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Joined 29 July 2008

Social Psychology E-PortfolioEdit


One of the earliest questions asked of us was to define "social psychology" . What is social psychology? When I was first asked the question I answered with: "The study of human thoughts, feelings and behaviours within a social setting".

The text book for the subject, Baumeister and Bushman's (2008) Social Psychology & Human Nature describes social psychology under the broad description of : "the effect of other people (real or imagined) on thoughts, feelings and behaviours." Furthermore, this description is further refined into the ABC Triad:, Affect (how people feel), Behaviour (what people do) and Cognition (what people think about). It will be interesting to see if my own definition of social psychology will alter by the end of the unit. Now, having completed the unit, I feel that social psychology influences so many parts of human life and has tremendous importance for understanding and improving society.

The Social SelfEdit

It is intriguing to question how much of the inner self, or your personal beliefs about your Self, are displayed in social situations or whether the social situations determine the presentation of the social self, which alters depending on the situation. It seems almost paradoxical in nature if societal roles define the social identity and self, one could suggest the social self could define which social roles we choose to undertake.

Self and MemoryEdit

Would someone suffering retrograde amnesia essentially be the same person as before the onset or would they be a completely different person, or somewhere in between. Basically, this question ponders if the self is created through the environment, genetically inherit or a mixture of both. It is often noted the self is made up of all memories about one's self and their social experiences. But one could suggest genetic influence determine what we see our self as, or how we interpret the experiences into the formation of the self.

Social ThinkingEdit

The crowds in India can induce culture shock for those unprepared for them

Knowledge StructuresEdit

I finding it interesting the effect the knowledge structures of schemas, scripts and stereotypes have upon daily life and society as a whole. Every concept covered in Social Psychology could be drawn back to schemas and scripts that have been developed. Society itself could be entirely dissected down to be no more than the accumulated schemas and scripts embodied by the members of the society. If a person's scripts and schemas conform with the rest of the society, that person can function equally as a member of that society. This is where the notion of culture shock can develop when the pre-developed knowledge structures do not fit with the current society. The person is required to develop new structures or alter previous ones in order to function in that society, or become relegated to the outer rim of the society. For example, tourists can be easily spotted due to their unusual action compared to the rest of the location, the area is new to the tourists who may be displaying exploring scripts whereas the local inhabitants are not.


President Bush often displays lackluster communication skills

As humans are a communal race, communication is incredibly important for the maintenance of society. In tutorials, we discussed how much emphasis we believe is put on Verbal or Non Verbal Communication. However, there are many contexts for differences in the percentage weighting. This includes face-to-face, where NVC could be rating higher than VC, aural only (eg phone call) where there is no visible NVC but differences in tone of voice can be heard and finally text, such as e-mail, SMS, and other written communication.

Disabilities and CommunicationEdit

Stephen Hawking can still display some NVC

In further discussion, the notion of communication between those with disabilities and others arose. Stephen Hawking is unable to communicate with NVC such as body language, facial expression etc or using his own physical abilities but is still able to communicate via his computer and with such NVC ideas like the clothes he is wearing at a given time.

Furthermore, as the majority of non-verbal communicative actions are socially learned, it would be interesting to see the difference in NVC such as stance, and hand gestures between a person who was born blind and one that had lost his sight through disease or an accident. I would hypothesise the naturally blind person would not display much NVC other than universal signs (eg smile = happy) but would be highly intuitive in picking the slight changes in tone and other NVC in other people while the accidentally blind person would still display regular NVC.


Key TermsEdit

Aggression and the Mass MediaEdit

Aggression and violence seem to be perpetuated in modern society, particularly through the mass media. After writing an essay on the topic of violence and aggressive behaviour in the mass media and its effect upon society, I began to notice how much violence is displayed on televison and that 90% of the television shows I watch regularly contain some manner of violence or aggressive behaviour. While much of the research, see Anderson and Bushman (2002), states the effects of exposure to violent material are quite dramatic, personally I do not think I'm a particularly violent person despite my heavy dosage of media violence.

Ghosts of RwandaEdit

One of the things I that struck me was one of the farmers comments after slaughtering his fellow countrymen was how he believed 'the Devil' had taken him over and turned him insane. As he had no other schema other than the religion had he been taught, and he didn't seem to take responsibility for his own actions, consistent with the self-serving attribution bias. The propagation of propaganda and recent sightings of Tutsis via the radio stations is similar to actions in Nazi Germany, and really emphasises the power mass media can have.

