It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Contact Hypothesis

We all experience having a conflict with someone, and we all experience not liking someone even before knowing the person. There is a saying, translated roughly from Malay, "not know, therefore, not love" that implies we hardly love something that we do not have any knowledge about. Sometimes in usual cases too, we do not like the things we do not have any knowledge about. Actually, this is true and has been validated by a psychologist, Gordon Allport, who asserted that prejudice can easily be elevated by simply knowing something about that someone. He called this theory as Contact Hypothesis, where interpersonal contact can produce knowledge that can be a good cure on prejudice.

This simple way of curbing prejudice can be useful not just in management setting, but we can benefit from it in our everyday life too. You sometimes always find yourself not favoring someone just "because the way he looks." This is normal because we are equipped with a preset stigma in our cognition that sometimes we do not realize we have. These stigma "guide" us on what to feel when we see something that could or could not resemble something in our preset stigma. When this happens, when you do not like someone without any apparent reason, try to know that person, and you will more likely grow to actually like him or her.

Contact Hypothesis does not just work on prejudice and unreasonable disliking, it can also work on conflicts between two people or groups who have actually known each other. Sometimes, when we have a conflict with someone, do you notice that you are actually angrier when you do not contact the person? A woman who hates her neighbor always seems to be bitching out behind her neighbor's back, but we never see them both to actually bitch in front of each other. Two classmates who clearly dislike each other never seem to talk or meet eye-to-eye, but they appear to have a heightened issue everytime they bump into each other but do not have a contact.

These kind of conflicts are fueled by "absence." The more absent the person with whom we have a conflict in our life, the more unresolved the issue becomes. In this situation, try to make the first move by saying hi or make a brief chat, providing you both want to make a brief chat. You'll find yourself, just like above, being less angry and lore likely to resolve the issue.

Contact Hypothesis, according to Gordon Allport, is not without its conditions:
1) Both sides have equal relationships.
2) Both sides have a common goal to achieve.
3) There is actually potential for both sides to form a relation.
4) Both are under a common supported authority.

But then, psychology has a lot of exceptional cases, even if you do not fulfill any of these conditions, try to make an interpersonal contact with someone you have an issue with. With luck, you can sleep at night like a baby.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Comfort Zone

So, last night I was talking to one of my dear friends on the phone and we were talking about this friend of hers who's been so mysterious and complicated. The story, by the way, is confidential, but let me tell you another story that can show you the gist of "comfort zone" discussion I had with my friend.

There was this friend of mine, who I found earlier last semester that he had been cheating off his lecturers in his class assignments. I found out that he took my paper, which was in English, and then just translated it outright to Malay, thinking that the lecturer might not notice that those two papers were the same, except in the different language. When investigating, we learned that he had been doing this since his diploma (until masters degree!). So, basically I was asking myself, how come he did that again and again and again without facing any repercussions? Well, the answer was, that's it, there were no repercussions!

You see, when people keep doing a certain thing - well, a bad thing - and never get caught or always survive the deed, he or she creates a comfort zone catering to the bad action. The person keeps doing it saying to themselves, "Well, I'll survive anyway..." My friend kept copying off his papers from other people's works thinking that, "Nobody caught me anyways..."

So, I was thinking of a solution. It might be drastic, but it might be the one from only few guaranteed way to make them step out of the comfort zone and man up to do the right thing. The solution is, to create a bomb. The bomb can be something that really frightens the "comfort-zoners" and make them go out from the zone. In my friend's case, the bomb is easily the direct consequence of his actions, which is the instructor knowing his deeds and barred him from the class. What's the bomb for comfort zone of a person who keeps cheating on his wife? Then that would be divorce and a million-ringgit suit. What's the bomb for comfort zone of a kid who never listens to his mother? That would be that kid has to afford his daily spending on his own.

