Social Psychology



  • People tend to perform better on easy or well-learned tasks in the presense of others than on their own
  • People tend to perform worse on difficult or poorly learned tasks in the presence of others than on their own
  • There are several theories for this effect: arousal theory, evaluation apprehension theory and distraction-conflict theory
  • According to arousal theory, the mere presence of others leads to the production of dominant responses and social facilitation/inhibition
  • Evaluation apprehension theory stresses that the presence of others causes evaluation anxiety
  • Distraction-conflict theory suggests that the presence of others is distracting
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  • Conformity involves a change in behaviour due to group pressure
  • Sherif investigated whether people are influenced by others in a task where the answer is not clear
  • Asch's study looked at conformity in a situation where the answer was obvious
  • Asch carried out variations to his basic study. He investigated factors that may affect levels of conformity such as group size and unanimity
  • Deutsch and Gerard have identified 2 main reasons for conformity: informational social influence and normative social influence
  • 2 types of conformity are internalisation and compliance
  • Compliance can be linked to normative social influence
  • Internalisation can be linked to informational social influence
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  • Milgram claimed that we all have the potential to obey destructive orders
  • Obedience is affected by the proximity and legitimacy of the authority figure, the proximity of the victim and the social support avaliable
  • There are several explanations for obedience to authority: whether or not the person feels responsible for the consequences of obeying an order, the perceived legitimacy of the authority figure and order, the role of social norms and personality
  • Obedience can be resisted. This is more likely to occur if people have social support, exposure to disobedient models, knowledge and/or experience of the effects of obedience and question the motive of the authority figure
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  • Methodological issues include external, ecological and internal validity
  • The external validity of much research is low but there is some evidence of high ecological and internal validity
  • There are a number of ethical issues raised by research into social influence: use of deception, respect for privacy, informed consent, debriefing and protection from harm
  • These issues have to be weighed up against a more fundamental issues, the value and importance of the work
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