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Social Psychology: Minimal Groups, Prejudice and Discrimination Essay

What are minimal groups? How does group membership lead to prejudice and discrimination?

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Minimal groups are two or more people who, despite having influence on each other, may have influence on the majority groups and are often victims of prejudice and discrimination (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2012). People in these minimal groups might belong to a certain religion, race or ethnicity. Monteith and Winters (2002) use the social identity theory to explain how group membership lead to prejudice and discrimination. Group membership leads to prejudice and discrimination in the sense that, one is likely to feel special for being part of a distinctive group and criticize other people from other groups, treating them as worthless people in the society. By dividing people into “in-groups” and “out-groups”, a social division occurs whereby the people in the “in-group” are seen to be more worthy than individuals in the “out-groups” (Monteith & Winters, 2002). It is this intimidation that leads to low self-esteem and loss of social face (Deutsch & Krauss, 1960).

  1. What is modern racism, and how is it studied?

According to Aronson, Wilson and Akert (2002), modern racism is the behavior of acting unprejudiced while still maintaining the prejudiced attitudes. They authors argue that modern racism is a form of subtle prejudice where an individual may hide his or her prejudice attitudes to avoid being termed as a racist, but when situations become safe, his or her prejudice is eventually expressed. One way of studying modern racism is by using the subtle or un-obstructive methods and the bogus pipeline, a lie detector machine. The authors further say that the detector machine has widely been used in America and most people have been found to having hidden their prejudice at first, but later turn out to be racist after realizing that they would be discovered (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002).

  1. What is stereotype threat, and what are the consequences of stereotype threat? Be sure to provide an example to illustrate your point.

Stereotype threat refers to the uneasiness felt by people of a certain group that their conduct might reveal the cultural group with which they identify themselves. In other words, stereotype threat depends on the category one identifies with. One consequence of stereotype threat is low performance in school. For example, most African Americans are likely to perform poorly in tests and exams than the white students due to the apprehension of confirming their “intellectual inferiority”. Another experiment done by Steel and Aronson, confirms that African Americans are likely to perform poorly compared to the white, especially if they realize that the test that they are about to undertake is been administered to measure their intellectual ability (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002).

  1. Summarize the recovered memory debate and research. Should we believe a person who comes forward with a recovered memory?

The issue of whether or not recovered memories are accurate is controversial (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002). One event explained in the book is sexual abuse. Some experts argue that it is common for sexually abused women to forget what they went through but later bring the events back to memory. Academic psychologists, on the other hand, argue that recovered memories would be inaccurate to consider. Researchers argue that, due to false memory syndrome, people are likely to recall past events that are false, believing that they are right. Given that victims of traumatic events like sexual abuse can recover memories of what they went through especially under the influence of a psychotherapist, academic experts argue that recovered memories should not automatically be regarded as true.

  1. Describe at least three ways eyewitness memory can be affected, and how we can determine the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.

One way that eyewitness memory can be affected is through the questions that witnesses are asked by lawyers and law enforcers (police). In Randall Adams case, for example, Adams turned out to be guilty perhaps due to the fact that police were asking the witnesses questions, implicating him and not Harris. Another way through which eyewitness memory is affected is through misleading questions asked by the police. Research proves that misleading questions during an interrogation session always make the witnesses to see things that, in actual sense, did not happen at the crime of scene. Due to source monitoring error, eyewitnesses are likely to confuse suspects with other people who probably, they had seen elsewhere (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002). Accuracy of eyewitness testimony can be determined by evaluating how the witness acquired information about the crime, including how much time he or she took to the watch the events of the crime.

  1. Explain how empathy is related to helping.

Empathy, an element of emotional intelligence, is the awareness of other people’s feelings. Through empathy, one is able to understand what other people are going as if he or she is also going through the same (Piff et al. 2010). Two elements of empathy that make it related to helping include understanding and developing others. Through understanding, one is able the sense the feelings of others and take interests in knowing their concerns. By doing this, one is then able to listen and pay attention to the perspectives of others and may consider helping them in any way (empathy-altruism hypothesis). Developing others involves acting on people’s concerns to improve their welfare (evolutionary psychology). When one feels empathy, he or she is likely to help others, regardless of whether or not they will gain anything (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002).

  1. Summarize the effects of mood on helping behaviors.

On studying prosocial behavior, social psychologists have proven that mood may affect the likelihood of one helping another person. Having good mood increases the likelihood of helping others. While in good mood, one sees the good side of another person and is likely to help him or her. Helping others is a way of prolonging good moods, that is, becoming a Good Samaritan by helping others often makes people feel better of themselves. In addition, having good moods increases the attention one gives to others, and this makes him or her to behave or act in line with his or her values. Given than most people value altruism, good moods increase people’s willingness to help others (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 2002).

