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joesteph
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:00 pm    Post subject: Psychology Lesson: Milgram, Zimbardo and Karate Reply with quote

As a teacher of psychology on the high school level, I have found it a pleasant surprise when what is studied in the textbook is found in real life. I have discovered that questions with neither a "right" nor a "wrong" answer, but a requirement to state one's views and explain them, are actually a refreshing challenge to the student and an eye-opener to the teacher.

Students should understand what an authority figure is and be familiar with the 1961 Stanley Milgram Yale University experiment on the power of authority. They should also be familiar with the 1971 Philip Zimbardo Stanford University prison experiment concerning the power of the situation on individuals.

This information may be found in the textbook or online and these two classics set the background necessary to be known in order to analyze what is based on real life occurrences in 2009 in a Karate class. There have been changes made in what the students read that do not alter what is observed and to be analyzed, both for the privacy of the individuals concerned and for better focus on the Milgram and Zimbardo connections.

First and foremost, the students must read the following:

Sparring

On a Friday night, a male of age fifty-seven was participating in a Karate class, where he was a student with a belt level well below black belt. For our purposes, he will be called Eric. A tournament was to be held at another location that coming Sunday and, for the past week, the chief instructor, a woman of age twenty-five who possessed a master's level black belt, was readying students to compete in sparring. Sparring may be non-contact (closeness of a strike against an opponent), light contact, moderate and, in some cases, full contact. Matches in Eric's style of Karate are non-contact.

Eric was not able to compete in this tournament due to family commitments, but still took part in all class activities. There were sparring exercises with a partner, then actual sparring between the partners. It was a very active class, students all training at the same time and the chief instructor had a male assistant instructor, age fifteen, a first degree black belt certified to assist, helping her conduct the class. However, the assistant was also participating in class activities.

Eric discovered that he was repeatedly paired with another adult male student, age forty, with whom he had sparred before. For our purposes, he will be called Carl. Carl was also unable to compete in the tournament, as he had to work that Sunday. He had more Karate experience than Eric and, though he was not a black belt, he was three belt levels higher. It is common in Karate to have different belt levels work together. When Eric had sparred with him in the past, he noticed that Carl, who was quite a gentleman when doing the various Karate exercises, would be extra-aggressive when sparring.

In this instance, instead of rotating sparring partners, as was the norm, the assistant instructor kept Eric and Carl training together. Carl kept escalating the intensity of the sparring sessions with Eric until he purposely made sparring contact with Eric. Carl did not apologize, although an apology in the form of a bow for even accidental contact is the norm for this Karate style. The verbal argument over this between the two ended when the chief instructor called all students together and reminded the class of the non-contact rule.

As there was time left in class, the students formed a circle and each was given a number. The chief instructor called out two numbers and the students went to the middle of the circle and sparred for a half-minute. Then two more numbers/students were called out to replace them and so on. Eric noticed that his fellow students were much more excited than usual about sparring, although he did not think himself to be so.

When Eric's number was called out, the other student turned out to be a twelve-year-old boy, an age that is permitted to attend adult classes if the chief instructor deems the student capable. For our purposes, the boy will be called Billy. Billy was two belt levels lower than Eric. It is standard for the higher belt to go easier when sparring with a lower belt and Eric had always gone especially easier with much younger students as this boy was.

Eric's sparring consisted of blocking whatever punches and kicks Billy threw and moving around the circle without throwing any punches or kicks of his own, even though it was non-contact. Eric's movements steered Billy to the edge of the circle of students and Eric stopped just a few feet away, standing in a fighter's stance, within the circle.

Eric heard the chief instructor call out his name from the other side of the circle and tell him "Throw a punch! A kick!" When she repeated his name and that he must act ("Don't just stand there!"), he felt that her voice was coming from right behind him. For Eric, time stood still, that the sparring time was not moving to finish the half-minute and he was very aware of the students in the circle looking at him. He had sparred with young students before and had thrown slow punches and kicks when he did, but this time he had no desire at all to throw either one at Billy.

It did not occur to Eric to refuse, to back away from Billy, to return to his place in the circle of students or to turn to the chief instructor and excuse himself from class. Instead, when he heard her call out to him again ("Do something!"), he threw a strong right hook at the boy, which did fall short of Billy's face and so followed the non-contact rule. The chief instructor called out encouragement to Eric, who responded by moving forward, driving Billy completely out of the circle.

When class ended, Eric felt upset, remaining so to various degrees throughout the weekend. It passed by the time he returned to class on Monday night.

(End of assigned reading)

Now that the students have read "Sparring," what follows below should be distributed to them for oral discussion or written responses.

Milgram, Zimbardo and Karate

Think of what an authority figure is and consider the 1961 Stanley Milgram Yale University experiment on the power of authority. Also recall the 1971 Philip Zimbardo Stanford University prison experiment concerning the power of the situation on individuals.

As you have read "Sparring," think critically about the following:

Belt ranks in Karate are earned, based on a series of performance tests that demonstrate a level of proficiency. Status and therefore authority are achieved, recognized by a simple symbol, a belt, and the concept of belt level. What is evident from the reading is that it is not based on age or gender.

Note the ages of each person mentioned in the reading, as well as what position the person held in the belt hierarchy. Students not specifically mentioned in this Karate class would be a variety of ages and belt levels.

Karate, as a martial art, is a fighting-based activity. Karate sparring is controlled fighting, meaning rules and there are different kinds of sparring based on different rules. In many ways, sparring is the sport side of Karate and so tournaments are held to receive recognition and awards.

Understand that this is non-contact Karate, meaning that while contact could occur by accident, it must never be by intent. They must also realize that a tournament is a place of competition and, while competition itself can be exciting, one way of preparing for competition is to "get psyched."

