How Does the Social Situation Affect our Behavior?

Social psychologists investigate how individuals can affect each other and impact their behavior. Social psychologists attempt to understand this behavior through social context. This includes the real, imagined, or symbolic presence of other people. We usually adapt our behavior to a current situation; this is known as situationism . Generally, behavior depends heavily on two factors; social roles and social norms. One psychologist, Theodore Newcomb, studied how social norms affect political views on a college campus. He found that not only did the social norms of the campus society change many young, influential students’ political views for their four years at college, but the norms also persisted into adulthood. Twenty years later, graduated liberals had married liberals and were living liberal lives. This study showed that social norms can have both a powerful and lasting impression on people.

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a classic example of social roles and social norms. In the Stanford prison experiment, no one was told their role, but they knew how to behave due to the preexisting scripts they had developed. Sometimes, however, people make decisions based on conformity by changing their behavior, attitude, and opinion to match those of others. Solomon Asch found that people will conform to a group majority; he called this the Asch effect. Asch also realized three factors that affect the individual to give in to group pressure: the size of the group, the presence of someone dissenting from the majority, and the size of the discrepancy between the right answer and the majority's choice. Below is a video of conformity at work at Arundel. Several students were told to look up at the ceiling. Others followed suit.

Cults and the following of fascist leaders in World War II are all examples of obedience to authority. Milgram's Obedience experiment showed that obedience to authority is not contingent upon the type of people pressured to conform; people of all ages, races, and backgrounds can be affected by the influential power of authority. In the experiment, Yale college students were asked to deliver a shock to someone else to "improve learning and memory by punishing memory errors." The "teachers" were the college students and the "learners" were actually actors that were part of the experimental team. Milgram discovered that the large majority of subjects would deliver the lethal 450-volt shock if the authority figure told them to and promised to take responsibility for any harm done. During the experiment, if the "teacher" hesitated then the authority in the room reasoned that the "learners" were making errors and should be punished, so the "teachers" continued. The "teachers" assumed that since the authority had the responsibility, there wouldn't be any consequences to themselves. Milgram helps us answer the question: Why do we obey authority?

After the murder of Kitty Genovese, another experiment was done by Bibb Latane and John Darley, studied the bystander intervention problem. In the experiment, students were having conversations with other students when one would appear to be having a seizure. It took many subjects 160 seconds to respond to the person in need of help, that is if they responded at all. The more people the subjects believed to be present, the less likely they were to react; they thought that one of the other members of the group would surely help the person so they didn't need to. The two researchers termed this effect diffusion of responsibility.

Constructing Social Reality: What Influences our judgments of others?

The judgments we make about others depend on both their behavior and our interpretation of their actions within a social context. Our social reality is constructed by cognitive processes and determines the presence of others as threatening, inviting, attractive, etc. The Reward Theory of Attraction, based on interpersonal attraction, describes four sources that we tend to look for when choosing such relationships; proximity, similarity, self-disclosure, and physical attractiveness. The principle of proximity describes the ability to easily keep in contact and build a relationship with those who we see or are around often. The similarity principle is the attraction between others with similar interests. Self-disclosure is the connection between two people that allows openness, sharing feelings one wouldn't necessarily share with everyone else, being able to be yourself, and gaining trust. Lastly, physical attractiveness is rewarding because hanging around people who are simply not "plain or homely" creates a connection. Even though the rewards seem to be common, they are not always true: the matching hypothesis predicts that many relationships are built with others of the "same level". This is followed by the idea of the expectancy-value theory, which explains the idea that most people don't waste their time on a "lost cause" when it comes to relationships. Instead, one determines the value that they find in another person and then compares it to the likelihood of that person feeling the same. The cognitive dissonance theory offers a compelling explanation for the mental adjustments that occur in people who voluntarily undergo unpleasant experiences.
These people grow fonder of their habit, project, or organization the longer they keep with it. To alter the dissonance between cognition and action, one may be changed. The fundamental attribution error (FAE) is when people tend to overemphasize personal traits and minimize the circumstances of the situation. The FAE is not always an "error" it is more widely considered bias. All such conditions must be carefully examined before passing a judgment on the personal trait of any one person. Self-serving bias is when a person would only take credit for any type of success in their life, and lack responsibility for the failures.

Prejudice and Discrimination also show how we construct our own social reality through cognitive processes. Prejudice is an attitude, while discrimination is a behavior. Causes of Prejudice include Dissimilarity and Social Distance, economic competition, scapegoating, conformity to social norms, and media stereotypes. In-group and out-group are concepts associated with social distance because people often identify with a group and they treat people of the out-group differently, often with discrimination. During the '50s and '60s, people believed that prejudice could be fixed with campaigns, and education about prejudice. The Civil Rights Movement created role models, such as Condoleezza Rice, who had careers in paths that few people of their race and gender had chosen. Such role models caused people who were already prejudiced to change their ways of thinking. Equal status contact helped decrease the amount of prejudice. Putting people in situations where everyone was equal helped the amount of understanding between the different cultures to increase.

Group dynamics are among the most interesting part of social psychology: social facilitation, social loafing, deindividuation, group polarization, and groupthink are all parts of group dynamics. Social facilitation is what happens when your individual performance improves because you are part of a group. Quite the opposite of social facilitation, social loafing is where your individual performance decreases because of the group dynamic. Social loafing often happens because individuals feel that their opinion is not valued, or because the group is too large. One negative part of group dynamics is that deindividuation can occur. What happens is that all of the people in the group lose their sense of personal responsibility, and the group assumes it as a whole. When the differences of an opinion in a group come to an extreme, and the group splits due to opinion, group polarization has occurred. Groupthink is the opposite of polarization. It is when all members of a group search for concurrence within the group; they always want to be unanimous and agree.

Besides groups, loving relationships are also a part of our social reality. There are many types of love like romantic love, infatuation, and complete love. Romantic love refers to the temporary emotional condition which fades after a while. Infatuation is very passionate but not as intimate or committed. The "complete love" relationship involves passion, intimacy, and commitment. These characteristics of a relationship (passion, intimacy, and commitment) are part of the triangular theory of love. Robert Sternberg proposed this theory and he believed sexual attraction (passion), trust and exposure of feelings (intimacy), and commitment are all parts of love; the amounts of each component vary with each type of relationship.

What are the roots of violence and terrorism?

Examining violence and terrorism requires consideration of many different perspectives. This includes issues outside of psychology like money, power, resources, and grudges. Violence and Aggression are two similar terms that can usually be used interchangeably in psychology. They indicate an intent purpose to harm others, whether or not the harm actually happens. They are both social occurrences. An example is Terrorism, when the use of violent, unpredictable acts by a small group against a larger group for political, economic, or religious goals is taken. Pressures of a situation can make ordinary people commit horrible acts. Agressive behavior can be caused from a situation the creates Prejudice, Conformity, frustration, threat, or wounded pride. In the Robbers Cave experiment, the two groups (The Eagles and the Rattlers) formed cohesiveness which is a loyalty and sense of group membership. What helped was cooperation which served mutual interests. However to counteract, the two groups displayed mutual interdependence to achieve a common goal. The Boy scouts were able to demonstrate cohesiveness by bonding together before the actual competitions began. An example of the mutual interdependence displayed involved the food truck breaking down and the boys having to work together to fix it.

Social Psych Practice Test