homeTeaching Social Psychology


Examples Illustrating
Social Psychological Concepts

I have organized examples by topics alphabetically under "chapter" headings. Most of the initial examples below are from students in my social psychology course that they identified in the process of completing their journal assignments. There are many concepts with few or no corresponding examples below. So, help me and your colleagues out -- send me any examples you would like to share! Thanks.

Key: = describes Audio example = describes Video example

= Instructor example = My own example = link to Web example

No Icon = student example

= new example as of April 1, 2013

Aggression
Aversive Incidents, Biology, Frustration
, Competition, Gendered Violence

Helping (Altruism)     new
Ambiguity, Bystander Effect, Empathy, Responsibility, Social Responsibility Norm

Attitudes and Behavior
Attitude/Behavior Consistency, Behavioral Intentions, Behavior Affects Attitudes: Foot-in-the-door, Door-in-the-face, Self-perception, Attitude Formation, Cognitive Dissonance, Self-presentation

Methods new
surveys, third variable problem
Attraction and Relationships
Attraction: Mere Exposure, Complementarity, Physical Attractiveness, Propinquity, Resources, Similarity, What Women Want; Relationships: Communication, Equity, Intimacy
Persuasion
Source Variables: Attractiveness; Message Variables: Exposure Effect, Two-sided Appeals, Cult Indoctrination; Resistance to Change
Conflict and Peacemaking
Cooperation/Competition, Social Dilemmas, Prisoner's Dilemma, Blacktop Illusion
Prejudice new
Racial Profiling, Religious, Racial, Ingroup Bias, Reducing Prejudice
Conformity
Authority, Compliance, Informational Influence, Normative Influence, Norms, Roles
Psychology in the Courtroom
Jury decision-making, eyewitness testimony
Genes, Gender, and Culture
Gender Differences, Gender Roles

Social Beliefs and Judgments new
Attributions: Kelley's Theory, Fundamental Attribution Error, Self-serving Bias; Impression Formation: Primacy Effect, Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic, Schemas/Stereotypes; Judgment Biases: Belief Perseverance, Confirmation Bias, Heuristics, Hindsight Bias, Illusion of Causation, Memory Distortion, Self-fulfilling prophecy, Thin slices

Group Influence
Deindividuation, Groupthink, Social Loafing
Social Comparison
Adaptation-level Phenomenon

The Self    
Perception of Control: Illusion of Control, Reactance, Self-efficacy, Self-serving Bias, False Uniqueness Effect, Unrealistic Optimism

 

Aggressiontop

new Competition? Frustration?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2242976/Three-teenagers-charged-manslaughter-allegedly-taking-attack-linesman-Holland.html
"Three teenagers will be charged with manslaughter by Dutch prosecutors for allegedly taking part in an attack on a linesman at a youth football match." Anyone know more about the details of this incident? [added 3/5/13]

new Ethnic violence - more anti-Islam attacks during Ramadan [added 12/16/12]

new Victim-blaming - Geraldo Rivera blames the hoodie, in part, for Trayvon Martin's death. [added 6/18/12]

video Institutional supports - Video and story of gay highschooler attacked by classmate [added 1/15/12]

Children modeling parents - cute little video [added 12/12/07]

NBA brawl 2004 - story / video - The first link is to a story on the brawl that broke out at a Pistons-Pacers basketball game. The second link is to some video of that brawl. I don't know how long this video will be available, but perhaps you will be able to use it for awhile in your classes. This story can illustrate the effects of deindividuation, frustration, competition, alcohol and probably many factors on aggression. [added on 12/1/04]

Aversive Incidents

Besides frustration, there are three other unpleasant conditions which lead to aggressive behavior. The first unpleasant condition is pain. I remember one particular time I had a piece of fiber between my contact lens and my eye. Talk about pain! This happened while I was driving. Needless to say, I became very angry and cussed like a sailor. Finally, I decided to pull off the road and take my lens out. What a relief! I drove with one eye closed all the way home as I had no contact solution with me. Attack is yet another form of unpleasant condition. In my case, a verbal attack. Any type of negative verbal abuse towards me usually ignites very hostile emotions. Again, I get angry or sarcastic or just clam up. Loss of control is yet another unpleasant condition which increases arousal and then aggressive behavior. For me, getting up in the morning and looking at the alarm only to find out I should now be at work is downright frightening. Being in a hurry and out of control makes me angry and I tend to be abrupt and crabby.

Biology

Penguins! - I leave this one to your creativity as to how you might use it; I just like it! [added 6/9/04]

Frustration

Sources of frustration - A gunman who killed four in Pennsylvania this summer "described his anger and frustration in painstaking detail in notes he carried with him and left at his home and in a chilling online diary, offering an extraordinarily stark portrait of a killer's motives." [added 1/13/10]

web Hostility on the road and anonymity - Another excellent blog from Sam Sommers -- read about his tangle with Green Nissan. [added 3/29/09]

web Rising food prices brings unrest - Once again, that social psychology equation, aggression = expectations - attainment, raises its head. [added 5/3/08]

Anger - oh yeah! My friends know about this pretty good. I wouldn't think that the people I hang around with are aggressive. But they definitely show a great deal of displacement of frustration - especially on their cars! Whenever my friends get mad - for example - they got in a fight with their girlfriend - they tend to take out their anger on their cars. Luckily most of them work on cars! Me, I guess when I get mad, I get really quiet. I won't talk to anyone! But when I get super mad - the wall and my fist become enemies!

Competition

Ivory Coast: The next Rwanda? - Apparently, a significant source of the aggression was the competition between "natives" and "foreigners" over jobs. [added on 12/1/04]

Gendered Violence

new Blaming the victim? - Here's a story from New York City in which police are apparently warning women that they should not be wearing shorts or short skirts considering the current series of rapes that have occurred. [added 1/15/12]

new Violence against women - the horrible story of a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl who died from lashes after being charged with adultery [4/9/11]

Anonymity and the Internet - article about threats and harassment towards women in chat rooms, blogs, etc. [added 7/15/07]

In Syria - A United Nations report finds that nearly one in four married women in Syria have been beaten. [added 7/5/06]

 

Attitudes and Behavior top

Attitude/Behavior Consistency

web Attitude/behavior inconsistency - talking on the phone while driving [4/9/11]

Interpreting events to fit prior beliefs - Interesting paper describing "cases of epilepsy that were interpreted as voodoo possession" [added 1/13/10]

video Inconsistencies - humorous clip from The Daily Show of how commentators often contradict themselves [added 3/25/09]

"The guilty green" - Describes the guilt many environmentally-conscious people feel when their behavior is not always consistent with their beliefs [added 12/26/07]

How much money would it take to...? - Warning: This one is a little offbeat! Olde English, which appears to be some type of video sketch comedy group, produced this short film in which they ask people, "How much money would it take for you to kill a puppy with your bare hands?" You see how people respond to this question. Then, later in the video they return to these people with a live puppy and a blank check to see if they really will kill a puppy for the amount of money they said it would take. Just to let you know, the video ends with the line, "No puppies were harmed in the making of this sketch." [added on 12/1/04]

Behavioral Intentions

Fishbein and Ajzen say that our behavior roughly equals our behavioral intentions. They go on to say that our behavioral intentions equal our weighted attitudes plus our weighted social norms. I find this easy to relate to the use of steroids. In the summer, in the gym where I work out, there are several football players who go through a cycle of steroids just before season. The pressure to do the drugs is high because it is so accepted in the gym. I feel I refrained because my attitude toward the use of steroids was so strong coupled with my motivation to comply with the social norm was extremely low. I therefore refrained from steroids because that was my behavioral intention.

Behavior Affects Attitudes top

video Saying-is-believing effect - Any Bachelor fans out there? The T.V. show? Well, if you missed the exciting last season, you missed a very clever use of the saying-is-believing effect. As seen in this video clip, contestant Courtney lures Bachelor Ben into a mock wedding ceremony. She also convinces him to write fake wedding vows that they then repeat to each other as part of the mock ceremony. Unfortunately, the video clip does not include the very romantic vows themselves, but you get the idea. Guess who Bachelor Ben finally proposed to? Yep, clever Courtney. [added 6/20/12]

new Saying-is-believing effect - If you say you like a random person will you actually like that person more? How do you like this issue so far? Come on, you can tell me. [added 6/18/12]

Mere exposure effect [added 3/31/04]

The yo-yo trap - an example of low-balling [added 3/30/04]

A good example of behavior affecting attitudes is as follows. I watched Fall From Grace the other night. It was the story about Jim and Tammy Baker and the crime he/she committed. It was interesting to hear the actor who played Jim Baker talk about how unjust our society is to give Jim Baker forty-five years in prison and Oliver North seminars at schools. It seems he became sympathetic towards Mr. Baker after playing him. I'm assuming this affected his attitude although I obviously don't know how he felt about it before he took the role. Its just that most people don't feel sympathetic towards Jim Baker. (False consensus?)

Foot-in-the-door phenomenon - I noticed recently that Channel 11 uses the foot-in-the-door technique to solicit subscribers to their network. They could send out fliers or they could just tell people from time to time that the station needs and wants their subscriptions. However, they ask their viewers to make a "commitment." They ask the viewers to call them (an insignificant request). Once they have made the call and committed themselves to a specific amount, their need to be consistent "should" motivate them to complete the pledge by sending the money. Evidently, it doesn't work 100% of the time, because recently they have encouraged people to take their "credit cards" to the phone with them. Charging the subscription eliminates the possibility of procrastination or retraction of the commitment. They also use the social consensus technique by letting the viewers view the busy operators and hear the phones ring. If viewers believe that other people are subscribing, they are more likely to comply with the request.

Foot-in-the-door phenomenon - Women will sometimes be persuaded to let a date come up to their apartment at the end of an evening, "just for one drink". Though reluctant the woman feels obligated if she allowed the man to pay her way--the reciprocity norm takes hold of her. If the woman seems to be easy prey he may tell her how tired he has suddenly become and ask if he could just lie on the sofa for "a few minutes"--since the weather is bad and he has a long drive it may not be safe to get behind the wheel just yet. If he has made it this far, asking to spend the night, which would have first seemed out of the question, is now likely to be met with "sure I guess that would be all right."

Door-in-the-face phenomenon - from Christine Smith at Antioch College: "You are approached by a charity group, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They would like you to be a Big Sister in the program, which involves a 2 year commitment. Although worthy, you cannot make that commitment, so you refuse because of the time commitment. They compromise with a "counteroffer"...if you can't be a Big Sister, would you be willing to donate $10 so we can take a child in the program to the circus? Because they have compromised (and it is a worthy cause), you agree because you can indeed spare $10.

The door-in-the-face works more for perceived worthy causes. It doesn't work with "Can you write a 20 page paper for me?" "No, how about a 5 page paper?" The other key is compromise--they compromised by lowering the offer, so you respond by agreeing." [added 10/20/05]

Attitude Formation

 web Prior attitudes influence attitude formation - African-Americans have generally been opposed to same-sex marriage, until now. What might have changed their attitudes? President Obama, whom they also favor, recently has come out publicly in support of same-sex marriage. A lot of other social psych concepts are in play here. Can your students identify several of them? [added 6/20/12]

Prior attitudes shape current ones - "Currently, in the midst of the Obama administration, two-thirds of Republicans (65%) support the so-called "watchdog role" for the press, compared with 55% of Democrats. But last year, while Bush was still in office, only 44% of Republicans felt it was good that press criticism keeps political leaders honest, and Democrats were much more pro watchdog (71% supported press criticism)." [added 1/15/10]

video Prior attitudes influence formation of new ones - This commercial is an excellent example. [added 4/4/08]

Cognitive Dissonance top

video Cognitive dissonance - Jon Stewart reviews some recent examples in the news of how people try to reconcile contradictory thoughts. [added 6/20/12]

web Cognitive dissonance - Interesting study entitled "Sweatshop labor is wrong unless the jeans are cute: Motivated moral disengagement" -- the title says it all. [3/29/09]

Reducing cognitive dissonance - Do carbon offsets allow us to reduce our guilt about polluting the environment? [added 7/14/07]

Dissonance Corner - example of and ways to reduce dissonance from Lisa Aspinwall [added 1/5/06]

How much money would it take to...? - Warning: This one is a little offbeat! Olde English, which appears to be some type of video sketch comedy group, produced this short film in which they ask people, "How much money would it take for you to kill a puppy with your bare hands?" You see how people respond to this question. Then, later in the video they return to these people with a live puppy and a blank check to see if they really will kill a puppy for the amount of money they said it would take. Just to let you know, the video ends with the line, "No puppies were harmed in the making of this sketch." [added on 12/1/04]

Well, I sure caught myself today. I got ready for work this morning, drove to work, parked and walked into the building. I went through the lobby and downstairs to my floor. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I noticed that my shoes felt odd. I looked down and was absolutely aghast. I had on two different shoes! Boy, did my mind go to work trying to justify this me. First it was okay because it gets light so much later in the morning and i dress in the dark now (never mind the fact that I consciously decided not to turn the bedroom light on)... lack of consistency as I don't always do this. Second it was okay because as the day went on many people came up to me and told me they had done the same thing once (I wasn't alone!)... Consensus from coworkers helped relieve the dissonance I felt.

I hate the name Marvin. I've always hated the name. It doesn't sound masculine. It sounds like his mother must have hated him. When I hear it, my schema says "spoiled brat." In my mind, there are no good cognitions associated with the name. Since I never knew a Marvin when I was growing up, I don't know why I have such strong feelings about the name. If anyone would have told me that someday I would be married to a Marvin, I would have told them they were off their rocker. But that's exactly what happened. However, I still dislike the name so much, that sometimes my mind refuses to let my mouth say it. I can't tell you how many times I've slipped and called him Norman. I have never dated a Norman, so I don't know why my mind insists on substituting that name, but it does. As you can imagine, my husband fails to see any humor in this. At any rate, my husband is a very kind and generous man. He is not at all like the schema that I continue to associate with his name. In order to maintain a feeling of consistency, and to relieve dissonance regarding the conflict between my attitude and actions, I've convinced myself that my husband is an exception to the rule.

I feel "out of control!" As the Spring Quarter comes to a close, I'm worried that I can't bring it all together. There's so much to do. I feel dissonance when I try to study. Sometimes it is so overwhelming that I can't concentrate. What shall I work on first. In which class do I have the best chance. In which class will it make very little difference how much I study. My husband is frustrated and confused. He can't understand why I'm so irritable. He can't understand why I don't want to go anywhere. He's starting going places without me. I don't like that. That bothers me too. Then there's my home. I haven't dusted or vacuumed in weeks. I've managed to keep up with the laundry and subsistence meals, but I have things in my refrigerator that are undoubtedly three months old. That's not like me. I'm violating my self perception, which is causing more dissonance. I have completely neglected my friends since I've been in school. I hope they will forgive me when this is all over. I hope there will be someone left to come to my graduation? Worst of all, I'm paying a good deal of money to be tortured this way. Am I a masochist? Why else would I inflict such punishment on myself. I could be back on that good-paying easy job that I detested so much. That's it; that's why I'm doing this! I want the second half of my life to be more rewarding. If I can only hold onto an "illusion of control" for one more week, I'll be a North Central College Senior.

Self-presentationtop

Cartoon (New Yorker) - clothes speak for her

 

Attraction and Relationships top

Attraction

Mere exposure effect [added 3/31/04]

Evolutionary Factors - Seinfeld Episode: Evolutionary factors in mate selection can be seen in the episode in which they try to fix up George with a date. He asks questions about his potential date's physical attributes and she asks questions about George's status, power and resources. Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

Physical attractiveness - Physical attractiveness plays a big role in how we think of and respond to people. I've worked as a summer camp counselor for the past two years and you have to try and treat each kid the same but it is inevitable that you will have favorites. I remember one year there were two really bad kids in particular who were always getting into trouble. One was a little girl who was so cute. She always had a cute little outfit on, here little ears were pierced, and was hilarious. But she was always getting herself into trouble or not listening. The other kid was a little overweight and not so attractive boy who also knew just how to muster up trouble. But when it came to punishing the two it was hard to be equal and fair and generally what tended to happen is the cute girl would get away with a lot more. She could somehow get us to forget or be less mad about the trouble she had caused and distract us with her humor or by other tactics. And the little boy would often get in more trouble and get a lot less positive attention....Thinking back, my favorite kids have never really been unattractive, and I even feel horrible admitting that, but it's true. [added 4/16/08]


Physical Attractiveness - Something funny came to mind while I was looking over the section on physical attractiveness. Specifically, I was looking at the idea that attractive children are given the benefit of the doubt more often than less attractive children. This is so true! I work with two three-year-old boys that can look at me with their respective sets of baby blues and browns and melt me to the ground. It is so difficult to discipline a child that looks so cute when they look at you. In these situations, I consciously have to think about what I'm doing in order to discipline the gorgeous kids the same way I treat the other children.

