Unit IV * The Socio - St. James

Unit IV – The Socio - Cultural
Level of Analysis
Social psychology – how social
influences affect thought and action
• Significantly affected by the atrocities of
World War II – focus on regulation of
behaviours and conformity
• This was combined with cognitive approaches
to these social influences impact on behaviour
in the 1970’s
• Can you think of an event or incident where
your actions or beliefs changed as a result of
the influences of your group?
Principles of the Socio-Cultural Level of Analysis
Outline the principles that define the
sociocultural level of analysis
Explain how principles that define the
sociocultural level of analysis may be
demonstrated in research.
Outline the principles that define the
sociocultural level of analysis
Basic principles of “pervasiveness of social
The social and cultural environment
influences individual behaviour
We construct our conceptions of the
individual and the social self
The social and cultural environment
influences individual behaviour
• May be indirect or direct
• Includes norms, standards of behaviour, even
direct requests
• Can supersede personality in favor of cultural
or group acceptance
• Are often implicit or unconscious
We construct our conceptions of the
individual and the social self
• Derive from us-them distinctions – causing
formation of social identities
• Personality - comes from social comparison
process and determine our definitions of
success and failure
• Many forms originate in our particular culture
Sociocultural cognition
• Describe the role of situational and
dispositional factors in explaining behaviour
• Discuss two errors in attributions
• Evaluate Social Identity Theory, making
reference to relevant studies
• Explain the formation of stereotypes and their
effects on behaviour
• Dispositional attribution – behaviour can be
traced to internal characteristics
• Situational attribution – behaviour can be
traced to external factors
• Personality researchers tend to emphasize
• Social psychologists tend to emphasize
• Traits – dispositions that persist over a range
of similar situations are said to have cross
situational consistency and stability over
Studies refute trait theory
• Mischel (1968) – showing that behaviour is rarely
consistent over situations (school settings)
• Traits should be viewed as classes of behaviours over a
range of situations rather than specific behaviour in specific
circumstances – Epstein (1983) – When observing college
students over a longer period of time - aggregate behaviour
was consistent and predictable despite specific day to day
• Roberts and DelVecchio (2000) – meta-analysis showed
that personality traits measured in a group strongly
matched the same measures taken 7 years later
• Moskowitz (1986) - personality changes after early
adulthood are rare.
The 5 Factor Model of Personality
• Personality may be quantified along 5 factors:
– Neuroticism
– Extraversion
– Openness to experience
– Agreeableness
– Conscientiousness
• This model has proven accurate in research
settings and in everyday settings
These measurements have been shown to
have strong determining effects on:
Levels of happiness
Physical health
Psychological health
Quality of relationships – peers/romantic
• Occupational choice
• Job satisfaction
• Job performance
Reciprocal Determinism – Bandura
(1986, 2006) – emphasizes the
interaction between traits and
• People choose their environment under the influence of
their disposition
• Personality shape our interpretation of events and our
reaction to them
• We are influenced by and simultaneously design our
Mischel (1973)
• Strong situations – repress expression of personality and
force uniform behaviours
• Weak situations – allow for more personality influences
on behaviour
Situational Factors: two key studies:
1) Milgram’s studies on obedience to authority (1974)
2) Asch’s studies on conformity (1956)
• Both reinforce the importance of situations in determining
• Milgram asked for informed predictions of how many subjects
would follow through with the entire series of questions and
administer a lethal shock
• Discussion – that the situational factor (the authority giving
orders) is a stronger determinant of behaviour than the
dispositional factor (participants conscience)
– Prediction – 1%
– Actual – 65%
Alternate explanations for Milgram’s
results have been offered:
• Blass (1991) – notes that both obedience and
defiance occurred in the same experiment –
dispositions toward authoritarianism will tend
to generate obedience
• Sabini et al. (2001) – most situational
elements in Milgram require dispositions for
manifested obedience behaviour
Attribution Errors
• Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) - The bias to
attribute behaviour to stable internal causes rather than
external ones
Jones and Harris (1967)
• Aims – to investigate the effect of having choice on the
subject for a written work would affect the attitudes
ascribed to the writers by observers.
• Methods – participants were given a set of essays on
Castro. In one group, they were told that the writers were
allowed to choose whether or not they supported Castro’s
ideas and in the other treatment group they were told that
the writers did not have a choice to their approach to
evaluating Castro. They were then asked to rate to what
extent they felt the writers actually held the beliefs they
• Conclusions – Whether or not the observers knew that the
writers had a choice in their topic, the observers
consistently believed that the attitudes expressed in the
essays were the genuine attitudes held by the writers
FAE expression factors:
• What if we tell people what behaviours they must
• This has been shown to be consistent even when observers
ascribe the participants into their opinion groups
themselves. (Gilbert and Jones 1986)
• What if we find out that there might be some kind of
agenda explaining someone’s behaviours?
