Blog Post 6

I was slightly troubled by how we discussed prejudice. We constantly discussed all of the ways that stereotypes were strengthened and how people fell into them often due to the self fulfilling prophecy, but when do we draw the line between self fulfilling prophecy and an individual? When do we say that girls simply like pink more than boys instead of claiming that it is all due to society’s pressures and norms? I am not disagreeing that society and its constant reinforcement of stereotypes cause an effect in creating the stereotypes, but they have to start somewhere. The cyclical nature in which we discussed it is what bothers me.

The “Kernel of Truth” idea for example. You explained how often times there is some truth to a stereotype, but that can be explained by the self fulfilling prophecy. While the self fulfilling prophecy certainly contributes to it, there can be no self fulfilling prophecy if there was no stereotype in the first place. It is a classic chicken and the egg situation. If stereotypes come from an oversimplification and broad assumptions of people of a certain group, than wouldn’t it by its very nature have a “Kernel of Truth”? Wouldn’t the broad stereotype come from a smaller part of the population, the kernel?

When discussing the social norms when it concerns genders, you listed many possible sources of these “misguided” and inaccurate beliefs. In that list you had advertising, movies, literature, religion, and even history. While the first few are certainly more fabricated and open to self fulfillment, people writing and creating what they believe they see, what about history? Where does fact fall into this analysis of stereotypes? And if history is written by the victor and just as fabricated as advertising, where do we draw the line between fact and fiction? It is just hard for me to wrap my head around the complete ambiguity of the self fulfilling prophecy and how actions by those of a group can be discounted to the stereotypes surrounding that group. While I am not saying that stereotypes are a good thing by any means, or that the self fulfilling prophecy does not have an effect as it clearly does, I am just curious where it starts and where it ends.

One issue in particular I took with these lectures was the example of illusory correlation, of Jewish comedians. You asserted that there are not so many Jewish comedians, but that we simply notice them more as they are distinct. While it may be true that most comedians are not Jewish, there is certainly a higher percentage of Jews who are comedians versus other religions or cultures. Jews make such a microscopic percentage of the population, and yet there are so many Jewish comedians. I would argue that it is less of an illusory correlation, and more of a result of the culture. Jews are taught to be questioning and are often persecuted against. I believe that this combination is what leads so many Jews to have a good sense of humor. It takes constant questioning to find comedic things in life, and it takes some sense of persecution to develop a sense of humor. It is often the angriest and saddest who make the best comedians.

I apologize that this blog is one of my most rambling, it is just difficult to synthesize accurately what I am trying to express. I am not saying that I disagree with what you taught us here about prejudice and how it grows upon itself, I just do not understand where it starts and where it finishes. We talk about other cultures openly and the large differences they have on people’s behavior eg. individualistic cultures and collectivist cultures. I understand that it is always important to keep an open mind and not let thoughts on a group define a person, but I am still drawn back to this question. When is it acceptable to look at a group and try and analyze it as a whole, and when is it unacceptable?

Blog Post 5

I am going to talk about two stories that I found relatable to the lectures on group processes.

The first is a very personal story, and one that is still sour when I think about it. I play volleyball at Yale and while I am tall, I am certainly not the most talented. I could not help but think about the social facilitation model while I was playing last night. In one of the games I was playing it was very close and it was down to the winning point. I could win the game and I was up to serve. Everyone was looking at me, and I felt immense pressure to follow through. There was certainly presence of others, and certainly arousal, the only thing left was to see what my dominant response would be. As I am sure you can guess from my admission earlier to my lack of talent at volleyball, my dominant response was to mess up the serve. I overthought it, and I hit it straight into the net. Luckily we did not lose as it was game point for us, but we still had a lead on the other team. I sheepishly returned to the game and kept playing. The other side did not have the ball for long and soon enough we were able to get the ball back, but it was now tied up. We had to win by two. Luckily for us though, the next person in our rotation to serve was the captain of the Yale Men’s Club Volleyball team. Presence of others check, arousal certainly, and now just to see the dominant response. He did a jump serve and aced it. Then he served again and it was another ace. His dominant response was an incredible feat of volleyball, unlike my dominant response of failure in this situation. What was most interesting to me is that when we kept playing in the next game, I actually made more serves in than he did. It was just that we were not operating under the same pressures. Instead of operating under the social facilitation model, it was the social loafing model. I was more relaxed in more serve as it mattered less, and had better results. He on the other hand cared less about the serve, and so he did not try as hard and it suffered.

