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What Is Social Psychology?

The scientific study of the way in which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are
influenced by the real or imagined presence of other people.
•  At the heart of social psychology is social influence.


Fundamental attribution error (FAE)

The tendency to explain our own and other people’s behavior entirely in terms of personality traits
Underestimating the power of social influence


Underestimating the Power of Social Influence Causes...

-we gain a feeling of false security
-Oversimplify complex situations
-blame victim



A school of psychology maintaining that to
understand human behavior, one need consider only
reinforcing effects of environment; an “objective worldview” •  Chooses not to deal with cognition, thinking, and feeling


Gestalt Psychology

-A school of psychology stressing the importance of studying the subjective way in which an object
appears in people’s minds (the gestalt or “whole”) rather than the objective, physical attributes of the


Kurt Lewin

Founding father of modern experimental social psychology
Ø Applied Gestalt principles to social perception
Ø Stressed the importance of taking perspective of the people in any social situation to see how they construe social


Construals shaped by two basic human motives

The need to be accepted Ø 
The need to feel good about ourselves
•  Motives may tug in opposite directions


Suffering and Self-Justification

The more unpleasant the procedure the participants underwent to get into a group, the
better they liked the group
(Hazing, gang initiation)


Social cognition motive

takes into account how people think about the world
•  We try to gain accurate understandings so we can
make effective judgments and decisions
•  But we typically act on the basis of incompletely and inaccurately interpreted information


Social Cognition

How people think about themselves and the social world; how people select, interpret, remember,
and use social information to make judgments and decisions


Internal Validity

Making sure that nothing besides the independent variable can affect the dependent variable


External Validity

The extent to which the results of a study can be generalized to other situations and to other people.
1.  Situations
the extent to which we can generalize from the experimental situation to real-life situations
2.  People
the extent to which we can generalize from the people who participated in the experiment to people in general


Psychological Realism

  Psychological processes triggered by experiments are similar to psychological processes in real life


Cover story

A description of the purpose of a study, given to participants, that is different from its true purpose, used to maintain psychological realism


Improving External Validity

Field Experiments:
o  Experiments conducted in natural settings rather than in the laboratory
Ø Advantages:
o  Participants unaware that they are in an experiment o  Participants more diverse than typical college sample


Basic Research

Designed to find the best answer to why people behave as they do
o  Conducted purely for reasons of intellectual curiosity


Applied Research

o  Designed to solve a particular social problem


Cross-Cultural Research

Conducted with different cultures, to see if psychological processes are present in both
cultures or specific to the culture in which people were raised.


Issues in Cross-Cultural Research

Researchers must:
o  Guard against imposing their own cultural viewpoints onto an unfamiliar culture
o  Ensure that IV & DV are understood in the same way in different cultures


Evolutionary Theory

o  Developed by Charles Darwin to explain how animals adapt to their environments
-Genetic factors
-Natural Selection
Core idea:
o  Social behaviors prevalent today are due, in part, to
adaptations to past environments
- Impossible to test with experimental method


Automatic thinking (Type of social Cognition)

–  Quick
–  No conscious deliberation of thoughts, perceptions, assumptions
-We often size up a new situation very quickly. •  Often these quick conclusions are correct.
–  Example: You can tell the difference between a college classroom and a frat party without having to think about


Controlled thinking

–  Effortful and deliberate
–  Thinking about self and environment –  Carefully selecting the right course of action


How do we Automatic thinking?

Relate new situations to past experiences
–  Use schemas
-  Mental structures that organize our knowledge of the social world
-  Influences the information people notice, think about, and remember



encompasses our knowledge and impression of:
–  Other people –  Ourselves
–  Social roles
§  E.g., what a librarian or engineer is like
–  Specific events
§  E.g., what usually happens when people eat a meal in a restaurant
-We base our judgement off of accessible shemas


What are schemas used for?

-Organize what we know
–  Interpret new situationsSchemas as Memory Guides
•  Helps “fill in the blanks” when trying to remember
–  Remember some information that was there
§  Particularly information to which our schemas led us to pay more attention
–  Also remember other information that was never there
§  Add this information unknowingly


Korsakov’s syndrome

Neurological disorder
§  Can’t form memories
–  Each situation is new



The process by which recent experiences increase the accessibility of a schema, trait, or concept.
Physical sensations can prime metaphors----> Metaphors can influence decisions


Accessibility and Priming (1 of 3)
•  Something can become accessible for three reasons:

–  Chronically accessible due to past experience. –  Accessible because it is related to a current goal
–  Temporarily accessible because of our recent
-priming is a good example of automatic thinking because it occurs quickly, unintentionally, and unconsciously.


What makes Our Schemas Come True?

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


Automatic goal pursuit

–  Prime goals in subtle way to see if it influences behavior