What is the term or theory to explain adopting behaviors when hurt by someone else

What is the term or theory to explain adopting behaviors when hurt by someone else

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I have been trying to search for a term or theory to explain adopting behaviors when bad / hurtful things happen to a person. For example, if a person is abused and ends up being an abuser because it happened to them, even if it is a maladaptation.

So if this ABC article that says 1/3 of people that are abused become abusers, what is the mechanism, or term, for this?

I am asking because someone I know adopts bad behaviors when they happen to them once or twice, and justify it as 'that is how the world works'. I'm trying to understand why this happens so quickly for this person from clearly outlying events.

Over the past four decades, advances in the behavioral sciences have revealed how human behavior and decision-making is boundedly rational[i], systematically biased, and strongly habitual owing to the interplay of psychological forces with what ought to be, from the perspective of rationality, irrelevant features of complex decision-making contexts. These behavioral insights teach us how contextual aspects of decision-making may systematically lead people to fail to act on well-informed preferences and thus fail to achieve their preferred ends. In the domain of public policy such advances may also teach us how neglecting these insights can be responsible for the failures of policies to reach intended effects and why paying more attention to them may provide the key for dealing more effectively with some of the main challenges modern societies and organizations face.

In their popular book Nudge – Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness (2008), Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein suggested that if a particular unfortunate behavioral or decision making pattern is the result of cognitive boundaries, biases, or habits, this pattern may be “nudged” toward a better option by integrating insights about the very same kind of boundaries, biases, and habits into the choice architecture surrounding the behavior i.e. the physical, social, and psychological aspects of the contexts that influence and in which our choices take place – in ways that promote a more preferred behavior rather than obstruct it. In particular, they argue that such nudges may avoid some of the challenges and potential pitfalls of traditional regulation, such as costly procedures and ineffective campaigning, unintended effects of incentivizing behaviors, and invasive choice regulation, such as bans. The advantage, they claim, of applying nudges is that public policy makers might thus supplement – or, perhaps, even replace (Thaler & Sunstein 2008, p. 14) – traditional regulation with nudges to influence people’s everyday choices and behaviors in cheaper, less invasive, and more effective ways. That is, nudging seems to offer policy makers an effective way to influence citizens’ behavior without further restricting freedom of choice, imposing mandatory obligations, or introducing new taxations, or tax reliefs.

Thaler and Sunstein coined the seemingly oxymoronic term, libertarian paternalism, to characterize the attractive regulation paradigm that intuitively arises out of the nudge strategy to behavioral change in public policy making, when it is enacted to serve the interests of the citizens as these are judged by themselves, see (Hansen 2016). In their original definition – or rather characterization – of what a nudge is, the absence of traditional policy strategies is even invoked as a formal condition:

“A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.” (Thaler & Sunstein 2008, p. 6)

However, as I have later pointed out in The Definition of Nudge and Libertarian Paternalism – Does the Hand fit the Glove? (2016) this way of defining a nudge easily conflates what is a descriptive behavioral concept with that of the separate political doctrine of libertarian paternalism. Instead we should define a nudge in a precise and consistent way relative to the behavioral sciences. In particular I suggest that we should adopt the following definition:

A nudge is a function of (condition I) any attempt at influencing people’s judgment, choice or behavior in a predictable way (condition a) that is motivated because of cognitive boundaries, biases, routines, and habits in individual and social decision-making posing barriers for people to perform rationally in their own self-declared interests, and which (condition b) works by making use of those boundaries, biases, routines, and habits as integral parts of such attempts.

(See Hansen 2016 for a discussion of this definition).

By this definition, the operational independence of nudges as to regulation is not a formal condition, but an implication. That is, the original definition of a nudge provided by Thaler and Sunstein (2008) is actually a consequence of the more fundamental definition provided here. This is an important point because it means that even though nudges can operate independently from regulation, they are not required to do so. Thus, a nudge may be combined with traditional regulatory approaches but works independently of the rational consequences of (a) forbidding or adding any rationally relevant choice options (b) changing incentives, whether regarded in terms of time, trouble, social sanctions, economics, etc. or (c) the provision of factual information and rational argumentation. The revised definition also help to make clear that nudges need not be used in the service of libertarian paternalism (think of marketing), but if applied in accordance with the reflected preferences of citizens do offer a central strategy to any libertarian paternalist (which also includes strategies that are not nudges, such as informational campaigns). Finally, this definition allows for a quite simple heuristic – noticed by Thaler and Sunstein themselves (Thaler & Sunstein 2008, p. 8)[ii] – for characterizing and identifying aspects of choice architecture that functions as nudges: a nudge is any part of choice architecture that should not effect behavior in principle, but does so in practice (where by principle we mean according to standard economic theory). In fact, this simplifying characteristic of what a nudge is embodies the core insight driving behavioral economics.

At conferences, seminars and in teaching I am often asked the following: “Haven’t we always been nudging?” While it may be tempting to answer “yes” to this question as it leaves the audience (especially policy makers) feeling more comfortable it also leads directly to another question: “So if we have always been nudging, then, what’s new about it?”

Thus instead of answering “yes” I usually offer the following answer that relies upon making a conceptual distinction between ‘nudges’ and ‘nudging’, see also (Hansen, Skov & Skov 2016): a nudge is as defined above and we have always been using such attempts at influencing behavior but nudging is the systematic and evidence-based development and implementation of nudges in creating behavior change. Thus, in this sense it is something new, and today it is this effort that is properly referred to as the field of ‘nudging’ and, as a discipline it is increasing in its influence on public policy and behavior change strategies across the world.

A key institution in this development has been the establishment of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) – or the UK Nudge Unit as it is often referred to – in 2009 by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. It is led by Dr. David Halpern and Managing Director Owain Service and rolled out of government to become partly privatized in 2014. However, BIT is part of a broader trend, which since 2009 has seen nudge units, initiatives, and networks emerging in the United States, Denmark, Singapore, France and Canada, to mention just a few of the many exciting places this is happening. Likewise the OECD, The World Bank and the European Union, have published reports, held meetings, and actively supported research to further examine the potential of nudging, see (OECD 2014), (World Bank 2015) and (EU 2016). Taken together all of these efforts have led to the emergence of the field, yet nudging is only in its infancy.[iii]

Still, it should be noticed that a common scientific framework of reference unites these efforts. In particular, nudging relies heavily on theories and methodology from behavioral economics as well as from cognitive and social psychology, using microeconomic decision theory as a baseline. In particular, a central focus within the field is the biases and heuristics program of Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, which is rooted in dual-process theories of cognition and information processing (Kahneman & Tversky 1979) and made accessible to the wider public by Kahneman’s dual-system theory presented in his famous book Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011).

Dual-process theories vary greatly but generally share the overarching structure of positing two types of human information processing — automatic and nonautomatic — in explaining and predicting human behavior (Evans 2008). Using David Marr’s (1982) distinction between computational, algorithmic, and implementation-level theories of psychology, the explanatory function of dual process theories may be located at the algorithmic level of analysis where mental mechanisms that translate inputs into outputs are identified. Identifying processes according to the simplified distinction of whether they operate in an automatic and nonautomatic fashion – i.e., (a) when there is conscious awareness, (b) when there is no goal to start the effort, (c) when cognitive resources are reduced, and (d) when there is no goal to alter or stop the process – these theories thus seek to explain how the supposedly irrelevant features of decision-making contexts systematically influence human decision making and behavior, for a great brief introduction see (Gawronski, Sherman & Trope 2014).

In addition to the shared psychological underpinnings, the widespread efforts falling under the auspices of nudging are also unified by the ambition to advance and apply quantitative experimental approaches to field research. The choice (not the invention) of this methodological approach may be ascribed to the intellectual origins in the standard laboratory experiments used in behavioral economics. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are also explicitly formulated as the ideal in, for example, the BIT’s 2012 methodology report, Test, Learn and Adapt (BIT 2012). However, it is important to stress that the objective of nudging is just as much about evaluating the efficacy and policy implications of nudge interventions and examining the potential real-world feasibility and applicability of behavioral insights as it is about extending the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Hence, the aspirations of nudging as currently carried out have much in common with what is usually referred to as real-world research, and the research relationship ideally pursued by stakeholders might best be characterized by a quote given by Hall & Hall (1996) (albeit in a different context):

“The research relationship is between equals, and is not exploitative: the client organization is not being “used” merely to develop academic theory or careers nor is the academic community being “used” (brains being picked). There is genuine exchange. The research is negotiated.”

Ethics and Policy

Despite the various versions of this ideal being adopted by core practitioners of nudging, the cross-sectorial nature of current efforts has undoubtedly prompted some speculation and suspicion. One set of worries pertains to the threat of science being utilized by potentially biased policy makers to manipulate citizens. Another set of worries pertains to whether nudging is being used as an excuse to roll back traditional regulatory efforts. This latter worry has been most prominent in Europeans response to nudging the US response has been worried more about the former critique pointing to the paternalistic aspects of the approach.

Fortunately, most of these concerns turn out to rely on pretty superficial readings of the scientific underpinnings of nudge theory, or on ignoring the challenges that face any attempt at regulating citizens’ behavior, see (Hansen & Jespersen 2013).

First, nudges do not only rely on automatic processes, and non-automatic processes are not even necessarily ‘unconscious’ (by analogy: when a plane is on autopilot it does not imply that the pilot is unconscious or unaware of what is going on). Hence nudges and nudging is not characterized by psychological manipulation, as some critics would have it. Still, some nudges do rely on non-transparent measures that transfer responsibilities to citizens in ways that should be regarded as manipulative and thus as illegitimate strategies of public policy in democratic systems (ibid). To this end it does not suffice to say that by principle nudges leave all choice-options from the original status quo available post-intervention since we are dealing with a paradigm that by its nature discards theoretical principle in favor of empirical practice. Instead we need to take the ethics of nudges seriously on a case-by-case basis since nudges comprise such a vast array of different measures that they cannot be evaluated as one.

Still, who should provide such evaluation? This leads to my second point with regard to the ethics and policy of nudging. While politicians may indeed be biased themselves the “who nudges the nudgers” critiques fail for at least two central reasons. One: any regulatory effort is directed by potentially biased politicians. Two: while nudges invoke insights about boundaries of rationality, biases, and habits into our choice architecture, nudging rests on approaches that comprise scientific state of the art methods for trying to detect and avoid such biases. Thus, it seems that nudges should be evaluated just as any other regulatory measure in a democratic system, although it will require expertise to be introduced to guide such evaluation – just as it is the case when it comes to economic and legal measures.

Finally, those who fear that applying nudging to public policy and other behavioral change challenges is just an excuse to roll back traditional regulatory efforts miss the central point of this essay. Nudging as well as nudges are fully compatible with and hence should be evaluated relative to standard regulatory measures. However, when it comes to the standards used for evaluating traditional regulatory measures aimed at changing behavior, nudging may actually turn out to raise the bar quite substantially. Thus, nudging should be expected to change the way we do public policy making and delivery due to its introduction of scientific requirements by means of its evidence based standards. The implications, however, should not be characterized as a roll back, but as a shift of paradigm to what may be labeled Behavioural Public Policy.

