Tag Archives: schemas

When “different abilities” becomes “disabilities”

Automatic thinking & prejudice

Last semester, I was working on a project with a school that is specialized in special needs’ education. I had a wonderful experience by getting exposed to such a pure world that’s full of faith and determination. The project’s objective was to change people’s schemas and construal toward kids with special needs. We wanted to change those looks that are full of pity; we wanted to tell people STOP DISCRIMINATING. Those kids have different needs than that of the others, consequently, they have different abilities that are nevertheless brilliant. Therefore, we wanted to show the world that those kids are capable of things that we are not. So why the pity look? Why the prejudice against them. Most of us think that we empathize with those kids and their families. And that we appreciate their different needs. In fact, most of us hold a modern racism and in reality people actually sympathize and not empathize. Moreover, they have some stereotypes that lead to prejudice against them. Unfortunately, one of the most prejudice behaviors that I’ve witnessed is that I saw mom’s trying to take their kids away from playing with other kids that have special needs as they want to “protect” their children from them. For me this is the rudest thing anyone could do. Children are socialized and primed to perceive the other kids with different needs as “out- group” this is a result of the institutional discrimination that is present in most of the schools in Egypt. Schools either have a special needs section that is usually full of corruption or they don’t even accept them. You don’t find classes that integrate special needs with other students. Therefore, according to the social learning theory, children learn this social behavior by observing their school teachers and others around them and imitate them. While the injunctive norms dictate that we should not discriminate those kids and that we should behave in appreciation for their different abilities. Yet, the descriptive norms don’t match those injunctive norms and people act differently toward those kids regardless of it being disapproved.  People’s automatic thinking makes them judge people for their disability before getting to know who they really are. They automatically make the discrimination and behave accordingly. This video portrays the fact that even if some people have different abilities they can still live like others. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StwSnjtMkxQ I believe that the extent of the support and respect that the people surrounding them show them and treat them as being alike without showing any kind of discrimination the more likely that the differences are eliminated. Or else self-fulfilling prophecy will take over and they won’t be able to see that they are capable of living like everyone else on this planet they will conform to the stereotype threat and will live their lives as different and isolated.


There’s always a Potential to be Good and Bad!

For me the answer for the ongoing debate of whether we are good, bad, both or neither lies in one thing. I believe that people have the potentials to be good and to be bad; it all needs a stimulus that triggers the good in you or the bad in you. We are born with a box of “tools” that are ready to be used whenever they are needed. Yes they are people who are more likely to be aggressive than others. However, the greatest dilemma is when the same person acts aggressively in times and empathizes at other times. This is basically because, this person’s self-esteem will be threatened .Accordingly, he/she would need to increase his/her cognitive dissonance to accept the fact that he/she wasn’t able to empathize in that situation and what’s even worse he/she acted aggressively . Therefore, if the person chose the strategies of justifying the behavior or creating a new cognition, he/she will more likely to repeat his /her aggressive behavior. Moreover, another possibility would be running in the viscous circle of self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, people that were hurt by that person’s aggressive behavior might judge him/her for being an aggressive person in general because they don’t realize the power of the situation on that person. Consequently, they’ll construe schemas for that person as being aggressive and will treat him/her accordingly. Therefore, it will backfire, and that person might start believing that he/she is actually an aggressive person and in fact he/she would become aggressive.


This person could be any of us. The Frustraton- Agression Theory relates to most of us especially in times like these, finals week. The amount of pressure that we are subjected to makes us feel so vulnerable. At these times we find ourselves less likely to help others, have a pro-social behavior. Unfortunately, we sometimes find ourselves not helping the closest of people who might be family or friend. That is to say, we might be even falsifying the concept of “kin selection.” Altruism barely exists in times like this. We are too concerned with the deadlines that we have to the extent that we might give an impression of being selfish. Simply because, you are always not available, you are in hurry and you are too consumed with what you to do. However, you’ll find an increasing trend of norm reciprocity, we sometimes stop to help our collegues that we find in trouble because w simply expect that this will increase the likelihood that they’ll help us back. Since we are somewhat in the same group “being AUC Students” we share the same environment and we tend to have empathy for each other as an ingroup members. I believe that our situation is well explained by the Urban Overload Hypothesis, we are too overwhelmed that we don’t even notice what we are missing out, we avoid any distractions cause we simply “have enough.”

The fact that I’m using my controlled thinking with some introspection I believe that it ill make a difference in the future as I’ll be aware of the stimulus and my behavior will make me be able to control my behavior in the future.


Water is Life… Save your life!

For my attitude analysis paper, I chose to write about the misuse of water topic under the “Natural Resources in Egypt” theme. I chose this topic specifically because my mother’s voice rang a bell in my head when I was going through the themes to decide on the topic; “don’t leave the water tap open, you won’t find water tomorrow, and each drop of water is precious, think of others who can’t find this drop of water.” I believe that Egyptians have this negative attitude toward natural resources; taking them for granted and we don’t appreciate their presence. According to a housing ministry project manager; “40 percent of Cairo’s drinking water is wasted either as a result of deteriorating supply networks or bad social habits like using water to wash building stairwells and cars.”

