Conforming to Juuls

Ali Caulkins

Social Psych

Prof Gosnell

November 8, 2018

Everyone wants to fit in, do what everyone else is doing, even when there are risks. Juuling became popular this past year and it seems almost everyone is doing it. They have advertisements for Juuls that make them seem very cool, with very colorful backgrounds and teenagers smoking them, saying things like “Friends don’t let friends buy cigarettes” and making it seem like it’s the cool thing to do. Conforming is when a bunch of people are doing something and one person isn’t, but the one person doesn’t want to feel left out so they change as much as necessary so they can fit in. Many people are guilty to conforming to the group that juuls or vapes. In 2016 there was a flag by US surgeon general with a 900% increase use of vaping in any form.

When people see that ‘everyone is doing it’, they get blindsided to the possible effects to it, thinking ‘it won’t happen to me’, which is called group polarization. When people are in a group and everyone has the same mindset such as ‘juuling is cool’, it gets extreme, to the point where even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette a day in your life, you’ll end up buying a juul because everyone has one. Even though they aren’t cigarettes they’re still very bad for you and Juul company doesn’t make that clear in their ads. When it’s such a large group doing it individuals feel more anonymous, so they feel more inclined to do things out of the ordinary for them, like smoking Juul.

Juul company is starting to get a lot of backlash for selling flavors that mostly appeal to teens like mango and fruit medley. They’re trying to implement an anti-vaping program to schools by offering them thousands of dollars, but quickly took back their offers because of the reactions of the health and education advocates, saything their program completely misses crucial information for a genuine prevention effort.

Nedelman, Michael. “How Juul’s Plan to Teach Students about Vaping Went up in Smoke.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Nov. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/11/03/health/juul-vape-school-curriculum/index.html.

Dangerous Viral Game

In late August a twelve year old girl and sixteen year old boy from Columbia took their lives because of the “Momo suicide challenge” according to a Fox News article. Police searched both of the youth’s phones and found messages connected to the game. Government secretary Janier Landono explained how this game was played through WhatsApp and encouraged kids to hurt themselves through challenges, ending in suicide. The game is being compared to similar ones in the past such as the “Blue Whale Challenge,” in Russia that also resulted in multiple deaths.  

Youth are being involved in this dangerous game through persuasion. Persuasion is when a message urges a change in attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. There are four key ingredients of persuasion, which includes, the communicator, the message, how the message is being communicated, and the audience. This viral “Momo” challenge has been spreading through WhatsApp and asks users to connect with them. Once accepted, the user is then persuaded and pressured into these challenges which involve self harm and suicide. The message is logical or one that arouses emotion. The game seems to use a peripheral route of persuasion to lure in it’s victims. Meaning, they focus on things that generate automatic acceptance without much thinking involved. For so many kids to be involved in this game the persuasion to play has to be appealing to the user. The process of persuasion is a big factor in the many deaths resulted from the game.

In addition to persuasion, the players were told by this game to participate in these harming acts, if they didn’t they were cursed and would start getting threatening messages. The game was looked at as a higher authority figure, so many of the players agreed. This is called obedience, which is when one follows the demands of a direct order or command. Studies show that there are psychological effects of obedience. One is when small requests turn into larger ones, which applies to this game in that the game gives a series of challenges, which the players complete and the final challenge is to commit suicide. Another effect is limited time to reflect on the decision, which the game does not give a lot of time to do.  Since this game is over the internet it’s easier for the game to enforce harm on their victims because it’s easier to abuse when it’s not personal and face to face.

