• Social psychology is the scientific study of how individuals think, feel, and behave in
a social context.
• Sociology, for instance, typically classifies people in terms of their nationality, race,
socioeconomic class, and other group factors. In contrast, social psychology
typically focuses on the psychology of the individual. Even when social
psychologists study groups of people, they usually emphasize the behaviour of the
individual in the group context.
• Clinical psychologists seek to understand and treat people with psychological
difficulties or disorders. Social psychologists do not focus on disorders; rather,
they focus on the more typical ways in which individuals think, feel, behave, and
influence each other.
• Both personality psychology and social psychology are concerned with individuals
and their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. However, personality psychology
seeks to understand differences between individuals that remain relatively stable
across a variety of situations, whereas social psychology seeks to understand how
social factors affect most individuals,
regardless of their different personalities.
• Most historians would, however, point to the American psychologist Norman Triplett,
who is credited with having published the first research article in social psychology
at the end of the nineteenth century (1897–1898). Triplett’s work was noteworthy
because, after observing that bicyclists tended to race faster when racing in the
presence of others than when simply racing against a clock, he designed an
experiment to study this phenomenon in a carefully controlled, precise way. This
scientific approach to studying the effects of the social context on individuals’
behaviour can be seen as marking the birth of modern-day social psychology.
• A case can also be made for the French agricultural engineer Max Ringelmann.
Ringelmann’s research was conducted in the 1880s but wasn’t published until
1913. In an interesting coincidence, Ringelmann also studied the effects of the
presence of others on the performance of individuals. In contrast to Triplett,
however, Ringelmann noted that individuals often performed worse on simple
tasks such as pulling rope when they performed the tasks with other people.
• Despite their place in the history of social psychology, neither Triplett nor
Ringelmann actually established social psychology as a distinct field of study.
Credit for this creation goes to the writers of the first three textbooks in social
psychology: the English psychologist William McDougall (1908) and two
Americans, Edward Ross (1908) and Floyd
Allport (1924). Allport’s book in particular, with its focus on the interaction of
individuals and their social context and its emphasis on the use of experimentation
and the scientific method, helped establish social psychology as the discipline it is
•Hitler’s rise to power and the ensuing turmoil caused people around the world to
become desperate for answers to social psychological questions about what causes violence, prejudice and genocide, conformity and obedience, and a host
of other social problems and behaviours.
•In 1936, Gordon Allport (younger brother of Floyd, author of the 1924 textbook) and
a number of other social psychologists formed the Society for the Psychological.
Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). The name of the society illustrates these
psychologists’ concern for making important, practical contributions to society.
Also in 1936, a social psychologist named Muzafer Sherif published ground-
breaking experimental research on social influence.
•Another great contributor to social psychology, Kurt Lewin, fled the Nazi onslaught
in Germany and immigrated to the United States in the early 1930s. He was a
bold and creative theorist whose concepts have had lasting effects on the field
(e.g., Lewin, 1935, 1947). Among the fundamental principles of social
psychology that Lewin helped establish were the following:
1. Behaviour is a function of the interaction between the person and the
environment. This position, which later became known as the interactionist
perspective (Blass, 1991), emphasized the dynamic interplay of internal and
external factors, and marked a sharp contrast from other major psychological
paradigms during his lifetime: psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on internal
motives and fantasies; and behaviourism, with its focus on external rewards and
2. Social psychological theories should be applied to important, practical issues.
• A pluralistic approach recognizes that because no one research method is perfect
and because different topics require different kinds of investigations, a range of
research techniques is needed.
•Some social psychology research takes what we might call a “hot” perspective,
focusing on emotion and motivation as determinants of our thoughts and actions.
Other research in this field takes a “cold” perspective that emphasizes the role of
cognition, examining the ways in which people’s thoughts affect how they feel,
what they want, and what they do.
• Social cognition: the study of how we perceive, remember, and interpret
information about ourselves and others.
•Social neuroscience: the study of the relationship between neural and social
•Behavioural genetics: a subfield of psychology that examines the effects of genes
•Evolutionary psychology: uses the principles of evolution to understand human
•Culture: may be considered to be a system of enduring meanings, beliefs, values,
assumptions, institutions, and practices shared by a large group of people and
transmitted from one generation to the next.
