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Social Psychology. Psychology: A Concise Introduction 2 nd Edition Richard Griggs Chapter 9. Prepared by J. W. Taylor V. Social Psychology. The scientific study of how we influence one another’s behavior and thinking

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Social psychology l.jpg

Social Psychology

Psychology: A Concise Introduction2nd Edition

Richard Griggs

Chapter 9

Prepared byJ. W. Taylor V

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Social Psychology

  • The scientific study of how we influence one another’s behavior and thinking

  • Social psychology’s focus is on how situational forces influence our behavior and thinking

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The Journey…

  • How Others Influence Our Behavior

  • How We Think about Our Own and Others’ Behavior

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How Others Influence Our Behavior

Why We Conform

Why We Comply

Why We Obey

How Groups Influence Us

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Social Influence

  • Examines how other people and the social forces they create influence an individual’s behavior

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Why We Conform

  • Conformity is defined as a change in behavior, belief, or both to conform to a group norm as a result of real or imagined group pressure

  • Although “conformity” has negative connotations in Western cultures, some conformity is needed for society to function

    • For instance, in the military, conformity is essential because in a time of war, soldiers cannot each do his or her own thing while in battle

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Why We Conform

Informational Social Influence



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The Sherif Study and Informational Social Influence

  • Participants, who thought they were in a visual perception experiment, were placed in a completely dark room and exposed to a stationary point of light, and their task was to estimate the distance this light moved

    • The light never moved; it was an illusion called the autokinetic effect, whereby a stationary point of light appears to move in a dark room because there is no frame of reference and our eyes spontaneously move

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The Sherif Study and Informational Social Influence

  • During the first session, each participant was alone in the dark room when making their judgments

    • But during the next three sessions, they were in the room with two other participants and could hear each others estimates of the illusory light movement

  • The average individual estimates varied greatly during the first session

    • During the next three sessions, though, the individual estimates converged on a common group norm

    • A year later, participants were brought back and made estimates alone; yet, these estimates remained at the group norm

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The Sherif Study and Informational Social Influence

  • This pattern of results suggests the impact of informational social influence, which is influence that stems from our desire to be correct in situations in which the correct action of judgment is uncertain and we need information

  • When a task is ambiguous or difficult and we want to be correct, we look to others for information

  • For instance, when visiting a foreign culture, it is usually a good idea to watch how the people living in that culture behave in various situations because they provide information to outsiders on how to behave in that culture

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The Asch Study and Normative Social Influence

  • In Asch’s study, the visual judgments were easy visual discriminations involving line-length judgments

    • Specifically, participants had to judge which one of three lines was the same length as a “standard line”

  • In this study, the correct answer/behavior was obvious

    • Indeed, when making such judgments alone, almost no one made any mistakes

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An Example of Asch’s Line-Length Judgment Task

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The Asch Study and Normative Social Influence

  • In Asch’s study, there were other “participants” who were in fact experimental confederates, part of the experimental setting

    • On each trial, judgments were made orally, and Asch structured the situation so the experimental confederates responded before the true participant

    • These experimental confederates arranged to make mistakes on certain trials in an effort to see how the “real” participant would respond when asked to make line length judgments

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The Asch Study and Normative Social Influence

  • About 75% of the participants gave an obviously wrong answer at least once, and overall, conformity occurred 37% of the time

  • This conformity occurred despite the fact the “correct” answer, unlike in Sherif’s study, was obvious

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The Asch Study and Normative Social Influence

  • Asch’s results illustrate the power of normative social influence, influence stemming from our desire to gain the approval and to avoid the disapproval of other people

    • In essence, we change our behavior to meet the expectations of others and to gain the acceptance of others

  • If the line-length judgments were extremely difficult, and the correct answers were not clear, then informational social influence would likely lead to even higher levels of conformity

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Situational Factors that Impact Conformity

  • If the group is unanimous, conformity will increase

    • Asch found that the amount of conformity decreased considerably if just one of the experimental confederate participants gives the correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that is different from the incorrect answer all other confederates gave

    • As one person is “different” somehow, it allows other people to avoid conforming.

