Prepare at minimum a 1,800 word paper (no maximum) in which you examine the discipline of social psychology. As a part of your examination, be sure to address the following items:
Introducing Social Psychology
Chapter ? 1
? What is social psychology?
Social psychology?s big ideas
Social psychology and human values
I knew it all along: Is social psychology simply common
Research methods: How we do social psychology
Postscript: Why I wrote this book
There once was a man whose second wife was a vain and
selfish woman. This woman?s two daughters were similarly
vain and selfish. The man?s own daughter, however, was
meek and unselfish. This sweet, kind daughter, whom we all
know as Cinderella, learned early on that she should do as
she was told, accept ill treatment and insults, and avoid
doing anything to upstage her stepsisters and their mother.
But then, thanks to her fairy godmother, Cinderella was able
to escape her situation for an evening and attend a grand
ball, where she attracted the attention of a handsome prince.
When the love-struck prince later encountered Cinderella
back in her degrading home, he failed to recognize her.
Implausible? The folktale demands that we accept the power
of the situation. In the presence of her oppressive
stepmother, Cinderella was humble and unattractive. At the
ball, Cinderella felt more beautiful?and walked and talked
and smiled as if she were. In one situation, she cowered. In
the other, she charmed.
The French philosopher-novelist Jean-Paul Sartre (1946)
would have had no problem accepting the Cinderella
premise. We humans are ?first of all beings in a situation,? he
wrote. ?We cannot be distinguished from our situations, for
they form us and decide our possibilities? (pp. 59?60, paraphrased). What Is Social Psychology?
Social psychology is a science that studies the influences
of our situations, with special attention to how we view and
affect one another. More precisely, it is the scientific study of
how people think about, influence, and relate to one another
Figure 1.1 Social Psychology Is . . . Social psychology lies at psychology?s boundary with
sociology. Compared with sociology (the study of people in
groups and societies), social psychology focuses more on
individuals and uses more experimentation. Compared with
personality psychology, social psychology focuses less on
individuals? differences and more on how individuals, in
general, view and affect one another.
Social psychology is still a young science. The first social
psychology experiments were reported barely more than a ? ? century ago (1898), and the first social psychology texts did
not appear until just before and after 1900 (Smith, 2005). Not
until the 1930s did social psychology assume its current
form. And not until World War II did it begin to emerge as the
vibrant field it is today.
Throughout this book, sources for information are cited
parenthetically. The complete source is provided in the
reference section that begins on page R-1.
Social psychology studies our thinking, influence, and
relationships by asking questions that have intrigued us all.
Here are some examples:
How Much of Our Social World Is Just in Our Heads? As
we will see in later chapters, our social behavior varies not
just with the objective situation but also with how we
construe it. Social beliefs can be self-fulfilling. For example,
happily married people will attribute their spouse?s acid
remark (?Can?t you ever put that where it belongs??) to
something external (?He must have had a frustrating day?).
Unhappily married people will attribute the same remark to a
mean disposition (?Is he ever hostile!?) and may respond
with a counterattack. Moreover, expecting hostility from their
spouse, they may behave resentfully, thereby eliciting the
hostility they expect.
Would People Be Cruel If Ordered? How did Nazi
Germany conceive and implement the unconscionable
slaughter of 6 million Jews? Those evil acts occurred partly
because thousands of people followed orders. They put the
prisoners on trains, herded them into crowded ?showers,?
and poisoned them with gas. How could people engage in
such horrific actions? Were those individuals normal human
beings? Stanley Milgram (1974) wondered. So he set up a
situation where people were ordered to administer
increasing levels of electric shock to someone who was
having difficulty learning a series of words. As we will see in
Chapter 6, nearly two-thirds of the participants fully ? complied.
To Help? Or to Help Oneself? As bags of cash tumbled
from an armored truck one fall day, $2 million was scattered
along a Columbus, Ohio, street. Some motorists stopped to
help, returning $100,000. Judging from the $1,900,000 that
disappeared, many more stopped to help themselves. (What
would you have done?) When similar incidents occurred
several months later in San Francisco and Toronto, the
results were the same: Passersby grabbed most of the
money (Bowen, 1988). What situations trigger people to be
helpful or greedy? Do some cultural contexts?perhaps
villages and small towns?breed greater helpfulness? Tired of looking at the stars, Professor Mueller takes up social psychology.
