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Joined 30 July 2008

Social Psychology E-Portfolio 2008Edit

Hi Guys,

Welcome to my E-portfolio for Social Psychology! I hope to post my thoughts, helpful links, questions i've been pondering and perhaps even some images (if i can figure out how) on each of the topics we encounter this semester. I've always been intrigued in societies influence on an individuals thoughts, feelings and behavior and this class is shaping up to be the perfect medium for exploring that interest!

Cheers Nikki

Topic 1: IntroductionEdit

Main Points And Definitions

The first lecture consisted of an introduction to the field including its history , the research methods applied by social psychologists and a brief overview of its scope.

What is Social Psychology? Social Psychology is the study of the impact of real and imagined social influences on the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of individuals. This encompasses interpersonal relationships, cultural influences, group dynamics and any other number of interactions human beings are involved in. This field has applications in anthropology, economics, history, political science and sociology just to name a few.

Social Perception: How we interpret and identify the social aspects of our world.

Social Influence: The impact our society (others) has on our attitudes and belief systems.

Social Interaction: The way we respond, communicate and exist with others in our society.

Major Contributors To The Field: Triplett (first social experiments 1898), Allport (attitudes and authoritarian personality), Thurstone (attitude scaling), Gestalt Theorists (Group processes), Milgrim (Obedience)[2], Zimbardo (Roles)[3], Festinger (Attribution theory), Tajfel (Social Identity Theory) and Moscovici (Minority influence). (Links are also included to famous experiments conducted by Zimbardo and Milgrim. Click and check them out!)

Reductionism: Ignoring the impact of social influence and explaining behavior based on the individual and situation.

Positivism: An unchallenged reliance on scientific methodology for research.

Further Research

The introduction to societies impact on the individual inspired me to find some social research that had been conducted in the field already. The first, conducted in 2001 looked at the influence culture and society had on a college students memory, specifically their earliest recollections. Students from both American and Chinese universities (N=256) were compared. Interestingly, there were clear differences in the quality and quantity of the students responses. Chinese students tended to give concise, emotionless, collective responses where as American students gave in depth, self-focused and emotionally linked answers. This study indicates the effect culture has on our autobiographical memory and the young age at which it can be impacted.

To read more search Ebsco: Wang, Q. (2001). Cultural effects on adults earliest recollection and self-description: implication for the relation between memory and the self, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,81(2), 220-233.

This is a link to Dr Stanton Peel discussing research on cross-cultural research on alcoholism. He offers his personal opinion and outlines the experiments results. [4]

What came first the chicken or the egg? This came to mind in relation to societal influence and individual behavior. How are social norms that influence our behavior created without some starting point of individual expression and how would an individual know how to act without first being a member of a society. Bevir (1996) discusses this question in his article The individual and society. He posits that both are dependent upon one another for there existence. Society and the Individual is a reciporical relationship which begins with vague concepts of the individual and social structure.

To read more search Ebsco: Bevir, M. (1996). The individual and society, Political Studies, 102-114.

Experiments on animals are very often employed to make inferences to human behavior. Research on Chimps, being one of our closest relatives is incredibly interesting. Whiten (2005) explores Chimp society and how it is forms and operates.

To read more search Ebsco: Whiten, A. (2005). Conformity to cultural norms of tool use in chimpanzees, Nature, 437, 29.

Topic 2: Social SelfEdit

"A man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him . . . [and] generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups." (William James, 1950)

What is the Self?

The concept of self appears to be by no means a simple one. Traditional explanations amounting it to stable personality traits seem to fall short of encompassing the complexity of the word. Observable personality traits are very rarely in my experience in perfect congruence with a person's internal reality. This raises the question then: which part is the true "self"? Is it the behaviour and actions that the person displays to the world or is it their internal view of the world that is less readily expressed? Newer theories of self broaden the scope to allow for evolution and change. James Neill highlighted in his 2nd lecture contemporary thinking describing the self as "dynamic and changeable, multiple and plural, hierarchical, situationally and cognitively influenced and culturally constructed." Such a broad explanation seems to include all components of self but in my mind makes a clear concept hard to pin down. This is further complicated by the concepts of a perceived self and the ideal self. If a large incongruence exists between the two it can have a significant effect on an individuals well-being. An interesting study was undertaken in 1989 on this discrepancy between ideal and perceived self in a sample of strippers (Peretti, 1989). Participants were assessed for both and then the degree of discrepancy was calculated. The study found that those with high incongruence between the two were far more likely to score poorly in scores emotional stability. This effect given the profession may be exaggerated but it does highlight the importance of the self and our concept of it.

To read more search Ebsco: Peretti, P.(1989). Effects of incongruence of the perceived self and ideal self on emotional stability of stripteasers, Social Behaviour and Personality, 17, 81-92.

Social Self: The social self is the part of the self devoted to interpersonal interaction. It includes social roles we engage in and the identity we draw from them.

Self Esteem: Refers to ones assessment of his or her own self worth. It can include how orientated one is to themselves and how much they like who they are. Social norms and pressure can often effect this appraisal. A study was conducted in America to determine the effect of perceived discrimination on self-esteem (Major, 2007). Participants who were part of a minority "out group" were assessed on self esteem levels and selected world views. Participants who strongly believed in success being earned rejected perceived discrimination. However those who felt trapped by their minority's place in society took discrimination as a confirmation of their worth. Resulting in lower self-esteem.

To read more search Ebsco: Major, B. (2007). Perceived discrimination as world view threat world view confirmation: Implications for self-esteem, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,6, 1068-1086.

Self-Concept:An individuals cognitive appraisal of the self.

Self-Efficacy: A person's belief in their ability to master, learn or succeed in tasks given to them.

Body Image

I found some really great videos on the distortions that can take place in the media. When watching them you have no doubt why body image is such a big issue in our contemporary society!

Dove Commercial: [5]

Some Stats: [6]

A personal story of anorexia: [7]

American College Students talking about body image and the Media:[8]

Hundreds of Americans were interviewed and their answers were made into a cartoon. ENJOY! [9]

As a young female I'm acutely aware and interested in the topic of body image. Not a week goes by that me or one of my close female friends doesn't have doubts about their appearance. Many conversations centre on fashion, makeup, workout tips etc all designed to improve our outward exteriors. There is no doubt in my mind that much of the pressure felt by people concerned with their body image is socially influenced. Many desperately try to conform to some expected ( and often impossible) ideal. These ideals have changed drastically too in a relatively short amount of time. Once Marilyn Munroe (a size 14-16) was a symbol of almost perfect beauty however now she'd be a plus size model, far to shapely for regular fashion. A recent longtitudinal study (N=150 girls, M= 10.2 years) found that girls who considered themselves the most different from societal ideals had the lowest opinion of their own bodies (Clark, 2008). Interestingly girls who were less different but had high levels of internalization of social ideals also had poor body image. The part the media plays in this has been highly topical of late. Magazines containing pre-pubescent body shapes as a goal for mature women, air-brushing and articles about the latest celeb to get "fat", grace many coffee tables. A meta-analysis of 77 studies examining the effect of media on image disturbance in women was conducted recently (Grabe, 2008). It found an average effect size of about .3 which seems reasonably large when you look at the plethora of other variables that could be involved. What is clear is that body image has become a major issue in our society, for both men and women.

