HSP3M Grade 11 Anthropology – Families, Groups, Friends, and Mass Media

Section 8.2—Personality and Environment

Influence of Family Environment

  • family influences many aspects of an individual’s personality and behaviour
    • the way you interact with your parents and siblings can have a great influence on the way you conduct yourself in other situations


Parental Influence

  • family is instrumental, especially in the early years of an individual’s development
  • parents can influence the emotional and behavioural responses of their children through:
    • direct interaction: involves direct communication between the parent and child, in which knowledge is transferred ; parents’ rewarding of desired behaviours and punishment of behaviours that are undesired are also part of this influence
    • emotional identification: by the age of 4/5, children unconsciously believe that some of their parents’ attributes (personality and character) are their own (ex: a child whose father is shy may believe that they are shy as well)
      • emotional ID is stronger among children who have unique features that are similar to those of a parent
      • children also identify with the family’s class and ethnic/religious group
      • identifications have a greater influence if parents act on what they say (a child is more likely to value the arts if their parents both encourage a love for their arts, and demonstrate an interest in them)
    • family stories: a more symbolic form of ID occurs through the telling of stories/myths of particularly accomplished family members (ex: a parent may the story of Grandma who started her own business, or of cousin Johnny who competed in the Olympics)
      • on hearing the recount of a story, a child feels a sense of pride due to the biological relation he/she has to these successful family members
  • a parent’s influence also extends beyond childhood (ex: a child whose parental interactions focussed of vocabulary development early is more likely to master elementary school tasks, and as a result feel more confident as they progress through school)


How Can Parenting Styles Influence Personality?

  • how parents react when their child does something wrong, indicates the type of parenting style they use
  • there are 4 main types of parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful
  • forms of parenting styles:






sets and enforces rules consistently, and explains the reason



imposes rules and expects obedience



have few rules and use little punishment




are uninvolved and expect little


  • responsiveness refers to how much parents try to foster their child’s individuality and self-regulation by understanding and supporting his/her needs
    • demandingness indicates the way parents try to get their children involved in the family as a whole, their maturity expectations, and their willingness to confront and discipline a disobedient child



  • studies have shown that each parenting style is correlated to particular behavioural outcomes
    • however, it doesn’t mean that the parenting style is the cause of the child’s behaviour—it’s possible that the child’s behaviour is in face, influencing the way in which the parents respond
      • genes and other factors may influence both the child and parent


Style Child’s Behaviour
Authoritative children are well behaved and do well at school, are emotionally healthy, and are socially adept
Authoritarian children are relatively well behaved, their social skills aren’t as strong, and they are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem,
Permissive children aren’t as high achievers at school but have good social skills, higher self-esteem, and lower anxiety and depression rates, but they are more likely to show problematic behaviour such as drug use
Neglectful children are likely to have low academic achievement and low self-esteem




  • most parents don’t fit neatly into one category, as most parents overlap between 2 categories
  • most experts agree that an authoritative parenting style is the most effective, this may not hold true across cultures (in cultures where obedience is highly valued, an authoritarian style may be viewed as most desired)


Issues Related to Family Environment

  • the role of the family environment plays a factor in many things, such as eating disorders and criminal behaviour


  • 1-8% of people have an eating disorder called bulimia nervosa, in which they binge on high-calorie foods and then make themselves vomit to reduce the guilt of having overeaten
  • anorexia nervosa affects less than 1% of people, in which normal-weight people diet and become significantly underweight
  • eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia and overeating) are illnesses for which there is no one single cause
    • a negative family environment can be a contributing factor, as can social and cultural pressures, hormonal abnormalities, and even genetics, and parental views of weight
    • ways family influence eating disorders:
      • in an American study, 40% of 9 and 10 year olds were worried about their weight were urged to lose weight by their mothers
      • people who suffer from bulimia are more likely to have a family history of emotional disorders, obesity, and addiction
      • those who have anorexia are more likely to come from a family that’s competitive and high achieving
    • family therapy is an effective approach to treating eating disorders, especially in young people
  • it is important that families model healthy eating habits for their children from a young age, since this can positively influence their eating habits, which can help prevent eating disorders before they start


