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6th edition. Social Psychology. Elliot Aronson University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy D. Wilson University of Virginia Robin M. Akert Wellesley College slides by Travis Langley Henderson State University. Chapter 1. Introducing Social Psychology.

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social psychology

6th edition

Social Psychology

Elliot Aronson

University of California, Santa Cruz

Timothy D. Wilson

University of Virginia

Robin M. Akert

Wellesley College

slides by Travis Langley

Henderson State University

chapter 1
Chapter 1

Introducing Social Psychology

“The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.”

–Henry David Thoreau

what is social psychology
WHAT IS SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY?

Social psychology

The scientific study of the way in which people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the real or imagined presence of other people.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

what is social psychology4
WHAT IS SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY?
  • At the very heart of social psychology is the phenomenon of social influence:

We are all influenced by other people.

  • Social psychologists are interested in understanding how and why the social environment shapes the thoughts and feelings of the individual.

Social Influence

The effect that the words, actions, or mere presence of other people have on our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or behavior.

the power of social interpretation
The Power of Social Interpretation

To understand social influence it is more important to understand how people perceive and interpret the social world than it is to understand that world objectively.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

the power of social interpretation6
The Power of Social Interpretation

The term "construal" refers to the world as it is interpreted by the individual.

Given the importance placed on the way people interpret the social world, social psychologists pay special attention to the origins of these interpretations.

example consider what happens in a murder trial
Example: Consider what happens in a murder trial.
  • Even when the prosecution presents compelling evidence, these construals rest on a variety of events and perceptions that often bear no objective relevant evidence.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

example consider what happens in a murder trial8
Example: Consider what happens in a murder trial.
  • Even when the prosecution presents compelling evidence, these construals rest on a variety of events and perceptions that often bear no objective relevant evidence.
  • Did a key witness hesitate before answering, suggesting to some jurors that she might not be certain of her data?
  • Or did some jurors consider the witness too remote, arrogant, certain of herself?

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

a special kind of construal is what lee ross calls na ve realism
A special kind of construal is what Lee Ross calls “naïve realism.”

Naïve Realism

The conviction all of us have that we perceive things “as they really are.”

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

a special kind of construal is what lee ross calls na ve realism10
A special kind of construal is what Lee Ross calls “naïve realism.”

Naïve Realism

The conviction all of us have that we perceive things “as they really are.”

Example:

Although both Israelis and Palestinians understand intellectually that the other side perceives the issues differently, both sides resist compromise, fearing that their “biased” opponent will benefit more than they.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

another distinctive feature of social psychology is that it is an experimentally based science
Another distinctive feature of social psychology is that it is an experimentally based science.

As scientists, our goal is to find objective answers to a wide array of important questions:

  • What are the factors that cause aggression?
  • How might we reduce prejudice?
  • What variables cause two people to like or love each other?
  • Why do certain kinds of political advertisements work better than others?

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

how else can we understand social influence
How Else Can We Understand Social Influence?
  • Social psychologists approach the understanding of social influence differently than philosophers, journalists, or the lay person.
  • Social psychologists develop explanations of social influence through experiments in which the variables being studied are carefully controlled.
how else can we understand social influence13
How Else Can We Understand Social Influence?

Why do people behave the way they do?

  • One way to answer this question might be simply to ask them.
  • The problem with this approach is that people are not always aware of the origins of their own responses and feelings.
folk wisdom
Folk Wisdom

Although a great deal can be learned from “common sense” knowledge, there is at least one problem with relying entirely on such sources: They frequently disagree with one another, and there is no easy way of determining which of them is correct.

  • Are we to believe that “out of sight is out of mind” or that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”?
  • Which is true, that “haste makes waste” or that “he who hesitates is lost”?

