Sunday, July 31, 2011

Introduction to Psychological Testing

Testing gives identity and meaning to the otherwise unknown territory of human thought and behavior. It facilitates the assessment of individuals and their unique human imprint in a more immediate time frame, giving the tester a more lucid picture of their many defining characteristics. Tests are used in most organizational and research settings, in the interest of self-understanding, or for entertainment value. Reliability and validity are the cornerstones that give strength and credence to any test, without which, the test is simply a fascination, and no more reliable than the common anecdote.

Defining “Test”

The word test derives its etymology from the late 14th century Old French word for a "small vessel used in assaying precious metals" (Harper, 2010, para. 1). In the 1590s records show its use as “trial or examination to determine the correctness of something” (Harper, 2010, para 1). The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing defines test as, “an evaluative device or procedure in which a sample of an examinee’s behavior in a specified domain is obtained and subsequently evaluated and scored using a standardized process” (Hogan, 2007, p. 38). According to Hogan (2007) a test is a systematic and standardized quantification procedure or device that yields information about behavior and cognitive processes, and measures a sample of behavior rather than an extensive examination of the variety of a person’s behaviors.

Major Categories of Tests

The five major categories of psychological tests include mental ability, achievement, personality, interests and attitudes, and neuropsychological tests. Mental ability tests measure cognitive functions such as intelligence, memory, spatial visualization, and creative thinking and achievement tests assess capability within certain areas of expertise, and may include assessments of reading, math, science, and social studies, or can identify more specific achievement. Personality tests are designed to produce information about personality and are the most widely applied of all psychological tests. These tests compare an individual’s responses to different clinical groups for similarity, and may measure depression, eating disorders, pathological or disabling conditions, or fascinations of the human personality.

Interests and attitudes tests may include vocational interest measures, which are widely used in high schools and colleges. Also within this category are measures of attitude toward specific topics and groups (Hogan, 2007). Neuropsychological tests are designed to give information about brain function and the central nervous system. Assessing brain function may include “tests of memory for verbal and figural material, psychomotor coordination, and abstract thinking” (Hogan, 2007, p. 8).

Primary Uses and Users

Primary users of tests include four diverse groups including clinical, educational, personnel, and research (Hogan, 2007). In clinical settings, tests are used in counseling, school psychology, and neuropsychology to identify the nature and severity of specific problems, and may be used to assess progress or gauge the effectiveness of a therapeutic application. In the educational group, typical users are teachers, educational administrators, and parents. In educational settings, tests are used to assess student learning, to document competence for professional licensure, and to predict success in academic work (Hogan, 2007).

In a personnel or employment setting, testing is used in organizations for selecting the most qualified individual for a specific position, or as in the military, assigning individuals to tasks that optimize efficiency. Testing is also used for performance evaluations during employment (Spector, 2010). In a research capacity, tests are used in psychology, education, and behavioral and social sciences. Tests may serve to define the dependent variable or the reliable baseline by which further testing is measured. Furthermore, tests serve as describing important characteristics of samples used in research, or in researching standard or newly designed tests.

Comparing and Contrasting Reliability and Validity
Two of the most important concepts in testing are reliability and validity; whereas validity refers to whether the test measures what it aims to measure, reliability refers to the consistency of the measurement (Hogan, 2007). Both concepts give tests their value. A measure can be reliable without having validity; however, a test cannot be valid if it is not reliable. According to Hogan (2007), the expected components of testing are consistency, replicability, and dependability. Using these terms, a test must consistently produce the same or similar information, and it must tend toward replication “within a certain margin of error” (Hogan, 2007, p. 113). Furthermore, the test must be dependable and produce the same score for an individual.

Validity is the most important characteristic of a test. Hogan (2007) explains it is imprecise to question the validity of a test, but rather “refer to the interpretation of a score for a particular purpose or use” (p. 157). Simply stated, it is important to establish appropriateness between the test and the inferences made by its yield. For example, it is neither appropriate nor effective to infer fluidity in the French language by interpreting scores on a Rorschach test. When referring to validity, it is important to assess to what degree a test is valid for the particular purpose, rather than trying to determine whether it is generally valid. Equally critical is the need to determine the accuracy of norms.

