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Raymond E. Fancher
Gordon W. Allport was a prominent Harvard University psychologist during the mid-20th century, notable both for his early and effective promotion of “personality” as an important psychological subdiscipline, and in his later career as a social psychologist for works on several issues of major social importance. In 1921 he and his older brother Floyd Allport jointly proposed the study and measurement of traits as the foundation of a new subdiscipline of personality psychology, with Gordon’s Harvard doctoral research a pilot study demonstrating the feasibility of the approach. On a subsequent postdoctoral fellowship in Germany Allport became impressed by William Stern’s “personalistic” psychology, which held that a person’s “individuality” could be defined in two ways: relational individuality, comprised of the particular combination of numerous measurable traits manifested by a subject in studies such as Allport’s thesis; and real individuality, a Gestalt-like conception of a personality that is more than just the sum of its parts, and discoverable only through a qualitative analysis of the traits’ role in an overall life history. These ideas inspired in Allport a conception of personality as a broad and independent psychological field that would incorporate both the “nomothetic,” experimental methods of the natural sciences in measuring and studying personality traits, and the non-experimental “idiographic” methods utilized in the historical and humanistic fields for providing conceptions of wholly integrated, unique personalities. Noting that Anglo-American psychology was heavily dominated by the former approach, he became an outspoken advocate of the latter as a necessary complement to it.
Allport taught undergraduate seminars promoting this conception at Harvard and Dartmouth between 1924 and 1930, before returning permanently to Harvard in 1930. There, both independently and in collaborations with others, he conducted and promoted seminal personality research employing both nomothetic and idiographic methods. His comprehensive and authoritative 1937 textbook, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, was a landmark in establishing personality as a major psychological discipline. With enhanced reputation, Allport became a leading institutional figure in American psychology. For the rest of his career he continued to advocate an inclusive, “eclectic” approach to personality psychology, while also turning attention to important social issues such as wartime morale and propaganda, the influence of radio as a mass medium, the role of religion in personality and society, and with particular impact the nature of prejudice.
Kimberly Rios and Cameron D. Mackey
The definition of group cohesion has been debated since the formal introduction of the concept in social psychology. Group cohesion has undergone a variety of conceptualizations over the years stemming from several theoretical perspectives. Many models of group cohesion have been introduced; however, research with these models is largely confined to the field (e.g., psychology) or subfield (e.g., sports psychology) in which it originated. Initially, unidimensional models of group cohesion were popular, with proponents of these models arguing that cohesion would have the same consequences regardless of its operationalization. However, later research found that group cohesion may be multidimensional in nature. Several two-dimensional models have been proposed, the most popular of which distinguishes between group members working together to attain common goals (task cohesion) and group members interacting with one another on a more personal level (social cohesion). Another multidimensional model of group cohesion builds on the social-task cohesion distinction but further divides social and task cohesion into Group Integration and Individual Attractiveness to Group sub-components, thus creating a four-factor model.
Group cohesion has been applied to a variety of group contexts, including sports teams, military squads, and work groups. The amount of cohesion in each group is dependent upon the properties of the group being investigated. Groups that have naturally formed (i.e., “real” groups) have higher rates of group cohesion than groups created for the purpose of a study (i.e., “artificial” groups). Other factors that affect group cohesion include type of group (e.g., interdependent vs. co-acting) and level of analysis (i.e., individual or group). Research on group cohesion has focused on the consequences of group cohesion in lieu of what causes group cohesion in the first place. Furthermore, although much research has detailed the relationship between cohesion and performance, many other positive consequences of group cohesion have not been assessed in depth. Finally, group cohesion is also associated with potential negative consequences, such as groupthink.
