Essay // Clinical Psychology: Controversies that surround modern day mental health practice

mentalhealth

Modern day mental health practice could be defined as the application of the four main schools of thoughts that dominate the field of psychology in the clinical setting, by abiding to strict criteria set out by packaged behavioural sets, diagnostically defined by names and categorised depending on the core nature of their specific characteristics in terms of behaviour, aetiology and epidemiology. While these four [biological, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural & systemic] main schools of thought have contributed to the development and ongoing evolution of the field of psychology, they also have downsides when applied to different types of psychological cases, with some being more efficient in treating particular disorders while others being hardly efficient and questionable. Applying and integrating these four schools of thoughts with new intuitive fact-based theories to explain psychological constructs and disorders are leading to major innovations in psychology; however with each field’s limitations controversies over the validity of their interpretations and the efficiency of their applied doctrines remain a constant topic of debate among scholars and clinicians.

One of the main controversies that surround modern day mental health practice is the medicalisation of psychological disorders, a tradition influenced by the field of medicine which contradicts an important founding philosophy of psychology, which was originally initiated to study the “mind”, not the physical characteristics of the brain as an organ. Furthermore, evidence suggests that psychological problems are not caused exclusively by organic factors. In anxiety, depression and/or schizophrenia, people with genetic vulnerability to the development of those psychological disorders only do so when exposed to particular stresses in their environment (Hankin & Abele, 2005). However, on the other side of the argument, evidence has also shown that deficiencies in genetics and neurobiological anatomy are linked to psychological difficulties and disorders, and hence nowadays, integrated approaches are used in a variety of assessments when treating patients affected by psychological disorders.

On the theme of medicalization, the debate over eating disorders has led to one of the major controversies within the field between advocates of the biomedical conceptualisation of eating disorders and the feminist position (Maine & Bunnell, 2010). The former sees an individual woman as a patient with a debilitating disease, in need of a cure to her illness; while the feminist position views eating disorders as a condition that is gender specific with the woman as a victim of socio-cultural pressures generated by a male-dominated society governed by a hedonistic economic reality focused on the pursuit of the thin ideal. There is an important distinction that should be made here for the benefit of patients since the feminist view may not fully comprehend that in the case of obesity and emaciation related to eating-disorders, the patients are at severe risk of medical complications such as growth retardation, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal bleeding, dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities and cardiac arrest [in chronic cases]. The social feminist constructivist perspective may be interpreting eating disorder as an image debate of “Fat” versus “Thin”. This may lead to the normalisation of obesity and destructive eating habits which in turn may result in further medical complications that involve surgical interventions. As for the feminists, it may be ethical to acknowledge that obesity & emaciation associated with eating disorders are major health issues that precede further complications such as diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure; and should not be confused with social stigma regarding image, but seen as a sign of poor-health and lifestyle that require attention and effort in providing patients with the medical and psychological help they need to adjust their patterns of life to a healthy one by adopting a culture synchronised with dietary & nutritional education.

Secondly, the medicalization of anxiety disorders as distinct medical & psychological conditions may seem less favourable to the biological model previously mentioned. A mass market of pharmacological products used in treatment has been favoured for being more convenient and less time consuming. This may lead to patients feeling disempowered and hopeless when being treated as victims of an uncontrollable illnesses requiring pharmacological treatment, while already being in a state of distress, shock, disbelief and/or confusion. Diazepam (Valium) or other benzodiazepines that are highly addictive have also been prescribed for years to treat anxiety disorders. The long term side effects have been trivialised along with the arrogant act of medicalizing fear and courage (Breggin, 1991). Critics of the medicalization of experiences argue that if patients are helped in understanding that panic attacks develop from the misrepresentation of bodily sensations and hyperventilation, this knowledge along with their own courage may strengthen them to take control of their fear. Research has also shown how patients who are educated in cognitive-behaviour techniques learn to use problem-solving and develop other skills (e.g. social – help them build meaningful lasting relationships while letting go of psychosocial burdens) that they lack to reappraise situations that may formerly have brought distress.

RichardDawkinsIndifference

English evolutionary-biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins

The tragic death of one of the most talented vocalists on the planet, Chris Cornell, has sent a shock throughout the arts world and reports have revealed that the gifted artist was on Lorazepam [a benzodiazepine medication sold under the name Ativan used in the treatment of anxiety disorders], the substance is known to heighten the risk of suicide in those suffering from depression, while a recent investigation (Bushnell et al., 2017) has also shown no meaningful clinical benefit from the addition of benzodiazepines during treatment initiation. To prevent such tragedies from affecting the human race, more emphasis could be placed on “the mind” with clear guidance on the “thinking styles” (cognitive scripts) to adopt in the protection of the individual organism’s own psyche (mind). Simple foundations based on psychological logic should be propagated educationally to help people understand their uniqueness as organisms while protecting their psyche [mind] from the influence/control of external environmental factors that are beyond their control [e.g. biased negativity, uninformed prejudicial comments of meaningless acquaintances, etc]; acknowledging the fact that as long as an individual organism is within the boundaries of the law, he is allowed to live the life of his choice, and external factors would only affect one’s psyche if attention is given to them; and selectively ignoring parts of the environment  is also an acquired skill vital in maintaining sanity, along with the ability to select experiences that are positive & progressive to the organism [while discarding negative ones] in the context and theme of their chosen individual lifestyles.

ChrisCornell

An artist many might consider to be the Fréderic Chopin & the Edouard Manet of Rock, composing with his heart and painting with his voice, enigmatic vocalist Chris Cornell, known for timeless titles such as “What You Are“, “Like A Stone“, “The Last Remaining Light“, “Exploder“, “Be Yourself“, “Getaway Car” & “Dandelion” left a hole in the hearts of millions touched by his work. His tragic death is a reminder that further research is required in understanding the thought structure of artistic individuals whose psychological subjective reality would likely be deeper and more complex compared to the average person – an approach focusing on the “mind” rather than the “behaviour or brain” in the tradition of Sigmund Freud would likely reveal and explain the granularity of their psyche; and whether their suicidal decisions are rooted in full awareness and motivated by a reality they consider to be inadequate for their state of consciousness and IQ; and whether appropriate interventions involving the restructuration of their psychosocial patterns/exposure [to prevent the burden of stress] may be more individualistic & appropriate.

This would also shift the focus to the individual’s mind, courage & abilities to handle the world while maintaining a stable sense of self and resilience; and not turn them into biological organisms that are having their neurochemistry savagely altered by powerful chemical substances that are known to affect individuals differently with dangerous & sometimes fatal outcomes.

PrinciplesOfPsychology

The same would apply to sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder who would benefit of a non-pharmacological and empowering intervention to manage and take control of recurrent intrusive and distressing memories – it may be useful to study fear, distress and courage as normal psychological processes happening on a dimensional scale on a normal continuum from one individual to another where those on the extreme ends of the scales may be considered for psychological interventions.

Similarly, antidepressant medication used to treat depression remains controversial due to its questionable efficacy and side-effects. The high level of effectiveness of SSRIs reported in academic journals was greatly due to only trials with positive results of antidepressants being published while those where antidepressants were found to be no more effective than placebos being rejected. The effects of TCAs and SSRIs have also been found to be negligible in mild to moderate depression but effective in severe depression in meta-analyses (Fournier et al., 2010). The negative side-effects of antidepressants are known to be risky and dangerous where symptoms such as loss of sexual desire and impotence, weight gain, nausea, sedation or activation, and dizziness are known to be some of the more disturbing ones, with effects varying with types of antidepressants – for depressed pregnant women, health risks may affect their offspring. Dangerous antidepressants such as MAOIs are only prescribed to patients who can follow strict dietary patterns that exclude foods with thyramine (e.g. cheese) to prevent risks of high blood pressure and hypertensive crises. Although meta-analyses suggest benefits may outweigh the risks, an increased risk of suicide has also been noted among patients under 25 (Bridge et al., 2007).

Edouard Manet - Le Suicide

Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883), “Le Suicidé

Electroconvulsive therapy has also sparked a major controversy as a primitive, dangerous and non-scientific practice for the brevity of its effect and negative side-effects on memory (Read & Bentall, 2010). A thorough review of studies on the effectiveness of ECT and its side-effects [retrograde and anterograde amnesia] revealed it to be effective for a brief duration in treating severe depression [in cases that are unresponsive to psychological treatment] and questionably only supported by psychiatrists with a vested interest in proving ECT’s effectiveness. ECT has also been associated with a slight but significant risk of death, and a qualitative study of patients’ negative experiences concluded that for some ECT leads to fear, shame and humiliation, and reinforces experiences of worthlessness and helplessness associated with depression.

brainbuilding

Medicalization has also led to controversy over the diagnosis of schizophrenia, a condition classified as a disease by the World Health Organization and ranked second only to cardiovascular diseases in terms of overall disease burden internationally (Murray & Lopez, 1996). Diagnosis is believed to be part of best practice in the patient’s “best” interest, however a strongly presented viewpoint by Thomas Szasz (2010) qualified diagnosis as an act of oppression as it may pave way for involuntary hospitalisation; where a deviant, maladjusted or poorly educated person may be subjected to “control” processes that they are not fully aware of – this has been proposed as a “possible” explanation for the greater rates of schizophrenia among ethnic minorities (particularly Africans in the US & those of low-SES groups). This view has also been supported by many who argue that schizophrenia as a distinct category may not be a fully valid diagnostic, but a fabrication constructed that may stigmatise disadvantaged or poorly educated people – while this may be positive in shaping “unacceptable behaviour” and protect citizens & society, some people with moderate symptoms may also be forcefully hospitalised. Thus, nowadays, schizophrenia is not a single definite disorder anymore, but one among others, as it has been revised and turned into a spectrum, known as the schizoid spectrum [with other related disorders]. In the treatment of schizophrenia, medicalisation has also led to the evaluation of psychotherapy as a possibly ineffective treatment (Lehman & Steinwachs, 1998). Freud & others in his discipline acknowledged the treatment of psychosis as problematic with psychotherapy as psychotic individuals tend not to develop transference [interpretation of their hidden feelings, defences & anxiety] to the analyst – unlike neurotic patients. For personality disorders, addictions and other severe mental health problems medicalisation has led to the development of alternative methods of treatment that unlike the traditional authoritarian & hierarchically organised inpatient mental health settings, are run in a more democratic line where service users are encouraged to take an active role in their rehabilitation rather than simply being passive recipients of treatment.

clinicalpsychology

Therapeutic communities have turned out to be effective in the long-term treatment of difficult patients with severe personality disorders with the outcome being more positive with longer treatments. These therapeutic communities are believed to lead to improvements in mental health and interpersonal functioning. For drug misuse issues, the assumption that clinicians make over users attempt to quit being due to conscious guidance & coherent plans should be revised as no evidence suggests so, and more evidence argue that unconscious processes, classical and operant conditioning, erratic impulses, and highly specific environmental cues affect the development and cessation of drug use (West, 2006). According to West, interventions should not stimulate adolescents to think of what ‘stage’ they are in or be matched to a stage, but maximum tolerable pressure should be put on the young person to cease drug use – which contradicts the stages of change model (DiClemente, 2003; Prochaska et al., 1992) where 30 days are allocated to stages [pre-contemplation, contemplation, action & maintenance] based on no evidence. While concepts such as harm reduction programmes with needle exchange, safe injection sites, and the provisions of free tests of quality of MDMA sold at raves remain controversial, some believe they prevent mortality and morbidity (Marlatt & Witkiewitz, 2010), while others argue they send the message that hard drug use [such as heroin] may be acceptable.

The second major controversy in modern day mental health practice remains the “Person or Context” debate where many in the field still question the validity of focusing on context as it shifts attention from the individualistic characteristics of the patient, and whether the focus should shift depending on the disorder and the patient’s age. For example in the treatment of childhood disorders, if difficulties are assumed to be individual ‘psychiatric’ illnesses the risk of focus being solely on the child and not on broader social environment may lead to medical treatments and individual therapy without addressing important risk factors for those of such young age who are influenced by their social environment, e.g. teacher, school and wider social context. This may not be the case for some adults who value a sense of autonomy more than being influenced by wider social contexts that they have no connection to, interest in or affinity for. In contrast, to the autonomic adult, treatment cases of other childhood behaviour disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders may be particularly problematic, since the major risk factors that should be addressed are social: through interventions such as parent training, family therapy, multisystemic therapy and treatment foster care. For ADHD, the bold emphasis on medication is dangerous as the effects are limited to only 3 years (Swanson & Volkow, 2009), while growth and cardiovascular functioning may be affected that may lead to somatic complaints such as loss of appetite, headaches, insomnia and tics, which are present in 5-12% of cases (Breggin, 2001; Paykina et al., 2007; Rapport & Moffitt, 2002).

