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Social Psychology


A Critical and Creative View


Website Created in August 2008

By David Alderoty

Phone (212) 581-3740

E-mail is RunDavid@Verizon.net


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About The Book

Some of the material in this e-book is in a rough draft format, and portions are study notes that I created for my college studies in psychology. I converted this material in August 2008, into this website.

This book covers many ideas from the field of social psychology, in a critical and creative way. Some of the ideas that are presented in this book are general ideas that are widely accepted by social psychologists. In addition, this book also contains some original theories and some modifications of older theories, as indicated.

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Table of Contents

Read All The Instructions First How To Use This E-Book. 2

This Book Contains Sound Recordings Of The Text 2

Instructions On How To Open Footnotes 4

Instructions On How To Return To The Main Text After Reading A Footnote Or Viewing Another Website. 4

The Best Way To Use This E-Book Is With Internet Searches. 5

Sophisticated Internet Searches. 6

About The Book. 6

The Table Of Contents Consists Of A Series Of Hyperlinks. 7

Chapter 1: The Science of Social Psychology and Examples of Theories in the Discipline. 20

An Introduction to Social Psychology 21

The Positivity Bias. 33

Question: Is there a Negativity Bias Also? 58

Question: Can the Positivity Bias and the Negativity Bias be Combined into one General Theory?. 77

Can the Positivity Bias and Negativity Bias be Advanced into one General Theory? 91

A Very Important Principle for the Human Behavior Sciences. 95

Person Perception. 98

Chapter 2: Schemas. 121

What Are Schemas?. 121

Other Ways of Describing a Schema. 129

A Schema of an Intelligent Person. 133

A Schema of an Authoritarian Personality 135

A Schema Held by a Prejudice Person 139

A Simple Script Schema. 147

A Role Schema. 151

Other Examples of Schemas. 154

Chapter 3: Nonverbal Communications and Self Presentation. 157

Human Communications. 157

Verbal and Nonverbal Function Together 176

Chapter 4: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy 181

Definitions of The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy 181

A General Model of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Related Ideas. 186

Examples of Sociological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies. 202

Examples of Social Psychological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies. 210

Examples of a Psychological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies. 220

Positive Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. 223

Social-Psychological and Sociological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies Involving Hostile Interactions. 227

The Development of One Type of Prophecy From Another 241

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies that Emerge From One's Self-Concept 253

The General Application of the Concept and the Concluding Words of the Chapter 263

Chapter 5: The Way We Make Judgments and Related Difficulties from a Social Psychological Perspective. 270

Social Cognition. 270

Social Inference. 275

Schematic Processing. 287

Following the Judgment of Others. 291

The Concluding Ideas. 294

Chapter 6: Attributions and Related Ideas. 301

What Are Attributions?. 301

Psychological Attributions. 304

Social Psychological Attributions. 306

Sociological Attributions. 307

Interpretation of Psychological Attributions. 310

Labeling and Attributions. 312

Positive and Negative Halo Effect and Attributions. 314

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Attributions. 320

The Accuracy of Attributions. 324

What are the Real Causes, the Accurate Attributions. 328

Attributions and Problem Solving. 331

Factors that might be Attributed to Internal or External Causality. 337

Chapter 7: The Self and Self Presentation and Related Ideas. 342

The Self and Related Ideas. 342

What is a Self-Concept 356

What is the: Social-Concept of an Individual 368

What is Self-Esteem.. 377

What is Social-Esteem?. 380

What is the Working Self-Concept?. 387

What is Self-Awareness?. 389

How do We Learn About Ourselves. 391

What is Social Identity. 393

What is a Self-Schema?. 396

The Dynamics and Components of the Self and Society. 399

Chapter 8: Attitudes and Related Ideas 400

What are Attitudes?. 401

How Do We Develop Attitudes. 427

What is Cognitive Consistency?. 434

What is the Balance Model?. 435

Cognitive Dissonance Theory. 446

Attitude Change Over Time. 453

Chapter 9: Prejudice and Related Ideas. 456

What is Prejudice. 456

Stereotypes and Prejudice. 458

What is the Difference Between Prejudice and Discrimination?. 460

How do People Become Prejudice. 461

Ingroups and Outgroups. 463

The Different Types of Discrimination 470

What is the Authoritarian Personality 493

What Are the Real Causes of Prejudice? 496

Chapter 10: Social Influence and Related Ideas. 500

What is Social Influence?. 500

The General Model of Social Psychological Control 503

The Bertram Raven Model of Social Influence. 529

What is the Milgram Experiment?. 538

The Ethics of the Milgram Experiment 547

The Value of the Milgram Experiment 550

Chapter 11: Human Relationships and Related Ideas. 557

Affiliation. 557

Genetic Limitations that Facilitate Interaction with Others: 561

Emotionally Based Affiliation Deficiency Loneliness) and Economic Affiliation Deficiency. 580

Self Disclosure and Related Ideas. 597

Three General Models of Human Relationships. 607

Romantic Relationships. 624

Parent Child Relationships. 723

Relationships of a Personal Friendship Nature. 727

The Power Dynamics in Relationships 731

Attraction, Liking and Disliking. 755

Chapter 12: Group Behavior and Related Ideas. 817

The Definition of a Group and Related Ideas. 817

Question, are there genetic factors that predispose human beings to a group structure?. 829

What factors are primary to a group? 831

Chapter 13: Male and Female Differences, Sexual Discrimination and Related Ideas. 927

Male Female Differences. 928

Sexual Discrimination and Related Ideas 982

Question, is there discrimination against men?. 987

Chapter 14: Helping Behavior and Related Ideas. 1011

Helping Behavior 1011

Question, what steps are involved with helping behavior?. 1034

The socialization process in relation to providing helps. 1046

Chapter 15: Aggression and Related Ideas. 1056

Aggression. 1057

Types of Aggressive Acts. 1127

Chapter 16: Social Psychological Factors that Relate to Health. 1145

Health. 1145

Health Behaviors and Related Ideas. 1147

Health Values. 1189

Stressful Life Experiences and Risk of Developing Health Problems. 1218

Chapter 17: The Environmental Psychology of Personal Space, Territory Crowding and Related Ideas 1302

Environmental Psychology. 1302

Personal Space and Territory. 1305

Crowding and Related Ideas. 1335

Chapter 18: A General Model of the Social Psychology of Labeling. 1345

Part One: The Basic Thesis of the Model 1346

Part Two: Additional ideas of the General Model of the Social Psychology of Labeling 1390

Part Three: The Defining Component and Related Ideas. 1418

Part Four: The Psychological Component and Related Ideas: 1434

Part Five: The Social Component and Related Ideas. 1456

Part Six: The Social Psychological Component and Related Ideas. 1583

Chapter 19: The Causes of Human Behavior Phenomena as Explained by a General Model of Socio-Cultural Learning. 1623




Chapter 1: The Science of Social Psychology and Examples of Theories in the Discipline


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An Introduction to Social Psychology

Social psychologists like all scientists sometimes just collect data. Such data might simply serve a descriptive purpose, or serve to develop new hypothetical models or confirm or disprove existing theories. However, social psychology is very different from the hard sciences, which is true of all the human behavior sciences. This difference will be seen in the following paragraphs.

In the human behavior sciences, including social psychology, there is not always a known or clearly apparent cause for a specific phenomenon. Very often there can be multiple causes for the same phenomenon, as evaluated in different individuals. Even the same individual can demonstrate the same behavior under different circumstances for entirely different reasons. The same behavior pattern can develop in two individuals as a result of entirely different types of learning.

As will be seen in the last chapter of this book (Chapter 19: The Causes of Human Behavior Phenomena as Explained by a General Model of Socio-Cultural Learning), learning is involved with all, or almost all, types of human behavior. Thus, as will be demonstrated in chapter 19 if we look at human behavior phenomena from the level of various types of learning, the conclusion is that the behavior is the result of learning. However, if the problem is examined from a different level, there are very often multiple causes for the same type of behavior. This can involve different types of learned behavior patterns and different motivations.

This multiple causality is typical of very complicated systems, such as human beings, societies, computers and ecological systems. The type of multiple causality, I am discussing here is generally not present with the simple systems that the physicist and chemist work with. A specific chemical reaction generally takes place for the same reasons each time it is carried out. However, human beings can respond in the same way for many different reasons. This can be very confusing to the human behavior scientist that does not have an understanding of very complicated systems. The confusion will even be worse if they attempt to think in terms of the relatively simple approach used by the hard scientist working with atoms and molecules.

In social psychology there may not be any single theory that successfully explains the cause of certain phenomena. This even happens in the hard sciences. That is, something might happen when a certain set of factors are present, but we may not understand why it happens. For example, if we drop a ball, it falls to the floor, but there is no precise explanation of why this happens. We know when it will happen, and even how long it will take the ball to fall a given distance. This is predicted and mathematically described by Newton's law of gravity. However, the theory does not provide a cause and effect relationship in terms of dynamics. That is, there is no explanation of why an object falls. Such theories can be called descriptive theories. They describe what happens, sometimes in precise mathematical terms. The same is true with certain theories in the human behavior sciences. They describe what happens, without an explanation of why it should happen. However, usually there are some human behavior scientists who will offer hypothetical causes for the phenomena described by descriptive theories.

In the physical sciences it is relatively easy to develop general theories, which apply to a wide variety of conditions. This might be less true in social psychology and other human behavior sciences. There is very often no general theory that can successfully explain the phenomena associated with human behavior. However, there may be a non-general theory that can explain or at least describe a specific phenomenon, such as helping behavior, aggression under specific circumstances, etc. These theories are called middle-range theories. This can be restated as follows. Middle-range theories deal with specific aspects of human behavior. The positivity bias is essentially an example of a middle range theory, because it focuses on one aspect of human behavior, which is a tendency for people to evaluate others positively. This theory is also an example of a descriptive theory. The theory is used as an example in the following paragraphs and it is explained below.



The Positivity Bias

The positivity bias (also referred to as the leniency effect or person positivity bias) is a tendency for people to evaluate others more often in a positive way than in a negative way. Question: is this theory really correct? I believe it is most likely to be correct in certain situations, which perhaps is a disagreement with the established view. That is, it probably is not universally true in all psychological, social and cultural contexts. A more scientific and accurate statement is the following. Under certain psychological[1], social, and cultural conditions people have a tendency to evaluate others more positively than negatively. (These conditions will be discussed toward the end of this text.)

Question: what are the causes for the positive evaluations? If we can successfully answer this question, the nature of the theory will be advanced from a strictly descriptive theory to an explanatory theory.

There are most likely multiple causes for positive evaluations, which are not necessarily the same for different situations and different people. One or more of the following ten factors may cause a positive evaluation in a specific situation.


1) Evaluating people positively can avoid conflict, and result in rewarding interactions with others. Evaluating people negatively can get a person into trouble, especially if the evaluation is toward an individual with power over the evaluator. However, even evaluating a peer or an inferior negatively can bring significant undesirable consequences for the evaluator, in many situations. An example, can sometimes be seen if a young man implies that he is not attracted to a young woman on the first introduction. The results can be extreme hostility and a statement implying murder, hurled at the man. In general, people who evaluate others negatively might be more inclined to get into conflict, and have great difficulties making friends and keeping their jobs.

Even if the evaluation is done in total confidence, there is always a chance that the evaluation will be revealed intentionally or accidentally to the individual that is evaluated. Thus, it is generally a commonsense idea, that it is safer and wiser to present positive evaluations of people.

We learn to think of people in a positive way to avoid negative consequences. On a conscious and unconscious level we associate a negative evaluation of another person with a potential penalty inflicted on us. We also learn that a positive evaluation will bring rewards, such as a smile, a date, friendship, cooperation, assistance, and even sometimes a raise in salary.


2) Many of us were taught from childhood to be positive thinkers. Most of us were told about the power of positive thinking. This notion is incorporated into practical psychological theories that the layman is exposed to. Positive thinking is also preached in the form of various religious doctrines. Positive thinking in relation to other human beings is taught to most people in the developing years. Thus, the individual might evaluate people in a positive way based on the above idea.


3) We sometimes evaluate people positively because we like them, and/or empathize with them. This is most likely to be the case if there is some chance that our evaluation might have some significant consequences for the person being evaluated. Examples, where this might apply are on the job and in social situations where new friendships and mates are being sought.


4) We take pride if we think of our relatives and friends in positive terms. This positivity reflects on our own qualities, which makes us feel good. Negative evaluations of relatives and friends can have the opposite effect; it is a reflection of our own negative qualities. For example, if our relatives have good qualities, we may think that are family including ourselves are very cultured, wise and have a good genetic heritage.


5) People select out and interact with people they believe to be positive and reject people they think are negative. Thus, the people they form relationships with were first evaluated positively and then relationships were formed. People that are evaluated negatively, especially on successive interactions, are not likely to become permanently involved with the individual. Thus, we often evaluate the people that we selected positively, because that is the reason we selected them in the first place.


6) We sometimes evaluate people positively simply because we are accurate and realistic. There are many people we encounter that truly have positive qualities. There are many highly moral people in our society. There are also many people that worked many years advancing themselves academically and/or socially. These people and other hard working, gifted, and talented individuals may be evaluated positively simply as a result of an accurate evaluation. This is not a bias, but it is important to understand that some positive evaluations are truly accurate.


7) We are motivated to see certain people in positive ways simply because it is reassuring to do so. It can simply be reassuring, to think of a partner, our doctor, friends, professors, etc., in positive ways. We depend on such people, and if we evaluate them negatively, it might result in a considerable amount of worry and anxiety on our part. If people we depend on are inadequate, we certainly do have something to worry about. Thus, we think of them in positive terms and may focus on their positive qualities. Even if we are fooling ourselves, the positive beliefs might still reduce our worry and anxiety. (Perhaps this is not really functional in the long run, but that is not the point of this discussion.)

8) People sometimes inadvertently or intentionally fool themselves, that an individual has positive traits, because they must work with the individual. If we are forced to work with someone it might be more pleasant if we think of them in positive terms. If we think of them in negative terms we are likely to say and do the wrong things, which will result in conflict. Many of us have simply learned a wise strategy to deal with people we must interact with who have negative qualities. We simply try to think of them in positive terms, focus on their good qualities and ignore their negative habits. This facilitates harmonious actions and statements from us, which will result in a more pleasant situation than would be possible otherwise.


9) People sometimes evaluate others more positively because of a positive halo effect. When a person has one or more truly positive traits that are apparent to others, there is a tendency to evaluate other aspect of the person positively. For example, if a person is very physically attractive, he may be evaluated as more honest, loyal, sociable, pleasant and intelligent than he really is. This of course will result in more positive evaluations then negative ones.


10) In general, it is probably more pleasant to evaluate people positively. People feel better if they are in an environment with pleasant things including other people. As a result, human beings tend to evaluate everything more positively, according to Boucher and Osgood[2]. This is called the Pollyanna principle. I do not believe that this so-called principle is really totally correct under all psychological, social and cultural conditions, but it is sometimes quite true. Hence, people may evaluate things positively because it makes them feel good, which facilitates more positive evaluations.


NOTE (One can find more factors than the above, but the ten factors adequately explain the tendency to evaluate other human beings positively, under certain psychological, social and cultural conditions.)


The ten factors on the list are all associated with some type of learning. We learn from an emotional and intellectual perspective to evaluate people positively under certain conditions. We learn that there may be some type of punishment if we evaluate negatively. We learn that positive evaluations of others may bring rewards. Many of us were taught to think of people in positive ways, especially people we like. We learned that we must not reveal negative things about our family in public, but it is okay to talk about positive things. We were taught what are positive and negative factors and we learned to feel good about the positives. We were taught to select are friends and potential mates, based on certain criteria, which relate to positive evaluations. We learned that some people have positive traits and truly deserve a positive evaluation. We also learn that it is often wise and productive to evaluate people positively, even when such an evaluation might be unjustified. We inadvertently learned that one positive trait should be associated with another, which is really an example of an unconscious emotional type of learning. And we learned to fool ourselves (which is often done unconsciously) with positive evaluations under some conditions. Thus, the above can be summed up in terms of learning theory.

Question: Is there a Negativity Bias Also?

Most of us who have had any experience with people are aware that people often evaluate others negatively. This does not contradict the positivity bias, as the theory is described above, because the psychological, social and cultural conditions are different for negative evaluations. However, there is a negativity bias also[3]. A more scientific and accurate statement is the following. Under certain psychological, social and cultural conditions people have a tendency to evaluate others more negatively than positively. Thus, we can ask the same questions that were asked with the positivity bias. What are the causes for the negativity bias? This will advance this idea from a descriptive theory to an explanatory theory, just as was the case with the positivity bias. And once again, we are dealing with a very complicated system that involves the human mind and the behavior that flows from it. This suggests that the causative factors are probably multiple in number, as was the case with the previous example. Thus, one or more of the following factors cause negative evaluations:



1) Negative evaluations can be the result of frustration with relatives, friends, and employers. Very often people who we are close with or people who have power over us, such as employers and parents, cause a considerable amount of frustration. This frustration increases the amount of negative evaluations, of people in this category.


2) We might evaluate a person negatively simply because they really do have negative qualities. Negative evaluations can be the result of the evaluator being accurate and realistic. Most people have at least some negative qualities and some people have many. There are many individuals in are society who are not intelligent, who have psychological deficiencies and who are immoral. Thus, negative evaluations can be the result of an accurate judgment. Sometimes accurate negative evaluations are meant as feedback for the person being evaluated, such as a dance instructor assisting her students, with constructive criticism. None of the above is a bias, but it is important to understand that some negative evaluations are truly accurate.


3) Negative evaluations can be the result of knowing an individual well enough to be aware of his or her negative traits. When we get to know someone well we learn about their negative traits. This can increase negative evaluations.


4) We might evaluate people negatively simply because we do not like them. People that we do not like, whatever the reason is, might be negatively evaluated by us.


5) Negative evaluations are sometimes the result of a specific type of prejudice. In our world there are many varieties of prejudice. People make negative judgments as a result of race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, and many other categories. Most people fall into at least one or two categories that will result in prejudicial responses from some people. Thus, prejudice can account for much of the negative evaluations in our society.


6) Negative evaluations of others are often facilitated by jealousy. If someone similar to ourselves out performs us in an area that is related to our own goals or self image, we may evaluate them negatively. We might under rate their achievements, and focus on their negative qualities.


7) Many of us were taught from childhood to be critical of others under certain conditions. Most of us were taught to be critical of our own short comings and the weaknesses of others, especially when the deficiencies can be remedied by effort. As children most of us were taught to stay away from certain people with moral or psychological deficiencies. This critical philosophy often leads to negative evaluations of other people.