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Situational Factors that Impact Conformity

  • The mode of responding is also critical

    • Secret ballots lead to less conformity than public, verbal reports

  • The status of group members intervenes

    • More conformity is observed from a person that is of lesser status than the other group members or is attracted to the group and wants to be part of it

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Why We Comply

  • Compliance is acting in accordance to a direct request from another person or group

    • Occurs in many facets of life (e.g., salespeople, fundraisers, politicians, and anyone else who wants to get people to say “yes” to their requests)

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Compliance Techniques





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The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

  • Here, compliance to a large request is gained by prefacing it with a very small, almost mindless request

    • The tendency is for people who have complied with the small request to comply with the next, larger request

  • In Freedman and Fraser’s (1966) classic study, some people were asked directly to put a large ugly sign urging careful driving in their front yards

    • Almost all such people refused the large ugly sign

    • However, some other people were first asked to sign a petition urging careful driving

    • Two weeks after signing this petition (that is, agreeing to a rather small request), the majority of these latter people agreed to allow the large ugly sign in the front yards

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The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

  • This technique seems to work because our behavior (complying with the initial request) affects our attitudes, leading us to be more positive about helping and to view ourselves as generally charitable people

    • In addition, once we have made a commitment (such as signing a safe driving petition), we feel pressure to remain consistent (by putting up the large ugly sign) with the earlier action

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The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

  • The technique was used by the Communist Chinese in the Korean War on prisoners of war

    • Many prisoners returning home after the war praised the Chinese Communists because while in captivity, the prisoners did small things such as writing out questions and then providing the pro-Communist answers, which often they just copied from a notebook

    • Such minor actions induced more sympathy for the Communist cause

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The Door-in-the-Face Technique

  • The opposite of the foot-in-the-door technique

  • Compliance is gained by starting with a large unreasonable request that is turned down, and then following it with a more reasonable smaller request

  • It is the smaller request that the person making the two requests wants someone to comply with

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The Door-in-the-Face Technique

  • For instance, a teenager may ask his parents if he can have a new sports car for his 16th birthday

    • His parents are likely to refuse

    • Then, the teenager asks his parents to help him pay for a used 20-year-old car, which is what he wanted his parents to help him with all along

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The Door-in-the-Face Technique

  • The success of the door-in-the-face technique is due to our tendency toward reciprocity, that is, making mutual concessions

    • The person making the requests appears to have made a concession by moving to the much smaller request so shouldn’t we reciprocate and comply with this smaller request?

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The Low-Ball Technique

  • Compliance to a costly request is achieved by first getting compliance to an attractive, less costly request, but then reneging on it

    • This is similar to the foot-in-the-door technique in that a second larger request is the one desired all along

  • Low-balling works because many of us feel obligated to go through with the deal after we have agreed to the earlier request, even if the first request has changed for the worse

    • We want to remain consistent in our actions

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The That’s-Not-All Technique

  • People are more likely to comply to a request after a build-up to make the request sound “better”

    • Often in infomercials on TV, for example, the announcer says “But wait, that’s not all, there’s more!” and the price is lowered or more merchandise is added to sweeten the deal, usually before you even have a chance to respond

    • Similarly, a car salesperson is likely to throw in additional options as bonuses before you can answer yes or no to a price offered

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The That’s-Not-All Technique

  • As in the door-in-the-face technique, reciprocity is at work

    • The seller has done you a favor (thrown in bonus options, lowered the price), so you “should” reciprocate by accepting the offer (i.e., comply)

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Why We Obey

  • Obedienceis following the commands of a person in authority

    • Obedience is good in some instances, such as obeying societal laws

    • Obedience is bad in other instances, such as in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, when American soldiers were ordered to shoot innocent villagers (and they did so)

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Why We Obey


The “Astroten” Study


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Milgram’s Basic Experimental Paradigm

  • Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies were done primarily at Yale University in the early 1960s

  • Imagine that you have volunteered to be in an experiment on learning and memory

    • You show up at the assigned time and place, and there is the experimenter and another participant there

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Milgram’s Basic Experimental Paradigm

  • The experimenter tells you both that the study is examining the effects of punishment by electric shock on learning, and specifically learning a list of word pairs

    • One of the participants will be the teacher and the other participants will be the learner

    • You draw slips for these roles, and you draw the slip of the teacher, so the other participant will be the learner

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Milgram’s Basic Experimental Paradigm

  • You accompany the learner to an adjoining room where he is strapped into a chair with one arm hooked up to the shock generator in the other room

    • The shock levels in the study range from 15 volts to 450 volts

    • The experimenter gives you, the teacher, a “test shock” of 45 volts so that you know how intense various shock levels will be

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Milgram’s Basic Experimental Paradigm

  • You return to your room with the shock generator

    • You notice that on the shock generator, each switch has a label for each level of shock, starting at 15 volts and going to 450 volts in 15-volt increments

    • There are also some verbal labels below the switches, “Slight Shock,” “Very Strong Shock,” “Danger: Severe Shock,” and under the last two switches “XXX” in red.

