Chapter 16 Social Behaviour
• By 2017 it is projected that 20% of the Canadian population will be members of
• Social Psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the way
individuals’thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by others.
• Social psychology focuses on seven broad topics
o Person perception: How we formulate our ideas about what others are
o Attribution processes: Whenever we observe the behaviour of others or
reflect on our own behaviour we often make attributions about that
o Interpersonal attraction: What factors affect our attraction to other
o Attitudes: How are attitudes formed?
o Conformity and obedience: What factors influence conformity?
o Behaviour in groups: Do people behave differently when they’re in
groups as opposed to when theyre alone.
o Social neuroscience: What structures and processes of the brain are
associated with social phenomena such as prejudice and stereotyping.
Person Perception: Forming Impressions of Others
• In some of the classic research into impression formation, SolomonAsch
demonstrated the importance that what he called central traits can have on the
impression we form of others.
• Person perception is the process of forming impressions of others.
• People usually show considerable ingenuity when putting together clues about
others’characteristics however impressions are usually inaccurate because of
biases and fallacies.
Effects of PhysicalAppearance
• Studies have shown that judgments of others’personalities are often swayed by
• Attractive people tend to be seen as more sociable, poised, warm, and well
• We inaccurately assume that a connection exists between good looks and
personality because attractive people are overrepresented in the media and our
perceptions are swayed by our desire to bond with attractive people.
• Astudy by Dion showed that linking the beautiful with the good starts as early as
three-to-six-and-a-half-year-old children. • People have a surprisingly strong tendency to view good-looking individuals as
more competent than less-attractive individuals.
• Observers are also quick to draw inferences about people based on how they
move, talk, and gesture, and there inferences tend to be fairly accurate.
• Even static photographs can provide telling cues about personality. One study
found that participants were able to make meaningful inferences about stimulus
persons’extraversions, openness to experience, agreeableness, and self-esteem
based on photographs.
• Social Schemas are organized clusters of ideas about categories of social events
• People have social schemas for events such as dates, picnics, committee meetings,
and family reunions, as well as for certain categories of people like dumb jocks,
social climbers, wimps, etc
• Stereotypes are widely held beliefs that people have certain characteristics
because of their membership in a particular groups.
• The most common stereotypes in our society are those based on sex, age, and
membership in ethnic or occupational groups.
Subjectivity and Bias in Person Perception
• Illusory correlation occurs when people estimate that they have encountered
more confirmations of an association between social traits than they have actually
• Individuals often selectively recall facts that fit with their schemas and
An Evolutionary Perspective on Bias in Person Perception
• Dennis Krebs argues that some of the biases seen in social perception were
adaptive in humans’ancestral environment.
• Evolutionary psychologists argue that person perception is swayed by physical
attractiveness because attractiveness was associated with reproductive potential in
women and with health, vigour, and accumulation of material resources in men.
• They assert that humans are programmed by evolution to immediately classify
people as an ingroup –a group that one belongs to and identifies with or an
outgroup- a group that one does not belong to or identify with.
Review of Key Points • People’s perceptions of others can be distorted by a variety of factors including
physical appearance. People tend to attribute desirable characteristics, such as
intelligence, competence, warmth, and friendliness, to those who are good
• Baby-faced people are viewed as honest. Perceptions of people are also
influenced by their style of nonverbal expressiveness. People use social schemas
to categorize others into types. Stereotypes are widely held social schemas that
lead people to expect that others will have certain characteristics because of their
membership in a specific groups.
• Gender, age, ethnic, and occupational stereotypes are common. In interacting with
others, stereotypes may lead people to see what they expect and to overestimate
how often they see it.
• Evolutionary psychologists argue that some of the biases in person perception
were adaptive in humans’ancestral past. The human tendency to automatically
categorize others may reflect the primitive need to quickly separate friend from
Attribution Processes: Explaining Behaviour
• Just as there is often bias in our perception of others, there may be bias in our
search for explanations of behaviour.
• Attributions are inferences that people draw about the causes of events, others’
behaviour, and their own behaviour.
• For example, if you conclude that a friend turned down your invitation to go out
because she’s overworked, then you have made an attribution about the cause of
Internal Versus ExternalAttributions
• Fritz Heider was the first to describe how people make attributions. He asserted
that people tend to locate the cause of behaviour either within a person, attributing
it to personal factors, or outside a person, attributing it to environmental factors.
• Internal Attributions ascribe the causes of behaviour to personal dispositions,
traits, abilities, and feelings.
