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Chapter 8

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Eileen Wood

Chapter 8: Behaviour in Social and Cultural Context Roles and Rules Norms: rules that regulate social life, including explicit laws and implicit cultural conventions  E.g. process of getting married, norms about how to behave in public Role: a given social position that is governed by a set of norms for proper behaviour (e.g. gender roles) – if you violate it, you [or people will make you] will feel uncomfortable Culture: a program of shared rules that govern the behaviour of people in a community or society, and a set of values, beliefs and customs shared by most members of that community – culture shapes roles The Obedience Study AKA the Milgram Experiment  The participant was asked to administer dangerous levels of electric shock to another person and two-thirds obeyed to the full extent  People were most likely to disobey when: o The experimenter left the room o The victim was right there in the room o Two experimenters issued conflicting demands o The person ordering them to continue was an ordinary man o The participant worked with peers who refused to go further  Obedience was more a function of the situation than the personalities of the participants  “they have given themselves to the authority; they see themselves as instruments for the execution of his wishes; once so defined, they are unable to break free”  comparison to the Nazi regime – countered with the fact that they acted without direct supervision, external pressure or feeling of anguish The Prison Study: by Philip Zimbardo & Craig Haney  Demonstrated the power of roles  Those assigned the role of prisoner acted like them; helpless, broke down, developed ailments  The guards became either helpful guards, tough but fair guards or punitive and harsh – the guard’s aggression was entirely a result of wearing a guard’s uniform and having the power conferred by a guard’s authority  Some have argued that the prison study is really just an example of an obedience study because the instructions gave them the encouragement “we’ll have all the power” Why People Obey  Fear of consequences of disobedience  Hope to gain advantages or promotions from the authority  They expect to learn from the authority’s greater knowledge or experience  The respect the authority’s legitimacy  They do not want to rock the boat, appear to doubt the experts, or be rude for fear of rejection or be disliked in doing so Entrapment: a gradual process in which individuals escalate their commitment to a course of action to justify their investment of time, money or effort – first steps are easy and each increment is small  Whatever decision a person makes, to obey or protest, they will feel and urgency to justify the choice they made – “I’m just following orders” or “passing that to the experimenter is cowardly” Social Influences on Beliefs and Behaviour Social cognition: an area in social psychology concerned with social influences on thought, memory, perception and beliefs and how it affects relationships Attributions Attribution theory: the theory that people are motivated to explain their own and other people’s behaviour by attributing causes of that behaviour to a situation or disposition  Dispositional attribution: identifying the cause of an action as something in the person  Situational attribution: identifying the cause of an action as something in the situation/environment Fundamental attribution error: the tendency, in explaining other people’s behaviour, to overestimate personality factors and underestimate the influence of the situation  People part of group-oriented societies are more often going to make situational attributions Cognitive Biases relevant to Attributions: 1. The bias to choose the most flattering and forgiving attributions or our own lapses – situational attribution when we fail, but dispositional when we succeed Group-serving bias: tendency to view the groups to which we belong favourably – results from the degree to which one’s culture is collectivist or individualist 2. The bias to believe that the world is fair Just-world hypothesis: the notion that the world is fair and that justice is served; bad people are punished and goods ones are rewarded Dispositional attribution of blaming the victim: “that person must have done something to deserve what happened to them or to provoke it” Attitudes Attitude: a belief about people, groups, ideas or activities – can be explicit or implicit Familiarity effect: the tendency of people to feel more positive towards a person, item, product or other stimulus the more familiar they are with it – repeat something enough & people will believe it Validity effect: the tendency of people to believe that a statement is true or valid simply because it has been repeated many times Genetics influence openness to experience and conscientiousness Persuasion or “Brainwashing” Brainwashing implies a person has had a sudden change of mind without being aware of what is happening Coercive persuasion – designed to suppress an individual’s ability to reason, think critically and make choices in his or her best interest. Key processes:  Person is subjected to entrapment: begins by agreeing to do small things, then slowly becomes extreme measures  Person’s problems are explained by one simple attribution which is repeatedly emphasized  Person is offered new identity and is promised salvation: simplistic explanations often involved blaming one single enemy  Person’s access to disconfirming (dissonant) information is severely controlled: as soon as they become a committed believer, the group/leader limits the person’s choices, denigrates critical thinking and suppresses private doubts Key in increasing resistance to coercive persuasion: dispel people’s illusion of invulnerability to these tactics & also learn to articulate and defend their own positions and think critically Individuals in Groups  The need to belong may be the most powerful of all human motivations – most powerful weapon that groups have is ostracism (rejection or permanent banishment)  Social rejection impedes the ability to empathize, think critically and solve
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