Attitude Analysis: Sexual Harassment

The topic of my attitude analysis was sexual harassment on the street.  The specific attitude i was targeting was the belief that sexual harassment is normal. I think this attitude is mainly cognitively based and is reinforced via operant and classical conditioning. Therefore i was targeting  the cognitive and affective base. I did this using fear/empathy arousing communication and the peripheral route to persuasion. My target group were males from the age of 14 to 17.

Many people who have the attitude that sexual harassment is normal think that everyone else believes that too and take it to be a fact. By showing them that sexual harassment is in fact a big deal (news articles) I will shock them into accepting that we really do have a problem on our hands. I will then introduce them to ways in which they can contribute and help to put an end to this problem. I will also make sure to relate sexual harassment to the women in their own personal lives so as to make the issue more relevant to them and help them feel empathy.

This videos not only aims to make the boys aware of how serious the problem is, but also tell them that they have the power make a difference. Using Zimbardo’s psychology of heroism, I tell them how people like them can be heroes in their own lives, simply by not staying quiet in the face of evil. They are taught that in order to be a hero they must not be afraid to deviate from the norm and stand up for what’s right, even if no one else is. An emphasis is placed on their personal responsibility, thereby reducing the effects of deindividuation and diffusion of responsibility in public places.

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“Don’t ride in a taxi with a Saudi driver!”

Saudis

“Don’t ride in a taxi with a Saudi driver!” “Oh he did that? Probably a Saudi.” These were the kinds of things I heard all the time while growing up. And now; well of course I won’t ride in a taxi with a Saudi driver! I also wouldn’t talk to Saudis, be friends with any Saudis and I avoid Saudi sellers in shops. But what is it about Saudis? Technically we’re all the same and I know it. But I have developed a prejudice against Saudi people due to various negative stereotypes that have been drilled into me until I believed them to be true. Saudis are lazy, Saudis are selfish and arrogant, Saudis are hostile and mean, Saudis are bad drivers! These were all established facts for me. These might have been the results of the phenomenon of illusory correlation. Maybe every time a shopkeeper was mean to me it just so happened to be a Saudi. Or out of the 10 road accidents that happened in the past week, 9 involved Saudis. And from there, I went on to conclude that all Saudis are mean and bad drivers.

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Prejudice occurs despite our similarities.

This is also an example of a phenomenon known as the ultimate attribution error. So maybe the shopkeepers I dealt with were all just having a bad day and I made a dispositional attribution rather than consider the situational aspects, and then generalised to all Saudis, under the perception of out-group homogeneity. I would argue that after I had made up my mind about them, they were constantly proving me right. But that may be due to the self-fulfilling prophecy, where the way I unconsciously reacted towards Saudi people, causes them to react negatively to me which reinforces my existing stereotypes.

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Contact with members of the out-group is the best way to get rid of your prejudice.

Thankfully, there are ways in which prejudice can be reduced and stereotypes refuted. The contact hypothesis along with its 6 conditions suggest that increasing the contact between different groups in a situation of mutual interdependence can reduce prejudice over time. The groups also need to have a common goal and equal status in order for this to succeed. And yet prejudice is still prevalent all over the world, despite the various solution proposed to counter it.

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Having prejudices puts limitations on you. Will it ever end?

Angels Vs. Devils

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Aggression is found everywhere!

As part of a race who has caused more grief and destruction in their bid for power than any other on this earth, I have often wondered if all people are just bad. I mean look at the number of wars we started, the number of species we drove to extinction, the complete disregard for the environment and future generations! We must be horrible right? On the other hand, I’ve witnessed acts of kindness and compassion towards others that would render anyone speechless. So which is it? Are we good or are we bad?

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Helping can make you feel good.

