Feb 15

Groupthink Among Angry Men

It’s inevitable…we will all be a part of a group at some point in our lives. This can happen in school, work, and even in social lives seen through your predetermined and chosen peer groups. A group is formally defined as a number of people or items that are classified or categorized together. There is one theory in psychology that outlines the potential hazard of working with a group.

Groupthink theory describes the need for the group to have unanimity (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). This influences the members of the group to “go with the flow,” and not bring up their own ideas to the group. The feeling of needing to be cohesive can be seen as a driving factor of groupthink. You want your group to work together to accomplish a goal, but you may feel that your contributions may not suffice or benefit the group. In other cases, one person who is not influenced by groupthink, and contributes their own thoughts without folding to the pressure to conform, may be able to get others to change their minds.

The movie Twelve Angry Men revolves around a jury, which must reach a verdict in a murder trial. In order to deliver a verdict, every member must reach a consensus about the defendant being guilty or not guilty. This is a typical example of groupthink: having one common goal, and following what you think everyone else thinks. You do not want to be the one person to stand out. However, in the movie, juror number 8 is the only one to believe the defendant is not guilty. As the storyline unfolds, the groupthink theory, once again, takes over. As juror 8 defends his verdict of not guilty, people start questioning their own thoughts, ethics, and prejudices. Spoiler: as more people change their minds, there is an increased pressure for the others to change their minds.Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 1.32.58 PM

Groupthink can also occur in groups that have less strain than a murder trial. For example, groupthink is common among groups that are created for group projects. Thinking about Tuckman’s 1965 developmental stages of a group, the first stage of forming, and the second stage of storming can greatly influence groupthink. Forming and storming are the beginning stages of a group, where members learn about one another, and work through conflict (The Pennsylvania State University, 2015). However, it is easy to understand that groupthink and pressure to conform is strong at the beginning of a group life cycle: you’re trying to make everything fit together, while working on the relationship with everyone involved. Usually one person emerges as a leader, and takes on the role as mediator for the rest of the members, which also promotes groupthink.

For all groups, both real and imagined, groupthink is a relevant term, and a potential problem. At one point or another, or for our whole lives, we will all be involved in groups. This opens our lives to pressures of other people to suppress our thoughts and actions to be in accordance with the majority of others’.


–Orlena Riner


IMDB. (n.d.). 12 Angry Men- Plot Summary. Retrieved Feb 2015, from International Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050083/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl

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

The Pennsylvania State University. (2015). Lesson 7: Organizational Life and Teams. Retrieved Feb 2015, from Psych424: Applied Social Psychology: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp15/psych424/001/content/08_lesson/01_page.html

Feb 15

Find a Job You Like You Better Keep it

We have all been there at some time or other, you know, that dreaded “someone” in the workplace who makes life a misery for everyone around them. In reality, it is very rare to not have a problem child in the workplace. You have your prima donnas, bullies, selfish, self-centered people everywhere, and the list goes on and on. So when you are actually fortunate enough to find that job you like in a work environment that is pleasant and harmonious, you should probably keep it.

However, it is particularly frustrating when the leadership in an organization is ineffectual in handling these toxic co-workers, or don’t do anything at all. Even worse than doing nothing at all are those times when poorly behaved coworkers are rewarded for their behavior with praise, raises, or promotions. It is extremely demoralizing to watch someone gain reward and prestige for their poor behavior that management very often doesn’t see or just looks the other way. For example, say you work with someone who is the boss’ pet and the office tattletale. This person gets people in trouble to make themselves look better and when they don’t get their own way, they run off to the boss who makes everything better by giving them what they want.


An organization is only as strong as it’s leadership, without strong leadership, there is nothing to steer the car, so to speak.  Leadership “occurs when particular individuals exert influence on the goal achievement of others in an organizational context” (Johns and Saks).  Leaders have many different styles of leading; they can be supportive, provide good direction, actively participate in the work at hand; all of these things can have a major impact, whether positive or negative on how employees are motivated to behave (Coutts and Gruman). Motivation in the workplace is a key component to a well run organization and equity theory (Adams) explains how unequal treatment  amongst employees can instead motivate employees to attempt to regain equilibrium often through negative methods and behaviors.

So how do we ensure that leadership is providing the right kind of motivation to maintain equity in the workplace? It seems like a reasonable question, although certainly not black or white; there are many nuances of gray. Communication is key in providing open, pleasant working conditions, as long as it’s good communication. It may be necessary to remove barriers of distrust or other long pent up frustrations before communication can be good and effective.


