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Pre-midterm Chapter Notes (PSYC 333).docx

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PSYC 333
Jennifer Bartz

CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION FROM THE PERSON AND THE SITUATION PERSPECTIVES OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGYSocial psych rivals philosophy in its ability to teach people that they do not truly understand the nature of the worldText represents an attempt to reconcile common sense and common experience with the empirical lessons and challenges that lie at the core of social psychologyAn overview of social psychologys primary scientific and intellectual contributionsserves to challenge reform and expand common senseWeakness of individual differencesScenario man walking across campus to a meeting sees someone slumped in doorway asking for help Will he offer help or continue Most people would say that they cannot make a sensible and confident prediction without knowing more about the manIn fact nothing you would know or could lean about the person would help to make your prediction more likelyResearch has proven that in this and most other novel situations we cannot predict with any accuracy how people will respondAt least you cannot do so using information about a person personal dispositions or even past behaviorsThis predictability ceiling is typically reflected in a maximum statistical correlation of 30 between measured individual differences on as given trait dimension and behavior in a novel situation that plausibly tests that dimensionFor most novel behaviors in most domains psychologists cannot come close to that number when obliged to predict behavior on one particular new situation on the basis of actions in one particular prior situationDespite the evidence most people believe that individual differences or traits can be used to predict how people will behave in new situationsSuch dispositionismis widespreadThe challenge of accounting for the discrepancy between beliefs about everyday experiences and empirical data is one of the most important challenges of psychologistsThe Power of SituationsKnowledge about the person is of little value when predicting whether he would help but details concerning the specifics of the situation would be invaluableSuch as his appearance sick drunk high middle class working class homeless When brought up most people will agree that these would be considerations however most people will not concede the relevance of subtler contextual details that research has shown to be importantDarley and Batson 1973 found what some factors influencing behavior in this situation areOne is timeif people were in a hurry only 10 helped as opposed to 63 who were not in a hurrySocial psychologists have amassed a vast amount of such empirical dataThe tradition is simplepick a situation identify and manipulate a situational or contextual variable that intuition or past research leads you to believe will make a difference and record the resultsBest done using a variable that most laypeople and psychologists fail to appreciateIn some cases it will make no difference but in most cases it will make a difference and in some cases it will make nearly all the differenceSuch empirical parables are important because they illustrate the degree to which we are apt to mistaken about the power of a situation the power of particular situational features and the power ofsituations in generalOur inflated belief in the importance of traits and disposition and our failure to recognize the importance of situational factors in affecting behavior has been termed fundamental attribution errorRoss 1997Nisbett and Ross 1980 Jones 1979 Gilbert and Jones 1986Subtlety of SituationsNot all situational factors prove to be powerful determinants of behavior not even those that seem intuitively strongThe weakness of apparently big situational factors is most perplexing in studies of the impact of various reallife events on important social outcomesExamplein most cases the longterm impact of physical and sexual abuse suffered in childhood is relatively slight Widom 1989 as is the effect of teenage pregnancy on a womans life outcomes Furstenberg BrooksGunn and Morgan 1987 or the long term effect of POW camp indoctrination Schein 1956Positive events can also be weak in their effect sich as the fact that the lives of major lottery winners are effected far less than we would imagineA sobering example of the weakness of apparently large apparently positive events is found in the Cambridge Somerville study of delinquencyThe subjects were both delinquency prone and average boys living in lower socioeconomic status in the 1940s Some from each category were assigned to an extremely ambitiousand intensive experimental intervention condition for 5 years where they were exposed to a wide variety of social psychological and academic supportsDespite the intensive apparently favorable intervention the boys is this group were no less likely to become delinquents than the boys in the control group who received no interventionsIn fact follow studies 30 years later seemed to indicate that the boys who received the positive interventions may actually have fared slightly worse as adults For example their rates of serious adult offences was higher than the untreated group Followup on the nondelinquent boys who received no treatment showed even more surprising non effects The boys in this group were divided into four groups based on the degree of social health or pathology in their home life At the lowest extreme were families with serious drug alcohol mental health or financial support issues and at the other end were families that presented as good examples of working poor with employed fathers housemaker mothers no dependence on social agencies and no obvious pathologyThe life outcomes of these boys was measured 40 years later and showed that their home life as children had little if any effect on their outcomes as adults Followups measured things like income mental health prison incarcerations suicide etcAlthough these experiments showed spectacular noneffects many realworld effects turn out to be huge Conversely it is not only in the real world that situational factors prove to be small or nonexistentSituational effects can be sometimes be far different from what our intuition theories or even existing psychological literature tell us they should be Factors we expect to be important prove trivial and factors we expect to be weak prove in some contexts to exert great influenceThe Predictability of Human Behavior
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