Written by Makeela Wells
Cliques are structures found in school settings that organize and influence the social world of students. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a brief overview of the impact of cliques in a school setting. First, the blog post will discuss the components of a clique. Second, the post will explore the techniques of inclusion and exclusion that are used by cliques. Lastly, the post will examine the role of cliques in influencing the relationship between an individual’s social status, aggression, and prosocial behavior.
What is a clique?
Cliques can be defined as circles of power whereby leaders rely on various mechanisms to attain, maintain, and influence followers, both by building them up and cutting them down. Leaders draw followers into their circles, “allowing them to bask in the glow of popularity and acceptance” (Adler & Adler, 1995, p. 145). Leaders then subject followers to a position of dependence within the group. The way that students create feelings about themselves, establish friendships, and participate in certain activities (i.e., sports) is influenced by the organization of cliques. For example, jocks, or those who engage in sports, are more likely to align and establish relationships with others who also participate in sports. A distinguishing feature of cliques is that they tend to have a hierarchical structure that is dominated by one or more leaders. Cliques are also exclusive; only a few of the individuals who desire membership are accepted (Adler & Adler, 1995).
Research shows that cliques thrive more in certain schools than others. McFarland and colleagues (2014) analyzed both classroom-level and school-level data about friendships and found that a school’s network ecology, or the organizational setting within the school, influences whether or not a clique thrives within the school setting. They found that schools that offered students more choice, such as more elective courses and more freedom in seat selection, were more likely to establish cliques and that these cliques were more likely to thrive. Cliques were less prevalent in schools where choice was limited and formats of interaction were prescribed (McFarland, Moody, Diehl, Smith, & Thomas, 2014). Smaller schools were also less likely to have thriving cliques because the choice range of friends was smaller and the cost associated with excluding an individual from a group was greater.
The Inclusion and Exclusion Processes of Cliques
Cliques rely on the techniques of including and excluding individuals from that particular group. The process of inclusion involves recruitment, which occurs when one is solicited by clique members to become a part of the group, with leaders having the most influence over the recruitment process (Adler & Adler, 1995). Leaders decide if they like or dislike potential members, and the group members follow the leader’s decision. Potential members are granted a probationary period of acceptance into the group. If accepted during this period, potential members remain in the group. If rejected, they are required to leave the group (Adler & Adler, 1995). A second method of gaining entry into a clique is through the process known as application, whereby students actively seek entry into a group. Application for clique entry is easier to accomplish for a single individual than for a group (Adler & Adler, 1995). Successful applicants receive a great deal of immediate popularity due to their entry requiring approval from clique leaders.
Once accepted into the clique, new members align with others in the group. Those who are close friends with the leaders are more popular than those who are not. Members often work hard to maintain and improve their position within the group (Adler & Adler, 1995). Certain members experience a realignment of friendship within the clique, with some members abandoning friendships with certain clique members and establishing new friendships with other clique members. Members are more susceptible to being wooed by those in the group who are more popular than themselves (Adler & Adler, 1995). Due to the hierarchical structure, friendship loyalty tends to be less reliable in cliques than in other groups.
The techniques utilized in the exclusion process allow clique members to enhance the status of the group while, at the same time, maintaining hierarchy inside and outside of the clique. Those people who are not members of the group are subjected to rejection and ridicule, which provide entertainment for clique members (Adler & Adler, 1995). Leaders of cliques tend to treat outsiders badly and convince clique members to engage in similar behavior. A defining feature of the exclusion process is the use of gossip, which clique members use to spread rumors about particular outsiders. This process is used to ensure that clique entry by an outsider is highly unlikely (Adler & Adler, 1995). Engaging in gossip and the rejection and ridicule of outsiders solidifies the unity of the clique and displays the power that the clique has within the school setting.
How Do Cliques Influence Adolescent Social Status, Aggression, and Prosocial Behavior?
Pattiselanno and colleagues (2015) explored the role of clique hierarchy in influencing adolescent social status, aggression and prosocial behavior. The sample for the study included approximately 2,700 adolescents from over 120 Dutch schools (Pattiselanno, Dijkstra, Steglich, Vollebergh, & Veenstra, 2015). Cliques in this study were divided into girls only, boys only, and mixed-gender. Results revealed that aggression was strongly related to individual social status in girls’ cliques where there were more high status adolescents in the clique than low status adolescents. Boys’ cliques tended to be physically aggressive, while girls’ cliques tended to be relationally aggressive. Clique status, which refers to the popularity of the clique within the school, was positively related to physical aggression in all of the three types of cliques. However, clique status was only positively related to relational aggression in mixed-gender cliques (Pattiselanno et al., 2015). Higher status within the clique was associated with a greater level of aggression within the clique. Prosocial behavior was found to have a significant relationship with individual social status, with boys in mixed-gender cliques providing less emotional support than girls in similar cliques. Additionally, the relationship between clique status and emotional support was positive for girls’ clique (Pattiselanno et al., 2015). Higher status within a girl’s clique was associated with more emotional support given by the girls in that clique.
In conclusion, cliques can be found in elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States. Cliques have the potential to shape a student’s outlook on life, and the processes that are used to include and exclude certain individuals can be found in many of the major institutions in U.S. society (e.g., government, politics, and religion). It is imperative to understand the dynamics surrounding the formation and maintenance of cliques within schools so that parents, legal guardians, and school officials are better capable of assisting students in handling situations that may arise from school-based cliques.
