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liver problems, pregnancy complications, and brain shrinkage and other neurological problems (Bagnardi et al., 2001). Several controversial studies (Mukamal et al., 2003; Mukamal et al., 2005) suggest that light-to-moderate drinking—defined as two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women—lessen the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, a rival explanation for these findings is that people who drink only moderate amounts of alcohol, such as wine, may have higher incomes and healthier lifestyles than people who either abstain from drinking or drink more than two drinks at a sitting (Lieber, 2003). Another hypothesis is that people who abstain are in poorer health to begin with than are light or moderate drinkers. Never- theless, meta-analyses comparing drinkers with non-drinkers who abstained because they chose to do so (not because of poor health, disability or weakness) found no health differ- ences between drinkers and abstainers (Fillmore et al., 2006). At this time, we cannot be sure that any amount of alcohol is safe, much less good for our health. One thing is reasonably certain, however: drinking heavily is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (Bagnardi et al., 2001). Fortunately, many of the negative effects of alcohol, including changes in the brain, can be reversed or minimised when we abstain from drinking (Tyas, 2001). HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR #3: ACHIEVE A HEALTHY WEIGHT. It is all over the news: Austral- ians are now among the most overweight people in the world. A recent national Australian Health Survey revealed that almost 60 per cent of Australian adults were classified as over- weight and more than 25 per cent of these were in the obese range (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The number of obese children and adolescents has tripled over the past decade or so, signalling an ominous trend. According to some researchers, our society faces an ‘obesity epidemic’ of enormous proportions, due in large measure to decreases in our physical activity (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2004). People who are obese are at greater risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, some types of cancer, respiratory problems and diabetes (Klein et al., 2004; Kurth et al., 2003). Those who carry their weight around the abdomen (so-called spare tyres) are at even greater risk for health problems, including CHD (Yusuf et al., 2004). Exercise is one of the best means of shedding that annoying fat around the tummy and losing weight over the long haul (Pronk & Wing, 1994). The more inactive we are, and the more time we spend watching television and using computers, the more likely we are to be obese (Ching et al., 1996; Gortmaker et al., 1996). Of course, these findings are only correlational; it is also possible that people who are obese are weaker and less energetic, and become couch potatoes as a result. Indeed, there is considerable controversy over how much of the negative association between obesity and physical health is due to obesity itself as opposed to the behaviours that often go along with it, such as inactivity ◀ RULING OUt RIVaL hYPOthESES Have important alternative explanations for the findings been excluded? TABLE 12.2 Reasons for obesity in Australia aside from diet and lack of exercise (1) Lack of adequate sleep, which directly causes weight gain (2) Endocrine disruptors in foods, which modify fats in the body (3) Comfortable temperatures as a result of heating/air conditioning that decrease kilojoules burned from sweating and shivering (4) Use of medicines that contribute to weight gain (5) Increasing numbers in certain segments of the population, such as middle-aged people, who have higher rates of obesity (6) Increase in mothers who give birth at older ages, which is associated with heavier children (7) Genetic influences during pregnancy (8) Moderately overweight people possibly having an evolutionary advantage over very thin people and being more likely to survive: Darwinian natural selection (9) People tending to marry people with a similar body type, a phenomenon called assortative mating—when heavy people reproduce, they are likely to give birth to relatively heavy children Promoting good health—and less stress! 