    • Each time the learner makes a mistake, he is to receive a shock, which should increase one 15-volt level for each additional mistake

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Milgram’s Basic Experimental Paradigm

  • As the experiment begins, the learner makes some mistakes, and you as the teacher throw the shock lever as instructed by the experimenter

    • At 120 volts, the learner cries out that the shocks really hurt

    • As the learner continues to make mistakes, he protests and says that he has a heart condition and that he refuses to continue with the experiment, demanding to be let out of his chair

    • After a 330-volt shock, he fails to respond with any protest

    • You turn to the experimenter to see what to do, and the experimenter says to treat no response as an incorrect response and continue with the experiment

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Milgram’s Initial Obedience Finding

  • Before this experiment was run, Milgram asked various types of people what they and other people would do

    • Most people thought people would stop at relatively low shock levels

    • Psychiatrists said that maybe one person in a thousand would go to the end of the shock generator

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Milgram’s Initial Obedience Findings

  • In reality, almost two out of every three participants (65%) continued to obey the experimenter and administered the maximum possible shock of 450 volts

    • This is particularly disturbing because the learner had mentioned a heart condition before the experiment started and during his protests

  • It is important to realize that the learner was a confederate who was programmed to make mistakes and was never really shocked

    • But the teacher thought that he was administering real shocks because of real mistakes

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InterpretingMilgram’s Findings

  • The difference between what we say we will do and what we actually do illustrates the power of situational social forces on our behavior

  • The foot-in-the-door technique was used because participants started off giving very mild shocks (15 volts) and increased the voltage relatively slowly

    • The learner did not protest these early shocks, and the teacher had obeyed several times before the learner started his protests

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InterpretingMilgram’s Findings

  • It should be noted that later studies with female participants found similar obedience rates, and other researchers have replicated Milgram’s basic finding in many different cultures (e.g., Jordan, Spain, Italy, and Australia)

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Situational Factors that Impact Obedience

  • The physical presence of the experimenter(the person with authority)

    • If the experimenter left the room and gave commands over the telephone, maximum obedience (administering the highest shock level) dropped to 21%

  • The physical closeness of teacher and learner

    • Milgram made the teacher and learner closer by having them both in the same room instead of different rooms, and maximum obedience declined to 40%

    • It dropped to 30% when the teacher had to directly administer the shock by forcing the learner’s hand onto a plate

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Situational Factors that Impact Obedience

  • Setting of the study

    • Instead of conducting the research at prestigious Yale University, Milgram did the study in a run-down office building in Bridgeport, Connecticut

    • Here, he found a 48% obedience rate; thus, the setting did not influence obedience as much as presence of the experimenter or closeness of the teacher and learner

  • Experimenter unanimity

    • Milgram set up a situation with two experimenters who at some point during the experiment disagreed

    • One said to stop the experimenter, while the other said to continue

    • In this case, when one of the people in authority said to stop, all of the teachers stopped delivering the shocks

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Situational Factors that Impact Obedience

  • Teacher responsibility

    • In another variation, Milgram had the teacher only push the switch on the shock generator to indicate to another teacher (an experimental confederate) in the room with the learner how much shock to administer

    • Here, 93% of the participants obeyed the experimenter to the maximum shock levels

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The “Astroten” Study

  • Participants were real nurses on duty alone in a real hospital ward

  • Each nurse received a call from a person using the name of a staff doctor not personally known by the nurse

    • The doctor ordered the nurse to give a dose exceeding the maximum daily dosage of an unauthorized medication, called “Astroten” to a real patient in the ward

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The “Astroten” Study

  • This situation violated many hospital rules:

    • Medication orders need to be given in person and not over the phone

    • It was a clear overdose

    • The medication was unauthorized

  • Of the 22 nurses phoned, 21 did not question the order and went to give the medication, but were intercepted before actually giving it to the patient

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The “Astroten” Study

  • A separate sample of 33 nurses were asked about this situation and what they would do if they were placed it in

    • All but 2 said they would NOT obey the doctor’s order, again demonstrating the difference between what we think we will do and what we actually do in a given situation

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The Jonestown Massacre

  • In 1978, more than 900 people who were members of Reverend Jim Jones’s religious cult in Jonestown, Guyana committed mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool Aid

