Social Psychological Principles in Real Life
The human mind is highly unpredictable and can be influenced by its surroundings quite easily. This has been proved many more times than one can count and it is conspicuous to one’s eyes in the manner people react to situations based on their social surroundings. Whether it’s at home, in school, college, office or even in a social gathering, people often react to situations based on their surroundings and upbringing. A chance meeting between two strangers that in the course of time develops into some form of relationship is perhaps a way to describe this.
When to strangers meet by chance they may smile or shake hands and introduce themselves. If they meet a second time, the meeting is friendlier and they may discuss things of common interest. If they meet again a third time, there is the possibility that they may exchange their business cards and invite the other over to their workplace. The meetings become more planned and frequent and subsequently they become friends. This development of a friendly bond has many positives. However, people react to different situations differently.
There are quite a few environmentally significant behaviors attributed to an individual. In the context of this dissertation, I am going to discuss about a complex situation that took place in a friend’s workplace and address the subject of workplace relationships and its effect on self, co-workers and the work environment. Since a workplace is made up of different people, they are bound to reflect different behavior. The term, ‘Operant conditioning,’ which Skinner uses frequently in his philosophy on radical behavior is also called ‘instrumental conditioning’ or ‘instrumental learning,’ was studied by Thorndike (1874-1949). His study revolves around the investigation of the behavior of cats trying to escape from boxes designed in different shapes and sizes. The exit vary from one box to another and Thorndike did was to place the cats in boxes with varying escape points to see the time the cats took to escape from the box. When first constrained in the boxes the cats took a long time to escape from them, however, with time they were able to cut down on ineffective responses and increase their success response resulting in the time taken to escape from the box. In his ‘law of effect,’ Thorndike theorized that successful responses, which produced satisfying results, came by experience and occurred more frequently. Unsuccessful responses, which were annoying, were gradually overcome and became less frequent.
According to Alcock (2005), Gurven (2004), and Hill & Hurtado (1996) in the Cost of Benefits: Help-Refusals Highlight Key Trade-Offs of Social Life:
Living in social groups brings many advantages; people in social networks can assist one another in numerous ways. For instance, individuals involved in interdependent cooperative networks benefit from shared intelligence, division of labor, group defense against enemies, pooling resources to ensure against starvation, additive strength and so on.
In an incident that I was witness to, a friend of mine, who was a supervisor of a manufacturing plant, had to oversee the completion of a task put forth by his manager. My friend has over 7 years of supervisory experience and knows the business very well. Everything seemed to be moving forward smoothly until one worker suddenly stopped work abruptly and demanded that his colleagues also do the same. While most of the workers continued to work, a few stopped working and moved to this trouble maker’s side. I was stunned by this sudden development and thought that something seriously wrong was about to happen. I was a management student and I knew that the situation could become extremely volatile if not handled properly and truncate production altogether which could have an adverse impact on my friend’s managerial skills and position.
Moving quickly, my friend went up to the worker who stopped working and quietly asked him and the others to follow him to his office. While I could see that the trouble makers looked agitated and were expressing themselves through hand and body movements, my friend seemed totally oblivious to his surroundings and spoke in a calm manner. This went on for a while until finally, I saw the trouble makers trickle out in small numbers and begin to work in earnest. This surprised me; for I didn’t think my friend could handle such a volatile situation so commendably and in such short time.
I’ve known my friend for 6 years and I didn’t even in my wildest dream think that he could handle such a situation, for he was soft-spoken and friendly. When I did get the chance to speak to him and ask him how he managed to control such an unruly crowd, his answer shocked me. He told me that he was frightened but couldn’t show it outside as it would show his weakness and used against him by his detractors. Putting up a stern face, he called the troublemakers to his office so that the others who were working wouldn’t be influenced by these few people. This way, he would only have to handle a few people instead of a lot more. Once inside, he told the troublemakers that I was there to spy on the workers and report any untoward incident to the management against whom serious action would be initiated. He had promised not to mention them if they went back to work and forgot their protest. They left the room quietly and began to work as I saw them. It was then that I understood Thorndike’s law of effect, and what he meant by learning by experience. Thorndike theorized that successful responses, which produced satisfying results, came by experience and occurred more frequently.
Ackerman J.M. and Kenrick D.T. (2008), The Costs of Benefits: Help-Refusals Highlight Key
Trade-Offs of Social Life, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc., DOI: 10.1177/1088868308315700http://web.mit.edu/joshack/www/Ackerman_PSPR2008.pdf
Skinner, B. F, (1974), About behaviorism, New York: Knopf
Thorndike, E. L. (1901). Animal intelligence: An experimental study of the associative processes in animals. Psychological Review Monograph Supplement, 2, 1-109.