Another interesting argument comes from the Scottish psychiatrist and psychoanalyst R. D. Laing (2009) in the 1960s and 1970s who opposed the view that schizophrenia was a genetically based medical condition requiring treatment with antipsychotic medication. His dimensional approach led him to view schizophrenia as a ‘sane reaction to an insane situation’ where the contents of psychotic symptoms were simply viewed as psychological responses to complex, confusing, conflicting and powerful parental injunctions that left no scope for more rational and adaptive modes of expression. Thus, Laing proposed that the treatment involved creating a context where insight into the complex family process [e.g. poor housing, low SES, deviant parents with drug problems, over-involved family members who maintain the patient’s stress, alcohol problems, sexual deviance, incest, lack of financial stability, poor educational motivation, poor emotional education, lack of problem solving skills, lack of sophistication, poor nutrition, restricted finances, etc] of patients with schizophrenia and psychotic response to these could be facilitated. The context here seems partially important in the case where the patient’s delusions and hallucinations are linked, where their interpretation would be the client’s response to conflicting parental injunctions. The experience of psychosis and recovery was a process where the individual could emerge stronger with new and valuable insights regarding the solutions to their problems. However, this has not been supported by any evidence or subsequent research. In contrast, strong scientific evidence points to the importance of a more client-centred individual approach focussed solely on the patient with defective inherited neurobiological factors as major focus for the role they play in schizophrenia, and antipsychotic medication for the reduction of symptoms in two-thirds of psychotic patients affected (Ritsner & Gottesman, 2011; Tandon et al., 2010). Research has supported the hypothesis that suggests the family does affect the psychotic process and that psychotherapy has a place in the management of psychosis, for example personal trauma, including child abuse increases the risk of psychosis, and stressful life events including those within the family can precipitate an episode of psychosis, and high levels of family criticism, hostility and emotional over-involvement increase the risk of relapse (Bebbington & Kuipers, 2008; Hooley, 2007; Shelvin et al., 2008). So for those with a strong sense of family, and heavily involved peers, family therapy delays relapse in troubled families characterized by “extreme” levels of expressed emotion; and cognitive behaviour therapy which stresses the idea that psychotic symptoms are understandable and on a continuum with normal experience can help patients control these psychotic symptoms (Tandon et al., 2010), with solutions to rebuild their lives, their own identity and manage their social circle intelligently by differentiating types of relationship and expectations.

personality

The third and last controversy to be addressed is the ongoing debate in clinical psychology over the categorisation of psychological disorders where many have been arguing over a dimensional outlook on psychological conditions that offers more precision in diagnosis along with a more scientific approach. In the case of childhood behaviour disorders with regard to scientific approaches, there is an ongoing debate over whether they should be viewed and classified in categorical or dimensional terms. While DSM are based on rigid categories, most empirical studies support the view of a dimensional outlook. Furthermore, factor analytic studies consistently show that common childhood difficulties belong to two dimensions of internalizing and externalizing behaviour, which are normally distributed within the population (Achenbach, 2009). Young children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder and ADHD are part of a subgroup of cases with extreme externalizing behavioural problems, while those with anxiety or depressive disorders have extreme internalizing behaviour problems (Carr, 2006a). By the same dimensional approach, children diagnosed with intellectual disability fall at the lower end of the continuum of intelligence, a trait also normally distributed within the population (Carr et al., 2007). The dimensional approach is not only more scientific, but also has a less stigmatizing and rational approach to human uniqueness. The dimensional approach has also enhanced the movement critical of qualifying psychological deficiencies as ‘real psychiatric illnesses’, conditions such as ADHD, conduct disorder and other DSM diagnoses. Questions have been raised over whether they are invalid fabrications or spurious social constructions (Kutchins & Kirk, 1999). Those who trust the evidence of the dimensionality of childhood disorders argue that they may simply be traits distributed normally among the population where some cases fall on the extreme ends of certain traits, while those who point to the interests of pharmaceutical industries’ financial motives argue that they are spurious social constructions. The latter seems unethical but is a part of the decadent and immoral economic reality that we have allowed to exist. As parents, health and educational professionals, it is clear that the pharmaceutical industry and governments may all gain from conceptualising children’s psychological difficulties as ‘real psychiatric illnesses’. Some schools or uncaring parents may prefer children to receive a diagnosis of ADHD with stimulant therapy as they may have difficulty meeting their needs for intellectual stimulation, nurturance and clear limit-setting; thus these children in their care become more aggressive and disruptive.

In the case of schizophrenia, a dimensional approach has also led to the schizotypy construct as a dimensional alternative to the prevailing categorical conceptualization of schizophrenia (Lenzenweger, 2010). In contrast to the categorical view based on Kraepelin’s (1899) work and used in the DSM which sees schizophrenia as a discrete diagnostic category, this one proposes that anomalous sensory experiences, odd beliefs and disorganized thinking exist in extreme forms of schizophrenia as hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder, but these are simply on continuum with normal experience [i.e. it is present in all ‘normal’ people but peaks in abnormal ones] – a position originally advocated by Bleuler (1911). Research measures have provided support for the dimensional construct of schizotypy (Lenzenweger, 2010) where the continuum may be composed of sub-dimensions; from normal to psychotic experiences. Schizotypy is heritable; and patients with high schizotypy scores but who are not psychotic show attentional, eye-movement and other neuropsychological abnormalities associated with schizophrenia. Further, the dimensional approach has also led to the distinction between schizophrenia and split personality where 40% in the UK equated split or multiple personality with schizophrenia – as popular culture often does. It is clear that schizophrenia does not refer to such characteristics.

dr_jekyll_and_mr_hyde

The closest equivalent to split personality is a condition known as dissociative identity disorder (DID), where the central feature is the apparent existence of two or more distinct personalities within the same individual, with only one being evident at a time. Each personality (or alter) is distinct with its own memories, behaviour and interpersonal style. In most cases, the host personality is unaware of the existence of alters and these vary in knowledge of each other. Evidence suggests that the capacity to dissociate is normally distributed within the population and an attribute many use to manage their own lives and network. Those with high degree of this trait may cope by dissociating their consciousness from the experience of trauma (such as child abuse, extreme graphic violence, etc) in early childhood by entering a trance-like state. This dissociative habit is negatively reinforced (strengthened) as an effective distress-reducing coping strategy over repeated traumas in early childhood as it brings relief from distress during trauma exposure. Eventually a sufficient number of experiences become dissociated to constitute a separate personality that may be activated in later life at times of stress or trauma through suggestion in hypnotic psychotherapeutic situations. Treatment often simply involves helping clients integrate the multiple personalities into a single personality and develop non-dissociative strategies for dealing with stress [e.g. argument with work colleagues, new manager, divorce, adolescents leaving home for studies, partner with alcohol problems, over-involved family members, etc] – this helps them deal with tough situations by facing them with problem-solving abilities and skills to come out with a firm resolution and have their views understood. Core symptoms of multiple personality disorder are not treated with psychotropic medication unlike schizophrenia but involves psychological education for patients to learn the skill of mentalizing [understand their own state of mind and that of others].

whoareyou

Finally, with personality disorders, the dimensional approach has led to the trait theory in conceptualizing important aspects of behaviour and experience from a limited number of dimensions. Any given trait is believed to be normally distributed in the population, for example, introversion – extraversion, most people show a moderate level of the trait, however those who exhibit extremely low or high levels [extremes] would have the sort of difficulties attributed in the DSM. So, normal people only differ from the abnormal in the degree to which they show particular traits. The trait theory has become dominated by the five-factor theory (McCrae & Costa, 2008) in recent years. This model includes the dimensions: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. There is evidence for the heritability of all of factors within the Five Factor Model except agreeableness which seems to be predominantly determined by one’s environment (Costa & Widiger, 1994). Thomas Widiger has proposed that the five-factor model may be used as an alternative system for describing personality disorders (Widiger & Mullins-Sweatt, 2010). Widiger also argues that trait theory offers a more scientifically useful approach to assessment with good psychometric properties embraced by its questionnaires (De Raad & Perugini, 2002) – they are reliable and valid, and have population norms. Compared to categorical classification systems, trait models offer a more parsimonious way of describing patients with rigid dysfunctional behaviour patterns which in turn offers a more parsimonious way to conceptualize the development of effective treatments.

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Photo: The Promise of Dawn (J.Hawkes)

The major controversies in modern day mental health practice seem to revolve around the precision and the validity of constructs as psychological illnesses, and since they may stigmatise those who suffer from them, the constant research into better and more modern interpretations and explanations of their characteristics and treatment seem bound to revolutionise the field of psychology, as the movement takes a more dimensional approach; with a new generation of psychologists applying the rules with an open mind and a creative outlook on new perspectives and methods – the field of psychology looks set on a positively progressive course.

UneNation

“A great aggregation of men sane in mind & warm in the heart, creates a moral conscience that is known as a nation” – Ernest Renan / Source: Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Arthur Hughes - A Music Party 1864

Arthur Hughes (1832 – 1915), “A Music Party

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References

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  2. Bleuler, E. (1911). Dementia praecox or the group of schizophrenias. New York: International University Press.
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  7. Carr, A. (2006a). Handbook of child and adolescent clinical psychology: A contextual approach (second edition). London: Routledge.
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Updated 8th of August 2017 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

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Essay // Psychological Explanations of Prejudice & Discrimination

Runner

Prejudice and discrimination are usually classified as behavioural attitudes towards a certain group or individual based on a multitude of reasons [according to different psychological theories]. The main reasons for prejudice are believed to be rooted in individual psychological processes related to groups, social influence and/or upbringing.

Authoritarian Personality

One plausible explanation for prejudice is the authoritarian personality, which suggests that those belonging in the category are concerned with status and upholding conventions, are very conformist and tend to be obsequious to those they see as holding a higher status – while treating those ‘below’ with contemp. Authoritarian personality is believed to be the result of strict and punitive upbringing which later leads to hostility being directed towards disliked [justified or unjustified] groups through the process of “displacement”. Adorno et al (1950) found strong and positive correlations between respondents’ scores on the F-Scale and scores on other measures intended to assess anti-semitism (AS scale) and ethnocentrism (E scale). However, the PEC-scale (Political and economic conservatism) was not strongly related, which only led to the conclusion of how people who are anti-Semitic are also “likely” to be hostile towards most “out-groups”.

The Adorno et al (1950) test only consisted of agreement that could only be geared towards anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism and fascism, which might have led to the problem of acquiescent response. The fact that the interviewer knew the interviewee’s F-score might have also led to experimenter bias; and the theory also falls short in the explanation of mass changes in behaviour: “Antisemitism in Nazi Germany grew during a decade or so, which is much too short a time for a whole generation of German families to have adopted new forms of childrearing practices giving rise to authoritarian and prejudiced children (Brown, 1988)” [not plausible]. The reality is that anti-Semitism may have been the result of a more sinister social and economic problem caused, inflicted by or related to the jews powerful Zionist business associations on the German economy at a time where the country was suffering [people, culture, identity, economy…].

Stereotyping

Another form of prejudice: stereotyping; which plays a major part in the process of intercultural prejudice where the root of its cause has proven to be fairly ambiguous in explanation. Cultural groups [usually] tend to stereotype each other negatively (out-group); and it is believed that this process is the result of minimising mental effort.

Stereotyping is linked to psychological processes within the individual and is assumed to be connected to social influence that leads to prejudice; where out-groups and there members are defined by single characteristics (negative usually). Stereotyping can unfortunately play a devastating role in the legitimation of prejudiced and discriminatory treatment of other individuals who simply [consciously or unconsciously] made the choice to live by different modes of group-oriented behaviour (culture).

Rational reasoning and the humane ability to understand each group’s choices while also respecting each group’s boundaries [geographical, social, economic, psychosocial, etc] are surprisingly never considered by individuals and authorities in the quest to correct the mistakes of a world designed on outdated ideologies [e.g. the scientifically poor logic of cultural Marxism] to design a new one based on creative scientific reasoning, evolutionary logic & progressive innovation.

Prejudice as an Illusionary Cure to Low Self-Esteem/Insecurity

The Social Learning Theory, on the other hand, assumes prejudice as the result of maintaining self-esteem of both the individual and the in-group (individuals with the same behavioural patterns as the individual/tribe) members – where one tends to be biased towards glorifying the group whilst also paying particular attention to criteria that make the group look better. This is related to our sense of identity being determined by the groups we belong to and thus tend to be biased towards favouring them. Tajfel et al (1982) showed how schoolboys chose the strategy to allocate more points to their own group at the expense of getting least overall – showing bias in the absence of competition. The two main problems however are the fact that [1] the tendency for favouritism might be group-oriented and not universal (Wetherall, 1982), and also how [2] most studies show bias towards in-group (which could not only be prejudice but stereotyping or other influences).

Unrealistic Conflict? Competition for the same Resource(s) while presuming in-group members to be “unconditional benefactors”

Finally, the realistic conflict theory suggests that prejudice arises when two or more groups compete for the same resource which in turn leads to a tendency to favour in-group members, while being hostile and denying resources to out-groups. This was proven in Sherif et al (1961) where the artificially stimulated competitive conflict lead to negative stereotyping towards out-group which persisted even after the competition. However, the validity was questioned over the artificiality of the situation and the samples (US American boys only?); as Tyerman & Spencer also showed how competition does not always cause prejudice – where UK scouts co-operated instead. Furthermore, individuals with different upbringing and philosophical orientations had not been considered, which in turn affects the ecological validity of the finding where inferences from generalisation would likely lack precision – with a world in constant social evolution with more psychological research being constantly published to guide society towards a more harmonious design.

crfwyh

Reflexion

Together, the theories seem to offer a plausible explanation for prejudice but cannot be ranked; as they compensate each other’s weak points. A sensible application of each theory – depending on the situation – seems like the rational method forward, since factors such as group-based behavioural patterns (culture), climate and norms remain vital considerations when researching about prejudice, its causes & a more direct approach to solutions.

Furthermore, the world has made such leap socially with the technological era, and people have been inclined towards knowledge, discoveries and innovation with social media contributing towards a more educated humanity [with its cultural barriers and linguistic differences as the main organising factors along with belief systems – e.g. religion, ethics, philosophy, etc – in each groups identity].

A new and strong global inclination towards a realistic synchronised unity [where the world’s population can live harmoniously in their own geographical location with their chosen units, laws and lifestyle, may shape intellectual thought in the decades to come now that the experience learnt from psychosocial disasters due to badly managed population shifts [turned out to be destructive to the safety of Western nations] can be considered in future policies.

The Climate Collapse disaster has also made Civilization aware of the importance of “synchronised unity” in matters of global human advancement – research surrounding prejudice and  discrimination would likely benefit the human world more if applied in intra-group scenarios – should the world’s population be managed and geographically engineered according to evolutionary logic [to fit their respective psychosocial & biological environments to further refine group evolution and guide society towards a harmonious pattern of living] for each group by their respective identities, collective beliefs, values & vision.

_______________________________________

References

Boakes. R (1984) From Darwin to behaviourism: Psychology and the minds of animals. Cambridge University Press

Cohen D. (1979) J.B Watson: The Founder of Behaviourism. London, Boston and Henley

Gross. R (2005) Psychology: the science of mind and behaviour. London, Hodder and Stoughton Educational

Updated: 02.07.2016 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

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Essay // Psychology: The Concept of Self

SelfRope

The concept of the self will be explored in this essay – where it comes from, what it looks like and how it influences thought and behaviour. Since self and identity are cognitive constructs that influence social interaction and perception, and are themselves partially influenced by society, the material of this essay connects to virtually all aspects of psychological science. The self is an enormously popular focus of research (e.g. Leary and Tangney, 2003; Sedikides and Brewer, 2001; Swann and Bosson, 2010). A 1997 review by Ashmore and Jussim reported 31,000 social psychological publications on the self over a two-decade period to the mid-1990s, and there is now even an International Society for Self and Identity and a scholarly journal imaginatively entitled Self and Identity.

