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 To become aware of the meaning and scope of Social Psychology.
 To understand the individual processes in Social Behaviour.
 To gain insight into the dynamics of Group Behaviour.
 To gain knowledge regarding the application of Social Psychology.
1. Introduction
Social Psychology – A Working Definition – The Origins and Development of
Social Psychology.
2. Social Perception
Introduction – Non-Verbal Communication – Attribution – Impression Formation
and Impression Management.
3. Social Cognition
Introduction – Schemas and Prototypes – Heuristics – Potential Sources of Error
in Social Cognition – Affect and Cognition.
4. Attitudes
Introduction – Formation of Attitudes. Attitude and Behaviour – Changing
Attitude – Resistance to Attitude change – Cognitive Dissonance.
5. Social Identity
Introduction – The Self: Self-focusing – Self-Monitoring – Self-Efficacy – Gender
6. Prejudice and Discrimination
Introduction – Origins of Prejudice – Combating Prejudice – Prejudice based on
Gender: Nature and Effects.
7. Interpersonal Attraction
Introduction – Meeting Strangers – Proximity and Emotions – Becoming
Acquainted – Similarity and Reciprocal Positive Evaluations.
8. Close Relationships
Introduction – Initial Interdependent Relationships – Romantic Relationships,
Love and Physical Intimacy – Marital Relationships.

9. Social Influence
Introduction – Conformity – Compliance – Obedience.
10. Pro-Social Behaviour
Introduction – Responding to an Emergency: Bystander effect – Additional
Factors of Pro-social behaviour Additional theoretical explanations.
11. Aggression
Introduction – Theoretical Perspectives – Social Determination – Personal
Causes of Aggression – Child Abuse and workplace violence – Prevention and Control
of Aggression.
12. Groups and Individuals
Groups: Their nature and function. Groups and Task performance - Perceived
fairness in Groups - Decision making by Groups - Leadership.
13. Application of Social Psychology
Introduction – Legal System – Business – Health Psychology – Environmental
Text Books
1. Baron, R.A. and Byrne, D. Social Psychology (8th Ed). New Delhi: Prentice
Hall of India Pvt. Ltd., 1988.
Reference Books
1. Hamachek, A.E., Encounters with others. San Diego: Harcourt Brace,
Jovanovich College Publishers, 1982.
2. Lewis, Hedwig. Body Language. New Delhi: Response Books, 1998.
3. Eagly, A.H. & Chaiken, S. The Psychology of Attitudes. Fortworth: HBJ
College Publishers, 1993.
4. Mellers, B.A. & Baron, J. Psychological Perspectives on Justice. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993.




After reading this lesson, you should be able to;
 Examine the need for scientific approach in understanding social behaviour
 Describe the areas about which social psychologists are interested
 Give an operational definition of social psychology
 Describe the causes of social behaviour
 Discuss the growth of Social Psychology as an independent discipline.
Social Psychology: A working Definition- The Origins and Development of Social
Social Psychology is a branch of Psychology like that of many other fields of
Psychology Viz. Educational Psychology; Lifespan Psychology (Developmental
Psychology); Psychopathology (Abnormal Psychology) Counselling Psychology,
Community Psychology and so on. The field of Social Psychology seeks to
understand how we think about others and likewise how we interact with others. In
any field of study, to provide a formal definition is rather difficult. And this is much
more so with Social Psychology. The difficulty here is compounded by two factors
(1) the wide diversity of the field and (2) its rapid changes. Inspite of this, Social
Psychologists in general tend to focus upon the following central tasks:
Understanding how and why individuals behave, think and feel as they do in varied
situations and while interacting with other persons.
Reflecting this fact, R.A. Baron and D. Byrne (1998) have defined social
Psychology as given below:
Social Psychology is the Scientific field that seeks to Understand the Nature and
Causes of Individual Behaviour and Thought in Social Situations
Social Psychology is scientific in nature. To decide whether a given field of study
is scientific or not, the crucial question is how far it makes use of scientific
procedures is quite essential. Any scientific approach in general, will gather
information in a systematic way. In a scientific study, all assertions about the
natural world have to be tested and retested once again and open to public
inspection before they are accepted.
In the field of Social Psychology all kinds of data are gathered systematically
and all hypotheses (tentative propositions) are carefully tested and then accepted.

So, to the question whether Social Psychology is scientific or not, our answer is a
definite YES. On the contrary, in nonscientific fields, all kinds of hypotheses and
assertions or statements are accepted at face value, without any systematic testing.
Social Psychologists tend to employ scientific methods to gather new information
about how we interact with others and how we think about other persons.
Social Psychologists, having been committed to scientific approach, have
operated within the scientific framework. Through systematic research, they have
discovered many useful and interesting information about human behaviour. In this
context, we have to learn that the methods of scientific Psychology tend to
provide answers to age-old questions about the social side of human life in a better
way than the common sense technique of knowing the same. For example, let us
consider the following pair of well-known sayings: “Absence makes the heart grow
fonder” versus “Out of sight, out of mind”; generally separation between two known
persons may lead to affection (Positive effect) but the same separation can also
produce the opposite effect (Negative effect). How can both of these statements be
correct? Unlike the scientific method, common sense approach cannot provide any
right clue. In short, common sense approach is known for its glaring inconsistency
and providing confusing picture about human relations. This can be illustrated by
the following statements: “Birds of the same feather flock together” (Similarly,
“Individuals of similar interest join together”). In contrast, “Opposites tend to
attract”. So far as human social behaviour is concerned, common sense often puts
us to confront with dilemmas. To understand complex social behaviour, there is a
special need for the scientific approach. This is especially because common sense
(also called Informal knowledge) known as the wisdom of the ages cannot be a
perfect guide to human social behaviour at all times.
Social Psychology being a scientific study of the Individual in society, focuses
upon the behaviour of individuals. Social Psychologists have noted the fact that
individuals all over the globe do not grow in isolation. In other words, they are not
free from socio cultural influences. In fact, individuals are not born into a vacuum
and there is always a social setting behind like rural or urban background; coastal
or hilly region; more civilized or less civilized ambience or surroundings and so on.
The major interest of Social Psychology lies in understanding the factors that
shape the actions (behaviour) and thoughts of Individual human beings, within that
social setting. So, the field of Social Psychology is sharply different from the closely
related field of Sociology. Many of the same topics are studied by both Social
Psychology and Sociology. But the main focus of Sociology is on groups or whole
societies and not upon individuals (who compose the group). For example, a topic
like human aggression is studied by both Social Psychologists and Sociologists in a
different pattern, using the scientific techniques. Social Psychologists focus on
factors, which may cause specific individuals to engage in acts of aggression (either
having been frustrated by another person or having been enveloped by a rotten
mood and so on). On the contrary, Sociologists tend to focus upon the societal

(socio-cultural and environmental factors) causes of aggression like poor economic

conditions; weather conditions; interpersonal spatial factors of crowding etc.
In this context, we should learn that Social Psychology is focusing on
individual behaviour in a social situation while Sociology is concerned about group
behaviour whereas Anthropology deals with the cultural aspects of the society. To
conclude, all the behavioural sciences like Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and
so on are very much interconnected with each other.
Social Psychologists are mainly concerned about understanding the variety of
conditions that shape the social behaviour and thought of individuals with regard to
other persons. In otherwords their beliefs, feelings, memories, inferences and actions
play a vital role towards other persons. There are several factors that influence social
interaction and FIVE major categories are given below.
1. The Actions and characteristics of others: This factor refers to what
others say and do, tend to affect our behaviour and thought. For instance, when we
are standing in a queue outside a movie theatre, suddenly some other person walks
up and cuts across the line, in front of us to fulfil his need.And in such a situation,
often we will be strongly affected by the actions of other persons. In another
instance, we may usually feel uneasy in the midst of a person with a physical
disability. Similarly we prefer to interact more positively towards highly attractive
persons than with less attractive persons. Hence, we are often strongly influenced by
the visible characteristics and physical appearance of others.
2. Cognitive Processes: Our behaviour towards others is influenced by our
own thoughts, beliefs, attitude, memories, ideas and judgements about others. We
tend to react differently to a friend coming late habitually as opposed to another
friend coming late for an appointment for the first time. Instances like this call
attention to the important role of cognitive processes like memory, inference,
judgement and so on (Wyer & Srull 1994).
3. Ecological Variables: Impact of the Physical Environment: Direct and
indirect influences of the physical environment may occur due to temperature (heat
or cold), crowding, pollution, noise and weather conditions. All these tend to have an
impact on our social behaviour. Generally, we feel irritable and may find it harder to
get along with, especially during very hot weather compared to a cool and pleasant
climate (Anderson, Densor and DeNeve, 1995).

4. Cultural Context: Cultural norms are social rules regarding how people
should behave in specific situations. Whom people should marry? How many
children should they have? Is it proper to offer gifts to public officials to obtain
favour from them? Sampling of a few such aspects of social behaviour, tend to point
out the extent of influence shown by cultural factors. According to Smith & Bond,
(1993) the term culture refers to an organized system of shared meanings,
perceptions, societal beliefs and values held by persons belonging to some group. In
fact, our membership in several kinds of groups and change of values or cultural

standards from society to society can affect many aspects of our social behaviour,
right from political attitudes to our choice of a marriage partner.
5. Biological Factors: According to modern Social Psychologists, unlike that of
the past, social behaviour is influenced by biological processes and by genetic
factors. In 1990, Buss and Nisbett have noted, that our preferences, behaviours,
emotional reactions, and even attitudes and values are being influenced to some
extent by our biological inheritance. The role of genetic factors affecting social
behaviour in a significant way, has been stated in the field of Sociobiology.
Sociobiology is a branch of Biology which emphasizes that many forms of
behaviour can be understood within the context of efforts taken by organisms to
pass on their genes to the next generation. In fact, this branch of biology suggests
that many aspects of social behaviour are the result of evolutionary process, in
which patterns of behaviour that contribute to reproduction (our genetic material is
passed on to the next generation - to as many offspring as possible) are strengthened
and spread throughout a population – (Barkow 1989; Wilson 1975). Many animals
that live together in herds or groups tend to issue loud warning cries when they spot
out a nearby predator (animals preying upon others and exploiting others) are
explained by socio-biologists. This act of warning cries and by giving signals, tend to
increase the chances of survival of their relatives. They tend to raise the chances of
genes that they share with them, being passed on to the next generation.
Many Social Psychologists accept the view that biological and genetic factors
can play some role in social behaviour. However, they seriously question many of the
basic assumptions of Sociology (Brewer & Caporael 1990; Cantor 1990) including
the vital idea that our main purpose in life is that of passing our genes to succeeding
generations. In fact every aspect of social behaviour, that Social Psychologists
assume, is open to potential change. For example, millions of people have an
inherited tendency toward vision problems. And this limitation is readily overcome
by the use of glasses or by contact lenses.
It is to be noted that objections to the basic assumptions of Sociobiology have
led Social Psychologists – aspiring to study the role of biological and genetic factors
in social behaviour – to offer another name to that field: Evolutionary Social
Psychology. (Buss, 1990). In this new area, researchers have already gathered
intriguing evidence, pointing towards the potential role of genetic or evolutionary
factors in human behaviour. For example, recent research on mate preference –
characteristics of individuals while seeking potential romantic partners– reveals that
Males tend to place greater emphasis on youth and physical attractiveness whereas
Females tend to emphasize characteristics like dominance and status (Kenrick et.
al., 1994).
This difference is consistent with an evolutionary perspective. Females invest
greater resources while bearing children (in the prenatal period and child birth) than
do males while fathering them. It makes sense for females to seek mates (life
partners) who are high in status or dominance and thereby able to provide the

resources required for child rearing. In contrast, males tend to seek mates who are
young and healthy and so capable of bearing many children. Although these
differences are consistent with an evolutionary perspective, they do not prove its
accuracy in any way. However, many Social Psychologists believe that an
evolutionary perspective is an informative one.
Let us now make a complete survey of the historical roots of Social Psychology.
Then we shall focus on the emergence of Social Psychology as an independent field,
its growth in recent decades and its current trends. To the question, when exactly
did Social Psychology begin? G.W. Allport (1985) has remarked “This question is
difficult to answer, for speculation about social behaviour stretches back to ancient
The Early Years: How Social Psychology Emerges: Very few fields of science
have made a mark of their beginnings with formal ribbon cutting ceremonies. In the
case of Social Psychology it is rather difficult to mention a specific date about its
arrival in the world market. However the years between 1908 and 1924 seem to
qualify as the period during which Social Psychology first attained status as an
independent discipline.
The first book on Social Psychology was published in 1908 by William
McDougall. Social behaviour according to McDougall emerges from a small number
of innate tendencies or instincts. The concept of instincts as the cause of social
behaviour has become an outdated phenomenon in the modern era.
The contribution of F.H. Allport in 1924 through his second volume on Social
Psychology published comes very much closer in orientation to the present day
Social Psychology. Social behaviour according to F.H. Allport is influenced by several
factors like the presence of other persons and their particular actions.
Two decades subsequent to the publication of Allport’s text were marked by
rapid growth. In the history of Social Psychology special mention is to be made about
Muzafer Sherif and Kurt Lewin. Sherif began the study of Social norms in 1935.
Social norms are rules informing individuals as to how they should behave. In fact,
this contributed to basic insights to our understanding of group pressures toward
conformity. For instance as the saying goes in the parlance of Social Psychology:
‘When you are in Rome, do as Romans do’. Subsequently Kurt Lewin and his

colleagues began their systematic study of leadership and related group processes
in 1939. Thus Social Psychology became an active growing field.
Social Psychology’s Youth: The 1940s, 1950s and 1960s: After an impasse
caused by World War II (1939 – 1945), Social Psychology continued its growth
during the 1940s and 1950s. During this period, scope of this field expanded in
several directions. In fact, it focused upon the influence of groups and of group
membership on Individual behaviour. Next, it analyzed the link between various
personality traits and social behaviour. A major event of this period was the
development of the theory of Cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957). Here

individuals get into an unpleasant state when they come to know about
inconsistencies between their attitudes and behaviour.
Human beings dislike inconsistency in general and as such they will try to
reduce it. According to this theory, people try to eliminate inconsistency between
different attitudes that they hold or between their attitudes and their behaviour. And
as such they tend to produce disturbed state of mind and consequently there will be
an urge to eliminate that state of dissonance or imbalance and finally try to attain
consonance (balance and harmony to have peace of mind).
During this turbulent decade of 1960’s the number of Social Psychologists in
the United States of America increased more rapidly than at any other time. In fact,
the field expanded its scope to accommodate every imaginable aspect of social
interaction. Many lines of research began and enabled Social Psychologists to
explore into several new areas during the 1960’s. For instance, major focus was
given to the following:
Social Perception: How do we form first impressions about others?
Interpersonal attraction and love: Why do persons like some people and
dislike others?
Several aspects of social influence like obedience, conformity and compliance have been
A Maturing Field: in the 1970s, 1980s & 1990s: During the 1970s an
important study was made on Attribution. It is the process by which we try to
understand and infer the causes behind others behaviour. In other words, why do
others act or behave, as they do? Gender differences and sex discrimination: Are
there any differences in the behaviour of men and women? How are sex roles and
stereotypes about both genders acquired (learned)? In many societies and
communities, what are the forces that work against giving full equality to females?
Environmental Psychology, an offshoot of Social Psychology, in the early 1970’s
deals with the influence of physical environmental factors – noise, heat, crowding,
air quality, water pollution and so on – upon social behaviour. Further, this branch
of Environmental Psychology deals with the effects of human behaviour on the
Environment and vice versa.
During the 1980’s two big trends took shape and both had their impact on
Social Psychology. Since they are of great importance we shall consider them
1. Growing Influence of the Cognitive Perspective: Social Psychologists have
already recognized the importance of cognitive factors like attitudes, beliefs, values
and inferences, since they play a vital role in social behaviour. The cognitive
approach takes steps to apply basic knowledge about cognitive processes like
memory and reasoning towards understanding many kinds of social thought and
behaviour. In this context, Social Psychologists have sought to determine whether
several forms of prejudice tend to stem from the basic cognitive processes – like the
tendency to remember only that information consistent with stereotypes of various

groups; or tendencies to process information about one’s own social group as

opposed to information about other social groups (Forgas & Feedler 1996; Wegener
& Petty 1995). The findings of research conducted within this cognitive perspective
have been impressive and fruitful towards our understanding many aspects of social
2. Growing Emphasis on Application: Exporting Social Knowledge: Many
Social Psychologists have turned their attention in 1980s to questions about
personal health – as to what factors would help people to resist the harmful effects of
stress; about the legal process – how about the validity of eye witness testimony;
about the social behaviour in work settings. They have also shown an increasing
interest in applying their special skills and knowledge to a wide gamut of practical
problems. And as such, their contributions to fields like law, health care and
business are worth mentioning. This kind of application of social knowledge to other
fields and to society as a whole is a healthy development. Let us look forward to
many practical benefits in the future.
Where do we go from here? The year 2000………. and Beyond.
The two major trends described earlier, namely the growing influence of a
cognitive perspective and increasing interest in the application of social knowledge,
will continue. It is reasonable to expect that Social Psychologists in the years ahead
will continue to expand their efforts to apply the findings of their field to practical
In the late 20th century, cultural diversity has become a fact of life. For
instance, in the United States of America and likewise in many other countries,
cultural diversity has increased rapidly. A high proportion of research in Social
Psychology has been conducted in the United States and Canada. Are the findings of
North American research applicable to people all around the world? According to
Smith and Bond (1993) this is an open question. Many Social Psychologists have
assumed that their research findings are generalizable across cultures. Further, they
tend to assume that the social processes they study are same among human beings
everywhere. This may seem to be a very reasonable view, at first glance. If this is
true, why should people of different continents display their love and attraction,
conformity, persuasion, prejudice and discrimination to operate in a different
manner? So, a careful study of these would reveal that even these basic processes
may be strongly affected by cultural factors (Smith & Bond, 1993). To assume that
basic aspects of social behaviour are much the same all – over – the – world, is not
To sum up, in recent years Social Psychologists have moved towards a
multicultural perspective. Accordingly, we could notice an increased recognition
and importance being given to cultural factors and human diversity. Finally, all
these changes in Social Psychology, with an impressive potential, tend to contribute
to human knowledge and human welfare.

Social Psychology as a behavioural science seeks to explain individual
behaviour within a social context. It may be defined as the scientific field that seeks
to understand the nature and causes of individual behaviour and thought in social
situations. It uses scientific methods in order to get new information about how we
interact with and think about other persons. Further, it has identified the factors
that influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviour in social situations.
A science-oriented field of Social Psychology emerged only during the early 20 th
century. The first book on Social Psychology was published by William McDougall
followed by F.H. Allport. Similarly Sherif’s study on social norms and Lewin’s study
on leadership and group processes were significant contributions to be recorded.
Theory of cognitive dissonance by Festinger is another landmark in Social
Two recent trends in the field of Social Psychology have encompassed the
growing influence of a cognitive perspective – taking steps to apply knowledge
about cognitive processes to the task of understanding social behaviour-and an
increasing emphasis on applying the principles and findings of Social Psychology to
several practical problems. Further, Social Psychology of late, has moved towards a
multicultural perspective. As a result, there is an increased recognition and
importance given to cultural factors and human diversity.
Social Psychology – Sociobiology – Evolutionary Social Psychology – Cognitive
1. Examine the need for scientific approach in understanding social behaviour.
2. Discuss the issues in which Social Psychologists are interested.
3. Analyze the working definition of Social Psychology.
4. Describe the evolution of Social Psychology in detail.




After reading this lesson, you should be able to

 Understand the basic channels of non-verbal communication

 Learn the significance of non-verbal cues and social interaction.
 Examine the concept of attribution
 Explain the major sources of bias in attribution
 Understand Impression formation and Impression management
Introduction – Non-verbal communication: The Unspoken Language – Attribution:
Understanding the causes of others’ Behaviour – Impression Formation and
Impression Management.
According to Social Psychologists, Social Perception is a process of knowing
and understanding other persons around us. It is an important part of our daily life.
As we try to understand others, we try to know their feelings, moods and emotions.
Further, we try to know and understand their main motives, intentions and traits.
Social perception being an important aspect of our social life, may take its route in
many different forms. However, among these, two seem to be most important.
First we collect information about others behaviour by focusing on the non-
verbal cues (clues) like the following (a) Facial Expressions (b) Eye contact (c) Body
Posture and Movements and (d) Touching. These non-verbal cues without using any
kind of language can clearly exhibit or show others moods or feelings, even if they
try to hide them. However, people in general, try to control and suppress their non-
verbal cues for the purpose of creating favourable impressions on others. This kind
of impression management plays a vital role in many kinds of interviews and other
forms of social interaction.

Next, we try to understand the more lasting or enduring causes behind others’
behaviour. In fact we try to know why others have acted in certain ways. This kind of
efforts to understand their motives, intentions and traits and gathering information
in relation to this 2nd task – acquired through attribution. According to Kelley
(1972), Attribution is a complex process in which we observe others’ behaviour and
then try to infer the causes behind it, through this basic information.
As a matter of fact, non-verbal communication and attribution are important
aspects of social perception. In this task, non-verbal cues provide information on

the temporary causes of others behavior while the more enduring causes of others
behaviour is gained through the complex process of attribution. Since both provide
different kinds of information about others, both have been analyzed separately in
this lesson. However, we should also learn that both may tend to work
simultaneously in actual social behaviour settings. Further, such perception often
involves our efforts to form unified impressions about other persons. As common
sense suggests, such first impressions are very important. And research findings
tend to confirm this belief. The role of impression formation and impression
management in our everyday social life situations will be examined in this lesson.
Human behaviour is strongly affected by temporary factors or causes such as
changing moods (mood swings); shifting emotions, fatigue, illness and certain drugs.
No doubt all these can influence the ways in which we think and behave. For
example, many of us are more willing to do favours for others while we are in a good
mood than in a bad mood. (Baron & Bronfen, 1994; George, 1991). Likewise, most
people tend to lose their tempers and shout at others, when feeling irritable than
while feeling pleasant (Anderson, Anderson, & Deuser, Bell 1992). So, we try to find
out how others are feeling right now. How do we get to know this?
In a straight forward way sometimes, we ask people directly. But this strategy
will not work out successful always. This is because more often people are not
willing to display their inner feelings to others. In other words, they would prefer to
conceal or suppress such information (DePaulo, 1992) For example, salespersons in
general,tend to reveal or show more liking and friendliness toward potential
customers than they really do feel.
Since we encounter difficulties of these kind, in situations like these and we
often resort to another less direct method of getting information about others’
reactions. The less direct method is concerned with paying careful attention to their
non-verbal behaviours – like changes in facial expressions, eye contact, body posture
and movements and other expressive actions.
As a matter of fact, as observed by De Paulo (1992) non-verbal behaviours are
relatively irrepressible – difficult to control. So, even when others make an attempt
to conceal their inner feelings from others, these often “leak out” in many ways

through nonverbal cues. It is important to note that non-verbal behaviours
constitute a silent but eloquent language. And the message that they convey is
called non-verbal communication. We shall now examine the different basic
channels through which non-verbal communication takes place. In this context, we
should also learn that there are individual differences among people, while
exhibiting their inner feelings and their emotional expressiveness through such non-
verbal cues (King, Smith, & Neale, 1994).
Non-Verbal Communication: The Basic Channels: We have learnt earlier that
non-verbal communication transmits information without using language. We shall

now focus on two vital issues: namely the basic channels of nonverbal
communication and next about its role in the social interaction process.
Decades of research have identified (a) facial expressions (b) eye-contact
(c) body movements and posture (d) touching as the basic channels of nonverbal
communication and without using any kind of language.
a) Unmasking the Face: Facial Expressions as clues to others Emotions:
Generally feelings and emotions of people are revealed and reflected on the face.
More than 2000 years ago, the Roman orator Cicero stated that “the face is the
image of the soul.” This view is accepted by modern research. In fact, it appears that
six different basic emotions – like anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise and
disgust – are revealed on the human face (Izard 1991; Rogin, Lowery & Ebert 1994)
Basic facial expressions such as these provide valuable information about others
emotional states.
Further, several emotions mentioned earlier occur in varied combinations
according to different situations. For instance, one can show anger along with fear,
surprise with happiness, disgust with anger and so on. More than this, emotions
displayed may vary greatly in intensity. Research findings generally suggest that
facial expressions are universal, but not all Social Psychologists accept this
conclusion (Russell, 1994). In other words, people living in widely separated
geographic areas do seem to exhibit similar facial expressions, especially when
emotion – provoking situations are similar. And all these can be readily and
accurately recognized by persons from outside their own cultural group (Ekman
1989). A series of cross-cultural studies conducted by Ekman and Friesen (1975)
have given the most convincing evidence for such conclusion. Further, the language
of the face, unlike that of the spoken words, seldom requires anybody to do the job
of interpretation; In short, facial expressions do not require the help of an interpreter
at all.
b) Gazes and Stares: Eye contact as a Non-verbal Cue: In many social
interactions the eye contact is an important form of non-verbal communication. Eyes
are said to be the windows of the soul. We do often learn about others feelings from
their eyes. For instance, we interpret a high level of gazing from another as a sign of
liking or friendliness (Kleinke, 1986). On the contrary, when others avoid eye contact
with us, we tend to conclude that they are unfriendly, do not like us or they may be
simply shy (Zimbardo. 1977).
Suppose a person gazes (looking) at us continuously, regardless of what we do,
then he or she can be said to be staring. Generally, a stare is interpreted as a sign of
anger or hostility. As a result, many people try to minimize their exposure to this
particular non-verbal cue (Ellsworth & Carlsmith, 1973). Further we may try to
quickly terminate social interaction with someone, who stares at us and as such at
one stage may even leave that spot (Greenbaum & Rosenfield, 1978). So, it is clear
that staring, as one form of non-verbal behaviour, has to be used with sufficient

caution in most situations. Further, staring as an unpleasant experience makes one

feel nervous or tense.
Avoiding eye contact is usually an indication that the person is not interested in
the interaction. Generally any one conveying sad news, may avoid an eye contact.
Sometimes lack of an eye contact may mean that the person is shy or frightened.
Individuals when they are embarrassed, do not like to be the focus of direct gaze. In
general, those who would manifest assertive behaviour may tend to maintain eye-
contact in their social interaction.
c) Body Language: Gestures, Posture, and Movements: Our current moods or
emotions are often reflected in the position, posture and movement of our bodies. All
these nonverbal behaviours together as such are called body language. Non- verbal
behaviours as body language can provide us with useful information about others
especially their emotional states. Many movements of the body, like one part of the
body doing something to another part by touching, rubbing, scratching and so on
point out emotional arousal. According to Harrigan et. al (1991), the greater the
frequency of such behaviour, the higher the level of arousal or nervousness. Larger
patterns of body movements that involve the whole body can also be informative. For
instance, phrases like “she adopted a threatening posture” and “he greeted her with
open arms” suggest us that different body postures can point out contrasting
emotional reactions. Research studies by Aronoff, Woike, and Hyman (1992) have
confirmed this possibility.
Gestures provide more specific information about others feelings. Human
societies seem to have some unique gestures for greetings, departures, insults and
for describing several physical states like hunger, thirst and fatigue. Several kinds of
gestures are there in the social interaction. For example, an open palm is an
invitation; crossed legs are defensive; index finger placed upon the lips would
demand “maintain pin drop silence” whereas the same index finger placed upon
one’s own nose would reveal awe, wonder, surprise and so on.
D) Touching: The Most Intimate Non-Verbal Cue: Touching as a form of non
verbal cue depends upon several factors related to who does the touching – (whether
a friend or a stranger; male or female); then the nature of this physical contact -
whether for a brief period or prolonged duration; gentle or rough touching; then
which part of the body is touched; and then the context in which it takes place –
whether in business spot or social setting, a doctor’s office and so on. Based upon
such factors, touching can suggest affection, sexual interest, dominance, caring or
even aggression – In spite of such complexities involved in the behaviour of touching,
existing evidence shows that when touching is considered acceptable, often the
outcome is positive reactions. (Alagua, Whitcher & Fisher, 1979; Smith, Gier & Willis
1982). However, touching does not bring about positive effects always; sometimes, it
may evoke fear, anxiety, or other negative reactions. So touching has to be used
sparingly, with certain amount of control.

Role of Non-Verbal Cues in the Social Interaction

Especially when meeting people for the first time, everyone wants to create a
good impression on others for almost all the time. In this context, they resort to
certain tactics of self-presentation or impression management. They pretend to
endorse others, views on different matters and likewise they tend to flatter others.
Research studies have shown that persons who are skilled in self-presentation tend
to make better first impression than those who lack it (Jones, 1964); Wortman and
Liusenmeter, 1977). For instance, while interacting with other persons, in order to
impress upon them, they smile frequently, lean forward, maintain a high level of eye
contact, and resort to head nodding in agreement with others and so on. In one
study, it was found that individuals selected for engineering apprenticeships
expressed more smiling, eye – contact, and head nodding during the interview
situation than persons who rejected (Forbes and Jackson, 1980) To sum up, non
verbal cues are not always a “plus” in social situations. Further one has to be
careful that non verbal cues should not be used in “excess” since that would lead to
counter productive or negative effect.
Further there are individual differences in the use of non-verbal cues:
Emotional Expressiveness – the extent to which persons show outward expressions
of their inner feelings. Friedman et. al., (1980) found that among physicians
(doctors) those scoring high on expressiveness were more popular with their patients
than those scoring low on this dimension. With regard to automobile salespersons,
they found that those scoring high on expressiveness actually sold more cars.
Further, emotional expressiveness is related to psychological adjustment, not in a
simple or direct way. Studies suggest that to the extent persons experience
ambivalence over the expression of their emotions, they may experience
psychological difficulties (Katz and Campbell, 1994).
ATTRIBUTION: Understanding the Causes of Others Behaviour
Generally all of us are interested to have an accurate knowledge about others
moods, feelings and stable characteristics. Not merely we want to know how others
have acted but also we want to understand why they have behaved in that way. The
process through which we seek to get such information is called attribution. As a
different perceptual activity, the attribution process helps us to interpret the world
around us (Pittman, 1993).
Social Psychologists have defined it formally thus and they have shown keen
interest toward this concept – Attribution is the process through which we seek to
determine the causes of others behaviour and to gain knowledge of their stable traits
and dispositions. And on some occasions the causes behind our behaviour too.
The attribution process involves deciding whether an observed behaviour or
event is largely caused by internal or external factors. Internal factors originate from
within a person about the individual’s ability or motivation. On the contrary,
external factors originate from the environment (situation) like availability of

sufficient resources to do the work, supportiveness of other co-workers and so on. In

short, in the case of Internal attribution, behaviour is attributed to internal factors
(person or personality characteristics) whereas with External attribution, behaviour
is attributed to external factors (situation or environment).
Theories of Attribution: These frameworks are used for understanding how we
attempt to make sense out of the social world. Since attribution is a complex
phenomenon, many theories have been proposed to explain the same. However, we
shall focus upon two most influential theories, for our purpose.
1. Jones and Davis’s (1965) theory of Correspondent Inference: From Acts (Behaviour)
to Dispositions (Personality factors).
Here an attempt is made by using others behaviour as a guide to their enduring
personality traits. In other words, the theory is concerned about, how we decide, on
the basis and pattern of other’s overt actions (expressed behaviour) that they
possess specific traits and dispositions, which they carry with them from situation to
situation and also remain fairly stable over time.
This might appear to be a simple task at first glance. But it is not really so. In
fact the task is rather complicated. For instance, individuals act in certain ways not
because they do that due to their own preferences or traits, but because external
factors give them very little choice. For example, let us suppose we observe a lady
rushing through an airport, pushing people around her out of the way in her haste.
Based on this overt behaviour, explicitly observed, can we conclude that this person
is impatient and rude – always found in a hurry and ready to trample bystanders to
get her need fulfilled? Certainly not. This person may be simply responding to the
fact, that her plane is about to leave without her. In fact, this traveler may be
actually a slow-moving person and a polite type most of the time. Her behaviour
observed may be an exception, situations like this are very common-. So, by using
others present behaviour as guide to their enduring traits or motives, if done in a
hasty manner, can be quite misleading.
We have to cope with such complications by focusing our attention on certain
types of actions, especially those most likely to prove informative. First we should
consider only those behaviours (actions) that have been freely chosen, while ignoring
those behaviours forced upon that person. Next we pay attention to those

behaviours that produce unique or non common effects – effects, caused by one
specific factor, but not by others. “Non common” should not be equated with
“uncommon” (the latter term simply means infrequent). Generally we can learn
more about others, from actions on their part – that yield non common effects – than
from those that do not. Finally the theory of Jones and Davis point out that we pay
greater attention to behaviours of others, that are low in social desirability, than to
actions which are high on this dimension. In short, we learn more about others
traits, from actions they perform – which are somehow different from the ordinary

than from actions performed by most other persons. Further social desirability
means approval given by society.
Let us illustrate this matter through an example. For instance, a person or a
member of social service organization is coming forward to render help to a stranded
aged lady to reach her destination. Based on this behaviour, we would hesitate to
infer or draw conclusions about that person, since any member of a social service
organization would behave like this – On the contrary, in such a situation suppose
that person does not proceed to offer help, we would draw conclusions about that
behaviour as something quite strange and unusually unique. In short, when other’s
behaviour produces a non common effect – then there seems to be a freely chosen
action and which is low in social desirability – and then we attribute that behaviour
to their personality traits and dispositions.
Finally we can conclude the theory proposed by Jones and Davis thus:
Behaviour of others would reflect their stable or enduring traits (correspondent
Inferences about them are possible) especially when that behaviour or action (1) is
freely chosen; (2) provides distinctive, non common effects and (3) is low in social
2. KELLEY’S Theory of CAUSAL Attribution: How do we Answer the Question, why?
We are eager to know why other people have acted in a manner, they have
done. Similarly we want to know why events have turned out in a specific way. So,
we want to understand the causes behind other’s actions. Then only we can
accordingly adjust our behaviour. But the number of specific causes behind others
behaviour are not very few, rather very large. However, to make the task easily
manageable, we can start with a preliminary question: Did other’s behaviour emerge
mainly due to internal causes (their own traits, motives, intentions); or mainly due
to external causes (some aspect of the social or physical world) or due to the
combination of both internal and external causes.
Let us illustrate this matter with an example. For instance, a student might
wonder whether he had secured a lower grade than expected either because he did
not study well (an internal cause) or because the question paper was very tough (an
external cause), or perhaps due to both factors.
In fact, revealing insights are given by Kelley (1972); Kelley & Michela (1980). To

carry out the attributional task, our attempt to answer the question, why about
other’s behaviour, according to Kelley can be done by focusing on information about
three major dimensions – Consensus; Consistency; and Distinctiveness.
a) First we shall focus on Consensus which means the extent to which
reactions of one person are also shown by others. In other words, consensus refers
to the extent to which, others react to some stimulus or event in the same manner
as the person that we are focusing. Further consensus may be higher or lower
depending upon the degree of support given by other people. For instance, when

there is higher proportion of people tend to react in the same manner, then the
consensus will be higher to that level.
b) Next, we shall consider consistency which means the extent to which a
person responds to a given stimulus or event or situation in the same way on
different occasions. In other words, consistency as another factor or dimension
refers to the same stimulus yielding the same response.
c) Third, we shall deal with the factor of Distinctiveness. This refers to the
extent to which a person responds in the same manner to different stimuli or events.
So in the case of distinctiveness we could notice the effect of same response to
different stimuli.
According to Kelley’s theory we tend to attribute the causes of another
person’s behaviour in the following pattern involving the three dimensions in the

Factors Consensus Consistency Distinctiveness

Internal factors
Low High Low
(Personality traits)
External factors
(Situational or High High High

Mixed or
Combination of Low High High
Internal & External

Let us illustrate this theory through an example. Imagine that a college student
in a classroom gets up suddenly and shouts angrily at the professor and also
throwing a big ripe tomato at her. Why did that student acted this way ? Is it due to
internal or external causes? According to Kelley’s theory this answer would depend
on information related to three factors analyzed above. Let us assume that the
following conditions prevail.
1. No other student in the class shouted or threw tomatoes (Low Consensus)
2. This student has lost his temper in this same class on other occasions.
(High consistency)
3. Further we have seen this student losing his temper outside the class room
in response to slow waiters and traffic jams. (Low Distinctiveness)
4. Kelley’s theory would attribute the student’s behaviour to internal causes –
that he has a violent temper.

