Real Live Prof

Funny thing happened in Social Psychology last week…it turns out that social psychologist are very interested in the effect that other people and situations have on us. They have even given it a catchy name: The ABC Triad. ”A” stands for Affect or how we feel inside. “B” stands for behavior or what we do. Finally, “C” stands for cognition, or more simply, what we think about as we are doing something.  CaptureCharacterWe might use the Triad to try to understand horrific behavior such as how seemingly normal American soldiers could get caught up in the systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in 2003. Were they simply following orders or were they morally bankrupt? We want to know how such a thing could happen and so we are faced with either blaming the torture (“Behavior”) on the soldiers (“Affect”) or the situation (“Cognition”).  Oddly, when we do something wonderful and awe-inspiring, we are very willing to take the credit.  For example, if students make an “A” on an exam then it is because they studied hard. If they failed an exam, it was obviously the Prof’s fault for making it so crazy hard. (Conversely, if all students pass an exam, it is our fault for not making it harder. If they all fail, then it is their fault and they should have studied much harder.) We often find ourselves between blaming and boasting.

After talking about the Triad, I asked the class about the Christian idea of character (doing the right thing, even if no one is looking). How would character fit into the Triad? We came up with the ABCC Quad. Developing Biblical, Christ-like character allows us to more accurately assess the situation (peer pressure, convenience, or no one is looking, etc), our own feelings about the situation (which are often faulty and self-centered), and then to act rightly and do the right thing, despite the situation and my feelings.

 Maybe I should have made the exam a little easier… 

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Mark Miller

Associate Professor of Sociology at East Texas Baptist University

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