Social Psychology 1 W1
Social psychology. Study of how people influence others‟
behaviour, beliefs and attitudes.
Social comparison theory. We seek to evaluate our abilities and
beliefs by comparing them with those of
Mass hysteria. Outbreak of irrational behaviour that is
spread by social contagion.
Social facilitation. Enhancement in performance brought
about by the presence of others.
Conformity. Tendency of people to alter their
behaviour as a result of group pressure.
Deindividuation. Tendency of people to engage in
uncharacteristic behaviour when they are
stripped of their usual identities.
Groupthink. Emphasis on group unanimity at the
expense of critical thinking.
Group polarisation. Tendency of group discussion to
strengthen the dominant positions held by
individual group members.
Cult. Group of individuals who exhibit intense
and unquestioning devotion to a single
Inoculation effect. Approach to convincing people to change
their minds about something by first
introducing reasons why the perspective
might be correct and then debunking
Obedience. Adherence to instructions from those of
What is social psychology
- Study of how people influence other‟s behaviour, beliefs and attitudes.
- Helps us understand why we sometimes act helpfully in the presence of others,
and why we occasionally show our worst sides.
- Sheds light on why we‟re prone to accept blindly irrational, even
- Social influence is relevant to everyone.
- Humans as a social species:
o Gravitating to each other:
150 – approx. size of most human social groups.
Our highly social brains are predisposed to forming intimate
interpersonal networks that are large.
o Why we form groups – the need to belong:
Have a biologically based need for interpersonal connections.
Seek out social bonds when we can and suffer negative
psychological and physical consequences when we can‟t.
Threat of social isolation can lead us to behave in self-
destructive ways and even impair our mental functioning. o How we came to be this way – evolution and social behaviour.
Core premise: Social influences serve us well most of the time,
but can occasionally backfire if we‟re not careful.
Conformity, obedience and many other forms of social
influence become maladaptive only when they‟re blind or
When we accept social influence without evaluating it
critically, we place ourselves at the mercy of powerful others
e.g. Nazi regime.
o Social comparison:
Social comparison theory.
Helps us understand our self and our social world better.
Upward social comparison – compare ourselves with people
who seem superior to us in some way.
Downward social comparison – compare ourselves with others
who seem inferior.
o Social contagion:
Look at others when a situation is ambiguous to figure out what
to believe. Demonstrations:
Contagious outbreak of irrational behaviour that spreads
Prone to collective delusions – many people
simultaneously come to be convinced of bizarre things
that are false e.g. UFO sightings.
False stories that are repeated so many times that people
believe them to be true.
o Social facilitation:
Presence of others can enhance our performance in certain
Occurs only on tasks we find easy.
Social disruption – worsening performance in the presence of
Social influence: conformity and obedience
o The Asch Studies:
Participants asked to compare a standard line with three
comparison ones (the other participants are actually
confederates), you say out loud which of the comparison lines
matches the standard line (you‟re always the fifth to be called).
You give the same answer as the people before you in the first
You give the same answer again even though it‟s clearly wrong
in the second trial.
Results – if you‟re like 75% of the participants in the original
study, you‟d conform to the incorrect norm on at least 1 of the
Participants conformed to the wrong answer 37% of the time. o Social influences on conformity:
Unanimity – if all confederates gave the wrong answer, the
participant was more likely to conform; if one gave the correct
response, the level of conformity plummeted by ¾.
Difference in the wrong answer – knowing that someone else in
the group differed from the majority made the participant less
likely to conform.
Size – size of the majority made a difference but only up to
about 5 or 6 confederates, people more likely to conform in a
group of 10 than in a group of 5.
o Imaging studies (Berns):
Raises the possibility that social pressure can sometimes
Conforming behaviour was associated with activity in the
amygdala, which triggers anxiety in response to danger cues.
Suggests that conformity may come with a price tag of
negative emotions, particularly anxiety.
Also associated with activity in the parietal and occipital lobes
– areas of brain responsible for visual perception.
Suggest that social pressure might sometimes affect
how we perceive reality.
o Individual, cultural and gender differences in conformity.
People with low self esteem especially prone.
Asians more likely than Americans, probably because their
culture is more collectivist rather than individualistic.
o Tendency of people to engage in atypical behaviour when stripped of
their usual identities.
o Factors that contribute – feeling of anonymity and a lack of individual
o When deindividuated, we become more vulnerable to social
influences, including the impact of social roles.
Stanford Prison Study (Zimbardo):
Prisoners and guards assigned roles that deemphasised
their individuality, they adopted their role more easily
Emphasis on group unanimity at the expense of critical
Groups become so intent on ensuring that everyone agrees with
everyone else that they lose their capacity to evaluate issues
Illusion of the group‟s invulnerability e.g. we can‟t
Illusion of group‟s unanimity e.g. obviously we all
agree, Unquestioned belief in the group‟s moral correctness
e.g. we know we‟re on the right side.
Conformity pressure e.g. don‟t rock the boat.
Stereotyping of the out-group e.g. they‟re all morons.
Self-censorship e.g. I suspect the leader‟s idea is stupid
but I better not say anything.
Mindguards (self appointed individuals whose jobs is to
stifle disagreement) e.g. oh you think you know better
than the rest of us.
Encourage active dissent.
Appoint someone who will voice doubts about the
wisdom of the group‟s decisions.
Have independent experts on hand to evaluate if the
decisions make sense.
