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Chapter 1

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PSYC 215
Michael Sullivan

Textbook Chapter 1: The Mission and the Method World peace is a mission for many, but often times this is too idealistic. See pages 2 and 3 for many examples of how we live in an absurd world. Social psychology is the scientific study of how people affect and are affected by others. It can help us make sense of bizarre and baffling diverse behaviour. It can help us make sense of our own social world. It is not a guide to manipulate people, however it is a way to understand the basic principles of social influence, as well as many other principles of social behaviour. A Brief History of Social Psychology One of the first social psychology experiments was conducted by Indiana University professor Norman Triplett (1897). He looked at bicycling records in the 1987 season and noticed that those who competed against each other performed better than those who competed against a clock Therefore he proposed that the presence of another rider releases the competitive instinct, increasing nervous energy and enhancing performance His hypothesis was tested by building a competition machine o He had 40 children wind up a fishing reel, alternating between doing it alone and doing it parallel to each other o Results: winding time was faster when the children worked side by side Another experiment was conducted in the 1880s by French professor of agricultural engineering Max Ringelmann: He had men pull on a rope alone and as part of a group, and he measured effort exerted by each participant Results: as group size increased, individual effort decreased o Could explain why people slack off while working on group projects These results are opposing: social behaviour is very complex. These two studies started a trend for many other subsequent studies. Another important milestone is the introduction of textbooks: 1908: the first two books to bear the title Social Psychology were published (by sociologist Edward Ross and psychologist William McDougall) 1924: another early social psychology book published by Floyd Allport During the early part of the 20 century, people began to ponder what the basic laws by which people related to each other were. This was inspired by world wars, the rise of communism and facism, the spread of automobiles, the rapid changes in romance and sexual behaviour, the rise in advertising, popular fads, the population shift from farm to city life, and economic events such as the Great Depression. One idea formed (that shaped the thinking of early social psychologists) was that modern life makes people vulnerable to alienation and exploitation by giant social systems. Another idea was that we learn who we are from other people and our interactions with them. Another idea was that modern humans act less on the basis of firm inner moral principles than on the basis of following the crowd. The two ideas from this period that have had a lasting influence on the direction that social psychology took were: 1. Gordon Allport`s observation that attitudes were the most useful and important concept in social psychology a. The study of attitudes dominated social psychology research for decades and is still centrally important today (Ch 7) b. On another note, he also postulated that study of the self was going to be recognized as increasingly important (Ch 3); he was right about that 2. Kurt Lewin`s formula that behaviour is a function of the person and the situation a. Eg: Will Lenore finish her paper on time? i. To know this, you must know certain things about her, such as is she lazy, smart, punctual? Also, is the task hard, are people bothering her, etc. ii. You need to know both types of information WWII stimulated a lot of social psychology studies. This was for many reasons, such as trying to figure out how Hitler had so much control over so many people. This was theoretical. Other more practical questions were also asked, such as why did soldiers seem to have so many psychological problems with stress. Also, the mass immigration of many European thinkers to the USA helped to make the USA a world leader in social psychology (Lewin was one of the immigrants). The events during WWII were the impetus for the most famous social psychology study ever conducted. It was conceived of after Adolf Eichmann (high ranking Nazi/SS officer) was captures and hanged, since during interviews he did not deny the facts of the Holocaust, but claimed that at all times he was only following orders. Therefore Stanley Milgram (1974) asked Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?. In his 1973 findings, Milgram reported that [he] set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. (Ch 9) In the 1950s and 60s, Social Psych came into its own. At the time, psychology was divided between two camps: 1. Behaviourism, sought to explain all of psychology in terms of learning principles such as reward and punishment (used the scientific method, lots of experiments with rats, opposed to talking about the mind, thoughts, emotions, or other inner processes) 2. Freudian Psychoanalysis, which preferred elaborate interpretations of individual experiences (esp. from clinical psychology) instead of systematic studies that counted behaviours Social psychology was not compatible with either camp, taking the scientific method also with an interest in the mind. Eventually (1970s/80s), social psych. found its own way, using scientific approaches to measure behaviour but also trying to study thoughts, feelings, and other inner states scientifically. As for the recent history of social psychology, the study of simple cognitive (mental) processes, such as attribution theory, evolved in the 1970s and 1980s into a large and sophisticated study of social cognition (how people think about people and the social world in general). Another development from the 1990s was a growing openness to biology. This was extended by evolutionary psychology, which sought to extend and apply the basic ideas of evolution to understanding human social behaviour. It gained further momentum as some psychologists began to study the brain in order to learn how its workings are related to social events. The study of the self is also a central theme in social psychology since the 1970s. For example, the term self-esteem is fairly recent. Recently (since the Soviet collapse in 1989), there has been greater interest in prejudice and stereotyping. QUIZ: 1. The earliest social psychological experiments were conducted in the late 1800s by researchers such as Max Ringelmann and Norman Triplett. What was the topic of these early studies? a. Aggression b. Attitude change c. Effect of presence of others in individual performance d. Proscial behaviour 2. Who published the first social psychology textbook? a. Floyd Allport b. Edward Ross c. William McDougall d. Both (b) and (c) 3. Who claimed that attitudes were the more important and useful concept in social psychology? a. Gordon Allport b. Edward Ross c. Kurt Lewin d. Norman Triplett 4. In the 1950s and 1960s, psychology was divided between which two camps? a. Behaviourist and cognitive camps b. Behaviourist and psychoanalytical camps c. Cognitive and comparative camps d. Comparative and psychoanalytical camps What do Psychologists Do? Social psychology aims for a broad understanding of the social factors that influence how human beings think, act, and feel. It focuses particularly on normal adult human beings, though some social psychologists do study children and people who suffer from mild mental illness (such as depression). Very little of what people do, save for severe mental illness, is off limits to social psychologists. Social psychology is also concerned with the effect that other people have (real or imagined) on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. These three dimensions or building blocks of social psychology are known as the ABC triad (A = Affect; how people feel inside about themselves, others, etc. B = Behaviour; what people do, their actions. C = cognition; what people think about, concerning themselves, others, and issues/problems). So social psychologists are interested in the effects of personal and situational influences on these ABCs, focusing especially on the power of situations. In this focus, social psychology departed from two powerful traditions in psychology o Freudian psychoanalysis sought to explain behaviour by looking at the deep unconscious forces inside the person, whereas behaviourist learning theory sought to explain behaviour by looking at reinforcement histories (ie: what behaviours were previously rewarded or punished) Social psychologists emphasizes how people react to the world around them and how small changes in their immediate circumstances c
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