Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Altruism in Society Campaign

In Collaboration with K. Otley, K. Freedman, and Q. Marques

The (Trafficking in Persons) Report, for the first time, includes a ranking of the United States based on the same standards to which we hold other countries. The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America (Clinton, 2010, para. 1).

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report (Clinton, 2010), the fight against human trafficking is a battle being waged in local communities. It is imperative Americans become aware of this crime's proliferation so individuals take responsibility and implement altruistic assistance in an effort to end this crime against human beings. In the campaign against this human rights abuse, the goal is to convince all citizens that we can neither claim immunity from its affect on our society nor shun the responsibility of confronting it. Using guilt and social responsibility, we aim to engage our audience.

The Nature and History of Human Trafficking

Slavery is present in a range of versions; however, all forms share similar attributes: slaves are required to work, are held or restricted by an “employer;” are dehumanized, and treated as merchandise, and are physically controlled (Brown, 2011). “Sex trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18 years of age” (Department of Health and Human Services, 2011, p. 4). “Human traffickers are highly organized into criminal syndicates that reap exponential profits exploiting vulnerable women and children (Brown, 2011, p. 3). The International Labor Organization claims 1.39 million American and international victims are forced into labor and commercial sex (Brown, 2011). Traffickers use an assortment of techniques to condition their victims: forced drug use, confinement, threats of violence to the victims’ friends and families, starvation, rape, the threat of shaming them by revealing their activities, and physical abuse (Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Victims cope with health risks including physical injuries, sterility, miscarriages, drug and alcohol addiction, forced abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, and other diseases. Victims’ “psychological harm includes mind/body separation/disassociated ego states, shame, grief, fear, distrust, self-hatred, suicidal thoughts, suicide, and hatred of men” (Department of Health and Human Services, 2011, p. 1).

Women and children have been the primary prey of sex traffickers. This practice has recently become a political topic in the early 1900s. In 1902, the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slaves Traffic was outlined. Its function was to thwart the trafficking of women and girls for corrupt uses overseas (Webster College, 2010). This ultimately led to America passing the Mann Act of 1910 which “forbids transporting a person across state or international lines for prostitution or other immoral purposes” (Webster College, 2010, p. 3). However, the crime of sex trafficking increased during the middle of the century, thus, the United Nations attended to the dilemma. This was completed through the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (Webster College, 2010). In 2000, the United Nations provided a detailed definition of human trafficking in the Convention against Transnational Crimes (Brown, 2011).

Human Trafficking: Affect on Society

Human trafficking is a pernicious crime in violation of the basic parameters of society. Its victims are reduced to a cheap commodity that can be traded easily and exploited internationally. Victims are typically transported between countries or traded within a nation. They are usually women lured by monetary gain, and held by the force of threats for sexual exploitation (Clinton, 2010). Children, helpless and inexperienced, are also victims, and easily exploited for sex or labor. The stress and physical and emotional abuse endured by human slaves is unimaginable. When children are trafficked, they have a high risk for developing severe issues ("11 Facts about Human Trafficking," n.d.). Some of these issues include mental health problems, drug and substance abuse, and a higher incidence of becoming prostitutes if they are released into society. Additionally, they are more likely to commit violent crimes in their lives ("11 Facts about Human Trafficking," n.d.).

The transference of diseases such as HIV and others such as tuberculosis is another affect on society. These diseases are commonly found among individuals sold into modern slavery ("11 Facts about Human Trafficking," n.d.). Disease, especially infectious and sexually transmitted ones are quickly passed throughout populations. Aside from the obvious violations of human and legal rights, human trafficking has a negative world wide economic affect because of the significant loss of "human and social capital" ("Human trafficking's dirty profits and huge costs," 2006, para 4). Additionally, it tarnishes the reputations of countries who do not prevent and intervene in such trafficking as it appears they are facilitators of the crime ("Human trafficking's dirty profits and huge costs," 2006).

The Campaign Strategy

Human trafficking has a long international and transnational history that has withstood law and punishment. In a broad sense this could be attributable to society in general possessing a lax attitude toward the problem. This element may be exploited in a campaign for an intervention strategy to address the issue. The social exchange theory suggests some ways to enliven motivation toward altruism (Meyers, 2010). To build a campaign persuasive enough to intervene and prevent human trafficking, it will require appealing to the audience with focus on Aristotle’s concepts of ethos and pathos. Combining these concepts will provide a campaign that will move the audience to take an active stand against human trafficking.

Elements of Persuasion

In this situation, the central route to persuasion seems the most efficient. This requires a compelling argument and emotional content that will provide that compulsion. According to Walker (2005) the concept of ethos and pathos developed by Aristotle refer to the emotional appeal of an argument and the credibility of the speaker. When harnessed, these two elements create a message powerful enough to persuade the audience to give their attention, and promote a corresponding change in behavior to significantly influence the issue. The emotional appeal of the issue will come from the presentation of the facts. The facts will display such conditions and treatment of the victimized women and children, which will provoke a sense of sympathy and injustice. These elements presented by the right person will speak to the altruism of the public.

Justification of Elements

With the foundation for persuasion in place it is important to ensure there is complete motivation to act. By way of social exchange theory an attempt will be made to build “. . . the most important benefit of generalized exchange and its presumed enhancement of social solidarity. . .” (Molm, Collett, & Shaefer, 2007, p. 206). A connection will be made to the audience appealing to their guilt by acknowledging that neither the audience nor their family members have had to sustain such abuse. According to social responsibility the audience will be compelled to take action to prevent the continuation of human trafficking. The message is a subtle appeal to the softer side of guilt, which strikes a cord of sympathy when the audience realizes the plight of the victims. The victimization occurs by no fault of their own, and the audience and their family will never be subject to such conditions. The unfair nature of the world is presented in its random applicability of fortunate versus unfortunate circumstance. Delivered by the right communicator the impact will be tangible.

Implications of Chosen Strategy

The campaign will instill a sense of guilt and social responsibility in the audience as the situation of the victims will encourage and inspire them to act altruistically to help end the suffering caused by human trafficking. According to Myers (2009) guilt is one of the most painful emotions and it compels us to act in ways by which we can avoid these feelings. In experiments in which people behave in ways inconsistent with their values and morals, they will do whatever is necessary to relieve feelings of guilt and restore their self-image (Myers, 2009). Establishing a sense of guilt will enliven their sense of social responsibility and altruism, and engage them to take an active role in the awareness campaign. By doing a good deed and helping, they will offset the guilt they will feel from their previous lack of awareness. According to Myers (2009), good comes from guilt. By motivating people to address their guilt and relieve its dissonance, they will become more sensitive to the issue of human trafficking and will want to maintain an association with the campaign.

