Chapters 1-8 for midterm

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17 Nov 2014
CHAPTER 1 – An Invitation to Social Psychology (p.3-39)
Social psychology is the scientific study of the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of individuals in
social situations
Explaining Behavior
Study of Philip Zimbardo and colleagues of 24 undergraduate men (good character and
mental health) who would a “guard” or a “prisoner”
Study situations in which people exert influence over one another, as well as the ways
people respond to influence attempts of various kinds
How people make sense of their world – how they decide what and whom to believe, how
they make inferences about the motives, personalities, and abilities of other people, and
how they reach conclusions about the causes of events
Judgment and decision making, social influence and how people function in groups is
relevant to all those fields
Comparing Social Psychology with Related Disciplines
Hannah Arendt described the trial of Adolf Eichmann, notorious architect of Hitler’s plan
to exterminate the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe
Eichmann ≠ demented, sadistic personality BUT = a boring, unimaginative cog in
a machine that he served with a resigned sense of duty
Her theory: any one of us is capable of performing acts of brutality
Kurt Lewin, a pioneer of modern social psychology
The behavior of people, like the behavior of objects, is always a function of the
field of forces in which they find themselves
The Milgram Experiment
Volunteers: mix of laborers, middle-class individuals, and professionals ranging in age
from their 20s to their 50s
Participation in a study of the effects of punishments on learning
A “teacher” and a “learner”
“learner” had to memorize word pairs such as wild/duck
“teacher” was then instructed to administer shocks – from 15 to 450 volts – in ascending
15-volt magnitudes to the “learner” each time he made an error
15 to 450 volts = “slight shock” through “danger: severe shock” to “XXX”
“teacher” received a 45-volt shock so that he would know how painful the shocks would
The “learner” was not actually being shocker -> “teacher” didn’t know that
As the shocks levels increased, participants ask what should be done & experimenter
insisted they go on
Seminarians as Samaritans
See Figure 1.1, p.12
The Fundamental Attribution Error
Dispositions: internal factors such as beliefs, values, personality traits, or abilities that
guide a person’s behavior
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Fundamental attribution 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
Channel Factors
Certain situational circumstances that appear unimportant on the surface but that can
have great consequences for behavior, either facilitating or blocking it or guiding behavior
in a particular direction
Such circumstances can sometimes guide behavior in a very particular direction by
making is easier to follow one path rather than another
People’s interpretation and inference about the stimuli or situations they confront
Interpreting Reality
Gestalt psychology: based on the German word gestalt, meaning “form” or “figure”, 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 objects
represents as a whole
Filling gaps by using our schemas-> automatic & unconscious, see Figure 1.2,
Prisoner’s dilemma: a situation involving payoffs to 2 people, who must decide whether to
“cooperate” or “defect”. In the end, trust and cooperation lead to higher joint payoffs than
mistrust and defection
See Figure 1.4 + Figure 1.5, p.16
A knowledge structure consisting of any organized body of stored info
Schemas about people of a certain kind
The mind process info in two ways when you encounter a social situation:
1) Automatic and unconscious, often based on emotional factors
2) Conscious and systemic and more likely to be controlled by careful thoughts
Emotional reactions occur before conscious thought takes over
Types of Unconscious Processing
“Skill acquisition”: as we learn and then overlearn certain skills, we can exercise them
without being aware we are doing so + can carry them out without being distracted from
other, conscious thoughts and processing
When beliefs and behaviors are generated without our awareness of the cognitive
processes behind them
When visual stimuli are presented so rapidly that people cannot report having seen them,
the stimuli can still affect those people’s beliefs and behavior
Functions of Unconscious Processing
Why unconscious processing takes place? It’s a matter of efficiency because conscious
processes are generally slow and can run only serially – one step or one problem at a
time VS automatic processes are typically much faster and can operate in parallel + have
benefits for our survival
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We tend to overestimate how accessible our mental processes are to our consciousness
-> we act more following unconscious processes than conscious processes
Natural selection: an evolutionary process that molds animals and plants so that trait that
enhance the probability of survival and reproduction are passed on to subsequent
Human Universals
See Table 1.1, p.23
Group Living, Language, and Theory of Mind
Theory of mind: the understanding that other people have beliefs and desires
Evolution and Gender Roles
Parental investment: the evolutionary principle that costs and benefits are associated with
reproduction and the nurturing of offspring. Because these costs and benefits are
different for males and females, one sex will normally value and invest more in each child
than will the other sex
Avoiding the Naturalistic Fallacy (p.26)
Biology is destiny – that we are biologically predisposed to do is what we inevitably will
do and perhaps even should do
Naturalistic fallacy: the claim that the way things are is the way they should be + has no
logical foundation
We are predisposed to do many things that we can overcome -> human beings have the
great flexibility to adapt to distinctive circumstances
Social Neuroscience
Cultural Differences in Social Relations and Self-Understanding
Independent (or individualistic) cultures: cultures in which people tend to think of
themselves as distinct social entities, tied to each other by voluntary bonds of affection
and organizational memberships but essentially separate from other people and having
attributes that exist in the absence of any connection to others
Interdependent (or collectivistic) cultures: cultures in which people tend to think of
themselves as part of a collective, inextricably tied to others in their group and placing
less importance on individual freedom or personal control over their lives
See Table 1.2, p.29
Who Are You?
Individualism vs Collectivism in the Workplace
See Table 1.3 + Figure 1.8, p.33
Culture and Gender Roles
Men and women differ in the way they understand themselves and in their emotions and
motivations BUT these differences are not being constant across cultures – gender is
constructed quite differently in different societies
Some Qualifications
Culture and Evolution as Tools for Understanding Situations
Evolutions predisposes us to certain behavior, but culture determines which behaviors
are likely to be developed in particular situations
CHAPTER 2 – The Methods of Social Psychology (p.41-63)
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