Social Psychology

Learned by Wesleyan University, this course was just phenomenal. Professor Scott Plous has explained this course so beautifully,

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another.

We often see what we expect to see and don’t see what we don’t expect to see. But when it comes to social psychology, our assumptions and our expectations can sometimes lead to trouble. So at heart, social psychology is about questions, but it’s also about those hidden diamonds the hidden treasures that we don’t notice, but would make our life, our relationships, and our work a little bit richer if we did.

You know, it’s easy to say that psychology is just common sense, but when you dig deeper, there are all sorts of questions in which you can think of good reasons why the answer might be yes, and equally good reasons why it might be no. It’s the scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another. It uses many of the same experimental methods found in other branches of science.

One of the most basic questions we can ask about two people is whether they share the same reality whether they see the same thing when they’re both looking at it, whether they hear the same thing when they’re both listening to it?

Our perceptions are powerfully influenced by where our attention happens to be, by context, by past experience, expectations, motivations, and many other factors. In other words, our experience of reality is psychologically constructed

Because we generally regard photographic images as generating fixed perceptions. We don’t think of our visual perceptions as a combination of something out there with what’s going on in our visual system at the time of perception, but in fact, that’s exactly what vision is, and it’s not just a matter of color.

Ponzai illusion both the parallel lines are of equal length

1.Confirmation bias :

A confirmation bias is a preference for information that’s consistent with a preconception, rather than information that challenges it.

Yet, when we have a theory about something, and we get some supporting evidence, we typically conclude that the theory was correct. We don’t go out of our way to seek dis confirming evidence.

For example the Famous Four Card Task, “If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side.”.

Now before you think only A is answer, think about 2 as well

People tend to seek out evidence that confirms their expectations, and they give greater weight to that evidence than evidence that would dis-confirm their expectations. Counter-evidence, if it’s even noticed at all, is usually very easy to explain away.

2.Self-fulfilling prophecy :

But social perceptions and social expectations affect more than the person who holds them. They can also affect the person about whom the expectations are held.

“The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation, evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true [thereby perpetuating] a reign of error.

For example, We consider the Pygmalion effect.

3.Behavioral confirmation :

Behavioral confirmation takes place when people’s social expectations lead them to act in a way that causes others to confirm these expectations. In other words, behavioral confirmation is a social type of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let me give you an example from one of the first and best known studies documenting behavioral confirmation. In this study, published by Mark Snyder and Bill Swann, male college students competed in a reaction-time contest with another student to see who could respond most quickly over 24 trials,

In other words, a balanced view of social perception is that, on one hand, it can be distorted by all sorts of factors, just as any other perception can be, but on the other hand, it can also operate with surprising efficiency.

4.A thin slice of behavior, a brief observation, a small sample of behavior :

Clearly, people can size up strangers with remarkable speed, but the results we’ve discussed leave two key questions unanswered. First, can people make thin-slice judgments that are accurate when it comes to personal characteristics and other aspects of a person’s identity? Remember, we don’t know whether the candidates who were judged competent actually are competent; we just know that perceptions of competence predict election outcomes. And second, if people can make accurate judgments, how fast can they do it?

For example, one idea is that there may be evolutionary value in being able to rapidly judge if other people are threats, potential partners, or even effective leaders. There’s also some evidence that our brains are wired to process emotions more rapidly than cognition’s.

But what about judgments made in person?

So, essentially, what people do is make up their mind about a person and what that person’s like, generally within the first 15 seconds. Sometimes, you could make your mind up so quickly that you just didn’t give them the benefit of any further doubt.

If you convey a bad first impression, you have to work very, very, very hard indeed. There was a little bit of research that showed that it takes eight positive pieces of positive information before you can overcome a first, bad first impression. My view would be that even that’s very hard.

5.Attribution theory :

It’s a theory about how people interpret behavior—how they make “causal attributions,” or causal explanations, for their behavior as well as the behavior of other people.

Why should anybody care? Why does it matter how people explain behavior? Well, because the way you explain behavior often determines what you’ll do about it. If, for example, you fail an exam because you haven’t prepared for it, you might study harder the next time around. But if you attribute the failure to the exam being unfair if that’s your explanation.

