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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - An Invitation to Social Psych.doc

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

Chapter One An Invitation to Social Psych Characterizing Social Psychology • Social Psychology – the scientific study of the feelings, thoughts, anf behaviors of individuals in social situations Explaining Behavior • Stanford University Experiment ◦ 24 undergraduate men, chosen for their good character and mental health ◦ study of a simulated prison ◦ coin flip determined “guard” vs “prisoner” ◦ study anticipated to last two weeks ▪ in fact, “guards” quickly turned to physical humiliation and verbal abuse ▪ terminated after six days • Brown vs. Board of Education ◦ ruling that ended segregation in schools in the United States ▪ drew heavily on social psychological research • indicated segregated school were inherently unequal in their efforts/effects and therefore unconstitutional Comparing Social Psychology with Related Disciplines • Personality Psychology ◦ stresses individual differences in behavior rather than the social situation ◦ personality psychologists try to find a consistent pattern in the way an individual behaves across situations • Cognitive Psychology ◦ study of how people perceive, think about, and remember aspects of the world ◦ many psychologists call themselves cognitive social psychologists • Sociology ◦ study of people in the aggregate ◦ study institutions, subgroups, bureaucracies, mass movements, and changes in the demographic characteristics of populations ◦ sometimes do sociological work themselves, though they are likely to bring an interest to individual behavior to the study of aggregates The Power of the Situation • Hannah Arendt, 1963 ◦ Eichmann in Jerusalem ▪ described the trial ofAdolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's plan to exterminate Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe ▪ Eichmann was little more than a “bureaucrat doing his job” • not the demented, sadistic personality that everyone supposed • “banality of evil” • Kurt Lewin, 1930s ◦ physicist turned psychologist ▪ applied an idea from physics to an understanding of psychological existence • behavior of people (like the behavior of objects) is always a function of the field of forces (psychological and physical) in which they find themselves • social equivalent is: the role of the situation • we rely on others for clues about what emotions to feel in various situations and even to define who we are as individuals The Milgram Experiment • Stanley Milgram, 1963 ◦ experiment on social influence ◦ advertised in the local newspaper for men to participate in a study on learning and memory ◦ mix of laborers, middle class, and professionals ◦ range in age from 20s-50s ◦ told they would be participating in the “effects of punishment on learning” ▪ “Teacher” • was to administer shocks in 15-volt magnitudes • given a 45-volt shock to have an idea of how painful the shocks would be • dial was labelled ◦ e.g. “slight shock”, “Danger: Extreme Shock”, “XXX” ▪ “Learner” • pleasant looking • learner tries to memorize word pairs such as wild/duck • accomplice of the experimenter, drawing was rigged so he was always the learner • not actually being shocked ◦ most participants became concerned as shock levels increased, but complied once the experimenter prompted them to continue ◦ 80% of participants continued past the 150-volt level ▪ at which pt, the learner mentions he has a heart condition and screams “let me out of here!” ◦ 62.5% of participants went all the way to the 450 ◦ average shock administered was 360 volts ▪ after learner let out an agonizing scream and became hysterical ▪ none of the experimenters expected the participants to continue to administer shocks as long as they did ◦ the situation is extraordinarily effective in getting people to do something that would normally fill them with horror ▪ scientific experiment (unfamiliar to most people) ▪ experimenter explicitly took responsibility for what happened ▪ most participants could not have guessed that outset what the experiment involved • not prepared to resist anyone's demands ▪ STEP-by-STEP nature of the method was crucial Seminarians as Samaritans • J. Darley and D. Batson, 1973 ◦ Princeton Theological Seminary ▪ asked participants about the nature of their religious orientation • whether they were particularly concerned with religion as a means towards personal salvation or more concerned with religion for its other moral and spiritual values ▪ then, they were told to go to another building for another interview • half were told they had plenty of time to arrive; the other half was told they were running late for the interview ▪ on the way, they each pass a man sitting in a doorway, coughing and groaning; in apparent need of help ▪ regardless of the fact that each was a practicing seminarian, whether or not they were in a hurry was a powerful predictor in whether or not they stopped to help the old man The FundamentalAttribution Error • most people underestimate the power of the external forces that operate on an individual and tend to assume, often mistakenly, that causes of behavior can be mostly found in the person • dispositions – internal factors such as beliefs, values, personality traits, or abilities that guide a person's behavior • FundamentalAttribution Error – the failure to recognize the importance of situational influences on behavior, and the corresponding tendency to overemphasize the importance of dispositions or traits on behavior • social psych encourages us to look for situational factors (the other person's situation) that might be affecting someone's behavior, to fully understand it Channel Factors • channel factors - certain situational circumstances that appear unimportant on the surface but that can have great consequence to behavior ◦ either facilitating, blocking or guiding behavior (by making it easier to follow one path than another) in a particular direction • H. Levanthal, 1965 ◦ how to motivate people to take advantage of the health facilities' offering of preventative care ▪ had participants read scary material on the number of ways one could get tetanus; as well as a person in the late stages of lockjaw ▪ students could avoid this fate by simply heading to the health center anytime to get a free inoculation • Control: simply given the presentation ◦ most participants formed the intention of getting an inoculations ◦ndnly 3% did so • 2 Group: given a map with the health center circled ◦ asked to review their weekly schedule and decide on a convenient time to visit