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Sarah Q

Joined 22 July 2008

22.7.2008 (Week 1) - Studying the Behaviour of People in our Social WorldEdit

Today was my first social psychology lecture and tutorial (T/03 – 16.30-18.30). Wow, I am absolutely blown away by how much today has uncovered and stimulated my interest in this topic. I can really tell that I am going to enjoy this course.

In the tutorial we were asked to provide an individual and group definition of what social psychology is. In our group we came up with this definition – “The influence of social context(s) on a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours”. I think that this is a good definition as it sums up the concept of social psychology concisely. This is truly a broad topic, as you soon come to realise that the “social contexts” that we referred to in our definition can be anything ranging from anything that has a situational social focus and that can even extend it self across cultures. I think I will find as a progress through this course and do my own research, that it will quickly become apparent the diversity involved with social psychology in a cultural context.

When we were asked to think about the knowledge we have already acquired about social psychology, I relied on University subjects that I have already taken in psychology, politics and gender. A countries political landscape and subsequent leaders have a major influence over the way society operates. Social interaction is exclusive and unique in many ways to either a male or a female as society values (more often than not stereotypically and in favour of the male) each of the sexes for different reasons. Political and gender influences over social interaction are something that I would like to examine further throughout the duration of this course.

I have started to think about essay topics. I was at the bookstore today and picked up a copy of Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I have already read both Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence written by Goleman, they were both really great reads. His work on social intelligence, specifically the angle he introduces from, that focuses on the influence that technology has had on human social interaction has really got me thinking about social psychology from the perspective of the ‘age of technology’. Has technology helped or hindered our ability to form genuine social relationships? Has our reliance on forms of communication such as telephone, text messaging, faxing, email, blogs, myspace, facebook etc, improved our social interactions or stripped us from traditional face to face communication, denying us the chance to form meaningful social friendships? News reports into the social e-communication phenomenon facebook, have suggested that for every 100 facebook friends a person has, only 1/100 of those friends are ‘genuine’ or ‘real’ friends. It would be interesting to delve further into the impact technology has had on social psychology. File:Http:// Intelligence pic.jpg

5.8.2008 (Week 2 and 3)- Humans: Living in a technological world, what is the end result?Edit

Further to my last entry, I have decided on an essay topic and James has helped me with the question. The question is – “New technology and communication: To what extent are new technologies facilitating or undermining our capacity for interpersonal communication?” The topic is exactly what I was looking for to express my interest with the influence that technology has over social communication in our society. Goleman talks about social disconnection and how technology has taken our focus away from what is important. Although, I am pretty sure that there is going to be a divide in opinion as to whether technology has indeed facilitated communication or undermined it.

James has pointed me in the direction of an ABC radio interview – “Txting: The Gr8 Db8” with Professor David Crystal. The interview delves into the positive side of ‘texting’ and how it had enhanced our language skills and interaction with language, and most importantly, each other. It was a fascinating article, however I think the focus was more on language rather than interpersonal communication as such. If anyone would like to check the transcript out then check out this link:

I am yet to explore the journals available on this topic. I cannot wait to get started on going through the literature though. I have been telling everyone that I work with about this essay (they can’t believe I am so excited about an essay) – and trying to get their own personal views on the topic. People so far have been extremely willing to share their opinions with me, and the opinions are almost always vastly different. Older people seem to have more negatively focused opinions, whilst younger people appear to have more positive opinions (perhaps a reflection of younger generation’s embracement of technology and older generation’s rejection).

Lastly, on the Frontline Rwanda documentary viewed in week 4 lecture. How disgraceful. I was completely enraged that this type of thing can go on under our own eyes. Being exposed to this type of information instantly makes you want to become involved social groups that oppose these types of horrendous violations of human rights. You cannot help but feel a sense of guilt, because Australia is a county that is so politically interconnected with the political agendas of the USA. So much pain and suffering inflicted upon people due to the ignorance of the worlds most powerful nation. All you can do is ask yourself – how does this happen and who lets this happen? Surely compassion and commonsense could of prevailed over the bureaucratic red-tape that saw almost a million humans perish?