People usually feel good about themselves after doing a good deed. The social exchange theory asserts individuals participate in an exchange when they believe the reward justifies the cost (Myers, 2010). The campaign will portray the exploitation of women and children in an effort to encourage helping to create a feeling of doing a good deed resulting in an internal reward. According to the theory of social exchange, social interactions contain an economic factor which demands attention (Myers, 2010). There are benefits to the giver as well as the receiver, and individuals unconsciously consider the balance of helping and its cost, and in such consideration people work toward minimizing costs and maximizing rewards (Myers, 2010). The campaign will promote a sense of responsibility and maximizing the internal reward produced from helping.

In altruistic behavior, individuals are motivated to help those not able to help themselves, or who suffer the ravages of forces beyond their control. The notion behind the social responsibility norm is people are compelled to help the disabled, impoverished, and others who must rely on the help of others without regard to future receipt. According to Myers (2010), when individuals attribute needs to uncontrollable forces, they are more compelled to help. When it is perceived that people's choices have contributed to their misfortune, people are less inclined to help. Human trafficking affects the lives of people defenseless against the forces of this crime and have a limited access to average protective services. Women and children are affected in large numbers (Clinton, 2010). Our campaign against human trafficking takes into account the helplessness and poor defenses of those targeted by this crime. Social responsibility necessitates the help of our audience because it is expected normal social behavior and guilt will necessitate the audiences involvement and continued commitment to the awareness campaign.


Human Trafficking has an age-old reputation of affecting the lesser able members of society, and now affects women and children in all corners of the globe (Clinton, 2010). As awareness increases and we see the affects of the crime in our national community, people are compelled by guilt and the internal rewards that may affect an altruistic change in people. The campaign uses persuasion as a means to create awareness and relies on guilt and motivating altruistic behavior to help those less fortunate without expecting the typical returns for good behavior. As posited by Aristotle, the effectiveness of persuasion is predicated on logos, pathos, and ethos ("Ethos, pathos, and logos," n.d.). Our argument against human trafficking is powerful, we have captivated the emotional character of our audience, and the credibility of our message is meritorious. We must rely on the selfless involvement and the social responsibility of all reasonable citizens.


11 Facts about Human Trafficking, (n.d.). Volunteer/Do Something. Retrieved April 21, 2011, from

Brown, G. (2011). Women and children last: the prosecution of sex traffickers as sex offenders and the need for a sex trafficker registry. Boston College Third World Law Journal, 31(1), 1-40.

Clinton, H. R. (2010). Trafficking in persons report 2010 (United States, U. S. Department of State, Secretary of State). Retrieved April 18, 2011, from

Department of Health and Human Services (2011). Sex Trafficking Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 19, 2011 from

Ethos, pathos, and logos. (n.d.). Durham Tech Courses Server. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from

Human trafficking's dirty profits and huge costs, (n.d.). Inter-American Development Bank. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from 02/human-traffickings-dirty-profits-and-huge-costs,3357.html

Molm, L. D., Collett, J. L., & Schaefer, D. R. (2007). Building Solidarity through Generalized Exchange: A Theory of Reciprocity. American Journal of Sociology, 113(1), 205-242. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Walker, F. R. (2005). THE RHETORIC OF MOCK TRIAL DEBATE: USING LOGOS, PATHOS AND ETHOS IN UNDERGRADUATE COMPETITION. College Student Journal, 39(2), 277-286. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking

According to Myers (2010), whenever two or more people, groups, or nations interact, their perceived needs and goals may conflict" (p. 499). Social dilemmas arise when one side fails to empathize with the others' perspective and falsely attributes reason to the other's behavior. Opposition can be fueled by competition, perceived injustice, and misperceptions and misinterpretations of the other's behavior. Through evolving self-serving motives and the idea that only one side can win, as groups gain strength, so does the potential for social dilemma (Myers, 2010). Smaller groups are more easily, efficiently and morally self-managed. Enabling communication, relieving mistrust, creating rewards for cooperation, and instilling a sense of moral obligation and altruism contribute to conflict resolution and peacemaking. According to Myers (2010), conflicts occur when there is disagreement on the equality of justice, contributions, and the division of beneficial outcomes. Many Hawaiians continue to reject and identify as illegal, the American occupation of the Hawaiian Islands and they continue to demand the return of their Hawaiian Kingdom ("Hawaiian Kingdom-political history," n.d.). By following conflict resolution and peacemaking tactics, the discord between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States government might be silenced (CBS News, 2008).

Equal Status Contact

Peacemaking consists of four strategies that enable enemies to become comrades. Contact, cooperation, communication, and conciliation facilitate the evolution from anger and hostility to harmony. Contact encourages deeper relations between those who are in disagreement, and equal status contact tends to be "intellectually growth-promoting" and "foster(s) greater acceptance of difference" (Myers, 2009, p. 504). In the case of the Hawaiian people who want to regain status as a Kingdom, acknowledging their plight, and offering with authentic certainty, equal status at the bargaining table would end their primary fight against the being considered less than American (CBS News, 2008). This type of contact would prevent the current thinking of many Hawaiians that they are expected to surrender as a subordinate race.


Although perhaps too simplistic in its fundamental form, cooperation is especially beneficial when opposing groups work together to avert a common threat, or to achieve a goal that will benefit both sides. Cooperative contact, even for opposing governmental groups has been shown to promote positive regard for oppositional forces (Myers, 2009). Perhaps if the governments of the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom worked together to reduce racism, or promote higher institutional learning for all citizens of the Hawaiian Islands, the group effort could bridge a gap between the fundamental differences and animosity between them. As claimed by Myers (2009), protecting and preserving common interests builds cohesiveness.


Because of the difficulty communication poses for conflicting parties, mediation with the help of a third party can promote fair communication (Myers, 2010). Mediators can offer a valuable perspective often difficult for oppositional forces when they are entrenched in self-serving agendas that incorporate the exclusive concept of one side winning and the other losing (Myers, 2009). Increasing awareness will advance understanding and replace mistrust with renewed faith and confidence. If the mediator can persuade the conflicting parties to reevaluate their perspective of the situation, the attainment of goals through conceding less important agendas helps both sides reach an end that might otherwise be unattainable (Myers, 2009). In the case of the Hawaiian and United States governments, if both parties re-prioritized goals through the re-evaluation of their relationship, perhaps they would end conflict and find themselves closer to their ultimate intent.

Conciliation and GRIT

When two parties are continually strained with limited to no communication, both parties may be persuaded by a remarkably ordinary, slightly appeasing gesture (Myers, 2009). As tension gives slightly, such pause is often enough to convince parties to deescalate to a point where contact, cooperation, and communication may be possible. Conciliatory strategies such as the Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction can work toward alleviating or reducing international tensions enough so that true mediation and communication can begin (Myers, 2009). Regarding the dissonance between the aforementioned governments, small concessions may lead to a remarkable, albeit subtle change in communicative abilities.

The Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction or known by its acronym "GRIT" describes a well-known process of conflict resolution by facilitating de-escalation by both parties in such a way that leaves opposing sides in a winning position even though there have been small concessions made by each side. As one side announces intent to concede, the compelling phenomenon of reciprocity induces the opposing party to respond with an equal concession (Myers, 2009). Both parties acknowledge a small concession and are neither forced nor coerced into official concessions. In the end, both sides maintain their self-respect while simultaneously acknowledging the reciprocity between them and their oppositional partners (Perlman, 2001). As well as a deescalating process, it also provides a common thread of reciprocity (Perlman, 2001). In the case of Hawaiians reinstating the Hawaiian nation, the United States government needs to identify a middle ground on which the Hawaiians could govern their nation within a nation. To date, there has been little to no negotiation on either side of this opposition ("Hawaiian kingdom - political history," n.d.). Perhaps using GRIT to identify small concessions for each side would provide both sides with a different perspective of their opposition.


As apparently inherent to the human species, conflict is common among individuals, cultures, and nations. Evidenced in the opposition between members of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the government of the United States, situational complications provoke irreconcilable differences ("Take on Hawaiian history lacked sensitivity," 2011). Although the remedy lies in simplistic resolution tactics, the basic underlying assumption by oppositional forces must be a desire to make peace. In real-world application, simple remedies do not always work and mediation may engage each side in surrendering small parcels of their claim. Peaceful relations offer both sides a winning situation and working toward such an end benefits not only the leaders of the opposition, but also allows the men, women, and children of both sides, a prolific, psychologically intact, harmonious existence.


CBS News. (2008, June 20). Hawaii natives want their kingdom back. CBS News. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from

Hawaiian kingdom - political history. (n.d.). Hawaiian Kingdom Government - E Komo Mai. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from

Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Perlman, D. (2001). Psychological dimensions of nuclear policies and proliferation. Nuclear Files. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from issues/ethics/basics/perlman_psychological-dimensions.htm

Take on Hawaiian history lacked sensitivity. (2011, March 23). Maui News. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from history-lacked-sensitivity.html?nav=18

Multicultural Experience

"A group is two or more people whom, for longer than a few moments, interact with, influence one another, and perceive one another as us” (Myers, 2010, p. 268). Groups potentially provide information, affiliation, identification, and support the realization of goals and the human necessity to belong. In the mere presence of a group, its collective action exerts influence on behaviors and provokes reactions such as social facilitation, social loafing, deindividuation, and evaluation apprehension (Myers, 2010). Evaluation apprehension can render an individual incapacitated with self-consciousness because of a heightened subjective sense of evaluation by others, and this heightened awareness can interfere with normally automatic behaviors (Henchy & Glass, 1968).

According to Myers (2010), social facilitation occurs when evaluation apprehension increases, and as apprehension increases, individuals use social facilitation and compliance to avert ostracism. Alternatively, social loafing occurs as evaluation apprehension decreases through integration with the group. Myers (2010) suggests we are aroused by the presence of others because of a combination of evaluation apprehension and distraction. The combination of the two creates a conflict between focusing on the presence of others and concentrating on the task (Myers, 2010).

The Ho`ao Aloha Marriage Tradition

Recently I had the honor of attending a Hawaiian wedding ceremony. Filled with cultural ritual and a language with which I am only superficially familiar, I thought I might be ostracized because I would be the only Haole (literally, without breath - nomenclature reserved exclusively for White people) in attendance. The ceremony was spoken in Hawaiian, the foods were traditional Hawaiian delicacies, and the location was an idyllic knoll above a quiet and mostly unknown, ancient, and inaccessible bay on the Hana side of Maui. Certainly this was an experience to remember and cherish, and a decidedly remarkable learning experience.

As I contemplated my participation before the fact, I considered the well-acquainted group that would attend. Their families spent generations in this old Hawaiian Maui, and promoted this tightly knit group of Hawaiians. Their intricate support system was physical in the assistance they provided to each other, yet visceral, and almost genetic. Even as their numbers decreased, the strength of their resolve intensified along with their native sense of ancient ethnic affiliation. These like-minded individuals are still farming the ancient gardens of taro, still living on the land, and more important, according to the land.

Preconceived Notions Regarding My Experience

Although Hawaii is quite diverse because of the various ethnicities and cultures comprising the islands, there is a striking amount of racial tension suspended heavily amidst the natural beauty. Polarization occurs in many of the local communities where Hawaiians, Asians, Filipinos, Whites, and Mexican Americans self-segregate. As Sigmund Freud (1927) aptly described, "It is understandable that the suppressed people should develop an intense hostility towards a culture whose existence they make possible by their work, but in whose wealth they have too small a share" (p. 11).

I have several Hawaiian friends with whom I have no sense of racial or cultural difference, although many Hawaiians still feel the sting of the White American invasion of their islands. Prior to the wedding, I considered that I was familiar only with the bride and a few of her relatives, so I was unsure how welcome I would feel, and I questioned my ability to enjoy myself as an integral part of the ceremony. I was concerned with evaluation by others and experiencing the self-consciousness associated with such evaluation.

Fear of Evaluation

According to Myers (2010), self-consciousness can interfere with automatic behaviors one normally performs efficiently and easily. Research suggests the arousal that occurs by the mere presence of others is due, in part from evaluation apprehension and distraction. The distraction is the discord between focusing attention on others and maintaining concentration on the task. Myers (2010) claims such arousal can occur even when there is no evaluation or distraction. Robert Zajonc theorized arousal facilitates dominant responses and the performance of easy tasks is boosted although the arousal hinders performance on difficult tasks when the dominant response is incorrect (Myers, 2010).

My evaluation apprehension escalated as I imagined my entrance into an unknown territory and being on the outside of an in-group. Frankly, I was concerned whether this group of culturally long-established, self-supportive, tightly knit kindred spirits would welcome an unaffiliated, alien non-member who had no trace of their beloved ethnicity. This was a highly cohesive and somewhat insulated group. I wondered if my presence would render me a dissenter, or if I would appear to fill some stereotypical role according to their racial bias. I considered the notion of ethnocentrism and wondered if racial undertones would affect my experience with the group. Hawaiians, in general, do not usually think of themselves as better than other ethnic groups; however, some question the values and morals of White people.

Another consideration of the group of which I would be a part was the effect of group polarization. This effect states when groups of like-minded individuals congregate, they are likely to move toward extremes in their thinking (Myers, 2010). If there were many Hawaiians who did not necessarily think White people should be part of such an exclusively traditional ceremony, it was possible I might experience the effects of such polarization. I decided to rely on the aloha of the Hawaiian people, and the polarization phenomenon moving toward a more positive extreme.