G. Campbell Teskey
The kindling phenomenon is a form of sensitization where, with repetition, epileptiform discharges become progressively longer and behavioral seizures eventually appear and then become more severe. The classic or exogenous kindling technique involves the repeated application of a convulsant stimulus. This technique also lowers seizure thresholds, the minimum intensity of a stimulus required to evoke an electrographic seizure, a process known as epileptogenesis. Endogenous kindling typically occurs following a brain-damaging event which lowers seizure thresholds to the point where self-generated epileptiform discharges recur, lengthen, propagate, and drive progressively more severe behavioral seizures. While exogenous kindling results in alterations in neuronal molecular, cellular/synaptic, and network function that give rise to altered behavior, there is a paucity of evidence for loss of neurons. In contrast, brain-damaging events, with neuronal loss, typically give rise to endogenous kindling. Kindling is a pan-species phenomenon and all mammals that have been examined, including humans, manifest exogenous kindling when seizure-genic (forebrain) structures have been targeted. Since humans display both exogenous and endogenous kindling phenomena this serves as a sober warning to clinicians to prevent seizures. Kindling serves as a robust and reliable model for epileptogenesis, focal as well as secondarily generalized seizures, and certain epileptic disorders.
Robert J. McDonald and Ellen G. Fraser
One view of the organization of learning and memory functions in the mammalian brain is that there are multiple learning and memory networks that acquire and store different kinds of information. Each neural network is thought to have a central structure. The hippocampus, amygdala, perirhinal cortex, and dorsal striatum are thought to be central structures for different learning and memory networks important for spatial/relational, emotional, visual objects, and instrumental memory respectively. These central structures are part of a complex network including cortical and subcortical brain regions containing areas important for sensory, motivational, modulatory, and output functions.
These networks are thought to encode and store information obtained during experiences via a general plasticity mechanism in which the relationship between synapses in these regions are changed. This view suggests that that memory has a physical manifestation in the brain, which allows for synapses to communicate more effectively as a result of activation. One form of synaptic plasticity called long-term potentiation (LTP) is considered a fundamental form of changes in synaptic efficacy mediating learning and long-term memory functions.
One of the biochemical mechanisms for initiating LTP is triggered when a type of glutamate receptor, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), found in all of these memory networks is activated and various biochemical pathways that can produce long-term enhancements to the efficacy of that synapse are recruited.
NMDAR-mediated LTP processes appear to be important for learning and memory processes in these different networks, but there are clear differences. None of the networks require NMDAR functions during expression of new learning. All the networks required NMDAR function during encoding of new information, except the network centered on perirhinal cortex. Finally, all of the networks required NMDAR-mediated plasticity processes for long-term consolidation of new information, except the one centered on the amygdala.
Alan Rosen and Neal Lipsitz
Bearing witness to the Holocaust has taken many different forms and sought to achieve a variety of goals. Forms of testimony include structured and unstructured interviews; audio, video, and written narratives; individual and group formats; and recollections of survivors young and old—from those who testified just after the war to those who only came forth decades later. Different combinations of these distinct forms of testimony contribute to their variety. Most of the time such testimony has aimed to fill out the historical record or deepen moral reflection. Early on, they offered insight into what occurred during the Holocaust, sometimes providing vivid details that revealed the horrific experiences the survivors had endured. This early approach gave those who had not been on the scene an inside look into what actually happened during the Holocaust. Much of the testimony was by those who had experienced the Holocaust themselves. Later, the focus turned to residual trauma and how it manifested itself in the daily life of survivors. Others viewed testimony as potentially therapeutic and elicited it through engaging with survivors in sustained conversations or by encouraging them to give voice to wartime childhood memories. Ultimately, as a more positive and intergenerational perspective began to take hold in the field of psychology, trauma has been seen as something that can be transcended. Hence, some scholars have highlighted the psychological insight to be found within oral and written testimony. Important to note in this context is that a number of Holocaust survivor interview projects have been spearheaded by psychologists. Moving from the early postwar period to the present moment, this article intends to survey both the psychological insights gleaned and the projects conducted. The article will also consider the influence of postwar psychological movements on the style, emphasis, and concepts of psychologically motivated interview projects.
