old Australian families. These prejudices carried on into the 1970’s when the boat people came to Australia and they too were subjected to similar behaviour. Racial vilification in sport has come to the fore in the recent decade with cricketers and footballers charged and fined for name calling that was seen as prejudice.

More awareness should be given by people to what prejudice is, and how it can be eradicated so that we enable people to reach their full potential rather than be stunted by the low self esteem from the attitudes and behaviours of others.


Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.


Individuals seek to belong, to form and maintain close lasting relationships with others where they are socially accepted and feel connected. This feeling of wantedness helps them to survive, reproduce and thrive. Research indicated that an individual needs around five people who care about them, whose company one enjoys and with whom one can spend time on a regular basis will give a sense of satisfaction. Failure to satisfy the need to belong often leads to the individual suffering significant mental and physical health problems.

Attraction to others is usually based on similarity, complementarily and oppositeness and individuals often use ingratiation as a means to develop the attraction further. Within relationships, individuals often tend to pair up with others who are equally attractive, have similar education and socioeconomic status and have similar beliefs, values and interests. A couple of ways which help to ingratiate oneself with another is the use of favours and the second is the use of praise. These point to the persons psyche and they feel positively toward the other as it reinforces both the traits of the other as well as indicating your attraction to them. Other behaviours include the use of non verbal behaviours like mimicry and familiarity. Propinquity or the effect of being near someone on a regular basis is another way in which individuals make and develop friendships. This link through regular sight and shared experiences promote positive closeness and feelings and memories which individuals share and respond to.

Individuals also place importance on the physical attractiveness of others and individuals make perceptions based on presentation. Body shape, clothing, physical stance all play a role in an individual’s choice for developing and nurturing friendships. These choices also link to other areas of life – job interviews, choice of life partner and even help in emergency situations.

Because individuals seek to belong, when others ostracise or reject them this impact on their human psyche. If this continues for a long period it can damage and mental and physical symptoms can appear and generally the individual feels worthless and their life meaningless. Whilst rejection can undermine the individual’s powers of self regulation it can also enable the individual to become more attuned to social cues, information about other people and make new friends. Eventually, if rejection is repeated or not resolved in one way or another, the self esteem and self worth of the individual can suffer. Repeated experiences of rejection or social inclusion can create aggressive tendencies and if these are not resolved can cause harm not only to the individual but also to others as they act out their anger.

Loneliness is often felt by those who want more human connection than they currently have. Loneliness can be felt surrounded by people or isolated physically and at its point is the quality of the relationship rather than the quantity of social interaction. Usually lonely people fail to use their social skills and intuition or cues about other person and fail to put themselves out there in order to seek out and build relationships. Loneliness is also linked to social acceptance and as such individuals seek acceptance and this can often dictate where they will live and work in order to be in a familiar place emotionally. Often men seek association with groups or organisation, whilst women will either seek friendships with other women of similar interests. Studies have also found that animals can also provide fulfilment to lonely people, with dogs, cats and plants being treated like a person.

Rejection is usually painful and harmful and usually occurs because individuals either don’t comply with the norm, withdraw themselves or are different from others. In adults, deviance is one of the most common explanations for rejection from the rest of the group with other explanations given being poor performance and non conformist. The bad apple effect which describes a person who breaks the rules thus inspiring others to do the same is also seen as a reason for reject or expulsion. The threat of expulsion and rejection is an impetus for producing good behaviour, and when individuals have been expelled and return their behaviour is usually much better and more prosocially than others. Rejection impacts on the individuals self esteem and in the case of romantic or unrequited love the rejected suffer emotional feelings of hope, excitement and despair. Sometimes this can lead to stalking and harassing the rejecter in an effort to regain what the rejected had felt they had lost.

