Griggs Chapter 9: Social Psychology

Report
Social Psychology
Psychology:
A Concise Introduction
2nd Edition
Richard Griggs
Chapter 9
Prepared by
J. W. Taylor V
Social Psychology


The scientific study of how we influence
one another’s behavior and thinking
Social psychology’s focus is on how
situational forces influence our behavior
and thinking
The Journey…
 How
Others Influence
Our Behavior
 How
We Think about Our Own
and Others’ Behavior
How Others Influence
Our Behavior
Why We Conform
Why We Comply
Why We Obey
How Groups Influence Us
Social Influence

Examines how other people
and the social forces
they create influence
an individual’s
behavior
Why We Conform


Conformity is defined as a change in
behavior, belief, or both to conform to a group
norm as a result of real or imagined group
pressure
Although “conformity” has negative
connotations in Western cultures, some
conformity is needed for society to function

For instance, in the military, conformity is essential
because in a time of war, soldiers cannot each do
his or her own thing while in battle
Why We Conform
Informational
Social
Influence
Normative
Social
Influence
Situational
Factors
The Sherif Study and
Informational Social Influence

Participants, who thought they were in
a visual perception experiment, were
placed in a completely dark room and
exposed to a stationary point of light,
and their task was to estimate the
distance this light moved

The light never moved; it was an illusion
called the autokinetic effect, whereby a
stationary point of light appears to move in
a dark room because there is no frame of
reference and our eyes spontaneously
move
The Sherif Study and
Informational Social Influence

During the first session, each participant was alone in
the dark room when making their judgments


But during the next three sessions, they were in the room
with two other participants and could hear each others
estimates of the illusory light movement
The average individual estimates varied greatly during
the first session


During the next three sessions, though, the individual
estimates converged on a common group norm
A year later, participants were brought back and made
estimates alone; yet, these estimates remained at the
group norm
The Sherif Study and
Informational Social Influence



This pattern of results suggests the impact of
informational social influence, which is
influence that stems from our desire to be
correct in situations in which the correct action
of judgment is uncertain and we need
information
When a task is ambiguous or difficult and we
want to be correct, we look to others for
information
For instance, when visiting a foreign culture, it
is usually a good idea to watch how the people
living in that culture behave in various
situations because they provide information to
outsiders on how to behave in that culture
The Asch Study and
Normative Social Influence

In Asch’s study, the visual judgments were easy
visual discriminations involving line-length judgments


Specifically, participants had to judge which one of three
lines was the same length as a “standard line”
In this study, the correct answer/behavior was
obvious

Indeed, when making such judgments alone, almost no one
made any
mistakes
An Example of Asch’s
Line-Length Judgment Task
The Asch Study and
Normative Social Influence

In Asch’s study, there were other “participants”
who were in fact experimental confederates, part
of the experimental setting


On each trial, judgments were made orally, and
Asch structured the situation so the experimental
confederates responded before the true participant
These experimental confederates arranged to make
mistakes on certain trials in an effort to see how the
“real” participant would respond when asked to
make line length judgments
The Asch Study and
Normative Social Influence


About 75% of the participants gave an
obviously wrong answer at least once, and
overall, conformity occurred 37% of the time
This conformity occurred despite the fact
the “correct” answer, unlike in Sherif’s study,
was obvious
The Asch Study and
Normative Social Influence

Asch’s results illustrate the power of
normative social influence, influence
stemming from our desire to gain the
approval and to avoid the disapproval
of other people


In essence, we change our behavior to
meet the expectations of others and to
gain the acceptance of others
If the line-length judgments were
extremely difficult, and the correct
answers were not clear, then
informational social influence would
likely lead to even higher levels of
conformity
Situational Factors
that Impact Conformity

If the group is unanimous, conformity will
increase


Asch found that the amount of conformity
decreased considerably if just one of the
experimental confederate participants gives the
correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that
is different from the incorrect answer all other
confederates gave
As one person is “different” somehow, it allows
other people to avoid conforming.
Situational Factors
that Impact Conformity

