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2.6 Perspective - All students

What it is and how we get it

Perspective - the frame through which we see the world - is shaped by the groups we participate in. These groups have their own cultural and ideological codes, that is, systems and rules. People act in certain ways or do certain things because identities are shaped by biology, culture and a sense of being a unique individual:

  • biology manifests itself in our desire for food, drink and shelter
  • culture manifests itself through society, place, language, art and history, and
  • identity is shaped by an individual’s response to family relationships parents and siblings.

Biology, culture and family are codes that leave an imprint on an individual’s life, whether an individual challenges, confirms or modifies these codes. These codes shape our perspectives on the world and our responses to how the world is represented in texts.

Groupthink

Groupthink [a portmanteau word invented by psychologist Irving Janis in1972] operates in social groups who share certain behavioural codes and purposes, who think the same and conform to specific beliefs and practices. Groupthink is often used to describe the faulty decisions that occur when people subscribe unquestioningly to particular commonly agreed perceptions. In advertising, it can also be used to encourage people to interrogate whether they are succumbing to groupthink in their behaviour.

Groupthink can be seen in many different areas of life, for example:

  • social structures such as the nuclear family, gender roles
  • schools, workplaces and social organisations such as sporting groups
  • the media, including social media
  • political movements.

Let’s see whether groupthink is at work in your class. Think about how often you have brainstormed something at school and how many students have come up with similar ideas.   Working on your own, brainstorm some ideas on one of these statements:

  • Daily life is too busy for individuals.
  • ‘Likes’ in social media matter.
  • Video games don’t like girls.

Form a group of four or five students who have chosen the same statement and compare responses:

  • In what ways is groupthink at work?
  • Which commonly agreed judgements underpin this groupthink?
  • Are these judgements well-formed or ill-formed?

Brainstorming works best when the people involved have different opinions and perspectives that collide in unpredictable ways. Re-form your groups so they are comprised of people with a range of opinions and perspectives and discuss the responses.

  • Why do the opinions collide?
  • Has groupthink been challenged?
  • Which perspectives are subscribed to or challenged?

Groupthink and codes

How we behave is shaped by culture. Culture can be described as a collection of codes that tell us what to eat, how to dress, and how to relate to others. Codes are everywhere in our lives, organising how we relate to others, how we raise children; they are like a rule book for human interaction. Most codes are imprinted on us as children as we grow up in a family and in a particular place – suburb, city, country. These imprints become part of who we are and often we are unaware of the role these codes play in our lives. Codes shape our behaviour as individuals and as members of groups, societies, nations, and cultures, hence the connection between codes and groupthink. There are many different kinds of codes, such as:

  • social codes such as how we speak, behave, look
  • textual codes such as scientific theories, artistic styles, different genres, different media
  • codes that shape our perspective such as beliefs, values and aesthetics.

A number of these codes are at work in the video Driveway Safety - They’re Counting on You. Watch the video from the opening to the 1:25 minute mark.

Connotation and Denotation

Words and images operate through denotation and connotation. Denotation refers to the dictionary or literal meaning of a word; connotation refers to the associated feelings or attitudes we have to certain words, if you like, their contextual and cultural associations. The connotations associated with how people speak, look and behave depict social codes and stereotypes. To analyse how connotation and denotation operate in the advertisement, complete the grid in the student worksheet 2.6.1 Connotation and denotation (All students) 

Groupthink in families

Groupthink operates in small groups, such as families, as well. The video Driveway Safety – They’re counting on you illustrates how advertisers mine aspects of society, such as groupthink, in order to provoke audiences to question behaviour.

For example, the family in this advertisement is represented as time poor and harried in the morning as the mother rushes off to work and the grandfather stays home to look after the children. Typical and suburban, if you like. The groupthink that shapes this family can be seen through the connotations we have just explored.

Watch the advertisement again, paying particular attention to the assumptions that underpin the actions and dialogue of the mother and the grandfather. Identify some examples of groupthink at work in this advertisement.

  • How is groupthink represented in the social codes in this family, for example gender and generational roles?
  • How does it lead to faulty decisions in the family?
  • How does the advertisement use groupthink to challenge some commonly held social perceptions and shape its perspective?