  • These were Americans who moved to South America from San Francisco in 1977

  • Using various compliance techniques, Jones developed unquestioned faith as the cult leader and discouraged individualism

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The Jonestown Massacre

  • Using the foot-in-the-door technique, he was able to increase financial support required of each member until they had turned over essentially everything they owned

  • He had recruiters ask people walking by to help the poor

    • When they refused, the recruiters then asked them just to donate five minutes of time to put letters in envelopes (door-in-the-face)

    • When given information about other charitable work, having agreed to this small task, people returned later as a function of the consistency aspect of the foot-in-the-door technique

  • Informational social influence was also at work, as being moved from San Francisco to Guyana created an uncertain environment in which followers would look to others to guide their own actions

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How Groups Influence Us






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Social Facilitation

  • The emergence of a dominant response on a task (for which a person is individually responsible) due to social arousal, leading to improvement on simple or well-learned tasks and worse performance on complex or unlearned tasks when other people are present

  • This effect occurs because that the presence of others increases physiological arousal, and under conditions of increased arousal, people tend to give whatever response is most dominant

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Social Facilitation

  • For example, for a professional basketball player, shooting free throws is a simple, easy task

    • Thus, such a person would shoot free throws better when other people are around and watching than when shooting alone

  • However, for someone not good at shooting a basketball, s/he will shoot even more poorly when other people are around and watching than when shooting alone

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Social Loafing and the Diffusion of Responsibility

  • Social loafing occurs when people are pooling their efforts to achieve a common goal

    • It is the tendency for people to exert less effort when working toward a common goal in a group than when individually accountable

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Social Loafing and the Diffusion of Responsibility

  • A major reason why social loafing occurs is the diffusion of responsibility, which means that the responsibility for a task is spread across all members of the group so individual accountability is lessened

    • The larger the group, the less likely it is that a social loafer will be detected and the more responsibility for the task gets diffused across group members

    • However, for groups in which individual contributions are identifiable and evaluated, social loafing decreases

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Social Loafing and the Diffusion of Responsibility

  • For instance, in a group project for a shared grade, social loafing would decrease if each group member is assigned and responsible for a specific part of the project

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The Bystander Effect

  • In 1964, Kitty Genovese was returning home from work late one night when she was attacked in front of her apartment building

    • She screamed for help, and many apartment residents, at least 38 of them, heard her cries for help and looked out their windows

    • The attacker fled, but no one intervened

    • The attacker returned and continued his assault for another 35 minutes before finally murdering her

    • The first person in the apartment complex did not call the police until after Kitty had been killed

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The Bystander Effect

  • Many media people said this incident illustrated “big city apathy”

    • However, experiments by social psychologists suggested that it was more diffusion of responsibility

  • Thebystander effect holds that the probability of an individual helping in an emergency is greater when there is only one bystander than when there are many bystanders

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The Bystander Effect

  • Darley and Latané (1968) did an experiment in which college students were ostensibly going to participate in a round-robin discussion of college adjustment problems, and that this discussion would occur over an intercom system

    • Thus, participants could only hear each other, not see each other

    • The experimenter says he will not listen to the conversation so participants won’t feel at all inhibited

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The Bystander Effect

  • After each student gets a turn to talk, the first student gets to talk again, but he seems to be very anxious

    • Suddenly, he starts having a seizure and cries out for help

    • What would a participant do in this situation?

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The Bystander Effect

  • Whether or not a participant helped depended on how many other individuals the participant thought were available to help the student having the seizure

    • The researchers manipulated the number of other people present (either 0, 1 or 4 others present)

    • In reality no one else was present, the supposed other participants were merely tape recordings

  • When no one else was thought to be present, 85% of the participants tried to help the person, whereas only 31% of the participants did so when 4 other people were supposedly present

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The Bystander Effect

  • The probability of helping decreased as the responsibility for helping was diffused across more participants

  • In the case of Kitty Genovese, there were 38 bystanders who could see each other staring out of their windows with some turning on their lights

    • Responsibility was diffused across all of them, with no one person assuming full responsibility to help

  • Kitty might have received help and possibly lived had there been only one person available to give help (i.e., call the police) rather than 38!

