Sunday, 2 February 2020

The Highs of University (vs. School) Life

Whilst I have spoken about the highs of my time at university, they often relate directly to my course. However, coming into my 2nd year I have begun to appreciate the several positives that some with being a university student in general. Having spoken a lot on my blog about the challenges that come with being a student, it's only about time that I do a whole post dedicated to the other side! This will also be sort of a university vs. school post as well.

The one thing that I love about university, is that it allows you to meet your own expectations without being compared against other people. Of course, you're still going to end up making comparisons and need to meet expectations set by your department,t but your work is down to your own effort and individual performance. Mark schemes are standardised and independently applied to your work. They don't change depending on the outcomes of your peers as they do at school. Your lecturers focus on what you can do as an individual and acknowledge that everyone is working against different strengths and weaknesses so there is no shame in being bad at something that someone else is doing amazingly well at. | Pxhere | CC0 1.0
Another thing which I have so much appreciation for is the mutual level of respect between the staff and students. Being at school there was a very clear line of authority and you weren't allowed to give your opinions or 'talk back' without being punished, even when it was a reasonable comment to make. Coming to university from school where they made lecturers sound like such scary people, I was so nervous about being able to speak to my lecturers if I ever needed to. Despite having achieved their PhD and/ or professorships all my lecturers are happy for you to simply call them by their names. Some even explicitly told us to not address them by 'professor' or 'dr'. They don't treat you like you're inferior to them and respect you as any other individual they come across. It's wonderful to just be able to have an honest conversation with them without being afraid of saying something that I'm not allowed to. They are also extremely open to constructive feedback about their classes or the department in general.

What makes it easier to be able to speak to my personal tutor, another academic, or someone from the admin team about personal circumstances if need be is that confidentiality actually exists. At school the concept doesn't even seem to mean anything. One thing that frustrated me so much about school was that one thing happens or you say something to a teacher and suddenly the whole school knows your business when there's absolutely no need. Unless there is a need to for your safety, anything you say in your tutor's office, to another member of staff in your department or the university stays as a private conversation between you and them. If they feel like they may have to tell someone else, they will probably let you know. Unless they are concerned about you for some reason, they aren't going to pry into your personal life either. You can tell them as much or a little as you need to. As a result, I've learned to be more open. It has allowed me to re-establish some trust and understanding of what it means to actually have a safe-space.

Dmitry Ratushny | Unsplash
Similarly, you have greater right to privacy. I can choose to keep aspects of my life private and no one can force me to tell them something that I don't want others to know. Not having to tell anyone every single thing I'm doing at every moment, my future career goals (really despise this particular question) or my grades is great. Personally, it places less external pressure on me considering that I give myself enough of that and it forces me to have more confidence in my own decisions without others giving their unsolicited advice. If people don't like that, they're just going to have to learn that you have a right to keep things to yourself and that it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

With this extra freedom, you don't need permission to do anything. This could end up being a bad thing, but as long as you be responsible, it will be fine! This so many mini points to this point. For the most part people advise here, not demand or push you into a certain direction. More on this in the next point. If I were to have a blog like this when I was in secondary school, every single one of my posts would have been read and tracked and that definitely wouldn't have allowed me to be open about my experiences as I try to be here. Obviously, there are still things to be mindful of, but I've never had to stop a think about whether a minor sentence in a post will have a negative impact on my experience. In my case, everything you did at secondary school was monitored whether it was their business or not. This is why I decided to start a blog at university rather than beforehand. Additionally, I know that clothing and hairstyles are a large part of some peoples' identities and it's never been an issue to dress the way you want to and to wear what you want. No one even takes any notice (unless you happen to be wearing those blinding neon colours or turn up to lectures in your pyjamas - something I am yet to witness!).

Returning to the first point above, I think that access to opportunities within the university is a whole lot more open to some extent. I spoke about this in this post but in summary there's no one telling your that you're not good enough to do something that you would like to have a go at. In comparison, I found in in secondary schools if you were assumed to not be good enough to complete the task, you wouldn't be given the opportunity. It was always the same people being called out to take on certain roles in the school. Of course, that's not always the case but it is generally an issue. At university, no one knows you so they're going to give you a chance. Most of the time wanting to give up your time and effort is really appreciated, whether you are volunteering, working as a student ambassador, a student blogger, or carrying out one-off roles. Although there may still be somewhat of an application process at times, it's not going to carry so much bias as it did in school.

