October 2012 Archives

Motivation and its Effects on Cheating

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More than half of high school and college students cheat while in school (Bowers, 1964; Jordan, 2001; McCabe& Trevino, 1995). This is an increasing problem that many have researched, most notably McCabe and Trevino. They have performed multiple studies, along with others, to discover why students cheat and they have found that a large determinate is self-determination. Deci and Ryan's (1985) self-determination theory argues that it is the degree to which an individual sees him or herself as being autonomous and having a choice in actions and behaviors, without feeling pressured to behave in a particular manner. Self- determination theory believes there is a continuum of differing regulatory styles ranging from amotivation to completely intrinsic motivation. When students have a pure interest in an activity this is considered intrinsic motivation as where students who are extrinsically motivated are more concerned with approval from others or things such as grades (Schneider, Gruman, &Coutts, 2012). McCabe and Trevino (1995) and Jordan (2001) found students who are more extrinsically motivated are more likely to cheat versus students who are intrinsically motivated. When students are goal orientated such as by grades or the approval of others it decreases the students enjoyment in learning. Here lies the problem. Students who simply want a an A or approval from parents and teachers compared to those who want a deep understanding of the material are more likely to cheat because it is the goal they are more concerned with and not the knowledge behind it. Jordan (2001) found it key to transition extrinsic motivations to mastery motivation by teaching students to see the importance of not simply achieving good grades, but understanding the material is more important in reducing levels of cheating. This is where Jordan (2001) believes we need to focus if we want to decrease the amount of cheating that is occurring in our schools.

 If we use self-determination theory as a bases in classrooms to help intervene with the problem of cheating one of the first steps would be to propose different approaches that teachers can take to help facilitate autonomy and self-regulated learning in students (Reeve, 2004; Reeve, Ryan, Deci, & Jang, 2008). For example teachers need to focus on mastery skills versus deadlines and completion of assignments (Schneider et al., 20012). They need to allow students to feel as if they have control over their assignments by allowing them to engage in more independent work. (Schneider et al., 2012). They also need to give praise for the work being worked on versus only on what is turned in (Schneider et al., 2012).

Encouraging intrinsic motivation and mastery of skills is not only important when it comes to cheating but to the students overall well-being and education. Students will remember more and feel better about school and what they do. If learning and studying is something they feel that they are doing simply for themselves versus being told to do so by society it increases their liking (Deci & Ryan, 1985). As Plato said so wisely, "Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds."





Bowers, W. J. (1964). Student dishonesty and its control in college. New York: Columbia University, Bureau of Applied Social Research.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory in

human behavior. New York: Plenum Press

Jordan, A. E. (2001). College student cheating: The role of motivation, perceived norms,

attitudes, and knowledge of institutional policy. Ethics & Behavior, 11(3), 233-247.

McCabe, D. L. and Trevino, L. K. (1995). Cheating among business students: a challenge

for business leaders and educators.Journal of Management Education. 19(2) 205-218. doi: 10.1177/105256299501900205

Reeve, J. (2004) Self-determination theory applied to educational settings . In E. L. Deci

& R. M Ryans (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 183-203). Rocherster, NY. University of Rochester Press.

Reeve, J., Ryan, R., Deci, E. L., & Jang, h. (2008). Understanding and promoting

autonomous self-regulation: A self- determinate theory perspective. In D. H. Schunk & B. J. Zimmerman (Eds.), Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 223-244). New York: Erlbaum. 

Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., and Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applied social psychology:

Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

The Media and Self Esteem

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The media is everywhere, it involves any form of mass communication that reaches people widely. In today's world most of us will grow up in a world where the media is unavoidable. Our parents and other previous generations were not exposed to this sort of influences, and therefore were not susceptible to the impact the mass media may have on individuals. In recent years, speculations to as of what those impacts might be are underway. One of the most asked questions: is the media killing your self esteem?

One interesting fact is that women spend a lot more time using the internet (and other means of social media) than men do. It is already more common for women to have issues with negative body image than it is for men, and could this internet usage be pushing that even further? There seems to be some impact because the media somehow forces us to change our perception of ourselves. We are constantly comparing ourselves to an ideal that probably isn't very realistic. (Henderson)

Another way that our self esteem can be affected is through social media sites. Facebook is now the most used of all these sites, with 750 million views worldwide. Some professionals believe this could actually be a self-esteem boost, due to the positive image you can create of yourself on these websites. Other studies have found that people with lower self esteem tend to spend more time on these types of sites than people who are more confident. This can have a negative affect on their self image because sites like Facebook only showcase certain aspects of other people's lives, and it tends to be the positive aspects. Once again, this creates an unrealistic comparison. (Williams)

The case of the media impact on self esteem seems to be a toss up. Although it has been widely assumed that the media plays a negative role in affecting self esteem, some professionals are beginning to believe the opposite. As with all things in life, I believe that it depends. For some people it may increase self esteem, but for others it may decrease it. Everyone is different and people just need to learn to live the life that is most suitable for them.


Henderson, Maureen. "Is facebook good or bad for your self esteem?." Forbes [Is social media destroying your self esteem?] 12 March 2012, n. pag. Print. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2012/07/11/is-social-media-destroying-your-self-esteem/2/>.

Williams, Ray. "Is facebook good or bad for your self esteem?." Psychology Today 12 March 2012, n. pag. Print. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201203/is-facebook-good-or-bad-your-self-esteem>.

Technologically cheating

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As our world advances, so does technology.  Many of us have heard from our elders about the "good ol' days" but very few of have actually gotten the opportunity to experience it.  I am referring to days before video games, before the Internet, and before cell phones.  Research was apparently much more difficult, and free time was used constructively.  Our world is advancing at an alarming rate and sometimes, it actually seems as if it is becoming more complicated.  Cheating and plagiarism seem to be a larger threat than ever and they are collectively undermining the basic premise of schools and what they stand for.

Self-handicapping is the act of creating barriers to successful performance (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Although this may sound strange at first, it actually has a purpose.  People choose to handicap their own performance so that they have an excuse in case of failure (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  For instance, an individual may choose not to study the night before an important test.  If he or she fails the test, then he or she can blame the act of not studying for their failure.  If he or she does well on the exam, then he or she can explain in terms of exceptional intelligence or another positive quality.  With all of the recent technological advancements, self-handicapping can be an easy task.  Cheating and plagiarism are two similar ways that an individual may self-handicap performance.  By cheating, an individual does not have him or herself to blame if he or she does not do well.  He or she can simply blame the individual that they cheated or copied from.

            Although cheating may not be a recent problem, cheating has become much easier since the invention of the Internet and cell phones.  By having the Internet readily available, answers to homework questions, pre-written papers, and even advice on cheating and plagiarism is available.  Cell phones work in the same way.  By having access to cell phones in class, students are able to cheat through text messaging or simply use the Internet on their devices to find answers that they may need.  As the Internet becomes more polluted with unverifiable information, it may become more difficult to sift through the multitude of information.  I can imagine that this is much more of a problem today as opposed to when students were forced to use a library to find information. 

            It is difficult to say whether or not technology will be helping to intrinsically motivate the students of today and the students of the future.  Intrinsic motivation comes from within oneself and is not linked to any external rewards (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  I believe that if a student is intrinsically motivated, he or she will be less likely to use cheating or plagiarism to get good grades in school.  The use of technology in education can be a great advantage if used properly.  I believe that schools need to start considering how to get students to become intrinsically motivated to complete their studies.  Generally, schools are very extrinsically motivated (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  By changing reward systems and motivators, schools may have a better chance at accomplishing their goals and giving students what they need to succeed in a competitive and ever-changing environment.




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

Bad grades: Evidence shows it's the teachers fault

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In a classic study done by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968), they found that teachers had higher expectations of the good students in their classrooms (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  This led them to wonder if expectations could lead to better academic achievement for anyone.  So, they put it to the test.  Basically, these researchers lied to teachers about the intelligence of some of their students who were labeled "bloomers".  The truth was that these students were no smarter than the other students in the class.  The teachers had no idea they were being misled, and the students were not aware of their status as "bloomers."  Interestingly, though, these "bloomers" actually had significant increases in their IQ scores (Schneider, et al., 2012).  The teachers' expectations came true.  The conclusion was that these students were treated differently by the teachers because they believed the "bloomers" were above-average students, and that is why they received better scores.  

So, the problem of bad grades can be solved.  It is all about teacher expectations.  I'm glad I now know this information.  I can officially take all of the blame off of me, and place it where it belongs - on the teachers.  For a minute there, I thought my bad grades were my fault...I feel much better now that I can explain this to my parents when I show them my semester grades.  "Mom and Dad, the teachers expected me to fail...why did I get an A in Jogging?  Oh, that teacher had really high expectations of me."

Here is how it works, teachers can help by offering the following:  a warmer climate by giving more attention, support, and encouragement, more challenging material to learn, more feedback, both positive and negative, on schoolwork, and more opportunity to respond in class with longer times to respond (Schneider, et al., 2012).  Interventions can be set up throughout schools everywhere for these concepts to be put into place.  The obvious goal of helping students achieve better grades would be at the forefront.  Once these concepts are understood by teachers, the interventions could be implemented.  Teachers would have to go through educational classes about these concepts and the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy.  On a side note, it would be very interesting to me to see how many teachers actually know what the self-fulfilling prophecy is.  This self-fulfilling prophecy works as follows:  People (teachers) have an expectation about what another person (the student) is like, which influences how they (the teachers) act toward that person (the student), which causes that person (the student) to behave consistently with people's (teachers) original expectations, which make the expectations come true (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010).  So, if teachers expect students to get good grades, then the students will get good grades.  It's as simple as that...right?


Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M.  (2010).  Social psychology.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M.  (2012).  Applied social psychology:  Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc.               

Toy Soldier

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              Ever since I could remember I wanted to be in the Army.  When I was young I used to listen to stories from my family about World War II and Vietnam, my mind would wander to far off lands fighting alongside them in the trenches.  My father used to take me to Army Navy stores to buy uniforms and surplus such as duty belts, ammo pouches, and ruck sacks.  I had a cache of toy guns and war paint.  The only thing I was lacking was military tactics.

            There was only one way in which I was going to learn military tactics as a kid, and that was from watching movies about war.  The most influential movie to me on this topic was the movie Platoon.  Platoon is about a group of American Soldiers struggling to find themselves during the Vietnam War.  Their struggle is further complicated when they become divided after an illegal killing by one of their Non Commissioned Officers (NCO's).  I first watched this movie in 1994.  I was 11 years old.  Little did I know that I was learning, almost taking notes on, imitating violence.  Vicarious learning has been defined as, "performing a behavior because one observes it being rewarded" (Bandura, 1986, p. 142).  Bandura (1996) said that much of what we learn is through the use of the media (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 142).

             Without realizing it, I adapted Bandura's social cognitive theory of learning.  His first step was attention.  "People must attend to what is being modeled" (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 142). Simply stated, this means that people must pay attention to what is being displayed, be it a movie or a newspaper article.  I watched (attended) Platoon because it was salient and attractive to me for what I wanted, (Schneider et al., 2012) which was to learn military tactics.

            I watched the movie over and over again almost to the point in which I memorized all the lines.  I didn't want to forget tactics, lingo, and proper uniform specifications. I mentally rehearsed these things over and over again, so when I was in the field I wouldn't mess up (Schneider et al., 2012).  Bandura (1986) called this representational processing. 

            I took the tactics I had learned and went to the drawing board.  To make my war games as real as possible I began using my GI Joes to practice my tactics.  I would play/ practice for hours to make it look and sound as authentic as possible.  I would set up scenarios with them outside in the grass and around the garden to make it as real as possible. This idea was me using the production process.  This process concentrates on how people learn the behavior they observe and put it into use (Schneider et al., 2012).

Bandura's model ends with the motivational process which states, "people do not perform every behavior they observe; they perform those behaviors that they are motivated to perform" (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 142).  I wasn't interested in the plot of Platoon.  I watched the movie to see how the soldiers walked, talked, and interacted together.  I watched so I could learn flanking maneuvers, how to dig a foxhole, and setting up ambushes in a dense jungle environment.

I joined the Army in February of 2001, seven months before 9/11.  I was deployed to Iraq in 2003 where I was able to take many of the things I learned from Platoon and utilize them to keep me safe.  A part of me always wonders, even as I write this today:  if I hadn't spent all that time learning from a movie and applying it to the woods in my back yard, would I still be alive today? 


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Adressing Socal and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

H.G. Wells War of the Worlds is both a captivating and frightening story that has entertained people for nearly a century. While today we can enjoy this tale on the movie screen or the book itself, back in the 1930's people largely found their entertainment on the radio. During 1938 many people tuned in to the "Chase and Sanborn Hour" then switched over to H.G. Wells' "Mercury Theatre on the Air" to listen to music. H.G. Wells wanted to captivate more of his audience and increase the number of his listeners. In order to accomplish this, H.G. Wells adapted his story War of the Worlds to be a radio play. While there were multiple warnings throughout the performance that it was only a play, many people still packed their things and fled. Furthermore, a number of miscarriages and early births were reported. People went into a panic as they thought that the world was being invaded (Rosenberg).

This phenomenon can be explained in part by the Applied Psychology theory of framing. Framing is the way one tells a story in order to influence the thoughts and opinions of those listening. While in today's world, framing is mostly found in political application it can be applied to this event as well. H.G. Wells wanted to tell his story War of the Worlds in such a way that more listeners would tune in to his show. However, his adaptation of his book seemed to be too captivating and sent people into a panic.

Another Applied Psychology theory that could explain this event is the concept of Availability Heuristic. Availability heuristic states that people will make judgments or opinions based on how easy it is to recall something similar from memory. H.G. Wells War or the Worlds was a popular book at the time and perhaps hearing the radio adaptation triggered memories from the book that seemed all too real.