Christa Vasile

Sources

Chris Ciaccia “Viral ‘Momo suicide game’ blamed for deaths of boy,16, and girl, 12, reports say.” Fox News, 3 Sept, 2018, https://www.foxnews.com/tech/viral-momo-suicide-game-blamed-for-deaths-of-boy-16-and-girl-12-reports-say

Myers, D. G. (2018). Exploring Social Psychology (Eighth Edition). New York: McGraw Hill      

Little girl on life support

A family in Texas is fighting for their daughter’s life. According to an article published by CNN, 9-year old Payton Summon was recently declared brain dead due to having a heart attack. Unfortunately, Cook Children’s Medical Center in Ford Worth told Payton’s family that the heart attack was caused by a growing tumor in her chest. According to the Texas law, once the patient is declared brain dead, the hospital must wait another 12 hours to do another test to confirm that a patient is brain dead. Unfortunately, 12 hours passed and Payton was officially declared brain dead. Usually, the hospital would take Payton off life support, but not in this case. The family received a 14 day temporarily restraining order against Cook Children’s Medical Center so they can move Payton to another hospital so she can stay on life support.

This behavior is not unusually; this can be explained by the term illusion of control. Illusion of control is the perception that a person is able to have more influence on the outcome(s) of a situation than they actually can. This behavior is seen in the parents of Payton because they believe they can change the fact that their daughter is brain dead by transferring her to another hospital. “’Payton never gave up on anything, and I know in this situation, she wouldn’t give up either…’” (Howard, 2018). This further shows that Payton’s mom, Tiffany Hofstetter, believes that she has control over this situation due to the belief that her daughter is a fighter. Hofstetter believes that her daughter has a fighting chance, despite the doctors telling her that her daughter is brain dead. Payton is on a ventilator, which is the only reason that Payton is technically alive. However, since the parents are seeing that Payton is breathing, despite seeing that she is on life support, so they believe that Payton is not brain dead. Thus, illusion of control is seen because the family of Payton believes that they can change the outcome of this tragic event.

In addition, it might be odd to see a family to request a temporary restraining order against a hospital that has done nothing wrong. However, in the eyes of the family, the hospital is taking away Payton’s only fighting chance to surviving. The parents believe that Payton is not brain dead; which, is the reason why they want to move her to another hospitals care. In social psychology, this behavior is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when people look at other resources to confirm their beliefs, despite what other resources are telling them. For instance, Cooks Children’s Medical Center is telling the parents of Payton that their daughter is brain dead. However, the parents refuse to believe the hospital, which is why they are trying to transfer her to another hospital. The parents are hoping that another hospital will tell them different news about their daughter. They believe that Children’s Medical Center is acting too fast and that there might be a chance that their daughter is alive, despite the test on her brain activity done on their daughter. The parents are hoping to get different answers, which probably will not happen.

 

Howard, Jacqueline, and Tina Burnside. “Family Fights to Keep 9-Year-Old Girl on Life Support.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Oct. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/brain-dead-payton-summons-hospital-bn/index.html.

“The Difficult Journey of Women in Medicine”

The medical field is full of highly-skilled and demanding occupations that require strong mental health and acuity. Using social psychological concepts we can understand that this requirement for women, in a profession that’s predominantly made up of and tailored for men, needs extra strength and resilience. All newly-minted doctors have a significant amount of depression and anxiety due to the demanding and exhaustive work they do, but according to JAMA Internal Medicine it is far more difficult and present in women (Khullar).

One of the reasons behind this is that a woman, even though a medical professional, still shoulders the majority of household duties. Still fulfilling gender and societal norms women endure a work-home conflict that their male colleagues don’t experience. The medical field today promotes equal opportunity by law, but the institution, even though not driven by prejudices, exhibits sexism within the institutionalized practices that subordinate women (Myers, 254). Arguments for this is in the article by Dhruv Khullar. She states that little has changed in medical training procedures. Its reminiscent of days passed when almost all residents were men with few household duties. “Support for those trying to balance home and work life hasn’t kept pace with changing demographics, nor has the division of domestic labor shifted to reflect the rise of women in the medical work force. “(Khullar). The trend of accepting of women in the medical field has drastically changed, but unfortunately gender attitudes towards women have done little to support their personal lives which in turn affect their professional lives.