In terms of the academic side, I believe that there are more practical applications (than in school anyway). By  this, I mean practical as in hands-on but also completing work which is valid to the field that is being studied. I've written so many research reports, completed data analysis and collection and critical reviews of research articles. It's extremely research intensive which is an inherent part of psychology. I've done a lot of active learning (rather than passive learning) on this front. Having said that, essays still carry way too much weighting in my opinion, but I guess this depends on the specific course as some fields of work are pretty much essay based. Although, I have to say that they are great at helping you to make clear, concise and rational arguments and lines of support rather than just splurging everything you know for the sake of it. They are really challenging, in the right way.

Furthermore, there is no set specification which we all really struggled with to begin with because we have always been told what we have to know and that everything else is irrelevant. Most of the time everything else is very much relevant but if you asked a teacher about a wider aspect of content that you had been learning, the response was usually vague followed by something along the lines of "you won't need to know that for the exam so it's not important". Having such an open curriculum is amazing as it gives you the opportunity to widen your knowledge beyond class content. You can be flexible and adapt the content to suit your individual interests and do further reading that isn't going to bore the mind out of you.

You are (hopefully) on a course that you enjoy and have the motivation to go to class and do further research on. You're still going to have to do some stuff that you don't particularly want to (i.e.: core modules and assessment that you think are pointless) but on the whole, you have more choice and you won't feel like you're studying something for the sake of it. You'll want to do well for yourself rather than because you need to pass, although that fear of failure doesn't ever fade!

Finally, No one knows who you are. In my town, of you go out (unless you jump onto a train) there's only really one place you can go. When you're at university there's so many people around that it's unlikely that you're going to bump into someone who knows you. You can go out without feeling uneasy about bumping into someone who you would really rather not. You can walk around the university without people judging you because they have no clue who you are and probably aren't even taking any notice. If you want to start a new, you can!

There are so many restrictions that schools are under that universities aren't and can be seen in several of the points that I have mentioned. So, university isn't all that bad even amongst the endless challenges!

What's your favourite part of university life?

Thursday, 16 January 2020

20 Lessons to Take Into 2020

Happy (late) New Year! 🥳

I'm usually not someone who bothers with the whole New Year thing, but I don't think I can jump into the year with a random post without addressing it. Even so, 2019 was... Ummm... interesting, so to speak. Still, I think I learned more last year than I have in the last 5 prior to that, so let's hop into it!

  1. Self-respect.
    A lot of us are big advocate of respect, yet we are so guilty of verbally abusing ourselves. It's shocking when you actually stop and comprehend what you say to yourself on a daily basis. The majority of the time, we would never talk to other people in the way that we do with our inner voice. Start being aware of these moments and force yourself to listen to yourself and try and rewrite the dialogue.

  2. Sometimes you have to reach breaking point.
    I'm going to go right ahead and say that no matter how many times it happens, I don't seem to ever learn my lesson. However, I'm also becoming more aware of when I feel like I'm about to bubble over. It's not a weakness because it happens to the best of everyone and it does not show that you can't deal with pressure, because it usually happens in your own confinement as a result of dealing with pressure without making a fuss. I see pressure like energy. It can't just disappear, so just let it happen. Sometimes the solution will come to you at that very point.

  3. You don't need to feel guilty for bring assertive.
    One of my biggest weaknesses is feeling guilty for something that I really shouldn't. There are going to be times where you have to stand your ground or push for something to be done about an ongoing issue that's not getting anywhere. It's reminding yourself that you're not being selfish or 'mean' for doing what you need to do to get whatever it is done because something has to be done regardless or sometimes people need to be put in their place. You will thank yourself for it at a later date (and other people may to!).

  4. Animals are amazing.
    I'm going to keep saying it - they make me sooooooo happy! If I never need cheering up or my mind taken off whatever it is that is on my mind, watching funny and cute animal videos are the one. Or simply seeing them on my way to and from uni every day.

  5. Make mistakes.
    I wish I had more opportunity to freely make mistakes without them affecting me either in the present or in the future, because you learn so much from them. I find that learning what's bad actually helps me to do better next time. The problem is that there seems to be this problem where mistakes we make seem to carry on with us and people view us more based on our mistakes than positive attributes. However, that's why it's important to take risks and acknowledge and learn from mistakes where you can (i.e.: in your first year of uni!)

