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Chapter 16

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Western University
Psychology 1000

Chapter 16: Behavior in a Social Context Social Thinking and Perception - Three aspects of social thinking and perception Attributions - Judgments about the causes of our own and other people’s behavior and outcomes - Attributions influence our subsequent behavior and emotions - Personal vs. situational attributions o Personal (internal) attributions infer that people’s behavior is caused by their characteristics o Situational (external) attributions infer that aspects of the situation cause a behavior - According to Harold Kelly, three types of information determine the attribution we make o Consistency – is the response consistent? o Distinctiveness – is the distinctiveness high? o Consensus – do others agree?  When all these factors are high, we are likely to make a situational attribution  But, when consistency is high and other factors are low, it may be a personal attribution  People sometimes make snap judgments that bias their attributions - Attributional biases o Fundamental attribution error: we underestimate the impact of the situation and overestimate the role of personal factors when explaining other people’s behavior  The fundamental attribution error applies to how we perceive other people’s behavior, rather than our own  i.e. slow driver in front of us is a ‘moron’ and fast driver trying to pass us is a ‘maniac’  As well, figure ground relations come into play  We never see ourselves as the figure that stands out against the background o When people have time to reflect on their judgments or are highly motivated to be careful, the fundamental attribution error is reduced o When it comes to explaining our own behavior, we tend to protect our self esteem by displaying a self-serving bias: making relatively more personal attributions for successes and more situational attributions for failures  Depressed people display the opposite of self-serving bias (they take too little credit for successes and too much credit for failures) - Culture and Attribution o Culture affects how we perceive the social world  In individualistic western cultures, people attribute other people’s behavior to personal factors o With age, Americans made more personal attributions, Indians made more situational attributions o Modesty is highly valued in China  They take less credit for successful social interactions and more responsibility for failures than do American students o East Asians tend to develop more complex views about the causes of behavior o Koreans scored higher overall on measures of holistic thinking and also took a greater amount of information into account when making causal attributions for other people’s behavior Forming and Maintaining Impressions - Attributions play a key role in impression formation - Primacy vs. recency o Primacy effect: refers to our tendency to attach more importance to the initial information that we learn about a person  We tend to be most alert to information we receive first  Second, initial information may shape how we perceive subsequent information o Primacy is the general rule of thumb in impression formation, but recency effect may also kick in o Recency effect: giving greater weight to the most recent information - Mental sets and schemas o Mental set: readiness to perceive the world in a particular way, powerfully shapes how we interpret a stimuli o Schemas: mental frameworks that help us organize and interpret information o Stereotype: generalized belief about a group or category of people represents a powerful type of schema - Self-fulfilling prophecies o Seeing what we expect to see is only one way we confirm our initial expectations and impressions  Self-fulfilling prophecy: occurs usually without conscious awareness, when people’s erroneous expectations lead them to act toward others in a way that brings about the expected behaviors, thereby confirming the original impression Attitudes and Attitude Change - Attitude: positive or negative evaluative reaction toward a stimulus, such as a person, action, object, or concept - Do our attitudes influence our behavior? o Overall, attitudes predict behavior to a modest degree o There are three factors that help to explain why the attitude behavior relationship is strong in some cases, but weak in others  First, attitudes influence behavior more strongly when counteracting situational factors are weak  Theory of planned behavior: our intention to engage in a behavior is strongest when we have a positive attitude toward that behavior, when subjective norms support our attitudes, and when we believe that the behavior is under our control  Second, attitudes have a greater influence on behavior when we are aware of them and when they are strongly held  Sometimes we act without thinking (impulsively)  Attitudes are stronger and more predictive of behavior when they are formed through direct personal experience, rather than indirectly (second hand)  Third, general attitudes are better at predicting general classes of behavior, and specific attitudes are better at predicting specific behaviors - Does our behavior influence our attitudes? o Self-justification  Theory of cognitive dissonance: people strive for consistency in their cognitions  When two or more conditions contradict one another, the person experiences an uncomfortable state of tension called cognitive dissonance and becomes motivated to reduce dissonance  To reduce dissonance, people will chance one of their cognitions or add new cognitions  All in all, people change their attitude about the task to bring it more into line with how they had behaved o Behavior that is inconsistent with our attitude is called counter-attitudinal  It produces dissonance only if we perceive that our actions were freely chosen, rather than coerced o Dissonance, however, does not always lead to attitude change  People can reduce dissonance by rationalizing that their attitude or their behavior wasn’t important, by finding external justification, or by making other excuses o Self perception  Self-perception theory: we make inferences about our own attitudes in much the same way: by observing how we behave  Both self-perception theory and dissonance predict that counter-attitudinal behavior will produce attitude change (our behaviors can influence our attitudes) - Persuasion o Persuasion involves a communicator who delivers a message through a channel to an audience within a surrounding context o Communicator  Communicator credibility – how believable the communicator is  Credibility has two components  Expertise and trustworthiness  Physical attractiveness can also help persuade more effectively o Message  Overall, two-sided refutational approach is more effective  Moderate degree of discrepancy is also effective  Also, fear arousal works best when the message evokes moderate fear, and provides people with effective, feasible ways to reduce the threat o Audience  Central route to persuasion: occurs when people think carefully about the message and are influenced because they find the arguments compelling  Peripheral route to persuasion: occurs when people do not scrutinize the message, but are influenced by other factors, such as a speaker’s attractiveness or a message’s emotional appeal  Attitude change that results from the central route tends to have a deeper foundation, lasts longer, and predicts future behavior more successfully  We tend to process a message more closely when it is personally relevant Social Influence - The presence of others energizes performance - The studies find that the mere presence of cofactors or a passive, silent audience enhanced performance o There are several possible explanations for this paradox o One, the mere physical presence of another person increases our arousal o Second, as arousal increases, we become more likely to perform whatever behavior happens to be our dominant response  Social facilitation: increased tendency to perform one’s dominant response in the mere presence of others  Take home message: when learning complex tasks, minimize the presence of other people Social Norms: The Rules of the Game - Social norms: shared expectations about how people should think, feel, and behave, and they are the cement that binds social systems together o Some norms are implicit and unspoken - Social role: consists of a set of norms that characterizes how people in a given social position ought to behave o Role conflict: when the norms accompanying different roles clash o Norms and roles can influence behavior so strongly that they compel a person to act uncharacteristically Culture and Norm Formation - Social norms lose invisibility not only when they are violated, but also when we examine behavior across cultures and historical periods o Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any society, organization, or social group functioning well without norms o Humans placed together seem to develop common standards for behavior and judgment Conformity and Obedience - Norms can influence behavior only if people conform to them o Thus, all social systems exert overt and subtle pressures on their members to conform - Informational social influence: we follow opinions or behavior of other people because we believe they have accurate knowledge and what they are doing is right - Normative social influence: we conform to obtain rewards that come from being accepted by other people, while at the same time avoiding rejection - Factors that affect conformity o Group size – conformity increased from about 5 to 35% as group size increased from one to four or five confederates, further increase does not increase conformity o Presence of a dissenter – when one confederate disagreed with the others, this greatly reduced real participants’ conformity - Around the globe, conformity tends to be greater among collectivist cultures - In some cases, a minority of the group’s members may influence the majority’s behavior - Minority influence is highest when it maintains a highly consistent position over time - Like conformity to a group, obedience to an authority figure is inherently neither good nor bad - Without obedience, society would face chaos o But obedience can also produce tragic results (like massacre of Jewish people during World War II) Factors that influence destructive obedience - Remoteness of the victim – obedience was greater when the learner was out of sight - Closeness and legitimacy of the authority figure – obedience was highest when the authority figure was close and perceived as legitimate - Cog in a wheel – obedience increases when someone else does the ‘dirty work’ - Personal characteristics – differences between participants’ traits had almost no effect on the rate of obedience o By arranging the situation appropriately, most people can be induced to follow orders from an authority figure they perceive as legitimate even when doing so contributes to harming innocent people o Consider the pitfalls of blind obedience Detecting and resisting compliance techniques - Compliance techniques: strategies that may manipulate you into saying yes when you really want to say no o Norm of reciprocity: involves the expectation that when others treat us well, we should respond in kind o Door-in-the-face technique: a persuader makes a large request, expecting you to reject it, and then presents a smaller request  Telemarketers feast on this technique o Foot-in-the-door technique: a persuader gets you to comply with a small request first and later presents a larger request o Lowballing: a persuader gets you to commit to some action and then before you actually perform the behavior, he or she increases the cost of the same behavior Crowd behavior and deindividuation - Deindividuation: a loss of individuality that leads to disinherited behavior o Conditions that make an individual less identifiable to people outside the group reduce feelings of accountability and increases the risk of anti-social actions o Anonymity to outsiders is the key Group influences on performance and decision making - Much of our behavior occurs in groups - Social loafing: tendency for people to expend less individual effort when working in a group that when working alone (this is not social facilitation where an individual does the word; we are talk about a collective effort) o Social loafing also occurs on cognitive tasks  People believe that individual performance within the group is not being monitored  The task (goal) has less value or meaning to the person  The group is less important to the person  The task is simple and the person’s input is redundant with that of other group members o Fatigue also increases social loafing (also, all-male groups tend to be more loafing) - Social loafing may decrease when individual efforts are monitored - Soci
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