“In the final analysis…the user tries to answer the question: Am I better off using this test as a source of information or not using it?” (Hogan, 2007, p. 202). Reliability and validity are the cornerstones that give strength to tests. According to Meyer et al. (2001), the validity of psychological tests is strong and compelling, and is equal to the validity of medical tests. When tests are both reliable and valid, they have the ability to yield information useable for scientific investigation and application (Rapaport, Schafer, & Gill, 1945). Science depends on testing as a fundamental part of scientific investigation and therapeutic application.


Tests provide a practical and efficient way to gather information, especially in human thought and behavior (Rapaport, Schafer, & Gill, 1945). The major categories of tests supply valuable information to many types of users in a variety of fields. Various disciplines depend on the reliability and validity of testing to define norms, validate scientific exploration, assess mental states, facilitate learning, and determine future needs.


Harper, D. (2010). Test. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 17, 2011, from

Hogan, T. P. (2007). Psychological testing: a practical introduction (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ:
John Wiley & Sons.

Meyer, G. J., Finn, S. E., Eyde, L. D., Kay, G. G., Moreland, K. L., Dies, R. R., Eisman, E. J.,

Kubiszyn, T. W., Read, G. M. (2001). Psychological testing and psychological
assessment: a review of evidence and issues. American Psychologist, 56(2), 128-165. doi:

Rapaport, D., Schafer, R., & Gill, M. M. (1945). Diagnostic psychological testing. Chicago:
Year book.

Spector, P. E. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Effects of Population Density and Noise

Population density and noise can have a variety of effects on people. When privacy, personal space, and territory are infringed upon by other people or short-term or chronic noise, the effects can range from simple annoyance to severe intrusive anxiety-producing illness (Straub, 2007). As population density increases and territory, privacy, and personal space are accroached, such accommodations demand acknowledgment to prevent the psychological effects of crowding, and to prevent aggression, anxiety, and frustration.

Understanding Territoriality, Privacy, and Personal Space


Altman (1977) defines privacy as “selective control of access to the self or to one’s group” (p. 67). Privacy involves control over information about oneself as well as control over interactions with others (Hutchinson & Kowalski, 1999). In contemporary society, new technologies raise concern about the control over the information of others, which has forced defining balance of privacy versus public information. Privacy needs and values vary between individuals and also between situations and cultures (Clayton & Myers, 2008).

Personal Space

Personal space is the physical distance we choose by which to maintain interpersonal relationships (Hutchinson & Kowalski, 1999). Personal space and territoriality are two mechanisms for maintaining privacy. As defined by Sommer (1969) personal space is “an area with invisible boundaries surrounding a person’s body into which intruders may not come” (p. 26). Altman (1981) suggests such space is changeable, similar to privacy, and varies between individuals, situations, and culture. Neuroscientific research claims personal space is created and mediated by the human brain, and although boundaries shift within circumstances, it is of value and consequence to all people (Kennedy, Gläscher, Tyszka, & Adolphs, 2009).


Human territoriality encompasses temporarily durable preventive and reactive behaviors including perceptions, use and defense of places, people, objects, and ideas by means of verbal, self-marker, and environmental prop behaviors in response to the actual or implied presence of others and in response to properties of the environment, and is geared to satisfying certain primary and secondary motivational states of individuals and groups (Edney, 1974, p. 963).

Although not usually survival based as in animal territoriality, similar to animals, we maintain space by specific behaviors that infer a particular space is owned or in use. Humans have the capacity to attack and demonstrate aggressive display, and maintain other intrinsic reactions toward encroachment such as women’s nesting instincts when pregnant, or after bearing children. Research suggests it is important to emphasize ecological variables as major factors in determining territoriality and it becomes important to address the proclivity to defend resources as a factor of increasing human territoriality (Dyson-Hudson & Smith, 1978). As critical resources become limited, people seek to protect personal area and belongings.