  6. Someone will listen.
    This one seems to have been a reoccurring point throughout my blog posts. Someone you know (or will know) is going to value your words. It may well be someone who you least expect to understand you. Sometimes that requires you to take a small risk to figure out but there is someone even if you think there isn't.

  7. Lack of contact and distance tests relationships.
    I'm not saying move miles away or to not contact someone and see what happens, but it does make you question your relationships with everyone. This was something I mentioned in my '5 Lessons You Will Learn at University' post so check that out for more on this point.

  8. It's not selfish to have an alone day.
    Sometimes you need someone to talk to. Other times you just want people to leave you alone and let you be and that's fine. I think we have to start respecting that sometimes people just don't want to talk and constantly prodding them when they've repeatedly made it blatant isn't going to do anything but make them feel worse. If you're the one in need of a break - go for it and take as long as you need.

  9. Stay open-minded and give everything benefit-of-the-doubt.
    Okay, so there are definitely times where you shouldn't give things the benefit-of-the-doubt because it just extends the problem, but problems can also be solved through it as well or give you some direction in a way that you wouldn't have expected.

  10. Life isn't easy.
    Jens Lelie | Unsplash
    The biggest lie I have been told is that university is easy. I'm sorry but, really? I've never felt so lost (about everything) in my life and it just gets worse. I'm fully aware that this will continue for quite a while and it will get harder, but hey - what can we do except just go with it and try our best?

  11. Time and patience.
    Linking to the point above, we just have to hope that over time there will be resolutions and that we work things out eventually. After all, as much as we want things to be solved as soon as, it generally takes time to figure things out.

  12. There will always be someone putting you down.
    Humans are horrible like that. Social psychology will tell you that it's all about self-evaluation and self-esteem, so just remember that humans simply use it as a way to maintain confidence in themselves. It doesn't mean anything. Psychology will also tell you that opinions lack validity and reliability and that's enough to question whatever is being said about you.

  13. You don't always have to be happy.
    I'm not a big fan of the whole 'look at the positives' cliché. Don't get me wrong, I do think it's good to look at the bright side but when you're trying to explain your concerns to someone and they throw that phrase at you, it's quite degrading. They don't mean it in this way, but it does make you question whether you're ungrateful. The thing is, not being positive doesn't make us ungrateful. In a way, it can be good to accept that you're not happy rather than force it, because how will you ever find a solution without doing so?

  14. Do you really not care?
    The amount of times when we have said that we 'don't care' when really, we do. Probably most of the time that we say it. As much as we don't want to, it's nice to think about why we do care. It can say a lot of your character and that's something that is important to acknowledge and be aware of.

  15. You are never too old.
    Skitterphoto | Pexels
    Watch a Disney movie, play a game of tag with your friends, do all the things that people call 'child-ish'. We all need to have fun and just because we are now 'adults' it doesn't mean we can't enjoy our favourite childhood activities. If it helps you escape from your adult duties, go for it!

  16. Don't let people take advantage of you.
    Cut them out. It takes so much resistance but gradually they'll get the point. I probably sound like an awful person right now, but you know when people need support or when they are purely taking advantage of you. The best thing is to not let it happen in the first place, but the guilt of not helping always gets to the better of us!

  17. Kindness goes a long way.
    A simple hello down the corridor, asking how people are doing (with genuine interest), a random chat with a stranger in Tesco, helping someone who is really struggling with work - it all makes the difference to someone's day.

  18. Experience changes everything.
    It's one thing to learn about something theoretically; it's another to physically experience and be able to reflect on it. If it goes well - great. If it doesn't go well, also great! At least you will know where you stand, but also remember that no one experience is the same so give it a go more than once.

  19. Stability is going to take a long while.
    In all honesty, I have no clue what's going on with my life right now let alone a few months down the line. I'm constantly feeling lost more than ever and I know that as much as I despise it, it will be like this for quite a while, so why not...

  20. Embrace the spontaneity.
    This is definitely something that I need to work on but we're getting there. Push yourself to do things that you wouldn't otherwise do or that you feel scared of doing because they are usually the times which baffle you the most (in a good way!).

And there are my 20 lessons to take into this coming year! 

What are yours?

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Thankful For...

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas, are having a lovely winter break if you don't celebrate, or if you are working thank you for your services or for sacrificing your time to allow others to have the chance to celebrate and I really hope that you have managed to or will get the chance to spend some time for yourself.

