Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category
This week I took a step back from the disciplines I have been studying and approached some literature on social media. My intention was not to become a social media expert but instead to approach the topic from the perspective of both sociology and politics. I read from one more technical textbook which examined both the structural nature and impact of networks within society; The Network Society by van Dijk, and one more narratively structured book centring on the beginnings, development and impact of the social media giant Facebook; The Facebook Effect by Kirkpatrick. Though both disciplines have a lot to say about each of the books I felt that certain topics and certain disciplines lent themselves well to providing comment on particular issues.
Structure and Sociology
The network society starts as a technically focused book and develops into an interesting sociological account of the impact of networks on everything from economics to social policy. With particular relation to the topics of social networking are the discussions of culture and psychology.
The book outlines a variety of perspectives on the cultural impact of networks and social media. This raises a common theme from the sociological literature with regards to technological v.s. social determinism i.e. whether peoples ‘use’ or technologies ‘structure’ and ‘purpose’ (if we take it to have explicit purpose) drives network development.
Equally, further points can be made with regard to the nature of modernity and social media; each country and even culture modernising at different rates and in different ways. It is not necessarily clear from the text how these interactions of different varieties of social media and/or what we might call the interaction of more ‘developed’ systems/networks have within the context of society. There is plenty of opportunity for interdisciplinarity here with both the social and political nature of Marxism offering some critiques within this context; in particular Weberian Neo-Marxism and it’s perspectivism.
Narrative and Politics
The Facebook effect documents the history of the site and it’s now famous owners. It would be impossible not to draw similarities between the formative processes which the site underwent and politics at large. Whether it be the questionable tactics used to obtain user informations paralleled with government spying for the “greater good” or the internal struggles between the site owners paralleled with every internal political dispute ever; the story of Facebook is undoubtedly one rife with politics. As is the case within the political discipline, Kirkpatrick does a fantastic job of historically recounting these ‘political’ struggles and disagreements even without explicit intention (though perhaps a little editorialised).
But, the book highlights an important feature of social networks and of politics often ignored on both accounts: politics (and Facebook) is not just about the relationship between those at the top and those at the bottom but with every individual at each level and everyone else. This of course provides substantial room for the discussion of the sociological factors that govern such complex interpersonal relationships.
Having reached this point in my reading I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the basics of each discipline along with the topic I have chosen. My intention for the coming week is to return to my notes first and plan some aspects of my accounts of each discipline. When this process is complete the areas I find to be lacking in depth shall be the ones that are the subject of my further reading to come.
The opportunities that marketers are provided with in cyberspace have led them to seek means to facilitate a two-way communication with consumers aiming at building a relationship of trust with them. Given that marketing is much broader than selling as it encompasses the entire business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view, the ability of marketers to glean the types of information needed often depends on consumer’s willingness to volunteer such information.
This essay aims to examine to what extent consumers’ behaviour in cyberspace differs from the ‘real-world’ behaviour and whether concerns about privacy as well as scepticism about how marketers use data prevent consumers from disclosing personal information. The fact that marketing is based on the study of the psychological characteristics of consumers who engage in voluntary self-disclosure, combined with the application of psychological theories and techniques to marketing, indicate the close relationship between these two disciplines.
In order to unfold the different approaches on the abovementioned issue, I decided to first get myself familiar with the basic concepts and techniques of psychology. Psychology is both an applied and academic field that studies the human mind and behaviour. Research in psychology seeks to describe human thought and behaviour, explain why these behaviours occur, predict how, why and when these behaviours will occur again in the future and modify and improve behaviours to better the lives of individuals and society as a whole. There are three types of research methods, causal, descriptive and rational, while psychologists use a range of techniques including naturalistic observation, experiments, case studies and questionnaires. Topics and questions in psychology can be looked at in a number of different ways; some of the major perspectives in psychology include the biological, cognitive, behavioural, evolutionary, humanistic perspective.
Given that the web has created a new type of society where the presence of other human beings is implied rather than actual, I particularly focused my interest on the discipline of Social Psychology which aims to understand and explain the impact of the social environment on the thought, feeling and behaviour of individuals. A basic concept of social psychology that describes our everyday interactions is the concept of self-disclosure which is defined as ‘the voluntary making available of information about one’s self that would not ordinarily be accessible to the other at that moment.’