8) There are many people in are society that were taught to look at the negative side of things. Many of us were brought up in difficult environments and were taught that life has many negative elements. The idea was that if these negatives were ignored, the individual is not being realistic, or is not in touch with reality. This negative philosophy is probably more prevalent in poor and working class environments. However, the point is that the philosophy is applied to the evaluation of people and results in more negative evaluations.

9) The evaluations can be the result of the forked tail effect. When a person has one or more truly negative traits that are apparent to others, there is a tendency to evaluate other aspects of the person negatively. For example, if a person is grossly unattractive, he or she may also be seen as unfriendly, hostile, dishonest, vicious, and lacking in intelligence. This is called the forked tail effect. It is a type of halo effect that involves a negative halo, which facilitates negative evaluations from others. Thus, one apparent negative can facilitate additional negative evaluations, which may not be accurate.


NOTE (One can find more factors than the above, but the nine factors adequately explain the tendency to evaluate other human beings negatively, under certain psychological, social and cultural conditions.)

The above nine factors are also essentially the result of learning, just as was the case with the factors for the positivity bias. We learn that certain goals and situations are desirable, and we may be frustrated from obtaining them by parents or by our boss. We also learn when to be frustrated with people. We learn what constitutes a negative quality. Getting to know a person and his negative traits is a learning process. Knowing a person well enough not to like him, also involves learning. We learn to be prejudice. We also learn to be jealous, directly and indirectly. Directly by learning certain values such as monogamy and indirectly by developing a self image and learning about what we want to have and achieve. We are taught to be critical of others, and some of us are taught to be negative toward the shortcomings of people in general. We inadvertently learn to associate apparent negative traits with other negative qualities, even if those qualities are not really present. The above can essentially be summed up in terms of learning theory, just as was the case with the previous set of factors for the positivity bias.



Question: Can the Positivity Bias and the Negativity Bias be Combined into one General Theory?

We can combine the positivity bias and the negativity bias into a single theory that is more general than either, as follows.

Psychological, social, and cultural conditions will influence peoples evaluation of others. Under some conditions there will be more positive evaluations and under other conditions there will be more negative evaluations. I will call this model the theory of negative and positive bias. Now I will return to the question of what conditions affect a person's evaluation of others. (In the following discussion all of the possible conditions cannot be discussed, but some important conditions are explained.)

The psychological conditions: There are many psychological conditions that will facilitate either positive or negative evaluations of people. The personality of the individual is one primary factor. Some people simply learned to be more positive and others more negative. The mood of a person is also a factor. Most people in a good mood will evaluate people more positively than when they are in a bad mood. A happy well‑adjusted person will evaluate much more positively than a depressed person.

Another factor that influences the number of positive and negative evaluations is the psychology of the listener. The listener can consciously or inadvertently facilitate either negative or positive statements from the person that is talking to him. Some people simply do not want to hear negative statements about others. And of course there are people that are just the opposite. The listener will make his interests known by body language, such as facial expressions as well as verbal maneuvers such as changing the subject.

The social conditions: The social conditions where we are most likely to evaluate people positively are where the positive evaluation has no negative consequences for us or where a negative evaluation might lead to some type of penalty for us. These situations include circumstances where we have no choice of the individuals we are going to interact with, such as the professor we obtain for a specific subject. A negative evaluation in this situation might get us into real trouble, and a positive evaluation might even help us get a good grade. This is even true if the evaluation is anonymous, because it might be accidentally or intentionally revealed to the instructor. The same situation can also apply to the work environment in relation to other employees as well as the boss.

In many experimental conditions, using paper and pencil evaluations there is no consequences in providing the experimenter with positive evaluations. The positive evaluations might even make us seem well adjusted and cooperative. In general, any type of survey, whatever technique it incorporates (including questionnaires and interviews) to obtain information there is nothing to lose by giving positive evaluations. And most likely that is just what the subjects of experiments do in many cases.

In social situations where there are significant consequences for us, based on our evaluations of others, there is likely to be relatively strict evaluations, which can result in more negatives. For example, if we are choosing an employee, a potential mate, or even a friend our evaluations are likely to be less positive, and stricter, especially if we have many choices. In such situations, it can cost us considerably if we make unrealistic positive evaluations.

If we are talking to a friend, relative, or therapist we trust in a totally private situation our evaluation of people will probably be more negative. However, if we are talking to anybody in an opened social setting, such as a party, our evaluations may be more positive. We might complain to a close friend about the negative habits of our husband, wife, kids, boss or next door neighbor, when we are in a private situation. In a less private situation, such as the party we might be more inclined to brag about our relatives. If we reveal negative views in private there is not likely to be any adverse consequences, but there will probably be some negative responses from others if we reveal negative statements in the more public situations, such as in a party. In less private social situations we run the risk of creating a bad impression or facilitating gossip about our private affairs, if we reveal negatives about other people we are involved with. If we make negative statements about others in the party, we also run the risk that this will be revealed to the individual we are talking about.

Thus, most of the factors associated with positive and negative evaluations under different social conditions are determined by the relative risks, costs, actual and potential gains. The above serves to guide us in our choice of being positive or negative in our evaluations. This can be summed up by decision-making theory.

The cultural conditions: The tendency to evaluate people positively and negatively most likely will vary with the specific culture and the culturally related circumstances. The many thousands of cultures throughout the world no doubt have many different norms and values in relation to how people are to be evaluated.



Can the Positivity Bias and Negativity Bias be Advanced into one General Theory?

The psychological, social, and cultural conditions will influence people's evaluation of any entity or set of circumstances. Under some conditions there will be more positive evaluations and under other conditions there will be more negative evaluations. I will call this model the general theory of negative and positive evaluations. This general theory applies to people, objects, and situations. Of course, this theory does not imply that we evaluate everything the same way. We probably evaluate people much more generously and positively than objects[4]. There is a special value we place on people. This can be seen from commonsense experiences. For example, when a car is too old to function effectively, we dispose of it. When people are too old to function we try to restore their function or at the very least maintain their life, even if they are useless. However, keep in mind that the above generalized theory applies to people, objects and circumstances.


A Very Important Principle for the Human Behavior Sciences

From the above paragraphs a very important principle for the human behavior sciences becomes apparent. Generally, a theory in social psychology and other human behavior sciences is only true under one or more sets of psychological, social, and cultural conditions. This also means that most theories in the human behavior sciences will be untrue under one or more sets of psychological, social and cultural conditions. A primary objective should be to understand the conditions where a specific theory is true and the conditions where the theory is untrue. Ideally the wording of a theory should state the conditions where the theory is applicable. Of course, it is not always possible to (precisely) define the set of conditions where the theory works and where it fails, in the human behavior sciences.



Person Perception

A related concept to the discussion of positivity and negativity bias is person perception. This concept deals with how we perceive, judge, conceptualize and evaluate other people. In this brief discussion, I will focus on how we evaluate others. There are a number of theoretical models that attempt to explain how we make evaluations of people. One model is called the averaging principle. This theory implies that we put a numerical value on various traits and evaluate the person on the average value of all his traits. Another model is the additive principle, which implies that we simply add the value of all the traits. Still another model is the weighted averaging principle, which implies that we take an average but give more weight to traits we believe are important for a specific situation. This is probably the most accurate model of the three. However, I believe all of these models are poor representations of what actually takes place when we evaluate people under normal psychological, social and cultural conditions. The models (averaging principle, additive principle, weighted averaging principle) do, more or less, represent what happens under various experimental conditions.

Under most psychological, social and cultural conditions, we probably give different weight to the various traits that we see in people, as stated by the weighted averaging principle. However, in the real situation we might totally ignore irrelevant traits. Under experimental conditions the evidence appears that we tend to take the average value for traits, but this probably is not true outside of the laboratory.

One component that makes research on how we evaluate people difficult is that it is not really easy to determine what a positive and negative trait really is. This is determined by the psychological, social and cultural conditions. For example, cautiousness can be considered a very positive trait if we are hiring an explosive expert. Most middle aged and elderly people in our society would consider this a relatively positive trait. However, many young people would consider cautiousness as a somewhat negative trait, because many of the subcultures of young people advocate risk taking. Young single people from some segments of our society might associate cautiousness with a fear of sexual involvement. We teach young men that they must be risk takers in times of war. Cautiousness can be associated with a coward, in many situations that the young individual faces.

Thus, none of the three models represent the very complicated way people make evaluations under normal psychological, social, and cultural conditions. Common sense evaluations can sometimes be more accurate and revealing than the laboratory research, when we are studying human behavior. This will become apparent in the following paragraphs.

If I examine my personal methods of evaluating people, I find I do not use any of the methods described above. Basically, I evaluate the relevant traits, giving greater weight to the more important traits. I mentally take the net value. I do not take an average value. If certain primary traits are not present the evaluation is essentially zero, no matter what the net value is. If certain primary negative traits are present the evaluation is also zero, even if the net value is very high. For example, if I was to hire a mathematics tutor, I would place great value on his knowledge of mathematics, and his ability to explain mathematical principles. These two traits are primary and if either of these were not present I would not hire him. Then I would consider less important traits, which I will call secondary traits. If he also was knowledgeable in physics I would give that secondary trait some value. If he was skilled in the statistical mathematics used in psychology, I would rate him even higher. If he was an excellent football player, that trait would not be relevant. Thus, I would ignore it. If he had a bad temper that secondary trait would be added with a negative sign along with the other traits. I still might hire him with his temper problem, if his net score is high enough. However, if he was also very dishonest and had a history of robbing homes, I would not hire him under any circumstances. This trait is a primary negative.

A generalization of the above method can be represented with the following formula. (The following might be very complicated for those without a mathematical background.)




With this formula a scale is chosen, which is used to represent the estimated value of the various traits and their relative weight. The scale must have a plus and minus range as can be seen in the last sentence of this paragraph. For the example explained below, I will use a scale from

+10 to -10. For more complicated situations a scale from +100 to -100 or even +1000 to -1000 might be appropriate.


The Wp1 and Wp2 are the weighted value of the primary traits. The primary traits are represented by P1 and P2. (As implied by the increasing subscript there can be any number of primary traits each represented by a Wp and a P with an appropriate subscript number.) For example, one primary trait for the mathematics tutor is mathematical knowledge, which could be called P1. If he is very knowledgeable P1=10. The weighted value for this trait is fairly high (by my standards) thus, Wp1=9. The second primary factor is his ability to explain mathematical principles. Let us assume he is moderately good thus, P2=8. This trait is extremely important so I would place a weighted value of 10 on it, which means Wp2=10. It should be noted that if either of these traits were 0 the value of the equation would also be 0. In general when one or more primary traits are 0 the value of the equation is 0.


The Wt1, Wt2 and Wt3 are the weighted values of the secondary traits T1, T2 and T3. (As implied by the increasing subscript numbers there can be any number of traits each represented by a Wt and a T with an appropriate subscript number.) For example, let us assume that the tutor has a fair knowledge of physics, represented by T1=5, which is moderately important to me, so the weighted value would be represented by Wt1=6. If he also has excellent knowledge in statistical methods of psychology, this could be represented by T2=10 with the weighted value being represented Wt2=5. If he has a moderately bad temper this trait can be represented with a negative sign as such T3=-7 with a weighted value of Wt3=6. If there are no secondary traits the equation will still work and the value of the equation could still be quite high if the primary traits are high.


Na is a primary negative trait, and Na = Nb. If a primary negative trait is present the equation will be equal to 0 no matter what the values of the other factors of the equation are. The mathematical reason for this is the numerator and denominator of the fraction Na/Nb has the same value if there is a primary negative, which will always equal 1. In addition, there is a minus sign next to the fraction, which results in a -1. This is added to the 1 next to the fraction, which equals 1-1=0. The value of the remainder of the equation will then be 0, because any number multiplied by 0 is equal to 0. If there are no primary negatives the value of the fraction Na/Nb will equal 0 in this formula. If there is more than one primary negative, they can be multiplied together and their product can be represented by the Na and Nb terms. However, this only has theoretical value, because the value of the equation will be 0 if there are one or more primary negatives.


The actual mathematics with the hypothetical tutor would be:





NOTE (The 0 on the right side of the equation means there are no primary negatives, which is represented by Na and Nb.) The value V has meaning when it is compared to other evaluations. In this hypothetical example the 16,640 would be compared to the score that other tutors obtained in the evaluation, and the highest score would be the best tutor. This of course would be based on personal evaluation criteria, because the individual assigns the numerical values of the traits that he believes are relevant to his needs.


Although the above method might appear very complicated, most people probably do something very similar in their mind's: without a tremendous amount of thought, without actually assigning numbers to the traits, and without being aware of precisely how they are making the evaluation. The above is simply a representation of the commonsense method in terms of mathematical symbols. That is, if we watch people make decisions and listen to their reasoning we will probably find something very similar to the above under normal psychological, social and cultural conditions. However, under laboratory conditions we might find something similar to the weighted averaging principle.


Chapter 2: Schemas


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What Are Schemas?

There are many ways that a definition of a schema can be worded. The following definitions, which are from a number of sources, reveal this. In Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, the following definition appears in the glossary. "Schema An organized system or structure of cognitions about some stimulus or type of stimulus, such as a person, personality type, group, role, or event." In Psychology fourth edition 1994, by Gleitman, this definition appears in the glossary. "Schema In theories of memory and thinking, a term that refers to a general cognitive structure in terms of which information can be organized." A simple dictionary definition (from the Franklin Language Master LM 5000 electronic dictionary) "schema: 1) outline 2) mental configuration of experience" In the college addition, Webster's New World Dictionary of the American language 1966, the following definition appears for the word schema: "an outline, systematic arrangement, diagram, scheme, or plan. My general model of a schema is broader than some of the above definitions, and is presented in the following paragraphs.

A schema is a set of ideas that relate to an entity. The term ideas refers to any information that comes to us as a result of thinking or through the five senses, such as thoughts, images, descriptive terms or sentences, relationships, steps or motion sequences. (Steps or motion sequences relate to a certain type of schema that is called a script that involves a set of actions that relate to an event or goal.) The term entity in the definition is any object or event. The object can be a person, place or physical structure. The word event means any happening, situation or goal. In general, anything that involves a series of steps is an event. (Scripts are schemas of events.)

Some, but certainly not all, schemas have specific emotional responses or feelings associated with them. That is, the ideas comprising a schema can have certain types of emotions associated with them. Another way of conceptualizing this is to realize that parts of the ideas comprising a schema can be emotional in nature. That is, part of the idea (which is mental information) can be emotional reactions or feelings. (I will come back to this idea later in this book, when I discuss attitudes.)

The set of ideas that comprise a schema can be: highly organized, moderately organized, or very loosely organized. The level of organization and the way the ideas are organized depends on the specific schema.

The ideas that make up a schema can often, but not always, be thought of as a mental list, which can usually be represented as a written list on paper. (This idea is discussed in detail in the paragraphs that follow.) With more complicated schemas the ideas in the set can be represented with a diagram.

NOTE (If the above is not clear to the reader, the following descriptions and examples will clarify the definition of a schema and the other ideas that were presented.)


Other Ways of Describing a Schema

The above definition can be restated in different words as follows. A schema is a mental arrangement of ideas that relates to an entity. The ideas may describe the entity or delineate a sequence of steps involved with the entity.

A very practical and simplified description of a schema is as follows. Many (but not all) schemas are mental list that relates to an entity. The list either describes the entity or delineates a sequence of steps that relate to the entity. Each item on the list is one idea. The mental list can be represented on paper, in terms of a written list of ideas. I am calling this type of schema a list schema. Most scripts can be represented in terms of a list of steps, which means they are list schemas. More complicated list schemas might be represented on paper with the ideas it contains connected to each other by lines. The lines show the relationships or connections between the ideas.

Some schemas cannot be accurately represented by a list, but they can be well represented with diagrams. I am calling this type of schema a diagrammatic schema. Both list and diagrammatic schemas can be created on paper or on a computer screen. List schemas are very useful for describing things in writing. And diagrammatic schemas are especially useful in engineering and electronics. In certain situations a combination of list and diagrammatic schema are used in one diagram.

Some examples of schemas follow. These examples are all list schemas.


A Schema of an Intelligent Person

A simple schema of an intelligent person is all of the following:


Gets good grades in school


Is knowledgeable in many areas


Knows how to apply theories


Knows how to solve problems well


Knows how to avoid problems


Makes wise decisions in daily life




A Schema of an Authoritarian Personality


NOTE (The following was originally written for a psychology course. I am using it here (in a slightly modified form) because it is an excellent example of a schema that is more complicated than the previous example.)

An authoritarian personality is a definition that consists of all of the following characteristics:



An individual that generally submits to authority without question Such a personality in a certain sense worships authority. This type of personality essentially has a strong need or willingness to submit to legitimate authority. (Perhaps more precisely the individual submits to people if he or she perceives a legitimate authority.)


An individual that generally is prejudiced toward minority groups This prejudice can be focused on Jews, black people, Latins, Asians, foreigners, and other minority classifications.

An individual that generally is harsh to inferiors If he sees himself in a position of authority he will be inclined to be very strict and penalizing toward his inferiors.


An individual that generally believes in severe punishment for deviations from established rules This type of person is likely to vote for conservative candidates that are advocating strong law and order policies.


An individual with a generalized hostility The hostility is focused on minority groups and individuals of lower status. There generally will be no apparent hostility toward established authority.

A very useful technique when writing a relatively complicated schema is to underline each item in bold type and describe the item in regular type as above.


A Schema Held by a Prejudice Person

The following is an example of a schema held by a person that is prejudiced against a hypothetical category of people called Xs. This schema has strong emotional reactions associated with it. The method of listing such a schema suggests a methodology for dealing with prejudiced people or individuals who have an irrational schema about anything. The methodology involves analyzing the schema into the irrational ideas and emotions that comprise it. Then present the results in a list schema, with the irrational idea written first, followed by the irrational emotional responses associated with the idea. Then write how the irrational idea and emotions can be reduced or eliminated[5]. This should be placed in parentheses to prevent confusion with the actual schema. The following schema is an example of all of the above:

All Xs are stupid and cannot be educated. *Frustration is associated with this idea. (The irrational idea and the emotional responses might be reduced by getting to know intelligent Xs and exposing the prejudice person to statistics that relate to the academic achievements of Xs. The frustration can also be reduced by alleviating the overall frustration in the prejudiced person's life. This is because frustration can be projected onto a group that is not causing the frustration.)

*IMPORTANT NOTE (The emotional response is part of the ideas held by this hypothetical person. That is, the emotional response does not automatically or logically follow from the idea. For example a person can think that all Xs are stupid and feel sympathy instead of frustration. This note applies to all of the emotional responses on the remainder of the list.)


All Xs are lazy Frustration is also associated with this idea. (This might be partly alleviated if the prejudiced person gets to know Xs in environments where everyone is treated as if they have equal status. If this prejudiced person is exposed to statistics that relate to the industriousness of Xs, the prejudicial belief of laziness might be reduced or eliminated.)


