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Chapter 2

Social Psychology - Chapter 2.docx

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Western University
Psychology 2070A/B
Kelly Olson

Chapter 2 The Scientific Model - A study by Penelope Lockwood and Zivz Kunda was conducted about the effects of information about “superstars” on other individuals  it is a social comparison study. - Lockwood and Kunda hypothesized that being exposed to information about an extremely successful person would make some participants feel negatively about themselves. - This prediction is consistent to the study done by Thornton and Moore, which showed that participants who sat beside a poster-board displaying photos of attractive people rated themselves more negatively than did participants in control settings. - But Lockwood and Kunda also predicted that some other participants would actually feel better about themselves after exposure to a superstar. - Lockwood and Kunda suggest that the critical factor is whether or not people think that they themselves have the potential to be very successful. - They predicted that students who were still in their first year would be inspired by the stellar student because they still had lots of time to achieve similar success. Fourth year students, however, would feel worse because they had little to no chance of achieving similar success. - The results confirm these predictions. - Social psychology is a science, it is not, however, simple to study social behavior scientifically. - Social psychologists are interested in understanding spontaneous social behavior, which is difficult to study in tightly controlled settings. - Social psychologists had to be very creative in using the scientific method to study how individuals are influenced by other people. Theories and Hypotheses - Two key elements of the scientific method are theories and hypotheses. - Theories are like explanations, and hypotheses are predictions. - More specifically, a theory is a scientist’s explanation of why an event or outcome occurs; it identifies the underlying causes of something the scientist has observed. - In psychology theories typically focus on psychological processes to explain events. - Whereas theories provide a framework for understanding why something occurs, hypotheses are specific predictions about what should occur if a theory is valid. - Hypotheses are derived from a theory and, therefore, provide a means for testing the theory. - Most theories build on prior scientific work, including previous theories that have ben shown to be inaccurate or limited. - Theories often involve applying a concept or principle from one field to another related but distinct field. - theories also frequently rely on scientists’ intuition analysis of problems, including their personal experiences. - Some theories are the result of collaborations between scientists who have different perspectives. - In developing a theory, scientists aim for simplicity, coherence and testability, because these features make it more likely that the theory will generate new ideas and new discoveries. - Melvin Lerner proposed Just World Theory in which he suggested that humans need to believe that the world is a fair and just place. - Lerner proposed that we are all motivated to believe that people usually receive what they deserve: hard work and honest bring rewards, whereas laziness and dishonesty do not pay. - Lerner argued that if we did not believe that that the world was largely fair, then we would fear that our own efforts and investments might not pay off. - That is, if we believed that the world is unjust and that hard-working people do not necessarily succeed, then we would fear that our own hard work would be for nothing. - Hypotheses that can be derived from this theory are:  When asked, most people will say that the world is generally fair. After all, if just world theory is valid, then people should report that the world is just.  Lerner also derived a more direct hypothesis that we want to protect out beliefs in a just world. He made the prediction that people would blame or derogate victims who are suffering from negative circumstances, especially when their suffering is expected to continue. o This prediction was based on the logic that suffering victims threaten the belief that the world is fair, unless the victims are either responsible for their suffering or are bad people who in some sense deserve their suffering. Therefore, if we are truly motivated to defend our belief that the world is fair, we might try to convince ourselves that people who are suffering brought it on themselves or are bad people who deserve their fate. - Lerner’s hypothesis seems consistent with some people’s devaluations of these victims. Translating Theoretical ideas into Testable Questions: Operational Definitions - Theories and hypotheses in social psychology are typically expressed in conceptual terms: they refer to abstract ideas or concepts that cannot be observed directly. - Therefore, to test theories or hypotheses, researchers must somehow translate abstract ideas into concrete, objective measures. - An operational definition of a concept is a specific, observable response that will be used to measure the concept. - For instance, people’s attitudes towards religion could be operationally defined by asking respondents to indicate how unfavorable of favorable they are toward religion on a scale of 0 to 10. - The concept is attitudes towards religion; the operation definition is scores from 0 to 10 on a response scale. - Two types of measures are most common in social psychology: self-report measures and behavioral measures. Self-Report Measures - To measure many social psychological