“The scientific study of the reciprocal influence of the individual
and his or her social environment.”
The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
Feelings Behaviour Other People
Attitudes (and their thoughts
Emotions feeling, attitudes
and behavior are
Social psychology: A foothold in abstract theory and concrete
- Interested in abstract factors as well as influencing others lives
Social psychology is not like chemistry or physics: We traffic in
probabilities, likelihood, and correlations, rather than absolute
Despite the enormous variability of human behaviour, it is
possible to extract some basic patterns of human behaviour. What does social psychology have to say that my
grandmother couldn’t tell me?
- value) psychology focuses on probabilities (something that is true to degree to statistical
- Better understanding on how our minds work and how they fit into reality
Intuitions must be tested against empirical data
Sometimes even our grandma’s intuitions are wrong! (i.e.
not supported by data)
Plus…sometimes two opposing clichés may seem equally
You are working on a task (rolling cigars in a Cuban cigar
factory) with 20 other people. The owners expand the factory so that now 100 people are
all rolling cigars side-by-side. Will this make a difference
in your individual cigar output?
On the one hand, you might think…more people, more
competition, more impetus to perform better.
On the other hand, you might think…more people, more
anonymity, easier for me to “coast” (perform worse).
(On the third hand…it doesn’t make a difference.)
Each of these options seems plausible to people.
(For the “real” answer: stay tuned…coming later!)
- Engaging in safe aggressive activities (sports) will reduce your level of aggression
- Blowing off steam does nothing or in fact creates more aggression SOCIAL FACILITATION
What is the difference between working in the presence of
others (an audience) vs. working alone?
“The crowd brings out the best in me. The
bigger the crowd, the better I play.”
“choking” under intense scrutiny of large
audience (Rick Ankiel?)
Triplett (1897): Tried his own experiment: Got 40
children to wind up fishing reels, sometimes alone,
sometimes side-by-side with others.
Which group reeled faster (alone vs. with others)?
- Those who were side by side were more efficient
Zajonc: The presence of others increases arousal (which
is something that is physiologically measurable, i.e. heart-
- blending in new features of physiology Arousal energizes you and facilitates the dominant
response (the behavior that comes most quickly and easily
given a particular stimulus). Arousal activates the
thoughts and motor responses that are the most practiced.
On a well-learned task (reciting the alphabet/your
birthday), the dominant response is the correct response.
On a poorly-learned task (naming state capitols/your
mother-in-law’s birthday), the dominant response is likely
to be incorrect.
- Arousal leads to a decrease in performance
an audience should improve your performance on tasks
that are easy for you and hamper your performance on
- facilitation: can mean improvement or a decline, refers to the enhancing properties of dominant
response, which in turn can be correct or incorrect
THE “COCKROACH” EXPERIMENT
The easy maze The “hard” maze
- Social element: glass walls, with other cockroaches or not cockroaches (audience or non)
o Found the same effect, faster when there was a audience
- The members of your own species leads to a facilitated response
position judge your performancetrell, enhanced only if the presence of the people are in - social facilitation was stronger in the condition when the individual in position to judge
you in not blind folded
changes some arousal elementsl Baron: distraction removes some of our attention, which in turns
- non human distracters: can impair performance on difficult tasks but improve
performance on easy tasks
COMPARISON OF SOCIAL FACILITATION
Zajonc Cottrell Baron
Is it social? YES YES NO
Is mere presence YES NO NO
Like most social psych work, different theories work better in different conditions.
Current, ongoing work looks at isolating these conditions.
Q: When does the presence of others cause us to relax,
rather than get aroused?
A: When efforts are pooled (assembly lines, juries, orchestras), and the
performance of any one individual is difficult or impossible for
observers to determine.
Ringelmann: horses, machines, people
# people pulling rope:32 8
amount of force
equivalent to: 2 2.5 4 “The whole is less than the sum of the parts.”
- according to Zajonc this should actually improve the amount of force
How does social loafing occur?
Initially, two possible explanations:
(a) groups less coordinated (more interference – nothing to do with
(b) people try less hard in groups (motivational explanation)
Latane: Told subject either that they were alone or that
they were part of a team, but their teammates were all in
separate rooms. (Why separate rooms?)
There actually were no teammates.
Their task: To scream and yell and make as much noise
as possible! (Dependent variable: decibel level) Results:
Alone – 100%
(supposedly) 1 other person- 82%
(supposedly) 5 other people- 74%
- No way of interfering physically
- Social loafing due to social motivations
What reduces loafing? (Latane and colleagues over numerous
1. Identifiability: the extent to which each individuals output is identifiable
2. importance of task
3. own efforts necessary for successful outcome
4. threat of punishment for poor performance
5. small group : less social loafing in smaller groups compare to larger ones
6. group cohesiveness
*sometimes doing a collective tasks in a group improves social tasks
Karau & Williams-collective effort model:
Big tradeoff: Effort is fatiguing, but success is desired.
People seek to optimize the ratio between their input and
the groups output (i.e. people not entirely lazy and not
entirely concerned with top performance – seek optimal
- When performing a collective task as a group (knowing other group members will
taskorm badly) you will excel in your part to balance out or try to improve the overall
- Stereotyping: knowing your partner will do poorly you will enhance your own
performance level (social compensation) GROUP DECISION MAKING
Who makes riskier decisions: an individual or a
- most peoples intuition are more conservative
- group decisions are often riskier than individuals ones
Stoner (1961): “risky shift”…BUT: later evidence suggested
Group polarization effect: Group discussion amplifies initial
group inclination, whether risky or conservative.
What creates group polarization (Moscovici)?
1. Greater number of arguments in favor of one position.
2. Informational influence may solidify ideas that used to be
- Other people validate the same idea of an individual making ir more solidified
3. Social categorization: Clear boundaries drawn between
- “us versus them” situation Groupthink: an excessive tendency to seek agreement
among group members.
Need for agreement takes over the need for accuracy
Janis (1982): Groupthink likely when:
1. members have similar backgrounds
3. strong leader
4. lacking systematic decision-making procedures
5. high stress
1.illusion of invulnerability :nothing bad can happen
2.collective efforts to rationalize
3. unquestioned belief in group’s inherent morality
4. stereotyped view of enemy leaders as weak or stupid
5. direct pressure on dissenters to comply with the group
6. self-censorship of deviations from group consensus
7. shared illusions of unanimity (“pluralistic ignorance”!)
8. emergence of self-appointed “mind guards” to screen the
group from adverse information
how should one combat groupthink?
- Transparency, bringing in outsiders (experts), devils advocate (arguing the opposite), reality