For more information on cliques in schools, visit Teaching Tolerance at http://www.tolerance.org/lesson/cliques-schools.
Adler, P., & Adler, P. (1995). Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion of Preadolescent Cliques. Social Psychology Quarterly, 58(3), 145-162.
McFarland, D.A., Moody, J., Diehl, D., Smith, J.A., & Thomas, R.J. (2014). Network Ecology and Adolescent Social Structure. American Sociological Review, 79(6), 1088-1121.
Pattiselanno, K., Dijkstra, J.K., Steglich, C., Vollebergh, W., & Veenstra, R. (2015). Structure Matters: The Role of Clique Hierarchy in the Relationship Between Adolescent Social Status and Aggression and Prosociality. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44, 2257-2274.
Written by Mandi Ryan
When an individual violates what would be considered a norm or expectation within their relationship with another individual, this violation is referred to as a betrayal (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002). Forgiveness includes the set of changes someone experiences when they become less motivated to retaliate and more motivated to reconcile with the wrongdoer (McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997). Do you ever wonder why certain people seem to continuously forgive their significant other when they’ve been wronged? A victim’s initial response after a betrayal incident is often vengeance and resentment (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002). The likelihood that one might move past these impulses and learn to forgive relies on a few different factors.
Is the victim or perpetrator more responsible within the forgiveness process?
Does forgiveness lie in the hands of the victim, or do perpetrators ultimately control whether or not they will be forgiven? Researchers found that the presence of positivity in one of these particular roles (i.e., victim or perpetrator) is critical during the forgiveness process (Hannon, Rusbult, Finkel, & Kamashiro, 2010). This process involves a victim's change in emotion and attitude towards an offender (American Psychological Association, 2006). In part one of their study, researchers examined whether the perpetrator’s positive behavior following a betrayal predicted increases in the victim’s positive behavior or whether the opposite was true. They found that when the perpetrator apologizes and offers amends soon after the wrongdoing, victim forgiveness is more likely to occur (Hannon, Rusbult, Finkel, & Kamashiro, 2010). However, the victim’s positive behavior after a betrayal did not seem to increase the chances of the perpetrator offering amends. The perpetrator’s apology may not always need to be verbal, or explicit. If the amends seem insincere to the victim, the actions tend to backfire. For example, if Jesse violates a relationship norm within a marriage to Jamie, Jesse would need to respond in a loving and caring manner in order to be forgiven. Responding with defensiveness or hostility may cause Jamie to be less forgiving. On the other hand, once Jesse offers a clear and sincere apology, this effort will likely reduce Jamie’s uncertainties and promote forgiveness (Hannon, Rusbult, Finkel, & Kamashiro, 2010).
What is the next step after forgiveness?
Will the relationship survive, or will resolving the betrayal be more difficult than Jesse and Jamie originally believed? Researchers found that the process of betrayal resolution is highly interpersonal. Regardless of the role, a partner’s perceptions of whether or not a betrayal has been resolved is shaped by their partner’s behavior (Hannon, Rusbult, Finkel, & Kamashiro, 2010). For example, if Jamie decides to forgive Jesse, the couple will need to decide to move past the issue. After forgiveness has occurred, the behavior that Jesse exhibits may be judged more harshly and be subject to more scrutiny while Jamie is identifying whether or not the betrayal has been successfully resolved.
What happens if the betrayal is left unresolved?
When amends are offered and forgiveness is granted, complete reconciliation is still uncertain. The individuals may not return to their prior functioning as a couple. How one acts in the wake of betrayal may reveal a lot about how much that person values the relationship (Holmes & Rempel, 1989). A couple's actions after a betrayal can reveal meaningful information about each person’s dispositions, values, motives, and act as predictors for future behavior (Hannon, Rusbult, Finkel, & Kamashiro, 2010). For example, Jesse may assert that the betrayal will not occur again, apologize for the pain that it caused, and begin to behave in ways that compensate for the betrayal. As a result, Jamie may believe that Jesse now has a better understanding of Jamie’s expectations and values regarding their relationship. On the other hand, Jesse may instead claim that Jamie’s expectations are unreasonable following the betrayal and attempt to belittle Jamie. Both of these patterns of behavior would reveal important information regarding Jesse’s attitude and feelings toward the relationship, which may have remained hidden if the betrayal had not occurred.
In conclusion, both the victim’s behavior and the perpetrator’s behavior influence the manner in which betrayals are experienced and resolved. The perpetrator’s amends promote the victim’s forgiveness, and both of these play a key role in the resolution of betrayal incidents. Subsequently, the study revealed that betrayal resolution is beneficial to relationships from the viewpoint of both the victim and the perpetrator. Therefore, if you ever betray your significant other, offering an apology sooner will allow your partner to begin the transition from vengeance to forgiveness more quickly. If your apology is accepted, and you are forgiven, your actions thereafter will determine whether or not the betrayal was successfully resolved.
American Psychological Association, (2006). Forgiveness: A Sampling of Research Results. Washington, DC: Office of International Affairs. Reprinted, 2008.
Finkel, E. J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., & Hannon, P. A. (2002). Dealing with betrayal in close relationships: Does commitment promote forgiveness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 956–974.