•Cross-cultural research: Research designed to compare and contrast people of
•Multicultural research: Research designed to examine racial and ethnic groups within cultures.
Chapter 2: Doing Social Psychology Research
Developing Ideas: Beginning the Research Process
• Every social psychology study begins with a question. And the questions
come from everywhere.
Searching the Literature:
• Once the researcher has an idea, whether it came from personal
observation, folk wisdom, a news story, or previous findings, it is important to
see what research has already been done on this topic and related topics.
• Going from article to article, sometimes called treeing, can prove very
valuable in tracking down information about the research question.
• More often than not, the researcher’s original question is changed in one way
or another during the course of searching the literature. The question should
become more precise, more specific to particular sets of conditions that are
likely to have different effects, and more readily testable.
Hypotheses and Theories
• An initial idea for research may be so vague that it amounts to little more than
a hunch or an educated guess. Some ideas vanish with the break of day. But
be shaped into a hypothesis—an explicit, testable prediction about the
conditions under which an event will occur.
• Basic research seeks to increase our understanding of human behaviour and is
often designed to test a specific hypothesis from a specific theory. Applied
research has a different purpose: to make use of social psychology’s theories
or methods to enlarge our understanding of naturally occurring events and to
contribute to the solution of social problems.
Conceptual Variables and Operational Definitions: From the Abstract to the
• When a researcher first develops a hypothesis, the variables typically are in an
abstract, general form. These are conceptual variables. Examples of
conceptual variables include prejudice, conformity, attraction, love, violence,
group pressure, and social anxiety. In order to test specific hypotheses, we
must then transform these conceptual variables into variables that can be
manipulated or measured in a study. The specific way in which a conceptual variable is manipulated or measured is called the operational definition of the
• Researchers evaluate the manipulation and measurement of variables in terms
of their construct validity. Construct validity refers to the extent to which (1) the
manipulations in an experiment really manipulate the conceptual variables they
were designed to manipulate and (2) the measures used in a study
(experimental or otherwise) really measure the conceptual variables they were
designed to measure.
Measuring Variables: Using Self-Reports Observations, and Technology
• Social psychologists measure variables in many ways, but most can be
placed into one of two categories: self-reports and observations.
Self-Reports: Going Straight to the Source
• Collecting self-reports—in which participants disclose their thoughts, feelings,
desires, and actions—is a widely used measurement technique in social
psychology. Self-reports can consist of individual questions or sets of
questions that together measure a single conceptual variable.
• Research using a procedure called the “bogus pipeline” indicates that
who are led to believe that their responses will be verified by an infallible lie-
detector, report facts about themselves more accurately and endorse socially
unacceptable opinions more frequently than those not told about such a
device. The bogus pipeline is, in fact, bogus; no such infallible device exists.
But belief in its powers discourages people from lying.
• some use interval-contingent self-reports, in which respondents report their
experiences at regular intervals, usually once a day. They may report events
since the last report, or how they feel at the moment, or both. Researchers
may also collect signal-contingent self-reports. Here, respondents report their
experiences as soon as possible after being signalled to do so, usually by
means of a beeper. Finally, some researchers collect event-contingent self-
reports, in which respondents report on a designated set of events as soon
as possible after such events have occurred.
• Whatever their differences, most self-report methods require participants to
provide specific answers to specific questions. In contrast, narrative studies
collect lengthy responses on a general topic. Narrative materials can be
generated by participants at the researcher’s request or taken from other
sources (such as diaries, speeches, books, or chat room discussions).
• Interrater reliability refers to the level of agreement among multiple observers
of the same behaviour. Only when different observers agree can the data be
trusted. • Qualitative research: The collection of data through open-ended responses,
observation, and interviews.
• Quantitative research: The collection of numerical data through objective
testing and statistical analysis.
Descriptive Research: Discovering Trends and Tendencies
• The goal of descriptive research in social psychology is, as the term implies,
to describe people and their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This method
can test questions such as: What percentage of people who encounter a
person lying on the sidewalk would offer to help that person? What do men
and women say are the things most likely to make them jealous of their
partner? Particular methods of doing descriptive research include observing
people, studying records of past events and behaviours, and surveying
• Archival research involves examining existing records of past events and
behaviours, such as newspaper articles, medical records, diaries, sports
statistics, personal ads, crime statistics, or hits on a Web page. A major
advantage of archival measures is that, because the researchers are
observing behaviour secondhand, they can be sure that they did not
influence the behaviour by their presence. A limitation of this approach is that
available records are not always complete or sufficiently detailed, and they
may have been collected in a nonsystematic manner.
