28
Feb 19

Imprisoning Mental Illness

According to The Sentencing Project, there are 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States of America (Criminal Justice).  Over the last 40 years, incarceration rates have gone up 500% (Criminal Justice).  Mass incarceration is a reality in the United States of America.  Some of the explanations for our nation’s high incarceration rate include law enforcement and policies that focus on tough punishments, longer sentencing, and the criminalization of mental illness.

People with mental illness have long been part of a societal shuffle in and out of one type of institution or another.  As it began in 1955, deinstitutionalization came about as an effort to keep people with mental illness out of psychiatric hospitals to then offer community-based interventions (Deinstitutionalization).  Institutionalization in psychiatric hospitals has long been thought of as an inhumane caging up of human beings.  I’m not a fan of institutionalizing anyone, personally.  As people were removed from psychiatric hospitals, however, communities were ill-prepared to offer vital treatment, supports and interventions.  Fast forward to present day, 2019 and people with mental illness are now being institutionalized in jails and prisons.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that during a mental illness crisis, people are more likely to be met with police intervention than mental health intervention (NAMI).  In the era of mass incarceration, in the United States of America, 2 million people with mental illness have been incarcerated (NAMI).

As with many systems in our society, the criminal justice system is complex.  It consists of a web of legal and social institutions whose purpose it is to enforce criminal laws.  Prior to being charged and incarcerated, individuals first interact with law enforcement officers.  During these interactions, people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement officers than people without mental illness (Fuller, Doris, et al).  Law enforcement officers are often faced with situations that they are not adequately trained or supported to navigate.  Vermette, Pinals and Applebaum (2005) explains that outside of mental health professionals, law enforcement officers interact with people facing mental health crisis the most.  Their study also revealed that law enforcement officers routinely express interest in receiving training to help them work through these crises.

A common intervention to help law enforcement officers respond to mental health crises has been the development of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) which has been around since 1988 (Watson & Fulambarker, 2012).  CIT is a partnership between law enforcement, community and local mental health agencies.  Watson, Ottati & Morabito (2010) noted that while implementation of CIT did not directly affect arrests, it was a factor in helping officers recognize the need to refer individuals to mental health services.  Referring people to mental health services can reduce the number of individuals being incarcerated and direct people to much needed mental health supports.  The collaboration of mental health, community and law enforcement is an integral part of society.

Addressing the criminalization of mental illness can eventually help reduce one part of the mass incarceration epidemic.  So far, around 2,700 communities across America have implemented CIT programs but that number is not enough (NAMI).  We still see many communities in need of interventions. One of the limitations of CIT programs has been the time it takes to provide in-class training to officers and the costs associated with training.

In 2015, an extended version of the CIT program was developed by the Albuquerque Police Department (Crisanti, Earheart, Rosenbaum, Tinney & Duhigg, 2018).  The program, CIT ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) goes above and beyond the CIT program and includes a model of continuing education using videoconferencing technology to ensure availability and access to departments nationwide.  As a sustainable effort, it offers weekly programs and includes question and answer sessions which can greatly improve understanding and retention of information.  This program also offers guidance to help jurisdictions develop and improve their own local policies (CIT ECHO).  The CIT ECHO website offers care cards for individuals with disabilities, a blog, podcasts and a variety of information on important mental health topics.

Unfortunately, CIT ECHO was only funded for a period of three years by grants from the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the U.S. Department of Justice and that funding has run out.  Boetel (2019) described the program as having had a big impact on the way law enforcement interacts with mental health crises.  In an article, he explained that upwards of 20% of law enforcement officers believed force was required to maintain officer safety prior to participating in CIT ECHO, however, after training participation only about 3% of officers maintained that belief.  Programs such as these are vital for all communities.  Not only can they help reduce conflict between individuals experiencing mental health crises and law enforcement officers, but they can provide officers with the support they need to cope with difficult real-time situations in a safe manner.

