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?

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.

Research Methods

There are 4 stages of social psychological research.

  1. Develop an Idea
  2. Refine the Idea
  3. Test the Idea
  4. Interpret the Results

For number 1. we want to:

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

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

Random Sampling Vs Random Assignment:

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.

The Self

Public self: How others see us. This is heavily influenced by social factors

The ABC’s of the Self

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.


Sources of the Self Concept

1. Introspection:

2. Know ourselves by viewing our own behavior

3. Influences of Others

4. Autobiographical Memory

5. Cultural Identity and Influence

Self Esteem The Affective Components of the Self

Self Awareness

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

Perceiving Others

Social Perception: The process by which we understand one another.


Distorted Perceptions: Sometimes if we expect to see something our brain will actually fill in the gaps.

Attribution Theories

Attributional Biases: Do we analyze behavior rationally or logically?

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

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

Defining Social Psychology, Research Methods, The Self, and Perceiving Others - zac blanco