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Article

Benjamin Gardner and Amanda L. Rebar

Within psychology, the term habit refers to a process whereby contexts prompt action automatically, through activation of mental context–action associations learned through prior performances. Habitual behavior is regulated by an impulsive process, and so can be elicited with minimal cognitive effort, awareness, control, or intention. When an initially goal-directed behavior becomes habitual, action initiation transfers from conscious motivational processes to context-cued impulse-driven mechanisms. Regulation of action becomes detached from motivational or volitional control. Upon encountering the associated context, the urge to enact the habitual behavior is spontaneously triggered and alternative behavioral responses become less cognitively accessible. By virtue of its cue-dependent automatic nature, theory proposes that habit strength will predict the likelihood of enactment of habitual behavior, and that strong habitual tendencies will tend to dominate over motivational tendencies. Support for these effects has been found for many health-related behaviors, such as healthy eating, physical activity, and medication adherence. This has stimulated interest in habit formation as a behavior change mechanism: It has been argued that adding habit formation components into behavior change interventions should shield new behaviors against motivational lapses, making them more sustainable in the long-term. Interventions based on the habit-formation model differ from non-habit-based interventions in that they include elements that promote reliable context-dependent repetition of the target behavior, with the aim of establishing learned context–action associations that manifest in automatically cued behavioral responses. Interventions may also seek to harness these processes to displace an existing “bad” habit with a “good” habit. Research around the application of habit formation to health behavior change interventions is reviewed, drawn from two sources: extant theory and evidence regarding how habit forms, and previous interventions that have used habit formation principles and techniques to change behavior. Behavior change techniques that may facilitate movement through discrete phases in the habit formation trajectory are highlighted, and techniques that have been used in previous interventions are explored based on a habit formation framework. Although these interventions have mostly shown promising effects on behavior, the unique impact on behavior of habit-focused components and the longevity of such effects are not yet known. As an intervention strategy, habit formation has been shown to be acceptable to intervention recipients, who report that through repetition, behaviors gradually become routinized. Whether habit formation interventions truly offer a route to long-lasting behavior change, however, remains unclear.

Article

Christopher Groves and Craig A. Anderson

This chapter reviews the history of modern psychological inquiry into human aggression and the development of aggression theory over time. Definitions of aggression-related phenomena are provided along with taxonomies of aggression that are frequently considered by psychological scientists. Modern, domain specific theories of aggression are detailed with emphasis placed on integrative theories of aggression. Special focus is paid to the scientific benefits and recent discoveries that are attributable to the use of integrative theories of aggression. Success in domains that serve as exemplars of systematically examining all known aggressive processes are identified as leaders in the productive future of aggression research.

Article

Adam R. Pearson and Matthew T. Ballew

Environmental sustainability, the long-term management and protection of earth’s resources and ecosystems, is increasingly recognized as a societal challenge shaped by human behavior at every level of social interaction, from neighborhoods to nations. Psychological perspectives on conservation, which have traditionally emphasized individual determinants of proenvironmental behavior (e.g., personal environmental concern), have begun to incorporate a more nuanced picture of the ways in which both individual and group-level processes can influence conservation efforts. In particular, research on social norms and identity-based influences suggests that social perceptions, such as beliefs about what actions are common and socially valued, can be more powerful drivers of conservation behavior than monetary incentives, proenvironmental appeals, or the ease of proenvironmental actions. Additional research has begun to incorporate cross-cultural perspectives and insights from diversity science and intervention science to better understand how different cultural orientations and social identity processes, such as those related to race, ethnicity, and social class, impact environmental decision-making. A new class of “wise” interventions that target psychological mechanisms that shape conservation behavior, such as interventions that incorporate normative feedback, target public behavior, or seek to alter daily routines during major life transitions, have proven especially effective at promoting sustained behavior change. Generally, behavioral interventions are more effective at promoting conservation behavior when they are tailored to the social context in which behavior occurs.

Article

Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg

Terror management theory (TMT) posits that the uniquely human awareness of death engenders potentially debilitating existential terror that is “managed” by subscribing to cultural worldviews providing a sense that life has meaning as well as opportunities to obtain self-esteem, in pursuit of psychological equanimity in the present and literal or symbolic immortality in the future. In empirical support of TMT, research has demonstrated that: self-esteem serves to buffer anxiety in general, and about death in particular; reminders of death increase defense of the cultural worldview and efforts to bolster self-esteem; threats to the cultural worldview or self-esteem increase the accessibility of implicit death thoughts; conscious and non-conscious thoughts of death instigate qualitatively different defensive processes; death reminders increase hostility toward people with different beliefs, affection for charismatic leaders, and support for political and religious extremism; and death reminders magnify symptoms of psychological disorders.

