1. Introduction to Social Psychology
What Is Social Psychology
Social Psychology: Scientific study of how people think about, influence
and relate to one another.
- Focus on individual with methods more often focused on
- Focuses less on differences among individuals, more on how
individuals view and affect one another.
- Studies our thinking, influence and relationships by asking intriguing
questions as follows:
How much of our social world is just in our heads?
- Social behavior varies not just with objective situations but also how
we construe the reality...
- Ex. Of happily married (mad husband = bad day) vs. unhappily
married couple (mad husband = hostile person)
Would you be cruel if ordered?
- Complying to high officials (Nazi Germany)
- Exp. by Stanley Milgram (1974) administering shock to people in a
different room shocking result; 2/3 of participants fully complied.
To help others or to help yourself?
- $2 mil scattered the streets of Toronto, $100000 returned by some
people, rest was pocketed by others
All questions deal with how people view and effect on another.
Social Psychologists study; attitudes and beliefs, conformity and
independence, love and hate.
1 Major Themes in Social Psychology
Kurt Lewin (1952) – one of the funders of Social Psychology.
―behavior is a function of the person and the situation‖
- We Construct Our Social Reality
- When someone‘s behavior is consistent and distinctive, we attribute their
behavior to their personality.
- Our beliefs about ourselves matter (optimism, control, superior/inferior)
influence our emotions and actions
Our social intuitions are often powerful but sometimes perilous
- Much of what happens in our mind is unconscious and happens offstage
(automatic processing, heuristics, implicit memory, spontaneous trait
influence, instant emotions, nonverbal communication our intuitive
- Intuition can be perilous we misperceive others
- We fail to appreciate how our expectations shape our evaluations
- We sometimes even trust our memories more then we should
- Social intuitions are therefore powerful and perilous
Social Influences shape our Behavior
- Relationships are a large part of being human.
- Aristotle observed that we are social animals.
- We respond to our immediate contexts;
Nazi influence normal people became bad
After 2011 tsunami in Japan normal people become good
- Regardless of history and how other people in different countries judge
war, your situation matters.
- culture helps define us in many situations
2 - Hazel Markus (2005) ―people are, above all, malleable‖
- We adapt to social context, behavior shaped by external forces
Personal attitudes and dispositions also shape behavior
- Inner attitudes effect behavior (attitude toward smoking influences our
susceptibility to peer pressure)
- Personality dispositions also effect behavior
In same situation, different people may react differently
Nelson Mandela seeks reconciliation and unity with onetime
enemies, Most would seek revenge.
- Social behavior is biologically rooted
- Nature and nurture work together
- Evolutionary psychologist may question about how natural selection
might predispose our actions and reactions when dating/mating,
- Enormous capacity to learn and to adapt to varied environments
- Social Neuroscience – an integration of biological and social
perspectives that explores the neural and psychological basis of social
and emotional behaviors.
- We are bio-psycho-social organisms; we reflect the interplay of our
biological, psychological and social influences
Stress hormones effect how we feel and act
Social ostracism elevates blood pressure
Social support strengthens immune system.
Relating to Others is a Basic Need
- We feel pain when we are not included by others in activities
- We feel joy and comfort when others help us or when we form
relationships with others
3 - Mark Leary and Roy Baumeister (2000) ―our relationship with others
forms the basis of our self-esteem.‖
- Feeling of self-esteem is based on how accepted we feel by others
- Relating to others is a basic need that shapes all our social actions
Social Psychology’s principles are applicable in everyday life
- ―Social Psychology is all about life – your life, your beliefs, your
attitudes, your relationships.‖
- Principles of social thinking, social influences and social relations have
implications for human health and well-being.
Social Psychology and Human Values
- Social Psychologists‘ values penetrate their work in ways both obvious
Obvious ways in which values enter social psychology
- values differ across time and culture
- Values influence the types of people attracted to various disciples
- Social psychologists investigate how values form, why they change, and
how they influence attitudes and actions
- Major theory of ―social identity‖ from Europe where pride in groups
- North America social psychologists focus more on individualism
Not-so-obvious ways in which values enter social psychology
- The Subjective aspects of Science
- Tendency to prejudge reality based on our experiences
- Culture the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, traditions, products
and institutions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from
one generation to the next.
4 - Social Representations socially shared beliefs; widely held ideas and
values, including our assumptions and cultural ideologies. Our social
representations help us make sense of our world
- Marxist and Feminist critics also make their own assumptions
- The hidden values in psychological concepts
- Value judgments are usually stated like facts by psychologists
- Defining the good life – values influence our idea of the best way to live
- Professional Advice – Psychologists expressing personal value when they
tell you for example how to raise your child or to live free of other
people‘s concerns (Western culture)
Science does not and cannot answer questions of ultimate moral
obligation, of purpose and direction and of life‘s meaning.
- Forming concepts - Hidden values seep into psychology‘s research based
Difference. Labels for some concepts / use of based on
psychologists own values and beliefs.
