Sunday, July 8, 2012

Social Psychology Research Paper

Social Psychology Research Paper

In every individual’s life, there are often situations that can be best described from the viewpoint of social psychology. Application of various theories and concepts can help bring out the most salient points and gain a deeper understanding of the situation. As a result of applying various theories, a person can approach the issue from several perspectives and learn to interpret the same phenomenon in many ways.

One of the recent situations in my life that allowed of such analysis was the visit of my friend. I have a good friend from Japan, three years older than myself. Being older in age, she sometimes behaves like my older sister. During her visit two years ago when she stayed in my apartment, we had the following incident. One day, coming back home, I was amazed to see that she had changed the order of all the furniture in the apartment. When I questioned her, she responded: “You wasted your space! So I had to change like this! My way is always the best way, right?” In the end, I had to give up trying to convince her of my being right since she was not very receptive to that. Since she tried to impose her opinion on me, I said: “Yeah, you are always right. You do whatever you think is best for me. Thank you for doing this”. In this way, I tried to preserve our friendship and get out of the unpleasant conversation. Even though I did not appreciate what she did, I was keen on keeping our relationship friendly, so I let it go.

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Social Exchange Theory
One of the possible evaluations of this situation can be done from the viewpoint of the social exchange theory, a powerful trend in social psychology “based on a central premise: that the exchange of social and material resources is a fundamental form of human interaction” (Washington University, 1996). This teaching is based on the premise that “a social psychological and sociological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties” (Wikipedia, 2007). The person makes a decision to stay in a relationship or abandon it based on the juxtaposition of costs versus benefits. An equitable relationship is perceived as one where both parties enjoy equal costs and benefits. Social exchange theory also presupposes that “this interaction between two actors (people, firms etc.) results in various contingencies, where the actors modify their resources to each others expectations” (Wade, Shneberger, 2006).

In the case with my friend, there is a classical example of a give and take relationship. What she wanted from me was the appreciation of her wisdom and better judgment. In her own perception, she was the older and the wiser, and she wished to impress me with her understanding of things such as space use. On my part, I had to grant her that wish since I did not want to disrupt our relationship. My benefit from this scene is the opportunity to preserve friendship with someone I like and want to see in the future. However, my costs were the need to give in to her, sacrificing my own opinion and the inconvenience of living in an apartment where all the furniture has been moved. As a result, I could say that our costs and benefits were not equal: while she had virtually no costs in this incident, I had to give up some of my comfort, therefore our relationship is not equitable. I believe I did yield to her since I expect that sometime in the future I will be able to compensate for it during our further communication and get a reward in the future.

Symbolic Interactionism
Another valid interpretation of the exchange between myself and my friend can be obtained from the viewpoint of the symbolic interactionism theory. Under its tenets, humans in the process of communication exchange messages with meanings that they create themselves. Meaning is determined by social interaction of individuals. Each person uncovers the meaning through the process of interpretation.

An important aspect of social interactionism is the concept of role-taking. According to this concept, humans interact by taking on roles that have meaning for them. Thus, in this situation, my friend took on the role of the older “sister”, who teaches me how to live my life and use my room. Although I did not like this role very much, I had to agree to it, after trying to play the role of an equal for a while. As a result, my friend was able to exercise control and voice her opinion forcefully since this was compatible with her role.

This line of behavior is consistent with the idea that “for interactionists, humans are pragmatic actors who continually must adjust their behavior to the actions of other actors” (McClelland, 2000). This constant process of adjustment constitutes a great part of human behavior and allows us “to imaginatively rehearse alternative lines of action before we act” (McClelland, 2000). In my case, I had to adjust my behavior to the actions of my friend that to me proved to be totally unexpected. I had not envisaged her to take such dramatic action in my apartment the more so because we had never before discussed any criticism of the order my things were in. However, since I read into her words the meaning signifying that she is ready to end our friendship if I did not agree that she was right, I had to agree to consider her older and more experienced.

However, my agreement to bear with the changes and her arrogant attitude translated to into the meaning that I did subordinate to her in certain ways. The fact that I did not contradict when she referred to the fact that she was older to me was the representation of her supremacy. This naturally left me with a desire to change the undesired situation sometime in the future.

Cognitive Theory
The cognitive theory of social psychology demonstrates the relationship between social and cognitive spheres. Grounded in the teachings of Albert Bandura, social cognitive theory attempting to clarify how cognitions are formed, stored, and applied. The social cognitive theory is also concerned with explaining human motivation.

One of the aspects of the cognitive theory that applies particularly to this case is the hedonistic theory of motivation. This theory argues that people tend to choose actions that maximize their pleasure and reduce their uneasiness when the reach a certain end. Under this theory, human actions are mostly motivated by the desire to pursue self-interest even when on the surface such actions appear to be purely rational.

In this case, I was obviously motivated by self-interest just as much as my friend was. I tried to maintain a positive relationship and was willing to do that even if it involved making certain sacrifices for the sake of our friendship. On the surface, I could have argued that I gave up letting my friend have her way and making her feel better by acknowledging her wisdom and experience. She, in contrast, gave up a lot of her time and effort to change the order in the room to prove her point and assert her superiority. In the end, though I could have argued with her over the change in the room, I retreated in order to minimize my feeling of uneasiness; otherwise, we could have ended up in a prolonged battle.

One can also interpret my behavior in the light of Albert Bandura’s theory of self-observation, judgment, and self-response that “can range from the obvious (treating yourself to a sundae or working late) to the more covert (feelings of pride or shame)” (Boeree, 2006). In the first stage, I observed my own behavior, arguing with the friend, and evaluated it from different viewpoints. In the second, I passed judgment on whether such behavior was suitable for the future. In this case, I realized that my past proneness to yield to my friend made her willing to impose her views on me and led to the creation of the present situation. In addition, her conviction that I would not argue with her reinforced her arrogant behavior. My self-response was, even though I did not state it at that time, to revise my strategies in communication with such people, going into the future, so as to avoid similar occurrences.

Interactions between people can be many different interpretations from the viewpoint of social psychology. Various social psychological theories such as theory of social exchange, social cognitive theory, and symbolic interactionism are applicable to the specific situation I described. Applying various criteria to the study of the situation between the two people, these theories help elucidate many important points of human behavior. These, in turn, assist actors in thorough evaluation of their behavioral patterns and corrections of these patterns in the future.
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