In contrast to the above, let us assume the following conditions prevail:

1. Several other students also shout at that professor (High Consensus)
2. We have seen this student having lost his temper in this same class on
other occasions (High Consistency)
3. We have not seen this student losing his temper, outside the classroom.
(High Distinctiveness)
Taking all these into account, the student’s behaviour would be attributed to
external causes – perhaps arrogant or unreasonable behaviour by the Professor. To
sum up, Kelley’s theory provides important insights into the nature of causal
attributions. However, recent research on the theory suggests the need for certain
modifications. Generally, people are ready to jump to quick and easy conclusions
about the causes behind other’s behaviour through the path of least resistance. And
they tend to avoid Kelley’s theory since it involves lot of cognitive work and is time
Discounting Principle: This is an important principle of attribution. It is the
tendency to attach less importance to one potential cause of some behaviour, when
other potential causes are also present. In other words, discounting principle states
that we reduce (discount) the importance of any given potential cause of a person’s
behaviour to the extent that other potential causes also exist. For example, when a
student does not secure high marks in his college, sometimes his friends would
immediately remark that it is due to poor coaching given by the teaching faculty
member. But the fact is that the student was irregular to college, his laziness made
him indifferent in the students and all these are to be taken as potential causes for
his poor performance. Here we tend to downplay and reduce the role of some
potential causes.
Augmenting Principle: This is the tendency to attach greater importance to a
potential cause of behaviour, if the behaviour occurs in spite of the presence of
other, inhibiting factors. In other words, suppose a given behaviour occurs in the
presence of both facilitatory and inhibitory factors, we attach importance to the
facilitatory factor. In the same example given above, let us assume in a different
manner. Suppose that student successfully completed the collegiate course with the
same faculty staff in an effective manner, the cause of the success is attributed to
that student’s hard work, intelligence – (facilitatory factors) and so on in spite of the
harsh instructor (Inhibitory factor). This example is an illustration of augmenting
principle where greater importance is given to facilitatory factor alone. To conclude,
when information about consistency and distinctiveness are mainly lacking, then the
principles of discounting and augmenting play an important role in attribution.
Even though attribution is logical in its reasoning process, it is subjected to
several forms of error. Let us consider three major types of bias.

a) Fundamental Attribution Error: Overestimating the role of Dispositional

Causes: Fundamental attribution error occurs due to our strong tendency to explain
others behaviour in terms of dispositional (Internal) causes rather than situational
(external) causes. In other words, it is the tendency to overestimate the influence of
dispositional (personality traits) causes on others behaviour. In short, we tend to
look upon others acting as they do mainly because they are “that kind person” and
never bother about many external (Environmental) factors that would have affected
their behaviour (Gilbert & Jones, 1986).
For example, let us imagine the following scene in a seminar hall. Assume that
a person presenting the paper at a meeting is arriving very late; after entering, he
allows his prepared notes to fall on the floor; when he is attempting to pick them up,
his glasses (spectacle) fall off and break; Immediately after, he spills coffee all over
his tie and dress. In such a situation, most of us would like to state and conclude
“This person is disorganized and clumsy.” Let us now analyze whether such
attributions are accurate. It is quite possible that the person was late due to
unavoidable delays caused at the airport; dropped his notes since they were printed
on slick paper; and further spilled the coffee, as the cup was too hot to hold. So, it is
clear that as long as these potential external causes and their impact on every kind
of behaviour is ignored, we cannot avoid errors of this kind. Further it appears that
attributions shift over time. So the tendency to explain others actions in terms of
internal causes may fade away with the passage of time.
b) The Actor – Observer Effect: You Fell; I was Pushed: This is the tendency
to attribute our own behaviour mainly to situational (External) causes but for the
behaviour of others, we tend to change our logic and yardstick and point out it is
mainly due to internal (dispositional) causes. This kind of “tilt” in our attributions is
called the actor – observer effect (Jones & Nisbett, 1971). For example, a person
falls, generally we tend to remark that he is “careless” and “reckless”. Here we
attribute the fault to the internal dispositions (personality factors). On the contrary,
suppose we ourselves fall, then our attributional judgement will work in the reverse
order and thereby move to the opposite side. In other words, when we fall, we
attribute it to the situational (Environmental) causes like uneven road conditions;
slippery heels of our shoes and so on.
The actor – observer effect, why does it occur? This is because we are quite

aware of the several factors in the situation or environment around us, affecting our
own behaviour. But when we divert our attention to the actions of other persons, we
tend to be less aware of such factors of the environment. In other words, we tend to
perceive our own behaviour as emerging largely from situational causes whereas in
the case of other’s behaviour, as something arising mainly from their traits or
dispositions. This error can be minimized when we show empathy for another
c) The Self – Serving Bias: “I can do no Wrong, but you can do no Right”:
Self- serving bias is the tendency to attribute our own positive outcomes to internal

causes – (our own personality traits or characteristics) but with regard to negative
outcomes or events to external causes – (like difficulty of the task; unfair high
standards of the boss and so on) (Brown & Rogers 1991; Miller & Ross, 1975).
In other words, self-serving bias is the tendency to take credit for positive
behaviour but to blame external causes for negative ones. For example, when a
report submitted to the superior is appreciated, then we conclude that it is due to
our good talent, judgement and intelligence. On the other hand, suppose our report
is criticized, then we focus on situational factors like the difficulty of the task; very
high standards enforced by the boss etc. Self-serving bias emerges from two different
but related sources. By tilting our attribution we try to increase our self-esteem and
enhance our public image to “look good” in the eyes of others (Greenberg,
Pyszczyuski & Solomon, 1982). Further self-serving bias can be the cause for
interpersonal friction, whatever be its precise origins – motivational or cognitive
factors. For instance, it leads persons to perceive that while their own successes
emerge from internal causes and are well deserved, the victories of others are due to
external factors and hence less merited. As a result of self-serving bias, many
persons tend to perceive negative behaviour on their own part as reasonable and
excusable but similar kind of identical actions on the part of others as irrational and
inexcusable (Baumeister, Stillwell & Wotman 1990).
Practical Uses of Attribution Theory
In fact, without the individual attitude and values, attributions do not operate
in an isolated manner. (1) Understanding the causes of action through attribution
has been applied to the task of understanding reactions to the victims of rape and
other serious crimes. (2) Attribution principle is applied to the reduction of
interpersonal conflict. (3) Further this theory has served as a useful framework for
understanding issues and matters as diverse as the causes of marital dissatisfaction
(Holtzworth – Munroe & Jacobson 1985). (4) This has been used to assist people to
cope with their problems like depression by knowing the ways to change their
attributions. Similarly with attributions about rape, there are some unsettling
findings. Both men and women blamed the innocent victims of a rape to a greater
extent, especially when she (victim) knew the rapist was a stranger (Bell, Kuriloff, &
Lottes, 1994). (5) Finally when attribution is carried out in an appropriate way, it
helps to enhance our self-esteem.

Impression formation: A cognitive Approach
Impression formation is the process through which we form impressions about
others. So far as this study is concerned, Asch’s research was only the beginning as
such. This topic is being widely investigated through research for several decades.
Regarding impression formation, initially the question is how do we combine so
much diverse information about others, into unified impressions? The early studies
suggested one answer as follows: We combine this information into a Weighted

average – here each piece of information about another person is weighted in terms
of its relative importance (Anderson, 1981).
The cognitive approach has been highly productive and this has changed our
basic ideas about how impressions are formed and changed. For example, it seems
to be clear that impressions of others involve both concrete examples of behaviours,
others have performed which are consistent with a given trait – exemplars – and
mental summaries that have been abstracted from repeated observations of others’
behaviour – abstractions (Klein, Loftus & Plog, 1992; Smith & Zarate, 1992). Models
of impression formation which emphasize the role of behavioural exemplars suggest
that when we make judgements about others, we recall examples of their behaviours
and base our judgements – and our impressions – on these. For instance, our first
conversation with a certain woman we could recall in this pattern – she interrupted
our talk frequently; made nasty comments about other persons; failed to keep open
a door for somebody whose arms were loaded with luggage or packages. Based on
these pieces of information, we tend to conclude thus – our first impression of this
person may include the trait “inconsiderate”.
On the contrary, models which stress the role of abstractions tend to point out
that when we make judgements about others, we simply recall our previously formed
abstractions to mind and thereafter we use these, as the basis for our impressions
and our decisions. In this context, we can recall that we have judged a person earlier
to be inconsiderate or considerate, friendly or unfriendly, optimistic or pessimistic
and tend to combine these traits into an impression about the person concerned.
In fact, both types of information – concrete examples about behaviour and
mental abstractions – play a role in the impression formation has been supported by
research studies (Klein & Loftus, 1993; Klein; 1992). Further, it seems that the
nature of impressions may shift or change when we get into more experience with
others. To begin with, our first impression is largely based on behavioural examples
and subsequently when our experience with another person increases, our
impression will have the impact of mental abstractions derived from observations of
the person’s behaviour (Sherman and Klein, 1994).
Existing evidence points out that impression formation does not occur in a
cognitive vacuum. So our mental frameworks pertaining to our previous experience
in so many social situations and basic cognitive processes related to the memory
storage (retention), recall and integration of social information play a vital role here.
So, the task of forming impressions often seems to occur virtually effortless – better
to remember the words of Asch to this effect – there is a lot going on beneath the
surface, as this process unfolds.
Impression Management: The Fine Art of Looking Good
Our efforts to make a good impression on others are called as impression
management or self- presentation. The desire to make a favorable impression on
others is a strong one. So most of us try to do our best to “look good” to others,

especially when we meet them for the first time. These efforts are worth the trouble:
Persons who can perform impression management successfully, tend to gain
advantages in many situations (Schleuker 1980, Wayne & Liden, 1995).
Impression Management: Some Basic Tactics
We have learnt earlier, that impression management takes many different
forms. However they fall into two major categories: (1) Self-enhancement – efforts
taken to boost our own image and (2) Other-enhancement – efforts taken to make
the target person feel good in our presence. These efforts for positive feelings often
play an important role in attraction and liking. And we will study this matter in a
later lesson.
Specific tactics of self-enhancement deal with our efforts to improve our own
appearance. This can be achieved through several ways – alterations in dress;
personal grooming by cosmetics, hair styles, the use of perfume and by the judicious
use of non-verbal cues. Research findings on this, show that all these tactics will
work under some conditions. For example, women who dress in a professional way
(business suit, subdued jewellery etc) are usually evaluated more facourably for
management positions than women who dress up in a more traditionally feminine
pattern or manner (Forsythe, Drake, & Cox.1985). Further it has been found that
eye glasses seem to encourage impressions of intelligence while long hair for women
or beards for men tend to reduce such impressions (Terry & Krantz 1993). Similarly
using perfume would enhance first impressions especially when this kind of
grooming aid is not overdone (Baron 1983, 1986, 1989).
However, some other tactics of self-enhancement pose different kinds of risks.
For instance, research findings by Sharp and Getz (1996) reveal that one reason for
some young people to consume (drink) alcohol is that it gives them the right “image”.
In other words, they tend to engage in such kind of behaviour partly for impression
management. Research findings provide support to the view that some persons do
drink alcohol as a tactic of impression management in order to look or appear good,
in the eyes of others.
With regard to other–enhancement, individuals resort to several different
tactics to induce positive moods and reactions in others. Here the most important
tactics playing a vital role is flattery – showing praise on target persons, even when
they do not deserve it; expressing agreement with their views; showing a lot of
interest in them; by hanging on every word spoken by them; doing small favors for

them; by seeking their advice and giving feedback (Morrison & Bies, 1991); and
expressing liking for them either through verbal (spoken or written) behaviour or non
verbal cues (Wayne & Ferris 1990). To conclude, all these tactics seem to work to
certain extent. That is to say, they enable target persons to experience positive
reactions and this in turn tend to exhibit liking for and enhance positive impressions
of the persons using such tactics. Research evidence shows that impression
management especially used with care and skill, all these tactics can perhaps be
very helpful, at least to the persons employing them (Godfrey; Jones & Leord, 1986;
Kacmar; Delery & Ferris, 1992).

Social perception is the process through which we try to know and understand
other persons. Information about the temporary causes of others’ behaviour is
gathered through Nonverbal cues (clues) given by facial expressions, eye contacts,
body posture or movements and touching. In fact, others’ moods or feelings can be
known by these cues even if others wish to conceal them. Individuals differ to a great
extent with regard to emotional expressiveness.
Understanding the causes of others’ behaviour is acquired through attribution
process. In this process, we try to infer others’ traits, motives and intentions from
observation of their behaviour. In order to determine whether other’s behaviour
emerges mainly from internal or external causes, we have to focus upon information
related to three factors like (a) Consensus (b) Consistency and (c) distinctiveness.
Further attributions are influenced by the principles of discounting and augmenting.
Even though attribution involves a great deal of logical reasoning process, it is
exposed and subjected to a number of biases like (1) the fundamental attribution
error (2) the actor observer effect and (3) the self-serving bias.
Social perception, as a process of understanding others, is attaching
importance to Impression Formation and Impression Management. Common sense
seems to be correct by advocating the importance of first impressions. Further
recent research has emphasized the cognitive processes which play a role in
impression formation. In this regard, individuals resort to many kinds of strategies
or tactics to create favourable impressions on others. Most of these tactics of
impression management fall into two categories: Self-enhancement – efforts to
enhance one’s personal appearance and other – enhancement – efforts to induce
positive feelings or reactions in target persons. In short, all these strategies seem to
work well.
KEY TERMS: Nonverbal communication – Attribution – Consensus –
Consistency – Distinctiveness – Discounting Principle – Augmenting Principle –
Fundamental attribution error – Actor observer Effect – Self- serving bias –
Impression formation and impression management.
1. Examine Social Perception as a process of understanding others.

2. Explain the basic channels of non-verbal communication.
3. Describe attribution and the theories of attribution.
4. Discuss the different types of bias in attribution.
5. What are the practical uses of attribution theory?
6. Describe some of the tactics employed for self-enhancement and other-
enhancement for the purpose of impression management.


Thinking About Others and The Social World
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Examine the concept of social cognition
 Analyze Schemas and Prototypes
 Describe Heuristics as mental short cuts in social cognition
 Understand potential sources of error in social cognition
 Explain Affect and cognition: How Thought Shapes Feelings and Feelings
Shape Thought.
Introduction – Schemas and prototypes: Mental frameworks for holding and
using Social Information – Heuristics: Mental Shortcuts in social cognition –
Potential Sources of Error in social cognition – Affect and cognition.
Social cognition refers to thinking about others and the social world. And it has
grown out of research on attribution. The concept of social cognition refers to the
manner in which, people interpret, analyze, remember and use information about
the social world. Everyday, we are confronted by thousands of stimuli. It is not
possible for human mind, to notice, analyze and use every bit of information.
However, adult minds are so very efficient at screening, sorting and storing such
information. Vast amount of information that we are confronting in the day-to-day
life are being handled by our mind, through numerous short cuts. The major part of
social cognition is about the study of these short cuts.
Our discussion of social cognition in this lesson will proceed in the following
manner. First we shall study the two basic components of social thought – Schemas
and Prototypes. These mental frameworks tend to permit us to organize vast
quantity of diverse information in an efficient way. (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). However,
people on the whole, actually think very little. And as such, once they have formed a

certain belief, they seldom give it up. Based on this, Fiske and Taylor (1984) had
stamped the individual as a “cognitive miser” – often human mind is looking
towards the simplest way to understand the events that occur in social life.
Next we would analyze mental shortcuts and strategies that we adopt, to cope
with this state of affairs and to make sense out of the complex social world in an
efficient manner. Third, we will explain several kinds of tendencies or “tilts” in social
thought. These tendencies make us to pay more attention to some kinds of input
than to others. As a result, we would reach conclusions that are different and
sometimes less accurate than it would be. Finally we will focus upon the complex

interplay between affect (our current feelings and moods) and several aspects of
social cognition. This interplay is like a two-way street, wherein feelings are
influencing cognition and in turn cognition is shaping affect (Forgas, 1994). Further
in a subsequent lesson we will learn how social cognition involves our efforts to
understand ourselves.
Schemas and Prototypes: Mental Frameworks for Holding – and Using – Social
In our day-to-day experiences, as individuals, each of us might have built up a
specific kind of mental framework for understanding different situations and others’
behaviour in them. For example, we could easily imagine and visualize about two
types of festivals like Deepavali in October or November and Pongal in the middle of
January and how people would behave in such situations or during these festivities.
Similarly behaviour of people will show wide variation in two different situations as
in the case of a wedding house bubbling with happiness as opposed to a sorrow
stricken house, where death of a person had occurred and the consequent sadness
prevailing there.
These mental frameworks or schemas contain information appropriate to
particular situations or events. And once established, such schemas would help us
to interpret these situations and to know what is happening in them. For example,
one may have a schema for “meeting people at parties” with information about how
people behave in this context, and how they convey signal to each other, about their
liking or boredom. When this schema is activated, it enables a person to decide
quickly and effortlessly whether it is worth the trouble or sheer waste of time.
Let us analyze another related concept Prototypes. In fact, prototypes are
another type of mental framework that we use to explain the social world. They are
mental models of the typical qualities of members of some group or category. For
example, a person may have prototypes for sports heroes, for leaders, for doctors,
for professors, for children, for criminals and several other social categories. In a
sense prototypes refer to the typical member of such categories - the “pattern” to
which we compare new persons to decide whether they fit into that category or not.
Based on this categorization, we tend to place persons into various categories
especially when they fit well. Suppose they do not fit well, then the situation is to be
viewed as more puzzling. In other words, we would be greatly surprised when
individuals with whom we interact, do not fit into these prototypes.
Types of Schemas: Persons, Roles and Events
Person schemas are mental frameworks suggesting that particular kind of traits
and behaviour go together and those persons having them represent that particular
type. In other words, we must be having a person schema, for each person, whom
we know well. And would help us to organize what we know and feel about this
Let us think about particular behaviour of one person that is quite glaring and
striking to us, even though this behaviour is not at all surprising with someone else.

The surprise or shock occurs especially when that behaviour is not appropriate to
our expectations or schema. In other words, it does not fit our schema – (mentally
framed), for that person. For example, a person whom we have estimated and judged
to be a Gentleman quite unexpectedly behaved like a Rowdy person and vice versa.
As a result, we would find it very difficult to believe, how this person had behaved
like that.
We have schemas related to specific social roles – role schemas. These
schemas will contain information about how persons playing specific roles generally
act. For example, let us consider role schema for professors. We expect “professors”
are those who stand in front of the students in the classroom and proceed to deliver
lectures; to clarify any doubts of students; to motivate and encourage students to
prepare for exams; and so on. By the by, we don’t expect professors to indulge in
selling products or to conduct magic shows. And any such non-academic actions we
cannot think about for role schema, related to professors.
A third type of schema is related to events or sequences of events and they are
called scripts. In other words, such schemas indicate clearly what is expected to
happen in a given setting. For example, when we step into a restaurant, we expect
somebody to greet us and lead us to a seat. Further we expect a supplier or server to
come to our table to take an order to fulfill our needs viz. food, drinks and so on.
Once our needs are satisfied, we expect the bill to follow. So, scripts are schemas
that tell us “what should happen next”. In the restaurant illustration, we have a
script for the events that should occur and the order of sequence in which they
should take place. Thus, the activities listed out here fit into this schema of scripts.
On the contrary, suppose the server began to sit along with us and start to chat
(talking) and fails to do his job, we will be surprised and get annoyed. To conclude,
scripts save us from lot of mental effort since they guide us, as to what will happen
next in a variety of social situations. Let us consider another important type of
schema – the self-schema – in the subsequent lesson: Social Identity.
The Impact of Schemas on Social Cognition: Attention, Encoding, Retrieval
According to research findings schemas influence social thought. Schemas, as
such, exert strong effects on three processes, which are basic aspects of social
cognition like attention, encoding and retrieval.
1. Attention refers to what information we notice. In other words, we are more

likely to notice some things (not all things) about other persons and their behaviour,
than others (who are less attended or ignored). For instance, when we go to a
reception party, as individuals, it is quite common that any one cannot pay full
attention, by noticing all the hundreds of persons, who have come to that function
and all other objects there. Suppose a person is found shabbily dressed in a wedding
reception, while all others are neatly dressed, we would pay attention to that ill-
dressed person (recall the event schema mentioned earlier). Thus schemata guide
attention for information processing, by showing what to expect and about those

things that violate the expectations. People ignore even unusual things, when they
do not fit into the schema.
2. Encoding refers to the processes through which information that is noticed is
being stored in memory. Further, not everything that we notice about the social
world is stored in memory for future use. For example, Robert A. Baron had
sometimes asked his own class students to name the co-author – (Donn Byrne) and
many students could not answer. This is because name of the co-author has not
been registered into their memory. So, attention process as such need not lead to
encoding process, of all matters. It is to be noted, that ‘encoding’ as a cognitive factor
is selective just like the cognitive process of ‘attention’.
3. Finally, retrieval refers to the processes through which we recall information
from memory storage, in order to use it in some manner. For example, while making
judgements about other persons, such as whether that person “X” is quite o.k.
(suitable) to be a roommate or not.
According to Wyer and Srull(1994), schemas have been found to influence all
these basic aspects of social cognition. And social thought is closely connected to
social behaviour. And as such they also play an important role in several forms of
social interaction. We will study some of these effects in Lesson 4: “Attitudes”
which function as schemas and likewise examine the role of stereotypes in a
subsequent lesson as another form of schema in prejudice and discrimination.
HEURISTICS: Mental Short Cuts In Social Cognition
We all know from our own experience that thinking is often a very hard work.
Our tendency to spend minimal effort in this respect is related to another basic fact
of life: We have limited cognitive resources. Generally we find ourselves in the
situation, having more demands on these resources than such resources available –
this situation is called information overload. For example, a person talking on the
phone while cooking or driving in heavy traffic. Limited cognitive resources is
dangerous, because we try to do in that situation more than we could handle at one
time. There are many potential shortcuts available for reducing mental effort.
Perhaps among these, the most useful are heuristics: Heuristics are simple rules for
making complex decisions or social judgements or drawing complex inferences in a
rapid manner with reduced effort. We shall examine two such heuristics that are
used frequently in our everyday life.

i) Representativeness: Judging by Resemblance
The representativeness heuristics refers to making a judgement or inference
based on resemblance to typical cases. In other words, a person would make a
judgement on the basis of a relatively simple rule: “The more similar an individual is
to “typical” members of a given group, the more likely she is to belong to that group”.
So, it is a mental short cut that allows a person to make a “best guess”, based
on resemblance to typical patterns or general types. For example, suppose we have a
short conversation with a person ‘X’ and based on that we have inferred that he is
neat, gentle, has a rich vocabulary, has a big library in his home and so on. But he

has not talked about his occupation. As a result, many questions may haunt our
mind like “Is he a business executive, a physician, a professor, or a librarian? To get
an answer, we have to compare his traits with those typical traits, which go on with
each of those occupations. After this mental exercise, we may explore how well she
resembles the typical executive, physician, professor and finally we would conclude
that he is probably a librarian.
Another way, to guess about his occupation would be to pick out the most
common occupation in that locality. In this case, we are relying on base rate
information. This is an information about how common, some pattern is in the
general population. For instance, in United States of America, suppose we come
across and hear about many more lawyers than about librarians, the immediate
guess would be that the person’s occupation, whom we refer, will be a lawyer – as
this is the most common occupation. However, in practice, people seldom use base –
rate information, before they take decisions. As a result, people commit base – rate
fallacy (error) - the common failure to make use of information about the patterns
and probabilities, in the general population.
ii) Availability Heuristics: What Comes To Mind First. People make judgements
here, based on how easily information comes to our mind. In an empirical study
involving 100 individuals, Tversky and Kahneman (1982) found that many people
wrongly judge that words which start with letter “K” are more common. Example:
“KING” than the words, which have “K” as the third letter Example: “awkward”. The
presumable reason for this being that it is easy to think of words, starting with ‘K’
but rather difficult to think of words, which have ‘K’ in the 3rd position.
According to availability heuristic, it is easier to bring instances of some group
or event to our mind and as such become more prevalent and later judged to be
important. Further, this heuristic makes good sense: events or objects which are
common are usually easier to think about than others which are less common.
However, by making such judgements relying upon availability can easily lead to
errors, like that of letter ‘K’ illustrated earlier. Let us deal with another example: In
fact, two students participated equally in classroom discussions. One student took
part in an unusual style of dress while the other student was not like that. The
professor concerned sat down to make up grades for that performance. And the
student with the unusual style of dress emerged into his (professor) mind more
readily than the other (student). Based on this, the professor concluded, in a faulty
manner, that this student (with the unusual style of dress) had done well and
contributed more during the semester.
It is to be noted, that in this situation and many other situations, the fact that
an information which is easy to remember does not provide guarantee that it is more
important and more common. However, our subjective feeling that something is easy
to bring – (recall) to mind, may lead us to assume that it is important – (Schwarz, 1991). In cases like these the availability heuristic reduces our cognitive effort
(thinking & reasoning process) and finally tend to drive us to reach erroneous
conclusions and faulty judgements.

To conclude, there is nothing wrong in using availability heuristic especially

when it is used with care and caution. We do often use this heuristics and they are
useful in many contexts, since information easier to remember is more important
and prevalent.
The False Consensus Effect: Availability and the Tendency to Assume That Others
Think As We Do.
False Consensus Effect is the tendency to assume that others behave or think
as we do to a greater extent than it is really so. In other words, we assume that other
persons share our views or preferences and others are more like us than it is
actually the case. This kind of tendency has been observed in many different
contexts. For example, Sherman; (1983) had reported, high school boys who
smoke estimated that 51% of their fellow male students smoke. But in the case of
non-smoking boys, they estimated that only 38% smoke in their class.
False consensus effect occurs due to two reasons. (i) one is the motivational
explanation. First, most people want to believe that others agree with them, since
this enhances their confidence in their own judgement, actions and life-style (Marks
& Miller, 1987). Further when others endorse them, they feel their actions and
judgements are normal. (ii) Second view is the perceptual distortion, based on the
availability heuristic. Some persons find it easier to remember instances that others
agreed with them than instances in which they disagreed. In other words, it would
be easier to recall the names of friends who agree with us rather than who disagree.
The false consensus effect is reduced, especially when people are asked to consider
the view, quite opposite of their own.
The false consensus effect is common but it is far from universal. To assume
that others share our attitudes is comforting and perhaps even our undesirable
attributes – like our inability to resist everyday temptations. However, for highly
desirable attributes, people may be motivated to perceive themselves as unique (e.g.
Suls & Wan, 1987). In such instances the false consensus effect may fail to occur
(Campbell, 1986).
Priming: Some Effect of Increased Availability
During the first year, many students of the medical college may experience,
what is called the ‘medical student syndrome’ – they begin to suspect that they or
their friends or families are suffering from serious illnesses. The medical student

syndrome happens, due to assigned readings and exposure to lectures on several
kinds of diseases day after day. And all these would have planted the idea of those
diseases in the student’s mind. As a result, such information is high in availability.
For instance, an ordinary headache of a person is suspected by the first year
medical student, as a possible brain tumour.
In fact, research studies point out that priming may occur even when
individuals are unaware of the priming stimuli. This kind of effect is called
“automatic priming” (Bargh & Pietromonaco, 1982). The concept of “priming” was
first applied in social psychology by Higgins, Rholes and Jones, (1977). Priming

means planting certain ideas or categories in the minds of people and causing them
to use such ideas or categories to interpret subsequent events. In the case of the
first year medical student, his first thoughts were guided by the high availability of
these disease categories and as such perceived the minor symptom of headache as a
possible brain tumor. Thus priming exerts greater influence upon our judgements.
To conclude, it appears that priming is a basic fact of social thought. External
events and even our own thoughts can increase the availability in memory of specific
types of information. And increased availability in turn influences our judgements,
with respect to such information. “If I can think of it”, we seem to reason, “then it
must be important, frequent or true”; and we often reach such conclusions, even
when they are not supported by social reality.
Potential Sources Of Error In Social Cognition: Why Total Rationality is Scarcer Than
You Think.
As human beings, we cannot behave like computers. We may claim that we are
able to reason in a perfectly logical manner but through our experience we know
that we fall short of this goal. This is quite true with many aspects of social thought.
In our efforts to understand others and the social world, we are influenced by a
variety of tendencies that lead us into serious error. We shall consider many of these
“tilts” in social cognition in this section. At the same time, we have to learn that
these aspects of social thought even though get into errors, they are quite useful and
adaptive. They help us to focus on certain information that is usually very
informative and also they simplify our effort towards understanding the social world.
Like all other important aspects of human behaviour, these tendencies can be both
useful and potentially damaging.
Rational Versus Intuitive Processing: Going with our Gut-Level Feelings, Even When
We Know Better.
In many situations, our thinking is far from perfectly rational. Recently, a
model of cognition has been proposed by Epstein and his colleagues (1994) and it
is known as Cognitive – Experiential Self- Theory, offering an explanation.
According to this model, (shortly called CEST) our efforts to understand the world
around us proceed in two significant ways: (a) One is a deliberate rational thinking
that follows basic rules of logic. (b) The other is a more intuitive system – this
operates in a more automatic, holistic manner – a kind of “fly-by-the-seat-of-our-

pants” approach. In this approach, we take quick decisions according to simple
heuristics that we have developed through experience. According to CEST theory, we
tend to use these contrasting styles of thought, in different kinds of situations. For
example, rational thinking is used in situations involving analytical thought like
solving mathematical problems. Intuitive thinking is used in several other situations,
including social ones. In other words, when we try to understand other’s behaviour,
we often revert or resort to intuitive, gut-level thinking.
In a study conducted by Denes-Raf and Epstein (1994), the powerful effects of
intuitive thought are dramatically explained. When participants were asked whether

they wanted to draw jelly beans from a bowl containing one red bean and nine white
ones or from a bowl containing larger numbers of red and white beans, individuals
had often chosen the latter even though the odds of winning were actually lower.
These findings show that often we do not process information in a completely
rational manner. Instead, we prefer to go with our “intuitions” even when we know
these are likely to be wrong.
In this study, interestingly the participants were fully aware of the conflict
between rational and intuitive modes of thought. In fact, many of them reported that
they knew the chances of winning were better with the small bowl, but went with the
big one, because they “felt” they had more chances of winning when there were more
red beans.
To sum up, we do not process information in a totally rational manner. On the
contrary, under many conditions, particularly when we are in strong emotional
arousal and in social situations with other persons, we fall back upon a more
intuitive mode of thought. Such thought is certainly comfortable, quick and familiar.
However it does not provide us with most accurate answers to the puzzles of
everyday life.
Dealing with Inconsistent Information: Paying Attention to What Doesn’t Fit
Generally that information to which we pay special attention exerts stronger
effects on our social thought and judgements than other information. However, this
is not so always, is a fact. Although sometimes we readily notice information that is
inconsistent with our expectations, we tend to discount it or downplay that. This is
done on the ground, that it is simply too unexpected to accept. For example, we
come across headlines in the street corners and nearby supermarkets like “Woman
marries monster from outer space”! “Drug turns boy into fish” and so on. These
headlines are unexpected and inconsistent with our already existing views. So the
chances of their influencing our thinking are slight and remote. This is because,
such headlines seem to be like changing “Black cat into white” and vice versa, are so
bizarre that we tend to discount them. Therefore, the fact that we often pay careful
attention to information that is inconsistent with our thinking or current views, does
not mean that such information is necessarily more influential with regard to social
The Optimistic Bias for Task Completion: Why we Often Think we can get Done Sooner

Than We can.
A work started was projected to be completed in 18 months but it took almost
36 months. Further the cost of the work completed was much more than it was
planned and budgeted earlier. This is not a rare phenomenon. Almost every public
project seems to take longer time and cost more than predicted. These events
illustrate the powerful impact of the planning fallacy. This is people’s tendency to
make optimistic predictions, concerning how long a given task will take. This fallacy
seems to be both powerful and widespread. And this kind of error seems to emerge
from basic principles of social cognition.

According to Buehler, Griffin, and Ross (1994) people often get into a planning
with a narrative mode of thought in which they focus mainly on the future: how
precisely they will perform the task. As a result, they fail to look backward by
remembering or recalling how long these similar tasks took them in the past. So, an
important “reality check” to prevent their over optimistic predictions is removed.
Further, suppose when individuals knew about their past experiences where tasks
took longer time than expected, then they attributed the failures to get the work
done in time as due to external factors, outside their control or some unforeseen
Research findings point out that this kind of misplaced optimism (our tendency
to be over optimistic) seems to reflect our tendency to generate our forecasts by
focusing on the current project and plans for it, rather than about our past
experiences. Further even when we do remember our previous failures to meet our
own deadlines, we tend to attribute the lapses solely to unique external factors. To
sum up, the central fact is that we are certainly far from perfect, so far as our
thinking about the social world is concerned.
Automatic Vigilance: Noticing the Negative
Automatic vigilance is the strong tendency to pay attention to undesirable or
negative information. For example, suppose one of our friends proceeds to describe
about a stranger to us, mentioning about 20 positive characteristics and about 1
negative quality of that person, then the net result is, this – As a listener we tend to
focus on the one negative information and later on most likely to remember. This
kind of tendency to pay attention to negative information is so strong with us and
some researchers call it, automatic vigilance – a powerful tendency to pay attention
to negative information or stimuli (e.g. Shiffrin, 1988).
But, negative information may alert us to potential danger. And it is crucial that
we recognize it and respond to it as quickly as possible. (Pratto & John, 1991). Since
our attention capacity is limited, we tend to focus on the negative social information.
And as a result we run the risk of overlooking or ignoring other valuable forms of
input and get into difficulties due to automatic vigilance.
Social Psychologists have described the face-in-the-crowd-effect (Hansen &
Hansen, 1988). We are particularly sensitive to negative facial expressions of others.
Since we are so sensitive, we can very quickly pick out or spot out the angry face in

a crowd of persons showing neutral and cheerful expressions. It has been observed
that in a crowd of angry faces, we are somewhat slower to identify a happy face.
(Hansen & Hansen 1988). It appears that this tendency to focus on negative social
information is very strong with us. Further these findings are consistent with the
principles of Evolutionary Psychology. Since angry persons as such, do indeed
represent a greater threat to our safety or survival than persons who are happy. All
these studies about social information point out that we are particularly sensitive to
negative input. This in turn would exert stronger effects on thought and judgements
about others.

The Potential Costs of Thinking Too Much: Why, Sometimes, Our Tendency to Do As
Little Cognitive Work As Possible May be Justified.
We have already seen that there are many instances in which we adopt an
intuitive approach to thinking about the social world. However, there are other
instances in which we try to be as rational and systematic, as possible in our
thought, in spite of the fact that this would involve us extra effort. It appears that on
some occasions, thinking too much can get us into serious cognitive trouble. Any
effort to think systematically and rationally about important matters is important.
Such high effort activities do often provide better decisions or judgements than
short-from-the-hip modes of thought. Just like anything else, however, careful
thought can be overdone; and when it is so, the result may be increased confusion
and frustration rather than better and more accurate conclusions.
By the by, findings (e.g., Yost & Weary, 1996) reveal that individuals who are in
the grip of depression are more likely to engage in effortful social thought than
persons who are not depressed. This is due to the reason that they (depressed) hope
to restore their diminished feelings of personal control, through greater
understanding of what is happening around them. However, the harmful effects of
thinking too much, in the absence of evidence, seem to be worthy of careful study.
Counterfactual Thinking and the Experience of Regret: Some Surprising Effects of
considering “What Might Have Been”.
When we have some experience, we do not think only about the experience
itself but also we tend to engage in mental simulation with regard to that. And this
would often result in counterfactual thinking – bringing alternative events and
outcomes to mind – according to social psychologists. It appears that our reactions
to events depend not only on the events themselves, but also on what these events
bring to mind. (Miller, Turnbull, & McFarland, 1990).
Counterfactual thinking brings about some interesting effects. In fact, research
findings point out that we often – feel greater sympathy for people, who experience
negative outcomes following unusual actions than for persons who experience
identical outcomes (negative effects) following typical actions. This seems to be the
case, because it is rather easier to imagine about alternatives to unusual behaviour,
through counterfactual thinking than for the typical case (usual, normal behaviour).
A key finding of research, on counterfactual thinking, is people in general ,

express more regret for things they did especially unusual actions, than for things
that they did not do. This inconsistency has been explained by Gilovich and Medvec
(1994) through an intriguing answer. They propose that initially, people may be
more upset for actions they had performed and which yielded negative result than
for those actions which they did not do. Here the actions that we perform may
trigger more thoughts about “what might have been” or “should have been”.
However, later on we may experience regret about the things that we did not do. To
conclude, it appears that whenever we think about several events in our lives, we do
engage in counterfactual thinking – we proceed to imagine what might have been or

should have been in these situations. Such kind of thoughts, in turn, can strongly
affect our judgements about these events or situations. The nature of such kind of
thinking, however, seems to shift over a period of time, from a focus on what we did
to a focus on what we did not do. One point is clear: whatever be the focus of such
thoughts, we seem to torture ourselves, with thoughts of all possible outcomes as
opposed to thoughts about actual reality – what had happened.
Magical Thinking: Would You Eat a chocolate shaped like a spider?
Research findings of Rozin & Nemeroff (1990) emphasize that as human beings,
we are quite susceptible to magical thinking. This kind of thinking makes
assumptions which cannot stand up to rational scrutiny but certainly they are
compelling. The law of contagion is one principle of magical thinking. This law of
contagion holds that when two objects touch each other, they pass on the
properties to one another. Further the effects of those contacts may continue, even
beyond the termination of such contact (Zusne & Jones 1989). For example, let us
think about a sweater sealed in a plastic bag and given to us one year back as a gift
by someone with AIDS and whether we would use that sweater or not. Next principle
is the law of similarity which suggests that things that resemble one another share
fundamental properties. For example, let us imagine that someone had offered a
chocolate shaped like a spider with 8 legs and so on whether we would like to eat or
not. There is a third assumption that one’s thoughts can achieve specific physical
effects in a way, not governed by the laws of physics. This third principle is related
to the possibility of inciting catastrophes or disaster, by thinking about them.
Additional evidence about magical thinking is given by the study conducted by
Keinan (1994). Here the participants were the residents of Israel during the Gulf War
of 1990. Participants who had lived in cities attacked by Iraqi missiles and those
who were residents in cities, that were not attacked and thus formed into two
groups in this study. The effects of stress on magical thinking have been identified.
Magical thinking, is a person believing, that the chances of one’s house being hit by
a missile are greater, when one is at home, was increased by high levels of stress.
Israelis living in cities, that had been attacked by Iraqi missiles during the Gulf War
showed higher levels of magical thinking than those living in cities that had not been
attacked. These effects of stress were stronger for persons, low in tolerance for
ambiguity. Apparently the high stress resulting from the missile attacks increased
individual’s tendencies to engage in magical thinking, and this increase was greater
among persons who were exposed to ambiguous situations, particularly threatening.
When we make fun of someone’s superstitious belief, like “fear about the
number 13” or about “black cats crossing our pathway” we have to think again. For
instance, we ourselves may not accept such superstitions, but this does not mean
that our own thinking process is totally free from the kind of “magical” assumptions
analyzed earlier.

