Mar 17

Stimulus Overload In a Quiet Town, By: Kristen Jezek

Stimulus Overload in a Quiet Town
By: Kristen Jezek

Stimulus overload occurs when people are experiencing an overwhelmed nervous system to the point where they begin to shut out certain things in their environment to focus their attention (Schneider, 2012). It is easy to assume this type of overload is present only in major cities where people are flooded with traffic noises, commutes, excess of people and stimulating billboards, sounds, and smells. What people don’t realize about this type of stimulus overload is that it is not limited to overpopulated cities such as New York or Las Vegas. These distractions can occur in seemingly small towns where not much goes on. The tendency for human beings to start to shut out “unnecessary” stimuli when overwhelmed with information is beneficial for survival and quality of life, except for when it crosses the line to being blatantly ignorant to the needs of vulnerable people around us.

An example of this stimulus overload, even in regular everyday life can happen in something as innocuous as a snow storm. Recently there was a large snow storm in the Cleveland area (suburbs) and cars were trying to get to work during rush hour.  While the plow trucks knew that there was a storm coming, I don’t think they were prepared for as much snow came down, and not in this inopportune hour when so many cars were on the road.  With so much going on with people trying to pay attention to the roads, the cars in front of and behind them, and their impending work day, people undoubtedly experienced some stimulus overload.  There was a woman on the side of the road who had hit a tree and was sitting in her truck.  Perhaps because people were so busy and overloaded with stimuli, no one had attended to her for almost 30 minutes.  My boyfriend stopped his truck to make sure she was okay and simply walked up to check if she needed anything or if someone was on their way for her.  She said she had been sitting there for almost half an hour (with her young child in the backseat) and no one had stopped to check on her.  Furthermore, she had no cell phone with her and the police and road vehicles were distracted dealing with multiple accidents and road blocks due to snow.  Because she had hit her car on the tree, there could have been damage to her vehicle (which should be turned off to prevent further issues) or damage to her health or the health of her young son. After an accident, timing is of the essence and when you are stuck in the cold that window of time is even shorter. When he stopped to check on her, he let her use his cell phone and contacted the police to make sure they were on their way to help the young woman. If he had not stopped to check if she was alright, who knew how long she would have sat there with her infant son in the cold!  Being left in the cold in a smoking vehicle could have meant death for these two members of this town. In these cases, sensory overload can be incredibly damaging even in environments that are not constantly overloaded (such as cities).  Whenever a person is overwhelmed or even in an unfamiliar situation, stimulus overload can take over and valuable opportunities to help others can be hindered.

What can be done to deal with this type of stimulus overload? Firstly, understanding that to be overwhelmed with stimuli is not limited to big cities can help combat the situations where you find yourself burdened with multiple pulls on your attention. Furthermore, the prevalence of smart phones, radios, or unnecessary electronics or distractions should be eliminated so to make room for more important matters on attention, such as other people needing assistance or making sure you can pay attention enough to what you are doing to remain safe. With an ever-increasing media age, stimulus overload is possible everywhere with a click of a smart-phone device. The best offense in these situations is a good defense against the overloading stimulus of non-essential material. The difference in where you place your attention could literally be the difference between life or death for you or someone else.

