Social Psych 241 1/15/2013 9:55:00 AM
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
What is Social Psychology?
Social influence is at the heart of social psych – we are all influenced by other people
Social influence extends beyond attempts to change a person’s behaviour.. includes our
thoughts, feelings, overt actions
Even when we are not in the physical presence of other people, we are still influenced by them
Social Psychology: scientific study of the way in which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are
influenced by the real/imagined presence of other people
Concerned with how people are influenced by their interpretation (construal) of their social
Naïve realism: conviction we all have that we perceive things ‘as they really are’.. assume that other
reasonable people see things the way we do
Belief that the other side is biased and that our thoughts are objective
Social psych is experimentally based; empirical; systematic
Cannot simply ask people what influences them, b/c may not be aware of the origins of their own
Folk wisdom – common sense; journalists, social critics, novelists. Often disagree with each other, no easy
way of determining which is correct.
b/c common sense frequently turns out being wrong or oversimplified, people tend to not learn
from previous incidents.
Philosophy – throughout history, major source of insight; foundation of contemporary psych.
Psychologists look at many of same questions as philosophers, but from a scientific perspective. Social
psychologists make more educated guesses (hypothesis) and then perform experiments to test
hypothesis about the nature of the social world
Sociology – both sociology and social psychology are concerned with the influence of social and societal
factors on human behaviour. Social psych studies individuals, while sociology studies the broad society.
Goal of social psych is to identify universal properties of human nature that make everyone
susceptible to social influence, regardless of social class/culture.
Personality psych – focuses attention on individual differences – aspects of peoples personality that
make them different from others. Social psych believes that focusing just on explaining behaviour
through personality factors ignores a critical part of the story: powerful role played by social influence.
When trying to account for a person’s behaviour in complex situations, majority will jump to
conclusion that the behaviour was caused by the personality of the individual, rather than
consider the influence of the situation.
The Power of Social Influence Fundamental attribution error: tendency to overestimate the extent to which people’s behaviour stems
from internal, dispositional factors and to underestimate the role of situational factors. – all of us tend to
explain people’s behaviour in terms of their personalities
When we underestimate the power of social influence, we experience a feeling of false security ie: when
thinking why people commit murders, we tend to write them off as if they are bad people… this
oversimplication decreases our understanding of the causes of a great deal of human behaviour
The tendency to explain others’ behavior as stemming from internal rather than situational factors can
lead to tragic consequences, including blaming victims for their plight. Ie: women who are sexually
assaulted are often seen as having somehow caused the attack.
Social and environmental factors are so powerful that they have dramatic influence on almost everyone.
Subjectivity of social situation – important to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the people in it,
to see how they construe the world around them
Emphasis on construal has roots in gestalt psychology: study the subjective way in which an object
appears in people’s minds (the gestalt, or whole)
Kurt Lewin – founding father of modern experimental social psych – 1 scientist to fully realize the
importance of taking the perspective of the people in any social situation to see how they construe (ie:
perceive, interpret, distort) this social environment
Where Construals Come From: Basic Human Motives
2 motives of primary importance: need to be accurate and need to feel good about ourselves
Leon Festinger believed that when these 2 motives tug in opposite directions, we are able to
gain our most valuable insights into workings of the human heart and mind
Self esteem: people’s evaluation of their own self worth – people often distort the world to make
themselves feel good
Justifying past behaviour – difficult to own up to major deficiencies in ourselves, even when the
cost is seeing the world inaccurately.. consequence: decreases probability of learning from
Suffering and self-justification – when people submit to a painful/embarrassing initiation in
order to join a group, they need to justify the experience to avoid looking foolish. One way is to
decide that the initiation was worth it b/c group is so wonderful. Builds cohesiveness. .. the more
unpleasant the procedure, the more they liked the group.
Social cognition: how people select, interpret, remember, and use social info .. under assumption that
people try to view world as accurately as possible.
Evolutionary approach: Charles Darwin – Natural selection: heritable traits that promote survival are
passed on to future generations
Evolutionary psychology: attempts to explain social behaviour in terms of genetic factors that
evolved over time according to the principles of natural selection. CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY
Social Psychology: An Empirical Science
Hindsight bias: people exaggerate how much they could have predicted an outcome after knowing that it
occurred; tendency to think ‘we knew it all along’
Formulating Hypothesis and Theories
Theory: organized set of principles that can be used to explain observed phenomenon
Hypothesis: testable statement/idea about the relationship between 2+ variables
Operation definition: precise specification of how variables are measured/manipulated
The Observational Method
Observational Method: Researcher observes people and systematically records measurement of their
Varies in degree to which observer actually participates in the scene.
Ethnography: researcher attempts to understand a group or culture by observing it from the inside
without imposing any preconceived notions they might have
Important to establish interjudge reliability: level of agreement between 2+ people who independently
observe and code a set of data. By independently coming up with same observations, ensures objectivity.
