20
Nov 17

The Damaging Potential of Social Change

When we discuss social change, it’s with a mind towards improving life for everyone, granting rights to the disenfranchised, and helping those that need it most. However, we must be cautious in this interpretation of social change, as not all social changes are good, and some can have enormous, far-reaching effects. To illustrate this example, let’s take a look at one of the biggest cultural difference markers in the United States right now: Views on the Civil War. The Civil War was unlike any other in American history, as both sides were part of the same country; as such, the victors of the war coexist alongside the losers, and on top of that, America is distinctly divided into states (and therefore sub-groups) with varying cultures and laws, allowing people to associate more heavily with their state than the country as a whole. As such, when the Civil War ended, it isn’t surprising that both sides would have different views on why it happened — what is surprising is the narrative that eventually won as the Civil War slipped further back into the annals of history. It wasn’t the narrative of the victors — however accurate or inaccurate you might think the North’s “side of the story is,” isn’t it bizarre that it’s the pro-South story that we constantly see parroted around today? This was accomplished through social change.

Lowndes (2017) did an excellent video on this subject, but I’ll summarize it briefly. The Daughters of the Confederacy were a group formed after the Civil War with the express intention of “not losing Southern culture” and to ensure that the “narrative of the North” that the South fought for the right to own slaves and was anything but noble would not become the dominant one. The Daughters of the Confederacy were extremely particular about how they went about this change — being that this was the late 1800s to very early 1900s when they were most active, they accomplished this not through political moves or votes, but simply by manipulation of their surrounding culture and younger generations. Many statues of Civil War generals or heroes are found in the South and can be found with a placard stating that they were funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy; some Southern history books detail slavery as “not that bad” for the slaves such as going over all the nice and lovely things that a slave-owner might do for their slaves (Lowndes, 2017). By targeting the surrounding cultural context of the Civil War, as Lowndes said, the Daughters of the Confederacy made it “personal” for people born long after the war ended, and they had a personal stake in ensuring this misrepresentation of history persisted in the face of actual facts. And we can see the fruits of their efforts today: The rallying cry that the Civil War had nothing to do with slaves, but was about “states rights” alone, and arguments about Civil War-era statues are extraordinarily volatile and focused on how removing them “erases history and heritage” for the South.

Though social psychology was not, of course, on the minds of the Daughters of the Confederacy in those exact terms, they clearly knew what they were doing, and everything they did was very specific and deliberate. Their primary strategy was popular education, defined by Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2012) as “educating and disseminating information to community members”. A child has no concept early on of what a war is or isn’t about, and they can easily be told that it was this way. By the time they experience conflicting information, they already believe they have the truth and will rebuke “fake evidence”. This would have especially been the case when the Daughters of the Confederacy were most active, in days when libraries’ contents could be more easily controlled and getting news or information from across the country was nigh impossible. In pushing the “noble South” narrative, the Daughters of the Confederacy rewrote history and consequently changed the South’s culture, resulting in over a hundred years later, the Confederate flag is bandied around by citizens of non-South states and claimed to be about “States’ rights”. When we also fight for social change, we should be wary of lasting cultural impacts and that we fight for the right thing. For all we know, those successes could echo out for decades to come.

References

Lowndes, C. (2017). How southern socialites rewrote civil war history. Vox, retrieved from https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/10/25/16545362/southern-socialites-civil-war-history.

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


20
Nov 17

Striking a Balance in Research Methodology

In considering different forms of research, particularly the juxtaposition between activist research and “traditional” research, one can often find oneself (or, at least, I personally find myself) left with more questions than answers the more consideration is given to the topic. Activist research refers to research conducted by social scientists in such a manner that a particular stand is taken on and action is implemented to solve a social problem (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005). Often, activist research is participatory, meaning that the community that is being researched is actively involved in and/or has control over the research itself; however, that is not necessarily always the case. “Traditional research,” in this context, refers to research that attempts to be as objective as possible, and does not pick a side. At face value, this dichotomy seems relatively easy to understand and digest–in reality, though, I believe it is difficult to accurately and conclusively label a given study and/or experiment as “activist” or “traditional,” with some exceptions. I would argue that the two are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, the best research is both high in internal validity and attempts to reduce bias and encourage objectivity (aspects of “traditional” research) while simultaneously bringing to light & attempting to solve a social problem in the most holistic way possible (true of activist research).

