Archive for August, 2009

A THEORY OF SELF, AMBIVALENCE, AND TOLERANCE

August 27, 2009

100_3106This Theory Is Expected To Help Us Better Understand The Conjugate Complexity Of Prejudice

1997 Thesis

“For every difference that makes us more unique there is a common thread which connects us all. We share the need for home and community, for love and respect. May these common threads form a beautiful world in which all people and all cultures are honored.” — unknown

ABSTRACT
PREJUDICE: EMPIRICAL DATA BECKONING TOWARD

A THEORY OF SELF, AMBIVALENCE,
AND TOLERANCE

This research proposes a Self-Awareness theory that theoretically connects prejudiced attitudes with the conceptual framework of self-focused attention, attention directed at personal domains of enduring feelings, opinions, and behavioral tendencies of self, and, with ambivalence, the psychological stress of not knowing how to proceed in a given situation. The claim that ambivalence is a frequent effect of private self-consciousness activity is explored in this thesis. The claim that prejudiced attitudes arise when the presence of ambivalence is excluded from salient private self-consciousness activity is also explored in this thesis.

Responses to a survey questionnaire were collected and the data has been analyzed in order to measure the linkage of prejudiced attitudes, ambivalence, and self-focused attention. Three scales, the 9-item Private Self-Consciousness Scale, the 20-item Multifactor Measure of Whites’ Attitudes Toward Blacks scale, and the 20-item Evaluation of Physically Disabled Persons Measure scale, and two ambivalence-inducing vignettes, were administered to college students.

Results were varied. Of the nine proposed hypotheses four resulted in statistically significant results consistent with the researcher’s expectations. It was concluded that more research is needed if the hypothesized connection between prejudiced attitudes, private self-consciousness activity and ambivalence is to be conclusively established.

INTRODUCTION

Statement Of The Problem

This thesis attempts to advance an understanding of prejudice whereupon the likelihood of a person to seize upon prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans and the likelihood of a person to seize upon prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities will be conceptually linked to the proneness of a person to engage self-focused attention.

In this regard, a Self-Awareness theory is proposed that theoretically connects prejudiced attitudes with the conceptual framework of self-focused attention, attention directed at personal domains of enduring feelings, opinions, and behavioral tendencies of self, and, with ambivalence, the psychological stress of not knowing how to proceed in a given situation. The claim that ambivalence is a frequent effect of private self-consciousness activity is explored in this thesis. The claim that prejudiced attitudes arise when the presence of ambivalence is excluded from salient private self-consciousness activity is also explored in this thesis. Responses to a survey questionnaire were collected and the data has been analyzed in order to measure the linkage of prejudiced attitudes, ambivalence, and self-focused attention.

This thesis attempts to advance an understanding of prejudice/tolerance by measuring respondents’ attitudes towards private self-consciousness, prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans and prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities. More specifically, this thesis research explores two different sets of data. Individuals were surveyed in order to test whether the self-perception of self-focused attention and prejudiced attitudes are related; and, individuals were surveyed to test whether individuals prejudiced toward African Americans were also prejudiced toward persons with physical disabilities.

Since prejudiced attitudes are manifested, for the most part, through injurious acts and judgments occurring on the global stage ad infinitum, this theory is not meant to suggest a definitive explanatory account of prejudice. Albeit, this theory, as a tool for illumination, is expected to help us better understand the conjugate complexity of prejudice.

The Inner Life Of The Individual Is Either Abandoned Or Not Taken Seriously

In America, Prejudice Against Such Groups As African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, Homosexuals, Jews and Others Is All Too Prevalent

Significance Of The Problem

A study of prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans, prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities, and attitudes towards the self-perception of private self-consciousness is also a study of human nature, group membership, and intergroup relationships. Human needs are best satisfied when individuals organize themselves into groups. Group membership may be voluntarily selected or ascribed. When individuals organize themselves into groups, they tend to classify and evaluate people according to intergroup norms. Group members tend also to evaluate other people according to whether they are a members of the group, or, members of an outgroup. Prejudiced attitudes towards members of other groups are the outcomes of this process. According to Gaertner (1986 : 322), “…at the intergroup level, people act in terms of their social identity, more faithfully conforming to the group’s norms and also treating others in terms of their corresponding group memberships rather than their personal identities. Outgroup members, in particular, become depersonalized, undifferentiated, substitutable entities.”

In social relationships intergroup dynamics of prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups are usually described in terms of confrontation, violence, and, depending on the scope of animosities, war. In American society, the evidence is all too convincing that prejudice persists at alarmingly high rates against such groups as African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, homosexuals, Jews and others. In human costs, prejudiced attitudes and racial discrimination are measured in terms of poverty, drug addiction, physical and mental health, and crime. Deriving a better understanding of the relationship between prejudiced attitudes towards both racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities will help us to better understand both intergroup relationships and prejudice.

This research project has offered an opportunity to further our understanding of the process that results in prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups by furthering our understanding of the boundary-making (labeling) process. Cognitive boundaries do not stand alone, they are continuous with, and informed by, socioeconomic status, linguistic expression, and cultural values [and, in the absence of values, by feelings of detachment, displacement and groundlessness].

[Footnote. Sociology, in this era of postmodern sensibilities, is under attack. For postmodernists, the assumptions of Enlightenment rationality, traditional Western epistemology, and any supposedly “secure” representation of a reality that exits outside of discourse, are, according to A. J. Vidich and S. M. Lyman (N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln, 1994), a subgroup of assumptions that fall into “an all-encompassing critical skepticism about knowledge.” As a consequence of the postmodern critique of Sociology, the “inner life” of the individual is either abandoned or not taken seriously. Further, the desire to reach agreement on normative guidelines for scientific practice or argumentative consistency is also not taken seriously. A Self-Awareness theory, as it is proposed in this Thesis, speaks to these concerns while remaining within the discourse of postmodernism.]

