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Psychology 2720A/B
Clive Seligman

CHAPTER 1 - WHAT IS SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY? The Science of Social Behaviour • Social Psychology: the scientific study of how individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by other people • This definition has four key aspects • Influenced by other people • Thoughts, feelings, and behaviours • Individuals’ perspective • Scientific study • Influenced by Other People • Social psychology is the study of how other people affect us • Other people can influence us without having to be physically present • Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours • Social psychologists are interested in how other people affect every aspect of individuals’ lives, including thoughts (cognitions), feelings (affect), and behaviours • The ultimate goal of the science is to understand why various kinds of actions toward other people occur or do not occur • Individuals’ Perspective • Social psychologists take the perspective of individuals in a social setting, rather than focusing only on objective features of the situation • Whatever you believe to be the other person’s motive will determine how you behave • Social Construals: how individuals personally interpret or perceive a social situation • Social psychologists focus on actors’ social construals to understand behaviour • Scientific Study • Social psychology is a science • Social psychology involves collecting data to test predictions How Other People Affect Us • The key element of social psychology is that it investigates how individuals are influenced by other people • Most individuals don’t recognize just how much they are affected by others • Other People Affect How We Interpret Events • Researchers determined that one important reason individuals fail to intervene is that they rely on other people to interpret the event • One source of information they might use is how other people in the situation are responding • Other People Affect How We Feel About Ourselves • We also rely on other people to make judgements about ourselves • Other people can have dramatic effects on how we feel about ourselves • This process of comparing ourselves to other people to make judgements about the self is called social comparison • Social comparison occurs all the time and has many implications for daily life • Other People Affect How We Behave • Other people affect our actions CHAPTER 1 - WHAT IS SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY? • Presence of other people can elicit very different behaviour than would have occurred if individuals were alone • Social psychologists have been very interested in how individuals can be transformed in group settings, including the tendency for some large groups to exhibit aggressive behaviour • If people feel unidentifiable when they are immersed in a large group, they may be ‘released’ from their normal inhibitions and do things they would not have done alone or in a smaller group • The term deindividuation has been used to refer to this feeling that people are unaccountable for their actions when in a large group Beware • Social Psychology Is Not Just Common Sense • Our beliefs and intuitions about social behaviour are often correct • Social psychology is more than common sense or folk wisdom • Common sense often allows competing predictions, as in the similarity and liking example given earlier • Because intuitions are not always right, we must conduct research to find out which ones are valid • Folk wisdom is often vague and simplistic; real life is usually more complicated • Hindsight Is Not Always Golden • Once we learn about an outcome it often seems that it was obvious • Beware - this is an illusion • Things that seem obvious in hindsight may not have been easily predicted in foresight • The tendency to think that a known outcome was obvious is called the hindsight bias Why Study Social Psychology • Being an Informed Consent • If we really want to develop an informed and reasoned approach to dealing with social problems, we need to understand why people behave the way they do and the likely effectiveness of different solutions • Social psychology can provide knowledge that might help us to deal with complex social issues • Applying Social Psychological Knowledge to Everyday Life • The principles of social psychology are issues to understanding not only broad, complex social issues, but also more limited, everyday problems that many of us face • Understanding Yourself • Studying social psychology you will learn some things about yourself Social Psychology’s Connections to Other Areas of Psychology • Personality Psychology • The area of psychology that is perhaps most closely related to social psychology is personality psychology CHAPTER 1 - WHAT IS SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY? • Personality psychologists study traits, or dispositions, that help to explain human behaviour • The primary goal of personality psychologists is to identify the dispositions that are most useful for describing behaviour and for differentiating between individuals • Social psychologists want to understand the impact of external, situational factors on behaviour - in particular, how individuals are affected by other people • Social psychologists often include individual difference variables in their research, hoping they will improve the prediction of behaviour above and beyond the situational factors • Developmental Psychology • Developmental psychologists study age related changes in human abilities and behaviours, ranging from childhood to the end of the life span • Most developmental psychologist
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