Is Facebook creating a narcissistic generation?

With each generation becoming more immersed in social networking sites such as Facebook, the worry of a narcissistic generation is becoming apparent. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) involves symptoms such as mainly pursuing selfish goals, requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement, exaggerating one’s self worth and importance, and lacking empathy.

Much research has been conducted into the apparent link between narcissism and Facebook; Mehdizadeh (2010) found a correlation between individuals scoring highly on the Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI) and those with low self-esteem related to more online activity in York University students. Revealing individuals who spend greater amounts of time on social networking sites to score higher on NPI.

Buffardi and Campbell (2008) also found a correlation between Facebook usage and narcissism, revealing individuals scoring higher on the NPI have a more self-promoting ‘About Me’ section and more profile pictures in 156 undergraduates.

However, due to the correlations being made in both studies, no causality can be established. The usage of undergraduates as participants, caution must be taken when generalising the studies as they are not representative of the population, or of a young age range. Further research needs to be conducted to establish whether younger teenagers/older Facebook users also have the same narcissistic traits to allow greater representativeness and understanding into the correlation.

 

References;

Mehdizadeh, S. (2010). Self-Presentation 2.0: Narcissism and Self-Esteem on Facebook. Cyber Behaviour and Social Networking, 13, 357364.

Buffardi, L.E. & Campbell, W.K. (2008). Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites. Personality, Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1303-1304.

Blogging

The majority of us find blogging annoying and dislike having to write them or think of ideas to write them, however, can blogging about emotions, your day or whatever you feel like help you mental health?

Blogging can improve mental health, especially social anxiety. Boniel-Nissim and Barak (2011) found participant that participants that maintained a blog dramatically improved their scores on various social anxiety scales and questionnaires compared to a control group and a group writing a personal diary. The scores were further improved by those opening their blogs to comments. Revealing blogging to be a successful method of reducing social anxiety as it removes the pressures of talking to people face to face and the fear of being judged. However, the sample consisted of 124 girls and 37 boys from high schools in Israel. The gender difference makes the study lack representativeness to all teens as it is hard to generalise the finding to boys as only a minority were tested. The participants being from Israel also adds difficulty generalising findings to other cultures and lifestyles.

It has also been suggested that those intending to blog have higher levels of distress, self-blame and use blogging as a way of venting their emotions (Baker and Moore, 2008). Indicating blogging to be a way of letting your emotions out in stressful situations. However, the study does not contain a follow up to see if these measures are reduced from the blogging experience. A longitudinal study would be needed to record participants’ progress in terms of distress and self-blame when they continue to blog and find a way to express their emotions.

Therefore, blogging is often used as a way of expressing emotions, especially for those who have difficulties communicating emotions. The same way our research methods blogs allow us to explore what interests us within psychology and gives us the freedom to tear apart studies we do not agree with or think could have been carried out in a much better way.

 

References;

Baker, J.R., Moore, S.M. (2008). Distress, Coping and Blogging: Comparing New Myspcae Users by Their Intention to Blog. Cyber Psychology and Behaviour, 11, 81-85.

Boniel-Nissim, M., Barak, A. (2011). The Therapeutic Value of Adolescents’ Blogging About Social-Emotional Difficulties. Psychological Service. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1037/a0026664

Virtual World Therapy;

Whilst looking for blog topics I stumbled upon something very interesting, technology based therapy and specifically virtual world therapy for mental illness patients to practice their skills in. The virtual world is populated by avatars and allows for interaction creating the sense of face to face communication. The therapy is said to be extremely helpful for those suffering with anxiety disorders.

Wilson, Onorati, Mishkind, Reger and Gahm (2011) examined the 352 US soldier’s views on technology based therapy through questionnaires and found 33% of soldiers not willing to speak to a counsellor would use the therapy and the majority of participants would try all or any of  the therapies. The research suggests technology based therapy to be more appealing to those who do not like face to face therapy, this maybe because they feel less anxiety and there is not so much stigma surrounding this type of therapy. However, the research only used US soldiers as participants; therefore, caution must be taken in generalising findings to others.

Rothbaum, Hodges, Smith, Lee and Price (2000) compared the effectiveness of virtual world therapy with standard exposure therapy and a control group told they are on the waiting list for 49 participants with a fear of flying. The results revealed both virtual world therapy and standard exposure therapy are statistically and clinically significant, with 93% of each of the conditions haven flown within 6 months of treatment. With little improvement in the control group, suggesting virtual world therapy is an effective treatment for phobias such as flying.

Virtual world therapy allows participants to be exposed to their fears in a more ethical way, as they are aware the experience is not real, they still feel the same levels of anxiety and can practice their skills in stopping the anxiety. Therapists are also there to reassure the patients and remind them that it is a virtual reality.

