Friday, August 31, 2007

Example Concept Map: Using MS Word and MW Snap

Ruth asked for a hand with getting her concept map (which was created using MS Word) into a Blogger post.

See Creating a concept map for the steps I followed. Note that I used MW Snap rather than MS Paint because it resulted in a higher resolution.

Figure 1. An example concept map in Blogger, created using MS Word and MW Snap (Hart, 2007).

I like the flow-chart nature of the concept map, but I think the dark shading makes the text difficult to read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How to embed a MindMeister concept map

The basic steps are:
  • Create a MindMeister account
  • Create a MindMeister concept map
  • Click on Share (at the bottom of a map)
  • Click on Publish
  • Check make available on the internet
  • Copy the embed code
  • Save
  • Create a new blog post
  • Click on Html
  • Paste the embed code
  • Save
  • I suggest you put an embedded MindMeister concept map its own posting. Then link to it from your main blog essay posting. There seem to be some problems with other text not being viewable in the Compose editing when embedded MindMeister code is used.
  • Also be aware that MindMeister disables the ability to embed after one month on the free account. The map is still there and can be exported, etc., but it can't be embedded into other pages unless you upgrade (or open up a new account).
  • Provide some brief instructions to the reader on how to read/use the map, e.g., (You can click, drag, and zoom)

Kid Nation: 21st century Lord of the Flies?

CBS' reality TV show Kid Nation, due for release mid-September, 2007 has 40 kids aged 8 to 15 living together for 40 days in an abandoned New Mexico town, with no adults. The program offers a modern day version of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". Can children can create an effective society on their own?

From a social psychological point of view, the program stands to offer a fascinating examination and example of theories such as our social selves, prejudice, group processes, leadership, communication, and so on.

From an experiential education point of view, it will be interesting to see how well the children were able to adapt and learn without direct adult guidance.

Currently, however, the show is attracting considerable media and legal attention, with claims of violating children's human rights. See this current google news search, with article headlines such as:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Example MindMeister Concept Map

Marketing: Ready, Set, Go, Bruce!

Here's the latest advertisement for University of Canberra. I like the innovative, catchy style, although I wonder about the "stereotyping" of student life and kinda sad end (sitting in an office). What do you think? How could this ad be improved? Comment here or on on youtube.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Student blog examples from drop-in tutorial

In this week's drop-in tutorial:
  • Ladyzulu worked out how to:
    • Copy an essay draft from MS Word into a blog posting - the formatting came through quite nicely - feel free to read and comment (she's the 1st person to publish a blog draft - congratulations! :) ).
    • Create a concept map in MS Word, using the Drawing toolbar, then using PrintScreen and MS Paint to capture and save the image, and then uploading the image into a blog posting - see example concept map. For more info on how to do this, see creating a concept map.
  • Amanda worked out how to:
    • Copy a table from an MS Word document into a blog posting - the formatting came through very well - see example.
    • Embed a video from youtube in a blog posting - see example.
    • Add a photo to one's blogger profile
  • Fiona was keen to embrace the possibilities of online concept mapping using MindMeister. She had already created a concept map for her essay and we then worked out how to embed the map into a blog posting - see example. There are several really appealing features of this approach, e.g.,
    • a detailed, readable map can be presented
    • zoom and scroll
    • nodes can be hyperlinked
    • collaborative maps can be developed
    • free, online

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lecture 4: Reactions to "Ghosts of Rwanda"

Although I've seen Ghosts of Rwanda four or five times now, viewing it yesterday during Lecture 4 Aggression didn't seem to get any easier or any more comfortable. And it doesn't seem to get any easier to write about.

So, my hat's off to those who have already started blogging their reactions.

I suspect we experience our own mini-psychological trauma when exposed to this kind of story and footage about human brutality on a mass social scale. I go through a kind of mini-depression for a few days after engaging in details of what happened. But I also believe that by going into some of the most difficult topics in psychology, we can emerge with a richer understanding and stronger capability for achieving more desirable outcomes.

However, I don't think we should move too lightly over our emotional reactions. They need processing - this might be a private or shared process. And then gradually as we emerge, we can explore how the events can be understood at least from a social psychological perspective.

There is more background information on the film's website (Ghosts of Rwanda), including the full transcript (thanks kelg85). There is also a lot of documentation from various sources and perspectives about the Rwandan genocide the broader societal conflict and issues (e.g.,The Rwandan Conflict: Origin, Development, Exit Strategies). Not much of this material is from social psychological perspective per se, and little seems to be by Rwandans themselves (perhaps an indication of the cultural shock and decimation). Nevertheless, books such as the following are recommended if you want to delve further:
We should also pay attention to what has been taking place since and is going on now in terms of building peace and reconciliation. We can't change the past, but we can influence the present and the future. Since 1994, there has been a huge and ongoing effort not just towards rebuilding society, but even towards creating a new society which is a model for other cultures in conflict, e.g.,

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Survival of Psychiatric Diagnosis - Prof. David Pilgrim

At the inaugural Centre for Applied Psychology lecture series at the University of Canberra today, David Pilgram presented a valuable overview of the history of psychiatric diagnosis, highlighting the anti-psychiatric criticisms of the dominant addiction to biomedical model.

