because apparently the blog has a huge limit on characters....
I have performed this research with the goal of investigating the connection, if any, between inherently functional mechanisms of the brain and their influence on attitudes and their expressions. Through my research and the information learned in the course, I have formed a conceptual idea relating these two fields in ways I believe to benefit both in terms of genuine understanding.
Research in the field of psychological attitudes and behavior has provided us with a great deal of interesting insight over the decades. Human attitudes, being so complex, have repeatedly been found to require different perspectives and theoretical models in order to make sense of the large variety of contexts and perspectives that are involved with the human population and the limitless attitudes that are experienced by us all. Psychologists focusing on attitudes have contributed many models in an effort to describe this complex human phenomenon, and because of this there has been a great deal of light shed upon the repercussions of particular attitudes that have been proven to be detrimental to society. These issues that have been addressed include important social issues such as racism, homophobia, gender biases, and other perspectives with similar intent and function. Despite the success of the majority of their overall research, it has come to my attention through my literary research that there is a particular aspect of the human psyche that has seemingly been overlooked as an important contributing factor to human attitudes and the various observations that can be made in regards to them. By incorporating the additional influence implied by the research I have gathered, it is possible to grasp an increasingly clear conception on the true nature and function of attitudes within individuals on both macro and micro scales.
The portion of the human psyche which this research--as well as my analysis—resides is not that of acquired constructs and perceptions as they are related to emotional responses towards object stimuli. Instead, the insight from the perspective I am trying to portray comes from the more subconscious process which occurs before any type of attitude formation can occur. There has been research in the past that specifically investigates the possibility of physical neurological differences in the human brain being responsible for a number of explicitly observed behaviors and tendencies. These conclusions suggest an inherent difference in the literal reality that is experienced from person to person.
The significance of this in relation to the psychology of attitudes can be inferred from this point, and can be understood in the old metaphor of viewing life through “rose-colored glasses”. This of course, is by no means a legitimate trait that is backed up by empirical data. It is meant as a handy way to emphasize the reality that it would not take too much at all too completely alter your own perception of reality—if only you were to have a pair of those glasses.
By including a consideration for the raw differences in the ways we as individual people are absorbing the worlds around us we experience, certain properties of attitudes begin to surface that could not have existed before these types of influences were considered. By adding this additional lens to the existing concepts of attitude psychology, a new point of view emerges that could quite possibly lead way to a deeper understanding of the true nature and explanations behind pessimistic world views such as racial discrimination and other undesirable belief systems—as well as attitudes in general.
There are many different existing studies which correlate specific biological differences in the brain (be it specific genes in DNA, synaptic strength, chemical levels, etc.) with a genuine discrepancy of reality perception. The traits ultimately influenced by these observed differences are often traits very common to attitudinal psychology; anxiety, anger, disagreement, motivation, moral alignment, political position, amongst many others. In addition to these things showing motivational origins stemming from things as basic as DNA, the concept of ‘nurture’ is incorporated as well, as there is evidence that some genes are activated on a scale of intensity according to their environmental circumstances (Rudolf Jaenisch, 2003).
