Monday, September 24, 2007

Childhood obesity

Hi everyone,

According to the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity (2004), over fifty percent of adult females are overweight or obese, while nearly seventy percent of adult males are overweight or obese. Obesity is not limited to adults however, with twenty-five percent of children being either overweight or obese. A number of schools have therefore initiated various school based programs to aid in tackling the childhood obesity epidemic. Such programs implemented in Australia include compulsory physical activity and healthy canteen programs.

One issue which continues to be a contributing factor to the growing prevalence of obesity among children is junk food advertising on television. Below I have provided a couple of links to articles which discuss the proposal to regulate or ban junk food advertising all together. What does everyone else think about this issue? Do you think all junk food advertising should be banned? Do you think that junk food advertising is a key contributor to the prevalence of obesity in Australia? I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

How healthy is your lifestyle?

Hi Everyone,

Since my blog two topic is on obesity, I thought I would post a link to a quiz which focuses on how healthy one's lifestyle is. It encompasses factors such as diet, exercise and sleep, and once you have completed the test, it outlines what areas you need to improve on. I took the test, and it definitely opened my eyes in regards to what unhealthy lifestyle behaviours I engage in and where I need improvement. The test also provides a number of useful links to information and resources, including tips for lifestyle improvement and a BMI calculator. If you would like to take the test, please find the link below.

The Healthy Lifestyle Quiz

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Super Size Me"

Hi All!

Since my blog two question is focusing on the societal contributions of obesity, I thought I would post the opening scene of the documentary “Super Size Me”. One of the contributing factors to obesity is the increasing number of fast food restaurants all over the developed world. While these fast food chains provide the consumer convenience, they are also contributing to the expanding waistlines of the population. For those who have not seen the film, it is a documentary which follows Morgan Spurlock who conducts an experiment focusing on the effects that eating large amounts of fast food can have on a person, demonstrating this by eating nothing but McDonalds for one month. This documentary provides numerous perspectives around obesity, attitudes surrounding obesity and the contribution that advertising, media and fast food corporations play. I think it is quite a powerful documentary. It really made me think about the consequences of overindulging in fast food and junk foods in general.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this video clip or if you have seen the whole documentary and would like to discuss anything you found interesting.

Blog 2 Topic - Obesity

Hi Everyone,

I thought I would get the ball rolling on my blog two topic. The question I have selected is:

"Describe the social psychology of obesity. You might consider issues such as:
To what extent is obesity attributable to culture, society, community and family, and to what extent is it attributable to individual physical and psychological factors? How are obese people treated by society and why?"

I am particularly interested in researching the societal factors which contribute to the rising numbers of obese individuals, both in adults and children. The first thing I wanted to investigate was how prevalent obesity actually is in Australia, but also in other countries. The graph below encapsulates this by identifying the developed countries with the highest prevalence rates of obesity (click image to view larger version). This graph indicates that Australia is currently ranked as the sixth highest obese nation, with 21.7% of Australians (fifteen years old and over) now being classified as obese, while 30.6% of U.S citizens are obese.

These are very alarming statistics which continue to rise dramatically. Not only does obesity have a very negative impact on one’s health, it can also be very damaging to one’s psychological well-being, with prejudice and stereotyping both common societal problems experienced by obese individuals. There are so many variables which can contribute to obesity, but here are just a few of the factors I plan to focus on in my essay.

* Emotional and psychological contributors (e.g. low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, depression etc).
* Lifestyle (e.g. lack of exercise, poor diet, stress etc).
* Genetic contributions.
* Medical illnesses.
* Culture (e.g. traditions, celebrations, fast food chains and marketing/advertising).
* The effects of modelling (e.g. family members, friends, peers etc).

For anyone else who is interested in this topic, I have provided a link to some information outlining what obesity is, some of the societal and environmental contributors to the problem and how obesity is measured using one’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Click Here

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The social self: An ever-evolving construct

Abstract: The aim of this blog is to discuss who I am in social psychological terms. The blog examines my social identity, my self-concept and the socio-psychological variables which I believe have shaped my life and who I am. This blog also refers to research studies and social psychological theories in an effort to further explore and understand my social self.

The self refers to “an important tool with which the human organism makes its way through human society and thereby manages to satisfy its needs” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008, p.71). As Stapel and Blanton (2004, p.468) posit, knowledge of one’s social self provides “information that is necessary for navigating, controlling and responding to the social world”. The self is not a fixed entity, rather, it is a dynamic and multifaceted structure which can change depending on social situations (Fiske, 2004, p.170). Situational variables not only influence the manner in which one behaves, but also how one perceives and conceptualises their social identity. There are numerous social psychology theories which can be used to aid in reflecting on the social self.

