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  • Who is Kenneth Gergen. Does he advocate an empirical approach to studying social psychology? Why or why not?
  • What is conformity and what major research has been done on this topic?
  • According to Freud, what is repression and how can it be addressed?
  • What is “scapegoating” and how does this phenomena function within society?
  • Who is Brentano and what influence did he have on Freud?
  • Expert Answers

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    1. Kenneth J. Gergen, PhD, is the Mustin Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College. He does not advocate an empirical approach to the study of social psychology because he believes knowledge is a social construct, partly created by the act of studying it.

    2. Conformity is a social influence that changes a person's belief or behavior to fit in with a group. Asch's pioneering experiments showed that:

    • Conformity tends to increase when more people are present.
    • Conformity increases when the task becomes more difficult as people turn to others for guidance on how to react.
    • Conformity increases when other group members are of a higher social status. When people think others in a group are more powerful, influential, or knowledgeable, they are more likely to go along with the group.
    • Conformity tends to decrease, however, when people are able to respond and have support from at least one person in the group.

    3. According to Freud, repression is the sublimation of one's socially unacceptable desires by moving them from the conscious to the subconscious mind, keeping them buried where we do not have to deal with them. Repression can have a protective function, keeping us within socially acceptable norms, but can also be harmful when too much of it results in psychological dysfunction. Freud believes repression can be addressed by psychoanalysis and the liberation of repressed desires.

    4. Scapegoating involves employing a stand-in for one’s own failures so that one doesn’t have to face one’s own weaknesses. In society, it allows a person to assign blame to something or someone else if they fail to achieve the desired outcome. It is not scapegoating if illegitimate preferential treatment or nepotism is actually taking place.

    5. Brentano was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and psychologist. Brentano's discussion of unconscious ideas was published the year Freud began his university studies and may have influenced his views on psychology and the unconscious influences.

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