Archive for April, 2012

Social Comparisons By Kendra Goff

Social comparisons are something that we all engage in every day, whether we notice it or not. This is when we judge the value and quality of our skills by comparing them to the skills of others around us. This is one way in which we develop our sense of self.

When I was growing up, I took violin lessons for many years. In high school, my neighbor Sarah, who had also been playing for many years, began taking lessons from my teacher. We would drive together and take notes for each other during lessons. I couldn’t help but notice that even though Sarah was a year older than me, she was always one song behind me. While I didn’t hold this against her by any means, it did boost my confidence in my own violin skills. Around this same time, Kimmy, another student and our teacher’s younger sister, started coming to the “advanced” group lessons with Sarah and me. Kimmy was a child protégée in every sense of the word. She practiced everything she was told for at least an hour every day, she never messed up, and she never came unprepared. She had far passed my skill level and she was only in middle school. Kimmy was a big threat to my self-concept. I had always viewed myself as a talented violinist, but the young Kimmy was showing me otherwise.

By comparing myself to both Sarah and Kimmy, I showed the different effects social comparisons can have on our self-concepts. By comparing my skills as a violinist with Sarah’s skills, I felt good about myself. When I saw that I was one step ahead of someone who was older than me, I felt more comfortable identifying myself as a talented violinist. I also felt satisfied with my abilities. However, when I compared my skills with Kimmy’s, I felt inferior. I was no longer satisfied with my abilities and constantly reminded myself to practice harder so that I could be more like Kimmy. In the end, how I felt about myself as a violinist depended on who I was around.

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Hindsight Bias by Kim Alvarado

Let’s talk about hindsight.

No, not  that  kind of hind sight but rather a phenomenon known as hindsight bias.

What the hindsight bias demonstrates is the tendency to overestimate your ability to predict the outcome of an event after you already know the conclusion and saw some of the forces that brought it about. “Common sense” is a product of the hindsight bias where assumptions are made that reflect an I-knew-it -all-along attitude. This kind of bias can be seen in everyday life where the outcome can seem like common sense once the result is known.

Examples range from the reactions of fans after a game, where they might say something like, “I knew from the first inning that Rodriguez was off his game, it’s no wonder we lost.”

Another example of hindsight bias is parodied by Natalie Tran in her Vlog (watch until 1:15):

Although it seems to skew our perception of reality, hindsight bias is an important factor of human nature. As the video shows,  people can come to very different conclusions from the very same event. For example, there are many common saying or phrases that seem to conclude two very different things as being'”common sense’; the phrases ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and ‘opposites attract’ is an example of this. What hindsight bias demonstrates is that we can’t trust in something that is ‘common sense’ as necessarily being the truth; common sense needs to be replaced with real empirical knowledge. The desire to predict outcomes based on the events of everyday life is what creates the need for both the social and physical sciences. However, seeing something as being correct in hindsight can be a faulty framework to structure our knowledge of our world around. By identifying bias in studies and studying it separatel, the field of social psychology can better critically study  human nature and more clearly understand why we do/think/feel the way we do.

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Culture and Behavior by Christine Sellers

Cultures make us who we are. We are surrounded by certain ways of living, certain expectations of dress and appearance, and specific protocols of how to behave.

culture is an organization or coming together of people who share certain beliefs, goals, characteristics, ideologies, or values. All of these factors vary across different cultures.

It is strongly believed, especially among social psychologists, that cultures shape each and every individual. Cultures incessantly influence our thoughts and behaviors towards others.

I originally had planned to attach an impressive picture I found to address this concept, but due to the fact that WordPress won’t allow me to do so at the moment, here is a less impressive quote (in my opinion… you really have to see this picture) that will have to suffice.

“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” -C. Wright Mills

How true is that? How many times have we immediately jumped to conclusions with one  another by what they were wearing, saying, or acting like? Our outlook on one another is largely dependent on the culture in which we are encompassed. To understand an individual, you must understand their history, their culture, just like Mills said. The two go hand in hand and it is extremely important to take that into consideration when conducting research.

Cultures and values are not “transferable,” and conclusions should not be drawn in or outside of research based on one’s personal values.

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Correlational Research by Cheri Hiatt

Correlational Research is when a relationship between two variables is examined. While experiments use the manipulation of a variable to examine causation, correlations look at the already existing information of two variables that cannot be manipulated to see if there is a correlation.


