Chapter 16, Period 6

Chapter 16: Social Psychology

Interesting Facts

This chapter opens with a small description of the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal of 2004. Pictures were taken at this prison of United States soldiers posing with prisoners in provocative and demeaning positions. The photos showed the soldiers smiling and holding thumbs up. The soldiers claim they were only following orders given to them (Huffman 574). This is the link to a Youtube video of a news broadcast that explains the situation and also explains that one of the US soldiers, Lynndie England, is being blamed for the abuse because she appears in most of the photos that were taken at the prison (Youtube). Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal-Lynndie England
Fritz Heider is mentioned as the researcher that spent so much time trying to answer the question, “Why are we so interested in making attributions?” (Huffman 575). He is known as the psychologist that came to the conclusion that people make two different types of attributions: dispositional attributions or situational attributions. Heider co-wrote a book with Beatrice Wright all about the attitudes of people; it is called The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations (“Fritz Heider”). One of the most important topics in the book is the notion of how people determine the causes of behavior, and the explanations they make for it (“Fritz Heider”). The Attribution theory analyzes how people explain the behaviors of themselves, as well as others. Heider explains that the dispositional, or internal, attribution is when people determine that it is the person’s fault for the problem. Such as, the person’s intelligence or personality that makes them responsible for the event (“Fritz Heider”). The other type attribution is the situational, or external, attribution that assigns the outside factor as responsible for the result; such as, the weather (“Fritz Heider”). Heider had been fascinated with the cognitive dynamics of interpersonal relations ever since he was a young adult in Graz during World War I. He analyzed a number of plays, novels, and short stories and would try to reduce them to a set of fundamental concepts that could be linked by a set of equally fundamental relations (“Fritz Heider”) Heider left a legacy to Psychology that helped spark a number of researchers to try and figure out why people act in a certain way. His influence on social psychology was both “pervasive and enduring” (“Fritz Heider”).
This chapter gives a brief explanation of the differences between Eastern and Western cultures involving the self-serving bias. For example, in Japan an ideal person would be someone who is aware of their weaknesses and is constantly trying to improve them; someone who does not think highly of themselves (Huffman 577). In the East, fitting in and not trying to stand out from the group is most acceptable. However, in the United States, it is often the exact opposite. Americans need to stand out and succeed over their peers in order to be noticed. Americans gain motivation by trying to be the best. Eastern cultures are all about the group; they are more collectivists. Where as the Western cultures are individualists and more concerned with themselves and their achievements (“Social Psychology Eye”).
The chapter also mentions the difference involving the fundamental attribution error. The Eastern cultures tend to be more aware of situational constraints on behavior (Huffman 577). “The Situationist” describes an experiment that took place among students who knew one student who gave a pro-Castro speech. Americans show the fundamental attribution error in significant proportions, where as East Asians acknowledge the role of the situation (Hanson). “The Situationist” explains that the reason for the fundamental attribution error among Western cultures is the relative facility of seeing individual behavior compared to the situational influences that may give rise to it (Hanson).
The topic of prejudice in this chapter is introduced with the explanation that people learn prejudice at a very young age and there are usually different factors that influence prejudice. The chapter says that children learn from TV, movies, books, and magazines that portray minorities in demeaning and stereotypical roles, however, they also learn from their parents, friends, and teachers who express prejudice (Huffman 581). Prejudice among children is usually developed through series of stages: “fear of strangers creating an out group or ‘them’, gender and racial awareness separating differences, identification with a group as ‘us’ verses ‘them’, identify with parents as what satisfies parents, rejection of outsiders, selective rejection as part of particular group so they are rejected, point of view on the world questioning morals, and choice to be or not to be prejudice and accept the roles” (Fowler). Children’s socialization occurs through family and environment contributions to help them learn important aspects of a child’s early interaction with others. (Fowler).


  • Social psychology: the study of how others influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions
  • Attribution: an explanation for the cause of behaviors and events
  • Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE): misjudging the causes of others’ behavior as due to internal (dispositional) causes rather than external (situational) ones
  • Saliency Bias: Focusing on the most noticeable (salient) factors when explaining the causes of behavior
  • Self-Serving Bias: taking credit for our successes and externalizing our failures
  • Attitude: learned predisposition to respond cognitively, effectively, and behaviorally to a particular object
  • Cognitive Dissonance: a feeling of discomfort caused by a discrepancy between an attitude and a behavior or between two competing attitudes
  • Prejudice: a learned, generally negative, attitude toward members of a group; it includes thoughts (stereotypes), feelings and behavioral tendencies (possible discrimination)
  • Stereotype: a set of beliefs about the characteristics of people in a group that is generalized to all group members; also the cognitive component of prejudice
  • Discrimination: negative behaviors directed at members of a group
  • Ingroup Favoritism: viewing members of the ingroup more positively than members of an outgroup
  • Outgroup Homogeneity Effect: judging members of an outgroup as more alike and less diverse than members of the ingroup
  • Impersonal Attraction: positive feelings toward another
  • Proximity: attraction based on geographic closeness
  • Need Complementarity: Attraction toward those with qualities we admire but personally lack
  • Need Compatibility: attraction base on sharing similar needs
  • Romantic Love: intense feeling of attraction to another within an erotic context and with future expectations
  • Companionate Love: strong and lasting attraction characterized by trust, caring, tolerance, and friendship
  • Conformity: changing behavior because of real or imagined group pressure
  • Normative Social Influence: conforming to group pressure out of a need for approval and acceptance
  • Norm: cultural rule of behavior prescribing what is acceptable in a given situation
  • Informational Social Influence: conforming because of need information and direction
  • Reference Groups: people who conform to, or go along with, because we like and admire them and want to be like them
  • Obedience: following direct commands, usually from an authority figure
  • Foot-in-the-Door Technique: a first, small request is used as a setup for later, larger requests
  • Deindividuation: reduced self-consciousness, inhibition, and personal responsibility that sometimes occurs in a group, particularly when the members feel anonymous
  • Group Polarization: group’s movement toward either riskier or more conservative behavior, depending on the members’ initial dominant tendency
  • Groupthink: faulty decision making that occurs when a highly cohesive group strives for agreement and avoids inconsistent information
  • Aggression: any behavior intended to harm someone
  • Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis: blocking of a desired goal (frustration) creates anger that may lead to aggression
  • Altruism: actions designed to help others with no obvious benefit to the helper
  • Egotistic Model: helping that’s motivated by anticipated gain—later reciprocation, increased self-esteem, or avoidance of distress and guilt
  • Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: helping because of empathy for someone in need
  • Diffusion of Responsibility: the dilution (or diffusion) of personal responsibility for acting by spreading it among all other group members
  • Contact Theory: contact between hostile groups will reduce animosity if they are made to work towards a superordinate goal
  • Self-filling prophecy: prediction that causes itself to be true
  • Social Loafing: tendency for people in a group to exert less effort when pooling efforts toward a common goal than if they were individually accountable
  • In-group: the group you identify with
  • Out- group: everyone not a member of the in-group and may be rejected or treated with hostility
  • Primary Group: the group with which you have daily interaction
  • Secondary Group: large group with a more impersonal relationship
  • Ideology: set of principles, attitudes, and defined objectives for which a group stands
  • Commitment: willingness to sacrifice personally to be a group member
  • Prosocial Behavior: actions that benefit someone else and have an external reward to you (attention)
  • Benevolence: action that benefit someone else and have an internal reward to you

