Category Archives: Health

Psychology, rape and the attribution of responsibility

The recent ‘Wake Up To Rape’ report by Havens rape centres in London found ‘that more than half of women believe victims share the blame for what happens’. This provides an alarming example of the self-serving attributional phenomenon – attribution of responsibility (Weiner, 1995). In short, some social psychologists believe that people hold on to the notion of a ‘just world’ (Lerner, 1977). That is, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. In this view of the world, sits the ‘illusion of control’ (Langer, 1975). In other words, people believe they and others are in control of their own lives and destinies. What happens to them therefore, is to a large extent their own doing. Unfortunately, this belief also extends to victims of crimes in which people frequently hold them accountable for their own misfortunes. Miller and Porter (1983) also suggest that victims draw on the notion of the ‘just world’ to account for their victimization. Havens rape centres report provides some evidence of a ‘gendered’ self-blame. Of those women questioned, over 50% suggested the victim should ‘share the blame’. The reasons women cited for this were, ‘wearing provocative clothes’ and ‘engaging in conversation in a bar or accepting a drink’. Ironically, by victims attributing some responsibility on themselves, they reinstate the ‘illusion of control’ (Hogg and Vaughan, 2005).

Rape Crisis – Stats

Fawcett Society

1 in 4 women admit to being a ‘victim of rape’

Culture, Gender, and Men’s Intimate Partner Violence

‘Teen girls abused by boyfriends warns NSPCC’: Standardised Relational Pairs and Membership Categorisation Analysis.

“I can resist everything except temptation” – Oscar Wilde

By Erica Zaiser

Lent began yesterday and for many Christians this means giving up something for 40 days, in part to practice self-discipline. While forgoing meat, chocolate, smoking, or whatever else one chooses, when temptation hits, it might be useful to review some of the findings in social psychology on self-control. According to one theory, self-control is construal dependent. So, when trying to refrain from something, depending on how you see the tempting situation you may come to a different conclusion.

It seems that we have better self-control when something is psychologically distant (for example through time or space). There are many ways to be psychologically distant from a situation. In one study, psychologists found that when people pictured themselves voting from a third person perspective they were more likely to actually go and vote versus people who pictured voting from a first person perspective. So, maybe when you go for that chocolate you vowed to give up you will do a better job refraining if you picture yourself eating it from a third person perspective. Other ways to distance yourself psychologically would be to view your action in the context of time– tell yourself yes you can drink a glass of wine now, but in the long run you won’t be happy with yourself for breaking Lent. Or perhaps the easiest way to distance yourself from your temptation is to literally distance yourself from it. Move the cake into a different room or don’t keep cake in your house in the first place because (no surprises here) physical distance has been shown to make self-control easier as well.

Although, my guess is that if psychological distance can improve self-control, people who are practicing Lent may already have an advantage over people who just choose to forgo something outside the religious context. Lent itself provides a superordinate goal of discipline and willpower in order to become more spiritually fulfilled. Remembering this bigger picture when tempted may provide the psychological distance needed to refrain.

Read more about self-control:  Fujita, Kentaro (2008).  Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees: A Construal-Level Approach to Self-Control. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2, 1475-1496.

Read more:  Libby et al. (2007). Picture Yourself at the Polls: Visual Perspective in Mental Imagery Affects Self-Perception and Behavior. Psychological Science. 18, 199-203.

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Run for the hills?

Many non-affiliated runners this year may be considering joining one of the many local running clubs in order to gain valuable support and knowledge for races later in the year. So what can social and sports psychologists tell us about the benefits/costs of joining a running club (or any other sports club or group)?

One of the main areas of interest for both sport (Widmeyer et al., 1992) and social psychologists (Forsyth, 1999) is group/team dynamics and cohesion. Research has identified a number of important factors that can influence the level or type of cohesion (e.g. task or social) and its effect on performance. These include: group size, propinquity (physical proximity between members), joining costs, leadership style(s) of the group, in-group competition and group success and similarity (Bray and Whaley, 2001). However what it is still unclear from the research, is to what extent these determinants encourage cohesiveness or indeed inhibit group development and performance. For example, research by Janis (1982) found that group similarity had a negative effect on performance.