In order to improve the issue of workplace inequality, and perhaps at the same time minimize the effects of the workplace tattletale, equity theory says employees need to see themselves being treated the same as others who are at the same level as they are. We can implement a communication policy that will improve workplace relations and help employees see equal treatment in action. We can achieve better success with a monitoring committee or task force overseeing the process as well as continue to follow up and make adjustments in the communication network as needed. With open communication, it is less likely that employees will perceive that others are getting better treatment than themselves and overall workplace morale goes up. And after all in the end, it’s not important to just find a good job, but that you enjoy getting up in the morning and going to work.


Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social change. In. L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in     experimental psychology (Vol. 2, pp 267-299). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Coutts, L. M. and Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applying Social Psychology to Organizations. (Chapter 10, pp 217-244). Sage.

Johns, G., and Saks, A. M. (2001). Organizational behavior: Understanding and managing life at work (5th ed.). Toronto: Addison Wesley Longman.


Feb 15

Social Identity in the Military

USMC B-Day 235During my last year in High School I received acceptance letters to three Universities—I threw every single one of those letters away.

I joined the United State Marine Corps in 2002.

Regardless of who you are, how smart you are, or what job you have, you are molded, formed, and presented as a uniform character of like resemblance to both the brother to your right and to your left. Through discipline, uniformity was pervasive.

This mentality is explained simply as their definition of discipline reads: the instant willingness and obedience to all orders, respect for authority, and self-reliance. You might ask why?… simple, because in combat, decisions are made that often counter survival tendencies, defy logic, and are time sensitive—no time to ask why.

The next question is how.

Social identity theory posits that an individual’s self knowledge is made of both personal identity—intrinsic characterizations such as personality traits, and social identity—the sense of identifying with whichever group the individual belongs (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Such extrinsic participation is both foundation and supporting in the development and maintenance of self-image and self-esteem Tajfel & Turner, 1986).

Within the construct of the military, this idea, the fostering of social identity, is largely used as a mechanism to reduce individualism, support obedience, and nullify all occurrences of non-uniformity.

If you ask any Marine what they love about being a Marine, they’ll likely respond with organizational loyalty and the brotherhood for fellow Marines—social identities—positive ones at that. Conversely, the structure, formality of uniformity, belittlement, and pressure are profoundly important in defining, and instituting the following of a larger social identity that depresses personal identity. Though positive in some cases, it is ultimately the standard used by the military to depress individualism.

This is developed from day one at boot camp: first names are gone, rank is given, uniforms are worn, standards are high, regulations on presentation, grooming standards, and conduct are significantly regulated and enforced. This, in sum, is foundational to instituting social identity that removes individualism to best support military functions, movement, and to win wars.


Research has shown that groups who collectively experience pain, turmoil, catastrophe, or significant life events tend to form stronger social bonds and become more cohesive (Durkheim, 1912; Whitehouse, 1996; Whitehouse, 2012). I would agree with this, as I continuously speak with those that I went to war with and has also been suppored by research that states the same—those who go to war together tend to form stronger bonds due to stress, hardship, and events (Elder & Clipp, 1989).

Interestingly enough, social identity theory states that people strive to have a positive social identity for which they enjoy, like, and see as good (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Within the military, this notion is often blurred between the positive idea of supporting the United States—country—freedom and pressure from military power and influence to conform—which, in turn, is not a positive social identity so much as it is an assumed or molded social identity as a requirement. Such conformity is regulated by military authority in the form of rank—which trumps all other forms of social identity formation because military members are held by law to obey and follow such orders from those appointed to ranks above them—regardless their position, experience, or reputation. This, in sum, departs from an academic explanation of power—in that it does no require a capacity to produce behavior change in others and it demands obedience that supersedes influence (Bass, 1990). Additionally, French and Raven (1959) explained power in terms of influence whereby power has a source. To this end, military power is sourced through coercive power—whereby any failure to obey is prosecuted and punished by law (French & Raven, 1959). As such, the position of power, influence, and authority within the military is markedly different than civilian organizations and bolsters their formation of a social identity that supports the greater good of conformity, uniformity, and war fighting.

Ultimately these disparities exist which conflict between intrinsic personal identity and socially built identity. In my experience, this is the leading cause of negative opinions, retention problems, and reduced moral in military units and is detrimental to positive leadership outcomes, efficiency, and performance in both a military unit and organizations.