A number of the studies I will mention originate not from attitudinal research, but instead from psychological research relating strictly to personalities in general. As a result of this, I have chosen to use the Big Five factors of personality (originally presented by Allport and Odbert in 1936) to relate to the concepts necessary here. Within the realm of personality psychology, there is a lot of controversy regarding the validity of personality assessments and their ability to actually summarize the personality of a person. On the surface, this is a justified attitude to have, as there is a large number of different personality assessments that have been developed; a large number of which have been proven empirically invalid, and in the worst cases no more credible than a horoscope. However, the Big Five is a rigorously tested and widely accepted method of personality measurement, and is used very commonly in various psychological experiments in the past few decades. In addition, the Big Five provides a concise definition of the concept of introversion and extroversion, and this is a trait that will be shown focus here because it possesses the most empirical evidence of being a genuine factor of differing perceptions of reality. Accordingly, a few of the references here use the Big Five as its primary form of measure, and I will provide summaries of the mentioned terms in context, as opposed to a full-fledged overview of the system with the hope of maintaining adequate focus on my primary topic. (Randy L. Larsen, 2008)
Introversion-extroversion is a spectrum of the dimension of our personalities that ultimately describes our overall willingness to interact and immerse ourselves in the bustling social world around us (Randy L. Larsen, 2008). Focusing on introversion, the traits associated are generally amongst the easiest to pick out in a person whilst sizing up their personality in a real life setting. This familiarity with the subjective concept of these types of people likely has a large part to do with the reasons the attitude branch of human behavior has not researched this perspective more exclusively in the past—on the surface, these behaviors seem only akin to more natural states of being, such as being happy or sad. A study conducted by researchers in China at Stony Brook University was designed to expound upon the possibility of a deeper form of processing information being the cause of these particular traits. (Stony Brook University, 2010)
Their experiment was most certainly not in vain. Upon interpreting the results, the researchers were compelled to coin a new phrase to describe their findings. What they found was that about 20% of the population possesses an alternate wiring of the brain, which ultimately leads to an overall heightened sensitivity to all types of stimuli, be they internal or external. Sensory perception sensitivity (SPS) is what they called this particular trait, and it is not found in humans alone—but also species such as fruit flies, fish, dogs, and over 100 others (Stony Brook University, 2010). Essentially, your brain is responsible for every experience you have, including every act of free-will (no matter which side of the debate of if it exists at all you happen to be on). The knowledge that roughly 1/5th of the population possesses an inherent naturally occurring bias that directly affects the intensity of the reality they experience suggests a large amount of imperative repercussions when considering attitudes and their functionality.
With respect to the high probability of any reader of this paper falling within the 80% who don’t exhibit SPS characteristics, it is important to take a step back for a moment and seriously consider the ramifications that a heightened sense of all forms of stimuli would produce in terms of every aspect of an individual (psychologically). There is a relatively common euphemism in existence that attempts to use our perception of color to emphasize the distinction that a difference such as SPS can cause when comparing the two perspectives side-by-side. Let’s put our morals regarding child rearing aside for an instance, and imagine a brand new parent who decides to play a joke on the life of their child. They decided it would be very hilarious if throughout the infants life they went against the human convention of the proper perception of what is ‘blue’, and instead opted to only affirm the notion that what the infant was in fact seeing was the color ‘red’, and vice-versa. If we forget to account for the fact that eventually through socialization in public situations the child would become corrected, and assume that they instead lived out their lives with this incorrect inherent perception of an important part of their visual stimulus they encounter, a number of intriguing effects can be predicted. Imagine this child being recruited to take part in a research study associating color with attitudinal formation. It would be highly likely that her data would be considered as an outlier, and that no true consideration would be given to her genuinely alternative perception that motivated her responses concerning the colors used in the study. On top of this hypothetical empirical scenario, it is also easy to recognize the differences a thing like this would stir up in normal day to day living as well. Stop signs would have a different inherent value, as would the sky, or an ocean; even shades of purple and other various tones of the perceived altered color would stimulate an alternate perception. These two groupings of people (as well as different groups defined by similar systems with different effects) are not experiencing alternate view-points, or even moral motivations. It’s best considered as two truly different worlds, which we luckily happen to also share.
An interesting, but not too imperative, study I found depicted that pattern relating levels of introversion (and thus, SPS) with whether or not the subject identified as a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ person. It was found that for individuals with introverted traits, the effects of sleepiness were more easily resisted by the introverts, who also displayed a higher overall level of mental stamina throughout the day, and is more resistant to the fatigue of the early morning and late evening. This is the cause of their ‘night owl’ status (Marina Jimenez, 2009).
This point was interesting to me because even a kindergartener could look around the world and realize society starts kicking into gear around 6am. This is just an aspect of the introverted perspective that they have few other choices besides coping with—as it’s hard to combat 80% of the population when it comes to setting cultural norms within the status-quo – especially when these individuals are as private and detached as they have been observed. It was also found in a different study that testing ability was also influenced by this effect (Blake, 1967), but whether which group came out on top was heavily dependent on the time of day (introverts tended to be more consistent throughout the day, whereas extroverts tended to peak in ability around afternoon time).
With the possession of this new addition to the paradigm in which we interpret attitudes and behavior relating to introversion, it is possible to view past research related to introversion with a new outlook. The introversion-extroversion concept is a relatively old concept. This is lucky, because there is already a vast amount of researching in regards to the characteristic, and a number of these directly focus on the specific topics of interest that are commonly considered within the psychological study of attitudes.
