Wednesday, December 7, 2011

4.74 Degrees of Separation

You've probably heard of six degrees of separation, the theory has been that an average of six intermediaries can connect any two people in the world. Though it may only exist as a myth, several attempts have been made to verify this figure including email chains in 2001 and 2007 winding up with 6 and 6.6 respectively. Well a recent New York Times article has determined that new forms of communication such as Facebook have possibly decreased that number down to "4.74" worldwide and "4.37" within the United States alone.
While I happen to be in the minority of people my age who doesn't use Facebook, I do find the new connections in the world to be extremely fascinating. There are entire districts of the Internet devoted to the most obscure fandoms and fetishes, and I truly doubt there is much left in the world that isn't online. Of course there is always the classic argument that while these technologies are allowing people to have easier and more connections, they may be inhibiting our relationships by decreasing real world interaction.
So what do you think? Do you think it is a good thing that like minded communities are easier than ever to find due to the connectives of the online world, or are we loosing out on the more mundane and real interactions of yesteryear? And does an increase in online friends really mean you are connected with more people?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Proactive Coping

Article Link

According to the textbook, there are at least four hundred ways to cope with stress. Proactive stress "consists of efforts undertaken in advance of a potentially stressful event to prevent it or to modify its form before it occurs" (Aspinwall 417). The idea of proactive stress suggests that many stressors can be avoided. In fact there are five interrelated tasks of proactive self regulation. One can view the on set of a stressful event much the same way as meteorologists forecasts the weather. There is a bit of certainty how the outcome will lend itself. When a category 5 hurricane is on the way people start preparing for the worst. The storm may fizzle out, but people are prepared. The stress of the situation leads many people to cope by flooding the supermarket isles and emptying their wallets to survive the storm. This method differs from proactive coping and is more inline with problem-focused coping. Where one attempts to ease their mind by solving a problem that is out of their control. Proactive coping would perhaps suggest leaving the area to avoid the storm. Whereby leaving ahead of time is stressful, but the planning ahead equals out to less stress in the long term i.e. risking one's life.

Is there a way to avoid stress all together?
Why can events in one's life lead to so much stress?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unconscious Prejudice

It is a fact that people don’t always speak their minds. But sometimes people do not speaking their minds because people don’t know their minds.  The IAT Test exposes the unconscious prejudice that people do not self report.
Implicit racism can be seen in many cases. Jennifer Eberhardt (2006) experimented implicit racism by making judges decide if a shown criminal should be sentenced to death or not. It was seen that between two images of criminals (where both had no records of crime but the judges did not know about it) the judges would find the person who was considered to be more stereotypically black to be sentenced to death.
The IAT Test goes from different stages such as people are asked to categorize the faces of black and white people. Then, they are asked to categorize negative and positive words. The test later on asks to combine the faces and words together. They ask to press the left key on the computer when a black face and a positive word comes up and asks to press the right key when a white face and a negative word comes up. In the last stage opposite pairs like ‘black or negative, white or positive’ are shown. By taking the test the emotions and attitudes towards African American’s can be measured by the time the person takes to respond to black-bad/white-good versus black-good/white-bad pairs.  
The IAT Test was found by Anthony Greenwald (1998) to measure the implicit racism. Greenwald tested a group of white students with the IAT Test to see the automatic reaction that they would give toward race. The test revealed the true responses and attitudes that were suppressed. Even though the white students did not show any explicit negative thoughts in the self evaluation reports, they demonstrated more quick responses to the grouping of ‘white + pleasant and black + unpleasant.’ This concluded to students showing more positive automatic evaluation towards white people.
The implicit racism makes me question where does these unconscious thoughts comes from? Is it the environment that we live in? Is it the society that embeds these thoughts? Or is it the background knowledge and historical facts that we keep on learning today embeds thoughts to our minds to differentiate race? Would it be better not to talk about these issues from the past to new generations so that they would not differentiate people by seeing that once there was a difference between races? Or is it better to talk about them and try to come up with solutions to the thoughts of the older generations and how?

Zeynep Ercan

Friday, November 18, 2011

Herman Cain's Alleged Sexual Harassment - A Racial Component?

