Mar 18

The Technological Community

Today’s communities aren’t the same as what they were 25 years ago or more.  In today’s technological environment along with the newest generation that is taking over is more deeply involved in the online world than anywhere else.  As a “90’s child”, that is, someone who was born well before the 1990’s and spent my childhood and teenage years through the 1990’s I have had the both the burden and gift in seeing what the world was before the implementation of the internet and technology and seeing how it has changed our communities.

As child going out and spending time with friends was always a priority, mainly because it was the most interesting thing to do.  Supporting this was always a communal environment supporting this.  Whether it was activities that brought children together, such as sports, group events like scouts, or parents working together to get their kids out of their hair, there was always something going on outside the house and in a direct person-to-person interaction to arrange these events.

While I am not saying that scouting, sports, and parent collaboration doesn’t exist anymore, the communal environment that it takes place in has changed drastically.  Instead of going door-to-door, posting up flyers on the billboard at the grocery store, or putting an article in the newspaper, now events and news are shared among electronic message boards such as Facebook.  The place an environment of our community has changed, some may say for the worse, others for the better.

Looking at what the internet has to offer and the Community Values that are viewed as important it isn’t surprising that this would occur though.  The internet offers a high amount of the sense of community that people are seeking, by being able to seek out others that share their viewpoints and offer quick and encouraging responses that increases our sense of belonging.  This also plays an impact on our sense of Ecological Perspective, the perceived fit between the person and their online “community”.  By seeking out websites, forums, groups, chats, and other online applications that are parallel to our interests we achieving that perfect fit we all desire and thanks to the unlimited variation in website types we are all able to find that perfect fit we all desire (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

Other major factors on our sense of belonging to community are also fulfilled through the internet.  Such as our ability to cause social action through the click of a mouse or a tap of the finger.  Previously, if someone was hurt and a fundraising campaign was started there would be forms to fill out, bake sales were planned, flyers put up, phone calls were made, and articles taken out in papers, nowadays we just start a gofundme page.  It used to be if a journalist said something we didn’t agree with letters were wrote, angry phone calls were made, and general griping among friends occurred over drinks or dinner, nowadays journalists are fired because a tweet is trending or a Facebook post receives a large amount of likes.  While I’m not saying that our newfound community is necessarily a bad thing, I am saying that it has changed.  Instead of going out and directly interacting with others in our proximal community face-to-face, instead our community is more indirect, over a vast distance, and to a degree less personal all while achieving the psychological fulfillment that we crave.


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

Mar 18

Power in Numbers

There is power in numbers. This is an idea behind social change or the steps taken to bring light to things in our society which are not accepted by most. There are six different strategies which can be used to aide in the success of these proposed changes; mass mobilization, social action, citizen participation, public advocacy, popular education, and local services development. Mass mobilization are temporary movements created by a large population. An example provided by Frank Schneider, Jamie Gruman, and Larry Coutts (2012) was the protest in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 which drove out its leaders (p. 288). Social action creates large organizations within communities which often develops into a state and national level. Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2012) state that the idea behind social action is that “by organizing you can stimulate collective action in the community that generates power to create change” (p. 288). When I think of social action I often think of activism within student bodies such as the Berkeley Protests which occurs during the 1960s. These protests were small but a part of the larger Free Speech Movement which was occurring nationwide. Another well-known protest amongst students occurred at Kent State University in the 1970s when the bombing of Cambodia was protested. Citizen participation aims to get citizens involved with their local government so that they can voice the political opinions of their community. An example of citizen participation in my area is a local organization known as Clean Ocean Action which organizes beach sweeps. This organization also partakes in public advocacy as it protests offshore drilling and will lobby to sway public officials. Below are some major protests and movements which have or currently used these six strategies for achieving change.

