Tag Archives: change

Emotions as a Source of Motivation

Walk proud… walk like an Egyptian!

I was in Egypt from Tuesday 25 January through Saturday 29 January 2011, i.e. the first five days of the people’s up rise.  I witnessed a series of events, actions that have left me flabbergasted.

Cairo at 11.00 am on the day of the peaceful protests that were to start at 02.00 pm seemed  busy and peaceful all at once — like it always is. It seemed that the day would develop as usual. 

For the larger part of the day, I stayed tuned to Al Jazeerah and Al Arabiyah  — two cable new channels — to keep track of the walkout that was about to begin.  The crowds began to gather in and around Tahrir Square.  They came from all social strata.  Most people carried peaceful signs that pronounce five clear-stated demands:  that the President steps down; that neither he nor his son run for office again; that the Government Cabinet be dissolved and new Ministers be appointed; that the Shura Council be dissolved and new fair elections take place; and that the Constitution be amended. There was a lot of security on the streets but there was no engagement between them and the protesters.  Surrounding streets were closed off from vehicles to prevent needless confrontations.

For several hours, the events were developing rather peacefully.  Many of my family members and friends were amongst the demonstrators and I felt envious of their strong sense of civic engagement, patriotism and willpower.  A strong sense of identity dawned on each and every Egyptian, as well as anyone who has any link to Egypt.

Shared identity in action in Egypt Then as the early hours of the evening kicked in and the tone of the events was slowly shifting.  Tension was building up. People did notdisperse and go home.  People declared they would remain and their tone became far more hostile.  The protest went on into the late hours.  Outside, you could hear the sound of ad hoc gunshots and glass breaking.

Day two of the uprise seemed a mixture of patriotic youth still making the same demands in addition to hungry people demanding change to be able to feed their families.  These were two distinct groups.  Yesterday’s protesters had split.   Additionally, one could notice the huge number of security guards on the streets, especially on the streets leading to Tahrir Square and important Government offices.  However, they only stood there, anticipating problems that may arise on this second day of demonstrations.

How did this all start?  A few people on Facebook and other social networks thought they could arouse the interest, the anger, the despair, the humiliation and the revolt of the Egyptian people towards the 30-year Mubarak regime.  Did they not realize that Egypt has a population of 80 million of which only a small percentage would be able to grasp the ideologies they were voicing and would know how to respect the boundaries dictated by what is termed “peaceful protest”?  Did they not realize that there were many angry and suppressed people who would take advantage of the situation to escalate it into the adversity it has become today?  Now what???

Day three was filled with mixed feelings:  people were left confused between their sense of solidarity and fear from the turn of events. Emotions led their motivation.  The same three distinct groups prevailed.

People remained glued to their television screens if they were not physically present at the protest.  People waited.  What were we waiting for?

I suppose we waited to see the reaction of the Presidency… where was President Mubarak?  Why had he not yet addressed the people of Egypt?  The people of Egypt were waiting and so was the world.

Late into the night, the mobile networks and internet networks were halted.  People felt angry, cut off from the world.  It was the first time that we all realised that  for over 10 years now, we have grown to be dependent on our mobile lines and most of us did not know anyone else’s landlines! 

Day four was labelled Angry Friday. History was in the making.  The afternoon progressed fairly quietly and well into the people’s newly developed routine for the past three days our eyes remained focused on television, television and more television.  The events were escalating and the tension was mounting.  Another caliber of people had hit the streets of Cairo:  people were breaking and entering shops and companies, looting them of their goods.  Banks, ATM machine, airline offices, etc… everything was being raided!  What happened to the peaceful protest?  Where did the Facebook community and other social networks go?  They were being replaced and outnumbered by a number of street bullies who seized the opportunity to disrupt the peaceful protest and transform it into the “up rise of the thieves” as it was now being labelled.  Chaos was everywhere and the only conceivable response was to instate a curfew from 6.00 pm to 7.00 am the next morning in attempt to limit the people’s movement on the streets.  Did it work?  Not really for protesters remained camped out in Tahrir Square and chanted “We will not leave until he (the president) leaves!”

The weight of the situation was taking its toll on everyone.  Everyone sat quietly watching the live feeds on television.   People’s tolerance was hitting rock bottom.  People were upset at the way the protest was turning into a confrontation amongst protesters.  Some newcomers who supported the Government challenged the crowd that was striving for it to be dissolved.  People were being influenced by the president’s speech.  Egyptians are emotional people and their position may be swayed if their emotions are triggered.

Gunshots continued well into the night… a sound that everyone had grown accustomed to for four nights straight now.