For those of you that haven't been keeping up with the political race, there is an African American man named Herman Cain currently running for the Republican nomination. Recently, several accounts of sexual harassment claims have come out that were lodged against him during his former employment. But Soon after a woman named Sharon Bialek came forward and specifically described a particular incident.

But one thing that I found interesting was that the news seemed to make a big deal about this time having a white woman accuse a black man of lewd behavior. Many are harking back to the history of black men being accused of preying on white women in America. Interracial relationships in general are still a bit of an issue in our world, even Cracked recently brought it up in an article about things Hollywood seemed unwilling to show. And the media has always seemed to favor stories involving the proverbial blonde woman with blue eyes.

I personally don't really think that an accusation from a white woman is really all that different from that of a black woman, but what do you think? Do you think it will it grant any more validity to these claims in the eyes of the voters? Or do you think it is just another example of lynch mob mentality making a big deal out of percieved events?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Individual-collective primacy and ingroup favoritism: enchancement and protection effect

Ya –Ru Chen, Joel Brockner and Xiao-Ping Chen conducted an experiment that examines the interactive effects of individial-collective primacy, ingroup performance and outgroup performance on ingroup favoritism. They define ingroup favoritism as the liability for group members to perform more constructive evaluations of their ingroup relative to outgroups (482).


The participants were consisted of two different cultures, The United States and China, and they were either students from the Indiana University or Peking University. They were divided into groups of 6-10 people. The experiment was divided into several stages. The first stage of the experiment was focused on setting apart the participants into two groups. They were informed that this division would be decided through attitudinal similarity. Then they filled an initial attitude survey. Also, while they were waiting for the results they completed a self-perception questionnaire. After the formation of the groups, they were shown their group members average responses of the attitude survey, which in reality were arranged by the experimenter. Then, the participants were asked to complete the Social-Cognitive Aptitude Test (SCAT.) They were told that this test was estimating “ intellectual and interpersonal competencies and is believed to be reliable indicator of an individual’ ability to process and integrate information and to make deductive inferences.” The test consisted of vignettes about ten couples. The participants were asked to make predictions about whether the couple’s would still be in relation a year after. The experimenters manipulated the feedback of the accuracy of the participants’ predictions. In the individual performance feedback participants’ performances were randomly assigned into three conditions, individual success, individual failure and no individual feedback. (484). Then they received ingroup and outgroup performance feedback. After feedbacks, participants completed another questionnaire that consisted measure of ingroup favoritism, manipulation checks and other measures.


Feedback manipulation was successful. Although, grater collective primacy was associated with more attachment to both ingroup and outgroups, the relationship with ingroup attachment was significantly stronger. Thus the study was successful in terms of preceding the participants to perceive their group members as an ingroup (486-87). Their findings presented that the collective-primacy had a positive correlation with ingroup favoritism when an unfavorable intergroup comparison was present. When both groups performed well or bad, there was no relationship between collective-primacy and ingroup favoritism (489).

Why do you think such change occurs?

Also, according to Chen, culture didn’t have a major effect on the ingroup favoritism in this study. In what ways culture relate to ingroup favoritism and why do you think it’s effect was insignificant in this case?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Case for Egoism

Because the act of suffering for the benefit of others goes against the evolutionary idea of survival of the fittest, there is much debate over why humans regularly go out of their way and at time jeopardize themselves for others with whom they have no relationship. The main debate is over whether people have the capacity to help others out of sheer altruist empathy or if there is always some kind of ego-driven motivation behind their actions.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini describes three different "vicarious emotional responses" people have when faced with a situation where their help is called for. These emotional responses are reflexive distress, normative distress, and sadness.

According to Cialdini, reflexive distress is characterized by "a kind of self-oriented, highly aversive, arousal-based affective state that results from exposure to cues of pain or suffering from a victim". A person experiencing reflexive distress will seek to relieve this feeling in the quickest and easiest way possible (Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner, Clark 1981) which will usually result in helping the person who is suffering.

Normative distress refers to the discomfort one experiences when violating a social norm. In our society helping the needing is regarded in a positive light while failing to help is seen as negative. (Berkowitz & Daniels 1964; Gouldner 1960) An observer of someone in need would therefore offer aid in order to feel that they are doing what is generally thought to be the right thing.

