Social Psychology- The scientific study of how we think about, influence, and relate to one another
Social Thinking: Attitudes & Action. How typical people are in our everyday lives.
At first glance, what is researched seems obvious. Findings may turn out otherwise.
Social influence: Context matters. We take our cues from other people. Conformity? Peer pressure?
Social Thinking: How do we think about others, especially when they do something unexpected?
Attributing Behaviour to Persons vs. Situations
We have a tendency to give causal explanations for someone’s behaviour,
Often by crediting either the situation or the person’s disposition, personal/dispositional-oriented or situational-
Sometimes we gravitate towards certain explanations.
Examples: Child misbehaving in class.; Someone giving us a curt greeting.; person tripping on sidewalk
People take credit for success, deny responsibility for failure
Fundamental attribution error: the tendency to overestimate the impact of personal disposition and underestimate the
impact of the situations in explaining the behaviours of others. When we try to attribute our own behaviour, we are
much more likely to blame the situation rather than ourselves. When we tried to account for the behaviour of other
people, we are biased towards dispositional- oriented explanations.
Effects of Attribution: How we explain someone’s behaviour affects how we read it.
Attitude- a belief and feeling that predisposes a person to respond in a particular way to objects, other people & events
How do attitudes influence behaviour?
Our attitudes predict our behaviours
Imperfect predictors because other factors, including the external situation, also influence behaviour
Not a one-to-one relationship
Not only do people stand for what they believe in (attitude), they start believe in what they stand for
Ex. Cooperative actions can lead to mutual liking (beliefs). Attitude of mutual liking promotes positive behaviour.
Foot in the Door phenomenon: the tendency for people who have first agreed to a small request to comply
later with a larger request -> used in sales, marketing
Cognitive Dissonance Theory- to relieve ourselves of this tension, we bring out attitudes closer to our actions (Festinger,
Happens the other way around too. We often adjust our actions to our attitudes
A=attitude, B=behaviour, C=cognition
We strive to reduce dissonance, making the ABCs consistent
Dissonance: discomfort we feel when the ABCs are not consistent
Example: I like to smoke (A); I do smoke (B); I know it’s bad for me (C)
Study: Have subjects do a really dull task, then pay them to tell the next subject that the study is interesting
(either $1 or $25), then ask the subjects how much they enjoyed the task, if paid less, the subject report liking
the task more
No cognitive dissonance when being paid more because you have an explanation for your dishonesty to the
Social Influence- how social factors influence attitudes, beliefs, decisions, & actions Conformity- Adjusting one’s behaviour or thinking to comply with a group standard.
Confederate—actor acting in a certain way scripted by the researcher
1) Normative social influence- conform to fit in, don’t want to be the odd one out
2) Informative social influence- conform to other people’s behaviour b/c they might give you useful information ,
want to do what’s right for the situation
Group pressure and conformity
An influence resulting from one’s willingness to accept others’ opinions about reality
Substitute other people’s attitudes as our own, people in general are more susceptible to group behaviour than we
might think. We like to see ourselves as our own person, not so easily influenced by others’ opinions.
Solomon Asch’s Experiments
Informative Social Influence
Eyewitness identification task- given 2 slides, one has one person, other has 4 people on it, identify which person in slide
2 is the person in slide 1, not given slides simultaneously
easy vs. difficult condition
Easy- slide 1 presented for 5 secs, then slide 2 pick person
Difficult- slide 1 presented for just 0.5 secs, then pick person in slide 2
low importance (petty offense) vs. high importance (severe crime)
manipulated the importance of getting right
these 2 manipulations had a lot to do with how much conformity influenced your opinion
conformity highest when decision is the most difficult, when they have the least information & when the decision is of
highest importance, when they have to get it right
Extreme Conformity: Stanford Prison Experiment Clip
Past studies, before ethics board, can’t do it anymore
Role playing affects attitudes- what we do, we gradually become
Philip Zimbardo- randomly assigned college student volunteers as guards or prisoners
Simulation became too real-toxic
Those assigned to the guard role soon degraded the prisoners
Allow yourself to do things that you wouldn’t do in ordinary situation
Direct command vs. social pressure
Conformity is more response to social pressure, roles
Stanley Milgram- well-known studies on the effects of authority on obedience
He was genuinely interested in understanding Nazi Germany, World War 2. WW2 had more systematic killing, ordinary
people did the killing, not just one or 2 evil people, it was a large operation/undertaking.
Study on obedience under the conditions where people will do it anyway. What are the conditions that normal people
will do bad?
Wanted to understand the part of human nature from doing really bad things.
He designed an experiment that had a teacher and a learner. 2 people came into the study, 1 is a confederate, real
participant was always a teacher. Think it’s a memory test. Learner is strapped to a chair and teacher had to give an
electric shock every time they get a question wrong from what they were supposed to memorize. Teacher experience
the shock themselves. Teacher, ordered by authority, would have to keep pressing, learner keep getting it wrong- >
rigged but Teacher doesn’t know that the learner isn’t actually getting shocked Would ordinary, law-abiding citizens give a lethal electric shock to somebody in the name of science? Would they stop
or keep going?
Most people kept on going despite showing signs of discomfort at inflicting pain.
Obedience was highest when:
1. authority figure was salient, present right there with teacher
2. authority figure had prestige
3. victim was depersonalized, less exposure to victim, can’t see or hear them suffering
4. no models for defiance, less likely to stop if you don’t see someone else stopping
How do groups affect our behaviour?
1. One person affecting another