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

Mar 17

Community- Redefined

Defining community in today’s world can be challenging at best. Opportunities to relate and socialize were once pivotal points in both social/personal realms but also in the business world. Meeting the parents was a huge step and not a casual hello, closing a big deal included having the client over for a well prepared meal by your spouse, and Sundays were reserved for church picnics in some small towns. Not to say that these things don’t occur but not in the same capacity is a fair assumption. The underlying element to all of these situations were that of people coming together with a common goal, value, and philosophy otherwise community (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). Fast forward to decades later and we now are reaching for community without actually being together in the same room. A sense of community refers to the “degree in which community members feel as sense of belonging” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, pp. 276). Today people relate to each other across locations and times through the internet, social media, and chat rooms. By being able to speak to each other without ever being together is impacting the world around and us.  This sense of community or belonging can only be superficial though as you are not there to hear the inflection in someone’s voice or read the physical cues mannerisms afford us. Another down side is people have a sense of anonymity that they can say whatever they want whenever they want with no accountability. This is a something we have to actively call out and help to eliminate. It has been done so by groups like, Anonymous, which are a group of hackers that electronically break into prominent people’s internet based private areas and expose things like affairs, leaks, and indiscretions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. But what about the upside? Because of technology today we are able to perform such a higher caliber of citizen participation and social action than before. “Citizen Participation is when people take active roles on issues that affect their communities” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, pp. 277) Social action is best “described as a collective action in the community that generates the power to create change” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, pp. 288). Excellent of positive examples of this are the push for Breast Cancer Awareness and Colon Cancer Awareness. Both of these two diseases still have no cure but by early detection a person can have better chances of survival and remission. This has been better made a part of everyone’s daily lives through our communities and social media spreading the word. Often you will see people sign up online for 5ks as a run-a-thon to donate funds to research. This not only benefits the victims of this disease but also encourages people to spend time together with a common goal while promoting health to all those running through exercise, mental health by the joy of doing something positive and spending time with others that want to make a positive change. This to me is present day creation of community. We can all challenge ourselves to go beyond this though. We can reach out to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends and create opportunities like BBQs and get togethers to share our time as our parents, grandparents, and the early generations once did. By reconnecting we can discover so many more benefits and rally behind programs and interventions that call for change like cures for disease, support of our emergency personnel, and fight disparities. This will help to build a better world and community both next door or with the person you are talking to through technology thousands of miles away. The real question is what are you waiting for?

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

Mar 17

Math is for Girls

Much like Susan in our text, I can’t “do math.” I legitimately use my fingers for simple equations and need to use a paper and pencil or a calculator for anything more difficult than basic math facts. Luckily, Penn State urges their students to reach higher and encourages (forces) psychology students to take a course in statistics! So how does one student like myself get through her first statistics class after previously just getting by in a non-credit brush-up community college math class? Let’s find out.

Throughout elementary school and middle school, I took the most rigorous courses in my grade level including math. I had always done well in all academic areas and felt good about going to school, taking tests, and learning all I could about everything. Through my last year or so of middle school things began to change. I got older and wanted to do things with friends that cost money. My new step-dad wanted me to like him, so he started rewarding me for good grades. $50 for every A, $20 for a B, and nothing else for any other grade. Looking back, although I had tons of cash, I realize that this type of reward system made me lose much of my intrinsic motivation to do well in school. The truth is that math did become more difficult for me as I entered high school, but nothing that I couldn’t have done well in if I tried. But because of the overjustification effect, or losing my motivation to push myself (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012), I stopped overachieving and took the easy way out—still doing well enough to earn the cash but not pushing myself to my fullest potential. I got lazy.

Additionally, I was also the product of a society in which we tell girls that “math is for boys” and it was acceptable to be “bad at math” because everyone with a pony tail should be. In terms of self-determination theory, I fell prey to societal gender norms and didn’t feel like I could be, or should be, different (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). But school wasn’t the only place gender norms were taught. “We’re just better speakers. And writers. And helpers!” was my mother’s mantra when I would bring home a dismal math grade. My parents didn’t question why my math grades plummeted because it was expected and acceptable. So I continued on.

At this point, my academic self-concept was shoddy at best, even though I still maintained fairly decent grades in other subjects. I hated going to school and my belief that I’m going to test horribly helped to perpetuate the self-fulfilling prophecy that was my downward spiral of an academic career. The most distressing obstacle I faced was that since I was 8-years-old I had my heart set on being a Marine Biologist. But guess what subject you need to be strong in to become a scientist? You guessed it! Math. I threw away my dream (even though I do extremely well in science-based courses) and decided that I should become a helper, because that’s what girls who can’t do math do.

So here I am, a psychology student at Penn State, who yet again is faced with the dreaded numbers game. I just wanted to be a helper. Nevertheless, I persisted (yep, I went there), and prepared myself to do terrible in my class. Then it hit me! Why not prepare myself to do well in the class? Clearly anyone else with a PSU degree has gotten through statistics, and I’m a smart girl. I thought to myself, I can do this! I took a risky move, skipping over Intro to Stat and jumping head first into Elementary Statistics (yes, that’s a 200 level statistics course for someone who doesn’t “do math”). More importantly, I took an objective look at myself. I recognized that I’ve self-handicapped, or found a way to make excuses for my failures, oftentimes in my past (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). I’ve waited until it was past my bedtime to work on homework, excusing my bad grades because I was “too tired.” I’ve made other class deadlines more important than math because “I’ll actually use this in real life.”  I pledged not to do that anymore. Instead, after work I asked my parents to watch my daughter so I could devote at least an hour every evening to studying. I took initiative and reached out to a tutor early. When the tutoring didn’t go well, I asked my professor to meet with me every Thursday because I still wasn’t understanding. I kept at it, and my hard work payed off. I finished the class with an A! Just kidding. I got a C+ and failed all of my proctored exams, but I did well enough on my homework assignments (with my professors help) to get the statistics credit I need to graduate.

