Welcome to the Wondeful World of Social Psychology


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Welcome to the Wondeful World of Social Psychology

  1. 1. Themes, Faces, and Perspectives Welcome to the Wonderful World of Social Psychology
  2. 2. Definition  Social psychology: the scientific study of human social behavior. In particular, the scientific and systematic study of the nature and causes of individual behavior, thoughts, and emotions caused by the real and imagined presence of people.  Social psychology is an interdisciplinary field; sociologists, psychologists, communications scholars, anthropologists, economists, marketers, advertisers, and many others are do theory and research in social psychology.
  3. 3. History of Social Psychology  Began around the late 1800’s-early 1900’s.  First “social psychological” experiment conducted in 1898 by Norman Triplett, which investigated social facilitation.  Numerous early variants of social psychology, influenced by various schools of thought (psychoanalysis, pragmatism, behaviorism, experimental, sociological, etc.)  Used to be a “backwater” sub-discipline; now it is vibrant and valued contribution to psychology and sociology (Berscheid, 1992)  Accepting of women before other sub-disciplines of psychology, which helped the discipline flourish.  Berscheid (1992) argues that social psychology doesn’t suffer from theoretical faddism, but I personally would have to disagree.
  4. 4. Four Major Themes of Social Psychology 1. The influence of one person on another person’s attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs.  Ex., Persuasion Attempts
  5. 5. Four Major Themes of Social Psychology 2. The influence of a group on a member’s behavior and beliefs.  Ex., Peer Pressure
  6. 6. Four Major Themes of Social Psychology 3. The impact of a member on a group’s activities and structure.  Ex., Leadership
  7. 7. Four Major Themes of Social Psychology 4. The impact of one group on another group’s activities and structure.  Ex., Intergroup conflict
  8. 8. Three “Faces” of Social Psychology (House, 1977) 1. Psychological Social Psychology:  Mostly experimental methods. 2. Symbolic Interaction:  Participant observation and in-depth interviews. 3. Psychological Sociology:  Surveys and participant observation
  9. 9. Theory in Social Psychology  Theory:  Big “T” Theories: aka, “theoretical perspective.” Offer general explanations for a wide array of social behaviors across a wide variety of situations. Often is the philosophical basis of middle-range theories because they provide the basic assumptions from which research progresses. These theories are often rooted in theories about human nature.  Middle-range theories: narrow, focused theories that are limited in scope and only attempt to explain a particular phenomenon is a particular circumstance. The bulk of social psychology research is interested in building in middle-range theories.
  10. 10. Role Theory  Social psychological theory that holds that a substantial proportion of human behavior is persons carrying out their roles.  Role:
  11. 11. Role Theory, cont…  Central Propositions of Role Theory 1. People spend much of their lives participating in groups (e.g., family) and organizations (i.e., church). 2. Within these groups, people occupy distinct positions (i.e., father, deacon) 3. .
  12. 12. Role Theory, cont…  Central Propositions of Role Theory 4. Roles entail norms, which are rules specifying how a person should act when occupying a certain role. Norms can be explicit or implicit. 5. . 6. .
  13. 13. Role Theory, cont…  Role theory argues that we can predict a great deal of behavior just by knowing what roles a person occupies.  Thus, to change behavior, one must change roles occupied, or change norms associated with roles.  Role theory also argues that the roles that people occupy also determines their beliefs and attitudes.  Thus, changing roles should lead to changes in attitudes.  Lieberman (1965) worker/foreman attitudes study
  14. 14. Role Theory, cont…  Limitations of Role Theory  Difficulty in explaining deviant behavior.  Really doesn’t explain how roles and norms emerge in the first place.  Does not explain how roles and norms change over time.
  15. 15. Reinforcement Theory  General idea is that people will perform behaviors that bring them reward and avoid behaviors that bring them punishment.  Reward:  Punishment:  Reinforcement theory argues that people learn to associate a particular behavior (e.g., eating an apple) with a particular outcome (e.g., alleviation of hunger), a process called conditioning.
  16. 16. Reinforcement Theory, cont…  Two Types of Conditioning: 1. Classical conditioning (Pavlov): where a stimulus that elicits an emotional response is repeatedly experienced along with another stimulus that does not, until the other stimulus takes on the emotional properties of the first stimulus.  Example: How a lover can make you love onions. 2. Operant conditioning (Skinner):
  17. 17. Reinforcement Theory, cont…  Two major social psychological amendments or offshoots of general reinforcement theory are social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) and social exchange theory (Homans, 1961; Blau, 1964; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978).  Social learning: central proposition is that people can learn new behaviors simply by observing others’ behaviors. Whether or not the person performs these behaviors depends on whether or not they are rewarded/punished for doing so.  Ex., little boys potty training in rural areas.  Social exchange: argues that social relationships are characterized primarily by the exchange of “socially-mediated rewards” (e.g., money, goods, prestige, approval of others, etc.); people will participate in relationships only if they provide “profitable” outcomes or if the relationship is “equitable.”  Ex., why do most long-distance relationships fail?
