Preface to forward………………………………...3
b.Psychology and Other Sciences………………...5
c.Major Areas of Research…………………….....6
b.Processes of Social Influence…………………...17
e.Applications of Social Psychology……………..27
Preface to Forward
After having studied psychology as a school subject i became more and more interesed in this scientific field and tried to improve my knowledge about it.
My first reason for choosing such a topic is the fact that i am really fascinated by psychological phenomena that can describe and explain human behaviour from many perspectives.My dream is to manage to undestand such things and later on in life,after taking some specialised courses to be able to assist those in need for psychological aid.
The second reason for picking out to write about psychology and human behavior is the fact that direct research thrills me,maybe in an endeavour to help my fellow humans behave nicely in our modern society.By reading a lot of periodicals and studying online articles in this domain i think my paper could give its readers a small glimpse of this interesting scince field and lead them towards a fuller comprehension and appreciation of the hard work scientists have done in the domain so far.
It is some reading material for those who love humanity,for those who want to prevent their children from becoming mentally ill and guide them to lead a healthy life.
Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and the mind. This definition contains three elements. The first is that psychology is a scientific enterprise that obtains knowledge through systematic and objective methods of observation and experimentation. Secondly is that psychologists study behavior, which refers to any action or reaction that can be measured or observed—such as the blink of an eye, an increase in heart rate, or the unruly violence that often erupts in a mob. Thirdly is that psychologists study the mind, which refers to both conscious and unconscious mental states. These states cannot actually be seen, only inferred from observable behavior.
Many people think of psychologists as individuals who dispense advice, analyze personality, and help those who are troubled or mentally ill. But psychology is far more than the treatment of personal problems. Psychologists strive to understand the mysteries of human nature—why people think, feel, and act as they do. Some psychologists also study animal behavior, using their findings to determine laws of behavior that apply to all organisms and to formulate theories about how humans behave and think.
With its broad scope, psychology investigates an enormous range of phenomena: learning and memory, sensation and perception, motivation and emotion, thinking and language, personality and social behavior, intelligence, infancy and child development, mental illness, and much more. Furthermore, psychologists examine these topics from a variety of complementary perspectives. Some conduct detailed biological studies of the brain, others explore how we process information; others analyze the role of evolution, and still others study the influence of culture and society.
Psychologists seek to answer a wide range of important questions about human nature: Are individuals genetically predisposed at birth to develop certain traits or abilities? How accurate are people at remembering faces, places, or conversations from the past? What motivates us to seek out friends and sexual partners? Why do so many people become depressed and behave in ways that seem self-destructive? Do intelligence test scores predict success in school, or later in a career? What causes prejudice, and why is it so widespread? Can the mind be used to heal the body? Discoveries from psychology can help people understand themselves, relate better to others, and solve the problems that confront them.
The term psychology comes from two Greek words: psyche, which means “soul,” and logos, "the study of." These root words were first combined in the 16th century, at a time when the human soul, spirit, or mind was seen as distinct from the body.
b. Psychology and Other Sciences
The social sciences of sociology and anthropology, which study human societies and cultures, also intersect with psychology. For example, both psychology and sociology explore how people behave when they are in groups. However, psychologists try to understand behavior from the vantage point of the individual, whereas sociologists focus on how behavior is shaped by social forces and social institutions. Anthropologists investigate behavior as well, paying particular attention to the similarities and differences between human cultures around the world.
c. Major Areas of Research
The study of psychology draws on two kinds of research: basic and applied. Basic researchers seek to test general theories and build a foundation of knowledge, while applied psychologists study people in real-world settings and use the results to solve practical human problems. There are five major areas of research: biopsychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and social psychology. Both basic and applied research is conducted in each of these fields of psychology.This section describes basic research and other activities of psychologists in the five major fields of psychology.