  • problems that exist in the family environment can cause negative effects on children—research shows that children who grow up in a home that has a weak family bond with poor social communication skills and developing anti-social, aggressive, or criminal behaviour
    • home life isn’t the only factor
    • other studies show children of parents who are violent and have been arrested are more likely to be violent and have encounters with the law
  • family life is a strong factor to runaway teens that are homeless
    • 96% of kids that run away from home are between the ages of 12 and 17
    • 56% of teens who run away said they were thrown out by their parents, while 47% say leaving home was their own decision
    • most children who run away are leaving unhappy homes (in which some include sexual and physical abuse)
    • other factors for leaving home include parental violence, drug, and alcohol abuse, negligence, and poor relationships with parents


Understanding Family Influence

  • regardless of how much time children spend with their parents early in life, there are still other influences
    • ex: genetics, extended family members have an influence (depending on how much time they spend with a child), religion, school, friends, media


Influence of Friends and Group Environments

  • our personality and behaviours are influenced by our friends and peers



  • at different stages of a person’s development, friends have varying levels of influence on him/her
    • friends become increasingly important from school age into adolescence, while the influence of family decreases (but is still strong)
  • during adolescence, friendships are safe spaces for adolescents to explore their identities and develop a sense of belonging and acceptance
  • studying the influence of peers in adolescence is complex—one reason is that friends tend to gather because they have similar interests, making it difficult to judge where similarity ends and influence starts
    • do your friends influence your behaviour, or were you similar to begin with (which allowed you to be friends)
  • teens often have multiple levels of friends (best friends, good friends etc.) and belong to groups; while close friendships are intimate and usually long lasting, teens tend to move between other cliques and crowds that are largely based on demographics (age, gender) and interests
  • however, even though parents’ influence decrease throughout adolescence, it is still greater than that of a peer group
  • communion (need for connection and closeness) and agency (need for prominence/important) account for variation in friendship needs of pre-adolescents and adolescents
  • adolescents can predict the consequences of failure to meet friendship needs such as loneliness


Conforming to Expectations

  • we instinctually pick up cues from others and conform to their expectations
    • ex: Mark Snyder’s experiment in 1977 studied men and women who met for the first time by having conversation using microphones (no face contact)
      • before hand, each of the men were given a biography of the woman he would speak to as well as a photo; the men didn’t know the men they would meet weren’t actually the one in the photo
      • half the men were given photos of attractive girls, while other half got pictures of unattractive girls
      • Snyder found that during the conversation the women instinctively conformed to what the men expected from them (ex: in situations where the men expected to speak with an attractive woman, the women behaved in a stereotypical way of attractive people)
      • conclusions were that people instinctively change their behaviour to conform to what is expected by others
  • we don’t all conform to the same degree, and this are 2 types of people when it comes to conformity:
    • high-self monitors: people who change their behaviour to suit the situation and use cues to decide how to act; they like to show off their skills and choose friends who will help them improve these skills (ex: if being good at hockey is important to high self-monitors, they will seek out a top player to teach them hockey; if someone wants to be middle class, they’ll choose friends who are middle class)
    • low self-monitors: people who act according to their true-self and don’t behave in ways that go against this (they choose their friends based on common interests rather than what their friends can do for them)
  • while high-self monitors seem shallow, this isn’t necessarily the case—they are just more aware of subtle body-language messages and social nuances and can express their feelings more easily than low self-monitors


False Consensus

  • it’s another concept that makes influence s of groups difficult to judge
  • most people believe that others have the same viewpoints as them
    • we tend to think others make decisions in the same way we do, and when they don’t then we think they are unacceptable/defective in some way



