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Geri Lavrov / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images
Social Psychology
What is social psychology’s focus?
Social thinking
Social influence
Social relations
What Is Social
Psychology’s Focus?
Social psychologists
Use scientific methods to study how we think about,
influence, and relate to one another
Study social forces that explain why people act
differently in different situations
Personality psychologists
Study personal traits and processes that explain why
individuals may act differently in a given situation
Social Thinking
The fundamental attribution error
Attitudes and actions
Social Thinking
Fundamental attribution error
The tendency, when analyzing others’ behavior, to overestimate
the influence of personal traits and underestimate the effects of
the situation
Most likely to occur when a stranger acts badly
Has real-life and social consequences
Napolitan and colleagues (1979)
Students attributed behavior of others to personal traits, even
when they were told that behavior was part of an experimental
Social Thinking
Attitude most influences behavior when:
External influences are minimal
The attitude is stable
The attitude is specific to the behavior
The attitude is easily recalled
Social Thinking
REUTERS/ Vasily Fedosenko
Attitudes follow
People agreeing to a
small request will find it
easier to later agree to a
larger one
Principle works for
negative and positive
Cooperative actions, such as those
performed by people on sports teams feed
mutual liking. Such attitudes, in turn,
promote positive behavior.
Social Thinking
Cognitive dissonance: Relief from tension
We act to reduce the discomfort (dissonance) we feel
when two of our thoughts (cognitions) clash
Brain regions become active when people experience
cognitive dissonance
Through cognitive dissonance we often bring attitudes
into line with our actions (Festinger)
Driving to school one snowy day, Marco narrowly
misses a car that slides through a red light. “Slow
down! What a terrible driver,” he thinks to himself.
Moments later, Marco himself slips through an
intersection and yelps, “Wow! These roads are
awful. The city plows need to get out here.” What
social psychology principle has Marco just
demonstrated? Explain.
How do our attitudes and our actions affect each
When people act in a way that is not in keeping
with their attitudes, and then change their attitudes
to match those actions, theory attempts to explain
Social Influence
Conformity and obedience
Group influence
as social amplifier
Social Influence
Conformity and obedience
Chartrand and colleagues (1999)
Demonstrated chameleon effect with college
Automatic mimicry helps people to empathize and
feel what others feel
The more we mimic, the greater our empathy, and
the more people tend to like us
Social Influence
Group pressure and conformity research
People are more likely to conform when they:
Are made to feel incompetent or insecure
Are in a group in which everyone else agrees
Admire the group’s status and attractiveness
Have not already committed to any response
Know that others in the group will observe our behavior
Are from a culture that strongly encourages respect for social
William Vendivert/Scientific American
Which of the three comparison lines on the right is equal to the
standard line? The photo on the left (from one of the
experiments) was taken after five people, who were actually
working for Asch, had answered, “Line 3.” The student in the
center shows the severe discomfort that comes from disagreeing
with the responses of other group members.
Which of the following strengthens conformity to a
a. Finding the group attractive
b. Feeling secure
c. Coming from an individualist culture
d. Having already decided on a response
Social Influence
Milgram investigated
the effects of
punishment on
This social psychologist’s
obedience experiments “belong
to the self-understanding of literate
people in our age” (Sabini, 1986).
Experiments involved
commands to shock
someone using up to
a 450-volt final level
More than 60 percent
followed orders
In a repeat of the earlier experiment, 65 percent of the adult male
“teachers” fully obeyed the experimenter’s commands to continue.
They did so despite the “learner’s” earlier mention of a heart condition
and despite hearing cries of protest after they delivered what they
thought were 150 volts, and agonized protests after 330 volts. (Data
from Milgram, 1974.)
