Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Essay To End All Essays

Sadly I did not in fact have two productive days in a row. Well, I kind of did, because I was able to exercise and have a bath, but for the most part I was really not feeling well, and spent far too much time watching a mixture of Star Trek and My Little Pony. I'm aware that's kind of a weird combination of shows to watch but there you have it.

I do however still have a little something for you. Jimmyfungus said he would like to read my psych essay and even though I'm not sure he'll read today, I figured I could post it today. I'm slightly worried however because in order to copy it in the correct format, I first copy it to an online word counter. The word counter spell-checked it for me (only one or two words wrong, go me!) and it also counted the words, obviously, and it informed me that there were 992 words there. I'm well within my limit, I'm given a leeway of ten percent, but I also have to write the word count in the essay, so I don't know how it's going to look if I put in the wrong number of words. Anyway, here is my essay on how being a part of a group can influence a person in positive, as well as negative ways.

Please, be gentle. By the way I realise it's long and some of you might not have the time, or interest, for those of you, consider today a day off. Just tell me I did good work and you can be on your way.
This essay will look at how being part of a group can influence someone in positive ways, as well as negative ways. To do this, exactly how groups influence people will need to be looked at. As well as if those influences are positive or negative.

Human behaviour can be influenced by several things. One such thing that can really influence the behaviour of a person is the company they keep. By being part of a group, especially, they can form a group mentality. A group mentality can be a good thing because the people that are part of a group will feel a sense of belonging. Groups are brought together by several factors. These factors can be minor ones such as the way the individuals dress and what they do in their free time, to larger groups such as religious groups and even nations and race.

On their most basic levels groups can offer friendship, a feeling of belonging, and solidarity with other members of the group. When a person is part of a group they are willing to work with other members of the group for the advancement of the group as a whole. They are able to set aside their own individual desires to help their friends succeed. Experiments conducted by Muzafer Sherif et al. (1961, cited in Spoors et al. 2011) showed that when boys at a summer camp were grouped together they did indeed work together and became quite cohesive, forming secret codes and making good humoured jokes about one another. By being made part of a group they felt connected to the other members of the group, even if they had no previous interaction, they were also willing to be more open to the other members of the group, forming friendships with them more quickly.

Another example of how being part of a group can influence us is displayed in research conducted by Dorinne Kondo (1990, cited in Spoors et al. 2011). Dorinne Kondo is a Japanese American who was born and raised in America, and lived in Japan to see how different the cultures were, and how well she could adjust to life in Japan. She learned how to perform different ceremonies such as the tea ceremony and lived with a Japanese family as their guest and began taking on a daughterly role. Initially it was hard to adjust but as she behaved more and more like a traditional Japanese woman, and felt a sense of acceptance and belonging, she began to feel good about herself, and accepted the praise given to her. She felt accepted which gave her a sense of fulfillment, and the joy of being accepted.

As well as feeling accepted Kondo's experiments also affected her negatively. In Japanese society women are normally subservient and quiet and having been raised in America she was not used to this and she had to adjust to it. As happy as she felt to be accepted, she also felt badly that she was losing her identity as an American woman, and becoming a much more subservient Japanese one. This is but one example of how being part of a group can affect us negatively, as well as positively.

Another example is in the previously cited research about the boys at summer camp. The boys also gained an irrational distrust of the other group with overt hostility including name calling. This 'us and them' mentality is part of every group. As well as creating a sense of acceptance and belonging a distrust forms for people who are not part of the group. This kind of mentality is at the heart of most of the conflict in the world and the reason behind things such as prejudice which leads to racism and things such as homo- and xeno-phobia. Experiments performed by Tajfel et al. (1971, cited in Spoors et al. 2011) known as the 'minimal group experiments' showed that even when individuals were not actually part of a group, and just told that they were, would show in-group favouritism, and out-group hostility. In actuality the people involved were working by themselves at a cubicle and even wihout any contact from anyone else in their 'group' or a conflict of interest, they still showed favouritism towards their group even though it was actually non-existant.

Another, much more brutal, example is the experiments performed by Philip Zimbardo in 1971 (cited in Spoors et al. 2011). Zimbardo and his colleagues simulated a prison environment and assigned one group of people to play the role of the prisoners, and another group to play the role of the guards. Even though the experiment was originally scheduled to last two weeks, it had to be stopped after only six days due to how the people involved acted in their roles. The people playing the guards became increasingly aggressive and abusive towards the people playing the prisoners who themselves became more passive and showed signs of becoming, or being, disturbed emotionally. The experiment was to see how people would behave when given different roles, and to see how far they would take these roles as well as how much differently they would behave because of their role. By being part of the group they were, the people involved acted how they felt they should, even if it went against how they normally would. Because the people had no first hand experience as to how guards and prisoners behave they behaved as they felt that their group would based on other sources including the news and the media such as movies and television programs.

To conclude the experiments referenced provide enough evidence to support that being part of a group make a person feel accepted and welcomed, and to set aside their individual desires, an overall positive thing. However they can also make a person behave in ways they never expected themselves to and to shun and even unconditionally hate the people who are not part of their group, an overall negative thing.

If you're interested in my first essay, which is about memory and recall and much better written, let me know.


  1. Star Trek and MLP does sound like quite the diverse day but at least you enjoyed yourself buddy, right? Great essay too man, I'd gladly give it an A at least and I know what makes a good essay from my sparkling A Levels haha. That sounds like I'm bragging now but yeah, this is good stuff!

  2. That was a great essay, I found it rather interesting and I'd love to hear your other one :) x

  3. You did a great job on the essay, Mark. I've heard about the prison experiment too. Don't laugh, but, he was a guest on Dr. Phil (at least I think it was him, if not him then it was a guy who did the same thing) and it was was fascinating to hear what happened. He wrote a book about it.

    FWIW, I'd like to read the first essay. As with the other post about "the" girl, just let me know when you're going to do it so I don't miss out on it. I know, I'm a pain in the you just blog for me. LOL

  4. Great essay. I learned a lot. I think I've always longed to be part of some group for some of the reasons you talk about i.e. acceptance, feeling like you belong. However, I think it never worked out, because to me, it is not real friendship... If your "friends" only are your friends because you dress like them, or are in the same religion, listen to the same music, things like that etc, and so forth, then that to me, should not really make you feel better because it's fake, though I guess it's better than nothing. Anywho, I remember watching that Phillip Zimbardo guy on PBS. Those were some interesting programs on psychology.


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