Sociocultural Level of Analysis: Sociocultural Cognition


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Notes from chapter 4.1 in my IB HL Psychology textbook! All about the Sociocultural Level of Analysis, culture, attribution, norms, stereotypes, and whatnot.

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Sociocultural Level of Analysis: Sociocultural Cognition

  1. 1. Sociocultural Level of Analysis Sociocultural Cognition
  2. 2. Principles of the SCLA 1. Human beings are social animals and we have a basic need to “belong” – As the individual is affected by being part of a group, the individual can also effect behavior in the group 1. Culture influences behavior – Culture: norms and values that define a society – Study of culture may help us to better understand and appreciate cultural differences
  3. 3. Principles of the SCLA 3. Because humans are social animals, they have a social self – People do not only have an individual identity, but also a collective or social identity • i.e. When JFK died, all Americans mourned like he was a family member – Important to the definition of who we are and are determined by groups such as family, community, club, or nationality 4. People’s views of the world are resistant to change – World view: the way the world is understood; how it is supposed to work, why it works the way it does, what values are essential
  4. 4. Impact of Culture • Helps to shape our world view • Instills values which are passed down from generation to generation • The sense of self is developed within social and cultural concepts
  5. 5. Research Methods at the SCLA • The GOAL is to see how people interact with each other • The majority of research today is more qualitative than quantitative • Important that studies are as realistic as possible with high ecological validity – Research is naturalistic (“as it really is”) • Use participant observation, interviews, focus groups, etc – Descriptive data can’t be used for explaining cause and effect relationships 
  6. 6. Participant Observation • How SCLA psychologists try to “see the world through the eyes of the people being studied” • When researchers immerse themselves in a social setting for an extended period of time and observe behavior • Overt observation: When participants know they are being observed • Covert observation: When participants don’t know they are being observed
  7. 7. Participant Observation • Overt operations require the researcher to gain the trust of the group • Covert operations are sometimes used with groups that would be hostile to an outsider observing their behavior, or who would not be open/honest because of the illegality of their actions – Deceitful with undisclosed intentions – No obtained informed consent – Difficult to take notes; data can be distorted by memory – Interviews cannot be carried out
  8. 8. Attribution Theory • Attribution: How people interpret and explain causal relationships in the social world • Humans have a need to understand why things happen – i.e. looking for reasons as to why someone would be late for a date • People may have different ways of attributing causes to events – Evans-Pritchard and the Azande: doorway eaten by termites collapsed and killed several people; they blamed it on witchcraft
  9. 9. Attribution Theory • Originates from Fritz Heider’s The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations • When people try to understand behavior they are acting as naïve psychologists • People make inferences about intention and responsibility from observing other people’s actions
  10. 10. Attribution Theory • Actor-observer effect: People make different attributions depending on whether they are performing it or observing it • When people discuss their own behaviors, they tend to attribute it to situational factors – Situational factor: something to do with external factors; caused by environment or circumstance • When observing another’s behavior, they tend to attribute it to dispositional factors – Dispositional factor: Something to do with personal (internal) factors
  11. 11. Errors in Attributions • People are more likely to explain another person’s actions by pointing to dispositional factors, rather than to the situation • Fundamental attribution error: When people overestimate the role of dispositional factors in an individuals behavior – They underestimate situational factors! – As people gather information by observing others, this often leads to illogical conclusions – i.e. an actor who plays kind and loving roles will be seen as kind and loving • Folks attribute these characteristics to his personality (dispositional) rather than his job as an actor (situational)
  12. 12. Fundamental Attribution Error • Common because people tend to think of themselves as adaptable, flexible, and changing – Do not like to think of themselves as a “Type” • Don’t have adequate information on others to make a balanced decision, so they attribute behavior to disposition • Placing the blame on the individual is common in western culture – People are held responsible for their actions
  13. 13. Self-Serving Bias (SSB) • When people take credit for their successes – Attributing them to dispositional factors • Dissociate themselves from their failures – Attributing them to situational factors • Lau and Russel (1980) – Football teams’ wins caused by internal factors (i.e. being in good shape, practice) – Football teams’ losses caused by external factors (i.e. weather, injuries, fouls)
  14. 14. Self-Serving Bias (SSB) • We use SSB to protect our self esteem • If we expect to succeed and do, we attribute it to skill and ability • If we expect to succeed and do not, we attribute it to bad luck or external factors • A means of self-protection
  15. 15. Miller and Ross (1975) • We usually expect to succeed at a task • If we expect not to do so well and do not, we attribute it to dispositional factors • If we expect to fail and succeed instead, we attribute it to external factors (and luck!) • People who are severely depressed tend to make more dispositional attributions (blaming themselves) for feeling miserable
