Psychology 2070 Chapter 1-5

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10 Mar 2014
Chapter 1: Introduction to Social Psychology
- Task of psychologist: to understand and predict human behaviour
What is Social Psychology?
- Heart of phenomenon” we are all influenced by other people
oDirect/deliberate: conformity, attitudes, group processes
Attempt by one person to change another’s behaviour
- Beyond behaviour  thoughts, feelings, overt acts
- Each of us is immersed in social/cultural context
- Social psychology: how/why our thoughts, feelings, behaviours are shaped by
entire social environment
-Social psychology : the scientific study of the way in which people’s thoughts,
feelings, and behaviour are influenced by the real or imagined process of other
The Power of Social Interpretation
- Not so much about social situation (anthro/sociology), but how people are
influenced by their interpretation of social environment
- 1) Construal : the way in which people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the
social world
- The role of construal in conflict negotiations:
oNaïve realism: the conviction (that all of us have) that we perceive things
“as they really are”
- 2) Experimentally-based science  test our assumptions empirically and
Some Alternative Ways of Understanding Social Influence
Folk wisdom/common sense:
- Underestimate the power of the situation; are almost certainly incorrect—or at
least oversimplified
- More over than not, disagree with one another
- Fixing blame may make us feel better by resolving our confusion, but is no
substitute for understanding the complexities of the situation that produced those
- Psychologists have looked to philosophers for insights into the nature of
consciousness, and how people from beliefs about the social world
- Have same questions, but attempt to look at questions scientifically
- Social psychologists perform experiments to test hypotheses (specific situations
under which one outcome or other would occur) about the nature of the social
o Well-controlled experiments
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o Enriches our understanding of human nature and allows us to make
Social Psychology Compared with Sociology
- Both are concerned about influence of social factors on human behaviour, but
differ on:
- 1. Level of analysis : for social psychologists, the level of analysis is the
individual in the context of the society
oSociology is more concerned with broad societal factors that influence
events in a society (at large) & focus their analysis on groupings of people
organized in social categories
- 2) What they are 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 (not just members of one group)
oSociologists seek to explain properties of society
Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology
- When trying to explain social behaviour, personality psychologists generally
focus on individual differences: the aspect of people’s personalities that make
them different from other people
- But social psychologists are convinced that explaining behaviour primarily in
terms of personality factors ignores a critical part of the story: the powerful role
played by social influence  power of the social situation
- Key fact remains  when trying to account for a persons 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 involved rather than
consider the influence of the situation
- In sum, social psychology is located between sociology & personality psychology
The Power of Social Influence
- When trying to convince people that their behaviour is greatly influenced by the
social environment  barrier!
-Fundamental attribution error: the tendency to overestimate the extent to
which peoples behaviour stems from internal, dispositional factors and to
underestimate the role of situation factors
Underestimating the Power of Social Influence
- When we underestimate the power of social influence, we experience a feeling of
false security
- But oversimplifying decreases our understanding of the causes of a great deal of
human behaviour
- The tendency to explain other’s behaviour as stemming from internal rather than
external factors can lead to tragic consequences
oI.e., blaming victims for their plight
- Social norms shape peoples behaviour in powerful ways
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The Subjectivity of Social Situation
- Social situation: specify the objective properties of the situation, and then to
document the behaviours that follow from these objective properties
- Instead, important to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the people in it, to
see how they construe the world around them
- Emphasis on construal roots in Gestalt psychology
-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
oFormulated by German in 20th C Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Kohler, and Max
Wertheimer emigrated to US in ‘30s
- Kurt Lewin, father of modern experimental social psychology
o Helped shape social psychology and directed it toward a deep interest in
the exploration of causes and cures of prejudice and ethnic stereotyping
oFirst scientist to fully realize importance of taking the perspective of
people in any social situation to see how they construe (perceive, interpret,
distort) the social environment
Where Construals Come From: Basic Human Motives
- To understand effects of social situation on people, we need to understand the
fundamental laws of human nature, common to all, that explain why people
construe the social world the way they do
- Two of these motives: the need to be accurate and the need to feel good about
- Leon Festinger  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
- Sometimes need for self-justification can fly in face of need to be accurate
The Self-Esteem Approach: The Need to Feel Good about Ourselves
- Most people have a strong need to maintain reasonably high self-esteem
oSelf-esteem: people’s evaluations of their owl self-worth—extent to which
they view themselves as good, competent, and decent
- The reasons people view world the way the do often traced to this underlying
need to maintain favourable image of themselves
o Often choose to distort in favourable way to preserve self-esteem
Justifying Past Behaviour
- Vey difficult to own up to major deficiencies in ourselves, even when the cost is
seeing the world accurately
- Decreases the probability that the individual will learn from experience
Suffering and Self-Justification
- More unpleasant the procedure the participants underwent to get into a group, the
more they liked the group
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