A team of researchers investigated a particular neurochemical in the brain that they expected to be linked to our resulting behaviors’ following the absorption of sensory input into our cognition. They hypothesized that the chemical behaved differently when comparing introverts to extroverts, and that this difference could be held accountable for the difference in reaction times between the groups. They structured their experiment around inhibiting and exciting the particular receptors that dealt with the chemical of interest, and through this technique controlled the chemical levels through pharmaceuticals. After controlling the levels of this chemical, they were then subjected to a reaction test which measured their reflexes after a designated event occurred. Their findings verified their speculations that this particular chemical without a doubt at the very least played a partial role in the subjects’ ability to react to stimuli (Thomas Rammsayer, 2002).
Openness to Experience according to the concepts adopted by the Big Five can be described as a collection of traits that have been empirically correlated through meta-analysis to depict a singular global trait. Aspects of this trait include things such as an active imagination, appreciation of aesthetics, disdain of tedium, and intellectual curiosity and self-awareness (Randy L. Larsen, 2008). Like introversion, this trait is highly suspect of having a physiological rooting and a good amount of research involving genetics and neurophysiology has been carried out to reinforce this notion, but this is outside the scope of this paper. In a study focusing on the Big Five itself, both fraternal and non-fraternal twins were asked to take a Big Five questionnaire, and then the researchers used statistical analysis to determine through the properties of twins whether or not these traits were likely heritable (suggests physiological causes) or inheritable (suggests environmental causes). Post-analysis, it was found that identical twins indeed had closely related scores in the Openness to Experience measure, and the same was found (although not as strongly) within the fraternal twins as well.
In another related study, also focusing on this Openness spectrum as well, they attempted to correlate levels of Openness in individuals in relation to attitude formation involving stereotypical beliefs such as racism. To decide this, they gathered groups according to their levels on the Openness spectrum. They then subjected the groups to a social situation where they interacted with a person of a different race, and where then asked to report their impressions of their new acquaintance. The results were honestly, just as one would expect they’d be. It was found that those individuals who were considered “Open to experience” (the study defined this as those who were about one standard deviation away from the average) were much more likely than the latter to produce positive impressions of people of a different race (Flynn, 2005).
This particular spectrum is especially interesting to consider in relation to attitude related theories regarding the persuasion of racist attitudes. It would be especially useful for counseling psychologists and other people dealing directly with racist perspectives. Consideration of where the individual stands in relation to the Openness spectrum could drastically influence the counseling process for the better by offering further reassurance off the possibility of the client improving.
Despite the different goals of these individual studies, the primary focus of them as a whole is a reflection of the repercussions that particular biological (and thus, inherent and uncontrollable) mechanisms influences the way our surroundings influence our experiences BEFORE we even have a chance to evaluate the stimuli and weigh them against our personal system of morals and attitudes. In short, these studies depict a point of view that suggests a heavily influential aspect of our cognitive experience that seems to have a dramatic impact on our entire experiences as a whole—functionally outside of the realm of opinions, morals, happiness, stereotypes, and all those other mechanisms. Apart from the Openness study, the remainder of the studies appropriately considered an aspect of ‘sensitivity’ within their experimental design, whether it be reflected through reflexes or interpretation of stimuli. When considering the evidence established here, the conclusion that there is a lot more to be discovered about these important variations in humanity is relatively easy to come to—surely an aspect of yourself that determines your literal interpretation of the reality around you must have many implications. This point is driven home further when you recall that I have only focused on one aspect (introversion) that has thus far been found to empirically explain differing characteristics of people. Traits that function in this way do not stop at introversion, but are found characterized in the Big Five as a whole, however not all with the same level of assurance. Despite this, the research I have done has given me a strong impression that these inherent ‘reality filters’ which differ from person to person has a dramatic effect on a wide range of the massive amount of nuances observed within the human experience.
