• Social psychology is the scientific study of how individuals think, feel, and behave in a
• 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 modernday
• 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
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 today.
•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
•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 groundbreaking experimental research on
•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 punishments.
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 processes.
•Behavioural genetics: a subfield of psychology that examines the effects of genes on
•Evolutionary psychology: uses the principles of evolution to understand human behaviour
•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.
•Crosscultural research: Research designed to compare and contrast people of different
•Multicultural research: Research designed to examine racial and ethnic groups within
Chapter 2: Doing Social Psychology Research
Developing Ideas: Beginning the Research Process
Asking Questions: • Every social psychology study begins with a question. And the questions come from
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 others can
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
Conceptual Variables and Operational Definitions: From the Abstract to the Specific
• 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 variable.
• 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 SelfReports Observations, and Technology
• Social psychologists measure variables in many ways, but most can be placed into one of two categories: selfreports and observations.
SelfReports: Going Straight to the Source
• Collecting selfreports—in which participants disclose their thoughts, feelings,
desires, and actions—is a widely used measurement technique in social psychology.
Selfreports 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 participants
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 intervalcontingent selfreports, 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
signalcontingent selfreports. 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 eventcontingent selfreports, in which respondents report on a
designated set of events as soon as possible after such events have occurred.
• Whatever their differences, most selfreport 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 openended responses,
observation, and interviews.
• Quantitative research: The collection of numerical data through objective testing and
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 people. Archival Studies
• 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 samples.
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 selfesteem
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 selfesteem), 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
• Correlation is not causation; a correlation cannot demonstrate a causeandeffect
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 participants.
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 preexisting 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 AshtonJames 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
realworld 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.
• Metaanalysis: 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
TriCouncil 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
• The “cocktail party effect”—the tendency of people to pick a personally relevant
stimulus out of a complex environment.
• The term selfconcept refers to the sum total of beliefs that people have about
themselves. But what, specifically, does the selfconcept consist of? According
to Hazel Markus (1977), the selfconcept is made up of cognitive molecules called
selfschemas: beliefs about oneself that guide the processing of selfrelevant
information. Selfschemas are to an individual’s total selfconcept what hypotheses
are to a theory, or what books are to a library.
• The ability to see yourself as a distinct entity is a necessary first step in the
evolution and development of a selfconcept. 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 our selfconcepts.
• People also have difficulty projecting forward and predicting how they would feel
in response to future emotional events—a process known as affective forecasting.
• They found that people overestimate the strength and duration of their emotional
reactions, a phenomenon they call the impact bias.
• SelfPerception Theory: The theory that when internal cues are difficult to interpret,
people gain selfinsight 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 factors.
• Social comparison theory: The theory that people evaluate their own abilities and
opinions by comparing themselves to others.
• Twofactor theory of emotion: The theory that the experience of emotion is based on two factors: physiological arousal and a cognitive interpretation of that arousal.
• Roger Brown and James Kulik (1977) coined the term flashbulb memories to
describe these enduring, detailed, highresolution 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.
• Selfesteem: An affective component of the self, consisting of a person’s positive
and negative selfevaluations.
• According to Robert Wicklund and his colleagues selfawareness theory, people are
not usually selffocused, 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 selfawareness
that leads us naturally to compare our behaviour to some standard. This comparison
often results in a negative discrepancy and a temporary reduction in selfesteem as
we discover that we fall short.
• Selfawareness theory suggests two basic ways of coping with such discomfort: (1)
“Shape up” by behaving in ways that reduce our selfdiscrepancies, or (2) “ship
out” by withdrawing from selfawareness.
• Just as situations evoke a state of selfawareness, certain individuals are
characteristically more selffocused than others. Research has revealed an
important distinction between private selfconsciousness—the tendency to
introspect about our inner thoughts and feelings—and public selfconsciousness the
tendency to focus on our outer public image
• Implicit egotism: a nonconscious and subtle form of selfenhancement.
• 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.
Selfhandicapping 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
selfpresentation strategy known as “sandbagging”
Basking in the Glory of Others
Basking in reflected glory (BIRG): To increase selfesteem 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.
• Selfpresentation: the process by which we try to shape what others think of us and
what we think of ourselves.
The Two Faces of SelfPresentation
• There are basically two types of selfpresentation, each serving a different motive.
Strategic selfpresentation consists of our efforts to shape others’ impressions in
specific ways in order to gain influence, power, sympathy, or approval.
• There are, however, two strategic selfpresentation 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 selfpromotion, a term used to
describe acts that are motivated by a desire to “get ahead” and gain respect for
• The second selfpresentation motive is selfverification: 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 selfconcept in the eyes of
Reading Three: 96 138
Chapter 4: Observation: The Elements of Social Perception
• Social perception: the processes by which people come to understand one another.
• 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,
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 carnivallike science called phrenology and claimed that he could assess
people’s character by the shape of their skulls.
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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 reallife situations
for example, at a highstakes 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
• Interested in how people answer these why questions, Heider found it particularly
useful to group the explanations people give into two categories: personal and
• 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 situational attribution)
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 stimulus.
• Distinctiveness information to see how the same person reacts to different stimuli.
Cognitive Heuristics: According to Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and others, people
often make attributions and other types of social judgments by using cognitive heuristics:
informationprocessing 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
falseconsensus 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 baserate 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 multimilliondollar 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 not.
• 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 twostep 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 actorobserver 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
• 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,
• 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 been
• Selffulfilling prophecy: The process by which one’s expectations about a person
eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm those expectations.
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
• 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
• 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
• 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 groups.
• 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 benevolent sexism.
• According to optimal distinctiveness theory, for example, people try to balance the
desire to belong and affiliate with others, on the one hand, and the desire to be
distinct and differentiated from