Modules 12-14 Notes
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Date Created: 04/04/16
Module 12: Human Nature and Cultural Diversity Evolution and Behavior o We all share a common biology and common behavior tendencies o We are social – we join groups, conform, and recognize distinctions of social status o Children display fear of strangers and adults favor members of our own groups o When confronted by dissimilar we react negatively o Charles Darwin and natural selection o Natural selection – the evolutionary process by which heritable traits that best enable organisms to survive and reproduce in particular environments are passed to ensuing generations o Evolutionary psychologists – study how natural selection predisposes not just physical traits, but also psychological traits and social behaviors that enhance the preservation and spread of one’s genes Highlights our universal human nature, certain social tasks are common to people everywhere like who do I help? Fear? Trust? Help? Culture and Behavior o We have a great capacity to learn and adapt o Evolution has prepared us to live in an ever changing world and environment o Our shared human biology has enabled cultural diversity o Culture – the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next o Nature and nurture interact in forming us o Genes are not fixed blueprints, their expression depends on the environment o People’s natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them far apart Cultural Diversity o The diversity of our languages, customs, and expressive behaviors confirm that much of our behavior is socially programmed o Norms – standards for accepted behavior, norms prescribe proper behavior, what most others do, what is normal o In unfamiliar situations, when norms seem unclear, we monitor others’ behavior and adjust our own accordingly Personal Space o Personal space – the buffer zone we like to maintain around our bodies, its size depends on our familiarity with whoever is near us Some norms are culture-specific, others are universal, the force of culture appears in varying norms, whereas it is largely our genetic predispositions (our human nature) that account for the universality of some norms, we might think of nature as universal and nurture as culture-specific Module 13: Gender, Genes, and Culture Gender – the characteristics, whether biological or socially influences, by which people define male and female Empathy – the vicarious experience of another’s feelings; putting oneself in another’s shoes Aggression – physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt someone, in laboratory experiments, this might mean delivering electric shocks or saying something likely to hurt another’s feelings Gender role – a set of behavior expectation (norms) for males and females Interaction – a relationship in which the effect of one factor (such as biology) depends on another factor (such as environment) Module 14: How Nice People Get Corrupted Conformity – a change in behavior or belief to accord with others Asch's Studies of Conformity o Volunteers were told to pick which line best matches the other, the volunteer (who’s answers they were only looking at) was always the sixth out of seven people to answer o At first everyone in the beginning said the correct answer, but on a later test the first people began to give the obvious wrong answer, and 37% of the time the volunteer knowingly answered wrong in order to conform to the rest of the people o The problem is that people conformed just for the sake of going along with the group, there was no pressure, rewards, or punishments, if people are this likely to conform for basically nothing, what larger matters could they conform on? Milgram’s Obedience Experiments o What happens when the demands of authority clash with the demands on conscience? o There are two volunteers, a teacher and a learner, the learner is supposed to remember word pairings and when they get the answer wrong the teacher is to deliver shocks o The shock generator ranges from 15-450 volts in 15 volt increments each having a description of the type of shock (slight shock, very strong shock, sever shock, XXX) o At around 75 volts the learner starts to show some distress, and at around 270 volts the learner is screaming out in agony o Teachers were told to keep administering shocks o The results: 65% of people progressed all the way to 450 volts o Those who stopped did so at around 150 volts, when the learner’s protests were more compelling o Obedience – acting in accordance with a direct order What Breeds Obedience? o It is easiest to abuse someone who is distant or depersonalized o Executioners placed hoods over the people they were killing o Bombing a city is easily done from 40,000 feet in the air o Soldiers face to face in combat are less likely to injure the other, but when they can shoot from a distance such disobedience is rare o People act most compassionately toward those who are personalized o The person of authority must seem legitimate, in most cases, for people to obey their commands The Liberating Effects of Group Influence o Conformity can be constructive, think of all the fire fighters who came to help in 9/11 o You’re scared to speak out on an issue you feel strongly about until someone else does too and you join in Reflections on the Classic Studies o Compliance can take precedence over moral sense, by pressuring people to go against their own consciousness o There is a link between behavior and attitudes and the power of the situation Behavior and Attitudes o Attitudes fail to determine behavior when external influences override inner convictions o Think of the foot in the door phenomenon, once you start, it’s easy to keep going o Think of the Holocaust, too often criticism produces contempt, which licenses cruelty, which when justified leads to brutality, then killing, then systematic killing o Compliance breeds acceptance The Power of the Situation o Culture is a powerful shaper of lives and immediate situational forces are just as powerful, revealing the strength of the social context o The most terrible evil evolves from a sequence of small evils, the drift towards evil usually comes in small increments, without any conscious intent to do evil o Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process
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