One of the six major branches of modern psychologists work on is social psychology. Psychologists like Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo research how we think, influence, and relate to one another. In other words, social psychologists try to figure out why people do certain things we wouldn't normally do on our own. They also try to figure out how groups influence our behavior and our thoughts.


Social Thinking

There are three different parts of social psychology. Social psychology deals with: social thinking, social influence, and social relations.
Social thinking can be defined as how people think and act in a situations.

For example, Psychologist Fritz Heider proposed the attribution theory in order to explain people's behavior. This theory put down that people tend to explain another person's behavior due to their internal dispositions or their external situations. For example, if you are driving on the highway and you see someone cut you off, your immediate reaction is that the other driver is arrogant and overall, is a bad driver. A person wouldn't consider, "he must be having a bad day" or "maybe he's sick."

A lot of people make the same common mistake when they underestimate another person behavior. These is known as fundamental attribution error. Fundamental attribution error is when the observer underestimates the behaviors of others because of pass influence. For example, Rosa, a 16 is a shy quite girl in her english class. Paul a outgoing crazy student goes to a party and sees Rosa. He is thinking to himself, "what is she doing here if she's shy and quiet?". Paul just experienced fundamental attribution error.
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Attitudes are "beliefs and feelings that predispose our reaction to objects, people, and events." If you feel someone is mean then you will not like the person even though they're nice and friendly. Attitude guide our actions. If your attitude toward TV is positive then you're more likely to watch TV.

During the Korean War, the Chinese captured U.S. soldiers and control their actions. The Chinese used a method called the foot-in-the-door phenomenon . Foot-in-the-door phenomenon is when someone agrees with you do to a small deed to comply later with a larger one. The Chinese started by making the soldiers do small favors and later they made them do worst things.

Role Playing Affects Attitudes
When you adopt a new role you do your best to follow the social prescriptions of your role. It takes about a week to adopt to your new role and after a week or so you don't feel forced anymore to behave the way you do.

Stanford Prison Experiment , let by psychologist Philip Zimbardo, is a great example of role playing. He did an experiment where he got random students from Stanford University and studied the effects of becoming a prisoner or guard. Undergraduate students were selected to play the roles of either guards or prisoners and live in a ridicule prison in the basement of the Stanford University psychology building. The roles were given randomly so it would eliminate any bias. He gave the guards “uniforms, billy clubs, and whistles and instructed them to enforce certain rules. The “guards” took their role to the extreme that two of the “prisoners” quit the experiment early after the second day. The guards got into their roles and the simulation became too real. The prisoners began to “broke down, rebelled, or became passively resigned, causing Zimbardo to call off the study after only six days.
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Social Influence

Have you ever sat in a classroom and watched another student yawn? Without a doubt, you might find yourself yawning a few seconds afterwards as well. Have you ever seen a crowd building over a scene on the street, and wondered what they were watching? You might have probably have joined in too to see what the fuss was about. Behaviors are contagious, that is, our bodies naturally tend to mimic another person's actions or feelings. This can explain why you feel happier around with people who are usually content, or sad when you're in a room with a depressed friend.

Conformity is when one adjusts his or her behavior or thinking in order to meet a standard set by a group. In order to test this theory, Soloman Asch developed a simple conformity test:

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The task was simple, identify which line on the right was identical to the line on the left.

Five people were seated at a table, and asked to answer simple questions with obvious answers. All but one were in on the experiment. After a few routine trials, the subjects were presented with the above picture. All 4 of the people that were in the experiment answered wrong on purpose, and the only person that wasn't in on the experiment felt discomfort, even though the answer was plainly obvious. Asch continued to conduct this experiment on college students, and found that subjects would answer wrong 1/3 of the time when the entire group answered wrong as well.

We can use Asch's experiment as a model. From what we learned from the experiment, we learned that conformity increases when:
  • the group has at least 3 people
  • the group is unanimous in their decision
  • the group is held in high regards


Imagine you are sitting in a room with a man in a white lab coat towering over you. He asks you to push a button, which will then deliver a deadly electric shock to a external image Stanley%20Milgram.gifperson in another room. What would you say? Most people would like to think that they would refuse to give the shock, but Stanley Milgram's obedience experiment revealed that given the same circumstances, people would go to the full lengths of giving someone a deadly electric shock 63% of the time. Why is that?

When we're placed in a situation while we're under distress, anxiety, or discomfort, we often don't think about what we're going to do next. Sometimes we even lack the expertise to take action. That's when the towering man in a lab coat comes in. You trust him enough to follow his reassuring command of continuing. The distance from you and the person being shocked also contributes to your obedience. The fact that you and the person you are shocking are separated in different rooms, and the person in the white lab coat is standing next to you influences how much you obey.

So do people just completely give in and let figures of authority make the decisions for you? Not exactly, but you have a much higher chance of doing something you wouldn't normally do when you're instructed to do so by someone higher than you.

Why is this information useful? Its strongly based on the idea of conformity. People will try and follow the norm, join the group, go with the flow, etc.. It goes to show that social influences in our friends, environment, and culture have a significant impact on how and why we act the way we do.

Social Relations

This section of social psychology deals with how people relate to one another. For example, this branch of psychology delves into such topics as: prejudice, aggression, conflict, attraction, altruism, and peacemaking. The bad being the first three and the good being the last three.

The word prejudice means "prejudgement" so this is a mixture of beliefs, emotions, and predispositions to action, as are all attitudes. The beliefs tend to be stereotypical, for example, all blondes are dumb bimbos.

Around the globe, prejudice and discrimination persists in both ethnic goups and gender. Inequlities, social division, and scapegoating are partly responsible for prejudice. Since we are, by nature, a group-bound species, this does have an effect on how we interact with one another. This is known as the ingroup and outgroup.
The ingroup consists with the people who we share common interests with. The outgroup consists of those different from the ingroup, in other words, everyone else. This causes a group to give in to the ingroup bias , the tendency to prefer one's group or that their group is superior to others. When things go wrong, people feel the need to blame someone or something. This leads to the scapegoat theory, that prejudice gives a way to express anger by finding someone to blame. This tends to be the outgroup. The blame-the-victim dynamic shows that some people are liable to blame the victim of a crime, or a situation, instead of blaming the perpetrator. This is also influenced by the just-world phenomenon , that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get and also that good people get good things and bad people get bad things.

This is known as the worst part of social relations. Aggression may have many definitions, but in psychology, **aggression** is any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt or destroy.
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Aggression is influenced by our biological system in three ways: genetic, neural, and biochemical. Twin/adoption studies show that if one twin shows aggressive behavior, the other twin will show some kind of aggression as well. The brain has neural systems that stimulate aggressive behavior, but there is no one place where this occurs. The brain's frontal lobe does have a system which produces the aggression. Thus, a person is more prone to aggression if the frontal lobe is ever damaged, for example the accident with Phineas Gage. Substances such as hormones and alcohol also have an effect on aggression. For example, a correlation is shown between high testosterone levels and increased aggression.

The psychological side of aggression is in part explained by the frustration-aggression principle . This states that frustration created by the blocked attempts of a certain goal creates anger, thus increasing aggression. Another explanation for aggression is modeling. Children seeing people on tv, video games, and others in thier lives are hypothesized to be a cause for an increase in aggression.

In social psychology, conflict is an incompatibility of actions, goals, or ideas. Conflict has a way of creating certain ideas. One is a social trap. This means that opposing parties can show destructive behavior when trying to fulfill their interests. The other is called the mirror-image perception, we see others as untrustworthy and vice versa. This goes back to the ingroup and outgroup. For example during the Gulf War, many people in the United States saw Hussein as a tyrant and he saw George W. Bush the same way.

Attraction is one of the "good sides" of social relations. Psychologists came up with three parts that make up attraction. The first being proximity as it greatly increases liking. This is, in part, due to the **mere exposure effect** . This states that if something is exposed repeatedly, there is a greater chance that people will like it. The second is physical attractiveness. This depends on the culture and, of course, how the person feels about the other. The third is similarity, the more similar a person is to another, the greater the chance that they will be liked.

People move from impressions to friendships to being romantically involved. One psychologist, Eliane Hatfield, gives only two types of love: passionate and companionate . Passionate love's main emotions is arousal and there is an intense absorption in each other, this is shown at the beginning of every relationship. Hatfield gives a two-part theory emotion: the first being physical and cognitive arousal and the second being arousal from any source. Companionate love is a deep attachment. Equity is when people recieve what they give in a relationship. Self-disclosure is achieved when people relate intimate details of themselves to others.

Altruism is the unselfish regard for the welfare of others. For example, a firefighter carrying 70 pounds worth of gear running into a burning building. This all started with the murder of Kitty Genovese. On March 13, 1964, Genovese was walking home from work and a stalker repeatedly stabbed and later raped her. At 3:30 a.m., she cried for help and some response was made with 38 of her neighbors opening windows and turning on lights.
The stalker ran off, but later returned to stab and rape her again. It wasn't until 3:50 a.m. when a neighbor called the police, when the stalker had run off for good. This lead to research on why her neighbors didn't help her when they heard her screams. The result was the bystander effect, meaning that a person isn't likely to help someone in distress when there are others around. Another part of this is the bigger the group, the less likely a person will help.

Many people wonder why we help others. Some hypothesize that people help because of self-interest. Social psychologists have coined the term social exchange theory, our goal is to generate more rewards and to decrease the costs. Yet, people sometimes help others they don't know. This is called the reciprocity norm, we should return help to those who have helped us. There is also a social responsibility norm, we help others even though the costs exceed the rewards.

Research has shown that through cooperation, communication, and conciliation we can make peace.

How do we immediatly stop conflicts? Psychologist Muzafer Sherif began what is now called the **robber's cave experiment** . He got a group of 22 boys and took them camping. The boys were then separated into two groups, the Rattlers and the Eagles. Soon after, the effects of the outgroup and the ingroup were shown. Sherif gave the boys superordinate goals, goals that bring conflicting parties together in cooperation to reach a shared goal. The boys' goal was to restore water after there was a problem with the camp water supply. Through communication, one achieves cooperation. Two people may be arguing, but through effective communication, they may reach an agreement and cooperate with each other. Cooperation and communication may not be effective when people are too suspicious of one another. This can be overturned by the use of GRIT (Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension-Reduction), a strategy designed by Charles Osgood. This strategy advocates that one side of a conflict shows its goal to reduce any kind of conflict and then shows it through actions. This will then have the other party doing the same since the initial party is showing some sort of cooperation. This strategy combines the use of cooperation and communication to reach the same result: consiliation.
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Related Chapters:
The Story of Psychology
Motivation and Work
The Developing Person