Social Psychology

Social Psychology
Housekeeping matters…
1. My name is Dr. Lisa Zadro
Office: Rm 455 Brennan Bdg
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 9036 7059
Housekeeping matters…
2. Lecture notes and tapes
– The lectures are taped via Lectopia
– The notes will appear on WebCT (typically
after lectures). If you have any questions,
please see me after the lecture.
Housekeeping matters…
3. Being nice to others…..
a) Switch off your mobile phone
If your phone rings during the lecture,
I will make you stand up and sing
Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”
b) No speaking in lectures
(PS I can see everything from up here)
Lecture 1:
Introduction to Social Psychology
Definitions & Methods
What do Social Psychologists study?
• Social phenomena such as:
– Deception: e.g., Can you tell if someone is lying to you?
– Attraction: e.g., Maximising your potential to attract a
– Tactics of Manipulation: e.g., How to get your way?
– Aggression: e.g., Why do mobs become violent?
– Stereotypes and prejudice
• We also try to understand and explain social events
e.g., Sept 11th, Cronulla race riots, or even elevator
• What is Social Psychology?
– Definitions
– Why study Social Psychology?
– Social Psychology vs. common sense
• Studying Social Behaviour
– Person perspective
– Situational perspective
– Interaction between the person and the situation
• Methods of research
– Descriptive (non-experimental) Methods
– Experimental Methods
What is Social Psychology?
• Allport, 1935:
‘…the scientific investigation of
how the thoughts, feelings, and
behaviours of individuals are
influenced by the actual or
implied presence of others…’
• Social psychology links ordinary people’s
affective states (feelings and emotions),
behaviour (the way they act), and their
cognition (their thought processes), to
their social world.
• Social Psychology researchers want to
know what people do and when, but also
why they do it (i.e., causation).
• Allport’s definition emphasises social
e.g., conformity, obedience, persuasion.
• However, social psychologists also study…
— Social Perception
(how do we think of individuals and/or groups?)
e.g., impression formation, attraction, stereotyping
— Social Interaction
(how do individuals interact with each other?).
e.g., aggression + conflict, helping, prejudice,
Why study Social Psychology?
• Once upon a time, we were hairy….
• Is it possible to live alone?
(Hermits, shipwrecked people… serial killers?)
• Social isolation leads to psychological
– Vokart et al., (1983), prisoners in solitary confinement
– “brainwashing”
• Social isolation also leads to health
– Adverse impact on health and well-being that is
comparable to damaging health factors such as obesity,
smoking, and high blood pressure (Kiecolt-Glaser et al.,
• Schachter (1959) studied social isolation
– Isolated five volunteers in a windowless
room for as long as they could endure
Considerable individual differences in the amount
of time people could tolerate isolation
– One lasted 2 hrs (“almost hammering the door to get
– Three participants lasted two days (two were unaffected
by the experience, one was uneasy)
– The fifth participant lasted 8 days without suffering from
adverse reactions
Common Sense vs. Social Psychology
• But aren’t we all social psychologists?
• Cullen Murphy (1990): “sociology,
psychology, and other social sciences
are far too often merely discerning
the obvious or confirming the
Common sense vs. Social Psychology (cont)
But then again….
• Too many cooks spoil
the broth
• Many hands make
light work
• You can’t teach an old
dog new tricks
• You’re never too old
to learn
• Birds of a feather
flock together
• Opposites attract
• He who hesitates is
• You should look
before you leap
• Common sense: cannot distinguish between
coincidence and causality
• Science: when, where, why, and how events
• What distinguishes social psychology from
common sense is that social psychologists,
like other sciences, use scientific methods to
test their theories.
Studying Social Behaviour
• Social behaviour is goal oriented
• Social behaviour represents a continual
interaction between the person and the
• Person: features or characteristics that
individuals carry into social situations
• Situation: the environmental events or
circumstances outside the person
• Persons and situations influence
each other in a number of ways
1. Different people respond differently to
the same situation
2. Situations choose the person
3. People choose their situation
4. Different situations bring out different
parts of the person
5. People change the situation
6. Situations change the person
Are these people evil, or is there another
explanation for their behaviour?
Research design
Research Methods in Social
Descriptive Methods (Non-experimental):
Involve attempts to measure or record thoughts,
feelings, and/or behaviours in their natural
Experimental Methods:
Involve attempts to manipulate social processes
by varying and controlling some aspect of the
Research Methods (cont)
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
1. Naturalistic Observation
2. Archival Studies
3. Surveys
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
1. Naturalistic Observation
Involves observing behaviour as it unfolds in its
natural setting.
Barner-Barry (1986) observed how young
children interact with a bully
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
2. Archival Research
Involves examining archives or public records
of social behaviour.
Gordon, Musher-Eizenman, Holub,
& Dalrymple (2004) examined what children
are thankful for pre- and post Sept 11.
FOUND: Children were more grateful for US
values (freedom) and rescue workers after
Sept 11.
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
3. Surveys
Involves asking people questions about their
beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
Faulkner, Williams, Sherman, & Williams (1997)
surveyed how often people give and receive the
“silent treatment”
FOUND: 67% admitted to using it
75% indicated that they have received it
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
The Descriptive (non-experimental)
methods are useful in determining the
association between variables (i.e.,
Correlation—the extent to which two or
more variables are associated with one
Positive Correlation
The more time you
spend studying
The higher your
exam mark
The less time you
spend studying
The lower
your exam mark
Negative Correlation
The more
alcohol you
drink before
an exam
The lower your
exam mark
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
If we know that two variables are highly
correlated (e.g., there is more damage
after a fire when there are more fire
trucks at the scene), is there a causal
relationship between them?
Descriptive (Non-experimental) Methods
Variable A could cause Variable B
(fire trucks)
More fire trucks at the scene of a fire
cause more damage.
Descriptive (non-experimental) Methods
Variable B could cause Variable A
(fire trucks)
Passing fire trucks may stop to watch at
scenes where there is a lot of fire
Descriptive (non-experimental) Methods
OR a third variable could cause A & B
(severity of the fire)
(fire trucks)
A severe fire will lead to lots of damage
and many fire trucks will turn up to fight
the blaze, but the two are not causally
In order to determine causality, we must turn
to experimental methods
What is an experiment?
An experiment is a research method in which
the researcher sets out to systematically
manipulate one source of influence while
holding others constant.
Experimental Methods
Social Psychologists use two major types of
experimental methods:
1. Field experiments (a.k.a field studies)
2. Laboratory experiments
Experimental Methods
1. Field Experiments
Involve the manipulation of variables using
unknowing participants in natural settings.
e.g., Milgram, Bickman, & Berkowitz (1969) examined the
influence of a crowd—would passers-by copy a crowd of 1,
2, 3, 5, 10, or 15 people?
Only 4% copied a single person, 40% copied 15 people
Experimental Methods
1. Field Experiments
Involve the manipulation of variables using
unknowing participants in natural settings.
e.g., Milgram, Bickman, & Berkowitz (1969) examined the
influence of a crowd—would passers-by copy a crowd of 1,
2, 3, 5, 10, or 15 people?
Only 4% copied a single person, 40% copied 15 people
Experimental Methods
2. Laboratory Experiments
Involve the direct manipulation of
variables and the observation of their
effects on the behaviour of other
• Social psychology scientifically
investigates the thoughts, feelings, and
behaviours of people in their social
• Social psychologists use a variety of
descriptive and experimental methods to
investigate social phenomena
• The use of scientific methods separates
social psychology from common sense.

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