Today, the panic that was caused by the radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' story may seem slight humorous but at the time it was a huge ordeal. The mass panic caused by this radio play has a foundation in Applied Psychology. The framing of the story, while meant to get a bigger audience, led people to believe the events were really happening. Furthermore, availability heuristic suggests that people were remembering the story or something similar and felt that the radio was relaying real events. This situation has helped us understand the nature of mass panic and how it can be induced.


Rosenberg, Jennifer. "War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast Causes Panic." About. 25 2010: n. page. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://history1900s.about.com/od/1930s/a/warofworlds.htm>.

Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater!

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Retrieved From: www.Cheaters.com (26 October 2012)

Reality TV shows that portray infidelity can have a negative impact on relationships creating mistrust, jealousy and eventual breakup or divorce.  Cultivation theory posits that people learn about their culture through media like television.  In fact, a recent study showed that 73% of participants reported that they had to learn "some" or "a lot" about sex from the media (Hoff, Greene, & Davis, 2003).  Evidence has shown that people exposed to violent TV clips are more likely to have aggressive thoughts (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 145).  This same evidence could be translated into those exposed to reality TV shows that show cheating as entertainment may have more thoughts of infidelity.  People may either act on infidelity or they may suspect infidelity from their partners.  This priming or stimulus is in line with Berkowitz's (1984) neoassociationisitc model of media priming.  The model states that the presence of a stimulus may prime a person into having certain thoughts, attitudes or beliefs.  If one sees on reality TV that the main character for example, can get away with cheating on their partner, then the viewer may start to think that they could get away with the same thing or how easy it would be to cheat on their partner.  The opposite could occur as well whereby they think how easy it would be for their partner to cheat on them.

                The first and foremost question is how prevalent is infidelity in everyday life?  According to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, a study conducted in 2012, reported that 41% of married men and women admitted to committing infidelity either emotional or physically.  What is more suprising, 74% of men reported that they would cheat on their partner if they could get away with it along with 68% of women (Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2012).  Although the media may not be the main cause of infidelity, it very well could be a perpetuating factor.  An intervention program should have a main goal of intervening on infidelity in partners.  In order to accomplish this, a comprehensive program of education as to the negative effects of media on faithfulness.  The education should consist of establishing proper communication between the couples to start.  The themes that should be projected are love & trust.  It should also consist of making the couple aware of the consequences of infidelity; emotional, financial, physical costs should be emphasized.  For example, a study conducted in 2006 reported that both men and women were highly upset (54.6% and 67.9% respectively) by sexual infidelity (Green & Sabini, 2006).  This report showed the high emotional costs of infidelity.  Next, the education of the differences of reality and stereotypes of relationship expectations will help highlight what is culturally acceptable and what television portrays.  Everyone knows that cheating is unacceptable, but the expectation that they will never be caught could be what motivates a partner to commit infidelity.  Having the couple communicate specifically what unacceptable behavior for emotional and sexual infidelity will help curb the effects of desensitization from media influence.  For example, letting the couple explain to each other that unwarranted touching to a member of the opposite sex is not acceptable behavior.  The intervention program should be conducted in a "safe" environment, free from ridicule and one with an atmosphere of open communication.  A "couples retreat" would be a perfect venue for this type of intervention.

Retrieved From: http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/ (26 October 2012)

To measure the efficacy of the intervention program, a longitudinal study could be conducted on a random sample of couples.  The experiment would consist of an intervention group and a control group.  Factors like partner dissatisfaction, past infidelity and marital status will have to be accounted for in the study.  This could be accomplished through surveys of past infidelity, partner satisfaction and length of partnership.  The cost should also be a consideration of this intervention program.  Having couples attend a couples retreat as part of the intervention program may not be the correct approach.  It may be more appropriate to offer the intervention program to already established retreats as an addition to their programs.  By following all of the prescribed actions, it is predicted that those going through this intervention will experience lower feelings of jealousy, thoughts of infidelity and actual infidelity. 


Green, M. C., & Sabini, J. (2006). Gender, socioeconomic status, age, and jealousy: Emotional responses to infidelity in a national sample. Emotion, 6(2), 330-334. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.6.2.330

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology, 2nd ed.: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

Hoff, T., Greene, L., & Davis, J. (2003). National survey of adolescents and young adults: Sexual health knowledge, attitudes and experiences. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.

Associated Press, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Research Date: 9.8.2012, Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/

Does the Media Influence our Political Views? Other Decisions?

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This political season has made me hate watching live TV and getting the mail (only to find junk mail that smears the other party). My wife and I were sitting on the couch watching TV and I decided to mute every commercial that came on that was political; whether it was for Obama, Romney, or local politicians. It was the quietest 2 ½ minutes I've ever experienced, I think the only commercial we actually listened to was a promotion for our local news station... promoting the next debate of course. 

I think that of all the different ways that the media can have an impact on our thoughts and behaviors (commercials, radio, mailings, etc.), the political debates are probably the most emotionally charged events. I found myself enjoying the first debate because I was interested in what both candidates had to say with the other present. Then when the second debate came around, I struggled keeping my emotions in because a number of my Facebook and Twitter friends were posting ridiculous statements during the debate. All it took was for President Obama to say that his investment portfolio wouldn't take as long to look at compared to Mitt Romney's, and my Republican Facebook friends became outraged, and my Democrat Facebook friends were rejoicing! One sentence directly changed their behavior.

With regards to politics, I think there are some people who will never change their mind no matter how many poor ads the media throws at them. I also have a hard time understanding the "undecided voter" perspective, we've been with President Obama for four years, and Mitt Romney since the primary; I don't see how someone cannot make a decision given all this time to think about it. While I don't want to get too off topic, I think that these undecided voters are people who might actually be swayed by controversial TV ads or junk mailers. These undecided voters are most likely easily swayed from both the media's agenda and the policy agenda. The media agenda is when the media promotes issues that they feel are important and choose to publicize the most, the policy agenda deals with issues that the government thinks is important (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). There seems to be an obvious disconnect between these two types of agendas, and there is an even greater disconnect between these agendas and the public agenda. The public agenda is the public's view on important issues (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

I believe that there are other forces playing here as well that influence our thoughts. Information that we (in this case voters) are able to be exposed to can influence us. The idea here is the availability heuristic, which states that we will make decisions off of the more salient things we can remember (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). 

Take this completely unrelated to politics example. If I were walking to the library and I saw a homeless man begging for money or food on the street corner, I would be pretty sad to see this. Lets say that when I got to the library, they were having some major fundraiser that included collecting funds for a number of different charities. Between the animal shelters, the veteran's hospitals, the homeless, and the churches, I'd be most likely inclined to donate to the homeless shelters because the man on the street corner was more salient in my memory; I therefore based my decision off of what I remembered.

The different agendas described above, along with the availability heuristic are different aspects of how our thoughts can be influenced by the different types of media that we are exposed to. These can apply to every aspect of life - not just politics. 

On a side note, I hope that when it's time for you to cast your ballot, you all vote for who you think will make a better president, and not base your decision off of the last commercial you saw!


Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applied social psychology, understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-1131.

Guilt, Innocence and DNA

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I find myself going back to the case of Ronald Cotton, over and over again.  For those who don't know, Ronald Cotton was convicted in 1984 of raping Jennifer Thompson; however, this conviction was overturned in 1995, after a DNA test proved him to be innocent (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).  The two eventually made peace with what happened, became friends and even wrote a book together about the experience, Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption.  This makes me wonder, just how often are people convicted incorrectly.

Granted, it is difficult to give an accurate number of those who have been wrongfully imprisoned, if there is no DNA to show that they are innocent, or if DNA would not be a valid factor in determining this particular aspect.  Still, I'm curious as to what information is available.  According to their website, The Innocence Project indicates that of those cases for which they aided in obtaining DNA tests, innocence was proved in 43%, the original conviction was proved in 42% and 15% remained inconclusive.  Forty-three percent seems like a large number of innocent people going to prison for crimes they didn't commit (granted, the original number of cases reviewed was not mentioned, so I take that at face value only).  It is also nice to see that the DNA testing is backing up original convictions as well.  Unfortunately, 42% is a low number (same comment applies about not knowing the original number of cases reviewed).  

So why isn't DNA testing used in every court case?  First, DNA isn't required or valid for every court case.  While CSI and other crime shows make it appear that DNA is needed for every criminal case, it actually isn't.  I served jury duty a few years ago and the judge was quick to point out that DNA isn't always required for a case and not to fall into a trap of what television tells us is required.  Also, DNA testing is expensive and there are often a backlog of tests waiting to be performed (Pratt, Gaffney, Lovrich & Johnson, 2006).  

What we are left with, is a clear problem.  There is proof that a large number of individuals are unjustly sentenced for a crime that they did not commit.  We have the technical capability to prove, or at least possibly prove, their innocence in many of these situations, yet we cannot afford to do so.  How do we solve this problem?  I realize that DNA is not always a vital solution, so that is a separate problem that needs reviewed, but how do we find a way to use the technology at our hands to correct this societal problem?  What happens if we accidentally end up on the wrong side of the court system and the DNA testing that might prove our innocence cannot be employed?  Does anyone have a good solution?


No eds. The Innocence Project. innocenceproject.org. 2012

Pratt, Travis C., Gaffney, Michael J., Lovrich Nicholas P., & Johnson, Charles L. (2006). This Isn't CSI: Estimating the National Backlog of Forensic DNA Cases and the Barriers Associated with Case Processing. Criminal Justice Policy Review. 17(1). pp 32-47.

Schneider, Frank W., Gruman, Jamie A., & Coutts, Larry M.  (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, 2nd edition. Los Angeles, CA. Sage Publishing.

Fear Reactions and the Media

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          The media has become and integral part of today's society. Everywhere we turn we see magazines, newspaper headlines, and breaking news. Whether we are in our cars listening to the radio or in the comfort of our own homes trying to wind down and watch our favorite TV programs, the media is there to lure us in. The impact that the media has on our response to fear has shown to be especially powerful. According to cultivation theory, our exposure to TV is how we learn about the world and is also responsible for how we perceive the world (Schneider, Coutts, & Gruman, 2012, p 147). This seems logical due to the fact that we perceive the majority of what is revealed to us as being true. However, the scary, horrifying aspects that the media portrays at times can have negative effects on a person's emotions and beliefs. The coping strategies to deal with the effects of scary media tend to differ with age. According to Schneider, Coutts, & Gruman, (2012) young children are more predisposed to use behavioral coping strategies while older children are prone to using more cognitive coping strategies. What about adults? We too get scared or frightened by a gruesome and suspenseful movie. With the majority of research concerning this topic being in children one cannot help but wonder what effects fear may have on the adult population.
        For example, as a child, my sisters and I were always watching things that we knew were off limits. We would sneak over to the next door neighbors house (our uncle) and watch everything from Freddy Krueger, to Jason, Michael Myers, to Killer Clowns from Outer space. As we grew older my oldest sister developed a phobia of clowns while my youngest sister now refuses to watch anything in the dark related to horror. I myself am still addicted to the gore and macabre of these fictional films. After reading the influences that media has on cultivating fear in children, I can not help but assume that the long standing effects may follow us into adulthood. Also in regards to coping strategies, I see that we as adults have intertwined the behavioral and cognitive aspects. When watching a scary movie or a thriller, most of us continue to peek through our fingers or hunker down underneath our blankets (behavioral) to reduce the intensity of the fear response. We also use the cognitive aspect of coping with the fear by reminding ourselves that what we are seeing is not real. However, this usually does not relieve the anxiety that lingers for hours or days afterward. The fear continues to persist and shows in our actions (i.e. pulling the covers over your head when you think you hear a noise, not hanging your foot off the bed because it might get eaten off, cutting off the light and then doing a nose dive into your bed in fear that someone will grab you from underneath the mattress). As concluded by Cantor, negative emotions and feelings experienced from media induced fear can in fact persist for years, even into adulthood.



Cantor, J. Fright reactions to mass media. Bryant, Jennings (Ed); Zillmann, Dolf (Ed), (2002). Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed.).LEA's communication series., (pp. 287-306). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, x, 634 pp.


Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2013). Applied social psychology,  understanding and addressing social and practical problems. 2nd ed. Sage Publications, Inc.


Public Self-Awareness and the Bystander Effect

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            The most notorious violent act that exhibits the phenomena of the bystander effect was the murder of Kitty Genovese. Her murder took place in front of an apartment building in which none of the residents called for assistance The bystander effect is a phenomenon in which people are less likely to assist another individual in an emergency situation when other individuals or bystanders are present (Schneider, Coutts, & Gruman, 2013). I will cover the factors that contribute to the occurrence of the bystander effect in emergency situations. In addition, I will present a possible method to reduce the likelihood of its occurrence.

            Bibb Latané and John Darley developed a series of stages that take place before an individual will decide to intervene. The first stage is noticing the event, which can be prevented if an individual is in a hurry or distracted. The second stage involves interpreting the event as an emergency (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2010). During this stage, an individual can fall prey to a phenomenon known as pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance occurs when an individual feels that the other bystanders are interpreting the event in a particular way (i.e. non-emergent), when they really are not (Aronson et al., 2010). If a person falls prey to pluralistic ignorance, they will not assist the individual in need.

            The third stage of the bystander effect is to assume responsibility. At this stage, diffusion of responsibility can occur, which is the diminished sense of responsibility one will feel if they believe others are responsible for intervening (Schneider et al., 2013). Diffusion of responsibility is most likely to occur when an individual has a sense of anonymity.  The fourth stage is determining if one knows the correct form of assistance to offer the individual in need. If the individual is unable to provide the assistance needed (i.e. cardiopulmonary resuscitation), they will not intervene. The final stage is to implement a decision. In this stage the individual will determine the costs to assisting (i.e. legal, psychological distress) (Aronson et al., 2010). If the cost is perceived to be too high, they will not intervene.


decision-making model darley.jpg 


            The consequences from the bystander effect are substantial. The faults that can occur in the stages of the phenomena can result in an individual losing their life. Reduction of the effect can occur by using one of the factors that perpetuate the bystander effect, diffusion of responsibility. Diffusion of responsibility can be decreased through increasing public self-awareness. "Public self-awareness is a state that occurs when people focus on the impressions they make on others" (Van Bommel, Van Prooijen, Elffers & Van Lange, 2012, p. 927). The notion of using public self-awareness as a method to reduce bystander effect is the result of observations made from individuals who are high in social anxiety. Socially anxious individuals have a tendency to be constantly concerned about the impression they make on other individuals in social situations. Observations have found that socially anxious individuals are more likely to help in group situations than those not anxious in social situations (Van Bommel et al., 2012).