19.8.2008 (Week 4 and 5) - People and Aggression: Unleash the DemonEdit

The text book breaks aggression down into four sub-types. Firstly, ‘hostile aggression’ which is defined by behaviour coloured by anger and impulse and often present when the individual wishes to harm someone. Secondly, ‘instrumental aggression’ which is often calculated and premeditated dangerous behaviour. Thirdly, we encounter the term – ‘passive aggression’ which expresses itself in a way implied by its name, for example failing to tell somebody the floor is wet with the intention of watching them fall. Lastly, ‘active aggression’ is when a person seeks out proactively to harm others through exhibiting aggressive and dangerous behaviour.

The content of the textbook focuses largely on the negative aspects of aggression and the impact this has for society. This is an interesting view as aggression also has its positives. I recently attended Assertiveness Training with a group of people from my company. There we were taught the value of being assertive although not aggressive in the way we communicate with our colleagues at work. Assertiveness and aggressiveness share some of the same traits although there is a fine line between the two. In business if you are not aggressive in some aspects of your job you will often find that you will not achieve the outcome that you have set out to complete. So an interesting thing to consider is that although aggression has caused some social disasters, on the flip side it has also probably attributed to some of societies great successes. For example, a sports person needs to have an element of aggression in they way he/she plays sport so motivation remains high to achieve the outcome of the win. Aggression, assertion and passion all work together to motivate individuals to overcome the hurdles present during the course of life.

Self control is an interesting topic approached by the text. This is the way that humans can contain selfish urges of anger. Self control is also perhaps a way that humans can modify aggression and use it in a positive and motivational drive to achieve success.

1.9.2008 (Week 6 and 7) - People: Born to follow the leader and move with the pack?Edit

Our guest lecturer Melisah Feeny was really great and engaged the class from retelling her experiences of prejudice experienced throughout her work with the Australian aboriginal population. The importance of group membership was expressed as one of the largest contributors to prejudice. Because we belong to a particular social group, other groups of people that have contrasting and different ways of living in comparison to our own ways we often display prejudice towards these people. A large number of the time our prejudices are based on cultural misunderstandings and basically the incapacity to understand, appreciate and tolerate differences.

Melisah based most of her lecture around prejudice towards Aboriginals in Australia. Although I believe it is important to realise that this exists. However, other groups in our country also experience racism and prejudice. Muslims are a cultural group in Australia that also experience prejudice, particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The following article is interesting because it illustrates the struggles faced by Muslims in Australia post September 11. The Muslim writer introduces the concept of prejudicial assumptions - The text book refers to these as stereotypes which are the heuristics that people often (falsely) rely on to make inferences about people before actually getting a chance to know the person for who they really are.

In overcoming prejudice in society it is clear that each person needs to be educated on what prejudice is and how to consciously prevent it from happening. Melisah explained how sometimes prejudice is works innately, for example you will often sit closer to someone who is more like you and avoid those that look different to you. Sometimes we display prejudice without even knowing it because it is often ingrained in our minds and the prejudicial beliefs are often those that have been passed down through the generations.

1.10.2008 (Week 10 and 11) - Humans, the product of Living a Fleeting Life in an Unstable WorldEdit

Social Capital

Thinking about this construct in terms of ‘human capital’. Perhaps a way in which we can use social skills to achieve desired outcomes. Networking with others establishes links to other groups, cultures and social experiences. The more positive social capital a group has the better its position in the context of the other groups that surround it.

Social Disengagement (Mackay, 2005)


Fundamentalism has no place in describing the human condition; there is not always one single answer to issues concerning people and their place in the social realm.

Social Economics

Mackay speaks of how the distribution of the economy in Australia has brought about many social, political and attitudinal changes amongst the population. Perhaps we are now branching into a time when these changes will be reversed as the looming financial crisis sets in.

Divorce Rate - Teflon Society

Australia now has a 45% divorce rate. Nearly half of all marriages will end in divorce? What does this do to our social landscape? Are we now a Teflon society? If it slides then let it, it is just a contract. There are plenty of options to consider and invest in if it doesn’t all work out. At least the lawyers will remain wealthy out of regulating the social chaos we create. We are too easy to commit and even more fickle when it comes to disconnection.

Leadership – Where are the Enlargers?

