Monthly Archives: August 2010

The influence of feedback on goal pursuit

At some point we have all been put off by the negative feedback we received. As a novice though, negative feedback can be quite difficult to accept and can even impact our future attempts at a task; while positive feedback for novices’ means improvement–improvement that can encourage future attempts. Experts, on the other hand, often seek negative feedback and see it as a source of improvement. Since experts usually know their strengths positive feedback will not help much. This analysis, according to Fishbach, Eyal, and Finkelstein (2010), helps individuals with goal pursuit.

A case in point: NPR reports that it is becoming more and more acceptable to cry at work. Why? As a way to reach a goal employers are giving their employees’ negative feedback, in turn evoking sadness. These individuals, according to the report, tend to be younger and “in touch with their emotions”. Perhaps the employers can take a different approach and provide these younger (novice) individuals with positive feedback that can be more constructive and encourage goal pursuit.

Not surprising, T.V. shows, radio shows, and even newspapers have had their success providing advice or feedback. Feedback is so important to some individuals’ that online tools have been created for that purpose and with some success. According to an NPR story, the claim of the tool is to provide honest and anonymous feedback. The idea behind anonymous feedback is to reduce any anxiety and allow privacy.  Applying this tool should not be difficult; the story cites the example of individuals getting feedback when it is too late and the person is getting laid off.  The target of the tool is individuals in their 20’s who tend to be newer at their jobs and are constantly seeking feedback or advice to reach their goals and perhaps obtain promotions.

However, Fishbach et al. (2010) make the point that providing advice, whether positive or negative should be consistent with an individuals’ level of experience. Providing the proper feedback to individuals can lead to improvement and also “goal adherence”.

Hear More:Weeping while you work? Go right ahead

Hear More: Online tool offers honest, Anonymous Feedback

Fishbach, A., Eyal, T., Finkelstein, S.R. (2010). How positive and negative feedback motivate goal pursuit.

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A children’s peace force in the Koreas

By Kevin R. Betts

I stumbled across an interesting news story this weekend that detailed a 13 year old Korean American’s ambitious goal to restore peace between North and South Korea. His name is Jonathan Lee, and he is the founder of I.C.E.Y. H.O.P.E., a youth humanitarian environmental group that seeks to convince North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il to plant a children’s peace force in the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. Lee says, “What I would really like, if possible, like maybe the children from both countries could be able to meet and play with each other. Like a big playground.”

The contact hypothesis predicts that Lee’s efforts should result in at least some success. In general, the contact hypothesis suggests that interpersonal contact is the most effective way of reducing biases among conflicting groups (Wagner, Tropp, Finchilescu, & Tredoux, 2008). And although Lee’s efforts are geared toward children who may not yet have developed these biases, positive benefits may be seen in the unprejudiced views of these children as they age, as well as the views of watchful Korean nationals who observe this contact. However, for contact to truly be effective, research tells us that it must occur amid certain conditions. First, contact must be between equal status groups. If one country’s children are treated as subordinate to those of the other country, contact is unlikely to yield positive outcomes. Second, the two groups must share common goals. For children, one common goal may be as simple as having fun. For adults, these goals may revolve around reducing tensions among North and South Koreans in later generations. Third, intergroup cooperation must be present. For efforts at peace to be effective, cooperation on both sides of the Koreas is necessary. Fourth, authorities, law, or custom must support this intergroup contact. For Lee’s ambitious goals to stand a chance, both North and South Korean leaders must support his attempts.

The results of Lee’s efforts remain to be seen. Yet, the consistency of these efforts with the contact hypothesis gives us reason to be hopeful. Peace between North and South Korea still remains possible.