The second story applies to the Malcolm Gladwell story of Korean pilots which I believe is a perfect example of classic Groupthink. He asserts that their culture of prioritizing unity is what led to their crashes versus the more individualistic cultures of the United States and other more individualistic cultures. Here is a situation that checks off every box of groupthink, it is a homogenious and cohesive group focused on unity, the pilot and co-pilot are isolated, and they are in a very stressful situation. Gladwell documented a number of crashes by Korean Air and accounted them simply to the cultural priority of unity and differing to the superior, but he missed the rest of the context as well. He did not take into consideration the isolation or stress of the situation. Knowing what I know now about groupthink, it is no wonder that these crisis situations ended in disaster.

Blog Post 4

As a fellow Jew, speaking to Professor Sommers here, I do now know the religious identity of the TA if that who is reading this, I am sure you understand the weight and importance of the Holocaust and how much Jews are taught about it growing up. My whole childhood I learned about the Holocaust and how awful it was. I learned about it in public school, I learned about it in Hebrew school, I learned about it from my parents, but most of all I saw it in my grandmother. She was sent away from her home in Vienna at the young age of eleven when things first started getting bad in Austria. As the first wave of laws persecuting Jews were established her parents saw the direction things were headed and thought it would be safer for my grandmother in Palestine. Of course they never could have even imagined the atrocities that would come after those first laws, they decided to send my grandmother under cover of a summer camp to Israel, just for a little while, until the anti-semitism died down. That was the last time my grandmother ever saw her parents.

With all of this knowledge, historical, and even more powerful the anecdotal, I could never understand how a whole country could let this happen. How so many millions of people could not only let this genocide occur, but aid in it. In my eyes they all had to be the most evil of people. Now I know that that simply is not true, but that they were formed by their context. What I am shocked by, is how perfectly Hitler orchestrated the whole endeavor. He was a master social psychologist able to transform his population into willing and complacent cogs in his genocidal machine.

Every single concept we learned about Hitler used. He was able to set up an environment where people were not doing terrible things under the intense pressure of obedience, but rather the softer and more illusive conformity. By setting the social norm across all of society that the Jew as evil and meant to be exterminated, he did not have to use a heavy hand all of the time. He changed attitudes with the peripheral method with propaganda in every nook and cranny of the country. He changed the entire dialogue and set new societal norms.

I believe one of the keys to his success was the gradual nature of it all. Just as in the Milgram study, the shocks started off small and always got bigger. As I mentioned it all started off with anti-semitic laws, nothing new for Jews who have been persecuted historically; not a big deal. He just kept ramping it up though, and never stopped. In the Milgram study the participants only stopped at 450 because that is as far as the board went. I am sure they would take it all the way to 1000 volts if that was the end of the scale. That is what Hitler did, he simply extended the voltage to the absolute maximum, to the absolute final solution. While cognitive dissonance is what kept Hitler’s population in check and continuing on their path of aggression, it is that same dissonance that is making me uncomfortable now. I have lived my whole life demonizing those who committed the holocaust, and now I know how and why they did it, and how it could have bee anyone, worst of all myself. This is something I simply am unable to accept. While I know from the studies, and everything we have learned in this class that it is a very reasonable possibility that I could have taken part in this atrocity, I cannot accept that fact as true. No matter how long I think about it, I simply cannot accept it. In class you, Professor, made sure to distinguish between explaining these behaviors versus exonerating them, but I do not see the difference.

Blog Post 3

These lectures on the self only expanded upon my concerns from what we learned about social cognition. We really are just sausage casings just waiting to be filled by our surroundings. I identified to most of the topics covered in these chapters and lectures, unsrurprsingly as I am a person who thinks about myself, but there are several which really stuck out to me that I would like to discuss.