523 M12_LILI6786_02_SE_C12.indd 523 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 217 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. and poor nutrition (Campos, 2004; Johnson, 2005). Actually, there is evidence for both causal explanations. If an obese person, say a 1.8-metre tall, 100-kilo man, sheds even 10 per cent of his weight, his health will improve (Wing & Polley, 2001). Losing weight reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of diabetes (Kanders & Blackburn, 1992), and often has the added benefit of reducing anxiety and improving mood (Wadden & Stunkard, 1993). Overweight individuals suffer from a variety of social and emotional problems, too. Many obese children are subject to teasing (Thompson et al., 2005). When they become adolescents and adults, they often experience discrimination in the social arena and the workplace (Crandall, 1994; Schwartz, et al., 2006). In one study of 9125 adults, obese people were 25 per cent more likely to suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder compared with people of normal weight (Simon et al., 2006). It is not clear whether depression triggers obesity or whether obesity sets the stage for depression. Yet the positive association between obesity and depression counters the popular stereotype of the obese person as cheerful or ‘jolly’ (Roberts et al., 2002). Our negative attitudes toward obesity run so deep that 46 per cent of people say they would rather give up at least a year of their lives than be obese, and 30 per cent would rather be divorced than obese (Schwartz et al., 2006). Clearly, overweight people suffer in many respects. Researchers followed a group of people aged 16–24 for seven years (Gortmaker et al., 1993). At the end of the study, individuals who were overweight were less wealthy, didn’t progress as far in school, and were less likely to be married. These changes occurred independently of intelligence and financial status at the start of the study, bolstering the claim that prejudice and discrimi- nation account for the plight of overweight people. Tips for achieving a healthy weight. Given the many social and medical reasons for losing weight, it is no wonder that people have tried all manner of products touted as effective for weight loss. These fad treatments include weight-loss crystals, foot pads to ‘detoxify’ the body, electrical muscle stimulators, and body wrapping to flush fat out of the body. Contrary to the advertisements for these products that appear on late-night television, the products are entirely devoid of scientific support (Corbett, 2006). Bookstores are crammed with books on the latest diet crazes that promise to help us lose weight effortlessly and in remarkably short periods of time. Many of them offer conflicting and confusing recommendations based on little more than someone’s pet theory, rather than careful research. Examples include the Pleistocene diet, the popcorn diet and the grapefruit diet (Danbrot, 2004; Herskowitz, 1987; Thompson & Ahrens, 2004). Some people on these diets may experience dramatic short-term weight loss, but this loss is almost always followed by a gradual return of the initial weight (Brownell & Rodin, 1994), resulting in the well-known ‘yo-yo effect’ that often accompanies dieting. Crash diets—those in which people severely restrict kilojoules (often down to 4200 kilo- joules per day for several weeks)—are not likely to result in long-term weight loss and are unhealthy (Shade et al., 2004). One key tip-off that a diet is based on fad rather than fact is that it promises a quick fix—that is, a way to lose large amounts of weight in short periods of time (‘Lose 10 kilos in 2 weeks on the Miracle Weight-Loss Plan!’), often without even exercising. Recently, researchers found that overweight people on the popular ‘low-carb’ diet lost more weight than their counterparts on other diets, including a low-fat, high- carbohydrate diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and pasta (Gardner et al., 2007). However, after six months, people on most or all diets begin to regain their weight and to stray from their diet plans. The bottom line? It is difficult to lose weight, on a long-term basis, by altering your diet alone (Mann et al., 2007). One variable that affects our dieting success is our genes. Perhaps as much as half of the differences in people’s tendency to become overweight is genetically influenced (Bouchard, 1995; Wing & Polley, 2001). Researchers have pinpointed specific genes asso- ciated with obesity, which appear related to appetite and energy use (Bouchard et al., CORRELatION VS CaUSatION ▶ Can we be sure that A causes B? REPLICaBILItY ▶ Can the results be duplicated in other studies? 524 ChaPtER 12 Stress, coping and health M12_LILI6786_02_SE_C12.indd 524 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 218 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. 