Tag Archives: Airlines

What is it about groups that promotes aggression?

Protesters urge Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to leave office

By Kevin R. Betts

Looking at recent news events, it seems apparent that acts of aggression often involve groups. For the past two weeks in Egypt, thousands of anti-government protesters have maintained control over Tahrir Square demanding that their president step down from power. On a flight this weekend from the Canary Islands to Belgium, dozens of passengers became so enraged about oversized baggage fees that law enforcement officers were called to the scene. In Ohio, two men shot into a Youngstown State University fraternity house this weekend, later claiming that they were angry about being ejected from a party. These recent events suggest that group contexts might promote aggressive behavior. But what exactly is it about groups that promotes aggression?

Meier, Hinsz, and Heimerdinger (2007) present a framework for explaining aggression involving groups. They suggest that given a competitive or aggressive context, groups can be expected to react more aggressively than similarly treated individuals. This is because group contexts contain situational elements that stimulate their members to act aggressively. For example, hostile cognitions and negative affect are known to promote aggression among individuals. It is probably easy for most of us to imagine instances in our own lives where provocation (hostile cognitions) or a bad mood (negative affect) led us to act aggressively. Meier et al. (2007) suggest that in group contexts, both hostile cognitions and negative affect are more likely to emerge and therefore promote aggressive reactions. Disinhibition, or the loss of one’s individuality, self-awareness, or self-evaluation apprehension, is another mechanism that might promote aggression in groups. There are many situational factors that promote disinhibition, and thus aggression, among individuals (e.g., alcohol). Meier et al. (2007) suggest that group contexts on their own may promote disinhibition among their members, which might release social constraints against aggression. The researchers identify other situational variables that might influence aggression in groups as well, including group accentuation, arousal, and individual differences.

The framework presented by Meier et al. (2007) supports the notion that groups are more likely than individuals to react aggressively given a competitive or aggressive context, and identifies situational elements that promote aggression among groups. Readers may be able to detect the influence of these situational elements in their own lives. Hostile cognitions, negative affect, disinhibition, and other factors likely influenced the protestors in Egypt, the passengers angry over baggage fees, and the shooters at Youngstown State University. Can you think of a time when these factors influenced you or someone you know to act aggressively in a group?

Read more:

Egypt’s new Cabinet to meet for first time as protests persist (CNN)

Passenger’s ‘mutiny’ over Ryanair bag fee (CNN)

Party ejection led to Ohio frat house shooting, police say (CNN)

Meier, B.P., Hinsz, V.B., & Heimerdinger, S.R. (2007). A framework for explaining aggression involving groups. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 298-312.

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Targeting terrorist capability versus intent

By Kevin R. Betts

Late last week, two Chicago-addressed packages containing hidden bombs were shipped out of Yemen by an unknown source. The packages successfully progressed through multiple countries and aircraft before a tip from the Saudi Arabian intelligence service led officials in Britain and Dubai to seize the packages. Although ultimately unsuccessful, this attempted attack lends credibility to the capability and intent of terrorist outfits who threaten acts of violence.

Much has been done to reduce the capabilities of terrorists seeking to engage in acts of violence. Impressive new technologies and training programs designed for this purpose emerge on a regular basis. However, the effectiveness of these measures is limited by the ability of terrorist outfits to adapt to and overcome them. The successful progression of the abovementioned bombs through multiple countries and aircraft indicate continued capability among terrorist organizations despite  advances in security. From this perspective, intent becomes very important because whether or not terrorist outfits are capable of following through with threats of violence becomes irrelevant once intent to engage in such acts is eliminated. In other words, influencing the intentions of terrorists may have more long-term effects.

How can we convince terrorist outfits to cease their violent attacks? Kruglanski and Fishman (2009) identify numerous strategies that target intent, many of which have already been implemented in deradicalization programs around the world. For example, activists in Yemen have established the Committee for Dialogue, whereby Muslim scholars and suspected members of al-Qaeda engage in religious dialogue designed to address detainees’ apparent misinterpretations of the Q’uran. Although the recipients of these programs remain capable of initiating acts of violence, many of them cease these acts as their intention dissolves. Research in the behavioral sciences provides a multitude of potential techniques for influencing such intentions.

Ultimately, both capability and intent must be targeted as they dually contribute to terrorist threat. Once threats have materialized, security measures that prevent their realization are imperative. Yet, to prevent terrorist attacks in a long-term sense, a focus on intent is essential.

Read more:

Bomb plot shows key role played by intelligence (NYTimes)

Kruglanski, A.W., & Fishman, S. (2009). Psychological factors in terrorism and countereterrorism: Individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis. Social Issues and Policy Review, 3, 1-44.

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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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