About the author

Pelle Guldborg Hansen is Behavioral Scientist at Roskilde University, Denmark and is Director of the Center for Science, Society and Policy co-funded by Roskilde University and University of Southern Denmark, Denmark. He also Heads The Danish Nudging Network and is Co-founder of TEN – The European Nudging Network. In addition he is the Chief Executive of iNudgeyou – The Applied Behavioural Science Group. Hansen’s research interests include all theoretical as well as practical aspects of applied behavioral science, game theory of social convention and norms and the social psychology of information processing.

He has worked with real world applications of behavioral economics, especially so-called ‘nudge’-interventions, within a wide range of arenas: from bank-mobility and conformity to tax regulation over organ-donation and street littering to registration processes within public administration and boarding of planes in Airports. He has also advised work in the OECD, The World Bank and for a number of European countries and institutions.

He and his teams work may be followed on and his new book – co-authored with Prof. Vincent F. Hendricks – Infostorms: Why do we ‘like’? Explaining individual behavior on the social net is about to come out on Springer on October 15, 2015.

iNudgeyou – The Applied Behavioural Science Group:

TEN – The European Nudging Network:

The Danish Nudging Network (in Danish):

Hansen, P.G. & Jespersen, A.M. (2013) ‘Nudge and the manipulation of choice: a framework for the responsible use of the nudge approach to behaviour change in public policy’. European Journal of Risk Regulation (1): 3–28.

Thaler, R.H, & Sunstein, C.R. (2008) Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hansen, P.G. (2015) ‘Nudge and libertarian paternalism: Does the hand fit the glove?’ European Journal of Risk Regulation Vol. 1, no. 1, 155-174.

OECD / Lunn, P. (2014) Regulatory Policy and Behavioural Economics. Paris: OECD.

World Bank (2015) World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior. Washington, DC: World Bank.

EU (2016) Behavioural Insights Applied to Policy, European Report 2016.

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (1979) Prospect theory: an analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, Journal of Econometric Society, 47:263–91.

Evans, J.S.B. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology 59:255–78

Marr, D. (1982) Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information. San Francisco: Freeman.

Gawronski, B., Sherman J.W. & Trope, Y. (2014) Two of what?: A Conceptual Analysis of Dual-Process Theories. In Dual-Process Theories of the Social Mind, pp. 3–19. New York: Guilford.

Haynes L, Goldacre B, Torgerson D. 2012. Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials. London: Cabinet Office – Behavioural Insights Team.

Hall D, Hall I. 1996. Practical Social Research: Project Work in the Community. London: MacMillian

[i] I.e., the idea that rational decision-making is limited by the contextually available information, the cognitive limitations of the decision maker, and the time available to make the decision.

[ii] “… a nudge is any factor that significantly alters the behavior of Humans, even though it would be ignored by Econs”, (Thaler and Sunstein 2008, p.8).

Definition of Domestic Violence: Types of Abuse

According to the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, the definition of domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner. Many types of abuse are included in the definition of domestic violence:

  • Physical abuse can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching, pulling hair, burning, cutting, pinching, etc. (any type of violent behavior inflicted on the victim). Physical abuse also includes denying someone medical treatment and forcing drug/alcohol use on someone.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce the victim into having sexual contact or sexual behavior without the victim's consent. This often takes the form of marital rape, attacking sexual body parts, physical violence that is followed by forcing sex, sexually demeaning the victim, or even telling sexual jokes at the victim's expense.
  • Emotional abuse involves invalidating or deflating the victim's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. Emotional abuse often takes the form of constant criticism, name-calling, injuring the victim's relationship with his/her children, or interfering with the victim's abilities.
  • Economic abuse takes place when the abuser makes or tries to make the victim financially reliant. Economic abusers often seek to maintain total control over financial resources, withhold the victims access to funds, or prohibit the victim from going to school or work.
  • Psychological abuse involves the abuser invoking fear through intimidation threatening to physically hurt himself/herself, the victim, children, the victim's family or friends, or the pets destruction of property injuring the pets isolating the victim from loved ones and prohibiting the victim from going to school or work.
  • Threats to hit, injure, or use a weapon are a form of psychological abuse.
  • Stalking can include following the victim, spying, watching, harassing, showing up at the victim's home or work, sending gifts, collecting information, making phone calls, leaving written messages, or appearing at a person's home or workplace. These acts individually are typically legal, but any of these behaviors done continuously results in a stalking crime.
  • Cyberstalking refers to online action or repeated emailing that inflicts substantial emotional distress in the recipient.

The Bystander Effect

Conformity describes how we adjust our behavior or thinking to follow the behavior or rules of the group we belong to. Typically, people conform because a various social influences or desires. Some of these influences and desires are respect for authority, a fear of being different, a fear of rejection, or a desire for approval. Once we join a group, we are likely to conform to or comply with whatever the group decides, in order to fuel our need to be liked or feel like we belong.

The desire to conform to a group is stronger than you think. Many times, people become part of a group and or mob without even knowing. Let me give you an example:

Have you ever been at a performance of some kind and joined in on the applause even though you didn’t think the performance was that great? We’ve all been there. We were snapped out of a daze by the clapping hands of our neighbors. Without thinking or considering otherwise, we joined in on the group’s clapping and applause. Furthermore, if someone stands and applauds and is followed by several others, you can bet that the majority of the crowd will eventually start standing and applauding to follow the leader of the movement or avoid the awkwardness of being unique.

The automatic response to conform to the group is called automatic mimicry. Automatic mimicry is when someone follows along with a crowd, such as laughing, clapping, or nodding, without thinking to question their actions or behavior.

What is the term or theory to explain adopting behaviors when hurt by someone else - Psychology

Chapter 6 - Conformity and Deviance


1. How "good" conformity occurs when people privately accept their group's beliefs.
2. How "bad" conformity occurs when people voices what their group wants them to.
3. How "good" deviance occurs when people contribute new ideas to their group.
4. How "bad" deviance occurs when people either rebel against or refuse to participate in their group.
5. How groups can pressure their members to either conform or deviate.
6. How and when deviants can persuade the group majority.

What do the words "conformity" and "deviance" mean to most people? If we took a survey and asked a group of people if the term "conformist" has positive or negative connotations, most of them would probably answer that it has negative connotations. Their response to the term "deviant" would probably be the same. Both "conformity" and "deviance" seem to have negative connotations in our society.

Why do people associate negative stereotypes with these terms? For instance, the word "conformist" perhaps conjures in their minds the image of a stereotypic "corporate man." They can see him wearing his brown suit and never questioning his superiors. In contrast, their minds may jump to another extreme when they hear the term "deviant." They may imagine a sociopathic criminal who never gives a second thought about the pain of victims, for

example . These connotations and images are unfair generalizations.

For our discussion, we need to look at the terms "conformity" and "deviance" in a new light. They are important concepts in small-group research. The popular beliefs about them, with their unfair stereotypes, have little to do with the ways in which the two concepts apply to groups.

The issue of conformity versus deviance is very important in small-group research. It becomes relevant whenever a person must choose between going along or not going along with a group. A group member in such a situation faces two or more viable options, or courses of action. This predicament can come about in two ways. First, it may be that general social acceptance supports one of the options. For example, in a group of doctors, it may be socially acceptable for each person to use the title "Doctor." If one of the medical professionals does not wish to use the title, he or she may feel social pressures that conflict with this personal wish. Second, the group member might face a voting majority. He or she must decide between the action the voters support and another action. For instance, a majority of the doctors in the group could vote that all members must use the formal title.

A person conforms if he or she chooses a course of action that a majority favors or that is socially acceptable. In contrast, an individual deviates if he or she chooses an action that is not socially acceptable or that a majority does not favor. Clearly, there are countless situations when a person faces a majority opinion. For example, every time you perform the simple action of dressing in the morning you face a group of people who, as a majority, dress a certain way. Will you dress as they do, for instance in jeans and a T-shirt, or will you dress in another style if you prefer to be different? As you can see, any action that a person takes in such a circumstance is necessarily either conformity or deviance.

A person can conform to or deviate from many behaviors. For example, he or she may conform to a group standard of honesty and integrity. Is such a conformist bad? Analogously, he or she could deviate from a group whose ideal is thievery and corruption. This would probably be a good deviate. Thus, neither conformity nor deviance is intrinsically good or bad. The popular beliefs are unfair.

However, scientists have differentiated between the ways in which people conform or deviate, asking why a person behaves as he or she does. In contrast to the action, the reason behind the action may be either good or bad.

For example, conforming to a group ideal of honesty and integrity not out of belief in the ideal, but only to go along with the group, probably is not good. Researchers have labeled this kind of undesirable conformity compliance. It occurs when someone conforms in behavior alone. The member who complies simply does whatever he or she thinks the group wants him or her to do. It is usually, but not always, bad for the group.

A second type of conformity, in contrast, occurs when a person conforms in beliefs as well as in behaviors. This is called private acceptance. It is usually, but not always, good for the group. For instance, a good conformist in a group that wishes its members to be honest is someone who truly believes in honesty and all for which it stands. This person is honest in all situations, not just to please the group. Experimenters have made similar distinctions between good and bad forms of deviant behavior.

The Structural Perspective

In this chapter we will study the concepts of conformity and deviance from the structural perspective. As we discussed in Chapter 1, scientists who use the structural perspective believe that there is a process by which expectations of how behaviors "will be" in groups turn into evaluations of how those behaviors "should be." The evaluations are group norms. For example, Jan may tend to speak up first during the first few times a group meets. The group comes to expect that she will do so at each meeting. As time goes on, the group may develop a norm that Jan always talks first when the members get together. They could finally come to say that Jan talking first is the way it should be.

The concept of norms is very important to the study of conformity and deviance. Norms are the socially acceptable behaviors in a group. It is in relation to them that people either conform or deviate. For instance, a group has the norm that Jan always talks first. When the other group members choose to wait for Jan to speak first, they conform. If one day Harold says something before Jan, Harold has deviated from the group norm.

Before we begin our examination of conformity and deviance, we need to discuss some important points about norms.

Groups can establish norms concerning almost any behavior, as long as they consider the behavior important. However, all norms are not created equal. They have different qualities, such as whether the group itself created the norm, or how much the group accepts the norm. Here is an example. At Good Old State University , it has long been normative to dress in the "international student uniform," which consists of clothing such as blue jeans, tennis or running shoes, sweatshirts, T-shirts, and the like. At West Point , on the other hand, it is normative to dress in a very different kind of uniform, the cadet uniform.

These "dress" norms may have qualities that vary greatly. We can classify them and all other norms according to different criteria. For instance, we can group them according to their degree of formality versus informality. Another criterion is the extent to which they are imposed upon the group from outside or from within the group itself. Scientists have found that formal norms tend to come from an outside source. We can see this at work in the example of

the formal West Point uniform. In contrast, informal norms tend to emerge, as in the "international student uniform," from the group itself.