The use of military power and influence to mold social identity clearly produces changes in myriad perceptions, attributions, and motivation. By changing the sense of identity heavily towards a collective social identity (while negating the personal identity), the individual is lost and subsequent environmental perceptions are changed. I have personally seen this in various forms throughout my career. For instance, when social identity depresses personal identity, one’s needs hierarchy—what motivates people as determined by satisfying their needs—changes and alters their perceived needs (Maslow, 1943). To this end, I’ve seen military members assume the military to be far more important than their family, friends, life goals, education, and personal well-being. It has also been very evident in their perceptions. When social identity rules, attributions—assigning a cause to a behavior—end up being a product of their identity, whereby producing perceptual biases towards the support of their in-group or social identity (Roccas & Brewer, 2002).

Ultimately, this notion can most likely be applied to any organization that seeks to value social identity to the point that personal identity is inferior, worthless, or substandard. I would posit that some form of modulation between the two could stand to produce the best product or outcome. In that, I do believe the military is a unique case that truly benefits, macroscopically and apart from ethics—for the support of our freedom, towards using the theory of social identity to optimize war fighting, and for the betterment of the world. It just comes at a cost of identity.


Bass, B. M., (1990). Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership. 3rd ed. New York: Free Press.

Bastian, B., Jetten, J., & Ferris, L. J. (2014). Pain as social glue: Shared pain increases cooperation. Psychological Science, 25(11), 2079-2085. doi:10.1177/0956797614545886

Durkheim, E. (1995). Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse [The elementary forms of religious life]. New York, NY: Free Press. (Original work published 1912)

Elder, G. H., & Clipp, E. C. (1989). Combat experience and emotional health: Impairment and resilience in later life. Journal of Personality, 57, 311–341.

French, J., & Raven, B. H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies of Social Power. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Roccas, S., & Brewer, M. B. (2002). Social identity complexity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6(2), 88-106. doi:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0602_01

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of inter-group behavior. In S. Worchel & L. W. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.

Whitehouse, H. (1996). Rites of terror: Emotion, metaphor and memory in Melanesian initiation cults. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2, 703–715.

Whitehouse, H. (2012). Ritual, cognition, and evolution. In R. Sun (Ed.), Grounding social sciences in cognitive sciences (pp. 265–284). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Written by: Morgan L. DeBusk-Lane

Feb 15

First impressions say it all? Is your BMI weighing down your career?

In the United States it is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee or potential employee on the basis of many physical attributes.  However, weight discrimination is only illegal in one state (Michigan) and six cities: Binghamton, NY, Washington, DC, Madison, WI, Urbana, IL, San Francisco, CA and Santa Cruz, CA (Minnesota Department of Human Rights, 2010). Weight discrimination in the workplace is becoming more of a problem as more of the population is considered overweight or obese (Wilkie, 2012).  In fact, the CDC reports that almost 35% of American adults are obese (CDC, 2012).  Weight discrimination in the workplace could be the result of two applied social psychological principles: the halo effect and fundamental attribution error (Coutts & Gruman, 2012).  This blog post will address these concepts and how they relate to discrimination of overweight and obese people in the workplace.rs10_2weightmap

Evidence has shown that overweight and obese people are at are a disadvantage in the workplace in terms of pay, hire-ability, perceived desirable traits, complexity of assignments, opportunities for advancement and on the job disciplinary actions when compared to average-sized counterparts (Fikkan & Rothblum, 2005).  These discrepancies could be related to the halo effect.  According to Coutts and Gruman (2012), the halo effect is our tendency to draw a conclusion about an individual on the basis of a single characteristic, in this example, physique.  The halo effect has been previously reported by Lowenberg and Conrad as the most common source of bias in employee performance reviews (Coutts & Gruman).  According to the halo effect, an overweight or obese employee could potentially be viewed by their supervisor or colleagues only in terms of their physique leaving their other qualities to be overshadowed even if those qualities are enthusiasm, dependability, intelligence, and so on.  Additionally, the halo effect may be more pronounced in cases where the employee and supervisor have few things in common as per the “similar-to-me effect” (Coutts & Gruman, 2012, p. 221).  In the example of weight discrimination among overweight or obese people, an overweight employee could be judged less competent by their average-sized supervisor and contribute to biased performance assessments.

