The scientific study of the ways in which the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of one
individual are influenced by the real, imagined, or inferred behavior or characteristics of
How does group membership affect individual behavior?
• Humans are social animals enmeshed in a complex network of social relationships.
Social psychology studies how individuals behave, think, and feel in social
• Culture provides a broad social context for our behavior. One’s position in groups
defines a variety of roles to be played.
• Social roles, which may be achieved or ascribed, are particular behavior patterns
associated with social positions. When two or more contradictory roles are held,
role conflict may occur. The Stanford prison experiment showed that destructive
roles may override individual motives for behavior.
• Positions within groups typically carry higher or lower levels of status. High status
is associated with special privileges and respect.
• Group structure refers to the organization of roles, communication pathways, and
power within a group. Group cohesiveness is basically the degree of attraction
among group members.
• Norms are standards of conduct enforced (formally or informally) by groups. The
autokinetic effect has been used to demonstrate that norms rapidly form even in
What unspoken rules govern the use of personal space?
• The study of personal space is called proxemics. Four basic spatial zones around
each person’s body are intimate distance (0 to 18 inches), personal distance (1 ½ to
4 feet), social distance (4 to 12 feet), and public distance (12 feet or more).
How do we perceive the motives of others and the causes of our own behavior?
• Attribution theory is concerned with how we make inferences about behavior. A
variety of factors affect attribution, including consistency, distinctiveness,
situational demands, and consensus.
• The fundamental attributional error is to ascribe the actions of others to internal
causes. Because of actor-observer differences, we tend to attribute our own
behavior to external causes.
• Self-handicapping, involves arranging excuses for poor performance as a way to
protect one’s self-image or self-esteem. Why do people affiliate?
• The need to affiliate is tied to additional needs for approval, support, friendship,
and information. Additionally, research indicates that affiliation is related to
reducing anxiety and uncertainty.
• Social comparison theory holds that we affiliate to evaluate our actions, feelings,
and abilities. Social comparisons are also made for purposes of self-protection and
What factors influence interpersonal attraction?
• Interpersonal attraction is increased by physical proximity (nearness), frequent
contact, physical attractiveness, competence, and similarity. A large degree of
similarity on many dimensions is characteristic of mate selection
• Self-disclosure occurs more when two people like one another. Self-disclosure
follows a reciprocity norm: Low levels of self-disclosure are met with low levels in
return, whereas moderate self-disclosure elicits more personal replies. However,
overdisclosure tends to inhibit self-disclosure by others.
• According to social exchange theory, we tend to maintain relationships that are
profitable – that is, those for which perceived rewards exceed perceived costs.
• Romantic love has been studied as a special kind of attitude. Love can be
distinguished from liking by the use of attitude scales. Dating couples like and love
their partners but only like their friends. Love is also associated with greater
mutual absorption between people.
• Adult love relationships tend to mirror patterns of emotional attachment observed
in infancy and early childhood. Secure, avoidant, and ambivalent patterns can be
defined on the basis of how a person approaches romantic and affectionate
relationships with others.
• Evolutionary psychology attributes human mating patterns to the differing
reproductive challenges faced by men and women since the dawn of time.
What have social psychologists learned about conformity, social power, obedience,
• In general, social influence refers to alterations in behavior brought about by the
behavior of others. Conformity to group pressure is a familiar example of social
• Virtually everyone conforms to a variety of broad social and cultural norms.
Conformity pressures also exist within smaller groups. The famous Asch
experiments demonstrated that various group sanctions encourage conformity.
• Groupthink refers to compulsive conformity in group decision making. Victims of
groupthink seek to maintain each other’s approval, even at the cost of critical
• Social influence is also related to five types of social power: reward power,
coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power. • Obedience to authority has been investigated in a variety of experiments,
particularly those by Milgram. Obedience