The social animal


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Notes on the Social Animal by Elliot Aronson

The social animal

  1. 1. The Social Animal Elliot Aronson
  2. 2. Conformity • Connotation of words have a strong influence on our perception of the words Both conformity and nonconformity have advantages at time • Conformists seem to be more liked at the time, while nonconformists seem to be more liked in retrospect Nonconformists’ voices are often ignored, especially closer to a deadline • Groupthink When, in a private, closed-off think, no dissenting opinion is ever offered • Conformity is the change in the behavior of a person based on perceived pressures from outside influences Soloman Ache experiment; four lines, which is closest to first one We underestimate how much we actually conform
  3. 3. Conformity • Unanimity Greatly increases conformity If even one dissenter, conformity drops sharply • Commitment Making someone make a statement at first leads to them backing up their original statement to save face Consistency is important to people • Accountability Accountability to a group increases conformity Accountability to truth decreases conformity • Social Dynamics People with low self-esteem conform more quickly People who feel secure in a group are more likely to voice dissent Perception of the group can influence conformity (popularity, etc…) We conform more to individuals who are similar to us We conform more to individuals with a position of authority/expertise
  4. 4. Conformity • When physical reality becomes uncertain, people rely more on social reality E.g. on how to act, etc… • William James stated that emotions have a feeling component and cognitive input We may manipulate our emotions based on the emotions of others • Compliance Conformity in hopes of avoiding punishment or gaining a reward; least permanent Important trait is power • Identification Conformity in hopes of being like the influencer Important trait is attractiveness • Internalization When a conformed belief becomes intrinsic; most permanent Important trait is credibility
  5. 5. Conformity • Obedience Acts of compliance are short-lived; however they are important “Teacher-Learner” shock experiment People are taught to obey authority The more legitimate the authority, the more obedient the subjects The further from the authority an individual is, the more likely he is to disobey a command he disagrees with People are less likely to cause pain to someone if they have to witness the pain they caused • The Bystander Effect Kitty Genovese and Eleanor Bradley People are more likely to help if they know they can; less likely if they can’t People are more likely to help someone with mutuality, and if whether or not they will be held accountable at some future point; people will help people they identify with Ambiguity and help are inversely proportional Personal Cost influences help as well; the greater it is, the less likely the help is
  6. 6. Persuasion and Propaganda • Emotional Contagion When there is an outbreak of something (Say, Swine Flu), people panic and fake cases are reported in massive amounts Suicides follow en masse following a story about it • Even if we know about persuasion, we are not immune to it • With all else being equal, we opt for familiarity over the unknown • Facts don’t persuade well • Central Persuasion Weighing and considering the important facts before making a decision • Peripheral Persuasion Allowing yourself to be persuades through psychological means, more than just facts
  7. 7. Persuasion and Propaganda • Emotional appeals, in most cases, are far more powerful than logical appeals Rhymes are very powerful as well in persuasion on a mass scale People with low self-esteem are easily overwhelmed by too much fear and emotional conviction in an argument By overwhelming someone with high self-esteem, you can make them behave like people with low self-esteem Giving instructions can motivate someone to act on their intentions, but won’t influence their opinions Fear-arousal and specific instructions are very effective • When something gets in the way of what someone wants, they will rationalize their behavior; it can’t happen to me, etc… For example, if someone wants to have sex, no matter how much you warn them about AIDS, they will refuse to associate sex and death
  8. 8. Persuasion and Propaganda • • Real life, personal examples are more powerful than consensual statistics The more educated an audience is, the more influential an argument that says both sides of the argument will be An argument is more persuasive, when arguing for the other side, if you state their position and arguments as well • Primacy Effect vs. Recency Effect Primacy Effect (Stating your side first) is more powerful when there is little time between the speakers Recency Effect (Stating your side last) is more powerful when the audience must make up their mind their minds immediately after • Discrepancy between you and the target audience Curvilinear More extreme differing opinions are more powerful up to a point, where they become miniscule Moderate difference is more powerful than extreme; it must remain in the targets latitude of acceptance The higher the credibility of the speaker, the greater the discrepancy can be
