final notes

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1 Nov 2010
Chapter 15: Social Psychology
-would you beat up or humiliate someone simply because you were ordered to do so?
-what explains the violent side of human nature that makes humans capable of horrendous things?
-social psychologists maintain that nothing is typically wrong with these people. They say that they are
normal people who are caught up in overwhelming situations that shape their actions.
-social psychologists focus on the situational factors and they say that people are usually obedient to
authority in times of war (which could lead to the gross torturing of prisoners)
-working conditions promote aggression
-during wartime, people likely view the world as consisting of “us” and “them”
-the enemy group is to be treated in a dehumanized fashion, portrayed by evil and inferiority.
-the key factor about social psychology: the power of situations in affecting human behaviour
Stanford Prison Study: normal college students were assigned to play the role of guards in a mock prison.
They became brutal and violent within days because of the role they were supposed to play.
-when explaining other people!s behaviour, we tend to overemphasize the importance of personality traits
and underestimate the importance of the situation. This erroneous tendency is called the fundamental
attribution error, where attributions are explanations for behaviour.
-usually we attribute other people!s behaviours to their personalities
-situations and social rules guide much of our behaviour
-the field of social psychology is concerned with how others influence the way a person thinks, feels and
-it covers how perceive ourselves and others, how we function in groups, why we hurt or help people,
why we fall in love, why we stigmatize and discriminate against certain people.
-the first theme of social psychology is the fundamental attribution error. The second theme is that a great
deal of mental activity occurs automatically and without conscious awareness or intent. In seconds, we
automatically evaluate the people and objects we encounter.
-we have limited mental resources and so we cannot always carefully analyze and scrutinize all of our
behaviours. So, sometimes we make snap judgements about others based on minimal information.
How do we Know Ourselves?
-the notion of self is very difficult to define
-generally, the self involves the mental representation of personal experience and includes thought
processes, a physical body and a conscious experiences that one is sparate and unique from others.
-this self of self is unitary and ubiquitous
Our Self Concept Consists of Self Knowledge
-the self concept is the knowledge that people have about themselves. It is how people answer the
question: "who am I?!
-how we see ourselves affects how we function and feel from day to day
-social psychologists view the self concept as a cognitive knowledge structure that guides our attention to
information that is relevant to us and that helps us adjust to the environment.
-if you believe that you are an optimistic person, you will tell yourself to see the good in everything.
SELF AWARENESS: there is a difference between the self as a knower (“I”) and the self as the object
that is known (“me”) = the objectified self.
-“I” = involved in executive functions like choosing, planning and controlling
-“me” = the knowledge that you hold about yourself, like what you think are your best and worst qualities.
-the sense of self as the object of attention is known as self awareness. It is when “I” think about “me”
-the consequences of being self aware (like being very aware of yourself when you give a class
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-the theory of objective self awareness is that self awareness leads people to act according to their
personal beliefs and values.
-discrepancies between personal standards and goals can motivate behaviours to reduce the
-self discrepancy theory is that the awareness of differences between personal standards and goals
leads to strong emotions. For example, if you failed a test because you did not study, you might feel
depressed. If you cheated on a test, you might feel guilty or anxious. = here there is a discrepancy
between how we see ourselves, as lazy and not studious or honest, and how we would like to see
ourselves, academically successful.
-self awareness is dependent on the normal development of the frontal lobes of the brain
-damage to the frontal lobes = minimal amount of self reflection in the patient and lack of interest in their
-for example, by removing the frontal lobe of a very intelligent patient, the patient!s knowledge about the
world were intact, but he became very unproductive, especially at work. Therefore, damage to the frontal
lobes => social and motivational impairments that interfere with job performance. Furthermore, the
patient did not realize that he had a problem and could not process information properly about the self
SELF SCHEMA: the cocktail party effect = you!re at a crowded party, you can barely hear anyone
speaking to you but if someone calls out your name, you hear it right away. This is because information
about the self is processed deeply, thoroughly and automatically.
-self schema is the cognitive aspect of the self concept, consisting of an integrated set of memories,
beliefs and generalizations about the self.
-the self schema helps you filter information so that you notice things that are self relevant (ie your name)
-it consists of integrated knowledge about the self.
-it consists of information that is personally important to your character
-the self schema helps us perceive, organize, interpret and use information about the self.
