C. For their final requirement the students will write a conceptual, and/or review paper (up to 6 pages) that identify 5 important social psychological or
neurological concepts addressed in the class, and their possible relevance for work in the field at a local, institutional, and international level. (This
assignment will be discussed beforehand with the class.) This paper is due October 20th All written assignments must be typewritten, single spaced in 12-point font.
NEUROLOGY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
In the last few decades, neurology has shown promising results in terms of its immense potential in understanding different behaviors in social psychology. It is also being utilized in addressing psychological problems and a range of other mental illnesses. Experts believe that social work education must integrate neuroscience for professional practice. The recent technological advancements have also significantly affected the research in social and behavioral science. Using extensive research, the studies have shown that the human brain and bio-sociological processes are closely involved in our behavior. It has provided us a deep insight into etiology, treatment and prevention of mental illness and other psychological conditions (Martin, 2002).
It was a positive attempt on the part of Library of Congress and National Institute of Mental Health that have profoundly disseminated the public awareness in the field of brain research benefits. It was the continuous efforts of medical researchers who conducted real-time clinical research on the functioning of human brain. The researchers and scholars in the field of social work as well are utilizing this new wave of knowledge and attempting to pull their social work profession with this new trend of neurological science (Price, Adams, & Coyle, 2000). This paper tries to look into different aspects of neuroscience that have positively affected society at large. It discusses the various concepts of neurological science that have so far successfully provided solutions for certain psychological challenges as well.
The following topics underline some of the important social psychological or neurological concepts in today’s scenario:
The bystander effect is a social psychology principle and theory, according to which if in an emergency situation as the number of by standing people keep on increasing, they are less likely to aid or assist in that situation. It is one of the most profound and well established social psychology findings that was established in late 1960s. It was in 1964, when Kitty Genovese was attacked and murdered in front of her New York apartment. Which is why the psychologists at that time started to study the behavior of the bystanders to observe whether they react or not react in emergency situations. So, unfortunately, Kitty’s death let the psychologists to conduct a deep study and establish the important elements and reasons as to why bystander effect occurs in groups (Garcia, Weaver, Moskowitz, & Darley, 2002). The significant causes of the bystander effect are as follows:
Diffusion of Responsibility: one of the pertinent reasons behind bystander effect is the presence of social element known as diffusion of social responsibility. According to it, any bystander’s sense of responsibility towards helping a victim decreases when more witnesses are present because each and every one of them feels that other people will respond to the situation by rendering appropriate assistance.
Pluralistic Ignorance: it refers to the state of mind of the bystander with which he/she thinks the other bystanders would be interpreting the incident in a particular manner when the case is not as such. The bystanders form their opinions regarding the incident by noticing the responses of other onlookers. Based on others’ reactions, the bystanders express their thought as if there is no big issue, thereby their helping nature is negatively impacted.
Not knowing how to help: in certain situations, even if a bystander wants to provide assistance, he/she may fail to do so because due to the lack of knowledge as to how the help be provided. Consequently, they start waiting for others to come for help.
Although the bystander effect is all about a disposition of indifference on the part of common people to the plight of victims of unfortunate situations. However, we can also exert positive influence as bystanders to resolve a conflict. Just as passive bystanders induce a sense that nothing is wrong in a situation, the active bystander, on the other hand can, actually, allow people to concentrate on the problem in order to motivate them to take action (Keltner & Marsh, 2006).
In another example, the positive active bystanders can provide police officers a leverage to engage as soon as possible so that they didn’t have to confront their colleagues.