To read more: Clark, L. (2008). Sociocultural and individual predictors of body image in young girls, Developmental Psychology, 44, 1114-1121.

Grabe, S. (2008). The role of media in body image concerns among women: a meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies, Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 460-476

Topic 3: Social ThinkingEdit

Social Thinking: Social Cognition

Social Perception: How people create frameworks or impressions of other people.

Cognitive Miser: A cognitive shortcut to conserve the bodies energy.

Schema: cognitive maps of ideas and concepts that are stored in order to effectively understand the world.

Framing: The context of a situation can alter its interpretation. This reality has always interested me in relation to propaganda, mass media and political campaigns. Many times watching the news i wonder if certain stories would have ever seen the light of day without them being presented in the context of recent events or political pushes. A recent example is the problems with Qantas aircraft. While the original story reflected a genuine issue, subsequent stories highlighted routine problems that without being in the context of the original story would never have been shown. It makes me wonder whether many of the issues we hear about repeatedly ie. global warming, economic crisis etc are simply a snowball of over emphasized interpretations based on a growing context of social fear. How much of scientific research, political decision making or social prejudice is based on these exaggerated contexts. This reality is clear when depicted in a visual way. People will display very different reactions to the same picture depending on their personal experiences or perceptions.

Cute common pet or Peruvian delicacy? This would depend on the social context we had used to frame this picture. [1]

Attribution Theory: The concept that individuals strive to find information to explain the causes of events and situations.

Attribution Theory and Religion When learning of attribution theory it occured to me that there may be some link between the human need to explain causation and our propensity to form religions. Might we seek meaning in higher powers due to a fundamental need to explain the events of our world? Spilka (1985) discusses the link in the article 'A General Attribution Theory for the Psychology of Religion.' It maintains that religion can give a person a sense of meaning, feelings of control over outcomes and self esteem, all researched motives of attribution theory. Religion may allow us to predict and control the uncontrollable through faith, prayer and ritual. Find meaning where none is easily found: divine purpose. Those events that are unexplainable can in fact be explained by a God, sin and salvation. Often religion portrays the world as just and fair. That events occur for a purpose and not just arbitrarily. It seems that religion can go a long way to satisfying those drives explained by Attribution Theory.

To Read More: Spilka, B., Shaver, P., & Kilpatrick, L. (1985). A general attribution theory for the psychology of religion,Journal of the scientific Study of Religion, 24, 1-20.

Do we use religion as a way of explaining the causes we can't otherwise explain? Mental illness was often explained by demonic possession before the scientific causes where understood.

Fundamental Attribution Error and Disability

The fundamental attribution error refers to the tendency to assume that an individuals behavior in a certain situation is indicative of their enduring personality traits. I've noticed while working as a carer that this occurs in relation to those with disabilities regularly. Instead of outbursts, misbehavior or breaking the rules being examined for situational triggers, it is very quickly attributed to their disability. Unfortunately this means that very little is changed or solved and their reactions continue. One experience i had of this was a client who became very frustrated and violent on a trip to the pool. He was yelled at, punished and banned from returning however when i investigated further his frustration seemed quite warranted. This client had lost a family member, been picked up late for this excursion and had had five different casual unqualified staff looking after him all in the last week. He was deemed unsuitable for such activities instead of seeing the behavior as a reaction to a horrible week. I've also seem clients get away with murder with new carers because the carer assumes they can't help it, when i know they can. It also happens when clients are required to learn new skills or perform tasks they don't enjoy. Many of them will be inattentive or bored as are most people in this situation. However, instead of explaining inattention through the fact the task is boring, many are simply seen as unable to learn the skill or finish the task. This scenario occurs in many facets of their lives and often they learn to use it in their favor, avoiding things they don't want to do. Its vitally important that people with a disability like anyone, are judged based on both their behaviours and the context in which they occur. There has been some interesting research into fundamental attribution error in those with disabilities. One such study looked at carer reactions to challenging behaviors of those with intellectual disabilities (Weigel, 2006). The researchers concluded that a high rate of fundamental attribution error was occurring within the sample group.

To Read More: Weigel, L. (2006). Challenging behaviour and learning disabilities: The relationship between expressed emotion and staff attributions, British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 205-216.

Topic 4: AggressionEdit

Aggression: The conscious intention to harm another. Subtypes: Hostile-impulsive, heated intention to cause injury. Instrumental- planned, cold and calculated intention to harm someone. Passive-inflicting pain upon another by withholding a behavior. Active:- performing intentional behaviors designed to harm another.

Aggression: What is it good for?

It is clear that aggression and aggressive behaviours are present in everyday human existence. The question is why? Why can't we "make love not war." The answer appears to be based on evolution and survival. In the Week 4 lecture given by James Neill five reasons where highlighted. The first is that aggression has particular benefits for survival and protection. Watts and Mitani (2001) examined this reason for aggression in a Chimpanzee community at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda. They found members of different groups involved in boundary patrolling and inter-group aggression. Those groups who patrolled more regularly and where highly aggressive saw benefits in group member protection, territory expansion and the quality of food available to them. Clearly aggression can aid in many aspects of survival including safety and resources. James's second answer was that aggression assisted in the protection of young. Gammie & Nelson (2005) studied the presence of aggression in female dwarf hamsters. They found high levels of maternal aggression including attack behaviours such as boxing, biting and clawing. These attacks lasted on average 80 secs or more. The researchers highlight the particular strength of maternal aggression in mammals. This ability to fearlessly and tirelessly defend ones young fits with the importance of offspring survival in the evolutionary perspective. The third benefit of aggression was that aggression forces competing groups not to inhabit one particular area and exhaust its resources. Territories are formed in which resources are used across a wider spread. Moinar & Cerda (2008) found in a study of urban youths that level of neighborhood resources was significantly correlated with violent and aggressive behaviors. As resources where strengthened youth involvement in violence dropped. This study demonstrates the effect that resources can have on aggression. In an urban environment where space and resources are low, aggression spikes. Aggression is also useful in establishing hierarchies in society. Forkham & Haskell (2004) studied the maintenance of such hierarchies in hen. The findings support the suppression hypothesis that posits that dominance is established from an initial aggressive encounter but is maintained by the dominant animal continually attacking the sub-ordinate animal to condition submission. Being more aggressive therefore appears to benefit an individual in both establishing themselves within a social hierarchy and also maintaining it. Finally James spoke of aggression being important to establishing bonds and mating. Hohmann & Fruth (2003) investigated the significance of aggressive behaviors in mating practices of Bonobos. A complex interplay was found with intrasexual aggression being used to influence the the sexual success of competitors and intersexual aggression sometimes proceeding mating. It is clear that aggression has many social applications despite being unpleasant. Without competition and aggressive behavior perhaps we would have difficulty protecting our offspring and group members or producing hierarchies. We might live to close together and overuse our resources (although this appears to be happening anyway) and perhaps our mating habits would be considerably impacted. Aggression has a place in society so although "make love not war" may be enticing, its practical application might not be.

To read more: Watts, D., & Mitani, J. (2001). Boundary patrols and inter-group encounters in wild chimpanzee, Behaviour, 138, 299-337, Gammie, S., & Nelson, R. (2005). High maternal aggression in dwarf hamsters, Aggressive Behavior, 31, 294-302., Moinar, E., & Cerda, S. (2008). Effects of neighborhood resources on aggressive and delinquent behaviors among urban youths, American Journal of Public Health, 98, 1086-1095. Forkham, B., & Haskell,M. (2004). The maintenance of stable dominance hierarchies and the pattern of aggression: support for the suppression hypothesis, Ethology, 110, 737-744. Hohmann, G., & Fruth, B. (2003). Inter and intra-sexual aggression by Bonobos in the context of mating, Behaviour, 140, 1389-1413.