A good example of research that strikes such a responsible balance is given in the Schneider (2005) text as an example of non-participatory activist research. Social scientist Nancy Russo conducted a study that analyzed large-scale data from thousands of people that showed that women who had had abortions did not, as had been claimed by pro-lifers, show more long-term psychological stress than women who had not had abortions. In fact, the results pointed to the exact opposite being true. Already, the data collection and analysis methods are fairly unbiased (i.e the large sample size and the fact that the initial raw data was not even collected with the goal of proving or disproving the claim in mind), and in addition to this Russo chose not to argue that abortion somehow causes higher self-esteem (which she arguably could have done based on her results) and said about partnering with a pro-choice group to share the information, “This is our attempt to disseminate the facts” (Schneider, et al., 2005). In my opinion, this is an example of a responsible researcher prioritizing accuracy while still working to create social change. The most obvious criticism of activist research is that it is biased, pushing an agenda (and thus potentially presenting misleading results) rather than providing a simple observation. I think Russo’s study is a counterexample to this critique. While she found evidence that, in refuting a claim made by pro-life lobbyists, supported one side (pro-choicers) in a highly controversial issue, she did so using traditional research methods. As far as I can tell from this study, regardless of Russo’s personal stance or the fact that she teamed up with a pro-choice organization to disseminate her results, if the reality had in fact been that abortion causes long-term psychological damage to women, her methods would have led her to that result instead. For me, this is a good test to decide whether results can be trusted, and why the “Methods” section of a study is the most important part to analyze thoroughly; if the research methods used could have led to opposite results in the case that conflicting results were truer to reality, then it’s likely that the results are giving you an accurate depiction of whatever social issue is being studied.

In my opinion, the obsession with “objectivity” is fundamentally flawed, as being truly “objective” is not something a human being can achieve. Even the most rational, logic-minded researcher still has his or her own perceptions, values, and biases, which are deeply ingrained in our identities as human beings: so deeply ingrained, in fact, that they are impossible to effectively ignore, and will (potentially) unconsciously manifest in the form of researcher bias or in the way a scientist interprets his/her results. Therefore, I would argue, it is paradoxically more scientific to directly acknowledge your lack of ability to obtain total objective scientific-ness than to attempt to act, from your limited, individual human experience as if you are somehow outside of it. Not even the most remote-seeming outcasts are simply observers of humanity and society; we are all a part of it. In a way, this renders all social research “participatory” to some extent.

Many of the problems that arise from methodological flaws can be assuaged by admitting your own biases and/or agendas to both yourself and those who are consuming your research. Once you have completed this first step, you can both better control for accuracy in your process through that self-awareness as well as present findings more honestly and realistically. As a consumer of and/or peer in the social sciences, you can also use critical thinking and healthily skeptical analysis to better understand where research is coming from and how it is being done, which will give you a better idea of its accuracy (or lack thereof) and hopefully stop inaccurate or misleading information from being accepted and disseminated.  

 

Works Cited

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: 

      Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, Calif:  SAGE Publications


20
Nov 17

Social Change and Participatory Research

Social change has had participatory research as one of the methods that are used whenever a study aimed towards social change is being conducted and over time it has been the efficient method that spurs social change. However, everything is subject to scrutiny to know whether there are contrasting ideas or there are existing similarities.

To begin with the first contrast, social change has been successful after the employment participatory research has been employed because it helps determine how the information is to be used in addressing the concerns they have articulated, utilizes a variety of other approaches like community seminars, and has enabled mass action that causes social change. That is to say, social change comes after participatory research.

Another key concept noticed is that for social change to be effective participatory research is meant to be applied collectively and following precise steps while social change comes later as the result end where there are no formulae needed to reach the result end. The procedures in the participatory require commitment from individuals and trust to effectively see their implementation while on the side of social change it requires neither of this but the result end is expected to be either functional or no social change will take place.

In contrast, participative research involves the application of long-lasting skills by the participants in their quest to solving a problem thus, participatory research is a product that spreads outside the research task itself. The effort in participative research is on the insertion of the members and their societies inside the procedure and the applied result, rather eliminating the procedure from its setting. While in the social change all the efforts and steps that are taken by the participatory research are not considered but the achievable results aimed towards the social change is keenly looked upon.