Reprinted with permission of Jason Love at www.jasonlove.com. A common thread runs through these questions: They all
deal with how people view and affect one another. And that
is what social psychology is all about. Social psychologists
study attitudes and beliefs, conformity and independence,
love and hate. Social Psychology?s Big Ideas
What are social psychology?s big lessons?its overarching
themes? In many academic fields, the results of tens of
thousands of studies, the conclusions of thousands of
investigators, and the insights of hundreds of theorists can be boiled down to a few central ideas. Biology offers us
principles such as natural selection and adaptation.
Sociology builds on concepts such as social structure and
organization. Music harnesses our ideas of rhythm, melody,
What concepts are on social psychology?s short list of big
ideas? What themes, or fundamental principles, will be worth
remembering long after you have forgotten most of the
details? My short list of ?great ideas we ought never to
forget? includes these, each of which we will explore further
in chapters to come (Figure 1.2).
Figure 1.2 Some Big Ideas in Social Psychology We Construct Our Social Reality
We humans have an irresistible urge to explain behavior, to
attribute it to some cause, and therefore to make it seem
orderly, predictable, and controllable. You and I may react
differently to similar situations because we think differently.
How we react to a friend?s insult depends on whether we
attribute it to hostility or to a bad day.
A 1951 Princeton-Dartmouth football game provided a
classic demonstration of how we construct reality (Hastorf &
Cantril, 1954; see also Loy & Andrews, 1981). The game
lived up to its billing as a grudge match; it turned out to be
one of the roughest and dirtiest games in the history of either
school. A Princeton All-American was gang-tackled, piled on,
and finally forced out of the game with a broken nose.
Fistfights erupted, and there were further injuries on both
sides. The whole performance hardly fit the Ivy League
image of upper-class gentility.
Not long afterward, two psychologists, one from each school,
showed films of the game to students on each campus. The
students played the role of scientist-observer, noting each
infraction as they watched and who was responsible for it.
But they could not set aside their loyalties. The Princeton
students, for example, saw twice as many Dartmouth
violations as the Dartmouth students saw. The conclusion:
There is an objective reality out there, but we always view it
through the lens of our beliefs and values.
We are all intuitive scientists. We explain people?s behavior,
usually with enough speed and accuracy to suit our daily
needs. When someone?s behavior is consistent and
distinctive, we attribute that behavior to his or her
personality. For example, if you observe someone who
makes repeated snide comments, you may infer that this
person has a nasty disposition, and then you might try to
avoid the person. Our beliefs about ourselves also matter. Do we have an
optimistic outlook? Do we see ourselves as in control of
things? Do we view ourselves as relatively superior or
inferior? Our answers influence our emotions and actions.
How we construe the world, and ourselves, matters. Our Social Intuitions Are Often Powerful but
Our instant intuitions shape our fears (is flying dangerous?),
impressions (can I trust him?), and relationships (does she
like me?). Intuitions influence presidents in times of crisis,
gamblers at the table, jurors assessing guilt, and personnel
directors screening applicants. Such intuitions are
Indeed, psychological science reveals a fascinating
unconscious mind?an intuitive backstage mind?that Freud
never told us about. More than psychologists realized until
recently, thinking occurs offstage, out of sight. Our intuitive
capacities are revealed by studies of what later chapters will
explain: ?automatic processing,? ?implicit memory,?
?heuristics,? ?spontaneous trait inference,? instant emotions,
and nonverbal communication. Thinking, memory, and
attitudes all operate on two levels?one conscious and
deliberate, the other unconscious and automatic. ?Dual
processing,? today?s researchers call it. We know more than
we know we know.