Read more:

Korean-American teenager shares ambitious peace plan

Wagner, U., Tropp, L.R., Finchilescu, G. & Tredoux, C. (Eds.). (2008). Improving intergroup relations: Building on the legacy of Thomas F. Pettigrew. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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The Moral Universe of Role Players in Genocide

Just after the Rwanda genocide broke out in 1994, white expatriates were speedily evacuated from the place. Adam Jones (2006) wrote of a video record at the Caraes psychiatric Hospital in Ndera Kigali showing white individuals being evacuated while Hutus were almost outside the gates, and the Tutsis begged the military men for protection. One soldier yelled, “Solve your problems yourselves!”

The UN Genocide Convention has defined genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy in part or whole a national, ethnic racial or religious group as such.” Staub (2000) provides the social context which makes genocide of one group by another likely—difficult life conditions and group conflict. Cultural differences also come to play such as blind respect for authority, inflexible stratification within classes, and a history of devaluation in a group.

Not all members of the dominant group become perpetrators. There were the ‘ordinary Germans’ who did nothing while the Holocaust happened, while there were also countless Germans who defied authority and managed to rescue Jewish families in peril. In a genocide setting, there are the perpetrators, bystanders and rescuers. These categories can also be fluid, as noted by Monroe, when constant bystanders turn into rescuers, or when perpetrators who have engaged in massacres, rescue an individual from the other group. Monroe defines six critical aspects gathered from summaries of reports of these three groups which play a part in the role a group or individual makes: self image, personal suffering, identity, relational identity, integration of values with the individual’s sense of self, and a cognitive classification of the other. Perpetrators may perceive of themselves as victims and justify causing harm to the other group. Bystanders and perpetrators may hold greater value for community, and authority, rather than self-assertion. Personal suffering may also cause a group or an individual to empathize with the aggrieved group, but it may also heighten fear and defensiveness. While cultural and social aspects are important in determining attitudes and behavior, self images can also determine if people will act or remain passive in the face of genocide. Individuals who feel they have control over the situation may be forced to do something about it, as opposed to bystanders who, even if they also empathize with the aggrieved group, may feel helpless over the situation.

Jones A. (2006). Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction

Monroe K. R. (2008). Cracking the Code of Genocide: The Moral Psychology of Rescuers, Bystanders, and Nazis during the Holocaust

Staub, E. (2000). Genocide and Mass Killing: Origins, Prevention, Healing and Reconciliation

Photo: “#46/365” by Leonie, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

Despite claims, children of same-sex parents doing no worse than other children

By Erica Zaiser

In Mexico the Supreme Court just decided to uphold gay adoption despite some arguments that children of gay parents are at risk of increased discrimination. Meanwhile, Australian senate hopeful, Wendy Francis, stated on her Twitter account that children of gay parents suffer from emotional abuse. She argues that gay parents deprive their children from having either a mother or a father and that this is tantamount to abuse. She isn’t the first politician to try to argue that homosexual couples should not be allowed to have children because non-straight parents can’t be as good as straight parents. However, there is little evidence to back up claims that children of gay parents are deprived or less well-adjusted than children from straight couples. In fact there is ample research showing just the opposite.

Beyond the research that has shown that gay and lesbian relationships are no less stable than heterosexual relationships, there is also research showing that the benefits children receive by being raised by two parents of opposite genders are the same for children of two same-sex parents. In fact if there are any differences, many researchers are now finding that gay parents might have even more well-adjusted children than some straight couples (especially when two women are raising a child). Very recent work looking at adopted children of gay couples versus adopted children of heterosexual couples finds that when examining their development and behaviour, children of gay couples do just as well. All this research supports what seems entirely obvious to me: children from two loving parents of any gender will probably turn out better than children of parents who don’t want them or can’t handle them. It does seem reasonable that on average children of gay couples would be even more well-adjusted than many other children because usually the choice to have children for a same-sex couple is very conscious and particularly, when adoption is involved, can require a great deal of time and resources. So, two parents who work so hard to have a child can’t possibly be worse than two parents who don’t really want a child in the first place but happen to fill the 1:1 male female quota that makes up a traditional “family.”