Mass incarceration remains a problem in the United States.  According to Schneider, Gruman & Coutts (2012), some of the goals of a prison are to remove criminals from the general population to protect society from individuals who are threats, to punish these individuals and to reform individuals for re-entry into society when deemed applicable.  Criminalizing mental illness only leads to more people being incarcerated instead of receiving much needed intervention, support and treatment.  Once a person has an arrest record and has been incarcerated, their ability to obtain employment, housing or any assistance to reintegrate into society and function is reduced or in some cases permanently lost.  This is not how to protect society.  It’s punishment for having a stigmatized illness and it’s not reformation of any kind when a person with an illness ends up worse after incarceration.

We have seen the benefit of interventions such as CIT and CIT ECHO, but we are still only touching the surface of possibilities with such interventions.  In a span of a few decades we went from CIT to CIT ECHO with promising results.  While funding for the CIT ECHO program has run out, it is still actively running through the amazing work of volunteers.  Interventions such as CIT and CIT ECHO are great examples of applied social psychology being implemented in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.  These interventions can help improve group dynamics between law enforcement and communities and reduce biases around mental illness.  Providing officers, as first responders, the tools they need to effectively work with people facing mental health crises can play a vital role in helping end an aspect of mass incarceration.

 

References:

Boetel, Ryan. (2019) “Police Learn to Deal with Mentally Ill Residents.” Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Journal, www.abqjournal.com/1276467/police-learn-to-deal-with-mentally-ill-residents.html.

“CIT ECHO.” Crisis Intervention Team, www.gocit.org/cit-knowledge-network.html.

“Criminal Justice Facts.” The Sentencing Project, www.sentencingproject.org/criminal-justice-facts/.

Crisanti, Annette S., et al. “Beyond Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Classroom Training: Videoconference Continuing Education for Law Enforcement.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, vol. 62, 2019, pp. 104–110., doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2018.12.003.

“Deinstitutionalization: A Psychiatric ‘Titanic.’” PBS/Frontline, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/special/excerpt.html.

Fuller, Doris, et al. “Overlooked in the Undercounted THE ROLE OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN FATAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ENCOUNTERS.” Treatment Advocacy Center, doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f.

“NAMI.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org/learn-more/public-policy/jailing-people-with-mental-illness.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2019).  PSYCH 424 Lesson 8: The Legal System/Criminal Justice  Retrieved from  https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1973019/modules/items/25635712

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

Vermette HS, Pinals DA,  Appelbaum PS: Mental health training for law enforcement professionals. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 33:42–6, 2005

Watson, A. C., & Fulambarker, A. J. (2012). The Crisis Intervention Team Model of Police Response to Mental Health Crises: A Primer for Mental Health Practitioners. Best practices in mental health8(2), 71.

Watson, A.C., Ottati, V.C., Morabito, M. et al. Adm Policy Mental Health (2010) 37: 302. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-009-0236-9

 


27
Feb 19

The conflict of Police Lineups

Police Lineups or something called eyewitness identification has been a problem not only where I live, but across the entire country. It is very easy for a witness to mistakenly identify someone as a suspect. According to the Innocence Project in New York, “False eyewitness identifications are the leading factor in wrongful convictions.” it has also contributed to almost 75% of convictions that have been overturned. Our Justice System will never be perfect. and Police Lineups are just one of the many issues we face in this system.

When we look at a criminal case, our eyewitness testimony is very important and can make a huge impact on the decision of the case. If we do not obtain DNA evidence, the next best thing would be a eyewitness testimony, or a positive identification of the suspect. However, a lot of times it is very common for our witness to make a false identification. The Innocence Project has overturned 318 cases since they started with the help of DNA evidence. If you think about it, the mistakes of the witnesses made nearly 3/4 of mistakes.

There can be only one solution to the problem of false eyewitness testimonies. That would be, to try and increase the accuracy in these police lineups. If we have credible witnesses this can all be avoided if you think about it. If we just line up a bunch of suspects in front of a window and try to have the witness determine who the suspect is based off that, we will continue having these problems. There are many people in this world who look alike and this can also be another problem. Another issue may be that the witness or victim may be too distraught and unstable to even make a positive identification as well. There are many factors that come into play on a topic like this.

In conclusion, Police Lineups are not always the most solid option. One option that is always solid is going to be DNA evidence and I personally think that is the main option that investigators should be using. Now if DNA evidence is not present than yes a lineup would be the next option, but a credible witness is very valuable in a court and this process.

