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Social Psychology PS1206. Dr. Jean Quigley Hilary term 2009 Tues 1-2 Arts 1008; Fri 1-2 Arts 2043. Course Outline. Social psychology as a discipline: 1. Defining Social Psychology 2. A short history of Social Psychology 3. Evidence: Methods of Enquiry Evaluating our social world:

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social psychology ps1206

Social Psychology PS1206

Dr. Jean Quigley

Hilary term 2009

Tues 1-2 Arts 1008; Fri 1-2 Arts 2043

course outline
Course Outline

Social psychology as a discipline:

1. Defining Social Psychology

2. A short history of Social Psychology

3. Evidence: Methods of Enquiry

Evaluating our social world:

4. The concept of Attitude

5. Attitude Change

Social thinking - Perceiving people and events:

6. Constructing the Self

7. Social Perception and Attribution

8. Social Cognition

Social influence - Understanding our place within the group:

9. Social Influence

10. Social Interaction

11. Intergroup Relations - Group Processes

Interacting with others:

12. Aggression & Altruism

13. Interpersonal Attraction

14. Prejudice and Out-Group Perception

Broader perspectives in social psychology:

15. Language & Discourse in Social Psychology

16. Evolutionary Social Psychology

17. A Cross Cultural Perspective on Social Psychology

18. Using Social Psychology


Required text(s)

  • Hogg, M.A. & Vaughan, G.M. 5th Ed. (2008) Social Psychology. London: Arnold.
  • Fraser, C. & Burchell, B. (2001) Introducing Social Psychology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Recommended reading

Supplementary texts

For classical readings:

  • Hewstone, M., Manstead, A. S. R. & Stroebe, W. (1997) (Eds.). The Blackwell Reader in Social Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell.

For detailed overviews of main topics:

  • Gilbert, D.T., Fiske, S.T., & Lindzey, G. (1998). (Eds.). The Handbook of Social Psychology. (4th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Advanced/Critical Readings [Reference]:

  • Gergen, K.J. (1985). Social psychology and the wrong revolution. European Journal of Social Psychology, 19, 463-84.
  • Parker, I. (1989) The Crisis in Modern Social Psychology and How to End it. London: Routledge.
  • Rogers, R.S., Stenner, P., Gleeson, K. & Rogers, W.S. (1995). Social Psychology: A Critical Agenda.London: Polity Press.
  • Sapsford, R., Still, A., Wetherell, M., Miell, D. & Stevens, R. (1998). Theory and Social Psychology. London: Sage.
  • Tesser, A. (1995). Advanced Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Tuffin, K. (2005) Understanding Critical Social Psychology. London:Sage.
the social animal the importance of social relationships
The social animal: The importance of social relationships
  • Having close friends and staying in contact with family members is associated with health benefits such as protecting against the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, having lower blood pressure, and living longer(Bennett et al., 2006; Giles et al., 2005; Hawkley et al., 2006).
  • Children who are socially excluded from activities by their peers are more likely than other children to suffer academically, as well as socially, in school several years later (Buhs et al, 2006).
  • Experiencing a social rejection is so painful that it produces activity in the same part of the brain as when we feel physical pain, even when rejection comes from a group we dislike (Gonsalkorale & Williams, 2007)
what is social psychology
What is social psychology?
  • Studies the events and processes that make up our everyday lives
  • Examines the way in which our thought and behaviour is influenced by the presence of others.
  • Seeks to discover the principles underlying group and individual interaction.
  • Seeks to link observation, theory & application.
Understand social behaviour in terms of
    • internal characteristics of the person (e.g., personality, mental processes)
    • external influences (the effect of the social environment).

Some questions:

  • Why do we conform?
    • How are stereotypes formed?
  • What attracts us to other people?
    • How are we ‘social’ selves?
  • Why are we ‘social loafers?
    • What are ‘cognitive misers?’
  • How do juries make decisions?
    • Why do we behave differently in groups?
academic discipline of social psychology
Academic discipline of social psychology
  • One of the major areas within psychology - closest to the social sciences.
  • A very large and very active field
  • Poised between individual mind and broader social context
psychology or sociology
Psychology or Sociology?

PSYCHOLOGY: social context is an additional variable that modifies individual psychology but is not itself formative

SOCIOLOGY: begins with the nature of social context – how does this construct the person? (George Herbert Mead, Lev Vygotsky)

  • Is there a universal human nature, do human minds work much the same way across history and cultures?
  • How can you establish the basic psychology of the individual (motivation, desire, formation of beliefs and opinions) without considering the formative nature of social life?

Is social psychology what social psychologists do?

Core disagreements about nature of knowledge; understandings of the individual; the role of science (epistemology)

  • Objective science of social psychology
  • Moral science of social psychology
  • Critical /politically informed social psychology
gordon w allport 1954
Gordon W. Allport 1954

With few exceptions, social psychologists regard their discipline as an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behaviour of individuals is influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others.

The term “implied presence” refers to the many activities the individual carries out because of their position (role) in a complex social structure and because of their membership in a cultural group.

some social psychological wisdoms
Some social psychological wisdoms
  • Our judgments are often flawed.
  • We process information in self-referential ways.
  • We are more susceptible to social influence than we realize.
  • We can be significantly influenced by seemingly insignificant situational variables.
the constructed nature of reality
The constructed nature of reality

We live out our lives embedded within a socially constructed view of reality.

Muzar Sherif (1936) - the autokinetic effect, the tendency for a stationary point of light viewed in a dark room to appear to be moving.

  • Other classic research on related phenomena such as conformity, persuasion, and social comparison, make a strong case that our perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and the world are profoundly shaped by our social environment.
the power of social influence
The power of social influence

The particular social situations we find ourselves in have a great impact on our behavior.

Three main lines of research:

i) Solomon Asch and others (e.g., Asch, 1956) line experiments.

ii) Stanley Milgram’s (1974) obedience research.

iii) The Stanford Prison Experiment (Haney, Banks & Zimbardo, 1973).

  • We tend to attribute the (conformist/inhumane…) actions revealed in these experiments to the (compliant/spineless/sadistic…) nature of the participants rather than to the power of the social situations.
the limits of self knowledge
The limits of self-knowledge

We are not only often in error when judging why others behave they way they do, but in judging the causes of our own behavior as well.

Although people can readily explain why they believe, feel, and do the things they do, their explanations are often wrong.

  • Nisbett & Wilson (1977) demonstrated that people are often influenced by aspects of their environment without any awareness of this influence. And conversely, people sometimes think they are affected by an aspect of their environment when in fact they are not.
  • The self we are aware of and that we think directs our thoughts, feelings, and actions is really analogous to a figurehead readily influenced by various psychological operatives working hard behind the scenes.
the effects of external cues on our thinking
The effects of external cues on our thinking

Important kinds of influences are overlooked when people try to understand their beliefs, feelings, & actions

Subtle situational factors in the environment exert a powerful influence on us without our conscious awareness

External cues bring particular thoughts and actions previously stored in our minds from past experience closer to consciousness, and by so doing, increase their effects on our beliefs, feelings, and actions (Schachter & Singer 1962)

the effects of our desires on our thinking
The effects of our desires on our thinking

Unconscious motivations are also highly influential

(e.g., work on cognitive dissonance, reactance, self-serving biases, goal automaticity, & terror management)

A large amount of what we believe, feel, and do is determined by our desires to sustain positive and meaningful views of ourselves, those individuals, groups, and concepts we care about, and the world around us.

These motives often cloud our thinking and bias our judgments, thereby reducing the accuracy of our views of ourselves and others and reducing the effectiveness of our actions.

Social psychology investigates why people allow their desires for positive and meaningful views of themselves and the world to bias them in various ways and thereby interfere with accurate perceptions and effective actions.
an overall social psychological portrait of humanity
An Overall Social Psychological Portrait of Humanity

We live out our lives within a culturally constructed view of reality,

prone to influence by the prevailing social milieu,

with limited insight into why we think, feel, and behave the way we do;

we are heavily influenced by cues in our environment and motives of which we are often unaware,

and we are driven to defend our beliefs and strive for significance by unconscious fears of vulnerability and mortality.