30
Oct 15

The Hyperactive Student

The Problem with the “ADHD” Label

You can’t swing a dead cat today without hitting about nine children who have been professionally diagnosed with ADHD. One of these children is my 10 year old brother, who was diagnosed by a family doctor a few years ago after teachers started to complain about his distracting and at times disrespectful behavior in class. He fits the bill: he’s fidgety, bored by schoolwork, and has trouble focusing his attention long enough to read a book or solve a long math problem. The diagnosis came as a relief to my stepmother, who was encouraged to start my brother on stimulant medications to alleviate his behavioral issues. But there was one major problem with this whole scenario: my little brother does not have ADHD. He just doesn’t like school very much – he is 10 years old, after all.

I noticed some attitudinal changes toward my brother’s behavior after he received his diagnosis. Unfortunately, in my parents’ house, the ADHD card is more often than not used to excuse what would otherwise be unacceptably bratty behavior. Several children in the cushy suburban neighborhood where my parents live have similarly received this diagnosis, a disorder which supposedly is quite rare and yet happens to be something of an epidemic on my little brother’s street. This large volume of ADHD diagnoses raises an important question: is the “ADHD” label bringing about positive change in the school environment?

Batstra, Nieweg, and Hadders-Algra (2014) set out to examine the implications of five common assumptions associated with ADHD: that ADHD (1) causes deviant behavior, (2) is a disease, (3) is chronic, (4) is best treated with medication, and (5) diagnosis should precede treatment. Regarding the first assumption, the researchers note that there is a widespread misunderstanding that ADHD is an explanatory diagnosis, when in fact the syndrome is descriptive; this results in the common misconception that “ADHD” is a term that explains why children behave problematically when in reality it is only meant to describe the behavior of a child who is impulsive and inattentive. In this same vein, the researchers argue that ADHD is not strictly a biological “disease” as it is commonly understood, but rather a grouping of behavioral traits resulting from a wide variety of dispositional and environment influences. Findings from longitudinal studies also challenge the idea that ADHD is a chronic condition, as one study showed that only 30% of diagnosed individuals still met criteria at an 8-year follow-up. For assumptions 4 and 5, the researchers argue that medication should come only after starting psychosocial interventions for treatment of attention and hyperactivity problems, and that a diagnostic label is not required to begin such treatments (Batstra, Nieweg, & Hadders-Algra, 2014). As far as psychosocial interventions go, Evans and colleagues (2015) found that implementing an after-school program twice weekly that focuses on organizational skills, social functioning, and academic study skills for just one school year significantly improved time-management skills, problems with homework, inattentive symptoms, and overall GPA in students with ADHD, and that these improvements carried on into the next school year (Evans et al., 2015).

Viewing ADHD simply as a biological disease that causes problems in the brain instead of the complex cognitive and behavioral condition that it is allows parents, teachers, and children themselves to dismiss conduct issues as mental deficiencies. This encourages excuse-making rather than improvement. All in all, research suggests that for at least some communities in the U.S., ADHD overdiagnosis results in differing educational outcomes among students treated for the disorder, and suboptimal management of behavioral problems (LeFever, Arcona, Antonuccio, 2003). Instead of hastily medicating difficult-to-control children, perhaps we should, as a society, reevaluate the way we are raising modern children in the first place. If children are overstimulated with electronics and constant entertainment, is it any wonder they find school too boring to pay attention to? Can we really expect a child who is used to endless choices and little to no responsibilities at home to respond in a respectful way to the rules and expectations laid out by teachers? This is not to say that ADHD is not a serious condition requiring medication for some children, but it should not be used as a pass for poor parenting and adult impatience with normal childhood vigor.

References

Batstra, L., Nieweg, E. H., & Hadders-Algra, M. (2014). Exploring five common assumptions on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Acta Paediatrica, 103(7), 696-700.

Evans, S. W., Langberg, J. M., Schultz, B. K., Vaughn, A., Altaye, M., Marshall, S. A., & Zoromski, A. K. (2015). Evaluation of a school-based treatment program for young adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication.

