Build bridges or destroy them: the role of mass media in the society

Media Bias: they publish what they are told.

According to the Nielsen Company’s report, a global company which measures and monitors human consumption behavior, the average American spend 34 hours per week watching TV. Americans collectively spend 121,000,000,000 minutes on social networking per day. Since last week I have been following the news about the Boston Marathon tragedy, where three people died and over 200 were severely injured. In reading the reports, it struck me how biased social media and broadcasting companies could be in their reports.

Social media played an important role in reporting the Boston tragedy. For example, the local Boston Police Department communicated through Twitter to report about the manhunt of the Boston Marathon bombings suspects. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, was full of posts of condolences for the victims and their families.

The news websites were updated often to inform the public with the most current situation. However, every news website and every TV channel had different versions and it is own opinion.

There has been mass confusion and misinformation on the broadcasting corporations, which many perceive as reliable sources of news, about the origins of the suspects. Cable News Network (CNN) reported in one of their updates that one of the officers said that “The Tsarnaev family […] lived some time in Kazakhstan, and then went to the United States.” Nevertheless, National Broadcasting Company (NBC) stated that the family moved from another Central Asian country. “The suspect at large, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is 19, was born in Kyrgyzstan.” British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), on the other hand, was careful enough to just state that the suspects moved to United States of America as “refugees from Central Asia in the late 1990s.”

There has also been conflicting information about how the suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev was caught in custody. Russian Channel One news said that Tsarnaev was exchanging gunshots for about an hour, while CNN website said that the police and the suspect were “negotiating” for a half an hour. There also has been some information about the use of grenades during the “negotiation.”

This is just one example of how media can disseminate contradicting information. Nonetheless, it can also affect mindset of people. “B.F.” (Burrhus Frederic) Skinner, American psychologist, believed environmental factors shaped and controlled individuals’ behavior. However, external factors can also shape people’s attitudes and beliefs about a particular event. In this case, media, as an external factor, creates specific attitudes on different topics. Those individuals who rely on the news of CNN, for example, might have a totally different opinion on the topic than an individual following NBC or BBC news. The different coverage can cause a conflict of views among different groups.

Phyllis Anastasio, Karen C. Rose, and Judith Chapman stated in their research study “Can the Media Create Public Opinion?” that  “multiple news broadcasts dissect the world into distinct social categories.” The researchers believe that mass media bias has “the power to build bridges as well as destroy them” by diminishing group differences or emphasizing them. This affects people’s perception and public opinion. Some websites emphasized the religion of the suspect, whereas some websites focused more on the fact that the suspects were immigrants.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, American author, said, “the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

The question is, are we able to hold conflicting information in one society and remain psychologically and emotionally stable? Who is wrong and who is right? No one knows. Will we ever be told the real story behind this tragedy? I don’t know.


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Hire Me, Hire Me Not: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Business World



If you’re looking for a job, it’s important to know that most management consulting firms provide  evaluation services and test products to help HR departments identify potential leaders and stellar employees. Known as competency models, they evaluate employees’ intelligence and leadership traits. These models help HR departments to be able to sort out potential leaders who can benefit the organization.

Psychologists and hiring managers used to stress themselves out trying to find certain characteristics or qualities in employees who could grow their organizations. Every organization wants to have a successful team. Centuries ago organizations would hire a phrenologist, who could identify potential employers who were responsible and hardworking by studying the bumps and indentations on their skulls. Overtime, phrenology was defined as a fringe movement and unreliable, so employers kept looking for better ways to spot leaders for their organizations.

Fortunately, it seems that they have found something that can predict someone’s success in this tough corporate world – emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, American author and psychologist, was the founder of the term “emotional intelligence.” According to John Mayer and Peter Salovey, the founders of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), “emotional intelligence” is “a form of social intelligence.” It is an ability to “monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions,” Mayer and Salovey believe.

Goleman believes that the five components of “emotional intelligence” are beneficial in the business world, because these characteristics drive an outstanding performance. The components consist of self-awareness, which is the ability to recognize own emotions and reactions, self-regulation, which is the ability to control emotions, and motivation, empathy, and social skill.

An individual might look at the notion of “emotional intelligence” with skepticism the same way as at any other fringe movement, such as astrology or phrenology.  However, unlike phrenology, studies conducted by Mayer, Caruso, and Salovey, have indicated that “emotional intelligence” can be viewed as a form of an individual’s intelligence.

It is believed that the more emotionally intelligent you are, the easier it is for you to get a desirable job, because big companies are seeking emotionally intelligent employees. Beth Rosenthal and Cody Wilson, in their research study “Community violence and psychological distress” have found that people who could identify other individuals’ emotions were more successful in their careers. Emotional intelligence helped them to be more flexible and adaptable to changes in the environment, and act appropriately according to a situation.

