Stephanie Oliveira 1
Module 43: Social Psychology
Social Psychology- the scientific study of how we think about, influence and relate
to one another.
Focus on the situation
Study the social influences that explain why the same person will act
differently in different situations
Attribution theory: the theory that we explain someone’s behaviour by crediting
the situation or the person’s disposition.
Can attribute behaviour to…
o The person’s stable, enduring traits (a dispositional attribution)
o The situation (a situational attribution)
Fundamental attribution error: the tendency for observers, when analyzing
another’s behaviour, to underestimate the impact of the situation and to
overestimate the impact of personal disposition.
Demonstrated in an experiment with Williams College students
o Students talked with women one at a time who acted either cold or
o Half were told her behaviour was spontaneous; the other half were
told that she was going to act a certain way.
o This did not affect the impressions of the woman in any way.
If she was friendly, both groups thought she was a warm
o They attributed her behaviour to her personal disposition even when
told that her behaviour was situational (she was told to act that way)
Appears more often in some cultures that others
o Individualistic Westerners more often attribute behaviour to people’s
Most likely to commit this error when a stranger acts badly
o We are sensitive to how behaviour changes with the situation when
we explain ourselves or someone that we know well and have seen in
Social and economic effects of attribution
o Poverty and homelessness: because of person or situation?
Attitude: feelings, often influences by our beliefs, which predispose us to respond in
a particular way to objects, peopl