Social Cognition: a word of optimism

The planning fallacy, automatic vigilance, the costs of thinking too much,
counterfactual thinking and all other sources of error in social thought may readily
put us into despair. We are not perfect information processing machines. We have
limited cognitive capacities. In any situation, generally we tend to do the least
amount of cognitive work, since we are somewhat lazy.
However, in spite of all these limitations, often we do an impressive job in
thinking about others. Further, when we are confronted with flood of social
information, we manage to sort out, store, recall or remember and use them in an
intelligent and efficient manner. Certainly, we are not perfect in our social cognition
but still we do manage to get the job done in a surprising degree of order and
predictability into our lives and the social world around us. As we can imagine,
being better at these tasks than we are, there is no reason to get disheartened.
Instead, we could take some pride in the fact, that we are able to accomplish a lot,
with the limited tools available at our disposal.
Affect and Cognition: How Thought Shapes Feelings and Feelings Shape Thought
It will be very interesting to study the interplay between affect (our current
moods or feelings) and cognition (the ways in which we process, store, remember
and use social information). (Forgas, 1994a; Isen & Baron 1991). It is called
“interplay”, because the relationship is very much a two-way street: Our feelings and
moods exert strong effects on several aspects of cognition; And cognition, in turn
exerts strong effects upon our feelings and moods (e.g. Seta, Hayes & Seta 1994).
The Nature of Emotion: Contrasting views and Recent Advances
Emotions are complex reactions, involving physiological responses, subjective
cognitive states and expressive behaviours. Generally Emotions are considered to be
more intense than affective states – our mild feelings and moods (Forgas ,1994b).
However, the dividing line between emotion and affect (or mood) is uncertain and not
clear. So, it is useful to learn what modern psychology has to say about the nature
of emotions. There are many different views about the nature of emotions. However,
we shall deal with the three most influential theories.
a) Cannon–Bard Theory of Emotion is the common perspective: When we are
exposed to emotion provoking events or stimuli, we quickly experience both the
physiological reactions and the subjective experiences like fear, anger, joy and so on.

Further both types of reaction occur concurrently or simultaneously and emerge
from the same stimuli or events. For example, suppose we had learned through
Radio or T.V. news, that we had just won the lottery prize, our pulse rate and blood
pressure would leap to high levels and would quickly be followed by feelings of
surprise and elation.
b) In contrast to this, the James – Lange Theory has been formulated – our
subjective emotional experiences are actually the result of our relatively automatic
physiological reactions to several events. We come across perceptions of shifts in

bodily states. We become fearful since we notice such physiological reactions like
increased heart rate and so on.
According to the James – Lange theory we experience anger, fear, joy or sorrow,
because, we become aware of a racing heart, tears rolling down on our cheeks, and
so on. Again from the lottery example perspective, we would experience elation,
because we would have felt all the physiological reactions of this emotion. According
to James, when we see a bear in the forest, we begin to run. Further we would
experience fear, due to the feelings of intense arousal, produced by this activity
c) A third view of Emotion is Schachter’s two- factor theory: According to
this theory, when we experience arousal, we often begin to search the external world
around us for the source of such feelings. The sources that we identify strongly
influence the labels, which we then attach to our arousal. In other words, we often
label our feelings, in accordance with what the world around us suggests we should
be experiencing.
This theory suggests that any form of arousal, whatever be its source, initiates
a search for the causes of these feelings. (Schachter 1964; Schachter & Singer,
1962). The causes that we identify play a key role, in determining the label that we
place on our arousal and so in the emotion experienced. For example, suppose we
feel aroused in the presence of an attractive person, we would call our arousal as
“love” or “attraction”. Suppose we feel aroused by a narrow escape in a traffic road,
we would label our feelings as “fear” or perhaps “anger” towards that driver who was
at fault.
Many studies offer support to the theory of Schachter’s – two factor theory .So it
is clear that cognitive and situational factors do play a role in our subjective
emotional reactions (e.g. Olson & Ross 1988).
The Facial Feedback Hypothesis: Do we Feel What We Show? & Do We Show What We
The suggestion that changes in our facial expressions sometimes produce
changes in our emotional experiences is known as the facial feedback hypothesis
(Lavid 1984; McCanne & Anderson, 1987). Facial expressions can provide feedback
that influences our subjective experiences of emotion. In other words, not only do we
show our emotions, in our facial expressions, these expressions in turn can

influence our emotions. In short, the theory suggests that there is a close link
between the facial expressions we show and our internal feelings. And in this
relationship, the facial expressions may themselves provide information, which feeds
back into our brains and influences our subjective experiences of emotion. In
otherwords, we do not only smile, because we feel happy; sometimes, when we do
smile, we feel happier, because we have smiled.

Connections between Affect and Cognition: Some Intriguing Effects

The link between affect and cognition may operate in both directions. Our
current moods or feelings influence the way we think and our thoughts in turn can
influence our feelings.
The Influence of Affect on Cognition
Generally when we are in a good mood, we tend to “see the world through rose-
colored glasses” – everything takes on to a positive tinge. Our feelings do influence
the way we think and our social judgements, is provided by the findings of several
different studies (e.g. Bower 1991; Clore, Schwarz, & Conway 1993; Isen & Baron,
1991). Studies have shown that an individual’s judgements would change with their
moods. Further their moods on the first occasion, would predict their social thought
and judgements at that time. But such moods would not predict correctly their
social thought and judgements one week later. However, their mood on the second
occasion, would predict their judgements at this later time. In other words, changes
in the moods of participants over a period of time, were closely related to changes in
their social cognition.
Further, research findings show the influence of affect on cognition: in general,
there is a mood – congruent judgement effect. This refers to a good match
between our mood and our thoughts. For instance, when we are feeling happy we
tend to think about happy thoughts and recall about happy ideas and experiences
from memory. Suppose when we are in a negative mood, we tend to think about
unhappy thoughts and to recall negative information from memory (Seta, Hayes and
Seta 1994).
This mood – congruent judgement effect has important practical
implications. For instance, it has been found that when interviewers are in a good
mood, they tend to assign higher ratings to job applicants. (Baron 1987; 1993). Thus
temporary fluctuations in mood in this manner can sometimes influence the course
of individual’s life careers.
Further studies have shown that being in a happy mood can some times
increase creativity. This is probably because being in a happy mood activates a wider
range of ideas and creativity involves combining all these into new patterns. There is
evidence from practicing physicians about the link between affective states and
creativity (Estrada, Isen & Young 1995). Physicians who received a small unexpected

gift (some candy) scored higher on a standard test of creativity than those who did
not receive this small “mood boost”.
At the moment, we do not have enough evidence to provide a definite answer to
the question whether being in a good mood increases creativity or raises evaluations
assigned to job candidates and likewise whether being in a bad mood produce the
opposite effects. However, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the
tentative conclusion, that in spite of the mood-congruent judgement effect and
related findings, the effects of positive and negative affect are not always opposite in
nature (e.g. Isen & Baron, 1991).

For example, in a study, Seta, Hayes, and Seta 1994, found that persons in a
negative mood, are less easily distracted from a main task they are performing by a
second, unrelated task than persons in a good mood (positive). This might be
because being in a negative mood itself, may give signal to persons that they are in a
difficult or even dangerous environment and as such one should remain vigilant or
“on guard”. On the contrary, a person being in a positive mood may give signal that
he is in a safe and comfortable setting where they can relax.
Let us now focus on the more general question “how does affect influence
cognition?” It is clear, irrespective of the mechanisms involved, that positive and
negative affect do not always influence cognition exactly in opposite ways. In fact,
some evidence shows that unless they are quite intense, positive affect and negative
affect may be independent of each other. And they are not just opposite ends of a
single dimension (Goldstein & Strule, 1994). When this is true, it is not surprising
that they do not always produce mirror – image effects (diametrically opposite figure
or reversible pattern).
The Influence of Cognition on Affect
We have studied earlier the two-factor theory of emotion proposed by Schachter
(1964). As per this theory, often we do not know our own feelings or attitudes
directly. These internal reactions are often somewhat ambiguous,we look outward –
at our own behaviour or at other aspects of the external world – for getting clues
about our feeling’s essential nature. Here the emotions or feelings we experience are
strongly determined by the interpretation or cognitive labels we select. We have
compelling evidence about the impact of cognition on affect and vice versa.
A second way by which cognition can affect emotions is through the activation
of schemas, containing strong affective component. Such schemas would tell us how
we feel about such persons. In fact, activation of a strong racial, ethnic or religious
schema or stereotype may exert powerful effects upon our current feelings or moods.
Thirdly, our thoughts can often influence our reactions to emotion – provoking
events. Anger can often be reduced by apologies and other information that would
explain why others have interacted with us in a provocative manner (Ohbuchi,
Kameda, & Agarie, 1989). Further, anger can often be reduced or even prevented by
such techniques as thinking about events, other than those that generate anger.
(Zillmann, 1993). In such instances, the effects of cognition on feelings can have

important social consequences.
A fourth way in which cognition influences affect, involves the impact of
expectancies on our reactions and judgements. Expectations of individuals often
shape their perceptions and feelings about the event or stimulus that they do
encounter and meet. (e.g. Wilson 1989). For example, when people expect that
they will dislike a new food, they often express displeasure even before that food has
touched their mouths. On the contrary, when people expect to enjoy a film, joke or
story they are likely to do so with pleasure.

The Affect Infusion Model: How Affect Influences Cognition

The Affect Infusion Model (AIM) is a theory proposed by Forgas (1995). And
this theory offers some intriguing answers to the question; through what
mechanisms do our feelings influence our thought? According to Forgas (1995) affect
influences social thought and social judgements through two major mechanisms. (i)
First affect serves to prime (i.e. trigger) similar or related cognitive categories. For
instance, good mood with positive memories and in a negative mood with negative
memories. (Bower, 1991, Erber 1991) (ii) Second affect may influence cognition by
acting as a heuristic cue – a quick way of inferring our reactions to a specific
person, event, and stimulus. This is known as affect-as-information mechanism
(Clore et. al., 1993).
To the question, when do such effects occur? Forgas (1994) has pointed out
that affective states influence cognition through the first mechanism called priming,
in situations where we get into substantive thought, like our efforts to interpret new
information and associate it with the existing knowledge. This is quite opposite in
the second mechanism called affect-as-information. Here we try to get along with
little cognitive effort in those situations, where we think heuristically. Studies
revealed that persons in a sad mood (who had just seen a sad movie) were much
more likely to blame themselves for serious conflicts to a greater extent than those
who were in a happy mood (who had just seen a happy movie). These effects were
much weaker in the case of trivial conflicts, because mood had little impact. But in
the case of serious conflicts mood had strong effects. This kind of evidence for the
AIM Model has shown clearly how Affect influences our interpretations of
Interpersonal conflicts. To conclude, there is considerably more in the interplay
between feelings and thought than we assume it to be.
Social cognition is the study of how people notice, interpret, analyze,
remember and use information about the social world. Schemas are mental
frameworks containing information relevant to specific traits, situations or events.
They are formed through experience and once developed, exert strong effects on
many aspects of social cognition, including attention, encoding and retrieval of social
information. Prototypes are mental models of the typical qualities of members of
some group or category. They also exert strong effects on social cognition, once
We often resort to mental shortcuts, since we have limited capacity to process
social information. Heuristics are mental rules of thumb. They help us to make rapid
decisions or judgements about complex social stimuli. Representative heuristic is
a strategy of judging by resemblance – the more similar a person is to typical
members of a given group, the more likely he or she is to belong to that group.
Availability heuristic is a strategy for making judgements on the basis of how
easily particular kinds of information can be brought to mind. The false consensus
effect is our tendency to assume that others are more similar to us than they

actually are. This is partly emerging from the availability heuristic. Priming involves
procedures that increase the availability of specific information in consciousness.
As individuals, we are not perfect information – processing mechanisms.
Therefore, our social cognition is influenced by several tendencies and biases, which
can limit and reduce its accuracy. More often we engage in intuitive rather than
rational thought. Further we tend to pay more attention to information, which is
inconsistent with our expectations than to information that is consistent with them.
Planning fallacy is another tilt in social perception, with our tendency to be over
optimistic in predicting how long it will take to finish up the tasks given to us. We
have a powerful tendency to pay attention to negative information and this is called
automatic vigilance effect. We often get into Counterfactual thinking, imagining
“what might have been”. And this can affect our judgements about events that
actually did take place. Finally we assume that when two objects are in contact, one
passes properties to the other and this is known as magical thinking.
There are many contrasting views about the nature of emotions. The Cannon –
Bard Theory considers the emotion – provoking stimuli, evoking both physiological
reactions and subjective emotional states. A contrasting view by James – Lange
theory suggests that emotional experiences emerge mainly through changes in our
bodily states that we can recognize. The two factor theory of Schachter emphasizes
the cognitive label that we attach to physiological arousal.
Affective states have been found to influence memory, creativity and several
forms of social judgement. Recent studies have shown the influence of the mood
swings (changes) on our social judgements. The influences of cognition upon affect
are equally significant. Suppose we expect to like or dislike some stimulus or event,
our affective reactions to it will usually be consistent with such expectations. The
Affect Infusion Model explains the influence of affective states on cognition.
KEY TERMS: Schemas – Prototypes – Heuristics: Representativeness -
Availability - Automatic Thinking – Counterfactual Thinking – Magical Thinking –
Social Cognition – Affect Infusion Model.
1. Explain the concept of social cognition.
2. What is a schema? Describe the different kinds of schemas.
3. Define Heuristics. Explain the different types of heuristics.
4. Examine in detail the link between affect and cognition.
5. Describe the potential sources of error in social cognition.



After reading this lesson you should be able to
 Formulate a good working definition of Attitudes
 Understand the formation of Attitudes
 Explain the influence of Attitudes on Behaviour
 Examine the role of persuasion in the process of changing Attitudes
 Describe the factors that lead to resistance to persuasion
 Discuss cognitive dissonance and attitude change
Introduction – Formation of Attitudes – Attitude and Behaviour changing
Attitudes – Resistance to Attitude change – Cognitive Dissonance.
As human beings generally we are not neutral towards important aspects and
matters of the social world around us - and particularly aspects that affect us in
some manner. In fact, all the issues and people around do have an impact upon
many of us. For instance, we may have strong feelings about and reactions to our
friend or foe; neighbour; classmate and room associate and so on. Social
psychologists refer to such reactions as attitudes. A good working definition of
attitudes is formulated as follows: “Attitudes are associations between attitude
objects (virtually any aspect of the social world) and evaluations of those objects.”
(Fazio & Roskos – Ewoldsen, 1994). In short, attitudes are lasting evaluations of
several aspects of the social world – evaluations that are stored in memory (Judd et.
al., 1991).
Attitudes are important for two basic reasons. First, attitudes strongly influence
social thought – the way in which we think about and process social information.
Attitudes often function as schemas – cognitive frameworks that hold and organise
information about specific concept, situation or event (Wyer & Srull 1994). For

example, let us suppose two persons are holding opposite attitudes about capital
punishment – one person is strongly in favour of the death penalty for convicted
criminals while the other person is passionately opposing it. At this stage both of
them have read an article in the newspaper about a recent study describing
countries which have enforced death penalty do not show lower murder rates than
countries which do not give any punishment. The person who is against death
penalty may reason: executing a murderer is useless, since it does not prevent
others from committing similar crimes of murder. The other person who had
supported capital punishment might remark: “So what? The death penalty is not

designed to prevent other criminals.” But its main task is to identify and isolate
dangerous persons in a locality so that they would not hurt other victims.” Thus in
many other ways, attitudes can strongly influence our social thought and the
conclusions and inferences we draw.
Next, ‘Attitudes’ influence our behaviour in ever so many ways. And such
attitudes have been the focus of research by social psychologists for several decades
(e.g. Thurstone, 1928). We shall consider the ways in which attitudes are formed or
developed. In fact, attitudes do not emerge from a vaccum or start from nowhere.
Many factors seem to take part in attitude formation, which in turn proceeds to
influence behaviour. The link between attitudes and behaviour is much more
complex than we assume it to be. Third, we will take up the role of persuasion
towards the process of changing attitudes. Fourth we shall examine the difficulties of
changing attitudes and also resistance to persuasion. Finally, we shall deal with our
actions shaping our attitudes rather than vice versa. And all these processes and
their effects are known by cognitive dissonance which has unexpected implications
for many aspects of social behaviour.
According to social psychologists, attitudes are learned. In other words,
attitudes are acquired through experience. However, a small but growing body of
evidence shows that attitudes may be influenced by genetic factors too.
Social learning: Acquiring Attitudes from others
Attitudes are acquired from other persons through the process of social
learning. In fact, many of our views are acquired in situations where we interact with
others or merely observe their behaviour. Social learning occurs through several
Classical conditioning is a learning based on association. The classical
conditioning of attitudes can be illustrated through the following real – life situation.
A young child, for instance, sees her mother frown and show emotional discomfort
each time when she encounters members of a minority group - a particular racial
group. At first, the child is quite neutral toward members of this group and their
visible characteristics such as skin colour, style of dress, accent. Afterwards these
visible characteristics are paired (associated), with the mother’s negative emotional
reactions. Since classical conditioning has occurred, the child begins to react

negatively to these stimuli - so also to members of this racial group. We will consider
such racial prejudice in detail, in a later lesson. Further studies show that classicial
conditioning can occur below the level of conscious awareness even when persons
are not aware of the stimuli, which serve as the basis for this kind of conditioning.
Findings suggest that attitudes can be influenced by subliminal conditioning -
classical conditioning that occurs in the absence of conscious awareness of the
stimuli involved.

Muscle movements and Attitude Formation

There are studies which provide more surprising mechanism for the
conditioning - formation of attitudes. This mechanism involves the movement of
certain muscles; Anything that we like, we tend to draw toward ourselves by flexing
our arm muscles, but push away things that we do not like by extending our arm
muscles. Apparently, the association between these muscle movements and feelings
that are positive and negative, can serve as the basis for attitude conditioning
(Cacioppo, Priester, and Bernston 1993). Findings revealed that arm flexion induced
positive reactions among participants to a greater extent than arm extension. It
appears that our attitudes can indeed be shaped by subtle processes, about which
not merely we are largely unaware but also cannot describe verbally.
Instrumental conditioning: As learning to state the “Right” views. There is
another way by which attitudes are acquired from others, is through the process of
instrumental conditioning. By rewarding children with smiles, approval, or hugs for
expressing the “right” views, which parents and other adults play an active role in
shaping the attitude of children. Hence children till they reach their teen years, most
of them express political, religious, and social views highly similar to those held by
their families. Similarly positive reinforcement is powerful enough to influence the
behaviour of children.
Modeling: Learning by example
Modeling is a basic form of learning in which persons acquire new forms of
behaviour through observing others. In many cases, children observe their parents
doing things, which they ask their children not to perform. For example, parents,
being themselves as smokers, often warn their children against the damages of
smoking. What is the net result? It is very clear that children learn to do as their
parents do, but not as they say.
Social Comparison and Attitude Formation
Social comparison is another mechanism for attitude formation. This refers to
our tendency to compare ourselves with others, in order to determine whether our
view of social reality is correct or not correct (Festinger, 1954). Suppose others hold
the same views, then our views must be right. Hence we often change our attitudes,
so as to hold our views closer to that of others. The process of social comparison
may contribute to the formation of new attitudes which we do not hold. However, we

may claim to remark generally. “I would not form any opinions, without seeing for
myself.” In this context, research findings show that hearing about negative views of
others might influence a person to adopt similar attitudes, without ever meeting or
knowing a member of the group in question. (e.g. Shaver, 1993).
These effects are clearly revealed in a study by Maio, Esses and Bell (1994).
Researchers had observed that participants who received the favourable information
about the fictitious group expressed more favourable attitudes toward that group
than those who had received negative information and showed greater willingness to
permit that group of persons to immigrate to Canada. These findings indicate that

our attitudes are often shaped by social information along with our own desire to
hold the “right” views - those held by people whom we admire or respect.
Genetic Factors: Some Surprising Findings
We readily accept the fact, that genetic factors can influence our height, eye
colour and other physical characteristics. But the idea that they might also play a
role in our “thinking’ seems to be strange for us. However, we should remember that
‘thought’ occurs within the brain and that brain structure like every other part of
our physical being, is certainly affected by genetic factors. Likewise the idea of
genetic influences on attitudes becomes a little easier to imagine. In fact, a small
growing body of empirical evidence shows that genetic factors may play some role in
attitudes (e.g. Arvey et al. 1989; Keller et. al., 1992)
The attitudes of identical twins separated very early in life correlate more highly
than those of non-identical twins or unrelated persons. This finding offers support to
the view that attitudes are influenced by genetic factors to some extent. (Waller et.
al., 1990).
Social Psychologists generally defined attitudes largely interms of behaviour, as
a set of tendencies or predispositions to behave in certain ways in social situations
(Allport, 1924). Thus, they assumed that attitudes were generally reflected in overt
(expressed) behaviour. But Richard T. Lapiere, a social psychologist was not so
certain about this. His unique research demonstrated that people’s attitudes are not
always reflected in their overt behaviour. His study initiated research on the
“attitude behaviour link” and these issues are being central to modern research.
R.T. La Piere had traveled around the United States of America for more than
two years with a young Chinese couple. During such travels, they stopped at 184
restaurants and 66 hotels and “Tourist Camps” (Predecessors of the modern motel).
In majority of the places, the young Chinese couple were treated with courtesy and
consideration. Virtually all business houses (99 to 100 percent) visited served the
Chinese couple. But when asked in a mail survey, whether they would serve Chinese
visitors, more than 90 percent said no. Evidence from this research study has shown
that there is often a sizable gap between attitudes and behaviour. La Piere (1934)
had interpreted the attitude behaviour gap – as something between what people say
and what they actually do. So it is important for social psychologists to study – not

just verbally reported attitudes but to study actual behaviour. Hence a great deal of
attention is needed on the questions of when and how attitudes predict behaviour.
When do Attitudes Influence Behaviour? Specificity. Strength, Accessibility, and other
The question when attitudes influence behaviour has opened many different
factors which serve as moderators - they influence the extent to which attitudes
affect behaviour. Among several of the moderators that exist, most seem to be
related to (1) aspects of the situation, (2) aspects of attitudes themselves, and (3)
aspects of individuals (Fazio & Roskos – Ewoldsen, 1994).

1. Aspects of the situation

“Dress” on college campuses is very casual now-a-days. A Professor usually
does not pay much attention to the way students in his classes are dressed.
Suppose one day a student has come to the classroom looking so dirty and sloppy,
the Professor cannot avoid noting that. And as such he would like to say something
about it since it is worth maintaining some minimal standards of appearance in a
college environment, more particularly in a classroom situation. However, he would
never say a word. Perhaps he might have realised that such norms are almost dead.
(Norms are social rules indicating how people in a group or society, are supposed to
behave in a given situation). And for the faculty member, the norm is clearly given in
American Society “How students dress, is not your concern.” This kind of incident
has illustrated one important factor that moderates (influences) the relationship
between attitudes and behaviour; situational constraints.
In fact, people sometimes cannot express their attitude, since that would be
contrary to the norms in a given social situation. Research evidence has given
support to this view (e.g. Agen & Fishbein 1980); Fazio & Roskos, Ewoldsen 1994).
Therefore, it is very clear that gaps between attitudes and behaviour often involve
such factors.
Another aspect of situations that influences the attitudes behaviour link is time
pressure. Suppose when persons are under time pressure and as a result have to
decide, to act very quickly, they tend to fall back upon their attitudes as quick-and-
easy guides. So, when time pressure is great in certain situations, the attitude –
behaviour link tends to be stronger than in situations in which such pressures are
less and in which persons have the time to utilize the available information more
carefully (Jamison & Zanna 1989).
Situational factors can influence the link between attitudes and behaviour in
one additional way. That people in general tend to prefer situations that allow them
to maintain a close match between their attitudes and behaviour. In other words, we
often prefer to spend time in situations, in which what we say and what we do
coincide (Snyder & Ickes, 1985).
All these findings clearly point out the relationship between attitudes and
situations as a two-way street. Situational pressures shape the extent to which
attitudes are expressed in overt behaviour, but attitudes of individuals determine

them to prefer to use several situations. So, to understand the link between
attitudes and behaviour, we should take note of both of these factors-situations and
2. Aspects of Attitudes Themselves
Some years ago as witnessed by R.A. Baron, a large timber company had
entered into a contract with the government, to cut trees in a national forest. But a
group of conservationists strongly objected to cut these magnificent trees. In fact,
they were passionately committed to saving the trees. Since they held powerful
attitudes, that strongly influenced their behaviour to protest and prevent the large

scale cutting of trees. And this tactics worked: there was so much wide publicity and
very soon the contract was revoked and finally the trees were saved. Incidents of this
kind are not uncommon. For example, similarly persons who are passionately
against “abortion” demonstrate outside abortion clinics and would even physically
assault doctors, who conduct abortions. In fact, the link between attitudes and
behaviour is strongly moderated by several aspects of attitudes themselves. Let us
now deal with many of these factors.
Attitude origins: Evidence shows that attitudes formed on the basis of direct
experience often exert stronger effects on behaviour than the ones formed through
indirect processes. Attitude strength: This is another factor, which is the most
important. The stronger the attitudes are, the greater their impact on behaviour.
(Petkova, Asizen & Driver, 1995). The term ‘strength’ refers to the extremity or
intensity of an attitude how strong is the emotional reaction provoked by the
attitude object.
And in 1995, one or more persons who had powerful or strong antigovernment
attitudes blew up a federal building in Oklahoma city, killing hundreds of innocent
persons through this violent expression of their view. Strong attitudes in action, has
been illustrated through a tragic example. So when persons hold certain attitudes
passionately, they often express or display these in relatively extreme forms of
Its importance - the extent to which a person cares deeply about and also
personally affected by that attitude; knowledge – how much a person knows about
the attitude object; and accessibility - how easily the attitude comes into mind, in
several situations. According to the finding of Krosnick et. al., (1993), all these
components (strength, importance, knowledge and accessibility) play a role in
attitude strength and we may guess, they are all related.
Not only strong attitudes exert a greater impact on behaviour but also they are
more resistant to change. Further they are more stable over time and have a greater
impact on several aspects of social cognition. Thus attitude strength is a very
important factor in the attitude behaviour link. And it is worth analysing some of the
components that influence the attitude strength (Kracks, 1995).
Some important clues have been provided by the researchers Boninger,
Krosnick and Berent (1995). According to their reasoning, three major factors may

play a vital role in determining attitude importance. (a) One is self-interest; the
greater the impact on a person’s self-interest, the more important the attitude
(b) Next is social identification – the greater the extent to which an attitude is held by
groups and to which the person has identified, then greater is its importance
(c) Finally, attitude importance emerges from value relevance: the more intimately an
attitude is connected to a person’s personal values, then greater will be its
Boninger et. al., (1995) had tested this reasoning by an empirical study. From
the telephone book of a large city, the researchers had selected persons on a random

basis and asked them to express their views about one current issue in the United
States gun control. The participants were asked to point out, how much the issue
(gun control) affected their lives with reference to the above three factors. Results of
that study showed that all of these factors played an important role, in overall
attitude importance. In short, what makes an attitude important, is its relationship
to basic social and individual needs and values.
Another some what different aspect of attitude strength is attitude accessibility
– the strength of the attitude object – evaluation link in memory. In other words, the
stronger this link, the more quickly or readily an attitude can come to mind. The
findings of De Bono and Snyder (1995) illustrate the effects of attitude accessibility:
in general, the stronger an attitude, the more readily it comes to mind. So it appears
that attitude accessibility is another component - a clear reflection of attitude
Attitude specificity: Finally we should analyse attitude specificity, which refers
to the extent to which attitudes are focused on particular objects or situations rather
than general ones. For example, a person may have a general attitude about religion
(e.g., everyone must have some religious convictions) but much more specific
attitudes about the importance of attending services every week (going to temple or
church or mosque – is important or unimportant); about wearing a religious symbol,
(I like to do or don’t want to do). According to research findings, the attitude
behaviour link is stronger especially when attitudes and behaviours are measured at
the same level of specificity. For instance, we could probably be more accurate in
predicting whether a person concerned will go to services this week or not based
upon his attitude about ‘weekly attendance’ than from his attitude about religion in
general (Fazio & Roskos – Evoldsen, 1994). Thus, attitude specificity is an important
factor in the attitude behaviour link. Finally, to sum up it is clear that when
attitudes are stronger, then their impact or influence is likewise greater upon overt
behaviour (Kraus, 1995).
Aspects of Individual: Is the Attitude Behaviour Link stronger for some persons than
for others?
Yes. Growing research evidence suggests that it is. We cannot ignore the
individual differences in this respect. There is every possibility that the link between
attitude and behaviour is stronger for some persons than for others. It appears that
some persons use their attitudes as an important guide to behaviour. When trying to
decide how to behave in a given situation, they tend to look inward. But in the case
of others, they focus their attention outward by seeing what others are doing or
saying, and they try to behave in a way that will be viewed most favourably by the
people around them. This dimension is called – as self-monitoring. And the strength
of the attitude behaviour link does seem to differ for persons at its high and low
ends – high and low self-monitors, respectively. It appears that attitudes are perhaps
a better predictor of behaviour for low self-monitors – persons who use their
attitudes as important guides to their behaviour. On the contrary, this link is weaker
for high self-monitors (e.g., Azjen, Timko, & White, 1982; De Bono & Soyder 1995).

How Do Attitudes Influence Behaviour?

We have already learnt that Social Psychologists are interested not only in the
when of social thought and social behaviour but also in the why and how, as well.
With regard to the question how attitudes influence behaviour, researchers have
identified two basic mechanisms, through which attitudes shape behaviour.
a) Attitudes, Reasoned Thought and Behaviour
This first mechanism is called by Aizen & Fishbein (1980) as the Theory of
Planned Behaviour. They suggest that the best predictor of how we will act in a given
situation, is the strength of our intentions, with respect to that situation. (Aizen,
1987). Planned behaviour as a reasoned thought operate in situations, where we
provide careful deliberate thought to our attitudes and their implications, for our
Let us take an example to illustrate this matter. Will a person engage in body
piercing for wearing a nose ornament? According to Aizen and Fishbein, the answer
depends upon his intentions, and these, inturn, are strongly influenced by three key
factors (1) First, the person’s attitudes toward the behaviour in question. Suppose
that person really dislikes pain and resists the idea of someone piercing a needle
through his intention to engage in such behaviour may be weak (2) The second
factor is called subjective norms. And it is related to the persons beliefs about how
others will evaluate this behaviour. Suppose the person thinks, that others will
approve of body piercing, his intention to perform it may be strengthened. Suppose
he behaves that others will disapprove of that, then his intention may be weakened.
(3) Finally, intentions are also affected by perceived behavioural control – the extent
to which a person perceives a behaviour as hard or easy to achieve. Suppose it is
viewed or perceived as difficult, then our intentions become weaker, than when it is
viewed as something easy to do. All these factors, together tend to influence
intentions and these inturn, is the best single predictor of the individual’s behaviour.
b) Attitudes and Immediate Behaviour Reactions
The previous model – theory of planned behaviour – seems to be quite OK or
accurate in situations, where we have enough time and opportunity to reflect
carefully about several matters. But what about situations wherein we have to act
quickly? In such situations, attitudes seem to influence behaviour in a more direct
and automatic manner.

This second mechanism is a theory known as Fagio’s attitudes – to – behaviour
process model (Fagio, 1989, Fagio & Roskos – Ewoldsen, 1994). In this process,
some event activates an attitude; and the attitude once activated, influences our
perceptions of the attitude object. At the same time our knowledge about what is
appropriate in a given situation (our knowledge about several social norms) is also
activated. The attitude together with this stored information about what is
appropriate or expected, shape our definition of the event; and this definition or
perception, in turn, influences our behaviour.

For example, suppose a panhandler has approached a person on the street.

What would happen? This event would trigger his attitudes toward panhandlers and
also his understanding about how people generally are expected to behave on public
streets. These factors together would influence his definition of the event, and then
shapes his behaviour as illustrated by the figure given below:

Event Definition
activates of the Behaviour
perception of
attitude Event
attitude object

Stored Knowledge
about what is
appropriate or
expected in this

Figure 4.1
According to Fazio’s Attitude to Behaviour Process Model, in situations where
we do not have time to engage in careful, reasoned thought, attitudes guide
behaviour in the manner as described above. Several of the research studies provide
support for this model.
In short, it appears that attitudes affect our behaviour through two
mechanisms. And these two mechanisms seem to operate under contrasting
conditions. When we have sufficient time to engage in careful, reasoned thought, we
can look at all kinds of alternatives and accordingly decide, quite deliberately how to
act. This is one side of the picture. But we are also exposed to the other side of the
picture especially under hectic conditions of everyday social life. So in such a
situation, often we do not find time to think leisurely and finally arrive at calm
deliberations visualising several alternatives. Under this circumstance, our attitudes
seem to shape our perceptions of several events and consequently our immediate
behavioural reactions to them.

It is clear that each day we are literally bombarded through the mass media like
Newspaper, Books and Magazine advertisements, Radio and Television commercials,
Political speeches, Appeals from charities and so on. Almost this kind of list is
endless. Any effort to change attitudes of people, through persuasion, whether they
succeed or fail are the issues we have to consider next.
Persuasion: The Traditional Approach
Generally, efforts at persuasion involve the following elements: Some source
directs some type of persuasive message (the communication) to those whose
attitudes, the source wishes to change (the audience) these several aspects are

focused on the following question: who says what to whom and with what effect?
This traditional approach to the study of persuasion is called in the field of social
psychology as Yale Approach, an early research study on this matter was done at
Yale University. And this kind of research sought to identity those characteristics of
communicators (sources), communications (Persuasive messages) and audiences,
that all these together influence persuasion (Hovland, Janis & Kelley, 1953). The
research findings were complex and not always found consistent. However, some of
the results have generally withstood the test of time and they are given below:
1. Experts are more persuasive than non-experts (Hovland & Weiss, 1951).
2. Messages given in a casual manner are more successful to change our
attitudes than those intended to reach this goal – (Walster & Festinger
1962). Generally we refuse to be influenced by persons who deliberately
resort to persuade us. And further we do not trust those who compel or
coerce too much, in this regard.
3. Attractive communicators (sources) are more effective in changing attitudes
than unattractive ones (Kiesler & Kiesler, 1969).
4. People are sometimes more susceptible to persuasion while they are
distracted by some external event than when they focus attention to what is
being said. (Allyn & Festinger 1961).
5. Persons who are relatively low in self-esteem are often easier to persuade
than those high in self-esteem (Janis, 1954). However, according to Wood &
Stagner, (1994) this relationship cannot be true. This is because persons
low in self-esteem are often withdrawn, and as such they may fail to pay
attention to some kind of persuasive messages.
6. Generally it is more effective for the communicator to adopt a two-sided
approach – (both sides of the argument are presented instead of one-sided
approach) especially when an audience or group is holding attitudes
contrary to the would be persuader. This is probably because the persuader
strongly supporting one side of an issue, while acknowledging at the same
time a few good points of the other side, in its favour serves to discuss the
audience. This in turn would make it harder for the audience, to resist the
7. Persons who speak fast or rapidly are often more persuasive than persons
who speak more slowly (Miller et. al., 1976). Rapid speech is more
persuasive since it seems to create an impression that the communicator
knows about what is being talked about.
8. Messages that arouse strong emotions, especially fear, are highly effective in
the persuasion process – through a change in attitude or behaviour, and
this in turn will prevent the ingenious effects. (Leventhal, Singer & Jones,
1965). In other words, such kind of fear based appeals seem to be
particularly effective in changing health related attitudes and behaviour
(Robberson & Rogers, 1988).

Although many of these findings appear to be accurate, some have been

modified by very recent evidence. For example, the earlier finding that fast talkers
are often more persuasive than slow speakers has been altered by recent studies.
The above finding is true only when the fast speakers present views, different from
those held by their audience. (Smith & Shaffer, 1991). In other words, fast talkers
present views consistent with that of the audience or the group, then their
performance may actually be less persuasive. In fact, this might be partly because,
the speed of their speech tends to prevent listeners from thinking about and also
elaborating the message, when it is rapidly delivered. With some exceptions,
however, the summarized findings given are useful generalisation about persuasion
based on systematic research done in the past. So, they form an important part of
our knowledge about the process of persuasion.
Persuasion: The Cognitive Approach
The traditional approach has certainly given a wealth of information about the
‘when’ and ‘how’ of persuasion. However, it did not answer to the why of persuasion-
why do persons change their attitudes in response to persuasive appeal or
messages. This issue of understanding the nature of persuasion has been brought
into focus by modern approach.
The cognitive perspective on persuasion has been provided by Petty et. al.
(1994). This approach does not concentrate on the question of: “Who says what, to
whom, and with what effect.” But, it focuses on the cognitive processes, which
focuses on how persons are actually persuaded. In other words, this newer cognitive
perspective concentrated on, what many of the researchers refer to a cognitive
response analysis - efforts to understand (1) When people are exposed to persuasive
messages, what do they think about and (2) how do these thoughts and basic
cognitive processes determine whether, and to what extent, people experience
attitude change (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986; Petty, Unnava & Strathman, 1991). Let us
next examine the most influential cognitive theory of persuasion.
The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion: Where Persuasion is
concerned, “To think or Not to Think” Is indeed a crucial Question. What
happens to individuals when they receive a persuasive message? According to Petty
et. al. (1994) individuals think about the message, the arguments it makes and the
arguments it has left out. It is these thoughts, but not the message itself, that then
lead either to attitude change or to resistance to such change.
But how does persuasion actually occur? From the standpoint of Elaboration
Likelihood Model. (shortly called ELM) two different processes can occur, reflecting
different amounts of cognitive effort, on the part of message recipients. The first
process known as the central route – occurs when recipients consider a persuasive
message interesting, important, and personally relevant, suppose it is not found like
this, devoting careful attention to it, is ignored. In a favourable condition, they may
examine the message in a careful and thoughtful manner, evaluating the strength or
rationality of the arguments, it contains. When the individual’s reactions are

favourable, then her/his attitudes and other existing cognitive structures may be
changed and persuasion occurs.
On the contrary, suppose recipients consider the persuasive message as
uninteresting or uninvolving, then they are not motivated to process it carefully.
However this does not mean, that it cannot affect them. In fact, persuasion can still
occur but this will be done through peripheral route. Further main reasons for
persons to change their attitudes to such uninteresting messages, are the following.
Perhaps that message contains something, which induces positive feelings through
an attractive model or a scene of natural beauty; or perhaps the source of the
message is very high in status, prestige, or credibility. In fact, under these
conditions, attitude change may occur, without any kind of critical analysis about
the contents of the message. So, advertisers, politicians, salespersons and others
wanting to change our attitudes, are well aware of this alternate route to persuasion.
They often resort to use this route especially when they realise that the arguments in
support of their product or candidate, are not strong or convincing. Under such
situations, they would try to wow you or owe you with beautiful persons; begin to
employ clever slogans or catchy tunes to encircle others to their side. However, such
appeals can be quite effective, at least for a short period.

Degree of attitude
High Central Change depends
Processing of
elaboration route on quality of


Careful Attitude Change

Low Peripheral depends on
elaboration route does not presence of
occur Persuasion cues

Figure 4.2
A large body of evidence shows that the ELM is accurate and many
predictions based on the ELM have been confirmed. According to the Elaboration
Likelihood Model, persuasion can occur in either of two different ways central route
or peripheral route. In other words, individuals can engage in systematic processing
of the information, contained in persuasive messages, in which case, persuasion
occurs through the central route. Alternatively, persuasion can occur through the
peripheral route - here individuals can respond largely to persuasion cues, such as
the source’s apparent status or attractiveness.

Effects of Persuasion, through the two kinds of routes: According to Petty &
Cacioppo, (1986), first attitudes changed through the central route seem to continue
to exist, longer than that has been changed through the peripheral route. In the
beginning, both routes to persuasion may bring about similar levels of attitude
change. But later on, change brought about by the peripheral route tends to
disappear. Next, it appears that attitude change caused by the central route is more
resistant to subsequent attempts at persuasion than change caused by the
peripheral route – (Perry et. al 1994). And finally, attitudes changed by the central
route are more closely linked to behaviour than attitudes changed by the peripheral
All these differences reveal the fact that change occurred through the central
route makes a real shift in the way people think about a particular attitude object –
a reorganisation of the cognitive structure relating to this object. On the contrary,
change caused by the peripheral route, may disappear once the current stimuli (a
whim of the movement) have gone. To conclude, for a long-term change in the
individual’s attitudes, there can be no better substitute than the well-reasoned
arguments presented in a clear cut way and in a forceful manner.
Other Factors Affecting Persuasion: Attitude Functions, Reciprocity, and Message
Persuasion being a central topic in social psychology has been studied from
several different perspectives. Cognitive aspects of this process alone is not the
entire story about persuasion. In other words, more than cognitive factors several
other factors are affecting persuasion. Let us consider some of this recent work.
a) Attitude Functions
Attitudes serve several different functions for those persons who hold them.
Sometimes they help the attitude holders through a knowledge function to organise
and interpret diverse sets of information; through a self-expression or self-identity
function to express their central values or beliefs; through a self-esteem function to
maintain or enhance their self-esteem by allowing them to compare themselves
favourably with others.
The functions served by attitudes are important from the point of view of
persuasion. Persuasive messages, containing information relevant to specific
attitudes will be processed differently from persuasive messages, which do not

contain such information. For instance suppose an attitude helps people towards
boosting their self-esteem, then efforts to change this attitude should focus upon the
benefits to one’s image, by adopting this change. Several studies lend support for
this reasoning (e.g. Shavitt, 1989; 1990).
b) Reciprocity: Attitude change as a two way street: In the case of social
behaviour, reciprocity appears to be a guiding principle. With few exceptions,
generally we like all those who like us, co-operate with others, who co-operate with
us, help others, who help us and aggress against others, who treat us harshly (e.g.
Cialdini, 1994). Recent evidence has suggested that it seems possible that

reciprocity might play a role in persuasion. In other words, we tend to change our
attitudes, in response to persuasion from others, who have changed their views
previously in response to our own efforts at persuasion. So it seems that reciprocity
does play an important role in some instances of attitude change (Cialdini, Green &
Rusch 1992).
C) Message Framing: Should Would Be Persuaders Give People the Good News or the
Bad News
We studied earlier that would be persuaders often make use of persuasion. In
other words, they try to frighten persons in order to change their attitudes by giving
negative effects that will occur or follow, if their suggestion or recommendations are
not accepted. Persuasion tactics can be employed usefully through positive approach
towards changing attitudes and behaviour of people.
Recent Research studies on this issue, offer the following conclusion: In this
context, are we to emphasize the bad news (harmful effects will occur when
persuasion is not accepted) or the good news (beneficial result will occur, when
persuasion is accepted) depends upon the intended audience. Some persons are
more influenced by the “bad-news” approach – known as negative framing – while
others are more influenced by the “good-news” approach – known as positive
framing. Research studies by Tykocinski, Higgins and Chaiken (1994) have given
support to this relationship.
According to these researchers among these two approaches, which will be
most effective depends partly upon certain aspects of individual’s self-concept. They
have observed that specifically most of the individuals are aware of the discrepancies
that exist between our current self-concept and what kind of person we would like to
be. However, the nature of such kind of discrepancies differs from person to person.
In other words, some persons focus upon discrepancies between their current self
(Real self) and their ideal self (actual: ideal discrepancies), while some others focus
upon discrepancies between their current self and how other important persons in
their life think, they should be (actual: ought discrepancies).
Researchers have reasoned that persons in the first category would be very
disturbed by information about positive outcomes – because this would remind them
about how much they fall short of their ideal. As a result, they tend to engage in
more counter arguing process to positively framed messages, which in turn would be

more influenced by negatively framed messages. In contrast, persons in the second
category (those who experience actual, ought discrepancies) would be more
disturbed by information about negative effects in which they had fallen short of
others’ (e.g. their parents’) ideals. As a result, such persons would engage in more
counter – arguing to negatively formulated messages and as such would be
influenced to a greater extent by positively framed messages.
The researchers Tykocinsky, Higgins and Chaiken (1994) tested their
hypothesis by selecting persons, who have been identical as falling into two groups
(actual: ideal versus actual; ought discrepancies) and who did not currently eat

breakfast to persuasive messages, designed to get them to eat into meal every
morning. For both groups, some participants were exposed to negatively framed
messages, emphasizing that negative effects would occur if they do not take
breakfast (e.g., low glucose level; poor performance and concentration). In contrast,
some others were exposed to positively framed messages, which emphasised the
advantages of eating breakfast (e.g., high glucose levels; increased performance and
concentration). The participants, after receiving the persuasive messages, expressed
their intentions about eating breakfast. In fact, the two types of messages had given
contrasting effects, on the two groups of participants. Participants with actual: ideal
discrepancies were more strongly influenced by the negatively framed message; while
those participants with actual; ought discrepancies were more strongly influenced by
the positively framed message.
To sum up, these findings have given two important points about persuasion.
And all would be persuaders have to consider such points carefully (1) Personal
characteristics of target persons, often strongly influence their reactions to
persuasive appeals; and (2) Carefully matching such appeals, to their intended
audiences, is often a useful strategy for increasing persuasion.




As individuals in society we are surrounded by a wide range of persuasive
messages, on several issues day after day and hour to hour. However, we are not
easily susceptible to all these persuasive forces. Further, in spite of all the charm,
talent and expertise used in the persuasive task, finally at the receiving end our
attitudes tend to remain remarkably stable. Many times even very powerful efforts to
change our attitudes do not prove to be a success because some factors provide us
an impressive ability to resist that change.
Reactance: Protecting our Personal Freedom: In our life situations, sometimes
we would come across some person exerting mounting pressure on us, in order to
get us to change our attitudes. Suppose such a person continues to give mounting
pressure on us, then we would experience increasing levels of annoyance and
resentment. As a result, the final outcome will be rather counter productive. In such
a situation, we would not only resist but also would like to do the opposite of, what
the would be persuader really wants. This resistance behaviour, is called by social
psychologists as psychological reactance. Generally when our personal freedom is
robbed or prevented by others, we tend to generate a negative reaction. Research
findings point out that in such situations, we often change our attitudes or
behaviour in a direction, diametrically opposite to that being urged on us. This effect
is known as negative attitude change (Brehm, 1966l; Rhodewalt & Davison, 1983).
In fact, people would otherwise normally accept, but for the excessive persuasive
pressure given to them. Especially when individuals consider such appeals as direct
threats to their personal freedom or to their image of being an independent person,
they are strongly motivated to resist. And many would be persuaders are doomed or
bound to fail, when they come across persons with such resistance.
Forewarning: Prior Knowledge of Persuasive Intent
As we watch television, we expect commercial to interrupt most programmes.
Further we know full well that these messages are designed to change our views and
thereby enable us to buy various products. Likewise we know, the politician
delivering a political speech, has an ulterior motive of getting our vote. Any such

advance knowledge, according to researchers is known as forewarning. In other
words, once we know in advance about the persuasive intent behind such messages,
that would help us to resist them. (e.g. Cialdini & Petty, 1979, Petty & Cacioppo, 1981).
Suppose we know that a speech, taped message, or written appeal is designed
to alter our views, we are often less likely to be affected by it, than when we do not
know anything about it. Why is this so? This is because forewarning influences us
by giving a greater opportunity to formulate or design counter arguments that would
lessen the impact of the persuasive message. Further, forewarning provides enough
time to recall relevant facts and information to refute a persuasive message (Wood,

1982). According to Krosnick (1989) the benefits of forewarning are many with
respect to attitudes that we consider important and also far less significant. In fact,
so far as persuasion is concerned to be forewarned is indeed to be forearmed.
Selective Avoidance
Another way by which we resist persuasive efforts is through selective
avoidance. This is a tendency to direct our attention away from information
that challenges our existing attitudes. We studied earlier in Lesson – 3: Social
Cognition, that selective avoidance is one of the ways in which schemas guide the
processing of social information, and attitudes often operate as schemas. To
illustrate the effects of selective avoidance, we shall consider the example of
television viewing. People do not simply sit in front of the working T.V. and absorb
whatever the telecast media decide to dish out or flash out. The viewers, instead,
have their own preference to choose a channel, to mute the commercials, engage in
several other activities or cognitively tune out especially when exposed to
information contrary to their views. So, by selective avoidance the ultimate result is
opposite effect. Suppose we encounter information that supports our views, we tend
to give our full attention to it. These tendencies to avoid, or ignore information which
contradict our attitudes and at the same time actively seeking information
consistent with our attitudes, constitute the two sides – selective avoidance and
selective exposure according to social psychologists. And such selectivity in what we
make the focus of our attention helps to ensure that our attitudes remain intact for
long periods of time. Further these tendencies, incidentally play a role in our
preference for friends, who share our attitudes.
To sum up, our ability to resist persuasion is impressive due to the operation of
psychological recapture, forewarning (prior caution) and selective avoidance. Attitude
change does occur in some cases but not in all cases. To deny the attitude change
totally, would lead to calling all forms of advertising, propaganda, and political
campaigning as worthless or useless - this conclusion only a few would accept.
Similarly, to get into an opposite conclusion we are all really helpless pawns or
creatures in the hands of all powerful persuaders, is equally false.
In the day-to-day life situations, whenever an individual’s behaviour is clearly
inconsistent with his attitudes, he or she would experience a kind of discomfort. And

this psychological state of discomfort along with an unpleasantness is called by
Social Psychologist Festinger (1957) as Cognitive Dissonance. According to Festinger
cognitive dissonance is an internal state that occurs when a person notices
inconsistency between two or more of his or her attitudes or between that person’s
attitude and behaviour.
As a matter of fact, unfortunately cognitive dissonance is a very common
experience. For instance, we discover that something we have purchased is not as
good as we expected and consequently we may experience dissonance. In all these
situations, there is a gap between our actions (behaviour) and our attitudes and this

tends to make us quite uncomfortable. Apart from this, sometimes cognitive

dissonance would lead us to modify our attitudes - this shift is made so as to make
it consistent with our other attitudes or with our overt (expressed) behaviour. In
other words, due to cognitive dissonance and its effects we ought sometimes change
our own attitudes, without any kind of outside pressure to do so.

Cognitive Dissonance: What It is? And How It is Reduced

We have noted earlier that dissonance theory starts with a very reasonable idea
that people do not like inconsistency and when it occurs they are in a state of
discomfort. This inconsistency can occur between any two or more of our attitudes
or between our attitudes and behaviour. For example, (i) “a person is against
prejudice” but “the same person does not like minority people, living in his locality or
neighbourhood.” (ii) Similarly, “a person is on a diet, in order to be slim” but “he is
sitting in a dining hall and eating a huge fatty food and rich dessert.” As a result, a
person might experience an uncomfortable state called cognitive dissonance.
Further the theory states, when we are in cognitive dissonance, we experience an
urge or motivation to reduce that state of unpleasantness. In other words, we have
an urge to reduce dissonance – to all the psychological imbalance into balance so
that the individual will experience peace of mind, instead of disturbed mind (pieces
of mind). How shall we accomplish this goal – (to reduce dissonance and to achieve
The theory of cognitive dissonance is focussing on three basic mechanisms
(Simon, Greenberg & Brehm, 1995). (1) First, we can change our attitudes or
behaviour to make them consistent with each other. For instance, in the first
example given earlier, the person concerned can become more favourable towards
minority people by accommodating them in his neighbourhood as neighbours. And
in the second example, the person can actually push away the fatty food or dessert
instead of eating it. This would help him to reduce inconsistency between present
behaviour and two underlying attitudes (2) Second, we can try to acquire new
information that would support our attitude or our behaviour. For example, persons
who smoke may gather evidence suggesting that the harmful effects of this habit of
smoking are only minimal (3) Third, we can decide that the inconsistency actually
does not matter at all. In short, we can get into a thinking of trivialisation – thereby
we can conclude that the attitudes or behaviours in question are not at all
important. Finally, any kind of inconsistency between them is insignificant (Simon,
Greenberg & Brehm, 1995). See the Figure 5.1. Even though individuals
experiencing cognitive dissonance can reduce it in several different ways, there are
three major mechanisms shown in the figure and they are most important.

Attitude or behaviour

Adding new consonant Dissonance

information Reduction

Down playing the
importance of the
attitudes or behaviours

Figure 5.1
Among the several modes of dissonance reduction, generally we prefer to use
the one, which requires least effort. In this matter, we are pragmatic – to reduce this
unpleasant state, we take whatever step is available but at the same time choose
that step which requires the least effort. Before studying the role of cognitive
dissonance in attitude change, we shall consider some evidence about the accuracy
of certain key aspects of dissonance theory.
Is Dissonance Really Unpleasant?
Do people get into an experience of discomfort, when there is inconsistency
between their attitudes and behaviour. This is a basic assumption and an important
aspect of dissonance theory. These theorists are of the view, that presumably the
unpleasantness of dissonance tends to motivate people to try to reduce that
imbalanced state. From the standpoint of physiological sense, that dissonance is
arousing has been well established. (e.g. Elkin & Leippe, 1986; Losch & Cacioppo,
1990): Suppose people are placed in a situation, wherein their attitudes and
behaviour do not agree, they do display increased levels of arousal. To the question
whether such arousal is unpleasant until recently there was no direct evidence.
Research studies by Elliot and Devine (1994) however, have filled this gap now. To
find out whether dissonance produces feelings of psychological discomfort, some of
the individuals (University students) wrote an essay – favouring a large increase in
tuition fee in arguing against their own views and reported their current feelings
soon after writing it and later on reported their attitudes towards the tuition fee
increase. In contrast, those students in another group, reported on their attitudes
first, and after writing the essay reported on their feelings.
In short, individuals who rated their current feelings, immediately after being
engaged in counter attitudinal behaviour (writing an essay against their own views)

expressed the highest levels of discomfort. On the contrary, those persons who wrote
the essay, reported their attitudes, and later on only reported their feelings showed
lower levels of discomfort apparently because they had changed their attitudes to
reduce dissonance. The findings of Elliot & Devine provide a clear support to the
view that dissonance is an unpleasant state. And it is the individual’s efforts to
reduce this discomfort, that motivate attitude change, for people to settle the
attitude discrepant behaviour.
Modes of Dissonance Reduction: Tactics for Eliminating That Uncomfortable Feeling
As we studied in lesson 3: Social cognition, we prefer to take the path of least
resistance, wherever possible. And for many aspects of human behaviour, including
social thought, this approach, the path of least resistance, - seems to be a guiding
principle. So, it is not surprising that when individuals get into dissonance, they try
to reduce it in the easiest possible way. It is rather very difficult to change one’s
overt behaviour. So, regarding the effects of dissonance, most studies have focussed
on attitude change. Evidence shows that this is one important way through which
people eliminate inconsistencies between their attitudes and their actions.
Trivialization is another strategy, that may be even less effortful in some
situations. Here people perceive both the attitudes and behaviours involved as
relatively unimportant. In other words, trivialization is a technique for reducing
dissonance, in which the importance of attitudes or behaviour, which are
inconsistent with each other is cognitively reduced. For instance “True I did not take
those cans of paint, to the recycling centre, but after all, a few cans of paint are not
very important, and I am only one out of almost six billion people in the world
………” That is the kind of thinking, found in the cognitive process of trivialization.
Trivialization technique employed for reducing dissonance seems to be a useful
one. However, it was not studied in detail, until quite recently. So, there has been
another gap in our knowledge about dissonance. But the research studies by Simon,
Greenberg, and Brehm (1995) have given the missing information. Findings of these
studies taken together point to the overall conclusion that once individuals prefer to
choose the easiest or most convenient form of dissonance reduction, they tend to
ignore all others. To conclude, not only do we choose the path of least resistance,
and once we focus on that we do not bother to glance, cognitively at the alternatives.
Dissonance and Attitude Change: The Effects of Forced Compliance

In our everyday life, there are many occasions when we must say or do things
inconsistent with our real attitudes. Social psychologists refer to such situations as
forced compliance situations where we are forced to say to do something contrary to
our real views. According to social psychologists when we cannot change our
behaviour, we will change the attitudes, which are inconsistent with it. For example,
our friend has invited us for a dinner and we have also gone to his/her house but
the food given was awful. And to the question from the friend whether we liked it, we
would reply “Delicious food” really, even though the truth is quite opposite. However,
to settle this discrepancy, we may conclude that the food is really good but we are

new to this food and unfamiliar with this combination of tasks and hence cannot
employ and appreciate it. In brief, dissonance theory suggests that sometimes we
really do change our own attitudes in order to bring them into closer alignment with
our overt actions. In fact, we are likely to do this, especially when other techniques
for reducing dissonance require greater effort.
Dissonance and the Less – Leads-to-More Effect
We can engage in attitude discrepant behaviour for many reasons and some of
these reasons are stronger or more compelling than others. It will be surprising to
learn that dissonance will be stronger, when we have few reasons for engaging in
attitude-discrepant behaviour. This is because, under these conditions, we cannot
explain our actions properly to ourselves, since we have performed them, even
though there was no compelling reason for doing so. As a result, dissonance tends to
increase our consciousness.

Strong reasons for

Dissonance is Attitude change
engaging in attitude
Weak is small
discrepant behaviour

Weak reasons for Dissonance is

engaging in attitude- Attitude change
discrepant behaviour Strong is large

Figure 5.2
As per the figure 5.2 why the Less (smaller inducements) often leads to more
(Greater Attitude change) after attitude – discrepant behaviour? Now the answer is
clearly given. Suppose persons have strong reasons for engaging in attitude
discrepant behaviour, then they get into small amounts of dissonance and this in
turn give them weak pressure or urge to change their attitudes. But, when persons
have weak reasons for engaging in attitude-discrepant behaviour, then they would

experience larger amounts of dissonance and as such that would give stronger
pressure towards changing their attitudes. With the result: Less (smaller rewards
and weak reasons) leads to more or greater or larger amount of attitude change,
since “in-between” the two arrows (see figure) the person has strong dissonance.
Dissonance theory has suggested that it may be easier to change a person’s
attitudes, by getting them into attitude-discrepant behaviour, with very little reasons
to engage in such behaviour. Social psychologists sometimes refer to this surprising
prediction as the less-leads-to-more effect (less reason leads to more attitude
change). This has been confirmed by many different studies (e.g., Riess & Schlaker,

1977). The first and most famous of these experiments was conducted by Festinger &
Carlsmith, (1959). After engaging in the attitude – discrepant behaviour – by telling
another person, that the dull or boring tasks were interesting – participants were
asked to point out their own liking for these tasks. As predicted here, that the less-
leads-to-more effect, those persons who had received the small reward for misleading
a stranger, had actually reported that they are liking the tasks to a greater extent,
than those who got large reward. This effect has been confirmed in many studies.
However, we should note that it does note occur, under all conditions. Rather, it
seems to happen only when several circumstances mentioned below exist, according
to Co-oper & Scher (1994).
(1) First, the less-leads-to-more effect occurs only in situations, where people
believe that they have a choice, as to whether or not to perform the attitude discrepant
behaviour. (2) Second, small rewards lead to greater attitude change, only when
people believe that they were personally responsible for both the chosen course of
action and any negative effects it produced (Goethals, Cooper & Naficy, 1979) (3) And
third, the less-leads to more effect does not occur, when people consider the payment
that they receive as a bribe, rather than as a well deserved payment for services
All those findings point out that there are definite limits, on the impact of forced
compliance: it does not lead to attitude change on all occasions. Still, the conditions
mentioned above often do exist – For instance, often people do have or think that
they have freedom of actions; they tend to accept responsibility for their own
behaviour and its consequences; and further they tend to view inducements
(rewards) that they get as well-earned compliments. Therefore, the strategy of
offering others, just barely enough to induce them to say or do things, contrary to
their true attitudes can often be an effective technique for inducing attitude change
and rather self-generated change at that.
Attitudes are enduring evaluations of several aspects of the social world. And
such evaluations are stored in memory. Attitudes are learned through experience or
through social learning from other persons. There are three basic forms of learning:
classical conditioning, instrumental (operant) conditioning and modelling. Further,
there is subliminal conditioning of attitudes that play a role in their development.
And also attitudes can be formed through social comparison – a process by which we
compare with ourselves, others. According to research studies, genetic, factors also
play a role in the formation of attitudes.
There is growing evidence that attitudes do indeed influence behaviour,
contrary to early findings. However, this relationship is complex and not as simple
as it appears to be. Several factors tend to influence the strength of the attitude
behaviour link. These include (a) aspects of the situation, like the use of social
norms and time pressure; (b) aspects of attitudes themselves, like their strength,
importance and accessibility; and (c) aspects of individuals such as self-monitoring.

Attitudes seem to guide behaviour through two significant ways – through careful
thought when there is enough time; and through an automatic manner when we are
in a hurry.
Persuasion: Persuasion is the process of changing attitudes. Attitude change
produced by the central route is long lasting and has a stronger impact upon overt
behaviour than by the peripheral route.
Resistance to Persuasion: Our strong ability to resist persuasion is influenced
by several factors. And they are reactance – efforts to protect our personal freedom;
forewarning – advance knowledge of the attempt at persuasion; and selective
avoidance of information that is inconsistent with our attitudes.
Cognitive Dissonance: Individuals experience cognitive dissonance, when they
notice inconsistency between their attitudes or between their attitudes and their
behaviour. When people get into dissonance, they are motivated to reduce it. And
this is done by several ways – by changing the attitudes in question; by acquiring
information in support of the behaviour; or by means of trivialization – down playing
the importance of the attitude or the behaviour.
Research studies point out that dissonance is an unpleasant state. When
people have fewer good reasons for engaging in attitude discrepant behaviour, they
then get into greater dissonance and this in turn would exert stronger pressure for
attitude change. And this is called “the les-leads-to-more effect.” Further when
persons experience hypocrisy, they get into dissonance. This is because when they
recognise that they have not lived upto attitudes, which they have expressed
publicly. Recognition of hypocrisy can induce persons to change their behaviour, so
that it could match their attitudes. According to research studies (e.g. Aronson,
1992; Thibodeare & Aronson, 1992) individuals induced to experience hypocrisy
bought more condoms than individuals who did not experience hypocrisy. Further,
they had expressed stronger intentions of engaging in safe sex in the future. These
findings indicate that inducing individuals to experience hypocrisy (and this
generates strong levels of dissonance) can be an effective means for changing both
attitudes and behaviour in a socially desirable direction.
Further, it appears that it is not necessary for persons to engage in attitude –
discrepant behaviour, for such effects to occur. On the contrary, merely by
reminding people of certain attitudes that one holds and his or her own failure to

live upto those attitudes, can be helpful – even in the case of preventing the spread
of AIDS.
In short, we can sometimes change our own attitudes, by saying or doing things
that we believe; and likewise by saying or doing things that we do not believe in.
Regarding social diversity, there is growing evidence showing that attitudes held by
people in several countries are related to the wealth and economic growth of these
nations. For example, it appears that individuals in several Asian countries, which
recently have had very high rates of economic growth, tend to have more favourable

attitudes toward competitiveness and also toward amassing or acquiring personal

wealth than persons in several Western countries.
Classical conditioning – Instrumental conditioning. Modeling - Central route &
Pripheral route to Persuasion - Cognitive dissonance – Forced compliance – Less-
lead-to-More Effect – Selective Avoidance – Trivialization – Reactance.
1. Explain the concept of Attitude and describe how attitudes are formed?
2. Discuss how attitudes influence behaviour?
3. Examine the term ‘persuasion’ and analyse the process of changing
4. Describe the reasons for resistance to persuasion.
5. Explain cognitive dissonance. Suggest techniques to reduce dissonance.




After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Define the self and components of self-identity or self-concept.
 Understand self-esteem as evaluating oneself.
 Describe additional aspects of self-functioning: Focusing, Monitoring and
 Discuss Gender Identity in terms of Maleness or Femaleness.
Introduction – The Self: Self-focusing – Self-Monitoring; Self-Efficacy – Gender
Very early in our lives, each of us has started learning who we are. We begin to
develop a social identity or a self-definition which includes how we conceptualise
ourselves and how we evaluate ourselves (Deaux, 1993 a; Ellemers, Wilke, & Van
Knippenberg 1993).
This social identity (group identity) for each person includes unique aspects like
one’s name and self-concept and aspects shared with others (Sherman, 1994).
Familiar categories include one’s gender and several other relationships like woman,
man, daughter, son; vocation like student, athlete, salesperson, professor, doctor,
lawyer, psychologist, ideological affiliation like feminist, environmentalist, political
affiliation like Democrat, Republican, Communist and so on. All these several
categories are closely linked to our inter-personal world. Further they indicate the
ways in which we are like other persons and where we are unlike (different from)
In this lesson, we will concentrate upon two major components of social
identity. First, we will describe some of the social elements of the self including self-
concept; self-esteem, self-focusing; self-monitoring and self-efficacy, Second, we will

analyse gender – particularly the social determinants of gender identity, gender
roles, and the ways in which behaviour of men and women are influenced by these
As human beings, we spend a lot of time and effort thinking about ourselves. In
other words, we tend to be self-centered literally. The “Self” of each person is the
center of his or her social universe. Self-identity or self-concept is acquired through
social interactions with family members and other people throughout life self-
concept is an organised collection of beliefs and feelings about one-self. In other

words, self-concept is a special framework, which influences how we process

information about the social world around us, along with information about
ourselves like our motives, emotional states, self-evaluation, abilities and so on
(Klein, Loftus, & Burton, 1989; Vanhook & Higgins, 1988). Further even our
possessions are perceived as part of oneself, like that of “my dog”, “my clock”, “my
house”, my room, my cycle and so forth.
Self-concept: The Central Schema
More than a century ago, beginning with William James (1890) several
questions like “Who are you”, “Who am I?” have been used to measure self-concept
(Bugental & Zelen, 1950; Gordon, 1968; Ziller, 1990). In a study conducted by
Rentsch and Heffner (1994) the investigators assumed that each person possesses a
unique self-concept with specific content. However, the overall structure of the self-
concept is the same for all persons. In this study, more than two hundred college
students were asked to respond to the question “Who am I?” With 20 different
answers, to know the components of the self-concept. Statistical analysis of their
responses showed eight distinct categories or factors – Interpersonal Attitudes;
Ascribed (inherited or genetically determined) characteristics; Interests and
Activities; Existential Aspects; Self-determination; Internalised beliefs; Self-
awareness; and Social differentiation. These participants tend to use the same
categories (Eight) while describing themselves. But the specific content of each
category, varied from person to person.
The Cognitive Effects of a Person’s Self-Schema: Self-Schemas are much more
complex than the responses to “Who am I” would suggest. Such a schema, would
reflect all our relevant past experiences; memories of our past; our knowledge about
what we are like now; and our beliefs about what we would like to be in the future.
In other words, a self-schema is the sum total of everything that a person knows and
can imagine about himself or herself.
As individuals, we are able to do a better job of processing self-relevant
information than any other kind of information. And this is known as the self-
reference effect. It is an efficient processing of information about the self. For
example, when a person’s name is Sankar, then he can easily remember names like
Ravi Sankar as a specifialist in Veena; Gowri Sankar as a leading business magnet;
and Udaya Sankar as a great popular dancer, even though he had not seen any of
these individuals in person. According to Higgins & Bargh, (1987), self-relevant
information is most likely to catch our attention, to be retained in memory and as
such to be recalled by us easily. Research findings remark that this occurs because
self-information is likely to be better organised in memory by categorical processing
and more fully related to other information, stored in memory through elaborative
processing: (Klein & Loftus, 1998). They have reasoned that recall of self-relevant
information could be facilitated in one of two ways. First, we are likely to spend more
time thinking about words or events, when they are relevant to ourselves than when
they are not. Such mental activity connects the new material to existing information,
which is already stored in our memory. And this phenomenon is called elaborative

processing. Second, self-relevant material is likely to be better organised in our

memory and placed in categories, which are already present there. And this
phenomenon is called categorical processing. The researchers were able to show that
recall of self-relevant material is most efficient because it is based on both
elaborative and categorical processing. We think deeply about anything that is
relevant to ourselves and further we categorise it effectively. Therefore, we can recall
self-relevant information better than information that is unrelated to ourselves.
The Affective, Evaluative and Behavioural Effects of the Sexual Self-Schema
Apart from influencing cognitive processes, a person’s self-schema presumably
affects his or her behaviour. According to Andersen and Cyranowski (1994) these
effects can be studied with respect to specific aspects of the self-schema rather than
the overall schema. They focused on sexual self-schema. This is the cognitive
representation of the sexual aspects of oneself, that originate in past experience, are
manifested in current experience and influence the processing of sexual information
and guide sexual behaviour.
Their findings clearly showed that women who differ in sexual self-schema also
respond differently to sexual cues emotionally, attitudinally and behaviourally.
These researchers are exploring the possible origins of different sexual self-schema
and the effect of one’s sexual self-schema on more general views of one-self.
However, further research is needed to determine the extent to which the sexual self-
schemas of men can be categorised according to the same three components –
(Passionate – Romantic Schema, Open – Direct Schema; and Embarrassed –
Conservative Schema) identified in women. These components, in turn, are
associated with specific affective, evaluative, and behavioural sex related responses.
One-self concept or Many?
Generally people speak of themselves as though the self were a stable and an
unchanging entity. However, we are aware that we can and do change over time. We
are not the same person that we were ten years ago. Similarly, we are not likely to be
the same person, ten years after. Sometimes we may imagine that what our life will
be after college – entering the job market, getting married, having children, earning
more money, living somewhere else far away from the parents and so on. To state in
brief , we have a self-concept, but also we are aware of other possible selves.
So each person has a self-concept and also other possible selves. In fact,

possible selves are mental representations of what we might become or should
become in the future. It seems very important for children to be encouraged to think
about their future lives and to make connection between alternative futures and
what they are currently doing in school. In a study by Carver, Reynolds, & Scheier
(1994) college students were asked to describe their future selves. Even though both
types of students (who were characteristically optimistic and who were generally
pessimistic) could imagine positive futures, the optimistic group of students had
higher expectations about actually attaining a positive possible self, than the other
group who were pessimistic. Morgan & Janoff Bulman (1994) had observed that

adjustment following various sorts of traumatic events is best for those who can
envision several different positive selves. Further self-complexity actually serves as a
cognitive buffer, against depression and stress – related illness according to Linville,
Self-Esteem: Evaluating One-self
Self-Esteem is the self-evaluation made by each individual. And in this process,
one’s attitude is shown towards oneself, along a positive and negative dimension.
According to James (1890), perhaps the most important attitude each person holds
is his or her attitude, about self-this is an evaluation that we label Self-Esteem. An
individual with high self-esteem perceives himself or herself as better, more capable
and of greater worth than someone with low self-esteem. Here self-evaluations are
based partly upon the opinions of others and partly upon, how we perceive specific
There is a slightly different approach to assess, self-esteem, by comparing a
person’s self-concept with his or her conception of an ideal self. The greater the
discrepancy, the lower the self-esteem. That is to say, the more a person perceives
that his characteristics fail to measure up to, what he feels that he should be, the
more negative his attitude about himself. According to Eisenstadt & Leippe; (1994)
any credible feedback showing that a person has some characteristics of his or her
ideal self is a positive experience, while feedback showing the absence of
considerable characteristics is negative. Further, it matters whether a person’s
“good” and “bad” qualities are common or rare. The lowest level of self-esteem is
found among those who perceive their liked characteristics to be quite common and
their unliked characteristics to be relatively rare (Ditto & Griffin, 1993). For example,
Donn Byrne had observed that he knew about a seventh grader who was an
outstanding writer, although she was barely average in dance class. As a result,
sometimes she would feel bad about herself, because she (mistakenly) believes that
everyone can write well, but almost no one would dance poorly.
Self-Esteem and Social Comparison
We tend to make self-evaluations by comparing ourselves to others. And these
comparisons are a major determinant of how we evaluate ourselves (Brown et. al.,
1992). Several lines of research help us to clarify some of the ways in which complex
social comparisons operate. For example, when we compare ourselves to others, our

esteem would go up, especially when we perceive some inadequacy in them. This is
known as a contrast effect. So, this kind of comparison with someone who is worse
off, is a downward comparison and finally arouses positive feelings and raises our
self-esteem (Reis, Gerrard, & Gibbons, 1993). However, when the comparison is with
someone to whom we feel close or intimate, then our esteem goes up, particularly
when we perceive something very good about them. This is an assimilation effect
(Brown et. al., 1992). In a similar manner, a person who compares unfavourably
with in-group (the group to which we belong, hence our group) members experience
lower self-esteem and increased depression, much more than, if the unfavourable

comparison is, with out - group members (Major, Siacclitano & Crocker, 1993). In
effect, social comparison with others in the in-group, is the most self-relevant
comparison. So, it follows that doing well within one’s own group, relatively an
unsuccessful group – like a big frog in a little pond – can be a much bigger boost to
self-esteem than performing equally well in a larger and more successful group – like
a little frog in a big pond. (McFarland & Buchler 1995).
All these findings point out that self-esteem can be raised by identifying with a
group, because social identify can help a person to compensate for problems
involving personal identity. (Crocker et. al., 1994). To illustrate this matter, let us
consider someone, who is the target of prejudice in society at large a member of a
stigmatised group. In such a position, this person instead of accepting prejudicial
evaluations as an accurate assessment of self-worth, it is possible to identify with
those similar to one-self (in terms of race, caste, sexual orientation, religion,
disability or whatever) and to feel proud in this in – group. As an example, Bat –
chava (1994) has investigated the positive effects of group identification on self-
esteem among deaf adults. As hypothesized, those (deaf persons) who identified with
other deaf persons expressed higher self-esteem than those who lacked this group
identification. For those persons who are deaf, identification is enhanced by having
deaf parents, who communicate in sign language at home and by attending a school
for the deaf, rather than a regular school. The beneficial effects of group identity are
shown by these findings.
Why do we Engage in Self-Evaluation?
According to Sedikides (1993), there are three motives for evaluating oneself:
(a) Self-assessment – (seeking accurate self-knowledge, whether positive or negative
(b) Self-enhancement - (seeking favourable self-knowledge), and (c) Self-verification
(seeking fairly obvious self-knowledge, that is probably true). Suppose we want only
positive information about ourselves, it follows that self-esteem can readily be
enhanced by external events. For example, any experience which creates a positive
mood, tends to raise self-esteem we feel good and so we feel good about ourselves
(Esses, 1989). Even dressing in clothes that we like, can increase self-esteem (Kwon,
1994). According to Wood et. al., (1994) people with very low self-esteem are most
apt to focus upon self-protection. Crocker (1993) has observed people with high self-
esteem, seek social comparison even after receiving failure feedback, possibly to
determine how to perform better in the future, but also to make themselves feel
better by concentrating on the negative performance of others. In other words, one
type of coping strategy to maintain a positive view of one-self, is to focus upon the
shortcomings of others.
The Consequences of Positive Versus Negative Self-Evaluation
Research findings consistently point out that high self-esteem is beneficial
while low self-esteem has many negative consequences. For example, a negative self-
evaluation is associated with less adequate social skills (Olmstead et. al. 1991);
especially among women (Jex, oretanocski, & Allen, 1994; Russo, Green & Knight,

