Chapter 16 Social Psychology
Vocabulary

Aggression: any behavior intended to harm someone.

Altruism: actions designed to help others with no obvious benefit to the helper.

Attitude: learned predisposition to respond cognitively, affectively and behaviorally to a particular object.

Attribution: an explanation for the cause of behaviors of events.

Benevolence: actions benefit another, for internal rewards.

Cognitive Dissonance: a feeling of discomfort caused by a discrepancy between an attitude and a behavior or between two competing attitudes.

Conformity: changing behavior because of real or imagined group pressure.

Compassionate Love: intense feeling of attraction to another within an erotic content and with future expectations.

Commitment: willingness to sacrifice personally to be a group member.

Deindividuation: reduced self-consciousness, inhibition and personal responsibility that sometimes occurs in a group, particularly when its members feel anonymous.

Diffusion of Responsibility: The dilution (or diffusion) of personal responsibility for acting by spreading it among all other group members.

Discrimination: negative behaviors directed at members of a group.

Door-in-the-Face: ask for an unreasonably large request and when the person says no, you make the smaller request.

Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: Helping because of empathy for someone in need.

Egoistic Model: helping that’s motivated by anticipated gain—later reciprocation, increased self-esteem, or avoidance of distress and guilt.

Foot-in-the-Door technique: a first, small request is used as a setup for later, larger requests.

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis: blocking of a desired goal (frustration) creates anger that may lead to aggression.
Group Polarization: group’s movement toward either riskier or more conservative behavior, depending on the members’ initial tendency.

Fundamental Attribution Error: misjudging the causes of other’s behavior as due to international (dispositional) causes rather than external (situational) ones.

Groupthink: faulty decision making that occurs when a highly cohesive group strives for agreement and avoids inconsistent information.

Ideology: set of principles, attitudes and defined objectives for which a group stands.

Informational Social Influence: conforming because of a need information and direction.

Ingroup favoritism: viewing members of an outgroup as outsiders.

Ingroup: people you identify with.

Interpersonal Attraction: positive feelings toward another.

Need Complementarity: attraction based on sharing similar needs.

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.

Norms of Reciprocity: if someone gives you something you must give them something in return.

Obedience: following direct commands, usually from an authority figure.

Outgroup Homogeneity Effect: judging members of an outgroup as more alike and less diverse than members of the ingroup.

Outgroup: everyone not a member of the ingroup.

Prejudice: a learned, generally negative, attitude toward members of a group, it includes thoughts (stereotypes), feelings and behavioral tendencies (possible discrimination).

Primary Group: people one interacts with daily.

Prosocial Behavior: actions benefit another, you expect external reward.

Proximity: attraction based on geographic closeness.

Reference Groups: people we conform to, or go along with, because we like and admire them and want to be like them.

Saliency Bias: focusing on the most noticeable (salient) factors when explaining the causes of behavior.

Secondary Group: large group, more impersonal relationship.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy: a prediction that causes itself to be true.

Self-serving Bias: taking credit for one’s own successes and externalizing one’s failures.

Social Loafing: the tendency of people to exert less effort when pooling efforts toward a common goal.

Social Psychology: an attempt to understand and explain the behaviors of individuals as they are influenced by the actual or imagined/implied presence of others.

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.

That’s-Not-All: if you buy something NOW, you will get something in return.

Study Guide
Chapter 16: Social Psychology
Social Psychology – The study of how others influence our thoughts, feelings, and action
Our Thoughts About Others
Attribution: Explaining Others’ Behavior
- When observing the world, people try to understand and explain the thoughts, feelings, and actions of other people by asking questions
- These questions are answered through attributing the behaviors or events to various causes
Attribution- An explanation for the cause of behaviors or events
- Fritz Heider said that the reason people are so interested in making attributions is because they need to see the world as coherent and controllable
- Behavior stems from a person’s internal disposition (one’s own personal characteristics, motives and intentions) or external situation (response to situational demands and environmental pressures)
Mistaken Attributions
1. Fundamental Attribution Error – Misjudging the causes of others’ behavior as due to internal (dispositional) causes rather than external (situational ones)
- People are more likely to judge a situation based on dispositional attributions rather than taking into account environmental factors
- This occurs because dispositional attributions are more salient, or noticeable than situational attributions and it is easier to “blame the victim”
Saliency Bias – Focusing on the most noticeable (salient) factors when explaining the causes of behavior
- For example, if a student were to fail a test, a person committing the fundamental attribution error would most likely say that the student was lazy and chose not to study versus considering that something could have happen the previous night that prevented the student from studying.
2. Self Serving Bias – Taking credit for our successes and externalizing our failures
- When judging their own behavior, people tend to attribute their successes to personal attributions whereas they attribute their failures to the environment
- For example, if the same student were to ace the test, she would most likely take personal credit for her success by saying she studying really hard versus is she were to fail, she would blame the teacher for creating such a difficult test
Culture and Attributional Biases
- Both the fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias are seen more often in individualistic cultures versus collectivistic cultures
- In collectivistic cultures such as those in Eastern countries, people are more aware of situational constraints on behavior and are less likely to make the fundamental attribution error
- Likewise, collectivistic cultures stress fitting in rather than standing out, which results in a society not acknowledging their successes with the self-serving bias

