The greatest discovery of my generation is that human being can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind’ (James, 1842-1910): Discussing the quote
The underlying concept of the human mind encompasses the complex challenges and aspects that impact and control people’s lives. American philosopher James emphasizes that one can change his life by simply altering the attitudes of mind, which are interchangeably connected to human behavior and social interactions. When examining the human ability to change, it is crucial to understand that change can concurrently alter one’s emotions and attitudes toward the surrounding world and physical bodies. Crafter (2015) suggests that change can be regarded as a transition, therefore, providing more insights on a change as a “dynamic and ongoing” notion (p. 220). The concept of transition is based on the underlying psychological component regarding altering one’s sense of self. Moreover, Crafter (2015) links the change to one’s identity development throughout the lifespan. Therefore, analyzing the change in the context of human life and psychology of mind is essential to understand how individuals can alter their lives through the change in mind and attitudes.
Examining Change through Self-Identity
The attitude of mind can be examined within the intricate dimension of an individual’s sense of self. Hence, the various changes in human life directly affect the alterations of self and, ultimately, life. More dramatic modifications establish the concept of rupture, which illustrates different psychological processes engaged in significant change. Zittoun identified four primary forms of rupture that a person can experience in life:
- change in the cultural context,
- change of a person’s sphere of experience,
- change in the relationships and other interactions,
- change from within a person (Crafter, 2015).
Therefore, understanding the self-identity of oneself over a lifespan is indeed a complex concern from the psychological perspective. The main reason for such a complicated concept is grounded in humans’ commitment to the idea of stability in life and recognition that it can be overwhelmed with instability and change.
Theory of Mind Development
With regard to more scientific approach and psychological research, it is important to consider the theory of mind development developed by Premack and Woodruff in 1978. According to the theory, humans can recognize the various mental states, including “thoughts, feelings, and beliefs,” and can understand others’ mental conditions (Holliman and Critten, 2015, p. 64). The theory of mind comprises two pivotal processes, such as recognizing individual mental states and those of other people, which might be different from our mental conditions. Thus, one might assume that the theory explains why everyone’s life is different as it is closely linked to people’s thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and beliefs. Consequently, human beings have diverse abilities regarding their decision to alter their attitude of mind and change their lives.
One of the critical interdisciplinary approaches to examine the meaning behind James’ saying is developmental science. It represents the scientific study of age-specific changes, including alterations in “thinking, emotions, behavior, and social relationships” (Holliman and Critten, 2015, p. 50). For instance, the issue of egocentrism and its development implies that people have a unique worldview, while the theory of mind demonstrates that other people might have different perceptions of the world. An individual’s worldview is deeply embedded in one’s attitudes and social behavior impacted by internal and external factors. Hagan (2015) asserts that the strong attitudes of oneself are most resistant to change. Moreover, implicit attitudes can be regarded as “a mechanism for changing behavior” in analytical conditioning through cognitive associations (Hagan, 2015, p. 304). Nevertheless, people tend to constantly change their behaviors within different contexts and life stages. Consequently, they are able to change the direction and strength of their attitudes.
Learning and Cognitive Theoretical Models
One can examine James’ thought through the concept of perceived behavioral control. The latter represents a person’s belief that he or she can attain the behavior, which serves as a function of one’s control beliefs about having the capacities and resources and perceptions about having the power of such abilities to affect change. Furthermore, a change in human behavior and attitudes, which can be viewed as a consequence or interchangeable process, is grounded in learning and cognitive theories. To be more specific, these are the theory of reasoned action (TRA) and the theory of planned behavior (TBP). Two theoretical models are crucial for understanding the conditions under which attitudes become efficient predictors of behaviors. They are based on the cognitive processing of attitudes with “inputs, generalized processes, and outputs” (Hagan, 2015, p. 304). Nevertheless, the social cognition models are considered the leading theoretical approaches in this psychological field.
According to the TRA, an individual’s expectations about behavior and evaluations are summarized to frame an attitude towards such conduct. The TRB relies on the perceived behavioral control, which affects human behavior directly and through shaping behavioral intention, even though attitudes and subjective norms impact the behavior through behavioral intention. Examining such models is an essential part of the attitude research as they both comprise the informed interventions to change human behavior. As described by Hagan (2015), such theoretical frameworks can even be applied in analyzing the health behavior of individuals regarding their efforts to improve or prolong the quality of life. Hence, TRA and TRB demonstrate the different approaches to explaining behavioral change and attitude formation, which might directly impact human life and its quality.
To conclude, understanding and changing people’s attitudes and behavior is a problematic interconnected concept. Both the psychological and philosophical studies make significant contributions in learning and explaining the complex structure of the human mind and its implications on one’s life and personal development. Human ability to change is a flexible process and is critically dependent upon the internal and external aspects of human life, surrounding, social groups, and nurtured beliefs and values. Such a psychological perspective support James’ vision of the human capacity to change a life by consequently altering attitudes and human behavior. The development of attitudes emerges early in life, meaning that every individual is socialized into specific attitudes through family, friends, media, education, politics, and religion. Thus, one generally cultivates some coherence between the personal attitudes.
