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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Studies on Human Behavior Part 4:

Solomon Asch conducted several tests involving peer pressure to conform. This experiment is related to other experiments that we have already looked at, Stanford Prison and Milgram experiments. Asch wanted to see how peer pressure would work on people giving incorrect responses because peers were giving the incorrect responses. The experiment involved 8 people sitting around a table with only one of them being the actual subject the rest were confederates. The 8 participants answered a simple question of which line was longest or which line was similar to a reference line. The confederates would at first get answers correct and then start to get them incorrect thus giving Asch a reference point to see how much the subject was influenced by the other people.

The results were very interesting and showed that peer pressure could have a measurable influence on answers given.  In the control group where everyone gave the correct responses there was only 1 incorrect response out of 35. On the other hand when "peers" were giving incorrect responses over one third of the subjects gave incorrect responses. At least 75% of the subjects gave the wrong answer to at least one question when the "peers" were giving incorrect responses.

Follow up experiments showed that with more confederates and the more forceful they were made a difference in the results. One confederate made little difference but influence increased as two or three were added. Also if one confederate disagreed with the other confederates it improved the likely hood that the participant would choose the right answer.

Some things to keep in mind is that the experiment was conducted on all young men who are more impressionable than older adults. However, younger subjects would most likely be more influenced.

This is a great study that shows that people can be easily peer pressured into doing things even if they know that what they are getting pressured into is wrong. People want to fit in. Very few people want to stand out from the crowd. In fact society generally punishes those who stand out, think about your "nerds" and "geeks" in elementary school.

So tell me how this relates to characterization.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Studies on Human Behavior Part 3:

Okay today we will be looking at the Robbers Cave Experiment conducted in 1954 by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif. In this study the researchers were looking at prejudice in social groups. This study was conducted in a 200 acres summer camp surrounded by the Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. In this study 24 twelve-year-old boys with similar backgrounds. There were two buses with twelve boys in each and they were taken to two separate areas in the camp. There were 3 phases: In-group formation, Friction phase, and an integration phase.

None of the boys knew each other previously yet hostilities towards the other group were observed within days of first contact. The friction phase commenced but ended quickly because the boys became too hostile with each other and so the researchers believed they were unsafe to continue so phase three commenced. After phase three the groups worked together and wanted to be friends to the extent that they all insisted on riding home together on the same bus.

If any of you have seen "Lord of the Flies" you have seen this experiment in movie form. It is the idea that in-group hierarchy takes place as well as out-of-group hierarchy. In realistic conflict theory this means that inter-group conflict arises between groups as they compete over the same limited resources. They suggest that this could be a possible cause of prejudice and discrimination.

So this is a little broader than just our characters but also includes the societies that our characters live in. What is the hierarchy of our societies? Where do our characters fit into this hierarchy? How does it affect them? Does our character fit into the mold or are they breaking the mold? If they are breaking it why, what is their motivation?
I hope you are all enjoying these fascinating experiments as much as I am :) Yes I know they are unethical but still fascinating.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Studies on Human Behavior Part 2:

I'm back, hopefully a few people noticed :) Sorry for the long time since writing and no excuses will be given other than one word, thesis.

In the second study on human behavior I chose the Stanford Prison Experiment. I will not give all the details here but for information on it please refer to this link. In a nutshell Phillip Zimbardo, in 1971, wanted to expand upon the the Milgram study that we discussed last week. Zimbardo decided that prison guards and inmates would be a good place to look to see how humans behave in stressful situations. So, he had 24 participants half guards and half prisoners. The guards gained to much power and became inhumane and abusive and so the study ended in six days rather than the scheduled 14 days. Many of the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. Five of the prisoners began to experience problems that they were released from the study even sooner than the 6 days. Keep in mind that these participants were Stanford students with no criminal behavior, lacked psychological issues and had no major medical conditions.

So another study showing how human behavior under extreme pressures can cause humans to do things that they normally would never do. I think that this study also shows what happens to people that are put into adverse situations (prisoners) and what will happen to them and how short a time it takes (only 6 days some less) for them to break down. This also makes me think of "hardened" criminals. How do they withstand the same psychological breakdown, or do they?

Our characters need to have something that keeps them from breaking. Is it their inner resolve to do what is right? Are they supported by others? Are they slowly immersed in the situation so that they become used to it (the crab in boiling water)? What makes them so resilient when the vast majority of us would break? or do they break and because of that break does it change them forever due to guilt, resolve to do better etc.?

Let me know what you think.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Studies on Human Behavior Part 1:

I wanted to start a series on several studies that have looked at human behavior. The studies I want to look at are the ones done earlier on in psychology and probably would not get approval in today's world, but I think they are valuable in helping us as writers to better understand how humans behave in extreme circumstances. 

The first study that I want to look at is one by Stanley Milgram in 1961. The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was an experiment in which Milgram wanted to better understand the willingness of participants to obey authority. Milgram wanted to better understand why people will do horrible things such as the things done in concentration camps by people who normally would not do those type of things. He asked the question "Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?" In other words, "Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?” The results from the testing suggested that the millions of accomplices were just following orders.

The study was setup so that the participant was taken into a room with another person and they were told that they would be helping another person learn by shocking them when they made a mistake. The participant could see the learner through a one way mirror and they were told that the student on the other side of the mirror could not see them. The student was an actor in actuality and he was not shocked during the experiment although he acted as if he was. So the instructor told the participant that if the student missed the question he must shock them and the amount of shock would be turned up for each missed question. As the actor was shocked he began to complain of heart problems and would even bang on the wall. Most participants said they wanted to check on the actor after this but the person in the room with the participant assured the participant that they would not be held liable and that they must continue the test. If four verbal prods were given and the participant wanted to stop the experiment would stop otherwise they would continue until the full 450 volts had been administered.

The results showed that 65 percent of the participants administered the full voltage. That is 26 out of 40 would have killed a person when instructed to do so by an authority figure. They all questioned it but they still continued on. Milgram said, “Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Okay besides being really scary this tells us a lot about human nature and authority. So the million dollar question is why does your character buck the system and go against authority? What is special about your character? 

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