Charles T. Snowden
Darwin’s theory of evolution opened the way for the study of nonhuman primates as a valuable method for understanding human behavior. Psychologists and anthropologists both value the study of nonhuman primates, but they have different methods and goals. Broadly speaking, anthropologists have studied the behavior and social lives of animals in their natural habitat with interests in how primates adapt to their environment and in tracing primate evolutionary history. Psychologists typically study captive primates where controlled experiments are possible to understand the ontogeny and underlying mechanism controlling behavior. The two approaches are complementary and, when integrated, can lead to important insights.
Since the middle of the 20th century, primate research has expanded exponentially, with an increasing number of long-term field sites providing important data across generations with expanded studies of a great variety of species. Captive research also has thrived with the establishment of national primate research centers. Primate research has illuminated our understanding of cognition, language evolution, tool use, culture, and social structure, including mating systems and sexual behavior, parenting, aggression, and cooperation. However, the majority of nonhuman primate species are threatened or endangered in their natural habitats and require human intervention to preserve our primate heritage.
Rhiannon N. Turner
Scholars have developed a plethora of approaches to reducing prejudice and discrimination, many of which have been successfully applied in schools, workplaces, and community settings. Research on intergroup contact suggests that contact between members of different groups, particularly when that contact is warm and positive (for example through friendships) reduces negative emotional reactions (e.g., anxiety) and promotes positive emotions (e.g., empathy), results in more positive attitudes toward members of that group. One might expect that, in an increasingly connected world characterized by global mobility and diversity, higher levels of contact would be associated with a significant lessening of prejudice and discrimination. However, critics have pointed out that changes in attitudes at the individual level do not necessarily translate into reduced prejudice and discrimination at a societal level. Moreover, not everyone has the opportunity to engage in meaningful contact with members of other groups, and even when they do, these opportunities are not always capitalized on. One solution to lack of opportunities for contact is to capitalize on “indirect contact.” These are interventions based on the principles of contact, but which do not involve a face-to-face encounter. Extended contact, which refers to knowing in-group members who have out-group friends, and vicarious contact, which involves learning about the positive contact experiences of our fellow group members, for example via the media, online intergroup contact, and imagining intergroup contact, have each been shown to promote more positive intergroup attitudes. Another way to reduce prejudice and discrimination is to change the way people categorize social groups. When people perceive members of their own group and another group to belong to the same overarching group—that is, they hold a common in-group identity—there is evidence of reduced intergroup bias. However, when our group membership is important to us, this may constitute a threat to our identity, and lead to a reactive increase in bias in order to reassert the distinctiveness of our group. One solution to this is to encourage a dual identity, whereby an individual holds both the original group membership and a common in-group identity that encompasses both groups simultaneously. Alternatively, given the many and varied group memberships that individuals hold, social categories become less useful as a way of categorizing people. There is also evidence that taking a multicultural approach, where differences are acknowledged, rather than a color-blind approach, where differences are ignored, is less likely to result in prejudice and discrimination. Finally, there is evidence that teaching people about other groups, and about the biases they hold but perhaps are not aware of, can help to reduce prejudice and discrimination.
Mark Alicke, Yiyue Zhang, and Nicole Stephenson
Research has explored the relationship between self-knowledge and self-awareness. Specifically, psychologists see self-awareness as a step on the path toward self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is not a monolithic concept. For instance, the working self-concept is the self that is most relevant and accessible at a given time, while the global self-concept is an enduring, stored version of oneself. Implicit self-views are normally unconscious, whereas explicit self-views are generally conscious. The discrepancy between implicit and explicit self-knowledge sometimes results in inaccurate evaluations of attitudes, thoughts, and feelings. Other types of self-knowledge are context-dependent. Established theories such as social identity theory state that people have distinct self-views in different situations. For example, self-complexity refers to the number of self-aspects a person possesses. Finally, there are also distinctions between accurate (i.e., self-assessment theory) and positive self-knowledge (i.e., self-enhancement theory). Self-assessment theory posits that people are information seekers who desire accurate self-views. On the contrary, self-enhancement theory says that people seek to maintain positive self-views and are averse to negative self-information. Depending on the context and the concerns for self-presentation, individuals have preferences to pursue accurate or enhancing self-information.