Territoriality, Privacy, and Personal Space as Population Density Increases

Straub (2007) refers to a study by John Calhoun by which he experiments with population density within the living conditions of rats. In this study, rats behaved normally by all standards when there was ample living space, although as the population increased, the rat’s social environment deteriorated. They fought, became more territorial, infant mortality increased sharply, reproductive capacity diminished, and some rats became cannibalistic. Although these discoveries may not necessarily translate to human behavior under similar conditions, population density certainly has practical affects on populations.

Population density affects people, and it also contributes to the psychological effects of crowding whereby people feel confined and limited with less access to necessities. Crowding has been linked to aggression, social withdrawal, increased criminal acts, and inappropriate social interaction (Stokols, 1972). To decrease the symptoms of crowding, it is essential to preserve privacy, personal space, and honor territoriality as a basic human social need. As the resource of space decreases, privacy and personal space demand greater acknowledgment to prevent psychological affects. Without privacy and personal space people tend to feel less control, more competition, and have an increased tendency to react negatively to minor annoyances (Straub, 2007).

Perception is a revealing component of population density in that, if ample space is perceived, the crowding effects diminish. Therefore, changing the perception of space is as influential as actually providing more space. According to Straub (2007), the crowding effects of population density are not inevitable, and perhaps designing space in such a way to appear bigger than it actually is can affect psychological crowding. In any event, mitigating the perception of crowding is of consequence as space becomes a limited resource, and perceiving ample space has far-reaching effects on subjective well-being and health (Straub, 2007). When individuals perceive ample space, they report feeling a stronger sense of control over their environment and are less prone to anxiety and stress (Straub, 2007).

The Effect of Nature on Individuals Living in Urban Environments

Managed natural settings such as zoos, parks and other green spaces can create support and social context for interaction with nature. Not only does such interaction provide interaction, but also nurtures an environmental identity that is so often inhibited in urban living situations. Natural settings found within urban living areas encourage a perception that people should, and need to convene with nature. Maller et al. (2005), refer to beliefs promoted during the Civil War that claimed the influence of the natural environment on people’s health reduced disease, promoted health, supported community health and reduced crime. Contemporary evidence continues to supports these theories.

According to DeVries, Verheij, Groenewegen, and Spreeuwenberg (2003), urban parks play a significant role in physical activity and some research provides evidence in support of the notion that people living in urban settings reported fewer health issues. Clayton and Myers (2008) cite a Japanese study that found mortality rates were lower for individuals with green space in close proximity to their residences. Furthermore, green space reduced the stress of noise in urban settings, even those located near severely noisy environments (Gidlofgunnarsson & Ohrstrom, 2007). Greener neighborhoods seem to promote less aggressive and violent behavior, closer interpersonal relationships, better academic performance, and more positive social interaction between members of communities (Clayton & Myers, 2008).

Noise and its Effects on Individuals

Health psychologists have studied the negative health affects of chronically noisy environments. In human and animal studies, the damaging effects of noise raise blood pressure and cortisol levels, which indicates increased levels of stress (Straub, 2007). Chronic exposure to noise can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and decrease learning ability. Children are especially vulnerable to the disruptive effects of chronic noise as they learn maladaptive skills that provoke them to block specific stimuli. This can be problematic since children do not have the capacity to fully understand which stimuli should be blocked and which is essential to their learning experience (Straub, 2007). Verbal skills are decreased because when children block noise they are likely to block verbal elements as well.

According to Straub (2007), investigation into chronic noise effects in laboratory settings showed louder noise can disrupt short-term memory and decrease the ability to perform simple tasks. Individuals vary in their appraisal of noise, and the more disturbing the individual finds the noise, the greater the affect the noise will have on the individual. Even though noise may not be directly responsible for stress, the affects on sleep, anxiety provoked, and subjective attitude toward the noise has a direct effect on individual health (Straub, 2007). Noise, over which individuals have little to no control has a more severe affect on stress levels.

