Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chapter 10 - Social and Cultural Context

This chapter talked about the powerful influence society and culture play on the psychology of individuals and groups. The chapter emphasized that our behavior is influenced by two social forces: norms and roles, and these forces make us less independent that we think.

Norms are rules about how we should act, are enforced by punishments and rewards, and make our everyday interactions predictable and acceptable. An example of a norm would be that we should hold the door open for someone who is walking through after us.Roles are given social positions that are governed by norms. Roles require we behave properly or we feel discomfort and are regarded in a negative way by others. Often, we are not conscious of the roles we play in society.

The chapter also discussed stereotypes and how they affect us. On the positive side, stereotypes give us an impression of an entire group as sharing similar traits which allows us to quickly process information and experiences and give us the ability to predict new behaviors. On the negative side, it exaggerates the differences between different social groups, allows us to only selectively see qualities and behavior that we think fits into the stereotype, and underestimate the variety of individuals in a group. Stereotypes take a truth and allow it generalize

This chapter was very interesting and brought up topics I never really gave too much thought to. I think the negative aspects of conformity and obeying authority are issues that each individual needs to be aware and conscious of. However, although experiments like Milgram's show the dark side of obedience, I think it does have its role in society. It is an important part of society that allow the government and other institutions to work. If we didn't obey authority figures in certain situations, there would be no way to regulate society and anarchy would ensue. Although I think many people wouldn't go around killing and stealing because of their own personal consciences and sense of right and wrong, there are several people who would, and that would make it unsafe for others. Just look at what happens when riots break out. Thus, I think people need to be able to distinguish when obeying is a good thing and when it's wrong. It all comes down to following what is right and wrong, obedience or not.

As far as stereotypes go, I do think that it is an inevitable part of human nature. I think that is not always a good thing, but it is not always a bad thing either. I think having a negative experience with a certain type of person (whether its because they're part of a certain group, come from a certain area, etc.) makes you cautious about people who share that common trait. It is more of a way of protecting yourself from having another negative experience. However, I don't think stereotypes should be taken so seriously. I have been pleasantly surprised when I meet someone who I expected to be a certain way and they weren't. Of course, I have also met people who fit their stereotypes exactly. I think you have to be able to put those stereotypes aside in order to give people a chance or you'll miss out on opportunities to meet individuals who defy these generalizations.

The entire chapter was focused on how much society affects us and our behavior. I think most people don't think it does, so I would be curious to hear others' opinions and whether people would be willing to recognize how much cultural and societal forces do influence our decisions.

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