LeFever, G. B., Arcona, A. P., & Antonuccio, D. O. (2003). ADHD among American schoolchildren: evidence of overdiagnosis and overuse of medication. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 2(1), 49-60.


27
Oct 15

Setting Your Own Agenda

It hasn’t been until the last few years that I realized to just what extent the media has in shaping what issues are prevalent or important along with how much it teaches vicarious learning.  The media having a role in shaping what issues people think about and think are important is called agenda setting and the media in particular sets the public agenda; this involves issues that the public think are important.  In addition to setting the agenda, the media also has a knack for being conducive for people to learn in a  vicarious manor, meaning that watching a particular behavior that gets rewarded is likely to result in the viewer performing the rewarded behavior.   Both of these aspects of media can be good as well as bad.

It is almost inevitable to turn on the T.V.  and not come across some form of bullying, or someone putting someone else down; and believe it or not most the time we laugh.  Think about it, usually most jokes that are told are at the expense of another person and always put that person down.  Hardly ever do you hear a joke about someone and it’s not about one of their weaknesses, downfalls, of flaws.  Most the time we laugh because we can relate or because we can comprehend why the joke is supposed to be funny, but what we fail to realize is that by us laughing, we’re rewarding and condoning that behavior; we’re saying that it’s okay to belittle and degrade others; we’re teaching others vicariously.  Then this happens, anyone who witnessed the event now thinks it’s okay to imitate that scenario and do the same thing resulting in this wildfire spreading of jokes told at the expense of others that make us look good.  Because of these actions, we learn that not only is it okay, but we’ll also get rewarded and look good if we do.

On the other hand, bullying is an issue that’s been in the public eye for awhile now and the media is trying to make people aware that this is an undesirable action and trying to reduce as many occurrences of bullying as possible; making it a public agenda.  There have been interventions put in place to try and educate teachers, students, parents, and the community on bullying and what to look out for or signs as well as strategies to reduce it and ways to handle it.  While we’re focusing on the blatant displays of bullying such as a big kid picking on a little kid, or someone calling another person cruel names, we’re failing to realize that what we depict in the media is saying that it’s okay to do this in the (not so) subtle form of joking.  Sometimes others constantly joking on you can have a greater effect than just a one time occurrence of someone blatantly calling you a name.  For example: I can remember one time when someone I had never met before decided to comment on what I was doing, how I was dressed, and who I was hanging out with and called me a less than desirable name.  Sure it stung for a second, but then realized that I didn’t know this person and the likelihood that I’d ever see them again was beyond slim, so their opinion of me really wasn’t that important and didn’t matter, especially in the grand scheme of life.  But on the other hand, my friends and family constantly joke me about how short my legs are.  Sure, my legs happen to be about equal in length to my torso whereas most people’s legs are longer in proportion to their torso, but they aren’t shorter than my torso or anything; yet I constantly hear, “oh my goodness, look at how cute her little Olaf legs are,” or, “look at her try to run, isn’t it cute the way her legs look?”  And while no one has ever been deliberately mean or cruel about my leg length, I am now extremely self-conscious about how my legs look and how long they are.  Until someone decided to point out and joke about how disproportionate I looked, and others laughed, I was completely comfortable with my legs and I wasn’t being constantly put down because of my “short legs.”

I think that we need to increase the amount of positive-ness that the media depicts as well as increase the amount of  support that we give to others.  The media has always focused on how negative bullying can be and it seems like every time you turn around there is another story about someone who is being a bully.  Slowly there are more videos of people who are standing up to bullying being shown and there are more positive messages being created to show others that they aren’t alone and that there are others out there who like them and support them.  I feel that we have a good start but it needs to keep increasing and I feel that the best place to start is the media.  If the media has an effect on what is on the public’s agenda and well as teaches others vicariously, then by canceling out some of the more negative qualities of media, such as jokes at the expense of others, by making them viewed as punishable behaviors, we can trade them out for more rewarding behaviors, such as not being a bystander or helping others and being kind and supportive of those who are in need.  Spreading positive messages, not putting others down, stop condoning unrealistic behaviors and expectations media portrays (i.e. girls having to be thin to be desirable (which creates more bullying for not looking that way), men being overly strong and aggressive (which creates the notion that violence is okay, especially because superheros do it and are rewarded), etc.), being open, aiding others, and supporting those in need are all good places to start.  And maybe, just maybe, if enough people start this new positive trend that helps eliminate those boundaries that have been set, we can be the ones who set the new agenda.

