One way of saying thank you

After I’d cross-posted my last blog entry onto the B07 Facebook group, some one asked me if I was still using the notes I’ve published here to help support a charity. Back in 2010 I asked readers of this blog to think about contributing to the HOPEHIV charity – and we jointly managed to raise around £700.

The justgiving page I created for this purpose is long since closed, but if you’d like to make a donation to HOPEHIV I know that it would be appreciated by them and used well. Their own donation page is here should you wish to drop them the odd pound or two. For those of you who don’t know what they do, they support a wide range of projects in Africa to help children orphaned through HIV.

More recently, I’ve also become aware of the work of a charity known as The Matthew Project – who work with people and communities affected by drugs and alcohol in Norfolk and Suffolk. It just so happens that their chief executive is part of my wife’s music group – and charity does begin at home (even though it should never end there). You can find their donations page here if you’d like to support their work.

If you have (or are!) finding my notes useful in your studies and are able to – and only if you are genuinely able to as I do appreciate how tough times are for many – please think about donating a small sum to one or both of these incredibly worthwhile causes.

Thank you.

Arsene Wenger and the fundamental attribution error

I’m not what you’d call a football fan. Yes, I always listen out for Derby’s result and occasionally listen to Radio Derby’s commentary, though it really hasn’t been the same since Graham Richards retired. But I’ve probably been to fewer than 10 professional games in my entire life.

One of the reasons for my disenchantment with football is the constant nonsense spouted by many of the people running the game. Such as Paul Jewell’s recent pronouncements on female assistant referees or the ludicrous assertion by Adrian Bevington of the FA (and many others) that the next England manager should be English. Surely we’d be better off picking the best person for the job, regardless of their nationality – or gender for that matter.

However, one person who nearly always makes me reach for the off switch is the current Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. It’s not because I dislike him or his club – I’m decidedly ambivalent about both – but that he is forever reminding me about the fundamental attribution error (FAE) from DD307.

Put simply, the FAE is an argument which states that there is a tendency everyone has to overvalue dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviours of others while undervaluing situational explanations for the same behaviours. For example, the FAE could be argued to be operating when Arsene Wenger claims that a poor decision was made because the referee isn’t very good at their job (a dispositional attribution) rather than because of the difficulties of refereeing a game where most of the participants don’t know how to spell sportsmanship, let alone understand what it is. Just occasionally when Arsenal lose you’d expect Wenger to acknowledge the possibility of situational explanations, but he seems to invariably make dispositional attributions about other people’s behaviour instead.

So when Arsenal were beaten 3-2 by Swansea last weekend, Wenger is reported by the BBC as claiming that their defeat is in large part due to a poor decision made by the referee. Earlier on that week he appeared to be blaming Arsenal’s problems on the television schedulers. In December, when they lost to Manchester City, Wenger attributes their failure to the inability of the referee to understand the offside rule. Look at the match reports on the BBC Sport website if you think I’m exaggerating!

There is a point to this rant. Most people exhibit this attribution bias even if it’s not to the extent that the Arsenal manager appears to. So do I.

The danger is that our tendency to make such attributions means that we – I – miss the real reasons for success and failure. I’m not sure if I can do anything about my own tendencies, but at least I’m now aware of the possibility that my own explanations of other’s behaviour might just be wrong sometimes …

First Class!

It’s been quite a day!

I’d woken up at around 6.30 this morning and the first thing I did (after giving Jane a kiss, of course!) was to check my StudentHome page. iPads are wonderful for furtive internet browsing in bed while still half asleep. No change. So I’d started to get up to go swimming and noticed that someone had posted a message on the DD307 facebook forum – RESULTS ARE IN!

Heart in mouth moment. I made sure that nothing breakable or valuable was nearby. I checked – and sure enough, just after 7am this morning I had my results.

A distinction for SD226 and a pass 2 for DD307. Yay!

Just now (at 18:16:04 to be precise) I’ve also been able to accept my degree. A first class honours in psychology. A great end to my five year journey with the OU. That sounds a bit Star Trek, doesn’t it? Sorry!

I rarely get over emotional, but accepting my qualification has made my day.

Thank you to everyone who’s sent me a message of congratulations. They’ve made me even more emotional. I had no idea before I started with the OU quite how challenging the process of part-time study for a social science degree was going to be. If I’d have known, I might not have bothered and stuck in my computing and science comfort zone instead! But I’m so pleased that I didn’t.

My congratulations to you if you’re celebrating success too. I also know that some of my OU friends may be disappointed with their results. If you are, you have my best wishes. I hope you recover from your disappointment quickly and are able to move on.

So that’s it – nearly. I still have a graduation ceremony to book and attend and a decision to make on what, where and when I study next. I’d have loved to have gone on with the OU but sadly that’s not possible. Sign the petition if you haven’t done so already!

Congratulations to us all!

Glad it’s all over!

That’s it – all done! Bye bye DD307 and good riddance!

I think I managed to pull together two decent answers on attitudes and bystander intervention, complemented by an iffy one on prejudice and conflict.

Provided I’ve managed to score more than 55% on the examinable component (and I already had a nice head-start from the project) I’ll be very happy indeed at some point in December. Always assuming I’ve got through SD226 as well, of course.

Because the OU psychology degree is accredited for the graduate basis for chartership (GBC) with the British Psychological Society, I can also pay to get some more post-nominals to go with my MBCS CITP by joining the society. This looks more than worthwhile for their in-house magazine “The Psychologist” alone. I wish I could say the same for the British Computer Society’s magazine, but at least “Resurrection”, the magazine produced by the Computer Conservation Society within the BCS, makes that subscription worthwhile.