- Labeling – Value judgments are often hidden within our social-
Also true of everyday language
Quiet child ―bashful‖ / ―cautious‖ or ―observer‖ / ―holding back‖
Remarks about ―ambitious‖ men and ―aggressive‖ women convey a
- Naturalistic Fallacy – distinction between what is and what ought to be
Naturalistic Fallacy – the error of defining what is good in terms
of what is observable. Ex. What‘s typical is normal; what‘s normal is
- Natural that prior beliefs and values of a psychologist will influence what
they think and write.
- By constantly checking our beliefs against the facts, we check and retrain
5 I Knew It All Along
- Social psychology: trivial since it documents the obvious, dangerous
because it‘s findings could be used to manipulate people
- Are things truly as obvious as we feel them to be in social psychology?
- Events seem obvious after they occur, also more predictable, hindsight.
- Hindsight bias – ―I knew it all along,‖ the tendency to exaggerate, after
learning an outcome, one‘s ability to have foreseen how some things
- Due to hindsight bias, results from experiments can seem obvious but are
actually quite surprising and easy to get wrong an a multiple choice test.
- We deceive ourselves into thinking that we know and knew more then we
do an did.
- ―Absence makes heart grow fonder‖ or ―Out of sight, out of mind‖
Forming and Testing Hypotheses
- Theory – an integrated set of principles that explain and predict
- To scientists, theories are ideas that summarize and explain facts.
- Hypothesis – a testable proposition that describes a relationship that
may exist between events.
Allow us to test theories
Predictions give direction to research, send investigators looking for
things they might never have thought of.
Predictive features of good theories can also make them practical.
Operationalization – taking something in the real work and
translating it into a testable variable
- A good theory does the following:
6 Effectively summarizes many observations and
Makes clear predictions that we can use to
o Confirm or modify the theory,
o Generate new exploration, ,and
o Suggest practical applications.
- Correlational Research: Detecting Natural Associations
- Social Psychology research can take place in the laboratory (controlled
situations) or in the field (everyday situations)
- Methods for research are either correlational (asking whether 2 or more
factors are naturally associated) and experimental (manipulating some
factor to see its effect on another).
- Advantage of correlational research is that it often involves variables in a
- Disadvantages of correlational research is that it can have ambiguous
interpretation of cause and effect.)
Correlation vs. Causation
- Correlational research allows us to predict, but it cannot tell us whether
changing one variable (such as social status) will cause changes in
another (such as health).
- Intelligent students have high self-esteem or is it students with high-self
esteem are intelligent. Both are correlations but does one cause the
- Correlation coefficients
-1 as one factor goes up, the other goes down
0 no correlation between two factors
+1 as one factor goes up, the other goes up as well
- Knowing the two variables change together (correlate) enables us to
predict one when we know the other, but correlation does not specify
cause and effect.
7 - Longitudinal research sorts out cause and effect because we know one
happens before the other, therefore one is the cause and the other
following is the effect.
- Random sample – survey procedure in which every person in the
population being studied has an equal chance of being included
- Unrepresentative samples – If people are selected for a research by
pulling their names out from a list obtained from say an automobile
registrations wouldn‘t be completely representative of the entire
population. It would exclude those who cannot afford an automobile.
- Order of the Questions – the order in which a question is asked can
lead to bias results.
- Response bias – When given multiple options for questions, responses
will change form if just one question without options was given.
- Social desirability – People have a tendency to say what they want
others to hear or what they want to believe about themselves. Implicit
measures are used when testing for things that may lead to results
effected by social desirability by performing research without letting the
participants know exactly what the researcher is experimenting about.
- Wording of the questions – Even when people feel strongly about an
issue, the question‘s form and wording may affect their answer.
Knowledge about the issues being questioned upon also interacts with the
wording. More knowledge about the issue, the less the wording will have
Experimental Research: Searching for Cause and Effect
Control: Manipulation Variables
- Independent Variable the experimental factor that a researcher
- Dependent Variable the variable being measured, so called because
it may depend on manipulations of the independent variable.
8 Random Assignment: The Great Equalizer
- Random Assignment – the process of assigning participants to the
conditions of an experiment such that all persons have the same chance
of being given a condition.
- Random assignment helps us infer cause and effect.
- Random sampling helps us generalize to a population.
The Ethics of Experimentation
- Mundane realism – degree to which an experiment is superficially
similar to everyday situations
- Experimental realism – degree to which an experiment absorbs and
involves its participants
- 1/3 of psychological research require deception (asking people to deliver
shocks to someone in another room, the person in the other room is not
truly receiving shocks but playacts as thought they are)
- Demand characteristics – cues in an experiment that tell the
participant what behavior is expected; psychologists try to avoid this, it
alters the participants‘ behavior.