Attribution is the process of explaining by indicating a cause and the attribution theory tries to explain how an average person attempts to create and construct the meanings of an event. The person, by utilizing his or her motives, tries to find a cause regarding his or her knowledge of the environment. These are the inferences made by the people for understanding their experiences, which influence the way they interact with the others. In 1958, Heider put across his views as people being naïve psychologists who never get tired of making sense of the social world. It is believed that making attributions bring order and predictability in our lives and it helps us to cope with the situations that had never been seen before by us (Sahar, 2014). They always tend to observe cause and effect relationships all the time. Heider put two important and influential principles:
Internal attribution: the internal attribution is all about disposition and is the phenomenon of assigning the cause of our behavior to our internal characteristics not to the outside influences. Whenever we observe the behavior of others then we tend to look towards internal attributions like personality traits. For an instance, we normally attribute a person’s behavior to his personality traits or his belief system.
External attribution: the external attribution is all about reading the situation. It is the phenomenon that tries to assign the cause of a particular behavior to a certain situation or event. That situation is outside the purview of a person’s control rather than any internal attribute.
Correspondent Inference Theory: it is a type attribution theory, which explains that people tend to pay special attention to the intentional behavior rather than paying attention to accidental or unthinking behavior. Proposed by Jones and Davis in 1965, the theory tend to look towards internal attribution. They espouse that we do this whenever we see correspondence between motive and behavior.
Attribution Theory is very helpful in understanding and managing conflict to pacify the situation. As a matter of fact, the angry negotiators are less likely to bring positive results. So, conflicts are often based on attributive dispositions – accuser and accused biases. The conflicts are likely to escalate when the accuser holds the accused much more responsible than the accused himself. So, by applying the principles of attribution theory the conflict can be effective managed and peace can be restored (Allred, 2005). The parties are needed to be educated about rational information processing.
Also, in organizations, attribution theory helps the managers to understand the reasons behind the behaviors of some employees, which in turn will allow employees to think their own behaviors.
The term stereotyping refers to an oversimplified and somewhat condescending attitude of people towards those who are outside their experiences and hold different views altogether. These attitudes are based on ingesting incomplete or distorted information as facts. In other words, it is widely held belief that a person belongs to a certain group with typical characteristics. Due to the reason of this overgeneralization in the arena of social perception, stereotyping results into distorted social relationships. The common factors that are responsible for stereotyping are sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion as well as physical deformity. Of these, sex and race are the most significant ones. A gender study conducted in 1992 by William and Best, observed that in various countries, males were typically attributed as adventurous, powerful, dominating as well as independent (McGarty, Yzerbyt, & Spears, 2002). While, females were attributed the characteristics of sentimental, submissive and superstitious. According to some other studies, it was found that in certain countries, people tend to think of Jews shrewd and ambitious, while African-Americans are inclined to be possessing musical and athletic abilities. While, the Germans were considered as methodical and efficient.
Generally, the secondary sources of information are the cause for stereotyping because we derive majority of our knowledge from these sources. The primary source of secondary information is the mass media. Therefore, the dependence on secondary information also determines the content of our culture. There are three key factors that cause stereotyping:
Functional stereotyping: when it comes to mass media and we as audiences are constantly exposed to a lot more information than we process. However, we tend to reduce complexities into simplicities and in this attempt to acquire simplistic version of facts, we often deduce inaccurate results. Stereotyping is the result of selective approach of social perception because we see what we want to see.
Prejudice: the prejudices and biases generally make our perceptions extremely subjective due to which many people describe ethnic groups in a peculiar way.
Sometimes, we an individual can use stereotyping in his or her favor, especially when it is required to manage conflicts and perform a balancing act. So, a positive stereotyping is the process of making positive assumptions about someone even it is based on sex, race or nationality. For example stating that women are more nurturing than men is an example of positive stereotype. Also, in conflict situations by making a positive assumption about the conflicting parties can help in resolving the situation.
The cognitive dissonance theory refers to a situation that contains conflicting attitudes and beliefs. Such a situation gives rise discomfort that results into an alteration in one of the attitudes or behaviors with a purpose of reducing discomfort and restore balance. In this regard, Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance points out that we have a state of mind with which our attitudes and beliefs tend to be in harmony and avoid dissonance.