The last emotional response someone might experience in the presence of the needy is the negative state of sadness. Because helping has proven to have a mood enhancing affect on the average, normally socialized adult, the observer will want to help in order to alleviate their sadness. (Cialdini, Kendrick & Baumann 1982)

Regardless of the scenario, the person giving help benefits by relieving his or her self of the negative emotions brought on by witnessing a person in need.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Helping and Cooperation at 14 Months of Age

 An experiment by Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello investigated the proclivity of 14-month-old infants; to altruistically help others toward individual goals. The infants helped another person by handing over objects the other person was unsuccessfully reaching for, but did not help reliably in situations involving more complex goals.
With regard to helping, children as young as 12 months show concern for others in distress and sometimes intervene by comforting them (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1998). In addition, children occasionally point to objects another person is looking for as a form of helping through informing others most recently, it has been shown that 18-month-old children perform unrewarded acts of instrumental helping spontaneously and flexibly in diverse situations.

The experimenters set up six situations for helping for the young children to help.  The three that the 14 month old responded to were the simple tasks the “out-of-reach” scenario.

Clothespin (3). In the experimental condition, the experimenter used clothespins to hang towels on a line. He accidentally dropped a clothespin on the floor and unsuccessfully reached for it. In the control condition, the experimenter intentionally threw the clothespin on the floor and did not reach for it.

Marker (3). In the experimental condition, the experimenter used a marker for drawing, accidentally dropped it on the floor, and unsuccessfully reached for it. In the control condition, he threw it on the floor intentionally and did not reach for it.

Paper ball (3). The child and the experimenter sat at a table, facing each other. Three balls were on the experimenter’s side, and three on the child’s side. In the experimental condition, the experimenter collected three balls with tongs and put them into a container. He then tried to reach for each of the other three balls that were on the child’s side, but failed because they

The children helped 30% of the time in the clothespin scenario, 40% of the time in the marker scenario, and almost 70% of the time in the paper ball scenario. And in the controls less than 10% of the children helped the experimenter.  These results speak in favor of the view that an altruistic motivation is already apparent in early human ontogeny. It also shows children’s cognitive capability of discerning people’s goals.

In another experiment children were given material rewards for helping the experimenter, after helping the experimenter and receiving the material reward the children helped much less, where as children who did not receive a reward helped much more consistently.  Why did the altruistic motivation decrease so much when given a reward? Why is there a higher altruistic motivation when children are not rewarded?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stereotypes and Status

According to the stereotype content model, group stereotypes about other groups vary based on two "dimensions"- warmth and competence. "Warmth" focuses on moral aspects such as kindness and honesty, while "Competence" focuses on intellectual factors such as intelligence and creativity. These dimensions in stereotypes in turn affect the perception of whether the stereotyped group has a "high" or "low" status, and how competitive the group may be to others.

In the part of this study, when the stereotype content model was tested in the United States, many groups tested as “ambivalent”, either meaning “warm but not competent” or “competent
but not warm” (Cuddy et al., 2008). A few groups scored with low warmth and low competence, indicating that people said groups as free-loading and lower in status. On the other hand, in-groups and mainstream social groups were the only ones that rated with both high warmth and competence (in other words, high status).

With this knowledge, how can groups increase positive interactions and/or equalize status with other stereotyped groups? For example, how can groups like “rich people” (typically seen as competent but not as warm) get along with/interact with groups like “the disabled” (typically seen as warm but not as competent)? Furthermore, how can the levels of warmth and competence associated with different groups change, to in turn change and perhaps equalize perceived status across all different groups?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Robber’s Cave Experiment

The Robber’s Cave Experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif (1961) focused on how competition between individuals can create prejudice and intergroup conflict. The experiment took place at Robber’s Cave State Park, Oklahoma involving two groups of eleven to twelve year old boys. All the boys were of similar backgrounds (white, middle-class) and complete strangers to one another. They were randomly assigned to a group and knew nothing about the other group before the first phase. The members of each group were encouraged to bond with each other and each group began establishing their own group name and culture. The second phase of the experiment was the competition between the two groups. The “Eagles” and “Rattlers” competed aggressively against each other in many activities, such as football, tug-o-war, and treasure hunt. The winning team would be able to get a trophy and there were prizes for the individual members of the winning team, while the losing team would receive nothing. The rivalry became so aggressive that the groups burned each others’ flags, cabins were ransacked, and other hostile things were done. In the end, the experimenters had to physically separate the groups.