Implementing enhanced public self-awareness can occur in multiple ways. Methods that make an individual identifiable, such as video cameras that record activities in public areas, or name tags in private settings, would enhance public self-awareness.  Increasing the likelihood of indentifying an individual would reduce the anonymity associated with diffusion of responsibility and motivate individuals to present themselves in a positive light. Implementation of measures that enhance public self-awareness in a public setting with a large amount of bystanders would likely create more of a reduction on the bystander effect than in a private setting. A public setting would increase the desire to make an impression of good character in an emergency situation because there are more individuals evaluating and judging them based on their behavior and appearance (Van Bommel et al., 2012)

In conclusion, the bystander effect poses serious consequences to individuals in need because bystanders fail to intervene in an emergency situation. Latané and Darley developed a five stage model to represent how an individual will decide to intervene. The use of public-self awareness as an intervention method would target diffusion of responsibility that perpetuates the bystander effect. This could be achieved through video cameras or name tags that make a person identifiable.  The reduced sense of anonymity with the desire to form a good impression on bystanders would increase the likelihood of an individual deciding to intervene in an emergency situation.




Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, R. (2010). Social psychology. (7th ed., pp.

        337-342). Upper Saddle Rive, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.


Bec. (2007, September 20). Darley & latane's multi-stage model. Retrieved

         from http://becblair.blogspot.com/2007/09/darley-latanes-multi-stage-           



Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2013). Applied social

         psychology, understanding and addressing social and practical 

         problems. (2nd ed., pp. 247-248). Sage Publications, Inc.


Van Bommel, M., Van Prooijen, J., Elffers, H., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2012).

        Be aware to care: Public self-awareness leads to a reversal of the 

        bystander effect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(4), 926-

        930. Retrieved from  http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezaccess.libraries.      





Media Induced Fear

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Yesterday, I was reading an article on the Microsoft Network (MSN) news website. On the front page, a shooting was being covered that involved multiple casualties. After reading the article, I began thinking about how violent our society has become and the fear it produces. To explain the perception that I had about how violent our society has become, I will discuss heuristics used in decision making process, public agenda, and cultivation theory. In addition, I will discuss the implications of fear produced by media and examine the possibility of interventions to reduce fear.

According to Stanley Milgram's environmental overload theory, we filter out information or stimuli, disregard low priority inputs, and rely on others to absorb excessive inputs (Amato, 1993). Environmental overload theory explains how our brains are incapable of processing all the information we are exposed to. Our brain's method of coping with all of this information is to create heuristics or cognitive shortcuts that allow us to access information quickly (Schneider, Coutts, & Gruman, 2013). These heuristics are very helpful in daily life but are subject to biases and other errors that result in poor decision making.  

Availability heuristics can help explain why I had the perception that there is more violence today than in the past.  Availability heuristics proposes that we make decisions or judgments based on how easy it is to recall instances from memory (Schneider et al., 2013). I made the decision that violence has increased as a result of public agenda. Public agenda refers to an issue that will be heavily covered in the media because it seen as important to the public (Schneider et al., 2013). The large number of news stories involving acts of violence increased the saliency of the issue, which allowed me to quickly recall these instances. The accessibility of the information created my perception that there are more acts of violence today than in the past.

My conclusion that there are more violent acts today can also be explained with the cultivation theory. The cultivation theory proposes that television is a primary socializing agent which allows individuals to learn about the world and their culture (Schneider et al., 2013). Since televised news covers a large amount of violent acts, I used this source to create my perception and understanding of our culture to be violent. This effect applies beyond me in that correlations have been found between heavy television exposure and the perception that the world is dangerous and hostile (Schneider et al., 2013).

The fear that media can induce has serious implications. Fear produced varies by age, with older adults being more fearful if the violence involves realistic situations. In addition, news reports about violent acts rely on emotions and fail to mention the rarity of the situation (i.e. school violence), which ultimately induce fear (Kupchik & Bracy, 2009). In addition, the fear produced can cause social isolation and anxiety, which both have a negative impact on the mental well-being of individuals.  The fear of being a victim of a crime can be translated into social anxiety and isolation in that these individuals withdraw from social contacts and the social world.

I researched the effects that media violence has on a variety of age groups and its outcome on fear. The relatively new focus on the effects of media violence has just started to bring a comprehensive understanding of the factors associated with exposure. The new focus has resulted in extensive development of interventions to reduce violence and aggression among viewers rather than reducing fear.  The lack of interventions allows an opportunity to suggest a possible solution to reduce the amount of fear produced from violent media exposures. I propose targeting those most at risk for viewing violent television (i.e. socially isolated) through educational measures. The measures would provide an understanding of how their decisions about society produce fear. In addition, the measures used in the intervention would expose these individuals to social events and provide an overview of violence in society.

In conclusion, we use heuristics as mental shortcuts to allow us to access information quickly. The availability heuristic contributed to my perception that our society has become more violent. The cultivation theory also explains my perception in that television is a learning source about our world and culture. The fear produced by media violence can result in anxiety, isolation, and fear of victimization. Interventions have been focused on reducing violence and aggression on media viewers but have failed to address fear resulting from media exposure. Educating at risk individuals about the processes that produce their fear is a possible intervention.  


Amato, P. R. (1993). Urban-rural differences in helping friends and family members.

           American Sociological Association, 56(4), 249-262. Retrieved from  


Kupchik, A., & Bracy, N. L. (2009). The news media on school crime and violence:

           Constructing dangerousness and fueing fear. Youth Violence and Juvenille

           Justice, 7(2), 136-155. Retrieved from  

            http://yvj.sagepub.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/content/7/2/136.full.pdf html

Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2013). Applied social psychology,

             understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed., pp. 

             61-81). Sage Publications, Inc.

Society issues of new media. (2010, March 03). Retrieved from



Additional information:

Using heuristics to make inferences:


Murder projection rates:




Presidential media

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Until Barack Obama ran for president, I war largely uninterested in politics.  This could be due to the fact that I was young, hardly watched TV, and was very busy.  It could also be due to the fact that my peers were also largely uninterested in politics.  Either way, politics meant very little to me in the past.  More recently however, I have become increasingly interested in presidential elections, debates, and campaigns.  In turn, this has broadened my interest in politics as a whole.  The reason I was able to learn as much as I have about candidates is because of media.  Without the Internet, television, radio and social media websites, it is highly unlikely that I would not be as educated on political topics as I am.  The media may have a significant amount to do with my interest in political topics and what topics I am actually interested in.  The media is everywhere.  The more people utilize media outlets, the more they may become influenced, educated, and engrossed in what is presented.

            Because the media is where I get the majority of my knowledge on political topics, it could be true that the media is actually influencing my thoughts (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Agenda setting refers to the idea that the media can decide what issues people think about through what they decide to broadcast (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  I am confident that many others are in the same situation that I am in.  It would be unlikely that many individuals would be able to go to remote locations and objectively learn about issues that they are interested in.  Because it is nearly impossible for most people to live that type of lifestyle, we are forced to consume the media that is presented to us if we choose to consume media at all.  Although we are inundated with media sources today, that was not the case years ago.  Before the Internet and television, there was radio.  Before the radio, there was the telegraph.   

            With the coming presidential election, the media agenda is largely focused on the president and his opponent.  Nearly every news channel is covering a story on either or both of them.  This is true for the television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.  The movement towards social media is becoming more evident than ever before.  Many special events on TV show tweets from twitter accounts about what is occurring on the screen.  This was true during the presidential debates on certain channels.  This may help individuals feel a sense of unity with others in similar situations (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Loneliness can decrease and individuals may start to feel as if their opinion counts.  After all, who wouldn't want their opinion broadcasted to millions of viewers during a presidential debate?  With all of the coverage of the president and his opponent, I found it difficult to ignore.  After forming my own opinions on the matter, I decided to weigh in and become more involved.  Of course, I found that the TV and Internet were my best sources of current and up-to-date information on these topics. 

            Overall, I feel that popular media significantly influenced my interest in politics.  The information was easy to both access and follow.  Media may potentially influence many of those who take part in it (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  In today's society, it is difficult to avoid it.  From the TV and radio to the Internet and smartphones, media is everywhere.  As people become more involved in media, it will be interested to see where and how it ends up.  Will individuals become even more engrossed in sharing their personal journey with others or will they eventually crave privacy and get burnt out? 




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

Therapeutic Community

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a man who works at Waynesburg Community Correctional Center in Pennsylvania.  I asked him if they had a therapeutic community and the immediately became excited that I knew what it was and that we were going to talk about it.   A therapeutic community is a residential environment intended to encourage personal growth and development of the residents (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).   




When I asked him if he thought the therapeutic community was beneficial to the residents, he said, "absolutely!"  As with most programs, it will work best for the residents who want to change and learn tools to utilize in life.  When asked if there are any downfalls to the therapeutic community, he explained a technique they use called a pull-up and push-up system.  The community consists of about 50 residents.  They are all asked to say three positive comments about fellow residents.  They are then asked to give three behavior corrections to fellow residents.  He explained that this is where the problem arises.  When they are asked to give three behavior corrections, they feel like they are ratting each other out.  They try to refuse completion of this portion of the task.    This is a display of normative influence.  Normative influence is the pressure to conform to beliefs of others to gain social approval or escape negative social consequences (Schneider et al.,2012).  Some of the residents may want to participate but when they see the others having a problem with it, they conform to the others opinions.  Then he said the great part happens, the older residents will step in and start giving the other residents behavior corrections.  He said the other residents will ooh and ah about the corrections being made and laugh and then all of a sudden they are communicating and establishing rapport and trust. 


This was all caused by informational influence which is a change in behavior or attitudes as a result of information obtained from other people that provide evidence about the nature of the social situation (Schneider et al., 2012).  The benefit of this technique is that it allows the residents to be open and honest with one another.  It teaches accountability and they are learning to obey authority and participate in a structured environment.  All of these things are aiding the residents in reentry into society and avoidance of reoffending.  This was just one of the techniques that they use in the Waynesburg facility and I am very excited to explore more into the therapeutic community and the techniques that they implement.  I am happy to say that I was invited to sit in and watch how the community operates.  I am truly looking forward to this experience.



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

The Cost of Deviant Peer Groups

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will call Tom, thanking me for saving his life. I was rather confused because I couldn't possibly imagine why he would say something like that, since there wasn't any single thing that could account for that. We hadn't talked for nearly three years, but it turned out his brother had recently been killed over a drug deal. He thanked me for saving his life because if it weren't for our dating in high school that could have very well of have been him.

When we first meet Tom was failing in school and at the time not going to be able to graduate. Five years before, him and his family had immigrated to the United States with none of them knowing any English which put a large stress on him and his family. His dad was always gone, working odd jobs and his mother was even more absent then his father due to her sever depression. Tom had no rules, and he did as he pleased. He hung out with his older brother who was always getting into trouble due to either vandalism, breaking curfews, underage drinking, drug possession and the list goes on. It didn't help the fact either that all of Tom's friends were the same way. They were always getting into fights with other groups of teens and breaking the laws somehow. He didn't have one single person to show him any other way of living. Bandura's (1977) social learning theory would help suggest that these criminal activities represent learned behaviors that were developed through Tom's interactions and social environment with others.

Also Andrews and Bonta (2010) general personality and social psychological model of criminal behavior present eight categories of risk factors suggesting  a person who has more risk factors present are more likely to engage in criminal behavior. The eight factors consist of antisocial behavior at a young age, temperamental and personal characteristics that are favorable to criminal activity, antisocial attitudes, beliefs, and values association of procriminal peers, negative parenting and family experiences, low levels of vocational and school achievement, poor use of leisure time, and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Both Tom and his brother had almost all of the risk factors present. Having Tom and his brother come from a poor immigrant family, struggling to make it in the US and for them to continually fit in could also be a factor that lead to their deviant behavior This theory would be considered the strain theory where deviant behavior is believed to come from frustration experienced as a result of pathological social structures that preclude a person from attaining middle-class expectations of material success. This stress leads a person to conduct socially deviant behavior to attain goods and social prestige (Schneider, Grumann, & Coutts, 2012).

Even with all of Tom's anger and frustration, I still believed there was more to him, and he was better than the behavior he participated in. Once we started dating, things started changing for Tom. Firstly, I told him I hated drugs and couldn't be around him if he was on anything. As we spent more and more time together he spent less time with his brother and friends and stopped doing as much drugs. School was always very important to me and I talked a lot to him about college. He thought that was way to far out of his league, so he never applied himself in school plus with English not being his first language it was challenging for him. After a few months, he decided to enroll in an alternative school, so he could graduate on time and started for once in his life to plan for a future. As all of these things were changing for Tom and his brother's life was spiraling downwards. Tom tried convincing him to join him at his alternative school so he could get his GED, but he refused. His brother started stealing car stereos and selling drugs instead.  As Tom's changed his attitude about life and his behavior things started going better for him. We broke up after nearly a year, but he stayed away from his old friends and their activities even when his brother would pressure him to hangout. Tom was over that. He was lucky that he turned out to be an adolescence-limited individual meaning, his antisocial behavior was limited to simply his teens years, compared to his brother which ended up being in the 10 percent of adolescence that fall into the life-course persistent group which means these delinquent behavior follows them through out their life(Schneider et al., 2012). 

For these reasons Tom thanked me. He thanked me because I introduced him to a new purpose in life and gave him hope, but really I think the biggest thing was simply getting him out of the antisocial and deviant peer group he was so stuck in. His brother never got out and eventually lead to his unfortunate death.




