Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Barnum/Forer Effect

The Barnum effect, also called the Forer effect, is a common psychological phenomenon whereby individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them but that are, in fact, vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some paranormal beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, graphology, aura reading, and some types of personality tests.(1)

The Forer effect is a specific example of the so-called "acceptance phenomenon", which describes the general tendency of humans "to accept almost any bogus personality feedback".(1)

A related and more general phenomenon is that of subjective validation. Subjective validation occurs when two unrelated or even random events are perceived to be related because a belief, expectation, or hypothesis demands a relationship. For example, while reading a horoscope, people actively seek a correspondence between its contents and their perception of their personality.(1)

Barnum Statements
The Forer effect is manifested in response to statements that are called "Barnum statements", meaning characterizations made about an interlocutor that the interlocutor finds valid even though the statements are generalizations that could apply to almost anyone. Such statements are used by fortune tellers, astrologers, and other practitioners of chicanery to convince customers that they, the practitioners, are in fact endowed with a paranormal gift.(1)

Forer's demonstration
In 1948, in what has been described as a "classic experiment", psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave a psychology test—his so-called "Diagnostic Interest Blank"—to 39 of his psychology students who were told that they would each receive a brief personality vignette or sketch based on their test results. One week later Forer gave each student a purportedly individualized sketch and asked each of them to rate it on how well it applied. In reality, each student received the same sketch, consisting of the following items:

1. You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
2. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
3. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
4. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
5. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.
6. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
7. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
8. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.
9. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
10. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
11. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
12. Security is one of your major goals in life.

On average, the students rated its accuracy as 4.26 on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). Only after the ratings were turned in was it revealed that each student had received an identical sketch assembled by Forer from a newsstand astrology book.(1)

(1)Wikipedia: Barnum Effect

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ch. 3 The Self

I. Nature of the Self
The Self is a symbol-using social being who can reflect (self-awareness) on his or her own behavior.

A. Evolutionary View of the Self
Self-awareness and symbol usage (and thus the self) may have evolved in our ancestors as a means to better deal with an increasingly complex social environment. For instance, self-awareness not only provided our ancestors with knowledge about their own behavior, but they could also use this inner experience to anticipate how rivals might behave in the future - perhaps in war or in social bargaining - thus giving them an advantage. Similarly, the development of language not only allowed our ancestors to better coordinate group activities, but they could also use this symbolic communication to discuss things not physically present, such as a herd of antelope or a band of hostile warriors. According to this evolutionary view, these two defining features of the self became the means by which our ancestors developed an adaptive advantage in their environment, thus increasing their chances of surviving and reproducing.

In contemplating the adaptive advantage of self-hood in our evolutionary history, numerous social scientists have asserted that these advantages were accompanied by the ability of our ancestors to now ponder their existence, morality and their own self-worth.

B. Brain Regions Associated With Self-Awareness And Self Regulation
The primary neural source for self-awareness is the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex.

C. Contemporary Self Theories Based On Insights Of George Herbert Mead & William James
In both James's and Mead's theories, the self is described as having two separate aspects, the self as the "I" and the "me").
-The "I" is subjective self or the self as active perceiver and initiator of action.
-The "me" is the objective self or the self as seen from the imagined perspective of others.

(Remember, in this context a subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed.)

Later chapters look at contemporary self theories where essentially the "I" is the self's executive function: it makes decisions, initiates behavior, and exerts control over the self and the environment. The "me" is discussed using the term "self-concept" which is the sum total of a person's thoughts and feelings that defines the self as an object.

II. The Self As Both Target Of Attention And Active Agent
A. Self-Awareness Is A Temporary Psychological State
Self-Awareness is a psychological state in which you take yourself as an object of attention. To have a self-concept you must be able to engage in self-awareness.

Studies on infants and toddlers suggest that we are not born with self-awareness but rather, we develop it around 18 months old.

B. Two types of self-awareness have been identified
1. Private self-awareness is the temporary state of being aware of hidden, private self-aspects. Feeling sad or content, seeing your face in a mirror, or feeling the hunger pangs in your stomach will likely cause you to become privately self-aware.

