Social Psychology – Chapter 12 Summary
· Even amid the horrors of war, we expect the military to behave in a civilized and professional
manner. This is why the human rights violations by Canadian soldiers in Somalia and the abuses at
Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq, are so shocking.
As soon as word got out about the Abu Ghraib situation, the government made a statement saying
that the incidents were carried out by a small group of way ward soldiers (working alone). This is
because the idea that only a few troubled individuals were responsible for torturing people is
According to social psychologists, there was nothing wrong with the soldiers who carried out the
tortures. Saying that they are probably normal people caught up in overwhelming situations that
shape their actions. The probable factors that influenced their actions might be because:
There was an absence of any real authority in the prison (weakening any responsibility à people
are usually obedient to authority especially at a time of war.)
The working conditions promoted aggression (the soldiers didn’t thought they were going to be
working in traffic control, instead they were at a prison working long hours in hot temperatures
while they were under the threat of death.)
Members of the enemy group are viewed as being all the same and are treated in a dehumanized
· The Stanford prison study demonstrated the speed at which apparently normal university
students could be transformed into the social roles they were playing.
· HOWEVER: MANY BEHAVIOURS BECOME MORE UNDERSTANDABLE WITHIN
o THE POWER OF THE SITUATION.
Some attitudes are complex and involve multiple components. E.x. You might enjoy eating ice
cream but believe it is bad for your health.
We Form Attitudes through Experience and Socialization
· Generally, the more we are exposed to something, the more he/she tends to like it.
o E.x. In a study, a psychologist exposed a few items to people few or many times. The
more they were exposed to something, and become familiar with it, the more people had
more positive attitudes towards them: MERE EXPOSURE EFFECT.
· Attitudes can be conditioned: advertisers use classical conditioning. E.x. seeing an attractive
celebrity paired with a product, we develop more-positive attitude about the product.
o Operant conditioning shapes attitudes too: if you are awarded with good grades each time
you study, you will develop a more positive attitude toward studying.
o Attitudes are shaped through socialization: politicians, media, teachers, religious leaders.
BEhaviours Are Consistent with Strong Attitudes
· Since attitudes are adavptive; they guide behavior. IN general, the stronger and more personally
relevelnt the attitude, the more likely it will predict behavior, be consistent over time and resistant
· Attitudes formed through direct experience tend to predict behavior better. E.x. no matter what
kind of parent you think you will be, for example, once you have seen one child through
toddlerhood, you will have formed very strong attitudes about child-rearing techniques.
· ^ this predicts behavior consistent with the attitude. Russel Fazio has shown that easily activated
attitudes are more stable, predictive of behavior and resistant to change. Thus the quicker you
recall your psych course, the more likely you will attend lectures.
· E.x. of IMPLICIT ATTITUDES: you might purchase a product endorsed by a celebrity even
though you have no conscious memory of having seen the celebrity use the product.
Discrepancies Lead to Dissonance
· E.x. when people smoke even when knowing that it might kill them.
A basic assumption of dissonance theory is that dissonance causes anxiety and tension and
therefore motivates people to reduce the dissonance and relieve displeasure.
· POSTDECISIONAL DISSONANCE:
o Holding positive attitudes about two options but having to choose one of them causes
o POSTDECIONAL DISSONANCE: it motivates you to focus on the positive aspects of
the option you want to pick, and helps you focus on the negative aspects of the option
E.x. you want to buy a car rather than a truck. So you’d think of a gazillion
reasons why you should by the car.
· ATTITUDE CHANGE: In an experiment, they made participants perform extremely boring
tasks for an hour, and were later paid either $1 or $20 to lie and tell the next person that the task
was interesting, educational and worthwhile. Nearly all of them lied. Later, under the guise of a
different survey, the same participants were asked how enjoyable the task had been. The ones who
were paid $1 thought it was much more enjoyable than the people who were paid $20.
o This effect occurred because those paid $1 had insufficient monetary justification for
lying. So, to justify why they went along with the lie, they CHANGED THEIR
ATTITUDES about how fun the task was.
One way to change people’s attitudes is to change their behaviors first, using as few incentives as
· JUSTIFYING EFFORT: On university campuses, administrators impose rules and penalties to
discourage having. But frats/sororities/sport teams still do it and put people through
embarrassing/difficult rites of passage. This makes membership in the group seem much more
valuable and makes the group more cohesive.
When people put themselves through pain, embarrassment, or discomfort to join a group, they
experience dissonance. BUT, they resolve the dissonance by inflating the importance of the group
and their commitment to it.
Attitudes Can Be Changed through Persuasion
Persuasion is most likely to happen when people pay attention to a message, understand it, and
find ait convincing. The message must be memorable so its impact lasts over time.
· According to Richard Petty and John Cacioppo’s ELABORATION LIKELIHOOD MODEL,
persuasion works via two routes:
The central route: in which people pay attention to arguments, consider all the indo, and use
rational cognitive processes. This leads to strong attitudes that last over time and are resistant to
The peripheral route: in which people minimally process the message. This leasds to more-
impulsive action, as when a person decides to purchase a product because a celebrity has endorsed
· The cues that influence a message’s persuasiveness are:
o Source – who delivers it.
o Content – what is being delivered.
o Receiver – who its being delivered to.
Sources who are both attractive and credible are the most persuasive.
Credibility and persuasiveness may also be heightened when the receiver perceives the source as
similar to himself or herself.
Strong arguments that appeal to our emotions are the most persuasive.
One-sided arguments work best when the audience is on the speaker’s side or is gullible. With a
more skeptical crowd, speakers who acknowledge both sides but argue that one is superior tend to
be more persuasive than those who completely ignore the opposing views.
How Do We Form Our Impressions of Others?
· As social animals, we live in groups.
Nonverbal Actions and Expressions Affect Our Impressions
· Social psychology has confirmed the importance of first impressions on long term evaluations of
· How you initially feel about that person will be determined mostly by nonverbal behaviors.
· FACIAL EXPRESSIONS: The first thing we notice about another person is usually the face.
When human babies are less than an hour old, they prefer to look at and will track a picture of a
human face rather than a blank outline of a head (Morton & Johnson). The face communicates a
freat deal such as emotional state, interest and distrust.
· BODY LANGUAGE: Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal have found that people can make
accurate judgments based on only a dew seconds of observation: THIN SLICES OF BEHAVIOR.
Judges, perhaps unconsciously, may indicate their beliefs about guilt or innocence through facial
expressions, tone of voice, and physical gestures.
How people walk is known as GAIT.
o Researchers found that participants accurately judged the sexual orientation as a better-
than-chance rate after watching a 10-second silent video or a dynamic figural outline of
someone walking or gesturing.
We Make Attributions about Others