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Wilfrid Laurier University
Carolyn Ensley

Biases in explaining our behavior  Self-serving bias o The tendency, in explaining one’s behavior, to take credit for good actions and rationalize mistakes  Group-serving bias o The tendency to explain favorably the behaviors of members of groups to which we belong (few people think they were part of the “bad guys” in a war)  Just-world Hypothesis o Notion that people need to believe the world is fair and justice is served; bad people are punished and good people are rewarded o When assumption called into question, people may engage in attributions involving blaming the victim Do Genes Influence Attitude?  Attitudes are combination of learning, experience and genetics o Religious affiliation (the religion chosen) is not heritable; religiosity (the depth of religious feeling) has a genetic component o Political affiliation is not heritable; political conservatism is highly heritable What does that mean?  The variability in openness to new experience and conscientiousness is related to variability in genes o This is linked to religion and politics o Less open tend to be more fundamentalist o More conscientious tend to be more conservative politically What this does NOT mean  Religious affiliation is not heritable o People choose a religious affiliation because of their parents or social class etc. o Many people switch o This isn’t heritable  BUT twins reared apart are similar in their religiosity Do Genes Influence Attitudes?  Identical twin studies suggest that while genetics accounts for some attitudes, most result from “non-shared environment” o Unique life experiences Persuasion or “Brainwashing”  Brainwashing implies a person is unaware of why they change their minds  Is actually coercive persuasion o Designed to suppress an individual’s ability to reason, think critically, and make choices in his or her own best interests  Coercive persuasion occurs when: 1. The person is subjected to entrapment a. Criminal behavior or money spent etc. 2. The person’s problems are reduced to one simple attribution, which is repeatedly emphasized 3. The person is offered a new identity and is promised salvation 4. The person’s access to disconfirming (dissonant) information is severely controlled  Key is to dispel people’s illusions of invulnerability to coercive persuasion tactics Individuals in Groups  Need to belong is a powerful motivation o Social pain often worse than physical pain o Solitary confinement is internationally considered torture  Social rejection ensures group members’ cooperation o When in a group we often behave differently than we would on our own Group Behavior and Conformity  Decisions we make in groups depend more on group structure and dynamics compared to personal factors o Conformity involves taking action or adopting attitudes as a result of real or imagines group pressure  E.g., Asch’s line Studies  Related to both social norms and cultural Groupthink  Groupthink is a tendency for all members of a group to think alike for the sake of harmony and to suppress disagreement  Symptoms of groupthink: 1. An illusion of invulnerability 2. Self-censorship 3. Pressure on dissenters to conform 4. An illusion of unanimity Problems with Groupthink  Probably responsible for both shuttle disasters o In 1986 NASA was warned challenger was unsafe, lunched, and seven lives were lost o Same thing happened in 2002  NASA was an agency with a lot of public respect (perhaps a false sense of ‘genius’) and where dissenters were ridiculed Reducing Groupthink  Do this yourself  Leaders need to reward dissenters  Encourage a group to come up with alternate approaches to a problem  Create a group identity based around individual ideas  Get group members to believe in the greater good... More likely to dissent to protect the group The Anonymous Crowd  Diffusion of responsibility o In groups, the tendency of members to avoid taking action because they assume others will o Bystander apathy: in crowds, individuals’ failure to take action or call for help because they assume someone else will do so o Social loafing: in work groups, where each member of a team slows down, letting others work harder Deindividuation  Deindividuation o In groups or crowds, the loss of awareness of one’s own individuality  Factors influencing deindividuation: o Size of the city or group; wearing uniforms or masks  Influences conforming to the norm of the specific situation, not overall mindlessness o Implications for sense of responsible for behavior Altruism and Dissent  Altruism o The willingness to take selfless or dangerous actions on behalf of others o Includes disobeying orders believed to be wrong or going against prevailing beliefs (dissent)  E.g., fight for Canadian women to have legal status Altruism and Dissent  Situational factors in altruism and dissent: o Perceive the need for intervention or help o Cultural norms encourage you to take action o You have an ally o You become entrapped Ethnocentrism  The belief that your own ethnic group, nation, or religion is superior to all others  Universal belief and may aid survival  Based on social identity of “us”, where everyone else is “them” o Fostered by competition, reduced by interdependent in reaching mutual goals  E.g., Robbers Cave Studies Robbers Cave Experiment  Boys randomly assigned to be “Eagles” or “Rattlers”  Competitions fostered hostility between groups 
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