Intensification of affect - any positive or negative feelings experienced when privately self-aware will be exaggerated.
Clarification of knowledge - private events become clearer and more distinct, thus increasing your ability to accurately report them.
Greater adherence to personal standards of behavior - when privately self-aware you are more likely to act in line with your personal beliefs than to conform to social pressures.

2. Public self-awareness is the temporary state of being aware of public self-aspects (emerges when people are aware of how they appear to others). Being watched by others (ex. about to give a presentation), or having your picture taken.

Evaluation apprehension - These are the butterflies in your stomach before making an important presentation. This is likely because you have learned through experience that public scrutiny often results in either positive or negative outcomes.
Temporary loss of self-esteem - due to realizing that there is a discrepancy between your ideal and actual public self. This explains why you feel bad after a failed presentation or date request.
Greater adherence to social standards of behavior - a heightened degree of conformity.

C. Self-Consciousness Is A Personality Trait
Some people spend more time self-reflecting than others. The habitual tendency to engage in self-awareness is known as the personality trait of self-consciousness.

As there are two types of self-awareness, there are also two types of self-consciousness referred to as private self-consciousness and public self-consciousness. The Self-Consciousness Scale developed 1975 by Fenigstein, Scheier and Buss is a method to measure these two traits.

D. Two Types Of Self-Consciousness Have Been Identified

1. Private Self-Consciousness is the tendency to be aware of the private aspects of the self.

-The effects are essentially the same as of private self-awareness (see above).
-The self-concepts of those high n private self-consciousness are generally more accurate reflections of their actual behavior than those low in private self-awareness.
-Habitual attention to private self-aspects can contribute to depression and neuroticism.

2. Public Self-Consciousness is the tendency to be aware of publicly displayed self-aspects.

-The effects are similar to those of public self-awareness (see above).
High public self-conscious individuals are more concerned about their appearance and are more likely to judge others on their looks.

3. Interaction Between Private and Public Self-Consciousness
-People high on private self-consciousness and low on public self-consciousness are the ones most likely to act according to their true attitudes.
-On the other hand, people high on public self-consciousness, regardless of their level of private self-consciousness, are much less likely to publicly act according to their true attitudes. Therefore, even people high on private self-consciousness that have an accurate understanding of their own attitudes, being simultaneously high in public self-consciousness can lead to behavior that runs counter to those attitudes.

E. Self-Regulation Is The Self's Most Important Function
Self-Regulation is the ways in which people control and direct their own actions. In particular, self-regulation consists of deliberate efforts by the self to alter its own states and responses, including behavior, thoughts, impulses or appetites, emotions, and task performance. The concept of self-regulation is close to the colloquial terms self-control and self-discipline, and many social psychologists use the terms interchangeably.(1) 

One of the important functions of self-regulation is that it provides us with the capacity to forgo the immediate gratification of small rewards to later attain larger rewards.

Control Theory of Self Regulation
In Charles Carver and Michael Scheier’s (1981, 1998) control theory of self-regulation, they contend that self-awareness allows us to assess how we are doing in meeting our goals and ideals. The core idea in control theory is a cognitive feedback loop, summarized by the acronym TOTE, which stands for the steps taken in self-regulation: Test-Operate-Test-Exit.

In self-regulation, engaging in self-awareness allows us to compare how we are doing against some standard. This is the first test phase. When privately self-aware we compare ourselves against a private standard (for example, our own values), but when publicly self-aware we compare ourselves against a public standard (for example, our beliefs about what other people value). In the test phase, if we discover that we are falling short of the standard (for example, not studying enough), then we operate to change ourselves (we study harder). Soon, we again self-reflect—the second test phase—to see whether we are closer to reaching our standard. This test and operate cycle repeats itself until there is no difference between our behavior and the standard. When we meet the standard, the control process ends, we feel happy, and we exit the feedback loop. If repeated attempts to move closer to the standard fail, we feel bad and eventually exit the loop (Silvia & Duval, 2001a).

Self-Discrepancies are discrepancies between our self-concept and how we would ideally like to be (ideal self) or believe others think we should be (ought self).

1. Ideal Self Discrepancies - Discrepancies between our actual self and ideal self (for example, "I wish I was more physically attractive") are thought to produce dejection-related emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, and depression.