Conclusion: The study explained in this clip is a correlational study conducted by Michael McCullogh at the University of Miami. In this study, the two variables examined were religion and self control. Neither religion nor self control can be manipulated, thus an experimental design is not possible and a correlation is conducted. This study examined the relationship between these two variables. Because the study is correlational, causation cannot be claimed, but further research can provide support for the type of relationship between these factors. This particular study claims that there is a positive correlation between the two where a stronger practice of religion leads to higher levels of self control.

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Social Psychology: The science behind shaping behavior, by Benjamin Dent

Personal Attitudes and dispositions also shape behavior

The way we think and act, or the inner attitudes that we possess, strongly influence and affect our behavior. This area of study Is intriguing because it teaches us that behavior can be learned or innate. Why someone acted in a particular way can be a result of genes, personality traits, and values. This topic also explains why different people face the same situation in different ways.

Today, I was talking to my mother about careers I wanted to pursue, and she said that ever since I was born, I have been very charitable, and my desire to help others at all costs. We reflected over my childhood years up until now.

I feel that the attitude I have learned from being around three older brothers and growing up in a loving family have helped foster an environment of care and concern for others. I always wanted to know if my brothers were safe. My disposition, or character, was probably shaped by such experiences, and especially by the response of those I sought after. So my attitude towards my family has affected my behavior in a very personal way to help others, and to treat them as if they were my brothers. These many encounters and experiences have shaped my attitude and my character in forming the behavior I know have.

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A Theory I Believe in! by Jamie Rhoten

Can Fun be the New Social Psych Theory? by Jamie Rhoten

A Theory is a set of beliefs, assumptions, and/or observations that are attributed to explain some phenomenon and is usually believed to be true, but not yet proven fact. For example, Newtons Laws are considered factual but evolution is “just a theory” and is widely believed among scientists, yet is not quite proven as factual.

A new theory has recently been established (and heavily advertised in Europe)  by a popular car company, Volkswagen. I recently heard about their commercials advertising about their new theory posted on youtube and became curious. The theory that they are promoting social awareness of is simple…way simple.  It may even seem impossible to prove as factual..but I believe in it.

“Fun can change behavior for the better”

Volkswagen is trying hard to promote social experiments that claim to prove this theory correct. If they succeed, this theory will become known as fact in the social scientist world! The pioneers of this theory test it by addressing a social problem, such as, obesity, lack of recycling, or speeding violations. Then they form a creative and fun solution to the problem, and use observation as a method to research the results. The Fun Theory has created short promotional videos showing their findings and claim that fun changes behavior in a positive way. Here is a few of their videos that “prove” their theory as fact.

This is my favorite. It is not an official video from but it shows the success of changing a negative behavior (boys not lifting the seat up) by making it fun!

These videos demonstrating The Fun Theories research have shown some findings that the theory of introducing fun could be proven as factual, with more research and testing. But the theory does seem to be right to me at least. I mean the boy did changed his behavior because fun was introduced which shows our theory could be correct and proven… some day!

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The Correlation Says So, Ash Chambers

The general understanding of what information Correlational Research can provide is varied and sometimes out right awful. Not everyone understands it. A correlational study investigates the relationship between two (or more) variables–two factors that can change. Researchers measure these variables and can use math to determine if they change in a related manner. If they vary closely enough, it is determined that they have a significant relationship and that one variable can predict the other. However, this does not in any way convey that the two variables affect one another. This is because causation (a cause and effect relationship) cannot be inferred from a correlational study. It has predictive value only.

A recent experience with this concept was a rather funny picture I stumbled upon. Many people online that work/study outside the realm of math/science often mistakenly assume that correlation means causation. This picture takes an assortment of random correlations that do covary, but are in no way related to one another. It’s basically poking fun at the general misunderstanding of correlational research. To take a peek at the picture, click here.

This picture well illustrates the confusion that the general public experiences when evaluating correlational research. While some correlational studies are good start-points for later experimentation, some have little scientific value. But because it has the ‘math’ and ‘sound’ of what people consider science, they buy into it. The picture is pointing out various incidents that are clearly unrelated yet correlate well. Meaning that you could get just as strong a correlation from unrelated variables as you could get from interrelated variables. Correlational studies cannot account for all factors that go into events–it can only report the amount included in the study. A big problem of this is that it ignores confounding variables. Not to mention that it is also impossible to determine the direction of a relationship, even if it seems apparent that one exists. The author of this picture sought to convey this flaw by using many incomparable and laughable variables. But even though this is humor, he/she is hitting on the biggest danger of correlational research. Although it can help identify possible relationships and can support ideas, it can in no way be relied on as definitive evidence or suitable to infer causation. It is only a description, sometimes a predictive tool, but nothing more.

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