Enlarging our society’s vision. When I think of leadership, I think of George Bush. Now what a fine leader he has turned out to be. There is no one stand out political leader I can think of across this globe during my 21 years of life that has inspired me or added depth to my vision for the future. Right now we are seeing political leaders across the globe pulling banks out of the deep end. When have the banks ever pulled us out of the deep end? We are now living in an era where our taxes are being recruited to make banks feel more secure. What about everything else our taxes could be going towards? This is where I agree with Mackay’s statement to draw on your own inspiration instead of waiting for it to come from somewhere else. You might just be the next leader this world is craving.

7.10.2008 (Week 12) - Social Intelligence in Humans: The good samaritanEdit

Prosocial Behaviour: doing something that is in the best interests of others and society as a whole (Baumiester & Bushman, 2008).

Forgiveness is an interesting point touched on under the topic of pro-social behaviour. Modern society does not really faciliate forgiveness, as the speed of our lives do not really accomodate the act of spending the time to forgive someone unless they are closely associated to you. If someone weakly associated to you does the wrong thing by you, the time is not usually spent to forgive them, it is more likely spent distancing yourself from the person who has wronged you. The study that revealed that forgiveness is usually more likely in the context of an apology being offered is quite reflective of personal social experiences. You are much more likely to forgive someone if they acknowledge that they have wronged you and feel regret for acting in the way that they did. However, it also depends on the degree of wrong that they have placed against you. Sometimes forgiveness is not possible.

The phenomenon, belief in just a word: where the assumption is made that people get what they deserve is a concept that I feel reflects societies views well. A wise mathematics teacher I had in high school told our class before we sat for our HSC, not "good luck", "do your best" or "study hard", but instead - "I hope you all get what you deserve". Some of us probably did and some of us didn't get what we deserved due to a number of influencing factors. So perhaps this view-point is not entirely accurate, but nevertheless, reflective of a large portion of societies views.

Group influence, or the bystander effect demonstrates how people behave in response to assisting those in need when others are present. The beliefs here are mixed. Others just feel that other people will be the ones offering assistance, why lend a hand when the person next to you has already lent their hand? Our presumptions are not always correct when it comes to lending assistance. Maybe it is just the inherent laziness that people have acquired due to the technological age and the isolation that this has brought about for many. Many people now live as individuals, in their own world. Social awareness is underdeveloped and washed out by technology and the isolated lives we now choose to live. Social psychology is particularly interesting in the fact that not much study has been done on the impacts of technology on our social existence and behaviour. If I was to go onto honours this would be my topic for investigation, as I believe it is important to understand the impacts of what is currently going on in our social world in terms of people that choose isolation over socialisation.

13.10.2008 (Week 13) - Humans: Social Animals in a Diverse EnvironmentEdit

Environmental Psychology

Stokols & Altman (1987): The study of human behaviour and well-being in relation to the socio-physical environment.

Russell & Snodgrass (1987): The branch of Psychology concerned with providing a systematic account of the relationship between a person and the environment.

Bell, Fisher, Baum & Greene (1996): The study of the molar relationships between behaviour experience and the built and natural environments.

The environment has a significant impact on psychosocial well being. For example, my essay on new technology and communication delves into research that explicates the impact an environment characterised by modern technology has on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of people (Van Den Eijnden, Meerkerk, Vermulst, Spikerman & Engels, 2008). A person that is constantly communication via cell phone, email, facebook, web-cam etc has an environment that is partially void of face to face communication. Face to face communication is our traditional and genuine method of communication. Perhaps the value of it in terms of environmental psychology is yet to be explored by researchers in great detail.

Judith Harris has produced some particularly insightful literature concerning the environmental influences over childhood development. Harris believes that the environment plays a major role in the way a person begins to see the world they live in. The general consensus amongst research psychologists is that both biological (nature) and environmental (nurture) forces, contribute to the formation of human personality (Eaves & Eysenck, 1975). The environment a child is brought up in, consisting of their parents, siblings, peer-group and a number of other associates influence the development of the child’s personality (Pike & Eley, 2004). Recently focus has shifted to the influence of the child’s peer-group, as research indicates that the peer-group has a substantial impact on behavioural development, perhaps more than any other identified environmental influence (Harris, 2000). Goleman (1998) argues that genes endow people with a series of set-points that manifest and influence behaviour at varying degrees as a result of environmental experiences.

