January 4, 2012

With increasing new communication technologies being made available to children and young people, there will always be a potential for them becoming a victim to online bullying. Online bullying, e-bullying or cyberbullying, is defined as follows: ‘the use of information and communication technologies such as email, [mobile] phone and text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal websites and defamatory personal polling websites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or a group, that is intended to harm others.’

Children and young people are keen adopters of new technologies, but this can also leave them open to the threat of online bullying. An awareness of the issues and knowledge of methods for dealing with online bullying can help reduce the risks. The issue of cyberbulling must be specifically addressed within a school/academy’s anti-bullying policy.

 Text Messaging

Bullying by text message has become an unfortunate and unpleasant by-product of the convenience that SMS (short message service) offers. Children should be advised to be careful about giving out their mobile phone number, and ask that those that have their number never pass it on. If only known and trusted friends know the number, it is less likely to be abused in this way. If being bullied by text message, children should immediately seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. They should not respond to the messages, but should keep a detailed diary recording information such as the content of the message, the date, the time, the caller ID or whether the number was withheld or not available. If space permits, the messages should also be stored on the phone in case they are needed later as evidence. Abuse in the form of bullying should be reported to the mobile phone company who can take certain steps to try to resolve the situation, and in some instances it may also be necessary to involve the police. In some cases it may be necessary, or easier, to change the mobile phone number or to purchase a new phone.

Like bullying by text message, email provides a reasonably ‘anonymous’ method of communication which bullies have seized upon to harass their victims. If being bullied by email, children should not respond to the messages, but should seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. Likewise if they receive an email message from an unknown sender, they should exercise caution over opening it, or ask an adult for assistance. Don’t delete the message but keep it as evidence of bullying. If the email is being sent from a personal email account, abuse should be reported to the sender’s email service provider. Many email programs also provide facilities to block email from certain senders. If the bullying emails continue, and the email address of the sender is not obvious, then it may be possible to track the address using special software. Email service providers may be able to offer assistance in doing this. In certain cases, it may be easier to change the email address, and exercise caution over who this new address is given to.

Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms

Aside from the general risks of using chat rooms and instant messaging (IM) services, these services are also used by bullies. Children should be encouraged to always use moderated chat rooms, and to never give out personal information while chatting. If bullying does occur, they should not respond to messages, but should leave the chat room, and seek advice from a teacher, parent or carer. If using a moderated chat room, the system moderators should also be informed, giving as much detail as possible, so that they can take appropriate action.

Instant Messaging (IM) is a form of online chat but is private between two, or more, people. If a child is bullied or harassed by IM, the service provider should be informed giving the nickname or ID, date, time and details of the problem. The service provider will then take appropriate action which could involve a warning or disconnection from the IM service. If a child has experienced bullying in this way, it might also be worth re-registering for instant messaging with a new user ID.


Although less common, bullying via websites is now becoming an issue. Such bullying generally takes the form of websites that mock, torment, harass or are otherwise offensive, often aimed at an individual or group of people. If a child discovers a bullying website referring to them, they should immediate seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. Pages should be copied and printed from the website concerned for evidence, and the internet service provider (ISP) responsible for hosting the site should be contacted immediately. The ISP can take steps to find out who posted the site, and request that it is removed. Many ISPs will outline their procedures for dealing with reported abuse in an acceptable use policy (AUP) which can be found on their website. Additionally, many websites and forum services now provide facilities for visitors to create online votes and polls, which have been used by bullies to humiliate and embarrass their fellow pupils. Again, any misuse of such services should be reported to a teacher, parent or carer who should then take steps to contact the hosting website and request the removal of the poll.

Specific issues regarding online bullying should be dealt with by the school or academy under its existing anti-bullying policies.


Digital Ethics Symposium

September 21, 2011

I will be fortunate to be attending the International Symposium on Digital Ethics, October 28th, at Loyola University Chicago.
This day-long symposium will feature Jane McGonigal, author of the NY Times bestseller Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. 

