Social Psychology


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Social Psychology
- Introduction -

    Ψ  Social psychology is the scientific discipline that attempts to understand & explain how the thought, feeling, & behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.

    Ψ  Social psychology: a science that studies the influences of our situations, with special attention to how we view & affect one another.

    Ψ  Social psychology: A broad field whose goals are to understand & explain how our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, & behaviors are influenced by interactions with others. It includes the study of stereotypes, prejudices, attitudes, conformity, group behaviors, & aggression.

    Ψ Social psychology: The scientific study of how people think about, influence, & relate to one another.

new  Differences between Psychological & Sociological Psychology.

    Psychological Social Psychology
  Central focus is on the Individual.
  Researchers attempt to understand social behavior by analyzing immediate stimuli, psychological states, & personality traits.
  Prediction of behavior is the primary goal of research.
  Experimentation is the primary method of research followed by surveys.

    Sociological Social Psychology
  Central focus is on the group.
  Researchers attempt to understand social behavior by analyzing societal variables, such as social status, roles & norms.
  Description of behavior is the primary goal of research.
  Surveys & participant observation are the primary research methods.

    Ψ  Social Psychology is the scientific study of...

      •  Social Thinking. Its about
        •  how we perceive ourselves & others.
         •  what we believe.
          •  judgments we make.
           •  our attitudes.

      •  Social Influence. Its about
        •  culture.
         •  pressures to conform.
          •  persuasion.
           •  groups of people.

      •  Social Relations. Its about
        •  prejudice.
         •  aggression.
          •  attraction & intimacy.
           •  helping.

Overarching Theories of Social Psychology

    Ψ  We construct our social reality.
    Ψ  Our social intuitions are powerful & are shaped by behavior.
    Ψ  Attitudes shape behavior & are shaped by behavior.
    Ψ  Social influences shape behavior.
    Ψ  Dispositions shape behavior.
    Ψ  Social behavior is also biological behavior.
    Ψ  Feelings & actions toward people are sometimes negative & sometimes positive.
    Ψ  Social Psych's principles are applicable in everyday life.

Notes on the effects of Human Values

    Ψ  It would seem self evident that the values we hold influence our judgments. If what we think is based on incomplete, unverifiable or misinterpreted data our human bias will results in wrong conclusions. The fix obviously lies in the application of the scientist method.

Hindsight Bias

     Hindsight Bias - the tendency to exaggerate, after learning an outcome, one's ability to have foreseen how something turned out. a.k.a as the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon. Conductive to arrogance.

     As defined above it would seem that there is nothing good about hindsight bias. The article below counterbalances this negativity.

   New  Article:

     "Hindsight Bias - NOT just a convenient memory enhancer but an important part of an efficient memory system.

     It is said that hindsight is 20-20. According to new research, hindsight bias -- the way our impression of how we acted or would have acted changes when we learn the outcome of an event -- is actually a by-product of a cognitive mechanism that allows us to unclutter our minds by discarding inaccurate information and embracing that which is correct.

     Researchers in the Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) research group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, have developed a model of hindsight bias called Reconstruction After Feedback with Take the Best (RAFT). Drs. Ulrich Hoffrage, Ralph Hertwig and Gerd Gigerenzer, authors of the RAFT model, published their research in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, published by the American Psychological Association.

     Hindsight bias can occur when people make a judgment or choice and are later asked to recall their judgment. If, in the interim, they're told what the correct judgment would have been, their memory of their own judgment may become biased toward the new information. For instance, suppose a person was asked to estimate how many votes John McCain would get in the Michigan primaries. If before the election, he estimated 30%, and then learned that the actual figure was 50%, he may later recall that his answer was 40%.

     The basic idea of the RAFT model is that any feedback or correct information a person receives after he has given his initial judgment automatically updates the knowledge base underlying the initial judgment. If a person cannot remember this initial judgment, he will reconstruct it from what he currently knows about the situation. And what he currently knows is the updated version of what he used to know. So while feedback does not directly affect a person's memory for the original response, it indirectly affects the memory by updating the knowledge used to reconstruct the response. Rather than thinking of hindsight bias as a flaw of human cognition, as previous research suggests, Hoffrage, et al. argue that it's a by-product of an adaptive mechanism - one that makes human memory more efficient.

     To test their RAFT model, the researchers set up experiments in which, for instance, 80 student volunteers at the University of Chicago were provided with nutrition information about certain foods such as fat content, number of calories and protein content. Then participants were shown a list of the same foods split into pairs and the researchers asked them to decide which item in the pair had the higher cholesterol content. They were also asked how much confidence they had in their choice. Either a day or a week later they returned to the laboratory and were asked to recall the decisions they made about the food-item pairs and how confident they were in their decisions. Some participants were simply asked to recall their earlier decision. Others first got to see the actual cholesterol content of each food item and were then asked to recall their earlier answers.