Typical scene in the streets of Egypt!!!

imagesCA8LLU6UWith all the ongoing concerns regarding the upcoming “water war” and given that our attitude toward the use of water is an implicit attitude that we unconsciously practice and we don’t think about it most of the time unless someone picks on us or there is a water cut.

And that’s the only way we realize our implicit attitude toward the use water.

Studying social psychology would help me understand how this attitude does is formed and reinforced in our society, the role of social influence in forming and maintaining our construal of natural resources and it will provide me with the proper techniques that would help in tackling and changing this attitude and behavior.

I’ll target the new moms and moms to be. I believe that this target group would be the most interested in this topic and they would highly relate to it since they would want to secure the future of their kids and the coming generations more than anyone else. Moreover, this way we will be able to change their attitudes themselves, they would influence others around them and they will use operant conditioning with their children to reinforce positive attitudes toward the use of water. Moreover, they would adopt attitude inoculation strategy to help their children resist any peer pressure that make them change their attitude to a negative one a make them defend the positive attitude instead. That’s basically why I believe that they are the best group to target.
I think starting with changing the attitudes first would be better in this case because once people realize the importance of water, realize that it’s scarce and that in the future we would fight to get this drop of water. They won’t be as careless and they’ll start changing their behavior and work on saving the water. Moreover, according to the reactance theory, people don’t want to feel that their freedom to perform a behavior is threatened if we managed to change their attitude first they will automatically change their behavior without resisting and insisting on doing the negative behavior because they would think that they  freely choosing not t waste  water and not just because someone is telling them to d so.
Analyzing the three components of attitudes would help in identifying how much each component influences the existing attitude. Accordingly, we will choose the right means of changing this attitude because we’ll have a better understanding of the nature and origin of the attitude.
First, the cognitive component, it is basically the beliefs that the people have about the properties of the attitude object. Egyptians’ thoughts regarding the existence of water are that it’s endless. It is something that we’ll always have. This stems from the fact that Egypt has the river Nile which they assumed that it’s an endless source of water. They assumed also that our geographical position makes the water available forever. They think also that the high dam will keep doing its job forever. Therefore, I could infer that they have high cognitive based attitude. I believe that it would be successful if we managed to change these wrong believes and communicated though facts and figures that water is scarce and give them scientific proofs that water would diminish if we didn’t use it conservatively. In this case, persuasive communication would work using the central route to persuasion according to the elaboration likelihood model. Therefore, we would let our audience use their controlled thinking instead of automatic thinking in order to see think of the argument rationally and be aware of the heuristics and schemas to control them. However, as we know, we can’t really control the need for cognition. It necessitates making extra effort to increase the personal relevance to the topic and I believe that it would be easy if we understood our target audience very well and knew the areas of their interest to capture their attention.
Second, the affective component, it is people’s emotional reactions (feelings, values and conditioning) toward the attitude object. In our case Egyptian are generally generous, however, they do it in the wrong way. They love to see a lot of the water flowing when they are bathing for example or while washing the dishes, cleanness is defined by the amount of water flowing regardless if they are actually using it or not. The resulted behaviors are maintained simply because they are not met with some kind of punishment instead they may be positively reinforced. In this way, I believe that if we managed to change the behavior using emotions by some fear arousal it would work well. We need to touch their emotions and make them fear the absence of water. Water is life, no water no life; as simple as that. . However, they might use thought suppression in order to escape their negative thoughts of what might result in the absence of water. Therefore, we definitely need to provide our recommendations and suggestions on how to use the water and save it for the next generations that would give them hope and reduce their fear.
Third, behavioral component, it’s how people act toward the attitude object. As mentioned above, our behavior toward the use of water results from an implicit attitude. This means that we don’t actually realize that we have a negative attitude toward the use of water unless we start referring to our previous behaviors and actions. So one might start thinking of the countless times that he/she left the tap open without using the water or even remember the times that they used to play water fight games without caring to waste water. According to the self-perception theory, under such circumstances we don’t need to see how we behaved before in order to understand how we really feel about the use of water. Given the nature of the target audience, mothers to be, new mothers; I believe that using cognitive dissonance would work well as we would increase their internal justifications by making them feel guilty for not doing the right thing while giving their children moral speeches on not to waste the water. Therefore, they’ll actually want to change their behavior while priming their kids.
In a nutshell, our negative attitude toward water need a growing mindset one that would accept the fact that we are able to be the change we are able to become better. Nothing is called we have this attitude because we are Egyptians. Don’t blame culture we are the culture we influence each other and who decide to conform to certain schemas. By targeting those moms who will teach the next generations, schemas will change, attitudes will change and the culture would change accordingly.


Protected: I think I’m Losing Control!!!

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