Personally, I've always been kind of puzzled by psychiatric and clinical psychological committment to categorisation. Perhaps this was revealed by the audience questions which seemed to struggle with Pilgrim's suggestion that we might try approaching clinical psychological work without such heavy reliance on the social constructs of psychiatric diagnosis.

With our recent talk in the social psychology unit about schemas, I could more readily see how schemas apply to, and explain both the convenience and potential consequences of psychiatric categorisation. Diagnosis seems to offer the illusion of cognitive control over the behaviour of others. Kingsley Tonkin (one of the new clinical psych. staff at UC) made the point, for example, that diagnosis was being used as a way of acting on fear and uncertainty about indigenous people's potential future actions in Queensland.

It is easy to talk about this from a philosophical view, but I thought it was great that in the audience were individuals with so-called psychiatric issues who responded to Pilgrim's provocative views. This gave the session an extra, challenging, realism.

As an undergraduate psychology student, I remember writing an article for the university newspaper about the rapid expansion in the diagnostic categories for mental illness which have occurred in the last 100 or so years. In comparison, our vocabulary and understanding about psychological well-being had progressed little. I suggested that it might be time invest more energy in exploring and mapping out the realms of psychological well-being such as, for example, the work Ken Wilber has been doing.

Interestingly, we don't tend to diagnose and categorise well-being, but do tend to with distress. We tend to allow for diverse forms of psychological well-being without imposing artificial labels but when threatened by bouts of so-called madness, Western psychological and psychiatric culture seems to default to labeling in order to achieve a sense of control and protection.

This is not to say Western psychology hasn't achieved much and many parts of it have clearly helped many people towards improved psychological well-being and effectiveness. But many seem to forget that psychology is a young science, with much of its psychological practice heavily embedded in political and cultural agendas. So, I found it refreshing to hear David Pilgrim's warning about the potentially blinkering, limiting, and even inhumane effects of our psychiatric and clinical psychological industries and professions currently being dominated in their weltanschauung by a culturally constructed set of debatable symptom categories.


Professor David Pilgrim
Professor of Mental Health Policy, University of Central Lancashire UK and Consultant Clinical Psychologist Lancashire Care NHS Trust.

Thursday 9 August 4:30pm

"The survival of Psychiatric Diagnosis"

Professor Pilgrim will examine past and current debates about applying medical diagnoses to psychological difference in society, beginning with a brief historical overview from antiquity to 'anti-psychiatry' and a summary of recent debates. The paper then offers two case studies of common diagnoses ('depression' and 'schizophrenia').

Professor Pilgrim believes the main challenge for social science is no longer about what is wrong with psychiatric diagnosis (that is now well rehearsed) but accounting for how and why it has survived. In answering this question about survival, inter-disciplinary work could attend to the pre-empirical positions of mental health researchers; the ways in which mental disorders are similar and different to physical disorders; and the interest in work of different social groups defending or attacking psychiatric diagnoses in varying contexts.

When: Thursday 9 August, 4:30-6pm
Where: University of Canberra, 12B50

About Professor Pilgrim

David Pilgrim is Professor of Mental Health Policy, University of Central Lancashire and Consultant Clinical Psychologist Lancashire Care NHS Trust. His work over the past 20 years has been split between the NHS and higher education. Hispublications include: Pilgrim, D. (2005) Key Concepts in Mental Health, London: Sage; Cheshire, K. and Pilgrim, D. (2004) Clinical Psychology: A Short Introduction, London: Sage; Rogers, A. and Pilgrim, D. (2003) Mental Health and Inequality, Basingstoke: Palgrave; Rogers, A. and Pilgrim, D. (2001) Mental Health Policy in Britain (2nd Edition), Basingstoke: Palgrave. The third edition of A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness (with A. Rogers for Open University Press) won the BMA book award for 2006.

Also see comments on this presentation by:

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bandura, Social Learning, Aggression, & Bobo dolls (Resources)

Bandura conducted a classic study in the 1960's about the role of social learning in aggressive behaviours of children. It is also known as the "bobo doll experiment". Here's some handy resources:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Lecture 3: Social Thinking (Reflections)

In Lecture 3: Social Thinking, we examined an array of cognitive mechanisms we use for interpreting and acting on our social environments.

I suggested that these cognitive mechanisms provided the underlying architecture for the occurrence of more observable social phenomenon, including extreme events such as genocide, which can be seen as "perfect storms" of social psychological variables coming together within particularly cultural contexts.

In this lecture, we consider the role of our cognitive mechanisms in the formation and changing of attitudes, and their application in social influence and persuasion.