The primary similarities also have been cited between the two, firstly, from the two methods is that persons and not only scholars from a society collaboratively strategize and actively contribute in the research procedure but also the result end is very vital. Noticeably, they both create new acquaintance through the procedures of solving real difficulties while also refining the bulk of persons in the group. To mean all methods requires the contribution and participation of researchers, including management, in manipulative the procedures with researchers as a group through implementing the results.

The methods though put under contrasts, and similarity by scholars, they work collectively towards one aim of achieving one goal of social change which societal institutions are expected to work towards through the set institutions like security, education, and others which change with shifts in other institutions and thus they mutually depend upon each other for their functionality.

 

References:

Mary Brydon-Miller (1997) Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1867078/external_tools/190303

Pennsylvania State University (2017). Psych 424: Social Change and Participatory Research. Retrieved from psu.instructure.com


13
Nov 17

My Situationship

To this day, I think it is fair to assume we as individuals have had that relationship that made us go “what were we thinking”? Well, this was the case for me about seven years ago. I look back today and almost laugh at the circumstances of this relationship, I was young and definitely not ready to be in anything committed. I knew this at that point in time but that did not stop me and to this day I call that relationship a “situationship”. A relationship that was solely situational and founded on the theories of social psychology. This is how social psychology molded and encouraged my year-long “situationship”. The components that made up this relationship were a need to be close, proximity and familiarity, physical attraction, and attachment. In regards to the need to be close, humans are social creatures (Aronson, 2007 cited in Schneider et, al 2012). As social animal’s humans need different relationships some may be more comfortable with socializing and have different skills when it comes to being social but all humans regardless of skill level need a feeling of belonging. This is also why belongingness was the third most important motive on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Schneider et, al. 2012). At the time I met this individual, who I will rename to Mike I had just moved to New York by myself and was renting a studio. My family and friends were back in New Jersey, over an hour away. I attended school as a freshman in college about 30 minutes from my studio. It wasn’t very hard to make friends on campus but the relationships didn’t last very long. I would have to wait for certain weekends or events for my friends from home to come visit and stay but we all lived pretty busy lives and it wasn’t easy finding the time. I eventually became very lonely in NY by myself. I began working a Job that was 10 minutes from my place. I was working there for about 5 months before Mike, a seasoned manager was transferred to my location. I was in a leadership role as well and Mike was tasked with training me. He filled my void of being lonely as I would spend close to 5 days a week with him, training. He was always available to be contacted and we began communicating outside of work sharing similar thoughts, and frustrations and interests having to do with our line of work. “Most relationships start with Physical proximity” (Schneider et, al. 2012 pg. 355). Proximity encourages interaction and being near and accessible is sought after in relationships. The proximity effect is the tendency for psychical and psychological nearness that increases personal liking (Schneider et, al. 2012). This was the case for me and Mike, although we worked in the same company we would have never started a relationship if he was not transferred to work in my location. I would also have never approached Mike or started a conversation with him in any other circumstance. Mike and I shared a lot of time together as most days at work we were together. He was a seasoned manager and I was a new manager so I was drawn to him in many ways. Our work environment created a perceived similarity. We were both working on and discussing the same things every day, this made it seem as if we had many similarities. Hindsight now, We had nothing in common. In regards to attraction, we were opposites. The term opposites attract usually foster short-term relationships as it sparks excitement but lacks enough similarities to encourage anything long term. This may not be the case for everyone but it was my case. I was attracted to his knowledge and outlook at our job and the excitement that came with seeing him every day because he was not the typical guy I would attempt to date. He had a bad boy persona which I usually avoid like the plague, but my need to be close, the proximity, the situation of being in alone in NY, working with him daily, and our perceived similarities drew me to him. Eventually, I became attached to our relationship. I am a mixture of not needing a close relationship and prefer to rely on myself and liking being emotionally close to another person. I began to feel attached to Mike as we started hanging out outside of work. And when I would arrive at work and he wasn’t there, the days would be longer and I would miss his presence. We eventually began to rely on each other heavily. We spent almost every day together and he began staying over my place frequently. We would arrive to work together and leave together. One day though, he was transferred to another store out on Long Island, we didn’t see each other as much and our proximity was lost. We also didn’t have much to talk about in regards to work anymore being we were in two different locations. Once we needed to discuss other things involving our personal lives to maintain conversation it was apparent we did not have a lot in common. I also did not agree with a lot of his life choices, his bad boy appeal was also slowly fading away as I began to realize my maturity level greatly surpassed his. Eventually, his attachment felt like a burden which made me less attracted to him. I moved back to New Jersey and he was terminated from the company. It’s been seven years and I haven’t spoken to him since. People joke around with me today and say things like “What were you thinking” my response going forward will be “social psychology”.