Nikon Portrait DSC_0169 Res600

The concept of the “self” is a relatively new idea in psychological science. While Roy Baumeister’s (1987) painted a picture of a medievally organised society where most human organism’s reality were fixed and predefined by rigid social relations and legitimised with religious affiliations [family membership, social rank, birth order & place of birth, etc], the modern perspectives adopted by scholars and innovative psychologists has been contradicting such outdated concepts. The idea of a complex & sophisticated individual self, lurking underneath would have been difficult, if not impossible, to entertain under such atavistic assumptions of social structures affecting an individual human organism.

However, all this changed in the 16th century, where momentum gathered ever since from forces such as:

Secularisation – where the idea that fulfilment occurs in afterlife was replaced by the idea that one should actively pursue personal fulfilment in this life

Industrialisation – where the human being was increasingly being seen as individual units of production who moved from place to place with their own “portable” personal identity which was not locked into static social structures such as extended family

Enlightenment – where people felt they were solely responsible for choosing, organising and creating better identities for themselves by overthrowing orthodox value systems and oppressive regimes [e.g. the French revolution and the American revolution of the late 18th century]

and

Psychoanalysis – Freud’s theory of the human mind unleashed the creative individual with the notion that the self was unfathomable because it lived in the depth of the unconscious [e.g. Theory of social representations – theory invoking psychoanalysis as an example of how a novel idea or analysis can entirely change how people think about their world (e.g. Moscovici, 1961; see Lorenzi-Cioldi and Clémence, 2001).

summer

Together, these and other socio-political and cultural influences lead to society thinking about the self and identity as complex subjects, where theories of self and identity propagated and flourished in this fertile soil.

As far as self and identity are concerned, we have noticed one pervasive finding in cultural differences. The so called “Western” world involving continents such as Western Europe, North America and Australasia, tend to be individualistic, whereas most other cultures, such as in Asia, South America and Africa are collectivist (Triandis, 1989; also see Chiu and Hong, 2007, Heine, 2010, 2012; Oyserman, Coon and Kemmelmeier, 2002). Anthropologist Geertz puts it beautifully:

“The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated, motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic centre of awareness, emotion, judgement, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against a social and natural background is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.”

Geertz (1975, p.48)

the individual

Markus and Kityama (1991) describe how those from individualistic cultures tend to have an independent self, whereas people from collectivist cultures have an interdependent self. Although in both cases, people seek a clear sense of who they are, the [Western] independent self is grounded in a view of the self that is autonomous, separate from other people and revealed through one’s inner thoughts and feelings. The [Eastern] interdependent self on the other hand, unlike in the West, tends to be grounded in one’s connection to and relationships with other people [expressed through one’s roles and relationships]. As Gao explained: ‘Self… is defined by a person’s surrounding relations, which often are derived from kinship networks and supported by cultural values based on subjective definitions of filial piety, loyalty, dignity, and integrity’ (Gao, 1996, p. 83).

From a conceptual review of the cultural context of self-conception, Vignoles, Chryssochoou and Breakwell (2000) conclude that the need to have a distinctive and integrated sense of self is “likely” universal. However from individualist and collectivist cultures, the term “self-distinctiveness” holds a set of very different assumptions. In the individualist West, separateness adds meaning and definition to the isolated and bounded self. In the collectivist & Eastern others, the “self” is relational and gains meaning from its relations with others.

universal

A logic proposed by analysing historical conceptions of self with an account of the origins of individualist and collectivist cultures along with the associated independent and interdependent self-conceptions may be related to economic policies. The labour market is an example where mobility helped the industry by viewing humans as “units” of production who are expected to shift their geographical locations from places of low labour demand to those of higher demand, along with their ability to organise their lives, relationships, self-concepts around mobility and transient relationships.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center.

Independence, separateness and uniqueness have become more important than connectedness and long-term maintenance of enduring relationships [values that seem to have become pillars of modern Western Labour Culture – self-conceptions reflect cultural norms that codify economic activity].

However, this logic applied to any modern human organism seems to clearly offer more routes to development [personal and professional], more options to continuously nurture the evolving concepts of self-conception through expansive social experience and cultural exploration, while being a set of philosophy that places more powers of self-defined identity in the hands of the individual [more modern and sophisticated].

TheMan

Now that some basic concepts and origins of the “self” along with its importance and significance to psychological science has been covered, we are going to explore two creative ways of learning about ourselves.

Firstly, the concept of self-knowledge which involves us storing information about ourselves in a complex and varied way in the form of a schema means that information about the self is assumed to be stored cognitively as separate context specific nodes such that different nodes activate different ones and thus, different aspects of self (Breckler, Pratkanis and McCann, 1991; Higgins, van Hook and Dorfman, 1988). The concept of self emerges from widely distributed brain activity across the medial prefrontal and medial precuneus cortex of the brain (e.g. Saxe, Moran, Scholz, and Gabrieli, 2006). According the Hazel Markus, self-concept is neither “a singular, static, lump-like entity” nor a simple averaged view of the self – it is a complex and multi-faceted, with a relatively large number of discrete self-schemas (Markus, 1977; Markus and Wurf, 1987).

masks

Most individuals tend to have clear conceptions of themselves on some dimensions but not others – generally more self-schematic on dimensions that hold more meaning to them, for e.g. if one thinks of oneself as sophisticated and being sophisticated is of importance to oneself, then we would be self-schematic on that dimension [part of our self-concept], if not then we would not [would not be part of our self-concept – unsophisticated]. It is widely believed that most people have a complex self-concept with a large number of discrete self-schemas. Patrice Linville (1985, 1987; see below) has suggested that this variety helps to buffer people from life’s negative impacts by ensuring enough self-schemas are available for the individual to maintain a sense of satisfaction. We can be strategic in the use of our self-schemas – Linville described such judgement colourfully by saying: “don’t put all your eggs in one cognitive basket.” Self-schemas influence information processing and behaviour similarly to how schemas about others do (Markus and Sentis, 1982): self-schematic information is more readily noticed, is overrepresented in cognition and is associated with longer processing time.

egg

Self-schemas do not only describe how we are, but they are also believed to differ as we have an array of possible selves (Markus and Nurius, 1986) – future-oriented schemas of what we would like to become, or what we fear we might become. For example, a scholar completing a postgraduate may think of a career as a lecturer, writer, entrepreneur, politician, actor, rock musician, etc. Higgins (1987) proposed the self-discrepancy theory, suggesting that we have 3 major types of self-schema:

  • The actual self – how we are
  • The ideal self – how we would like to be
  • The ‘ought’ self – how we think we should be

Discrepancies between the actual, ideal and/or ought, can motivate change to reduce the discrepancy – in this way we engage in self-regulation. Furthermore, the self-discrepancy and the general notion of self-regulation have been elaborated into the regulatory focus-theory (Higgins, 1997, 1998).This theory proposes that most individuals have two separate self-regulatory systems, termed Promotion and Prevention. The “Promotion” system is concerned with the attainment of one’s hopes and aspirations – one’s ideals. For example, those in a promotion focus adopt approach strategic means to attain their goals [e.g. promotion-focused students would seek ways to improve their grades, find new challenges and treat problems as interesting obstacles to overcome. The “Prevention” system is concerned with the fulfilment of one’s duties and obligations. Those in a prevention focus use avoidance strategy means to attain their goals. For example, prevention-focussed students would avoid new situations or new people and concentrate on avoiding failure rather than achieving highest possible grade.

aimhigh

Whether an individual is more approach or prevention focussed is believed to stem during childhood (Higgins and Silberman, 1998). Promotion-focus may arise if children are habitually hugged and kissed for behaving in a desired manner and love is withdrawn as a form of discipline. Prevention-focus may arise if children are encouraged to be alert to potential dangers and punished when they display undesirable behaviours. Against this background of individual differences however, regulatory focus has also been observed to be influenced by immediate context, for example by structuring the situation so that subjects focus on prevention or on promotion (Higgins, Roney, Crowe and Hymes, 1994). Research also revealed that those who are promotion-focussed are more likely to recall information relating to the pursuit of success by others (Higgins and Tykocinski, 1992). Lockwood and her associates found that those who are promotion-focussed look for inspiration to positive role models who emphasise strategies for achieving success (Lockwood, Jordan and Kunda, 2002). Such individuals also show elevated motivation and persistence on tasks framed in terms of gains and non-gains (Shah, Higgins and Friedman, 1998). On the other side of the spectrum, individuals who are prevention-focussed tend to recall information relating to the avoidance of failure by others, are most inspired by negative role models who highlight strategies for avoiding failure and exhibit motivation and persistence on tasks that framed in terms of losses and non-losses. After being studied in intergroup relations (Shah, Higgins and Friedman, 1998), the regulatory focus theory was found to strengthen positive emotion related bias and behavioural tendencies towards the ingroup when in the context of a measured or manipulated promotion focus. Prevention-focus strengthens more negative emotion-related bias [haters] and behavioural tendencies against the outgroup (Shah, Brazy and Higgins, 2004).

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The second way of learning about the concept of self is through the understanding of our “many selves” and multiple identities. In the book, The Concepf of Self, Kenneth Gergen (1971) depicts the self-concept as containing a repertoire of relatively discrete and often quite varied identities, each with a distinct body of knowledge. These identities have their origins in a vast array of different types of social relationships that form, or have formed, the anchoring points for our lives, ranging from close personal relationships with other professionals, mentors, trusted friends, etc and roles defined by skills, fields, divisions and categories, to relationships fully or partially defined by languages, geography, cultures [sub-cultures], groups values, philosophy, religion, gender and/or ethnicity. Linville (1985) also noted that individuals differ in terms of self-complexity, in the sense that some individuals have more diverse and extensive set of selves than othersthose with many independent aspects of selves have higher self-complexity that those with a few, relatively similar, aspects of self. The notion of self-complexity is given a rather different emphasis by Marilynn Brewer and her colleagues (Brewer and Pierce, 2005; Roccas and Bewer, 2002) who focussed on self that is defined in group terms (social identity) and the relationship among identities rather than number of identities individuals have.

TheMask

They argued that individuals have a complex social identity if they have discrete social identities that do not share many attributes but a simple social identity if they have overlapping social identities that share many attributes [simple]. For example, when Cognitive Psychologists [cognitive psychology explores mental processes] study high-level functions such as problem solving and decision making, they often ask participants to think aloud. The verbal protocols that are obtained [heard] are then analysed at different levels of granularity: e.g. to look at the speed with which participants carry out mental processes, or, at a higher level of analysis, to identify the strategies being used. Grant and Hogg (2012) have recently suggested and empirically shown that the effect, particularly on group identification and group behaviours of the number of identities one has and their overlap may be better explained in terms of the general property of social identity prominencehow subjectively prominent, overall and in a specific situation, a particular identity is one’s self-concept. Social identity theorists (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) argued 2 broad classes of identity that define different types of self:

(i) Social Identity [which defines self in terms of a “particular” group membership (if any meaningful ones exist for the individual)], and

(ii) Personal Identity [which defines self in terms of idiosyncratic traits & close personal relationships with specific individuals/groups (if any) which may be more than physical/social, e.g. mental [strength of association with specific others on specific tasks/degrees]

The first main focus question here is asked by Brewer and Gardner (1996), ‘Who is this “we”?’ and distinguished three forms of self:

  • Individual self – based on personal traits that differentiate the self from all others
  • Relational self – based on connections and role relationships with significant/meaningful others
  • Collective self – based on group membership [can depend of many criteria] that differentiates ‘us’ from ‘them’

More recently it has been proposed that there are four types of identity (Brewer, 2001; Chen, Boucher and Tapias, 2006):

  • Personal-based social identities – emphasising the way that group properties are internalised by individual group members as part of their self-concept
  • Relational social identities – defining the self in relation to specific other people with whom one interacts [may not be physical or social only] in a group context – corresponding to Brewer and Gardner’s (1996) relational identity and to Markus and Kitayama’s (1991) ‘interdependent self’.
  • Group-based social identities – equivalent to social identity as defined above [sense of belonging and emotional salience for a group is subjective]
  • Collective identities – referring to a process whereby  those who consider themselves as “group members” not only share self-defining attributes, but also engage in social action to forge an image of what the group stands for and how it is represented and viewed by others.

China Collective

The relational self  [for those who choose to be defined by others at least] is a particularly interesting concept as it can also be considered a particular type of collective self. As Masaki Yuki (2003) observed, some groups and cultures (notable East-Asian cultures) define groups in terms of networks of relationships. Research also revealed that women tend to place a greater importance than men on their relationships with others in a group (Seeley, Gardner, Pennington and Gabriel, 2003; see also Baumeister and Sommer, 1997; Cross and Madson, 1997).

In search for the evidence for the existence of multiple selves which came from research where contextual factors were varied to discover that most individuals describe themselves and behave differently in different contexts. In one experiment, participants were made to describe themselves on very different ways by being asked loaded questions which prompted them to search from their stock of self-knowledge for information that presented the self in a different light (Fazio, Effrein and Falender, 1981). Other researchers also found, time and time again, that experimental procedures that focus on group membership lead people to act very differently from procedures that focus on individuality and interpersonal relationships. Even “minimal group” studies in which participants are either: (a) identified as individuals; or (b) explicitly categorised, randomly or by some minimal or trivial criterion as ‘group’ members (Tajfel, 1970; see Diehl, 1990), a consistent finding is that being categorised tends to lead people to being discriminatory towards an outgroup, conform to ingroup norms, express attitudes and feelings that favour ingroup, and indicate a sense of belonging and loyalty to the ingroup.

