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Sociocultural Level of Analysis: Sociocultural Cognition. Part I. Principles of the Sociocultural Level of Analysis . 1. Human beings are social animals and we have a basic need to “belong.”

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Sociocultural Level of Analysis:Sociocultural Cognition

Part I


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Principles of the Sociocultural Level of Analysis

1. Human beings are social animals and we have a basic need to “belong.”

  • The biological and cognitive systems that makeup the individual are embedded in an even larger system of interrelationships with other individuals.

  • The relationship between the individual is affected by being part of a group is bidirectional: as an individual is affected by being part of a group, the individual can also effect behavior in the group.


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Principles of the Sociocultural Level of Analysis

2. Culture influences behavior.

  • Culture can be defined as the norms and values that define a society.

  • In a multicultural society there is a need to understand the effect of culture on a person’s behavior, because the study of culture may help people better understand and appreciate cultural differences.


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Principles of the Sociocultural Level of Analysis

3. Humans are social animals, they have a social self.

  • People not only have an individual identity, but also a collective or social one as well.

  • Social identities are very important to the definition of who we are, and many behaviors are determined by membership of groups such as family, community, club, or nationality.


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Principles of the Sociocultural Level of Analysis

4. People’s views of the world are resistant to change.

  • A world view can be defined as the way the world is understood: how it is supposed to work, why it works the way it does, and what values are essential in the world community.

  • According to psychologists the sense of self is developed within social and cultural contexts.


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Research Methods at the Sociocultural Level of Analysis

  • In sociocultural research, the goal is to see how people interact with each other. nature.

    • Behavior of participants needs to be as realistic as possible.

    • A significant amount of the research is naturalistic- “as it really is.”

    • Research is done in the environments in which the behavior is most likely to take place.


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Research Methods at the Sociocultural Level of Analysis

  • Participant observation – researchers immerses themselves in a social setting for an extended period of time and observe behavior.

    • Overt observation: when the participants of a group know that they are being observed.

      • Researcher must obtain trust of the group being observed.

    • Covert observation: when the participants of a group do NOT know they are being observed.

      • Sometimes used with groups that would be hostile to an outsider observing or would not want to be open and honest, or the activity is illegal (e.g. drug use).

  • Interviews

  • Focus groups


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When Prophecy FailsLeon Festinger et al.’s (1956)

  • When Prophecy Fails is a 1956 classic book in social psychology by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter about a UFO cult that believes the end of the world is at hand.

  • Festinger and his associates read an interesting item in their local newspaper headlined "Prophecy from planet Clarion call to city: flee that flood." A housewife from Chicago, named Dorothy Martin, had mysteriously been given messages in her house in the form of "automatic writing" from alien beings on the planet Clarion.

  • These messages revealed that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954. Martin’s cult incorporated ideas from what was to become Scientology.

  • The group of believers, headed by Martin, had taken strong behavioral steps to indicate their degree of commitment to the belief. They had left jobs, college, and spouses, and had given away money and possessions to prepare for their departure on the flying saucer, which was to rescue the group of true believers.


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When Prophecy FailsLeon Festinger et al.’s (1956)

  • Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated Martin’s group and reported the following sequence of events:

    • Prior to December 20. The group shuns publicity. Interviews are given only grudgingly. Access to Martin’s house is only provided to those who can convince the group that they are true believers. The group evolves a belief system—provided by the automatic writing from the planet Clarion—to explain the details of the cataclysm, the reason for its occurrence, and the manner in which the group would be saved from the disaster.

    • December 20. The group expects a visitor from outer space to call upon them at midnight and to escort them to a waiting spacecraft. As instructed, the group goes to great lengths to remove all metallic items from their persons. As midnight approaches, zippers, bra straps, and other objects are discarded. The group waits.

    • 12:05 A.M., December 21. No visitor. Someone in the group notices that another clock in the room shows 11:55. The group agrees that it is not yet midnight.


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When Prophecy FailsLeon Festinger et al.’s (1956)

  • Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated Martin’s group and reported the following sequence of events:

    • 12:10 A.M. The second clock strikes midnight. Still no visitor. The group sits in stunned silence. The cataclysm itself is no more than seven hours away.

    • 4:00 A.M. The group has been sitting in stunned silence. A few attempts at finding explanations have failed. Martin begins to cry.

    • 4:45 A.M. Another message by automatic writing is sent to Martin. It states, in effect, that the God of Earth has decided to spare the planet from destruction. The cataclysm has been called off: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction."

    • Afternoon, December 21. Newspapers are called; interviews are sought. In a reversal of its previous distaste for publicity, the group begins an urgent campaign to spread its message to as broad an audience as possible.


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Attribution Theory

  • Attribution theory is defined as how people interpret and explain causal relationships in the social world.

  • People may have different ways of attributing causes to events.

  • When people try to understand behavior, they observe other people’s reactions, and make inferences about intention and responsibility.


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Attribution Theory

  • Actor-observer effect – people tend to make an attribution about a behavior depending whether they are performing it themselves or observing somebody else doing it.

  • Situational factors – something to do with external factors.

  • Dispositional factors – something to do with personal (internal) factors.


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Errors in Attribution

  • Fundamental attribution error – when people overestimate the role of dispositional factors in an individuals behavior – and underestimate the situational factors.

  • Self-serving bias (SSB) – people take their successes, attribute them to dispositional factors, and dissociate themselves from their failures, attributing them to situational factors.


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Errors in AttributionGreenberg

  • Greenberg et. al (1982) argue that the reason we do this is to protect our self-esteem.

    • If we can attribute our success to dispositional factors, it boosts our self-esteem, and if we can attribute our failures to factors beyond our control, we can protect our self-esteem.

  • Miller and Ross (1975) argued that cognitive factors play a role in SSB, we usually expect to succeed at a task.

    • If we expect to succeed and we do, we attribute it to our skill and ability.

    • If we expect to succeed and fail, we feel that it was bad luck or external factors

    • If we expect to fail and we don’t so well, we attribute it to dispositional factors.

    • If we expect to fail and we succeed, we attribute it to external factors and luck.


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    Errors in AttributionMiller and Ross

    • Miller and Ross (1975) argued that cognitive factors play a role in SSB, we usually expect to succeed at a task.

      • If we expect to succeed and we do, we attribute it to our skill and ability.

      • If we expect to succeed and fail, we feel that it was bad luck or external factors

      • If we expect to fail and we don’t so well, we attribute it to dispositional factors.

      • If we expect to fail and we succeed, we attribute it to external factors and luck.

      • There is an exception – people who are severely depressed tend to make more dispositional attribution thus blaming themselves for feeling miserable.


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    Errors in AttributionKashima and Triandis

    • Kashima and Triandis (1986) found there were significant cultural differences between US and Japanese students.

      • In the experiment participants were asked to remember details of slides of scenes from unfamiliar countries.

      • When asked to explain their performance, the Americans tended to attribute their success to ability while the Japanese tended to explain their failures in terms of lack of ability. This is called the modesty bias.


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    Errors in AttributionModesty Bias

    • Chandler et al. (1990) also observed this bias in Japanese students, and Watkins and Regmi (1990) found the same in Nepalese students.

    • The role of culture is pivotal in understanding the modesty bias.

    • Bond, Leung, and Wan (1982) found that Chinese students who exhibited the modesty bias indtead of the SSB were more popular with their peers.

    • Kashima and Triandis argue that because of the more collective nature of many Asian societies: if people derive their self-esteem not from individual accomplishment but from group identity, they are less likely to use the SSB


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