Nelson. (2017). Lesson 08: The Legal System/Criminal Justice. Retrieved February 27, 2019, from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834710/modules/items/21736684

 


26
Feb 19

Doppelgänger Disaster

I am sure that each and every one of us can remember a moment in which we were introduced to someone quickly by a friend and, two seconds later, we had just a vague memory of the person’s name and appearance. This is extremely common as we don’t necessarily take time to focus on remembering names or observing the characteristics of people. This type of situation is normally relaxed and friendly. So if we struggle to remember the characteristics of people, such as their hair color, facial features, tattoos and voice, after being introduced to them in a calm and civil manner, how is one going to be able to identify a person after experiencing an extremely short and potentially traumatic experience with them?

When a crime as simple as a robber takes place, the events happy in a matter of seconds. The first reaction of an individual is normally to panic, thus blurring the ability to focus on memorizing the robbers features. Maybe we remember things such as skin color or hair color, but there is small chance of us taking note of special features unless there is one that is screaming to be remembered – for example a face tattoo. Police lineups are asking victims to do exactly this – remember things that they probably didn’t take precise notice of in the first place.

While reading through this week’s notes, I remember a case that I had seen on TV a few years back and surfed around to find it. It tells the story of a woman who got robbed and ended up accusing the wrong man for the robbery. According to an article by the Washington Post, the only things that the woman could recall about her attacker were that “he was thin, light-skinned black or Hispanic man with dark hair”. (Washington Post) This statement can describe a large amount of people. The article does not specify if the woman went in for a police lineup, but it is more than likely that she did to some extent. Nonetheless, the wrong man was taken in and ultimately spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was only short 2 years of what he was sentenced before the law force realized that he was actually innocent.

The article explains that the real culprit was his doppelganger and that everyone who was involved in sentencing him was astounded by the uncanny resemblance between the two of them. It seems that the mistake was something that anyone could have made. But does that excuse the government for taking away 17 years of a good man’s life? Absolutely not.

The concept of a police lineup makes perfect sense, without a doubt. It’s logical to put an eye witness in a position where they can identify who the guilty part is. But this is a system that is nowhere near flawless due to the unreliability of the human mind and memory. Psychologists have been studying different ways to allow this system to be more mistake-proof and ultimately prevent innocent people from spending their lives in prison for simply looking similar to a criminal.

Psychologists have certain recommendations that have been put into practice in order to avoid situations like that of the doppelganger. The first is that the lineup should include multiple possible culprits who have the same features that are described by the witness – even if these people are innocent. This forces the eyewitness to really compare the differences between similar looking individuals and forces a more accurate response. Another concept that has been proved functional is that of informing the eyewitness that the criminal may not necessarily be in the lineup at all. Just because the police has rounded up some men who have shady backgrounds and resemble the description given, does not mean that they have the right man. In the article mentioned above, the real criminal was not even on the police’s radar until years later. Something that psychologists insist on avoiding is giving the witness information about any of the potential suspects. This creates bias in the witness’s mind and that can ultimately result in incorrect selection. An additional concept that can be put into play is that of only allowing a witness to see one individual at once, whether that be in pictures or in person. When a witness is seeing them all at the same time they start to compare and the decision becomes more and more difficult.

Putting these methods into practice does not make the system perfect, it only gives it a push in the right direction. The rate of false-identification is still higher than it should be and psychologists are continuing to work on methods that will allow for less mistakes in the world of criminal justice.

 

Below is the link to the article mentioned in my blog post.

Phillips, K. (n.d.). An innocent man served 17 years. His ‘crime’? He looked almost exactly like the real suspect. Retrieved February 26, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2017/06/13/an-innocent-man-served-17-years-his-crime-he-looked-almost-exactly-like-the-real-suspect/?utm_term=.3a7b2dd9e0de

 


26
Feb 19

3 Characteristics of a Strong Team Member

We all have worked on a team one way or another, whether it has been for a group project, for your occupation, or even a sports team. It is something that we can relate to others about. But what truly makes a strong team? Is it due to an effective leader or is it due to each one of the group members individual attributes? Here are a few characteristics that every team member should possess:

