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The socio-cultural perspective attempts to address abnormal human behavior on the basis of cultural variables acquired through learning and cognitive practices. For instance, Western cultures insinuate that females should be slim. Therefore, psychological disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa may be observed among such persons. The socio-cultural perspective draws its concepts from the works of various theoreticians. In particular, three theoreticians, Lev S. Vygotsky, Alexander R. Luria and Alexei N. Leont’ev have been credited with significantly outlining this perspective. However, this perspective is not new. Its roots can be traced in classical cultures and traditions in which there was a basic assumption that personalities, attitudes, skills and beliefs were acquired from others.
In order to understand a person or a group, various socio-cultural factors such as culture, ethnicity and gender must be analyzed. A person or a group exhibits a definite pattern as to behavior, values and beliefs, which are collectively referred to as culture. By observing those that we relate to, people acquire various aspects such as language, beliefs, preferences and morals that uniquely identify them as belonging to a certain group or ethnic background.
Secondly, a particular ethnic group has an ethnic identity. An ethnic group is one that shares a common ancestor(s) and is usually from the same geographical region or lived in a particular area. Therefore, an ethnic identity entails the group’s attitudes, beliefs, skills, ceremonies and music that grant persons belonging to a particular group a sense of belonging.
Finally, gender identity refers to a person’s view as to whether he or she is male or female. Once a person identifies with a particular gender, he or she tends to acquire attributes associated with that gender. For instance, males should be strong and assertive while women should be gentle and nurturing. Hence, one learns this attributes from those in his or her environment and adopts them as his or her own. The socio-cultural perspective, therefore, advocates that a person can only be understood once these three attributes are fully analyzed and understood. However, other socio-cultural factors should be factored in. For instance, gay persons and lesbians must be understood in their unique context.
A socio-cultural perspective is vital in understanding and appreciating others. For instance, workplaces entail persons from different backgrounds. If conflicts are to be avoided or solved amicably, there is a need to appreciate other people’s values, beliefs and attitudes. Although persons that are associated with any given culture view other cultures as inferior to theirs, a socio-cultural perspective helps individuals to view such cultures on a relative platform rather than on judgmental terms. Hence, rather than see other cultures as inferior, individuals and groups take them as different and as alternative sources of coping with different situations in the human life.
Secondly, a socio-cultural perspective helps us to understand and appreciate differences among people in or across groups. For instance, in a group of Caucasians, some are short whereas others are tall. In addition, their intelligence and willingness to work hard differs. While some may be gifted in academics, others may be exemplary in sports. In fact, there may be more differences among members of a certain group than across groups. These differences uniquely define a group and serves to create a wide variety.
Finally, sociologists practicing in this field are in demand by corporations so as to aid in formulation of policies and adverts that can be accepted by the public. International businesses are conducted among persons from multi-ethnic backgrounds. In addition, the United States population is increasingly multi-ethnic. Hence, there is a need to incorporate a socio-cultural perspective if companies are to successfully reach their customers.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford prison experiment was conducted in 1971 by psychologists of the Stanford University under Phillip Zombardo. This experiment was a two weeks study. Its purpose was to show how superiors use their power to insubordinate others. It involved a prison with cells, prisoners and prisoner guards. So as to draw participants, the psychologists placed advertisements inlocal newspapers with the payment per participant quoted at 15$ per day. Twenty-four white males who were selected were emotionally and mentally uprightrepresentativesofthe middle class. They were then divided into two groups, with one half being the prisoners while the other half comprised of the guards.
Many conclusions can be drawn from this experiment, both positive and negative. They can be used to create a positive altruistic behavior in individuals rather than creating a negative individual behavior.This experiment clearly showed that good people can be seduced, provokedand induced into antisocial, brutal and stupid behavior. This was reflected by the reactions of the guards when they were given authority over the prisoners. According to the experiment, the guards were not restrictedas to how they should treat the prisoners. Instead, they were allowed to choose on how to treat them.The guards chose to be inhumane and cruel, which they achieved by intimidating the prisoners. This behavior has been linked to the society’sview of prisoners. A prisoner, in the society’s eyes, is someone who has committed crimes and thus should not be treated in a humane manner, the fact that prisoners are jailed so as to rehabilitate them not withstanding.
The guards were friendly at first. In fact, they were people of the same race and class as the prisoners. However, as soon as they were given power over the prisoners, they started mistreating them as if they were inferior. When found guilty, a person should be treated in a manner that induces change and transformation into a good mannered and morally upright person. By treating prisoners humanely, the offender will never participate in a crime and will be an example to other people in the society. The society should change its perception towards prisoners.
The experiment also clearly showed how role-playing, when subjected to situations of temporality or artificiality, can bring about an impact of reality on the actors. By observing the changes made by those who played the role of the guards, it can be deduced that the experiment was conducted to show different roles played by various persons in the society.Most people are likely to revolt under oppression. Therefore, if the relationship between seniors and their subordinates is to remain relatively stable, a fair work environment should be put in place.
This experiment also showed that situational power is salient in settings of novelty. Those involved cannot stick to their former guidelines under their current situation and usually have no references in history to refer to. The decision by the prisoners to go on hunger strike illustrates this by the fact that some situations may empower individuals, making them to behave in a manner that they would not have predicted. This was the exact situation that the guards were in once they wielded power over their counterparts.
This experiment showed that unity is needed if people are to unite so as to overcome various hurdles. After the prisoners realized that the guards were intimidating and mistreating them, they joined the first prisoner who came up with the idea of going on hunger strike. This shows the power and success inteamworkwhen solving a common problem in the society.
Another useful conclusion is the Good Samaritan situation. Such persons come to the rescue of the oppressed or those who are in unfortunate situations. This is evident by Zimbardo’s fiancée, who acted as an interviewer in the experiment. After the interview, she terminated the experiment realizing the ill situation the prisoners were in.
In conclusion, it is evident that the lessons learnt from this experiment can be used for the common good of the society. The view that some people should be categorized as bad, even when they are from the same race, class and background, creates a mentality that such persons should be treated in an undignified manner. However, this should not be the case. Instead, the society should help those in dire need of change or reform.