• Random sampling, a method of selection in which everyone in a population
has an equal chance of being selected for the sample. Survey researchers
use randomizing procedures, such as tables of randomly distributed numbers
generated by computers, to decide how to select individuals for their
Correlational Research: Looking for Associations
• Like descriptive research, correlational research can be conducted using
observational, archival, or survey methods. Unlike descriptive research,
however, correlational approaches measure the relationship between
different variables. The extent to which variables relate to each other, or
correlate, can suggest how similar or distinct two different measures are (for
example, how related people’s self-esteem and popularity are) and how well
one variable can be used to predict another (for example, how well we can
predict university success from high school grades).
• When researchers examine the relationship between variables that vary in
quantity (such as temperature or degree of self-esteem), they can measure
the strength and direction of the relationship between the variables and
calculate a statistic called a correlation coefficient. Correlation coefficients can range from – 1.0 to + 1.0. The absolute value of the number (the number
itself, without the positive or negative sign) indicates how strongly the two
variables are associated. The larger the absolute value of the number, the
stronger the association between the two variables, and thus the better either
of the variables is as a predictor of the other.
• Correlations obtained at a single point in time across a number of individuals
are called concurrent. For example, you might be interested in testing the
hypothesis that physically attractive people tend to make more money than
less attractive people. You could measure the physical attractiveness of
many different people somehow (such as by taking their pictures and asking
a dozen other people to rate their physical appearance) and then ask them
how much money they make. Correlations also can be obtained at different
times from the same individuals. These correlations are called prospective.
Prospective studies are especially useful in determining whether certain
behaviours at a particular age are associated with other behaviours at a later
age. For example, you might want to see whether people’s degree of
optimism at the age of 20 is correlated with how happy they feel at the age of
• Correlation is not causation; a correlation cannot demonstrate a cause-
and-effect relationship. Instead of revealing a specific causal pathway from
one variable, A, to another variable, B, a correlation between variables A and
B contains within it three possible causal effects: A could cause B; B could
cause A; or a third variable, C, could cause both A and B.
Experiments: Looking for Cause and Effect
• Experiments in social psychology range from the very simple to the incredibly
elaborate. All of them, however, share two essential characteristics.
1. The researcher has control over the experimental procedures, manipulating
the variables of interest while ensuring uniformity elsewhere. In other words,
all participants in the research are treated in exactly the same manner except
for the specific differences the experimenter wants to create.
2. Participants in the study are randomly assigned to the different manipulations
(called “conditions”) included in the experiment.
If there are two conditions, who goes where
may be determined by simply flipping a coin. If
there are many conditions, a computer program
may be used. But however it’s done, random
assignment means that participants are not
assigned to a condition on the basis of their
personal or behavioural characteristics.
Through random assignment, the experimenter
attempts to ensure a level playing field: On
average, the participants randomly assigned to
one condition are no different from those assigned to another condition. Differences that
appear between conditions after an
experimental manipulation can therefore be
attributed to the impact of that manipulation and
not to any pre-existing differences between
In an experiment, researchers manipulate one or more
• Independent variables and examine the effect of these manipulations on
one or more dependent variables.
• Independent variable: In an experiment, a factor that experimenters
manipulate to see if it affects the dependent variable.
• Dependent variable: In an experiment, a factor that experimenters measure
to see if it is affected by the independent variable.
• Subject variable: A variable that characterizes pre-existing differences
among the participants in a study.
• When an experiment is properly conducted, its results are said to have
internal validity. There is reasonable certainty that the independent variable
did, in fact, cause the effects obtained on the dependent variable.
• Experiments also include control groups for this purpose. Typically, a
control group consists of participants who experience all of the experimental
procedures except the experimental treatment. For example, if we included
a ‘neutral mood’ condition in the moods and culture study by Ashton-James
and others (2009), this could be considered a control group, which provided
a baseline against which to compare the choices of those in the good
mood, versus those in the bad mood, conditions.