Hannon, P. A., Rusbult, C. E., Finkel, E. J., & Kamashiro, M. (2010). In the wake of betrayal: Amends, forgiveness, and the resolution of betrayal. Personal Relationships, 17(2), 253-278. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01275.x
Holmes, J. G., & Rempel, J. K. (1989). Trust in close relationships. In C. Hendrick (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology (Vol. 10, pp. 187–220). London, England: Sage.
McCullough, M. E., Worthington, E. L., & Rachal, K. C. (1997). Interpersonal forgiving in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 321–336.
Written by Haley Hembree
Social media use among young adults has changed relationship dynamics over the last 10 years. Increases in social media use may change interpersonal interaction in the future. Most studies on social media impact focus on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (e.g., Utz, Muscanell, & Cameran, 2015). However, one recently popular platform has been excluded from most media research. Snapchat is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults. Snapchat is an app that allows users to send pictures or quick videos to another user (usually accompanied by a short text), with the picture or video disappearing soon after being sent. These quick messages, or “snaps,” can only be saved if a screenshot is taken, and the sender of the snap will be notified. Most of the sent pictures include images of funny and mundane material. Most young adults report using Snapchat to send funny images, pictures of themselves, and pictures of what they are currently doing (Utz et al., 2015).
Snapchat's Role in Romantic Partner Jealousy
There are both advantages and disadvantages to this app. The advantage that Snapchat has over its competitors is the illusion of privacy and the disappearance of content, which many enjoy. Public content on social media is often posted for a large audience, while many send individual snaps on Snapchat. More intimate conversation and more raw content can be sent with a degree of confidence that it will not be viewed by others. Self-disclosure and maintenance are important factors in romantic relationships (Yang, Brown, & Braun, 2014). Jealousy among romantic partners increases with Snapchat use, which may be its greatest disadvantage (Utz et al., 2015). The “Best Friends” feature, the list of the top three people one snaps the most, added tension to romantic relationships when a partner found out that they were not included on this list. A worse situation that evokes jealousy occurs when a partner adds his or her ex-partner. Adding previous romantic partners or attractive competitors to a network is generally unsettling for current romantic partners, and distrust occurs. “This makes sense in the context that snaps can be made to disappear in a matter of seconds, leaving little evidence of extra-relational communication” (Vaterlaus, Barnett, Roche, & Young, 2016, p. 430). Additionally, a few have been concerned that disappearing pictures would increase sexting. However, only 13% say that they use Snapchat for sexting in general, and less than two percent of Americans say that they use Snapchat primarily for sexual content (Roesner, Gill, & Kohno, 2014).
Generational Differences in Snapchat Use
One interesting aspect of Snapchat use is the “youth culture” that has developed. Vaterlaus and Tuane (2015) discuss generational differences surrounding media use. This new media culture “(a) includes shared rules, beliefs, and meaning around media use and (b) is often invisible to adults” (Vaterlaus & Tuane, 2015, p. 6). A common thread of unwritten rules governs what is considered to be appropriate use on Snapchat. These unspoken beliefs clearly dictate a generational difference, as youth often express annoyance at the older generation, particularly parents, who break these norms. Young adults frequently stated that their parent did not see the value in this technology (Vaterlaus & Tuane, 2015). Most of the discord centers around the functionality of snaps and the frequency of Snapchat use.
How does Snapchat affect different types of relationships?
The type of person to whom a snap is sent tends to be a person with whom the sender is in some type of close relationship. A young adult is less likely to snap a random individual. This conclusion stems from the functionality of Snapchat. Snapchat is often compared to text messages (Yang et al., 2014). The advantage that snaps have over text messages is the inclusion of context within the content. A short text message may be easily misinterpreted, but a snap that contains a picture allows for the presence of nonverbal cues, which facilitates communication within friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships. The ease of communication is especially important for long-distance relationships. One study by Veterlaus, Barnett, Roche, and Young (2016) explores young adults' behavior on Snapchat and its effects on interpersonal relationships. One individual believes that Snapchat helps her keep in touch with family while she is away at college. Emily (21) stated, “I think it's kind of good that my parents have Snapchat because then [my mom] will send me like these goofy ones sometimes. It kind of makes you laugh a little bit and it's good that you still see [your parents] when their far away” (Vaterlaus et al., 2016, p. 6). Snapchat is more often used to deepen existing connections, rather than to create new ones. Complications arise when romantic partners experience jealousy when “too many” snaps are sent by their partner to a romantic competitor. Mariana (21) disclosed, “I have a friend and on her boyfriend's phone she found out that he was cheating on her because of snapchats. Because she kept seeing this girl's name pop up and she went through his messages and he was talking to her about inappropriate pictures…” (Vaterlaus et al., 2016, p. 5).
Importance of Researching Snapchat
Social media platforms that have gained a large number of users, such as Facebook, have gained the most recognition among researchers. The study of social media needs to include more recent forms, such as Snapchat, in order to help researchers understand the true impact that this technology has on society and relationships. The use of Snapchat is growing at a much faster rate than researchers are studying its effects. For example, 17% of people are now using Snapchat, with 41% of them being young adults (Duggan, 2015). Snapchat comes with both positive and negative effects. Few social media platforms promote both relationship maintenance and jealousy to such a degree, which makes Snapchat a unique platform and a viable contender for further study.
Duggan, M. (2015). Mobile messaging and social media 2015. The Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/19/mobilemessaging-and-social media-2015-main-findings/.
