Social Psychology

Social Psychology
Karen Thomson
Department of Psychology
Glasgow Caledonian University
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Definition of Social Psychology:How the presence of (imagined or real) others influences our thoughts,
feelings and behaviours
Topics to be covered:• Communication - non-vocal behaviour
- paralanguage
• Attitudes - nature; formation; measurement
- cognitive dissonance
- persuasion
Aggression & altruism
The Self - self concept and self esteem
Groups and identity - leadership
Social Influence - conformity
- compliance
- obedience
• Verbal communication in the form of language, is better for
conveying logical or abstract ideas.
• Non-verbal communication is regarded as better for
conveying emotions, the type of relationship existing
between two people and regulating/ manipulating
interpersonal interaction.
Basic facial expressions (Ekman, 1980)
Personal Space
Detection of deception (DePaulo et al., 2003)
• Non verbal communication & mental health (Hall, 1966;
Jourard, 1966; Argyle & Ingham, 1972)
Consider typical communication
disruptions for the following
Sensory Impaired
Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Other Childhood Disorders
Cognitive Disorders
The nature of attitudes
“An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organised through
experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s
response to all objects and situations with which it is related” (Allport,
1935; 198)
Structural Approach (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975)
• Cognitive Component
• Affective Component
• Action Tendency Component
It is assumed that each of these components may vary in strength quite
independently of the others
The formation of attitudes
Acquiring Attitudes via Social Learning
• Classical Conditioning
• Instrumental Conditioning
• Modelling
Acquiring Attitudes via Direct Experience
• Stronger
• Respond more quickly
• More resistant to change
The Measurement of Attitudes
Direct Measures
• Self-reports
• Attitude scales
- verbal and non-verbal
- Thurstone scale (1928)
- Likert scales (1932)
- Semantic Differential scale
(Osgood, Suci & Tannendaum, 1957)
• Observations
Indirect Measures
• Subtle measurements
• Bogus lie detectors
- projective techniques
Attitudes: The relationship
between attitudes & behaviour
• LaPierre (1934)
• Wicker (1969) reviewed 47 studies between 1934 and 1969
and found a very weak correlation
• Intervening Factors
• Attitude Specificity
- a specific attitude
- a general attitude
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
When people become aware that their attitudes are
inconsistent with their behaviour an uncomfortable state of
tension occurs - this is called cognitive dissonance
(Festinger, 1957)
Festinger & Carlsmith (1959)
Dissonance is reduced by: • Changing attitudes so they are consistent with behaviour
• Changing beliefs about behaviour
• Acquiring new information
• Minimising the importance of the inconsistency.
Attitudes: Persuasion
The traditional approach to persuasion (The Yale Model)
• Source
• Communication
• Audience
There are 8 characteristics
of the source,
communication & audience
The cognitive approach concentrates on:• what we think about when being exposed to appeals
• how our thoughts determine whether, and to what extent we
experience attitude change
• cognitive heuristics
The Elaboration Likelihood Model
(ELM): Two routes to persuasion
processing of
Degree of attitude
change depends on
quality of argument
Careful processing of
information does not
Attitude change
depends on
presence of
persuasive cues
(Petty & Cacioppo, 1986)
Fear-Based Appeals
VD study (Watson & Lashley, 1921)
• Using storyline techniques is risky since viewers follow the action rather
than the information
• Young people respond with flippancy to sex information
• Only work in the short term
• Incorrect information is retained
• Adolescents think they are invincible
Baggaley (1991) Reviewed all media campaigns on HIV/AIDS
When Attitude Change Fails:
Resistance to Persuasion
• Reactance - Protecting one’s personal freedom
• Forewarning - Prior knowledge of persuasive intent
• Selective Avoidance - A tendency to direct our attention
away from information that challenges our existing

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