Margaret Jane Pitts and Cindy Gallois
Social markers in language and speech are cues conveyed through verbal and nonverbal means that serve to identify individuals to the groups to which they belong. Social markers can be linguistic, paralinguistic, or extralinguistic in form, and can range from intentional and purposive (e.g., language selection or dialect accentuation) to unintentional and uncontrollable (e.g., vocal features that mark age or sex). They help to provide context for social organization. Extralinguistic cues are those that may be conveyed through gesture and physical appearance (i.e., skin color). However, social markers in language and speech focus on the paralinguistic (i.e., vocal cues such as pitch and tone) and linguistic cues (i.e., language choice, language style, accent, dialect, code-switching, and multilingualism) that mark social categories. Relevant social categories that are made distinctive through language and speech markers include age, sex and gender, social class, ethnicity, and many others. Scholars across disciplines of psychology, social psychology, linguistics, and communication have approached the study of social markers from different perspectives, resulting in theoretical (e.g., communication accommodation theory, ethnolinguistic vitality theory, linguistic intergroup bias) and methodological (e.g., matched-guise technique and ethnography of communication) advancements.
Nancy Morrow-Howell, Yi Wang, and Takashi Amano
Social participation is a key element of a healthy later life; and from a life course perspective, social participation declines in later life, due to separation from employment and educational institutions, loss of partners and friends, and restrictions due to functional limitations. Thus, maintaining and increasing participation has gained attention from researchers, program administrators, and policy developers. The term “social participation” means activities that involve social exchange and choice, and volunteering is consistently included. Personal, behavioral, health and social services, economics, and social and physical environmental factors have been associated with social participation and volunteering. Higher levels of human capital, social capital, and cultural capital have been associated with higher levels of participation; and the built and social environment can facilitate engagement. Studies demonstrate the positive effects of social participation and volunteering on physical, cognitive, and psychological health of older adults. Role theory and concepts of coping as well as cognitive enrichment have been used to explain these positive outcomes.
Volunteering, as a form of social participation, has received much academic attention in the last decade for a few reasons because, more than other social activities, it is altruistic. This feature may increase the health-producing benefits of engagement as well as create good for the community. It is often referred to as creating a “win-win” for the individual and for society.
Individual, group, and community interventions have been developed to increase social participation. However, evidence supporting effectiveness is limited and programs are underutilized. Future directions include wider implementation of interventions and more attention to the role of environment in increasing social participation, the use of technology in social participation, and increased understanding of the pathways through with social participation and volunteering improve well-being in later life.
Susan Baker, Bernadette Watson, and Cindy Gallois
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Language is a social behavior, and a key aspect of social interaction. Language is ubiquitous and usually occurs with other human behaviors across diverse contexts. Thus, it is difficult to study it in isolation. This difficulty may be why most social psychologists tend to neglect language. Language use, though, has implications for many social psychological processes, and given its role in daily social life, it is important to understand its social underpinnings. The 50+ year history of the field of language and social psychology highlights the relationship between language and communication, and also foregrounds the differences between the social-psychological and communication approaches. One central issue is bilingualism and the relationship among language, identity, and culture. Another is methodology, where social psychologists have tended to choose experimental and survey strategies to look at language (not always to the best advantage). This century has seen the development of new technologies that allow us to look at language at large scale and in rich detail, and which have the potential to transform this research. In part as a consequence, there are now many new topics emerging in language and social psychology, which help to set a new agenda for future research.
Cornelia Wrzus and Jenny Wagner
Over the entire life span, social relationships are essential ingredients of human life. Social relationships describe regular interactions with other people over a certain period and generally include a mental representation of the relationship and the relationship partner. Social relationships cover diverse types, such as those with family members, romantic partners, friends, colleagues, as well as with other unrelated people. In general, most of these relationships change in number, contact frequency, and relationship quality during adulthood and old age. For example, both the number of and contact with friends and other unrelated people generally decrease with advancing age, whereas the number of and contact with family members remain rather stable. Relatively little is known about longitudinal changes in the quality of relationships, apart from romantic relationships, because few longitudinal studies have tracked specific relationships. Some explanatory factors, which are discussed in the literature, are (a) motivational changes, (b) reduced time due to work and family demands during adulthood, and (c) resource constraints in older age. Future work on social relationships would benefit from increasingly applying dyadic and network approaches to include the perspective of relationship partners as well as from examining online and offline contact in social relationships, which has already proved important among younger adults.
Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal
The sociocultural aspects of sport injury and recovery include the broad landscape of social beliefs, climates, processes, cultures, institutions, and societies that surround the full chronological spectrum of sport injury outcomes, ranging from risk through to rehabilitation and retirement. A social ecological view of research on this topic demonstrates that sociocultural influences affect sport injury outcomes via interrelated sport systems extending from the intrasystem (i.e., within sports persons) through the microsystem (i.e., sport relationships), mesosystem (i.e., sport organizations), exosystem (i.e., sport governing bodies), and macrosystem (i.e., sport cultures). Affected sport injury outcomes include sport injury risks and responses during rehabilitation, return to play, and retirement from sport.
Some specific examples of sociocultural themes evident in research literature include personal conformity to the cultural expectation to play hurt, social conventions of behavior when sport injuries occur, institutional character or ethics when making return to play decisions, guidelines for the care of athletes prescribed by sport governing bodies, and the economic costs to society for sport injuries. Many elements of sport injury are affected by these sociocultural influences, such as the risk of injuries, rehabilitation processes, and career terminations. Continuing debates and discussions include advocacy for sport rule changes, bans on dangerous sports, institutional responsibility, and global sport safety efforts. These form the basis for recommendations about sociocultural interventions designed to reduce sport injury risks and optimize effective injury recoveries through social and cultural best practices.
David Marx and Sei Jin Ko
Stereotypes are widely held generalized beliefs about the behaviors and attributes possessed by individuals from certain social groups (e.g., race/ethnicity, sex, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation). They are often unchanging even in the face of contradicting information; however, they are fluid in the sense that stereotypic beliefs do not always come to mind or are expressed unless a situation activates the stereotype. Stereotypes generally serve as an underlying justification for prejudice, which is the accompanying feeling (typically negative) toward individuals from a certain social group (e.g., the elderly, Asians, transgender individuals). Many contemporary social issues are rooted in stereotypes and prejudice; thus research in this area has primarily focused on the antecedents and consequences of stereotype and prejudice as well as the ways to minimize the reliance on stereotypes when making social judgments.
Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty, and Maria Stavraki
Attitudes refer to general evaluations people have regarding people, places, objects, and issues. Attitudes serve a number of important functions such as guiding choices and actions and giving people a sense of identity and belonging. Attitudes can differ in the extent to which they come from affect, cognition, and behavior. These bases of attitudes can be appraised objectively and subjectively. Attitudes can also differ in their strength, with some attitudes being more impactful and predictive of behavior than others. Some indicators of attitude strength have been viewed as relatively objective in nature (e.g., stability, resistance, accessibility, spreading) whereas other strength indicators are more subjective in nature (e.g., attitude certainty, subjective ambivalence, perceived moral basis of attitudes). Attitudes can be stored in memory in different ways, including an attitude structure in which attitude objects are linked to both positivity and negatively separately, tagging these evaluations with varying degrees of validity. Finally, after a long tradition of assessing attitudes using people’s responses to self-report measures (explicit measures of attitudes), more recent work has also assessed attitude change with measures that tap into people’s more automatic evaluations (implicit measures of attitudes). Implicit and explicit measures can be useful in predicting behavior separately and also in combination.
Gerben J. Westerhof and Susanne Wurm
Aging is often associated with inevitable biological decline. Yet research suggests that subjective aging—the views that people have about their own age and aging—contributes to how long and healthy lives they will have. Subjective age and self-perceptions of aging are the two most studied aspects of subjective aging. Both have somewhat different theoretical origins, but they can be measured reliably. A total of 41 studies have been conducted that examined the longitudinal health effects of subjective age and self-perceptions of aging. Across a wide range of health indicators, these studies provide evidence for the longitudinal relation of subjective aging with health and longevity. Three pathways might explain this relation: physiological, behavioral, and psychological pathways. The evidence for behavioral pathways, particularly for health behaviors, is strongest, whereas only a few studies have examined physiological pathways. Studies focusing on psychological pathways have included a variety of mechanisms, ranging from control and developmental regulation to mental health. Given the increase in the number of older people worldwide, even a small positive change in subjective aging might come with a considerable societal impact in terms of health gains.