     Consistent with the model, the researchers found that knowledge of nutrition values was updated such that it was more consistent with the feedback (i.e., the actual cholesterol content), whereas this knowledge remained unchanged when no feedback was given. Based upon these results, the RAFT model was able to make precise predictions about when hindsight bias occurs. In fact, the researchers found that the model's predictions were accurate up to 80 percent of the time. Furthermore, when the researchers reminded participants of the cues they originally used to make their decisions, the incidence of hindsight bias dropped.

     "RAFT is the first process model that is able to predict for an individual item of an individual participant whether hindsight bias will occur, disappear or even reverse," states lead author Hoffrage. "It is a cheap price we have to pay for a much larger gain: a well functioning memory that is able to forget what we do not need, such as outdated knowledge, and constantly updates our knowledge by increasing the accuracy of our inferences."

     Article: "Hindsight Bias: A By-Product of Knowledge Updating?," Ulrich Hoffrage, Ph.D. , Ralph Hertwig, Ph.D., and Gerd Gigerenzer, Ph.D., Max Planck Institute for Human Development; Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, Vol. 26, No. 3

APA News Release, May 14, 2000, Contact: APA Public Affairs Office (202) 336-5700. Retrieved March 23, 2006 from APA online site:

    Ψ  Common sense is usually right - after the fact (in hindsight).

Research Methods

Notes on Theories

    Ψ  A theory is an integrated set of principles that explain & predict observed events. Theories are a scientific shorthand.

    Ψ  Theories are ideas that summarize & explain facts.

    Ψ  Theories not only summarize, the also imply testable predictions called hypotheses (guesses as to cause).

    Ψ  A good theory:

      1.  effectively summarizes a wide range of observations.

      2.  makes clear predications that:

            a.  confirm & modify the theory.
             b.  generate new exploration.
              c.  suggest practical applications.


    Ψ  A correlation is an association / relationship between the occurrence of two or more events, a correlation coefficient is a signed number signifying the strength & direction of that relationship.

       Perfect positive correlation coefficient (+1.00) (always)
        Positive correlation coefficient (+0.01 to +0.99) (sometimes happens)
         Zero correlation (0.00) (events happen at random)
        Negative correlation coefficient (-0.01 to -0.99) (sometimes)
       Perfect negative correlation coefficient (-1.00) (Never)

    Ψ  Correlations are positive if  the occurrence of the events in each domain increase together.

    Ψ  Correlations are negative if  the occurrence of the events in one domain increases as the occurrence of events in the other domain decreases.

    new  Correlation is not causation! it is a clue that can be used to predict.


      •  Four potentially biasing influences in Surveys
        •  Unrepresentative samples
         •  Order of questions
          •  Response options
           •  Wording of the questions


    Ψ  An experiment is a method for identifying cause & effect relationships by following a set of rules & guidelines that minimize the possibility of error, bias & chance occurrences.

     Disadvantage: Information obtained in one experimental situation or laboratory situation may not apply in other situations.

     Advantage: Identifies cause & effect.

    Ψ  Random selection is how you draw the sample of people for your study from a population. Random assignment is how you assign the sample that you draw to different groups (control or experimental) in your study.

    Ψ  We randomly assign in order to help assure that our groups are similar to each other (i.e., equivalent) prior to changing the independent variable.

    Ψ  Conducting an experiment: seven rules:

        - Rule 1: ask (hypothesis)
        - Rule 2: identify variables
               - Independent variable (treatment)
               - Dependent variable (resulting behavior)
        - Rule 3: choose subjects (random selection)
        - Rule 4: assign subjects randomly
               - Experimental group
               - Control group
        - Rule 5: manipulate independent variable
               - administer treatment
               - Use double-blind procedure
        - Rule 6: measure resulting behavior (dependent variable)
        - Rule 7: analyze data

General Ethical Precautions

      •  Do no harm!
       •  Secure informed consent.
        •  Explain the procedures before hand. Use deception only if essential
           & justified by a significant purpose.
          •  Keep confidential all personal information.
           •  Fully explain the experiment afterward, including any deception.

    Precautions about Findings

          •  Report Honestly
           •  Limit Misinterpretation


    Ψ  Mundane realism can be defined as a superficial similarity to real life. It is not important in an experiment.

    Ψ Experimental realism is important, an experiment should absorb & involve the participants.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

    Ψ  Generalization from laboratory to life: Does not always happen. Be cautious!

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night ;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!