Similar to these findings, Robert Lusch and Ray R. Serpkenci of  the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship found in their research study that people who were able to manage their stress level as well as their emotions were more successful at their jobs. Interestingly, researchers have also found that individuals who were able to identify and understand others’ emotions and mood were more adaptable and flexible to different social changes in their environments.   

Goleman conducted a research by analyzing the data of the “competency models” from global companies, such as British Airways, Credit Suisse, and Lucent Technologies. When he analyzed the components of an excellent performance, such as the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and “emotional intelligence”, he found that “emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.”

So, what does it take to be hired? Train yourself to be emotionally intelligent and get the job of your dream. It might sound impossible or too unrealistic, but the research shows that is what employers want – your “emotional intelligence”. The good news is Goleman guarantees that emotional intelligence can be trained! Get started.


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The Psychology of Job Market… not quite, but…

Open Kimono


       As the job market continues to suffer, unpaid internships have become a rite of passage to enter the labor market. Unpaid internships seem on the surface to be an example of mutual utility, where young inexperienced students learn about the field they have chosen and where employers are supposed to get no immediate advantage from the activities performed by the intern. On the US Department of Labor website there are six strict guidelines stated and one of them is that an internship experience is only for the benefit of the intern and that it is similar to the training that would have been given in an educational environment.

        However, these uncompensated internships defy labor standards, exploit the emerging working force and depress wages for everyone else. Oto Alves, who worked at the “Desarrollo Sostenible Para Guatemala” NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) during the summer of…

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Choice rots the bones


Some people believe that it is important to have a stable attitude. Imagine someone expressing one attitude towards a specific topic and then changing it the next day. Due to a frequent opinion change, there is a possibility that people might have difficulties with trusting the person in the future.

Frequently changing information can cause distress; it requires more psychic energy to replace already existing information to a new one. Thus, individuals try to stay stable with their attitudes in order to avoid any uncomfortable situations of not being trusted and losing the social sense of “self”.

Both environmental factors and concern about public opinion push individuals to maintain an attitude constant. According to Elliot Aronson, an American psychologist, people value their social “self” more than they do their material self. Thus, in order to maintain the status of having pure social self and being perceived as a mature individual, people tend to hold on to a similar opinion they had before. However, it is also possible for individuals to comply with an attitude, which is considered the most credible.

This can explain the reason for individuals’ need to be certain on their attitude before making any serious commitment to an attitude or important decisions, which might be difficult to reverse afterwards. Furthermore, according to Aronson, people tend to remember general memory how they view themselves. So, the combination of the fear of looking immature and not acting in a sensible way push individuals to choose to act in the most reasonable way. Fear is the main source of internal conflicts. It stops an individual from developing a sense of autonomy and growth.

The study conducted by Michael Ross, Cathy McFarland and Garth Fletcher, Canadian researchers at the University of Waterloo, focused on “the effect of attitude on the recall of personal histories.” Individuals were asked to rate their attitude on their frequency of showering and brushing teeth. Participants were divided into control and experimental groups, where they listened to a recorded interview of a medical worker or a social scientist talking about either positive or negative factors of showering or brushing teeth. Participants then had to recall how many times they brushed or showered during past two weeks.

Even though people could not recall the exact amount of times they engaged in the hygienic activities, they tried to connect their behavior with the most sensible way relative to the testing condition they were in. Participants wanted to fit into the category of people who do the right thing.

Those participants who were in the positive teeth brushing/showering condition believed that it was important to frequently engage in those activities. Nonetheless, participants from the negative brushing/showering conditions had more negative attitudes towards frequent bathing and teeth brushing. Participants’ responses depended on which condition they were in.

Although individuals tend to believe that they have a stable and unchanging attitude, it is known that people do change their opinions from time to time. Nevertheless, the change of opinions can make people feel uncomfortable and not credible in front of others. In order to avoid that discomfort, people try to fit in by choosing to follow the most reasonable way. When individuals do not remember an event, they try to use their or other people’s general attitude to help to remember.

That’s true that frequent change of attitudes or opinions might cause frustration to those, who witness those changes, but not necessarily you. Can’t we be persuaded? Aren’t we allowed to change our opinions and feelings towards something over time? Love comes and goes. Vegetables go bad over time. However, it is impossible to reverse the deterioration reaction of vegetables. Someone might be lucky to reverse gone love to its initial state, although no one can persuade me that it can be the same as it was in the beginning.

 I have been changing my decision of whether I should return home or stay in the U.S. after my graduation gazillion amount of times. I might look not credible or trustworthy with my frequent changes, but sometimes it is tough to make one correct decision, because no one knows what the right decision is. Maybe one just needs to risk it all and discover new parts of self? Rossellen Brown, an American writer, in her book “Cora Fry’s Pillow Book” said, “Choice rots the bones, like candy rots the teeth.” Too bad I love sweets.

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Social conformity – the key to… silence?