Even though math really isn’t my strongest subject, I do know that I am tenacious and goal-oriented and, with enough hard work, can succeed in any situation that comes my way. Which is good, because I’m taking my last math class this semester and can really use the pep talk!





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

Mar 17

The Bystander Effect Should Start to be taught in Elementary School

In this week’s lesson we read about the bystander effect and the factors that inhibit people to help in emergency situations (Latane & Nida, 1981). I feel like we could tie this week’s lesson in with last week’s lesson on applied social psychology in education because school bullying has become an emergency situation in this day and age. In my blog last week I discussed the situation of my son being beat up at recess. I mentioned how there were three teachers present, not to mention the three different 5th grade classes that were outside for recess together, and not one single person noticed or stopped the fight or tried to intervene in anyway.

The other students present during the situation at recess, being 5th graders (10-11years old), I could understand that they would be unaware of the bystander effect or the factors that inhibit their willingness to help. As a matter of fact, I know that the kid who was beating up my son had friends nearby that witnessed the fight and when asked about it said that they thought my son and their friend was just playing tag. Of course they said this in defense of their friend. My son’s friends were not present and did not witness the fight; therefore my son had no one defending him and his side of the story. However, the teachers that were present on the other hand are a different story; you would think that somewhere in their educational journey to becoming a teacher, or even as an adult, they would have heard of the bystander effect. When I contacted the school about the incident the first thing I experienced from them was diffusion of responsibility. Immediately they put it all on my son saying that it is his responsibility to report the incident. His homeroom teacher, which was one of the ones “monitoring” recess during the incident, tried diffusion of responsibility by saying that she couldn’t see everything that was going on at every moment, implying that someone else should have, or might have, seen it happening. She also tried saying that she never noticed the very obvious black eye my son had by the end of the day, did she purposefully not look at him? This would be exhibiting Milgram’s second way of psychological retreating by prioritizing what we pay attention to as to avoid lower priority things, such as avoiding looking at my son’s face knowing he got hit but not wanting to have to deal with the situation (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

Either way, I feel one possible intervention strategy to help reduce bullying could be to start incorporating lessons on the bystander effect and the factors that inhibit people to help in emergency situations in elementary school. I feel this would bring about more awareness and action at a younger age that could potentially start nipping bullying in the butt. I also feel this would be a good way to engage teachers as well to help intervene in bullying situations instead of just waiting for the child to report it (which we know rarely happens due to the fear of retaliation). What are your thoughts on this intervention? Do you feel it would be feasible? Obviously the intervention program would be modified to be geared more toward elementary aged children and bullying situations more so than like using the example of Kitty being murdered.


Latané, B., & Nida, S. (1981). Ten years of research on group size and helping. Psychological Bulletin, 89(2), 308-324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.89.2.308

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

Mar 17

I Am My Home

Why is it that when you first meet someone you always follow a subset of questions and it’s almost this conversation exactly: ‘what’s your name’ then followed by ‘where are you from’. Why does where you are from matter? Is it to see if you have something in common? Or perhaps it’s to just strike up a conversation? Theory states that where you are from (or claim to be from) says more about you than anything else.  For instance, I am a small-town girl from a beach town in coastal North Carolina. According to a study mentioned by Colin Ellard, “more introverted student participants reported that they preferred scenes of mountains to scenes of beaches” (Ellard, 2015). So according to this I should be an extrovert, right?

In our text (chapter 12) Lafreniere, Page, and Senn mention a theory called person-environment fit. This means that depending on where people live, they will normally act and react differently than one another(Lafreniere, Page, & Senn, 2012). I had never thought about this but I can now understand how people are different. For example, living on the east coast my whole life people often make fun of people from California because they do things the ‘cali-way’. Is there some truth to this? Well according to person-environment fit then yes. People from California are going to be different in attitude and personality than people from eastern North Carolina.

