Social Psychology


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How Nice People
Get Corrupted

"It's not easy being a minority of one."

"Good people sometimes do bad things." - Mr. Fred Rogers

Ψ  There are social pressures towards conformity & the extent to which there is compliance to these pressures vary according to external/situational factors.

Ψ  Asch’s conformity results (37% conformed) were startling because there was no
  •  rewards for “team play".
   •  punishment for individuality.
    •  obvious pressure to conform.

Ψ  In Milgram’s obedience experiment (1st condition), 65% of the participants provided full compliance.

•  Four factors determined obedience:
  •  Emotional distance of the victim
   •  Closeness & legitimacy of the authority
    •  Institutional authority
     •  The liberating effects of group influence

Ψ  Reflections on the classic studies: The Asch & Milgram experiments showed how compliance can take precedence over moral sense. The studies illustrated & affirmed some familiar social psychological principles: the link between behavior & attitudes, the power of the situation, & the strength of the fundamental attribution error.

Ψ  Behavior & Attitudes
   •  Attitudes fail to determine behavior when external influences override inner convictions. Torn between the pleas of the victim & the orders of the experimenter, between the desire to avoid doing harm & the desire to be a good subject, a surprising number of people chose to obey.
   •  In Greece, & in Nazi Germany the military selected candidates based on their respect for & submission to authority. Compliance bred acceptance.
   •  Too often, criticism produces contempt, which licenses cruelty, which, when justified, leads to brutality, then killing, then systematic killing. Evolving attitudes both follow & justify actions.
   •  First acts of compliance or resistance bred attitudes that influence behavior, which strengthen those very same attitudes. On the other hand, Initial helping heightens commitment, leading to more helping (good thing).

Ψ  The Power of the Situation
   •  Culture is a powerful shaper of lives. Immediate situational forces are just as powerful Considered together they reveal the strength of the social context.
   •  When fragmented, evil becomes easier.
   •  The drift toward evil usually comes in small increments, without any conscious intent to do evil. Procrastination involves a similar unintended drift, toward self-harm.

Ψ  The Fundamental Attribution Error
   •  FAE occurs when we make inappropriate dispositional errors. The underestimation of social forces (situations) to cause behavior continues. Keep your guard up, realize that if you pick the wrong situation or let yourself be drawn into one, the situation may dictate your behavior not the kind of person your are.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates