A. Chapter 1 Psychology 2C03 TEXTBOOK NOTES.docx

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Psychology 2C03 Chapter 1: Introduction to Social Psychology
What is social psychology?
oThe scientific study of the way in which peoples thoughts, feelings, and
behaviours are influenced by the real or imagined presence of other people
oAt the heart of social psychology is the phenomenon of social influence:
we are all influenced by other people
oOther disciplines such as anthropology and sociology are also interested in
how people are influenced by their social environment however Social
psychology is distinct because it is concerned not so much with social
situations in the objective sense, but rather with how people are influenced
by their interpretation or construal
oConstrual: the way in which people perceive, comprehend, and interpret
the social world
oSocial psychologists believe it is more important to understand how
people perceive comprehend and interpret the social world rather than
understanding the objective properties of the social world itself
The role of construal in conflict negotiations:
oA special kind of construal called “naïve realism” :the conviction all of us
have that we perceive things “as they really are”
We assume that other reasonable people see things the same way
we do
oEven when each side recognizes that the other side perceives the issues
differently, each thinks that the other side is biased while they themselves
are objective and that their own perceptions of reality should provide the
basis for settlement.
Another distinctive feature of social psychology is that it is an experimentally
based science
Scientists test assumptions, guesses, and ideas about how human social behaviour
empirically and systematically rather than relying on folk wisdom, common
sense, or the opinions and insights of philosophers, novelists, political pundits,
our grandmothers and others wise in the ways of human beings.
Folk wisdom /common sense
oJournalists, social critics, novelists are examples of people who rely on
these or produce comments using these types of methods
oWhen great thinkers find themselves in disagreement with one another.
When this occurs, how is one to know who is right?
oHe major reason we have conflicting philosophical positions is that the
world is a complicated place. Small differences in the situation might not
be easily discernible, yet these small differences might produce very
different effects.
Social Psychology compared with Sociology
oSocial psychology’s focus on social behaviour is shared with sociology
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oSocial psychology is the branch of psychology rooted in the study of
individuals with an emphasis on the psychological processes going on in
their hearts and minds.
oFor the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the
context of a social situation.
oSociology is more concerned with broad societal factors that influence
events in a society
Focus is on such topics as social class, social structure, and social
institutions (Sociology’s focus)
oThe difference between social psychology and sociology in level of
analysis reflects another difference between the disciplines :
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
oCross-cultural experimentation is increasing which is important because
these types of experiments will allow us to learn more about the extent to
which these laws are universal
Social psychology compared with personality psychology
oWhen trying to explain social behaviour, personality psychologists
generally focus their attention on individual differences
The aspects of people’s personalities that make them different from
other people
oSocial psychologists believe that explaining behaviour primarily in terms
of personality factors ignores a critical part of the story: the powerful role
played by social influence
oThe fact that we often fail to take the situation into account when
considering the actions of people is important to Social psychologists
Sociology Social psychology Personality psychology
Provides general laws
and theories about
societies, not individuals
Studies the psychological
processes people have in
common with one
another that make them
susceptible to social
Studies the characteristics
that make individuals
unique and different from
one another
Social psychology shares with sociology an interest in situational and societal
influences on behaviour but focuses more on psychological makeup of individuals
that renders them susceptible to social influence
Social psychology shares with personality psychology an emphasis on the
psychology of the individual but rather than focusing on what makes people
different from one another, it emphasizes the psychological processes shared by
most people that make them susceptible to social influence
The Power of Social Influence:
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All of us tend to explain peoples behaviour in terms of their personalities.
oThis is why it is hard for social psychologists to try to convince people
that their behaviour is greatly influenced by the social environment
The fundamental attribution error: the tendency to overestimate the extent to
which peoples behaviour stems from internal, dispositional factors and to
underestimate the role of situational factors
oOr: the tendency to explain peoples behaviour in terms of personality
traits thereby underestimating the power of social influence
Underestimating the power of social influence:
oWhen we underestimate the power of social influence, we experience a
feeling of false security
oLiberman, Samuels, and Ross experiment
Chose a group of students at Stanford university who were
considered by their resident assistants in their dorm to be either
especially cooperative or especially competitive
Told half the participants that the game was called “wall street
game” and half that it was called “community game”
When it was called the “wall street game” only one-third of the
people responded cooperatively whereas when it was called the
“community game” two thirds of the people responded
Therefore students personality made no measureable difference in
the student’s behaviour
Subjectivity of the social situation:
oOne way to define a “social situation” would be to specify the objective
properties of the situation (e.g. how rewarding it is for people) and then to
document the behaviours that follow from these objective properties
oHuman social behaviour cannot be fully understood by confining our
observations to the physical properties of a situation
oIt is important instead to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the
people in it to see how they construe the world around them
oIf someone were to ask you a question, you may construe the meaning
differently depending on who is asking you, in what tone of voice, etc.
o This emphasis is on construal: the way people interpret the social
oconstrual has its roots in an approach called the Gestalt Psychology :
initially proposed as a theory of how people perceive the physical
it is 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
Gestalt psychologists believe that it is impossible to understand the
way in which an object is perceived simply bey studying the
building blocks cant just be breaking things down into their
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