Enjoy your sweet silence…

In our society, conformists are liked the best and deviants are liked the least; that is the ugly truth. Individuals decide to rely on external sources for information to get external rewards, such as acceptance or approval. When physical reality seems vague or is unknown, there is a tendency for individuals to seek answers from a social context. That is it. We tend to grasp the knowledge we acquire from the outside world.

Informative conformity occurs when an individual believes that external sources are correct in their judgments. At the same time, some individuals tend to demonstrate normative conformity by complying with an idea/belief/event without questioning it in order to fit in. That is a problem. Public compliance might lead to negative outcomes in the environment.

Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of United States of America, said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Adding to that, Napoleon Hill, an American author, also said, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

We prefer to hear reasonable ideas and arguments. No one wants to hear nonsense…unless you enjoy it. However, it seems to me that there is a tendency for people to remain silent or even not question anything when uncertain due to the fear of being perceived as a “fool” or a “failure.” People willingly choose to remain silent and not voice their concerns because of possible external negative perception from the rest of the community. Individuals might assume there is a possible social or physical threat, because they want to fit in into the group. Of course, no one needs an intergroup conflict.

To what extent we can call such environment healthy for people, where there is an assumption of threat or social discrimination? Ideally, we all should feel comfortable with voicing our own beliefs, right? People might feel unsafe to raise their voices when the environment does not seem right. It is a mental cost-benefit analysis.

At the same time, to what extent, is someone able to analyze the situation without being biased? Maybe, your perception of things can be distorted due to internal  factors, such as fear, low self-esteem, discomfort. And in reality, there is no discrimination, there is no oppression, and there is no social dominance in the community. It is just your assumed reality. Nothing. Everything is perfect. And you just made it up.

Society influences our decisions or our silence. People tend to conform when people are uncertain or insecure. One of the reasons might be a social or physical threat.  However, it is also important to take into account that your “assumed” perception can be distorted…or not?

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Marketing failure…and psychology of persuasion


What do we call a person who takes without giving back? Leech? Mooch? Asshole? In order to avoid this concept of being called “a bad person”, people want to repay, in kind, what another has provided us.

In psychology one of the ways that is used in the marketing is the Principle of Reciprocity, where giving free samples is one of the ways to induce people buying the product after giving them free samples…
It made me think of some of my Freebie-friends, who do not really care about any feelings or how they are called….”just take it and go” – that is their principle.
Freebies are untouchable by psychology.…

Marketing teams should come up with something new and efficient.

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To Trust, or Not to Trust: That is the Question


Trust me. I know what I’m doing.

Our life became public in social networks. There are no secrets, no mystery – nothing is hidden. To what extent, however, do we trust what we see on Facebook and Twitter?

Seeing a new acquaintance, we try to analyze him or her.  People start to evaluate whether the person is trustworthy or not. People do not trust product advertisements – we expect them to be deceptive. We expect politicians to lie. We expect our friendships and relationships to fail because we do not trust each other anymore. Where is the trust gone? How does one decide to trust or not?

Dr. Kristina DeNeve, assistant professor of psychology at Baylor University, in her research article “Happy as an Extroverted Clam?: The Role of Personality for Subjective Well-Being” stated that, “trust essentially measures the tendency to make attributions of people’s actions in an optimistic or pessimistic fashion.” DeNeve believes that trust depends on how a person perceives the other person. The more trustworthy a person seems to you, the more you trust him or her.

According to Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst and founder of the theory of psychosocial development stages, the amount of care a child got during the first two years of childhood determines the level of trust he/she would have in the future.

In his book, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, Erikson said: “The most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust, without which every human act, may it feel ever so good and seem ever so right is prone to perversion by destructive forms of conscientiousness.”

Successfully passing the trust/mistrust stage would predict the feelings of security, trust, and optimism, whereas the failure of that stage would predict the insecurity and mistrust towards people.

Paul Costa, Jr. and Robert McCrae, researchers of Five-Factor model of personality in their research “Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory professional manual” found that people who have low levels of trust in a trust scale “tend to be cynical and skeptical and to assume that others may be dishonest or dangerous.”

Trust is important to build healthy and strong social relationships. However, there is a paradox of trust. When there is a large conflict of interest and when it is almost impossible to trust – that is when trust is needed. Daniel Balliet and Paul Van Lange, Department of Psychology in VU University, in their “Trust, Conflict, and Cooperation: A Meta-Analysis” research indicated that trust is important when it comes to conflict of interest. They agreed that “people are most capable of building trust in situations in which preferences tend to conflict rather than align.”

What does it take to build trust? Trust. Trust begins with trust. I apologize for my tautology, but the answer is simple. Robert Solomon, in his book Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life, stated: trust “involves feelings of respect, of obligation and duty, of affection and responsibility.” Trust is a decision and personal choice. It is a risk, but it is a risk worth taking. Try it yourself.

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