Article

R. Scott Tindale and Jeremy R. Winget

Group decisions are ubiquitous in everyday life. Even when decisions are made individually, decision-makers often receive advice or suggestions from others. Thus, decisions are often social in nature and involve multiple group members. The literature on group decision-making is conceptualized as falling along two dimensions: how much interaction or information exchange is allowed among the group members, and how the final decision is made. On one end, group decisions can be made simply by aggregating member preferences or judgments without any interaction among members, with members having no control or say in the final judgment. One the other end, groups’ decisions can involve extensive member interaction and information exchanges, and the final decision is reached by group consensus. In between these two endpoints, various other strategies are also possible, including prediction markets, Delphi groups, and judge–advisor systems. Research has shown that each dimension has different implications for decision quality and process depending on the decision task and context. Research exploring these two dimension has also helped to illuminate those aspects of group decision-making that can lead to better-quality decisions.

Article

Globalization has become an influential force in the construction of older age, notably in the framing of social and economic policies designed to manage and regulate demographic change. National institutions such as the welfare state provided a distinctive shape and associated meanings to the final phase of the life course in Western societies during the 20th century. This process was disrupted from the 1990s onward, with a combination of more intense processes of globalization and accelerated international migration. A transformed cultural context is influencing a move from a linear life course toward one in which events influencing later life are scattered across a broad spectrum of time, space, and chronological age. Globalization will undoubtedly be a major factor in shaping the lives of older people through the 21st century. The types of changes it will bring are easy to predict in some respects, much less so in others. Older people will certainly be living in a culturally and socially diverse world, increasingly aware not only of the aging of their own society but also the impact of growing old on communities across the globe. An additional change will be the influence of supranational bodies in determining policies in areas such as Social Security and health and social care, these creating the framework for resources for support for old age. Globalization—as one constituent of the “risk society”—may also generate new forms of insecurity for individuals, of which anxieties and fears about aging could represent a significant dimension.

Article

Persons with intellectual disability (ID) exhibit reduced levels of participation in recreational and habitual physical activity, which leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and resulting medical and psychosocial burdens. In spite of their cognitive limitations, persons with ID are able to benefit from utilization of learner-centered approaches to physical activity participation. Several theoretical models, including social cognitive theory (SCT), self-determination theory (SDT), and constructivism, are helpful for explaining the benefits of internalizing learning within the framework of physical activity in persons with ID. Peer modeling, decision-making for leisure (DML), divergent production style (DPS), and the cycle of internalization (CIL) are practical teaching models focusing on internalizing learning experiences and developing an intrinsic motivation for action in the physical domain. These models have been successfully practiced in persons with ID, and their feasibility and effectiveness was established particularly for developing autonomy and social relatedness. In this article the theoretical constructs and the research literature pertaining to SCT, DML, DPS and CIL is reviewed, enabling to synthesize perspectives on how to integrate these models within residential, vocational or community based physical activity programs for persons with ID. Utilizing such models and practices may facilitate persons with ID developing an internalized motivational approach to participation in physical activity and therefore be beneficial for reducing risk factors, keeping fit and enhance quality of life. Staff members in community residences and homes for persons with ID as well as in day-care and vocational centers, should be encouraged to utilize such models as an alternative to the widely used directive teaching model following the behaviorist approach.

Article

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.

Article

Li Chu, Yang Fang, Vivian Hiu-Ling Tsang, and Helene H. Fung

Cognitive processing of social and nonsocial information changes with age. These processes range from the ones that serve “mere” cognitive functions, such as recall strategies and reasoning, to those that serve functions that pertain to self-regulation and relating to others. However, aging and the development of social cognition unfold in different cultural contexts, which may assume distinct social norms and values. Thus, the resulting age-related differences in cognitive and social cognitive processes may differ across cultures. On the one hand, biological aging could render age-related differences in social cognition universal; on the other hand, culture may play a role in shaping some age-related differences. Indeed, many aspects of cognition and social cognition showed different age and culture interactions, and this makes the study of these phenomena more complex. Future aging research on social cognition should take cultural influences into consideration.

Article

Despite high rates of mental illnesses, older adults face multiple barriers in accessing mental health care. Primary care clinics, and home- and community-based senior-serving agencies are settings where older adults routinely receive medical care and social services. Therefore, integration of mental health care with existing service delivery systems can improve access to mental health services and reduce the unmet mental health needs of seniors. Evidence suggests that with innovative components mental health provided in collaboration with primary care providers with or without co-location within primary care clinics can improve depression and anxiety. Home-based models for depression care are also effective, but more research is needed in examining home-based approaches in late-life anxiety treatment. It is noteworthy that integrative models are particularly helpful in expanding the reach in underserved communities: elders from minority and low-income backgrounds and homebound seniors.