Apr 16

Peaceful and Powerful Social Change

Social change can be most effective when peaceful methods are used (Butcher & Svensson, 2016) and when interested parties can come together and find common ground upon which to fight for change (Chinn & Falk-Rafael, 2014). According to Butcher & Svensson (2016) non-violent means for social change are most frequently found in states where the GDP is rising and the manufacturing industry is on the rise.

The reason given by Butcher & Svensson (2016) for this phenomenon is that the increased manufacturing brings together people from all walks of life who come together with common needs and goals. The coming together of these people in a state which is rising financially generally creates a strong union with influence on the social climate.

The strength and diversity of the union along with common goals generally allows for a more peaceful approach to social change. The workers are able to communicate with governments in a way which allows their power to show without any force being needed. A possible explanation for this method not being common in less industrialized states is that there may be a lack of common ground and diversity of input to allow for the generation of peaceful solutions. There is likely a lack of power among the people as well which prevents the government from being motivated to change.

On a smaller scale, Chinn & Falk-Rafael (2014) found that for a group of nurses who wanted to create change in their workplace, finding common ground among themselves and creating unity gave them the power they needed to influence change. They were also more able to generate peaceful approaches to problem solving.

Both Butcher & Svensson (2016) and Chinn & Falk-Rafael (2014) found that when a group of people use peaceful methods and the power of unity, the effort to make changes are more effective and the changes are longer lasting.


Butcher, C., & Svensson, I. (2016). Manufacturing dissent: Modernization and the onset of major nonviolent resistance campaigns. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 31-339.

Chinn, P. L., & Falk-Rafael, A. (2014). Peace and power: A theroy of emancipatory group process. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 62-69.

Apr 16

Illegal to Feed the Homeless


Over the past five years, city of Los Angeles have been dedicated in revamping downtown Los Angeles to a residential and pedestrian friendly metropolitan city.  This has caused hostility and chaos for the homeless that have been calling Downtown LA their home for over a decade.  City lawmakers are trying to “clean up” the streets by barring homeless people from parks, streets and making it a crime to help the homeless.  It is illegal for an individual in LA to give food to the homeless. They would have to go through an organization to do so.  Sometimes the shelters are not able to accommodate the large amount of homeless people that rushes in and often runs out of food.  All of this with the intention to make the homeless leave the city.

Recently,  people from different communities have come together for this issue.  Utilizing the virtual community as a place to spread the word, getting people together to prepare food for the homeless.  I have had the honor to be a part of this social cause.   Different groups would adopt different days of the week.  People either donate money, food or their time to prepare and certain amount of food.  Then the food would be sent to the shelters for distribution.

Of course,  handing out food to the homeless is certainly not a long-term solution to homelessness. But eliminating charity isn’t going to make  homeless people magically have  a different lifestyle. The choices of the homeless are constrained by the absence of social programs, healthcare and income support that people need to find permanent housing and stability.  There is still much that needs to b done but at the mean time this is the least we can do to make sure they don’t go hungry.

Apr 16

Success with Social Media

10,9,8,7…the countdown begins, celebrations are started and then the next day resolutions are made for the new year. It’s New Year’s Day and most people are trying to get a start on their health goal to get into shape and lose weight in the form of resolutions. Unfortunately, the most notable thing about resolutions is the fact they are forgotten or given up on within a short amount of time often due to a lack of support or boredom. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that there are around 1.5 billion adults around the world are overweight or obese  even though many people have lose weight or get into shape as a resolution (Pena & Quintanilla, 2015). However, thanks to social media there have been some strides made towards helping people get started on their goal and stick with it. By using social media sites, such as the Facebook page for Weight Watchers, consumers can make their goals and achievements known to those they choose and this will increase their commitment due to the social pressure to stick to their goals (Pena, 2015). Another aspect of using social media for reaching goals is that when a person slips they can admit the slip to others who can give them encouragement to get back on track. It is easier to admit set-backs when it is possible to decide what to share and who to share it with; this allows a person to seek help in a comfortable way. These online sites can also provide a person with information, such as, recipes and ideas for physical activities that can help them attain their goals. In the case of Facebook if a person “likes” a post more posts that are similar to the original will be suggested. For example, recently, I “liked” a post that had a recipe for a lower calorie, healthier brownie, immediately after reacting to the post several suggested posts showed up directly below the original. I could scroll through these and see if there are other similar posts that may be of interest to me. This could help a person who is at the beginning of changing to a healthier lifestyle by personalizing their page and giving suggestions they may not have found on their own. This can help a person stay on track by keeping them from getting bored with healthier food choices or the same old exercises. It is much easier to stick with a goal that keeps our interest and can be fun.

Social media sites have the ability to educate, encourage, share ideas and keep people in contact with others who are working towards the same goal. This allows people to find help in a comfortable way by allowing them to the provide information about their goals or setbacks in a way that is comfortable for them and getting the praise or help they need. This information and support may assist some reach the goal of a healthier lifestyle and weight.


de, l. P., & Quintanilla, C. (2015). Share, like and achieve: The power of facebook to reach        health‐          related goals. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 39(5), 495-505.        doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1111/ijcs.12224

Apr 16

Soy is poison.


Until 2011, I was feeding myself and my family whatever was featured at the grocery store.  I paid no attention to whether my vegetables were organic or whether my grains were genetically modified organisms (GMO).  In fact, I had never heard of these issues.  The idea that the seemingly healthy food I was consuming might be a danger to me and my family did not even cross my mind.  That was until I saw a TED talk from Robyn O’Brien (2011), through which she explained, in alarming detail, the increase in life-threatening food allergies as a result of something foreign being introduced into our food and our bodies.

Beginning sometime in the early 1990s, scientists began manufacturing new proteins that the food industry could use to enhance production and yield greater profit.  1994 marked the advent of introducing a synthetic growth hormone in cows meant to increase milk production (O’Brien, 2011).  Following the dairy industry’s success at increasing their profit margins from GMO milk, the corn industry sought to increase profits by reducing the number of crops lost to insect infestation.  The industry leaders paired with scientists to genetically engineer corn to produce its own insecticide within the corn seed, which would then be released as it grows.  Has anyone checked to see what effect this might have on the human body upon consumption?  At the time, these modifications had not been tested in people.  Nevertheless, the United States seemed to be the largest proponent of GMO foods.  Meanwhile, across the pond, all 27 European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom did not allow the introduction of GMO processes into their industry or imports (O’Brien, 2011).  Additionally, major US brands like Kraft, Coca Cola and Walmart do not use GMO products when manufacturing goods for export to these countries (O’Brien, 2011).  These other countries are getting the good stuff!  So why are we being fed these dangerously modified strains?  Well, profit.  These GMO products generate greater profit, plain and simple.

The worst of these GMO products, in my opinion, is soy.  According to the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (n.d.), 93% of the soybean crops in the United States are GMO.  And we can find it in almost everything, from soy flour to soy milk, and even soy lecithin in your favorite chocolate bar.  It is marketed as a legitimate source of protein, when it is actually incomplete, lacking methionine, an essential amino acid (American Nutrition Association, 2010).  Even more surprising is that soy actually interferes with the digestion of protein (American Nutrition Association, 2010), acting as an anti-nutrient. The soy industry is doing very well, inserting this product into an unbelievable number of our food products.  It is an inexpensive crop that flourishes due to the GMO modifications created to withstand very high doses of weed killer (O’Brien, 2011).  Yet another GMO product that should not be used for human consumption.

After seeing this TED talk, I started paying very close attention to the food I purchase.  I started looking for “non-GMO” on my produce labels.  But my journey to eating healthier, more organic foods would not have happened if I hadn’t stumbled across this information.  There are countless others who are blindly purchasing these GMO products, harming themselves and their families, simply because they do not have the information.  Positive social change initiatives, like the efforts of Robyn O’Brien, have joined the battle against GMO, and are beneficial to educating the consumer about the dangers of the GMO foods that are being pushed to Americans for profit.  Many of the countless illnesses and allergies related to these scientifically engineered food products may be avoided if we could just raise awareness and stand up to tell the major food industry leaders that enough is enough.  We should be demanding healthier alternatives without the added cost.  Some states have mandated the labeling of GMO foods, but others are still in the pockets of the big corporations driving this problem.  Until we can change awareness and demand action, like the mandatory labeling laws in Europe, which will “likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market (Cummins, 2013)”, we either find ourselves at the mercy of big business, or paying exorbitant amounts for safer alternatives.

American Nutrition Association. (2010). The whole soy story. Nutrition Digest. Retrieved from http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/whole-soy-story

Cummins, R. (2013). Millions against Monsanto: Five lessons from the battle against GMOs. Retrieved from https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/millions-against-monsanto-five-lessons-battle-against-gmos

O’Brien, R. (2011). Robyn O’Brien: TEDxAustin 2011. Speech. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. (n.d.). Fact sheet: Genetically engineered foods. Retrieved from http://www.allergykids.com/defining-food-allergies/fact-sheet-what-are-genetically-engineered-foods/

Apr 16

Play It Forward!, a Community-Based Fight Against Childhood Obesity

In order to promote social change, both the researcher and the community may be involved in gaining deeper knowledge regarding a local issue and developing interventions and solutions toward alleviating the problem. This is referred to as participatory and/or action research (Penn State World Campus, 2016). Both participatory and action research may be utilized to solve various concerns by observing why certain negative behaviors occur and how to help prevent them, while also involving community members in the process of identifying and/or alleviating the issue. Multiple problems have been addressed through this form of research, including childhood obesity, a serious health issue costing approximately one hundred forty seven billion each year for the United State’s system of health care (Finkelstein, Trogdon, Cohen, & Dietz, 2009).

For example, Berge et al. (2016) point out that interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity have shown little progress, in which the difficulties of involving adults such as parents in interventions could have influenced smaller success. To deal with this issue, Berge et al. (2016) tested CBPR, which stands for Community-Based Participatory Research. This type of research is action based in a sense that community organizations, members, and researchers join together, without contrasts in hierarchy, in order to gain information and find solutions to issues that are local and able to be sustained (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2003; Peterson & Gubrium, 2011; Israel et al., 2003). Through community and researcher involvement, individuals offer different abilities and important information, especially regarding the specific needs of the community, which can enhance members of the community’s overall happiness, health, and lives.

The goal of Berge et al.’s (2016) study was to develop and apply an intervention (called Play It Forward!) that is family oriented and helps prevent childhood obesity through a CBPR-based Citizen Health Care strategy, in which the researchers would team up with members of the community in a Citizen Action Group (CAG). Additionally, the study aimed to analyze if and how weight-based behaviors (e.g. physical inactivity or activity, food intake) and weight in children and families were affected by the intervention. The community of focus in this study was in Paha Sapa in Burnsville, Minnesota. For 8 months, resources and needs of the community were examined with the CAG in 1-to-1 interviews with members of the community, including neighbors. In regards to the intervention (Play It Forward!) developed using the CBPR-based CHC strategy, Play It Forward!  included events held at parks local to the community with activities encouraging healthy eating behaviors and physical activity (e.g. play), which were managed by members of the community with abilities and/or enthusiasm relevant to the activities. To examine the success and usefulness of Play It Forward!, Berge et al. (2016) conducted an initial test study, which included an experimental group of families encouraged to attend as many local events (based on the intervention) possible, and a control group from a “bordering community” that attended normal events within their own community.

As a result of Berge et al.’s (2016) test study, CBPR techniques turned out to be useful in pulling off the study aimed at preventing childhood obesity. Greater than half of the experimental condition families participated in seventy five percent of the events, while thirty three percent of the experimental group participated in all events. In addition, members of the CAG found that pulling off the events in Play It Forward!  was a “low burden” since there were “spontaneous (e.g., pick-up games)” or “low-key preplanned events (e.g., kickball, dodgeball)”. Both academic researchers and members of the community involved in the CAG expressed “high satisfaction” with the development of the CAG and the formation, application, and conveyed message of Play It Forward! In their reportings, members of the community felt “equal in decision making powers and in carrying out the study”, while researchers felt “supported by the community.”

Berge et al. (2016) concluded that partnership and involvement of the community in developing interventions toward preventing childhood obesity could be a method that holds much promise for other interventions with the same goal. This is at least partly due to the potentially raised chance of intervention success when individuals are provided with more involvement in intervention development and are allowed to choose the degree in which they would like to be involved. Based on the potential effectiveness of the CBPR technique in developing and applying a successful intervention, such as Play It Forward!, more research should be conducted in situations involving partnership between researchers and parents.


Berge, J. M., Jin, S. W., Hanson, C., Doty, J., Jagaraj, K., Braaten, K., Doherty, W. J. (2016). Play It Forward! A Community-Based Participatory Research Approach to Childhood Obesity Prevention. Families, Systems, & Health, 34, 15-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fsh0000116

Finkelstein, E. A., Trogdon, J. G., Cohen, J. W., & Dietz, W. (2009). Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Payer-and service-specific estimates. Health Affairs, 28, w822–831. http://dx.doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.28.5.w822

Israel, B., Schultz, A. J., Parker, E. A., Becker, A. B., Allen, A. J., & Guzman, J. R. (2003). Critical issues in developing and following community based participatory research principals. In M. Minkler & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community-based participatory research for health (pp. 53–76). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Minkler, M., & Wallerstein, N. (2003). Community-based participatory research for health. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Penn State World Campus. (2016). Lesson 13: Social Change/Participatory Research.

Peterson, J. C., & Gubrium, A. (2011). Old wine in new bottles? The positioning of participation in 17 NIH-funded CBPR projects. Health Communication, 26, 724–734. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2011.566828


Apr 16

When Social Change Fails

Social Change and Activism Research is an integral component of social psychology because they are the forces that propel society forward and keep public issues away from constant stagnation. The key ingredients to social change include mass mobilization, social action, citizen participation, public advocacy, popular education, and the development of local services (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). The beauty of social change is that is unites a community and shows the importance of awareness for public issues in order to ignite the force that is social change. The following post will discuss how important public advocacy, popular education, and citizen participation is when it comes to social change issues. The article discusses the failure of a 2010 educational overhaul in Newark, NJ due to a poorly executed plan for social action.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review posted an article titled “Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)” that describes the how a well-meaning educational reform completely failed due to poor community education and involvement. In 2010, Chris Christy, Cory Booker, and Mark Zuckerberg announced their plan to invest over 200 million dollars into Newark’s educational system. The plan was announced via the Oprah Winfrey Show. They expected the well-kept secret plan to go off without hitch; however, after their big announcement the entire plan completely flopped. According to the article Christie and Booker “adopted a top-down approach because they thought that the messy work of forging a consensus among local stakeholders might undermine the reform effort…installed a board of philanthropists from outside Newark to oversee the initiative, and hired a leader from outside Newark to serve as the city’s superintendent of schools” (Barnes and Schmitz, 2016). Rather than excite the members of the community, the community was left in the dark and the plan failed because the community members felt the plan did not meet the needs of the real issues effecting Newark’s education system. The community was completely blind-sighted and outraged: “Instead of unifying Newark residents behind a shared goal, the Booker-Christie initiative polarized the city” (Barnes & Schmitz, 2016). By 2014, 77 local ministries pleaded with Booker and Christy to drop the initiative due to the unbearably toxic environment that resulted from it.

The attempt for social action failed to educate the community properly, failed to draw a consensus from actual members of the community on what the issues were first, failed to excite mass mobilization and bring attention to the issue before the plans were released, failed to engage citizens and failed to create public advocacy from members within the city of Newark. The plan was a well-kept secret that the lawmakers unveiled swiftly onto an unsuspecting community, and the lawmakers failed to overcome the social boundaries necessary to induce social change in an underprivileged city.

The Barnes & Schmitz (2016) article stresses that in order to have successful social changes, the leaders must treat community members as “active partners.” Citizen participation is important in order to create a successful foundation for social change. This community empowerment will urge members of the community to be more actively engaged in social change and feel a sense of ownership over the changes: “It’s important, in other words, to view community members as producers of outcomes, not just as recipients of outcomes. Professional leaders must recognize and respect the assets that community members can bring to an initiative” (Barnes & Schmitz, 2016).

This is a clear example of how a well-meaning plan for social change failed to reach its estimated potential due to its failure to involve critical components for social change such as citizen participation, public advocacy, and appropriate education.



Barnes, M., & Schmitz, P. (2016, March). Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever) (SSIR). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://ssir.org/articles/entry/community_engagement_matters_now_more_than_ever

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

Apr 16

The Chains of Change

People, generally speaking, are good.

I highly doubt that many people actually wake up in the morning to the thought of “gee, I hope I can ruin someone’s day today.” Most folks just want to go about their lives, not be bothered, and avoid making eye contact with other pedestrians on the street. But for all of those people, there are a few who really do set up to hurt, harm, or take advantage of others while getting ready for the day. But even they don’t necessarily plan to be evil or cruel. No one sees themselves as the villain. So, if people generally feel like they’re acting as they should in their lives, what can be done about it?

Enter Social Change Research. There are a lot of ways to define Social Change, depending on the subtype, but for the most part, it’s safe to infer that “the general idea is that the researcher(s) are actively changing something in a social situation that they are a part of” (PSU, 2016). This concept is extremely broad and widely applicable, and can be seen in more social settings than just about any other topic covered in a standard course on psychology. There are little snippets of it lying around just about anywhere you look, and it’s used in ways that range from the altruistic to the insidious.

A good example of altruistic social change research might be looking into ways to effectively provide food and shelter for the homeless. A recent project in Salt Lake City, Utah deals with precisely that, and is a prime example of the concept in action. In an article published by National Public Radio, first heard on the popular daytime program “All Things Considered,” the project, called Housing First by the state, has its results broken down and examined. Said results, while imperfect, are astonishing in their own right. “Utah set itself an ambitious goal: end chronic homelessness.

As of 2015, the state can just about declare victory: The population of chronically homeless people has dropped by 91 percent” (McEvers, 2015). The story has generated interest from media outlets around the world, and is a (mostly) prime example of how social change research can be implemented and applied to change something in a social situation. Sound familiar?

As pretty as the Utah story is, however, not all social change research ends up being for the greater good. By counterpoint, several states have attempted to institutionalize bigotry through what they’re calling “religious freedom laws” to restrict the forward momentum of what some would call progress, but what others would call ‘an attack on traditional values.’ In some other states, women are not allowed to have an abortion if the only reason for it is because the child will be born with a crippling disability. Depending on which side of the argument you fall on, it’s rather easy to see how social change research and Activist research (and the inherent implementation of policies that said research was designed to propagate) can be much more ambiguous, and potentially dangerous, than housing the chronically homeless.

In my own city, Jackson, Wyoming, there is a group campaigning to block all new affordable housing projects for fears that a particular subspecies of sage grouse will be negatively affected. Property in Jackson comes at a serious premium. Due to the proximity of the town to the famous Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, along with a good swath of National Forest and National Wilderness, only 2% of land in the county is available for private ownership. As a result of this, home prices are staggering. On Trulia.com, a real estate brokerage website, the most current average listing price for property is $1,655,749. It is impossible for the middle class and working class workforce in the region to own property, but because a conservation group has (very effectively) employed activist research to its advantage, all affordable housing projects submitted to the town council in the better part of the last decade have been denied.

It is abundantly clear that social change research and its subtypes and relatives are a powerful tool.  Drawing a parallel back, basically no one sees themselves or their cause as unjust or harmful. Yet if wielded irresponsibly, social change research can cause great harm to many individuals, groups, and demographics. It is the imperative that the social psychologist be aware of the great responsibility that comes with the power they have to effectuate a difference in their social scenarios.