A Warm Welcome and the Dissipation of Apprehension

The affect and presence of the group quickly dashed my preconceived notions when I experienced an immediate acceptance with no apparent awareness of my racial difference. Hawaiians are traditionally far more collectivist than the traditional American culture, and apparently my fears were based on my individualistic perspective, an egocentric nature, and a heightened sense of self-consciousness and evaluation apprehension. Because of my lack of self-efficacy in an unfamiliar situation, I initially felt inefficient and awkward, although this sensation waned as I relaxed in the presence of a warm welcome. The group received me as one of their own.

The Reactions of Others and Their Effects on My Behavior

Although there are some norms universal to all cultures, every culture has norms for accepted and expected social behavior (Myers, 2010). One of the keys of life to native Hawaiians is "aloha." Alo means presence and ha means breath, literally translated it means the presence of (divine) breath. Queen Lili'uokalani said, "Because of Aloha, one gave without thought of return; because of Aloha, one had mana" (Allen, 1982, p. 27). (To Hawaiians, mana is the divine force that resides in people.) Although I anticipated my ethnicity as a separating distinctiveness, it was simply my misperception of how I thought others might react to my distinctiveness. Instead, the distinction had a compelling quality that bridged any imagined superficial differences.

According to Myers (2010), when one person likes another, the feelings are usually mutual. Proximity and attractiveness influence initial attraction between people, and similarities and close situations influence longer-term attractions. When people have a deep need to belong and be accepted, usually there is reciprocity. Myers (2010) claims "one person's liking for another does predict the other's liking in return" (p. 415). My visceral desire was to be accepted and to feel a sense of belonging with people whose land I have occupied and loved for many years. I entered the event with a desire to give, share, and in some capacity, love. My efforts were returned many fold. I was embraced by the group whose fundamental life experiences seemed so different from mine, although we shared a common appreciation, as individuals striving for the better, as one of many who struggle with, survive, and thrive despite our humanness. Their welcoming attitude enabled me to relax and be my best possible self in a ceremony of which I understood little from the words, but every bit of the meaning.

The Experience and the Effect on My Self

My experience at the wedding surpasses the following words I find for description. I learned about myself as a small fraction of society and I gained a new sense of wisdom, tolerance, and compassion. I had a deep transcending experience of what I have known for a long time, but somehow the experience personalized the knowledge and at the same time depersonalized it in the context of how we, the human species, do what we do, and why we do it. For all my self-centered concern about being the minority and the worry of the judgments of others, I found belonging in a group with whom I thought I shared no history. According to Myers (2010), "In the context of the world, every race is a minority (p. 455). As individuals we are a minority if we give more strength to the differences that separate us, but we are a group when we give more strength to our sameness. "The attitude-behavior relationship is reciprocal: humans have an uncanny ability to think themselves into specific behaviors as well as acting in ways that affect their thinking. Behavior augments the ideas and attitudes that influence the action, especially when individuals believe they are responsible for their behavior" (Freedman, Marques, Otley, & Stone, 2011, p. 4). An African proverb as quoted by Myers (2010) sums my experience, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together" (p. 296).


The mere presence of others, claims Myers (2010), can change the course of human experience. Others can instill fear, and they can provoke joy. Expressed by the human need to belong, individuals fear the thought of a lone existence and crave solidarity. Toward that purpose they facilitate and accommodate others, lose a sense of themselves to maintain association and belonging, fear the judgments of others, and chose to surrender their individuality in return for the safety that numbers provide. As humans continue to maintain the intrinsic character of the pack, the whole is most often greater than the sum of its parts.


Allen, H. G. (1982). The Betrayal of Lili'uokalani, Last Queen of Hawaii, 1838 - 1917. Glendale, CA: Clark.

Freedman, K., Marques, Q., Otley, K., & Stone, D. (2011, April 11). Cognitive dissonance [Scholarly project].

Freud, S. (1927). The future of an illusion, civilization and its discontents and other works. London: Hogarth.

Henchy, T., & Glass, D. C. (1968). Evaluation apprehension and the social facilitation of dominant and subordinate responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10(4), 446-454. doi: 10.1037/h0026814

Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Cognitive Dissonance

In collaboration with: K. Otley, K. Freedman, and Q. Marques

Aesop tells a story about a fox that tried in vain to reach a cluster of grapes that dangled from a vine above his head. The fox leapt high to grasp the grapes, but the delicious-looking fruit remained just out of reach of his snapping jaws. After a few attempts the fox gave up and said to himself, "These grapes are sour, and if I had some I would not eat them" (Elster, 1983, p. 4).

As in human attitudes and behavior, the fox changed his attitude to agree with his behavior. Characteristic to human nature, dissonance in the relationship between attitude and behavior creates uneasiness and an awareness of unrest (Festinger, 1962). The human mind has a natural tendency to relieve the conflict by changing either one's attitude or behavior, or both. Cultural, social, and spiritual influences affect behavior and attitude, and the dissonance that accompanies their incongruence. The weight of these influences provokes a cognitive mechanism that alters the inconsistency in an effort to create a sense of harmony between one's perspective, attitudes, and behavior.

Dissonant Situation Description

A relatively small group of inner-city youths has had differences with an outspoken individual who is against the group's current violent behavior and continues to refuse to comply with the consensus of the group. A discussion between the group and the individual ensues, both sides become heated, and the boys' behavior escalates into physical assault on the non-complying member. All but one member of the group physically assaults the individual, and other members heatedly demand the non-aggressor take an equal role in the assault. The passive member does not want to be part of the assault although he understands his pacifism is breaking a pact of consensus within the group. As the pacifist individual reflects on his cultural, ethical, morals, and values, he clearly recognizes his responsibility to the group and his desire to keep his association intact. He must cognitively cope with the dissonant imbalance his choice makes. Characteristic to human nature, dissonance in the relationship between his attitude and his behavior creates cognitive unrest. He must change his attitude or his behavior.

Social, Cultural, and Spiritual Influences

The passive individual is ethically compelled to abstain from action and resists against it as long as possible. His Catholic religious experience has taught him behaviors powered by the will and implemented through human behavior are easily changed according to persuasion. “Violence to that extent causes involuntariness and freedom from imputability” (Meehan, 1912, p. 1). Brutality may be abated or overcome by opposition; however, the more intense the group, the more freedom of choice is restricted. In the ethical dilemma above, the boy's religion has taught him “often fear and force goes hand in hand, not infrequently force begets fear, but they aren’t to be confounded. In what is done through violence the will is quiescent, but in what is done through fear the will is active” (Meehan, 1912, p. 1). A behavior achieved through fright is motivated under the situation; however, it is not wanted. Coming from a Mexican heritage, social relationships are deeply important and friendships are regarded as important as la familia (the family). This traditional notion provokes the passive individual's belief he must maintain consensus with the group’s actions. Although the members of this group have similar cultural affiliation, they were affected individually by beliefs and moral values specific to their family and childhood experiences. “Such value conflict inevitably causes strain, leading to awkward balancing acts in our beliefs. Sometimes we decide that one value is more important than another” (Macionis, 2006, p. 44). In this situation, the pacifist believed it necessary to demonstrate his desire and responsibility to maintain consensus within the group and behaved accordingly. Feeling “forced or coerced and motivated by guilt, fear of rejection, and social conformity” (McAdams, 2006, p. 98), he decides to participate in the assault. His conforming behavior is a response to the situational demand and he is ignoring his cultural and moral beliefs to maintain his position within the social group.