Hold a follow up meeting to evaluate whether the
decision still seems reasonable.
o Group polarisation:
Tendency of group discussion to strengthen the dominant
positions held by individual group members.
E.g. slightly unprejudiced people become unprejudiced after
discussing racial issues, and vice versa.
o Cults and brainwashing.
Groupthink in extreme forms.
Resisting cults – inoculation.
o Adherence to instructions from those of higher authority.
o The Milgram Paradigm:
Results – all participants administered at least some shock and
they all obeyed the experimenter.
Themes and variations: Variation/condition. Description. % who complied to 450
Remote feedback No verbal feedback from 65.
condition (initial study). the learner; teacher hears
only the learner pounding
on the wall in protest after
Voice feedback condition. Teacher hears the learner‟s 62.
screams of pain and
Proximity condition. Learner is in the same 40.
room as the teacher, so
that the teacher not only
hears but observes the
Touch proximity Teacher is required to hold 30.
condition. learner‟s hand on a shock
plate and not let it leave.
Telephone condition. Experimenter gives 30.
instructions by telephone
from a separate room.
Second experimenter Second experimenter is 0.
condition. present and begins
disagreeing with the first
one about whether to carry
on with the session.
Less prestigious setting for Study is conducted in a 48.
study. rundown office nearby.
Ask teacher to direct a Teacher asked to give 93.
different participant to orders to another
administer shock. participant (actually a
confederate) who then
delivers the shocks. Social Psychology 2 W2
Pluralistic ignorance. Error of assuming that no one in a group perceives
things as we do.
Diffusion of responsibility. Reduction in feelings of personal responsibility in the
presence of others.
Social loafing. Phenomenon where individuals become less productive
Altruism. Helping others for unselfish reasons.
Enlightenment effect. Learning about psychological research can change real-
world behaviour for the better.
Aggression. Behaviour intended to harm others.
Relational aggression. Form of indirect aggression involving spreading
rumours, gossiping and non-verbal putdowns for the
purpose of social manipulation.
Attitude. Belief that includes an emotional component.
Self-monitoring. Personality trait that assesses the extent to which
people‟s behaviour reflects their true feelings and
Cognitive dissonance. Unpleasant mental experience of tension resulting to
two conflicting thoughts/beliefs.
Impression management We don‟t really change our attitudes, but report we
theory. have so our behaviours appear consistent with our
Foot-in-the-door technique. Making a small request before making a bigger one.
Door-in-the-face technique. Making an unreasonably large request before making
the small one you‟re hoping to get granted.
Low-ball technique. Seller starts by quoting a low price then mentions all
the add-on costs once the customer has agreed to
purchase the product.
Prejudice. Drawing negative conclusions about a person, group or
situation prior to evaluating the evidence.
Stereotype. A belief about the characteristics of members of a
group that is applied generally to most members of the
Ultimate attribution error. Assumption that behaviour among individual members
of a group are due to their individual dispositions.
Adaptive conservatism. Evolutionary principle that creates a predisposition
towards distrusting anyone/anything unfamiliar or
In-group bias. Tendency to favour individuals within our group over
those from outside.
Out-group homogeneity. Tendency to view all individuals outside our group as
Discrimination. Negative behaviour towards members of out-groups.
Scapegoat hypothesis. Claim that prejudice arises from a need to blame other
groups for our misfortunes.
Just-world hypothesis. Claim that our attributions and behaviours are shaped
by a deep-seated assumption that the world is fair and all things happen for a reason.
Explicit prejudice. Unfounded negative belief of which we are aware
regarding the characteristics of an out-group.
Implicit prejudice. Unfounded negative belief of which we are unaware
regarding the characteristics of an out-group.
Self-perception theory. We acquire our attitudes by observing our behaviours.
- People more likely to help when alone.
- Why we don‟t help:
o Pluralistic ignorance (it must just be me):
The error of assuming that no one in the group perceives things
as we do.
E.g. you see someone lying on the floor but notice no one else
thinks it‟s an emergency so you don‟t intervene.
o Diffusion of responsibility (passing the buck):
Presence of others make each person feel less responsible for
E.g. somebody dies of a heart attack and you reassure yourself
that it wasn‟t your fault and that other people could have
- Social loafing:
o People slack off in groups.
o Influenced by cultural differences – individualistic versus collectivist
Prosocial behaviour and altruism
o Helping selflessly.
- Situational influences:
o People are more likely to help in some situations than others.
o More likely to help when they can‟t escape the situation.
o Characteristics of the victim also matter.
- Individual and gender differences:
o Influence the likelihood of helping.
o People who are less concerned about social approval and less
traditional are more likely to intervene in emergencies even when
others are present.
o Extraverted people more likely than introverted people.
o People with life saving skills more likely to help also.
- Bystander-calculus model:
o Stages: physiological arousal, arousal labelled as an emotion,
consequences of helping/not helping are evaluated.
o In the last stage potential helpers:
Evaluate the consequences of helping/not helping.
Choose the action with the lowest costs that reduces their
The two main costs are time and effort – the greater the costs,
the less likely the bystander will help.
o Costs of not helping: Empathy – feeling of stress.
Personal costs – blame and penance.
When there are a lot of other bystanders, these are less and
therefore there are fewer reasons to help.
