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Social psychology is a scientific study of how individuals think, feel and behave in relation to other people. People behave according to their beliefs, customs and their social norms. One major perspective of human social behavior focuses on the fact people treat one another in terms of what each party expects to gain from one another. People behave differently to different situations and according to what is happening to them at that particular time. Some can behave in a strange way that it can attract the attention of other people. The victims may not realize what they are doing, whether it is not pleasing other people as they treat whatever they are doing as normal. In some other people, you may not notice anything, but on a closer look, the body language tells it all. People have different personalities and this is why they behave differently even if some could be twins who resemble each other but have totally different personality traits (Odetola, T. O. and Ademola A. 1994).
Personality can be defined as:
- What you are,
- Individual characteristics,
- The appearance and behavior are described as the expression aspect of personality,
- The mask which the individual presents to the world because it forms an essential part of his/her description,
- The impressiveness or social effectiveness i.e. the attitude of other people enable an individual to see himself/herself clearly,
- The attitude, belief and purpose the person interprets the outer environment.
Therefore personality can be defined as the individual interpretation as expressed in his/her characters or behavior, this includes the outer or expressive aspect and the inner, unifying, motivational and directional aspect. It can also be defined as the outward expression of ourselves, which may or may not be the same as our character, depending on how genuine or honest we are. Personality is developed through different criteria through hereditary, maturation and trait development and through learning and attitude (Berkowitz, A. D., 2004).
- Ideal vs. reel norms: The ideal norms refer to what the society regards as applicable in perfect circumstances while real norms are applicable in the normal day to day life. The universal norms like parenting or marriage demand a perfect situation but due to the normal difficulties associated with life, Americans find themselves living the reality and just using the ideal as a measurement of conformity. Any American will do what he or she thinks is required of a situation without considering how ideal it is because the day to day life do not offer people a chance to go for perfection in most cases, but as long as something is done right, the level of how ideal it is never cross our minds (Odetola, T. O. and Ademola A. 1994).
- Established vs. emergent norms: – The established norms refers to those rules that have been traditionally ground in the human society and therefore enjoy intergenerational transmission over the years; the emergent norms refer to those that are recently evolved by virtue of new situations, people go about their lives sharing their problems with each other and creating solution based norms when problems arise which had not been experienced in the past (Preece J., 2007)
Cultural norms have been there for ages and brings with them solutions for the problems that were faced earlier on but today the changing lifestyles are coming with new ideas that need to be addressed and incorporated in the social norms. For instance the most recent one being same sex marriages and the society is trying to accept it as away of life which calls for the creations of norms that govern such a relationship. Although most people might think that there is no hassle that is involved in the incorporating of the gay relationship in the society there are other features of such a relationship that needs to be addressed and rules set (Durlauf S. N. and Blume L. E.,2005)
- Formal vs. informal:- Formal norms refer to all those rules that are in inscribed and are therefore officially designated and to go against such norms calls for a pre-designated punishment; informal norms are those that are spontaneously generated and informally enforced and contravening this norms do not necessarily invite punishment. The culture does not allow people to walk naked but it’s hard for the person to be punished and such a situation sends people thinking on the mental state of the person (Durlauf S. N. and Blume L. E. 2005).
The place visited was a shopping mall in town and what was observed was the peoples’ reaction towards the use of the elevator. Elevators are used to reach the upstairs stairs malls to enable customers do their shopping more conveniently and at the same moving downstairs after finishing the shopping or any other activity. Not many people could wish to use the elevators but it’s the only option to reach the other stairs and so customers must use them. A close observation was conducted on the old and elderly customers, the young men and women and the children. These categories of customers reacted differently to elevator use and this was witnessed fro their physical expression, their body language and their comments in general. The aged felt that they were about to fall and so had to cling to the elevator handles, some felt that the elevator were moving slowly and the expression of disappointment and annoyance could be read on their faces, and the complaints through what they spoke on how ineffective the elevators were. The children enjoyed riding on it because they became excited till they reached the other stair and felt that the elevator could continue moving up and down all the time (Durlauf S. N. and Blume L. E.,2005).