Featured presenters will include:
Charles Ess, Aarhus University
Miguel Sicart, IT University Copenhagen
Sally Wyatt, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences
Michael Zimmer, Univesity of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Luciano Floridi, University of Hertfordshire
Erin B. Reilly, Annenberg Innovation Lab
As well as a group of papers accepted through a juried competion.
The conference will be exploring ethics in regard to privacy, gaming, research, green computing, identity, citizenship and more.
Follow me on Twitter @albinwallace for regular updates during the symposium

Digital Psychopomp: The Online Personification of Death

May 17, 2011

Death as a character in art and literature has always fascinated me. Like many people, my first encounter with Death as a character was in Bergman’s 1957 film, ‘The Seventh Seal’ and its many parodies, culminating in the hysterical  visitation of Death in Monty Python’s ‘Meaning of Life’. Since before medieval times, Death has appeared in Western art work as the Grim Reaper, and of course possibly the earliest description of Death appears in the Revelations of St John, “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”

There are too many instances to cite them all, although the character of Death is usually portrayed as a skeleton, sometimes in hooded robes and carrying a scythe. The enigmatic face of Death is one which is often expressionless, sometimes with a fixed grin, usually hard, cold and austere. His role is variable, sometimes portrayed as architect, instrument,  judge, mediator or ferryman.

The portrayal of Death through medieval, renaissance, 18-19 century and modern culture may be seen in literature, visual arts and music. More recently Death has also been portrayed in online media through websites including Facebook, Twitter, Gaming and Blogs, most notably as an assumed identity. It is interesting to note the ways that Death is portrayed and also the reasons why. Death is used as a vehicle for humour, artistic expression, religious or philosophical expression, identity, threat, a call for help, understanding death. Death is sometimes portrayed as a sentient being and sometimes as a psychopomp.  So, what is online identity about?  How useful is the online personification of death in understanding the process of dying or the state of death? How different are the online personifications of Death to other artistic expressions or are they the same? Are there common themes, taxonomy, means of expression?

The Angel of Death or the Grim Reaper, appears in various depictions of Death as a sentient being. Most recently Death appears as a fictional character in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Death is also a character in Konami’s Castlevania video game series. The DC Comic Book Series, The Sandman features Death as a character, as do Marvel Comics. In online gaming Death appears as a character in both Malice and Final Fantasy V. In other literature and the visual media Death appears in Fullmetal Alchemist, South Park, Family Guy. Death also appears in an eponymous play by Woody Allen.

If there is anyone out there willing to share their experiences in the manipulation of Death as an online persona, I would be pleased to hear from you. I have some simple questions to put to you by e-mail. No data will be used in a disparaging way and your response will remain anonymous. If you would be willing to answer some questions by e-mail (taking up no more than 15 minutes of your time, please drop me a line at

Life and Death

February 2, 2011

It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time.- Simone du Beauvoir

Digital Dharma

January 13, 2011

Digital Dharma

View from hotel

Mumbai Calling

I certainly was not expecting to see a satellite dish poking out of a Mumbai slum dwelling, but that probably tells you a bit about my bourgeois preconceptions. Why not, indeed? The view from the hotel terrace is amazing. Mumbai is big. Really big. Not Hitchhiker’s Guide big,  but big nonetheless. From one side I can see the Arabian Sea and on the other side, butting snuggling up against the hotel wall is a…..what? A shanty town? A slum? A community, certainly.

A colourful cartload of fruit is pushed through a group of teenagers playing cricket. A man builds an annex to his house with a sheet of corrugated iron. Children dressed like English public school girls walk through the dust. An elderly lady relieves herself under a tree. I look away quickly, realising that seeing these scenes through Western lenses is voyeuristic.

There is enough that is familiar here to unsettle an Australian/British middle-class sensibility. I found quickly that a temporary suspension of my preconceptions of order and logic is necessary. Yet I am drawn towards the use of ICT in this world that appears so strange to me. In the slums, everyone appears to possess a mobile phone. Denial of European concepts of housing, sanitation and clothing do not appear to preclude access to voice and data.

In his 1993 collaboration with Bob Neuwirth, John Cale referred to “Mozambique Electronique” as a forward glance to the way in which telecommunications would connect Third World (?) countries. The dynamics of the mobile phone in Mumbai are fascinating. Although one could describe the city as being languidly chaotic, the appropriation of contemporary telecommunications seems superficially at odds with the pulse of the place. Certainly it is modern, rational, capitalist, enlightened on the one hand, but also a sense of decay and growth not just at the edges but from the centre. Yet it represents one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

And through all of this, the unmistakable heartbeat of data and voice pump through all levels of this stratified society, connecting, reconnecting and helping define the rhythm of this ambiguous and contradictory city.

