Notes10.docx

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HP1000 Introduction to Psychology
Notes 10
A. Social Psychology
- Social Psychology: The branch of psychology that studies the effects of social variables and
cognitions on individual behavior and social interactions
o The field that investigates how individuals affect each other
o Explores:
Forces that bring people together for friendships and loving relationships
Cooperation and conflict resolution
How people’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions, motives, and behavior are
influenced by their interactions with others
Group Behaviour
The power of social situations to control human behaviour
- Social Psychologists try to understand behaviour within its social context:
o People (real, imagined or symbolic presence)
o Activities and interactions among people
o Setting in which behavior occurs
o Social norms governing behavior in that setting
1. Power of Social Situation on Behaviour
- We usually adapt our behavior to the demands of the social situation, and in new or
ambiguous situations, we take our cues from the behavior of others in that setting
o Social and cultural rules governing what is appropriate and acceptable behavior
o The more novel the situation, the less we rely on our past habitual ways of responding
and call into action our usually automatic cognitive biases
Look to others to define for us what is necessary to behave in ways others will
find acceptable and appropriate
- Interaction between dispositional tendencies and situational forces to shape the final
behavior that we observe
o Situationism: Environmental conditions may influence people’s behaviour as much as
or more than their personal dispositions do under some circumstances
The external environment/context, can have forceful effects on people’s
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
o Dispositionism: Focuses primarily on the inner characteristics of individuals, such as
personality dispositions, values, character, and genetic makeup
Tendency to attribute behavior to internal factors such as genes, personality
traits, and character qualities
Gives limited appreciation of the extent to which social situations offer the
better explanation for that behavior
2. Social Standards of Behaviour
- Power of the Situation: Most people learn to size up their social circumstances and conform
their behavior to situational demands
(a) Social Roles and Social Norms
- Social Role: A socially defined pattern of behavior that is expected of persons in a given setting
or group
o Prescribe your behavior by making obvious what you should do, how you should do
it, when, where, and why
o Roles assumed may result from:
Interests, abilities, and goals
Imposed by group, cultural, economic, or biological conditions beyond control
o Roles can be organized by:
Gender (e.g. women being more likely caregivers for children)
Family activities (e.g. planning vacations)
Occupations
- Situations in which you live and function also determine the roles that are available to you
and the behaviors others expect of you
o E.g. College Student
Expectations: Attending classes and studying
Privileges: Not having to work full time etc.
o Adoption of one role could make other role less likely
- Groups develop many “unwritten rules” for the ways that all members should act
o Social Norms: A group’s expectations regarding what is appropriate and acceptable
for its members’ attitudes and behaviors
E.g. Singaporean student: Expected to wear school uniform
o Social Norms can be:
Broad guidelines
Specific, embodying standards of conduct
o Social Norms can guide conversations (e.g. restrict discussion of taboo subjects)
o Breaking of Social Norms could result in others expressing distress
- Adjustment of a new member to a group involves discovering its social norms
o Individuals experience this adjustment by:
Noticing the uniformities and regularities in certain behaviors
Observing the negative consequences when someone violates a social norm
(b) Schemas and Scripts
- Schema: Cluster of related concepts that provides a general conceptual framework for
thinking about a topic, an event, an object, a person, or a situation in one’s life
o Enables us to make predictions about what to expect in various settings
o It is upsetting when a schema is violated and fails to predict the expected
Schema sets out how people ought to behave in certain settings
Assume that other people share the same schema as us
- Script: Knowledge about the sequence of events and actions that is expected in a particular
setting
o Violation of a script = violation of schema
(c) Social Norms Influence Students’ Political Views
- Experiment on whether the family (conservatism) or school (liberalism) shaped the political
attitude of females
o The immediate present norms of the school were more influential than the remote
norms of the family
Initial conservatism was transformed as they progressed through their college
years, converting to liberalism
o Shift in attitudes were enduring
Women who graduated at liberals were still liberals
Accomplished by marrying husbands with similar values
- Sources of norms and group pressures: Campus, workplace, Neighbourhood, religious group
o All threaten sanction for violating those norms
o The school has a powerful impact on young people
Especially if they have had narrow life experiences and had not previously
encountered attitudes radically different from their own
3. Conformity
- Chameleon Effect: The tendency to mimic other people
o Seen in people’s moods, clothing styles, and leisure activities
o Social influence can be strong enough to make people follow a group norm that is
clearly and objectively wrong
(a) The Asch Effect
- Asch’s Experimental Design: Group experiment, as an elaborate plan to exert social pressure
on the one real participant amongst the group
o Task: Say which line appears to be same length as a standard line
o The majority (i.e. everyone except the real participant) said the wrong answer
The real participant would go along and said the wrong answer as well
Rationale: Inappropriate to spoil the experiment by disagreeing
o Result:
Two-third withstood the group pressure; One-third conformed
- Asch Effect: A form of conformity in which a group majority influences individual judgment of
unambiguous stimuli (e.g. matter of fact)
o Tendency for people to adopt the behavior and opinions presented by other group
members
- Conditions to encourage conformity:
o Unanimity of the majority
If 1 person defects, yielding drops dramatically
o Size of group
If only 1 or 2 people: little pressure to confirm
If 3 or more: increase in pressure
o Making a public commitment rather than a private one
