PSY110 Social Psychology

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Cognitive miser: Fiske and Taylor - resources valuable so we make shortcuts when making judgements. We are "naive scientists" - Heider

Representativeness: judge someone's membership to a group based on how they match to typical members (e.g. in characteristics) 

Availability: judge probability of event based on how easy it is to think of examples e.g. recent plane crash = more fear of flying

Schwarz et al - ppts. asked to recall 6 examples of assertiveness opposed to 12 rated themselves as more assertive, they couldn't not think of examples

Anchoring:  biased towards starting value in judgements

e.g. Plous 1989, greater than 1% chance of nuclear war or less than 90% chance. higher chance estimation for 90% condition. Greenberg et al (1986) - in mock jury those asked to consider harsh verdict first were harsher in final judgement

We may not be cognitive misers or naive scientists but motivated tacticians - we choose between cognitive strategies depending on goals and motives - Kruglanski, 1996

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Heuristics criticisms and when they are used

Relying on heuristics can lead to perpetuating stereotypes.


prone to error: base rate fallacy = ignoring statistical info in favour of representativeness info False


consensus effect - we exaggerate how common our own opinions are to the general population (Gross and Milner, 1997) 

When are they used?

Griffiths et al (1993) - used due to time constraints, cognitive overload, low importance or little information about issue

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Attribution: correspondent inference theory and co

Attribution = process used to explain causes of behaviour and events

Attribution theory -Heider (1958), people motivated by need to form coherent view of the world and gain control over environment, to satisfy these we act as naive scientists

Correspondent inference theory - belief that one action corresponds to dispositional personality characteristic or internal attribution, useful to predict behaviour

When making an internal attribution we consider:social desirability, choice (if actor freely chose given behaviour) and non-common effects of outcome

Co-variation model: multiple observations and processes result in internal and external attribution uses co-variation principlefor something to be cause of behaviour it must be present with behaviour and absent without

When assessing co-variation we take into account: consensus info (how others react), consitensy info (how person reacts to same stimulus in different situations), distinctiveness info (same reaction to different stimulus)

Chen, Yates and McGuinness (1988) - not all types of info are equal, consensus info least vital

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Attribution biases

Fundamental attribution error: 

Jones and Harris 1967 - pro/anti-Castro essays, told students had chosen viewpoint themselves or not, believed essay reflected their own opinions in both conditions

Fiske and Taylor - Situation is salient when observing own behaviour but not others

Actor-observer bias: Actors: emphasise situational factors for own behaviour, observers emphasise dispositional when observing others

Weiner's theory of motivation  (1986): threatening/uncertain events lead people to seek explanations e.g. locus of causality, stability and controllability

e.g. attribution- coping model in illness

Voth and Sirois (2010) - in those with IBD, self blame associated with poorer coping and poor adjustment

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Self and Identity:private self awareness

  • The self - symbolic structure meaning there is consciousness of own identity and awareness we exist separately to others
  • Self-awareness = being aware of traits, feelings and behaviours 

Lewis and Brooks (1978) - put red spot on babies' nose and put in front of mirror, around 18 months babies could recognise reflection as themselves

This is due to rapid growth of spindle cells - monitor and control intentional behaviour (also activated in adults when self-aware

Private self-awareness = "aware of me" e.g. looking in mirror

  • Consequences: emotional response intensified (positive and negative), leads to focus on state of mind
  • Scheir & Carver (1977) ppts. who looked in mirror when reading positive or negative statements had more intense response
  • focus on internal events means we can report with more accuracy e.g. ppts given a placebo and those in front of a mirror were less fooled (Gibbons et al, 1979)
  • adherence to personal standards of behaviour - true beliefs emphasised, less susceptible to external forces
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Self and Identity: Public self-awareness & self co

Public = knowing others are aware of you e.g. when being photographed


  • Evaluation apprehension: nervousness and reduced self-esteem
  • Adherence to social behaviour norms, even if private standards don't match


- individual difference in chronic self-awareness, viewed as personality trait


  • more intense emotions, act in line with personal beliefs, less likely to suffer ill-heath as problems noticed earlier, more likely to have depression/neuroticism (anxiety) due to overthinking


  • concerned with other's perceptions, adhere to group norms, avoid embarrassing situations, more appearance conscious and judge others more based on this
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Self and Identity: Self-Knowledge Organisation

Organisation of self-knowledge: 

  • self-schemas: how we expect ourselves to think/behave, active in relevant situations - tell us how to respond
  • If an aspect of self is particularly important we can be described as self-schematic in that dimension 

e.g. if you are student, you will be self-schematic on that scale if being a student is important to you

Self-schemas are more complex than schemas held in memory because we know more about the self than anything else

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Self and Identity: Theories of self-concept mainte

 how we define the self and how it affects behaviour depends on how the self compares with a particular point of comparison


  • Control theory of self-regulation (Carver and Scheir, 1981.) 
  • We examine ourselves to see if we are meeting goals, if not we take corrective action
  • Then "re-appraise" change strategy, re-assess