This thesis contributes data and a theoretical foundation for why attention frequently focused on private self-consciousness activity facilitates the likelihood of cooperative, self-restrained behavior among individuals, and, by extension, cooperative interaction between groups. A major theoretical premise directing this research project maintains that the need to reconcile ambivalence-inducing thoughts, feelings, and desires has the potential to reshuffle and expand cognitive boundaries (intergroup identities).

The data generated in this research project is directed toward answering two questions: 1) Does a preoccupation with private self-consciousness activity, for example, the tendency to think about feelings, beliefs, values, generalizations, and, self-identity, lead a person to be tolerant of ambivalence and therefore less likely to exhibit prejudiced attitudes?; and, 2) Are people who demonstrate prejudiced attitudes toward African Americans also likely to demonstrate prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities? If the answer to the first question is yes, then a new direction would open up for studies of prejudice and intergroup boundary manipulation. If the answer to the second question is yes, then this data, in addition to supporting the juxtaposition of prejudiced attitudes and authoritarian syndrome, [that is, the phenomena of authoritarianism as it is linked with anti-Semitic ideology in the classic work, The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno, et. al., 1950)], would also act to underscore, at the risk of stating the superfluous, that persons with physical disabilities face similar obstacles that confront other racial minorities, for example, discrimination in employment, education, income, and housing.

The sequel will address the interdependent link between prejudiced attitudes and ambivalence. I would like to suggest that on a different level, a more significant level perhaps, acquiring an understanding of ambivalence (as opposed to acquiring an understanding of the specific elements of prejudice), may have an impact on sustaining (or creating) a healthy, caring society; that is, if our common objective is to reduce unnecessary human suffering.

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Being God And All Why Did You Stack The Deck

August 23, 2009

Drink’in With The One On High

Sept. ‘76

I needed time alone. I was glad I had left the party, and there were at least three hours of sunlight left. The fifth was still half full, and once I reached the trail, I put the puppy down, and took a long, choking, drink. I had never hiked these hills before. It was always exciting to hike in the Black Hills. You never knew what to expect. You might stumble upon old bottles, Indian artifacts, or even abandoned goldmines—all leftovers from the gold rush days in the late 19 th century. You had to be careful, though; the allure of the unexpected could get you in trouble, especially if you were already half drunk like I was. In fact, in no time at all, I became helplessly lost. Hoping to see something that would get me back on the path to the cabins, or at least to civilization, I climbed to the top of a mountain. The climb–not to mention the fear that overcomes you when lost in the woods– sobered me up. I had carried the puppy most of the way, and it seemed that I had been lost for way too long. The puppy, for sure, wasn’t up for this kind of hike.

From the top of the mountain, I could see trails below, as dark clouds were rolling in above me. I was apprehensive, but not yet ready to panic. I decided to walk down to the trail and follow it, but first I would rest. I took another drink from the vodka bottle, and looked down at the puppy that was fast asleep at my feet. I looked up at the sky and started to move slowly around the puppy. I did not want to be lost; I wanted to be back home, in my own house, away form all the tension that had arisen between C.S. and myself. I continued walking around the puppy, looking up at the clouds, and then back at the sleeping dog. The vodka started to go down easier. I felt like I was in some kind of trance, and then my head started to spin. As I stumbled, and fell to the ground, I became angry. I looked up and screamed, “Hey, big guy, what are you looking at?

Some poor lost drunk, or a joke for your amusement? Do you even care? Is voyeurism your thing? Aw come on, everybody has to get their kicks some way. I’d offer you a drink, but that’s kind of hard to do. I guess I’ll have to drink for both of us. Wow, that’s good stuff—too bad you can’t enjoy it too. Tell me; am I really worth your time? I mean, malcontents abound. I’m sure there are more interesting ones than me! Do you hear me? Admit it! You don’t need me. And, I sure the hell don’t need you. There, now we’re even!

Wait. Before you go, before we end this little taa-do, I have a question. Why so shitty a job with creation? What were you thinking? Being God and all, why did you have to stack the deck? Why so much unfairness, unhappiness? It’s first class for the few and table scraps for the many! Talk about shortsightedness! I mean, take me for instance, when you handed out brains, why so stingy? Talk about a short shift. Oh, by the way, you missed me in the “talent line” also. You must have been on coffee break. But, hey, we need all the Mr. Mediocres of the world—right! Maybe to make you laugh? Forgive me if I’m not amused, though. Down here there’s not much to laugh about; know what I mean!

You just love playing with loaded dice, don’t you. We get a heart, and then you fill it full of holes. Why so little contentment anyway? What’s that all about? You’d think just getting through the bad times, the hard times, would make us happy. But noooo. No satisfaction there. For Christ’s sake, there’s only so much to go around. Those who can– Take, those who can’t, get diddly squat. You did that—what a guy! Oh, by the way, I haven’t forgotten about love. Your generosity was overflowing there, or is it lust I’m thinking of? Excuse me! I know the real thing exists. I got a crash course in it. Remember? But why is the grass always greener on the other side of that hill? Of course it is. You should know! You created it that way.

‘Lucky in love, unlucky in life,’—bullshit–if lustful urges and roving eyes don’t sabotage love, then the lust for wealth, fame, and glory will. Where’s the fairness? Where’s the justice? Survival of the fittest you say. Believe me, if I was given just half a chance, I could have created a better world than this–Don’t give me that crap about freedom. Right over wrong, good over evil, that’s all bullshit too! Brains, brawn, and cleverness—determine good and evil. That’s the way it’s always been. Reinventing good and evil has always been the privilege of those who rule. Go ask the Indians! Blankets for land! Oh sure, smallpox infested blankets for the white man’s manifest destiny. The ‘good guys’ won—right! Don’t get me wrong; I can appreciate a good thing. We wouldn’t be having this conversation on a beautiful mountaintop if the Indians had got their way.

