Nov 19

First Step Act

When I think of social change and research being conducted to better the effects of such change I immediately think of the First Step Act. I’ve had the honor to meet some of the men this act has affected. Releasing men who would have served 10-15 years additional time in prison for non-violent drug-related offenses. Men who would have no assistance re-entering in society. This act has looked at the data, it has taken into consideration the effects that mass incarceration has on minority men and it has sought to change that. Social change comes in many forms but its greatest form is prison reform. President Trump has rewritten and amended previous bills so that now prisoners will receive good time exemptions. The BOP is mandated to no assist inmates with applying for benefits and obtain proper identification to assist with reentry. The BOP now has to house inmates within 500 miles from their primary residence to maintain family ties. Inmates who complete programs can become eligible to enter prerelease custody early. Mandatory minimums were all reduced by 10-15 years for repeat offenders, life sentence minimums are reduced to a 25-year minimum. Inmates incarcerated under the Fair Sentencing Act can now petition for release. This Act will drastically affect the rates of recidivism and image populations around the country. As of now, over 7000 inmates have been released and counting.

Sources Cited: Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bop.gov/inmates/fsa/overview.jsp.

Nov 19

Objectivity and Helping: The Gottman Example

As we learned in this lesson, applied and social change research encompass intent; these types of research are not entirely objective (PSU, n.d.).  In other words, these types of research are targeted towards improving a particular issue, and often developing an intervention for the issue at hand.  Thus, the researchers engaged in this cannot be fully objective. as they have an agenda in their studies.  While applied and social change research has the ability to improve a social issue, social issues can be aided in other ways.  One example of this is the work of John Gottman regarding relationship and marriage satisfaction (Cole, 2017).

John Gottman began investigating the wellbeing of marriages and relationships because, funny enough, he found relationships to be a mystery (The Gottman Institute, n.d.).  He cites that he had difficulty with relationships. and began his research to discover the components that actually go into a healthy, satisfactory relationship.  He studied couples for many years, noting behaviors linked to divorce, and others linked to marriage satisfaction.  He did this by setting up various spaces to get couples to interact as naturally as possible even though they were being observed.  He even set up a fake bed and breakfast, where he hoped couples would feel relaxed enough to behave the way they do in their everyday life.  In his research, he studied heart rate, stress hormones, eye moments, and other indicators of interest and emotion.  He also tracked couples over time to see how their relationships fared.

Although Gottman did not make any clear discoveries in his initial years of studying couples, this eventually changed (The Gottman Institute, n.d.).  He linked particular ways of interacting with a partner as connected to marriage satisfaction, and he was even able to predict divorce 94% of the time.  Some behaviors he found to be particularly important in marriage health included turning towards (responding attentively when one’s partner is attempting to connect with them in some way, even if it is very basic) and creating love maps with one’s partner (done by asking deep, open-ended questions about one’s partner’s dreams, goals, ambitions, etc.).  He found these heavily connected to the success of marriages, and that if these were not primarily present, divorce or an unhappy marriage was likely to ensue.

Following his discoveries about relationships, Gottman established an institute where he held workshops for couples, as well as wrote several books (The Gottman Institute, n.d.).  He used his decades of research to inform the interventions and activities he suggested for couples. Instead of simply letting the information he learned during his studies be, he used this information to help others.

This example is important because it showcases how there are other ways of conducting research that produce a beneficial result.  While Gottman could have approached this issue with intent (i.e. “I need to figure out why people get divorced so I can help them”) he was open to whatever he learned (The Gottman Institute, n.d.).  Further, he did not rush the process and conducted a variety of studies for many years before establishing any firm conclusions.  Thus, in my opinion, this is a better way of conducting research, as the objectivity was present during the research, but the ultimate findings were used to help others.





Applied Social Psychology (PSYCH 424). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2008549/modules

Cole, C. (2017). A clinical response to “the natural principles of love”. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 9(1), 39-44. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1111/jftr.12178

TheGottmanInstitute. (n.d.). The Gottman Institute. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnT1R08f7FHLab3nB4f0AGQ.

Nov 19

Got Milk?

