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Human Perceptions of Social World in Psychology Essay

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Updated: Nov 20th, 2020


Researchers, such as Försterling (2013), Hareli (2014), and Erwin (2014) explain social conception and highlight several theoretical frameworks that could be used to explain how people interact with one another. In this paper, I explain how existing theories of psychology have helped to illustrate how people make sense of their social world and demonstrate how associated research has merged to create a common narrative that explains people’s worldviews.

Interpersonal Relationships

Mahendran (2015) draws our attention to interpersonal relationships as a possible tool for understanding how people view their reality because he says it stems from an evaluation of people’s actions, as opposed to how they speak or describe themselves. This school of thought premises on the philosophy that our actions and the reasons for taking them have a greater bearing on our identity and purpose in life.

A social psychologist, Ian Burkitt (as cited in Mahendran 2015), draws our attention to the concept of the self and says that it is a product of our relationship with other people. He also says that people’s recognition of their differences from others and their perceptions of their duties to other people affect how they make sense of the social world (however, people who have cognitive issues, such as children who suffer from autism, do not possess this ability) (Mahendran 2015; Hewson and Turner, 2015). In his analysis, Mahendran (2015) contends that human identity today is no longer defined by the responsibilities expected of them, but on their relationship with other people. Based on this assertion, we find his review presents the “self” as a product of interpersonal interactions.

Mahendran’s (2015) analysis contrasts with that of Bowes- Catton (2015) in her analysis of sex and sexuality because they both emphasize the role of interpersonal relationships in explaining people’s conception of reality. Her review shows that people’s identities are mostly conceptualized within unique cultural contexts and were developed after evaluating how people perceive their sexual identities in today’s world (Bowes- Catton 2015).

These views affirm Mahendran’s (2015) analysis on how people make sense of the world because both authors draw our attention to interpersonal relationships as a measure of how people make up their social identities. In her view of sexuality, Bowes- Catton (2015) says shared values and interests with other people influence people’s perceptions of themselves and others. The notion of being cared for and feeling supported by others also adds to the same perception, but sharing close relationships and feeling safe and secure within a social unit equally has a strong contribution to people’s understanding of their social world. This heightened emphasis on interpersonal relationships affirms the influence of social relationships in shaping people’s identities and their view of the world.

External Influences

Barker (2015) provides us with a different understanding of how people should make sense of their social world because, unlike Bowes- Catton (2015) and Mahendran (2015) (above), she talks about rewriting the rules of social interaction by demonstrating the potential for self-knowledge and acceptance in shaping people’s reality. Although her views seem like a departure from the norms of social interaction, it is important to draw the similarity between her evaluation of social relationships and those of Bowes- Catton (2015) because they both underscore the influence of culture in shaping social outcomes.

Indeed, Bowes- Catton (2015) says that social interactions are conceptualized within cultural frameworks, while Mahendran (2015) says conceptualized conflicts and relationships occur within a cultural lens (mostly within the western culture lens). Here, the role of culture in explaining human reality stands out. More importantly, we come to understand the role of context in explaining the same phenomenon through the works of Barker (2015).

Mahendran (2015) adds to the role of external factors in shaping people’s perception of the world by focusing on self-esteem and explaining its effects on how people perceive their worth to society. His analysis shows that different external attributes affect people’s self-esteem. For example, a culture emerges as a strong influence of self-esteem because it provides the social lens through which people perceive their self-worth. Mahendran (2015) delves deeper into this issue by saying that a person’s exposure to western and eastern cultures is likely to create different results, in terms of self-esteem outcomes. In other words, what may be deemed as a noble or respectable action in one culture may not be regarded as the same in a different one.

This analysis merges with the views of other authors who have investigated the role of context in shaping people’s identities and perception of the world because it highlights the influence of external forces in explaining people’s perception of themselves and the world. This merger of views excludes the understanding that people’s views of the world could be attributed to internal factors (related to the “self”).

The emphasis on external factors as an influence on people’s perception of reality was also highlighted in a Facebook experiment highlighted by Mahendran (2015), which reported that people respond positively or negatively to external stimuli, depending on the contents of the stimuli. The experiment involved intentionally exposing a series of negative messages on the Newsfeeds of unsuspecting Facebook users, who later responded by posting negative status updates about different aspects of their lives (Mahendran 2015).