But wait, you know more about that than I do. The church, Your Church , burnt the ‘witches,’ and ‘heretics’—right! In the end, advantage always goes to the clever, the powerful, and the cruel. And what for—a better life? An Afterlife? There’s a trump card if ever was one. Things may be shit now, but wait; in heaven everybody gets their reward! Is that it! Is that your ‘Sola Scripture promise,’ your Christian message heard round the world! ‘Trust in the Lord,’ and rejoice in the glory of eternal life! Really! Trust the one who offers a never-ending feast of the weak to the strong. Yeah, that makes great sense! But no thanks! I don’t feel very trusting today. If its trust you want, trust in this: Keep your false promises, corrupt henchmen, and love, unconditional or not! I don’t need that shit anymore. To false hopes, great expectations, and love gone sour—I say goodbye, good riddance. Enough already! You can stay in your precious ‘Paha Satva Mountains,’ You and Carole Sue both. Not me. I’m out of here. That’s my pledge! With this drink of vodka I seal that oath—let it be done. It is done!”P1010238

Lift A Stone And God Is There; Ask A Question And God Is There

August 22, 2009

jasper daveIn The Beginning was the paradox: How does unity coexist with multiplicity? How does oneness make room for otherness? How does the all- perfect source become something less than it-self? God, being up for this challenge, solved the dilemma, and She did this by (gender is optional here, in fact, it’s probably best to think of God in terms of process, in terms of “processing divinity”) the liberation of Her own non-being. This event had to be performed in such a way so as God could both be and not be God in the same phenomenon. Her solution is doable, even logically doable, in the form of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this double negation, God becomes free in the phenomenon of not, not being God, while affirming (by implication) the God that is free to not be God. In other words, the liberation of God’s non-being becomes God’s immanence while, at the same time, there exists an implied transcendent God. God’s immanence is particularly important to humans because divine immanence gets called “reality.”

Bare with me here, I’m learning how to negotiate my World Press blog. I just started using tags and I tried it out on an old post but it did not work the way I had hoped, so I created this post (from some other writing of mine) and using a bit of  my old post (with the old tags) I, hopefully,  will learn how to blog better.  What follows is from the old blog:

So, to begin this imagined conversation (at a High School class reunion which I never attended): after a few beers and the friendly chit chat out of the way, and after hearing the life stories of everybody sitting at the table, it was my turn to contribute to the conversation. After verbally celebrating my wife, two children, pets, and my never ending love for music, I had run out of things to say; that is, until the conversation had turned away from health issues and the topic of religion came up. After listening to my friends religious views which ranged from non-belief to Christian belief to a belief in a kind of pantheism, I surprised everyone by giving a different point of view. I said, “I’ve been searching for God most of my life, but after about 40 years of searching I found something to believe in.” Well, as you might imagine, everyone wanted to know which God I had found. So I told them—“God, the God of all religions, even the God that is purported not to exit, is alive and well and doing just fine.” And again, as you might expect, this assertion was quickly challenged and even became the object of some ridicule. Paul, however, came to my rescue when he asked me to expand on what the God of all religions means.

“For me,” I said, “God is not only one with nature, God is also one with the learning process that both asks and answers questions, questions pertaining to God, nature, and everything else. And because of this, God has many names; in fact there is no one name that can fully express God’s divinity. The expression of ‘difference, no difference,’ since that expression encompasses all distinctions, all identities, all differences, all that ‘is’ and ‘is not,’ seems to me to be the best description of the God that I believe in. So, basically, my search for God ended when I found that I could express God, the functionality of God, in the linguistic expression ‘difference, no difference.’”

“And what pray tell is the functionality of God?” asked Paul.

“The short answer to your question,” I replied, “is that there isn’t a short answer to your question, but I’ll give it a go anyhow. We encounter the manifestation of ‘difference, no difference’ in the physical nature of ‘quantum strangeness,’ and again in the terminal state of death in the biological sciences, and yet again in the maintenance of our own ‘conscious identity,’ the identity that demonstrates a degree of permanence in the midst of constant change. All of this and more is the functionality of God. In other words, everything—our physical environment, life, identity, analysis, truth, justice, and religious meaning, are attributes of the functionality of God.”

“So how is your vision of God different from pantheism,” replied Paul.

“As functionality,” I responded, “God manifests ‘difference,’ but as Divinity, God manifests ‘no difference.’ In other words, God is both immanent in nature, while being transcendent to nature. Also, God’s functionality, as it evolves, evolves qualitative differences, differences that emerge in the human being as the quest for truth, justice, and religious meaning. Functional differences, all of them, are made whole through Divinity, but in human consciousness, the qualitative difference of free will emerges. Free will separates and divides Divinity, but even this divided Divinity is made whole in the God of transcendence, and that is why the concept of pantheism is really not adequate when it comes to expressing my vision of God.”

“Christians understand ‘judgment day,’” responded Paul, “as a balance to free will. How does this God of yours handle unnecessary suffering, rewards and punishments?”