Aggression: Why we hurt others
- Situational influences:
o Interpersonal provocation:
More likely to strike out aggressively when we‟ve been
More likely to behave aggressively when we are frustrated.
o Media influences:
When exposed to media violence through observational
learning we are more likely to act aggressively.
o Aggressive cues:
External cues associated with violence e.g. guns and knives can
serve as discriminative stimuli for aggression, making us more
likely to act violently in response to provocation.
When are autonomic nervous systems are hyped up, we may
mistakenly attribute this arousal to anger, leading us to act
o Alcohol and other drugs:
Certain substances can disinhibit our brain‟s prefrontal cortex,
lowering our inhibitions toward behaving violently.
Warmer temperatures are associated with higher rates of
- Individual, gender and cultural differences:
o Personality traits:
When confronted with a situation, people differ in their
tendencies to behave aggressively.
Certain traits can combine to create a dangerous cocktail of
People with high levels of negative emotions, impulsivity, and
a lack of closeness to others are especially prone to violence.
o Sex differences:
Males have higher levels of physical aggression.
Females have a higher rate of relational aggression.
o Cultural differences:
Physical aggression and violent crime less prevalent among
Asians than Americans or Europeans.
- Origins of attitudes:
We are more likely to believe something we‟ve heard many
times (recognition heuristic).
o Personality: Attitudes associated in important ways with our personality.
- Attitude change:
o Cognitive dissonance theory:
We alter our attitudes because we experience an unpleasant
state of tension between 2 or more conflicting thoughts.
Because we dislike the tension, we‟re motivated to
If we hold an attitude or belief that‟s inconsistent with another,
we can reduce the anxiety resulting from the consistency by
either changing cognition A, changing cognition B or introduce
a new cognition that resolves it.
o Alternatives to cognitive dissonance theory:
Theory that we acquire our attitudes by observing our
We don‟t really change our attitudes, but report that we
have so that our behaviours appear consistent with our
- Routes to persuasion:
o Two alternative pathways to persuading others:
Central – leads us to evaluate the merits of persuasive
arguments carefully and thoughtfully.
Focus on the informational content of the arguments –
do they hold up under close scrutiny.
Use this when we‟re motivated to evaluate information
carefully and abele to do so.
Attitudes we acquire tend to be strongly held and
Peripheral – respond to persuasive arguments on the basis of
Focus on the surface aspects – how appealing and
interesting they are.
Use this when not motivated to weigh information
carefully and don‟t have the ability to do so.
Attitudes acquired tend to be weaker and relatively
- Persuasion techniques:
o Low-ball technique.
- Characteristics of the messenger:
o More likely to believe messages when:
If the person is famous or attractive.
Source possesses credibility.
Messenger seems similar to us.
o We‟re more positively disposed towards people, places or things that
resemble us (implicit egotism effect). - Pseudoscience marketing techniques:
Tactic Concept Example
Creation of a Capitalise on desire to “Master the complete works of
phantom goal. accomplish unrealistic Shakespeare while sleeping”.
Vivid Learning about someone “Sandra was severely depressed for 5
testimonials. else‟s personal years until she underwent rebirthing
Manufacturing We‟re more likely to “Dr Jon from Princeton endorses this
source believe sources that we subliminal tape to build self-esteem”.
credibility. judge to be trustworthy
Scarcity Something that‟s rare “Call before midnight to get your
heuristic. must be especially copy, it‟s going to sell out fast”.
Consensus If most people believe “Thousands of psychologists use this,
heuristic. that something works, it so it must be valid”.
The natural A widely held belief that “This new anti-anxiety pill is made
commonplace. things that are natural are from all-natural ingredients”.
The goddess- A widely held belief that “The Magical Mind Program allows
within we all posses a hidden you to get in touch with your
commonplace. mystical side that unrecognised psychic potential”.
science neglects or
o Belief – positive or negative – about a group‟s characteristics that we
apply to most members of that group.
o Stem from adaptive psychological processes.
o We lump people together who have the same characteristic and it helps
us to process information.
o Illusory correlation – indicate the perception of an erroneous
association between a minority group and a given characteristic.
E.g. although most people believe there is a powerful
correlation between mental illness and violence, studies
indicate that the risk of violence is markedly elevated only
among a small subset of mentally ill individuals.
o Ultimate attribution error – attributing the negative behaviour of entire
groups to their dispositions.
E.g. all people of race X are unsuccessful because they‟re lazy.
Leads us to underestimate the impact of situational factors on
people‟s behaviour e.g. Caucasian students are more likely to
interpret a shove as intentionally aggressive, as opposed to
accidental, when it originates from an African American than
from another Caucasian.
- The nature of prejudice: o Biases associated with our tendency to forge alliances with people like
In-group bias – the tendency to favour individuals inside our
group relative to members outside our group.
E.g. cheering your team on in a game along with others.
Out-group homogeneity – tendency to view all people outside
of our group as highly similar.
We don‟t need to bother getting to know them because
it‟s easy to dismiss time as we tell ourselves that they
all share at least one undesirable characteristic.
E.g. all people of Race X look the and act the same
o Can be subtle, yet powerful.
o Affects the quality of interpersonal interactions.
- Roots of prejudice:
o Scapegoat hypothesis:
Prejudice arises from a need to blame other groups for our
Can also stem from competition over scarce resources.
E.g. blaming African Americans for higher cotton prices.
o Just-world hypothesis:
Many of us have a deep-seated need to perceive the world as
fair – to believe that all things happen for a reason.