For me, Christmas has always been a time of being grateful for so much more than the material gifts, especially now that I'm older there's really no need to waste money for the sake of it. Of course, some material gifts are also such a blessing to have. This year especially, this has been something that I have constantly reflected upon. A lot of people will say to focus on the positives when we're feeling a low, but I believe that going through difficult phases in our lives does exactly that. They make us more captivated to all the good things that happen when they do.

I was initially going to do this in an A - Z format but it wasn't working very well! I had multiple ones for one letter (especially s!) whilst others like z and y I struggled to think of something. However, I wanted this to be a genuine and meaningful list so resorted to just scribbling down the first 30 things that I thought of instead (30 rounding up from the 26 that would have been listed in an alphabet format). So, here they are:

  1. Guidance - coming to uni I honestly thought that I would be left to sort myself out but that could not be further from the case and I am so thankful for the sheer amount of advice and direction I continue to receive.

  2. Acceptance - how you feel, your strengths, your needs, the paths you would like to take, and so on. Being able to be accepted and feel accepted in yourself has to be one of the most relieving feelings.

  3. A Roof - it's such a privilege. Not knowing where you're going to live or if you will have anywhere to live in the near future has to be one of the most frightening situations to be faced with.

  4. Sleep - to be able to get a decent night sleep now is a true blessing. For the good dreams that we have during sleep as well that help us to time travel to re-live the good ol' times.

  5. Animals - they bring us so much joy, whether that's by making us a smile as they walk/ waddle/ swim past or watching videos of them doing the most hilarious things.

  6. Emails - for those of us who would rather email before making a phone call conversation, or an efficient way of asking quick questions and receiving updates about all sorts. I don't know what I would do without this invention!

  7. Kindness - strangers telling me to have a good day, helping someone in need, charity donations, including someone in a conversation; making a positive comment. They all seem basic but mean the world.

  8. Laughter - moments of genuine laughter that help you to forget about everything else that is happening and to simply live in the moment are special times.

  9.  Medication - something that many of us use to manage various health conditions or even for the odd headache that stops up from sleeping, the stomach upsets, the flu, and so on.

  10. Privacy - I'm at an age where I can have my own space and people don't have a choice but to respect that (although it's a bit of a  struggle at times!). What I want to keep private can stay private and it's great.

  11. Warmth - although it could be so much worse, I have a really bad cold intolerance, so I really value the moments when I'm not cold or shivering as I'm trying to get to sleep.

  12. Research - most of what we understand comes from all kinds of research. It enables what we already know to be challenged and updated, advancing treatments, knowledge about human behaviour and cognition, and improving public services. 

  13. Psychology - if you have read my posts you will know that I have a new-founded appreciation for Psychology and so much of my blog is dedicated to exactly that, so I'll leave this point here.

  14. Scarves - when am I ever seen without one? They keep you warm and acts as a blanket in cold lecture theatres! It's also saved me from dropping stuff on my top/ lap and leaving a stain!

  15. Hugs - not something I get often but when I do get them it's like a moment where all the bricks from the wall you have built up collapse. Hugs do wonders.

  16. Respect - I know that I have mentioned university a few times now, but it makes you feel a sense of worth (if that's the right word) when you are able to speak to people with a mutual level of respect both ways.

  17. Creativity - why creative arts are counted as a 'soft subjects' is beyond me. After all, doesn't almost everything first develop through creative or abstract thought? Then there's the artistic side similar to...

  18. Music - instrumental and lyrical. It has this extraordinary ability to comprehend the emotions which we can't describe and provide words to explain those which we can't articulate.

  19. Umbrellas - I'm sure it constantly rains in the West Midlands. Even with an umbrella (and a hood) I walk into uni soaked and needing a hairdryer. Nevertheless, umbrellas still save us from being completely drowned!

  20. Sentiment - to feel sentimental is one of those emotions that can't be described. Usually it's bitter-sweet and carries some highly valuable meaning.

  21. Children - I have said this too many times, but they are so precious. Often a soft reminder of the beauty that life can bring and the things that we need to work on as adults.

  22. Internet - there's always so much negativity surrounding the online world, but it can also be a place which makes you feel the least alone, a learning platform; a place where you can take a needed break and disassociate yourself from reality.

