Social Psychology
Asch and Conformity
Experiment (Asch, 1951)
•When answered alone, 99% correct
•When in groups, 37% of the responses
were conforming
Asch and Conformity
Asch Experiment
Conformity
Crutchfield (1955)
Studies of attitude
“Free speech being a
privilege rather than a
right, it is proper for a
society to suspend free
speech when it feels
threatened”
– 19% agreed with statement in private
– 58% agreed under pressure of group
influence
Obedience to Authority
Milgram’s experiment (1963)
• 2 males asked come to
psych exp. at Yale.
• apparently about learning
and memory
• Stern experimenter (in lab coat) explains cover story:
pioneering study on the effect of punishment on
learning. The experiment requires one of them to
teach a list of word pairs to the other and to punish
errors by delivering shocks of increasing intensity.
• To assign the roles, they (apparently) draw slips out of a
hat (but fixed so confederate is “learner”)
Obedience to Authority
Milgram’s experiment
• Confederate strapped into chair
with electrodes
• Teacher & experimenter go to
room with shock generator…
• Shocks range: 15 volts (slight
shock) - 450 volts
(Danger/severe shock/XXX)
• Every time learner gets one wrong, “teacher” is to
increase the shock
Obedience to Authority
Milgram’s experiment
How far would YOU go?
Do you really know?
Described expt. to 110 psychiatrist, college
students & middle class adults.
=> All groups guessed they would disobey
at 135 volts.
Obedience to Authority
Out of 40 men, 25 (63%) went all the way to 450 volts.
Obedience to Authority
1. Emotional distance of the victim
More obedience when learners not seen
2. Closeness of authority
More obedience if authority figure
physically close
3. Legitimacy of authority
Less obedience when authority was just a
clerk
4. Institutional Authority
Less obedience at lower status institution
Stanford Prison Experiment
• Participants
– 24 healthy, stable, intelligent 19-20
year old male college students
*Stanford prison video
Stanford Prison Experiment
• Pathology of
Prisoner
Syndrome
– Loss of personal
identity
– Passiveness &
dependence
– Adoption of
“prisoner”
profile
– Uncontrollable
anxiety
Stanford Prison Experiment
• Similarities to Iraqi
prisoner abuse?
–
–
–
–
diffusion of responsibility
anonymity, secrecy
dehumanization
peers who model
harmful behavior
– bystanders who did not
intervene
– stress, boredom
Situational Influence
• Group size in crisis situations
– Kitty Genovese’s story
Situational Influence
•Bystander effect
– Perceived number of
bystanders predicts likelihood
of helping behavior
– Why? Diffusion of responsibility
Bystander effect
• Darley study
– College student ushered
into room, listened to
headset, would speak in
mic when his/her turn
came
– Participants thought they
were speaking with 1, 2, or
4 other students
Bystander effect
• Darley study (cont.)
– During the experiment, the subject
heard another "participant" have a
seizure, with the victim saying: "give
me a little help here...;I'm gonna dieer-er-I'm ... gonna die-er-help...“
– "victim" had an 85% chance of
receiving help within two minutes
when there was a single bystander
– only a 31% chance when there were
two or more bystanders
Situational Influence
• Social Facilitation
– improved performance of
tasks in the presence of
others
– occurs with simple or welllearned tasks but not with
tasks that are difficult or not
yet mastered
Situational Influence
Home Advantage in Major Team Sports
Sport
Games
Studied
Home Team
Winning
Percentage
Baseball
23,034
53.3%
Football
2,592
57.3
Ice hockey
4,322
61.1
Basketball
13,596
64.4
Soccer
37,202
69.0
Situational Influence
• Deindividuation
– loss of self-awareness and selfrestraint occurring in group
situations that foster arousal and
anonymity
Situational Influence
•Deindividuation
– Light and dark room
study
– Self-awareness
study
Situational Influence
• Group Polarization
– the enhancement
of a group’s
prevailing attitudes
through discussion
within the group
Situational Influence
High +4
+3
+2
High-prejudice
groups
+1
Prejudice 0
Low-prejudice
groups
-1
-2
-3
Low -4
Before discussion
After discussion
• If a group is
like-minded,
discussion
strengthens
its prevailing
opinions
Social Relations
• Prejudice
– an unjustifiable (and usually
negative) attitude toward a
group and its members
• Stereotype
– a generalized (sometimes
accurate but often
overgeneralized) belief
about a group of people
Social Relations
• Americans today express much less racial
and gender prejudice
Percentage 90
answering 80
yes 70
Would you vote for
a woman president?
60
50
40
30
Do whites have a right
20
to keep minorities out of
10
their neighborhoods?
0
1936 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
Year
Social Relations
•Why stereotypes?
– Benefits of
categorization
– Grain of truth
– Ingroup/outgroup
dynamic
Social Relations
• Sherif study (1961)
– Phase One: boys with no previous
contact randomly split into two groups
and brought to Robbers Cave
campsite.