Does this experiment mimic real life?

Is competition the only reason for group conflict?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Good Samaritan Experiement: Darley & Batson (1973)

Does circumstance and having one's mind occupied by moral/religious thoughts increase likelihood of helping someone in an emergency?

A good Samaritan

In their classic social psychology study the experimenters recruited 67 students from the Princeton Theological Seminary and told them it was a study about religious education and vocations. They were asked to fill in some personality questionnaires and told they were going to give a brief talk in a nearby room. Some were asked to give a short talk about the types of jobs for seminary graduates, while the others were asked to talk about the parable of the 'Good Samaritan'.
While making their way to the other office to give their talk, they would encounter an experimental confederate lying in a doorway, doubled over, eyes closed and coughing. Participants would have to pass the apparently highly distressed man, but would they stop to help?
The experimenters thought it would depend on how much participants were hurried, so they manipulated this by giving them one of the following three instructions:
  1. "Oh, you're late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. We'd better get moving..."
  2. "The assistant is ready for you, so please go right over."
  3. "...It'll be a few minutes before they're ready for you, but you might as well head on over..."
This created three conditions: high, medium and low hurry. Each of these conditions were also split into two: half about to deliver a talk on the Good Samaritan, the other half on job prospects for seminary graduates. This meant that the experimenters could assess both the effect of hurry as well as the talk they were giving on the students' helping behaviours.


On average just 40% of the seminary students offered help (with a few stepping over the apparently injured man) but crucially the amount of hurry they were in had a large influence on behaviour. Here is the percentage of participants who offered help by condition:
  • Low hurry: 63%
  • Medium hurry: 45%
  • High hurry: 10%
The type of talk they were giving also had an effect on whether they offered help. Of those asked to talk about careers for seminarians, just 29% offered help, while of those asked to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan, fully 53% gave assistance.
What these figures show is the large effect that subtle aspects of the situation have on the way people behave. When the effect of personality was compared with situation, i.e. how much of a hurry they happened to be in or whether they were thinking about a relevant parable, the effect of religiosity was almost insignificant. In this context, then, situation is easily trumping personality.

It is important to realise that the 'fundamental attribution error' is especially prominent here. It is the inclination to overemphasize the influence of dispositional factors (e.g. personality) and underestimating the role of situational factors (e.g. weather) on a persons behaviour.

Also, what is it that really defines a good samaritan? Perhaps there may have been a difference in perception between what may have been helping another. There may have been a conflict between helping the experimenter and helping the unknown victim. The perception of what is more important to them could vary.

What are the other characteristics in such a situation that may have caused the results to vary greatly?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Alcohol has been said to be linked to sexual aggression. In this chapter in the textbook, we are informed that gender and alcohol are important factors linked to aggression, especially in college students.

To prove this, Brian Marx conducted an experiment in which Male college students were asked to listen to a synthesized audio tape, designed to sound like a date rape.

"The date rape stimulus [...] consisted of an audio tape depiction of a man and a woman engaged in sexual activity. The couple was described as two college students returning to the man's apartment after a date at the movies. Physical intimacy between the couple was portrayed through dialogue and audible breathing and kissing sounds."

The audio tape ended after rape had occurred. Each individual male participant was asked to indicate the point in which the male character in the audio tape should have stopped forcing intimacy with the female character. The audio was divided into segments in which the woman's refusal escalated, beginning from gently refusing intimacy, to pleading and crying in response to the male's behavior.

To see how aggression could be linked to alcohol, one group of male participants was asked to consume alcohol while undergoing this procedure. As expected, the male participants that consumed alcohol took longer to indicate the point in which the male character in the audio should have stopped forcing intimacy than the sober ones. It is true that alcohol might reduce judgment and the power to recognize certain cues than when one is sober, but this experiment truly showed that "intoxication may weaken inhibitions against aggressive behavior" (Kassin 425) This being said, the textbook states that alcohol makes aggressive behavior seem much more justified. Because of this, we can infer that drinking alcohol is a clearly an important factor in sexually aggressive incidents amongst college students.