The same result was replicated in experiments that involved exposing unsuspecting Facebook users to positive messages on their Newsfeeds because they responded by posting positive status updates (Mahendran 2015). This example highlights the power of external influences in shaping people’s perceptions of the world and themselves. More importantly, it demonstrates that people have little power to influence their perception of the world because their environments dictate it.

Andreouli (2015) also highlighted the role of context in explaining people’s perception of the world by arguing that the concept of people’s identity could be constructed from a set of common ethos and values shared within a nation. The concept of nationhood, as an instrument to construct personal identity and reality, is similar to the view of Barker (2015) in her portrayal of conflicts in close relationships. The latter teaches us that there is no universal metric to understand romantic relationships because this conception is often a product of context and specificity, which are subject to social and cultural conceptions of reality (Barker 2015).

Thus, both analyses draw our attention to the importance of contextualization in our understanding of how people perceive the world. The similarity between Andreouli (2015) and Barker’s (2015) views stems from the commonality between contextual social relationships and the social construction of nations because they are not natural communities. Instead, they are “imagined” societies that are derived from socially and historically constructed groups of people (Andreouli 2015).

National identities are propagated in different ways, including the use of the media to shape national debates or the understanding of how political discourses follow national narratives (Andreouli 2015). This analysis is captured in the social construction view of psychology, which is advanced by different researchers, including Lefrancois (2012), Leman (2012), and Wall (2015).

Close to this analysis is the attribution theory, which outlines the argument above, but in the context of the need for people to belong to a specific social context (Graham, 2014). As an investigative process to explain why people behave in certain ways, some researchers and proponents of the theory have explored the role of external influences on people’s actions and labeled it the “group effect” on people’s behaviors (Lefrancois 2012). The group effect is based on the findings of psychological theories that show people’s actions are influenced by group dynamics, or the need to belong to certain social groups (Lefrancois 2012). This analysis reflects situational attribution, which is a core tenet of the theory.

Internal Influences

Psychological theories have also tried to explain how people perceive their social reality by adopting an outward-in approach where they are mindful of how their actions fit with their personalities. Fullwood and Fox-Hamilton’s (2015) analysis of the online space highlight this approach because they say that personal conversations that happen in the virtual space could create flexibility in human interaction that could shape people’s conception of their world. The existence of virtual communities highlights this fact (Fullwood and Fox-Hamilton’s 2015). This analysis represents what many researchers regard as “self-concept” (Lefrancois 2012).

It is based on cognitive consistency and was proposed by influential social researchers, such as Festinger, Schacter, and Black in the 1950s (Leman 2012). Cherry and Barker (2015), in their analysis of how people could use self-help to change their experiences, also highlight the importance of understanding personal factors in shaping people’s reality. The concept of cognitive consistency stems from the concept of dissonance, which happens when people engage in actions that contravene their beliefs, faiths, and values (Lefrancois 2012). This theory implies that most people would try to avoid engaging in actions that contravene their beliefs and values and instead engage in those that resonate with the same.

The self-perception theory also falls within the same category of behavioral theories that explain worldviews. It presupposes that most people develop ambiguous attitudes about the world, based on their lack of experience on the issues they choose to judge (Erwin 2014).

However, based on either negative or positive outcomes, they choose to keep only those attitudes that are favorable to themselves (Fong, 2016). Often, they do so by reflecting on their behaviors and figuring out which attitudes they possess about the world that may have caused the outcome. Although this analysis demonstrates that internal influences affect how people perceive their social world, it is important to point out they are partly shaped by external influences as well. For example, people’s internal beliefs and values often stem from religious or cultural factors, which are external to their conception of reality. Thus, it may be difficult to draw a strong distinction between internal and external influences on social reality.


In this paper, I have explained that people’s reality and their conception of the social world stem from three building blocks that include external factors, internal influences, and interpersonal relationships. These influences are supported by the social construction theory, which explains how people share common assumptions about their reality (Leman 2012). In the context of this study, interpersonal relationships emerge as the main platform through which people share these assumptions because constant interactions with one another lead to an exchange of ideas, values, and beliefs, which later form a common conception of reality.

Nationhood is one product we have identified as a symbol or manifestation of this process because nations are imagined communities bound by common values, beliefs, and cultures. Thus, based on the findings of this paper, we deduce that interpersonal relationships, external influences, and internal views of the self underscore people’s understanding of their social world.