• Some dispositional factors have also been shown to impact
• When observers are informed that the opinion of a
participant matches that of an authority figure who could
control rewards or punishments in the participants future –
FAE diminishes. (Fein 2001)
Gilbert and Malone (1995) – have shown that
FAE involves a two step attribution process:
• First - We observe behaviour and make an
automatic and unconscious inference toward
• Second - We make a controlled and conscious
process inquiry into the situational factors that
could explain the behaviour
• FAE’s occur when we do not proceed to the
second step.
– We are distracted by other tasks
– We believe that our first explanation based on
dispositional inferences is a sufficient explanation
Self-serving bias – attributing our successes to internal
dispositional factors and blame failures on external
situational factors
• Johnson et al
• Aims – to investigate the effect of performance
improvements on the perceptions of teachers assessments
of their abilities.
• Methods – Participants were asked to teach students how
to multiply by using a one-way intercom in two stages. The
control group performed well in both phases, the first
experimental group showed no improvement from the first
to the second phase, the second group showed
improvement. The participants were then asked to explain
the improvement in the second phase
• Conclusions – When there was no improvement in the
student, the participants ascribed it to a lack of ability in
the student, when there was improvement, the
participants ascribed this to their abilities as teachers.
Some exceptions to the SSB:
• We are more likely to rely on SSB when we fail in domains in which
we cannot improve but we are more likely to attribute failure to
internal dispositions if there is something we can improve on in the
• Abrahamson (1989) found that people with depression often rely
on an attributional style that links success to external and failure to
internal factors
• Zuckerman (1979) meta-analysis of SSB studies show that the effect
stems from a desire to maintain self-esteem
• Hiene (1999) found less desire to seek self-esteem reinforcing
experiences in collectivist cultures and therefore found less SSB’s
occurring in that culture.
• Miller and Ross (1975) SSB has rational uses apart from self-esteem
enhancement. Logically, effort changes with success. If increased
effort does not increase performance then the conclusion must be
the nature of the task, if increased effort yields increased results,
then the success is attributable to the self.
Social Identity Theory (Tajfel et al. 1979)
• Based on four interrelated concepts:
– Social categorization
– Social identity
– Social comparison
– Positive distinctiveness
Social Categorization
• Divides the environment into two groups:
– Ingroup
– Outgroup
• This has the effect of category accentuation
– reducing perceived variability in the ingroup
– reducing perceived variability in the outgroup
– increasing perceived variability between the
ingroup and the outgroup
Social Identity
• Our self-concepts formed by being members of
various social groups – based on intergroup
behaviours rather than interpersonal ones.
People can have several of these
– Where do student-teacher relationships fit in here?
Social Comparison
• We continuously compare our ingroups to
relevant outgroups to maintain positive social
Positive distinctiveness
• The need to show that your ingroup is superior to
an outgroup
Explain these concepts as they are
expressed in the film The Breakfast Club
These lead to intergroup behaviours
with some general characteristics:
• 1) Ethnocentrism
– Positive behaviours by ingroup members attributed to dispositions
– Negative behaviours by ingroup members attributed to situational
– Positive behaviours of outgroup members attributed to situational
– Negative behaviours or outgroup members attributed to dispositions
• 2) In group favoritism
• 3) Intergroup differentiation - altered behaviour to emphasize
group differences
• 4) Stereotypical Thinking – ingroup members and outgroup
members are perceived according to stereotypes
• 5) Conformity to ingroup norms – acting according to defined
Minimal Group Paradigm – Tajfel et al (1971)
• Aims – To determine the effect of group membership on behaviours
• Method – participants were divided into groups randomly but told
that their group membership was based on personal taste in artists.
They were then asked to assign points to other members of the
study according to predetermined rules.
• Conclusions – the participants exhibited strong SIT tendencies such
as favoring members of their own group and assigning points in
such a way as to enhance the difference between the groups rather
than increase the benefit to their own group.
• Despite criticisms of demand characteristic validity issues these
findings have proven consistent in real-life situations and when
participant do not know they are being observed.
• Mummendey and Otten (1998) - The effect is more powerful when
distributing rewards than when distributing punishments.
• Dobbs and Crano (2001) – the effect is diminished when subjects
must justify their reward strategies afterwards.
• Stereotypes – widely held evaluative
generalizations about a group of people.
• Assigns similar characteristics to all members
of a group despite variability
• Has all the properties of schemas
• Based on defining characteristics: gender, age,
race, etc.