The mode of responding is also critical


Secret ballots lead to less conformity than public,
verbal reports
The status of group members intervenes

More conformity is observed from a person that is
of lesser status than the other group members or
is attracted to the group and wants to be part of it
Why We Comply

Compliance is acting in accordance to a
direct request from another person or group

Occurs in many facets of life (e.g., salespeople,
fundraisers, politicians, and anyone else who
wants to get people to say “yes” to their requests)
Compliance Techniques
Foot-in-the-door
Door-in-the-face
Low-ball
That’s-not-all
The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

Here, compliance to a large request is
gained by prefacing it with a very small,
almost mindless request


The tendency is for people who have complied
with the small request to comply with the next,
larger request
In Freedman and Fraser’s (1966) classic study,
some people were asked directly to put a large
ugly sign urging careful driving in their front
yards



Almost all such people refused the large ugly sign
However, some other people were first asked to
sign a petition urging careful driving
Two weeks after signing this petition (that is,
agreeing to a rather small request), the majority of
these latter people agreed to allow the large ugly
sign in the front yards
The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

This technique seems to work because our
behavior (complying with the initial request)
affects our attitudes, leading us to be more
positive about helping and to view ourselves as
generally charitable people

In addition, once we have
made a commitment (such
as signing a safe driving
petition), we feel pressure to
remain consistent (by putting up
the large ugly sign) with the earlier
action
The Foot-in-the-Door Technique

The technique was used by the Communist
Chinese in the Korean War on prisoners of war

Many prisoners returning home after the war praised
the Chinese Communists because while in captivity,
the prisoners did small things such as writing out
questions and then providing the pro-Communist
answers, which often they just copied from a notebook

Such minor actions induced more sympathy for the
Communist cause
The Door-in-the-Face Technique

The opposite of the foot-in-thedoor technique

Compliance is gained by
starting with a large
unreasonable request that is
turned down, and then following
it with a more reasonable
smaller request

It is the smaller request that the
person making the two requests
wants someone to comply with
The Door-in-the-Face Technique

For instance, a teenager may ask his parents
if he can have a new sports car for his 16th
birthday


His parents are likely to refuse
Then, the teenager asks his parents to help him
pay for a used 20-year-old car, which is what he
wanted his parents to help him with all along
The Door-in-the-Face Technique

The success of the door-in-the-face
technique is due to our tendency toward
reciprocity, that is, making mutual
concessions

The person making the requests appears to have
made a concession by moving to the much
smaller request so shouldn’t we reciprocate and
comply with this smaller request?
The Low-Ball Technique

Compliance to a costly request is achieved by first
getting compliance to an attractive, less costly
request, but then reneging on it


This is similar to the foot-in-the-door technique in that a
second larger request is the one desired all along
Low-balling works because many
of us feel obligated to go through
with the deal after we have agreed
to the earlier request, even if the
first request has changed for the
worse

We want to remain consistent in
our actions
The That’s-Not-All Technique

People are more likely to comply to a request
after a build-up to make the request sound
“better”

Often in infomercials on TV, for example, the
announcer says “But wait, that’s not all, there’s more!”
and the price is lowered or more merchandise is
added to sweeten the deal, usually before you even
have a chance to respond

Similarly, a car salesperson is likely to throw in
additional options as bonuses before you can answer
yes or no to a price offered
The That’s-Not-All Technique

As in the door-in-the-face technique,
reciprocity is at work

The seller has done you a favor (thrown in bonus
options, lowered the price), so you “should”
reciprocate by accepting the offer (i.e., comply)
Four Compliance Techniques
Why We Obey

Obedience is following the commands of a
person in authority


Obedience is good in some instances, such as
obeying societal laws
Obedience is bad in other instances, such as in
the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War,
when American soldiers were ordered to shoot
innocent villagers (and they did so)
Why We Obey
Milgram’s
Experiment
The “Astroten”
Study
Situational
Factors
Milgram’s Basic
Experimental Paradigm


Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies
were done primarily at Yale University in
the early 1960s
Imagine that you have volunteered to be
in an experiment on learning and
memory

You show up at the assigned time and
place, and there is the experimenter and
another participant there
Milgram’s Basic
Experimental Paradigm

The experimenter tells you both that the
study is examining the effects of
punishment by electric shock on
learning, and specifically learning a list
of word pairs


One of the participants will be the teacher
and the other participants will be the learner
You draw slips for these roles, and you
draw the slip of the teacher, so the other
participant will be the learner
Milgram’s Basic
Experimental Paradigm

You accompany the learner to an adjoining
room where he is strapped into a chair
with one arm hooked up to the shock
generator in the other room


The shock levels in the
study range from 15
volts to 450 volts
The experimenter gives
you, the teacher, a
“test shock” of 45 volts
so that you know how
intense various shock levels will be
Milgram’s Basic
Experimental Paradigm

You return to your room with the shock generator



You notice that on the shock generator, each switch has
a label for each level of shock, starting at 15 volts and
going to 450 volts in 15-volt increments
There are also some verbal labels below the switches,
“Slight Shock,” “Very Strong Shock,” “Danger: Severe
Shock,” and under the last two switches “XXX” in red.
Each time the learner makes a
mistake, he is to receive a shock,
which should increase one
15-volt level for each additional
mistake
Milgram’s Basic
Experimental Paradigm

As the experiment begins, the learner makes
some mistakes, and you as the teacher throw the
shock lever as instructed by the experimenter

At 120 volts, the learner cries out that the shocks really hurt

As the learner continues to make mistakes, he protests
and says that he has a heart condition and that he refuses
to continue with the experiment, demanding to be let out of
his chair

After a 330-volt shock, he fails to respond with any protest

You turn to the experimenter to see what to do, and the
experimenter says to treat no response as an incorrect
response and continue with the experiment
Milgram’s Initial
Obedience Finding

Before this experiment was run,
Milgram asked various types of people
what they and other people would do


Most people thought people would stop at
relatively low shock levels
Psychiatrists said that
maybe one person in a thousand would go
to the end of the shock generator
Milgram’s Initial
Obedience Findings

In reality, almost two out of every three
participants (65%) continued to obey the
experimenter and administered the maximum
possible shock of 450 volts


This is particularly disturbing because the learner had
mentioned a heart condition before the experiment
started and during his protests
It is important to realize that the learner was a
confederate who was programmed to make
mistakes and was never really shocked

But the teacher thought that he was administering real
shocks because of real mistakes
Interpreting
Milgram’s Findings


The difference between what we say we
will do and what we actually do illustrates
the power of situational social forces
on our behavior
The foot-in-the-door technique was
used because participants started off
giving very mild shocks (15 volts) and
increased the voltage relatively slowly

The learner did not protest these early
shocks, and the teacher had obeyed several
times before the learner started his protests
Interpreting
Milgram’s Findings

It should be noted that later studies
with female participants found similar
obedience rates, and other researchers
have replicated Milgram’s basic finding in
many different cultures (e.g., Jordan,
Spain, Italy, and Australia)
Situational Factors
that Impact Obedience

The physical presence of the experimenter
(the person with authority)


If the experimenter left the room and gave commands
over the telephone, maximum obedience
(administering the highest shock level) dropped to 21%
The physical closeness of teacher and learner


Milgram made the teacher and learner closer by
having them both in the same room instead of different
rooms, and maximum obedience declined to 40%
It dropped to 30% when the teacher had to directly
administer the shock by forcing the learner’s hand onto
a plate
Situational Factors
that Impact Obedience

