Discussion: Social Influence
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Read/review the following resources for this activity:
Textbook: Chapter 17
Initial Post Instructions
Think of the last time you were with a group of people at work or hanging out with a group of friends. How does your behavior change when you are with a particular group of people? Why do you think your behavior changes? Provide a personal example of compliance, conformity or obedience. Cite key concepts and theories to support your example.
Be sure to make connections between your ideas and conclusions and the research, concepts, terms, and theory we are discussing this week.
Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons and an outside source)
APA format for in-text citations and list of references.
Managing Your Stress
Read/review the following resources for this activity:
Textbook: Chapter 14
Minimum of 2 outside scholarly sources
Stress can be an everyday part of our lives from work, school, and family obligations. How we cope with the negative effects of stress can have an impact on our overall well-being. Complete the How Do You Cope handout
and discuss your predominant coping strategy. Define stress and discuss the negative and positive effects of stress on overall well-being. Research a specific coping strategy and reflect upon how it may be effectively utilized in the stressful situations you may face. How does your chosen coping strategy impact the effects of stress? Be sure to include a brief reflective personal conclusion.
Examples of coping strategies to research include, but is not limited to:
Guided imagery or visualization
Physical activity or exercise
Effective communication techniques
Time management strategies
Diet and nutrition
Writing Requirements (APA format)
Length: 2-3 pages (not including Title and References pages)
12-point Times New Roman font
Running header in the upper left of all pages
Page number in the upper right of all pages
Parenthetical in-text citations included and formatted in APA style
References page (a minimum of 2 outside scholarly sources plus the textbook and/or the weekly lesson).
Lesson: Stress and Social Psychology
Table of Contents
Most of us are well aware of how losses, frustrations, hassles, disappointments, and so forth can lead to the feeling of stress. Even positive events like marriage or the birth of a child cause stress. Life in modern times has seen rapid advances in communications, computers and the Internet, mass media, manufacturing, medical technology, and even farming. Change is an everyday part of our lives and change is a known cause of stress.
People face stress on a daily basis, but stress is not the same for everyone. Psychologists have taken an increasing interest in how some people struggle and fail in certain situations, while others in the same situation seem to excel and rise above it. Psychologists have come to call this ability resilience. It is composed of commitment (to the establishment of purpose in their work and personal lives), control (a feeling of being in control of their lives rather than as victims of circumstance), and challenge (not being threatened by change or adversity, but seeing them as an opportunity for growth). Personality factors, such as having a Type A or Type B personality, may also factor into how well a person deals with stress. Individuals with a Type A personality are ambitious, but also tend to have higher levels of hostility and anger compared to someone with a Type B personality who is more relaxed and slower to anger. Hostility has been found to be the main characteristic associated with coronary heart disease and Type A personalities. Researchers have discovered that men who display Type A personality behaviors develop coronary heart disease twice as often as those with Type B personality behaviors and also tend to suffer more fatal heart attacks (Beresnevaité, Taylor, & Bagby, 2007; Korotkov et al., 2011). But this is not to say that everyone with a Type A personality or behavior pattern will develop coronary heart disease. The hostility associated with Type A behavior is important to note because hostility can produce excessive physiological arousal in stressful situations, which results in an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as an increase in the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine hormones (Demaree & Everhart, 2004; Eaker et al., 2004; Myrtek, 2007).
Stress and Health
Stress is the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral response to events that are perceived as threatening or challenging and that can take the form of distress or eustress. Distress is the effects of negative or unpleasant stressors while eustress is the effects of positive stressors or the optimal amount of stress needed to promote well-being and health. Stress affects the body. It causes physical changes, such as raised blood pressure and increased heart rate and hormone levels. Prolonged stress hinders one’s ability to sleep and the functioning of the immune system. It leaves the body more susceptible to a host of diseases and heart problems. Exposure to extremely stressful situations can lead to what psychologists call post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hans Selye was a pioneer in the study of the physical consequences of exposure to stressors and proposed the general adaptation syndrome, consisting of alarm, resistance, and exhaustion phases. Researchers in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, who study the effects of psychological factors on the immune system, have found that stress causes an increase in the activity of the immune system. High levels of stress have been linked to increased risk of heart disease. Also, stress can decrease the amount of natural killer cells, which are the cells responsible for fighting cancerous growths.
Stress management is an area that has received a great deal of attention in our culture. As students taking this class, you may feel a heightened degree of stress from all of the demands that family, work, and school make on you. Effectively dealing with this stress will make the class a smoother experience. To do this, students will want to utilize problem-focused and/or emotion-focused coping strategies. Coping strategies are actions that people take to master, tolerate, reduce, or minimize the effects of stressors and include both behavioral and psychological strategies.
Problem-focused coping occurs when a person tries to eliminate the source of stress or reduce its impact by taking some action, whereas emotion-focused coping involves a person changing the way she or he feels about or reacts to a stressor. To effectively cope with the stress of class, if you utilize problem-focused coping you may want to keep a balanced studying schedule or speak with the professor about your questions, whereas if you utilize emotion-focused coping you may want to talk to your friends or family about their stressor to gain a new perspective on how you are feeling. Concentrative meditation has also been found to be an effective coping strategy.
One of the most undervalued aspects of dealing with stress is the importance of having strong and healthy personal relationships. As William Glasser notes regarding people who have been subject to extreme stress, “People who suffer so much disability after a trauma that they can’t go on with their lives do not usually have strong relationships and may not be doing anything they consider worthwhile with their lives” (Glasser, 1998).
