Social Psychology. Social psychology studies the beliefs and behaviors of the individual (the self) within a group (others). Humans are social animals: “We view ourselves as others view us”.
Prejudice (unconscious prejudice,
in group / out group bias)
Social influence (e.g., obedience, altruism)
Group dynamics (e.g., groupthink)
Attitude change (e.g., persuasion)
Inside the person
Inside the situation?
Stanley Milgram asked a similar question in a series of famous studies on obedience to authority.
He was partly motivated by a desire to understand how individual members of a civilized society could cooperate in the torture and murder of over 6,000,000 civilians.
While a professor of psychology at Yale, he brought over 1,000 research participants into an experimental situation to study the conditions under which participants would willingly administer high levels of painful electric shock to fellow research participants.
Psychiatrists predicted that less than 1 person in 100 would administer the highest level of shock requested.
they were stripped,
tripped by guards,
forced to clean toilets with their hands.
A rotten barrel?
Milgram’s studies at Yale, Zimbardo’s studies at Stanford and a large number of other follow-up studies all found that situational factors (not personal factors) were the overwhelming cause of inhumane behavior.
Yet our tendency is to erroneously blame the person.
This paradoxical bias can be conceptualized as ‘a special case’ of a general principle called “The Fundamental Attribution Error”.