Important People

Solomon Asch- Conducted an experiment in 1951 to test participant’s degree of conformity (changing one’s behavior because of real or imagined group pressure). In his study, participants were told to choose between three lines, A, B, and C that matched the original line they were shown. There were six confederates that were told ahead of time that they were to choose the wrong line on the third trial. There was one participant who was the real subject and this person was always seated in the next-to-last position around the table. More than one-third of his participants conformed to the choice of the confederates for the incorrect answer.
Irving Janis- mainly noted for his work on groupthink. He defined it as “a mode of thinking that people engage in when unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action”.
Fritz Heider- Concluded that people see the world as coherent and controllable. People develop “logical” explanations for why things happen. He came up with a basic question that people ask when they make attributions: “Does behavior stem from a person’s internal disposition or from the external situation?”
Stanley Milgram- Studied obedience to authority (going along with a direct command, usually from someone in a position of authority). He conducted an experiment in Yale University Laboratory where he put an add in the local newspaper to find volunteers on a study about memory. There was a confederate and a real participant in his experiment. The participant was told that the experimenter is studying the effects of punishment on learning and memory. One of them would be the learner and one would be the teacher. The participant and the confederate picked from lots, so the participant thought that it was by chance that he/she would become the teacher. The learner was placed into a room where the teacher thought he was being strapped into a real electric chair where he was going to be “shocked” by the teacher for every wrong answer. The teacher was placed into a room with a machine that would shock the learner for every wrong answer that they answered. There were switches on the shock machine that went from a minor shock to a fatal amount of shock. The teacher was told to go up one switch for every wrong answer that the learner gave, consequently they thought they were causing the learner more and more pain. The outcome was that 65% of participants obeyed the authority figure completely, going all the way to the fatal level of shocks. Criticisms: ethical issues for the teacher position.
Phillip Zimbardo- Conducted the Stanford Prison Study. Students were participants in the study and were assigned a role. They were either a prisoner or a guard. They started to take on the role of what they were given and this showed situational attributions. This is because if they hadn’t been put in that situation, the participants would not have acted in this way; because of the role they were given, it determined their behavior. It also demonstrated deindividuation (reduced self-consciousness, inhibition, and personal responsibility that sometimes occurs in a group) Criticisms: ethical issues for the participants because of how their personalities changed.
Zick Rubin- Developed pencil- and- paper tests to explore between liking and loving. He studied eye contact between couples to predict how they would measure on the like and love scales. He found that love is composed of three basic elements, caring (the desire to help others when help is needed), attachment (the nee to be with someone), and intimacy (a sense of empathy and trust that comes from close communication and self- disclosure to and from another).
William Jankowaik and Edward Fischer- Studied romantic love (any intense attraction that involves the idealization of the other with an erotic context, with the expectation of enduring for some time in the future), which can also be called passionate love. They found it in 147 of the 166 countries they studied. They concluded “romantic love constitutes a human universal of, or at the least, a near universal”.


I. Intro
o Social Psychology: the study of how others, real or imagined, can influence an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions of an individual
§ It emphasizes external social forces and environment
II. Our Thoughts About Others
o We often answer the question of why people think, feel or act as they do and why events occur by attributing the behaviors and events to various causes.
§ Dispositional attribution: declaring that people act because of their own personal characteristics, motives and intentions
· Example: he threw his book because he is an angry, violent person
§ Situational attribution: a person acts a certain way based in response to situational demands and their environment
· Example: he threw his book because he is stressed and is having a bad day
§ Fundamental attribution error: the human tendency to misjudge the causes of other people’s behavior as dispositional rather than situational
· We may do this because human personalities and behaviors are more noticeable than situational factors (saliency bias)
· When we judge ourselves we tend to attribute our successes as dispositional, and we tend to attribute our failures as situational (self serving bias)
§ Storms 1973: Attribution can change based on viewpoint
o Culture and Attribution Biases
§ Some cultures can be:
· Individualistic (example: The United States) people are defined and understood as individual selves; responsible for their own success and failure
· Collectivistic (example: China) people are defined as members of a larger group; they do what is expected of them by others
§ Fundamental Attribution Error and self-serving bias are less common in collectivistic cultures because in a group they are more aware of situational effects on behavior.
o Attitudes: Our Learned Predispositions Toward Others
§ An attitude is an instinct to respond cognitively, affectively, and behaviorally to an object, event or idea
§ Mere exposure effect: if we are shown things once we are more likely to enjoy it the second time
§ Central route vs. Peripheral route
· Central: having an attitude towards something when given useful information
· Peripheral: useless information used to make an attitude (example: voting based on the looks of a candidate)
§ Attitudes have three components: cognitive, affective and behavioral
· Cognitive: consists of thoughts and beliefs (example: Marijuana is relatively safe)
· Affective: involves feelings and emotions (example: frustration that Marijuana is not legalized)
· Behavioral: a predisposition to act in certain ways toward something (example: writing pamphlets about why Marijuana is okay)
· LaPiere’s Study 1934
o He traveled the US with four Chinese men
o They stayed in 251 hotels and were only turned down by one
o In a previous survey 94% of the hotels said they would not allow Chinese men in their hotel