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  • The loss of self-awareness and self-restraint in a group situation that fosters arousal and anonymity

  • Deindividuated people feel less restrained, so may forget their moral values and act spontaneously without thinking

  • Diffusion of responsibility also plays a role in deindividuation because of the anonymity of the group situation

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Group Polarization & Groupthink

  • Apply to more structured, task-oriented group situations

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Group Polarization

  • The strengthening of a group’s prevailing opinion about a topic following group discussion of the topic

  • For instance, if students who don’t like a particular class all start talking about that class, they will leave the discussion disliking the class even more because each student may provide different reasons for disliking the class

    • Each member learns new reasons for his or her dislike of the class

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Group Polarization

  • In addition, normative social influence is at work

    • We want others to like us, so we express stronger views on a topic to gain approval from others in the group

  • For instance, students who belong to fraternities or sororities tend to be more politically liberal, and this difference grows during college because group members reinforce and polarize each other’s views

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  • A mode of group thinking that impairs decision making

    • The desire for group harmony overrides a realistic appraisal of the possible decisions

    • Leads to an illusion of infallibility, the belief that the group cannot make mistakes

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  • Examples of groupthink in history include the failure to anticipate Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and the Space Shuttle’s Challenger and Columbia disasters

    • In the case of the Space Shuttle Columbia, NASA apparently ignored safety warnings from engineers about possible technical problems

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How We Think about Our Own and Others’ Behavior

How We Make Attributions

How Our Behavior Affects Our Attitudes

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  • The process by which we explain our own behavior and the behavior of others

  • That is, what do we think are the causes of our behavior and the behavior of others?

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How We Make Attributions

  • An internal attribution means explaining behavior in terms of a person’s disposition/personal characteristics

  • An external attribution means explaining behavior in terms of a person’s circumstances/situation

    • For example, if you are sitting in the airport and see someone trip and fall over their own two feet, you might think “What a idiot” meaning the person’s disposition lead him to trip

    • However, if you think “He must be late for a flight,” you are making an external attribution

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Attributions for the Behavior of Others

Fundamental Attribution Error


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Attributions for the Behavior of Others

  • The fundamental attribution error is the tendency as an observer to overestimate internal dispositional influences and underestimate external situational influences upon others’ behavior

    • More simply, we tend to ignore external factors when explaining the behaviors of other people

    • May have played a role in Milgram’s results: The teachers figured that if the learner was stupid, he deserved the shocks

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Attributions for the Behavior of Others

  • Placing such blame on victims involves the just-world hypothesis, the assumption that the world is just and that people get what they deserve

    • Helps justify cruelty to others

  • The primacy effect is partially responsible for the fundamental attribution error

    • In the primacy effect, early information is weighted more heavily than later information in forming an impression of another person

    • Be careful of the initial impression you make on others!

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Attributions for the Behavior of Others

  • In the self-fulfilling prophecy, our expectations of a person elicit behavior from the person that confirms our expectations

    • For instance, if you think a person is uncooperative, you may act in an uncooperative way in your interactions with the person

    • Given your uncooperative behavior, the person responds by being uncooperative, confirming your expectations

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Attributions for Our Own Behavior

Actor-Observer Bias

Self-Serving Bias

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Actor-Observer Bias

  • The tendency to attribute our own behavior to situational influences, but to attribute the behavior of others to dispositional influences

    • As actors, our attention is focused on the situation

    • But as observers, our attention is focused on the individual, hence why we make the fundamental attribution error

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Self-Serving Bias

  • The tendency to make attributions so that one can perceive oneself favorably

    • As actors, we tend to overestimate dispositional influences when the outcome of our behavior is positive and to overestimate situational influences when the outcome of our behavior is negative

    • In short, we take credit for our successes but not for our failures

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Self-Serving Bias

  • We tend to see ourselves as “above average” when we compare ourselves to others on positive dimensions such as intelligence and attractiveness

    • However, such traits tend to be normally distributed with half of us below average and half of us above average

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Self-Serving Bias

  • Self-serving bias can also influence our estimates of the extent to which other people think and act as we do


False Uniqueness Effect

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False Consensus Effect

  • The tendency to overestimate the commonality of one’s opinions and unsuccessful behaviors

    • For instance, if you like a certain type of food, you overestimate how many people also like that type of food

    • Or, if you failed an important exam, you tend to overestimate the number of your classmates who also failed the exam

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False Uniqueness Effect

  • The tendency to underestimate the commonality of one’s abilities and successful behaviors

    • For instance, if you are a good golfer, you think that few people are, thus allowing you to feel good about yourself

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When Our Behavior Contradicts Our Attitudes

  • Attitudes are evaluative reactions (positive or negative) toward things, events, and other people

  • Our attitudes tend to guide our behavior when the attitudes are ones that we feel strongly about, when we are consciously aware of our attitudes, and when outside influences on our behavior are not strong