I always knew that people in different geographical locations were different (besides the typical race, religion, and cultures) but I never knew how or why. Colin Ellard poses a question that I think we can all afford to ponder, “Do environments that are conducive to quiet reflection actually change the personalities of their residents, or do more introspective types gravitate to such environments because they feed deep needs for the kinds of situations that are most adaptive for those individuals?” (Ellard, 2015). Did I stay on the coast because I am a people person or am I a people person because I grew up on the coast? Think about where you live. What drew you to that location? Was it close to shops you like or to work? Is it quiet like you like? Maybe it’s near a landmark you like to frequent? So why do we really move to certain places?

Nancy Schlossberg makes another good point about how our environment feeds into our other emotions such as happiness and stress. She discusses that in some locations you may feel one way while a different way in another location. More specifically, people in Sarasota, FL feel young at 50 but people of the same age feel old in Rockford, IL (Schlossberg, 2011). Why is that? More people go to Sarasota to retire than they do in Rockford. Therefore the community in Sarasota is more retirement friendly and has more elderly based activities making the community members feel more comfortable and at home. So, if we live in a community that makes up feel welcome and in turn we are happier, what about living somewhere with higher stress?

A study was done to determine mental health status (measured by paranoia) in lower class neighborhoods. Which leads us back to the chicken or the egg scenario, Alexandra Sifferlin says “…whether the connection was due to people reacting to the environment around them, or because those who are generally less trusting were more likely to live in troubled areas” (Sifferlin, 2014). The researcher questioned residents of two neighborhoods (low status high crime and high status low crime) and just as would be assumed, those in the high crime area harbored more feelings of paranoia and lower levels of social trust compared to the residents of the other neighborhood. This held true in the participants in the study who walked these neighborhoods for one hour.

Circling back to person-environment fit, people in low income areas would typically encounter more stressors and be subjected to harder environments than the high income areas. Is this why we want to know where people are from? Subconsciously do we ask people where they are from to get a feel for the ‘type of person’ they could potentially be? I think, in a way, we do. Whether people want to admit it or not we judge people based on where they currently live or grew up or traveled to, etc. It could be a judgment of disapproval or even envy but there is also a type of judgment when telling people where you are from.



Ellard, C. (2015, August 19). Does Where You Live Make You Who You Are? Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-wandering/201508/does-where-you-live-make-you-who-you-are

Lafreniere, K. D., Page, S., & Senn, C. Y. (2012). Applying Soical Psychology To Community. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts, Applied Social Psychology (pp. 273-296). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Schlossberg, N. K. (2011, May 7). Location, Location, Location—You Are Where You Live. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/transitions-through-life/201105/location-location-location-you-are-where-you-live

Sifferlin, A. (2014, January 14). You Are Where You Live: How Dangerous Neighborhoods Make You Feel Paranoid. Retrieved from TIME: http://healthland.time.com/2014/01/14/you-are-where-you-live-how-dangerous-neighborhoods-make-you-feel-paranoid/



Mar 17

Effects of Expectation on Academic Achievement

This week’s topic of applying social psychology to education is one of the more important subjects to read and know about in my opinion. A good education is the very tool that allows us to be able to overcome a lot of the obstacles that we face in life, by allowing us to know right from wrong, to be able to make informed decisions about the next right step for us.

I was raised in a family that stressed the importance of education from early on in my childhood – so I grew up with the notion that continuing to a getting a higher education was a must for my brother and I. Although this upbringing has allowed me to be the person I am today, it also meant that my family, especially my father, had very high expectations of me. I do believe that his high expectations are what instilled a sense of mastery and achievement in me in high school, and not to toot my own horn, but I did very well in high school—I was an A student, involved in extra curricular activity, president of student council and so on. This expectation of me to go above and beyond did not only come from my family, but also from my teachers. A lot of my teachers expressed quite regularly to me about their approval of my work and how they expect me to do well on future assignments. They did pay particularly more attention to my and a couple other student’s progress in the courses. I was known as the ‘teacher’s pet’ all throughout high school, and was not particularly liked by my classmates. In retrospect, I did not know how this ‘special’ treatment could have had an effect on my academic achievement and the effects it could also have on the other students’ learning experience.

This week’s reading highlighted an experiment conducted by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) that highly resonates with my high school experience. The impetus behind Rosenthal and Jacobson’s Pygmalion in the Classroom experiment was their observation that teacher’s had higher expectations for the achievement of good students, and wanted to explore whether this expectation could have an effect on the students’ academic performance (Schneider et. al., 2012). Rosenthal and Jacobson told teachers at the beginning of the school year that some of their students showed above-average potential, which they labeled as ‘bloomers’. In reality, the ‘bloomers’ were a group of students that were randomly selected at so did not show more potential than the other students in the class. The results at the end of the school year revealed that the students who the teachers thought were ‘bloomers’ showed significant increases in their IQ scores in comparison to the other students (Schneider et. al., 2012). Rosenthal and Jacobson suggested that the reason that these group of students thrived is because their teachers began to treat them differently when they believed that they were ‘bloomers’ – the teachers gave more attention, support and encouragement to these students, gave them more challenging material, provided them with more feedback (positive and negative) and allowed them to have more opportunity to participate in class. This ‘special’ treatment allowed this group of students, who were on average no different than the other students, to go above and beyond. The teachers did not change their treatment of the bloomers on purpose though, but fell prey to the self-fulfilling prophecy – which states that having expectations about another person will influence how you perceive and behave towards the person (Schneider et. al., 2012).

This experiment allowed me to think about my own academic experience in a new light, and made me realize that both my parents’ and teachers’ expectations and treatment of my academic life contributed to my success in that area. What could have happened is that I responded to my teachers’ high expectations of me by becoming more interested in succeeding and working harder, which could have in turn been cause for my teachers to invest even more time and energy in my schoolwork.

Knowing that the expectations of parents and teachers could have a pivotal impact on a child’s learning experience, both parents and teachers have to be aware that the same amount, or probably even more, attention needs to be geared towards students who seem to be lacking motivation and need an extra push to be able to reach their potential. Of course the teachers don’t intentionally provide special treatment to students who they perceive as ‘bloomers’, but by making this notion more salient, it could potentially allow them to be aware of their behavior, and make adjustments in order to provide every student in the class with the same opportunity to succeed and thrive.

Thank you for reading,



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

Mar 17

Violence in Schools: What is going on?

Within the past decade, there have been numerous horrific incidents in the one place where children should feel safest; their schools. School shootings are undoubtedly tragic, and it leaves many questioning where this brutal violence is coming from. Just since 2013, over 200 school shootings have occurred in the United States (Everytown Research, 2017). Some of these shootings are reported as being accidental, while many report the perpetrator was intentionally attempting to cause harm. The accessibility and availability to guns is a contributing factor as to why these tragedies occur, but the focus of this blog will mostly be shifted towards the psychological reasoning behind violent and aggressive behavior.

Aside from shooting-related incidents in schools, violence is also present in bullying and cyberbullying. In general, bullying involves the use of physical violence while cyberbullying typically relies on psychological harm. Bullying itself is a violent behavior that is frequently exhibited in aggressive students, but can also lead the victim of the bullying to engage in self-harm or in some cases commit suicide. Cyberbullying has already claimed the lives of many innocent children and adolescents. With stakes as high as the safety of children’s lives, it is critical that we figure out what is going on in order to reduce violence in schools, and ultimately protect the students in attendance.

Aggressive behavior in children and adolescents is an issue that has been comprehensively studied. There are many possible explanations as to why young people display aggression, but intrapersonal and interpersonal variables must both be considered (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). An individual’s experiences within their home, school, family, community, and peer groups are all factors that contribute to how their behavior is formed. Biological influences, including temperament, are also important to consider when studying an issue such as aggression. The interactions between all of these factors provide the most thorough and accurate explanations for the causes of violent behavior. Researchers rely on this multilevel approach in order to understand the psychological development of aggression.