2. Ought Self Discrepancies - Discrepancies between our actual self and our ought self (for example "I should be helping out more financially") we are vulnerable to agitation-related emotions such as anxiety, and guilt (Higgins et al., 1986)

In most instances, negative emotions hinder the type of self-regulation necessary for achieving longer-term goals (Tice et al., 2001). When people become upset, they tend to give in to their immediate impulses to make themselves feel better. For example, if you are trying to stop smoking, you are likely to grab for a cigarette after having an argument with someone. This “weakness” on your part amounts to giving short-term emotion regulation priority over your longer-term self-regulatory goal of being smoke-free.

Although a high capacity for self-regulation appears to improve your chances for success in life, it should be noted that self-regulating on one task makes it harder to immediately self-regulate on unrelated tasks (Baumeister et al., 1998). In other words, studies have found that exerting self-control in one area causes a subsequent decline in self-control performance in other tasks (see ego depletion). But some researches question this "strength model" of self-regulation believing that the decline in performance these studies find may not be due to an actual decrease in people's ability to self-regulate but instead is caused by a decrease i people's motivation to exert self-control. In other words, after exerting self-control in one activity people may not be less able to exercise self-control in a subsequent task, but are less willing to exercise this control.

III. The Self As A Knowledge Structure
How is the self organized in memory?

A schema is a cognitive structure that represents knowledge about some stimulus, which is built up from experience and which selectively guides the process of new information. A schema directs our attention to relevant information, giving us a framework for assessing it.

Some psychologist use the term self-schema as equivalent to self-concept, while other employ a more restrictive definition. The more restrictive definition is used here and it refers to a cognitive structure that represents how you think about yourself in a particular domain and how you organize your experiences in that domain. Just as self-concept has been previously described as a theory that you have about yourself, self-schemas can be thought of as the hypotheses of this self-theory.

Self-Schemas Are The Ingrediants of Self-Concept

Gender Identity And Gender Schemas Are Important Aspects Of Self-Concept
Gender identity is the identification of onself as a male or female and the internalization of this fact into one's self-concept.

Gender Schema
When children develop gender identity they strive to act in ways consistent with this identity. According to Sandra Bem, if a culture emphasizes distinctions between women and men, then children growing up in that culture learn to process information about themselves, other people, and even things and events according to their perceived gender associations. In other words, they develop a gender schema. Children's self-concepts become linked to their gender schema, they learn to evaluate their adequacy as a person in terms of how well their own personal attributes match the standard of the gender schema.

Culture Shapes the Structure of Self-Concept
Sociologists Manford Kuhn and Thomas McPartland devised this Twenty Statements Test (TST) in 1954 to measure self-concept. A common technique used to analyze TST responses (see Hartley, 1970) is to code each response into one of four categories: physical self-descriptions identify self in terms of physical qualities that do not imply social interaction (“I am a male”; “I am a brunette”; “I am overweight”); social self-descriptions identify self in terms of social roles, institutional memberships, or other socially defined statuses (“I am a student”; “I am a daughter”; “I am a Jew”); attributive self-descriptions identify self in terms of psychological or physiological states or traits (“I am intelligent”; “I am assertive”; “I am tired”); global self-descriptions identify self so comprehensively or vaguely that it does not distinguish one from any other person (“I am a human being”; “I am alive”; “I am me”).

American college students in the 1950s and early 1960s tended to describe themselves in terms of social roles. College students in the 1970s identified themselves in terms of psychological attributes.
This self-concept trend has continued and coincides with a rise in individualistic attitudes among Americans

Also, most of the world’s population resides in collectivist cultures. It is not surprising, then, that numerous studies have found cross-cultural differences in TST responses. In general, American, Canadian, and European self-concepts are composed of predominantly attributive self-descriptions, indicating that these individualist cultures foster the development of an independent self for their members. In contrast, people from collectivist cultures such as China, Mexico, Japan, India, and Kenya have more social self-descriptions, indicating a fostering of an interdependent self.

IV. Evaluating The Self
Self-Esteem is a person's evaluation of his or her self-concept.

It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself, (for example, "I am competent", "I am worthy"), as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.(2)

Development of Self-Esteem
Research conducted in more than 200 cultures indicates that children with high self-esteem usually have authoritative parents—parents who exert control not merely by imposing rules and consistently enforcing them, but also by allowing their children a fair amount of freedom within the rules and by discussing the rationale behind their decisions. This research indicates that children need love combined with a set of boundaries to structure their behavior. In contrast, parents who impose many rules and expect strict obedience (authoritarian parents) and those who make few demands and submit to their children’s desires (permissive parents) tend to raise children who are less confident in their abilities and have lower self-esteem.

