Friday, March 24, 2017

Ten Things The Breakfast Club Got Right About Social Psych

By Amy Fox, Luke Harbison, Becca Horton, Cheyenne Sands, and Licia Sheridan

The Breakfast Club is a 1985 film that follows five unlikely friends as they spend a day in detention. Over the years, it became a widely appreciated film for its social relevance in youth culture regarding themes such as stereotype impact and parental pressures. This following article discusses ten social psychology topics that were depicted true in The Breakfast Club.

The Criminal:

  1. Stereotypes of Delinquents

giphy.gifJohn Bender’s depiction in the breakfast club is that of a stereotypical delinquent: he is rude, deals drugs, and has an alcoholic father. While it may be stereotypical for troubled youth to have an alcoholic parent there may be some truth to this stereotype. A Danish study conducted in the year 2000 observed the relationship between alcoholic parents having poorly adjusted children. Having an alcoholic parent was found to be a significant predictor of a child being depressed and/or socially deviant.
2. Social Learning Theory
           What is John Bender’s major malfunction? There has to be a reason for an adolescent to be so prone to acting out. In the movie, one of Bender’s favorite forms of misbehavior is to smoke marijuana. While many adolescents experiment with this particular drug the vast majority do not smoke it constantly. Could Bender’s upbringing have anything to do with this? Well according to Social Learning Theory, it may. Social Learning Theory is the theory that behavior is learned through observation or positive or negative experiences. Bender observed his father chronically abusing his intoxicant of choice, alcohol. According to professionals at the University of Pittsburgh school of medicine, adolescent modeling of parental substance abuse is a risk factor for the child to abuse substances.

The Basket Case:

3.  Parent-child Relationships

Allison is very complex in the way we see her versus how she truly is. She wears all black and carries around a bag full of her stuff, and things she has “acquired” from other. According to the study by Fuligni and Eccles her need to show off is resulted by her lack of parental authority. Her parents don’t pay attention to her and don’t seem to care for her well-being;so she does what she can to stand out.

4. Conformity

      While Allison clearly stands out and makes sure that everyone notices she also wants to fit in. She allows Clair, the princess, to give her a completely makeover. According to the study by Santor et. al, this is a common occurrence. When someone from a lower clique, aka the not popular, they will do conform who they are to fit in. The Breakfast Club got conformity right when they created Allison.

The Brain:

5. Cognitive Dissonance

giphy.gif Brian Johnson, “the Brain” is what you would think of when asked to imagine an overachiever in high school: AP classes, straight As, and a little socially awkward. Brian found himself in Saturday detention after the flare gun he had brought to school discharged in his locker before he got the chance to use it to end his life. It is later revealed than his first-ever F (in a shop class no less!) is what drove him to that decision. This illustrates the concept of cognitive dissonance, the discrepancy being his high academic achievement in comparison to his shop grade. A paper published by Richter and Ferraro links cognitive dissonance with GPA discrepancies: having a high GPA and receiving a “low” score caused greater discomfort. This could perhaps be Brain’s reasoning for wanting to ill himself; his grades and self-perceived intelligence didn’t match.

6. Self-Verification Theory

Another way to analyze Brain’s choice would be through the lense of self-verification theory. This states that we look for clues about ourselves that align with our own views of ourselves, and any mismatch between the two can cause discomfort. As G√≥mez et al describe it, “ Self-verification processes allow people to stabilize their self-view . . . Stable self-views provide people with a sense of coherence and confidence, and also with a sense of being understood by others that facilitates social interactions.” In Brian’s case, the stability of his self-view was disturbed, which caused distress and could have been the prime motivator for his decision.

The Athlete:  

7. Social Dominance Orientation

andrew.gif Andrew Clark, or “the athlete”, is the number one jock at his school and is very popular. Andrew got detention because of bullying a nerdy kid. Although that makes him seem like a mean hearted kid, he is actually very kind and well-mannered. Andrew is talented, but if he did not have his father pressuring him to be so popular he probably would be perceived very differently. Andrew feels so much pressure to not be a loser from his father that he made the choice to bully someone even though he knew it was very wrong. Andrew is experiencing Social Dominance Orientation, which is having such a strong desire to promote the dominance of your in-group that you adopt new values to promote oppression of other groups to increase dominance. A study by Kusdil and Akoglu predicts that people who score low on Social Dominance Orientation are more likely to favor ideologies that question inequality. Even though Andrew feels bad about bullying it is clear that his need to be popular makes him have a high Social Dominance Orientation.

