Archive for the ‘Psychology’ tag
Researching psychology on second thoughts will not take me out of my comfort and consequently I would learn little. I am therefore now looking into game theory. I first came across it while watching Adam Curtis’ iconoclastic film The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom . It is a fascinating theory, which attempts, in a way analogous to quantum physics, to connect the large to the very small. It has something to say about many fields of knowledge from the inner workings of our minds to the behaviour of nation states. For example, in his film Curtis describes how game theory influenced America’s Cold War strategy and contributed to R.D. Laing’s understanding of the causes of mental illness.
This is from Wikipedia:
Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics that is used in the social sciences, most notably in economics, as well as in biology (particularly evolutionary biology and ecology), engineering, political science, international relations, computer science, and philosophy. Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behaviour in strategic situations, or games, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others (Myerson, 1991).
My only problem now is limiting myself to two disciplines only.
A Guide to Game Theory by Fiona Carmichael
I’m intrigued by the concept of ‘taking part’, or rather what makes people do so and what makes the participation grow into a mass participation, movement. I am however, not really concerned in this instance with political factors, as such.
For certain this is a well trodden path, but drawing on Sociology and Psychology as it must, it is certainly new to me. I have never having formally studied Sociology and last touched Psychology at A’level.
Therefore, I feel that these subjects are both sufficiently new and distant to warrant investigation.
Particularly of interest are the necessary factors that a movement must possess, in order to move from the underground to the overground.
Multiple studies of mass movements, will have investigated peer pressure, elements of conformity, the necessary perceived benefits and advantages, as well as other influences that must combine, for crowd behaviour to succeed. Conversely, I would like to look into that which might be absent when such ‘crowds’ fail.
I think there’s something here that is of interest. However, there’s an element of it that doesn’t quite ring right, as far as the idea is concerned. Plainly, I’m wondering if it appears ‘weak’ as an attempted combination.
I’m definitely out of date with my reading: Many searches against this topic (Crowds/Popular movements) throw up politics and revolution. In order to filter these for Sociological and Psychological factors, whilst avoiding purely classical Marxist interpretation, further investigations will have to take place (by w/e Nov 7th).
1) The tipping point : how little things can make a big difference
Author :Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-
2) The wisdom of crowds [electronic resource] : why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations 1st ed.
Author: Surowiecki, James, 1967
I knew I wanted to look at Economics and Psychology (as I’ve always been interested in them but never really had to opportunity to ‘formally’ study them’) and have decided that I’m going to pin my research on the issue of online reputation. Although my thoughts are still rather immature at this stage, I’m really interested in how individuals in web communities can actively develop and project their reputations in order to influence others, be in a position to set agendas or simply ‘stand out’ from the crowd. An example would be the underground extremist forum. In the absence of a formal ‘feedback mechanism’, such as that employed by eBay, how do users become ‘leaders’? Is it simply the amount of time they spend in the forum (and their related post count), or are other, more subtle factors at play? And, if there is, is there any kind of ‘blueprint for success’ that can be developed? Alongside this i’d also like to explore how companies, who are operating in an altogether more ‘legitimate’ environment, tackle the same issue. What are their strategies for establishing online reputation with consumers, and positioning themselves as pre-eminent in their field? Are there any parallels between the forum user and the fortune 500?
While i think the tie in with psychology is reasonably clear, the economics link is possibly somewhat more tenuous. I think exploring the concept of social capital and its relative worth could prove fruitful in the company example, but whether or not it will have any relevance to the forum user I’m not at this stage clear. It could be the case that i have to abandon economics in favour of sociology once i get a bit further in with my reading, but for now I’m going to keep my fingers crossed i can find enough linkages to make the exploration worthwhile.
My current reading list is as such focused on economics:
Economics, Parkin, Powell & Matthews (Seventh Edition, 2008)
The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, Thaler, 1994
Liquid Love, Bauman, 2003
The growth of the Internet presents a series of new challenges to both individuals and society as a whole. Cybercrime refers to an array of diverse, illegal, illicit activities that all share one thing in common – the environment in which they take place – ‘cyberspace.’
After much consideration the two disciplines that I have decided to examine are Criminology and Psychology. After exploring the underlying principles of both these disciplines, I hope to conclude whether they support each other or conflict with regards to the issue of cybercrime. Similarly, I will also take into account the challenges that cybercrime presents to each discipline, and conclude whether these perspectives offer any solutions to the problem.
