Social Psychology

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					Social Psychology

Historical and Scientific
• Aronson
  – The influences that people have upon the
    beliefs or behavior of others
• Gordon Allport
  – The thoughts, feelings, and behavior of
    individuals as shaped by the actual, imagined,
    or implied presence of others
         In the beginning…..
• Norman Triplett (1897) – first social
  psychological experiment [18 years after the
  birth of psychology as a science]
• Interested in increased ability in the
  presence of others
• Led to the complex body of literature on
  social facilitation
    History framed in a human
• Gleam in the Eye and the Fetus (dawn of
  time to 1908). Simple and sovereign
  principles – a single theory could explain
  virtually all social behavior
  – Jeremy Bentham: hedonism
  – Thomas Hobbes: egoism (everyone is seeking
    power, conflict is inevitable)
  – Adam Smith: sympathy
• Ends in 1908 with publication of Ross &
  McDougall’s Social Psychology text
         Lifespan, continued
• Child – Development of Theories (1908-
  – Major areas of research involve public opinion
    polling and test construction
  – Thurstone (1928) and Likert (1932) develop
    their measurement scales
• Adolescent (1936-1947)
  – An overall framework for social psychology
    begins to develop. Inspired by the father of
    modern social psychology – Kurt Lewin
  – Lewin proposed the “formula”: behavior is a
    function of the person in the environment
  – Quote “Nothing is as practical as a good theory”
  – Sherif describes norm formation in a classic
• Young Adult (1948-1968)
  –   Time of immense productivity
  –   Hovland and colleagues on persuasion
  –   Asch on conformity
  –   Festinger on cognitive dissonance
  –   Heider on attribution
  –   Milgram on obedience
  –   Darley and Latane on the Bystander Effect
• Mid-Life Crisis (1968-late 80’s)
  – “Nothing left to discover”
  – “Field was drifting aimlessly”
• New Productivity (Currently)
  – Social Cognition
  – Self and Identity
  – Health Psychology
Key Idea – Power of the Situation
• Personality psychologists looks for
  consistencies in human behavior. Explain
  behavior through internal dispositions
• Social Psychologists emphasize the
  influences and constraints of the situation
• Explanations for behavior are known as
  attributions. Internal explanations are
  referred to as dispositional, external as
  Fundamental Attribution Error
• When looking at other people’s behavior,
  we tend to explain it dispositionally. We
  tend to ignore the impact of the situation.
• Yet, think about how we explain our own
  failures – do we tend to blame our selves or
  something about the situation?
 Social Psychology and Science
• To succeed in this class you will need to
  read and understand scientific literature
• Thoughts to have while doing this:
  – Maintain skepticism: although the works
    assigned are classics and well done, they are
    not infallible. Question, doubt, and wonder.
  – View yourself not just as a consumer of
    knowledge, but as a producer
             Scientific Method
• There are numerous ways to seek out
  knowledge (e.g., logic, intuition), but our
  technique involves the Scientific Method
• The steps are:
  –   Observation
  –   Formation of a theory
  –   Formation of a testable hypothesis
  –   Creation of an experiment to test the hypothesis
  –   Replication
   Complexity of working with
• Due to the “humanity” of humans, we can’t
  always perform experiments. Therefore,
  some knowledge is gained through
  correlational and descriptive methods.
• Also, humans are inquisitive and active.
  Rarely do they act as passive participants in
  an experiment (unlike a fruit fly)
       Control versus Realism
• Desired state in an experiment is isolation
  and manipulation of one variable.
• Does this lead to a contrived and unrealistic
  situation? If so, how does that impact the
  validity of your findings?
  – Are your findings generalizable to the real
• Often a delicate tradeoff between realism
  and control
• Experimental Realism: impact of an
  experiment on a subject. Does the
  participant take the experiment seriously
• Mundane Realism: similarity of the
  experimental environment to the real world
• Experimental realism can occur in the
  absence of mundane realism
• Often necessary to deceive participant
  during experiment: although this deception
  is often minor (disguising the hypothesis of
• Reasons for this need:
  – Self Presentation Biases
  – Good Subject Bias
• Question arises – is this right?
            Ethics, continued
• Decision on experiment and deception is
  based upon a cost/benefits analysis
  – Are the potential costs to the participant worth
    the benefits of the knowledge gained?
  – Increasing the difficulty of answering this
    question is that you can’t be sure what results
    the experiment will produce!!
• Problem of deception can be reduced with a
  thorough debriefing
       Other Important Terms
• Independent Variable
  – Variable manipulated by the experimenter
• Dependent Variable
  – Outcome measure
• Random Assignment
  – Placement of subjects into experimental groups so that
    each subject has an equal chance of being in any group
  – Minimizes impact of pre-existing individual differences

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