  • Reliability/ Commitment to the group
    1. You have to be committed 110% if you want to get the job done. No matter what the reasons are for the individual to be on the team in the first place, you have to show that you are reliable enough to follow through. This includes with meeting up with your teammates at your designated time and making adjustments to your schedule if needed. Being a hard worker will really show if you put the effort in. A selfless teammate will put the team first, before themselves. They will do everything they can to help the team to succeed.
    2. Being flexible with meeting times will help your teammates incase there are scheduling issues.
  • Great communication
    1. Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2005) state that effective communication helps teammates in improving their team performance especially in developing a superior functioning team.
    2. Having effective communication can also help one to reach their goals. Goal setting is an essential component when trying to make a strong team (Schneider et al., 2012). When setting one’s goals, try to keep the goals as relevant, challenging, and realistic as possible. Remember to note if the goals are short-term or long-term goals (Schneider et al., 2012). Research has shown that goals help an individual in the development of new strategies, while helping one to pay attention to certain aspects of their own performance (Schneider et al., 2012). Overall, this helps to increase one’s efforts toward striving for a specific goal.
  • Another form of communication to other teammates is nonverbal communication. This can act as a form of motivation for your teammates and can help boost their confidence. A few types of nonverbal communication between your teammates are high fives, hand piles, and team hugs (Schneider et al., 2012).
  1. Some distracting signs of nonverbal communication include body swaying, bad posture, and not maintaining enough eye contact. However, if your team effectively communicates then the main message will be that much easier to understand.
  • Confidence
    1. If there’s no confidence in yourself, how will you get the job done? Your confidence will effect your performance and how you carry yourself.
    2. Be self-motivated and passionate about your work.
      • A efficient teammate shouldn’t wait for others to give them directions, they should be the one to do their share of the work without someone telling them too. Being self-motivated may show other teammates that you have a certain drive and dedication to your team and in reaching your goal.
      • Encouraging others will help empower them. Remind others how to reach the main objectives, the end goals, the main mission, and vision because it will show others of your team it has a purpose (Saylor, 2019).

These characteristics will help you to make you in becoming a better teammate. By being self motivated, being a dependable team player, being honest, having passion in what you do, and by communicating it effectively to your teammates will truly help in the development an effective team. Settings goals will help in the long run because it shows that you are focused on reaching them. Being honest with teammates about things that might not work will help them with improving themselves for the team by understanding their weaknesses and strengths (Yost & Tucker, 2000). In order to create a strong foundation with your team, you have to be ready to have difficult conversations with members by having open effective conversations with your members (Saylor, 2019). Actively listening will also help one with the development of one’s trust and even by encouraging your teammates with empowering messages can help you to get that much closer to your goal. Being a team player requires dedication, a lot practice, self-motivation, and passion for the team/ project (Saylor, 2019). By following these three characteristics, anyone can become the best team member they can be.

References

Saylor, T. (2019). Teaming up for success. Journal of Accountancy, 227(2), 14. Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/2176184493?accountid=13158

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Yost, C. A., & Tucker, M. L. (2000). Are effective teams more emotionally intelligent? Confirming the importance of effective communication in teams. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 42(2), 101. Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/1297786949?accountid=13158


26
Feb 19

Drama At The Office

I used to work as a medical assistant for a cardiology practice. The job was stressful. Working with cardiac patients would leave me drained at the end of the day. However, there wasn’t anything more stressful than working with difficult co-workers. And by saying difficult I mean bullies, melodramatics, and just plain crazies. I worked there for eight years, so I had seen many employees come and go. With every new hire, we would have to present our subculture and help them assimilate into our work family. Most new would observe the work environment and how we interacted with each other and try to imitate those behaviors. But there were some who didn’t adapt to the work environment and as a result, caused conflict in the office.

We spend most of our waking hours at work. Imagine if we have to work with co-workers who are unfriendly, or the boss is a jerk. Although it is not the only factor, if the work environment is unpleasant, our job satisfaction tends to go down (Schneider, 2012). The social influence model of job satisfaction suggests that people adapt attitudes and behaviors from their immediate work environment. In supportive and friendly work environments, employees tend to adjust to similar attitudes and behaviors (Schnedier, 2012). And yet, there will always be employees who cause conflict no matter how supportive the work environment is. This will have its negative effects to the organization, especially if it’s a small group business.