- Ethical research boards in Universities require investigators to follow the
o Get informed consent.
o Be truthful – deception to be used only when necessary
o Do not cause harm and significant disorder
o Maintain confidentiality between participant and researcher
o Debrief participants – let them know exactly what happened in the
experiment, only exception is if the results would make the
participant feel bad about themselves.
- Generalizing Laboratory to Life
- Everyday experience inspire laboratory research
- Need to be mindful of the fact that the laboratory is a simplified and
9 - We can distinguish between the content of people‘s thinking and acting
(attitudes) and the process by which they think and act (how attitudes
affect actions and vice versa for ex).
- People of different culture may hold different opinions
- ―Although our behaviors may differ, the same social forces influence us.‖
10 2. The Self in a Social World
Social surroundings affect our self-awareness
- When we are a minority in a group of people, we become more aware of
- Like being the only girl in a meeting will make the girl more aware of her
Self-interest colors our social judgment
- When problems happen, we attribute it to other people or external factors
- When things go well, we take responsibility for it going well
Self-concern motivates our social behavior
- We are careful of our appearance because it determines the impression
we make on others.
- We also monitor the behavior of others and adjust our behavior
Social relationships help define the self
- We change the way we act depending on who we‘re with
- We act a particular way with family, a different way with friends and
differently with teachers.
- Self-Concept Who am I?
- Self-Esteem My sense of self-worth
- Self-Knowledge How can I explain and predict myself?
- Social Self My roles as a student, family member, and friend; my
Self-Concept: Who am I?
Self-concept – a person‘s answers to the question, ―Who am I?‖
Your Sense of Self
- Some studies suggest that the right hemisphere plays an important role
in defining self.
11 - The medial prefrontal cortex, located in a cleft between the hemispheres
behind our eyes, becomes more active when we are thinking about
- Self-schema beliefs about self that organize and guide the processing
of self-relevant information.
- Schemas are mental templates by which we organize our worlds; based
on our perceiving ourselves as athletic, overweight, smart etc.
- Will evaluate and view others based on the schema central to our self-
concept (athletics is central, will notice other people‘s bodies and skills).
- Self schemas that make up our self-concepts help us organize and
retrieve our experiences
- Possible selves images of what we dream of or dread becoming in
Development of the social self
- The things that influence us and help determine our self-concept:
Our social identity
The comparisons we make with others
Our successes and failures
How other people judge us
The surrounding culture
- Social Identity the ―we‖ aspect of our self-concept. The part of our
answer to ―Who am I?‖ that comes from our group memberships.
- Ex. are things like race, religion, sex, academic major etc.
- We are more conscious of our social identity when we are the minority in
a group; the only female in a room full of men.
12 Social Comparisons
- Experiment with first-year and fourth-year students:
They both seemed to have the same self-evaluations in the
After being shown articles about a ―super-star student,‖ first-year
students‘ self-evaluations were higher and fourth-year students‘
self-evaluations were lower.
Experiment demonstrates the fundamental principle that our
comparisons to others are a strong determinant of our self-view.
- Social Comparisons evaluating your abilities and opinions by
comparing yourself to others.
- We compare ourselves to others in order to determine our own self-
identity / self-concepts
- Social comparisons affect our self-feelings
- Students tend to have a higher academic self-evaluation in a school with
average students, but when in a academically selective university, they
have a lower academic self-evaluation.
- We feel caring when others seem callous, handsome when others seem
homely, smart when others seem dull
- Therefore, we may enjoy other people‘s failure, especially if it‘s someone
we have always envied.
- We tend to compare ourselves with others who are doing even better
- When facing competition, we protect our shaky self-concept by perceiving
the competitor as having an advantage
Success and failure
- Achieving something makes us feel confident
- Student that is experiencing academic success believe they are better at
school which stimulates them to work harder and achieve more.
- Feelings follow reality;
13 University of Waterloo research found that repeating positive self-
statements can actually backfire
People with high self-esteem may feel a bit better about themselves
but those with lower self-esteem tend to feel worse
- Low self-esteem does cause problems as well, more prone to insomnia,
drug and alcohol addictions etc.
Other people’s judgments
- Children who are labeled as ―gifted‖ or ―hardworking‖ tend to incorporate
these ideas into their self-concepts and behavior.
- The looking-glass self we perceive ourselves based on how we think
others perceive us, or how we imagine that others see us.
- We compliment others and restrain our criticism
- Leads to self-inflation; more common in Western countries where self and
individual achievements are more important then community
- Self-esteem is a way in which we monitor and react to how others
- We recognize that superficial traits like appearance is what often attracts
- Self-esteem therefore corresponds more closely with these superficial
traits then it does with communal traits like kindness and understanding.
- Also depends on communal traits when having those traits make us more
attractive in society (kindness and caring in women)
- Our self-esteem depends on whether or not we have traits that we
believe are important others more then on the traits important to us.
Self and Culture
- Individualism the concept of giving priority to one‘s own goals over
group goals and defining one‘s identity in terms of personal attributes
rather than group identifications Most common in Western cultures.