  23. Development - our brains may stop developing quite early on, but that doesn't actually stop us from continuously gaining from the experiences that we live through and that's something I will forever appreciate.

  24. Opportunities - to aid in the above but to also help guide us in the right direction and be able to experience all sorts of things, whether that's through travelling or career-related activities.

  25. Challenges - one of the best feelings is to overcome or see someone else overcome a challenge, whether that's a statistics assignment or a personal life event. They help to shape our perspectives and see everything in a new and motivating light.

  26. Planners - If you live without a planner, how? They don't only help you to organise your schedule, but a place to keep track of your wellbeing to (more on this in a post for the New Year!)

  27. Photographs - like the comment about having good dreams, they give you a chance to re-live some of those happy moments in your life. A snapshot can really speak a thousand words.

  28. Trees - they quite literally help us to recycle the air and help us to breathe. Also, they are really pretty and give homes to all sorts of wildlife so enough said.

  29. Smiley Faces - I don't know what it is about them, but it brings me so much happiness when I get a smiley face at the end of an email. This doesn't happen too often, but when it does it makes my day!

  30. Support - I cannot fathom how thankful I am for those people who continuously check up to make sure than I'm doing okay and who help to hold me up. You are all amazing.

What are the things that you are most grateful for coming out of this year?

I'll be back with another post in the New Year. For now, take care and:

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Understanding Yourself and Others Through Social Psychology!

It's been a while since I've written a proper post. So much has happened. There are going to be some changes to my schedule for the next term, so I'm going to reconsider my upload day to for this because Wednesdays aren't going to work very well!

This post is going to be a Psychology related one.
Studying Psychology at Warwick has not only completely shifted my perspective on psychology as a discipline, but also specific fields of Psychology as well. The more I learn, the more I enjoy it - even the fields which I wouldn't have previously chosen to study if I had a choice. If you knew me in Sixth Form, Social Psychology wasn't my favourite thing in the world, although it forms the foundational knowledge of how human behaviour and experiences (such as thoughts and feelings) are affected by the environment and the people around us. I completely take that back because Social Psychology classes (on a Monday morning) were actually quite interesting (enough hat I want to write a post on it! Our lecturer presented some compelling concepts in a really engaging way, and we covered so many topics within the 10 weeks.

So,  I'm going to present to you 10 concepts that we covered across the module. Hopefully this will give you a broad overview of the areas that I learned about.

I will cite some studies for clarity (from lectures and personal reading) which may be of a sensitive nature to you . 
Please note that these are for purposes of comprehension only. If you would like to read into them further, you can find the references (with direct links to the papers attached) at the bottom of the post.

  1. Reactance
    This is when you make an attempt to persuade someone to comply to doing something using emotional appraisal, but if this creates too much emotional arousal so that the individual feels like their freedom is being threatened, it can actually decrease compliance.
    As opposed to obedience (following an explicit request made by someone with higher authoritative power) and conformity (attitude change resulting from indirect external pressure such social cues), compliance refers to following a request of what someone wants from you.
    via GIPHY
    This type of emotional persuasion is commonly seen in advertisements relating to anti-drug use, anti-smoking, and similar. We also see this on cigarette packets as well.

    Leventhal, Watts, and Pagano (1967) conducted a study focused on anti-smoking where smokers were put into three conditions: reading a leaflet instructions on how to stop smoking, watching a graphic film on lung cancer, or reading the leaflet and watching the film. Whilst participants who just watched the film smoked less cigarettes a day than participants who only read the leaflet, those who read the leaflet and watched the film both showed significantly more progress than the other two conditions 3 months later.

    Therefore, next time you want to persuade someone to stop doing something or create an advert of a similar nature, keep in mind that using too much emotion can may lead them to lose sight of the actual message. Although using some emotion does get through to people, the induction of instructions alongside may have an even greater effect!

  2. Pluralistic Ignorance
    Provides another explanation of the Bystander Effect (Darley & Latané, 1968). Alternative to the diffusion of responsibility argument, pluralistic ignorance occurs when an individual thinks that they hold values and beliefs, which they perceive others to not have. Therefore, if someone is placed in a situation where those around them don't exert their beliefs, they don't either to avoid social discomfort. For example, when you assume that everyone in the class understands the material as no one else is asking questions, so you don't ask for clarity to avoid embarrassment when really very few people actually understand what is being said.

