Chapter 1: Introduction to Social Psychology Social Psychology by Tom Gilovich, Dacher Keltner, and Richard Nisbett
Characterizing Social Psychology Social Psychology - The scientific study of the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of individuals in social situations 1. Explaining Behavior • What social psychologists study: - how people are influenced by others - how people make decisions - inferences we make about others’ attitudes and personalities - influence of situational variables on behavior - how we make sense of our world
Characterizing Social Psychology 2. Comparing Social Psychology to Related Disciplines a. Personality psychology - stresses individual differences in behavior b. Cognitive psychology - study of how people think about, perceive, and remember aspects of the world c. Sociology - study of behavior of people in the aggregate (population level issues)
Characterizing Social Psychology 3. Proximal and Distal Influences in Social Psychology Proximal - factors that exist in the here-and-now or that immediately precede what the individual does Distal - factors that are more removed in time from a given context or episode In recent years, two distal factors have greatly influenced the field of social psychology:
Characterizing Social Psychology • Evolution - explaining commonalities in human behavior as due to adaptation / natural selection • Culture - attempt to understand the deep cultural differences that exist between societies, and how those differences influence behavior
Themes in Social Psychology The Power of The Situation Classic issue in social psychology: is behavior due to individual differences (personality) or situational influences? 1. Early Research and Theory: a. Lewin’s Field Theory
Themes in Social Psychology The Role of Construal A truism in psychology, based on much research, is that people often think about, perceive, or ‘construe’ the same stimulus in different ways. If we are to predict behavior in a given situation, we need to understand how an individual construes the situation.
Themes in Social Psychology The Role of Construal 1. Interpreting Reality Gestalt Psychology - based on the German word, Gestalt, meaning “form”, this approach stresses the fact that objects are perceived not by means of some automatic registering device but by active, usually unconscious, interpretation of what the object represents as a whole
Themes in Social Psychology Automatic and Controlled Processing The mind processes information in two ways in a social situation. One is an automatic, unconscious, often emotional reaction. The other is conscious, systematic, and likely to be governed by careful thought. e.g. Devine’s (1989a, 1989b) research on prejudice.
Themes in Social Psychology Automatic and Controlled Processing 1. Types of Unconscious Processing a. James’ - “skill acquisition” b. Freud - formation of beliefs & behaviors without conscious awareness 2. Functions of Unconscious Processing
Evolution and Human Behavior: How We Are The Same Darwin assumed that Natural Selection (an evolutionary process that operates to mold animals and plants such that traits that enhance the probability of survival and reproduction are passed on to subsequent generations) is just as important for behavioral propensities as they are for biological characteristics.
Evolution and Human Behavior: How We Are The Same 1. Human Universals 2. Group Living, Language, and Theory of Mind Theory of Mind - the understanding that other people have beliefs and desires. e.g. studies of children with autism demonstrate the lack of theory of mind in these persons.
Evolution and Human Behavior: How We Are The Same 3. Parental Investment In virtually all mammalian species, males expend far less energy devoted to raising their offspring compared to females. This may help to understand universal tendencies related to child rearing, sex, and gender.
Evolution and Human Behavior: How We Are The Same 4. Avoiding the Naturalistic Fallacy Definition: The way things are, are the way they should be. • It should be noted that some people mistake evolutionary accounts for behavior as suggesting that ‘biology is destiny.’ This is not true. We are predisposed for plenty of various behaviors, but those may often never arise.
Culture and Human Behavior: How We Are Different 1. Cultural Differences in Self-Definition • Independent (individualistic) vs. Interdependent (collectivist) cultures
Culture and Human Behavior: How We Are Different 2. Qualifications to these distinctions • regionalism, subcultures 3. Culture and Evolution as Tools for Understanding Situations • Nature proposes – culture disposes
The Need for Research • Common sense is inconsistent • 20/20 Hindsight bias • Cognitive Errors in Judgment • Confirmation Bias
Research Methods • Experiments - Do changes in one variable (X) cause changes in another variable (Y)? • Independent Variable (X) • condition or event that is manipulated by experimenter • Dependent Variable (Y) • variable that is affected (hopefully) by manipulating independent variable • Extraneous Variable(s) • any variable other than independent variable that may influence dependent variable
Example A study was conducted to examine the effects of temperature on aggression. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (low [70o-72o], moderate [80o-82o], or a high [90o-92o] temperature room). While in the room an assistant irritates the subjects. Subjects were later given a chance to “evaluate” the assistant and told that low ratings would cause the assistant to be fired.
Confounding of Variables • occurs when independent and extraneous variables are linked together • makes it impossible to tell which variable affected dependent variable
Research Methods • Minimize confounding with consistent procedures • Minimize confounding with random assignment • subjects have an equal chance of being assigned to any group or condition in the study. • the goal of random assignment is to equally distribute potential extraneous variables in each group.
Research Methods • Advantages of Experimental Research • Allows conclusions about cause & effect relationships between variables • Disadvantages of Experimental Research • Experimental conditions are artificial • do results “generalize” to the real world? • Some questions can’t be tested in an experiment
Correlation/Descriptive Research • Surveys • investigators use questionnaires or interviews to gather data about subject’s behavior • Naturalistic Observation • investigators observe subject behavior without direct intervention • Case Studies • in-depth probe of individual subject(s)
Correlation/Descriptive Research • Advantages • Study phenomena that can’t be studied in a lab • riots • effects of supervisor behavior on employees • effects of job loss on couples’ relationship quality • effects of smoking on physical health • Very realistic • results can be generalized to other settings
Correlation/Descriptive Research • Disadvantages • less control over extraneous variables • difficult to measure behavior as precisely (compared to lab experiments) • cannot demonstrate cause and effect relationships
Ethical Considerations • Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) • Potential benefits must outweigh potential harm • APA ethical guidelines • Voluntary participation • Informed consent • Privacy • Middlemist personal space experiments • Debriefing
Correlation • The extent to which one variable can be understood on the basis of another • Two properties of correlation coefficient • direction (positive or negative) • magnitude (strength of the relationship)
Correlation: r = .95
Correlation: r = .00
Correlation: High r = -.95 Low Low High