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The Sociocultural Level of Analysis. 4.1 Sociocultural Cognition. Principles. Human beings are social animals and we have a basic need to belong Culture influences behaviour

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the sociocultural level of analysis

The Sociocultural Level of Analysis

4.1 Sociocultural Cognition

  • Human beings are social animals and we have a basic need to belong
  • Culture influences behaviour
  • Because humans are social animals, they have a social self. People do not only have an individual identity, but also a collective or social one
  • People’s views of the world are resistant to change
  • Culture can be defined as the norms and values that define a society
be reflective
Be Reflective
  • Brainstorm a list of the groups to which you belong.
  • How important are these groups in your personal identity?
  • What needs do these different groups fill in your life?
research methods
Research Methods
  • More qualitative
  • Naturalistic
  • Participant observation
  • Descriptive data
  • Overt observation
  • Covert observation


participant observation
Participant Observation
  • Overt Observation: example – O´Reilly 2000 studied British expatriates on the Costa del Sol
  • Ethical considerations
  • Covert: Example – Leon Festinger et al’s When Prophecy Fails 1956 in Chicago – a religious cult
  • Ethical


attribution theory
Attribution Theory
  • Attribution is defined as how people interpret and explain causal relationships in the social world
  • Humans have a need to understand why things happen

Example:1. Explain why to this scenario: You are sitting in an restaurant, waiting for your date to show up. He or she is late. What is your explanation to why he or she is late?

2. You received a high grade on a test. What is your explanation to the high grade?

attribution theory1
Attribution Theory
  • Who (or what) is responsible?For poverty?  For unemployment? For alcoholism? For my math grade?
  • whether we help and how we help– “Who is responsible for the problem?”– “Who is responsible for the solution?”
attribution theory2
Attribution Theory
  • By Heider 1958, based on the assumptionthatpeoplewantto try toexplainobservablebehaviour (like a scientist).
  • Dispositional or situationalfactors
  • Peoplehave a need for it and tendto look for causes and reasons (motives) toconstructourowncausal relationships
  • Wantto be ableto understand, predict and control the environment
attribution theory3
Attribution Theory
  • Cultures constructtheirowncausalexplanations, for example the origin and meaningoflife
  • Sometimespeopleapplymotives and dispositions toobjects or choosetobelieve in fate or witchcraft
  • Example: Evan-Pritchard 1976, Azanepeople in central Africabelived it waswitchcraftthatkilledseveralpeoplewhen a doorwaycollapsedwhen the door hadbeeneatenthrough by termites.
the actor observer effect
The Actor-observer effect
  • When people discuss their own behaviour, they tend to do attribute it to situational factors (external) “bad luck” “had a cold”

The tendency to think: "If others make mistakes,

it's their fault. If I do it, it's not my fault.

It's due to the situation I'm in."

  • When people observe someone else’s behaviour, they are more likely to attribute it to dispositional factors (internal) “he is so nice” “she is so smart”
errors in attributions illogical conclusions
Errors in Attributions – illogical conclusions

The Fundamental attribution error

  • Is when people overestimate the role of dispositional factors in an individual’s behaviour, and underestimate the situational factors
  • “she helped me – so she must be nice”
  • “what an idiot,

he didn’t say hello today”

  • Example: Read Lee Ross et al.

1977 , p. 105



  • has helpedusto understand howpeople make common errorswhenthey try toexplainwhathappens in the world
  • Supported by many studies


  • culturallybiased (why do youthink?)
  • Lab and sampling bias (explainwhy)
errors in attribution
Errors in attribution
  • Self-Serving bias (SSB)

The tendency to make personal attributions for successes and situational attributions for failure

For example: a good grade – I am so smart!

A low grade – bad teacher/ been sick/ wrong questions…

Example: Read Lau & Russel’s (1980) study about American football coaches and players

Why do we do this? (Greenberg et al. 1982)

strength of bias depends on
Strength of bias depends on…
  • If one is depressed – the thinking pattern changes
  • Which culture one is from, for example:

Modesty bias – cultural differences in SSB

US and Japanese students, Kashima and Triandis1986 asked to remember details from slides from unfamiliar countries and then asked to explain their performance.

Why do you think that is?

  • Do our attitudes influence our actions?–  More so when we are more self-conscious
  • Do actions influence our attitudes?