the center and the route they would take to get there ◦ 28% of these students received the inoculation ▪ channel factor: shaping a vague intention into a concrete plan The Role of Construal • construal – people's interpretation and inference (often unconscious) about the stimuli or situations they confront Interpreting Reality • our perceptions normally bear a resemblance to what the world is really like, but perception requires substantial interpretation on our part and is subject to significant error under certain conditions • Gestalt Principles/psychology – based on the German word “gestalt” meaning “form/figure” ◦ mostly having to do with visual perception ◦ this approach stresses the fact that people perceive objects not by means of some automatic registering device, but by active, usually unconscious interpretation of what the object represents as a whole • what is true for visual perception is even truer for judgements about the social world ◦ our judgements and beliefs are constructed from perceptions and thoughts, but they are not simple readouts of reality • prisoner's dilemma – a situation involving payoffs to two people, who must decide whether to “cooperate” or “defect”. In the end, trust and cooperation lead to higher joint payoffs than mistrust and defection ◦ shows in a concrete way how construal could operate to define a situation and dictate behavior ▪ two criminals commit a crime together, questioned separately ▪ each prisoner has the choice of two options: • confess, hoping to get lenient treatment by the prosecutor • deny the crime, hoping that the prosecutor would not bring charges or would fail to persuade the jury of his guilt ▪ the ultimate outcome results from the combination of the two choices • if both deny - “cooperative strategy” ◦ both stand a good chance of avoiding a harsh penalty • one denies, one admits - “defecting strategy” ◦ the one who admitted the crime would be treated leniently ◦ the one who denies the crime would have the book thrown at him • both admit ◦ both go to prison ▪ in psychological experiments, the game is usually played with monetary payoffs, that simulate the motivation of jailtime ◦ The Wall Street Game vs. The Community Game ▪ students at Stanford University asked to identify fellow students as cooperative or competitive ▪ both types of students were then given the Prisoner's Dilemma game • for half of them, the game was called The Wall Street Game ◦ “Wall Street” conjures up images of monetary advantage and competition ◦ majority of them played in a competitive fashion • for the other half, the game was called The Community Game ◦ “Community” conjures up the image of sharing and cooperation ◦ majority played it in a cooperative fashion • participant's previously judged dispositions were of no use in predicting behavior Schemas • schemas – a knowledge structure consisting of any organized body of stored information ◦ capture the regularities of life and lead us to have certain expectations we can rely on so we don't have to invent the world anew every time • S.Asch, 1940 ◦ schemas can operate very subtly to affect judgements ▪ experimental groups of undergraduates asked to rank various professions in terms of prestige • one group was told that a previous student sample had ranked politicians near the top in prestige ◦ this group assumed “politician” to mean “esteemed statesmen” ▪ e.g. Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt • the other group was told that the previous sample had ranked politicians close to the bottom in prestige ◦ this group assumed “politician” to mean “corrupt political hacks” ▪ participants weren't persuaded by the judgements of their peers, per se, but rather , a different schema for the same word, “politician”, was activated in each group Stereotypes • stereotypes – schemas that we have for people of various kinds ◦ we tend to judge people based on the different schemas we have ◦ disadvantages: ▪ can be applied in the wrong way to the wrong people ▪ can be given too much weight in relation to more specific information Automatic versus Controlled Processing • the mind processes information in two ways ◦ automatic processing: automatic and unconscious; often based on emotional factors ◦ controlled processing: the other is conscious and systematic; more likely to be controlled by careful thought • emotional reactions usually occur before careful thought • P. Davine, 1989 ◦ shows how automatic and controlled processing can result in incompatible attitudes in the same person towards members of outgroups ▪ white participants asked to read words reminiscent of african-americans and then rate a particular individual, race unspecified, about whom they read ▪ the judgements of “unprejudiced peoples” could thus be shown to be prejudiced when studied by a technique that examines unconscious processing of information ▪ automatic processes give rise to: • implicit attitudes– attitudes and beliefs that cannot readily be controlled by the conscious mind • explicit attitudes– the result of controlled, conscious processing ◦ may become implicit over time • Bargh, Chen and Burrows, 1996 ◦ just mentioning words that called to mind the elderly (cane, Florida) causes college students to walk down a hallway more slowly • activating the concept of “professor” actually makes students do better on a trivia test Types of Unconscious Processing • two major types have been identified: ◦ W. James ▪ “skill-acquisition” - as we learn and overlearn certain skills, we can exercise them without being aware we are doing so; we can carry them out without being distracted from other conscious thoughts and processing ▪ “other type” - when beliefs and behaviors are generated without our awareness of the cognitive processes behind them • Nisbett and Wilson, 1977 ◦ subjects asked to evaluate the quality of four nightgowns laid out in a row ▪ customers were most likely to judge the nightgown at the end of the line as the nightgown with the highest quality ▪ when they were asked whether the position of the nightgowns had influenced their decision, they were surprised and said no ◦ Zajonc, 2001 ▪ even when visual stimuli are presented so rapidly that people can not report having seen them, the stimuli can still affect those peoples beliefs and behaviors Functions of Unconscious Processing • a lot of mental processing takes place outside of our awareness for reasons of efficiency ◦ conscious processes are generally slow and can run only serially ◦ automatic processes are typically much fastr and can operate in parallel • efficiency of our unconscious processing is con
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