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When Our Behavior Contradicts Our Attitudes

Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Bem’s Self-Perception Theory

Impact of Role Playing

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Festinger and Carlsmith’s Study

  • In the study, participants completed an incredibly boring task, such as turning pegs on a pegboard or organizing spools in a box, dumping them out, and organizing them again

  • After the hour is over, the experimenter explains to you that the experiment is concerned with the effects of a person’s expectations on their task performance and that you were in the control group

    • The experimenter is upset because his student assistant has not shown up for the next experimental session

    • She was supposed to pose as a student who just participated in the experiment and tell the next participant who is waiting outside that this experiment was really enjoyable

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Festinger and Carlsmith’s Study

  • The experiment asks the participant to play the role of the student assistant, and he will pay you either $1 or $20 for telling the next participant (actually a confederate of the experimenter) how enjoyable and interesting the experiment was

  • After telling the supposed participant how great the experiment was, another person who is studying students’ reaction to experiments asks you to complete a questionnaire about how much you enjoyed the earlier experimental tasks

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Festinger and Carlsmith’s Study

  • Participants who were paid only $1 rated the boring tasks as fairly enjoyable, whereas participants who were paid $20 rated the boring tasks as boring

  • Possible explanations of this counterintuitive finding…

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Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory

  • Proposes that people change their attitudes to reduce the cognitive discomfort created by inconsistencies between their attitudes and their behavior

    • For instance, people who smoke, an unhealthy behavior known to most everyone, may feel cognitive discomfort because of the inconsistency between their behavior and their attitude/knowledge that smoking is bad for their health

    • According to cognitive dissonance theory, many smokers change their attitude, so that it is no longer inconsistent with their behavior

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Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory

  • So why did participants paid only $1 indicate on the survey they enjoyed the experiment more than participants paid $20?

    • The people paid $1 lied and said the task was interesting to another person

    • Thus, there was an inconsistency between their actions (saying the experiment was interesting without any significant external incentive) and their attitudes (the experiment was in reality quite boring)

    • To reduce this inconsistency, these participants changed their attitude to be that the tasks were fairly enjoyable

    • Now the inconsistency and resulting dissonance are gone

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Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory

  • A key aspect of cognitive dissonance is that we don’t suffer dissonance if we have sufficient justification for our behavior (i.e., the participants paid $20 in the study had perfectly good reason to be inconsistent but not experience dissonance) or our behavior was coerced

  • Cognitive dissonance theory also says that once you make a tough choice, you will strengthen your commitment to that choice in order to reduce cognitive dissonance

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Bem’s Self-Perception Theory

  • Proposes that when we are unsure of our attitudes we infer them by examining our behavior and the context in which it occurs

    • We have no dissonance to reduce, but are merely engaging in the normal attribution process

    • For instance, in the experiment, people would examine their behavior (e.g., lying for $1) and infer the task must have been fairly interesting or else they would not have lied for only that $1

  • Self-perception theory contends that we don’t change our attitude because of our behavior, but rather we use our behavior to infer our attitude

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Cognitive Dissonance vs. Self-Perception

  • Cognitive dissonance theory is a better explanation for behavior that contradicts well-established attitudes

    • Such behavior creates mental discomfort, and we change our attitudes to reduce it

  • Self-perception theory explains situations in which our attitudes are not well-defined

    • We infer our attitudes from our behavior

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The Impact of Role-Playing

  • A role is a social position that carries with it expected behaviors from the person in it

  • Each role is defined by the socially expected pattern of behavior for it, and these definitions impact both our behavior and our attitudes

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Zimbardo’s Study

  • In a now-classic study, Zimbardo (1970) recruited male college students to participate in a study held in the renovated basement of the Stanford University psychology building, renovated to be a mock prison

    • He chose the most emotionally-stable volunteers for the study and then randomly assigned them to play the roles of prisoner and prison guard

  • The guards were given uniforms and billy clubs

    • The prisoners were locked in cells and had to wear humiliating clothing (smocks with no undergarments)

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Zimbardo’s Study

  • The participants began to take their respective roles too seriously

    • After only one day of “role playing,” the guards started treating the prisoners cruelly

    • Some of the prisoners rebelled, and others began to break down

  • Role-playing quickly became reality

    • The situation deteriorated so much that Zimbardo had to stop the study after only 6 days

    • Even these emotionally stable, normal young educated men were vulnerable to the power of the situational roles