As a side note, it’s also okay to go against what everyone else, especially the media, says and march to your own drum. Here are links to a few people who I admire for speaking up and out about issues that at the time weren’t in the public agenda and tried to make a positive change on more than one life; they decided to set their own agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJm5yR1KFcysl_0I3x-iReg

Sources

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. SAGE Publications, Inc.

All videos are given credit to their respective owners, I do not take credit for any of them.


26
Oct 15

Social Media is Not Free

I was on a road trip once with my husband and as we were scanning the radio stations in some remote town in northern Ohio we kept landing on the same two stations: a talk radio program that I believe was Christian based and a country station. I was reluctant to listen to either but we ultimately chose to stay on the talk radio station (after conceding to the fact that there really wasn’t any other option) and I was glad that we did because the guest on the show said something that I considered very profound about social media “if you are not the consumer you are the product”. Basically, if you are not paying for a service, someone else is and they want their money’s worth. This statement had brilliantly summed up what I had been trying (and failing) to articulate for quite some time, your online life is not private despite all the privacy settings and user agreements you agree to; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like are all businesses interested in making money and they will sell your information to the highest bidder and not think twice about it.  Once a business finds itself with millions of users it is impossible to consider the effects of its practices on each individual basis. It is this idea that caused me to be less than surprised when I learned that Facebook had conducted a psychology experiment by manipulating the users news feed.

A few years ago Facebook conducted a study about how the emotions of its users could be affected by what they are exposed to on their news feed.  A detailed write up of the findings can  be found here but the general idea was that Facebook would hide either positive or negative posts from user’s friends depending on which control group they were a part of, and based on the increased positive or negative material in their feed Facebook would measure how much, if any, change towards positive and negative postings would take place. I clearly remember several close friends of mine becoming enraged at the idea of being part of an experiment that manipulated their emotions when they had not given consent. I kept hearing in my head, every time I heard someone begin to rant about the breach of privacy, the quote I had heard from the random radio program about being the product; real privacy comes at a cost and not an abstract cost but actual money. The more secure you want your house to be the more money it will cost you and the same is true in the realm of your online homespace. Except, with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter you cannot pay for more security you simply have to accept that the information you provide is public and remain cognizant of this fact whenever you share something online. I think we, as a society, have been online long enough to understand this concept now and there shouldn’t be as much of an uproar about the realities of social media. These convenient means of communication are entirely optional and we have not lost the ability to communicate the old fashion way such as writing a letter or making a phone call or stopping by for a visit. Until we’ve been depleted of any other form of communication we cannot reasonably expect big internet businesses to spend too much time catering to the privacy concerns of the little guys. Sure, most big businesses will hear the cry of their people and take action to try and make them happy but I believe it is imperative for every person who may ever use social media to know that their privacy in an online setting is not a right it’s a privilege and every move they make should be made with in mind.

 

References

Yarkoni, T. (2014, June 28). In defense of Facebook. Retrieved October 26, 2015, from http://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2014/06/28/in-defense-of-facebook/


26
Oct 15

Harmful affects of social media

Social media is a huge part of life for the average person today. Over 750 million people have Facebook accounts worldwide, and nearly half of them log on daily to check what is new with their friends, family, or catch up on the news. As we move toward the time of the Presidential election, social media is a gateway of expression for many. Social media gives many groups an individuals a voice, one that before they felt the didn’t have, to express their point of view on any topic they wish. Facebook and Twitter are two of the largest media outlets that offer free expression.