Self-disclosure has received considerable attention from consumer psychologists as it plays a vital role in relationship development and maintenance. Although self-disclosure research has shown that people are reluctant to divulge information about themselves, one notable exception to this rule involves the norm of reciprocity which refers to the tendency for recipients to match the level of intimacy in the disclosure they return with the level of intimacy in the disclosure they receive; people are more likely to engage in self-disclosure if they first become the recipients of such disclosures from their conversational partners. A few researchers have suggested that consumers interact with the source of electronic communications in the same way they interact with other people; therefore reciprocity could make consumers more involved in self-disclosure even in cyberspace. Thus, theoretically, in order to trigger the reciprocity principle, a company would first have to reveal some information about itself to the consumer.
Botha, B., Strydom, J., Brink, A. (2004) Introduction to Marketing. South Africa: Juta and Co Ltd
Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: Science and practice. New York: HarperCollins.
Derlega,V. J.,& Chaikin, A. L. (1977). ‘Privacy and self-disclosure in social relationships’. Journal of Social Issues, 33, pp. 102–115
Gross, R. (2010) Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour. London: Hodder Education
Hill, C. T., & Stull, D. E. (1982). ‘Disclosure reciprocity: Conceptual and measurement
Issues’. Social Psychology Quarterly, 45, pp. 238-244
Holtgraves,T. (1990). The language of self-disclosure. In H. Giles & W. P. Robinson (Eds.), Handbook of language and social psychology. Chichester, U.K.: John Wiley
Joinson, A.N. (2001). ‘Self-disclosure in computer-mediated communication: The role of selfawareness and visual anonymity’. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, pp. 177–192
Over the last few weeks, I have learned much about social cognitive, social identity, social representations, and discursive perspectives. In particular, I have looked further into social perception, attitudes, self and identity. I have found it very interesting to see how within the same topics, different models coexist to describe the same thing. In my previous posts, I have also tried to highlight the common ground as well as the differences between these models.
As I began reading, it became clear to me that the so-called individual cannot be properly and fully understood in abstract isolation from the social. Even in the most minimal of social groups constructed in the laboratory, the group has meaning because of the network of social relationships in which participants are implicated.
I have also come to conclusion that humans do actively construct their own social environment. Exactly how this is done, people seem to differ in their own opinion. Some resting on a realist philosophy of science suggests that it is possible to build a theoretical knowledge of the world which resembles truth. They assert that some theoretical accounts can be judged to be more true than others. However the discursive perspective does not accept that view, and differences between different theoretical accounts arbitrated, by recourse was to empirical data. Rather, one account prevails over another because of the attitude of the social and political processes of negotiating shared understandings of the world, not because of its greater truth value.
I cannot decide between the two viewpoints. However, what is clear to me is that social psychology cannot proceed without all thorough and more adequate analysis of the truth and reality. The bottom line from me is, it may well be the case that one theoretical or empirical account of the social issue prevails because of the social and political processes of negotiating shared understanding rather than because of the ability of data, but that date are themselves are also an important part of the way in which understandings are negotiated.
This week I have been reading around the subject of self and identity, which is concerned with how the everyday concept of self has been theorised in social psychology.
Social cognitive models describe self as a piece of knowledge and considers how particular kinds of self representation are assessed in different situations. There seems to be a lengthy discussion on the ideal and the ought self as opposed to the actual self. Discrepancies between the ideal and the actual or the ought and the actual are said to be responsible for the positive or negative effects on self-esteem. The plan is that people have for achieving this eternity of cells in the future, as well stay current discrepancies from them, are considered to be important contributors to people’s experience of themselves in the present. In addition, it is noted that people engage in processes of self-evaluation and self regulation, the assessment of how one is doing compared to others, and intentional efforts to modify aspects of one’s self. All these models have something to do with the ways in which the knowledge that people have about themselves becomes a relevant in particular circumstances, and how these guides are their behaviour accordingly.