• The best way to protect an experiment from the influence of experimenters’
expectations—called experimenter expectancy effects (Rosenthal, 1976)—
is to keep experimenters uninformed about assignments to conditions. If
they do not know the condition to which a participant has been assigned,
they cannot treat participants differently as a function of their condition.
• Mundane realism refers to the extent to which the research setting
resembles the real-world setting of interest.
• Experimental realism refers to the degree to which the experimental setting
and procedures are real and involving to the participant, regardless of
whether they resemble real life or not.
• Researchers who strive to create a highly involving experience for
participants often rely on deception, providing participants with false
information about experimental procedures. Toward this end, social
psychologists sometimes employ confederates, who act as though they are
participants in the experiment but are really working for the experimenter.
• Meta-analysis: A set of statistical procedures used to review a body of
evidence by combining the results of individual studies to measure the
overall reliability and strength of particular effects.
Research Ethics Board • In Canada, experts from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
(CIHR), the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC),
and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) form
the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE or the Panel).
This panel provides guidance regarding ethical issues associated with
human participant research. Their Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical
Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2, 2010) includes the
requirement that all research involving human subjects be reviewed and
approved by an institutional Research Ethics Board (REB) to ensure that
the welfare of participants is adequately protected.
• The statement of ethics of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA),
called the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (2000), considers a
wide range of ethical issues, including those related to research procedures
and practices. The CPA Code stipulates that researchers are obligated to
guard the rights and welfare of all those who participate in their studies.
• One such obligation is to obtain informed consent. Individuals must be
asked whether they wish to participate in the research project and must be
given enough information to make an informed decision.
• Debriefing: A disclosure, made to participants after research procedures are
completed, in which the researcher explains the purpose of the research,
attempts to resolve any negative feelings, and emphasizes the scientific
contribution made by the participants’ involvement.
Reading 2: 54- 95
Chapter 3: The Social Self
• A patient named William Thompson suffered from an organic brain disorder
that impairs a person’s memory of recent events. Unable to recall anything
for more than a few seconds, Thompson was always disoriented and lacked
a sense of inner continuity.
• The “cock-tail party effect”—the tendency of people to pick a personally
relevant stimulus out of a complex environment.
• The term self-concept refers to the sum total of beliefs that people have
about themselves. But what, specifically, does the self-concept consist of?
According to Hazel Markus (1977), the self-concept is made up of cognitive
molecules called self-schemas: beliefs about oneself that guide the
processing of self-relevant information. Self-schemas are to an individual’s
total self-concept what hypotheses are to a theory, or what books are to a
• The ability to see yourself as a distinct entity is a necessary first step in the
evolution and development of a self-concept. The second step involves
social factors. Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1902) introduced the term looking-glass self to suggest that other people serve as a mirror in
which we see ourselves. Expanding on this idea, George Herbert Mead
(1934) added that we often come to know ourselves by imagining what
significant others think of us and then incorporating these perceptions into
• People also have difficulty projecting forward and predicting how they would
feel in response to future emotional events—a process known as affective
• They found that people overestimate the strength and duration of their
emotional reactions, a phenomenon they call the impact bias.
• Self-Perception Theory: The theory that when internal cues are difficult to
interpret, people gain self-insight by observing their own behaviour.
• Facial feedback hypothesis: The hypothesis that changes in facial
expression can lead to corresponding changes in emotion.
• As a keen observer of human behaviour, Twain anticipated a key distinction
between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation originates in
factors within a person. People are said to be intrinsically motivated when
they engage in an activity for the sake of their own interest, the challenge,
or sheer enjoyment.
• In contrast, extrinsic motivation originates in factors outside the person.
People are said to be extrinsically motivated when they engage in an
activity as a means to an end, for tangible benefits. It might be for money,
grades, or recognition; to fulfill obligations; or to avoid punishment.
• Over Justification effect: The tendency for intrinsic motivation to diminish
for activities that have become associated with reward or other extrinsic
• Social comparison theory: The theory that people evaluate their own
abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others.
• Two-factor theory of emotion: The theory that the experience of emotion is
based on two factors: physiological arousal and a cognitive interpretation of
• Roger Brown and James Kulik (1977) coined the term flashbulb memories
to describe these enduring, detailed, high-resolution recollections, and
speculated that humans are biologically equipped for survival purposes to
“print” these dramatic events in memory. These flashbulb memories are not
necessarily accurate, or even consistent over time.