B. CHILD PSYCHOLOGY
Child Psychology means the study of children’s behaviour-including physical,motor,linguistic, perceptual,social and emotional characteristics-from birth through adolescence. Both Plato and Aristotle wrote about children. Plato believed that children are born with special talents and that their training should stress those talents. His views are consistent with modern thinking about individual differences and education. Aristotle proposed methods for observing children’s behavior that were forerunners of modern methods. For many centuries thereafter, little interest was shown in the development of children because they were regarded only as miniature adults. In the 18th century the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau seemed to echo Plato when he stated that children should be free to express their energies in order to develop their special talents. His view suggests that normal development occurs best in a nonrestrictive, supportive environment. Similar concepts are popular today.
b. Scientific Study
In the 19th century, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution provided an impetus for the scientific examination of child development. His emphasis on the survival behavior of different species stimulated an interest in observing children to identify their adaptive behaviors and to learn about the inheritance of human behavior. These studies were of limited scientific value because they lacked objectivity and often failed to describe adequately the behaviors being observed, making validation impossible.
Scientific research in child development flourished from the early 1900s. One major stimulus was the introduction (1916) by the American psychologist Lewis Terman of the test known today as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. This test led to a number of studies about children’s intellectual development. In the 1920s scientists at more than a dozen leading universities began large-scale observational studies of children and their families; these included the Berkeley Growth Studies at the University of California (started in 1929 and still active today), the Fels Growth Study at Antioch College, and the Harvard Growth Studies. All used the longitudinal method, in which the same children are observed and tested over a specific time period.
The American psychologist Arnold Gesell established a research institute at Yale University in the 1920s for the sole purpose of studying children. He developed the technique of analyzing children’s behavior from film, frame by frame. Gesell also made much use of the cross-sectional method, in which different children are observed at each of several age levels.
The accumulated results of all the major studies reported over a period of 20 years provided information about patterns and rates of child development, as well as age norms for a wide variety of behaviors. These norms are used by both professional workers and parents to assess children’s development. One problem with the observational studies was that they emerged from an interest in evolution and genetics. Consequently, environmental influences were largely dismissed as unimportant and were excluded from the work on intelligence.
c. Environmental Studies
About the time that the observational work was flourishing, other researchers were writing about the role of the environment in children’s development and behavior. Sigmund Freud, who emphasized the effects of environmental variables on development, particularly stressed the importance of parental behavior during infancy. To the present day, Freud’s theory continues to influence child psychologists.The American psychologist John B. Watson also stressed the role of the environment in shaping children’s development. His views were consistent with those of behaviorism, an approach to psychology that had a great impact in the 1950s on research about children. Although behaviorists emphasize environment, they almost totally deny the influence of biological variables on development. Their basic assumptions are that the mind of a newborn child is a blank slate, or tabula rasa; all behaviors are determined by environmental events; and differences among children are the result of those environmental variables. Behaviorists encouraged experimental studies and were responsible for moving child psychology into the mainstream of psychology. Although they contributed much to the study of children, their concepts eventually were viewed as being overly narrow.
In the early 1960s attention was focused on the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who since the 1920s had been writing about children’s cognitive development. Piaget called himself a genetic epistemologist—that is, a person who studies the origins of human knowledge—and his theories led to more advanced work in child psychology. This work involves both experimental and observational methods and, in accounting for behavior, integrates biological and environmental variables. Thus, current studies have their origins in Darwin’s theory of evolution but also incorporate Watson’s concern for the influence of the environment.
d. Developmental Theories
A theory of development should reflect an attempt to relate behavioral change to chronological age; that is, diverse behavioral characteristics should be related to specific stages of growth. The rules governing the transitions between these growth states also must be identified. The dominant developmental theories are Freud’s theory of personality development and Piaget’s theory of perception and cognition. Both explain human development in terms of interactions of biological determinants and environmental events.Freud’s theory is based on the concept that a healthy personality requires the satisfaction of instinctual needs. In Freudian theory the personality is composed of the id, ego, and superego. The id is the source of instinctual drives. The role of the ego is to cope with the demands of the id while remaining within the rules of society, which in turn are represented by the superego. The physical focus of instinctual needs changes with age, and the periods of different focus are called stages. Infants, for example, achieve maximum id satisfaction from sucking; this is called the oral stage. Children progress through four stages, ending with adult sexuality. Freud clearly integrated biological and environmental variables in his theory.