14 Individualism flourishes when people experience affluence, mobility,
urbanism and mass media.
- Collectivism giving priority to the goals of one‘s groups (often one‘s
extended family or work group) and defining one‘s identity accordingly
Most common in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
Interdependent self construing one‘s identity in relation to
- Possible to have collectivist American and individualistic Chinese.
Culture and Cognition
- Studies looking at children; Americans saw just the child they were asked
to rate, Japanese saw the expressions of the other children around the
child they were asked to rate.
- East Asians think more holistically perceiving and thinking about
objects and people in relationships to one another and to their
- Asked about purpose of language;
American students more likely to say it allows for self-expression
Korean students more likely to say it helps communicate with
- Interdependent self greater sense of belonging with everyone around
you such as family, friends and overall community
- Collectivist goal of social life is to harmonize with and support one‘s
- Individualists goal of social life is to enhance one‘s individual self.
- Self-concepts adjust to situations: constantly moving then your self
becomes most important whereas in the same place all the time, the
familiar people are important to your self identity.
Culture and Self-Esteem
- Self-concept is malleable and changes based on context.
15 - Individualistic cultures; self-esteem is more personal and less relational
- Collectivist cultures; self-esteem is related with ―what others think of me
and my group‖
- Individualists make comparisons with others in ways to make self feel
better while Collectivists make comparisons with others in ways to
- Collectivist cultures; conflict takes place between groups
- Individualist cultures; breed more crime and divorce between individuals
- East meets West Japanese students after spending a long time in
Canada had an increase in personal self-esteem
- We dismiss factors that matter in our decisions and actions and inflate
those that don‘t.
- Study with people recording their mood and the weather every day, and
most felt the weather didn‘t influence their mood even though it clearly
- We are remarkably bad predictors of what will make us happy.
- Friends and family of two people that are dating are better able to predict
how long that relationship will last then the two people that are intimately
involved in the relationship.
- Common problem in behavior prediction is that we underestimate how
long it will take us to complete something
- Planning Fallacy the tendency to underestimate how long it will take
to complete a task.
- Study with Laurier students asked to predict when they will most likely
complete their papers Most completed three weeks after their ―most
realistic‖ estimate and a week later then their ―worst-case-scenario‖
16 - Study with elections 90% said they would vote, when asked to
evaluate if their peers would vote, about 70% said they would. The 70 %
correlates more with how many people actually voted.
- We tend to mispredict our feelings in many situations
Hungry shoppers do more impulse buying
Students were less upset after a breakup then they had originally
predicted they would be.
During natural disasters, people predict that they would be sadder
based on the number of people that died, but this seems to have no
influence on the level of sadness.
Even winning a lottery effect long term happiness less then people
assume it would.
- Impact bias overestimating the enduring impact of emotion-causing
Overestimating how happy something will make when in reality the
happiness we get from an event will make us any more happier
then we originally were.
We are more prone to this after negative events: we assume
negative events would cause us way more distress then they
Important because our predictions of future emotions influence our
- Immune neglect the human tendency to underestimate the speed
and the strength of the ―psychological immune system,‖ which enables
emotional recovery and resilience after bad things happen.
Major negative events (which activate our psychological defenses)
can be less enduringly distressing then minor irritations (which
don‘t activate our defenses).
The Wisdom and Illusions of Self-Analysis
17 - When the causes of behavior are obvious to an observer, they are
obvious to us as well.
- We are aware of the results of our thinking but we are unaware of the
process that happens
- Study with people in a relationship who were asked to predict the future
of their relationships Most were accurate when asked to list all the
good and bad things about their relationship before predicting the future
lead to results that didn‘t correlate with what actually happened in the
Verbalized factors that weren‘t as important to the relationship
leading to bad predictions
- Dual attitudes differing implicit (automatic) and explicit (consciously
controlled) attitudes toward the same object. Verbalized explicit attitudes
may change with education and persuasion; implicit attitudes change
slowly, with practice that forms new habits.
- Implications of research on the limits of our self-knowledge:
Self-reports are often untrustworthy. Errors in self-understanding
limit the scientific usefulness of subjective personal reports
Implications to our everyday lives as well things like personal
testimonies are powerfully persuasive but they may also be wrong.
Self-Esteem: How am I?
- Self-Esteem a person‘s overall self-evaluation or sense of self-worth
- Each individual‘s self esteem is based on what they value the most
- Some researchers say that people have high self-esteem if they have
they value and some say that people with high self-esteem come to value
everything about themselves.
- Whether or not you think you‘re good at something does predict
performance doing well in math, makes you feel like you‘re good at,
therefore likely to do better next test.
