week 1 forum responses

In need of a 250 word response/discussion to each of the following forum posts. Agreement/disagreement/and/or continuing the discussion.

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Original forum discussion/topic post is as follows:

watch the video “The Power of the Situation” at http://www.learner.org/series/discoveringpsychology/19/e19expand.html

This is a streaming video that may take to time to buffer enough content to run smoothly. If it has starts and stops when you first start watching it, wait for it to load all the way to the end and then you should be able to view it again without any interruptions. If you cannot view this video due to technical difficulties or limitations on streaming videos where you are, read Articles 3 and 4 in our Readings about the Social Animal course book.

Second, think of a time when you found yourself in the midst of a situation in which you behaved or reacted “out of character”—that is, in a manner very different from your accustomed mode of behavior.

In a 200 word minimum length initial post describe the nature of this situation and explain why you behaved the way you did using what we have studied this week about conformity.

Forum post #1

The video “The Power of the Situation” is an interesting one because it seems to show that the morality, character, and behaviors of an individual are as much dependent on situation and circumstance as they are on biology and upbringing. While I find this concept intriguing, and would defend its merits on several points, I also do not believe it is a complete explanation. The main thing that I have read in several other presentations of this experiment is the fact that these individuals did not act as they did solely because of the environment, and that is something that has been illustrated in several attempts to repeat the findings. The lead experimenter was not simply a bystander, as he stated in his own words, he in many regards acted as a Prison Warden. What this means is that the Stanford Prison Experiment is as much an analysis of appeal to authority like in the experiment with Stanley Milgram and the electrical shocks. While this is still very much an analysis of the way people act in a social setting, it is also true that many of the “guards” were only acting in a sadistic manner because they thought they had to, not because they thought this is how guards are supposed to behave. None of this completely dismisses the findings of the Stanford Prison Experiment, but it does make the findings strongly questionable. For this reason, my hesitation is less about the moral implications of this kind of experiment, and more about the repeatability, because this also calls the efficacy of other social psychology experiments into question. It is good that experiments like this one were done in such a haphazard fashion, because without these results, the current ethical guidelines for research ethics would not be as well designed as they are (Smith, 2003).

As for my personal experience, the easiest one I can think of is my military service. For the military to function effectively, a chain of command is necessary, and this includes following the orders of those appointed over you. This is obviously more important than in the corporate or business worlds, because the consequences for disobedience are often much more extreme that simply being terminated from your employment if you do not comply. This means more than not disobeying orders though. In the early stages it also includes marching, chanting, and other activities designed to build a bond with comrades, and at the same time attempt to erode as much individual will as possible. Even while experiencing this process first-hand, you are often unaware that manipulation is taking place until after it has occurred. This process, while necessary, also has psychological consequences in extreme situations, and it can be argued that this group mentality is largely responsible for psychological conditions like PTSD.

Forum post #2

After watching the video “The Power of the Situation,” I noticed how people could be easily influenced by others such as family, friends, co-workers, etc. in order to reach their potential. By working in a public school setting, I know that I have to conform to or abide by the rules if they are within the ethical guidelines and/or standards. The staff I work with present many different personalities so I can see how others will try to follow in their footsteps just fit in. But, I always try to be my “own” person but there have been times when I have had to step out of character to prove a point. Being a school social worker, I have the opportunity to work with all students, good or not so good. I must be an advocate for the students. There was one particular situation involving myself and the principal regarding a student being suspended for something that I felt the punishment did not fit the crime and/or issue. So, I had to speak up for the student because I knew a lot of details about the student such as their home life issues. The principal, of course, was not so happy with me for challenging his decision of suspension for the student. It really did not bother me because I knew I had to step out of character to defend the student. In the end, I gained respect from the principal.

Forum post #3

We were asked to remember a time when we did something out of character. I consider myself someone who obeys people in authority. However, I do not believe that I would obey someone who was instructing me to harm others, much like those situations I mentioned above. However, for the most part, when a request is made by an authority figure I will obey that request.

There was a situation when I did not do that. I was in kindergarten. I had a very nice teacher, Mrs. Tremble, and I loved school. This situation happened at the beginning of the school year. We had what might have appeared to be a very progressive class room for the time. On one side of the class room there was a very nice “kitchen” set up for the students to play in during recess. On the other side of the room there was a very nice “workshop” set up for the students to play in. The workshop had real hammers and nails, hand saws and saw horses, and lumber. I was fascinated, but not with the kitchen. So the first day that Mrs. Tremble gave us the opportunity to play in those areas, I ran wide open to the workshop area, grabbed a piece of lumber and a saw and began to saw away. A short time later my teacher came and removed me from that area, and took me to the kitchen. She said that was where I was to play. When she was not looking, I went back to the workshop area. She politely removed me everyday for about a week. Finally she explained that boys played in the workshop and girls played in the kitchen, and that I could no longer play in the workshop. To say I was not happy would be an understatement. I was crushed, but still determined to play with something from the workshop. I was almost in tears when I spotted “it” and figured out what I would do to solve my problem. I did not want to disobey my teacher, but I simply could not, would not, play in the kitchen area. The next day when the teacher called recess time, I ran back to the workshop, grabbed the wheel barrel that was in the corner, and pushed it outside of the workshop area. I began pushing the wheelbarrow around the classroom. I was happy, and technically I was not disobeying the teacher because I pushed it outside of the workshop. She watched me that day, and perhaps she felt as though she had met her match because she never asked me to go to the kitchen again, and she never asked me to return the wheelbarrow to the workshop. During the course of the year I must have made hundreds of laps with that wheel barrow. Occasionally I think back on that incident. I was always very compliant in school, and always felt as though it was important to obey whatever the teacher said, but in that particular situation something inside of me would not allow me to comply (at least with the letter of the law).