Roesner, F., Gill, B. T., & Kohno, T. (2014, March). Sex, lies, or kittens? Investigating the use of Snapchat's self-destructing messages. Paper presented at the 18th annual Financial Cryptography Conference, Barbados.
Utz, S., Muscanell, N., & Cameran, K. (2015). Snapchat elicits more jealousy than Facebook: a comparison of Snapchat and Facebook use. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(3), 141-146.
Vaterlaus, J. M., & Tulane, S. (2015). Digital generation differences in parent-adolescent relationships. In C. J. Bruess (Ed.), Family communication in the digital age (pp. 426-446). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Veterlaus, J. M., Barnett, K., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2016) “Snapchat is more personal”: An exploratory study on Snapchat behaviors and young adult interpersonal relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 594-601.
Yang, C. C., Brown, B. B., & Braun, M. T. (2014). From Facebook to cell calls: layers of electronic intimacy in college students' interpersonal relationships. New Media & Society, 16, 5-23.
Written by Janet Giron-Legarda
There are benefits to maintaining a committed, long-term relationship, such as working as a team when raising a child and the social alliances that can be gained from the partnership (Maner, Gailliot, & Miller, 2009). Most couples encounter threats that they have to work through in order for the relationship to prevail, but certain obstacles, such as attractive alternative partners, can be difficult to fully overcome. Physically attractive potential mates are everywhere: in class, on the internet, at grocery stores, and across the street. These desirable people can be seen as a threat to a relationship and, therefore, need to be addressed in order to maintain the current partnership (Rusbult, 1980).
Do people in committed relationships actually pay less attention to attractive alternatives?
According to a research study by Maner, Gailliot, and Miller (2009), the only time people in a committed relationship showed lower attention to attractive alternatives was when the participants had been primed to think about their romantic relationship, rather than primed with a neutral stimulus. In any other circumstance, the person in a relationship was just as likely as an unattached person to pay attention to an attractive alternative.
Both men and women have a tendency to pay attention to physically desirable potential mating partners. Attractive men could signify high levels of genetic fitness to potential female mates, while attractiveness in women could signify health and fertility (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000; Pillsworth & Haselton, 2006; Scheib, Gangestad, & Thornhill, 1999; Kenrick & Keefe, 1992; Singh, 1993). People in couples rate possible alternatives lower than single people rate alternatives because their relationship goals are already being met (Maner et al., 2009). When a person is primed to think about their romantic relationship, their attention to attractive alternatives decreases. The temptation to act on feelings elicited from an alternative mating partner can threaten a relationship, and therefore, people “exhibit cognitive processes that help protect their relationship” (Maner et al., 2009, p. 174). Viewing alternatives as less appealing or reducing the attention that is given to them could help “foster long-term pair bonding” (Maner, Rouby, & Gonzaga, 2008, p. 344). The social exchange theory could also play into why individuals in a partnership remain together, at a more conscious level. Exchange theories are based on the analysis of costs and benefits that are associated with romantic involvement. "Companionship, happiness, and feeling loved or loving another were among the most important benefits accompanying romantic involvement. The most serious costs included stress and worry about the relationship, social and nonsocial sacrifices, and increased dependence on the partner" (Sedikides, Oliver, & Campbell, 1994, p. 5).
These studies provide support for the evolutionary theory for maintaining romantic relationships because the studies demonstrate that committed individuals are more likely to pay less attention to attractive alternatives when primed to think about relationships (Maner, Gailliot, & Miller, 2009; Maner, Rouby, & Gonzaga, 2008). Partners who are committed to one another and their relationship can be assured that looking at appealing individuals does not mean that your relationship is doomed. When the people in the relationship are reminded of that partnership, they are more likely to pay less attention to others and focus on their long-term relationship goals.
What should you do if your partner is looking at other people?
Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). On the evolutionary psychology of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 573-587.
Kenrick, D. T., & Keefe, R. C. (1992). Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in reproductive strategies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15, 75-133.
Maner, J. K., Gailliot, M. T., & Miller, S. L. (2009). The implicit cognition of relationship maintenance: Inattention to attractive alternatives. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(1), 174-179.
Maner, J. K., Rouby, D. A., & Gonzaga, G. C. (2008). Automatic inattention to attractive alternatives: The evolved psychology of relationship maintenance. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29(5), 343-349.
Pillsworth, E. G., & Haselton, M. G. (2006). Male sexual attractiveness predicts differential ovulatory shifts in female extra-pair attraction and male mate retention. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 247-258.
Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of experimental social psychology, 16(2), 172-186.
Scheib, J. E., Gangestad, S. W., & Thornhill, R. (1999). Facial attractiveness, symmetry, and cues of good genes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B, 266, 1913-1917.
Sedikides, C., Oliver, M. B., & Campbell, W. K. (1994). Perceived benefits and costs of romantic relationships for women and men: Implications for exchange theory. Personal Relationships, 1(1), 5-21.
Singh, D. (1993). Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: Role of waist-to-hip ratio. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 293-307.
Written by Makeela Wells
“I won’t show anyone.” These words are usually the next message one would send to encourage another to send inappropriate or sexually suggestive photos. Sexting has gained substantial public and media attention; however, scientific research on sexting behavior has been limited. The purpose of this blog is to understand sexting behaviors among adolescents. The blog will define what behaviors constitute sexting and will examine the consequences of sexting. Lastly, the blog will provide resources for those who have been victimized by sexting.