I left the next morning to the airport as soon as the curfew was lifted.  

This journey seemed to take “forever”… this same route I had enjoyed four days before in the opposite direction.  However this time, frantic pedestrians filled the highway.  Most of them walked with nude torso swaying their arms in the air with pocket knives, and other arms. They were attacking passing cars.  They banged on the hoods and trunks of the cars in attempt to scare the drivers into stopping so they could loot them.  Meanwhile a”City Center” was going up in flames… that same shopping mall that stood tall and busy a few days before was slowly melting away.  In the midst of this sad scene, the-hungry-people-of-Egypt-turned-thieves robbed whatever goods and food they could get hold of from the inflamed stores.

I went through several road blocks until reaching the toll stations preceding the entrances to Cairo International Airport.  There I was subjected to a thorough car search before being allowed to proceed.  Inside the terminal, I battled my way through people sitting, laying, sleeping on the floor waiting for news of their flights that had not even flown in; people rioting in front of airline offices demanding answers to their million and one questions regarding their flights; and security guards trying to keep everything under control!  People were angry, tired and confused.

What other emotions will they feel next?

Reicher, S. D., Haslam, S. A., & Hopkins, N. (2005). Social identity and the dynamics of leadership: Leaders and followers as collaborative agents in the transformation of social reality. The Leadership Quarterly, 16, 547-568.

Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., & Platow, M. J. (2010). The new psychology of leadership: Identity, influence, and power. Psychology Press.

Political Ideology is Alive and Well

In the middle of the 20th century, a group of researchers pronounced political ideology dead. They argued that most individuals do not know enough about their beliefs to have an ideology. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to this claim, the emergence of heated Tea Party protests and the overall Tea Party movement indicates that political ideology is alive and well. Social psychological research also backs up this claim (Jost, Nosek, & Gosling, 2008). Political psychologist John Jost and his colleagues have found numerous differences between those that have conservative and liberal ideologies, even though they may not be aware of it.

The strongest differences concern system justification and change (Jost & Hunyady, 2005; Jost et al., 2008). Specifically, conservatives are more likely to support maintaining the status quo or hold stronger system-justifying attitudes. For example, a New York Times/CBS News poll indicates that the Tea Party supporters are upset about the amount of support that the current United States administration is giving to minorities and lower social classes. This is quite reflective of what Jost and his colleagues describe in their research on system justification. As far as change goes, conservatives are less likely to be supportive of change. This is quite evident in the Tea Party, as seen in the following quote from Sarah Palin (a voice supported by many in the Tea Party movement): “Is this what their ‘change’ is all about? I want to tell ‘em, Nah, we’ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion — and you can keep the change.” To conclude, while individuals may not fully understand their ideologies, humans are indeed “ideological animals”, as Jost and Hunyady (2005) conclude.

Jost, J. T. et al. (2008). Ideology: Its Resurgence in Social, Personality, and Political Psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 126-136

Jost, J. T. & Hunyady, O. (2005). Antecedents and Consequences of System-Justifying Ideologies. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 260-265

New York Times/ABC News Poll about Tea Partiers

Time Magazine Quote of the Day: Sarah Palin Wednesday, Apr. 14, 2010

Really not seeing the elephant in the room

By Erica Zaiser

When something changes in our visual field, it seems obvious that the bigger the change the more likely it is that we would notice. However, much research has shown that in fact, we are often blind to large changes when we don’t know to focus on them. An interesting video posted on Boing Boing demonstrates the change-blindness effect well. In this experiment, participants walk over to a desk and are given a consent form to sign by an experimenter. When the experimenter bends down to “put the form away”, a completely different experimenter (wearing a different colored shirt) stands up and continues the instructions. Over 75% of participants fail to notice that the man who stands up is not the same man with whom they had just been conversing.

According to Simons and Ambinder (2005), most research on change blindness has shown that when a major change occurs outside of a person’s visual field (as opposed to a change that is visible as it happens) or in a situation where they are distracted, people are particularly bad at noticing any change. The failure to notice change seems to occur not because of an inability to represent visual information but because we aren’t very good at comparing information from before with information presented after the change. Change blindness is important to understand because people assume that they notice major changes when they actually do not. For example, in witness identification, people might not be accurate spotting differences between people coming and going. Another example, cited by the authors, is in driving safety; people assume they would notice a pedestrian crossing the street even if distracted by talking on a cell phone. The change-blindness effect shows us that we are not as capable of noticing changes in our visual environment as we think we are.

Read More: Simons, D.J., Ambinder, M.S.(2005).Change blindness: theory and consequences. Current Directions in Psychological Science.

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