(Word Count 1,821)

Reference List

Andreouli, E. (2015) ‘Nations and immigration’, in Turner, J. Hewson, C. Mahendran, K. and Stevens, P. (eds) Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary (Book 1.), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 30-32.

Barker. M. J. (2015) ‘Conflict in close relationships’, in Turner, J. Hewson, C. Mahendran, K. and Stevens, P. (eds) Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary (Book 1), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 12-24.

Bowes- Catton, H. (2015) ‘Sex and sexuality’, in Turner, J. and Barker, M.J. (eds) Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary (Book 2), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 27-32.

Cherry, S and Barker, M, J. (2015) ‘Self-help: changing people’s understanding to change their experience’, in Turner, J and Barker, M, J. (eds) Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary (Book 2.), Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Erwin, P. (2014) Attitudes and persuasion, Psychology Press, New York.

Fong, B. (2016) Death and mastery: psychoanalytic drive theory and the subject of late capitalism, Columbia University Press, New York.

Försterling, F. (2013) Attribution: an introduction to theories, research and applications, Psychology Press, New York.

Fullwood, C and Fox-Hamilton, N. (2015) ‘Week 25: living online’, The Open University. Web.

Graham, S. (2014) Attribution theory: applications to achievement, mental health, and interpersonal conflict, Psychology Press, New York.

Hareli, S. (2014) ‘Making sense of the social world and influencing it by using a naïve attribution theory of emotions’, Emotion Review, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 336 – 343.

Hewson, C and Turner, J. (2015) ‘Week 4: mindreading difficulties – examples from clinical psychology’, The Open University. Web.

Lefrancois, G. (2012) Theories of human learning: what the professor said, Cengage Learning, London.

Leman, M. (2012) Music and schema theory: cognitive foundations of systematic musicology, Springer Science & Business Media, New York.

Mahendran. K. (2015) ‘Self Esteem’, in Turner, J. Hewson, C. Mahendran, K. and Stevens, P. (eds.) Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary (Book 1.), Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Wall, J. (2015) Being and owning: the body, bodily material, and the law, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Paper 2: Write a Report Analysing the Hypothetical Scenario

Dear Sir/Madam

This email is about my investigation of the claims made by Enviro-Prod that its products could help improve employee productivity in your organisation. Granted, this is a claim that should be properly investigated, as described by Turner (2015) who emphasises the need for understanding the logic and science behind such assertions. For example, he cautions us against believing in horoscopes, astrology, and homoeopathy because of the lack of supporting scientific evidence (Turner 2015).

Using the same reasoning, I undertook an analysis to evaluate the assertions of Enviro-Pod. Based on a comprehensive review of its claims, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that there is enough scientific evidence to support the company’s claim that its products could improve your organisation’s productivity. Please review the evidence we have gathered below.

Relieves Employee Stress

Stress could significantly impede employee productivity. It distracts them from undertaking their core tasks because they may be preoccupied with other issues that affect other aspects of their lives. Similarly, it is common to find that workplace issues may add to an employee’s stress level. Here, issues of overworking, complex tasks, and late submissions of work may arise. We have found that adding natural attributes to the workplace environment could help alleviate some of these problems because an abundance of literature explains the relationship between human productivity and their environments (Souter-Brown 2014; Stevens 2015).

Most of these studies show that natural environments could decrease work-related stress. Indeed, as highlighted by Ewert, Mitten and Overholt (2014), what people see, hear or experience from their work environments often affect their nervous, endocrine and immune systems, in ways that would affect their stress levels as well. An unpleasant environment can make the employees feel anxious, sad, or helpless, thereby affecting their productivity in the end (Souter-Brown 2014). Comparatively, pleasant environments could make employees “feel at home” and similarly encourage them to be more willing to engage in organisational activities (Souter-Brown 2014).

Enviro-Pod could help to create this pleasant environment because its products have the potential to create the illusion of working in a natural environment (Ewert, Mitten and Overholt 2014). Souter-Brown (2014) supports this assertion by saying that human wellbeing depends on nature because it supports human growth and desires. Similarly, living in natural environments has been associated with a reduction in anger and fear (Stevens 2015).

Collectively, these factors are bound to improve employee health by boosting their physical wellbeing and reducing their blood pressure (Souter-Brown 2014). If I bring this analysis to the context of our review, I have gathered evidence from the installation of plants in schools and offices, which have shown that they reduce stress and anxiety among students and employees alike (Ewert, Mitten and Overholt 2014). This finding shows that Enviro-Prod could create a conducive environment for your employees to work in, thereby boosting organisational productivity.

