The scientific study of the ways in which the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of one individual are influenced by the real, imagined, or inferred behavior or characteristics of other people.
How does group membership affect individual behavior?
• Humans are social animals enmeshed in a complex network of social relationships. Social psychology studies how individuals behave, think, and feel in social situations.
• Culture provides a broad social context for our behavior. One’s position in groups defines a variety of roles to be played.
• Social roles, which may be achieved or ascribed, are particular behavior patterns associated with social positions. When two or more contradictory roles are held, role conflict may occur. The Stanford prison experiment showed that destructive roles may override individual motives for behavior.
• Positions within groups typically carry higher or lower levels of status. High status is associated with special privileges and respect.
• Group structure refers to the organization of roles, communication pathways, and power within a group. Group cohesiveness is basically the degree of attraction among group members.
• Norms are standards of conduct enforced (formally or informally) by groups. The autokinetic effect has been used to demonstrate that norms rapidly form even in temporary groups.
What unspoken rules govern the use of personal space?
• The study of personal space is called proxemics. Four basic spatial zones around each person’s body are intimate distance (0 to 18 inches), personal distance (1 ½ to 4 feet), social distance (4 to 12 feet), and public distance (12 feet or more).
How do we perceive the motives of others and the causes of our own behavior?
• Attribution theory is concerned with how we make inferences about behavior. A variety of factors affect attribution, including consistency, distinctiveness, situational demands, and consensus.
• The fundamental attributional error is to ascribe the actions of others to internal causes. Because of actor-observer differences, we tend to attribute our own behavior to external causes.
• Self-handicapping, involves arranging excuses for poor performance as a way to protect one’s self-image or self-esteem.
Why do people affiliate?
• The need to affiliate is tied to additional needs for approval, support, friendship, and information. Additionally, research indicates that affiliation is related to reducing anxiety and uncertainty.
• Social comparison theory holds that we affiliate to evaluate our actions, feelings, and abilities. Social comparisons are also made for purposes of self-protection and self-enhancement.
What factors influence interpersonal attraction?
• Interpersonal attraction is increased by physical proximity (nearness), frequent contact, physical attractiveness, competence, and similarity. A large degree of similarity on many dimensions is characteristic of mate selection
• Self-disclosure occurs more when two people like one another. Self-disclosure follows a reciprocity norm: Low levels of self-disclosure are met with low levels in return, whereas moderate self-disclosure elicits more personal replies. However, overdisclosure tends to inhibit self-disclosure by others.
• According to social exchange theory, we tend to maintain relationships that are profitable – that is, those for which perceived rewards exceed perceived costs.
• Romantic love has been studied as a special kind of attitude. Love can be distinguished from liking by the use of attitude scales. Dating couples like and love their partners but only like their friends. Love is also associated with greater mutual absorption between people.
• Adult love relationships tend to mirror patterns of emotional attachment observed in infancy and early childhood. Secure, avoidant, and ambivalent patterns can be defined on the basis of how a person approaches romantic and affectionate relationships with others.
• Evolutionary psychology attributes human mating patterns to the differing reproductive challenges faced by men and women since the dawn of time.
What have social psychologists learned about conformity, social power, obedience, and compliance?
• In general, social influence refers to alterations in behavior brought about by the behavior of others. Conformity to group pressure is a familiar example of social influence
• Virtually everyone conforms to a variety of broad social and cultural norms. Conformity pressures also exist within smaller groups. The famous Asch experiments demonstrated that various group sanctions encourage conformity.
• Groupthink refers to compulsive conformity in group decision making. Victims of groupthink seek to maintain each other’s approval, even at the cost of critical thinking.
• Social influence is also related to five types of social power: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power.
• Obedience to authority has been investigated in a variety of experiments, particularly those by Milgram. Obedience in Milgram’s studies decreased when the victim was in the same room, when the victim and subject were face to face, when the authority figure was absent, and when others refused to obey.
