Social Psychology (Chapter 18)

-Social psychologists study how situations affect behavior
-when judging other's behavior, people overestimate the role of
personality and underestimate the role of the situation
-e.g. a driver cuts you off
-one interpretation: "he's not feeling well", so back off
and give him room
-but people usually think: "he's a jerk", so react badly
(drive dangerously)
-this is called the fundamental attribution error
(underestimating the role of the situation and
overestimating the role of personality in other's behavior)
-Social influences on behavior
-how do situations influence behavior?
-we are all vulnerable to effects of situation - people "follow the
-e.g. clapping in a crowd
-study: a confederate rubs his face or shakes his leg - others
mimic the behavior
- called the chameleon effect (the tendency to mimic the
behavior of those around us)
- e.g.: chameleon effect - if one student in the classroom
begins to cough, others are
likely to do the same
-probably why they use canned laughter in a sitcom, or why
bartender puts money in own
tip jar
-Conformity - the tendency to fall into line with the norms of a
- e.g. buddies drink heavily - may convince others to drink, or
getting a tattoo because
your friends all have one
- classic experiment: Solomon Asch
-task: say which line is the same length as the comparison
- other "subjects" are there
- told about the line task
- all the people pretending to be subjects do it
right the first few times, then they
all few times, then they all give a wrong answer
- at least 50% of the real subjects went along with
the group even though it was
- prefer to be liked than correct
- normative social influence - conformity resulting
from a person's desire to gain
approval or avoid disapproval.

(Play John Lenon's Video: Working Class Hero)

We conform because of a fear of deviating from the group
- true in everyday life
- people dress the same, want to "fit in"
-conformity increases when:
-we feel insecure
-the group has more than 3 people
-the group is unanimous
-admire the group's status
-others in group are observing you
-culture respects social standards

Obedience - blindly following authority figures
-this is often very important (e.g., in the military)
-question: but what if the commanded behavior is immoral?
- this came up after WWII - the Nazi officials all said they
were "just following orders"
- is that a valid excuse?
-even now people blindly follow authority: 1994 in
Rwanda, 800,000 Tutsies were killed
by people following radio orders
-social psychologists asked whether normal people follow
authority when the behavior is
- famous obedience study: by Stanley Milgram at Yale U.
-told subjects they were studying effects of punishment on
- experimenter look very official
- other subject "Mr. Wallace" - told people that people
were picked randomly to be
teacher or learner but "Mr. Wallace" was always chosen
as learner
- he had to learn pairs of words and was punished with
shocks if wrong
- Mr. Wallace says he has a heart condition
- participant is in another room, but they can still hear
him; their job is to deliver shock
- at certain levels of shock, they heard sounds of pain (at
very high voltage, there are no sounds)
- experimenter tells subject they "must go on"
- How many participants complied fully and delivered the
highest level of shock? The
majority: 65%
-later replicated with women
-later: even more participants agree to do it if
their heads were covered with a
hood so identity was hidden
- this is called deindividuation (when identity is
masked, people lose restraint)
-group situation that foster anonymity cause
deindividuation as well

Another issue: the good side of people
-Altruism - when people unselfishly sacrifice for the welfare of
-this was inspired by a real-life event: 1964 in NY, woman
names Kitty Genovese was attacked
in full view of neighbors (stabbed, raped, killed)
- all the neighbors watched and none called the police
- why didn't they help?
-study: "emergency" in lab
- participants placed in cubicles, supposedly communicating with
others though an intercom
- one student is a confederate and pretends to have a seizure
- did