Psychology 2070A/B Chapter 1-6: Social Psychology Text Notes MIDTERM

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Social Psychology 2070 Textbook Notes
Midterm: Chapters 1-6
Chapter 1: Introduction to Social Psychology (Lecture 1)
What is Social Psychology?
-We are all influenced by other people
-Attempts at direct social influence form a major part of social psychology
-To the social psychologist social influence extends beyond behaviour - it includes our thoughts and feelings, as
well as our overt acts
-We are also often influenced by the mere presence of other people
-We are also influenced by others when we’re not in their physical presence (ex. we carry our mothers, fathers,
friends, and teachers around with us)
-Social psychologists are interested in studying how and why our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are shaped by
the social environment
-Social psychology: the scientific study of the way in which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are
influenced by the real or imagined presence of other people
The Power of Social Interpretation
-Social psychology is concerned with how people are influenced by their interpretation (or construal) of their social
-Construal: the way in which people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the social world
-ex. Murder Trial
-final verdicts can depend on how each member of the jury contours that evidence
-Interpretation of DNA in Mark Edward Grant murder case was a major deciding factor and changing throughout
trial, and appeal, and re-trial
-Another distinctive feature os social psychology is that it is an
experiment-based science
-Presents many challenges - trying to predict the behaviour of
highly sophisticated organisms in a variety of complex
Social Psychology, Science, and Common Sense
-Social psychologists address many of the same questions that
philosophers address - but attempt to look at them scientifically
-1663 - Dutch Philosopher Benedict Spinoza offered an original
insight - proposing that if we love someone whom we formerly
hated, that love will be greater than if hate had no preceded it -
but the psychologist asks empirical questions like how can we
be sure that holds up?
-Commentary by journalists, social critics, and novelists is
generally referred to as folk wisdom or common sense
-Solar temple tragedy - when cult members kill themselves and
their children at the request of their leader
-Explanations range from the view that the leader must have employed hypnotism and drugs to weaken the
resistance of his followers, to suspicion that the people who were attracted to his cult must have been disturbed
-Difficult for most people to grasp just how powerful a cult can be in affecting the hearts/minds of relatively
normal people
-Many people choose to blame the victim
-One of the tasks of the social psychologist is to make educated guesses (hypotheses) about the specific situations
under which one outcome or the other would occur
-Performs experiments to test hypotheses about the nature of the social world
Social Psychology Compared with Sociology
-Both disciplines are concerned with the influence of social and societal factors on human behaviour
-However, there are important differences:
-The level of analysis
-For the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation
-Sociology is more concerned with broad societal factors that influence events in a society - looks toward
society at large
-What they’re trying to explain
-The goal of social psychology is to identify universal properties of human nature that make
everyone susceptible to social influence, regardless of social class or culture
-Cross-cultural research is expanding and helping to sharpen theories
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Connections: The role of Construal in Conflict
Negotiations (text box)
-Lee Ross
-“Naive realism” - the conviction that all of us have
that we perceive things “as they really are”
-We assume that the reasonable people see things the
same way that we do
-“Even when each side recognizes that the other side
perceives the issues differently, each thinks that the
other side is biased while they themselves are
objective and that their own perceptions of reality
should provide the basis for settlement”
-Conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians
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Social Psychology 2070 Textbook Notes
Midterm: Chapters 1-6
Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology
-When trying to explain social behaviour, personality psychologists generally focus this attention on individual
differences: the aspects of people’s personalities that make them different from other people
-ex, why did people in the Solar Temple cult end their own lives - point to their personalities, maybe they were
conformist types or weak-willed
-This way of studying ignores a critical part: the powerful role played by social influence
-If we want a deeper explanation of these tragic events, need to understand things like what kind of power and
influence the charismatic leaders of these cults possess
-Social psychology is somewhere between sociology and personality psychology
The Power of the Situation
-The key fact remains that when trying to account for a person’s behaviour in a complex situation, the
overwhelming majority of people will jump to the conclusion that the behaviour was caused by the personality of
the individual rather than to consider the influence of the situation
-Fundamental attribution error: the tendency to
overestimate the extent to which people’s behaviour
stems from personality traits and to underestimate the
role of situational factors
-When we underestimate the power of social influence,
we experience a feeling of false security
-ex. with the Solar Temple cult - it is tempting, and in
a strange way comforting, to write off the victims as
flawed human beings
-By failing to appreciate fully the power of the
situation, we tend to oversimplify complex
situations, and oversimplification deceases our
understanding of the causes of a great deal of
human behaviour
-Oversimplification can also lead us to blame the
-Study by Liberman, Samuels, and Ross (2004)
-Chose a group of students at Stanford University
who were considered by the RAs in their dorm to be
either especially cooperate or especially competitive
-The researchers invited these students to play a game in a psych experiment