Setting of the study



Instead of conducting the research at prestigious Yale
University, Milgram did the study in a run-down office
building in Bridgeport, Connecticut
Here, he found a 48% obedience rate; thus, the setting
did not influence obedience as much as presence of the
experimenter or closeness of the teacher and learner
Experimenter unanimity



Milgram set up a situation with two experimenters who at
some point during the experiment disagreed
One said to stop the experimenter, while the other said to
continue
In this case, when one of the people in authority said to
stop, all of the teachers stopped delivering the shocks
Situational Factors
that Impact Obedience

Teacher responsibility


In another variation, Milgram had the teacher only
push the switch on the shock generator to indicate to
another teacher (an experimental confederate) in the
room with the learner how much shock to administer
Here, 93% of the participants obeyed the
experimenter to the maximum shock levels
Results for Some of Milgram’s
Experimental Conditions
The “Astroten” Study


Participants were real nurses on duty alone in
a real hospital ward
Each nurse received a call from a person
using the name of a staff doctor not
personally known by the nurse

The doctor ordered the nurse to give a dose
exceeding the maximum daily dosage of an
unauthorized medication, called “Astroten” to a
real patient in the ward
The “Astroten” Study

This situation violated many hospital rules:




Medication orders need to be given in person
and not over the phone
It was a clear overdose
The medication was unauthorized
Of the 22 nurses phoned, 21 did not
question the order and went to give the
medication, but were intercepted before
actually giving it to the patient
The “Astroten” Study

A separate sample of 33 nurses were asked
about this situation and what they would do
if they were placed it in

All but 2 said they would NOT obey the doctor’s
order, again demonstrating the difference
between what we think we will do and what we
actually do in a given situation
The Jonestown Massacre



In 1978, more than 900 people who
were members of Reverend Jim
Jones’s religious cult in Jonestown,
Guyana committed mass suicide by
drinking cyanide-laced Kool Aid
These were Americans who moved
to South America from San
Francisco in 1977
Using various compliance
techniques, Jones developed
unquestioned faith as the cult leader
and discouraged individualism
The Jonestown Massacre


Using the foot-in-the-door technique, he was able to
increase financial support required of each member until
they had turned over essentially everything they owned
He had recruiters ask people walking by to help the poor



When they refused, the recruiters then asked them just to
donate five minutes of time to put letters in envelopes (door-inthe-face)
When given information about other charitable work, having
agreed to this small task, people returned later as a function of
the consistency aspect of the foot-in-the-door technique
Informational social influence was also at work, as being
moved from San Francisco to Guyana created an
uncertain environment in which followers would look to
others to guide their own actions
How Groups Influence Us
Social
Facilitation
Social
Loafing
Bystander
Effect
Deindividuation
Group
Polarization
Social Facilitation

The emergence of a dominant response on a
task (for which a person is individually
responsible) due to social arousal, leading to
improvement on simple or well-learned tasks
and worse performance on complex or
unlearned tasks when other people are present

This effect occurs because that the presence of
others increases physiological arousal, and
under conditions of increased arousal, people
tend to give whatever response is most
dominant
Social Facilitation

For example, for a professional
basketball player, shooting free
throws is a simple, easy task


Thus, such a person would shoot free
throws better when other people are
around and watching than when
shooting alone
However, for someone not good at
shooting a basketball, s/he will
shoot even more poorly when other
people are around and watching
than when shooting alone
Social Loafing and the
Diffusion of Responsibility

Social loafing occurs when people are
pooling their efforts to achieve a common goal

It is the tendency for people to exert less effort
when working toward a common goal in a group
than when individually accountable
Social Loafing and the
Diffusion of Responsibility

A major reason why social loafing occurs is the
diffusion of responsibility, which means that
the responsibility for a task is spread across all
members of the group so individual
accountability is lessened


The larger the group, the less likely it is that a social
loafer will be detected and the more responsibility for
the task gets diffused across group members
However, for groups in which individual contributions
are identifiable and evaluated, social loafing
decreases
Social Loafing and the
Diffusion of Responsibility