A Black Hawk helicopter over Somalia

I also found it interesting the incidents in Somalia a few years previous to the Rwandan genocide , mainly the attacks by Somalian warlords upon UN peacekeepers and the Battle for Mogadishu during which two US Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 17 US soldiers were killed with 73 wounded and approximately 700 Somali militia and civilians were killed. These events were dramatised in Ridley Scott's 2001 film Black Hawk Down. The loss of American lives and the failed operation to bring peace and order to Somalia heavily influenced President Clinton's decision to not send US peacekeeping forces into Rwanda. Perhaps the genocide could have been avoided or significantly hampered if a larger peacekeeping force had been sent into Rwanda, either US or UN, which had repeatedly asked for by the UN commander in Rwanda Roméo Dallaire.

The stories of altruism to come out of this tragedy are quite amazing, and really contrasts the two possible sides of a human being. While many are displaying what could be easily described as unquestionably evil, there are some other people such as Carl Wilkens and Mbaye Diagne risking their lives to rescue and protect others.


Key TermsEdit


The 9/11 attacks radically altered American views towards Middle-Eastern people

Stereotyping is an essential part of the human cognitive process, created due to social categorisation , or grouping people based on similar characteristics. Today, the word stereotype is associated with negative, often untrue or exaggerated generalisations but it can be used in a positive light. For example, someone may state "Australians are good swimmers", while it is incorrect to assume everyone in the country can swim well, living on the world's largest island with the majority of the population on the coast gives access to a high number of beaches and opportunities to swim regularly. Stereotypes are created through socialisation, with both the group being stereotyped and members of your group which may promote these views. I also believe the media significantly effects the creation of stereotypes, for example: after the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks and even today, some 7 years on, the majority of Americans will stereotype anyone of Middle Eastern decent as a terrorist despite never actually having any social contact with them.

Jane Elliott's The Australian EyeEdit

When I was first introducted to this learning scenario, I was under the impression people were going to be divided by their eye colour only, which is a rather arbitrary characteristic that people have no personal control over and works well as a euphemism for racial division. However, in the video we were shown of the Australian version of the scenario, participants were separated via skin colour or racial heritage. If for example, this scenario was run in the tutorials, we would still be able achieve the feelings of prejudice based on an arbitrary notion without it dissolving into running the scenario based on race, which seems to be at ends with the main point of running these programs.


Relationships and Social DisengagementEdit

Internet usage may have replaced more traditional means of social interaction

Relationships may be the defining characteristic of the human race, an essential part of society and maintaining mental health. I was interested to note that Hugh Mackay, during his speech on Social Disengagement mentioned more than 50% of all Australian households contain just one or two people and that the single person household is now both the most common and fastest growing household type. I believe proliferation of the Internet in particular has allowed for these single person homes to function as one can easily access all manner of social interaction tools on the Internet to maintain relationships with friends and family without needing to leave the house. Mackay mentions this in his speech suggesting we have begun to confuse data transfer with communication.

Established Relationships and Comfort ZonesEdit

The tutorial exercise designed to push the boundaries of interpersonal space and comfort by standing near another person at various distances and looking into their eyes is also heavily dependent on the relationship established with the other participant. If one has established a romantic relationship with the other person, this exercise would not have felt awkward. However, I believe undertaking this task with a friend of the same sex for example would be awkward because the social scripts and schemas suggest prolonged eye contact is sign of romantic interest as is gaining close proximity.

Groups and LeadershipEdit

It is often suggested humans define their identity through the groups they feel associated with and those they do not. Grouping influences all notions of race, nationality and overall society.

Social Facilitation and LoafingEdit

Social facilitation often factors into sporting performance

After completing several group assignments and class presentations (often class presentations are group assignments), the concepts of social facilitation and loafing are observed regularly. Social facilitation, the tendency to perform well when others are present, often factors into class presentations. I personally feel I do better at presentations when undertaking them with a group, however this may be linked to social loafing, a decrease in performance when working in a group. When presenting in a group, I may feel less pressure on myself to do well as if I perform badly, the rest of the group may still be able to achieve a good mark. This example coincides with the Yerkes-Dodson Law which suggests as anxiety increase, performance also increases to a peak where further increases in anxiety result in reduced performance. Social loafing seems to be further facilitated by anonymity to the higher power, for example the marker of the group presentation. When a member of the group knows they can't be held individually accountable for their performance, such as achieving an individual presentation mark accompanying a group mark, they will have a reduced level of effort.


Groupthink occurs when members of a group conform to popular ideas rather than displaying individualistic thinking. Groupthink is an interesting notion for society, as much of modern society attempts to reduce individualism and urge people towards the popular idea. Fashion trends are a good example of this, when people are urged by others in the societal group to conform to a particular fashion in order to maintain popularity.

Prosocial BehaviourEdit

Key TermsEdit

Learned Prosocial BehavioursEdit

It is an interesting question to pose how much of prosocial behaviour can be genetically determined or if it is entirely developed through learning techniques such observational learning. Antisocial behaviour seems to be innate in children, for example snatching, and seems to be driven by the id or desire principle. One assumes once a child develops enough to understand the notion of rules and socially acceptable behaviour, can prosocial behaviour be fostered. The environment the child grows up in must have an effect upon displayed prosocial behaviours, as the majority of these behaviours are learned through observation, modeling, and social interaction.

