Sibling Relationship Psychology

Out of all the relationships throughout our lives whether it's a friendship, parent/child relationship or a romantic relationship one of the most unique and powerful bonds we may have is the relationships with our siblings. Our siblings are usually the ones that we share our life journey's with from a young age all the way across to our adult years and during that journey you experience the ups and downs, family woes, jealousy and hostility towards each other, competitiveness, joint responsibilities and most of all the joys of being part of a family unit.

Jeffrey Kluger a science writer and author of the book The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal about Us speaks in this video about not only the common characteristics and behaviours of individual siblings in a given family but he also talks about how parental influences effect how siblings develop and interact to gain attention by cultivating their individual roles within the family household. A particularly interesting segment of the talk is where he speaks about parents and sibling favouritism, he briefly speaks about how opposite gender resemblance is a common factor when parents have a favourite child whether the parents know this or not; for instance the hard headed father may favour the no nonsense daughter because he see's a little of himself within her or the soft speaking mother may favour the quietly spoken son because of their similarities. Kluger describes it as a sense of reproductive narcissism from the parent to their favourite. This is a very profound talk from a very good speaker who cites some of the studies based on the topic of sibling bonds, it  generally is a topic which would likely relate to most people, a great talk and very interesting overall.

Understanding introverts

Normally misunderstood, introverts generally are lower energy and conservative than their extravert counterparts, but because western society often favours the extravert for their gregarious nature and their outwardly focused approach to life and the people within it introverts often get looked over and even worse misunderstood. As written previously in this post regarding introverts sometimes being introverted can be misconstrued as shy, reserved, even unsociable but in actual fact it is just a lower energy way of interacting with their given environment and they are energised by lower energy activities such as reading, socializing with a smaller group of close friends and long walks.

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking speaks in this video below in depth about introversion and their inner strengths and characteristics as well as how some environmental factors such as businesses, classrooms and even group think have their part to play when utilising an introvert personality. She also talks about her own personal experiences on being an introvert and how it affects her, a truly illuminating video from a speaker who clearly has had a lot of experience and done a good level of research on this subject.  

Fundamental attribution error

When an incident or an event occurs (whether negative or positive) the tendency to place a significant amount of blame on a persons personality or characteristics rather than situational factors is quite a common one. This is because we tend to focus more on the person involved by assuming that a person is responsible due to their personality/characteristics and not the conditions around them that they could not have had control over in the first place. This phenomena is what you call the fundamental attribution error.

An example of fundamental attribution error is when you see someone driving and swerving and crashing into a tree, automatically you would think ''what is this person doing?!'' or ''this person is actually crazy?!'' but the real reason for the accident was not because of the person directly but because a pedestrian ran into the road and so to avoid hitting the pedestrian the driver hit the brakes whilst steering round them where their tyres slipped over a wet patch on the road causing the crash. As an observer watching the whole thing take place you would most likely blame the person driving for being reckless if you had not have known what contributed to the crash. The truth is that these multiple factors such as the surprise pedestrian, the wet patch in the road, etc, would have caused the crash regardless of who was behind the wheel, so it wouldn't have just taken a reckless personality to crash the car in this scenario.

A second example of the fundamental attribution error is when you ask a stranger for directions but they give you a seemingly snarky response or they're simply rude to you. Naturally you would peg this person as rude and having a bad personality, but looking past their initial first impression they may have had a bad day putting them in a foul mood or they've just received some devastatingly bad news and you were the first person they have come into contact with since receiving this news. They acted the way they did not because of their natural personality (most people are generally polite to strangers) but their circumstances made them act they way they did, in this case it was just having a bad day which was the cause.