As society has experienced advances in communication technology, text messaging has become the most popular form of electronic communication among adolescents. A consequence of this easy and exciting form of communication is sexting. Sexting can be defined as behaviors whereby one person sends and/or receives sexually explicit text or photo messages via cellphones (Judge, 2012; Rice, Gibbs, Winetrobe, Rhoades, Plant, Montoya, & Kordic, 2014). Sexting behavior can be voluntary, coercive, and involuntary. Voluntary sexting behavior occurs when one sends sexually explicit messages without being pressured to do so, while coercive sexting behavior takes place through pressure or duress (Judge, 2012). An example of sexting coercion would be an adolescent being persuaded to send sexually suggestive photos to please a significant other or maintain a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sexting can also be involuntary, whereby sexually suggestive photos are taken without the consent or knowledge of the individual (Pelayo, 2016). The rates of sexting, both receiving and sending sexts, vary, with high school students being more likely to send sexts than middle school students (Rice et al., 2014). The reasons why one engages in sexting may vary. Some individuals view sexting as a way of flirting with significant others. Some may engage in sexting as a way to impress someone he or she may be interested in dating. Individuals may also engage in sexting without their knowledge, due to the fact that they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Judge, 2012).
Consequences of Sexting
The consequences of sexting can range from minor to severe. Social consequences of sexting among adolescents include social isolation from peers. When one’s peers know that he or she has engaged in such behavior, they may resort to ridicule as a way to punish one for his or her behavior (Judge, 2012). Legal consequences may also emerge as a result of sexting. Many adolescents do not know and/or do not understand state laws relating to adolescent sexting (Judge, 2012). Sending and receiving sexually explicit images of a minor can be considered child pornography, regardless of if the perpetrator is an adult or a minor. Additionally, consequences of sexting include depression, absence from school, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and, in severe cases, suicide (Judge, 2012).
Sexting has been linked to adolescents engaging in early sexual behavior. A study conducted by Rice and colleagues (2014) found that 20% of Californian middle school students had received a sext, while 5% had sent a sext. Students who texted roughly 100 times a day were more likely to receive and send sexts. They also found that those who sent a sext were approximately 3 times more likely to be sexually active, and those who received sexts were 7 times more likely to engage in sexual activity (Rice et al., 2014). Early sexual behavior has been linked to both higher rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.
In conclusion, it is important for both adolescents and parents to understand what behavior constitutes sexting and the consequences associated with such behavior. Sexting is behavior described as sending explicit images and messages to others. It can be either voluntary, coercive, or involuntary and has been found to have negative impacts on the lives of adolescents. Educating individuals on sexting has the potential to decrease sexting behavior among adolescents.
The following is a link for an article published by The Washington Post, detailing a teen’s experience with sexting: “And everyone saw it” by Jessica Contrera.
For more information, see State Sexting Laws and Tips for Dealing with Teen Sexting.
Judge, A.M. (2012). “Sexting” among U.S. adolescents: Psychological and Legal Perspectives. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 20(2), 86-96.
Pelayo, A. (2016). Sexting: what it is, who it affects, and how it affects them. High School Insider, Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://highschool.latimes.com/st-genevieve-high-school/sexting-what-it-is-who-it-affects-and-how-it-affects-them/.
Rice, E., Gibbs, J., Winetrobe, H., Rhoades, H., Plant, A., Montoya, J., & Kordic, T. (2014). Sexting and sexual behavior among middle school students. Pediatrics, 134(1), 21-28.
Written by Calyssa Middleton
Quick Overview of Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder with patterns of behavior and cognition that are maladaptive. These patterns are known to have an impact on the ability to form healthy interpersonal relationships. All of the symptoms of BPD listed by the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5) can be found at this link.
How does BPD affect relationships?
In one study, participants wrote in a diary every day for 14 days and discussed experiences in their romantic relationships. These entries were intended to test the hypothesis that individuals with BPD perceive relationship experiences more negatively than individuals without BPD. The results indicated that BPD features - even when controlling for relationship satisfaction, total number of relationship experiences, and depressive symptoms - were correlated with a more negative view of all interactions within the relationship (Bhatia, Davila, Eubanks-Carter, & Burckell, 2013). Even when the individual’s partner did positive things in the relationship, individuals with BPD viewed these actions negatively. For example, their partner saying “I love you” was often perceived as negative, rather than positive, by individuals with BPD because they distrust their partner’s love.
Another study focusing on relationship dysfunction in those with BPD found that attachment was specifically related to romantic dysfunction (Hill, 2011). Insecure attachment styles, such as ambivalent attachment, were the largest predictors of relationship dysfunction for those with BPD. Ambivalent refers to having mixed feelings and contradictory ideas; those with this attachment style tend to crave intimacy and close relationships but push others away due to a lack of trust. Individuals with insecure attachment styles are already known to experience more difficulty in their relationships; thus, those with an insecure attachment style and BPD symptoms have the most difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
How can one cope with BPD and its effect on relationships?
There are a few known treatments for BPD, with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) being one of the most common. This therapy focuses on helping the individual learn to manage emotions. This management leads to benefits in many areas, including less anger and improved social functioning (Barnicot, Gonzalez, McCabe, & Priebe, 2016). Another important factor that DBT addresses is the tendency to self-harm. One study on the treatment processes of BPD indicated that more frequent use of DBT skills is associated with less frequent self-harm and a lower likelihood of dropping out of treatment (Barnicot, Gonzalez, McCabe, & Priebe, 2016). In this study, a significant amount of participants completed the entire treatment process and greatly reduced their suicidal behavior.