The Civil Rights Movement in The Bay Area – 1960s

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963

Summer of Love – 1967

Anti-Vietnam War – November 15, 1969

Kent State Massacre – May 4, 1970

Woodstock – July 22-25, 1999

March for America – March 10, 2010

Occupy Wall Street – September 17, 2011

March for Our Lives – March 24, 2018

Women’s March – recurring

A study by Ozden Melis Ulug and Yasemin Gulsum Acar researched the outcomes of protests and movements on an individual, group, and policy level. Ulug and Acar (2018) state that “understanding the consequences of these social movements involves realizing that social movements bring about change in different ways: at the individual level, the group level, and the systemic or policy level” (p. 44). You have an individual who has their own identity, but once they become a member or protesters who seek social action, they now have a shared identity. Having this shared identity translates to having common goals and feeling more powerful standing next to others than on one’s own. This supports my statement that there is power within numbers. Outcomes of individual change during and after protest were willingness to engage and positive emotional outcome.  Outcomes of group level changes during and after protest were groups becoming more active and willing to include groups that were previously excluded. This ties in the importance of using research to influence social change. Research by psychologists is important to seek proper action and change.


Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Couts, L. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and                Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousands Islands, CA: SAGE                Publications, Inc.

Ulung, O. & Acar, Yasemin. (2018). What Happens After the Protests? Understanding Protest                 Outcomes Through Multi-Level Social Change. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace                      Psychology, 24, 44-53. doi: 10.1037

Mar 18

Love it or Hate it

Just like with any other form of dating, online dating has stories of both successes and failures. The fact of the matter though is that more and more couples are meeting online and more people are using technology to meet people than ever before. I personally am all for meeting face to face and communicating that way as well. But in today’s society where we are all glued to our cell phones, dating through technology is something that you almost have to participate in.

Since online dating is becoming the norm now, let’s discuss some of the pros of online dating. One of the biggest benefits is that your pool of potential partners grows by a lot. Online you have the potential to meet and interact with so many more people than you would be able to in your everyday life (Finkel, E.J., et al.). Another beneficial pro is that many of these online dating sites with offer matching where they show you people you would best match with based on personality and interests. This eliminates all the time you would possibly be spending vetting people out in person. Of course the most obvious pro of online dating is that communication is so much quicker and easier online. You have the ability to stay in constant contact with people, as well as chat about things even when you are not face to face (Finkel, E.J., et al.).

Now just like there are pros to online dating there are also cons. One consequence is that with the vast number of people online it may take a person an incredibly long time to pick someone to start a relationship with. Instead they made spend their days simply window shopping for the perfect mate (Finkel, E.J., et al.). Another huge con is that on the internet a person may seem completely different from who they actually are in person. There are also a ton of people on the internet pretending to be someone else completely. At least in person you know what you’re getting when you see them. Lastly, when you communicate with someone online the experience is completely different than conversing in person. You are missing important conversation cues such as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. Another issue is that people tend to hide behind their technology and when having to them communicate with someone face to face they may become incredibly reserved and feel as though they don’t know how to talk to the person (Finkel, E.J., et al.).

Overall there are many reasons to love or hate online dating. The fact of the matter is though that it is becoming a prominent aspect of our culture. So if you want to stay up to date you should probably give it a try.




Finkel, E.J., Eastwick, P.W., Karney, B., Reis, H.T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science, 13(1), 3-66.



Mar 18

Where’s the Community Support?

This morning I opened my Facebook page and there was a post noting I had an upcoming birthday soon and asked if I would like to pick a charity and have it posted on my page so my friends could give a donation on my behalf as a present. I thought this was an interesting idea so I hit the button to see what charities were on the list that might interest me. As I scrolled through the options, charities ranging from saving pets, to helping fight cancer and human trafficking to international charities for various things were listed. Although I didn’t count them, I bet there were more than 100 of them. What struck me as odd was there wasn’t one, not one, that provided support for drug addiction (also known as substance use disorder).

So, how does this relate to our lesson on Community? Let’s start with the fact that National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) has stated there is an opioid epidemic and crisis in our country, (https://www.drugabuse.gov/). NIDA’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) states that 8.1% of the U.S. population aged 12 years and older had a drug use disorder in 2014—that is 21.5 million people [this is only on the rise]. This of course includes alcohol as well as street and prescription drugs, (https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders). Of these 21.5 million people in 2014, 1.9 have a prescription related opioid addiction and another 586,000 have a street drug addiction to heroin, (n.d.) The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 115 people a day die from opioid overdose, (https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html). Let me ask you this: How is this not a Community concern?