The environment that is created in a school setting is very significant in how the students attending that school behave. Moral climate is a term that explains how a student’s understanding of the appropriateness of aggression is formed by the beliefs of their classmates and teachers (Schneider et al., 2012). In other words, students learn what is considered appropriate regarding aggression by their pupils and teaching authorities. If a particular class has a very submissive teacher that allows for aggressive behavior with little punishment, as well as having aggressive students, remaining individuals will likely act more aggressive in that class. A study by Henry (2001) sought to understand how social processes in the classroom may be influential on aggressive behavior in children. He found that children do not perceive the level of aggression by the actual aggressive behavior, rather their expectations of how they should behave were associated with their own aggressive behavior (Schneider et al., 2012). Students were also motivated to sustain from aggressive behavior if aggressive students were punished or unpopular. When it comes to the school environment, an individual is likely to form ideas of what is appropriate versus inappropriate regarding aggression from their pupils and teachers. This information suggests that teachers must take this problem seriously, and be consistent when punishing aggressive behavior and rewarding good behavior.

Regarding life at home, a child that is exposed to family members with a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, and other types of family dysfunction have a greater risk of developing aggression (Schneider et al., 2012). When family members engage in this type of behavior, it becomes normalized for the child that is exposed to it. The child will begin to understand this problematic behavior as being normal, therefore increasing the chance they will behave similarly. It is common that students that hit, punch, and kick other students were either abused themselves, or witnessed abuse happen to another family member. This is no accident either. These two occurrences are highly correlated with one another, and is supported by social cognitive learning theory. This theory states that a child learns behaviors through the observation of others that aggressive behaviors can result in desirable or undesirable outcomes (Schneider et al., 2012). Not only does this observation allow the child to perceive aggression as normal, but it also allows them to see potential rewards for engaging in aggressive behavior. This suggests that home interventions may be necessary for certain students that exhibit violent behavior and aggression, largely in part of their familial experiences.

The community in which a child is brought up in can also be responsible for the formation of aggressive and violent ideals. Subculture theory suggests that a community with a history of violence and aggression will continue to contain individuals that behave similarly because the individuals of that community perceive the behavior as normal (Schneider et al., 2012). This theory is also similar to social cognition learning theory, which suggests children develop an understanding of what is normal through the observation of others. Community then becomes a significant aspect of understanding aggression and how it forms. Reformation within the community may lead to positive changes regarding aggression and violence.

Now that some of the important causes of youth aggression have been discussed, what can be done to decrease violence in schools? Some suggest prevention programs be implemented that address issues such as school environment and practices, academic performance, behavior management techniques, and academic climate and expectations (Schneider et al. 2012). A student’s school environment has been proven through various studies to have direct effects on what children understand as inappropriate aggression. Increased adult supervision as well as a no tolerance policy for inappropriate aggression are both useful measures to take in helping solve this problem. Students who do not perform well academically may become aggressive out of frustration. Teachers should work especially hard with these students to ensure that they are getting a proper education, and do not feel stressed about their schoolwork to the point of becoming violent. Behavior management techniques may be useful for obvious reasons. Meaningful assemblies about the harmful effects of violence, bullying, aggression, etc. should occur at least twice during the school year, and additional information about these problems provided in classes would be beneficial as well. Students who are prone to engaging in aggressive behavior should be required to see the school counselor to work out the problem with a trained professional. By understanding the causes of youth aggression we come one step closer in reducing violence in schools, and by taking these preventative measures we come closer in hopefully eliminating it.



Everytown Research (2017). The long, shameful list of school shootings in America. Retrieved from http://everytownresearch.org/school-shootings

Henry, D.B. (2001). Classroom context and the development of aggression: The role of normative processes. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Advances in psychology research. Huntington, NY: Nova Science.

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

Mar 17

For a Readers’ Badge: Intervention for My First Grader’s Reading Skills

One day, my seven year old son came home from school pretty upset and said he did not want to go school next day. Why? What happened? He loved school; only a few weeks ago, he was upset that he could not go to school because of strep throat, and he recently received a mastery award in math and a music award from school. I thought he was doing well at school, but why now? I was panicking in my head to the extent which I could not formulate a coherent sentence. After taking a deep breath, I asked him what happened. He told me it was because he did not get a readers’ badge but a lot of his friends got one each. He also added that his teacher gave special coupons to those kids with badges to bring stuffed animals to school. He continued to tell me, “I’m not good at reading, mom. I can’t read many books that fast. They’re boring.” As I was listening to his rants, I knew we had to fix the problem now otherwise it would create other possible problems as he ages.

