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Psychological Considerations for Physical Activity Participants With Intellectual Disabilities  

Yeshayahu Hutzler and Joelle Almosni

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

Major Theories in Social Psychology  

Klaus Fiedler and Karolin Salmen

A synopsis of major theories of social psychology is provided with reference to three major domains of social-psychological inquiry: attitudes and attitude change, motivation regulation, and group behavior. Despite the heterogeneity of research topics, there is considerable overlap in the basic theoretical principles across all three domains. Typical theories that constitute the common ground of social psychology rely on rules of good Gestalt consistency, on psychodynamic principles, but also on behaviorist learning models and on semantic-representation and information-transition models borrowed from cognitive science. Prototypical examples that illustrate the structure and the spirit of theories in social psychology are dissonance theory, construal-level, regulatory focus, and social identity theory. A more elaborate taxonomy of pertinent theories is provided in the first table in this article.

Article

Mirror Neurons, Empathy, and the Other  

Marco Iacoboni

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people. It extends also to the ability to understand and share the feelings of animals and fictional characters. Empathy is essential to properly function in social interactions. It is also typically higher for people who belong to one’s own social group and lower for people who belong to a different social group. Lack of empathy is associated with severe mental health conditions including psychopathy, narcissism, and antisocial personality disorder. Empathy is a complex, flexible, adaptive, and nuanced function for navigating social settings that involves the interplay of multiple neural systems. A crucial neural system for empathy is the mirror neuron system, formed by cells with a variety of properties and the shared feature of being activated during the actions of the self and the perception of actions of other people. The mirroring of the actions of other people in one’s brain allows an understanding from within of the other’s intentions, motivation, and feelings.