CHAPTER 7: SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
-Social psychologists devote themselves to the study of human interconnectedness; social
psychology is based on the belief that “it is not so much the kind of person a man is, as the
kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act”.
-Social psychology defn by Gordon Allport states that it seeks to understand, explain &
predict how ppl’s thoughts, feelings & behaviours are influenced by the actual, imagined or
implied presence of others. Social cognition is the way in which ppl perceive & interpret
themselves & others in their social world.
Social cognition: Attitudes
-Attitudes are relatively stable & enduring (w/in individuals) evaluations of things & ppl.
According to the ABC model, attitudes have 3 components: affective (emotions & feelings
toward object), behavioural (how we behave toward object) & cognitive (beliefs & ideas
about object). Before 9/11, NA held the attitude that their everyday world was safe from
terrorism: they felt secure (affective), went to work confidently w/o worry that terrorism will
affect them (behavioural) & believed they were safe (cognitive).
-Attitudes: Socialization is the process by which children acquire beliefs & behaviour deemed
to be desirable/appropriate by the family they belong to. Can occur by direct transmission
(parents lecturing you) or in subtler ways (getting praised/punished for grades), overtime
you’ll generalize these individual experiences into an overall attitude about the value of what
you’re doing. Early in life, parents play a role in shaping children’s beliefs & opinions about
the world, but as they mature, peers, teachers & media can sig influence their attitudes.
-How do attitudes change? : Once we have internalized an attitude, how rigid & long lasting
will it be & can ppl experience a change of heart? An experiment by Festinger & Carlsmith
demonstrated that when we are subtly manipulated into doing/saying something that is
contrary to our private attitudes, we often change our attitudes to match the new
action/statement. They had research participants do a # of boring & repetitive tasks, eg. 1 hr
slowly turning square pegs on a board, after they were told that the experiment was done &
they could go home but in fact they were needed to describe the experiment as fun &
intriguing to a new group that was coming in. All the new individuals were confederates, ie.
Collaborators w/ the experiment; in almost all cases, the participants agree to help, some
were paid $1 ($8 today) & some $20 ($160 today). After presenting the positive spiel about
the tedious tasks, the participants were interviewed about how enjoyable they actually
believe the tasks to be & they found that those paid $1 for praising the task rated the task as
more enjoyable than those paid $20. Why is this so? Cognitive dissonance theory offers a
-Cognitive dissonance theory=proposed by Festinger, aka state of emotional
discomfort ppl experience when they hold 2 contradictory beliefs or hold a belief that
contradicts their behaviour. This state is so unpleasant that we are motivated to reduce/
eliminate them. 1 way is to modify our existing beliefs, eg. participants said the task was
boring & trivial then were asked to talk about it positively, resulted in cognitive dissonance &
motivated them to change their neg attitudes to pos ones about the tasks. But what about the
differing results b/w the $1 & $20 group? According to the theory, the $20 group experienced
less dissonance b/c they had suff justification for their behaviour, eg. “I said the experiment
was fun b/c I got money for saying it” vs. the $1 group experience more dissonance b/c they
had insuff justification for their behaviour & to reduce the uncomfortable feelings they modify
their beliefs & ended up saying that the tasks really were kind of interesting. Festinger’s
theory received tons of support from other literature & has been implicated in real life, eg.
parents giving financial rewards to children to encourage them to do homework but this can
backfire b/c if they are given sizeable financial reward, they will know exactly why they’re
doing homework, experiencing little dissonance & still continue to believe that hw is boring.
-Do Attitudes influence behaviour? : Attitudes that ppl express are not necessarily related to
how they actually behave, eg. Richard LaPiere’s field study of Chinese couple visiting >250
hotels & restaurants & only 1 of those rejected the couple service even though 90% indicated they wouldn’t serve Chinese guests. There are times though that attitudes do predict
behaviour, eg. attitude specificity—the more specific the attitude the more likely it will predict
behaviour & attitude strength—stronger attitudes predict behaviour more accurately than
weak, vague ones.
-Are ppl honest about their attitudes? : a reason attitudes fail to consistently predict
behaviours is that ppl often misrepresent their attitudes; analyses of most self-report
questionnaires can’t distinguish b/w genuine attitudes from false one & why is it that ppl
misrepresent their attitudes:
-The Social desirability factor= often ppl state attitudes that are socially desirable vs.
accurate; to eliminate this, researchers have often used the bogus pipeline technique. The
participant is connected to a fake device that resembles a polygraph & told it can detect
deception & found that when ppl are connected to it, they are more likely to report their
attitudes truthfully. In one study of this, the experimental group were more likely to be honest
about performing socially sensitive behaviours, eg. drinking, smoking, engaging in sex, etc &
those in the control group were more likely to answer in socially desirable ways like reporting
lower freq in partaking in those activities. After the study, it is important that participants are
debriefed about the fact their honesty wasn’t really monitored.
-Implicit attitudes= another problem researchers have run into when trying to
measure attitudes is that ppl are often unaware of their true attitudes, this is called implicit
attitudes. To measure implicit attitudes, researchers have used the IAT (Implicit Assoc’n
Test) which uses a person’s rxn times & consists of 3 stages:
1. Person is exposed to 2 broad categories & then ask to categorize certain
words that belong into each category.
2. Person is asked to complete a diff task in which they must categorize
words as either pleasant/unpleasant.
3. Categories are combined, eg. dog-related/pleasant or cat-related/
unpleasant & then categories are later reversed. The assumption is that if a person
implicitly believes dogs are more desirable than cats, they should be quicker to
identify pleasant words during the dog/pleasant combo b/c the assoc’n b/w them is
=Implicit attitudes appear to be stable over time & useful predictors ob both
subtle indicators of discomfort; researchers have also used IAT to detect bias against elderly,
overweight, women, ethnic groups, etc. Bertram Gawronski & colleagues found that diversity
training & guided exposure to groups that are prejudiced reduces explicit prejudiced beliefs
vs. fear reduction & emotion focused interventions work best to reduce implicit prejudice
beliefs. His main pt was that multicomponent efforts would be more effective & result in more
positive changes in participants’ prejudicial cognitions & emotions.
-Stereotypes & Prejudice: Stereotypes are generalized impressions about a person/group
based on the social category they occupy; can be based on age, race, region of origin,
political/religious beliefs, etc. Prejudice is negative stereotypical attitudes toward individuals
from another group. Research by Reginald Bibby suggests that prejudice in the form of overt
racism & sexism has dec overtime in US & Canada but more so in Canada but despite
Canada’s greater acceptance of diversity, subtle biases remain, eg. long history of prejudice
against Canada’s aboriginal popn w/ neg effects on the overall health of members of that
popn. Pyschologists believe that the human tendency to identify w/ a group is the main
contribution to stereotypes & prejudice, we categorize ourselves based on similarities & diff.
Understanding ourselves as members of the in-group offers us some insight on who we are
& perceiving ppl from out-groups gives us info (sometimes invalid) about who they are.
Social identity theory emphasizes social cognitive factors in the onset of prejudice, proposes
it emerge through 3 processes: social categorization (person affiliates w/ a group to figure
out how to act/react in the world), social identity (person forms an identity w/in the group) &
social comparison (group member compares group favourably w/ other groups & in turn
drives a sense of pos well-being from looking at him/herself as superior in some way). : Tajfel randomly assigned study participants to 2 groups & had them decide how to
divide the money b/w 2 ppl Id’d by their group membership & ID # & typically, participants
showed an “in-group” bias by giving more money to the person in their group vs. the other
group. Even w/o group interaction, social identity theory exists.
-Attitudes & the power of Persuasion: advertisers have taken advantage of the processes
underlying how attitudes form & change; they use their best efforts to convince you that there
product is far superior than anyone else’s & you must have it. For persuasion to occur, there
must be a message, a source & a receiver. In attempting to make the msg persuasive, the
source can use methods that follow the central/peripheral route:
-Central vs. Peripheral: central route emphasizes the content of the msg, using
factual info & logical arg to persuade; req fair amt of effort on receiver & more commonly
used for matters of significance. Peripheral route relies on superficial info, feelings &
impressions to persuade. Decisions based on central routes are more likely to last than
decisions based on peripheral routes.
-Aids to persuasion: Characteristics of the source is also important in making a msg
more/less persuasive, eg. whether source is rated more knowledgeable/likeable, if we think
source is similar to us & sometimes its more persuasive if source presents both sides of an
issue. Sometimes the key to persuasion rests on interaction b/w audience & source
characteristics, # of specific techniques incl: foot-in-the-door (getting someone to agree to a
small request & then ff up w/ a larger one so that they will be inclined to grant the 2ndrequest
b/c of having already granting the 1 one, eg. asking to borrow the car for an 1hr then for the
weekend), door-in-the-face (making an absurd large request that will be obviously turned
down & ff up w/ a more moderate request to persuade them to grant you what you really
want, eg. asking for a motorcycle & then asking for $50) & appeals to fear (can be powerful &
freq seen in antismoking campaigns; must make receivers truly believe that something bad
will happen to them if they don’t comply w/ the source’s request).
-Barriers to persuasion: forewarning an audience that you will be persuading them
will immediately raise their defenses; beginning w/ a weak arg instead of a strong one can
make subsequent arg weaker.
Before You Go On
1. What are the 3 components of attitudes, according to the ABC model?
2. Why do ppl sometimes misrepresent their attitudes?
3. How does social identity explain prejudice?
4. What are the central & peripheral routes to persuasion?
-Social forces exert a powerful influence on our behaviours & beliefs, often ppl conform to
the behaviours & opinions of others eps when those reflect a majority posn.
-Norms & Social Roles:
-Norms: are social rules about how members of a society are expected to act
providing order & predictability, some are explicit/stated openly & some are implicit. Norms
can also be classified as descriptive (agreed-on expectations about what members of group
do) & injuctive (agreed-on expectations about what members of group ought to do). Ppl are
more likely to abide by injuctive norms if the norms are called to their attention.
-Social Roles: a social role is a set of norms ascribed to a person’s social posn—
expectations & duties assoc’d w/ the individual’s posn in the family, at work, community, etc.
Roles often have a pos impact on people & society & are critical for its smooth functioning
but can however confine ppl & restrict them from stepping out of their social roles, they end
up getting neg rxns & evaluations.
-Roles & situational demands (Stanford-prison experiment): in 1971, Philip Zimbardo
& colleagues at Stanford U performed this experiment even though it didn’t follow an
experimental design. The basement of the uni psych department was converted into a mock
prison & 24 male students were randomly assigned to play either a prisoner or guards for
what was supposed to be 2 wks. To the researchers’ horrors, w/in hrs the guards had begun humiliating & tormented their prisoner peers, eg. imposed physical punishments, denied
bathroom privileges & food. W/ Zimbardo realizing he was acting more like a warden than a
researcher, the study raised many ethical questions & shut down after just 6 days. The
participants experience clear psychological pain—prisoners were abused psychologically &
guards were confronted w/ the fact they were capable of cruelty & sadism. Despite the
ethical problems the study had, it underscore the power & potential dangers of certain social
-Roles, Gender & Social Skills: There is a pop belief in Western society that women
are more skilled socially than men, more emotionally sensitive, more expressive & more
focused on social relationships & this has been backed up by research. Male participants, on
the other hand, tend to focus more narrowly on the tasks at hand in group activities than do
females, emerge as leaders in a group & adopt more authoritarian & less participative styles
when they take on leadership roles. Why is there gender diff in the social realm? Well, it’s b/c
of social roles; traditional western roles ascribe more communal characteristics to women &
agenetic characteristics to men. The social role theory states that ppla re inclined to behave
in ways consistent w/ expectations tied to their roles & as ppl enact their roles, they become
deeply ingrained in their attitudes. Along w/ changes in roles & expectations, social
psychologists have been finding fewer & smaller gender diff in their studies of social skill,
empathy, leadership, etc –diff still exist as social role theory predicts but there is clearly a
shift occurring; also note that ave group diff don’t allow you to make attributions about
individuals in either group.