So even if there is one employee with a bad attitude in the office, chances are the work environment will be negatively affected. This can be explained by the “eye for an eye” exchange observed by Greco and colleagues (2019). In this meta-analysis, they suggest that work behavior is reciprocated. Negative behavior in one party is associated with negative behavior of the other, which eventually reciprocates and escalates to greater levels (Greco, et al., 2019). So yes, it takes one nutcase to knock out the equilibrium at the office.

 

References

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., Counts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. New Dehli: SAGE Publications

Greco, L.M., Whitson, J.A., O’Boyle, E.H., Wang, C.S., Kim, J. (2019). An eye for an eye? A meta-analysis of negative reciprocity in organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology


25
Feb 19

Negative Coworkers’ Effect on Businesses

Everyone works, or has worked with employees at some point in their lives. Even with jobs we don’t like, our coworkers can make a less than desirable job somewhat enjoyable. When we have coworkers who we don’t like or who are negative, they can seriously affect the entire business. Some of the worst behaviors that coworkers can exhibit are bullying, complaining, and negatively influencing coworkers (Chron.com). When coworkers bully each other, or complain, it brings the morale of the entire office down. If a coworkers sees another being bullied in the office, he/she might be hesitant to say or do anything for fear of losing the job they have. With complaining, it tends to bring everyone down onto the same negative level, and people lose motivation to do their jobs. When coworkers negatively influence each other, this can include drinking on the job, leaving work early, and distracting each other from doing their work. Something people say about teachers is that the teacher can make all the difference for the student. The same applies to coworkers and jobs. If you have good coworkers, you tend to like your job more and maybe even do better work for the company you work for. When you don’t like your coworkers or have coworkers who display any of the bad behaviors listed above, your work can suffer and you might be unhappy with your job and ultimately the business will suffer because of it.

Forbes offers advice to managers, but it can also be applied to coworkers in some cases, when dealing with a negative employee. Forbes says to listen, give behavioral feedback, document the problems, be consistent, set consequences for actions, work through the company’s processes, and don’t be afraid to stand up to them. Dealing with bad or difficult employees can be a very tricky situation but every company and business has at least and it is so important to know what to do when you encounter them.

Williams, Ellie. “How Do Co-Workers Affect Employee Behavior?” Chron.com, 21 Nov. 2017, work.chron.com/coworkers-affect-employee-behavior-4245.html.

Andersen, Erika. “9 Ways To Deal With Difficult Employees.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 22 Nov. 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/11/21/9-ways-to-deal-with-difficult-employees/#79ee6b3040c4.


25
Feb 19

Good Communication is Key!

Have you ever received a text message from your good friend and you found yourself not understanding what your friend was trying to say? Communication is a big part of our life, we communicate with friends, colleagues, strangers, and etc, but for some reason, even though we communicate on a regular basis, we tend to miscommunicate sometimes, but more commonly via text.

When communicating, cues are the key to sending a message. In other words, when the sender is encoding a message, it is easier for the receiver to decode the messages with help of cues. However, in the case of texting, visual and voice cues cannot be seen nor heard, which can lead to miscommunication. A study by Kruger, Epley, Parker, & Ng (2005) found that when people are writing an email, they tend to write from their own point of view, also known as egocentrism. When the senders are writing emails, they are writing from their own perspective and, in a sense, expecting the receivers to understand what they mean, which was done in the study (2005). When the senders write emails, they must take into consideration that the receiver might not perceive certain words/sentences the same way, which leads to miscommunication. In the study (2005), one of the biggest issue was egocentrism; egocentrism is the inherent difficulty of not being able to to differentiate between self and others. This can lead to further understanding how miscommunication occurs when trying to communicate through email. The person who was writing the email (sender) had overconfidence that the receiver would be able to decode the email, but this was not the case.