One of the most important pieces of activist research that I am fascinated by is our understanding of milk. For the longest time, in multiple countries, people thought that drinking a full glass of milk would provide tremendous health benefits. This can be seen in early American advertising and throughout old posters found in pediatric offices. But is milk actually beneficial to us? If it is, why are some people lactose intolerant? Turns out, after conducting several research studies, milk actually has no substantial benefits to humans and is something that can actually be harmful to some that might be sensitive to lactose or fully lactose intolerant.

So why are we still drinking milk? I believe that this is something that will take time to change but aligning milk with good health is something that is still consistently done throughout the current media. Same goes for cats. Our feline friends actually aren’t able to have milk due to the fact that they are carnivores and their bodies aren’t meant to process that kind of sugar substance. However, we will still see cartoons that show cats drinking milk instead of water as this is something that has become more of an image rather than a reality.

Through activist research, we now have ample alternatives to milk for those that still love the taste and texture of it. From almond milk to oat milk, there are various different choices that actually have health benefits and added vitamins in order to provide people with a nutritious beverage.

Nov 19

Theatre Of Change

In the ever-advancing technological world we live in, media continues to evolve as a means where programs for social change can reach a wide-ranging, extensive audience.  These media initiatives often involve highly stylized, slickly produced commercial type media presentations like the ones found on the Rescue Agency’s website which target social behaviors such opioid and marijuana use. They aim to educate a targeted audience about the possible dangers of these substances.  Their website boasts claims of their campaign’s effectiveness.  However, what about the effectiveness of less flashy interventions, like that of theatre of art?  Can fictional narratives in excess of 30 second cautionary bursts prove effective in addressing social change?  Can live theatre and art installations persuade the public in ways that lead to real change when it comes to social issues?  And if so, how effective are these methods?

There are several factors that make theater an effective vehicle for education and persuasion.  Being in the presence of live actors promotes attentiveness and arousal of the viewers.  This can be quite affective when dealing with subject matter related so pressing social issues (Appel, 2008). Another facet of live theater that makes it a well-suited vehicle for persuasion and education is that it is emotionally engaging.  This can play an important role in the changing of positions and principles of people and cause them to act in a more socially responsible way.  One study examined the effectiveness of the performance of play dealing with women in abusive relationships and how myths surrounding these relationships led women to act or react a certain way and how these abusive relationships affected women in both a physical and psychological manner.  The study found that those who watched a play about abusive relationships not only demonstrated greater knowledge about relationship abuse than the control group but were also less likely to endorse myths about relationship abuse. Audiences of the entertainment-education intervention also showed specific patterns of knowledge that mirrored the content of the abuse play (Yoshihama & Tolman, 2015). Those who watched a play about abusive relationships not only demonstrated greater knowledge about relationship abuse than control groups but were also less likely to endorse myths about relationship abuse.

Flashy, short-burst media presentations may prove effective in some circumstances, but social change psychological research shouldn’t count out the effectiveness of other forms of media as well.



Appel, M. (2008). Fictional narratives cultivate just-world beliefs. Journal of Communication, 58, 62–83.

Yoshihama, M., & Tolman, R. M. (2015). Using interactive theater to create socioculturally relevant community-based intimate partner violence prevention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55(1), 136-147. doi:10.1007/s10464-014-9700-0

Nov 19

Reflection of Participatory Research

Social change research focuses on changing something in a social situation to lead to a positive change (Gruman, Schneider, & Coutts, 2017). Using participatory research gets into the root of the problem to start finding a solution and create that positive impact. First, what is Participatory research? It is when researchers are a part of the community or a social situation and involved in learning something about an issue in that specific community. Also, most of the time, it is intended with the goal of solving the problem (PSU WC, 2019, L.13). This personal immersion of research and community can gain a critical insider perspective (Pain & Francis, 2002).


Being part of that community or social situation can be a great way to help solve the problem in question and create a solution to create a positive behavioral, social change. It gives a new and reliable perspective to the issue in question by making the researcher completely aware of the specifics. Once this data and research is gathered, there can be genuinely effective interventions as a result of participatory research.


Pain, F., & Francis, P. (2003). Reflections on participatory research. Area, 35(1), 46-54. doi:10.1111/1475-4762.00109

Schneider, F.W., Gruman J.A.,  & Coutts, L.M. (2017). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2019). PSYCH 424 :
Applied Social Psychology, Lesson 13: Social Change/Participatory Research. Retrieved on November 19, 2019 from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2008549/modules/items/27030759

Image: Diagram adapted from Chevalier, J. M. and Buckles, D. J. (2013) Participatory Action Research: Theory and Methods for Engaged Inquiry, Routledge UK

Nov 19

Prison Reform

Prison reform has been a hot topic in the media. With documentaries being aired on Netflix, and celebrity influencers raising awareness to the topic, it is extremely difficult to turn a blind eye to the issue that needs addressing. There have been countless individuals who have been serving sentences to only later be deemed wrongly accused, as well as sentences handed down which were too severe in comparison to the crime. However, there have been very few, if any, changes to the system that has affected so many.

Though criminal justice reform is needed, we should be cautious to what and whom we are getting our information from. There are several prison reform organizations who are seeking to make changes. But these changes aren’t being met without a fight. Both sides can be found presenting statistics to better serve their argument. “Activist research goes beyond participatory research in that the researcher is not only vested in the outcome of the research, but may be pushing a certain value set through their research” (PSU, WC). What I often see with a lot of the activist’s groups is the tendency to resort back to race. Yes, race does attract attention and that is what activists are seeking (attention for their cause). In order to raise awareness, one must get the attention of the audience. However, I believe this takes light away from the major problem of rehabilitating ALL inmates.

The United States is home to one of the world’s largest prison population.The populations in prisons do show a racial disparity which can be contributed to many factors.We should focus on addressing why all individuals are incarcerated, in hopes for changes in policies to tackle the root of the problem. This social change will be a collaborative effort and will need to utilize all methods for an affective resolution.



Nov 19

Fake News

For the past several months, at least one of my friends have shared a post, Women Should Go Out With Friends Twice A Week For Better Health, posted by creativehealthyfamily.com (n.d.) on their Facebook.  The article claims that according to a new study, women should go out with girlfriends twice a week to be healthier (creativehealthyfamily.com, n.d.). It further claims that “drinking beer, gossiping, and talking about their rivals (preferred topic). Doing these “things” make women socialize, drink and laugh together” (creativehealthyfamily.com, n.d.). At first, I got excited for a second, how wonderful it is to now have empirical research to backup my excuse to go out with my girlfriends. Quickly, though, I started to question the research. How did the study operationally define “healthier”? How did the study end up with twice a week, but no once or thrice for example? Dr. Robin Dunbar, who was hired to run this study, explains to The Huffington Post that “[t]he figure of twice a week comes from our findings that this is the amount of time that you typically spend with your closest friends/family” (as cited in creativehealthyfamily.com, n.d.). How did he find that findings? And with all these questions my excitement faded and the researcher-in-training in me got the best of me and I fact checked. According to editor in chief Alan Duke (2019) for Hoaxalert.com, the study was actually a social experiment conducted by Robin Dunbar, an Oxford psychology professor, who was hired by the Guinness Beer company. The social experiment involvement five men (note no women) to measure men’s happiness “doing things” with the men (Dunbar, 2019). The purpose of the social experiment was meant for the Guinness Beer company to use as a television campaign to promote men going out and drinking beer with friends (Dunbar, 2019). I’m echoing our lesson commentary that it’s not to say that the researcher, in this case Dunbar, intentionally mislead the public, but there are many aspects that could have led him in this particular direction (PSU WC, 2019, L.13). Thus, it’s important to fact check, check for the credits page, check to see who sponsored it and what was their interest, and check researchers’ affiliation (PSU WC, 2019, L.13). The fake news could end with you, if you fact check before sharing. 




Duke, A. (2019, July 1). Fake News: Women Do NOT Need To Go Out With Friends Twice A Week To Stay Healthy: Lead Stories. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://hoax-alert.leadstories.com/3470628-fake-news-women-do-not-need-to-go-out-with-friends-twice-a-week-to-stay-healthy.html?fbclid=IwAR1S9BYjvQrZlCt5WaHVYhGXpp5XVu1M5Gf-dMNBL1UNpONC9aVhtHEq_hw.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2019). PSYCH 424 :
Applied Social Psychology, Lesson 13: Social Change/Participatory Research. Retrieved on November 19, 2019 from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2008549/modules/items/27030759

Women Should Go Out With Girlfriends Twice A Week To Improve Their Health. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.creativehealthyfamily.com/women-should-go-out-with-girlfriends-twice-a-week-to-improve-their-health/.

Nov 19

The Food Inequality Epidemic


There are many things that we take advantage of on a daily basis that seems inconsequential, but others do not have the same luxury. In today’s society we are bombarded with food commercials that entice us to go to the store and grab new products or visit a nearby restaurant and try new foods. Unfortunately, in some areas people are afforded the luxury to go buy any foods that they desire while others lack the same opportunities. With the growing trend to become more health conscious, food selection is an important aspect of health. But if some areas lack the opportunity to choose healthy foods, then there is a major injustice. A food desert, according to the USDA (2010), is a neighborhood that lacks choices of healthy and affordable food options. This is more common among small rural and low-income neighborhoods that lack transportation and retailers that supply healthy foods.  These food deserts can only further health concerns and contribute to disease and high obesity rates.

There has been some participatory action research done in order to understand that factors associated with food deserts and to give suggestions to bring about social action. As stated in our lecture, participatory research aims to learn about issues that are prevalent in the community and create a strategy to effectively change the issues. One research study found that food deserts occur more among black and Hispanic neighborhoods that have higher rates of poverty (Brooks, 2014). The researcher suggested that, in order to combat the lack of grocery stores and healthy food options in the area, the community should develop some initiatives for food programs like farmers markets or a grocery delivery service. They also suggested that policies be made in order to entice supermarkets to develop infrastructure within these food deserts. Public advocacy, social action, and local services development are all essential in order to initiate change (Gruman, Schneider, and Coutts, 2017). Another study conducted by the USDA (2012) found that food deserts correlated with areas with high poverty rates and areas with minimal public transportation, but also found that rural areas with increasing population were less likely to have food deserts. Although some rural neighborhoods can be considered food deserts, many food deserts exist in urban areas with high unemployment rates and racial minorities.

So how can we change food deserts so that they have more access to healthy foods and overall better quality of life? Many organizations are already utilizing their resources to educate and awareness about food deserts, while also using social outreach to encourage policy change. One organization called the Food Empowerment Project works to provide more sustainable and healthy food options to low-income neighborhoods, while also encouraging those in more affluent neighborhoods to make healthier and environmentally friendly choices. They often do surveys of the community to determine the needs of the community and then contact public officials on how to better assist the community. Another way community members have helped minimize the impact of food deserts, are mobile food trucks like Second Harvest Food Bank in California that help distribute healthy foods to those in need (Food Tank, 2016).

Food deserts can have a major impact on the quality of health and wellbeing in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Many of these neighborhoods suffer from high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease because of the lack of healthy foods in their area. By conducting more participatory research in these areas, it can help increase awareness of these social issues and bring about social justice. Policy change and community involvement are just some of the ways change can be initiated in these areas, but it first starts with awareness.


Brooks, K. (2014, March 10). Research shows food deserts more abundant in minority neighborhoods. Retrieved from https://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2014/spring/racial-food-deserts/.

Dutko, Paula, Ver Ploeg, Michelle, & Farrigan, Tracey (2012). Characteristics and Influential Factors of Food Deserts, ERR-140, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Food Empowerment Project. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://foodispower.org/.

Food Tank. (2016, November 27). Five Innovative Solutions From “Food Desert” Activists. Retrieved from https://foodtank.com/news/2013/05/five-innovative-solutions-from-food-desert-activists/.

Gruman J.A., Schneider, F.W., & Coutts, L.M. (2017). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

United States Department of Agriculture. (2010). Access to Affordable, Nutritious Food Is Limited in “Food Deserts”. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2010/march/access-to-affordable-nutritious-food-is-limited-in-food-deserts/.



Nov 19

Anxiety Can be Helpful

Throughout my years of schooling, I have witnessed a wide variety of approaches when it comes to studying and receiving grades.  I’m not referring to the actual act of studying, however.  Rather, I’m referring to the mindset and attitude that different students have held toward studying and receiving grades.  These attitudes included optimism, whether justified or not, and pessimism, whether justified or not.  They also included people who experienced the overjustification effect, when they don’t enjoy learning because they feel forced to do so, self-handicapping, those who study less as an excuse for if they don’t do well, and, one of the most dangerous attitudes, the self-serving bias (Gruman et al., 2017).


Self-serving bias is when people take personal credit for their successes but tend to blame their failures on outside sources (Gruman et al., 2017).  This can often times be witnessed in sporting events when the loser attributes the outcome to something like the weather or illness rather than the winner being better than them.  In terms of academics, students may blame the teacher for not fully preparing them or their roommates for distracting them when they were trying to study.  This phenomenon is likely in place to protect our self-esteem and help keep the positive image of ourselves intact.  Unfortunately, this often-unjustified optimism can lead to very harmful long-term outcomes for those who let it set in.  When people always attribute their negative outcomes to outside sources then they will never feel the need to change their behavior or mindset.


The good news is that there are ways to diminish the hold that self-serving bias can have.  The main way to do so is to temper expectations for the results of exams in the case of academics.  A study conducted by Eronen, Nurmi, and Salmels-Aro (1998) showed that people who were considered defensive pessimists were more successful in academic performance than were other categories of students.  The reasoning for this is that defensive pessimists tend to set low expectations for themselves and then worry about what the result will be.  They don’t just stop there though.  They channel that anxiety and use it to prepare even more than may be necessary.  So if you find yourself performing poorly in your academic ventures and blaming anything but yourself, you may find it beneficial to look inward and alter your expectations while keeping in mind that a healthy dose of anxiety can be helpful in avoiding the self-serving bias.



Eronen, S., Nurmi, J.-E., & Salmela-Aro, K., (1998). Optimistic, defensive-pessimistic, impulsive and self-handicapping strategies in university environments.  Learning and Instruction, 8, 159-177.

Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (2017). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Nov 19

Participatory Action Research: Researchers Working With Communities to Bring About Social Change

Participatory Action Research (PAR) involves researchers who apply their skills and training to a particular issue that they personally care about; they are invested in the outcome of the research and their aim is to contribute to creating social change.  PAR focuses on research that enables social action. Mary Brydon–Miller (1997) describes Participatory Action Research as a blend of basic science and applied science—she explains that psychologists can use this approach to social science to contribute to the general field of knowledge in a certain realm while also helping to support some sort of positive social change. This approach, which opponents argue is an inappropriate mix of one’s politics and psychology, is very different from the traditional scientific approach to studying issues using a more detached and objective research design (Brydon–Miller, 1997).
At the root of PAR is the goal of providing a framework where positive social change can come about through a combination of efforts; communities working in tandem with psychologists to share their knowledge, vision, and values can effectively facilitate social change in countless areas, from criminal justice to environmental sustainability to overpopulation to poverty. Knowledge is never fixed, there is always room for more knowledge to be assimilated into our existing schemas and frameworks of how the physical world and social processes within it work.
Educator and author Paulo Freire felt very strongly that community members need to be an integral part of the social change process—he felt that the “researcher and researched” should be “equal and active participants” in any process meant to result in social change that would affect that community (Brydon–Miller, 1997, p. 659). By including community members, researchers can learn more about the real issues that communities are facing, and by employing a more engaged and interpretive subjective perspective, the team members can act and reflect repeatedly until the framework for the desired future changes is laid.
The Participatory Action Research process begins with mutual trust between the researcher and the other participants in the community where change is needed. One example of how participatory action researchers can apply their knowledge and skills to helping members of the community is seen in the efforts of Darius Tandon and his colleagues in Chicago—there they work with local African–American leaders to learn more about how to strengthen leadership and bring about positive change in minority communities (Brydon–Miller, 1997, p. 663). The leaders of the communities are active participants in the process, helping to choose topics to explore, interviewing others, analyzing data, and also deciding what action needs to be taken going forward based on research findings.
Participatory Action Research requires respecting and exploring a new paradigm in the world of social science— one which embraces a collaborative approach between researchers and community members who actively work together to bring about social change. This type of social research can exist along with traditional scientific methodology and add a new dimension of depth to critical inquiry, where the ultimate goal is to create new knowledge while also helping to bring about social change.

Brydon-Miller, M. (1997). Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, 53(4). 657-666.

Skip to toolbar