On the other hand, social identity as a contrasting model considers how the social groups of which we are members impact on our sense of self. According to this model, all experiences in children live Kurds continuously from interpersonal to intergroup interaction. It is believed that there is the further we move towards the intergroup situation, the more depersonalise our sense of self becomes. In other words, we begin to think of ourselves more and more in terms of those characteristics that we share with other group members. This in turn is closely linked to personal attitudes and perception of group identity.
This new model has led to further research into ways that people share representations of self within the groups. In particular, they consider the ways in which socially shared representations of the self and of the social groups that contribute to one’s sense of identity shape the context within which people develop their self concepts. Of course, individuals may differ in the extent to which elements of particular social representations are incorporated into their self concepts, the importance of social representations in forming a shorter and vermin surrounding these selves means that social representations cannot be reduced to individual difference variables.
Finally, I have touched on the work of social constructionist. Some seem to believe that the conditions of contemporary life are undermining the notion of an integrated and stable self. However, others have also argued that the constructed the nature of the self is being reviewed in the ordinary experiences of everyday life, and is provoking the prices as the ontological basis of cells apparently unravels. Therefore, the challenge for people in this world is to construct a sense of identity which does not require the self to be a faithful reflection of inner capacities and qualities but which, rather, sees the self as a constructed achievement of relational social life.
This is my last reading based post on this blog. In view of the time left, my next blog will focus on summarising and recollecting what I have learned so far, and will begin to move towards a synthesis version of all the information presented. In particular, these will be discussed or analysed in relation to E learning.
Am trying to focus back in on my original assertion about what I was going to study. This was whether there are differences between subjects and their degree of separation from the www, and their primary ontologies. Although I was going to use economics and psychology or perhaps sociology and their attendant ontologies to create a spotlight with which to examine this question, this would still involve looking at the ontologies of a range of other subjects.
I was going to use economics as a focus, as I think it perhaps represents something that might be wrong with how we talk about knowledge in general and reasons for studying, working together, collaborating – ultimately: trust.
A lot of work that we do is tied into research programs that are underwritten by governments as being part of some economic promise. For example, the last Labour government’s education policy was predicated partly on the premise (stemming from research in the 1950s that re-emerged in the 1970s (need to find and cite)) that countries with a more highly educated population tend to do better economically. Thus following Tomlinson’s recommendations, the Diploma system was introduced, only partially, which in fact had the consequence of introducing a system that did the opposite of what he had intended.
This however, being loosely accepted: that the more highly educated a population is, the more wealthy their country, it would seem to follow that it makes sense to make use of emerging technologies to help to educate this population. There is a body of research on this – how technology can be ubiquitous; it can get to the places that teachers can’t, and can help to make learning something that is always ‘on’.
There are actually so many problems with these assertions that it would take a whole other blog post, or perhaps even, essay, or perhaps even, thesis to go into them – but I’m happy to accept that 1) learning is basically a Good Thing and that 2) technology can help to mediate it. I might perhaps then reluctantly accept that it’s possible that if you have a lot of learning, you might end up creating more wealth for your country, however some of the data for this is possibly correlative rather than strongly causal.
But to get back to my original question, it is whether there might be said to be an economics of ontologies? Could we find out whether there are some subjects that lend themselves, via their objects of knowledge to be shared and studied on the web? And that therefore are more accessible and therefore might end up generating more money?
It seems at first glance, that physics might be one of these subjects. Physics research can be large scale and tend to be carried out by large communities who share resources. Is there something about the nature of physics that makes people more likely to collaborate? Are they perhaps true seekers after knowledge who are less motivated by economics / reward than say, chemists? (Apologies to all you pioneering, truth-seeking chemists out there.) Would this then mean that by the very nature of a subject, if it attracts more people who care more about discovery, or truth, then they may well as a result, collaborate more, and could easily use technology in order to do this, but they care less about creating wealth, so that all web-based subjects that can easily or practically use the web to be studied are never going to be worth funding by governments who only care about short-term goals?
This seems on the face of it, rather facile, but it does intersect with another debate about why there still seem to be less girls studying physics, and in general, science subjects. (This debate appears worldwide, but I shall for now confine myself to the UK.) There was recently some speculation about whether the Big Bang Theory was attracting more people to the subject, but this generated some scathing responses from researchers who had determined that take up of physics was in fact governed by early influences.