8. Subtyping

bcpost1.gif Even though by the end of the movie Andrew was able to show that he is not a stereotypical jock, other members of The Breakfast Club will most likely experience subtyping. They know that Andrew has a good heart, but they will still view his social group, the athletes, in a stereotypical manner that is probably negative. They will forget about their disconfirming experience when they are judging other athletes at the school. Carnaghi and Yzerbyt’s two studies support this theory with their results showing that their participants subtyped disconfirming members in order to embrace stereotypes that are advocated by their in-group audience.

The Princess:

9. Social Identity Theory

giphy.gifClaire is seen as the “prom queen”, perfect rich girl, who is entitled to everything she desires. And in the beginning of the story that is what the audience sees. When Luke and Claire are discussing school clubs, she makes a comment that the ones she participates in are far better than the academic clubs that Brian participates in. Though they are both clubs, she sees hers as superior. Later in the movie, she even states that the only reason Brian wouldn’t discriminate against her in class the next day is because his friends look up to the “cool” kids. Claire suffers from ingroup bias, favoritism of the group that you identify with over the ones that you do not. To explain this, Tajfel and Turner (1979) proposed the social identity theory. Which states that people favor ingroups to enhance self-esteem. In Claire’s case, her parents were getting a divorce; she was feeling alone, pressured, and a lack of identity. So Claire discriminated against others to make herself feel better.

10. Conformity

tumblr_mbfuatKLuq1rtd2gpo1_250.gifAs the story continues, Claire opens up about why she acts the way she does. She says that she does it to fit in. Her family and friends expect her to act a certain way so, she modifies her behavior to avoid being ostracized. For example, when Brian asks if they will be friends in school tomorrow. Claire admits that she would only say “hi” and then gossip behind his back, so her friends wouldn’t think they were close. Wooten and Reed (2004) call this phenomenon normative influence, the tendency to conform to gain social acceptance. Claire modifies her behavior, so that others see her as favorable and more willing of acceptance. Though she may not think the behavior is always right, she will do it anyway to avoid any tarnish to her character.


Does Your Constant Aggression Piss You Off? Here are 6 Techniques to Help You Kill Your Aggressive Tendencies

Cole Tankersley, Tyler Muntz, and Benjamin Cowgill

  1. Believing in Free Will


Do you think you choose your actions, or do you believe they are predetermined? Roy F. Baumeister and E. J. Masicampo, of Florida State University, conducted a research study that suggests if one believes in the power of free will, then they will be more likely to show less aggressive tendencies in their daily life. The study also found evidence of a positive correlation between individuals believing in free will, and exhibiting behaviors characterized by helpfulness. Baumeister, Masicampo, and their team attempted to develop possible explanations for the link between free will, helpfulness, and less aggressive behavior amongst humans, but this concept still has many gray areas. All of the reasons why this technique is successful are not readily known at this point in time, but basically- if you believe you can make a positive difference in the world, then you are more likely to be less aggressive, and be more willing to help your fellow man. And isn’t that what we all want? The world could use a little less aggression.

2.    Taking a Music Class


It sounds fun, and it could prevent you from a heart attack brought on by excessive aggression. A research study conducted by Ae-Na Choi, Myeong Soo Lee, and Jung-Sook Lee suggests that taking a structured, recreational music class could lower one’s aggressive tendencies overtime. The researchers randomly placed highly aggressive participants into two groups. One group was enrolled in a 50-minute music course twice a week for 15 consecutive weeks. The other group of excessively aggressive participants were given no change in their weekly routines. The participants involved with the music class were found to show less aggressive traits, and furthermore, were rated to exhibit higher levels of self-esteem. This is quite a welcomed change considering the group with no alteration in routine displayed no adjustment in aggression or self-esteem levels. Picking up a new musical hobby just might melt away your aggressive impulses.  Groovy.   

3. Watching Less Violent TV


It was thought for a while that watching violent television or playing violent video games could be a good way to "blow off steam," and actually reduce aggression. However, lots of social psychological research has indicated that the opposite is true. For example, a longitudinal study, administered by Leonard D. Eron, looked at aggression in both males and females at the age of 8 and then 10 years later. Eron and other researchers suggest that aggression can be increased--especially in children--by watching violent television. Eron suggests the way in which television is being viewed at an early age could potentially change views of aggression later on in life. This means that having a guardian to watch TV with a child and telling them what they are watching is fiction, will help the child to distinguish reality and perhaps not reenact what they view in their real lives.   