One that really struck me were the cultural differences between thoughts of self and self concept. This struck me as I had lived abroad in Chile for six months. The culture there is much more of a collectivist culture than an individualist culture. This was clear in every facet of life from punctuality, to communication, to of course self perception. When I spoke with Chileans many would talk a lot about their communities and how they fit in with there versus the tendency for people from the United States to discuss how they stand out. This was made especially apparent when for one of my classes I had to interview some of my Chilean friends. When I would ask them about themselves, they would talk about their families. When I would ask them about their interests and activities, they would often describe how they fit into their teams and their roles, versus their individual accomplishments. While I have not done this exercise in the United States, I am sure I would find different results.

Another concept that struck me and my individual experiences was the Niskett & Wilson study from 1977 with the stockings. I was shocked by its simplicity, and the sheer stupidity of the participants, everyday people, essentially me. As I mentioned in my last post I am an economist, and we treat people as rational consumers. This study showed me how far from the truth that is. We have no idea what we want or why, and to avoid the dissonance that creates we simply invent reasons for ourselves. It blew my mind when I learned about this study, not only that so many people chose the one on the far right, but that they all gave real reasoning. They invented differences out of thin air, to ease their own mental dissonance. Again as I mentioned in my last blog, I work in business development, a fancier word for sales. Since learning about this study I try and end on good things that I want the prospect to want. For example, when discussing possible options for a client, I know make sure that the last option I say is the one I want them to choose.

Here is an example. I cannot divulge the company for confidentiality reasons, but I was speaking to an owner of a cheesecake manufacturing plant in North America. They were unsure if they wanted to sell, wanted more information on the process, and did not know if now is the right time to sell. This is a very common call. After talking about all the ways my company does such a great job marketing and selling companies, and what sets us apart from the competition, we got to the end of the conversation which is a common ending. What to do next? The three options are two wait on it and think more if he really wants to sell, to set up another call with his partner to talk to us and learn about our methods, or for me to send over a confidentiality agreement so that he can send us his financials. While I did not mention the first option at all as I certainly do not want that one, I pay attention to the order that I presented the other two. I made sure to offer the second phone call option first, and the sending of financials second, in a hope that simply by virtue of the order he would want to begin the process and send over financials instead of waiting on talking to his partner. It was a success! While I am not certain that that is the reason why he decided to do that, I am certain that it did not hurt. Thank you professor for helping me with my sales.

Blog Post 2

As an economist it is difficult to come to terms with what we learned about social cognition. All of economics assumes that we are rational beings who are consistent and do not have internal dissonance. After learning about social cognition it is clear that we are so far from rational beings. We do not know what we want, when we want it, or why we want it. We believe that we are our own persons, with strong attitudes and opinions that are concrete against the ocean of all of our surrounding inputs. That is not true tho. We are much more of a sponge in the ocean than something concrete, constantly changing our attitudes and wants depending on the situation.

Social psych has shown how individuals cognition is much more driven by schemas and heuristics rather than well thought out beliefs and attitudes. While these schemas are important and allow us to move throw the world in a simpler manner, it certainly hurts our accuracy on reality. We are so detached from reality that unrelated priming will have incredible impact on our conclusions on a person. I am of course referring to the “Donald Studies.”

This was a study where the participants read either a list of positive words or negative words, adventurous and independent, versus reckless and conceited. Then they read a description about “Daniel,” the same description for both groups. The first group which read the positive list had a 70% positive impression for “Daniel” versus only 10% from the second group. This is amazing to me, and also very important. Not only am I a social person who cares about making good first impressions, but it is part of my job.

For this past year I have been working in business development for a mergers and acquisitions firm. What that means in plain English, is that my company marketed and sold other companies, and it was my job to get people to sign on with us and have us sell their companies. This is no easy sale like a pen or even a car, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of these people. They have spent their whole adult lives working on building this business that is a baby to them, and now they have grown it to a size large enough to sell and then retire off of that sale. It is shocking and worrisome that what I say to these prospects matters so little to whether or not they like me and my pitch.