Gender Differences

It appears that there are significant differences in how aggression is shown between the sexes. Research tends to indicate that men are far more physically aggressive where as women are more verbally so. Any high school yard in the country will demonstrate these differences. A dispute between hormone filled boys is often settled with a mild physical skirmish on the oval however female aggression can sometimes be far more subversive. It may involve rumor spreading, social exclusion or intense teasing. Both are demonstrating an intent to harm another however they are manifested in different ways. Richardson & Green (1999) studied these differences in the context of two theories that explain why this occurs. The first is the social sanction model. It purports that as social attitudes to the acceptance of aggression is different for each sex how it is externalised is different. It is not as socially acceptable for a women to get in a punch up therefore more indirect aggression is used. The second theory is based on threat. Two premises are made in this theory. The first is that mean are more likely to perceive threat in their interpersonal relationships. The second is that men are more likely to respond to a perceived threat with violence. Therefore men are more likely to display violent aggressive behaviours. The study found evidence for both these theories and suggested that further study is needed to assess the interplay between them.

To Read More: Richardson, D., & Green, L. (1999). Social sanction and threat explanations of gender effect on direct and indirect aggression, Aggressive Behaviour, 25, 425-434.

Here is a link to a great online research paper on aggression. Its all about gender differences and similarities in how aggression manifests within the sexes. [10]

Men tend to be more physically aggressive where as women tend to utilise verbal attacks

Social Learning Theory and Aggression

Social Learning Theory posits that aggression is not the product of innate tendencies but instead the demonstration of observational learning. Albert Bandura conducted research on the effect observation learning could have on a child's response to a Bobo Doll. Live, videotaped and cartoon variables where utilised. Aggressive behaviour toward the Bobo doll increased significantly in the children witnessing violence than control subjects. In particular those who witnessed a live demonstration of poor Bobo being beaten up. Such findings have a huge impact on our understanding of aggressive behaviour. As such further research into the effect of social learning on aggression has been undertaken. O'Carroll & O'Neal (1977) conducted followup research with bobo dolls to assess the effect peers had on aggression. Eighty children either watched an example of aggressive behaviour, had a confederate aggressive peer or both. Aggression was highest when subjects witnessed aggression on film and then where encouraged by a peer. When the peer was not aggressive these behaviours where also decreased in the subject. This study highlights the complex interplay of observational learning and social influence. Here is a link to some info on social learning theory [11]

To read more: O'Carroll, M., & O'Neal, E. (1977). Influence upon imitative aggression and an imitative peer, Journal of Social Psychology, 101, 313-314.

Here is a link to a You Tube Video of Bandura's famous BoBo Doll experiments on observational learning in particular aggression.[12]

Dr Albert Bandura talking about social learning theory and social change in a 2007 conference. Very long but very interesting and discusses modern social issues. [13]

Topic 5: PrejudiceEdit

Segregation: a practical example of prejudice

Prejudice: negative affect targeted at an individual based purely on their being part of a particular group.

Racism: negative beliefs or attitudes based on prejudiced affect for a particular race.

Aversive Rascism: Coined "modern racism" it the maintenance of socially acceptable values of equality while still displaying prejudiced attitudes or behaviors.


A= Affect- Prejudiced feeling B= Behavior- Discrimination (biased treatment based on group membership) C=Cognitive- Stereotyping (assuming certain traits based on group membership)

Modern Racism

Racism has changed. Especially in the community within which i live and work. I've witnessed the differences in generations. I have a very close friend Percy who is an 85 year old retired farmer. He has absolutely no problem talking about "what the bloody black fella's" are up too. He has clear attitudes about gender roles. So much so that when he witnessed me mowing the lawn one day he made me stop and made my dad do it. However among my peers prejudice is a much fuzzier and ambiguous reality. I will never forget sitting among my group of friends discussing the Tampa Crisis in high school. We were all well educated middle class girls and yet i had no idea of the depth of prejudice that was surrounding me. I spoke of concern for the boat people and anger at the government response. My girlfriend turned to me and said "yeah but they are probably terrorists." I tried to explain where they had come from and that they included women and children. No amount of explanation could sway the groups opinion. However when asked wether they thought they were prejudiced all would deny it vehemently. Modern racism often seems veiled in excuses or reasons for discriminatory behavior. Old Percy will just tell you he doesn't like the "slopes, poofters, black fella's." I wonder how much a qualitative improvement it has made. At least overt racism can be actively dealt with, modern racism is far less easy to pin down and perhaps just as insidious.

Swim (1995) conducted a study to examine the more subtle forms of sexism in society. The study found that sexism has shifted from overt behaviors such as differential treatment, support for traditional gender roles and stereotypes about the "weaker" sex. To more subtle sexism such as denial of discrimination, belittling of female demands for equality and lack of support for policies designed to ensure equality. Take paid maternity leave as a clear example. The study developed a modern sexism scale designed to assess the changing face of prejudice in contemporary society.

To read more: Swim, J. (1995). Sexism and Racism: Old-Fashioned and Modern Prejudices, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(2), 199-214.

This is a very interesting video about racism in modern America. It gives some statistics but also some effective methods for combating the more subtle racism of today. [14]

This is a pretty funny on how just a change in clothing can affect people's prejudices. The guy in this video does two trails. The first fairly well dressed, the second poorly. He then precedes to see how many high fives he can get! [15].

Easily Divided

One of the scariest demonstrations to come out of the Zimbardo mock jail experiments (see video above) was how easily it seems to divide people into groups. Once in these groups, regardless of how arbitrarily they were selected participants behaved terribly towards each other. Such meaningless divisions don't seems to have genetic or evolutionary component. Perhaps we are so comfortable with in-group and out-group distinctions that we prefer them. Certainly it seems to be self-affirming to know you are part of a larger group. Pratto (2000) found when participants were shown in-group and out-group words such as "us" and "them" they preferred in-group words significantly more often. This bias seems to begin at a young age. Abound (2003) found that pre-schoolers developed in-group favoritism by the age of five. Our lives appear to be ruled by group membership making a world without at least subtle prejudice seem almost impossible.

To read more: Aboud (2003). The formation of in-group favoritism and out-group prejudice in young children: Are there distinct attitudes?, Developmental Psychology, 39(1), 48-60.