Love has many forms. Passionate or romantic love is classified as strong feelings of longing, desire and excitement toward a special person; compassionate love or affectionate love is the mutual understanding and caring to make the relationship succeed. Over time love changes, usually in a romantic relationship the passionate love is the impetus for commitment and then as the decrease in passion occurs the compassionate love increases. This links with the drop in sexual frequency where over a span of two years it can decline by 50%. Passionate love is also associated with an increase in the biochemical PEA which is linked to new love and the forming of a new relationship bond. Over time this reduces and can contribute to the individuals feeling of dwindling sexual desire and a sign that they are no longer in love. Research has found that sex in and out of marriage has tradeoffs and one of these is that whilst married people have more frequent pleasurable sex, single people have more partners and put more effort and imagination into sex. Sternberg’s Triangle proposes that love is composed of three different ingredients and the mixture of these can shift during the relationship. The three ingredients – passion or the emotional state characterised by high bodily arousal, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure; intimacy – a feeling of closeness, mutual understanding, and mutual concern for each other’s welfare and happiness and commitment or a conscious decision that remains constant. An ideal love may contain measure of all three, but if none of the three is present, there is no love. This links to companionate love where intimacy and commitment helps solidify trust and mutual concern, and passionate love consists of the arousal and emotion.

There are at least two different basic types of relationships – exchange relationships which are based on reciprocity and fairness where individuals expect something in return; and communal relationships which are based on mutual love and concern without expectation of repayment. In romantic relationships, communal relationships are more desirable and are more likely to succeed with closeness and intimacy a key element. Each type provide different tradeoffs with exchange relationships promoting achievement, increase wealth and ultimately drive progress, whereas communal relationships make people feel safe and secure and provide a haven where one feels cared for regardless of what they achieve. It appears that individuals like to explore both types of relationships and work-wise, they participate in exchange relationships, whereas the family unit is established on communal grounds, promoting a greater sense of unity and identity.

Attachment is also important to consider in relationships with individuals using the attachment style they are most familiar with. The four attachment styles secure, preoccupied, dismissing avoidant and fearful avoidant provide the mechanism for behaviour in a relationship. Behaviours such as neediness, insecurity, self-centredness, withdrawn, unavailable can be evident and this can impact on the intimacy and connectedness of the parties. A healthy self esteem, self worth and acceptance are the key to an effective and functioning individual in healthy functioning relationships. Individuals stay in relationships when they are happy and satisfied. The investment model uses three factors, satisfaction, alternatives and investments or sunk costs to explain why people stay with their long term relationship partners. Individuals often weigh up their situation and if there is dissatisfaction and alternatives and the sunk costs are too great, the will move out of the relationship and find someone different. This model can also be articulated to other types of relationships and organisational environments. The success of relationships also depends on the thinking style and patterns of the individuals. Individuals who respect, trust, treat and idealise the other in a positive manner are more likely to have positive acts which build the relationship.

Sexuality is an important part of the relationship with sexual desire and intimacy promoting attachment and helping to build the relationship. Three basic theories provide a frame for the attitudes towards our sexuality – social constructionist theory proposes that sexual attitudes and behaviours are shaped by cultural influences; evolutionary theory asserts that sex drive has been shaped by natural selection and social exchange theory which seeks to understand social behaviour by analysing the costs and benefits of interacting with each other. There are many stereotypes about gender and sexuality. Research supports the view that men have a stronger sex drive than women, men accept sex without love, male sexuality is closer to nature and less affected by culture whereas women’s sexuality is less biological and more tied to social and cultural meanings and women are gatekeepers who restrict sex and decide whether and when it will happen.

Jealousy and possessiveness is an element found in relationships whether they be communal or exchange based, and form when an individual suspects that their partner has been disloyal to them. Sexual jealousy is found in many cultures, whether collectivist or individualist and is a common response to partner infidelity whether it be emotional or sexual.

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

On one of my overseas trips I realised that the thing I treasured the most was people and my relationship with them, whether they were my family back home in Australia or a new person I met in the Spice Market in Istanbul. With relationships comes the nurturing and building each of these special unique interactions. I equate relationships with the cycle of a garden, they need to be weeded, planted, tendered, watered and it is only then they bloom. Not enough time and the garden is in danger of dying.

Personal and romantic relationships need a number of elements – a bank account that is always in credit thus making sure that your part of the ledger has enough favours in it so that you can make a withdrawal if you need to; unconditional love and acceptance of the foibles of the other party and a heart of forgiveness. Business relationships are similar to personal relationships in that they need maintenance with clear definitions of expectations and monitoring of outcomes to ensure conflict is kept at bay. Open communication should be given with a culture of respect, trust and honesty.

