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Chapter 1

PSY220 Chapter 1 and 2 Notes

Course Code
Jennifer Fortune

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PSY220: Readings
Chapter 1 & 2 11-10-01 1:53 PM
Social psychology can be considered science of social behaviours
Dedicated to understanding causes/consequences of social
interactions betw. individuals or groups
Social psychology: scientific study of how individuals’ thoughts, feelings,
and behaviours are influenced by other people
Influenced by other people: so long as someone is being affected
by other people, including imagined presence, it’s relevant to social
Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours: interested in how other people
affect every aspect of lives including thoughts (cognitive), feelings
(affect), and behaviours
o Ultimate goal is to understand why actions toward other
people occur or do not occur
Individuals’ Perspective: necessary to look at the world through the
actor’s eyes
o Even when studying groups, social psychologists adopt
perspective of individuals in the group
o Doesn’t matter what the objective description of
something/somewhere/someone is; it’s about what that
individuals perceives
Social construals: how individuals personally interpret or perceive
a social situation
Scientific study: social psychology involved collecting data to test
How Other People Affect Us (p 8)
Most individuals don’t realize how much other people affect them
Social psychologists have shown other people influence virtually
every aspect of life
Other People Affect How We Interpret Events
o Social psychologists wonder why people don’t offer help
o Conducted experiments where they made up fake
emergencies to see how people reacted

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! Bystander intervention
o One important reason people don’t help is because they rely
on other people to interpret the event
o Ex: adults come upon potential emergency at the same time,
like a man lying on the ground
! Is he sick/drunk? Etc.
! One source of info they use is how other people are
! If they are not doing anything, maybe it’s not an
emergency, but they could ALL be thinking this at the
same time, therefore no one does anything
Other People Affect How We Feel About Ourselves
o Deciding whether you’re nice/funny, etc. usually relies on
comparing yourself to other people
o Other people can have dramatic effects on how we feel about
o Called social comparison
! Occurs all the time
! Do the thin/attractive women/men on tv affect us?
! Study by Bill Thornton and Scott Moore (1993): male
and female undergrads completed questionnaire about
rating their own social skills/physical attractiveness, etc.
" Some participants completed it while sitting next
to poster of physically attractive people
Rated themselves as less attractive
Other People Affect How We Behave
o One explanation for mob behaviour is anonymity
! If people feel unidentifiable, they feel ‘released’ from
normal inhibitions
! Deindividuation: people feel unaccountable for their
actions when in a large group
o Study by Brian Mullen (1986): examined 60 newspaper
reports of lynchings of black men by white mobs in southern
! Degree of viciousness of lynching was rated as well as
size of lynch mob relative to number of victims

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! Showed that as lynchers became more numerous
relative to victims, viciousness of lynchings increased
! Mullen thought people in large mobs felt anonymous,
led to breakdown of normal self-control
Social Psychology is not just common sense
Hindsight bias: tendency to think that a known outcome was
Benefits of Studying Social Psychology
May all share goal of stopping AIDS, but we probably don’t agree
on how to best achieve this goal
How Social Psychology is connected to other kinds of psychology
Personality Psychology: most closely related because it studies
traits or dispositions that help explain human behaviour
Developmental Psychology: age-related changes in human
Cognitive Psychology: study how human mind works; specifically
social cognition overlaps (study of how information about people is
processed and stored)
Clinical and Counselling Psychology: study people who are having
difficulty coping with life’s demands (sometimes abnormal
psychology). Some social psychological problems like loneliness,
shyness, etc. can lead to coping problems
Sociology: most closely related field; study of how social/cultural
forces influence behaviour; Sociologists focus on groups to
understand things, whereas social psychologists focus on the
Historical Background of Social Psychology
Social Psychology’s Roots in Philosophy
o Earliest sources of social psych can be found in philosophy
o Ex: Plato thought world was experienced in three ways:
emotion, action, and though (like psychology’s cognitive,
affective and behavioural)
A lot of attention directed to social norms: perceived rules or
guidelines about what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable
o can be traced back to old idea in philosophy, the social
contract: idea that human societies have developed basic
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