People generally explain behavior in terms of three possible causes,

  1. The first one is simply the person that is, something about the person may have caused the behavior.
  2. Second, entity, some enduring feature of the situation or the stimulus, the entity, something outside the person may have caused the behavior.
  3. finally, time, something about the particular occasion may have caused the behavior.

Psychologist proposed that these attributions are based largely on three corresponding sources of information.

  1. First, people look at consensus: Do other people respond similarly in the same situation? Is there a sort of consensus behavior in response to the situation?
  2. Second, distinctiveness: Do other situations elicit the same behavior, or is this one distinctive in some way?
  3. finally, consistency: Does the same thing happen time after time?

I want to talk about just one factor that influences causal attributions, whether they’re accurate or whether they’re biased, and that factor is something social psychologists call “salience.” A salient stimulus is one that grabs your attention in some way, that’s prominent.

Perceptions of causality are partly a function of where one’s attention is directed within the environment. And attention is, in turn, a function of salience: we pay more attention to things that are salient.

For example, salience and causal attribution by Shelley Taylor and Susan Fiske.

So, the main point to take away from these studies on salience is that causal attribution is not simply a matter of logical deduction; it’s also partly a matter of sensory perception— of what we happen to be looking at at the moment or happen to be hearing at the moment. Again, we’re coming back to the psychological construction of reality. Usually, that psychological construction helps us make very accurate causal attributions—usually, but not always.

But there’s one major exception: people don’t always pay attention to consensus information when they make causal attributions. Consensus information also failed to affect judgments of how people thought they would have acted had they been in the original experiment.

6.False uniqueness effect :

A false belief that when it comes to our good deeds and other desirable behaviors, we’re more unique than we really are, a false belief in which we see ourselves as a cut above the pack, which, of course, not all members of the pack can be.

Studies have found that people do pay attention to consensus information in some instances, but surprisingly often, knowledge about what other people do has relatively little effect on causal attributions. In fact, the tendency to underestimate the impact of situational factors and overestimate the role of dispositional factors unique to the individual is known in social psychology as the “fundamental attribution error.”

7.The fundamental attribution error :

The fundamental attribution error is a true error, not simply a bias or a difference in perspective, because people are explaining behavior in terms of an individual’s disposition even when you can demonstrate that the person’s disposition had nothing to do with why the behavior occurred.

8.Actor-observer differences :

The classic finding here is that actors are more likely to explain their behavior as a function of situational factors than are observers (that is, people watching the actor behave). Unlike the fundamental attribution error, which is truly an error, the actor-observer difference in attribution is simply a difference, a bias in viewpoint; there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer.

To actors, especially actors explaining their role in a negative outcome, the most salient thing is often the situational obstacles that they faced. So, you’d expect actors to either view the situation as relatively causal or at least not focus heavily on their own disposition. But to observers, the most salient thing is typically the actor—the person they’re observing.

For more information,

9.Attitude-behavior inconsistency :

We hold certain attitudes about the environment, we hold certain attitudes about plastic products, yet for a variety of reasons some of which may be quite legitimate we behave at variance with our attitudes. We behave differently than the attitudes that we hold.

Darley and Batson were interested in the factors that lead people to help someone who’s in trouble,

Does this mean that attitudes are never related to behavior? Not at all. There have by now been over ten meta-analyses on the link between attitudes and behavior, and the evidence suggests that at least in some cases, the attitude bone and the behavior bone are loosely connected, and there are some cases in which they’re strongly connected.

When the attitude is strongly held or potentfor instance, attitudes acquired through direct experience. When the attitude is easy to recall and has been stable over time. When people are made aware of themselves and their attitudes for example, the attitude-behavior link happens to be stronger, typically, when people can see themselves behave in front of a mirror. And when outside influences are kept to a minimum instead of people being in a rush, for example.

10.Cognitive dissonance :

According to Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, people are generally motivated to reduce or avoid psychological inconsistencies,

Well, in 1959 the same principle was demonstrated in what may well be the best known cognitive dissonance experiment ever conducted, a senior thesis, as it turns out, carried out by Leon Festinger’s student, Merrill Carlsmith.

The bottom line is that cognitive dissonance theory has two main prongs.

  1. First, the act of holding two incompatible thoughts creates a sense of internal discomfort, or “dissonance.”
  2. Second, people try to reduce or avoid these feelings of tension whenever possible.

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