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Chapter 15 Social Psychology: 

“Hey, hey, hey! Are you folks nuts? I’m telling you, this is the car for you.” Chapter 15 Social Psychology

Social Influence: 

Social Influence Social influence refers to changes in our behaviour that occur as a result of direct or indirect intervention by others. Social influence can be used in very clever ways. Sales people often have to rely on creative (and not always very honest) techniques. Con artists persuade people to give them money by using techniques which involve “a tale”, modeling, reinforcement and trust (remember the con artist I met in Wildwood?)

The Low Ball Technique: 

The Low Ball Technique The salesperson quotes an unusually low price. You agree to buy it at that price. The salesperson then comes up with a reason to change the price, thus removing the reason you decided to buy. Option not included. Manager says we would be losing money. Calculation error. Trade in re-appraised lower. Do you still go through with the purchase? Evidence shows that you tend to.

Reliability Information: 

Reliability Information One more reason to get Consumer Reports.


And now apparently we have to listen to some sort of dissent. Conformity


Video on Conformity

Factors that Affect Conformity: 

Factors that Affect Conformity Size of majority: as the number of people in the majority increases, the more likely one is to conform. The relationship is not linear though. There is a point (4 or 5 people) where adding more people to the majority no longer increases the conformity rate.

Two Other Factors: 

Two Other Factors Unanimity: We are less likely to conform when there is another person who deviates from the majority (whether or not the deviant agrees with our opinion). Commitment: The more committed we are to our opinion, the less likely we are to conform.

Why do people conform?: 

Why do people conform? Outcome Dependence (the desire to be liked): People want to “fit in” and avoid the negative aspect of being rejected or ridiculed. Information Dependence (the desire to be right): People turn to others for guidance, especially when they are uncertain.


“Sit. Roll over. Play dead. Good dog!” Obedience


Obedience History offers many examples of atrocities: Systematic killing of millions by Nazis in WWII. U.S. soldiers massacre in My Lai during Vietnam War. Were these people different from us? Were they cold-blooded killers? Was their personality the cause of their behaviour? Social psychologists say that the situation often exerts strong pressures on the individual. Orders given by people in authority create such pressures. Let’s look at Milgram’s research on obedience to authority.


Video on Obedience


Milgram found a surprising level of obedience - much more than experts like psychiatrists had predicted before the study.

Autonomy vs. Agency: 

Autonomy vs. Agency Autonomy: when we operate in full knowledge that we are responsible for our actions. Our moral principles guide our behaviour. Agency: when we perceive ourselves as agents of someone else’s authority.


Bystander Apathy


Video on Bystander Apathy


Explanations Three factors that contribute to bystander apathy have been suggested: Diffusion of Responsibility Pluralistic Ignorance Cost

The Self: 

The Self Concept: The way we perceive ourselves and feel we are perceived by others. Our sense of self provides the glue that holds our past and present together and forms the basis of our future aspirations. Many aspects of our personality, such as our self-esteem, and sense of efficacy and control are based in our self-concept. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a sense of self if one had no memory? The Self


Video on K.C.

Does K.C. know his personality?: 

Does K.C. know his personality? There has been research to test if K.C. knows his personality, especially the way he has become since his accident. K.C. was given a list of personality traits and was asked to indicate how they applied to him. K.C.’s mother and others familiar with him were given these traits and were asked how they applied to him. Do you think that K.C. knows his personality? In fact, his self ratings agreed with the ratings by his mom and others.

Nonverbal Communication: 

Nonverbal Communication

Dyadic Conversations: 

Dyadic Conversations Dyadic conversations are conversations which involve two people. They normally have a structure that follows an A-B-A-B form. That is, each person takes a turn at speaking and then listening. Where are the speaker and the listener looking when taking their turns?


Gaze Direction During Conversation

Things People do When Communicating: 

Things People do When Communicating Emblems: nonverbal gestures that have specific definitions within a given culture such as the “OK” sign, head nods, shrugs, winks, and finger wags. Illustrators: nonverbal gestures which do not have any meaning, but are used to supplement and emphasize speech. Illustrators include hand waving and finger snapping while speaking. Backchannel Communication: While listening, people usually make comments like ‘yes’ and ‘right’ at appropriate moments in the conversation.