 

References:

Pennsylvania State University. (2017).  Psych 424 Lesson 12: Relationships/Everyday Life. Retrieved from http://cms.psu.edu.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, A.J, and Coutts, L.M  (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: SAGE Pub.


13
Nov 17

If at first you don’t succeed, try again

Does a relationship develop based solely on attraction, proximity and attachment styles? I am going to step out on a limb and say these concepts play a huge role in developing a relationship. From my perspective, I don’t believe human beings were meant to be alone. I am sure there is someone out there who disagrees with this statement but I believe life is so much more fulfilling with others. Schneider, Gruman and Coutts(2012), identifies individual’s desires to be connected or closely linked with others.  Namely, the closeness most individual long for are given by a parent, friend or significant other.  However, in order for this to occur the person has to be willing to let others into their lives whole heartedly. They have to interact and mingle in order to establish relationships. Take myself as an illustration, I’ve been single, married, divorce, single and currently preparing to remarry.  Sounds like a bit of a roller coaster ride. But in order to reconnect and start over, it starts with an attraction.

A” warm body” simply wouldn’t do, I required something more. (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, PG 355) Yet, attraction played a role in my selection process. Not to the extent where it was a deal breaker but it held some value. I didn’t take into consideration the matching phenomenon making sure our looks were complimentary of each other. However, the study conducted by Dion, Berscheild and Waltster concluded that attractive people were viewed highly in comparison to unattractive people. (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). These views would align with physical attractiveness stereotype.  The view suggests there is an expectancy that attractive people have the best “qualities” and unattractive people have the worst” qualities.” People with better features tend to have more job opportunities presented based upon looks according to our text.  Namely, individuals have the tendency to fall victim to primacy effect. The primacy effect is when people are swayed by what is displayed during a first encounter which is normally personal appearance. Yet, there are things to considered when determining how relationships develop such as proximity.

Proximity effect played a developmental role in helping my appreciation for my significant other. Sharing a space heightened the interest I had during our courting phase. When an individual finds themselves in an intimate setting with just two people, it becomes easier to self-divulge.  Likewise, it allows the person the opportunity to figure out the other individual’s preferences and views due to close proximity. Physical proximity is the closeness of other individuals.  In fact, proximity allows people to be within someone’s personal space and obtain a better understanding of the individual. For this reason, people tend to date and get to know other people who live in the same area or even closer, the workplace. Conversely, although closeness can heighten a person’s appreciation for someone it can also cause a person to dislike a person through environmental spoiling.  If a person is disliked, the interaction can have a reserve effect and cause them to have a stronger disliking. Notably, an extensive amount of exposure can cause the individual to feel good or bad about another person. Familiarity also plays a role in establishing a relationship.  One might find it comforting to run into a friendly face that they have seen previously. However, when developing a relationship, one has to conscious that they do not perceive similarities.  It might occur when the person believes someone is more interested, when in fact they are not.

Lastly, attachment styles can put a damper on building a relationship. We’ve all heard the saying, everyone has baggage. Some people’s baggage is much heavier than others.  They could have experienced attachment issues as a child that may have carried over into their adulthood behavior. Namely, if the issues are unresolved it could impact future relationships. Then, let’s not forget how damaging a breakup or divorce can be to a person, it severs the attachment. If the connect between to individual ends, it causes separation distress. Separation distress occurs when the person that they were once attached to is no longer in the picture, it can be very traumatic. Now, let’s consider how attachment styles impact babies when their parents leave them. Based upon their attachment style and the parent level of attention shown, the child may cry out for their parent. If no one responds, the child behavior adapts to the response.  As the child develops similar traits transcend into behavior displayed as adults.  As an example, if a person attachment style as an infant aligned with the secure attachment style, as an adult, the person is likely to be a secure individual. Secure attachment style as an adult suggests the ability to connect with others while maintaining and “interdependence” coupled with being “trusting.”(Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, PG 361) For the most part, no matter what attachment style developed over the years most people require some form of interaction with other people.