18 - Feedback that is true and specific is the best and most useful
―You‘re good at math‖ is better then ―you‘re great‖
- Poor students when told to feel good about themselves after a bad test
ended up doing worse, maybe they thought, ―I‘m already great – why
- Self esteem threats occur among siblings when one sibling is highly more
capable then the other. (also occurs more among friends then with
- We often react more positively to upward than downward comparisons to
our romantic partners
- Social rejection lowers our self-esteem pain can motivate action – self-
improvement and a search for acceptance and inclusion elsewhere.
- We try to be greater then others in order to feel good about ourselves
Not everyone can achieve such recognition that‘s the reason it‘s so
valuable therefore self-esteem can never be wholly unconditional.
The “Dark Side” of Self-Esteem
- Teen gang leaders, extreme ethnocentrists and terrorists tend to have
higher than average self-esteem.
- Those with high self-esteem react badly and sometimes violently to
failure and social rejection
Wounded pride motivates retaliation (especially dangerous with
those that are narcissistic and have high self-esteem)
- People with high self-esteem are more likely to be obnoxious, to
interrupt, and to talk at people rather than with them.
- When feeling bad or threatened, low self-esteem people took on a
negative view of everything.
- Self-esteem, like attitudes, comes in two forms:
Explicit; consciously controlled
19 Implicit; automatic or intuitive
People who have explicitly positive views of themselves but low
implicitly, tend to have fragile self-views and tend to become more
defensive when uncertain or when facing failure.
- Those with self-worth rooted in things like personal virtue had a more
- Focusing less on one‘s self-image and more on developing one‘s talents
and relationships eventually leads to a greater well-being.
The Self in Action
- Our self‘s capacity for action has limitations
People who had to exert self-control by eating radishes instead of
chocolates were quicker to give up on unsolvable puzzles
- Self-control is like a muscle weaker after exertion, replenished with
rest and strengthened by exercise
- Energy can be depleted but our self-concepts do influence our behavior
Imagine yourself as being positive and capable and you become
more likely to plan and enact a successful strategy.
Learned Helplessness vs. Self-Determination
- Learned Helplessness the hopelessness and resignation learned
when a human or animal perceives no control over repeated bad events.
- On the other hand, if people develop self-discipline in one area of life, it is
likely to spill over into other areas as well.
- Nursing home experiment elderly patients constantly treated well by
caregivers rated themselves and were rated by others to be further
debilitated. The other patients who were given opportunities for choice,
and the responsibility to make own choices showed improved alertness,
activity and happiness.
20 - Systems of governing/managing people that promote self-efficacy will
promote health and happiness
Students who develop sense of control over school gain a greater
sense of control over their lives
Prisoners given some control over their environments (switching
lights on/off) have less stress, fewer health problems and commit
In all countries studied, people who perceive themselves as having
free choice experience greater satisfaction with their lives.
- If you try hard enough and keep appositive attitude, you can achieve
whatever you dream
If our initial efforts for something succeed, like losing weight or
improving grades, our self-efficacy also increases.
Self-Serving Bias: Seeing the Self Positively
- Self-Serving Bias the tendency to perceive yourself favorably
We excuse our failures and accept credit for our successes
Evaluating the Self
- When evaluating ourselves, we view ourselves in a positive light
Explanations for Positive and Negative Events
- People attribute their success to their ability and effort but they attribute
their failure to extern factors such as bad luck or the problem‘s inherent
- Self-serving attributions most potent human biases a form of
self-serving bias; the tendency to attribute positive outcomes to yourself
and negative outcomes to other factors.
- We are biased against seeing our own bias
We see ourselves as objective and everyone else as biased
21 - In collectivist cultures individuals are less likely to self-enhance by
believing they are better than others
Can we all be Better Than Average?
- People normally see themselves as better than average in many
- When men were asked about how often they do housework, they said
around 42%, the wives said husbands did around 33%. In actuality men
did about 39% of housework.
- By defining ambiguous criteria in our own terms, each of us can see
ourselves as relatively successful.
- Most humans are more disposed to optimism than pessimism
- Many of us have unrealistic optimism about future events partly because
our relative pessimism about others‘ fates
- Parents extend their unrealistic optimism onto their children
- Illusionary optimism makes us more vulnerable
Believing ourselves immune to misfortune causes us to take fewer
- Unrealistic optimism has been on the rise since the 1970s when half of
American high school students saw themselves as great workers in the
future and to 2006 where 2/3rds believed they would achieve stellar
- Success in school and beyond requires enough optimism to sustain hope
and enough pessimism to motivate concern
False Consensus and Uniqueness
- False Consensus Effect the tendency to overestimate the
commonality of one‘s opinions and one‘s undesirable or unsuccessful
- We overestimate how common our bad behavior is among others
22 As people‘s lives change, they see the world changing; new parents
see the world as a more dangerous place, people who go on a diet
see more food ads then before
People who have negative stereotypes of others think that many
others have the same stereotypes
- We‘re also more likely to associate with people who share our attitudes
- False Uniqueness Effect the tendency to underestimate the
commonality of one‘s abilities and one‘s desirable or successful behaviors
We may see our failings as relatively normal but our virtues as
- Temporal Comparison a comparison between how the self is viewed
now and how the self was viewed in the past or how the self is expected
to be viewed in the future.
