Chapter 1 – What is Social Psychology
What is Social Psychology?
Social psychology: the scientific study of how people’s thoughts, attitudes, and
behaviours are influenced by factors in the social world.
How we think About Ourselves
Self-perception: how we think about ourselves.
Specifically how our views of ourselves change with the environment
Self-presentation: how people work to convey certain images of themselves to
Many strategies to presenting ourselves to others, cars, clothes, etc.
How we think, feel, and act in the Social World
Social Perception: how people form impressions of and make inferences about
other people and events in the social world.
We form impressions easily and frequently
We often make mistakes when we are assessing the cause of someone else’s
behaviour – usually focus too much on personal factors and not enough on
Fundamental attribution error: the tendency to overestimate the role of personal
causes, and underestimate the role of situational causes in predicting behaviour.
Social cognition: how we think about the social world, and in particular how we
select, interpret, and use information to make judgments about the world.
Social influence: the impact of other people’s attitudes and behaviours on our own
thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviour.
How Our Attitudes and Behaviours Shape the Social World
Self-fulfilling prophecy: the process by which peoples expectations about a person
lead them to elicit behaviour that confirms these expectations.
Leads people to confirm any beliefs they already have, hard to disprove these
How Has Social Psychology Evolved Over Time?
Behaviorism: a theory of learning that describes people’s behaviour as acquired
Still influential in social psych – ignores the role of people’s thought, feelings,
and attitudes and is too simplistic to explain other behaviours
Gestalt psychology: a theory that proposes objects are viewed holistic.
Look at the whole object and how it appears in people’s minds rather than
the specific parts of it
Many psychologists fled from Germany because of the Nazis’ – made them
interested in group influence, etc. Racial segregation also played role of social psychologists in the US – served
as expert witnesses on how it should be accomplished
Positive psychology: a recent branch of psychology that studies individual’s
strengths and virtues.
Hindsight bias: the tendency to see a given outcome as inevitable once the actual
outcome is known.
How is Social Psychology Connected to Other Fields?
Links to Fields Within Psychology
Focused on the role of individual differences – explain how different people
feel and behave distinct ways
Social psychologists examine how different people react to different
situations in distinct ways – focuses on aspects of personality in influencing
behaviour in a situation
Diagnosing and treating mental health problems – focuses on understanding
and treating people with psychological disorders
Social psychology examine issues relevant to it – looks at how presence of
skinny people in media can influence women’s attitudes about their own
body which may contribute to eating disorders