Social Influence: Obedience
Milgram’s later research: Obedience was
highest when
The person giving orders was in close proximity and
perceived as a legitimate authority figure
The authority figure was supported by a well-known
The victim was depersonalized or at a distance
No models existed for defiance
Lessons From the Conformity and
Obedience Studies
Strong social influences can make people
conform to falsehoods or give in to cruelty
Social control and personal control interact
Minority influence is most effective if a position is
taken firmly
In psychology’s most famous obedience
experiments, most participants obeyed an
authority figure’s demands to inflict presumed lifethreatening shocks on an innocent person. Which
social psychologist conducted these experiments?
In the obedience experiments, people were most
likely to follow orders in four situations. What were
those situations?
Social Influence
Responses on
individual tasks are
stronger in the
presence of others
The presence of others
sometimes helps and
sometimes hurts
(Guerin and others)
akg-images /Newscom
Social facilitation
GANDHI As the life of Hindu nationalist
and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi
(right) powerfully testified, a consistent and
persistent minority voice can sometimes
sway the majority. His nonviolent appeals
and fasts helped India win its
independence from Britain in 1947.
Spencer Grant/ age fotostock
Social Influence
Home team
• When others observe
us, we perform welllearned tasks more
quickly and
• But on new and
difficult tasks,
performance is less
quick and accurate.
Lawrence Migdale/ Photo Researchers, Inc.
Social Influence
Social loafing
• The tendency for people in a
group to exert less effort when
pooling their efforts toward
attaining a common goal than
when individually accountable
In group projects, such as this Earth
Day beach cleanup, social loafing
often occurs, as individuals free ride
on the efforts of others.
• Acting as part of a group and
feeling less accountable
• Feeling that individual
contribution does not matter
• Taking advantage when there is
lack of identification with a group
Social Influence
A loss of self-awareness and self-restraint occurring
in group situations that foster arousal and anonymity
Thrives in many different settings
Lewis Whyld/ PA Wire URN:11349922 (Press Association via AP Images)
During England’s 2011 riots and looting, rioters were
disinhibited by social arousal and by the anonymity
provided by darkness and their hoods and masks. Later,
some of those arrested expressed bewilderment over their
own behavior.
• If a group is like-minded,
discussion strengthens existing
• Talking about racial issues
increased prejudice in a highprejudice group of high school
students and decreased it in a
low-prejudice group (Myers &
Bishop, 1970)
• How did researchers capture
group polarization in the 2005
“Deliberation Day” experiment?
(See page 348)
The internet as social amplifier
Can isolate people from those with different
May create support for shared ideas and suspicions
Can foster abusive or violent behavior
Helps in coping with challenges
Fosters social ventures
Hero Images/Corbis
Can connect friends and family members
Social Influence
Mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for
harmony in a decision-making group overrides a
realistic appraisal of alternatives
Escalation of Vietnam war
Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident
U.S. space shuttle Challenger explosion
WMD in Iraq
What is social facilitation, and under what
circumstances is it most likely to occur?
People tend to exert less effort when working with
a group than they would alone, which is called
When a group’s desire for harmony overrides its
realistic analysis of other options, ________ has
You are organizing a meeting of fiercely
competitive political candidates. To add to the fun,
friends have suggested handing out masks of the
candidates’ faces for supporters to wear. What
effect might these masks trigger?
Social Relations
CLOSE-UP: Automatic prejudice
CLOSE-UP: Online matchmaking and speed
Conflict and peacemaking
Social Relations
• Means “prejudgment”
• Is an unfair negative
attitude toward some
• Often targets different
cultural, ethnic, or gender
• Beliefs
• Emotions
• Predispositions to action
(to discriminate)
Prejudice is a
negative attitude.
Discrimination is a
negative behavior.
How Prejudiced Are People?
Open prejudice lessens; subtle prejudice lingers
Prejudice can also be automatic and
Worldwide, gender prejudice and discrimination
Gays and lesbians cannot comfortably be themselves
Fathers are perceived as more intelligent than
More women live in poverty; 163 million “missing
Prejudice Over Time
Americans’ approval of interracial dating has soared over he past halfcentury. (Gallup surveys reported by Carroll, 2007.)