Physical Attractiveness - North Central College uses the "attractive" idea to persuade people to attend the college. While going to class on a couple of days, I remember seeing a photographer on campus taking pictures of two or three attractive young students. I instantly thought of the course catalogue. The young people on the cover will help emphasize the stereotype of the student's physical appearance: happy, intelligent, kind, sociable and successful.top


Propinquity (physical proximity)...again! - another good example -- a spoof from The Onion -- hat tip to Jeff Ricker for this one [added 12/26/07]

Propinquity - Here's a song ("Somebody") from Reba McEntire that captures well our tendency to choose from those nearby. [added 12/12/07]

Propinquity (Physical Proximity) - When we discussed the idea that we make friends with those close to us this made me think of the floor that I live on now. Last year when we saw who was going to live on our floor we were very upset. Our end of the hall was all football players but the other end was all soccer players. Normally football hates soccer. At first things were a little tense but after a while some friendships developed. Because they were close it was easy to see if they wanted to go eat or go out or something and we found out they aren't as bad as we thought. If they didn't live close we would probably hate them still.

Relationships

Equity -- there's a common source of argument. Does one person doing garbage equate to the other ironing? Does one person doing laundry equate to the other vacuuming? Early on in our marriage these issues cropped up frequently. Now as I look at it, 16 years later, these just aren't issues anymore. Each does what has to be done as it needs doing. Sometimes one of us has more time than the other. Consideration of the other's needs creates the equity anymore -- not the amount of equal effort. That's where the twist builds from because you know the other person will be there for you. top

Equity - When we first married, I worked full-time while my husband finished college (before my liberated days). This was out of concern for his and our welfare. I did not expect anything in return. Now sixteen years and a family later, I am going to finish school. It is not easy. My personality takes a real nose dive during semesters. My energy level is good for squat. My husband does 75% of the housework. (The other 25% doesn't get done.) My level of patience will never get me a mother-of-the-year award. Yet in one of my reflective, depressive moods last year, I asked my husband why he put up with it. His response was "you put me through school years ago; it's the least I can do now." That is love.

 

Conflict and Peacemaking top

Cooperation vs. Competition

Retail work
Through working at Macy's [a department store], I have learned that niceness does not always lead you to the best outcome for every situation. Every time we clock into work, we have a sales goal that we have to obtain by the time our shift is over. Because of this, if we are working with someone else we are faced with the dilemma of amicably working together with the coworker or to compete with them in order to more surely meet our sales goal. In the past, I have always been used to fully cooperating with my coworkers in order to get the job done more effectively. Not until I have been thrown into the shark tank that is the retail workplace that have I been faced with the idea that I must make sure that one person doesn't take all of the department's sales away from me while I am working on something else away from the register. In order to get around this large barrier between us and to establish understanding that both of us need to meet a certain goal, I always ask how the other person is doing for the day and how much more money he or she needs to bring in. By doing this, I make the person aware of how he/she needs to either pick up the pace or slow down and allow me a chance to ring some transactions. This way, I can stay competitive with my sales intake while remaining friendly and cooperative with the person that I am working with. Another way to keep the balance of competition and cooperation in the department is to ask each customer if anyone else has been assisting or working with them to make their visit more enjoyable. If the customer says that they really did not need help so no one assisted them, then I can ring them up without hesitation. However, if someone has been helping them, then it is only fair to let the person helping them ring them up because they were the ones who earned the money from the transaction. With this, a lot of trust is built up between people in the store, trust that other people will pull their own slack and trust that they will only build their sales goal with the customers that they have helped or with the customers that had no significant assistance from any other coworker. [added 12/17/12]

new Exposure to outgroup - A Muslim reality show, "All-American Muslim," will be appearing on TLC beginning November 13, 2011. Will it help reduce conflict or prejudice or discrimination? Who will watch it? Some research possibilities there for you or your students. [added 1/15/12]

web Using incentives for cooperation or conciliation - "Rice, in Nairobi, offers incentives to end violence." [added 4/11/08]

Scientific cooperation between U.S. and Islamic World - analysis paper from The Brookings Institution [added 8/12/05]

Promoting Arab and Israeli cooperation - interesting example of "peacebuilding through health initiatives"top

Cooperation and competition are very important in a job related atmosphere. Cooperation is something a small group within the office I work in is in need of. This group has five girls in it which are all competitive. The team effort belief in this part of our company is diminishing. The problem seems to be that the girls are afraid to cooperate because they won't get the credit or be recognized individually for their effort or ideas. Some social loafing is taking place. They are so eager to do well and improve that they tend to do their jobs ignoring all factors around their areas except their own. They are afraid to communicate or trust because someone might steal their idea or rework it. In addition, the males in our office tend to cooperate more than the females. I believe that females feel they must be more competitive to be noticed in our office. However, this competitiveness, lack of trust and communication is hurting their cooperation levels. Many times the girls refuse to talk and just clam up with one another. This creates gates or blocks in good working habits and therefore poor performance. In addition, this attitude expands and turns into threats like "Well, I'm just not going to do it" or "It's not my job." Unfortunately, these threats reduce the chance of cooperation. However, I believe the girls are basically competitive and there is no hatred as an outsider might think just by hearing or observing this situation. In addition, I believe this problem is going to be tackled soon. A meeting is going to take place on Tuesday of next week for these five girls. Finally, this mess was brought to a manager's attention (his eyes are usually closed to problems until they're overwhelming -- yet, another problem area). He realized that there are some problems and that most of all the competition within this group has brought about hostility. He is going to bring them together (the meeting) which is one good starting approach to get these girls back on track. I'm sure he is going to then force them to cooperate or else. I'm sure it will work.

Sources of Conflict

web Ingroup bias - It used to be that voters would say "throw those bums in Congress out, but keep mine." Now, even that is changing. [added 6/19/10]

Ingroup bias - When I was in Grammar School, it was the biggest deal to be part of the popular group; that’s all I ever wanted. Finally, after years of trying I made it in this distinctive group. This is the perfect example for the Ingroup/Outgroup. In order to be in our group, which by the way we called ourselves the “perfect 10” because there were ten of us, you had to be and act a certain way. Your hair had to be done a certain way, it had to be a certain color, and on various days we all planned to wear matching items. One particular day I remember was a Friday, we called it “crazy pants day.” We all had to wear tight animal print pants and a black top. Everyone wanted to be a part of this group. If you weren’t in it, we were making fun of you, whether it was how you looked, who you hung out with, or just for who you were. We were awful little girls. I remember one day, the day we wore the crazy pants, a few teachers overheard what we were planning and planned to wear matching outfits that same Friday. It’s quite odd looking back and realizing just how big of an impact we had even on adults. By no means am I saying this was a good thing. There are many days where I wish I could take it all back. Why do we have to have these groups, that make others just feel terrible? What was it that gave this group I was in all the power? Even though I was a very mean little girl, I believe if I hadn’t have had experiences like this I wouldn’t be who I am today. Finally I left the “Perfect 10” because I couldn’t take making fun of others for no apparent reason, and now I don’t really judge anybody without getting to know them. [added 4/16/08]

The power of symbols - Here's an interesting story of a couple in Colorado who have been threatened with a fine by the homeowners association if they do not take down their Christmas wreath shaped like a peace sign "that some say is an anti-Iraq protest or a symbol of Satan." [12/27/06]

Social Dilemmas top

Tragedy of the Commons

web And the environment - Amusing example from The Onion: "How bad for the environment can throwing away one plastic bottle be?" 30 million people wonder. [added 2/6/10]

Prisoner's Dilemma

video Prisoner's Dilemma - David Myers pointed me to this game show which apparently forces contestants into a sort of prisoner's dilemma at the end of each game, with communication permitted. See the very interesting strategy this particular contestant uses. [added 6/20/12]

Over the months since my daughter started back to school, I've been experiencing a mini-Prisoner's Dilemma. Every month the school sends home a notice pleading for volunteers for the Picture-Parent Program. (Once a month a parent would show a print by a famous artist to the class, giving details about the work of art, the artist, etc.) Every month I have been selfish and ignored the requests, hoping that someone else's parent will volunteer. (Partly I have ignored the requests because I truly don't have time since I'm enrolled full time at NCC. Partly I've ignored the requests because of a stereotype that I have about the typical suburban housewife -- lots of free time to fritter away here and there on nonessentials.) They have more time than I do; therefore, let them do it. Well, evidently, they are being selfish also because yesterday a final notice came home from school. My daughter's class still does not have a volunteer. Unless someone responds this week, her class will miss out on this "valuable learning experience." Thus comes the Prisoner's Dilemma. If I continue to be "selfish," it's the best thing for me but bad for my daughter's class. If I don't ignore it and the other's don't ignore it, then that's best for the school but not for me. If we all ignore it (which we have so far) it's bad for the school but better for me than if I don't ignore it but the others do. They will be following their most selfish strategy and I will be mad. So far we have both been following our most dominant strategy -- ignore the notice. What to do now?! Another reason I have for not wanting to volunteer is that I fear they will use the foot-in-the-door technique. They'll start off with just being a Picture-Parent. It only takes one hour per month and you care about your child's education, don't you? Then once they've got you at the school, they start lowering the boom with project after project that needs your help. You start off slowly just helping out and before you know it; somehow, you're the chairperson of the committee running the project yourself. My initial commitment to the school would cause me to be consistent. I know it's all happened before.

Blacktop Illusion top

When reading about the blacktop illusion I couldn't help but think about the Bears and Packers. After the initial emotions died down when Charles Martin body slammed Jim McMahon a couple years ago, most people, and especially the Bear players, felt the whole incident was the Green Bay coach's fault. Everyone was blaming Forrest Gregg for instilling evil in the hearts of his players and teaching them to play dirty. The Bears must have felt the players were just normal people like themselves so the Green Bay players must have been mislead by the coaching staff.

 

Conformity top

Reactance and Absoluteness
When talking of absoluteness, I think of a boxing strategy. I'm sure it translates into other sports as well, but that will be my model. No matter how bad you are hurt, you are supposed to not show it to discourage your opponent. If he should see a weakness forming in you, he thinks he might be able to hang on just long enough to outlast you. This may motivate him to try even harder. If he believes you are not even hurt, he will realize the shape he is in, feel weak and powerless, and not see the point of trying to continue. When it is a sure thing (or perceived sure thing) he is more likely to give up, but if there is a chance that he may win, he will continue or fight even harder to just put himself over the edge in the fight.
[added 12/17/12]

Behavioral Contagion

video Behavioral contagion - Watch the dance party evolve. Fun stuff. [added 7/5/09]

web Mass delusions - A few more cases of mass hysteria - [added 3/25/09]

Mass delusions - Apparently, the recent sightings of a venomous spider in Austria have led to hundreds of people thinking they had been bitten, when most had not. [added 12/22/06]

The Kokomo Hum - interesting example of social (behavioral) contagion [added 3/30/04]

At the World Trade Center site after the 9-11 attack - a brief summary of the book by William Langewiesche which details many examples of social influence in the aftermath [added 3/23/04]

Formal Social Control

web Formal social control - Good blog describing how San Francisco's recent banning of the sale of toys with unhealthy food is an example of what sociologists call formal social control. [4/9/11]

Authority

 new "Prank call led school to treat two with shock" - Remember the incidents in which a prank caller claiming he was with the police convinced managers and employees at fast food restaurants to engage in despicable acts? If not, check the CROW website. Well, here is another remarkable case of obeying an anonymous authority. [added 4/4/08]

Obedience to authority: The Bunny Story - A student of a colleague passed along this interesting example. Warning: A tad gruesome. [added 7/5/06]

"Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown" - "On November 18, 1978, 913 men, women, and children --followers of cult leader Jim Jones -- died during a mass suicide and murder in Jonestown, Guyana. In the months preceding the tragedy, Jim Jones and his People’s Temple followers recorded their thoughts, their problems and their aspirations. The hundreds of hours of audiotape form the basis of the NPR documentary Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown." (From NPR.org) You can hear the entire 90-minute audiotape at NPR Online. Contributed by Jim Bell. [added 4/28/02]

Movie: "The Wave" - This movie recreates a true story of an American high school teacher who, in 1968, attempted to illustrate how what happened in Nazi Germany could happen anywhere by creating a youth organization among his students called the Third Wave. Contributed by Jim Bell. [added 4/28/02] top

Seinfeld Episode: Aspects of obedience are illustrated quite well in the Soup Nazi story. Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

A couple weeks ago I chaperoned a trip to Bloomington for the ISU high school marching band competition. My son's last words as we got to the high school were, "Dad, please don't embarrass me by yelling at everyone on the bus." Much to his delight I was assigned to another bus. I'm sure that each of these band members individually are fine young persons. But nowhere has deindividuation been more obvious than on that bus. Screaming, yelling, climbing over seats, and general mayhem seemed to be the order of the day. Keeping in mind what my son had said, I tried a little informational influence to get them to conform to the rules. I tried to explain how they might get hurt climbing over the seats, and how they needed to rest and conserve energy to be at their best for the competition. That didn't work very good. I didn't think normative influence would work because the group norm seemed to be acting wild and crazy. I concluded that authority influence was the only way. Several loud "SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP" 's did the trick.

I had been out of the office last week. The State of Ohio called our office regarding our company's change. He told one of the clerks that we had to apply for a new state identification number. She advised him that we didn't because the only thing that changed was the name of the company, not the owners, not the business, etc. He was very emphatic about it. After twenty minutes of going back and forth, he advised he'd call back next week to talk to the manager. When he called this week I said, "Yes, the only thing that changed was the company's name." He said, "Okay, think you. That's what I needed to know." It was as though the title of Payroll Manager gave me the credibility the clerk did not have. Therefore, he was reluctant to disagree with me although I told him much less than the clerk did.

Compliance top

Majority influence - Story of a woman who was a "holdout juror" until she finally went along with the majority. She felt so guilty about it that she paid the fine of the convicted person. [added 12/26/07]

Peer pressure and incentives - a story from London in which local groups and some companies are using various measures to encourage citizens and employees to reduce their carbon footprints [added 11/29/07]

Cults - "Scientologists descend on Minneapolis collapse site." [added 9/23/07]

Informational Influence

Informational influence can be a key part of playing golf. For example, when I play with three other players, we re all pretty equal. The other day, we had an away tournament at a golf course that I never played before. We walked up to a long par-3. I looked at the yardage and pulled out a four iron. When I looked up, the three other players all had three-woods in their hands. Immediately, I began to doubt my judgment. I thought that since all three players had the same club, they must be right. I figured that they knew something that I didn't. I was scrambling trying to figure out what they knew that I didn't. Because that was my first time playing that hole, I hit what the others did. Since it was three against one, I agreed with their choice because I thought I was wrong.

Normative Influence

video Ostracizing ingroup deviates - article and amusing Daily Show video of Florida Muslim Republican who was rejected by his party for his "terrorist" ties [added 6/18/12]

new Keeping up with neighbors - I just like this picture. [added 1/15/12]

web The illusion of choice - an example from Hitler [added 12/5/10]

Balancing conformity and individuality - an amusing article from The Onion [added 4/16/08]

Asch applied to politics - an article from Slate.com that attempts to apply Asch's classic line studies to the democratic presidential primaries and Kerry's success [added 4/5/04]

Getting dressed for work today, I thought how nice it would be to be a cashier in a store so that I had a smock to wear at work over my clothes. I could dress as comfortably as I wanted. It'd even be nice to be a clerk in my office and wear comfortable shoes and slacks. But no... I put on heels and a suit or dress every day. I am uncomfortable. I don't do it because I feel better in them. I do it because of the normative influence of my peers. As part of the Finance group (all the men wear suits and ties), I want to be accepted. I am a salaried department head. In truth I feel I'm at the bottom of this group. Therefore to be accepted to their group I dress a certain way. A further example of this is the hours I work. Before my promotion, I worked 7:30-4:00. Now I am there by 8:30 a.m. and stay till 5:00. The reason is that the rest of the group stays that late, if not later. Further, my boss once remarked that the "professional staff usually works till 5:00." Again to be part of that group and to be accepted, I stay that late every day. I suppose I also accept the fact that it is correct to stay till 5:00 because everyone does (informational social influence).