In sum, Maslow himself identified “belongingness” as an important factor in “survival and wellbeing.”(Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, 354)  In other words, connecting with and building a foundation of togetherness with others is imperative. This is not to say that a person can’t have an enjoyable life by oneself. However, it can be so much more rewarding if they are willing to take a chance and step out there and  allow themselves to be receptive to new encounters. Clearly, attraction, proximity and attachment styles play a role in the development phase of relationships. Yet, there are so many other factors that come along with building connections. It starts pretty simply with a smile, no words needed.  As long as the individual keeps that heart open and receptive, the world is filled with possible candidates. In my opinion, I believe there is somebody out there for everybody; with this in mind, if you don’t get it right the first time try again.

References

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


13
Nov 17

Dunbar’s Number and Limited Social Caring

Thirty or so years ago, when asked how many friends someone has, they might think carefully and report their closest friends — people they see often, talk to often, and do things often with. Today, in the age of social media, “friend” can be a term loaded with different meaning, and it’s significantly easier to stay in casual contact with a multitude of people. Is someone who you’ve known since high school and never removed from Facebook still a “friend,” even if you talk to each other sometimes? A British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar studied a phenomenon that might clarify this. Essentially, Dunbar proposed that the human brain only has so much cognitive capacity to care for a set number of people, and he linked this to a correlation between other primates’ brain sizes and the size of their social groups. The number he settled on for humans was 150, but this was in the 1990s, and, of course, the social landscape has changed dramatically since then. He revisited his findings decades later and found that even with the advent of social media, humans tend to only have the capacity to form meaningful relationships with about 150 people, no matter if they had even over a thousand casual contacts on social media (Dunbar, 2016).

So, what does this mean? It might seem a little obvious for people that are disconnected mentally from social media. Of course there’s a difference between a Facebook friend and a real friend. But Dunbar’s number previously didn’t have to contend with mass contact with so many people outside their 150 close relationships, and not usually in such socially intimate settings. We’ve read plenty about the proximity effect in our text — that physical closeness breeds familiarity, and familiarity often breeds personal like, and that “psychological nearness” can also qualify for generating proximity effects in people (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). With social media, now we are in proximity of up to thousands of people at a given time depending on how tightly we control our online accounts and interactions. That’s an unfathomable number for the primate brains Dunbar studied. However, Dunbar’s findings essentially state that the proximity effect doesn’t carry over through the internet — at least not in the sense of it changing the quantity of our social groups. No matter how many people we can now be easily close to through social media or long-distance communication, our brains are hard-wired to only care for so many people (Dunbar, 2016).

I feel that Dunbar’s number is important to keep in mind with online interactions. At times, it can feel that we’re forced into close proximity with people we don’t like due to the social expectations of online media and communication. It’s rude to not have your relatives added on Facebook, and rejecting coworkers’ presence on social media feeds can come across as having something to hide. When forced into contact with these people, it can breed resentment — after all, they’re outside our Dunbar’s number, yet they’re in an almost inescapable space that was more “designed” to be for close friends and family, and we have to remain in constant contact with them. Schneider et al. (2012) stated that the proximity effect can generate dislike as well from getting along poorly, but online, it’s not always as easy as just avoiding the other person if there is social media overlap and social pressure to not “unfriend” the disliked person. As time goes on and as social communication becomes easier, we should accept that on some level, aspects of our brains are much more difficult, if not impossible, to change. 150 close relationships are more than enough for any given person’s everyday life. But social media may make us think that 150 is an inadequate number and cause us to chase relationships that, ultimately, will never be as personally close and could even breed contempt in the wrong circumstances.

References

Dunbar, R. I. M. (2016). Do social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks? Royal Society Open Science. Retrieved from http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/1/150292

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


13
Nov 17

Marriage

Marriage is when two people decide to take vows to spend the rest of their lives together. This usually occurs once each person has been able to understand who the other person is. Marriage is a relationship and is contingent on determinants like proximity, familiarity, and physical attractiveness (Schneider et al. 2012). Deciding to marry someone usually means that your connection with that person is very strong which is why you are dedicating yourself to that person for the rest of your life. Why is it that people are deciding not to get married, and getting divorced more frequently than in the past. The gap between married and unmarried has narrowed since the 1950’s (Census Bureau. 2016). People are deciding not to get married. Statistic reports show the divorce rate is three times as high as it was in the 1950’s. What determinants are shifting the value and thought process of marriage. Are factors like science, religion, technology advancements, education, or simply not enough benefit to get married in today’s world some of the reasons?