Reciprocal Relationship: Behavior and Attitudes

According to Myers (2010), "If social psychology has taught us anything during the last 25 years, it is that we are likely not only to think ourselves into a way of acting but also to act ourselves into a way of thinking" (p. 131). Individuals tend to champion what they believe, and will come to believe in what they assert (Myers, 2010). The attitude-behavior relationship is reciprocal: humans have an uncanny ability to think themselves into specific behaviors as well as acting in ways that affect their thinking. Behavior augments the ideas and attitudes that influence the action, especially when individuals believe they are responsible for their behavior (Myers, 2010).

The individual in the above ethical dilemma changed his beliefs and values regarding harming others to accommodate the disparity between his attitude and his behavior. By his rationalization, his beliefs were altered enough so his attitude and his behavior were consistent thereby relieving cognitive dissonance. Although initially the individual believed it was not appropriate to hurt another person, in consideration of the group's interest as it related to his own agenda, he was compelled to participate in the assault. To preserve congruity between his attitudes and his beliefs, he rationalized and altered his attitude.

Rationalization According to Cognitive Dissonance Theory

According to Van Veen, Krug, Schooler, and Carter (2009), “When our actions conflict with our prior attitudes, we often change our attitudes to be more consistent with our actions” (p. 1469). When faced with cognitive dissonance, the boy in the above-mentioned situation thought he was forced to justify his behavior by altering his attitude toward violence and asserting the behavior was justified. He insisted the boy deserved the assault, a decision that supported his new attitude. Additionally, he convinced himself the act of violence is acceptable because in this case it is more important than his prior stance. In relieving cognitive dissonance, once the initial decision is made to change an attitude, it becomes important for the self to support and acquiesce to the behavior. The subject of our situation rationalized his behavior by telling himself the other boy deserved the beating. He further assumed the beating was not too bad and will teach him a valuable lesson.

Scott-Kakures (2009) claims the rationalization will begin to convince him there was less value than he believed in the idea of non-violence. The degradation of his beliefs and values in the present situation makes it easier for him to participate in a violent situation or event in the future (Scott-Kakures (2009). In the current situation his behavior became more important than his attitude and consequently has the potential to change his attitude in the same or similar situation.


According to the cognitive dissonance theory, humans are compelled to perceive agreement between their attitudes and behavior (Myers, 2010). The discomfort of dissonance requires accommodation to either one or the other. In the above example of cognitive dissonance, the individual's personal ethics, values, and spiritual beliefs caused the give in attitude by rationalization and accommodation that calmed the dissonant effects of the disparity. According to its theory, cognitive dissonance claims people are driven to reduce incongruity between actions and beliefs, and will accomplish this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors (Festinger, 1957). Rationalizing, justifying, blaming, and denying can also reduce the tension produced by contradictory ideas (Aronson, Akert, & Wilson, 2006). Although often perceived as a human flaw, cognitive dissonance guides the human species toward behavior that appropriately coincides with one's personal perspective. Preserving the congruence of personal attitude and behavior reduces internal conflict, allows situational adaptation, and reduces the stress and anxiety of cognitive dissonance.


Aronson, E., Akert, R.D., & Wilson, T.D. (2006). Social psychology (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Elster, J. (1983). Sour grapes. studies in the subversion of rationality. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University.

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Macionis, J. (2006). Society: The Basics. (8th Ed.). New York, NY: Prentice-Hall.

McAdams, D. (2006). The Person: A New Introduction to Personality Psychology. (4th Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Meehan, A. (1912). Violence. In the Catholic Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 07, 2011 from New Advent:

Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Scott-Kakures, D. (2009). Unsettling questions: cognitive dissonance in self-deception. Social Theory & Practice, 35(1), 73. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Van Veen, V., Krug, M. K., Schooler, J. W., & Carter, C. S. (2009). Neural activity predicts attitude change in cognitive dissonance. Nature Neuroscience, 12(11), 1469-1474. doi: 10.1038/nn.2413

Personal Reflection on the Self

Personal Reflection on the Self

At the core of personal identity is the question – who am I? The self endeavors to maintain a consistent relationship with its various aspects and the external world by creating identities discovered and defined by association with the external social environment. The self is concerned with its external presentation and the impressions it makes upon others. The interplay between the self-concept, self-esteem, and self-efficacy and environmental influences provokes an external presentation of the self in a social world that continually demands acceptance, acknowledgment, accommodation, and adaptation (Orth, Trzesniewski, & Robins, 2010). Social surroundings affect the awareness of the self, and variations in the environment such as age, health, and socioeconomic status motivate specific behaviors directed by personal interest and bias (Orth, Trzesniewski, & Robins, 2010). As the self is concerned with its external presentation, it accommodates and adapts in a variety of situations (Myers, 2010). In my personal examples of significant developmental experiences, I continue to experience change, growth, and redefinition as I reevaluate, redefine, and refine my sense of self while accommodating my internal and external influences.

Defining the Concept of the Self in the Social World

The relationship between the self and others affects self-awareness while influencing how the self responds and adapts to specific situations (Myers, 2010). Social relationships provoke an evolving definition of self as these associations continue to force self re-identification and redefinition. The self has a deeply rooted capacity for self-protection and self-preservation, and uses cognitive abilities to support and maintain stability to its fundamental character. The self-concept is composed of schemas that are “beliefs about the self that organize and guide the processing of self-relevant information” (Myers, 2010, p. 39). Using these mental templates, individuals can organize and accommodate various aspects of their internal world while providing a safe integration into the external social world (Myers, 2010). The personal self-schemas include models of current self-descriptions along with those of the possible self. The self-schema of the possible self includes ideas and hopes for positive potential while simultaneously harboring and avoiding visions of the feared or dreaded self (Myers, 2010).

Although humans seem to know themselves better than they know anything else in their world, self-knowledge is flawed, especially in the personal perspective of behavioral motivations (Myers, 2010). Influences upon the self (such as cultural ones) are mostly invisible to the self and external observation and unconscious processes influence and often undermine conscious choice and behavior (Myers, 2010). According to Myers (2010), humans tend to diminish the significance of emotionally stimulating and traumatic events while overestimating their ability to cope with these same situations. Although humans have continuous exposure to the internal dialog of the self’s inner sanctum, the perspective of the self is limited, biased, and often undeniably wrong.