The 1st moment of truth, which is the first perception we have of another person is important to the development of the relationship. This could be going on a date for the first time, a job interview or attending the first meeting of the Council. The way in which we act, speak and behave leaves a lasting impression which either helps to build the relationship or leave it where it is. Those moments are hard to replace especially if a faux pas has been made and embarrassment has resulted.

Loneliness and isolation of individuals in society seems to be growing with statistics indicating that more people are living alone. Acts of violence and security issues have also compounded this with fear forcing individuals and especially the elderly to keep to themselves, bolted into their homes. Loneliness links with rejection with individuals withdrawing following rejection, keeping their hurt and grief to themselves. If this is not worked through, this can lead to a downward spiral of physical and mental health issues.


Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.


A group is a collection of at least two people who are doing or being something together. Groups are not just social but also cultural and usually have a common identity, interact frequently with each other, depend on each other, work together on common goals, have common beliefs, values and practices and share emotionally powerful experiences. Benefits to being a group include the access to information, complimentary skills, experience with a variety of specialists able to input into the activities, decisions and outcomes of the group. Each individual within the group usually is committed to the common values and has a defined role and is accountable for the outcome of that role. In this situation they tend to be more careful and thorough in their thinking and cooperate more with others to work towards the common goals of the group.

There is usually a difference in performance when working individually as opposed to a group. Research suggests that the presence of others stimulates a competitive instinct, causing people to work harder especially if the tasks are familiar, easy and well learned behaviours. In the situation that the tasks are difficult and unfamiliar, the response is usually to perform less well, so mistakes become more common when others are watching. The optimal distinctiveness theory proposes that when people feel very similar to others in a group, they seek a way to be different, and when they feel different they try to be more similar. This links clearly to the individual’s sense of belonging and acceptance within the group.

Downsides to group integration is when individuals blend together, they often lose their individuality and merge into the group identity. This causes them to lose their individual accountability and loss of self awareness and can contribute to social loafing where individuals reduce their performance, thus relying on other group members to carry their weight. This can also cause others within the group to also loaf as well. In general, deindividuated people also showed greater signs of antisocial behaviour and aggression because they could not be identified and hid behind the identity of the group. In the communal context, there is the tendency for shared or jointly owned resources to be squandered and not used in an optimal or advantageous fashion. Examples of this is where people take things for themselves even when it hurts the group as a whole – this could relate to time and resources and causes group conflict and a badly managed resources.

Groups use a number of different mechanisms to work effectively together – creative thinking or brainstorming and independent thinking and sharing of ideas are the keys. Commonly groups can adopt specific styles of thought that make the team ineffective and these need to be addressed if they arise - conformity, self censorship, illusion of invulnerability, moral superiority and the tendency to underestimate opponents. There is a risk that group polarization and the tendency to take greater risks as a group than they would as individuals could result in an extreme position rather than using the diversity of the group to get the best result.

Good leadership is important to a group as it brings stability, direction and decisions. Good leaders are seen as having integrity, honesty and good moral character and the vision to see what the group can become or achieve. They have motivation and passions to help the others within the group achieve their potential as well as working towards the goals of the group. Power is an important aspect of leadership and can be used wisely or in an abusive manner. Power has five key effects – emotion, rewards versus punishments, what you can do for me, the duplex mind and the approach versus inhibition. It is usually used as a control mechanism over others especially in the design and monitoring of activities. Leaders who use their power wisely provide influence and direction, motivate the individuals within the group and provide advice on tactics. Individuals with less power usually analyse the leader to determine their behaviours, traits and personality. This gives the individual the foresight of how the leader will act and respond in situations. Individuals with less power are prone to adapt to the expectations of the leader without realising and bring a sense of peace and harmony to the environment.

