Psychology- The sociocultural level of analysis

The Sociocultural Level of Analysis

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1. Outline principles that define the socio-cultur

  • Society and culture influence human behaviour 
  • We are social animals 
  • We construct our conceptions of the individual and social self. 
  • Our conceptions are resistant to change.
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3. Discuss how and why particular research methods

Observations and Experiments

Observation- Zimbardo (1973)

Experiment- Jones and Harris (1967)

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Definition- When you observe the naturally and freely behaviour either in a natural environment, or in a lab (controlled). The observer can be a non-participant or a participant, the observation can either be structured or unstructured. If it is a covert observation , the participants do not know that they are being observed but if it is an overt observation the participants know that they are observed.

Strengths- High ecological validity, natural behavoir and environment.

Weaknesses- only correlation (no cause-and-effect), hard to interpret, hard to replicate, bias, lack of control.

Ethics- Invasion of privacy, informed consent, no withdrawl from investigation, invasion of privacy.

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1. Describe the role of situational and dispositio

The Actor-Observer Effect- refers to the tendency of people to attribute Situaltional/dispositional factors when observing others behavior.

Situtaional factors- situational characteristics

Dispositional factors- Personal characteristics


  • Zimbardo (1973)
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Studie- Zimbardo 1973

Key words: Situational and dispositional facors, observation

Aim: To demonstrate the situational factors rather than dispositional factors causing negative behaviour.

Method: 24 male subjects, tested for stability, maturity and lack of involvment in anit social behaviour.

Prisoners arrested, blindfolded, stripped naked, "deloused", dressed in uniform. 24 h prison, schedule of work, rest, meal/toilet visits. Guards 8h shift, no specific instructons apart from "maintain a reasonable degree of order" and prohibition of order.


General: Terminated after 6 days, instead of 14, because of pathological reactions shown by both prisoners and guards. Both guards and prisoners showed a marked tendency towards increased nagative emotions, and more disapproving self-evaluations. Interactions typically hostile, insulting and dehumanising. Prisioners very passive, guards very active in giving orders.

Effect of prisioners: "pathological prisoner syndrome": disbelief followed by rebellion, which after faliure followed by a range of negative emotions and behaviours. Passitivity, dependence. Half of them showed signs of depression.

Effect on guards: "pathology of power": huge enjoyment of the power, abusing and dehumanising the prisioners.

Conclusion: Situational factors are important when it comes to explaining human behaviour. Important situational factors for the prisioners could be loss of personal identity, emasculation, dependence and learned helpnessess due to arbitary and unpredictable control, the norms and structure of the prision system. Important situational factors for the guards could be the loss of personal identity (the uniforms) and the sense of empowerment legitimised by the gurad role in the prision system.

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3. Discuss two errors in attribution.

The fundamental attribution error (Ross 1977)-

 To overestimate dispositional causes and underestimate situational factors when explaining other's behavior.


  • Jones and Harris (1967)

Self-serving bias (Greenberg 1975)- 

To overestimate dispositional in explaining successful behavior and explain failures through situational factors.   


  • Miller (1976)

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Studie: Jones and Harris 1967

Key words:The fundamental attribution error, Errors in attribution, experiment.

Aim: This experiment was designed to investigate under what conditions internal attributions are made. 

Method: 36 male and 15 female introductory psychology students. All read the same essay, only the title differentiated. Pro or anit Castro. After reading, 12 item scale rating personal qualities of the target person. 10 scale rating scale estimating the target persons true attitude. They also estimated their own attitude towards Castro.

Results: Participants true attitude were approximately the same in all conditions. The essay had a great impact on the writers rated attitude.

Conclusion: Supports the fundamental attribution error, overestimating dispositional factors and underestimating situational factors when explaining others behavior.

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Studie: Miller 1976

Key Words: Self-serving bias, errors in attribution, lab experiment.

Aim: This experiment was designed to investigate the effect of ego involvement and outcome of attribution.

Method: 52 self-recruited undergraduate psychology students, both female and male. Divided into three groups;

  • Condition 1- Manipulated ego involvement.
  • Condition2- No manipulated ego involvement, scored 24/30
  • Condition3- No manipulated ego involvement, scored 8/30

After receiving the results, participants answered a questionnaire on what they though affected the results.

Results: No significant difference low/high ego involvement. But results mattered.

Conclusion: The participants explained their failure with situational factors and their success with dispositional factors. 

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3. Evaluate social identity theory making referenc

Social Identity theory-

  • We identify ourselves as a part of a group.
  • We classify people as either within or outside that group. "us and them thinking"

1. Social Categorization- When we categorize other people as members of a social group.

2. Social Identification- We tend to adapt the identity of the group that we think we belong to.

3. Social comparison- We compete with out identities to maintain our self esteem, our group needs to compete well against other groups.

4. Self concept- The way we see ourselves.

  • Tajfel (1970)
  • Reicher and Haslam (2006)
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Studie: Tajfel 1970

Key Words: Social Identity Theory, Out group discrimination, experiment

Aim: To investigate if we in order to enhance self-esteem, view members of the in-group positively and members of out-group negatively.

Method: 64 boys, 14 and 15 years old from England. They all knew each other from before. The first part of the experiment was in order to establish categorization. The second part, the researchers assessed categorization on inter-group behavior.

Results: The boys rated in group members higher than out-group members.

Conclusion: Supports social identity theory.

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