Chapter 1- Introducing Social Psychology
What is social psychology?
A. Social influence is at the heart of social psychology.
•Social psychology: the scientific study of the way that the thoughts, feelings, and
actions of people are influenced by the real or imagined presence of other
B. The Power of Social Interpretation.
•Social psychology is distinct from other social sciences because of its emphasis
upon construals—the way people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the social
•Social psychology is also distinct because it is an experimentally based science.
C. How Else Can We Understand Social Influence?
•Journalists, instant experts, and social critics
o Folk wisdom: common sense explanations such as those offered by
o Folk wisdom may be contradictory and provides no way of determining
o Social psychology differs from philosophy because it is empirical.
D. Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology
•Personality psychology- individual differences in human behavior.
o Social psychology- how the social situation affects people similarly.
•Explaining behavior only with personality underestimates the power of social
o Taking situation into account is important for how people relate to each
E. Social Psychology Compared with Sociology
•Social psychology emphasis- the individual in the context of a social situation.
•Sociology is concerned with social class, social structure, and social institutions.
o Social psychology- interested in the individual.
The power of social influence
A. Fundamental Attribution Error
•Social psychologists face barrier to convincing people that their behavior is greatly
influenced by the environment.
•Fundamental Attribution Error- tendency to explain behavior entirely in terms of
personality traits and thus underestimate the power of social influence.
B. Underestimating the Power of Social Influence
•The fundamental attribution error can lead to a false sense of security—we
assume problematic behavior could never happen to us and thus we do not
guard against its occurrence. • Ross and Samuels (1993) Wall Street and Community Game.
C. The Subjectivity of the Social Situation
• How to define the social situation?
• Behaviorism- to understand human behavior, one need only consider the
reinforcing properties of the environment (how positive and negative events in
the environment are associated with specific behaviors).
o Problem: no cognition, thinking and feeling.
o There needs to be that aspect of people interpreting the situation.
• This emphasis on construal has its roots in Gestalt psychology, a school of
psychology stressing the importance of studying the subjective way in which an
object appears in people’s minds, rather than the objective, physical attributes of
Basic human motives
A. The Self-Esteem Approach: The Need to Feel Good About Ourselves
• Self-esteem- people’s evaluation of their own self-worth, or the extent to which
people see themselves as good, competent, and decent.
o Strong need to maintain high self-esteem distort their perception of the
• Justifying past behavior--In order to preserve self-esteem, people may distort their
perceptions of reality. Such distortions are more “spins” on the facts than they are
• Suffering and self justification
o Self justification for certain situations (initiation)- justify to avoid feeling
One way to do this is to say how wonderful the group is.
D. The Social Cognition Approach: The Need to be Accurate
• Expectations about the social world
o Our expectations can sometimes get in the way of accurately perceiving
o Self-fulfilling prophecy- our expectations about another person’s behavior
result (via the mechanism of influencing our behavior toward the target) in
changing the target’s behavior.
E. Additional Motives
• Biological drives
• Social motives
• Need for control.
Social psychology and social problems
A. What do social psychologists do?
• Help resolve social problems
• Reduce international conflicts through the development of effective negotiation
strategies. • Find ways to reduce racism and prejudice.
• Increase conservation and access to natural resources.
• Increase self-esteem
• Reduce depression and anxiety
• Promote happiness, health and well being.
Chapter 2- Methodology
Formulating hypothesis and theories
A. Inspiration from Earlier Theories and Research
• Studies often stem from researchers dissatisfaction with existing explanations
• Social psychologists engage in a continual process of theory refinement:
developing theories, testing hypotheses, revising theory and forming new
• Good theory characteristics
B. Hypotheses Based on Personal Observations
• Personal experience, current events, and literature can provide a source of
hypotheses to test (e.g., Kitty Genovese and Latane & Darley’s work on the
diffusion of responsibility).
• Once researchers have a hypothesis, they must collect data.