2004; Campfield, Smith & Burn, 1996). These discoveries suggest that it might one day be possible to develop drugs that switch genes on and off to control weight. While we are waiting, there is still much we can do to achieve a stable, healthy weight, regardless of our genetic heritage. Here is some basic advice to follow for controlling your weight and eating a healthy diet: 1. Exercise regularly, stop smoking and drinking excessively, sleep at least eight hours a night, and cut down on television time—unless you are watching it while exercising, of course (Mozaffarian et al., 2011). 2. Monitor your total kilojoule intake and body weight (Wing & Hill, 2001). 3. Limit your intake of potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats, and processed meats, and eat more whole grains, nuts, yoghurt and fruits (Mozaffarian et al., 2011). 4. Eat foods with ‘good fats’, such as olive oil and fish oil, which exert protective effects on health. 5. Get help from your social network to support your efforts to lose weight (Wing & Jeffrey, 1999). 6. Control portion size. Do not make a habit of ordering the ‘meal deal’ when you only wanted a sandwich. HEALTHY BEHAVIOUR #4: EXERCISE. Help for some psychological ailments may be as close as our running shoes. Research suggests that such activities as regular jogging, weight-lifting and yoga for eight weeks or longer can relieve depression (Mutrie, 1988; Palmer, 1995), and running at a fast pace and engaging in other exercise on a regular basis can relieve anxiety (Landers, 1998; Phillips, Kiernan & King, 2001). Contrary to the popular ‘no pain, no gain’ belief that exercise must be vigorous and sustained to do any good, 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week, including gardening and cleaning, can lead to improved fitness and health (Blair et al., 1992; Pate et al., 1995; see Table 12.3, overleaf). In a study conducted in Finland (Paffenbarger et al., 1986), middle-aged men who did not get much physical activity on the job but who burned off 8400 kilojoules (the equivalent of about four meat pies) a week in their spare time lived two-and-a-half years longer on average than men who were less active in their leisure hours. Of course, people who are less active may be less physically fit to begin with. Still, it is likely that the extra years of life are attributable at least in part to the fact that regular physical exercise can lower blood pressure and risk for CHD, improve lung function, relieve the symptoms of arthritis, decrease diabetes risk and even cut the risk of breast and colon cancer (Barbour, Houle & Dubbert, 2003; Wei et al., 1999). Although even moderate exercise—at about the level of a brisk walk—can reap health benefits, more sustained and vigorous exercise is needed to reach our fitness potential. BUT CHANGING LIFESTYLES IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE. Why do we have difficulty changing our lifestyles, even when we know that bad habits can endanger our health? As many as 30 to 70 per cent of patients do not take their doctor’s medical advice (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, USA, 1998) and as many as 80 per cent do not follow their doctor’s recommendations to get exercise, stop smoking, change their diet or take prescribed medications (Berlant & Pruitt, 2003). The extent of some medical noncom- pliance is truly staggering. Paula Vincent (1971) found that 58 per cent of patients with glaucoma, a serious eye disease, did not take their prescribed eye drops, even though they knew that their failure to do so could make them go blind! Personal inertia. One reason is that it is difficult to overcome personal inertia— to try something new. Many self-destructive habits relieve stress and do not create an imminent health threat, so it is easy for us to ‘let things be’. Eating a huge portion of ice-cream does not seem terribly dangerous when we view heart disease as a distant and ◀ CORRELatION VS CaUSatION Can we be sure that A causes B? Aerobic exercise, including rowing, swimming and cycling, is an excellent way to lose weight, stay fit and maintain or even improve cardiovascular health. (Source: Alex Bramwell/ Dreamstime.) Promoting good health—and less stress! 525 M12_LILI6786_02_SE_C12.indd 525 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 219 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. uncertain catastrophe. John Norcross and his colleagues found that only 19 per cent of those who made a New Year’s resolution to change a problem behaviour, including changing their diet or exercising more, maintained the change when followed up two years later (Norcross, Ratzin & Payne, 1989; Norcross & Vangarelli, 1989). Misestimating risk. Another reason we maintain the status quo is that we under- estimate certain risks to our health and overestimate others. To illustrate this point, try answering the following three questions: In Australia, which causes more deaths: 1. All types of accidents combined or strokes? 2. All motor vehicle (car, truck, bus and motorcycle) accidents combined or digestive cancer? 