Tag Archives: in group

When it comes to road rules France uses a reward approach to driving

One thing police officers can count on is people breaking the law. So in anticipation of seasonal bad drivers traveling across France police decided to ignore this tradition. In a tactical change the police officers are turning to a reward system—that’s right a reward system. Drivers following the rules will be stopped and rewarded. The prize for good driving is a gas voucher.

To explain this good driving campaign, Checkroun (2008) notes that individuals control their behavior when they are likely to lose or gain. However, people who speed usually weigh the consequences of either getting a speeding ticket or arriving somewhere on time and are likely to speed anyway.  Additionally, factors such as “what in-group members identify with” are likely to shape, at times negatively, people’s perceptions of the campaign (Smith & Winnifred, 2009).  So if the drivers view the campaign negatively the act of rewarding good drivers may actually increase speeding drivers. On the other hand, if most drivers view the campaign positively and the incentive is appealing then the campaign will likely succeed.

Hear more: Police reward good drivers

Checkroun, P. (2008). Social control behavior: The effects of social situations and personal implication on informal social sanctions.

Smith, J.R., Winnifred, L.R. (2009). Group norms and the attitude-behavior relationship.

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Minority Influence on Capitol Hill

In the late 1960s Serge Moscovici developed a theory of social influence that investigated how minority groups influence majority groups and vice versa. Since then, the theory has been elaborated quite a bit to include in-groups and out-groups and to consider the relevance of the message and the context in which messages are delivered.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about majorities, minorities, and super-majorities in Washington, DC. With the election of Scott Brown to the Senate the Democrats have lost their filibuster-proof “super-majority” and with the hearings on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (the military’s approach to sexuality) minority messages are being heard in different ways. And with the actions of the Blue Dog group in the Democratic Party and the Tea Party movement in the Republican party there are even in-group minority groups hoping to influence policy. So how are these groups making their voices heard and what can social psychology tell us about their techniques and successes?

For instance, take the case of Joe Lieberman and the Blue Dog group and their influence on the healthcare bill. One way that minorities can influence outcomes is by getting a majority member to deflect (Joe Lieberman). This also often results in other majority members feeling like they, too, can deflect if the majority message is not fully in line with their views (as the Blue Dogs did). Another way that minorities can influence the majority is to have an in-group member side with their position. We have seen this in the case of Admiral Mullen testifying that as a member of the military he feels that it is time to repeal “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.” His position as an in-group member of the military helps the minority message, and this was strategically matched on the opposing side with testimony by John McCain, a former military hero (and therefore also an in-group member) arguing an opposing message.

Another example of minority influence occurred when President Obama began building his cabinet and justified appointments that some deemed as too conservative. His argument that this would spur innovation is in line with social psychologist’s findings that the presence of minorities in groups is “related to more team innovation and effectiveness.” Whether this has been the case over the past year is debatable. But there is no doubt that the fledging Tea Party is hoping to use its influence as a vocal in-group minority to push its Republican Party away from the center. How this will play out also remains to be seen. It is important to note, however, that all of these situations involve subjective decisions (ones driven by personal beliefs, emotions, etc.) rather than objective decisions (such as correct answers to a math problem) which further complicate the outcomes.

This application to the political arena is just one application of majority and minority influence theories. As Crano and Seyranian (2009) argue, the theory is also helpful in understanding workgroups, juries, community organizations, classrooms, wars, and international relations.

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Why people choose to kill? The allure of terrorism.

The 23-year-old Nigerian who boarded an international flight for Detroit with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas Day reminded many people of the important lessons they learned from Sept. 11. Terrorism attracts worldwide attention again. Many people, especially the psychologists, start to think more about the motivation of terrorism and solution to it. What do the terrorists who attempted to strike U.S. territory in common? What is the allure of terrorism? Is religion the only reason?

Without systematic testing and empirical data it would be hubris to conclude that any social psychological model offers a solution in the fight against terror. Nevertheless, psychologists are trying to understand the motivation of terrorism from different perspectives. For example, in seeking to understand terrorism as an outcome of group identities and intergroup conflict, psychologists seek to understand the dynamics of heroic self-sacrifice and loyal commitment among actors who at the same time direct horrific violence to unwitting targets. They seek to evaluate terrorists’ motivations by solidarity with in-group members under threat, by passionate struggles against injustice, by complex learned and intuited political calculations, and by emergent group identities and norms.

For example, according to social identity theory, individuals are proposed to have not only identities as individuals but also identities as social groups. As people identify themselves as group members they can become motivated to see that group as distinct from and better than other groups. When people identify with a group in conflict, a self-sacrificing action may be seen as psychologically beneficial even though the action leads to harmful consequences on an individual level, because the action benefits the group which is a part of themselves. It is group norms for appropriate behavior which in turn shape beliefs about the benefit or cost to the group of actions such as terrorism (Louis, 2009).

The Allure of Terrorism (The New York Times)

Louis, W. R. (2009).Terrorism, Identity, and Conflict Management. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 433–446.

Louis, W. R. (2010).Teaching and Learning Guide for: Terrorism, Identity, and Conflict Management. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 89-92.

‘Spanish practices’

BullfightFirstly it was bonus payments for bankers seen as largely responsible for the ‘credit crunch’, and then excessive expenses claims by members of parliament (MPs).

Although these activities were not necessarily illegal, the British public has been enthusiastically encouraged by the press to denounce them as immoral.

This common view that dubious morality is endemic amongst those in positions of power has been highlighted recently by the ironic election success of a Croatian politician with a campaign slogan of ‘All for me, nothing for you’.

From a psychological perspective, such beliefs illustrate the ultimate attribution error, where negative behaviours of individual members are seen as typical of an entire out-group.

On closer inspection, however, this simple moral dichotomy is more complex than it may first appear. For example, MP’s expenses have been likened to so-called ‘Spanish practices’, a derogatory British term that continues to be surprisingly widely-used despite its racist implications. Such practices are questionable non-contractual working arrangements that benefit the employee and have become accepted as normal over time. These typically occur within heavily unionised industries, and have previously been the subject of industrial disputes.

Rather ironically then, many of those claiming the moral high-ground in terms of MP’s expenses commonly take advantage of exactly the same kind of ‘unofficial benefits’, suggesting that morality is a somewhat flexible concept.

Interestingly, the very term (mis-)used to describe these practices is a further example of the ultimate attribution error, being one of a number of historic British slurs attributing negative behaviours to foreign nationality out-groups.

Square-eye‘Spanish practices’ of MPs from the Mail Online

Square-eye£1.99 - small Sunar, D. (2009). Suggestions for a New Integration in the Psychology of Morality

Square-eye£1.99 - smallGiles, D. & Shaw, R. L. (2009). The Psychology of News Influence and the Development of Media Framing Analysis

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