The part he said that he was not good at reading was hard for me to understand since we read at least three nights a week together before bed. He often talks about characters from the stories he read with me for days, thus, he knows the joy of reading books. Then why does feel like he is inept to read at school? One study notes that children are motivated by many factors including both intrinsic and extrinsic. In other words, children are motivated to read for their own interest or fun as well as to gain recognition or a reward (McGowen et al. 2016). My son appears to have both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation to read, but why is it difficult for him to meet the goal to receive the badge? Perhaps, it can be explained by Festinger’s social comparison theory (Schneider et al., 2012).

According to Festinger, we tend to judge our performance in comparison with those who are similar to us in our environment. It is not an exception for my son; he may have compared himself to other children in his class. When one of his friends got the badge first, downward social comparison may have occurred to make him feel better about his status. When more children got the badge, upward social comparison did not occur but he may have experienced less confidence in his reading ability (Schneider et al., 2012). As Keil, McClintock, Kramer, and Platow concerned, a repeated lack of improvement in performance may influence an individual to experience less confidence, lose motivation, and experience low feelings of self-worth (Schneider et al., 2012). When he sees more children in his class getting badges, he is feeling less confident in reading and now believing that he is just not good at reading. Another important factor is teacher’s perception and expectation on low achievers. I would like to believe that my son’s teacher is doing the best she can to help him improve his reading aptitude, yet a self-fulling prophecy cannot be negated in this situation. According to Schneider and his colleagues, low achievers are more susceptible to what their teachers thought of them and expected from them (Schneider et al., 2012). Does she unconsciously have certain expectations about my son that influence her behavior toward him? Maybe so, but it cannot be confirmed as she may not be consciously aware of her behaviors.

Then, what can I do to help my son improve his reading? Now that we have a distal goal, proximal goals should be set to cultivate competence and self-efficacy. According to Bandura and Schunk, proximal goals have three major psychological effects: 1) self-motivation can be created and sustained at its best by attaining proximal goals that lead to larger goals, 2) proximal goals provide immediate incentives and feedbacks for the performance, and 3) they play an important role in development of self-percepts of efficacy (Bandura & Schunk, 1981). How the proximal goals work is similar to what objectives do to attain goals of an intervention in applied social psychology. First proximal goal is to have him expose to different types of literature to broaden his interests. Since one of the complaints he had about reading was that he only wanted to read books that he liked, we will visit a local library where he can be exposed to different genres of books that may pique his interests. For a long time, he was a big fan of Dr. Seuss series, then he was introduced to the National Geographic for Kids which he loves reading about animals. Therefore, I think the library visit will be a great opportunity for him to find different genres of books that he may like. We are planning to pick out three fiction, three non-fiction, and one of his choice. The second goal is to increase his reading speed. Within 30 minutes, he will be reading as many books as possible. He is currently expected to read one or two books based on his past performance, but the goal is for him to read three twenty-or-less-page books for the first graders. Followed by reading, we will be having a short discussion on the books to help him identify main ideas and morale of the stories. By improving his speed with better accuracy of comprehension, he will be likely to be confident in reading among his peers, and recognition from his teacher may reinforce his behavior further.

Bandura and Schunk noted that children are likely to progress rapidly in self-directed learning, achieved mastery of a subject, and increase their perceived self-efficacy by setting and attaining proximal goals (Bandura & Schunk, 1981). I can only hope that this strategy may help him increase his perceived self-efficacy that will not be altered when he is faced with new challenges in the future. And of course, he will be getting the readers’ badge before the end of the school year as it is his distal goal. After devising this strategy, I realized that my own self-fulfilling prophecy influenced the strategy a lot which I believe the most important for my child. Regardless of factors that may have contributed to his reading experience, my belief that he is a good reader that needs a bit of guidance may improve his reading skills at school and later in his life based on the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy (Schneider et al., 2012).



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

Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(3), 586-598. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.41.3.586

Mcgeown, S. P., Osborne, C., Warhurst, A., Norgate, R., & Duncan, L. G. (2016). Understanding children’s reading activities: Reading motivation, skill and child characteristics as predictors. Journal of Research in Reading, 39(1), 109-125. doi:10.1111/1467-9817.12060

Mar 17

Racism is Learned at an Early Age

Racism Learned

“New research suggests prejudices may form at a much earlier age, but also offers hope that biases can be unlearned (Boston Globe, 2012).”

            Discriminatory and racial behavior may be learned in children as young as three years old, according to Mahzarin Banaji (a psychologist, brain researcher, and racism and physical prejudice expert from Harvard University).  Children are quick to demonstrate racist behavior and form connectivity between negative biases following exposure to episodes of discrimination.