Andrews, D.A., & Bonta, J. (2010). The psychology of criminal

conduct (5th ed.). New Providence, NJ: LexisNexis

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:

Prentice Hall.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012).  Applied

social psychology:  Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc. 

A How to guide on helping those in need

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The bystander effect is a social psychological phenomenon which states that when other people are present, one is less likely to help in an emergency (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  One reason for the bystander effect, according to Schneider et al (2012), is that the presence of others lowers the bystander's sense of responsibility.  Basically, the more people that are around, the less likely that anyone will help.  Although this is the case, there is a step-by-step description of how to intervene and offer assistance in an emergency situation.

This intervention plan is a five step process.  These steps are noticing an event, interpreting the event as an emergency, assuming responsibility, knowing how to help, and deciding to implement the help (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010).  If one follows these steps, they will help in an emergency situation.  First of all, one needs to notice the event.  One way to notice the event is to not be in a hurry.  So, to be a helpful person, slow down and stop hurrying.  But, it is not enough to simply notice the event.  One must recognize that event as an emergency.  If there are a lot of people around, it is more likely that one may not think an event is actually an emergency.  It is very important to understand this part of the intervention, and remember that if you think a situation is an emergency, it probably is.  Try not to be influenced by the amount of the people present.  Once again, though, it is not enough to interpret the event as an emergency.  One must assume responsibility and do something to help.  One must make the decision that it is their responsibility to help.  It is up to you to realize that it is your responsibility to help or to offer assistance.  Once the decision to help is made, one must know how to help.  If the correct assistance is not known, then one will be unable to help.  So, it is very important to know how to help.  Finally, one must decide to implement the help.  When knowing what to do to help, it is vital to act on that knowledge.  It is up to you to put your knowledge of helping into action.  If any of these steps are passed over, one will not offer help (Aronson, et al, 2010).  So, it is very important to know these steps and to precisely follow them.



Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2010).  Social psychology.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall. 

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012).  Applied social psychology:  Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc.          

There are some crimes that shake persons and communities to the bone. The nature of the crime and implications it holds stir up such a biological disgust, people and communities have a difficult time separating logic from emotion. This concept is referred to by Applied of Psychiatrists as generic prejudice. This typically applies to homicides or cases or sexual abuse and as a result people (and juries) are more likely to find the person guilty of the crime. While the legal system wants to make sure the people who commit these heinous crimes are properly sentenced, the last thing anyone wants is for an accusation to put the wrong person away. There are many cases that can be explained by generic prejudice for example; Casey Anthony, the Menendez Brothers, OJ Simpson, and Michael Jackson.

Each of these cases may inspire a sense of anger or disgust, and they each definitely inspire personal judgments of the accused however facts still must be examined. Michael Jackson's accusation of child molestation shook the nation and enraged parents and people alike. However, the facts behind the case are questionable. Personal opinions aside, questions of validity behind some of the accusations, especially those in 1993, arise.

In 1993 a 12-year-old boy's father made the claim that he had been molested by Michael Jackson. However throughout the course of the investigation it came to light that the father of the boy had been researching child molestation claims as well as demanding money from Michael Jackson. Later he gave his son sodium amytal (or truth serum) and claimed his son told him about the molestation. However, many people know that sodium amytal can leave people very impressionable not to mention it was being used on a 12-year-old boy. To add even more question to this series of accusations, a taped phone call surfaced with the boy's father discussing a "certain plan" that would give him custody of his son and ruin Michael Jackson. The case finally ended when the boy refused to testify (Newsworld Showdown).

            While personal feelings may make the details of this case hard to read, one has to admit that the facts of the 1993 accusation are questionable at best. Money is a strong motivator behind many people's actions, and on occasion people will use their children in order to extort money. However, the nature of the accusation makes it hard to look think of the singer in a positive light again. This brings one back to the theory of generic prejudice; we are so biologically and emotionally against sexual abuse that even the suggestion of it shakes us. Juries face this problem every time they are presented with a case of homicide or sexual abuse; they must separate their emotional side from the facts and make as unbiased of decision as possible.



Newsworld Showdown, . "The Case Against Michael Jackson." Surf To Find. N.p., 04 2011. Web. 20 Oct 2012. <http://surftofind.com/jackson>.


Sleepless in Pittsburgh

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                             For the most part, I have not been exposed to crime in my life. You see, I was an Army child and lived on military installations for most of my life. The military installations, also known as bases, were very well sheltered and constantly under police surveillance, so there was no need to worry about the occurrence of break-ins or getting mugged on the street. As for my parents, they grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and were exposed to crime. They would tell me about how it their neighborhoods were safe and friendly when they were younger but then as they got older, the neighborhoods were going down a steep slope of crime. This is why they decided to join the army, to ensure that their children will always be able to experience safe neighborhoods and never have to live in fear. I was a very fortunate child.

                             In 2009, I went to my mother's parent's house for the first time in ten years and let me tell you, it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. So before I get into this, I will give you a bit of a background of myself. Since I lived on a base all my life, I was very sheltered and believed that everyone had good intentions for every situation (as you can see, I was extremely naïve). When I lived on base, you were able to say hello to strangers that you walked by, could wear certain colors without the assumption that you were a part of a gang, and in addition to that I had never heard gun shots before in my life. I remember my mother and me pulling up to the house and my grandparents rushing to the car. My grandfather didn't say "hi," instead he immediately went to the back of the car for the luggage and took it in the house. As for my grandmother, she came to my door and said "go right to the house and don't make eye contact," I did as instructed. There were groups of people on both sides of the house arguing with each other, throwing curse words around and threatening each other's lives. Needless to say, I was already to go home and was afraid.

                             When we got in the house, my grandparents were telling my mother and me about how bad the neighborhood had gotten. How people's cars and houses have been broken into, gang fights have broken out, and how gangsters have ganged up on older people that were minding their own business. They told my mom about Mr. Junie, my mother's childhood friend's father, was being harassed the week before when he was bringing in groceries. I asked if anyone had helped him but my grandfather replied "there was nothing we would have been able to do?" I can't help to think now that bystander effect was in effect. From how my grandfather went into detail about the situation Mr. Junie was in, there had to be more witnesses watching from their windows or their front porch to see what was the matter. If I wasn't so fearful, I would like to think that I would help. I think that the bystander effect occurred for a couple reasons maybe they were waiting to see if any other witnesses would help or they were simply afraid of drawing the negative attention to them, making them the new target (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

                             It was a frightening to know that this was the kind of neighborhood that I would be staying the night in. After visiting for a few hours everyone went to bed, my grandparents and my mother went upstairs and I stayed downstairs on the couch. Before my grandmother went upstairs she told me to have the television off around 9:00 p.m. I of course thought nothing of this because I usually was (still am) asleep my then. Suddenly, I was awakened by yelling in the street and stealthily peaked out the blinds to see what was going on. Two groups of people with their faces covered were standing under street lights. One group was dressed in all blue and the other in all dressed in black. This color coordination was no accident and neither were their hidden faces, it was a tactic known as deindividuation that provided the members of the groups with a sense of anonymity of their identities which enabled them to engage in bad behavior (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Although these groups had their faces hidden, I always had a feeling it was the two groups of people that I had to walk in between when I arrived. As I was looking out the window, my grandmother came up behind me and told me to get away from it and to make sure that we don't draw any attention to ourselves. She took me upstairs and I slept on the floor in my mother's room. About 30 or 45 minutes later, there were gun shots, but I did not hear any police sirens that night. My mother and I left very early the next morning to visit other family.

                             On our way home, my mother insisted that the neighborhood has never been that scary, that there was a time when you were able to leave the house without being harassed. To this day, I always wonder how a good neighborhood like that could go downhill and become so unsafe and full of crime. I think it would make more sense if it was a bad neighborhood to start with because the children that grew up in that environment was accustomed to living in those standards and carried on what they had learned from their parents. But according to my mother, there were not any parents on that street that encouraged violence and encouraged everyone to get along. So my theory is that at some point over the last however many years, the neighborhood had gotten corrupted by one or very few deviant persons beginning with crime to attain goods and social prestige and then it proved to be a prime target so more deviants followed (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).Then because the crimes were taking place in that neighborhood and seen as unsafe, families started to move. Since it was a neighborhood linked to having crime, the value of houses would go down. When houses were being sold their values decreased so people who had lower standards of living and accustomed to living in areas in crime moved in.  With that said I think that introduced more crime and turning the neighborhood into what it is today. I am thankful to say that my grandparents recently moved from that neighborhood into a retirement community.

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.

A Cold October Morning

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         2:30 am, shots ring out on the 1500 block of Bayscape Rd.  Responding units arrive on scene to find a women lying face down in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn.  A male with an unknown object in his hand and female stand overtop the lifeless body.  The first officer on scene orders the subjects to show their hands.  The male quickly grabs the female and pulls her into room 104, which was located approximately 20 feet away from the body.  The officer was able to determine that the female lying on the ground had been killed with a single gunshot wound to the head.  The officer realizes that a there was a homicide that had just turned into a hostage barricade situation.

       I received a phone call at 3:00am to help assist with the investigation.  At approximately 6:00am, the male subject surrenders and is taken into custody.  It is now my job to figure out what happened.  While the crime scene technicians are meticulously processing the crime scene, I begin interviewing witnesses.  An interview is a technique of questioning that elicits information from witnesses about a crime (Leo, 2008).  I interview the female (we will call her Ann) who had been held hostage.  She explains to me that the male (we will call Mike) subject and the deceased female had been arguing all day.  She further explains that Mike became physically violent towards her.  Ann claimed that the victim told Mike that she was going to call the police.  Ann further stated that Mike replied by saying, "If you call the police I am going to shoot you."  Ann called the police and was subsequently killed.  I spoke to other patrons of the motel who were able to establish credibility to Ann's statement.  They confirmed that they heard the victim and the male subject (Mike) arguing for a better part of the day.  When all of the witnesses were asked why they didn't call the police when they heard the arguing, many stated, "I assumed someone else would."  This is known as the bystander effect where people are less likely to help in an emergency when other bystanders are present (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 247).  In this case, it was a busy hotel where roughly 100 guests were staying.

       I spoke with my crime scene technicians who advised me that they had located a loaded .45 automatic handgun behind the door in room 104.  They further explained that the caliber matched the shell casing that lie next to the body.  Between the witness statements and the evidence, I was confident in Mike's guilt, and I was ready to start my investigative interview (Kassin et al., 2010).  It has been my experience in conducting interviews that the suspects often times want to tell their stories.  I am not sure if it is to brag or to get the guilt off of their chest.  Since I want to hear their stories I conduct what is known as a cognitive interview, which is a form of an investigative interview (Fisher, Geiselman, & Raymond, 1987).  This allows me to ask open ended and non-leading questions to gather information.  It also allows for detailed notes and to go back and clear things up (Schneider et al., 2012).

       During the interview with Mike, he explained everything.  He explained how he had been drinking all day and that "his old lady" had been harassing him.  He said they had been fighting constantly for the past week because she though he was cheating on her.  Mike further explained that he killed her because he was on probation for a drug charge and he didn't want to go back to jail for domestic assault which would violate his probation.  Which promptly made me ask, "so, you kill her?" to which his only reply was, "I guess I didn't think it through."  While this is a tragic set of circumstances it just goes to show that criminals are not very smart.  If I would have used a different interview method, Mike may have shut down and refused to answer any questions.  An example of a bad interview method would be to just ask yes and no questions.  This allows the suspect to give limited detail and often makes them feel as if you are blaming them.


Fisher, R. P., Geiselman, R. E., & Raymond, D. S. (1987). Critical analysis of police interview techniques. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 15(), 177-185.

Kassin, S. M., Drizin, S. A., Grisso, T., Gudjonsson, G. H., Leo, R. A., & Redlich, A. D. (2010). Police-induced confessions: Risk factors and recommendations. Law and Human Behavior, 34(), 3-38.

Leo, R. A. (2008). Police interrogation and American justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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.

Through The Eyes of a Witness

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Reading about crimes like the fatal beatings of Matti Baranovski, and of Kitty Genovese, and the apparent unwillingness of bystanders to intervene in either attack, prompts most readers to think about how they would react if they were to witness similar events (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). The text's clear presentation of each event makes a decision relatively simple, and a majority of people would likely say that they would intervene in some way. However, I can speak from experience that the suddenness of being presented with such an event rarely allows bystanders time to clearly and accurately perceive, and evaluate the unfolding events.

Several years ago I was awakened in the middle of the night by screams for help coming from the just down the street from my house. From my window I could see a woman I did not recognize standing in the middle of my typically quite street yelling for someone to help protect her from an attacker who I did not see.  Research by Darley & Latané and Latané & Nida identified situational ambiguity as influencing a bystander's decision to provide aide in an emergency (as cited in Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). What I remember from that night supports this supposition. Little of what I recall seeing made sense. A woman I didn't know, who looked unharmed, screaming about an unseen someone hurting her, and standing in the middle of the street just feet from the front doors of many of my neighbors who might have let her in. I remember that in that moment I wondered if her shouted claims that someone was attacking her were honest and not being fueled by something else, such as drugs. Concerned but confused I made the decision that rather than go out to her I would call the police, a decision which the operator alluded to several of my neighbors also having made, yet no one else had chosen to go out to her.

The lack of direct aide provided by myself and my neighbors typifies the bystander effect, the decreased likelihood of people to help in an emergency when other people are present (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). I can only speak for myself but I remember that after I got off the phone with the police, but before I arrived, I wondered why none of my other neighbors chose to go help this woman. Perhaps they thought the same as they remained behind their locked doors.

A second factor in influencing a person's willingness to offer help which was identified by Darley & Latané and Latané & Nida is the similarity of the victim to the observer (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005). I remember having similar thoughts which support this supposition as well. I remember that I did not recognize the woman and wondered who she was and why she was on "my" street. I thought she must be here because she knew someone who lived here and that they should be the one to help her, but, I thought, if she didn't know someone then she didn't belong here. If she wasn't one of us, us being neighbors, then her being here at all was worthy of suspicion.