Piaget believed that from birth humans are active learners who do not require external incentives. He proposed that cognitive development occurs in four stages. Stage I, sensorimotor intelligence (birth-2 years), takes the child from unrelated reflexive movements to behavior that reflects knowledge of simple concepts. Stage II, preoperational thought (2-7 years), is characterized by an increasing use of abstract symbols as reflected in imaginative play. Stage III, concrete operational thought (7-11 years), involves relatively sophisticated problem-solving behavior and attainment of adult thought. Stage IV, formal operational thought (12 years and older), is characterized by the ability to develop hypotheses and deduce new concepts.The various aspects of child development encompass physical growth, emotional and psychological changes, and social adjustments. A great many determinants influence patterns of development and change.
♣ Heredity and Development
It is generally agreed that patterns of child development are determined by the joint interaction of genetics and the environment, although sharp disagreements occur about the relative importance of an individual’s genetic makeup. Research on this problem involves the use of separately reared monozygotic (identical) twins. Their behaviors are compared for similarities and differences, and the results are then compared with behaviors of twins reared together. If genetics is critical, the twins reared apart will be as similar in most respects as those reared together. (These studies usually assume that when twins are reared apart, their environments are different in important ways, an assumption that is not always true.) Except in instances of massive environmental deprivation, the patterns and rates of physical and motor development appear to be genetically controlled. Research also indicated that both genetic and environmental variables contribute to intellectual behavior. A genetic component also exists in personality characteristics such as introversion and extroversion, activity level, and predisposition to psychoses. Many advances have been made in identifying the genetic causes of mental illness, but more research is needed to understand better how genetic mechanisms operate among normal children.
On the average, a newborn baby weighs 3.4 kg (7.5 lb) and is 53 cm (21 in) long, with the head disproportionately larger than the lower part of the body. As the child grows, increments in height are greatest from birth to three years; thereafter they are relatively constant until adolescence. The growth spurt at adolescence is far less than during infancy. Weight increments are also large during the first three years but are equally large during adolescence. Research shows that growth rates are influenced by the health of the child. Rates of development decelerate during illness; after an illness is cured, however, growth rates accelerate until children attain their appropriate height and weight. See Growth, Human.
Dramatic changes occur in motor skills from birth through the first two years. At birth infants are capable of extensive uncoordinated movements. One feature of the early motor behavior of infants is the large number of reflexlike actions. These actions appear for a short time after birth and then disappear. For example, when the palm of the hand is stroked lightly the fingers involuntarily close, forming a fist; this is called the palmar reflex. From these early movements, distinct sequential patterns of motor development occur. Walking, which occurs on the average between 13 and 15 months, emerges from a sequence of 14 earlier stages. Research shows that the rate of acquisition of motor skills is innately determined and that the acquisition of these skills is not influenced by practice. Severe restrictions on motor activities, however, will alter both the pattern and rate of development.
After basic motor skills are acquired, children learn to integrate their movements with perceptual skills, especially spatial perception. This process is critical for the achievement of eye-hand coordination and for the higher-level skills required for many sports activities.
The ability to communicate and to understand language is a major achievement of human beings. An amazing feature of language development is the speed with which it is acquired: The first word is spoken at about 12 months; by two years of age most children have vocabularies of about 270 words, and this increases to 2600 words at the age of six. It is almost impossible to determine the number of sentence constructions that can be generated within a single language. Children, however, use syntactically correct sentences by the age of three and highly complex constructions by the age of five.
This extraordinary phenomenon cannot be explained by means of simple learning theory. The American linguist Noam Chomsky postulated that the human brain is especially constructed to detect and reproduce language; the mental system does not require formal learning and will function perfectly when language is available to the child. Although developmental psycholinguists do not agree with all of Chomsky’s concepts, they do accept the idea of special mental language systems. Today theorists are concerned with the relationship between cognitive growth and language. It is now assumed that language reflects children’s concepts and develops as their concepts expand.
