Mar 18, 2019 in Articles

Current Research in Social Psychology by Costarelli, S

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Introduction

The paper presents a critique of an article by Sandro Costarelli on “The Pros and Cons of InGroup Ambivalence: The moderating Roles of Attitutdinal Basis and Individual Differences in InGroup Attachment and Glorification” (2015). The writer is a lecturer of Social Psychology in the University of Trento in Italy. The intensively researched work was accessed in the library of Iowa University. The researcher backed his work with numerous relevant and reliable sources that reflect deep knowledge obtained from an extensive research on the area of specialization. It can be seen in the fact that the author refers to more than thirty sources in a bid to support the work. This improves the credibility of the article. In its critique, the paper looks at a number of issues to assess it without bias.

  1. Issue Identified in the Article

The article addresses the issues of in-group ambivalence, the pros and cons that determine group attractions and the moderating roles of individual differences and attitudinal basis that describe in-group attachment, relationships and glorification. The work deals with two studies conducted examining modes of social identification that can shape people’s experience into negative or positive psychological consequences according to their affect-based or cognition-based ambivalent evaluations of the group members. The article also addresses the opposing views of the highly attached participants expressing positive consequences with a prediction of stronger perception of their ambivalent views about their group members but who are not high glorifiers. The highly glorifying members who were not highly attached expressed negative consequence on their cognitive ambivalence leading to negative affective responses. Therefore, the article addresses the issues of group attachments and glorification.

  1. Source of the Issue

Groups form an inalienable part of human’s life as people gather and associate with others individually or in groups. Every person encounters this phenomenon in his/her daily life while being at home with family members, at work being surrounded with co-workers or spending time with friends or relatives. Feelings like glorification and negative responses on the attitudes of group members are common. Often, people do not even realize how much ambivalence affects their relationships in groups and how their social identification represented with attachment to the group or in-group glorification makes them experience positive or negative psychological consequences. The source of the issue is an individual’s mode of social identification that influences his/her experience from his/her affect-based or cognition-based ambivalent evaluations of the members of the group he/she belongs to. The work seeks to explain the differing phenomena of stronger positive perceptions and negative perceptions of in-group ambivalence.

  1. Significance of the Issue

In-group ambivalence is an issue that needs to be addressed to show the pattern of relations and how the society can expect specific conduct from groupings and individual relations. Cognitive behaviors help in identifying the true relationship among people thus showing any that relations can help define and better their in-group relationships. There are attitudes that are associated with ambivalent behaviors, and acknowledging them in academic research helps scholars understand the wider topic of attachments and glorification. There are cons and pros of having in-group ambivalence that can be moderated based on the attitudes and individual differences of group members. Social identification determines social patterns in in-group relations and community wellbeing.

  1. Feasibility of the Issue for Study

The issue chosen for study correlates with the emerging and trending issues in the society where coexistence is vital for world peace. Ambivalent views on attitudinal behaviors and individual differences can be used to define group dynamics that can help to develop future studies. The author can be commended for researching the phenomenon of in-group ambivalence where feelings of glorification and attachment define the current state of society and attitudinal freedom of group association. The study included two groups of students who gave their opinions on group dynamics. The research issues are viable as they are based on the real social and group dynamics. The author, therefore, chose a feasible study that can be quantified with research data and practical conclusions can be drawn from the research.

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  1. Scope of the Literature Review

The author cannot be subjected to too much criticism because of the scope of his literature review which quotes reference materials of 1960s and 70s that refer to the social identity theories. The work is extensively based on researches done by scholars in 1960s (for instance, Scott, 1966) as well as on recent ones as from 2012 to support the study. The article focuses on the behavior of the students and this should have been extended to other groups not in academic world. To get representative results, the scope of the literature review and the study should also focus on other in-groups from other social classes. The instances can include working relationships in organizations, people in the society like religious groupings, and other diverse groupings to increase the authenticity of the work. Despite this shortfall on the author’s part, he focused on scholarly works on social identity theory, group-related emotion studies and modes of social identification with many references quoted. The work was also concentrated on in-group attachment and glorification with emphasis put on emotions and attitudes; a fact that has well defined the scope of the study and helped focus on the results.

  1. Theoretical Context of the Issue

The author focuses on different levels of in-group attachments as well as glorification that are attached to ambivalent feelings and thoughts/feelings of the group members. There are two factors that shape social identification which are attachment and glorification of the group members. This theoretical concept has been referenced once using Roccas, Klar, & Liviatan (2006) research; hence, the author fell short of showing the reader wider expert opinions on the two concepts brought about in the study. The theoretical and empirical work has been directed on one-dimensional construal associated with social identification – a scholarly score due to its narrowing of the research topic. The use of the suggested two-mode conceptualization of social and group identification can be considered as decisive and wise, expanding on the one-dimensional construal that can limit the research and give unrepresentative findings. The author should have, therefore, defined more of his two-mode conceptualization and engage deeper research supported with recent scholarly references.