- We tend to underrate our distant past self and compliment our recent
past self in order to feel good about our present self
- Students rated themselves at the beginning of term and at the end of
term, rated how they remembered being at the beginning of term
students rated themselves as being much worse at the beginning of term
when looking back at themselves.
- We look at a positive past self as being closer to us in time and push the
negative past self further back in time
- People who were popular in high school felt that high school was recent in
their past whereas those who weren‘t popular felt that high school is part
of their distant past
- German students felt that the Holocaust occurred in a more distant past
than most American students did.
- Tendencies toward self-serving attributions, self-congratulatory
comparisons, illusory optimism, and false consensus for our failings are
major sources of self-serving bias.
23 Explaining the Self-Serving Bias
- One explanation sees the self-serving bias as a by-product of how we
process and remember information about ourselves.
- We can easily picture ourselves while doing something and are less aware
of the times when we ignore something / don‘t do it.
- Questing for self-knowledge motivated to assess our competence
- Questing for self-confirmation motivated to verify our self-conceptions
- Questing for self-affirmation motivated to enhance our self-image
- Self-esteem motivation helps power self-serving bias.
Reflections on Self-Esteem and Self-serving Bias
- Not everyone operates with a self-serving bias; some people do suffer
from low self-esteem.
- Positive self-esteem does have some benefits.
The self-serving bias as adaptive
- Self-serving bias helps protect people from depression and helps buffer
- Positive self-esteem, viewing ourselves as good and secure, even protects
us form feeling terror over our eventual death.
- Belief in our superiority can motivate us to achieve thereby creating a
self-fulfilling prophecy and can sustain a sense of hope in difficult times.
The self-serving bias as maladaptive
- People who acknowledge their mistakes tend to be happier then those
who blame others
- Creates disharmony and envy among group members
- Failure within a group may lead one person to attribute failure to other
members rather then the group as a whole leads to group falling apart
- Group-serving bias explaining away out-group members‘ positive
behaviors; also attributing negative behaviors to their dispositions (while
excusing such behavior by one‘s own group)
24 University sorority members perceive those in their sorority as far
less likely to be conceited and snobby than those in other sororities.
- Pride has long been first among the ―seven deadly sins‖
- False modesty can be a cover for pride in one‘s better-than-average
- True humility is more like self-forgetfulness than false modestly. It leaves
people free to rejoice in their special talents and, with the same honesty,
to recognize the talents of others.
Self-Presentation: Looking Good to Others
- Do people put on a positive face while living with doubt?
- People sabotage their chance of success deliberately
Partying the night before an interview
Playing video games instead of studying before a big exam
- Gives people an excuse for doing bad without hurting their self-esteem
- Gives people some sort of external factor to place the blame on when
they do poorly
- Self-Handicapping protecting one‘s self-image with behaviors that
create a handy excuse for later failure
- Experiment where students guessed answers to difficult questions were
told they had the best score to date then offered a drug to either
enhance or inhibit performance before answering more similar questions
most chose the inhibiting drug in order to provide them with a handy
excuse for anticipated poorer performance
25 - Self-presentation the act of expressing yourself and behaving in
ways designed to create a favorable impression or an impression that
corresponds to your ideals.
- People feel better then they thought they would after putting their best
- Social networking sites, like Facebook, provide intense venue‘s for self-
Choosing images, posts, activities and even friends based on how
we think they will affect the impression we make to others
- Self-monitoring being attuned to the way you present yourself in
social situations and adjusting your performance to create the desired
impression people acting like social chameleons
The self they know differs from the self they show
People who score high in self-monitoring are also less committed to
their relationships and more likely to be dissatisfied in their
- Those who score low in self-monitoring are more honest in what they say
regardless of their surroundings and may at times come off as an
- We display lower self-esteem then we truly feel false modesty
- Modesty is greater in cultures that value self-restraint such as China and
- Westerners tend to take credit for success and attribute failures to
- Collectivists tend to share credit for success and accept responsibility for
- Despite self-presentational concerns, people worldwide are privately self-
enhancing and therefore display quite a bit of self-serving biases.
26 3. Social Beliefs and Judgments
- We construct social perceptions and beliefs
We perceive and recall events through the filters of our own
We judge events, informed by our intuition, by implicit rules that
guide our snap judgments, and by our moods.
We explain events, informed by our intuition, by implicit rules that
guide our snap judgments, and by our moods.
We explain events by sometimes attributing them to situations,
sometimes to the person.
We expect certain events, and our expectation sometimes helps
bring them about.
- How we perceive, judge, and explain our social worlds and how and to
what extent our expectations matter Main topics covered in this
Perceiving Our Social Worlds
- Our preconceptions matter in how we perceive and interpret information
- Unintended stimuli subtly influencing how we interpret and recall events.
- Priming activating particular associations in memory
- Priming experiment reveal how one thought can influence another
thought or action without awareness.
Experiment in people shown / primed with age related words
walked slower on their way out of the building
Students exposed to the scent of all-purpose cleaner were quicker
in identifying cleaning-related words, also kept their desks cleaner
while eating a crumbly cookie
Depressed moods prime negative associations
27 Watching a scary movie leads us to interpret furnace noises as
possible intruder at home
- Priming effects can also be seen when the stimuli are subliminal or too
brief to be perceived consciously like being flashed a word such as
―bread‖ will make us detect a related word such as ―butter‖ more quickly
than unrelated words.
- Much of our social information processing is automatic. It is unintentional,
out of sight and happens without our conscious awareness.
Perceiving and Interpreting Events
- Our first impressions about others are often correct
- Social perceptions are dependent on people, and even a simple stimuli
might cause a different reaction in two different people.
- Pro-Arab and pro-Israeli students shown killings of civilian refugees at
two camps in Lebanon, both groups perceived the networks as hostile to
its own side.
- People everywhere perceive media and mediators as biased against their
- Our assumptions about the world can make contradictory evidence seem
After a debate, those who like a particular candidate tend to like
them even more while those who disliked the same candidate
dislike them even more both people watched the same debate
and were presented with same arguments.
People can perceive and interpret the identical arguments quite
Students shown an image of a man told either he was
responsible for barbaric experiments on those in the concentration
camp or that he was the leader of the anti-Nazi underground that
saved many lives those told the first statement judged his
28 expression to be cruel while those told the later statement judged
his expression as warm and kind.
- Construal processes also color others perceptions of us What we say
about others will make people tend to associate traits of the things we
say with us spontaneous trait transference
- There is an objective reality, but we view it through the spectacles of our
own beliefs, attitudes, and values.
- It is surprisingly difficult to demolish a falsehood once the person
conjures up a rationale for it.
- Belief Perseverance persistence of your initial conceptions, as when
the basis for your belief is discredited but an explanation of why the belief
might be true survives
- Experiment People told risk-prone people make better or worse
firefighters and asked write up an explanation on why even when
information was discredited, people still held their self-generated
explanations in regard to firefighters being better if risk-prone or not.
- Our explanations survive challenging evidence to the contrary
- Explaining why an opposite theory might be true reduces or eliminates
- Explaining any alternative outcome, not just the opposite, drives people
to ponder various possibilities.
Constructing Memories of Ourselves and Our Worlds
- We reconstruct our distant past using our present feelings and
expectations to combine fragments of information
- When researchers told participants to vividly imagine a certain event from
their childhood, most times events that didn‘t happen, 1/4 thwill recall the
fake event as actually happening
29 The mind sometimes constructs falsehoods in its search for the
- Misinformation effect incorporating ‗misinformation‘ into one‘s
memory of the event, after witnessing an event and then receiving
misleading information about it.
Suggested misinformation may even produce false memories of
supposed child sexual abuse
Reconstructing Past Attitudes
- People who‘s attitudes have changed report that they have had the same
attitudes in the past as well
- People often exhibit rosy retrospection they recall mildly pleasant
events as more favorably then they experienced them
- With any positive experience, some of the pleasure resides in the
anticipation, some in the actual experience and some in the rosy
- We also change the way we recollect other people as our relationships
with them changes people who had steady dating partners recall love
at first sight and those who had broken up recall their partner as always
being selfish / bad-tempered
- Current feelings guide our past memories leading to a downward spiral
Those going through a bad marriage don‘t recall all the good times
they had in the beginning, they remember the beginning as also
have been bad.
Reconstructing Past Behavior
- Our memory reconstructs our past predictions (hindsight bias)
- Students exposed to message about desirability of tooth brushing two
weeks later when surveyed for another experiment, those who were
exposed to the message reported brushing their teeth much more often
than those not exposed to the message.
- We under-report bad behavior and over-report good behavior
30 - After having spent a lot of money, time and effort on things like self-
improvement, many people report as having improved even if they
haven‘t. And they do so by believing that they were worse off then they
actually were in the past.
Judging Our Social Worlds
- Social psychologists research more and shed light on how we form
judgments by drawing on advances in cognitive psychology in how people
perceive, represent and remember events.
- Based on priming research, our unconscious controls much of our
The Powers of Intuition
- Studies regarding our unconscious information processing confirm our
limited access to what‘s going on in our minds.
- Our thinking is partly controlled and partly automatic
- Controlled processing ―explicit‖ thinking that is deliberate, reflective,
- Automatic processing ―implicit‖ thinking that is effortless, habitual,
and without awareness; roughly corresponds to ―intuition‖
- Automatic processing happens off-stage where reasoning does not go.