Personal Application of the Self


Influences on the self include the roles in which one participates, personally created social identities, comparisons to others, long-term and daily successes and failures, culture, and the judgments of others. Perhaps my most significant self-schemas are those that define me as a parent, student, and intelligent and considerate caregiver to my husband. My possible selves include a brilliant and thriving psychologist, significant guide and essential friend in many relationships, and an integral and involved family member. On the other end of the spectrum is my fear of appearing self-righteous, unyielding, self-serving, and biased. During times of difficulty and challenge, I sense a looming fear of the inability to accomplish my lofty goals. I consciously choose to trust the more positive aspects of my desired and possible self while relegating my fears and sense of insufficiency to the rhetorical internal dialog that occupies space within the confines of my mind. I have found the belief of such dialog leads to the exact insufficiency it provokes. Like others of my species, my self-knowledge is flawed as many of my intentions, behaviors, and self-identities have a mysterious genesis. I perpetuate biases that serve my sense of self whether or not they have any basis in reality, and I “perceive [myself] as more intelligent, better-looking, and much less prejudiced than [my] average peers” (Public Opinion, 1984; Wylie, 1979 as cited by Myers, 2010, p. 65).


Self-esteem is defined simply as one’s sense of self worth. As stated by Myers (2010), there is a spectrum on which lies the vast disparity between positive thought and perseverance and excessive self-confidence that provokes unrealistic goal-setting and socially- alienating narcissism (Myers, 2010). Personally, I consider my self-esteem average, although I set realistic, though sometimes lofty goals. I am mostly appropriate in my (self-serving) understanding of my superior capacity for accomplishment, understanding, tolerance, and compassion combined with my general lack of belief in much of my own internal dialog. I have learned that as I am influenced by the internal praise and acclaim, I will as readily be affected by the internal criticism and admonition. I have a sense of the adaptive and vacillating nature of my own self-esteem, and as such, strive toward acknowledging, accommodating, and relying upon a more stable aspect of my human spirit. Life's greatest achievements as well as its powerful disappointments contain equal pleasure and experience (Myers, 2010). The weight and significance of each is determined by individual perception.


Self-efficacy is the determination individuals maintain regarding their personal competency and the effectiveness with which they affect their world (Myers, 2010). The perspective with which individuals regard their level of self-efficacy directly relates to their ability and tendency to set and meet challenges and goals, and the perseverance with which they undertake and surmount them. The ability to undertake and surmount challenges and persevere in the attainment of goals perpetuates a stronger sense of accomplishment and a greater sense of self-efficacy (Sachs-Ericsson, Medley, Kendall–Tackett, & Taylor, 2011). I have a strong sense of personal efficiency with an understanding I can undertake even unreasonable challenges, set higher than average goals, and persevere to accommodate and accomplish my designated agenda. I consider failure an integral part of human life, not one I readily anticipate or aspire to, but one I accept in the sum of my undertakings. Failure does not affect my sense of self-efficacy, but does influence my determination to accept, learn from, and create a stronger framework from which I will surmount future challenges.

Two Social Experiences that affected Personal Development

My personal development has been affected significantly by having children who, as they developed, had an uncanny ability to mirror my best personal traits along with my personal agendas, biases, and maladaptive notions and behaviors. Watching and guiding my children's development has taught me more about myself than the sum of my experiences during the years prior to having children. Making decisions about their lives showed me dimensions of my character, ethics and values, and reflected my less than patient behavior, my capacity to love and foster, and authentically engage with my children. Exposure to other parents' core beliefs and decision-making, often highly contrasted my own, and provoked extensive soul-searching and a genuine desire to understand myself and continue the journey toward my desired possible self.

My second and equally influential experience is my role as caregiver to my husband who is dying of cancer. I constantly face my inability to understand and accommodate his transition between life and death, as I explore my existing capacity to love, honor, and provide comfort in a world in which I have neither compass nor handbook to guide me. I frequently question the character of my inner self and life itself, simultaneously finding simple joy and an ever-increasing capacity for care and compassion. The experience continues to diminish, expand, limit, provoke, incapacitate, strengthen, stimulate, and demand my greatest self as I face my deepest fears and the failures of my lesser self.


The self is a composite of many aspects largely structured and constructed by exposure to others. Social experience provokes change and accommodation in the self and the transition between the possible self and various self-schemas. The relationship between the various selves is supported by self-esteem, and self-efficacy, the interplay of which becomes the representative external product of the self. In my personal existence, relational experiences stretch and cement my personal sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem as I surmount challenges, account for personal failures and continue to accommodate and refine my abilities and shortcomings. These ongoing experiences provoke a continued movement toward my possible self.


Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Orth, U., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Robins, R. W. (2010). Self-esteem development from young adulthood to old age: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(4), 645-658. doi: 10.1037/a0018769

Sachs-Ericsson, N., Medley, A. N., Kendall–Tackett, K., & Taylor, J. (2011). Childhood abuse and current health problems among older adults: the mediating role of self-efficacy. Psychology of Violence, 1(2), 106-120. doi: 10.1037/a0023139

Monday, April 4, 2011

Definition of Social Psychology

Social Psychology

A significant part of human nature is the inescapable urge to understand and explain human behavior (Myers, 2010). In an effort to sustain the belief that human nature is orderly, predictable, and controllable, people seek to identify and attribute behavior to a specific cause. Social psychology seeks to explain correlational and causal relationships of human nature in a scientific fashion although without hesitating to ask and answer big picture questions such as those referring to the purpose of life and human existence. In the study of social relations, social psychology seeks to understand the human condition and apply scientifically gleaned principles in an effort to assist in the lifelong journey of the human experience.

Definition of Social Psychology

Social psychology is a field of study that incorporates the use of scientific methods to understand and explain human nature and the processes of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of people as they are influenced by other people (Huff, 2001). Social psychology is the scientific study of individuals and their relationships with other individuals. Its main themes focus on how humans construct society and how their social behaviors are shaped by their interactions with others, their personalities, and their biology (Myers, 2010). The aim of social psychology is to understand and apply the principles gained from scientific study to the challenges and difficulties of the human experience.

Social psychology considers social thinking as how humans perceive themselves and others, what they think about social relationships, the judgments they make, and their general attitudes. Social psychology accounts for social influences from culture, conformity pressures, persuasion, and the effect of groups on the individual (Myers, 2010). Social relations are a significant part in the study of social psychology as observed in the human display of prejudice, aggression, intimacy, and altruistic behavior (Myers, 2010).