Archival analysis: researcher examines accumulated documents, or archives, of a culture. Ie: diaries,
novels, suicide notes, lyrics, tv shows, etc.
The Correlational Method
Ideal for answering question about whether two variables are related and the strength of the relation.
Correlational Method: researchers systematically measure 2+ variables and assess the relation between
Correlation coefficient: statistic that assesses how well you can predict one variable based on another
Correlational method often used for surveys
Correlation does not equal causation.. only tells you that two variables are related.
3 possible causal relations between variables: A causes B, B causes A, or no correlation between A, B, but
3 variable caused relation.
The Experimental Method
only way to determine causal relations.
Experimental method: researcher randomly assigns participants to different conditions and ensures that
these conditions are identical except for the independent variable (the one thought to cause people’s
Independent variable: variable researcher changes or varies
Dependent variable: variable researcher measures to see if it is influenced by the independent variable
Internal validity in experiments – keeping everything the same but the independent variable Random assignment to condition: all participants have equal chance of taking part in any
condition of an experiment
Probability level (p-value): tells researchers how likely it is that the results of their experiment
occurred by chance and not b/c of the independent variable.. results are significant
(trustworthy) if they are less that 0.05.
External validity in experiments – extent to which results of study can be generalized to other
situations and other people.
Generalizability across situations – making experiments as realistic as possible
o Mundane realism: similar to real life situations – difficult to achieve in lab setting
o Psychological realism – how similar psychological processes triggered are to real life
o Use of a cover story to heighten psychological realism
Generalizability across people – through random selection
Ultimate test of external validity – replication.. with different subject populations or different
Meta analysis: averages results of 2+ studies to see if the effect of an independent variable is
Cross-cultural research: research conducted with members of different cultures to see whether the
psychological processes of interest are present across cultures or whether they are specific to a single
Basic research: find the best answer as to why people behave the way they do, purely for the reason of
Applied research: solve a particular social problem; building a theory of behaviour is usually secondary to
solving the specific problem.
CHAPTER 5: SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND THE NEED TO MAINTAIN
The Nature of the Self
William James described the basic duality of our perception of self.. in modern terms, the ‘known’ aspect
is the self concept: contents of the self (our knowledge about who we are) and the ‘knower’ aspect is the
self awareness: act of thinking about ourselves
o These combine to create a coherent sense of identity
‘rouge test’ – chimps and orangutans, and possibly dolphins, have a rudimentary self concept. They
realize that the image in the mirror is them and not another animal, and recognized that they looked
different after having the red dot on them.
Self-recognition develops at around age:2 Child’s self concept is clear-cult, easily observable characteristics ie: age, sex, neighbourhood, hobbies. As
we mature, more emphasis on psychological states ie: thoughts and feelings, our traits or characteristics
and consideration of how others judge us
Thought suppression – form of self control that often doesn’t work very well and often backfires.
People have limited amount of energy to devote to self control.. this explains why we often fail at
self control when we are under stress. Efforts at self control are more likely to fail at night
Schema – body of knowledge that helps us organize what we know about the social world; influences the
info we notice, think about, and remember
Self-schema: organized body of knowledge about ourselves – our attitudes, our likes/dislikes,
our personality traits, etc.
Self reference effect: tendency for people to remember info better if they relate it to themselves
Self-concept clarity: extent to which knowledge about the self is stable, and clearly and consistently
People who are low in self concept clarity tend to have low self esteem, are depression prone,
and are more neurotic and less aware of their internal states than those who are high in self
Western cultures – tend to have an independent view of the self: defining oneself in terms of one’s own
internal thoughts, feelings and actions, and not in terms of the thoughts, feelings, actions of other people.
– value independence and uniqueness; individual characteristics ie: exciting personality, attractive, etc.
Asian; collectivist cultures – tend to have a interdependent view of the self: defining self in terms of the
relationships to other people and recognizing that one’s behaviour is often determined by the thoughts,
feelings and actions of others. – value connectedness and interdependence; communal qualities ie: kind,
accepting, loyal. Canadians see themselves in terms of individual characteristics ie: exciting personality,
Women’s self-concepts reflect relational interdependence; focus more on their close relationships.
Women rated relational traits ie: warm, affectionate, loving, as more self-descriptive than men
Knowing Ourselves Through Introspection
Introspection: look inward and examine own thoughts, feelings, motives.
o People spend very little time thinking about themselves
o Reasons for feelings and behaviour may be hidden from conscious awareness
Self-awareness theory: when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current
behaviour against our internal standards/values
Alcohol abuse, binge eating and suicide are all ways of avoiding negative thoughts about oneself..
people can escape self awareness through more positive means ie: religious expressions,
spirituality East Asians are more likely to use an outside perspective on the self, viewing themselves through
the eyes of other people. Western cultures are more likely to have an insider perspective on the
self, focusing on their own private experiences wi