Not only do we have a tendency to judge others based on our first impressions we also seek to understand why a person may have certain characteristics or why they choose to behave in a certain way.  This is referred to as attribution (Coutts & Gruman, 2012).  Attribution is essentially a way to understand underlying factors that contribute to a behavior. According to Coutts and Gruman, these factors can be internal or external.  Internal factors are controlled within the individual versus external factors in which the behavior is attributed to something out of the individual’s control (Coutts & Gruman).  When defining the causal relationship between internal and external factors we tend to more easily establish a relationship between internal factors and causation compared to external, situational factors which is called fundamental attribution error (Coutts & Gruman).  In the example above, we are more likely to attribute an obese person’s weight problems to laziness or lack of motivation as opposed to looking at situational factors that may contribute to the issue like an inability to fit on the seat of the recumbent bike at the gym or undiagnosed depression despite multiple contacts with healthcare providers.  When the assumption is made that weight is a caused by an internal, thus controllable factor, the obese person is subjected to judgment from others including prospective employers and colleagues.


Recent reports have suggested that the American public supports laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of weight (Suh, et al., 2014); however, it remains unclear how effective laws are at preventing discrimination on the basis of size since very few complaints are filed even in places where laws protect against weight discrimination (Minnesota Department of Human Rights, 2010).  For me, I believe that laws may help, but the more significant issues at hand are the halo effect and fundamental attribution error.  Although in some cases being overweight or obese is centered on choices made by those individuals that is not always the case.  It may not be possible to teach individuals to gather their first impression of someone from a broad view of all qualities; however, in the workplace assessment tools could be fitted to assure a supervisor is confronted with multiple facets of skill assessment to potentially avoid bias related to weight.  The obesity epidemic will only get worse if we do not provide resources for healthy alternatives to everyone like gainful employment (Ross, 2013).  Interestingly, recent evidence suggests that those that fall victim to weight discrimination are MORE likely to be obese at follow up contrary to the viewpoint that weight discrimination would serve as a motivator for weight loss (Puhl & Heuer, 2010; Sutin & Terracciano, 2013).  In 2009, Lillis and colleagues reported success with acceptance and mindfulness training among patients in a weight loss center to cope with weight stigma.  Although I believe it is important for these patients to cope, I think the mindfulness and acceptance training might be better suited for the average-weight persons placing blame on these obese and overweight individuals.  Specifically aiming these programs at executives and other company leaders may help to improve workplace discrimination on the basis of weight by making hiring managers more aware of the halo effect and fundamental attribution error.

The obesity epidemic in America is not going away.  As a culture we need to change our attitudes toward the epidemic so that discrimination does not further leach into our workplaces.  Addressing the halo effect and fundamental attribution error is the first step in mitigating the issue of workplace discrimination of the overweight and obese.  The assumption that one physical characteristic tells all is setting our capitalist society up to miss out on a multitude of strong, conscientious workers.  Personally, I have to wonder, is my BMI weighing down my career?



Batalion, N. (2010). Obesity: Bias, Stigma, Discrimination – Image Retrieved from http://www.healingtalks.com/natural-health-2/weight-problems/obesity-bias-stigma-discrimination/

Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Adult overweight and obesity. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/index.html

Coutts, L. & Gruman, J. (2012). Applying social psychology to organizations, in Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.) Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts (Eds.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Fikkan, J. & Rothblum, E. (2005). Weight bias in employment, in Weight Bias: Nature, Consequences and Remedies.K. Brownell, R. Puhl, M. Schwartz & L. Rudd (Eds.) NY: Guilford Press.

Lillis, J., Hayes, S., Bunting, K. & Masuda, A. (2009).  Teaching acceptance and mindfulness to improve the lives of the obese: A preliminary test of a theoretical model. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 37(1): 58-69.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights (2013). Weight bias laws: Tipping the scales against prejudice? Retrieved from http://mn.gov/mdhr/education/articles/rs10_2weightlaws.html

Puhl, R. & Heuer, C. (2010). Obesity stigma: Important considerations for public health. American Journal of Public Health. 100(6): 1019-1028.

Ross, C. (2013). I see fat people. Real Healing. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-healing/201308/i-see-fat-people

Suh, Y, Puhl, R., Liu, S. & Milici, F. (2014). Support for laws to prohibit weight discrimination in the United States: Public attitudes from 2011 to 2013. Obesity. 22(8): 1872-1879.

Sutin, A. & Terracciano, A. (2013). Perceived weight discrimination and obesity. PLoS ONE. 8(7): e70048 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070048.