Noise Reduction Strategies

Fabric Placement as a Noise Mediator

Many outside noises make their way inside the home and there is often little control one can exert over such noise. One way to reduce noise inside the home is to install additional fabric over windows, and as wall décor, as well as fabric and stuffed furnishings. Noise travels more easily through glass than walls with insulation, so covering windows with layers of fabric (or blinds and curtains) can greatly reduce the amount of noise entering a home through the windows (Gaddis, n.d.). Trapping sound waves between the spaces in the layers over windows works efficiently to block out unwanted sound. Additionally, carpeting muffles and absorbs sound waves better than hard floors, which echo and increase sound as it bounces off the wood or tile (Gaddis, n.d.).

Auditory Masking for Noise Reduction

“Auditory masking is when the perception of one sound is affected by the presence of another sound. Masking can be simultaneous or non simultaneous” (Pro Audio Support, 2011, para. 1). The addition of natural or artificial sound (sometimes referred to as white noise) effectively masks sound waves in many environments and is often used in a home setting where intrusive noise from external sources becomes a problem (Hawkins, 1950). Sound masking machines are inexpensive to purchase and take a small amount of electricity. In place of purchasing a machine, running a fan or other consistent background sound will effectively block out noise. Auditory masking does not change pre-existing sound but reduces awareness of them.


Territoriality, privacy and personal space involve personal choice and individual perceptions of the use of space for normal functioning. Psychological effects of these perceptions vary between individuals, but limited space has an eventual profound effect on humans. In urban environments, when space is limited, aggressive and violent behavior, poor academic performance, and more negative social interaction between community members is observed (Clayton & Myers, 2008). Intrusive noise causes limited to severe annoyance, depending on how individuals interpret and perceive the intrusion (Straub, 2007). Noise reduction strategies can range from simple to complex, but are worthwhile especially in cases in which individuals have little control over anxiety- and stress-provoking noise.


Altman, I. (1977). Privacy regulation: culturally universal or culturally specific? Journal of Social Issues, 33(3), 66-84.

Altman, I. (1981). The environment and social behavior: privacy, personal space, territory, crowding. New York, NY: Irving.

Clayton, S. & Myers, G. (2009). Conservation psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

DeVries, S. D., Verheij, R. A., Groenewegen, P. P., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2003). Natural environments -- healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health. Environment and Planning A, 35(10), 1717-1731. doi: 10.1068/a35111

Dyson-Hudson, R., & Smith, E. A. (1978). Human territoriality: an ecological reassessment.
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Gidlofgunnarsson, A., & Ohrstrom, E. (2007). Noise and well-being in urban residential environments: The potential role of perceived availability to nearby green areas.

Landscape and Urban Planning, 83(2-3), 115-126. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.03.003

Hawkins, J. E. (1950). The masking of pure tones and of speech by white noise. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 22(1), 6. doi: 10.1121/1.1906581

Hutchison, E. D., & Kowalski, S. (1999). Dimensions of human behavior: person and environment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

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Straub, R. O. (2007). Health psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Worth.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Environmental Psychology Article Analysis

Although many current events affect environmental psychology, perhaps by far the most pervasive human affect is the process by which people obtain food. The processes range from highly sustainable to severely polluting, and a large percentage of the population is ignorant of these processes. Although many people seek healthy choices, they are not prepared to make conscious decisions, which can have altering effects on both the individual and the natural environment (Institute of Grocery Distribution, 2002). Feeding our growing populations has become an issue of grave consequence, and empirical evidence through scientific exploration is an essential component toward accommodating sustenance for both the species and the environment by which it thrives.

Article Summary

Even though there has been a substantial increase in positive attitudes on sustainable food consumption, behavior is not universally consistent with attitudes. Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) aimed to identify the behavioral gap between the two. Barriers to sustainable food consumption include personal ignorance about sustainability as well as believing sustainable products are unavailable, overpriced, or inconvenient, price being the most significant barrier (Institute of Grocery Distribution, 2002). Even when consumers can afford the price difference, there is little empirical evidence supporting the use of the more expensive product.

Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) analyzed “the impact of involvement, perceived availability, certainty, perceived consumer effectiveness, values and social norms on consumers’ attitudes and intentions towards sustainable food products” (p. 169). They found involvement with sustainability, certainty about the effects of unsustainable consumerism, and perceived consumer effectiveness had a significant positive influence on attitude and intention. Furthermore, they determined perceiving limited availability negatively affected intention to purchase, and social pressure was more influential than personal attitudes. Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) established sustainable and ethical food consumption is efficiently promoted through raising involvement, helping consumers understand the power of their choices, promoting certainty in sustainable food theories, social pressure, and increasing the awareness of availability. Schwartz (1992) and Minteer, Corley, and Manning (2004) claim linking values with intentions to purchase sustainable products varied throughout the population; however, raising public awareness and involvement, strengthening personal as well as social understanding and certainty significantly increase sustainable food consumption.

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Supply

In the recent decade, it has become apparent to agricultural science that sustainable food production is an essential component to the health and well-being of the environment. Hobbs (2007) claims during the next decade, agriculture will have to accommodate more efficient use of natural resources minimizing the affect on the environment. Because of growing population demands, agriculturists will have to provide more food from less land, and incorporate more sustainable processes. Although far more consumers opt for ethically produced or sustainable products like organic, fair trade, and those in which animals are treated humanely, human food consumption continues to be driven by convenience and habit, and people often resist change (Minteer, Corley, & Manning, 2004; Jensen & Sandoe, 2002). The decisions consumers make regarding foods and consumerism are often based on value, taste, appearance, and convenience, rather than motivations toward animal welfare or the conservation and preservation of the environment (Hobbs, 2007).

Influence on Environmental Psychology

Every issue that demands empirical evidence must be accommodated by scientific investigation (Clayton & Myers, 2009). The information obtained by Vermeir and Verbeke (2006) facilitates the design and implementation of realistic, safe, and effective ways for human navigation into the previously unknown territory of unsustainable consumerism. Because environmental psychology studies the relationship between the natural environment and its inhabitants, it is the responsibility of this psychological discipline to guide and provide reason for a more beneficial course of interaction (Clayton & Myers, 2009). As in any science, it is the questions that determine the studies, ergo, the questions create the science. More than influencing environmental psychology, these questions determine the breadth and scope of the growth and development of the discipline. Vermeir’s and Verbeke’s (2006) study is a tangible example of problems as they influence an affect toward realistic change.

Sustainable food consumption will continue to play a huge role in the natural environment’s preservation and conservation (Hobbs, 2007). As people more accurately attach value and consequence to the implications by which we process and provide food, environmental psychology continues to provide knowledge and design for agriculture and food consumption that better aligns with sustainability (Schwartz, 1992). Furthermore, the discipline determines the cognitive aspects of human engagement and provides adequate means of positively influencing masses of people (Vermeir & Verbeke, 2006). The questions evoked by the need to create a system of sustainable food production continue to influence environmental psychology and its scientific exploration into further identifying both human and environmental needs, and mediating the affects of the reciprocal relationship between the nature and its human inhabitants.


Educating people to the need for sustainable food consumption and production proves difficult, at best, and understanding the reasoning by which people embrace sustainable food consumption, hesitate, or simply decline to engage in changing their consumerism becomes a significant component of promoting such change (Minteer, Corley, & Manning, 2004). Environmental psychology continues to play a significant role in designing effective influential means to create a more accurate awareness by which humans can implement working solutions toward the preservation and conservation of their essential and life-giving resources.


Clayton, S. & Myers, G. (2009). Conservation psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hobbs, P. R. (2007). Conservation agriculture: what is it and why is it important for future

sustainable food production? The Journal of Agricultural Science, 145(02), 127. doi:


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exit interviews”. A report prepared for the Countryside Agency by the IGD, Letchmore Heath,

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Jensen, K.K. and P. Sandoe, (2002). Food Safety and Ethics: The Interplay between Science and

Values, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 15(3), 245-253.