(1993); and adverse reactions to job women (Orpen, 1994). It has even been
suggested that unrealistically positive self-evaluations and unrealistic optimism are
linked with good mental health (Taylor & Brown; 1988). However, more recent
research has suggested that in the long run, accurate self-evaluation seems to be
essential, to healthy mental functioning (Colvin, Block & Funder, 1995).
There is evidence of specific physiological correlates of self-esteem. Even though
still quite speculative, the intriguing possibility has been raised that in humans, as
self-esteem goes up, so does the level of serotonin (Wright, 1995) – Serotonin is a
bio-chemical contained in several fruits and nuts as well as in the venoms of wasps
and scorpions. And in mammals, serotonin is found in blood serum, the brain and
the stomach. It is involved in constructing blood vessels, stimulating the smooth
muscles, and transmitting impulses between nerve cells. All these findings further
suggest that any factor that influences self-esteem may also have bio-chemical
effects, and that bio-chemicals might be used to raise self-esteem and decrease
Variable Self-Esteem: We learnt earlier that depression is associated with low
self-esteem. But negative emotions are also linked with variable self-esteem. That is,
persons whose self-esteem fluctuates, up and down, in response to changes in their
situation are those, who are most likely to become depressed. (Roberts & Monroe,
1992). Here the explanation is, that anyone whose self-esteem is strongly affected by
minor occurrences, has a less stable source of self-worth compared to people, whose
esteem remains relatively constant. (Kernis et. al., 1993). According to Wiener
Muczyk and Martin (1992) high self-esteem acts as a helpful buffer, especially when
negative events are encountered in life situations.
Additional Aspects of Self-Functioning
Self-concept and self-esteem have been the central concern of research on the
self. However, there are several other aspects of self-functioning which are also of
interest. We shall now examine three of these: (a) Self-focusing (b) Self-monitoring
and (c) Self-efficacy.
a) Self-Focusing: Attending to Our-self or to the Environment
At any given moment, a person’s attention can be directed inward toward the
self or outward toward the environment (Fiske & Taylor 1991). The term self-focusing

is defined as the extent to which attention is directed toward one-self.
Cognitive and Affective Aspects of Focusing on Self: Self-focusing is linked with
memory and cognition. For self-focusing to occur, recall of relevant past events and
processing of relevant current information is required. Self-focusing increases
between childhood and adolescence (Ullman, 1987). And some adults consistently
may have the habit of self-focus more than others. However, situational influences
have a great effect. For instance, someone might ask a person to think about the
most positive aspects of his life (Fenigstein & Abrams 1993).

A brief, period of self-focusing to some extent improves self-insight. According

to Hixon & Swam (1993) when the participants in a research are instructed to spend
a few minutes thinking about themselves, they are more accurate in judging social
feedback than others who are not asked to self-focus. Suppose one is depressed,
then external focusing helps that person to overcome the negative affect (feeling) –
(Lynbousnisky & Nolen – Hocksema (1995). However with regard to the feelings of
non-depressed persons, the direction of focus has no effect (Nix et. al., 1995).
According to Epstein, (1983), we are not always aware, as to when exactly we
pay attention to ourselves. However, self-focusing is more likely in a familiar,
comfortable situation than in an unfamiliar threatening environment. For example,
we are driving a car in day light along a road that is quite familiar to us, we may well
begin to think about our-self. But, when we are driving on an unfamiliar road, that
too on a stormy night, we tend to focus on the environment (new to us).
Storing Positive and Negative Information about Self in Memory
According to Showers, (1992 a) it appears that many people store positive and
negative self-information separately in memory. Further, based on a person’s focus
on positive or negative elements that a person’s mood in turn, is affected. When
attention is focused on positive information, the result will be positive mood and
optimistic expectancies. External events that are positive may also lead to positive
mood, self-focusing on positive information and optimism. In a similar manner, self-
focusing on negative information, a negative mood, negative events, and pessimistic
expectancies are also interrelated.
A person can easily become unhappy, if he or she thinks about only the
negative aspects of life experience. Self-focusing does influence mood and in turn
mood affects self-focusing. (Sedikides, 1992). So, any external event that affect
mood, may also tend to direct self-focusing (Salovey, 1992). For example, a person is
unhappy after an argument with an intimate friend, he or she is more likely to focus
on negative matters and recall negative things about life experiences and tend to be
pessimistic about the future.
Again the researcher Showers (1992 b) has also found that some persons store
positive and negative self-knowledge together, without any bifurcation. When this is
so, self-focusing cannot ever involve solely negative elements and as such the final
result is less negative affect and higher self-esteem. In spite of this benefit of having

positive and negative information being intermixed, when we are exposed to
extremely stressful negative events, it is better to have some compartmentalised or
clearly differentiated aspects of the self which are very positive and very important.
In fact, as observed by Showers & Ryff, (1993) the presence of separate positive
elements of the self, on which a person can fall back is a protection against
becoming depressed especially when there is an occurrence of stress situations.
b) Self-Monitoring: Guiding Behaviour on the Basis of Internal Verus External Factors
Self-monitoring refers to the relative tendency of persons to regulate their
behaviour, on the basis of external events like the reactions of others (high self-

monitoring) or on the basis of internal factors like their own beliefs, attitudes, values
and interests (low self-monitoring). Further, low self-monitors tend to respond more
consistently across different situations than do high self-monitors (Koestner,
Bermeri & Zuckerman, 1992).
Conceptualising Differences in Self-Monitoring
The formulation of self-monitoring was first developed by Snyder (1974) and his
Colleagues (Gangestad & Snyder 1985; Snyder & Ickes, 1985). Hoyle and Sowards
(1993) have described self-monitoring in terms of differences in response to social
situations. In a social situation, a high self-monitor compares his or her public self
to social demands, then strive to alter the public self to match the situation. In
contrast a low self-monitor compares his or her private self to personal standards of
behaviour and then strive to alter the situation to match the private self.
Snyder proposed that high self-monitors engage in role-playing because they
are striving to receive positive evaluations from other people. In other words, they
mold their behaviour to fit their audience-a useful characteristics for politicians,
actors, and sales persons.
Differences between High and Low Self-Monitors
Many behaviours have been identified as different for high versus low self-
monitors. For example, Ickes, Reidhead and Patterson (1986) found that high self-
monitors, when they speak, more often use the third person (he, she, his, her, their
etc.) while low self-monitors use the first person – (I, me, my, mine etc.) De Bono and
Packer (1991) found that highs respond best to advertising that is image based while
the lows respond to quality-based ads. Because, people who are confident about
their decisions tend to be liked and respected. In 1989, Cutler and Wolfe correctly
predicted that higher the self-monitoring tendency, greater the confidence in one’s
decisions, irrespective of whether that decision was right or wrong.
Further, high self-monitors make interpersonal choices on the basis of their
external qualities. For example, they select a tennis partner on the basis of how well
he or she plays, while low self-monitors make choices based on how much they like
the other person (Snyder, Gangestad, & Simpson, 1983). Even in romantic
relationship, low self-monitors are more committed to the other individual and hence
have fewer and long-lasting relationship, while high self-monitors are attuned to the
situation and to a variety of partners (Snyder & Simpson, 1994). In other words,

when asked about their motivation in selecting a dating partner, low self-monitors
tend to emphasize intrinsic motives – (such as similarity), more than high self-
monitors do. But the high self-monitors, in contrast, tend to emphasize extrinsic
motives – (such as the helpfulness of the partner’s connections), more than low-se4lf
monitors do (Jones, 1993).
In 1993, Jones, the lady investigator administered the self-monitoring scale and
a test that assesses dating motivation to under-graduate men and women to find out
the motivational differences in the dating behaviour of high and low self-monitors.
Low self-monitors tended to emphasize intrinsic dating motivation more than highs,

while in contrast high self-monitors stressed the extrinsic dating motives more than
lows. Here, intrinsic motivation means that a person enjoys being with the partner,
since they share the same interests and concerns, have the same attitudes and
values. Extrinsic motivation means that the partner is selected on the basis of
expected rewards, beyond the relationship. Further, low self-monitors appear to be
oriented toward the other person, whereas high self-monitors are oriented toward
satisfying their own broader needs.
Howells (1993) has given a very different interpretation of the inter-personal
relationships of those high and low in self-monitoring. He found that high self-
monitors had more positive personality characteristics than those who are lows.
Students scoring high on the self-monitoring scale were more sociable, affectionate,
energetic, sensitive, intellectually curious and open than students scoring low.
Regarding the differences between high and low self-monitors, we may conclude
that lows are better adjusted than the highs. In other words, the lows are consistent,
honest in expressing their actual beliefs, and committed to their romantic partners.
In contrast, the highs are inconsistent, eager to please others and happy with
multiple relationships. But the same findings of previous studies could perhaps be
described as showing that lows are self-centered, closed minded, insensitive to the
opinions of others and lacking in social skills. On the contrary, the highs are
sensitive to the feelings of others, open-minded, and socially skilled. As a matter of
fact, researchers point out that greater maladjustment (neuroticism) is more
characteristic of persons falling at both extremes of the dimension than that of those
who score in the middle. (Miller & Thayer 1989)
C) Self-Efficacy: “I Think I can. I think I can …………….
Bandura (1977) has defined “Self-efficacy as that which refers to a person’s
evaluation of his or her ability or competency to perform a task, reach a goal or
overcome an obstacle.” In short, our feelings of self-efficacy differ according to the
nature of the task or work. For instance, Donn Byrne had clearly reported that he
was confident that he would eventually put together any toy or piece of furniture for
which “same assembly is required.” And likewise confident that he cannot file out
his tax forms correctly each year. These differences in feelings of efficacy have been
confirmed by research studies. For example, college students after the severe 1989
earthquake in California, expressed low-self-efficacy about their ability to cope with
natural disasters but with regard to other unrelated aspects of their lives, like school
performance their self- efficacy was not disturbed (Burger & Palmer 1992).
Self-Efficacy and Performance
Performance in both physical and academic tasks is increased by the appropriate
type of self-efficacy. For example, individuals high in athletic self-efficacy are able to
continue longer at exercise requiring physical endurance than those who are low in
such self-efficacy (Gould & Weiss, 1981). Self-efficacy is equally beneficial, in
academics. College students high in self-efficacy were rated as better in a class test
performance than those who were low in self-efficacy – (Tuckman & Sexton, 1990).

Further the high-self-efficacy students did better than they expected and those who
were low failed to meet their expectancies. Sanna and Pusecker (1994) in a related
research study found that when students expected to perform well, they also
expected a positive self-evaluation and the result is improved performance.
Expectations of a poor performance are associated with expectations of a negative
self-evaluation and the consequent low performance.
In a study by Taylor et. al., (1984) academic success (defined by rank and
salary) among college professors is predicted in part by self-efficacy. The higher the
professor’s self-efficacy, the more they engaged in many kinds of projects
simultaneously and set goals for writing and completing articles and books. All these
academic activities, in turn, resulted in their producing more publications and later
on having these publications cited by others in their field. The ultimate end result of
these would lead to more promotions and higher salary levels.
Self-Efficacy in Social Situations
It has been found that interpersonal behaviour is influenced by feelings of self-
efficacy, with respect to social interactions. According to the study by Morris, (1985),
the reasons for low social self-efficacy is the lack of social skills and the
consequential effects are anxiety and avoidance of such situation. In another study
of Alden, (1986), it was found that high – efficacy individuals perceive the cause as
external (something unique to a given situation) particularly when negative feedback
was given to the result of a social behaviour whereas those individuals low in
efficacy showed an internal attribution (lack of ability) to the same result.
Increasing a Person’s Feelings of Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy is not at all a fixed and unchanging phenomenon. As Bandura
(1986) has put it, self-efficacy of a person is likely to rise, when a person gets
positive feedback about his or her skills, even if it is a false feedback. In a study by
Bandura and Adams (1977), it was observed that a phobia like fear of snakes, can be
interpreted in cognitive way, as a reaction based on low self-efficacy, which is due to
lack of confidence in one’s own ability to cope with a snake.
In a study of behavioural therapy, (through systematic desensitisation), snake-
phobic persons learned to relax while looking at a photograph of a snake, afterwards
a toy snake, then a baby-snake in a glass cage and so on for a certain period of time.
Eventually in this programme of behavioural therapy, these snake-phobic persons

could deal with a big-uncaged-snake in a comfortable manner. In short, when the
phobia decreased, the physiological arousal to a snake stimulus decreased and self-
efficacy increased. The effect of this kind of therapy on self-efficacy is quite specific
and cannot be generalised to other situations. However, it is to be noted that
analogous desensitisation procedures can have parallel results, decreasing other
phobias like fear of spiders of fear of open places, and thereby raising self-efficacy
about one’s ability to cope with all such previously feared objects (Bandura, Adams,
& Hardy, 1980).


The most pervasive element of personal identity is that portion of social identity,
in which all of us are put into either of the two categories: male or female. The terms
sex and gender are often used to mean the same thing. According to Beckwith,
(1994) both are to be understood in the following manner. Sex refers to maleness or
femaleness that is determined by genetic factors present at the time of conception.
And this would result in anatomical and physiological differences between males and
females. In contrast, Gender refers to the attributes, roles, behaviours, personality
characteristics and expectancies associated with a person’s biological sex in a given
culture. And this culture may be based on biology, may be learned or may represent
a mixture of biological and cultural determinants.
Although sex versus gender terminology is still a matter of debate or
controversy, psychologists in general speak about sex when they deal with
anatomical and physiological differences between males and females, that are based
on genetic disparity found at the conception stage, prior to the birth of the
Individual. The concept of gender on the contrary is used in describing other
attitudes and behaviours linked with sex, that are acquired or learned on the basis
of cultural expectations or a combination of biological and cultural factors or whose
determinants are not yet known.
To conclude, until research offers a clear-cut answer, we can simply assume
that many of these attributes are learned while others may be based in part or whole
on the biological determinants. An example of the interaction of genetics and
learning occurs, when physical characteristics are interpreted as indications of
masculinity or femininity. Further due to the influence of learned stereotypes, a
muscular build and deep voice are perceived attributes of masculinity whereas
characteristics like long hair and a high voice are perceived as feminine (Aube
Norcliffe & Koestner, 1995).
Gender Identity and Stereotypes Based on Gender
Each one of us has a gender identity. That is to say, we label ourselves as male
or female. However, in relatively rare instances, a person’s biological sex and gender
may correspond.
Developing a Gender Identity: Generally adults react to a newborn baby’s sex,
as the all important defining characteristic. So, the initial task of parents and others

is to determine the infant’s sex – “Is it a boy or a girl?” Parents should quickly attach
a boy name or girl name and also provide additional ones to the baby’s sex, by
choosing appropriate clothing, decorating the newborn’s room in a masculine or
feminine style, and selecting “gender-appropriate” toys and so on.
In spite of gender differentiation made by elders, as very young children are
concerned, they are not aware of sex or gender, until they are about two years old.
At this stage, they start calling themselves a “boy’ or a “girl”, although without a
clear understanding about the meaning of such terms. Gender identity occurs, at a
time when gender becomes part of one’s self-concept; the individual eventually

develops a sense of self, which includes maleness or femaleness (Grieve, 1980). In

fact, children gradually acquire the concept of gender consistency between the ages
of four and seven. Further, they begin to accept the principle that gender is a basic
attitude of each person.
The Origin of Gender Identity
All observed differences in the behaviour of men and women were, for a long
time, assumed to be “biological givens” or inherited traits. But now it is made clear
that many “typical” masculine and feminine characteristics are in fact acquired
(Bem, 1984). Gender Schema theory was formulated by Bem (1981, 1983). She has
suggested that children have a “generalised readiness” to organise information about
the self in a way, that is based on cultural definition of, what is appropriate
behaviour for each sex. Once a young child has learned to apply, the label “girl” or
“boy” to herself or himself, the stage is set for the child to learn the “appropriate”
roles that accompany these labels.
As childhood progresses, sex typing occurs when children learn in detail, the
stereotypes associated with maleness or femaleness in their culture. Recent studies
offer some evidence of widely held stereotypes. For example, compared to men,
women are perceived as more sociable and happier. Further, the effects of
stereotypes are small and often different for male observers and female observers
(Feingold, 1995). In contrast to gender schema theory of Bem, in 1993 Spence has
offered a multi-factorial gender identity theory – In Spence’s theory, the gender-
relevant aspects of self, are composed of many factors rather than a simple division
into male and female.
Children’s learning about gender is partly based on observing their parents and
trying to be like their parents. Generally, children are rewarded for engaging in
gender appropriate behaviour. But they are discouraged and ridiculed, when they
engage in gender – inappropriate behaviour. For instance, on the basis of how
adults, older siblings, and others respond, a little girl learns that wanting a doll is
acceptable but wanting to have boxing gloves is not, whereas a little boy learns that
for him boxing gloves are cute but a doll is unacceptable.
Even when parents reject the stereotypes and try to teach their children to be
less role-bound, they often find themselves in a losing battle, when their children
respond to advertising and to what their friends have. In countless ways, a culture’s

gender stereotypes are learned. For instance, girls can cry and boys can fight; Boys
can play football and girls can play jacks or skipping. Boys and girls are given
different clothes to wear, to have their hair cut differently and so on. As the years
pass on, the lessons are well learned and when they reach the sixth grade, a good
majority of children in the United States have learned the current gender stereotypes
(Carter & McClosey, 1984) even when they do not personally agree with such
stereotypes. They know what is considered suitable for each gender and what
constitutes out-of-role behaviour.

Social identity refers to the way in which we conceptualise ourselves. We have
analysed two of the major components of social identity namely self and gender.
Each person’s self-identity or self-concept is acquired through interaction with
others. The self-operates as a schema, which determines how we process
information about the world around us and about ourselves. The self-reference effect
means that we process information about ourselves better than any other kind of
information. The self-concept is not a fixed entity. We are aware of other possible
selves that we could become. Self-concept changes along with our age and also in
response to situational changes. The evaluation process of oneself is known as self-
esteem. And this self-esteem can increase consequent to positive experiences that we
come across in life. High self-esteem in general is preferable to low self-esteem.
Self-focusing is directing one’s attention toward self as opposed to the external
world. Self-monitoring behaviour focuses upon a person’s behaviour being guided by
external or internal factors. In many situations, high and low self-monitors respond
in a different manner. Individuals whose self-monitoring is intermediate tend to be
better adjusted than those who are extremely high or extremely low in self-
monitoring. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s evaluation of his or her ability to
perform a task, to achieve a goal or to overcome an obstacle.
Individuals, with high self-efficacy may do well in many kinds of performance
from athletics to academics, unlike those with low self-efficacy.
Maleness or Femaleness is a crucial aspect of Gender Identity. The term gender
refers to all kinds of attributes connected to a male or a female, whether they were
determined by biology or by culture. On the contrary, the concept of Sex refers to
anatomical and physiological differences, based on genetic factors or determinants.
As individuals, in the developmental process, we tend to acquire gender identity,
especially when we learn to label ourselves as female or male. And further we
include this as part of our self-concept. The gender role that we adopt, affects what
we do, and the way in which that other people would respond to us. Several kinds of
gender stereotypes prevailing in the society are being supported by many aspects of
the culture. However, all those seem to be weakening in the current culture of the
United States. In the study of gender differences, a central question is whether such
differences are based on physiology or on learning or a combination of these factors.

In the matter of concern about appearance in general and body weight in
specific, social diversity and cultural differences play a vital role. For reasons that
are not known clearly, Western societies are characterised by female concerns about
appearance in general and body weight in particular, more than other societies. A
comparison of young Asian and Caucasian Females, shows differential concern or
anxiety about weight. However, this concern is not based on different images of ideal
weight. By and large, more white females than Asian females feel fat, express desire
to lose weight and also actively try to lose weight. But at the same time, both groups
agree in their view, that a thin body is ideal.

Gender – Gender consistency – Gender Identity – Possible selves – Self-concept
– Self-Efficacy; Self-Esteem; Self-Focusing – Self Monitoring, Sex Typing, Social
1. Examine the concept of “Self” as the inner core of an individual’s
2. Describe self-concept and the cognitive effects of a person’s self-schema.
3. Explain Self-Esteem as a process of evaluating oneself.
4. Discuss self-focusing, self-monitoring and self-efficacy as the vital aspects of
5. Describe Maleness and Femaleness as crucial aspects of Gender identity.




Understanding Their Nature, Countering Their Effects
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Explain the concept of prejudice and discrimination.
 Analyse the origins of Prejudice.
 Examine the ways of combating prejudice.
 Discuss the nature and effects of prejudice based on Gender.
Introduction – Prejudice and discrimination – Origins of prejudice: contrasting
perspectives – Combating Prejudice – Prejudice based on Gender: Its Nature and
Social psychologists have long recognised the pervasive influence of prejudice
on human behaviour and human societies. At some time or the other, in our lives,
virtually every one of us, comes face to face with prejudice. It may not be the
malignant form that leads to dangerous riots, crimes of violence, or horrible
atrocities, like Nazi death camps and “ethnic cleansing.” Even when prejudice
manifests in subtle or mild forms, its effects can be very much damaging both to the
victims of prejudice and also to the persons who hold it. This can be illustrated by
just one example.
Recent findings point out that many persons harbour prejudice towards
‘Overweight Individuals’. The study by Pingitore et. al. (1994) have shown that
overweight persons receive lower ratings in job interviews than persons of normal
weight. Even subtle forms of prejudice can be harmful has been illustrated by the
study of Maroney & Golub, (1992). For instance, their findings indicate that many
nurses hold mild prejudice toward overweight persons. The nurses are more
reluctant to care for over weight individuals than for the normal weight individuals.
And they also report feeling less empathy toward overweight patients than for the
normal weight patients. In this context, no one would certainly equate these mild
aversions toward overweight persons, with the strong racial or ethnic suffering
throughout human history. However, even these mild forms of prejudice can have
important consequences for the persons toward whom they are directed.
In this lesson first we shall be examining the nature of prejudice and
discrimination. And these two terms are often used as synonyms but they are two
different concepts. Second, we will analyse the causes of prejudice and
discrimination – Why do they occur and what makes them so intense and persistent.
Third we will explore several strategies for reducing prejudice and discrimination.

Finally we will focus upon the nature and effects of sexism – prejudice based on
Although in everyday talk, the two concepts “prejudice” and “discrimination”
are used interchangeably, most of the social psychologists draw a clear distinction
between them. The term ‘prejudice’ is a special type of attitude and it is a negative
one and generally shown towards the members of some social group. On the other
hand, the term ‘discrimination’ refers to negative actions or behaviour displayed
against those persons and whenever required their attitudes are translated into
actions. This important distinction can be understood in this way – “prejudice” being
an attitude, refers to a (internal or concealed) behaviour whereas ‘discrimination’ is
overt (external or expressed) behaviour that is prejudice-in-action.
Prejudice: Choosing Whom to Hate
Prejudice is a negative attitude towards the members of some group, based
solely on their membership in that group. In other words, a person who is prejudiced
toward some social group, tends to evaluate its members in a specific manner and
that is usually negative, simply because they belong to that group. Here their
individual traits or behaviours play a little role, they are disliked because they
belong to a particular social group. However, in few cases, they are liked.
When prejudice is viewed as a special type of attitude, two important points are
to be noted. First, we learnt in lessons 3 & 4 that attitude often functions as schema
– cognitive framework for organising, interpreting and recalling information (e.g.
Fiske & Taylor 1991). Thus persons who are prejudiced toward specific groups tend
to process information about these groups, quite differently from the way, they
process information about other groups. For example, information that is consistent
with their prejudiced views often receives more attention and also rehearsed more
frequently. And as a result, such information tends to be remembered more
accurately than that information which is not consistent with those views. (e.g. Fiske
& Neuberg, 1990; Judd, Ryan & Parke, 1991). To the extent this happens, prejudice
becomes a kind of closed cognitive loop. And in the absence of events or experiences
that shatter this self-confirming effect, prejudice can only grow stronger over time.
Second, when prejudice is a special kind of attitude, it may involve negative
evaluations of the groups toward whom it is directed. Further, it may include

negative feelings or emotions, on the part of prejudiced persons, especially when
they are in the presence of members of the groups they dislike or merely think about
that disliked group (Bodenhausen, Kramer, Susser, 1994). Further prejudice may
involve beliefs and expectations about members of these groups – particularly
stereotypes conveying that all members of these groups display certain
characteristics and behave in certain ways. According to Jussin et. al., (1995)
stereotypes can be defined as people’s beliefs about the members of some social
group. And they play a vital role in several aspects of prejudice. Finally, prejudiced
persons tend to act in negative ways toward those who are the object of prejudice.

Prejudiced people emphasize the strong negative feelings and irrational hatreds,
which usually characterize racial, religious or ethnic prejudice. Such reactions are
important since there are important links between affect and cognition and vice
versa. Further prejudice is related to certain aspects of social cognition the ways in
which we notice, store, recall and subsequently use that information about others in
several ways and also for making judgements about them. We have only a limited
capacity to perform these tasks. So, in such a situation we often resort to several
cognitive short-cuts, in our attempt to make sense out of the social world (Gilbert &
Hixon, (1991). When our capacity to handle social information becomes limited, we
are likely to fall back upon stereotypes, as mental short-cuts for understanding
others or making judgements about them (e.g. Macrae, Hewstone & Griffiths, 1993).
According to Gilbert and Hixon (1991), stereotypes are tools that “jump out” of our
cognitive tool box, when we begin to realise that we are being exposed to more
information than we can readily handle. The tendency to stereotype others and to
think about them interms of stereotypes emerge partly from the fact that this
strategy saves us cognitive effort. In other words, stereotypes are readymade
judgements and they are intellectual-labour-saving devices. The research study of
Macrae, Milne, and Bodenhausen (1994) has given strong support for this view. They
have explained stereotypes as a means of saving cognitive effort. The activation of
stereotypes increased performance, on two different tasks - Impression tasks and
hastening tasks performed simultaneously. These findings point out that stereotypes
do indeed save our precious cognitive resources. This is one reason, why stereotypes
are so prevalent and so resistant to change. In one sense, they “work”; they do
succeed in saving cognitive resources for the persons who use them. However, such
kind of stretching of cognitive resources comes at the cost of reduced accuracy – a
kind of trade – off in life, about which all of us are very familiar. These findings
emphasize that stereotypes can serve as “energy – saving tactics” where cognition is
concerned, even when people are not aware of their presence.
Discrimination: Prejudice in Action
Attitudes of people be it covert or concealed need not always lead to overt
actions or revealed or reflected in observable behaviour. And prejudice being an
attitude, is certainly not an exception to this rule. In several cases, individuals
holding negative attitudes toward the members of many groups cannot express their
views or prejudice directly. This is because of laws, social pressure, fear of retaliation

all may prevent people to translate their prejudiced views into open practice. Further
many persons with prejudiced views tend to feel that overt discrimination is wrong.
And they also perceive such kind of actions on their part, as a gross violation of
personal standards and decency. When such persons observe that they have shown
discrimination, they experience considerable discomfort, in the form of guilt ad
related feelings (Devine & Monteith 1993). And as such, this may reduce their
tendency to behave in a similar manner again. However, what happens is totally
different. Unfortunately, people do not always notice such inconsistencies between
how they behave and how they feel, that they should behave. But, when people

maintain consistency between their feelings and overt actions, then open or public
discrimination can certainly be reduced (Monteith¸1996).
According to Swim et. al., (1995) for several reasons, blatant forms of
discrimination - negative actions toward people of different racial, ethnic or religious
groups – have decreased in recent years in the United States and many other
countries. There was lot of discrimination in the past, such as members of several
minority groups, particularly African (Negro) Americans, were barred from many
public places in buses, in movie theaters, in restaurants, schools or neighbourhoods
in the United States of America. Fortunately, this kind of open discrimination have
now to some extent vanished. However, they have not disappeared completely. We
cannot deny there are open expressions of prejudice and violent confrontations
stemming from them, still occurring throughout the world, with disturbing
frequency. In recent decades, the expression of prejudice in social behaviour has
become increasingly subtle.
The New Racism: More subtle, but just as Deadly
Many people, at one time had no hesitation to express openly about their racist
beliefs. That is, they would state that they were against school desegregation, (in-
egrated or mixed type school) that they viewed minority groups as inferior in several
ways; that they would consider moving away if minority people proceed to reside in
their neighbourhood areas (Sears 1988). But now-a-days very few persons would
open talk about such views. Does this mean racism and discrimination have
disappeared? Many social psychologists would say “yes” – (Martin & Parker, 1995).
But the truth is different. That is, blatant or “old-fashioned” racism has been
replaced by more subtle forms. And researchers have called this new approach as
modern racism. In 1995, Swim and her colleagues found that this new variety of
racism focuses on three major components. (a) denial that there is continuing
discrimination against minorities – that is, “discrimination against African,
Americans is no longer a problem in the United States”; (b) antagonism to the
demands of minorities for equal treatment – that is “African Americans are getting
too much by demanding in their push for equal rights”, and (c) resentment about
special favours for minority groups – that is “over the past few years, the government
and news media have shown more respect to African Americans than they deserve.”
All these views are quite different from the “old fashioned” racism, but they can still
be very much damaging to the victims.
For example, as observed by Swim and her colleagues (1995), modern racism
may influence the likelihood of voting for a minority candidate to a still greater and
even to stronger extent than the ‘old fashioned’ racism. It is to be noted as a strong
point now – Although blatant types of racism have disappeared from public life in
the United States of America and many other countries, the most repulsive and
damaging type of prejudice is still very much alive in many societies. And hence, this
has become a serious problem.

Tokenism: Small Benefits, High Costs

Let us imagine that a person has been hired for a job, which he really wanted
and also with a higher starting salary than what he expected. At first he would be
happy, about his good fortune. Suppose one day he comes to learn that he got the
job especially because he belonged to a particular group – (to avoid charges of
discrimination, the company has to hire persons of that group). Researchers like
Chacko, (1982) have pointed out that many persons find this kind of situation quite
disturbing. They are rather upset to realise that they have been hired or promoted
mainly because of their ethnic background, gender or some other aspect of their
personal identity. Further, they also object to being hired as a token member of their
gender or of their racial, ethnic or religious group.
More than this, there is growing evidence revealing that persons who are hired
as token representatives of their groups are looked upon quite negatively by fellow-
employees. (Summers, 1991). In short, they are perceived to be less competent by
others. Hiring persons as token members of their groups, is just one form of
tokenism. However, it occurs in other contexts also. In its most general form,
tokenism involves performing trivial positive actions, for the targets of prejudice and
later on using these as an excuse or justification for later kinds of discrimination.
For instance, persons who have engaged in tokenism seem to remark: “Don’t bother
me”; “I have done enough for these people, already!” (Dutton & Lake, 1973;
Rosenfield et. al 1982).
It is to be noted, that tokenism seems to have at least two negative effects;
wherever it occurs. First, it allows prejudicial people, off the hook to escape from
public criticism. That is, prejudiced people can point to tokenistic actions as public
proof that they are not really bigoted. There are instances in which persons or
groups perform trivial positive actions for people toward whom they feel prejudice,
then use these actions as an excuse for refusing more meaningful and beneficial
behaviour. Second, it can be damaging to the self-esteem and confidence of the
targets of prejudice, including those few persons who have been selected as tokens
or who receive minimal aid. So, it is clear that tokenism is one subtle form of
discrimination, that is worth preventing by all means.
Reverse Discrimination: Giving with one Hand, Taking with the Other
This is a second type of subtle discrimination. Here, persons holding prejudice

toward the members of a social group lean over backward to treat members of that
group favourably – more favourably than they would treat other persons. According
to Chidester, (1986) reverse discrimination might appear to be beneficial for persons,
at first glance, but it is not really so. At one level it is true, since people exposed to
reverse discrimination do receive help in terms of promotions and other benefits.
However, at another level, this kind of favourable treatment may prove to be quite
harmful, particularly in the long run. For instance, suppose well intentioned
teachers lean over backwards to assign inflated grades or ratings to minority
children, they run the risk of making these youngsters to get into severe

disappointment later (Fajardo, 1985). At one stage, this will lead to put them into a
clash between falsely raised hopes or expectations and actual reality in their
There is another possibility for teachers to assign higher – than – deserved
ratings to minority children. By doing so, they could minimise their contact with
these youngsters. Students getting good grades do not require any special help. So,
when teachers assign inflated evaluations to minority student’s performance, they
can avoid working closely with their teachers. Thus reverse discrimination can be as
harmful as that of the more obvious types of discrimination.
There is increasingly strong objection to reverse discrimination in the United
States, particularly for giving admission to members of minority groups to schools,
even when their credentials are weaker than the majority group applicants. That is
reverse discrimination, on the ground, that more often they have become the victims
of such practices. In here led to a growing backlash. In recent year while males in
the US have roused increasing objections to reverse discrimination fact, they
remarked that they are rejected from schools and jobs even though they may be
better qualified than the minority persons, who have been accommodated for these
positions. This is a complex issue, which could be resolved only slowly and painfully
in many different countries.
Subtle Forms of Discrimination: A Note of optimism
In short, overt discrimination has decreased considerably in many societies.
However, it seems possible that this has been replaced or substituted to some
degree, by other more subtle forms of discrimination, which are both real and
damaging. Let us complete this discussion, with an optimistic note. Several forms of
evidence point to this conclusion and the most convincing is this. When young
persons have been asked to point out the extent to which differences between social
groups – racial groups or males and females – emerge from several sources, their
reported views have been found to be both sophisticated and relatively free from
obvious prejudice (Martin & Parker, 1995). According to them racial differences as
such are stemming primarily from social factors like the childhood experiences and
other contrasting opportunities given and never due to inherited biological factors.
Similarly, with regard to group differences also, they have expressed the same view.
Both of these views seem to suggest that something important has happened in
recent decades, in the matter of prejudice.
As we have noted earlier, negative views have not vanished altogether. And in
many societies, racism is still present to an alarming degree and continues to harm
the group of people toward whom it is directed – Example: African Americans in the
United States. But existing evidence shows that many subtle forms of prejudice are
neither as intense nor as prevalent as they were in the past. There is still a long way
to go to overcome prejudice and discrimination both in concealed way and
manifested form in all societies.


To the questions, why does prejudice exist? and why do so many people hold
negative views about the persons of specific social groups, we still have many
different answers, even in the present day. We shall consider several of such
perspectives on prejudice, which are influential.
1. Direct Inter-group Conflict: Competition as a Source of Prejudice
According to the realistic conflict theory formulated by Bobo, (1983) that
prejudice, as an attitude and a basic psychological factor, stems from competition
among social groups over valuable commodities or opportunities. It is sad but true,
that the things, people want throughout the world and value most are good jobs,
nice homes, high status and so on and they are always in short supply. As a result,
there is always an increasing demand for them. This fact has served as the
foundation for the oldest explanation of prejudice.
Bobo’s Realistic Conflict Theory has pointed out, in short, that prejudice
developed out of the struggle over jobs, adequate housing, goods, schools and other
desirable aspects of life. Further in the competition between each other, members of
the groups look upon each other in an increasingly negative manner. (White, 1977).
They look upon their own group as morally superior and label other persons as
“enemies.” As a result, they proceed to draw boundaries between themselves and
their opponents in a strong way. Finally the outcome is, what has really been started
as a simple competition, relatively free from hatred, gradually, has enlarged into an
emotion-laden prejudice. Several studies have confirmed the occurrence of this
process. Individuals in a competitive situation come to perceive each other in an
increasingly negative way especially when that competition persists. Much worse is
that such competition often leads to direct violent conflict.
A dramatic demonstration of this principle has been given by a well-known field
study conducted by Sheriff and his colleagues in 1961. The researchers sent eleven-
year-old boys to a special summer camp in a remote area, free from any external
influences. When the boys arrived at the camp called The Robber’s Cave – once used
by robbers; The boys were divided into two separate groups and were given different
cabins for accommodation purpose. The campers in each group for one week, lived
and played together happily in sports activities like hiking, swimming and so on.
During this period, the boys quickly developed strong attachments to their own

groups. And they gave names for their teams as Rattlers and Eagles and made up
flags with the symbols of their group, to reveal their identity.
The second phase of this study began at this stage. Now both groups of boys
have been told that they would now engage in a series of competitions. Further they
were informed that the winning team would get a trophy and its members would be
given prizes like pocket knives and medals. Since the boys desired strongly the
prizes and medals, the stage was set for an intense competition. The tension
between the two groups increased, when the boys competed. In the beginning, there
were verbal taunts and name-calling only, but very soon that tension escalated into

more direct actions like the Eagles team burned the flag of Rattlers. The next day,
the Rattlers group attacked the rival group’s (Eagles) cabin and damaged their
articles and property. However, the researchers intervened and stopped their
continued attacks between them. In this fighting, they called their opponents as
“bums” and “cowards” while their own group members were praised by them. In this
two weeks of conflict, both the groups showed all the main components of strong
prejudice towards each other.
In the final phase of the study, Sherif and his colleagues tried to reduce the
negative reactions observed earlier. Any increase in the direction of contact between
the groups failed to achieve this goal. Instead, it seemed to increase the flames of
anger. Later on, external conditions were altered by the researchers memory that the
groups found it essential to work together to achieve super-ordinate goals, which
they both desired, and consequently dramatic changes occurred. Tensions between
the groups largely decreased especially when the boys began to work together to
restore their water supply and jointly repaired a broken-down truck and so on.
Subsequently, after six days of such experiences, the rival boundaries between the
groups virtually disappeared and several cross-group friendships were formed.
The study by Sherif’s team is not free from major limitations. The duration of
this study was for a short period of time. The camp setting at the Robber’s cave was
a special one. There is gender bias, since all of the participants were boys. More than
these, the boys have been chosen from a homogeneous background. In other words,
they did not belong to different racial, ethnic or social groups. In spite of these
restrictions, the findings of Sherif and his colleagues are compelling. In short, this is
viewed as a classic one in the study of prejudice.
The first and the most dramatic study of the relationship between conflict and
prejudice as conducted by Hovland and Sears (1940). An influential book entitled
“Frustration and Aggression” by Dollard et. al (1939) gave an impetus for such
studies. The possible link between conflict, prejudice and aggression has been
studied by Carl Hovland and Robert Sears (1940). The economics of racial violence,
enabled the two psychologists to infer that bad economic conditions can easily
accelerate the flames of prejudice. The link between racial violence and economic
conditions have been studied by these researchers. They found that the number of
lynchings (brutal merciless attacks on persons, sometimes leading to death) in the
United States of America, mainly upon African Americans (Negroes) especially in the
Southern States varied according to prevailing economic conditions. That is, the
number of lynchings was higher in years when economic activity was lower than the
years when economic activity was high and economic conditions improved.
In short, the number of lynchings increased when economic conditions declined
and when economic conditions improved, the number of lynchings decreased.
Hovland and Sears study was important for several reasons. First, the relationship
between economic conditions and racial violence is relevant to government
programmes. They are designed to improve the economic conditions for
disadvantaged persons because many of them happened to be the victims of racial or

ethnic prejudice. Second, the study has emphasized the value of applying
psychological theory to all important real-life events and all social problems.
Early Experience: The Role of Social Learning
A second explanation to the origins of prejudice is that, prejudice is learned just
like any other attitude. According to this social learning theory, children acquire
negative attitudes toward several social groups because they hear such views
expressed by their parents, teachers, friends ad others. Further, for adopting these
views that children are being rewarded through love, appreciation and approval.
Apart from observing others, children are influenced by the social works of their
group, as to what actions or attitudes are appropriate and important for them
(Pettigrew, 1969). Based on the tendency to conform with the social norms of groups,
children learn prejudice toward others. For instance many children seem to reason,
“when the members of my group, dislike them, then I too should do so.”
Further, mass media has got an impact on the development of prejudice.
Fortunately, in recent years the situation has changed. That is members of several
racial and ethnic minorities are shown in a more favourable manner in the television
programmes and so on, than it was done in the past. However, there were still
differences in the treatment of whites and African Americans in television
programmes, even in 1989. Unless and until such treatment is given in an impartial
or equal manner, the mass media would contribute to some extent towards the
persistence of several forms of prejudice.
Social Categorisation: The Us – Versus – Them Effect and the “Ultimate” Attribution
About the origins of prejudice, a third perspective begins with a basic fact of
life. Generally, people divide the social world into two different categories like – “Us”
and “Them.” That is, other persons are viewed as those belonging either to their own
group – (usually called the in-group), or to another group – (called the out-group).
Here the distinctions are made on the basis of race, caste, religion, nationality,
gender, age-ethnic background, skin complexion, occupation, income and so on.
The process of dividing the social world into “us” and “them”, is called social
categorisation, and if it has stopped there, it would have little bearing on prejudice.
But, unfortunately it does not stop there. More frequently, sharp contrasting feelings
and beliefs are usually connected to members of one’s own in-group as opposed to

persons of several out-groups. Individuals in the former category, labeled “Us” are
perceived in more favourable ways whereas people in the latter category, labeled
“them”, are viewed more negatively. Further, members of the out-group are assumed
to possess more undesirable traits and they are perceived as being more alike (i.e.,
homogeneous) than the in-group members and hence they are often disliked. (Judd,
Ryan & Parke 1991; Lambert, 1995. Linville & Fisher, 1993).
Further, the in-group versus out group demarcation, affects the process of
attribution, (that we studied earlier in Lesson 2). For example, we tend to attribute
desirable behaviours of in-group members, to stable internal causes – (in-group

members possess admirable personality traits). But we change our yard-stick while
assessing the out-group members by altering the attribution mechanism to match
with our dislikes toward the out-group. That is, we tend to attribute desirable
behaviours of out-group members to transitory factors or to external causes
(situational or environmental). This kind of tendency to make more favourable and
flattering attributions about one’s own group members, (in-group) than about other
group members (out-group) is described as the Ultimate attribution error-since it
carries with the self-serving bias.
Tajbel and his colleagues in their research (1982) have given an intriguing
answer to the question, why do we view others, in biased and negative ways, once we
perceived them as being different from ourselves. They have suggested that
individuals try to enhance their self-esteem by identifying with particular social
groups. However, this tactic can succeed only to the extent, that the persons
involved perceive these groups as somehow superior to other competing groups. As
all persons get into the same tendencies, the final result is inevitable: each group
seeks to perceive itself as somehow better than its rivals. As a result, prejudice
increases out of this clash of social perceptions. Several experiments lend their
support for the accuracy of these suggestions (e.g. Meindl & Lerner, 1985).
Cognitive Sources of Prejudice
The Role of Stereotypes
Prejudice stems, in part, from basic aspects of social cognition. That is the ways
in which we think about other persons, organise our information about them, and
then use this information to take decisions or to make social judgements. We shall
discuss this topic, by dividing it into two parts (a) Central cognitive component in
prejudice – Stereotypes (b) We shall also examine other cognitive mechanisms that
play a role in the occurrence of prejudice.
a) Stereotypes: What they are and how they operate
Stereotypes are cognitive frameworks consisting of knowledge and beliefs about
specific social groups. According to Judd, Ryan and Parke (1991) stereotypes involve
generalisations about the typical or “modal” characteristics of members of several
social groups. That is, all members of such groups possess certain traits, at least to
a certain degree. A stereotype, once it is activated, all these traits readily come into
our mind. For example, without having had any direct experience with Korean

Americans, Cuban Americans or Jews, one could readily list their supposed traits
just with the help of stereotypes about them.
Like any other cognitive framework, stereotypes exert strong effects on how we
process social information. For example, any information, that is relevant to an
activated stereotype, is processed very fast but when information is unrelated to the
stereotype, processing does not occur in such a speed (e.g. Dovidio, Evans, & Tyler,
1986). Similarly persons holding stereotypes pay attention to specific types of
information, which is consistent with the stereotypes. Further, any information, it is
inconsistent with stereotypes and has managed to enter into consciousness of the

person, it may be actively refuted or may simply be denied – (O’Sullivan & Durso,
1984). For example, evidence shows that when individuals do come across persons
and whose behaviour is contrary to the stereotypes that they hold, then they tend to
view these persons as a new “subtype” or as an exception, rather than changing
their stereotype (Kunda & Oleson, 1995). In short, stereotypes are capable of
exerting powerful effects on our thinking about others.
Potential errors can occur as a result of stereotype driven thinking. One reason
for the persistence of stereotypes (cognitive frameworks) is that they operate as a
labour – saving device, so far as social cognition is concerned (Macrae et. al (1994).
The conclusions arrived at on the basis of stereotypes are often wrong but still
people depend on stereotypes in many situations because the saving of cognitive
effort is so great. Stereotypes, being closely related to prejudice, is to a large extent,
seems to be self-confirming. That is, even exceptions tend to make it stronger, by
getting more supporting information in such a situation.
The Role of Affect in Stereotypic Thinking: The Interface between Feeling and Thought
We have studied earlier in lesson 3, that our feelings and current moods often
exert strong effects upon our cognitive processes. Similarly, cognitive processes in
turn, often exert powerful effects upon our feelings. This reciprocal effect between.
feelings and thought (cognition) are related to stereotypes and their role in prejudice
shall be the focus of our discussion now.
Many social psychologists are investigating the possibility that stereotypes also
contain an affective component, apart from cognitive factors. Research in this area is
very new. However, convincing evidence about the role of ‘affect’ or feeling in
stereotypic thinking, has already been reported by Bodenhausen, Kramer & Susser,
(1994); Jussim et. al. (1995). In short, findings show that stereotypes may exert their
impact on evaluations of others, through both affective and cognitive factors. That is,
when stereotypes are activated by group names, they influence many aspects of
cognition and affective reactions simultaneously. Research findings of Bodenhausen
et. al., (1994) have shown that persons in a good mood may be more likely to think
stereotypically than persons found in a neutral mood.
The same team of researchers in a follow-up study got evidence showing that
the reason for the greater stereotypic thinking among happy individuals, was not

that they were incapable of cognitive effort, but they had simply lower motivation to
indulge in hard cognitive work, than those persons in neutral mood. The researchers
showed this, by informing the participants in a happy wood, that they would be held
totally accountable for their judgements. In other words, that it was important to do
a good job in evaluating the defendant’s guilt. Under these conditions, individuals in
a happy mood, were not more likely to fall back on stereotypes than those persons in
a neutral mood. So, it appears, quite consistent with other findings, that being in a
happy mood does not necessarily reduce our capacity for rational thought. But it

simply reduces our motivation to do this hard cognitive work (Smith & Shaffer,
Other Cognitive Mechanisms in Prejudice:
Illusory Correlations and Out-group Homogeneity
According to social psychologists, the tendency among people to overestimate
the rate of negative behaviours in relatively small groups, is being called as Illusory
Correlation. Here there is a perception of a stronger association between two
variables, than it really or actually exists. This occurs because each variable is
distinctive and their apparent correlation is readily entered into and retrieved
(recalled from memory)
Illusory correlations have important implications for prejudice, to the extent
they occur. Some social psychologists have suggested that illusory correlation
effects, help us to explain why many white people in the United States overestimate
crime rates among African American males (Hamilton & Sherman 1989). In fact,
African Americans (Negroes) are a minority group, since they are only 12 percent of
the total population. So, they are high in distinctiveness. Further many criminal
behaviours are highly distinctive (relatively rare), even though crime rate has
increased greatly in recent decades. For instance, when news spread that African
Americans have been arrested for certain crimes, then this information is processed
extensively and becomes highly accessible to memory system. And at later times, it
is readily available to put that tendency to overestimate crime rates, among minority
groups. This is an instance of illusory correlation. And to this view, any infrequent
events are distinctive (being relatively rare) and significant and hence readily
noticed. However, recent findings point out that this theory has to be modified, at
least in one respect. Apparently, it is not crucial that information be distinctive,
when it is first enunciated. Instead, that information can become distinctive, at later
times and produce illusory correlations. (Mc Connell, Sherman, & Hamilton, 1994).
We require more systematic research on this matter to get a clear idea about all these.
In-group Differentiation, Out-group Homogeneity: “They are all the same” or Are They?
Members of the in-group tend to perceive members of an out-group, as much
more similar to another (as more homogeneous) than the members of one’s own
group. This kind of tendency to perceive persons, belonging to groups other than
one’s own, all alike, is called as the illusion of out-group homogeneity (Linville et. al.,

1989). From another perspective, the mirror image of this tendency is being called
“In-group differentiation that is, the tendency to look at members of our own group,
as revealing much larger differences from one another (as more heterogeneous) than
persons of other groups. For example, persons tend to perceive individuals, who are
older or younger than themselves, as more similar to each other with regard to
personal traits, than members of their own age group. This is an intriguing type of
“generation gap” according to Linville, Fischer & Salovey (1989). Further, the most
disturbing example of the illusion of out-group homogeneity, however, appears in
the context of cross-racial facial identification. That is, the tendency for persons

belonging to one racial group to be more accurate in recognising differences among

the faces of strangers in their own group, than in another racial group (e.g., Both
well, Brigham, & Malpass, 1989). This tendency has been observed both among
African Americans and Whites in the United States. However, it appears to be much
stronger among Whites (Anthony, Cooper & Muywllen 1992).
To have the tendency to perceive members of other groups, to be more
homogeneous than members of our own group, there is one explanation. That is, we
have a lot of experience with members of our own group, and hence more exposed to
a wider range of individual differences within that group. But, in contrast, this is not
so with members of other groups (Linville et. al., 1989).
Findings of Lee & Ottati (1993) have shown that several other factors play a role
in this context, as given below:
(1) It is possible that some groups are really more homogeneous than others. As
Lee & Ottati (1993) have noted, Americans are less homogeneous than Chinese, with
regard to several physical characteristics like hair colour; and eye colour. Suppose,
an American perceives greater heterogeneity among Americans than among Chinese,
this perception is based on reality to some extent. (2) Next, it is possible that
perceptions of outgroup homogeneity may be related to more basic tendencies, to
evaluate other groups in a relatively consistent manner. For example, Americans
tend to value individuality. So, to the extent, they dislike another group, they would
tend to perceive its members as homogeneous. This would be consistent with their
overall negative evaluation of the group. Instead of this, suppose they liked another
group, they might tend to view its members as relatively heterogeneous. In this case,
perceiving heterogeneity (individuality) in the group would be consistent with
positive feelings towards it.
All these findings suggest that the tendency to perceive other groups as more
homogeneous than our own group, may stem from sources, other than prejudice.
That is, factors like actual differences along this dimension and our tendency to
evaluate outgroups in a consistent manner. However, it is very clear that on several
other occasions, the perception of outgroup homogeneity, is an illusion: This is
because we tend to perceive members of outgroups as more homogeneous than they
really are. This perception saves us a lot of cognitive effort, but once we conclude
that “they are all alike”, there is little reason to seek contact with members of several
out-groups. This, in turn, would lessen the probability that we will ever learn that
they really do differ. For this reason along, the illusion of in-group homogeneity is
another cognitive source of prejudice, we should take every effort to avoid it.



In the previous lesson, we have learnt that prejudice is common in all human
societies. But it exerts damaging effects, both on its victims who are the target of
attack, and on those persons, who hold such prejudiced views. Let us now
summarise the major findings of social psychological research, with regard to the
steps to be taken, in order to reduce the impact of prejudice.
Breaking the Cycle of Prejudice: On Learning Not to Hate
Most people in the world, would contend that nobody is born with prejudice
and hence bigots are made and not born. This perspective has been shared by social
psychologists: they believe that children acquire (learn) prejudice from their parents,
other adult members, their peers (age mates) and the mass media like the press,
T.V., movie and so on. In this context, it is worth considering the viewpoints of
G.W. Allport in his book on ‘Nature of Prejudice’ wherein the celebrated Harvard
Psychologist has made an extensive anatomy of prejudice. He has rightly remarked
that prejudice is not being taught, but rather caught from the polluted environment
(prejudice ridden home; school and society) by the youngsters quite spontaneously,
in an effortless way. Based on this fact, one useful technique to eliminate or combat
prejudice follows logically: somehow, we should discourage parents and other adults
from providing training in bigotry; And they should start serving as right models for
the children, instead of being wrong models to them.
The common in-group identity model, has suggested that when persons
belonging to different groups, come to perceive themselves as members of a one
single group, then their attitudes toward each other, become more positive. This, in
turn increases contact between members of the groups, which reduces inter-group
bias and hostility still further (Gaertner, Dovidio et. al. 1990; 1993). Most people
have learnt to recognise that we live in a world of increasing diversity and this
diversified environment tends to demand a higher degree of tolerance than ever
Parents can come forward to teach their children about the advantages of

tolerance rather than prejudice. Further parents would not perpetuate prejudice to
their children had they realised the fact, that prejudice is harmful not only to those
persons, who are its victims, but also to those who are enveloped by prejudiced
views (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1993; Jussim, 1991). It seems that persons who are
prejudiced, live in a world with unwanted fears, anxieties and anger. They entertain
baseless fear about attack from dangerous social groups, worry about health risks
due to contact with such groups; And they get into anger and emotional turmoil,
which they view as due to unjustified trespass of social groups into their territory
like schools, offices, and neighbourhoods. In short, their enjoyment of everyday

activities and life itself is disturbed and reduced by their own prejudice (Branscombe
& Wann, 1994, Grau, 1985). It is clear that persons holding intense racial and
ethnic prejudices suffer many harmful effects because of their intolerant views.
When the harmful aspects of prejudice are known to responsible parents, then they
would take all steps to discourage anybody transmitting prejudiced views to their
Direct Inter-group Contact: The Potential Benefits of Acquaintance
The idea of increasing the degree of contact between different groups by some
ways would help communities toward reduction of prejudice and this is called the
contact hypothesis. According to Pettigrew, (1981) there are many good reasons for
predicting that such a strategy might prove effective.
First increased contact between persons belonging to different groups, can lead
to a growing recognition of similarities between them. We will see in the next lesson
that perceived similarity can enhance mutual attraction. Secondly, when persons
meet and interact, a sufficient number of “exceptions” to their stereotypes are
encountered face-to-face. It is to be noted that stereotypes which are resistant to
change, in such a context, can undergo attraction. That is, negative schemata will
begin to disappear and crumble, once they get to know each other better. (Kunda &
Oleson; 1995). Thirdly, the increased contact will help to overcome the illusion of out
group homogeneity. According to Cook (1985); & Piordan (1978) when contact
between hostile groups, at the initial stages occurs, under certain favourable
conditions – unfortunately that are quite rare – prejudice between them does seem to
decrease. For example, such effects have been observed in the United States between
African Americans and Whites, with reduction of prejudice due to increased contact
between them (Aronson, Bridgeman, & Geffner, 1978).
To conclude, direct inter-group contact, if used with care and caution, would
prove to be an effective tool for combating cross-group hostility and prejudice. That
is, when people get to know each other, it seems many of the anxieties, stereotypes,
and false perceptions, which have kept them apart earlier, would now melt in the
face of new information and the warmth of new friendships.
Recategorisation: Redrawing the boundary between “Us” and “Them”
Let us imagine that our college basketball team was playing a game against a
rival team of another nearby college. Here, we would perceive our college team as

“Us” and the other college team as “them.” Suppose, the other college team has won
and went on to play against a team from another state, in a national tournament. In
this context, we would perceive the other college team as “Us” – after all they belong
to our area whereas the team from another state, is viewed as “them.” Therefore, in
situations like this, we are inclined to shift the boundary between “Us” and “them.”
And this is quite common in everyday life.
Social psychologists are of the view, that this kind of shifting the boundary
between “Us” and “them” – called as recategorisation – can be conveniently be used
for reducing prejudice. And this has been approved by the theory, called the

common in-group identity model formulated by Gaertner, Dovidio et. al., (1989-
1993). According to this theory, when individuals of different social groups tend to
look upon themselves as members of one single social entity, then their attitudes
toward each other and also toward former out-group members become more
possible. Such favourable attitudes would in turn promote increased positive
contacts between members of the previously different groups. And finally the inter-
group bias between them is reduced still further. This is done by weakening or
eliminating the initial “Us” Versus “them” boundaries. And this starts a process,
which carries the persons involved toward major reductions in prejudice and
Geartner and his colleagues (1990) have suggested that the experience of
working together co-operatively would help people of different groups to perceive
each other as members of a single group. All these findings point out that efforts to
induce persons of different groups to get into recategorisation process to shift the
boundary between “Us” and “them” in order to include persons previously excluded
can be a vital step leading toward the reduction of prejudice. However, we have to
remember that by widening the “Us” category to include groups that have been
previously excluded, does not automatically eliminate the human tendency to
enhance our own self-identity by cognitively boosting our own group, while
simultaneously belittling persons of other groups (Tajfel, 1982). This seems to be a
basic tendency and hence cannot be entirely eliminated and easily removed.
Cognitive Interventions
When Stereotypes Shatter – Or at least Become Less Compelling
Cognitive interventions designed to reduce the impact of stereotypes may prove
to be highly effective in the matter of reducing prejudice and discrimination. Several
kinds of techniques seem to be effective in this regard.
Firstly, the impact of stereotypes can be considerably reduced, when persons
are encouraged to think carefully about others. That is, to pay attention to their
unique characteristics instead of their membership in several groups. This kind of
attitude-driven processing can be encouraged by simple ways. That is, persons are
motivated to be accurate in forming an impression of another person. And this
reduces their tendency to rely upon stereotypes (Neuberg, 1989).
Secondly, it is more surprising to note, that the impact of stereotypes can be

sometimes reduced, by techniques based on the principle of attribution. We aften
make inferences about others, on the basis of their outcomes, while ignoring factors,
which might have produced these outcomes, (Allison, Worth & King, 1990).
This technique has important implications, for efforts to counter the effects of
prejudice, through affirmative action programmes. These programmes are designed
to improve the outcomes of several disadvantaged groups, by increasing the chances
that they will get such benefits like jobs and promotions. Truly, this is a case of
“fighting fire with fire” – using a basic lift in our attributions to reduce the impact of
harmful social stereotypes.

In many social situations, people try to suppress stereotypic thinking. This is

because people do not want to run the risk of offending members of several social
groups, by saying or doing things, suggesting that they hold negative stereotypes
about them. And we know well that our overt actions often reflect, what we think.
Results show that efforts taken to suppress stereotypes and drive them out from
consciousness may work temporarily for some time. And this suppression may be
followed by a strong rebound effect, in which stereotype come back to haunt us, and
shape our thinking with a vengeance. The paradoxical effects of stereotypes
suppression – when thoughts that we don’t want may come back to haunt us, has
been reported by the findings of Macrae, Bodenhausen and their colleagues (1994).
In a follow up study, the researchers measured the rebound effect in terms of actual
behaviour. Participants could sit anywhere they wished. And the presence of
stereotypic thinking was measured in terms of how close, they chose to sit to the
skinhead. As expected, those persons previously told to suppress stereotypic
thoughts, chose to sit farther away – This is an evidence that their negative
stereotypes had rebounded and were now affecting their behaviour. Finally, the
findings indicate that active efforts to suppress stereotypic thinking may sometimes
backfire – lead to stronger recurrence later and can increase our overall risk of
offending others.
In the world population, more than half of them, are females. However, in many
cultures females have been treated as a minority group. And they have been isolated
from economic and political power. Further, women have been exposed to strong
negative stereotypes and open discrimination in the fields of work settings, higher
education, government sector and so on. (Fisher 1992; Heilman, Block & Lucas
1992). Ever since late 1990’s this situation has changed atleast in some countries,
to some extent. Yet, such progress has been spotty. For instance, Sexism – prejudice
based on gender continues to exert harmful effects upon females in several countries
(e.g. KaneKar, Kolsawalla, & Nazareth, 1988).
Gender Stereotypes: The Cognitive Core of Sexism
Females have often been the object of strong, persistent stereotypes. Further,
stereotypes about females are more negative than those about males. For example,
in many cultures, males are associated with desirable traits like decisiveness,
forcefulness, confidence, ambition and rationality. In contrast, with regard to
females, these assumptions include less desirable traits like passivity,
submissiveness, indecisiveness, emotionality and dependence (Deaux, 1993; Unger
Even though both genders do not differ significantly, still many hold gender
stereotypes. This is because men and women are not equally distributed in their
social roles. Men and women occupy different roles in society, in spite of rapid social
changes. For example a vast bunch of men employed in fulltime jobs outside home,
whereas a sizeable percentage of women are mere home makers. The findings of

Eagly and Steffen (1984) had shown that persons holding fulltime jobs were rated as
more masculine in their traits than persons in the home maker role, which is being
treated feminine in their traits. Further, individuals who are employed full time
outside the home are viewed to be masculine, irrespective of whether they were men
or women. So, it was the roles that persons played and not their sex that determined
how they were perceived. Since a large number of women have started entering into
new fields of job, involving new roles required for the job, many of the traditional
stereotypes about them will fade out and disappear from the society. As a result,
women will be viewed and evaluated mainly upon the roles that, they play, rather
than on the basis of their sex. The magnitude and scope of differences between
males and females are far smaller than suggested by gender stereotypes (Feingold,
1992; Oliver & Hyde, 1993).
Discrimination against Females: Subtle but often Deadly
Any overt or open discrimination on the basis of gender is illegal in many
countries, since late 1990s. So one cannot stop admission or appointment, simply
because the applicant is a woman. There have been many instances in which women
choose to occupy low-paying and low status jobs. One reason for women to choose to
occupy this kind of second class status in the world of work might be on account of
contrasting socialisation practices adopted for men and women since their
childhood. For example, little boys are encouraged to play with card, machine tools,
plane, gun and so on whereas little girls, are asked to play with different types of
toys. Another reason being, persistent gender stereotypes consider about the varied
abilities of the two genders. That is, for instance, males have superior quantitative
skills while females possess superior verbal skills.
Any discriminatory practices against women cannot be stopped suddenly
through equal right legislations. Research evidence has shown that overt barriers to
female advancement have largely disappeared in the present day context. However,
there are many subtle forces that continue to operate against women, in many
contexts. We shall now list out several of these for our purpose.
The Role of Expectation
One factor that is preventing the progress of females is their own expectations.
Women, in general seem to hold lower expectations about their careers than that of
men. In other words, both in starting salaries and peak salaries, their expectations

are lower compared to men (Jackson, Gardner & Sullivan 1992; Major & Konar,
1984). Further they consider such low salaries for women, as fair (Jackson &
Grabski, 1988).
According to the findings of researchers – (Jackson, Gardner & Sullivan, 1992)
several factors play a role for the lower expectations of females. (a) Females expect to
take more time out from work, in order to spend with their children. And this tends
to lower their expectations for peak career salaries in the long run (b) Women in
general, attach somewhat less importance to job outcomes, including salary, than
men do. So, for the women, lower pay is relatively acceptable to them. (c) Women

realise that females do generally earn less than males. So, their lower expectations
tend to reflect their own recognition of current reality and its consequent impact on
their own salaries. (d) As noted earlier, women consider the relatively low levels of
pay as more fair and just than males do (e) Finally, women compare themselves with
other women and as women earn less than men in several instances, this enables
them to conclude that they are not doing too badly after all (Major, 1995).
In general, whatever has been the specific basis for women’s lower salary
expectations, it is a fact of life, that people tend to get what they expect, or what they
request. Therefore, females lower expectations with regard to such outcomes, may be
one main factor operating against them in many organisations.
The Role of Self-confidence
Often it is remarked, that confidence is the single best predictor of success. In
general, people who expect to succeed, often do so; whereas those who expect to fail,
find their prediction confirmed. In the case of women, unfortunately, they tend to
express lower self-confidence than men in several achievement related situations.
This might be one reason, why almost 10 percent of the executives, who had
responded to a survey in Business Week reported, believing that females are not as
aggressive or as determined to succeed, as males (Lander, 1992). In short, at least in
some situations, women are less self-confident than men and people notice these
differences. This, in turn, may contribute to the fact that women have not yet
attained full equality with men, in many work settings.
Negative Reactions to Female Leaders
By the end of 1990s, most people began to agree that females can definitely be
effective leaders. Women have been elected to major offices as prime minister,
senator, have been appointed as senior judges in the supreme court of the United
States; to hold high rank, in the military and in a few cases, head of major
companies, and organisations. People do not react to female leaders with high regard
nor do they evaluate them as favourably as in the case of men leaders. Research
findings of Bulter & Geis, (1990) show that subordinates in fact tend to demonstrate
more negative nonverbal behaviours toward female leaders. It seems that many
persons consider women in leadership roles to be somewhat disturbing of women
runs against the prevailing gender stereotypes. Especially when women serve as
leaders, females tend to receive lower evaluations from sub-ordinates than in the

case of males. The same researchers have also found that the tendency to downrate
female leaders, was considerably stronger, especially when the female leaders
adopted a style of leadership – perceived to be stereotypically masculine – autocratic
and directive, when the persons who evaluated them, were males. All these findings
and the studies of Kent & Moss (1994) pointed out that females continue to face
subtle disadvantages, even when they do manage to get positions of leadership and

The Glass Ceiling: Why Women Don’t Rise to the Top

The proportion of managers who are female increased from 16 percent to more
than 42 percent between the years 1970 and 1992 (U.S. Department of Labour,
1992). However, the proportion of top executives who are women increased only from
3 percent to 5 percent (Fisher, 1992). Based on these facts, many authors had
mentioned the existence of a glass ceiling - a final barrier which prevents females, as
a group, from reaching the top positions in many companies.
The glass ceiling phenomenon refers to another barrier to female achievement.
Even though females have occupied 42 percent of all managerial jobs, but so far as
top – level executives are concerned, they constitute only 5 percent. This fact has
prompted some researchers to conclude that a glass ceiling operates to prevent
females from moving into the higher positions in many organisations. The U.S.
Department of Labour has formally defined the glass ceiling as “those artificial
barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals
from advancing upward in their organization” (V.S. Department of Labour, 1992).
The findings of Powell & Butterfield (1994) indicate that the glass ceiling does not
appear to result from a conscious effort on the part of male executives to keep
women out of their domain.
All these findings point out that the glass ceiling is, indeed really operating in
subtle forms of prejudice toward females. However, there are other findings to
indicate that the glass ceiling is not present in all organisations. For example, it has
been found to be totally lacking in government agencies (Powell & Butterfield, 1994)
– its presence, in at least, some work settings appears to be an additional subtle
barrier to female achievement.
Sexual Harassment
When Discrimination Hits Rock Bottom
“Sexual harassment” is defined in the United States, as an “unwelcome sexual
advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a
sexual nature.” Further, sexual harassment need not be restricted to this kind of
extreme and unpleasant behaviour, but it can involve any actions of a sexual nature,
leading to create a hostile environment, such as repeated remarks about their
appearance; uncivilised staring by a boss or fellow employee and several other terms
of indecent behaviour, meet the legal definition.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is not uncommon in many work settings. In
one recent poll, for example, totally 31 percent of employed women showed that they
had been the object of such harassment, on at least one occasion (BNA’s Employee
Relations Weekly, 1994). To the same survey in contrast, only 7 percent of male
respondents pointed out that they had been the victim of such actions. In recent
years, fortunately recognition of sexual harassment as a problem in many work
settings has considerably increased. Since recognition of the frequency and harmful
effects of sexual harassment has grown, as a follow up, several organisations have
moved to establish clear-cut policies against such behaviour. Further they have

taken necessary step to lessen or prevent its occurrence. Growing evidence reveals
that such steps can be quite effective in reducing the incidence of this detestable
form of discrimination. By so doing, tens of millions of employees – both men and
women – can be given protection of psychological and physical welfare.
Prejudice is a negative attitude toward the members of some social group,
which is based solely on their membership in that group. Discrimination refers to
harmful actions directed against the persons or groups, who are the targets of
prejudice. Since overt discrimination is now illegal in many countries, such
behaviour of discrimination frequently makes its appearance through more subtle
forms – like new racism and sexism, tokenism, and reverse discrimination.
Prejudice, as an attitude, is learned or acquired from many different sources –
competition between social groups to satisfy their needs and demands (realistic
conflict theory); children acquire prejudice from parents, teachers, friends and mass
media (social learning view); prejudice stems due to our strong tendencies to divide
the social world into “Us” and “them” (Social Categorization approach); Recent
evidence shows that prejudice stems from certain aspects of social cognition,
through stereotypes.
Combating prejudice can be carried out-by learning to love and not to hate;
through direct inter-group contact to realise the potential gains and advantages of
acquaintance; by the recategorisation approach, the boundary between “Us” and
“Them” can be shifted, in order to accommodate all persons into one unified
common group. It is an amalgamation of both in-group and out-groups; through
cognitive interventions by counter-stereotypic inferences, prejudice can be reduced.
Sexism is prejudice based on gender. It involves acceptance of gender
stereotypes between the differential traits of males and females. Developmental
opportunities are lower for females than for males in organisations. Glass ceiling is
real, since there are barriers for women in many organisations for high achievement.
This problem can be got over in work settings by appropriate policies and action
Research evidence shows that stereotypes can, not only influence our social
thought but also important aspects of physical health or well-being. Decrease in
mental abilities like memory are greater in cultures, which have negative stereotypes

about “the elderly” than in cultures which have more positive stereotypes about the
elderly. Many Americans believe that memory will decline with age. Stereotypes of
‘the elderly’ in the United States, are largely negative – that is, aging is associated
with unavoidable decline in appearance, health, and mental abilities. In contrast,
older persons in China, are given respect for their wisdom and accumulated
knowledge. In short, stereotypes about older persons differ sharply in different

Prejudice – Discrimination – Contact hypothesis – Gender stereotypes – Glass
ceiling – Recategorisation – Reverse discrimination – Sexism – Sexual harassment –
1. Explain the role of prejudice and discrimination as leading to harmful
effects in a society.
2. Describe the different theories of prejudice.
3. Examine the role of stereotypes in perpetuating prejudice and
4. Discuss the several ways to reduce and eliminate prejudice in a society.
5. Explain the nature and effects of prejudice, based on gender.



