Chapter 8 – behaviour in Social and Cultural Context
Norms (social) – rules that regulate social life (how we are supposed to act). There
are promises of reward if they are followed and punishment if violated. Some are
laws (explicit laws) and some are unspoken regulations (implicit cultural
Culture – defined as a program of shared rules that govern the behaviour of people
in a community or society, and a set of values, beliefs and customs shared by most
members of that community and passed from one generation to the next.
Role – a given social position that is governed by a set of norms for proper
The Milgram Obedience Experiment – Milgram wanted to know how many people
would obey an authority figure when directly ordered to violate their ethical
standards. Each person was assigned as “teacher” or “learner”. Whenever the
learner, who was in another room, made a mistake in reciting a list of word pairs the
teacher had to give him an electrical shock. Some were labelled, SLIGHT SHOCK to
DANGER – SEVERE SHOCK etc. Every teacher gave the learner some shock and
2/3rds or the people when to the full extend because the experimenter told them to.
However people were more likely to disobey if – the experimenter left the room, the
victim was in the room, two experimenter gave conflicting demands, the person
ordering them for an ordinary person, when the person could see that other people
Stanford Prison Experiment – they wanted to know what would happen to ordinary
people if they were randomly assigned roles of prisoner or guard. Most prisoners
became distressed and helpless while the guards enjoyed their new power. It
became about power and the people started to act like those in a real prison, despite
the fact that this was an experiment in the basement of Stanford. The experiment
was supposed to go for 2 weeks but was stopped after 6 days because it got out of
hand. The psychologist, Zimbardo, got caught up in the experiment and didn’t end it
as soon as he should have. There were no known lasting effects. These people lost
their names and were just a number in the experiment.
Why do people obey – most follow orders because of obvious consequences of
disobedience. They respect the authority’s legitimacy. People will want to justify the
choice they made even if they knew it was wrong “I was following orders”
Entrapment – a gradual process in which individuals escalate their commitment to a
course of action to justify their investment of time, money or effort. The first step is
to pose no difficult choice but one step leads to another and before you realize it you
have become committed to a course of action that poses problems. Social Cognition – an area in social psychology concerned with social influences on
through, memory, perception and beliefs.
Attribution Theory – the theory that people are motivated to explain their own and
other people’s behaviour by attributing causes of that behaviour to a situation or a
disposition. When people try to explain someone else’s behaviour they tend to
overestimate personality traits and underestimate the influence of the situation
(fundamental attribution error).
Situational Attribution – we are identifying the cause of an action as something in
the situation or environment
Dispositional attribution – we are identifying the cause of an action as something in
the person, such as a trait or a motive.
Fundamental attribution error – the tendency, in explaining other people’s
behaviour, to overestimate personality factors and underestimate the influence of
Is especially prevalent in western nations where middle class people believe
that individuals are responsible for their own actions, not the situation.
The primary reason for this is that people rely on different sources of
information to judge their own behaviour and that of others.
Self-serving Biases – habits of thinking that make is feel good about ourselves even
when we shouldn’t.
Group serving biases – group takes credit for success but makes excuses for failure.
In-Group – a group that we see ourselves as belonging to
Out –Group – any group other than the ones to which we see ourselves as a part of.
Cognitive biases that are common to attributions and misattributions
The bias to choose the most flattering and forgiving attributions of our
own behaviour. May more often blame the situation than themselves
The bias to believe that the world is fair – that good people are
rewarded and bad people are punished. Also known as a just world
o Victim Blaming – she person must not be that good and must
have done something to deserve what happened or provoked it
Attitude – is a belief about people, groups, ideas etc. They may change when you
have new experiences and if you rationally decide you were wrong about something. They are formed through our thoughts, feelings and behavioural
responses. Two kinds of attitudes:
Explicit – we are aware of them, they shape our conscious decision
and actions and they can be measured on self-report questionnaires
Implicit – we are unaware of them, they may influence our behaviour
in ways we don’t see and they are measured in indirect ways.
Cognitive dissonance – the uncomfortable feeling, or state of tensions, that occurs
when two attitudes, or when an attitude and a behaviour are in conflict. This is
resolved by changing one.
Ex – someone who had done something bad but stills sees themselves
Familiarity effect – the tendency to hold positive attitudes to more familiar people,
items, products etc. It is common across cultures
Validity Effect – the tendency of people to believe that something is true or valid
because it has been repeated many times.
“If you repeat something often enough, even the basest lie, and
eventually the public will believe it” Hitler’s propaganda minister
called the is Big Lie
Heritability – twin studies. Beliefs are not hereditary but things like being open or
certain attitudes are.
“Brainwashing” – implies that a person had had a sudden change of mind without
being aware of what is happening; it sound mysterious and strange. However the
methods of persuasion involves persuasion. However it isn’t always negative but
The person is subjected to entrapment.
The persons problems are explained by one simple attribution which
is repeatedly emphasized
The person is offered a new identity and is promised salvation –
giving unrealistic reasons for what is wrong in the person life.
Unhappy – stems from the pain of being born
The persons access to disconfirming information is severely
controlled – the groups leader limits everything to the person.
Conformity – taking action or adopting attitudes as a result of real or imagined
group pressure. We look around us to see what the norms are and act accordingly.
We don’t like to take social risks and act outside the group. Two influences of this:
Normative – acceptance, approval, peer pressure
Informational – correct and appropriate behaviour, watch people to
see what it is. Groupthink – the tendency to think alike and suppress dissent. Occurs when the
total agreement of the group overwhelms its need to make the wisest decision.
Symptoms of groupthink are: an illusion of invulnerability, self-
censorship, pressure of dissenters to conform and an illusion of
Group Polarization – the tendency for groups to make more extreme decision than
members would make acting alone (protests, violence)
Diffusion of Responsibility – responsibility for an outcome is diffused or spread
among many people and reduces each individuals personal sense of accountability.
Bystander apathy or effect
Deindividuation – you are more likely to feel like this in a large city where no one
recognized you. This is when people lose awareness of their individuality and seem
to hand themselves over to the mood and action of the crowd. Considered a cause of
mob violence. Are no longer see as anything but the label you have. (ex cons)
Schemas – a way of organizing our ideas, beliefs and feelings about some aspect of
the world. Washing clothes video – it acts as a short cut to understanding and
interpreting new information.
Self – sense of who you are as a person. This may depend on who you are.
Identity – formed through roles
Ascribed identity – given to you, how you were born and things you
Achieved identity – things that you have worked for. Being a student,
Self-concept – the idea that we have about our self and it affects how we act in the
Self-efficacy – beliefs about our ability to perform.
Social identities – race, nationality, class, gender, religion etc. based on the persons
identification with the nation, religion etc.
Is ethnic identity the same as national identity – no. A national identity in Canada is
freedom. While we have many ethnic identities.
Acculturation – the process in which members of minority groups come to