A further criterion is the degree of permissible deviation. The "dress" norm at West Point has a much lower degree of permissible deviation than the one at Good Old State U. Norms can also vary in degree of group acceptance. We can assume that the students at Good Old State U., with some exceptions, accept their dress norm more than the students at West Point . Most West Point students probably do not wear their uniforms while on vacation, for example. One last important point to remember about norms is that they can apply to group members in different ways. Some norms may apply to all members other norms are relevant only to people taking specific roles in the group.

As we begin our discussion, we need to point out that there will be some ambiguity in this chapter. You may find yourself wondering at times if we are examining our topic in relation to how a group does things or in relation to the group's outcome. You can intuitively see that norms apply to both behaviors. Groups create norms to direct their members' actions in the group, and they also approve norms that relate to specific policy proposals they consider. For example, a group develops norms that apply to how it runs its meetings. Beth always calls the meeting to order, Rob usually makes a joke to break the ice, the group votes on important topics, and so on. These norms relate to how the group does its job. The group might also, for instance, decide that all the members must wear green shirts to the meetings and that all must agree with a certain political philosophy. Such norms apply to the group's outcome.

In short, there is a distinction between how the group makes decisions and what the decisions are. However, this distinction is not very important from the structural perspective. For this reason, we will not specify when we are describing norms that apply to how a group works and when we are looking at norms regarding the outcome of a group. This ambiguity does not affect our discussion.

Why do people conform to group standards? First and foremost, group members must conform to make decisions. Conformity occurs when members choose the course of action that the majority favors. For instance, a group may have a norm that requires group consensus before it can adopt a course of action. A group consensus exists if every member of the group is willing to accept a proposal. Consensus does not imply that every member of the group really likes the proposal it does imply that they all feel they can live with the proposal. Every person in the group must eventually conform to some decision, or the group remains stalemated.

Another group might have a norm that a voting majority will dictate what the group does. In this case, only a majority of the members must conform to an option. However, all group members need to conform to the idea that "majority rule" is the accepted procedure. Hence, group members in any kind of group must conform in some way before the group can successfully reach any decision. Without conformity, the group will stand still. We can take this idea a step further. Members must conform to some operating procedure before the group can perform any task, including the task of making a decision.

We can see why conformity is essential before a group can reach a decision. For example, three people might come together in a school lunchroom. They consider themselves a group and have met to plan a school dance. However, the three people are not willing to agree on how the group should operate. They sit at their table and argue over whether the group should vote on topics or whether they should select a leader and allow that person to have a majority of the power. Without solving this problem, the group members try to decide if they should write a list of tasks, but they cannot make a decision because they do not know whether they should vote on it. As you can see, the group is unable to accomplish anything because the members will not conform in any way.

The same motivational reasons that people have for joining groups in the first place can also cause people to conform. Their reasons for conforming are:

1. To gain acceptance from the other group members.
2. To achieve goals that the group intends to reach.
3. To achieve personal goals that they can reach through group membership (for example, impressing another member to whom they are attracted).
4. To enjoy taking part in group activities and wanting to ensure the group's continuation.

Any of these reasons can lead people to conform with a group.

There is an additional motivational reason that could lead to conformity. People may conform because the group succeeds in persuading or pressuring them to do so. We will discuss this possibility further in the next section.

Some researchers have proposed that people also conform as a result of a psychological need to evaluate themselves. The theory is that people want to know whether their beliefs and opinions are what they should be. Festinger (1954) described this as a process of conformity for the sake of correctness. Researchers call his hypothesis "social comparison theory."

According to Festinger , humans have a need to be "correct." The result of this is that people want to evaluate their beliefs, periodically, against standards in order to judge themselves. There are different kinds of standards. In the case of a belief about "physical reality," the criteria are absolute. For example, if we want to know whether we should think that an object is breakable, we only need to hit it with a hammer to find out what we should believe.

In contrast, the standards concerning beliefs about "social reality" are relative. Festinger divides beliefs about social reality into two categories. The first includes "beliefs about abilities," and the second involves "opinions." In both of these categories, we need to find other people who can serve as standards against which we can judge ourselves. An important point is that these people cannot be too divergent from us. If they are, our comparisons with them will be meaningless. For instance, a high-school basketball player who wishes to make a self-evaluation of his abilities as a player would be foolish to use either Michael Jordan as a standard or, at the other extreme, a three-year-old who is trying to dribble. As another example, a moderate Democrat wants to judge herself regarding an opinion. She should not use either a member of the Socialist Workers Party or a person from the Libertarian Party as a criterion.

Festinger's theory also maintains that people will attempt to change their abilities and opinions if they are not satisfied with their self-evaluation. However, the reactions to opinions and abilities differ because people cannot react to the two categories of beliefs in the same way. People can rank abilities on a scale from "good" to "bad." A basketball player can know, for instance, if he is doing well according to the number of points he scores. It is clear that a person must move toward the "good" direction on the ranking scale in order to improve.

People react to opinions differently. Instead of rating their opinions on a scale of "good" to "bad," they rate from "correct" to "incorrect." They then change their opinions to be closer to the "correct" end of the scale. For the Democrat to "improve" her opinions, she must change them until they are closer to the opinions of other members of the Democratic Party. She does so because she considers the opinions of other members of the Democratic Party correct.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Social comparison theory has been very influential in the field of small-group research. However, it is not a satisfactory explanation for conformity. The weakness in the theory is that the link between a need to evaluate oneself and a tendency to change oneself is not clear. Why should a negative self-evaluation lead someone to change and conform? Perhaps a person is satisfied with his or her lot, whether good or bad.

Festinger saw this weakness in the theory. He offered one explanation for why a person would change in reaction to a negative self-evaluation of abilities. Festinger felt that there is a cultural value for self-improvement in our society. This, he said, is the link between judgment and change when abilities are involved.

However, social comparison theory still could not explain why people would change their opinions in order to conform. Festinger created a new theory to help explain why this might happen. In 1957 he proposed the theory called "cognitive dissonance." Cognitive dissonance theory maintains that people are not so much influenced by a need to be correct as they are influenced by a need to be consistent.

Festinger hypothesized that two beliefs are dissonant if one of them implies the opposite of the other. For example, a person may say, "I like my group," and also, "I disagree with my group." These are likely to be dissonant beliefs if the person also has a third idea that "I should agree with groups that I like." Festinger did not discuss the concept of this third idea, but it is necessary to make his theory work. Without the third statement, the other two may never cause a conflict for the person.

The implications of cognitive dissonance become more interesting if one of the "belief" statements involves an actual behavior. For example, an individual may have three opinions about a group. One of these opinions involves a behavior. He or she might say, "I don't like the group," and "I don't like the task," but also, "I helped the group with the task." There are two possible outcomes in this case.

The first outcome is that the person experiences dissonance and must change something to be consistent. The third statement above involves the idea that the person agreed to do something. This is relatively impervious to change because it is about an actual behavior. Thus, the person can only really change the first two statements. He or she should come to like the group and/or the task more than he or she does. The theory is unable to predict for certain which of the two opinions will most likely change. This inability is a weakness of the dissonance hypothesis.

The second possible outcome when a behavior statement is part of the equation is that the person will not experience dissonance and will not need to change beliefs. This can happen because he or she may come to believe that the act of compliance is a result of pressure from the group. The group, and not the person, is responsible for the conforming action. If this occurs, the fact that the person complied is irrelevant to his or her beliefs. There is no need to change opinions.

For example, Heidi agrees to paint a house with a group. After doing so, she realizes that she does not like the group, and she does not like to paint. She may feel that she has agreed to be part of the group and is herself responsible for joining it. If she feels this way, Heidi probably will experience some internal conflict. In that case, she needs to decide either that she does not really mind the group or that she likes painting. Or Heidi may tell the group that she wants to quit painting, but the group pressures her and says that she must continue. In such a case, Heidi probably feels no dissonance and she does not feel a need to change her beliefs. She can continue to paint, feeling inside that she does not like what she is doing or the group around her.

Thus, dissonance is a factor only when there is inconsistency between a person's beliefs and a behavior for which the person feels personally responsible. If someone does not feel responsible for a conforming action, there is no internal conflict. We can find similar conclusions regarding responsibility for actions within attribution theory, which was described in Chapter 3. This similarity is no accident, as Bem (1972) has shown.

Kiesler and DeSalvo study. Kiesler and DeSalvo performed a study in 1967 to explore the idea that a feeling of personal responsibility is necessary before someone will experience dissonance. In their study, the researchers assigned women to task groups. They also led these women to believe that they disagreed with the rest of their group members regarding which tasks the group should perform. There were two possible tasks. The experimenters further "gently" induced half of the participants to perform the "disapproved" task, while the other half merely "knew" of the disagreement but did not act on it. Lastly, they led the participants to believe that they would either like or dislike the group.

For example, Mary and Sue come to the experiment. The researchers tell Mary that the best task to do is Task Alpha. However, they also tell her that the group will want to do Task Beta instead. They further tell Mary that she can feel free to go ahead and pursue Task Alpha when the group meets and that she will like the other group members. Sue, on the other hand, hears that Task Alpha is the best, but the researchers do not comment on whether she should work on Task Alpha or Task Beta. Sue hears that she will dislike her group. Kiesler and DeSalvo placed their participants in conditions similar to the ones we have described for Sue and Mary.

Results showed that there were differences between the participants who simply "knew" about the disapproved task and the subjects who were "gently" induced to perform the disapproved action. Those who merely "knew" of their disagreement with the group came to see less difference between the two tasks if they liked the other members, rather than if they disliked the group. The participants started to agree with their groups. They liked the task they had originally preferred less and liked the task the group preferred more.

In contrast, participants who complied with the "gentle" inducements came to see less difference between the tasks when they disliked the group, as opposed to when they liked it. This outcome fits cognitive dissonance theory. When a person dislikes the group, he or she must come to like the task to alleviate the internal conflict that results. As we have seen before, performing a duty and feeling personally responsible is very difficult if a person dislikes both the group and the task. It is best if the person can come to like either the group or the group's task.

As we can see, the study results agreed with cognitive dissonance theory. The less a group pressures a person to comply with the group, the more "inside" pressure a person will feel to accept the beliefs that compliant behavior would imply.

For example, Matt belongs to a group that voluntarily helps clean inner-city parks and playgrounds. When Matt helps clean, his compliant behavior implies certain beliefs about the value of cleaning the parks. In order not to experience dissonance, Matt is likely to come to believe that there is value in his task. However, the amount of pressure that Matt feels from the group affects how much he personally urges himself to believe that cleaning is valuable. For instance, he may belong to a group with a carefree leader who lets people work at their own pace. In such a group, Matt will probably feel "internal pressure" to like the task of improving the inner-city areas. In contrast, Matt might be in a group with a leader who starts to pressure group members, demanding compliance with the leader's rules. In this group, Matt will probably feel less compelled to believe personally in the project.

Reactance theory. Brehm extended this notion in 1966 in his reactance theory. He claimed that people need to feel as if they have freedom to control their behavior. If a group threatens this freedom, individuals will be aroused to protect it. Thus, extreme pressure from a group can backfire and lead to increased deviance. Matt, for instance, may even begin to dislike the very work he volunteered to do, cleaning parks, if his group becomes too pressure-filled.