• Are persistent across cultures
Formation of stereotypes
• Four theories of the structure and function of
1. Social-cognitive theories
2. SIT
3. Systems-justification theory
4. Social representation theory
Stereotype formation – social
cognitive theories
• Limited capacities for cognitive processing
• Complex world – increasing complexity
• Social categorization simplifies cognitive
• Social categorization – stereotypes
Energy-saving devices
Automatically activated
Stable and resistant to change
Affect behaviour
Cohen (1981)
• Aims – to investigate the effect of stereotypes on memory
• Method – presented participants with a video of a woman
having dinner with her husband. One group was told she
was a waitress the other that she was a librarian. The
participants were then asked later to recall specific items or
objects from the scene and from her character.
• Conclusion – participants recalled stereotype consistent
items better.
• Stereotypes are learned early on and increase with
complexity over time by learning independent schema
elements until a strong association between all the
elements forms into a single schema - Fiske and Dyer
Stereotype Formation – Social Identity
• Stereotypes – based on category accentuation
effect and positive distinctiveness.
• Sherman et al (2009) – we pay more attention
to those ingroup and outgroup members that
maximize positive distinctiveness.
• Ethnocentrism leads biased attributions to
behaviours of ingroup and outgroup
Key differences between social cognitive/schema
approach and SIT theories:
1. Social cognitive – social categorization simplifies
perception, SIT – social categorization enriches
2. SIT – stereotypes do not have a bias on social
perception, seeing people as individuals rather
than groups is not necessarily more accurate
3. Social cognitive – stereotypes are hardened
schemas waiting to be activates, SIT –
stereotypes are flexible and context dependant.
4. Which is the more useful/accurate approach?
Stereotypes – Systems justification
• Jost and Banaji (1994) – stereotypes are used
to justify social and power relations in society.
eg. rich vs. poor
• SIT and social-cognitive approaches to
stereotyping cannot explain negative selfstereotyping – internalization of negative
stereotype attributes in disadvantaged groups
Stereotypes – Social-representations
• Moscovici (1984) – Stereotypes emerge from
group beliefs shared by a society rather than
by individual schema activation.
• Both SJT and SRT emphasize negative
perceptions – stereotypes have been shown to
be predominantly negative (Fiske and Taylor
Stereotypes and performance
• Stereotype threat effect – performance impairment
that results when individuals asked to carry out a task
are made aware of a negative stereotype held against
them regarding their group’s ability to perform that
task well.
• Spencer et al (1999) – informing females that they
perform statistically worse than men on math tasks
prior to taking a math test lowered their scores
• Steele and Aronson (1995) – performance of AfricanAmericans on verbal skills tasks was lower when they
were asked to indicate their race prior to beginning.
• Discuss factors influencing conformity
Define the following terms:
• Low-balling – after a low introductory commitment is
secured, the demands or costs are increased.
• Door-in-the-face – when a costly initial offer is
presented that will surely be rejected so that a second,
more reasonable offer will be more likely to be
• Foot-in-the-door – when compliance to a large offer is
increased by first securing commitment to a smaller
• Cognitive dissonance – the process by which people
change their attitudes or behaviour to be consistent
with one another.
What is the adaptive advantage for
organisms in using reciprocity?
• Reciprocity allows for the creation of division
of labour, exchange of diverse goods and
services, and makes people form highly
efficient social units.
What role would cognitive dissonance play in
the results shown by Deutch and Girard (1985)?
• The self-concept of intelligence and wisdom
would be dissonant with the new information
that their estimates were incorrect, therefore,
to reduce cognitive dissonance, subjects
would change their answer if they could, or
argue the actual evidence if they could not.
How are self-justification and cognitive dissonance
linked in the study by Aronson and Mills (1959)?
• Participants in the study by Aronson and Mills
(1959) would alter their perceptions to end
their dissonance by either downplaying the
severity of the initiation experience or
increasing their perception of the value of the
group they were initiated into.
Which of the studies included in this package suffer
from artificiality? Does this affect the usefulness of
their results? Why or why not?
• Most of the studies take place in the
environment in which the behaviour would be
expected to take place (Knox& Inkster,
Moriarty) but others contain non-sensual
premises that would not be expected to
actually occur in daily behaviour (Deutsch &
Girard) However, despite these artificialities,
the results have a high potential to affect the
interpretation of behaviour with accuracy.
Examine your own behaviours – do you think
these conformity techniques actually work?
• All the time! Facing and accepting some of
these dissonances is a difficult thing. Everyone
give one example.
