PS374 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: When Prophecy Fails, Cognitive Dissonance, Leon Festinger

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3 Jul 2017
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PS374 Applied Social Psych 1/13/2015 2:31:00 PM
A Brief History of Social Psychology
Social psychology defined:
- The scientific study of how individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviours
are influenced by other people
- A science of people, rather than other species
- Others do not need to be physically present to influence us
- Our behaviour and attitudes/thoughts do not always correspond with one
another
Influence of others:
- 1. Interpret events
Behaviour occurs in a social context
- 2. Feel about ourselves
Social comparison theory
- 3. Behave
The presence of others can change how we act in a situation
Ex. Deindividuation
A brief history lesson:
- Has roots in philosophy
Ex. Distinction between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours was noted by
Plato
Ex. Humans are social beings (Aristotle)
The history of social psychology:
- The first published social psychology experiment:
Triplett (1898) on social facilitation (said others raced faster when against
others compared to just against a clock)
The dark ages: behaviourism:
- 1920 - 1950
- Doctrine: only observable behaviours can be studied scientifically
Organisms tend to repeat responses that lead to positive outcomes, and not
repeat responses that lead to negative outcomes
- No need to study subjective mental states like thinking and feeling
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Kurt Lewin (1890 1947)
- Founder of modern social psychology
- Opposed to behaviourism
- Gestalt theory: importance of people’s subjective interpretations
“The unified whole is different form the sum of the parts”
- Behaviour is a function of a person + environment
- Applied gestalt principles to social perception
A brief history lesson:
- Much research inspired by events of WWII
The jail study experiment (Zimbardo)
Persuasion (Hitler and WWII)
- Late 1940/1950’s turned away from applied research and focus on
rigorously controlled lab experiments
- Social upheaval of the 1960’s
Ex. Civil rights movement
Ex. Vietnam war protests
Ex. Women’s rights movement
Addressing social problems
- Applied social psychology applies science to address social issues
Ex. Environmental degradation
Ex. Health epidemics
Ex. Prejudice
Ex. Violence
Addressing individual issues
- Health
- Happiness
- Personal relationships
- Learning / education
Theme: the power of the situation:
- Situations exert powerful influences over our behaviour
- We often fail to recognize this
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Fundamental attribution error
- Darley & Batson (1973)
Participants were theology students who had just read the “Good Samaritan”
parable from bible
Then told to go to other building to deliver sermon on this parable
Independent variable: time pressure (some were in a hurry, some were not)
Came across a man lying on the ground (coughing, groaning, etc.)
Dependent variable: whether or not the participants would stop and help this
man lying on the ground
Those who had time about 65% helped, but those who were late only 10%
helped
- Asch’s line judgment study (1956)
Participants judge the length of a line after exposure to answers from six
other “participants” (only the one real test subject)
Confederates would say the wrong answer on purpose to see if it influenced
the response of real subject
When face with this overwhelming group pressure, 77% of the true
participants went along with the group on at least one trial
32% conformed on more than half of the trials
- Milgrim’s obedience experiments
Psychiatrists predicted only 0.1% of participants would go all the way to last
shock
In study 1, 65% of participants were completely obedient (up to last shock
of 450 volts)
Everybody delivered at least 300 volts (“intense shock”)
Moderators of obedience: % who complied to 450 volts
1) Physical proximity of teacher to learner (40%)
2) Teacher has passive role (93%)
3) Direct contact (30%)
4) Less prestigious setting (48%)
5) Disagreeing 2nd experimenter (0%)
- Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment (1971)
Guards vs. inmates
Individual differences
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