    Sandstrom, Makover, and Bartini (2013) applied this to bullying. 448 fourth and eighth graders (equivalent Years 5 and 9 in the England school system). Pupils completed a survey measuring their attitudes and perceived attitudes of peers about bullies and victims of bullying, and also reported what their position in the situation was likely to be (bully, victim, bystander, defender). Questions were adapted from pre-existing questionnaires and scales (see paper).
    Analysis reported that children significantly viewed themselves as more pro-social than their peers, with females significantly reporting to be more pro-social than males. The more that pupils underestimate the beliefs of their peers, the more likely they reported to join in with the bullying and the less likely they were to intervene.

    It's easy to say that you would intervene in such a situation. However, even being aware of this effect there is still discomfort with standing up when no one else does if it comes to it, even with the knowledge that someone in the crowd will support you.

  3. Affective Forecasting
    This is when we make predictions about how we would react emotionally to a potential event. It turns out that we are pretty bad at this!

    One reason is immune neglect. We forget that we have a psychological immune system that helps us to overcome negative (and positive!) states over time. We are more resilient than we think we are.

    Gilbert, Pinel, Wilson, Blumberg, and Wheatley (1998) conducted 6 studies looking into immune neglect and the durability bias (over predicting how long emotion would last) using self-report scales/ questionnaires. Scenarios included: relationships breakups, receiving or not receiving a tenure (professors), when their personalities are devalued, and rejection from a job application. In all 6 studies, participants over predicted the duration of their emotional response with immune neglect playing a role in half of these where potential casual relationships were not clearly established.

    Another reason is focalism, which is where we focus so much on one events that we forget that other things will happen which will affect how we feel also.
    Wilson, Wheatley, Meyers, Gilbert, and Axsom (2000) hypothesised that encouraging participants to think about other future events in addition to the event in focal will reduce this durability bias. They tested this in studies focusing on results of football games (study 1-3), spaceship tragedy (study 4), and the US winning a war giant another country (study 5). Results supported their hypothesis.

    Just something to think about next time you make affective forecasts!

  4. Self-Discrepancy Theory
    Relates to self-regulation of inconsistencies between our 3 selves: actual, ideal, and ought selves.
    Higgins, Roney, Crowe, and Hymes (1994) conducted a study to explain the difference between the types of selves:
    Our ideal self is who we want to be and is promotion focused, meaning that we are motivated to aim towards desirable outcomes and reward promotes this further. e.g.: I want to do well in this exam, so I'm going to aim to get x%.
    Our ought self is our perception of who we should be based on how others perceive us and is prevention focused, meaning that we aim to avoid undesirable outcomes. It also relates to punishment sensitivity. e.g.: I should be smart, therefore I can't fail this exam.

    I've had phrases of not quite knowing who I am throughout the year, so it really makes me wonder, what is our actual self? How do we know what our actual self is? Do we even have one and can it be scientifically tested? It's all so mind-muddling!

  5. Conjunction Fallacy
    Was covered in our social cognition lecture and it's the idea that we make the mistake of thinking that the likelihood of two events occurring, are greater than that of one event. considering the base rate, this does not statistically add up.

    This concept was developed by the Linda Study, conducted by Tversky and Kahneman (1983).
    Participants were provided with the following description: 'Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations. Which is more probable?'
    The options were: 'Linda is a bankteller' or 'Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement'. 80% chose option 2, although option 1 is more likely!

    One reason for this is that it's much easier to imagine specific events than vague ones. This is kind of like when we anticipate future events and come up with all kind of very specific scenarios of what may happen. What are the statistically chances of something so specific actually happening? Yet we still manage to convince ourselves that the next time we do a presentation, for example, we're going to not only fall over on our way up to the front of the audience, but that we'll also stumble on our words every second, lose our place in our notes and forget what we're saying, shake so badly that everyone will notice, and technology with fail us.

    When you try to convince yourself that this very specific event is unlikely to happen, remind yourself that you're probably statistically correct.

  6. Self-Serving Bias and Self-Handicapping
    Where self-serving bias is a cognitive process of attributing positive outcomes to dispositional (internal) factors and negative outcomes to external factors , self-handicapping facilities this bias in order to help us maintain our self-esteem. It works by putting (potential) failures to blame on factors which we claim to have limited control over, whilst enhancing crediting of success to personal attributes. People may even create barriers if they predict that they will not do well.

