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Social Psychology – Chapter 18
The study of how we think about, influence, and relate to one another
Attribution Theory (Fritz Heider) – people usually attribute others’ behavior to either their internal dispositions (dispositional
attribution) or their external situations (situational attribution).
Fundamental Attribution Error – underestimating situational influences when evaluating the behavior of someone else.
 When explaining our own behavior, we are more sensitive to the influence of the situation; when explaining the behavior of
others, we tend to assume it reflects an enduring personality trait.
Our attribution have consequences. If we tend to attribute negative behaviors to disposition and positive behaviors to situation, we will
have a more negative view of humanity.
For each, indicate if the attribution is dispositional (also called internal) or situational (external).
1. They won only because the best athletes on the Central State’s teams were out with injuries – talk about good fortune.
2. They won because they have some of the best talent in the country. ______________________
3. Anybody could win this region; the competition is so far below average in comparison to the rest of the country.
4. They won because they put in a great deal of effort and practice. ________________________________
Attitudes – beliefs or feelings that predispose our reactions.
Do attitudes guide actions or do actions affect attitudes? BOTH!
Foot-in-the-door phenomenon – a tendency for people who agree to a small request to comply later with a larger one.
- Brainwashing during the Korean War – prisoners were given gradually escalating demands, beginning with harmless
- Even when a behavior is forced, subjects begin to rationalize behavior, persuading themselves that they were justified in
doing it. Once they’ve rationalized minor infraction, a slightly bigger request seems reasonable
- Patty Hearst
- People’s Temple
Role-playing -- subjects who play a role often begin to “become” the role.
- Zimbardo prison experiment – subjects volunteered to spend time in a simulated prison. Participants were randomly assigned
to be prisoners or guards. Subjects quickly began to conform to roles (guards become cruel and degrading, prisoners rebelled
or became passively resigned). Within just a few days, subjects showed evidence that they had forgotten that they were roleplaying. Experiment was called off after only 6 days because of trauma to subjects.
Cognitive dissonance theory – we tend to act to reduce discomfort when we find our thoughts and behaviors are inconsistent.
- when we are aware that our actions and attitudes don’t coincide, we feel tension. Cognitive dissonance theory says that we
often reduce this tension by changing our attitudes to match our actions.
- The less coerced we feel for a troubling action, the more dissonance we feel and the more motivated we are the change our
attitudes to match.
- Subjects were forced to work on excruciatingly dull tasks for an hour. After the hour, the subjects were offered pay to tell the
next “subject” that they task was interesting. Some subjects were offered $1, while others were offered $20. Then, they were
asked to rate their true feelings on the task. Those who received only $1 were MORE likely to report that the task was
favorable. Why?
- Effort justification effect – the tendency to find something more attractive if you have to work hard to achieve it. This effect
works because the thought of having wasted effort would show me to be stupid and consequently damage my self-esteem. If
others know about the effort, then the cost of backing out is even higher.
- Why do fraternities and sororities have such awful pledging processes?
Attitudes guide actions if:
1. outside influences are minimal
2. the attitude is specific to the behavior.
we are mindful of our attitudes
Conformity – the tendency to yield to real or imagined social pressures to coincide with a group standard
Asch Experiment (judging lengths of lines)
Factors that increase conformity:
1. feeling insecure
2. group made of at least three people
3. group in unanimous (no dissenters as role models)
4. one admires group’s status or attractiveness
one has made no prior commitment to a response
Other’s observe your behavior
culture encourages respect for social standards
Many young people drink or smoke because of the pressure to conform. How does DARE or the current anti-smoking campaign on
TV make use of this research to decrease conformity?
- If we deem a decision is important and we aren’t sure what is right, we are more receptive to other’s opinions.
- Conformity rates are lower in individualistic cultures
o Normative social influence - influence resulting from a desire to gain approval of others.
o Informational social influence - influence resulting from one’s willingness to accept others’ opinions
Persuasion – Two methods of persuading others:
Central route to persuasion – the person ponders the content and logic of message.
o Example: You should buy this car because it has good gas mileage.
Peripheral route to persuasion -- the individual is encouraged to not look at the content of the message, but at the source.
Factors such as the attractiveness and expertise of the source, the mere number of the arguments presented, stimuli such as
popular music played with the ad, and scarcity
o Example: You should buy this type of car because they are going fast and won’t be here next week.
Central route usually leads to more enduring attitude change and works better with people who pride themselves in being
Obedience –
Milgram Experiment (shocking subjects for wrong answers)
- in initial experiment, 63% of subjects complied fully; same rates found in women
Obedience highest when:
1. Person giving orders was nearby and perceived to be legitimate authority
2. authority figure was supported by a prestigious university
3. victim was at a distance
4. there were no role models for defiance
Group Influence
Social Facilitation – improved performance in the presence of others (also called the Hawthorne Effect)
- likely to happen if tasks are simple or well-learned
- presence of others increases arousal (it is like stress)
Social Loafing – people exert less effort when pooling their efforts toward a common goal than when held individually accountable
- caused by a reduced sense of responsibility
- more common in individualist cultures
- can be reduced if individuals are highly motivated or identify strongly with their group
Deindividuation – loss of self-awareness and restraint in group situations
- occurs when group makes people feel both aroused and a diminished sense of responsibility
Effects of Group Interaction
Who leans toward more cautious decisions: individuals or groups?
Group polarization – group discussion strengthens a group’s dominant point of view and produces a shift toward a more extreme
decision in that direction
- discussion among like-minded people tends to strengthen currently existing beliefs, particularly if people in the group feel
strongly to begin with
Groupthink – members of a group emphasize concurrence at the expense of critical thinking in arriving at a decision
Factors that contribute to groupthink:
1. high degree of group cohesiveness (people in the group
4. high decision stress
like each other and the group
5. dominating leadership
2. group works in isolation
6. lack of methodical procedures for appraisal
3. individual members don’t share information unique to
Power of Individuals
Self-fulfilling prophesy—people tend to conform to other’s beliefs about them.
- If a man is told that a women finds him attractive, he behaves in ways that actually make him more attractive to the woman
- Teacher is told a student is academically gifted, the teacher behaves in ways that helps the child achieve at a higher level
Minority Influence –
Minorities are more likely to sway a majority if they hold unwaveringly to their position.