Social Psychology
Before reading this lecture, please be
sure to watch a short video clip on :
• Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison
Experiment on You Tube. The web
address is:
• Social Psychology highlights that we as humans
are social animals.
• This field also highlights how we perceive,
judge, and influence each other.
• This chapter is term heavy so throughout this
presentation, I provide the terms along with
definitions and examples. Some examples are
based on race and others on the Stanford Prison
Experiment, among other examples.
What is Social Psychology?
Social Psychology
Is the branch of psychology that
studies how people think, feel,
and behave in social situations.
What is Social Cognition?
Social Cognition
Is the mental processes people use to
make sense out of their social
environment. How people perceive,
remember and interpret information about
themselves and others. How people’s
emotions, and motivations influence the
cognitive process and vice versa.
What is Social Influence?
Social Influence
• Highlights the changes in a person’s
behavior induced by the presence or
actions of others.
Social Influence
Here are several examples:
• A person is looking up at a tall building on
the street, others passing by also look up.
• A couple of kids tease a classmate, and
other kids join in.
• One prison guard starts to be more stern,
the other ones follow suit.
What is Person Perception?
Person Perception
• Is the mental processes we use to form
judgments and draw conclusions about the
characteristics and motives of other
Person Perception
Again here are two examples
• Parents are often surprised to hear that
their mischievous child, the family
monster, is a perfect angel in the
• Students are often surprised to observe
that their favorite professor, so eloquent in
the lecture hall, may stumble over words in
less formal gatherings.
What are Social Norms?
Social Norms
• Are an accepted (but often unspoken)
standard for appropriate behavior. May
vary from culture to culture.
Can you think of any social norms that
exist in this country or other countries?
Social Norms
Here are some examples
• In U.S. say excuse me when interrupt someone
else; eat with mouth closed.
• In Asian countries take off shoes upon entering
• In Latin American and European countries, people
might kiss each other on the cheek upon greeting
once, twice, three times and sometimes even four
• It is normal for the prison guards to bark orders
and be emotionless while prisoners follow orders.
What is Social Categorization?
Social Categorization
• Is the mental process of categorizing
people into groups (or social categories)
on the basis of t heir shared
• Each person belongs to various social
Social Categorization
Some examples include:
• Male, female, black, white, fat, skinny,
short, tall, nerd, cool, prison guard,
• Question: are these fixed categories? Are
there exceptions? If so, what are they?
• Can one person’s social categorizing
conflict with another’s?
What is Implicit Personality Theory?
Implicit Personality Theory
• Is a network of assumptions or beliefs
about the relationship among various
types of people, traits, and behaviors.
• Knowing that someone has one trait thus
leads us to infer that s/he has other traits
as well.
Implicit Personality Theory
• A person who speaks slowly is also slowwitted
• A sports hero like O.J. could not possibly
stab two people to death
• A Catholic priest could never molest little
What is Attribution?
• Is the mental process of inferring the
causes of people’s behavior, including
one’s own. Also refers to the explanation
made for a particular behavior.
• There are two categories:
– personal attribution, and
– situational attribution
For Example:
• Imagine a hockey game where one player
hits another—Do you attribute his hitting
behavior to him and say “he is one of the
league’s most violent players”? If so, then
you just made a personal attribution. Or,
likewise, you could say that “hockey is a
very physical and fast-paced sport” and
this then is a situational attribution.
• Another example is, let’s say that a white man
complains that his daughters are not getting into
college. He believes this is because people of
color are getting in through affirmative action,
which is a situational attribution; what if
someone else were to say they should just try
harder? This would then be a personal
• Many people of color experience this in terms of
affirmative action—they got in because of the
situation, not because one has the merit
• In terms of the Stanford Prison
Experiment, did the prisoners and prison
guards follow orders because they were
told to take on these roles (situational
attribution), or is there something
inherently meek or stern about them,
What is Fundamental Attribution
Fundamental Attribution Error
• Is the tendency to attribute the behavior of
others to internal causes (personality,
likes, and so forth), while ignoring or
underestimating the effects of external,
situational factors.
• People fall prey to the fundamental
attribution error even when they are fully
aware of the situation’s impact.
Fundamental Attribution Error
For Example:
• You are waiting in line at the airport when someone cuts
you off. Internally you think, this guy is a real jerk! How
• Do you see that we are attributing his behavior to
internal causes, as if something is inherently wrong with
him? Attributing his behavior to internal causes is
generally an automatic first step.
• Then you over hear him say that this is an emergency
and he is in a rush because his mother is at her death
bed. Then, we usually take this information into account
and consider the situation, which is considered to be the
effortful second step.
Two other examples:
• A person of color is viewed as lazy instead
of considering discrimination/glass
ceiling/policies keeping people of color
• A person is late to work because s/he is
irresponsible vs. there being an actual
traffic or family emergency.
• Can you think of any examples for
fundamental attribution error?
What is Blaming the Victim?
Blaming the Victim
• Is the tendency to blame an innocent
victim of misfortune for having somehow
caused the problem or for not having
taken steps to avoid or prevent it.
Blaming the Victim
• A young woman was raped and we blame her
for the revealing clothes she wore.
• Poor people are blamed for causing their own
predicament of social/economic inequalities.
• HIV/AIDS victims are blamed for irresponsible
sexual practices instead of considering poor
education or lack of access to resources or
simply not knowing their partner had HIV/AIDS.
What is Just-World Hypothesis?
Just-World Hypothesis
• Is the assumption that the world is fair and that
therefore people get what they deserve and
deserve what they get, an orientation that leads
people to disparage victims.
• A world where hard work and clean living always
pay off and where laziness and a sinful lifestyle
are punished. To believe otherwise is to
concede that we, too, are vulnerable to the cruel
twists and turns of fate.
Just-World Hypothesis
• “Why can’t you pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
• The prison guard treating the prisoner like dirt because
he committed a crime and thus deserves inhuman
• A white man saying “I worked hard to get where I am,
why can’t you (person of color/woman) do the same.”
• The belief that gay men with AIDS lack moral integrity.
• Battered wives provoke their violent and abusive
What is Actor-Observer Discrepancy
or Actor-Observer Bias?
Actor-Observer Discrepancy/ActorObserver Bias
• In making attributions, the tendency to
attribute the behavior of others to internal
causes while attributing one’s own
behavior to external causes (situations
and circumstances).
Actor-Observer Discrepancy/ActorObservor Bias
For Example:
• When you are late, you say “there was so much traffic”
(external cause), however, when another is late it is
because s/he is irresponsible (internal cause).
• Or, when you break a glass it is because the glass was
wet and slippery (external cause), however, when
another breaks a glass, it is because s/he is clumsy
(internal cause).
• For the Stanford Prison Experiment, one prisoner who
obeyed a prison guard says it is because the prison
guard was really daunting (external cause), while he
could judge another obeying prisoner as a pushover
(internal cause).
What is Self-Serving Bias?
Self-Serving Bias
• Is the tendency to attribute successful
outcomes of one’s own behavior to
internal causes and unsuccessful
outcomes to external situational causes.
Self-Serving Bias
• A student gets an “A” on a test, so s/he feels
great, intelligent, and studied hard. However, if
the student did not do well, then it is because the
teacher grades too hard, the test was too
difficult, or there was not enough time, etc.
• You get a raise and believe this is because of all
the stellar work you have done; you don’t get a
raise and your boss is a total cheap skate.
What is an Attitude?
An Attitude is
• A learned tendency to evaluate some
object, person, or issue in a particular way;
such evaluations may be positive,
negative, or ambivalent.
• like, love, dislike, hate, admire, and detest.
• You can either be favorable towards
something, against it, ambivalent, or like
multiple things equally.
What is Cognitive Dissonance?
