social psyc class notes
September 8, 2010
Defining social psychology
- “Social psychology is what those who call themselves social psychologists choose
oYet most fields of study can be defined in this way
- What makes it different from sociology and anthropology?
oPsychology is in science
Focus is more on the individual generally
Social psychology is about the individual in a social context
oSociology has a lot in common with psychology, but it focuses less on the
individuals and more on aggregates of people, so its methods and
terminologies reflect that
E.g. migration patters, aggregate statistics, social class issues,
Focus is on an entire culture or subculture, perhaps bigger than
social psychology which focuses on an individual in a social
Their methodologies are opposite to what they’re focusing on
•One or two people from a culture are studied in depth,
which are an informant representative of a culture
Comparing social psychology to sociology and anthropology: Social psychology
competes with these other disciplines
- anthropology would accuse social psychology of being artificial in trying to
capture social life inside a laboratory since their work occurs in the outside world
- the social psychology finds the anthropology just gives a little summary of what
went on in a village in Kenya and is supplying the world w/ misinformation. The
weirdo of the village is the one that stepped forward!
- E.g. guy who went to Australia and made a report, then went back to the village
30 years later, everything was made up!
How social psychology relates to psychology
- See map on slides
- It used to be that you needed certain science prerequisites to get into psychology.
There are prereq, then requirements which tell you the core of the discipline
- In many universities, SP will be in the arts faculty. But at McGill its in the faculty
of science, alongside physics, chem and bio. Every university has a status order –
Medicine, Law, Science, Computer Science. Theatre appreciation! They are status
Social psychology is in the core; it is required, even though its considered soft-core.
How social psychology relates to psychology – his view
He thinks its the shit. There’s nothing in psychology that not social.
In defense of the Ivory Tower?
•Why theory is important
•Why scientific method is important
Theory and practice
- Oprah’s team of chefs and personal trainer – other people cannot relate to Oprah’s
- There are many reasons for us not to like theory and research
- Yet, a theory is a series of formal abstract statements about how something works, and
it’s a theory because we don’t know if it’s true.
- We have a sense that theory is something academics do, they are not engaged in the real
world, and theory is something done in class only.
- Yet, every time we behave, it comes out of our theories. Let’s call them folk theories.
We apply them all day long.
- People don’t say they’re acting on their theories, but they are!
E.g. Folk theory: suicide terrorists are evil, sick and misguided people born in abject
poverty – WRONG. Terrorists are normal on every psychological level, wealthy and
- It’s the theory, formal or informal, that guides our behaviour
E.g. Autism: A person who is totally unresponsive to anything social. The first theorizing
by people in the medical field was that their family, especially their mother, tended to be
cold and withdrawn and this impacted the child by making them socially unresponsive
- Every behaviour is guided by a theory. Even something simple.
- Some people theorize that most people in the world are nice and if something bad
happened to them, they’re not nice. You’ll get taken advantage of. If you believe
everyone is a crook you’ll never trust anyone.
- Institutions have folk theories that they communicate without knowing it. What does
McGill think of student? Believing students will cheat and doing computer programs to
see what the answers on exams are similar.
- Theory matters and if you’re wrong there are huge consequences
E.g. Cause of juvenile delinquency
1) 5 or 6 in 100 are bad
2) All kids are good, the real problem is their family environment. Let’s work w/the
3) There are entire communities, typically inner-city, and community life is just survival
on the streets
It is not just an academic exercise. There are principles we’re looking for “this is the way
the world works”
When you’re learning about them, think “if this theory is true, what does this mean for
my daily life?”
If the theory really matters, informal or formal, the more important the question we
theorize about, the more or less pressure there is on us not to be wrong.
E.g. Female psychologists, CEOs, doctors, lawyers were scarce 30 years ago
- Folk theory: women are nice to look at but they’re stupid
E.g. Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction?
- Huge implications if we’re wrong
E.g. Why did he call me?
- He wants something I have… oh that’s why he phoned. He phoned me because he likes
me – this will change the way you act the next time you see him. If you’re wrong you’ll
look bad and feel stupid.
Hypothesis: specific statement of what the theory predicts
Experiments are taken seriously. They may seem artificial b/c they’re done in a lab. The
experiment is like a surgeon’s knife probing one thing at a time seeing what makes it tick.
1. you better brush your teeth, or they’ll rot
2. you better brush your teeth or people won’t like you*** this one works for group
3. you better brush your teeth because
If you push too hard, people deny it and psychologically block it out.
E.g. Aids in North American gay community
- Governments pushed to say “this is what will happen to you in a gay relationship”
September 10, 2010
•Men and women are different because men had more power historically. Therefore,
they organized the world, so they held the jobs of high decision-making and occupied
the positions of corporate and academic leadership. Women were very important but