Category Archives: Intrapersonal Processes

The season for reason

By, Adam K. Fetterman
This Season, Celebrate REASON”, reads an American Atheists billboard by the Lincoln Tunnel. This is another in a long line of billboards and signs reminding people that atheists are out there. The apparent goal of this campaign is to let “closeted” atheists know that they are not alone. This seems particularly necessary during the holiday season as atheists may feel more like they are in the minority than other times of the year. For some, this time of the year requires them to pretend to be religious for fear of social reprisal. Therefore, being reminded (e.g. by billboards) that they are not alone can definitely have positive effects. However, as to be expected, the religious community (mostly Christian) is not responding with acceptance and positivity (though some are). Some have said the billboards are disrespectful and attacking. So, in response, religious organizations are putting up billboards of their own. According to the New York Times, there appears to be a quite interesting sign battle going on in Texas. The atheists’ sign reads “Millions of Americans are Good Without God” on the side of the bus, followed by a truck with a sign reading “I Still Love You – God” and another claiming “2.1 billion Christians are good with God”. While it would be a fairly funny scene to witness, it hits on an old argument about where morality comes from.

For many years, many have assumed that religion is the foundation or source of morality or pro-social behavior. In a recent review, Preston, Ritter, and Hernandez (2010) indicate that religion does not have a monopoly on morality and pro-social behavior. In fact, they indicate that religiosity only predicts moral or pro-social behavior in specific contexts and can actually predict increased anti-social behavior in certain contexts. The authors go on to discuss the differences between religious and supernatural beliefs in regards to moral and pro-social behaviors.

Another researcher arguing that religion is not the ultimate source of morality and pro-social behavior is Sam Harris. He has found (as well as others) quite compelling evidence of naturalistic or evolutionary foundations of morality and pro-social behavior. In fact, I have made arguments about certain motivations that would lead all people to be moral, in previous posts. In the end, it appears to be pretty clear that one can be “Good without God”. With some of the reactions to these billboards (e.g. defacing and anger), it seems apparent that religiosity does automatically make one moral.

More Sacramento-area atheist billboards are vandalized. By, Bill Lindelof, Sacto 9-1-1

Dueling billboards face off in Christmas controversy. By, Laura Dolan, CNN

Atheist bus ads rattle Fort Worth. By, James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times.

Sam Harris’ Website

Preston, J. L, Ritter, R. S., & Hernandez, J. I. (2010). Principles of religious prosociality: A review and reformulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 574-590.

Read all of Adam K. Fetterman’s posts here.

Friends and Facebook: Online social behavior- not that different from the real world?

By Erica Zaiser

Continuing with my previous post about Facebook, TIME recently reported on another study using the social networking site. According to the article, researchers in Denver wanted to understand why people “defriend” others in Facebook and what types of behaviours are likely to lead to a break in the online friendship. Unsurprisingly, they found that things are pretty similar in an online social network to a real-life social network. People defriend others much for the same reasons they end real world friendships. People who go on an on about a subject on Facebook were most likely to get defriended followed by people who talk about politics or religion and people who post racist or offensive comments.

As Facebook has grown in popularity so has interest in it as an area of research for social psychologists. Another study looking at Facebook found a relationship between number of friends and impressions about a persons attractiveness and popularity. Generally more friends made participants in the study believe the person was more attractive and popular, but only to a point. When the number of friends became very large (more than 300) people then began to doubt the users popularity and rated the user as being almost as unattractive as those who had very few friends. According to the research, people began to doubt that people had accrued their large number of friends simply because they were extroverted and instead may be making assumptions that the profile owner added friends for other reasons (like they are actually desperate for friends and are just adding whomever they can to look popular).

Facebook and other online  social mediums are interesting to look at for psychologists because its both possible to study unique social phenomenon in the online world but also because behaviours online may help researchers understand behaviours offline. Perhaps in real life, people who are seen as “too social” are sometimes viewed as negatively as people who have just a few friends.

Read more: Too much of a good thing? The relationship between number of friends and interpersonal impressions on Facebook

CNN on Long and ParrisRead more: TIME article: How to lose Facebook friends the fastest.

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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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Should you trust the airline industry?

By Kevin R. Betts

On a recent flight out of Detroit, I overheard an elderly couple arguing about whether or not they should have shared a suitcase. Bringing individual suitcases cost the couple $100 roundtrip, whereas sharing a suitcase would have only cost them $50. Fees for checked bags, as well as hidden costs associated with services like ticket changes, insurance, and booking flights by phone are common in the airline industry. Although base prices for flights often appear inexpensive, these prices do not reflect additional hidden fees that are usually incurred. Moreover, airlines are well known among the general public for variable base rate pricing, whereby different customers are charged different prices for the same tickets.

Given these concerns, many airline passengers have developed a jaded view of the airline industry. Recent research by Heyman and Mellers (2008) suggests that this can be expected. Investigating perceptions of fair pricing, they found that consumers who learn about variable pricing often feel betrayed. Moreover, companies that use variable pricing, but are caught trying to cover their tracks, are perceived as even worse. Although the airline industry may see short term financial gains by incorporating hidden fees and variable pricing methods, these gains may be outmatched by future losses as passengers lose trust in the industry.

As consumers, should we trust the airline industry? That decision needs to be made by each potential passenger, but what we should all be careful to do is stay informed. Are you willing to pay $350 for a ticket that the person sitting next to you paid $225 for? Are you willing to pay a processing fee for booking your flight by phone instead of over the internet? As consumers, these are important questions that we must consider.

Read more:

Rising air fare (New York Times)

Hidden fees aggravate air travelers (CNN)

Heyman, J.E., & Mellers, B.A. (2008). Perceptions of fair pricing. In C.P. Haugtvedt, P.M. Herr, & F.R. Kardes (Eds.), Handbook of consumer psychology (pp. 683-697). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Xie, Y. and Peng, S. (2009). How to repair customer trust after negative publicity: The roles of competence, integrity, benevolence, and forgiveness. Psychology and Marketing, 26, 572–589.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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