From the above experience, it was found that people react differently to a similar incident or situation. This entirely depends on their personality and the social norms which could be defined as the pre-set rules that govern people. Peoples behaviors were moulded and modified as they grew up and this depends on the kind of environment which and individual were brought up in. This best explains why the old and elderly customers complained a lot about the use of the elevators because they were not present during the time when they were young and so felt uncomfortable using them. The young men and women and children enjoyed using the elevator because since when they were young, they found it there and have been using it since then though they were heard saying it is meant to be used by the elderly customers because of their slow speed.
Personality of each individual is unique and the way each individual behaves towards something depends on their social norms being practiced by that person. The social norms are supposed to guide on how people are supposed to behave or on how something needs tobe done. There is no way people can behave uniformly as their backgrounds and personalities are totally different. Personality is dynamic and not static that it can be affected by anything that can happen to the individual. It is a product of hereditary, in that it can be inherited from the parents. Children can react to situations just like one or both of their parents (Berkowitz, A. D. 2004).
Personality continually adjusts itself to the environment even though there are people who are rigid and take time to adjust to the environment. The elderly customers felt that though the elevator was a new modification, it could make them fall and so could prefer the use of the lifts. It is very difficult to change the minds of such people because it is already set that elevators are not good are meant for the young people. There is no way all people could react uniformly to an incident. The people who had boarded the elevator had different agenda on their heads and any reaction from them depended heavily on what they were thinking in their minds. Not all of them had gone for shopping, but maybe some had gone there for different reasons.
Social norms can be broken if something needs to be done in a uniform manner but this will be met with some deviance. Situations may present at a time of behavior e.g. war times when one is provoked or when there is an incitement, people tend to behave in a manner according to such situation. This could be the same to those using the elevators as they could behave differently at the time they are using the elevator and when they are maybe using the stairs or the lift (Odetola, T. O. Oloruntimehin, O. and Aweda, D. 1983).
People make judgments about other peoples feelings and attitudes from their verbal and nonverbal behavior through attribution. The attribution process is referred to when we try to give different levels of explanations why people behave in different ways. The behaviors are either internally caused because of the persons personality e.g. of kindness or externally caused because outside factors and not him/her are responsible for the behavior. This happens when we take into account the circumstances within which the activity or incident took place. Therefore we make attributes between behavior which is intended and the behavior by circumstances outside the individual(Preece J.; 2007).
People who are members of a given category or status generally behave in predictable ways partly because there are social norms that define the appropriate behavior for persons in that status.. Anyone can predict the behavior of persons in a category provide, of course, that he/she is familiar with the role or set of norms governing that status, and further provided that the person is conforming to those normative expectations.
From my field experience this is what I observed:
- Two of my friends were elderly and they were not comfortable with using the elevator, saying that it was not safe, it was open that a person could fall easily. They looked afraid from their faces as the elevator went up and down.
- My two other friends were my generation. They enjoyed using the elevator, as it was fun for them. They could even make several trips up and down just for fun. They said that though it was fun, it was a bit slower and was best meant for elderly and old people.
- The other people I observed were customers who had gone for shopping. There was one old woman who looked very scared using the elevator later. She was complaining the elevators shakes a lot and therefore some should be made specifically for the old. She even told the management to work on the same.
- There were three young children who on standing on the elevator they were excited, happy and were heard saying that they had missed it and so it was fun using it.
- Two young ladies didn’t like using the elevator because it was slow. They could be heard saying that it was slow. They could be heard saying they had better used the stairs or the lift.
From the field experience, it clearly shows that people reacted differently to what is happening to them. The old, the young and the children act differently and there are some incidents where they reacted the same way especially the children ant two of my friends who said using the elevator was fun. Their personality is different as this depends on hoe and where they were brought up in. The age difference could be an influencing factor in relation to their reactions. According to Elliot Aronson, says that human behavior/personality of a person/persons can be changed and modified by the environment, depending on what is happening at that particular time. This therefore means that people can change behavior instantly depending on what is happening to them.
- Berkowitz, A. D. (2004); The Social Norms Approach: Theory, Research, and Annotated Bibliography. Web.
- Durlauf S. N. and Blume L. E. (2005); Social Norms; London: Macmillan.
- Fehr E. and Fischbacher U.; (2004); Social norms and human cooperation
- Odetola, T. O. and Ademola A. (1994): Sociology: An introductory African text; Macmillan
- Odetola, T. O. Oloruntimehin, O. and Aweda, D. (1983): Man and society in Africa, London, Longman
- Preece J.; (2007); Etiquette, empathy and trust in communities of practice: Stepping-stones to social capital