I attended The Dwight-Englewood School at the time, and it was our first time to the quarter-finals of the state-sectionals tournament woo years in a row. This incident is a perfect example of how the phenomenon of social influence is represented in the real world, and how this term is used to define Social Psychology. Social Psychology refers to the study Of how individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the presence of people or the idea of external factors.
Social Psychology is important because it helps us explore, predict, and reveal how a certain individual will behave in a given situation. Throughout this paper, I will develop my incident further and explore how the principles of social influence, prejudice, stereotypes, overconfidence barriers, and perceptual salience can be applied to my personal example in order to explain and represent a real-world example of Social Psychology. As stated above, the concept of social influence is one of the main ideas used to define Social Psychology. In Social Psychology by Elliot Ransom, Timothy D. Wilson, and Robin M.
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Akers, social influence is defined as, “the effect that the words, actions, or mere presence of other people have on our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or behavior” (Peg. 3 Ransom, Wilson, Akers). From my understanding, social influence is a term used to describe external factors produced by others that influence an individual’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or behavior. I believe whenever the topic of prejudice arises, it is important to recognize that an individual’s beliefs must have been influenced by the presence of others (the others’ beliefs, actions, or words) over a long-term period of time.
That is to say, the people who are most influential on a person’s life growing up can aid in the development of a prejudiced thought process. In my incident, other factors that supported the fan’s decision to scream his prejudiced remark could have been the importance of the game, the large crowd consisting of his colleagues, and the fact that his team was winning at the time. Another way social influence is represented by my incident is the way the crowd was influenced by the screaming fan. When the fan made his racially prejudice joke, the crowd responded in laughter and louder cheering.
Due to the fact the joke was made by someone representing the same, identifiable group as themselves, the crowd encouraged the fan by Ewing his joke as funny instead of offensive. In the fan’s attempt to provoke a reaction from the referee, the crowd, and me, he revealed his prejudice belief which he felt appropriately applied to the situation. But, what makes his statement prejudiced? In Social Psychology, prejudice is defined as, “a hostile or negative attitude toward a distinguishable group of people, based solely on their membership in that group” (Peg. 91 Ransom, Wilson, Akers). When think of prejudice, the distinction between generalizations and perceived negative characteristics arises. Prejudice souses on the idea of a negative outlook towards an individual exclusively due to his or her affiliation with a specific group. In this instance, it is clear that the fan believed I was of Hispanic ethnicity and used that perceived fact to make a negative remark. While it can be argued that his negativity was due to the fact I was on the opposing team, the way in which he chose to show his hostility was through racial prejudice.
But the fact that was on the opposing team reveals another prejudice. Because I identified with The Dwight- Englewood School, any Newark Academy fan automatically categorized my hole team as a distinguishable group that should receive hostile treatment. From this we can see two distinct prejudices involved: a negative attitude towards Hispanics, and a negative attitude toward members of The Dwight- Englewood School’s soccer team. My individual traits and behaviors were completely ignored, and I was solely judged by the fan’s predetermined attitude towards the groups I identified with.
So, if prejudice explains the fan’s negative attitude towards me, what can explain the relationship between the fan’s statement and his beliefs? We refer back to the idea of generalizations dated earlier in the paragraph. These generalizations are called stereotypes. A stereotype is defined as, “a generalization about a group of people in which certain traits are assigned to virtually all members of the group, regardless of actual variation among the members,” (Peg. 391 Ransom, Wilson, Akers).
As I understand it, a stereotype is a trait or action that some members of a distinguishable group exhibit; this trait or action is then applied to all members of that group. Another way to think about stereotypes is to think of them as assumptions, which can be either positive or negative, made when identifying any person of a unique group. In his single, short sentence, the fan implied multiple stereotypes. First, he directly relates Hispanic ethnicity to being of Mexican nationality by making them seem synonymous.
He did not know my ethnicity, but because I looked Hispanic, he automatically assumed I was Mexican. He then goes on to make the assumption that a Mexican cannot be a citizen of the United States. He implies for a Mexican to be in the United States of America, he or she either crossed the border illegally or was issued a Green Card. The fan ceded to camouflage his racial prejudice comically through the use of stereotypes. By exaggerating the idea of illegal, alien immigrants in the United States and applying it to all Mexicans, the fan converted his statement from offensive to comical.
A stereotype is seen as a cognitive, instinctual generalization made by people to simplify the world around them. If we all have categories of characteristics for individuals and groups to fall into, it becomes much easier for a person to justify the world he or she perceives. The easier it is to justify our beliefs, the more confident we become in those levels. But how confident does a person have to be to scream an offensive statement in front of a growing crowd of over 200 people? This level of confidence in one’s beliefs and judgments relates to the concept of an overconfidence barrier.
This is defined as, “the fact that people usually have too much confidence in the accuracy of their judgments” (Peg. 75 Ransom, Wilson, Akers). When a person screams a prejudice remark to belittle another person, that person must be very confident in their judgments and beliefs to do so. Factors such as, his team was winning the game, my comparatively mallet stature, and the large size of the home crowd all aided the fan to continue believing that making an offensive statement is k as long as it is funny.
When I heard the fan yell, I looked over in the direction of his voice and could not help but laugh. Found myself guilty of the same assumptions the fan was making. The fan’s confidence must have been extremely high, as I perceived his ethnicity to be the same as my own, Indian. The fact that an individual from the same minority group as me, was prejudice against another minority group was funny to me at the time. Even though it would eave been easy for anyone to retort his comments with stereotypical jokes about his ethnicity, he had enough confidence to make his beliefs known in front of everybody.
He repeatedly asked the referee to check my Green Card, which only resulted in me laughing more. Eventually, he asked me what I thought was so funny. This is where my own overconfidence barrier occurred. Was confident enough in my judgments to let him know that was actually Indian like him, and not Mexican like he believed. This resulted in silence from the fan for the rest of the game. I was able to improve the way the fan Hough by proving his judgment false, resulting in his presence in the crowd to be less obvious.
But why did the fan focus on me from my whole team? The position was playing for my team at the time had placed me directly next to the crowd. In addition to my location on the field, an important factor in the fan’s decision to try and provoke me was the fact that I had just tackled one of “his” players and stole the ball. But instead of relating the level of effort I was exerting to the situation, the fact that my team was losing the game, he believed my ethnicity was the cause of my behavior.
This concept is defined as perceptual salience, “the seeming importance of information that is the focus of people’s attention” (Peg. 101 Ransom, Wilson, Akers). The idea of perceptual salience is that a person making judgments refuses to believe that situational factors car influence behavior. Instead they rely only on their senses to tell them what characteristics of their perceptual focus logically explains that person’s behaviors. As the crowd grew, the more focus fell upon me. The fan who exclaimed his statement to the referee was attempting to identify with his allow observers.
The reason they all laughed at the fan’s initial stereotype- joke was because they all knew exactly who he was talking about as I was also their perceptual focus. The person that the crowd could see better, in this situation: me, was the person who had more impact on the game in their minds. They used me as a scapegoat when they felt their team was performing negatively but did not want to admit that it was their team at fault. As stated in the introduction, I believe my incident is a very good example of how social psychology can be seen in the world today.
The situational factors influenced the fan to yell his remark, which in turn, influenced his situation to react. This reaction was approval by his colleagues who joined him in his beliefs. Because there were no malicious intentions from the fan and I was able to laugh it off, some would brush the incident off as funny. But we have to ask ourselves, are stereotypes funny or not? In today’s world, the answer is that it depends. When in the company of friends and family, the majority of us will admit to using stereotypes of a way to bond, laugh, or even behave.