Hopefully I have your attention. I bet I can even guess at what some of you might be thinking, which is exactly why I chose this topic. As I read through the chapter on Applying Social Psychology to the Community about the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility and the stigmatization topics, I quickly saw connections with the Community and those who have a drug addiction problem, (Schneider, et.al., 2012). Recognizing the by-stander effect is somewhat limited to a group of people or an individual deciding whether to get involved in an emergency situation as it is occurring, perhaps I am stretching the intended meaning a bit. I cannot, however, help but wonder is this not how we perceive the opioid epidemic? We [the community] are standing by waiting to see who else besides us will help? Certainly, that is not our responsibility; others will help, no? (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, p.280).

Or perhaps the bigger challenge is the stigmatization that goes along with drug addiction, just as is described in the chapter. Have communities not labeled any one with this problem as being a deviant and flawed, perhaps not even deserving of help? Do many not hold Master Status, judging those with a drug addiction and disregard the fact that many are good people who contribute to society, but have fallen victim to a terrible disease?, (Schneider et.al., 2012, p.280). The studies discussed with regard to mental illness match well with those battling drug addiction, although I am not sure those with drug addiction are even afforded the results found in studies as discussed by Schneider et.al., of “public acceptance but private rejection,” (2012, p.285). SAMHSA reported 7.9 million adults with a drug addiction also had a co-occurring mental disorder, (https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders, 9th paragraph). Add in the social exchange theory, what is the likelihood of someone calculating the rewards and cost analysis of engaging with those with drug addiction problems as positive and not blameworthy? How many people “believe that the person truly had the moral responsibility to avoid the action or situation that led to the impaired condition, but did not exercise it?”, (Schneider, et.al., 2012, p.286). Now, add in the media stigmatization of the portrayal of drug-addicted persons. As Schneider, et. al. cited Diefenbach (1997) with regard to media portrayal of mental illness is one of aggression and violence, is that not the case with drug-addicted persons?, (2012, p.286). While NIDA does acknowledge there is a high rate of crime for drug-addicted persons which may include violent crimes when an individual is under the influence during the time of the crime, the most common are drug related violations for those on probation, (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-abuse-treatment-criminal-justice-populations/introduction, 2nd paragraph).

Sadly, I feel like we are failing on this topic as a Community. Luckily, there is place where those with drug addiction can find a sense of Community. It offers the four elements of community: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection–Narcotics Anonymous (NA), (Schneider, et.al., 2012, p.279). NA has a long history like Alcoholics Anonymous and uses a 12-step model that provides wonderful support to those dealing with drug addiction, (https://na.org/ ). It is an amazing supportive and nonjudgmental community.

I am sure there are charities that do support those fighting drug addiction, I know of a specific local non-profit close to me; however, I do feel the larger Community does not truly see their role in helping with this epidemic.


Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Couts, L. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousands Islands, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Mar 18

The “Self-Serving” Student

Have you ever encountered an academic situation in which you felt someone else was to blame? For example, instead of admitting that you failed your test due to lack of studying, you blamed it on your noisy neighbors – because, you know, they stayed up until 4AM partying? Or, you blamed it on the professor because he or she did not cover the exam materials? In truth, how many exams have you taken in which none of the material was covered by the professor? For me, I have never taken an exam that consisted of material that was not covered. The professor may not have covered it verbatim, but perhaps the necessary information was easily found within your readings, you know, the ones you “forgot” to do. Additionally, there have been instances where a question was misworded; however, in these instances, all class members received credit. As such, a practical resolution was applied equally to everyone.

The point I am trying to make is that sometimes, we tend to blame everyone or everything but ourselves for our academic shortcomings. In fact, I have been party to numerous discussions that blamed poor grades on professors. Yet, the follow-up to this was, “Oh man, that party was insane last night!” Think about this for a moment. The professor is the one who gave you a bad grade on an assignment, project or exam, because the professor somehow forced you to go to a party or “insert any other excuse here.” The logic is not sound. Additionally, if you did happen to do well on the exam, odds are pretty high that you will take personal credit for instead of looking at the environmental factors (i.e. it was an extremely easy test). In short, when related to negative academic outcomes, we tend to attribute the outcomes to external factors. When it comes to positive academic outcomes, we tend to attribute these to internal factors. This principle is known as the self-serving bias.