Compliance Versus Private Acceptance

In the previous section we summarized some reasons that people conform to their groups. However, in our discussion, we have not formally divided these into the reasons behind compliance versus the causes that foster private acceptance. It may be impossible to make a clear division between the causes. It is true that, as one of their tasks, some theories definitely attempt to explain why private acceptance can occur. For instance, this is the case for the social comparison, dissonance, and reactance theories. It is also true that a factor such as agreeing with a group only to impress a member is unquestionably a reason that leads to compliance. However, the other reasons that we have mentioned, such as conforming to reach a decision, could cause either private acceptance or compliance.

There are further complications regarding this matter. What starts as compliance may end up as private acceptance. The theory of cognitive dissonance predicts this, and the experiment by Kiesler and DeSalvo revealed the process at work. Thus, it is not always possible to distinguish between the reasons that lead to private acceptance and those that cause compliance.

Nevertheless, researchers have done some studies that relate specifically to compliance or to private acceptance.

Asch study. Imagine the following situation: You consent to participate in an experiment that you think is about perception. You show up at the site of the experiment and find eight other people waiting. The experimenter says that the nine of you will perform the study together. The researcher takes you all into a room, where you line up and face a viewing screen. You are the seventh person in the line. The researcher flashes a slide on the screen showing this series of lines:

The person conducting the study asks which of the lines on the right is the same length as the "standard" on the left . The first person in the line answers, "A." The second also says, "A," and the others follow with the same answer. When your turn comes you say, "A," and think about how obvious the answer is.

The second trial in the study is similar to the first. The lines look like this:

Everyone answers, "B." You again think about how simple the task is.

On the third trial, the lines look like this:

The researcher begins to go down the line again, asking the participants for answers. The first person says, "A." You are surprised, but you decide that someone was bound to make an error sometime. The second person answers, "A." You start to become uneasy. The third person also says, "A," as does the fourth. You cannot believe what you are hearing, but now the fifth and sixth participants answer, "A." It is suddenly your turn. What do you say?

This situation is the prototype for a series of studies performed by Asch (1951, 1956). Researchers have interpreted his experiments as being relevant to compliance. Unknown to the real participant, the other eight "participants" in the line were confederates working with the researcher. Asch instructed the confederates to unanimously give the wrong answer during 12 of the 18 trials. He intended their answers to be so obviously wrong that the real participants could not fail to be amazed at the discrepancy between what they saw and what they heard. Scientists have made the assumption that if the real participant in Asch's study conformed with the incorrect confederates, the conformity was compliance, not private acceptance. This assumption requires some further analysis.

Numeric results. First, let us examine the numeric results of Asch's experiment. On the average, 3.84 (or 32 percent) of the 12 experimental trials resulted in conformity. We can compare this outcome with the results from control groups. In the control groups, participants could see what others did, but they did not verbalize their own choices. Hence, there was no pressure to conform. These participants erred an average of only .08 times, or .67 percent. Thus, it seems that the high level of conformity in the experimental trials was due to group pressure. The pressure successfully led the test participants to give an opinion that they did not really share.

However, this overall conformity result is misleading. It masks the great individual differences among the participants. Out of 123 participants, 29 did not ever conform with their group, 33 conformed on eight or more trials, and the remaining 61 participants went along with their groups only on occasion. Only 26.8 percent conformed at a high rate. As we can see, we must keep these individual results in mind as we examine the assumption that Asch's experiment shows compliance at work.

Postexperimental interview results. Next, let us look at the results of postexperimental interviews with the participants. These are crucial to our analysis of Asch's study. Participants who never conformed reported that they had not conformed for one of two reasons. Some did not conform because they were confident that their choices were right, and they were confident even though they acknowledged that they had been deviant in the face of unanimous agreement among the confederates. Others who had not conformed claimed that they had concentrated totally on the demands of the task, and they had not really noticed what the confederates said.

As for the conformists, a small percentage of them claimed to actually have seen the wrong line as a correct match. If these participants were telling the truth, we must conclude that private acceptance was at work in Asch's study. These participants privately accepted the belief of the majority opinion. They were not simply complying with the group. About half of the rest of the conformists claimed that they had seen the lines correctly but that when they heard the majority choice, they decided that they must have been wrong. They then went along with the group. Whether this is compliance or private acceptance is debatable. However, the remaining conformists clearly complied. They said that they thought their choice was correct but that they had gone along with the group anyway.

Thus, as we can see, we cannot assume that Asch's experiment revealed solely elements concerning compliance. It appears that perhaps both types of conformity, compliance and private acceptance, were at work in his study. Nevertheless, Asch's work reveals a great deal about compliance. He also performed variations on his original test that yielded further findings. In addition, other researchers have been able to build on Asch's work.

Variations. Asch compared his original findings with the results of some variations on his first test procedure. Some examples of his experiments, along with their results, are:

1. A test with two "real" participants instead of one. If one of the two did not immediately comply, the other knew that he or she had an ally. This circumstance lowered the conformity rate to 10.4 percent.

2. A study that had one confederate who always answered correctly. The real participant now always had an ally. This decreased the conformity rate further, to 5.5 percent. We can conclude from this test that one ally is enough to markedly decrease conformity when someone faces an overwhelming majority.

3. An experiment in which a confederate answered correctly at the beginning and then soon "deserted" to the majority. This situation did not help the real participant's courage. The conformity rate was 28.5 percent for these groups, which was barely less than when the participant had no ally at all.

4. A study that had a confederate who stopped conforming and started to say the right answer, thereby joining the real participant. This was quite helpful for the participant and lowered conformity rates to 8.7 percent.

Asch also varied the number of confederates facing a lone test participant. He did this to discover whether conformity would increase as the size of the opposing majority grew. As you recall, the control groups had participants who conformed at the rate of only .67 percent. The results when Asch increased the majority size to various levels were:

As the numbers show, there is a high percentage of conformity when a lone dissenter faces a unified majority of only three people. It appears that this small group size is sufficient to cause a conformity rate that is close to maximum potential. Increasing the number of confederates beyond three does not seem to raise conformity levels significantly.

Gerard study. More than a decade after these original experiments, Gerard (1965) examined the plight of the lone dissenter. He applied the tenets of cognitive dissonance theory to the results from Asch's study. As Gerard pointed out, the naive participant is faced with two unpleasant choices in Asch's experiment. He or she can conform, in opposition to his or her true impressions, or he or she can dissent in the face of possible ridicule and embarrassment. Both choices lead to dissonance.

We can see how conformity would cause a state of dissonance in Asch's experiment. The compliant participant has three internal statements that reveal how the internal conflict occurs. He or she is thinking, for instance, "I saw that line C was closest to the standard," "I said that line A was closest to the standard," and "Line A and line C cannot both be closest to the standard."

Gerard hypothesized that a compliant participant could lower his or her internal dissonance as the experiment continued. The participant could do so by

1. "Seeing" the same way as the group. This is what a small majority claimed to have done in Asch's study.

2. Deciding that what they see is wrong. Many participants did this.

3. Attributing the responsibility for what they say to the group. In this way, they feel that the group pressured them to say the wrong thing and that they can comply with a clear conscience. Quite a few of Asch's participants relieved their dissonance in this way.

It is similarly true that deviation, as well as conformity, leads to a state of dissonance. The participant feels that, "I said that line C was closest to the standard," "The group said that line A was closest," and "I am a member of the group." A person can lower this feeling of dissonance by psychologically disassociating from the group. A person could do this by telling himself or herself something like, "I know I am a member of this group, but I don't care whether the group likes me. I will continue to say the truth."

Gerard saw these conditions at work in Asch's experiments. Gerard took these findings and hypothesized that a participant's first choice of behavior is important. The person can choose to deviate or to conform on the first trial. Whichever action the person chooses, his or her cognitions will probably change so that internal dissonance will decrease in subsequent trials.

For example, Joe feels pressured by his group of friends to help them steal a car. Internally, Joe does not believe that he should help them. Joe needs to decide what he will do the first time his friends ask him to steal. Let us say that, as a first example, Joe does not go along with his friends. To have internal harmony, Joe dissociates himself from the group and decides that these particular friends are not very important to him. As time goes by and as his friends pressure him to steal other things, the likelihood is that Joe will continue to refuse. He can do this because the group does not mean very much to him anymore. On the other hand, if Joe steals a car the first time, it is likely that he will continue to do so. He will probably tell himself that the group is right and that stealing is not so bad, in order to lower his internal dissonance.

As you recall, there were consistencies in individual participants' behavior over trials during Asch's study. These results supported Gerard's hypothesis.

What is interesting about the dissonance interpretation of Asch's study is how it relates to an idea we discussed earlier. As we showed, a member will continue to disbelieve a group's opinion if he or she blames the group for his or her act of compliance. If, for instance, Joe is forced to go with his friends and steal the car, Joe will probably not come to believe that stealing is all right. This is similar to the third response that we noted above for people who comply with a group. In fact, a person who feels this way may come to dislike the group and deviate more.

However, once the compliant member comes to blame himself or herself for compliance, the stage is set for the person to begin to privately accept the group's decision. If this happens, in all likelihood the person will like the group more. This is the method by which "brainwashing" can occur. For instance, if Joe's group taunts him by saying that he is just like them or he would not have had them for friends in the first place, Joe may begin to feel personally responsible for having friends who ask him to steal. He may begin to believe his group and start to think that stealing is all right. If this happens, Joe's group has successfully "brainwashed" him.

Private acceptance can occur in other ways also. The following experiment shows this.

Sherif study. Imagine the following circumstances: You have again consented to participate in an experiment that you think is about perception. This time the experimenter promises you that no confederates will pressure you to do anything. The researcher takes you into a dark room, where you are alone. Suddenly, a point of light appears before you. It seems to move erratically for a few seconds, and then it disappears. The experimenter asks you to report how far the light appeared to move.

There is a problem, however. You are not sure how big the room is. Nor do you know how far the light was from you. In other words, you have no frame of reference against which you can compare the light's movement. How can you make your judgment when you have no frame of reference or basis that you can use to evaluate the light?

This is the prototype procedure for a series of studies that Sherif performed in 1935. In reality, the light did not move at all. What occurred was a physiological phenomenon that scientists call an " autokinetic effect." The phenomenon is a tendency for lights to appear to move when there are no points of reference for the eye to use to "tie them down."

Subjective standards. Sherif's first studies showed that his participants quickly established subjective standards that they could use as points of reference. They would then judge the amount of apparent movement against these "standards." How could they do this? The participants would often use their first judgment and the movement that they saw in it as their standard for comparison. They would then use the immediately subsequent judgments in order to estimate the range of possible movement for the light.

In Sherif's study, there was a wide range of standards that the participants created. The smallest standard for the range of movement for the light was about one inch. By contrast, the largest standard was about 7 inches. Once an individual established a subjective standard, he or she continued to use that standard in subsequent experimental sessions.