To Dadar and Back

It caused me to pause for thought when I realised that the hotel has 5 armed guards at all times. Getting a cab was problematic. It is not safe to flag one down as you risk getting run down in the process. One of the nice guards goes outside the hotel precinct and commandeers one for you. Then the fun starts. As with many things Mumbai, health and safety is an inconvenience that does not trouble this city. Traffic lights exist merely for decoration and the car horn is the major tactical instrument at the driver’s disposal. Several times I wondered if either the Australian or the British embassies would be obliging enough to repatriate the tangled mess of my body in the inevitability of my bloody demise in a Mumbai cab. Miraculously, I survived the ride, and after the cab getting lost several times (yeah, right) I was deposited marginally closer to the conference venue than from where I started out.

I was greeted by the charming conference organisers at the Navinchandra Mehta Institute of Technology and Development and I went through the bureaucratic business of conference registration filling in innumerable forms in triplicate one of which, touchingly inquired about my hobbies. I obliged by sharing my somewhat dull interests in excessive detail. Having received my conference pack and noting with a warm fuzzy feeling that my paper was published in the proceedings, I decided to take a walk in the surrounding area.

The Institute is in the university precinct and I enjoyed strolling around the campus dodging the motor scooters and lethal rickshaws. I suddenly found myself in a  market and every cliché came screeching into my head. Four sensory experiences occurred simultaneously.

Firstly, the noise. The rapid-fire chatter of bartering and street-talk provide a soundtrack like no other. Take a listen to the third part of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music if you want an approximation.

Secondly, the smells hit the inside of your nose and the back of your throat as if you had shoved your head into a spice rack and inhaled the entire contents. Coriander is the most prevalent. Chillies, onions and cardamom were also recognisable, but the air was infused with so many strange fragrances it made me lightheaded.

Thirdly, the colours are so bright and iridescent that they make your eyes water. Are tomatoes really supposed to be that red? The chillies that green, and the oranges that… Fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices piled high on trestle tables or on the crumbling pavement along with ubiquitous chrysanthemums in garlands and wreaths or stored as petals in large earthenware pots. Less visually appealing were the large portions of dead animals that punctuated the otherwise colourful vista. A fly-ridden goat’s head with a slightly annoyed expression on its face sat at a jaunty angle on the ground, its tongue turning slightly green and lolling gargoylishly from its mouth. I tried not to think too hard about what I had for dinner last night.

The fourth sensory assault was kinaesthetic, as street urchins tried to pick my pockets. Luckily, being reasonably tall I had cunningly placed my cash and phone in a top pocket which was out of reach. I half-heartedly waved them away and they gave up with remarkable good humour and went looking for other tourists, which I noticed, for the first time and with alarm, were absent. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb.

I moved on swiftly, choosing a road at random and walked towards what I guessed was the north. Five minutes into this walk I encountered a group of about 20 men walking towards me, a handcart at their centre. The man leading this procession was swinging what I assumed with my amazing powers of perception was a censer as it emitted a fragrant smoke. I stepped to one side and stopped as I realised this was a funeral procession. The deceased lay on the handcart, wrapped in white linen and with a garland of chrysanthemums around his neck. He had been an elderly gentleman with a white beard and hair and an avuncular expression on his face. He jiggled gently on the cart and seemed to be enjoying his last ride. I silently wished him good karma in his next life and waited for the procession to pass.

Further up the road I came across the Bengal Cricket Ground and stopped to watch the match for a while. A vendor was selling coconuts as refreshment nearby along with various brightly coloured and sweet-smelling snacks which I passed on, the image of the goat’s head still fresh in my mind. A small Hindu temple stood on the boundary of the ground where prayers were being offered, presumably to influence the outcome of the match. A couple of those might’ve been handy during the recent Ashes tour I thought with a sudden surge of bitterness.

Walking on, I entered what seemed to be a Muslim neighbourhood, the dead giveaway being the huge mosque towing over the neighbourhood with a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer from a precarious looking minaret. It had been several hours since I had left the conference registration and I was flagging slightly in the heat. A roving taxi driver noticed me and touted for a fare. As I had been in Mumbai for 24 hours, I considered myself streetwise and haggled the cost. We agreed 50 rupees (about 70 pence). After getting in the cab he immediately upped the fare to 100 rupees and a good-natured argument began. By the time we had reached the hotel, we had settled on 80 rupees. However, as I had enjoyed the interchange I gave over the full 100 rupees and shook his hand. The last time I saw him, he was on his mobile phone, no doubt telling his mates what a twonk Westerners are. This one, anyway.