Ghosts of Rwanda

I was deeply disturbed by the events depicted in this film. Also at my lack of knowledge prior to watching this documentary. It gave me a sense of hopelessness, anger and frustration. Hopelessness because this was never supposed to happen again and yet it did. Anger at humanity and the atrocities we commit. Incredible frustration to see that politics and bureaucracy rather than ethics or morals seem to drive international decision making. The genocide committed by the Hutu's shows prejudice and hatred in its most active form. However to me other forms of prejudice where apparent in the shocking events that took place in Rwanda. The international community did nothing. Repeatedly they did nothing in the face of what seemed like unquestionable evidence. What stopped them intervening? As Bill Clinton so shamefully admitted, America's involvement was dependent not on genocide but on wether it was in the interests of Americans. Borders, countries, religions place us in groups. These groups seem to determine in part our concern for others in that group. The more alike we are, the more likely we are to assist those people in need. The Tutsi's weren't American, they didn't speak english, they weren't even white. Unfortunately these differences seem to have been more important to the international community than the one glaring similarity...they where human and in extreme distress. Do you suppose the same inaction would have occurred if the Tutsi's had been white? If they'd been European? If they'd been American! Do you think they would have argued the legal definition of "genocide" if Americans were being slaughtered? It frustrates and confuses me why borders and religion make one human life more important to save than another. I'm in no way innocent of this insidious prejudice. When watching the news of some tragedy overseas my ears prick up when the number of "australian" casualties are announced. I don't do it consciously but when travelling i often gravitate toward people most similar to me. This underlying prejudice that humans seem to hold was made tragically clear in Rwanda. Of course the biggest question that arises for me whenever i learn about such horrific atrocities is why? How do humans do these things to each other? What culmination of events influences people enough to murder and slaughter others? I can't imagine ever being able to commit such acts however it scares me immensely that entire populations can be effected in this way. Maybe i could have murdered Jews if i'd grown up in Nazi germany? Everything in my fibre says no but people do, people no different to you and me.

The remains of victims of the Rwandan genocide

A Rwandan Genocide survivor speaking of her experience and the long road to a genocide free world. [16]

This is a conference given by Harvard Social Psychologist Dr. Mahzarin speaking about unconscious prejudice. It begins with the Ex seinfeld star who came under intense scrutiny for "racist" comments he made during a show. He insists he is not a conscious rascist but that it is an unconscious reality for him. Dr. Mahzarin discusses research she's done in the area. Very interesting! [17] Part 2 [18]

Comic vid from the Monty Python guys called "Prejudice." Set as a game show, it makes you cringe. Enjoy! [19]

Jane Elliot's Blue Eye/Brown Eye Experiments

How would it feel to be judged purely on eye colour?

The footage of Jane Elliot's social experimentation with prejudice is both confronting and an incredibly poignant example of the arbitrary nature of prejudice. In her class room she mocked, maligned, crushed and made inferior those based purely on their eye colour. One observer of later adult studies said "It won't help much to be prepared to face Jane Elliott. This elderly woman will tear down any shield. Even we, the spectators in blue eyed, can't get rid of this feeling of uneasiness, embarrassment, anxiety and utterly helpless hatred when she starts keeping people down, humiliating them, deriding them, incapacitating them. No doubt about this: for three quarters of the time in this documentation Jane Elliott is the meanest, the lowest, the most detestful, the most hypocritical human being hell has ever spit back on earth. But she should be an example for all of us." Unfortunately for participants, especially those children she humiliated the impact was lower test scores, motivation and increased frustration. In my view Jane Elliot acted in a glaringly unethical way despite the positive intentions of the research. It did however make me think that although much prejudice is based on religious and cultural differences, prejudice based on shallow physical characteristics is common within our society. Take kids with red hair for example. They are subjected to relentless name calling and teasing based purely on their hair colour. Fat people, tall people, freckled people, ugly people, bald people, any person who sways from typicality can be targeted. It truly highlights how pointless and shallow prejudice is. Perhaps it also highlights the human tendency to search for defining differences in others. Watching Jane Elliot's experiment was disturbing for two reasons; its ethical weaknesses and how disturbingly easy it was.

For any one who missed it. [20] [21]

Topic 6: RelationshipsEdit

The Need to Belong

Humans appear to have an innate need to belong. We seem driven to seek close relationships, social contact and love. The importance of these connections are demonstrated in the lengths people will go to maintain them and the impact social isolation has. We feel safe with the people we love, they provide stability and strength. You miss them when you no longer have access to that social network. I know this from the experience of going and living overseas. Suddenly i didn't belong. I felt unsafe, unsure and i did everything in my power to begin to belong in this new environment. It was an eye opening experience and it made it apparent how much we rely on our inner circle for reassurance and love. Oldfield, Mclaren & McLachlan (2003) investigated how important a sense of belonging is and its predictive quality for mental health and well being. A sample of university staff at Ballarat university where assessed for sense of belonging, well-being and mental health. The study found that those with a lower sense of belonging had strong intentions to leave the university. Also those with a high sense of belonging reported lower stress levels and better overall health. Mclaran (2003) also conducted research into the effect belonging has on a sample of lesbian Australians. Results lesbians to have a lower sense of belonging than heterosexual subjects and higher stress and anxiety. Within the lesbian sample alone those who felt more connected was related to better mental health. Its clear from this research and studies like it that a sense of belonging very important to human health and well-being.

To Read More: Oldfield, S., Mclaren, S., & Mclachlan, A. (2003). Sense of belonging as a predictor of mental and physical health in regional university staff, Australian Journal of Psychology, 55, 201-203. Mclaren, S. (2003). Lesbians living in Australia: Sense of belonging and mental health, Australian Journal of Psychology, 55, 197-200.

Similarity & Attraction

The old adage is that opposites attract. However, research seems to indicate the opposite. We seem to form lasting relationships with people who are similar in intelligence, attitudes, education, socio-economic status and of similar physical attractiveness. Personally i don't think this equates to the more similar the higher the compatibility but rather a optimal amount of same-ness. I think people need to have some unifying qualities, some kind of shared understanding of a culture or class. However it think when people become to similar boredom and eventual break-up is the result. I think a certain amount of similarity with a bit of divergent thinking to make things interesting is the perfect combination. Of course i have absolutely no empirical evidence to support this opinion, it is simply my experience. On the other hand Lehr (2006) found attitude similarity to be significantly predictive of participants "like" of potential mates.

To Read More: Lehr, A. (2006). Differential effects of reciprocity and attitude similarity across long- versus short term mating contexts, Journal of Social Psychology, 146, 423-429.

Beauty and its Benefits

Claudia Schiffer: A western ideal of beauty?

It has always intrigued me that beauty is held in such high esteem in our society. Beautiful people appear to live with an ease that those less fortunate must strive for. Evolutionary psychology explains that our fascination with beauty stems from its association with health, prosperity and reproductive value. This may go some way to understanding the power of beauty in our society but i feel the endless pursuit of beauty, the diets, the makeup, the magazines, the celebrity worship, must have some other component. Why is Paris Hilton on the cover of every magazine and not nobel prize winners? It makes no sense! Beauty appears to be a serious commodity these days. Its bought, sold and traded in unbelievable proportions. Its used as a marketing tool. However, even those who hit the genetic jackpot face hurdles in the future. Beauty fades and as such those who have built identities on their looks suffer. Wonderlich (2005) studied this reality in participants who had been childhood beauty contestants. In adulthood beauty queens had poorer body satisfaction, interpersonal trust and impulse control. The importance placed on beauty is a social issue that won't quickly be remedied. It effects both those who aren't considered beautiful as well as those who are!

To Read More: Wonderlich, A. (2005).Childhood Beauty Pageant Contestants: Associations with Adult Disordered Eating and Mental Health, Journal of Eating Disorders, 13, 219-223.

Venezuela's obsession with beauty: This vid looks at how beauty is revered in this South American country [22]


Love: What is it?