Figure 1. The socio-psychological variables which have shaped my life.

I am a twenty-one year old, Caucasian female and I am a Uniting Church Christian. While I do not regularly attend Church, I live my life based around the Church’s teachings. I was born in Canberra, and being a member of a military family, I spent most of my life moving around Australia. I have both Australian and British ancestry in my family, however, it has mainly been Australian culture which has shaped my life. If I had been born and raised in another culture, not only could my values and beliefs differ significantly from what they do now, but I would have a whole different life story with a whole different set of experiences and perspectives.

In my life, I have a number of social roles. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend and a psychology student, just to name a few. I have a strong belief in God and I value democracy, equality and respect, and have no tolerance for prejudice, racism and discrimination. I have a strong love and admiration for my family and my close friends and I am very passionate about my university studies. My self-schema includes personality traits such as being friendly, trustworthy, compassionate, respectful and loyal. I also consider myself to be a competitive, driven and often pessimistic person provided the right social situation.

I have also been a part of a number of groups throughout my life. It was through charity and fundraising groups in high school that I developed a love of psychology. I began to witness how various social variables can impact upon people and groups and the negative effects that poverty and discrimination have. I developed a sense of altruism during this time, and pursued psychology and counselling studies as a result. I am now also a member of the student body at the University of Canberra and the Golden Key International Honours Society.

It was during my high school years that I began to realise what kind of person I am, including my strengths, weaknesses and what I value in life. While living in Darwin, I was exposed to Australia’s native, Indigenous culture and traditions. Living there as a Caucasian individual, I was witness to the detrimental effect that racism and prejudice has on those targeted. While previously oblivious to this issue, I learned quite quickly that I was opposed to racism and prejudice in all its forms, and this belief stands true today. This is just one example of where social experiences and contexts have shaped my beliefs, values, morals and social attitudes.

McClelland (1953) proposed three key motivational needs; the needs for achievement, authority and affiliation (Stuart-Kotze, 2007). I developed a strong need for both achievement and affiliation early on in my life. While making friends and being socially accepted was very important to me as a child, I became increasingly driven by extrinsic incentives and the need for achievement became a significant motivating factor. I developed the attitude that I always had to excel academically, and eventually my self-worth became dependant on this. I find myself equating my self-worth with my ability to achieve at whatever I try to do. This factor has been very stable throughout my life, and has never wavered. Not only do I have a strong need for achievement, I also have a strong need to avoid failure (Deckers, 2005, p.205).

According to the looking-glass self theory, individuals learn about themselves by imagining how others perceive and judge them (Baumeister & Bushman, 2004, p.80). I often feel very self-conscious that others are evaluating me and judging the things I say and do, which is very consistent with the spotlight effect theory (Fiske, 2004, p.187). These constant maladaptive thoughts where I believe that people will perceive me in a negative light have contributed to my very shy and reserved public self. In contrast, my private self is more energetic and boisterous. I have often found a major discrepancy between my public and private self. I think this stems from early negative experiences, so I often do feel rather nervous when in certain social situations, sometimes altering my behaviour as a result. While my own self-appraisal is that I can be a very energetic and outgoing, I often believe that I am perceived very differently by others.

As Fiske (2004, p.181) describes, one’s working self-concept varies with differing social situations and contexts. My environment has played a huge role in the development of my social self. While I have never lived outside of Australia, I have been exposed to different sub-groups within Australia. Living in Darwin, I was surrounded by Indigenous individuals and their culture. When I moved back to Canberra, I realised just how different the environment was. As a result, my social self adapted to the new environment and neighbourhood, which also involved rearranging my social identity. Basically, different environments have exposed me to different ways of living and social issues in society.

A study conducted by Tice (1992) found that people are more likely to alter their self-concepts based on interpersonal, public events, as opposed to behaviours which have occurred in private settings. The idea that public events tend to have a greater impact on one’s self-evaluations and self-concept is definitely true of me. In public situations, my behaviour becomes internalised, and I become more self-conscious and anxious as I begin to realise that others could be judging or evaluating my behaviour. I have found that my self-esteem is significantly influenced by public situations. Negative events such as being teased have led me to sometimes approach social situations with caution, as this has been one factor which has altered my self-esteem in the past.

