Social Psychology

Social Psychology is the study of how our behaviour is influenced by the presence, attitudes and actions of other people.

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  • Created by: Andy andy
  • Created on: 16-10-11 03:10

Sherit Experiment, 1961


Social judgement theory, realistic conflict theory Muzater Sherif – one of the founder of the social psychology. He is famous for Robbers Crave Experiment.


Aim: to study the origin of prejudice and social groups.


Method: The study team screened a group of 24 twelve year old boys with a similar background. They were picked up by two buses carrying 12 boys each. They don’t know each other Sherif broken up in two again within two or three days. The two groups spontaneously developed intended social hierarchies. 


The experiment was broken into three phases: 1. In group formation

                                      2. Friction phase

                                      3. Integration phase


Ethical timeline


Holfing à Deception à Debriefed

Rosenthal and Jacobsul, 1968


The participants were students from an elementary school.


Aim: to see how different teachers will act to students with different grades, the grades were random and given to random students to see what they would be able to live up to the experiment of the teacher.


Method: 28 classes took an IQ test to see who was an academic homer. The list of the results was given back to the class teacher with the top 20% marked next to random names to see how the teacher would react to the students.


Result: If you think someone is smart you will spend more time working and helping them.


Pilliavn Experiment, 1969


He did an experiment to see who was more likely to help someone on a subway if they were sick or in need of medical attention.


Result: Someone with a cane got more help than a drunk person. 90% of people who helped were men; 64% were white and the experiment was carried in America.




-          Alternative hypothesis – a testable hypothesis

-          Null hypothesis – there is no such effect except that found by chance.


Administrative Obedience, 1985


Administrative Obedience is carrying out orders to use Psychological – Administrative violence (Meeus and Roaijmatros)


Aim: test the concepts of obedience illustrated by Milgran in a more up to date way in a culture more liberal than 1960s US – 1980s Holland. Would Obedience still be affective if psychological, as opposed to physical, harm was applied?


Method: 24 naïve participants took part in what they thought was a job interview, that required applicant being able to tolerate stress. The participants were ordered to haras an apparent job applicant (confederate). They were told to make a series of graduated cutting comments one was most innocuous and least offensive to 15 being most offensive.


Results: 22/24 (92%) of participants made all 15 stressful comments. In control situation where the researcher was not in the room but introducing two rebellious peers (they refused to obey orders)


Conclusion: Even a liberal country like Netherlands people obey the authority ad went against their better nature to do something designed to harm another person.


Validity: Researchers maintained that ecological validity was high, arguing that the type of abuse depicted in the study was more common in society than physical abuse in Milgram’s study. However experimental validity was low because the scenario was quite extreme and bizarre.


New Teacher Experiment


Testing a new teacher to see how far 15 students will insult a new teacher (weak female) being interview while being encouraged by the principal.


Method: A new teacher (confederate) will be teaching a class of 15 students (naïve participants) to see how many insults the students will give stopping being encouraged to continue by the principal. The experiments will be repeated a few times: students of different ages, average students, quiet students and clever students. The teacher will teach the exact same lesson for each of the classes.


Differences between experiments


Milgram, 1963

Meeus and Racijmaker, 1985


-done in the USA

-Physical harm

-done in a lab

-not ecological validity

-adults male 40+

-no control experiment

-full experimental validity

-no reason for doing the experiment



-done in Netherlands

-psychological harm

-done during a job interview

-ecological validity

-variation of adults

-controlled experiment

-little experimentation validity

-gave participant a good reason for doing the experiment


Social Identity


Social Identity Theory: states that simple act of being grouped will inevitably lead to prejudice.


Social Categorization: participants are placed in groups according to minimal criteria – whether they liked the same paintings or not. In reality the participants were allocated in groups entirely randomly.

Social Identification: adopt the names of the in-group and identify differences between in-group and out-group.


Social Comparison: the in-group shows favoritism over accentuation similarities. Despite the fact they performed was the same, both of them decided to reward the member of their own group ‘highly’.


Evaluation: The study supports the social identity theory because in life people join groups based on minimal criteria, but favor the in-group and out-group is just an outcast.


The BBC Prison Study


Aim: to investigate the effects on behavior of putting participants into two groups unequal in terms of power.


Method: Conduced in conjuction with the BBC 15 men took part in a study simulated prison style environment. Participants well-adjusted. There was a wide range of age, social class and ethnicity. Put in 5 groups of 3 on basis of being most similar to each other and one was randomly selected from each group to join the guards group. Participants were pschometericall tested everyday and a physical measure of stress was taken. Guards told to do their job to ensure the prison ran smoothly and asked to drown up rules and punishments. They had access to surveillance cells, trapp of authority and better conditions. The prisoners arrived one at the time and were told only about the prison rules. Researchers manipulated events to see the effects on behavior e.g. on the 3rd day both groups that talking to guards was possible and allowing the guards to select the most suitable prisoner. The chance to be promoted was rented six days into the experimaeters told the participants there was actually no real difference between the guards and the prisoners but it was too late to do anything.


Results: Prisoners adjusted their behavior to get promoted when this was no loner possible they began to show strong social identity and instead to change the system. The guards did not show a shared social identity and did not exert their authority. They could not deal with contrantet and gave in to demands by day 4. the prisoners became more and more the dominant group. By day 6 the system had collapsed and a single self-governing commune replaced it by majority decision. Within 2 days the commune collapsed and the dissenters from the day before proposed a hierachical arrangement with the authority. This concluded the study as the experiment judged it to be unworkable.


Conclusions: when groups were formed with shared norms and values, the members work together and became strong. Tyranny arises because of failed groups rather than because of tyranny of the group itself. When there was a possibility of promotion, the group did not have shared norms and values.

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