Defining Social Psychology, Research Methods, The Self, and Perceiving Others
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Defining Social Psychology
Social Psychology is the scientific study of how individuals think, feel, and behave in a social context.
How does social psychology differ from other ideas and fields?
- Common Sense
- “Knew it all along” phenomena
- Determining fact from myth
- Social Psychology relies on the scientific method
- Forming hypotheses – testable predictions
- Organizing ideas and findings into theories and principles
- Focus is on the person, rather than the group
Other Types of Psychology (Abnormal, Cognitive, etc..)
- Social Psychology relies on the scientific method
Proximal Influences: immediate and/or situational influences.
Distal Influences: Not immediately affecting behavior. Ex. Cultural background
Overjustification Effect: Adding a reward to an enjoyable task will cause the person to be unhappy when performing the task without the reward.
There are 4 stages of social psychological research.
- Develop an Idea
- Refine the Idea
- Test the Idea
- Interpret the Results
For number 1. we want to:
- Ask questions
- Search through literature
- Shape the idea into a hypothesis
Hypothesis: A testable prediction
Theory: An organized set of principles used to define phenomena which is simple, generative, comprehensive, and falsifiable.
Conceptual Variables vs Operational Definitions
- A Conceptual Variable is some abstract general construct.
- An Operational Definition is a measurable definition for a conceptual variable in research.
Construct Validity: The extent to which the experiment measures and manipulates variables in the study actually measure or manipulate what they are meant to.
Interrator Reliability: The degree to which multiple observers agree in observation
Correlational Designs: Examines relationships between multiple variables.
Experimental Designs: The cornerstone of psychological research. It is used to examine cause and effect relationships. All experiments have two essential characteristics
- Researchers have control over the experimental procedure
- There should be random assignment to experimental conditions
Random Sampling Vs Random Assignment:
- Random sampling is when the participants in an experiment are chosen from the population.
- Random Assignment is what we call randomly putting participants into different experimental groups (control, etc.)
Statistical Significance: if the probability of something happening by chance is less than 5% (.05) we usually say a result is statistically significant
Ethics in Social Psychology: All studies must adhere to rules.
- We generally don’t want to deceive participants
- It must be passed by the IRB
- Participants must have informed consent
- The study must debrief participants
Public self: How others see us. This is heavily influenced by social factors
The ABC’s of the Self
- Cognition: Self-Concept - know thyself, self-concept, identity
- Affect: Self-Esteem - The emotional aspects
- Behavior: Self-Presentation - Regulation & Presentation
Self Concept: The sum total beliefs that one has about him/herself. It is made up of Self-schemas
Self-Schemas: How we perceive ourselves and evaluate others. We like to accept information that is in line with our schemas.
- Babies don’t recognize themselves until 18-24 months old.
- Animals that don’t recognize themselves will tend to reach for their reflection.
- Apes will recognize themselves
Sources of the Self Concept
- Our inner thoughts and feelings
- Not always accurate, we can impair our own knowledge - overthinking
- Poor predictor of future behavior
- We usually overestimate emotional impact of a situation
- We usually just focus on something and forget about it
- Affective forecasting
2. Know ourselves by viewing our own behavior
- Self-Perception Theory: Internal cues are difficult to interpret. People gain insight into their own behavior.
- Facial Feedback Hypothesis: The changes in facial expressions change emotions
3. Influences of Others
- People describe themselves in traits that set themselves apart from others
- Social Comparison Theory: We compare our performance to others (when the uncertain about our own).
4. Autobiographical Memory
- Essential for a coherent self-concept.
- Recall events from our recent past
- Good memories of adolescence are usually the most memorable
- Flashbulb Memory: Prominent events that we tend to remember. Not always the most accurate but they feel special
- Autobiographical memories are vital, but also shape our identities
5. Cultural Identity and Influence
- Individualism vs Collectivism
- Individualist: Strive for personal achievement
- Collectivist: Want to advance the group
Self Esteem The Affective Components of the Self
- Belonging = Self Esteem
- Terror Management Theory: Terrified by morality
- Higher self-esteem protects against a fear of death
- Higher self-esteem tends to make people more happy/healthy/productive
- Not guaranteed success - low social sensitivity usually comes with a high self-esteem
- Self-Discrepancy Theory: The self-esteem reflects matches and mismatches between how we se ourselves and how we want to see ourselves
- Discrepancy between the ought-self tends to lead to feelings of shame or guilt
- People tend to like to be self-aware - mirrors
- Some people are more self-focused than others.
- Private vs Public Self-Conscious
- Private: Tendency to introspect
- Public: Tendency to focus on the outer image
Self-Regulation: The process by which we seek to control or alter our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and urges
Ironic Mental Processes: The harder someone tries to inhibit a thought or behavior the less likely we are to succeed in blocking such thoughts or behaviors
Implicit Egotism: Positive traits that are more quickly recognized about ourselves
Mechanisms of Self-Enhancement
- Self-Handicapping: Excuses for poor behavior - we sabotoge our own performance
- BIRG: Basking In Reflected Glory - Associate ourselves with success, distance ourselves from our failures.
- Downward Social Comparison: We don’t always want objective information. We like to compare ourselves to less successful people sometimes.
- Depressed people tend to have more realistic views
Social Perception: The process by which we understand one another.
- Observation, Attribution, Integration
- Subtly influenced by appearance
- We sometimes pre-judge on facial features
- Baby-facedness: large eyes relative to the size of the head/person
- Genetically programmed
- Positive associations with babies
- Physical appearance
Distorted Perceptions: Sometimes if we expect to see something our brain will actually fill in the gaps.
- We like to infer information from non-verbal behaviors.
- Primary thing we use is facial expressions
- Also: tone of voice
- Body positions/movement
- Use of touch
- It is easiest for us to detect happiness in people using facial expressions
- Kelley’s Covariation Theory: Has 3 components which require multiple observations of a person
- Consensus: How do others react?
- Consistency: Are their actions consistent over time?
- Distinctiveness: Is the reaction the same for different types of stimuli?
- Jones’s Correspondent inference theory: inferring from actions, a person’s personality traits. Whether behavior is:
- Person knows effects or consequences
Attributional Biases: Do we analyze behavior rationally or logically?
- Availability Heuristic: Tendency to estimate that an event will occur by how available a memory is.
- False consensus effect: We overestimate the extent to which others share beliefs and opinions
- Counterfactual thinking: The tendency to imagine alternative events or outcomes that might have occurred but did not
- Fundamental attribution error: The tendency to focus on the role of personal causes and underestimate the impact of situations on people’s behavior
Information Integration Theory: The theory that impressions are based on (1) the perceiver dispositions and (2) a weighted average of a target person’s traits
- Priming: The tendency for recently used or perceived words or ideas to come to mind easily and influence the interpretation of new information
- and Embodiment
- Central Traits: Traits that exert a powerful influence on overall impressions
- Trait Negativity Bias: The tendency for negative information to weigh more heavily on our impressions than positive information
Primacy Effect: The tendency for information presented early in a sequence to have more impact on impressions than information presented later.
Confirmation Bias: The tendency to seek interpret, and create information that verifies existing beliefs
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The process by which one’s expectations about a person eventually lead that person to behave in ways that confirm those expectations