A Taste of Social Psychology

This post will not be about work or life in Korea.  Rather, this post covers a well-received assignment I completed for my online social psychology class.  Technically, part of my life in Korea has been grinding away at online psychology courses provided by Foothill College.  If you would prefer to read more about Korean things, that’s okay.  I will see you Tuesday (America’s Monday).

If you didn’t just close the tab then thank you!  You are one of my favorite people :).

Social psychology is defined as “the scientific study of the way in which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the real or imagined presence of people” (Aronson et. al, 2010).  Human beings do not live in a vacuum.  All of our behavior occurs within a social context.  Social psychologists aim to untangle which contextual elements influence which aspects of human behavior.

The assignment was a class discussion question regarding the following prompt:

In a conversation before class, you find that you are the only person in your group to favor tuition increases. The other five students with whom you are talking strongly oppose tuition increases. What might you do to persuade them to your point of view? What form of social influence would you rely on? Provide a concrete example.

My response was as follows:

I am the sole proponent of a tuition increase while my five groupmates all strongly oppose.  I can convince all of them to join my side, but it will be difficult.

First, I must recognize that my groupmates’ opinions are strong.  Fluffy peripheral routes of persuasion will not do.  Therefore, my best course of action is to convince one person to join my side using a central route.  This means I need to present a strong and compelling argument.

I stop one of my classmates in the hallway and listen to his arguments against tuition raises.  This does two things.  First, listening to opposing arguments strengthens my attitude inoculation.  The first step to achieving my persuasion goal is to avoid being persuaded myself.  Second, listening opens the door to a constructive dialogue.  I can process my opponent’s concerns, pause, and then address those concerns with compassionate counterpoints.  Through the central route of persuasion, I present a compelling case.

“A tuition raise, while unfortunate, is necessary for the posterity of our university.  Many buildings are rundown and some dormitories are close to condemnation.  Off-campus housing is not cheap.  Many students will be forced off of campus if we don’t do something very soon.  It is a small price to pay for the long-term health of our school.  This indelible contribution will cost you little more than one more student loan payment that you probably won’t make for ten more years.”

He agrees.  The first domino falls.

Next, I need to convince two more people in order to create a majority.  Fortunately, two of my group members both love going to the North Campus Main Fitness Center for an evening yoga class.  I deploy a moderate fear-based message.  I cannot make the message too strong.  That would cause a boomerang effect and scare them away.  We walk to the South Campus Gym, where I show my two groupmates an in-session yoga class.  19 students pose in a downward dog.

“If we don’t raise our tuition,” I forewarn, “the school will close down the South Campus Gym.  All of these students will crowd into your evening yoga class.  You won’t be able to do a child’s pose without trading sweat with someone.”

They agree, unwilling to disrupt their yogic harmony.

With four people on my side, only two remain.  Fortunately, I discover that one of my groupmates is a finalist for a research grant that comes from tuition money.  I try to induce a little cognitive dissonance.

“How can you oppose raising money to support your own research?  What matters more – money or life-changing research opportunities?”

She emphatically chooses life-changing research and reluctantly agrees to the tuition hike.  

And then there was one.

As a lone holdout, he is now more vulnerable to conformity.  If two remained, then both of them could stand against me in solidarity.  I reach for my last psychological tool:  normative social influence.

“Look.  We like you, man.  We think you are a great addition to the group.  But you’re really dragging your feet on this issue.  It’s holding us all back.  We all agree that a tuition hike will give the school many benefits for a reasonable price.  I understand spending more money is upsetting, but we need you to do this for the group.  Okay?”

He finally relents.  A smile of success creeps across my face.  We walk into class with brand new attitudes.

If this bored you, I apologize.  If you learned something, I am grateful.  If you want to hear more about Korea, I will see you Tuesday :).

Photo Corner


I have no idea what this is promoting, but if this is the sixth time, it must be a successful event.  Also, why do their mouths look like bullet holes on the side of a car?


I know this picture is blurry, but I love the Busan mountainside neighborhoods.  It looks like a middle-class version of a South American favela.


I found the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  He lives on the rooftop of a school dormitory on Imja Island.


Potato took this photo ages ago with my phone, but I forgot to share.  It’s currently 9:00 A.M. I skipped breakfast (by dietary choice) and now I already regret adding this picture.  Gurgle-gurgle.


Korean advertising works like American advertising.  Step 1.  Create a need in your audience (your hairy legs are repulsive).  Step 2.  Offer your product as a solution (buy my leg trimmer).  Step 3.  Show an example of the results (scantily-clad women swoon when they see your smooth legs).

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