This can further help us understand why we sometimes don’t understand our friends’ texts, because they were assuming that we would, but from their point of view and not ours. To minimize the problems from miscommunication when texting, we must revisit the thought of what effective communication is. Effective communication is to not be biased and self centered, but rather listen and be considerate to others. This can be utilized when communicating via text (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). This way, we might be able to minimize miscommunication. When preparing to text, the sender must think of several factors such as, ‘will the receiver understand what I am trying to say?’, ‘will they understand certain slangs or sayings?’ (this would preferably not be used), and etc. The sender has to make sure that the message they are trying to send to the receiver will be easy to decode (Schneider et al., 2012).

However, we must keep in mind that texting is not an ineffective method of communication; it can be very effective when done correctly. Texting allows us to communicate much effortlessly and quickly compared to the past. Using texting as a communication method is a very helpful tool with the right guidelines in mind. Next time you write a text to your friends, you might want to keep in mind that just because you understand what you are trying to say does not mean that they will, and thus ensure the information is delivered accurately.

References

Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J., & Ng, Z. (2005). Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we
communicate as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
89(6), 925-936. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.925

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Los Angeles: Sage.


25
Feb 19

Groupthink & Normative Influence: Gucci Edition

Gucci Sweater, 2019

This week in Applied Social Psychology, I became particularly interested in interpersonal processes in organizations. Within interpersonal processes in organizations, Chapter 10 in Applied Social Psychology, Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, by Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, discusses group decision making. While learning about the consequences regarding group decision making, I immediately made a connection between a current event and the theories of groupthink and normative influence. Unfortunately, many poor decisions that can genuinely offend and hurt people can be a result of groupthink and normative influence.

Almost everyone with access to social media has heard about the latest controversy revolving around the popular luxury brand, Gucci. For those who do not know, in the beginning of February, Gucci released a sweater that many claim resembles blackface. The origin of blackface goes all the way back to the 1830s, when white theater performers would paint their faces black and portray black people through negative stereotypes (“Blackface”, n.d.). Earlier this month, when a twitter user posted a screenshot of the sweater from Gucci’s website, thousands of people retweeted the post, causing an outrage all over the internet. Understandably so, people all over the world are offended by Gucci’s black face sweater, and even boycotting the company. Since the sweater went viral over the internet, Gucci has issued an apology and removed the sweater from their stores (Held, 2019).

Many people are wondering how a company like Gucci, the best-selling Italian brand in the world (“World’s Top Dollar Fashion Brands”, 2016), with hundreds of designers and marketing employees, could actually create and execute a sweater that resembles blackface. How is it possible that various people working for a $12.4 billion company could make such a big mistake? Did all those people really look at the sweater and think it was a good idea? I want it to be clear that I believe a blatant disrespect for black people and black history was a huge factor that contributed to the design being made and sold. But is every single person that was involved with the creation of the sweater racist? I am under the impression that groupthink and normative influence helped contribute to the design being approved, physically made, and put on sale as opposed to being thrown in the trash like it should have been.

Groupthink is defined as a poor decision-making process that can occur when members of a group feel strong pressures to reach high-group adhesiveness (Schneider et al., 2012). According to Schneider et al. (2012), there are various conditions that can yield groupthink, including:

  1. High stress
  2. Directive leadership
  3. Over-confidence brought on by amplified sense of collective efficacy
  4. Lack of outside opinions
  5. Over-valuing group cohesion and solidarity

Normative influence is defined as pressure to act or think a certain way to achieve social approval and prevent negative social consequences (Schneider et al., 2012). Keeping the definitions of groupthink and normative influence in mind, we can imagine how these theories could have caused the blackface sweater design to be approved. For example, it is highly possibly that there is a group of people who work for Gucci who look at designs and give them the “okay” to be physically made and then sold either in stores or online. We can imagine a room of 30 people hastily looking through sketches of designs because a deadline for a new collection is the following day (high stress). When the sketch for the sweater comes up, 25 out of the 30 people in the room immediately make the connection between the design and blackface and know that the design should not be approved. However, out of the 5 people with various situational variables that cause them to not feel negatively about the design (racism, ignorance, apathy, distraction), 4 of them have considerably higher control in the company than everyone else in the room, including the person who is the leader of the group: the creative director. In line with groupthink, the creative director expresses his approval for the sweater right away (directive leadership). Following the creative director’s lead, 14 more people approve the sweater. However, the 15 people left are trying to decide if they are going to speak up or not. When one person expresses their concerns, the creative director makes a negative, embarrassing comment towards the person (negative social consequence) and moves on with the discussion. The remaining 14 people saw how the creative director treated the person with an opposing opinion and did not want the same consequence (normative influence) and wanted to maintain cohesion within the group (groupthink), so they decided to approve the design even though they truly felt like it was not the right decision.