If you believe others in the group will not hear your responses, you are less
likely to go along with them when you think they are incorrect
o Ambiguity: When a judgment task is difficult or ambiguous
Makes people more prone to self-doubt and hence conformity
o Makeup of Majority
More conformity occurs when group has high status
When the group members are perceived as especially competent
o Self Esteem
People who place a low value on themselves are more likely to conform
o Power of an Ally
Even in a large group, giving the person one ally who dissented from the
majority opinion sharply reduced conformity
o Independents:
Despite powerful pressures to yield, some individuals are able to resist and
maintain their independence
- Resisting such influence requires:
o Critical thinking
o Being mindful of what you have learned about the power of social forces
- Reasons for conforming to Asch Effect:
o Normative influence: wanting to be accepted, approved, liked by others
o Informational influence: wanting to be correct and to understand the correct way to
act in any given situation
(b) Cultural Differences in Conformity
- Similar results were found for most groups in several parts of the world
o Proportion of those who yield to group pressure (under Asch’s original conditions)
hovers around one-third in a wide variety of societies
o Hints that the same force is at work across different cultures
- Exceptions:
o Bantu Culture: 51% conformity
Since it exacts a heavy penalty for nonconformity to social customs
o Japanese Culture: Lower than expected conformity of 25%, given that they typically
conform to group norms
Could be that Japanese culture of conformity is found only within the group
to whom the individual Japanese person feels special allegiance
Hence, to a group of strangers, they felt little pressure to conform
(c) The Autokinetic Effect
- The perceived motion of a stationary dot of light in a totally dark room
o Used in an experiment by Muzafer Sherif to demonstrated how social influence can
lead to internalization of a new norm
o Result: Group influenced individuals’ perceptions
Initial Individual Judgment: Wide variance in answers
Group Discussion: Estimates began to converge
Final Individual Judgement: Continued to follow group norm
o Shows that once group norms are established, they tend to perpetuate themselves
- Norms can be transmitted from one generation of group members to the next, and can
continue to influence people’s behavior long after the original group no longer exists
o Allows real-life norms to be be passed down across generations in businesses or
political groups
o Part of the corporate culture that dictates how its members should see the world in
common ways
(d) Conformity, Independence and Role of the Brain
- Using functional MRI, with experimental design similar to Asch effect except that this is done
via mental rotation of 3D objects (not deciding length of lines)
- Brain responses when conforming:
o Changes in selected regions of the brain’s cortex dedicated to vision and spatial
awareness (increased activity in right intraparietal sulcus)
o No changes in areas of the forebrain that deal with higher-order mental activities
- Brain responses when not confirming:
o Changes in areas of the brain associated with emotional salience (the right amygdala
and related regions)
Resistance creates an emotional burden for those who main-tain their
independence
- Have to be aware of our vulnerability to social pressure, so as to build resistance to conformity
when it is not in our best interest to yield to the mentality of the herd
o Problem: Many people maintain an illusion of personal invulnerability
Assume that they are special, and can resist such forces
Makes them more susceptible as their guard is down, and they do not engage
in mindful, critical analyses of situational forces acting on them
(e) Groupthink
- The term for the poor judgments and bad decisions made by members of groups that are
overly influenced by perceived group consensus or the leader’s point of view
o Conformity Bias: members of the group attempt to conform their opinions to what
each believes to be the consensus of the group
Leads the group to take actions each member might normally consider unwise
- 5 conditions to promote groupthink:
o Directive leadership, a dominant leader
o High group cohesiveness, with absence of dissenting views
o Lack of norms requiring methodical procedures for evidence collection/evaluation
o Homogeneity of members’ social background and ideology
o High stress from external threats with low hope of a better solution than that of the
group leader
- Possible way to minimize risk of groupthink: Developing teams to challenge all decisions with
more reliable evidence
o Insist on convergence of multiple sources of independent evidence
o Seeks to foster individual initiative, responsibility and ownership, testing of
assumptions and challenging orthodoxy
4. Obedience to Authority
- Certain individuals, such as charismatic leaders and authorities, can command the obedience
of groups - even large masses of people
o E.g. Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot
- One’s inner personality does not fully account for his total obedience to authority
o Milgram’s experiment revealed that the willingness of people to follow the orders of
an authority, even potentially lethal ones, is not confined to a few extreme
personalities or deranged individuals
(a) Milgram’s Research
- Experimental Procedure: Experimenter gives instructions to the participant (“teacher”), to
deliver (fake) electric shocks (in increasing intensity) to “students” (research assistants) who
answered the experimenter’s questions wrongly
o Aims to see how far the participant would go to deliver increasing intensity of electric
shocks, which could potentially kill the students
- Psychiatrists heavily underestimated the percentage of participants who would deliver all the
intensities of electric shock Fundamental Attribution Error (overestimate person power
and underestimate situation power), due to:
o Ignoring all the situational determinants of behavior in the procedural description of
the experiment; Failed to recognize:
Significance of the authority power, roles of Teacher and Student, the rules
Diffusion of personal responsibility (experimenter said he would be
responsible for anything that happens to student)
Other social pressures toward obedience
o Relying too heavily on the dispositional perspective to understand unusual behavior
Fails to account for external behavioral context
- Results were true for 65% of participants, regardless of age, gender, education, occupation
(b) Variations of Milgram’s Experiment

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