Festinger’s (1954) theory of social comparison proposes that people make comparisons between themselves and others, in either an upward or downward fashion, in an attempt to gain self-knowledge (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008, pp.82-83). Self-perception can be either positively or negatively influenced as a result of comparing oneself with another individual (Pelham & Wachsmuth, 1995). Stapel and Blaton (2004) conducted a study focusing on social comparisons. In this study, one group of participants were primed with a photo of a clown, while another group viewed a photo of Albert Einstein. Those that viewed the photo of the clown later judged themselves as very intelligent, while those who were exposed to the photo of Albert Einstein viewed themselves as less intelligent. Similar results were found on other traits, such as friendliness and attractiveness dimensions. As hypothesised, Stapel and Blanton found that even subliminal exposure to comparison information influenced participants’ judgments, opinions and evaluations of themselves.

The social comparison theory often underpins my social behaviour. I compare myself to others constantly, and more often than not, I do this in an upward fashion, where I compare myself to people that I aspire to be like. Since I can be quite introverted in social situations, I compare myself to the more confident and energetic individual who is not afraid to speak their mind in large groups. Sometimes this can have a negative effect on my self-esteem, as I begin to see the discrepancy between my actual self and my ideal self.

The self-discrepancy theory refers to the impact that self-knowledge can have on the way people feel, interact and adapt in social situations. This theory proposes that there a three main selves; the actual self, the ideal self and the ought self (Fiske, 2004, p.199). When I reflect on my actual self, I see myself as a very shy, introverted individual in group situations, but quite an outgoing, energetic person when I am with family and close friends. Ideally, I would like to be more confident in myself in more diverse social contexts, as I am quite a pessimistic person who often underestimates herself in larger groups of people. In regards to my ought self, I feel that I should always be successful at whatever I chose to do. Thus, there seems to be a discrepancy between my actual self and ideal self.

My social self has been evolving constantly throughout my life and will continue to do so. By integrating relevant social psychological theory and research, I am better able to understand my own social identity, self-concept and the variables which shape who I am.


Baumeister, R.F., & Bushman, B.J. (2008). Social psychology and human nature. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.

Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological and environmental. (2nd ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Fiske, S.T. (2004). The self: Social to the core. In Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. (Ch 5, pp.169-214). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Pelham, B.W., & Wachsmuth, J.O. (1995). The waxing and waning of the social self: Assimilation and contrast in social comparison. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 825-838.

Stapel, D.A., & Blanton, H. (2004). From seeing to being: Subliminal social comparisons affect implicit and explicit self-evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 468-481.

Stuart-Kotze, R. (2007). Motivation Theory. Retrieved 30 August, 2007, from

Tice, D.M. (1992). Self-concept change and self-presentation: The looking glass self is also a magnifying gladd. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 435-451.

Appendix A

Self-evaluation of Blog

Theory and Research

I was able to effectively search for and locate journal articles which were very pertinent to my blog one topic of the social self. While one was as recent as 2004, the others articles were published in the early to mid nineties. Therefore, my blog may have benefited from some additional, more recent research studies. However, I felt that these studies revealed some very interesting findings pertinent to my topic and facilitated my essay. While I did not cite a large number of studies, I felt it would be more effective to concentrate on a select few and be clear and concise on how the findings could be applied to my social self. In my blog, I covered a number of different social psychology theories and was able to relate them back to my own social identity and self-concept.

Written Expression

Word Count: 1,497.

Readability analysis:
Flesch reading ease: 40.3
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 12.0

The citations, references and the body of the essay were all consistent with the APA style of formatting. I incorporated a concept map in an effort to shed some light on and explore my social self, while I used the body of the text to explore both the socio-psychological variables which have shaped my life, but also how the relevant social psychological theories aid in explaining my social self. I included an abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, reference list and a self-evaluation attached as an appendix. I also included two additional appendices, one of the links to the various posts I made throughout the term, and a link to a larger image of my concept map. The results of my readability analysis indicate that I was close to the desired readability targets, however, this could have been improved upon.

Online Engagement

I believe that my blog is clear, concise and easy for others to read and follow. I was able to embed a video on Asch’s conformity experiment into one of my blog postings, which seemed to generate discussion. I also provided links to another video and information on Milgram’s classic obedience study. I created my blog early on in the semester and I was the first person to include a test concept map in a blog post. I also added features to the blog such as profile information, interests, a recent photo of myself, a social psychology poll, an internet image and I also provided a list of links to my reply comments/postings to others, as well as a list of comments made by others on my blog (See white side bar for links to my comments). I also made a few brainstorm posts throughout the first half of the semester in an effort to clarify my thoughts and share my ideas with others. See Appendix B for links to these posts.

Appendix B

Links to Blog Posts

Test Post

Milgram's Obedience Study

Asch's Conformity Experiment

First Brainstorm Post

Social Self Brainstorm Post

Practice Concept Map

Social Self Concept Map

Appendix C

Social Self Concept Map: Link to larger image