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Biology 202
2001 Third Web Report
On Serendip

Social Dynamics and Differences in the I- function

PaShawnda Briley

Humans have evolved to live a social life in groups. By arranging social life in different ways, cultures affect psychological processes. -Shinobu Kitayama, Japanese psychologist of Kyoto University Society can be divided into two social factions: collectivists and individualists. And within these large divisions are smaller groupings reflecting the whole, such that the Greek systems fraternities and sororities are collectivists and those uninterested, non- members are individualists. The division is not explicit, but rather a continuum of varying degrees of collectivisict and individualistic tendencies (11). A broad definition of collectivism is the tendency to identify self with an in- group, or chosen group of people with common values and beliefs (11). These close and personal relationships allow collectivists to identify better with others self concepts, rather than their own, which corresponds to the tendency to act in ways in which it is personally disadvantageous, but advantageous to the group (5) Individualism is the tendency to identify self without regard for others perspective of themselves, but rather seeking our unique selves (11). Individualist behavior has a tendency to surround enhancing their unique self and behaving in ways that are advantageous to the self (11).

Collectivist and Individualist factions are actually cultures, with their own set of values and beliefs that guide each groups behavior. Humans sense of self is derived from existing social relationships, such that self is influenced by culture and behavior is one of the ways it is manifested in peoples lives (7). To understand where behavior comes from- to understand why people behave the way they do- means learning about values and beliefs (10). The concept of personal identity differs greatly from culture to culture; from Greek organization to Greek organization there are different sets of values and beliefs accentuated (10). Eight main purposes of sororities and fraternities are as follows: sharing relationships, loyalty to the Alma Mater, provide social activities, provide service projects, intellectual vitality, an outlet for inter- college associations and friendships, guidance for moral and ethical growth, and to provide opportunities for leadership (2). Each fraternity or sorority decides how much emphasis to place on each pursuit, which identifies different cultures within a culture, the collectivists faction. An overall goal/theme of organizations within the Greek system revolve around the notion of learning and understanding how other peoples minds work (2). This exemplifies a collectivist tendency to understand others self better than ones own self (14). Culture is mainly a voluntary pursuit, based on the values of the culture, but sometimes an involuntary circumstance. Since Greek organizations are elitist, its limited membership signifies its members willingness to separate (1), (3). This will to separate demonstrates the desire for close relationships so the self can flourish and continue the values deemed of high importance by the culture.

The self is the main focus of both larger and smaller factions. The I-function is a container within the box, the brain, perhaps mediating between the external world and the inner world. The I- function is not the self, only a part of the self., but the other part of self is still ambiguous. The I- function is a center in which behavior can be modified. Action potentials are the common currency in the nervous system, including the I- function, in all organisms. Usually when humans make I statements, we are referring to the I- function and another element combined. The perception of reality is influenced by things in the world and internal mechanisms, like corollary discharge, using the I- function as an informational avenue with road blocks set up by the rest of the nervous system. The I-function navigates the self through a permanent structure, some might describe as reality. The I-function can be activated without input or output of information from the rest of the nervous system, making it a separate, unique entity of neurons. I- function neurons have the ability to recognize information from the rest of the nervous system and input information to the rest of the nervous system.

The self plays a instrumental role in social dynamics, which changes according to the way the self is self- aware and itself in relation to others, which is inherently different for collectivists and individualists. Self- conceptions embody both personal and collective facets, although their relative emphasis will vary depending on the type of culture in which people are raised (14). Collectivists have a fluid I-function within their group, meaning that their self is dependent upon others in their in-group (11). When given the option, collectivist judged people in their group as they would identify themselves and thought out- group members were voted as their behavior being influenced by their self and more than by circumstances (11). Individualists have a more rigid I-function, such that self is a unique entity in which they must personally define (12). So those not in the Greek system are independently searching for themselves, without regard for the Greeks cultural mores.

We are social organisms that thrive on the interpretation and reciprocity of social attention. We are gregarious animals, liking to be in sight of our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorably, by our kind (11). It is too much for the human brain to conceive of a about 6 billion unique individuals (or clones), our perception blurs and rests in the knowledge that it is inconceivable (9). All humans are aware and sensitive to others behavior, because of the instinct to be noticed and belong (11). Perhaps this is the reason that society is so obsessed with physical appearances- it is our inherent need to belong and if we do not belong we could receive negative social feedback, negatively affecting our I-functions (11). Perhaps this social attentiveness is located in the I- function, interpreting the way the world views our actions and interpreting others reactions to our own behavior (11). Social alertness or attention is comprised of personal agency beliefs which is regulated by the internal locus of control (14). These personal agency beliefs are beliefs about the whether an action influences outcomes and beliefs about whether one can do the necessary actions (self- efficacy) (14). If one has high internal locus of control and high self- efficacy, than they are more alert to others reactions to their beliefs (14). If the components of social attention are not congruent, then foreigness could result (11). For example, a handshake, shared by two Americans, has the potential to be either too soft or too hard, making both parties feel like they dont belong producing negative social feedback within the I- function (11). Too much negative social feedback upon the I- function, could lead to a complete deterioration of the self and thus making yourself susceptible to indoctrination from the dominate group (4). This could explain the conforming mentality of people of the Soviet Union, where communism was deemed the optimal social system (4). This information processing view of the self is apparent in daily life. Every time you meet a stranger, your self is constantly interpreting the strangers actions and reactions (4). Humans need a reciprocity of I- functions, necessary to avoid foreigness (11).