-It is a network of interconnected knowledge about the self; it summarizes past experiences and
information to provide us with answers to the question “who am I” automatically
-it easier for people to process information (like if asked the question “what does the word honest mean”)
when it is relevant to the self. For example, with this honest question, if it is posed in a way that it is
related to you (like, “does the word honest describe you”), then it is processed more deeply than if it is
posed in a way that shows its general meaning.
-at a biological level - there are neurons that are meant to specifically process self referential information.
The medial frontal lobes is active when people process information about themselves. The greater
activation of this area during self referencing means that you are more likely to remember this memory
(of self referencing) when asked about it later.
-also, we spoke about earlier the intelligent patient who had his frontal lobes removed and he was
unaware of his poor behaviour: this further emphasizes the fact that the frontal lobes are important for
processing information about the self.
WORKING SELF CONCEPT: the immediate experience of self is the working self concept.
-it is limited to the amount of personal information that can be processed cognitively at any given time
-the working self concept only contains a fragment of knowledge about the self, so the sense of self
varies depending on the situation
-your self descriptions vary as a function of which memories you retrieve, which situation you are in, the
people you are with and the role you play in that situation. For example, if you are at a party, your
working self concept is likely to be that you are a fun person. The next day, if you are studying, your
working self concept is likely to be that you are intelligent => situations shape behaviour. Different
situations elicit different behaviours because the situation activates different aspects of the self concept.
-when asked the question “who am I?”, your answers are likely to reflect characteristics that make you
distinct from others. In a case like you are born in Canada, but you are in Miami when asked that
question, the person will likely answer and mention his/her nationality because that makes him/her
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-The working self concept guides behaviour. This means that this Canadian in Miami is likely to feel and
act like a Canadian when outside of Canada
INDEPENDENT AND INTERDEPENDENT SELVES: people are different in their self concepts in the way
that they view themselves = if they are separate from or connected to other people.
-Westerners tend to be independent and autonomous stressing their individuality
-Easterners tend to be more interdependent, stressing their sense of being a part of a collective.
-certain cultures (ie Asian cultures, Arab cultures and African cultures) emphasize the collective self more
than the personal self.
-The collective self emphasizes connections to family, social groups and ethnic groups as well as
conformity to societal norms and group cohesiveness.
-Individuality cultures (like North Americans, Western Europe, Australia) emphasize the personal self like
personal rights and freedoms, self expression and diversity. People in these countries try to dress in a
way to stand out but people in a place like Japan try to dress to conform to societal normals.
-people in collective cultures tend to have interdependent self construals, which are self concepts
determined largely by social roles and personal relationships. These people are raised to follow group
norms and are expected to find their proper place in society and not to challenge or complain about their
-People in individualist cultures have independent self construals, which is a view of the self as separate
from others, emphasizing self reliance and the pursuit of personal success. The sense of self is based
on being distinct from others.
Perceived Social Regard Influences Self Esteem
-self esteem is the evaluative aspect of the self concept, how people perceive themselves
-it is people!s emotional response as they think about different characteristics about themselves.
- related to the self concept
-It doesn!t have to be about liking themselves, for example: I can think that I am a kind person, but I do
not have to like myself to believe that. Kind = objective characteristic
-Most people!s self esteem is based on how they believe others perceive them. This is known as
reflected appraisal. People internalize the values and beliefs expressed by the people in their lives.
-people respond to themselves in a manner consisten with how others respond to them. If others reject
me, or ignore me or insult me, I will likely develop a low self esteem.
-so far, we!ve talked about the social view of self esteem. This is all related to quality of parenting =
parents need to love their children, but in a manner of strict parenting where there are rules and
SOCIOMETER THEORY: social account of self esteem: humans have a fundamental need to belong and
needs are adaptive.
-belonging to a social group => more likely to survive and reproduce
-self esteem monitors the likelihood of social exclusion. If someone behaves in a way that increases the
chance of them being socially excluded, the result is likely to be a reduction in self esteem. Therefore,
self esteem is a sociometer, an internal monitor of social acceptance or rejection.
-for example: if you have high self esteem, your sociometer will indiciate a low probability of rejection.
And these people probably don!t care about how they are perceived by others.
-low self esteem correlates with social anxiety (their sociometer has a high probability of rejection)
SELF ESTEEM AND DEATH ANXIETY: self esteem helps provide meaning for individuals by avoiding
anxiety over their death.
-terror management theory: self esteem protects people from the horror of knowing that they will die.
-self esteem develops from living up to one!s cultural values.
-reminding people of their mortality leads them to act in ways that enhance their self esteem
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