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

slide15
Philosophy
  • Throughout history, philosophy has been a major source of insight about human nature.
  • The creativity and analytical thinking of philosophers are a major part of the foundation of contemporary psychology.
  • But what happens when philosophers disagree?
  • Social psychologists address many of the same questions that philosophers address, but we attempt to answer them scientifically.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social psychology compared with personality psychology
Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology
  • When trying to explain social behavior—how an individual act within a social context (in relation to others)--personality psychologists explain the behavior in terms of the person's individual character traits.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social psychology compared with personality psychology17
Social Psychology Compared with Personality Psychology
  • While social psychologists would agree that personalities do vary, they explain social behavior in terms of the power of thesocial situation (as it is construed by the individual) to shape how one acts.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

slide18
One of the tasks of the social psychologist is to make educated guesses (called hypotheses) about the specific situations under which one outcome or the other would occur.
  • Just as a physicist performs experiments to test hypotheses about the nature of the physical world, the social psychologist performs experiments to test hypotheses about the nature of the social world.
  • The next task is to design well-controlled experiments sophisticated enough to tease out the situations that would result in one or another outcome.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social psychology compared with other social sciences
Social Psychology Compared with Other Social Sciences

Personality Psychology

  • When trying to explain social behavior, personality psychologists generally focus on individual differences—the aspects of people’s personalities that make them different from others.
  • Social psychologists are convinced that explaining behavior primarily through personality factors ignores a critical part of the story: the powerful role played by social influence.
social psychology compared with other social sciences20
Social Psychology Compared with Other Social Sciences

The difference between social psychology and other social sciences in level of analysis reflects another difference between the disciplines: what they are trying to explain.

  • Other social sciences are more concerned with broad social, economic, political, and historical factors that influence events in a given society.
  • For the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a social situation.
social psychology compared with other social sciences21
Social Psychology Compared with Other Social Sciences

Sociology

  • Sociologists are more concerned with why a particular society or group within a society produces behavior (e.g., aggression) in its members.
  • The major difference is that sociology, rather than focusing on the psychology of the individual, looks toward society at large.
social psychology compared with other social sciences22
Social Psychology Compared with Other Social Sciences

The goal of social psychology is to identify universal properties of human nature that make everyone susceptible to social influence, regardless of social class or culture.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

the power of social influence
THE POWER OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE

When trying to convince people that their behavior is greatly influenced by the social environment, the social psychologist is up against a formidable barrier:

All of us tend to explain people’s behavior in terms of their personalities.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The tendency to explain our own and other people’s behavior entirely in terms of personality traits, thereby underestimating the power of social influence.

underestimating the power of social influence
Underestimating the Power of Social Influence
  • When we underestimate the power of social influence, we gain a feeling of false security.
  • Doing so gives the rest of us the feeling that we could never engage in the repugnant behavior shown by others.
  • Ironically, this in turn increases our personal vulnerability to possibly destructive social influence by lulling us into lowering our guard.
  • By failing to fully appreciate the power of the situation, we tend to:
    • Oversimplify complex situations which,
    • Decreases our understanding of the true causes.
underestimating the power of social influence25
Underestimating the Power of Social Influence
  • Aspects of the social situation that may seem minor can have powerful effects, overwhelming the differences in people’s personalities.
  • Personality differences do exist and frequently are of great importance.
  • But social and environmental situations can be so powerful that they have dramatic effects on almost everyone.
underestimating the power of social influence26
Underestimating the Power of Social Influence

Lee Ross and colleagues had university resident assistants identify which students would play games more cooperatively and which would play more competitively.

All student volunteers then played the same game.

  • Half were told that it was the Wall Street Game.
  • Half were told that it was the Community Game.

Players’ behavior changed depending on something as seemingly trivial as the game’s name.

  • When it was called the Wall Street Game, two thirds played competitively.
  • When it was called the Community Game, only one third played competitively.
the subjectivity of the social situation
The Subjectivity of the Social Situation
  • How humans will behave in a given situations is not determined by the objective conditions of a situation but, rather how they perceive it (construal).
  • Human beings are sense making creatures, constantly interpreting things.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

the subjectivity of the social situation29
The Subjectivity of the Social Situation

What exactly do we mean by the social situation?