All Xs are dishonest Fear of being robbed or cheated is associated with this idea (This might be alleviated if the prejudiced individual gets to know typical Xs that are hard working and honest.)


All Xs are vicious and dangerous Fear of being injured by an attack is associated with this idea. (This can be alleviated by adequate police presence and if the prejudiced person gets to know Xs that are friendly.)

All Xs are worthless and should not be treated like humans Hatred is associated with this idea. (This might be alleviated if the prejudiced individual gets to know Xs that are average and above in their achievements. Exposing the prejudice person to statistics about Xs achievements might also help reduce this irrational idea and related emotional response. Reducing stressful frustration in the prejudiced person's life might also help.)


All Xs are less than human Hatred is also associated with this idea. (This might be reduced by the same way as the above.)



A Simple Script Schema

An example of a very simple script schema was taken from page 50 of Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, and is presented in a modified[6] list form below:

The following is a schema that describes what may happen when ordering Chinese food for a group of people at a restaurant.



Step 1, everyone sits down


Step 2, the waiter brings the menus to the seated group


Step 3, several people start talking at the same time, while giving their favorite dishes


Step 4, after the above continues for a short period of time, other people in the group say they never know what to have and would someone else just please decide


Step 5, then the people in the group goes through the menu section by section, haggling over which items to order


Step 6, the group comes to an agreement on what to order


Step 7, one member of the group conveys the negotiated package to the waiter



A Role Schema

Role schemas are descriptions that relate to a role. These schemas are important for social psychology, and an example using the role of a patrol officer follows.



Is hired by the government, usually the city, to monitor a locality with the intent of enforcing the laws and providing assistance in certain types of emergencies


The officer can make arrests and give summonses for violations of the law.


The officer carries a gun, which he or she is given the right to use under certain conditions.


The officer might carry a nightstick, which he or she has the right to use under certain conditions


The officer works as a team member with other police personnel, with much of the communication carried out by radio.


The officer might patrol a locality on foot, from a patrol car, with a motorcycle or in some localities on a horse.


The patrol officer wears a uniform and badge that makes him or her easily identifiable.



Other Examples of Schemas

There are many other examples of schemas that can be represented by lists such as the following:



Stereotypes of different classifications of people


Problem solving methodologies that involve a series of steps (The above fit into the category of script schemas.)


Schemas of ceremonies, which are also scripts


The basic values people of a specific cultural category hold


The courtship process of a specific cultural group, which is a general script schema


The role of a mother


The role of a father


A basic description of a good citizen


A basic description of a street criminal


A basic description of almost anything


Chapter 3: Nonverbal Communications and Self Presentation


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Human Communications

Human communication can be divided into two categories, verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communications involved clearly delineated statements that are usually precise and involve language, which is a very deliberate action. In many ways nonverbal communication is just the opposite. It is somewhat vague and does not involve a true language. Much of the nonverbal information transmitted in conversations is unintentionally conveyed.

Verbal and nonverbal communications can be thought of as two distinct communication systems. Verbal communication can be considered the information transmission system of the intellect, which I am calling the intellectual channel[7]. Nonverbal communications can be thought of as the information transmission system of the emotional part of the psyche, which will be called the emotional channel in this text. There are situations where these two systems are not in harmony. The intellectual channel is saying one thing and the emotional channel is saying something else. In such situations the verbal statements will be conveying one idea and the emotional responses might convey a very different message, which might contradict the statements from the intellectual channel. It is sometimes possible to see this in a child who is trying to hide something, or is lying, to his or her parents. It is much harder to see this in adult liars.

Adults are generally more skilled in controlling the nonverbal channel. The control of nonverbal responses can be used in self-presentation in daily life. We have some control over all of the following sub-channels (or factors) of the nonverbal channel:

NOTE (The following three items are listed as paralanguage in some sources.)


Tone of voice The tone of voice can vary with the emotional state. Sometimes people might consciously control tone in their efforts to communicate. This might be done to communicate their state of anger to a subordinate. They might control their tone to conceal anger from a superior.


Number of words spoken per interval of time When people are depressed they may talk slower than normal. A happy and enthusiastic person might talk faster. This sub-channel can also be consciously controlled.


Hesitations and stammering When people are nervous, they may hesitate and stammer. This might be more likely to happen if they are unsure of what they are saying and overly concerned about the response of the listener. This sub-channel can be difficult to control. Generally people will try to restrain hesitations and stammering. There are people who have communications problems that result from a tendency to stammer during ordinary conversation.


Facial expressions Facial expressions can convey many different emotional responses, such as happiness, depression, surprise, anger, fear, etc. Facial expressions can be consciously controlled to convey emotional states. We might exaggerate our state of anger with facial expressions when scolding a child. We might try to control our facial expressions to conceal anxiety or anger in some situations.


Eye movements and direction of the gaze This can involve avoiding eye contact, which can be found with embarrassment, shyness, and perhaps when harsh news is conveyed to another. This sub-channel can usually be easily controlled. Very often we might consciously avoid a direct gaze at another person, to avoid embarrassing him or her. We might give a cold stare at a subordinate who is misbehaving. A subtle type of eye movement over the face of another might indicate a desire to start a conversation or ask a question.


Hand movements This can involve unconscious or deliberate movements of the hands. When people are nervous and/or excited they may move their hands more than they would otherwise. In some cases people might attempt to control excess hand movements, associated with anxiety, by holding their hands, putting their hands in their pockets, or concealing their hands behind a desk. Deliberate movements of the hands, such as waving a finger toward the face of another, while giving a warning, are also common. Another common hand gesture is waving a fist in a threatening manner.


The position of the legs, body and related movements A casual body posture might convey a relaxed casual attitude, which is appropriate for informal friendly situations. This might be associated with various natural body movements. These responses are generally unintentional and are the most comfortable body positions and movements. In formal situations, we may inhibit the tendency to take the most comfortable body position and inhibit any body motion that might look inappropriate. In such situations we will present a more rigid and formal position of the body.


The distance between the individuals talking This can very greatly from one cultural group to another. In our society business conversations are done with a greater distance than more personal conversations such as the following. Conversations of close friends and relatives are done at a closer distance. Conversation between lovers and young children and parents will be even closer. Distance can easily be deliberately controlled in self-presentation. For example, deliberately moving closer to a potential date implies interest and moving away implies disinterest.

What the individual is doing during the conversation Performing a task that is not related to an ongoing conversation generally conveys the idea that the conversation has a moderate to a minimal degree of importance. If all activities are stopped for the conversation the impression given will be that the verbal exchange is relatively important. This response is easily controlled in the process of self-presentation.


The clothes we wear This may not seem like nonverbal communications, but it is. Our clothes transmit much information about us. We have essentially total control over this factor.


The odor of our bodies This factor also transmits a significant nonverbal message. There are various products that have pleasant odors to be used on the body. There are deodorants and antiperspirants to prevent unpleasant body odors. Obviously, we have control over this factor.


Additional ideas about verbal and nonverbal communications are presented in the following paragraphs.



Verbal and Nonverbal Function Together

There are certain psychological, social, and cultural situations that might result in specific types of nonverbal communications. However, it is not really possible to determine very much information from nonverbal information alone. We might be able to tell that a person is angry or happy but we cannot tell why they are in this emotional state without the contribution from the verbal channel. Generally the verbal and nonverbal channels work together to convey a message. The intellectual information is conveyed by language[8] and the emotional content is conveyed through the nonverbal channel.

The Ability and Inclination to Control the Nonverbal Channel

The ability to control the nonverbal channel is a learned social skill. The level of this ability and the inclination to use it depends on the specific individual. Some people have the philosophy of presenting themselves just the way they feel or do not care about their presentation. Such individuals are low self-monitors. And there are other individuals that have an opposite philosophy, high self-monitors, who are very concerned about their social presentation. Most likely the high self-monitors will have the greatest concern about control of the nonverbal channel, which will probably lead to a greater ability to control it.


Chapter 4: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


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Definitions of The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

What is a self-fulfilling prophecy? In Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, the following definition appears in the glossary. "The tendency for people's expectations to influence their attitudes and behavior." On page 44 of the same book this statement appears. "When a perceiver's false expectations about another person lead that person to adopt those expected attributes and behavior, this is called a self-fulfilling prophecy." In Sociology second edition 1974, by David Popenoe a definition that is based on sociology appears in the glossary as follows. "Self-fulfilling prophecy A false belief regarding a social situation which, because one believes it and acts upon it, actually becomes true.

A general concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy will be explained in the remainder of this paper. This concept is broader then any of the above definitions. It includes both false and accurate beliefs. It also deals with both negative and positive outcomes, which are the result of behavior flowing from negative or positive beliefs. That is, the paper contains a negative and positive version of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This broader concept should be kept in mind when reading the text that follows.

It should also be understood that this paper deals with more than the simple idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. It deals with many related ideas, such as how to demolish negative self-fulfilling prophecies.


A General Model of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Related Ideas

Self-fulfilling prophecies are situations where beliefs cause one or more individuals to behave in such a way as to confirm the beliefs. The beliefs are often incorrect, but the behavior facilitated by the self-fulfilling prophecy generally results in an actual condition, such as prejudicial racial beliefs resulting in poverty of minority groups. (The poverty confirms the prejudicial belief in the minds of racists.) This definition can be restated as follows. A self-fulfilling prophecy involves one or more beliefs and behavior flowing from the beliefs, which result in a condition that confirms the beliefs. Thus, there are three primary components of a self-fulfilling prophecy, which are the 1) beliefs, the 2) behavior flowing from the beliefs, the 3) condition that results from the behavior that confirms the beliefs

In some cases the beliefs might be partly or completely correct. Most definitions of a self-fulfilling prophecy would not include situations that involve correct beliefs. The reason I include them in my concept is that beliefs can facilitate behavior that can result in a condition (the outcome or end result), regardless of whether the beliefs are totally erroneous, partly correct, or perfectly accurate.

The behavior, which flows from the beliefs, is the most important component of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The behavior is what causes the end result, which I am calling the condition in this text. Sometimes the behavior is obviously destructive or dysfunctional. However, very often the behavior is simply a failure to take appropriate action. In some cases the behavior that flows from a belief (of a self-fulfilling prophecy) can be highly constructive. This will become understandable after reading the following paragraph.

There is a positive and negative type of self-fulfilling prophecy, which is based on the way I am defining the generalized concept. The positive version involves constructive behavior flowing from positive beliefs, which leads to a desirable condition. The negative self-fulfilling prophecy involves dysfunctional or destructive behavior flowing from negative beliefs, which results in an undesirable condition. (All of the above ideas will be clarified later on in the text with examples.)

Any negative self-fulfilling prophecy can be defined as a problem, which suggests there might be a general solution. The primary difficulties resulting from a negative self-fulfilling prophecy are not from the negative beliefs. The difficulties (the problems) result from destructive or dysfunctional behavior, which flows from the beliefs. However, it is possible to have constructive behavior flowing from negative beliefs, and this is the general solution. That is, the behavior flowing from the beliefs must be changed to constructive actions that will improve the condition. It might not be possible or necessary to change the beliefs. Keep in mind that the beliefs can be partly or totally correct in some cases. The therapist and/or client might not know if a belief is in fact totally correct, partly correct, or completely incorrect.

The idea expressed in the first part of the above paragraph, can be illustrated with this simplified example. If a senator has an erroneous belief that black people are inferior, the solution is to persuade him to vote for an increase in educational, medical and financial services to correct or circumvent their inferiority. In spite of the fact that the senator's belief is negative and incorrect, the behavior flowing from the belief can be made constructive, which will alleviate the problem[9].

The primary point to remember is the behavior flowing from the belief is the primary factor in a self-fulfilling prophecy. The belief in a certain sense is not very important; it can be entirely incorrect, partly correct, or highly accurate. This does not affect the resulting condition. The most important factor is the precise nature of the behavior that emanates from the beliefs, which can worsen or improve a condition.

NOTE (There are some psychologists that would disagree with the above idea. There argument would be that beliefs motivate behavior, and to change behavior you must change the beliefs first. This is only sometimes true. Often it is simply wrong; it depends on the specific case. The general idea that beliefs motivate behavior fails in many ways. People often violate their own beliefs with their behavior. Generally most smokers, drug addicts, and criminals would not want their children to follow in their footsteps. These people have a belief that is opposed to their behavior, but it does not stop their destructive behavior. Perhaps their beliefs make them feel guilty. However, this does not mean that we should not try to change a person's erroneous negative beliefs. The point is that if such change occurs, it does not follow that there will be any change in behavior. There may or may not be. The point is that most of the effort must be focused on changing dysfunctional and destructive behavior to constructive actions. This also includes much effort in developing functional behavior patterns.) END OF NOTE

There are three types of self-fulfilling prophecies, sociological, social-psychological, and psychological, based on the concept presented in this paper. In the following paragraphs there will be examples of the various types of self-fulfilling prophecies, which will include positive and negative versions. The negative versions will be presented first, because they are more common. In addition, there will be hypothetical solutions in the examples of the negative versions.

NOTE (The following examples, were carefully constructed to illustrate and clarify the above ideas. To achieve this some of the examples were simplified to the point where they might not actually represent the complicated dynamics and outcomes of real life situations, but they illustrate the principles of self-fulfilling prophecies quite well.) END OF NOTE




Examples of Sociological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

The best example of a sociological self-fulfilling prophecy is racial prejudice. (This example was already used, but it is utilized again here because it serves as an excellent illustration.) There was a wide spread belief that black people were inferior to white people, especially in the southern part of the United States. This belief resulted in behavior that limited educational and occupational opportunities for black people. The prejudicial belief also resulted in the passing of laws in the South that were essentially designed to exclude black people from the political process. The above actions served to maintain some black people in an uneducated state of poverty. This confirmed the original belief, in the minds of prejudice people. In a self-fulfilling prophecy the false belief often becomes true, which further reinforces the resulting problem. People without adequate education are truly less capable in relation to both job and academic performance.

The solution: A constructive solution, based on the erroneous belief, that black people are inferior, would be to provide additional educational, medical, and economic services to correct the deficiencies[10]. The result of such actions, if it was carried out in a truly adequate and constructive way, would be a black population with an educational and financial level that would be higher than average. Such a result would demolish the original prejudicial beliefs of inferiority.

A positive version: A positive version of a sociological self-fulfilling prophecy is when there are positive beliefs about a segment of the society. The positive beliefs can be held by the segment or by society in general. The best examples are seen in elite people and groups that are of high social status. The most extreme examples involve royalty. Often the entire society believes they are superior. Thus, they are given special privileges. They have great influence over the political process. Laws are enacted that favor their interests. These people generally receive a superior education, a superior upbringing, and obtain higher quality healthcare. As a result, they truly are superior, in the sense of their developed intellectual and social skills. Their psychological state and their ability to do a job well is generally well above average. This further facilitates the belief of superiority.



Examples of Social Psychological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

A social psychological self-fulfilling prophecy involves beliefs about one's self in relation to other people, or vice versa, as the concept is defined for this model. The beliefs result in behavior that facilitates treatment from others that confirms the belief. Keep in mind that the beliefs might be erroneous, partly correct, or quite accurate. For example, if an individual (which I will call Mr. Jones to prevent confusion) believes that other people do not like him, he might respond as follows:



He might not spend any time or effort trying to make friends.


He might be very cold and unfriendly toward others.


He might restrict his interactions with people to business situations only, which will be quick, impersonal, cold and unfriendly.


If somebody tries to be Mr. Jones's friend, he will interpret the friendly behavior as strange or suspicious, and respond in a very unfriendly way.


He might be very unsympathetic and intolerant of the shortcomings of other people.



The behaviors mentioned above would certainly result in people disliking Mr. Jones, which would result in few if any friendships. This would be true even if the original belief was totally erroneous. After a few experiences with Mr. Jones, most people would respond in a very cold and unfriendly way. All of the above would confirm Mr. Jones original beliefs about himself.

The solution: A constructive solution, based on the belief that the individual is not liked by others, is to do everything possible to become more socially desirable. That is, there are ways of becoming more likable. The individual that believes he is not liked by others (such as Mr. Jones in our hypothetical example), can become more tolerant of the short comings of others and behave in a warm and friendly manner. He can seek out social events where he can meet compatible friends. He can also make a special effort to maintain friendships. Take workshops and courses that teach social skills. Become a leader of a community group, with the aim of making new friends. Offering friendly help to neighbors and acquaintances is also an effective method of becoming more likable. If our hypothetical Mr. Jones followed the above ideas, he would be liked by most people and would have many friends. This would happen whether his original belief about himself was erroneous, partly correct, or completely accurate. However, the positive results (of the constructive actions mentioned above) would dispel the original negative beliefs that Mr. Jones had about himself.

A positive version: A positive version of a social psychological self-fulfilling prophecy is just the opposite of the above. The individual might believe that he is liked very much by others. As a result he is more friendly and tolerant of the shortcomings of human beings. Such an individual will find socializing more rewarding. The above will result in more friends, and an individual that behaves in such a way will certainly be liked very much by most people. This will also result in more and closer friendships. This would reinforce the individual's belief that he is liked by others.



Examples of a Psychological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

A purely psychological self-fulfilling prophecy involves a belief about one's own abilities and potential. For example, if a person believes that he is lacking in intelligence and overall academic capabilities, he might avoid education. He might spend little or no time on intellectually related activities. This will certainly limit his ability to handle any academic material and he will lack the knowledge to behave intelligently. Thus, even if the belief was not initially accurate, it will become true. The solution: The constructive action to take if one believes that essential abilities are deficient is to spend more time and effort in actions that will correct the deficiency.



Positive Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

An example of a positive self-fulfilling prophecy of a psychological nature is just the opposite of the above. This involves an individual that believes he has superior intellectual abilities. As a result of his belief he invests much time and effort developing his abilities. He will spend many hours each day studying. This will most likely result in the development of superior abilities, which will take place over an extended period of time. Such a person is likely to spend more time in school, and he probably would complete graduate school and obtain a Ph.D. Thus, the belief will result in a highly educated and intelligent person, whether or not the original belief was correct. However, the original belief of superior intellectual abilities, will be confirmed in the individual's own mind by his educational attainments.




Social-Psychological and Sociological Self-Fulfilling Prophecies Involving Hostile Interactions

There are a number of self-fulfilling prophecies involving hostile interactions. The first situation is of a social-psychological nature. It happens when one individual believes that another person is acting against his interests in a hostile way. The result is the individual treats the other person in a hostile manner, which results in mutual hostile interaction. The result is the individual that assumed hostility will have his belief confirmed.