How Social Psychology Differs from Related Disciplines

Whereas biology emphasizes principles such as natural selection, evolutionary mechanisms, and adaptation, sociology's fundamental parameters are the concepts of social structure and organization (Myers, 2010). Social psychology finds its accommodation

somewhere between the boundary of the two. Sociologists observe social behavior, cultures, and social institutions on a broader level than psychologists who tend to focus on "situational variables that affect social behavior" (Cherry, n.d., para. 2). Comparatively, social psychology addresses individuals and uses scientific experimentation more than sociology, which studies groups of people, cultures, and societies. Although the two study similar topics, they view them from different perspectives (Cherry, n.d.).

In comparing social psychology to personality psychology, the former puts less emphasis on individual differences and more emphasis on the general perspective of how individuals affect each other (Myers, 2010). Personality psychology focuses on the traits, characteristics, and thoughts of the individual, whereas social psychologists attend to the effects of the social environment and its influence on attitudes and behaviors (Cherry, n.d.). As in other disciplines within the science of psychology, the principles of social psychology have significant implications for the health and well-being of the human population. Myers (2010) explains how social psychology accommodates some of the big picture questions that define human existence, such as the meaning of human life, and finding purpose in one's ultimate destiny. These are questions not commonly addressed in psychological science although their significance cannot be diminished.

Role of Research in Social Psychology

To gain insight into the often-secretive character of human nature, social psychologists propose theories, organize observations, and test hypotheses (Myers, 2010). Theories, according to Myers (2010), are "integrated sets of principles that explain and predict observed events" (p. 17). Theories are explanations that account for observations that may not be completely understood. To predict specific behaviors, social psychologists may use correlational studies that may be accomplished in a natural setting. They may conduct experiments in which one or more factors are manipulated under controlled laboratory conditions in an effort to understand behavior. Through systematic processes of forming theories, discoveries are applied to human populations to alleviate common problems and social challenges. Research and observation allows greater understanding of how humans think, relate to, and influence each other (Myers, 2010).

Most of the research conducted by social psychologists is either correlational or experimental. Correlational research asks whether two or more factors are naturally associated. This type of research can be implemented by using systematic survey methods and real-world settings such as a study to determine how social status and level of education are related. When a measure of correlation is demonstrated, this association does not necessarily demonstrate a causal relationship. Although information on correlating variables may be valuable, it is not a reliable indicator of a causal relationship or whether another variable is involved (Myers, 2010).

Experimental research seeks evidence in cause and effect relationships by manipulating one or more independent variables while controlling others (Myers, 2010). According to Myers (2010), one of the most problematic errors made by social psychologists is concluding that one factor is causing the other although their true relationship is merely correlational. Experimental research is designed to explore cause and effect by controlling and manipulating variables and by random assignment (Myers, 2010). Such isolation and manipulation may provide enough evidence to attribute any resulting difference to one or another of the variables.


Social psychology centers around themes usually left untouched by other disciplines. Perhaps central to its core is big picture questions such as the inescapable ones regarding life's purpose and the character of human nature. Social psychology scientifically studies how people consider their relationships, influence others, and relate to each other. It observes how humans socially integrate, and the processes by which they construct and follow the rules of such integration. Human behavior is determined by our personalities, attitudes, biology, and the influences of our fellows and social psychology focuses on and studies the composite of these influences. Research in this discipline is scientifically fashioned into correlational and experimental studies in an effort to create and define principles that find application in daily human lives. These applications aid in creating greater human self-awareness while continually instilling this same cognizance in psychological science and in various disciplines that involve the study of people and their characteristic human nature.


Myers, D. G. (2010). Social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cherry, K. (n.d.). What Is Social Psychology - An Introduction to Social Psychology. Psychology - Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from

Huff, C. (2001, March 14). Why should we care about Gordon Allport? St. Olaf College.. Retrieved March 25, 2011, from

Piaget's Four Stages of Cognitive Development

Sensorimotor: Birth to Two Years

The progression during the sensorimotor stage witnesses the infant's development from purely reflexive and instinctual motor skills, to the early development of symbolic thought. According to Olson and Hergenhahn (2009), this stage is characterized by a lack of language. During this stage, the child develops a parameter by which to understand its environment by combining its sensory experience with physical actions. They see the entire world with only themselves as a frame of reference, and their world is the only one that exists.

Piaget thought the most significant accomplishment during this time was object permanence, which is accomplished when the child understands that objects maintain existence even though they may be hidden from sight. For example, before the end of this stage, the infant will learn to play peek-a-boo but will understand that her mother does not disappear when hiding under the blanket. The mother becomes permanent.

During this stage the child will begin to create habits and develop circular reactions in which the infant will learn to reproduce a particular event that initially occurred by chance. Infants become more object-oriented and replace self-preoccupa-tion with an interest in their environment. They also learn to repeat actions that produce pleasure and interest (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).

Piaget described the child as a young scientist conducting experiments on her environment to discover objects' properties and to solve problems and meet challenges. By the end of this stage, objects are separate from the child's sense of self and permanent.

Preoperational Stage: Two to Seven Years

The preoperational stage is marked by what Piaget described as a qualitatively new psychological functioning (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). The child learns to create and use representations of objects by drawings, words, and images, and begins to form stable concepts and mental reasoning along with beliefs that incorporate magical ideas. The child's thinking remains egocentric, and he has difficulty understanding the viewpoint of others. He still has difficulty performing mental tasks, and as such is "preoperational."

Even though children at this stage cannot use information in logical ways, they do begin to think in images and symbols. Their mental abilities include extensive use of language and pretend play.

At this stage, children will create complex pretend worlds and include everyone and everything around them in their fantasy. Between the ages of two and seven, children are still limited by egocentrism and animism, and demonstrate an inability to see the world from other than their own perspective. In their animistic belief, they may think the doll that fell off the shelf is mad at them for not having enough play time.

Between the ages of four and seven children begin primitive reasoning in which they become more inquisitive and curious. Centration and conservation are characteristic of children in the preoperational stage. Piaget demonstrated in his commonly known test of conservation believed that if a child does not understand the conservation-of-liquid task, they are still at the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Piaget thought children primarily learn through imitation and play during the sensorimotor and preoperational stages, as they create a vocabulary of symbolic images through internalized activity (Ginsburg & Opper, 1988).

Concrete Operational: Seven to Eleven Years

The third stage of cognitive development in Piaget's theory is concrete operational, which occurs between the ages of seven and 11 (Ginsburg & Opper, 1988). Children in this stage show intelligence through logical and systematic thinking that relates to concrete objects (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).

At this stage, children are no longer egocentric and can finally understand situations and events from someone else's perspective, and they no longer believe in animism. They will not think if the doll falls off the shelf, she is angry at the child for not playing with her. The child will check the doll's sitting place and put her back in a less precarious position, understanding logically why the doll may have fallen from the shelf.

Other accomplishments during this stage include seriation, in which the child can grade objects according to shape, size, or other characteristic. The child is likewise capable of classification, or classifying objects by the same criteria.