Minteer, B. A., Corley, E. A., & E. Manning, R. (2004). Environmental Ethics Beyond

Principle? The Case for a Pragmatic Contextualism. Journal of Agricultural and

Environmental Ethics, 17(2), 131-156. doi: 10.1023/B:JAGE.0000017392.71870.1f
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empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 1-65.

Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2006). Sustainable food consumption: exploring the consumer

“attitude – behavioral intention” gap. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics,

19(2), 169-194. doi: 10.1007/s10806-005-5485-3

Ethnic Group Conflict

Cultural conformity, especially in religious heritage is a powerful mediator of social perception. Both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are entrenched in negative social perceptions of their nemesis, and only by reconciling and lessening the divergent perspectives between the groups will reconciliation be accomplished. The opposing doctrines create a religiously biased lens that supports and maintains the traditionally held stereotypes of each other. Although religion is a central theme in their conflict, it may serve as a foundational bridge between their apparently weighted differences. Peace building can alter perceptions and promote positive social interactions when common ground is emphasized (Byrne, (191).

Cultural Conformity

According to Shiraev and Levy (2010), "conformity is a form of social influence in which individuals change their attitudes and/or behavior to adhere to a group or social norm" (p. 283). Social psychology explains human conformity as the need to accommodate the majority, maintain consensus, to reduce negative sanctions, and to live up to the expectations of other people to maintain positive relationships (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). According to the rational actor theories, conformity is a rational choice whereby people choose from available alternatives after determining whether benefits or negative consequences will result from their choice.

Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, each group is represented by and behaves according to their respective religious doctrine, and religious and political conformity is of significant consequence to citizenship in either of these areas (Hofman, 1977). In both Judaism and Islamic cultures, consistency in religious attitudes is much more complex and rigorous than in other religions and demands following the rules and expectations of religious norms and leadership. Because of the strict religious conformity, there is little flexibility in attitudes, and beliefs intricately woven into the cultural fabric of group. Although religious and political conflict exists between the Muslim and Jewish religions, some of the current issues concern extremist groups from either side who determine their own set of (usually violent) rules of cultural conformity. Grave differences in religious affiliation continue to distance the two sides. Whereas Palestinians are primarily Muslim (Sunni), the majority of Israelis are Jewish. Religion in both areas has maintained a consistently central role in shaping the cultures and lifestyles in both cultures (Hofman, 1977), and religion is a cultural variable that can contribute or detract from understandings between nations or societies (Cohen, 1990). The intolerant attitudes perpetuated by both groups and various political issues, creates an environment in which mutual exclusivity prevents reconciliation.

Social Perception and Social Cognition

Social perception is the process by which people aim to understand themselves and each other, whereas social cognition is the process by which people interpret, remember, and use information about the world and ourselves. People in all cultures recall experiences to make decisions. Within their cultural milieu, people develop attitudes, beliefs, and judgments through socialization experiences. Social perception is culturally rooted, so people raised in similar environments interpret their experiences in similar ways, although when people are exposed to different religions and lifestyles, they are likely to have radically different world views. The relationship between social perception and social cognition is best described by explaining social perception as it exists as a function of social cognition. Culture colors perceptions so consequently, social cognition functions within the cultural perception.

The divergent perspectives of the Palestinians and the Israelis contribute to their conflicting beliefs of each other and their complex worldview which, in turn, supports their perspectives. In the case of these two warring factions, they engage in conflict against one another because of their respective views of each other, which is through a biased lens of the traditionally held stereotypes of the other. For example, many Palestinians believe Israel does not want to reach a peaceful agreement with the Israelis, but wants to continue to engage in controlling the entire territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. From the Israeli perspective, they believe the Palestinians seek to conquer Palestine and are using official peace-related claims as a temporary strategy. Because of the various opinions and interpretations, it has become difficult to articulate the exact demands of each party. These are political issues about which many citizens on both sides disagree.