As these are both disciplines I have never studied before I am going to look at reading undergraduate text books and basic introductory books as recommended by my peers. I have decided to start my research on criminology by reading the following books:
The Oxford Handbook of Criminology by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, and Robert Reiner
An Introduction to Criminological Theory by Roger Hopkins Burke.
For the physiology part of my review I am going to be using the books listed below:
Basic Psychology by Henry Gleitman et al.
The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace
Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behaviour by Dennis Coon and John Mitterer
I have also come across the following book which I will use to do some background reading on the issue of cybercrime :
Cybercrime and Society by Majid Yar
It won’t be a surprise to anyone who sat in that class when we discussed our chosen topic that I found choosing really difficult. My problem fundamentally stemmed from one basic question: How can I examine A (the topic) through B and C (Disciplines 1 and 2) when I have no prior knowledge on any of them? Add then to that the fact you’d hope the topics or disciplines had at least some relevance to something you might want to do in the future, or even just tickle your fancy…at least long enough for you not to immediately lose interest in all three. I was also afraid of my topic being too (for lack of a better word) ambitious, that the perspectives I was hoping to look at the topic from where too specialist or too wide, and I wouldn’t get a clear idea of anything. Yes, yes, that’s right, in other words, I was afraid of failing spectacularly.
After not-so-much brainstorming and much more just blurting out half-baked ideas, I have made the decision to go with a topic that I am very excited about. The two disciplines that I’m going to dip into are Psychology and AI. I’ve started doing some preliminary reading but nothing that I would confidently add to the bibliography as of yet…The most promising leads are from the seminar on Cognition and the Semantic Web I attended at Soton.ac.uk before term started, as well as some of the material we covered with Craig in his “Psychology 101″ session last week in the coffee room. Having read some of the other blog posts as well, I’m hoping to chat to some of you in the next couple of days.
I have chosen Identity as my issue to study, and will examine this from a psychological and (socio-cultural) anthropological perspective. I am interested in the effect that the Web can have on different cultures and different people, so I think these two disciplines fit nicely with that interest and will hopefully build up a solid background in part of a wide area that I am keen on studying for my dissertation. The two disciplines should allow me to contrast what psychology says about the identity of the individual, with the theories of anthropology regarding the formation of cultural identity.
I will begin by reading the basic textbooks in each area:
- Handbook of Self and Identity by Leary, M and Tangney, P
- The Self by Sedikides, C
- Cultural Anthropology A Contemporary Perspective by Keesing, R and Strathern, A
- Small places, large issues : an introduction to social and cultural anthropology by Eriksen, T
Hopefully these will be a good start and direct me to other important books in this area!
Given the fact it helps understand so many of the issues I am interested in it is very difficult for me to avoid sociology. For alternatives, I am thinking about psychology/social psychology/neural psychology/biology. I need an issue that requires different explanations from these fields. Addiction, for example is understood as a biological phenomenon but it also needs certain environmental conditions before it escalates. I am sceptical about claims that overuse of the web can somehow alter the chemistry or structure of the brain. Therefore, I am also interested in investigating neural plasticity. This would give me an entry point into neural psychology however; it is hard to think of another discipline that would intersect this research. Perhaps a telescopic view would understand why this issue is given any attention at all. I.e. why does the media endorse and thrive on such stories?
This last blog post is purely anecdotal, and discussion some of the concepts uncovered as part of the IDR.
Interestingly one thing that is often spoken about in organisations is team-work. I had hoped to include a small paragraph about why organisations are keen to promote good team work and value members or employees with good team work skills. I couldn’t find any good chapters from either psychology or sociology to define it or discuss the mechanisms involved. This led to my own late realisation (rather than any serendipitous discovery) that teamwork is really a buzz word, an undefined concept, that has gained some traction. Fortunately from all reading I have done so far as part of this module I can formulate some of hypothesis for mechanisms behind ‘team work’.
The reasons for group of individuals working as part of a team can be explained using social psychology terms like goal theory, social facilitation and emotions. Even homeostatic theory could arguably be involved as humans can have a daily optimum level of contact or communication with others that they wish to fulfill. So, the next time you are asked at an interview or performance evaluation about what you understand by team work you can say that ‘team work is a complex social phenomenon in which individuals co-operate during activities in order to achieve certain goals, as well as fulfil a certain required level of some personal need, such as to communicate with others. Also, team work is product of social facilitation as it often causes individuals to become more involved and emotional about an activity because they are in the presence of others.’