Increased self-knowledge can manifest in three major ways: via biological, interpersonal, and intrapsychic origins. Biological explanations of the origins of self-knowledge are mostly concerned with genetic expressions and brain activities. Interpersonal paths also help individuals develop self-knowledge. For instance, social comparison facilitates people’s formation of self-views by comparing themselves with similar others. Reflected appraisals increase people’s awareness of their own abilities, qualities, and identities through others’ lens. Intrapsychic self-knowledge can be obtained through self-perception, in which people learn about themselves by observing and analyzing their behaviors in relevant situations. Introspection—focusing on the self—helps people ascertain the reasons behind their feelings and behaviors, which contributes to self-views. However, introspection can sometimes lead to flawed self-knowledge, or result in negative feelings induced by the feelings of inadequacy.
Building on introspection, self-awareness provides another avenue for self-knowledge. The capacity to be aware of one’s existence, or reflexive self-consciousness, is a fundamental component of human cognition. Experimentally induced self-awareness has been shown to have positive effects (e.g., greater compliance with internal standards). Sometimes, however, awareness can have aversive consequences (e.g., suicide) because it reveals that one has fallen short of one’s goals. One way to reduce this discomfort is to avoid self-awareness, such as by cognitive deconstruction—an induction of a cognitive state that lacks emotion, a sense of the future, or concentration on the present. Another way to avoid self-awareness is through deindividuation, which is characterized by a temporary loss of personal identity, especially in a large group. Because self-awareness is associated with both life- and death-related thoughts, researchers argue the nature of this awareness is existential.
Anja H. Olafsen and Edward L. Deci
Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation that utilizes concepts essential for organizational psychology. Among the concepts are types and quality of motivation and basic (i.e., innate and universal) psychological needs. Further, the theory has specified social-environmental factors that affect both the satisfaction versus frustration of the basic psychological needs and the types of motivation. The social-environmental factors concern ways in which colleagues, employees’ immediate supervisors, and their higher-level managers create workplace conditions that are important determinants of the employees’ motivation, performance, and wellness. In addition, SDT highlights individual differences that also influence the degrees of basic need satisfaction and the types of motivation that the employees display. This theoretical framework has gained increasingly attention within the context of work the last 15 years, showcasing the importance of basic psychological needs and type of work motivation in explaining the relation from workplace factors to work behaviors, work attitudes and occupational health.
Zachary P. Hohman and Joshua K. Brown
Self-esteem and self-enhancement are two critical phenomena that play major roles in social psychological theory and research. Everyone has an idea what self-esteem is; however, from an empirical standpoint, what exactly is self-esteem is hotly debated. The unidimensional definition of self-esteem defines it as a global assessment of one’s worth, with greater self-esteem being associated with greater self-worth. Whereas the multidimensional view of self-esteem defines self-esteem as a ratio of competences and worthiness. Furthermore, self-esteem can be broken down into different types: trait self-esteem is a stable view of the self that does not fluctuate much from day to day; state self-esteem is a more transitory view of the self that fluctuates from day to day; and domain-specific self-esteem relies on decisions we make about ourselves or self-evaluations about how we perform in specific situations. Regardless of type, there is an overall belief that humans have an innate need for high self-esteem and that they are particularly attuned to situations that may threaten this. When self-esteem is threatened, people enact behaviors aimed at increasing it: this is called self-enhancement. The idea that people are driven to self-enhance has become a popular topic in psychology and is found in some of the field’s most influential theories. For example, self-determination theory (SDT) examines both interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of self-esteem and self-enhancement. Terror management theory (TMT) explains why human beings need self-esteem and how they self-enhance. Sociometer theory is concerned with understanding how self-esteem developed in humanity’s past and how it affects self-enhancement in the present. Finally, self-affirmation theory focuses on how people try to self-enhance after their self-integrity has been threatened.