Attitudes: Our Learned Predispositions Toward Others
Attitude – Learned predisposition to respond cognitively, affectively, and behaviorally to a particular object
Components of Attitudes
1. Cognitive Component – thoughts and beliefs
2. Affective, or Emotional, Component – feelings
3. Behavioral Component – a predisposition to act certain ways toward an attitude object
Attitude Change Through Cognitive Dissonance
- Attitudes are learned through direct experience and indirect learning or observation
- Attitudes can be changed, which is why advertisers spend so much money on advertisements in hopes they can change the general population’s opinion on a product
- Attitudes can be changed through creating cognitive dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance – A feeling of discomfort caused by a discrepancy between an attitude and a behavior or between two competing attitudes
- When there is disagreement between how we think or feel and what we do, the contradiction makes us uncomfortable. To compensate for this discomfort, we change our attitude to better match with our behavior
- The discomfort motivates us to search for ways to eliminate the discrepancy between behavior and attitudes and the resulting tension, i.e. drive-reduction theory
- For example, smokers are aware of the dangerous affects tobacco has on their health, but they convince themselves that smoking isn’t dangerous or that the personal satisfaction they receive from smoking is worth the dangers in order to make themselves feel better and eliminate cognitive dissonance


Experiment of Leon Festinger and J. Merrill Carlsmith (1959)
- Participants of the experiment were required to complete extremely boring tasks for an hour. Once the tasks were complete, the experimenter asked the participants to tell the next participant (who was really a confederate) that the task was “very enjoyable”. In one condition the participant was given twenty dollars to lie whereas in the second condition the participant was only given one dollar
- Because of cognitive dissonance, those that were paid only a dollar were more convincing that the experiment was fun because they had insufficient justification for lying. This discomfort between their actions and rewards created greater cognitive dissonance and they had greater motivation to change their attitudes than those who felt their payment justified lying
Culture and Dissonance
- Western individualistic cultures are much more independent and have greater motivation to change an attitude that affects our self-esteem
- Eastern collectivistic cultures however feel more tension over potential loss of connection with others than threat to their individual self-esteem
Our Feelings About Others
Prejudice and Discrimination: It’s the Feeling That Counts
Prejudice – A learned, generally negative, attitude toward members of a group; it includes thoughts (stereotypes), feelings, and behavioral tendencies (possible discrimination)
1. Cognitive Component (Stereotype) – A set of beliefs about the characteristics of people in a group that is generalized to all group members
2. Affective Component – feelings and emotions associated with objects of prejudice
3. Behavioral Component – predispositions to act in certain ways toward members of the group, discrimination when behavior is negative
* Prejudice refers to an attitude whereas discrimination refers to an action
Major Sources of Prejudice and Discrimination
1. Prejudice as a learned response
- Through classical and operant conditioning; e.g. when children view media that promotes prejudice, they believe such behavior is acceptable and often imitate it
- Through direct experience; e.g. people may experience rise in their own self-esteem or attention and approval from others for expressing prejudiced remarks, which reinforces the behavior
2. Prejudice as a mental shortcut
- People naturally try to simplify the world through categorizations such as stereotypes, which allow them to make quick mental judgments
- Likewise they create ingroups (any category that people see themselves belonging to) and outgroups (all others)
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
- When members of an outgroup are not seen as varied, it is easier to discriminate, e.g. most Mexicans in Arizona are labeled as illegal immigrants, allowing us to quickly blame them for our misfortunes
3. Prejudice as the result of economic and political Competition
- Develops out of competition for limited resources; lower-class whites are more racist than higher-class whites because minorities present a larger threat to the employment, status, and income of lower-class whites
4. Prejudice as a form of displaced aggression
- When angry, people often displace their emotion on innocent, non threatening target called scapegoat; e.g. Hitler blamed the Jews for the Germans’ problems
Interpersonal Attraction: Why We Like and Love Others
Interpersonal Attraction – Positive feelings toward another
Three Key Factors in Attraction – Physical Attractiveness, Proximity, and Similarity
1. Physical Attractiveness
- One of the most important factors in our initial liking or loving of others
- Attractive people are perceived as more poised, interesting, cooperative, achieving, sociable, independent, intelligent, healthy, and sexually warm
- Across cultures women are judged more attractive if youthful in appearance and men if they appear more mature and financially sound
- Good looks generally indicate good health, sound genes, and high fertility
- Facial and body symmetry are crucial judgments in attractiveness and also correlate with genetic health
- Beauty is also in “the eye of the beholder” across different cultures; e.g. some African cultures view obesity in women as beautiful while Americans perceive skinniness often to the point of anorexia as ideal
- Attractiveness can be influenced strongly by personality judgments and people often select those of equal physical attractiveness as partners according to the matching hypothesis
- Flirting likewise can increase perceived attractiveness
2. Proximity – Attraction based on geographic closeness
- Repeated exposure to a person or object increases overall liking
- Similarly, repeated exposure to negative stimulus can decrease attraction
3. Similarity
- Similarity is one of the major determinants of lasting long term relationships
- Relationships tends to work better when partners share similar ethnic backgrounds, social classes, interests, and attitudes
- Opposites do attract when one person offers a personality trait that the other partner lacks; i.e. Need Complementarity – Attraction toward those with qualities we admire but personally lack
- Similarity in relationships displays Need Compatibility – Attraction based on sharing similar needs
Loving Others
1. Liking Versus Loving – Zick Rubin studied liking versus loving through tests and discovered that amount of time spent making eye contact with partner correlated directly with place on love scale and that love is composed of caring, attachment, and intimacy
2. Romantic Love – Intense feeling of attraction to another within an erotic context and with future expectations
- Problems: typically doesn’t last, largely based on mystery and fantasy
- Romantic love can be kept alive by keeping element of uncertainty in the relationship, allowing a form of frustration to interfere in the relationship, and to recognize its fragility and plan accordingly
3. Companionate Love – Strong and lasting attraction characterized by trust, caring, tolerance, and friendship
- Grows stronger with time and often lasts a lifetime
- Couples report greater satisfaction in their marriages when they overlook each other’s faults and somewhat idealize their perception of their partner
Our Actions Toward Others