4. Drinking Less Alcohol… Partaking in Reefer?


Do you ever find that you do things that "aren't you" when you drink? A meta-analysis of 30 different studies showed how alcohol consumption can increase aggression. The different studies are straightforward in illustrating the fact that alcohol has been linked to various forms of aggressive behavior such as verbal instances and direct physical contact. What is interesting about the findings from these various studies is that: in one experiment in particular, the researchers gave one group marijuana and supplied another group with alcohol. After the respective effects of the substances had come to fruition- The researchers then measured participant behavior in conjunction with typical aggressive tendencies. The results saw less aggression within the marijuana group as compared to their alcohol counterparts. The results also showed evidence that alcohol has a negative, aggressive effect on individuals regardless of gender. Interesting.  “So are you cool man?”  

5. Counting to Ten


Often aggressive behavior is impulsive and not well thought through.  People will recommend counting to ten before responding to an insult or negative comment.  One study, at SUNY Albany, found that counting to ten can help reduce aggression; however, it only works if that time helps participants identify negative consequences of being aggressive.  Participants who were not exposed to consequences became more aggressive after a delay in their responses to the negative stimuli.  It can be possible to calm down with techniques as simple as this!

6.  Trying Yoga or other Mindfulness Practices

Along the same lines as pausing before making a reactive decision, one study showed that certain mindfulness activities can reduce aggression.  One study compared an 8-week yoga course to a control group who exercised moderately and took a management class.  Not only did the Yoga group have reduced aggression, but they also displayed lower instances of counterproductive workplace behavior that the management course sought to erase.  Trying Yoga or another mindfulness technique can be a great way to reduce aggression - and a cheap one too!  Dozens of free or cheap applications can help you build a yoga habit and learn techniques, as well as free videos on youtube.  Also, Yoga classes are taught at many local gyms - though gym memberships and class fees can be a bit more expensive.  Namaste!

9 Things you should know about Juries!
How the Court Selects Jurors and the Effects They Have on Convictions!

Mairead Connelly, Katerina DeSimone, Alina Marino, Nicole Petty, and Griff Wood

In 1993, in a small community in West Memphis Arkansas, three young boys were brutally murdered and their bodies were left behind in a canal just outside the town line. The three alleged murderers, also known as the West Memphis Three, were tried and convicted of this harsh crime.  Still teenagers themselves, they faced the wrath not only of the town but the court itself. In a town with such a small population and an unthinkable crime, the police and the community were desperate to find answers. The blame for this crime fell on the three young men who didn't quite fit the towns norms. The jury selected for the case were members of the community themselves and had their own predetermined beliefs prior to ever hearing the case. No matter how much the defense pointed to their innocence, the three young men stood no chance against the 12 jurors who already had their minds made.

1. What is Scientific Jury Selection?

By definition, Scientific Jury Selection or SJS, is a method of selecting juries through various surveys that show the correlation between the demographics and attitudes relevant to the trail. SJS has become more prominent within today’s society, being used in almost all major litigations since trial consultants are hired.
Jury consultants focus their questions on…
  1. The background characteristics of the jury pool, including sex, age, race, marital status, income, and job.
  2. The beliefs and attitudes of the juror that would be likely to be connected to a favorable or unfavorable verdict.
  3. Which verdict the survey respondent would favor after looking at a summation of facts regarding the case.

2.  Lawyers Can Reject Jurors

Peremptory challenges are a process through which trial lawyers can reject a possible juror without reason.  This process normally occurs during the voir dire, a pretrial examination of possible jurors.  In the past it had created problems when it was used to create an unrepresentative jury, such as in the case of Snyder v. Louisiana.  In this case, Snyder was an African American male, whose trial was held before an all white jury after the prosecution had rejected five African American jurors.  
3. Effective Voir Dire

05.26.12 cartoon.jpg

During the voir dire process, attorneys strive to achieve 4 main goals: eliciting information from jurors, developing rapport with jurors, educating jurors on key concepts, and persuading jurors to view the case from their perspective.
        To get effective results, the questions included should be more open-ended rather than a straight yes or no answer. When wording a question, attorneys should think about the most effective way in getting an individual’s personal opinion, rather than finding out their attitudes. More often than not,  attitudes tend to change when put in a room with other individuals. Lawyers should be able to get a sufficient amount of information out of the potential juror to be able to determine if they will be for or against what he or she is trying to accomplish. Some of the questions asked can include their occupation, family life, lifestyle, feelings on drinking and driving and other felonies, etc.