Affiliative Conflict Theory: 

Affiliative Conflict Theory According to Argyle, every dyadic interaction has an appropriate level of intimacy. Many behaviours influence the level of intimacy expressed in an interaction: distance between people topic of the conversation amount of smiling amount of eye contact

Intimacy Equilibrium: 

Intimacy Equilibrium People will adjust all the intimacy behaviours to attain the right level of intimacy for an interaction. For example, if the person you are talking to is pushed towards you in a crowded situation, the intimacy of the interaction increases. This may make you uncomfortable, so you may engage in a behaviour to decrease the intimacy (reduce eye contact or stop smiling). When equilibrium is disrupted, we feel discomfort and are motivated to reestablish it.

The Stare as a Threat Display: 

The Stare as a Threat Display Many animal species use staring as a form of threat. Does the same apply to humans? An experiment was conducted in which a confederate driving a scooter stared at another driver at a red light. Did the driver cross the intersection faster when the light turned green? Time to Cross Stared at: 5.3 sec. No Stare: 6.5 sec. BUT, what if staring was interpreted as a challenge to drag race?

Eliminating Alternative Explanations: 

Eliminating Alternative Explanations Experiment was replicated with experimenter standing on the sidewalk at the intersection. Time to Cross Stared at: 5.3 sec. No Stare: 6.5 sec. BUT, maybe driver wanted to show off to the pedestrian. So in another experiment pedestrians were stared at while waiting to cross the street at a “Don’t Walk” sign. Time to Cross Stared at: 11.1 sec. No Stare: 12.2 sec.


Video on Nonverbal Communication

Crowd Behaviour: 

Crowd Behaviour


Lynchings During the period between 1890-1930, over 4,000 people in the south of the United States were murdered by mob action without a lawful trial. Eighty percent of these cases involved Black Americans. What contributes to excesses of crowd behaviour?

Frustration Primes Aggression: 

Frustration Primes Aggression

Gustave LeBon on “The Crowd”: 

Gustave LeBon on “The Crowd” In 1895, a French physician by the name of Gustave LeBon wrote a book on crowd behaviour. He argued that, when in a crowd, people “descend several rungs of the ladder of civilization”. When individuals are isolated, they are rational and sensible. When they are part of a crowd, they become primitive. A number of factors contribute to crowd behaviour according to LeBon...

Contagion in the Crowd: 

Contagion in the Crowd Contagion: Opinions and behaviours can be transmitted like germs. A study by University of Toronto researchers was conducted a at the Ontario Science Centre. After the presentation of a film, a confederate started clapping. A greater percentage of people joined in and clapped when the theatre was densely packed than when few people were in the audience.

Deindividuation in the Crowd: 

Deindividuation in the Crowd Deindividuation: A state of mind where the individual does not feel identified as an individual. The individual becomes less concerned with social evaluation and accountability. Study on deindividuation at Halloween. Study on deindividuation and baiting a suicide. The darkness of night. The size of the crowd. Distance between the crowd and the suicidal person.

The Eight Symptoms of Groupthink: 

The Eight Symptoms of Groupthink Irving Janis looked at historical situations where groups made terrible decisions. He proposed the notion of Groupthink to account for what happens in cohesive (tight) groups. Illusion of invulnerability. Belief in the inherent morality of the group. Rationalization. Stereotypes of outsiders. Self-censorship. Direct pressure. Mind guarding. Illusion of unanimity.


Video on Groupthink



Some Definitions: 

Some Definitions Prejudice: a negative attitude towards a distinguishable group. Discrimination: a harmful negative behaviour toward members of a group. Stereotype: beliefs about members of a group.