Leads us to place blame on groups that are already in a one-
“Blaming the victim”.
o Individual differences in prejudice:
People with authoritarian personality traits are prone to high
levels of prejudice against many groups. Psychological Discovery 1 W3
Hypothesis. Prediction regarding the outcome of a study involving the potential
relationship between at least two variables.
Variable. Event/behaviour that as at least two values.
Theory. Organised system of assumptions and principles that attempts to
explain certain phenomena and how they‟re related.
Skeptic. Someone who questions validity, authenticity and truth of
something purporting to be factual.
Basic research. Study of psychological issues to seek knowledge for its own sake
e.g. capacity of ST memory.
Applied Study of psychological issues that have practical significance and
research. potential solutions e.g. how stress affects immunity.
Falsifiability. Scientific theory must be stated in such a way that it is possible to
Pseudoscience. Claims that appear to be scientific but that actually violate the
criteria of science.
Testable All variables, events and individuals are real and can be defined
hypothesis. and observed.
Refutable Can be demonstrated to be false – possible for the outcome to be
hypothesis. different from the prediction.
Sources of knowledge
o Acquiring knowledge based on subjective feelings, interpreting
random events as non-random, or believing in magical events.
o E.g. bad things happen in threes.
o Not empirical/logical.
o Knowledge gained without being consciously aware of its source.
o E.g. gut feelings.
o Not empirical/logical.
o Gained from those viewed as authority figures.
o E.g. parents.
o Not empirical/logical; authority figure may not be an expert.
o Repeated ideas that are stubbornly clung to despite evidence to the
o E.g. repeating a slogan.
o Not empirical/logical.
o Through logical reasoning.
o E.g. syllogisms.
o Logical but not empirical.
o Through objective observations of organisms and events in the real
o E.g. seeing something to believe it. o Empirical but not necessarily logical/systematic.
o Through empirical methods and logical reasoning.
o E.g. hypotheses.
o The only acceptable way for researchers to gain knowledge.
Criteria that help define science
Systematic empiricism – making observations in a systematic manner to test a
hypothesis and refute/develop a theory.
o Aids in refuting/developing a theory in order to test hypotheses.
Publicly verifiable knowledge – presenting research to the public so that it can
be observed, replicated, criticised and tested.
o Aids in determining the accuracy of a theory.
Empirically solvable problems – questions that are potentially answerable by
means of currently available research techniques.
o Aids in determining whether a theory can be potentially tested using
empirical techniques and whether it is falsifiable.
Goals of science
Description – carefully observing behaviour in order to describe it.
Prediction – identifying the factors that indicate when an event/events will
Explanation – identifying the causes that determine when and why a behaviour
Observational – making observations of human/animal behaviours.
Naturalistic – observing behaviour in their natural habitat.
Laboratory – observing in a more contrived (deliberately created) and
controlled situation (usually a lab).
Selecting a problem
Generating ideas for a research project:
1. Start with past research on the topic.
2. Past theories.
4. Practical problems encountered in daily life. The research process
Find a research idea. Select a general topic area.
Review the literature to identify the relevant
variables and find an unanswered question.
Form a hypothesis and Goal of the research study is to demonstrate that
a prediction. your hypothesis is correct.
Because the hypothesis identifies the specific
variables involved and describes how they are
related, it forms the foundation for the study.
Conducting the study provides an empirical test of
Results will either provide support or refute it.
Important characteristics of a hypothesis – logical
(founded in established theories or developed form
results of previous research), testable (must be
possible to observe and measure all of the variables
involved), refutable (must be possible to obtain
research results that are contrary), positive (must
make a positive statement about the existence or
Determine how you
Defined in a manner that makes it possible to
will define and measure measure them by some form of empirical
your variables. observation.
Identify and select the Participants (human), subjects (non-humans).
participants/subjects for Responsibility of researcher to plan for their safety
the study. and wellbeing and to inform them of all relevant
aspects of the research.
Decide whether you will place any restrictions on
the characteristics of the participants.
Determine how many, and where, when and how
you will recruit them.
Select a research Determined by the type of question asked and ethics
strategy. and other constraints.
Select a research Making decisions about the specific methods and
design. procedures you will use to conduct the study.
Conduct the study. Decide between laboratory and real world setting.
Decide between individual or group study.
Evaluate the data. Statistical methods e.g. graphs, inferential statistics.
Report the results. Write a report for the public.
Refine/reformulate Most research studies generate more questions than
idea. they answer.
Extend the original question into new domains or
make it more precise.
Tests the boundaries of the result e.g. to different
Refines the original research question. Psychological Discovery 2 W4
Institutional review boards. Committee in charge with evaluating research
projects in which human subjects are used.
Deception. Lying to the subjects concerning the true nature of a
study (it might affect their performance).
Debriefing. Providing info about the true purpose of a study as
soon after the completion of data collection as
Operational definition. Definition of a variable in terms of the activities a
researcher uses to measure/manipulate it.
Correlation coefficient. Degree of relationship between two sets of scores.
Positive correlation. Direct relationship between two variables in which
an increase one is related to an increase in the other
and vice versa.
Negative correlation. Inverse relationship between two variables in which
an increase in one is related to a decrease in the
other and vice versa.
General principles of the APA code of ethics
Beneficence and safety:
o Obligation to maximise possible benefits and minimise possible harms.
