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Chapter 1

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PSYC 2100
Cheryl Harasymchuk

Chapter 1 Social Study Guide What is Social Psychology?  When we think of social influence, we think of direct attempts at persuasion, whereby one person deliberately tries to change another person’s behaviour. These attempts at direct social influence form a major part of social psychology.  Social influence extends beyond behaviour—it includes our thoughts and feelings, as well as our overt acts. Social influence can take on many forms other than deliberate attempts at persuasion. We are often influenced by the mere presence of someone.  Social Psychology: the scientific study of the ways in which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by the real or imagined presence of other people—and other environmental cues. The Power of Social Interpretation  Social psychology is distinct because it is concerned not so much with social situations in any objective sense, but rather with how people are influenced by their interpretations of their social environment.  Construal: the way in which people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the social world.  For example, in a murder trial, a person might have SO much evidence proving that he’s guilty, but the final verdict will always depend on how each member of the jury construes that evidence—these construals may rest on a variety of events and perceptions that may or may not bear objective relevance to that matter.  Social psychology is an experimentally based science that tests its assumptions, guesses, and idea about human social behaviour empirically and systematically. Some alternative ways of understanding social influence:  Folk wisdom- Journalism, social critics, and novelists have many things to say about the behaviours of individuals, and such commentary is generally referred to as folk wisdom, or common sense. More often than not, these sources disagree with each other.  Some folk wisdom says “birds of a feather flock together” and some says “opposites attract”. There is no easy way to find out which is correct.  We social psychologists address many of the same questions, but we attempt to look at these questions scientifically. One of the tasks is to make educated guesses (a hypothesis). We design experiments sophisticated enough to demonstrate the specific situations under which one or the other applies. Social Psychology Compared with Sociology:  Social psychology is rooted in an interest in individual human beings, with an emphasis on the psychological process going on in their hearts and minds. The level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation.  Sociology is more concerned with broad societal factors that influence events in a given society. The focus is on topics such as social class, social structure, and social institutions. Sociology tends to focus on a society at large.  The goal of social psychology is to identify universal properties of human nature that make everyone susceptible to social influence, regardless of social class or culture. Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology:  Personality Psychologists try to focus their attention on individual differences—the aspects of people’s personalities that make them different from other people.  Social Psychology is worried that studying just a person’s individual behaviour and differences leaves out an important part of the story—the powerful role played by social influence. The Power of Social Influence:  Fundamental Attribution Error: the tendency to overestimate the extent to which people’s behaviour stems from internal, dispositional factors and to underestimate the role of situational factors. People explain people’s behaviours in terms of personality traits, thereby underestimating the power of social influence. Underestimating the Power of Social Influence:  We tend to write people off—such as murderers—as being flawed individuals. Doing so helps the rest of us believe that it could never happen to us. By failing to appreciate the power of the situation, we tend to oversimplify complex situations. Oversimplification decreases our understanding of the causes of a great deal of human behaviour.  Lee Ross and Steven Samuels conducted a study. First they chose a group of students who were considered to be either relatively cooperative or competitive. The researchers did this by describing the game to the resident assistants and asked them to think of students in their dorms that would fit either of the two. They then invited the students to play the game, and added a twist—the researchers varied one aspect of the social situation—what the game was called. They told half it was the “Wall Street Game” and the other Half it was the “Community Game”. Everything else about the game was the same. Experiments resulted in four conditions. -Results: when it was called “Wall Street” only 1/3 of the individuals acted cooperatively, and when it was “Cooperative Game” 2/3 of the individuals acted cooperatively. The name of the game conveyed strong social norms about what kind of behaviour was appropriate in this situation. The Subjectivity of the Social Situation:  One strategy for defining it would be to specify the objective properties of the situation, such as how rewarding it is to people, and then documenting the behaviours that follow from these objective properties.  Behaviourism: a school of psychology maintaining that to understand human behaviour one need only consider the reinforcing properties of the environment—that is, how positive and negative events in the environment are associated with specific behaviours.  Behaviourists chose not to deal with issues such as cognition, thinking and feeling, because they considered these concepts too vague and mentalistic, and not sufficiently anchored to observable behaviour.  The emphasis on construal, the way people interpret social situation, has its roots in an approach called 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 the object.  According to Gestalt psychologists it is impossible to understand the way in which an object is perceived simply by studying these building blocks of perception. The whole is different from the sum of its parts. One must focus on the phenomenology of the perceiver—that is, on how an object appears to people—instead of the individual elements of the objective stimulus.  Kurt Lewin—ge
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