• Dialecticism: An Eastern system of thought that accepts the existence of
contradictory characteristics within a single person.
• Self-esteem: An affective component of the self, consisting of a person’s
positive and negative self-evaluations.
• According to Robert Wicklund and his colleagues self-awareness theory,
people are not usually self-focused, but certain situations predictably force
us to turn inward and become the objects of our own attention. When we
talk about ourselves, glance in a mirror, stand before an audience or
camera, watch ourselves on videotape, or behave in a conspicuous manner, we enter into a state of heightened self-awareness that leads us
naturally to compare our behaviour to some standard. This comparison
often results in a negative discrepancy and a temporary reduction in self-
esteem as we discover that we fall short.
• Self-awareness theory suggests two basic ways of coping with such
discomfort: (1) “Shape up” by behaving in ways that reduce our self-
discrepancies, or (2) “ship out” by withdrawing from self-awareness.
• Just as situations evoke a state of self-awareness, certain individuals are
characteristically more self-focused than others. Research has revealed an
important distinction between private self-consciousness—the tendency to
introspect about our inner thoughts and feelings—and public self-
consciousness the tendency to focus on our outer public image
• Implicit egotism: a non-conscious and subtle form of self-enhancement.
• Marriage records found on various genealogical websites reveal that people
are disproportionately likely to marry others with first or last names that
resemble their own (Jones et al., 2004). In a subtle but remarkable way, we
unconsciously seek out reflections of the self in our surroundings.
When students receive exam grades, those who do well take credit for their
success; those who do poorly complain about the instructor and the test
questions. When researchers have articles accepted for publication, they
credit the quality of their work; when articles are rejected, they blame the
editor and reviewers. When gamblers win a bet, they see themselves as
skilful; when they lose, they moan and groan about fluke events that
transformed near victory into defeat.
On occasion, people make excuses for their past performance. Sometimes
they even come up with excuses in anticipation of future performance. Particularly when people are afraid that they might fail in an important
situation, they use illness, shyness, anxiety, pain, trauma, and other
complaints as excuses.
Self-handicapping refers to actions people take to handicap their own
performance in order to build an excuse for anticipated failure.
Still another paradoxical tactic used to reduce performance pressure is to
play down our own ability, lower expectations, and predict for all to hear that
we will fail—a self-presentation strategy known as “sandbagging”
Basking in the Glory of Others
Basking in reflected glory (BIRG): To increase self-esteem by associating
with others who are successful.
It seems that the tendency to bask in reflected glory is matched by an
equally powerful tendency to CORF—that is, to “cut off reflected failure.”
Downward social comparison: The defensive tendency to compare
ourselves with others who are worse off than we are.
• Self-presentation: the process by which we try to shape what others think of
us and what we think of ourselves.
The Two Faces of Self-Presentation
• There are basically two types of self-presentation, each serving a different
motive. Strategic self-presentation consists of our efforts to shape others’
impressions in specific ways in order to gain influence, power, sympathy, or
• There are, however, two strategic self-presentation goals that are very
common. The first is ingratiation, a term used to describe acts that are
motivated by the desire to “get along” with others and be liked. The other is
self-promotion, a term used to describe acts that are motivated by a desire
to “get ahead” and gain respect for one’s competence.
• The second self-presentation motive is self-verification: the desire to have
others perceive us as we truly perceive ourselves. According to William
Swann (1987), people are highly motivated to verify their existing self-
concept in the eyes of others.
Reading Three: 96- 138
Chapter 4: Observation: The Elements of Social Perception
• Social perception: the processes by which people come to understand one
• The social perceiver comes to know others by relying on indirect clues the elements of social perception. These clues arise from three sources:
persons, situations, and behaviour.
Persons: Judging a Book by its Cover
• In 500 BCE, the mathematician Pythagoras looked into the eyes of
prospective students to determine if they were gifted. At about the same
time, Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, used facial features
to make diagnoses of life and death. In the nineteenth century, Viennese
physician Franz Gall introduced a carnival-like science called phrenology
and claimed that he could assess people’s character by the shape of
• Physiognomy: the art of reading character from faces.
• In a new and developing area of research, social psychologists are
interested in mind perception, the process by which people attribute
humanlike mental states to various animate and inanimate objects,
including other people.
• People perceive minds along two dimensions: agency (a target’s ability to
plan and execute behaviour) and experience (the capacity to feel pleasure,
pain, and other sensations). Overall, the more “mind” respondents
attributed to a character, the more they liked it, valued it, wanted to make it
happy, and wanted to rescue it from destruction.
• Nonverbal behaviour: Behaviour that reveals a person’s feelings without
words through facial expressions, body language, and vocal cues.
• The “anger superiority effect,” has found that people are quicker to spot—
and slower to look away from—angry faces in a crowd than faces with
neutral and less threatening emotions.
• A structure in the brain known as the insula was activated not only when
participants sniffed the disgusting odour but also when they watched others
sniffing it. This result suggests that people more than recognize the face of
disgust; they experience it at a neural level.
• Many years ago, Nancy Henley (1977) observed that men, older persons,
and those of high socioeconomic status were more likely to touch women,
younger persons, and individuals of lower status than the other way around.
Henley’s interpretation: that touching may be an expression not only of
intimacy but of dominance and control.
• There is a mismatch between the behavioural cues that actually signal
deception and those used by perceivers to detect deception. To be more
specific, four channels of communication provide relevant information:
words, the face, the body, and the voice. Yet when people have a reason to
lie, the words they choose cannot be trusted, and they are generally able to
control both their face and body (the voice is the most telling channel; when
people lie, they tend to hesitate, then speed up and raise the pitch of their voice).
• The second problem is that people tend to assume that the way to spot a
liar is to watch for signs of stress in his or her behaviour. Yet in important
real-life situations for example, at a high-stakes poker table, the security
screening area of an airport, or a police interrogation room—truth tellers are
also likely to exhibit signs of stress.
Attributions: From Elements to Dispositions
• To interact effectively with others, we need to know how they feel and when
they can be trusted. But to understand people well enough to predict their
future behaviour, we must also identify their inner dispositions: stable
characteristics such as personality traits, attitudes, and abilities.
• Attribution Theory: A group of theories that describe how people explain the
causes of behaviour.
• Interested in how people answer these why questions, Heider found it
particularly useful to group the explanations people give into two categories:
personal and situational.
• Consider the Chara case. What led him to hit Pacioretty the way he did?
Did he intend to hurt him? He said no. But what caused the behaviour?
Was it because he had a history of being an aggressive player and he liked
taking on other players (a personal attribution), or because of an
unfortunate accident that occurred in a naturally aggressive game (a
Jones’s Correspondent Inference Theory: According to Edward Jones and
Keith Davis (1965), each of us tries to understand other people by observing
and analyzing their behaviour. Jones and Davis’s correspondent inference
theory predicts that people try to infer from an action whether the act itself
corresponds to an enduring personal characteristic of the actor.
Kelley’s Covariation Theory: Correspondent inference theory seeks to describe
how perceivers try to discern an individual’s personal characteristics from a
slice of behavioural evidence. However, behaviour can be attributed not only to
personal factors but to situational factors as well.
• According to Kelley, people make attributions by using the covariation
principle: In order for something to be the cause of a behaviour, it must be
present when the behaviour occurs and absent when it does not. Three
kinds of covariation information are particularly useful: consensus,
distinctiveness, and consistency.
• Consensus information sees how different persons react to the same
• Distinctiveness information to see how the same person reacts to different
stimuli. Attribution Biases
Cognitive Heuristics: According to Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and others,
people often make attributions and other types of social judgments by using
cognitive heuristics: information-processing rules of thumb that enable us to think
in ways that
are quick and easy but that frequently lead to error.
• The availability heuristic can lead us astray in two ways. First, it gives rise to
the false-consensus effect, a tendency for people to overestimate the extent
to which others share their opinions, attributes, and behaviours.
• A second consequence of the availability heuristic is that social perceptions
are influenced more by one vivid life story than by hard statistical facts.
Have you ever wondered why so many people buy lottery tickets despite
the astonishingly low odds or why so many travellers are afraid to fly even
though they are more likely to perish in a car accident? These behaviours
are symptomatic of the base-rate fallacy—the fact that people are relatively
insensitive to numerical base rates, or probabilities, and are influenced
instead by graphic, dramatic events such as the sight of a multimillion-dollar
lottery winner celebrating on TV or a photograph of bodies being pulled
from the wreckage of a plane crash.