The solution: The solution to the above problem, which is based on a belief that another person has hostile intentions, is either to avoid the person entirely or make every effort to become friendly with him or her. Even if the original belief was partly or totally correct, the friendly behavior, which should be coupled with true kindness, will most likely change the situation into a friendly acquaintanceship.

Another method that may be a useful solution, when the hostility is coupled with some type of competition between two or more people, is the tit-for-tat strategy. This strategy is discussed in Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears. The strategy involves presenting a cooperative position initially toward your opponent, with the hope of obtaining cooperation. However, if your opponent responds in a competitive manner, you respond in a similar way. Whenever your opponent responds cooperatively you also respond cooperatively. This method was experimentally tested by Axelrod in 1984 with the use of an electronic tournament. He found that the tit-for-tat strategy was the best strategy to follow in his experimental game. This strategy may be quite limited in many real life situations, because when people act hostile and competitive, they might be under emotional stress. Such stress can interfere with their judgment and perception of cooperation. When cooperation is presented to them, they might interpret it as manipulation and thus might respond with more hostility. Another response is the person might not perceive the relationship between his or her behavior and the response of the opponent. The perception of the opponent might be that this person sometimes acts nice and at other times acts hostile. Another difficulty with this strategy is the opponent might have a different definition of cooperation. For example, a superior might consider cooperation complete obedience to their demands and a strict following of rules. However, the subordinate might consider cooperation to be an understanding by the superior that all the demands and rules cannot be followed 100 percent of the time. Of course, this does not mean that the tit-for-tat strategy does not work. It means the people involved must be in a state of mind that will allow them to perceive cooperation as a result of their own cooperative responses. And they must also perceive hostility as a result of their own hostile responses. In addition, all parties involved must have essentially the same definition of cooperation. Incidentally, most of us know from experience that people more or less respond in a tit-for-tat manner. If you treat someone rood they will usually return the response. This is especially true if they have the same level of power as you do. If you treat someone in a kind and polite way, they are likely to treat you in a similar way.

Hostility between nations: There is a self-fulfilling prophecy that involves hostile nations. This is a sociological self-fulfilling prophecy. In these situations heads of state of both nations believe that the other nation will eventually attack their country. The most common response is to increase the store of weapons, and prepare for war, with the hope that the other nation will not attack, because of superior armed preparation. However, when one nation sees a buildup of armaments, they respond by increasing their weapons and preparing for war. Something very similar to the above happened between Russia and the United States, but fortunately the usual outcome did not take place. The usual situation is one of the nations will attack the other, because its leaders assume that they will be attacked eventually by the other country sooner or later. The original intentions of both nations may have been peace, but the belief that the nations will eventually fight each other in a war, results in behavior that eventually creates a war.

Is there a solution: A solution to this type of problem is difficult. Because even if the leaders of both nations do not want war, there is the possibility that new leadership will obtain power and start a war. However, this does not mean that such problems cannot be solved. A solution to this type of problem was proposed by Charles Osgood in 1962 to deal with the military buildup of nuclear weapons of the United States and the Soviet Union. The method is called GRIT, which stands for graduated reciprocation in tension reduction. This is essentially a tit-for-tat strategy applied to nuclear arms reduction. This was also discussed in Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears. This method coupled with negotiation and cultural exchange programs appeared to reduce the risk of war between the United States and the former Soviet Union.



The Development of One Type of Prophecy From Another

One type of self-fulfilling prophecy can lead to the development of another type. This is often the case with sociological self-fulfilling prophecies. That is, a phenomenon often associated with a sociological self-fulfilling prophecy is the development of a social-psychological self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, an individual who is a member of a minority group that receives much discrimination might believe that everybody is discriminating against him. (This is a psychological phenomenon that will trigger a social psychological self-fulfilling prophecy in this hypothetical example.) As a result of the belief he might act very hostile toward others. This behavior will certainly result in almost universal discrimination against this person because of his hostile attitude. It will confirm the original belief of discrimination, in the mind of this hostile individual.

A sociological or social-psychological self-fulfilling prophecy can in some cases produce a psychological version. For example, an individual that is a member of a minority group might believe the erroneous prejudicial beliefs held by the society at large. He might think he is inferior academically and morally and might act in such a way that he becomes academically and morally deficient.

The psychological version: The above social-psychological self-fulfilling prophecy would almost certainly trigger a psychological self-fulfilling prophecy in the child as follows. This label and the respect he receives because of the label highly intelligent, will encourage him or her to live up to the label. The child will think of himself as highly intelligent and will not be afraid to attack difficult academic material. If the child has any problems understanding difficult material he or she will interpret the situation in constructive terms. The child will assume that the material requires more hours of study to master. Thus, such a child would most likely put in the time to master the most difficult material. Once again, even if the original label was not totally correct, the child would very likely become quite intelligent*.

*NOTE (Question: What would happen in a real situation if we tell a child of average intelligence that he or she is highly intelligent? The primary idea to understand is that the factor that is important is the behavior that stems from a belief. More precisely what is important is the ongoing behavior that takes place from day to day, week to week month to month, and year to year. If the child's behavior changes in such a way that he or she spends essentially all his or her time on academic and intellectually related activities the child's knowledge and academic ability will increase. In effect the child will eventually become more intelligent. However, in the real situation children develop other interests besides academic and intellectually related activities. They like to play with toys and watch television programs with little if any intellectual content. In addition, they generally put aside all academic related activities in the summer and during Christmas and Easter vacations. They generally dislike academic activities. Thus, they are not likely to pursue such efforts to the extent necessary to become highly intelligent. A child that becomes highly intelligent might spend most of his or her time on academic and intellectually related activities because he or she obtains some pleasure from such activities. This enjoyment is enhanced by the positive rewards the child obtains from the label highly intelligent.

In addition, there are some psychologists that would disagree with some of the above ideas. They believe that high intelligence is primarily the result of genetics. They believe a person of average genetics could not become highly intelligent.

Thus, most likely telling a child he or she is highly intelligent will not have very much effect on his or her actual habits and capabilities. Other people will probably tell the child that he or she is average. If the child attempts to study advanced academic material, he or she will find it difficult and assume that what most people were telling him or her was correct. The child will probably give up and play with toys. However, if the child is given highly superior academic training all year round from an early age, and only has educational toys to play with, he or she will probably become highly intelligent. In such a case the label highly intelligent will probably further facilitate the child's intellectual development.) END OF NOTE



Self-Fulfilling Prophecies that Emerge From One's Self-Concept

The self-concept is a collection of beliefs we have about ourselves. These beliefs can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy in some cases. A person that believes he or she is academically incapable will not study, and will indeed become academically incapable and vice versa. A person, who believes he or she is not liked by others, will probably behave in an unlikable way and vice versa, as was already explained in a previous example. Thus, what a person believes about his or her limitations and abilities tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Hence, the negative self-concept can limit a person's achievements as a result of the development of one or more negative self-fulfilling prophecies.

The solution: What is the solution? The solution is to look at negative beliefs about one's self with the assumption that they have some validity and indicate a need to make self-improvements. That is, the aim should be to see that constructive actions stem from the negative beliefs, which will correct any real or imaginary weaknesses. This will probably prevent or demolish any negative self-fulfilling prophecy that relates to the self- concept.

Many individuals including some psychologists would disagree with the above. A widely held idea is that negative beliefs about the self should be discarded. The idea is to think positively. This can result in beliefs about the self that are fantasies. This might make the client feel better while fantasizing. It will probably have no real affect on behavior or on reality in general. One of the reasons for this is usually the negative beliefs are at least partly correct, and thinking positively will not change anything. Acting in a constructive manner based on the negative belief, may eliminate the deficiency. If the original negative belief was totally incorrect, it will probably be demolished by success. Even if it was correct it will very likely be discarded after corrective actions result in success.

An important point that must be considered about negative beliefs about the self is they might serve a function. First they can be very accurate. Most people have some weaknesses and deficiencies that cannot be corrected to any significant degree, with a reasonable amount of effort. Some people are evaluated by others in negative ways, because of traits that cannot be corrected. The negative beliefs serve to prevent frustration and failure in certain cases. That is, without the negative beliefs the individual might make attempts that will lead to frustration and failure. And even incorrect beliefs about the self can serve a protective function. They may prevent difficult efforts that are not necessary. For example, if an individual has an erroneous belief that he or she is not very intelligent, the belief can serve as a guide toward a trade and hobbies involving athletic as opposed to intellectual effort. This may be more appropriate for his or her personality, interests and social environment.

In general, the self-concept may serve as a guiding mechanism in a person's life. Both negative and positive Self-fulfilling prophecies may be generated as a result of the self-concept. The issue should be weather or not these prophecies are functional or dysfunctional in the individual's life situation. If they are truly dysfunctional they can very possibly be demolished with appropriate effort.




The General Application of the Concept and the Concluding Words of the Chapter

Most psychological, social and organizational, phenomena involve a self-fulfilling prophecy at some level, which is probably apparent from the above examples. The point to realize is that most (but certainly not all) problems involving the human mind and the behavior that flows from it probably involve a self-fulfilling prophecy. However it should be kept in mind that the contribution to the problem from the prophecy can range from insignificantly small to very great. With many problems the contribution is not significant.

As implied in the above paragraph when a self-fulfilling prophecy is involved with a phenomenon, it may not be the only causative factor. Usually, but certainly not always, there are other causative factors involved. This is important to understand when trying to solve a psychological, social or organizational problem. The erroneous conclusion to avoid is that such problems can simply be solved with positive thinking. Occasionally it may be possible to alleviate a difficulty with optimistic thinking, but this is very rare. Usually, the problem must be analyzed from all angles. And if there is a self-fulfilling prophecy involved, the dysfunctional behavior that stems from it, must be considered as a contributing cause to the problem. Usually, but not always, there are other causes involved. Thus, all the causes must be analyzed and understood to the maximum feasible level. Then a plan must be created that involves constructive behavior that will correct the problem. The plan and the actions flowing from it must be periodically evaluated for effectiveness. Appropriate corrections must be initiated to correct the portions of the plan that are not working effectively.

Thus, the self-fulfilling prophecy is one of many factors to consider when trying understanding the phenomena associated with human behavior. It is especially relevant in problem-solving. However, the self-fulfilling prophecy is usually only one of many contributing causes to psychological, social, and organizational problems.



Chapter 5: The Way We Make Judgments and Related Difficulties from a Social Psychological Perspective


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Social Cognition

What is social cognition? From Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, the following definition appears in the glossary. "The study of how people form inferences and make judgments from social information." This can simply be restated as, the study of how people make inferences and judgments about others.

In reality there are probably many ways that judgments and inferences are made. The process, and the information used will most likely vary with the individual, his or her psychological state, and the social and cultural group the individual belongs to. This often results in faulty judgments, which can often be corrected later in time. The most important points to understand are that the judgments people make in a conventional social environment are usually made very rapidly and the judgmental process is usually done partly or totally on an unconscious level. That is, the person making a judgment may not be aware of the steps and all the details he or she used to make the judgment. It is usually necessary to make quick judgments without thinking about the steps. Some of the many dynamics, factors and difficulties involved with such judgments are presented in the following paragraphs, along with related information.



Social Inference

What is social inference? Social inference is the process that we use to make judgments about people and social and cultural groups. The process and the resulting judgments are not necessarily accurate or inaccurate. However, the entire process is influenced by psychological, social, and cultural conditions, which often cause inaccurate judgments. Social inference can be represented by the following steps:


(The following phrases, in quotation marks were taken from page 80 of Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears.)


1) Information gathering ("gathering information") Potential problems: ("Using prior expectations to guide information search") A primary difficulty with information gathering is we can gather the wrong information. This can happen for many reasons, such as faulty beliefs of where to find information or what data to look for. The faulty beliefs that interfere with a good information search, could be based on experiences that do not apply to the current situation.

This difficulty can partly be circumvented: by carefully assessing beliefs about the information search for potential problems, by gathering additional information over several days if time permits, having two or more people search for information independently if feasible.


2) Selecting the information to utilize ("decision what information to use") Potential pitfalls: ("Using mood to guide memory" "Drawing on prior expectations to decide what is relevant" "Failing to notice biases in information" "Being swayed by case history information") More information generally is gathered than can be evaluated. Thus, the most relevant or useful information must be selected. This selection process can be influenced by the current emotional state of the individual, which can result in selecting or focusing on the wrong information. A general example, is if we are in a good mood we might remember the positive information more than the negative and vice versa. Other potential problems include relying on experiences or expectations that are not relevant to the current situation. In addition we may be influenced by irrelevant case histories.

The difficulties can partly be circumvented: by having two or more people gathering information independently, and selecting and re-selecting the information over a period of time.


3) Combining the information that was selected into a meaningful whole. ("Putting the information together") Potential problems: ("using two little information "Using the wrong information "combining information erratically") There are many problems that can interfere with the process at this point. There can be inadequate information to make an accurate judgment. The wrong information may have been gathered. The information could be combined in the wrong way. Inappropriate amounts of weight could be placed on some of the information, which can be to little weight or to much.

These difficulties can partly be circumvented by evaluating whether the information is: adequate, is correct, is organized in a way that would allow for an accurate judgment.

4) Making a final judgment or decision based on steps 1, 2 and 3. Potential problems: There can be many difficulties making a final judgment that is truly accurate. All the potential problems of steps 1, 2, and 3 can cause poor judging.

There are a number of ways of circumventing the problems of final judgment. One of them is to make a number of judgments over a period of time, the longer the time period the better. With this method the evaluator sees if his judgments are in agreement or are in disagreement. If they are all inconsistent there is either inadequate information to make a decision and/or the information is not organized in a way that would allow for an accurate judgment, which indicates a need to repeat steps 1, 2, and 3. If the judgment can be experimentally tested the process can be extremely accurate. If the test indicates a failure than steps 1, 2, and 3 must be repeated.



Schematic Processing

Schemas are often used by people in processing information and making judgments. Schemas can be involve a four step process discussed above. Of course they may not be consciously aware of the fact that they are using schemas. The use of schemas can reduce processing time and facilitate memory. However, there can be potential problems using schemas in this way. Often our schemas are simply inaccurate. Many people hold stereotyped prejudicial schemas about various groups in our society. The way to reduce these difficulties is to be aware of the schemas we are using to make a judgment, and then try to consciously evaluate the validity of the schema. Repeating the evaluation over time can increase accuracy. However, there very often is not enough time to do either of the above. For example, if we see a person walking toward us, on a deserted dimly lit street at night, who fits our schema of a mugger, there is little time to make assessments about the accuracy of our schema. The best judgment in such cases is to make the safest decision, which in this case is to walk quickly in the opposite direction.



Following the Judgment of Others

Another technique that people often use to make decisions is simply to follow the judgments of others, such as friends, the social group, their leaders and experts. The disadvantage of this is the judgments can be quite wrong or destructive. This is seen in the social groups of some young people who get involved with drugs, heavy drinking, and smoking cigarettes. The most important factor determining a person's judgments is probably based on the social and cultural groups that he belongs to.

The way to circumvent the weaknesses of this is to select social groups that appear to be making wise judgments. In addition use judgments from different sources, such as various social groups, people from various age groups, experts and friends. If there is agreement, the judgment has a greater possibility of being sound. In addition, if other methods are used to evaluate the judgments the soundness of decisions would increase.



The Concluding Ideas

From the above, and our experiences with living in a social world we know that the judgments people make are not always accurate and sound. We see people getting into trouble because of poor judgments, which can involve criminal acts, drug taking, etc. In general the quality of our judgments can be increased by all of the following:



make judgments over a period of time when possible Many of us have developed the habit of making quick judgments. This is not always necessary. When there is time to postpone a final judgment of a relatively complicated nature, it is best to postpone it. Making a number of preliminary judgments over time may increase the soundness of the final judgment. If all the preliminary judgments agree the final judgment will be quite simple. If there are many different preliminary judgments, the actions to take are to postpone the final decision until there is consistency of the preliminary judgments. Inconsistent preliminary judgments can indicate emotional conflict and/or lack of adequate information to make a sound decision.


check to see if there is adequate information to make a good judgment If the information is inadequate, simply seek additional information that will help with the decision.

check the validity of the information that is being used to make a decision if time permits If the information was obtained from word of mouth or other unreliable sources this step is especially important. In general, it is a good idea to make some estimate on the probable accuracy of the information. If the information that must be used is of questionable accuracy, the judgment will be of questionable validity. Such questionable judgments should not be considered final.


make the safest judgment, when there is no time to follow the above steps Very often we must make very quick decisions. If we are in error it can cost us our lives in some cases. The best solution is the safest decision possible. That is, the judging should be based on reducing the risks.



Chapter 6: Attributions and Related Ideas


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What Are Attributions?

Attributions are assessments of causality of human: traits, qualities, emotions, behavior, etc. The assessments are not necessarily accurate or inaccurate and are very often influenced by psychological, social and cultural conditions. The causality can be internal or external. Internal means that the cause emerged from within the person, such as an individual who does well in school because he was born with great ability. External refers to environmental causality, such as an individual who got angry because he was severely mistreated by a taxicab driver. Hence, there are internal attributions and external attributions. Human beings means in this definition all of the following: the individual (the self), people in the environment of the individual, as well as cultural and social groups. Thus, there are three types of attributions, which are psychological (relates to the self), social psychological (people in the environment), and sociological (cultural and social groups). Examples of the three types of attributions and related information explained in the following paragraphs.



Psychological Attributions

Psychological attributions are assessments about the self. That is, the individual evaluates his emotions, achievements, failures etc., and comes to a conclusion about the cause. For example, if a person does well in mathematics he might attribute his success to a natural inborn ability. This is also an example of an internal attribution. An example of an external attribution, of the psychological type, is a student who does well in math and believes it is because he had an excellent math instructor.


Social Psychological Attributions

Social psychological attributions are assessments about people in our environment, such as our relatives, friends, coworkers, classmates, etc. For example, attributing the financial success of our best friend to his natural abilities is a social psychological attribution. This is also an example of an internal attribution. An example of an external attribution in this category is attributing the high academic achievement of our neighbor to the tutors that his rich parents hired.



Sociological Attributions

Sociological attributions are assessments about cultural and social groups. For example, attributing improvements in academic and economic attainments of African Americans to the efforts of black people and their civil rights movement is a sociological attribution. This is also an example of an internal attribution.

An example of an external attribution of a sociological type, is attributing the above improvements in civil rights to the efforts of the white legislators that passed the new laws.


Interpretation of Psychological Attributions

Our interpretations of our emotional responses and behavior are important psychological attributions. We get cues from our environment on how to interpret are internal responses. For example, if our body is physiologically aroused, such as a result of a drug or physical exercise, and we are confronted with an anger provoking situation, we will probably interpret our aroused state as anger. On the other hand, if an aroused person is confronted with a friendly and highly attractive member of the opposite sex, the interpretation might relate to romantic love.



