Social Psychology

How humans think about, relate to, and influence others

Social psychology

• Two major assumptions

– Behavior is driven by context

– Subjective perceptions guide our behavior

Conformity and obedience

• Social norms

– Conclusions:

• Anxiety prevents us from breaking norms

• We need to justify our actions

• Context directs our feelings and behavior

Conformity and obedience

• Would you resist group pressure?

– Most people say “Yes”

– Studies say: Probably not.

• Asch

• Milgram

Asch study

•Demonstrates suggestibility as a form of conformity.

Milgram study

• Subjects believed they were participating in a study on the effects of punishment on learning

• Milgram found that obedience is highest when:

– Authority figure is ___________ & _______________

– Victim is _____________ & ________________

– Disobedience has not been modeled

Conformity and obedience

Conditions that strengthen conformity:

One is made to feel incompetent or insecure.

The group has at least three people.

The group is unanimous.

One admires the group’s status and attractiveness.

One has no prior commitment to a response.

The group observes one’s behavior.

One’s culture strongly encourages respect for a social standard.

Conformity and obedience

• Why do we conform?

– To be ______________

– To be ______________

– To be ______________

Group influence

• Individual behavior is influenced by the presence of others

– Social facilitation

– Social loafing

– Disindividuation

Group influence

• Individual behavior may also influence the behavior of the group

Group influence

• Group behavior is influenced by the interactions within a group

– Group polarization

– Groupthink

Social relations

• How we relate to one another through a variety of attitudes and actions

– Prejudice

– Attraction


• An unjustifiable, mostly unconscious,


toward a group and its members

• Schema

– Beliefs

– Emotions

– Predisposition to act

• Discrimination =


• How common is prejudice?

– Implicit association test

Social roots of prejudice

• Social inequalities increase prejudice

• Social divisions increase prejudice

• Emotional scapegoating

Cognitive roots of prejudice

• Categorization

• Availability heuristic

• Just-world phenomenon


• Influenced by:

– Proximity

– Physical attractiveness

– Similarity

Romantic love

• Passionate love

– Intense attraction, based on arousal

– Temporary

• Companionate love

– Enduring attachment based on mutual interests, values and commitment

• Equity

• Intimacy

Social thinking

• Attribution theory - our interpretation about the cause of someone else’s behavior

– Dispositional attribution

– Situational attribution

• Fundamental attribution error

• Self-serving bias

Attitudes and actions

• Attitudes are influence how we feel and act

– Attitudes direct our behavior

– Can actions can direct attitudes?

Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison


• Examined the effects of role playing on attitudes and behavior

– Assigned volunteers to play the role of prisoner or prison guard

– Role playing can have a strong effect on beliefs

Cognitive dissonance

• Tension that results from opposition between actions and beliefs

Foot-in-the-door phenomenon

• Strategy for gaining compliance

– People who agree to a small request will later agree to a larger request

• Charities

• Alliances

Can attitudes be legislated?

• Can people’s beliefs be changed by creating laws that enforce specific behaviors?