“Even though I am expressing my own personal vision of God,” I replied, “others have expressed concepts of Divinity similar to mine. In Whitehead’s process reality, for instance, the judgmental God of Christianity does not exist, but Divinity exists, and within this Divinity judgment, rewards and punishments also exist. God is ‘eternal presence,’ for Whitehead, and as such God bears witness to all past and present occasions. The future, however, is like an unused role of film. Being exposed, it is always in the process of being developed. God works through the transition from the eternal to the actual, and from the actual back to the eternal and in this respect, the entire physical universe is processing its way back to God. God is the reason for all becoming, and nothing exists that is separate from God. So how does Whitehead deal with unnecessary pain, cruelty, and injustice? He combines freedom with feelings and that unique combination changes everything because if a retributive justice is called for here, then one has to look no farther then the first mirror to pinpoint the guilty. Insofar as occasions conform to their environment, insofar as the ‘self-aim’ conforms to its immediate past, there is determinism, but insofar as any entity modifies its response through the subjective element of feeling, there is freedom. Feeling and freedom are codependent for Whitehead, and God is in touch with all feelings. God is there, inside agonizing screams, and God is there in suffering, especially suffering caused by injustice. God is there also, however, in all hopes, joys, and happiness, in addition to fears, regrets, and sorrows. Good feelings move the world forward to a better place. It is feeling that gives subjective aim to occasions. We encounter, in good feelings, the ‘allure of realization.’ It is possible to create a more humane, peaceful, and loving world. Whitehead said as much, and Gandhi told us how to proceed, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’—both in life and love.’ This is the Divine dynamic that shouts out for change in the world and if no action is taken to prevent unnecessary pain, cruelty and injustice then we only have ourselves to b
lame. In my vision of God, feelings and freedom are necessarily connected also. Ultimately then, all that is meant by spirit and the spiritual— all intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion—is there in the whole of Divinity, embracing human nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and transformations of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the life long pursuit of love, caring, happiness and reverence. And, all of this too, represents the functionality of God.”

Certainty-Oriented Persons Lack Interest In Discovering New Information About The Self Or The Environment

August 22, 2009

100_3108An Uncertainty-Oriented Person Is A “Need To Know” Type Who Is “Primarily Concerned With, And Interested In, Finding Out New Things About The Self Or The Environment.”
Prospectus Continued

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation Continued

Self-Cognizing Research literature goes back to the objective self-awareness theory of Duval and Wicklund (1972) which holds that whenever a person takes himself or herself to be an object (in the form of self-focused attention) a negative affect will follow. Although I was originally drawn to the Self-Cognizing literature because I thought the negative affect discussed in the objective self-awareness theory could be directly attributed to the negated “me-self” component of the triadic self concept that I proposed, I found, after surveying the literature (Wicklund, 1975; Carver and Scheier, 1981; Gibbons, 1990,), that a negative affect, although a frequent occurrence, does not necessarily occur as a result of self-focused attention, i.e., whenever attention became fixed on a within-self dimension. The literature on Self-Cognition theory does contribute to this research project in other ways however. Self-Cognition theory tends to analyze human behavior in terms of “information processing,” and assumes that all information that is accessible to awareness originates in the environment and “in the person” (Carver and Scheier, 1981, p. 35.)

Self-focused attention may be attuned to public or private concerns. Evidence has been gathered to support the claim that a public self exists side by side with a private self (Froming and Walker,1980; Froming et al., 1981; Caver and Scheirer, 1981) and when attention is focused on the public self, – the self-presentational, public aspect of self – attention is likely to remain focused, according to Gibbons (1990, p.281), on the “feelings of group cohesion ….thereby promoting conformity with group norms and, when carried to an extreme, resulting in deindividuation. The deindividuated state, then, is characterized by a more or less constant absence of self-focus. When this happens, behavior essentially comes under control of the group” (Diener, 1979; Prentice-Dunn & Rogers, 1982). On the other hand, when attention is focused on the private aspect of self, on the feelings, opinions, motives, and behavioral tendencies of self, then self-focused attention has been found to “encourage a more careful and thoughtful consideration of the antecedents and the consequences of behavior” (Gibbons, 1983; Gibbons, 1990, p.255). The evidence gathered in these self-cognizing studies, particularly Froming and Walker (1980) and Froming et al. (1981), according to Carver, et al. (1981, p.320), “make it clear that different manipulations of self-attention can push behavior in different ways in the same situation by directing attention to different aspects of the self.” Significantly, as is demonstrated by these studies, when attention is directed inward (at the private self-consciousness dimension of self), an increase in the salience of cognitive boundaries occurs. As cognitive boundary salience increases, so to does the likelihood that a person’s attitudes and behaviors will change (alter, intensify).

More support for the claim that attention directed at the self initiates a salience generating cognitive process is accumulating in the literature of Self-Inference and Motivation. By investigating individual differences in uncertainty-oriented and certainty oriented persons Sorrentino et al. (1990, ed. Olson et al., p.242), found that an uncertainty-oriented person can be described as a “need to know” type who is “primarily concerned with, and interested in, finding out new things about the self or the environment.” Certainty-oriented persons, on the other hand, were found to ignore or avoid circumstances of fixed self-attention. Certainty-oriented persons demonstrated a lack of interest in, according to Sorrentino, “discovering new information about the self or the environment.”

While I understand that the attitudes and behaviors of uncertainty-oriented persons are not necessarily similar to the attitudes and behaviors of persons who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale (Scheirer et. al., 1987), I cannot ignore the similarity that exists between the evaluative self-appraisal behavior that characterizes persons predisposed to private self-consciousness activity and the “need to know” type behavior that characterizes uncertainty-oriented persons. This similarity in behaviors seems to be, at least in part, brought on by the “need to acquire self-relevant information,” and, according to the Self-Cognizing literature, the trigger for this “need to acquire self-relevant information” gets jerked when attention becomes focused on the private aspect of self.

Investigating the implications that follow from this “need to acquire self-relevant information,” at least in those persons who demonstrate this need, is an important part of the research undertaken in this research project. Based on a careful reading of the above literature survey, there is a strong indication that the “need for self-relevant information” (in the people who develop or have this need) is as important in determining cognitive boundaries as is the heretofore mentioned principal determinants, or, socioeconomic status, linguistic expression, and cultural values.