After reviewing this study, we can ask ourselves several questions.

Why does alcohol truly impair our viewpoint of sexual aggression? Why is it more acceptable in this scenario?

How is it possible for aggression to be so inconsistent within the same individual?

Is aggression something learned, or something innate?

-Ana Macias

Friday, October 21, 2011


In a study done by Daniel B. Kennedy, Robert J. Homant and Michael R. Homant, the relationship between injustice and workplace aggression was examined. The experiment conducted utilized 139 subjects who were given a questionnaire to answer. The subjects taking the questionnaire were all from different backgrounds. According to statistics the subjects who took the questionnaire were: 69% females, 31% males; 53% African Americans, 37% Whites, 64% single, 27% married, 9% divorced, and 89% had a part time job or worked 15-18 hour jobs (329).

The Questionnaire

The questionnaire had four scenario subjects. Three of the scenarios were types of workplace injustices:
1. Distributive: ex: Restaurant chef denied a promised raise, despite his role in a restaurant.
2. Procedural: ex: Civil service worker, whose promotion was given to a boss’ friend instead.
3. Interpersonal: ex: Shift worker accused of leaving early and forced to stay until a replacement came.
The fourth scenario was a control group, to see how much people were influenced to be aggressive after an injustice. An example of a scenario was a salesman who lost a contest to two fellow workers who potentially could have cheated, but in reality did not cheat. Everyone was given awards, but he was angry because he did not receive the title of champion. The questions were then rated on two scales:
1. Scenario justice scale
2. Aggression rating scale: The scale was rated by choosing one from each category:
a) Direct or indirect
b) Passive or active
c) Verbal or physical
ex.: scenario: Someone helping himself to $100 worth of supplies in office
= someone could rate it by this scenario being: physical, active, and indirect.

The Results
1. Procedural injustice was perceived to have the highest level of injustice and most support for aggression.
2. Interpersonal injustice had more support for aggression than distribution injustice.
3. The control scenario had little support for aggressive behavior or injustice.
4. The greater the perception of injustice, the greater support for workplace aggression

My question is if the results were affected by the differences in the ratio of nationality, or gender. Would it have an affect on the aggressive behavior results? In addition, are there other reasons why there may be workplace aggression, such as one’s environment? How can an unfair situation or injustice, such as one’s raise being given away to a boss’ friend, affect one’s aggression?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gloria Harrell 10-17-11

Elliot Aaronson thought the theory of cognitive dissonance according to Festinger's theory was primitive, however it has a great impact. W. McGuire exhibited in his survey in the Annual Review of Psychology (1966, page 492)dissonance theory generates more hostility and massive research than any other one approach. There has been quite a bit of research and diverse experiments. They have ranged from lab rats to children. The experiments have been general and simplistic in regard to the cognitive dissonance theory. They have been applied towards social psychological settings as well as interpersonal relations. The mind finds adverse thoughts are hard to conceive. In order to accept adverse thoughts, the mind will reduce the situation with an agreeable change of the cognitive thought.

For example, I switched from my old apartment on the 20th floor which was a one bedroom, to an apartment on the 11th floor which has two large bedrooms. The bathroom and kitchen is much smaller though. I was really upset about this but I accent the thought that I have two bedrooms, not speak of how small the kitchen and bathroom is.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance- Why we lie to ourselves.

The social psychological experiment of Festinger and Carlsmith done in 1959 provides insight into why we do things that are contrary to our normal beliefs.

In the study experimenters tell the participants that they are doing a study in which they will see how your expectations affect the experience of the task. They are told that there are two groups, one that has been told what to expect from the experience, but that they are part of the group that has not been given an expectation.

The task that they are given is extremely boring, for half an hour they are to move spoons around in a box, and for another half hour they are to move pegs around a board. After they have completed the task the experimenter tells them that other participants have found the task quite interesting. Then the experimenter explains that there has been a mistake, that the next participant was supposed to have been given an expectation of the task and had not been. They offer the participant either $1 or $20 to tell the next person that the task was interesting.