§ Cognitive Dissonance
· Our attitudes in life are learned, and can change over time
· When our attitudes and our behaviors do not match it creates a feeling of cognitive dissonance that often causes us to change our attitudes
· For example: Festinger’s Study
o Allowed participants to lie about their attitude towards the boring experiment for money
§ Those paid one dollar felt cognitive dissonance and convinced themselves that the experiment was actually fun
§ Those paid twenty dollars felt no cognitive dissonance
§ Compliance Strategies
· Foot in the door phenomenon: making a small request before a larger one makes a person more willing to complete the larger request
· Door in the face phenomenon: Asking for a large task that most people will turn down before asking for a smaller request makes it more likely that the person will complete the small request
· Norms of reciprocity: when given a gift or when someone completes a task for you, you feel more obligated to return
III. Our Feelings about Others
o Prejudice and Discrimination
o Prejudice: meaning “prejudgment” is a learned attitude towards a specific group of people, which is usually negative
§ Example: “Asians are smart” “Blondes are dumb”
o Stereotype: generalized beliefs about a specific group of people
o Discrimination: A specific action that is made based on prejudice towards a group

Figure 16.3
Discrimination vs. Prejudice
D Yes No
An African American is denied a job because the owner of a business is prejudiced
An African American is denied a job because the owner of the business fears customers wont buy from an African American salesperson
An African American is given a job because the owner hopes to attract African American customers
An African American is given a job because he/she is the best one suited for it
o Ethnocentrism: a belief that one’s culture is superior to all others
§ Example: Nazi’s
o Contact Theory: When hostile groups are forced to work as a group, hostility will decrease
o How does Prejudice occur?
§ Just word phenomenon: we believe that we have done something to bring discrimination upon ourselves
· In-group favoritism: when the “in-group” is viewed positively in the eyes of others
· Out-group homogeneity effect: people believe the “outsiders” are not as diverse as the members of the in-group
§ Scapegoat Theory: Certain races are used to blame for a country’s or the world’s issues
· Example: World War 2/ Holocaust
o Prejudice leads to
§ Self fulfilling prophecy: an attempt to fulfill one’s own stereotype
· Example: Rosenthal and Jacobson’s
o “Pygmalion in the Classroom”
o Researchers told the teachers that certain kids had higher IQ’s than others, and by the end of the year these kids scored much higher since the teachers showed favor to them throughout the year
o Interpersonal Attraction
o Interpersonal Attraction: when two individuals have positive feelings for one another
o 5 Principles of Attraction
§ 1. Proximity: Geographic closeness increases attraction
· This is largely because of mere exposure effect
§ 2. Reciprocal liking and disclosure: One is more likely to like someone who reciprocates
§ 3. Similarity: This is key in making long term relationships work, since similarity breeds happiness together
· Need Complementarity: We are attracted to those who have qualities we lack but admire
· Need Compatibility: We are attracted to people who share similar qualities, needs and goals as well
§ 4. Liking through association
· Classical conditioning
o Example: I like whole foods, and the same guy checks out my purchase each time I go. I then begin to like this boy since I also like whole foods.
§ 5. Physical attractiveness
· The better one looks the higher their dating frequency
· More attractive people are viewed as more honest, successful, and better people altogether
· Cultural background can influence one to enjoy a certain looking person to another
o Loving others
o Liking vs. Loving: Zick Rubin
§ Experiment: Designed a test to determine whether couples just liked or loved on another
§ Their scores on these tests also correlated to the amount of time the couples looked into one another’s eyes
· Those who looked into each other’s eyes were more in love
§ Love is composed of three basic elements
· Caring: desire to aid one another
· Attachment: need to be with one another
