Social Psychology

{the scientific study of how we think about, influence, and relate to one another}

by Shailee Paliwal, Rachel Sadler, and Sakshi Wadhwa

Major Theories and Concepts

attribution theory: the theory that we explain someone’s behavior by crediting either the situation or the person’s disposition

cognitive dissonance theory: the theory that we act to reduce the discomfort (dissonance) we feel when two of our thoughts (cognitions) are inconsistent

scapegoat theory: the theory that prejudice offers an outlet for anger by providing someone to blame

social exchange theory: the theory that our social behavior is an exchange process, the aim of which is to maximize benefits and minimize costs

Key Words

fundamental attribution error: the tendency for observers, when analyzing another’s behavior, to underestimate the impact of the situation and to overestimate the impact of personal disposition

central route persuasion: attitude change path in which interested people focus on the arguments and respond with favorable thoughts

peripheral route persuasion: attitude change path in which people are influenced by incidental cues, such as a speaker’s attractiveness

foot-in-the-door phenomenon: the tendency for people who have first agreed to a small request to comply later with a larger request

conformity: adjusting one’s behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard

social facilitation: stronger responses on simple or well-learned tasks in the presence of other

social loafing: the tendency for people in a group to exert less effort when pooling their efforts toward attaining a common goal than when individually accountable

deindividuation: the loss of self-awareness and self-restraint occurring in group situations that foster arousal and anonymity

group polarization: the enhancement of a group’s prevailing inclinations through discussion within the group

groupthink: the mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternative

culture: the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, values and traditions shared by a group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next

norm: an understood rule for accepted and expected behavior. Norms prescribe “proper” behavior

prejudice: an unjustifiable (and usually negative) attitude toward a group and its members

stereotype: a generalized (sometimes accurate but often overgeneralized) belief about a group of people

discrimination: unjustifiable negative behavior toward a group and its members

ingroup bias: the tendency to favor our own group

other-race effect: the tendency to recall faces of one’s own race more accurately than faces of other races

just-world phenomenon: the tendency for people to believe the world is just and that people therefore get what they deserve and deserve what they get

aggression: physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt someone

bystander effect: the tendency for any given bystander to be less likely to give aid if other bystanders are present

superordinate goals: shared goals that override differences among people and require their cooperation

Key People

Fritz Heider- proposed the attribution theory (1958)

Philip Zimbardo- conducted the Stanford Prison experiment

Leon Festinger- proposed the cognitive dissonance theory

Chartrand and Bargh- demonstrated the  chameleon effect on students who imitated confederates working in a room together

Solomon Asch- under certain conditions, people will conform to a group's judgement even if it is incorrect (1955)

Stanley Milgram- demonstrated conformity and obedience in one of the most controversial experiments in psychology (ordered volunteers to deliver "shocks" to people)

Norman Triplett- noticed cycling times were faster when cyclists competed against each other as opposed to the clock; recognized social facilitation

Key Research

Stanford Prison Experiment- Zimbardo assigned the roles of prisoners and guards to college students at Stanford University, who were then placed in a simulated prison. The experiment had to be called off  after six days because students were beginning to take their roles too seriously. "Prisoners" broke down and became rebellious; "guards" devised cruel and degrading

Stanley Milgram Experiment- volunteers were randomly assigned the role of teacher or learner, and the teachers were instructed to give the learner shocks of increasing strength for every wrong answer. Torn between the experimenter and the student's pleas, the "teacher" generally obeyed the orders of the experimenter even though it was supposedly harming the learner. This is considered a controversial experiment because even though the learners were merely acting as though they were shocked, the teachers believed they were actually injuring the other subjects- yet continued to administer the "shocks."

Solomon Asch Study- a volunteer was shown three lines in comparison to a fourth. They had to point to which of the first three lines matched the fourth line the best. In a group situation in which most of the group (confederates) gave the wrong answer, the volunteer was more inclined to choose the same wrong answer 2/3 of the time. This shows people's tendency to conform.

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