  1. Hypotheses/Research Questions

The hypotheses are well set as they express the differences in people and how they relate in matters of glorification and attachment when associating in groups. They consider that people have different levels of glorifications and they feel attached based on how they view their group members. According to the constructive patriotism expressed by Schatz, Staub, & Lavine (1999), the author grounds his argument on the fact that individuals need to embrace the negative feelings and attitudes to improve their groupings. He also argues that people with high feelings of their groups (high glorifiers) experience distress if their group is faced with negative aspects from within and from outside. The author has, therefore, expounded and categorized the hypotheses well to a point any reader can understand them and follow through the study. This gives an advantage to the scholarly work as it highlights what the reader is expecting and connects the reader with the conclusions. Costarelli (2015) observes that “highly attached group members” do not feel threatened by having or even expressing their ambivalent views in their groups as the “high glorifiers” feel. The setting of the hypotheses is well done to guide the reader through the study hence it is commendable.

  1. Variables of Interest

There are few variables of interest that have been researched and explained in the work. The test for the research was put over four variables that can be seen from the appendix, where cognitive and affective ambivalence have been subjected to deep study and correlation with factors like in-group glorification, attachment, and attitude structure (Costarelli, 2015, p.36). The variables selected can, therefore, provide adequate correlation thus helping the study to generate plausible and verifyable research results. The work focuses on the study of human subjects with their opinions on grouping and their attitudes. It can thus be narrowed to personal bias, a feature that is not entirely unexpected in this kind of research. With the four variables designed for the research work, the author has presented a quantifiable study that can be relied on based on the results of the study. This, therefore, forms a commendable focus on the variables of interests. Glorification and attachments are also easy to measure and attribute thus all the variables are easily measurable.

Methodology

  1. Description of the Research Design

The author used two sets of subjects to explain his findings on the topic, and thus the two studies were to complement each other in the research. There were eighty-three participants in the first study and eighty-one in the second study. Thus, the sample amounted to a sizeable number of participants in order to get qualitative results. The author could have extended the study to include more people taking part to minimize biases and consolidate the research findings. More participants would generate a stronger correlation to the study hypotheses and the variables. Eighty-one subjects can be termed as small for such kind of research and this suggests that the author needed to include more people.

With the first study having a median population at age of 19 years, it was likely to reflect more concerning the younger generations’ views on in-group ambivalence and leave out the older generations’ opinions. The study involved giving out questionnaires to targeted psychology students and their associated group members. Questionnaires are a recognized tool for data collection but more means should have been added to supplement the study design. Some of these methods could have been focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and possible observations of the group members during an activity. The researchers can be commended for their focus on the two studies that complemented each other in giving a wider view of associations of group members and their values.

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  1. Control of Extraneous Variables

The author expresses the view that the study constituted good internal consistency of the responses that were later averaged to a composite score. This averaging provided the basis for removing extraneous variables derived from the respondents’ views. There was also administering of the discomfort measure that was developed by Elliot and Devine in 1994. This was made to assess attitudinal inconsistency-related discomfort that could have led to extraneous variables during the study. There was also control group for the study that ensured the results were viable and within the acceptable limits. General linear model (GLM) was used to control the results and ensure they were within the acceptable ranges. It can be argued that the author/researcher ensured adequate control of the extraneous variables and minimized extremes.

  1. Assessing Internal and External Validity

The internal validity was constricted with the psychology students who were able to offer their views on in-group ambivalence. The author did not mention whether non-psychology students were viable for the study hence it proved to be internally controlled that only the psychology students were accepted to the study. As it was mentioned earlier, the GLM procedure was used to increase and control validity which was also combined with the use of discomfort measure. The study was conducted at 95% confidence interval indicating that the author checked both external and internal validity of the results and the participants as well. It can thus be argued that both internal and external validity were controlled. Not many defects can be found in this part of the study.

  1. How the Sample Was Obtained

The author used two sets of samples, one including students and their friends in their groups and the other study used a national group as the targeted participants. This representation ensured that bias from college students was minimized and countered by nationals in other social settings. The author is commended for this insight as it adds credit to the study, making it more represented. The participants were chosen on the basis of volunteering for both two studies. This fact elicits more unbiased view and true feeling and attitude of the participants. There are no approaches explained on how the sample size was determined, and this puts a further challenge on authenticating the study. The data does not show what representative part of the identified population was chosen. Mentioning the used participant population might not give the correct representation of the desired population and the sample (n) required. This was a failure of the author where, for instance, he should have projected the student population in the psychology department, and the percentage selected for the study. It forms one of the pitfalls of the research. The basis for the gender inclusion (or exclusion) and the balance of the participants is not elicited hence the author should have provided more information on the selection, composition and the population of the sample. The sampled population consisted of European students and this could have involved participants from other regions.