Traditionally, marriage was more common decades ago. Historically people would get married at a young age and spend the rest of their live’s together. We see older people in society and when asking them how long they have been married an answer like fifty years might pop out of their mouths. That’s how it use to be back in the day was their answer. Speaking to multiple married couples who have been together for a long time this was the common answer found in each couple. People got married and did not get divorced. Why is the divorce rate higher in today’s world. In addition, people are choosing to just not get married. Religious factors play a part. Back in the day, religious practices were to get married and stay together. Marriage was viewed by parents as a necessity for their children. Some families chose the person their child would marry even though this still occurs it is not as common in the United States. The advancement of science also compliments religion. Science has allowed us to discover a lot about the world around us. Science is one of the biggest reasons why religion has diminished in the last few years which would lead to a decrease in marriage for religious purposes. This alone does not answer for the large percent of people deciding not to get married.

With the advancement of technology you have social media available. In previous lessons we have learned about social media. This interconnection people have through social media allows relationships to spark via the internet. One of the determinants in a relationship is proximity. Many people meet online, but never end up meeting in real-life. The proximity is not close which might lead people to training themselves mentally to spark interest temporarily because (Schneider et al. 2012) mentions how humans are social creatures who need closeness. This feeling of closeness is enough to want to spark conversations through social media. This ability to connect to hundreds of people at once is information overload. This might make it harder for someone to pick just one partner. This is why people do not want to commit to just one person. They are scared of missing out on other people. Reports show millennials are choosing not to get married. They prefer to just live with someone and if the relationship ends they are able to find someone else.

In today’s world, millennials seem to think that marriage is outdated. There seems to be small benefit to getting married. The need to attain a certain status whether it is on social media leads people to being more self-centered. People crave attention from others which is why committing to one person for the rest of their lives is a tough task. Jealousy is evident through social media as people comment on pictures of others. Jealousy has the ability to wreak havoc on relationships (Schneider et al, 2012).

Psychologists may be able to study marriage and determine what exact reasons and motivators of the marriage and divorce rate in today’s world vs past times. Surely, factors like religion, technology will play a part. The ability to connect to multiple people and develop multiple relationships makes it more difficult to choose one partner.

 

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. ISBN 978-1412976381

The United States Census Bureau, (2016)https://www.census.gov/newsroom/stories/2017/february/singles_awarenss_day.html


13
Nov 17

Relationships

Do “birds of a feather flock together” or “opposites attract”? What do you think? I have been around these two notions all my life. If I recall correctly however, I was more familiar with the notion of “opposites attract” and did not learn about the other notion later in life. Perhaps that influences my preference of one over the other. Then, during the past years, I have learned about the two notions in at least two psychology courses. So, what is it then? What do I think and what do the studies say?

I was surprised to read that both notions cannot be true (PSU, 2017). I guess in general, there is one that shows more success in terms of relationships. The lesson commentary state that “birds of a feather flock together” is the true notion, in terms of long-lasting relationships and success (PSU, 2017). This relates to similarity. It makes sense if you think about it. Life is full of experiences, situations and changes. People and life change with time and it may be challenging for two persons to smoothly experience it all successfully. Perhaps it would be easier for two persons with similar perspectives, beliefs and maybe even backgrounds. The similar-to-me-effect explains that people get along better with others who are similar to them because they share values, personality traits, feelings and thoughts (PSU, 2017).

A study conducted by Capitanio, Blozis, Snarr, and McCowan investigated the famous question Do “birds of a feather flock together” or do “opposites attract”? The interesting thing is that they studied these notions on monkeys. Perhaps similarity effects go beyond humans. They assessed the monkeys during infancy to predict success pairing years later. For instance, in female monkeys, success pairing was higher when they had similar scores of emotionality and nervous temperament (2015). The researchers concluded that patterns of emotionality during infancy can be used for success pairing in the future (Capitanio et al., 2015).