A group "norm" for judgment. Sherif's next concern was to discover what would occur if individuals performed the task in groups. In the groups, the participants announced their estimates, one by one, in one another's presence. We can hypothesize two possible results for this study. As you recall, the light does not actually move. Instead, the movement that someone observes is actually a result of his or her own unique visual system. Thus, one possible result for the study could be that each participant would "see" very different amounts of movement. If this happened, each person would have a personal standard for judgment, and the other group members would not influence this standard.

A second possibility could be that each person, having no standard to begin with, would instead look to other group members for an idea of how to judge the movement. The individual judgments would then start to influence one another. This would result in a group standard that all members would adopt.

Sherif asked some participants to begin the study by performing one series of judgments alone. He then asked them to work in groups of two or three and do three more series of judgments, doing each series on a different day. Some of the groups were made up of participants who had created very diverse subjective standards during their individual judgments. When these people came together in groups, they showed marked convergence of their standards during the very first series of evaluations. Their standards continued to converge during their second and third series of trials together. However, their ideas of criteria never completely converged. This implies that their original, individual standards still had some effect as they worked together. Nevertheless, it was also clear that the group had created a norm for judgment.

Sherif asked a second sample of participants to make three series of judgments in groups and then to do one series alone. In this case, the group members established a very close convergence of their individual standards almost immediately. Their ideas converged more so than at any time for the previous groups. After convergence, the group norm for judgment averaged about three to four inches. Further, the groups retained their initial norms throughout the other two group sessions. In the individual trials, the participants further continued to use the same group norms for judgment. This occurred even when the individual trials occurred as much as six months after the group sessions. Divergence among the participants' judgments did begin to occur during the end of the individual series. It would be interesting to discover how much more divergence from the group norm would have occurred if the participants had performed more individual sessions.

Sherif's conclusions. Sherif argued quite convincingly that his results are an example of private acceptance and not an example of compliance. First, Sherif showed that the only standard for judgment in his study was "social reality." This was unlike Asch's study. In Asch's experiment, the perceptual difference between the standard and the line that the confederates "chose" was objectively clear. It was so clear that more than 99 percent of the time the control groups made correct judgments. In Sherif's study, on the other hand, the standard for judgment came only from the "reality" that the group created. It was not objective. In fact, we can liken Sherif's experiment to an accuracy task, such as the one we described in Chapter 2 when we examined Gordon's work. For Gordon's task, the average of the participants' judgments was the best answer. If we make such a comparison, the participants' "strategy" of convergence would be optimal in Sherif's study. Second, Sherif's participants continued to use the group standard in subsequent individual sessions. This implies that they actually believed in the group's opinion.

Much later, in 1961, Sherif conducted further research. In these studies, the participants "accidentally" overheard another participant's judgment while they waited to make their own. The participants never met each other. Even so, the judgments of the participants approximated the ones that they had overheard. It is unlikely that people would merely be complying in such a circumstance. There was no group pressure for the participants to conform to the standard that they had heard.

We can further clarify the differences between the Asch and Sherif studies by comparing the demands that the studies made on the participants. In the Asch studies, the perceptual task was clear enough that the participants should have been certain of the correct answers. Of course, the unified response of the confederates was bound to make the participants less certain. However, despite this fact, the participants found Asch's perceptual task very clear. The test was so unambiguous that most of the participants rarely questioned their perception. They either stuck to their guns a majority of the time, or they complied to save face, not because they mistrusted their senses.

In the Sherif studies, the perceptual task was so vague that most participants did not have much confidence in their judgments. Research on other topics has shown what happens when people are uncertain about their judgments or decisions. They react by looking elsewhere for information that could help them. In Sherif's experiment, the only place the participants could go for additional information was to one another. In fact, the people in Sherif's experiment should have had more confidence in the group's standard for judgment. It was natural that they looked to the group for help. This led to the participants' private acceptance of the group standard. In contrast, the only participants in the Asch study who came to trust the group judgment more than their own were those who privately accepted the wrong line as correct.

Thus far, we have considered conformity an individual process. We have shown that individuals often place themselves under great pressure to conform when they face a disagreeing majority. This internal pressure may lead people to conform merely in their behavior because they desire to impress a group or belong to it. This kind of conformity is compliance. The personal pressure may instead lead people to conform in attitude also. This private acceptance could occur because people desire to maintain consistency or to lower uncertainty about their cognitions. Whether a person submits to this pressure is an individual decision.

However, we must not overlook the fact that normal group settings are unlike the Asch and Sherif studies. A group can add to this internal pressure by putting a great deal of overt pressure on dissenters to make them conform or, in some cases, to continue to deviate. Now we will move on to a general discussion of deviance. As part of this examination, we will describe a study concerning the forms that group pressure can take.

As we said before, the first and foremost reason people conform is that group members must do so to make decisions. The foremost reason for deviance in groups relates to this idea. People deviate so that the group can make good decisions. It is unlikely that a group's first proposal is the best that it can possibly make. However, the group cannot make better proposals if members are unwilling to question the first suggestion.

No matter how many members support a given proposal, deviants should speak up. They should attempt to point out the weaknesses of the proposal and the comparative strengths of alternative solutions. When this happens, at the very least, the advocates of a given proposal will need to defend their position. In turn, this defense will have the positive result of giving the group a greater understanding of the proposal and its implications, even if nothing else comes of the deviant's viewpoint. In addition, the criticism from the deviants may lead to improvements in the plan, or, in some cases, it may persuade the majority to explore other possibilities before they accept the given proposal.

Even if a group unanimously supports an idea, it is to the group's advantage to have a member play "devil's advocate." A devil's advocate is not really a deviant. It is a person who may not disagree with the group consensus but who does not think that the agreed-upon proposal has undergone enough examination. In such a role, a person will voice criticism and point out possible weaknesses that he or she may not even truly feel are problems. The devil's advocate does this to ensure that the proposal has undergone a stiff evaluation before the group approves it.

Deviance can lead to conflict within groups. We can distinguish between two types of group conflict: constructive conflict and destructive conflict. Constructive conflict occurs when group members carefully weigh the strengths and weaknesses of proposals. Deviants and devil's advocates can contribute to constructive conflict by challenging any consensus that forms around one of the proposals. Constructive conflict prevents groups from prematurely adopting any proposal. It increases the number of options that groups consider and ensures that the strengths and weaknesses of each are adequately discussed. Constructive conflict can also heighten group members' interest and involvement in the group's discussion. To participate fully in constructive conflict, group members must be dedicated to choosing the proposal that is best for the entire group.

In contrast, destructive conflict occurs when members do not have the best interest of the group in mind. The group is diverted from thoughtfully analyzing all its options. For example, power struggles or personality disputes among group members can disrupt deliberation. In these cases, members attempt to "win out" over one another rather than reach a mutually acceptable consensus. Destructive conflict can even occur when members want to make the best decision for everybody but disagree about how to do so. In this circumstance, discussion can bog down in endless debate about what the group ought to be doing.

Engaging in constructive conflict is to the group's advantage if members want to make a high-quality decision, although it may come at the expense of group satisfaction. A study by Wall, Galanes , and Love (1987) supports this claim. The researchers asked 24 four- to seven-member student groups to develop a list of five topics for workshops for new students and to rank-order the five for importance. The researchers studied the interaction of these groups and counted as conflict any disagreement among three or more people that lasted for more than two statements. They also rated each disagreement as constructive or destructive conflict. The quality of the groups' work was judged to be best for groups that generally had constructive conflict, became worse for groups the more they had destructive conflict, and was worst for groups with no conflict. The "constructive" groups, however, tended to have more conflict than the "destructive" groups, and the more conflict groups had, the less satisfied their members were with their experience. Thus, the groups with constructive conflict did the best work but were least satisfied, the groups with no conflict did the worst work but were most satisfied, and the groups with destructive conflict were intermediate on both variables.

At the beginning of this chapter, we differentiated between types of conformity that were usually bad versus those that were usually good. We called the former "compliance" and the latter "private acceptance." Based on some work by Merton (1957), we can make similar distinctions regarding deviant behavior. Merton's hypothesis rests on how a group member reacts to the group's goal and the group's means for reaching this goal. If a group member accepts both the goal and the means, the person has conformed. What Merton called conformity corresponds to what we have called private acceptance. When a member accepts the group's goal but rejects its means for reaching it, that is known as innovation. It is undoubtedly, in most cases, good for the group. This is an example of the kind of constructive deviance that we have described so far in this section. For example, Judy is in a group that decorates rooms for parties. If she agrees with the group goal, to decorate, and also believes in the way the group decorates, always with pink colors, Judy conforms. On the other hand, Judy may one day say that she thinks the group should use other colors, even though she still likes the group goal of decorating. In that case, Judy is being innovative.

On the other hand, a group member can reject the group's goal but accept its means for reaching it. This is ritualism. In other words, the member "goes through the motions." Merton considers this a form of deviance, although it approximates what we have called compliance. Finally, members may reject both group goals and means. One way they can do this is by dropping out entirely, which Merton calls retreatism . Another way to substitute new, personal goals, as well as the means to reach them. This is rebellion. For instance, Judy could decide that she does not like decorating, but because she needs a job and does not mind the group, she continues decorating rooms. Judy behaves ritually, going through the work without really thinking about what ideas lie behind it. Finally, she may decide that she no longer can follow the group at all. She retreats, and leaves it entirely. On the other hand, if Judy decides that she likes her group but does not like the business of decorating rooms, then she could rebel. She might ask the group if they would like to go into other work, such as preparing gourmet food for the parties.

It is retreatism and rebellion that the group usually considers bad deviance. However, we need to be careful not to misinterpret this judgment. If a group member sincerely believes that a group's goals are wrong, he or she should either get out or rebel. This is a healthy reaction. However, the retreating or rebellious member must expect that the group will view him or her negatively. This is how we should interpret the idea that retreatism and rebellion are bad behaviors. They are unwelcome from the standpoint of the group, which loses members or becomes very disrupted when they occur.

Deviants should not be surprised if the group puts unmistakable constraints on them to conform. Scientists have researched the pressure that groups apply to innovative and rebellious deviants. The results have shown that this persuasive force is quite predictable in its amount and type. Schachter performed a classic experiment (1951) that explored this issue.

Group Pressure Toward Conformity

Schachter was concerned with the extent to which groups direct communication toward dissenters. He concentrated his research this way because he worked under a particular assumption. The assumption was that groups intend for their communication to change a deviate's opinions. Thus, communication is equal to pressure from the group. The reason for this is that groups desire to change a dissenter's ideas so that they are consistent with those of the majority. Schachter believed that the amount of communication that a group directs toward a dissenter is a result of two factors: internal group pressure and dependence of the group on the deviant member.

The first factor is the extent to which the group feels its own internal pressure to change the dissenter's opinion. In other words, how important is it to the group to change the person's ideas? This kind of pressure should rise as the amount of disagreement that the group perceives it has with the person increases. Interestingly, Schachter hypothesized this as a curvilinear relationship. Pressure and disagreement do not exactly go hand in hand. Instead, Schachter felt that pressure increases more slowly as disagreement becomes stronger.