At this point, questions should be answered in writing, opening with the following:

1. Neither Eric nor Carl could make the tournament and so, in theory, had no stake in preparing for it. Did the upcoming competition have an effect on Carl anyway or was he being his usual self? Did the upcoming competition have an effect on Eric, or was he only reacting to Carl? Did the other students sparring in class, most or all of them likely to be in the tournament, have an effect on either or both of these men?

2. Did the instructor essentially handle the situation between Eric and Carl properly? An explanation of "essentially yes" or "essentially no" is in order. One consideration may (or may not) be that, although there are definite rules that apply to all students, and a hierarchy based on belt level, the ages of the students involved was a factor.

It should be recognized that, when the circle of students was formed, the sparring setup was completely changed. The entire class was no longer sparring all at once, but two at a time in a kind of arena, with the entire class and chief instructor in particular looking on directly.

3. Eric believed the students had grown in excitement in this new setting. Assuming there was already a measure of excitement during the sparring that had occurred before the circle was formed, what would be a plausible explanation for this? It should be noted that he was speaking of other students, not himself and not the chief instructor. Could he have been mistaken about himself or the instructor, or was it unlikely?

4. Billy's age was a factor in Eric's mind and so his sparring, but the chief instructor had included Billy in with the adult class due to his qualifications. Was Eric expressing disagreement with the instructor's decision by his repeatedly blocking, but not striking at, Billy?

5. Note that the chief instructor not only called out to Eric that he must throw a strike, but that Eric's name was called out first, and then she pressed that he must act. What effect do you think this had on Eric? What effect (e.g., none, minor, annoying, disorienting, compelling) do you think the other students in the circle, none mentioned to be calling out his name or what to do, had on him?

6. How would you explain Eric's lack of ability to think of simple, non-disruptive, ways to extricate himself from the situation? Why do you think he expressed no thoughts of anger against the instructor, who placed demands on him?

When Eric threw a punch at Billy, his strike did not make contact, following the non-contact sparring rule of the school. Billy was never in danger of being harmed so long as the rule, which all had been reminded of before sparring within the arena of the circle, was adhered to.

7. Why do you think Eric had such a terrible time of throwing a punch or kick against Billy, since he had, in the past, thrown token strikes when sparring with young students?

8. Once Eric had thrown the right hook, he had complied with the instructor's demand. She made no more demands on him, instead opting for encouragement. What is encouragement? How do you account for him continuing his attack against Billy when it would seem that he had complied with her demand?

9. Draw a semi-circle rather than a straight-line continuum for visualization. At the far left, place a dot; do the same on the far right. Draw two more dots on each side, meaning three on the left, three on the right and so no dot appears at the apex of the semi-circle continuum. Label the farthest left dot "completely overreacted," the next dot "overreacted" and the next "somewhat overreacted." Match the right side with "completely justified," "justified" and "somewhat justified." Where would you place Eric's upset weekend and why?

Conclusion

At this point, a written paragraph by the psychology student weaving Milgram/the power of authority and Zimbardo/the power of the situation with these Karate class occurrences is the logical conclusion to this study.

Closing Remarks

It is my sincerest wish that both students and teachers enjoy this combination of psychology with Karate. Millions of students are very familiar with martial arts and so this should prove to be quite relevant as a social psychology project.
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Patrick
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission.

Patrick
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Jeffrey
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Joined: 14 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Joesteph,

Great read and informative.
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joesteph
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Jeffrey! Glad you enjoyed it!
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MasterPain
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Styles: Bujin Bugei Jutsu, Backyard Kali, Satsui no Hadou

PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Eric is senior (in age) and is most likely less effected by the competition than Carl. Carl is also not competing, however, being closer to the age that most people compete, he will be more swept up in the excitement. Also he has shown this behavior in the past, although sparring partners are usually changed at regular intervals. In this instance partners were not changed and therefore there was more time for the situation to be exacerbated, so there was need for an exchange of words, where previously the time was short enough to simply tolerate the unwanted aggression.

2. She handled things well, but should have reminded Carl of the no-contact agreement before if became a problem.

3.Between upcoming competition and a change in usual structure, as well as the prospect of spectators in the form of other students, the younger students will be more excited. Older students will tend to be more comfortable in the normal way of doing things. (I know this is a generalization, but it tends to be true.)

4.Maybe.

5.The other students and the authority of an instructor were enough to cause him to do something he was not comfortable with, however minor it may seem to others.

6.He caved to pressure from others, however he is mature enough top feel responsible for his own decisions.

7.After feeling to much aggression from Carl, he felt less comfortable with behaving in an aggressive manner with a child.

8.Having give in to a demand, it became easier to respond to encouragement.

9. I believe somewhat overreacted, because there was no real harm done, however he did act against his own principles and feelings, which is upsetting.

What do you think? Agree, disagree?

Also,how would your answers differ if you knew Eric was A. a hippie B. a Far-rightwing conservative C. a feminist?
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joesteph
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I especially liked your answers to 5, 6, and 7, MasterPain.

When you add in personal qualities, as you did at the end, well, that fuels the class discussion fire.
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MasterPain
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cultural and religious upbringing can effect a persons attitude towards gender, age, and authority, not to mention contact. The difference of commonly comfortable conversational distance for native of Mexico and Japan tend to be 3 feet and 10 feet respectively, so there can be a lot of determining factors here.
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sensei8
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joe,

That was a very solid article across the board, and when this article comes up for nominations and voting at the next KF Awards; you've got my vote all the way.

SOLID!!


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joesteph
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Bob! I've used the lesson-test successfully in class, so I guess you could say it's been "field tested."
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DWx
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article Joe

I didn't do psychology at school but we used to do similar types of studies in ethics and I loved these sorts of discussions
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