  16. 16. Cultural Differences in SSB • Kashima and Triandis (1986) – Significant differences between Japanese and American students – Americans tended to attribute their success to ability – Japanese tended to explain their failures in terms of their lack of ability • This is modesty bias! • Because of the more collective nature of many Asian societies (draw self-esteem from group identity)
  17. 17. Social Identity Theory • Assumes that individuals strive to improve their self-image by trying to enhance their self-esteem – Based on either personal identity or various social identities • Boost their self-esteem through personal achievement/affiliation in groups • Indicates the importance of social belonging
  18. 18. Social Categorization • Explains social phenomena such as: – Ethnocentrism – in-group favoritism – stereotyping – conformity to in-group norms • Social identification may cause these behaviors because social categorization can create competitive behavior
  19. 19. Groups • In-group: An individual’s group (“us”) • Out-group: All others (“them”) • Exhibit in-group favoritism and discrimination against the out-group • Individual maintains self-esteem by social comparison – The benefits of belonging to the in-group versus the out-group – Outcome of these comparisons influence self- esteem
  20. 20. Tajfel in the 1970s • Readily identifying with positive groups = the establishment of positive distinctiveness • Bond is formed between group members even when randomly assigned – Even without knowing each other previously – See themselves as similar in attitude and behavior • Willing to give higher awards to in-groups • Out-group rated as less likeable (but was never actually disliked) – W/o competeition, social comparison alone doesn’t produce negative outcomes
  21. 21. Social Identity Theory • Limitations: – Describes but does not predict human behavior – The theory on its own is reductionist • Fails to address the environment that interacts with the individual’s “self” • i.e. cultural expectations, rewards as motivators, societal constraints (like poverty)
  22. 22. Social Representations • Creator: Moscovici (1973) • Definition: Shared beliefs and explanations held by the society in which we live or the group to which we belong • Social representations are the foundation of social cognition – They help us make sense of our world and master it – Also allow communication to take place between members of a community • They are cultural schemas that are fundamental to the identity of the group – Provide common understanding for communication
  23. 23. Adler (1990) • Asked Russian mothers and American mothers to describe “what it means for her child to share something” • Russian mother said: children playing together with a toy at the same time • American mother said: her children take turns playing with the same toy
  24. 24. Stereotyping • Stereotype: A social perception of an individual in terms of group membership or physical attributes • A generalization that is made about a group and then attributed to members of that group – May be either positive or negative • Form of social categorization that affects the behavior of those who use the stereotype and those who are labeled by the stereotype • A result of schema processing
  25. 25. Stereotype Threat • Occurs in situations where there is a threat of being judged or treated stereotypically • Fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype
  26. 26. Steele and Aronson (1995) • Aim: See the effect of stereotype threat on performance • Procedure: 30 minute verbal test described as either: – “genuine test of their verbal abilities” – “laboratory task that was used to study how certain problems are generally solved” • First test  African Americans scored significantly lower than European Americans • Second test  African Americans scored higher than those in the first test; same as European Americans • Conclusion: Stereotype threat can affect the members of almost any group if they believe in the stereotype (can then harm the performance)
  27. 27. Spotlight Anxiety • Stereotype threat turns into spotlight anxiety • Causes emotional distress and pressure that may undermine performance • Students under stereotype threat often underperform – This can naturally limit their educational prospects – i.e. Stereotype that men > than women at mathematics observed by Spencer et al. (1977)
  28. 28. Formation of Stereotypes • Tajfel argues it is a natural cognitive process of social categorization • Cambell (1967) sees two key sources of stereotypes: – Personal experiences with individuals and groups – Gatekeepers: The media, parents, other members of our culture • Stereotypes have some basis on some reality – Grain of truth hypothesis: an experience with an individual from a group will be generalized to the group
  29. 29. Illusory Correlation • Hamilton and Gifford (1976) argue that stereotypes are the result of an illusory correlation – People see a relationship between two variables even when there isn’t one – False associations/overestimation • Example of cognitive bias – A person’s tendency to make errors in judgment based on cognitive factors • Confirmation bias supports these illusory correlations – People overlook information that contradicts the belief, but pay attention to the information that supports it
  30. 30. Stereotype Thinking • Confirmation bias makes stereotypical thinking resistant to change • Stereotypes can also be formed as a means of taking on the in-group’s social representation of the outgroup – Individuals may conform to the group norms with regard to the “other”
  31. 31. Social Desirability Effect • Confounding variable in research • Do people just pretend they don’t have stereotypes for experiment to seem “politically correct”? • Researchers today are moving away from self-report methods and looking for other ways to remove the threat