Sample Reaction Papers
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This page contains sample critiques that will give you an idea of the type(s) and style(s) of paper I am hoping to receive.  Click on the links below to get to each paper quickly.                                     

Social Influence
Knowledge structure of attitudes
Cognitive Dissonance
Social Cognition
The function of attitudes
Attitude-behavior relationship

Eric Cartman
Reaction Example #1

            The articles I chose for this week dealt with mindfulness and its relations to the “That’s-Not-All” (TNA) technique (Pollock, Smith, Knowles & Bruce, 1998) and the influence of personality characteristics and how these influence persuasive techniques used in the workplace (Caldwell & Burger, 1997). Pollock et al (1998) found that as the cost of an item being considered increased the effectiveness of the TNA technique appeared to become less effective as a result of decreased mindfulness.  The study by Caldwell and Burger (1997) resulted in several findings but mainly the authors found that personality measures did indeed appear to be related to influence strategies, in particular the self-monitoring and control personality measures.
            The results of the Caldwell and Burger (1997) study did not point to the importance of the Big Five personality dimensions apparently because they were too general for the specific situation they were applied to in the study.  However, the authors did point to the fact that the Big Five can be important for understanding the general relationship of personality and influence techniques, especially when combined with specific variables related to a particular situation.
While the Caldwell and Burger (1997) results could possibly have some usage in selection procedures, since some personality characteristics tend to be more important in certain positions, such as self-monitoring in “boundary-spanning jobs” (Caldwell & Burger, 1997), there are legal implications.  The courts in the past have not always looked favorably in respect to the usage of personality on performance appraisals.  Selection procedures are very similar to performance appraisals because performance, or future performance rather, is being measured.  Because personality characteristics have not been undoubtedly shown to be overly valid predictors of performance, using them in this context may be a bit risky.  However, if evidence can be gathered that the characteristics are valid to the particular job, based on experimental design, chances are the procedures are legally justifiable.
The main use I can find for such results, even though not entirely understood, would be used in the realm of employee development.  In particular, using research such as this, a training program could be developed to help managers develop their influence techniques.  A big part of any management job is selling ideas to employees and/or to those higher in the company.  Also, I believe that, as the authors note, employee satisfaction and/or happiness can depend on the influence strategies used by those around them, especially if manipulative strategies are being used.  Therefore, I think such training can certainly increase the happiness of the employees.  This happiness increase would hopefully then reduce turnover and absenteeism, help improve the work environment and increase productivity which could then return to the employees to make their work even more satisfying.
            I personally find the Pollock et al. (1998) study quite interesting.  I have always been interested in the “mindlessness” in which people drift throughout the day.  The authors note that when the price of the item under consideration increases, the TNA effect is no longer effective.  This is because, I believe, people are brought out of auto mode and are forced to consider their options.  Unfortunately this exemplifies the lazy thinking that tends to permeate this society.  As I mentioned in a previous critique, a simple meta-cognition course might help to bring people into awareness of themselves.  Another such unconscious method is scarcity.  Tesser (1995) mentions that scarcity tends to make people want something more.  Having individuals first take notice of this mental process would help lessen such effects which are frequently unnecessary.  In terms of the workplace though, the TNA effect could be useful for securing employees that the company desires, since many people do seem to fall victim to the this effect.
            One variable I contemplated while reading the study was the item(s) which was used to better the initial offer to make the offer more desirable.  I think this is another variable that may need to be studied.  For instance, if an individual is sitting in a car dealer’s office and he says, “I can offer you the car for $25,998.  However, that’s not all!  I will happily throw in two chocolate chip cookies to sweeten the deal; no pun intended!”  I really do not think this would work to increase the chances of selling the car.  Furthermore, such small bettering of the “deal” may push the buyers into the central route of processing so that they are aware they being buttered up.  Ultimately, such an offer may hurt the persuasion.  The idea is then that the “bettering” of the deal must be of significance in comparison and even categorically related to the item being considered.

