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Midterm 1 Chapter Notes P1.pdf

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PSYC 333
Jennifer Bartz

PSYC333 Chapter 1 Notes Introduction: • Undergraduate level social psychology is fascinating but only touches the surface, enough for high- level gossip, whereas graduate level social psychology is much more in depth and non-intuitive • Social psychology teaches people they do not truly understand the nature of the world THE LESSONS AND CHALLENGES OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY: • Stanley Schachter - 1960s professor at Columbia; experimental social psychology; authors are his students • Social psychology overturns many common sense assumptions about human nature; book’s intention is to provide an overview of social psychology’s primary scientific contributions, one that serves to challenge, reforms and expand common sense The Weakness of Individual Differences: Scientists agree that generally assumed personality predictors such as personal dispositions or • even an individual’s past behavior can only preclude very limited notions about their future behavior • Predictability ceiling peaks at max correlation of 0.30 between measured individual differences on a given trait dimension and behavior in a novel situation that plausibly tests that dimension; i.e. from a personality test of honesty, how likely different people would cheat; but variance is high and thus culturally significant ‘prediction’ is impossible • “Dispositionism” - laypeople still believe individual differences/traits can predict how people will behave in new situations The Power of Situations • Situational information is invaluable, as opposed to personality information to predicting an individual’s behavior • e.g. Whether John will help an unconscious man or not is better predicted by situational factors such as the man’s appearance and social class, as opposed to John’s personality • Darley & Batson (1973) - religious seminary students in a hurry, would they help a poor man? - only 10% of subjects in a hurry helped while 63% not in a hurry helped • Fundamental attribution error - people’s inflated belief in the importance of personality traits/ dispositions + failure to recognize the importance of situational factors in affecting behavior; this book attempts to address these misconceptions in a methodical manner The Subtlety of Situations • Some situational factors are surprisingly weak, even those very intuitively strong • Studies of the impact of various real-life events on important social outcomes - weakness of intuitively big situational factors • Many negative, significant crises have little lasting effect on life outcomes - • e.g. in most cases, long-term impact of a) childhood physical and sexual abuse, (Widom 1989) b) teenage pregnancy on a young woman’s life outcomes (Furstenberg et al 1987), c) effect of POW camp indoctrination (Schein 1956) is relatively slight • Many positive events also prove to be weak • e.g. major lottery winners are less impacted by their winnings than most would think (Brickman et al 1978) • Cambridge-Somervile 1951 - delinquency - subjects were “delinquency prone” and “average” boys of lower socioeconomic status; • Experimental group assigned to an intensive socially, academically, and psychologically supportive condition (summer camps, medical help, psychiatric help, tutoring), BUT these boys proved to be slightly more likely to become delinquent than the control group (rates for serious adult offenses) • Control group - follow-up research on nondelinquent boys in control group had surprising noneffects - family situation as children (abusive parents, alcoholic parents vs. employed fathers and homemaking mothers) had little effect on life outcomes of • Only studies with detectable and unexpected effects are given high publicity, so those studied situations with surprising non-effects are less well known • Situational effects can sometimes be very non-intuitive in manner and size; we need to keep that in mind in all of our studies; a chief concern of this book The Predictability of Human Behavior: • Social psychology will never reach the point of predicting how any given individual will behave in a given novel situation • Fundamental unpredictability in social psychology The Conflict Between the Lessons of Social Psychology and the Experience of Everyday Life: Despite the surprises regarding human nature we discover from social psychological experiments, • equally significant are those predictions that ‘make sense’ e.g. extraverted people are more outgoing • Early social psychologists believed humans’ biased processing of evidence played a larger role in perceptions of consistency, but nowadays, it is accepted that such predictability is significant, BUT in most cases, for reasons proved wrong by social psychology, => people often make correct predictions on the basis of erroneous beliefs Lay vs. professional physics is like L vs. P psychology - lay errs on focusing on the object rather • than the surrounding forces; lay is suitable for everyday, but the true study is needed for more ambitious scientific endeavors outside of our customary experience • Three principles; major cumulative insights of social psychology in lay vs. professional psychology; tripod on which the field rests • 1) Power and subtlety of situational influences • 2) Importance of people’s subjective interpretations of the situation • 3) Necessity of understanding both individual psyches and social groups as tension systems (equilibrium between impelling and restraining forces) THE TRIPOD ON WHICH SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY RESTS: 1) The Principle of Situationism: • Kurt Lewin - 1930s - USA; redefined the field of social psychology via situationism; • His beliefs & work: • Believed behavior is a function of the person AND the person’s perception of the situation (“life space”), but Focus of his work was on the power of the immediate social situation; capacity of • situational factors