Intuition is huge, but intuition is also perilous. An example:
As we cruise through life, mostly on automatic pilot, we
intuitively judge the likelihood of things by how easily various
instances come to mind. Especially since September 11,
2001, we carry readily available mental images of plane
crashes. Thus, most people fear flying more than driving,
and many will drive great distances to avoid risking the
skies. Actually, we?re many times safer (per mile traveled) in
a commercial plane than in a motor vehicle (in the United States, air travel was 230 times safer between 2002 and
2005, reports the National Safety Council ). Social cognition matters. Our behavior is influenced not just by the
objective situation, but also by how we construe it.
© The New Yorker Collection, 2005, Lee Lorenz, from cartoonbank.com.
All Rights Reserved. Even our intuitions about ourselves often err. We intuitively
trust our memories more than we should. We misread our
own minds; in experiments, we deny being affected by things
that do influence us. We mispredict our own feelings?how
bad we?ll feel a year from now if we lose our job or our
romance breaks up, and how good we?ll feel a year from
now, or even a week from now, if we win our state?s lottery.
And we often mispredict our own future. For example, when
selecting clothes, people approaching middle age will still
buy snug (?I anticipate shedding a few pounds?); rarely does
anyone say, more realistically, ?I?d better buy a relatively
loose fit; people my age tend to put on pounds.?
Our social intuitions, then, are noteworthy for both their
powers and their perils. By reminding us of intuition?s gifts
and alerting us to its pitfalls, social psychologists aim to
fortify our thinking. In most situations, ?fast and frugal? snap
judgments serve us well enough. But in others, where accuracy matters?as when needing to fear the right things
and spend our resources accordingly?we had best restrain
our impulsive intuitions with critical thinking. Our intuitions
and unconscious information processing are routinely
powerful and sometimes perilous. Social Influences Shape Our Behavior
We are, as Aristotle long ago observed, social animals. We
speak and think in words we learned from others. We long to
connect, to belong, and to be well thought of. Matthias Mehl
and James Pennebaker (2003) quantified their University of
Texas students? social behavior by inviting them to wear
microcassette recorders and microphones. Once every 12
minutes during their waking hours, the computer-operated
recorder would imperceptibly record for 30 seconds.
Although the observation period covered only weekdays
(including class time), almost 30 percent of the students?
time was spent in conversation. Relationships are a large
part of being human.
As social creatures, we respond to our immediate contexts.
Sometimes the power of a social situation leads us to act
contrary to our expressed attitudes. Indeed, powerfully evil
situations sometimes overwhelm good intentions, inducing
people to agree with falsehoods or comply with cruelty.
Under Nazi influence, many decent-seeming people became
instruments of the Holocaust. Other situations may elicit
great generosity and compassion. After the 9/11 catastrophe,
New York City was overwhelmed with donations of food,
clothing, and help from eager volunteers.
The power of the situation was also dramatically evident in
varying attitudes toward the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Opinion
polls revealed that Americans and Israelis overwhelmingly
favored the war. Their distant cousins elsewhere in the world
overwhelmingly opposed it. Tell me where you live and I?ll
make a reasonable guess as to what your attitudes were as ?
? the war began. Tell me your educational level and what
media you watch and read, and I?ll make an even more
confident guess. Our situations matter.
Our cultures help define our situations. For example, our
standards regarding promptness, frankness, and clothing
vary with our culture.
Whether you prefer a slim or voluptuous body depends on
when and where in the world you live.
Whether you define social justice as equality (all receive the
same) or as equity (those who earn more receive more)
depends on whether your ideology has been shaped more
by socialism or by capitalism.
Whether you tend to be expressive or reserved, casual or
formal, hinges partly on your culture and your ethnicity.
Whether you focus primarily on yourself?your personal
needs, desires, and morality?or on your family, clan, and
communal groups depends on how much you are a product
of modern Western individualism.
Social psychologist Hazel Markus (2005) sums it up: ?People
are, above all, malleable.? Said differently, we adapt to our
social context. Our attitudes and behavior are shaped by
external social forces. Personal Attitudes and Dispositions Also
Internal forces also matter. We are not passive
tumbleweeds, merely blown this way and that by the social
winds. Our inner attitudes affect our behavior. Our political
attitudes influence our voting behavior. Our smoking
attitudes influence our susceptibility to peer pressures to
smoke. Our attitudes toward the poor influence our
willingness to help them. (As we will see, our attitudes also
follow our behavior, which leads us to believe strongly in
those things we have committed ourselves to or suffered for.)