· Intimacy: empathy and trust with one another
o Romantic Love
§ Also known as passionate love, limerence
§ Intense “puppy love” stage of a relationship
§ Causes high dopamine and norepinephrine levels and lowers serotonin to make the couple very happy together
§ It decreases over the course of a relationship and eventually turns into companionate love
o Companionate Love:
§ Lasting attraction that is based on trust, caring, and friendship and grows stronger over time
§ Causes high levels of oxycotin and vasopressin
IV. Our Actions Towards Others
o Conformity and Obedience
o Conformity: As a result of group pressure, one changes their behavior to match the groups
§ Matching hypothesis: One’s mate will tend to be similar in attractiveness to the individual
§ Asch’s Experiment
· A group of seven was asked to match which two lines were the same lengths
· Only one of the members was a real participant
· 1/3 of the participants conformed for the majority of the experiment
· 70% of the participants conformed at least once during the experiment
§ Normative Social Influence: One conforms to a group’s beliefs or “norms” in order to be accepted
· Norms: a belief of what is acceptable during any situation
§ Informational Social Influence: One conforms as a means of attaining information
§ Reference groups: People we conform to be like out of admiration and a desire to be like them
· Example: Celebrities
o Obedience
o One’s fulfilling an authority figure’s, or another person’s commands
o Milgram’s Experiment
§ One participant is asked to be the learner and the other to be the teacher
§ The learner is strapped to a shock generator and the teacher is asked to teach them a list of words
§ Each time the learner gets the answer wrong, they are shocked at increasing levels
§ As the levels of voltage became dangerous and the learner began to plead (though they were not actually being shocked), the teacher became conflicted about whether to continue the shocks
§ Majority of the people, after being told by the experimenter to do so, continued to administer the higher voltages showing their obedience
§ However, if the teacher was changed and they could see the learner being electrocuted, or if they had to place the learner’s hand on the shock pad, then they were less likely to administer the highest voltage.
o Factors of obedience
§ 1. Legitimacy and closeness of the authority figure
· When the authority figure is in close proximity one is more likely to obey
§ 2. Remoteness of the Victim
· One is more likely to obey orders when they can avoid direct contact with the victim
§ 3. Assignment of Responsibility
· When one is responsible for the harm administered they are less likely to obey
§ 4. Modeling/Imitation
· Watching others either obey or rebel can influence one’s actions
V. Group Processes
o In a group one often has specific roles that they perform
o Example: Zimbardo’s Prison Study
§ Stanford University male students were paid $15 each day they participated in simulated prison life
§ Students were either guards or prisoners
· Majority of the guards engaged in abuse of their power
· The prisoners became depressed as the abuse increased
§ The simulated roles became all to real for the participants
o Deindividuation: reduced self consciousness when a member begins to feel anonymous within a group
o Negative effects: abuse of power, anger, tragic consequences, violence
o Positive effects: increases helping behaviors and heroism
o Causes:
§ The presence of others causes high arousal and decrease in responsibility
o Group Polarization:
o As a group people are more likely to make riskier or more conservative actions than they would if they were alone
§ Results from exposure to good arguments and new information revealed from the many group members
o Groupthink
o When one is a part of an “in-group” and when the rest of the group shares a unanimous view, one is more likely to make a faulty decision to agree with their beliefs instead of looking at other options
o Begins when members of the group become isolated from the beliefs of others
o Members then begin to believe that they are invincible and develop beliefs about the out-group and others
o “Mind Guards” isolate the group from others and differences in opinions that may change the groups views