Social media is a great tool for sharing opinion or debating information with others over the internet, but it can also be harmful. Just as we see in everyday life, there are bullies everywhere. I personally think that the internet has given this type of person the ability to say things they might not normally to someone’s face. They can simply log onto the computer and blast hurtful messages without any real form of accountability. More and more, we are seeing cases of this end in tragedy.

Sometimes we even find that the media are the ones doing the bullying. In the days of celebrities and paparazzi, we see false news reports everywhere claiming everything imaginable about the lives of famous individuals. I have read an interesting account of the media attacking an average woman following her death due to overdose. The media published story after story about this poor woman, making it incredibly difficult for her family to put her to rest properly.

I think social media can and is a great tool. I use it everyday to keep in contact with many of my friends, near and far. But there is a need to draw a line to what is proper etiquette for these virtual relationships. Mental health and stability is an important factor with the way people communicate online. It is necessary to recognize that comments made have the ability to push someone over the edge.

http://www.chicagonow.com/still-advocating/2015/10/bullying-on-social-media/


26
Oct 15

My Nephew, The Sixth Guardian of the Galaxy

Many young children imitate violence that they watch on television. As they watch their favorite superhero defeat the evil villain, the youngsters mimic the hero’s every move. Just this week, my nephew came over and watched the “Guardians of the Galaxy” through on demand for what seems like the hundredth time. After the movie, he was still repeating the moves. Elijah, my nephew, now tries to defeat my dog because it will not play with him and barks. It is very funny to watch him but why did my nephew pick this violence up? He learned this behavior through a process subscribe to in social cognitive theory. This theory posits that individuals obtain knowledge through observing others in the daily events, the media and social interactions (Bandura, 1986). It actually has four step which include attention, representational process, behavioral production process and the motivational process (Schneider, Gruman and Coutts, 2012). These four steps work in concert to instill the behavior in young individuals through depiction of violence in the media.

The first step is to gain the attention of the young child. In this particular instance, my nephew is amazed by the stunts and special effects of the movie. The sounds of the spaceships firing lasers get his full attention. The action seems so real to him. Studies have shown that the more realistic the violence is to the child, the greater the attention they will pay (Huesmann and Taylor, 2006). In addition, the violence is an important part of the movie. The hero and his gang of rebels take on the evil overlord while operating on the outside of the law. The realism of the violence and the situation draw my nephew to the movie.

The second process is known as the representational process. In this step, Elijah actually acts out his fantasy that he has just viewed. In this instance, he has viewed the violent action scenes several times and rehearses the action as it plays out on the movie. This rehearsal will allow my nephew to transform and restructure the violence into a system that allows him to store it in his memory (Bandura, 1986). This enable him to retain and recall the behavior for situations in the future.

The next step is called the behavioral production process. Elijah has learned all the moves and can recall them at will. Now he can apply the behavior to other situation outside of the movie scenes. The observed behavior can be generalized to closely associated behaviors and situations (Schneider, Gruman and Coutts, 2012). Elijah constantly tries to use the fighting moves on my dog when she barks at him. He believes that my dog is attacking him and it is a reasonable response to fight. There is an assortment of karate chops and the shooting of toy laser guns in the direction of my dog, Coco.

The final step in this theory is the motivational process. People are motivated to perform and behave a certain way. As stated earlier, Elijah feels that the dog barking is an act of aggression. In reality, my dog just wants to be a part of the festivities. However, my nephew feels that he is justified in his actions. Many studies have shown that children believe that self-defense is a proper justification for violent behavior (Berkowitz and Powers, 1979). This justification gives him the motivation to use the violent behavior in a situation that he deems appropriate. It does not help that the many children today are inundated with violent images that may desensitize children to violence.

In closing, my nephew went from a sweet little boy to an evil-fighting guardian of the galaxy. The transformation included four different processes which include the attentional process, representational process, behavioral production process and the motivational process. These processes allowed him to learn the violent behavior, retain it, apply it to new situations and find the motivation to use it. This encompasses all the elements of the social cognitive theory.