Norms top

web Violating societal norms: Exposing grandfathers! - Not as bad as it sounds - but an interesting story [added 9/25/10]

web Violating social norms - "The Daily Telegraph (and other media channels) reported that the actress Mo’Nique caused quite a stir at the Golden Globe Awards, not only for winning an award, but also for her ‘fashion faux pas’. That is, she had hairy legs." [added 2/6/10]

web Using social norms - Hey, who put those pink flamingos on my lawn? "The flamingos were placed there by someone other than the home's resident to get the homeowner to donate money. In order to have the flamingos removed, the recipient needed to make a donation. The recipient is also encouraged to "flock" a friend's lawn in order to get them to contribute as well." [added 7/5/09]

web Norms in language - Marianne Miserandino pointed me to this cool map of the common names for soft drinks used in different parts of the U.S. I grew up in the South where we called soft drinks "cokes." So, if you went into a restaurant and asked for a coke, the waitperson would often ask "What kind?" Then you might say "Sprite." [added 9/20/08]

Jantelagen - Eric Hansen, from Sweden, passed along this example: "The Swedes have a phenomenon (or in this case sort of a norm) they call Jantelagen (pronounced Yanta lagen). I think it comes originally from Denmark. I myself am a US citizen who moved to Sweden in 1997, so I do not have Swedish culture as my own, which is probably both an advantage and a disadvantage. I probably notice things my colleagues don't, but don't have the background to understand them as fully they would once I recognize them. Anyway, this Jantelagen, which I believe means Jante's law can be interpreted as a strong norm against extolling one's virtues and achievements.

One of my students once sent me the following "satirical" 10 commandments related to Jantelagen: taken from a source I could probably find. I believe it is a book called En flykting kryssar sitt spor (1933) by Aksel Sandmose.

Below is a direct translation of what they mean, in some cases with my interpretation in parentheses.

Jantelagen (10 satiriska budord) - Jantelagen 10 satirical commandments

1. Du skall icke tro att du är något. -- You (thou) shall not believe that you are something. (You should not believe you are something special)

2. Du skall icke tro, att du är lika god som vi. -- You shall not believe that you're as good as we are.

3. Du shall icke tro, att du är klokare än vi. -- You shall not believe you are wiser than we are.

4. Du skall icke tro, att du är bättre än vi. -- You shall not believe that you're better than we are.

5. Du skall icke tro, att du vet mer än vi. -- You shall not believe that you know more than we do.

6. Du skall icke tro, att du är förmer än vi. -- You shall not believe that you are superior to us.

7. Du skall icke tro, att du duger något till. -- You shall not believe that you're good enough for anything.

8. Du skall icke skratta åt oss. -- You shall not laugh at us.

9. Du skall icke tro, att någon bryr sig om dig. -- You shall not think anyone cares about you. (an interesting aside, there was recently a giant hit song with the chorus nobody cares where you bought your sweater, I know it doesn't translate so well, but the point they were trying to make in the song was that you're not as important as you think).

10. Du skall icke tro, att du kan lära oss något. -- You shall not believe you can teach us anything.top

Based on this "law" I am currently running a study in collaboration with a colleague in the States which makes a cross-cultural comparison of the self-serving bias. The idea is that Swedes are less likely to extol their virtues than Americans, unless permitted to do so anonymously. I view it as a type of false modesty, meaning I think Swedes privately think they are better than other people, but are loathe to talk about it publicly. I have some preliminary data that show significant differences in estimates of oneself compared to estimates of the "average other" in Swedes when ratings are made anonymously. In a follow up (being run now) I am investigating what happens when ratings are made publicly." [added 7/5/06]

Several years ago I was very uncomfortable working for my boss. He was old enough to be my father; he was well-mannered and polite and generally a very nice man. However, when he would stand and speak to me, he would move so that his nose was almost touching mine. At first I thought he was hard of hearing and needed to stand close so he could understand me. But I quickly found that wasn't the case. I worked for him for two years thinking he was just weird in that regard. After reading our textbook, it finely hit me (11 years later) that he had picked up customs and habits from South America, which is where he had lived just prior to my working with him. Now I understand that he wasn't just a dirty old man but had been following the socially acceptable behavior standards from his former home.

Roles

You often hear a quote like "outside of work my boss/peer/subordinate is a lot of fun." Why are statements like that made? Because in many cases we (all) are a different person. For a boss their is no pressure to get the job done. For a peer there is no need to claw (competition is over). For a subordinate there is no reason to dislike her job/boss/rules, etc. The situation indeed is very powerful and many times dictates our behavior -- what people expect from us.

 

Genes, Gender, and Culture top top

new Violence against women - the horrible story of a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl who died from lashes after being charged with adultery [4/9/11]

new Objectification of women - Abercrombie and Fitch has been criticized for selling padded bikinis to 8-year-olds. [4/9/11]

Gender Roles

new Men-only parking spots - The idea seems to be that only men could manage to use a couple tricky parking spots. [added 12/16/12]

new Acting like ladies - "State senator will teach Brooklyn women to act like ladies." [added 12/16/12]

new Gender-based products - Bic pens for her! What's next? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Men's edition? Let's have some fun: Send me your guesses of how a "men's edition" of a psych journal would be different from a "women's edition." [added 12/16/12]

video "Husbands being jerks in coffee commercials" - [added 1/15/12]

new Gender roles - This article describes the formation of the "obedient wives" club, a group of 800 or so women in Malaysia who believe marriage can be saved and fruitful if the wives obey their husbands and keep them sexually satisfied. Response to the group in Malaysia is described. [added 8/17/11]

new Gender roles - an interesting and brief history of the role of the office secretary [added 8/17/11]

new Institutionalizing gender roles - "Badminton is soon to be the new women’s tennis -- at least according the Badminton World Federation, which took the first step toward raising its sport’s profile by requiring female players to wear skirts on the court. The official outfit policy, which will take effect June 1 in time for this summer’s world championships, is "to ensure attractive presentation of badminton," according to a statement by the Badminton World Federation, the sport's international governing body." [added 8/17/11]

web Sexualizing females: Children's lingerie line - [added 6/19/10]

web Pink (and less powerful) science equipment - "This is a page from a Toys 'R Us catalog, illustrating some science toys, and note the odd distinctions being made. Both the telescope and the microscope come in special pink versions ... and note also ... that in every case the pink model is less powerful than the black and gray model." [added 3/6/10]

web Social inequalities - "Eight months after being raped, a 16-year-old at Khargor of Kasba upazila in Brahmanbaria had to receive 101 lashes as 'punishment.'" [added 2/6/10]

web Gender-themed games - What would a girls version of Monopoly look like? [added 7/5/09]

web Gender inequity? - interesting take on the new Dr. Seuss movie Horton Hears a Who [added 5/3/08]

"Declared a woman, Bahraini man battles Arab norms" [added 12/12/07]

Gender bias in the workplace - A fascinating letter apparently from Walt Disney Productions in 1938 rejecting a female applicant for a "young man's" job [added 7/19/07]

Anonymity and the Internet - article about threats and harassment towards women in chat rooms, blogs, etc. [added 7/15/07]

I recall the requirements for fulfilling the male role when I left high school years ago. Through informational influence I discovered that a successful male had to be employed, own a car, have his own apartment and show some evidence of potential upward mobility, for example, by attending college. He was expected to be "cool" but not a "fool." In order to fulfill that requirement he needed certain skills such as dancing, the ability to handle his liquor, to walk with "limp" which was then and still is called, "pimping." He had to be able to use the "language of the ghetto" effectively in order to communicate with his ingroup. He absolutely had to have a vast and up-to-date wardrobe to intentionally induce a physical-attraction stereotype. His female "rap" (sweet talk) had to be together enough so that the matching phenomenon occurred frequently. He was expected to have an equitable relationship with a main lady who was "fine" and together. But he had the privilege of having more than one woman whereas she was required to stay faithful to him. In playing out her complimentary role, a female was expected to be totally devoted to one man. She was expected to live and die for her man and her children. She looked good, smelled good and felt good at all times. She demonstrated absolute dedication to him in public and never opposed him openly. She was expected to be intelligent, but not aggressive. However in public, and with the public, her behavior was expected to be appropriate for any situation that may arise. She was expected to honor her man at all times.

Group Influence top top

newweb Illusion of consensus/grouthink - Author makes the point that the same mistakes leading up to the Iraq war are being repeated. [added 4/3/13]

web What happens if the mayor is your jury foreman? - interesting case of former New York Mayor Guiliani serving as foreman of a jury [added 6/3/08]

At the World Trade Center site after the 9-11 attack - a brief summary of the book by William Langewiesche which details many examples of social influence in the aftermath [added 3/23/04]

Deindividuation

In class we discussed that being in a group leads to deindividuation. I recently watched the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird." In it, there is a scene where a mob has gathered at the jail. They want to lynch a black man who they believe has raped a white woman. The men in the mob are acting together in a ugly unison of threats and violence until the little daughter of the man trying to stop the mob speaks up. She calls out to one of the men in the mob by name, reminding him who she is, reminding him of his visits to their house, reminding him that she plays with his son, etc. The man finds these statements embarrassing. They increase his self-awareness and strip away the mob mentality that he was a part of. He can no longer hide behind the mob as the blame for the violence. He now can see the responsibility on his shoulders not just diffused on others. All of this causes him to announce in a loud voice that he's leaving and thinks the other mob members should do the same, which they do.

A couple weeks ago I chaperoned a trip to Bloomington for the ISU high school marching band competition. My son's last words as we got to the high school were, "Dad, please don't embarrass me by yelling at everyone on the bus." Much to his delight I was assigned to another bus. I'm sure that each of these band members individually are fine young persons. But nowhere has deindividuation been more obvious than on that bus. Screaming, yelling, climbing over seats, and general mayhem seemed to be the order of the day. Keeping in mind what my son had said, I tried a little informational influence to get them to conform to the rules. I tried to explain how they might get hurt climbing over the seats, and how they needed to rest and conserve energy to be at their best for the competition. That didn't work very good. I didn't think normative influence would work because the group norm seemed to be acting wild and crazy. I concluded that authority influence was the only way. Several loud "SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP's" did the trick.

Groupthink

Social Facilitation

Social Loafing top

I used to do a lot of singing. I sang in choirs, quartets, trios and did solo performances as well. Mostly in church settings, but I also did solo work when I sang in the work choir. Since I was the soprano with the highest range, the other members depended on me to carry the high notes. If I didn't hit them, nobody did. I found that after several performances, my voice would begin to show the strain and it became necessary for me to conserve it. Therefore, when we were singing in an average range, I would only mouth the words. I could do this because I knew that the others would continue to sing. However, as we approached the bars that I was to sing, I found that the crescendo of all of our voices together helped me to do a better job. That was not the case when I sang in smaller groups. When I was the "only" soprano, social loafing was not allowed. If I hadn't sung every note, the harmony would have been badly distorted. Not wanting to experience their disapproval or our mutual humiliation, I had a greater incentive to do my part.

In my Industrial Labor Relations class, we are currently doing a group project. The class is divided into two sides, 8 people on the management side, and 12 people on the union side (I'm on management). What we are trying to do is to renegotiate the labor contract between a union and a slaughter house (that is in financial trouble). This class has brought to light many examples for me to write about. The first one that comes to mind deals with social loafing. In both groups, it is present. But, after a talk with a friend on the union team, I found out that it is more prevalent on their team. This is probably due to their larger number. What also encourages this is that we are graded as teams, and the teacher never even looks up unless someone makes reference to a chart. Unless the teacher remembers the voices of the people who spoke, those who didn't will remain anonymous. A third factor that encourages the social loafing is that on both sides, there are people who really want to get good grades (me among them). The other side has two people in particular that I know desperately want an A so much that they seem to be doing the whole project. On our side, pretty much everyone wants an A, and only 1 person could be accused of social loafing (missed two important classes and does as little as possible).

Tomorrow's election affords the perfect opportunity for social loafing, and unfortunately, many people take advantage of it. The group goal is to elect qualified leaders of our choice. People tend to have less accountability and less identifiability. Next year if our leaders are doing a poor job, we can say, "I never voted for that jerk!" or "Yes, I voted for that jerk, but so did a million other people!" This allows us to diffuse our individual responsibility. Or I could tell myself that my one little vote isn't going to make any difference in the election, so why should I bother to vote at all?

It has been proven that under certain situations we are more likely to loaf. Boy, it sure is easy to loaf when you're at work. One way I noticed that my manager has tried to reduce loafing at work is by goal setting. Since I work in retail - the more we sell, the more we make! Commission is very important to all of us at work -- and it seems most of us always try to sell as good as we can -- so our reward is very nice at the end of the month. Not only does this goal setting make a profit for the employees who show the effort -- but it is also profitable for the company. I think accountability and identifiability is very important. I want to be noticed at work when I sell a three thousand dollar ring -- and when I stay after hours to help clean up -- and I want the people who choose to "loaf" to be noticed too -- and believe me -- they are!

Helping (Altruism) top top

newweb Social loafing/bystander effect - Sam Sommers provides a nice example in the form of a mass email request for help. [added 4/3/13]

newnew Priming of helping - "Men who had been approached by a woman asking for directions to Valentine Street were willing to help a different woman retrieve her cell phone from “thieves”, helping her almost 37% of the time. Men asked for directions to Martin Street only helped 20% of the time. The simple mention of “Valentine” unconsciously motivated men to behave in a more chivalrous manner." [added 4/01/13]

new Bystander effect - about the individual who was pushed on the tracks of an oncoming subway train in New York City [added 3/5/13]

 web Identifiable-victim effect - We are more likely to help identified victims than unidentified or statistical victims. Here's an example of personalizing victims, in this case a group that many are uninterested in helping to begin with. [added 6/20/12]

new Reciprocal altruism - Woman dropped three valuable rings into a Salvation Army bucket apparently because the Army helped her grandfather years ago. [added 6/18/12]

new Example of heroic rescue - During the recent Norwegian massacre, a tourist helped rescue several teens on the island where the shooting took place. [added 1/15/12]

Bystander intervention - case of bystanders and a medical team helping a man survive despite going 96 minutes without a pulse [4/9/11]

Good Samaritan case [added 12/5/10]

Bystander apathy - A very disturbing video -- A man who helped rescue a woman from an attack was seriously injured in the attack. He is now lying on the sidewalk dying. Watch the response of passersby. (Passersby - is that a word?) [added 6/19/10]

Man punches shark - video about a man who "punched a shark to save his dog's life" [3/26/09]

Children modeling parents - cute little video [added 12/12/07]

Ambiguity of Situation - I see examples all the time of how the level of ambiguity of need for help in a situation has changed over time in our society. For example, quite a few years ago if the interior light of a car was on it usually meant the person forgot to turn it off. If you saw that person leaving his car with the light still on you might mention it to him. As the technology advanced so that more and more cars had interior lights that turned off by themselves, there was a period of time during which that experience was an ambiguous one (at least for me). Is this one of those cars? Eventually, it was no longer ambiguous. Now, if I see someone close up a car and leave and the interior light is still on, I am quite confident that will turn off on its own. No help is needed. A similar pattern has occurred more recently (at least for me!) with car headlights. A few years ago, even if you knew that interior light was going off on its own, if the headlights were left on you might mention it to the driver. Now, some headlights turn off on their own shortly after the driver leaves. So, now I'm back in the land of ambiguity! Eventually, I imagine, when I see a driver walk away from his car, and it's rolling backwards down the hill, I'll think, "Oh, it's one of those new ones that park themselves."

videonew Bystander effect - Sam Sommers comments on an event that happened recently in China in which passersby ignored a young child lying in the road who had been struck by a truck. Read Sam's commentary at the first link; here is a video which shows the kid being hit by a truck and then ignored by some people passing by. [added 1/15/12]

Bystander effect and The Science Guy - News story describes a couple good examples of the bystander effect, including the crowd that apparently just posted on their cell phones when Bill Nye The Science Guy collapsed as he walked to the podium. H/T to Harry Wallace for passing this along. [added 12/8/10]

Bystander Effect - an interesting (and ethically questionable) MSNBC video demonstration of the bystander effect -- a man and a young girl roleplay his abducting her on the street. Will passerbys stop to help? Watch what the hidden video captures. [added 7/5/06]

Bystander Effect - When we talked about altruism and helpfulness in class two past experiences crossed my mind. The first experience was on my sister's birthday, December 22nd. Our family had a dinner planned for this occasion. We were all to meet at a restaurant at a particular time. The weather on her birthday was terrible. It was very cold and icy. Also, there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground from the previous week. Well, I got stuck in my parking spot at my apartment. And, no one helped. I saw several people look out their patio windows at me, but no one helped. My tires were spinning and I know people must of heard my car. I was absolutely frozen. Well, finally I managed to dig around my tires and rock myself out of the rut. I was late for the dinner and had a chill all night. I was very mad that people saw me and did not help. I just couldn't believe they would watch a girl struggle whom they had seen in the apartment hallways and laundry room. However, after talking about the reasons some people help and some don't in class, I understand a little bit more. I believe the reason most people didn't help was just the ambiguity of the situation and lack of empathy. These people were just unsure about whether I really needed help or the consequence if they did help. And, it was so cold perhaps it just was not worth the effort. In addition, there was obviously diffusion of responsibility as there were many observers, yet not one helped. Perhaps, the observers thought someone would eventually help me and each passed the buck to the other.