  • a crowd can change a person’s behaviour (ex: soccer fans in Europe are famous for their boisterous and violent behaviour, but they don’t behave like this outside the crowd environment)
  • Gustave Le Bon’s research shows that in crowds, people’s normal psychological faculties are overridden by instincts, and that behaviour is driven by instinct rather than intellect
    • within a crowd, people come to think as one, in a manner that is different from what each person believes individually
    • a crowd is susceptible to suggestibility and high level of emotionality
  • le Bon’s ideas were used by the media to create propaganda and in the Holocaust by Hitler to get masses of Germans to cat on their emotions and fears of people of Jewish descent
  • being a part of a crowd influences our behaviour, but not our personality—we are in crowds only for a specific reason and for a short amount of time
    • crowds have different identities and intentions, and the individuals who create those crowds therefore take those on as well
      • ex: a crowd at a hockey game and a crowd of protestors at a G20 summit have different reasons for gathering, and therefore different identities
  • crowds can influence individual decisions and behaviour (but not personality)—how they influence is depends on the type of crowd and our reasons for being behind it


Influence of Mass Media on Personality

  • the music we listen to, the books we read, the movies we see are all demonstrative of our personality
  • even though our media choices look different, they usually share certain characteristics; there are 5 “entertainment-preference dimensions”
    • aesthetic (includes classical music, art films, and poetry)
    • cerebral (current events and documentaries)
    • communal (romantic comedies, pop music, daytime talk shows)
    • dark (heavy metal music, and horror movies)
    • thrilling (action-adventure films, thrillers, and science-fiction)


The Power of Music

  • music relates to cognition and affects the brain
    • listening to music increases important aspects of our biology such as production of oxytocin, antibodies, serotonin, and key neurotransmitters
    • the brain has the ability to “template match”—if rock music is played using different instruments than usual (like a steel drum), we still recognize it as rock
  • the brain and music have co-evolved


What is the Link between Music, Personality, and Behaviour?

  • on the surface, the relationship between music choice and personality is quite circular (the music you listen to is due to your personality)
  • however, the music you listen to can also influence your behaviour
    • ex: many choose to select songs to modify their mood (they select songs depending on how they want to feel)
  • studies show that those who listen to violent music, they were more likely to have feeling of hostility even in situations that posed no real threat
    • therefore, music choice may influence a person`s perception of others, their social interactions, and even whether they develop an aggressive personality


Internet Communication

  • because the internet is still relatively new, it`s hard to identify any of its long-term effects on personality
  • North Americans are addicted to email, and email can cause stress
    • most people check emails more often than they believe they do
    • most people don`t communicate as effectively over email, causing stress for the sender and receiver, since lack of body language cues make it difficult to convey emotions such as anger and humour
    • employees are now supplied with Smartphones, which makes employees feel they have to answer text messages and calls even during off-work hours
  • most people are addicted to emails because they hope to find legitimate emails from friends looking to chat (despite most emails in truth are chain mail and spam)
  • there are many ways to express identity on the web, and we all have different aspects of our identities that we show depending on the situation; however, the internet is a space that allows us to explore our various identities
    • the anonymity and invisibility of the internet gives us a sense of disconnect from our `real-world personality
    • the loss of individuality and personality when immersed in a group environment is deindividuation
      • because people assume incorrectly they can’t be easily identified when only, they are more likely to post intimate details of themselves online; this false assumption allows individuals the freedom to express themselves to others in ways they might not do face-to-face


Adolescents’ Online Identities

  • since personality is an important aspect of communication for adolescents, it’s becoming an influence on personality development
  • it is normal for teens to explore different aspects of their identity, and since more families have Internet, teens have begun exploring even more
  • pros and cons of having an alternate online personality:


Trying Out New Identities Online is Healthy Different Online Identities Leads to Loss of Real Self
  • the “Looking-Glass Self” is what social scientists call the process of imitating others and getting feedback on the imitation; this process is normal part of adolescence that helps to create a sense of self
  • less emotional risk to try out new ways of behaving, looking, or sounding online because of lack of face-to-face contact (non-threatening)
  • various online activities and groups that teens belong to offer a special chance to focus on specific aspects of their personality that they might not otherwise be able to develop
  • those who feel isolated or have low self-esteem in their real lives can fill a need for friendship online,
  • teens are the first generation born with internet, and it may be too soon to tell the effects it has on personality
  • gossip, public shaming, bullying, and harassment may be taken to extremes online because of presumed anonymity
  • problems occur when the teen’s online self separates further and further from their core self-concept (individual feels like an imposter, reducing self-esteem)
  • some may become so spellbound by their online life that they spend less and less time in their real life