Perhaps it is just part of my personality but I often find myself choosing the grey area between two concepts. Therefore, I have problems choosing just one notion over the other. I do understand why the notion of similarity correlates to successful long-term relationships. As a married woman, I know the challenges of marriage. In my case, “opposites attract” would probably be the most accurate notion to describe my relationship. When I say opposites, in so many ways that it is surprising. We have been together for nearly 8 years and faced many challenges. Still, our love and bond have grown stronger with the years. It has been interesting to experience all the changes of life together and still fit like a puzzle. However, we do have many similarities. I believe it is perhaps a balance. I truly think is possible to have a combination and not fit completely into one notion or the other.

In conclusion, similarity is definitely a positive predictor for successful long-term relationships. When it comes to “birds of a feather flock together” or “opposites attract”, psychology and studies points to the notion that “birds of a feather flock together”. People get along with others who are similar to them. I personally like to think it is possible to fit in the middle of these two notions. For me, not everything is not white or black. Relationships are complex and high similarity would definitely make the experience easier, but I think success is possible with some differences.

References

Lesson 12: Relationships/Everyday Life. Penn State University. Retrieved

https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1867078/modules/items/22915594

Capitanio, J. P., Blozis, S. A., Snarr, J., Steward, A., & Mccowan, B. J. (2015). Do “birds of a feather flock together” or do “opposites attract”? Behavioral responses and temperament predict success in pairings of rhesus monkeys in a laboratory setting. American Journal of Primatology, 79(1). doi:10.1002/ajp.22464


12
Nov 17

My mother is addicted to Hallmark movies!

To put this into perspective she is a retired 68-year-old woman with an advanced degree, two kids, who had a 40 plus year career and every weekend when I visit she is watching a sappy story on the Hallmark channel. She immediately changes the channel when I come into the room to anything else and acts a bit embarrassed. I have reached out to my brother to see what his opinion was. Is she depressed or lonely; is there something we should do?

Looking back at our childhoods this obsession was not apparent. She went to Star Wars movies, TMNT movies, soccer games, football games, concerts, and supported every interest we had. Even now she will watch Adam Ruins Everything and Declassified with my brother and I. So when and why is there a disconnection from then to now?

I have always accepted that my mom was an optimist. Not an unrealistic one, but always the person that helped you to solve any problem to achieve the best outcome possible. Thinking back to times that were challenging she always tried to hide her sadness while I railed at the world and my brother ran through his emotions on the track. In our family reality, it seems that we represent the aspect of social psychology that reflects the optimism-pessimism continuum.

Blame it on genetics, social cognitive learning, or simply a bad attitude but my brother and I rarely see the bright side. We are not unhappy; we just don’t expect things to work out. When we focus on our goals and are successful we are often surprised. Bring in the optimist and we are forced to reevaluate our actual experiences. According to Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts “Optimism has little to do with the objective characteristics of the situation that can range from dire to ideal. Instead, optimism is a largely subjective perceptual phenomenon” (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 384).

The question now is how did she develop that perspective. I know enough about her life to acknowledge that it had sadness, disappointment, and tragedy just like everyone. No silver spoon, just a girl growing up in the 1960’s that saw the world change. She knows where she was for three assassinations and Kent State protests and will freely admit that the experiences changed her. Applying the learned optimism theory, I would say that it was through this time period that she developed and acted on the need to see positive change. She wanted to see a future without war, poverty, and racism and she believed she could do her part. And it would start with her through her interactions at home and at work. It was a choice she made. As things happened in her world she tried to understand who was responsible. Assigning attribution for the world’s problems was easy, and on a personal level, her reactions were the classic optimist; able to enjoy internal attribution when things worked out and external attribution when things happened that were not in her control. That skill would become very important as she raised her sons.

As the son of an optimist, and I am here to testify that I am lucky. Her optimistic outlook, while sometimes annoying, helped support us all. It gave us a counterbalance to negative experiences, it reminded us that we had strengths and weaknesses, it provided problem-solving skills and supported us emotionally through the years of teenage angst. Optimism taught us balance; we are responsible for ourselves, our actions and our reactions and what we don’t have, which is control of anything else.

So why does my mother watch Hallmark movies? I asked her. Her response is that they are a guilty pleasure. Problems are solved, love wins, people help each other, having and being a friend is important, and attitudes can change; basically, these movies are optimism in a two-hour dose. And the one caveat – love takes work (way more than the 2 hours allocated in the movie). If I have learned anything about what is important in relationships’ from my mother, it is that optimism is vital. And to answer my question to my brother “Is there anything we should do about mom?” the answer is yes, make some popcorn and watch a movie with her and sink in the optimism!