• EternalAttributions ascribe the causes of behaviour to situational demands and
• For example, parents who find out that their teenage son has just banged up the
car may blame it on his carelessness (a personal disposition) or on slippery road
conditions (a situational factor).
Attributions for Failure and Success
• According to Bernard Weiner, people often focus on the stability of the causes
underlying behaviour. According to him, the stable-unstable dimension in attribution cuts across the internal-external dimension, creating four types of
attributions for success and failure.
Bias in Attribution
• Actor-Observer Bias
o Your view of your own behaviour can be quite different than the view of
another person observing you.
o Acommon form of bias seen in observers is the fundamental attribution
error, which refers to observers’bias in favour of internal attributions in
o Observers have the curious tendency to overestimate the likelihood that an
actor’s behaviour reflects personal qualities rather than situational factors.
o For example, an individual visiting a bank that is enraged over a mistake
in their account may attribute their rage to the situation, but observers may
view the individual are likely to make internal attributions and infer that
the individual is surly, temperamental, and quarrelsome.
o In contrast, the circumstances that have influenced an actor’s behaviour
tend to be more salient to the actor. Hence, actors are more likely than
observers to locate the cause of their behaviour in the situation.
o Defensive attribution is a tendency to blame victims for their misfortune,
so that one feels less likely to be victimized in a similar way.
o The belief-in-a-just-world theory was developed by Melvin Lerner who
suggested that evidence telling us that the world is not a just place is
threatening and that we feel compelled to restore the belief that the world
is a just world.
o Defensive attribution can lead to unwarranted derogation of victims of
Cultural andAttributional Tendencies
• Individualism involves putting personal goals ahead of group goals and defining
one’s identity in terms of personal attributes rather than group memberships.
• Collectivism involves putting group goals ahead of personal goals and defining
one’s identity in terms of the groups one belongs to.
• Generally, NorthAmerican cultures tend to be individualistic whileAsian,
African, and Latin American cultures tend to be collectivistic.
• People from collectivistic cultures tend to be less prone o the fundamental
attribution error than those from individualistic societies.
• The self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute one’s successes to personal
factors and one’s failures to situational factors. Review of Key Points
• Attributions are inferences about the cause of events and behaviour.
Individuals make attributions to understand their social world.Attributions
can be classified as internal or external. Internal attributions ascribe
behaviour to personal dispositions and traits whereas external attributions
locate the cause of behaviour in the environment.
• Weiner’s model proposes that attributions for success and failure should be
analyzed in terms of the stability of causes, as well as along the internal-
external dimension. Observers favour internal attributions to explain
another’s behaviour (the fundamental attribution error) while actors favour
external attributions to explain their own behaviour.
• In defensive attribution, people unfairly blame victims for their misfortune
(with internal attributions) to reduce their own feelings of vulnerability. The
self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute one’s good outcomes to personal
factors and one’s bad outcomes to situational factors.
• Cultures vary in their emphasis on individualism as opposed to collectivism,
and these differences appear to influence attributional tendencies. The
fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias may be by-products
of Western cultures’individualism.
Close Relationships: Liking and Loving
• Interpersonal attraction refers to positive feelings towards another.
Key Factors in Attraction
o The matching hypothesis proposes that males and females of
approximately equal physical attractiveness are likely to select each other
• Similarity Effects
o Married and dating couples tend to be similar in age, race, religion, social
class, personality, education, intelligence, physical attractiveness, and
Perspectives on the Mystery of Love
• Passionate and Compassionate Love
o Passionate love is a complete absorption in another that includes tender
sexual feelings and the agony and ecstasy of intense emotion.
o Compassionate love is warm, trusting, tolerant affection for another
whose life is deeply intertwined with one’s own.
o Research suggests that compassionate love is more strongly related to
relationship satisfaction than passionate love.
o Robert Sternberg further refined compassionate love by suggesting that it
can be subdivided into intimacy and commitment. Intimacy refers warmth, closeness, and sharing in a relationship. Commitment is intent to
maintain a relationship in spite of the difficulties and costs that may arise.
o Brain-imaging research indicates that when people think about someone
they are passionately in love with, these thoughts light up the dopamine
circuits in the brain that are known to be activated by cocaine and other
• Love as Attachment
o Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver have looked not at the components of
love but at similarities between love and attachment relationships in
o Most infants develop a secure attachment however, some are very anxious
when separated from their caretaker, a syndrome called anxious