Children can understand conservation, or the idea that size, length, or number is unrelated to its appearance. The child is able to account for multiple aspects of a problem to find a solution. Children also understand transitivity and relationships of order, for example, if the first block is taller than the second block, and the second block is taller than the third block, then the first block is taller than the third block.

Children are capable of understanding reversibility and objects can be manipulated and changed, although later returned to their original state. In this stage, children remain limited to finding solutions to concrete problems but cannot yet, but cannot understand abstract concepts or accomplish hypothetical tasks (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).

Formal Operation: 11 through Adult

The fourth stage of Piaget's theory of development begins at age 11, but continues into adulthood. Intelligence is evident with the use of more complex logic and the use of symbols that relate to abstract ideas (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). According to Huitt and Hummel (2003), not all adults are capable of formal operations, and a mere 35% of high school graduates from industrialized countries reach this level of formal operational thinking.

In this stage, individuals gain the capacity to reason logically, think abstractly, and draw conclusions from ideas and information and can also apply these ideas and conclusions to hypothetical situations. This is evident in the new capacity for verbal problem solving, which becomes more logical and systematic. They can use hypothetical-deductive reasoning and as such, develop hypotheses, or systematically configure a path to the solution (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).

Adolescent egocentrism dominates adolescents' social thinking and they develop a heightened self-consciousness, which is apparent in their acute sense of personal uniqueness and invincibility. They become more able to understand abstract concepts such as love, morals, and values. Piaget believed understanding and using deductive logic was an essential part of accomplishing this stage. Many recall using deductive logic in hypothetical situations presented in high school science and mathematics classes. This stage enables the ability to reason contrary to fact, and adolescents in formal operational stage can use any statement as the basis of an argument whether it is true or false (Cherry, n.d.).

Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditioning

Within the psychological paradigm, several types of learning exist. The most basic form is associative learning which describes the process of making new associations between events in the environment ("Index of learning theories and models," 2011). There are two forms of associative learning: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In behaviorism, classical conditioning was the first type of learning discovered, and so named "classical" conditioning. Ivan Pavlov made the initial discoveries through his studies of the digestive system of dogs when he became intrigued by the hungry dogs' eventual learned response to Pavlov and his assistants. His investigations then focused on the dogs' associative learning from which he established his theory of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning has since found application in human behavior, both in creating specific behaviors, and in psychological treatments, extinguishing its maladaptive forms, or replacing that which is maladaptive with a more appropriate response.

The Theory of Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning is a type of associative learning first studied by Ivan Pavlov ("Index of learning theories and models," 2011). Classical conditioning takes place with the repeated pairing of a stimulus with another stimulus, to evoke the response to the first stimulus with only the presentation of the second stimulus (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). Pavlov referred to the first stimulus as the unconditioned stimulus, which evoked an unconditioned response. It is important to note the unconditioned stimulus naturally and reflexively evokes an unlearned and unconditioned response (Huitt, n.d.). Pavlov called the second stimulus the neutral stimulus, which, with repeated pairing with the unconditioned stimulus, eventually became the conditioned stimulus by evoking a conditioned response (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). The conditioned stimulus is originally a neutral stimulus that has no natural tendency to evoke a specific response, however, after the repeated pairing will evoke the same response as the original unconditioned stimulus. Pavlov identified an eventual cognitive association between the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus through repeated pairing, and this association affects a behavioral response to the conditioned stimulus. He referred to this as the conditioned response (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009).

In the process Pavlov called extinction, if the conditioned stimulus is presented without the conditioned response, eventually the conditioned response will decrease or become extinguished (Huitt, n.d.). Once the conditioned response rate returns to a pre-conditioned frequency, the conditioning is extinguished. If the extinguished conditioned stimulus is paired with the conditioned response again, Pavlov demonstrated the spontaneous recovery of the cognitive association between the conditioned stimulus and conditioned response. In Classical conditioning generalization takes place when the conditioned stimulus becomes associated with similar or related stimuli that evoke the same conditioned response as the original conditioned stimulus (Huitt, n.d.). For example, in John Watson's experiment with Baby Albert, the child generalized his fear of the white rat to other white fluffy items such as beards, other white fluffy animals, etc. Discrimination takes place when one stimulus out of the class of generalized stimuli is too different from the original conditioned stimulus to cause the conditioned response.

The Chosen Scenario

I have chosen, as a hypothetical scenario, my desire to sell a toxic and addictive substance to naïve and innocent people by attracting them to it by making them think it will make them happy and beautiful. People are naturally attracted to beauty, enjoyment, and happiness, and the idea of people having fun together. I will make several commercials that portray attractive people laughing, enjoying each other's company, smiling, feeling warmth, and simple enjoyment and simultaneously, using my toxic product. By repeatedly pairing the idea of warmth, attractiveness, fun, and beauty with the toxic product, I will create a cognitive association between the positive experiences and the toxic product. Eventually, individuals will automatically associate the toxic product with positive feelings and will become attracted to and use my product for the same result of positive good feelings of warmth, happiness, and beauty. In this example, the unconditioned stimulus (US) is the good feelings, and the unconditioned response (UR) is attraction to these positive sensations and emotions. The toxic product is originally a neutral stimulus, not evoking any specific response. By repeatedly pairing the neutral stimulus (the toxic product) with the unconditioned stimulus (the positive sensations and emotions,) the neutral stimulus eventually becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS). Individuals will begin to automatically associate the toxic product with good feelings (CS), and become attracted to it. This attraction becomes the conditioned response (CR). Eventually, the toxic product will become attractive, but the unsuspecting people will not be able to identify the automatic cognitive association by which they are attracted to the product.

Table Illustrating Classical Conditioning Applied to My Scenario
UC >>>>> UR
US + CS >>>>>>>>>>> UR

CS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> CR

US enjoyment, good feelings

UR attraction

CS toxic product

CR attraction to the toxic product


Classical conditioning is a form of associational learning and describes learning which has been acquired through experience (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009). It is a natural, intrinsically motivated way humans and other organisms adapt to their environment. Classical conditioning takes place automatically and without cognitive awareness, and the conditioned responses are involuntary. This type of conditioning describes the process by which an organism creates a new association or a new relationship between two stimuli and the eventual response. Associative learning of this type is the basic parameter of how humans learned to adapt to their environment immediately and over time and enabled their evolution and their ability to accommodate their surroundings. Although learning takes other complex forms, humans and other organisms continue to learn through the fundamental associations in the process of classical conditioning.


Huitt, W. G. (n.d.). Classical Conditioning. Educational Psychology Interactive. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from

Index of learning theories and models. (2011, March). Learning Theories. Retrieved March 17, 2011, from

Olson, M. H., & Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An introduction to theories of learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.