and social manipulations to influence patterns of behavior normally seen as reflective of personal dispositions • Lewin et al 1939 - during time when Nazism was gaining power; manipulation of leadership style to create authoritarian vs democratic group climates in recreation clubs caused differences in individual relationships within the group - “authoritarian” behavior could be inhibited or promoted by short-term manipulation of a person’s immediate environment • Group decision making - series of studies employing this technique to produce changes in consumer behavior, health practices and work-place productivity; outcome • => when attempting to change how people do familiarly do things, the social pressures exerted by the informal peer group is both the largest restraining force and the most powerful inducing force that can be exploited to achieve success • Main point of Lewin’s situationism - immediate social context creates powerful forces producing or constraining behavior, forces often overlooked in lay psychology “Channel factors” - important part of Lewin’s situationism; apparently minor but critical • situational facilitators/barriers for behavior. • Leventhal et al 1965 - translating good intentions on personal health practices into concrete action - college seniors received persuasive information on risks of tetanus and value of getting vaccinated and where to get the shot; questionnaires revealed the communication was reported to have effectively changed beliefs. • Only 3% in control group actually took the shots; but 28% took it in the experimental group, subjects within which were given a map and urged to decide no a time and route to get there • i.e. the channel here was for the subjects to have a specific PLAN through which intentions could lead to actions • Channel factors in public health practices • Individual difference factors like attitudes rarely predict who will or will not show up at a clinic; distance of individual from closest service is a better predictor Channel factor principle is key to understanding why some situational factors have non- • intuitive effect sizes; effective input/output channels are necessary to create significant effects 2) The Principle of Construal: • The impact of any “objective” stimulus situation depends upon the personal and subjective meaning that the actor attaches to that situation; i.e. understanding the subject’s perception of the situation is important in successfully predicting or changing his/her behavior • Social psychology’s situationism is similar to the situationism of the behaviorist tradition • Agree on how effect of immediate social situation > individual differences/histories • BUT behaviorists studied objective stimuli => observed response, whereas social psychologists recognized stimuli => subject’s construal => observed response Piaget, Bartlett - European psychologists in the 1930s that emphasized importance of construal • processes and introduced • “schema” - a knowledge structure that summarizes generic knowledge and previous experience wrt certain classes of stimuli and events, that at the same time give meaning and guides anticipation of similar stimuli and future events; • Solomon Asch 1952 was a great proponent of construal alongside Lewin; subjectivist orientation • Recent refocus on “tools of construal” - cognitive structures (schemas, scrpts, models, social representations), strategies (judgmental “heuristics”, tacit rules of conversation) and their role in helping people make sense of events they observe. This culminated in the authors’ 1980 book regarding the layperson’s tools and shortcomings in inference • Book seeks to establish that laypeople consistently fail to accommodate for construal’s significant role in determining behavior, with profound personal and social consequences - • Three distinct errors regarding construal - the authors’ recent research has been concerned with documenting and pursuing the implications of these three errors • 1) Failure to recognize the degree to which one’s own understanding of stimuli is the result of an active process, not passive reception. Laypeople tend to think “I call them as they are” • 2) Failure to appreciate the inherent variability of situational construal - people tend to be overly confident in predicting other people’s behavior and their own in novel contexts because they underestimate how differently other people perceive situations; but as long as a person’s construal is correct and shared by actor, behavioral predictions are possible • 3) Failure to recognize the extent to which observed actions and outcomes, especially surprising ones, may be diagnostic of the objective situational factors facing the actor and of his/her construals and not of the actor’s personality traits. • i.e. people are too quick to “recompute” the person (to infer that he/she is atypical), too slow to reconstrue the situation (to infer their own inference is incomplete, or at least different from the actor’s) 3) The Concept of Tension Systems • How individual psyches, as well as collectivities must be understood as systems in a state of tension • Recognitions necessary in the analysis of any given stimulus situation • 1) Behavior has to be derived from a totality of co-existing facts • 2) These co-existing facts have the character of a dynamic field to the extent that the state of any part of this field depends on every other part of the field. There are no simple mechanistic laws; both are always embedded in dynamic contexts • Three major contributions of the tension system notion 1) An analysis of restraining factors is as important as an analysis of the stimulus itself in • understanding and predicting the effects of a novel stimulus • “quasi-stationary equilibrium” - dynamic contest between opposing forces Koehler’s concept, implying that certain processes/levels fluctuate within limits set by constraining/ impelling forces. Change in this system: 1) Add/up impelling forces to up tension towards a
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