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Social Psychology

Psychology 355 Miranda Barone, PhD

Social psychology is...

the scientific study of:


how individuals think, feel, and behave with regard to other people and how individuals thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by other people.

...the scientific study of... ...how individuals think, feel, and behave...

The actual presence of other people


The implied and imagined presence of other people Thoughts (beliefs, ideas, cognitions)

Feelings (emotions, preferences, likes, dislikes)


Behaviors (actions, intentions, or tendencies to act)

Some questions asked by Social Psychologists

Questions about Social Perception (Ch. 3 5) Why do people sometimes sabotage their own performance making it more likely they will fail?

How do people in East Asia often differ from North Americans in the way they explain peoples behavior?
Where do stereotypes come from, and why are they so resistant to change?

Some questions asked by Social Psychologists

Questions about Social Influence (Ch. 6 9) Why do we often like what we suffer for?

How do salespeople sometimes trick us into buying things we never really wanted?
Why do people often perform worse in groups that they would have alone?

Some questions asked by Social Psychologists

Questions about Social Interaction (Ch. 9 -11) How similar or different are the sexed in what they look for in an intimate relationship?

When is a bystander more or less likely to help you in an emergency? Can money make people happy?
Does exposure to TV violence, or to pornography, trigger aggressive behavior?

Applying Social Psychology

How does Social Psychology help us understand questions about law, business, or health? ( Ch. 12 14) Why do people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit? How can business leaders most effectively motivate their employees?

How does stress affect ones health and what are the most effective ways of coping with a stressful experiences?

How common is common sense?

There are many conflicting sayings. Absence makes the heart grow fonder vs. Out of sight, out of mind Too many cooks spoil the stew vs. Many hands make work light The squeaky wheel gets the grease vs. The pheasant would not have been shot except for its cry Actually, each saying is true in some situations. This is also true of findings in social psychology. results are contingent on both who is studied (person variables) and where it is studied (situational variables)

Birth and Infancy of Social Psychology: 1880s-1920s

In 1897, Norman Triplett noticed that bicycle racers always turned in better times in competition than alone. Same result was obtained when he asked children to wind fishing reels as quickly as possible.

In the late 1920s, a German psychologist named Max Ringelmann compared the results of individual and group performance on a rope-pulling task.

Social loafing Increases in group size are inversely related to individual performance.

Who was the founder of social psychology?

William McDougall (1871-1938) published

Social Psychology
in 1908

Edward A. Ross (1866-1951) published

Social Psychology
in 1908

Floyd Henry Allport (18901978) published

Social Psychology
in 1924

A Call to Action: 1930s-1950s

Researchers came to the United States to escape war in the 1930s, for instance: Muzafer Sherifs (1906 - 1988) groundbreaking experimental research, the Robbers Cave study on social influence (1936) . Kurt Lewins research and theoretical contributions, B=(P,E), had an impact on both social and developmental psychology World War II era - Prejudice, aggression, obedience, conformity, genocide, patriotism, and propaganda became research topics.

Confidence and Crisis: 1960s-mid 1970s

Milgrams famous obedience experiments.

Period of expansion and enthusiasm.


Also a time of crisis and heated debate. Strong reactions against the laboratory experiment as the dominant research method.

An Era of Pluralism: Mid 1970s-1990s


Crisis led to a stronger discipline. Adoption of pluralism

Social Psychology in a New Century


Integrating emotion, motivation, and cognition Biological and evolutionary perspectives Cultural perspectives New technologies

Figure 1.2: Selfdescriptions Across Cultures

An Example of a cross-cultural comparison


The following two ads are from the San Francisco Chronicle: 28 SWM, 6'1", 160 lbs. Handsome, artistic, ambitious, seeks attractive WF, 24-29, for friendship, romance, and permanent partnership. Very attractive, independent SWF, 29, 5'6" 110 lbs., love fine dining, the theater, gardening, and quiet evenings at home. In search of handsome SWM 28-34 with similar interests.

These two ads appeared on the same day in the India Tribune (a California newspaper with a readership of immigrants from India): Gujarati Vaishnav parents invite correspondence from never married Gujarati well settled, preferably green card holder from respectable family for green card holder daughter 29 years, 5'4", good looking, doing CPA. Gujarati Brahmin family invites correspondence from a well cultured, beautiful Gujarati girl for 29 years, 5'8", 145 lbs. Handsome looking, well settled boy.

Social Psychology in a New Century

New technologies. fMRI, PET scans, etc. The internet