Expanded essays

Question 1

Social psychologists have sought to study the American legal system and have discussed hoe eye witness memory affects the verdict given by the jury. Based on research, they have pointed out that the justice system is not perfect and so the jury is expected to make wrong verdicts. The biggest problem with court’s reliance on eye witness memory is that the accused person may be convicted and sentence to prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The acquisition and retrieval of information by an eye witness might be inaccurate and this can lead to mistaken conviction. Another problem with the court system is that the jury tends to believe the information provided by the prosecutor against the accused and fail to give much attention to the defendant’s side of story. Yet another problem relates to the fact that some suspects confess to have done crimes they know they didn’t commit, especially when they are subjected to stressful interrogations. This is an aggressive environmental cue that may lead to aggressive behavior of a suspect (Klinesmith et al. 2006).

In most jury processes, the jurors deliberate before giving verdict. The criticism raised on the jury trials relates to the fact that minority jurors may be convinced by the majority jurors to vote for conviction of the defendant. In real life cases, it is not common for the minority in the jury to convince the majority to change their minds on a criminal case (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002). Persuasion tactics in the jury room can well be explained through the concepts of normative and informational influence. Through informational influence, a judge might conform to the decision given by other judges just because he or she believes that their judgment is correct. Through normative influence, a judge may conform due to fear of appearing deviant (Vrij, Pannell & Ost, 2005). It is important to note that how individual jurors interpret evidence and deliberate depends on social cognition concepts. Judges can make a wrong judgment in a case due to persuasion or how they view the accused. For instance, if a juror views the accused as an attractive person, he or she is not likely to vote for conviction (Sigall & Ostrove, 1975). I would recommend the courts to incorporate psychological research in the ruling process as it informs trial procedures, enabling juries to make fairer decisions.

Question 2

Based on research, social psychologists have proven that physical appearance is important in first impressions (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 2002). Research shows that men are more attracted to women who are hard to get (Walster et al. 1973), especially if they are physical attractive. Further research on attractiveness shows that people like people who also like them (Whitechurch et al. 2011). From the case scenario provided in this question, it is clear that the man is attracted to his colleague at the office because she is more attractive than the lady she is currently dating. The main sometimes loses interests in her dating partner because she is too demanding on things she want to do with him. Love between two couples, according to social psychologists must involve passionate, romantic love and long term devotion. Given that the man has now found a woman who is more physically attractive than his partner, I would say that he has a compassionate love with his dating partner. Compassionate love can be experienced either in sexual or nonsexual relationships whereby one experiences feelings of affection, but not intensely as they felt sometime back (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2002). This is the stage where u may find two people deciding to give each other space or even break up. In my opinion, the reason why one would feel less heat of intimacy towards his or her partner is because he or she has found another person elsewhere, who is more attractive. Although the man has feelings of affection and intimacy towards his partner, he no longer feels physically aroused like he once felt when getting into a relationship with her.

References: Social Psychology: Minimal Groups, Prejudice and Discrimination Essay

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2012). Social Psychology (8th ed.). Vital Source Bookshelf Online. Retrieved from

Deutsch, M. & Krauss, R. M. (1960). The effect of threat upon interpersonal bargaining. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 61(2), 181-189.

Klinesmith, J., Kasser, T., & McAndrew, F. T (2006). Guns, testosterone, and aggression: An experimental test of a meditational hypothesis. Psychological Science, 17, 568-571

Monteith, M. & Winters, J. (2002). Why we hate. Psychology Today, May/June, 35, 44-50, 87

Piff, P., Kraus, M., Cote, S., Cheng, H & Keltner, D. (2010). Having less, giving more: The influence of social class on pro-social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 771-784

Sigall, H., & Ostrove, N. (1975). Beautiful but dangerous: Effects of offender attractiveness and nature ofthe crime on juridic judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 410-414.

Vrij, A., Pannell, H., & Ost, J. (2005). The influence of social pressure and black clothing on crime judgments. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 11, 265-274.

Walster, E., Walster, G. W., Piliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). “Playing hard to get:” Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 113-121.

Whitechurch, E., Wilson, T., & Gilbert. (2011). “He loves me, he loves me not…”: Uncertainty can increase romantic attraction. Psychological Science, 22, 172-175

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