Afterwords, the participant is to fill out a survey ranking how interesting the task was to them. The results discovered that those who were paid $1 ranked the task as interesting, and those who were paid $20 ranked the task as boring.

This result is called the power of cognitive dissonance. It's the way we deal with two thoughts that contradict each other. In this case, how we rationalize telling someone something was interesting that we actually found boring. For those paid $20 dollars it was easy to lie (in 1959 $20 was much more money). The money, in their mind, was worth lying to the next person and so they felt little guilt doing it. For the person paid only $1, however, their brain needed to rationalize a reason for lying and the person therefore convinced themselves that the task was more interesting then it actually was.

This theory applies to many situations in which people can convince themselves to believe something they would have otherwise found false; to think something unimportant is important, or something boring is interesting.

This experiment is a simplification of how people resolve cognitive dissonance through rationalizations. What are some other situations in which people might do this? How much does money play a roll in the outcome? Could there have been another "reward" such as a feeling of inclusion and would that make the experiment more valid? Are we more likely to rationalize because of monetary gain or social pressures?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are Two Heads Better than One? (PDF) is an article by Rebecca Thompson from the Pyschologist Journal that discusses group processes with a focus on Collaborative memory.

Through a series of archival studies she compares group strategies of pooling vs. collaboration and the situations in which each prove to be more successful than other. A study by Taylor et al. (1958) and Dunnette et al. (1963) resulted in the nominal group (from pooling ideas together), brainstorming more solid ideas as opposed to the collaborative group attempting to simultaneously brainstorm together. Similar results were retrieved from studying other tasks including story recalling (Andersson & Ronnberg, 1996).

The ‘social loaf’ (Latane, Williams & Harkins, 1979) provides a theory that is used to explain this observation where individuals within the group experience reduced pressure to perform and assume less personal responsibility towards the task with the attitude that other members will take care of it.

However there are certain situations in which group work could attain a higher level of success. The Zajonc solution (1968) provides the dividing formula where easy tasks are facilitated with the correct response and performance is enhanced. Difficult tasks on the contrary are inhibited with an incorrect response and performance is impaired.

Thompson also continues to explore the effects of familiarity of group members, the type of tasks and other individual differences. She believes it is better to collaborate for general knowledge or shared personal experiences as opposed to memorizing new material (which is done better at an individual level). This conclusion is based on her reasoning and archival research however she did not provide any observational/ experimental evidence to support this.

It is interesting to look back at the posters we made in small groups at the beginning of the semester and realize how many of the ‘Effective Methods to Change Social Behaviour’ were used in this collaborative group setting. When we then attempted to recall these methods as a nominal group, we just had an undocumented experiment conducted on us.

Rebecca Thompson concludes: “With the right cooks and the right combination of ingredients, the broth has the potential to be very good indeed!”

When looking for “right cooks” are there specific characteristics within individuals that make them more suited for collaborative work as opposed to individual work? Or are the same individuals better all round (working collaboratively and individually)? Does the success of a collaborative task reflect the collective strengths or the most dominant strength?

Social Loafing on Cognitive Tasks: An Examination of the "Sucker Effect"

(View PDF)

Social loafing (Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979) or the "Free Rider Problem" is the finding that people reduce effort when working in a group, compared to when working alone in an attempt to keep an equitable division of labor when completing a task at hand. In other words, participants make a great effort to avoid becoming the "sucker." (Schnake, 1991)

In this study, the causes and potential mediators of social loafing on group tasks which require active cognitive effort.

The subjects (70 upper-class undergraduates) arrived and met another participant (confederate). When the experimenter left the room for a moment, the confederate voiced loudly his/her intention of high or low effort on all tasks. When the confederate stated that their would be a low level of effort on his/her part, social loafing occurred.

In the end, it was found that the equity theory may be the basis for this underlying problem in group processes. When the participants believed that their partners would not loaf, significant social loafing did not occur.