In general, it seems that we are likely to take credit for things that we do well, but we blame others for things that we do not do well (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). However, it is interesting that within the academic realm, people still apply this same principle. Growing up, I had always been taught to work hard to achieve a goal, though I may have grumbled here and there about different things (i.e. test structure, material, professor, weather). At the end of the day, the simple fact was that if I did not do well, it was because I did not prepare myself accordingly. Now, I have grown up and firmly believe that anything is possible with the right amount of effort and work. In a previous course, this was known as locus of control. For those that are not familiar with this concept, it is the extent to which an individual believes that he or she can influence situations through his or her own actions (Gale, Batty, & Deary, 2008). If you have a high internal locus of control, then you believe that you have more control over things that happen to you; whereas if you have a low locus of control, you believe that things are beyond your control.

Gramzow, Elliot, Asher, and McGregor (2003) found that some students exaggerate their academic performance, with need for achievement and poor prior performance both predicting exaggerated self-reports. The type of self-report varied though – exaggeration grounded in poor prior performance predicted poor subsequent performance and exaggeration grounded in need for achievement actually predicted improved performance. One potential justification for this is self-protection; if someone does poorly academically, he or she may believe that they will not be able to “rise above” strong academic performers. Additionally, he or she may believe that this will impact their entire future. As such, the self-serving bias may arise out of environmental cues or environmental pressures that cause an individual to try and produce his or her best “self.”

It is clear now that the self-serving bias definitely exists, but is there anything that can be done to prevent it? One potential idea is to help students change their attributions about the cause of their educational outcomes. It was demonstrated that by doing so, overall academic performance would improve (Marsh, 1986). If the process of the self-serving bias is interrupted, it can help promote a higher level of academic performance. In other words, if you break the cognitive pathways that generate this bias, then the bias will not be able to occur. Given that self-serving bias is essentially a blame game of sorts, this begins to make sense. Ultimately, if you can stop a student from pointing the finger or playing this game, you can get them to realize that perhaps they are the ones that are truly in control of their academic future.


Gale, C. R., Batty, G. D., & Deary, I. J. (2008). Locus of control at age 10 years and health outcomes and behaviors at age 30 years: The 1970 British cohort study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(4), 397-403. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31816a719e

Gramzow, R. H., Elliot, A. J., Asher, E., & McGregor, H. A. (2003). Self-evaluation bias and academic performance: Some ways and some reasons why. Journal of Research in Personality, 37(2), 41-61. doi: 10.1016/6566(02)00535-4

Marsh, H. W. (1986). Self-serving effect (bias?) in academic attributions: Its relation to academic achievement and self-concept. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(3), 190-200. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.78.3.190

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

Mar 18

Mathematical Malady

I have struggled with my relationship with math for almost as long as I can remember. In early elementary school I was simply ambivalent towards the subject, but when teachers stopped letting us illustrate fractions using M&M’s the relationship turned hostile. Math classes turned into battles, rife with anger and despair and dread. Some nights after a particularly bad piece of homework, I would lay in bed and ask myself: “am I terrible at math because I hate it, or do I hate math because I’m terrible at it?”

Growing up, I was an above-average student due in large part to the encouragement of my parents and teachers. From an early age, my parents were very involved in my schoolwork and as a result, I received good grades and other positive feedback from my teachers.  This cycle of positive feedback allowed me to enjoy school, and also caused me to work harder to ensure that I would continue to receive the positive feedback. Years of this pattern allowed me to develop a positive academic self-concept, which can be defined as viewing one’s academic performance in a positive light, including and perhaps especially when compared to other students (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

Math, unfortunately, was a large black spot within my academic self-concept that just got bigger as I entered middle school. I was often punished for receiving lower grades in math than in my other classes, because the assumption was that I just wasn’t putting in the effort. My parents firmly believed in my ability to succeed, and had trouble understanding why I was getting low B’s in math and A’s in my other classes. I had trouble understanding it too, for that matter. My other friends, who were almost always boys, were not experiencing the same issues with the subject, despite the fact that my grades were typically better than theirs. When I complained to them about my math issues, they explained that girls are worse than boys at math and advised me to let it go. This stung quite a bit because I was at a stage in my life where I believed that being compared to other girls was an insult, because I thought other girls were stupid and silly (yes, I had some serious internal misogyny going on, there).

