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.


  1. Vocally people will describe their attitude and behavior towards something or someone a certain way, as seen in this article people say that they would act a certain way but once actually provided with the situation in public they behave much differently.

    This change of behavior seems to be a sort of defense to keep negative attitudes towards the individual away, and be perceived by the public in a positive light. I think this behavior is something that is innate to human behavior, being social species we want to be perceived a certain way in public which may be different from what we truly feel; we conform to the group to be accepted by others and not rock the boat. In Solomon Asch's research on conformity we see that even when people know something is wrong, and the group continuously chooses the wrong answer, the individual eventually goes along with the rest of the group. I think that from our own social experiences we have, both positive and negative, we develop this “alternate personality” to be seen in a different way to different people.

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  3. I disagree that strategic self-presentation (thinking one thing and doing another) is a direct cause of being taught by our parents how to act as children. Although I do believe that it is a learned behavior. The central idea around strategic self-presentation is that we do as such in order to preserve our own self esteem. It is a very self oriented mechanism of behavior that cannot be learned from being told how to act, but rather, how acting a certain way makes us feel, based on peer approval or disapproval.

    In the article "Self-Regulation and Self-Presentation: Regulatory Resource Depletion
    Impairs Impression Management and Effortful Self-Presentation
    Depletes Regulatory Resources" it mentions that "People learn from early in life that they must convey a positive image of the self that conforms to the groups values of social desirability and admired traits." This article leans towards the idea that we learn as children how to behave based on our peers reactions of admired traits rather than being taught by parents to act a certain way.

  4. I believe one of the reasons in LaPiere’s study why people took the opposite action instead of staying with their first response might be the questionnaire being highly generalized. Since La Piere was with them when they visited each restaurant, his existence changed the whole situation. La Piere argued as well, saying, “it all depends on how you ask questions.” (LaPiere, R. T. (1934). Attitudes vs. Actions. Social Forces, 13(2), 230-237.) I believe if LaPiere was specific enough about the Chinese couple and asked the question in a less stereotyped way, the result would have been different. I agree with Suzanne. I think the way we form attitudes depends on the social environment that we have brought up and live in. There are many rules and generalizations that have been constantly carved into are brains since young age that affects the way we construct attitudes and behave upon them. The social structure of the modern world is based on status and the impression we leave on people which sometimes make us act the opposite way or interchange personalities to fit in.

  5. I want to follow up on Suzanne's comment that states that "I believe that this trait is something that was bred into us from a very early age." Similarly, the book explicitly states that Abraham Tesser had a hypothesis that states that "strong likes and dislikes are rooted in our genetic make-up." I also believe that similar upbringings might create a similar thought process, as can be seen in the different beliefs in nations, and more particularly, the individuals within that nation that evoke those beliefs

  6. How does an individual feel when they are responding anonymously as opposed to responding directly in person? How can one tell what is real and what is a facade? Or possibly what is ignored and not given any consideration?

    When completing an anonymous survey, one may feel more liberal and comfortable in expressing their feelings. However they may also find it impersonal and may not care enough to spend a minute longer to think about it. They could simply be expressing their initial instincts but does that necessarily reflect their behaviour?

    The Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) can be applied here where the entire situation is assessed, resulting in the final behaviour. Filling out a survey would only cover the initial, personal attitude toward a behaviour. In any scenario, the subjective norm and perceived behaviour control also come into play before there is any action.

    If a Chinese individual were to go through a whole application process for acceptance to an establishment and unknowingly the respondent accepts this Chinese individual for an interview, the respondent would have to spend more than the two seconds given to a survey before reaching a decision. In the end, the interview would affect his/ her behaviour and his initial instinct may not necessarily stand at this point.

    On response to Ana, when discussing genetic make up and it's relationship, I wonder whether those STRONG likes and dislikes are in reference to one's preference in matters such as tastes and climate, as opposed to things like favourite colours. I can imagine how certain individuals may be able to tolerate more flavours, spices etc. because it was a huge part of their parents' diet however I'm not so sure that my parents strong liking of Marylin Monroe was bred into me - in fact, I can confirm it wasn't bred into me. I'm curious to know what specifically is controlled or "rooted" in our genetic make-up.

  7. Ellis Cose, who is an African American award winning writer, wanted a job at the national magazine. However, during the interview the editor told that they did not have many black readers so they did not need any black writers. Ellis says that ‘he had been so busy focusing on my race that he was incapable of seeing me or my work.”(Social Psychology 8th edition,pg186). Even though it was a national magazine which is supposes to gather people without regarding race, culture, ethnicity and so on that is from the same nation, they did not accept a successful writer just because he was black. However if I did not knew about this and if they asked me what are the goals of this newspaper I would say that it would address knowledge and awareness to everyone regardless of any differences.
    I believe that LaPiere’s study was successful since people were confronted face to face with questions and did not have any thinking time to respond in the way that they are suppose to. I believe that this technique makes people say what they really think by stimulating the unconscious mind.
    Even though Ellis Cose was an award winning writer he was not accepted by the national magazine community. It is not only the matter of race but people who act and think differently in public are also discriminated. One wonders then if acting like a community in order belongs is worth it after all. Should Galileo have hidden his discovery that the earth is round just because the community around him thought his ideas were dangerous? Similarly, should Darwin have kept his theory of evolution to himself because it was against teachings of religion which the community defended? People can become really close minded and act as the community has thought them. However they are missing so many new things because of prejudice.

  8. In response to LaPiere's study, I wonder what would have happened if the study had been changed to writing anonymously on a slip of paper and a paper with their name on it. A person is more likely to answer what is an 'accepting, nonprejudicial" reaction when it is associated with their name.

    Another variable would be to determine LaPiere's race versus the questioned person. If the person who was doing the asking were Chinese, the answers might have been even more scattered.