Heider's theory of attitude balance, which claims people seek consistency in their attitudes and beliefs is important to consider (Spector, 2008). People tend to overestimate positive characteristics of people they like and underestimate positive traits and place emphasis on the negative ones of those who they do not care for (Heider, 1959). Applying this theory to the age-old conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, each group has perpetuated the negative aspects of the other, and passed this information generationally, usually through religious affiliation. Not only do members of each group perpetuate these beliefs, they refuse information that presents evidence contrary to their beliefs and attitudes (Krueger & DiDonato, 2008). As each side devalues and maintains derogatory attitudes toward the other, each group becomes more entrenched in their perception of the other (Krueger & DiDonato, 2008).

Social Perceptions That Require Change

The religions of both sides are of Abrahamic origin, tracing their common religious origin to Abraham, or Abrahamic spiritual tradition, the similarities they refuse to observe (WGBH Educational Foundation, 2002). Both religions, along with Christianity have similarities, which inextricably link them in a common theological dogma: all three are monotheistic, and believe in God as the higher power and source of moral law. The sacred tales of these religions include many of the same characters, histories, and places although often told from different perspectives and with different meanings (WGBH Educational Foundation, 2002). Although Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith are defined by common beliefs, they have many internal differences based on details of doctrine and practice. These differences are emphasized and escalated to the point of extreme contention.

As long as the cultural perceptions are instilled in the younger generations of both groups in conflict, the problems will continue (Shamir & Shikaki, 2002). Although the young children are too immature to determine whether they will carry the burden of history, during later years, such as during adolescence, young adults may ponder their limited choice and investigate the reality of the claims of each side. Until new perceptions are embraced in both groups, the unsubstantiated claims and distorted perceptions of the enemy will continue to provoke conflict between them.

According to Huntington (1996), "international stability can be advanced by nations discovering and developing greater intercultural understanding and appreciation of each other" (p. 320). Research supports the importance of culture and psychological perceptions in politics and religion (Huntington, 1996). Peace building can affect change in perception and the quality of social interactions with emphasis on equal status contact, intimate encounters, and cooperative relationships, and discovering common ground in another group can promote improved mutual perceptions (Byrne, (191). One of the most significant provocations between the two groups, and the escalatory influence is religious differences, so reconciliation in this area will promote more accurate social perceptions on both sides.

According to Byrne (1969), individuals are more apt to change negative attitudes toward another group when they acknowledge attitudes and beliefs similar to their own. Because there are similarities in rituals and terminologies in both Abrahamic religions, this could be the starting point for conciliatory action. Mollov and Barhoum (1998) demonstrated similarities in the religious framework and customs between Islam and Judaism. Additionally, Mollov and Barhoum (1998) claim,

Interactions between the Israeli and Palestinian students and faculty have not remained limited to the formal meetings. Personal relationships have developed and survived the vicissitudes of sometimes turbulent current events; members have reacted constructively during tragedy and difficulty and have visited each other on personal occasions of both illness and celebration, thus creating a strong human bond for the dialogues and cooperation efforts to continue (Para. 9).

Although limited in scope, evidence such as the in experience of Israeli and Palestinian students and faculty, there is a strong basis for focusing on inter-religious dialogue as a means to mediating social perceptions between the two groups (Mollov & Lavie, 2001). Communication based on religious ideals is a reasonable conciliatory point on which to begin resolution because of the depth and extraordinary commitment of both sides to maintaining a presence on the land they cherish because of religious heritage (Mollov & Lavie, 2001). To change social perceptions based in such an ideological balance of power, it is apparent that religious and culturally based convictions must accommodate a middle ground.


It would be far too simple to claim an easy solution for the long-established Palestinian-Israeli conflict, although changing social perception through the mediation of inter-religious communication can play a significant role in facilitating change in how individuals on each side view members of the other. Notwithstanding the complications resulting from instigating such reconciliation and the complexities of this definitively age old stand-off, in-roads have been forged between students and faculty on either side. Social perceptions have been changed, and regardless of the extraordinary challenge to mediate such long-standing hatred, changing social perception can be accomplished by emphasizing and embracing similarities in religious heritage.


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