  18. 18. Reinforcement Theory, cont…  Limitations of Reinforcement Theory  Hedonistic view of human nature; downplays other motivations.  Cannot easily account for creativity and innovation.  Ignores cognitive mechanisms involved with learning.
  19. 19. Cognitive Theory  Cognitive theory argues that cognitive processes of perception, memory, judgment, etc., are important determinants of social behavior.  Argues that the link between external stimuli and behavior is not mechanical or automatic, like reinforcement theorists tend to think, but rather are mediated by cognitive processes.
  20. 20. Cognitive Theory, cont…  Cognitive theory argues that people cognitively interpret world and structure the social world.  People interpret and structure the world through schemas, which are cognitive structures that organize stimuli into themes or subjects.
  21. 21. Cognitive Theory, cont…  Schemas important because they help people interpret and structure world efficiently.  Human memory is limited, but schemas help us remember people and situations by type (although sometimes with negative consequences).  Since the stimuli that surrounds us at any one time is infinitely complex and human cognitive processing is limited, schemas help us process information into manageable chunks and helps us attend to information we find important.  Human knowledge is also limited, but schemas help us fill gaps in our knowledge (sometimes, however, erroneously).  Schemas exist for persons, groups, etc…
  22. 22. Cognitive Theory, cont…  Many cognitive social psychologists argue that a lot of human behavior occurs to ensure cognitive consistency.  One variant of this is balance theory (Heider, 1958), which maintains that when a person has conflicting cognitions he or she will experience discomfort and attempt to resolve the conflict.
  23. 23. Cognitive Theory, cont…  Limitations of Cognitive Theory  (Over)simplifies the way people process information.  Cognitive phenomenon not directly observable; have to infer by what people tell us and by other “unconscious” measures (latency tests, seat position, etc.)  Doesn’t deal well with the fact that people often hold inconsistent cognitions.
  24. 24. Symbolic Interaction Theory  The Premises of Symbolic Interactionism: 1. .  When is the “meaning” of a table for a waiter? A wrestler? 2. Humans use these meanings to form and guide their actions and interactions in situations in which they find themselves.  The meaning of a table depends on the situation, e.g., whether it is in a restaurant or a wrestling ring. 3. Meanings are expressed using symbols, which are linguistic and non- linguistic actions that represent something else.  The word “table” is a symbol for a rectangular piece of material supported by 4 legs.
  25. 25. Symbolic Interaction Theory, cont…  The Premises of Symbolic Interactionism, cont… 4. Interacting individuals need an agreed-upon definition of the situation—an agreement among people about who they are, what actions are appropriate to the setting, and what their behavior means—for interaction to be coherent and organized.  If one has a “restaurant” definition of the situation, and another has a “wrestling” definition of the situation, there’s going to be trouble. 5. People have a self—both an active source of behavior and a passive object of reflection—in which people symbolically interact with themselves so as to develop goal-oriented courses of action.  Talking to yourself is the “self in action.”
  26. 26. Symbolic Interaction Theory, cont…  The Premises of Symbolic Interactionism, cont… 6. Humans structure their interactions with others by taking the anticipate responses of others into account. They do this through taking the role of the other, that is, putting themselves in the place of others to see the world and themselves as others do.  “Should I use the table for food or to slam someone through? What would (s)he want me to do?” 7. In order to accurately and fully understand human behavior, researchers must study and analyze the subjective experiences of persons studied (the meanings that objects have for them, their selves, the definitions of the situation that they believed were at play, etc…).  E.g., we can only understand two people’s different uses of a table by finding out (usually by asking) what the table “means” to them.
  27. 27. Symbolic Interaction Theory, cont…  Limitations of Symbolic Interaction Theory  Other-centered view of human nature; downplays other motivations.  Are we really “taking the role of the other” when interacting with others?
  28. 28. Evolutionary Psychology Theory  Argues that a great deal of human behavior is based on specific psychological mechanisms that have evolved to deal with specific evolutionary pressures. These psychological mechanisms are encoded in our genes.
  29. 29. Evolutionary Psychology Theory, cont…  Examples of Evolutionary Psychology Theory at Work  Explaining gender differences in mate preferences (Buss, 1994)  Step-children and child abuse (Wilson & Daly, 1985)
  30. 30. Evolutionary Psychology Theory, cont…  Limitations of Evolutionary Psychology Theory  Circular reasoning • If the behavior exists, it must be adaptive. But how do you know it’s adaptive? Because it exists.  Untestable propositions
  31. 31. Comparison of Theoretical Perspectives DIMENSION Role Theory Reinforcement Theory Cognitive Theory Symbolic Interaction Evolutionary Psychology Theory Central Concepts Role, Norm Conditioning, Reward, Punishment, Exchange Schemas Symbols, Self, Role- Taking Fitness; Evolved Psychological Mechanisms Behavior Explained Behavior in Role Learning; Exchange Processes Social Cognition/ Perception Symbolic Interaction Those That Enhance Fitness Human Nature Conformist Hedonistic Thinkers Emphatic Actors Gene Machines Changing Behavior Shifts in Occupied Roles and Role Expecta- tions Changes in Rewards and Punishments Relieving Cognitive Inconsistency Changes in Definitions of Situation Long-term Natural Selection