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Social Change. Questions and Theories. Psychologists:. Investigate social problems as they affect the individual. Focus on peoples’ behaviours and attitudes, and work to change both. Psychologists ask…. What must people DO to change their behaviours?

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Social change

Social Change

Questions and Theories


  • Investigate social problems as they affect the individual.

  • Focus on peoples’ behaviours and attitudes, and work to change both.

Psychologists ask
Psychologists ask…

  • What must people DO to change their behaviours?

  • What does a successful behaviour modification program look like? (i.e. what kinds of reinforcements, how often, working in teams or alone?)

  • Do people need help or can they change on their own?

  • Research says: Peoples’ attitudes are linked to their behaviours. This is often the key to change: change the attitude, change the behaviours!

Aesop s fable a case study the fox and the grapes
Aesop’s fable… a Case Study: The fox and the grapes…

A fox sees some high-hanging grapes and wishes to eat them. When the fox is unable to think of a way to reach them, he surmises that the grapes are probably not worth eating, as they must not be ripe or that they are sour.

Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance

  • The fox is reducing the conflict between his thoughts and his actions, a.k.a. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE.

  • He wants the grapes but can’t have them.

  • So to feel better, he changes his mind about how good the grapes are.

  • He then leaves them alone.

Festinger and carlsmith 1959
Festinger and Carlsmith (1959)

  • Had subjects complete a mundane task for an hour. All subjects were expected to find it boring.

  • Reserchers paid subjects in this way:

  • Some got $0

  • Some got $1

  • Some got $20


  • Who reported the most enjoyment?


  • Those who were paid more (high dissonance)


  • Those who were paid less (low dissonance)


  • Those paid nothing (no dissonance):


    Cognitive Dissonance is a pressure to change our attitudes or actions.


Social change is defined as: “Any observable difference or modification in social organization or patterns of behaviour over time”.

They look at 4 aspects of Social Change:

  • Direction of Change

  • Rate of Change

  • Sources

  • Controllability

4 aspects of social change
4 Aspects of Social Change…

1. Direction of change:

Is it a positive or negative change & who says so?

2. Rate of change:

Is the degree of change slow, moderate, or fast?

4 aspects of social change1
4 Aspects of Social Change…

  • Sources:

    What factors are behind the influences of change in a society? Are they exogenous (coming from another society) or endogenous (coming from within society itself) influences?

    4. Controllability:

    Many sociologists are interested in the degree to which social change can be controlled or engineered.


  • Anthropologists regard cultures as constantly changing organisms and see cultural change as being influenced by a limited number of factors.

  • These factors are generally broad and affect all members of a culture.

Anthropologists ask
Anthropologists ASK:

  • They ask:

    • Was a cultural change caused by a change in society’s leadership?

      2. Was it caused by a shift in the values and norms of the

      culture’s members?

    • Is technological change a factor in an observed cultural change?

    • Have changes to the environment resulted in changes to the culture?

3 processes
3 processes:

1. Invention:


2. discovery:


3. diffusion:


Conditions necessary for social change
Conditions Necessary for Social Change

  • Change within society is a natural process that must take place.

  • Some conditions that would justify the need for social change are: hunger, famine, inequality, war and political ideologies, and even the depletion of the environment.

  • Along with there being conditions which make change necessary, there are also forces that inhibit change.

Forces that impact social change
Forces that impact Social Change

  • Charismatic leader that promises change

  • A populace ready for change

  • Role of the elites (when there isn’t ONE leader to take charge, there can be a group of ‘modernizing elites’)

  • Technological advancements

  • Society suffers a major catastrophe or triumph

  • There is a clash of traditions and values

  • Human Rights Codes are violated

Roots of violence
Roots of Violence…

1. What are the conditions for social change in this article?

2. Identify the factors that impede social change in this article.

Forces that impede social change
Forces that Impede Social Change

  • Traditional cultural views

  • A distorted world view within society

  • Lack of education & illiteracy

  • Lack of technology

  • A tyrannical ruler or a strong, charismatic leader that imposes their own world view on society

  • A powerful small elite group with established political and economic power

  • Resistance from the people that do not want change to occur


  • A) Discuss one social change you would welcome. How could this social change be engineered?

  • B) Discuss one possible social change that frightens/bothers you.

  • C) Comment on how this change can be stopped and identify its root causes.