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PSY220H1 CH1 Invitation to Social Psychology.docx

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Dan Dolderman

PSY220H1 CH 1 Invitation to Social Psychology 9/11/2013 2:05:00 PM Characterizing Social Psychology Social Psychology : scientific study of the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of individuals in social situations Explaining Behaviour o Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad  CBS photos of naked Iraqi prisoners w/ plastic bags over heads, stacked up in a pyramid and surrounded by laughing male +female American soldiers, other photos showed hooded prisoners w/ arms stretched out + electric wire attached to their bodies. Also reported prisoners had been required to simulate sexual acts  Iraqi, Arabs, as well as most Americans were appalled at abuse o Philip Zimbardo Prison  24 Stanford Uni undergrad men w/ good character and mental health were paid to participate in study in a pretend prison for an intended 2 weeks o Guards wore uniform and shades and prisoners wore tunics and chain around one ankle. Guards quickly turned to verbal abuse and physical humiliation, requiring prisoners to wear bags over heads, stripping them naked th o Study was terminated on 6 day because behavior of guards caused extreme stress for prisoners o Zambardo today maintains that the balance of power in prisons is so unequal and are brutal places if there aren’t any heavy constraints applied to control guards o THUS “it’s not that we put bad apples in a good barrel. We put good apples in a bad barrel. The barrel corrupts anything that it touches.” o Social psychologists study situations in which ppl exert influence over one another, as well as the ways ppl respond to influence attempts of various kinds  Interested in how ppl make sense of world; how they decide what + whom to believe, how to make inferences about motives, personalities, abilities of other ppl, how they reach conclusions about causes of events  Social psych research on judgment and decision making, social influence and how ppl function in gps is relevant to schools of business, public health, law, med  Apply knowledge to questions about individuals and society at large, study how to reduce stereotyping and prejudice in class and workplace Comparing Social Psychology w/ Related Disciplines o Personality psych  Close cousin, but it stresses indiv diff in behavior rather than social situation; tries to find consistent pattern in way indiv behaves across situations  Social psyc examine general situation  Personality psychologists would instead look at whether certain traits and dispositions – for ex, sadism or hostility would predict cruel behavior across a range of situations o Cognitive psych (how ppl perceive, think about, remember aspects of world)  They differ in that topics social psych study are usually social like social behavior and perceptions of other ppl; Cog more likely to study categorization processes or memory for words or objects o Sociology =study of behavior of ppl in aggregate, study institutions subgroups, bureaucracies, mass movements, and changes in the demographic characteristics of populations (for example, age, gender, socioeconomic status)  Social psych do sociological work sometimes although likely to bring an interest in individual behavior The Power of the Situation Hannah Arendt o Book Eichmann in Jersualem, 1963  Describes trial of Adolf Eichmann, architect of Hitler’s plan to exterminate Jews  Argues he was not the demented, sadistic personality everyone expected but a boring unimaginative cog in a machine he served w/ a resigned sense of duty  Conclusion: anyone is capable of acts of brutality: “the banality of evil”  Research has supported her unorthodox views Kurt Lewin o Founder of modern social psychology o Believed that behavior of ppl, like the behavior of objects, is always a function of the field of forces in which they find themselves o Social equivalent of Lewin’s concept of the field of forces = role of the situation, especially social institution in guiding behavior o Ppl (friends, romantic partners, strangers) cause us to be nicer, meaner, smarter, dumber, produce drastic changes in our beliefs and behavior not only by what they tell us but by modeling through their actions what we should think/do, implying that friendship depends on adopting their views o We rely on other ppl for clues about what emotions to feel in various situations and even to define who we are as individuals o All these effects have been shown in numerous studies demonstrating power of the situation The Milgram Experiment o Stanley Milgram  Published results of a now classic experiment on social influence  Study o Volunteers (mix of laborers, middle class -20s-50s) were assigned to be a Teacher and a Learner; “learner” would try to memorize word pairs, (he was actually an accomplice of experimenter), Teacher was instructed by man in white lab coat to administer shocks each time “learner” made an error (learner was not actually being shocked) o Teacher was told to continue and that they had no choice o 80% of participants continued past