Fuzzy Logic

And so to work. Having been had by the naughty rogue cab driver yesterday I was not be caught again and sharing a cab to the conference with a professor from Korea (hi,  Byoung) I paid the metered fare and not a rupee more. At the conference we were greeted with cardamom flavoured coffee so sweet you could feel your fillings melt. Prayers for a successful conference were offered up to the Hindu god, Ganeesh accompanied by some chanting and incense burning. Ganeesh is the elephant god of plenty and a jolly chap he looked indeed, beaming across the proceedings and waving his trunk in a benedictory way.

The keynote speeches were somewhat mixed in quality and I was initially disappointed until one of the speakers said something that I violently disagreed with. That cheered me up no end. There was an interesting discussion around the four I-s of social media (involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence) and some interesting linking of web 2.0 with multiple intelligences. After some workshops on neural networks, fuzzy logic and mobile technologies sounded good but frankly went way over my head we paused for lunch. I was delighted to see some rather literal translations of English dishes which although sounding alarming were delicious as they were flavoured with spices I had never encountered before. My favourite was the mushroom omelette which was translated (rather poetically I thought) as “fried smashed eggs with inimitable fungus” and which in Bill Bryson style I took pleasure in ordering verbatim.

After some lively discussions on social networking as a disruptive innovation, it was suddenly my turn to present a paper on the effect of learner response systems on mathematics achievement in years 7 and 8. Despite the rather dull title it seemed to go down a treat complete with smiling faces and polite applause. I even had some questions that I was able to answer nearly coherently. It was a long day and I took a stroll by sea before dinner looking out over the Worli Bridge. The beach is filthy but people didn’t seem to mind, playing ball, strolling and sitting watching the spectacular red sunset. There were three distinct things that reminded me that I was not walking along an Australian or English beach (as if these were sandy extremities that could be classified within the same genus). The first was the herd of cows (presumably sacred) that wandered nonchalantly along the shoreline look for all the world as if at many minute they would grab a boogie board and engage in some bovine surfing. This was however, extremely unlikely as the sea was the colour, texture, shape and smell of a cow pat.

The second thing that drew my attention was a man wearing a loin cloth, a garland of flowers and with long plaited red hair. I assumed he was some kind of religious figure as he walked briskly along the sea wall accosting the canoodling couples and extorting rupees from them in exchange for a blessing after which he theatrically flagellated himself with a large bullwhip which I suspected was more for aural effect than self-mortification. Anyway, he seemed to be doing pretty well out of this scheme with a 100% success rate from the couples he approached. Good luck to him and them.

The third thing was very curious indeed to a Western eye. A large concrete platform bore the body of a dead person which was being eaten by a flock of crows and what looked like kites and possibly a vulture. I did not spend too much time on ornithological analysis. It later transpired that this was probably a Zoroastrian funeral. Given the level of pollution in the city, this was probably a greener means of disposing of human remains than cremation, although there was an “electrical crematorium” just around the corner as well. So much for a stroll along the beach.

The conference organisers had organised a delightful “evening of culture” for us. Traditional and modern Indian dance performed by students of the university was charming, entertaining and genuinely moving. A particularly dramatic dance about Shiva was even slightly alarming in its dramatic execution and the story of Krishna was executed in a devotional and touching way. It was a lovely performance.

The dinner which followed was unlike any conference I have ever attended. For a start, it was in a tent which was a nice touch. The food was far more delicious than any conference I have ever had. Curries, soups, salads and sauces that almost vibrated with colour and flavour. It. Was. Fantastic. The fact that they were served on plastic plates with plastic cutlery and there were insufficient (plastic) chairs and (plastic) tables did not detract in any way from the meal. It was a happy event indeed.

On return to the hotel, I ordered an Indian (Black Dog) whiskey  which was delicious but tasted more like rum. A very good day indeed.

