March 12, 2013.
Lecture 8 – Cultural Psychology
Social Psychology: The Psychology of “Normal”?
Basically the psychology for those that aren’t “abnormal”
What is ‘normal’ anyway?
o We think of ourselves as normal, our perception of ourselves is in itself a schema
o Use ourselves as a baseline for what is normal
People who ___> me are:
People who ___< me are:
o Responsible: anal vs. slackers
o Messy: neat freaks vs. slobs
o Energetic: manic vs. boring
o Sexy: supermodels vs. trolls
o Smart: nerds vs. dumb-asses
Naïve Realism: the general assumption (usually left implicit and unexamined) that we see reality
accurately, correctly, that we are normative, we make sense.
o We therefore can use our understanding of ourselves as a basis from which to judge
others. People who are similar to us are obviously also nice, decent people like we
are…… but people who differ from us…. Well, they are weird, deviant, and deficient in
Me: A somewhat better version of normal
o And we are pretty good, better than average, in fact..
E.g., people prefer their own belongings, the letters of their name, and believe
that for most things, they are “better than average”
90% of adults claim that they are better-than-average drivers, even if they have
been hospitalized for injuries caused by car accidents
Out of 800 000 people, not a single one rated themselves as “below average” in
I’m OK… You’re not OK!
o We like ourselves
o Our “Selves”….. interestingly, the “self” is whatever we conceptualize it to be! The “self”
is whatever we identify with.
o A thing becomes worth significantly more money once it’s “ours”. Even a pen or coffee
cup that we’ve owned for 2 minutes! The “endowment effect”.
o Our house is a “home”. Other houses are just houses.
o Our pain and suffering is a huge tragedy that friends should care about and listen to you
whine about whereas theirs doesn’t seem as big a deal.
Ingroup Favouritism – Outgroup Derogation
o We extend our self-serving biases to whatever we identify with, such as our in-groups.
o WE are better than THEY
It doesn’t take much to prefer “us” vs. “them”
e.g., minimal group paradigm
Randomly throw strangers into groups based on completely arbitrary divisions;
one will still favour the people in their group over the other group o This is very comforting. It means that when we see atrocities and horrible acts
committed by other people, we can assume that they’re “not like us”. There’s
something wrong with them….
o We operate based on the “self” and the “other”
o Integration: belonging, conformity, in-group biases, need for closeness, social support
and validation, etc.
Basically wanting to be included and relate to the “other”
o Differentiation: individualism, power, out-group derogation, uniqueness,
Detachment from the group
B = f(PxE)
“If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you?”
The Power of Social Influence:
o In some ways, we all know that social norms are important….
o E.g., choosing what to wear
o Social norms are why we don’t have more interesting conversations with people in
elevators, or feel embarrassed when we trip in public.
o Perception of things depends on how you frame them, which is often dependent on
how other people frame them
o Experiment in which people were asked to stop on the street and look at the sky
1 person resulted in 4% of people walking by also stopping and looking at the
sky with them
Small group stopped a crowd large enough to interfere with traffic
The Power of Social Norms:
o Fashion, binge drinking, safe sex, drinking and driving, smoking, drug use, eating
disorders, racist jokes, hair styles, music, being honest, cheating, bullying, jaywalking,
volunteering, recovering from addiction, exercising, working overtime, buying the latest
The Power of the Situation:
o Kitty Genovese: New York, 1964
Walking home one night and was attacked, while walking by an apartment
Screaming for help, people in nearby apartments looking out
Dies down, attacker fled, Kitty had been stabbed
At some point, comes back to finish her off
Everything spans about half an hour
Out of 38 people who were aware of what was happening, no one called the
o How could that happen? What is wrong with people in our society today? Is the
isolationism and rugged individualism of our techno-dependent soulless modern society
turning us all into selfish people who don’t care about our neighbours?
o The more people involved in witnessing the situation, the less likely it is someone will
o Diffusion of responsibility: “someone else will do it” “individuals” take responsibility (e.g., self-awareness studies on money,
Halloween candy, value-congruence)
The presence of a mirror will increase self-awareness and therefore
sense of responsibility
But “group members” can act very differently, because who is
Enhancing group awareness will diminish self-awareness.
o Being violent, nasty, disrespectful AS WELL AS being loving, caring about valiant causes,
etc. is easier in a group. It is hard to stand alone.
Group dynamics change a person’s behaviour entirely.
o Seizure Study: 85% of people witnessing a seizure will jump up immediately to get help,
as long as they are alone. As you add individuals to the group, the rate of running to get
Sitting in a Smoke-Filled Room
o Pluralistic Ignorance: disjunction between private beliefs and public behaviours
o Also applies to repressive political systems, destructive social patterns (e.g., racism),
unhealthy behaviours (e.g., binge drinking), not putting your hand up in class, not taking
action on climate change…
o “To be a hero you have to learn to be a deviant, because you are always going against
the conformity of the group.” – Phil Zimbardo
Conformity: Asch Study
o Group of people asked to determine which line matches the length of one other line
o Everyone is part of the study, except for the ONE person being tested
o Everyone gives the wrong answer, what does