Bystander Effect - This PBS site accompanying a Frontline show on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan massacre details how many countries stood by and did little to prevent the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans.

web Identifiable victim bias (Empathy) - Why are we more willing to empathize with and help a few dozen stranded miners in Chile than the millions affected by the recent flooding in Pakistan? This article suggests it is, in part, because of the miners are more clearly identifiable. [added 9/25/10]

Empathy - "Doctors who express empathy get highest patient ratings." [added 12/26/07]

Empathy - Relating to my husband's broken leg experience (again!), I offered some help to a woman last week at school. She was on two crutches and looked wistfully at the coffee pots before class started. I offered her my seat so she could put her bad leg on the table and got her some coffee. After living with this situation for so long, I know it's impossible to carry a cup of coffee while on crutches. This is a perfect example relating to my notes on "conditions affecting whether or not to help -- #6 empathy -- more likely to help similar others because easier to empathize/easier to relate to them." (I know punctuation is incorrect, but here I am quoting my incorrectly punctuated class notes!) This was the only condition which warranted me to help: there were many other people around; I was anonymous to her; I didn't feel guilty about anything; and I didn't even think about her response.

Empathy - The second experience was when I was on my way home which at this time was to my parents' house. I saw a jogger on the side of the road which looked injured as he was lying down and holding his leg. It was dark out and I wanted to stop, but thought maybe I should get my dad to come with me. So, I drove quickly home and dashed into the house to tell my dad. My dad was very eager to help just as I was because he was a jogger. You see, both of my parents and myself are joggers (similarity was the key here). Anyhow, my dad went with me to go see if we could help this injured jogger. Well, he wobbled himself to a parking lot down the street when my dad and I found him. He was not a jogger, but a drunk with long hair and earrings and a beautiful orange jacket. I was so glad my dad was with me! My dad and I brought the man home and I apologized to my dad for mistaking him for a jogger. He was very understanding. I believe both my dad and I could relate to what I perceived as an injured jogger. My dad has limped home himself several times. We definitely had empathy for this supposed jogger. I believe our moods were good too. I know my dad and myself well enough to know that if either one of us were in a bad mood, we would not have bothered. top

Fear inhibits helping - Here's an interesting and disturbing first-person story of a journalist (and others) observing a helpless victim receiving a vicious beating and not intervening. This link takes you to an interesting blog which connects this event to some research on what is courage. [added 11/17/07]

web Guilt - Fascinating story of Aki Ra who was forced at age 5 to plant land mines for the Khmer Rouge. "Ra regretted what he had done during his time in the Khmer Rouge—and he vowed to spend the rest of his life making it up to his fellow Cambodians. He remembered where he had buried many of the land mines, and knew how to quickly and safely disarm them. So, armed only with a metal detector, a small pocketknife, and several other small tools, he began locating land mines on the ground and disarming them by hand....So, for more than 20 years, Ra has traveled through the Cambodian countryside, disarming thousands of active mines and leading safety education programs for villages. Though the mines are filled with TNT and could detonate at any second, Ra has never been injured in his work." [added 3/6/10]

Guilt - I went through the Starbucks' drive thru over the weekend and after I order the lady asked if I would alike to buy a pot of coffee for the soldiers in Iraq. I was not ready for the question; I was kind of frazzled from other things going on (drive thrus wig me out, expecially when it is the building and a curb and the car has to fit between the two....YIKES). Anyway, I said yes because how do you say no. Guilt surely took over me. I would have felt horrible if I said no, but why... who knows if the soldiers will really get the pot of coffee. It was certainly somewhat of a selfish act because I did not have to worry about feeling guilty for the rest of the day. [added 4/16/08]

"The guilty green" - Guilt and Helping - Describes the guilt many environmentally-conscious people feel when their behavior is not always consistent with their beliefs [added 12/26/07]

web Refusal of "help" - Londoners mostly passed up an offer for a free 5 pound note in this little "experiment" conducted by a price comparison website. [added 7/31/08]

Responsibility - An example of someone not helping because they feel that the event was internally caused and controllable was found in the movie "Burning Bed." In it, Farrah Fawcett is being abused by her husband and goes to her mother for help. Her mother's response is, "You make a hard bed; you got to lie in it." Here the mother clearly feels that since the daughter decided to marry the man -- a controllable, internally caused decision -- she isn't as deserving of help. It's her fault, she'll have to deal with it.

Social Responsibility Norm - During the recent flooding in Gurnee, the TV reporters interviewed many people who were sand-bagging, asking them why they were helping out. Many responded in line with the social responsibility norm. They didn't live in the area, had nothing to gain or lose from stopping the flooding, but were out there helping because it seemed the right thing to do. I think that many were also motivated by what the book terms "perceived reasons for the need." People are more likely to provide help if they attribute the difficulty to external causes beyond the person's control. Here the rain causing the river to rise and flood would be an example of an uncontrollable event externally caused.

web Using social norms - Hey, who put those pink flamingos on my lawn? "The flamingos were placed there by someone other than the home's resident to get the homeowner to donate money. In order to have the flamingos removed, the recipient needed to make a donation. The recipient is also encouraged to "flock" a friend's lawn in order to get them to contribute as well." [added 7/5/09]

 

Methods top top

newnew Illusory/spurious correlation / illusion of causation - From Jeff Ricker: "Increasing college costs causes autism." [added 4/01/13]

new Experimenter bias - Remember Bargh et al.'s study in which subjects primed with old age-related words subsequently walked more slowly down the hallway? Apparently, the experimenter in that study was aware of the priming condition for the participants. Did that affect the outcome? Stephane Doyen redid the study and intentionally introduced the potential for experimenter bias. Some "experimenters" were told to expect the participants to walk more slowly, while some were told to expect participants to walk more quickly. Participants' walking speed matched those experimenter expectations. I like Bargh's reaction when he was apparently informed of these results. [added 6/18/12]

new Correlation does not imply causation - a good Dilbert cartoon [added 6/18/12]

new Correlation does not imply causation - cartoon [added 1/15/12]

Importance of wording in surveys - Do 77% of Americans favor the "choice" of the public option in health care reform? Well, as usual, it depends on how you ask it. [added 1/13/10]

Illusion of causation - The Family Circus cartoon [added 12/26/07]

Third variable problem - This is one of my favorite examples of the third variable problem. Researchers found that infants who had a night-light in their bedrooms were more likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness). People (including scientists) began speculating about how the night-light could lead to myopia. Since then, evidence suggests that there was likely a third variable to explain this correlation: myopic parents were more likely to put night-lights in their children's bedrooms and more likely to pass on myopic genes to their children.
[added on 12/1/04]

"Do baseball players regress towards the mean?" - yes, according to this essay - technical in places but some good examples [added 11/20/03]

"Faith-based fudging" -good example of how research results can be distorted to create different interpretations [added 11/20/03]

"The median isn't the message" - excellent essay by the late Stephen Jay Gould on the value of possessing statistical knowledge, in this case about the median [added 11/20/03]

 

Persuasion top top

new Saying-is-believing effect - If you say you like a random person will you actually like that person more? How do you like this issue so far? Come on, you can tell me. [added 6/18/12]

new Anti-Arab/Muslim propaganda - very disturbing cartoon in the New York Post [added 6/18/12]

web The illusion of choice - an example from Hitler [added 12/5/10]

Cialdini's cues - Like it has been mentioned quite a few times, I am a Resident Assistant on a first-year all female floor. As we were learning about Cialdini’s cues, I quickly realized how many I have used on my residents to get them to come to the programs that I develop and host. Cialdini’s cues are generally used to persuade people to do something, so in this case they are definitely something that I should acknowledge and perhaps utilize even more than I already do. Times that I have used these cues include when I told them that there would be a lot of people attending this program (comparison-other people are doing it so I should too) and that if they were in the first fifty girls to register (commitment-they must physically sign up and so will want to stick with it) then they would receive a free t-shirt (reciprocity-if they come for me, I will get them a t-shirt). Furthermore, the program included a ton of fun stuff but one of the selling points was that we were going to have a doctor there and the girls had the chance to ask anything that was on their minds (authority). [added 4/16/08]

web Principle of social proof - "Actors paid to line up for iPhone launch" -- see, everyone wants this one! [added 9/20/08]

Mere exposure effect [added 3/31/04]

The yo-yo trap - an example of low-balling [added 3/30/04]

Propaganda - Spin of the Day, a part of the PR Watch site, presents examples of public relations, propaganda, and media spin. [added 3/23/04]

U.S. Fire Administration's persuasive appeals - "The U.S. Fire Administration's A Fire Safety Campaign for Babies and Toddlers is a public awareness and education campaign designed to draw attention to the increased risk of fire death for young children, and to teach parents and caregivers how they can avoid the tragedy." [added 11/20/03]

Source Variables

new Credible sources - Apparently consumers like Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel in the new Apple iPhone ads. [added 6/20/12]

web Not questioning credentials of the source - Sam Sommers discusses another fascinating case, this one of William Hamman, a pilot who gave medical seminars under the pretense he was a cardiologist. Nobody questioned it. Except his five-year old daughter. Sorry, I just made up that last bit. [4/9/11]

Similar sources - Interesting program in Chicago, IL in which teenagers have been hired as "Junior Bicycling Ambassadors" to persuade their peers to wear helmets and engage in other similar safety behaviors [added 9/23/07]

Opinion leaders - Study finds that opinion leaders among physician social networks influence which drugs are prescribed. [added 7/8/07]

Attractiveness - North Central College uses the "attractive" idea to persuade people to attend the college. While going to class on a couple of days, I remember seeing a photographer on campus taking pictures of two or three attractive young students. I instantly thought of the course catalogue. The young people on the cover will help emphasize the stereotype of the student's physical appearance: happy, intelligent, kind, sociable and successful.

Message Variables top

new Fear appeal - An article about the new, more graphic images to be placed on cigarette packages in the U.S. -- do your students think they will work? [added 8/17/11]

webvideo Fear appeal - Embedded in this story about using scare tactics to discourage teens from texting and driving is such a video public service announcement. [added 1/14/10]

video Fear appeal - Video courtesy of U.S. Republican Senators [added 7/5/09]

Fear appeal - I remember, especially, in high school, maybe once a year we would take a couple of days to talk about sex and how to have safe sex and the dangers of it. They would set up whole PowerPoint presentations and such. They would present a big section on STD's and AIDS with extremely graphic photos and stress how we do not have a cure and they are easy to spread. For a time everyone was so disgusted and feared that they would get one. Everyone was saying "Man, I'm not gonna even kiss anyone!" or "Before I ever do anyone, I will have my partner tested first!" The fear was heavily instilled in everyone at that point. But then kids started going to lunch and joking with their friends, went to another class, or worked on some homework, and I guarantee by the end of that day even some had forgotten or at least the initial fear had decreased significantly. [added 4/16/08]

video Framing - Why do black pearls often cost more than white ones? Wasn't always that way. Dan Ariely tells you how it happened. [added 12/29/10]

video The peripheral route - "In ads, banks try the warm, cozy approach." [added 7/5/09]

web video Creating a good feeling - Remember way back in 1985 when Ford Aerostar tried to generate good feelings and an aura of technologically-advanced aerodynamics about its minivan by comparing it to the Space Shuttle? Well, unfortunately, shortly after that a Space Shuttle exploded and the campaign was pulled. Not quite the association they were after. First link is to a print ad for that campaign; here is a link is to an article mentioning the campaign was pulled; here is a tv commercial for that campaign. [added 4/11/08]

Exposure Effect - As I was driving to work, I was singing along with a Patsy Cline cassette that my husband had left in the cassette player. I am reminded of how my taste in music has changed since I was young. When Bruce and I started dating, WCFL and WLS were THE rock stations. That was the only music I listened to. When Bruce said he liked country music -- Eddy Arnold, The Statler Brothers, etc., I knew we were from two different worlds. I had an open mind. If that's what he liked, it was his problem. After we married, I bought my contemporary pop music, he bought country music. We both played our music we liked. In the car we took turns with selections. After a few years, I developed a liking for the smooth male country singers, while still disliking the twangy country music and any female country singer's music. As you'd expect, I developed a taste for the twangy stuff too. Today, I'm bellowing along with Patsy Cline. It is obvious the exposure effect brought me over to country music gradually. No one forced me to listen to it nor even tried to make me like it. However, the occasional music being heard over the years influenced my attitude toward music so that today "country" music is my favorite with "easy-listening" a close second.

Two-sided Appeals - My nine-year-old daughter "mailed" me a letter yesterday. As a homework assignment, each child had to write a letter to their parents. The purpose of the letter was to persuade their parents to allow the child to buy the item that he was requesting. Their teacher had covered the two-sided argument in class. My daughter's letter requested a pet. In it she listed one by one all the counter arguments that I have expressed over the months. After each of my counter arguments, she presented her logical argument to negate my side. Needless to say that I'm impressed. She did an excellent job. Now I'm on the spot. It's either produce the pet or produce new counter arguments!