- Examples of Automatic thinking
Schemas – mental templates that intuitively guide our perceptions
and interpretations of our experience
Emotional reactions – happen nearly instantaneously and things
reach our emotional control center (the amygdala) before the
31 Expertise – When we‘re experts at something, we intuitively know
the answer to a problem. Like how we recognize a friend‘s voice
right after a the first spoken word of a phone convo.
When facing a tough decision, it often pays to take our time, even
to sleep on it, and await the intuitive result of our out-of-sight
- We remember some things explicitly (consciously), but some things we
remember unconsciously or implicitly without knowing that we do.
Person with brain damage who cannot remember new information,
their physician has to constantly reintroduce himself everyday with
a handshake during one such handshake, the physician delivers a
shock to the patient‘s hand, even though the patient will not
recognize the physician the next day, she will not shake hands with
Blindsight – shown sticks in the part of the vision they cannot see
and when asked later about the orientation of the sticks, they were
able to remember correctly
- Many of our cognitive functions occur automatically, unintentionally,
―Our brain knows more than it tells us.‖
The Limits of Intuition
- Experiment in patients whose brain hemispheres have been separated
experimenter flashes patient with word like ―walk‖ in their nonverbal right
hemisphere, and the patient will get up and walk and their verbal left
hemisphere will provide with a plausible explanation like ―I felt like
getting a drink‖
- Social psychologists study illusory thinking for what it reveals about
normal information processing.
32 - Even after failing in the past, we have more positive expectations for the
- Overconfidence phenomenon the tendency to be more confident
than correct – to overestimate the accuracy of one‘s beliefs
- When guessing responses of a roommate, people were correct 68% of the
time, but were 78% confident
- The most confident people were most likely to be over confident.
- We are overconfident in things like discerning if someone is telling the
truth or in predicting the history of our dating partner or the activity
preference of our roommate.
- Incompetence feeds overconfidence
- Ignorance of one‘s incompetence occurs mostly on relatively easy-
- Participants saw a person walk into a room, sit, read a newspaper and
walk out had to estimate the person‘s intelligence estimates from
participants correlated with the persons intelligence score (.30) about ask
well as did the person‘s own self-estimate (.32)
- When predicting long term goals, even people who were 100% confident
erred 15% of the time.
- We often put too much weight on our current intentions when predicting
the future behavior
UW students predicted whether or not they would donate blood and
many said they would based on their intentions, but most did not
due to their hectic schedules, deadlines or simply forgetting
- What causes overconfidence?
People tend to recall their mistaken judgments as times when they
were almost right.
Among political experts, and stock market forecasters, mental
health workers and sports prognosticators, overconfidence is hard
33 - People also tend not to seek info that might disprove what they believe.
- Experiment with three numbers and people asked to figure out the rule
that the experimenter (Watson) had in mind; 23 out of 29 people
convinced themselves of the wrong rule
They then searched for confirming evidence rather than attempting
to disconfirm their hunches
- Confirmation Bias a tendency to search for information that confirms
- Our conformation bias is responsible for why our self images are so stable
We seek out friends and partners that we know will convey or
increase or self-views of ourselves
A way of self-verification
Remedies for Overconfidence
- Confidence and competence do not always coincide
- Three techniques to reduce overconfidence bias
o Weather forecasters constantly receive clear, daily feedbacks
and this helps them do well in estimating their probable
Break up a task and think about the different components of it and
how long each component would take in order to reduce planning
When thinking of or making judgments, try to think of one good
reason why our judgment of something may be wrong or why
something might not work the way we hope for it to.
Heuristics: Mental Shortcuts
- Heuristics a thinking strategy that enables quick, efficient judgments
- Representativeness Heuristics the tendency to presume,
sometimes despite the contrary odds, that someone or something
34 belongs to a particular group if resembling (representing) a typical
- The example with 30 engineers and 70 layers and given a short passage
of one person most people guessed it was a layer even if they were told
that it was 30 lawyers and 70 engineers, they still guessed lawyer
- Availability Heuristics a cognitive rule that judges the likelihood of
things n terms of their availability in memory. If instances of something
come readily to mind, we presume it to be commonplace.
- Not always right example where we hear names of famous women and
names of non-famous men, we remember hearing more names of women
though we heard equal amount of male and female names.
- Experiment where students asked to think about either 6 or 12 times they
were assertive people who were asked 6 rated themselves as being
more assertive than those who were able to come up with 12 instances.
Easily thinking about the instances where they were assertive had
more influence than the number of instances
- Explains why perceived risks badly correlates with real risks
- ―probability neglect‖ worrying more about remote possibilities while
ignoring higher probabilities (afraid of airplanes even though more people
are injured in car accidents images of airplane crashes are more
available than car crashes)
- imagining worse outcomes makes us feel better and imagining better
outcomes helps us improve in the future
- Counterfactual Thinking imagining alternative scenarios and
outcomes that might have happened but didn‘t
Olympic gold medal stand: bronze medalists who can more easily
imagine not getting a medal are happy with their medal while silver
35 medalists who can