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PSY220H5 (98)
Chapter 1

TEXTBOOK Chapter 1 - An Invitation to Social Psychology

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Emily Impett

Notes From Reading: C HAPTER 1:AN INVITATION TO SOCIAL P SYCHOLOGY (3-40) Characterizing Social Psychology  Social Psychology – The scientific study of the feelings, thoughts and behaviors of individuals in social situations  Social psychologists test intuitions by devising studies and crafting experiments that successfully isolate the causes of behavior in social situations Explaining Behavior - Stanford Prison study was conducted where 24 Stanford University undergraduate men were chosen to be participants in a study of a simulated prison o By flipping a coin, each student was either assigned as “prisoner” or “guard” o The “prison” was set up in the basement of the psychology department o The guards quickly turned to verbal abuse and physical humiliation o As a result, the study had to be terminated after 6 days due to the behavior of the guards produced extreme stress reactions in several of the prisoners - Social psychologists study situations in which people exert influence over one another, as well as the ways people respond to influence attempts of various kinds Comparing Social Psychology with Related Disciplines - Personality psychology stresses individual differences in behavior o Try to find a consistence pattern in the way an individual behaves across situations – to find an individual’s position on a trait - Social psychology is the study of how people perceive, think about, and remember aspects of the world o More likely to study categorization processes or memory for words or objects - Sociology is the study of behavior of people in the aggregate o Study institutions, subgroups, bureaucracies, mass movements, and changes in the demographic characteristics of populations The Power of the Situation - Individuals can produce drastic changes in our beliefs and behavior not only by what they tell us explicitly, but also by modeling through their actions on what they think we should do - We rely on other people for cues about what emotions to feel in various situations and even to define who we are as individuals The Milgram Experiment (Social influence) - Volunteers: mix of laborers, middle-class individuals, and professionals ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s (men and women) - At the laboratory, a man in a white lab coat told them that they would be participating in a study of the effects of punishment on learning - Consists of a “teacher” and a “learner”, and the learner would try to memorize word pairs such as wild/duck - A pleasant looking man would then come and allow the two participants to conduct a draw of which role each would be playing - The “teacher” was instructed to administer shocks (from 15-450 volts) to the “learner” each time he has made an error - As participants became concerned a the shock levels began to increase, the “teacher” would turn to the experimenter, but the experimenter insisted that they go on - In the end, despite the learner’s groans, pleas, screams and eventual silence as the intensity of the shocks increase, 80% of the participants continued past the 150 volt level - 62.5% of the participants went all the way to the 450-volt level, delivering everything the shock generator could produce Seminarians as Samaritans - Darley and Batson conducted an experiment with students showing the importance of the situation Notes From Reading: C HAPTER 1:AN INVITATION TO SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY (3-40) - Each student was asked about the basis of their religious orientation o As a means toward personal salvation or were more concerned with religion for its other moral and spiritual values - After, each young seminarian was asked to go to another building to deliver a short sermon and told them to follow a specific route to get their easily o Some were told that they had plenty of time, and others were told they were already late and should hurry - Each seminarian passed a man who was sitting in a doorway with his head down, coughing and groaning, and clearly needed help - The nature of religious orientation was of no use in predicating whether the seminarians would offer assistance - However, whether the seminarians were in a hurry or not was a very powerful predictor o Samaritans were good as a group, but only when they weren’t in a rush The Fundamental Attribution Error - People are thus governed by situational factors more than they assume, at the same time internal factors have much less influence than most people assume they do - Dispositions – Internal factors such as beliefs, values, personality traits, or abilities that guide a person’s behavior - 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 - Social psychology encourages us to look at another person’s situation to fully understand the person’s behavior Channel Factors - Channel Factors – Certain situational circumstances that appear unimportant on the surface but that can have great consequences for behavior, either facilitating or blacking it or guiding behavior in a particular direction o Kurt Lewin introduced this concept - Example was a study don’t by Howard Leventhal and others on how to motivate people to take advantage of health facilities’ offerings of preventive care o They attempted to persuade Yale students to get tetanus inoculations by having them read scary materials about the number of ways a person could get tetanus o This increased the percentage of students getting an inoculation ninefold from 3% to 28% o The channel factor in this case was the requirement to shape a vague intention into a concrete plan The Role of Construal - In Milgram’s study of obedience, he manipulated his participants’ understanding of the situation they found themselves in by lulling them with soothing interpretations of events - A participant is someone who is acting freely - Learning is a normal activity that often depends on feedback – a usually innocuous form of information - Experiment – a benign activity carried out by trustworthy scientist - Construal – People’s interpretation and inference about the stimuli or situations they confront Interpreting Reality - Assumptions are automatic and unconscious, and can be almost impossible to override o Example: Gestalt Principles and Perception – the Kanizsa triangle, people fill in the empty spaces in their mind and perceive a white triangle - Perception requires substantial interpretation on our part and is subject to significant error under certain conditions Notes From Reading: C HAPTER 1:A N INVITATION TO SOCIAL P SYCHOLOGY (3-40) - 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 buy by active, usually unconscious interpretation of what the object represents as a whole - Our judgments and beliefs are constructed from perceptions and thoughts, but they are not simple readouts of reality - Prisoner’s Dilemma – A situation involving payoffs to two people, who must decide whether to “cooperate” or “detect”. In the end, trust and cooperation lead to higher joint payoffs than mistrust and defection o A study conducted Based on a crime committed by two criminals and each are questioned individually o If both denied the crime – a “cooperative strategy” – both would stand a good chance of avoiding a harsh penalty o If one denied the crime and the other admitted it – a “defecting strategy” – the prisoner who admitted the crime would be treated leniently, but the denying prisoner would have the book thrown at him o If both admitted the crime, both would go to prison Schemas - Schemas – A knowledge structure consisting of any organized body of stored information (Generalized knowledge about the physical and social world) - Schemas capture the regularities of life and lead up to have certain expectations - Solomon Asch’s experiment shows that schemas can sometimes operate very subtly to influence judgments o Asked undergraduates to rank various professions in terms of prestige o One group was told that their fellow students had ranked
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