Personality dispositions also affect behavior. Facing the same situation, different people may react differently.
Emerging from years of political imprisonment, one person
exudes bitterness and seeks revenge. Another, such as
South Africa?s Nelson Mandela, seeks reconciliation and
unity with his former enemies. Attitudes and personality
influence behavior. Social Behavior Is Biologically Rooted
Twenty-first-century social psychology is providing us with
ever-growing insights into our behavior?s biological
foundations. Many of our social behaviors reflect a deep
Everyone who has taken introductory psychology has
learned that nature and nurture together form who we are.
As the area of a rectangle is determined by both its length
and its width, so do biology and experience together create
us. As evolutionary psychologists remind us (see Chapter
5), our inherited human nature predisposes us to behave in
ways that helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. We
carry the genes of those whose traits enabled them and their
children to survive and reproduce. Thus, evolutionary
psychologists ask how natural selection might predispose
our actions and reactions when dating and mating, hating
and hurting, caring and sharing. Nature also endows us with
an enormous capacity to learn and to adapt to varied
environments. We are sensitive and responsive to our social
If every psychological event (every thought, every emotion,
every behavior) is simultaneously a biological event, then we
can also examine the neurobiology that underlies social
behavior. What brain areas enable our experiences of love
and contempt, helping and aggression, perception and
belief? How do brain, mind, and behavior function together
as one coordinated system? What does the timing of brain
events reveal about how we process information? Such questions are asked by those in social neuroscience
(Cacioppo & others, 2007).
Social neuroscientists do not reduce complex social
behaviors, such as helping and hurting, to simple neural or
molecular mechanisms. Their point is this: To understand
social behavior, we must consider both under-the-skin
(biological) and between-skins (social) influences. Mind and
body are one grand system. Stress hormones affect how we
feel and act. Social ostracism elevates blood pressure.
Social support strengthens the disease-fighting immune
system. We are bio-psycho-social organisms. We reflect
the interplay of our biological, psychological, and social
influences. And that is why today?s psychologists study
behavior from these different levels of analysis. Social Psychology?s Principles Are Applicable
in Everyday Life
Social psychology has the potential to illuminate your life, to
make visible the subtle influences that guide your thinking
and acting. And, as we will see, it offers many ideas about
how to know ourselves better, how to win friends and
influence people, how to transform closed fists into open
Scholars are also applying social psychological insights.
Principles of social thinking, social influence, and social
relations have implications for human health and well-being,
for judicial procedures and juror decisions in courtrooms,
and for influencing behaviors that will enable an
environmentally sustainable human future.
As but one perspective on human existence, psychological
science does not seek to engage life?s ultimate questions:
What is the meaning of human life? What should be our
purpose? What is our ultimate destiny? But social
psychology does give us a method for asking and answering
some exceedingly interesting and important questions. ?
? Social psychology is all about life?your life: your beliefs,
your attitudes, your relationships.
The rest of this chapter takes us inside social psychology.
Let?s first consider how social psychologists? own values
influence their work in obvious and subtle ways. And then
let?s focus on this chapter?s biggest task: glimpsing how we
do social psychology. How do social psychologists search for
explanations of social thinking, social influence, and social
relations? And how might you and I use these analytical
tools to think smarter?
Throughout this book, a brief summary will conclude each
major section. I hope these summaries will help you assess
how well you have learned the material in each section.
Summing Up: Social Psychology?s Big Ideas
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people think
about, influence, and relate to one another. Its central
themes include the following:
How we construe our social worlds
How our social intuitions guide and sometimes deceive us
How our social behavior is shaped by other people, by our
attitudes and personalities, and by our biology
How social psychology?s principles apply to our everyday
lives and to various other fields of study Social Psychology and Human
Social psychologists? values penetrate their work in ways
both obvious and subtle. What are such ways?
Social psychology is less a collection of findings than a set of
strategies for answering questions. In science, as in courts
of law, personal opinions are inadmissible. When ideas are
put on trial, evidence determines the verdict.