 

References:

Bandura, A (1986) Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Berkowitz, L and Powers, PC (1979). Effects of timing and justification of witnessed aggression on the observers’ punitiveness. Journal of Research in Personality. 13 pg. 71-80

Huesmann, L and Taylor, L (2006). The Role of Media Violence in Violent Behavior. Public Health. V 27 pg.393-415

Schneider, F, Gruman, J and Coutts, L (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Sage Publication Inc.: Thousand Oaks, CA


26
Oct 15

Real Beauty

dove

Our generation has an unprecedented ability to communicate with each other no matter where we live. As a woman in her early twenties, I have seen and felt first hand the effects of sexualization and skinny-ization by mass media and social networks. I have felt the anxiety of teenage body issues, despite being an active athlete who was in shape. I have seen the struggle of my friends dealing with their constant body issues. Growing up in the media and advertisement driven environment has been a first time experiment being conducted all around the world. Ad critic Jean Kilbourne estimates that the average American encounters 3,000 advertisements a day. She also estimates that 50% of THREE to SIX year olds have issues with their weight. When children’s only concern is supposed to be when they can go outside to play with their friends and when they can take a nap, they are instead concerned with how they look. Not only are women sexualized for almost every single product out there, including food and school supplies, women are then told to hide their bodies. There are so many different messages that our society feeds young girls and women.

The Dove Brand has started a campaign (2004) targeted at increasing body acceptance. The brand has released ads both print and commercial, to promote healthy real bodies. Its goals are to start a conversation about the need “for a wider definition of beauty” and by using women of all shapes and sizes in their ads. A study done by The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report found that only 2% of women considered themselves as beautiful. In 2011, seven years after the original study, women now consider themselves beautiful. A small increase, but it was still an increase. I think that more campaigns like the one done by Dove need to be started. Body confidence translates into self-confidence, and causes less anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. I love being able to look at a billboard and being able to relate to the women for once.

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/advertisings-toxic-effect-on-eating-and-body-image/

 

http://www.dove.us/social-mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx


26
Oct 15

Anonymity and Social Media

Even though the advances of technology and social have enabled people to connect and communicate more easily, it has negative effects, such as using anonymity online to hurt and bully people. News everywhere are shown often of young people committing suicide because they were bullied online. Cyber bullying could involve sending harmful messages online, harassment, threats, and humiliation involving the use of social media. It makes you think, why do people feel more prone to hurt others when they are hiding behind anonymity? And, what is it about anonymity online that changes a person’s identity or personality and makes them want to bully people on the web?

A study conducted in Taiwan with high school students as participants tried to evaluate the use of an anonymous presence online and its association with cyber bullying behavior. The results determined that the use of a high level of anonymity and reduced social cue lead to create higher degrees of cyber bullying behavior (Wu & Lien, 2013). There exists a perception of anonymity that comes with lowered feelings of accountability that could result in reduced public self-awareness. If someone is bullying another person online, and the victim does not know who the bully is, then the bully might increase the abuse since he or she will feel like there is no way they could be traced or could be held accountable for their actions.

You see evidence of these types of behaviors in all social media. If you go to youtube and look at the comment section, you will encounter people offending other people by insulting them simply because they do not agree with their opinions. On twitter, you will encounter the same situation; tweets are sent to other people with threats. In a way, social media enables people to take on different identities, or helps them create a new one. Manago, Graham, Greenfield, and Salimkhan suggest that the flexibility of communication capacities frees individuals from existing at the effect of an externally created media environment, and that identity becomes socially constructed in environments such as a chat room (2008). A young boy who decides to participate in a chat room about video games could see the different interactions of his peers. These interactions could include some users calling other user names, or bullying, and this young boy might determine that these people do not face any consequences for their actions; therefore he might want to decide to take on the same type of personality or identity online, and he could start cyber bullying his peers.

Intervention for these types of behaviors can start at home. Parents could monitor the websites their children visit and see how they are behaving online. If they do see that there is a behavior that should be stopped, then they can talk to their children about the negative effects these actions might cause on other people. At schools, principals, teachers and other staff members could give seminars to the students and to staff that show the effects of cyber bullying, and together they could create protocols for reporting cyber bullying and how they could intervene to prevent or stop these behaviors.