The cognitive miser model of social perception views people as using as little processing capacity as possible and relying on assumptions and expectations. The set of assumptions and expectations about something, e.g. people who are heavily tattooed, is sometimes called a schema. I think we all know there is a lot to this, but it does overstate the case and recent research in social psychology (Ruscher at al, 2000) has stressed the importance of motivation in determining the extent to which we are cognitive misers.
This is a vital concept if we are to understand how people will react to information we provide via the web. We have to be wary of using our schema and our own motivations to interpret what we see and try to understand the likely schema and motivations of potential audiences. If we provide information on MMR and autism then it is not sufficient to give people the facts. We need to understand who the target audience is and “where they are coming from”. Very likely we have to provide the motivation to stop them relying on prior schema and become less like cognitive misers.
The web as a medium can be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity in this respect. The “cues-filtered out” model implies that we may have less opportunity to understand the schema of our audience and motivate them. On the other hand, unlike say television, the web does give the opportunity to interact and customise the way information is presented. So at least there is the potential to address a large audience in a customised way.
After much havering I have settled on Social Psychology as my second discipline (which is where I started). One important reason is that Gemma has lent me a really good textbook! Also it is extremely relevant. I contemplated Film Studies and Ecology because I wanted to try something out of the ordinary – but Film Studies turns out to be a bit of a non-subject and Ecology (although fascinating) was just too hard to relate to my research question.
Social Psychology seems to resonate in all sorts of ways.
I am primarily interested in scientists public engagement with science and over the last couple of weeks this has become a bit more precise – how can the scientific community use the web to help non-experts distinguish good science from non-science.
Social psychology hits because:
1) Subject matter – it studies (among other things) how people form opinions and attitudes and how they communicate
2) Methodology – social psychology combines qualitative and quantitative methods in a way I find convincing. In particular it recognises the primacy of the experiment as a method and that with only qualitative data you have ideas but not evidence.
3) It is an example – it is itself a science which needs undertake public engagement and differentiate science from non-science. In fact it is more prone than most sciences to misinterpretation.
So Social Psychology here we go.
(Note: I am posting this in advance to compensate for the fact that I will be attending a 2-day conference later this week and may not be able to contribute to the blog according to the normal schedule. In other words, I have done double reading this week and I am posting this one week in advance.)
Social perception starts off with very simple ideas. To start with, these theoretical model says people perceive the world with categorised ideas, which is known as schema. These schemas include categories for people, self, events, and roles. These schemas are fairly self-explanatory. For example, person schemas contain all the abstract conceptual models of personality trades or person prototypes that allows a person to categorise and make conclusions from past experience of interacting with other people who are in this category. A typical statement will be, ‘ so you are a farmer, I have met a farmer before and he was like these are like that ’.
Regarding self-schemas, is how we look at ourselves, our past experience, and how we relate to the world around us. Event schemas is concerned with the sequential organisation of events in everyday activities. These would include anticipating events, setting aims and objectives, and making plans. Finally, role schemas are concerned with behaviour and traits of people with specific rule positions in society.
Schemas and stereotype and prejudice
This is an interesting concept. If fundamentally the way we process and understand the world is by categorisation and the use of schemas as suggested, then generalisation is unavoidable. For example, we may have a role schema for a senior medical consultant, or we may have a role schema for a young teenager. Each of these roles would have different characteristics and personalities, and likely as these characters are mentioned, each and everyone of us would have formed a picture of what we think these characters would look, dress, and behave. Under this understanding, stereotyping is both normal and necessary.
However, stereotyping is generally thought of negatively. For example, racism is a form of stereotyping. Discrimination of any kind has an element of stereotyping. Commonly, schoolchildren are taught not to judge a book by its cover so to speak. This creates a necessary conflict between theoretical models, human behaviour and generally excepted moral norms. The question is, does this mean we have to natural tendency to discriminate?
Fortunately, this is not always the case. It is argued that categorising in itself does not automatically mean discrimination. It is largely dependent on and the attitude of the individual towards members of the category. In other words, does it make any difference whether people are categorised according to age, gender or nationality? People are being put into categories all the time. In most cases, categorisation has not caused any problems. However, problems arise when unfair or even aggressive attitude is shown towards a particular group.