Labeling and Attributions

When a label (such as schizophrenic, hostile, highly intelligent, very friendly) is attached to a person it can affect the way others interpret the cause of his actions. The label and/or the interpretation of others might eventually affect the way the labeled person interprets his own internal feelings, emotions, and behavior. In general the labels placed on a person can lead to a positive or negative halo and/or a self-fulfilling prophecy. These topics are discussed in the next two heading.



Positive and Negative Halo Effect and Attributions

What is the positive halo effect? If a person has positive traits that are apparent people tend to (inadvertently) attribute other positive qualities to that person, even if those qualities do not really exist. For example, if a person is very physically attractive people might also assume that the individual is intelligent, psychologically well adjusted, sociable, etc. In addition, people will interpret the shortcomings of people who have one or more positive traits less severely.

What is the negative halo effect? The negative halo effect, which is very often called the forked tail effect, is just the opposite of the above. That is, if a person has negative traits that are apparent people tend to (inadvertently) attribute other negative traits to that person. For example, if an individual is very unattractive, people might also assume that the person is unfriendly, hostile, dishonest, vicious, and lacking in intelligence. In addition, people will interpret the shortcomings of people who have one or more apparent negative traits more severely.

The positive and negative halo effect can also be triggered by positive and negative labels. That is, if we attach a positive label to a person, such as a Ph.D., people have a tendency to assume that there are many positive qualities associated with the person. And likewise, if we place a negative label on an individual, such as mental patient, people will assume that there are many negative qualities associated with the person.

The important point to understand about the positive and negative halo effect is that it is a tendency, rather than an absolute result. When people interact over a period of time, the tendency to attribute positive and negative traits that do not exist, most likely will decrease. This will probably be especially true with practical situations, where a person's qualities are relevant to a specific job related situation. That is, if positive qualities are incorrectly assumed to exist that are needed to perform a job, the incorrect assumption will result in an apparent failure. However, if negative qualities are incorrectly assumed the person may not be given the chance to prove himself or herself.



The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Attributions

The attributions people make about an individual, cultural or social group can cause that person to behave in such a way as to confirm inaccurate stereotyped beliefs. For example, if a racist drives through a very poor black ghetto, he or she may attribute the rundown condition of the neighborhood and the poverty to lack of intelligence, laziness, and destructiveness. (A more enlightened person looking at the same neighborhood, might attribute the conditions, to prejudice, which results in lack of education, poor job opportunities, and a failure by landlords to maintain their property.) The self-fulfilling prophecy in this case develops from the sociological internal attributions about the group, such as lack of intelligence, laziness, and destructiveness. Employers with such beliefs will not hire black people, or they may employ them for very low paying jobs, which will result in all the conditions associated with a poor black ghetto. Some of the people in the ghetto might also believe in the racist stereotype and inadvertently act the role.

In a very similar way the same process can happen to an individual. If an individual is believed to be mentally ill all his behavior might be interpreted as a result of the condition. This will most likely result in great emotional stress, which will lead to a true psychological disorder, even if there was not an actual disorder initially. The patient might eventually attribute his own emotions, feelings, and behavior to a psychological disorder. At this point, he will be rewarded for his "insight," by others, which will encourage him to except the role of a mental patient.



The Accuracy of Attributions

Human behavior scientists often tend to be more interested in the attributions that people make, as opposed to the accuracy of the attributions. The reason for this is attributions influence behavior, whether they are accurate or not. For example, if a person believes he does not have mathematical ability, he will most likely avoid math courses. The real cause of his difficulty might simply be that he never studied basic mathematics, but the incorrect belief will determine his thinking and behavior. However, I believe it is interesting to consider the question of accuracy of attributions.

Question: How accurate are the attributions that people make? This is hard to determine, but people probably make more accurate attributions about themselves than about others. That is, psychological attributions are probably more accurate on the average. People are probably most accurate about their achievements. They are probably less accurate about their failures. We do not like to attribute failures to ourselves. Social psychological attributions (attributions about others) are most likely less accurate. However attributions about people we know well are most likely more accurate than people we do not know well. Least accurate are probably sociological attributions. People are most likely to make incorrect attributions about other cultural and social groups. This is especially noticeable in relation to racial, ethnic and religious prejudice. People tend to make positive attributions about their own group, which might have some degree of accuracy, and more negative attributions about other cultural, social and ethnic groups, which probably has little or no accuracy in most cases.



What are the Real Causes, the Accurate Attributions

In most situations, there are probably multiple internal and external contributing factors involved with most components that relate to human beings. For example, if an individual gets a high grade in physics, it probably was the result of prior experience in math and science and hours of studying for the physics examinations, which are internal causes. In addition, there probably would be many external contributing factors, such as being in a physics class that is not too difficult for the student and an upbringing that taught the student self discipline, which are external causes.


Attributions and Problem Solving

It is apparent from the above, as well as the literature on psychology, social psychology, and sociology that our attributions are far from 100 percent accurate. In a certain sense, human beings live in an emotional cloud that blurs reality, in relation to the true factors and dynamics that cause human problems. This makes such problem solving difficult, and probably explains our failures to eliminate poverty, crime, mental illness, war, famine, and environmental pollution. We were able to make tremendous technological advances, such as landing people on the moon, because there is no emotional cloud that covers the factors and dynamics that relate to the hard sciences. This suggests an interesting question. What assumptions (attributions) should we make about ourselves, the people around us, and the cultural and social groups, when engaged in problem solving?

Solving a problem usually starts with certain assumptions about the cause of the problem. If the problem and solution are based on incorrect assumptions, the results will probably be failure. The way to get around this difficulty is to focus on the undesirable conditions that is to be corrected with the problem solving. In addition, assume that there are multiple causes for the problem, and list all the possible causes. Then develop multiple solutions to rectify the possible causes. However, the primary effort must go toward changing the undesirable condition. For example, the high rate of poverty in some Puerto Rican community can be thought of as a condition resulting from English language deficiencies, overall educational deficiencies, prejudice, which reduce job opportunities, a high crime rate, which worsens the prejudice, lack of moral guidance and supervision for some of the young people of the community, insufficient police patrol in the community, widespread drug availability, etc. Then the effort should be to correct the above deficiencies. However, the primary effort should be focused on the original condition of poverty.

Factors that might be Attributed to Internal or External Causality



The following are common factors that people might attribute to internal or external causality: (I believe that the manifestations of any of the factors on the list usually involve multiple causes, which are of internal and external origins.)



      Academic success


      An academic failure


      Mathematical skills


      Deficiencies in mathematics


      Writing skills


      Deficiencies in writing skills


      Musical skills


      Lack of musical skills


      Financial success


      Financial problems


      Good physical health


      A health problem(s)


      Dental health


      Dental problems


      Good psychological health


      Poor psychological health


      An anger response









Chapter 7: The Self and Self Presentation and Related Ideas


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The Self and Related Ideas

What is self presentation? Self-presentation is the control of behavior, dress and related factors, with the aim of presenting a specific image. The control of behavior includes the way we act and the control of nonverbal and verbal communications. The deliberate way we dress to present an impression is an important part of self-presentation. The words and related factors in the definition include other components that we may control to present an image, such as the way our house is decorated, items we appear to own, the people we are with, the presentation of formal documents about ourselves, etc. The words with the aim of presenting a specific image means the impression that the person is trying to make, to one or more individuals. The individuals can comprise a group in some cases.

The impression that people try to usually make is of course a favorable one. For example, we want to look competent and hard working when we go for a job interview. However, there are situations where certain individuals will try to project a relatively negative image, because it is rewarding for some reason. For example, a beggar usually wants to look poor, helpless, harmless, and homeless, which will probably maximize the amount of money he makes from handouts. A welfare recipient might also want to look poor, helpless, and deserving of assistance. Some mental patients may want to appear mentally ill, to obtain financial assistance or to escape responsibility for their behavior, which might be especially true in criminal cases.

The people we try to impress with our self‑presentations are people who might be in a position to offer us rewards (the job interviewer), to punish us if we make the wrong impression (our parents), or allow us to escape punishment (a jury).

Generally people try to make different impressions for different situations and for different individuals. For example, a young person going for a job interview might try to present himself as a responsible and serious person. To his peers he might present an image that is just the opposite. However, I believe that most individuals probably have certain general qualities they try to present to most people, and there are other qualities that they may present only in certain situations, such as a job interview.

Generally, people always try to control their impression at some level when they are with other people. However the level varies from insignificantly small to very great, depending on the situation. Question: How aware are people of the control of their impressions? Again the level of awareness varies from insignificantly small to very great, depending on the situation. That is, people often control their impressions automatically without really thinking about it.

In close intimate relationships, such as in families, the level of control of impressions is usually quite small. This is especially the case with small children. In such situations the control of impressions is usually performed on an automatic level, without much awareness. The opposite extreme, with respect to impression management, is found in: a real stage performance, a live television broadcast and large formal ceremonies. Under these conditions people generally exercise an extreme level of control over the factors that relate to the impression they are making. Under such conditions they are generally quite aware of the impression management process that they are exercising.

The ability to make controlled self-presentations varies with the individual's acquired ability. That is, this is a learned social skill. The more skillful person will have more control over his self-presentation. There are people who would care more about developing this skill and others who would care less. This is discussed in the following paragraph.

Some people are very concerned about the way they come across to others. That is, they are quite concerned about their self-presentation and invest much effort to control it. These people are called high self-monitors. And there are people with just the opposite philosophy. They pay little attention to their self-presentation. These people are called low self-monitors. Most people are in-between these two extremes.

I believe that there is an additional dimension to self-monitoring that is quite important. There are high self-monitors that control their self-presentations for manipulative purposes or to obtain some personal reward. There is another type of high self-monitor that controls his or her self-presentations with the aim of pleasing people and to avoid offending others. This type of high self-monitor is simply very sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. And likewise there are two types of low self-monitors. One type is simply insensitive to the feelings and needs of others. He does not care if he offends anyone with his behavior, verbal statements or style of dress, and he acts accordingly. Another type of low self-monitor is an individual that has a normal or above level of sensitivity to others, but for some reason does not have an awareness of the need to monitor his or her presentations to others. His or her philosophy might be that it is dishonest to control your responses to make a good impression. That is, he or she might say that the honest and proper thing to do is be yourself.

Under the following headings additional concepts about the self and related ideas are presented.




What is a Self-Concept


A self-concept is a general schema we have about ourselves. The schema is a collection of beliefs and facts about the kind of person we are, such as the following schema, which contains nine items: sensitive to the needs of others, reserved, honest, intelligent, hard working, American, Jewish, a person who hopes to be a writer and scientist.

To this point, the definition presented here of a self-concept is very similar to definitions presented elsewhere, but the wording is very different. A simple definition is: "The collection of beliefs we hold about ourselves." However, the following paragraphs expand the definition, by considering emotional components. The expanded definition is probably more in line with what most people really mean when they use the term self-concept.

At least some of the items that comprise the general schema of the self-concept are tied to emotional components and related beliefs. The emotional components can motivate or inhibit the person in certain ways. Activities and goals that contradict the self-concept will be partly or totally inhibited. Likewise activities and goals that agree with the self-concept will be motivated. This can be illustrated by returning to the example of a self-concept, which this subtopic started with. Each of the items, comprising the self-concept of the hypothetical person, has some emotions or beliefs connected, which is illustrated in the following list:



Sensitive to the needs of others Connected to this item are emotional concerns that relate to the needs of others. The individual is empathetic and feels the discomfort or pain of others. Thus, he is motivated to help them.


Reserved Connected to this item is anxiety over the way the self is presented in social situations. The individual believes that certain behaviors might offend others. If he offended others he would feel the discomfort. That is, he would feel quite embarrassed. In addition, if he came across offensive he would be quite upset with himself.


Honest This is a fact. The emotions connected to this relate to a concern for the well-being of others. The person is empathetic, which also motivates honesty. If other people thought the individual to be dishonest he would be quite upset.


Intelligent The individual will most likely feel quite upset if he does not perform academically and in daily life as an intelligent person should.


Hard working Connected to this item is beliefs and emotions about hard work. This individual enjoys hard work. If the individual failed because he did not work hard he would be upset with himself. Thus, hard work is associated with both enjoyment and success, which are strong motivating forces.


American This is a fact. Generally there is little emotion connected to this, for this hypothetical individual, because it is taken for granted.


Jewish This is a fact in that the individual was born into a Jewish family. Some of the emotions connected to this item are an aversion for certain foods that are not kosher, such as pork and lobster, which is an example of an inhibitory response.


A person who hopes to be a writer The emotions connected to this are enjoyment from the process of writing. The individual also enjoys communicating complicated ideas through written work. Thus, there is a motivating force for writing.


A person who hopes to be a scientist The individual enjoys science and the work associated with the study of science.


Thus, from the above paragraphs we can see that the self-concept is composed of facts, beliefs, and emotional components. The beliefs that comprise the self-concept may have varying degrees of accuracy ranging from extremely accurate to highly inaccurate. In a certain sense, it can be difficult to determine what accuracy is in this regard. The difficulty is people can have one image of a person and the person himself can see himself very differently. It does not automatically follow that other people perceive the individual in a more accurate light than he sees himself, and vice versa. Of course, there are certain qualities that are easily evaluated, but there are many other qualities that are difficult or almost impossible to evaluate accurately. The following topic will discuss the related idea of the way people see the individual.



What is the: Social-Concept of an Individual

The self-concept was defined above as a general schema we have about ourselves. I am defining an analogous concept here, that relates to the way people see the individual. I am calling this concept the social-concept of the individual. Thus, the social-concept of the individual is a general schema that people have about an individual. The general schema is a collection of beliefs and facts about the kind of person the individual is, such as the following schema, which contains nine items: sensitive to the needs of others, reserved, honest, intelligent, hard working, American, Jewish, a person who hopes to be a writer and scientist. And just as was the case with the self-concept, at least some of the items comprising the social-concept will generally have emotional components connected to them. Another term that I will use as a synonym for the social-concept of the individual is public image.

Unlike the self-concept, we may have several social-concepts, because different groups of people might see us very differently. For example, a young college student living in a dormitory might have one public image in school and a very different public image back home in the old neighborhood. His parents and the people in the old neighborhood might see him as a highly intelligent intellectual, conservative, shy and self-disciplined. His college classmates and instructors might see him as an average student, who is exceptionally outgoing, somewhat lacking in self-discipline, and has radical political beliefs.

An interesting set of dynamics can be seen if we look at the social-concept of the individual and the process of labeling the individual. The labels placed on an individual can dramatically change the social-concept of the individual, assuming that others know about the label. This would be true for both negative and positive labels. Two examples are presented in the next two paragraphs.

A psychiatric label, or simply a label of mental illness, will most likely change the public image of an individual in very dramatic ways, which may severely limit his or her functioning in society. The individual that was once thought of as trustworthy and responsible may be considered as a threat to all who know him or her, even if there is no evidence to support such a belief. The response of others will damage the self-concept of the patient, and probably worsen his or her overall condition. The change in the social-concept of the individual may severely limit his or her overall life chances, such as obtaining employment, finding a mate, obtaining meaningful friendships, etc. The only feasible remedy for the patient may be to change his or her social network after recovery.

With a positive label, such as obtaining an advanced degree, something that is more or less the opposite of the above might happen. The public image of the person will change in such a way as to result in an increase in life chances, such as more opportunities for employment, more choices for a mate, more choices for friends, etc.



What is Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem is a general value an individual attributes to himself or herself. This general value that a person assigns to the self is not necessarily based on any, qualities or achievements. However, desirable qualities and achievements have a tendency to increase the general value that an individual attributes to himself or herself. Negative qualities and undesirable circumstances tend to reduce the value. The word tendency and tend was used because this relationship is not always true. Self-esteem is an emotional component and it is not a logical assessment of true value.



What is Social-Esteem?

I am defining an analogous concept of self-esteem here that relates to the way people value the individual. I am calling this concept the Social-Esteem and I am defining it as follows. Social-Esteem is a general value people attribute to an individual. Unlike self-esteem a person can have several social-esteems, because different groups of people can place different values on him. For example, a person living in his old neighborhood with his parents might have a very high social-esteem. In the work place, his boss and coworkers might place a very low value on him, low social-esteem. This might be especially true, if he is a poor worker doing a menial job, who cannot get along with people in the work place.

There is not necessarily a completely logical process for the assignment of a specific level of social-esteem, placed on an individual. However, generally low status people, minority groups, mental patients, criminals and prisoners will most likely have low social-esteem. People of high social status, highly successful individuals, scholars with advanced degrees, and people with other qualities that are desired by society will usually have high social-esteem.

If we examine history, especially of foreign countries, we would find that men of low social-esteem were much more likely to be placed in dangerous combat positions in war, than individuals with high social-esteem. Some or all of this may have come about inadvertently, or unconsciously, but the social and psychological dynamics may be quite cruel. That is, losing a person that is valued less by society is not as bad as losing a person that is highly valued. Thus, a person that died in combat, in some cases, may have sacrificed his life for a society that did not value him.

The social-esteem might in some cases change the self-esteem if the values are different. For example, if a person has high self-esteem but is valued very little by the people in his social network, his self-esteem might be lowered. Or if a person has low self-esteem and the people he encounters place a high value on him, his self-esteem might rise. This relationship is certainly not a certainty, it is something that may or may not happen.


What is the Working Self-Concept?

The working self-concept is a portion of the psyche that guides thoughts, emotions and behavior in a specific context. The portion of the psyche is related to the self-concept of the individual. There are many such portions, such as the academic-self (for school) the social-self (for friendly socializing) the workplace-self (for the workplace), etc. These portions of the psyche may produce very different thoughts, emotions and behavior, which will generally be appropriate for the specific context. The words specific context in this definition applies to such environments as school, places to socialize, the workplace, etc.




What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is a focus on oneself as opposed to a focus on entities in the external environment. Self-awareness results in us experiencing ourselves as an entity of our own attention or scrutiny. Self-awareness is a state that can vary from one moment to another or from one situation to another. That is, our focus can easily be changed from ourselves to an external object and vice versa. Self-awareness may be obtained in many situations, such as if we look in a mirror or are being watched and evaluated by others. A state of self-awareness can make us more critical toward our own behavior.




How do We Learn About Ourselves

We learn about ourselves through the socialization process. That is, we learn how other people see us. We compare ourselves to other people and come to conclusions about ourselves. The way other people treat us is also an important way of learning about ourselves. From childhood training we learn about our religious and ethnic background. We learn about ourselves by watching how other people react to us. This is called the looking glass self, which is an idea delineated by C. H. Cooley (1920). We learn about ourselves from the feedback other people give us. We also learn about ourselves from watching our own behavior. We see ourselves doing certain things, liking certain activities, and disliking various components and activities that we are confronted with.