Stan Marsh
Reaction #2

        The articles for this week examined the knowledge structures of attitudes and how Loftus' (1975) spreading activation model affects attitude structure and polarization.  The article by Judd and Lusk (1984) investigated how the way social stimuli is organized in memory affects how it is differentiated.  There are two camps of thought on this issue.  First, Tesser suggests that the polarizing effects would be strongest when a person has a well developed schema about the object to be judged.  Tesser and Leone (1977) supported this hypothesis by finding male and female participants differed in polarization when the attitude object used was football (males more than females) or women's fashion (females more than males).  Second, Linville suggested complex knowledge structures about a domain are associated with and lead to non-polarized evaluative judgments of those objects.  Linville further states that as long as those attributes are uncorrelated and orthogonal more complex knowledge structures should lead to less extreme judgments.  Judd and Lusk found some support in Study 2, but I found the article to be somewhat confusing and they conducted, what I believe to be, far too many analyses.  
        The article by Millar and Tesser (1986) examined how commitment mediates attitude polarization.  This was an interesting study and it appeared to have a "cognitive busy" component in the procedure (maybe this was a precursor to Gilbert, Pelham, & Krull).  The authors found support for their hypothesis by showing that committed participants using a complex schema produced more attitude polarization than when using a simple schema.  The opposite effect was found for uncommitted participants.  
        The article by Judd, Drake, Downing, and Krosnick (1991) examined the potential influence the theory of spreading activation could have on attitude structure.  They found that attitudes are capable of priming one another.  This adds additional evidence to Fazio (1989) who suggested that attitude becomes stronger the more times it is activated.  
        Katz and Hass (1988) attempted to develop scales to measure attitudes and values associated with Blacks.  However, the authors ignored Lerner (1975) who demonstrated that the Protestant-Ethic scale DOES correlate with the Belief in a Just World Scale (BJWS).  The study could have been more complete by giving all participants the BJWS.  
        The article by Chaiken and Yates (1985) was an interesting take on attitude polarization and their inclusion of an analysis on participants' essays to examine their cognitions was well intentioned.  Finally, the article by Judd and Krosnick (1982) was an attempt to take the "high road" as it were, but their analyses were inadequate and their data needs to be re-analyzed using EQS to draw any substantial conclusions.  

Kyle Broflovski.
Reaction #3

       As I began to read about cognitive dissonance, I thought about the appropriateness of this topic for July 4th.  Our nation’s birthday is essentially a celebration of dissent.  Could historical dissent be steeped in cognitive dissonance?  To discern the answer to this question, I began by reading Masssaro’s review of A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger, 1957).  This theory embodies the idea that when a person holds two inconsistent cognitions, he or she will experience negative feelings that will cause them to seek a resolution to the inconsistencies.  Masssaro’s enthusiastic applause for Festinger’s insightfulness immediately led me to view Festinger as a fearless rebel, brave enough to rally his peers to consider the importance of cognition.  What a revolutionist he must have been to suggest such an idea during the reign of the reinforcement theory in the late fifties! I was motivated to buy his book, but the online price of $112 was more than I had anticipated.  I was also surprised by the accompanying suggestion from the Amazon wizards that I might enjoy a book about the lies American history teachers tell or a book about the perceptions and misperceptions in international politics.  Accordingly, my idea that historical dissent and cognitive dissonance are intertwined seemed to be on target.  This suspicion was confirmed when I conducted an online search for additional information.  I found a wealth of information related to the role of cognitive dissonance in wars and acts of terrorism.  A precursory reading of this information served as a poignant reminder that the study of history necessitates the lens of social psychology.  History is not about rote facts; history is about human interactions. 
       How mind boggling to think that cognitive dissonance is pertinent to events of great magnitude and events we deem ordinary! The later was the substance of the additional articles I read.  McFalls and Roberts (2001) found that when students in teacher education programs are exposed to cognitive dissonance instruction, they are less likely to be resistant to diversity.  The implications from this study are actually mirrored in substance abuse intervention programs; acknowledgement of the problem is the first step.  This prompted a reflection on the Becker episode about anger management.  Becker sought resolution to cognitive dissonance by denying he had a problem.  With this in mind, the second article I read about the majority fallacy reflects an additional method we use to reconcile cognitive dissonance.  Makela (1997) found that when actual behavior and normative standards differ, people alleviate the dissonance through the generation of the majority fallacy.  The fallacy is based on the erroneous perception of the behavior of others.  This perception enables us to construct a more favorable image of our own behavior.  I feel enlightened now that I know the word that goes with the tactic my children often employ; “You think I’m late.  All the other guys get to stay out to midnight.” Majority fallacy is a powerful force that has caused me to ponder my parenting skills.  Am I too strict or too lenient?  Funny, kids keep using the same “excuses”
      The aforementioned dilemma illustrates the attitudinal component of cognitive dissonance.  This element was also examined by Amato and Rogers (1999) in their research related to attitudes about divorce and marital quality.  Amato and Rogers found that when an individual views divorce favorably, he or she is not likely to exert effort to resolve marital disagreements.  This lack of effort erodes martial quality.  My immediate inference from Amato and Rogers’ research was rather harsh; people that have a favorable view of divorce probably should not get married.  In retrospect, I realize that the study is essentially about the effects of attitude on behavior.  Accordingly, the findings are applicable to any relationship, personal or professional.  We are willing to invest our energy into initiatives that free us from the negative feelings associated with dissonance.  To add to this, there is certain to be plenty of fireworks when we encounter obstacles in our quest for consonance!

