wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Michael Argyle (1925-2002)michael argyle


Internationally renowned British social psychologist and lecturer at Oxford University (pictured right).


Key books


The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour (1967)


Social relationships are determined by:


1. Biological needs 

Eating, drinking and physical comfort.


2. Dependency 

Help from people in positions of authority e.g. parents.


3. Affiliation 

Being liked and accepted by others e.g. in groups (this need is stronger in women than men).


4. Dominance 

The need for power over others (stronger in men).


5. Sex 

This includes eye contact and touch.


6. Aggression 

Physical and psychological damage.


7. Self-esteem 

This is dependent on:

  • favourable recognition from others (e.g. parents)
  • self-image (how you perceive yourself, particularly the need to be unique).


8. Other motivations affecting social behaviour 

Needs for achievement, money, interests and values.


The rules for successful relationships are:


1. Respect 

- for the other’s privacy and space (to do what they want).


2. Eye contact and interest in other people


3. Keep promises and secrets


4. Be sensitive, supportive and tolerant 

Respect the other person’s needs and friendships (e.g. share household chores and child care).


5. Be assertive

Defend your rights as an equal partner.


6. Talk 

(about each other’s problems and feelings)


7. Defend the other person 

Never criticize people in public or behind their back.


8. Constant kindness 

Remember special occasions!


9. Faithfulness 

Stick together through thick and thin.


Key quotes on relationships (from the 4th edition, 1983)

Man is a social animal: he collaborates with others to pursue his goals and satisfy his needs.

Relations with others can be the source of the deepest satisfactions and of the blackest misery.

Successful marriage is the most effective form of social support, relieving the effects of stress and leading to better mental and physical health.

In any relationship it is not enough to agree with them all the time because that would lead to frustration and eventual discontent.


The Psychology of Happiness (1987)


The three main causes of happiness are:


1. Social relationships 

(friends, partners and marriages).


2. Satisfying work 

(the work itself and relationships at work).


3. Leisure 

(what we do and the people we meet in our spare time).


Happiness also comes from:


1. Psychological well-being - from

  • extroversion.
  • optimism and positive thinking.
  • self-esteem.
  • purpose, religious or otherwise.


2. Income 

But beyond a certain level of income money doesn’t have much effect on happiness.

Being obsessed with money will make you less happy, because of:

  • neglect of more important values like love.
  • poorer relationships.
  • comparisons with richer people.
  • memories of richer times.


Key quotes on happiness

Happiness, along with health and mental health, is increased by the presence of certain social relationships and depressed by losing these and by other stressful life events.

If people say they are happy, then they are happy.



The Psychology of Social Class (1994)


Social class has a big effect on people’s behaviour and is affected by:


1. Comparison with others

People compare themselves with other classes, only if they meet them.

Attitudes between classes are a mixture of deference and hostility and greatly influenced by people’s perception of social justice.


2. Subjective social mobility

This is adopting the lifestyle and self-image of another social class


3. Social mobility (movement from working to middle classes)

This is hindered by:

  • inadequate contact between different classes.
  • less opportunity for the working class.
  • poverty and higher crime.

So working class people

  • have much worse physical and mental health.
  • are less happy (with less leisure and job satisfaction and lower self-esteem).


4. Values, attitudes and education

 The middle classes are more likely to:

  • be less materialistic.
  • vote for right wing parties (although many don’t).
  • value work and education.
  • have more liberal attitudes to social and moral issues.


Key quotes on social class and happiness

Happiness is affected by social class, especially at the lower end of the scale; the unemployed are particularly unhappy.

There never has been a classless society.

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