PSY101 Chapter 15

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What works better: keep off the grass or save the planet?
Applying theories from social psychology to environmental problems, researchers at Arizona State University tested the power of social norms in influencing behaviour.
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What you should be able to do after reading chapter 15
Define social psychology and understand what social psychologists do; understand how we process, store and use information about ourselves and other people; understand the motives that influence how we form a conception of who we are
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Questions to think about
Are the problems facing social psychology different from those in other branches of psychology? What makes social psychology similar to sociology, and what makes it similar to neuroscience?
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Social psychology
Most human activity is social. We spend most of our waking hours interacting with, thinking about, or being directly or indirectly influenced by other people.
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Doing social psychology
To a large extent we are all social psychologists but rather than being empirical scientists, we are more like intuitive social psychologists (Heider, 1958).
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Social cognition and social knowledge
At the heart of social behaviour is our ability to make sense of a social situation in order to know what to expect and what to do.
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Forming impressions of people
All of us form impressions of others: friends, neighbours, lecturers, foreigners - virtually everyone we meet. We assign all sorts of characteristics to them. We may, for example, think of someone as friendly or hostile, helpful or selfish.
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Cognitive algebra
Our perspective on impression formation argues that our evaluation of other people is critically important as it underpins fundamental judgements of danger and safety and thus approach-avoidance decisions. Impressions of people are largely evaluative
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Asch's configural model
Over half a century ago, Asch (1946) noted that our impressions of others are formed by more complex rules than just a simple sum of the characteristics that we use to describe people.
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Biases in impression formation
What determines whether a trait is central or not? One factor is the order in which information is available or is processed. Research suggests that the first information we process is the most important - there is a marked primacy effect.
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Schemas and categories
A central theme for social cognition is the concept of schema - although 'schemata' is the correct plural, social cognition theorists, perhaps embarrassingly, refer to 'schemas' (Fiske and Taylor, 1991).
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Categories, prototypes and exemplars
Once you categorise a person (as an individual or as a member of a particular group), the schema of that person or group is activated.
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Schema acquisition and development
We tend to acquire and develop our schemas through exposure to instances of the category - face-to-face encounters, media presentations, second-hand accounts, and so forth.
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Group schemas and stereotypes
Schemas of social groups are particularly significant since they characterise large numbers of people in terms of a small number of properties that submerges the variety of differences that exist between people.
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Automaticity of stereotypes
Images of another group (the out-group) are generally less favourable than images of one's own group (the in-group) and provide a relatively positive evaluation of oneself.
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When good intentions backfire: stereotypes, influence and behaviour
A female assistant is working alongside her male boss on a complex decision task. Will he treat her any differently from a male assistant?
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Implicit attitudes: insights from neuroscience
A new field has emerged in psychology and neuroscience in the past decade which studies the relationship between brain structure and function, and social processes and behaviour.
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Cutting edge: He looks guilty
In an unusual study, Stillman et al. (2010) found that people were able to accurately estimate the degree of violence committed by sex offenders by looking at their faces only.
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Facing racial stereotypes
Physical appearance is a powerful cue to category membership. For example, we rely heavily on sex or skin colour to assign people to gender or racial/ethnic categories, and then generate stereotypical assumptions about their attributes and behaviours
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Stereotypes - An international perspective
Are there any features of stereotypes that transcend national boundaries? One model in social psychology - the stereotype content model - argues just that.
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Controversies in psychological science: Sexist humour - does it make you sexist? - Issue
People who express sexist attitudes - an antagonism towards women (perhaps, itself, a sexist definition) - tend to suppress them for external reasons rather than internal ones.
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Controversies in psychological science: Sexist humour - does it make you sexist - Evidence
A group of US researchers asked participants to read a series of scenarios and pretend to empathise with them (Ford et al., 2008). In the scenario, participants were told that a discussion has taken place about a workmates' favourite jokes.
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Controversies in psychological science: Sexist humour - does it make you sexist? - Conclusion
The moral of this story seems to be: exposure to some forms of comedy can harm your charity collecting
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Conceptual and historical issues in social psychology
So far, you have seen how social psychologists have studied basic social behaviours such as impression formation and stereotypes.
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Self and identity
Some of the most significant and influential schemas are those we have about ourselves.
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Self-knowledge
Knowledge about ourselves is very much like knowledge about other people. If you were asked who you were, how would you respond? You might say your name, that you are a student and perhaps that you are also an athlete or have a part-time job.
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Orientations of self-knowledge
We are all aware of two contrasting orientations to life - one in which we are adventurous, optimistic and approach-oriented (the glass is half full), and one in which we are more cautious, avoidant and defensively-oriented (the glass is half empty).
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Self-awareness
The above may give the impression that people spend all their time thinking about themselves, but this is not the case. People are not consciously aware of themselves all the time - if people were, then probably very little would ever get done.
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Types of self and identity
Actual and possible selves can take many different forms. The enormous variety of human existence offers us a dazzling kaleidoscope of different ways in which we can define and conceptualise our selves.
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Social identity
Social identity theory distinguishes between personal self/personal identity, and collective self/social identity (Tajfel and Turner, 1986; Hogg and Abrams, 1988).
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Self-motives
What motivates the different ways that we may want to conceptualise ourselves? Research suggests that there are three general classes of motivations.
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Self-esteem
The reason why people pursue self-enhancement is because it elevates self-esteem.
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Social inference
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Causal attribution
As mentioned right at the start of this chapter, we are all intuitive social psychologists (Jones, 1990), using naive or common-sense psychological theories (Heider, 1958) to make sense of our social world.
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Cultural differences in self and identity - An international perspective
The same person can experience self in an array of different personal or collective ways depending on context.
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Disposition versus situation
In deciding the causes of behaviour, the most important thing we need to know is whether the behaviour is a reflection of the person's disposition to behave in that way or a reflection of situational constraints that made them behave in that way.
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Kelley's covariation theory of attribution
Kelley (1967) has suggested that we attribute the behaviour of other people to external (situational) or internal (dispositional) causes on the basis of consideration of three aspects of the behaviour.
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Implications and extensions of attribution theory
Attribution theory has a number of interesting implications and extensions. Earlier in this chapter we described how people can learn about themselves by investigating the causes of their behaviour.
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Attributional biases
Although casual attribution is an important way in which people make sense of their world, it is quite clear that we do not rely on casual attributions all the time. If we did then we would be completely immobilised by cogitation.
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Define social psychology and understand what social psychologists do; understand how we process, store and use information about ourselves and other people; understand the motives that influence how we form a conception of who we are

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What you should be able to do after reading chapter 15

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Are the problems facing social psychology different from those in other branches of psychology? What makes social psychology similar to sociology, and what makes it similar to neuroscience?

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Most human activity is social. We spend most of our waking hours interacting with, thinking about, or being directly or indirectly influenced by other people.

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To a large extent we are all social psychologists but rather than being empirical scientists, we are more like intuitive social psychologists (Heider, 1958).

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