My Personal ReflectionsEdit

My experience within a religious group was interesting with disindividualisation being common amongst many members. The power was tight and held by a few grey haired men. Whilst there were common rules, these at times were bent for the favoured ones, and new ones introduced for those who didn’t comply or had overstepped the mark. I overstepped the mark one day, and found myself on the other side, cut off from all I knew - my culture, my family and friends. My two crimes were to keep a small book sent to me by my sister (who had been ostracised) and to sign a Confidentiality Agreement for the organisation I worked for. I was able to finally resolve and accept the rejection of my family after many years of reviewing my belief and value systems, learning new cultural practices and making a new path in life.

Maxwell and Dornan’s “Becoming a person of influence” suggests that the key to a leader’s style is their modelling, motivation, mentoring and skill to multiply their style to others. This complements their personal attributes of integrity, nurturing, faith in others, listening, comprehending, stretching, connecting and empowering the people they deal with.

Great leaders who stand out in my psyche are those with courage, integrity, honesty and compassion for others. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lech Walesa, Sir William Deane and Noel Pearson come to mind as leaders who lead their people with these characteristics with a vision for a better world for their people.


Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.

Maxwell, J.C. & Dornan, J. (1997). Becoming a person of influence. Nelson


Prosocial behaviour is defined as doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole and includes behaviour that respects others or allows society to operate. Prosocial behaviour becomes the framework for society to progress and within this are rules to maintain law and order. Society sets rules around obedience, conformity to standards and cooperation with others and these help frame the way in which individuals live, cooperate and live with each other. A happy society is one where individuals cooperate and respect each other, follow rules and contribute to the general welfare. On the other hand, the unhappy society is likely to be full of individuals breaking the rules, and its social life is marked by crime, corruption, distrust, betrayal and wide-ranging general insecurity. Fairness and justice are important factors in predicting prosocial behaviour and this supports the human psyche of a good citizen. Some prosocial behaviour is stimulated by others observing their behaviour and their behaviour making a good impression. These behaviours highlight the individuals self interest and goes a long way to helping the individuals being accepted into a group.

Society often has predefined norms. Those based on fairness include reciprocity or returning a favour, equity or receiving benefits in proportion to what they contribute and equality where everyone gets the same amount irrespective of what they have contributed. Where individuals feel they have over benefited they seek to reciprocate and even the score. In examples where a survivor has lived through a terrible experience where others have died, they feel guilty that they have are still here. Fairness includes treatment of resources leading to sustainable. This rule is the basis for placing limits on many activities like the taking of water, mining resources and clearing of native vegetation.

Cooperation, forgiveness, obedience and conformity are all forms of prosocial behaviour. Cooperation falls within reciprocity with individuals equally working towards common goals for mutual benefit. Successful cooperation depends on communication and if this is difficult, cooperation is hindered. Forgiveness or ceasing to feel angry toward someone who has wronged releases the parties from an obligation. This action has found to provide better physical and mental health benefits to both parties. Obedience is one of the functions that maintain law and order and without it the group degenerates into an ineffective multitude. Individuals are naturally inclined to belong to a group to seek social acceptance and to put others before themselves. When given commands, individuals tend to obey to keep the peace and to belong. Conformity or going along with the crowd is necessary where it puts people first and shows a strong desire to get along with others. Research indicates that individuals conform more to the behaviour of others and in general conform to socials norms more, when others are watching. This supports the view that an individual’s motivation is to gain acceptance and approval from others. People usually have motives for helping others; some may be empathy, altruistic or egotism.

Kin selection theory suggests that individuals have an evolutionary tendency to help people who have their own genes and as such will help their family members and closest relatives more than they help other people. Research indicates the characteristics of someone who wants to provide assistance is based on a helpful personality, similarity with others, gender and the attractiveness of the victim, belief in a just world and the emotion and mood. Males are more likely to provide assistance and females are more likely to receive assistance. Belief in a just world is the assumption that life is essentially fair, that people generally get what they deserve and deserve what they get and help is usually dependent on the helper’s views. If the helper thinks the individual deserves what they go, help is denied, but if the helper desires good outcomes they would most likely provide assistance.