According to the evolutionary approach, aggression is innate. We are genetically programed to protect ourselves and our own and we wouldn’t have any problems hurting others in the process. But do we really go around muscling our way through life? Probably not. The reason why our civilization works is because we help each other. According to evolutionary psychology, people who helped each other were more likely to survive long enough to reproduce and pass on their genes via natural selection. But that would mean that everyone is helpful, which is not the case. So why do people not help? According to the social exchange theory, when helping someone is at the expense of yourself, you’ll decide against helping. Also, if you don’t empathise with whoever needs help, you’ll be less likely to help them. Helping is also pretty complicated. You need to notice a situation, interpret it as an emergency, assume responsibility, know how to help and go for it. Most of the time these conditions aren’t all met. Also, when you’re surrounded by lots of people, the bystander effect is likely to take place and diffusion of responsibility occurs, so nobody ends up helping.

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Selfishness is human nature.

Altruism is defined as the desire to help another even if it involves a cost to the helper.  Studies have also suggested the existence of an ‘altruistic personality’. But I believe in neither. I think people help each other when it’s in their benefit to do so, and hurt each other when it’s in their benefit to do so. You might think someone’s an angel and always helpful, but maybe it just so happens that all the situations they were placed in brought out the helpful side in them. People are neither bad nor good. People are driven.

The Accepted Crime…

It is one of the world’s most atrocious crimes committed against humankind and yet is so widespread in Egypt, that it has almost become a norm; Yes, I’m talking about sexual harassment. Not a day passes in an average Egyptian woman’s life without her being exposed to sexual harassment in one form or another. That’s a problem. The reason why I chose sexual harassment as my topic is because it’s a subject that is directly related to me in my everyday life and it would be nice to try and figure out why it happens and if it’s possible, to put an end to it or at least reduce it. Social psychology is the most appropriate medium for studying sexual harassment simply because it’s a social problem. By identifying the roots and causes of the attitudes that lead to sexual harassment, we are then more likely to establish a long lasting prevention method that will specifically target the root of the problem and therefore have a higher chance of being successful.

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Modestly dressed girls getting harassed.

I believe the attitude that leads to sexual harassment of women on the street is the conviction that women are inferior and exist solely for the pleasure of men. This leads to them being treated as second class citizens without any consideration for their rights as human beings. In my paper I will target males in their early teenage years (13 to 15). This is because that age is when others’ opinions and peer pressure starts to play a huge role in the boys’ lives, making them more susceptible to develop a negative attitude towards women. So we could use attitude inoculation to prepare them for any attempts to produce within them a negative attitude before it happens. I think it’s important to target the behaviour (sexual harassment) very soon, especially since it seems to be increasing these days and becoming more and more violent. However, I would like to focus on preventing the formation of the permanent negative attitudes in adolescent males of this generation, because I think the longer you live with your attitude the harder it is to change. And we’re running out of time.

All attitudes have 3 bases: Cognitive, affective and behavioural. The cognitive basis of sexual harassment would suggest that women are sexually harassed because of the way they look, the way they walk, the way they act, the way they are. Simply because they are women. The affective basis would suggest that women are sexually harassed because the men hold the belief that it is perfectly fine to sexually harass a woman on the street. They might have even developed schemas that automatically dictate that women walking on the street are asking to be harassed. In the extreme, this harassment may then be rewarded by other members of the society, leading to its reinforcement via operant conditioning. The one I believe to be the most prominent component of this negative attitude however is the behavioural basis of sexual harassment. I think the attitude that women are inferior is an implicit one in most men, in that they are not fully aware of its existence. Sexually harassing women on the street has become more of a routine for them and they don’t really think about why they do it or consider its consequences.

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I think the best way to go about stopping sexual harassment and changing the belief that women are inferior is to elicit cognitive dissonance in the harassers or even those who witness harassing and do nothing. By emphasising the difference between what they know theoretically, which is that everyone is equal and that everyone has rights and freedom, and what they see or do in their everyday lives, we can open their eyes to the fact that they are contributing to a very serious issue. Unfortunately, because there are many other ways to deal with cognitive dissonance other than changing their behaviour (like changing their cognitions and making external justifications for their behaviour) it may not be effective on its own. Especially because sexual harassment has become a norm in our culture, making it very easy to find external reasons that justify harassment. Therefore, I think we should also use fear arousing communication, to support the use of cognitive dissonance. We can show them how much pain they’re causing and show them what our society will become if they don’t help put an end to it before it’s too late. We need to put a huge emphasis on the fact that they have the power to make a difference so as to avoid them turning to defensive attributions. By targeting 2 different aspects of the same attitude, we are more likely to succeed in achieving our goal and changing the attitude. I don’t think using persuasive communication will work very effectively in this case, because most men do not consider sexual harassment to be personally relevant to them, and so will not be motivated to listen and pay attention.