3. Diabetes or homicide? The answers are (1) strokes (by about two-fold), (2) digestive cancer (by about three-fold) and (3) diabetes (by about four-fold). If you got one or more of these questions wrong, the odds are you relied on the availability heuristic (see Chapter 2)—the mental shortcut by which we judge the likelihood of an event by the ease with which it comes to mind (Hertwig, Pachur & Kurzenhauser, 2005; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). Because the news media provide far more coverage of dramatic accidents and homicides than strokes, digestive cancer or diabetes, we overestimate the probability of accidents and homicides and underestimate the probability of many diseases. And because the media feature so many emotional and memorable stories of famous women—such as singers Kylie Minogue and Olivia Newton- John, actress Belinda Emmett and Janette Howard, wife of former PM John Howard—who have developed breast cancer, we are likely to think of breast cancer as a more commonly occurring and deadly illness than heart disease (Ruscio, 2000). Heart disease is less news- worthy precisely because it is more commonplace, and perhaps less terrifying, than cancer with its troubling treatment-related side-effects, including very obvious hair loss. TABLE 12.3 Kilojoules burned associated with everyday activities and regular exercise activities for people at three different weight levels 10 MINUTES OF ACTIVITY 55–80 KILOGRAMS 81–114 KILOGRAMS 115+ KILOGRAMS Everyday activities Watching television Dressing 42 109 59 155 76 222 Exercise Walking upstairs Walking at 3.5 km per hour Running at 11 km per hour Cycling at 9 km per hour 613 122 495 176 848 168 689 243 1209 244 794 349 Housework Vacuuming Weeding garden 273 206 374 286 546 412 Sedentary activities Typing on computer 80 113 164 Light physical labour House painting 122 168 244 Sports Basketball Swimming (backstroke) Swimming (freestyle) Volleyball 244 134 168 181 344 189 235 273 419 269 336 395 526 ChaPtER 12 Stress, coping and health M12_LILI6786_02_SE_C12.indd 526 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 220 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. In general, we underestimate the frequency of the most common causes of death and overestimate the occurrence of the least common causes of death (Lichtenstein et al., 1978). These errors in judgement can be costly: if women believe heart disease is not a threat, they may not change their lifestyle. If we told you that a fully loaded passenger jet crashed every week in Australia, you would be horrified and probably outraged. ‘Why aren’t they doing something to stop this?’ you might justifiably ask. Yet the equivalent of that number—about 350 people— die each week in Australia from smoking-related causes (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). How likely is it we will actually die in a plane crash? Not likely at all, even if we spend years racking up our frequent-flyer miles. We would need to fly in commercial airliners for about 10 000 years straight—that is, around the clock without any breaks— before the odds of our dying in a plane crash exceed 50 per cent. But because plane crashes make big news, we overestimate their frequency. Many of us are well aware of health risks, but do not take them to ‘heart’, pun intended. Smokers greatly overestimate their chances of living to the age of 75 ( Schoenbaum, 1997). Others of us rationalise our lifestyle choices by telling ourselves, ‘Something’s going to kill me anyway, so I might as well enjoy my life and do whatever I want’. Feeling powerless. Still others of us feel powerless to change, perhaps because our habits are so deeply ingrained. Consider a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. We can calculate the number of times she has inhaled cigarette smoke. There are 20 cigarettes in a pack and the average number of inhalations per cigarette is 10, so the number of inhalations per day is 200. If we assume that she has smoked for 15 years, we arrive at the total number of inhalations as follows: 365 (days/year) × 200 (inhalations/ day) × 15 (number of years she has smoked) = 1 095 000 inhalations. Being so accustomed to inhaling cigarette smoke, she may feel that it is too late for her to stop smoking or that it would be impossible to change this habitual behaviour. PREVENTION PROGRAMMES. Because modifying such well-ingrained behaviours can be so difficult, we are best off not developing them in the first place. Prevention efforts should begin by adolescence, if not earlier, because the earlier in life we develop unhealthy STRESS REDUCTION AND RELAXATION TECHNIQUES evaluating CLaIMS We all have stress in our lives, whether it comes from our course work, jobs, families, or all three. The internet offers a wide array of techniques for reducing stress, but it is often difficult to identify which techniques are supported by sound science. Let’s evaluate some of these claims, which are modelled after actual stress-reduction websites. ‘Here are some helpful tips for reducing stress. Remember, there is no “one size fits all” solution and all of these methods require that you change the way you approach and deal with potential stressors in your life.’ This site avoids exaggerated claims by acknowledging that there is no miracle cure for stress. The methods of stress reduction and relief differ for every person and require us to make changes in our lives. ‘Our all-natural pills allow you to wipe away all the stress in your life—instantly and naturally.’ What’s wrong with this advertiser’s claim that the pills offer an ‘all-natural’ approach to stress reduction? Does the promise to eliminate all forms of stress in your life seem plausible? Why or why not? ‘Top experts agree that Trans-Cortex space- dimensional music CDs can relax up to 90% of overstressed listeners!’ How much weight should we give to statements that appeal to the authority of unnamed ‘top experts’ who endorse a product with a fancy-sounding, made-up name? What might be the problem with statistics that claim a success rate of ‘up to 90%’?( Source: Pixland/Thinkstock.) Promoting good health—and less stress! 527 M12_LILI6786_02_SE_C12.indd 527 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 221 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. 9781488618826_T.indd 222 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. 9781488618826_T.indd 223 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. 9781488618826_T.indd 224 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. LO 12.14 EVALUATE THE USEFULNESS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DEBRIEFING FOLLOWING TRAUMA. Following a traumatic event, psychological debriefing involves people discussing their reactions to the event in a group. Recent studies indicate that psychological debriefing is not effective for ameliorating trauma reactions, and in fact several studies suggest that it may actually increase the risk of PTSD. 45. Psychological debriefing may __________ the risk of PTSD among people exposed to trauma by getting in the way of people’s natural coping strategies. 46. Following the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires, the Australian government (did/did not) employ psychological debriefers. Promoting good health—and less stress! 521–528 LO 12.15 IDENTIFY FOUR BEHAVIOURS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. Behaviours that can promote health include not smoking, curbing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising. 47. The field of psychology that integrates the behavioural sciences with the practice of medicine is called __________ __________. 48. Health psychologists make the treatment and prevention of __________ a high priority, because it is the leading cause of preventable disease and deaths in Australia. 49. Research has shown that heavy __________ is associated with significant increases in many different types of cancer, serious and sometimes fatal liver problems, and brain shrinkage and other neurological problems. 50. Look up the formula to calculate your BMI and determine your weight status category. 51. Genes (play/do not play) a role in people’s tendency to become overweight. LO 12.16 IDENTIFY REASONS WHY IT IS DIFFICULT TO CHANGE OUR LIFESTYLES. Reasons it is difficult to change our lifestyle include personal inertia, a tendency to misestimate risk, and feelings of powerlessness. 52. Because of the __________ heuristic, we tend to underestimate certain risks to our health and overestimate others. expressing emotions at will). Flexible coping (adjusting coping strategies to specific situations) is also helpful. 34. ___________ __________ encompasses our relationships with people and groups that provide emotional and financial assistance as we contend with important decisions or stressful situations. 35. What are the benefits of a strong social network when an individual is undergoing stressful or challenging life events? 36. The ability to step up and take action to reduce the impact of a stressful situation is an example of __________ __________. 37. __________ __________ is the ability to think differently about negative emotions that arise in response to stress-provoking events. 38. We engage in __________ __________ when we anticipate stressful situations and take steps to prevent or minimise difficulties before they arise. 