Cognitive Dissonance
• Is an unpleasant state of psychological
tension or arousal (dissonance) that
occurs when two thoughts or perceptions
(cognitions) are inconsistent; typically
results from the awareness that attitudes
and behavior are in conflict.
• Holding inconsistent cognitions arouses
psychological tension that people become
motivated to reduce.
Cognitive Dissonance
• For example, you are on a diet and just
dived head first into a chocolate mousse.
• What do you do? How would you reduce
the tension that exists due to the
contrasting behavior and cognition?
Some possibilities include:
• Say “Life is too short, who needs to be on a diet
any way!” (changing your cognition)
• I’ll exercise extra tomorrow or skip a meal
(change your behavior, still staying firm to the
• Rationalize your behavior and say that chocolate
mousse is highly nutritious (still staying firm to
the diet)
• As you see, we can either change our behavior
or our cognition so that they are aligned and the
tension is reduced.
What is Prejudice?
• Is a negative attitude toward people who
belong to a specific social group.
• It is a behavior (unlike the next concept,
What is a Stereotype?
• Are a cluster of characteristics that are
associated with all members of a specific
social group. Stereotypes are thoughts
and we can simply notice them in our
minds, however, once we act on them,
then that becomes prejudice (the
• Interestingly enough, we tend to remember
stereotype consistent information more than
stereotype inconsistent information. This is
known as confirmation bias.
• For example, if someone on the freeway is
driving slowly, and we happen to look over and
the person is Asian, we remember that
information more than noticing all the other
Asians who don’t drive slowly.
• What are the stereotypes you might hold or were
taught by your family or society? Might any of
these stereotypes fall under confirmation bias?
What is In-Group?
• Is a social group to which one belongs and
feels a sense of membership. Basically,
whom you identify with.
• For example, if you are Middle Eastern,
then your in-group includes others that are
also from the Middle East or identify as
Middle Eastern.
• One way to discover who your in-group is,
and we actually can have many, is when
you refer to “us”.
What is Out-Group?
• A social group to which one does not
• A social group to which one does not
• Let’s take the same example of the
individual who identifies as Middle-Eastern
and, as a result, her in-group would be
comprised of other Middle Easterners. If
you don’t identify as Middle Eastern, then
from the Middle Easterners stand point,
you are part of the out-group.
• One way to help you identify the out-group
is when the term “them” or “they” is used.
What is Out-Group Homogeneity
Out-Group Homogeneity Effect
• Is the tendency to see members of outgroups as very similar to one another and
one’s own in-group as having more variety
due to little personal contact and
Out-Group Homogeneity Effect
• If you don’t identify as Asian, then Asian is your
out-group, as a result, All Asians look alike from
outsiders, but many Asians can tell the
difference between Koreans, Japanese,
Chinese, and Vietnamese (here identifying as
Asian is one’s in-group).
• New Yorkers praise their cultural diversity (New
Yorker is your in-group), but outsiders talk of the
“typical” New Yorker (from the out-group’s
What is In-Group Bias?
In-Group Bias
• Is the tendency to judge the behavior of in-group
members favorably and out-group members
• Terms used for in-groups (ie. we and us) tend to
illicit positive emotions whereas terms used to
describe out-groups (ie. them and they) tend to
illicit negative emotions.
• The positive aspect of in-group bias is that there
is pride from our connections; the negative
aspect is that we often feel the need to belittle
“them” to feel good about “us”.
In-Group Bias
• Racial/ethnic conceit
• Religious fervor
• Patriotism
• The belief that one’s own culture or ethnic
group is superior to all others and the
related tendency to use one’s own culture
as a standard by which to judge other
• When the European settlers came to this land
and believed they were civilizing the native
• Some believe that the Iraqi war is ethnocentric
on the U.S.’s part – as some believe we tried to
go there to make them have a democracy like
• What is considered normal? Who decides?
This concludes the end of our
Social Psychology lesson. Next:
• Take the Social Psychology multiple
choice quiz.
• And, participate in the discussion forum.

Social Psychology PP Presentation