Figure 16.9
Antecedent Conditions
1. A highly cohesive group of decision makers
2. Insulation of the group from outside influences
3. A directive leader
4. Lack of procedures to ensure careful consideration of the pros and cons of alternative actions
5. High stress from external threats with little hope of finding a better solution that that favored by the leader
Strong desire for group consensus – the groupthink tendency
Symptoms of Groupthink
1. Illusion of invulnerability
2. Belief in the morality of the group
3. Collective rationalizations
4. Stereotypes of out-groups
5. Self-censorship of doubts and dissenting opinions
6. Illusion of unanimity
7. Direct pressure on dissenters

Symptoms of Poor Decision Making
1. An incomplete survey of alternative courses of action
2. An incomplete survey of group objectives
3. Failure to examine risks of the preferred choice
4. Failure to reappraise rejected alternatives
5. Poor search for relevant information
6. Selective bias in processing information
7. Failure to develop contingency plans
Low probability of successful outcome

o Aggression: a form of behavior that has the intent of harm to others
o Biological factors:
§ 1. Instincts: Because aggression is prominent throughout the entire world many believe that it is instinctual
§ 2. Genes: Twin studies suggest some people are born with aggressive temperaments
§ 3. The brain and nervous system: The hypothalamus, amygdala and other parts of the brain when stimulated have an effect on aggression
§ 4. Substance abuse and mental disorders: Alcohol abuse and mental disorders can lead to increased levels of aggression
§ 5. Hormones and neurotransmitters: Testosterone is linked to aggressive behavior. Low serotonin is also linked to aggression
o Psychosocial factors:
§ Aversive stimuli: noise, heat, pain, insults, and bad smell all increase aggression.
· Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis: When one is blocked from an achievement, frustration leads to anger which can lead to aggression
§ Culture and Learning: Those who are raised with aggressive role models have the tendency to become aggressive
§ Violent media and video games
o Controlling or Eliminating Aggression
§ Harmless forms of aggression are good outlets
· Punching a pillow, vigorous exercise
§ Introducing emotional responses such as empathy, which counteract aggression
§ Improve social skills
o Altruism: When people act as aids to others without personally benefiting
o Many suggest it is instinctual and that it is strongest towards family members, especially children
o Others suggest that it is a discreet selfishness called egoistic model which means that the actions are done in order to receive self gain such as increased self-esteem
o Others believe it is a result of the Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis which means we help others out of a concern for them

Figure 16.10

Internal Response

Egoistic Model
Distress (anxiety, annoyance, unpleasantness)
Egoistic motivation (reduce stress and increase reciprocity)


Empathy (concern and compassion for other person)
Altruistic motivation (reduces other’s distress)

o Diffusion of Responsibility: The belief that we do not need to help a person in distress because someone else within our group or society is going to
VI. Applying Social Psychology to Social Problems
o Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination
o 1. Cooperation and superordinate goals
§ Allow conflicting groups to cooperate towards a common goal
o 2. Increased Contact
§ Allow groups to come into contact more often that usual in a positive setting of equality
o 3. Cognitive retraining
§ Through viewing other perspectives and helping to undo negative stereotypes one can train others to reduce their prejudice
o 4. Cognitive Dissonance
§ Allow prejudiced people to come into contact with members of groups that break the stereotypes

Works Cited
“Dan Abrams - Lynndie England - May 13, 2004.” March 30, 2011.
Fowler, Bridget. “Stereotyping and Prejudice Among Children.” March 30, 2011.
Hanson, Jon. “Deep Capture – Part VIII.” March 30, 2011.
“Heider, Fritz.” March 30, 2011.
Huffman, Karen. Psychology in Action: Eighth Edition. Hoboken: Hermitage Publishing Services, 2007.
“The overwhelming habit of biases and self-evaluation.” March 30, 2011. of-biases-and-self-evaluation/.