Our next reason and concept is implicit prejudices that usually occur automatically from preconceived notions about women. On many occasions in the article women are subjected as in-subordinates, not only by their male colleagues, but by patients alike. Women doctors who acknowledge their male counterparts formally don’t receive the same acknowledgement or aren’t called by their titles. Even women doctors who lead panels and studies with male counterparts are often referred to by their first name. Furthermore, women doctors in full medical assemble (white lab coat, professional attire, etc.) are called nurses or assumed to be medical assistants by patients. Another strong example of the implicit biases towards women was detailed by Heather Sarsons, Ph.D. who did a study to find out if surgeons’ gender affects their referrals after a good or bad patient outcome:

Ms. Sarsons finds that physicians are much less likely to refer patients to a female surgeon after a patient death, but barely change their referrals to a male surgeon. A bad experience with one female surgeon also makes physicians less likely to establish referral relationships with other female surgeons. There was no similar effect for men. (Khullar)

Not only does this show a prime example of implicit prejudices towards women but gives light to the fact that prejudices tend to over-generalize groups of people with stereotypes.

More than a third of medical physicians are women compared to just 7% of women back in the 1960s (Khullar). The opportunity in our time and day are abundant and encouraged for women, but the medical field was designed for men and remains implicitly and even possibly explicitly sexist towards women. We have to evaluate every action and policy to balance the odds, generate awareness, and create a supportive and enriching journey for women doctors everywhere. -FRANK JAMES CASILLAS III

Khullar, Dhruv. (2017, Dec 7). Being a Doctor Is Hard. It’s Harder for Women. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/upshot/being-a-doctor-is-hard-its-harder-for-women.html

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (Seventh Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Fraternity Drinking Ritual


At Louisiana State University 10 Phi Delta Theta fraternity members were arrested because of the death of an 18-year-old freshman Maxwell Gruver. Two students took Mr. Gruver to the hospital were he was pronounced dead with an alcohol content of .496% which is 6 times the legal limit. He died due to vomit that was in his lungs referred to as “acute ethanol intoxication with aspiration”. According to the article the Fraternity members sent a text to the pledges demanding that they come to the chapter house for a bible study on September 13, 2017.  Bible study is when pledges are forced to drink a “pull” from an alcohol bottle when they give the wrong answer to a question. Up to 20 pledges arrived to the chapter house for Bible study.  The pledges were ordered into a dark room with a strobe light flashing, and music blasting. The pledges were told to put their noses and toes’ against the wall. One member told the police that Maxwell messed up frequently on the Greek alphabet and that one of the fraternity members Mr. Naquin forced him to drink every time. According to another member he mentioned that he told Mr. Naquin he was being to aggressive and that he should “cut it out”. Another member came forward stating that he believed Maxwell was targeted because he was often late to fraternity events. The police concluded that out of all members Mr. Naquin was responsible for the hazing event because he was the most aggressive out of all other members. The police charged Mr. Naquin with a felony charge of negligent homicide and a misdemeanor charge of hazing. The other members are being charged with misdemeanor of hazing. The case is still on going while police and investigators collect more evidence. The school temporarily closed Greek activities, but on October 4, they were allowed to resume activities with new enforced limits with a task force. The article goes on to talk about other similar reports of deaths because of hazing and drinking rituals at Pennsylvania, and Baruch College.

Culture is a group that shares common ideas, behaviors, attitudes, and traditions. Each culture has norms which are social expectations for the way people of that group should act. In this case the university is a culture which comes along with its own norms and expectations. Greek life norms definitely has a role in this situation. Every university has fraternity’s and sorority’s and it’s the norm in the university to join a fraternity and sorority. Having life long friends, being a life long member, attending and throwing activities and events, and partying are all expectations and norms of joining Greek life. Maxwell Gruver along with the other 19 pledgers wanted to be apart of this cultural experience, Gruver attended “bible study” and kept drinking when he gave a wrong answer because he wanted so badly to be apart of this Greek life and participated in it because it is a norm associated with Greek life.