 Finally, less than ten minutes after I called several police cars arrived and gave the woman the help which my neighbors and I chose not to provide personally. Thankfully she did not become another Matti Baranovski or Kitty Genovese. It wasn't long after that night that I first read about Kitty Genovese and it made me reflect on what I would do if I was presented with a similar situation. It was about two years later that I watched as a car hit a pedestrian in a parking lot and attempted to drive away. In that case I didn't wait for everyone around me to intervene. No one did, however I confronted the driver and made sure that she didn't go anywhere before we found out that the person she hit was unharmed. That situation was less ambiguous but there were just as many people around yet almost no one took the time to intervene. Perhaps they hadn't heard of Kitty Genovese.


Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bad neighborhood

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A close friend of mine grew up in a town that was full of crime.  I'll call this friend "John".  Although my friend and I met in college, he always enjoyed telling me stories about his hometown.  He would always begin by letting his audience know that he grow up in a not-so-nice town.  One of John's stories though was rather tragic.  John was a victim in a robbery.  Although they police never found the individuals responsible for the crime, John recalled the police interview in great detail.  This gave me great insight as to what one might actually be like.  Unlike the dramas that are constantly shown on television, I was interested to learn how an investigation of that magnitude was handled in real life. 

            There is a great difference between interviewing a witness or victim of a crime and interrogating a suspect (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  After the crime had occurred to John, he was subject to a police interview.  This gave the police the opportunity to fully understand what happened from his perspective.  The detective conducting the interview was more than likely trained on how to properly conduct interviews.  This is because the way that the interviewer behaves can alter the behavior of the individual being interviewed (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Fortunately for John, he felt that his interview went quite smoothly.  However, John was quite shaken by the events that had occurred earlier that evening.

            Although nobody involved with the crime is quite sure why it occurred, John believed that the robbers were convinced there was something in the house that they wanted.  He believed this way because the robbers kept asking for specific things when they were in the residence.  After the robbers did not find what they were looking for, they became aggressive.  This behavior could be evidence of the frustration-aggression hypothesis (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  The frustration-aggression hypothesis states that anything that stops a person from obtaining their goal may be a trigger for aggressive behavior (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  In the case of the robbery, the robbers were unable to find what they were looking for and in turn became aggressive. 

            Unfortunately, what happened to John is probably much more common than many think.  Many others share his story and situation.  Luckily, by being informed and knowledgeable about crimes, we can more readily prevent them and deter those who could potentially be involved.   Also, by rehabilitating our societies criminals, we can hope to one day have a world with less crime and less of a financial burden carried by our legal system.  Interviews and investigations need to be carried out methodically to prevent the system from becoming tainted by outside influences.  By standardizing the way that crimes are dealt with, the legal system can ensure the most fair and unbiased treatment of individuals both guilty and innocent.




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

Degradation by Interrogation

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I have always been proud to describe myself as a responsible, conscientious, kind, hardworking, and honest person (among other things) that's always striving to improve. Although this might seem like a boastful opening sentence, it's important for me to state it before delving into my chosen topic for the week, precisely because it regards a particular instance in my life where I was treated like the opposite.

A few years back, I was working as a sales associate for a big department store in San Diego, CA. I had just come back from my lunch break one normal uneventful Tuesday when I was asked by supervisor to accompany her to the loss prevention office. Now, while the mention of the loss prevention department should have signaled me that something was wrong, having a clear conscience, I thought it would be nothing more than a routine "something." However, it turned out to be one of the most awful experiences of my life.

I was lead to a dark little room where, eventually a man joined me and, instead or greeting with a hello or introducing himself, he simply asked me if I knew what I was there for. After confusing me for the next 5 minutes, insisting that I think hard as to why I was there, he brought out a note pad and pen and asked me to write a full confession detailing how I had misused store coupons "knowing perfectly well" (his words) that I wasn't supposed to, therefore stealing from the company a total of 63 dollars and 18 cents.

I was shocked. I had never been accused of being a thief in my entire life. Seeing my shocked expression, he proceeded to question me about the "incident." It was very difficult for me to follow along because he would limit his questioning to close-ended leading questions where only a yes or no answer was acceptable. Whenever I tried to explain myself or to ask any questions he would interrupt me by raising his voice, repeating the question, and instructing me to limit my answers to a simple yes or no. 

As time passed, I felt more hopeless and depressed because I felt he was deliberately out to prove me guilty from the start and there was nothing that I could do (or was allowed to do) to change that. I couldn't even get him to tell me what exactly he was accusing me of.

Later on, I was able to piece together what had happened. I remembered the incident in question and, as it turns out, he was right on one thing: I had used the coupons the way he had stated, except that I had not been informed we were not supposed to do that. In fact, I had double-checked with my manager before the transaction and she had given me and another sales associate the "go-ahead" making me feel confident that I wasn't doing anything wrong. Nonetheless, I was never able to tell the investigator that, because he never allowed me to say anything other than yes or no.

Towards the end of the interrogation, he pushed the note pad and pen towards me saying: "the sooner you write and sign your confession, the sooner you'll get to go home." I started out writing my version of the events when, half way through, he stopped me, took the pad, ripped the page off, and asked me to start over. The same thing happened two more times until he finally started dictating how the "correct" confession should read. At that point, I had been in that little dark room for almost an hour, I was tired, sad, and angry and I just wanted it to be over. I wrote what he wanted, signed it, agreed to pay the 63.18 dlls, and got out of there. I left the store with my head held high despite feeling that I had been treated disrespectfully and I managed to keep my tears from showering down until I got home.

Two weeks later I got a call from an ex-coworker asking why I had quit. I corrected her by telling her I had been fired and I told her about my disheartening experience in that little dark room. Then, she told me that my previous manager had been let go because of some irregularities. This made me feel a bit angrier, if the investigator would have allowed me to talk, we could have figured out that part of the blame was hers. I would have gladly owned up to my mistake (making a mental note not to be so trusting and always read the fine print), and he would have spared me the feelings of despair and hopelessness.

As I'm writing this I can still feel my stomach close up despite it happened over 4 years ago. It's depressing to learn that suspects and witnesses are being interrogated the same way and that peoples' fates depend on the incomplete erroneous information acquired by these methods.

Fortunately, research has identified these shortcomings and has suggested more efficient interviewing techniques, such as the cognitive interview that uses open-ended, follow-up, and non-leading questions shown to obtain additional and more accurate information. In addition, cognitive interview facilitates rapport and increases trust between interviewer and interviewee and, in my opinion, probably makes the interviewee feel he or she was treated with fairness (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).


Image retrieved from http://xoevelynortizhasspoken.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/family-talksinterrogations/



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applying Social Psychology to The Criminal Justice System. In Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. [2nd ed.] (pp. 245-272). California: Sage publications.

Jury Duty

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dilbert_jury.jpgMost people are proud to serve on a jury with their peers; seeing the opportunity as a duty or an honor. However, some could be less excited about the fact. Others see it as our right to serve while some say that we should have the right to refuse. I was one of those people chosen to serve and frankly could not have been less motivated to want to participate. Schneider, Coutts, and Gruman, (2012) list several different factors of why issues arise during legal proceedings. Jury size, juror impartiality, and inadmissible evidence are among the few problems faced when determining a verdict. When I look back on my time served as a juror, I cannot help but think about which category a lack of enthusiasm to participate or indifference would fall under. If the juror could care less of whether a guilty or innocent verdict will be reached, does that not impose a major issue for justice? Undeniably yes, the majority of us would care more about reaching a guilty verdict in major crimes such as, murder, rape or any other act perceived as taboo among society but, what about the smaller less heinous crimes? Do they not deserve the same amount of concern and regard as the ones previously stated?

The attitudes of the jurors can have a positive or negative impact on the case. These attitudes can be pre-existing, a result of the media, based on a person's morals and values, and even a result of external attributes. As stated by Schneider, Coutts, and Gruman, (2012) under certain conditions, attitudes and behaviors have shown to be strongly correlated. During the voir dire process, jurors can be weeded out due to biases, prejudices, and incompetency. Mark Bennett describes voir dire as "the process of selecting (or, more accurately, deselecting) a jury". However, is it possible to eliminate all of these aspects that may interfere with a juror's performance? Hastie, (1991) says the answer is no. She states that juror elimination is based more toward the obvious characteristics of the juror and that "attorney-conducted voir dire is not an effective procedure for selection of impartial juries" (Hastie, 1991). There has to be a more successful method of decreasing juror impartiality that will not adversely affect the verdict.

Whether you view jury duty as a responsibility or a hindrance, defendants in criminal cases have the right to an impartial jury (Sixth Amendment). Any case comes with the potential risk of impartiality but our biases should not be based on the premise of lack of concern on the outcome of the verdict.




Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applied social psychology, understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

Jury Duty, Selection, the Asch Experiment, and 12 Angry Men

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If you've ever been selected for jury duty there might be a number of different things going through your head, and if you happen to be a defendant, hopefully your jury is not like the one in the illustration above.

Some people believe that being selected for jury duty is very similar to voting, it is one's civic duty and it should be an honor, some might bring preconceived biases about defendants based on the type of trial; murder and sexual abuse cases tend to yield more "guilty" verdicts from jurors, this jury would be said to have generic prejudice, which means they'll convict someone more than the average jury (Weiner, Arnott, Winter, & Redmond, 2006). Now I have never been selected for jury duty, most likely because I have only been registered to vote for a few years. For some reason, I remember that when I was growing up my mom would frequently get called for jury duty. I can remember at least three instances when she had to go. Being that I was a youngster and my dad was usually at work, she had to take care of me during the day, apparently that was a sufficient excuse to get out of jury duty. I guess it was just a pain in the neck to go down to the courthouse. It's probably a good thing that she got out of it, because I know her and if she couldn't get out of it, she would have just agreed with the majority of the jury to get the entire process over with. Much like the man in 12 Angry Men who changes his vote so he could leave and catch the baseball game. This would not have led to the selection of an impartial jury if she was selected. The strength and efficiency of a jury is primarily based around their ability to remain impartial (Schneider, Coutts, & Gruman, 2012). Upon doing some further research, I came across many websites that were devoted specifically to getting out of jury duty, apparently my mom isn't the only one.

I came across an article here in Cleveland that talks about a local judge who was questioning possible jurors for his trial and one responded about their old friend Jeffrey Dahmer! Dahmer was originally from this area of town so it's not a surprise that someone eventually got selected for jury duty who knew him. Needless to say this juror was excused from jury duty.

The Asch experiment is a perfect example of one of the ways that social psychology has contributed to learning more about human behavior; this experiment showed how people tend to follow along with the group even when they know that the answer (or right way) is wrong. Here's another clip from Candid Camera that shows the essence of the Asch experiment, it's quite funny. I'm reminded of the movie 12 Angry Men when I think about the Asch Experiment. I think a very compelling theory that was done by Asch regarding conformity in group decision making is that it happens amongst jurors. This movie is a wonderful example of how it's very easy to conform to group decisions that act as an individual. While this movie is much more than that, it's a good representation of how this can happen on a jury when someone's life is at stake.



Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applied social psychology, understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

Weiner, R.L., Arnott, L., Winter, R.J. & Redmond, B.F. (2006). Generic Prejudice and the Law: Sexual Assault and Homicide. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28, 145-155.

What Makes a Team?

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What Makes a Team? 

                In going through last the lesson on teams & organizations, I could not help but look at my own experiences with team's and organized projects, most currently being my son's first time playing on a team sport.  My boys have always raced motor cross, and while there are some team aspects to motor cross, it is typically an individual sport because whether you win or lose is pretty much all on your own abilities and effort. This is why I was so thrilled when my youngest son decided he wanted to play football this year rather than race. We were able to join a very reputable team that had a great record for being tight nit and very family oriented, which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I understand that beginning issues are normal and teams tend to go through developmental stages, which according to Tuckman(1965) are: forming, storming, norming, and performing. But our team seemed to be stuck in the storming phase for awhile and I could not figure out why.  After speaking to the coach and some of the players and their parents, I realized that the team was lacking the vital ingredient of unity, also known as cohesion, and were displaying the characteristics involved with the fundamental attribution error.

Cohesion is the motivational glue, so to speak, that keeps a team united and focused on their goals. Without this glue, the team will simply fall apart, or in my case, not even be able to come together. There are two types of cohesion needed for a successful outcome, social and task. Social cohesion is the unity and camaraderie a team feels with each other, while task cohesion is the bond the group feels about the task at hand (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012 p. 117). We seemed to be having both a bonding issue and united goal issue. Many of the players and coaches were new to the team this year and this seemed to cause a divide between the veteran members and the new comers.  Once everyone got through the initial training phases and started to settle in with each other, the team began to bond. The players started to interact more on and off the field, and the parents began to warm up to each other and bond as well. The rift between the team and the coach still remain intact though, and had spread to the parent's view of the coach also. The players and parents had moved on to the bonding stage and were settling into their new roles, but how everyone felt about the coach was still undecided.  

We lost our first three preseason games by a lot and this did not help with the team spirit. In an effort to try and raise task cohesion with the team, I asked the coach what he thought the issue may be and what could be done to turn things around. The coach stated that the problem was he did not have enough talented players or trained coaches to work with. When I asked the parents what they felt the problem was, they stated unanimously that it was a lack of leadership and coaching skills. The players simply felt it was both a skill and coaching issues. I figured before I could help with the task cohesion, we had to fix the problem with the "blame game" and try to get each side to see the validity of each contributing factor. The coach and parents opinion of the problem is a perfect example of the fundamental attribution error. (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts. 2012) This error occurs when the issues are placed on individuals rather than looking at all of the contributing factors. The coach chose to blame the losing streak on the player's lack of talent and the parents felt it was a lack of leadership and coaching. Neither side looked at the whole picture to see what could be done to help the players perform better and mend coach relations. Fortunately, I was not only one trying to help find a solution to growing issue with our team. After losing two more games, the main coach of the organization stepped in to observe what was going on. After just spending two hours interacting with the team, he decided to step in and spend a couple days working with the team directly. I noticed an immediate difference in the spirits of the players and the way they began to work as functioning unit. By the time of our next game, the players were motivated and the entire dynamics of the team had changed.

