Sociology Essay Sample - Situational, Cognitive, and Systemic Sources of Violence

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1889 Words
Date:  2021-03-30

After the Second World War, psychologists developed diverse viewpoints when it comes to their analysis of violence (Kelman, 1973, p.50). In their analysis, a majority of psychologists emphasized issues to do with personality variables such as the extent to which individuals were receptive of prejudice or individuals tendencies to endorse their authoritarian belief systems at different points in their lives. The majority of persons exhibited violent behavior not primarily because of their personalities as individuals were made to believe in the past years. However, most people exhibited violent behavior in their surroundings due to the powerful influence of social situations persons found themselves in, at different points in their lives. For instance, individuals were bound to act aggressively in a situation whereby their lives was threatened.

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Power of Situation

Depending on the conditions or situations individuals were subjected to in life, people exercised acts of violence against other people in their surroundings on the pretext that their acts were not self-driven but rather propagated by the orders they attained from authorities. Consequentially, it could be proclaimed that obedience facilitated increased incidences of violence as a majority of persons attributed their actions to the authority figure. This was in the sense that if they had not attained orders from an authoritative figure then they would have never taken part in the acts they engaged in, in the first place. Individuals, on most occasions, carried out acts of violence on the pretense that they were just following orders. This would be regardless of it being that there were those who engaged in violence out of their own self-volition or their desire to act in an aggressive manner. Over the years, people have committed mass killings in different regions across the universe all in the name of following orders issued by their superiors. For instance, United States troops who were deployed in Vietnam slaughtered more than 200 unarmed Vietnamese among whom were innocent women and children (Kelman, 1973, p. 50).

Nonetheless, on a number of occasions, people were more willing to follow the decisions or judgments made by their group members even if by following their groups judgments they would be going astray or being on the wrong side of history. People are always more reluctant to break ranks having developed the fear that by doing so they would face dire consequences for their actions. Besides, no one would ever venture into an act, which would bring forth negative consequences as part of his or her life. The people who also take part in the development of policies that guided individuals conduct in the society were also under increased pressure in most instances to conform to the desires of persons in higher authority. However, in situations when group members made flawed decisions, at certain times, it resulted into violence. For example, the decision that was made during President John Kennedys reign referred to as the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba led to the death of a number of the inhabitants of Cuba (Leyens et al., 2000, p. 186). Whenever people thought in groups as opposed to thinking at an individual level, people failed to embrace contingency planning and critical thinking, which are two important elements that assisted individuals to make critical decisions at different times in their lives. When people think and act in groups it is always for the primary purpose of attaining group cohesion and unity. The main reason why the United States government joined in the Iraq war in the year 2003 was the groupthink influence (Leyens et al., 2000, p. 187). Policy leaders who engaged in the making of decisions concerning the invasion of Iraq did that in the hope that they would be able to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq something that did not turn out to be the case even after the United States invaded Iraq on the pretense of working to quell the conflict.

According to the social learning theory developed by Albert Bandura, it was believed that children did not have to attain rewards or undergo experiences that frustrated them in order for them to show aggressive behavior (Lang, 2010, p. 227). Instead, most children learned aggressive behavior from merely looking at how other people in their surroundings conducted themselves. If elderly persons in the surrounding behaved aggressively at different points in time, then children who found themselves in such kinds of situations would develop the misinformed notion that it was okay to exhibit violence as long as it was for the same reasons their role models were forced to act violently. Observational learning has made a good number of individuals to engage in the same crimes that had been committed at an earlier point in their lives. People learn to act or behave in an aggressive manner not only from observing how other people conducted themselves in the real world but also through witnessing incidences of violence conveyed through video games and the media. In situations whereby individuals are exposed to incidences of violence for the most part of their lives, persons would perceive violence as a normal way of life, learn new ways that they could conduct themselves violently, and show their lack of knowledge about violence and its dreadful consequences. This is something that would be evident through the minimized levels of psychological responses to violent occurrences in the middle of a majority of persons who were exposed to violent happenings for a prolonged duration (Lang, 2010, p. 227). Most important, whenever individuals were subjected to consistent violence, persons developed an exaggerated understanding of danger as part of their everyday life. People developed the understanding that their world was even more troubled than it actually was or it already is.

Social learning would also take place through the systems of reward and punishment (Kreidie & Monroe, 2002, p. 10). Similarly, individuals learned how to conduct themselves in certain ways by adopting or internalizing the values and expectations that were developed as part of a group they became a part of in life. For instance, most people became part of gang violence activities by adopting the values, expectations, and practices of the gangs they joined in the hope that they would attain self-fulfillment or acquire a purpose in life for the people who felt lost in life. When children saw elderly people in their surroundings become part of gangs and lead luxurious lifestyles even if that meant engaging in violent activities, such teenagers always wanted to follow the example of such persons in the hope that they would also get to experience the same lifestyle as the gang members. This was mostly when these teenagers did not find everything going so well with them in their societies. After all, who would not wish for a lifestyle that they did not have to struggle much to make ends meet in their surroundings, if people they respected were part of renowned gangs? Teenagers joined gangs in the hope that by doing so they would be in a better position of acquiring rewards such as power, respect and a sense of safety and belonging.

Cognitive Influences in Social Contexts

Persons would also exhibit violent behavior based on how they interpreted and processed the social information they were subjected to at different points in time (Tajfel, 2016, p. 67). Bullies in learning institutions, for example, are always more than willing to put to play threatening cues and acts that they attained from their surroundings by observing and retaining violent trends in behavior, which they were able to execute behaviorally.

The important role played by social cognition is something that could be witnessed through individuals utilization of political propaganda in their efforts to stimulate armed conflict. Malicious persons would always make other people to believe that certain groups of persons were the enemy while in real sense they were not. It was achieved by portraying the other party as diabolical, aggressive and untrustworthy in the eyes of the people they hoped would join them in their fight to attain dominance over another group (Tajfel, 2016, p. 68). Such forms of description usually exhibited the second party as rapacious and subhuman, thus making the people who bear all the deception to believe that acts by the second party were dehumanizing. Therefore, it was important that the oppressor be stopped by every possible means even if that meant using violent acts. For instance, during the Second World War, both the authorities in the government of Japan and the United States government painted their rivals in a negative manner to give their troops the courage to massacre their opponents relentlessly. The soldiers were made to believe that they were going to fight against persons who did not deserve to continue living due to the atrocities that the soldiers were made to believe their opponents committed in their surroundings. Such forms of incitement were thought of as the most effective way of preparing the soldiers for the kill. Authorities in the military from both countries believed that it was quite easy for their soldiers to kill people they were made to believe to be subhuman and savage as opposed to persons they knew to be innocent or without blame. In the Rwandan genocide, the Hutus were incited to kill the Tutsis who were described as cockroaches who did not deserve to be left to continue encroaching into the properties and resources believed to be the sole possession of the Hutus.

Nonetheless, the decisions that leaders made at different points in time were influenced by cognitive factors. Under increased levels of threat and fear, people would always find it difficult to think straight or reason their way out of various situations they found themselves entangled. Individuals would always work towards minimizing things that would overburden their minds by adopting a more simplified view of the world around them. In situations of violence the warring parties would always develop notions of the Good Us versus the Bad Them (Jones, 2006, p. 230). Such perceptions always prevented individuals from seeing the true nature of their states of being and the differences that subsisted between them and other groups of people. While under duress, people in different positions of office usually found it easy to simplify the things they dealt with or find the simplest strategy in going about their daily life activities. When leaders were cornered in a complicated situation such as a conflict, leaders hardly explored diverse arguments concerning a crisis. Similarly, a majority of leaders who found themselves in the heat of a crisis often overlooked the differences that subsisted amongst the opposition and most of them showed reduced tolerance of ambiguity. The turn of events as mentioned in the statements above would only lead to oversimplification and misguided action.

In situations whereby people faced occurrences that involved increased levels of uncertainty, people relied on shortcuts in making the most difficult decisions they encountered without consciously planning their course of action in any kind of situation (Jones, 2006, p. 230). Persons would evaluate and approach current threatening situations based on the events that occurred in the past. This was dependent on the patterns of conflict that were readily accessible in the mind. If, for example, negotiations did not play so well with a previous conflict, then individuals would resort to alternate strategies in resolving their misunderstanding. The reason is individuals would have formulated the misconception that regardless of the amount of effort they would put to play there would be no time that t...

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