If, in this research project, the data shows that persons who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale are not as likely to hold prejudice attitudes towards racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities then persons who score low on the same scale, then another important similarity will, again, arise, between the attitudes of uncertainty-oriented persons and the attitudes of persons who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale. “An uncertainty-oriented person,” according to Sorrentino et al., (ed. Olson et. al., 1990, p. 242), “is one who scores high on our projective measure of the need to resolve uncertainty, or n Uncertainty (Frederick, Sorrentino, & Hewitt, 1987), and low on a measure of authoritarianism (Byrne & Lamberth, 1971).” This result is not only important because it points out that uncertainty-oriented persons (i.e., persons who “need to acquire self-relevant information), tend not to hold prejudiced attitudes, it is also important because it seems to suggest that a reduction in the salience of cognitive boundaries (intergroup identities) facilates the likelihood of cooperative self-restrained behavior among individuals, and, this is one of the implications which I contend follows from the theory of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self.

Uncertainty-Oriented Persons Have A Tendency Not To Be Prejudiced, Bigoted, Opinionated, Or Sexist

Uncertainty-Oriented Persons Have A Tendency To Feel Helpless, Guilt, Discontent, And Loneliness

Prospectus Concluded

Summarizing, in this research project I will attempt to produce data that is consistent with and supportive of, the claim that cognitive boundaries are determined and shaped by the “need to acquire self-relevant information.” It is my contention that the “need to acquire self-relevant information” plays a significant role in the cognitive boundary formation process, perhaps, a role as significant as the more recognizable cognitive boundary determinants of socioeconomic status, linguistic expression and cultural values. In conjunction with producing relevant data to support this contention, I will also provide a theory of self, a salience generating triadic self (ambivalence/self), that offers a unique perspective upon which to base an explanation for: 1) why “rational conduct always involves a reflexive reference to self, that is, an indication to the individual of the significances which his actions or gestures have for other individuals” (Mead, 1936, p.122); 2) why “sensing ones individuality is thus connected with a self critical attitude, a sense of uncertainty or insufficiency” (Wicklund and Eckert, 1992, p.108)

[Footnote. With the answer to the second question I will also be able to answer why uncertainty-oriented persons have a tendency not to be prejudiced, bigoted, opinionated, or sexist (Sorrentino et al., 1986, p399); while, they also have a tendency to “feel helpless, guilt, discontent, and loneliness” (Sorrentino et al., ed. Olson et al., 1990, p. 248)]

And, 3) why the public, presentational aspect of self, – the Mead (1936), Cooley (1902), Goffman, (1963) variety of selves,- is not able to account for why “self-awareness occurs when aspects of the self [the private self] are more salient than environmental stimuli” (Gibbons, 1990, p.252).

Hypotheses And Methods

Towards a Toleration of Differences: Derivation of Hypotheses and Empirical Data.

Ambivalences are motivationally affective in directing the person to remove ambivalences. Emotional (parent child relations), voluntary (conflicting wishes), and cognitive (contradictory wishes) ambivalences can be neutralized by reactive behavior, e.g., repression, education, denial. Confronting ambivalence generating cognized conditions initiates a cognitive search for a counter proposal in order to neutralize the ambivalence. For instance, I would rather continue to work on this paper, but I have been invited over to a friend’s house. What should I do? The due date of the paper is not tomorrow, so I will choose to visit with my friend. This is an easy case, but, when the focus of attention is directed toward the self’s more ambivalence-prone covert nature, such as privately held beliefs, aspirations, values, and feelings, then neutralizing counter proposals are not so readily available. And further, if the ambivalence generating cognized condition becomes the self itself, i.e., self-identity, then no (satisfactory) ambivalence neutralizing counter proposal will be found. Self-identity centered ambivalence informs all other ambivalences. It is, according to Thom (1984, p. x.), “the most primitive of oppositions.”

Thus, a person encountering ambivalence will be motivated to escape
ambivalence by seeking a neutralizing counter proposal to ambivalence generating
cognized conditions. A prolonged search for ambivalence-reducing counter proposals will entail encounters with numerous unsatisfactory counter proposals. In this way ambivalence-generating cognized conditions stimulate self-awareness and self-conscious inquiry, and, depending on the nature of the ambivalence-generating cognized condition, e.g., life/death, egalitarian values/greed, to invest in the market/when to invest in the market, this inquiry may or may not succeed in producing a satisfactory counter proposal. The longer the search continues, however, the more likely cognitive boundaries will shift and cognitive horizons expand. Therefore, I hypothesize that the persons who engage in persistent private self-consciousness activity – evaluative self-appraisals, will be the same persons who are able and willing to deal with self-inflicted cognitive tensions, discords, variances, contrarieties, and uncertainties, and, these same persons will be the persons most likely to hold tolerant attitudes towards racial and ethnic minorities as well as maintain a respectful sensitivity toward persons with physical disabilities.

[Footnote. Billig (1987, p.250), in his inquiry concerning thought and the spirit of contradiction, expresses the significance of evaluative self-appraisals: “The switching of a stance, whether from criticism to justification or vice versa, can represent a process of self-discovery for the individual. Having been placed in a new rhetorical context, individuals may experience an unforeseen rising of the spirit of contradiction, and in this way they may encounter a new side to their attitudes and maybe to their own selves.”]

In order to test this hypothesis, a population of university students will be surveyed for their attitudes on prejudice and self-consciousness activity. The data gathered from this survey will be evaluated. If a large number of affirmative responses indicating prejudiced attitudes towards racial minorities and prejudiced attitudes towards persons with physical disabilities is recorded on the survey then those responses would indicate a highly prejudiced person. Data that supports the above mentioned hypothesis would result in respondents indicating a high score on questions indicating prejudiced attitudes and a low score on questions indicating private self-consciousness activity. Conversely, respondents who score high on the Private Self-Consciousness Scale would be expected to score low on the scales measuring prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities.