Cults - "Scientologists descend on Minneapolis collapse site." [added 9/23/07]

"Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown" - "On November 18, 1978, 913 men, women, and children --followers of cult leader Jim Jones -- died during a mass suicide and murder in Jonestown, Guyana. In the months preceding the tragedy, Jim Jones and his People’s Temple followers recorded their thoughts, their problems and their aspirations. The hundreds of hours of audiotape form the basis of the NPR documentary Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown." (From NPR.org) You can hear the entire 90-minute audiotape at NPR Online. Contributed by Jim Bell. [added 4/28/02]

Japanese Cults - brief article on the rise of Japanese cults

Resistance to change

 

Prejudice top top


Automaticity



Stigma

web Stigma from ignorance - A survey found that nearly half of the 12-18 year olds could not name a single mental disorder. [added 3/25/09]

Symbolic Threat

new Symbolic threat - another example of claiming that same-sex marriage will undermine the U.S. [added 1/15/12]

web Symbolic threat - Utah state senator Chris Buttars said of "the radical gay movement" that "they're probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of." [3/29/09]

Realistic Threat

video Immigrants - Video courtesy of U.S. Republican Senators [added 7/5/09]

Racial

Stereotype of Arabs/Muslims
Although I'd rather not admit it, I do have a slight prejudice toward Arabs, but not to the extent of pure hatred. It all happened with one vivid experience at the YMCA. I had been warned by a co-worker to keep my eye out for a man with a 6-year-old daughter because he was known to be abusive towards his daughter by making her swim laps in the pool for hours on end without a break. The first time I had laid eyes on this man,who was wearing a turban on his head and sported a small beard, my brain fired off a series of stereotypes. Uh oh, he's a Muslim, which means he's probably dangerous, not friendly, and rude was my initial thought. It didn't even occur to me that this was the man my co-worker warned me about. Rather, it was my stereotype that warned me to stay away because he posed a threat to my physical well-being. From that moment on, I relied on confirming evidence to maintain my stereotype that he was dangerous. Every little thing he did wrong proved to me that he was, in fact, a threat. In fact, one day, when he screamed at me for asking him if he wanted an ID card (he was using his wife's), I actually felt scared he would hit me, especially since I heard it had happened before to a lifeguard. Because of him and recent world events, I developed a slight prejudice towards Arabs. Now, whenever a man who looks like an Arab walks in to use the facility, I try to avoid eye contact and as much interaction as possible due to fear. In fact, apparently I've been told that I've even moved away from the desk whenever I saw him, which I didn't even know I was doing. This example demonstrated several things. First, it illustrated the vividness effect: I never remembered the good behaviors of this man, just the bad ones because they happened to be the most vivid. Second, it showed confirmation bias: I only looked for negative encounters with this man to maintain my stereotypes. Third, it also depicted priming: Encountering this man with his turban and beard triggered negative stereotypes, which resulted in fear and the behavior of slowly walking away. Fourth, the stereotypes I formed were done so in part of automaticity: My brain took in information about this man, but my unconscious processed it and spat out the negative stereotypes I had about Arabs and Muslims.
[added 12/17/12]

new Racist symbolism - "Texan lynches invisible Obama." [added 12/17/12]

new Stereotyping - Former governor Mike Huckabee offers a song portraying those living in the Middle East in stereotypic and derogatory terms. [added 12/17/12]

new Stigmatizing Muslims in America - Columnist Glenn Greenwald provides good evidence of a second tier treatment of Muslims in the U.S. justice system, and surprisingly little objection to it. Here is another article about it. [added 6/20/12]
new Victim-blaming - Geraldo Rivera blames the hoodie, in part, for Trayvon Martin's death. [added 6/18/12]

new Racial stereotypes in sports - Yes, I am required by law to mention "Linsanity" at least once in this issue. [added 6/18/12]

new Use of language - More Linsanity: When Jeremy Lin, the Chinese-American who burst on the professional basketball scene lately, finally lost a game, ESPN used the headline "A chink in the armor." [added 6/18/12]

new Playing to caricatures - This political ad from Pete Hoekstra perpetuates a number of stereotypes of Chinese people and culture. The actress who played the woman in the ad has apologized for her role in it. [added 6/18/12]

new Anti-Arab/Muslim propaganda - very disturbing cartoon in the New York Post [added 6/18/12]

new Modern racism - "Gingrich: ‘Most of the Asians,’ some Latinos, but not many African Americans understand entrepreneurship." [added 6/18/12]

new Institutional racism - "Tennessee tea party 'demands' that references to slavery be removed from history textbooks." [added 6/18/12]

new Racial profiling - "A black Milwaukee driver is seven times as likely to be stopped by city police as a white resident driver, a Journal Sentinel analysis of nearly 46,000 traffic stops has found." [added 1/15/12]

new Institutional prejudice - "FBI teaches agents: 'Mainstream' Muslims are 'violent, radical.'" [added 1/15/12]

new Institutional racism - "Three men hanged for gay sex in Iran" [added 1/15/12]

new Institutional racism - Apparently, the FBI has been teaching its agents "that 'main stream' [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a 'cult leader'; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a funding mechanism for combat. At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more 'devout' a Muslim, the more likely he is to be 'violent.' Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: 'Any war against non-believers is justified' under Muslim law; a 'moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.'" Here is an article about the types of reading material found in the F.B.I. library. [added 1/15/12]

new Institutional racism - "A Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after community members complained about the timing so soon after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Richland School District in Johnstown had planned to stage 'Kismet' in February, but Superintendent Thomas Fleming said Tuesday that it was scrapped to avoid controversy." [added 1/15/12]

new Stereotyping - "Brown-skinned lady sits next to two Indian men on plane, gets strip-searched and detained for ‘suspicious activity.’" [added 1/15/12]

new Increasing tolerance and acceptance - "Four and a half months ago, Rick Welts, then the president and CEO of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, became the first openly gay senior executive in American professional sports." [added 1/15/12]

new Stereotypes in the media - "Nivea apologizes for controversial ad in Esquire." [added 1/15/12]

new Institutional racism - A Black student with the highest GPA was not allowed to be sole valedictorian at her high school because, allegedly, it would create a "big mess." A White student was appointed a co-valedictorian. [added 1/15/12]
web Blacks are lazy - according to Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern [added 8/15/11]

new Minorities should accept superiority of majority/group in power - Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association: “It’s arresting to think of how different the history of the American settlement and expansion could have been if the other indigenous peoples had followed Pocahontas’ example,” Fischer wrote in his Feb. 15 post. “She not only recognized the superiority of the God whom the colonists worshipped over the gods of her native people, she recognized the superiority (not the perfection) of their culture and adopted its patterns and language as her own. In other words, she both converted and assimilated. … Had the other indigenous people followed her example, their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless. Sadly, it was not to be.” [4/9/11]

web Marginalizing minorities - Tea partiers in Tennessee presented legislators with a variety of demands. "Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government....The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that 'No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.'" [4/9/11]

Overt racism - County judge displays a racially offensive poster. Read the story and see the poster here. [added 1/13/10]

Overt racism - Perhaps the most infamous case over the summer here in the U.S. was of these Black kids turned away at a private swim club. [added 1/13/10]

web Racism through humor - This was sent via email by a staff member of a state politician. [added 7/5/09]

web Overt and subtle racism - This blog entry contains lots of examples of subtle and not-so-subtle expressions of racism towards Obama. [3/26/09]

web
Categorization and association - "Amazon lists Obama Halloween mask as a 'terrorist costume'" [3/26/09]


new Institutional racism - This is a nice essay on the origins of Memorial Day and how the roles of Blacks in developing that day were almost erased from history. [added 8/17/11]

new Institutional racism - This blog entry describes how South Carolina is trying to institutionalize its Islamophobia through a law to ban the practice of Sharia. [added 8/17/11]

web Institutional support - Article: "Facebook apologizes for censoring gay kiss photo." [added 8/15/11]

web Institutional racism - Possible systemic discrimination in the teaching profession [1/15/10]

web Institutional support - "This story reports on an extraordinary 2004 article by a Harvard lecturer and former Chief of Neuropsychiatry at Guantanamo Bay, which made the shocking claim that "hard-core zealots" had "brains that are structurally and functionally different from us." Furthermore, the article stated, 100,000 "zealots" within the Muslim body politic would have to be eliminated, the way "malignant [cancer] cells" are removed from a healthy body." [added 1/14/10]

ewb Justifying inequalities - "Right-wing hate group blames immigrants for increasing greenhouse emissions"
[added 9/20/08]

web In our language - For "normal to darker skin" says this body lotion -- and "normal" is ....? [added 9/20/08]

web Use of code words for racial prejudice - a very disturbing column [added 6/3/08]

new Racial disparities in emergency room pain relief - [added 4/4/08]

new Stereotyping - Robert Novak says that Barack Obama is not a "stereotype African-American." So, who is, Bob?
[added 4/4/08]

Institutional racism - Blog about English-only legislation [added 12/26/07]

Institutional racism - "Black Americans are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned for illegal drug offenses than whites, even though both groups use and sell drugs at the same rate, according to a study released on Tuesday." [added 12/26/07

Anti-semitism - story and recollections of Holocaust survivor Rena Finder, including a brief video [added 12/23/07]

Divide and conquer - An interesting blog commenting on a recent decision in which "Cherokee nation members voted overwhelmingly in March to purge some 2,800 blacks of tribal membership." The bloggers discuss it as an example of minority groups competing against one another to the benefit of the dominant group. [added 11/29/07]

Realistic and symbolic threat - good example of how some view illegal immigrants as both a threat to resources (realistic threat) and to core values and beliefs (symbolic threat) [added 7/19/07]top

Irrational fear - Watch TV commentator Lou Dobbs being challenged on his false claim that the invasion of illegal immigrants is linked to an explosion in leprosy. [added 7/19/07]

Here is a humorous video on this from The Daily Show. [added 7/19/07]

newweb Language maintains/reinforces prejudice - In this case, gender stereotypes [added 4/3/13]

Language/institutional support - "The City Council on Wednesday approved a resolution urging New Yorkers tostop using the n-word, joining a nationwide movement seeking to reject the notion that the racial slur can be redefined and reclaimed." [added 7/8/07]

Racial prejudice in the U.S. Congress - an editorial about the comments made recently by a U.S. congressman about the first Muslim-American member of Congress [added 7/6/07]

The power of the symbols - Read a commentary about a town in Nevada that "makes it illegal to fly a foreign (read: Mexican) flag." [12/27/06]

Your name matters - Press release of an interesting study in which "the study’s authors sent more than 1,100 identically worded e-mail inquiries to Los Angeles-area landlords asking about vacant apartments advertised online. The inquiries were signed randomly, with an equal number signed Patrick McDougall, Tyrell Jackson or Said Al-Rahman. The fictional McDougall received positive or encouraging replies from 89 percent of the landlords, while Al-Rahman was encouraged by 66 percent of the landlords. Only 56 percent, however, responded positively to Jackson." [added 7/5/06]

Scottsboro "boys" - a brief description of the famous case of the Scottsboro "boys" in 1931, and a link to the PBS show on the subject [added 3/23/04]

Racial Profiling

 web Racial profiling - "In 2011, NYPD made more stops of young black men than the total number of young black men in New York." [added 6/20/12]

new Racial profiling - A report from the ACLU details racial profiling in the Illinois State Police on traffic stops. [added 8/17/11]

Racial profiling - Indian actor in U.S. to promote film on racial profiling of Muslims is racially profiled at airport. [added 1/13/10]top

Racial profiling/stereotyping - Documents from the Maryland State Police include statements such as "Hispanics generally do not hold their alcohol well. They tend to drink too much and this leads to fights." [added 12/12/07]

Racial profiling - "An architect of Iraqi descent has said he was forced to remove a T-shirt that bore the words 'We will not be silent' before boarding a flight at New York." [added 12/27/06]

Religious

new Ethnic violence - more anti-Islam attacks during Ramadan [added 12/16/12]

new Religious sources - "Activists in Kentucky are planning a peaceful response after two gay men with developmental and intellectual disabilities were kicked out of a public pool. A maintenance technician reportedly cited the Bible while telling the two men they couldn't swim at The Pavilion, a government-funded recreational facility in Hazard, Kentucky. "We own this place and can tell you to leave if we want to," the couple was told, according to the Kentucky Equality Foundation. "The Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion," Mending Hearts Executive Director Shirlyn Perkins recalled. "My staff asked The Pavilion staff why they were being asked to leave, and they were informed that 'gay people' weren't allowed to swim there." [added 8/17/11]

web Stereotypes as overgeneralizations - attacking the appointment of a Muslim judge [4/9/11]

videoweb Outgroup homogeneity effect - They all look alike, they all think alike, they all act alike. Columnist Cal Thomas puts forth the view shared by many that Muslims are taking over. They all have the same goal. Here is another example from Glenn Beck. Here is an essay from Glenn Greenwald illustrating the same point. [added 9/25/10]

videoweb Did "cult-like" group commit suicide? - You may have heard this story recently in the news in which "a group of 13 Salvadoran immigrants missing in southern California amid fears that they planned a cult-like mass suicide have been found alive, unhurt and upset to find they were the subjects of an extensive search." Why was there an assumption that they might be out somewhere committing mass suicide? Is that what we think all "cult-like" groups are capable of? Thinking about? Are we overestimating the few vivid instances in which that has occurred? What makes this group "cult-like" anyway? Some video included. [added 9/25/10]

Before I married and assumed a Jewish name, I did not realize that the prejudice would be so strong. We are resented almost everywhere we go. It began with my friends. Shortly after we were married, they began to fall away. Even my children from my previous marriage feel uncomfortable around my husband, just simply because he's Jewish. My former in-laws act as if I died. They never ask the children about me and quickly change the subject if one of them mentions my name. Then there's the clerks in stores when they see my name (obviously Jewish) on my credit cards. We're all supposed to be rich, spoiled princesses. Our husbands got rich through unscrupulous business practices. Sometimes they can be very surly. The churches are not much better. They see us as Christ killers and the word "Jew" definitely bears a negative connotation. It's either hurled from the pulpit or whispered in private. I say "we" rather loosely because I'm a Christian and attend church regularly. I'm also a member of a synagogue, that I attend infrequently with my husband. I've heard a lot of snide remarks and I've learned a lot about how these people cope. They're not perfect, but I don't know anyone who is. There's a lot of truth in that old saying about walking in someone's shoes before you judge them. I've been doing it for several years now and I have quite a different perspective. Unfortunately, as long as stereotypes are perpetuated from generation to generation, few people will ever view life through a Jew's eyes and the prejudice will continue.

Gender/Orientation-based top

video Institutional discrimination - "Girls given equal rights to British throne under law changes." [added 1/15/12]

video Institutional supports - Video and story of gay highschooler attacked by classmate [added 1/15/12]

new Stereotypes - Sam Sommers presents an interesting summary and commentary of research finding a negative stereotype about breastfeeding. [added 8/17/11]

web Minorities should know their place - Some of the objections to allowing gays and lesbians in the military revolve around the fear that they will "flaunt" their sexual orientation. Those in the majority/power find it easy to tell others not to do as they do. Here is another example. [added 6/20/10]

web Social inequalities - "Eight months after being raped, a 16-year-old at Khargor of Kasba upazila in Brahmanbaria had to receive 101 lashes as 'punishment.'" [added 2/6/10]

New gay stereotype - a Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon [added 12/26/07]

"Declared a woman, Bahraini man battles Arab norms" [added 12/12/07]

Use of offensive language - Blogger makes the argument that the term "homosexual" is degrading and offensive. [added 11/17/07]

Gender bias in the workplace - A fascinating letter apparently from Walt Disney Productions in 1938 rejecting a female applicant for a "young man's" job [added 7/19/07]

Language: "That's so gay" - "After Rice got a warning and a notation in her file, her parents sued, claiming officials at Santa Rosa's Maria Carrillo High violated their daughter's 1st Amendment rights when they disciplined her for uttering a phrase that 'enjoys widespread currency in youth culture,' according to court documents." [added 7/8/07]

Homophobia - You can listen to ex-NBA basketball player Tim Hardaway's statement about how uncomfortable he would have been to have a gay teammate, and how he hates gays. It is about two minutes into this on-air discussion with ex-professional basketball player John Amaechi about his new book in which he reveals that he is gay. Here is an article about Hardaway's comments. [added 7/7/07]

Homophobia - Did you see the Snickers ad during the 2007 Super Bowl? Did you think it was homophobic? Read about the controversy here. [added 7/7/07]

Gays flee Iraq - "Evidence shows increase in number of executions as homosexuals plead for asylum in Britain." [added 12/22/06]

Homosexuality in Iraq - story of a 14-year old boy who was apparently killed by Iraqi police for being a homosexual [added 7/5/06]

Ingroup Bias top

new Ingroup bias - 5-year-old girl refused to color a picture of a Kansas Jayhawk in school. She was a diehard Kansas State fan. [added 6/18/12]

new Exposure to outgroup - A Muslim reality show, "All-American Muslim," will be appearing on TLC beginning November 13, 2011. Will it help reduce conflict or prejudice or discrimination? Who will watch it? Some research possibilities there for you or your students. [added 1/15/12]

web Ingroup/outgroup bias and American exceptionalism - [added 9/25/10]

web Ingroup/outgroup - What did Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss mean when he said "There has always been a rush to the polls by African-Americans early. It has also got our side energized, they see what is happening." [added 3/29/09]

Ingroup bias - When I was in Grammar School, it was the biggest deal to be part of the popular group; that’s all I ever wanted. Finally, after years of trying I made it in this distinctive group. This is the perfect example for the Ingroup/Outgroup. In order to be in our group, which by the way we called ourselves the “perfect 10” because there were ten of us, you had to be and act a certain way. Your hair had to be done a certain way, it had to be a certain color, and on various days we all planned to wear matching items. One particular day I remember was a Friday, we called it “crazy pants day.” We all had to wear tight animal print pants and a black top. Everyone wanted to be a part of this group. If you weren’t in it, we were making fun of you, whether it was how you looked, who you hung out with, or just for who you were. We were awful little girls. I remember one day, the day we wore the crazy pants, a few teachers overheard what we were planning and planned to wear matching outfits that same Friday. It’s quite odd looking back and realizing just how big of an impact we had even on adults. By no means am I saying this was a good thing. There are many days where I wish I could take it all back. Why do we have to have these groups, that make others just feel terrible? What was it that gave this group I was in all the power? Even though I was a very mean little girl, I believe if I hadn’t have had experiences like this I wouldn’t be who I am today. Finally I left the “Perfect 10” because I couldn’t take making fun of others for no apparent reason, and now I don’t really judge anybody without getting to know them. [added 4/16/08]