39. What is psychological debriefing, and how effective is it for people who have experienced a traumatic event? LO 12.12 EXPLAIN HOW OUR ATTITUDES, BELIEFS AND PERSONALITIES MAY INFLUENCE OUR RESPONSES TO STRESS. Hardy people view change as challenge, have a deep sense of commitment to their life and work, and believe they can control events. Optimism and spirituality boost stress resistance, whereas rumination is not an adaptive way of coping with stressful circumstances. 40. __________ is a set of attitudes, marked by a sense of control over events, commitment to life and work, and motivation and courage to confront stressful events. 41. Optimistic people are (better/worse) at handling frustration than are pessimists. 42. __________ is the search for the sacred, which may or may not extend to belief in God. 43. Spending a good deal of time ruminating is a (productive/ counterproductive) way of reacting to a stressful situation. LO 12.13 IDENTIFY SITUATIONS IN WHICH EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION IS MOST BENEFICIAL, AND TIMES WHEN EMOTIONAL SUPPRESSION IS BENEFICIAL. 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Assessing coping strategies: a theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267–283. References apply your scientific thinking skills Use your scientific thinking skills to answer the following questions, referencing specific scientific thinking principles and common errors in reasoning whenever possible. 1. People can attend a wide variety of support groups, both in person and online. Research at least two of them and describe the types of social support that each offers. What scientifically supported methods do they use to help individuals gain control over their problems? 2. An estimated 21 per cent of Australian men and 18 per cent of women smoke cigarettes daily, despite scientific research that shows the negative impact that smoking has on their health. Compare the approaches used by three different anti-smoking programmes (such as those using behavior modification, hypnosis, or drugs in a patch or gum). 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Social psychology HOW OTHERS AFFECT US LEARNING OBJECTIVES LO 13.1 Identify the ways in which social situations influence the behaviour of individuals. LO 13.2 Explain how the fundamental attribution error can cause us to misjudge others’ behaviours. LO 13.3 Determine the factors that influence when we conform to others. LO 13.4 Recognise the dangers of group decision-making, and identify ways to avoid mistakes common in group decisions. LO 13.5 Identify the factors that maximise or minimise obedience to authority. LO 13.6 Explain which aspects of a situation increase or decrease the likelihood of bystander intervention. LO 13.7 Describe the social and individual difference variables that contribute to human aggression. LO 13.8 Describe how attitudes relate to behaviour. LO 13.9 Evaluate theoretical accounts of how and when we alter our attitudes. LO 13.10 Identify common and effective persuasion techniques, and how they are exploited by pseudoscientists. LO 13.11 Distinguish prejudice and stereotypes as beliefs from discrimination as a behaviour. LO 13.12 Identify some of the causes of prejudice, and describe methods for combating it. CHAPTER 13 M13_LILI6786_02_SE_C13.indd 538 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 232 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. (Sources: Tischenko Irina/Shutterstock; Masterfile.) M13_LILI6786_02_SE_C13.indd 539 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 233 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. 9781488618826_T.indd 234 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. social influences—conformity and obedience—and then address the question of why we help people at some times and harm them at others. Then, we discuss our attitudes and how social pressure shapes them. We end by exploring the troubling question of how prejudice towards others arises, and, more optimistically, how we can combat it. Humans as a social species Social psychology is important for one reason: we humans are a highly social species. Most evidence suggests that as early hominids in Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago, we evolved in relatively small and tight social groups (Barchas, 1986). Even as modern-day humans, most of us naturally gravitate to small groups. In forming cliques, or groups that include some people—in-group members—we exclude others—out-group members. GRAVITATING TO EACH OTHER—TO A POINT. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar (1993) has become famous for a number: 150. This number is the approximate size of most human social groups, from the hunter–gatherers of days of yore to today’s scientists working in a specialised research area (Gladwell, 2002). Research suggests that 150 is also close to the average number of people that each of us knows reasonably well. Dunbar argued that the size of our neocortex (see Chapter 3) relative to the rest of our brain places limits on how many people we can closely associate with. For animals with smaller neocortices relative to the rest of their brains, such as chimpanzees and dolphins, the number of relationships may be smaller (Dunbar, 1993; Marino, 2005). Whether or not 150 is the universal Magic Number, Dunbar is probably right: our highly social brains are predis- posed to forming intimate interpersonal networks that are large—but only so large. THE NEED TO BELONG: WHY WE FORM GROUPS. When we are deprived of social contact for a considerable length of time, we usually become lonely. According to Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary’s (1995) need to belong theory, humans have a biologically based need for interpersonal connections. We seek out social bonds when we can, and suffer negative psychological and physical consequences when we cannot. Research on inmates placed in solitary confinement suggests that they experience more psycholog- ical symptoms, especially mood and anxiety problems, than do other inmates (Andersen et al., 2000; Grassian, 2006), although because the former inmates may be more emotion- ally maladjusted to begin with, this finding is difficult to interpret. Researchers have investigated these consequences either by isolating people (Schacter, 1959), giving them bogus personality feedback suggesting that they are ‘the type who will end up alone later in life’, or by excluding them in an experimental game. In ‘Cyberball’, a game developed by Sydney researchers, a person plays a computerised ball-tossing game with other (actually non-existent) ‘participants’, who after a few turns start to toss the ball only to one another. This apparently trivial act of ostracism damages people’s self-esteem and sense of meaningfulness (Zadro, Williams & Richardson, 2004), makes them feel dehumanised (Bastian & Haslam, 2010) and activates the same brain region (the cingulate cortex; see Chapter 3) that also becomes active during physical pain (Eisenberger, Lieberman & Williams, 2003). Other research shows that social exclusion leads people to engage in unhealthy behaviours (Twenge, Catanese & Baumeister, 2002), impairs their performance in IQ tests (Baumeister, Twenge & Nuss, 2002) and increases aggression (Twenge, Baumeister, Tice & Stucke, 2001). Amazingly, exclusion hurts even when it is perpetrated by people we despise (Gonsalkorale & Williams, 2007). Belonging and being socially accepted are truly fundamental for human beings. HOW WE CAME TO BE THIS WAY: EVOLUTION AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR. We will soon be examining many unhealthy forms of social influence, such as how unques- tioning acceptance of authority figures can lead us to do foolish things. Thus, we might be What is social psychology? 541 M13_LILI6786_02_SE_C13.indd 541 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 235 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. 9781488618826_T.indd 236 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. social facilitation enhancement of performance brought about by the presence of others Each of the false stories in Figure 13.2 is too bizarre to be true, yet people consist- ently believe them, and far more. Urban legends are convincing in part because they fit our preconceptions (Gilovich, 1991). Urban legends also make good stories because they tug on our emotions, especially negative ones (Rosnow, 1980). Research shows that the most popular urban legends contain a heavy dose of material relevant to the emotion of disgust, probably because they arouse our perverse sense of curiosity. As a result, they often spread like wildfire. It is probably not coincidental that many feature rats and other animals that we do not exactly find appealing (Heath, Bell & Sternberg, 2001). SOCIAL FACILITATION: FROM CYCLISTS TO COCKROACHES. Because we are social creatures, being surrounded by others can make us perform better. Research shows that the mere presence of others can enhance our performance in certain situations, a phenomenon that Robert Zajonc called social facilitation. In the world’s first social psychological study, Norman Triplett (1897) found that cycle racers obtained faster speeds (52.2 kilometres per hour on average) when racing along with other cyclists than when racing against only the clock (38.4 kilometres per hour on average). Zajonc (1965) found that social facilitation applies to birds, fish and even insects. In what is surely one of the most creative studies in the history of psychology, Zajonc and two colleagues randomly assigned cockroaches to two conditions: one in which they ran a maze alone and another in which they ran a maze while being