– Phase Two: competition set up
between the two groups of boys in
which only one group can win.
– Phase Three: attempts to reduce the
conflict between the two groups.
• Increasing contact – made worse
• Working together to reach common goals
– diffused prejudice, tensions
Social Relations
• Why prejudice?
–
–
–
–
Benefits of categorization
Grain of truth
Ingroup/outgroup dynamic
Self-esteem maintenance
Prejudice & Self-esteem
• Fein & Spencer (1997)
– Comparisons to less
competent others
boosts self-esteem
– We apply negative
stereotypes when we
are motivated to
reaffirm our self-worth
Prejudice & Self-esteem
• Fein (cont.)
– Participants receive positive or
negative feedback on an IQ test
(self-esteem threat)
– Evaluate job applicant in an
“unrelated” experiment
– Applicant portrayed as Jewish or
Non-Jewish
Prejudice & Self-esteem
• Fein (cont.)
– Positive feedback did not affect
ratings of candidate
– Negative feedback resulted in
Jewish applicant being viewed more
negatively
– Self-esteem only increased for
participants who saw a Jewish
applicant after receiving negative
feedback
Social Relations
• Why prejudice?
– Self-protection
•When students received a high
grade, male and female
instructors rated the same
•When students received a low
grade, female instructors
rated more negatively than their
male counterparts
Social Relations - Attraction
• Psychology of
attraction
– Proximity
•Mere exposure
effect
– Physical Attractiveness
•Youthfulness
•Neotany
– Similarity
Social Relations - Attraction
• Dutton bridge study
‘I’ve heard relationships
based on intense
experiences never work…’
– Participants approached
confederate on high,
unstable suspension
bridge (arousing situation)
OR
– spoke to confederate on
stable, low bridge (non
threatening situation)
– Findings – confederate in
arousing situation rated
more attractive
Social Relations - Attraction
Social Relations – Attraction
• Psychology of
attractiveness
– Men and women shown
pictures of opposite sex of
varying attractiveness
– Then told they had chance
to win $15-35 tomorrow or
$50-75 at variable point in
the future
– Findings?
How Does It Feel to See a Perfect 10?
Social Relations – Attraction
• What is beautiful is
good
– Kurtzberg (1968) study
on plastic surgery for
prisoners
– Stewart (1980) followup study on crime and
punishment
Social Relations – Attraction
• What is beautiful is good
– Essay by attractive author
judged better than that
by unattractive author
– Attractive children judged
as having greater
intelligence/ academic
potential than
unattractive children
Does changing behavior
change attitudes?
Once you behave in a particular way
without any obvious external
justification, you are likely to internalize
the commitment.
We internalize commitments
made
•Publicly
•Voluntarily
•Repeatedly
Experiment: Festinger & Carlsmith (1959)
1. Subjects perform dull task
2. Experimenter explains how expectations affect
performance & we need next subject to believe
it will be interesting. Assistant is away.
3. Next “subject” (confederate) says they have
heard it is boring
4. Subjects paid $1 or $20
5. Someone else studying reactions to psychology
experiments asks how much you enjoyed the
task……
Who reported higher enjoyment of knob
turning?
Paid $1
MORE ENJOYMENT
Paid $20 LESS ENJOYMENT
WHY?
Cognitive Dissonance
Leon Festinger
“cognitive dissonance”: discrepancy between
behavior & beliefs makes us uncomfortable
=> easiest way to reduce discomfort is to change
our beliefs to match our already accomplished
behavior
Foot in the door technique
Experiment
Group 1
1.
Group 2
Could you put
up a small “drive
safely” sign in
your window?
Left in peace
---2 weeks pass--2.
Could we put up large, unsightly “Drive Safely” billboard in
you front yard?
76% say YES
17% say YES
Unification church recruitment
1st Invite people to dinner
2nd Invite them for a weekend retreat
3rd At retreat encourage attendees to join in songs, activities and
discussions
4th sign up for longer retreats
5th more arduous tasks (e.g., solicit contributions, recruit others)
By making the members behave as cult members, the best way for the
new recruits to make sense of their own behavior is bring their attitudes
and beliefs in line with their behavior and identify with the cults.
Jim Jones--Peoples’ Temple Cult
1st monetary offerings voluntary…then 10% income contribution…then
25%…finally, turn over everything!
Also, workloads became progressively demanding
Cult member, Grace Stone:, “nothing was ever done drastically.
That’s how Jim Jones got away with so much. You slowly gave up
things and slowly had to put up with more but it was always done
very gradually. It was amazing because you would sit up sometimes
and say ‘wow, I have really given up a lot. I am really putting up
with a lot’ but he did it so slowly, that you figured ‘I have made it so
far, what the hell is the difference’”.
In 1978 in Guyana, Jim Jones’ request REALLY escalated
Jones urged his followers to drink Kool-Aid laced with tranquilizers,
pain killers and a lethal dose of cyanide
911 followers killed themselves
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