Ingroup bias - An excellent example (image) from Carmen Lebherz of Switzerland: "I attach a picture of the German tabloid "BILD" with the headline "We Are Pope" that amused our team (some are German, some Swiss) quite a bit after Ratzinger became Benedict XVI. It's a pun on statements such as "we are soccer world champion", "we" standing for the whole nation. We thought it a perfect example of ingroup behavior, maybe even Cialdini's Basking in Reflected Glory (there's a twist: the Germans didn't like Ratzinger at all before he become pope)." [added 7/5/06]

Unequal status and socialization - Winnifred Louis passed along this example from Australia: "How hostility to asylum seekers (refugee claimaints) is formed - the context is that Australia has implemented harsh strategies of pre-emptive detention, a policy seen by some as inhumane and violating Australia's human rights obligations, yet supported by most Australians initially because of negative stereotypes about 'queue jumpers' and economic migrants masquerading as refugees. Most students have never met a refugee yet have strong views on the subject - so it's a good example of how people learn attitudes at second hand - from whom, one can ask?" [added 7/5/06]top


A faculty member passed along this example experienced at a recent social psychology conference: "But what I wanted to share and receive comment on pertains to something I heard at the airport Sunday morning. Two graduate students were complaining that the Sat. night Jam Session was poorly attended and speculated it was because the "big names" were at a private party for the "Ivy Leaguers." One of the students had a friend who attended this party, and apparently it is quite formal, with some men in tuxes and women in formal dresses. What interested me the most was that this party was apparently "hush hush," with the location only announced at the last minute so that no one from an "inferior" school could "crash" it. Which leads to my actual question, is there a social hierarchy among social psychologists? Is there an "ingroup" that serves/works to maintain the elite and protect the status quo? What do others think? Any personal experiences, in general, at this party, etc." Any comments? [added 7/5/06]

The best example of Ingroup Bias deals with something that took place years ago. In fifth grade, a few girlfriends and I established The Bra Club. This club was exclusive to those girls who had already received their first bra. We planned all sorts of recess activities for our members. It was amazing (looking back) how quickly we all identified with the group. The boundaries setup extremely fast. You were in or out no -- in between. We in the bra club began to see those without a bra as something less than us. We also attributed non-related things, like saying something stupid to not having a bra. This illusion of causation became quite a habit. "Look she tripped. Oh, that's cause she doesn't have a bra." Stereotypes were also set up within the group. We associated the non-bras to things such as unintelligent, strange, clumsy, etc. At that time, the bra club also fell victim to false consensus. We thought that everybody thought that having a bra was the thing that made the world spin! Needless to say, my chapter of the bra club is now defunct. I'm sure somewhere the bra club exists and they are victimizing that poor non-bra, outgroup as we did!

I went to an afternoon meeting with dinner after. When we arrived, name tags were given out. Some people had green dots by their names, but some had red dots. No one could really figure out why one had any particular color over the other. When we finally sat down to dinner it became clear that the dot signified your meal choice (pre-selected). It was interesting how the 10 tables of people (12 per table) had literally grouped themselves by color code. For instance our table had only one green tag meaning that person had ordered prime rib rather than orange roughy. Before all were served and knew the color reasons, one person at our table even joked to Larry calling him our "token green," so obviously we somehow gave ourselves some identity via the codes. It was also interesting that as dinner went on most of us finally had to admit that we were just conforming to the perceived norm of "healthy eating" with the fish and Larry's prime rib really did look much better to us. We had not chosen what we wanted but what we thought we should want to eat at a company function.

The other ingroup I belong to is a group of secretaries. There are only four of us on the third floor so we are pretty close, at least in our opinions about the managers. There are 25 of them. If the coffee fund or candy fund turns up short of cash, it's because one of those cheap managers didn't contribute their fair share. They are all insensitive jerks! We, on the other land, are the long-suffering secretaries!

web The group-serving bias - Despite overwhelming dislike of politicians in Washington, there has always been a group-serving bias such that MY representative/senator is okay, but the rest of those bums are terrible. Now, the majority of Americans don't even like their own incumbent. [added 12/5/10]top

Discrimination

new Institutional discrimination - Report finds racial discrimination in upkeep of foreclosed properties. [added 6/20/12]

video Institutional discrimination - The Daily Show has an amusing take on Arizona's banning of the teaching of ethnic studies in schools. [added 6/20/12]

new Institutional discrimination - A private Islamic school was denied admission to a Texas association of private and parochial schools. [added 6/18/12]

new Institutional discrimination - in the mortgage industry [added 1/15/12]

new Institutional discrimination - Church banned interracial couples from becoming members. That ban has since been rescinded. [added 1/15/12]

new Reducing discrimination - Women in Saudi Arabia are to be given the right to vote and to run for office. [added 1/15/12]

web Overt discrimination - At Mississippi middle school, only Whites can run for president. [added 9/25/10]

web Nightclub: "No fat girls allowed!" - [added 9/25/10]

web video Dehumanizing groups - South Carolina Lt. Governor compares parents of children on free or reduced lunches to stray animals. Here is a link to a Daily Show video in which Jon Stewart takes him to task. [added 2/6/10]

Dehumanization [added 7/15/07]

Unequal treatment - "Police ignore serial killings in Delhi slum, exposing unequal justice for India's poor" [added 7/6/07]

Just-world Phenomenon

new Just world beliefs - "Herman Cain On Occupy Wall Street: ‘If You Don’t Have A Job And You’re Not Rich, Blame Yourself!’" [added 1/15/12]
web Just world phenomenon - Radio show host Bill Cunningham said "You know, people are poor in America, Steve, not because they lack money; they're poor because they lack values, morals, and ethics. And if government can't teach and instill that, we're wasting our time simply giving poor people money." Earlier in the show, Cunningham had stated that "unlike many countries in the world, Steve, we have fat poor people. We don't have skinny poor people. Ours are fat and flatulent." [3/26/09]

Blame the victim? - "Why didn't the men defend themselves against the Virginia Tech shooter?", this observer asks. [added 7/19/07]

The just-world phenomenon - A study from Compassion International found that "thirty-nine percent of the people polled agreed strongly or somewhat with the statement: 'You have more sympathy for people who have cancer than you do for people who have HIV or AIDS because you feel most of those with HIV/AIDS got the disease as a result of their decisions or lifestyles.'" [added 12/29/06]

Assimilation

new Assimilation - Mayor in Maine says "I don’t care what color you are, when you come into the country, you have to accept our culture. Don’t try to insert your culture into ours." [added 12/17/12]

web Assimilationist view - Change your name so it sounds more like ours. Here is another example of the belief that immigrants should change their name to fit into society. [added 7/5/09]

web Pressure for minorities to assimilate - "Representative Betty Brown of Texas made waves yesterday by requesting that Asian voters 'adopt a name we could deal with' when voting and filling out identification forms." [added 7/4/09]

Reducing Prejudice

The book touched on reducing racial prejudice through social contact. This brought me back to my high school days. In 1965, the Catholic schools made a stab at integration in St. Louis where I lived. The all-black high school on the north side of town was changed from co-ed to all boys. The all-white high school on the south side was changed from co-ed to all girls. The plan was to bus all the black girls south and all the white boys north. (This was in line with the stereotype that boys could handle themselves better in a rough neighborhood than girls. Evidently many white mothers did not share this stereotype and simply removed their sons from the Catholic school system and put them into the public school close by.) Many attempts were made by the nuns at my now all-girl school to get the black girls and white girls to intermix. The girls were paired off by opposite race as "co-sisters." On retreats girls of opposite race were bunked together. However, none of this forced social contact really worked. The girls still separated by race for lunches, social events, etc. The ingroup/outgroup bias was clearly distinctive here.

 

Psychology in the Courtroom

web What happens if the mayor is your jury foreman? - interesting case of former New York Mayor Guiliani serving as foreman of a jury [added 6/3/08]

Majority influence - Story of a woman who was a "holdout juror" until she finally went along with the majority. She felt so guilty about it that she paid the fine of the convicted person. [added 12/26/07]

Movie: "12 Angry Men" - Captures many of the forces at work in jury decision-making. Contributed by Jim Bell. [added 4/28/02]

 

Social Beliefs and Judgments top


Reactance and Absoluteness
When talking of absoluteness, I think of a boxing strategy. I'm sure it translates into other sports as well, but that will be my model. No matter how bad you are hurt, you are supposed to not show it to discourage your opponent. If he should see a weakness forming in you, he thinks he might be able to hang on just long enough to outlast you. This may motivate him to try even harder. If he believes you are not even hurt, he will realize the shape he is in, feel weak and powerless, and not see the point of trying to continue. When it is a sure thing (or perceived sure thing) he is more likely to give up, but if there is a chance that he may win, he will continue or fight even harder to just put himself over the edge in the fight.
[added 12/17/12]

Attributions

Heider's attribution animations - Fritz Heider and Mary-Ann Simmel created an animation as part of a study (1944) on observers' attributions. Here is an animation similar to what they created. Here is another version of the animation. Here is some explanation and history of these animations. [added 12/12/07]

Michotte demonstrations of causal attribution [added 3/31/04]

new Kelley's Model of Attributions
Tonight while I was trying to print my assignment for this class, my printer suddenly stopped working and would not print anything in black ink -- only in color. Therefore, I had to print my assignment in blue ink to turn it in. I was a little worried that this seemed unprofessional to turn in to a college professor. However, I am hoping that you used Kelley's model of attributions. You would then realize that not everyone else turned their assignment in using blue ink so there is not consensus (internal reason); I don't always turn my assignments in using blue ink so it is not consistent (external reason); I only turned in this assignment in blue ink, not all papers in blue ink so it is distinct (external reason). I would hope that you would therefore attribute my blue paper to an external reason -- my printer not working -- instead of to the internal reason that I think blue papers are more exciting.
[added 12/17/12]

Kelley's Theory of Attributions - One of my fellow managers came to me today with a complaint about the performance of one of my subordinates. They had been in a meeting together where Tony (my subordinate) had acted very surly and obstinate about a new process we were trying to implement. John (my peer) made the comment to me that "Tony sure is an uncooperative person. You need to straighten out his attitude." I asked John if Tony was the only one to act in that manner. John replied that most others in the meeting were upset but Tony just happened to be the worst. My next thought was that Tony is usually pretty easy going and has never been upset when we've implemented a new procedure. I asked John whether he'd ever seen Tony get upset at any other meetings and John replied that he hadn't. By using Kelley's model and considering consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness, we concluded that Tony was acting in an uncharacteristic manner and must be upset about the new procedures (an external cause). The saleswoman got really excited the other night when Kevin (19 months old) waved bye-bye and smiled at her. She probably thought that Kevin really liked her and that his behavior was highly distinctive. I know that he is consistent in waving and smiling, and this was not reserved especially for her. I doubt that all babies wave and smile at everyone, so that would not be a consensus. top

web Katrina residents and the fundamental attribution error - summary of research comparing the very different perceptions of observers versus residents of why the residents stayed or evacuated from Hurricane Katrina
[added 7/5/09]

Fundamental Attribution Error - I let my students know that I regularly exhibit the errors and biases we discuss in class, and none is easier than the FAE. So, I'm in a fast food restaurant when I decide I need to use the bathroom. The door to the single-user bathroom is closed. Is anybody in there? I try the doorknob to find out. It is unlocked, so I proceed to enter. A man, with his back to me, fortunately, is at the urinal. I exit and close the door. Enter the FAE. Why wouldn't he lock the door? What kind of guy is he? I am not just led to negative attributions; I also consider that he is comfortable enough with himself that he is not embarrassed.

You probably know where this is going. As I take my turn in the bathroom I notice that the lock is broken on the door. And as I continue to use the bathroom, another person opens the door only to find it occupied. I wonder what he was thinking? And why didn't I or the previous occupant tell the next person that the lock was broken? [added 9/23/07]

Fundamental Attribution Error - Today, I was stopped at a red light. At one point, I edged my car forward slightly. Immediately after I did this, the man next to me (in his very sporty, turbo, fancy car of some sort) edged forward also. I, at once, thought to myself, "What a jerk, he just doesn't want me to get ahead of him when the light turns green." At this point, I realized that I wasn't taking this man's perspective and that I was making a fundamental attribution error. Perhaps my movement forward made him think the light was green, or perhaps he was just tired of having his foot on the brake like I was.

Unfortunately, our new apartment is not completely sound-proof. My husband and I can easily hear the person above us. We have never met the person but we already have preconceived ideas about who she is, what she does, and what her attitudes are. Last night, she came home very late and right away Bruce starts going on about what a tramp she must be for staying out so late. He constantly makes fundamental attribution errors about this person above us. Since we have never met her, we cannot possibly take her actual perspective of things. However, we could give her the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, maybe her car broke down or she was on vacation and her plane came in late. Although we don't know her and we probably shouldn't think things about her without even meeting her, it's fun to make up ideas about who the person upstairs really is.

Fundamental Attribution Error - I tell my students of how I used to drive into a gas station and get upset at another driver whose car was sitting at the second pump in an aisle while there was no car at the first pump. "What an idiot. Why didn't he/she just pull up to the first pump?" Of course, it usually hit me that perhaps there had been a car at the first pump when this driver pulled in. I no longer jump to the conclusion that the driver is an idiot, so I also use this as an example of how it is possible to control this error. We discuss how difficult that is.

Self-serving Bias top

Jantelagen - Eric Hansen, from Sweden, passed along this example: "The Swedes have a phenomenon (or in this case sort of a norm) they call Jantelagen (pronounced Yanta lagen). I think it comes originally from Denmark. I myself am a US citizen who moved to Sweden in 1997, so I do not have Swedish culture as my own, which is probably both an advantage and a disadvantage. I probably notice things my colleagues don't, but don't have the background to understand them as fully they would once I recognize them. Anyway, this Jantelagen, which I believe means Jante's law can be interpreted as a strong norm against extolling one's virtues and achievements.

One of my students once sent me the following "satirical" 10 commandments related to Jantelagen: taken from a source I could probably find. I believe it is a book called En flykting kryssar sitt spor (1933) by Aksel Sandmose.

Below is a direct translation of what they mean, in some cases with my interpretation in parentheses.

Jantelagen (10 satiriska budord) - Jantelagen 10 satirical commandments

1. Du skall icke tro att du är något. -- You (thou) shall not believe that you are something. (You should not believe you are something special)

2. Du skall icke tro, att du är lika god som vi. -- You shall not believe that you're as good as we are.

3. Du shall icke tro, att du är klokare än vi. -- You shall not believe you are wiser than we are.

4. Du skall icke tro, att du är bättre än vi. -- You shall not believe that you're better than we are.

5. Du skall icke tro, att du vet mer än vi. -- You shall not believe that you know more than we do.

6. Du skall icke tro, att du är förmer än vi. -- You shall not believe that you are superior to us.

7. Du skall icke tro, att du duger något till. -- You shall not believe that you're good enough for anything.

8. Du skall icke skratta åt oss. -- You shall not laugh at us.

9. Du skall icke tro, att någon bryr sig om dig. -- You shall not think anyone cares about you. (an interesting aside, there was recently a giant hit song with the chorus nobody cares where you bought your sweater, I know it doesn't translate so well, but the point they were trying to make in the song was that you're not as important as you think).

10. Du skall icke tro, att du kan lära oss något. -- You shall not believe you can teach us anything.top

Based on this "law" I am currently running a study in collaboration with a colleague in the States which makes a cross-cultural comparison of the self-serving bias. The idea is that Swedes are less likely to extol their virtues than Americans, unless permitted to do so anonymously. I view it as a type of false modesty, meaning I think Swedes privately think they are better than other people, but are loathe to talk about it publicly. I have some preliminary data that show significant differences in estimates of oneself compared to estimates of the "average other" in Swedes when ratings are made anonymously. In a follow up (being run now) I am investigating what happens when ratings are made publicly." [added 7/5/06]

We had a golf meet yesterday. I played terribly. It was my worst round in like three or four years. Naturally, I was a CLASSIC case study of self-serving bias. I came up with every excuse in the book to explain why I played so poorly. It was raining; it was the first time I ever played that course; I had a couple of bad holes; the list goes on and on. I attributed my failure on a hundred external factors, but none on me. I couldn't understand why I played so poorly, so there must have been some causes. I never play that bad, so I tried to find reasons. Well, there's always tomorrow ... My first experience with writing options in the securities market was a great success. Not only was it profitable, but I managed to sell and buy at the precise high and low points thereby confirming my belief that I was exceptionally good at this. I was soon projecting how my profits would grow over the next few years. The results that followed were not as impressive. A mix of smaller wins and losses did not change my beliefs. There were always explanations that could take me off the hook and place the blame on some external circumstances that which were temporary and unusual. Essentially the small losses were written off as flukes, and the small wins were seen as a direct result of my skill; they would have been even larger had so many things not turned against me. The self serving bias (wanting to see myself as a skilled trader) and the illusion of control (believing all the wins were a result of my good judgement) were at work here. It was not until a substantial one time loss occurred that I began to objectively evaluate my performance. The dissonance between my beliefs and what was occurring became too great to rationalize away.