observed by an audience of fellow cockroaches from a ‘spectator box’. Compared with the lone cockroaches, cockroaches in the second condition ran the maze significantly faster and committed fewer errors (Zajonc, Heingartner & Herman, 1969). Yet the impact of others on our behaviour is not always positive (Bond & Titus, 1983). Social facilitation occurs only on tasks we find easy, whereas social disruption—a worsening of behaviour in the presence of others—occurs on tasks we find difficult. You have probably discovered this principle if you have ever ‘choked’ in the company of others while singing a difficult song or telling a lengthy joke with a complicated punchline. One team of researchers watched people playing pool (Michaels et al., 1982). The experienced pool players did better in the presence of others, but the inexperienced pool players did worse. The effects of social influence can be either positive or negative, depending on the situation. A woman heated her poodle in a microwave oven in a well-meaning attempt to dry it off following a rainstorm. It exploded. While still alive, Walt Disney arranged to have his body frozen after his death so that it could be unfrozen at a future date when advanced technology will permit him to live again. Outside her home, a woman found a small stray animal that she identified as a Chihuahua. She cared for the pet for several weeks and eventually brought it to a veterinarian, who informed her that her cute little ‘dog’ was actually a rat. Many gang members drive around late at night without their car lights on, and then shoot people who flash their lights at them. A woman on a transatlantic flight was trapped in the bathroom for over two hours after flushing the toilet created a vacuum, binding her to the seat. FIGURE 13.2 Urban legend? Some popular urban legends: all are widely known, yet all are false. (Source: www.snopes.com.) from inquiry to understanding WHY ARE YAWNS CONTAGIOUS? One vivid illustration of the power of social influence comes from the phenomenon of conta- gious yawning. Both everyday observation and systematic research bear out the fact that once someone in a group starts yawning, others do, too (Provine, 2012). Yawning doesn’t spread merely from person to person; it even spreads from written material to people (Platek et al., 2003; Provine, 2005). Indeed, as you are reading this paragraph, you may find yourself starting to yawn (hopefully not because you are bored!). Between 40 and 60 per cent of adults yawn soon after seeing another person yawn, and many yawn even after reading the word yawn (Platek, Mohamed & Gallup, 2005). Yet the psychological and physiological functions of yawning, and contagious yawning in particular, remain mysterious. Although yawning emerges in foetuses as early as three months following conception, contagious yawning does not typically emerge until about age four (Helt et al., 2010). This developmental trend may reflect the emergence of empathy and theory of mind (see Chapter 10) in children; as we become better able to identify with others’ mental states, we become more likely to mimic their actions. Interestingly, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (see Chapter 16), who tend to exhibit theory of mind deficits, are less likely than other individuals to engage in contagious yawns (Helt et al., 2010). People prone to schizophrenia may exhibit the same absence of contagious yawning (Haker & Rössler, 2009). What is social psychology? 543 M13_LILI6786_02_SE_C13.indd 543 13/08/14 2:35 PM 9781488618826_T.indd 237 1/11/17 11:38 AM Copyright © 2017 Pearson Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) – 9781488618826 – Lilienfeld/Health, Behaviour and Society HSBH1003 CB. r hour on average). Zajonc (1965) found that social facilitation applies to birds, fish and even insects. In what is surely one of the most creative studies in the history of psychology, Zajonc and two colleagues randomly assigned cockroaches to two conditions: one in which they ran a maze alone and another in which they ran a maze while being observed by an audience of fellow cockroaches from a ‘spectator box’. Compared with the lone cockroaches, cockroaches in the second condition ran the maze significantly faster and committed fewer errors (Zajonc, Heingartner & Herman, 1969). Yet the impact of others on our behaviour is not always positive (Bond & Titus, 1983). Social facilitation occurs only on tasks we find easy, whereas social disruption—a worsening of behaviour in the presence of others—occurs on tasks we find difficult. You have probably discovered this principle if you have ever ‘choked’ in the company of others while singing a difficult song or telling a lengthy joke with a complicated punchline. One team of researchers watched people playing