Dove: Thought Before Action Assignment

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Nada Swilam (Q. 1, 2 & 9)

Sarah Ahmed (Q. 3 & 4)

Alia El-Mohandes (Q. 5 & 6)

Salma Al-Adawi (Q. 7 & 8)

1) What are the negative behaviours presented?

Photoshopping and editing pictures of women to make them live up the standards of beauty, manipulated by people, seemingly, in power: such as art directors, graphic designers and most importantly, for this video, photo retouchers.

2) What are the attitudes presented in the video that lead to these behaviours?

The subjective perception of beauty that is manipulated by the previously mentioned categories of professions in power in regards of this area. Those subjective perceptions are what create stereotypical view of what to be defined as beautiful and what not and form people’s attitude towards “beauty”.

3) Affective component: The primary target in the video is the creator or the producers of Photoshop advertisements, who perceive beauty in this matter. These producers are not aware of the real beauty and they want women to live up to the standards of beauty they were exposed to in the first place. Producers are normal human beings that their schemas of beauty are what they see in the media or what the society planted in their mind. Conformity of this type of retouched and unnatural beauty facilitate the path for these producers to promote for this definition of beauty.

4) Behavioural component: The target audience are the producers of these ads , so their behavior towards this definition of beauty is that they increase it by creating and enhancing more of these aids targeting women all over the world.

5) Cognitive component: When they Photoshop pictures that will be put on magazine covers, the magazines sell more which gets them more profit that’s why they have these attitudes. People who use Photoshop believe that if they didn’t do so, they will not sell more and make lots of money.

6) In the video, HOW do they go about changing the negative attitudes and behaviours?

They are using attitude inoculation:  which means attempting to change their attitude by intentionally exposing them to small doses of the argument against their position. For example, there were beautified option in the video to say that your real beauty is much better and you are beautiful without any effort.

7) What strategies do they use and routes do they target to change the attitudes?

They seem to have tried to target the behavioural component of the attitude. By making a Photoshop action called ‘Beautify’ (Implying that it will make the photo more beautiful) that reverts the photo being Photoshopped to its original, non-retouched state, they are opening the retouchers’ eyes to the extent of their manipulation. And then saying there is no need for it. This is an attempt to illicit cognitive dissonance so that these people would see the large gap between the women they see in their everyday lives and those they are trying to portray in their magazines, thereby stopping or at least reducing their use of Photoshop.

8) Do you think their choices were effective? Why or why not?

This method was probably more effective for those retouchers who are women and so this attitude would be directly relevant to them. Also anyone who has daughters or sisters. Unfortunately there is a lot of external justification for their behaviour, like the fact that Photoshopped images are more profitable for them. If they don’t retouch photos and conform to the set image of beauty, making their photos unrealistically glamorous, they probably won’t sell as much which would be disadvantageous to them. This would mean that their cognitive dissonance won’t be as high because they can blame their actions on external factors, rather than introspecting and changing their own behaviour.

9) What would you do differently to make the video more effective?

To make the video more effective & more likely to bring up long lasting change, we would’ve got some inspiring figure that is somehow related to the matter being tackled, for example a fashion designer, a model or a movies’ director, those who care about beauty and will be viewed as beauty-makers, and we would’ve had a small persuasive, direct talk that tackles the central route of the issue: Giving factual reasons why beauty isn’t to be retouched. This would’ve influenced photo-shoppers more to quit doing what they do and start accepting beauty in a new, more flexible matter. But using purely behavioural and a bit of emotional techniques wasn’t so effective. Yes, they imposed certain feelings to the photo-shoppers by finding all the editing they’ve done to photos gone with a “beautify” button and yes, they showed them briefly the whole behavioural process they undergo while editing photos, from downloading editing apps, etc… But all of that would have a short term effect on the watchers as there’re no new information added or any facts communicated regarding the main topic “What is Beauty?” that might keep ringing in their minds later on while doing the same behaviour, and after losing the feelings they once had while watching the advertisement.

