Social psychology, (cross-)cultural issues and political psychology 3

[6 abstracts]

1. Youth participation from school to community  
Gril A.
Educational Research Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The study on youth social participation was conducted among adolescents in the municipality of Ljubljana. The aim of the study was to disclose the social and the personal correlates of youth involvement in the community affairs. We therefore focused on the school enrolled adolescents (from primary (N=816) and secondary schools (N=867) to the university students (N=327)) and their experiences with social participation in the school and in the extracurricular activities. Also, some measures were applied on their social knowledge, attitudes, sociability, locus of control and perception of self-efficacy related to social involvement. The analyses explored the appropriate model which could explain the relations among the extracurricular experiences, social knowledge and motivation for social action. The developmental trajectories of social participation through adolescence were also investigated.

2. "Beyond the age of innocence" - Adolescents’ beliefs about the institutions of democratic society  
Szabó É.
University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary

The aim of our study was to explore the way Hungarian teenagers (age 17) think about the institutions of democratic society and whether they trust them. A survey (Likert-type scale) was conducted on 649 secondary school youngsters born in the time of dramatic social and political changes in Hungary. Unlike their parents who were socialized in the communist era they grew up in the new plural political system. The teens’ beliefs are constructed on the basis of their parents’ experiences as well as their own specific ones. We supposed that because of this kind of socialization their views on politics are quite confused and they don't trust democratic institutions (e.g. law - jurisdiction, politicians, elections) either. The outcomes of the study support this hypothesis. The interviewees do trust neither the democratic institutional system nor its politicians. They believe that the administration of justice is especially unreliable. Their attitudes toward participation in the elections are also ambivalent.

3. Stereotypes about the elderly: representations from an Italian sample  [presentation, ppt, 301 kB]
Deponte A., Vetere A.
First author's affiliation: University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

Elderly people are usually considered a target for stereotyping and discrimination. Recent development in medicine, ways of life and society caused evident changes in the process of aging and new representations of elderly emerged, for example in media and advertising. Is the stereotype of the old person as frail, poor, alone and slow still resistant? Are the “new elderly” converting the social representations about old people in more adequate, more positive, less stereotyped ones? A sample of 569 Italians, from 18 to 79-years-old, were asked to mark in an adjective list the labels that “describe the typical old man/old woman”. Data were analysed separately for the sex of the target, by the mean of hierarchical cluster analysis. Results indicate a variety of social representations, both positive and negative. Therefore, it should be that the elderly are perceived in a more flexible and enriched way. However, this optimistic conclusion has to face the fact that negative representations are prevailing, especially for old men. Furthermore, it has to be proved that the more positive views are not stereotyping, are not simply a more acceptable way to keep elderly people at a distance.

4. Communication and meaning construction in social psychology: Group polarization as a communication process  [presentation, pdf, 178 kB]
Vodušek V.
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Communication is the medium and the dynamic principle of all social psychological processes and structures as they can be found in everyday life. Mainstream experimental social psychology tends to neglect this fact both in theory and methodology: quantification being the sine qua non, it has to define it's subject matter »outside of« the dynamics of communication, thereby crucially altering the very reality of the phenomena it seeks to explain. In my presentation I shall try to form a bridge between the qualitative and the quantitative approach by showing how a social psychological process – group polarization – can be approached not only »inside« communication but as a communication process. For this purpose I shall present the main findings of an in-depth discourse analysis of the discussions that are an integral part of the classic group polarization experiment. I am going to deal with two main issues: (i)The presupposition of the attitude scale used in such experiments is a »stable« attitude object that is »essentially the same« both from a synchronic and a diachronic perspective. The implication is that individuals evaluate the same thing, only with different intensity and/or value. Using representative examples from discussions, I am going to show that participants with opposite evaluations find very different meanings when discussing the same statements (comprising the attitude scale): the very reading of the statements is a function of the overall object evaluation. (ii)The meaning of the scale items (and thereby the structure of the attitude object itself) undergoes transformation through the discussion: the group strives to form a joint reading of each item when reaching a consensus on the item rating. When the group is attitudinally homogeneous, the reading of an item tends to simplify, leading to more extreme ratings. When the group is heterogeneous, the reading tends to complexify, leading to more moderate ratings. Attitude objects are therefore communicatively constructed, "attitude change" being the consequence of a specific communication setting.

5. Researching the identity of a city – The case of Osijek, Croatia  
Kamenov Z., Huic T., Huic A.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

Citizens of a certain city can, for different reasons, be dissatisfied with the image of their city and be interested in re-positioning people's perception of it to a more favorable one. City branding is a strategic process for developing a long-term vision for a place that influences and shapes positive perceptions. Developing a strategy for city branding first requires an in-depth knowledge of the city identity itself. What are the key characteristics of the city? Which of its symbols are recognized? What are the people like? What is it like to live in it? What are its potentials? It’s advantages and disadvantages? What should the city be like in the future? This paper explains the methodological steps used in researching an identity of a city. The main goal of this research was to assess the identity of the city of Osijek, Croatia. An elaborate research strategy combined both qualitative and quantitative methodology. In-depth interviews with city opinion makers and focus groups with representatives of different areas relevant for the city were conducted. Additionally, 1097 people participated in a detailed survey. These steps enabled us to find out how do people involved in city policy making see Osijek, what citizens of Osijek think about the town they live in, and finally, how citizens from other cities in Croatia perceive it.

6. Influence of social context on the pain perception: The effect of the passive observer's distance  
Modić Stanke K., Ivanec D.
First author's affiliation: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia

Some previous research has shown that the presence of passive observer in unpleasant (painful) situation increases pain tolerance. However, in such research no attention was paid to the spatial distance of the passive observer from the participant experiencing pain. The goal of this research was to test whether and in what way is the effect of the social context on the experience of pain moderated by spatial distance of the passive observer from the participant. Unpleasant (painful) stimuli were caused by the flow of warm air. Variables measured in this research were pain threshold and tolerance, as well as evaluations of intensity and discomfort of stimuli, and some physiological indicators (pulse, blood pressure, temperature). All participants (N = 36) have passed through two experimental situations - with and without the presence of the passive observer; the only difference being that the spatial distance of the passive observer from one half of the participants (N = 18) was small, while the distance of the passive observer from the rest of the participants (N = 18) was greater. The research results did not confirm statistically significant analgesic effect of the passive observer who was at a greater spatial distance from participants to any pain measure (although such trend was present in pain threshold and tolerance) but did show significant opposite effect of a passive observer at very close distance - his presence lowering pain threshold and tolerance. Such results suggest the potential importance of including personal space as a variable in testing the experience of pain.