Stereotypes

This week I encountered probably the most direct example of anything we have talked about in class occur in daily life. I was in Starbucks working on note cards for this class when four women sat down at the long table I was sitting at and presented one of the women in their party with a baby gift. She opened it up and inside was a set of pjs with gray zigzags. One of the woman then commented that they did not know the sex of the baby so hopefully they would work for either or. It was interesting to see this completely gendered conversation occur right next to me. It was not as subtle as them using different descriptors for the coming baby or them buying a pink outfit for a girl. They were actively describing why they had made the choice and expressing the fact that they thought the pjs looked gender neutral. It was like the woman were experiencing some form of cognitive dissonance over having bought a gift that was not following exact gender stereotypes.

The women had also sort of encroached on the space of a man at the end of the long table. He appeared to be in his seventies and was reading a book. I did not think he was paying attention to the conversation that the women next to him were having. If anything, I thought he was annoyed by the fact that the women were sitting so close to him. He then made a comment to the women along the lines that women were always so sweet about getting gifts and that it was nice that the women got together to gossip. This seemed to ruffle the feathers of the women and they coldly responded to his comment. I had so much trouble understanding their reaction to the man as it was coupled with their conversation about the baby clothes.

I realized that this behavior is something that I can fall into as well. I call myself a feminist and I am troubled by sexist actions but that does not mean I never say any gender stereotypes. But I thought the concern about the pjs was particularly extreme. I wonder if their reaction was less about the man saying sexist thing but thinking that he may have been hitting on them and wanting to fend off the approach. This reaction would have also been based off of stereotyping the man as a creepy old person and could have had less to do with his comments. Unfortunately, I did not have to courage to interview the women about their actions and I doubt they would have thought my comments and questions were appropriate.

The women made me think about how people talk about stereotypes in there ingroup versus outside of it. I know that people are more likely to say blatantly racist or sexist things when they are surrounded by their ingroup but the subtle nature of this is more interesting to me. What about the little comments about gender or what about stereotypical comments surrounding topics not usually discussed by the group?

Finally, the encounter brought up questions for me around the psychology of catcalling. When men or women decide to make unsolicited comments based on appearance or other features of a person. I would really like to understand more about where this comes from. Is it just to belittle? Does it have to do with the man needing to show that he is dominant? That he is heterosexual? I would be really interested in seeing more studies surrounding this topic.

Nonsocial Groups and Social Groups

The first group processes lecture was particularly relatable for me. In fact, it was almost disturbingly relatable. Many aspects stuck out to me as immediately relevant in my own life and not in a way that was very pleasing. Even though this was true for the social groups aspect of this lecture it was not true for the nonsocial groups section of the chapter. I found this portion to be more of a stress reliever. The social facilitation model made me feel better about my performance when others are watching. As a comedy actor, I have always found that I struggle with a lot of performance anxiety because I often have trouble performing at the same level in sketches as I do in rehearsal. Knowing that this is more common and that there is a model for this makes me feel a lot less bad. Even though I have been acting regularly since I was eight years old it has always been a hard task for me. It makes sense that performance would decline with spectators. I wonder if this would still be true if I had a different perspective on my abilities. Would I have so much trouble if I observed the task of acting to be an easy one? I know that this comes from a mindset perspective but it interests me. How much of this performance is based on mindset and how much of it is based on skill and situation?

Now for the unsavory bit, as I mentioned in the above paragraph, I am a comedy actor. I act in two different sketch comedy groups at Tufts, The Institute and TFL. TFL is made up of all the female identifying members of the comedy groups on campus and I believe we do not run into problems like group polarization and group think. We have clearly defined roles and our group is large. So we approach comedy from many differing perspectives, members speak out when they believe we have gotten off track, and we often watch and consume comedy from outside sources. The Institute, on the other hand, falls into the traps of group polarization and group think. We are a small, audition based, sketch comedy group. This means we often by default take in members who act and write similarly to us. I think a lot of this has to do with the ego of the group because we are exclusive. We have purposely-small leadership and this increases the problems. A good example of our group polarization is how we view absurdist comedy. Absurdist comedy is a particular odd from of comedy but we have so many absurdist writers that now it feels as though the only sketches that are widely accepted at absurdist ones. We were once group editing a sketch about a man advertising his aquarium that the final edit ended with the man going insane and pretending to be a fish. Of course, we are not an extreme example of this phenomenon, our group features people from very different walks of life and not all of our decisions become extreme ones but I definitely see a lot of group polarization. There are also times where we are very guilty of group think. Again, this becomes very clear during the editing process. There is more of a focus coming across like the sketch is an “Institute” sketch rather than one that is funny for a wide audience. We are pitching sketches for our orientation show and most of the conversation surrounding them is more focused on image than the actual sketch. Of course this is not always the case but it has skewed that way. This lecture was useful in helping me realize that we are lacking in certain areas.