Wilkie, C. (2012). Obesity discrimination on the job provokes dispute over best remedy. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/04/obesity-discrimination_n_1939385.html

Feb 15

Generic Prejudice

Social psychology can be used in the criminal justice system such as jury decision making (The Pennsylvania State University, 2015). On the basis of evidence submitted to them, jurors are sworn to give a verdict in a legal case.  They “decide the guilt or innocence of individuals accused of crimes and in some jurisdictions they also decide the punishment in criminal cases” (The Pennsylvania State University, 2015). However, jurors return guilty verdicts in certain cases even when it may not be judicious to do so such as in the case of sexual abuse (Wiener, Arnott, Winter, & Redmond, 2006). This type of prejudice, “that can biases jurors’ decision making”, is referred to as generic prejudice (Lieberman & Krauss, 2009). The cognitive resource theory, which states that stress impacts the ability to make decisions, may be an explanation for this specific type of bias.

Generic prejudice “involves the transfer of pre-existing prejudicial attitudes, beliefs, or stereotypes about categories of persons, entities, or events to the trial setting in a legally inappropriate manner” (Vidmar, 2003, p. 1152). According to Vidmar, “generic prejudice is different from other types of judicial bias as the nature of the crime or the type of parties involved cause the juror to classify the case as having certain characteristics, thereby invoking stereotyped prejudices above any defendant accused of the crime” (Vidmar, 1997, p. 6). Therefore, by merely listening to a defendant at a trial being accused of a specific crime, “a set of biases are triggered in the mind of jurors due to the nature of that crime regardless of the case facts” (Lieberman & Krauss, 2009). Some case examples include Casey Anthony and Orenthal James “O. J.” Simpson. Both defendants were viewed as guilty before knowing all of the facts simply because of the nature of the crimes. Unfortunately however, generic prejudice is not easily identifiable. Furthermore, it may have a substantial effect on the ability for the judicial system to enter in a list of impartial jurors (Vidmar, 1997).

In an example to illustrate generic prejudice, “849 prospective jurors were asked under oath whether they could hear the evidence, follow the judges instructions on the law, and decide the case with a fair and impartial mind,” regarding 25 criminal trials involving charges of sexual abuse, and approximately 36% of the jurors specified they could not be impartial (Vidmar, 1997). This demonstrates that the issue was not objection or revulsion of sex abuse but simply the attitudes and beliefs that stand on the speculation of innocence when a suspect is accused of sexual abuse. According to one juror, “I guess in certain situations I consider people are guilty until proven innocent; I know it’s not the way it is suppose(sic) to be, but that’s the way it is sometimes” (Vidmar, 1997). As mentioned above, many people are culpable of this. The nature of the crime absolutely influences a person’s thought process and thus their decision-making.


Cognitive resource theory may be a process underlying the influence of generic prejudice (The Pennsylvania State University, 2015). According to Wiener et. al., under cognitive resource theory, “people are more likely to make decisions based on stereotype-like information, such as generic prejudice, when there cognitive resources are limited” (Wiener, Arnott, Winter, & Redmond, 2006). To test this theory, Wiener and his colleagues showed participants mock sexual abuse trial summaries “by varying the amount of time participants had to read them and make verdict decisions, either providing ample time for the task or rushing them to limit their cognitive resources” (Wiener, Arnott, Winter, & Redmond, 2006). They found convincing evidence of generic prejudice in the cases. The study found backing for cognitive resource theory because generic prejudice was persuasive or significant when participants were hurried in their decision-making. According to Wiener et. al., the participants “were more likely to rely on general attitudes about sex offenders in their decisions than they were to rely on case facts” (Wiener, Arnott, Winter, & Redmond, 2006).

There is no denying the possibility for biases to occur in jury decision-making. Even though jurors are sworn under oath, biases can still arise. Generic prejudice, just one of the many types of biases that can occur, may be more influential in some types of cases and under particular situations such as sexual abuse cases. The cognitive resource theory “which states that stress reduces rational decision making by over using a person’s ability to think” may be an explanation as to why this type of bias occurs (The Pennsylvania State University, 2015). So although the explanation for generic prejudice may be attributed to the cognitive resource theory, is there a way to prevent it?

Works Cited

Lieberman, J., & Krauss, D. (2009). Psychology in the courtroom social aspects of trial processes. Farnham: Ashgate.

The Pennsylvania State University (2015). PSYCH424: Applied Social Psychology. Lesson 8: The Legal System.