ManVsGorilla

Furthermore, these effects of minimal group categorisation are generally very fast and automatic (Otten and Wentura, 1999). The idea that we may have many selves and that contextual factors can bring different selves into play, has a number of ramifications. Social constructionists have suggested that the self is entirely situation-dependent. An extreme form of this position argues that we do not carry self-knowledge around in our heads as cognitive representations at all, but rather that we construct disposable selves through talk (e.g. Potter and Wetherell, 1987). A less extreme version was proposed by Penny Oakes (e.g. Oakes, Haslam and Reynolds, 1999), who does not emphasise the role of talk but still maintains that self-conception is highly context-dependent. It is argued that most people have cognitive representations of the self that they carry in their heads as organising principles for perception, categorisation and action, but that these representations are temporarily or more enduringly modified by situational factors (e.g. Abrams and Hogg, 2001; Turner, Reynolds, Haslam and Veenstra, 2006).

evolution

Although we have a diversity of relatively discrete selves, we also have a quest: to find and maintain a reasonably integrated picture of who we are. Self-conceptual coherence provides us with a continuing theme for our lives – an ‘autobiography’ that weaves our various identities and selves together into a whole person. Individuals who have highly fragmented selves (e.g. some patients schizophrenia, amnesia or Alzheimer’s disease) find it very difficult to function effectively. People use many strategies to construct a coherent sense of self (Baumeister, 1998). Here is a list of some that we have used ourselves.

Sometimes we restrict our life to a limited set of contexts. Because different selves come into play as contexts keep changing, protections from self-conceptual clashes seem like a valid motive.

Other times, we continuously keep revising and integrating our ‘biographies’ to accommodate new identities. Along the way, we dispose of any meaningless inconsistencies. In effect, we are rewriting our own history to make it work to our advantage (Greenwald, 1980).

We also tend to attribute some change in the self externally to changing circumstances [e.g. educational achievements, professional circle, industry, etc] rather than simply internally to construct who we are. This is an application of the actor-observer effect (Jones and Nisbett, 1972).

In other case, we can also develop self-schemas that embody a core set of attributes that we feel distinguishes us from all other peoplethat makes us unique (Markus, 1977). We then tend to recognise these attributes disproportionately in all our selves, providing thematic consistency that delivers a sense of a stable and unitary self (Cantor and Kihlstrom, 1987). To sum up, individuals tend to construct their lives such that their self-conceptions are both steady and coherent.

One of major elements in the conception of self, is the ability to communicate through language and its varying degrees of granularity that hold a major role in social identity.

The remaining part of this essay will focus on the power and importance of language as the essence of the human being.

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The Essence of the Modern Human Being: Language, Psycholinguistics & Self-Definition

Human communication is completely different from that of other species as it allows virtually limitless amounts of ideas to be expressed by combining finite sets of elements (Hauser, Chomsky, & Fitch, 2005; Wargo, 2008). Other species [e.g. apes] do have communicative methods but none of them compare with human language. For example, monkeys use unique warning calls for different threats, but never combine these calls on new ideas. Similarly, birds and whales sing complex songs, but creative recombination of these sounds in the expression of new ideas has not occurred to these animals either.

MicOne.jpg

As a system of symbol, language lies at the heart of social life and all its multitude of aspects in social identity. Language may be at the essence of existence if explored from the philosopher Descartes most famous quote, “Cogito Ergo Sum” which is Latin for “I think, therefore I am.”, as thought is believed to be experienced and entertained in language. The act of thinking often involves an inner personal conversation with oneself, as we tend to perceived and think about the world in terms of linguistic categories. Lev Vygotsky (1962) believed that inner speech was the medium of thought and that it was interdependent with external speech [the medium of social communication]. This interdependence would lead to the logical conclusion that cultural differences in language and speech are reflected in cultural differences in thought.

In the theory of linguistic relativity devised by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, a more extreme of that logic was proposed. Brown writes:

Linguistic relativity is the reverse of the view that human cognition constrains the form of language. Relativity is the view that the cognitive processes of a human being – perception, memory, inference, deduction – vary with structural characteristics – lexicon, morphology, syntax – of the language [one speaks].

rene-descartes

Rene Descartes (1596-1659) was not only one of the most prominent philosophers of the 17th century but in the history of Western philosophy. Often referred to as the “father of modern philosophy”, Descartes profoundly influenced intellectuals across Europe with his writings. Best known for his statement “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), the philosopher started the school of rationalism which broke with the scholastic Aristotelianism. Firstly, Descartes rejected the mind-body dualism, arguing that matter (the body) and intelligence (the mind) are 2 independent substances (metaphysical dualism) and secondly rejected the causal model of explaining natural phenomena and replaced it with science-based observation and experiment. The philosopher spent a great part of his life in conflict with scholastic approach (historically part of the religious order and its adherents) which still dominated thoughts in the early 17th century.

Communication & Language

The study of communication is therefore an enormous undertaking that draws on a wide range of disciplines, such as psychology, social psychology, sociology, linguistics, socio-linguistics, philosophy and literary criticism. Social psychologists have tended to distinguish between the study of language and the study of non-verbal communication [where scholars agree both are vital to study communication (Ambady and Weisbuch, 2010; Holtgraves, 2010; Semin, 2007)]; with also a focus on conversation and the nature of discourse. However the scientific revolution has quickly turned our era into one hugely influenced by computer-mediated communication which is quickly turning into a dominant channel of communication for many (Birchmeier, Dietz-Uhler and Stasser, 2011; Hollingshead, 2001).

Communication in all its varieties is the essence of social interaction: when we interact we communicate. Information is constantly being transmitted about what we sense, think and feel – even about “who we are” – and some of our “messages” are unintentional [instinctive]. Communication among educated humans comprises of words, facial expressions, signs, gestures and touch; and this is done face-to-face or by phone, writing, texting, emails or video. The social factors of communication are inescapable:

  • It involves our relationship with others
  • It is built upon a shared understanding of meaning
  • It is how people influence each other

Spoken languages are based on rule-governed structuring of meaningless sounds (phonemes) into basic units of meaning (morphemes), which are further structured by morphological rules into words and by syntactic rules into sentences. The meanings of words, sentences and entire utterances are determined by semantic rules; which together represent “grammar”. Language has remained an incredibly and endlessly powerful medium of communication due to the limitless amount of meaningful utterances it can generate through the shared knowledge of morphological, syntactic and semantic rules. Meaning can be communicated by language at a number of levels, ranging from a simple utterance [a sound made by one person to another] to a locution [words placed in sequence, e.g. ‘It’s cold in this room’], to an illocution [the locution and context in which it is made: ‘It’s cold in this room’ may be a statement, or a criticism of the institution for not providing adequate heating, or a request to close the window, or a plea to move to another room (Austin, 1962; Hall, 2000)].

SonicDelicacy

Linguistic mastery therefore involves dexterity at many levels of cultural understanding and therefore should likely differ from one individual to another depending on their personality, IQ, education and cultural proficiency in adaptation. This would lead to being able to navigate properly in the appropriate cultural context through language whilst knowing the appropriateness of the choice of words in term of “when, where, how and to whom say it.” Being able to master these, opens the doors to sociolinguistics (Fishman, 1972; also see Forgas, 1985), and the study of discourse as the basic unit of analysis (Edwards and Potter, 1992; McKinlay and McVittie, 2008; Potter and Wetherell, 1987). The philosopher John Searle (1979) has identified five sorts of meanings that humans can intentionally use language to communicate; the can use language:

  • To say how something is signified
  • To get someone to do something.
  • To express feelings and attitudes
  • To make a commitment
  • To accomplish something directly

Language is a uniquely human form of communication, as observed in the natural world, no other mammal has the elaborate form of communication in its repertoire of survival skills. Young apes have been taught to combine basic signs in order to communicate meaningfully (Gardner and Gardner, 1971; Patterson, 1978), however not even the most precocious ape can match the complexity of hierarchical language structure used by a normal 3-year-old child (Limber, 1977).

BabyBoy

Language has been called a human instinct because it is so readily and universally learned by infants. At 10 months of age, little is said, but at 30-month-old infants speak in complete sentences and user over 500 words (Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2006). Moreover, over this very 20 month period, the plastic infant brain reorganises itself to learn the language of its environment(s). At 10 months infants can distinguish the sounds of all languages, but by 30 months, they can readily discriminate only those sounds to which they have been exposed (Kraus and Banai, 2007). Once the ability to discriminate particular speech sounds is lost, it is very hard to regain in most, which is one of the reason why most adults tend to have difficulties with learning a new language without an accent.

Neuro_SpeakingAHeardWord

Processes involved in the brain when speaking a heard word. Damage to areas of the Primary auditory cortex on the Left temporal lobe induce Language Recognition Problems & damage to the same areas on the Right produce deficits in processing more complex & delicate sounds [e.g. music, vocal performances, etc]. Hence, in Neuroscience, although it is not always the case, it can be generalised with a fair amount of confidence that Left is concerned with Speed, and Right is focused on Complex Frequency Patterns.

Most intellectuals researching the evolution of sophisticated human languages turned first to comparative studies of the vocal communications between human beings and other lesser primates [e.g. apes / monkeys]. For example, vervet monkeys do not use alarm calls unless other similar monkeys are within the vicinity, and the calls are more likely to be made only if the surrounding monkeys are relatives (Cheney and Seyfarth, 2005). Furthermore, chimpanzees vary the screams they produce during aggressive encounters depending on the severity of the encounter, their role in it, and which other chimpanzees can hear them (Slocombe and Zuberbuhler, 2005).

A fairly consistent pattern has emerged in the study of non-human vocal communication: There is a substantial difference between vocal production and auditory comprehension. Even the most vocal non-human primates can produce a relatively few calls, yet they are capable of interpreting a wide range of other sonic patterns in their environment. This seems to suggest that non-human primates’ ability to produce vocal language is limited, not by their inability to interpret sounds, but by their inability to exert ‘fine motor control’ over their voices – only humans have this distinct ability. It also confidently suggests that human language has likely evolved from a competence in comprehension already existing in our primate ancestors.

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The species specificity to language has led to some linguistic theorist to assume that an innate component to language must be unique to humans, notably Noam Chomsky (1957) who argued that the most basic universal rules of grammar are innate [called a “Language Acquisition Device”] and are activated through social interaction which enables the “code of language” to be cracked. However some other theorists argue for a different proposal, believing that the basic rules of language may not be innate as they can be learnt from the prelinguistic parent-child interaction (Lock, 1978, 1980), furthermore the meanings of utterances are so dependent on social context that they seem unlikely to be innate (Bloom, 1970; Rommetveit, 1974; see Durkin, 1995).

Motor Theory of Speech Perception

The motor theory of speech perception proposes that the perception of speech depends on the words activating the same neural circuits in the motor system that would be activated if the listener said the words (see Scott, McGettigan, and Eisner, 2009). Support for this theory has come from evidence that simply thinking about performing a particular task often activates the similar brain areas as performing the action itself, and also the discover of mirror neurons, motor cortex neurons that fire when particular responses are either observed or performed (Fogassi and Ferrari, 2007).

Cerebellum

Broca’s area: Speech production & Language processing // Wernicke’s area: Speech Comprehension

This seems to make perfect sense when solving the equation on the simple observation that Broca’s Area [speech area] is a part of the left premotor cortex [motor skills/movement area]. And since the main thesis of the motor theory of speech perception is that the motor cortex is essential in language comprehension (Andres, Olivier, and Badets, 2008; Hagoort and Levelt, 2009; Sahin et al., 2009), the confirmation comes from the fact that many functional brain-imaging studies have revealed activity in the primary or secondary motor cortex during language tests that do not involve language expression at all (i.e., speaking or writing). This may also suggest that fine linguistic skills may be linked to fine motor skills. Scott, McGettigan, and Eisner (2009) compiled and evaluated results of recorded activity in the motor cortex during speech perception and concluded that the motor cortex is active during conversation.

Gestural Language

Since the unique ability of a high degree of motor control over the vocal apparatus is present only in humans, communication in lesser non-human primates are mainly gestural rather than vocal.

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Image: Reuters

This hypothesis was tested by Pollick, and de Waal in 2007, who compared the gestures and the vocalisations of chimpanzees. They found a highly nuanced vocabulary of hand gestures being used in numerous situations with a variety of combinations. To conclude, chimpanzees gestures were much more comparable to human language that were their vocalisations. Could this simply suggest that primate gestures have been critical stage in the evolution of human language (Corballis, 2003)?

On this same note, we may focus on the already mentioned “Theory of Linguistic Relativity” (Whorf, 1956) which states that our internalised cognitions as a human being, i.e. perception, memory, inference, deduction, vary with the structural characteristics, i.e. lexicon, morphology and syntax of the language we speak [cultural influence shapes our thoughts].

Thoughts

In support of of Sapir and Whorf’s position, Diederik Stapel and Gun Semin (2007) refer poetically to the “magic spell of language” and report their research, showing how different categories in the language we speak guide our observations in particular ways. We tend to use our category of language to attend to different aspects of reality. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is that language entirely determines thought, so those who speak different languages actually perceive the world in entirely different ways and effectively live in entirely different cognitive-perceptual universes. However extreme this suggestion may seem, a good argument against this assumption would be to consider whether the fact that we can distinguish between living and non-living things in English means that the Hopi of North-America, who do not, cannot distinguish between a bee and an aeroplane? Japanese personal pronouns differentiate between interpersonal relationships more subtly than do English personal pronouns; does this mean that English speakers cannot tell the difference between relationships? [What about Chong, Khan, Balaraggoo, Tyrone, Vodkadinov, Jacob, Obatemba M’benge and Boringski – where would you attribute their skills in the former question?]

The strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is believed to be the most extreme version to be applicable to the mainstream, so a weak form seems to better accord with the quantitative facts (Hoffman, Lau and Johnson, 1986). Language does not determine thought but allows for the communication of aspects of the physical or social environment deemed important for the community. Therefore in the event of being in a situation where the expertise in snow is deemed essential, one would likely develop a rich vocabulary around the subject. Similarly, should one feel the need to have a connoisseur’s discussion about fine wines, the language of the wine masters would be a vital requisite in being able to interact with flawless granularity in the expression finer experiences.