Five steps to helping another includes noticing that something has happened and interpreting its meaning, taking responsibility for providing help and deciding how to help and then providing help. The bystander effect is the finding that people are less likely to offer help when they are in a group than when they are alone. This seems to support the premise that people often look to others for clues about how to behave and others may know something that we don’t know, and so no one does anything! Similarly the diffusion of responsibility is the reduction in feeling responsible that occurs when others are present; and audience inhibition or the failure to help in front of others for fear of feeling like a fool if ones offer of help is rejected all link with the bystander effect. These last two highlight the feelings of inadequacy of the bystander and their fear of responsibility and rejection or the chance of it occurring.

Individuals care about others and want to do what is best for others, they are just uncertain about what to do. By reducing uncertainty through education, providing helpful models and raising awareness of the moral obligation will go a long way to increasing helping by society.

My personal reflectionsEdit

Reflections on Hugh McKay’s “Social Disengagement: A breeding ground for Fundamentalism” is very pointed. He talks about the changes in society – gender, economy, technology and identity - which have occurred with the redefinition of the genders and roles being the stimulus to transform marriage, family, workplace and politics. This time is very similar to the industrial revolution where the wheel transformed the world in this case, not only did women help to breathe new life into an old system, but the changing technologies also forces us to reassess all aspects of our lives.

Changes seen have been the increase in the gap between the top and bottom 20% of household incomes with increasing levels of debt and this growing in light of the financial crisis. Job security has lessened with more casualisation of the workforce. Jobs we didn’t dream of in the 1970’s are now reality and firmly embedded into the job market.

In times like these, people feel a sense of discomfort and can withdraw finding change all too hard, while others embrace and adopt and use the changes to improve their lives. Those that are afraid often turn to religion because it gives a sense of comfort because it gives a sense of meaning and a promise of a life in eternity.

Even though we have moved significantly the gap between indigenous and white Australians is still wide with the average lifespan of an indigenous person being 57 years, high rates of diabetes, glaucoma and heart disease throughout most communities, and infrastructure poorly maintained. Whilst the Australian Government is attempting to improve conditions how long will it be till similar levels of service are enjoyed by both indigenous and whites in urban and rural Australia. There is still work to do.


Baumeister, R.F. & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature. 1st Ed. Thomson Learning Inc.

Mckay, H. (2005). 6th Annual Manning Clark Lecture. Social Disengagement: A Breeding Ground for Fundamentalism


Environmental psychology is the study of the relationship between the human and their environments whether they be natural or artificial. This could be in the sense of what effect we have on our environment or what effect it has on us. As humans we are constantly shaping our environment and making our internal state more content, much in line with what we see as our identity. This is seen in the way we renovate our houses, change our cars and treasure our landscapes. Individuals have a preference for natural environments whether it be a walk through a rainforest, listing to a waterfall or just mucking in the garden. This is seen in the way in which we value our property, those close to nature are valued higher than those in suburbia. Even health systems point to our need for natural environments with the need to have some exposure to natural sunlight which if we dont get can impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. Just think of those in solitary confinement. In the last few decades we are taking our design seriously, looking at our natural environment and protecting it from clearing vegetation, fencing off our streams and degradated land and introducing new farming practices which mimimise tillage. On the consumer front we are recycling more, reducing our use of plastics, and lobbying for green energy.

With climate change and drought on the national agenda, the next ten years will be vastly different from the past. Users will pay for the carbon they use so that measures can be taken to stop the problem exacerbating. Our attitudes and behaviours have changed and this will continue to do so as we look for sustainable living habits. It will be a long journey, but we have started and as scarce resources increase this will become the impetus for change.

Interesting linksEdit

Radio National "By Design" program at discusses environmental design and a couple of recent interesting sessions have included:

James Calder from the architects Woods Bagot who has put forward the concept of a 14-hour city -- the argument being that most of the our buildings lie dormant for half the day -- and the weekends -- and that most of our lives now are too complex to revolve around a 9 to 5 existence.

Alkarim Jivani, writer and journalist, asks why we value originality, from Roman villas to so-called original features beloved of estate agents. He visits Warsaw to discuss the beautiful fake that is the town centre, flattened by the Germans in the Second World War and painstakingly reconstructed in the 1950s. Along the way, in his investigation of the concept of originality in design, Alkarim considers homage, tributes, remakes, restorations and renovations.

Environmental Psychology will create an environment that supports well-being, increases happiness and increases productivity and prosperity.