Banaji performed a study which analyzed these perceptions in which scientists revealed how kids and adults reacted to indistinctive faces.  The pictures of faces ranged in skin tone from very light to brown, in which the kids indicated whether they were happy or angry.  There were 263 subjects classified as children (ages 3 to 14).  Consequentially, the faces that could be presumed as white or black were shown to the young subjects.  As a result, the children indicated that the faces that seemed “black” or “Asian” seemed angry, compared to the faces that they considered to be “white” were happy (unveiling the white children held a pro-white bias).  Furthermore, a group of black children did not present any bias toward white or black facial expressions.

Will prejudice behaviors that children learn at a young age stick with them in future adulthood?   The biggest influence of this factor is how a child analyzes in-group and out-group biases, in which “in-group members tend to evaluate and relate to the in-group favorably and to the out-group less favorably (Schneider, 2011).”  The key component that is necessary for children to understand diversity is to observe different groups interrelating in a balanced and positive nature.  Exposure to diversity throughout their lifespan will express that there are more important qualities that define someone other than the color of their skin, physical features, expressions, ethnicity, or gender (Boston Globe, 2012).

Learned racism is the outcome of how often an individual is personally exposed to how dissimilar cultures and races of people interact with one another.  The development of negative intergroup attitudes allows us to identify the causal effect of role structure and self-identity of oneself to other groups.  In conclusion, improved relations and withheld judgments may occur if a child observes positive interactions and attitudes among diverse groups.





James H. Burnett III Globe Staff. (2012, June 10). Harvard researcher says children learn racism quickly – The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 25, 2017, from https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/06/09/harvard-researcher-says-children-learn-racism-quickly/gWuN1ZG3M40WihER2kAfdK/story.html


Schneider, Frank W., Gruman, Jamie A.,Coutts, Larry. M. (2011). Applied Social Psychology: Intervention And Evaluation (Second Edition., PP. 7).




Mar 17

Observation and Application

Education is by no means the least stressful event that occurs throughout our lives. From elementary school until university, there are so many expectations that are held. Not only are we fighting ourselves academically, but as growing adolescents, some of us experience unpleasant periods of rebellion, confusion, and even peer pressures or social alienation.

This week we paid great attention to the different issues and theories that undermined the learning experience. I have always been fascinated by Albert Bandura. To me, his name is as familiar as Sigmund Freud throughout my undergraduate psychology journey. He seemed like a very reasonable and intelligent man. I would love to have held a conversation with him and picked his brain.

If you can think back to most circumstances in your life, observing was how you were able to form ideas about the unknown. As an infant, we exist in the world to learn. We have no prior knowledge of what things are or what they mean. We rely on observation of those around us to learn the basics of life. Even as small children, we go into environments (i.e. school) were interactions with others are observed and encoded into us. First, we form the opinion of what is right and wrong by watching others that we see most similar to ourselves. Second, people respond to the imitated behavior we pick up with either reenforcement or punishment. Third, we observe how others are treated when they do the behavior and whether or not we should imitate it, which is also known as vicarious reenforcement (McLeod, n.d.).

These observations that we pick up can be in terms of educational content or in behavior as the way we treat others and handle situations.

This expands beyond school as well. Even as emerging adults and adults today, we still rely on observation as a main form of learning. Imagine landing a new job. During training, you are paired with an individual that management sees as a superb worker that represents the company in the best possible way. By pairing you with this individual, they hope that you will observe them and pick up their good habits and general understanding of how things work. This can be the same in educational settings. I remember, in middle school specifically, our science teacher was really good at pairing students for labs and projects. Our groups ranged from two to four individuals, but the complexity of material understanding within the group was always on varying parts of the spectrum. Our teacher was really great about finding films that related our information to things we understood. During different important aspects of the lesson’s learning, those who understood it best were able to have the opportunity to go in front of the class and explain or demonstrate to the class their knowledge and at the end of the semester, there was a prize you could win. It was nerve wrecking at the time, but thinking back on it, it allowed us to view the way the examples were given in the film, apply it, try it, and then share it with others. I would like to think that this is a subtle relation to social learning theory, but only in one small part of what it means.



McLeod, S. (n.d.). Bandura – social learning theory. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

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