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Although language may not determine thought, its limitations across cultures may entrap those ‘cultured’ to a specific one due to its limited range of available words. Logically, if there are no words to express a particular thought or experience we would not likely be able to think about it. Nowadays such an idea based on enhancing freedom of expression and the evolution of human emancipation, a huge borrowing of words across languages has been noted over the years: for example, English has borrowed Zeitgeist from German, raison d’être from French, aficionado from Spanish and verandah from Hindi. This particular concept is powerfully illustrated in George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which a totalitarian regime based on Stalin’s Soviet Union is described as imposing its own highly restricted language called “Newspeak” designed specifically to prohibit people from even thinking non-orthodox or heretical thoughts, because the relevant words do not exist.

Further evidence over the impact of language on thought-restriction comes from research led by Andrea Carnaghi and her colleagues (Carnaghi, Maas, Gresta, Bianchi, Cardinu and Arcuri, 2008). In German, Italian and some other Indo-European languages [such as English], nouns and adjectives can have different effects on how we perceive people. Compare ‘Mark is gay’ [using an adjective] with ‘Mark is a gay’ [using a noun]. When describing an individual, the use of an adjective suggests an attribute of that individual; whereas a noun seems to imply a social group and being a member of a ‘gay’ group. The latter description with a noun is more likely to invoke further stereotypic/prejudicial inferences and an associated process of essentialism (e.g. Haslam, Rothschild and Ernst, 1998) that maps attributes onto invariant, often bio-genetic properties of the particular social category/group.

Paralanguage and speech style

The impact of language on communication is not only dependent on what is said but also by how it is said. Paralanguage refers to all the non-linguistic accompaniment of speech – volume, stress, pitch, speed, tone of voice, pauses, throat clearing, grunts and sighs (Knapp, 1978; Trager, 1958). Timing, pitch and loudness (the prosodic features of language; e.g. Argyle, 1975) play major roles in communication as they can completely change the meaning of utterances: a rising intonation at the end of a statement turns it into a question or communicates uncertainty, doubt or need for approval (Lakoff, 1973). Underlying emotions are often revealed in prosodic features of speech: low pitch could signify sadness or boredom, while high pitch could communicate anger, fear or surprise (Frick,1985). Naturally fast speech often reflects power and control (Ng and Bradac, 1993).

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To gain further understanding of the feelings elicited by different paralinguistic features, Klaus Scherer (1974) used a synthesizer to vary short neutral utterances and has had individuals identify the emotions that were being communicated. Fig. A shows how different paralinguistic features communicate information about the speaker’s feelings.

In addition to paralinguistic cues, communication can also happen in different accents, different language varieties and different languages altogether. These are important speech style differences that have been well researched in social psychology (Giles and Coupland, 1991). From social psychology, the focus in language is mainly on how something is said rather than on what is said, with speech style instead of speech content; whereas discourse analytic approaches also place importance on what is said.

Table D2

Fig. A | Emotions displayed through paralinguistic cues

Social Markers in Speech

Most individuals have a repertoire of speech styles that is automatically or deliberately tailored depending on the context of the communicative event. For example, one would tend to speak slowly, use short words and simple grammatical constructions when dealing with foreigners and children (Clyne, 1981; Elliot, 1981). Longer, more complex constructions along with formalised language varieties or standard accents tend to be used in more formal contexts such as an interview or a speech.

In 1979, Penelope Brown and Colin Fraser categorised different components of a communicative situation that may influence speech style and distinguished between two broad features:

  • The scene (e.g. its purpose, time of day, whether there are bystanders or an audience, etc)
  • The participants (e.g. their personality, ethnicity, chemistry between them)

It is important to note however that individual differences have a major role to play in this objective classification of situations as different individuals may not define the similar “objective” situations similarly. For example, what is deemed formal for some may simply be common place to others; this subjective perception of objective situations has an effect on one’s chosen speech style.

RelaxedNaturally

One amazing point raised by Adrian Furnham (1986) is the fact that not only does one adjust speech styles to subjectively perceived situational demands, but one also seeks out situations that are appropriate to a preferred speech style. Contextual variations in speech style contains information about who is speaking to whom, in what context and on what topic? Speech contains social markers (Scherer and Giles, 1979). The most researched markers in social psychology are of group “memberships” such as society, social class, ethnicity, education, age and sex. Social markers are in most cases clearly identifiable and act as reliable clues to group membership. For example, most of the English can easily identify Americans, Australians and South Africans from their speech style alone, and (see Watson, 2009) are probably even better at identifying people who have been cultured in Exeter, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Essex! Speech style generally elicits a listener’s attitude towards the group that the speaker “represents” [at the exception of some non-mainstream individuals – as in any other group]. A mainstream media example could be the actress Eliza Doolittle’s tremendous efforts in the film My Fair Lady to acquire a standard English accent in order to hide her Cockney origins. This idea or concept is known as the match-guise technique, one of the most widely used research paradigms in the social psychology of language – devised to investigate language attitudes based on speech alone (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner and Fillenbaum, 1960). The method involves individuals rating short speech extracts similar in paralinguistic, prosodic and content respects, differing ONLY in speech style (accent, dialect, language). All the speech extracts were spoken by the very same individual – who was fluently bilingual. The speaker is rated on a number of evaluative dimensions, which fall into 2 clusters reflecting competence and warmth as the 2 most basic dimensions of social perception (Fiske, Cuddy and Glick, 2007).

  • Status variables (e.g. intelligent, competent, powerful);
  • Solidarity variables (e.g. close, friendly, warm).

The matched-guise technique has been used extensively in a wide range of cultural contexts to investigate how speakers of standard and non-standard language varieties are evaluated. The standard language variety is the one that is associated with high economic status, power and media usage – in England, for example, it is what has been called received pronunciation (RP) English. Non-standard varieties include regional accents (e.g. Yorkshire, Essex), non-standard urban accents (e.g. Birmingham, North/South London) and minority ethnic languages (e.g. Afrikaan, Urdu, Arab, Hindi, Mandarin and other foreign minority languages in Britain). Research reveals that standard language varieties are more favourably evaluated on status and competence dimensions (such as intelligence, confidence, ambition) than non-standard varieties (e.g. Giles and Powesland, 1975).

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There is also a tendency for non-standard variety speakers to be more favourably evaluated on solidarity dimensions. For example, Cindy Gallois and her colleagues (1984) found that both white Australians and Australian Aborigines upgraded Aboriginal-accented English on solidarity dimensions (Gallois, Callan and Johnstone, 1984). Hogg, Joyce and Abrams (1984) found that a similar scenario occurs in other linguistic cultures, for e.g. Swiss Germans upgraded speakers of non-standard Swiss German relative to speakers of High German on solidarity dimensions.

Language, Identity & Ethnicity

Matched-guise technique and other studies in linguistics have revealed how our speech style [accents, language, grammatical proficiency & voice] can affect how others evaluate us socially. This is unlikely to be due to the fact that some speech styles are aesthetically more pleasant than others, but more likely to be because speech styles are associated with particular social groups that are consensually evaluated more or less positively in society’s scale. Unless being acted, a person speaking naturally in the speech style of lower-status groups may lead to an evaluation similar to that of the group and their image [in terms of way of life] in society [for most mainstream cases & not expert assessors of individuality]. This simply suggests that processes associated with intergroup relations and group memberships may affect language and social behaviour among the mainstream crowd.

A Scholar at His Desk

Howard Giles and Richard Bourhis and their colleagues employed and extended principles from the social identity theory to develop an intergroup perspective on the social psychology of language (Giles, Bourhis and Taylor, 1977; Giles and Johnson, 1981, 1987). Since the original analysis focussed mainly on ethnic groups that differ in speech style, the theory is called ethnolinguistic identity theory; however, the wider intergroup analysis of language and communication casts a much wider net to embrace all manner of intergroup contexts (e.g. Giles, 2012; Giles, Reid and Harwood, 2010). 

Speech Style and Ethnicity

Although it is well know that ethnic groups differ in appearance, dress, cultural practices, and religious beliefs, language or speech style is often one of the most distinct and clear markers of ethnic identitysocial identity as a member of an ethnolinguistic group (an ethnic group defined by language or speech-style). For instance, the Welsh and the English in the UK are most distinctive in terms of accent and language. Speech style, then, is an important and often central stereotypical or normative property of group identity: one of the most powerful ways to display your Welshness is to speak English with a marked Welsh accent – or, even better to simply speak Welsh.

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Language or speech style cues ethnolinguistic identity. Therefore, whether people accentuate or de-emphasise their ethnic language is generally influenced by the extent to which they see their ethnic identity as being a source of self-respect or pride. This perception will in turn be influenced by the real nature of the power and status relations between ethnic groups in society. Research in England, on regional accents rather than ethnic groups, illustrates this (e.g. Watson, 2009) – some accents are strengthening and spreading and others retreating or fading, but overall despite mobility, mass culture and the small size of England, the accent landscape is surprisingly unchanged. Northern accents in particular such as Scouse and Geordie have endured due to low immigration and marked subjective regional pride of these respective communities. Brummie is slowly spreading into the Welsh Marches due to population spread, and Cockney-influenced Estuary English popular due to it being portrayed in mainstream middle-class films has luckily not influenced East Anglia and South East England – that have kept their grammar and granularity.

It should be noted that almost all major societies have a multicultural component with ethnic groups, however all contain a single dominant high-status group whose language is the lingua franca of the nation with ethnic groups whose languages are subordinate. However, in major immigrant economies such as the United States, Canada and Australia some of the biggest variety of large ethnic groups occur. Unsurprisingly, most of the research on ethnicity and language comes from these countries, in particular, Australia and Canada. In Australia for example, English is the lingua franca, but there are also large ethnic Chinese, Italian, Greek and Vietnamese communities – language research has been carried out on all these communities (e.g.  Gallois, Barker, Jones and Callan, 1992; Gallois and Callan, 1986; Giles, Rosenthal and Young, 1985; Hogg, D’Agata and Abrams, 1989; McNamara, 1987; Smolicz, 1983)

Speech Accommodation

Social categories such as ethnic groups may develop and maintain or lose their distinctive languages or speech style as a consequence of intergroup relations. However, categories do not speak. People speak, and it is generally done with one another, usually in face-to-face interaction. As mentioned earlier, when people interact conversationally, they tend to adapt their speech style to the context – the situation, and in particular the listener. This concept is the foundation of the speech accommodation theory (Giles, 1984; Giles, Taylor and Bourhis, 1973), which invokes specific motivations to explain the ways in which people accommodate their speech style to those who are present. Motivation involved for such adaptations may be a desire to help the listener to understand what is being said or to promote specific impressions of oneself.

Oxford Radcliffe Square at night by Y_Song2

Radcliffe Square at Night, Oxford [Image: Y. Song]

Speech Convergence and Divergence 

Since most conversations involve individuals who are potentially of unequal social status, speech accommodation theory describes the type of accommodation that might occur as a function of the sort of social orientation that the speakers may have towards one another (See Fig. B). Where a simple interpersonal orientation exists (e.g. between two friends), bilateral speech convergence occurs. Higher-status speakers shift their accent or speech style ‘downwards’ towards that of the lower-status speakers, who in turn shift ‘upwards’. In this scenario, speech convergence satisfies a need for approval or liking. The act of convergence increases interpersonal speech style similarity and this enhances interpersonal approval and liking (Bourhis, Giles and Lambert, 1975), particularly if the convergence behaviour is clearly intentional (Simard, Taylor and Giles, 1976). The process is based on the supported idea that similarity typically leads to attraction in most cases (e.g. Byrne, 1971).

Table D1

Fig. B | Speech accommodation as a function of status, social orientation and subjective vitality

Consider a particular scenario where an intergroup orientation exists. If the lower status group has low subjective vitality coupled with a belief is social mobility (i.e. one can pass, linguistically, into the higher status group), there is unilateral upward convergence on the part of the lower status speaker and unilateral speech divergence on the part of the higher status speaker. In intergroup contexts, divergence achieves psycholinguistic distinctiveness: it differentiates the speaker’s ingroup on linguistic grounds from the outgroup. Where an intergroup orientation exists and the lower status group has high subjective validity coupled with a belief in social change (i.e. one cannot pass into the higher status group), bilateral divergence occurs. Both speakers pursue psycholinguistic distinctiveness.

Speech accommodation theory has been well supported empirically (Gallois, Ogay and Giles, 2005; Giles and Coupland, 1991). Bourhis and Giles found that Welsh adults accentuated their Welsh accent in the presence of RP English speakers (i.e. the standard non-regional variety of English).  Bourhis, Giles, Leyens and Tajfel (1979) obtained a similar finding in Belgium, with Flemish speakers in the presence of French speakers. In both cases, a language revival was under way at the same time, and thus an intergroup orientation with high vitality was salient. In a low-vitality social mobility context, Hogg (1985) found that female students in Britain shifted their speech style ‘upwards’ towards that of their male partners. Accommodation in intergroup contexts reflects an intergroup or social identity mechanism in which speech style is dynamically governed by the speakers’ motivation to adopt ingroup or outgroup speech patterns. These motivations are in turn formed by perception of:

  • The relative status and prestige of the speech varieties and their associated groups;and
  • The vitality of their own ethnolinguistic group

Stereotyped Speech 

One important factor that may actually govern changes in speech style is conformity to stereotypical perceptions of the appropriate speech norm. Thakerar, Giles and Cheshire (1982) distinguished between objective and subjective accommodation. People converge on or diverge from what they perceive to be the relevant speech style. Objective accommodation may reflect this, but in some circumstances it may not: for instance subjective convergence may resemble objective divergence if the speech style stereotype is different from the actual speech behaviour of the other speaker.

Even the “Queen’s English” is susceptible to some accommodation towards a more popular stereotype (Harrington, 2006). An analysis of the phonetics in the speech of Queen Elizabeth II from her Christmas broadcasts to the world since 1952 show a gradual change in the Royal vowels, moving from ‘upper-class’ RP to a more ‘standard’ and less aristocratic RP. This may simply reflect a softening of the once strong demarcation between the social classes – social change may sometimes be a catalyst for speech change. Where once she might have said “thet men in the bleck het”, she would now say “that man in the black hat”.