  9. 9. Persuasion and Propaganda • Characteristics of the Audience Higher self-esteem audiences are harder to influence • Experience of the Audience Being in a good mood, or doing something pleasant at the time of the argument, makes the argument more persuasive Forewarning an audience greatly decreases the influence Theory of Reactance When our sense of freedom is threatened, we attempt to restore it IMPORTANT; when people think we are trying to influence them (Say by gifts or compliments), their guards are raised When something is so blatant that we feel it threatening, we will go against it When challenging someone’s core beliefs, they will invent refutations on the spot if they feel threatened However, by distracting them while arguing, they will be more receptive
  10. 10. Persuasion and Propaganda • Inoculation Theory If exposed to a brief argument that they can easily refute, then people will become more immune to a full blown argument of the same thing • When someone is feeling less confident, they are less likely to willingly defend their beliefs To influence someone effectively, you must not make it seem like you’re influencing them • Opinion What someone believes is a fact Nonemotional opinions are easily changed Emotional opinions are not Emotionally Charged opinions are called attitudes
  11. 11. Social Cognition • Jeremy Bentham Felicific Calculus We use happiness to determine what is good and bad • Harold Kelly Believes people behave like naïve scientists We look for consistency (Do they always do this), Consensus (Do other people do this), and Distinctiveness (Is he the only one who does this) • Other people believe we are cognitive misers We tend to conserve mental energy whenever possible
  12. 12. Social Cognition • Remember that all judgment is relative Contrast Effect • Social Cognition How we interpret social events usually depends on what we’re currently thinking about, as well as our beliefs • Priming Frequently encountered ideas and more recently encountered events greatly influence our perceptions Word choice can hugely influence someone’s impressions Positive words (Self-confident) generally are positive with someone, negative words (Reckless) are negative “Mass media may not be good at telling people what to believe, but is very effective at telling them what to think about”
  13. 13. Social Cognition • Framing How a decision or situation is presented to make it seem like something is being gained or lost ***Remember it is more painful to lose something than to gain something*** It is worse to lose $20 than to gain $20 • Primacy Effect The things that come first form the strongest impression in people First impressions are very important • Dilution Effect Irrelevant and superfluous information can weaken our judgment • Judgmental Heuristics Mental shortcuts Three types; representative, availability, and attitude
  14. 14. Social Cognition • Representative Heuristic Focus on similarity of one object to another to determine its qualities Expensive=Better, etc… • Availability Heuristic Make judgments about something based on how easy it is to bring specific examples to mind • Attitude Heuristic Assign something to either a positive category or a negative category E.g. Stoners are bad, etc… Halo Effect We will discredit the bad stuff something we like is associate with it, exaggerate the good stuff False-Consensus Effect Tendency to believe more people agree with us than actually do
  15. 15. Social Cognition • When do we use Heuristics When we don’t have time to make a decision When we are overloaded with information When the issues aren’t very important When we don’t know much about our decision • Categorization Once we categorize something, we are limited to that category in the eyes of others Stereotypes Expectations greatly influence the way we think Self-Fulfilling Prophecy When we act on our impressions of others Teachers were told random students were gifted, students actual IQ scores skyrocketed by the end of the year
  16. 16. Social Cognition • The Illusory Correlation When people create a correlation when none exists E.g. People believe lesbians have a higher rate of AIDS, because they are homosexual, when in fact they have a lower rate than both heterosexual humans and homosexual men • Ingrouping/Outgrouping When we take on an “us vs them” mentality Homogeneity Effect We tend to see members of the outgroup as more similar to each other than members in our groups Ingroup Favoritism We look more favorably on people associated with us Doesn’t matter how irrelevant the association is