For those who are contemplating joining a running or sports club it may prove more beneficial to shop around by attending a few (normally free) taster sessions to gain an insight into the club/group structure and dynamics and how that may effect their future running performance.

Joining a running club

Group cohesiveness

Group structure

Want to keep those New Year’s resolutions?

In just a few days we’ll have a resolution double-whammy. Not just a new year, but a new decade. Seems like a perfect time to be jotting down those resolutions (or publishing them online), right? Making resolutions is one thing…but what about keeping them? What can social psychology tell us that will help increase the odds that this time next year we’ll be proud of ourselves for the changes we’ve made?

In a recent study Lally et al. found that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to become automatic. While 254 days of gym trips and healthier eating may seem daunting, there’s small comfort in their finding that missing one day did not seem to influence the habit formation process. Weidemann et al. found that action-planning and coping-planning also affect behavior change, particularly in behaviors related to health. Additionally, developing an action plan early on and preparing mentally for the obstacles you may confront as you try to keep your goal (coping-planning, further explained here) can also help you keep your goal.

So,

  • stick with your resolution for the long haul
  • don’t beat yourself up too much if you miss a day
  • develop a plan to help you reach your goal or keep your resolution
  • mentally imagine yourself overcoming any obstacles
  • and, while you’re at it, tell your friends, since that seems to help too!

(2009) Lally et al. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world

(2009) Wiedemann et al. How planning facilitates behaviour change: Additive and interactive effects of a randomized controlled trial

(2005) Sniehotta et al. Action planning and coping planning for long-term lifestyle change: theory and assessment

(2009) Burkeman. This column will change your life, The Guardian

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Hating your ex is not the only break-up rule.

Reese ended her eight-year marriage, but managed to maintain a friendship with her ex.

For many people, including many relationship scientists, the last stage of relationship dissolution is termination of contact. It seems much easier to hate your ex rather than being friend with her/him. However, more and more studies revealed that the phenomenon of post-dating friendships is common. So why are some former romantic relationships redefined into friendships? And how is it possible?

Foley and Fraser (1998) suggest that romantic relationships that no longer fulfill the romantic needs of partners may undergo a transformation to friendship. To the extent that the resources exchanged continue to be of value to the former partners, the relationship is likely to be maintained in the form of a friendship. Hill, Rubin, and Peplau (1976) found that premarital partners were more likely to stay friends when the breakup was male initiated or mutual. Metts, Cupach, and Bejlovec (1989) found that being friends prior to initiation of a romantic relationship was a significant predictor of maintaining a friendship post breakup. In addition, people whose partners used a positive tone in expressing their desire to end the relationship were more likely to remain friends than those who used such withdrawal strategies as avoidance. Also, those who perceived their former partner as more desirable were more likely to remain friends post breakup (Banks et al., 1987).

Recently, Busboom and colleagues (2002) used social exchange theory framework to examine whether resources and barriers influence the quality of friendship with a former romantic partner. The findings of their study suggested that the more resources people receive from their former partners, the more likely they will be to experience a high quality friendship after breakup. In addition, one’s level of satisfaction with the resources received may also contribute to friendship quality. Lastly, there are several obstacles that can get in the way of a postdating friendship, such as lack of support from family and friends for a post-dating friendship, the participant’s involvement in a new romantic relationship, and the use of neglect as a strategy to end the relationship were all significant predictors of lower friendship quality.

Friends after divorce: one couple trades drama for decency

 

Busboom, A.L., Collins, D.M., Givertz, M.D., & Levin, L.A. (2002).Can we still be friends? Resources and barriers to friendship quality after romantic relationship dissolution. Personal Relationship, 9, 215-223.