For instance, in a group project for a shared
grade, social loafing would decrease if each
group member is assigned and responsible
for a specific part of the project
The Bystander Effect

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was returning home from work
late one night when she was attacked in front of her
apartment building




She screamed for help, and many
apartment residents, at least 38 of
them, heard her cries for help and
looked out their windows
The attacker fled, but no one
intervened
The attacker returned and continued
his assault for another 35 minutes
before finally murdering her
The first person in the apartment
complex did not call the police until
after Kitty had been killed
The Bystander Effect

Many media people said this incident illustrated
“big city apathy”


However, experiments by social psychologists
suggested that it was more diffusion of responsibility
The bystander effect holds
that the probability of an
individual helping in an
emergency is greater
when there is only one
bystander than when
there are many
bystanders
The Bystander Effect

Darley and Latané (1968) did an experiment in
which college students were ostensibly going to
participate in a round-robin discussion of college
adjustment problems, and that this discussion
would occur over an intercom system


Thus, participants could only hear each other, not see
each other
The experimenter says he will not listen to the
conversation so participants won’t feel at all inhibited
The Bystander Effect

After each student gets a turn to talk, the
first student gets to talk again, but he seems
to be very anxious


Suddenly, he starts having a seizure and cries
out for help
What would a participant do in this situation?
The Bystander Effect

Whether or not a participant helped depended on
how many other individuals the participant thought
were available to help the student having the
seizure



The researchers manipulated the number of other people
present (either 0, 1 or 4 others present)
In reality no one else was present, the supposed other
participants were merely tape recordings
When no one else was thought to be present, 85%
of the participants tried to help the person, whereas
only 31% of the participants did so when 4 other
people were supposedly present
The Bystander Effect


The probability of helping decreased as the
responsibility for helping was diffused across more
participants
In the case of Kitty Genovese, there were 38
bystanders who could see each other staring out of
their windows with some turning on their lights


Responsibility was diffused across all of them, with no one
person assuming full responsibility to help
Kitty might have received help and
possibly lived had there been only one
person available to give help (i.e., call
the police) rather than 38!
Deindividuation



The loss of self-awareness and selfrestraint in a group situation that fosters
arousal and anonymity
Deindividuated people feel less restrained,
so may forget their moral values and act
spontaneously without thinking
Diffusion of responsibility also plays a role
in deindividuation because of the anonymity
of the group situation
Group Polarization & Groupthink

Apply to more structured, task-oriented
group situations
Group Polarization


The strengthening of a group’s prevailing
opinion about a topic following group
discussion of the topic
For instance, if students who don’t like a
particular class all start talking about that class,
they will leave the discussion disliking the class
even more because each student may provide
different reasons for disliking the class

Each member learns new reasons for his or her
dislike of the class
Group Polarization

In addition, normative social influence is at
work


We want others to like us, so we express
stronger views on a topic to gain approval from
others in the group
For instance, students who belong to
fraternities or sororities tend to be more
politically liberal, and this difference grows
during college because group members
reinforce and polarize each other’s views
Groupthink

A mode of group thinking that impairs
decision making


The desire for group harmony overrides a
realistic appraisal of the possible decisions
Leads to an illusion of infallibility, the belief that
the group cannot make mistakes
Groupthink

Examples of groupthink in history include the
failure to anticipate Pearl Harbor, the Bay of
Pigs invasion of Cuba, and the Space
Shuttle’s Challenger and Columbia disasters

In the case of the Space
Shuttle Columbia, NASA
apparently ignored safety
warnings from engineers
about possible technical
problems
How We Think about Our
Own and Others’ Behavior
How We Make Attributions
How Our Behavior
Affects Our Attitudes
Attribution


The process by which we explain our own
behavior and the behavior of others
That is, what do we think are the causes of
our behavior and the behavior of others?
How We Make Attributions