References:

Manago, Graham, Greenfield, & Salimkhan (2008) Self-presentationand gender on MySpace. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 29(6)

Wu, W. P., & Lien, C. C. (2013). Cyberbullying: An empirical analysis of factors related   to anonymity and reduced social cue. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 311, 533.


26
Oct 15

Are We Addicted to Our Cell Phones?

My family and I decided to go out to dinner last evening.  We called ahead so we could be seated with minimal wait time.  Upon our arrival, the hostess informed us that a table should be ready in a few minutes and handed me the coveted round pager.  The waiting area was crowded so we decided to sit outside.  Seconds after everyone found their place, cell phones were in hand to keep us occupied as we waited.  We were not alone, most everyone not actively engaged in a conversation seemed to have their phones in use as well.  A short time later the pager lit up and we were ushered to our table.  After giving the waitress our order, I began looking around the room.  At a nearby table, a small child was watching videos on a tablet.  At another table, a teenager was playing games on his cell phone.  I continued to scan the room and realized that almost everyone not eating or talking was using their phone to some extent.  Isn’t it amazing we were able to keep ourselves entertained before these hand held devices came into our lives?  Today we carry them with us 24/7 and use them to fill any void.  We do this without thinking about possible unintended consequences.  Existing research indicates that cell phone use can result in increased anxiety, reduced happiness, changes in social interaction and addiction.

A study of college students performed by Lepp, Barkley and Karpinsky (2014) found that frequent cell phone use leads to higher anxiety, lower grades and a reduction in happiness.  If this also holds true for employed individuals, the organizations they work may be experiencing a reduction in productivity as a result.  Furthermore, if we exclude the performance factor, high anxiety and reduced happiness could result in a number of stress related illnesses later in life including cardiovascular disorders such as coronary heart disease (i.e. heart attacks and angina) and hypertension.

Social interactions have also changed drastically as a result of increased cell phone use.  When I was a young adult we didn’t have cell phones, let alone smart phones.  If you needed to talk to someone you went over to their house or called them on a land line.  Today people have entire conversations with one another via text message and never see the person’s facial expressions or hear the tone of their voice.  This can lead to misunderstandings between the sender and recipient of the message due to an interpretation error.  Texting has even reached a point where delicate conversations such as breaking up with someone are now done electronically.  Therefore, social interactions via text message enable people to avoid dealing directly with the hard things in life and teaches them to take the easy way out.  Ira Hyman, Ph.D. has examined cell phone use in detail and urges older individuals not to judge the social interactions of today’s young adults (Hyman, 2014).  He takes the stance that the way in which young adults are using their cell phones does not mean they are addicted to them but rather indicates that they rely on them to communicate and interact with others (Hyman, 2014).  However, Michelle Hackman, who performed a study on cell phone use addiction for a science fair, would likely disagree (Price, 2011).  In her study Ms. Hackman found that cell phones serve as a stimulant for many individuals (Price, 2011).  Since addictions are caused by stimulants (i.e. drugs or alcohol), she concluded that cell phone use can be considered an addiction (Price, 2011).  Does this mean every cell phone user is addicted to their phone?  No, but then not everyone who drinks is addicted to alcohol.

Therefore, the next time you are out at your favorite restaurant and you see a majority of the people in the room buried in their cell phones, ask yourself, are they just passing the time or are they addicted?

 

References

Hyman, I. (2014, January 26). Cell Phones are Changing Social Interaction. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-mishaps/201401/cell-phones-are-changing-social-interaction

Lepp, A., Barkley, J. E., & Karpinski, A. C. (2014). The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 343-350. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1016/j.chb.2013.10.049

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2015). Lesson 9: Media/Communications Technology. PSYCH424: Applied Social Psychology.