For example, Mark joins a tennis group. The group is very formal and runs its own tournaments. Mark starts to wear street shoes when he plays. The group tries to pressure him to wear tennis shoes instead. Next, Mark begins to argue with line judges. He disrupts the normal tranquillity of the games. The group feels more strongly that it needs to bring Mark "back in line." Soon, however, Mark is not playing full games, and he often leaves in a huff. When this higher level of disagreement is reached, the group still thinks it should pressure Mark to conform, but the feelings of the group are not much stronger than when Mark started to argue in the first place. The group is beginning to wonder if it is worth the effort to make Mark conform.

The group's internal pressure to change a dissenter's opinion also usually rises as the cohesiveness of the group and the importance of the task to the group increase. For instance, if the tennis group really enjoys being together and they think of Mark as a group member, they will fight harder to make him conform to their ideal. Also, if the group feels that playing tennis in a "formal" way is very important, they will work harder to keep Mark in line.

The second factor regarding how much a group will communicate persuasively to a dissenter is the degree to which the group feels that it depends upon the deviant member. Schachter theorized that as disagreement increases, a group should feel less dependent upon a dissenter's input. In effect, the group rejects the member. For example, if Mark starts to miss meets entirely and swears continually at judges, the group may tell him that he can no longer play tennis with them. The level of disagreement has become so high that the group no longer wants to tolerate Mark.

Again, Schachter saw this as a curvilinear relationship with dependence decreasing at a faster pace as disagreement becomes worse. In addition, high levels of cohesiveness and devotion to the task mean that the group's dependence on a deviant who creates many problems will decrease. For example, it may be that Mark's group enjoys being together and playing formal tennis very much. In this case, if Mark becomes disagreeable to the point where he endangers these group enjoyments, it is likely that the group will depend on Mark less and less.

We can predict the result of these offsetting forces. As we have noted, the amount of pressure that a group feels toward persuading a dissenter will increase along with the perceived disagreement. As disagreement and felt pressure increase, communication toward the dissenter attempting to persuade him or her to conform will also increase. However, this will happen only until the group reaches the point where it begins to depend less on the dissenter. When this happens, the decrease in the group's feeling of dependence will compensate for its internal pressure. Thereafter, communication will decrease if the perceived disagreement continues to rise. Increasing levels of pressure will be offset by decreasing dependence levels.

For example, Mark's group will communicate with him, trying to persuade him to conform, only until they see him deviate so much that they feel the group can no longer depend on him. When this happens, the group will not bother trying to communicate with Mark anymore. Figure 6.1 illustrates the relationship between the forces.

Schachter also assumed that continued group interaction will lead a group to become more aware of disagreement when a significant degree of deviation exists than the group might otherwise have been. Thus, when a group increases the time it spends interacting, we can expect a similar rise in perceived disagreement. This causes communication to the dissenter first to increase and then decrease over the course of a group meeting.

Schachter informed his study participants that they were assigned to one of four "clubs." In the clubs, they would study the topics of "case study," "editorials," "movies," or "radio." The "case study" and "movie" clubs consisted of participants who had expressed interest in those topics. Schachter hoped that this manipulation would lead to high group cohesiveness. In contrast, the "editorial" and "radio" clubs had participants who were uninterested. Schachter expected these groups to be low in cohesion. Data showed that these manipulations did affect cohesiveness, as they were intended to do.

Between 8 and 10 participants showed up for the first meeting of each club. During this first meeting, Schachter asked the club members to help on another project that he was doing. He gave them the case study of "Johnny Rocco." Johnny was a juvenile delinquent, guilty of a minor crime. Their task was to decide on a policy for dealing with him. Should they send him for help and counseling or put him in jail? The groups had 45 minutes to decide Johnny's fate. After the discussion, the researcher told the members to nominate one another for positions on committees. The committees had varying degrees of importance to the club. Finally, the club members rated the degree to which they wished one another to remain in the club. This ended the meeting and the experiment.

What was going on? First, Schachter chose the Johnny Rocco case because it was relevant to the "case study" and "editorial" clubs but not to the"movie " and "radio" groups. He thus created a second type of manipulation for the study. Table 6.1 shows the conditions in the groups to which the manipulation led.

Sticks and Stones: Coping with Offensive, Hurtful, Insensitive, & Otherwise Unwelcome Speech

For generations, American children were taught this simple rhyme…but what about when words do hurt? We can all remember times when another person’s words stung us terribly.

We wish we could prevent other people from saying upsetting things, but the First Amendment, for a number of reasons, protects offensive speech and will continue to do so. There are certain speakers you might like to silence, but the courts aren’t going to back you up on that. There are some types of upsetting, insensitive expressions and even unwelcome ideas that you are going to have to accept as part of living in a free society.

You don’t control what other people do you only control what you do. So, how do you handle and overcome rude, offensive, abhorrent, ignorant, insulting, and even hateful comments, without letting it derail you emotionally?

To answer this question, let’s turn to the science of psychology and review some helpful strategies for dealing with life’s inevitable challenges—including speech you’d rather not hear but can’t avoid.

Your goal is to build what’s called emotional resilience—the ability to cope with and bounce back strongly and quickly from life’s challenges. So, when faced with upsetting or inflammatory speech, you are not helpless. There are skills we can teach children and learn ourselves to master the challenges and discomforts that are part of life. Personal growth, after all, happens largely in the discomfort zone, when we have to stretch ourselves to build mental and emotional strength. You have several sound psychological precepts and adjustment strategies available to you:


According to cognitive psychologist Albert Ellis, it is not life that upsets us. Rather, we upset ourselves by the view we take of things. This insight may sound obvious when it’s written down, but it’s not the way many of us think. Ellis’ ABC Model teaches us that we can exercise choice over our thoughts, and by choosing empowering ones, we can gain control over our emotions and be better equipped to overcome difficult moments in life.

Ellis’ ABC Model

The ABC model specifies that it is not what happens to us that determines our outcomes in life rather, it is what we think about what happens to us that makes the crucial difference in how things turn out. Consider two children raised in the dysfunctional home of an alcoholic parent. One uses this unfortunate background as excuse to be a failure the other as a reason to succeed. If you asked them why they turned out the way they did, each would say: “How could I turn out differently? Look at my Dad!”

The “A” in the ABC Model stands for Activating Event in the case of adversity, this is something unpleasant that happens to you. The “C” stands for Consequences—how things turn out, for better or for worse. The crucial mediating factor between these two things is “B,” which stands for your beliefs. Activating Event → Beliefs → Consequences.

If you believe that setbacks are temporary and that you have the emotional resources to cope with and overcome them, then the consequence of the activating event will likely be positive. You will deal with the challenge in an adaptive way and either overcome it or adjust to it. Each time you manage and master a difficulty in life, your self-confidence and self-esteem grows.

If, however, you believe that any setback is a devastating event and that you can not possibly handle it or recover from it, the resulting consequence of the adversity is likely to be very negative, and the effects can be long-lasting and extremely damaging.

Simply put, the ABC Model (and cognitive therapy)teaches us that there are helpful thoughts and unhelpful thoughts. Since our thoughts determine our feelings, and since we have the power to choose our own thoughts, it makes sense to choose thoughts that empowering and helpful rather than debilitating. Psychology also teaches us that we can only hold one thought in our heads at a time. If so, why not select thoughts that are associated with positive and empowering outcomes?

Conversely, viewing life events through a pessimistic and personalizing lens tends to lead to negative outcomes. This is why such thinking patterns are not recommended under the ABC model. A person with such patterns would interpret most any adverse situation in life as being personal (about themselves), permanent (it can’t be changed), and pervasive (it ruins everything.) A repetitive mental habit of such an individual would be to think, whenever something unpleasant happens, “everything bad always happens to me!”

Seligman’s Learned Optimism

Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman has developed a system called Learned Optimism to challenge these types of automatic, pessimistic thoughts (often called cognitive distortions) and encourage more empowering mental habits. When something unfortunate happens to you, you resist the impulse to interpret it personally, permanently, and pervasively. Instead, you come up with a mental response that is impersonal, impermanent, and specific. For example, a person who is insulted by someone else can interpret the incident extremely pessimistically: I’m unlikeable, I’ll always be unlikeable, and this ruins everything! Or they might think: The world is unfair to me, it always will be, and there are no places to escape from this all-encompassing unfairness. Each of these conclusions could be challenged, refuted, and corrected using learned optimism.

Many people harbor faulty beliefs about life that do not withstand logical, critical examination. These beliefs might be unconscious but still exert considerable influence over how a person thinks, behaves, and feels. You may hold unconscious but irrational beliefs or demands about life, such as “everyone should be nice to me all the time.” When you learn to challenge these beliefs, you discover that you have a full range of options available to you in the face of rudeness or verbal adversity: you can laugh, scoff, dismiss, ignore, avoid, or respond. Looking at creative ways to respond increases your cognitive flexibility: can you think of any others? It is completely up to you how much weight, if any, you are going to give to another person’s utterances or opinions.

Here are some other disempowering messages that people sometimes allow to run (or ruin) their lives:

The world is a scary place and I am too weak to cope with it.
I have to pay attention to the things other people say.
If someone says something negative about me, I must feel badly about it.
Other people’s opinions determine my worth.

When you make yourself conscious of your own self-defeating thought patterns, you might find that some of them are not objectively true and are even outright silly. (Do you really have to pay attention to what people say about you, no matter how irrational or vicious the person?) Sometimes you are your own the worst enemy, and you might be giving away a lot of power over your emotions to other people rather than claiming it appropriately for yourself.

Beware: Dichotomous Thinking

One particularly unhelpful type of cognitive distortion is known as “dichotomous” thinking. This is also known as Either-Or, Black-White, All-or-Nothing thinking, Polarized thinking, and Splitting. This mode of thought paints encounters with a broad brush and lacks subtlety, nuance, and precision.

If one aspect of a situation or an individual is not entirely perfect, everything feels ruined and must be entirely rejected. Rather than being perfectly black and white, however, most of life’s situations and people exist somewhere in the gray zone. People are not divided simplistically into heroes and villains, pure unadulterated good or irredeemably evil. Most of us are somewhere in between a very human mixture of both, in constant opposition. It is a very helpful and healthy adaptive response to increase your comfort with the ambiguity that is a natural, expected part of life.

Likewise, most intellectual debates exist in a state of constant dialectical tension, poised between two opposing rationales with competing, rational claims. Contending otherwise (one side is entirely right and the other side “evil”) is an oversimplification and requires overlooking much relevant info. To truly understand and settle our own positions requires honest wrestling with the best arguments of the other side. As John Stuart Mill wisely put it: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”


Self-Efficacy, a term coined by Albert Bandura, refers to your own belief in your ability to take action and cope with challenges. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to take effective action in the face of adversity than those with low self-efficacy. It’s similar to Dorothy’s realization at the end of the Wizard of Oz that she’d always had the power she needed within herself through all her trials. Think of all the times you have overcome challenges before and the strength you have already shown in your life! You wouldn’t be here today if that weren’t the case. Then remind yourself that you always have the power to choose empowering, uplifting thoughts rather than disabling ones.