Social Influence: Conformity and Obedience

Ÿ Society and culture have a tremendous impact on what we believe, how we feel, or how we act
Ÿ The influences are so profound and a part of us that we rarely recognize them. (Just as a fish doesn’t know it is out of water.)

Conformity (Changing behavior because of real or imagined group pressure)

Solomon Asch’s study of conformity (1951); Six participants who were actually confederates and one real participant were positioned around a table, with the real participant sitting in the next to last position. Participants were shown four lines such as these and asked which line (A, B, or C) was most similar to the line in Exhibit

Ÿ -Confederates instructed ahead of time to respond incorrectly on the third trial and selected later trials
Ÿ -Designed to test participant’s degree of conformity
Ÿ -More than 1/3rd conformed and agreed with the group’s obvious and incorrect choice
Ÿ- Participants in control groups with no group pressure made the correct choice 100% of the time
external image asch_conformity.gif
Why would so many people conform? Consider three factors of conformity…

1. Normative Social Influence; for approval and acceptance. Society tells us how we should behave. (e.g. we ask our friends what they are wearing before going out at night so that we wear “acceptable” clothing for the given situation.) The participant did not want to be the only one to disagree.

2. Informational Social Influence; need for more information. (e.g. you eat at a restaurant that your friend recommended before going to one that you have never heard of before.) The participant most likely assumed that others had more information than they did.

3. Reference Groups; to match behavior of those we feel similar to or admire. (e.g. Victoria’s Secret uses beautiful models to sell their underwear.)


Obedience (Following direct commands, particularly from an authority figure)

Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment, investigating obedience to authority; a “teacher” was put in charge of a shock generator and a “learner” was strapped into an electric chair. The teacher’s job was to teach the learner a list of word pairs, and administer a shock anytime the learner made an error. With each error made, the voltage of the shock was increased. The experimenter acted as an authority figure, prompting and commanding the teacher to shock the learner. Stanley predicted that most people would refuse to go beyond 150 volts and fewer than 1% would go all the way. He believed only someone who was “disturbed and sadistic” would obey to the fullest extent.