I have a learned a lot from this job, a lot of which falls in line with what we have learned in this class, but this issue of priming still haunts me. If they are in a bad mood, if something bad happened immediately before my call, I am done. I can give the best pitch and be as charming as possible, but if they are primed for something negative it will not matter. It is nice to believe that they will engage their higher level thinking to decide which mergers and acquisitions firm will be best for them and their business, but I doubt that is how they decide. I believe it has much more to do with who is the lucky one to interact with them after a positive prime. The real trick to sales then is to have them primed positively before your interaction, how to do that though I have yet to discover.

Blog Post 1

Reading about the Kitty Genevese case and the pro-social topics, specifically the effects of crowds, made me think of the Portland stabbing case. It appears to go in the face of all of the studies and psychological terms we have learned this week. While I understand the concepts discussed in the lectures and the book, I keep going back to this one case in Portland. While I am sure you are familiar with the tragic incident as it was covered so much in the news, I will summarize it briefly. There was a man on a light rail train who began to yell, intimidate, and harass two teenage girls on the train with anti-muslim rhetoric. It was at this point that three men intervened and tried to calm the man down and deescalate the situation. When they did this he stabbed them, in the neck, killing two with the third surviving against all odds.

To analyze this and understand why they stepped in I believe it would be best to break it down into the 5 helping steps. The first, noticing what was going on. The news articles said that the aggressor was yelling at the two girls and that they began to cry. Given this there was certainly a ruckus and it was probably difficult to miss. I know when I am on the subway I usually have my headphones in and am trying to get a mini-nap, but even half asleep I would notice people yelling in a closed space. I believe urban overload is more applicable in a street situation and I am less sure the same men would have noticed if they were walking by the exact same situation versus being trapped standing next to it.

The loud and dramatic nature of the confrontation also made it an apparent emergency. I think it would be difficult to see two young teenage girls crying and not interpret the situation as an emergency, but I am constantly surprised by the cases we go over in social psychology. If no one on the train is reacting they could have easily fallen victim to pluralistic ignorance and assume it is possibly a family dispute. That seems like a stretch but I am simply playing devils advocate.

The most difficult step in this process I believe is to assume responsiblity. If there is a crazy man yelling on the train, it takes someone with a lot of courage and empathy to step in. I have seen many screaming fights, sometimes even escalating to physical fights on the subway on New York City trains. Everyone in these situations usually just scoots a little farther away on the bench, but does not intervene. I think there were two major factors for why in this case the “good samaritans” assumed responsibility. The first and less weighty is coming from my own stereotypes of Portland. I have been there once and while there is certainly an issue with homeless people, who might be more likely to be belligerent, there seems to be less animosity in the air than in New York City. I know that is a very flimsy observation, but it does say something about the culture of the city if it is known more for Portlandia and vegan pop-ups than New York City which is in part known for subway fights. The second and I believe more credible reason why they assumed responsibility was because they were two teenage girls being harassed by an older larger man. If it was two crazy old men fighting with each other, I doubt the men who stepped in would have. This still does not address as to why these three stepped up instead of staying back and waiting for someone else to step in.

The next step of deciding how to act I think was less difficult to check off in this situation. While trying to talk him down in hindsight was not the best decision, as it lead to them being stabbed, immediately tackling the man would have added to the chaos of the situation. Given the information they had, I believe they did the best they could in trying to de-escalate the situation.

For the ultimate action of providing the help and acting on the responsibility they assumed in the situation, I like to imagine that social psychology actually helped. When I imagine this awful situation in my head I see the three men looking at this awful man yelling at these two young girls and at first just watching, but then turning to the people around them on the train for some type of reaction. As one of them looks around with a face saying “can you believe this is happening?” “Is anyone else seeing this?” he locks eyes with someone else with the same face. Since it was a group of them who stepped in, not just one, I do not think that this is such a far fetched theory. If any one of them looked around to see an apathetic train maybe they would not have stepped up, but since they saw someone thinking the same thing as them, they intervened together.

While having more witnesses to a crime might lower the chances of someone intervening, a witness on the precipice of intervention might need the approving nod of a fellow witness to take action together.