Today, I have finally been able to begin my ID study in earnest. I’ve been reading up on psychology – it’s history, the different strands within modern psychology, contemporary research methods and the application of some psychology ideas to modern dilemmas and issues.
Psychology is defined in the textbook I’m reading as “…the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes….” (p.5) but within that very broad definition there are a number of different perspectives. My question will have to focus on the Behavioural Perspective in the main, as it centres on ideas of behaviour being as “…a result of conditioning and reinforcement” (p.13), but it will also have to take account of Cognitive Perspective (a perspective that returns the focus to the Freudian-type realm of human mental processes such as reasoning, planning, decision making communication etc. and a Subjectivist Perspective. This returns the spotlight in human behaviour, but argues that behaviour is a function of the world as it is perceived by the individual, not the objective world.
The textbook suggests that modern psychology approaches can be thought of in terms of Social (and Personality) Psychology, and Cultural Psychology. Both focus on the behaviour of individuals, groups and the social relationships between group members, beliefs etc. and “…how behaviours are influenced by the real or imagined presence of others” (p.17). Cultural Psychology takes into account the differing cultural backgrounds of individuals and/or groups.
Psychological research is carried out in a variety of different ways. Each starts with an hypothesis which is used to test a theory or theories. There are different ways of doing this, which can and often are, combined. Conducting a straightforward experiment is one way, although there are some hypotheses that cannot be tested this way and rely on other methods such as correlation and causation, observation, surveys and case histories. The fact is , humans are, err, human. Nevertheless, the research adheres to scientific methods so that the data collected is unbiased and reliable.
Finally, I went back through the BBC Radio 4 series 1-4 of The Human Zoo to see if there were any programmes that had explored areas similar to the one I am interested in – the on-line abuse of a defined social group. I was also looking for names of academics and researchers to explore for useful papers and publications. Series 1, episode 4 focused on ‘group-think’ which may be useful, using the idea that a group of people making a decision about, say, the value of a painting, are more likely to be wildly over-optimistic – and wrong – in their valuation than an individual would be. This was referred to as ‘plaralistic ignorance’. Could this have implications for male-gendered profiles/avatars in the gaming community ‘upping the ante’ with the comments made to females? Is it the effect of being in a crowd – a ‘mob mentality’?
Episode 5 may also be relevant. It was looking at how individuals (the example given was Lance Armstrong, among others) go from a small misdemeanour to experiencing public disgrace and humiliation and/or prison. The reason this doesn’t happen, which was put forward by Dr Kate Cross, was ‘social learning’. We constantly observe our moral environment to avoid the risk of experiencing ‘shame’ if we make a poor judgement.
A name which was cited in several programmes was that of Dan Ariely (researcher in Behavioural Economics) , and of course the co-presenter of the programme is Professor Nick Chater, who also hosted the Futurelearn MOOC on psychology.