Studying Stereotypes: 

Studying Stereotypes The first scientific study of stereotypes was conducted by Katz and Braly in 1933. They found the following stereotypes: Japanese: Intelligent, Hard Working, Progressive Chinese: Superstitious, Sly, Conservative Italians: Artistic, Impulsive, Passionate British: Sporstmanlike, Intelligent, Conventional Blacks: Superstitious, Lazy, Happy-Go-Lucky

Stereotype Accuracy : 

Stereotype Accuracy Are stereotypes accurate? Quick Answer: “yes” and “no” Yes: Research comparing stereotypes with known statistics about groups has shown stereotypes to be relatively accurate. No: There are many misconceptions about minorities. Immigrants are thought to be less educated than native Canadians, but this is false. Stats Can data shows that they are better educated (and in better health!)

Causes of Prejudice: 

Causes of Prejudice What causes negative attitudes towards groups? Answer: The causes of prejudice are varied Learning from prejudiced models. Competition for scarce resources (jobs, health care). Using vulnerable groups as scapegoats. Personality (Authoritarian Personality; Social Dominance). Conforming to social norms.

The Two Faces of Prejudice and Racism: 

The Two Faces of Prejudice and Racism Institutional Prejudice: Refers to discriminatory practices and policies in large institutions (e.g. legal system, universities). Individual Prejudice: Prejudiced feelings and discriminatory behaviours exhibited by an individual.

Institutional Prejudice Still Here?: 

Institutional Prejudice Still Here? I claim: Institutional prejudice is no longer a major problem in Canada (please show me wrong if you don’t agree). Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 15(1): Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

How About Homophobia?: 

How About Homophobia? Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not mentioned in the Charter. There was a lot of controversy about this when the Charter was drafted. One might interpret this omission as institutional discrimination. The courts have interpreted 15(1) to include sexual orientation. Still, as a society, Canada has more prejudicial hang ups about sexual orientation than about any other basis of institutional prejudice (e.g., legalizing gay marriages).


Video on LGBTQ Experience at UTSC

Contemporary Manifestations of Prejudice: 

Contemporary Manifestations of Prejudice All in all, Canada is not doing too badly in getting rid of institutional prejudice. Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has set clear standards for the unacceptability of institutional prejudice and discrimination and even homophobia is being fought on the basis of the charter. The issue is more complicated than that, however, because Section 15(1) is followed by section 15(2) ...

Section 15(2) of the Charter: 

Section 15(2) of the Charter Section 15 Subsection 2 states: “Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”       

Reverse Discrimination?: 

Reverse Discrimination? Reverse Discrimination is a term commonly used to refer to the discriminatory effects that the kinds of programs referred to in 15(2) have upon individuals from non “disadvantaged” groups. Thus, the term refers to discrimination against members of traditionally advantage groups at the hands of affirmative action and preferential policies. Let’s look at an example from a letter to the editor of a newspaper (presented in class) Is the author of the letter prejudiced?

Value Pluralism: 

Value Pluralism Many values are usually associated with policies. These values are often in conflict. Policy Values Affirmative Action Promotes equality for minorities Violates the merit principle Banning hate literature Promotes respect for minorities toward minorities Undermines freedom of expression Allowing Sikhs in the Respect for religious rights RCMP to wear turbans Undermines traditional Canadian symbols We choose to favour one value more than the other(s).


Video on the Veil in Public Schools in France

Value Pluralism and the Hijab: 

Value Pluralism and the Hijab The French government has argued that the law forbidding “ostentatious” (showy) religious symbols in public schools promotes: SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE Critics of the law argue that the law violates: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Is this a case of a conflict between two important values or a simple case of concealed prejudice in French society?

Implicit Attitudes: 

Implicit Attitudes We normally think of prejudice as an attitude that we are aware of but that we can mask. Given that we can mask our true negative feelings, it is very difficult to study prejudice by asking people to report explicitly how they feel about members of a group. One of the great advances in modern social psychology has come from the development of methods for measuring implicit attitudes. Implicit attitudes involve associations we have with entities and members of groups without being aware of the associations. Implicit associations can be measured without asking for an explicit report ...


Video on the Implicit Association Test


You can take the Implicit Association Test here: Try it out. Millions of people have!

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