Psychology of Cyber Bullying

  • with the popularity of internet, bullying has expanded into cyberspace
  • bullying online can happen at any time and is more difficult to see than traditional forms of bullying that often happens at school
  • cyber bullying includes sending/posting threatening, hurtful or embarrassing messages, getting other people to do so, and excluding someone from an online group
    • posting personal/false information and spreading rumours is also a type of cyber bullying
  • adolescent bullies tend to have little self-control and highly emotional—they establish dominance and leadership in peer groups by proactively using aggression, and they tend to perceive negative intent where there was none
    • they also come from homes with little parental warmth/involvement
    • have little empathy for their peers
    • tend to be aggressive and show need for attention and superiority
  • adolescent victims of cyber bullying are more likely to develop depression and low self-esteem, and decrease in academic achievement (to the point where they drop out), and even lead to suicide
  • avoiding the internet isn’t an appropriate way to prevent cyber bullying, because restricting a child’s internet access only cut them off from their peer group
    • also, bullying will probably also be face to face, and thus restricting internet access won’t stop the child from being a victim of bullying
    • a good way to prevent cyber bullying is an increase in promoting responsible online behaviours, and following up immediately on any reported bullying


Influence of Social Media

  • in September 2010, a 16 year old was gang raped at a party in B.C.—the horrors of that evening continued as onlookers took photos and videos and then posted them online
    • this goes beyond cyber bullying and encompasses greater legal issues, like child pornography
  • social media increasingly begins to affect us, as more people being using it, in hopes of connecting with friends online
  • research shows people are beginning to spend more time on the Internet, and have created a strong dependency to it
    • in a study at Harrisburg University of Science and technology, students and staff took part in a 1 week social media blackout—participants spent the time away from Facebook and other sites and did homework, read online news, and did more exercise instead
      • 25% said they had better concentration in classes, 33% felt less stressed since there was no expectation to update their status or check that of others, and 10% reported enjoying more face-to-face conversations


The Psychology of Rumours and Gossip

  • social media allows people to stay in touch, but it can also be used to spread rumours and gossip (social talk meant to evaluate, provide group solidarity, and give social network information)
    • gossip involves talking about who’s dating who, and often is accompanied by judgement and decisions about whether the pairing is appropriate
    • rumours involve the spread of inaccurate information to others
  • we believe rumours even when they sound strange, because psychological motivation exists to make sense of an uncertain situation
    • this motivation includes fact-finding, relationship-enhancement, and self-enhancement
    • we believe rumours much of the time because we don’t have the time/interest to research everything we hear, and rumours are often passed off as truth
    • rumours are a way which humans work together to make sense of the world
  • gossiping is common (even though it’s often hurtful) because of our need to be social; sharing stories about mutual acquaintances is a way to build relationships with others
    • there are 3 functions of gossip that are used simultaneously: networking, influence, and social alliances
    • we use networking (including gossip) to keep up to date with what’s fashionable and who is at the top of the social hierarchy
    • gossip influences others to think of us in a certain light, which either improves our status or retains it
    • we use the information gained from gossip to form social alliances with those we hope can provide us with a suitable place in the social hierarchy
    • both men and women gossip, but gossip about different things—men tend to gossip about a person’s athletic abilities, while women gossip about moralistic tales of social inclusion


Consumer Psychology: The Psychology of Persuasion

  • North Americans are often on guard against marketing when we watch TV or go shopping
    • marketing experts know they have only a moment to convince us to keep watching their commercial
  • consumer psychology uses psychological theories and approaches to understand consumer behaviour
  • how persuasion works:
    • simplicity—brain prefers simplicity and equates it with truth, so messages should be simple
    • perceived self-interest: people are interested in things that are beneficial to them, so show them how the thing will benefit them
    • incongruity—lack of harmony/appropriateness is the basis of most humour, and making people feel good via humour helps persuade them
      • incongruity acts as a distraction, disabling the brain’s neurological security system, so messages should be humorous/distracting in some way
    • confidence—people must feel sure they are making a good decision, but not pushed into it, so make the consumer believe they are making the decision on their own
    • empathy—messages should consider a person’s unique characteristics, allowing a person to accept a suggestion
  • research shows that we make consumer decisions based on not only what we know about a product’s attributes, but also subconscious information (from advertisements)
  • advertisements can include short brand exposures—when a logo passes by or the use of a product in a TV show allow the viewer to hold a memory of the logo/brand, because their guard defences are down, and they aren’t looking at the logos with a critical eye