  17. 17. Social Cognition • We tend to do what we think would make us happiest and what avoids the most pain We overestimate the intensity and durability of emotional reactions in both negative and positive events We adjust to whatever situation we’re in Winning the lottery will make you happy for a few weeks or months, but eventually the effects will linger and we will be back to the same state emotionally • Our memories are reconstructive, not infallible We recreate events as we perceived them to have been Suggestive questioning can influence our memories “How fast were they going when they smashed into each other vs. how fast were they going when they hit into each other” • Self-Schemas We remember our past in coherent memories and feelings that recreate our opinions towards our personal history
  18. 18. Social Cognition • Recovered Memory Phenomenon “Recovering” false memories based on the subtle suggestions of others • Confirmation Bias We look for evidence for what we initially support • Hindsight Bias We believe we knew what was going to happen all along • Human cognition is conservative We try to preserve what’s already been established • Our attitudes barely effect our behavior In 1928, 128 people surveyed said that they wouldn’t give service to a Chinese man However, only one establishment actually refused service Our attributes effect our behaviors much more than our attitudes
  19. 19. Social Cognition • • Attitude Accessibility If an attitude is more prominent, we will be more likely to use it in the decision making process • The Fundamental Attribution Error People overestimate the importance of personality relative to situations • The Actor-Observer Bias We stress the situational part • The Self-Biases Egocentric Thoughts We believe ourselves to be more central than we actually are Barnum Statement A personality statement vague enough to be attributed to almost anyone E.g. a horoscope The Self-Serving Bias People’s tendency to blame negatives on situations, and attribute positives to their qualities
  20. 20. Self-Justification • We try to justify our actions as logical, rational, and the best decision given the circumstances, both to ourselves and to others • Cognitive Dissonance Occurs when an individual holds two ideas/beliefs/attitudes that are inconsistent We need to convince ourselves our existence is not absurd We try to make the two cognitions consistent E.g. suppose a smoker learns about the dangers of smoking Will either quit smoking, or, more likely, convince himself that the studies we not conclusive/legitimate May decide smoking is necessary for relaxation May convince himself his smoking habit isn’t that bad
  21. 21. Self-Justification • Dissonance Reduction behavior is irrational behavior However it does serve the purpose of maintaining the ego Don’t take yourself seriously, and always be open-minded; your beliefs can be wrong upon further introspection • We experience dissonance after making a decision We try to remain consistent with our decisions Foot in the door technique • Self-Justification manifests itself mainly with irrevocable decisions • Immorality and self-justification Someone moral who decides to cheat will eventually become more lenient regarding cheating Deciding not to will lead to a hatred of cheating Happens with everything that someone will consider immoral if they decide to do it People most likely to throw stones are the ones who were most tempted to do it ***I disagree with his assessment on this matter; if you take things as they are, and nothing more nothing less, self-justification won’t be necessary and it won’t lead to more leniency/hatred regarding something; most people don’t do this though
  22. 22. Self-Justification • If you want someone to form positive attitudes towards an object, get them to commit to it • If you want someone to soften their moral attitudes towards something, tempt them so that they do it If you want them to harden it, tempt them but not enough so that they do it • External Justification Justification that is situation-dependent E.g. telling a friend his terrible painting is good • Internal Justification Changing your attitudes to fit with your actions • Saying is believing paradigm We believe our own lies, unless there is ample external justification E.g. such as rewards The greater a reward for something, the less of a chance for a change in attitude
  23. 23. Self-Justification • Keep in mind the external justification principle If a friend offered you fried grasshopper, and an enemy did, and you ate both, you’d like the second one more People need to justify their actions For the friend, it’s a favor to the friend; for the enemy, there is no justification Can this be the reason why girls loveeeeeee guys who treat them like shit? Quick Answer: Yes • Dissonance is most powerful people feel responsible for their actions, and believe it will have an impact on others • Justification of Effort If we work hard for something, suffer for something, we will appreciate it more • Justification of Cruelty If someone suffers adverse punishment as a direct result of us, we tend to blame them for it When someone is able to retaliate (Such as an opposing soldier), we don’t tend to blame them as much