An internal attribution means explaining behavior
in terms of a person’s disposition/personal
characteristics
An external attribution means explaining behavior
in terms of a person’s circumstances/situation


For example, if you are sitting in the airport and see
someone trip and fall over their own two feet, you might
think “What a idiot” meaning the person’s disposition lead
him to trip
However, if you think “He must be late for a flight,” you
are making an external attribution
Attributions for the
Behavior of Others
Fundamental
Attribution Error
Self-Fulfilling
Prophecy
Attributions for the
Behavior of Others

The fundamental attribution error is the
tendency as an observer to overestimate
internal dispositional influences and
underestimate external situational influences
upon others’ behavior


More simply, we tend to ignore external factors
when explaining the behaviors of other people
May have played a role in Milgram’s results: The
teachers figured that if the learner was stupid, he
deserved the shocks
Attributions for the
Behavior of Others

Placing such blame on victims involves the justworld hypothesis, the assumption that the world
is just and that people get what they deserve


Helps justify cruelty to others
The primacy effect is partially responsible for the
fundamental attribution error


In the primacy effect, early information is weighted more
heavily than later information in forming an impression
of another person
Be careful of the initial impression you make on others!
Attributions for the
Behavior of Others

In the self-fulfilling prophecy, our
expectations of a person elicit behavior from
the person that confirms our expectations


For instance, if you think a person is
uncooperative, you may act in an uncooperative
way in your interactions with the person
Given your uncooperative behavior, the person
responds by being uncooperative, confirming
your expectations
Attributions for
Our Own Behavior
Actor-Observer Bias
Self-Serving Bias
Actor-Observer Bias

The tendency to attribute our own behavior
to situational influences, but to attribute the
behavior of others to dispositional
influences


As actors, our attention is focused on the
situation
But as observers, our attention is focused on the
individual, hence why we make the fundamental
attribution error
Self-Serving Bias

The tendency to make attributions so that one
can perceive oneself favorably


As actors, we tend to
overestimate dispositional
influences when the outcome
of our behavior is positive and
to overestimate situational
influences when the outcome
of our behavior is negative
In short, we take credit for our
successes but not for our
failures
Self-Serving Bias

We tend to see ourselves as “above
average” when we compare ourselves to
others on positive dimensions such as
intelligence and attractiveness

However, such traits tend to be normally
distributed with half of us below average and half
of us above average
Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias can also influence our
estimates of the extent to which other people
think and act as we do
False
Consensus
Effect
False
Uniqueness
Effect
False Consensus Effect

The tendency to overestimate the
commonality of one’s opinions and
unsuccessful behaviors

For instance, if you like a certain type of food,
you overestimate how many people also like
that type of food

Or, if you failed an important exam, you tend to
overestimate the number of your classmates
who also failed the exam
False Uniqueness Effect

The tendency to underestimate the
commonality of one’s abilities and
successful behaviors

For instance, if you are a good golfer, you think
that few people are, thus allowing you to feel
good about yourself
When Our Behavior
Contradicts Our Attitudes


Attitudes are evaluative reactions (positive
or negative) toward things, events, and other
people
Our attitudes tend to guide our behavior
when the attitudes are ones that we feel
strongly about, when we are consciously
aware of our attitudes, and when outside
influences on our behavior are not strong
When Our Behavior
Contradicts Our Attitudes
Festinger’s Cognitive
Dissonance Theory
Bem’s SelfPerception Theory
Impact of
Role Playing
Festinger and Carlsmith’s Study


In the study, participants completed an incredibly boring task, such
as turning pegs on a pegboard or organizing spools in a box,
dumping them out, and organizing them again
After the hour is over, the experimenter explains to you that the
experiment is concerned with the effects of a person’s expectations
on their task performance and that you were in the control group
 The experimenter is upset
because his student assistant has
not shown up for the next
experimental session
 She was supposed to pose as a
student who just participated in the
experiment and tell the next
participant who is waiting outside
that this experiment was really
enjoyable
Festinger and Carlsmith’s Study