Reference

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology (Second ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

 

 


12
Nov 17

Proximity, Familiarity, and Relationships

Growing up, my best friends were Madison R., Sarah T., Charlotte T., and Lauren W.  My sister ended up dating the boy that sat next to her in history.  My best friend dated a family friend and then the boy in her small college study abroad program.  Another close friend married a man she saw at church each week. Despite the fact that all of these events seem relatively isolated, they actually have some elements in common.  Specifically, each of these relationships seems to have been developed with the help of the proximity effect and the familiarity effect.

Originally proposed by Leon Festinger and his colleagues in 1950, the proximity effect is the idea that physical and/or psychological closeness increases interpersonal liking and attraction (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts., 2012).  Interestingly, this phenomenon has been shown to be powerful in the creation of everything from friendships to life-long partnerships.  Similarly, Schneider et al. (2012) note that increased exposure to someone can increase preexisting opinions about them, but, in the absence of preexisting opinions, increased exposure results in positive feelings due to familiarity and perceived similarity.  Familiarity has been shown to be positive and reassuring for most people, while perceived similarity results in the assumption that people have more in common, facilitating warmer, more comfortable interactions (Schneider et al., 2012), all of which facilitate attraction.

So, let’s take a close look at how the proximity and familiarity effects have impacted the relationships detailed above.  First, we have my best friends growing up: Madison R., Sarah T., Charlotte T., and Lauren W.  With a W last name, myself, I was often seated by these girls in classes.  In fact, my two closest friends from this time, Madison and Sarah, and I shared a locker in first grade (due to alphabetical order), and Madison, who is still my best friend to this day, lives about two minutes from my house.  This is where we can see the proximity effect in action.  Due to our last names, Madison, Sarah, Charlotte, Lauren, and myself were frequently in contact with one another.  This allowed us to talk to one another and learn about one another, leading to comfortable interactions.  Then, because we had so much contact with one another, the familiarity effect came into play.  Positive feelings were enhanced and friendships were solidified.  Interestingly, the closest of these friendships was that of Madison, Sarah, and myself, who, as “locker buddies” for an entire year, had the most contact with one another.

Moving onto my sister’s relationship with the boy she sat next to in class and my friend who dated the boy in her study abroad program, we can again see the effects of the proximity effect.  The example of my sister is extremely similar to the example provided by Schneider et al. (2012) of Chris and Lee.  Like Chris and Lee, my sister and this boy did not really know one another, but ended up sitting together in a history class in college.  Due to this proximity, they began to become more comfortable with one another and learn more about each other, eventually breeding attraction.  Similarly, when my best friend studied in London, she and another boy had schedules that were exactly the same.  They lived in the same building and were in the same classes and groups during this semester.  Like my sister and the boy in her history class, this close proximity led to easy conversation and eventual attraction.

We can also see the familiarity effect at play in my best friend’s relationship with her family friend and my other friend’s marriage to the man from her church.  My best friend’s family friend was at their house very frequently, played on the same hockey team as her brother, so was often at the rink when she was, and went to the same school as her brother, so was often at events there, as well.  While their eventual relationship was definitely helped by his proximity to the family, it seems that the frequent contact between the two is what truly made a difference.  It increased familiarity and, subsequently, their mutual liking of each other.  Similarly, my friend and the man from her church came in contact with one another frequently at church events, in which they were both extremely active.  Again, this increased familiarity, as she became comfortable with him and saw him at a variety of different events.  She also (correctly) assumed that they had a lot in common, another impact of the familiarity effect.

Essentially, it seems that when we really dig into it, many relationships, both romantic and friendly, can be traced back to some type of proximity and/or familiarity effects.  As we saw with my close friends, they all had last names in similar regions of the alphabet, leading to us being grouped together frequently, increasing our proximity and leading to friendships.  When we look at the romantic relationships of my friends and family, we can see similar effects, as well.  My sister dated a boy because he sat near her, my best friend dated a boy because they lived near one another and had similar schedules and another because he was familiar to her, and another friend married the man she was familiar with because of church.  Learning about how proximity and familiarity can impact our relationships is fascinating and definitely makes a person think about their own relationships.  Moving forward, keeping these ideas in mind can definitely impact how we view others and develop relationships.

 

References

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

 


Skip to toolbar