  1. Measurement Instruments

As it was mentioned earlier, the measurement tools consisted of a questionnaire that had an introductory page to capture the demographics of the participants. There were open and closed types of questions. The participants also responded to seven point rating scale that has been claimed as “appropriate” for accessing affect- and cognition-based experiences of ambivalence since they correspond to generally-accepted tripartite model of attitudes as described by Ostrom (1969). The whole research depended solely on these questionnaires. The author should have used other methods of study to counter any bias that might arise from the questionnaire. Therefore, focus group discussions and other possible tools, even secondary, could extend the study and make it more authentic.

  1. Reliability and Validity of those Instruments

The questionnaire included both open and closed questions that respondents answered, and thus it can be concluded that questionnaire was reliable enough. It was short (consisted only of three pages) solving the aspect of boredom while answering many questions and thus encouraging participants. The questions involved choices that gave the participants easy options making their responses more reliable. Despite using only one instrument, it can be argued that it was reliable and valid for the study, except for the demographics study at the end of the questionnaire. A concern, however, should be raised on how the participants’ information was treated thereafter. It is unclear whether it was confidential or open for public scrutiny. The author should have mentioned the terms of confidentiality of the research tools and the data collected.

  1. Sources of Measurement Error

Measurement errors could arise from data analysis or data collection when the participants were filling the questionnaires. There are no factors detailing how the errors in the study could be minimized. Therefore, the research failed to take precautionary measures on where measurement errors could arise.

  1. Ethical Considerations

There were no ethical considerations on the study as it was not intrusive. Rather, the author opines that the participants were taking part in the research voluntarily and could leave it any time. The researcher should have ensured confidentiality of the study answers of the participants since debriefing was not enough to assure them of safety and protect them from any incident that might have arisen from the study.

Data Analysis

  1. Data Analysis Procedures

The data was analyzed using correlations between the variables of in-group attachments and glorification. There is no much information provided concerning data analysis. This presents questions to the author on what method was used on this purpose and whether it was adequate enough to produce the required results. The researcher should have mentioned the data analyzing software, for instance, SPSS or EPI-info or any other statistical tool for data analysis that was used in this study. The author leaves the readers with questions on how the data was analyzed and reporting was done.

  1. Presentation of Results; Use of Tables

The results are poorly presented with only two tables to expound on this phenomenon; one table has been used for each study group. They demonstrate the descriptive statistics and inter-correlations showing the possibility of the author having used SPSS for data analysis. One table is not adequate enough to support the findings. The results are not fully supported with figures of graphs that could add weight to the analyzed data. The confidence levels set were higher than 95%, but graphs and tables coupled with figures quoted in the discussions are missing, hence compromising the quality of the study.

  1. Interpretation of Results

The results are not well interpreted as there are no other tools to assist in explaining the phenomenon described in the work. The author explicates the outcomes in the discussion about the ambivalence views of the in-group attachments and glorifications. A reader will have to look for the conclusions and the supporting figures to quote the findings of the results hence the author did not present the report well. Moreover, the figures could have been presented in a more effective and organized manner to appeal to the readers.

Communicating Findings

  1. Forums of Findings

The findings were not communicated to other researchers as it is not indicated in this report. The readers expect and assume that, since the author is associated with the University of Trento (Italy), a forum was called to share the results with the public and other research bodies. The author has indicated his contact details, purposely to share or clarify the results and the report. However, he should have included a session on sharing the findings.

  1. Limitations

The author has not mentioned any limitation observed during the study. One limitation could arise from the students comparing their fellow classmates and college mates. It gives a loophole for bias. The author probably needed more funds for the research and engaging a larger group to obtain more conclusive results. The use of the questionnaire alone could limit the outcomes of the study, thus restricting it only to the data interpreted by the author.

  1. Alternative Explanations

There were alternative explanations that the author could have used, especially, explaining the data and the results. Appealing results and interpretation to the reader could be enhanced by using charts, graphs, tables and other colorful images that can help the reader in synthesizing the data. Better correlation of the mentioned variables could be defined based on the questions asked in the questionnaire. If the report was to be rewritten, more graphical elements, charts and proper explanations would be suggested to improve the document.

  1. Implications for the Practitioner

A social psychologist can use the study and apply it to understanding in-group ambivalence as it relates to attitudinal and individual differences associated with in-group attachments and glorifications. The practitioner would use the aspects of glorifications among the group members to assess their attachment in such establishments as schools, companies, communities and any other social gatherings. The information on how the study and its results can be used to change the practitioner’s aspects of expertise is not provided by the author. It is suggested to give such information in a section of “aims and objectives” of the study where the reader can relate the research with implications to the reader and the practitioner.

  1. Implications for Future Research

As opposed to many scholarly works that focus on implications of future research and implications to the practitioner, author Costarelli does not offer this aspect. It induces doubts on the authenticity of his work. There can be suggested more researches to confirm/support his research in future. It is also expected that limitations and needed areas of study will be reviewed. This would help to support the existing work on the aspects of attachments and glorifications in in-group attachments and dynamics.

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