But are social psychologists really that objective? Because
they are human beings, don?t their values?their personal
convictions about what is desirable and how people ought to behave?seep into their work? If so, can social psychology
really be scientific? Obvious Ways Values Enter Psychology
Values enter the picture when social psychologists choose
research topics. It was no accident that the study of
prejudice flourished during the 1940s as fascism raged in
Europe; that the 1950s, a time of look-alike fashions and
intolerance of differing views, gave us studies of conformity;
that the 1960s saw interest in aggression increase with riots
and rising crime rates; that the feminist movement of the
1970s helped stimulate a wave of research on gender and
sexism; that the 1980s offered a resurgence of attention to
psychological aspects of the arms race; and that the 1990s
and the early twenty-first century were marked by
heightened interest in how people respond to diversity in
culture, race, and sexual orientation. Social psychology
reflects social history (Kagan, 2009).
Values differ not only across time but also across cultures. In
Europe, people take pride in their nationalities. The Scots
are more self-consciously distinct from the English, and the
Austrians from the Germans, than are similarly adjacent
Michiganders from Ohioans. Consequently, Europe has
given us a major theory of ?social identity,? whereas
American social psychologists have focused more on
individuals?how one person thinks about others, is
influenced by them, and relates to them (Fiske, 2004; Tajfel,
1981; Turner, 1984). Australian social psychologists have
drawn theories and methods from both Europe and North
America (Feather, 2005).
Values also influence the types of people who are attracted
to various disciplines (Campbell, 1975a; Moynihan, 1979). At
your school, do the students majoring in the humanities, the
arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences differ
noticeably from one another? Do social psychology and sociology attract people who are?for example?relatively
eager to challenge tradition, people more inclined to shape
the future than preserve the past? Different sciences offer different perspectives.
ScienceCartoonsPlus.com Finally, values obviously enter the picture as the object of
social-psychological analysis. Social psychologists
investigate how values form, why they change, and how they
influence attitudes and actions. None of that, however, tells
us which values are ?right.? Not-So-Obvious Ways Values Enter Psychology
We less often recognize the subtler ways in which value
commitments masquerade as objective truth. Consider three
not-so-obvious ways values enter psychology.
The Subjective Aspects of Science
Scientists and philosophers now agree: Science is not purely
objective. Scientists do not simply read the book of nature.
Rather, they interpret nature, using their own mental
categories. In our daily lives, too, we view the world through
the lens of our preconceptions. Pause a moment: What do
you see in Figure 1.3? Can you see a Dalmatian sniffing the
ground at the picture?s center? Without that preconception,
most people are blind to the Dalmatian. Once your mind
grasps the concept, it informs your interpretation of the
picture?so much so that it becomes difficult not to see the
Figure 1.3 What Do You See? R. C. James ?Science does not simply
describe and explain nature;
it is part of the interplay
between nature and
ourselves; it describes
nature as exposed to our
method of questioning.?
PHILOSOPHY, 1958 This is the way our minds work. While reading these words,
you have been unaware that you are also looking at your
nose. Your mind blocks from awareness something that is
there, if only you were predisposed to perceive it. This
tendency to prejudge reality based on our expectations is a
basic fact about the human mind.
Because scholars at work in any given area often share a
common viewpoint or come from the same culture, their
assumptions may go unchallenged. What we take for
granted?the shared beliefs that some European social
psychologists call our social representations (Augoustinos
& Innes, 1990; Moscovici, 1988, 2001)?are often our most
important yet most unexamined convictions. Sometimes,
however, someone from outside the camp will call attention
to those assumptions. During the 1980s feminists and
Marxists exposed some of social psychology?s unexamined
assumptions. Feminist critics called attention to subtle
biases?for example, the political conservatism of some
scientists who favored a biological interpretation of gender ? differences in social behavior (Unger, 1985). Marxist critics
called attention to competitive, individualist biases?for
example, the assumption that conformity is bad and that
individual rewards are good. Marxists and feminists, of
course, make their own assumptions, as critics of academic
?political correctness? are fond of noting. Social psychologist