Key Concepts
  • Social Cognition
    • Cognitive Miser (and the duplex mind)
    • Knowledge structures
      • Schemata
      • Scripts
      • Stereotypes
    • Priming
    • Framing
    • Attributions
      • Internal vs. external
      • Correspondence Bias (or Fundamental Attribution Error)
      • Actor-observer bias
      • Self-serving bias
    • Heuristics
    • Social Perception
  • Attitudes
    • Mere-exposure effect
    • Cognitive dissonance
  • Influence and persuasion
    • Compliance and conformity
    • Normative
    • Informational
    • Minority
Social Cognition

Humans are cognitive misers in that we use our conscious mind relatively little, with most of the processing being done by the automatic mind (also see duplex mind). The automatic mind uses a variety of adaptive, cognitive shortcuts to reduce cognitive load. These schemas, scripts, stereotypes, heuristics, and so on, all serve to efficiently process complex environmental and social information, and help to provide a sense of control and predictability over our social environment.

For observed events and behaviours which are common (i.e., fit norms, schemata and scripts), our automatic mind does most of the processing. For unusual events and behaviours humans tend to want to find explanation (attribution).

There appears to be a natural tendency to connect observed behaviour with an actor's disposition. This is called correspondent inference. When we infer an actor's disposition from a behaviour and its consequences and play down possible situational explanations we demonstrate what is know as the correspondence bias or the fundamental attribution error (FAE).

We are more likely to make a FAE when dealing with others than with ourselves. We give more credence to situational explanations for our own behaviour than we do when interpreting the behaviour of others. This is the actor-observer effect.

We further demonstrate self-serving bias by tending to attribute our successes to dispositional causes and our failures to external causes; whereas we tend to do the opposite when explaining other people's behaviour.

The ultimate attribution error occurs when we use these biases in the context of groups, e.g., we tend to make self-serving attributions about our in-groups (the groups to which we belong and identify with) and out-groups.

Heuristics, schemata, scripts, stereotypes, etc. can be usefully thought of as algorithmic "nets" or "filters" which we use to catch certain kinds of information and which help us to navigate typically encountered social environments. The occurrence of unusual events is more likely to flag conscious awareness which (if cognitive capacity is available) and can then trigger consciousness thinking and consideration. However, we tend to prefer and attend more to information which is consistent with our expectations, making it difficult to change existing, largely automatic cognitive processing of our social environment.

Whilst the extent to which these cognitive biases occur is somewhat innate, it also varies across cultures. For example, the FAE is fair more prevalent in the US than in India.


Attitudes were the first major area of study in cognitively focused social psychology.

are valenced dispositions we experience towards people, objects, ideas, and events. Attitudes are the basic experience of like (attraction) or dislike (revulsion) which we experience in varying strengths to just about everything.

Attitudes tend to become polarized (become more exaggerated) over time.

Attitudes can manifest in thinking (cognition), feeling (emotion), and behaviour.

Attitudes are acquired via:
  • Mere-exposure effect
  • Classical conditioning
  • Operant conditioning
  • Social learning
and thus are shaped by all past experiences and by group memberships and social identity.

Attitude research has been criticised for the lack of relationship to actual behaviour. Attitudes are most likely to predict behaviour:
  • when the attitude is specifically related to a specific behaviour
  • over time and situations (as opposed to behaviour in a specific situation at a specific time)
  • when the behaviour is freely chosen
People like to have consistent cognitions, particularly when it comes to beliefs and attitudes. It tends to cause psychological distress to hold opposed concepts in mind. This can give rise to cognitive dissonance, particularly, for example, when one's behaviour is inconsistent with one's attitude. Dissonance can be dealt with by:
  • Changing attitude
  • Changing behaviour
  • Using defence mechanisms to deal with the dissonance (i.e., push awareness of the dissonance out of the conscious mind)
This desire for consistency appears to actually be that we like other people to have a consistent view of us.

Influence and Persuasion

Influence refers to ways in which an individual's attitudes and behaviour is altered by their perceptions of the social environment.

Normative influence occurs when your behaviour conforms with the majority, i.e., you do what everyone else does (e.g., Asch's Conformity Experiment). Going along with the majority, however, doesn't mean that your private attitude is consistent with the majority. It just means that your external behaviour fits with normative behaviour.

Informational influence occurs particularly in situations which are ambiguous or you are under cognitive load or you lack expertise. In such situations not only is your behaviour likely to conform with the majority, you are also likely to believe that other people are correct.

Influence techniques consist of various ways in which people can be manipulated into changing attitudes/behaviours, e.g., foot-in-the-door (start with a small request, then build up).

Minority influence occurs when even a single individual is a dissident (i.e., goes against the norm). Particularly when a minority is consistent in its alternative message, it can have a disproportionate influence on swaying the majority.

Persuasion is the intentional use of psychological influence techniques in order to get a person or group to adopt a desired behaviour (e.g., purchase a produce) or change an attitude (e.g., become pro-abortion).

The successfulness of an attempt at persuasion can be seen as relying on:
  • From Whom (credibility, likability)
  • Message Content (reason, emotion)
  • Audience
There are two basic routes to persuasion:
  • Alpha strategies (increasing the strong, compelling, credible argument)
  • Omega strategies (reducing/removing barriers/resistance)