concepts, the easiest strategy is to ask people directly. - So long as a concept is something that people are able and willing to report, measuring it via self-report questions make sense. - Of course, even when people are able and willing to report a concept, researchers must be careful to express self-report questions clearly. - It can be difficult to answer a question if the meaning is not well specified. - The same question can often be asked in different ways, and subtle changes in phrasing and wording can significantly affect responses. As an illustration of this, Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer asked people to watch a short film about a car accident. Everybody saw the same film, but different questions were asked to different groups of viewers using different verbs, one asked “how fast were the cars going when they hit” and when asked “how fast were the cars going when they smashed.” On average, the people who had the word hit answer 13kM, while the smashed group answered 18kM. - These different answers occurred because of the word choices the researchers chose to use. - Sometimes the assumption that people are able and willing to report a concept is not valid. - People may believe that they can answer these questions correctly, but their responses will probably be guesses. - Perhaps even more common than being unaware of a concept, participants in social psychological research may not want to report some things honestly. - For instance respndents may be motivated to create a positive impression of themselves. Responding in this manner is known as socially desirable responding  giving answers that portray the respondent in a favorable light. - In order to control contamination of their measures, social psychologists can avoid phrasing terms in ways that make responses more socially desirable than others. - A second strategy is to obtain a measure of participants’ general tendencies to respond in a desirable manner on all measures, which can then be used to control desirable responding on a specific measure. - Example: Delroy Paulhus developed a scale called the Balance Inventory of Desirable Responding, which provides scores for respondents’ tendencies to present themselves in a favorable light. Behavioral Measures - Because people may be unable or unwilling to report some things accurately, researchers sometimes measure concepts by observing individuals’ behaviors. - One advantage of behavioral measures is that they are often unobtrusive measures, which means that participants do not realize that the measure is being taken. - If participants are unaware that a measure is being taken, then presumably they will not try to alter their actions to create a favorable impression. - A disadvantage of behavioral measures is they that can be difficult or time- consuming to obtain. - A second disadvantage is that behavioral measures are very difficult or impossible for some concepts. - Self-report measure are much more common is social psychology. - No matter how a concept is operationally defined, the goal is to measure the concept accurately. - The problem of the accuracy of psychological measures is so challenging that an entire sub discipline within psychology – psychometrics – is devoted to understanding and refining methods of psychological measurements. - Psychometrics tells us to focus on two properties of measures that represent accuracy: reliability and validity. Reliability - A good measure should be stable and steady. It should always give us the same answer. - Reliability refers to the consistency or stability of scores on a measure. A reliable measure is one that produces consistent scores, free from random or unexplained fluctuations. - We can think of consistency in two ways: - Over time: a reliable measure is one that produces stable scores for the same object on repeated use, - Across judge: reliability occurs when an object receives similar scores from different judges. Validity - A good measure does more than yield a reliable score. It also yields a score that truly reflects the concept it is intended to measure. - Validity: the extent to which scores on the measures really represent the underlying concept they are intended to represent. - The most common way to demonstrate validity is by showing that scores on a measure correspond reasonably well to scores on other measures that should be related. - These other measures presumably assess at least some aspects of the same concept; so showing that they overlap with the focal measure supports the validity of that measure. Correlation Research - In correlation research, investigators measure two or more concepts and see whether the concepts are associated with one another- that is whether measures of the concepts go together, or co-relate. - The various kinds of correlation studies differ primarily in how researchers obtain the data: by asking questions, using historical information, or by watching behavior. - When two measures are correlated, it means that scores on the measures are systematically related: as scores on one measure change, scores on the other measure also change in a consistent fashion. - If the two measures change in the same direction, it is a positive correlation - If two measures change in the opposite direction, it is an opposite correlation. Example of correlation: - Robert Altemeyer and other social psychologists have found that the amount of contact people have had with members of an ethnic group is negatively correlated with their prejudice toward that group: people who report more contact with members of an ethnic group also report less prejudice toward that group. - This correlation between contact and prejudice can be used to illustrate an important limitation of correlational research: correlations do not show that measures are causally connected. - When two measures are correlated, that cause of this action cannot be known for certainty. Just because one measure correlated with another measure does not necessarily mean that the first measure causes the second, nor that the second causes the first. - The reason correlational researh is ambiguous about cause is that the investigator does not control factors in the environment that might partly or completely explain an obtained correlation. Instead, the researcher simply measures two ore more concepts and examines their associations. Why associations did or did not occur is unclear. - This problem with correlation data applies to all of the methods we describe in the following sections. - Notwithstanding this limitation of correlation research, these methods do have strengths. They are flexible and can be designed to explore many different issues, and are easily than setting up experiments. - Also they are obtained in a naturalistic setting rather than a laboratory research. Surveys - The most common kind of correlation research - Survey: a study in which the researcher asks questions to respondents. - Many surveys are distributed different ways, including, printed questionnaires, distributed in a laboratory, mailed to the participant, computer-based, telephone, and finally face-to-face. - Christopher Davis and colleagues were interested in counterfactual thinking, which refers to thoughts about how past events could have turned out differently. - They wanted to see that whether people who frequently think about how a tragic event that occurred to them could have been avoided would also report about emotional distress. - To test this hypothesis, the researchers surveyed 93 people who had lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident four to seven years previously. - Participants were visited in their homes by a researcher who asked them a number of questions. - Results showed that people who reported more frequent counterfactual thinking about the event also reported greater emotional distress. - Representative Samples: - Researchers who conduct surveys sometimes want to be able to generalize their results to a large population. - If this ability to generalize is important, than the researchers must ensure that the sample of people who complete the survey is typical of the population. - To make their findings generalizable to a large population, researchers must recruit a representative sample to complete the survey. This is a group or respondents that reflect the larger population accurately: it has rations of various subgroups that are similar to those in the larger population. - The typical way to obtain a representative sample is via random sampling, which refers to a recruitment process in which every person in the larger population has exactly the same probability of being in the study. It is a difficult and time- consuming process. Archival Research - Archival Research refers to investigations that are based on pre-existing information obtained by the researcher. - Common in social psychology - Ex. Brian Mullen’s study showing lynching on Black men. - David Phillips identified 20 publicized suicides (famous people) that occurred between ’66 and ’73. - He also obtained information about car accident fatalities in the days prior to and following the appearance of these suicide stories. - Across the 20 stories, Phillips found a consistent and significant rise in mote vehicle fatalities 3 days after the appearance of the story. - Phillips speculated that the suicide by well-known individuals prompted copycat suicides using motor vehicle by depressed, vulnerable members of the public. Observational Studies - Observational studies refer to research in which the investigator watches participants and codes measures from the observed behavior. - The scoring of behavior can either be “live,” where the observer is actually watching participants, or the behavior can also be videotaped. - Participants in observable studies are sometimes aware that they are being observed and sometimes unaware. - Also, observable studies can focus on behavior in either a naturalistic setting or a laboratory setting. - These features are interconnected. - Ex. If behavior is observed in a natural setting, participants may be unaware. If behavior is in a lab setting, participants are usually aware of being watched. - Geraldine Downey was interest in the interaction styles of dating couples and whether certain styles were dysfunctional. Participants were 39 university-age couples who had been dating for an average of 3 months. The couples were asked to discuss a topic they often argued about for 20 minutes; these discussions were videotaped. They were then separated and had to report how angry they had felt in that moment. - Results showed significant effects for the women’s interaction style but not the men’s. Specifically, women who exhibited more frequent negative behaviors during the discussion tended to have male partners who reported greater anger after the discussion. Thus, a negative interpersonal style by the women during the discussion was associated with greater partner anger after the discussion. - Another observational study was conducted in a parking lot by Barry Ruback and Daniel Juieng. They suggest that most humans are naturally territorial and wanted to protect their space from intruders, even when it is public space. - To test this idea they went into a shopping mall parking lot and watched 200 different drivers get into their cars and drive away. They looked for two things: how long it took the driver
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