Talk therapy is an excellent way of giving meaning to our life experiences and placing them in their proper perspective. Through conversations with a trusted friend or skilled therapist, you process various encounters, find meaning in them, and grow from them. You can reframe an upsetting speech encounter as a learning opportunity for yourself—an applied lesson in how to deal with difficult people.

Explanatory Style and Attribution Style

Explanatory style refers to how people explain to themselves whether a particular experience is positive or negative. A pessimistic explanatory style would interpret events as being personal, permanent, and pervasive. Unfortunately, a pessimistic explanatory style is associated with negative outcomes, including rumination, depression, and failure to take positive, proactive actions. Martin Seligman, in Learned Optimism, details ways in which people can cultivate a more helpful explanatory style that views events in impersonal, impermanent, specific terms. This is the outlook most likely to lead to positive outcomes and proactive choices, and it can be taught to students and other young people.

Similarly, Richard Lazarus is well known for the concept of Attribution Style in terms of coping with unwanted stressors. There are three basic attribution styles: problem-focused, appraisal-focused, and emotion-focused. A problem-focused style seeks to reduce or eliminate the stressor. This is advisable in cases where the stressor can be altered, but in the case of protected speech, the listener does not have the ability to prevent the speaker from exercising his First Amendment right. Accessible means of problem-focused coping would, however, include walking away, not attending an upsetting event, or exercising one’s own speech rights in return. Absent the ability to alter another speaker’s words, a listener could cope by reappraising the situation and developing strategies for managing personal emotional reactions.

For instance, in terms of reappraisal, while it is undeniable that the saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is not entirely true in the emotional sense (being called names can certainly hurt feelings) perhaps it would be helpful to consider this more empowering adaptation of that timeworn saying:“sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never break my bones and my emotions are under my control.”


Behaviorism teaches us we have learned to respond to events the way that we do, and that, if we choose,we can use the same learning principles to acquire different, more helpful responses.

Selye’s General Adaptation Model

For example, Dr. Hans Selye’s general adaptation model posits a 3-step response of the human body to stress: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Our goal is to return to homeostasis (calm) with as little disruption as possible, and there are strategies we can adopt and practice to facilitate this. Dr. Herbert Benson’s relaxation response is one way to accomplish this: Benson advises us to use a simple, secular form of transcendental meditation to cultivate and restore emotional peace.

Adlerian Techniques

Adlerian therapy uses the “Push Button” technique to help clients develop a reliable means for restoring inner calm in the face of external “threat.” Another similar technique is to learn to “change the channel” so that you can reset your inner experience. There are visioning strategies and resources such as aromatherapy, relaxing music, massage therapy, structured breathing exercises, stretching, yoga, and other self-soothing techniques to help us release pent-up tension. Biofeedback is another way to monitor your personal reactivity and learn to modulate your responses.

Many of us have developed some bad mental habits oftentimes, we are not even aware of them. Injustice-collecting is one of them. This is when a person remembers everything bad or upsetting that ever happened to them or was said to them, often so that they can confirm an existing negative worldview.

Oftentimes, this happens subconsciously. If you believe that the world is a bad, dangerous place, then it can ironically feel good to receive information that supports that belief, since it confirms that you are “right.” Some people like to revisit their injustice collection and carefully re-examine all the negative experiences, (while ignoring positive experiences), in order to justify whatever hurt feelings they have. This might be referred to as having a “pity party.” Some people visit their garden of grievances regularly to pore over it and even seem to be watering it so it will grow. This can feel satisfying in the short-term, but over the long-term it is not a healthy psychological habit as it can reinforce and intensify negative feelings. Remember the saying that: “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can plant flowers or you can plant weeds.”


Rumination is another example of an unhealthy, unhelpful mental habit with poor outcomes. This is where we repeatedly re-play an upsetting situation or encounter in our heads, over and over, until we make ourselves really unhappy and can’t seem to escape it. Unchecked rumination is associated with anxiety and depression, which is why it is important to learn ways to stop repetitively and reflexively doing it. There are useful behavioral techniques for dealing with this bad habit. Thought-stopping (interruption)and thought-substitution (like the “push-button” technique) are two ways of reversing this common negative tendency.

Skill-building is a great way to benefit from a variety of therapeutic strategies. If you are easily or overly upset by other people’s thoughts and comments, you might want to work on your own coping, stress management, and confrontation skills—all great ways to build resilience.

You can learn to anticipate upsetting situations and pre-consider them. This enables you to engage in rehearsal and to consider various ways of responding. You could even role-play your responses to likely encounters which should give you increased feelings of control and help restore your sense of calmness and power.


If you routinely let the outside world routinely upset your inner calm, you might benefit from developing a more philosophical approach to life. As you go through life, you will face many different events of varying intensity and you will need to adapt and adjust to them.

Stoicism, existentialism, and Buddhism teach us to expect a certain amount of discomfort in life, but not to be too concerned or reactive to these situations. By practicing and cultivating a certain amount of detachment from external events, we can move past them quickly with a minimum of upset.

Taoism teaches us that everything that happens to us is a mixture of good and bad, so don’t be too quick to judge a situation and assign a meaning to it. The famous story of “Maybe it is, Maybe it isn’t” teaches us that what appears at first glance to be a curse may turn out to be a blessing in the end.

Cultivating a strong sense of humor is another smart approach to dealing with life’s inevitable ups and downs. In fact, humor is one of Freud’s positive and adaptive ego-defense mechanisms! Humor releases pent-up aggression and frustration and can be extremely cathartic and helpful to everyone involved in a difficult situation.

Alfred Adler’s self-serving bias is another way of protecting your fragile sense of self worth from overwhelming feelings of inferiority, when confronted with negative input. Why not put the most positive spin possible on everyday events and interpret external matters in ways that place yourself in a flattering light? Remember that when other people behave badly, it certainly makes you look good by comparison!

Reconsider the reflexive urge to judge other people. It can be an enlightened decision simply to let things be and to move on, without needing to internalize any anger from an incident. Simply observe them, like a scientist. Benjamin Franklin, who was very well known for his people skills and persuasive ability, wisely advises us: “He who would live in peace and ease, must not speak all he knows or judge all he sees.” Forgiveness is a healthy way of handling other people’s bad behavior. Can you love your enemies or at least have some compassion for them? Can you let karma deal with them? It’s possible that people who say angry, upsetting things have a lot of pain inside of them.

Remember that other people’s words do not define you and that you do not need to take anything personally. Ugly words say more about the person uttering them than they do about you. Remember the old children’s saying about this? “I’m rubber, you’re glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!” When you consider the concept of Freudian projection, you realize that there is much wisdom in this juvenile saying.

Educating yourself is helpful in terms of understanding why other people do the things that they do. Once you understand the psychological reasons why people may do annoying and unpleasant things, you will likely find yourself less bothered. You may even start to find yourself being intrigued and amused by “curious” behavior.

Remember that the interpretation of others’ words can be largely subjective. What makes you upset might not bother someone else, and what makes you happy might upset someone else. Your individual reactions can even vary according to your own mood. As memoirist Anais Nin put it, “We do not see the world as it is we see it as we are.” By the same token, have you ever heard that offense is taken, not given? If you refuse to take offense, then hostile words lose their power over you.

Yes, words do have the power to make us upset or even miserable, sometimes. They also have the power to make us deliriously happy, to help us reminisce, and to give us windows into other people’s lives and different lifetimes in other ages.

You have the power to determine the meaning you will give to another person’s utterances — if any at all. Speaking of power, remind yourself that you control your thoughts and no one else. You can choose to be happy even in the face of very angry and offensive language by taking charge of your own internal environment.

Rotter and Internal Locus of Control

The psychologist Julian Rotter refers to the concept of having an “internal locus of control.” This means that you believe that you are the source of most of the things that happen to you. You are not merely at the mercy of outside, external events. Having a strong internal locus of control contributes to Bandurian“self-efficacy”—belief in your own power to make things happen.

People with strong self-efficacy and an internal locus of control are less likely to be overly affected by other people’s behavior (including their bad verbal choices.) Can you cultivate these healthy psychological attributes, to make yourself more independent of other people in terms of controlling your own mood? It’s important to accept that you can’t control what other people do you only control what you do.

Another smart technique is to keep busy. When you have a lot of interesting things happening in your own life, you won’t have much time or energy to devote to people who are spreading negativity. As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill put it: “You’ll never get where you’re going if you stop to throw stones at every dog that barks.” In other words, you have more important things to do than worry about what other people are saying or doing.

Practice saying to yourself: “Oh, well” when life throws you a curveball. Do you have to get upset by everything going on around you? No, not really. You actually don’t. It’s up to you.


Dr. Thomas Gordon’s Effectiveness Training teaches us that we have 3 choices when dealing with a problem situation. You can either:

  1. Change yourself
  2. Change the environment, or
  3. Attempt to change the other person.

Most people immediately prefer option 3—changing the other person—since we tend to assume that the other person is clearly the problem in most situations. Unfortunately, this is the hardest one to do, since you don’t have direct control over another individual. The only person you can really ever control is yourself (and even this can be tough! As Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks about changing the world, but no one thinks about changing himself.”) The way in which you would change yourself would be to alter your internal processing, as we discussed above. Can you accept that sometimes people say offensive things and not let it bother you?

You might have some ability to alter the environment you are in. For instance, if you know that an offensive speaker is coming to your school or campus, and that this will upset you, you can take steps to steer clear of this particular event and avoiding exposing yourself to situations that you find unpleasant.

If you’re finding online exchanges unpleasant or upsetting, then, by all means, take responsibility for your inner peace and change the environment by putting away your phone or shutting your computer off. Take a walk or listen to some calming, uplifting music, instead. Make the deliberate choice to do something pleasant rather than something that disrupts your tranquility. You don’t have to engage in voluntary interchanges that drain your energy and leave you unhappy. Do not seek out disagreeable or obnoxious people. Monitor how time spent online makes you feel and if it is more negative than positive, then take proactive measures to safeguard your personal emotional sanctity.

If you do decide to try to change the other person, you will want to employ effective communication skills. Typically, this involves sending accurate I-Messages communicating precisely how the other person’s behavior directly affects you. An I-Message would sound like: “when you say that, my feelings are hurt.” Don’t assign blame, interpret their motivations, or judge them. Simply describe the effect of the words on you—accurately, honestlyand without exaggeration (otherwise, you likely won’t be believed and/or will escalate things.) Then, the other party gets to choose their response and so do you. Most people do not want to hurt other people’s feelings, so if you communicated authentically and convincingly, then there is a reasonable likelihood that the other person will alter their behavior.

Not everyone is going to agree with you in life, but it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. At least, it is on your part. If the other party continues behaving in a way that remains unacceptable to you, wish them well and move on. You don’t have to continually subject yourself to unreasonable, unpleasant situations. You have limited energy and emotional resources and protecting your boundaries is part of strategic self-care.

While protected speech can not be outlawed or restricted, some things are avoidable: you don’t need to attend talks on upsetting topics. You should minimize the time you spend with upsetting, unpleasant people. Be smart and wise with your limited emotional resources don’t expend them in fruitless ways. Walk away from unpleasant conversations and predictably frustrating encounters. Seek out people who fill your day with positivity. You have the right to exercise deliberate choices over your exposure to different types of situations.