Baumiester and Bushman (2008) apply the logic behind environmental psychology to consumerist behaviour and the experience a store offers to a consumer. The focus of marketing in our current time always adds emphasis to the experience a potential customer has in a store, as GEN Y is characterised by always seeking out enriching life experiences, from travel to shopping. The more aroused and stimulated a person is by a stores atmosphere the more likely they are to part with the money in their wallets. The dominant response however, can have the reverse effect, when a shopper becomes over-aroused by the store and their inherent tendency to escape arousal comes into play with the shopper leaving the store.

We cannot underestimate the power and influence the environment has over our social behaviour.

25.10.2008 (Week 14 and 15) - Wrap Up: Bringing Social Psychology Into PerspectiveEdit

The study of this unit has made me realise why psychology is so important to the bigger picture of human existence itself. To be able to survive the challenges brought about by our environment and ourselves in the future, we need to have a complete understanding of what it means to exist in the social world.

Essay: In my essay, through the investigation of social psychological theory and research into interpersonal communication in the context of the modern technological age I have discovered what the implications and benefits are for the use of technology on human communication. The way we communicate with one another provides the basis for our behaviour and social interactions with one another. This is why I found it so important to investigate this topic, as technology has changed the way we communicate with one another. For example, this e-portfolio demonstrates how social communication has changed. We have a group of University students communicating at the highest level with one another via the internet. Interpersonal communication through this medium is not really achieveable, nor perhaps the desired goal of this e-portfolio. However, for us to be able to preserve the fundamentals of genuine human connections it is so important that we understand what technology has brought to the mix.

Environmental Psychology: The environment plays a very important role over human social interaction. Sights, sounds, smells all contribute to social cognition. However, the environment is not the only driver of social behaviour, as genes also play in the decision making processes and social outcomes for all of us. How can this be applied practically? Being more aware of the certain forces and motivations behind some peoples behaviour. There can be more than one reason for someone acting in a particular way.

Prosocial Behaviour: For there is good in every one of us. Altruism is something that needs to be taught, preserved and encouraged. The lives we live are not really conducive to altruism and taking time out of your already tightly scheduled day to stop and lend a hand to someone in need. In the society we currently live in, time is money and money is time. In saying this, a large portion of people are still willing to act out of self interest and in the interests of those around them. Thank the lord above for these people as they make for a pleasant social world.

Social Disengagement: Hugh Mackays speech really stimulated my thoughts on social psychology. In social psychology you study people in their environment and reflect and comment on the positive and negative aspects of your observations. Social psychology is the ultimate branch of psychology. Our world is changing and the demand for people that can shed light on these unprecendented changes will be the individuals that stand out from the crowd in the future. Practically Mackays speech highlighted the importance of self motivation and self leadership, as the 'enlargeners' are few and far between and those in leadership positions currently throughout the world are not always worthy of these positions. Its time to make your own way there and turn the light on at the end of the tunnel for yourself.

Groups: The need to belong. Group membership stems from the human need for affiliation. We want to associate and be close to those who share the same interests as us and the same beliefs.

Prejudice: Prejudice stems from the human need for group membership. Prejudice thrives in group situations as a whole number of people that believe strongly in the same thing allow for ideas to become completely indoctrinated into the individuals in the group. Religion is a perfect practical example of the results of wanting to be involved in a group. Prejudice on the other hand in a religious context comes when the members of this group are so strongly motivated by their views that they have little or no tolerance for differences or groups of other people that do not share their same beliefs.

Aggression: Aggression comes from prejudice, intolerance, confusion and at times psychopathology. All of these things can often work together to formulate some of the most horrendous crimes and social moments in our history.

Final Thought, What really is social psychology? Social psychology is who we are, what we think and most importantly where we are headed in the future as a result of our beliefs and understanding of the world we live in. If we do not take the time to evaluate and reconsider our social thoughts and preferences and how they are influencing our social future, on a global scale, than the human race will surely cease to exist. Some people feel we need to study genetics, formulate new medications to treat the ill and find cures for diseases. These are in no doubt the most highly valued areas of science and with all valid reason. However, how we exist and relate to the world is important. This is why social psychology should be held in the highest of regard for psychologists in general as it is social phenomenons we need to understand in order to preserve our species.