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I don’t wanna be a girl!

When I was younger, I always wanted to be a boy. Of course this was influenced by the fact that I grew up in Riyadh, where women were oppressed in so many different ways. So my construal of what it meant to be a woman was negative due to the culture I was exposed to. No matter what way I looked at it, girls always seemed to draw the short end of the straw. In everything! I had to wear uncomfortable clothes because we’re visiting people and I have to look pretty. I had to sit for hours in absolute agony as my mom brushed and pulled at my hair in a feeble attempt to tame it. I wasn’t allowed to do anything that would mess up my clothes or hair and make me look ‘unpresentable’. I had to come back home early because it wouldn’t be appropriate for a girl like me to stay out any later. When I grew up, I wouldn’t be allowed to drive or probably even go out at all. I was expected to behave in a certain way and learn certain skills and why? All because I was a girl! My brother on the other hand was free to do whatever he wanted. Or so it seemed. But I wanted to be free too!  I didn’t want to learn how to cook and put makeup on. I wanted to play outside with my friends without interruption. I wanted to run around all day and climb trees and get my clothes dirty and my hair all messy. I wanted to shout and laugh out loud in public and learn how to play football. And the only thing stopping me was the fact that I was a girl! Of course later I realised that there were other pressures placed on my brother. From a very young age he was expected to not display emotions and be tough and responsible. So why did my mom have certain expectations of me as a daughter but different ones for my brother as a son?

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Mates were chosen based on certain desirable characteristics that later increased in the gene pool.

According to the evolutionary approach, my mom’s behaviour, traits and gender schemas are biologically wired into her brain. She had certain expectations of the different gender roles due to her genetic code. It was who she was. She believed that I needed to be quiet and composed because that was the way she was born to view the world; it was her instinct. This approach suggests that a very long time ago women were more likely to mate with men who possessed certain characteristics, such as dominance, and men were more likely to mate with women who possessed certain characteristics, such as docility. These characteristics were then more likely to be passed on to the next generations and so became the norms or gender roles we see today. This process is known as sexual selection. Behind this theory is the idea of essentialism: that men and women had evolved to become fundamentally different and that these differences were natural. But how does this theory explain my not wanting to conform to these roles? Was I just an anomaly? What about the differences in gender roles that exist within different cultures or the changes in gender roles that occur over different periods of time?

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A typical gender stereotype is that women are emotional and men are not.

According to the cultural approach on the other hand, my mom’s behaviour, traits and gender schemas were taught to her by her parents and other members of her society. Maybe as a child she was able to relate herself to her own mom because they were both female, and so observed and imitated her behaviour. This is known as the social learning theory. Expectations were imposed upon her according to the social constructions and ideals of femininity and masculinity present in her culture, pressuring her to behave, think and be a certain way due to her sex until it became who she was. In turn, she mirrored the cultural pressures that had been placed on her, on me and my brother. She was taught that girls should look flawless and not stay out late and know how to cook and that boys had to be strong, unemotional and assertive. She made sure to teach me these gendered expectations when I was still a child so that I would grow up to conform to society’s expectations of me. However, because people conform and adopt these expected traits, they end up creating actual sex differences which in turn lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy taking place, where gender stereotypes are proven to be true.

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Shows the expectations of society that create gender roles.