The Instruments and Procedure

The sample for this study will be taken from university students who volunteer to fill out a questionnaire. With the aid of one or more of my sociology professors, I will distribute questionnaires to students enrolled in Sociology classes on the campus of Central Michigan University. Results from this survey will be obtained from a non-random sample of students. Although this more or less homogenious group of students does restrict the generalizability of this study to other populations, this non-generalizability does not threaten the internal consistency of the hypothesis. In order to get a more significant test of the hypothesis in question, future studies will have to be undertaken to replicate the results of this present study. If significant results are obtained from this particular study then I suggest that future studies be carried out on large, randomly selected populations.

In The Mind Of The Bigot–Flight From Ambivalence

August 19, 2009

100_3109

The Defining Condition Of Ambivalence/Self Becomes Identified With A “Neither This Nor That” Circumstance

Prospectus Continued

If the genesis of ambivalence can be located in the differentiating space [to paraphrase Thom’s (1983, p.187) description of Simmel’s concept of a person], arising between what is simultaneously social and individual, social, in the form of the product of sociological categories, and individual, as the stranger existing outside of sociological categories, then the defining condition of ambivalence/self becomes identified with a “neither this nor that” circumstance. It is for this reason that ambivalence, in its most primitive form, becomes objectified as a “flight from ambivalence.” This “flight from ambivalence,” in turn, may be understood to be a powerful contributing factor to both the closing of the mind of the bigot, and, the modern penchant for division, domination, order, and technology.

In modern society’s matter-centered universe a human being’s “so-called” value and worth is never far removed from some objective measure that claims to be able to scientifically predict and explain human behavior. In this research project I propose to challenge this idea by putting forth a theory of self that recognizes ambivalence to be the locus of self where cognitive objects acquire salience. In this way I hope to show that science, or, as F. S. Northrop defines it (1946, p. 301), “the hypothetically proposed, apriori, theoretical component indirectly confirmed through its deductive consequences,” is merely one of the many expressive possibilities of a creative self and should, therefore, be judged accordingly.

In so far as I am to identify, in this research project, the locus of convergence of three relatively unrelated research areas – prejudice, ambivalence, and self-theory, I have made a survey of the relevant literature in the various research fields. Since the scope of this project is large, my survey of the literature has been more selective than comprehensive, so, in the interest of brevity and coherence, I will describe this literature from its convergent theoretical perspective. Therefore, the next section of this prospectus combines my survey of literature with my theoretical perspective.

It Is The So-Called Democratic Personality Who Is Saddled With Painful Ambivalences

I Will Argue How Ambivalence, In Its Most Elemental Form, and Self (As Defined By a Three-Term Relationship), Are Reflections Of One Another
Prospectus Continued

Survey of Literature and Theoretical Foundation

There will be a brief overview of theories concerning prejudice. My focus will be on prejudice as way to harden cognitive boundaries. In this respect, prejudice and fear will be connected. Sartre (1965) and Held (1980) will be quoted in support of this connection. I will continue to explore prejudice by citing Aboud’s (1988, p.4) definition: “Prejudice refers to an organized predisposition to respond in an unfavorable manner toward people from an ethnic group because of their ethnic affiliation.” I will briefly discuss Allport’s (1958) reflective theory of prejudice, that is, the idea that prejudice is a product of an environment where power, status and competition are reflected in the attitudes of the people who compete for power and status; and then I will turn to Adorno’s (et al., 1950) view of prejudice as it may be understood as a result of a child’s inner conflict with his/her authoritarian parents. The cognitive developmental theory of prejudice will also be mentioned (Piaget and Weil, 1951), as will a number of studies linking prejudice, or, attitudes toward marginal groups, with ambivalence (Myrdal, 1944; Katz, 1981; Katz and Hass, 1988; Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, and Eisenstadt, 1991; and Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey and Moore, 1992).

At this point I will turn my attention to the literature of ambivalence beginning with Merton’s (1976) use of Bleuler’s (1910) coinage of the word. Bleuler identified three types of ambivalence which, according to Robert Merton (1976, p.3), may be characterized as: “the emotional (or affective) type in which the same object arouses both positive and negative feelings, as in parent-child relations; the voluntary (or conative) type in which conflicting wishes make it difficult or impossible to decide how to act; and the intellectual (or cognitive) type, in which men hold contradictory ideas.” Ever since Bleuler, ambivalence has been an object for investigation by psychologists and sociologists alike.

I will briefly discuss the basis of ambivalence as it is presented by Freud (1939) and further interpreted by Thom (1983). I will then take a much closer look at how ambivalence, as a motivating factor, plays itself out in Adorno’s (et al., 1950) Authoritarian Personality. Using quotations from Billig (1982) and Gregg (1991), I will argue that an ambivalence grounded self is perpetually looking for an escape from ambivalence. Both of these authors have argued in a similar fashion and a good example of what this means for the individual is readily expressed in the following quote from Billig. Although ambivalence may generate negative as well as positive affects, this particular quote is an example of a positive affect. According to Billig’s (1982, p. 147) reading of Rosenberg and Abelson’s Congruity Model of cognitive consistency, ambivalence may be defined in the following way:

“Ambivalence refers to ‘the simultaneous presence of positive and negative affect in reaction to a cognized object’. Ambivalences are forms of inconsistency or incongruity, and as such they are ‘tension-arousing’ – ‘they set in motion processes directed toward their removal’, because ‘if the ambivalences are not removed, they continue to be unpleasant, even painful, to the subject so long as he continues to think about the concepts at issue’. Thus there is an implication that the authoritarian personality, whose basic motivation, according to the theory of Adorno et al., is an intolerance of ambiguity, is someone who has been able to remove inconsistencies; it is the so-called democratic personality who is saddled with painful ambivalences.”