Once I realized that my friends expected me to do worse in math because of my gender, I generalized it to my teachers and my family as well. I felt that being a girl was a handicap, and by performing poorly at math I was reinforcing the handicap and reminding everyone of my failure. Far from inspiring me to get better grades, these feelings increased my anxiety surrounding my math performance, and my grades dropped to C’s. The increased anxiety that girls experience due to fears that poor performance in math confirm the stereotype that girls are bad at math is called “stereotype threat”, and it has a proven impact on the math performances of women (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). According to one study, if women were even subtly reminded of the stereotype that women are bad at math, their performance on math tests declined significantly (Vedantam, 2012). It’s thought that because of the worry of conforming to the stereotype, women are using fewer of their cognitive resources to answer the math questions, which hurts their performance. This anxiety made my math performance worse, and caused me to dislike every moment of every math class I took in middle school.

When I reached high school my overall academic performance continued to be above average, and my teachers often gave me special projects and books that they felt would challenge and interest me. Their attentions reinforced my academic self-concept even further, and school was still largely enjoyable. This did not extend to math. My grades continued to be low, and my relationships with my teachers were strained, with one finally saying to me “I just don’t understand why you’re not grasping these concepts.” Neither did I, and frankly I was sick of it. I was tired of putting in three times the effort into my math classes and still getting bad results. I began to not work as hard at learning the concepts, and instead focused on learning just enough functional math to trudge through the homework and pass the tests. I didn’t truly understand how the math concepts worked or fit together or why they mattered, but I knew what equations to get me by. On the nights before math tests I would put off studying until it was late at night and I was too tired, and then blame my poor performance on a lack of studying. This behavior is called self-handicapping, which happens when people behave in ways that may negatively impact their performance, so they can use the behavior as an excuse for their poor performances rather than their abilities (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). I likely engaged in this self-handicapping behavior because I didn’t want to face the fact that although I was good at other subjects, math did not and probably never would come as easily to me.

As an adult, math still does not come easily to me. My college math classes have been a struggle, but I was able to at least recognize the value of statistical concepts, which made the subject easier to pay attention to and work at. Although I am still not positive whether I am terrible at math because I dislike it or because I’m actually just terrible at it, I now at least have the tools to recognize and overcome self-handicapping when it happens.



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

Vedantam, S. (2012, July 12). How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotype-threat-why-women-quit-science-jobs

Mar 18

Self-handicapping and Rewards in Education

Self-handicapping refers to a cognitive strategy in which people avoid effort in the hopes of keeping potential failure from hurting their self-esteem. In other words, people who self-handicap, typically will shift the blame of their failure on to some other variable other than themselves. An example our text book gives us is of a student named Susan who has a statistics test coming up, she feels that even if she studies she’s going to fail anyway so why bother. The night before the exam Susan chooses to go out with her friends and she studies the next morning only a few hours before the exam. Susan  handicapped her own ability to pass by choosing to go out instead of studying. If Susan fails she’ll blame it on choosing to go out with her friends and if by some miracle she actually does well she will begin to think it is always possible to do well even if handicapped. (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012)

In order to improve student performance, many times it has been suggested that students should be rewarded for their efforts. This is not a good argument as revealed by a study that was done in 1973. Their proposed research question set out to find if a reward would increase student’s academic efforts. They had two separate groups. Group 1 was told that there was a reward up for whoever could produce the best artwork using magic markers, Group 2 was only given the opportunity to enter their artwork (no prize was mentioned). The researchers found that the group that wasn’t verbally offered a reward for their work, group 2, actually produced better work than the winner of the group who was offered a reward for their entry, group 1. I found this to be a very interesting conclusion to their study and completely unexpected. I guess that only further proves why “students should be paid to do their homework” could never actually work out. (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012)