About 20 metres down the road from the hotels another world. Noise and pollution from scooters, motorbikes, ancient taxis, trucks, motorised rickshaws again assault the ears. Children play in the dirt, women weave baskets, men stir large woks of curry. Teenagers stand around languidly using expensive mobile phones. There is a simultaneous sense of chaos and lethargy. Everyone seems exhausted and people are asleep everywhere. On the pavement, in the gutter, in trees, in the road, standing up and sitting down. It is very, very difficult to make sense of the apparent  poverty and indolence without bring a neo-colonial bias to the scene. Can one ever step outside one’s own cultural values and beliefs and fairly and sympathetically understand cultures that differ so greatly from one’s own.

I have learned a great deal from this conference. There were some wonderful presentations. I was introduced to a conceptual framework to support self-directed learning in distance education. I heard about e-learning on the semantic web and intellectual property rights in podcasting. I heard for the first time about e-learning and synthetic learning outcomes and online teaching using metaphors. I was intrigued by the concept of e-trust (“an attitude of confident expectation in an online situation or risk that one’s vulnerabilities will not be exploited”, Corritore).

I fear that I took more away from this visit than I brought to it.

January 2011

The contribution of experimental approaches in informing understanding of social cognition.

March 2, 2010


This essay considers the extent to which experimental approaches have contributed to understanding about social cognition, that is, about the way in which people perceive, understand and explain events and situations in their social environment. Experimental social psychology attempts to capture the intricacy of social perception, cognition and attribution in a laboratory situation. When implementing experimental research in social psychology, data are often sought about how people react to and interpret social situations. In order to achieve this, whilst maintaining control over the experiment, researchers have developed numerous strategies to make the experiment reliable in a laboratory One method used to achieve this is through asking research participants to respond to vignettes conceived by the researcher. A vignette is a brief narrative of an occurrence, situation or behaviour. An example of a vignette is McArthur’s (1972) study testing a model of attribution in which she used descriptions of 16 different behaviours to measure the effect on causal attributions made by participants. As a rule, social experiments based on vignettes show that people use information relating to consensus, consistency and distinctiveness in ways predicted by the theory.

Experimental approaches in social cognition

Social cognition uses questions that can be tested using experimental designs. It can also use closed format questionnaires, or questions relating to values or beliefs. These approaches do not, however, necessarily reveal how people feel about certain issues. This element of social cognition may need a different method, which is one in which unprompted meanings and interpretations of thinking emerge naturally rather than through the imposition by researchers of quantitative measures and comparative questionnaires, which all have their limitations in eliciting open responses. As the social world involves not only basic cognitive processes but also the environmental context in which social cognition takes place, the experimental study of social cognition allows only particular types of tasks to be undertaken in a laboratory situation, and certain types of questions to be asked. However, the experimental study of social cognition does attempt to make generalisations about how information is processed by people with respect to the social world. Such research may also contribute to a greater understanding of people by providing data about their motives. Recent research into social cognition moves the locus of control more towards the individual, and away from the mechanics of the cognitive system. For example Ruscher et al (2000) argue that in situations where we are dependent upon others as well as ourselves, we may seek out information that sits outside the schema.

Schematic processing

Experimental studies may be used to investigate schematic processing. Schematic processing is an efficient, but limiting, method of processing information based on schemas, which are structures which contain specific knowledge. The fundamental cognitive process involved in schematic processing is categorisation. Although schematic processing is generally seen as an effective and efficient way of interpreting social experiences it may produce biases or perceptual distortions that are problematic. Schematic processing may be described in terms of being an automatic process, occurring without any conscious human control. The concept of motivation however, complicates matters. This is evident in the extent to which, within the cognitive processes, people may automatically make decisions in the context of uncertainty. Fiske and Taylor (1991) have raised this issue as being problematic. It can be seen that although schematic processing is mainly automatic and operating below conscious levels, it can be influenced by motivational conditions and purposes.

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory proposes that people differentiate between internal factors and external factors in their attempts to understand the causes of behaviour. It aims to describe and clarify the processes involved in attributing reasons to people’s behaviour. This is done through asking questions relating to information processing and decision making. Certain behaviour may be explained through internal factors or through external factors. Heider (1958) argued that all attributions of causality could be interpreted in terms of these two factors and he saw them as representations of an aspect of causality. He argued that the more a person’s behaviour is attributed to internal factors, the less it may be attributed to external circumstances. However, it may also be argued that attribution theories place an over-reliance on the rationality of human reasoning. Another important issue to consider with respect to attribution theory is the assumption that people are concerned to find reasons for their behaviour in the same way as an experimental researcher. Attribution theories are primarily concerned with receiving and interpreting information. The problem is that information is often provided in the context of particular motive. If attribution theory is a legitimate social psychological theory, it should incorporate these genuine, human motives within its paradigm. It does not always do this, however. Joffe’s (1999) findings in the HIV/AIDS study use a methodology that supports the findings of attribution theory and the biases that the information processing approach has identified, although her interpretation takes a different direction.