Read the handout on ingratiation. Do you think this sort of
behaviour manipulations is ethical, useful and common?
• Ethical – as a result of the workplace
conditions – it may not be avoidable which
would make the morality of it moot.
• Useful – the knowledge of the principles of
the personal exchange involved can be
• Common - ?
Achievement vs. Affiliation
• Achievement – the need to master difficult
challenges, to outperform others, and to meet
high standards of excellence.
• This becomes more prominent in competitive
situations and can be measures for entire
societies through studying literature or
The tendency to pursue achievement
depends on the following factors.
• The strength of the motivation to achieve.
• The estimate of the probability of success
• The incentive value of success.
• Affiliation – the need to associate with others
and maintain social bonds.
• Also included the fear of rejection, jealousy,
and depression.
TAT Test
• Achievement and affiliation levels in people
can be measured with a Thematic
Apperception Test (TAT) in which subjects are
shown stimuli with ambiguous meaning. They
are then asked to construct a fictional
narrative for the image. These narratives can
be analyzed for their achievement or affliative
• Observe the following image carefully.
Construct a narrative (a story) that could
explain the scene you are observing.
• Bring in your narrative and exchange it with a
partner. Analyze each narrative for its
affiliative or achievement motives.
• There are 3 elements to emotional
• 1. subjective conscious experience (cognitive)
• 2. bodily arousal (physiological)
• 3. characteristic overt expression (behavioral)
The cognitive component
• Emotions happen to us rather than something
that we make happen
• Some degree of emotional control is possible
(emotional intelligence)
• People’s conscious appraisals of situations are
key determinants of emotions – evaluation of
an emotion as good or bad
The physiological component
• The biological reaction to situations involves
structures of the brain, neurotransmitters, and the
endocrine system.
• Autonomic Nervous System – regulates the activity
of the glands, smooth muscles, and blood vessels. –
fight or flight response
• Galvanic Skin Response – the change in electrical
conductivity of the skin that occurs when the sweat
glands of the skin increase their activity.
Autonomic Responses
Pupils dilated
Dry mouth
Goose bumps
Sweaty palms
Dilated lungs lungs
Increased heart rate
Adrenal activity
Inhibited digestion
Pupils constrict
Salivating mouth
No goose bumps
Dry palms
Constricted lungs
Decreased heart rate
Decreased activity
Stimulated digestion
Brain Activity
The emotional centers of the brain are the:
Limbic system
The amygdala plays a central role in
processing emotional stimuli
The Amygdala
• The thalamus process emotional stimuli
immediately and passes them on to the
amygdala or the cortex.
• If the amygdala detects a threat then it
triggers the hypothalamus to create an
autonomic and endocrine response.
The behavioral component
• Emotions are expressed in “body language” or
nonverbal behavior.
• When evaluating photographs of facial expressions,
subjects successfully identify 6 emotions:
• Happiness
• Disgust
• Sadness
• Fear
• Surprise
• Anger
Facial responses
• Evidence suggests that facial muscles send
signals to the brain that help the cortex
interpret emotional stimuli
• Subjects asked to adopt a facial expression will
report feeling that emotion
• Subjects who have been blind since birth still
adopt facial expressions like everyone else.
Theories of emotion
• James-Lange Theory – the perception of arousal
leads to the conscious experience of fear – different
patterns of autonomic activation lead to different
• Cannon-Bard Theory – emotion occurs when the
thalamus sends signals directly to the cortex and the
autonomic nervous system.
• Schachter’s Two-Factor Theory – Emotion depends
on two factors 1) autonomic arousal 2) cognitive
interpretation of that arousal. You feel a certain way
and search for reasons why.
• Darwin – emotions developed because of
their adaptive value. Emotions are innate
reactions to specific stimuli. They are
recognizable without thought.
Innate emotional vocabulary
• Humans are born with 6 – 10 emotions that
originate in the subcortical brain:
• fear, anger, joy, disgust, interest, surprise.
• All other emotions are the result of
• 1) variations in intensity of emotions
• 2) blending of several different emotions.
The Nature of Personality
• Personality is the consistent disposition to
behave a certain way in a variety of situations.
Personality can be described according to 5 Factors:
• Agreeableness – people who are sympathetic, trusting, cooperative,
modest, and straightforward vs. People who are suspicious,
antagonistic, and aggressive
• Openness to experience – people who are curious, flexible, vivid
fantasy, imaginative, artistic, and unconventional - a key determinant
of political attitudes.
• Neuroticism – people who are anxious, hostile, self- conscious,
insecure and vulnerable. It is also called negative emotionality.
• Extraversion – people who are outgoing, sociable, upbeat, friendly,
assertive, and gregarious. Also called positive emotionality.