The experiment asks the participant to play the role of the
student assistant, and he will pay you either $1 or $20 for telling
the next participant (actually a confederate of the experimenter)
how enjoyable and interesting the experiment was

After telling the supposed
participant how great the
experiment was, another
person who is studying
students’ reaction to
experiments asks you to
complete a questionnaire
about how much you
enjoyed the earlier
experimental tasks
Festinger and Carlsmith’s Study


Participants who were paid only $1 rated the
boring tasks as fairly enjoyable, whereas
participants who were paid $20 rated the
boring tasks as boring
Possible explanations of this counterintuitive
finding…
Festinger’s Cognitive
Dissonance Theory

Proposes that people change their attitudes to reduce
the cognitive discomfort created by inconsistencies
between their attitudes and their behavior

For instance, people who smoke, an unhealthy behavior
known to most everyone, may feel cognitive discomfort
because of the inconsistency between their behavior and
their attitude/knowledge that smoking is bad for their health

According to cognitive dissonance theory, many smokers
change their attitude, so that it is no longer inconsistent with
their behavior
Festinger’s Cognitive
Dissonance Theory

So why did participants paid only $1 indicate on the
survey they enjoyed the experiment more than
participants paid $20?

The people paid $1 lied and said the task was interesting to
another person

Thus, there was an inconsistency between their actions
(saying the experiment was interesting without any
significant external incentive) and their attitudes (the
experiment was in reality quite boring)

To reduce this inconsistency, these participants changed
their attitude to be that the tasks were fairly enjoyable

Now the inconsistency and resulting dissonance are gone
Festinger’s Cognitive
Dissonance Theory


A key aspect of cognitive dissonance is that we
don’t suffer dissonance if we have sufficient
justification for our behavior (i.e., the participants
paid $20 in the study had perfectly good reason
to be inconsistent but not experience
dissonance) or our behavior was coerced
Cognitive dissonance theory also says that once
you make a tough choice, you will strengthen
your commitment to that choice in order to
reduce cognitive dissonance
Bem’s Self-Perception Theory

Proposes that when we are unsure of our attitudes
we infer them by examining our behavior and the
context in which it occurs



We have no dissonance to reduce, but are merely
engaging in the normal attribution process
For instance, in the experiment, people would examine
their behavior (e.g., lying for $1) and infer the task must
have been fairly interesting or else they would not have
lied for only that $1
Self-perception theory contends that we don’t change
our attitude because of our behavior, but rather we
use our behavior to infer our attitude
Cognitive Dissonance
vs. Self-Perception

Cognitive dissonance theory is a better
explanation for behavior that contradicts
well-established attitudes


Such behavior creates mental discomfort, and we
change our attitudes to reduce it
Self-perception theory explains situations
in which our attitudes are not well-defined

We infer our attitudes from our behavior
The Impact of Role-Playing


A role is a social
position that carries
with it expected
behaviors from the
person in it
Each role is defined by
the socially expected
pattern of behavior for
it, and these definitions
impact both our
behavior and our
attitudes
Zimbardo’s Study

In a now-classic study, Zimbardo (1970) recruited
male college students to participate in a study held
in the renovated basement of the Stanford
University psychology building,
renovated to be a mock prison


He chose the most emotionally-stable
volunteers for the study and then
randomly assigned them to play the
roles of prisoner and prison guard
The guards were given uniforms
and billy clubs

The prisoners were locked in cells and had to wear
humiliating clothing (smocks with no undergarments)
Zimbardo’s Study


The participants began to take their respective roles too
seriously

After only one day of “role playing,” the guards started treating the
prisoners cruelly

Some of the prisoners rebelled, and others began to break down
Role-playing quickly became reality

The situation deteriorated so much
that Zimbardo had to stop the
study after only 6 days

Even these emotionally stable,
normal young educated men
were vulnerable to the power
of the situational roles

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