Response: Power of Situation


This discussion asks that we relate a personal, historical incident where our actions conflicted with our beliefs.

               After a typical summer of working on the family farm, I returned to the town where I attended high school. Upon arriving I was surprised by a call from one of my friends offering me a job at the state fair. He explained that his dad had some connections and that there was an opportunity to work for a timeshare resort in Missouri. All that was needed of myself, and four others, was to meet with the single representative of the company and learn what was required. At that meeting we five compadres were told three things; Show up on time, wear a white shirt and tie, and a secret that we could tell no one if we wanted to be paid at the end of the fair. The promotion was that by completing a card, a person would be entered into a drawing for a free weekend at the resort. The reality was that everybody who completed the card- well almost everybody, would be invited for a weekend, and the “free” weekend was littered with timeshare promotions.

               The secret was about the cards that were to be inserted into a small box in front of each of the five of us, and the prospective customers who filled out the cards. The box had a narrow slit at the center of the top to allow only a single card to be entered at a time. At the back of the box was an almost invisible string. If a black person completed a card, we were to covertly pull the string and divert the card which was then discarded.

               I wanted the job, but felt that the obvious racism was problematic. Yet none of us said a word until we were walking away from that meeting, and out of earshot. I voiced to my friends my concern that this was obviously racist. My four friends offered several arguments; If we don’t do this, he will just find five people who will. We can’t change this and we will lose a chance to make a good amount of money. We are doing these folks a favor by keeping them from a place that does not want them. Every business has a right to decide who they want as customers. After this rebuttal, I stopped voicing my concerns and agreed to do as the representative required but I didn’t. I did not pull the cord, but I did not tell anyone. In fact, I never told them.

               In retrospect, several social psychological factors influenced my behavior. This incident was a source of cognitive dissonance, in that my personal beliefs were at conflict with my resultant behavior (Aronson et al., 2019, p.134). My personal belief was that this was an obvious, illegal, and discriminatory practice. Nonetheless, I chose not to raise this objection with the resort representative, and when able to discuss it with my fellow hiree’s, I quickly complied with the group. I was able to resolve my dissonance by thinking that while I would not act on the instructions provided, I would not risk my exclusion from the group by voicing my concerns. That is, the logic that they applied in accepting their willingness to ‘pull the string’ was an attempt on their part to avoid discomfort to the black community, who would feel ill at ease if they were to accept the invitation to the resort.

               I elected to comply publicly. In this situation, I felt that there was significant threat, and loss of reward in a public display of noncompliance (Aronson et al., 2019, p.178). This dissonance extinguished, for the most part, any intrinsic motivation. What remained was a simple extrinsic motivation. The reward was a relatively large amount of money, and the continued acceptance by my friends (p. 134). I felt the pressure from my fellow hirees, who were also my friends, to comply. I no longer looked forward to the job, but focused on the reward, and my continued group compliance.

               In addition, psychological factors that predisposed to racial prejudice may be a social psychological event, and have significant influence on individuals. A study that took place in a highly segregated society pointed out the degree of prejudice is a property of the social context (Duckett, 1998, pp. 417-418). Thus, the degree to which the lack of diversity in my high school experience may have also influenced my decision to remain silent. Nonetheless, only extrinsic motivation remained. I justified my compliance based on the monetary reward (Aronson et al., 2019, p.164).

               The impact of this incident lingered long after the actual event. As noted, I never discussed my noncompliance with the request of our employer. I told neither my fellow hirees, nor the supervisor in charge, that I never pulled the string. From that, I assume, that I valued normative compliance within my group, and ignored my original concerns about the social injustice perpetuated by the resort, and confirmed by the behavior of my friends. That is, I relied on external justification; the monetary reward, and the avoidance of punishment by exclusion from the group (Aronson et al., 2019, p.164).

               I do not feel that I regarded the resort representative as an authoritarian figure, and hence, compliance, on my part was not a reflection of the classical acceptance of authority as described in a recount of the classical experiments of Milgram, as described in the text (Aronson et al., 2019, p.250).

               In summary, I was able to decrease cognitive dissonance, and alter my motivation for accepting a short-term job that was discriminatory. I focused on the rewards, and accepted the arguments of my fellow hirees, who were also my friends. I complied with the group externally. I did not actually exclude anyone from the promotion. Nonetheless, my fear of non-normative compliances within my group was significant. So much so, that while I was able to justify my own actions in that I did not ‘pull the string’, I considered my appearance of social compliance to be paramount, and never expressed my true action, or feelings.

 Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the social psychology theory and research. In addition to the Learning Resources, search the Walden Library and/or Internet for peer-reviewed articles to support your post and responses. Use proper APA format and citations.