    For example: Justifying a potential bad grade by saying that you weren't able to do enough revision because you were ill for a fee days leading up to the class test, even though you had weeks to revise (but didn't do enough) and wasn't actually that ill. If you get a bad mark, it's justified, and your peers' impression of your competence isn't harmed. If you end up doing well, then this enhances your self-esteem.

    In their 2 studies, Beck, Koons, and Milgrim (2000) obtained a positive correlation between self-handicapping and procrastination in the context of exam performance in college students. Those who engaged in high levels of self-handicapping were also more likely to delay studying for an exam.

    Stewart and De George-Walker (2014) attempted to build a framework by using previous research which has offered links between dispositional characteristics to self-handicapping. Student completed a questionnaire containing pre-existing scales to measure these links. They found that external locus of control and maladaptive perfectionism positively correlated with self-handicapping. However, researchers wanted to emphasise that more empirical research needs to be done in order to cohesively establish these links.

    Are your reasons really justifiable or are you just trying to manipulate yourself? It may provide some shor- term relief but maybe think about the long-term consequences of self-handicapping.
    After all, it may not actually work in your favour, due to the....

  7. Fundamental Attribution Error (Correspondence Bias)
    Lewin's (1939) equation - B = f(E, P) - states that Behaviour is a function of the Environment and the Person. However, the FAE model points out that we tend to overestimate the influence of dispositional characteristics in a situation and don't take into account the situational constraints as much. It's human nature to automatically attribute observed behaviour to the person themselves as we're always trying to work people out, even when the situational influence is blatantly obvious!

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    Jones and Harris (1967) conducted a study whereby students read an anti- or pro-Castro essay (Fidel Castro was a communist leader of the Republic of Cuba. Half of the participants were told that the student writing the essay didn't have a choice, and the other half were told that they could freely choose which position they took. Even when those who had explicitly been told that the student who had written the essay had no choice, they attributed the political stance of the student to the stance that their essay took.

    However, with motivation, effort, and enough cognitive resources to spare we are able to re-evaluate our attributions and take into account external variables. Maybe we could all take a step back from our initial (and often biased) reactions and see whether this changes the way we view the situation.

  8. Actor-Observer Effect
    Is an explanation of the FAE Model. It is the idea that depending on our position, we will attribute behaviours more to the situation or to internal characteristics. We can see this like an auditorium filled with an audience and the performer on the stage.
    As an actor, we are much more aware of our surroundings and we can't directly see our behaviours leading us to be more likely to make external attributions.
    However, as an observer (audience member) we can directly see the behaviours of others but maybe don't have access potential situational influences, so make internal attributions in this case.

    Frank and Gilovich (1989) did an interesting bit of research into this effect. They found that when participants were asked to recall a memory in 3rd person (i.e.: they, he; she), they attributed behaviours more to personal attributes, than if they were to be recalled in first person.

    You can imagine the amount of arguments that are caused because of this effect, especially when it comes to subjective perspectives of a given context. Sometimes we may find it hard to not immediately bite back when someone critiques the way we have behaved in a certain situation, but maybe the best thing to do is to take a moment, see it from the observer perspective and fill them in on your (the actor) perspective.

  9. Misattribution of Arousal
    This is when we incorrectly attribute our physiological responses to something that didn't actually cause the response.

    One of the first studies examining this effect was done by Schachter and Singer (1962). Participants were given an adrenaline or saline (placebo) injection, which participants thought was 'vitamins' and were told that they would produce side effects similar to adrenaline (informed), may cause 'headaches' and 'numbness' (misinformed), or were given no information regarding the side effects (ignorant). They were then led into a room to fill out a questionnaire that asked some personal questions, but there was also an angry confederate present.
    Whilst there was a difference in the physiologically responses between the placebo and adrenaline groups, researchers also found that the ignorant group were significantly more likely to use the behaviour of the confederate as a cue to establish their arousal levels in comparison to the misinformed and informed conditions. These participants misattributed their arousal.

    Andre A. Xavier | Unsplash
    To give a simpler example, many studies have applied this to the context of romantic attraction. In Dutton and Aron's (1974) 'Shaky Bridge' experiment, males were asked to fill out a questionnaire by an 'attractive' woman after crossing either a shaky and unstable bridge or a stable bridge. Participants were then given the woman's number in case they had any questions about the study she was conducting. Participants who crossed the shaky bridge called the woman significantly more than those who crossed the stable bridge, misattributing their arousal caused by fear to attraction.