We ended up winning our first game that week and have since won two more. The winning streak has helped keep the spirits and cohesion high in the team, especially between the players and parents. As each win happens, you can see the positive momentum and task cohesion click into place. They practice, work, and play as a team now, rather than individuals.  The only issue that still remains is that of the coach. Many of the players and parents feel that had it not been for the head of the organization stepping in, nothing would have changed. The coach feels like things are getting better because the players are learning how play better. He still fails to see where his contribution with the team stands. We have two more games left in the season to see if we make it to the playoffs or not. The task cohesion is to make the playoffs and with the effort the team has been showing, I think they just might do it! As for coach relations, I'm still trying to figure that one out J



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Social psychological theory. In Applied social psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems [2nd ed.] California: Sage publications

Team Cohesion

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As I drove home from my 12 year old son's hockey practice today, I asked him, "Which team has been your favorite team to play on in all the sports that you have played?"   I knew what his answer would be after learning about team cohesion and I was correct, he said "this hockey team."  When I asked why, he said, "Because there is just this closeness between us, we are like a family." 

Cohesion is "a dynamic process which is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs (Carron, Brawley, & Widmeyer, 1997, p. 3).   Cohesion is four things; multidimensional, dynamic, affective, and instrumental. 

As I look at the cohesiveness of my son's team, I see that there are many components that make it the way that it is.  That is what makes it multidimensional.  There tends to be more of closeness when the team is doing well which makes it dynamic, cohesiveness changes.   The friendships and bonds that the boys have with one another is their affectivity and their main goal of improving and winning is the instrumental part of cohesion. 

So how did I know that this was the most cohesive team my son has been on?  My son is very athletic, when he wants to be.  He has played baseball, football and basketball.  He was very good at every one of these sports, BUT, only at times.  Did this have to do with cohesiveness?  Evidence has shown that on an individual level, members of a cohesive team tend to work harder and experience more success (Schneider et al., 2012).  I have never seen my son want to work so hard at something.

Why does this team cohesion develop?   A cohesive team does not necessarily have to have similar personalities and attitudes but may have complimentary attitudes (Schneider et al., 2012).  A cohesive team has well defined roles, they have common goals, they respect one another and they have good communication.  Another important aspect of team cohesion is the coach, the coach who helps to define roles, set goals and effectively communicates with his/her team. 





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

Carron, A.V., Brawley, L.R., & Widmeyer, W.N. (1997).  The measurement of cohesiveness in sport groups. In J.L. Duda (Ed.), Advances in sport and exercise psychology measurement.  Morgantown, WV:  Fitness Information Technology.




Factors that lead to addictive smoking

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 Upon reading another blog about one girl's path to cigarette addition, I began to wonder, how does one casual/social smoker end up addicted, while another will easily quit all together? My story begins a lot like hers: It started around age 14, as we begun to get into the party scene and hang out with the older crowd at school, we begun to be introduced to cigarettes. The older kids were doing it, and my friends were trying it, so I thought "why not". I wasn't particularly concerned with the negative health outcomes that could later ensue because I didn't believe I would ever become addicted. I just thought of it as a new experience, and plus I was under a lot of social pressure. Luckily, I never became addicted, but many of my friends did. Some eventually built up the strength to quit, while others still engage in the habit. I am particularly curious about what factors turn an individual from a social to a regular smoker. About half of those individual who I saw socially smoking actually became regular smokers, the others only continued to do it socially, or quit altogether. I smoked cigarettes once in a while (socially) for years, but in the last few years have stopped altogether. I wonder what are these factors that cause people to go in those separate directions?

The first factor that comes to my mind is biology. Three of my good friends became regular smokers, and one of them still is. They all told me they felt some cravings in the beginning and eventually began to feel addicted. For me, I never felt intense cravings for a cigarette. Sure, I would smoke socially, but mainly because I was bored or thought "why not". For some reason, I never felt those cravings for cigarettes like my three friends did, which evidently lead to their addictions to the substance. Are some people more predisposed to addiction? Is there really such thing as an addictive personality? Similar personality factors seem to be found in people with addictions. They express impulsive behavior, value nonconformity, and have high stress levels. This would suggest that addition is definitely in part due to psychological factors (Nelson).

Another factor that I believe plays a role is family and peers. The only friend I have who continues to smoke also has a mother that smokes. This proposes a problem for several reasons: First, she may have inherited certain traits from her mother which made her more susceptible to become a smoker, she could not feel as compelled the quit, and she may have a more difficult time quitting because cigarettes are always around. I believe the second theory may be more of a contributing factor that we may think. Personally, I knew smoking was extremely unacceptable in my family. My parents even enforced that at a young age. This greatly contributed to me limiting my social smoking of cigarettes. Furthermore, even though my peers were doing it. I never wanted to be seen by the world as a smoker, and that also compelled me to stop completely.

Lastly, I believe education and demographics play a huge role in the issue. Some people end up smokers by lesser fault of their own. They may have been demographically born in an area where all these risk factors pile up. Socio-economic level can also play a part. Those who live below the poverty level are more likely to smoke than those above it. Maybe they were not taught through drug programs in their schooling system, or maybe they were surrounded by smokers themselves. The Oral Cancer Foundation found that smoking is inversely related to education. Individuals with 16 or more years of education smoked the least, while those with less than 11 smoked the most. It's unfortunate that some individuals are placed in such susceptible environments. ("Demographics of tobacco use").

Basically, I believe that there are many different factors an individual ends up as a regular smoker. They could be biologically predisposed, they could see smoking in a less threatening light, or they could be surrounded by negative social influences. It seems that there are biological, psychological, and social factors all come into play. I would be interested in examining this phenomenon further, if anyone has any further ideas about the issue, please feel free to comment.


Nelson, Bryce. "The addictive personality: Common traits are found." New York Times. 19 January 1983: n. page. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/1983/01/18/science/the-addictive-personality-common-traits-are-found.html?pagewanted=all>.

Oral Cancer Foundation. Demographics of tobacco use. 2010. Web. <http://oralcancerfoundation.org/tobacco/demographics_tobacco.htm>.

Conflict in the Workplace

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As discussed in the lesson, some psychologist believe there are four distinct stages that almost every group goes through: forming, storming, norming, an performing. The second stage, storming, is the time when leaders emerge and roles are filled, but it also involves some sort of conflict between the members of the group. What leads to get group conflict, and more specifically can it be avoided or is it a natural and necessary stage in the formation of any group?

Work conflict is defined as a sharp disagreement or opposition of interest or ideas between individuals. Workplace conflict actually takes up a large amount of time and resources, with managers spending almost 25% of their time trying to resolve them. Furthermore, resolving the conflict can be a difficult and uncomfortable task. One can either run away from the conflict, or face it and battle it out. Reasons for conflict include: poor communication, different values and interest, scarce resources, personal clashes, and poor performance. It seems highly unlikely that those reasons can be avoided altogether. ("University of Oklahoma Resources").

Bruce Tuckman, director of the Academic Learning Lab at Ohio State University, states that group conflict is necessary to any workplace. He believes in the four developmental sequences presented above, and says that a group must go through the storming stage in order go get to their peak performing stage. If conflict is managed correctly it can actually be very useful. For instance, you don't necessarily want a workplace where everyone has the same ideas. Sifting through these different views strengthens the groups communication skills, and presents new ideas to the company. The real problem is when groups try to avoid conflict. (Frank).

I believe this is very important to remember in any and all groups you may be apart of in life. Whether it is at work, with family, or in an intimate relationship. Conflict is a signal that there is a problem that needs to be taken care of. The ability to work through conflict is necessary for any group to get to that performing stage. People are different and conflict is inevitable, but this doesn't have to be viewed negatively. Conflict is an opportunity to hear different opinions, strengthen relationships, and eventually become better than you were previously.


Frank, William. "Denver Business Journal." Denver Business Journal. (2005): n. page. Print. <http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2005/12/26/smallb4.html?page=all>.

Pennsylvania State University. (2012). Organizational Life AND Teams. [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from http://cms.psu.edu.

Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applied social psychology, understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

"University of Oklahoma Human Resources." University of Oklahoma Human Resources. (2011): n. page. Print. <http://hr.ou.edu/employee_resources/conflictresolution/SourcesofConflict.asp>.

The Downside of Technology

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Part of human nature is to strive to provide an easier life, a safer and more controlled environment at our finger tips; thus the invention of technology. What started with a simple pulley and lever systems has evolved into Nano technology and near artificial intelligent robots. Technology has been seamlessly worked into all areas of our lives. So much so in fact that people will look for retreats away from technology. While the introduction of technology has shown many benefits and certainly is here to stay, some adverse effects have begun to surface. Deskilling is known as the weeding out of special skills in people due to the ease of technology. For example, master tailors are no longer in high demand because of massive clothing manufacturers. Even in the medical field, surgeons do not need to rely on their hands as much with the invention of the Da Vinci Machine (a surgical system run from a computer). Most notably however is the effect technology has taken on our youngest generations, decreasing spelling and grammar skills because of the ever so useful "spell check".

One article, "Poor spelling of 'auto-correct generation' revealed" from BBC announced the startling results of a spelling survey. The survey showed that out of 2,000 adults nearly 33% could not spell the word "definitely", and 66% chose the wrong spelling for "necessary" ("Poor spelling of," 2012).

Another article, "Is 'text-speak' partly to blame for the bad spelling?" discusses one London's school stance against phones being used in school. In order to encourage the use of proper English and reduce distractions in the classroom the school has begun a policy that says, students will lose their cell phone until the end of the term if they are using it in class. While this school is receiving a lot of backlash or the harsh stance they are taking, their intentions are good (Jew, 2012).

There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to the use of technology. While many believe that our world cannot run without (at least without some huge catastrophe occurring), the negative effects of the "easy life" should not be over looked. Of course auto correctors and spell checking software can be useful but it certainly should not replace basic knowledge and understanding of one's own language.



Poor spelling of 'auto-correct generation' revealed. (2012, May 22). BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18158665


Jew, L. (2012, May 17). Is 'text-speak' partly to blame for the bad spelling?. Retrieved from http://www.expressandstar.com/lifestyle/blogs/lous-women/2012/05/17/is-text-speak-partly-to-blame-for-the-bad-spelling/

How a Teen Court Jury was Influenced by Groupthink

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Groups are an interesting social phenomenon that consists of "two or more people who interact with and influence one another over a period of time, and who depend on one another and share common goals and a collective identity" (Franzio, 2006, p. G-3).  As such, we each become members of numerous groups throughout our lifetimes whereby some of these associations are voluntary while others are inescapable.  For instance, being a part of the high school volleyball team is a conscious choice made by an individual to join that particular sport.  On the other hand, being paired with your co-worker to devise a sales pitch for a new product at your company is a mandatory obligation that necessitates collaboration in order to complete the assignment.  Therefore, it is through these various combinations of groupings and organizations that people are consistently engaging with and affecting one another in achieving collective objectives. 


In fact, it was through one such personal experience that I began to grasp how intricate decision-making was for a group of just twelve people, a jury.  At the local high school in my hometown, we had a semester long program called Teen Court.  It was established to introduce students interested in law to how the legal system operated in relation to court proceedings as well as allow juvenile offenders an opportunity to be tried by their peers in front of a local attorney acting as judge instead of appearing before an actual judge.  The benefits for the juvenile taking part in Teen Court was that if they completed their sentence, which usually consisted of a small fine and community service, their offense would be taken off their record as if it never happened.  For the high school students that participated in Teen Court, they received course credit along with an education into the legal field.  Every student was given the opportunity to choose which role they were most interested in fulfilling in the courtroom be it a prosecutor, a defense attorney, or a bailiff with everyone having to rotate as jurors throughout the semester.  Of course, each role consisted of "a cluster of socially defined expectations that individuals in a given situation [were] expected to fulfill" (Franzio, 2006, p. 109).  So for example, the prosecutor's function was to present the incriminating evidence against the juvenile (i.e. the defendant) while the purpose of the defense was to present counter evidence that served as justification for the defendant's actions, a bailiff maintained order and flow in the courtroom while the jurors were responsible for deciding on the outcome of a case (i.e. the verdict also known as the sentence).  Therefore, roles were clearly defined and acceptance was quite high as each student could select their position within Teen Court.


On one particular session of Teen Court, I was part of the jury that was comprised of twelve people that had to decide unanimously what the defendant's punishment was going to entail.  In this particular case, the defendant was a male student from the high school that had been caught by the police with drugs.  Personally, I thought that he should receive the strictest sentence we could impose which was 40 hours of community service.  However, many of my fellow jurors felt that was too harsh and believed that no more than 20 hours of community service was a more fitting punishment.  My reasoning for the full 40 hours of community service was that the defendant clearly stated in his defense when he was testifying that he knew that carrying and using drugs was wrong and still he chose to engage in such behavior.  Therefore, the defendant's conduct demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law.  On the other hand, many of the jurors were friends or acquaintances with the defendant and wanted to be lenient.  In addition, the sooner the jury decided on a verdict, the quicker we left court as we were only trying one case that evening and could possibly leave before 9:00pm, which is when we usually finished court.  Consequently, with the majority of students knowing the defendant, wanting to leave court early and having to come to a unanimous decision, it increased pressure to make a rushed decision.  In fact, during deliberation it become apparent that the jury was falling victim to groupthink in which "a process of flawed decision making [was occurring] as a result of strong pressures among group members to reach [an] agreement" (Coutts & Gruman, 2012, p. 238). 


Not only were some jurors continually complaining about having to come to a general consensus over the hours of community service the defendant would be given, but they were also using nonverbal forms of communication to indicate their agitation and annoyance with the group by walking around stomping their feet as well as crossing their arms and glaring at the few of us that did not agree with them.  Due to these pressures, the few of us jury members that felt a harsher sentence was appropriate relinquished our original positions and gave into the majority as the defendant received only 10 hours of community service.  Indicating that group polarization had also taken place, as the initial stance of the majority of the jurors become even more extreme through the use of normative influence.  In which, coercion was used to bring about conformity in hopes of avoiding "negative social consequences such as being ostracized" by these jury members for the rest of the semester (Coutts, & Gruman, 2012, p. 239).  Thus, when a greater emphasis is placed on consensus seeking than effective analysis, groups are more prone to experience groupthink (Franzio, 2006).  Additionally, the fear of being rejected by the other jury members (i.e. normative influence) was highly persuasive in changing opinions to coincide with the group majority, which increases the likelihood of group polarization.  Therefore, this example provided an illustration of how normative influence can impact group polarization and how pressure to reach an agreement can lead to groupthink.


Whereas our jury deliberation took less than half-an-hour to complete, it was still viewed by many of the jurors as lasting too long.  So while many people have the initiative notion that two heads are better than one, which then leads to the belief that group decision-making is superior to individual decisions.  Though the social psychological theory of groupthink provides reasoning as to why that is not always the case.  As stated by Coutts and Gruman (2012) "groups do not always make better decisions than individuals.  This is because groups can, for example, exert pressure on people to conform to bad ideas and exacerbate decision-making biases" (p. 238), which is exactly what transpired.  Therefore, people need to realize that groups are highly dynamic units susceptible to biases and less efficiency when certain antecedent conditions proposed by Janis (1983) are present, such as pressure (i.e. high stress) to make an unanimous decision in order for court to adjourn.  Sadly, this personal experience is not an anomaly in the legal arena, but a reality of many people that serve as jurors with an interesting article written by Lybrand, Dobson, and Solomon (n.d.) titled "Jury Think: The Social Psychology of Group Deliberation".  Thus, care should be taken when using groups to make decisions, as there are both benefits as well as limitations as evidenced by groupthink and group polarization. 





Coutts, L. M. & Gruman, J. A. (2012). Applying social psychology to organizations. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts (Eds.), Applied  Social Psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (pp. 113-133). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.


Franzoi, S. L. (2006). Social Psychology. (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Image source: Groupthink. Retrieved from http://www.orchardcommunications.ca/2011/12/31/groupthinks-growing-presence-in-social-media/


Image source: Teen court. Retrieved from http://youthservicebureau.com/


Image source: Jury of teenagers. Retrieved from http://www.noozhawk.com/article/062011_teen_court/


Janis, I. L. (1983). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Lybrand, S., Dobson, J., & Solomon, S. H. (n.d.). Jury Think: The social psychology of group deliberation. Retrieved from http://www.doar.com/marketing/web/jurythink.pdf

3 ways to make employees happy

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To increase job satisfaction, a company must focus on making their employees happy.  So, how does a company make their employees happy?  Happiness is a very complex state of mind.  Some believe that happiness is genetic, while others believe happiness is dependent on outside factors.  Regardless of what is the right way to define happiness, there are three factors that can be controlled to influence happiness.  Research suggests that having satisfying relationships with other people, pursuing a goal that is enjoyable, and helping others will make people happier (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010). 

            To address the problem of low job satisfaction, these three factors can be put into place to increase job satisfaction.  For step one, in regards to having satisfying relationships with co-workers, there can be social gatherings that are set up on a weekly basis.  According to a study done by Diener and Seligman (2003) showed that happy people spend more time with other people and are more satisfied with their relationships (Aronson et al, 2010).  Setting up social functions for co-workers will bring them together and will make them spend more time with one another. 

To achieve the next step, step 2, of pursuing a goal that is enjoyable to increase job satisfaction, the company should partake in organized sports leagues.  Most people enjoy playing sports, or simply enjoy being on a sports team for social reasons.  By joining a sports league, this will make your co-workers work together towards a goal they enjoy.  Working towards this goal of winning a sports league will bring your co-workers together and make them happier.  This will also enhance their relationships, which relates to our first step.  Evidence suggests that people are happier when they are working at something they enjoy and making process towards that goal (Aronson et al, 2010). 

Step 3 of achieving a higher job satisfaction is helping others.  One way to do this is to set up volunteer opportunities to your co-workers.  Examples would include giving blood, visiting the elderly, or helping the sick.  Helping others can make your co-workers happier because it makes them view themselves more positively, and makes them believe they are the type of person who cares for others (Aronson et al, 2010).

By following these three steps, job satisfaction will rise throughout the company.  To evaluate this, we can measure the changes in job satisfaction after one year.  We would first administer a facet approach questionnaire before the intervention has begun.  A facet approach considers job satisfaction to be composed of feelings and attitudes about a number of different key aspects of the job (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Questions on this would include things such as the nature of the work, relations with co-workers, pay, benefits, promotion opportunities, and so on.  After the intervention has been in place for one year, we would administer this same questionnaire.  This would be a good way to evaluate the intervention, and to see if people's job satisfaction has risen. 



Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., Akert, R. M.  (2010).  Social psychology.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall. 


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., Coutts, L. M.  (2012).  Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc.             


Why Job Satisfaction Matters

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Silicon Valley is the technological capitol of the world. It's home to the most influential and innovative technological companies that exist today, such as Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, Intel, and Google to name a few.

With some many top rated companies fighting over a limited talent pool of scientists and engineers in one location, job satisfaction plays a key role in determining which company get to choose among the best, and which has to deal with a high turnover. Job satisfaction can be defined as how content a person is with his or her job, and social and organizational factors are known to play a role in determining to what degree employees are satisfied with their jobs (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

A friend of mine that works for one of these big name companies was recently telling me how unsatisfied he was with his job. I couldn't believe it because, although he works long hours, he gets to work on what he likes, he gets paid handsomely for it, and gets many other benefits I could only dream of getting one day. As it turns out, his particular division had been having problems with management for a long time. Every time a new design came in and his engineer group was assigned to its development, his team would let management know of the potential risks and eventual problems the design was going to have. Instead of listening to their suggestions, management never recognized them and ignored their recommendations. However, a couple of months later when those predicted and disregarded problems surfaced, management would act surprised and give them a short deadline to fix them. The amount of frustration derived from having pressure and stress put on his team when these problems should have been addressed at the beginning of the development was costing the company its most talented employees. For at least a year, that company had been experiencing a high turnover in that division, to a point that none of the original team members that had participated in the development of previous designs were present- except for my friend. No matter how much money he was being paid or how many benefits he was getting, he simply didn't think it was worth working in a place were his suggestions were being constantly ignored, he would never get recognition for his work, and he would later have to pay for his manager's behavior in added stress. Making matters worse, when his team attempted to go over the manager's head seeing how the manager himself wouldn't listen, the company's representatives simply stated that it was an issue that their division would have to solve on its own.

Based on the information he told me, it seems like his division was experiencing social and organizational problems. The corrosive relationship between the employees with their supervisor was affecting the team's perception of job satisfaction, which resulted in very high employee turnover for that company's division. The findings of a study regarding effects of job satisfaction on employee turnover supported this relationship by suggesting that when satisfaction is increased, a significant decline in turnover was observed (Hulin, 1968).

After sticking around until the end of the project he was working on, my friend took an offer from his former boss who was now working at another big name company -Google - rated by Fortune 500 as the number one best company to work for (Fortune 500, 2012). My friend couldn't be happier! And after visiting Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA a couple of times, I have to agree with him. Not only is their management style a perfect fit, but they have amazing amenities to make sure their employees enjoy their time at work (probably so they put in more hours as well). The volleyball courts overseen by a life-size T-Rex skeleton, an on site chef, and a slide connecting some offices to the lobby were some of the many fun things at Google that I have seen and enjoyed that would make me happy to work there.


Image retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/a-quick-peek-inside-googles-mothership-in-mountain-view-2012-5?op=1



Fortune 500. (May 14, 2012). Best companies to work for in the 500. CNN Money.  Retrieved October 10, 2012 from http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2012/fortune/1205/gallery.500-best-companies-to-work-for.fortune/index.html


Hulin, C. L. (1968). Effects of Changes in Job Satisfaction Levels on Employee Turnover. Journal of Applied Psychology, 52(2): 122-126.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Social psychological theory. In Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. [2nd ed.] (pp. 23-38). California: Sage publications.




Aversive Racism: How can we tell?

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As humans, categorization is an important tool for us to possess. It allows us to perceive and quickly identify significant information without using up a lot of our cognitive resources.  At any given time, we have only a certain amount of information that we can process, so it's central for our brains to be as effective as possible (Pennsylvania State University, 2012). Due to this highly effective tool we obtained we unintentionally categorize people. We place them into groups based of off either age, gender, and ethnicity. This is not the problem when it comes to racism, but it is when these thoughts are negative (PSU, 2012). There lies the key, but in recent times racism has changed from blatant to aversive racism resulting in automatic thoughts that we are unaware that we even acquire, also known as implicit thoughts. This form of racism is hard to measure since bias and negative attitudes are very subtle if anything at all. So how do we measure these automatic and implicit thoughts?

Well a collaborative research effort between researchers at Harvard University, the University of Virginia, and University of Washington have designed a test that, "measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report" essentially measuring ones amount of averse racism (Greenwald, Banaji, & Nosek, 2001). These tests are open for anyone who would like to take them. They have different categories such as race, gender and careers, age, disability, weight, weapons and others. The Implicit Attitude Test (IAT) works by measuring ones implicit attitudes by timing how quickly one pairs positive and negative words with images.

The idea behind the time is the quicker one responds to the two concepts the more closely related they are for the person, since it takes them less time it shows that it is simpler for them to classify them as one unit. So, if a person has a negative attitude about a group it should be faster for them to pair the negative words with the out-group, and it should also be quick to pair the positive words with the in-group. If it takes a longer time for them to pair the concepts they are not as strongly associated. The longer the time shows the difficulty of pairing the negative attitude with the in-group and vise versa with the positive attitude taking longer to be paired with the out-group.

            Automatic processing is, non-conscious, unintentional, involuntary, and effortless meaning we can't do much about it (PSU, 2012).  However we do have the power to control these thoughts. When we are aware of them we can go above and beyond the effortless implicit categorization of a person, and actually think about our attitudes (PSU, 2012). When we think about our attitudes we can make correction if need be and sort through undesired or inappropriate information that has been brought to mind automatically.  This is not an easy process because it takes effort to apply controlled thinking and sometimes we are have a million things going on in our heads so it is challenging to apply our limited cognitive resources to these thoughts, but if we don't we will likely be influenced only by the effortless automatic information and can fall captive to aversive racism without even knowing it. 











Greenwald, T., Banaji, M., & Nosek, B. (2001). Project Implicit, Retrieved from



Pennsylvania State University (2012). Introduction to social psychology:

Prejudice [PDF document].  Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su12/psych221/001/content/Lesson13/printlesson.html



Puzzling prejudices in our schools

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Prejudice in our schools is very evident.  Black students stick with black students, white students hang out with white students, and so on.  Why are we such a separated society when it comes to skin color?  Turn on the news any given night, and you will hear about a racially induced crime at a number of high schools.  The following is an intervention program to decrease prejudice in our schools.    

For any intervention, we must first identify a problem.  Prejudice in our schools is definitely a problem.  Once this problem is identified, we must then arrive at a solution.  In other words, how can we address this problem?  What factors are responsible for causing prejudice?  Some factors are social learning, conformity, social structure, economic standing, cognitive developments, and personality developments.  These factors need to be addressed, and they need to be addressed at an early age.  The goals of this intervention are to decrease prejudice and discrimination.  The immediate objective of this intervention is to have students understand prejudice and its negativity.  To implement this intervention we will use what is called the jigsaw classroom.  

The jigsaw classroom is a technique that creates an interdependent classroom atmosphere designed to place the students of various racial and ethnic groups in pursuit of common goals (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010).  They named it the jigsaw classroom because it was similar to putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  The jigsaw classroom works by placing six people in learning groups that is diverse in its makeup.  The lesson at hand is then divided into six parts and each student gets one of those parts.  Each student learns about their part and has to teach that information to the others in the group.  Because of this set up, students do not compete against each other, rather they depend on each other.  

The results of these classrooms are astounding.  In comparison with traditional classrooms, students in jigsaw classrooms showed a decrease in prejudice and stereotyping,  and an increase in their liking of their group members,  They also performed better on objective exams, showed a greater increase in their self-esteem, and showed a greater liking for school (Aronson, et al, 2010).  The most noticeable evidence of this working was shown in the true integration of the various racial and ethnic groups in the school yard (Aronson, et al, 2010).  

These jigsaw classrooms can be set up in our schools nationwide.  I would think it is worth a try.  A good evaluation of this intervention would be follow up questionnaires about the program.  They would focus on their outlook of their fellow students and their feelings about prejudice.  Ultimately, these jigsaw classrooms can help to decrease the prejudice feelings or ideas of our young children from the very beginning.  


Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2010)  Social psychology.  Upper Saddle River,    NJ:  Prentice Hall.            

The Army and Contact Hypothesis

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I grew up in a sheltered environment in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I can literally count on one hand the amount of Blacks, Asians, and other ethnic minorities that I attended high school with. While in high school I was very active in different sports programs such as football and lacrosse.  I had several Black and Asian friends.  This was probably because we had many interests in common, and our backgrounds were similar.  We all went to one of the top public schools in the country, we enjoyed the same types of music, and we played the same sports.  I thought I knew how I felt about ethnic minorities since I was so close to several of them.  My perception would change before I ever graduated high school due to a major life decision I made.

When I was seventeen, I joined the United States Army.  I enter what is called the split option program.  The way this program is designed is you go to basic training between your junior and senior year of high school, come home, and then go to your job training once you graduate high school.  It was June of 2001 when I entered onto a plane en-route to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri.  I was suddenly and violently removed from my sheltered life and put with men of all types of races, socio economic backgrounds, and educational backgrounds. 

