Tweeting Out Reactance

turkey-twitterOn to Chapter 7…

Interesting story here on what happened in Turkey a few years ago when the government banned Twitter. Short answer? Twitter use skyrocketed.

Reactance at its finest, perhaps?

Posted in Attitudes, Chapter 7 | 2 Comments

More on the Psychology of Hazing

hazingPer our discussion of dissonance, check out this interesting blog post on the psychology of hazing.  Relevant to Chapter 6’s discussion of cognitive dissonance and our need to justify behavior, but also a variety of interesting topics we have discussed this term (and will discuss in the future).

Any responses?  For that matter, if we stipulate that hazing is a problem we’d like to eliminate, any social psychological ideas for how to combat the tendency?

Posted in Chapter 6, Cognitive Dissonance, Groups, The Self | 28 Comments

Pro-Social at Tufts?


This post was written by a student in last summer’s PSY 13 course, and is shared with the student’s permission…

I used to be involved with Tufts Free Compliments and after reading Chapter 11, specifically the bit about positive psychology, and emailing Professor Sommers about it, I decided to post about my experiences and observations on here. It’s important to note though that I’m no longer affiliated with the group and these are just my reflections two years after the fact.

I’m sure that plenty of you guys are familiar with TFC and what we used to do, standing outside Tisch complimenting passerby. I actually used to be the president of the club and was in charge of all sorts of things like setting up events and promoting the group on campus. I ran into some really interesting problems. The biggest one, and most notable was that there was a large group of students that hated us. I mean really hated us. I remember I was in Tisch one time doing homework and I overheard a group of people discussing how “creepy” and “weird” the group and the people in it were. Now we obviously didn’t think that, in our minds we were just outside having a good time and at the very least, trying to make people smile but what was most interesting to me, especially since starting this course is how a positive psychology group, one whose mission was to make people happy, could invoke such visceral reactions. It wasn’t just that one time I heard it; being creepy, non-genuine, and off-putting was a critique the group drew time and time again and is largely why we are no longer operational.

I think the answer is two-fold. First, our target group was students and students tend to be more stressed. It’s that whole “feel good, do good” and “feel bad, do bad” idea, that mood and stressors can affect and alter our behavior and opinions. Second, was the issue of anonymity. Few people know this but we did much more than just complimenting outside. We spent a lot of time coming up with other ways to increase the morale of campus with things like putting compliments in library books, drawing smiles in the snow, and things of that nature. When people knew it was TFC doing the event, the amount of negative responses was enormous. I even had people come up to me to tell me off in person. However, when our name wasn’t attached to the activity as with the compliments in books or putting balloons up on campus, the response was overwhelmingly positive. It seems that the action is not truly altruistic until we were able to separate the label of TFC from the positive psych action and people didn’t perceive those actions as helping or beneficial until the source wasn’t identifiable.

What do you guys think? As a member of the group, I think the experience was largely one of the better ones I had in college and while I personally don’t care what others think, I have to admit, I was always curious as to why the group was hated so much. On paper you’d think a club that’s purpose to make people smile was well received, just as you’d think that with 38 bystanders, Kitty Genovese would have been helped but as we’ve seen, that’s clearly not the case.

Posted in Chapter 11, Prosocial Behavior, Social Perception, Tufts | 20 Comments

What Men Really Want (at least in terms of prosocial behavior)

door-openSome interesting research that integrates several different issues we’ve been discussing: helping behavior, social norms, and self-esteem.  Basic finding?  Men don’t like it so much when another man holds a door open for them.

Reactions, questions, or comments?  (Other than my initial response, which in this case would be, hey, men, grow up, why don’t you?)

Posted in Chapter 11, Chapter 5, Gender, Prosocial Behavior, Social Norms, The Self | 22 Comments

The Laptop vs. Notebook Debate

compHere’s a link to a brief story describing the study I mentioned in a lecture in Week 2 regarding how taking notes via laptop differs, cognitively speaking, from taking notes by hand.

14 years ago when I started at Tufts, I’d say less than half of each class had a laptop with them.  Today, when I look out at the lecture hall, I see an army of hundreds of glowing apples staring back at me.

So what do you make of this argument that note-taking by laptop leads to lower-effort cognitive processes?  Do you buy the research finding?  Are you tempted to change your own note-taking strategies, at least for in-person classes?  Why or why not?