Theories of personality are attempts to describe how people behave in satisfying their physical and psychological needs. An inability to satisfy such needs creates a personal conflict. Personality formation is viewed as the process by which children learn how to avoid conflict when possible and how to cope with conflict when it inevitably occurs. Overly restrictive or overly permissive parents limit their children’s options in avoiding and coping with conflict. A normal response to overwhelming conflict is to revert to a defense mechanism such as rationalization—the denial that one ever wanted a specific objective, for example. Although everyone uses defense mechanisms at some time, they should not become a person’s sole means of coping with conflict. A child with a balanced, integrated personality feels accepted and loved and has been allowed to learn a number of appropriate coping mechanisms.
Intelligence may be defined as the ability to manipulate abstract verbal concepts effectively. This definition is reflected in the types of questions asked on intelligence tests for children. Two well-known tests—the Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Revised—are used to index children’s mental growth and to predict learning performances. Because school learning seems to depend on the ability to reason verbally, the content of intelligence tests seems appropriate. Some relationship does indeed exist between intelligence-test performance and school achievement. Predictions based on tests are imperfect, however, because intelligence tests do not measure motivation and because knowledge about the skills needed for school learning is incomplete. In addition, intelligence tests are sometimes inappropriate when used with minority children, who may not understand or respond appropriately to certain items because of language difficulties or cultural differences. Thus, test scores must be interpreted with great care.
The attitudes, values, and behaviors of parents toward their children clearly influence patterns of development. Likewise, children’s characteristics influence parental attitudes and behaviors; handicapped children, for example, require more attention and cause more parental anxiety than do normal children.Extensive studies have established that parental behaviors toward children vary widely, ranging from restrictiveness to permissiveness, warmth to hostility, and anxious involvement to calm detachment. These variations in attitudes produce different patterns in family relationships. Parental hostility and permissiveness, for example, are associated with highly aggressive, noncompliant children. Warm, restrictive behavior by parents is associated with dependent, polite, and obedient children. Punishment techniques also influence behavior. For example, parents who often use physical punishment tend to have children who rank above average in their use of physical aggression. It appears, then, that one of the ways children acquire patterns of behavior is by imitating their parents.
Social relationships among infants involve mutual interest without interaction. This relationship is called parallel play. Beginning with the preschool years, peer-group relationships become increasingly sophisticated social systems influencing children’s values and behaviors. The transition to the adult social world is aided by the organization of peer groups with a leader, members with varying strengths and weaknesses, and a recognition of the need for cooperative behavior. Peer-group conformity reaches a peak when children are about 12 years of age. Conformity never disappears, but its manifestations among adults are less obvious.The members of peer groups change with age. Preadolescent groups are homogeneous; that is, members are usually of the same sex and come from the same neighborhood. Among older children, social relationships are based on shared interests and values. Within a given group, the popular children tend to be more intelligent, higher achievers, and socially and emotionally more mature.
Socialization The process by which children learn acceptable and unacceptable behavior is called socialization. Children are expected to learn, for example, that extreme physical aggression, stealing, and cheating are unacceptable, and that cooperation, honesty, and sharing are acceptable. Some theories suggest that socialization is achieved only through imitation or through a process of rewards and punishments. Current theories, however, stress the role of cognition, or perceiving, thinking, and knowing; thus, mature socialization requires that a person explicitly or implicitly understand the rules of social behavior that function in all situations.
Socialization also includes understanding concepts of morality. The American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberghas demonstrated that moral thinking exists on three levels. At the lowest level, a rule is obeyed in order to avoid punishment. This level characterizes the thought of very young children. At the highest level, a person has a rational understanding of universal moral principles necessary for society’s survival. The understanding of such concepts, however, is often inconsistent with behavior. Research has shown that moral behavior varies with each situation and is not predictable for individuals.
Developmental psychology reflects the view that human development and behavior throughout the life span is a function of the interaction between biologically determined factors, such as height or temperament, and environmental influences, such as family, schooling, religion, and culture. Studies of these interactions focus on their consequences for people at different age levels. For example, developmental psychologists are interested in how children who were physically abused by their parents behave when they themselves become parents. Studies, although inconclusive, suggest that abused children often become abusive parents.