I also really like the idea of MBPsS being on my business cards as very few people I meet will ever figure out what it stands for!

Thanks again to everyone – family, friends, tutors and fellow students – who have been with me on this journey. All I need to do now is figure out “what next”. But for the moment, I’m just glad it’s all over.

My hand hurts

I’ve been trying to write practice essays and essay plans over the last couple of days.

Conclusion: I probably know more than enough to get through the DD307 exam on Thursday, but it’s going to be a struggle writing it down on paper!

Take this afternoon for example. I managed to write around 800-900 words in 50 minutes for a question on prejudice and conflict. However, as the question was actually focussed on approaches to conflict reduction I spent too little time talking about that at the end of the essay and too much time talking about Adorno, Rokeach, Fisher, Allport and Fiske & Taylor on individual approaches to prejudice at the beginning. I need to remind myself to answer the question that’s been set for two reasons:

i) Examiners never, ever ask questions that say “Tell me all you know about …”

ii) If I try to answer questions in that way, then not only will I annoy the examiner, but my hand will fall off.

As it already hurts, that may not be a bad thing I suppose.

Attitudes and attributions

It’s funny how certain topics tend to stick in your mind and others don’t. I’ve spent most of today so far revising the attitudes and attributions chapters. With attitudes, I now feel absolutely confident that I can tackle any of the previous questions, so if something similar comes up on Thursday I should be fine. As for attributions though, I simply can’t get Langdridge and Butt’s critique straight. It still makes little sense to me! However, I’m hoping that I can use Merleau-Ponty’s argument about the overvaluing of empiricism and intellectualism elsewhere, as I do understand that part of it …

Tomorrow I’m going to go back to group processes and will try to write out yet more essay plans and exam answers. My hand hurts already!

At the moment, just under three days out from the exam, it all feels like it’s starting to come together. However, I really hope the examiners don’t decide to get creative with the social judgement questions and mix and match the attributions and attitudes chapters.

They wouldn’t do that, would they?

Existential football – a.k.a. the production of knowledge revisited

Today’s revision efforts have been focussed on production of knowledge. Of all of the blocks in the module, this has been my favourite. I enjoyed writing the final TMA on individual differences (and really enjoyed the mark that I got for it) and both of the two probable exam chapters are fascinating as well.

If I get a choice on the exam, I’m still leaning towards writing about bystander intervention and Francis Cherry’s critique of Darley and Latanės work. There are so many angles to critique and counter critique from, the course themes of power and situated knowledges are everywhere and I can even remember all of the details of Darley and Latanės experiment. I also remember the two experiments that Cherry uses as part of her critique and even better – as she uses these for support while arguing from a social constructionist epistemology I can use that to either counter-critique her work or suggest a potential reconciliation between perspectives … which is what I think she is kind of arguing for anyway by the end of her paper (“standpoint epistemology”). Wonderful stuff!

The embodiment chapter is interesting too, however. It may be the only chance I have in the exam to look at phenomenological psychology in any depth. This is because I’m pretty certain that I’ll choose to do a question on attitudes over attribution due to the fuzziness of Langdridge and Butt’s critique of the FAE and worse, their non-explanation of how phenomenology accounts for attributions. I have however seen a valiant attempt at this on the OU forum today. I hope I don’t embarrass Katie by name-checking her here, but I thought it was a fantastic exposition of a line of argument that would work very well in the exam.  I’m sure I could remember it, but I’m just not convinced that I could make the argument with any real conviction! Fundamentally, I have a real problem in believing that French and German existentialists have very much to say about the “real world” – which of course, according to them, doesn’t exist!!! Like so many of the chapters, the one on attributions is interesting, but not well written when it comes to working out how to revise it or write an assignment from it.

So as the group processes block is largely mainstream vs discursive, I already have a chance to talk about power and situated knowledges if I want too. Additionally, the embodiment chapter seems far easier to bend to a discussion of agency-structure than any of the group processes material (although I suppose that it could be used in a critique of Janis vs Potter & Reicher) or even the attitudes chapter which is easier to focus a discussion around individual-social dualisms and power in my view.

Maybe I will have made my mind up by Thursday afternoon!

While I was thinking about existentialist philosophy and its role in psychology earlier on today, it led me naturally to procrastinate by looking up on YouTube the “Bruces” sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as well as the “Philosopher’s Song”. However, I also found this little gem that I’d forgotten about – a football match involving German philosophers taking on the Greeks. It’s brilliant – and here it is to finish off with tonight. For those who don’t want to know the result, look away now 🙂

DD307 revision – group processes revisited

Having spent the day going through the group processes block, I’ve now decided that if I get the choice, I’d rather answer a question centred on conflict and prejudice than intragroup processes and entitativity. This goes against what I’d originally planned for this block, which was to primarily focus on intragroup processes, but I’m glad I’ve recognised that now, rather than in the pavilion at Derbyshire County Cricket Club next Thursday afternoon!

It’s not that the subject matter of entitativity is difficult to remember – it’s just that answers to previous year’s questions seem more difficult to structure than those on prejudice and conflict! With any luck I’ll get a choice on the exam paper between the two. One other thing I’ve noticed is that they quite often seem to pose questions that could use material from two or even three of the chapters. That observation has also modified my revision strategy for that block, in that I don’t feel I can simply rely on knowing one chapter really well and having the other two as backups, unlike the blocks on social judgement and production of knowledge.

Here’s hoping that I’ll get there in the end …