    Furthermore, Savitsky, Medvec, Charlton, and Gilovich (1998) found that when participants were able to attribute their arousal (nerves and lack of confidence) to a 'subliminal noise' (which they were told could make them more nervous) expressed greater confidence than those who didn't.

    Makes me wonder often we do this in our daily lives! Am I feeling anxious or excited? What event is my sympathetic nervous system actually reacting to?

  10. Attitude Inoculation
    You know how some people are very fixed on their attitudes and beliefs about something and you can't seem to change their standing point? Attitude inoculation is when someone is exposed to counter-arguments and they are able to use these to build a resistance against them contrary to what you would like this to achieve. Again, this uses the analogy of the immune system.

    McGuire and Papageorgis (1961) explored this through cultural truisms (beliefs which members of a cultural group have accepted without questioning it). Participants rated their support for cultural truisms and were not given a counter-argument to prepare a defence against (control), given a counter-argument which they could prepare a defence against (defence inoculation), or were given the counter-argument but told to not do anything with it. Support for the cultural truism decreased the most for the control group and the least for those in the defence inoculation condition.
    More recently, similar studies looking into this using more extreme beliefs (such as those relating to politics and morals) have shown otherwise.

    I think this was an interesting point to be raised, because we've all come across situations where someone hasn't been able to provide a clear rational for their beliefs or attitudes. It also makes me wonder how many of our own attitudes and beliefs could be easily challenged up-front because we can't provide a clear line of argument to why we support them?

I hope that you have found some of these as thought-provoking as I did. If you're studying social psychology for A Levels now, I hope that this has helped you to open your eyes to the other topics within social psychology that you may not be covering. Human behaviour, thought, feelings, and cognition is so fascinating, and this is just from a small part of it from one area of psychology alone!

(These are place in alphabetical order. Some of them are open access, but you will need access to a majority of them).

Beck, B. L., Koons, S. R., & Milgrim, D. L. (2000). Correlates and consequences of behavioural procrastination: The effects of academic procrastination, self-consciousness, self-esteem and self-handicapping. Journal of social behavior and personality, 15(5), 3.

Darley, J. M., & Latané, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of personality and social psychology, 8(4), 377-383.

Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of personality and social psychology, 30(4), 510.

Frank, M. G., & Gilovich, T. (1989). Effect of memory perspective on retrospective causal attributions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(3), 399–403.

Gilbert, D. T., Pinel, E. C., Wilson, T. D., Blumberg, S. J., & Wheatley, T. P. (1998). Immune neglect: a source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of personality and social psychology, 75(3), 617.

Higgins, E. T., Roney, C. J., Crowe, E., & Hymes, C. (1994). Ideal versus ought predilections for approach and avoidance distinct self-regulatory systems. Journal of personality and social psychology, 66(2), 276.

Jones, E. E., & Harris, V. A. (1967). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of experimental social psychology, 3(1), 1-24.

Leventhal, H., Watts J. C., & Pagano F. (1967). Effects of fear and instructions on how to cope with danger. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6(3), 313–321.

Lewin, K. (1936). Principles of topological psychology (Heider, F & Heider, G. M, Trans). New York: McGraw-Hill.

McGuire, W. J., & Papageorgis, D. (1961). The relative efficacy of various types of prior belief-defense in producing immunity against persuasion. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 62(2), 327.

Sandstrom, M., Makover, H., & Bartini, M. (2013). Social context of bullying: Do misperceptions of group norms influence children's responses to witnessed episodes?. Social Influence, 8(2-3), 196-215.

Savitsky, K., Medvec, V. H., Charlton, A. E., & Gilovich, T. (1998). "What, me worry?": Arousal, misattribution, and the effect of temporal distance on confidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(5), 529-536.

Schachter, S., & Singer, J. (1962). Cognitive, social, and physiological determinants of emotional state. Psychological review, 69(5), 379.

Stewart, M. A., & De George-Walker, L. (2014). Self-handicapping, perfectionism, locus of control and self-efficacy: A path model. Personality and Individual Differences, 66, 160-164.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1983). Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgement. Psychological Review, 90(4), 293–315.

Wilson, T. D., Wheatley, T., Meyers, J. M., Gilbert, D. T., & Axsom, D. (2000). Focalism: A source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(5), 821.