Influence of Workplace Environments

  • on average, Canadian adults spend 1/3 of their waking lives at work, so it’s no wonder that psychologists are now studying ways to improve the workplace environment
  • using theories and empirical research, psychologists can help improve a variety of workplace issues


Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I/O Psychology)

  • a branch of applied psychology that is interested in how workers think, feel, and behave at work
  • its goals are to help people feel satisfied in their work and to help organizations maximise their human resources
  • I/O psychologists examine issues such as positive and negative co-worker interactions, prejudice, stress and burnout, and work0life balance
  • I/O psychologists study task variety, repetition and task difficulty in a line of work
  • I/O psychologists work with managers and employees to improve life at work by providing services such as conflict management workshops and leadership development programs, as well as using results of employee surveys to initiate change
  • research has identified factors that contribute to positive and negative work interactions
    • ex: co-worker support and empowerment lead to positive feelings at the workplace, while hostility and a sense of injustice can lead to a negative perception


Engineering Psychology

  • an area of applied psychology
  • study and improve interactions between humans and machines
  • they examine communication and decision making, computer-information systems, and energy and transportation systems
    • includes most of our workplace interactions in our increasingly technological world
      • researchers may look at improving the design of medical equipment to reduce medical errors
  • psychologists aim to create safer, more effective, and more reliable systems in our workplaces
    • they understand the limits to human performance and the job requirements


The Right Person for the Job

  • part of making a workplace run smoothly is hiring the right people
  • potential employees need the skills, as well as being able to fit into specific culture of the workplace
  • when employers are hiring, they don’t always get the full picture from an interview or resume
    • they turn to pre-employment tests to examine a candidate’s characteristics, ethics, motives, personality traits, intelligence, specific aptitude skills etc.
      • these assessments can help employers made predictions about who is the best person for the job and who will stay with the company the longest
  • the results of personality/pre-employment tests are useful—employees tend to stay with the company longer, customer satisfaction is higher, and absenteeism is down (because of a happy workplace)


Social Media in the Workplace

  • today many workplaces accept and expect employees to use social media
  • social media can be used to:
    • communicate socially
    • provide some mental downtime
    • getting in touch with clients
    • social media’s ease and instantaneous nature of communication
  • some workplaces even educate their employees on how to use the technology and in what ways
  • social media is popular and take up lots of our time
    • ex: email in an office is time consuming, as employees use email to communicate—70% of workers open their emails within 6 seconds of arrival at work


Workplace Motivation

  • employees work better when they are happy in their jobs
  • workers need different types of motivation depending on their age
    • younger people tended to adjust to their workplace’s social climate and rely on that socialization as motivation to excel
    • older workers looked to achieve self-actualization to excel—the highest stage of Maslow’s hierarchy (sought higher positions in their profession)


Mental Health in the Workplace

  • mental health issues can affect the workplace
  • in 2002, mental health claims (mainly depression) were the fastest growing category of disability in Canada
  • mental health issues can lead to other health problems, and also cost the employer lost business and revenue
    • high level of job stress doubles a person’s chance of getting a heart attack
  • psychologists are helping to improve workplace conditions in order to prevent mental health issues
  • workplace stress is one of the key problems in workplaces
    • 74% of employees list work as a cause of stress
    • estimated that stress costs a company $12 to $33 billion annually due to loss productivity
  • effects of workplace stress
    • stress can decrease job performance
    • stress can cause health problems (high blood pressure, cardiovascular and infectious diseases)
    • stress affects relationships between workers and their family and friends
    • work-family  stress makes a person even more stressed
  • healthy workplaces not only reduce stress, but have better morale and atmosphere, fewer injuries, and lower absenteeism rates