The attitudes of people change because of the internal factors. One of such factors is known as principle of cognitive consistency, which is the central principle of cognitive dissonance theory. According to this approach, we always tend to seek consistency in our beliefs and attitudes whenever contradicting and inconsistent situations are being encountered (Cooper, 2007).
Leon Festinger further suggested that a profound motive to sustain cognitive consistency can render irrational and maladaptive behavior. He said that we possess a number of cognitions related to the world and also about ourselves. Sometimes these cognitions are bound to clash and the resulting discrepancy give rise to a state of tension. The unpleasant experience so obtain on account of dissonance, motivate us to reduce or eliminate it and achieve consonance.
The dissonance can be reduced in three ways:
Individuals can alter their behaviors and attitudes by making relationship between two opposite elements a harmonious one. However, sometimes this approach poses problems for people as it is difficult for them to change their established behavior.
Secondly, the dissonance can be reduced by taking new information that overshadows the dissonant beliefs.
Thirdly, the dissonance can also be reduced by removing the importance of certain cognitions namely attitudes and beliefs. A person could convince himself that a short life with sensual pleasures is better than long boring life.
Cognitive dissonance is particularly important in decision and problem solving whenever we have to choose between conflicting attitudes and behaviors or a behavior that helps peacefully resolve a situation. We can draw a distinction and attract someone’s distinction towards the disparity between what they feel and what they actually do. Certain ethnic conflicts require a clear contradiction between religious beliefs and acts of violence (PRVULOVIC, 2015). This way, people would start to rethink their actions based on strong beliefs.
The evolutionary psychology is the field of social and natural science that tries to seek and examine the psychological factors such as memory, perception as well as language from the perspective of modern evolutionary approach. It is indeed a profound approach towards understanding human behavior and mental processes. It further postulates that our mind has been shaped by the pressure to survive as well as reproduce.
The evolutionary psychologists attempt to reconstruct the problems that have been faced by our ancestors in their primitive era. They also try to underline and observe our ancestors’ problem solving skills to meet different challenges at that time (Kennair, 2003).
The central principle of evolutionary psychology is the belief that all human beings on earth have innate thoughts that provide them specific knowledge helping them acclimatize in their own ways. These thoughts are highly specialized and can only be activated whenever the information is needed. The different activated areas of brain are:
Special learning methods
Specialized computational mechanisms
Darwinian algorithmic mechanisms.
We generally think of evolution in terms of physical attributes, but is also equally applicable to our psychology. For example, if a person is very angry, he might have more chances of surviving because of the fact that he can be more threatening to their competitors as well as prey. On the other hand, if a person has better memory, he might have better chances of surviving because he can remember location of food and shelter. The examples of evolutionary psychology are:
The evolutionary psychology can help us to understand and focus on those factors that allow individuals, communities and societies to flourish as opposed to focus on creating conflicts. Evolution has developed a lot of emotions in us be it negative or positive ones, our survival is also based on these emotions. So, we can effectively use these emotions in our favor as well as for every one’s benefit. In this way, we can avoid the conflict and continue with our work peacefully.
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Cooper, J. (2007). Cognitive dissonance. Los Angeles: SAGE.
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McGarty, C., Yzerbyt, V., & Spears, R. (2002). Stereotypes as explanations. London: Cambridge University Press.
Price, B., Adams, R., & Coyle, J. (2000). Neurology and psychiatry: Closing the great divide.Neurology, 54(1), 8-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/wnl.54.1.8
PRVULOVIC, G. (2015). Impacts of Cognitive Dissonance in the Workplace - SafetyRisk.net.SafetyRisk.net. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from http://www.safetyrisk.net/impacts-of-cognitive-dissonance-in-the-workplace/
Sahar, G. (2014). On the Importance of Attribution Theory in Political Psychology. Social And Personality Psychology Compass, 8(5), 229-249. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12102