The concept of conformity can also be seen in this article. Conformity happens when an individual feels the pressure of others which result in the individual changing their behavior or beliefs. Maxwell Gruver stood against the wall along side 19 other pledgers, he had 10 members demanding them all to answer questions. Gruver was under the pressure of his peers and future fraternity, he could have chosen to walk away or not to drink but instead he went along with the “bible study” because of the others. Group size also plays a huge part in this situation. It has been proven that when there is 4 or more people it will influence a person’s behavior and the individual is more likely to conform with others. The fraternity group which consisted of 10 individual members and the other 20 individuals’ pledgers were all in the situation. The pledges were going along with what other pledges were doing because they didn’t want to back out and not become a member of the fraternity. The members of the fraternity went along with the process of hazing and demanding individuals to drink even if some new it was wrong to do. This is all because of how big the group was and the influences from others.

Obedience is when an individual complies with another person’s authority and this concept can be seen in this situation. Gruver already had the expectations that joining Greek life which consist of having to go through a “ritual and rush period” in this case a hazing period which forced individuals to do things such as obeying the other members, drinking, and studying the history of the fraternity. Gruver was obeying the members and agreeing to a small commitment by coming to bible study. This also represents the foot in the door phenomenon which is when an individual first agrees to a small or modest request which leads to agreeing to larger request. Gruver knew he wanted to be apart of Greek life, he was chosen by the fraternity to go through the rush period before becoming a member. Gruver has already committed to this fraternity so showing up to the “bible study” could be considered a small request, he than is demanded to answer questions and drink when he gives the wrong answer which can be considered the “big request”. Gruver agrees to drinking and therefore resulted in his obedience. If Gruver was not interested in Greek Life or was sent a text that said come stand on a wall and answer questions and if you give the wrong answer you will be forced to drink, Gruver would probably be more inclined to deny the request because he hasn’t made any minor commitment yet.

-Nikki Jock

References:

Saul, S. (2017, October 11). 10 Arrested in Death of L.S.U Student After Fraternity    Drinking Ritual. Retrieved November 02, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/us/lsu-hazing-arrests.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FHazing&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=collection

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring social psychology (seventh ed.). New York:     McGraw-Hill.

 

 

 

Abuse and Neglect at Immigrant Detention Centers

The article “New SPLC report uncovers abuse and neglect at immigrant detention center in the South,” discusses the discrimination that has been displayed to immigrants since the election of President-elect Donald Trump. The unjustifiable negative behavior toward a group is evident throughout the article and is otherwise defined as discrimination (Myers, D. G., pg. 245- 246). Ever since the election, there have been many arguments about what will happen in United States with President-elect Donald Trump in office. The article examines how Trump’s deportation plan has affected the way immigrants are being treated. The effects of discrimination and racism as portrayed in the article are the prominent cause in the mental and psychological problems in individuals. In the South, as stated in the article, many immigrants that are detained are regularly and frequently denied their due process rights. Not only are these immigrants denied due process rights, they are also physically and mentally abused, as well as being detained in unsanitary environments, and are not being offered proper medical and mental health treatments. Causing severe sufferings and sometimes deaths, these facilitations lack outdoor recreations, leading to more mental and physical deterioration while awaiting their deportation. These conditions afflicted on immigrants affect the health of so many, families and friends are lost and the toll taken on their lives is often unbearable.

However, these conditions did indeed occur before the President-elect Trump.  An individual’s prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior toward people or institutional practices that subordinate people of a given race is defined as racism (Myers, D. G., pg. 245- 246). In my opinion, hate groups have always existed in our society and the election of Donald Trump has just made these people feel more comfortable in displaying their hate. People believe because Donald Trump displayed certain attributes, which some consider racist, sexist, etc., that they can display the same. However, the problem in this country comes from the people themselves and NOT who is in office. Speaking to the concept of prejudices, which can be defined as a negative prejudgment, we are taught to hate. Thus applying the perspective of the differential association theory, stating that deviance is learned, and because it is learned, the actions as well as the justifications as to why are also learned. The way we treat each other should not change when presidents change. Some are taking the election of Donald Trump in an absurd and disgusting way by deciding to treat people so poorly for no apparent reason other than the culture they are apart of. This article shows how people can treat each other so terribly and have no remorse for their actions, when the ramifications are detrimental to the health of the one’s they hurt.