Well-being is a core concept for both individuals, groups and societies. Greater understanding of trajectories of well-being in later life may contribute to the achievement and maintenance of well-being for as many as possible. This article reviews two main approaches to well-being: hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, and shows that it is not chronological age per se, but various factors related to age that underlie trajectories of well-being at older ages. Next to the role of genes, heritability and personality traits, well-being is determined to a substantial extent by external circumstances and resources (e.g., health and social relationships), and to malleable individual behaviors and beliefs (e.g., self-regulatory ability and control beliefs). Although many determinants have been identified, it remains difficult to decide which of them are most important. Moreover, the role of some determinants varies for different indicators of well-being, such as positive affect and life satisfaction. Several prominent goal- and need-based models of well-being in later life are discussed, which explicate mechanisms underlying trajectories of well-being at older ages. These are the model of Selection, Optimization, and Compensation, the Motivational Theory of Lifespan Development, Socio-emotional Selectivity Theory, Ryff’s model of Psychological Well-Being, Self-Determination Theory, and Self-Management of Well-being theory. Also, interventions based on these models are reviewed, although not all of them address older adults. It is concluded that the literature on well-being in later life is enormous, and, together with various conceptual models, offers many important insights. Still, the field would benefit from more theoretical integration, and from more attention to the development and testing of theory-based interventions. This remains a challenge for the science of well-being in later life, and could be an important contribution to the well-being of a still growing proportion of the population.
Craig D. Parks
A social dilemma is a situation of interdependence between people in which there is conflict between doing what is best for oneself, and doing what is best for the group: Trying to produce the best personal outcome (selfishness) hurts the group effort, and contributing to the group effort (cooperation) leads to a less-than-optimal personal outcome. The best personal outcome is realized by acting for oneself when everyone else acts for the group. Because of this, if each group member does what is best for him or herself, the group will fail, and each person will end up with a poor outcome. Solution of a social dilemma thus requires that at least some people forgo selfish interest in favor of the collective. Research into social dilemmas is primarily oriented around identifying the influences on a person’s willingness to cooperate and designing interventions that will encourage more frequent cooperation. There are many real examples of social dilemmas: clean air, charities, public broadcasting, and groundwater, to name a few.
Michelle Bal and Kees Van den Bos
In the literature on prejudice and derogatory reactions, two prominent lines of research can be distinguished, one focusing on the expression and endorsement of (mostly) negative stereotypes and prejudice, and one zooming in on how defense of cultural worldviews can lead to derogatory reactions toward those who are different from ourselves. Research on both stereotypes/prejudice and cultural worldviews reveals how personal uncertainty can lead to the occurrence of derogatory reactions. In research on prejudice, the automaticity of stereotyping and prejudice has been the subject of debate. Some scholars argue for the inevitability of stereotyping, as these processes are assumed to be automatic and inevitable. By contrast, other scholars distinguish automatic stereotype activation from more controlled stereotype endorsement. Importantly, stereotype activation may be altered by stereotype-negation training reducing the expression of prejudice. In worldview defense research, it is shown how uncertainty-related motives and other worldview threats are related to the expression of derogatory reactions toward those who fall outside our scope of justice.
In contemporary society, people frequently have to deal with feelings of personal uncertainty, especially regarding future-oriented delayed outcomes. To cope with these feelings, people adhere to their cultural worldviews. These belief systems enable people to strive for long-term goals, but also make them more vulnerable to expressing prejudice and other derogatory reactions. A wealth of research shows that when people’s worldviews are threatened, they tend to react more rigidly and negatively toward others, especially toward those who belong to an outgroup. For example, if one believes that the world is inherently just (i.e. in studies looking at “just world beliefs”), interacting with innocent victims of crimes can threaten this worldview. In the face of this conflict, people sometimes respond in derogatory and prejudiced ways toward those victims in order to uphold their belief that the world is a just place where bad things can only happen to bad people. Importantly, alleviating feelings of personal uncertainty (either by affirming personal certainty or by refocusing attention toward other aspects of an unjust situation) can reduce derogatory reactions and instigate benevolent reactions focused on helping those who are less well off.