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Social Psychology. Social psychology studies the beliefs and behaviors of the individual (the self) within a group (others). Humans are social animals: “We view ourselves as others view us”.

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Social psychology
Social Psychology

  • Social psychology studies the beliefs and behaviors of the individual (the self) within a group (others).

  • Humans are social animals: “We view ourselves as others view us”.

  • The ‘flagship’ journal of social psychology is titled: “The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology”.

Social psychology 1276739

Social Psychology Investigates

Prejudice (unconscious prejudice,

in group / out group bias)

Social influence (e.g., obedience, altruism)

Group dynamics (e.g., groupthink)

Attitude change (e.g., persuasion)

Social psychology 1276739

Where does ‘evil’ lie?

Inside the person

(the apple)


Inside the situation?

(the barrel)

Social psychology 1276739

Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick – sentenced 8 years

Social psychology 1276739

Stanley Milgram asked a similar question in a series of famous studies on obedience to authority.

He was partly motivated by a desire to understand how individual members of a civilized society could cooperate in the torture and murder of over 6,000,000 civilians.

While a professor of psychology at Yale, he brought over 1,000 research participants into an experimental situation to study the conditions under which participants would willingly administer high levels of painful electric shock to fellow research participants.

Social psychology 1276739

Psychiatrists predicted that less than 1 person in 100 would administer the highest level of shock requested.

Stanford prison study
Stanford Prison Study fully!

  • In 1971 Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned Stanford University students to be either ‘prisoners’ or ‘guards’ for a 2 week experiment. The experiment had to be discontinued after 6 days, because of extreme ‘prisoner’ abuse.

Social psychology 1276739

Bags were placed over students heads, fully!

they were stripped,

chained together,

sexually humiliated,

tripped by guards,

forced to clean toilets with their hands.

Social psychology 1276739

A few ‘rotten apples’ fully!


A rotten barrel?

Social psychology 1276739

Milgram’s studies at Yale, Zimbardo’s studies at Stanford and a large number of other follow-up studies all found that situational factors (not personal factors) were the overwhelming cause of inhumane behavior.

Yet our tendency is to erroneously blame the person.

This paradoxical bias can be conceptualized as ‘a special case’ of a general principle called “The Fundamental Attribution Error”.