PSY 220 CH.1
An Invitation to Social Psychology
• Uncivil protests against colouredAmericans changed the views of most white men and
women almost overnight. Now they wanted equality.
Characterizing Social Psychology
• Social psychology: The scientific study of the feelings, thoughts, and behaviours of
individuals in social situations.
• Conditions in theAmerican prisons in Baghdad led to people believing that the guards
and workers were simply ‘bad apples.’
• Years before, Zimbardo had his prison study that suggested that the people are not ‘bad
apples’but they are governed by the ‘power of the situation.’Study lasted 6 days instead
of 2 weeks because of how bad the ‘guards’got with prisoners.
• Social psychology can be used in a variety of disciplines as well as real life.
Comparing Social Psychology with Related Disciplines
• Personality psych stresses individual differences in behaviour rather than the social
• Cognitive science is the study of how people perceive, think about, and remember aspects
of the world.
• Sociology is the study of behaviour of people in the aggregate.
The Power of the Situation
• Arendt argues that any one person is capable of being caught up in the situation. Like
Adolf Eichmann, behind the plan to get rid of Jews. When interviewed, he was not
psychopathic, sadistic, or demented, but actually just another boring person.
• Kurt Lewin founder of modern psych, was physicist then psychologist.Applied principles
from physics.Aperson (particle) is subject to their own characteristics (particles can be +
or -) as well as the environment (forces like gravity acting on particle).
The Milgram Experiment
• Stanley Milgram took random persons and had them shock another person when he failed
to answer a question correctly, slowly upping the voltage as they went. From the
shocker’s POV, they could have just as easily have been the person being shocked. The
person being shocked has a heart condition that is known to the ‘shocker.’Alot of people
continued to the end of the experiment, protesting along the way, but still continuing
when told by the researcher even after hearing screams of pain, as well as no response
from the person being shocked.
Seminarians as Samaritans
• Students told to give seminar on being a Good Samaritan. Half were told to hurry as they
were late, other half could take their time getting there.Along the way a man clearly in
agony was waiting, those in a rush often did not stop, but those who were not in a rush
did. Experiment by John Darley and Daniel Batson.
The FundamentalAttribution Error
• People underestimate how much external factors affect their decisions. • Dispositions: Internal factors such as beliefs, values, personality traits, or abilities that
guide a person’s behaviour.
• Fundamental attribution error: The failure to recognize the importance of situational
influences on behaviour, and the corresponding tendency to overemphasize the
importance of dispositions or traits on behaviour.
• Channel factors: Certain situational circumstances that appear unimportant on the
surface but that can have great consequences for behaviour, either facilitating or
blocking it or guiding behaviour in a particular direction.
• Kurt Lewin introduced concept.
• Howard Leventhal did a study about tetanus shots and students. Taught about ways to get
tetanus and consequences if they did. 3% of people talked to got the (free) shot. Other
participants given map to clinic (circled on map) and asked to review their schedule and
plan a time to get it (already knew where clinic was map was just an added external
factor). 28% got the shot. Channel factor was requirement to shape the vague intention of
getting the shot into a plan.
The Role of Construal
• Construal: People’s interpretation and inference about the stimuli or situations they
• Free agents vs. Victims, freedom fighter vs. Terrorists, etc.
• Our perceptions normally bear a resemblance to what the world is really like, but
perception requires substantial interpretation on our part and is subject to significant error
under certain conditions.
• Gestalt psychology: Based on the German word gestalt, meaning “form” or “figure,”
this approach stresses the fact that people perceive objects not by means of some
automatic registering device but by active, usually unconscious interpretation of what the
object represents as a whole.
• Prisoner’s dilemma: A situation involving payoffs of 2 people, who must decide whether
to “cooperate” or “defect.” In the end, trust and cooperation lead to higher joint payoffs
than mistrust and defection.
• For the prisoner’s dilemma game, changing the title from “wall street game” to
“community game” led to greater cooperation. Only the title changed and the results
• Schema: A knowledge structure consisting of any organized body of stored information.
• Schemas capture the regularities of life and lead us to have certain expectations we can
rely on so that we don’t have to invent the world anew each time.
• Experiment by SolomonAsch on schemas regarding ranking of politicians. Group 1 told
previous groups ranked politicians high. Led them to rank them higher (based on
prestige) because the politicians brought to mind were our great esteem like Thomas
Jefferson. Group 2 told previous groups ranked politicians low. Led them to rank low
because they were thinking of politicians that were corrupt. Different schemas changed
how they rated.
Stereotypes • They are schemas that we have for people of various kinds.
• Stereotypes can be right or wrong.
Automatic Versus Controlled Processing
• Mind processes information in 1 of 2 ways when you encounter a social situation: One is
automatic and unconscious, often based on emotional factors. The other is conscious and
systematic and more likely to be controlled by careful thought.
• Often emotional reactions occur before conscious thought takes over.
• The judgements of the “unprejudiced people” could thus be shown to be prejudiced when
studied by a technique that examin