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Social Psychology.docx

Course Code
PSY 1102
Christine Mountney

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Social Psychology
Focuses in Social Psychology
Social psychology scientifically studies how we think about, influence, and relate
to one another.
Social Thinking
1. Does his absenteeism signify illness, laziness, or a stressful work atmosphere?
2. Was the horror of 9/11 the work of crazed evil people or ordinary people
corrupted by life events?
Social thinking involves thinking about others, especially when they engage in
doing things that are unexpected.
Attributing Behavior to Persons or to Situations
Attribution Theory: Fritz Heider (1958) suggested that we have a tendency to
give causal explanations for someone’s behavior, often by crediting either the
situation or the person’s disposition.
A teacher may wonder whether a child’s hostility reflects an aggressive
personality (dispositional attribution) or is a reaction to stress or abuse (a
situational attribution).
Dispositions are enduring personality traits. So, if Joe is a quiet, shy, and
introverted child, he is likely to be like that in a number of situations.
Fundamental Attribution Error
The tendency to overestimate the impact of personal disposition and
underestimate the impact of the situations in analyzing the behaviors of others
leads to the fundamental attribution error.
We see Joe as quiet, shy, and introverted most of the time, but with friends he is
very talkative, loud, and extroverted.
Effects of Attribution
How we explain someone’s behavior affects how we react to it.
Attitudes & Actions
A belief and feeling that predisposes a person to respond in a particular way to
objects, other people, and events.
If we believe a person is mean, we may feel dislike for the person and act in an
unfriendly manner.
Attitudes Can Affect Actions
Our attitudes predict our behaviors imperfectly because other factors, including
the external situation, also influence behavior.
Democratic leaders supported Bush’s attack on Iraq under public pressure.
However, they had their private reservations.
Actions Can Affect Attitudes

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Not only do people stand for what they believe in (attitude), they start believing in
what they stand for.
Small Request Large Request
In the Korean War, Chinese communists solicited cooperation from US army
prisoners by asking them to carry out small errands. By complying to small
errands they were likely to comply to larger ones.
Foot-in-the-Door Phenomenon: The tendency for people who have first agreed
to a small request to comply later with a larger request.
Role Playing Affects Attitudes
Zimbardo (1972) assigned the roles of guards and prisoners to random students
and found that guards and prisoners developed role- appropriate attitudes.
Actions Can Affect Attitudes
Why do actions affect attitudes? One explanation is that when our attitudes and
actions are opposed, we experience tension. This is called cognitive dissonance.
To relieve ourselves of this tension we bring our attitudes closer to our actions
(Festinger, 1957).
Social Influence
The greatest contribution of social psychology is its study of attitudes, beliefs,
decisions, and actions and the way they are molded by social influence.
Conformity & Obedience
Behavior is contagious, modeled by one followed by another. We follow behavior
of others to conform.
Other behaviors may be an expression of compliance (obedience) toward
Group Pressure & Conformity
Suggestibility is a subtle type of conformity, adjusting our behavior or thinking
toward some group standard.
An influence resulting from one’s willingness to accept others’ opinions about
Conditions that Strengthen Conformity
1. One is made to feel incompetent or insecure.
2. The group has at least three people.
3. The group is unanimous.
4. One admires the group’s status and attractiveness.
5. One has no prior commitment to a response.
6. The group observes one’s behavior.
7. One’s culture strongly encourages respect for a social standard.
Reasons for Conforming

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Normative Social Influence: Influence resulting from a person’s desire to gain
approval or avoid rejection. A person may respect normative behavior because
there may be a severe price to pay if not respected.
Informational Social Influence: The group may provide valuable information,
but stubborn people will never listen to others.
People comply with social pressures. How would they respond to outright
Stanley Milgram designed a study that investigates the effects of authority on
Lessons from the Conformity and Obedience Studies
Obedience was highest when:
The person giving the orders was close at hand and was perceived to be a
legitimate authority figure
The authority figure was linked to a prestigious institution
The victim was depersonalized or at a distance
There were no role models for defiance.
In both Asch's and Milgram's studies, participants were pressured to choose
between following their standards and being responsive to others.
In Milgram’s study, participants were torn between hearing the victim’s pleas and
the experimenter’s orders.
Group Influence
How do groups affect our behavior? Social psychologists study various groups:
1. One person affecting another
2. Families
3. Teams
4. Committees
Individual Behavior in the Presence of Others
Social facilitation: Refers to improved performance on tasks in the presence of
others. Triplett (1898) noticed cyclists’ race times were faster when they
competed against others than when they just raced against the clock.
Social Loafing
The tendency of an individual in a group to exert less effort toward attaining a
common goal than when tested individually (Latané, 1981).
The loss of self-awareness and self-restraint in-group situations that foster arousal
and anonymity.
Effects of Group Interaction
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