One strategy for defining it would be to specify the objective properties of the situation and then document the behaviors that follow from these objective properties.

Behaviorism

A school of psychology maintaining that to understand human behavior, one need only consider the reinforcing properties of the environment—that is, how positive and negative events in the environment are associated with specific behaviors.

the subjectivity of the social situation30
The Subjectivity of the Social Situation
  • Behaviorists chose not to deal with cognition, thinking, and feeling because they considered these concepts too vague and mentalistic and not sufficiently anchored to observable behavior.
  • But behaviorism therefore has proved inadequate for a complete understanding of the social world.
  • We need to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the people in it, to see how they construe the world around them.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

the subjectivity of the social situation31
The Subjectivity of the Social Situation

This emphasis on construal, the way people interpret the social situation, has its roots in an approach called Gestalt psychology.

Gestalt Psychology

A school of psychology stressing the importance of studying the subjective way in which an object appears in people’s minds (the gestalt or “whole”) rather than the objective, physical attributes of the object.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

gestalt psychology
Gestalt Psychology
  • The Gestalt approach was formulated in Germany in the first part of the twentieth century by Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Kohler, Max Wertheimer, and colleagues.
  • In the late 1930s, several of these psychologists emigrated to the United States to escape the Nazi regime.

“If I were required to name the one person who has had the greatest impact on the field, it would have to be Adolph Hitler.”

(Cartwright, 1979, p. 84)

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

gestalt psychology33
Gestalt Psychology

Among the émigrés was Kurt Lewin, generally considered the founding father of modern experimental social psychology.

Lewin took the bold step of applying Gestalt principles beyond the perception of objects to social perception.

Lewin was the first scientist to stress the importance of taking the perspective of the people in any social situation to see how they construe this social environment.

Lewin illustration copyright (2007) Nick Langley. Used with permission.

where construals come from basic human motives
WHERE CONSTRUALS COME FROM: BASIC HUMAN MOTIVES
  • If it is true that subjective and not objective situations influence people, then we need to understand how people arrive at their subjective impressions of the world.
  • What are people trying to accomplish when they interpret the social world?
where construals come from
Where Construals Come From
  • We human beings are complex organisms; at a given moment, various intersecting motives underlie our thoughts and behaviors.
  • Over the years, social psychologists have found that two of these motives are of primary importance:
    • The need to feel good about ourselves,
    • The need to be accurate.
the self esteem approach the need to feel good about ourselves
The Self-Esteem Approach: The Need to Feel Good about Ourselves
  • Most people have a strong need to maintain reasonably high self-esteem, to see themselves as good, competent, and decent.
  • Given the choice between distorting the world in order to feel good about themselves and representing the world accurately, people often take the first option.

Self-Esteem

People’s evaluations of their own self-worth;

the extent to which they view themselves as good, competent, and decent.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

justifying past behavior
Justifying Past Behavior
  • Acknowledging major deficiencies in ourselves is very difficult, even when the cost is seeing the world inaccurately.
  • Although extreme distortion of reality is rare outside of mental institutions, normal people can put a slightly different spin on the existing facts, one that puts us in the best possible light.
suffering and self justification
Suffering and Self-Justification
  • Why would hazing cause someone to like his fraternity?
  • Didn’t behavioristic psychology teach us that rewards, not punishments, make us like things associated with them?
  • But social psychologists have discovered that this formulation is far too simple to account for human thinking and motivation.
  • Unlike rats and pigeons, human beings have a need to justify their past behavior, and this need leads them to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that don’t always fit into the neat categories of the behaviorist.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

suffering and self justification39
Suffering and Self-Justification

Experiments demonstrated that the more unpleasant the procedure the participants underwent to get into a group, the better they liked the group.