Price, M. (2011). Cell phone addiction rings true for teen psychologist. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/features/2011/cell-phone-addiction.aspx

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


25
Oct 15

Twelve Biased Jurors

 

Some of the high profile criminal cases today leave communities in tears and lawmakers frantic. It is a wonder how some of these verdicts are reached. Many modes of media look for closure and do further analysis of why these cases turn out the way they do. Essentially, there’s not enough evidence or the charges are incongruent with the crime. But what’s not examined is the psychological components that go into making such tough decisions, like deciding who’s life to spare or sending someone to prison forever. Confirmation bias, conformity, and groupthink are all confounds that hinder the decision making process of groups. Though the legal system aims to have a methodology of checks and balances and review and analysis, groups can sometimes limit the use of rationale. It is important to understand three group biases to see just how reductive groups may be.

Humans by nature are social beings. Abraham Maslow noted how acceptance and the feeling of belonging are key aspects to a person’s psychological well-being. Because humans have a need to feel acceptance and belonging, people adhere to the social and cultural norms of their society. The need to fit in creates conflict within the legal system since people will behave out of appeasement rather than moral and legal ethics. Pressure upon the jury, by judges, prosecutors, and the media, can confound the jury process. This pressure induces conformity, as members of the jury will seek to adhere to the group’s decision, as each member submits public compliance. This is done for many reasons: to save time, to prevent ridicule, to prevent giving an explanation for dissenting views, or simply out of disinterest. No matter the reason, people are affected by informational social influence and by normative social influence. People may mimic the behavior of others because they feel that others hold more information or the correct information necessary for the situation; or, people behave in specific ways only because that behavior is normally accepted and expected. This herd mentality is dangerous as people may be assimilating into an immoral, irrational, or even prejudice position, all for the sake of maintaining social safety.

Most people would probably rate themselves as honest and open-minded. No one can always be 100% correct, 100% of the time. But what most don’t realize is that people seek to confirm only what they believe is true. Information presented will often be information that supports the stances of the presenter and any information on the contrary will be excluded. Members of a jury may seek to view evidence that corroborates the verdict they want to be reach. This confirmation bias has no place in the legal system. If members of a jury do not include all matters of evidence and only rationalize the pieces that make the puzzle they would like to assume, many will face wrongful convictions and unjust acquittals. In the film, “Twelve Angry Men”, most members of the jury used confirmation bias by only acknowledging on the sole eyewitness testimony and stereotypes of the suspect. Had it not been for the minority dissenter, the men would have reached an irrational guilty verdict, and sent the wrong person to death. Like the possible outcome in Twelve Angry Men, the justice system has sentenced many others for crimes they did not commit. Confirming the accuracy of information is vital, but this must include all of the evidence, dispositions, environment, and accessory details from both sides of the case.

In and of itself, deliberation facilitates groupthink. Six to twelve-person juries may be present with few strong leaders, self-censorship by not voicing opposing opinions to a guilty/not guilty verdict, and compulsion to uphold the groups unison. This induces feeling of invulnerability, high moral purpose, time sensitivity, and unanimous decision making rules. Some of the jurors may exhibit social-loafing, letting others make the major determinants of guilty while they latch on to what’s popular. Within groupthink, members of the group don’t actually join together to make better choices, yet they act in faulty decision instead. The more similar the backgrounds and the longer the group is formed, the more groupthink occurs. Groupthink and social loafing are both present in the film “Twelve Angry Men”. Members of the jury a decide the fate of a suspected murder, where all but one juror decides the suspects innocence based on the decision of the group. Some members formed reasoning based on isolated facts, which turned out to be untrue or stereotypes. Other members just followed what the others said. Luckily, the single vote for not guilty came from someone who was willing to openly and honestly rationalize all the evidence with his peers. The importance of introspection and analysis can not go unnoticed or unaccounted for. Every jury needs to inspect each piece of detail given with timely care, accuracy, and proper perspective analysis. How the evidence is presented plays a major part in this and how it is handled is vital to the outcome of a case.