Article: https://www.splcenter.org/news/2016/11/21/new-splc-report-uncovers-abuse-and-neglect-immigrant-detention-centers-south

Textbook: Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring social psychology (seventh ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Rabusin, M.

The Effects of Cults on your Mental Health

 

The word ‘cult’ was never benign in the history of religious movements. In terms of the text, a cult is defined as a group typically characterized by distinctive ritual and beliefs related to its devotion to a god or person, isolation from the surrounding “evil” culture, and a charismatic leader (Myers, 2015, p. 193). When a person hears that word, most likely they would refer to Charles Manson. Manson is a former cult leader and American criminal who led the cult called Manson Family, which committed a series of murders in the late 1960s. Manson is the quintessential example of how persuasion occurs in cults.  Manson is the communicator of the cult which is one of the persuasive elements of cult persuasion. He could be described as a charismatic leader, who attracts and directs members in the cult. People began to trust in him and his credibility as a leader and decided to join the Manson Family.

In the article from Huffington Post titled “Trump’s America through the Eyes of a Cult Survivor”, Teddy Hose introduces his own thoughts about the current president based on his life in a cult called the Unification Church (now known as the Family Federation for World Peace). The Unification Church is now separated into smaller groups led by Moon’s family members. Just like Manson, Rev. Moon had the same charismatic trait that cult leaders are known for. Hose explains that people seeking security, respect, friendship and/or identity were suddenly welcomed into his community. In relation to President Trump, his supporters tend to focus more on how he makes them feel rather than his leadership. The mission of the church was ultimately to recruit members because the less privileged are more vulnerable to promise a better life. This is how Hose saw Trump winning the votes for the election. Trump’s role as the communicator of his messages during the presidential debates were targeted towards the lower class.

In the article “Self-chosen involvement in new religious movements: well-being and mental health from a longitudinal perspective”, two psychology researchers, S. Namini and S. Murken, explore what happens to cult members’ mental health prior to joining cults. A study was formed in which members were asked questions about their personal life and possible reasonings of why they joined a cult. Critics have concluded that NRM’s (new religious movements) specifically address and attract vulnerable individuals such as young and mentally impaired people (Namini and Murken, 2009, p. 563). They point out, for example, that one empirical study indicated that members display increased levels of psychopathology prior to joining the new religious movement. However, this does not support the notion that psychopathology is a precondition to joining. They have come across some evidence that shows that it is not the interest of groups to accept very emotionally unstable individuals as members (Namini and Murken, 2009, p. 563). Based on their studies, it is shown that membership in religious movements such as cults often happens because of a crisis that is occurring in the person’s life. From the participants, there were constant reports of emotional problems and frustrations, dissatisfaction with life and other psychological problems that affected their health.

Those who decide to leave a cult are most likely prime examples of those who experience problems with their psychological health. While inside the cult, there are a number of life changes that can happen: dropping out of college, having to remain celibate or giving up any personal pursuits, etc. In their study of members, the authors found cognitive, affective and relational “vulnerabilities” – that is, high insecurity in childhood attachment to parents, high (current) need for closure and depressive tendencies prior to joining the group (Namini and Murken, 2009, p. 564).

To conclude, the study done by the two researchers and the history of the Manson Family exemplifies the concept of cult persuasion and the effects of cults on member’s mental health. Being a part of a cult can be harmful which can have long term effects.

References:

Hose, Teddy. (2017 March 23). Trump’s America through the Eyes of a Cult Survivor. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trumps-america-through-the-eyes-of-a-cult-survivor_us_58d1a510e4b062043ad4adc5

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Namini, S., & Murken, S. (2009). Self-chosen involvement in new religious movements (NRMs): well-being and mental health from a longitudinal perspective. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(6).