'Research has shown that it is more beneficial for those with BPD to receive treatment individually before being treated with their partner (Barnicot, Gonzalez, McCabe, & Priebe, 2016). However, couples' therapy can be beneficial. The processes of couples therapy vary depending on the therapist, but this type of therapy has consistently been shown to be important in aiding couples' ability to learn techniques that can prevent the escalation of arguments or negative emotions (Oliver, Perry, & Cade, 2008). Oliver and colleagues (2008) found that proper use of these techniques has a high success rate in those with BPD. These findings support the idea that therapy can help those with BPD function more normally within their relationships with others and lead these relationships to be more stable and rewarding.
Ultimately, it is important to understand that individuals who have BPD and similar disorders are not in control of their negative thoughts. However, with the correct treatment, it is possible for them to gain more control of their thoughts and behaviors and improve their relationships.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Barnicot, K., Gonzalez, R., McCabe, R., & Priebe, S. (2016). Skills use and common treatment processes in dialectical behaviour therapy for borderline personality disorder. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 52, 147-156. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.04.006
Bhatia, V., Davila, J., Eubanks-Carter, C., & Burckell, L. A. (2013). Appraisals of daily romantic relationship experiences in individuals with borderline personality disorder features. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 518-524. doi:10.1037/a0032870
Hill, J., Stepp, S. D., Wan, M. W., Hope, H., Morse, J. Q., Steele, M., & ... Pilkonis, P. A. (2011). Attachment, borderline personality, and romantic relationship dysfunction. Journal Of Personality Disorders, 25(6), 789-805. doi:10.1521/pedi.2011.25.6.789
Oliver, M., Perry, S., & Cade, R. (2008). Couples therapy with borderline personality disordered individuals. The Family Journal, 16(1), 67-72. doi:10.1177/1066480707309122
Written by Luke Herald
“Die Jock Die” is the phrase of the Columbine High School shooters. Many people find themselves asking why someone would go to such extreme measures (Gaertner, Iuzzini, & O’Mara, 2008). Studies have shown that acts of aggression, such as school shootings, with multiple victims can be tied to the idea of “perceived groupness” (Gaertner, Iuzzini, & O’Mara, 2008). “Die jock die” was said because the shooters felt the “jocks” were the ones who deserved to be punished for their actions.
What is perceived groupness?
Perceived groupness is the idea that others see an individual as belonging to a certain social group, such as athletes, cool kids, geeks, and punks, even if the individual does not belong to this group. Perceived groupness leads people to attribute personal characteristics, such as beliefs, attitudes, and actions, to an entire group, rather than to the individual who displays the characteristics. For example, a person on the football team may have treated a student in a way that made him feel excluded. Because he perceived the football player to be in a group (e.g., jocks), he may attribute the actions of and his feelings towards the football player to the entire team instead of to the person who actually took part in the actions. Misplaced attributions may cause misplaced aggression, such as disliking all jocks, rather than the one football player who mistreated him.
On the other hand, “nerds” can be bullied for no reason other than their perceived group. Perceived groupness causes misplaced aggression in both victims and aggressors. Perceived groupness affects us all. In the Social Relations Lab, we asked students to identify perceived social groups in their schools. In our research on bullying, we found that fifty-five percent of bullied students felt they were bullied due to their perceived membership in a group. Sixty-five percent of bullied students perceived themselves as being targeted by a specific group.
When does perceived groupness trigger aggression?
Perceived groupness can trigger aggression in many different ways and in more places than just schools. The idea of perceived groupness can be applied to any sort of grouping, such as race, sex, and age. Labels that place people in their respective groups affect society, regardless of the setting. In 2013 two Islamic extremists brutally murdered Lee Rigby, a British Soldier, in southeast London. They later put a video on the internet saying that they killed him because Muslims are being killed by British soldiers every day, and this act was retribution for those murders (Sjöström & Gollwitzer, 2015). Lee Rigby may have had nothing to do with these Islamic deaths, yet he paid what these extremists believed to be the price for the sins of his perceived group. This murder is also an example of the caregiving system in which a person is motivated to help someone who is perceived to be in his/her own group (Buffone & Poulin, 2014).
How can we use this knowledge to help?
If we understand that perceived groupness and rejection are two key factors in multiple-victim incidents of aggression, we can take steps to intervene. Counselors and practitioners can focus on assisting people and helping them cope with their views and experiences with rejection. They can also help people understand that although they were rejected or mistreated by a person, the opinions and actions of the particular aggressor should not be attributed to everyone with whom the aggressor associates (Gaertner, Iuzzini, & O’Mara, 2008). Recently, intervention programs have been created that could drastically help with these dangerous misperceptions by teaching people to alter their ideas of perceived groupness and view people as individuals, rather than as members of a group, which may result in a decreased likeliness of mass aggression (Aronson, 2001).
Gaertner, L., Iuzzini, J., & O’Mara, E. M. (2008). When rejection by one fosters aggression against many: Multiple-victim aggression as a consequence of social rejection and perceived groupness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44(4), 958-970.
Sjöström, A., & Gollwitzer, M. (2015). Displaced revenge: Can revenge taste “sweet” if it aims at a different target? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 191-202.
Buffone, A. E., & Poulin, M. J. (2014). Empathy, target distress, and neurohormone genes interact to predict aggression for others–even without provocation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(11), 1406-1422.