After reading about self-handicapping, it has very aggressively shined a light upon my own habits. I, if I’m being honest, often find myself looking for just about anything else I could do before I do my homework. The procrastination is unreal. According to our chapter, I am defined as a ‘self-handicapper’. Now that this issue has really resonated with me after reading I have set a personal mission for myself to try and end these damaging habits. I have the potential to do awesome on an exam and then I go out and put off studying until last minute and do poorly. A real eye opener this chapter has been for me. As for rewards I personally don’t think it would work out for me. Even if I was being offered cash to complete my assignments, I still find them to be very overwhelming and difficult. I would probably be more upset with myself when I procrastinated because I would know I’d be losing out on a reward by not studying. As well, I am upset in the current and real situation where I am actually the one paying just to procrastinate daily and end up stressing out last minute. Being paid to do school work is a weird idea and probably wouldn’t produce any effect. Self-handicapping is a very serious issue that has peaked my interest as to why students would choose to deliberately put their educational goals at risk.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

Mar 18

Choosing to fail?

I’m sure we all agree that it is our individuals selves that are mostly responsible for our successes.  If you study hard, you get the good grades.  If you apply yourself, you will do better.  If you believe in yourself you will.  But what about when we do not think this way, and instead think things like, “Good grades aren’t all that important,” and “I’m going to fail anyway, so what’s the use?”  The use of self-serving strategies can be greatly detrimental to development, especially in terms of education and cognition.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous self-serving strategies is that of self-handicapping.  Self-handicapping involves the self-creation of barriers to achievements before achievements have been made (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Essentially, an individual will sabotage their chances of success as defense mechanism against sharp jabs to self-esteem.  The example above, “I’m going to fail anyway, so what’s the use?” could be described as a self-handicapping statement.  Now imagine that the individual that said this had a big test the next morning, but decided to forgo studying and went to a party with alcohol instead, where they drank too much and stayed up too late, further hindering their success, all because they thought they would fail anyway.  The individuals furthered their self-handicapping and backed up their own claims when they indeed did poorly on the test the following day.  In this way, the individual avoided the blame for a poor grade and placed it on the fact they were up late partying (Schneider et al., 2012).

While initially, self-handicapping might protect the self-esteem of the individual, researchers have revealed that over time, self-handicapping can lead to serious consequences for academic performance and achievement (Schneider et al., 2012).  Over time, this behavior may actually prevent an individual from accepting even a desired positive achievement (Schneider et al., 2012).  Self-handicapping as a way to avoid the distress of doing poorly academically is just the beginning.  Researchers also warned that individuals who show consistent self-handicapping strategies may also adjust more poorly and also use other negative coping strategies (Schneider et al., 2012).

In order to combat self-handicapping, it is important, of course, to first understand what it is and how it can be detrimental.  From a short-term standpoint, self-handicapping preserves self-esteem when a negative outcome occurs.  But from a long-term perspective, self-handicapping offers no favors to users.  In order to cease self-handicapping behaviors, it is suggested that individuals devote more time to ensuring that they are prepared for future events, rather than devoting time that accepts a potential poor outcome before it has even occured (Schneider et al., 2012).  To put it blatantly, and if using the same example from above, study for the test, do not go out drinking, and get a good night’s sleep.  Using that time to improve the chances of a successful outcome is a better use of time, and also better serves the goal to achieve.  Any other tactic will hinder achievement, and will only preserve image for so long.

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

Mar 18

Media’s Unrealistic Portrayal of African Americans

All types of media outlets have become an integral part of every American’s day to day life. “By 1971, more than 95% of all households in the United States and Canada have televisions.” (Schneider, Gruman, & Couts, 2012). In the last decade, adolescents have increased their daily usage with different media outlets significantly, in 2009, an average adolescent spent an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes viewing various forms of media compared to only 6 hours and 19 minutes in 1999 (Schneider et al., 2012). With this increase of media consumption, comes an increase in how the media can influence our thoughts. As our book discussed, the media has various tactics it employs to influence the viewer, from agenda setting to political priming. (Schneider et al., 2012). The media tends to portray African Americans as intellectually subordinate to Caucasians through various forms of racial stereotypes. (Gordon, 2015). In a recent project conducted by Maya K. Gordon, she researched if there is a link between negative media stereotypes of African American students on academic performance, self-perceptions, and career interests of African American youth. (2015). What she found was sadly alarming, “that media use contributes to lower academic performance, lower self-perceptions, and less interest in college-oriented careers.” (Gordon, 2015). This post will discuss the history of the media’s portrayal of African Americans, Gordon’s findings, and finally attempt to discuss ways we can combat the effects of the media on the African American youth.