The observational method: describing social behavior
A. Overview of observational method: researcher observes people and records
measurements or impressions of their behavior.
• Ethnography- researchers attempt to understand a group or culture by observing it
from the inside, without imposing any preconceived notions they might have.
• Other times researchers use observational methods to test a specific hypothesis.
These studies use trained observers who code behavior according to a
prearranged set of criteria to establish inter-judge reliability.
B. Archival analysis
• A form of the observational method whereby the researcher observes social
behavior by examining accumulated documents of a culture (e.g., diaries, novels,
magazines, and newspapers).
• Archival analysis can tell us a great deal about a society’s values and beliefs.
C. Limits of the Observational Method
• Certain behavior difficult to observe because of privacy. • Archival analysis limited by the content of the original material whose authors may
have had other aims.
• Social psychologists typically want to do more than describe behavior but also
predict and explain behavior.
The correlational method: predicting social behavior
A. Overview of Correlational Method
• Understand relationships between variables and to be able to predict when
different kinds of social behavior will occur.
• The correlational method involves systematically measuring two variables and the
relationship between them.
• The correlation coefficient is a statistical technique for calculating the degree of
association between two variables. Positive correlations indicate that an increase
in one variable is associated with an increase in the other, and negative
correlations indicate that an increase in one variable is associated with a
decrease in the other
• Correlations can range from -1 to +1. The sign indicates the direction of the
correlation, and the magnitude of the absolute value of the correlation, which
ranges from 0 to 1, indicates the strength of the association
• Surveys- sample of people is asked questions about their attitudes or behavior.
o Used in correlational studies and when the variable of interest is not
• Random selection ensures sampling validity.
o Sampling errors
o Survey questions that ask people to predict or explain their own behavior
may be inaccurate as people often do not know the answer but believe
that they do.
C. Limits of the Correlational Method: Correlation Does Not Equal Causation
• Only shows relationship, not causation.
• Confusion of correlation and causality may turn up in media reports.
The experimental method: answering causal questions
A. Overview of the Experimental Method
• Can determine causality.
• Researcher randomly assigns participants to different conditions.
• Ensures that these conditions are identical except for the independent variable.
• Experimental method always involves a direct intervention from the researcher.
B. Independent and Dependent Variables
C. Internal Validity in Experiments
• High internal validity when everything is the same, except for the independent variable: the one factor of concern.
• Internal validity is established by controlling all extraneous variables and by using
random assignment to conditions.
• P-Value- probability level that tells how likely experimental results would occur by
o Less than or equal to 5% is considered statistically significant.
D. External Validity in Experiments
• The advantages of tight control over conditions in the experimental method may
produce a situation that is somewhat artificial and distant from real life.
• External validity is the extent to which the results of a study can be generalized to
other situations and other people.
• There are different ways in which an experiment can be realistic.
o Mundane realism: the extent that it is similar to situations encountered in
o Psychological realism: the extent to which the psychological processes
triggered are similar to the psychological processes occurring in everyday
• Psychological realism can be high in an experiment even if mundane realism is
o Use of cover stories is key.
• Generalizability across people: replication proves this.
o Replications: conducting a study over again, often with different
populations or in different settings. This provides the ultimate test of an
experiment’s external validity.
o Meta-analysis is a statistical technique that averages the results of
multiple studies to see if the effect of an independent variable is reliable.
E. Cross-Cultural Research
• Social psychologists conduct cross-cultural research to determine how culturally
dependent a psychological process is.
• Findings in cross-cultural research reveal that some social psychological findings
are culture- dependent.
F. The Basic Dilemma of the Social Psychologist
• One of the best ways to increase external validity is through field experiments:
experiments conducted in their natural settings.
• There is often a trade-off between internal and external validity—being able to
randomly assign people to conditions and ensuring that no extraneous variables
are influencing the results versus making sure that the results can be generalized
to everyday life.
o Replication in both artificial and natural settings minimizes this trade-off.
Basic versus applied research
• Basic research- purely to satisfy intellectual curiosity. • Applied research tries to solve a specific social problem.
o In practice, the distinction between basic and applied research is often
• Most social psychologists agree that in order to solve a specific social problem, we
must understand the psychological processes responsible for it.
Ethical issues in social psychology
A. Overview of Ethical Issues
• Social psychologists face the tension between wanting experiments to be realistic
and wanting to avoid causing participants unnecessary stress and
• Informed consent extremely important.
• Deception sometimes needed so results are not influenced.
B. Guidelines for Ethical Research
• Ethical principles established by the American Psychological Association.
• Institutional review board that reviews all research projects before they are
• When deception is used, debriefing or explaining to participants the true purpose
of the study must be conducted to attempt to undo or alleviate any discomfort on
the part of the participants.
Chapter 3- Social Psychology
On automatic pilot: low effort thinking
A. People as Everyday Theorists: Automatic Thinking with Schemas
• Automatic thinking involves quick judgments based on past experiences.
• Schemas- mental structures that organize our knowledge about the social world
and influence us in our mental processes.
• Stereotypes- schemas applied to social groups.
• The Function of Schemas: Why Do We Have Them?
o Help make sense of the world.
o Help us create continuity to relate new experiences to old ones.
o Helpful when information is ambiguous.
• Schemas as Memory Guides
o Filter out information not consistent with our schema.
o We tend, too, to reconstruct memory in schema-consistent ways, which
then reinforces these schemas.
o Schemas become stronger and more resistant to change over time.
• Which Schemas are applied? Accessibility and Priming
o Accessibility- extent to which schemas and concepts are at the forefront
of your mind. Could affect your impression of an ambiguous stimulus.
o Schema accessibility may be chronic or temporary.
o Priming- temporary accessibility increases when it is related to a current
goal or because of recent experiences.
Schemas must be both accessible and applicable in order to act
Priming is an example of automatic thinking because it is quick,
unintentional, and unconscious.
• The Persistence of Schemas After They are Discredited
o Perseverance effect- finding that people’s beliefs about themselves and
the social world persist even after the evidence supporting these beliefs is
• Making Our Schemas Come True: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
o Self-fulfilling prophecy can have serious consequences, as in sex
differences in math performance.
• Limits of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
o Research indicates that self-fulfilling prophecies most likely to occur when
interviewers are distracted and lack ability to pay careful attention.
o When motivated to form an accurate impression and free from
distractions, perceivers are likely to put their expectations aside.
• Schemas that our culture teaches us strongly influence what we notice and
remember about the world.
B. Mental Strategies and Shortcuts
• We use mental strategies and shortcuts that make decisions easier.
• Judgmental heuristics are mental shortcuts people use to make judgments quickly
• Availability heuristic- a mental rule of thumb whereby people base a judgment on
the ease with which they can bring something to mind.
• Representativeness heuristic- a mental shortcut whereby people classify
something according to how similar it is to a typical case.
The power of unconscious thinking
• Unconscious thinking is critical to navigating our way through the social world.
• In some cases our unconscious minds can do better at some tasks than our
Controlled social cognition: high effort thinking
• Controlled thinking- thinking that is conscious, intentional, voluntary, and effortful.
A. Free will
• Priority: thought precedes action
• Consistency: thought should be compatible with action. • Exclusivity: thought should be only apparent cause of action.
• People who believe in free will tend to act more morally.
B. Mentally Undoing the Past: Counterfactual Reasoning
• Counterfactual thinking is mentally changing some aspect of the past as a way of
imagining what might have been.
• The easier it is to mentally undo an outcome, the stronger the emotional reaction
• Counterfactual thinking can be bad if it results in rumination, which can contribute
to depression. Conversely, counterfactual thinking can be useful if it focuses
people’s attention on ways that they can cope bette