So which one is it? Do gender roles arise from the culture or nature? Well, let’s look at it this way: In 1937, Disney released Snow White, a movie about a passive, naïve princess who was in danger due to her extraordinary beauty and was saved by her true love’s first kiss (Who btw she had only met once before!). In 2013, they released another princess movie: Frozen. But this time, it was about two independent, brave sisters, who embark on a journey of self-discovery and find out that all they really need is their love for each other (No prince, no true love’s kiss!). The gender stereotypes portrayed in movies represent the gender stereotypes and roles present in a society at a given time. The fact that these stereotypes have changed over time, would suggest that the cultural approach is more accurate in explaining where gender differences come from. On the other hand, in different countries all over the world, women are still being paid less than men, even though they do the same job, due to the belief that men are more adequate. It is also common knowledge all over the world that women cannot drive. These universally present gender stereotypes suggest that the evolutionary approach is the more accurate one in explaining gender differences. So which one is it you say? My answer is neither and both!

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Represents the changing gender roles portrayed in the Disney princess movies.

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Designing an experiment (In-class Farah and Salma)

Question: How would people of different racial backgrounds react if an individual is verbally abused or unfairly treated in public due to his or her ethnicity, and why?

Hypothesis: Majority of people from all backgrounds will ignore and not speak up. Those who do react will probably defend the victim.

Method: Experimental.

Independent variable: The ethnicity of the surrounding people.

Dependent variable: People’s reactions.

Procedure: We create a situation where someone abuses someone else due to racial reasons, (Both will be actors) in area containing people from multiple backgrounds. Then we observe the surrounding people’s reactions and afterwards interview them.

Drawbacks:

  • The people may lie during the interviews to make themselves look better.
  • The customers at hand may not be representative of the population.
  • The participants are not actually selected or screened.

Internal validity: Since this is a field experiment, internal validity will be a bit low. It will be difficult to control all the other variables except the independent one. Our results may be due to individual disposition rather than ethnic background.

External validity: This will be high. The situation is extremely realistic and could actually happen to anyone at any time. It is generalizable.

It was necessary!

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Depicts the internal conflict between doing whatever we want or following ethical guidelines.

Once upon a time, a group of people got together to decide on some guidelines for what was unacceptable and what wasn’t. They came up with a set of very basic rules to constitute ethics that supposedly applied to everything. Deceiving someone was unethical. Doing something to someone without previously getting their consent was unethical. Inflicting physical or psychological harm upon someone was unethical. However, these rules are constantly being overlooked by different groups of people for different reasons.

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The fake shock generator used by Milgram in his study.

Sometimes psychologists ignore ethical guidelines in their experiments to increase the study’s internal or external validity, or because they want to study a particularly sensitive issue. Their argument would be that the benefits derived from the results of their study would greatly surpass the harm that may come to their participants. Milgram’s study of obedience is an example of an unethically conducted experiment that provided great insight into the human nature. This controversial experiment revealed the extent to which humans are willing to go in order to obey a figure of authority. In it, Milgram used a cover story to maintain psychological realism. He did this by deceiving his participants, telling them that it was a study on learning and punishment. He also failed to get informed consent from the participants, as they didn’t know the true nature of the study beforehand, due to the cover story used. However the greatest issue was the physical and psychological harm that came to them as a result of it. Throughout the experiment, the participants experienced symptoms of great discomfort due to the pressure, including trembling, sweating and hysterical laughter. A few even had full on seizures! On top of all that, they had to live the rest of their lives thinking that they would have been capable of harming another human being for no reason. This was a problem because it decreased the participants’ self-esteem, making them question if the really are as good as they had previously believed. However, they were debriefed at the end, and told about the overwhelming effects of social influence and the power of the situation to help explain their behaviour. But there still might have been negative effects on their self-perception. This may all seem terrible, however it was necessary to the experiment. Had the participants been told the true nature of the experiment, they may have displayed demand characteristics, thereby completely falsifying the results and leading to a low internal validity. Also, the intensity of the situation was required to make it seem realistic and therefore provide a high external validity.

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Many were killed in this battle during WWII. Was this ethical?

So when is it ethical to overlook ethical guidelines? Is it ethical to harm people during a war? What kinds of people is it ethical to harm during a war? Is the use of chemical or biological weapons ethical? How about nuclear weapons? The Milgram obedience study didn’t just raise questions about human nature, but also about ethics. It showed us an example of when it was considered ok to ignore the agreed upon ethical guidelines. But was it ok?

Works cited:

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology.