1. What are minimal groups? How does group membership lead to prejudice and discrimination?
In social psychology, minimal group referrer to human’s inclination to separate into groups in which they form identities based on group membership. One part of a group tends to identify with their group and show bias against another. The creation of groups is the first step in prejudice. After creating mental categories, people group similarities into each by similarities while undermining the individual differences between members of a group and amplify differences between members of different groups. Group membership leads to prejudice as a result of irrational and inflexible attitudes and opinions held by members of a group against the other. On the other hand, discrimination occurs as a result of behaviors directed against another group.
2. What is modern racism, and how is it studied?
Modern racism has developed itself from the more aggressive prejudicial behavior to a more restrained prejudicial behavior (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). This kind of prejudicial behavior has developed among individuals and is much difficult to see yet it presents a major problem. Modern racism has found itself in the work place. Despite company’s claims for equal opportunity, there is little confidence that everyone gets equal treatment in their work place. Subtle prejudicial behavior is supposed to create ideas that seem politically correct. A modern form of racism is the glass ceiling effect, which highlights the “invisible” differences in position, salary, and appraisal among women and men.
Modern racism is studied from a social rather than a mere traditional cognitive or biological perspective. Modern racism delves majorly with social, rather than individual basis of human behavior. As such, the study involves focusing on people and how they interact with others rather than self contained individuals.
3. What is stereotype threat, and what are the consequences of stereotype threat?
Stereotype threat refers to a condition in which one is at risk of confirming a negative stereotype about your group (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). Such a threat occurs when, for example when a college admits only one African-American student in an all-white classroom. Even though the African-American could be aware of the stereotype that he is not expected to do well, chances of confirming this stereotype are high since he is taking the exams with white students. This might increase his chances of not excelling since according to society standards, he is predestined to fail.
Stereotype threat has many consequences majority of which are negative. To start with, stereotype threat significantly decreases performance on test in environments where stereotype is relevant. Many studies have been conducted focusing on poor performance on tests in examinations (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). Other than reducing performance on tests, stereotype threat also decreases performance on other kind of tasks. Stereotype threat can result reactance, thereby producing opposite effects such as increased performance. Recent studies have also shown that stereotype threat has the potential of altering professional aspirations and identities.
4. Compare and contrast procedural justice and the deterrence theory as explanations for why people obey the law
5. Summarize the recovered memory debate and research. Should we believe a person who comes forward with a recovered memory?
It is believed by some memory researchers that at one time, human memory worked like a video recorder, and all that was needed was to get the right tape and replay it in order to retrieve the memories exactly as they were originally experienced. Conversely, ensuing research has showed the inaccuracy of this model by arguing that most memories are simply forgotten and are impossible to recall. Many people lack real memory until they reach three years. Even though some memories are actually remembered, the mind only store significant elements of the event and only reconstructed during the time of recall. The information may be altered because the act of recalling memories can change the event. We should not believe in a person who comes forward with a recovered memory since it might be their own imagination or modified version of the event.
6. Describe at least three ways eyewitness memory can be affected, and how we can determine the accuracy of eyewitness testimony
A research conducted by Elizabeth Loftus and others has suggested that eyewitness memory can be affected by suggestion and is in more cases not accurate, even when memories seem sincere and vivid to the witness. Since memory is suggestible, introduction of suggestions by third party has the potential of affecting memory of the eyewitness. Eyewitness memory can be affected by tailored retelling. Loftus and other researchers found that eyewitnesses tend to distort testimonies in the process of retelling by emphasizing on some aspects of the event. Cultural biases and stress also have significant effect on memory of eyewitness. It has been found that people have experience difficulty to accurately identify individuals from another ethnicity. In the event of crimes involving weapons, people become hyper focused on arms instead of the person behind the act.
7. Explain how empathy is related to helping
Empathy refers to people’s feelings and how they are well placed to cope with the way another individual feels. Empathy is related to helping owing to its aspect of trying to understand the problem that an individual is undergoing and trying to put themselves in his shoes. In real sense, it is how someone will feel that offers the best chance of overcoming a problem and providing that person with the necessary assistance with their problems. As such, it entails looking after and caring after somebody who may have health problem, or who may be undergoing difficult moments after loss of family.
8. Summarize the effects of mood on helping behaviors
Social psychologists claim that negative and positive mood have an influence on the compassionate helping behavior. Studies have suggested that mood has significant effect on helping behavior. Accordingly, people in good moods are more inclined to help others in order to maintain their pleasant effect while those on bad moods are likely to help others with the intention of alleviating their bad moods. In summary, some people tend to reduce their negative moods by engaging in mood-elevating behaviors such as helping.
9. Write an essay in which you discuss some of the problems in the American justice system, from a social psychology perspective.
Social psychology plays a significant role in the development of the dominant social and legal systems and structures in the modern civilization. The common and normative approach and trend in most social procedures are influenced by the psychological perspectives of the society. An example of this concept can be applied to the American justice system.