When companies as popular as Gucci make extremely poor choices like they did with the blackface sweater, people question how it is even possible. While the obvious disrespect for black people is an explanation, this situation also displays the problems of group decision making. Specifically, it shows how groupthink and normative influence can result in poor decisions that insult and hurt others.

 

References:

Blackface: The Birth of an American Stereotype. (n.d). Retrieved from https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/blackface-birth-american-stereotype

Gucci Sweater. (2019). [image]. Image retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/692314950/gucci-apologizes-and-removes-sweater-following-blackface-backlash

Held, A. (2019). Gucci Apologizes And Removes Sweater Following ‘Blackface’ Backlash. npr. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/692314950/gucci-apologizes-and-removes-sweater-following-blackface-backlash

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology. Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

World’s Top Billion Dollar Fashion Brands. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.fashion-schools.org/articles/world%E2%80%99s-top-billion-dollar-fashion-brands


24
Feb 19

Quitting When the Going Gets Tough

My friend recently quit her job. It wasn’t exactly a “big deal” in the grand scheme of things — she worked there part-time, using the money to help pay for school — but she probably would have continued working at the restaurant until she graduated if it hadn’t been for the new owner. Now, I won’t say that she ever really enjoyed working there, but the old owners were nice and gave her a consistent schedule, so she seemed to think that it was alright. Unfortunately, about a year ago, they ended up selling, and the restaurant got a new owner. He was young and used curse words at work, which apparently meant that he was supposed to be “cool.” Too bad it didn’t mean that he could run a business. 

The changes came slowly, and looking back, it’s almost like he was trying to sneak it past them. He began with occasionally understaffing them and not ordering enough supplies, and soon that became the new norm. The plants on the patio died around a month after he took over, and their dead carcasses stuck around for the next six months. At first, she thought that everything would get better with time. There is a learning curve to any new endeavor. However, around the time they started to consistently run out of things like napkins and bleach, she’d lost all hope. I mean, a customer would ask for some napkins, and she’d have to apologize and offer them some paper towels that were meant for the restroom. The restroom. That’s an indignity no customer service employee should have to suffer. 

It was all downhill from there. More and more people began to quit, call off work, show up late, and display other withdrawal behaviors (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Eventually, she ended up quitting as well. Not only was this a pain for her, since she had to find a new job and become acclimated to a new environment, but it’s also bad for the business itself. As Schneider et al. (2012) point out, increased turnover leads to an increase in expenses. Not only has the organization lost the time they invested in the employee who quit, but they must now reinvest in a new individual who may or may not work out (Schneider et al., 2012). 

Withdrawal behaviors can stem from a number of interconnected influences. For example, Darr and Johns’ (2008) meta-analysis postulates that work strain is, indirectly, one of the major contributors to absenteeism. While job satisfaction does not strongly correlate with an individual’s likelihood to miss work, illness does, and work strain is a big contributor to illness (Darr & Johns, 2008). This understanding of absenteeism — that it is more likely to be an involuntary reaction to stress rather than laziness or rebellion — is important to note. If a business notices that they have suddenly an increase in absenteeism, they should consider whether or not their employees have been under an unusually high level of stress and act accordingly. A company who takes care of their employees will be more likely to retain them. 

On the other hand, voluntary turnover has been moderately linked to job satisfaction. Mobley’s (1977) intermediate linkages turnover model supports this correlation and details the seven potential stages an employee might go through when considering whether or not they are going to quit. This includes considering the pros and cons of quitting and looking for and comparing job alternatives (Mobley, 1977). Wittmer, Shepard, and Martin (2014) tested Mobley’s model and found that their research largely supported it. However, they did find that other factors, like organizational commitment, age group, relationship status, and mobility, also contributed to whether or not an employee who intends to quit actually goes through with it. This could help explain why job satisfaction is only moderately correlated with voluntary turnover. Many people want to quit but have other commitments or factors that prevent them from doing so. Therefore, preventing job dissatisfaction should be an important goal for organizations. While Big Business may not care about an individual employee’s feelings, they do care about their bottom line. Engaging in strategies aimed at increasing job satisfaction is mutually beneficial and helps alleviate stress both on the employees and the organization’s wallet.

