160 posts categorized "Social Psychology"

August 08, 2022

The End of Ending Relationships

Cornelia Mayr PhotoBy Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

My colleague and I recently spoke about our experience with death. He asked me whether I have ever seen a dead person in real life. My answer was yes and so did he. Our experiences with death led us to talk about the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one for the last time.

How often do we say goodbye, see you, so long, ciao, adieu, adios, sayonara, auf Wiedersehen, to our family members, friends, or acquaintance--mostly with the taken-for-granted assumption that we will meet another time? In fact, the German word auf Wiedersehen literally means until we see each other again. But what if we won’t be able to see this person again or do not want to? Do we always part our ways harmoniously? If you had known that you will never see a person close to you again, how would you have said goodbye?

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July 18, 2022

Death and Emotional Labor

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Since the pandemic started in 2020, I have “attended” three funerals online, two for elderly relatives who had cancer and one for the elderly father of a friend who had Alzheimer’s disease. Being thousands of miles away, the online option saved me the time and expense of making last-minute travel arrangements. I appreciated the privacy of watching the funerals alone, as I can get emotionally overwhelmed by other people appearing emotionally overwhelmed.

Of course, this is part of what the funeral ritual is for: to comfort the bereaved, and to be in a place where one can openly express sadness. In most social settings, there are unwritten rules that encourage us to stifle any impulse to weep uncontrollably. Typically, we try and hold back sobs and tears whenever possible. At a funeral such rules are loosened, but they still exist. This reflects Erving Goffman’s notion that we work to “regulate… face-to-face interaction” in his book Behavior in Public Places (p. 8).

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February 07, 2022

Greetings

Cornelia Mayr PhotoBy Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

Human connection starts with a friendly smile and a warm hello. How does it feel to greet someone and not have the greeting returned?

I regularly visit the local ladies’ gym, and often have contact with mothers and grandmothers. One granny occasionally brings her five-year-old grandchild with her, a young girl who does not greet nor react to warm greetings. You might presume that the child is too shy to greet a stranger. Can you really be too shy to greet? Is it a must to greet people when we do not feel that we want to do so? The social greeting etiquette made me think of the meaning of this common ritual in everyday interactions.

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January 31, 2022

Tell Me Who I am: Identity and Society

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned/
I know it sounds absurd/
Please tell me who I am.

Supertramp, “Logical Song,” 1979.

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)/
I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)/
Tell me who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)/
Because I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

The Who,Who are You?” 1978

Who am I? Who are you? These two hit songs capture central questions we ask within American society, and within sociology. In the study of sociology, we are very interested in how people make sense of themselves. Some of our earliest thinkers asked these questions, such as George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) who saw identity emerging from interactions between the self and society, and later Erving Goffman (1922-1982), who described the process through which we work to manage the impressions others have of us during social interactions.

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January 03, 2022

Civil Inattention: Behind the Mask in the COVID Era

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The pandemic has clearly impacted the way people interact in public. First, we often wear masks, a practice very unusual in the U.S. before 2020. We might give people a wide berth when encountering them on public sidewalks, walking in the street sometimes to avoid passing too closely. (The chorus of The Police’s 1980 hit song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” has a whole new meaning now.)

And sometimes, we just ignore each other.

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November 15, 2021

Attention in Everyday Life

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

I think about attention a lot. For years, I’ve taught Charles Derber’s The Pursuit of Attention in my Social Psychology course. Derber recognizes that attention is a fundamental human need. It’s normal and healthy to want attention. What’s unhealthy is when too many of us crave attention more and more of the time.

We can look at celebrities as massive attention getters. We can easily name famous people who have soaked up our attention through the years: Madonna, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Cardi B, Harry Styles, Lil Nas X. On a smaller scale there are influencers who fight for attention on YouTube and Instagram, and people using their talents to catch attention on TiKToK.

Reality television captures our attention in the form of pranks and shenanigans in shows like Jackass or shows that relish in interpersonal conflict and air dirty laundry like The Jerry Springer Show, or ones that showcase rich and glamorous lifestyles like Keeping up with the Kardashians, or ones that highlight relationship problems and dramas such as Catfish and 90 Day Fiancé.

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October 04, 2021

I Have Questions about Norms!

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Each time I mow my lawn, I think about norms. It sounds silly, but the phrase “conventional mowing hours” comes to mind when I’m deciding what time to cut the grass. I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for ten years. I’ve rarely seen anyone mow before 9:00 a.m. I’d be going out of my way to irritate my neighbors if I mowed at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. We learn through observation and social interaction what’s considered to be socially acceptable behavior. A lot of norms operate as unwritten rules about what we should and shouldn’t do in everyday life.

When you intentionally break social norms, you might generate interesting reactions. Breaching experiments demonstrate the power of social norms, as explained in this post by Bradley Wright. It would be a breaching experiment to cut my lawn using scissors, or to fire up the lawnmower at midnight. If you’ve ever watched Impractical Jokers, you understand what breaching experiments look like.

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October 19, 2020

2020: The Ultimate Example of Emotional Labor

Todd Schoepflin author photoBy Todd Schoepflin

At 7:50 each weekday morning, my wife heads out the door, off to work at the elementary school where she is a social worker. This year is unlike any of the first ten years she’s worked at the school. There are no children in the building. Our local public school district is currently doing remote learning.

Teachers report to the building and conduct classes from empty classrooms. Staff members continue their daily work to make sure regular functions run smoothly. Social workers and psychologists go to their offices and do the best they can to contribute to the academic and social development of students. “Sad” is the word my wife most commonly uses to describe what it feels like to walk into a quiet school without the hustle and bustle of hundreds of children.

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June 29, 2020

Collective Trauma and COVID-19

Liana tuller author photoBy Liana Renée Tuller,  Research Fellow at Northeastern University's Brudnick Center on Conflict and Violence

Numerous newspaper and magazine articles, health advisories, blogs, radio segments, and op-eds have dubbed COVID-19 a “collective trauma.” What does that mean? And, if our city, our country, and our world is, indeed, experiencing a collective trauma, what lessons can previous collective traumas offer us to help us cope?

Unquestionably, COVID-19 has affected people’s psychological state, not only through grief when loved ones die, but also through the stress of job loss, fear of being infected, isolation imposed by social distancing, and anxiety that life will never return to normal. These emotions, communally experienced, could indeed be described as traumatic.

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July 15, 2019

"Are You an Athlete?" The Social Construction of Identity

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

No one had ever asked me if I was an athlete until recently. While checking my vital signs before a routine procedure, a nurse noted my low resting heart rate and asked this question. I didn’t know what to say; I must have had a puzzled look on my face.

“Do you get a lot of cardiovascular exercise?” she clarified. “Oh, yes,” I told her. In fact, fitness is probably what occupies most of my time, after sleeping and working. But I never think of myself as an athlete.

This got me thinking about how identity is constructed in a variety of social contexts. The identity of “athlete” is often related to social institutions, particularly those that have a special designation for this social category. For collegiate athletes, there is a governing body that creates rules and guidelines that schools must follow.

Continue reading ""Are You an Athlete?" The Social Construction of Identity" »

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