Social Relations
Social roots of prejudice
Social inequalities: Have often developed attitudes that justify
the status quo
Just-world phenomenon: Good is rewarded and evil is punished
Stereotypes: Rationalize inequalities
Through social identities people associate themselves with
Evolution prepares people to identify with a group
Automatic prejudice
Implicit racial associations: Negative
associations linked to the denial of racial
Race-influenced perceptions: Perceptions
influenced by expectations
Reflexive bodily responses: Telltale signs of
selective body responses to another person’s
Mike Hewitt/ Getty Images
Scotland’s famed “Tartan Army” soccer fans, shown here during a match against
archrival England, share a social identity that defines “us” (the Scottish ingroup)
and “them” (the English outgroup).
• Ingroup: Social definition of who we are—and are not
• Ingroup bias: A favoring of our own group
Emotional Roots of Prejudice
Scapegoat theory
Proposes that when things go wrong, finding
someone to blame can provide an outlet for anger
Research evidence (Zimbardo)
Prejudice levels tend to be high among economically
frustrated people
In experiments, a temporary frustration increases
Cognitive Roots of Prejudice
Forming categories
Humans categorize people by race: mixedrace people identified by minority identity
Similarities are overestimated during
categorization; creating “Us and They”
Overestimation also occurs; other-race effect
or bias
Dr. Jamin Halberstadt
When New Zealanders quickly classified 104 photos by race, those
of European descent more often than those of Chinese descent
classified the ambiguous middle two as Chinese (Halberstadt et al.,
Cognitive Roots of
Remembering vivid
The 9/11 Muslim terrorists
created, in many minds, an
exaggerated stereotype of
Muslims as terrorism prone.
People often judge the likelihood of
events by recalling vivid cases that
readily come to mind.
When a prejudiced attitude causes us to blame an
innocent person for our problems, we have used
that person as a ________.
Biology of Aggression
Biology influences aggression at three levels
Genetic influences
Evidence from animal studies and twin studies; Y chromosome
genetic marker
Biochemical influences
Testosterone is linked with irritability, assertiveness,
impulsiveness, and a low tolerance for frustration
Alcohol is associated with aggressive responses to frustration
Neural influences
Neural systems facilitate or inhibit aggression when provoked
Aggression is more likely to occur with frontal lobe damage
Psychological and Social-Cultural Influences on
Reinforcement, modeling, and self-control
Modeling and rewarding sensitivity and cooperation at
an early age fosters more positive behavior
Self-control curbs aggression; poor self-control is
correlated with crime
Psychological and Social-Cultural Influences on
Adversive events
Frustration-aggression principle: Frustration creates
anger, which can spark aggression
Other aversive stimuli: Hot temperatures, physical
pain, personal insults, foul odors, cigarette smoke,
crowding, and a host of others
Psychological and Social-Cultural Influences on
Media models for violence
Repeatedly viewing on-screen violence tends to
lessen sensitivity to cruelty and teaches social scripts
Social scripts provide cultural mental files for how to
Research confirms that people sometimes imitate
what they have viewed
Viewing explicit sexual violence is linked to men’s
aggression against women
Do violent video games
teach social scripts for
Nearly 400 studies of
130,000 people suggest
video games can prime
aggressive thoughts,
decrease empathy, and
increase aggression
Some researchers dispute
this finding and note other
factors: Depression, family
violence, and peer influence
REUTERS/ Andrew Berwick via
Psychological and
Influences on
2011, Norwegian Anders Behring
Breivik bombed government
buildings in Oslo, and then went to
a youth camp, where he shot and
killed 69 people, mostly teens.
How is this related to effects of
media violence?
What psychological, biological, and socialcultural
influences interact to produce aggressive
Ingram Publishing / Jupiter Images
Danita Delimont / Alamy
Mirjam Letsch / Alamy
The answer varies by culture and over time. Yet some
adult physical features, such as a youthful form and face,
seem attractive everywhere.