After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Understand meeting strangers
 Explain becoming acquainted and the need to affiliate
 Examine how acquaintanceship turn toward friendship
 Describe the link between similarity and reciprocal positive evaluations
Introduction – Meeting Strangers: Proximity and Emotions – Becoming
Acquainted – Similarity and Reciprocal Positive Evaluations.
In our day-to-day living, we form attitudes about the people, objects and events
that we come across at school or college; at work spot; in the journey,
neighbourhood, and so on. As a result of such encounter with other persons, we
tend to develop attitudes about each of them. And this in turn leads to interpersonal
evaluations about others, which would extend along a dimension ranging from like
to dislike. Our attitudes about other persons, are the specific target in the study of
interpersonal attraction – That is about our evaluations of other people, with regard
to how much we like them or dislike them. In the process of identifying in detail, the
factors that are responsible for interpersonal evaluation and the effects of each
factor, it is easy to lose sight of the forest, especially because we tend to focus on the
Right from the beginning, it has to be kept in mind that some social
psychologists propose that we make positive evaluations when feelings are positive
and negative evaluations when our feelings are negative. In other words, our
interpersonal likes and dislikes are determined by emotions. Further, any factor that
affects emotions, also affects attraction. As we study this lesson, such an assertion
will become clear. Apart from mere positive – negative emotions, there are additional
factors that can influence interpersonal behaviour and as a consequence such
evaluations may become more extreme – love or hate.
Interpersonal Attraction refers to the evaluation of one person, making on
another person. Such evaluations are made along an attitudinal dimension that
includes strong liking (toward a friend), mild liking (toward a close acquaintance),
neutral feeling (toward a superficial acquaintance), mild dislike (toward an annoying
acquaintance) and strong dislike (toward someone considered undesirable).
Attraction begins, as and when people come into contact, with each other. We
make such contacts more often by sheer accident in the street, or super market,

school or library, at journey or work spot. Here physical proximity is the first step in
our becoming attracted to another person. However, whether a person likes or does
not like that encounter is largely influenced by the affective state – (feeling and
mood) prevailing at the time. It is simple and true, when our emotions are positive,
we like others, but when we have negative feelings we dislike them, no matter, what
has caused the emotions.
It is to be noted, that in spite of repeated contacts and the presence of positive
emotions, attraction may not develop. That is, unless both persons are motivated to
establish a relationship and unless each of them tends to respond positively to the
observable characteristics of the other, such as physical appearance, skin colour,
age, or any other factor, that can activate stereotypes and prejudice, attraction may
not develop (we studied in lessons 7 & 8). Suppose two persons proceed to interact,
the question of liking or disliking is strongly determined as to what extent they are
similar, (rather than dissimilar) in their attitudes, beliefs, values and other
characteristics. In short, a relationship can become increasingly positive, especially
when two persons reveal mutual liking through positive evaluations of the other,
both in words and actions (deeds).
Proximity and Emotions
In the big world of humanity, we are likely to interact with only a very small
percentage of people. In the interaction process, some of them become
acquaintances and many remain strangers. Two persons become acquainted, when
they are brought into regular contact, through physical proximity (closeness or
propinquity) and when each of them is experiencing positive feelings rather than
negative affect, at the time.
Physical Surroundings: Repeated Interpersonal Contact Leads to Attraction
Suppose two strangers, regularly wait together every morning at the bus stop or
occupy the adjoining seats in a classroom either in school or college, in due course
these casual and unplanned contacts would soon lead to mutual recognition. Next,
they will begin to exchange greetings when they meet (“Hi”) and may express a word
or two about the weather conditions or some newsworthy event. In short, a familiar
face evokes positive feelings. Even with infants, they tend to smile at photo of some-
one they had seen before, but not a photo of someone that they see for the first time.

(Brooks – Gunn & Lewis, 1981).
A study was conducted by Zajonc (1968) with regard to repeated exposure.
Frequent contact with a stimulus according to Zajonc’s theory, with repeated
exposure to any stimulus (frequent contact with that stimulus) leads to a more and
more positive evaluation of the stimulus. The general idea is that we often respond
with mild discomfort to anything new. When there is repeated exposure, the feelings
of anxiety decrease and the new becomes familiar. We feel friendly toward the
stranger, sitting next to us in a classroom because we see that person again and
again. And familiarity brings about friendliness.

To show, how this process of repeated exposure has influenced liking was
studied by Moreland and Beach (1992). Here classroom contacts have led to
attraction. Four female research assistants pretended to be students in a large
college class. Among them, one did not attend class at all, another attended class
five times, a third attended ten times, and a fourth, fifteen times; those who come to
class sat quietly in the classroom and did not interact either with the professor or
with fellow students. And at the end of the semester, the four assistants were
assessed. The findings showed that attraction increased, as the number of
classroom exposures to the strangers increased.
One caution about the repeated exposure effect is that it does not apply to a
new stimulus, if the initial reaction is very negative. Any additional contact with
disliked stimulus will maximize the initial feeling of dislike. With regard to
residential proximity, about friendships and marriage, several studies have been
found to be consistent in their finding. That is, as the distance between residences
decreases, random contact between the residents becomes more frequent, and
positive relationship develops. For example, studies of multistoried under-graduate
dormitories revealed that two-thirds of friendships develop among people, living on
the same floor and only rarely do students get to know those living more than one
floor away (Evans & Wilson, 1949; Lundberg & Beazley 1948). Beyond the college
campus, very similar effects are noted among adult families in suburbia (Ebbesen,
Kjos & Konneni, 1976). Regarding the importance of environmental factors, studies
of neighbourhoods and other residential settings like dormitories and apartment
buildings have shown that physical proximity is a major determinant of which
individuals become acquainted. There is strong evidence through many studies that
proximity leads to attraction. Further as distance varies, attraction also varies.
Positive and Negative Affect: The Basis of Liking and Disliking
It is very common that we experience emotions and express emotions,
throughout our daily lives. And our emotional state at any given moment influences
our perception, cognition, motivation decision making and interpersonal judgements
(Erber, 1991, Forgas, 1993; Zajonc & McIntosh, 1992). Psychologists often use the
term “affect” while referring to emotions or feelings. The concept “affect” has two
important characteristics: (1) intensity (the weakness or strength of the emotion) and
(2) direction (whether that emotion is positive or negative). Till recently, positive
emotions like excitement and happiness have been considered to fall at one end of a
continuum, while negative emotions like anxiety and depression were considered to
fall at the opposite end. But, now it appears that positive and negative emotions
involve two separate and independent dimensions (Smeaton & Byrne; 1988). For
example, when emotions are measured both – before and after students receive
feedback, revealing that they performed well on an exam; positive affect is aroused
by the good news, but negative affect remains unchanged; And also by receiving
feedback that they performed badly on an exam, arouses negative affect, but has no
influence on positive feelings (Goldstein & Strulbe, 1994).

Experiments have shown consistently that positive feelings lead to positive

evaluations of others – liking; - while negative feelings lead to negative evaluations –
dislike (Dovidio et. al., 1995). There are two ways, through which affect can influence
attraction. (1) Firstly a person can do something to make you feel good or bad; we
tend to like people or events, that make us feel good. But we tend to dislike them,
especially when they make us feel bad (Downey & Damhave, 1991), (Shapiro,
Baumeister & Kessler, 1991). This is very obvious because we will prefer someone
who tends to encourage us, by offering sincere compliment unlike that of a person
who would bring us down, with an unfair criticism (2) Secondly, it is less obvious
that anyone or anything simply present, when our positive or negative feelings are
aroused, entirely by something else, is also liked or disliked, as a consequence. It
may seem to be a little odd, but we tend to evaluate others more positively, while
waiting to get into a movie, rather while waiting to meet our dentist.
Let us now deal with a special sort of social interaction like an attempt to
initiate a conversation with a stranger. That is, the affective and evaluative
consequences of different kinds of “opening lines” may play a vital role. A study was
done by Kleinke Meeker and Staneski (1986) to investigate the kinds of things that
persons say while they try to interact with someone, they do not know. Many people,
particularly men, try to be amusing, by saying something cute or flippant, hoping
presumably to elicit positive affect and also to be liked. In this study one example is
“Hi, I am easy, are you?” And to such attempted cleverness, the most common
emotional response, was negative, a counter productive effect. The research study by
Kleinke & Dean, (1990) about the relationship between opening lines and attraction
toward the person using them, showed that a person saying something simple and
direct would usually get the most positive response. That is, men and women using
a direct opening line, with an opposite-sex-stranger are liked most. But men and
women using a cute or flippant opening line with an opposite – sex – stranger are
liked least. In short, people who try to be too cute, manage to turn other people off.
The study of Johnston & Short, (1993) revealed that our positive and negative
feelings are also aroused by events, having nothing directly to do with the other
person. Our immediate affective state is influenced by recent experiences, thoughts,
physical sensations and much else besides. Suppose another person has first
happened to be there, when our feelings are good, we tend to like him or like her. In
contrast, suppose that person is present when our feelings are bad, we tend to

dislike (Byrne & Clore, 1970).
Emotions have been aroused by good versus bad news on the radio. (Kaplan,
1981); happy versus sad movies (Gonaux, 1971) and pleasant versus unpleasant
room lighting (Baron, Rea & Daniels, 1992). Further, mood influences interpersonal
behaviour. In Cunningham (1988) study, it was found that males who felt happy
communicated more freely with the assistant and revealed more about themselves,
than those persons with negative feelings.

The Affect – Centered Model of Attraction

According to Byrne (1992), attraction is based on affective responses and this is
called as the “affect-centered model of attraction.” However, the emphasis on ‘affect’
here, does not mean, that cognitive processes are irrelevant, as revealed in the
Figure given below:

External Stimuli Internal Processes External Responses

Any person
Affect: Positive and Evaluation of the person
who elicits
negative feelings on a positive – negative
an emotional
varying in intensity dimension: attraction

Observable Cognitive processes

Characteristic including schemas that
organise attitudes, Overt verbal and
of the person
beliefs, values, non-verbal acts
stereotypes, and involved in inter
expectancies personal

In this theoretical model of attraction, affective responses play a central role in

determining who is liked or disliked. Positive and negative affect can be aroused
directly by the acts of another person or by that person’s words or observable
characteristics. In the latter instance, the words or characteristics must be
cognitively processed, before resulting in an affective response. The cumulative
affective response leads to an evaluation of the other person and to relevant overt
acts, involved in interpersonal behaviour.
Stigma by Association
Research on Stigma, on the applied side of social psychology – points out that

the negative associations occur as easily as positive ones. A stigma is any
characteristic of a person, that some observers perceive negatively, such as race, age,
a foreign accent, physical disability, or whatever. In the observation of Frable, (1993),
a person perceived as possessing a stigma, tends to elicit a negative stereotype. A
stigmatised person may arouse fear or disgust and tends to be disliked or avoided.
Even when a stigma is overcome, the negative affect linked with a past stigma, does
not necessarily go away. For example, the researchers Rodin and Price (1995) told
the research participants, with information about persons who had removed a
stigma like unattractiveness, by having done plastic surgery, overweight by dieting,

loneliness by learning social skills etc. In spite of the removal of the stigma, a person
with a past stigma was considered as less acceptable than the same person, without
such a history. Similarly, a person received credit for having improved himself, but
is nevertheless perceived as less acceptable socially.
Here, the perceptual logic is this, “once-damaged goods”, are less valued than
the ‘never-damaged goods’. A possible implication to such research is, that a person
who wants to be liked, or to be hired for a job or to win in an election, would do well
if that person does not reveal the past stigmas “Honesty” undoubtedly, may be “the
best policy.” But, it cannot necessarily be, the best interpersonal strategy. Neuberg
and his colleagues (1994) have pointed out that several people are unfairly disliked
and avoided, since they are stigmatised, on account of their race, physical
appearance and many other characteristics, including sexual orientation.
There is strong evidence about transfer of affect and evaluation from the
stigmatised target, to the mental one. – “stigma by association.” Based upon this
finding, can we think that a political candidate would lose votes, suppose he or she
reported of having a homosexual friend? For example, the American President, Bill
Clinton’s poll ratings declined, especially when he tried to lift the ban on
homosexuals in the military. So, each of us in our daily lives could benefit more from
being aware of the basis for our interpersonal evaluations and more cautious about
our judgements.
Needing to Affiliate and Responding to Observable Characteristics
When two persons come into contact and also experience positive affective
responses, then they are at a point of transition. In the beginning, they may remain
superficial acquaintances since there is a nod, and express a word or two, whenever
they happen to meet each other. Subsequently, they can become close
acquaintances, when they begin to talk, learn about each other’s names and
exchange some information. With regard to the question of a stranger, becoming an
acquaintance and this acquaintanceship transforming or developing into friendship
and a friend becoming an intimate friend, depends upon the following two factors:
the need or desire to affiliate and how each of them will react to the observable
characteristics of the other.
1. The Need to Affiliate: Dispositional Differences and External Events

A large portion of our free time is spent by most of us, in interacting with other
people. Perhaps such affiliation has improved the chances of survival for our pre-
historic ancestors (Wright, 1984). With regard to the strength of this need for
affiliation, people differ from each other. Those persons with weak affiliative needs,
prefer to be alone whereas persons with strong affiliative needs, interact with people
more, whenever possible. Further, specific situations can also influence the strength
of this motive, by arousing a temporary affiliative state. So, need for affiliation, may
work as a trait and also may work as a state and the effects of both types, are to be
felt in interpersonal relationships. Need for affiliation as such, involves the motive of

a person to seek interpersonal relationships. It seems that different persons have

different reasons to affiliate.
With regard to affiliation need as a state, external events like – natural
disasters, such as flood, earthquake, cyclone, volcano, technological disasters
caused by bomb-blast by terrorists and so on – are so powerful to arouse affiliation
needs. These special unexpected occurrences somehow bring people together. In
India, the Gujarat State earthquake, that occurred on 26th January 2001, was a
dreadful destruction of property and mass scale of killing of people and cattle. In
these critical situations, strangers talked to strangers, consoling each other
irrespective of caste, religion, race, language or other barriers, whatsoever. People
seek out other people, when affiliation need is aroused. In fact, they tend to choose
even strangers, in order to talk about what is going on, and to decide what to do
next, by social comparison process.
In our everyday lives, we do not feel uncertain and anxious particularly with
familiar occurrences. As a result, we do not have any special reason to interact with
strangers. But with events unexpected and unusual¸ however, we are usually
puzzled or confused and often worried about what is going on. During such critical
hours, we feel better, when we can affiliate and discover how others perceive, what is
2. Responding to Observable Characteristics
The study of Andersen & Baum (1994) had observed, that suppose a stranger
resembles someone we have known, the positive or negative characteristics of the
person we know already, tend to be transferred to the new person. However,
different the new person may be, when compared with our already known person in
the past, still our evaluations are strongly affected by this association. Very often we
react to other persons, based on wrong beliefs, which emerge from their superficial
characteristics. The characteristics of physical attractiveness has been most studied
by social psychologists (Albright, Kenny & Malloy, 1988).
Let us now analyse physical attractiveness, as a major determinant of liking.
Initial attraction or avoidance, in general, is often based upon stereotypes – (which
we learnt as poor predictors of behaviour) about the observable characteristics of
others, like race, sex, age, height, physique (body), clothing, skin colour and so on.
Statements like “beauty is skin deep”; and “We cannot judge a book by its cover” are

all based on cultural wisdom. But people respond strongly to the physical
attractiveness – an aesthetically appealing outward appearance of others. (Collins &
Zebrowitz, 1995). Further attractiveness, can more often outweigh or supersede all
other considerations. On many matters, men and women differ to some degree. It
was observed in the study of Feingold, (1990) and Pierce, (1992) that men are
affected more by female attractiveness than women are affected by male
Physical attractiveness is a combination of facial and bodily characteristics and
they are perceived as aesthetically appealing (beautiful or handsome) by others. To

the question why physical attractiveness leads to attraction?, the affect-centered

model explained earlier, has remarked clearly that good-looking persons arouse
positive affect (Kenrick et. al., 1993) and we have also seen that affect, is an all-
important determinant of attraction.
Very young boys and girls responded quite differently to the strangers, who
were attractive and unattractive, in an experimental study by Langlois, Roggman,
and Rieser-Danner (1990). That is one-year-olds expressed more positive affect and
were more involved in play with an attractive female stranger than with an
unattractive female stranger. Here, the physical attractiveness of an adult female
stranger has affected how infants reacted to her. The infants displayed more positive
affect and became more involved in playing with the stranger, when she wore an
attractive mask than when she wore an unattractive mask. In other words, the
positive response to physical attractiveness clearly begins very early. Subsequent
research of Longlois et. al (1991) showed that infants prefer attractive adults more
than the unattractive adults, irrespective of the adult’s gender, race, or age. Even
with a stimulus like a doll, children spend more play time with an attractive doll,
rather than with an unattractive ones.
Gabriel, Critelli, & Ee (1994) in their study observed that people are not at all
accurate in estimating their own attractiveness, as judged by others. And men seem
to overestimate how good they look. Since there are social biases supporting
attractiveness, it is no wonder that many people do worry about their appearance.
This kind of concern about one’s own attractiveness and fear about negative
judgements or comments by others, is called appearance anxiety. Women score
higher on appearance anxiety test, than men. The higher the score on this measure
or test, the greater the person’s social anxiety for both genders. Persons with higher
score tend to show more discomfort in inter-personal interactions (K.L. Dion,
personal communication, March 1993).
We have considered earlier about the positive effects of being attractive. But
there are a few negative attributes, connected with good looks. Beautiful women, for
example, are often perceived to be, vain and materialistic (case & Duncan, et. al.,
1986 that attractive male political candidates get more votes than unattractive
males. And for women, beauty is not helpful to female candidates, probably because,
an elected official, who is “too feminine” is assumed to be ineffective for the same.
There are studies, which made a search about the physical details that
constitute attractiveness. For example, in 1986, Cunningham asked male college
students to look into photographs of young women and rate their attractiveness. The
“most attractive” pictures were of women who had either “child like” features (large,
widely spaced eyes and a small nose and chin) or “mature” features (prominent
cheekbones, narrow cheeks, high eyebrows, large pupils and a big smile). These
same two facial types have been perceived as equally attractive among white, African
American, and Asian women. Another finding reveals that woman with the childlike
features are stereotypes as “cute” (McKelvie, 1993).

Apart from the factor of physical details about judgements of attractiveness, the
factor of situational effects tend to influence the viewer. Similarly, there are other
observable cues, that influence attraction, Crandall (1994) compared the prejudice
against fat people, to racial prejudice and has developed a measure of anti fat
attitudes. To the question, whether persons who are obese (fat), are at a
disadvantage in their interpersonal relationship with others, the answer is, certainty
“not.” Follow-up research studies have shown that obese women often do develop
strong social skills and overcome the prejudices of others (Miller et. al., 1995).
Further both obese and non-obese women were compared and it was observed that
obesity was unrelated to social anxiety, social competence or the size of an
individual’s social network – as reported either by the women themselves or by their
friends or co-workers.
Becoming Close Acquaintances and Moving Toward Friendship
We have learnt earlier, that two persons when they come together by physical
proximity or by any other means, the likelihood of their liking each other and
continuing that relationship is greatest, based on the following three steps (i)
suppose each person is in a positive emotional state (ii) suppose each of them, is
strongly motivated to affiliate and (iii) suppose each person, reacts or responds
positively to the appearance and other observable characteristics of the other. Now
at this stage, the next steps involve free communication, in which the two persons
have to find out areas of similarity and clear-cut indications of mutually positive
1. Similarity: Birds of a Feather Really Do Flock Together
Long back, the Greek philosopher Aristotle hypothesized that people who agree
with each other, become friends, while those who disagree, do not. This is the main
characteristic of friendship, from the Aristotlean perspective. This ancient prediction
has been consistently confirmed by social psychological research, in the 20 th
Century. A friendly relationship is mainly based on the attitude similarity. The
importance of similarity to attraction, goes far beyond attitudes. In the words of
radio “shock jock” Howard Stern, “If you are not like me, I hate you” – (Zoglin, 1993).
Similarity leads to attraction or that two persons were attracted for various
other reasons, but later on developed similar attitudes, as they spent time together.

Attitude similarity refers to the extent to which two persons share the same
attitudes, about a series of topics. Several experiments conducted in the 1950s and
1960s added further support to Newcombs’ conclusion that similar attitudes lead to
attraction. For example, a research participant learns about the attitudes of a
stranger and then indicates his or her attraction toward that stranger. The greater
the similarity, the greater the attraction (e.g. Byrne 1961’b Schachter, 1951; Smith,
Now, our question is, what is actually involved in this similarity effect? When
people meet and proceed to interact various topics or matters are likely to come up

about school, work, music, television, politics and so on. And each person is very
likely to express his or her likes and dislikes (Hatfield & Rapson, 1992). The effects
of these expressions of attitude are surprisingly precise. Each person in the
interaction, evaluates the other on the basis of the proportion of similar attitudes
that are expressed, irrespective of the total number of topics (Byrne & Nelson, 1965).
And to determine proportion, we have to simply divide the number of topics, on
which two persons express similar views, by the total number of topics, about which
they exchange information. Attraction is the same, when two persons agree, on three
out of four issues (3  4  .75) or 75 out of 100 (75  100  .75). The higher the
proportion of similar attitudes, the greater the liking. This cause – and – effect
relationship can be expressed in mathematical terms as a linear (straight – line)
function as given below in the Figure.

n 's attitu u r
ers o , yo
n o f a p c r e a s e s me s
porti o w n i n son beco
e pro r r
11 As th r t o y o u d that pe
m i l a w a r 12.06
si to
attra ositive
Attraction (Range 2 -14)


9 9.88

8 8.80

7 7.71

6 6.62

0.00 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00

Propotion of Similar Attitudes

The wide ranging generality of the similarity – attraction relationship has been
revealed in studies of people across different age groups, different socio-economic

levels and different cultures. It has been noted that even on the information super-
highway, those using e-mail exchange lists, are most likely to seek out others, who
share their views and to exclude those who disagree (Schwartz 1994).
Several behavioural scientists have clearly stated that the similarity attraction
effect is extremely well-established. For example, in the words of Cappella and
Palmer (1990) that “perhaps the most well known and well established finding in the
study of inter-personal relations, is that attitude similarly creates attraction.” Some
challenges are easily dismissed while some are not.

For instance, a more cogent criticism is made by Rosenbaum (1986) with his
repulsion hypothesis – Rosenbaum’s proposal that attraction is not enhanced by
similar attitudes; instead, people initially respond positively to others, but are
repulsed by the discovery of dissimilar attitudes decrease attraction, while similar
attitudes have no effect. All these by Rosenbaum suggested otherwise. And in effect,
he assumed that people whomever they meet, are gradually repulsed, if the other
person expresses dissimilar attitudes. However, studies by Smeaton, Byrne, &
Murnen, (1989) have shown that the repulsion hypothesis has been found to be
incorrect but the proportion (of similar attitudes) hypothesis was confirmed. At the
same time, we have to acknowledge that Rosenbaum’s dramatic but flawed proposal,
has got value and significance for additional future research.
It is not clearly known, as to why the attitudes of another person are
emotionally pleasing or displeasing. The oldest explanation is given by balance
theory formulated by Newcomb and also by Fritz Heider. People naturally tend to
organise their likes and dislikes in a symmetrical way. Balance, is a pleasant
emotional state which tends to emerge and exist particularly when, two persons like
each other agree about some topic (Newcomb, 1961). Suppose, when people like
each other, but disagree, then an unpleasant state occurs due to imbalance (Orive,
1988). The theory of imbalance, formulated by Newcomb, refers to the unpleasant
emotional state which results when two persons like each other but disagree about a
topic of discussion. And each person is motivated to change some element in the
interaction, in order to bring about balance or non-balance. During a state of
imbalance, each individual is trying to restore balance by changing his or her
attitudes in order to reach agreement convincing the other person to change
attitudes for the same reason, minimising the disagreement, through misperception
or deciding to dislike, rather than like the other person (Monsour, Betty & Kurzweil,
When two persons dislike each other, they are in a state of non-balance, and
each person is indifferent about the other person’s attitudes. Newcombs’ theory of
non-balance refers to the indifferent emotional state that results, when two persons
dislike each other and also do not care, whether they agree or disagree about a topic
of discussion.
The Matching Hypothesis: Liking others who are like yourself: It is true, that
attraction is affected by many types of inter personal similarity. It is also commonly
believed that “opposite attract.” However research studies offer support to
“similarity” Matching hypothesis because a topic of interest to social psychologists in
the context of research on physical attractiveness (Berscheid et. al., 1971). Matching
hypothesis deals with the proposal that individuals are attractive to each other, as
friends, romantic partners, or spouses on the basis of similar attributes – such as
physical attractiveness, age, race, personality characteristics or social assets like
wealth, education, or power.

It is remarked that “opposites may not attract”, but birds of a feather (same
feather) most certainly do flock together. Likewise, individuals with similar interests
join together.
2. Reciprocity: Mutual Liking
After knowing the adequate areas of similarity to move toward friendship, the
next step of reciprocity (mutual liking) is all important. Each person should clearly
show that the other person is liked and evaluated positively (Byrne & Griffitt; 1966);
Condon & Crano, 1988). Perhaps everyone will be happy to receive such positive
feedback but will be displeased to be evaluated negatively (Coleman, Jussim &
Abraham, 1987).
Mutual liking is often expressed in words (verbal). However, the first sign of
attraction may be non-verbal cues – (absence of language). For instance, when a
woman maintains eye contact while keeping conversation with a man and leans
toward him, these acts are to be interpreted (sometimes wrongly) to indicate that she
likes him; then his response is attraction toward her (Gold, Ryckman & Mosley,
1984). In short, we like those, who like us or who we believe, like us.
Our attitudes about other people range from strong liking to strong dislike. A
study on interpersonal attraction, is concerned about factors that determine such
attitudes. When dormitory assignments, classroom seating arrangements,
neighbourhood layouts or the structure of the workplace environment bring two
persons into repeated contact, they are likely to get acquainted. Research studies
have shown that proximity leads to repeated interpersonal contact and repeated
exposure to specific individuals. The result is familiarity and the increased friendly
The central determinant of attraction is affect (Feeling & Emotion) – a person’s
emotional state during an interpersonal interaction. Positive affect leads to liking
while negative affect causes dislike. A positive relationship is most likely to occur
between two persons, when each of them has got a high need for affiliation. This
motivation, as a dispositional (personality characteristic) variable differs from person
to person. Apart from the need to affiliate, people are seeking social comparison in
order to verify their opinions and perceptions.
Initial attraction or avoidance is often based upon stereotypes about the

observable characteristics of others like race, sex, height, physique, clothing and so
on. A great deal of research has been done by social psychologists by focusing on the
effects of physical attractiveness at all age levels. It is generally advantageous to be
physically attractive, both for males and females.
The importance of attitude similarity has been well recognised in determining
interpersonal likes and dislikes. Even though attitudinal similarity and dissimilarity
have been studied extensively, several other types of similarity, such as physical
attractiveness, personality, age, intelligence etc., also influence, who likes whom.

To go beyond being acquaintances or casual friends, toward a closer

relationship, two persons should have a need to express reciprocal (natural) liking
and other mutual positive evaluations (reciprocity) both in words and overt
In making a peaceful world a real possibility, every individual, irrespective of
race, caste creed, colour, nationality, religion or language difference, has to
recognise the importance of mutual respect and tolerance. Extensive cross cultural
studies point out that there seems to be universal human tendency to respond
positively to similarity and negatively to dissimilarity. Unless or until we chalk out
ways to modify this intolerance, diversity (social, cultural etc.) will continue to be a
potential source of conflict. To sum up, time honoured maxims that are wise and
healthy – such as; ‘live and let live’, can be practises to build up a better world, a
tolerant world and a peaceful world.
Appearance Anxiety – Attitude similarity – Matching hypothesis – Interpersonal
Attraction – Need for affiliation – Balance – Imbalance – Non-balance – Proximity –
Repulsion hypothesis – Social comparison theory.
1. Explain the factors that provide the base for interpersonal attraction.
2. Describe similarity and reciprocal positive evaluations.
3. Discuss dispositional differences and external events with regard to
becoming acquainted.
4. Write notes on the following:
a) Appearance anxiety
b) Balance theory
c) Repulsion hypothesis
d) Stigma by association
5. Examine the role of emotional state in liking and disliking others.




After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Understand the meaning of close relatives and close friendships.
 Know the interdependent relationships through family interactions.
 Examine the significance of marital relationships.
 Analyse the problems of troubled relationship.
 Describe the husband and wife similarity and the success of marriage.
Introduction – Initial Interdependent Relationships – Romantic Relationships,
Love and Physical Intimacy - Martial Relationships.
The topic of Interpersonal Attraction (Lesson 9) has been the major focus of
social psychologists of 20th century more than the broader topic of interpersonal
relationships – that has received much less attention. However, in recent years,
social psychologists have begun to focus on love and intimacy. (Hatfield & Rapson
1993) and also upon the cognitive representation of social relationships (Baldwin,
1992; Haslam, 1994). The importance given to family, friendship, love and marriage
to most people, all would seem to be a crucial goal for behavioural scientists, to
learn and explore as much as possible, about interpersonal success and failure.
In this lesson, our first task is to describe all that is known about the two
important kinds of interdependent relationships particularly – those persons within
families and likewise those persons involving close friendships. Further we shall try
to find out, the consequences of not being able to establish lasting interdependent
relationships and ultimately being pushed to confront loneliness. Next, we will
examine intimate relationships and the factors that are involved in romance, love
and sexual intimacy. And the final aspect to be analysed here, is marital
relationships, such as how individuals respond to the problems that arise between

partners, and the consequent effects of dissolving a relationship.
Friendships Versus Loneliness
The concept of ‘Interdependence’ is, the common element of all close
relationships. In other words, the characteristic common to all close relationships, is
interdependence. It is an interpersonal association, in which two persons influence
one another’s lives and engage in many joint activities. In the process of
interdependence, both of them tend to focus their thoughts and emotions, of one
another and if possible regularly engage in joint activities. This kind of inter-

dependence occurs, across all age groups and among persons representing many
quite different relationships.
Close Relatives: It All Begins in the Family
We have learnt in lesson 6, that the basic aspects of the self-concept, develop
within the family, through the social interactions that occur, within the family circle.
Who are we? and what do we think about ourselves; all these result in large part
from the perceptions and evaluations part from the perceptions and evaluations of
our closest relatives. In fact, the potential life long effects of these early relationships
is solely based on the early family relationships and not from anywhere else.
Attachment Style: The Infant’s Experience with Its Mother
Apart from the family’s role in moulding one’s self-concept, each person’s inter-
personal relationships is established, in the interaction between an infant and the
primary caregiver – usually the mother (Ainsworth et. al., 1978); (Bartholomew &
Horsowitz, 1991). That is, the first interpersonal relationship – the interaction
between mother and infant appears to be a critical determinant of the infant’s
attachment style – avoidant, secure, or ambivalent. The attachment style, in turn, is
reflected in later inter-personal relationships, that the way, another interacts with
her infant tends to result in one of the three major types of attachment style: either
secure or one of two insecure styles, avoidant and ambivalent, based upon whether
the infant feels secure or insecure in this relationship. The ultimate effect is, the
infant learns to trust and to love another person, to mistrust and avoid or a mixture
of the two.
The investigators are able to predict infant attachment style on the basis of the
degree of security provided, by the mother. Psychologists measure an infant’s
attachment style by observing its behaviour, in a laboratory session for a period of
twenty minutes (i) Secure infants are mildly upset over the mother’s absence but
quickly soothed by her return (ii) The avoidant pattern includes emotional control
and restraint in her presence. (iii) an ambivalent infant reveals conflict – by crying
when separated from its mother but also crying when the mother returns – tending
to be angry and unsoothable.
In studies of this kind, the empirical data collected are not consistent. However,
there is evidence to point out that (i) Secure attachment is linked with later
characteristics like positive affect, empathy, high self-esteem and conflict free

(without conflict) interactions with peers and with adults (ii) The insecure avoidant
children are hostile and distant in social relationships. And they oppose getting
adult help, when problems arise (iii) The insecure ambivalent children tend to be
both dependent on adults and angry, at them and also being non-compliant,
unenthusiastic and unsociable.
The mother-infant relationships have got much to do with subsequent youthful
behaviour patterns and likewise with the later years of social behaviour during the
time of adulthood period. After a woman has given birth to an infant, her own
attachment style is related to the way in which, she tends to interact with her infant.

(Scher & Mayseless, 1994). Further we have learnt that the attachment style formed
during infancy, determines the nature of the relationship during the later years of
adolescence, and adulthood. For instance, specifically, (i) secure persons seek
closeness and are comfortable while having to depend on the partner and they are
not constantly worried about losing the partner (ii) In contrast, avoidant persons are
uncomfortable about intimacy and closeness, they do not trust other people (iii) the
ambivalent person wants a relationship but also is afraid about it, because a partner
is often perceived as distant, unloving and likely to break off from the relationship.
Among these three styles, only the secure type persons seem to be able to form long
lasting, committed, satisfying relationships, (Shaver & Brennan, 1992). Some other
research studies with adults, show that secure persons report about warm parental
relationships, while avoidant persons and ambivalent persons describe as
interactions with their parents cold or inconsistent (Bringle & Bagby, 1992).

Additional Aspects of Relationships between Parents and their Offspring: In the

previous section, we have learnt about studies of attachment emphasizing the
importance of mother-child interactions during infancy. More than this, how parents
deal with toddlers, young children, and adolescents are also crucial and vital factors,
in how people develop and in what they learn about, relationships. For example,
O’ Leary (1995) has emphasized the importance of discipline – how effectively
children have been taught to follow rules and regulations. The behavioural
consequences of specific child-rearing techniques, include delinquency and
aggression, among those children, whose parents have been either harsh,
excessively lament, or inconsistent (while dealing with these children).

It is hypothesized that the developmental period is found to be linked with

problems. For instance, it seems that as puberty or adolescence arrives, the typical
parent – offspring relationship becomes less pleasant. However, most of the
adolescents have reported very positive feelings about their parents. But at the same
time, they have been feeling less close and less dependent than during childhood
(Galambos, 1992).