If social loafing in a workplace is a common problem, is there any way that management can come to an amicable yet firm solution?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jane Elliott's Blue Eyes/ Brown Eyes Experiment

[LATimes news article on the experiment]

In 1968, the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, a third grade teacher named Jane Elliott tried to devise a way to make her all-white students understand the power of prejudice from an angle to which they had previously been unexposed. Mrs. Elliott told her students that they would play a game in which the blue-eyed students belonged to an inferior group of lazy, stupid people, and that the next day the rules would be switched around so that the brown-eyed children were inferior.
The children were enthusiastic about this "game". Some of the rules included that the "inferior" group must use a cup to drink from the water fountain, must leave late to lunch and recess, and must not speak to the "superior" group. Almost immediately, the superior group began to act noticeably different towards the others and amongst themselves. They became more confident, arrogant even, and domineering, excluding the other group. Interestingly, children in the superior group who had previously shown slowness in learning to read were now excelling academically, while children of the inferior group displayed angry, resentful, frightened, "stupid", and intimidated behavior.
This experiment was an exercise in the way prejudice and racism work in society. It demonstrated that prejudice does not originate internally or independently, and that it depends on externally introduced notions. Different races or skin colors are unnecessary in an experiment with prejudice and discrimination based on physical differences, which is important because it shows the arbitrary nature of prejudice. The discriminated-against characteristic can just as easily be eye color as skin color.

[Jane Elliott expands on the importance of this experiment in today's world.]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Asch Study Variations

JSTORE: Sociometry, Vol. 30

The Asch study is an experiment where a group of confederates match similar lines (sometimes purposely incorrectly) and then a subject answers last. The subject's response is used to determine if there is group conformity.  This study was conducted again with more variables to consider not only the influence of the group but also that of the experimenter. The experiment was conducted with 4 conditions: 

"I: Neither the experimenter nor the group is in a position to observe the subject, thus only informational influence is possible.

IG: The group, but not the experiment, is in a position to observe the subject; thus both informational and group normative influence is possible.

OE: the experimenter, but not the group, is in a position to observe the subject; thus both informational and experimenter normative influence are possible.

IEG: Both the experimenter and the group are in a position to observe the subject; thus informational, experimenter normative, and group normative influence are possible" (Schulman 29)

The results suggest that there is a varying degree of influence from the group and the experimenter based on the status of the individual. One interpretation is that middle and high status individuals  are equally concerned with the group's evaluation of them, but that high status persons are more influenced based on the evaluations of the authority figures (Schulman 40). 

It's important to note all the conditions that go into group conformity. For example are individuals that know each other more or less likely to conform to the group? It seems that relationship may have a parabolic curve. If the individuals are newly acquainted there may be more conformity. After the friendship has weathered the storm there may be less conformity to the group and thus a stronger influence on satisfying the experimenter. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This study examines the differences between individualism in American culture and collectivism in Eastern cultures. The researchers designed four studies, using abstract figures, pens and advertising and participants from both cultures. In their first study they used Eastern Asians who may have been influenced by living in the USA, so the second study used participants who were living in Korea.

The researchers expected that East Asians would show a preference for conformity and Americans would show a preference for uniqueness, and they found this in the four studies. In the first study, they used abstract figures and although they found the patterns to be consistent with the American cultural emphasis on uniqueness, the found the Asian-American participants to be more neutral than they expected, so the study was replicated using East Asians, who hadn’t spent so much time in the USA.

After the first two studies that related to preferences with abstract figures, they then designed an experiment using the choice of pens, to examine how these preferences converted into action. Although they suggest that the results showed that each cultural value was consistent with what the individuals picked, they were not the same group of participants, which could have an impact on the results.

I wonder if it would have been the same if they had used the same group of participants.

Although most would probably agree that the formation of the most simple preferences is heavily influenced by culture, I wonder if these studies could really be considered to be an effective way of showing that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Social Roles

The Attitude-Behaviour Gap: Why We Say One Thing But Do The Opposite:

"....At that time in the US there had been lots of stories in the media about how prejudiced people were against Chinese people.

Social Psychologist, LaPiere (1930) started to wonder why there was such a gap between what the newspapers were reporting about people's attitudes and their actual behaviour. To check this out he decided to send out a questionnaire to the restaurants and hotels they had visited along with other similar places in the area (LaPiere, 1934).