Psychology of attraction
Physical attractiveness
Online Matchmaking
• 1500 on-line dating
services; 30 million users;
estimated one-fifth of U.S.
marriages today
• Internet-formed friendships
and romantic relationships
last, on average, 2 years
longer than face-to-face
• Controlled studies are
Speed Dating
• Unique opportunity to study
first impressions
• Findings;
• Men are more transparent
• Given more options,
people make more
superficial choices
• Men wish for more
contact with more of their
speed dates; women are
more selective
People tend to marry someone who lives or works
nearby. This is an example of proximity and the
________ in action.
How does being physically attractive influence
others’ perceptions?
Romantic Love
Passionate love
AP Photo/Archaeological Society SAP, ho
Two-factor theory of
2007, skeletons of a 5000- to 6000year-old “Romeo and Juliet” young
couple were unearthed, locked in an
embrace, near Rome.
Emotions have two
arousal and cognitive
Arousal from any source
can enhance an emotion,
depending on how we
interpret and label the
Sexual desire + a growing
attachment = the passion
of romantic love
Romantic Love
Companionate love
Passionate love seldom endures
Passion feeding hormones (testosterone) give way to
oxytocin that supports feelings of trust, calmness, and
Attraction and sexual desire endure, without the
obsession of early-stage marriage
Equity is an important key to a satisfying and
enduring relationship
Self-disclosure deepens intimacy
How does the two-factor theory of emotion help
explain passionate love?
Two vital components for maintaining
companionate love are ________ and ________.
Unselfish concern for the welfare of others
Bystander intervention (Darley and Latané)
Necessary conditions
Notice incident
Interpret event as emergency
Assume responsibility for helping
Bystander Intervention
Bystander Effect
When people thought
they alone heard the
calls for help from a
person they believed to
be having an epileptic
seizure, they usually
But when they thought
four others were also
present a third
responded. (From
Darley & Latané,
Bystander Effect
What contributes to the odds that a person will
help someone?
The Norms for Helping
Positive social norms encourage generosity and
enable group living.
Socialization norm
Social expectation that prescribes how we should behave
Reciprocity norm
Expectation that people will respond favorably to each
other by returning benefits for benefits
Social-responsibility norm
Expectation that people should help those who depend on
Perceived incompatibility of actions, goals, or ideas
Mirror-image perceptions
Mutual views often held by conflicting people, as
when each side sees itself as ethical and peaceful
and views the other side as evil and aggressive
Conflict and Peacemaking
Enemy perceptions
People in conflict form negative, distorted images of
one another (mirror-image perceptions)
“Us” versus “Them” develops
A vicious cycle of hostility emerges at individual or
national level
Perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophecies
Promoting Peace
Research indicates that in some cases contact
and cooperation can be transformational
Most effective when contact is free of competition and
equal status exists
Across a quarter-million people studied in 38 nations,
friendly contact with ethnic minorities, older people,
and people with disabilities has usually led to less
Contact is not always enough
Promoting Peace
Sherif used shared predicaments and superordinate
goals to turn enemies into friends
Cooperative contact, not conflict alone, reduced
Experiments with teens in 11 countries confirm that
cooperative learning can maintain or enhance student
This could be applied to activities focused on making
friends of former enemies
Promoting Peace
AP Photo/ Shawn Baldwin
KOFI ANNAN “Most of us
have overlapping identities
which unite us with very
different groups. We can
love what we are, without
hating what—and who—we
are not.
We can thrive in our own
tradition, even as we
learn from others” (Nobel
lecture, 2001).
Why do sports fans tend to feel a sense of
satisfaction when their archrival team loses? Why
do such feelings, in other settings, make conflict
resolution more challenging?
What are two ways to reconcile conflicts and
promote peace?