Experimental methods make a contribution in informing about the way people perceive, understand and explain their social environment. There are both strengths and limitations of the experimental approach in social psychology, especially in the way it has been applied in the area of social cognition. Billig (1987) is a social psychologist who no longer operates within the experimental social psychology field. He has argued that ‘social thinking’ (thinking about people and their experiences) involves far more than working outside the constraints of an automated cognitive system. He argues that thinking is an ‘internal movement’ between different perspectives, instead of merely simply taking one schema and adjusting it accordingly. When experimental social psychology is used in the context of social cognition, it incorporates two concepts of human psychological operation. These are the information processing approach (cognitive psychology) and the concept that people are intuitive researchers seeking truths in a rational manner (social psychology). Both these assumptions have been subsumed into experimental social psychology theory, especially in attribution theory. This results in a set of assumptions about logical methods of perceiving the environment in prescriptive ways. Value-driven information processing or biases are therefore often seen as substandard judgements. Experimental methods make a contribution to understanding social cognition. It is important to consider the theories and models which these experimental studies have set out to test to gauge their appropriateness, since empirical research and theoretical perspectives are intrinsically linked. They may enhance our understanding of how we perceive and explain our social world. However, non-experimental studies may also complement, conflict and co-exist with experimental approaches in informing our understanding of social cognition.


The strengths of experimental social psychology are linked to their theories, their methods of hypothesis testing and their contribution to the growth of a corpus of knowledge in this area. There are however, certain questions that cannot be asked using experimental methods. For example, research into naturalistic thinking about risk uncovers a complex way of thinking about risky behaviour which would not match the expectations of quantitative research scientists. Human information processing is not always bound by rules of logic or mathematics. There is also the more general issue of the contextual validity of many psychological experimental studies into information processing and social cognition. Traditionally scientific methods such as calibrated statistical tests do not realistically interpret the nature of everyday human behaviour. Our cognitive structures may be programmed to manage information naturally in the environmental context. In this case, experimental data showing bias or distortion might be due to low environmental validity of the design of the experiment. Risk awareness also highlights another complexity in the ways that bias and subjectivity in human information processing are seen. There is evidence to suggest that the information processing framework for social cognition has limitations. These limitations cannot however be separated from the influence on the selection and processing of information about intention and interpretation. Cognitive psychology and experimental social psychology promote models of the individual thinking in a mechanistic manner, or operating like an objective scientist (if there is such a thing) seeking truths in a logical and unbiased way. The evidence suggests that this may be incorrect Experimental psychological methodologies are geared towards the provision of binary ‘correct’ answers and, by implication therefore also ‘incorrect’ answers. But in human existence, this perception of correctness may not be the primary objective and indeed it may be fallacious to hypothesise that it even exists. Experimental research may operationalise tasks that are low in contextual validity and may therefore lead to apparent ineffectiveness in information processing. Human beings have their own methods by which they conceptualise risk and these have their own contextual validity in cultural terms and the individual and social purposes that they serve. The scientific paradigm with its avowed rationality may not be appropriate or relevant within social and individual contexts and the environment in which they operate. Experimental approaches may make a contribution in informing our understanding of social cognition, but they do not necessarily tell the whole story.

Reference List

Billig, M. (1987) Arguing and Thinking: A Rhetorical Approach to Social Psychology, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Fiske and Taylor (1991) Social Cognition (2nd edition), New York, McGraw Hill

Heider, F. (1958) The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations, New York, Wiley

Joffe, H. (1999) ‘Risk and the ‘Other’, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

McArthur, L.A. (1972) ‘The how and what of why: some determinants and consequences of causal attribution’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 2, pp. 171-193

Ruscher, J.B., Fiske, S.T., and Shnake, S.B. (2000) ‘The motivated tactician’s juggling act: compatible vs. incompatible impression goals’, British Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 39, pp. 241-256

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