Virtual world therapy and other technology based therapy is a recent discovery with the development of technology.  The research suggests the therapy is promising for those suffering from anxiety related disorders.

 

References;

Wilson, J.A.B., Onorati, K., Mishkind, M., Reger, M.A. and Gahm G.A. (2011). Soldier attitudes about technology-based approaches to mental healthcare. Cyber psychology & Behaviour, 11, 767-769.

Rothbaum, B.A., Hodges, L., Smith, s., Lee J.H., and Price L. (2000). A controlled study of virtual reality exposure therapy for the fear of flying. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 68, 1020-1026

False Memories;

One thing we are all absolutely certain of is our memory, we trust our memory and we believe things we remember actually happened, but what if we have false memories? What if we are certain an event happened when it didn’t, what if you can remember every little detail, but the event never existed?

It has been found that people may add aspects to their memory that they would expect to see in an event, even if this wasn’t the case. Loftus and Palmer (1974) found participants claiming to have seen broken glass in a video of a car crash, when in fact there was no broken glass. Revealing people’s perception of events changes based on their expectations of an event, in a car crash you expect there to be broken glass, and therefore you assume your saw it, altering your memory of the event.

However, this can be taken further with people claiming to remember completely imaginary events, Wade, Garry, Read and Stephen’s (2002) study, revealed 10 out of 20 participants remembering a false memory of a balloon ride in their childhood, after being given a digitally created photograph of the event and being asked to recall the memory along with real memories in three interviews.

The implications of these findings are worrying, Loftus and Palmer’s (1974) study highlights how easily memory is affected by our perception and expectations, this is a major problem. In a court situation it is important for witness’s to be certain of their memories, but if memories are easily altered without realisation, people may be giving a false truth, and this may have devastating effects.  The ever advancing world of technology makes this process easier, as demonstrated by Wade, Garry, Read and Stephen (2002).

Although, you must be careful not to overgeneralise the findings of Wade, Garry, Read and Stephen (2002), the sample consisting of 20 Australian university participants lacks representativeness, and with only half the participants claiming to at least partially remember the balloon ride, it is difficult to generalise the findings. However, the study is modern and up to date, allowing the research to be applied to today’s society; however, this is only applicable to the western society, as many third world countries do not take photographs of every life event. A strong point of the study is the use of multiple researchers creating inter-rater reliability, suggesting the results can be trusted.

Both pieces of research clearly demonstrate how memory can be influenced and changed, and even created with the help of technology, what impact does this have on society?

 

References;

Loftus, E.F., Palmer, J.C., (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behaviour, 13, 585-589.

Wade, K.A., Garry, W., Read, J.D., Stephen, L., (2002). A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using false photographs to create false childhood memories. Psychodynamic bulletin & review, 9, 597-603.

How technology affects us emotionally;

It is near impossible to avoid the wonders of the ever advancing world of technology, an increasing amount of young teens use technology daily. Have you ever stopped to think how phones, laptops, computers, iPods, iPads and the internet is affecting us emotionally and inferring with our development?

The age in which we start to encounter technology is becoming younger, with the invention of interactive game consoles such as the Nintendo WII and Xbox connect, creating games to aid learning with the advances of technology.  However, is the lack of human contact and face to face learning affecting us emotionally?

A study looking into the effects of technology on emotion in 8-12 year old girls in America and Canada (Pea et al, 2010) found less than 10.01% rated their online friends higher than those they regularly see and speak to in person. However, some reported higher levels of stress whilst talking in person because of the fear of being judged, nevertheless, this was outweighed by the sense of friendship and happiness. Overall, research gained from the parents via an online questionnaire concluded those you spend more time face to face with friends have higher levels of sleep and are surrounded by less people perceived as a ‘bad’ influence. Pea et al (2010) concluded lower levels of contacting friends through the media correlates with a higher social well-being.

We must take caution when generalising the finding of the study, although there were 3,461 girl participants from all 50 states of America and from Canada, all were gained through an advertisement in the magazine ‘Discovery Girls’ and their website. This raises the question of do all of the girls who read the magazine have similar interests and socio-economic backgrounds? Subsequently making it difficult to generalise the findings gained, avoiding over generalising the results.

The online questionnaire also creates ample opportunities for demand characteristics and social desirability to take place, inevitably affecting the findings. The young girls may over exaggerate the time spent using technology or with friends to what they perceive to be socially acceptable, therefore, not a true representation of their social well-being.

The study uses a correlational design, suggesting relationships between variables; however, this does not produce the reasons behind the relationships. There is no evidence proving the technology used by the 8-12 year old girls is the reason for the difference in social well-being, the findings suggest a correlation between the two.

Is the advancing world of technology affecting our social well-being and should the amount of time young teens/children spend using such technology be monitored?

References;

Pea, R., Nass, C., Meheula, L., Rance, M., Kumar, A., Bamford, H., Nass, M., Simha, A., Stillerman, B., Yang, S., & Zhou, M. (2012, January 23). Media Use, Face-to-Face Communication, Media Multitasking, and Social Well-Being Among 8- to 12-Year-Old Girls. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027030

Gender Differences in Colour Preference!

We all know how the media likes to twist and manipulate words completely changing the story, presenting facts in a way to support their ideas. The media reporting on psychological research is no different, regularly over exaggerating findings and twisting results to create new meanings. This can be seen in ‘The Sunday Times’ newspaper article on Hurlbert and Ling’s (2007) study on gender colour preference.

Gender colour preference was examined in Hurlbert and Ling’s (2007) study, investigating the effect of colour hue, saturation and lightness on 208 participants, revealing the difference between genders. The participants were mainly British Caucasian, with a b population of Han Chinese. The experiment included being presented different colours and choosing the preferred colour quickly with a computer mouse. The experiment was repeated a week later for validity. Hurlbert and Ling found females preferred colours redder than the background whilst males preferred blues, suggesting the evolutionary hunter-gatherer theory can be applied; women find red ripe foods and leaves to eat. The defference was less prominent among the Han Chinese population, this is believed to be because red is good luck within their culture.

The title of the journal article can be seen as misleading, “Biological components of sex difference in colour preference” cannot be fully justified in terms of the design and findings. The research does not look into the biological components, but focuses on the possible evolutionary explanation, which lacks empirical evidence to support it. The findings however, do support part of the title “sex difference in colour preference”.

The title of ‘The Sunday Times’ article is equally as misleading, “At last, science discovers why blue is for boys but girls really do prefer pink” implying the research looks into blue and pink, when in reality shades of yellow and green were also tested, but were found to be less prominent in preferred choice. The use of “girls” and “boys” suggests the participants were children, when they were adults, revealing the media twisting the research to fit society and misrepresenting the research. The title also conveys females to prefer pink, which is misleading as the research found women to prefer colours redder than the background, not necessarily suggesting the preferred colour to be pink.

Both the journal and the media article focus upon the evolutionary explanation for gender colour preference, which is extremely reductionistic, with little evidence to support the theory. With the article implying it to be the only explanation, revealing the media manipulating the results to support their own ideas and views on the subject. The journal does however, hint at another plausible social explanation, females adapting to become more emotional and be able to recognise emotions on others faces. The conclusions drawn cannot be fully justified through the findings, the results do not reveal a cause, but merely support the idea the females prefer colours redder than the background and males prefer shades of blue.

In conclusion the media have twisted the Hurlbert and Ling’s research in gender colour preference to reveal girls to prefer pink and boys to prefer blue, the original research suggests females prefer colours redder than the background and reveals males to prefer shades of blue. This is an example of how the media manipulates findings to impose their beliefs upon society. Both the original research and the article exaggerate the evolutionary theory and overgeneralise findings that cannot justify their titles. 

The problems with Laboratory Experiments

The setting of a study can ultimately have a huge impact on the findings, many psychologist choose to conduct research in a laboratory. The controlled environment enables the researcher to eliminate multiple extraneous variables which can potentially affect the findings, reducing the reliability.  The high levels of control within a laboratory means variables can be effectively manipulated with ease to create the desired environment for the research to take place in.

However, there are many problems that all researchers who decide to use laboratories encounter and must overcome.  The main problem being the lack of ecological validility the findings are subject to. The participants of the experiment may act differently within the study because of the alien environment they have been placed in, inevitably affecting the findings. A more naturalistic environment would relax the participants, a laboratory is connoted as a formal place of studying behaviour, and this may make some participants nervous and feel under pressure, resulting in a non accurate recording of their behaviour.

The environment may also make the participants become subject to demand characteristics and social desirability as they try to work out what the experimenter is looking for in their behaviour and then alter their own behaviour to show the experimenter their belief of the desired behaviour. This creates findings lacking in validility as they are not the participants true behaviour and immediate reactions, they are altered to please the experimenters.

Bandura’s (1961) study on children imitating aggressive models uses a laboratory to control what the children see and all aspects of their experience within the study. The use of a laboratory can be intimidating, especially with young children as participants, the researchers must be aware of the welfare of the children and as much as possible try not to distress them in the alien environment. Some would suggest a more natural setting which the children are used to would have been a better choice, to relax the children and then record their true behaviour.

There are many problems surrounding the use of laboratories as a setting for experiments, however it is the researchers decision to whether the high amount of control is worth the lack of ecological validility.

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