Introduction to Social Psychology
Everybody has heard of peer pressure, but most people argue that they are not affected by it, or at least not affected as ‘most people.’ The truth is, we are all affected by the people we interact with, many of whom we don’t even know personally. Our social environments play a significant role in how we view ourselves, and conversely, how we see ourselves impacts our view of the world.
Social psychology is about understanding individual behavior in a social context.
Baron, Byrne & Suls (1989) define social psychology as ….
‘the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior in social situations’ (p. 6).
It therefore looks at human behavior as influenced by other people and the social context in which this occurs.
Social psychologists therefore deal with the factors that lead us to behave in a given way in the presence of others, and look at the conditions under which certain behavior/actions and feelings occur. Social psychology has to do with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, levels of consciousness, intentions, perceptions, perspectives and goals are constructed and how such psychological factors, in turn, influence our interactions with others.
Hence, “it’s complicated.”
Pertaining to the card game in class, here’s more information. As I mentioned, this quick simulation is used often as a demonstration of social interaction, especially regarding “rules”, who has the “right” information, who feels included, who doesn’t, and what we do in those situations where we might be experiencing cognitive dissonance.
You will learn more about social psychology concepts through readings and upcoming assignments and the interactive activity was a brief introduction to the academic work ahead.
Barnga – a socio-cultural game
“Barnga” (Thiagarajan and Steinwachs 1990) is a simulation activity developed for a variety of contexts of intercultural and psycho-social/awareness-raising programs and classes.
In Barnga participants experience the shock of realizing that despite many similarities, people of differing backgrounds or cultures perceive things from various perspectives or play by different rules. A person’s sense of attachments, successful completion of developmental stages, or delays, gender/cultural/ethnic orientation, ability to adapt to different or confusing situations are part of what everyone brings to the table when interacting with others.
Participants play a simple card game in small groups, where conflicts begin to occur as participants move from group to group. This simulates real social encounters, where people initially believe they share the same understanding of basic rules.
The point of the game is that when we think we’re all perceiving information the same, we actually do not realize there are some learned differences. Difficulties are magnified by the fact that players may not speak to each other but can communicate only through gestures or pictures. Participants are not forewarned that each is playing by different rules; in struggling to understand why other players don’t seem to be playing correctly, they gain insight into the dynamics of cross-cultural or psycho-social encounters. But not only that, you gain insight into varying learning styles – (there are more than two or three ways to learn or function. We will discuss the 7 Learning Styles in class.)
For now, the LEARNING OBJECTIVES are as follows:
- To realize that sometimes different cultures or communities or simply individuals perceive things differently and/or play by different rules.
- To use this awareness when trying to adapt to a new set of rules.
- To recognize how proper and normal defenses occur when rules feel unjust or restrictions seem unfair.
- To raise awareness of our reactions in conflict and our communication styles.
Many different explanations may arise about the game. It is important to acknowledge them all. Some may think other players were cheating / they themselves had not learned the rules correctly / others didn’t play by the rules because of lack of understanding. Or the game was boring or some refused to fully engage in it.
In fact, at the beginning of the game each group had received a slightly different version of a basic set of rules to “Five Tricks.” In one set, for example, Spade is trump; in another, Diamond is trump. In another, no trump at all. Variations on these few differences are the only differences, no matter how many groups are playing. This means that virtually everything except one or two aspects was the same for everyone. However, those slight changes can make a big difference.
Part 2: Analysis and Response Paper
Answer the following:
A. How was SOCIAL FACILITATION, SOCIAL LOAFING and LEARNED HELPLESSNESS manifested while playing this game? Your task is to look up the definitions of these three concepts and apply them to how you think they may have been exhibited during the playing of the game.
- Do you believe that gender played a role in the dynamics of groups?
- Do you believe that race/ethnicity played a role in the dynamics of the groups?
- What if you had been able to talk?
- What if the play lasted longer?
- What does the game experience suggest about what to do if you were in a similar situation in the real world?
Finally, this is simply Reflection upon the problems that arose while playing. Reflecting on our actions helps us to clarify our intentions.
- During the game, all did their best, but each group was operating out of a different set of circumstances and ground rules.
- Many discovered or suspected that the rules were different, but didn’t always know what to do to bridge the differences. (Or, they were restricted.)
- Even if people knew how the rules were different, they didn’t always know what to do to bridge the differences (which can make interaction boring or frustrating.)
- Communicating with the others is difficult; it demands sensitivity and creativity
- The above statements are true even when almost everything is the same and the differences are very few or hidden.In fact, when the differences are very few or hidden, it may be even more difficult to bridge them than when they are many and obvious.
- In spite of many similarities, people have differences in the way they do things. We have to understand and reconcile these differences to function effectively in a group.