You could also speak back to the offending person and engage in a confrontational dialogue, if necessary. Argumentation is a valued skill that you can develop along with your reasoning powers, and, with practice, you may even come to appreciate a worthy, challenging adversary!

And remember that there is a long literary tradition in the age-old art of exchanging verbal barbs. Offensive speech and offensive people have been around for ages, which is why Shakespeare mastered the fine art of crafting appropriately cutting insults. As Oscar Wilde once quipped: “a gentleman is a man who never gives offence unintentionally.”

Strong, effective speech is one way of defending yourself against an aggressive speaker, and surely you have heard the saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Sometimes, the right response to offensive speech is to really let the other person have it—in words, of course. We have to remain civilized people. Remember that Sigmund Freud famously said that, “the first human to hurl an insult instead of a stone founded civilization.” None of this is meant to imply that people should not simultaneously work to improve society, but it is useful to remember that developing strong, convincing rhetorical skills is one of the best ways to accomplish this.


The martial artist Bruce Lee said, “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Motivational speaker Jim Rohn put it differently. He said: “Don’t ask for an easy life. Ask for it to be worth it.” It’s true that tolerating offensive speech is not easy or pleasant, but then life was never promised to you as a rose garden. Life is full of hardships to overcome, and the reward for overcoming them is the personal development you attain in the process. Sometimes, the annoying challenges you face in life are preparing you for more important tasks that lie ahead and therefore should be embraced as growth and learning opportunities.

You are not helpless in the face of unwanted or offensive speech. You have multiple strategies for coping and responding and the more you exercise your resiliency skills, the more capable and equipped you will become to handle life’s unavoidable vicissitudes. You are strong enough to recover from offensive speech and to confront it when necessary. Each challenge you overcome will build your internal capacity and prepare you to accomplish big things in life.

Remember that, while the First Amendment does protect offensive speech, it does not protect harassment. If you are repetitively being targeted, then there may be legal recourse available to you. And don’t forget that the First Amendment doesn’t only protect other people it also protects YOU. So use your free speech rights to express yourself and to spread positive, empowering messages that will uplift yourself and others and make the world a better place!


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Mary Ainsworth Attachment Theory Explained

Many theories of attachment involved an all-or-nothing process. This means researchers have often focused on why some attachments are able to occur or why they do not. Mary Ainsworth went against this body of research because she believed that attachments were formed through a process that was much more complex than previously discussed.

The Mary Ainsworth attachment theory focuses on providing an explanation as to why there are individual differences in attachment.

Newborns often attach to people and have a primary attachment point, which is usually their mother. Young children also form numerous attachments to certain family members and friends. Unlike adults, however, these infants and youth are unable to verbalize why they make these attachments.

To create her attachment theory, Ainsworth would create an observational technique that she called the Strange Situation Classification. Devised in 1969, it would become the foundation of her ideas about individualized attachment.

Attachment is Complex Enough that It Comes in Multiple Forms

Ainsworth wanted to investigate the security of attachments in young children. This caused her to develop an 8-step procedure to watch how children would display attachment behaviors and what their individualized style happened to be.

Each step in the strange situation scenario would last for about 3 minutes, except for the initial stage that included the experimenter, which would only last for a minute or less. The mother and child would start out alone. Then a stranger would join the mother and the infant. The mother would then leave the child alone with the stranger.

In the next stage, the mother would return to the child and the stranger would leave. Then the mother leaves and the child is left alone. The stranger then returns, which is followed by the mother returning and the stranger leaving.

Ainsworth designed a scoring scale that could then be used during the observations made during this 8-stage process. There were four points of emphasis that were based on the interaction behaviors that the child would direct at the mother when she returned and was reunited with the child.

  • The proximity of the child to the mother and any contact-seeking behaviors that were evident.
  • How long that contact was maintained.
  • If there was any avoidance of proximity or contact with the mother.
  • Resistance to contact from the mother by the child or resistance to comforting efforts.

Each behavioral episode was directly scored for 15 seconds using the attachment theory from Ainsworth. Then each behavior would be rated by the observer on a scale of 1-7 based on the behavior intensity that was displayed.

Ainsworth also noted that there could be exploratory behaviors, searching behaviors, and affect displays offered by the child as part of the behavioral process.

Ainsworth Identified Three Primary Attachment Styles

Through her observational work, Mary Ainsworth discovered three primary attachment styles that may affect children.

  • Type A attachments were those that caused the child to be insecure and avoidant.
  • Type B attachments were those that were secure.
  • Type C attachments were insecure and resistant.

Ainsworth then believed that the attachment types would form based on the early interactions that the child would have with its mother.

Research into the Mary Ainsworth attachment theory in 1990 would produce a fourth attachment style: disorganized.

Each type could be identified based on specific behaviors the child would display. In secure attachments, a child would be distressed when the mother left and be avoidant of the stranger. When the mother returned, the child would become happy again.

For ambivalent attachments, the child would be intensely distressed when the m other leaves. The child would be avoidant of the stranger, then approach the mother upon reunion, but resist contact.

In avoidant attachments, Ainsworth discovered that the child would not be concerned if the mother left. The child would also embrace the stranger and play with them. When the mother returned, the child would show little interest.

Ainsworth discovered that 70% of children tend to have a secure attachment to their mother through her studies. The other 30% of children were equally distributed between Type A and Type C attachments.

What We Have Learned Through Attachment Theory

For children to develop a secure attachment, an initial attachment figure must be present for a child from the very beginning. This attachment figure must be available a majority of the time, be responsive, and also be helpful. It is usually the mother, but could be a father, a sibling, or someone else important in the child’s life.

If one of those attributes is not present, then the attachment of the child changes. This is what we have learned through the attachment theory proposed by Mary Ainsworth.

Social Psychology and Emotions

Emotions are a topic studied within many subdisciplines of psychology, including clinical psychology, biological psychology, and developmental psychology. Yet if one reviews the history of psychological theory and research on emotion, it is noticeable that social psychologists have played a prominent role. In one sense this is surprising. There are certainly emotional reactions that have little or nothing to do with the social world that is the primary concern of social psychologists: Think of fear of heights, of snakes, or of grizzly bears. Yet these emotions are not typical of the range of emotions that people experience in everyday life. As noted earlier, emotions are always about something: They have an object. This object is very often social. It is a person (a rival for your loved one’s affection), a social group (an organization that does inspiring work in developing countries), a social event (your favorite sports team winning a trophy), or a social or cultural artifact (a piece of music). It turns out that these social objects are much more likely than nonsocial objects to be the source of our everyday emotions.

Furthermore, many emotions are either inherently or functionally social, in the sense that they either would not be experienced in the absence of others or seem to have no other function than to bind people to other people. Emotions such as compassion, sympathy, maternal love, affection, and admiration are ones that depend on other people being physically or psychologically present. Fear of rejection, loneliness, embarrassment, guilt, shame, jealousy, and sexual attraction are emotions that seem to have as their primary function the seeking out or cementing of social relationships.

A final point concerning the link between emotion and social life is that when people experience emotions, they have a strong tendency to share them with others. In research on what is called the social sharing of emotion, investigators have shown that the overwhelming majority of emotional experiences are shared with others, are shared with several others, and are shared soon after the triggering event. Moreover, this sharing of emotion with others elicits emotional reactions in the listeners, which is itself an interesting phenomenon, depending as it does on the listener’s tendency to empathize with the sharer. And the emotions experienced by the listeners tend to be shared with third parties, a phenomenon called secondary social sharing. There is an interesting paradox here. People tend to share their emotional experiences, some of which may be painful or shaming, with intimates because they trust them not to share their secrets with others. And yet these intimates are the very ones who are likely to empathize with other people and therefore to experience emotions themselves as a result of listening to what others divulge. This makes it likely that they will engage in secondary social sharing.

These points make it clear that emotions are invariably social in nature: They are about social objects, their function seems to be social, and they have social consequences. A parallel point is that the subject matter of social psychology is invariably emotional in nature: Topics such as close relationships, aggression and hostility, altruism and helping behavior, prejudice and stereotyping, and attitudes and persuasion entail concepts and processes that are often explicitly emotional. In short, there is an intimate connection between emotion and social psychology, which in turn helps to account for the prominent role that social psychologists have made to emotion theory and research.

This section will now return to the three components of emotion identified earlier, namely, physiological changes, cognitions, and expressive behaviors, and review modern developments in research on each component.

What psychological and emotional effects can adopted children suffer from?

There are many psychological and emotional effects that adopted children can suffer from.

Some may feel a sense of abandonment or rejection from their birth family. I find that’s particularly the case when the child doesn’t truly feel accepted by all the members of the adoptive family.

Some children may have issues with self-esteem or identity development. Those are often, but not always related to the children who don’t look anything like their adoptive families. If proper steps aren’t taken, those kids can grow up feeling self-conscious and out of place.

For most adoptees there is huge sense of guilt associated with any thought of search and reunion with birth family. To them it feels like a betrayal to the parents that raised them. Such feelings can negatively affect the adoptee’s feeling about themselves, their adoptive parents, and their birth parents.

If an adopted child has experienced early life trauma, there will be lingering effects from those experiences as well. Trauma can include abuse, neglect, separation from first family, and time spent living in foster care or an orphanage.

There is no parental handbook to ensure the psychological and emotional health of your child. There are steps you can take minimize some of the effects of adoption. One thing you can do is make sure that your child knows he or she is adopted from day one. Even if the child is too young to understand what it means, it’s important that they not find out later. That could lead to anger, resentment, and shame.

Always be as honest about their birth story as age-appropriateness allows. It’s important that you not keep secrets. Treat the child as if they are biologically yours while respecting and encouraging their heritage and culture. Finally, understand that the desire an adoptee may have to learn about or meet their birth family is a completely normal thing. Your child deserves your support throughout and search and reunion.

Additionally, research the impact that early life trauma has on brain development, emotional development, and behavior, and learn parenting techniques that can help mitigate it.

Ashley Foster is a freelance writer. She is a wife and a mother of two, currently residing in Florida. She loves taking trips to the beach with her husband and sons. As an infant, she was placed with a couple in a closed adoption. Ashley was raised with two sisters who were also adopted. In 2016, she was reunited with her biological family. She advocates for adoptees’ rights and DNA testing for those who are searching for family. Above all, she is thankful that she was given life.

What is the term or theory to explain adopting behaviors when hurt by someone else - Psychology

When people show any of these five symptoms, they are considered to be in the "active phase" of the disorder. Often people with schizophrenia have milder symptoms before and after the active phase.

There are three basic types of schizophrenia. All people who have schizophrenia have lost touch with reality. The three main types of schizophrenia are:

  1. Disorganized Schizophrenia (previously called "hebephrenic schizophrenia") - lack of emotion, disorganized speech
  2. Catatonic Schizophrenia - waxy flexibility, reduced movement, rigid posture, sometimes too much movement
  3. Paranoid Schizophrenia - strong delusions or hallucinations

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