Improved Employee Concentration

My analysis has shown that Enviro-Prod products could also help to improve the concentration of your employees. Stevens (2015) affirms this fact when he says that the natural environment can restore people’s ability to concentrate on their work. The researcher says that this effect is so strong that a slight infusion of nature in the workplace environment could bring positive effects on people’s ability to concentrate on their work (Stevens 2015).

This attribute comes from the restorative characteristic of nature. In some studies, researchers have pointed out that employees who work in natural surroundings are better at proofreading compared to those who work in other settings (Ewert, Mitten and Overholt 2014). Some researchers have gone a step further and said that companies, which offer their employees a view of nature through windows, are bound to reap the same benefit (Souter-Brown 2014).

Stevens (2015) supports this fact by saying that although many cities are increasingly urbanizing, our human senses are still designed to respond well to the natural environment. The author also says that the natural environment tends to have a restorative effect on human beings, which manifests by putting people in a state of emotional wellness, which is good for their productivity (Stevens 2015).

Although the urban environment erodes the allure of the natural environment, Stevens (2015) says that if constructed objects mimic the natural environment, they could have a positive effect on people. Additionally, he says it is important to introduce natural attributes to the living environment to improve human wellbeing (Stevens 2015). This should be done because most people do not often pay attention to their environment, unless something happens to it. This assertion stems from the general view that most people think they are distinct from their environments, which is often not the case (Stevens 2015).

Thus, based on the relationship between high levels of employee concentration and the natural environment, your organisation could enjoy improved productivity from the purchase of Enviro-Prod products because they offer the same natural settings described in the aforementioned studies. Thus, your employees could feel rejuvenated and ready to work when they are in an environment that feels natural. Doing so could also take their minds away from conventional distractions, such as computer games and social media sites, which are common in today’s workplaces.

Lower Risk of Depression

Depression is often associated with unproductive employees who are unable to cope with some of their life or work challenges. The University of Minnesota (2016) says that nature provides the balance an employee needs to work efficiently because closed and concrete environments could be stressful and suffocating, thereby increasing the risk of depression. Furthermore, studies have shown that most workplace structures, such as work cubicles and offices, create a “confining feel,” which may cause some employees to feel trapped and depressed about their working conditions (Souter-Brown 2014).

A natural environment could offer the liberating feeling they need to get out of this “mental cage.” Relative to this assertion, Stevens (2015) posits that natural environments are of utmost importance in today’s rapidly urbanising society because they could improve people’s mental health and lower their risk of depression. Relative to this assertion, Souter-Brown (2014) contends that nature would help employees to boost their immune systems, thereby allowing them to enjoy better mental health states, characterised by improved short-term memory, and enhanced vision and concentration at work.

Besides the affirmation of the positive effect of nature on human productivity, I have also found evidence that demonstrates the natural environment has more positive effects on human beings, included (but not limited to) an increased sense of safety, less aggressive tendencies, and lower crime rates (Stevens 2015).


Based on my findings, there is sufficient evidence to show that Enviro-Prod products would increase employee productivity in your organisation. In this email, I have also argued that the claims made by the company’s CEO, Hayley Skelton, are factual and stem from a broad body of scientific evidence that has demonstrated the positive effects of nature on people’s mental health and workplace productivity.

I am confident in my assertion because if we use Turner’s (2015) framework to evaluate the claims made in this email, we would arrive at the same conclusion. He says we need to consider different elements of analysis to qualify a claim for a fact. One of them is that the evidence gathered needs to be obtained from scientific or academic sources (Turner 2015). Another one is that the source of the information should not be compromised or biased. Lastly, he says the source of information should be trustworthy (Turner 2015). My findings have met all the above evaluation criteria. Therefore, I recommend that you should consider purchasing this product.

Reference List

Ewert, A, Mitten, D and Overholt, J. (2014) Natural environments and human health, CABI, New York.

Souter-Brown, G. (2014) Landscape and urban design for health and well-being: using healing, sensory and therapeutic gardens, Routledge, London.

Stevens, P. (2015) ‘Week 14: the urban world’, The Open University. Web.

Turner, J. (2015) ‘Week 20: extraordinary claims and extraordinary beliefs’, The Open University. Web.

University of Minnesota. (2016) ‘How does nature impact our wellbeing,’ Taking Charge. Web.

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