Lecture 10, 11, 12 & 13 Chapter 8 2/12/2013 11:36:00 AM
Chapter 8: behaviour is Social and Cultural Context
Mohammed Atta was described as religion and concerned with social justice
o Helped carry out 9/11
Hutu nuns helped with Tutsi genocide in Rwanda
Eichmann who was a high ranking Nazi claimed he was “not a monster:
All were likely influences b social factors.
Social and cultural psychology attempt to explain what social and cultural issues
can influence behaviour.
Roles and Rules:
o Rules that regulate social life, including explicit laws and implicit
o A given social position that is governed by a set of norms for proper
Social roles shaped by culture.
Norms can influence roles
Law: you cant beat up other people except in self defense.
o Social understanding: self defense includes defending ones honor in some
o Implicit understanding: don’t sing in public.
People are more likely to break norms if they see other people doing so.
o Broke rules in dirty street with graffiti.
People are more likely to follow rules if they see others doing it .
o Towel recycling study; more people reused when they saw a sign that
said “more than 50% of people reuse towels.”
Culture and Roles:
o A program of shared rules that govern the behavior of people in a
community or society. o A set of values, beliefs, and customs shared by most members of that
E.g. cultural differences in conversational distance.
Norms of conformity:
People tend to conform
o We NEED to obey rules, we couldn’t function as a group without them
People tend to use their cultural norms where ever they are.
What makes people conform and obey?
Stanley Milgram wanted to know and create a famous set of experiments to
The Obedience Study:
Milgram designed series of studies to test whether people would obey an
authority figure when directly ordered to violate their ethical standards
o Task involved teacher giving “electric shock” to learner when incorrectly
answered word pair questions.
Milgram ground that most people were far more obedient than anyone expected.
o Every single participant administered some shock to the learner when
told to do so.
o 2/3 of participants shocked the learner to the maximum level (labeled
450V or XXX)
Recent research has replicated these results even when easier for participants to
Factors Leading to Disobedience:
When the experimenter left the room.
When the victim was right there in the room.
When two experimenters issued conflicting demands.
When the person ordering them to continue was an ordinary man. When the participant worked with peers who refused to go further
Evaluating the Obedience study:
o Obedience is a function of the situation.
Participants see themselves as instruments to effect the wishes of person in
Critics question both the ethics and validity of Milgram’s study.
Raised the ethical questions regarding the use of deception in study.
Ethical concern over emotional pain experiences by participants.
Influence of the situation over personality traits questioned by some.
Linked to actions in Nazi Germany and prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib in Bagdad.
The Prison Study:
Zimbardo and Haney designed classic Stanford Prison Study:
o Male university students randomly assigned to be prisoners or guards.
o Prisoner role—associated with distress, helplessness, apathy, rebellion,
o Guard role—some were nice, others “tough but fair”, but a third of guards
became punitive and harsh.
Powerful demonstration of how the social situation affects behaviour.
Why people obey:
Allocating responsibility to the authority.
Routinizing the task
Wanting to be polite
o Gradual process in which individuals escalate their commitment to a
course of actions to justify their investment of time, money or effort (used
First few steps are easy
Gradually get to a point where you have done something you didn’t want to
Continue to justify doing what you didn’t want to do!
o Listen to torture, watch torture, do torture. o May not have “wanted” to do it to start but once you’ve done it you have
to justify it.
Social Influences on Beliefs:
o An area in social psychology concerned with social influences on though,
memory, perception, and beliefs
Current approaches draw on evolutionary theory, neuroimaging, surveys and
o Argues that people are motivated to explain their own and other peoples
behaviour by attribution causes of that behaviour to a situation or a
Something in the situation or environment caused the
Something in the person (e.g., traits, or motive) caused the
Fundamental Attribution Error:
o The tendency, in explaining other people’s behaviour, to overestimate
personality factors and underestimate the influence of the situation.
o More prevalent in Western vs. Eastern cultures.
Biases in explaining our behaviour:
o The tendency, in explaining ones own behaviour, to take credit for good
actions and rationalize mistakes.
o The tendency to explain favourably the behaviours of members of groups
to which we belong (few people think they were part of the “bad guys” in
Just-world hypothesis: o Notion that people need to believe the world is fair and justice is served;
bas people are punished and good people are rewarded.
o When assumption called into question, people may engage in attributions
involving blaming the victim.
The Impact of Attributions:
What attribution you make to a situation has a big impact.
o Happy couples attribute negative behaviour to the situation.
o Unhappy couples attribute negative behaviour to the person.
The attribute that is made determines how well people get along.
Attitudes are beliefs about people, groups, ideas or activities.
o Explicit attitude:
An attitude that we are aware of, that shapes our conscious
decisions and actions, and that can be measured on
o Implicit attitude:
An attitude that we are unaware of, that may influence our
behaviour in ways we do not recognize, and that is measured in
various indirect ways.
Implicit Association Test:
Tests show you some of your implicit beliefs
o Not conscious of them
o May be the result of conditioning
o Associating some groups with negative words of images from the media.
Attitudes may change with new experiences and information, but also because of
need for consistency.
o Cognitive dissonance: State of tension that occurs when a person simultaneously holds
two cognitions that are inconsistent; or when beliefs are
incongruent with behaviour.
o Resolve by changing attitude or behaviour.
E.g. celebrity does something you find morally objectionable; you
change your attitude about the celebrity or your attitude about
Attitudes and beliefs vulnerable to social influence:
o Familiarity effect:
When people feel more positive toward a person, item, or produce
the more familiar they are with it.
o Validity effect:
When people believe a statement is true of valid simply because it
has been repeated many times.
Attitudes and Advertising:
Advertisers want you to shift your attitude towards wanting their products.
Think about commercials.
o Get you familiar with a product.
o Get you to associate products with positive things
o Repeat the commercial over and over.
Think about court cases.
o Lawyers try to shift the jury’s attitude about the defendant.
Do Genes Influence Attitudes?:
Attitude are combination of learning, experience, and genetics.
o Religion 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
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
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 “nonshared environment”
o Unique life experiences.
Persuasion or “Brainwashing”?
Brainwashing implies a person who is unaware of why they change their minds.
Is actually coercive persuasion:
o Designed to suppress an individuals ability to reason, think critically, and
make choices in his or her own best interests.
Coercive persuasion occurs when:
o The person is subjected to entrapment
Criminal behaviour or money spent etc.
o The persons problems are reduced to one simple attribution, which is
o The person is offered a new identity and is promised salvation
o The persons access to disconfirming (dissonant) information is severely
Key is to dispel peoples 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 behaviour and Conformity:
Decisions we make in groups depend more on group structure and dynamics
compared to personal factors.
Conformity involved taking action or adopting attitudes as a result of real or
imagines group pressure.
o E.g. Asch’s line studies.
o Related to both social normal and culture.
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:
o An illusion of invulnerability
o Pressure on dissenters to conform
o An illusion of unanimity.
Problems with Groupthink:
Probably responsible for both shuttle disasters
o In 1986 NASA was warned Challenger was unsafe, launches, 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.
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 individuals 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 o. (e.g. Kitty Genovese)
o Social loafing:
In work groups, here each member of a team slows down, letting
others work harder.
o In groups or crowds, the loss of awareness of one’s own individuality
Factors of influencing deindividuation:
o Size of the city or group; wearing uniforms or masks.
Influences conforming to the norm of the specific situation, not overall
o Implications for sense of responsibility for behaviour.
Altruism and Dissent:
o The willingness to take selfless or dangerous action of behalf of others
o Includes disobeying orders believed to be wrong or going agains