Social Psychology “We cannot live for ourselves alone.” • Herman Melville • Social Psychologists study how we think about, influence, and relate to one another.
Unit Breakdown • Social Thinking • Attribution Theory • Attitudes and Actions • Social Influence • Conformity and Obedience • Group Influence • Social Relations • Prejudice, Aggression, Conflict, Attraction, Altruism, Peacemaking
Social Thinking • Analysis of why people act the way they do • Attribution Theory: we tend to give a causal explanation for someone’s behavior, crediting either the situation or the person’s disposition.
Attribution Theory • E.g. In class Julie seldom talks. While enjoying a cup of coffee, Jack talks non-stop. • Therefore, Julie is shy and Jack is outgoing…? • BUT in class Jack may be just as quiet as Julie • At a party Julie may be hardly recognizable • We tend to overestimate the role of disposition and underestimate the influence of situation = Fundamental Attribution Error
Attribution Theory • Fundamental Attribution Error: the tendency for observers, when analyzing another’s behavior, to underestimate the impact of the situation and to overestimate the impact of personal disposition. • An almost irresistible phenomena.
Attribution Theory • Example: Researchers had Williams College students talk, one at a time, with a young woman who acted either critical or friendly. Half of the students were told her behavior would be spontaneous, the other half were told she had been instructed to act a particular way. • The students were asked to give an opinion of the woman…what effect do you think their knowledge of whether or not she was acting had on their opinions?
Attribution Theory • …None! • If the woman acted friendly, she really was a warm person • If she acted critically, she really was cold • In other words, they attributed her behavior to her personal disposition, NOT the situation • Consequences are real, and can be severe!
Attitudes • Attitudes: beliefs or feelings that predispose our reactions to objects, people, and events. Critical Thinking Question: Does attitude inform behavior, or does behavior shape our attitudes? • What do you think? Discuss
Attitudes Guide Behavior Under certain circumstances, our attitudes WILL guide our behaviors: • Outside Influences on what we say and do are minimal • The attitude is specifically relevant to the behavior • We are aware of our attitudes.
Behavior Affects Attitudes • However, research has shown that attitudes can also follow behavior: • The Foot-In-The-Door Phenomenon • Tendency for people who agree to a small request to comply later with a larger one. • E.g. Chinese war camps during Korean War
Behavior Affects Attitudes • Role-Playing Affects attitudes: • When you adopt a new role, your behavior may seem, at first, to be forced (as if you are acting) • e.g. “playing house” in a new marriage • e.g. acting like a soldier in the first weeks of trainin • Before long, these new roles become you, and your behavior no longer seems like acting
Behavior Affects Attitudes • Example: Stanford Prison Experiment • Philip Zimbardo, 1972 • Video
Behavior Affects Attitudes • Why did the participants in these studies change their attitudes to match with their behaviors? = We feel motivated to justify our actions • When we are aware that our attitudes and actions don’t agree, we experience cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory • Cognitive Dissonance Theory: • We act to reduce the discomfort we feel when two of our thoughts are inconsistent. • e.g. when our awareness of our attitudes and our awareness of our actions collide • We can eliminate the dissonance by changing our attitudes
Example: • “The Fox and the Grapes” Aesop
Attitude Grapes are great for quenching thirst Cognitive Dissonance The grapes will taste good, the fox knows he can’t reach them Dissonance Resolved The grapes must be sour Behavior The fox is unable to reach the grapes
Your Turn! • Think of a personal example where you have changed your attitude in order to remove cognitive dissonance.
Implications? • One of the positive implications of this theory is that we can influence our attitudes by altering our behavior • We can become more loving by behaving as if we are – by doing thoughtful things, expressing affection, and giving affirmation.
Reflection • Think of an attitude that you would like to change about yourself. Using the attitude-follows-behavior principle, how might you go about changing that attitude?