Textbook Notes (368,566)
Canada (161,966)
Psychology (9,696)
PSYB10H3 (611)
Chapter 1

Chapter One Social Intro

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYB10H3
Professor
Elizabeth Page- Gould
Semester
Fall

Description
Chapter One: Intro to Social Psychology What is Social Psychology? • At the heart of social psychology is the phenomenon of social influence: everyone is influenced by other people • To the social psychologist social influence is broader than attempts by one person to change another person’s behaviour • For one thing, social influence extends beyond behaviour- it includes our thoughts & feelings, as well as our overt acts • We are often influenced merely by the presence of other people • Each of us is immersed in a social & cultural context • Social psychologists are interested in studying how & why our thoughts, feelings, & behaviours are shaped by the entire social environment The Power of Social Interpretation • Social psychology is distinct, however, primarily b/c it is concerned not so much with social situations in any objective sense, but rather with how people are influenced by their interpretation, or construal, of their social environment • Social psychologists believe, it is more important to understand how they perceive, comprehend, & interpret the social world than it is to understand the objective properties of the social world itself • Construal processes can produce very different outcomes • Social psychology is that it is an experimentally based science that tests its assumptions, guesses, & ideas about human social behaviour empirically & systemically • Doing systemic experiments in social psychology presents a great many challenges, primarily b/c we are attempting to predict the behaviour of highly sophisticated organisms in a variety of complex situations • As scientists, our goal is to find objective answers to a wide array of important questions Some Alternative Ways of Understanding Social Influence • The problem with this approach is that people are not always aware of the origins of their own responses (asking them) Folk Wisdom • A great deal can be learned about social behaviour from journalists, social critics, & novelists • More often than not, they disagree with one another, & there is no easy way of determining which of them is correct • When cult members kill themselves & their children at the request of their leader, explanations range from the view that the leader must have employed hypnotism & drugs to weaken the resistance of his followers, to suspicion that the people who were attracted to this cult must have been disturbed, self-destructive individuals in the first place. Such speculations, b/c they underestimate the power the situation, are almost certainly incorrect- or at the very least oversimplified • So-called common sense frequently turns out to be wrong or oversimplified, people tend not to learn from previous incidents • Subsequent doomsday cults capitalized on fears that the millennium would bring about the end of the world, & managed to persuade their followers to take their lives & those of their children • Fixing blame may make us feel better by resolving our confusion, but it is no substitute for understanding the complexities of the situations that produced those events • The social psychologist performs experiments to test hypotheses about the nature of the social world • One of the tasks of the social psychologist is to design experiments sophisticated enough to demonstrate the specific situations under which one or the other applies Social Psychology Compared with Sociology • Both disciplines are concerned with the influence of social & societal factors on human behaviour • Social psychology is a branch of psychology &, as such, is rooted in an interest in individual human beings, with an emphasis on the psychological processes going on in their hearts & minds. For the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation • Sociology is more concerned with broad societal factors that influence events in a given society • The focus is on such topics as social class, social structure, & social institutions • Sociology tends towards a more macro focus- that of society at large • Sociologists are more likely to be concerned with why a particular society produces different levels & types of aggression in its members • 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 Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology • When trying to find explanations of social behaviour, personality psychologists generally focus their attention on individual differences- the aspects of an individual’s personality that make him or her different from other individuals • An understanding of personality psychology increases our understanding of human behaviour • Social psychologists are convinced that explaining behaviour primarily in terms of personality factors ignores a critical part of the story: the powerful role played by social influenced • When trying to account for a person’s behaviour in a complex situation, the overwhelming majority of people will jump to the conclusion that the behaviour was caused by the personality of the individual involved rather than consider the influence of the situation • We often fail to take the situation into account- is important to a social psychologist, for it has a profound impact on how human beings relate to one another • Social psychology shares with sociology an interest in situational & societal influences on behaviour, but focuses more on the psychological makeup of individuals that render 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 • The social psychologist is up against a formidable barrier: the inclination we all have for explaining people’s behaviour in terms of their personalities. This barrier is known as the fundamental attribution error Underestimating the Power of Social Influence • When we underestimate the power of social influence, we experience a feeling of false security • By failing to appreciate fully the power of the situation, we tend to oversimplify complex situations; oversimplification decreases our understanding of the causes of a great deal of human behaviour. Among other things, this oversimplification can lead us to blame the victim in situations where the individual was overpowered by social forces too difficult for most of us to resist • People think of their friends’ personalities & answer accordingly. They usually do not think much about the nature of the social situation when making their predictions • When it is called the Wall Street Game, only 1/3 of the people responded cooperatively, whereas when it was called the Community Game, approximately 2/3 of the people responded cooperatively • We have learned the social & environmental situations are so powerful that they have dramatic e
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