Impression Formation


new Priming - Renee Bator passed along this excellent example: "My son was in kindergarten and his birthday party was two weeks away. My husband and I were trying to decide what type of birthday party to throw for him. We were going for a hike that morning, and we started the hike discussing the pros and cons of different options: pool party at the Y, party at our house, bowling, etc. We continued hiking for some time as I continued to ponder the different options. We came across an abandoned shack with broken glass and beer bottles inside. My husband said, "I bet kids like to party in there." I was horrified!! You couldn't have a birthday party in there!! After several, "What do you means?!" I realized he meant: local high school kids like to 'party' (i.e., drink beer and hang out) in there. I was primed by our discussion and then interpreted his later comment from that perspective." [added 6/18/12]

web Halo effect - This blog entry describes an interesting study in which participants that were shown a meal consisting of a salad and a drink guessed that there were fewer calories in the meal than participants who were shown a meal consisting of the same salad and drink but also including some crackers labeled "trans fat free." [added 3/29/09]

Context effect - a description of a study in which participants viewed a neutral facial expression as more positive or more negative depending upon the stimulus that preceded it [added 7/8/07]

Thin slice judgments - This article reviews efforts by principals to apply the "blink" method in assessing teachers' performance. [12/27/06]

Primacy Effect - I had an interesting experience with a fellow supervisor yesterday. An employee had recently promoted out of my department into his and it was about time for him to give her a 30-day review. I asked him how she was doing. He said not too well but that he really hadn't expected much from her. This surprised me because she had been a very good worker for me. I asked him why. He said that judging from the size of her personnel file I had passed along to him he was sure he was going to have problems with her performance. I asked if he had read the file. He said no, he hadn't wanted to bias his opinion of her before his first review. I guess the Rosenthal effect is at work here because he had in fact made his "biased" judgment based on file size. If he had taken the time to read through the file he would have seen that it was full of extra training documentation and notes of commendation on work performance. This had been an employee who for me had shown much initiative and continually came up with problem solutions. top

web Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - This Glenn Greenwald column provides a good example of how a few vivid examples of "home grown terrorism" in the media can be turned into a growing trend. [added 1/15/10]

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - "Baseball is a game of inches." That statement is frequently heard in baseball (and similar statements are often made in other sports). It only seems that way though because we most vividly remember the close calls and close plays. Usually the ball goes several feet or yards foul or over the fence or the runner is safe by several feet. It doesn't sound as good though to say "Baseball is a game of feet." [added 7/21/03]

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - a 3-minute, 30-second clip from The Daily Show on Comedy Central spoofing the Summer of the Shark, how the media overplays the frequency of certain events [added 10/3/02]

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - Had a good guest speaker in this week to talk about quality and customer service. His very first point in describing how to provide memorable service was to provide the customer with a "vivid" example so they always remember and associate your company with that. For instance, I was recently out of town, stopped in a store for a bottle of aspirin; went to the check out counter and found the price was not tagged on the item. The clerk turned to the manager walking by and asked for the price. The manager turned back to me and said, "Please accept this at no charge. This is an administrative management problem and not yours. We should have had it marked and I don't want to hold you up any longer. Sorry for the inconvenience, please come back." Was I stunned! But, as a customer I will always remember my positive experience and that vivid example will override most negatives which might occur.

Vividness Effect/Availability Heuristic - I saw the movie "Witness" last night in which Harrison Ford plays a Philadelphia cop who lives among the Amish for a short period. A strong outgroup bias was evident among the Amish. Some of them didn't accept him because he was an "Englishman." Most likely, they had encountered some other non-Amish people who behaved in a manner that wasn't acceptable to them, and they had these same feelings toward Harrison Ford initially. They had these same feelings about the woman who brought Harrison Ford to live in their community, and there was a lot of gossip about, and hostility toward, the two of them. After the community got to know Harrison Ford as a man rather than an "Englishman," they accepted him. One day Ford went to town with a group of Amish people. He was dressed like the rest of them. The people in town were accustomed to their pacifist ways, so they were quite surprised when Ford got into a fight with some bullies and won. The Amish excused him as being a cousin from Ohio. From then on, I'm sure the Ohio Amish had a bad name in Pennsylvania. This vividness effect would be used to make judgments about the Ohio Amish. Ford was hiding out from the Philadelphia police and didn't want his picture taken. So when a tourist woman insisted on taking his picture, Ford replied, "You take my picture and I'll rip out your brassiere and strangle you with it!" Obviously, the woman didn't take his picture. This unusual behavior (vividness effect) would probably cause the woman to have negative feelings about all Amish people. Ford was not really an Amish,but the woman's perception of reality was that he was. For her, Amish people are probably stereotyped as nasty.

Schemas and Stereotypes top top

Stereotype of Arabs/Muslims
Although I'd rather not admit it, I do have a slight prejudice toward Arabs, but not to the extent of pure hatred. It all happened with one vivid experience at the YMCA. I had been warned by a co-worker to keep my eye out for a man with a 6-year-old daughter because he was known to be abusive towards his daughter by making her swim laps in the pool for hours on end without a break. The first time I had laid eyes on this man,who was wearing a turban on his head and sported a small beard, my brain fired off a series of stereotypes. Uh oh, he's a Muslim, which means he's probably dangerous, not friendly, and rude was my initial thought. It didn't even occur to me that this was the man my co-worker warned me about. Rather, it was my stereotype that warned me to stay away because he posed a threat to my physical well-being. From that moment on, I relied on confirming evidence to maintain my stereotype that he was dangerous. Every little thing he did wrong proved to me that he was, in fact, a threat. In fact, one day, when he screamed at me for asking him if he wanted an ID card (he was using his wife's), I actually felt scared he would hit me, especially since I heard it had happened before to a lifeguard. Because of him and recent world events, I developed a slight prejudice towards Arabs. Now, whenever a man who looks like an Arab walks in to use the facility, I try to avoid eye contact and as much interaction as possible due to fear. In fact, apparently I've been told that I've even moved away from the desk whenever I saw him, which I didn't even know I was doing. This example demonstrated several things. First, it illustrated the vividness effect: I never remembered the good behaviors of this man, just the bad ones because they happened to be the most vivid. Second, it showed confirmation bias: I only looked for negative encounters with this man to maintain my stereotypes. Third, it also depicted priming: Encountering this man with his turban and beard triggered negative stereotypes, which resulted in fear and the behavior of slowly walking away. Fourth, the stereotypes I formed were done so in part of automaticity: My brain took in information about this man, but my unconscious processed it and spat out the negative stereotypes I had about Arabs and Muslims.
[added 12/17/12]

new Racial stereotypes in sports - Yes, I am required by law to mention "Linsanity" at least once this year. [added 6/18/12]

new Stereotypes - Sam Sommers presents an interesting summary and commentary of research finding a negative stereotype about breastfeeding. [added 8/17/11]

videoweb Did "cult-like" group commit suicide? - You may have heard this story recently in the news in which "a group of 13 Salvadoran immigrants missing in southern California amid fears that they planned a cult-like mass suicide have been found alive, unhurt and upset to find they were the subjects of an extensive search." Why was there an assumption that they might be out somewhere committing mass suicide? Is that what we think all "cult-like" groups are capable of? Thinking about? Are we overestimating the few vivid instances in which that has occurred? What makes this group "cult-like" anyway? Some video included. [added 9/25/10]

web It's so easy to label/stereotype (preschoolers) - Amusing article from The Onion in which little Timmy Johnson complains that "the 'handful' classification is problematic at best, a gross exaggeration at worst." [added 7/5/09]

web Stereotyping by blood type in Japan - I wasn't aware how important blood type is in Japan and how certain traits are associated with each type. This article also addresses stereotypes around birth order. [3/29/09]

web Stereotypes - Obama's growing watermelons on the White House lawn -- hey, he didn't know about the racial stereotype!
[3/29/09]

new Stereotyping - Robert Novak says that Barack Obama is not a "stereotype African-American." So, who is, Bob? [added 4/4/08]

Ethnic - Native Americans - Seinfeld Episode: Jerry attempts to suppress stereotypes about Native Americans, but he finds himself using words like "reservation." Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

Names - I hate the name Marvin. I've always hated the name. It doesn't sound masculine. It sounds like his mother must have hated him. When I hear it, my schema says "spoiled brat." In my mind, there are no good cognitions associated with the name. Since I never knew a Marvin when I was growing up, I don't know why I have such strong feelings about the name. If anyone would have told me that someday I would be married to a Marvin, I would have told them they were off their rocker. But that's exactly what happened. However, I still dislike the name so much, that sometimes my mind refuses to let my mouth say it. I can't tell you how many times I've slipped and called him Norman. I have never dated a Norman, so I don't know why my mind insists on substituting that name, but it does. As you can imagine, my husband fails to see any humor in this. At any rate, my husband is a very kind and generous man. He is not at all like the schema that I continue to associate with his name. In order to maintain a feeling of consistency, and to relieve dissonance regarding the conflict between my attitude and actions, I've convinced myself that my husband is an exception to the rule.

Names - Talk about preconceived notions -- the other night I met one of my friends for a drink that I hadn't seen in a long time so we had to do a lot of catching up. Well, it turns out that my friend is dating a man named Gus. Gus is supposed to be very nice and distinguished looking. The whole time my friend was telling me how great he was all I could do is smile. She finally asked me what was wrong. I replied nothing but all I could think of was that Gus was a donkey (jackass). Now I had never met this man but I associated the name with the only Gus I have encountered. Gus was a donkey on a Walt Disney movie who kicked field goals. Since this was the only Gus I knew I was having extreme difficulty with the word "distinguished." It did not fit into my implicit personably tract. If she had said "unique," maybe even "winning," there might have been a connection of sorts. top

Professions - When the news flash came on television describing Peter Fonda's stealing of a limousine in Chicago and being subsequently let go, my mind seized upon my "actor/actress schema!" I remarked to my husband: "How typical, only an actor could try something so arrogant and get away with it." I was referring to the schema with which I associate actors and actresses: snobbish, self-serving people who consider themselves to be above the law, above other people and exceptions to almost any rule. My schema also considers actors and actresses to have "overly-large egos" and lots of plastic surgery.

Professions - We went sightseeing in Vancouver using their transit system to get around. I was thoroughly impressed with Vancouver and even more so with their transit system and the people. The bus, train, and seabus are part of the same network. For a three dollar (Can. $) day pass, you can go anywhere, anytime by one of the three systems. The amazing thing for me was the bus drivers. They did not fit the schema of a bus driver. They had neat appearances, were friendly, and even thanked you when you left the bus. It was a sharp contrast to the image of the gun-carrying Chicago CTA driver. The extreme contrast to my negative image of drivers probably made them appear more friendly and helpful than they actually were. Had I not been from the Chicago area, I wonder if I'd have been so impressed.

Gender - One example which I have used in my journal entry earlier this term is my relationships with my female boss. Although I like to consider myself a non-prejudicial individual I find myself looking at gender stereotypes when I consider her management techniques. I have found her to be very moody and unpredictable. Because neither of my former supervisors at this corporation (who happened to be male) did not show any evidence of "mood management" I have drawn a conclusion that it is because of her gender. This is unfair and an antiquated view to hold but to be honest I have yet been able to shake this stereotypical view of her.

Gender - I witnessed and participated in two situations where gender-role stereotypes were brought out. My son plays on a traveling soccer team. It is a team for his age group and they play against teams from other towns around northern Illinois. We have traveled from Orland Park to the southeast to Rockford to the west. The kids on these traveling teams are supposed to be the best players of their age from the areas they live in. Last week the team my son played against had a female player. She happened to be the other team's best defensive player. It was interesting hearing the parents of the players on my son's team yell at their sons for not being able to get past that girl. They made statements like "She's only a girl, you must be able to beat her." What was most interesting was that most of the comments were made by mothers -- not fathers. top

Religion - Before I married and assumed a Jewish name, I did not realize that the prejudice would be so strong. We are resented almost everywhere we go. It began with my friends. Shortly after we were married, they began to fall away. Even my children from my previous marriage feel uncomfortable around my husband, just simply because he's Jewish. My former in-laws act as if I died. They never ask the children about me and quickly change the subject if one of them mentions my name. Then there's the clerks in stores when they see my name (obviously Jewish) on my credit cards. We're all supposed to be rich, spoiled princesses. Our husbands got rich through unscrupulous business practices. Sometimes they can be very surly. The churches are not much better. They see us as Christ killers and the word "Jew" definitely bears a negative connotation. It's either hurled from the pulpit or whispered in private. I say "we" rather loosely because I'm a Christian and attend church regularly. I'm also a member of a synagogue, that I attend infrequently with my husband. I've heard a lot of snide remarks and I've learned a lot about how these people cope. They're not perfect, but I don't know anyone who is. There's a lot of truth in that old saying about walking in someone's shoes before you judge them. I've been doing it for several years now and I have quite a different perspective. Unfortunately, as long as stereotypes are perpetuated from generation to generation, few people will ever view life through a Jew's eyes and the prejudice will continue.

Sexual Orientation - Seinfeld Episode: An NYU reporter mistakenly comes to believe that Jerry and George are gay. Among other things, it illustrates that given certain expectations it is easy to find confirmation as the reporter continues to find "evidence" to support the belief. Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]

Judgment Biases top top

newnew Errors under pressure - "Details emerge in LAPD's mistaken shooting of newspaper carriers. The women were victims of 'a tragic misinterpretation' by officers working under 'incredible tension,' LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says." [added 4/01/13]

video Superstitious thinking - good example in this ad for Bud Light [added 12/17/12]

new Hindsight bias and elections - [added 12/17/12]

new Group self-serving bias - This columnist argues that when the U.S. soldier recently was accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians there were external, uncontrollable causes given for his behavior, but when Muslims kill it is clearly internally caused. [added 6/18/12]

new Confirmation bias - Warren Throckmorton sent along this good example. [added 6/18/12]

web Not questioning credentials of the source - Sam Sommers discusses another fascinating case, this one of William Hamman, a pilot who gave medical seminars under the pretense he was a cardiologist. Nobody questioned it. Except his five-year old daughter. Sorry, I just made up that last bit. [4/9/11]

web Change blindness - I actually watched this episode of the TV show Community, but I completely missed the storyline in the background. [added 12/5/10]

web We see what we know - Is this someone using a cell phone in a Charlie Chaplin film circa 1928? We see what is familiar to us. [added 12/5/10]

web Identifiable victim bias (Empathy) - Why are we more willing to empathize with and help a few dozen stranded miners in Chile than the millions affected by the recent flooding in Pakistan? This article suggests it is, in part, because of the miners are more clearly identifiable. [added 9/25/10]

Interpreting events to fit prior beliefs - Interesting paper describing "cases of epilepsy that were interpreted as voodoo possession" [Ed. note: Isn't there a social psych term for this? I'm blanking on it. I'll send you the next issue for free(!) if you can give me the term for interpreting an event in such a way to make it fit one's prior beliefs.] [added 1/13/10]

web The Katrina Crisis - Don Forsyth has created a nice review of social psych concepts as they relate to Hurricane Katrina. [added 7/5/09]

Inattentional blindness - Here's a nice variation of the gorilla video example incorporated into an ad. [added 4/16/08]

Mindblindness - This short video which appears to be about a card trick is actually an interesting demonstration of mindblindness. Take a look. [added 7/15/07]

Visual illusions related to social judgment - Some interesting videos are made available online from the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois. Actual videos used in studies of change blindness and other topics. Illustrates some social perception and expectation errors. Quicktime is required. [added 7/23/03]

Mass Delusion - interesting case of some residents of a town who "hear" a low hum. Do they? [added 6/7/02]

Belief Perseverance - Will there be a higher than normal number of babies born nine months after the recent blackout in the Northeast? Such a myth still persists about the famous blackout of 1965. [added 11/13/03]