The important points to remember here are:

(1) That human beings are motivated to maintain a positive picture of themselves, in part by justifying their past behavior, and

(2) That under certain specifiable conditions, this leads them to do things that at first glance might seem surprising or paradoxical.

For example, they might prefer people and things for whom they have suffered to people and things they associate with ease and pleasure.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

the social cognition approach the need to be accurate
The Social Cognition Approach: The Need to Be Accurate
  • The Social Cognition perspective is an approach to social psychology that takes into account the way in which human beings think about the world.
  • Individuals are viewed as trying to gain accurate understandings so that they can make effective judgments and decisions that range from which cereal to eat to whom they will marry.
  • In actuality, individuals typically act on the basis of incomplete and inaccurately interpreted information.
social cognition
SOCIAL COGNITION

The social cognition perspective views people as amateur sleuths doing their best to understand and predict their social world.

Social Cognition

How people think about themselves and the social world; more specifically, how people select, interpret, remember, and use social information to make judgments and decisions.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

expectations about the social world
EXPECTATIONS ABOUT THE SOCIAL WORLD
  • Our expectations can even change the nature of the social world.
  • Rosenthal & Jacobson (1968) found that a teacher who expects certain students to do well may cause those students to do better – A self-fulfilling prophecy .

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

expectations about the social world43
EXPECTATIONS ABOUT THE SOCIAL WORLD

How does such a self-fulfilling prophecy come about?

Teaching expecting specific students to perform well often:

  • More attention to them,
  • Listen to them with more respect,
  • Call on them more frequently,
  • Encourage them,
  • Try to teach them more challenging material.

This, in turn, helps these students feel:

  • Happier,
  • More respected,
  • More motivated,
  • and smarter.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

additional motives
Additional Motives

A variety of motives influence what we think, feel, and do:

  • Biological drives (e.g., hunger & thirst),
  • Fear,
  • Desire for rewards (e.g., love, favors),
  • Need for control.
social psychology and social problems
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Why study social influence?

  • We are curious.
  • Some social psychologists contribute to the solution of social problems.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social psychology and social problems46
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Social psychologists have always been interested in social challenges:

  • Reducing hostility and prejudice,
  • and increasing altruism and generosity.

Contemporary social psychologists have broadened the issues of concern:

  • Conservation,
  • Safe sex education,
  • TV violence,
  • Negotiation strategies,
  • Life adjustments (college, death of loved one).
social psychology and social problems47
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Social psychologists realized that in AIDS education, arousing fear would not help with most people.

Most people do not want to think about dying or contracting horrible illness when ready to have sex.

Many people feel that interrupting the sexual act to put on a condom tends to destroy the mood.

Given these considerations, when people have been exposed to frightening messages, instead of engaging in rational problem-solving behavior, most tend to reduce that fear by engaging in denial: “It can’t happen to me,” “Surely none of my friends have AIDS,” etc.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social psychology and social problems48
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The denial stems not from the desire to be accurate but from the need to maintain one’s self-esteem.

If people can convince themselves that their sexual partners do not have AIDS, they can continue to enjoy unprotected sex while maintaining a reasonably good picture of themselves as rational beings.

By understanding how this process works, social psychologists have been able to contribute important insights to AIDS education and prevention.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

slide49

Social Psychology

Throughout this book, we will examine many similar examples of the applications of social psychology.

  • aggression
  • altruism
  • attitudes
  • attribution
  • attraction
  • authority
  • research
  • ethics
  • deception
  • gender
  • emotion
  • decisions
  • social cognition
  • social influence
  • social interaction
  • social dilemmas
  • social norms
  • social support
  • groups
  • prejudice
  • decisions
  • obedience
  • conformity
  • courtrooms

and much more!

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social psychology50

6th edition

Social Psychology

Elliot Aronson

University of California, Santa Cruz

Timothy D. Wilson

University of Virginia

Robin M. Akert

Wellesley College

slides by Travis Langley

Henderson State University