Ÿ 65% obeyed completely

What do we learn?
Ÿ Ordinary people can do shocking things
Ÿ This experiment has many ethical issues
Ÿ * None of the “learners” were actually shocked or harmed in any way. They were confederates and simply pretended to be shocked. Nonetheless, as the learners pretended to scream in pain, the “teachers” still obeyed when encouraged.

Why??!! Consider four factors of obedience…

1. Legitimacy and closeness of the authority figure; when an authority figure is perceived as authorized or nearby, chances of obedience increase.

2. Remoteness of the victim; it is easier to harm another human being when the action is indirect. (e.g. It is harder to directly shoot someone in comparison to pressing a button that you know will result in harming someone.)

3. Assignment of responsibility; we are more likely to harm someone if we do not have to take the blame. (e.g. we are much more likely to rob a bank if we are promised money with no chance of getting caught.)

4. Modeling/imitation; watching others either cooperate or rebel has a profound impact on obedience. We are more likely to model behavior that is in front of us

-Conformity and obedience are not always bad. They allow for social life to proceed with safety, order and predictability

Group Processes: Membership and Decision Making

Group Membership

Roles (sets of behavioral patterns related to specific social situations)

Philip Zimbardo assigned 20 Stanford University students as either a prison or guard to explore the impact of roles on behavior. A study intended to last 2 weeks was reduced to 6 days due to its traumatic results. The guards seriously abused their power and the prisoners became deeply depressed and felt dehumanized. (This was not a real experiment due to lack of control groups, a clear measure of the dependent variable, and considered unethical.)

Deindividuation (Phenomenon that occurs in groups that results in reduced self- consciousness, inhibition or self-responsibility. This effect takes form often when members feel anonymous.) (e.q. In an experiment, women who wore KKK disguises that completely covered their faces and bodies delivered twice as much electric shock to a victim than women who were not disguised.)

Group Decision Making

Group Polarization; contingent on dominant preexisting tendencies of a group, group decision making often moves toward riskier or more conservative behavior, (polar extremes).
Ÿ Why? Increased exposure to persuasive arguments works to strengthen a group of like-minded individuals’ preexisting tendencies

Groupthink; flawed type of thinking that occurs when a highly unified group strives for agreement while ignoring inconsistent information. This causes feelings of invulnerability, common rationalizations/stereotypes of the outgroup and pressure on anyone who dares to disagree.


Aggression (Any form of behavior intended to harm another living being)

Biological Factors in Aggression

1. Instincts; many theorists believe humans are instinctively aggressive and therefore cannot be eliminated. Evolutionary ethological view of instinct suggests aggression evolved because it supports “survival of the fittest”. Most social psychologists tend to reject both views as a major source of aggression.

2. Genes

3. The brain and nervous system; electrical stimulation or severing specific parts of a brain has direct effect on aggression.

4. Substance abuse and other mental disorders; Particularly alcohol; schizophrenia and antisocial disorders

5. Hormones and neurotransmitters; testosterone; low levels of serotonin and GABA

Psychosocial Factors in Aggression

1. Aversive stimuli; stimuli such as noise, heat, pain, insults and foul odors can increase aggression. Also, being blocked from achieving a goal (frustration), increases anger, which can then lead to aggression (aka. Frusteration-aggression hypothesis).

2. Culture and learning; people raised in aggressive environments will more likely learn aggressive responses. (e.g. Children raised in Japan are taught to value social harmony; Japan has one of the lowest rates of violence of industrialized nations.

3. Violent media and video games; portrayal of violence in games, movies, and TV contributes to aggression in children, as well as adults. Or could it be that aggressive children just tend to prefer violent forms of media or games?

Controlling or Eliminating Aggression


Altruism (Actions designed to help others with no apparent motivation of self-gain)

Why do we help others?

Egoistic Model; helping others for some form of reciprocation, increased self-esteem, or avoidance of distress/guilt

external image image.tiff


Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis; helping others because of simple, unselfish concerns (empathy)

Why don’t we help others?

Ÿ It depends on a series on interconnected events; notice, interpret, personal responsibility, decide how to help

Diffusion of responsibility; distribution of personal responsibility of action by spreading it amongst others (e.g. if someone’s car broke down on the side of the rode, you may drive right by, assuming that someone is already on their way, or someone will eventually stop to help).

Ÿ We can promote helping by asking someone if they need help. Or, if you are the one that needs help, give specific directions to anyone who may be watching.

Applying Psychology to Social Problems

Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination

Ÿ Cooperation, superordinate goals, increased contact, cognitive retraining (undoing associations of negative stereotypical traits) and cognitive dissonance reduction (eventually stereotypes break down).

