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PSY270H1 Lecture Notes - Smoke-Filled Room, Philip Zimbardo, Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex

Course Code
Gillian Rowe

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Lecture 8:
Quote by Philip Zimbardo: “You can’t be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel”
Fundamental attribution error when you see someone behaving a certain way you assume that
they are that way and forget that the situation plays a big role in the way they are behaving.
Social psych studies how people are overcome by the power of the situation and how people
resist the power of the situation by cognitive reframing which involves the vmPFC (ventromedial
prefrontal cortex)
Social psych: the psych of normal
- What is normal? I am (more or less) highly articulated self-schema, very well
integrated and very highly accessed.
- Someone who is more responsible than you are anal, people who are less are slackers
- Messy neat freaks
- Energetic manic
- Sexy supermodels
- Smart nerds
- Old creepy
stupid immature
Naïve realism:
- Cognitive basis for racism or any other form of categorizing
- If someone is different from you in some way it is easier to think that this person is a lot
different from you in so many other ways
Me: A somewhat better version of normal:
- Coffee cup worth (overestimating the price if it’s theirs)
- We prefer the first letters of our names (prefer initial vs. a non-name letter and a non-
initial letter is intermediate between initial and a non-name letter)
I am OK… you are tot okay:
- Self is a concept so we can construct ourselves in so many different ways
- Identifying ourselves is a broadening of self-schema to include other stuff (ex: including
someone you fell in love with within your self-concept)
In-group favouritism- out-group derogation:

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
- We extend our self-serving biases to the things that we identify with and exclude the
others that we do not identify with
- Minimal group paradigm: they set up groups in the lab based on the most arbitrary
distinctions (green dot or blue dots below the seat, flipping coins). They got people to
estimate the number of dots, dot over estimator vs. under estimator, people prefer their
fellow over estimator in a money-dividing task even though those group distinctions are
based on nothing. Unconsciously operating and not intentional.
Self and other:
- They are a dynamic system (what the arrows represent) that is trying to balance these
opposing tensions. You might lean more towards one of them at a certain point in time.
- Coming together and falling apart (opposing forces)
- Wanting to be a unit (integrative forces: liking people that are similar to us, we want to be
forged in larger social entities) vs. wanting to be an individual
- Harvey’s analogy, they were giving away mugs and that said “I am an original” but there
is 300 of them and they looked exactly the same. We want to be original but still part of
a group.
Social psych:
- Behaviour is a function of the person times the environment
- Emphasize that social situations have an impact on who we are
- Integrative psych that combines internal factors of the person with the power of the
- If all your friends jumped out of a bridge would you?
- Power of social influence
- Social norms are important (ex: choosing what to wear: we want to fit in but at the same
time express ourselves and be original), whatever you choose to say to a stranger
(mostly about the weather since if you talk about something more meaningful people will
think you are weird)
- When you trip while you are walking and you feel embarrassed, pass out at parties or fall
off a bike. Our reactions will depend on what we think people will think about us. Power
of social norms
Social influence:
- Think of dandelions in so many ways (eat them, wear them around head, enjoy their
beauty, get drunk with them) but it depends on how you frame them which is generally
conditioned by how everyone frames them.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
- The way people dress, establishing their identity by conforming to their group and this
validation that hey get by belonging to the group is what makes them acquire the
courage differentiate from the rest since it is so hard to stand alone.
- Friend that works at the donut shop and they started randomly looking to the window
and looking at the starts and people will eventually joined them. 1 person captures 4
percent of the people walking but a small group will get a huge crowd to stop by.
The power of social norms:
Fashion, binge drinking, safe sex, drinking and driving, smoking, racist jokes, drug use, eating
disorders, hairstyles, music, being honest, recovering from addiction, exercising working
overtime, buying the latest must have
- If you manipulate the social norms people’s behaviour will change
- ??? listen to the study again
The power of the situation:
- Kitty Genovese who gets attacked by a man while walking home. She screams and
people hear her. It’s understandable that no one was affected by someone screaming in
a parking lot in new York and would risk their own lives to save her but they could have
called 911 to report the accident yet they didn’t even though they were aware of the
- Newspaper headline
- What if it is the other way around, because there was 38 people around that people
didn’t act, then they assumed that someone else must have called the police
Diffusion of responsibility:
- Someone else will do it. Individuals take responsibility but will less likely do so in bigger
- Self-awareness study : Leave 5 dollars in a room with no one in it, in one condition they
can see themselves in the mirror and in another they can’t. The mirror reduces the
chances that the person will steal. Same thing with kids and stealing Halloween candy
- The more we are self-aware the more we will behave following our fundamental values
and morals.
- When you reduce self-awareness and increase group awareness, people can lose their
individual identity to the group thereby doing something they would not normally do if
they were more self-aware. Examples:
- KKK. People in respectable positions (individually) but doing horrible things when they
are put in uniforms and are part of a group
- Protests (easier to stand with other people than when they are by themselves)
- Frosh week, people did things that they didn’t think they would do just because they
were wearing same t shirts, same house, same chants…
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