  24. 24. Self-Justification • Inevitability makes the heart grow fonder Knowing we will have to do something makes us rationalize and hate it less; believing we have choice however makes us hate it more When inevitable disaster seems immanent however, those worse off for it do less to prepare By not thinking about it, they can cope with it • Cognitive Dissonance happens relatively slowly and unconsciously • People with the highest self-esteem experience the most dissonance If someone’s self-esteem takes a temporary hit, they are more likely to commit a misdeed Narcissists tend to seek revenge on someone who inflicts damage on their self-esteem • If someone is hypocritical in beliefs, you would need to expose the hypocrisy to see results
  25. 25. Human Aggression • Human Aggression is intentional behavior designed to cause physical or emotional pain towards another Depends 100% on the intent • Hostile Aggression is aggression due to anger with the intent to harm someone • Instrumental Aggression is aggression with some goal other than inflicting pain (Such as hitting in football) • Hydraulic Theory If we don’t have a vent for anger, it will build up until it explodes • Aggression doesn’t have to be learned, but it can be modified by experience • People may argue that aggression is necessary for survival Survival of the fittest Elephant Seals; Alpha Seal can mate with up to 100% of females However, it’s shown cooperation is very beneficial for survival Success doesn’t necessarily equate to victory
  26. 26. Human Aggression • Altruism Unselfishness Shown that many aggressive animals, such as a chimpanzee, have altruistic roots in them Will give excess food to a begging chimpanzee, who has no food • Catharsis Release of energy With anger, numerous studies have proven that responding to anger with something such as physical activity just produces more aggression and anger • Following anger targeted at someone, it becomes easier to remain consistent with the idea that we hate someone else We tend to retaliate, and our retaliations are often overkill More severe than the initial insult or attack
  27. 27. Human Aggression • Aggression can be caused by chemicals such as testosterone Men have higher levels of testosterone than women Women however, are more likely to commit relational aggression (Not surprisingly) • Frustration is one of the major causes of aggression Rejection is also a major cause of aggression Columbine High School is an example of this • People who aren’t accountable (Such as anonymous people) act more aggressively • Video Games and TV can numb people to actions • As Aristotle said, most people cannot be curtailed by rational reasoning
  28. 28. Prejudice • All white people are evil
  29. 29. Attraction • We like people who provide us with maximum reward at the lowest cost Beautiful people provide aesthetic value easily People with similar belief systems provide us with validation • Praise A negative evaluation raises our admiration for someone as long as they’re not criticizing us A negative stance seems more sophisticated People need to know what a reward is and what is required to get it Besides thinking we are being manipulative, a person who receives excessive praise from another may be confused by the reward We like favors, even if accidental, if it doesn’t threaten our freedom If we think there’s a string attached, we don’t like it Getting someone to do you a favor makes you more likable • Competence makes someone favorable A perfect person who makes a mistake is best, then perfect, then average, and worst is an average person who makes a mistake, when grading attractiveness of game show participants (Pratfall Effect)
  30. 30. Attraction • Pratfall Effect Most powerful when a sense of competition is implied • Attractiveness The single most important character trait in likability • Similarity The lower our self-esteem, the more we like someone similar to us • Gain-Loss Theory Increases in positive, rewarding behavior is better than constantly rewarding behavior Change of Heart must be made explicit Gradual Change is Best After one becomes used to the gain, it basically declines relative to others Always keep someone guessing, don’t reward too much Study: We give more to generous strangers and stingy friends, and take more from stingy strangers and generous friends
  31. 31. Attraction • Self-Disclosure is important for long-term relationship help • The best indicator of the health of a relationship is if someone can feel positive at their partners accomplishments • After the initial thrill, authenticity is the most important thing for stability • Honesty and communication when you reach that level of no bullshit