Lack of Empathy for Patients, Even While They’re Awake During Surgery

Doctor’s interpersonal skills with their patients must always be up to par. However with patients now having an option to take regional anesthesia instead of general anesthesia, doctors are facing a new territory that will truly test their interpersonal skills. This innovative technique of anesthesia is on the forefront of patient autonomy, in which patients are pushing back against physician control and want to be more involved in their own medical treatment (Hoffman, 2017). In Going Under the Knife, With Eyes and Ears Wide Open Hoffman speaks upon the issues between patients readiness to receive this type of anesthesia but doctors inability to adjust smoothly. Doctors are finding trouble being courteous and empathetic during the surgery, while the patients are fully conscious and tentative to everything the doctor is doing.

In this current time where medical patients are choosing to be aware of their medical procedures, it can be concluded that these individuals feel a sense of “curiosity and desire to have control over their experience” as Dr. Langerman states. Another beneficial aspect is the lessening of complications that comes with regional anesthesia as opposed to general anesthesia, and is also less expensive. Also the time patients would need for recovery while under a regional anesthesia is far shorter and expeditious recovery process. As regional anesthesia is becoming more popular, resulting in medical patients opting to be fully or moderately alert during surgery. So with patients not being under during their procedures, this is a new element that doctors must now literally face, at the same time performing a medical procedure. This new association between doctor and patient doesn’t allow for most empathetic medical professional. (Hoffman, 2017)

Empathy is an individual’s ability to understand and relate to another’s perspective on matters. Like the old saying, it’s essentially putting oneself into another’s shoes (Myers, 2017). This concept is especially important for a doctor when performing surgery while the patient is awake. An example of a doctor who is not empathetic in such a situation would be them saying thing such as “Oops!”, “I wasn’t expecting that”, or even “Oh my god I wasn’t expecting that. This could easily set a patient off into a panic, raising their blood pressure level, compromising the success of the procedure. Perceptibly this is not what doctors struggle for when performing surgery, instead for an easygoing success, which would come naturally for an empathetic doctor. Advocate Dr. Ilyas from Rothman Orthopaedic Specialty Hospital in Bensalem praises awake surgery saying, “It’s all about communication, comfort, and experience” (Hoffman, 2017). In the study done by the Spirituality in Clinical Practice the method of mindfulness was followed as a mean-making activity, able to allow medical professionals to enrich their social relationships, empathy, and compassion. To enhance this mindfulness the Buddhist metta meditation was proposed, which could possibly help health professionals build a stronger therapeutic relationship. This style of meditation was principally aimed to increase the medical professionals feelings of empathy and compassion towards all living things. The results were conclusive in finding that the meditation allowed for protection against burnout, pain and anger while with patients, and also an enhancement to their resilience. By having medical professional practicing such mindfulness, there is a correlation between social and existential outlooks into healthcare settings (Nilsson, 2015).

Being in a medical professional means being a master of all trades at times. Patients are typically in a vulnerable position while undergoing medical treatment, so for the doctor to accommodate to that is crucial. Bedside manner for patients helps to develop a healthy doctor-patient relationship, allowing for a successful procedure and recovery rate. An empathetic doctor, one who is mindful of their patient’s emotional needs and responds to them suitably, are able to deliver optimal care and experience less anxiety for themselves.

 

References

Hoffman, Jan. (2017 March 25). Going Under the Knife, with Eyes and Ears Wide Open. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03 /25/health/surgery-awake       anesthesia.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection %2Fhealth

Myers, David G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (7th Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill

Nilsson, Hakan. (2015). Socioexistential Mindfulness: Bringing Empathy and Compassion to Health Care Practice. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 3(1), 22-31. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=4049980de06f-4cb8-a278 80b1769384e5%40sessionmgr101&vid=2&hid=124

 

 

A False Sense of Reality

By: Christina Stewart

Just a day after Trump’s inauguration on January 20th, 2017, him and his administration stunned the public with false assertions about how many people attended the ceremony.

