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« We can not live for ourselves alone », remarked the novelist Herman Melville, for « our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads ». These connecting threads may strain with tension, vibrate with joy, or lie peacefully calm. In our day-to-day relations with one another, we sometimes harm and sometimes help, we sometimes hate and sometimes love, we are sometimes in conflict and sometimes at peace. Social relations can have two-sided aspects: aggression and altruism, prejudice and attraction, conflict and peacemaking.
Aggression In psychology, aggression has a more precise meaning than it does in everyday usage. The assertive salesperson who is irritatingly persistent is not displaying aggression. Nor is the dentist who makes you wince with pain. Aggression is any physical or verbal behavior that is intended to hurt or destroy, whether done out of hostility or as a calculated means to an end (as when a « hit man » calmly assault or murders another for pay).
Aggressive behavior, like all behaviors, is a product of both nature and nurture. Research on aggression reinforces that theme. For a gun to fire, the trigger must be pulled with some people, as with some guns, the trigger is pulled more easily. Although the idea that an aggression is an instinctual drive is not looked upon favorably, there is ample evidence that aggressiveness is genetically influenced; that certain areas of the brain, when stimulated, activate or inhibit aggression; and that these areas are biochemically influenced. A variety of aversive events are known to heighten people’s hostility. They are violent television, and violent pornographic films which present numerous aggressive models.
Altruism - an unselfish regard for the welfare of others – is now one of the major concerns of social psychologists. Very often we ask one another why we help other people. Both psychological and biological explanations have been offered.
Social exchange theory proposes that our social behaviors – even our helpful acts – are based on calculations, often unconscious, of how we can maximize our benefits (which may include our own good feelings) and minimize our costs. Our desire to help is also affected by social norms, which prescribe reciprocating the help we ourselves receive and being socially responsible toward those in need. Sociobilogists suggest that such psychological processes are based on an underlying genetic predisposition to preserve our own genes through devotion to those with whom we share genes.
Very often in our society we come across such a phenomenon as prejudice. Prejudice means prejudgment. It is an unjustifiable and usually negative attitude toward a group and its members. Like all attitudes, prejudice is a mixture of beliefs (often overgeneralized and called stereotypes), feelings (hostility, envy, or fear), and predispositions to action (discrimination).
Although overt prejudice against racial minorities and women has declined in the USA since 1940s, subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle prejudice still exists. Such prejudice arises from an interplay of social, emotional, and cognitive factors.
Now pause for a moment and think about your relationships with two people – a close friend and someone who either now or in the past has stirred relationships or helped you sustain them?
Three factors are known to influence our liking for one another. Geographical proximity is conductive to attraction, partly because mere exposure to novel stimuli enchances liking. Physical attractiveness influences both social opportunities and the way one is perceived. As acquaintanceship moves toward friendship, similarity of attitudes and interests greatly increases liking.
As for loving, psychologists say that passionate love can be viewed as a temporary aroused state that we cognitively label as love. The strong affection of compassionate love, which often emerges as a relationship matures, is enchanced by an equitable relationship and by intimate self-disclosure. We can say that the quality of love changes as a relationship matures from passionate absorption to deep affectionate attachment.
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