Social Psychology/Types of social action

Rage and succorEdit

Social action

The subject of "human nature" often comes up in social philosophy and political discussion. One of the key questions that the topic raises is, "Is humanity inherantly good or bad?". In other terms, "Is humanity prone to violence, or to peace?" To the extent that an answer can be provided, it will be in shades of grey.

Helping (or Pro-social behavior) and Indifference. Why do people sometimes help those in need, and sometimes do nothing? A number of explanations have been created.
The arousal/cost reward model claims that the decision to aid is based on a weighting of the costs and rewards involved, both for oneself and others. If the costs outweigh the benefits, then this model predicts that the actor will fail to act. A related model is the evolutionary theory of pro-social behavior, which postulates that helping behavior may have found an instinctual place within human nature in order for parents to aid their children and thus preserve the genetic line.
However, the cost-reward and evolutionary theories might at first blush seem to have trouble in showing how and why some people go out of their way to help total strangers, regardless of cost. A contrasting explanation is that of the empathy-altruism model, which explains helping behavior through empathy with the victim and subsequent empathic distress.
Both cost and empathy models seem to fall short in explaining the bystander effect. This effect is the social fact that people in crowds are less likely to help someone in need than they would be were they alone with the victim. Despite feeling empathic distress, and despite condrelatively low cost in helping, people in crowds seem to suffer from a diffusion of responsibility.
But what is happening at the cognitive level when people engage in helping behavior? There are two big perspectives on this matter: theory-theory and simulation-theory. Theory-theory states that empathy is a product of using a rule-oriented "theory of mind". On the other hand, there is simulation-theory, which argues that empathy occurs when a person imagines the experience of putting themselves in the victim's position.
Empirical study has shown that there are certain characteristics of a target, context, and situation which make helping more likely. A target is more likely to be helped if the actor has a positive acquaintanceship or liking to them, the actor sees themselves as similar to target, and the target seems to deserve aid. Helping is most likely to occur when the normative environment smiles upon helping behavior by beneficient rules and expectations in common currency, and if the actor sees helping as a strong part of their identity or role. Also important are the effects of modelling, whereby an actor sees a third party helping the target, and is inspired to copy the act; personal mood; and sense of guilt.
The consequences of receiving aid depend upon the sort of aid that is given. In many instances, the result is a feeling of gratitude. However, if the aid is excessive, it may create a sense of indebtedness, low self-esteem, and possible resentment in the target.
Aggression. Just as we may study the causes of helping behavior, we may also study the reasons and motives behind acts of hostility initiated by one person on another. Suitably, the theories in this field are highly controversial.
Thinkers in the psychoanalytic tradition have suggested that humanity does have an innate drive towards destruction called Thanatos, or the death instinct hypothesis. These outlooks tend to see some violence as catharsis.
Another outlook is the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which is a highly controversial hypothesis that states that all aggression stems from frustration and vice-versa.
More recent approaches include the Aversive emotional arousal model and the social learning theory of aggression.
Research into the causes of anti-social personality disorder (frequently known as psychopathy) may yield insight into this subject.
Suicide. The classic sociological work of Emile Durkheim on suicide has produced items of worthwhile study for social psychology. According to his theory, suicide may be motivated by the level of integration that the actor has in their social setting. He categorized suicide into four categories, which reflect four degrees of integration into a social group: anomic, fatalistic, egoistic, and altruistic.

Communicative actionEdit

A number of disciplines and subdisciplines examine various facets of communication. Some of these disciplines include: Communications studies, Pragmatics, Semantics, Semiotics, Linguistics, Rhetoric, Sociolinguistics, Sociology of language, and so on. Social psychology may borrow the tools needed to explain social behavior from the work of these other disciplines.

Communication-persuasion paradigm
Communication-persuasion paradigm. In attempting to understand the objective factors that are in play when people communicate with one another, the communication-persuasion paradigm begins with this model of what goes on in human communication:
  • The source is the person who is trying to influence another person. What makes a good persuader are how credible, trustworthy, attractive, and competent they are. (In linguistics and pragmatics, the intentions of the speaker to make something understood is referred to as the utterance's illocutionary force);
  • The message is what the source is trying to convince the target of. Relevant factors include how far the message departs from the target's ideas, whether or not there is an appeal to emotion, and whether or not there is a balance of perspectives;
  • The target is the person who the source is trying to convince of something. Important to them are the relevance of message to person, their personal desire for cognition, and amount of distractions present;
  • The channel is the venu that the message is delivered;
  • The impact is the reaction from the target. This may include an attitude change, a rejection of the message, a counterargument, a suspense of judgment, and/or an attack on the source. (In linguistic and social philosophy, this is often referred to as an utterance's perlocutionary force.)
In all cases, the plight of those suffering from aphasia is of research interest to those who study communication.

One topic of great concern within the scope of communication is the issue of persuasion, which can be understood as whenever an actor attempts to change another's thoughts or behaviors based on the charismatic and/or reasoned input.

Elaboration likelihood model. This model is one attempt to explain how the process of persuasion works. It states that there are two methods by which a person may be persuaded of some message: through the central route, when the listener logically processes and considers the message and all its implications, or through the peripheral route, when the listener is persuaded for non-rational peripheral cues (such deference to authority, succinctness of message, or if others accept message as well). The model predicts that whether or not a message will provoke an attitude change in the listener depends on whether or not it is interpreted via the central or the peripheral route. If a message provokes an attitude change on the basis of superficial information, it may be temporarily adopted, but is less likely to be resilient or defended in the face of criticism. On the other hand, if a message goes through the central route, and passes the subject's reasonings, it will be more resiliently held in the future.
Social impact theory. Trying to explain the objective conditions where any particular message will have social influence, Latane, Jackson, and Sedikides emphasized the importance of three characteristics of the sources in their social impact theory.
  • Social Strength of the actors involved, for example power and social status
  • Immediacy, or the physical / psychological distance between actors
  • Number of Sources Present
Functionalism (sociology). For functionalism, the achievement of goals relative to the normative background is important. To the extent that a) an action is beneficial towards the achievement of a goal, and b) the goal and/or means are compatible with the normative goals and means of some group or society, the act is considered functional in that respect / relative to that goal. Conversely, to the extent that a) the act is an obstacle to achieving a desired goal, and b) the goal fits the normative background of some group or society, the act is considered dysfunctional in that respect.
Subjective factors in persuasion. Symbolic interactionism stresses the importance of the way the actor subjectively perceives persons in the world in order to explain how persuasion occurs. Following their models, a person may be more likely to be persuaded when the persuader is more in line with the thoughts and opinions of:
  • the generalized other - the actor's notion of the normal expectations of others;
  • the opinions of significant others - the actor's idea of the expectations of special persons; ie, parents, children, spouse, friends.
Erving Goffman wrote in the same tradition, making sense of human interaction using insights gained from the theories and methods of dramaturgy. For Goffman, two crucial concepts are those of the front region and back region, which are the "on-stage" and "off-stage" personae which a person has -- those roles which are played for the benefit of others, and those played without others as much in mind.

ExchangesEdit

Last modified on 22 October 2007, at 21:08