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Introduction to Psychology

Introduction to Psychology

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Introduction to Psychology

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    1. Introduction to Psychology Social Psychology

    2. Social Psychology Today we are going to talk about social psychology. Does anyone know what social psychology is? The study of how social conditions (i.e. other people) affect human thought and behaviour.

    3. Conformity Today we are going to talk about the psychology of conformity. Social psychology covers many, many areas besides conformity, but today we will focus only on this to illustrate how social psychology experiments work, and the kinds of questions it asks. First, can anyone tell me what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s?

    10. Who is Responsible? We can all agree that the events of the Holocaust were evil and monstrous. But what about the Germans who ran the death camps were they monsters? What about the men who made the trains full of prisoners run on time were they evil?

    13. Who is Responsible? What would you have done, had you been a German citizen in 1940? How do you know? What makes the Germans of the 1940s different from Germans today?

    14. Could Genocide Happen Again? Native Americans (1500s-1900s) Aborigines (1800s) Circassian (1800s) Ireland (1845-1850) Boer Wars (1880-1902) Congo (1880-1920) Assyrians (1914-1920) Armenians (1915-1917) Pontian Greeks (1916-1923) Manchuria (1930s-1940s) India (1947) Tibet (1950s-present) Bangladesh (1971) Cambodia (1975-1979) Kurds (1980s-1990s) Bosnia (1992-1995) Rwanda (1994) Kosovo (1999) Sudan (2003-present)

    15. Why? How could masses of ordinary people end up killing their own neighbours? Not just once in history, but very frequently in history? This question, brought to the worlds attention after the Holocaust of WW2, is largely responsible for Social Psychology being what it is today.

    16. Solomon Asch A researcher named Solomon Asch (1951) decided to test when people would conform to the group. He started by choosing a situation in which he believed conformity would not happen: when an individual would know they were obviously correct and the group was clearly wrong

    17. Match the Lines Participants entered a room as a group of eight participants. They were told their task was to match the line on the left to the lines on the right. In reality, only one of the eight participants is real. The others are researchers pretending to be participants.

    18. Aschs Line Studies At first, everyone gives the right answers. But then, the fake participants start giving wrong answers over and over again. There is little doubt about which lines match. How many participants gave incorrect answers?

    19. Aschs Line Video Lets watch a short video to see how the participants responded:

    20. Aschs Line Studies Most people in the study (76%) conformed to the groups wrong answers at least once. People conformed for different reasons. Informational Influence: when people conform because they think the group must know more than they do. We can rely on others when we do not know what is going on. But this can backfire! War of the Worlds, 1938. 1of 3 listeners thought Martians were invading the US.

    21. Aschs Line Studies Normative Influence: when people conform because they do not want to face the disapproval of the group. Another name for this is peer pressure. Note that with Normative Influence, behaviour may conform without private beliefs conforming. Examples of this in real life? Note that having an ally greatly reduces the effect of normative influence.

    22. Aschs Line Studies Group size increases conformity until there are about six members. After that, the effect levels out.

    23. Aschs Line Study Questions? We just covered what happens when people in a group conform over something trivial. What about when people are asked to conform to authority? What if the conformity that is demanded is not trivial, but a matter of life and death?

    24. Milgrams Obedience Studies Stanley Milgram set out to answer these questions (1963, 1974, 1976). He was a student of Asch. He was directly interested in how the Holocaust could have happened how people can inflict incredible pain and even murder on their neighbours. Now, may I have two volunteers for a demonstration?

    26. Milgrams Obedience Studies I observed a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, who was rapidly approaching a point of nervous collapse. He constantly pulled on his earlobe, and twisted his hands. At one point he pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered Oh God, lets stop it. And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter, and obeyed to the end. Stanley Milgram, 1963, p. 377

    27. Milgrams Obedience Studies Nearly two thirds of participants (62.5%) continued to give shocks all the way to 450 volts. 80% gave shocks even when the learner screamed Let me out of here! Let me out of here! My hearts bothering me. Let me out of here! Get me out of here! Ive had enough. I wont be in the experiment anymore! Were these bad people?

    28. Milgrams Obedience Studies Even Eichmann was sickened when he toured the concentration camps, but in order to participate in mass murder he had only to sit at a desk and shuffle papers. At the same time the man in the camp who actually dropped Cyclon-B into the gas chambers is able to justify his behavior on the grounds that he is only following orders from above. Thus there is fragmentation of the total human act; no one man decides to carry out the evil act and is confronted with its consequences. The person who accepts full responsibility for the act has evaporated. Perhaps this is the most common characteristic of socially organized evil in modern society. Stanley Milgram, 1976, p.183-185

    29. Milgrams Obedience Studies Although this is not a focus for today, once someone does something, the mind works very hard to justify that decision. This is how hazings build loyalty why would I let myself be abused unless I thought it was worth it? Many processes are at play here (cognitive dissonance, confabulation, and more.) By pressuring people to commit a horrible act, they may become more willing to do so in the future. This is in part how ordinary people can become torturers and killers, and even commit genocide.

