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Chapter 12: Social Psychology
Social Psychology
The scientific study of how a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by
the real, imagined, or implied presence of others
Attribution Theory
The theory that addresses the question of how people make judgments about the causes of
Behavior is typically explained as being the result of either internal or external factors
Determining Causality
Distinctiveness: How behavior varies across targets
Consistency: How behavior varies across setting and time
Consensus: How behavior varies across people
Attributional Biases
Tendency of people to overemphasize personal causes for other people’s behavior and to
underemphasize personal causes for their own behavior
aka the self-serving bias
Successes are internalized
Failures are externalized
An attribution error based on the assumption that bad things happen to bad people and
good things happen to good people
Impression Formation
Primacy effect
Self-fulfilling prophecies
Impression Formation
The use of schemata speeds information processing
Schematic processing aids in encoding and recall of personal information
The theory that early information about someone weighs more heavily than later
information in influencing one’s impression of that person
The process in which a person’s expectation about another elicits behavior from the
second person that confirms the expectation
A special type of schema about members of a social category
Stereotypes may contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies
proximity: How close two people live to each other
physical attractiveness: We tend to ascribe a host of positive qualities to physically
attractive individuals
Similarity: We tend to be attracted to people who share our attitudes, interests, values,
and beliefs
Exchange: We are attracted to those individuals with whom we exchange rewards
Passionate Theory of Love
Learn what love is
Preconceived beliefs about a partner
Experience physiological arousal
Social Influence
The process by which others individually or collectively affect one’s perceptions,
attitudes, and actions
Norm: A shared idea or expectation about how to behave
Voluntarily yielding to social norms, even at the expense of one’s own preferences
Asch Conformity Experiment
Asch’s Results
Overall, subjects conformed on about 35% of the trials
Two factors influence the likelihood a person will conform:
 characteristics of the situation
 characteristics of the individual
Characteristics of the Individual
Conform increases when one:
1. Is attracted to the group
2. Future interaction expected
3. “Average” status
4. Does not feel accepted
A change of behavior in response to an explicit request from another
foot-in-the-door effect
lowball procedure
door-in-the-face effect
Foot-in-the-Door Technique
Once people have granted a small request, they are more likely to comply with a larger
Cialdini and Ascani (1976)
Low-ball Technique
First, one must be committed to a course of action
Then, the cost of performing that action is raised
Car Salesmen
Door-in-the-Face Technique
A person initially refuses to grant a large request, but agrees to grant a smaller second
This technique may work because people interpret the smaller request as a concession by
the person asking for the request
Obedience to Authority
A change of behavior in response to a command from another person, typically an
authority figure
Milgram’s obedience studies
Social Action
Deindividuation: more anonymous you feel in a group, the less responsible you feel as
Helping behavior
Group decision making
Altruistic behavior: Helping behavior that is not linked to personal gain
Bystander effect: The tendency for an individual’s helpfulness in an emergency to
decrease as the number of bystanders increase
Factors Influencing Helping
situational variables
– presence of other people
– ambiguity of situation
personal characteristics
– amount of personal responsibility felt
– amount of empathy felt
– one’s present mood
Group Decision Making
Risky Shift: greater willingness to take risks in decision in a group
Group Polarization: group discussion leads attitudes to be more extreme
Behavior directed against another living being intended to harm or injure
Emotional aggression: lover’s quarrel
Instrumental aggression: hit-man
Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
The theory that under certain circumstances people who are frustrated in their goals
become aggressive
Aggression may be aimed at safer targets
Cues to Aggression
Berkowitz (1984)
Ss watched a brutal fight or a footrace
Given opportunity to shock another student
Media Influence
Provides “powerful” models
Rewards vs. Costs
Attitude Change
Attitude: how we think about and evaluate something
Source Attractiveness
Fear Appeals
Cognitive Dissonance
Source Attractiveness
Attractive sources are more persuasive than unattractive sources
Based on a number of factors including physical beauty, likeability, and similarity
Fear Appeals
1. Danger(s) mentioned are serious
2. Danger(s) are probable
3. Advice to avoid danger(s) will be effective
4. Belief they can follow the advice
Cognitive Dissonance
Perceived inconsistency between two thoughts or between thought and action
An unpleasant psychological tension is created
Pressure to alleviate this tension
Cognitive Dissonance
Attitude change can occur because of cognitive dissonance if a small reward is given for
a behavior that is attitude discrepant
Increase the number of thoughts that support one of the beliefs
Reduce the importance of one of the cognitions