For almost 6 million years or more, our ancestors have only survived in groups, whether the human group is a tribe or a sorority (11). Individualists are not loners, but are rather socially promiscuous- exchanging surface relationships among others not in their present in- group (11). By not belonging to a specific in- group, individualists have a more concrete sense of self (11). The fluidity of a collectivists I- function gives them a tendency to have long-term exclusive relationships with the people they share their sense of self with (11). For example, becoming a member of the Greek system is a lifetime commitment. By not allowing others into their in-group of people who share their sense of self, they create a hierarchical order within the in-group, which is one of the major goals of the elitist Greek system (11). Within the Greek structure, the older members are treated with more respect and have less organizational duties because of their longevity.

Individuals in the Greek system differ from non- members in their inspections of the self and the I- function. Collectivists have predetermined friends once they have chosen their in- group, like new members having new Greek brothers and sisters (11). Individualists value their friendships more than collectivists, because they have to put effort into developing the friendships (11). Thus individualists have a weaker sense of us vs. them, because depending on who they associate with at that time, they are the in-group or out- group (11). Collectivists have a strong sense of us vs. them, such that they are loyal to the in-group (11). Greek members are very loyal to the organization, valuing secret signals and dance steps that signify their membership, increasing their positive feedback to their I- functions (11). Individualists have a tendency to maximize the use of their I- functions for self- enhancement, compared to Collectivists use for self- criticism (12). Thus Greek members have a tendency to self- adjust according to social feedback from the group (6), (12). In fact, the Japanese, a collectivists culture, word for self is jibun meaning my share of the shared space between us (12). To the Japanese there is relief when they consider themselves as hitonami or average, compared to an American who would consider the statement an insult (12). Members of Greek organizations are complimented when they are compared to another brother or sister, because they feel that they are all equally elite. Individualists have low context language styles or direct verbal modes in which they realize that the speaker is responsible for a clear, persuasive message (13). Opposingly, collectivists have the tendency to have high context styles, meaning the high use of ambiguous talk, non- verbal subtleties, and interpreter- sensitive values of speech (13). The entire Greek system has many non- verbal forms of communication, including hand signals and symbols. They also have ambiguous talk otherwise known as the Greek call, a tone or throaty noise, that is shouted to other members, especially in the presence of other Greek organizations and non- members.

Circumstances in some societies make being in either extreme of the social spectrum more advantageous. Since individualists are more open and ready to embrace those in other in-groups, their I- functions would get overloaded with negative social feedback if that person lived in Japan (11). The Japanese do not condone nor encourage immigration into the country, believing that it would subtract from the efforts demanded by the in- group (11).

From my friends in the Greek system and other friends who are not members, Ive noticed a tendency between the needs of each persons I- functions. I believe that these differences, rigid or fluid I- functions, are inherently random, because there doesnt seem to be any pattern to the types of people joining collectivists organizations and nor are they aware of the social attention phenomenon. Some of the Greek members at Bryn Mawr display this phenomenon as well, by not speaking to former good friends before they crossed. The fact that becoming a member is defined as crossing increases the loyalty and positive feedback to their I- function from the in- group. Personally, I am a weak individualist, because I still seeks close relationships, typical of collectivists culture. But the cycle is viscous, such that if I do develop more close relationships it could develop into an in-group/ out- group phenomena. But I do believe that my self is solid enough that any negative social feedback I receive, it wouldnt affect my sense of self.

As demonstrated by the Greek system, collectivists have different mental tendencies using the I-function, largely surrounding the theme of a fluid I- function, compared to individualists. The self- concept is largely derived from cultural background, personal attribute, and contextual influence (7). The contextual influence is very strong within the Greek system, such that the attributes of Greek culture perform an integral role in the formation of different I- functions. Humans display different adapting features to the interaction between themselves and the social world, by changes in their internal world and outward behavior. There is no inner self definable apart from the defined relationships of the social world (14).

WWW Sources

1)The Daily Beacon home page,

2)The Role of Fraternities,

3)Students: Do Ethnic Groups at Yale Self- Segregate?, ,

4)C ooperative Learning,

5)Cultural Issues in Mediation: A Practical Guide To Individualist and Collectivist Paradigms,

6)The Social Self,

7)Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, ,

8)Cognitive Effects of Self Construal: Memory, Reasoning, and Collectivism vs. Individualism,

9)OSFA: The General Philosophical Theory Behind This Social Theory,

10)Culture Matters: The Peace Corps cross Cultural Workbook,

11)The Big-I:Ch. 17,

12)My Culture, My Self, Science News Online,

13)Communication Across Cultures Stella Ting- Toomey,

14)Cultural Conceptions of the Self, Human Agency and Entrepreneurial Alertness, ,




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