In an article from NBC News titled “Some Experts Say Trump Team’s Falsehoods Are Classic ‘Gaslighting’,” by Maggie Fox, she and two psychologists explain the impact of these false assertions. Trump and White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, came under fire after claiming that the media misrepresented the crowd size of the inauguration. According to Trump, more people were in attendance than had been reported on and depicted in photos (Fox, 2017). Spicer furthered this comment saying that the inauguration had the largest audience in history (Fox, 2017). Not surprisingly, news agencies were quick to dispute the claims. The general public’s psychological health was undoubtedly affected by these statements as they felt manipulated and dumbed-down.

According to clinical psychologist Bryant Welch and Robert Feldman, the systemic lying from Trump’s camp is a sign of “gaslighting”: a term used to describe when one manipulates and confuses another making them question reality. Confusing people makes them vulnerable —  making it easier to gain power over them whether or not they believe what they’re being told (Fox, 2017). The deliberate nature of these false allegations showed arrogance and disrespect for the American audience.

Reading about this event reminded me of the cognitive dissonance theory. When the American public heard the statements disputing the crowd sizes, this resulted in cognitive dissonance: a feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from having two inconsistent thoughts or beliefs at the same time (Myers, 2012, pp. 97-98). The general public recognized that the crowd size was significantly smaller despite what Trump’s administration claimed. With these two viewpoints clashing, the public was left in a state of disarray. This dissonance not only induced shock, but also mentally affected the public − so much so that it affected their memories.

The public’s reaction was expected and can be explained by findings from a cognitive dissonance study conducted by Dario Rodriguez and Deryn Strange. Authors of the article “False Memories for Dissonance Inducing Events,” Rodriguez and Strange tested just how common it is for people to alter and distort their past to support their self-concepts. They sought to test the hypothesis of whether or not cognitive dissonance causes people to misrepresent their memories and attitudes.

In the experiment, around one hundred undergraduates were told to write an essay where they were either allowed to choose their stance, or were told which stance to take regarding a tuition increase (Rodriguez and Strange, 2014). Before and after the experiment, participants had to complete an online questionnaire asking for their true opinions on several school-related issues. On the questionnaire following the experiment, participants were instructed to think back to the initial online survey, and answer the items as they did at that time (Rodriguez and Strange, 2014). The hope was that attitudes would change after the experiment had ended.

Those who chose their stance exhibited the predicted attitude-shift, and were more likely to misremember their initial attitudes than those whose stances were dictated. Overall, the results provide that cognitive dissonance may cause memory distortion. In terms of the American public, those who recognized the real crowd size were more likely to distort and question this initial belief than those who did not. In other words, those who had agreed with Trump’s statements were less likely to feel any kind of dissonance. Therefore, being told to believe in a false crowd size challenged the public’s memory. People’s memories had to be re-adjusted to fit their self-perceptions after being told the crowd was larger than it was.

It’s fascinating to see how Trump’s behavior is reinforced by psychological data. His willingness to distort the truth is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance, as is his willingness to distort reality.

 

Works Cited

AP. (2017, January 25). Some Experts Say Trump Team’s Falsehoods Are Classic ‘Gaslighting’ [Digital image]. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from This pair of photos shows a view of the crowd on the National Mall at the inaugurations of President Barack Obama, above, on Jan. 20, 2009, and President Donald Trump, below, on Jan. 20, 2017. The photo above and the screengrab from video below were both shot shortly before noon from the top of the Washington Monument.

Fox, M. (2017, January 25). Tall tales about Trump’s crowd size are “gaslighting”, some experts say. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/some-experts-say-trump-team-s-falsehoods-are-classic-gaslighting-n711021.

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring Social Psychology (7th ed.). New York:    McGraw-Hill.

Rodriguez, D. N., & Strange, D. (2014). False memories for dissonance inducing events Memory, 23(2), 203-212. doi:10.1080/09658211.2014.881501