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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Social Psycholgoy

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York University
PSYC 2120
Ward Struthers

Chapter 1 Introduction to Social Psychology What is Social Psychology  The scientific study of how peoples thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by factors in the social world  Social psychologists study how people explain their own and other’s behaviours, how people influence others and how people connect with each other  Allport: “an attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied prescience of other human beings” Using the Scientific Method  Social psychology uses scientific inquiry to explain social phenomena o Commitment to collecting accurate and error-free information o Commitment to objectivity and collecting data that are free of bias  Must follow the scientific method – research method for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge and evaluating and integrating previous knowledge  Must form a hypothesis about the relationship between events and then examine the accuracy of this hypothesis by collecting data through observation or experimentation to determine whether this hypothesis is supported by the data  Three distinct but inter-related topics that social psychologists address: o How we think about ourselves o How we think, feel and act in the social world o How our attitudes and behaviours shape the social world (imagined or real) How We Think About Ourselves  Self-perception – how we think about ourselves  Examine how our view of ourselves depends on our sociocultural environment  Self-perception – how people work to convey certain images of themselves to others o Clothing, cars, jewellery etc. all examples of how we try to convey impression about ourselves to others How We Think, Feel and Act in the Social World  Examines how people form impressions and make inferences about other people and events in the social world – social perception o Form these impressions easily and frequently  Social cognition – how we think about people and the social world  Heuristic – rule of thumb  Social influence – the impact of other people’s attitudes, behaviour or presence on our thoughts, feelings and behaviour o Can be direct – advertising is a deliberate effort to influence our attitudes and behaviours Chapter 1 Introduction to Social Psychology o Can be subtle – less likely to help someone in need when we are in a large group than alone because we don’t feel personally responsible for helping when there are others around  Social psychology examines not only the impact of people’s attitudes and behaviour but also the impact of a person’s perception of other people’s attitudes and behaviour o People’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour are influence not only by what other people think or do but also by what they imagine other people think or do o Our beliefs about the social world can influence our attitudes and behaviour even when these beliefs are inaccurate  Social psychology examines the impact of events (including cognitive events) on our attitudes and behaviours o Physical states can affect your mood (being too hot or too cold) o Moods can affect how you behave How or Attitudes and Behaviour Shape the Social World  Social psychology also examines how our attitudes and behaviour can shape the social world  Self-fulfilling prophecy – people’s expectations about someone else’s traits influence how they act toward that person o These actions elicit the behaviour that is expected o Leads people to confirm whatever beliefs they have and makes it very difficult for these beliefs to be disconfirmed How Has Social Psychology Evolved Over Time  Relatively new discipline  First established as a unique discipline only at the start of the 20 century o Publication of the first social psychology textbook by Floyd Allport in 1924  Early research was heavily influenced by three major factors o Behaviourism o Gestalt psychology o Historical events  Deeply rooted in the intellectual and cultural environment of North American and European societies Behaviourism  In the early 20 century many psychologists believed that for psychology to be truly scientific it should only focus on measurable phenomena  Instead of focusing on unobservable thoughts and feelings they focused on the impact of positive and negative events on behaviour  This discipline described people’s behaviour as being determined in a very straightforward way o Behaviour that was followed by reward would continue o Behaviour that was followed by punishment would not Chapter 1 Introduction to Social Psychology  Although the behaviourist approach clearly explains some behaviour it ignores the role of peoples thoughts feelings and attitudes o Too simplistic to explain other behaviour Gestalt Psychology  Psychologists in the early 1900s examined the influence of people’s perceptions of objects and events in the world, not simply their objective appearance  This sub-discipline called Gestalt psychology emerged from Germany and means whole form o Emphasized the importance of looking at the whole object and how it appeared in people’s minds as apposed to looking at specific objective parts of the object  In sharp contrast to behaviourism as it focused on how people interpret their surroundings and the cognitive processing that was involved in people’s interpretations  A key idea in Gestalt theory is that we sometimes experience more than what is supplied by our sensory perception o E.g. if we see a series of images in quick succession we perceive a moving image not a series of static ones  Lewin (considered the founder of modern social psychology) was trained in the Gestalt approach o Also worked in behaviourism o Moved to the US from Germany when Hitler came to power o Helped develop the MIT Research Center for Group Dynamics o Thought perception was important in determining attitudes and behaviours o Offered one of the earliest theories in cognitive social psychology o Research focused on the role of social perception in influencing people’s behaviours, the nature of group dynamics and the factors contributing to stereotyping and prejudice Historical Events  Sherif grew up in Turkey and later moved to the States o Studied group influence and how introducing tasks that required cooperation between groups could reduce intergroup conflict  Milgram was a social psychologist who worked in the 1960s o Conducted a series of experiments demonstrating the powerful role of authority in leading to obedience  Much of the early work in social psychology focused on explaining behaviour that might be regarded as problematic – aggression, stereotyping, misplaced obedience and authority  Some research focuses on positive behaviour such as altruism  Positive psychology is a sub-discipline of social psychology o Established in 1998 to focus specifically on people’s virtues and strengths Chapter 1 Introduction to Social Psychology o Rooted in humanistic psychology – individual potential and fulfilment o Not about fining what is wrong with an individual or treating mental illness but rather aims to improve and fulfill normal people’s lives o Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi prominent researchers  Say that psychology should be about human strength as well as weakness Is Social Psychology Really Just Common Sense  Lewin saw an inherent connection between social psychological theory and
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