-Conformity: the tendency to yield to real/imagined group pressure. Early work on this was
done by Theodore Newcomb; in a classic study, he examined the political views of students
at Bennington College as they progressed through school & found that as students
progressed through college, immersed in the school’s culture, their political views grew more
& more liberal & these views endured well into adulthood. Lab studies tell a similar story, esp
the classic work done by Solomon Ash:
-The Asch studies: Experiment on perceptual studies but in fact an investigation of
conformity, you & 6 other participants are seated around a table & you are seated 2 ndto the
last & the experimenter presents 2 cards to the group, card A displays a single vertical line &
card B displays 3 vertical lines of various lengths. The experimenter asks each participant
which of the lines in Card B matches card A & you immediately recognize the right match for
2 rounds & everyone agrees but in the 3 round, you recognize the match but the first 5
persons that answer before you don’t have the same answer. The other participants were
confederates, coached to uniformly give a wrong answer at round 3 & up & Asch found that
75% of the real participants conformed to the group norm & gave an incorrect response.
There were variations to his procedures to reveal what group features might affect this
“tyranny of majority” & one key factor is group unanimity; if there is presence of even 1
dissenting group member, it greatly reduces likelihood that participants will conform to the
incorrect group norm. The size of the group also affects its influence, eg. groups < 4
members didn’t seem to bring about a powerful conformity effect.
-Conformity & culture: collectivist cultures emphasize the needs of the group &
subsume individual desires to those of the family/peer group vs. individualist cultures stress
the needs of an individual person over those of the group; conformity is viewed very diff in
these cultures. In individualist cultures, conformity is often considered bad b/c ppl want to
stand out, be diff & unique, to have their own identity vs. in collectivist, ppl value fitting in w/
other ppl & see a virtue in conforming to the norms & that conforming indicates maturity,
respect for others & appropriate self control.
-Obedience: in the Asch studies, there were no leaders in the groups, just peers & there
were no consequences for wrong answers, no fines were imposed, no harm was done &
nobody had to account/defend their decisions but what happens in situations where ppl are
working under an authority fig or must pay a price for an incorrect decision? Classic work by Stanley Milgram sheds light on obedience which is the act of ff direct commands, usually
given by an authority figures.
-Milgram’s experiment: 2 participants are used to study the effects of punishment on
learning & are randomly assigned to have the teacher/learner role. 1 participant, Mr. Wallace
is a confederate & you are given the role as a teacher which is not actually randomly
assigned. Mr. Wallace is prep for his role, investigator attaches an electrode to his wrist &
arm is strapped down to prevent excessive movement & electrode paste is applied to
prevent blisters & burns; you are informed that the electrode is connected to a shock
generator in the other room in which you are responsible of controlling. The shock
generator’s control panel is identified by a voltage ranging from 15 -450 volts, slight
shockextreme shock & experimenter explains to you that whenever you push down each
switch, it gives a corresponding shock to Mr. Wallace. You can communicate w/ him via
microphone b/c rooms are partially soundproog & when he responds by pulling 1 of 4 levers,
1 of 4 lights on top of the shock generator will light up & he answers incorrectly, you
administer the shock & w/ successive incorrect response, comes inc levels of shock. You
hear screams & any time you express reluctance, experimenter urges you to go on, after a
while Mr. Wallace stops responding & you are asked to treat it as an incorrect answer & still
give shocks. No more responses come. Most ppl who learn about the study will say they
would refuse to go on w/ experiment early on but Milgram found that 65% of participants
continued w/ the experiment all the way to 450 volts & no participant stopped before 300
-Milgram controversy: most controversial study; suggested that we are inclined to
obey authority even if we could be behaving in unpredictable ways. Milgram demonstrated
that it’s not just a cruel/sadistic group of the popn that can inflict pain & suffering on innocent
victims but 2/3 of the popn might hurt others if ordered to do so by an