Vidmar, N. (1997). Generic prejudice and the presumption of guilt in sex abuse trials. Law and Human Behavior, 21(1), 5-25.

Vidmar, N. (2003). When all of us are victims: Juror prejudice and “terrorist” trials. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 78, 1143.

Wiener, R.L., Arnott, L., Winter, R.J. & Redmond, B.F. (2006). Generic Prejudice and the Law: Sexual Assault and Homicide. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28, 145-155.

Feb 15

Understanding Hate Crimes

A recent Alternet article reported the striking statistic that six trans women of color have been murdered in the first seven weeks of 2015. [1]  The article quotes trans activist LeSaia Wade as observing that the murders point to “systemic failures at government and community levels that have pushed trans women—especially women of color—to the margins of society,” citing specifically employment discrimination, lack of government programs and services, and anti-trans violence as mechanisms which reinforce this marginalization.  According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans women experience violence from police at six times the rate of other assault survivors, which largely explains why they are less likely to seek help in the first place. [2]  Sadly, Wade also states that trans women often even face exclusion from within the LGBT community for being a minority amongst minorities.

Though the article notes that a march to raise awareness has been planned in response to the violence, two theories of social psychology suggest that visibility are not the problem.  Social Identity theory introduces the concept of in-groups and out-groups, the former being a social category to which one commits oneself and from which one gains self-esteem, and the latter being everyone else, against whom one’s in-group is in competition.  Social Dominance Theory expands on this idea by arranging these groups into hierarchies based on status and power, and observing that dominant groups can maintain their positions by derogating or attacking out-groups, thereby reinforcing the hierarchy.  Social Dominance Theory also observes that low-status groups will often work to reinforce the hierarchies subordinating them, because they often view the hierarchy as a ladder by which to advance themselves – even though this contributes to the same circumstances of their marginalization.

These theories explain the marginalization of trans persons (i.e. as an out-group), the discrimination they face (even within the LGBT community, who may see an opportunity to advance their status through derogating trans persons), and the violence against them (as a means of protecting the hierarchy by which heterosexual, cis-gendered people benefit).  More importantly, the theories also indicate how we can resolve these conflicts.  Social Dominance Theory identifies one category of hierarchy as an “arbitrary set,” or set of beliefs about how the world should operate.  Isa Noyola, a program manager at the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco attributes transphobia to our collective understanding of gender norms – “We are very much conditioned and trained from an early age to think about gender in very basic ways, which is male and female … So those two boxes inform everything.” [1]  Delegitimizing this dichotomy as artificial and incomplete would undermine part of the rationale for a hierarchy which places cis-gendered people at the top.  More controversially, attacking the (deeply American) legitimizing myth of meritocracy – specifically as the assumption that people of low economic or social status must deserve to be there out of a lack of merit – would have the same effect.

More concretely, the power dynamic at play in these hate crimes can be addressed by redefining the groups participating – specifically, by promoting the idea that all minority groups who are marginalized by these hierarchies – rather than having an opportunity to advance by attacking other minority groups – instead face a common struggle and have common objectives, which can be better achieved by combining their power and resources than by in-fighting or fracturing into identity politics.  Ultimately, we can aim to redefine the power and resources which are in contest to be the security, strength, and status that come from living in a just and safe society, valuing mutual aid and respect.


1.  Starr, T. (2015, February 21). Living on Borrowed Time: 6 Young Trans Women of Color Have Been Murdered in America This Year. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/living-borrowed-time-6-young-trans-women-color-have-been-murdered-america-year

2.  Ahmed, O., & Jindasurat, C. (2014, January 1). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2013. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/2013_ncavp_hvreport_final.pdf

Feb 15

Mean Girls: Mean World

Inter-group relations have a great impact on the actions that people partake in each day. While many when first asked to think of groups and hierarchies may first think of race to be a distinguishing factor, all one really has to do is think back to middle or even high school. Remember those days when the most important part of your day was not to get a good grade on a test, but rather to get a compliment from the coolest person in school. I for one, remember spending hours each week picking out my outfits in order to find something that would set me apart and bring attention to me. Using hind sight, I see now that all the actions I took part in then were really only for one reason, to make myself one of the “cool” kids. It is always desirable to be part of the superior social class, because it brings with it high social regard and admiration.

One of the best examples of inter-group relations is from the all familiar movie, Mean Girls.The first clip demonstrates the different hierarchical groups in the movie.

The below clip exemplifies how the high societal regarded group know as “The Plastics” is admired.

Below is what happens when someone breaks the “rules” of the group, “The Plastics”.

Social dominance theory explains the behaviors that I participated in and experienced in middle and high school as well as the behaviors in the above mentioned move, Mean Girls.

The theory states that people all belong to groups and members protect their group and act to maintain their hierarchical groups. The last clip demonstrates this principle in how a member of the group did not follow their standards and therefor, in order to protect the group, she was dismissed. The top group has high social value which motivates and maintained the hierarchical status. Such social value leads out group members to have out group favoritism towards the high status group due to hopes of joining and also acquiring high social value.This is also viewed in the movie Mean Girls in how everyone admires the members of the plastics (PSU WC, 2015).

This movie was a great example as to the social dominance theory and how it has affects on real life. Looking back the behaviors that I did in order to achieve positive social value look absurd now, but at the time the benefit of high social value was more than enough. Social dominance continues to persist in our world, not only in a school environment, but in many aspects as well. So not only can the influence of desire for positive social value lead to mean girls, but in turn a mean world.


Pennsylvania State University World Campus (PSU WC).  (2015). PSYCH 424: Applied Social Psychology. Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp15/psych424/001/content/07_lesson/05_page.html


Feb 15

My Dad

I realize that I may be ‘a day late and a dollar short’ as the old saying goes, but I wanted to reflect on some of the material from Lesson 5 Health AND Clinical/Counseling; specifically looking into health psychology (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Growing up, my father had an emotionally challenging childhood. Although he won’t go into much detail about what happened exactly, the ramifications of those events are clear. When I was growing up, the earliest memories I have are of visiting him in psych wards. Still to this day, he has monthly visits with countless numbers of psychologists who keep adjusting his medications to try to find the perfect balance. Official diagnosed as a severe case of bipolar disorder, I think there is more to his mental health than what bipolar disorder can account for.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m calling his psychologist’s liars; there is definitely a case of bipolar disorder present. Coupled with the disorder, are also signs of social anxiety, or social phobia. As anyone with bipolar disorder would, he gets either really excited to talk to people, you can’t get him to stop talking and he has no idea what he’s even talking about. On the other side of things, he just completely shuts down and can’t handle the situation at all. No matter what he is doing he has to listen to some sort of music or noise; in my opinion this is to drown out voices (not confirmed). He has vivid, almost hallucinogenic dreams, some of which are nightmares where he screams, fights, or numerous other things during his sleep. He is too mentally unstable to hold a job and emotionally unstable more often than not.

I hope this illustrates the importance of finding the correct diagnoses of a patient. With so many illnesses out there, it has to be difficult to be able to exactly pinpoint which is which. Most illnesses also share certain traits with other illnesses therefore creating even more difficulty when trying to accurately diagnose a condition. An issue arises if a condition is diagnosed as being something else. This is known as either a positive negative or a negative positive (Wurman, 2004). This becomes even more problematic if and when medications are prescribed. The prescriptions can either do nothing, or exacerbate conditions leading to more serious results. The textbook does a good job illustrating how to approach someone who is dealing with depression (Schneider et al., 2012).

I am also not writing this next section for a ‘pity parade’ or any type of sympathy, but hope to convey the importance of one important aspect that is often forgotten about. Undoubtedly, it must be awful to live with any form of mental disorder; I am not attempting to downplay that whatsoever. But, more often than not, the treatment stops at the patient themselves. Little to no attention is paid to the family living with the mentally ill individual. Speaking from experience, both my mother and I often find it difficult living in such a condition. We rely on each other for the most difficult situations when they arise, and would probably be lost without each other. Having to deal with sometimes childish behaviors have to have long lasting effects on both my mother and I. Yet, there are never therapy sessions for either of us.

Because I am a criminal justice major, I have to at least mention a tidbit about that in here (otherwise I wouldn’t be a good CrimJ student). Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult to receive proper treatment for these, and other, mental conditions. Mental health facilities are shutting down at an alarming rate, and prisons/jails are becoming filled with those mentally ill (Barkan, 2012). Most of these individuals have committed crimes because of their mental conditions. Instead of being given the proper treatment to actually treat their disorders, they are then released once their sentences are over. Without proper treatment, the destructive behavior continues, which often leads to more imprisonment. This is a reason why prisons are said to have a revolving door (Barkan, 2012).

Works Cited

Barkan, S. E. (2012). Criminology: A Sociological Understanding. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

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

Wurman, R. S. (2004). Understanding Healthcare. Newport: TOP.


Feb 15

intergroup relations

I used to work for a mortgage company. A big one. I won’t go into which one, but suffice it to say it was one of the ones seized by the Federal Reserve back in 2008 when the refi bubble finally popped and gangland assassinated the mortgage industry. The office that I worked for was roughly 90% some minority group or another, and about 80% female. The loan center had a rather effective policy for mitigating discrimination in hiring practices, ensuring diversity, and assuring effective intergroup relations: they employed several temp services as manpower providers, and hired the people who performed and grasped the concepts effectively pursuant to a “probationary period”. Additionally, this lent an extended opportunity to embrace Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis effectively. Over the period of the temp employment contract, typically six months, candidates were assessed and familiarized with, and by, management personnel based on their merits, effectiveness as employees, and suitability for joining the specific corporate environment as a permanent member of the group. During my six years and some change there, I thoroughly abhorred the job even though I was at least somewhat good at it. But despite that, everyone generally got along splendidly with everyone who worked there from the mail clerks to the senior VPs and many of us, seven years after going our separate ways, remain friends and, in some cases where the employees chose to remain in the mortgage industry, professional colleagues.

I think implementing this type of strategy in many forms of social groups could be beneficial to reducing in-group tension and expanding not only diversity but also overall discrimination. By distilling applicants to completely undisclosed biometrics and merely a list of background competencies or qualifications / experience, and taking the inclusion process (be that an admissions process to a college, a hiring policy for a place of employment, etc) down to, it’s almost sad to say, a dehumanized process by which numbers are selected based on metrics rather than candidates based on interviews and resumes, a great deal of the conflict over polarizing policies like Equal Employment and Affirmative Action could be effectively mitigated. Since the hiring process would not be a hiring process in the classic sense but rather essentially a random selection of appropriate metrics, qualifications, and experience, it would be theoretically impossible to segregate or discriminate candidacy based on biometrics because they are left completely out of the equation. This is one company, however, at one location, neither of which even exists any more.

The sad fact is that discrimination still does exist but I think it would be worth investigating formally whether practices which eliminate the corporation as a direct hiring entity could mitigate Milgrom’s and Oster’s (1987) invisibility hypothesis, which addresses how job skills of disadvantaged or minority candidates but that getting them into the mainstream or providing the opportunity, as in Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis, allows them the opportunity to show their worth and thus be evaluated on their relative merits as opposed to being pre-judged based purely on their biometric data.


Allport GW (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley

Milgrom P & Oster S (1987). Job Discrimination, Market Forces, and the Invisibility Hypothesis. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 102:3. Oxford University Press.

keywords: diversity, intergroup relations, equal employment, discrimination, contact hypothesis, invisibility hypothesis, hiring practices

Feb 15

Will bisexuals catch up in acceptance?

Oregon has a new Governor in Kate Brown, sworn in this week. No, you didn’t miss an election season, the Secretary of State for Oregon was sworn in Wednesday when then Governor John Kitzahber resigned the office after being engulfed in an ethics investigation.

The alleged violations of the outgoing governor may be substantial, but when the rumors of his resignation started swirling, the sexual orientation of his successor (bisexual) was one of the most talked about aspects of the change. I wondered, how can a state that prides itself on diversity tolerate a press that leads with stories titled “Kate Brown becomes first openly bisexual governor”? (Headlines found on ABC News, PBS, USA Today, NY Daily and of all things Times of India)

As noted by the Christian Science Monitor (Knickerbocker, 2015), bisexual persons still experience a level of misunderstanding that is not receding at the same pace it is for homosexual persons. While I was initially disappointed with the press coverage of her sexuality, Mrs. Brown has given me hope that this will work for the good when she was quoted in the Oregonian (Parks, 2015) that she is receiving support from the “B’s” in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community and says that it is a “really wonderful and exciting thing.” I hope this focus on her sexuality will lead to another step in our society’s acceptance of all persons sexual orientation.


Knickerbocker, B. (2015) Kate Brown, Oregon’s new governor, boosts the “B” in LGBT community. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2-21-15 from:         http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2015/0215/Kate-Brown-Oregon-s-new-            governor-boosts-the-B-in-LGBT-community

Parks, C. (2015) Governor Kate Brown’s bisexuality draws national commentary. The Oregonian/Oregon Live. Retrieved 2-21-2015 from:          http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/02/governor_kate_brown_bisexual.ht           ml


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