There are two types of love. Passionate love refers to a strong, intense desire for someone else. Being with and around them is thrilling and when you can't see them you long for the time when you can. Compassionate love on the other hand refers to a deep affection that results from mutual respect, understanding, history and commitment. The latter is an important to component to successful marriage. There are three main theories about how love manifests. The first is Sternberg's Triangular Model of Love. This theory emphasises three components of love: passion, intimacy and commitment. The strength of feeling is determined by the combined strength of each of these parts. The type of love experienced is dependent on the strength of each relative to each other. In this way different types of love can be explained by a combination of each components strength. For example infatuated love is driven by passion with minimal to weak intimacy or commitment.

Sternberg's Triangle of Love

The second theory is Schachter's two factor theory of emotion. This theory posits that emotion is the result of two factors, physical arousal and cognitive appraisal. Emotion is the result of cognitive appraisals of physical reactions. Schachter undertook experiments injecting undergrads with adrenaline and then manipulating their appraisals. To read more about it go to this wiki pagew:Two_factor_theory_of_emotion. Hatfield and Walster developed a three factor theory of romantic love. Like Schachter physiological arousal is a component however they also include cultural exposure and the presence of an appropriate love object as factors in romantic love. Cultural exposure refers to the presence of cultural expectations of love and a love object means someone who is appealing and compatible. So according to this theory we as people living within a culture that provides high expectation of romantic love just need to be physically aroused by the right person. It makes it sound so easy! Although reducing love to its component parts might seem incredibly unromantic, a clear understanding of what causes these emotions may assist in us understanding how to maintain them. With such a high divorce rate such research is a social necessity!!

Sexuality: Nature or Nurture

This was my essay topic this semester so i thought i might as well post my essay so other people can read what i found.

Human sexuality encompasses how people feel and express themselves as sexual beings. This may manifest in behaviours, attitudes and ideologies. Like most behaviours psychology has sought to discover what determines individual differences in sexuality. As is often the case in science, explanation of sexuality is divided into two camps. The first nature, is the perspective that explains sexuality through biological and genetic factors. The second, nurture refers to environmental factors such the impact of society and culture. This paper will look at the established efficacy of both. However, the main aim is to encourage the utility of neither one nor the other but instead the interaction of both.

Nature refers to those qualities in an individual that are innate (Duane, 2004). Therefore, sexuality according to the perspective of nature is simply the result of innate tendencies, biology and genetics. Traditionally scientific investigation has utilised twin studies to ascertain the genetic contribution of a certain trait. This procedure has been applied to the study of sexuality and the contribution nature makes. Kirk, Bailey & Martin (2000) conducted one such study on a large Australian twin sample. Participants where assessed for orientation of sexual feelings, homosexual experience, attitude to homosexuality and number of sexual partners. Significant heritability was established with genetic influences accounting for 42-60 per cent of the variance for these variables. Likewise, Cherkas (2004) conducted research into the heritability of female sexual behaviour. Each set of twins was assessed for lifetime number of sexual partners and attitudes to infidelity. Results found that 40 per cent of the variance could be explained by genetic contribution. Such research indicates the importance of familial heritability in human sexuality.

One famous case study also highlights the impact that nature has on sexual orientation. The John/Joan case refers to the life of David Reimer who after a tragic accident at age one lost his penis (Hausman, 2000). Subsequently, doctors felt the best course of action was to raise David as a female. Consulting psychologist John Money reported the sexual reassignment a success and evidence of the importance of nurture in gender identity and sexuality. Brian, David’s twin brother was used as the perfect control subject. Unfortunately, David reported never feeling like a female and suffered severe depression as a result. When told of his gender reassignment David chose to return to being male. Later he married a woman however he led a troubled life culminating in suicide. So despite Money’s claims that nurture was predominant in sexual development, this case indicates that physical traits are difficult to escape. One of the leading perspectives in sexuality research that emphasises innate tendencies of sexuality is evolutionary theory. This theory explains sexuality in contemporary society as the culmination of centuries of adaptive sexual tendencies being passed down through generations (Buss, 1998). This application of Darwin’s theory does not equate natural selection to survival but rather that those who practiced sexually adaptive behaviours simply had more offspring. In other words the sexual characteristics of humans today is based on traits that led to sexual reproduction and the care of offspring (Looy, 2001). Evolutionary perspective proponents cite several characteristics of modern sexuality that support this premise.

One sexual phenomenon often cited by evolutionary theorists are the differences in male and female sexuality. Oliver & Hyde (1993) conducted a meta-analysis of 177 studies of gender differences in sexuality. They found considerable differences in propensity to masturbate, attitudes toward casual sex, number of sexual partners and frequency of intercourse. Males scored significantly higher in all categories. Evolutionary theory would explain this through human biology and the differences in costs between genders associated with reproduction (Buss, 1998). Women are unable to produce more than one offspring every nine months making multiple partners and casual intercourse impractical. They must also therefore pick the most genetically suitable partner. Men on the other hand can procreate frequently with little personal cost. Therefore, it follows that women will be highly selective of sexual partners in order to reproduce and ensure their offspring is provided for. For men it makes evolutionary sense to inseminate as many women as possible to ensure his genetic make up continues (Schmitt, 2003). Evolutionary theorists propose this accounts for gender differences in attitudes to casual sex and promiscuity. Evolutionary researchers also find evidence for the efficacy of this theory in trends in mate selection (Buss, 1998). To ensure the best outcome for future offspring it would be beneficial for men to choose sexual partners based on aspects of women that indicate fertility and health and for women to choose based on the males ability to provide for both her and future offspring. Cunningham & Russell (2004) conducted a study on 143 participants to assess the efficacy of gender differences in mate selection. The study did indeed find men to place greater importance on physical attractiveness and women to value commitment and status in a partner. However, the study also found that both genders may engage in trade-offs to ensure commitment tendencies. This also fits, in an evolutionary sense, as women want to ensure they are not left to raise offspring alone and for males that the offspring are indeed his.

Such evidence is compelling however evolutionary theory falls short in fully explaining human sexuality. Gannon (2002) critiqued evolutionary psychology research and found a tendency to dismiss any result seen to invalidate the theory. This leaves considerable gaps in our understanding of sexuality. Instead of relying on one perspective, a multidisciplinary approach should be utilised to ensure a complete comprehension of human sexuality. This means crossing the fence and also analysing sexuality based on theories of nurture. The concept of nurture refers to the relative importance that environment, upbringing, experience and learning has on behaviour (Parker, 1998). In sexuality research, this may be the effect that culture, upbringing, the media, education and society have on sexual development. One of the leading theories of the nurture perspective is the social constructionist model.

The social constructionist model posits that the concept of sexuality is formed differently across culture and time. Sexual behaviours and attitudes therefore are the product of the culture in which they belong and socialization they are exposed too (Cardoso, 2008). The sexual revolution of the sixties saw attitudes towards sexuality change rapidly indicating the efficacy of such a theory. Within a decade the sexual ideals of the fifties; reproduction, monogamy, fidelity, virginity and abstinence, where seen as products of repression (Sigusch, 2001). Since this rapid shift in sexual attitude, sexuality has continued to be socially influenced. According to the social constructionist model the development of TV media, the Aids epidemic, the internet and the invention of Viagra all would impact sexuality in contemporary culture (Steele, 1999). Despite appearing to be logical assumptions, empirical research is needed to assess the contribution culture and society has on sexuality.

