Social Psychology 1
Social psychology. Study of how people influence others’
behaviour, beliefs and attitudes.
Social comparison theory. We seek to evaluate our abilities and
beliefs by comparing them with those
Mass hysteria. Outbreak of irrational behaviour that is
spread by social contagion.
Social facilitation. Enhancement in performance brought
about by the presence of others.
Conformity. Tendency of people to alter their
behaviour as a result of group
Deindividuation. Tendency of people to engage in
uncharacteristic behaviour when they
are stripped of their usual identities.
Groupthink. Emphasis on group unanimity at the
expense of critical thinking.
Group polarisation. Tendency of group discussion to
strengthen the dominant positions
held by individual group members.
Cult. Group of individuals who exhibit
intense and unquestioning devotion to
a single cause.
Inoculation effect. Approach to convincing people to
change their minds about something
by first introducing reasons why the
perspective might be correct and then
Obedience. Adherence to instructions from those
of higher authority.
What is social psychology
- Study of how people influence other’s behaviour, beliefs and attitudes.
- Helps us understand why we sometimes act helpfully in the presence of
others, and why we occasionally show our worst sides.
- Sheds light on why we’re prone to accept blindly irrational, even
- Social influence is relevant to everyone.
- Humans as a social species:
o Gravitating to each other:
150 – approx. size of most human social groups.
Our highly social brains are predisposed to forming
intimate interpersonal networks that are large.
o Why we form groups – the need to belong:
Have a biologically based need for interpersonal
connections. Seek out social bonds when we can and suffer negative
psychological and physical consequences when we can’t.
Threat of social isolation can lead us to behave in self-
destructive ways and even impair our mental functioning.
o How we came to be this way – evolution and social behaviour.
Core premise: Social influences serve us well most of the
time, but can occasionally backfire if we’re not careful.
Conformity, obedience and many other forms of social
influence become maladaptive only when they’re blind or
When we accept social influence without evaluating it
critically, we place ourselves at the mercy of powerful
others e.g. Nazi regime.
o Social comparison:
Social comparison theory.
Helps us understand our self and our social world better.
Upward social comparison – compare ourselves with
people who seem superior to us in some way.
Downward social comparison – compare ourselves with
others who seem inferior.
o Social contagion:
Look at others when a situation is ambiguous to figure out
what to believe. Demonstrations:
Contagious outbreak of irrational behaviour that
Prone to collective delusions – many people
simultaneously come to be convinced of bizarre
things that are false e.g. UFO sightings.
False stories that are repeated so many times that
people believe them to be true.
o Social facilitation:
Presence of others can enhance our performance in certain
Occurs only on tasks we find easy.
Social disruption – worsening performance in the presence
Social influence: conformity and obedience
o The Asch Studies: