Introducing Social Psychology essay

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” (up. 59-60, paraphrased).

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4 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).

FIGURE 1. 1: Social Psychology Is . Page 2 of 41 social psychology The scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another. 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 1 900 (Smith, 2005). Not until the 1 sass 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, apply 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 V).

Unhappily married people will attribute the same remark to a mean disposition 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 Amalgam (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.

5 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 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, Social Psychology with Socialites CDR and Power, 1 20th Edition Page 3 of 41 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? 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. Tired of looking at the stars, Professor Mueller takes up social psychology. Reprinted with permission of Jason Love at w. Www. Johansson. Com. Page 4 Of 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 oiled 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, and harmony. 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 PsychologyWe 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 Otto hostility or too bad day. Page 5 of 41 A 1951 Princeton-Dartmouth football game provided a classic demonstration of how we construct reality (History & Central, 1954; see also LOL & Andrews, 1981).

The game lived up to its billing as a grudge match; it turned out to be nee 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 o avoid the person. 6 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 Sometimes Perilous 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 erectors screening applicants. Such intuitions are commonplace.

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 јo 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 1 1, 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 [2008]). 7 page 6 of 41 Social cognition matters. Our behavior is influenced not just by the objective situation, but also by how we construe it. O The New Yorker Collection, 2005, Lee Lorenz, from cartooning.

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 misprinted our own feelings?how bad we’ll feel a year from now if we lose our job or our nuance 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 misprinted our own future.

For example, when selecting clothes, people approaching middle age will still buy snug (“l 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 Social Psychology with Socialites CDR and Power, 1 20th Edition Page 7 of 41 transmitted without publishers prior permission. Violators will be 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 rods we learned from others. We long to connect, to belong, and to be well thought of. Matthias Meal and James Baneberry (2003) quantified their University of Texas students’ social behavior by inviting them to wear micrometeorites 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 9/1 1 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. 8 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. Social psychology with socialites CDR and power, 10th Edition page 8 of 41 Personal Attitudes and Dispositions Also Shape Behavior 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 Africans 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 behaviors biological foundations.

Many of our social behaviors reflect a deep biological wisdom. 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 context. 9 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 (Copious & others, 2007).

Social neuroscience An integration of biological and social perspectives that explores the neural and psychological bases of social and emotional behaviors. Social neuroscience 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 Social Page 9 of 41 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 arms. 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 eek to engage life’s ultimate questions: What is the meaning of human life?

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