One of the major problems with the American justice system is its overreliance on social psychology. The American criminal justice depends heavily on eyewitness identification of criminals. It has been shown many times that eyewitness evidences are generally poor and lacks credibility. People’s minds do not work like video cameras and thus unable to store an event over time and play it precisely as it happened. In reality, witnesses are not able to identify the color of your hair or cloth, or even what you are carrying but they will point at you n court. Studies show that most jurors believe that witnesses have the ability to correctly identify the criminal even when viewing condition is poor (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). According to memory researchers such as Loftus and Harley (2005), they found that the accuracy in identification of celebrities diminished when the stimulated distance exceeded 25 feet. It has also been found that when eyewitnesses are the victims of a crime, they will under stress which makes it hard to take an account of the event. In addition, information that people pay attention to or notice depend on their expectations. Research has also found that people find it hard to notice things they expect least. These facts show that reliance on evidence from the eyewitness present a weakness to the American justice system.
Another problem with the American justice system is the process of jury-decision making process. Some psychologists have suggested that jurors decide on one story that gives best explanation to the evidence. What they do next is to try to match the story to possible verdicts they are allowed to render, and after finding a verdict that present a perfect match for their preferred story, then they will be more likely to vote and convict on that charge. According to (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007), lawyers present evidence in one of the two ways; story order or witness order. In story order, the evidence is presented in the sequence in which the events unfolded, matching as closely as possible to the story they want the juror to believe. On the other hand, on the witness order, the witness is presented in a sequence that will produce the greatest impact even if amounts to describing events out of order. In a research done by Pennington & Hastie (1986), they found that jurors were more likely to believe the prosecutor when they used the story order and the defense used witness order. This was the opposite when the prosecutor used the witness order (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). The major reason why conviction rate in felony trials is high in America is because defense attorneys normally use witnesses, whereas prosecutors normally present evidence using story order. My recommendation to the court system would include reminding judges to reconsider eyewitness testimonies since some of them are not accurate. This would increase equality in administering legal punishment in court cases.
11. Consider the social cognitive cause of prejudice
The cognitive component of prejudice entails an individual’s thoughts and beliefs about the target of prejudice and it involves stereotyping. A stereotype can be defined as a generalization of a group regardless of their individual differences and classify them as people with identical characteristics. It can be agreed that social cognition or the way we think causes prejudice. One method of learning prejudice is as a byproduct of the manner in which people process and organizes information. In that process, all the negative aspects of social cognition have the potential of making people to form negative stereotypes and use them in discriminative way. Research has found that stereotype activation and its application during an interaction with an individual from a stereotyped group depends on the ability to comprehend and intrinsic goals that can be achieved by stereotyping a person without the motive for prejudice (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). However, in most cases, people’s minds are preset and with stereotypes in regard to a given group which therefore interfere with their judgment on other people.
Patricia Devine (1989) come up with a theory to explain how stereotypical and prejudiced beliefs affect information processing (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). She based her theory on the peculiarity between automatic and controlled information processing. According to her theory, in processing information about another, two processes takes place; unprejudiced people will employ the controlled process to override it. Conversely, if a person is overwhelmed, distracted, or not attentive, the control process is not initiated, thereby allowing the prejudice to prevail. Devine’s research explains that prejudicial behavior occurs as a result of schemas we hold about certain groups of people, which influence the way people process information about them.
Justice suppression model (JSM) proposes that the variety of prejudices among people is as a result of several cultural, social, cognitive, and developmental factors. These aspects create a “genuine” prejudice, which may not be explicitly visible but which is primary and powerful. The resulting genuine prejudice presents an effective reaction with a motivational force. Other forces including personal standards, social norms, values and beliefs suppress this prejudice. This suppression results in reduced appearance of the prejudice, both in reported public or experienced privately.
Even though illusory correlations occur due to a number of reasons, one outstanding element is that distinctive pairing is easy to remember than other pairings (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007). This can be used to explain why people tend to overestimate the frequency of undesirable behaviors. In addition, further research in this area has indicated that this kind of illusory correlation is particularly more pronounced when distinctive pairings involve negative habits which are consistent with preexisting stereotypes (Aronson, Wilson & Arkert, 2007).
In conclusion, more work is required to reduce prejudices and in order to achieve this, reducing prejudices needs to be more than organizational goal, but needs to be a personal goal for every individual. After considering the meaning and research behind all these theories relating to prejudice, I have the potential and ability to help others change their attitudes and stereotypes towards other groups of people.
Aronson, E., Wilson, D. T, & Arkert, R.M. (2007). Social psychology, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N J: Prentice Hall
Devine, P.G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: their automatic and controlled components. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.
Loftus, G.R. & Harley, E.M. (2005). Why is it easier to recognize someone close than far away? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 43-65.
Pennington, N. and Hastie, R. (1986). Evidence evaluation in complex decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 242-258.