• Compliance with direct requests is another means by which behavior is influenced. Three strategies for inducing compliance are the foot-in-the-door technique, the door-it-the-face approach, and the low-ball technique.
• Recent research suggests that, in addition to excessive obedience to authority, many people show a surprising passive compliance to unreasonable requests.
How does self-assertion differ from aggression?
• Self-assertion, as opposed to aggression, involves clearly stating one’s wants and needs to others. Learning to be assertive is accomplished by role-playing, rehearsing assertive actions, over-learning, and using specific techniques, such is the ‘broken record’.
What is a social trap?
• A social trap is a social situation in which immediately rewarded actions have undesired effects in the long run.
• One prominent social trap occurs when limited public resources are overused, a problem called the tragedy of the commons.
PSYCHOLOGY ON THE NET
* Social Psychology Network – A comprehensive site with many links to information about social psychology. http://www.wesleyan.edu/spn/
* Social Psychology Humor – Links to cartoons that relate to principles of social psychology. http://miavxl.muohio.edu/~shermarc/p324cart.html
Primacy effect - early information about someone weights more heavily that later information in influencing one’s impression of that person
Self-fulfilling prophecy - process in which a person’s expectation about another elicits behavior from the second person that confirms the expectation
Stereotype - set of characteristics presumed to be shared by all members of a social category
Attribution theory - theory that addresses the question of how people make judgments about the causes of behavior
Fundamental attribution error - tendency of people to overemphasize personal causes for other people’s behavior and to under emphasize personal causes for their own behavior
Defensive attribution - tendency to attribute our successes to our own efforts or qualities and our failures to external factors
Just-world hypothesis - attribution error based on the assumption that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people
Proximity - how close two people live to each other
Exchange - concept that relationships are based on trading rewards among partners
Equity - fairness of exchange achieved when each partner in the relationship receives the same proportion of outcomes to investments
Intimacy - the quality of genuine closeness and trust achieved in communication with another person
Attitude - relatively stable organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavior tendencies directed toward something or someone-the attitude object
Self-monitoring - tendency for an individual to observe the situation for cues about how to react
Prejudice - an unfair, intolerant, or unfavorable attitude toward a group of people
Discrimination - an unfair act or series of acts taken toward an entire group of people or individual members of that group
Frustration-aggression theory - theory that under certain circumstances people who are frustrated in their goals turn their anger away from the proper, powerful target toward another, less powerful target it is safer to attack
Authoritarian personality - a personality pattern characterized by rigid conventionality, exaggerated respect for authority, and hostility toward those who defy society’s norms
Cognitive dissonance - perceived inconsistency between two cognitions
Social influence - process by which others individually or collectively affect one’s perceptions, attitudes, and actions.
Culture - All the goods, both tangible and intangible, produced in a society
Cultural truism - Belief that most members of a society accept as self-evidently true
Norm - A shared idea ore expectation about how to behave
Cultural norm - A behavioral rule shared by an entire society
Conformity - Voluntarily yielding to social norms, even at the expense of one’s own preferences
Compliance - Change of behavior in response to an explicit request from another person or group
Obedience - Change of behavior in response to a command from another person, typically an authority figure
Deindividuation - Loss of personal sense of responsibility in a group
Altruistic behavior - Helping behavior that is not linked to personal gain
Bystander effect - Tendency for an individual’s helpfulness in an emergency to decrease as the number of bystanders increases.
Risky shift -Greater willingness to take risks in decision making in a group than as independent individuals
Polarization - Shift in attitudes by members of a group toward more extreme positions than the ones held before group’s discussion
Great person theory -Theory that leadership is a result of personal qualities and traits that qualify one to lead others
Industrial/organization psychology - Division of psychology concerned with the application of psychological principles to the problems of human organizations, especially work organizations
Hawthorne effect - Principle that subjects will alter their behavior because of researcher’s attention and not necessarily because of any specific experimentation