• According to Daniel Kahneman and Dale Miller (1986), people’s emotional
reactions to events are often coloured by counterfactual thinking, the
tendency to imagine alternative outcomes that might have occurred but did
• Fundamental attribution error: The tendency to focus on the role of personal
causes and underestimate the impact of situations on other people’s
behaviour. This error is sometimes called correspondence bias.
• It now appears that social perception is a two-step process: First we identify
the behaviour and make a quick personal attribution; then we correct or
adjust that inference to account for situational influences.
• The tendency to make personal attributions for the behaviour of others and
situational attributions for ourselves is called the actor-observer effect.
• Belief in a Just World: The belief that individuals get what they deserve in
life, an orientation that leads people to disparage victims.
• Summation model of impression formation: The more positive traits there
are, the better.
• Averaging model of impression formation: The higher the average value of all the various traits, the better.
• Information Integration Theory: The theory that impressions are based on
perceiver dispositions and a weighted average of a target person’s traits.
Deviations from the Arithmetic
• Priming: The tendency for recently used or perceived words or ideas to
come to mind easily and influence the interpretation of new information.
• Individuals can reliably be distinguished from one another along five broad
traits, or factors: extroversion, emotional stability, openness to experience,
agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
• Implicit Personality Theory: A network of assumptions people make about
the relationships among traits and behaviours.
• Need for closure: The desire to reduce cognitive uncertainty, which
heightens the importance of first impressions.
• Confirmation biases: tendencies to interpret, seek, and create information in
ways that verify existing beliefs.
• Belief Perseveration: The tendency to maintain beliefs even after they have
• Self-fulfilling prophecy: The process by which one’s expectations about a
person eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm those
Pg. 138 – 187
Chapter 5- The Nature of Problem: Persistence and Change
• Racism: Prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s racial
background, or institutional and cultural practices that promote the
domination of one racial group over another.
• Sexism: Prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s gender, or
institutional and cultural practices that promote the domination of one
gender over another.
• Stereotype: A belief or association that links a whole group of people
with certain traits or characteristics.
• Prejudice: Negative feelings toward persons based on their membership
in certain groups.
• Discrimination: Negative behaviour directed against persons because of
their membership in a particular group.
• Group: Two or more persons perceived as related because of their
interactions with each other over time, membership in the same social
category, or common fate.
• Ingroups: Groups with which an individual feels a sense of membership,
belonging, and identity. • Outgroups: Groups with which an individual does not feel a sense of
membership, belonging, or identity.
• Modern racism: a subtle form of prejudice that surfaces in direct ways
whenever it is safe, socially acceptable, or easy to rationalize. Modern
racism is far more subtle and most likely to be present under the cloud
of ambiguity. According to theories of modern racism, many people are
racially ambivalent. They want to see themselves as fair, but they still
harbour feelings of anxiety and discomfort concerning other racial
• To contrast it from explicit racism, many scholars call racism that
operates unconsciously and unintentionally implicit racism. Undetected
by individuals who want to be fair and unbiased, implicit racism—along
with other forms of implicit prejudice—can skew their judgments,
feelings, and behaviours, without inducing the guilt that more obvious,
explicit forms of racism would trigger.
• Individuals engaging in intergroup interactions often activate
metastereotypes, or thoughts about the outgroup’s stereotypes about
them, and worry about being seen as consistent with these stereotypes.
Sexism: Ambivalence and Double Standards
• There are some ways that sexism is different, however. Gender stereotypes
are distinct from virtually all other stereotypes in that they are prescriptive
rather than merely descriptive. That is, they indicate what many people in a
given culture believe men and women should be.
• Ambivalent sexism consists of two elements: hostile sexism, characterized
by negative, resentful feelings about women’s abilities, value, and ability to
challenge men’s power; and benevolent sexism, characterized by
affectionate, chivalrous feelings founded on the potentially patronizing belief
that women need and deserve protection. Although hostile sexism is clearly
more negative and many women feel favourably toward men who exhibit
• According to optimal distinctiveness theory, for example, people try to
balance the desire to belong and affiliate with others, on the one hand, and