It is obvious that the criminal justice needs reform. The issues presented are only a small glimpse into the world of law. In every case, members of the jury should be able to rationalize the severity of the outcome and avoid bias thinking at all cost. Each member should be able to look at all the facts objectively, analyze the situational perspective of the defendant’s actions, and issue a verdict that reflects the facts of the matter in the case. A task for applied social psychologist would be to help facilitate more objectivity in jurors. One method could include issuing private ballots that require at least five pieces of evidence as determined by the jury. Even if a fool-proof method of providing a verdict was found, humans are prone to error and mistakes. Jurors on many of the high profile cases have admitted to being emotionally moved, but unable to make a guilty verdict based on the evidence provided. Only in a legal system where jurors are removed from possible bias and provided an adequate amount of admissible evidence can an accurate reflection of justice be shown.


25
Oct 15

Media: Reality is Nowhere to be Found

The cultivation theory explains that in today’s society television acts as the primary socializing agent for youths (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). It only takes the push of a button to see the overabundance of meaningless television appealing to young people, particularly young girls. A recent survey by the Girl Scouts of America revealed that “8 out of the 10” girls watching reality television shows, actually believe that it is real and not scripted (Melnick, 2011). One cannot help but find these statistics frightening. If this theory is indeed the case than mirroring that occurs from such negative and unrealistic influence can be detrimental for a young girl as she attempts to identify and create her own self-image.

Both “reality” and regular television shows typically consist of looking and acting perfect or looking and behaving like a train wreck. Reality shows often glorify alcohol abuse, encourage confrontations, and minimize potential consequences of sexual activity (Pearson, 2015). It is usually one extreme or the other, but either way a young girl sees the notoriety gained from these types of behaviors and sees it as realistic and possibly the norm.

The tendency for young girls to imitate what they see on television can be assimilated to the social cognitive theory. This consists of four processes (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). The first process is attention meaning that what is being modeled is being attended to. That is easy enough, they just need to watch television. The second process is the representation process that involves remembering the behavior that was modeled. Youths are like sponges and are easily influenced, hence the need to better understand adolescent and developmental psychology. The third process is the behavioral production process and this involves how one learns to perform the behavior they observed. Research is indicative that young girls are putting to practice what they have seen on television, whether it be reality television or regular television shows. In fact girls between the age of 11 and 17 were survey and the results revealed that they believe that “Gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls… it’s in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive with one another, and that it’s hard to trust other girls” (Girl Scouts of America, 2011).

The final element is the motivational process meaning what motivates the individual to perform. In most case scenarios it is the rewards of social media likes, popularity, and acknowledgement. Whether it be positive or negative reinforcement varies. Social media is not any better, as far as lacking reality for young girls to grasp or emulate! The influences of the Malala Yousafzai are diminished by the Kim Kardashians and Ana advocates of the world.  A recent study revealed that “Seventy-four percent of girls agree that most girls [their] age use social networking sites to make themselves look cooler than they really are and forty-one percent admit that this describes them as well” (Girl Scouts of America, 2010). Unfortunately, media has determined what is considered cool and what is important and it is far from reality.

Mental health professionals state that parents need to be mindful of what children are watching. It is also suggested that parents start a dialogue with children about what they are watching, so that young people can gain the skills to correctly process the information they obtain and better recognize the difference between reality television and actual reality.

References

Girl Scouts of America. (2010). Girl Scouts Research. Retrieved from Who’s that Girl? Image and Social Media: http://www.girlscouts.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsusa/forms-and-documents/about-girl-scouts/research/gsri_social_media_fact_sheet.pdf

Girl Scouts of America. (2011). Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV. Retrieved from Girl Scouts Research Institute: http://www.girlscouts.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gsusa/forms-and-documents/about-girl-scouts/research/real_to_me_factsheet.pdf

Melnick, M. (2011, October 11). What Reality TV Teaches Teen Girls. Retrieved from Time : http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/18/what-reality-tv-teaches-teen-girls/

Pearson, A. (2015, January 27). The Influence of Reality TV on Teen Girls. Retrieved from Livestrong.com: http://www.livestrong.com/article/1005491-influence-reality-tv-teen-girls/

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psycholgy: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). California: Sage Publicationss.

 


Skip to toolbar