Other recent studies have focused on the relationship between the aging process and intellectual competence; contrary to the traditional notion that a person's intellectual skills decline rapidly after the age of 55, research indicates that the decline is gradual. American studies of adulthood, building on the work of Erik Erikson, point to stable periods with a duration of 5 to 7 years, during which energy is expended on career, family, and social relationships, punctuated by “transitional” periods lasting 3 to 5 years, during which assessment and reappraisal of major life areas occurs. These transitional periods may be smooth or emotionally stormy; the “midlife crisis” is an example of such a transition. Whether such transitions are the same for men and women, and whether they are universal, is currently under study.
D. SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
Social Psychology is the scientific study of how people think, feel, and behave in social situations. This area of specialization draws on two disciplines: sociology, which focuses on groups; and psychology, which centers on the individual.
Social psychologists seek to answer a wide variety of questions, among them: Why do we help or ignore others in need? Why are people romantically attracted to each other? How do people form stereotypes about racial and ethnic groups, and how can they overcome them? What techniques of persuasion do advertisers use to sell their products? Why do people usually conform in group situations? What makes someone an effective leader?As in other branches of psychology, social psychologists use a wide variety of research methods, including laboratory experiments, observations in the real world, case studies, and public opinion surveys. Some social psychologists conduct basic research to test general theories about human social behavior, while others seek to apply that research to solve real-world social problems.
Social psychology and sociology are often confused, because both fields study groups and group behavior. However, their perspectives differ. Whereas sociologists strive to understand group behavior in terms of society and social institutions, social psychologists focus on individuals and how they perceive, interact with, and influence each other. They study how individuals exert influence on groups and how group situations affect the behavior of individuals.
b. Processes of Social
Although born helpless, human infants are equipped at birth with reflexes that orient them toward people. They are responsive to faces, turn their head toward voices, and mimic certain facial gestures on cue. It seems that human beings are inherently social animals. All over the world, people experience joy when they form new social attachments and react with loneliness and despair when these bonds are broken—as when separated from a loved one by distance, divorce, or death. Research shows that people who have a network of family and friends are happier and healthier and live longer than those who are more isolated. People need people, which is why social situations can have such a profound effect on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
In 1936 Turkish-American psychologist Muzafer Sherif conducted a study of how norms (rules of behavior) develop in small groups. The subjects in his laboratory observed a visual illusion: A fixed point of light in a darkened room appeared to move. Watching alone, subjects differed considerably in their estimates of how far the point of light moved. The next day, however, subjects were assigned to three-person groups. Each time a point of light was flashed, subjects stated their estimates one by one. The same groups returned over the next two days to make additional judgments about the light. Eventually, the subjects within each group converged on a common perception and adopted their group's emerging norm as their own (see the accompanying chart entitled “Formation of Social Norms”). Sherif’s pioneering experiment—one of the first to study a social phenomenon in the laboratory—showed that people often rely on the judgments of others when they find themselves in a state of uncertainty.
The 1936 experiment by Turkish-American psychologist Muzafer Sherif studied how norms (rules of behavior) form in small groups. Subjects were brought into a darkened room and asked to estimate how far a point of light moved. (In reality, the point of light was fixed.) When alone, their estimates varied widely. But after they were assigned to three-person groups, their estimates rapidly converged on a common perception.
In 1951 American psychologist Solomon Asch constructed a very different situation. In his studies, a subject sat at a table with six research confederates (accomplices of the experimenter) posing as fellow subjects. Each person in the group was asked to look at several sets of lines and answer questions about them. For each set, the person was asked to indicate which of three lines was similar in length to a standard line (see the figure below).
The experimenter had the members take turns in order of their seating position. In all sessions, the subject was placed in seat number six. The task seemed easy at first, but then on certain sets all of the confederates, according to plan, selected the wrong line. Faced with a conflict, subjects went along with the incorrect majority 37 percent of the time. Most subjects knew the real answer but chose the wrong one to avoid appearing different. This study—and others more recently conducted—showed that people often adjust their own behavior to conform with that of the group. People are more likely to give in to conformity pressures in this way when the group is unanimous, when the judgment to be made is difficult, and in cultures that value interdependence and social harmony over individual goals.