This project was conducted because of the extreme education crisis currently occurring in African American educational structure. “Major cities with predominately African American student population, such as Detroit and Cleveland reported graduation rates in 2009 as low as 45.1% and 42.3% respectively” compared to 82% graduation rate for White students. (Gordon, 2015). There are many social issues that contribute to African American student’s academic struggle including: school climate, racial identity, peer and parental influence, and academic self-concept. (Gordon, 2015). With a lot of studies conducted on the social issues listed above, none were conducted on the influence of media on the African American student.

The media influences African American children a lot more than the average White child because African American children, in particular, “reported an average of 9 hours and 45 minutes of media usage each day, with television and music accounting for the largest proportion of their media use.” (Gordon, 2015). Racial messages are sent through various forms of media through stereotypes which can influence and impact the African American child who is consuming almost 10 hours of media a day. During slavery and post slavery time, “Black people were portrayed as lazy, stupid, violent, hypersexual subhumans that enjoyed serving and taking care of White people.” (Gordon, 2015). That depiction that was used years ago, are still prevalent until this day. “Analyses of prime-time programming during the 1990s and early 2000s found that African American characters were primarily limited to comedic roles, which sends the message that they should not be taken seriously.” (Gordon, 2015). Local news programs, were also more likely to portray Black criminals than White criminals which was an overrepresentation based on real-life crime rates. (Gordon, 2015). Children Now conducted a study in 1998 where they conducted a national survey with a multiracial sample of 1,200 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. The study found that children of all races associated “being well-educated, doing well in school, and being intelligent with White characters. In contrast, they associated breaking the law or rules, being lazy, and acting goofy with minority characters.” (Gordon, 2015). The children also associated “criminal, maid and janitor” with African Americans while “roles of boss, secretary, police officer, and doctor” with White people. (Gordon, 2015). From this study alone, it is apparent that children recognize the messages about race being portrayed through the media.

In this current study conducted by Gordon, she was able to verify that higher media consumption correlated with lower academic performance, lower academic self-perception, and less interest in careers that require a college education. (2015). The study recruited 247 participants that were African American high school students from predominately Black high schools. 72% of participants were female and the children ranged from ages 13 to 18 years old. These students were provided surveys with varying questions about media usage, music exposure, media identification, academic performance, academic self-perceptions, career interests and parental involvement in television usage. In Gordon’s discussion, she mentioned that the most striking result of the experiment was the indication that “parental involvement may be an important factor in understanding media connections to academic outcomes in African American youth.” (Gordon, 2015). She explained that the children that reported lower parental supervision while watching television had the highest correlations to being less interested in careers requiring college education. (Gordon, 2015). While the children that have parents, who take on a more hands on approach do not report high in wanting to attend college and/or finding a career that requires college education. (Gordon, 2015). She did also mention that this is just correlational data and this data cannot determine causality. I think it was very important and interesting to have a study like this conducted and I hope that I see more being conducted on a wider scale in the future.

I believe that interventions are needed to be put in place to help combat the effects that media has on the African American youth. As seen in Gordon’s study, parental involvement did help the child understand and interpret the messages seen on television, and did not allow it to affect their self-perception as much as the African American child that had no parental involvement. (2015). So, educating parents is extremely important. It can be something as simple as passing out an educational pamphlet that discusses the implications of the stereotypes portrayed in the media and how to not let it affect their child. Secondly, I believe that predominately African American communities need to have some type of evidence-based programs that promote the wellbeing and success of African American youth. An example of an evidence based intervention program is, Strong African American Families (SAAF) which has been successful with rural African American families with older adolescent risk behavior. (ChildTrends.org, 2007). Another program, Celebrating the Strengths of Black Youth (CSBY), focuses on promoting positive racial identity and increasing self-esteem among African American children. (CSBYprogram.com, [year not given]).  It helps students build skills to handle the typical challenges faced by African American children and also provides them tools to deal with issues related to race. (CSBYprogram.com). We as an African American community need to recognize the hardships faced daily by our youth and actively engage in decreasing the negative effects of the American society.



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

Gordon, M.K.. (2015). Media Influences on Black Students’ Academic Performance, Self-Perceptions, and Career Interests. Journal of Black Psychology, 42(3), 195-220. doi: 10.1177/jbp.sagepub.com. http://journals.sagepub.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0095798414566510

CSBY Program Website


Child Trends Website




Mar 18

Does Pornography Lead to Sexual Assault?

Pornography is known throughout the world as sexually explicit material which is often viewed online but can also be seen in magazines and peep shows, though less common, which are a similar representation of a live pornographic film. Pornography is a term that is introduced at an early age through the media as it is interpreted frequently displayed in movies and television shows, or in some cases explained by an older sibling. Due to its introduction at an early age, inaccurate representations of what “real sex” is become confused with embedded nonviolent sexual and embedded violent sexual material.

As described by Frank Schneider, Jamie Gruman, and Larry Coutts (2012) embedded sexual material involves content that is sexual in nature but is embedded within a story such as erotica, nonviolent pornography, and violent pornography. Whereas embedded violet sexual material is found in an R-rated film that shows a sexual scene immediately followed by graphic violence (p. 149). A characteristic of violent pornography is male dominance and female subservience. Subservience is the female’s willingness to obey the male’s dominance which is often very physical but also verbal. According to Coutts et al. (2012) women in such pornography are “degraded and demeaned” (p. 149). In pornography as such there is consent by both parties as to what will occur. However, in violent pornography how can one understand the difference between “no” and “no”. Does this type of pornography alter the way in which a male or female interprets the word “no” during sexual intercourse? In violent pornography a female may be shown saying the word “no” while being slapped or talked down upon which may translate into the real world as enjoyment. In the real world there is no contract as there is on a pornography set.

If a male or female view such pornography over the course of many years, does this become their new norm as to what is ok and safe during sexual intercourse? If a male says “no” while being dominated by a female, does the female interpret this as the other sexual partner enjoying it as this is how it is often displayed in some pornographic videos? Coutts et al. (2012) state that the effects of exposure to violent sexual material on males include increased rape fantasies, decreased sensitivity to violent sexual acts, increased acceptance of rape myths and of violence towards woman, and an increased tolerance toward rapists (p. 152). So long-term viewing of violent sexual pornographic material translates to an increase in sexual violence and lowering of the value of a woman.

Law and Order SVU episode 5 of season 16 is titled Pornstar’s Requiem. Requiem is an act of remembrance and in the Roman Catholic Church it is a Mass for the “repose of souls of the dead” or acceptance that a soul has gone to heaven to be with God. This episode is based off of the true story of Belle Knox, though I am sure her story is not the only one out there. Knox was a college freshman at Duke University who worked as a porn star and was sexually assaulted by a classmate. As it occurred in real life for Knox and is interpreted in the episode, this classmate confused the fantasy displayed in the pornographic video with real life. In this episode two college roommates come across a pornographic video of a girl they make out to be their classmate, whom they later invite to a party. Evie Barnes, who portrays Knox is lured and sexually assaulted by two boys in the bathroom of where the party is held. When the two boys were questioned they stated that, “it was consensual, and Evie liked it when guys roughed her up. Evie’s “18 with a Bang” video was much more hardcore” (Wolf, 2014). During the trial it was discussed if what happened in the porn video meant that Evie/Knox wanted it in real life, or if porn has no bearing on what occurs in a real-life situation of sexual intercourse. Evie continues on the stand by stating, “I’m not a slut. They think just because I do porn they can do anything they want to me” (Wolf, 2014). How does one convince a jury that a porn star who performs in rape fantasy videos can also be a victim of rape? The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) actually has to ask if the jury believes “if any woman, even a port star, can deny sex?” (Wolf, 2014). In cases as such and as I am sure there are many others out there, it is not the porn and struggle to pay one’s tuition that brings on sadness and depression, but the sexual assault and lack of understanding and respect.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Second                   Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Wolf, D. (Writer). (2014, October 22). Pornstar’s Requiem [Television series episode]. In Law &             Order SVU.

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