These studies show a number of repercussions which those involved in attitudinal psychology should be interested in. The most important of which would be a restructuring of the methodology we use to conduct research. The exact confounds that occur within sample groups that fail to incorporate people whom exhibit characteristics such as SPS, can be understood easily by comparing the situation to ordinary cheating. Referencing the previously mentioned reflex study, let’s remove that particular hypothesis and replace it with “Who has better response time, boys or girls?” The experimental design is identical, just the hypothesis and sample group has been altered. Without considering the ideas presented in this paper, researchers of this study would likely statistically analyze the data, and have full confidence in their resulting conclusion (let’s just say the ladies came out on top). Now, let’s re-inject the ideas made from the featured studies here into this experimental observation, and ask ourselves—was it truly the ladies that came out on top? Or is it possible that those particular sample groups had an unequal distribution of the 20/80 SPS ratio, and thus had an unfair or over fair advantage (depending on which way it went)?
If this experiment, as well as other similar experiments in the field, were to instead account for these individual differences prior to the experimental observations, perhaps it would be possible to evaluate the two ‘perspectives’ separately, and then incorporate the two conclusions from the introverts and extroverts together in one concise over-arching conclusion. The only problem with this is that extroversion-introversion is defined as a spectrum, not two independent traits. Because of this, experiments would have to be organized in such a way to include the proper consideration of the possible general manifestations of this scale (respect to the high, low, and middle of the spectrum) as well as a careful analysis of all three groups.
Another interesting implication my research caused me to dawn upon is the way these particular inert human traits would have an impact if considered more in our views on the functioning behind the persuasion methods of already established attitudes. Any additional insight is important in this area of study because often, behavior is motivated by deep and long-running perceptions of the attitude object. These particular attitudes tend to also be the ones that cause a great deal of human suffering: racism, homophobia, general intolerance, and other things of that sort of hateful nature. The television special Scared Straight (Shapiro, 1978) and its’ installments often crept into my head as I researched my topic. I could not help but be only mighty curious of how each of the featured delinquents would have come out if asked to take the SPS assessment (which I could not find an adequate citation describing), or some other form such as the Big Five. I would expect there would be some correlation between each of their reactions and were they all fell on the spectrum, and I hope one day things like this will be incorporated into studies for additional understanding.
The message I walked away with (and would suggest to others, it’s a pretty insightful pathway) is ultimately that the psychology of attitudes is by its’ very nature heavily dependent on the fundamental psychological mechanisms of the brain. The functions of these systems certainly lie within a different realm of consideration in comparison to the expression, experience, and implications of implicit and explicit attitudes; however despite how that may be, I’ve come to think that it is equally as important to consider all of these concepts in juxtaposition with each other. If this is done, I would expect not only the collected data of future experiments to be more reliable, but also bring everyone one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of obtaining a complete and accurate depiction of our own human experience.
Blake, M. J. (1967, August 19). Relationship between Circadian Rhythm of Body Temperature and Introversion–Extraversion. Retrieved May 3, 2010, from Nature: Relationship between Circadian Rhythm of Body Temperature and Introversion–Extraversion
Flynn, F. J. (2005, May). Having an Open Mind: The Impace of Openness to Experience on Interracial Attitudes and Impression Formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . American Psychological Association.
Kerry L. Jang, R. R. (1998, June). Heritability of facet-level traits in a cross-cultural twin sample: Support for a hierarchical model of personality. Retrieved May 2010, from APA PsycNET.
Lieberman, M. D. (1999, January). Introversion and Working Memory: Central Executive Difference. Retrieved May 2010, from Science Direct: ScienceDirect - Personality and Individual Differences : Introversion and working memory: central executive differences
Marina Jimenez, K. H. (2009, May 15). Want to get ahead? Sleep in. Retrieved May 3, 2010, from The Globe and Mail: Want to get ahead? Sleep in - The Globe and Mail
Randy L. Larsen, D. M. (2008). Personality Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Rudolf Jaenisch, A. B. (2003). Epigenetic regulation of gene expression: how the genome integrates intrinsic and environmental signals. Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Shapiro, A. (Director). (1978). Scared Straight! [Motion Picture].
Stony Brook University. (2010, April 02). Researchers Find Differences In How The Brains Of Some Individuals Process The World Around Them. Retrieved April 6, 2010, from PHYSORG.com: Researchers Find Differences In How The Brains Of Some Individuals Process The World Around Them
Thomas Rammsayer, P. N. (2002, May 29). A neurochemical model underlying differences in reaction times between introverts and extraverts. (Elsevier Science Ltd.) Retrieved from Science Direct.