During the 1960s, American psychologist Stanley Milgram studied a form of social influence stronger than conformity: obedience to authority. In a famous series of experiments that attracted controversy about human research ethics, Milgram put each of 1,000 subjects into a situation in which they were ordered by an experimenter to administer painful electric shocks to a confederate (who did not actually receive any shocks). The subjects in these studies were led to believe that they were acting as "teachers" in a study of the effects of punishment on learning. Each time the "learner" made a mistake on a memory test, the subject was supposed to deliver a shock. The intensity of the shocks was to increase, beginning at 15 volts and continuing in 15-volt increments to 450 volts. In most situations, the subjects could not actually see the learner, but they could hear an audiotaped response that sounded increasingly serious with each successive shock. The learner's protests would begin with grunts of pain, progress to shouting and sometimes even complaints of heart trouble, and eventually turn to agonized screams of “Let me out of here!” After the teacher passed the 330-volt level, the learner would fall silent and give no further responses. Yet at each step, an experimenter ordered the subject to raise the level of shock to the learner.
Many of the subjects in the experiment felt extreme anguish over the pain they thought they were inflicting. They sweated, trembled, bit their lips, or broke into fits of nervous laughter. Despite their distress, an astonishing 65 percent of subjects in Milgram's initial study delivered the final punishment of 450 volts. Other social psychologists conducting similar experiments later observed comparable levels of obedience among men and women all over the world. Apparently, many otherwise decent people will cause intense suffering to others rather than disobey authority.
Many psychologists have drawn on the lessons from Milgram’s experiment to explain the obedience of Nazi soldiers and officials in killing millions of Jews and others during World War II. When interviewed after the experiment, many of Milgram’s subjects said that they had obeyed largely because they thought the experimenter would bear responsibility for any harm to the learner.
Attitudes and Persuasion
While many social psychologists study social influences on behavior, others focus on the changing of attitudes. Attitudes are relatively enduring beliefs or opinions that predispose people to respond in a positive, negative, or ambivalent way to a person, object, or idea. In particular, social scientists study how people are led to change their attitudes—the process known as persuasion. Persuasion is an integral part of human social life. Many people have a direct interest in knowing how to effectively persuade others: politicians trying to win votes, salespeople and advertisers hawking their products, religious leaders seeking converts, trial lawyers arguing before a jury, and fund-raisers seeking donations. Persuasion is neither inherently good nor bad. Whether we see it as beneficial or harmful to individuals depends on whether we approve of the message.
Persuasion can occur in two ways. First, as you might expect, people often change their attitudes in response to strong and logical arguments. However, research has shown that people may also be influenced by a speaker's physical attractiveness, by the arousal of fear and other emotions, by the reactions of others in the audience, and by other superficial cues. Researchers have identified three main factors that contribute to the effect of a persuasive communication: the source, the message, and the audience. In other words, what matters in persuasion is who says what to whom.Sometimes people change their attitudes not in response to a persuasive communication but by convincing themselves, a process of self-persuasion. In 1957 American psychologist Leon Festinger proposed cognitive dissonance theory, which says that people often change their attitudes to justify their own actions. According to this theory, people who behave in ways that contradict their own attitudes experience an unpleasant state of internal tension known as cognitive dissonance. To reduce that tension, they adjust their attitudes to be consistent with their behavior.
In a classic test of this theory in 1959, Festinger and his colleague J. Merrill Carlsmith asked college students to engage in an extremely boring, repetitive task for one hour. Afterward, the experimenters offered the students either $1 or $20 to deceive a prospective subject in the experiment (actually a confederate) into thinking that the task ahead would be interesting. Later, the students were asked to rate their enjoyment of the task. Students who did not mislead a confederate admitted the task was boring. So did those given $20—ample justification for their white lie to the confederate. However, those paid only $1 rated the task as somewhat enjoyable. Having lied without a sufficient justification, these subjects felt internally pressured to view the task in more positive terms as a way to reconcile their behavior with their attitude and reduce their cognitive dissonance. Also consistent with the theory, hundreds of more recent studies have shown that people change their attitudes to justify their own investment of effort, money, or time. Thus, we come to love what we strive for.
c. Social Perception
A second core topic in social psychology is social perception, the process by which people come to know and evaluate one another. Researchers in social perception study how we form impressions of each other, how we explain the causes of our own and other people’s behavior, and how we form stereotypes and prejudices toward social groups.