Integrity and research merit:
o Commitment to the pursuit and protection of truth.
o Commitment to research methods designed to contribute to knowledge.
o Valuable reason for conducting the research.
o Issue of who ought to be benefit from the research and who will bear
Respect for persons, and consent:
o Respect for the inherent dignity and rights of persons.
o Commitment not to use a person as only a means to an end.
o Obtain consent to participate in research.
Participation should be voluntary and informed:
o Participants should be aware of the risks associated with a study.
o Provide consent to participate.
o Be allowed to end their participation whenever they choose.
o Any info that might influence someone‟s willingness to take part in a
study must be disclosed in advance.
Participants should not be exposed to harmful or dangerous procedures:
o Mild discomfort is permitted, as long as no lasting damage is expected
and participants are fully aware of the potential discomfort.
o Permitted only when necessary to maintain the integrity of a study and
when no other alternative exists.
If used, participants must be formally debriefed about it in
order to clear up any misunderstandings. Participants should have an expectation of confidentiality:
o Identity and personal info obtained should never be divulged to others
without first obtaining consent from the individual.
All proposals for research involving human (or animal) participants must
abide by the relevant ethical guidelines/codes and be reviewed and approved
by the institutional ethics committee.
o All results must be reported fully and accurately.
Defining and measuring variables
Variable – any characteristic/condition that can have more than one value, or
that can vary across organisms, situations or environments e.g. age,
Discrete – usually consist of whole number units/categories and are made up
of chunksthat are distinct and detached from one another.
Continuous – fall along a continuum and allow for fractional amounts.
Empirical study involves observing, manipulating and measuring variables in
various conditions and other varying degrees of control.
o Need to be precisely defined (i.e. operationally).
The nature of the variables of interests plays an important role in research
Types of variables:
o Vary depending on:
Research topic and hypothesis.
Research strategy and design.
Manipulate the values/levels of one or more variables and measure the
effect(s) on one or more other variables.
o Manipulation – IV.
Variables that the researcher directly manipulates e.g. altering
the anti-depressant drug dosage given to participants.
Quasi-IV – variables that the researcher indirectly manipulates
(for practical/ethical reasons these cannot be directly
manipulated but since there are pre-existing levels the
researcher can utilise them). E.g. sex (male versus female).
Can be called subject variables because they are
characteristics that come with the participants.
o Outcome – DV.
Variables that the researcher observes to examine changes in.
Observes how manipulations affect these variables.
The effect of the manipulation.
What is being measured.
IV versus DV:
o Any variable can be IV in one study, and DV in another.
o Depends on what one does with it in a given study (research topic and
Relating IVs and DVs to hypotheses: o Hypotheses – brief, tentative statements about what the researcher
expects to find.
i.e. statements that describe or explain relationships between
Should specify the IV and how it will be manipulated, the DV,
and a prediction about how the DV is expected to change with
manipulation of the IV.
o Variables that cause change across treatment groups/affect specific
participants and therefore affect the DV.
o Need to control for the effect of all but the one of IV interest.
Participant/subject variables – characteristics that come with
the partiicpants which you do not want to influence your
findings e.g. handedness.
Situational/environmental variables – characteristics of the
situation/environment which are specific to the research context
e.g. time of day, temperature.
Experimenter variables – characterisics of the experimenter
conducting the research. E.g. mannerism and personal bias
(influence participants behaviour).
o Random variables – variables specific to particular participants to
differing degrees and whose effects cannot be calculated i.e. have
random effects. e.g. cramp in the leg while in driving simulator.
o Confounding variables – variables that systematically vary with the
levels of the IV and result in systematic changes in the DV across the
different IV levels. E.g. experimenter fatigue could increase across the
day so that the participants tested last are done so sloppily.
Problem with extranenous variables:
o May provide an alternative explanation for your results aside from the
effects of the IV.
E.g. changes in the DV may be due to a confounding variable
instead of the IV.
o Add additional variance into your data which:
Will make it harder to find differences between groups.
May introduce erroneous patterns that lead to make inaccurate
Stipulating in detail how the variable in question is to be defined, observed
If variables can be measured directly, this is straightforward.
o E.g. alcohol consumption can be operationalised by stipulating:
number of standard drinks consumed per hour, or BAC concentration
measured using a meter.
If variables consist of constructs (hypothetical attributes/entities derived from
theory which are not directly observable), we need to carefully develop
operational definitions for them. o E.g. intelligence – specifying the use of a specified intelligence test
and the method for calculating the IQ (IQ is the operationalised
concept of intelligence).
o E.g. depressed mood can be operationslised by specifying that it refers
to scores over 10 on the Beck Depression Inventory.
Scales of measurement
Measurement – the assignment of a number to an operationalised variable.
Influence the type of data analysis tools that will be used.
o Nominal – consists of categories which are differentiated only be
qualitative names e.g. sex, marital status.
o Ordinal – consists of ordering/rankings where the distance between
rankings is not the same throughout e.g. top ten resturants, pain scored
from 1 to 10.
o Interval – ordered, constant, where the differences between intervals
are exactly the same, but there is no natural zero point e.g.
temperature, personality test scores.
o Ratio – ordered, constant, where the differences between intervals are
exactly the same a there is a natural (or real) zero point. E.g. BAC,
Measurement modalities – methods for acquiring measurements:
o Self-report measures – participants provide info about themselves.
o Physical measures – physical/physiological measurements recorded by
o Behavioural measures – measuremenrs taken out of observed
Properties of measurement:
o Identity – objects that are different receive different scores.
o Magnitude – ordering of numbers reflects the ordering of the variable.
o Equal unit size – a difference of one is the same amount throughout the
o Asolute zero – assigning a score of zero indicates an absebce of the
variable being measured.