Age and Persuasion

The lecture about persuasion and attitudes really jumped out at me this week and was salient in a lot of my thinking. I am the middle child in my family and, as a result, have used the power of persuasion a lot. My instinct is definitely to go with a central persuasion route because both of my sisters are incredibly intelligent and value a good argument. I feel as though the central route is also more persuasive because of the recognition of the counter arguments. However, when other power dynamics are at play this may not be the best route. I began to think about the times I have persuaded my parents to think otherwise and have realized that the central route to persuasion and factors to manipulate that process becoming the one used does not work as well with them. The peripheral route is much more effective. The Yale Attitude Change Approach helps me understand why this is the case. The message source, being me, lacks credibility in their eyes because I am a child and I appear to be trying to get something I want by manipulative means. I definitely have likability because they are my parents and they love me but I definitely lack credibility. If I use my message with the central route as my lens I present my parents with the opportunity to be aware of strong counter arguments that they could make stronger. If I stick to my position they are more likely to cave. With parents it is easier to take the peripheral route at the end of the day when they are much more tired.

I have not only found this to be true by looking at my past experiences with my parents but also by observing how my campers this summer persuaded me into changing my lesson plan to fit what they wanted. The more they set up their argument the less likely it was for me to comply. They set themselves up to look less reliable but if they caught me when I was tired and it had been a long day I would usually let them play whatever improvisation game they wanted. However, if I need to persuade them to play a game they find more tedious or challenging approaching the persuasion from the central route perspective is much more effective.

This concept also made me think about the tactics that evangelist groups use to persuade people to join the church. I was exiting the Davis Square T stop yesterday when I saw a group trying to convert people. It made me think about why their approach is not too effective in this area. I should clarify, that no one was giving the time of day. I understand that evangelists can be very persuasive in some areas. They were using fear tactics to try to convince people to join the church but this approach was driving people away instead of bringing them in. I think they need to better understand who their target audience is and think more deeply about their content. In a college town it would be smart to rebrand.

The Self and Self Awareness

This week the lecture on the self-concept really caught my attention. I am about to enter my senior year so I have been having a lot of questions about what I want to do with my life. Recently, I have become very worried that my major, clinical psychology, does not represent my strengths and that I may not be cut out for it. I have spent a lot of time getting caught up thinking about who I truly am. Listening to this lecture introspection being described as the idea that there is a true self within and the criticism of that idea really let me let a lot of anxiety go. I am always trying to figure out what about my personality makes me behave the way I do and therefore what is my personality best suited to career wise. Realizing that so much about the way we act is built around situation and decisions makes me relax a bit.

The self-esteem lecture was also quite the eye opener for me. I am very guilty of almost every self-esteem maintenance related step. I constantly self-handicap especially before exams because I have a lot of anxiety related to assessment. I am dyslexic and I find myself talking about my learning difference a lot more when I am approaching midterm and final exam periods. This reduces my anxiety. I had not made the connection of this behavior being related to self-esteem but I found myself engaging in this behavior as the exam for this class approached. Once I realized I was engaging in self-handicapping I was able to study a lot more efficiently this week. It was interesting to me that sometimes self-esteem maintenance is actually damaging.

Cognitive dissonance was also a concept that came up for me this week. I am deciding whether or not I want to spend money to visit my friend in Chicago in August. I have to buy the tickets soon and I was worried that if I made the jump and bought the tickets I would experience a lot of anxiety over the decision because plane tickets cost a lot of money. Now I’m a little less worried because I know that my brain will probably adjust and my attitude will change making me favor the decision to go more. However, I wonder if being aware of this concept will make it less likely to occur and I won’t actually feel more positive about this permanent decision. I am interested about how awareness of these concepts may reduce behaviors.

If someone were more aware of how they maintain self-esteem and how they deal with cognitive dissonance would they engage in behaviors that maintain self-esteem and reduce dissonance less as a result? I know that these processes are relatively automatic but I want to know more about how awareness impacts them. I know that when we are more cognitively more alert we are able to not engage in automatic thinking but how does this relate to these concepts?