Research has shown that people form impressions of each other in two ways. Sometimes people make quick and effortless judgments based on others' physical appearance, facial expressions, or body language. Studies have shown, for example, that people who are physically attractive are perceived to be happy, warm, friendly, successful, confident, and well-adjusted. At other times, however, people form impressions based on a careful observation of a person’s behavior. According to this latter view, people act like amateur scientists, gathering and analyzing behavioral evidence before evaluating others. The explanations for behavior that people come up with are called attributions, and the theory that describes the process is called attribution theory.
Over the years, research into attribution has shown that when we explain the behavior of others, we tend to overestimate the role of personal factors and underestimate the influence of situations. This bias is so universal that it has been called the fundamental attribution error. In one demonstration of the fundamental attribution error, experimenters randomly assigned subjects to participate in a quiz show in the role of either questioner or contestant. Then in front of the contestant and an observer, the experimenters told the questioner to devise a set of difficult questions to ask the contestant. Not surprisingly, many of the questions—created from the questioner's own store of esoteric knowledge—stumped the contestant. Yet when asked to rate the general knowledge of both participants, observers consistently saw the questioners as more knowledgeable than the contestants. The observers failed to take the situational roles into account and attributed the behavior they witnessed to each person’s level of knowledge.
In forming impressions of others, people are subject to other biases as well. For example, a great deal of research shows that people are often slow to revise their first impressions of others even when those views are not supported by the evidence. Part of the problem is that once we form an impression of someone, we tend to interpret that person’s later behavior in ways that seem to fit our impression. Another problem is that our first impression of someone may shape the way we treat that person—which, in turn, may influence his or her actual behavior. This process is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In a classic illustration of this phenomenon, in 1968 American psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson told a group of elementary school teachers that certain students were on the verge of an intellectual growth spurt (in fact, these students were randomly chosen from their classes). By the end of the school year, these designated students—who had received more positive attention from the teachers—actually had higher average test scores than their peers.
Seeking to understand the roots of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, many social psychologists study the causes and effects of stereotypes, generalized beliefs that associate whole groups of people with certain traits. Stereotyping is widespread and can be found in all societies. For example, many Americans assume that women are nurturing, African Americans are athletic, librarians are reserved, Californians are laid back, and used-car dealers are untrustworthy. Research shows that we naturally sort other people into social categories such as race, gender, occupation, and socioeconomic class. Furthermore, we see people as part of either “us” or “them”—depending on whether or not they are members of our own groups. In making this distinction, we tend to generalize from a single person to a whole group and to assume that “they” (members of a particular social group outside our own) are all alike. Although stereotypes can help simplify our understanding of the world and may even contain a seed of truth, they are usually overgeneralizations. Research shows that stereotypes can color our judgments of others at an unconscious level.
Another prevalent and disturbing human phenomenon is prejudice, the negative evaluation of others based solely on their membership in a particular group. The tendency to stereotype is one cause of prejudice, but there are at least two other causes as well. First, prejudices often stem from direct competition for valuable but limited resources. This competition between groups can trigger conflict, frustration, and hostility. Second, people may demean others, without realizing it, in order to boost their own sense of self-worth. Research shows that people derive pride from their connections to successful others, and that berating “them” (other groups) can make people feel more secure about “us” (their own group). This finding may explain why people all over the world believe that their own nationality, culture, and religion are better and more deserving than those of other people.
A third topic of social psychology concerns interpersonal behavior, the ways that individuals interact with one another. Social psychologists in this area are especially interested in group processes, “antisocial” (aggressive, competitive) behavior, “prosocial” (helpful, cooperative) behavior, and interpersonal attraction.