Returning to why this is relevant for understanding groups, I had initially wanted to look at group behaviour and how it affects outputs. It now appears that fundamentals from sociology and psychology of human behaviour are base of most of the behaviours involved in groups. Applying abstract labels such as team-work can be a useful term to categorise the behaviour of a group working as a team, but looking at fundamentals is essential to understand actions of individuals working as part of a group.
A often cited experiment for understanding group behaviour, especially in relation to prejudice and conflict resolution is the
Robbers’ Cave’s experiment. This involved two groups, each of which were allowed to form a group identity and spend time engaged in some cooperative activities within their group. Later, both groups were entered to directly compete for prizes. Conflicts then quickly developed between the groups after losing rounds of the competition. Conflict resolution, and a reduction in intra and inter group prejudices was achieved by designing co-operative activities where the goals could only be achieved through co-operation of both groups.
I hope you enjoyed the blog posts, the final written report will contain the best of the blog posts plus some other ideas, and the what conclusions I have came to when comparing fundamental information about groups offline to online groups.
No discourse on social theory of social groups would be complete without mentioning Mark Granovetter who did some fascinating network analysis and published his findings displaying the presence of weak ties, structural holes in organisations. Structural holes in particular explain how someone can become an unelected leader of a group if they hold a position in which they are the main conduit for which information can flow between separate parts of groups or between groups.
I have been reading ‘Theories of Communication Networks’, Noshir Contractor and Peter Monge (2003) a more complex book that references fundamentals from sociology, psychology, maths and computer science, that describes and help the reader understand complex communication networks involving large groups of people. It has become more and more apparent during my reading that it is increasingly difficult to look at a subject from just two disciplines, in my case, sociology and psychology. Some fundamentals from other subjects like maths, computer science, or philosophy are necessary so as not to have a one sided, or in this case two dimensional, view, thus highlighting the multi-disciplinary nature of web science topics. For the IDR though I have found ample material in ‘Theories of Communication Networks’ from sociology and psychology to describe groups and the communication mechanisms within them:
There are 2 branches of theories as to how groups internal behaviour can be modelled. These are:
- homophily theories – where individuals select others to communicate with who are similar to themselves.
- contagion theories – are based on the assumption that exposure to networks (groups) increase the likelihood that individuals are influenced by others and will then develop beliefs, attitudes and assumptions similar to those of others in their network.
These two theories are very useful for describing how groups form, and how individuals in groups are influenced.
Crowd psychology is one of the subclasses of social psychology, and social science books are interested in this aspect of psychology as it concerns how sudden and large scale social changers can be brought about because of large groups of people. There are a lot of interesting theories put forward over the past century about how large groups of people (crowds) behave, by psychologists such as those by Carl Jung who coined the term ‘Collective Unconscious” that described a shared, universal psychic system identical in all individuals. Many people since Jung then have expanded this concept, such as blogger and researcher Kevin Kelly, who describes many Internet groups starting to exhibit a ‘Hive mind’. Sigmund Freud also has a theory known as his ‘Crowd behaviour theory’ that describes that people who are in a crowd act differently towards people than those who are thinking individually.
One of the most interesting and often challenged theory of modern day sociology is the theory of cognitive limit for the maximum number of people in a person can have a inter-personal relationship. In 1992, Dunbar published a theory that the neocortex size of the brain was a constraint on group size in primates. Dunbar predicted that human cognitive limit for relationships was 150 based on the size of the human neocortex. This is known as the Dunbar Number and is now widely referenced and cited, despite how Dunbar based his observations on primates other than humans along with information about human network sizes in less developed countries. Dunbar’s methodology appears to have observed that tribal village sizes, military units, company sizes average around 150. In light of this perhaps humans have hard wired limits in their brains, limiting the number of individuals they can have interpersonal relationships with – and similarly the number of groups they can participate actively in. Thus even the most highly social individuals, or those with strong psychological desires such as goal theories or homeostatic drives to participate in groups, will only be able to network effectively with fixed amount of people. Thus social and psychological desires for group participation come up against physical hard limits if Dunbar’s Number theory based on neocortex size is correct. It shows how social research on primate groups, along with some statistical and network analysis, can lead to interesting extrapolations of the limitations of human mind, and the limitations of relationships within a social group.
This post builds on what was discovered in last blog, and will be last using material from Social Psychology 5th edition, S. Brehm. It was a worthy texbook that contained plenty of background theory on groups but I have exhausted all material relevant to my review. I would like to thank Cathy Pope for taking the time to comment on my posts as it helped me perceive my reading and work from another point of view, and refocused me to task at hand. Reading the comments on others work helped me understand the nature of the IDR assignment, and its starting to make a lot more sense.