Based on this research, as well as complaints from students that they found other people’s laptop use distracting to them during class (sort of the second-hand smoke argument), I banned laptops for the first time in PSY 13 two years ago.  Another factor in this decision was the downside of multi-tasking, as I know I can’t be trusted to pay attention and engage when I have my laptop/phone available.  The no-laptop rule seemed to go pretty well this past spring in my class.  But what do you think about such rules and about this particular study?

Posted in Chapter 3, Social Cognition, Tufts | 32 Comments

Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things

rage-1587We’re talking about the Fundamental Attribution Error this week, and so when the following link popped up on my Facebook feed, it seemed a nice fit for the class blog.  I’ve stolen the title of this post from here, an interesting read on why it is that pedestrians and drivers seem to get so disproportionately angry at cyclists.  The FAE comes into play, as does our resistance to change and a variety of other interesting psychological tendencies.

Give it a read and see what you think.  Have you ever experienced this, either as a biker or toward those who bike?  Can you think of other, similar examples?  Do you agree with the author that FAE comes into play here?

Posted in Chapter 4, Fundamental Attribution Error, Social Perception | 12 Comments

Cross-Cultural Social Perception (in this case, of beauty)

o-ESTHERHONGORIG-900A student who took PSY 13 with me a year ago sent me a link this week.  It’s to an interesting story on the Huffington Post in which a reporter sent a picture of herself (right) to contacts in 25 different countries, giving them permission to PhotoShop it to fit their country’s cultural standards of beauty.

The results are interesting on a number of levels.  In terms of Chapter 4’s discussion of cultural differences in social perception.  Also when it comes to the more general issues of social norms as well as attraction (a topic we’ll tackle in the second half of the course).  Check out the story and all the images, and let us know what your reactions are.

Posted in Attraction, Chapter 10, Chapter 4, Cross-Cultural, Media, Social Perception | 12 Comments

The NFL’s Least Favorite Super Bowl Ad

This ad first started making the rounds on my Facebook feed during Super Bowl XXXVIII a few years ago.  Stick with it all the way to the end for the payoff:

For those non-football fans out there, it’s an ad from the National Congress of American Indians protesting the team name Washington Redskins.  It seems to me that while not exactly the same idea, it’s relevant to our PSY 13 discussion about the influence of images and labels on our schemas about groups (in the Social Cognition, Part II lecture I talked about efforts to change the icon on handicapped parking signs).

Indeed, research indicates that seeing Native American logos and mascots makes attitudes about the group more negative, among Native Americans as well as others.  Here’s a quote from that story, one that should sound pretty similar to issues we’ve been discussing from Chapter 3: “…there is a disconnect between how people think about these issues consciously and unconsciously. So you can have very positive views about a team mascot like the Redskins, and genuinely and sincerely say you are supportive of the team and think about the mascot in a positive way. While, at an unconscious level, the mascot could be having negative effects on you and the people who are hearing you talk about those terms.”

Thoughts on the Native American mascot issue from a social psychological perspective? Other examples you can think of relevant to these issues of how images and labels change the way we think about certain people or groups?

Posted in Chapter 3, Media, Racial Bias, Schemas, Stereotypes, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

More on Schemas, Expectations, and Race

Reactions in light of our new topic of social cognition?

What’s the relevance here of schemas?  The type of associations Eberhardt et al. (2004) discuss?  For that matter, what about the bystander intervention component at play here?

Posted in Bystander Effect, Chapter 3, Media, Racial Bias, Schemas, Social Cognition, Stereotypes | 9 Comments

Kitty Genovese, Revisited

26A-Genovese-1A documentary, The Witness, was released a year ago revisiting the murder of Kitty Genovese. Some details can be found in this article.

The movie tries to dispel some popular myths about the case. It turns out, contrary to news reports of the time (and many textbooks to this day), there weren’t 39 witnesses to the attack. And some witnesses only saw or heard parts of what happened.

Do these revelations change the way you think about the Genovese case? When you first learned about the Genovese case, did you believe that dozens of people stood and watched the entire attack without doing anything, or did you know that some witnesses only heard ambiguous bits and pieces of what was going on? Have you ever witnessed only part of an ambiguous situation and therefore done nothing because you weren’t sure what the full story was?

Posted in Bystander Effect, Chapter 11, Prosocial Behavior | 18 Comments