When people assemble in groups, profound changes often take place in their behavior. Perhaps the most basic question in social psychology is “How does the presence of other people affect an individual's behavior?” Seeking to answer this question, researchers have discovered that the presence of others facilitates an individual's performance on simple, well-learned tasks but impairs performance on new or complex tasks. For example, people asked to solve simple multiplication problems solve them faster with others around than by themselves, but they perform worse on more complex math problems.
Research has shown that people often “loaf” (exert less effort than they could) when they participate in cooperative joint activities such as a tug-of-war. Studies also show that decision-making groups often fall victim to groupthink, a phenomenon in which group members excessively seek group concurrence, suppress dissent to maintain group harmony, and blindly convince themselves that the group’s position is correct. Groupthink is a process that can lead groups to make hasty, often bad decisions.
Over the years, many researchers have studied the interpersonal problem of human aggression. Some research focuses on the ways in which aggression is programmed into human nature by instincts, genes, hormones, and other biological factors. For example, crime statistics all over the world reveal that men commit more violent crimes than women do. One possible basis for this difference is that aggression is linked to the male sex hormone testosterone.
Most social psychologists who study aggression emphasize the roles of family, culture, peers, and other environmental factors. In particular, these researchers have found that aggression can be triggered by frustration, noise, hot weather, physical pain, and other unpleasant states. Other situational factors that may trigger aggression include the sight of weapons, feelings of anonymity in a large faceless crowd, and the consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Over the years, hundreds of studies have also shown that viewing large amounts of television violence can increase aggressive behavior, particularly in children.
Focusing on a brighter side of human nature, many researchers study altruism, helping behavior that is motivated primarily by a desire to benefit a person other than oneself. Interest in this topic began in earnest following the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City. Thirty-eight of her neighbors, aroused around 3 a.m. by her screams, came to their windows and watched over the next half-hour as her assailant stabbed and raped her. Yet none of the neighbors came to her aid or even called the police until after the attack was over. As a result of this shocking event, social psychologists conducted experiments in which they staged different emergencies, varied the conditions, and observed what happened. Consistently, these studies revealed that the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely anyone is to feel responsible and intervene. In emergency situations, ironically, the presence of other people inhibits helping.
In contrast to studies showing that bystanders often do not assist needy victims when in the presence of others, there are situations in which people do intervene. For example, researchers have found that individuals are more helpful to others when they are in a good mood, when they have time to help, when they see someone else offer help, when they are in a small town rather than a big city, or when they believe that the help-seeker is deserving of assistance. Research also confirms that people sometimes offer help to those who need it for purely altruistic reasons, out of a sense of empathy and compassion.
♣ Interpersonal Attraction
Why are we drawn to some people more than others? What sparks an initial attraction, and what factors then lead two people to form and maintain an intimate relationship? Seeking answers to these questions, researchers who study the process of interpersonal attraction have observed some consistent human tendencies. For example, they have found that familiarity breeds fondness, that people tend to like others who are physically attractive, and that people get along best with others who have similar attitudes and interests. Another research finding agrees with common sense: People tend to stay in relationships that provide relatively more rewards than costs. Rewards may include companionship, love, emotional support, and sexual gratification. Examples of costs are conflict between partners, less independence, and giving up opportunities in order to sustain the relationship.
e. Application of Social Psychology
Findings from social psychology have proven useful for advancing the studies of law, business, health, advertising, politics, religion, sports, and other areas. In law, for example, social psychologists have studied how lawyers select jurors for a trial, how juries deliberate to a verdict, and the ways in which jurors are influenced by pretrial publicity and inadmissible testimony. In the workplace, social psychologists study job interviews and employee selection, how employers can motivate workers, and how managers can become effective leaders. Findings in social psychology about how conflicts arise and how people can best resolve them have relevance to diplomacy and the process of negotiating peace between nations. Today, increasing numbers of psychologists are interested in practical applications of their work.
♦ ENCARTA 2000
♦„Social Psychology”-Saul Kassin
♦„Biopsychology”-John P. J. Pinel
♦„Introduction to Psychology”-William Meyer
♦„Developmental Psychology”-Mary Ann Foley
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