The questionnaire asked the owners about their attitudes, with the most important question being: "Will you accept members of the Chinese race in your establishment?
Incredibly 90% of respondents answered, no, they wouldn't accept members of the Chinese race into their establishments."

LaPiere's study had come out to be rather appauling. He discovered that when people are confronted face to face with another person and asked a question such as this, they would respond in a way as to not appear pompous and arrogant. They did the opposite when asked the same question on a piece of paper,anonymously. This shows how playing roles is happening everywhere.

People in modern society have to create an alternative personality in front of others. This shows in social gatherings when one feels as though they have to put up a front to make themselves like-able. My question about this strange phenomenon, is when and how this strange attitude was presented to us. Was this a trait that we saw in our parents, and then mimicked? Perhaps it was something that was in our minds the whole time. I also wonder if this was brought out in the modern world, when status became such an important role in an individuals life.
I believe that this trait is something that was bred into us from a very early age. Unconsciously, our parents taught us that status and proper attitudes was a very important part of growing up. We were taught not to eat sand and to always be polite. We were taught to never be mean to another child, which lead to the thought that we have to keep a front up and get along with the other kids. This trait of putting up a front was introduced into our fragile minds so early that we have accepted it our whole lives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Does bottling up your emotions make you more likely to be hostile? This article in clinically psyched proves just that. The study conducted by Todd Maddox, Kathleen Vohs and Brian Glass was collaborative research done at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Minnesota. It was done in order to find ways for people in stressful professions cope better from long hours on the job. Subjects ranged from regular college students to those in military academies. (abstract)

Two films “The Meaning of Life” and “Trainspotting” were the material. Two focus groups were observationally studied. One was asked to show no emotions during a sequence of violent scenes and another could react normally. There was an additional coefficient in the mix being a group kept up for 24 hours to see if exhaustion would amplify hostility. If you are familiar with either or both movies you know how grotesque some of the actions are and how you reacted the first time you saw them.

The study found that the subjects who were not allowed to react during the scenes were more aggressive after the test. The “ego depletion effect” was proved to be supported from this study as it was found that those “who keep their emotions bottled up” are more likely to turn around and act out of turn later on. Additionally it was found exhaustion does not increase hostility. I think it is interesting that as a society we are expected to keep aggressive feelings in and are then expected to not overreact under any circumstance.

The subjects were all place in a hypothetical computerized competition where they could blast there supposed opponent with noise. Those who could not react used this time to let loose and had higher average noise levels.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Protest

Below are two news stories on the ongoing protest on Wall Street.

Occupy wall street is an ongoing protest taking place on wall street. It has gained little attention in the media other than on the social networks, specifically Twitter. According the NY Times, a common interest seems to be lacking among the wide array of individuals protesting. “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%,” said a statement on the website Occupy Wall Street. (ABC News article above).

It is interesting to read through the #occupywallstreet posts on twitter. Most of the posts are fueled by claims of police brutality where there are alleged instances of people being maced and tazered by law enforcement officials. It seems that to gain more followers less attention should be focused on the force of the police and more of the actual issue at hand. As only those experiencing police aggression and those who have experienced it in the past are the only ones that can relate. In the duration of the protest (8 days now) the cause seems to have shifted from protesting the corruption of 1% of the population to police aggression. Most of the tweets mention the harm inflicted by the NYPD and how it is important to maintain the peace of the protest. However, one begins to question the peace of the protest, as there is little evidence to evaluate.

The number of protesters now has reportedly dwindled and those standing their ground appear less focused on the original goal of the protest and now on making point of the action of the law enforcements. One tweet inquired what the individual police officers were thinking. This could possibly imply that the officers felt the same way as the protesters but were acting in such a manner because that is how the rest of the officers were acting. The social psychology element is how protesters work together to maintain their cause. While they may not have all decided to protest for the same reason they now all have a common interest in reporting the actions of the police.

It’s difficult to gain a perspective on the events of the protest. The videos posted on Youtube do not give a clear idea of what is happening. Thus one questions what makes an effective protest: is it the size of the gathering, the violence that seems to occur frequently, or a political figure addressing the protest? The Occupy Wall Street protest does not seem effective as the number of protesters is reducing and their issue is no longer clear. For an increase in attention and support the reasons for the protest should be more prominent on twitter.