Social Psych 2
Jan 21, 2014
A theory is a set of interrelated propositions that organizes and explains observed phenomena.
A theory goes beyond mere observable facts by postulating causal relations among variables.
If a theory is valid, it enables its user to explain the phenomena under consideration and make
predictions about events not yet observed.
The Structure of Scientific Theory
Conceptual Plane Operational Plane
Why is theory important?
Explanations can be described s the stories we tell each other in attempts to produce some
order in our lives.
Explanations outline paths that lead to particular outcomes. They allow us to feel that we know
why something happened, and whether, or not under certain conditions, it is likely to occur again
How do we evaluate a theory?
The range of phenomena that a theory can explain
Does the theory match empirical reality
The simplest explanation is the most likely explanation – the one with the fewest leaps of logic is
usually the correct one
Can the theory be falsified?
Middle-range Theories Frameworks that identify conditions that produce specific social behavior
Formulated in terms of cause and effect:
--Explanation of processes by which persuasion prdouces attitude change.
--Specifying the conditions under which contact between members of different racial groups
change or eliminate stereotypes
~Giving someone a common enemy forces similar groups to get along and merge together
General explanations for a wide array of social behaviors in a variety of situations.
Provide a frame of reference for i nterpreting and comparing a wide range of social situations
Social psychology includes the following theoretical perspectives
Much of observable social behavior is people carrying out their roles, similar to actors
performing a stage
According to role theory, to change a person’s behavior, it is necessary to change or redefine his
or her role.
Propositions in Role Theory
1. People spend much of their lives participating in groups & organizations
2. Within these groups, people occupy distinct positions.
3. Each of these positions entails a role, which is a set of functions performed by the
person for the group.
4. Groups formalize these expectations as norms, which are rules specifying how a person
5. Individuals usually carry out their roles and perform according to the norms
6. Group members check each individual’s performance to determine whether it conforms
to the group’s norms. (tipping and socialized to feel guilty to tip)
Limitations of role theory
Role theory has difficulty explaining deviant behavior, which is any behavior that violates
the norms defining a given role.
-Deviant behavior violates the demands of roles
Role theory does not and cannot explain how role expectations originate or how they
People will be more likely to perform a specific behavior if it is followed by something
pleasurable or by the removal of something aversive.
People will refrain from a particular behavior if it is followed by the occurrence of something
aversive or the removal of something pleasant.
In conditioning, a contingency is established between emitting a response and receiving
If a person emits a particular response and this response is then reinforced, the connection
between the response and reinforcement is strengthened
Social Learning Theory
Individuals acquire new responses through conditioning and imitation
The learner can acquire new responses by observing the behavior of another person
The learner neither performs a response nor receives reinforcement
Whether the learner will perform behaviors learned through observation may depend on
whether they will receive reinforcement.
Social Exchange Theory
Uses reinforcement to explain stability and change in relations between individuals Assumes individuals have freedom of choice and often face situations in which they must
choose among alternative actions
Any action provides some rewards and entails some costs
Individuals will maximize rewards and minimize costs so they choose accordingly.
When men don’t see the value of domestic work/think it’s still the job of the female to do the
A state of equity exists in a relationship when participants feel the rewards they receive are
proportional to the costs they bear.
If a participant feels that the allocation of rewards and costs is inequitable, the relationship is
Social exchange theory predicts that people will try to modify an inequitable relationship.
Limitations of Reinforcement Theory
Reinforcement theory portrays individuals as reacting to environmental stimuli rather than as
initiating behavior based on imaginative or