Dec 19

The Practicality of Social Psychology

As my time as a student comes to a close with this final semester, I have spent some time thinking back on all the experiences that I’ve had and how to may compare to those around me.  I think that one of the things that each student has in common is at some point wondering “when am I ever going to use this?”  I think that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least thought this phrase to themselves.  However, one of the major benefits of studying social psychology is its practical nature.  There have been countless instances of my utilization of course concepts at the job I now hold.  One of these such concepts is the idea of participatory research, research that combines investigation, education, and action (Maguire, 1987, as cited in Gruman, et. al., 2016).

Let’s imagine that the manager of a restaurant is having a problem with the morale of their employees and doesn’t know how to resolve the issue.  If they were to follow the three activities of participatory research, they would start by investigating other instances of this problem occurring.  The knowledge gained from this investigation could proved to be of vital importance in solving the problem.  Next, the manager would educate themselves on the matter alongside the employees by interacting with them directly and discussing with them potential reasons for the poor morale.  Finally, the manager and employees would unite and determine the course of action with the highest likelihood of success in resolving the issue.

Although the methods used in participatory research may seem limited in use to that of researcher alone, the concepts which can be drawn from them are useful in many areas of life.  As I previously stated, one of the main benefits of studying social psychology is how useful it can be, and participatory research is no exception.  I’m sure there are many lessons there learned throughout our careers as students which will never be used, however, I don’t believe those learned from social psychology are part of that category.


Gruman, J. A., Schneuder., F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (2016). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Socanil and Practical Problems.

Maguire, P. (1987). Doing participatory research: A feminist approach. Amherst: University of Massechusetts.

Dec 19

Don’t Seek Approval from Others

One of the great movie tropes to come from the 80’s and 90’s is the coming-of-age story revolving around the social status of the main characters.  Often times, the characters in the movie destined to become a romantic couple are kept apart by the cliques they associate with or their over-bearing families.  While this may seem like an exaggerated phenomenon that doesn’t actually occur in real life, it has been shown that the opposite is true.  It turns out that social network approval plays a huge part in whether a romantic couple view their relationship as satisfying or not and to what extent (Felmlee, 2001, as cited in Gruman, et. al., 2016).

Just like is seen in those films, romantic relationships can be greatly affected by the attitudes of those around them, and not necessarily in as direct a fashion as is portrayed.  Just the perception of disapproval by friends and family of those involved in the relationship is enough to influence the formation or satisfaction of the relationship.  There may be times when one member of the relationship incorrectly believes that the relationship is not approved by others and thereby leaves that person feeling uneasy.  It’s for this reason learning the message that those movies from the 80’s and 90’s were trying to teach us is so vital; caring too much about what other people think can lead to missing out on your own happiness.



Flemlee, D. (2001). No couple is an island: A social stability network perspective on dyadic stability. Social Forces, 79, 1259-1287.

Gruman, J. A., Schneuder., F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (2016). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Socanil and Practical Problems.

Dec 19

Counseling, We All Need It

Counseling psychology is socially profound and beneficial for many individuals and communities. Counseling is a way to help navigate through issues or disorders from either a clinical or social/ environmental perspective. I know most of the people around me in my life have gone to counseling at some point in their lives (including myself), even if it for a short time. Most of the time, from these individuals I know of, they sought counseling for this reason either directly or indirectly; STRESS.

I remember my sophomore year, and my friend recommended that I see their therapist because I was extremely stressed out and going through a lot at that moment. They told me how going to counseling as helped them know themself better so they can perform daily at their best without the heavy weight on their shoulders. I agreed and saw the therapist they recommended and began to work out what I needed to. Through this process, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and stressors can make things worse. I was able to learn techniques to help with managing stress, and I would have never learned how to if I never started counseling.

It’s hard not to be stressed or face challenges in today’s world. We have jobs, classes, families, financial obligations, deadlines, and sometimes all those are on the plate at once. These issues are common among many individuals in society. If we work through our struggles and hardships with the help of counseling from an educated and trained professional when needed, we can make better choices and use helpful techniques to better ourselves and use those talents we have without facing the stress alone.



Dec 19

Virtual Doesn’t Mean Artificial

Ever since online communication has become a regular way to communicate with people there has been a stigma that the connections people make in the virtual landscape or not as genuine as the ones created during face to face interactions.  While this may be the case for some people, it is does not apply to everyone.  The virtual communities that are built online are often times just as real as the ones made in person, if not more so.  This is especially true for those communities which are built around helping people with medical or psychological problems.  According to Gruman et. al. (2017), there are four factors that contribute to a positive sense of community among people: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection.

Membership within a community is often categorized by geographical location but is not limited to it.  Social boundaries, such as having experienced a mental disorder, can set boundaries, and create a sense of community.  Having similar experiences and the ability to share those experiences with others in a safe, potentially anonymous, setting provides people with a feeling of belonging.

The influence that a person has in their community, as well as the influence the community has over them, is another factor that determines affects sense of community.  In the case of virtual communities, the ability to message people directly can greatly increase the level of influence they feel they have on the group.  People may feel like they blend into the background when in person and surrounded by many people, something that is not necessarily the case in virtual groups.

The third factor in creating a sense of community is one of the greatest benefits of virtual communication.  Integrating into the community through shared resources and information is exactly what these groups are created for.  People join them to find more information on what they are going through and are able to learn directly from people who may have experienced the same thing.  For many people, this may be the only resource readily available to them.

The struggles and triumphs that result from experiencing a mental disorder create a bond with people that extends through the virtual landscape and connects them no matter what.  The emotional connection that people experience in person can be more intimate than that experienced through virtual, however the virtual connections can be very strong as well.

People may continue to discount the connections made through virtual means, however, it’s obvious that the sense of community that results from these connections is real.  The help that people can get through the virtual communities they become a part of can be invaluable and is a welcomed addition to our social world.



Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2017). Applied Social Psychology:
Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems(3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage. ISBN 9781483369730

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.



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