Self-Esteem and Emotional Self-Regulation
When experiencing positive emotions following some desirable outcome, high self-esteem
individuals tend to savor their feelings, while low self-esteem individuals tend to dampen these emotions. In contrast, while negative events generally dampen people’s daily moods regardless of their level of self-esteem, low self-esteem people are more adversely affected.

What is it about the emotional self-regulation of high and low self-esteem people that contributes to these differences? Recent studies suggest that low self-esteem persons are more adversely affected by negative events because they appear to be less motivated to repair their negative moods. One reason for this lack of motivation to engage in self-regulation may be that low self-esteem people are simply more accustomed to negative moods, and hence they come to accept them more readily than high self-esteem persons. Another possibility is that, for low self-esteem persons, negative emotions are accompanied by two experiences that are especially harmful to their motivation to self-regulate. First, the negative event depletes their self-regulatory resources (see pp. 65–67). Second, this depletion may be particularly harmful to them because engaging in mood regulation may require more energy than it does for high self-esteem persons, who have more experience with positive moods. This greater experience requires high self-esteem persons to expend less energy to repair their negative moods. Thus, a “double whammy” exists for low self-esteem persons, which has the effect of undermining their motivation to take any action to repair negative moods.

V. The Self As A Social Being
Social Identities Establish "What" And "Where" We Are As Social Beings
From our own personal experiences we all know that identification with a specific social group can have a great deal of importance for our self-concepts. This social aspect of the self was clearly and powerfully illustrated following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of the carnage, millions of Americans experienced a renewed sense of national unity. In explaining this process of group identification, Henri Tajfel (1982) and John Turner (1985) have taken William James’s notion of the social “me” and developed it into the concept of social identity. Social identities are those aspects of our self-concepts based on our group memberships. They establish what and where we are in social terms. By having social identities, we feel situated within clearly defined groups.

One of the consequences of group identification is an internalization of the group’s view of social reality. To have a social identity is to internalize the group within the individual, which in turn serves to regulate and coordinate the attitudes and behavior of the separate group members.
Group Performance And Social Identification
We not only categorize ourselves as members of certain groups, we also categorize others as either members of these same groups or as members of other groups. An ingroup is a group to which we belong and that forms a part of our social identity. An outgroup is any group with which we do not share membership. In the course of daily activities, just as we compare our performance on a given task with the performance of others we also compare the performance of ingroup and outgroup members. When our ingroup members succeed, we respond with pride and satisfaction. Robert Cialdini has labeled this identification with and embracing of ingroup members’ success as basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) and believes it is common in a variety of social arenas. Examples are fan reaction to their sports teams’ victories, the pride ethnic group members have for other members’ accomplishments, or the satisfaction that citizens express for their nation’s military and political successes. When such successes occur, ingroup members often describe the success as “our victory.” This process of reflected glory enhances individual self-esteem because people’s social identity in this domain constitutes an integral part of their self-concept.

Although we readily share ingroup members’ successes, what happens when they fail? Do we embrace the defeat as readily as the victory? Hardly. We tend to make excuses for ingroup members (“Our team was hurt!”), while devaluing the qualities in outgroup members that contributed to their success (“I’m glad our team isn’t that vicious!”). By defending ingroup members, we are defending our own self-esteem.

(1)Encyclopedia of Social Psychology: Self-Regulation - link 1, link 2

(2) Hewitt, John P. (2009). Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Roger Scruton: “Why Beauty Matters?”

Vimeo Link


Theodorus Gerardus Jozef "TheoJansen (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈteːjoː ˈjɑnsə(n)]; born 14 March 1948) is a Dutch artist. In 1990, he began building large mechanisms out of PVC that are able to move on their own, known only as Strandbeest. The kinetic sculptures appear to walk.[1] His animated works are intended to be a fusion of art and engineering, and he has said that "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds." He strives to equip his creations with their own artificial intelligence so they can avoid obstacles such as the sea by changing course when one is detected. (from Wikipedia)