Wells & Twenge (2005) attempted to assess the extent to which sexual attitudes and behaviour has changed in young adults between 1943-1999. A meta-analysis was conducted on 530 studies concluding that significant transformation has been seen in both genders. Both men and women have become more sexually active and begun sexual intercourse earlier. Sexual attitudes to premarital sex have gone from 12% approval to 73% believing it to be acceptable behaviour. Guilt over sexual expression has decreased. Such findings support the impact nurture and society has on sexuality. Relatively rapid change such as this cannot easily be explained by biology or evolution and therefore strengthen the part culture plays in sexuality. Research conducted on what influences sexuality now, further supports the nurture perspective and the social constructionist model. One such study was conducted on Hispanic adolescents to assess the impact of family, society and peer groups on sexual expression (Christopher, Johnston & Roosa, 1993). Social influence was measured as peer involvement and had the largest effect, with family and sexual attitudes also having significant impact on sexual expression. Adolescence is a time of change and sexual experimentation. As such it provides a window into the development of sexuality. Another study conducted on this age group assessed the social pressures placed on adolescent females to conform to gender roles and adopt heterosexuality (Hyde & Jaffe, 2000). They measured social messages being communicated to the girls from peers, family, schools and mass media. All four where found to encourage traditional gender roles, anti-gay attitudes and encourage heterosexuality. Such pressure at a sensitive time in sexual development appears to be a strong influence on adolescent female sexuality. Smylie, Medagalia & Maticka’s (2006) findings support this premise. They investigated the impact social capital had on adolescent sexual risk taking behaviours. They found level of social capital including group and organizational membership to be significantly predictive of adolescent risk behaviours. With the advent of TV media and the inter-net adolescents and adults alike are bombarded with images every. Research into its impact on social attitudes of sexuality has followed. Brown (2002) found that mass media provides a stage for sexual behaviour norms. Analyses revealed that media reinforces a fairly constant set of sexual behaviours and relationship ideals. However, results also indicated media rarely portrays safe or responsible sexual practices. The media also has been utilised as a platform for changing social thinking. Will & Grace and Dawson’s Creek have been wildly popular shows despite both containing confronting homosexual characters. Whether their inclusion is a reflection on a changing society or they themselves directly influence society is a matter for debate (Steele, 1999). What is clear is the media’s role is sexuality in contemporary society.

The social constructionist model posits that sexuality is shaped by culture. For this premise to be tested sexual practices must be investigated in different cultures of the world. Nagel (2000) explored the connections between ethnicity and sexuality in America. Results indicated that individual deviation from racial or ethnic ideals on sexuality are patrolled and policed heavily by cultural members. Furthermore racial boundaries often constitute boundaries in sexual ideology and so promote reproduction within “like” members. Cardosa (2008) found in research of cross-cultural sexuality, differences in sexual practice among socio-economic groups and in ethnicities in Thailand, Turkey and Brazil. The highest rates of casual sexual partners where found in working class groups, especially in Turkey and Thailand. The largest number of homosexual experiences where found within the Turkish middle class, where men are socially restricted from women. These findings support the social constructionist view of sexuality and its epidemiology. Further support comes from the study of the concept of erotic plasticity. According to Baumeister & Bushman (2008) erotic plasticity is the “degree to which the sex drive can be shaped and altered by social, cultural and situational forces (p. 382)”. If sexuality is malleable in this way then the relative impact nurture has on it can be established. Baumeister (2000) explored gender differences in erotic plasticity. Plasticity was measured by changes in desires, in degree of sexual desire and in expression of desire. It was hypothesised that women would demonstrate higher erotic plasticity than men. Three reasons where given for this discrepancy. First women are on average physically weaker than men. This power imbalance may result in women changing sexual behaviours when confronted by a male partner’s conflicting sexual practices. Second, the inherent role of women in sexuality may be flexibility. Once a sexual relationship has developed a women may endeavour to maintain sexual interest from her partner by modifying her sexual behaviour. Finally, Baumeister (2000) concludes that if women have lower sex drives they may be less fixed and more readily changed. A meta-analysis was conducted to find supporting evidence for this hypothesis. Education, political ideology, religion, peer pressure and acculturation all where shown to have greater impact on female sexuality. This study indicates that nurture may have a greater impact on female sexuality than male.

While the debate over the relative impact nature and nurture has on sexuality continues a few notable exceptions to sexual practice cannot be explained fully by either camp. These exceptions indicate that research into the combination of both biology and environment is needed to effectively understand human sexuality. The continual presence of homosexual or same sex behaviours in contemporary society pose a challenge to both evolutionary theory and the social constructionist model. Evolutionary theory cannot explain why same sex behaviours have not been slowly bred out as they result in no genetic offspring whatsoever (Abrams, 2007). By the same token however the social constructionists cannot explain why homosexuals develop in many cultures where same sex behaviours are socially condemned. The answer according to Bem (1996) is that homosexuality is the result of a complex interplay of both. Bem (1996) developed the ‘Exotic becomes Erotic” theory (EBE) of sexual orientation development to explain its presence in society today. This theory explains sexuality through an initial genetically inherited temperament. This temperament leads a child to prefer certain forms of play and social interaction (Looy, 2005). This may lead the child to identify with others that share these preferences and feel different from those who do not. For example a child who enjoys artistic pursuits may identify with girls rather than those boys who prefer rough sporting activities. Once the child creates this connection, communication with the less identified sex creates anxiety and establishes them as exotic. After puberty anxiety or the activation of the automatic nervous system is transformed into erotic attraction. Thus, nature determines temperament and nurture provides the social environment in which the concept of exotic others are developed. Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith (1998) found evidence to support this theory in an American sample of homosexuals. Results indicated that 71% of gay men and 70% of lesbian women reported feeling different from their same sex peers during childhood. Furthermore 81% of lesbian females reported preferring traditionally male activities. The evidence for Bem’s theory is compelling however some criticism has been made. The EBE theory fails to account for homosexuals who prefer traditionally appropriate activities. Such as gay men who enjoy rough sports or lesbian women who behave in socially feminine ways (Peplau et al, 1998). Secondly, it is reported that little empirical evidence has been conducted to support the efficacy of such a theory. Regardless of the worth of EBE, Bem’s theory does demonstrate the usefulness of utilising both nature and nurture in explaining human sexuality.

Another anomaly of human sexuality is infidelity or extradyadic sex. Of course infidelity in a man fits within an evolutionary explanation of spreading his genetic makeup. However, it fails to explain why most men are completely faithful. Wiseman & Gordon (2007) found only a 2.3% annual prevalence of infidelity in an American sample. Evolutionary theory also fails to account for why women engage in extradyadic sex at all. Norment (1999) found that 26% of women had cheated on a partner by the age of forty. Neither male or female extradyadic sex can be explained by the social constructionist model (McAlister, 2005). Infidelity is socially unacceptable and exclusive relationships are identified as the social norm. Despite this infidelity is inexplicably common. This unexplained phenomenon in sexuality further strengthens the need for a combined approach to sexuality research.