Limitations: Baumeister et al (1998) - regulating one aspect of self makes it harder to regulate other aspects - ppts. who had previously shown self-control by eating radishes not cookies, found it harder to persist on impossible task (due to limited cognitive resources)

  • Self-discrepancy theory (Higgins)
  • We have conflict between actual self, ideal self and ought self (how we feel we should be) - causes psychological discomfort
  • actual-ideal discrepancy causes dejection (sadness)
  • actual-ought agitation suggests discrepancies will motivate change

BUT the feelings of distress may make it harder to pursue goals as we may give in to impulse

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Self and Identity: Self-concept maintenance (indiv


Social Comparison Theory (Festinger, 1954)

  • we define self by comparing to others (upwards = better, downwards = worse)
  • If we want accuracy we will compare to both
  • Provides benchmark of comparison opposed to self-comparison which is subjective

Self-evaluation maintenance model (Tesser, 1988)

  • If someone is more successful than us it can lower our self-esteem, we deal with this by:
  • Social reflection: derive self-value from accomplishments of those close to us e.g. why parents are so proud of children
  • However this can also provoke upward comparison and reduce self-esteem, it becomes social reflection NOT comparison when:
  • the domain of their success is irrelevant to us and we are certain of our abilities in that domain (then the success of someone else is not a threat to us)
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Self and Identity: Self-concept maintenance (group


Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979):

  • Two identities, which is salient depends on context:
  • Personal = reflects the self e.g. personality traits
  • Social = reflects broader social groups we belong to
  • e.g. talking to friend = personal
  • college football match = social identity as part of team

Self-categorisation theory (Turner et al, 1987) 

  • based on social identity theory
  • de-personalisation occurs when social identity becomes salient, leads to "mob mentality"
  • meta-contrast principle - group members emphasise similarities in own group and differences between others
  • Jetten et al (1996) - participants in groups (social identity salient) told to distribute money between own groups and other groups, and were told their group had either distributed money equally or more to own group, same with other group
  • followed their group norm
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Self and Identity: Self-esteem

Self-esteem = subjective appraisal of self as either intrinsically positive or negative, individual differences

Development of self-esteem:

  • How positive SE is in later life depends on our primary caregivers to some extent (Baumrind,1991) - how demanding, responsive & authoritative they are
  • high SE = authoritative parents, low SE = authoritarian/permissive

Robins et al (2002) - children aged 6-11 had relatively unstable self-esteem, most stable early 20s until mid-adulthood. At 60 SE declines, perhaps due to later life changes e.g. retirement, declining health and death of others from same generation.


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Self and Identity: High and Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem:

  • Wood et al (2003) low self-esteem can actively dampen positive feelings
  • Can also make people feel worse after a negative event than those with high SE
  • Heimpei et al (2002) - make less goals to improve mood
  • Low SE also a symptom of depression in DSM-5

High self-esteem:

  • Narcissistic qualities include: high SE, unstable and fragile, reliant on other's validation

Bushman & Baumeister (1998) 

- ppts wrote essay "marked by another participant", either returned with praise or negative comments (threat condition) 

- positive correlation between narcissism and aggression (aggression assessed by intensity of noise given to other ppt. in a seperate reaction task)

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Self and Identity: self motive and enhancing perso

Self-motives for:

  • Self-assessment = desire to know ourselves
  • Self - verification = desire to confirm what we already believe is true
  • Self-enhancement = desire to seek info that presents us in best possible light (seems to be opposite in people with depression) 

Self-enhancement most important to us (Sedikedes, 1993) 


Self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1975): 

  • if SE is threatened we affirm our positive self-aspects publicly
  • e.g. Mormon study: 
  • Mormons value community and co-operation were told Mormons were uncooperative with community projects (self-concept threat), Mormons were uncooperative with driver safety (irrelevant threat) or Mormons co-operative
  • 95% in group 1 or 2 responded to call 2 days later, 65% in group 3. More in group 1 and 2 because they wanted to dispell threat and promote community ideal
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Self and Identity: self-serving attribution bias

Self-Serving attribution bias: 

  • we interpret events in a way that benefits us
  • successes = due to internal factors, failures due to external (situational factors)
  • we have a memory bias for self-enhancing information


  • Positive self-image from group membership also motivated to hold positive collective identity
  • easy for high-status group members to have positive self-image as they can compare to low-status group 
  • Low-status members must try other strategies, especially if not willing to leave group for higher status group (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) 
  • Social change strategy = compete with high-status group to improve status relative to them
  • Social creativity strategy = find new situation in which group compares more favourably
  • Dis-identification = disregard group membership as important part of identity

Cialdini - US college students wore more apparel with college name on it after team had won football match

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Self and Identity: Cultural Differences

- Individualist cultures e.g. US and UK "I am..." 