Kenny McCormick
Reaction #4

      The articles that I chose for this week dealt with counterfactual thinking and its effects on subsequent performance (Nasco & Marsh, 1999) and the automaticity of category activation (stereotyping) in the perception of individuals (Macrae & Bodenhausen, 2001).  Briefly, Nasco and Marsh, while a bit confusing, found that counterfactual thinking did not have a direct relationship on improved performance.  However, what they did find was that counterfactual thinking appeared to have motivated individuals to act on the counterfactual thoughts (such as “I should have studied more” so they study more) which changed their perception of the “environment,” or probability of success I would say.  This change apparently affected perceived control over the upcoming performance which then resulted in improved performance.  Therefore, I believe, the important part of this study is the idea of focusing on how to give students more perceived control over their performance.  Counterfactual thoughts may not always follow a performance or an individual may not feel motivated to act on those thoughts, such as someone most likely with a low level of self-efficacy towards the activity.  For instance, for someone with a low level of self-efficacy, a response towards the grade could be that they got lucky or that the score was the best of their ability.  These are the individuals that require attention.  This is why I believe research focusing on enhancing the perceived control of an activity to be important.  Perceived control after all was the most direct influence of performance increase in this Nasco and Marsh study.  Focusing on self-efficacy issues in the workplace could likely help improve employee performance as well as self-perception and happiness.
      In terms of the second article, on page 166 Tesser (1995) mentions that when people are overloaded, they tend to form superficial judgments.  However, Macrae and Bodenhausen (2001) report a study by Gilbert and Hixon (1991) that reports that under conditions of “cognitive busyness, the tendency to use stereotype information was eliminated.  Next, Macrae and Bodenhausen report that other research, such as that by Spencer et al. (1998), finds stereotype activation does indeed occur even under conditions of “resource depletion” but when there is sufficient motivation to do so.  Therefore, taking these three different comments at once can be a bit confusing.  When people are overloaded, do they or do they not adhere to stereotypes for information?  Tesser (1995) mentions that when people are motivated or outcome-dependent they focus on the details.  This appears to go against Spender et al. (1998) which reports that when given motivation individuals can resort to stereotypes.  The question is then, when under stress, do individuals focus on stereotypes or the more accurate data?  I believe the answer to these statements is that when the attention of the individual is on a person, due to some desired outcome with that person, the individual is more concerned about the accuracy of the evaluation of the person.  If an individual is stressed due to circumstances beyond a particular person, that individual may then resort to stereotypes since the information about this person is not important to the outcome of the situation.
      Overall, the most salient use for stereotype activation appears to be in the training of interviewers.  As Tesser (1995) mentions on page 167, the way to get individuals to go beyond their schemas and stereotypes is via attention and motivation.  Just as with rater errors, such as the halo and leniency errors, the easiest way to overcome these unconscious tendencies is to merely bring them into consciousness. 
      I worked with Dr. Kurt Boniecki at the University of Central Arkansas as an undergrad on the experiment titled “the effects of prejudice on stereotype formation.”  The experiment included pictures of aliens, with hopes that there was no stereotype or prejudice associated with these aliens, though I might argue otherwise.  However, while viewing these images, the participants were flashed, unconsciously because the flash was so quick, with an image of a smiling or frowning face.  The hope was that this subliminal image would result in the development of a prejudice for a particular type of alien.  The idea I find interesting is that this prejudice, if formed, would be unconscious, as are the other processes mentioned in the articles and in Chapter 5.  Therefore, metacognition seems to be a valid solution for helping control the way we perceive other individuals in society and is certainly a useful concept to consider when training individuals for various duties in the workplace.

Reaction #5

        The readings from last week attempted to define what attitudes were and how the definition has changed, perhaps due to the Zeitgeist of the times.  The readings for this week attempted to determine the function of attitudes, which led to an interesting article by Herek (1987) who used an interesting technique to look at the functions attitudes may serve in response to homosexual men and women.  However, I have some concerns regarding the results of the factor analysis for the attitude function inventory.  For example, the factor analysis for the homosexual men and women target generated a four factor solution that Herek said was the "most interpretable solution." I would be curious to know the results of the other analyses that were not so interpretable.  Also, the second factor analysis has additional problems; mainly, several of the questions load highly on more than one factor, which is unacceptable in factor analysis.  
        The articles that prompted the most thought on my part were Synder and DeBono (1985) and Debono (1987).  I believe that Synder and DeBono interestingly examined the issue of how self-monitoring affects the likelihood that someone will purchase a product based on the technique used to advertise it: evaluative or quality.  However, I felt the following study by DeBono lends itself to a different interpretation and an interesting research avenue.  In general, DeBono identified two 
functions that attitudes generally serve; a social-adjustive function and a value-expressive function.  The social-adjustive function deals with how well attitudes affect behavior in reference to the group to which you belong and the value-expressive function allows a person to express his or her individuality.  Although the main purpose of this study was to examine the possible mediating role of self-monitoring, I felt these results could have considerable impact on the growing field of cultural psychology, especially individualism and collectivism issues.  
        Individualism refers to the extent that some cultures structure the social experience around the individual and individual concerns take precedent over group concerns.  Collectivism refers to the social experience being organized around some collective (e.g.  family, tribe, religious groups, country, etc.) where the concerns/goals of the group outweigh that of the individual.  In general, the United States is considered to have an individualistic "personality," while Africa and Japan are considered to be collectivistic.  The results that DeBono found fit nicely with the individualistic/ collectivistic distinction, and offer the possibility that self-monitoring may be correlated with individualism/collectivism.  In addition, it may be that those individuals who are high in collectivism may be more influenced by social-adjustive concerns and those high individualism
Shaggy Rogers
Reaction #6

        The hefty articles for this weeks readings dealt with persuasion.  When you mention the word "persuasion" to someone they initially may have thoughts about a salesman trying to get them to buy an expensive new car without giving "persuasion" processes the respect they deserve.  The immense power of persuasion was made disturbingly apparent when Jim Jones was able to persuade the majority of his followers to drink koolaid laced with cyanide in Guyana, South America in 1978.  The persuasion process includes four basic elements: the source, the receiver, the message, and the channel.  The source is the person sending the communication.  The receiver is to whom this communication is sent.  The message is the information transmitted by the source and the channel is how the message is sent.  
        Chaiken, Liberman, & Eagly (1989) suggest that individuals engage in two types of processing differing in respect to the cognitive resources allocated to each.  The first of these is systematic processing, which they define as a comprehensive, analytical orientation in which perceivers access and scrutinize all informational input for its relevance and importance to their judgment task, and integrate all useful information in forming their judgments.  The second type of processing individuals engage in is heuristic processing, which is a more limited processing using less cognitive resources than systematic processing.  Basically, this type of processing uses simple rules to prepare their judgments.  
        Petty and Cacioppo put forth an Elaboration Likelihood Model which tells how likely an individual is to elaborate on various arguments, which they say depends on motivation and ability.  One interesting aspect I found in this article was the information on social judgment theory.  People will evaluate the incoming messages or information on the basis of how they initially feel about the message.  Messages that are too divergent from their own position (known as the latitude of rejection) will fall on deaf ears and no persuasion takes place.  Messages that are close to their own initial position (known as the latitude of acceptance) will be accepted and persuasion may take place.  They also suggest the most powerful form of processing occurs when attitude formation results from self-generation of arguments.  This may explain why many salesmen, car salesmen in particular, use the "Ben Franklin close." This process involves making a pro and con list for buying the car.  The salesman helps with the pro side, while remaining silent while the customer tries to formulate the con side.  
        Who tries to persuade us? A study by Rule, Bisanz, & Kohn (1985) asked participants to indicate who tries to persuade them.  27% indicated it was their immediate family, 18% indicated close friends, 13% said their instructors tried to persuade them (!!), and only 11% indicated salespeople.  
        One final point, the manipulation of self-awareness usually is done by having a mirror in the room with the participant.  However, manipulation checks are rarely conducted in such circumstances and when they are done, in the majority of cases, they simply ask participants whether they recall seeing a mirror as was done in the Hutton and Baumeister article.  

James Howlett
Reaction #7

        One of the points made by LaPiere (1934) that a questionnaire approach to assessing attitudes is inadequate due to the items being nothing more than a symbolic indication of what the person thinks he or she would do is a somewhat penetrating statement.  This statement may help explain why LaPiere did not get the attitude-behavior relationship he was expecting.  The individuals answering the questionnaire may have had a prototype of a "typical" Chinese person in mind when they answered the questionnaire.  The Chinese couple in the study appeared far from typical, in that they came to exude confidence and assertive behavior, as well as speaking perfect English.  In addition, it is possible that the respondents of the questionnaire indicated they would not serve Chinese people because other individuals complained after the Chinese couple left, which may have pressured the management to change its policy.  
        The article by Wicker (1963) posed the question as to whether verbal commitment to behave is a different kind of response than actually engaging in the behavior.  In my opinion it is.  For example, every weekend thousands of parents head to Wal-Mart with their children and the parents make the children promise to behave once they get inside the store.  The children promise they will be "good," but this promise is instantaneously forgotten when the family rounds the corner of the toy section.  I think this is an example of what Campbell (1963) meant by a situational threshold.  
        I found the mentioning of Vroom (1964) who found no relationship between the attitude an individual holds toward his or her job and performance to be unnecessary.  A plausible explanation for these findings is that one must work in order to survive and this is regardless of one's attitude towards his or her job.  I believe replicating this study with the inclusion of a social norm factor, as suggested by Fazio (1986), would explain these findings more appropriately.  
        Fazio's (1986) article suggests a model that explains why sometimes you find the attitude- behavior relationship and 
other times you do not.  I believe subjective norms is an important factor in the attitude-behavior conundrum, as well as the issue of whether it is a public or a private issue.  I am wondering why he did not allow for a link between Attitude Activation and Norms on the model he presents on page 212.  After all, he did offer Norms as an explanation of the somewhat controversial attitude-behavior relationship.  I propose that his model needs to take into account the potential influence of subjective norms.  
        In addition, why is the latency of a response measured in reaction time an indicator of attitude accessibility and not simply a reflex to "hot" and "cold" items? Researchers in the area appear to be relying too heavily on this particular method.