References

Darr, W., & Johns, G. (2008).  Work strain, health, and absenteeism:  A meta-analysis.  Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 13, 293-318.

Mobley, R. (1977). Intermediate linkages in the relation between job satisfaction and employee turnover. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62(2), 237-240.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Wittmer, J. L., Shepard, A., & Martin, J. E. (2014). An application of Mobleys intermediate linkages turnover model to a full-time employee group typology. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology,87(4), 806-812. doi:10.1111/joop.12080


21
Feb 19

What constitutes a “jerk”?

“It’s happening at 8:30 tomorrow morning” my husband told me without preamble when we called me on his way home from work last night. He did not even have to explain the “it” he was referring to; I knew immediately that the “jerk” he works with was finally being fired. I felt a sense of relief that my husband would no longer have to deal with this person who had made his work so much more frustrating, but I also felt sad. Sad for the individual being let go as well as the person tasked with doing the firing. It was a difficult situation.

As I lay in bed last night wishing I could just fall asleep instead of dreading what was going to happen in the morning I found dozens of question swirling around my head. There was one in particular that I kept coming back to. Does behaving like a jerk translate into someone actually being a jerk? No, I concluded. Just because someone acts like a jerk it does not automatically make them a jerk. But then how do you decide when you need to separate yourself from someone versus try to help them deal with a difficult situation in a better way?

When I listened to the interview of Dr. Bob Sutton at Stanford University, I was absolutely in agreement with his ideas of dealing with and reducing our contact with “jerks” in the workplace. This morning though, I find myself still wondering how we get to the point of slapping the label of “jerk” on someone.

It seems like a prime example of the fundamental attribution error to label someone as a “jerk” instead of attempting to understand what caused them to react in a negative way. But perhaps it’s not that simple either; I do believe that some people are predisposed to be mean no matter the situation they find themselves in.

To gain better clarity I took a deeper look at the attribution process and in particular at Kelley’s (1973) covariation model. According to Kelley, we can estimate whether the root cause for someone’s behavior is internal or external by determining levels of the following (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012):

  • Distinctiveness – Is this behavior unique to this situation?
  • Consensus – Are others behaving in this same way in this situation?
  • Consistency – Is this typical behavior for this situation and person?

This method can help us determine if the behavior stems from an out-of-character reaction to an external situation or if the behavior should be attributed to internal personality/character factors.

So then, should we default to labeling someone a jerk if it turns out that the behavior stems from internal factors? I think not, and I think it can even be detrimental to the individual being labeled. I believe that the average person who is labeled a jerk is aware of the stigma they carry. They usually know that they rub people the wrong way and that others don’t like them. While some may seem to be jerks down to their souls, could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy in others? The jerk knows they are disliked but perhaps they don’t think they have the power to change who they are. As a result, they don’t attempt to better themselves and instead write off their membership in the jerk club to innate and unchangeable personality deficits; the “jerk” lives up to the label.

Instead of labeling people we should focus on describing their behavior. Rather than calling someone a jerk, we could say that they responded inappropriately. Thus, it would be easier to detach the behavior from the character of the person. It would allow the person to still see themselves as “good” and choose to view their bad behavior as an exception rather than defining them.

In the workplace, perhaps we could identify the behaviors that we are wishing to encourage instead of focusing on the behaviors that we want to abolish. Instead of saying “no jerks allowed” we could institute a mandate that requires that employees always respond with kindness. The emphasis would be on promoting positive behaviors instead of labeling people by their behaviors, good or bad. I propose that by discouraging bad behaviors, instead of condemning individuals, we could have success changing the way people handle difficult situations.

 

References:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Bob Sutton (Stanford University) – The No Jerk Rule | Stanford eCorner. (2007). Retrieved from https://ecorner.stanford.edu/podcast/the-no-jerk-rule/


Skip to toolbar