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and the Fundamental Attribution Error

As I wrote about in my last post, I am a camp counselor at a summer arts camp for children ten to eighteen years of age. One of my campers, who I will call Charlie, has been kind of a loner during morning free time, snack and lunch. He often sits in a corner either on his phone or is drawing in a notebook. Because Charlie was always actively engaged during class time we assumed, as counselors, that Charlie simply wanted to be alone during free time. Some campers are introverts and need that time to relax and recharge. I thought Charlie was one of those kids.

As I began to think about this blog post, I found myself pondering the self-fulfilling prophecy. I started to realize that this theory might apply to the way I view Charlie’s anti-social behavior. If I assume that Charlie is antisocial and likes it that way then I am less likely to offer Charlie assistance in becoming more social which only makes Charlie not find friends and makes me further believe that he likes being alone. I should clarify that Charlie is ten year olds so it is harder for him to take initiative than an older person. We are also at the stage in camp where friend groups have already been formed and therefore Charlie would feel more insecure about making the first move. I planned to try to encourage Charlie to reach out to more people during free time to see if he actually likes being alone. What I found when I attempted to do this is that Charlie really likes to talk. He very enthusiastically spoke to me about his interests. This behavior completely surprised me. I asked him if he liked sitting by himself during free time and he immediately not only told me he wanted to sit with other campers he also told me exactly what group of kids he wanted to sit with.

Thinking about the self-fulfilling prophecy has made me think about how it can be related to attributions. If it were more instinctual for people to look at behavior as an external attribution this prophecy would be less likely to be fulfilled. Fundamental Attribution Error appears to be heavily linked to the self-fulfilling prophecy. More awareness of FAE may lead to more awareness about how our perceptions color behavior.

I also began to have questions about the self-fulfilling prophecy and how it may become a factor that is related to internal attributes. How might incorrect attributions of behavior lead a person to incorrectly perceive how someone is treating them and hurt their own mental health as a result? Looking at the covariation model and using it to guide perception might not only lead to more accurate conclusions about people but actually help people realize that their self perceptions might be built on incorrect assumptions about why people treat them they way that they do. This class focuses a lot of attention about how our perceptions of people may be incorrect and how that is not the greatest for the person we are jumping to conclusions about but this could also effect our own self-perceptions and therefore our self esteem.

Prosocial Behavior- Assuming Responsibility and Why We Help

The lectures on prosocial behavior this week made me think very deeply about my role as a day camp counselor. The five helping steps became incredibly salient in my day-to-day thinking. Yesterday, a camper dropped a large iced coffee in the middle of the floor of the lunchroom. This room also doubles as the dance studio. As a counselor, I knew it was my job to help out but there were about ten counselors in the room who were also supposed to aid the clean up process. None of us immediately rushed to help even though it was easily recognizable as an issue that needed to be dealt with before the post-lunch movement class (although not an emergency). This was a clear example of the bystander effect. All of us knew one or two of us had to clean up the huge mess but no action was being taken. We had all completed the first step of noticing what had happened and had interpreted the event but were having trouble with assuming responsibility.

My mind began to jump to the five helping steps and I immediately thought about diffusion of responsibility. I did not want to clean up the coffee and I felt as though I could reasonably assume that the other counselors were feeling the same way. I was expecting that one of them would step up and maybe the other counselors were as well. The second I finished this thought I went to go get paper towels but it almost made me laugh how immediately the lecture became relevant in my life. Having knowledge of the helping steps made me act prosocially.

This event also made me think critically about why people help others. The altruism argument came to my mind. I feel now as though my actions were unfortunately rooted more in selfishness than altruism. The camper who had dropped the coffee had already moved away from the area out of embarrassment and also because she understood that we would take care of it so it was hard to feel too bad for her. But I did not act out of concern for the space. I acted because of this lecture and I wanted to seem less selfish which, in a way, is inherently selfish. I wanted to look like a responsible counselor in front of my much older and more experienced counselors.

I do believe that Batson’s empathy-altruism hypothesis makes logical sense but I have yet to see it play out and it also seems as though it would be hard to manage. I saw a counselor later in the day offer to use her free period to assist in a class and I thought that it could be a possible example of this hypothesis. It could be that the helping counselor acted out of altruism rather than selfishness because she knows first hand how hard it is to teach a class without an assistant. Of course, it is also plausible that the counselor did this for purely selfish reasons and I do not know because I did not ask her about her motives.

It had already amazed me how often these concepts pop up in daily life.