    30. Heinrich Himmler By all reports, Hienrich Himmler the organizer of the Nazi genocide was a fairly ordinary bureaucrat, quiet and intelligent. When he first visited a death camp, he was so overcome that he shook tremendously and vomited. Yet he still went back to his office, and continued to organize the death of millions.

    31. Milgrams Obedience Studies Questions or discussion about Milgram? Although Asch and Milgram demonstrated the potential dangers in conforming to peers and authority, it is worth remembering that conformity is not always bad. We need conformity to have a functioning society. Normally, conforming to laws, teachers, and traffic lights is a good thing. Peer pressure can help us study/work more and avoid dangerous situations. The trick is to know when conforming is good and when it is bad easier said than done.

    32. Social Psychology The lesson of these conformity studies is that our social environments can have incredibly powerful influence over us. Even good people can do horrible things. Our behaviour is a complex interaction of who we are as individuals and our social environment. I asked this question at the start: What makes the Germans of the 1940s different from Germans today? Now, another question: what makes us different from the Germans of the 1940s?

    33. Social Psychology I think we can all agree that both the person and the environment play a role in determining behaviour. But what happens when you see someone arrive late for class? Stealing? Fighting? What is your first thought?

    34. Attribution Most people place the blame (attribution) on the individual. She is late because she is lazy. He steals because he is greedy. He fights because he is aggressive. But what attributions do we make about ourselves? I was late because the road was closed. I stole because I needed food. I fought because it was self-defence.

    35. Fundamental Attribution Error When we make attributions towards other people, we tend to blame the person. When we make attributions towards ourselves, we blame our situation.

    36. Fundamental Attribution Error Milgram showed that good people can be manipulated into doing horrific things. But of course, the individual is not powerless, and some do resist immoral authorities. Clearly, both the person and the situation play a role. People know this, but they do not realize it. This misperception is so common and pervasive that it is known as the fundamental attribution error.

    37. Fundamental Attribution Error The Fundamental Attribution Error is very strong. Even when we know someone has no choice in their action (i.e. if they were forced to argue a position in a debate), we are still likely to blame the individual for their action. Remember the anchoring heuristic? We anchor on to a personal attribution, and then only make a slight adjustment to a situational attribution when we find out the truth. In the end, we are still biased towards the personal attribution.

    38. Discussion Questions How would you suggest people resist immoral demands from authorities? Does Milgrams obedience study suggest anything about whether our criminal justice system is justified? How would you suggest people resist conforming to normative social influence? Is normative social influence always a bad thing?

    39. Academic References Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. In H. Guetzkow (ed.) Groups, leadership and men. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press. Asch, S. E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, 193, 31-35. Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs, 70 (Whole no. 416). Bond, R., & Smith, P. (1996). Culture and conformity: A meta-analysis of studies using Aschs (1952b, 1956) line judgment task. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 111-137. ( Milgram, Stanley (1963). "Behavioral Study of Obedience". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67: 371378. ( Milgram, Stanley. (1974), Obedience to Authority; An Experimental View. Harpercollins. Jones, E. E. & Harris, V. A. (1967). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 3, 124. Gilbert, D. T., & Malone, P. S. (1995). The correspondence bias. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 2138. ( Gilbert, D. T. (1998). Speeding with Ned: A personal view of the correspondence bias. In J. M. Darley & J. Cooper (Eds.), Attribution and social interaction: The legacy of E. E. Jones. Washington, DC: APA Press. (

    40. Non-Academic Resources Blass, Thomas. (2004), The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram. Levine, Robert V. "Milgram's Progress", American Scientist, July-August, 2004. (;jsessionid=baaeuLYcqpRVHi) A Hoax Most Cruel - Wiki on Conformity: Wiki on Aschs Studies: Summary of Aschs Studies: Wiki on Milgrams Studies: Reconstruction of Aschs Experiment: Audio clips from Milgrams Study: Dr. Thomas Blass on Milgram: A Class Divided (Full Video of Elliotts Blue-Eye/Brown-Eye Experiment): Wiki on No Soap Radio (using Asch to prank your friends!) Wiki on the Fundamental Attribution Error: