Key Words

Social psychology: the scientific study of how we think about, influence, and relate to one another.

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

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.

Attitude: feelings, often influenced by our beliefs, that predispose us to respond in a particular way to objects, people, and events.

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.

Role: a set of expectations (norms) about a social position, defining how those in the position ought to behave.

Cognitive dissonance theory: the theory that we act to reduce the discomfort (dissonance) we feel when two of our thoughts (cognitions) are inconsistent. For example, when our awareness of our attitudes and of our actions clash, we can reduce the resulting dissonance by changing our attitudes.

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

Normative social influence: influence resulting from a person’s desire to gain approval or avoid disapproval.

Personal Space: the buffer zone we like to maintain around our bodies.

Prejudice: an unjustifiable (and usually negative) attitude toward a group and its members. Prejudice generally involves stereotyped beliefs, negative feelings, and a predisposition to discriminatory action.

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

Discrimination: unjustifiable negative behavior toward a group and its behavior.

Ingroup: "Us"--people with whom we share a common identity.

Outgroup: "Them"--those perceived as different or apart from our ingroup.

Ingroup Bias: the tendency to favor our own group.

Scapegoat Theory: the theory that prejudice offers an outlet for anger by providing someone to blame.

Other-race Effect: the tendency to recall faces of one's own race more accurately than faces of other races. Also called the 'cross-race effect' and the 'own-race bias.'

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: any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt or destroy.

Frustration-aggression Principle: the principle that frustration--the blocking of an attempt to achieve some goal--creates anger, which can generate aggression.

Mere Exposure Effect: the phenomenon that repeated exposure to novel stimuli increases liking of them.

Passionate Love: an aroused state of intense positive absorption in another, usually present at the beginning of a love relationship.

Companionate Love: the deep affectionate attachment we feel for those with whom our lives are intertwined.

Equity: a condition in which people receive from a relationship in proportion to what they give to it.

Self-disclosure: revealing intimate aspects of oneself to others.

Altruism: unselfish regard for this welfare of others.

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

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

Reciprocity Norm: an expectation that people will help, not hurt, those who have helped them.

Social-responsibility Norm: an expectation that people will help those dependent upon them.

Conflict: a perceived incompatibility of actions, goals, or ideas.

Social Trap: a situation in which the conflicting parties, by each rationally pursuing their self-interest, become caught in mutually destructive behavior.

Mirror-image Perceptions: mutual views often held by conflicting people, as when each side sees itself as ethical and peaceful and views the other side as evil and aggressive.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy: a belief that leads to its own fulfillment.

Superordinate Goals: shared goals that override differences among people and require their cooperation.

GRIT: "Graduated and Reciprocated initiatives in Tension-Reduction"-- a strategy designed to decrease international tensions.

Key People

Fritz Heider: proposed the attribution theory, noted that people usually attribute others’ behavior either to their internal dispositions or to their external situations.

Philip Zimbardo: Stanford psychologist who devised the famous where male college students volunteered to spend time in a simulated prison study.

Leon Festinger: proposed the cognitive dissonance theory, that when we become aware that our attitudes and actions don’t coincide, we experience tension, or cognitive dissonance

Solomon Asch: devised a test to study conformity, participants believed they were in a study of visual perception, but they were really being studied to see it they would conform to other people's answers.

Stanley Milgram: undertook what have become social psychology’s most famous and controversial experiments. Participants were assigned as a "teacher" and told to punish the learner for wrong answers by delivering brief electric shocks.

Irving Janis: studied the decision-making procedures that led to President John F. Kennedy and his advisers blundered into an ill-fated plan to invade Cuba. Since no one spoke strongly against the idea, everyone assumed consensus support. To describe this harmonious but unrealistic group thinking, Janis coined the term groupthink.

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