Take skin colour for an example. In a country where both the black and white mix well and see no distinction between themselves, skin colour categorisation has no problem. However, in countries where the blacks are seen as born to be slaves, categorisation becomes a problem. Or in a company where all the women are considered less capable and dedicated than their male colleagues, categorisation becomes a problem. Therefore, it is argued that attitudes is the determining factor.
I am thoroughly intrigued by the idea of schemas and perception and attitudes. I will be following this up and see what I can find about formation of attitudes.
Social cognition is all about the cognitive activities and processes in the context of social relationships. The broad categories in social cognition would include things like social perception, attitudes, attributions, self and identity, prejudice and ideology. In this blog, I will focus on the some of the theoretical foundations of social cognition. This will be followed by a separate post discussing some of the broad categories mentioned above.
There are several main ideas under cognitive models. One of which is how we can use metaphors to describe the cognitive processes. For example, these processes can be described as an information processor. Another metaphor also commonly used is a naive scientist model. Under this model, people I said to understand the world around them in the manner of a scientist. They make observations, to hypothesise, they observe again, and eventually coming to a conclusion. Although many other metaphors are also used, information processor and the naive scientist model are by far the most common.
Another approach is called perceptual cognitivism. Under this theory, nothing sensed by the person can be said to be true or absolute truth. Everything sensed by any person is a perception of reality. However, it is argued that given the enormous amount of stimulus around us, it will be impossible to process them all. Therefore, it was proposed that schemas exist to allow categorisation of different stimulus, which in turns allows the person to reduce the amount of processing. This is called mental representations.
Under identity theory, a distinction between personal identity and social identity is made. Fundamentally, personal identity is strictly personal and does not involve any other individuals. For example, statements such as ‘ I am hungry ’, ‘ I am hot ’ and ‘ I love swimming ’ are strictly rational and does not involve any other individuals. By contrast, statements such as ‘ I am Chinese ’and ‘ I am a web scientist ’ shows aspects of social identity. Social identity is concerned with how an individual views his or her own relationships with other members of the group.
It has been shown that where categorisation exist, typical expectation or stereotype within the category is often exaggerated while those that are counter stereotyped behaviour are often underestimated. It has also been known that depending on how the individual perceive he or she compares with the other members of the social group, he or she may evaluate him or herself differently.
I will be summarising what I have learned about social perception and attitudes in the next blog.
During the last week, I have continued reading the book “principles of cognitive psychology”. More specifically, I have focused on the chapters dealing with long and short-term memory including the study of forgetting. The theories themselves were quite interesting to read. However, since the book traces the different theories that were developed over time, I have found myself constantly struggling with new ideas and new theories all the time. This shift in believe of what is going on in our brain reminds me of our lectures on paradigms shift. Therefore, in this blog I will first of all summarise what I have read so far, and then discuss what I think of paradigms shift in the context of what I have read, followed by comparison with my own personal experience in the field of engineering. I will then conclude with a reflection on multidisciplinary research methods followed by plans for future reading.
Summary of cognitive psychology — long and short-term memory
Theories of short-term memory
One of the earlier models for short-term memory is called multi-store model. According to this model there are three types of memory store. They are sensory stores, short-term store, and long-term store. The sensory stores are modality specific, and hold information very briefly. The short-term store has very limited capacity. Information is lost from the store because of interference, diversion of attention, and decay. Evidence from brain-damaged patients supports the distinction between short-term and long-term memory stores. The memory stores differ with respect to temporal duration, storage capacity, and forgetting mechanism.
However, this model is thought to be oversimplified in its account of the unitary short-term and long-term stores, and the notion that access to long-term memory occurs only after information is processed in the short-term store. In addition, the role of rehearsal is also exaggerated.