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Speech accommodation theory has been extended in recognition of the role of non-verbal behaviour in communication – now called communication accommodation theory (Gallois, Ogay and Giles, 2005; Giles, Mulac, Bradac and Johnson, 1987; Giles and Noels, 2002), which acknowledges that convergence and divergence can occur non-verbally as well as verbally. Anthony Mulac and his colleagues found that women in mixed-sex dyads converged towards the amount of eye contact (now called ‘gaze’) made by their partner (Mulac, Studley, Wiemann and Bradac, 1987). While accommodation is often synchronised in verbal and non-verbal channels, this is not necessarily the case. Frances Bilous and Robert Kraus (1988) found that women in mixed-sex dyads converged towards men on some dimensions (e.g. total words uttered and interruptions) but diverged on others (e.g. laughter).

Bilingualism and second-language acquisition 

Due to the excessive and culturally destructive waves of migration caused by the exploitation of diplomacy and some corrupt mainstream media and politicians to promote mass migration, most major countries are now bilingual or multilingual, meaning that people need to be able to speak two or more languages with a fair amount of proficiency to communicate effectively and successfully achieve their goals in different contexts. These countries contain a variety of ethnolinguistic groups with a single dominant group whose language is the lingua franca – very few countries are effectively monolingual (e.g. Portugal and Japan) anymore – which may be reflected in the rise in cultural conflict and lack of social coherence.

ZombiesMigrating

The acquisition of a second language is rarely a matter of acquiring basic classroom proficiency, as one might in order to ‘get by’ on holiday – in fact, it is a wholesale acquisition of a language embedded in a highly cultural context with varying degrees of granularity to reach the levels of flawless/effective communication (Gardner, 1979). Second-language acquisition requires native-like mastery (being able to speak like a native speaker), and this hinges more on the motivations of the second-language learner than on linguistic aptitude or pedagogical factors. Failure to acquire native-like mastery can undermine self-confidence and cause physical and social isolation, leading to material hardship and psychological suffering. For example, Noels, Pon and Clément (1996) found low self-esteem and marked symptoms of stress among Chinese immigrants in Canada with poor English skills. Building on earlier models (Gardner, 1979; Clément, 1980), Giles and Byrne (1982) proposed an intergroup model of second language acquisition. There are five socio-psychological dimensions that influence a subordinate group member’s motivational goals in learning the language of a dominant group (see Fig. C):

  • Strength of ethnolinguistic identification
  • Number of alternative identities available
  • Number of high-status alternative identities available
  • Subjective vitality perceptions
  • Social beliefs regarding whether it is or is not possible to pass linguistically into the dominant group

Low identification with one’s ethnic ingroup, low subjective vitality and a belief that one can ‘pass’ linguistically, coupled with a large number of other potential identities of which many are high-status, are conditions that motivate someone to acquire native-like mastery in the second language. Proficiency in the second language is seen to be economically and culturally useful; it is considered additive to our identity. Realisation of this motivation is facilitated or inhibited by the extent to which we are made to feel confident or anxious about using the second language in specific contexts. The converse set of socio-psychological conditions motivates people to acquire only classroom proficiency. Through fear of assimilation, the second language is considered subtractive in that it may attract ingroup hostility and accusations of ethnic betrayal. Early education, individual Intelligence, personality and aptitude may also affect proficiency.

Table D3

Fig. C | Intergroup model of second-language acquisition | Note: Learning a second language is influenced by motivational goals formed by the wider context of social identity and intergroup relations. [Source: Giles and Byrne (1982)]

This analysis of second-language acquisition grounds language firmly in its cultural context and thus relates language acquisition to broader acculturation processes. John Berry and his colleagues distinguished between integration (individuals maintain ethnic culture and relate to dominant culture), assimilation (individuals give up their ethnic culture and wholeheartedly embrace the dominant culture), separation (individuals maintain their ethnic culture and isolate themselves from the dominant culture) and marginalisation (individuals give up their ethnic culture and fail to relate properly to the dominant culture (Berry, Trimble and Olmedo, 1986).

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Human brain specimen being studied in neuroscience professor Ron Kalil’s Medical School research lab. © UW-Madison News & Public Affairs 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller

While the only effective forms of adjustments that completely benefit a system remain “native citizens” [in terms of designing culturally fitting human organisms from the lower to the upper scale of society], and assimilation [the small number of culturally & educationally worthwhile & proficient organisms that manage to], the remaining could simply be qualified as burden to most systems, specially children deriving from economic migration [who are already being born in mass (in some cases) due to the higher fertility culture from their parents’ cultural origins, and who seem to want native treatment while not being able to culturally navigate with native-like proficiency (illogical demands with illogical cultural belonging). This ‘nomadic‘ generation of children whose parents initially moved from land to land for nothing else but the simple rush for cash from a socio-economic system with better financial prospects may unfortunately [at the exception of some illogical mainstream college-educated far-left human rights activists] be a scenario fitting with a parasitic ‘metaphoric example’, while to others [such as left wing economic policy makers], this could be what they cheaply describe as “modernism” & “cultural-enrichment“.

In a ‘psychological’ reality, from a social-psychologist’s perspective this may simply be described as a mass phenomenon that society is not used to dealing with and has not been monitoring effectively since the 1950s, to a point where confusion and sheer desperation sets for both native citizens and authorities when thinking of a “rational” solution that seems to be constantly destroyed by outdated, irrational and illogical human rights laws, forever unfavourable to major western societies while defending cheap unskilled migration originally from culturally and economically disastrous systems [e.g. the third world, middle east & some parts of Southern and Eastern Asia].

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Thus, the consequences for second language learning can indeed be very dramatic and have a life changing impact. Most major economies today are fragmented due to linguistic barriers and cultural differences, furthermore, since language is refined from interactions, the lack of chemistry and coherence may well be a major factor in the drop in cultural and educational standards – not to mention a generation that does not seem to represent any values [cultural or philosophical] – but simply regional classroom proficiency and barely any granularity or refinement in the linguistic and cultural context of a heritage that comes with traditions ‘developed’ over centuries of civilisation.

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Majority group members do not generally have the motivation to acquire native-like mastery of another language. According to John Edwards (1994), it is precisely the international prestige and utility, and of course widespread use of English that makes native English speakers such poor language students: they simply lack the motivation to become proficient. Itesh Sachdev and Audrey Wright (1996) pursued this point and found that English children were more motivated to learn languages from the European continent (e.g. French, German, Italian) than those from the Asian continent (e.g. Mandarin, Hindi, Russian, Urdu, Tamil, Arabic, etc) even though a fair amount of children in the sample were exposed to more Asian & African immigration [due to years of mediocre policies linked to cheap democratic governments & leftist agendas bent on promoting alien invasions – fragmenting societies & destructively shifting geographical compositions] than languages & cultures from Europe. A possible reason would be that English children perceive more prestige and desirability in mastering additional languages & cultures such as French, German & Italian instead of far-flung incompatible foreign ones [e.g. African Third world, Middle-East, Asia etc].

Communicating without words

Speech rarely happens in complete isolation from non-verbal cues. Even on a phone, individuals tend to automatically use a variety of gestures [body language] that cannot be ‘seen’ by the recipient at the other end of the phone line. In a similar fashion, phone and computer-mediated communication (CMC) conversations can be difficult precisely because many non-verbal cues are not accessible [e.g. users may interpret some messages as ‘cold’, ‘short’ or ‘rude’ when a participant might simply not be proficient at expressing themselves on a keyboard]. However, non-verbal channels do not always work in combination with speech to facilitate understanding. In some cases, non-verbal message starkly contradicts the verbal message [e.g. threats, sarcasm and other negative messages accompanied by a smile; Bugental, Love and Gianetto, 1971; Noller, 1984].

Agony, Torture, and Fright by Charles Darwin

Agony, Torture, and Fright | Charles Darwin, 1868

Human beings can produce about 20,000 different facial expressions and about 1,000 different cues based on paralanguage. There are also about 700,000 physical gestures, facial expressions and movements (see Birdwhistell, 1970; Hewes, 1957; Pei, 1965). Even the briefest interaction may involve the fleeting and simultaneous use of a huge number of such devices in combination, making it unclear even to code behaviour, let alone analyse the causes and consequences of particular non-verbal communications. However, their importance is now acknowledged in social psychology (Ambady and Weisbuch, 2010; Burgoon, Buller and Woodall, 1989; DePaulo and Friedman, 1998), and doing research in this area has remained a major challenge. Non-verbal behaviour can be used for a variety of purposes, one may use it to:

  • Glean information about feelings and intentions of others (e.g. non-verbal cues are often reliable indicators of whether someone likes you, is emotionally suffering, etc);
  • Regulate interactions (e.g. non-verbal cues can signal the approaching end of an utterance, or that someone else wishes to speak)
  • Express intimacy (e.g. touching and mutual eye contact);
  • Establish dominance or control (non-verbal threats);
  • Facilitate goal attainment (e.g. pointing)

These functions are to be found in most aspects of non-verbal behaviour such as gaze, facial expressions, body language, touch and interpersonal distance. Non-verbal communications has a large impact, yet it goes largely ‘unnoticed’ – perhaps since we acquire them unaware, we tend not to be conscious when using them. Most individuals acquire non-verbal skills without any formal training yet manage to master a rich repertoire of non-verbal behaviour very early in life – suggesting that huge individual differences in skills and uses should be noticed. Social norms can have a strong influence on our use of non-verbal language, for example, if one is delighted at the demise of an arrogant narcissist or foe, one would be unlikely to smile at their funeral – Schadenfreude is not a noble emotion to express [at least in most situations].

StoneGarden

Individual and group differences also have an influence on, or are associated with, non-verbal cues. Robert Rosenthal and his colleagues (Rosenthal, Hall, DiMatteo, Rogers and Archer, 1979) devised a profile of non-verbal sensitivity (PONS) as a test to chart some of these differences. All things equal, non-verbal competence improves with age, is more advanced among successful people and is compromised among individuals with a range of psychopathologies (e.g. psychosis, autism).

Gender Differences 

Reviews conclude that women are generally better than men at decoding both visual cues and auditory cues, such as voice tone and pitch (E. T. Hall, 1979; J. A. Hall, 1978, 1984). The explanation for this seems to be rather social than evolutionary (Manstead, 1992), including child-rearing strategies that encourage girls more than boys to be emotionally expressive and attentive. One major question remains whether women’s greater competence is due to greater knowledge about non-verbal cues. According to Janelle Rosip and Judith Hall (2004), the answer seems to be ‘yes’ – women have a slight advantage, based on results from their test of non-verbal cue knowledge (TONCK). A meta-analysis by William Ickes has shown that when motivated to do so, women can become even more accurate: for example when women think they are being evaluated for their empathy or when gender-role expectations of empathy are brought to the fore (Ickes, Gesn and Graham, 2000).

FemaleSign

Most individuals can improve their non-verbal skills (Matsumoto and Hwang, 2011), that can be useful for improving interpersonal communication, detecting deception, presenting a good impression and hiding our feelings [when required in some situations]. Practical books have been written and courses on communications has always had an enduring appeal. Why not try yourself out on the TONCK?

Non-verbal behaviour differs among individuals since most have different attachment styles thus different relationships too. In the case of intimate relationships, we would tend to assume that partners would enhance each other’s emotional security through accurate decoding of their individualistic non-verbal cues and responding appropriately (Schachner, Shaver and Mikulincer, 2005). Although there are data dealing with non-verbal behaviour in parent-child interactions and how they relate to the development of attachment styles in children (Bugental, 2005), there is less research focussing on how adult attachment styles are reflected ‘non-verbally’ in intimate relationships.

Reflections 

Finesse

The concept of self is not an overnight process but a gradual and intelligent process involving calculated, precise and minute adjustments to one’s inner thoughts, thus, over time, changing one’s cognitive schemas, personality, identity and linguistic proficiency. It is a process hugely dependent on individual motivation, education, dedication, capability, IQ and cultural proficiency. Along with it, languages are the essence of identity as it also leads to cultural belonging and thus, cognitive schemas related to inner thoughts that allow one to navigate efficiently within the particular cultural theme and be part of the societies related to the languages. Together, psychology, linguistic culture, personality and education are the core of individual conception – to sum it up beautifully for colleagues in innovation, science and psychology out there, “It is not what is in the head that counts, but the ability to turn it into a believable logical reality and a psychologically valid human concept/identity.”

Arthur Hughes Self-Portrait 1851

Image: Arthur Hughes (1832 – 1915), “Arthur Hughes

*****

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    154. Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W.G. Austin and S. Worchel (eds),The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 33-47). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole
    155. Thakerar, J. N., Giles, H. and Cheshire, J. (1982). Psychological and linguistic parameters of speech accommodation theory. In C. Fraser and K. R. Scherer (eds), Advances in the social psychology of language (pp. 205-255). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    156. Trager, G. L. (1958). Paralanguage: A first approximation. Studies in Linguistics, 13, 1-12.
    157. Triandis, H. C. (1989). The self and social behaviour in differing cultural contexts.Psychological Review,96, 506-520
    158. Turner, J. C., Reynolds, K. J., Haslam, S. A.and Veenstra, K. E. (2006). Reconceptualizing personality: Producing individuality by defining the personal self. In T. Postmes and J. Jetten (eds),Individuality and the group: Advances in social identity (pp. 11-36). London: SAGE
    159. Vignoles, V. L., Chryssochoou, X. and Breakwell, G. M. (2000). The distinctiveness principle: Identity, meaning, and the bounds of cultural relativity.Personal and Social Psychology Review, 4, 337-354
    160. Vygotsky, L.S. (1962). Thought and language. New York: Wiley
    161. Watson, K. (2009). Regional variations in English accents and dialects. In J. Culpeper, F. Katamba, P. Kerswill, R. Wodak, and T. McEnery (eds), English language: Description, variation and context (pp. 337-357). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
    162. Whorf, B. L. (1956). Language, thought and reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    163. Yuki, M. (2003). Intergroup comparison versus intragroup relationships: A cross-cultural examination of social identity theory in North American and East Asian cultural contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 66, 166-183.