the 150 volt level , in spite of learner’s faked groans, pleas, screams and eventual silence as intensity of shocks increased o 62.5% went all the way to 450 volts, even after learner stated they had a heart condition o The avg amnt of shock given = 360 volts, after learner let out an agonized scream and became hysterical o Only 20% was predicted by psychiatrists to pass 150 volt and 1% predicted to pass 330 volts  What made participants in Milgram’s study engage in behavior that they had every reason to suspect will harm someone? o The participants were not heartless fiends but the situation was extraordinarily effective in getting them to do something that would normally fill them w/ horror o Milgram stressed, the step by step nature of procedure was crucial – if participant didn’t stop at 225 volts why at 255, if not at 420 then why at 435? Seminarians as Samaritans John Darley and Daniel Batson experiment o After determining basis of religious concerns , psychologists asked each young seminarian to go to another building to deliver short sermon on good Samaritan; some were told they were late, others were told they had plenty of time. On the way there, there was a man sitting coughing and groaning o They found that the mundane fact of being in a hurry is such a powerful situational factor that it overrides ppl’s helpful tendencies; they helped only if they weren’t in a rush The Fundamental Attribution Error Ppl are governed by situational factors – whether they are being pressured by someone or whether they are late – more than they tend to assume o Internal factors (kind of person someone is) have much less influence than most ppl assume they do o Psychologists call internal factors, dispositions : beliefs, values, personality traits, abilities, whether real or imagined  Ppl tend to think of dispositions as underlying cause of behavior  If we see prisoner guard humiliating prisoner, we may assume guard is cruel, if we say angry person on the street we may assume person is an aggressive person o Failure to recognize the importance of situational influences on behavior, together w/ the tendency to overemphasize the importance of dispositions, or traits, was labeled the fundamental attribution error by Lee Ross o Many findings in social psychology indicate that ppl should look for situational factors that might be affecting someone’s behavior before assuming that the person has dispositions that match behavior ; social psych encourages us to do this Channel Factors Kurt Lewin o Introduced concept of channel factors to help explain why certain circumstances that appear unimportant on the surface can have great consequences for behavior, either facilitating or blocking it ; also means that such circumstances can sometimes guide behavior in a very particular direction by making it easier to follow one path rather than another Howard Leventhal et al. study o How to motivate ppl to take advantage of health facilities’ offerings of preventative care  Attempted to persuade Yale students to get tetanus inoculations, convinced them it was in their best interest by showing them gory material/pictures  Interviews showed most formed intention to get the shot but not many did while others who were given a map of the campus w/ a circle around health center were more likely to actually go.  Channel factor in this case was the requirement to shape a vague intention into a concrete plan. o The most powerful determinant of usage yet discovered is the distance to the closest facility Situations are often more powerful in their influence on behavior than we realize. Whether ppl are kind to others or not, whether they take action in own best interest or not, can depend on subtle aspects of situations. We often overlook such situational factors when we try to understand our own behavior or that of others, and we often mistakenly attribute behavior to presumed traits, or dispositions (fundamental attribution error) The Role of Construal Construal: people’s interpretation and inference about the stimuli or situations they confront Interpreting Reality Our perceptions normally bear a resemblance to what world is really like, but perception requires substantial interpretation on our part and is subject so significant error under certain conditions Gestalt - What we see may not actually be there but what is plausible - what makes a good, predictable “figure” in light of stored representations we have of the world and what makes sense in light of the context in which we encounter something o Gestalt psychology :objects are perceived not by means of some passive automatic registering device, but active usually unconscious interpretation of what the object represents Liberman, Samuels, Rose Used a game prisoner’s dilemma : a situation involving payoffs to two ppl, who must decide whether to “cooperate” or “defect”. In the end, trust and cooperation lead to higher joining payoffs than mistrust and defection. -Participants played the game in one of two experimental conditions ;the game was described as “Wall street game” for one half and for the other half it was described as “the community game” -Those who played “Wall Street” played more competitive, while those who played “community game” played in a more cooperative fashion. -Terminology used prompted different construals -Participants presumed dispositions (whether they had been identified as highly competitive or highly cooperative) were of no use in predicting behaviors Schemas Schema: a knowledge structure consisting of any organized body of stored information o Ex) What kind of behavior to expect when dealing with a minister, sales clerk, prof, falling in love , @ a party o Solomon Asch(1940) experiment o German founder of social psychology too o Shows that schemas can sometimes operate very subtly to influence judgments o He asked 2 gps of undergrads to rank various professions based on prestige. Asked to rank “politician” . However before, they were told that a previous sample ranked politician near top , another gp was told that politicians were ranked near the bottom o This manipulation affected the participants’’ judgement substantially, not b/c it changed minds about politicians or b.c there were tying to conform o Asch showed that participants in first gp took “politician” referring to caliber of Roosevelt while second gp thought of corrupt political hacks o They weren’t blinding going along w/ ratings of their peers rather the different schemas activated by peers ratings served to define just what it was that participants were supposed to judge. o Media does not want to change judgment of object but change object of judging Stereotypes  Stereotypes : schemas that we have for ppl of various kinds o We tend to judge individuals based on particular person schemas we have – stereotypes about a person’s nationality, gender, religion occupation, neighborhood or sorority  Can be necessary to function efficiently and effectively BUT they can be wrong, they can be applied in wrong way and to wrong ppl, and can be given too much weight in relation to more specific info we have about a particular person Automatic vs Controlled Processing  The mind processes info in 2 ways when you encounter a social situation: 1. Automatic and unconscious o Often based on emotional factors 2. Systematic and conscious o More likely to be controlled by careful thought  Patricia Devine + colleagues o Shown how automatic and controlled processing can result in incompatible attitudes in the same person toward members of outgroups o Ppl w/ low expressed prejudice toward an outgroup may nevertheless reveal feelings toward ppl in the outgp that are almost as prejudiced as those of ppl who confess to explicit disliking of the gp  Anthony Greenwald + colleagues study o Showed that great majority of white ppl take longer to classify black faces w/ pleasant stimuli than to classify white faces w/ pleasant stimuli o In general, automatic processes give rise to implicit attitudes and beliefs that cannot be readily controlled by the conscious mind; and controlled, conscious processing results in explicit attitudes and beliefs of which we are aware – though these may become implicit or unconscious over time o Individuals were likely genuinely ignorant of the extent of the bias that was revealed by the implicit measures of attitude  Another ex of unconscious cog processes o Easily discriminable personal features like gender, race, age tend to trigger stereotypes that a person uses in forming judgments about other ppl, even when the person is unaware that these social categories have influenced the judgment in question  Bargh, Chen and Burrows found o Just mentioning words that call to mind the elderly causes college students to walk down hall more slowly o Even BEHAVIOUR can be unconsciously influenced by social categories Types of Unconscious Processing o Two major types of unconscious processing have been identified and both of them play an important role in producing beliefs and behaviors : o “Skill acquisition”  Identified by William James  Ex) driving a car and realizing you don’t know what you’ve been doing/seen for the last few minutes  We learn and then overlearn skills to the point where we can exercise them w/out being aware we are doing so; we can also carry them out w/out being distraction from other conscious thoughts and processing o Other type of automatic mental processing  Associated w/ Freud  Occurs when beliefs + behaviors are generated w/out our awareness of the cognitive processes behind them  We often cannot correctly explain reasons for our judgments about other ppl, our understanding of the causes of physical and social events, or what led us to choose one job applicant over another (or romantic partner of another)  Often we can’t even consciously identify some of the crucial factors that affect our beliefs and behavior.  Experiments have shown that even when visual stimuli are presented so rapidly that ppl cannot report having seen them, the stimuli can still affect those ppl’s beliefs and behavior Functions of Unconscious Processing Much of mental processing takes place outside our awareness. WHY? o Efficiency o Conscious processes are generally slow and can run only serially (on step or one problem at a time)
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