Aronson, E. (2001). Nobody left to hate. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Written by Mallorie Miller-Smith
What determines our attraction to other people? Attraction is a key component to successfully beginning a romantic relationship. For this blog post, I will discuss what makes us like each other. Specifically, I will address research about whether attraction is an individual choice - as we believe it is – or if it is due to biological and situational variants that are out of our control.
Ultimately, humans make the final decision in whether or not to act on an attraction; however, several key components affect that decision. When considering the influence of biological and circumstantial aspects, it is important to note how large of an impact these factors have on an individual. Individuals often underestimate the influence of these factors when they think they, individually, are freely deciding whether or not to pursue a relationship. If you were to ask someone why they initially chose their current partner, they are unlikely to tell you that it had anything to do with the misattribution of arousal because they had just gotten off a roller coaster before meeting their new date (e.g., Dutton & Aron, 1974). Likewise, they are unlikely to think about how hungry they were when they met had anything to do with the person to whom they were attracted (Swami & Tovée, 2006). Yet, these conditions may have had a lot to do with why individuals were initially attracted to each other. I will now offer some evidence to support this claim.
A surprising finding in social psychology is the sheer number of circumstantial determinants that affect attraction. These range from the wearing red clothes (Elliot & Niesta, 2008; Elliot, Niesta, Greitemeyer, Lichtenfeld, Gramzow, Maier, & Liu, 2010) to being surrounded by attractive people (Walker & Vul, 2014). The person who approaches the other initially is typically found to be more attractive, for both men and women (Eastwick & Finkel, 2009). There is good news for musicians: men carrying guitar cases (vs. gym bags or nothing at all) were rated to be significantly more attractive, believed to be due to onlookers' possible perception of the men's musical and intellectual abilities (Guéguen, Meineri, & Fischer-Lokou, 2014). Other factors include who approaches whom initially (Eastwick & Finkel, 2009), smiling vs. not smiling (Tracy & Beall, 2011), eye contact (Ewing, Rhodes, & Pellicano, 2010), and having a beard (Dixson & Brooks, 2013).
Or Is It All In Our Biology?
Evolutionary theory supports the idea that our primary goal is to survive and produce viable offspring who can carry on our genetic material. Under this theory, it would be most beneficial for men to mate with as many healthy women as possible, while women should procure a stable, providing partner to help raise her offspring. Research supports this by finding evidence that women are choosier about partners because they need someone with resources to support them and their offspring, while men focus on women who can provide healthy offspring and sexual loyalty (Buss, 1989). Researchers have found whether or not a woman is ovulating plays a large part in attraction, as well. For example, women find men with more masculine features (as compared to men with more feminine features) attractive when they are ovulating, while men have been shown to change their mating behavior when around an ovulating female (Gildersleeve, Haselton & Fales, 2014; Miller & Maner, 2011).
While there is evidence for both sides of the argument, it is easy to see that that our biology does have a certain influence on the person to whom we are attracted. Additionally, due to the large amount of evidence available, we must conclude that situational variables have a large impact on attraction. In conclusion, there is a large amount of evidence for a diverse array of influences, including circumstantial and biological effects, that provide a shortcut for humans to create and maintain social relationships. Ultimately, however, all of these variables come together to help us make the choice to initiate a relationship.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12(1), 1-49. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00023992
Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(3), 236-241. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003
Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30(4), 510- 517. doi:10.1037/h0037031
Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2008). Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(2), 245-264. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.52
Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men's attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1150-1164. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2060
Elliot, A. J., Niesta Kayser, D., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R. H., Maier, M. A., & Liu, H. (2010). Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139(3), 399-417. doi:10.1037/a0019689
Ewing, L., Rhodes, G., & Pellicano, E. (2010). Have you got the look? Gaze direction affects judgements of facial attractiveness. Visual Cognition, 18(3), 321-330. doi:10.1080/13506280902965599
Gildersleeve, K., Haselton, M. G., & Fales, M. R. (2014). Do women’s mate preferences change across the ovulatory cycle? A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140(5), 1205-1259. doi:10.1037/a0035438
Guéguen, N., Meineri, S., & Fischer-Lokou, J. (2014). Men’s music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context. Psychology Of Music, 42(4), 545-549. doi:10.1177/0305735613482025
Miller, S. L., & Maner, J. K. (2011). Ovulation as a male mating prime: Subtle signs of women's fertility influence men's mating cognition and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(2), 295-308. doi:10.1037/a0020930
Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2006). Does hunger influence judgments of female physical attractiveness? British Journal of Psychology, 97(3), 353-363. doi:10.1348/000712605X80713
Tracy, J. L., & Beall, A. T. (2011). Happy guys finish last: The impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction. Emotion, 11(6), 1379-1387. doi:10.1037/a0022902
Walker, D., & Vul, E. (2014). Hierarchical encoding makes individuals in a group seem more attractive. Psychological Science, 25(1), 230-235. doi: 10.1177/0956797613497969
Written by Jess Brink
When considering what humans need in order to thrive and survive, people usually think of food, water and shelter, but psychologists have found that there is something else that is vital to human life. The need to belong – to have a sense of connection and social acceptance - impacts multiple aspects of a person’s life. This need can affect one’s emotions, and not fitting in - social rejection - can have an array of negative cognitive and biological effects.
Can the need to be socially accepted change how we think?