The thing is, the bombs can be too drastic that people are afraid to actually create them. But then, if you want the person in the comfort zone change, then a bomb should be created and an "explosion" should be triggered.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


All this time I am doing my practicum at JKM Kepala Batas, under the unit of "akhlak," I have gone to follow my supervisor to do a lot of works and processes just to handle a case of juvenile delinquency. One question strikes me after several interviews with several offenders, and apparently it's a question my supervisor has been asking herself too. It is, how do you really know if someone is really remorseful towards what he or she did?

My supervisor said that she depends a lot on her instincts. Then, her instincts will depend on what she sees and hears during the interview. She would look at the body language, at how the offenders communicate, and how they react towards anything my supervisor has anything to say. Then, basing on that, she will determine if they really feel remorseful towards what they did. I'm not sure, but for me, it is quite simplistic, although understanding how demanding her works are, she can't really be choosy in what she is doing. But I have something else to say.

I say, they all feel remorseful, during that time.

Put yourself in the offenders' shoes. And imagine being in the position where a person, who can determine how your future is, (the "akhlak" official) is nagging you with questions that you must answer. Those questions can be threatening and for most of time, you are not sure if answering the question honestly or lying will do you any good. Especially, this is the first meeting, so you don't feel the trust to the official yet. What you feel is another person coming to see you to "do her job." You, bottomline, are in an intimidating situation. So, I'd say, at this time, you most likely tell yourself, "Why did I do it in the first place??" Regretting the offense that you did. Then, it follows by, "If I could turn back time," or "I really don't want to do it again," or "Please stop, I won't do it again." Therefore, in a way, you feel remorseful and it seems genuine, isn't it? (Well, except for the rare cases where feelings are out of questions or absent at all that usually only exist in psychopathic offenders.)

But I ask myself another question, "So, why do some offenders repeat their offense?"

So, for me, the real issue here is not whether they really feel remorseful, because I personally believe they all do. The real issue lies on the question whether or not the remorse lasts long enough to remind them of the consequences of their behaviors. The key is the feeling, because if you recall the imagination I ask you to do above, you'd understand that in the interviews, you'd feel all sorts of feelings you don't want to be feeling. Thus, these feelings make you not want to do it again, because the feelings hurt.

Then, perhaps what you should do if you were handling a juvenile case is to make sure that the feelings that trigger the remorse to last long. Just like bath, the reminder (or motivation) needs to be done everyday. The question now is, "How can we make sure that the offenders always remember that it hurts to see they and what they do hurt others?" Well, this is a question I can't really answer. I'm not an expert in motivation and hope one day I am. Maybe replenishing motivation is different than replenishing remorseful feelings. Well, we need to study on this.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Makes Social Work Part II

According to one of my lecturers, Dr. Ismail Baba, advocacy might be what truly makes social work as a profession. In every field of social sciences, there is a role that every respective practitioner has to play to practice the knowledge he or she learned in the field. Psychologists will use what he learns about the science of behaviors and mental processes to develop or alter an aspect of the individual's behaviors or mind. Economics use financial studies and theories as the main focus in their practice. Political analysis break down the political phenomena in the world into a more understandable perspective by using science of governance and public administration. And there are a lot more why a certain field is its own.

But for social work, it might be the role of advocacy that a social worker plays. Advocacy in act in social work where a social worker defends his or her client in all terms as possible. This includes but not limited to the resources of needs fulfillment, communication to other parties, and advancement of social justice. A social worker playing advocate must be able to know the policies that concern the particular client and to argue on behalf of the latter if the policies do not seem to be plausible to fulfill the client's needs. Just like a lawyer, according to my lecturer, an advocating social worker needs to know to argue, defend, and even manipulate.

Being a social worker is challenging, just like any other fields. But the challenge there is in this one is that you have to have contacts, a lot of them, and be able to know who you can call to secure a certain need for your client. You have to have the numbers of the nearest counseling agency, or medical assistance, or educational institution, or financial aids, etc.