In our hurry to effect change on one group, we have to make sure our actions don’t become chains on another.

Penn State University. (2016). Applied Social Psychology, Lesson 13: Social Change/Participatory Research. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp16/psych424/001/content/14_lesson/01_page.html

McEvers, Kelly. (2015). Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness by 91 Percent; Here’s How. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2015/12/10/459100751/utah-reduced-chronic-homelessness-by-91-percent-heres-how

Trulia. (n.d.). Jackson Real Estate Market Overview. Retrieved from http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Jackson-Wyoming/

Apr 16

Feel the Bern! Or so you think now.

How influential is social media in our daily life? Do you realize the the social influences that happen when you log in to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? The reality is that all of these services are social, a melting pot of cultures and ideas that you see everyday.

The reality of our online lives is that we are constantly adapting and changing. Faster than ever we are updating status and editing pictures to conform to others perceptions of us online. What is really behind you taking that picture of yourself every week or day? Probably for the attention it brings and the people who comment or ‘like’ your post. It goes beyond posting a new picture though. Our ideas and morals are questioned every day when we browse through these sites. We see things we are ‘expected’ to see and do, feel and like. A quick look into research on this said that when: “[geotagging] occurs…the probability of a friend in the network adopting the behavior increases (source).” It may seem like geotagging a picture is a small thing, but it spreads to the bigger thoughts and morals you hold. Posting that picture of your food, campaigning for your new favorite candidate, or getting that new tattoo were probably decisions made for you by the social influences online.

There is no real solution to stop the social influence the internet has. As we see with social change research, the best way is to move away from that damaging environment. This doesn’t mean stopping internet usage all together, which is impossible, but move to different communities online that aren’t as damaging. This may be difficult to pinpoint though, because things like Facebook have us tied in with our families, effectively tying us to that site due to social obligations. Leaving something like that is like leaving your actual family behind. Other sites like Instagram and twitter have us scrolling to be entertained or impressed. Constantly on the verge of the next ‘great’ thing, or so we think.

The tie we have to social media influences us dramatically. The environment we experience online changes our perceptions, effectively making us all the same based on what we see. Depending on what you use or what you see, this influence can be good or bad. Chances are, you are influenced a lot more by what you see online than you think.



Papagelis, M., Murdock, V., & Zwol, R. V. (2011). Individual behavior and social influence in online social systems. Proceedings of the 22nd ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia – HT ’11. doi:10.1145/1995966.1995998


From: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c600/0f09d0697065661410c9450d285d3e45bb03.pdf


Apr 16

Situational Influences


One of the most famous traditional Chinese Idioms is “mèng mǔ sān qiān”.  The literal translation is “Mencius’s mother, three moves”.  Mencius was a famous Chinese philosopher during the Song Dynasty.  His father died when he was really young so he lived with his mother. 

Since they had very little money or close to no money they were living close to a cemetery.  His mother began to notice that Mencius would talk like or act out the funeral processions for fun.  After seeing this, his mother realized this wasn’t a good place to bring up his son so they moved. This time they moved to a place nearby a very noisy market. It was a vibrant market filled with merchants hawking their goods.  After a while, Mencius began to do the same.  Mother Meng decides this is no place for her son.  Discard their financial troubles, she took on extra work and paid more money to live next to a school. Mencius naturally began to imitate the behavior and study habits of the students.

This reminds me of a friend I knew.  We went to different high schools but met through a mutual friend.  He was living in a neighborhood known as the “Beverly Hills” of Asians.  All the rich Asian immigrants would buy or build a mansion in this neighborhood and leave their children with the mother or a close relative for schooling. With the unlimited allowance and lavish lifestyle, children were not focused on schooling but rather on partying. When I met him he had already been in the States for 5 years and still couldn’t barely speak a word of English.  Things got bad for him when he started hanging out with a bad crowd and got into a lot of trouble with law enforcement.  His parents finally realized how severe the problem was and decided to move him to Ohio.  The first couple of months i would get calls from him telling how bad and boring it was.  There was nothing to do, no parties, nobody speaks Chinese and it was driving him absolutely bananas.  Fast forward twenty years later he is now a successful man who spoke perfect English (with no accent), college graduate and with an MBA  and working for a big financial institution.