• Conscientiousness – people who are diligent, disciplined, wellorganized, punctual, and dependable. It is also called constraint and is
associated with success and high productivity.
Personality theory
• The 5 Factors can describe behaviour, but they
don’t account for it’s development and
• There are 4 main groups of personality
• Psychodynamic theories
• Behavioural theories
• Humanistic theories
• Biological theories
Psychodynamic Theory
• Based on the work of Sigmund
• Psychodynamic theory explains
motivation, personality, and
disorders by focussing on the
influence of early childhood
experiences, unconscious motives
and conflicts, and coping with
sexual and aggressive urges.
Freud proposed three components of personality: behaviour
was the result of interactions between these three parts.
• Id
• Ego
• Superego
• Id – the primitive, instinctual component that
operates according to the pleasure principle –
it demands immediate gratification of raw
biological urges. It’s thinking is primitive,
illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented.
• Ego – the decision-making component that
operates according to the reality principle,
which seeks to delay gratification of the id’s
urges until the socially acceptable moment
can be found. It’s thinking is rational, realistic,
and problem solving.
• Superego – the moral component that
incorporates social standards about right and
wrong. It emerges from the ego at approx. 3
to 5 years old.
Freud believed that there were 3 levels
of awareness
• the unconscious – thoughts. Memories, and
desires that are below the level of
consciousness but exert a large effect on
• the preconscious - material just beneath the
level of consciousness but that can be easily
• the conscious – everything one is aware of at
any given moment.
• Anxiety is caused by conflict between the 3
components of personality. We deal with this
anxiety with defense mechanisms –
unconscious reactions that protect a person
from unpleasant emotions (eg. Anxiety or
Defense Mechanisms
Repression – keeping distressing thoughts and feelings buried
in the unconscious.
Projection – Attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or
motives to someone else.
Displacement – Diverting emotional feelings from their
original source to a substitute target.
Reaction formation – Behaving in a way that is exactly
opposite of one’s true feelings
Regression – A reversion to immature patterns of behaviour.
Rationalization – Creating false but plausible excuses to justify
unacceptable behaviour.
Identification – Bolstering self-esteem by forming an
imaginary or real alliance with some person or group.
Behavioural Perspectives
Albert Bandura
• Albert Bandura – believed in much
of Skinner’s ideas of conditioning
but added environmental factors in
a theory called reciprocal
determinism – the idea that
internal mental events, external
environmental events, and overt
behaviour all influence one
• In essence, people can control
their own conditioning.
Observational Learning
• Observational learning occurs when an organism’s responding is
influenced by the observation of other models – a person whose
behaviour is observed by another (often people who are attractive
or powerful).
• People are more likely to follow a model’s behaviour when they see
it leads to positive outcomes.
Humanistic Perspectives
• Humanism is a theoretical orientation that
emphasizes the unique qualities of humans
especially for their potential for growth and freedom
• The person’s subjective view of the world is more
important than objective reality
Carl Rogers
• Carl Rogers – believed in the construct of the
self – a collection of beliefs about one’s own
nature, unique qualities, and typical
• People tend to distort their experiences to
promote a favourable self-concept
• Incongruence – the gap between the self concept and actual
• Experiences that are conflicting with our self concept cause
incongruence and are the primary source of anxiety.
• Individuals behave defensively to avoid anxiety and
incongruence. They will ignore, deny, and distort reality to
preserve or enhance their self-concept.
Abraham Maslow
• Abraham Maslow – Proposed that human motivation can be
organized into a hierarchy of needs – a systematic
arrangement of needs according to priority in which basic
needs must be met before less basic needs.
• The satisfaction of basic needs leads to the activation of
needs at the next level up. Humans have an innate drive to
achieve a higher state of being – progression, and feel anxiety
when lower needs are not being met – regression.
Physiological needs
Safety and security needs
Belongingness and love needs
Esteem needs
Cognitive needs
Aesthetic needs
7 Levels of needs:
• Self-actualization – the need to fulfill one’s
potential. Persons who achieve selfactualization have exceptionally healthy
personalities, marked by continuous personal
Characteristics of self-actualized individuals
• Clear perception of reality and comfortable relations with it
• Spontaneity, simplicity, and naturalness
• Problem centering (having something outside themselves they
must “do” as a mission)
• Detachment and need for privacy
• Continued freshness of appreciation
• Mystical and peak experiences
• Feelings of kinship and identification with the human race
• Strong friendships, but limited in number
• Democratic character
• Ethical discrimination between good and evil
• Philosophical, unhostile sense of humor
• Balance in polarities of personality

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