Overcoming Destructive Obedience
Ÿ Be aware of the theories and concepts of obedience!
Ÿ Socialization (from childhood we are taught to respect/obey authority figures), power of the situation (roles are so well socialized that we automatically adapt them and have difficulty detected where they become maladaptive), groupthink (faulty thinking that occurs when members strive for agreement to avoid inconsistent information), foot-in-the-door (small request is used as a setup for a larger request), relaxed moral guard (Perception of someone who is perfectly reasonable maximizes obedience)
Ÿ We need to be conscientious of immoral forms of obedience and have courage to say no


Important People
Soloman Asch: Conformity/Line Experiment. Six participants assigned as confederates and one assigned as the real test subject. In this study more than 1/3 of the real test subjects conformed with the groups wrong answers. Experiment showed effects of group pressure on conformity. Criticisms focus on the reasons why the participants “choose to conform”, and that results “may not generalize to real-world situations” (Cherry, Kendra).

Fritz Heider: said that “we all like out figure out why people do what they do”, created attribution theory which tries to explain how people determine the cause of the behavior they observe; situational attribution: lady being rained on, dispositional attribution: internal/who you are; fundamental attribution error: when you look at someone and explain their behavior, you are more likely to explain it as a dispositional attribution; ultimate attribution error: saying an entire race/population is a certain dispositional attribution.

Irving Janis: Developed theory about groupthink. Defined groupthink- “a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group and when members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (Huffman, Karen).

Kurt Lewin: Group Dynamics-Gang Behavior Study. Group of ethnically diverse individuals came together to improve living environment. After projects were completed hostility towards each other had decreased and conditions had greatly improved. (Greathouse, Julie) Critiques focus on presence of “special cases” (Smith, Mark K.) Formula for Behavior: B= f (I, E) Behavior is a function of the individual and the environment; this leads back to the nature vs. nurture theory.

LaPierre: Cognitive Dissonance Theory. Look specifically at bad attitudes towards minorities. Traveled in car with group of Chinese and went to different hotels. When he asked if they would allow the Chinese to stay, 250 hotels accept them, 1 denies them. Later sends the hotels surveys asking if they would allow Chinese to stay in their hotels and almost all say NO. Shows how attitudes do not always match behavior (cognitive dissonance).

Milgram: Milgram’s Study of Obedience. Tested whether people would go along with things due to authority. A person in a position of authority ordered participants, the “teachers,” to deliver up to 450-volt shocks to another person, the “student.” Over 50% of participants followed directions, showing that authority can make ordinary people do shocking things. Criticism: ethical issues, would not have been approved today.

Zick Rubin: developed the scale of attraction: attachment, caring, intimacy.

Zimbardo: Stanford Prison Study. College students were assigned as either a prisoner or a guard to test impact of roles. Students took on the role they were given, showing the importance of situational attributions (situation/influences how you behave). Criticism: major ethical concerns for participants, but also that personality can impact how people behave in these roles as well (not just situational, it is dispositional as well).

Interesting Facts

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a71h6LZKXTc

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAkDHuimJRc&feature=related

3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAkDHuimJRc&feature=related

4. Person perception means that we fit people or things in to categories. We simplify or fit things in to a category as a way of fitting them in to our brains and perceptions. (10)
5. The halo effect makes people assume that attractive and well- spoken people are intelligent, talented, and make good decisions. These assumptions are made without any evidence that show us these characteristics actually pertain to that person. (10)


Works Cited
10 Brilliant Social Psychology Studies – PsyBlog.” Psychology Studies Relevant to Everyday Life from PsyBlog. Web. 30 Mar.2011. <http://www.spring.org.uk/2 007/11/10 -piercing-insights-into-human-nature.php>.
Cherry, Kendra. "The Asch Conformity Experiments."About.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 9 Mar. 2011. <http://psychology.about.com/od/
classicpsychologystudies/p/conformity.htm>.

Greathouse, Julie. "Kurt Lewin." Psychology History. N.p., May 1997. Web. 9 Mar. 2011. <http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/
psycweb/history/lewin.htm>.

Huffman, Karen. Psychology in Action. N.p.: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print.

Smith, Mark K. "Kurt Lewin: Groups, Experiential Learning and Action Research." Infed. N.p., 2001. Web. 9 Mar. 2011.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-lewin.htm.

"Solomon Asch Study Social Pressure Conformity Experiment Psychology." Faith vs Reason Debate Wisdom Spiritual Insights Quotations Quotes Aldous Huxley
Perennial Philosophy. Web. 15 Feb. 2011. <http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/ social/asch_conformity.html>.