Using topics from two different blocks, discuss how using a range of research methods has helped to develop our understanding of these topics
Human Relationships and Individual Understanding of Morality
A moral dimension of each person’s life and conduct within a particular social environment encompasses a broad spectrum of biological, psychological, and social factors impacting one’s life and moral decisions. As such, the core moral issues of the human development process imply their strong correlation with an individual’s experience in a similar way as “vision, language, and memory” (Ibbotson, 2015, p. 95). Moreover, Ibbotson states that the crucial moral foundations can predict individual political ideologies that become more evident later in life. By studying morality, one can better understand the basic principles of right and wrong embedded in the development of moral judgments throughout childhood.
Moral Development Theory
It is important to note that the considerations regarding what is right and wrong are rooted in culture and, thus, they vary based on different aspects of cultural life. From the psychological perspective, morality can be examined through the theory of moral development developed by Piaget, Kohlberg, and Turiel. The psychologists’ coherent work in the second half of the twentieth century also attempted to explain how children view right and wrong notions (Ibbotson, 2015). Haidt and Joseph claim that specific dimensions of morality are altered by culture and represent the moral foundations theory (MFT) (Ibbotson, 2015). According to the researchers, morality is innate to human development as it helps people address adaptive challenges, highlighting the importance of the evolutionary psychology approach to understanding morals. Consequently, each culture establishes unique virtues and institutions based on these moral foundations, promoting the diversity of moral perceptions.
Social Psychology and the Concept of Help
When analyzing the individual considerations of the moral principles and related actions shaped by human behavior, one should understand that it poses particular challenges. They are developed through each person’s thoughts concerning the right and wrong actions and conducts, specifically in the situation when another person needs help. Therefore, recognizing such internal challenges comprising the question of help emphasizes the role of personal values and thoughts about good moral actions. As described by Manning and Levine (2015), helping and moral imperatives or implicit assumptions about the worth of helping are generally displayed in media coverage of natural disasters. Many presume that people are obliged to help, given that not helping is regarded as a morally questionable concern. However, the social identity approach to investigating the helping behavior requires the study of helping within a broader theoretical framework. To be more specific, the social psychology experts define prosocial behavior within the topic of helping other people, which is commonly used as an interchangeable concept akin to helping and altruism.
A moral philosopher Peter Singer argued that a wealthy person could afford to save the life of another individual who might be facing poverty-related issues. Furthermore, one cannot disregard the moral connotations in analyzing the concept of helping, which also varies according to the person’s perspective, helper, or social psychologist involved. Manning and Levine (2015) developed a similar line in understanding helping and its moral implications in the study of moral development in general. The individual’s prosocial conduct might result from childhood experiences. Within a broad extent of helping behaviors, it is crucial to concentrate on the development of human emotions and identities as well. Such a psychological perspective asserts that human emotions can similarly encourage social identities or shape group norms.
Psychology of Social Influence
Such a psychological domain examines the influence of groups and existing authority and how it affects people’s actions and moral decisions. The psychology of social influence is an essential approach to understand attitudes and behaviors in terms of three main pillars, such as “compliance, conformity, and obedience” (Gibson, 2015, p. 41). According to Milgram’s experiments and the contribution of scholars such as Foucault, the subtle concept of social influence at work or everyday life implies that simple obedience is merely a part of the equation. In addition, the tendency to consider social groups as a negative influence on the rational and moral person is deeply embedded in the complex psychological study. In studying the issue of the Holocaust, it is essential to understand whether it was a general inclination to follow the crowd or to obey orders that allowed the Holocaust to happen. Reicher and Haslam believe that good people can be involved in doing bad things when groups are incapable and unwilling to exercise their authority to enforce democratic principles; the role of group processes is undermined.
Additional Psychological Domains
The categorization and attribution contribution in psychology helps to explain the morality and human decisions to do good or bad actions. Lazard (2015) believes that when people expect others to help an injured person, they draw on helping behavior categories to interpret the situation. Finally, neuropsychology might also be an effective tool in analyzing human relationships and moral decisions. Toates (2015) argued that moral foundations theory is an effort to determine the basic components of morality. When an individual requires help in distress, psychologists debate over the ethical concerns of biological or social contexts regarding this problem. The biology-oriented approach distracts oneself from the sociocultural and economic causes of distress. However, when someone cannot change a person’s social world, it is crucial to consider biological treatments.
To sum up, human relationships are inherently linked to the concept of moral behavior and contribute to regulating the moral sense of the person. The theoretical framework of moral development, social psychology, the psychology of social influence, and additional fields, including neuropsychology, considerably contribute to understanding the core of human moral decisions. Each of the scholarly approaches is different; however, they explain the underlying reasons why people make right or wrong decisions and individual perceptions of morality from multiple perspectives. Human behavior and social relationships are closely tied to personal attitudes towards moral development, regardless of the primary indicators of the final behavioral outcomes. Whether it is an emotional condition, cultural experience, group influence, categorization, or biological context, human beings are dependent upon each of these processes that define their moral development and their inclination toward good or bad actions.
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