AQ: Connecting your personal with the public

Although it is good to keep abreast about developments and wider characteristics of your society in preparation for the AQ, you shouldn’t discount the power of your personal experiences. Basically you need to find ‘X’ (with reference to the diagram above) where your personal experiences intersect with wider societal trends, such that meaningful and insightful observations can be made to support your evaluation.

The quality of AQ examples often fall within two extreme categories:

1) Relying too much on personal experience (left circle of Venn Diagram): Such examples are so overly specific and peculiar (often, even overly hypothetical) that they are difficult to generalize e.g. you saw somebody help a blind man cross a road in orchard, and so everyone is kind and altruistic; your dad actually called in to donate to NKF, and so everyone is amazingly generous 

2) Relying too much on distant knowledge of society (right circle of Venn Diagram): Such examples sound like mindless regurgitation of dubious statistics and studies that seem to support your evaluation all too conveniently e.g. according to the international altruism foundation, Singapore actually ranked top 10, thus showing how our society is actually kind and altruistic 

To avoid falling onto either side of the path and plunging hopelessly into lava pits of lost AQ souls, just take that 1-2 extra minutes to contemplate your examples more carefully. Considering your personal experience is actually a good point of departure. What you need to do is find a way to connect those memories to wider trends and make reasonable generalizations.

EXAMPLE

Evaluation: Singaporeans tend to succumb to ‘diffusion of responsibility’, leading to the bystander effect as argued by Keltner and Marsh.

Support:

  • Your own experience and memories:  
    • OK I was taking bus 151 home from school that day and nobody was giving their seat for this elderly man that boarded the bus. They were all either looking down, pretending to be asleep or reading something important.
    • I’ve seen this happen during MRT rides too. What’s interesting is that no one around during those times stepped in to help as well. It was like everyone was waiting for everyone else to do something.
    • In fact, I often see pieces of litter lying around in school too and no one really picks it up although we all know too well that we should.
  • Knowledge of wider trends and societal traits
    • Singaporean Asian culture is generally conservative; people are not too keen on drawing attention to oneself if one can help it
    • Even though there is emphasis on community and care for others, often this is encouraged on a more collective level rather than on spurring individual initiative to step up in situations
  • Connecting the personal to the public
    • Given the generally conservative nature of Singaporeans, often acts of kindness are withheld as people are not too inclined to draw unwanted attention to themselves. One can often see crowds of passengers standing around each other nonchalantly when an elderly or handicapped person is left wanting a seat on buses and trains. Campaigns and moral education have taught us well on what needs to be done, but everyone seems to be waiting for someone else to give up their seat or chide the seated commuter to do so, reflecting a kind of ‘diffusion of responsibility’ as argued by Keltner and Marsh.
    • Even in schools and along busy streets, one can observe crowds of people walking past glaringly obvious pieces of litter on the floor. Yes, there have been collective movements to clean up streets and beaches in my society, but the average individual passerby is hard-pressed to be the single person going out of their way to pick it up as he/she may be assuming others eventually will–reflecting a conscious ‘diffusion of responsibility’ as well.
This kind of connection applies to most AQs really. Do not underestimate the power of your own experience. All you really need to do is consciously connect them to wider trends make meaningful observations to support your evaluation.
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7 thoughts on “AQ: Connecting your personal with the public

  1. Pingback: AQ: Balancing “knowledge of your society” with “your personal experience”. « read, think, write.

  2. Pingback: Revisiting the Kindness AQ « Progress in GP

  3. a very insightful read 🙂
    but is it alright if the example used is just that we’re a ‘conservative Asian society’? should we include more concrete examples like data or stats to support the observation?

    • In the context of an AQ, I think pulling out stats and data might a bit of a stretch although it MIGHT be a good idea to note down some key studies done (e.g. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1221725/1/.html) that reflect general traits of Singapore and Singaporeans. Data and stats – at least to me – are not really ‘concrete examples’ because examples serve to illustrate something. So for instance, you can cite a survey on how Singaporeans are competitive, but you need to give examples that reflect this behavior (e.g. primary school balloting, hello kitty and COMEX crowds).

      • oh I see! may i just ask how these examples show that we’re a conservative Asian society? thanks for your quick reply, appreciate it! sorry for the late reply was having my prelims.

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