Focusing on Thom’s (1984, p.xi) treatment of self as “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference….(and,) as some combination of difference and equality, dividing and making equal or identical,” I will begin to argue how ambivalence and self are intrinsically connected. Continuing this line of reasoning, I will discuss Simmel’s (Levine, 1971) concept of man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries, and, Billig’s (1987, p.5) presentation of the categorization/particularization interdependence that characterizes the “inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self,” I will then proceed to argue how ambivalence, in its most elemental form, and self (as defined by a three-term relationship) are reflections of one another.

This argument will begin with a description of Descartes’ cogito (Flew, 1979), giving specific attention to the “identity” inference implied by this cogito. This inference is described by Anscombe (Ed. Cassam,1994, p152) as: “The thinking that thinks this thought–that is what is guaranteed by cogito”. I will then describe how the self, when the self is understood in terms of a triadic relationship, – “me-self,” the negation of the “me-self,” and, the “I-self,” – offers a different conceptual basis from which to derive the “identity” inference without attaching itself to Descartes’ excess baggage, or, as this baggage is described by Hermans, et al., (1993, p. 39), “the existence of a unitary, closed, highly centralized subject or self, as an entity in itself, having an existence ‘above’ or ‘outside’ the social environment.”

With the triadic self-concept in place, I will then proceed to describe why “a relativity to a basis,” according to Evans (Ed. Cassam, 1994, p. 196), “becomes a conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates,” and, why acquiring knowledge (accessing the truth or falsity of knowledge) invokes an act of self-reference where the subject is required to reflect on the credibility, or basis, of the knowledge in question.

From this model of a triadic concept of self I will be able to forcefully argue that much of what Mead (1934) and James (1890) described as the socially generated component parts of self, is, in fact, an accurate description of self. However, I will also argue that, as a consequence of the conditional attribute of the self-ascription of mental predicates, a second, inner component of self is at work. It is this inner component of self that generates the salience of cognitive objects, and, in so far as this inner-self is capable of instantiating inner directed values, e.g., numbers, sets, multi-valued logics, this inner-self makes possible the hypothetical-deductive method of scientific explanation and prediction. It is relevant that the source of these inner values can be traced to the space that differentiates the self into a “neither this” (social), “nor that” (individual), circumstance, as opposed to Descartes’ “clear and distinct ideas” that, since the time of Descartes, have been identified as the source of these values. My discussion of science as a type of self-investigation of informational states should make this idea more clear. In lieu of this discussion I will cite literature on negation as it pertains to differentiation and affirmation (Billig, 1982; Blanco, 1975, Thoms, 1962, Gale, 1976).

After citing some friendly theoretical perspectives (Angyal, 1941; Jung, 1969; Billig, 1987 & 1982; Gregg, 1991; Hermans & Kempen 1993), that I believe are sympathetically disposed to my own position, – that of an ambivalence shunning, salience generating triadic self concept, – I will turn my attention to the literature of Self-Cognizing Research and the literature of Self-Inference Process and Motivation. In this literature clarifying insights and supportive empirical data will be cited.

When Purposeful Action Is Emancipated From Moral Constraints—The Horror

August 15, 2009

It Is Becoming Increasing Difficult To Look To Science And Technology For Rescue And Renewal

01.7Prospectus Continued

The data generated in this research project will help answer two questions: 1) Does a preoccupation with private self-consciousness activity, e.g., the tendency to think about feelings, beliefs, values, generalizations, and, particularly, self-identity, lead a person to be tolerant of ambivalence and therefore less likely to exhibit prejudiced attitudes?; and, 2) Are people who demonstrate prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities also likely to demonstrate prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities? If the answer to the first question is yes, then a new direction would open up for studies of prejudice and intergroup boundary manipulation. If the answer to the second question is yes, then this data, in addition to supporting the juxtaposition of prejudiced attitudes and authoritarian syndrome, [i.e., the phenomena of authoritarianism as it is linked with anti-Semitic ideology in the classic work, The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno, et. al.,1950)],  would also act to underscore, at the risk of stating the superfluous, that persons with physical disabilities face the same obstacles that confront other racial minorities, e.g., discrimination in employment, education, income, and housing.

The sequel will address the interdependent link between prejudiced attitudes and ambivalence.  I would like to suggest that on a different level, a more significant level, acquiring a more thorough understanding of ambivalence (as opposed to acquiring a thorough understanding of the specific elements of prejudice), might have an even greater impact on sustaining (or creating) a healthy, caring society, that is, if our common objective is to reduce unnecessary human suffering.

Although it is customary to believe that technological societies will not advance without producing some negative side affects, it is hoped that modern technology and scientific research will, ultimately, cultivate a better, more livable, world. Faced with the ills of modern society, however, e.g., the instabilities of the global market place, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the escalating threat of ecological catastrophe, it is becoming increasing difficult to look to science and technology for rescue and renewal.

There is a price that must be paid for the benefits that accrue from scientific research and technological advance. According to Andrew Weigert (1991, p.165), the cost of “technological progress” is an ambivalence producing cultural pathos:

“[Modernity’s] characteristic features, such as science, technology, computer rationality, near instantaneous communication, bio- and material engineering, indeed, any form of functional rationality cannot resolve ambivalence… In a word, the characteristic institutions of modern society are the driving forces of an ambivalence inducing culture.”

Ironically, it is the scientist’s attempt to eradicate ambivalence, or, the inability to read a situation correctly and choose between alternative actions, which fuel the inflated sense that advances in science and technology will transform uncertainty into certainty and ambivalence into transparency.

As science and technology advances, the scope of individual and collective responsibility becomes blurred.  New technologies do not produce intrinsic values to

guide action. Rather, new technologies produce more and longer lasting consequences, both seen and unseen; consequently, the more modern society goes about subverting ambivalence through technological progress, the more modern society produces ambivalence. This ambivalence may have devastating consequences.