4. Social Media

court pic.jpg
Social media accounts are now being used to help select jurors based on their perceived personality types. A recent review article discussing the role of social media in the courtroom reported that people who score high in the personality trait of openness, seek out new experiences and are open-minded in nature. These individuals, who can be identified by their high level of activity on social media platforms, are highly resistant to societal pressures and as such are considered the least likely to be influenced by another member of the jury. On the other hand, people high in conscientiousness are the most susceptible to being influenced by other jurors as they willingly consider and evaluate other’s opinions in order to reach a fair conclusion of their own.  These individuals can be identified through their profiles on social media. They typically post about activities involving sports or physical activities, demonstrating a willingness to put time and effort into a situation, which implies that they will actively consider the different perspectives of their fellow jurors.

5. Influence of Jurors Life Experiences


Life experiences play a part in both selecting a jury and how that chosen jury comes to a final decision on a case. When choosing a jury, the attorneys will ask open-ended questions rather than yes or no questions to determine an individual’s opinions instead of their attitudes on certain topics. If a person is passionate about something that coincides with what the lawyer seeks for the outcome, then this individual is more likely to be chosen. If one of the jury members is less passionate than another, then they are more likely going to be persuaded by a person who has a closer personal experience to the subject of the case. Experiences influence every juror. Jurors turn to their own life experiences to determine what the outcome of the case should be and if they cannot relate to some of the information of the case, then they tend to pay little or no attention to it. If they can relate to other information of the case, then they focus the majority of their attention on that specific information.

6. Selecting a Jury of Cynics, Believers and Others


Each Juror comes with their own set of life experiences and beliefs, and it is important to sort these out in order to make up a group of individuals who will provide their neutral and fair opinion. There are four major groups of jurors that exist. We have the Cynics, who make up 43% of the population, who are characterized as having no confidence in any American Institution. Next group is known as the Believers. Making up 27% of the population, the Believers have a more optimistic view and tend to be less critical of individuals and American Institutions. The pro-Business and Underdogs make up the other two belief groups. Pro-Business believe in personal responsibility and the Underdogs believe in individuals rather than institutions. When looking to fill out a Voir Dire, lawyers have to be very careful with the types of questions they ask in order to pull out and set aside these specific beliefs.

7. Authoritarianism and Jurors Perceptions of Defendant

In a study done by Douglas Narby and Brian Cutler, it was discovered that Authoritarians are defined as ordered and rely on authority when making decisions. The studies main focus was on the association between Authoritarianism and jurors judging criminal cases, something that is essentially what the job of the juror is.  Individuals with authoritarian characteristics, rely heavily on the rules and laws within a society for stability and discipline. In regards to administering a punishment, authoritarians are very likely to be stricter and punish those who break these laws very harshly. Individuals with Authoritarian beliefs are also very hostile towards outgroups such as Jews, Communists, Sexual offenders, and even members of women’s activist movements. Groups that fall outside the norms of a well-rounded powerful society, specifically consisting of great leaders and rules, face scrutiny. Authoritarians with either classic or modern approach focus on the traditional values, and are less understanding of individuals such as the homeless, which leads them to rely on the laws and rules as ways of fixing the issues.

8. There Are Gender Differences in Determining a Conviction
Prior to selecting a jury, the attorneys from both sides must look at the facts of the case before creating their voir dire. The types of crimes that were committed can have an effect on how certain jurors will side. When selecting members of a jury for a sexual assault case, it may be prudent for a prosecutor to select more female jurors than male jurors. According to a meta-analysis conducted in 1997, it was predicted via statistical analysis that 59% of women would vote to convict a defendant accused of sexual assault or child abuse whereas only 41% of men would vote to convict. As the jury in the West Memphis Three case consisted of seven female jurors and five male jurors, one has to wonder if gender differences played a role in the sentencing decision.

9. Race Affects Jury Decisions

Studies have found that race does play a role in the decisions of jurors.  However, it might not be what you expected.  In cases where race is a key issue, white jurors are more likely to actively try to eliminate any bias.  This leads to less convictions and a more careful analysis of the information that is presented in trial.  Surprisingly, in cases where race is not a key issue there can be more racial bias among jurors because they are not actively aware of their biases. This once again falls on the attorney to create an effective voir dire in order to eliminate these biases and create a fair  jury.