Updated 11.05.2017 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

____________________________________________________

While the aim of the community at dpurb.com has  been & will always be to focus on a modern & progressive culture, human progress, scientific research, philosophical advancement & a future in harmony with our natural environment; the tireless efforts in researching & providing our valued audience the latest & finest information in various fields unfortunately takes its toll on our very human admins, who along with the time sacrificed & the pleasure of contributing in advancing our world through sensitive discussions & progressive ideas, have to deal with the stresses that test even the toughest of minds. Your valued support would ensure our work remains at its standards and remind our admins that their efforts are appreciated while also allowing you to take pride in our journey towards an enlightened human civilization. Your support would benefit a cause that focuses on mankind, current & future generations.

Thank you once again for your time.

Please feel free to support us by considering a donation.

Sincerely,

The Team @ dpurb.com

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Essay // The Psychology Behind Conformity, Compliance & Obedience

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Adaptive Social Behaviours

Conformity, compliance and obedience are a set of adaptive social behaviours that one makes use of to get by in daily social activities. They are all some form of social influence, which causes a change in a particular person or group’s behaviour, attitude and/or feelings (Cialdini, 2000, 2006). Various forms of social influence have been used for a variety of reasons; sometimes to help individuals stray from harmful behaviour such as smoking; other times [not as altruistic as the latter] to sway customer decisions towards consumerism. Such changes in behaviour require systematic approaches that can be in the shape of direct personal requests; or more subtle and elaborate commercials and political campaigns. Direct efforts geared at changing another’s overt behaviour require persuasion; and are often described as compliance [seeking compliance]; which involves specific requests that are answerable by simple answers such as “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe”. Other behavioural etiquettes sometimes require the impact of a set of rules, such as [formally] speed signs, or [informally] public space rules [staring at strangers is seen as inappropriate]; this type of influence is known as conformity, which is generally believed to be an integral part of social life. Obedience as a form of social influence tends to take a more straightforward [abrupt] approach as it involves direct orders or commands from a superior.

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Conformity: Pressure to behave in ways deemed acceptable (by who & why?)

Conformity which is an integral part of social life and could be defined as the pressure to behave in ways that are viewed as acceptable [appropriate] by a particular group [peer or cultural]. The rules that cause people to conform are known as social norms, and have a major influence on our behaviour. When the norms are clear and distinct we can expect to conform more and when not clear, it generally leads the way for less conformity and uncertainty. An effective example of norms explicitly stated was seen in Setter, Brownlee, & Sanders (2011) where percentages were left on the bill for tipping guidance; what was observed is the positive effect it had on customers, making them tip. However, whether social norms are implicit, formal or informal, most individuals who chose to embrace social reality tend to follow the rules most of the time.

While some might argue that conformity takes away a lot of social freedom from the individual; the other perspective sees conformity as an important agent in the proper functioning of society [supposed no one obeyed road laws, chaos would spread across cities worldwide]. Furthermore, many people choose to comply to look good to others and make a positive impression even if their true self do not agree with conforming, similarly to Hewlin (2009) where many employees adopted the “facades of conformity” and although found it unpleasant – thought of it as necessary for career progress – conformity for many is seen as tactic of self-presentation. Yet, many individuals are unaware of the amount of conformity they show, and would rather see themselves as an independent who is less susceptible to conformity (Pronin, Berger, and Molouki, 2007). Individuals generally choose to conform primarily because most individual have the desire to be liked and one way of achieving this is to agree and behave like others [contradictions might not lead to acceptance]. Secondly, the desire to be right – to have a reliable understanding of the social world (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Insko 1985) leads most to go with the values of others in who might be described as a group of individuals chosen to be a guide in partial identity. However, while conformity serves as a guide, it can also hamper evolution and innovation as critical analysis is not likely to thrive where most individuals seem to follow a pre-programmed behavioural patterns that have been established centuries ago. Therefore a fair balance in thought and application seems to remain the best line of thought when dealing with conformity [think, analyse & evaluate].

Thinkers: Not Everyone Conforms Blindly As an Increasing Number of Individuals Now Think Independently

Somehow, not everybody conforms, many individuals and groups are able to withstand conforming pressures as shown in Reicher and Haslam (2006) BBC prison study. Power was found to be a factor that acts as a shield against conformity (Keltner, Gruenfeld, and Anderson, 2003); it was found that restrictions that influence the thought, expression and behaviour of most people do not seem to apply to people in power [leaders, CEOs, politicians, etc] with the reasons being the fact that these people are generally less dependent on others for social resources; pay less attention to threats; and are less likely to consider the perspective of other people. Griskevicius, Goldstein, Mortensen, Cialdini, and Kenrick (2006)’s study supported the reasoning that when humans desire to attract desirable mates, both sexes tend to conform to gender stereotypes – here the male would usually not conform to everyday social rules [but indirectly conform to gender stereotype]. Finally, many human beings refuse to conform due to their desire to be unique – when their uniqueness feels threatened, they tend to actively resist conformity (Imhoff and Erb, 2009).

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Compliance: A Request requiring Conformity

Compliance is a form of conformity, however, unlike the latter it involves a request for others to answer with a “yes”. While conformity attempts to alter people’s behaviour in order to match their desire to be liked and to be right; compliance is usually aimed at a gain, and to achieve it one would need compliance from others. One technique used to gain compliance is an impression management, ingratiation; which involves getting others to like us in order to increase the chance of making them comply to our requests (Jones, 1964; Liden & Mitchell). Gordon (1996) suggested 2 techniques that work, flattery and promotion.

Another powerful means is “incidental similarity” where attention is called onto small and slightly surprising similarities between them and ourselves (Burger, Messian, Patel, del Pardo, and Anderson, 2004). While Conformity consisted mainly in gaining acceptance and trust, compliance is more focussed on getting to an end. A technique used to get compliance, is the “Foot-in-the-door” technique which involves inducing target people with a small request [once they agree], only to make a larger one, the one we wanted all along (Freedman & Fraser, 1966) – it relies on the principles of consistency [once said yes, more likely to say yes again]. Another technique known as the “Lowball Procedure” rests on the principle of commitment where a deal is proposed, only to be modified once the target person accepts – the initial commitment makes it harder to turn down.

The “Door-in-the-face” technique involves a large request, only to fall on a smaller one after refusal; this was proven to be efficient by Gueguen (2003). The “That’s-not-all-technique” was also confirmed to work by Burger (1986), a technique based on reciprocity involving enhancing the deal before the target person has the time to respond to an initial request. Another great technique, based on scarcity, is the “Playing-hard-to-get” technique which – as the name goes – is a behaviour used towards the target who would be assumed to pick up hints over the user’s high demand [romantically]. Lastly, many professionals use the “Fast approaching deadline technique” to boost their sales and rush people in on the pretext of limited time sales prices.

Obedience: The Most Direct Route

Obedience is less frequent that conformity or compliance as most people tend to avoid it, being one of the most direct ways of influencing the behaviour of others in specific ways. Many prefer to exert influence in less obvious ways, through requests instead of direct orders (e.g. Yuki & Falbe, 1991). While obedience can help organise workforce, it is also known for its dark nature of blinding people into performing atrocious acts by eliminating the sense of guilt through assuming that they were only “following orders”; atrocities related were seen in Milgram’s experiment; which is also one of the main similarities with conformity and compliance, in that the process in all three can blind an individual towards unethical behaviour. Destructive obedience has been observed throughout history for situational pressures pushed people into atrocious acts; for example having one’s responsibility relieved by another plays a major role in encouraging destructive obedience. Those is commanding positions often have uniforms and badges which can sometimes push individuals to obey without questioning. Similarly to compliance, the Foot-in-door used by authority figures and the fast pace of events happening can sometimes leave the individual with little time for reflection, thus leading to destructive obedience.

Shot of a Young Child Shouting at the Camera

Reflexion

Conformity, compliance and obedience are all vital practices in controlling the behaviour of individuals or groups. Conformity encompasses compliance and obedience, where the latters are more specific derivatives. While conformity revolves around the individual choices in relation to social groups, compliance and obedience are generally connected to an outcome; comply to have a request met by a “yes”, and obey if you are not in the position to disobey and if your superior asks you to, but keeping an ethical awareness could help against destructive obedience.

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References

Baron, R.A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2012). Social Psychology (13th ed). New Jersey: Pearson, 252-287

Burger, J.M., (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that’s-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 277 – 283

Burger, J.M., Messian, N., Patel, S., del Pardo, A., & Anderson, C. (2004). What a coincidence! The effects of incidental similarity on compliance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 35 -43

Cialdini, R. B. (2000). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed). Boston: Allyn & Bacon

Cialdini, R. B. (2006). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Collins

Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H. B (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgement. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 629 – 636

Freedman, J.L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 4, 195 -202

Gordon, R. A. (1996). Impact of ingratiation in judgements and evaluations: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 71, 54 – 70

Griskevicius, V., Goldstein, N.J., Mortensen, D.R., Cialdini, R.B., & Kendrick, D.T. (2006). Going along versus going alone: When fundamental motives facilitate strategic (non) conformity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 281 – 294

Gueguen, N (2003). Fund-raising on the Web: The effect of an electronic door-in-the-face technique in compliance to a request. CyberPsychology & Behaviour, 2, 189 – 193 

Hewlin, P.F. (2009). Wearing the cloak: Antecedents and consequences of creating facades of conformity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 727 – 741

Insko, C.A (1985). Balance theory, the Jordan paradigm, and the West tetrahedron. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.

Jones, E. E. (1964). Ingratiation: A social psychology analysis. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts 

Keltner, D., Gruenfeld, D.H., & Anderson, C. (2003). Power, approach, and inhibition. Psychological Review, 110, 265 – 284 

Pronin, E., Berger, J., & Molouki, S. (2007). Alone in a crowd of sheep: Asymmetric perceptions of conformity and their roots in an introspection illusion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 585 – 595

Reicher, S., & Haslam, S. A. (2006). Rethinking the psychology of tyranny: The BBC prison study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 1-40

Setter, J.S., Brownless, G.M., & Sanders, M. (2011). Persuasion by way of example: Does including gratuity guidelines on customers’ checks affect restaurant tipping behaviour? Journal of Applied Psychology, 41, 150 – 159

Imhoff, R., & Erb, H-P. (2009) What motivates nonconformity?: Uniqueness seeking blocks majority influence. Personalilty and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 309 -320

Yukl, G., & Falbe, C.M. (1991). Importance of Different power sources in downward and lateral relations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 416 – 423

 

22.04.2014 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

____________________________________________________

While the aim of the community at dpurb.com has  been & will always be to focus on a modern & progressive culture, human progress, scientific research, philosophical advancement & a future in harmony with our natural environment; the tireless efforts in researching & providing our valued audience the latest & finest information in various fields unfortunately takes its toll on our very human admins, who along with the time sacrificed & the pleasure of contributing in advancing our world through sensitive discussions & progressive ideas, have to deal with the stresses that test even the toughest of minds. Your valued support would ensure our work remains at its standards and remind our admins that their efforts are appreciated while also allowing you to take pride in our journey towards an enlightened human civilization. Your support would benefit a cause that focuses on mankind, current & future generations.

Thank you once again for your time.

Please feel free to support us by considering a donation.

Sincerely,

The Team @ dpurb.com

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Essay // Stress in Occupational & Organisational Psychology | Lazarus and Folkman’s Theory

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Photo/Design // Leonardo Da Vinci : L’Uomo Universale

Sustained Stress may have a fatal impact on Physiological Health

Stress is known for causing the increased secretion of cortisol, a hormone that could halt the production of cytokines, which are vital for maintaining a functional immune system (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2002). Over the years, a large number of research has also found positive correlations between daily cortisol levels and general health. The different levels of cortisol secretory activity have been linked to health problems such as hypertension, burnout, emotional distress, upper respiratory illness and eating behaviour. However, cortisol is paramount to increasing access to energy during stressful experiences and is released on a daily pattern by 2 well defined components; the “Cortisol Awakening Rise”; and the Diurnal levels that gradually decrease over the day. It has also been found that high levels of stress could lead to less cortisol being produced in the morning (O’Connor et al., 2009b). An individual going through a serious series of stressful events would have an increased risk of developing an infectious disease with no regards to their age, sex, education, allergic status and/or body mass index (Cohen, 2005).

Two types of stress associated with increased health deficiency

Cohen et al. (1998) identified two types of stress associated with increased health deficiency; these were interpersonal problems with family and friends; and/or enduring problems associated with work. As further research unveiled the dangers of stress, Janice Kiecolt et al. (1995) found that wound healing was also prolonged on people exposed to continuous stress, along with the lower levels of cytokine. Similarly, Marucha, Kiecolt-Glaser and Favagehi (1998) also concluded to findings over healing being prolonged on test subjects (dental students) where quicker healing was observed on vacation and not before their exams. Eventually, the conclusion of stress being a response to stressors lead to the latter being investigated in our daily lives by researchers for improvement.

Stress may be perceptual deficiency depending on whether subjective appraisal is Positive or Negative

Stress is generally perceived as negative perceptions and reactions when pressure is excessive. The transactional approach devised by Lazarus defines stress as “a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p.19) The theory has so far been one of the most solid finds in the field of occupational and organisational psychology and continues to be applied to various sections in the quest to enhance quality of both work and output.

Occupational Psychology in the Workplace: Stressors

In the field of Occupational psychology, the main focus has been on the study of human behaviour and experience in the workplace. As the world of work in the present generation is constantly changing, with companies adopting more flexible styles – along with developing technology – Lazarus and Folkman’s theory has been used in most stages of the employment life cycle in order to minimise the effects of stress on employees while maintaining a sensible amount of “good stress” (pressure) to maintain motivation. The concept is based on such solid logic that it could be applied to most areas of human interactive environment.