The debate over the relative importance of biology and environment over one another leaves considerable gaps in sexuality research. Wallen & Zehr (2004) found even in primates a complex interaction between genetic and biological influences and socially modulated sexual behaviour. Attempts to synthesis biological and social influences into a single theory for sexuality are called an interactionist approach. Delamater & Hyde (1998) believe that the philosophical and theoretical divide between nature and nurture make interactionist approaches both difficult to construct and rare. However, Diamond (2003) provides one example with work on sexual orientation and romantic love. Diamond utilises a bio-behavioural approach to distinguish love from sexual desire. This research explains sexual orientation as a fairly stable and innate quality. However, romantic love and affectionate bonding is the product of situational factors. As a result individuals can become attached to those of the same gender. Some evidence for the efficacy of such an approach has been found. What is most important is that this approach seeks to explain sexuality with knowledge we have acquired from research into both nature and nurture. Such a method must be utilised more if human sexuality and the interaction between nature and nurture is to be understood (Delamater & Hyde, 1998).

In conclusion, there is considerable evidence that both nature and nurture influence human sexuality. Twin concordance research and evolutionary theory indicate that biology may produce innate sexual tendencies. However, evidence is also present for the effect society and culture has on sexual development. The social constructionist model draws strength from rapid changes in attitudes of sexuality and the differences in sexual behaviours between cultures. Neither can explain exceptions in sexuality such as same sex relationships and extradyadic sex. The answer to a full understanding of sexuality lies in research of the influence of both. Each explain components of human sexuality but without a focus on their interaction little more progress will be made in our knowledge of human sexuality.

If anyone wants access to any of these references let me know. There are too many to pop up on here.

What people think about people's sexuality and discussion by Dr Glen Wilson: [23]

Darryn Hayes talking about his sexuality: [24]

Topic 7: GroupsEdit

What is a group?

I've always considered a group to be a collection of individuals with a common goal or purpose. This goal might be as simple as relaxing by the pool or as complex as government. However, listening to this lecture provided me new insight on how intricate and expansive groups can be. James defined a group as two or more people with a clear social structure, a common fate, common goals, an interdependence and as being recognised by others. Group members must also define themselves as such. Here's an online dictionary definition [25]

Social Facilitation and E-portfolio's

Social Facilitation describes the tendency to perform better while being watched. This theory is not uniquely human. In fact i was fascinated by Zajonc et al. (1969) study of this theory in cockroaches. Cockroaches actually ran faster when being watched by other cockroaches [26]. It astounds me that this phenomenon effects even the most simple of creatures. It strikes me that the e-portfolio may be a perfect example of social facilitation. Perusing the other participants sites its clear that many have put in exceptional efforts. I wonder however if this same effort would be so marked if we couldn't see each others work and didn't know James could access it throughout the semester. I know i have been driven to work harder on my own page. Perhaps we should do our own experiment? :)

Social Loafing in Vanuatu

Me and some friendly guys from Vanuatu

Social loafing refers to the uniquely human phenomena that our productivity reduces when working in a collective group. Social Loafing appears to occur for a combination of organisation and motivational issues. Individual effort is less identifiable and as such members may be less inclined to contribute their full effort. In the same vein individuals don't want to put in more effort than other group members are contributing and be as James described it a "sucker." Atoum & Farah (1993) tested the efficacy of this theory in Jordanian college students. On the task given to them those participants who worked individually provided significantly more solutions than did those in the group variable. Techniques to combat social loafing include increasing identifiability, making the task valuable to all members, assigning specific roles and increasing member identification within the group. However, i think social loafing maybe very linked with cultural factors. On a recent trip to Vanuatu i had a long conversation with a taxi driver who belonged to a large village on the island. This village grows as much of its own food as possible and has become almost self-sustained. This village has almost 5,000 members who live in collective cooperation. Being from an Australian culture i instantly assumed that some people must slack off. I asked him how they deal with people who don't contribute their best effort. He looked confused and then bemused at my question. He said it just didn't happen. I asked if they have a system for policing each members relative contribution and he reiterated that there was simply no need. Perhaps social loafing research should be conducted in this and other collectivist cultures? I hypothesis that the results may be different. What do you guys think? Or have you come across this kind of research?

To Read More:Atoum, A., & Farah, A. (1993). Social loafing and personal involvement among Jordanian college students, Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 785-789.

Characteristics of Leadership

What makes these men great leaders?

Firstly, what is leadership? [27]. Leadership appears to be the ability to influence and motivate a group towards a goal. Edwin H. Friedman said "Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future." John Gardener said "leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts." Finally, John Quincy Adams said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." What characteristics then are needed to have such an effect on a group. You often here people talk of "natural" leaders. What is it about these people that allows them to command such influence? James outlined the Trait approach which looks at aspects of a leader's personality, intelligence and social skill to explain their influence. Some examples given where ambition, confidence, honesty and integrity (debatable), intelligence, the relevant knowledge and persistence. This view seems too simplistic and fails to explain the very different personalities of some of the worlds greatest leaders. In fact one of the traits seen to be important is a desire to lead. However, Ghandi was always a reluctant leader as was apparently JFK. Klenke (1994) undertook a meta-analysis of research into leadership. Little consensus was found indicating that understanding of leadership is still inconsistent. Clearly further research is needed into this phenomena of human kind.

To read more: Klenke, K. (1994). Meta-analytic studies of leadership: added insight or added paradoxes?, Current Psychology, 12.

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Lord Acton (1887)w:Lord_Acton

Power: the ability to exert your will onto others or a situation.

I've always been interested in the effect that power has on human beings. Some seem to take it in their stride and wield it in a responsible and compassionate way. Others have committed horrific acts when given the ability to do. The Zimbardo jail experiments are a prime example. I refuse to believe that all power corrupts but perhaps not everyone is equipped to handle its responsibilities. If this is so what makes someone able to maintain their integrity while still wielding power? Its not a question i can answer but i think its one very important to our society.

Perhaps some people aren't prepared or aren't meant for power roles. This is a vid of American soldiers in Iraq. [28]

Hugh Mackay: Social Disengagement: a Breeding Ground for Fundamentalism

During a tutorial we listened to the the famous social psychologist Hugh Mackay speak of social disengagement within Australia. He was of the opinion that rapid change in our society had led our community to detach from one another. He also warned that this phenomena is an antecedent to fundamentalist thought and action. It really struck me that the importance of social attachments is not just for individuals but for our culture as a whole. We are becoming more and more insular and the true effects of this may be quite devastating. Take our uni degree as an example. In our parents era going to uni almost guaranteed social interaction. Today, in theory due to technology you could achieve your degree and only set foot on campus for assessment. We seem to have lost the social and cultural glue that has held our country together in the past. Mackay cited four main themes of rapid change that have contributed to social disengagement. These where technology (eg. uni), gender, economy and identity. The changes in gender was of particular interest. Women are no longer held to the gender roles they once where. I had never really thought about the sudden and deep impact that must have had on our society. I have so many choices open to me as a well-educated middle class female, it never occurred to me that this might have a social and cultural consequence. Mackay said of my generation "Having grown up in a turbulent, unstable and unpredictable world, the pace of change has taught them to anticipate change and, indeed, to embrace change. The are the "keep-your-options-open" generation; the generation who are prepared to wait and see; the "hang loose" generation. Whether they are talking about a sexual partner, a course of study, a job, a set of religious beliefs, a political philosophy, a musical genre or a commercial brand, members of the Options generation will typically say "this is great, but what else is there?" Mackay points out that this isn't conducive to bolstering the birth rate or getting married. Changes in the economy and our national identity have also been rapid and Mackay cites this as a reason for many today feeling extreme anxiety and insecurity. As a result they turn inward. Becoming more and more individually focused and insular. The link between times of social change and fundamentalism is strong throughout history. I truly hope that people in Australia become more engaged and build social capital to stop the future predicted by Mackay.