We are all affected by situational influences. We live our life in a social context, considering and reacting to the events and conditions surrounding us.  In human experience, thoughts, feelings and actions are shaped by the social environment (pp.353)  We learn how to interact with other in order to fit in or be accepted  This comes naturally because we all seek a sense of belongingness. Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow listed “belongingness” as the third most important motive after physiological and safety needs. One’s closeness to others is vital to one’s survival and well being (pp.355)  Of course not everyone can be like Mother Mencius. Sometimes choosing our social environment may be out of our control but we should always try to associate ourselves with a positive environment or as close to one as we can.



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

Apr 16

Birds of a Feather Fock Together: The Story of High School Couple

Have you ever heard the saying ” Birds of a feather flock together”? Well I’m sure this is true for birds but what about people, especially couples. I think most of us would agree that we all seem to gravitate toward people that are similar to us. You should choose someone who likes the same sports, activities and general interests. (PSU, WC, L. 12) According to Luo & Klohnen, 2005 ” Birds of a feather, flock together” tends to be how long- lasting relationships succeed. (PSU, WC, L.12) But what about “opposites attract”? You can’t have it both ways.

I won’t deny that if you ask a couple who has been together for over 20 years what is the key to the success of their relationship you will hear many things. Some will say they make time for each other, some will say they have the same interests, some will even say they take time for themselves. While you will hear many stories all we be different. Here’s our story:

She was just 16, a junior in high school. He was an 18 yr. old who graduated 30 days before. They were brought together by a working relationship. She ran the concession stand at the local baseball complex and he was a scorekeeper. She was the captain of her cheerleading squad and he was the local bad boy from LA. However, she saw something different. She wasn’t convinced he was worth her time. He didn’t have a car, no job that had more then 15 hours a week and wasn’t even looking at college. So what was it about him? He had mischief eyes, he did things she would never do, he smoked. All things she knew where bad. She knew her parents would not be happy. So she took a chance. It was just a boyfriend. She could get rid of him at any time. But something happened. She started to really like him.

It turned out that he was sweet, and sensitive and there was this attraction between them. Then things started happening. He became jealous of all her guy friends. Jealousy is an emotional response that like other strong emotions will subside over time. (PSU, WC, L. 12)  He didn’t trust her and she wasn’t too happy about his lack of ambition. After about 4 months they broke up, then got back together, then broke up. This went on for 4 years.

Things changed. She went to college and he had finally started taking classes. She worked a lot and so he started working more because she was working. Some how things had changed this time. They both had matured a little. He no longer smoked or put himself in bad situation. He actually tried to make himself a better person, for her. He had too. He had to keep up. She was ambitious and new exactly what she wanted. Then something happened neither was ready for, she became pregnant. At 20 and 22, they were having a baby and like it or not it was time to figure out what was happening with this relationship. Just like always, she knew she wanted to be together and raise the baby. And for the first time it became clear that she was now going to be his entire life.

Flash forward 17 years later, we are still together and the attraction has never been stronger. So what’s our success? 17+ years changing together. We grew up. We did it together, my success was his and vice versa. We tried new things together, even when the other person was not interested. We are each other biggest cheerleaders. We are not the same people we were at 16 and 18. From our perspective, other couples from high school didn’t change together so the relationship faultered.

So now when someone says that “birds of a feather flock together” I would argue that “opposites attract” are way more fun and can work for you if you love what is opposite about them and don’t try to change them, just change together.



Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2015). Applied Social Psychology. Psych 424. Lesson 12: Relationships/Everyday Life. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp16/psych424/001/content/13_lesson/printlesson.html

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.


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