-Half the participants were told it was a “Wall Street Game” and other half were told it was the “Community
Game” - everything else about the two games were identical
-4 outcomes:
-When it was called the Wall Street Game, only one-third if people responded cooperatively
-When it was called the Community Game, approximately two-thirds of the people responded cooperatively
-The name of the game conveyed strong social norms about what kind of behaviour was appropriate in the
-Personality differences do exist - but social and environmental situations are so powerful that they have dramatic
effects on almost everyone
The Power of Social Interpretation
-Behaviourism: a school of psychology maintaining that to understand human behaviour, one need only consider
the reinforcing properties of the environment
-It is important to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the people in it, to see how they construe the world
around them
-ex. someone walks up to you, slaps you on the back and asks you how you are feeling, is that rewarding or
-This may seem rewarding
-But in actuality, its a complex situation that depends on your thoughts and feelings
-You might construe the meaning differently depending on whether the question is asked by a close friend of
yours who is deeply concerned that you might be working too hard, a casual acquaintance simply passing
the time of day, or a car salesman intending to sell you a used car
-Gestalt Psychology: a school of psychology stressing the importance of studying the subjective way in which an
object appears in people’s minds, rather than the objective physical attributes of the object
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Connections: The Fundamental Attribution Error: When We
Blame the Victims of Violence
-Even if people are made aware of the situational factors
responsible for the plight of disadvantage members of
society, they may still see such individuals as responsible for
their misfortune
-Research at Carleton University & Mount St. Vincent
University has shown that people justify blaming victims of
violence by assuming that the person must have done
something to provoke the attack
-Got participants to read two different stories about battered
women - one was a provocation version of the scenario
-Those who read the provocation information assigned more
blame to the victim than those who didn't receive the
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Social Psychology 2070 Textbook Notes
Midterm: Chapters 1-6
-ex. one way to try to understand how people perceive a painting would be to break it down into its individual
elements and to attempt to determine how these elements are combined by the perceiver to form an overall
image of the painting
-The whole is different from the sum of its parts
-One must focus on how an object appears to people, instead of on the individual elements of the objective
-Kurt Lewin - immigrant to the US to escape Nazi regime
-Took the bold step of applying Gestalt principles beyond the perception of objects to social perception - how
people perceive other people and their motives, intentions, and behaviours
-First scientist to fully realize the importance of taking the perspective of the person in any social situation to
see how he or she construes this social environment
Where Construals Come From: Basic Human Motives
-Two human motives of importance: the need to feel good about ourselves and the need to be accurate
-Leon Festinger
-Quick to realize precisely when these two motives tug an individual in opposite directions that we can gain our
most valuable insights into the workings of the human heart and mind
The Self-Esteem Approach: The Need to Feel Good About Ourselves
-Self-esteem: people’s evaluations of their own self-worth
-The reason people view the world the way they do can often be traced to this underlying need to maintain a
favourable image of themselves
-Justifying Past Behaviour
-ex. someone blaming the other in a break up when it was really their own fault - this makes them feel better
-It’s very difficult to own up to major deficiencies in ourselves, even when the cost is seeing the world
-The consequence of this distortion is that it decreases the probability that the individual will learn from
-It is often possible for normal people to put a slightly different spin on the existing facts, one that puts them in
the best possible light
-Suffering and Self-Justification
-ex. rookie party hazing example
-To avoid feeling like a fool, he will try to justify his decision to undergo the hazing by seeing his team in the
best possible light
-Those who experience this consider hazing a small price to pay for the sense of team solidarity that it
-A series of well-controlled lab experiments conducted in the 50s and 60s demonstrated conclusively that the
more unpleasant the procedure the participants underwent to get into a group, the more they liked the group
-Humans are motivated to maintain a positive picture of themselves, in part by justifying their past behaviour,
and under certain specific conditions, this leads them to do things that at first glance might seem surprising or
The Social Cognition Approach: The Need to Be Accurate
-Social Cognition
-Social cognition: how people think about themselves and the social world; more specifically, how people select,
interpret, remember, and use social information
-Researchers who attempt to understand social behaviour from the perspective of social cognition begin with the
assumption that people try to view the world as accurately as possible
-Unfortunately, we often make mistakes in that effort to understand and predict because we almost never know
all of the facts we need to judge a given situation accurately
-Common cognitive trap - believing Quaker 100% natural granola is healthy for you because of the packaging -
but it is actually one of the worst types you can eat
-Expectations About the Social World
-Sometimes our expectations about the social world get in the way f our accurate perception of it
-Our expectations can even change the nature of the social world
-ex. teacher who tested kids on an IQ test - those who did poorly on it did poorly in school and those who did
well on it did well in school
-BUT - you could be wrong about the validity of the intelligence tests
-Then you’re unintentionally treating the kids with high scores and the kids with low scores differently, making
it look like the tests are accurate
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