Attitudes and Attribution
Attributions are our personal explanations for another person’s behavior. In arriving at such, we have to decide whether behavior stems from something within people, or the situations they are in. The two main attribution errors that people make are the fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias. When a person overestimates the influence of internal personality factors and underestimates external influences when evaluating someone else’s behavior, he or she has made the fundamental attribution error. For example, imagine you are stuck in traffic and someone cuts you off. You may attribute this behavior to the person being rude (internal personality factors), but don’t consider that the person could be having a medical emergency and needs to get to the hospital (external influences). The self-serving bias is when a person finds positive reasons to explain his or her own behavior, but attributes negative behaviors and outcomes to external causes. Let’s say a student gets a 100% on their Midterm Exam and boasts that they are really smart and studied hard for the exam, but if that same student received a 60% on the Midterm Exam, they may blame their failure on the professor not teaching the material well enough or it was a hard test, ignoring the fact that they may not have studied enough for the exam. In this case, the student exhibited the self-serving bias by attributing their success to internal factors and attributing their failure to external factors.
Attitudes are learned predispositions to respond affectively, behaviorally, and cognitively (the three components of an attitude, or the ABC’s of attitude) to a particular object. How attitudes are formed and maintained has been an area of interest to psychologists. Politicians have found Americans to often have very strong attitudes about controversial topics, such as illegal immigration, gun control, environmental issues, gay marriage, federal spending, and so forth. How do these attitudes come about? Well, it seems that although there is a degree of genetic factors involved in attitudes, the vast majority seems to be learned. Advertisers have capitalized on this and try diligently to promote loyalty towards their products. Classical, instrumental, and operant conditioning have a role in the formation of attitudes, as well as experiential learning, socialization learning, and unconscious motivations.
Persuasion involves changing an attitude, an evaluation of people, ideas, objects and behavior. There are many techniques of persuasion, such as reciprocity, social proof, authority and scarcity. Persuasion is more likely to be effective when the other person doesn’t feel that someone is trying to persuade him or her to do something, when the person doing the persuasion is perceived as an expert, and when there are strong emotional ties towards making the change. Another way you can change an attitude is to produce a discrepancy between the other individual’s attitude and his or her behavior; he or she will feel a tension. This then results in a compulsion to resolve it by altering the attitude. This is called cognitive dissonance.
Prejudice is a generally negative attitude (i.e., it has cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements) that is directed at a person or group of people solely because of their membership in a specific group. Discrimination is the behavioral component of prejudice. Discrimination and prejudice are NOT the same thing. For example, someone could hold views or opinions about a certain group of people (prejudice), but when they act on those views, typically in a negative manner, it is called discrimination. A person can be prejudiced towards a certain group, but not discriminate against them. Prejudice can be learned via classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning. Prejudice can also be acquired through mental shortcuts, competition for opportunities, and displaced aggression. Prejudice can be reduced through things, such as cooperation between groups, committing to goals that require teamwork, and cognitive retraining.
Attraction is influenced heavily by physical attractiveness, proximity, and similarity. The emphasis our culture puts on being physically attractive speaks volumes for this component. Proximity influences things as well. The nearer you live or work with another person, the more likely you will come to like him or her. Similarity is important too. We like people who have similar backgrounds, interests, and attitudes, and the more similar others are, the more we tend to like them. If we like someone else, we tend to assume that they like us and if we know that someone likes us, we have a tendency to like them back; this is called the reciprocity-of-liking effect.
One of the reasons that romances can spring up at work is that two of the three factors in attraction are frequently present. The people are already in the same proximity and they also have some things in common, including the organization they work for. The extent to which the organization brings together people of similar educational levels, interests, backgrounds, and so on will only add to the similarity component. Should the individuals feel a physical attraction to each other, a romance can bloom.
Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
Conformity is when people alter their behavior due to perceived pressure from other people. The Asch conformity experiments show just how real this phenomenon is. When people conform, it is due to the normative social influence, informational social influence, or the power of reference groups. The normative social influence is the need for approval and acceptance. The informational social influence is when we act out of a need for more information. When we seek to emulate the behavior of someone we admire, we are displaying the power of reference groups.
Compliance is when an individual changes his or her behavior in response to an explicit or implicit request made by another person. This involves a deliberate choice to respond to another person’s request. Conformity does not involve a direct request.
Obedience is following another’s direction, whether or not the subject agrees with that direction, or giving in to a command from another. The Milgram obedience experiments showed that under certain conditions, individuals will follow orders that may physically threaten or even injure another person. There were several factors at play in the participants’ obedience in the Milgram experiments. Two of the most important were the proximity of the victim and the assignment of responsibility for injury.
Check out this video which covers major experiments mentioned in the lesson and textbook: Conformity.
In dealing with interpersonal relations and social psychology, we should also be sure to cover the problem of aggression. Is aggression a learned behavior, or are there genetic pieces to it? Aggression is defined as any behavior intended to hurt or destroy another person and is driven by both biological and social factors. Psychologists can debate the cause of aggression, but it remains a problem in the United States. When considering ways to resolve anger, psychologists look to improve communication skills and develop responses that are essentially the opposite of aggression (e.g. calming down, thinking about the situation from a different perspective, or fantasizing about getting even, but not actually following through). Other ways are to visualize aggravating situations and see yourself staying calm, or challenging yourself by seeking out situations that produce frustration and work towards handling it more productively
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