Cognitive dissonance (Festinger)– when attitudes andbehavior contradict each other … what changes?

biases in judgment
Biases in Judgment
  • Implicit Personality Theory
    • People assume that certain aspects or traits go together
      • Halo effect: We assume people we like have good characteristics, even if we haven’t seen them, or perceive more characteristics as positive as well without knowing
      • An example would be judging a good-looking person as more intelligent. (see video on attraction on the blog, job interviews)
  • Self-concept bias
    • What we consider important in ourselves is often what we consider important in others
  • Primacy effects
    • People are influenced more by info they receive early in an interaction than by info that appears later
    • We will even re-interpret new information so that it fits our earlier impression of people
  • Would you like to do some role-playing?
  • The fundamental attribution
  • Self-serving bias
  • Cognitive dissonance
social identity theory1
Social Identity Theory
  • Henry Tajfeldeveloped this theory
  • Which assumes that individuals strive to improve their self-image by trying to enhance their self-esteem based on either personal identity or various social identities
  • In other words, We also enhance the sense of identity by making comparisons with out-groups.
  • Social identity is different from personal identity, which is derived from personal characteristics and individual relationships.
social identity theory2
Social Identity Theory
  • Example: When abroad, especially in countries which have particularly different languages and cultures, we feel our nationality far more keenly than when we are at home. We will tend to band together in national groups, perhaps making comments about the strangeness of the natives.
  • Recognize yourself?
social identity theory3
Social identity Theory
  • Based on Social categorization
  • In-group (us) – out-group (them) and by social comparison one maintain one’s self-esteem
  • This is done automatically, as soon as we consider us being part of a group, even when it is by chance/casually assigned. Is there one between DP1 and DP2? Other classes?
  • absence of competition – not necessarily a negative outcome
  • Describes
  • Does not predict
  • In Some cases our personal identity is stronger
  • Fails to address the environment
social representations foundation of social cognition
Social Representations – foundation of social cognition
  • The shared beliefs and explanations held by the society in which we live or the group to which we belong (Moscovici 1973)
  • “cultural schemas”

- Provide a common understanding for communication within the group

stereotypes prejudice
Stereotypes & Prejudice
  • Write down the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the following…and be honest.
  • WE ALL have stereotypes!


  • IB student
  • IV student
  • Malmö
  • Doctor
  • Blond girl
  • Men
  • teachers
  • Scientist
  • Women
  • Americans
  • Chinese
  • Is defined as social perception of an individual in terms of group membership or physical attributes. It is a generalization that is made about a group and then attributed to members of that group.
  • Can be either positive or negative.
implicit association test harvard
Implicit Association Test (Harvard)
  • Online test that tests your attitudes (implicitly)
  • The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report.
  • The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about.
  • For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science
what are implicit and explicit stereotypes
What are implicit and explicit stereotypes?
  • Stereotypes are the belief that most members of a group have some characteristic.
  • Some examples of stereotypes are the belief that women are nurturing or the belief that police officers like donuts.
  • An explicit stereotype is the kind that you deliberately think about and report.
  • An implicit stereotype is one that occurs outside of conscious awareness and control.
  • Even if you say that men and women are equally good at math, it is possible that you associate math with men without knowing it. In this case we would say that you have an implicit math-men stereotype.
  • After completing one IAT, answer the questions on the handout in writing (on the blog)
  • Your answers may be short – the importance is that you reflect upon implicit stereotypes and the potential consequences they may have on people’s behaviour (including you)
formation of stereotypes how do we get them
Formation of stereotypes (how do we get them?)
  • Stereotyping is form of social categorization that affects the behaviour of thosewho hold the stereotype and thosewho are labelled by a stereotype.
  • Schema processing
formation of stereotypes
Formation of stereotypes
  • Social categorization (Tajfel)
  • Personal experience and gatekeepers (the media, parents…)

Campbell: grain of truth hypothesis

(although remember the errors in attribution)

  • Hamilton and Gifford: stereotypes are the result of an illusory correlation – people see a relationship between two variables even when there is none
formation of stereotypes1
Formation of stereotypes
  • Confirmation bias – seek out support for the stereotype, which makes stereotypical thinking resistant to change
  • Snyder and Swann (1978) conducted a study which showed just that with female college students (introverted vs. extroverted)
  • Methods one use to study stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination…? Due to social desirability effect and “politically correct”
another teacher who wanted to teach through role playing
Another teacher who wanted to teach through role-playing…
  • Jane Elliot –A Class Divided
stereotype threat stereotypes effect on behaviour
Stereotype Threat (stereotypes effect on behaviour)
  • The effect of stereotypes on an individual’s performance
  • Spotlight anxiety (Steele 1997)
  • Women and Math (Spencer et al. 1977)
  • Ethnicity and different abilities (Steele and Aronson 1995)

Videos on the blog

stereotype threat affects cognitive ability
Stereotype threat affects cognitive ability

Women and Math stereotype threat:


Stereotype threat:

  • Findtwoexamples of stereotypes in the media (newspaper, books, posters, films, products…)
  • Bring it toclass and explainwhy the image represents a stereotype.