The human need to belong can impact the ways in which we think. For example, one study by Knowles and Gardner (2008) showed that individuals who were led to believe that they would have a lonely future changed their thinking to focus on activities that may improve their chances of social success and acceptance. Another study completed by Knowles and Gardner (2008) showed that after an individual is asked to recall an unfortunate social event, they tend to focus on more group based words (i.e., we, us, etc.). In addition, the same participants tended to use groups to define themselves and described their specific social group as being better than other participants who were asked to recall social success or who were not asked to recall any socially based distresses did (Knowles & Gardner, 2008). These results show how social rejection can change a person’s thinking by leading them to think about what changes they need to make in order to fit in.
Although the previous examples may show that the need to belong drives thoughts and behavior in order to help us survive socially, the need to belong can also have a negative impact on other cognitive functions beyond our social cognition. For example, Baumeister and colleagues (2002) found that people who were made to believe that their future would prove socially unsuccessful scored lower on intelligence tests or when answering difficult questions. These participants also found it difficult to remember complicated passages, when compared to participants who were made to believe their future would be successful or who were not given feedback on future social success. This change in complex cognitive thinking may have been impacted by the participant’s change in focus to social belongingness, as demonstrated previously.
If the need to belong is truly a fundamental need, then shouldn’t there be a biological or physical aspect?
Research seems to agree that there are both biological and physical aspects in response to social rejections, but they have yet to agree on what exactly those are. Some research, such as the study conducted by DeWall and Baumeister in 2006, shows that social rejection or the fear of rejection in the future can lead to increased pain tolerance. However, a different study conducted by Eisenberger and colleagues (2006), found that individuals who were made to feel socially excluded did not report a decrease in or desensitization to pain. Even though the participants did not report physical changes in pain tolerance, they did show increased activity in two different areas in the brain that are used in response to pain (Eisenberger, Jarcho, Lieberman, & Naliboff, 2006). In addition, multiple studies have shown that cortisol, a hormone that is released in times of stress, is released in response to social alienation and threats to belonging. For example, a study done by Blakhart and colleagues (2007), where people were told that others had refused to work with them, found that this social alienation led to increased cortisol levels. Therefore, although research still needs to be done on what exactly social rejection does to the body, the current research does prove that there is an effect.
Does everyone respond to social rejection in the same way?
People do not always respond to social exclusion in similar ways. Social anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem have been linked to a greater sensitivity to rejection and greater wariness about forming new relationships due to these states being linked to heightened reactions to rejection and participants being timid in regard to approaching new people (Gere & MacDonald, 2010). This cautiousness is likely a protective behavior to avoid further rejection, but it can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who are hyper vigilant for signs of rejection – or who may even have a bias for attending to cues that signal possible rejection – may find they elicit rejection from others (Dandeneau etal., 2008; Gere & MacDonald, 2010; Hale, VanderValk, Akse, & Meeus, 2008; Lemay & Clark, 2008; Maner, DeWall, Baumeister, & Schaller, 2007; Murray, Derrick, Leder, & Holmes, 2008).
What does this mean? What can you do?
Everyone experiences loneliness or social rejection at some point in their lives. The feelings that one experiences after such events are completely natural and felt by the majority of people. Social acceptance is something that all of us need. If you cannot find acceptance down one path, chances are you will be able to find it somewhere else. Join a club, a team, or an online forum, and talk to someone new. The worry about being accepted when meeting new people is temporary and will be replaced by the rewarding feeling of having close relationships. Your brain and body will thank you!
Baumeister, R. F., Twenge, J. M., & Nuss, C. K. (2002). Effects of social exclusion on cognitive
processes: Anticipated aloneness reduces intelligent thought. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 817-827.
Blackhart, G. C., Eckel, L. A., & Tice, D. M. (2007). Salivary cortisol in response to acute social rejection and acceptance by peers. Biological Psychology, 75, 267-276.
Dandeneau, S. D., Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., Sakellaropoulo, M., & Pruessner, J. C. (2008). Cutting stress off at the pass: Reducing vigilance and responsiveness to social threat by manipulating attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 651-666.
Eisenberger, N. I., Jarcho, J. M., Lieberman, M. D., & Naliboff, B. D. (2006). An experimental study of shared sensitivity to physical pain and social rejection. Pain, 126, 132-138.
Gere, J., & MacDonald, G. (2010). An Update of the Empirical Case for the Need to Belong. Journal Of Individual Psychology, 66(1), 93-115.
Hale, W. W., Ill, Vander Valk, I., Akse, J., & Meeus, W. (2008). The interplay of early adolescents' depressive symptoms, aggression and perceived parental rejection: A four-year community study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 928-940
Knowles, M. L., & Gardner, W. L. (2008). Benefits of membership: The activation and amplification of group identities in response to social rejection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1200-1213.
Lemay, E. P., & Clark, M. S. (2008). "Walking on eggshells": How expressing relationship insecurities perpetuates them. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 420-441.
Maner, J. K., DeWall, C. N., Baumeister, R. F., & Schaller, M. (2007). Does social exclusion motivate interpersonal reconnection? Resolving the "porcupine problem." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 42-55.
Murray, S. L., Derrick, J. L., Leder, S., & Holmes, J. G. (2008). Balancing connectedness and self-protection goals in close relationships: A levels of processing perspective on risk regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 94, 429-459.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Chelsea Ellithorpe
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor