Tag Archives: mind changers

Mind Changers: Tajfel’s Minimal Groups

The BBC Radio 4 programme Mind Changers has just released an audio podcast, Henri Tajfel’s Minimal Groups.

Tajfel’s (right) 1970s research with minimal groups aimed to uncover the minimal conditions necessary for prejudice to develop. For the purposes of the study, participants were divided into two groups based on largely irrelevant information. Although the boys assigned to each group did not know the other group members, had no contact with them, and no expectation of contact with other group members in the future they nonetheless began to identify with their group and to demonstrate a preference for the group’s other members. The findings from Tajfel’s minimal group studies were instrumental to his development, along with John Turner, of social identity theory (SIT), which holds that individuals identify with the groups to which they belong and that they have a tendency to advantage their ingroup.

The Mind Changers podcast on Tajfel’s minimal group research is described as follows:

Henri Tajfel’s interest in identity and group prejudice was sparked by his own experiences as a Polish Jew during the Second World War. As Professor of Social Psychology at Bristol university he developed a series of experiments known as the Minimal Group Studies, the purpose of which was to establish the minimum basis on which people could be made to identify with their own group and show bias against another.

Claudia Hammond re-visits the Minimal Group Studies of 1971, where Tajfel and his collaborators got boys at a comprehensive school to view abstract paintings and then assigned them to the ‘Klee’ group or the ‘Kandinsky’ group, apparently because of the preferences they declared, but in fact entirely at random. Even though the boys didn’t know who else was allocated to their group, they consistently awarded more points to their own group than to the other. So even though who belonged to which group was meaningless, they always tended to favour their own. Continue reading Mind Changers: Tajfel’s Minimal Groups

Mind Changers: Marshmallow Study Podcast

The BBC Radio 4 programme Mind Changers has just released an audio podcast, Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Study. Mischel (left), currently Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology at Columbia University, began his now famous “marshmallow experiments” in the late 1960s and 1970s. In these experiments children were offered a marshmallow or, if they would wait, two marshmallows. Whether a child could resist eating the marshmallow, and the length of time over which they could delay gratification were then recorded. These findings were then analyzed in relation to the child’s future success. The findings from Mischel’s marshmallow experiments have been influential with respect to decision-making, self-control, and “willpower” research. The Mind Changers podcast on Mischel’s research is described as follows:

The psychologist Walter Mischel made his name with his ground-breaking book, Personality and Assessment, in 1968. He followed up with a classic experiment which is still running today.

Seeking to understand how the impulsive behaviour of his own three daughters at age 3 became increasingly regulated and planned by age 4 or 5, Mischel set up his experiment in delayed gratification at the Bing Nursery at Stanford University. Over 6 years he asked more than 300 4-year-olds to decide whether to have one marshmallow right now, or wait and get two, and he examined the cognitive processes which enabled some children to wait.

Hearing by chance how these 4-year olds were getting on in high school years later, Mischel realized that whether or not they’d been able to resist eating one marshmallow in order to get two was now showing a strong correlation with their achievements at school, and even with whether or not they were over-weight. Following the same cohort at 10-year intervals, he’s shown that those who were able to hang on for two marshmallow were less likely to drop out of college, use cocaine, or even go to prison. Continue reading Mind Changers: Marshmallow Study Podcast

Arden House Study Revisted

The final episode of Mind Changers’s fourth series has just been posted online. In this episode¬†Ellen Langer (pictured right) and Judith Rodin’s 1976 Arden House study investigating the role of control in the lives of the elderly is explored. As described on the program’s website,

When the two psychologists set up the experiment so that residents on two floors of the 360-bed home for the elderly would experience some changes in their everyday life, they had no idea that they were introducing factors which could prolong life.
Continue reading Arden House Study Revisted