Though there hasn't been one widely accepted causal reason for the fundamental attribution error there has been several theories which have been associated with being a root cause for why people are quicker to blame character traits for their circumstances rather than situational factors. One of the reasons is due to culture; for instance western cultures where people who are more individualistic tend to emphasize the individual over situational factors so they are  

more prone to fundamental attribution error as opposed to people from non-western cultures who tend to emphasize context and situational factors over the individual so they are less prone to the error. A study conducted by social psychologists Michael W. Morris and Kaiping Peng where they tested the hypothesis of a bias toward individual autonomy in American western culture while in there was a bias toward collective or contextual factors in Chinese eastern culture, in the experiment the participants where they were asked to watch an animated cartoon of swimming fish where one fish deviates from several other fish. In the experiment the animation was designed so that it was ambiguous whether the fish was a coordinated group influencing the behaviour of the lone fish or the lone fish acted on its own preference. Over several studies with different sets of participants both Morris and Peng confirmed their hypothesis with the western participants believing the fish acting on its own accord while most of the eastern participants believed the fish acted due to other factors outside of the individual fish.

The just world hypothesis is another possible reason for the fundamental attribution error where people have the belief that people get what they deserve whether good or bad, so if someone finds themselves in a car crash then most people believe that the person involved must have had it coming to them, conversely if someone has won a new car then most people would believe that they deserve it. In either case the just world hypothesis suggests that people in general believe that people get what they deserve. Social psychologist Melvin Lerner conducted an experiment where a group of participants watched a video of a subject complete a set of tasks where when they got a task wrong they would receive an electric shock. The subject pretended to get an electric shock of course. Lerner found that the participants had a low opinion of the subject saying that the subject deserved it and berated their appearance and character. Lerner concluded that the sight of the subject suffering ''electric shocks'' or their general misfortune motivated the participants to devalue the subject to bring about a more appropriate fit between their fate and their characteristics.

Group perceptions

When we observe or first encounter a group we inevitably have an opinion of them, we use all available and necessary information to create a mental picture of that group, and the information we use will be all relative to who we are individually, our experiences and their general impression. As we know opinions and impressions of a group don't always stick and they can and do change the more information we receive about a given group thus changing how we may respond to them whether they're negative or positive. This post will be discussing two aspects of group perceptions; one theory will be regarding how the observer and the observed perceive group decisions and the other will be regarding how groups perceive other groups in relation to themselves.

Group Attribution Error
Studied by social psychologist Professor Scott T. Allison in 1985 the group attribution theory comes in two layers, where a group that makes a decision for a course of action the members within the group believe that the decision outcome was a result of group effort following group norms while on the other hand an observer watching the same group will attribute the decision outcomes as a result of the roles of each individual member of the group having their part to play with the decision making.

For example when a group of advertisers come together to make the decision for the type of advertising campaign they want to use and they all agree on the models they will use, the colour scheme, fonts etc and go ahead and create and their campaign. After their efforts the advertising campaign they all worked on turned out to be a failure due to not getting the kind of response they were looking for. In reflection the members of the group would attribute their failure as a result of the decisions made by the group as a whole while to the contrary an observer such  

as their manager would attribute their decision failures to certain individuals within the group. In other words group members usually believe that their actions are driven by the group as a whole while the observer believes the groups actions are driven mainly by individual personalities within the group. 

In-group bias
The idea that we favour people that we perceive as part of our group is quite a common one. As a result of this we act positively towards the people within our group while anyone who isn't associated with our group are seen as outsiders and therefore are tainted in a less than positive light. This creates an us versus them mentality and can of course be the root of any larger scale animosities such as rival gang fights, racial tensions and hostilities between whole nations.

 A common and smaller scale form of the in-group bias phenomenon can often be found in team sports such as football. Where if you support one football team you automatically assign positive attributes to the team you support and also view anyone else who supports the same team to be associated with your in-group and assign them with similarly positive attributes. Also this means that because you're a supporter of one team this would paint other teams and their supporters as outsiders or potential rivals, and this can result in the your team using such behaviours such as team chants/rituals talking about the other teams shortcomings to feel a sense of superiority over them and even using mockery all resulting in further reinforcing your preference to your own team. Contrary to the idea that being involved in a group depends on an automatic conflict to an outside group this in fact is strictly not the case though it can be a common theme. Marilynn Brewer Professor of psychology at Ohio State University in 2007 stated that people join groups to feel security and a sense of belonging and these qualities are in no relation to having a sense of conflict with other groups what so ever.