A major training function of the military is to punish all for one person's actions.  I constantly found myself feeling deep hatred for the people causing us to endure so much pain.  Often times, the people who created the most issues were Blacks.  They would talk back to the drill instructors, fail to conform to the standards, and constantly slack off.  I started thinking to myself, "how can these guys 'be so lazy' and 'be so disrespectful.'"  Did they not know any better? Did they not care?

I spent many nights in the beginning of basic training attempting to answer these questions.  It wouldn't be for several months that I would understand that my judgments were not fair.  The Army builds soldiers by breaking the individual down and then building them back up. However, it wasn't just the individual they were tearing down it was the entire group.  We were molded into one functioning unit.  We became dependent on each other and a comradely unlike anything most people will never understand or feel develops.  Working together day in day out, bleeding together day in day out, and sweating together day in day out eradicated my stereotypes and prejudices I had toward anyone.  This training method seems to be modeled after the contact hypothesis model developed by Gordan Allport (1954).  I now understand that everyone is a unique individual that has been modeled by their life experience,s and it's unfair, no, immoral to judge them for that.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology, 2nd ed.: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

I'm Not Racist, I Hate Everybody Equally!

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Hate everybody.png

           The title of this article is a funny quip to some who may have heard it before, but those who hold to this saying may be more racist than they care to admit.  One posited by Gaertner & Dovidio in 1986 is called aversive racism.  This is where someone holds racists beliefs, but they hold that they are not prejudice against other races (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  The question is how to get people to change their behaviors if they are not aware they have those attitudes in the first place?  An intervention program for local communities can be designed based on empirical evidence.    

The program will first have to decide the prevalence of aversive racism in the community.  Based on a study by Nail et al., people who identified themselves a liberal were more aversive racist than moderates or conservatives.  So through a poll of who considers themselves liberal, conservative or moderate, it could be used as a focal point for the intervention in a community.  Most people do not consider themselves racist, but their behaviors say something different.  The same experiment measured physiological arousal of aversive racists (liberals) to the touch of an African American.  Evidence showed a higher heart rate and skin conductance (M=39 and M=39,000) from liberals than the other groups (Nail, Harton, & Decker, 2003).  Although political orientation may not be the true causal factor of aversive racism, it can be used to help focus the intervention.  This intervention though does need to target everyone in the community to help comparison evaluation of the intervention. 

The main goal of the intervention would be to make people aware of their own aversive racist behaviors.  The main objective that would be needed to accomplish the goal would be to increase the overall awareness of people's aversive behaviors in the community.  In order to do that a survey would have to be conducted around the community first.  The Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire - Community Version (PEDQ-CV) Lifetime Exposure scale is one possibility to use as a survey.  It has shown good to moderate reliability across different ethnic backgrounds.  This survey asks questions about social exclusion, discrimination at work/school, threats to safety and stigmatization with regards to race (Kwok, et al., 2011).  From there the community can be made aware of this poll to show them how their attitudes and experiences compare to the rest of the community.  Next, the implementation of the program through a campaign of awareness flyers can be presented to the community.  They can show the demographics of their neighborhood and the prevalence of: crime, gangs, community involvement, race and can offer community social gatherings to get people more involved.

The evaluation of this program would be progressive at 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks and 1 month.  Each week a survey will be conducted on how often they have attended the community social gatherings.  It will also poll how many of their neighbors they introduced themselves to, interact with outside of the social gatherings and finally will gather demographics of the neighbors in which they interact.  In order for the intervention to be ethical, the information gathered will only be shared with that individual and experimenters.  This will ensure that each week, that person will be aware of their behaviors with regards to race and give them an overall comparison to the rest of the community.  The total cost could be kept to a minimum through mailers of the survey.  The results will be evaluated after one month to determine the efficacy of the intervention.  The results are predicted to be effective in reducing the overall aversive racist behavior of those in the community through awareness.


Kwok, J., Atencio, J., Ullah, J., Crupi, R., Chen, D., Roth, A. R., . . . Brondolo, E. (2011). The perceived ethnic discrimination questionnaire--community version: validation in a multiethnic asian sample. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(3), 271-282. doi:10.1037/a0024034

Nail, P. R., Harton, H. C., & Decker, B. P. (2003). Political orientation and modern versus aversive racism: tests of Dovidio and Gaertner's (1998) integrated model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 754-770. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.754

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology, 2nd ed.: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

Someecards.com. Somewhat Topical Ecards. Retrieved October 7, 2012, from http://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/MjAxMi1hZmJiOTgzMmE1MDFiNTYw

Family discrimination

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I recently became engaged to the love of my life.  The name of my fiancée is Susie, and she has always been a victim to light yet hurtful comments by her family members.  Susie was raised in the Philippines and in the United States during her childhood.  She did not have the luxuries of many American children and was subject to an alternative lifestyle.  Granted, her lifestyle was no less fulfilling then anybody else's.   Unfortunately, her misunderstanding certain pop culture references and sarcastic humor has made her the butt of many jokes.  Although family members see this is harmless fun because Susie laughs along, deep down these comments are very hurtful.  To Susie's family, she is seen as a member of an out-group.  Her lack of specific American knowledge that is taken for granted by many individuals makes her seem less intelligent to some and she is therefore categorized in an undeserving way (PSU World Campus, n.d.).

            Susie's biological parents were from two different ethnic backgrounds.  Her father was Caucasian while her mother was Filipino.  She was raised in both Hawaii and the Philippines during her childhood.  She is fluent in Tagalog and has a vast understanding of other cultures and how they operate.  Her limited knowledge in American pop culture is due to her growing up without television or electricity during most of her childhood.  Unfortunately, her appreciation and understanding for activities outside of the norm have not granted her enough knowledge to be considered part of the in-group during many family functions.  Both of her parents passed away and her cousin and his family adopted her at the age of 14.  Their limited understanding of her background and lack of involvement in her delicate past did not help her circumstance.  Luckily, I was able to see right through the culture differences and directly to the person she truly is.

            Although her family does not knowingly offend her, they constantly make inside jokes about her lack of popular knowledge.  This is because the members of the family feel as if they are part of an in-group.  The common knowledge that they have groups them together (PSU World Campus, n.d.).  This argument is strengthened by the fact that Susie looks slightly different from the rest of the family.  Her jet-black hair and tan complexion is an outward sign of an inward difference.

            Humans innately categorize individuals based upon many factors (PSU World Campus, n.d.).  This is no exception with Susie.  Because she looks and speaks slightly different from others, she is categorized.  This categorization puts her at risk for prejudice and discrimination (PSU World Campus, n.d.).  Although her family unknowingly categorizes her, other people may be doing the same thing.  This is a necessary evil for humans.  Although it may have biological significance, it can also be potentially harmful as is the case in Susie's family situation.

            In and out groups are present everywhere we look.  Although it may not be possible to eliminate them, it may be possible to alleviate the damage that these groups can do.  Generally, I feel that society has eliminated many prejudices that were present and affecting out-group individuals.  Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to be done.  As time goes on, I hope that the small barriers that still exist are eliminated.  Through compassion and understanding, prejudices can continue to be eliminated.




Penn State World Campus. (n.d.). Intergroup relations. Reading. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa12/psych424/001/content/07_lesson/01_page.html

My Experience with the Contact Hypothesis

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    Gordon Allport's (1954) contact hypothesis suggests that the increasing positive interactions between two or more groups will decrease the negative associations and relations between them. I have had some good experiences that corroborate this theory and some bad experiences that negate it. Today I'll be focusing on the positive interactions I've had between myself and another group.
    When I was in my teens, I was trying to determine which career path I'd like to pursue. At this point in my life I was working as a camp counselor for a theater camp during the summer. Throughout my time spent here, I came in contact with a number of children who had either Autism or Aspergers Syndrome (in short, it is a less severe form of Autism which gives the individual the ability of higher levels of functioning then those afflicted with Autism). I was the only camp counselor who was able to really connect with these kids. When other counselors or even directors asked something of them and they wouldn't listen, I was usually able to get them motivated to cooperate.
    This gave me the idea of wanting to become an Intervention Specialist and work with special needs kids. Prior to this idea, the summer camp was the only real interaction I've ever had with anyone who was on the Autism spectrum, so I decided to join a group called Autism Speaks. After cruising the website I noticed that the Walk Now for Autism was coming to my town. I thought this would be the perfect way to get involved with this group of individuals.
    The walk committee encourages people to either join or form a team of walkers to help raise funds for Autism awareness. I took that advice and asked a number of my friends (all of which were "theater-nerds" like myself) and we came up with the team name "Theater Makes a Difference."

Theater out front2

    The biggest way my team raised money was through a fundraiser that I put together with the help of a lot of volunteers - about 40! When I was 18, I spearheaded a grassroots fundraiser called The Arts Against Autism. This event was perhaps the biggest thing I've ever done. It was a free event that was open to the public and it encouraged families who were connected with Autism to participate. It was located at the community theater that I was heavily involved with. This event had short movie clips about what it's like to live with Autism, interactive sensory stations (the sense of touch is the most sensitive to Autistic children, these stations were meant to both stimulate those Autistic kids that were there as well as spread knowledge about the disease), arts and crafts, face painting, balloon animals, vocal performances (thanks to a beautiful girl that I ended up marrying), and perhaps the biggest raffle I've ever seen (one of the prizes was a week long stay in the Caribbean - thanks to someone's timeshare donation)! See the pictures with this blog to get a feel for the event. (I have over 1,000, so choosing just a few was tough).

Donor Banner2

    This experience at the community theater as well as the Walk Now for Autism gave me the opportunity to interact more with people with Autism. When this event was over, and the walk had ended, I found myself much more connected to this group then I had been previously. Allport's (1954) theory suggests the idea that positive interactions are needed for this, while I do agree, I think some negative interactions can help too. Not all of my experiences were positive rays of sunshine, there were times when I would get extremely frustrated, annoyed, and even judgmental. Even though these interactions were not all positive, I believe that the negative times also attributed to my abilities to communicate better with these individuals.
    A dear friend once told me that in order for someone to better themselves, they need to be like the butterfly - there must first be an intense stage of change and unrest before they can emerge as a better and more beautiful person (or insect). This is the how I see the co
ntact hypothesis. When people stretch their boundaries and go beyond their comfort zones (such as interacting with groups not familiar to them), they can develop newfound abilities (like being able to communicate or positively associate with a group other than your own).
    While I am a realist and understand that not all connections between groups will have as positive of an ending as mine, I do see the potential for the contact hypothesis and it's ability to help bring people closer together.


Kids on stage


Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA:Addison-Wesley.

Autism speaks. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.autismspeaks.org/

Autism spectrum disorders health center. (2010, April 12). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-symptoms

Adolescent Peer Influences and Smoking Behavior

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smoking1.jpg          I began smoking at the age of 14. It did not take very long after experimenting to become a regular, habitual smoker. After reading about how social factors influence the development of smoking, I began to think about how social influences impacted my development. There are a variety of social influences that can produce the acquisition of substance use, including family, peers, and media sources (Schneider, Coutts & Gruman, 2013). Understanding the influences that start smoking behavior can help in the development of interventions to prevent this behavior and reduce the number of deaths associated with smoking. I will present how peers can influence the development of smoking behaviors by examining the findings of current research and two theories.


teensmoking.jpg Research on peer influence has found an association between peer influence and the occurrence of deviant behavior. During adolescence, peers are the source for experimentation with different substances which can lead to subsequent habitual use (Schneider, Coutts & Gruman, 2013). In addition, an association has been found in adolescent friendship. This association is adolescent smokers tend to befriend other smokers and non smokers tend to befriend non smokers (Kobus, 2003).  

The existence of this relationship needs to be interpreted with caution. Research has only demonstrated an association not causation, preventing the conclusion that peers cause smoking behavior. In addition, the studies that have been performed have been limited in scope, rely on self reports, and do not examine friendship patterns and changes over time (Kobus, 2003). Despite the multiple replications of the findings that peer influences are related to smoking behavior, the factors that influence this result have yet to be determined.

There are two theories that can provide explanations for the development of smoking behavior from peer influences. These theories help provide an understanding of the acquisition of smoking behavior and in the development of interventions. The first theory is social learning theory, which postulates that behaviors are developed though modeling from family, peers, media, and other social sources (Kobus, 2003). Adolescents spend an increasing amount of their time with peers compared to parents. The higher level of exposure results in adolescents being more likely to imitate peers who have modeled positive rewards from smoking. Adolescents will continue to imitate the behavior as long as their peers demonstrate positive rewards from participation.  

Primary socialization theory provides another explanation for how peers influence adolescents to participate in smoking behavior. Primary socialization theory proposes that norms regarding behavior are transmitted through social sources. The primary social sources are family and peers. These social sources combine with individual factors (i.e. personality) to increase the likelihood of participating in a behavior (Kobus, 2003). In terms of smoking, peers are the major source of norms regarding smoking. The norms transmitted about smoking by peers combine with the adolescent's individual factors (i.e. sensation seeking) to produce smoking behavior.

Research has demonstrated that peer influence is associated with the development of smoking behavior during adolescence. The research that has been performed in this area has only been correlational, limiting the conclusion that can be drawn from the findings. In addition, the research has been limited in uncovering the reasons for why peers influence smoking behavior. Social learning theory and primary socialization theory provide two explanations for why peers influence adolescent smoking behavior and present areas for further research and possible intervention development to prevent adolescent smoking behavior.





Kobus, K. (2003). Peers and adolescent smoking. Addiction, 98(s1),

             37-55. Retrieved from  





Ottone, V. (Photographer). (2009). Portrait#119-perine/mallory-

              friendly smoking.

              [Web Photo]. Retrieved from



Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2013). Applied

              social psychology,

              understanding and addressing social and practical problems.

              (2nd ed., pp.

     165-190). Sage Publications, Inc.


The lung fight ahead: Surgeon general issues alarming new stats on

             teen smoking,

             urges bans(2012, March 09). Retrieved from

      http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/03/09/030912- news-teen- 



Additional Resources:


Mayo Clinic steps on preventing adolescent smoking:




Center of Disease Control Facts and Information about Smoking:





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