This is a longer post than usual as I wont be blogging over next week. If you only have time for quick read, you can skip right on down to the end to a nice paragraph titled “summary and conclusions” which sums up the blog posting and has some evaluation. For all others with time and some interest you will gain more by reading the whole blog posting.
On to main part of my reading for this week:
Joining a group and group development: Newcomers usually go through a period of assimilation and model their behaviour on established members, while the group accommodates the newcomer. Bruce Tuckman (1965, 1977) proposed five stages of group development:
1. Forming – group members orient themselves towards the group.
2. Storming – members try to influence the group according to their needs.
3. Norming – members try to reconcile the conflicts produced by storming.
4. Performing – members perform and maximise group’s performance
5. Adjourning – members disengage from the group.
Other theories of group development do exist however. Connie Gersick (1988, 1994) observed that groups tend to operate in series of starts and stops rather than through uniform stages. Perhaps online groups could help provide primary research material to revisit group development theories as the cost of recording group activities and developments is lower than in offline groups, and theories of Tuckman or Gersick could be given more authority or challenged.
According to Forsyth 1990, all groups can be described in terms of three components: roles, norms and cohesiveness. Robert Bales, 1958 proposed two fundamental roles that have yet to be disproved. An instrumental role is one that helps a group achieve its tasks, and an expressive role gives emotional support and keeps moral high. Roles can be formal or informal and the same person can fill each role, however roles that are ambiguous or cause conflict can lead to stress and loss of productivity.
In online groups there are often a number of different formal roles, that could be those of users, administrators and moderators. Although the title of each may imply a different role, keeping Roberts Bales idea of fundamental roles in mind it can be argued that membership doesn’t define the role. Moderators, administrators or users can each perform instrumental or expressive roles, or a combination of the two, within a group. (My own social categorisation here is open to comments – perhaps others see different roles in online groups other than my simple ‘mods, admins and users’, if you do have a different view please leave a comment at end.)
Norms establish rules and code of conduct group members should conform to. Rules can be informal or formal.
Cohesiveness refers to the forces on a group that push its members closer together. They can be internal such as group pride, number and intensity of interaction or external such as an unusual environment or threats from other groups. Cohesiveness and group performance are causally related and either can influence the other. Positive norms can improve cohesiveness and lead to increased group performance, however negative norms coupled with high cohesiveness can lead to decreased group performance. Both offline and online groups should strive to promote positive norms and improved cohesiveness if better group performance is to be realised.
In prior blog postings it was noted that a group was two or more persons perceived as related because of their interactions over time, membership within a social category or a shared fate. Using that definition, we know that humans perceive and sort objects in the world around them into groups. The process of people sorting each other into groups is known as social categorization. People often use their perceived groupings to make inferences about all group members. This is one of the formative causes for stereotyping. People tend to overestimate the differences between groups and underestimated the differences within groups.
The groups that a person identifies with are called ingroups, and a group outside of these are called outgroups. The consequence of perceiving the world as “us” and “them” leads to the phenomenon of the outgroup homogeneity effect. This effect describes how perceivers assume greater similarity between members of outgroups than between members their own groups, to the extent that members of outgroups are perceived as homogenous. One of the reasons for this is that people do not often notice subtle differences in outgroups as there is little contact with them. The media plays a big role in how we categorize social groups and people learn stereotypes through group norms, role models and their peers.
Culture can play a part in ingroup – outgroup distinctions. People from collectivist cultures often perceive ingroup homogeneity more strongly than those from individualistic cultures. Online groups are not limited by geographical boundaries and can have large numbers of members from both collectivist cultures and individual. An open question could ask how this situation affects group dynamics where some group members perceive homogeneity and others value the differences? It may be the case that endurance of online groups with members of different cultures depends heavily on conformity and rules, as otherwise different perceptions would affect cohesion and group performance adversely.
Summary and conclusions
I particularly liked the terminology of ingroups and outgroups and the definitions from the book I read last week. It put into words things myself and probably others perceive and know but never give it a name. If you have ever read or seen, Lord of the Flies or even the popular American series ‘Lost’, or at very least supported a football club, you will be familiar with the idea of “us” and “them”. Now you know it is about ingroups and outgroups, the reasons behind this categorisation, and that probably everyone makes social categorisations everyday.