What is Social Identity

Social identity is a section of a person's self-concept that relates to the social groups he identifies with. The social groups that the individual identifies with can include the family, religious affiliations, ethnic groups, etc. The words identifies with in this definition mean that the individual perceives himself as a part of the social group or belonging to it. This sense of association with the group generally includes an emotional attachment to: the group, the group's values, the groups belief's and the group's customs.




What is a Self-Schema?

A self-schema is a set of ideas that relate to a specific dimension or quality (such as sociability) of ourselves. The set of ideas are elements of the specific dimension or quality that is associated with ourselves. Such as being kind and sensitive to the needs of others, being independent, being a good student, being self-disciplined. All of these are schemas, which consist of a set of related ideas. For example, being a good student is a schema that consists of the following ideas (or items): a person that is in school, attends classes regularly, studies every day and gets good grades. Just as was the case with the self-concept there are emotional components connected to at least some of the items that comprise a self-schema, which may motivate or inhibit certain types of behavior.




The Dynamics and Components of the Self and Society

Associated with the self there are many dynamics and components. But an interesting point to understand is that there is also a set of social dynamics and components that affect all the dynamics and components of the self and vice versa. This relationship between the self and society (or more precisely the social network of the individual) is important when psychology is applied in practical ways, such as in therapy. For example, the individual may have low self-esteem, because the people in his social network or society in general may place a very low value on him or her.



Chapter 8: Attitudes and Related Ideas


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What are Attitudes?

From Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, the following definition appears in the glossary. "Attitude Enduring response disposition with an affective component, a behavioral component and a cognitive component." In the same book on page 169 the difficulty of precisely defining the term is discussed. "Although most of us have a sense of what an attitude is, defining it in objective terms has been surprisingly difficult."

The definition and general concept of attitudes that follow in this chapter are written in such a way as to circumvent the difficulties with defining the term in a precise way. To do this the definition is phrased very differently than the definitions that are listed elsewhere. The concept presented in the following paragraphs might be slightly different from the concepts presented in other sources.

An attitude is a schema about an entity, which includes emotions, and it tends to motivate and/or inhibit certain behavioral responses. The schema can be thought of as a mental list of ideas about an entity. At least some of the ideas on the list are tied to emotions. The emotions tend to motivate and/or inhibit certain types of behaviors. The word tends means here that the behavioral responses that are motivated or inhibited may or may not occur. That is, when a specific type of behavior is motivated it may not actually occur because of inhibiting factors. And when certain behavioral responses are inhibited the inhibited behavior may occur because of stronger motivating factors. The factors can be environmental, such as being forced by authority to behave or not to behave in a certain way. The factors can also be psychological, such as an emotional conflict, which involves conflicting motives. That is, various psychological (conflicting motives), social psychological (other people), and sociological forces (such as the law or social norms) can make us go against our attitudes. The term entity in this definition means any thing that a person can have an attitude about, such as an object, individual, group, organization, event, etc.

There are two basic types of attitudes positive and negative. Positive attitudes involve positive emotions, which tends to attract the individual toward the entity involved with the attitude, with the aim of a positive or pleasant interaction. This also motivates behavior associated with the entity. Negative attitudes are more or less just the opposite. Negative attitudes are related to negative emotional responses about an entity. Such responses tend to motivate us to either: avoid the entity, dispose of the entity, destroy the entity, display aggression toward the entity, or neutralize the undesirable components of the entity. Certain types of emotions can inhibit behavior associated with the entity.

Attitudes also vary in strength. Strong attitudes are associated with powerful emotions that tend to motivate and/or inhibit certain behaviors in relation to an entity. That is, strong attitudes are more likely to affect behavior by motivating and/or inhibiting actions. Weak attitudes are essentially the opposite of the above. These attitudes involve emotions that are weak, which means that they have less of a tendency to influence or inhibit behavior. That is, the motivating and/or inhibiting forces associated with weak attitudes do not have much power. The forces are easily overcome by psychological and/or environmental dynamics.

An attitude can be thought of as a mental list of ideas about an entity, with emotional responses tied to at least some of the ideas. This definition is actually the same as the above but it is worded differently. This wording clearly suggests an easy way of representing attitudes on paper. That is, mental lists can be written on paper. The following examples of positive and negative attitudes, which are presented in list form, will clarify the preceding four paragraphs.

NOTE (The beliefs and emotions connected to the underlined ideas, in the following four examples, do not automatically follow. That is, the information in parentheses applies to a hypothetical individual. Another individual that has the same ideas as the hypothetical person, might have different beliefs and emotions connected to the same ideas.

It is important to understand that different people that have a positive attitude toward the same entity, do not necessarily have the same ideas in their attitude schema. The same applies to negative attitudes. Thus, the underlined ideas in the following for examples only apply to the hypothetical person. For example, two people can have a positive attitude toward school, but the ideas in their attitude schema about school can be very different.) END OF NOTE





Example 1) A Positive Attitude Toward School

The following is a positive attitude of a hypothetical person toward school:



      school is an excellent way to invest time (Connected to this idea is the belief that time spent in school is an investment that will result in a more successful future.)


      school is an interesting and exciting place (Connected to this idea are the emotions associated with interest and excitement.)


      advanced schooling is necessary for social and financial success (Connected to this idea is the belief that education is needed to succeed in our society. The emotional feelings associated with the possibility of social and financial failure might be connected to this belief. That is, anxiety and worrying over the future would be precipitated in this hypothetical person, if he or she did not obtain advanced schooling.)


      school is a friendly and pleasant place (Connected to this idea are pleasant experiences of friendly encounters with students and instructors. In addition, pleasant emotional responses stemming from the positive experiences are also connected to this idea.)


      the work associated with school is extremely rewarding (Pleasant experiences and emotions are connected to this idea. The hypothetical individual associates pleasant rewards with school work, which are the result of successful experiences.)



Example 2) A negative Attitude Toward School

A negative attitude about school can be represented with the following list of ideas:


      school is a waste of time (There might not be any emotions connected to this idea. It is just a belief.)


      school is boring (This is an idea connected to the emotional feelings of boredom.)


      school is totally unnecessary after the 10th grade (This idea may not have any emotions connected to it. It is just a belief.)


      school is a painful and anxiety provoking experience (There are a number of emotions tied to this idea, such as anxiety and various types of emotional pain.)


      school is a very unfriendly place (There might be emotions tied to this idea also, such as feelings of rejection cause by failures in school.)


      the work associated with school is extremely unpleasant, nonproductive, frustrating, and it leads to nothing but failure (There is some emotions tied to this idea also, such as frustration.)



Example 3) A Positive Attitude Toward a Hypothetical Person

A positive attitude about a hypothetical person called John is represented with the following five ideas:



John is intelligent (There is no emotional responses connected to this idea.)


John is interesting (There are pleasant emotional responses connected to this idea, which are based on experiences with John.)


John has a good sense of humor (There are also pleasant emotions tied to this idea based on experiences.)


John is an individual who deserves respect (There are inhibitory emotional responses tied to this idea, which will inhibit certain behaviors in the presence of John.)


John is a honest man (This is essentially a fact, but there may be some pleasant emotions tied to this idea.)



Example 4) A Negative Attitude Toward a Hypothetical Person


A negative attitude about the hypothetical man called John is presented with the following five ideas:



      John can embarrass people with his sense of humor (There are unpleasant emotional feelings tied to this idea, which is based on experiences with John)


      John has a moderately bad temper (There also is negative emotions tied to this idea, based on experiences.)


      John can embarrass people with his remarks when he gets angry. (Once again, there are unpleasant emotions tied to this idea as a result of experiences.)


      John sometimes belittles people (This idea also has negative emotions connected to it, as a result of past interactions with John.)


      When you are with John you do not want to upset him because he will belittle you and severely embarrass you in public. (There are strong inhibitory emotional factors tied to this idea. These inhibitory factors will prevent the hypothetical individual, with this attitude, from doing and saying many things while he is with John.)



How Do We Develop Attitudes

Attitudes are learned in the socialization process from childhood throughout life. We learn a set of ideas and related emotional feelings about certain entities. The ideas and related emotions can be positive or negative. For example, a young child learns that squirrels are nice and mice are not. He learns to feed the squirrels and he might also learn how to kill mice. He learns this by watching his parents feed the squirrels, and perhaps listening to his parents talk about the mice problem they have in their house. He might see the parents placing traps and poison for the mice. The above will result in a positive attitude toward squirrels and a negative attitude toward mice. Thus, many attitudes are developed in childhood in a way that is more or less similar to the above.

However, many new attitudes are developed during the adolescent years and early twenties mostly from sources outside of the home. The sources of the attitude developments are the: school system, the subculture of the young, groups that young people join, friendship groups, and sometimes the military and job market. In addition, new attitudes might be learned from television, the movies and various types of printed material.

However, we learn many attitudes from experience throughout life. We may have very bad experiences with one type of entity, which can result in a negative attitude toward that entity. Good experiences with an entity can result in the development of a positive attitude. For example, if we do well in mathematics courses we might develop a very positive attitude toward mathematics. If we do poorly in psychology courses we might develop a negative attitude toward such courses.

A more complicated example is the attitudes we develop toward a new friend. This process involves experiences and what we learn about the person from conversations. For example, if we meet a new friend, the attitude we develop toward him will depend on the experiences we have with him and what we learn about his attitudes, and present and past life situation. If we have pleasant experiences with him, and he reveals positive or neutral information about his past we will most likely develop a positive attitude toward him. However, if our experiences with him are negative and/or we learn very undesirable facts about his past we will most likely form a negative attitude toward him.




What is Cognitive Consistency?

Cognitive consistency is defined in the glossary of Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears as follows. "Cognitive consistency Tendency for people to seek consistency among their attitudes; regarded as a major determinant of attitude formation and change." Cognitive consistency can also be defined as a tendency for people to make their attitudes agree with each other. In this process of adjusting attitudes to produce agreement there may be attitude change.



What is the Balance Model?

The balance model can be explained as follows. Just as we like are attitudes to agree with each other, we like the attitudes of our friends to agree with ours. We tend to like people that have attitudes that are similar to ours. That is, we like when our friends share the same attitudes that we have. For example, if we support new civil rights legislation we would like are (hypothetical) friend Susan to have similar views about the legislation. If the views are different we might decide that Susan is not really a very close friend. Or we might decide she is not a friend at all. We tend not to like people with different attitudes, according to the balance model. Alternatively, we might convince ourselves that she really does have similar views and really does support the new civil rights legislation, which will allow us to keep Susan as a close friend. Another alternative, is to reevaluate the new civil rights legislation and decide that Susan is correct. That is, Susan's friend may convince himself that the new legislation is really not good, thus agreeing with Susan, which allows the friendship to continue. A final alternative is to try to change Susan's attitude about the new civil rights legislation by explaining its good points. This will allow the friendship to continue if Susan's attitude is changed to favor the legislation.

The balance model can also be applied to the small social groups that we interact with. If we join a new social group and find that the overall attitudes of the group are the same as ours, we may continue to maintain our membership in that group. On the other hand if we find that the attitudes of most of the group members are very different from ours, we will either quit the group, or we might be persuaded by the socializing dynamics of the group to change our attitudes to agree with the group's.

Question: Is a balance model an accurate representation of the way people behave in a real life situation. The model is probably correct under certain psychological, social and cultural conditions. This is the same as saying that the model fails under certain psychological social and cultural conditions. I believe the model will most likely work under the following conditions:



If the people with differing attitudes are relatively young People in their early teens to the early twenties might consider a disagreement in attitudes more seriously. That is, they may argue about a difference in attitude, which may result in breaking up a friendship. Alternatively they may be influenced by their friends to change their attitudes. Most, but certainly not all, older people (over age twenty-four) are usually more mature emotionally, and will probably tolerate attitude differences much better than younger people. They are probably much less likely to continue an argument over an attitude difference. When there is an attitude difference the older individuals may decide to (simply) disagree and discuss something else. Thus, people in this age group are probably less likely to break up a relationship over an attitude difference. This is probably especially true if the difference in attitudes have little or no significance to the relationship.


If the individuals are emotionally mature Emotionally mature individuals, regardless of age, will usually not place an exaggerated significance on attitude differences, which are not important to the relationship. Such individuals are likely to forget insignificant attitude differences. They are not likely to engage in any hostile argumentation over attitude differences. If such arguments come up they are likely to agree to disagree and thus end the argument.

If the attitude difference has no practical significance to the relationship Most people will probably ignore such attitude differences.

If the attitude difference does not cause any problems In general when an attitude difference does not cause any type of problem, including emotional, the attitude difference will probably not affect the relationship to any significant degree in most cases. In such cases the attitude difference might be ignored.




Cognitive Dissonance Theory

What happens when a person's behavior contradicts his attitudes? That is, what happens if there is a discrepancy between an attitude and behavior, called attitude-discrepant behavior. According to cognitive dissidents theory, dissonance results. Dissonance is an unpleasant internal psychological state of disharmony, which can involve tension, anxiety and other unpleasant feelings. The individual is thus motivated to reduce the dissonance by some means. The possible ways of reducing dissonance include all of the following:



The individual might change is attitudes, so it agrees with his behavior. An example is a person who has a positive attitude toward maintaining his health. If such an individual started to smoke cigarettes when he is with his friends, the resulting dissonance can be reduced if he changes his attitude toward smoking. He might convince himself that cigarette smoking calms the nerves, which is healthy. (Of course such a solution is dysfunctional in this case.)


The individual could change his behavior so it is consistent with his attitudes. The above example of a cigarette smoker with a positive attitude toward maintaining his health can be used to illustrate this alternative. The health conscious smoker can simply stop smoking, which will reduce the dissidents. (This solution is quite functional in this case.)


The individual might rationalize his behavior in the special context in which it is performed. For example, the health conscious cigarette smoker can tell himself that it is a small and necessary sacrifice to smoke when he is with his friends. He might convince himself that smoking is necessary to be sociable with his current circle of friends, and it is worth the small sacrifice in his health. (This solution is certainly dysfunctional in this case.)


The individual might simply try not to think about his attitude and the attitude-discrepant behavior at the same point in time. That is, the individual might try to reduce or prevent dissonance by repression of his thoughts. For example, the health conscious cigarette smoker might try not to think about the adverse health consequences of his cigarette smoking. In addition, when he is thinking about his health he may try not to think about his smoking habit. (Of course this is dysfunctional in this case.)



What happens when a person finds that he has two or more attitudes that contradict each other? Once again dissonance results. The individual can reduce dissonance by modifying or totally changing his attitudes so they do not contradict each other. Another alternative might be repression of the thinking process, as mentioned above. That is, the individual can try not to think about both of the conflicting attitudes at the same time.


Attitude Change Over Time

Attitudes may change over time. The change can be the result of dissidents, discussed above. That is, the adjustments in attitudes to reduce conflict between attitudes and/or behavior results in attitude change. Attitude change also results from the socialization process. We often meet people with different attitudes, this can result in a change in our attitudes. The mass media can also change our attitudes over time. In general, the learning process can change attitudes. For example, when many people learned that cigarette smoking was truly a significant health risk their attitudes about cigarette smoking changed.


Chapter 9: Prejudice and Related Ideas


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What is Prejudice

Prejudice is a judgment of a person or group based on irrational assessment criteria. The judgment can be positive, negative or neutral, but generally when the term prejudice is used in modern times it refers to an unfair negative judgment. The judgment can be quite simplistic, such as I don't like him because he is black. The irrational assessment criteria often involves negative emotions and beliefs about a category of human being. That is, the assessment criteria is essentially a bias attitude. The irrational assessment is often that everybody within a certain category, such as African American, have a certain set of traits, abilities, limitations and behaviors associated with them. In reality usually there is only one or two traits that are really associated with the group, such as African American people have black skin.


Stereotypes and Prejudice

Prejudice is often based on a stereotype of people in a certain category. The stereotype essentially is a mental list, a schema, of beliefs, such as the traits, abilities, limitations, and behaviors associated with the category. Connected to the beliefs are often emotional components. In cases of favorable prejudice the beliefs and emotions motivate favorable behavior toward the individual or group. In the more common situation of unfavorable (negative) prejudice, the beliefs and emotions motivate undesirable behavior toward the individual or group.



What is the Difference Between Prejudice and Discrimination?

Discrimination is the behavioral manifestation of prejudice. That is, prejudice by itself, is an irrational judgment, based on a bias attitude. Discrimination is the action that can flow from the prejudicial judgment, such as depriving minority groups jobs or equal educational opportunities.



How do People Become Prejudice

Prejudice is learned through the socialization process. People learn to be prejudiced from their parents while they are children. Prejudice is also learned from friendship groups, and other people in the social network of the individual. Certain psychological, social, and cultural factors and dynamics might facilitate the acceptance of prejudicial ideas. In addition, prejudice can be learned from bad experiences with individuals from a specific category, which can result in the individual generalizing to all people in that category. For example, if a woman is mistreated by a number of insensitive and violent males, she might conclude that most men are insensitive and violent. She may believe that most men will mistreat her if they have the opportunity.



Ingroups and Outgroups

People in just about any type of group, such as an ethnic group, racial group, religious group, social group, etc., tend to favor people within their own group. They tend to look at individuals outside the group in simplified stereotyped ways. They look at people inside their group as individuals with more complicated behavior patterns and personality structures. In general, they tend to favor ingroup members as opposed to outgroup individuals. I believe this is probably even more true for high status groups, which have money and power.

From the above paragraph it becomes apparent that one of the causes of discrimination is simply favoring ingroup members over outgroup individuals. This indirect type of discrimination is especially significant with the higher status groups, which have money and power. These powerful people will favor their own members. That is, the people that offer high paying jobs and leadership positions are in the higher status groups in our society. These people will prefer one of their group members for any high status position. Most likely, they will also prefer someone they know quite well. This phenomenon leads to an indirect type of job discrimination against minority groups and poor working class white people. It also affects middle class people to some degree. People in these lower status groups even if they acquire formal academic qualifications and experiences for certain higher status positions may not obtain the same level of advancement, as an individual from an upper class background with less skills and qualifications. In addition, the most powerful group has more influence over the legal structure. Thus, laws will be passed that tend to favor the more powerful group members.

One of the dynamics behind the favoring of ingroup members over outgroup members is it is easier to understand and empathize with people that are similar to ourselves. It is much more difficult to understand and empathize with outgroup individuals who appear very different from ourselves. Such people often come from a different culture, they sometimes speak a different language, and may have very different customs. This factor will be greatly intensified if there is a great difference in social status, educational level, and power between the ingroup and out group members. When there are such great differences there is a significant risk of the prejudicial attitudes leading to violent conflict. We can see this by examining history. Two examples are American conflicts with the native Indians and the forceful enslaving of black people by the earlier Americans. Of course there were economic reasons behind these actions, but the actions were facilitated by prejudicial attitudes, and differences in: social status, educational level, and power.