Applying Lazarus and Folkman’s theory of stress to occupational psychology will consider all elements that cause stress in the workplace connected to the physical requirements of the job. Stress can be physical, with factors such as noise, unsafe heights or slippery floor. These factors when present will not only cause the employee to be on guard but also likely distract them from being fully concentrated on their job for fear of harm. The solution would be to make a safer and more comfortable environment, however too safe is known to affect performance. The perfect fit would be right balance between motivational factors (incentives) and physical environment (not overly comfortable), that would lead to a design for the best fit for the job to the person (Morgeson & Campion, 2002). The human element should also not be forgotten in the case of a sociotechnical system (Trist & Bamforth, 1951) present where a Swiss cheese defence system might be in place to correct possible human errors. As mentioned, the stress element requires modelling according to Lazarus’ Theory which proves to be versatile for its huge range of application when considering different types of stressors and how to balance their effect on the employee.

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Organisational “Culture”: Synchronised Workforce through situational patterns of performance-oriented behaviour

A strong culture is also essential for the organisation as this ensures the employee fits in with the organisation’s values. The organisation also has to ensure that most stressors are regulated and checked in order to ensure a stable functioning of the work force.

According to Richard Lazarus’ transactional theory of stress, minor day to day problems known as “hassles” can accumulate and cause stress. However one coping mechanism from the theory comes from coping which follows the appraisal stage. When a task is being appraised, the outcome defines whether the employee will see it as stress. However, the stressor can be approached positively and be re-appraised to instead fit the employee’s belief and capacity. Different appraisals usually define how the employee copes, such as understanding employee needs using Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs (1974). It is assumed that some needs are basic and innate and have to be met to sustain motivation. Managers can provide environments that harmonise with the needs of employees after learning what they are.

Maslow’s model puts forth the belief that safety and security have to be met before one can realise their full potential. One this basic need is satisfied, Maslow assumes the attention is shifted to the next need, which in this case would be a motivated move towards achieving the job. However, if this need is not satisfied, this gives rise to discomfort. Indirectly, Maslow’s model is applying the logic of Lazarus & Folkman (1984), as the stressors – which in this case is the inability to feel safe and secure – are being targeted while the manager would try to motivate the employee. Some criticism however questions the flexibility of the model for its assumption. Assuming several needs become important & crucial simultaneously how would the motivation of the employee be affected? Furthermore, self-actualisation is hard – if not impossible – to define, therefore it is hard to confidently know whether someone has reached the stage.

Mismatch between employee & job may cause Occupational Stress

Mismatch between an employee and a job can also cause occupational stress (French, 1973). If the job demand is appraised as too high, the employee could feel discouraged if the task creates demands than exceeds his/her capabilities, unless he has a stake in the outcome of his/her performance motivation will not be successful. Lazarus and Folkman’s theory of stress is once again applied with great efficiency as it opens the door for reasoning in how to deal with stressful situations and find the right coping mechanism that would allow the employee to carry on without negative attributions. One example of this application is to organisational development which is premised on the assumption of planned transformational change.

Organisational development  has been defined as “a systematic effort applying behavioural science knowledge to planned creation and reinforcement of organisational strategies, structures and processes for improving an organisation’s effectiveness” (Huse & Cummings, 1985). The aim is to achieve commitment from the whole organisation dedicated to change. Organisational development intervention looks to a range of planned programmatic activities pursued by both clients & consultants. French, Bell and Zawacki (1994) differentiate between interventions directed at individuals (coaching, counselling), dyads (arbitration), teams (feebacks), inter group configurations (Survey, Feedback, etc) and organisations as whole (business process re-engineering). As the focus is swapped from one level to the next, the number of dimensions to consider increases, this adds to the complexity of the intervention process. However, all interventions tend to rely on organisational diagnosis [the assumption that something is not performing well enough and needs to be changed).

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Photo // Bryan Christie Design

Tuning the Environment to balance Stress Levels

Appreciative inquiry is an organisational development model that focus on how things might have been or might be better (Cooperrider & Srivasta, 1987). The whole concept of organisational development follows the logic of  Lazarus & Folkman (!984), as the transitions are all supported by teams of professionals [counselling / accustoming] which are geared at balancing the stress levels of accustoming the workforce to the new changes through a combination of modifications to the environment, motivational factor and security and support.

As organisational psychology deals with the administrative side and operational psychology deals with the task itself, they are still very closely associated. Changes in operational hassles will reduce the stress on the employee, as this would assumingly make the task at hand much more simple and straightforward. Changes in organisational hassles will increase the job satisfaction of the employee, as his time at work would be less cumbersome.

Interventions: Better Outcome when the Source of Stress is the Primary Focal Point

The main concepts of interventions usually concentrates primarily on reducing the source of stress, and secondly by reducing the impact on individuals which has been found to be more effective on people than reducing the risk (LeFevre, et al. 2006). Such an example can be seen when dealing with occupational problems, such as the termination of employment. Such an event can have a devastating effect on an employee’s life, especially if it was unpredicted [redundancy, released]. One way to deal with such a situation would be to provide counselling support to the released employee; these include trained professionals with listening, questioning & goal setting skills who help people to carry on in life (Egan, 1996). Clarifying with employees, the employable, marketable skills and helping them to plan short term goals by which skills might be applied in other situations.

Allowing the person concerned to release their feelings by speaking out over vocational and personal concerns, and helping them assess their resources. Finally help them find a placement or employment while also reinforcing with the employee, reminding them that they are skilled and mature and that their redundancy was a purely professional decision. What the whole process seems to have once again applied, is the logic of Lazarus & Folkman (1984) that proves itself as a solid formula applicable in most situations where stress is involved. In this context, the employees have been professionally re-appraised and should be better mentally to deal with upcoming challenges for fresh employment.

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Reflexion: Appraisal & Subjective Perception is Key

The particular relationship between a person and his/her environment will vary on the positive or negative depending on the appraisal. Appraisal can sometimes be instinctive, and/or influenced by an individual’s perception which can in turn be influence by other biological factors (hunger, pain). This shows that no matter how deep the stress causes may be, Lazarus’ formula – although simple – has an application that can logically construct or deconstruct most situations dealing with occupational and organisational stress.

One of the main points worth considering however, is the fact that men tend to experience more stress than women from the “need for recognition” pressure, while women experience more stress from health issues; social support benefits stress levels for males and females but affects them differently [organisational commitment in males & state of mind in females].

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References

Cohen, S., Frank, E., Doyle, W.J., Skoner, D.P., Rabin, B.S. & Gwaltney,J.M., Jr. (1998) Types of stressors that increase susceptibility to the common cold in adults, Health Psychology 17: 214- 23

Cohen, S. (2005) The Pittsburgh common cold studies: Psychosocial predictors of susceptibility to respiratory infectious illness, International Journal of Behavioral Medecine 12: 123-31

Cooperrider, D.L. & Srivastva, S (1987) Appreciative inquiry in organizational life, in
R.W. Woodman & W.A. Passmore (eds) Research in Organizational Behaviour, Stamford, CT: JAI Press.

Davey, G. (2011) Applied Psychology, West Sussex: British Psychological Society and Blackwell Publishing

Egan, G. (1996) The Skilled Helper, 6th edn, London: Brooks / Cole

French, JRP. (1973) Person Role Fit. Occupational Mental Health. 3, 15-20

French, W., Bell, C. & Zawacki, R. (eds) (1994) Organizational Development and Transformation: Managing Effective Change, Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin McGraw-Hill

Huse, E. & Cummings, T. (1985) Organizational Development and Change, St Paul, MN: West.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., Marucha, P.T., Malarkey, W.B., Mercado, A.M. & Glaser, R. (1995) Slowing of wound healing by psychological stress, The Lancet 346: 1194-6

Kiecolt-Glaser, JK., McGuire, L., Robles, TF., Glaer, R. (2002) Psychoneuroimmunology: Psychological Influences on Immune Functtion and Health, J Consult Clinical Psychology, 70, 537-47

Lazarus, R.S. & Folkman, S. (1984) Stress, Appraisal and Coping, New York: Springer

Le Fevre, M., Kolt, G.S., Matheny, J. (2006) Eustress, distress and their interpretation in primary and secondary occupational stress management interventions: Which way first? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21 (6), pp. 547-565.

Marucha, P.T., Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. & Favagehi, M. (1998) Mucosal wound healing is impaired by examination stress, Psychosomatic Medicine 60 362-5

Morgeson, J.P., Campion, M.A, Dipboye, R.L., Hollenback, J.R., Murphy, K. & Schmitt, N. (2007) Reconsidering the use of personality tests in personnel selection contexts, Personnel Psychology 60: 683-729

O’Connor, D.B., Hendrickx, H., Dadd, T. et al. (2009) Cortisol awakening rise in middle-aged women in relation to chronic psychological stress, Psychoneuroendocrinology 34: 1486-94

Trist, E.L. and K.W. Bamforth (1951) “Some social and psychological consequences of the longwall method of coal getting.” Human Relations, 4:3-38

 

22.04.2014 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

____________________________________________________

While the aim of the community at dpurb.com has  been & will always be to focus on a modern & progressive culture, human progress, scientific research, philosophical advancement & a future in harmony with our natural environment; the tireless efforts in researching & providing our valued audience the latest & finest information in various fields unfortunately takes its toll on our very human admins, who along with the time sacrificed & the pleasure of contributing in advancing our world through sensitive discussions & progressive ideas, have to deal with the stresses that test even the toughest of minds. Your valued support would ensure our work remains at its standards and remind our admins that their efforts are appreciated while also allowing you to take pride in our journey towards an enlightened human civilization. Your support would benefit a cause that focuses on mankind, current & future generations.

Thank you once again for your time.

Please feel free to support us by considering a donation.

Sincerely,

The Team @ dpurb.com

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Climate Collapse & Human Extinction by 2030: It’s all started & it is REAL!

Climate Collapse Human Extinction 2030

The horrific truth about a reality fast approaching is being discussed, with facts from various experts who have been keeping a close eye on climate change over the last century.

If this video is deemed insufficient in raising awareness, then we are most probably doomed as a race, murdered by our own ignorance, stubbornness, indifference, and (I dare say it) sheer ignorant stupidity.

This is an issue that requires immediate attention. The simple observation that should get us all to react is:

FOSSIL FUELS ACCUMULATED OVER MILLIONS OF YEARS HAVE BEEN BURNT WITHIN A FEW CENTURIES. IT SEEMS LOGICAL THAT ITS EFFECT WAS GOING TO BE FELT IN A WAY OR ANOTHER.AND… THAT “WAY” IS GLOBAL WARMING and the increasing number of HORRIFIC and FLASH NATURAL CALAMITIES THAT HAVE TAKEN THE LIVES OF SO MANY UNSUSPECTING AND HELPLESS PEOPLE.

For once, we can all get together and move our people globally and help save our only habitat: PLANET EARTH.

This requires immediate attention from all of us: all the movers & shakers who take up space in the head & hearts of the masses (and more importantly), the younger generation.

It’s hard to imagine feeding most with a load of writing and statistic will work, but the power of ART has so far proven to reach and shatter barriers many other communicative techniques fail at.

WE NEED TO START TAKING ACTION NOW!!!!

We won’t see it coming, it’s a gradual process, until maybe [one fine day], waves mile high start swallowing entire cities within minutes. The rising temperature will also kill many organisms leading to the starvation of other species that feed on them [the circle of life].

05-24-human-extinction

It is vital that we start working towards GREEN ENERGY and COOL DOWN Planet EARTH together before it’s too late.

All of us, violets, purples, blacks , whites, greens, yellow, oranges, mauves (etc), presidents, prime ministers, dentists, footballers, singers, actors, taxi drivers, carpenters, architects, journalists, presenters, gym instructors, lecturers, kitchen workers, drivers, parents, fathers, mothers, teachers, cousins, nephews, everyone… humans made of flesh, who would love to see a future generation live, breathe, smile and ensure the healthy evolution of the human race.

goute_deau_planete_terrePLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES, WATCH & SHARE (And try not to forget it all over a some mind-crushing episodes of some insignificant sitcom, or a few glasses of wine with a friend, we will all disappear… UNLESS IMMINENT action is taken! Some think it’s already too late)

(My rashness at times might suggest my ever-growing concern over the matter – which I apologise for)

Guy McPherson is a Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology who chose to leave behind a life of academia and dedicate his work to saving our planet. However, his dedication alone will not suffice – we need to act, all of us RIGHT NOW.

(The video below should be more than sufficient in convincing any leader (political to educational), and each & everyone of us [that CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL AND SLOWLY EXTERMINATING LIFE ON PLANET EARTH, one species at a time]

(You can follow Guy McPherson on Twitter @Guy_McPherson or find out more about his writings and research through his website http://guymcpherson.com)

Should Guy McPherson’s video not sound convincing to the one’s who’d rather trust their “gut” instinct and feel that CLIMATE COLLAPSE is all a government scam to start generating tax money; or environmentalists are just a bunch of egomaniacs bent on proving a point; then the video below should clear all doubt.

The video below shows Daniel Crawford from the University of Minnesota who converted all the CLIMATE CHANGE DATA from the last 130 years (collected from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies). The conversion into a musical piece reflects what Guy McPherson and most environmentalists have been saying (and urging/begging authorities to take note) for the last century: THAT WE ARE PUSHING THE PLANET TO THE LIMITS OF GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL COLLAPSE.

“I love my planet, and still have faith in humanity…”

And maybe it might be the struggle for survival that might unite us as a race and somehow incite us to re-evaluate the meaning (purpose) of existence. A lifetime well spent: What is it?

By now I should think most of us would be convinced about the urgency of addressing climate collapse, yet if some want words even deeper and “realer” than real, below you’ll find one of the most honest, touching and real essays one might find from a scientist. It’s one from Guy McPherson’s “heart” and a scientist’s heart has so far rarely been one to write poems or love songs; yet this essay [with a twist of Jimi Hendrix] will address life, nature, purpose and the environmental importance & reality…

OLRONLY LOVE REMAINS by Guy McPherson

Extract:

“Most people would say I’m not religious. I’m not spiritually religious, although I exhibit some behaviors in a religious manner. I refer to myself as a free-thinker, a skeptic, and occasionally an indifferent agnostic or a militant atheist. So the apparently spiritual title of this essay would seem out of character for those who know me. I’ll not wander down the road of… “[CLICK TO CONTINUE READING]

21.07.2013 | Danny J. D’Purb | DPURB.com

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