Web Exercises

  1. Social Psychology in the News. On November 3, Houston voters repealed an antidiscrimination ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Houston is a diverse city with a reputation for tolerance; the repeal was expected to fail, allowing the ordinance to stand. Read the articles at http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/11/8/1445115/-The-Houston-Equal-Rights-Ordinance-HERO-was-defeated-by-an-unholy-alliance and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/us/houston-voters-repeal-anti-bias-measure.html?_r=0. How did the measure’s opponents persuade voters to repeal it? Where appropriate, make explicit reference to your textbook’s discussion of fear appeals and negative messages, source and audience factors, and central vs. peripheral and/or systemic vs. heuristic processing. This exercise allows you to apply your knowledge of the routes to persuasion, source characteristics, and fear appeals.
  2. Social Psychology Applied to Health: Predicting Behavior Change. The road to he** is paved with good intentions – but so may be the road to health. View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C49o3OccS5c&feature=youtu.be for a straightforward, clear review of the theory of planned behavior. When do attitudes predict behavior? When do intentions predict behavior? Identify one of your health-related behaviors that you would like to modify. Perhaps you would like to consume fewer calories, less red meat, more protein, or less fast or processed food. Maybe you wish to exercise more consistently, reduce your consumption of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, or adhere more closely to a medication regimen. Review the theory of planned behavior and illustrate your discussion using specific examples related to your target behavior. How might you use the theory to bolster your intentions to make positive changes with respect to your target behavior? Finally, how does reasoned action theory go beyond the theory of planned behavior? How might you incorporate insights from reasoned action theory into your behavior change plan? This exercise helps you identify the key variables in the reasoned action approach and explain the kinds of attitudes that are more likely to impact behavior.
  3. Define cognitive dissonance. Visit the site at http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/results.asp?search=psychology&Submit.x=0&Submit.y=0. Scroll down the page and find the case titled “War, Death, and Cognitive Dissonance.” Click the “Case Study” button. Download the case by clicking the download near the top right on the landing page. Read the case and answer the questions. This exercise affords an opportunity to apply cognitive dissonance theory.
  4. Social Psychology in the News. Louisiana is a “deep red” state. A November 21, 2015 runoff election pitted Republican John Vitter against Democrat John Bel Edwards. Visit the page at http://thehayride.com/2015/10/the-new-orleans-naacp-is-upset-with-david-vitter-over-the-word-thug/ and scroll down to view one of Vitter’s campaign ads. Use Heider’s balance theory to describe Vitter’s attempt to identify with the viewer in the ad. Before the November 21 runoff, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne vied for the governorship with Vitter, Edwards, and several other candidates. Rather than support his fellow Republican, Dardenne endorsed Edwards in the runoff (see http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/11/republican_jay_dardenne_endors.html). Immediately before the runoff, blogger Kyle Kondick predicted that some Dardenne supporters would vote for Edwards, whereas others would fail to vote at all (see http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/11/larry_sabato_downgrades_david.html). Do these predictions make sense in terms of balance or dissonance theory? Why or why not? How might those Dardenne supporters who voted for Vitter manage their dissonance? Does the fact that Vitter lost the election influence the amount of dissonance these Dardenne supporters may have experienced? This exercise affords an opportunity to review balance theory and dissonance theory.
  5. Social Psychology, Social Media, and Technology. Define self-affirmation. Making explicit reference to cognitive consistency, and explain how self-affirmation can reduce cognitive dissonance. Self-affirmation is especially easy to come by on social media. The commentary at http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2014/02/03/social-media-and-self-worth-ethan-gilsdorf/ describes the fleeting gratification one feels when a post garners a “like” or a comment. You can listen to the commentary by playing the audio file halfway down the page. In the commentator’s view, how does self-affirmation contribute to the seemingly addictive nature of social media? Is the commentator’s social media experience consistent with your own? Scientific research confirms the self-affirming function of social media. Access Toma and Hancock’s (2013) paper at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiZ2o697anJAhUP9GMKHZckDPwQFggjMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsml.comm.cornell.edu%2Fwordpress%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2014%2F01%2F2013-Toma-Hancock-Self-affirmation-underlies-Facebook-use.pdf&usg=AFQjCNF4EoDMW7YxEe_2wslF4PBYRXhAKQ. Read the section entitled “Facebook and Ego Needs” on Page 322 in the article’s introduction. How is interacting with one’s own Facebook profile self-affirming? In a few sentences, summarize the results of the two experiments reported in the article (see pp. 325 and 326). Finally, review the section entitled “Practical Implications” (pp. 328–329) in the article’s General Discussion. How might the self-affirming quality of social media be put to practical use? This exercise allows you to revisit the role of cognitive consistency and self-affirmation in managing cognitive dissonance.