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Chapter 1

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Kelley Robinson

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Chapter 1: Introduction to Social Psychology 18/09/2013 10:07:00 AM Chapter Notes What is Social Psychology?  We first think of direct attempts at persuasion (where one person tries to change another person’s behaviour) – advertising, peer- pressure, bully threatening someone for personal gain  To social psychologists, it is a broader term that encompasses thought, feeling, overt acts etc.  We are influenced by the presence of other people even when we are not being directly persuaded The Power of Social Interpretation  Anthropology and sociology are also interested in the influence of social environment on people, however social psych is distinct due to it being concerned with how people are influenced by their construal of their social environment  Ex. Murder trial: hard evidence (DNA, weapon, etc.) should be a deciding factor in guilt, but the jury might construe the evidence in a non-objective way o OJ Simpson trial: hard evidence, not guilty o Larry Fischer trial: hard evidence, guilty  Social psychology is experimentally based science tests theories empirically and systematically, as opposed to relying on common sense, opinions, and folk wisdom o This can be problematic as we are trying to predict behaviour of a complex organism + complex situation: we are trying to be objective Some Alternative Ways of Understanding Social Influence  Why do people behave the way they do? We could ask them, but people are not always aware of the origins of their own responses  Folk Wisdom (common sense) is opinions taken from journalists, social critics, and novelists o Should not be fully relied on, as opinions differ/contradict each other – which one is correct? Ex.:  “birds of a feather flock together” vs. “opposites attract”  “out of sight out of mind” vs. “absence makes the heart grow fonder”  “haste makes waste” vs. “he who hesitates is lost” o 1994 Canada: Order of the Solar Temple members killed themselves + their children at request of their leader; what is the explanation? Hypnotism and drugs? Self-destructive individuals? Incorrect or at the least over-simplified explanations. o 1978 Guyana: Jim Jones persuaded 800 religious cult members to drink cyanide kool-aid o 2008 Texas: 400 children seized by Child Protective Services for cult sexual assault, starvation, and brute force  Social psychologists must design experiments sophisticated enough to demonstrate specific situations under which one hypothesis or another applies Social Psychology Compared with Sociology  Differences between social psychology and sociology are notably at the level of analysis: the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation  Social psychology emphasizes psychological processes going on in a person’s heart and mind (interested in individual human beings) o Ex. finding out why people intentionally hurt one another? Social psychologists focus on specific psychological processes that trigger aggression in certain situations – different factors and different situations  Sociology is concerned with broad societal factors that influence events in a given society: focusing on class, structure, institutions o Ex. Why is Canadian murder rate so high? Is it higher in different social classes? Do changes in society affect changes in aggressive behaviour?  Social psychology is a young science based in North America; we do not yet know if the findings are human universal, but there will be cross-cultural research to find out Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology  Looking at examples previously in the chapter, you may think of strengths, weaknesses, flaws in individuals; some people are bold, others timid, public-spirited vs. selfish, etc.  Personality psychologists focus on individual differences (personality aspects that differ between individuals) o Ex. Order of the Solar Temple: conformist types, weak-willed, psychotic?  Social psychologists think that explaining behaviour in terms of simply personality factors ignores role played by social influence (critical) o Ex. Cults/religious sects – are all the people psychotic? Probably not – you need to understand the power and influence of a charismatic leader, the impact of living in a closed society (cut off from the world) + other factors o Ex. Ordering pie, cannot decide – waitress is impatient, snappy, rude, tapping her pen; is the waitress a nasty unpleasant person? Or is she a single mother, kept up all night by her terminal baby + car broke down + no money etc. You may revise your judgment Sociology Social Psychology Personality Psychology Provides general laws Studies the Studies the characteristics and theories about psychological processes that make individuals societies, not people have in common unique and different from individuals. which one another that one another. make them susceptible to social influence. The Power of Social Influence  We are inclined to explain people’s behaviour in terms of their personality  this is the fundamental attribution error o the tendency to overestimate the extent to which people’s behaviour stems from internal, dispositional factors and to underestimate the role of situational factors Underestimating the Power of Social Influence  The fundamental attribution error leads to a feeling of false security  This is comforting to us, and makes us believe that something like that could never happen to us  This causes us to blame the victim, and to oversimplify the extent to which situational factors affect the behaviour o Ex. Solar Temple = flawed human beings o Ex. Playing a game show; two strategies -> play competitively or cooperatively  You might attribute peoples’ personalities to the style they play (cut throat business major may play more competitively?)  1993 Stanford psychological experiment; divided players based on personalities + told them the same game rules…BUT told some participants the game was called the “Wall Street Game” and others the “Community Game”  Wall Street Game -> 1/3 of participants played cooperatively  Community Game -> 2/3 of participants played cooperatively The Fundamental Attribution Error: When We Blame the Victims of Violence  Victims of violence or attacks are often blamed, and seen to have provoked the attack  Ex. 1990 Carlton University: o Mrs. X explained as she was late coming home from work, she was preparing leftovers. Upon hearing this, Mr. X got upset and angry. He argued that as she has a family to attend to, Mrs. X should ensure that she gets home on time. (Told to A/B) o Mrs. X then became upset. She began to tell at Mr. X, and as her anger heightened, she began to shout various obscenities at him, calling him a “nagging bastard”. (Told to B) o Mrs. X then went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Mr. X followed her. He grabbed her by the arm and slapped her, knocking her to the floor, and kicked her several times. He subsequently left the house. (Told to A/B)  Group B assigned more blame to the victim as they were told of provocation The Subjectivity of the Social Situation  The social situation often has huge impact on human behaviour  What is a social situation? -> one approach is to specify the objective properties of the situation (i.e. how rewarding it is to people) and document the behaviours that follow from these objective properties  This is behaviourism! o A school of psychology maintaining that to understand human behaviour one need only consider the reinforcing properties of the environment – that is, how positive and negative events in the environment are associated with specific behaviours o Ex. Skinner, Watson o Dogs come when called as they are expecting praise/food o Children learn math for praise/smiles/positive reinforcement  Behaviourists do not deal with cognition, thinking, and feeling (too vague) -> they do not have full understanding o Ex. Someone slaps you on the back and asks how you’re feeling -> is this rewarding? It depends on the situational factors and who is asking…  Best friend: you will tell them about your kidney pains  Acquaintance: you will tell them you are ok  Car salesman: you will smile and say you are great  Construal is important!  Construal has roots in Gestalt psychology o Initially proposed as theory of how people perceive the physical world o We should study the subjective way in which an object appears in people’s minds (gestalt, or whole), rather than the way in which the objective physical attributes of the object combine o Can we study the way people perceive a painting by breaking it down to color and brushstrokes?  NO -> building blocks are unimportant, we need to focus on the phenomenology of the perceiver (how an object appears to people) instead of on the individual elements of the objective stimulus o Lewin -> Jewish German professor in Nazi Germany; founding father of Gestalt psychology; wanted to cure prejudice and ethnic stereotyping  He was the first to take into account peoples’ perceptions of things o From “how are you” to a kiss on the cheek at the end of a first date…romantic? Sisterly? Friendly?  Do not dissect the objective nature of the kiss (length, pressure, etc.) Where Construals Come From: Basic Human Motives  How will someone determine why their date kissed them?  Should you focus on how people arrive at their subjective impressions? o i.e., their upbringing, family background, and unique experiences o While their subjective impressions of the world are important, the social situation will affect them far more  Intersecting underlying motives are of primary importance: the need to be accurate and the need to feel good about ourselves o These motives can tug at each other and pull the person in opposite directions -> this is when we can gain our most valuable insights into the workings of the human heart and mind  This was realized by Leon Festinger, social psychological theorist  Ex. Chuck Cadman 2005 was integral to the election (he was an independent) to keep the liberals in power; he was sick with cancer and Stephen Harper allegedly offered him $1 million to force an election; this was all said to be untrue by the conservatives  Harper denied the allegations, thus self-justifying himself
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