Validity and reliability
Criteria for evaluating the quality of our measurement options.
Measurements obtained will only ever be as good as the reliability of the
instrument and the validity and its construction.
o Reliability – stability/ consistency of the measurement.
If the same individuals are measured under the same
conditions, a reliable measurement procedure will produce
identical (or nearly identical) measurements.
Extent to which the measuremenrs are affected by error.
Measured score = true score + error.
Measuring relaibiloty – correlation coefficients.
Common sources of error:
Observer error – human error as a result of the
individual(observer) recording the measurements. Environmental changes – environmental conditions can
be a source of error when there are environmental
changes across participants.
Participant changes – when participants undergo several
measurement, they can change between them.
Test-retest reliability – i.e. is there a consistency
between two scores on the same measure taken at
Parallel/equivalent forms reliability – i.e. is there
consistency between two forms which are designed to
Inter-rater reliability – i.e. is there consistency between
the measurements of two observers.
Split-half reliability – i.e. if the measure is split in half,
is there consistency between the two halves.
o Validity – refers to whether a measurement instrument measures what
it is supposed to measure.
Defining and examining validity:
Content – do the measure‟s items cover a representative
range of the behaviours being measured.
Face – does a measure appear to measure what it claims
Concurrent – is a new measure consisten with other
more established measures of the same variable.
Predictive/criterion – does the measure predict what it is
Construct – do the measurements of the construct
behave the same as the variable itself.
o Measurements can be reliable but not valid:
Galton though criminality could be measured by the distance
between people‟s eyes.
Phrenologists thought mental faculties could be measured from
Sheldon thought personality could be measured by body shape.
All are easy to measure and will yield consistent results in
repeated measurements, but none sensibly relate to what they
are supposed to be measuring. Abnormal Psychology 1 W5
Demonic model. View of mental illness in which odd behaviour,
hearing voices or talking to oneself was
attributed to evil spirits infesting a body.
Medical model. View in which psychological abnormality was
due to a physical disorder that required medical
Asylum. Institution for people with mental illness created
in the 15 century.
Moral treatment. Approach to mental illness calling for dignity,
kindness and respect for those with a mental
Labelling theorists. Scholars who argue that psychiatric diagnoses
exert powerful negative effects on people‟s
perceptions and behaviours.
DSM. Diagnostic system containing the APA criteria
for mental disorders.
Prevalence. Percentage of people within a population who
have a specific mental disorder.
Axis. Dimension of functioning.
Comorbidity. Co-occurrence of 2+ diagnoses within the same
Categorical model. Mental disorder differs from normal functioning
in kind rather than degree.
Dimensional model. Mental disorder differ from normal functioning
in degree rather than kind.
Insanity defence. Legal defence proposing that people shouldn‟t be
held legally responsible for their actions if they
weren‟t of sound mind when committing them.
Involuntary commitment. Procedure of placing some people with mental
illness in a psychiatric hospital or other facility
based on their potential danger to
themselves/others or their inability to care for
Somatoform disorder. Condition marked by physical symptoms that
suggest an underlying medical illness but that are
actually psychological in origin.
Major depressive episode. State in which a person experiences a lingering
depressed mood/diminished interest in
pleasurable activities, along with symptoms that
incl. weight loss and sleep.
Cognitive model of depression. Theory that depression is caused by negative
beliefs and expectations.
Learned helplessness. Tendency to feel helpless in events we can‟t
Manic episode. Experience marked by dramatically elevated
mood, decreased need for sleep, increase in
energy, inflated self-esteem, increased talkativeness and irresponsible behaviour.
Bipolar disorder. Condition marked by a history of at least one
Schizophrenia. Severe disorder of thought and emotion
associated with a loss of contact with reality.
Delusion. Strongly held, fixed belief that has no basis in
Psychotic symptom. Psychological problem reflecting serious
distractions in reality.
Hallucination. Sensory perception that occurs in the absence of
an external stimulus.
Catatonic symptoms. Motor problem, incl. extreme resistance to
complying with simple suggestions, holding the
body in bizarre/rigid postures, or curling up in a
Diathesis-stress model. Perspective proposing that mental disorders are a
joint product of a genetic vulnerability (diathesis)
and stressors that trigger this (env).
Symptom. Any characteristic of a person‟s actions,
thoughts, or feelings that could be a potential
indicator of a mental disorder.
Syndrome. A constellation of interrelated symptoms
manifested by a given individual.
Must involve distress/impaired functioning;
source located within the person; can‟t be
explained purely as an effect of poverty,
prejudice, or other social forces.
Psychiatric diagnosis – misconceptions
Nothing more than pigeonholing, that is, sorting people into different “boxes”.
Criteria for determining whether a psychiatric diagnosis is valid
Distinguishes that diagnoses from other, similar ones.
Predicts diagnosed individuals‟ performance on laboratory tests.
Predicts diagnosed individuals‟ family history of psychiatric disorders.
Predicts diagnosed individuals‟ natural history.
Predicts diagnosed individuals‟ response to treatment.
Multiple causation Predisposing causes:
o Those well in place before the onset of the disorder that make the
person susceptible to that disorder.
o Immediate events in one‟s life that bring on the disorder.
o The consequences of a disorder that help to keep it going once it
Disorders across cultures
Certain conditions are culture bond e.g. some are specific to non-western
cultures and some specific to western cultures.