Environmental PsychologyEdit

The Biophilia HypothesisEdit

Coal power plants emit massive amounts of pollution

The biophilia hypothesis suggests humans have a genetic predisposition towards "lifelike" or nature processes. Initially, human society did embrace nature and its power over life through religion such as the pagans, or the native Americans. However, I think this hypothesis is completely disregarded by the time the Industrial Revolution began. The old adage: "the sins of the father will be revisited upon the son" comes to mind as the Industrial Revolution started the trend of burning fossil fuels in a crude manner. A trend that has continued on until very recently, when scientists have determined if human society doesn't start to care for the natural environment, the planet wont be habitable for future generations. Former US Vice-President Al Gore's controversial film An Inconvenient Truth bought this notion to the general public, who now may need to reestablish the biophilia hypothesis to reduce our impact upon the environment.

Zeitgeist, Social Capital and DisengagementEdit

Australian ZeitgeistEdit

Countries that made up the Coalition of the Willing

The modern Australian zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, could be essentially defined within the term of globalisation and the consequent influence of, what Hugh Mackay calls the IT revolution. Globalisation is heavily supported by the proliferation of the mass media, allowing the American culture to spread globally to the point where Australia has become invested in the US culture. An example of this is the coverage of the US presidential elections here in Australia, it is mentioned so frequently, more so than Australian politics, I beginning to believe I should be voting in the upcoming election. It shows how much influence the election has over the entire world, especially for members of the Coalition of the Willing. Globalisation has also begun to influence the Australian language particularly in the pronunciation of the word new. Most young Australians now pronounce the word the American way without annunciating the N. Perhaps its only a matter of time before the Australian accent is dramatically altered.

Social CapitalEdit

Social capital, or the accumulated social "wealth" a culture can tap into, is required to maintain a healthy, civil society. This notion suggests social networks have value, much in the way as personnel have value to a company. One could argue previous generations were able to accumulate great amounts of social capital as they were more reliant upon social networks to facilitate daily life. Nazi Germany was able to gather a large quantity of social capital as following World War I, the German people were required to pull together to support themselves. Drawing upon the social capital, they were able to rebuild their country. However, the capital was further used to rouse the country behind the Nazi's fascist regime and lead the country on an attempt to conquer Europe. The need to accumulate social capital for a healthy society leads me to question if modern society is healthy when taking into account Hugh Mackay's comments regarding the amount of single person homes and the use of online social interactions. Can social capital be raised from these virtual interactions?

Social DisengagementEdit

The overuse of the Internet to facilitate social interaction leads into the notion of social disengagement, characterised by individuals operating relatively autonomously with minimal interaction with social networks. Hugh Mackay has outlined how the country, and even the world, is slowly moving towards a more socially disengaged society. Perhaps it is the long term influence of capitalism, forcing the Western world to think about themselves and their own wealth, increasing personal gain by undertaking individual efforts to reap the rewards completely for themselves. Or perhaps we are becoming increasingly self-sufficient, without the need to fully integrate into the social group as was required in previous centuries to merely survive. This allows for greater individualistic thoughts and reduction in conformity, which may in turn lead to a better society. The flipside to this, is questioning how a society can actually function without adequate social interaction, would total social disengagement result in a country completely filled with individuals, only looking out for themselves.


The unit of Social Psychology covers nearly all sections of psychology, and gives a good overview of the different aspects of psychology while focusing the social dimension of these different sections. I found social psychology to be an interesting subject to study, particularly because human interactions form the basis for society and the behaviours govern these interactions links back to the wider psychological field. Watching Ghosts of Rwanda was perhaps the most influential part of this unit for me, the haunting documentary of the tragedy really demonstrated the two bipolar extremes of human nature. Overall, social psychology is well integrated into the broader psychology course allowing students to draw upon previously attained knowledge and then expanding it.

The E-PortfolioEdit

The e-portfolio was an unusual choice for an assessment item. It is, perhaps, the beginning of really utilising information technology into all manner of academic courses. However, regularly updating the portfolio was often difficult for me with other assignments and commitments taking precedence. Often, my tutorial notes were just scribbled in my notebook and weren't updated online until weeks later. I can see the advantages of setting a completely online assessment task, that can be access by all participants but for it to work most effectively, all users need to be frequently active in their participation. Furthermore, some topics that I didn't find particularly interesting but I still felt like I needed to comment, which many lead to some inane discussion. Perhaps, in future iterations of the unit, the use of online assessments would better integrated into the overall unit and have a greater uptake of usage by students.