The Different Types of Discrimination

From the above paragraphs it becomes apparent that there are different types of discrimination. Some discrimination is the result of a conscious but irrational prejudicial judgment against people of a specific category, such as old fashioned racism against black people. However, there are many types of discrimination that are the result of dynamics and factors that are not necessarily carried out with a deliberate intention to discriminate. In the following list there are a number of types of discrimination:



intentional discrimination This is what most people think of when they hear the word discrimination. This type of discrimination is deliberately carried out against individuals from a specific human category, such as black people, women, homosexuals, etc. It is based on an irrational prejudicial judgment about the people in the category. There is much less of this type of discrimination in the United States at this time, as compared to the past. In the past it was the primary type of discrimination in America. The enslaving of black people is the most extreme example of intentional discrimination.

What is the solution? The irrational prejudicial judgments behind this type of discrimination may be neutralized by positive and functional interactions between people. For the prejudicial stereotypes to (truly) be demolished it is necessary that the interactions are on an equal level. For example, if white students and black students of equal academic status are mixed in the same classroom, the racial stereotypes will be neutralized. This will be especially true if the students are also of the same social and income status. However, if there are significant status differences that are apparent (especially of an academic nature) the opposite results might manifest. Education can also reduce this type of discrimination. When people learn about the achievements of minorities and the dynamics behind irrational prejudicial thinking, improvements in attitudes toward minorities may result. Perhaps the most important and effective method involves, rules, regulations and formal laws that prohibit discrimination. Knowing that the discrimination is illegal can also help change attitudes.


discrimination resulting from semi-rational concerns over crime and related difficulties This type of discrimination is not necessarily based on any irrational stereotypes, but that of course does not justify it. It is based on concerns stemming from crime of economically disadvantaged minority groups. This situation is seen when a white middle class housing project, neighborhood or school opens its doors to poor minority groups. The middle class residents might not object to minority groups of their own socioeconomic and educational status. The people that I am discussing here are not truly prejudice. However, the poor underprivileged minority groups invoke a fear of crime in their minds. The result usually is the middle class white people start moving out. Usually the crime rate does in fact increase.

The increase in crime is generally caused by only a very tiny percentage of the population involved. Some of the crime can be cause by violently predisposed prejudiced white people and the remainder can be caused by severely disadvantaged and maladjusted young minority individuals. In addition, when a neighborhood contains a fairly large percentage of poor minority groups, the police might be less strict in enforcing drug laws, which results in a further increase in crime. When this happens property values tend to drop. Landlords might decide that it does not pay to maintain their properties at a high level, which causes a still further deterioration in the neighborhood.

With more conventional types of prejudice, that do not involve any type of real risk, the contact between minority groups and a white population might reduce prejudice. With the situation described in the above paragraphs, which is common in many of our cities, the prejudicial attitudes might very well increase.

What is the solution? The important point to understand is that the problem discussed above is only caused by a very tiny percentage of the population, who engage in crime. A large increase in the number of police and security guards would probably remedy most of the problem. If the increase was adequate violent crime and robberies against private individuals would decrease (as opposed to increasing). This would reassure all involved, which would result in a reduction in prejudicial attitudes over time.


discrimination that results from the fear of competition between groups When two different groups, such as a minority group and the white population believe they are competing for the same jobs, educational opportunities or any desirable commodity, prejudicial attitudes increase. Often there is just as much or more competition from other members from the same group (such as white people competing against other white people) as there is from the group that appears to be competing (such as the minority group). Thus, the competition from the competing group can be more of a psychological (that is, imaginary) than a real problem. There can in certain cases be true competition between people of different groups. For example, advancement of some white people, might be delayed because of competition of minorities who have an additional advantage of affirmative action programs, which are intended to correct the effects of past discrimination. Such programs can also affect the availability of jobs for some white applicants. Thus, some white individuals might truly be put in a position where they are forced to make some sacrifice for civil rights, which at worst will probably be a delay in advancement or a delay in finding employment. However, the primary problem is more psychological than real, because the affirmative action programs that truly choose minorities over white applicants are rather limited.

What is the solution? The solution to this problem is to expand the resources and job opportunities for all. (Unfortunately, there are many political and economic dynamics that would limit or prevent the development of such a policy.)


discrimination that results from ingroup favoritism This type of discrimination was already discussed, under the heading Ingroups and Outgroups. This type of discrimination is inadvertent. The people who are discriminating can truly claim innocence. They may not be prejudice against any minority group. However, their favoritism for members of their own group has the same effect of deliberate discrimination. This type of inadvertent discrimination is probably more of a problem in our society than any of the other types mentioned thus far. This is especially true in situations where upper class white individuals with great power make hiring decisions. Keep in mind that even if these individuals are not prejudice against minorities their actions will still lead to discrimination, because they will hire ingroup members.

What is the solution? Affirmative action programs can circumvent some of the problems stemming from a preference for ingroup members. Any dynamics or policy that facilitates the incorporation of minority individuals into the higher status groups will also help alleviate this type of discrimination.


discrimination resulting from the design of the institutions and facilities of our society This type of discrimination is the result of the way the institutions and facilities are designed and is generally an unintentional type of discrimination. For example, the school system and the methods used were designed to educate middle class students that are healthy, well adjusted, reasonably self-disciplined, and who speak good English. Students that do not fit into this category will have a very difficult time in school. The result is they may not be able to obtain an adequate education to function in our society. Other examples, of this type of discrimination can be found in the job market. Often testing and screening procedures are used that discriminate against minorities. (Some of these procedures have been stopped by legal action in recent years.) The screening procedures can also result in the placement of minorities in lower paying jobs, or positions that are undesirable for other reasons.

What is the solution? First it is important to realize that this type of discrimination is usually unintentional, but it is a bigger problem than all the other types combined. The biggest problem results from educational facilities that are not designed to correct the educational inadequacies of underprivileged minority students. Thus, to alleviate the problem many of our city school systems and curriculum would have to be changed to meet the needs of its students. This would probably require year round education, and more hours in school each day. In addition, many other institutions of our society would have to be redesigned to meet the needs of minorities.



What is the Authoritarian Personality

The authoritarian personality is a prejudicial personality type that consists of all of the following characteristics. (The personality type was originally defined by Adorno et al., 1950.):


      a person who tends to submit to legitimate authority without question


      a person that is prejudice toward minority groups


      a person that usually is harsh and strict when he is in a authoritarian position


      a person that believes in severe punishment for individuals that deviate from the established laws, norms, and values of established authority.


      a person with a generalized hostility, which is likely to be focused toward minority groups


      Adorno et al., 1950 also includes mystical and superstitious cast of mind and personality conflicts.




What Are the Real Causes of Prejudice?

Most prejudice people are not authoritarian personality types. That is, it is certainly possible to be prejudiced and be an anti-authoritarian. That is, there are many psychological, social, and cultural conditions that can cause prejudice. The authoritarian personality type is one of many psychological conditions, a personality, that result in prejudice. There are probably many other personality types that are inclined to be prejudiced. But the point to understand is that people can be prejudiced and have normal personalities. Some of the many factors that increase prejudice are all of the following:



      a difficulty in empathizing with individuals who have characteristics that are different than ours




      incorrect beliefs about certain categories of people


      the tendency for people to scapegoat


      and many other factors.


Chapter 10: Social Influence and Related Ideas


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What is Social Influence?

Social influence is a controlling process that society and its members use to control others. This process can be divided into three categories, which are conformity, compliance and obedience to authority. Conformity is a tendency for people to align their actions voluntarily with the social groups that one belongs to. For example, following the style of dress of one's social group is conformity. Compliance are actions performed as a result of a request from another individual. An example, of compliance is, providing our friend with a $10 loan simply because he requested it. Obedience is obeying people and the institutions of society that are in a position of authority. An example is a student that does a homework assignment because his teacher ordered him to do so.

A more sophisticated model of social psychological control, which I am calling the general model of social psychological control is discussed in detail in the next heading. This model is somewhat wider in scope than the model of social influence presented above. It deals with most if not all of the controlling processes that society and its members use to control others.



The General Model of Social Psychological Control

Society and all its subgroups must have a way of controlling its members. And the individual must have a method of controlling people in his/her environment in order to survive. The infant would die in a short time if it did not have a method of controlling the people that care for it. Older children and adults also must control others to survive. The method of control, based on this model, involves eight basic elements (or components), that can motivate or inhibit certain behaviors. The eight elements usually work in combination to motivate an individual to control his or her behavior so that it complies with the needs of another person or the requirements of his social group. This will be discussed in more detail after the list of eight elements (components) are presented, which are as follows:


1) formal rules This includes the law. Certain norms and values that are considered very important to a social group also come under this category. The written rules of an organization fit into this classification. Obedience to an authority figure based on formal rules is also an example that comes under this category. Some of the motivating dynamics behind this category can be a belief in the value of the rules. The individual might believe that following the rules is better for all concerned. However, a primary cause for compliance is we all learn to obey formal rules from childhood. (The penalties for violating formal rules is placed in a separate category in this model.)


2) informal rules Informal rules are regulations that are generally not written down in formal documentation. These rules develop as a result of the practical needs of the social group. Informal rules sometimes partially or totally contradict formal rules, which may not be perceived as practical by the group members. Very often people know informal rules intuitively, but might have a hard time describing them verbally. Obedience to an authority based on informal rules is also an example that comes under this category. Some of the motivating dynamics behind this category can be a belief in the value of the informal rules. However, a primary cause for compliance, is we learn to obey formal rules in the socialization process. The individual might believe that following the informal rules is better for all concerned. (The penalties for violating informal rules is placed in a separate category in this model.)


3) suggestion Suggestion as the term is used here means an influence that is based on persuasion without an apparent[11] reward, penalty or rule used as a motivating force. That is, the individual just goes along with the situation or request without evaluation and without analysis. When suggestion is operating the person does not use logical evaluation to assesse the situation or any implied request. Essentially the person behaves somewhat like a hypnotized subject. An extreme example of this is seen when someone cries at the movies over a fictional presentation. A less extreme example is seen when a person copies the fashion and behavior of his friendship groups without thinking about the reasons he is doing so.


4) general rewards This is a general category in which all rewards are placed under, except for purely emotional rewards, which are in a separate category in this model. Rewards are used to compensate people for complying with a request. The most obvious example is the financial compensation for a job. Young children might be given a cookie if they behave themselves. Rewards are given in an exchange process also, such as giving money for a container of milk at the grocery store. Obtaining services of any type in an exchange process is also an example. In addition, rewards are obtained in the competition process of society, such as a successful competition for: school grades, a job, a mate, etc.


5) general penalties This includes any type of loss or partial or total destruction of a desired entity. The entity can be an object, a person, or ourselves. If we do not comply with certain requests, material items will be taken. For example, if we park our cars in a no parking zone, we may have to pay a fine. If we do not pay the monthly mortgage payments the bank might take our house. If we do not comply with the law the police might take our very bodies and place it in prison. The most extreme penalty in this category is the death penalty.


6) emotional rewards We sometimes do something because of the emotional pleasure we obtain from the action. This is used as a controlling mechanism. If we see that somebody is happy because we are complying with their request, we might be rewarded by their response. In addition, people also do things to win the acceptance or love of others, which is also an example of emotional rewards. Babies and young children use this element quite often. If the adult complies with the child's needs the child will smile, laugh or give similar indications of satisfaction, which can be adequate reinforcement to obtain the needed assistance.


7) emotional penalties If we do not do certain things we may receive an emotional penalty, such as being embarrassed in public, made to feel guilty, annoyed with a hostile verbal response from an angry person, or have pain inflicted on us by an aggressive individual that demands his way, etc. Infants use this technique to control their parents. If they do not get their basic needs satisfied they will cry, which serves as a natural adverse stimulus. When the infant's needs are satisfied the adverse stimulus is terminated.


8) empathy and the sympathetic understanding of needs We can sometimes feel a person's needs. For example, if a person is hungry we may feel discomfort over their situation. Thus, we may supply them with food, and relieve their discomfort. This will also relieve our discomfort and concern over their hunger. In addition, if we understand the needs of a social group or an individual we may be sympathetic and try to fulfil those needs.



As already stated the eight components often, but not always, work in some type of combination to control behavior. For example, a person might not steal because:


      its illegal and he respects the law (1) formal rules )


      he does not want to risk going to prison (5) general penalties)


      it would violate his self-concept of an honest man (7) emotional penalties)

      he is sensitive to the needs and well-being of others (8) empathy and the sympathetic understanding of needs)



      Another example is a person might go to work every morning because all of the following:


      he has children to support (1) formal rules)


      he has a wife to support (2) informal rules)


      he needs the money (4) general rewards)


      he knows that his wife might divorce him if he does not support her (5) general penalties)


      he does not want to be penalized by the law for not supporting his children (5) general penalties)


      he finds his work interesting, challenging and enjoys it (6) emotional rewards)


      he wants to take care of the needs of his wife and children and provide the highest level of financial support possible (8) empathy and the sympathetic understanding of needs)



Another example is why a person might conform to the norms and styles of his social group, which can be as follows:


There usually are formal rules in a social group that relate to certain norms. People are taught to obey such rules from childhood. For example, a college student is expected to attend certain classes regularly. (1) formal rules)


Certain norms and styles of dress are required by certain unwritten rules. We are also taught to obey such rules from the socialization process. For example, the college student is not supposed to embarrass the professor. Another example is style of dress. That is, there is an "appropriate" style for specific subgroups of college students within a university. (2) informal rules)


The social group has a strong suggestive influence on the individual, which facilitates conforming to norms and styles of dress. (3) suggestion)


General rewards may be offered by the social group for individuals that conform. An Example is the college student that conforms to style and norms may have many friends. He may also win higher grades and enhanced acceptance of his professors. (4) general rewards)


If the individual does not conform to formal and informal rules, penalties will be inflicted on him. For example, the college student will be expelled, if he does not obey the formal rules. If he does not obey informal rules he will probably not have many friends. (5) general penalties)


By conforming to the norms and styles of the social group, the individual will probably be liked by many people in his group. He is more likely to receive friendly remarks and compliments from other people in the group. (6) emotional rewards)


If the individual does not conform to the norms and styles of his social group, he will most likely receive hostile criticism. He will most likely find himself experiencing much rejection and loneliness. (7) emotional penalties)


The Bertram Raven Model of Social Influence

The Bertram Raven model is more or less similar to the above, (general model of social psychological control, which will be abbreviated as G. model) except the Raven model deals more from the perspective of an individual with social power controlling another. The G. model deals with control from a more general perspective, such as an infant controlling its parents, a more powerful person controlling a less powerful individual, and the group controlling the individual and vice versa. In addition, the Bertram Raven model components are not as fundamental. That is, it may take several of the fundamental components of the general model of social psychological control to represent one component on the Bertram Raven model. The Bertram Raven model is presented below, with equivalent elements from the G. model which shows some of the relationship between the two models. The words in quotation marks were taken from Social Psychology 8th edition 1994, by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, and the model is as follows:


1) "Reward" Definition: "Power based on providing or promising a positive outcome" Example given is: "If you brush your teeth every night this week, I'll take you to the movies on Saturday." (Equivalent element from G. model is 4) general rewards)


2) "Coercion" Definition: "Power based on providing or promising a negative outcome" Example given is: "If you don't brush your teeth, you can't play Nintendo." (Equivalent element from G. model is 5) general penalties)


3) "Expertise" Definition: "Power based on special knowledge or ability" Example given is: "The dentist told you to brush twice a day, and he knows best." (Equivalent elements from G. model is 3) suggestion also 2) informal rules, because it is the custom to follow the advice of experts and other knowledgeable people.)


4) "Information" Definition: Power based on the persuasive content of the message" Example given is: "If you don't brush your teeth, you'll get cavities that will hurt. And the dentist will have to drill holes in your teeth to fill the cavities." (Equivalent elements from G. model is 3) suggestion also, 5) general penalties because a very undesirable result is predicted. 7) emotional penalties are also involved, which involves the future pain of the dentist drilling into the teeth. The individual might sense some of this pain in the present, which might motivate him to brush his teeth to avoid the real pain at a later point in time.)


5) "Referent power" Definition: "Power based on identifying with or wanting to be like another person or group" Example given is: "Your big brother Stan always brushes twice a day." (Equivalent elements from G. model is 3) suggestion, and 2) informal rules could be involved also. It is very often an informal rule to follow the ways of a more experienced, knowledgeable, or more mature person, who is more or less similar to ourselves.)


6) "Legitimate authority" Definition: "Power based on the influencer's right or authority to make a request" Example given is: "I'm your mother and I'm telling you to brush your teeth-now!" (Equivalent elements from G. model is 1) formal rules, 2) informal rules There are both formal and informal rules of obedience to a parent. In addition, the child appears to be receiving a scolding, which is a 7) emotional penalties.)



What is the Milgram Experiment?

The Milgram experiment is a classic in social psychological research, which was performed in the 1960s by Stanley Milgram. The experiment basically, encouraged people based on orders from an authority figure, to press buttons on an electronic device that was supposedly giving painful electric shocks to a subject, that was strapped to a chair. The shock machine was not really functional and the subject was an actor (a confederate of the experimenter) pretending to be in pain when the buttons were pressed. The idea of the experiment was to see to what extent people will obey orders from an authority figure.

There were 40 real subjects, which were recruited from newspaper ads. These subjects were given a logical but false rationalization for the experiment. They were told that the experiment was to test the effects of punishment on learning. They were also told that the electric shocks that they were supposedly inflicting by pressing the buttons on the shock machine would do no permanent damage. However, the actor (the confederate) that was supposedly receiving the shocks, falsely indicated that he had a mild heart condition.

Each of the 40 subjects were given a sample electric shock, which was real and painful. The subjects were told that the shock they received was a relatively mild shock, suggesting that the higher settings on the shock machine would be much more painful. The idea was to give them a false sense of how painful the shocks that they were to give to the confederate (the phony subject) can be. Of course the actual shocks the subjects gave were not real or painful.

The phony shock machine had voltages ranging from 15 to 450 volts, with words indicating the severity of the shock. The voltage range from 0 to 240 had the words "slight through very strong shock" from 255 to 300 volts, the words were "intense shock," for 375 to 420 volts, the words were "danger: severe shock," for 435 to 450 volts there were no words just "XXX."