For those who missed it. [29]

Topic 8: ProsocialEdit

What is Prosocial Behaviour?

When i encountered this topic my ears pricked up. I'd only ever heard of anti-social behaviour. How does someone act in a prosocial way? However it dawned on me. Of course anti-social behaviour has an opposite and prosocial behaviour is it! Prosocial behaviour refers to voluntary actions that assist others, the functioning of society or builds relationships and social capital. Discussing this topic was like a breath of fresh air. Humans do do things to help each other! We aren't all socially isolated and egotistical. There are plenty of examples of prosocial behaviour in our society if you just begin to look. The friend who shares study notes, the neighbour who mows an elderly women's lawn, the community worker who volunteers countless hours to a cause are all common examples of prosocial behaviour. Prosocial behaviours build communities, relationships and cultures. In fact it may be a vital tool in social acceptance. Pakaslahti (2002) found in research of prosocial behaviours and social acceptance in adolescents that the two were strongly positively correlated. Gender differences where also identified with female participants scoring higher is prosocial behaviours than male. The more prosocial behaviour occurs the stronger our society and culture will become.

Prosocial behaviours in monkeys! [30]

To read more: Pakaslahti,L. (2002). Relationships between adolescent prosocial problem-solving strategies, prosocial behaviour, and social acceptance, International Journal of Behavioral Development, 26, 137-144.


Firefighter's risk their lives to protect others

Altruism: Selflessness for the benefit of others. w:Altruism

I've come across the argument of whether altruism truly can exist before. In fact every time i have its irritated me. So what if people derive some pleasure from helping others. I don't think this in itself voids the human ability to be altruistic. If someone performs a behaviour for someone else purely to feel appreciated, then this act is not altruistic. However, i believe if the act was undertaken without such a reward being thought of, then the fact that it occurs subsequently shouldn't effect its altruistic quality. A man who in a split second decides to run into a burning building to save a person does not think "maybe i'll get some credit for this." When making the initial decision they are being self-sacrificing for the good of someone else, not for the feeling they might derive later.

A Mr Paul McKeever talking about examples of altruism. [31]

Why are people less likely to help this crash victim when many people are around?

Bystander Effect: The diminuished chance of people assisting another when in a group.

The story of Kity Genovese is truly shocking. In 1964 she was raped while many of her neighbours watched for over thirty five minutes. Although horrific if there is any silver lining to this story it is that it triggered research into what's now known as the bystander effect. An understanding of this kind of weakness in humanity is vitally important to avoiding it. One such study conducted by Levy, Lungren, Ansel, Fell & Fink (1972) found the bystander effect was not just isolated to emergency or threat type situations. The study found significantly reduced helping behaviours in demand without threat instances as well. An interesting study conducted by Tice & Baumeister (1985) assessed gender differences in bystander effect. A medical emergency situation was created and results showed that increased masculinity significantly reduced the chance of helping behaviour. The researchers hypothesis that this is due to fear of embarrassment and loss of status. This kind of research furthers our understanding of bystander effect and hopefully reduces the chances of cases like Kity Genovese occurring again.

To read more: Levy, P., Lungren, D., Ansel, M., Fell, D., & Fink, B. (1972). Bystander effect in a demand-without-threat situation, Journal ol Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 166-171. Tice, D., & Baumeister, R. (1985). Masculinity inhibits helping in emergencies: Personality does predict the bystander effect, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 420-428.

Dr John Darley talking about the Bystander Effect [32]

Topic 9: EnvironmentEdit

What is Environmental Psychology?


Prior to James's lecture i had never encountered the concept of Environmental Psychology. When i heard it was a topic for this semester i had very little clue what it would encompass. However, having now watched the lecture it is clear to me that environmental psychology is a field growing in size and importance. Environmental psychology is the study of the interrelationship between humans and their environment. Environment can be classified in a number of ways, from our immediate location or on a global scale. Our impact on the environment and its impact on us is of vital importance. The fact that this is a relatively new field reflects the human tendency to be above nature, conquerers rather than peaceful inhabitants. However, our impact on the environment is becoming difficult to ignore and as such research into this field may be a leap forward.

The Human/Nature Connection

What happened to playing in the park?

It makes absolute and complete sense to me that humans and nature have an innate link. In fact to think otherwise seems rather illogical. We are only mammals after all and in the history of this universe it was not long ago that we survived as many other mammals do today. We are completely dependent on its resources and our ability to build large structures and make leaps and bounds in technology has done little to change that. Evolutionary psychology posits that our dependence on nature both physically and mentally stems from our ancestors affinity with the outdoors. One such evolutionary perspective is the biophilia hypothesis that proposes that humans have an innate tendency towards the natural world. Our predecessors where inextricably linked with our environment and so are we. This theory lends it self to explaining certain physical and emotional issues that have been increasing in world where nature has been forgotten. The term nature-deficit disorder was coined by Richard Louv and refers to the link a lack of time outdoors may have on our health. Doctors have begun handing out "green" prescriptions in order to prevent disease and promote health; both physical and mental. Although the concept is a positive on it strikes me as incredibly depressing that we as humans need to prescribed time outdoors. I think our perception of nature and our environment is all wrong in this culture. I think we should incorporate an understanding of the earth, such as those held by the Australian Aboriginals. This would mean cultivating a real connection with our land and cessation of seeing it as simply something to be owned and plundered. We are not owners of this planet we are simply very small, very big headed and very vulnerable inhabitants.

Very interesting talk given by Gretel Van Wieren talking about restoring the human connection with nature. Its a bit religious but quite interesting. It comes in four parts, this is only the first. [34]

Behavioural Change

Our environment is is real trouble. Our resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Population growth is rapid and the strain in being seen on our surroundings. However, even in the face of obvious environmental distress many people continue to do little to change. I wonder if this inaction by many is like the ultimate bystander effect. The diffusion of individual responsibility is so great that billions in our population are standing by in a global emergency. How do we remedy it? How do we change the behaviours ingrained in many cultures for centuries. James highlighted some methods of evolving attitudes into meaningful action. Of course reinforcement and punishment are always effective tools in behaviour modification. I suppose the challenge however is making them global, which is as we all no a political nightmare. Another method is persuasion and social influence. The more people putting pressure on others both a home and on a more global scale the better the outcomes. James also spoke of polite prompts. I thought straight away of the signs they have up next to roads about water storages and use of our dams. Each day the target amount of water consumption is flashed up followed by how much we used the day before. It is a very powerful message. One that has made me far more conscious of my water use. Finally, individuals and organisations must lobby for change. This issue effects us all and it won't go away. The more people who act, the more likely it is that our environment will be saved for generations to come.

A green peace vid of how they are trying to promote behaviour change in China. [35]

Now this is really putting your body on the line for the environment! [36]

Topic 10: ReviewEdit

And so we say goodbye...

This subject has been an incredibly interesting and eye opening experience for me. In particular i enjoyed learning more about prejudice and relationships. The tutorials were informative and often a lot of fun. This assessment, although daunting allowed me a medium for exploring deeper into the subject matter. I feel far more aware of the society in which i live and more equipped to think about the impact it has on me. I don't think these are skills many people get the opportunity to learn. So thank you for the opportunity James!

Cheers Nikki