Confirmation Bias

new Confirmation bias - In this study, pilots and undergrads (but not orienteers) chose confirmatory evidence when disconfirmatory evidence would have been more helpful. [added 12/16/12]

web Confirmation bias - cartoon [added 1/15/12]

web Confirmation bias - Ear-based virginity test? "An acupuncturist in Vietnam who claims she can detect a man's virginity based on a small red dot on the ear is credited with helping to free three convicted rapists from prison, the Associated Press reports from Hanoi." [added 9/25/10]

video Confirmation bias - Oh, I love this one. How does Fox News interpret the Nuclear Security Summit logo? Jon Stewart explains. [added 6/19/10]

web Confirmation bias - Those who believe U.S. President Obama is a Muslim do not change that belief when exposed to news in the media. [added 6/19/10]

web Confirmation Bias - More and more we are turning to news sources that agree with us. [added 5/3/08]

Confirmation Bias - Do you have a Secret Santa? Have you figured out who it is? Once you have a guess it is easy to start seeing "signs" that he/she is it. "Well, his hair is always sticking up, so who else would get me a troll doll with a clock in its stomach? He might as well have written his name on the package!" [added 12/29/06]top

Confirmation bias - This brief report does a nice job of comparing some current "anti-immigrant hysteria" from Pat Buchanan to similar concerns with past immigrant groups. My colleague Heather Coon also pointed out that it illustrates how easy it is to see what you want to see. [added 12/22/06]

Confirmation Bias - Seinfeld episode: An NYU reporter mistakenly comes to believe that Jerry and George are gay. Among other things, it illustrates that given certain expectations it is easy to find confirmation as the reporter continues to find "evidence" to support the belief. Contributed by Steve Fein. [added 4/28/02]



False consensus effect - The other day my friend exhibited the most blatant false consensus effect I've ever heard (and recognized). I don't know how we got on the subject, but we started talking about things that lots of people do but rarely acknowledge. She said, "Yeah, like when you're sitting alone in your house or something and you can imagine where you'd go and what you'd do if a robber came in!" I simply responded with a vacant stare. She replied, "What, doesn't everyone do that?" Apparently not. Later, she still claimed that lots of people do it. Double whammy: False consensus effect and belief perseverance all in one go. [Editor's note: Who was actually exhibiting the false consensus effect?] [added 4/16/08]

False consensus effect - Every single Saturday morning was dedicated to cleaning the house throughout my childhood. This was designated by my parents and we would each receive chores or a specific set of tasks that we were required to do around the house. I remember one time a friend asking me to come over to her house for a play date on a Saturday morning. I became confused, however, because I assumed that her family would participate in the same Saturday morning cleaning routine and asked if I had to help her clean if I came over. This is an example of the false consensus effect because I believed that others shared the same schedule that I did more than they actually did and was shocked to learn that not all families cleaned on Saturday mornings. [added 4/16/08]

Hindsight Bias - My oldest son has been trying to decide for several weeks whom to ask to the homecoming dance. One day he would come home and announce he was going to ask Kim. By the time we finished supper he decided to ask Jessica instead. Before bedtime he had decided to ask Sara. I think he was afraid of being turned down and just couldn't decide who was the best bet and least likely to turn him down. Finally he came home from school one day and announced he had asked Jessica to the homecoming dance. My wife immediately said "I just knew all the time she'd be the one you would ask. I would have bet money on it." If she was so sure why didn't she offer to bet. This appears to be the old I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon. top

Hindsight bias - The 9-11 commission provides lots of opportunities for participants to exhibit the hindsight bias as remedies seem easier to us now. [added 6/9/04]

Hindsight Bias - Ever watched Jeopardy with someone, and after the answer is given that person says "I knew that one" or "That was an easy one"?

newnew Illusory/spurious correlation / illusion of causation - From Jeff Ricker: "Increasing college costs causes autism." [added 4/01/13]

Illusion of causation - The Family Circus cartoon [added 12/26/07]

Illusory correlation and illusion of causation? - "Wireless technology made me sick." Ms Figes said: "The day we installed wi-fi two years ago was the day I started to feel ill. At first I could not work out what the problem was. I had no idea why I felt so sick and run-down. But I knew that when I walked through the front door it felt like walking into a cloud of poison. "Imagine being prodded all over your body by 1,000 fingers. That is what I felt when I walked into the house... Then I started to think it might be the wi-fi, so we scrapped it - and I felt better." [12/27/06]

Illusion of Causation - When I drive to work, or for that matter, when I go anywhere and I'm in a hurry and worried that I will be late, I have a sure fire way to improve my chances of being on time. In order to put on lipstick I have to be at a red light, but every time I want to put on lipstick the traffic signals always seem to stay green. So if I am in a hurry, I always take out my lipstick because I know if I do this it will cause all of the traffic lights to be green! Is this wierd or what! I guess the "what" is illusory causation.

Illusion of Causation -- My parents have been trying to sell their house with little success. My mother finally gave into an old Catholic superstition. She buried St. Joseph (statue - of course) upside-down in the backyard! No, they have not sold it yet -- but she is waiting!

Illusion of Causation - There have been a number of times my family has received extra funds just so the car could break down. My records confirm that whenever we receive any extra cash such as tax returns, insurance settlements, even loans, one of our automobiles breaks down within a predictable interval of time. An interval that always requires a commitment of some of the newly acquired cash.

Illusion of Causation - I found myself half-believing two illusions of causation earlier this week. This is our third home. The first two homes both were sold the year after we built a deck in the back yard. This year we built a deck in the back yard of this third house. I told my husband that we'll be moving next year for sure. Building decks causes us to move. This leads on to my second illusion of causation. We have lived in three houses and I have gone through three pregnancies -- one pregnancy in each house. Therefore, since we are going to move next year, I will also be getting pregnant next year. Moving into a new house causes me to get pregnant. Then again, perhaps I could combine the two illusions into one and just state that building decks cause pregnancies. I know none of this is true, that it's all merely coincidence. (At least, I hope it is.) top

Memory Distortion/Reconstruction - "For me I think the point of 'Peggy Sue' is how memory often lies. Peggy Sue is bitter that her husband left her for another woman. She's bitter about that, and she has built it up in her mind that he never loved her. But she goes back in time and she rediscovers that he really did love her. Her memory is disturbed in a valuable way by the experience. The point is that for a lot of the things we believe about our life, it would be a good idea to go back and check the facts." I found the above comments in a movie review. This reminded me of material that we covered about memory. Here is a good example of how the facts got distorted over time. Not all of us can go back in time, in fact, none of us. But if we did, I think we'd find the facts of the past different from the opinions we've created today. Some would have greater differences than others but very few would be exactly.

web Overconfidence in clinical judgments - Interesting case of a man exonerated on DNA evidence. He had been convicted 21 years earlier solely on the testimony of a criminal profiler. [added 5/3/08]

Self-fulfilling prophecy - Interesting study: "This effect of body-spray-making a man more attractive because he thinks he is more attractive-represents a self-fulfilling prophesy." [3/29/09]

Decision-makingtop


new Expectations affect judgments - More on how we can be fooled while judging wines [added 1/15/12]

web Poor decision making at Citigroup - Many judgment errors and overconfidence can be found in this analysis of Citigroup's recent problems. [added 3/29/09]

Priming and Context - Imagine you are told you will be drinking wine from California or... from North Dakota. Sure, you might prefer the California wine (even though it's the same), but you also say the food you are eating tastes better. [added 9/23/07]

Is more choice better for decision-making? - an OpEd piece from Barry Schwartz in which he refers to research on choice in decision-making to analyze Bush's social security privitization proposal [added 3/20/05]

Heuristics - neat, simple, interactive online example of heuristics and cognitive load from Don Forsyth [added 3/6/02]

 

Social Comparison top

Adaptation-level Phenomenon

new Adaptation-level phenomenon - Research found that those with the more severe brain injuries reported greater life satisfaction. [4/9/11]

new Adaptation-level phenomenon - 42% of millionaires don't feel wealthy; need more than 7 million to feel wealthy. I probably just need 4.8 mil. [4/9/11]

Students will often tell me how they feel deprived when they come to college if they don't have a car because so many of their peers have one at college. Then, when they finally save up enough money, buy a car and are thrilled, the elation is short-lived. Their used car doesn't nearly look as good as the new car other students are driving. And if they are able to buy a new car they then often report that that excitement doesn't last long when they see the cool new cars others are driving!

 

The Self top

Perception of Controltop

Impulse control of sextuplets - a video showing a test of delay of gratification among a famous set of sextuplets [added 12/12/07]

A couple of other former chapter thoughts: I was reading an article on Mary Decker in the Tribune on Sunday and noticed the "control" issue surfacing throughout. Mary was training for the Olympics and she and her husband were deciding whether or not to have a child. Their decision ended up being yes. Because of race schedules they had only one month in which conception could take place and she could still have time to deliver, recover, and begin training again. She and her husband flew to Hawaii and in fact she became pregnant during that time. The point of the story in the planning and in her comments about being pregnant was control. She had decided when to get pregnant and she did (lucky Mary). Many others who plan something like this to coincide with work and school schedules are not as successful and the disappointment related to that has to do with control. The feeling is We're doing all the things we're supposed to do, now why aren't "we" pregnant. It's funny the number of conversations like this I've had with women whose biological clock is ticking away. Another interesting comment Mary made in the article was that when she was pregnant all of a sudden there was this person inside her controlling her body. She couldn't do the same things, this person demanded more of her (nutrition, sleep, etc.) and her body grew in a way that was for the most part, out of her control. I found it very interesting to read this story because it pointed out to me some psychological concepts I had never associated with pregnancy. Also, as my biological clock ticks away and results at this point are none, it make me understand some of the reasons underlying the frustrations people (we) feel when things don't go exactly as we like to plan them. top

While sitting at home today waiting for delivery men, I had much time to be thinking of journal examples. One thing I thought about was the uneasy feeling I had all morning. I realized that the uneasiness was due to the uncertainty as to when my furniture would come. I had no control over the situation. My lack of control was increased because our phone does not get connected until Wednesday and so I could not call them and they could not call me. Not until I had gone downstairs and used the phone in the rental office to find out what time my delivery would come did I feel that I had some control and thus felt more relaxed.

I have established a bedtime routine which we follow every night: bath, juice, books, kiss Daddy, look out window, hug bunny, lie down in crib. He knows the pattern by now and doesn't get upset when I put him in bed. There is a predictability in our actions, and I assume that gives him a feeling of control. I think it's important, though, that he is able to handle some variety so that if something occurs which is out of the ordinary or contrary to our/his routine, he won't fall apart completely.

Illusion of Control - I know that flying is safer statistically than riding in a car. Nor am I afraid to fly. Yet I am reminded that no matter how much I think I believe it, I really don't. For example, I drive my car to work everyday and never once consider that I will not make it home. Yet on Friday, my husband and I had our will updated because we are flying out of town without our children. I know I never get on a plane without a feeling of apprehension and never land without a feeling of relief. From my studies I can attribute my feelings to two possible factors: 1) When I drive a car, I am in control. I drive defensively and alertly. When I get on a plane, I have absolutely no control. The pilot is in charge. He may have had a fight with his spouse and his head is in the clouds. (Pardon the pun.) He may have a terrific hangover from the night before. The loss of control has a terrific influence on my feelings. 2) The vividness effect is also dominant. When an airline crashes, it makes the front page. We see horrendous scenes of the accident sight on the 10:00 news. We see interviews of victims' sobbing relatives. All the people on board the aircraft are dead and never had a chance to survive. This image always comes to mind when I fly. The vividness of this scenario is hard to wipe from my mind. top

 

Reactance - One night not too long ago, my friends and I were browsing the shelves of Blockbuster searching for a movie we could all agree on, a feat that usually takes close to an hour. Along the way we offered many suggestions, the most prominent being "The Lives of Others." We continued to look though, because that's just what we do. After another 10-15 minutes of searching, we decided that movie would be fine. But when we went back to take it, it was gone. We were so upset, claiming we really wanted to watch it, and it was the perfect movie for that night. Now knowing better, I can attribute our reactions to reactance: we liked "The Lives of Others" better when the choice was taken away. [added 4/16/08]

Reactance - Today while I was on the phone, I was told about a classic case of reactance. This is something that my brother suffers from often, just like he was a little kid (but he's 18). On Tuesday, my brother had to go to some place in Hillcrest to sign up for his classes. He's going to attend S.I.U., however, there was this place up here for the northern students to sign up at so they wouldn't have to drive to Carbondale. Now I know my brother pretty well. He loves tennis. He hates bowling. Just like us, they have to take a P.E. class, so he decided that he wanted bowling. This was before he found out that tennis was available. Then he finds out he can take tennis, but bowling is filled. He had a spaz. He now wanted bowling more than he wanted tennis. When I asked him why, he said it was because he couldn't get into bowling. Oh well, that's my brother.

Reactance - I discovered an example of the reactance theory in my own life this past summer. My family wants a dog for a pet. I haven't been too thrilled by the idea all along. I finally agreed, only if it was a Pembrooke Welsh Corgi. Corgis are a rather uncommon breed and I figured we probably wouldn't find one at any of the shelters. At the first shelter we went to, the employees had never heard of the breed. Much to my delight and the rest of the family's dismay, they doubted if they would ever receive a dog like that into the shelter system for disposal. At the second shelter, though, the receptionist knew exactly what we were talking about. She rechecked her records and informed us that we missed getting a Corgi by a few days. They had just had one in their possession the previous week. I remember thinking, "Oh, no! We were so close." Now I really wanted the dog badly. We spent the rest of the day checking at other shelters but to no avail. It's been 3 months and still no more Corgi. I've spent considerable time checking with breeders and shelters. My husband keeps wondering out loud why if I don't want a dog, am I going through all this work. I think this whole situation also has something to do with relative deprivation. I've gotten numerous books from the library about Corgis. Seeing them with their owners makes me feel deprived. If they can have a dog, why can't I? I'd be just as good an owner. (Gosh, we've already even built the dog house!) Although some owners of Corgis wouldn't necessarily be in our reference group -- for example, Queen Elizabeth owns 3 Corgis, -- many of the owners look like "regular folks." These are people that could definitely fit in our reference group for comparison. I guess I'll continue to feel "deprived" until we get one. top


Self-handicapping - Every once in a while me and my friends get together to play a big game of Halo 3. Since our "skill" level varies widely among us we have to divide the teams up as fairly as we can. One day, we had an odd number of players that showed up and the first idea that came to all of our heads was that one of us was going to sit out. Instead, however, my friend volunteered to be the team with fewer players. We all knew he did this because when he lost he could claim it was because his team was outnumbered. It was his own strategy to self-handicap in order to shrug off the loss. [added 4/16/08]

Self-handicapping - My mom started this new diet. Since she usually fails, she overworks herself when she exercises the first couple times. From that, she is too sore to continue exercising and so she stops completely. Instead of doing a little bit every day, she knows she's going to fail. She purposely overworks herself so that she is not responsible for her failure.
[added 4/16/08]

Self-serving bias - Once again, a survey finds that the American public does not have a very high opinion of how Congress is handling its job, a 61% disapproval rate, but only 29% disapprove of "the way their own representative is handling his or her own job." Here is the actual survey. [added 12/27/06]

new Exaggerated perception of self - "90% of corporations think that their executives deserve above-median pay." Remember the study that found that 94% of faculty at one school rated themselves above average among the faculty at that school? [added 1/15/12]

False Uniqueness Effect


new False uniqueness effect
Is this as unusual as I think it is, or is it just another example of the false uniqueness effect? I have now had each of my three children and my wife as students in my courses (each in different courses). Is that the first time in the history of the world that has happened?
[4/9/11]

False uniqueness effect? - Survey finds Americans are more accepting of gay athletes than just a few years ago. However, respondents think "others" would be less understanding. [added 7/8/07]

web The group-serving bias - Despite overwhelming dislike of politicians in Washington, there has always been a group-serving bias such that MY representative/senator is okay, but the rest of those bums are terrible. Now, the majority of Americans don't even like their own incumbent. [added 12/5/10]

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Resources for the Teaching of Social Psychology is a part of the CROW Project, Course Resources on the Web. CROW was initially sponsored by the Associated Colleges of Illinois and generously supported by UPS. This site was created by Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology at North Central College, Naperville, IL. Send comments to Jon.