The idea was to see how far the real subjects would go in their compliance with the orders of an authority figure. The authority figure, the experimenter, gave the subjects encouraging words to continue giving the subject higher and higher shocks, words such as "Please continue." "The experiment must go on." "It is necessary for you to continue." The experimenter explained to the subjects that he was taking all the responsibility for the experiment. Under these conditions 100 percent of the subjects gave shocks to the 240 volt level; 88 percent gave shocks to 300 volt level; 68 percent gave shocks to the 360 volt level; 65 percent gave shocks to the 420 volt level, and 65 percent also gave shocks to the 450 volts, which was the maximum on the phony device.

Under the above conditions the phony subject, the actor, was supposedly in another room, and the subjects could hear him groaning and screaming in agony as the phony shocks became more severe. Actually a tape recording was used to be certain that all 40 subjects received the same level of moaning, groaning, and screaming. This experiment was repeated under slightly different conditions. These conditions involved the confederate, strapped to a chair that was right next to the real subject. The real subject was instructed to (physically) take the hand of the confederate, and place it on an electrode that was supposedly connected to an electric power supply. When this was done the actor behaved as if he was suffering painful electric shocks. Under the modified conditions obedience to authority was less than under the first set of conditions, but many subjects obeyed orders and continued to give shocks to the confederate until the bitter end.



The Ethics of the Milgram Experiment

While the subjects were performing the actions required for the experiment, they experienced great anxiety and conflict. They were under a considerable amount of emotional stress. Some people criticized the Milgram experiment, after the work was published, because of the emotional stress that was inflicted on the subjects. Question: were the procedures used in the experiment justified and ethical? I believe the value of the experiment justified the stress, which was really quite mild compared to many real life situations, and had no long lasting effects on the subjects. In real life situations people might suffer more over school examinations. Perhaps a much more relevant comparison is the situation people face in times of war. They are ordered to kill the enemy and risk their limbs and life, which is far more emotionally stressful than the Milgram experiment. Thus, I believe the experiment was ethical and justified.



The Value of the Milgram Experiment

The great value of the Milgram experiment is not its scientific value, in my opinion. It did not duplicate the real situations people face, when they are ordered to severely harm or kill other human beings, such as in war. Much more precise and scientifically useful data could have been obtained by examining the history of wars in our century. Interviewing the Germans, Japanese, and Americans that engaged in world war II would provide more information. The Germans were not only ordered to fight a war, some were also ordered to execute innocent civilians, such as the Jews and gypsies. A number of American scientists, technicians, and military personnel worked together to create two atomic bombs, which were dropped on Japanese civilians. These scientists and military personnel were aware that innocent children, women, and men would be burned alive, and others would die a slow agonizing death from radiation poisoning. This obviously did not stop them. They were ordered to kill, and so they killed.

Another important difference between reality and the Milgram experiment is the fact that disobeying an authority figure in a real life situation can result in serious sanctions. Disobeying orders to fight in a war can result in a long prison sentence. Disobeying the boss in the workplace can result in unemployment. Disobeying the experimenter in the Milgram experiment had little real or imaginary consequences. The subject may have believed that he ruined an experiment, which certainly does not compare with a real life situation of going to prison for several years or losing a job. Thus, in real life situations we not only obey orders, we are forced to follow orders by the use of severe penalties.

Then what is the value of the Milgram experiment? The value of the experiment is the psychological insight that it provided, in my opinion. It makes us see how foolish and destructive blindly obeying orders can sometimes be. It is difficult to see this destructive foolishness in war, because there is always psychological rationalizations created to justify the destructive military actions.



Chapter 11: Human Relationships and Related Ideas


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What does the word affiliation mean? Affiliation is defined in the glossary of Taylor's Social Psychology as the basic human tendency to seek the company of other people. However, affiliation is defined for the ideas and models presented in this paper as the tendency for human beings to interact with others. That is, interaction with others and affiliation have the same meaning in this paper. This more generalized definition applies to most if not all types of affiliation between human beings, such as the interactions between: parent child, husband wife, boyfriend girlfriend, doctor patient, therapist client, employer employee, instructor student, salesperson customer friends, acquaintances, and a casual conversation between strangers.

Question, why do people affiliate with others? Is this a genetic predisposition or is it learned? It is learned from childhood throughout life, partly as a result of genetic limitations and genetic qualities of human beings. As a result of this learning process, the individual builds up positive associations on an intellectual and emotional level in relation to interacting with other people. This happens as explained in the following paragraphs.


Genetic Limitations that Facilitate Interaction with Others:

Human beings do not have the genetically programmed instincts to assist them in obtaining the necessities of life. They must learn how to survive. Much of this learning happens as a result of interaction with other people. In the early years of life before an individual is old enough to have mastered the fundamentals of survival he or she must depend on others. This dependency in effect results in rewards, such as food, shelter, reassurance, protection from enemies, etc. That is, the human infant and child cannot survive without ongoing affiliation with parents or other primary care givers. As the child matures, he or she is taught to interact with children, teaches and other adults. To gain the knowledge needed to survive throughout life the human being must learn a tremendous amount of information. The learning process often requires interaction with other people, which is especially true in childhood. As the child matures, the young individual learns that he or she must often interact with others to satisfy basic needs and goals, such as playing in childhood and earning a living in adulthood. People also learn throughout life that the company of others can be reassuring, especially in fearful or anxiety provoking situations. The company of others can distract them from their own anxiety provoking thoughts.


Genetic Qualities that Facilitate Interaction with Others: Certain genetic factors facilitate affiliation between human beings by means of learning. The powerful human brain is the result of genetics, which makes learning a tremendous amount of information possible. This includes the learning of language, which certainly facilitates affiliation between people. The structures comprising the human speech mechanism, such as the vocal cords, related nerves and muscles are also genetic qualities, which facilitate affiliation between people by means of learning to communicate with language. The very ability of the human animal to learn can facilitate affiliation with other human beings. The reason for this is learning often requires interaction with others, and as previously stated the learning is necessary for survival. The powerful brain also makes complicated and/or massive work projects possible, and such projects require interaction of a number of workers. The genetically determined sexual desires of human beings obviously can facilitate interaction with other people. The adolescent quickly learns that he or she must affiliate with many people to find a suitable mate. This often involves large friendship groups and many social activities.

The above paragraphs can be summed up by stating the following. Affiliation is a learned behavior pattern that is facilitated by genetic limitations and genetic qualities of the human animal. The individual learns to affiliate because it is necessary for survival and it is rewarding to do so. This learning process results in positive associations on an intellectual and emotional level in relation to interacting with others. A general example of an intellectual association is a person learns that certain things are too difficult to do without the help of other people. The mature individual learned that he or she cannot obtain the necessities and luxuries of life without affiliating with others. Emotional associations are a certain type of learning, such as the individual learns that other people can be: fun, reassuring and can reduce anxiety.

The result of the many positive experiences that an individual has during the early years of life interacting with others, can lead to positive associations and facilitate affiliation in later life. This can happen even when the affiliation has no practical necessity. Of course, there are some individuals that have learned to minimize affiliation, as a result of negative experiences with others. Since affiliation is essentially the result of learning it becomes apparent that some people might learn to affiliate more than others. Some individuals desire many interactions with others, and some prefer to be alone much of the time. The way people affiliate is also a learned response. A person will affiliate with others in ways that are unique to his or her personality.

Thus, from the above paragraphs it is apparent that affiliation is a general need that must be satisfied if the individual is going to survive, reproduce and raise the next generation. Since this need is so essential, each culture has rules, pathways and methods to facilitate affiliation between people. The concept of culture itself is essentially the product of affiliation. The same is true with society in general; its components are products of affiliation. This includes the food production system, the manufacturer of material goods, the transportation system, government, military, the legal structure, the police, religious institutions and the educational system.

From the ideas presented in this paper thus far, it is apparent that there are different types of affiliation, such as parent child, employer employee, lovers, etc. These variations in affiliation essentially relate to the type of relationship that people have with each other. (Relationships are discussed in detail under the heading that follows.) Generally, each of these types of affiliation have formal and/or informal rules governing the interactions. These rules are essentially laid down by culture and society. The formal rules are either part of the legal rules or the written rules of an organization. An example, of such rules are the legal requirements of parents in relation to the way they care for their children. These rules, include child support and prohibit cruel punishment and sexual activity with the child. An example of informal rules of affiliation are the proper ways of treating a friend. Generally, this includes some degree of loyalty, revealing information that is more personal than would be revealed to acquaintances, a greater degree of tolerance for weaknesses, a general concern and some responsibility for the well-being of the friend.

From the ideas presented under this heading it becomes apparent that there are two basic categories of affiliation needs. One type is practical, which is affiliation to obtain the necessities and luxuries of life. I am calling this type of affiliation economic affiliation. NOTE (The term economic is used in a very general sense in this text. Thus, economics refers to all the needs a person has that relate to food, shelter, goods, services, education, entertainment, luxuries as well as employment and money.) The other type of affiliation need is an emotionally based desire to interact with others. I am calling this type of affiliation emotionally based affiliation. Under certain circumstances, the two types of affiliation can be partly or totally satisfied by one or more personal relationship partners. For example, all of the economic affiliation needs of children are generally provided by the parents. In addition, at least part of the emotionally based affiliation needs are usually satisfied by the parents. Something similar can be found in traditional marriages in relation to the needs the husband provides for the woman. However, very often the economic affiliation needs of adults are achieved through non-personal relationships of a business nature. An understanding of the above concepts (economic and emotionally based affiliation) are important for the discussion that follows under the next heading.




Emotionally Based Affiliation Deficiency Loneliness) and Economic Affiliation Deficiency

Often people fail to have their affiliation needs satisfied. This deficiency in affiliation can be divided into to categories Emotionally based affiliation deficiency, which is loneliness as the term is defined for this model. The other category is economic affiliation deficiency, which relates to the affiliation needed to obtain the necessities and luxuries of life[12]. The following concepts of loneliness and economic affiliation deficiency are further delineated in the following seven paragraphs.

Loneliness: Loneliness is defined in the glossary of Taylor's Social Psychology as "The psychological discomfort we feel when our social relationships lack some essential feature. This deficit may be quantitative (too few relationships) or qualitative (unsatisfying relationships)." For the ideas and models presented in this paper the term loneliness was defined as a failure to satisfy the emotionally based affiliation needs. This will result in the psychological discomfort mentioned in the definition in Taylor's Social Psychology. The failure to satisfy the emotionally based affiliation needs, can be the result of a deficiency in the quantity or quality of the affiliations that an individual obtains. For example, a deficiency in quantity means the person does not have enough interaction with others. A deficiency in quality means that the interactions with others are not emotionally satisfying.

The ability to satisfy emotionally based affiliation needs, varies with the individual and his or her social environment. Some people have better social and relationship skills than others, which certainly can reduce the chances of being lonely. Some people are in environments that makes social interaction easy, and other individuals are in environments that make social interaction difficult or almost impossible. Perhaps, the best way to reduce loneliness is to improve your human relations skills by practicing in a friendly social environment.

Of course, individuals have different levels of emotionally based affiliation needs. Some people have a much greater need to affiliate than others. Thus, the amount of affiliation that a person engages in does not determine whether or not he or she will feel lonely. A person that has an emotional need for much affiliation may feel lonely even if he or she spends much of the time interacting with others. A person that has a very low level of affiliation need may not feel lonely, even if he or she spends almost all his or her time alone.


Economic Affiliation Deficiency: Just as there can be a failure to satisfy the emotionally based affiliation needs, there can be a failure to satisfy the economic affiliation needs, which are needed to obtain the necessities and luxuries of life[13]. As stated above, I am calling this concept economic affiliation deficiency. This concept can also be defined as a deficiency in practical affiliations or ties to other human beings and their organizations that are needed to obtain, goods, services and employment.

In adult life economic affiliation deficiency often relates to a failure to obtain an adequate quantity or quality of the various business relationships a person needs to obtain satisfactory: employment, goods and services. The above can also be satisfied by certain categories of close personal relationships, such as is found in the family. This is especially the case for children, adolescents and women in traditional marriages. Thus, practical loneliness in some cases can also be related to a failure to obtain an adequate quantity and/or quality of family bonding. This can also involve failures of communication between family members. In general, economic affiliation deficiency can be the result of dysfunctional ways the individual affiliates with others in relation to obtaining goods, services and employment. The problem can also include lack of skills in contacting and communicating effectively with individuals that can satisfy practical affiliation needs.

Individuals who experience economic affiliation deficiency may or may not feel lonely, but such individuals will obviously have financial difficulties, especially in adult life. However, most types of poverty are probably not primarily caused by economic affiliation deficiency. The primary causes are usually lack of education and a network including the family that are too deficient in financial resources and power to help its members succeed financially.

The Utility and Theoretical Value of the Model: The reader may question the purpose of the model and the two categories of affiliation deficiency. There are both practical and theoretical reasons for the division. An individual can be deficient in the social skills that relate to one type of affiliation and be quite strong in the other type. For example, a person may be very skillful in obtaining and maintaining clothes personal friendships, but may not know how to obtain and maintain the connections needed for minimum economic success. Such an individual may not be lonely, but he or she will have problems in obtaining the necessities and luxuries of life. The opposite example, is an individual that is skilled in obtaining and maintaining the connections needed for a high degree of economic success. However, the hypothetical individual in this example, does not know how to obtain and maintain the personal relationships he or she seeks and desires with others. Such an individual is likely to feel lonely. Of course, there are individuals that are deficient in the skills that relate to both economic and emotionally based affiliation. However, it is important to understand that the two types of deficiency relate to weaknesses in different categories of social skills[14]. This understanding can help with correcting such problems in real life situations. positive self-fulfilling prophecy



Self Disclosure and Related Ideas

Revealing information about the self is an important part of affiliation and relationship development. Generally, for people to relate in a close personal way they need information about each other. People need information about others for many reasons. Some of the reasons are emotionally based and some are quite practical, which become apparent in the following examples. We may want to know if the individuals we interact with, had similar experiences and/or feelings as we had. We may want to know if they have similar interests as ours. We may be interested in knowing how they feel about us, other people and the world in general. We might be interested in learning if they are especially sensitive to certain topics, so we can avoid offending them. We may be concerned about their past behavior and personality for reasons of our own personal security. That is, we may be interested in knowing if they are honest, trustworthy, mentally stable, and safe to interact with. It may be quite important to a young woman to know the academic, occupational and financial status of a potential mate. In modern times, this information might also be important to a man looking for a marriage partner, because it may reveal if the woman can provide a financial contribution to a marriage if one develops. Thus, revealing of personal information provides a general picture about the other person, which is quite useful in relating to the individual.

Thus, self disclosure is quite practical, useful, and necessary. However, under various psychological, social and cultural conditions the amount of self disclosure that is considered appropriate varies. That is, how much to reveal and when to reveal it, from the perspective of appropriateness is not the same under all conditions. There are so many variations that it is certainly not possible to delineate all the different conditions, but it is feasible to give a few general examples. There are individual differences between people. Some people are more opened and ready to reveal and/or listen to personal information. Other people are less interested in the personal information of others. Some people simply do not like to reveal personal information about themselves. Such individuals may consider personal questions a form of intrusion into their personal business. There are people who are embarrassed about their past and there are individuals who are proud of their achievements and want to reveal this information. There are also some gender differences. There is a small tendency for women to want to reveal more personal information than men[15] Under some social conditions it is quite appropriate to reveal much personal information about the self, such as when talking to a therapist, when talking to a close friend, when talking to a member of the opposite sex who is a serious prospect for marriage. However, under some social conditions it is less appropriate to reveal personal information, such as in non-personal business relationships, in a party involving business associates and in job interviews. There are cultural differences in revealing information about the self in the United States and Japan[16]. Americans will reveal more information, and the information generally will be provided at an earlier point in the development of the relationship, than it would be in Japanese culture. Americans will expect information to be revealed at a relatively early point in the development of a relationship. As a result, Americans often ask personal questions, which would be considered inappropriate in Japanese culture. For example, on the first introduction, it is rather common for Americans to ask what do you do for a living and where did you go to school.



Three General Models of Human Relationships

The term relationship is defined for the models presented in this paper, as two individuals that affiliate on an ongoing basis. This definition and the models that follow essentially apply to all types of relationships, such as husband wife, parent child, doctor patient, student instructor, friendships, etc.

There are two types of relationships according to the models presented in this text, which are personal and non-personal. In personal relationships, the ongoing affiliation is motivated by a number of factors, some of which have an emotional nature, such as affection, liking, love and mutually shared sexual desires. There may or may not be other factors holding the personal relationship together, such as money, services, etc. Examples are obvious and include: parent child, husband wife, lovers and friends. In non-personal relationship the ongoing affiliation is generally motivated by a relatively small number of factors. Often the primary motivation for the affiliation is rooted in one factor, such as the exchange of money for goods or services. The individuals in such a relationship may or may not have other factors that hold the relationship together. They might like each other or enjoy each other's company, but if the primary factor, such as money, is eliminated the relationship quickly ends. Examples of such a relationship are business relationships, teacher student, doctor patient and therapist client.

It might be obvious from the above paragraphs and from personal experience that non-personal relationships often have some of the elements of personal relationships. For example, people involved in a business relationship may like each other. They may feel genuine concern, and affection for their business associate. They might enjoy each other's company and spend their lunch hour together. The same is true with personal relationships. Many personal relationships have some of the qualities of non-personal relationships. For example, in some marriages, a husband might provide a high level of financial support for his wife, with an unstated understanding that she is to provide housekeeping, child care and sexual services. Such marriages might break up, if the husband's income is reduced or eliminated as a result of unemployment. NOTE (The above is not meant to be a typical description of marriage.)

Three models of human relationships are presented in the following paragraphs. The first one is based on exchange theory, the second one is based on learning theory and the final model is based on theoretical bonds that hold a relationship together. The three models apply to both personal and non-personal relationships as these concepts were defined above.

This model is based on exchange theory: Both personal and non-personal relationships involve exchange of various factors. In the case of non-personal relationships the exchange is usually quite obvious. Usually, goods or services are exchanged for money. Such exchanges are usually mathematically precise. In personal relationships exchange is not mathematically precise. The exchange may not be obvious. The factors that are exchanged can be intangible, such as affection, love, smiles, hugs, and compliments. The exchange can also involve tangible entities, such as money, clothes and food. The exchange in personal relationships can also involve services, such as the services a mother provides for her children or the housekeeping services a housewife provides for her husband.

Also there are costs in maintaining the relationship that are consciously or unconsciously figured in with the rewards obtained from the exchange. That is, the costs are consciously or unconsciously subtracted from the gains that are received from the exchange.

The equality of the exchange is the result of the perception of the people involved in the relationship. When the exchange is perceived by one party as grossly unequal and unfair, the relationship may change to reestablish a more equal exchange, or it might be ended by one or both partners. However, if the exchange is perceived as moderately unequal, many people will continue in the relationship. This is likely to be especially true when the costs of maintaining the relationship is not too great or if the relationship is relatively satisfying.