[Footnote. Ambivalence gets its ultimate condemnation when Zygmunt Bauman (1991, p.50) enjoins ambivalence with the rendering of human genocide. The rise of modernity, – the blurring of lines of responsibility, emancipating purposeful action from moral constraints, an exaggerated faith in rational thought, – has created, according to Bauman, the necessary condition for the occurrence of human genocide:

“Without being the sufficient cause of the genocide, modernity is its necessary condition. The ability to coordinate human action on a massive scale, a technology that allows one to act effectively at a large distance from the object of action, minute division of labor which allows for spectacular progress in expertise on the one hand and floating of responsibility on the other, accumulation of knowledge incomprehensible to the layman and the authority of science which grows with it, the science-sponsored mental climate of instrumental rationality that allows social-engineering designs to be argued and justified solely in reference to their technical feasibility and availability of ‘under-employed’ resources (all these to be put in service of the relentless lust for order, transparency, unambiguity) are all integral attributes of modernity.”

This same sentiment is found in Weigert’s (1991, p. 177) discussion on Lifton’s (1986) study of Nazi doctors operating the genocide of the German concentration camps.  Weigert suggests that it is an escape from severe ambivalence into a psychological condition where everything is permitted as an expression of one’s “scientific identity.” According to Weigert, “The Nazi doctors double forth an ‘Auschwitz self’ within whose social world the daily degradation, torture, and murder of thousands of victims not only is acceptable but is transformed into a preferred moral act. The Auschwitz self believes in such contradictory imperatives as ‘therapeutic killing’ that is not in violation of, but demanded by, their identities as doctors.”]

We are sensitively attuned to the pain and suffering associated with racist attitudes that debase the sacredness and dignity of life, but, we have a tendency to remain blissfully ignorant of the harm that occurs when purposeful action is emancipated from moral constraints in the name of social engineering and the quest for truth. This issue is the affective motivating factor that inspired the writing of this research project, and, accordingly, this research project’s primary significance will be found in how I speak to this issue.

Racial Discrimination Is Measured In Terms Of Poverty, Drug Addiction, Depravity, And Crime

August 7, 2009

01.4Prejudiced Attitudes And Racial Discrimination Are Measured In Terms Of Poverty, Drug Addiction, Depravity, and Crime

Prospectus For Thesis
1996

Prejudice: Empirical Data Beckoning Toward A Theory of Self, Ambivalence, And Tolerance

Yet see one day you will smell land where there be no land and on that day Ahab will go to his grave but he will rise again within the hour; he will rise and beckon, then all, all save one shall follow. — Moby Dick

Just as the lifeless arm of Captain Ahab, whose torn body lay entangled in the ropes of spent harpoon lances on the back of the great white whale, beckoned the crew of the Pequod to continue the hunt for the ubiquitous white whale, so to the noxious and dead weight of prejudice beckons the social scientist to uncover the cause of prejudice and thereby render the power of prejudice benign for future generations. However, like the unconquerable whale in Melville’s classic novel, prejudice is easy to recognize, but, heretofore, extremely difficult to anatomize.

This research project will attempt to advance an understanding of prejudice/tolerance by first, theoretically linking prejudice with the conceptual framework of ambivalence and then linking ambivalence, in its most fundamental form, with the concept of self. Third, this research project will attempt to produce data, in the form of responses to a survey questionnaire, which will be used to measure the proposed linkage of prejudiced attitudes, ambivalence, and the self-perception of private self-consciousness. Proceeding toward this end, respondents’ attitudes towards private self-consciousness, prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities and prejudiced attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities will be measured. More specifically, this research project will look at two different sets of data. Individuals will be surveyed in order to test whether the self-perception of private self-consciousness and prejudiced attitudes are related; and, individuals will be surveyed to test whether individuals prejudiced toward racial minorities are also prejudiced toward people with physical disabilities.

Significance Of The Problem

A study of prejudiced attitudes toward racial minorities, prejudiced attitudes toward person’s with physical disabilities, and attitudes on self-perception and self-reflection is also a study of human nature, group membership, and intergroup relationships. Group membership may be voluntarily selected or ascribed. In either case, however, group members, in the process of satisfying human needs, tend to classify, evaluate, and judge people according to intergroup norms. Also, group members tend to evaluate other people according to whether they are a member of the group, or, whether they are a member of an outgroup. Prejudiced attitudes towards members of other groups are the outcomes of this process. According to Samuel Gaertner (1986, p. 322), “[A]t the intergroup level, people act in terms of their social identity, more faithfully conforming to the group’s norms and also treating others in terms of their corresponding group memberships rather than their personal identities. Outgroup members, in particular, become depersonalized, undifferentiated, substitutable entities.”

In social relationships intergroup dynamics of prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups are usually described in terms of confrontation, violence and, depending on the scope of animosities, war. In American society, the evidence is all too convincing that prejudice persists at alarmingly high rates against such groups as African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, homosexuals, and Jews. In human costs, prejudiced attitudes and racial discrimination are measured in terms of poverty, drug addiction, depravity, and crime. Deriving a better understanding of the relationship between prejudiced attitudes towards both racial minorities and persons with physical disabilities will help us to better understand both intergroup relationships and prejudice.

This research project offers an opportunity to further our understanding of the process that results in prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups by furthering our understanding of the boundary making (labeling) process. Cognitive boundaries do not stand-alone; they are continuous with and informed by, socioeconomic status, linguistic expression, and cultural values. This research project will contribute data and a theoretical foundation for why a reduction in the salience of boundaries (intergroup identities) facilitates the likelihood of cooperative, self-restrained behavior among individuals and cooperative interaction between groups. The major theoretical premise directing this research project maintains that the need to reconcile ambivalence inducing thoughts, feelings, and desires has the potential to reshuffle and expand cognitive boundaries. Getting a better understanding of what constitutes non attachment to boundary conditions, particularly intergroup boundary conditions, will aid in the comprehension of the boundary making process that characterizes prejudiced attitudes towards outgroups.