- Collectivist cultures e.g. China "we are Chinese" 

Gardner et al (1999) - 

- students primed to have temporarily collective and individualist self-concept by reading a story that used different pronouns e.g. I vs We

  • Students primed as individualist had more individual self-description 
  • Those primed as collectivist = more collective description

Biculturalism - people adept at adapting to two cultures dependent on situation

Alternation model - by changing self-concept dependent on the situation it is possible to have sense of belonging in two cultures without jeopardising cultural identity - allows interaction with members outside their ethnic minority

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Group processes:

  • Group = at least two people influencing or interacting with each other
  • Cohesiveness matters - cohesive groups have more social influence and more committed members
  • Entitativity = extent that a group can be perceived as "group-like" based on cohesiveness, similarity, common goals

Performance in groups: 

- Audience effect = effect of presence of others on individual task performance

Social facilitation = better performance in front of audience, originally observed by Triplett (1897), occurs in wide variety of animals and effects include running faster to eating more (mainly automatic processes)

Social inhibition = inhibition of performance in more complex tasks when being observed e.g. solving maths problem

Pessin 1933 - ppts. needed fewer trials when learning words alone

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Zajonc's drive theory (1965)

Explanations for performance in groups:

Zajonc's drive theory (1965): 

  • Presence of others (evolutionarily useful to be aware of others)
  • arousal (drive, arousal important as others may be threat or opportunity to reproduce)
  • Increase in performing dominant response 
  • If correct = social facilitation
  • If incorrect = social inhibition 

Not related to whether task is simple or complex but whether the dominant response and task requirement match (however they often co-vary, well-learned responses are often the most simple) 

- Despite this, an expert would still perform the best on a task as they have mastered it and it is well-learnt even on more complex tasks 

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Cottrell's evaluation apprehension model (1972)

Explanation for performance in groups 2: Evaluation Apprehension Model (Cottrell 1972)

  • presence of audience
  • evaluation apprehension (e.g. fear that you'll look stupid in front of others)
  • dominant response leads to facilitation/inhibition (depending on task)

Cottrell et al (1968) 

  • Experiment to distinguish between mere exposure and evaluation apprehension 
  • ppts. performed better in front of non-blindfolded audience due to evaluation
  • Zajonc would suggest the results would be the same for blindfolded ppts. due to mere exposure - but this was not the case


  • Evaluation apprehension can't explain effects in animals - only drive theory can
  • But in more recent research there is no consistent evidence of increased physiological arousal in front of an audience
  • Zajonc also provides a very vague concept of drive - what is it?
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Attention overload model Baron (1986)

  • audience presence causes cognitive overload
  • leads to narrowing of attention and focus on a few central cues

easy tasks = social facilitation 

  • requires attention to few number of cues
  • the narrowing of attention eliminates distraction from paying attention to extraneous cues, meaning performance is improved

Difficult tasks = social inhibition

  • require attention to larger number of cues
  • attention narrowing diverts attention from cues that require focus to complete the task
  • Therefore performance is impaired
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Social Loafing

  • people work less hard when in a group because their individual progress cannot be evaluated 

e.g. Ringelman (1913) - people pulled less hard on a rope when in larger groups and Latané et al (1979) - ppts. shouted louder when they thought they were on their own compared to a larger group, no difference in actual condition, only difference in what participants thought


Evaluation apprehension - provides anonymity, there is no evaluation 

Output equity - people believe others will slack, loaf to make it fair

Matching to standard - no standard to match to = loafing 

Comer (1995) - diffusion of responsibility - people in group feel less responsible - literally lost in crowd

  • Alternatively, social compensation may occur if group's performance is important or if someone believes group to be incompetent or lazy
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Decision-making in groups


  • group attitudes tend to be more extreme than those originally held by the individual members as they converge around what majority opinion appears to be

Moscovici and Zavalloni (1969) 

  • positive views became more positive and negative views more negative after grp discussion about positive topic (Charles de Gaulle) and negative topic (Americans)

Groupthink = when the need for unanimity overrides rational decision making - extreme form of polarisation 

  • Caused by: excessive cohesiveness, lack of impartial leadership
  • Symptoms: invulnerability, unanimity, ignoring information that opposes group opinion 
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Personality traits for good leader: certainty of ability, above average intelligence and more talkative - however personality is not everything, situational factors also important 

- Differs between individualist and collectivist cultures

  • Lippitt and White (1943), types of leaders:
  • autocratic (task-focused, heirachical),
  • democratic (involve other group members in decisions - most popular)
  • laissez-faire (only intervene when necessary - most pleasant atmosphere, least productive)

Styles of attachment (Bales, 1950) 

  • Task focused - focus on aims and goals, distance themselves from group members
  • Socio-emotional - focused on group dynamics - friendly, empathetic
  • Could be argued that democratic leaders are both

Transformational leaders are charismatic, show individualised consideration of others, encourage novel directions for group

Task-focused or socio-emotional can be transformational, Mandela = example

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Effectiveness of leaders

Contingency theory (leader-situation interaction): 

Leader's situational control includes:

  • quality of leader-member relations, structure of tasks, legitimacy of leader
  • high control - task-focused most effective
  • low control - task-focused
  • moderate control - socio-emotional

Leader-member exchange theory:

  • effectiveness depends on quality of exchange relationships between leader & members
  • High quality - mutual resource exchange
  • low quality - distant relationship based on obligation

When membership to group is salient, members will think of themselves as social identity not personal identity 

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Prejudice and intergroup relations

Prejudice = negative attitude towards outgroup 

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