Exposing groupthink

Try rewriting the text in the transcript below to change some of the perspectives in this advertisement. You can do this by experimenting with

  • gender assumptions by changing
    • the mother to a father or
    • the grandfather to a grandmother
  • generational attitudes by changing
    • the grandfather to an older adolescent sibling

Video transcript – They’re counting on you

[Inside a busy household, a mother rushes around the kitchen to get her two children ready for school.]

Mother: C’mon guys – We’re late again. The bell goes in 20 minutes!

Boy: Can, I take my telescope to kindy?

Mother: No, Ms Jones said no toys at school.

[The children’s grandfather packs fruit inside a schoolbag.]

[The boy’s older sister picks her schoolbag up from the floor and leaves the room. The mother sees that the boy has only put on one of his shoes.]

Mother: Put the other shoe on and take this brush, you can do your hair in the car.

[The mother looks for her wallet.]

Mother: Where is it?

[The mother is handed her wallet.]

Mother: Oh thank you.

Grandfather: Let’s help mummy.

[The grandfather helps the boy pack his bag and put on his shoe.]

Mother: Oh, for goodness sake.

[She sees her mobile phone is on the floor and picks it up.]

Mother: Dad, can you bring his bag please.

Grandfather: Yeah, yeah.

Mother: Hurry up, let’s go!

[She leaves the room.]

Grandfather: Right for school mate.

Mother: Dad!

Grandfather: Yep.

The grandfather waves goodbye to the boy with a salute.
Grandfather: See you soldier.

[The kitchen is all quiet. The grandfather breathes a sigh of relief and sits at a table.]

[His granddaughter smiles at him from across the table, where she sits with her drink. She is of preschool age and wears a pink cardigan.]

[The grandfather puts on his glasses to read a newspaper.]

The little girl picks up a soft white rabbit toy from the table and walks past her grandfather. He is distracted by the newspaper and does not see her leave.]

[The mother is shown at the door, leaving the house with her two older children. They carry their schoolbags to the car and squabble over who gets into the back seat first.]

Girl: Me first.

Boy: Too slow.

[As the mother rushes out of the house, she fumbles with the car keys and leaves the door open behind her.]

[The little girl runs down the hallway and out through the front door.]

[The mother walks around the front of the car to get in the driver’s side door.]

[The brother and sister in the back seat of the car fight over a book.]

Girl: Don’t touch my stuff.

Boy: Mum!

[As the mother puts on her seatbelt she notices a stain on her top.]

Mother: Oh, really.

[The little girl pushes a doll in a pram along the garden path towards the car. We hear the car start.]

[The mother puts the car into gear and a reverse beep sounds. She checks the rear vision mirror and starts reversing.]

[As she hears the sound of a crunching noise under the wheels, there is panic on the mother’s face.]

Mother: No.

[She stops the car and pulls on the handbrake.]

[The mother opens the door and runs around to the back of the car, where she sees the doll and toy pram crushed under the wheel.]

[The little girl is standing close by, sucking one of her toy rabbit’s ears. The mother runs to the little girl, picks her up and hugs her tightly.]

[The grandfather runs out of the house.]

Mother: I thought you had her!

Grandfather: I did.

[Scott Cam is in the driveway with the family in the background.]

Scott Cam: It’s that easy. Lose focus for just a few seconds and a terrible tragedy can happen.

Perform your script to others in your class.

Assessing the transcript, discuss:

  • What event/context do you think would have led to this advertisement being made?
  • Whom is it targeting?
  • What are the perspectives of the different characters in the advertisement? What do they each value?
  • What perspective is the advertisement trying to encourage?
  • What attitudes and values in society is it using to change people’s perspectives?
  • Do you think it works? Why /why not?

Bringing it all together

Write a reflection on one of the texts you have created in this section, explaining how you have

  • foregrounded particular aspects of the text for a specific context
  • selected specific language
  • invited the audience to reconsider their attitudes towards the perspective provided in the original text.

Last update: 24th January 2019