Classification and diagnosis
Diagnosis - Assigning a label to a person‟s mental disorder.
Allows us to identify people whose disorders are similar, this allows for:
o Knowledge about causes.
o Effective treatments.
o Eventual outcomes.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV:
o DSM - Originated in 1844 as a statistical classification of
institutionalised mental patients; designed to improve communication
about the types of patients cared for in hospitals.
o DSM-IV (2000) – designates 17 major categories of psychological
disorders and more than 200 subcategories.
o More than just a tool for diagnosis; symptom characteristics and
Major classes of disorders:
o Disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence.
o Delirium, dementia and amnestic, and other cognitive disorders.
o Mental disorders due to a general medical condition.
o Substance-related disorders.
o Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
o Mood disorders.
o Anxiety disorders.
o Somatoform disorders.
o Factitious disorders.
o Dissociative disorders.
o Sexual and gender identity disorders.
o Eating disorders.
o Sleep disorders.
o Impulse-control disorders not elsewhere classified.
o Adjustment disorders.
o Personality disorders.
o Other conditions that may be a focus on clinical attention.
o Relies on categorical model. Improvements to DSM-IV
Clear and concise description of each disorder organised by diagnostic criteria.
Dimensional measures (where appropriate) that cross diagnostic boundaries.
Risk factors, associated features, research advances and various expressions of
Culture and ethnic factors.
Before: When a clinician is attempting to ascertain a diagnosis, the client is
rated on five separate DSM dimensions (axis):
o Axis I – major disorders: schizophrenia, somatoform disorders, anxiety
disorders, mood disorders, etc.
o Axis II – lists two further categories relating to personality disorders
and mental retardation.
o Axis III – medical conditions that may be relevant to understanding
o Axis IV – severity of psychosocial stressors that may have precipitated
o Axis V – global assessment of the person‟s functioning/disability.
o The axial diagnostic system has been removed in favour of nonaxial
documentation of diagnosis.
o Axis I, II & III combined – separate notations for psychosocial and
contextual factors (formerly IV) and disability (formerly V).
o In addition to categorical diagnoses, a dimensional approach allows
clinicians to rate disorders along a continuum of severity that will
largely eliminate the need for “not otherwise specified (NOS)”
conditions, now termed “not elsewhere defined (NED)” conditions.
o Dimensional diagnostic system also better correlates with treatment
Mood – prolonged state that alters a person‟s thoughts and behaviours.
Two main categories defined in the DSM-IV:
o Major depressive disorder (unipolar).
Extreme and prolonged mood change (sadness) in one
direction; downwards from normal.
o Bipolar disorder (manic depression).
Mood swings in both directions; downwards in depressive
episodes, upwards in manic episodes.
DSM-V separates out in the following way:
o Bipolar and related disorders.
o Depressive disorders (disruptive mood deregulation disorder, major
depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, premenstrual
dysphoric disorder, substance/medication-induced depressive disorder,
depressive disorder due to another medical condition, other specified
depressive disorder, and unspecified depressive disorder).
Mood disorders and conditions in DSM-IV:
Major depressive disorder. Chronic/recurrent state in which a person experiences
a lingering depressed mood or diminished interest in pleasurable activities, along with symptoms that
include weight loss and sleep difficulties.
Manic episode. Markedly inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, greatly
decreased need for sleep, much more talkative than
usual, racing thoughts, distractibility, increased
activity level/agitation, and excessive involvement in
pleasurable activities that can cause problems.
Bipolar disorder I. Presence of one or more manic episodes.
Dysthymic disorder. Low-level depression of at least two years‟ duration.
Hypomanic episode. Less intense and disruptive version of a manic
Bipolar disorder II. Patients must experience one episode of major
depression and one hypomanic episode.
Cyclothymic disorder. Moods alternate between numerous periods of
hypomanic symptoms and numerous periods of
Postpartum depression. Depressive episode that occurs within a month after
Seasonal affective disorder. Depressive episodes that display a seasonal pattern.
121 million people suffer from one type (WHO).
Major distinctions between depression and anxiety:
o Anxiety tends to be coupled with physiological arousal and hyper
o Depression tends to entail an absence of pleasure and sense of
Main subclasses of depressive disorders:
o Major depression – very severe symptoms that last without remission
for at least 2 weeks.
o Dysthymia – less severe symptoms that last for at last 2 years.
Major symptoms of depression:
o Extreme sadness, irritable mood.
o Sense of worthlessness.
o Absence of pleasure.
o Increased/decreased sleep and appetite.
o Agitated and/or retarded motor symptoms.
Life events: traumatic loss can create vulnerability for later
Loss of reinforcement: when loss triggers depression people
withdraw from positive reinforcements and this perpetuates the
Disorder of thinking: people who distort things and how a
pessimistic view of themselves, the world, the future; they
distort their experiences in negative ways. Learned helplessness – as a consequence of uncontrollable
Antidepressant medications work by increasing the availability
of NTs or by changing the severity of the receptors for these
Variety of Serotonin-Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI‟s)
include Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil.
Medications stabilise a group of NTs called monoamines
(norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin).
DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder:
o Five (or more) of the following (must include 1 or 2).
Depressed mood most of the day.
Markedly diminished interest/pleasure in all, or almost all,
Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain.
Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly everyday.
Psychomotor agitation or retardation (slowing) nearly
Fatigue or loss of energy nearly everyday.
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation.
o Symptoms do not meet criteria for a mixed episode (simultaneous
depression and mania).
o Symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational or other important areas of functioning.
o Symptoms are not due to the physiological effects of a substance or a
o Symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement.
o Positive symptoms:
Feelings of power, confidence and energy.
Feelings of enhanced abilities and creativity.
o Negative symptoms:
Actions are highly disruptive.
Bizarre thoughts and dangerous behaviours.
Depressive cycle usually lasts longer than the mania, but either may
Patients cycle between depression and mania regularly – vary from weeks to
months in duration.
Some switch as often as every 48 hours.
Stress tends to precipitate the switch. Suicide
Myths and misconceptions:
o Talking to persons with depression about suicide often makes them
more likely to commit the act.
o Suicide is almost always completed with no warning.
o As a severe depression lifts, people‟s suicide risk decreases.
o Most people who threaten suicide are seeking attention.
o People who talk a lot about suicide almost never commit it.
Major suicide risk factors:
o Substance abuse.
o Chronic, painful or disfiguring physical illness.
o Recent loss of a loved one, divorce, separation or widowed.
o Family history of suicide.
o Personality disorders.
o Anxiety disorders.
o Old age.
o Recent discharge from a hospital.
o Prevalence 7 per 1,000.
o Accounts for high incidence of inpatients.
o Age at onset:
Men – mid 20s.
Women – late 20s.
o Treatable disorder.
o Better prognosis in women.
o Bleuler (1911-1950) identified the disorder.
Schizo – split.
Phrenun – mind.
Most common symptoms:
False sensory perceptions.
o Disorganised speech:
Breakdown in pattern of logical thinking.
o Disorganised behaviour and catatonia (negative symptoms):
Absence of, or reduction in, expected behaviours, thoughts,
o Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders:
Delusional disorder. Brief psychotic disorder.
Substance/medication-induced psychotic disorder.
Psychotic disorder due to another medical condition.
Catatonia associated with another mental disorder.
Catatonic disorder due to another medical condition.
Other specified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic
o Brain abnormalities (less activity in frontal lobes and basal ganglia;
large cerebral ventricles; increase in size of sulci).
o NT differences (overactivity of dopamine at synapses).
o Treated with antipsychotic medications, which focus on symptoms.
o Genetic influences (suggestion that they produce a vulnerability so that
it is more common if there is a family history).
o Diathesis-stress models – schizophrenia is a joint product of both
genetic vulnerability and stressors that trigger the vulnerability.
o Well before diagnosis some individuals present with „early warning
signs‟ or markers of vulnerability – i.e. social withdrawal, thought and
movement deficits, emotional deficits.
o Viral infections in utero may also play a key role.
o Paranoid type – characterised primarily by prominent delusions or
o Disorganised type – characterised by disorganised speech and
behaviour, as well as flat or inappropriate affect e.g. unpredictable
o Catatonic type – characterised by one or more catatonic symptoms.
Explanations for schizophrenia:
o The family and expressed emotion:
Don‟t cause it, but may influence whether or not the person
relapses due to high expressed emotion (criticism, hostility and
o Brain, biochemical and genetic findings:
Brain abnormalities – one or more ventricles (cushion and
nourish the brain) are typically enlarged in individuals with
Neurotransmitter differences – abnormalities in dopamine
Being an offspring greatly increases risk of them
developing the disorder.
Having a sibling – 1 in 10 chance.
As genetic similarity increases, so does the risk of
schizophrenia. Abnormal Psychology 2 W6
Hypochondriasis. An individual‟s continual preoccupation with the
notion that they have a serious physical disease.
Generalised anxiety disorder. Continual feelings of worry, anxiety, physical tension
and irritability across many areas of life functioning.
Panic attack. Brief, intense episode of intense fear characterised by
sweating, dizziness, light-headedness, racing
heartbeat and feelings of impending death of going
Panic disorder. Repeated and unexpected panic attacks, along with
either persistent concerns about future attacks or a
change in personal behaviour in an attempt to avoid
Phobia. Intense fear of an object/situation that‟s greatly out of
proportion to its actual threat.
Agoraphobia. Fear of being in a place/situation from which escape
is difficult/embarrassing or in which help is
unavailable in the event of a panic attack.
Specific phobia. Intense fear of objects, places or situations that is
greatly out of proportion to their actual threat.
Social phobia. Marked fear of public appearances in which
embarrassment/humiliation seems likely.
OCD. Condition marked by repeated and lengthy (at least
one hour a day) immersion in obsessions,
compulsions, or both.
Obsession. Persistent idea, thought or impulse that is unwanted
and inappropriate, causing marked distress.
Compulsion. Repetitive behavioural/mental act performed to
Psychotherapy. Psychological intervention designed to help people
resolve emotional, behavioural and interpersonal
problems and improve the quality of their lives.
Paraprofessional. Person with no professional training who provides
mental health services.
Insight therapies. Psychotherapies with the goal of expanding
Free association. Clients express themselves without censorship.
Resistance. Attempts to avoid confrontation and anxiety
associated with uncovering previously repressed
thoughts, emotions and impulses.
Transference. Projecting intense, unrealistic feelings and
expectations from the past onto the therapist.
Interpersonal therapy. Treatment that strengthens social skills and targets
interpersonal problems, conflicts and life transit