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Chapter 1

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Jennifer Fortune

Chapter 1: Introducing Social Psychology What is Social Psychology? We are social beings – we reside in societies that require us to interact many times every day with other people Social psychology: the scientific study of how individuals‟ thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by other people (Gordon Allport 1985); field dedicated to understanding the causes and consequences of social interactions The Science of Social Behaviour 4 key components to Allport‟s definition: (1) Influenced by other people  Other people can affect us without being present (ex: the thought of referendum on separation of Quebec causes anxiety) (2) Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours  The impact of other people on one‟s thoughts (cognition), feelings (affect), and, ultimately, behaviours (ex: conformity, aggression, helping, and discrimination) (3) Individuals‟ Perspective  Social psychologists take the perspective of individuals in a social setting, rather than focusing only on objective features of the situation  Whatever you believe to be another person‟s motives/intentions determines how you behave  Social construals: how individuals personally construe (perceive, interpret) a social situation  Group actions are made up of many actions of individuals (4) Scientific Study  Scientific evidence (data collections to test and prove predictions) is necessary before a proposal will be taken seriously How Other People Affect Us Most people do not realize just how much they are affected (both directly and indirectly) by others; we like to believe that we are strong individuals and make our own decisions without much regard to what the public thinks Other people affect how… (1) We interpret events  Bystander intervention experiments (controlled): staged emergencies are conducted to observe how the public responds  Individuals fail to intervene because they rely on other people to interpret the event (i.e.: people judge the importance of a situation based on how other people react) (2) We feel about ourselves  Social comparison (Festinger 1954): the process of comparing ourselves to other people to make judgements about the self  Experiment: media exposure to physically attractive models (3) We behave  The presence of other people can illicit very different behaviour than would have occurred if individuals were alone  Deindividuation (feelings of anonymity): if people feel unidentifiable in a large group, they may be “released” from their normal inhibitions and do things they would normally do if they were alone Beware! There is a downfall to the familiarity of the field‟s subject matter: you may think you know more than you do (1) Social psychology is not just common sense  Ex: common sense tells us that rewards and reinforcement are the way to change behaviour; however, social psychology tells us it is sometimes the absence of a reward that produces the greatest changes in attitudes and behaviour, as too many rewards can actually reduce a person‟s interest in an activity (2) Social psychology is more than common sense and folk wisdom…  Common sense often offers competing predictions (birds of a feather flock together vs. opposites attract)  Intuitions are not always right; we must conduct research to validate them  Folk wisdom is often vague and simplistic – real life is usually more complicated Why Study Social Psychology? (1) Being an informed citizen  If we really want to develop an informed and reasoned approach to solving social issues (such as the spread of AIDS, international terrorism, the death penalty, anti-gay hate crimes, etc.), we need to understand why people behave the way they do and the likely effectiveness of different solutions  Situational factors can be very powerful, and emotions can override reason (2) Applying Social Psychological Knowledge to Everyday Life  The principles of social psychology are relevant to understanding not only broad, complex social issues, but also more limited, everyday problems (with friends, parents, siblings, bosses, etc.) (3) Understanding yourself (and your social world) Social Psychology’s Connections to Other Areas of Psychology (1) Personality Psychology  Dispositions (“pre-disposed to being/acting a certain way”): traits that help to explain human behaviour; consistencies in thought or behaviour that characterize an individual across time and settings and that make him/her different from other people  Social psychologists often include individual difference variables in their research, hoping they will improve the prediction of behaviour above and beyond the situational factors (2) Developmental Psychology  Most developmental psychologists study children, often focusing on either social development (how friendships emerge, the importance of early attachments to other people) or cognitive development (how language emerges, intellectual skills)  In contrast, social psychology usually study children with an intent to apply the results to other age groups (3) Cognitive Psychology  Cognitive psychologists study how the human mind works, including memory, information processing, consciousness, and decision making  Social cognition: the study of how information about people is processed and stored (4) Clinical and Counselling Psychology  Also known as Abnormal Psychology  Field focuses on individuals who are suffering from some kind of psychological or emotional problem (ranging from mild depression/anxiety to schizophrenia/anti-social personality disorder); in contrast, social psychologists often focus on “normal” individuals‟ behaviour in social contexts  Nevertheless, social psychologists study loneliness, shyness, and low self-esteem, all of which can lead to coping problems Pg. 16 Area of Psychology Primary Focus of the Field Related Topics in Soc. Psych. Personality Traits that help to explain human Individual differences that affect behaviour social behaviour Developmental Age-related changes in human Social development – how abilities and behaviour relationship skills emerge Cognitive How the human mind works Social cognition – how information about other people is
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