In view of the shortcomings, a new theory was proposed — working memory. The working memory system consists of a central executive, a phonological loop, and a visuospatial sketchpad. Two tasks can be performed successfully together only when they use different components of the working memory system. A phonological loop consists of a passive phonological store and an articulatory process. Its primary function is to assist in the learning of new words. The visuospatial sketchpad consists of a visual cache and an inner scribe. It is possible that there are separate visual and spatial system rather than a single sketchpad. The central executive is involved in various functions such as switching of which revealed plans, time-sharing, selective attention, and temporary activation of long-term memory. There may be relatively separate verbal and spatial working memory systems. The working memory approach has the advantage over the multi-store model that it can be applied to most cognitive activities rather than only being of relevance to memory tasks.
Another interesting theory is the theory of levels of processing. According to this theory, long-term memory is better remembered when information is processed deeply or semantically at the time of learning. In addition, elaborate on this rehearsal improves long-term memory and maintenance rehearsal does not. Some evidence supports these theoretical assumptions. However, long-term memory depends on collaboration and distinctiveness of processing as well as on depth of processing. Long-term memory depends on the relevance of the stored information to the requirements of the memory test. The theory is more applicable to tests of explicit memory than to those of implicit memory. Finally, the theory provides a description rather than an explanation of certain memory phenomena. In an updated account of levels of processing theory, it was argued that depth of processing and transfer appropriate processing jointly determine long-term memory performance.
Theories of long-term memory
It has been argued that there is an important distinction between episodic and semantic memory. There is evidence from PET studies that Steve prefrontal cortex is much more involved in episodic memory and then in cemented memory. It remains unclear whether there is a fundamental distinction between episodic and cemented memory, in part because there are several similarities and interconnections between them. There is a major distinction between explicit and implicit memory. PET studies have reviewed that a rather different areas of the brain are activated in explicit and implicit memory tasks. There is increasing evidence that there are different types of implicit memory.
Theories of forgetting
The forgetting function is generally logarithmic with a few exceptions. The is evidence of a repression like repressors, and controversial evidence concerning recovered memories of childhood abuse. There is convincing evidence of the existence of proactive and retroactive interference. However, special conditions required for substantial interference effects to occur, and interference theory is relatively uninformative about the process involved in forgetting. Most of forgetting seems to be due to dependence, and is greater when the contextual information present at retrieval differs from the contextual information stored in memory.
Multidisciplinary issues: Paradigms shift
Overall, I have seen how one theory was proposed based on certain observations or experimentation results. It would appear that this theory stands as long as there are no contradictory observations proposed. That theory represents in the latest knowledge in the area of study. For example with short-term memory, the multi-store theory stood for a long time. However, with new information presented, new theories were proposed and the old ones replaced.
This cycle has happened quite a few times during my reading of this book. It is beginning to dawn on me that the nature of cognitive psychology is such that proposed theories can only be as it is theories. In other words, because we cannot open up the brain and start probing, we cannot be hundred percent sure how things work inside. Because of this very nature, we are forced to accept the theory that best represent our current knowledge and observations. Until such a time when a better model or theory is proposed, the older theory stands true.
This idea of paradigms shift just does not happen in the field of engineering. Therefore, this is a multidisciplinary issue. In engineering, we are predominantly concerned with creating a solution to a problem. It may be creating a new product, or improving the efficiency of a certain procedure. Whatever it may be, there will always be a final answer of right or wrong. For this reason, there is no such thing as paradigms shift.
For instance, the good old television may be using CRT whereas modern day TVs are probably LCD flatscreen. Just because there is a shift of consumer preference, designer preference and so on, the older theory still stands true. It is a case of preference, the old theory does not become wrong because of a preference shift. In the case of at least the part I have read in cognitive psychology, when the new theory replaces the old, the old is considered wrong, incomplete or un-usable. This is more than just a case of preference which is quite different to the field of engineering.
Having read that much of the book I have tried to scan read what is left. Since I realise that detailed information therein is not of interest, and the original purpose of reading this book to understand the typical research methods in cognitive psychology has been fulfilled, I have decided not to continue with this book.
Instead, I have picked up from one of the guest lecturers and interesting sub branch of cognitive psychology called social cognition. I am not too sure exactly what it is about yet. However, a glance through of the table of contents seems interesting. It covers theoretical foundations of the subject including social perception, attitudes, attributions, self and identity, prejudice, and ideology.
Since I am interested in the web and education, I think this book will help me to identify how and why people behave on the online education environment.