Jeffries (1987, 1990, 1993) has investigated the aspects of love felt by

adolescents for their mother and father. He proposed that love of parents is based on
attraction and virtue. And the word ‘virtue’ refers to a person being good, in the
sense of behaving in a moral and ethical way. Here both attraction and virtue
consist of five factors, as illustrated in the Figure given below:

Attraction to Parents
Feeling respect and esteem
Enjoying time spent with them
Self-disclosing to them and sharing concerns
Intimacy: Self-disclosing to them and sharing
Emotional closeness:
Feeling empathy for their joys and sorrows

Lov e of Parents

Virtue in offspring
Helping, forgiving and tolerating parents
Using reason for their benefit
Fulfilling obligations to parents and
respecting their rights
Undergoing hardships for their benefit
Controlling disruptive emotions and
practicing self-discipline

Loving one’s parents = Liking them plus being virtuous. In studying adolescent
and about the love that they often feel for their parents, Jeffries (1987, 1990, 1993)
concluded that this parental love stems from two basic components: attraction
toward them and the adolescent’s personal virtue. Young persons who like their
parents, so genuinely and are themselves virtuous are able to experience parental
love and tend to treat their mother and father lovingly. And the adolescents who like
his or her parents and who is also a good person feels loved in return, is happy and
satisfied with the relationship, has high self-esteem, trusts other people, and
displays pro-social behaviour. It is very clear that a positive relationship between

parents and their sons and daughters constitutes an extremely important basis for
their later inter-personal behaviour.
Relationships between siblings tend to be closest during childhood. But they
begin to grow apart in adolescence and also in young adulthood. (Rosenthal, 1992).
By the time, siblings reach middle age, the vast majority of them, once again tend to
establish positive relationships. However, some of the siblings do not. About 10
percent of them express only indifference to their siblings and another 10 percent
actively dislike one another. Kramer & Baron, (1995) have done an interesting study
across generations, which revealed that women who reported about having had
negative sibling relationships in their childhood, tend to be concerned about
preventing such kind of conflicts among their own children and instead were keen
on promoting positive interactions. The complex emotional relationships between
siblings provide a way to learn and to practice ways of getting along with other
people. In many respects, sibling relationships are reflected in later friendships and
romantic relationships.
Close Friendships: Establishing Relationships Beyond the Family
In comparison to a casual friend, a close friendship involves spending more
time together, interacting in more varied situations, excluding others from the
relationship and providing mutual emotional support to another (Hays; 1989; Kenny &
Kashy, 1994). In the observation of Urbanski, (1992) a close friend is valued for such
qualities like generosity, sensitivity and honesty whereas a casual friend is someone
who is “fun to be with” and not anything more or less.
The essential factor in the friendship of children seems to be desire to share
activities that they both enjoy (Ennight & Rawlinson, 1993). That is, when two
children find that they enjoy engaging in the same activities, they often form
friendships. Even toddlers as young as, one and two years of age, can establish
lasting friendships or relationships. These social interactions can begin as early as
age one or two, and remain stable over time (Howes, 1989; Whaley & Rubenstein
During adolescence and in young (early) adulthood, friendships tend to be more
intimate than it is in childhood. And women report about having more close friends
then men do (Fredrickson, 1995). Further being involved in an intimate friendship
most often has positive effects on the two persons forming the pair (Berndt, 1992).

Among friends of the same or the opposite sex, an “intimate relationship” means
that the two persons feel free to engage in self-disclosing behaviour, express their
emotions, provide support and receive it, experience trust, engage in physical
contact and generally relax with one another (Monsour, 1992; Planalp & Benson,
1992). It has to be kept in mind that evaluations of self and evaluation of others are
important determinants of interpersonal behaviour at all ages.
Loneliness: Life without a close Relationship
Most people tend to place a high value on establishing relationships and
maintaining contacts. However, many persons have difficulty in achieving that goal.

As a result, the outcome is likely to be loneliness – that is the feeling a person has,
whenever the quantity and quality of desired relationships is lower than the quantity
and quality of actual relationships (Archibold, Bartholomew & Marx 1995; Peplan &
Perlman 1982). The term, ‘solitude’ should not be coonfused with ‘loneliness’ – the
latter is an emotional state which results from desiring close interpersonal
relationships but being unable to attain them. In fact, many people prefer solitude.
That is, they may wish to be alone, but not lonely – (Burger, 1995).
Loneliness is connected with negative emotions like depression, anxiety,
unhappiness, dissatisfaction and shyness (Jones, Carpenter & Quintana, 1985;
Neto, 1992). Those who know about lonely persons, tend to evaluate them as
maladjusted (Lan & Gruen, 1992); (Rotenberg & Kmill, 1992). Loneliness seems to
begin in childhood. Suppose a child fails to develop appropriate social skills, for
whatever reason, he or she simply does not know, how to interact successfully with
other children (Braza et. al., 1993). For example, a child who may be either
withdrawn or aggressive is very likely to be rejected as a playmate (Johnson, Poteat
& Ironsmith 1991). In this context, unless something has been done to change the
inappropriate behaviour, interpersonal difficulties typically continue through
childhood, and into adolescence and adulthood, they do not just go away (Asendorpf,
Peer relationships become crucial in adolescence, particularly when young
persons begin to distance themselves from parents and family. And this is the time,
when social phobia is most likely to develop (Herbert, 1995). This is a debilitating
anxiety disorder in which social situations become sufficiently frightening that a
person totally avoids them, as a way to protect himself or herself from
embarrassment and humiliation. An extremely lonely and fearful teenager may
decide that life is hopeless. And this feeling of despair, at its worst can sometime
lead to suicide (Page, 1991).
A few specific details about good and bad social skills have been identified in a
research study by Segrin & Kinney, (1995). For example, a socially skilled adolescent
is friendly, possesses high self-esteem, seldom responds angrily and makes
conversation easily as observed by Reisman, (1984). In contrast, a socially unskilled
person tends to be shy, to have low self-esteem and to be self-consciuos while
interacting with a stranger (Bruch, Hamer & Heimberg, 1995).
The problem of ‘loneliness’ cannot be got over with the passage of time. Most
investigators agree that some kind of active intervention is needed to help the lonely
person. Without such intervention, loneliness can motivate a retreat into wish-
fulfilling fancies, total involvement in work, or, reliance on alcohol and drugs to
cause the pain (Revenson, 1981). Sometimes, music can serve as a substitute for
inter-personal relationships. But, if the person focuses on songs about separation,
heartache and sadness, then feelings of loneliness increase (Davis & Kraus, 1989).
In the opinion of Hope, Holt & Heimberg, (1995) among the more successful
intervention techniques, often used simultaneously are cognitive therapy and social
skills training. Sometimes, by using specific drugs, this can be solved. All these

would facilitate changes in maladaptive cognitions and also necessary behavioural

changes for the person concerned.
Love and Physical Intimacy
Social psychologists, have studied romantic relationship, love, and the role of
sexual intimacy in these relationships. We have to keep in mind that as
relationships develop romance, love and sex, each may occur or may not occur, and
they can occur either simultaneously or in any order.
Romantic relationships
One indicator of a romantic relationship is physical intimacy. It is some degree
of physical intimacy, which is one of the defining characteristics of romantic
relationships. Here intimacy may mean simply kissing, holding hands, or embracing
or it may also involve a variety of interpersonal sexual activities. In the past several
decades, rapid cultural changes have made it difficult to know precisely the
implication of terms like – “hanging out together”, “dating”, ‘going steady”, “living
together”, and “becoming engaged.”
But each of these concepts suggest romantic attraction, possible feelings of
love, the strong likelihood of sexual interest and marriage as something that may
take place at some time in future. One of the main differences between a friendship
and a romantic relationship is, that romance usually includes some degree of
physical intimacy. And what kind of contact is suitable is specified by the cultural
Differences between Romantic Relationships and Close Friendships
Some aspects of a romantic interaction differ from other types of relationships.
For example, Swann, De La Ronde, and Hixon (1994) have shown that among
friends, college roommates, and even married couples, the preference is for a
partner, who can validate one’s self-concept. That is, generally we want to be with
someone, who knows about us well enough, to understand our best and our worst
characteristics. However, “Daring” is different. That is, early in such a relationship,
at least, two persons are not committed to the other and they are not looking for
self-validation. Instead, they are looking for acceptance and want to like and to be
liked, hoping most of all for compliments and praise. In brief, people go out to have
fun, in dating.
The hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, agenda of sexual motivation also
differentiates romantic relationships from that of other types. Simpson and
Gangestad (1991, 1992) have noted that people differ in their primary motivation, as
to whether seeking a romantic partner is for sex, or for closeness. This kind of
demarcation while seeking a romantic partner, falls along a personality dimension,
labeled socio-sexuality. Here individuals, who have an unrestricted socio-sexual
orientation are at one extreme. And they are willing to engage in sexual interaction
with partners, in the absence of either closeness, commitment or emotional bonding.
But Individuals, at the other extreme have a restricted socio-sexual orientation. And

they believe that a sexual relationship should be based upon closeness,

commitment, and emotional bonding. Further, restrictive socio-sexual behaviour is
connected to a person having a “secure” attachment style (Brenuan & Shaver, 1995).
Both gender (male & female) can be restricted or unrestricted, but an
unrestricted orientation is more a characteristic of men than of women. It appears
that compared to those who are restricted, the unrestricted people tend to engage in
sex, earlier in a relationship; they are less interested in love, further they are more
likely to be involved with two or more partners, at the same time. And socio-sexual
orientation is not related to sex drive, sexual satisfaction, or sex guilt, but it is
related to the kind of romantic partner, that the person finds to be attractive.
Most people perceive love as a very common experience. “Love” refers to several
quite different combinations of emotions, cognitions, and behaviours that can be
involved in intimate relationships. American adults numbering 1000, in a 1993 poll
revealed that almost 3 out of 4 say that they are currently “in love.” What do they
mean, when they say that. Here, there is one possibility – that is, a friendship
between a man and woman is redefined as a loving relationship, when the two
people begin to perceive themselves as potential sexual partners. Social
psychological research studies reveal that ‘love’ is more complex and much less
straightforward than that.
Passionate love, is not like friendship. In fact, passionate love involves an
intense and often unrealistic emotional response to another person. And the persons
involved here more often tend to interpret their feelings as “true love.” However,
observers (of this kind of situation) often label their response as “infatuation.” Aron
and colleagues (1989) have remarked that many people fall in love, but no one ever
reports “falling in friendship.” Several factors such as propinquity to similarity,
gradually facilitate the formation of a friendship.
In contrast, passionate love – (an intense and often unrealistic emotional
reaction to a potential romantic partner) – seems to occur suddenly. Further, it
depends mainly on specific observable cues provided by the other persons and also
on what one believes and expects about love. In 1986, McClelland has suggested
that a person can talk about, write about love or friendship as a logical process while
using the left brain but the often illogical experience of falling in love, occurs only
when a person is using the right brain.

When people say, they are in love, they tend to mean passionate love (Hatfield,
1988). The passionate love usually begins as a sudden, overwhelming, all –
consuming reaction to another person. A person experiencing such love, is
preoccupied with the loved one – who has no faults or imperfections (“love is blind.”).
It is even possible to convince to ourself, that our lover’s faults are really virtues
(Murray & Holmes, 1993, 1994). Love can take many forms. Passionate love occurs
frequently but it is too intense to be maintained for long time. Such emotion – based
love is sufficiently fragile (breakable). But there are other kinds of love that can be
long-lasting and thoughtful. In 1988, Hatefield described compassionate love as “the

affection we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined.” This
compassionate love represents a very close friendship in which two persons are
attracted, have a great deal in common, care about one another’s well-being, and
express mutual liking and respect (Caspi & Herbener, 1990). Unlike that of
passionate love, this is a kind of love which can sustain a relationship over time –
even stirring songs and movies.
Research on the six types of love styles has given more information about their
effect on relationship. For example, men are higher in both passionate and game-
playing love than women. But women are higher than men in friendship, logical and
possessive love (Hendrick et. al., 1984). In the study by Hendrick & Hendrick, (1981)
highly religious persons are likely to be highest in friendship, logical and selfless
Triangular model of love is a major conceptualisation by Sternberg (1986,
1988). Each love relationship, contains three basic components – (such as Intimacy,
Passion and Decision/Commitment) – which are present in varying degrees for
different couples. Here the first component, intimacy refers to the closeness that two
persons feel and the strength of the bond holding them together. Partners high in
intimacy are concerned about each other’s welfare and happiness, and they value,
like, count on, and understand one another. The social component passion is based
on romance, physical attraction and sexual intimacy. The third component is
Decision/commitment, representing cognitive factors like the decision that he loves
the other person and also committed to maintaining the relationship. In the
observation of Whitley, (1993) couples who have all the three components tend to
have lasting relationships.
In spite of centuries of religious and legal procedures against pre-marital
sexuality in many parts of the world, dramatic changes in sexual attitudes and
behaviour have occurred during the later half of the 20th century. Increasingly,
sexual interactions have become a common occurrence and widely accepted part of
romantic relationships. The United States, Western Europe, Australia and Canada
have witnessed the greatest sexual changes. And these changes have been called as
the beginning of a “sexual revolution” in the 1960’s. Similar kind of changes did not
even begin to occur in China, until about 1988. And the Chinese response has been
to ban all written, audio, and visual material describing sexual behaviours, to arrest
those, who produce it; and to execute those who sell it (Pan, 1993).
The power of culture to influence sexuality is shown by studies of Chinese
American students, whose attitudes about premarital sex as well as their actual
practices are much more permissive than is true for students in China; the more
acculturated they are, the more their sexuality is like that of other American
students (Huang & Uba, 1992).
The 1980’s and 1990s had highlighted two different, but equally serious
negative aspects of intimacy – like (1) unwanted (teenage) pregnancy and (2) Sexually
Transmitted Disease (STD). Worse is the disease first identified in 1981 – AIDS,

which results in certain death. For whatever reasons, AIDS hits hardest among
women aged between 25 and 44 (Bardach, 1995), and 3 out 5 new AIDS cases in the
United States are among African – Americans (Rosin, 1995). Worldwide, more than
half a million people had died of AIDS by the early 1990s (Living Memorial, 1992).
MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS: Interacting with a Spouse and Responding to Problems
Most young people consider marriage as the primary interpersonal goal in life.
In other words, more than 90 percent of 18 year-olds consistently remark that they
expert to get married. And more than 90 percent of 50 year olds are married
(Thorntion & Freedman, 1982). Two-parent families are still much more common
than one parent families, more 75 percent of American households with children,
also have both a father and a mother (Burrell, 1995).
Similarity and Marriage: Research studies point out that spouses are similar in
their attitudes, values, interests and other attributes. (Pearson & Lee 1903; Smith
et. al., 1993). Further, in a longitudinal study of couples, right from the time they
became engaged until they had been married for two decades, it was noted a
relatively unchanging degree of similarity over the entire period (Caspi, Herbener, &
Ozer, 1992). In other words, similarity is characteristic of those persons who marry
and this similarity neither increases nor decreases over time.
So, similarity is an important factor in our choice of a spouse. However, two
complicating factors which arise here, have to be considered (1) It is easy to select a
potential mate, who is much more similar to us than chance. But it is practically
impossible to get one mate who is exactly similar (2) Apart from similarity; several
other factors tend to influence our choice of a partner. So, we can easily “overlook”
or ignore areas of dissimilarity, because of other pleasing attributes like physical
attractiveness, the possession of material resources and so on. So, we can make
compromises by trying to find out someone with more positive qualities than
negative qualities; but then we inevitably settle down for less than perfect mates. As
a result, the negative attributes (like dissimilar attitudes), which did not seem so
important at all, in the beginning, can later have a negative effect on marital
success. In general, the marital success is more likely for similar pairs, than for
dissimilar pairs has been confirmed by several studies.
People who are married, consistently report being happier and healthier than
those who are single (Steinhaner, 1995). But the gap is not as great as it used to be.

This is because unmarried men are happier now than in the past while married are
less happy (Glenn & Weaver, 1988). A possible explanation for these changes may be
due to the availability of sexual relationships for unmarried men (Reed & Weinberg,
1984). And the conflicts that working women confront with, having the role of
mother (Batista & Berte 1992). It has been found in the Norwegian study by
Mastekaasa, (1995) that married persons are better off than those who are
unmarried, - a lower suicide rate and higher self-reported feelings of well-being up
until age 35-40 but afterwords the advantages of being married rapidly decline. So, a
major task for both spouses (husband & wife) is discovering how best to adjust to

the demands of a two-career family (Gilbert, 1993; Helson & Roberts, 1992). Even
women have an active career, skill they can do when much more than 50 percent of
the house work (Hochsbild, 1989).
Problems and the Effects of Failure
Glick, (1993) has reported that every year about 2.4 million American couples
get married and 1.2 million get divorced, most often after 2 to 6 years of marriage.
More than one – third of the children in the United States have had to go through
the painful experience of their parents’ divorce (Bumpass, 1984). And the
consequential effects of that undesirable environment for these children are negative
long-term effects on their health and their life spans (Friedman et. al., 1995).
What has happened to turn a loving, romantic relationship into one
characterised by unhappiness, dissatisfaction and often to hate. It has been
observed by Felmlee (1995) that at times, even an originally positive attribute of the
other persons, becomes a primary reason for dislike. Some problems are universal,
but being in an intimate relationship involves some degree of compromise. For
example, those two people have to decide about, what to have for dinner, what kind
of programme to watch on T.V. and what to do in bed; and several hundreds of other
major and minor decisions, that must continually be made. In this context, neither
person can do exactly what she or he wants, and as such a conflict between the
desire for independence and along with it, the need for closeness is inevitable
(Baxter, 1990).
We shall describe some of the common difficulties that arise in marriage and
the painful effects of relationship failure. Marital problem may be general and
specific but some can be avoided. Nobody is perfect, because there are varied
degrees of imperfection with people. Spouses, knowing well that any partner is less
than perfect, and who initially proceeds to believe that they are ideally suited for one
another; however at a later stage they inevitably come to realise that there are
negative elements in the relationship. Only 1.2 percent of married couples said that
they never had any disagreements. But most of them reported that conflicts arise
monthly or more often (McGonagle, Kessler & Schilling, 1992).
Partners who are similar in the way, they cope with stress are more satisfied
with their relationship, than those, whose coping strategies differ (Ptacek & Dodge

1995). And more men than women tend to believe that avoiding a conflict is a
legitimate way to deal with it (Oggins Veroff & Leber, 1993). Generally, one of the
greatest problems is the tendency to respond to the negative words or deeds of one’s
partner, in an equally negative and destructive way. However, when people have
time to consider about the long-term consequences for the relationship, a
constructive response is more likely to occur (Yovetich & Rusbult, 1994).
There are still other sources of conflict. For instance, two people can discover
rather belatedly that they are very different in their views, about saving versus
spending money; likewise about how best to respond to a child’s misbehaviour; or

about what to say, when aged parents ask to move into their home. For some
persons, a long-term relationship begins to be uncomfortable, simply because it has
become boring (Hill, Rubin & Peplau, 1976; Skinner 1986). Married couples are very
likely to develop unchanging routines in their daily interactions (sexual and
otherwise) and then gradually perceive themselves to be in a nut. For example, when
one person wants to have variety and excitement, while the other person prefers to
maintain regularity and predictability in the routine of work, then these dissimilar
goals create stress and each spouse blames the difficulty on the other (Fincham &
Bradbury, 1992, 1993).
It is not surprising that sexual satisfaction is closely linked with the perception
of marital well being for both men and women (Henderson – King & Veroff, 1994).
However, sex is obviously not the only source of positive or negative affect. This is
because, negative emotions aroused on the job, can also spill over to one’s home life
and vice versa (Chan & Margolin, 1994) Geller & Hobfoll, 1994).
In the opinion of Laner & Laner (1985) one has to put emphasis on friendship,
commitment, similarity and efforts to create positive affect and that is the secret.
Older couples who remain married, express more positive affect than younger and
middle – aged couples (Levenson, Carstensen, & Gottman, 1994). And according to
Locke (1995) this is probably because people get smarter and mellower about
relationships as they grow older.
Relationship failure will be the result, when dissatisfaction at its climax leads to
dissolution. It is possible for friends to simply drift apart and cut off the relationship.
But, in the case of life partners, with an intimate relationship, they are more likely to
feel intense distress and anger, when the relationship fails. (Fishman, 1986). This is
partly because they have invested a great amount of time, exchanged powerful
rewards, and expressed a lasting commitment to another (Simpson, 1987). In the
event of coping with a failed relationship, both men and women differ a lot. For
instance, women tend to confide in their friends whereas men tend to start a new
relationship as quickly as possible (Sorenson, et. al 1993).
It is interesting to note that most divorced persons remarry, particularly men.
In the United States, for example, more than two million people have been married
three or more times (Brody, Newbaum, & Forehand, 1988). Again, when we look
upon the attachment styles, only those persons in the secure category seem to be
able to form long-lasting, committed, satisfying relationships. It is to be kept in

mind, that without a warm, secure, consistent relationship with one’s parents early
in life, future relationships are very likely to suffer (Radecki Bush, Farrell, & Bush,
All close relations involve inter-dependence, such as when two persons
influence one another’s lives and engage in joint activities. Regarding family
interactions, the most important interaction is between an infant and the mother the
primary care giver. The resulting attachment style has much to do with the person’s
self-esteem and the way other people are evaluated. All the subsequent relationships

seem to be influenced by one’s attachment style to a large degree. Sibling

relationships play an important role by showing a way to learn, how to interact with
peers. Some persons who cannot have close relationships suffer by a feeling of
loneliness. Problems like loneliness and social anxiety can be rectified by remedial
steps like cognitive therapy, social skills training and to some extent, by specific
prescription drugs.
Romantic relationships differ a lot from close friendships. Physical intimacy is
one main indicator of romantic relationships. Passionate love is short lived whereas
compassionate love is long-lasting. Widespread changes in sexual attitudes and
behaviour in the Western World, after World War II (1939-1945) has resulted in
many problems – unwanted pregnancies and spread of sexually transmitter
diseases. Most people seek marriage as a major life goal. Similarity factor plays a
vital role in choosing a marriage partner. To maintain harmony in marital
relationships, the spouses (both husband and wife) have to work out a way, as how
best to interact with each other, while dealing with daily decisions, on such divorce
matters like household tasks, career, sex, about parenthood, to have a child or two;
leisure-time management; and so on with a give and take policy, adopting an
attitude of care and concern for both, and to uphold the prestige and honour of the
family and society at large. This is a challenging task. About half of the marriages in
U.S.A. and Canada end in divorce. Dissatisfaction has become common, due to
factors like stress, dissimilarities, boredom, intolerance, and the presence of more
negative emotion than positive affect.
Attachment Style – Close friendship – Intimacy – Interdependence – Loneliness
– Passionate Feeling – Compassionate love – Socio-sexuality – Love – Triangular
Model of Love.
1. Examine the initial interdependent relationships.
2. Explain how close friendships go beyond the family boundary.
3. Discuss ‘loneliness’, as the outcome of life, without a close relationship’.
4. Analyse the statement, married relationship is an extension of romantic
5. Describe the troubled relationships, in married life.

6. Write notes on the following
a) Attachment style
b) Companionate love
c) Intimate Relationship
d) Marital disharmony


How we change others’ Behaviour – How they change ours
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Find out the tactics of conformity, compliance and obedience
 Explain the factors influencing conformity
 Describe the factors affecting compliance
 Analyse the nature of obedience
Introduction – Conformity – Compliance - Obedience
Social influence is clearly an important part of social interaction. Because of it’s
role in many forms of social behaviour, social influence has long been the subject of
careful study among the social psychologists. We will start by focusing on conformity
– social (group) pressures to go along with the crowd; to behave in the same manner,
just like other persons in one’s group or society. Next, we shall turn to compliance –
it is a more direct or personal form of social influence, through efforts to make
others to say “yes” to direct requests. Friends ask for favours; politicians request for
our votes and in the process of yielding to such requests, our behaviour is changed.
Finally, we will examine obedience – a form of social influence in which one person
simply orders one or more persons to do, what they want. Here the persons, who
issue commands, usually have power over those on the receiving end. It short, the
authority in power, can enforce submission on the part of others (Yukl & Tracey, 1992).
CONFORMITY: Group Influence in Action
Conformity is a type of social influence in which individuals change their
attitudes or behaviour, in order to adhere to existing norms. The social norms are
explicit or implicit (written rules or unspoken rules) regulations of the group or
society, as to how we should or ought to behave. Further social norms are both
detailed and precise. For example, governments, in general, function on the basis of

written constitutions and written laws; likewise athletic contests are conducted
according to written rules and regulations; Traffic signals and sign boards are
installed in many public places – (such as, along highways, in parks, at airports;
very near school or hospital locations etc.) – to regulate easy movement of traffic,
with an expected behaviour described in detail.
Apart from explicit or written social norms, there are implicit or unspoken
norms, which are unwritten rules prevailing in a society. For instance “Don’t stare,
at strangers on the street.” Don’t arrive at parties exactly on time’, ‘Don’t stand too
close to strangers, (in order to be safe).’ Most people obey social norms most of the

time, whether such norms are explicit or implicit. For example, few persons visit
restaurants, without leaving a tip, for their server. In fact, everyone irrespective of
personal political beliefs, stands when the national anthem of their country is played
at sports events or at other public meetings as a mark of respect.
This strong tendency toward conformity – (toward going along with society’s
expectations about, how we should behave in several situations – at first glance,
may look strange, funny and preventing our personal freedom and so on. Even
though, it does impose certain restrictions on personal freedom, the advantages of
conformity are manifold. This is because conformity often serves a useful function.
In many situations, conformity to existing social norms makes life simpler, less
stressful, and safer for large numbers of persons. For example, parking of vehicles in
the specified spot, falling within the marked boundary, has got its own advantages.
There is a strong basis for the existence of so much conformity, required, on so
many matters. But, without it, we would find ourselves facing social chaos. Let us
imagine for a moment, what would happen outside movie theatres or voting booths
or at supermarket checkout counters, if people did not obey the norm “Form a line
and wait for your turn. And we could visualize the danger to both drivers and
pedestrians, if there were not any clear and widely followed traffic regulations.
Some social norms simply exist, even though such norms governing individual
behaviour appear to have no obvious purpose. For example, dress codes, still prevail
in some settings, (even though they have vanished, in recent years) like the business
world. To mention the same, many companies still require that their male employees
wear neckties and that their female employees wear skirts or dresses. Although such
clothing can be attractive, it is often unrelated to performance of various jobs and
also may be a cause of personal discomfort while temperatures are very high
(neckties) or very low (short skirts). During the mid 1960s at the university of Iowa, a
dress code was followed. And female students (of the graduate classes) were required
to wear skirts or such dresses to alone to class, even during the winter. Even though
the fashion prevailed at that time, was for very short skirts, this particular dress
code certainly caused female students, a lot of unnecessary misery, especially
because temperatures in Iowa city, often went below zero Fahrenheit.
Social pressure in many social settings tend to provide an irresistible force has
received less attention from social psychologists, until the 1950s. However Solomon
Asch’s (1951) early research studies of conformity, constitute an important
cornerstone of social psychology, with a lasting impact upon the field.
Factors Affecting Conformity
(a) Cohesiveness, (b) Groupsize and (c) Type of Social Norm
Asch (1951) in his research, had shown the existence of powerful pressures
toward conformity. And factors that determine the extent to which, individuals, yield
to pressures of conformity, have been identified. Among such factors the most
important seems to be (a) cohesiveness – the target person’s degree of attraction to
the group, exerting influence and (b) group size – the number of persons exerting

social influence. Further there is a third factor (c) type of social norm playing a vital
role in this regard (Cialdini, Reno & Kallgren, 1990; Cialdini, Kallgren, & Reno, 1991).
a) Cohesiveness and Conformity
Accepting Influence from those we like
Cohesiveness refers to our degree of attraction to a group. In other words, when
we like our roommates, we want to gain their approval and acceptance. From
another perspective, cohesiveness is a feeling of togetherness in the group. A classic
finding of social psychology, is that when cohesiveness (attraction) is high, pressures
toward conformity are magnified. When we want to be liked and accepted by others,
it is best to share their views or at least to express acceptance of these – [that
distinction between private acceptance (actually coming to feel or think, as others
do) and public conformity again (doing or saying, what others around as, say or do).
It appears, often we follow social norms overtly, but we do not actually change our
private views (Mass & Clark; 1984). And this distinction between public conformity
and private acceptance is an important matter to be kept in mind. Most persons in
general, are more willing to accept social influence from friends or persons whom
they admire, than from others, and this is a main basic reason.
A unique study by Crandall (1988) has shown that the impact of cohesiveness
on conformity is strong indeed. Studies reveal the fact, that the more we like others
and wish to gain their approval, the more we tend to be influenced by them. Further
it is to be noted, that pressures toward conformity can affect virtually any aspect of
behaviour, including basic aspects like eating habits.
b) Conformity and Group Size
With Respect to Social Influence, why more is not Always Better
Another factor exerting strong influence on the tendency to conform is the size
of the influencing group. Asch’s study (1955) has found that conformity increases
with group size up to about three members, but then seems to level off. And this
finding, has been confirmed by several other studies. One possibility is that as group
size increases beyond three or four members, individuals exposed to social pressure,
begin to suspect collusion: they conclude that group members are not expressing
individual views, but have been actually working together to influence them (Wilder,
1977). This makes people around us agreeing unanimously with one another.
Generally, people hold varied opinions and engage in many kinds of behaviour,

thereby reflecting their individual preferences, But, when too many people agree
means, that this may be a signal, and it is time to be on guard.
C) Descriptive and Injunctive Norms
The Difference between what People Do in a Given Situation and What they Feel is
We have already seen that social norms can be formal or informal in nature.
For example, formal rules are clearly printed on large signs for all people to see while
informal guidelines may be ‘Say excuse me, suppose you bump into someone’.
However, this is not the only way in which norms differ.

Cialdini and his co-workers (1991) have called attention to another important
distinction, namely the difference between (i) descriptive norms and (ii) injunctive
norms. (i) Descriptive Norms are showing, what most people do in a given situation.
They influence our behaviour by informing about what is generally seen, as effective
or adaptive behaviour in that situation. (ii) On the contrary, injunctive norms specify
what ought to be done – what is approved or disapproved behaviour in a given
Both norms can influence behaviour. However, Cialdini and his Colleagues
believe that in certain situations – particularly where anti-social behaviour
(disapproved by society) is likely to occur, - injunctive norms may exert somewhat
stronger effects. This is true for two reasons. First, such norms tend to shift
attention, away from the fact that many people are behaving in an undesirable way,
in a particular situation. For example, littering (careless behaviour of throwing away
waste, instead of putting it in the dust-bin) acts of others, while they are putting
trash into appropriate ‘Use Me’ containers only. Second, such norms may activate
the social motive to do, what is right in a given situation, irrespective of what others
have done.
In 1993, Reno and his colleagues made a logical reasoning on this matter – by
activating the descriptive norm, people’s tendency to litter (throwing away the hand
bill on the ground) could be reduced particularly when the environment is clean, but
not when it is found dirty. However, in contrast, they predicted that activating the
injunctive norm would reduce littering, irrespective of the present condition of the
environment. In other words, the effects of Injunctive and Descriptive Social Norms
have been well illustrated by Reno, Cialdini, & Kallgren, (1993); thus. For example,
suppose when passersby saw a stranger pick litter from the ground (activation of an
injunctive norm), they were less likely to litter themselves in both a dirty and a clean
environment. But in contrast, when they saw another person drop litter onto the
ground (activation of a descriptive norm), they were less likely to litter themselves,
only in a clean environment.
Such studies by Reno, et. al., can be of practical value. In situations, where
most people already behave in a beneficial manner, such kind of behaviour can be
further strengthened by activation of descriptive norms. That is by calling people’s
attention to the fact, that most persons do indeed behave in a provincial manner.
However, in situations where many people do not behave in a socially beneficial way,
activating injunctive norms, and thereby reminding people as to how they should
behave, may be more effective. In both cases, knowledge of social norms can be of
benefit, towards increasing the betterment of society.
Let us consider another variable – Gender (Male & Female difference) – which
was once assumed to strongly influence conformity. Studies, of late however have
shown that gender differences in social influence is more apparent than real. Even
today, majority of people hold the view that females are higher in conformity than
males. For instance, such persons might note that women are more likely than men

to follow the changing fashions and that women are more concerned about being
liked or to be pleasing to others.
Hence, in their view, we come across contrasting gender role stereotypes, for
females and males. The results, of the early studies (Crutchfield, 1955) pointed out
that women show greater yielding to social pressure than men. However, more
recent findings have given a different view (Eagly & Carli, 1981). That is, there are no
significant differences between males and females in many situations.
An experimental study done by Sistrunk and Mc David (1971) had identified the
factor of ‘familiarity’ as indeed responsible for the gender differences obtained in
early research. These researchers found that when females were less familiar with
the items used than used by males, they showed greater yielding to group pressure.
However, when the items became less familiar to males, then men had showed
greater conformity than women. So we must be in guard against mixing gender, in
our efforts to compare males and females, in terms of susceptibility to social
Further during the 1970s and 1980s there are major shifts in gender roles and
gender stereotypes (Steffen & Eagly, 1985). In fact, a large member of women, have
moved into jobs and fields, once occupied solely and widely by men. And as such,
stereotypes suggesting that women are less ambitious, less competent, and less
independent than males have been considerably weakened. So, the tendency to
perceive females as more susceptible to social influences than that of males has
been a fading phenomenon (Manipin & Fisher, 1989).
With regard to gender and status, additional evidence revealed that gender
differences in conformity, are more illusory than real. Females, in general, have
lower status than males (Eagly, 1987), since persons of low status are often easier to
influence than persons holding high status. This disparity between females and
males, may account partially to the popular view that females are more easily
influenced by males. Several studies by Eagly and her colleagues (1985) have given
support for this view. When no information on status was given, participants would
tend to assume that females were lower in this regard than males. However, when
information about status was given, this factor of status and not gender – would
affect their judgements. Both predictions have been confirmed. In the absence of any
information about relative status, participants predicted greater yielding by females.
But when information on status was given, they predicted greater yielding by low
status than by high status target, irrespective of their gender. All these findings add
support to the view, that there are no appreciable differences between females and
males, with regard to susceptibility to social pressure.
It is to be noted, that about the ‘no difference’ rule, there is a possible exception
particularly, about judgements of physical attractiveness between females and
males. Graziano and his colleagues (1993) in their study asked male and female
students to rate the attractiveness of opposite sex strangers shown in photographs.
Difference in the rating has been accounted by the researchers thus. That is, they

suggest that this difference may arise to oame extent from the fact that men base
their judgements of attractiveness largely on observable physical characteristics,
while women base such judgements on such characteristics plus information about
behavioural dispositions, especially ones relevant to a man’s being a co-operative,
responsible parent and provider (Jensen – Campbell & Graziano, 1992). In the
matter of mate selection, females tend to place greater emphasis on such various
traits like dominance and status, while males place greater emphasis on physical
traits like youth and physical beauty (Kenrick et. al., 1994).
The Bases of Conformity:
Why we often choose to “Go Along” and What Happens after We Do
We have learnt that conformity is a basic fact of social life. Most people
conform to the norms of their groups or societies mainly because of two powerful
needs of all human beings – (i) the desire to be liked or accepted by others and
(ii) the desire to be right (Deutsch & Gernard 1955; Insko, 1985). Further the
cognitive processes involved here would lead us to consider conformity as fully
justified after it has occurred (e.g. Griffin & Brchler, 1993).
i) The Desire to be Liked: Normative Social Influence: We have learnt that
agreeing, with the persons around us, and behaving as they do, causes them to like
us. Parents, teachers, friends and all others tend to shower praise and all approval
on us for exhibiting such similarity. So, one main reason for us to conform is simple:
We have learned that by doing so, would bring about approval and acceptance, that
we crave for. This kind of social influence particularly through conformity is called
as normative social influence – because it involves changing our behaviour to suit
the expectations of others.
ii) The Desire to be Right: Informational Social Influence: Generally we turn to
other people and use their opinions and their actions, as guides for our own. This
kind of reliance on others, can be another source of conformity. In a sense, other
people’s actions and opinions define social reality for us. This kind of social
influence is called an informational social influence. It is called so, as it is based on
our tendency to depend upon others, as a source of information about many aspects
of the social world.
Both types of social influence normative and informational – provide a strong
basis for our tendency to conform to act in accordance with existing social norms.

So, the pervasive occurrence of conformity, emerges directly from basic needs and
motives, that can be satisfied, only when we decide to “go along” with others.
In the matter of justifying conformity, the cognitive consequences of going along
with the group, has been reported by Asch thus. Some people who conform, do so
without any reservations: they tend to conclude that they are wrong but others are
right. And for such people, conforming might pose only a many temporary dilemma,
at the most. But for many other persons, the decision to yield to group pressure and
do, as others do is more complex. These persons feel that their own judgement is
correct, but at the same time they do not like to be different. As a result, they tend to

behave in ways which are inconsistent with their private beliefs. What about the
effects of conformity on such persons. Recent findings (e.g. Griffin & Buehler, 1993;
Buehler & Griffin, 1994) have suggested that one may involve a tendency change
their perceptions of the situation, so that conformity appears, in order to be justified.
As John Kenneth Galbraith remarked – “Faced with the choice between changing
one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on
the proof! “(Buehler & Griffin, 1994, P. 993).
There is cognitive justification for both conformity and dissent (non conformist
action) in the study of Buehler & Griffin (1994). That is, after conforming to a group
judgement, participants altered their interpretation of a story, in order to provide
more support to their decision. Similarly, after dissenting (going against) from a
group judgement, they changed their interpretation of the story, in order to provide
more support for this decision. After conforming, participants did indeed come to
perceive more support for the group’s choice – and their own conformity. But, after
resisting they perceived more support for this behaviour.
The Need for Individuality and the Need for Control: Why, Sometimes, we choose Not
to go Along
There are situations, where individuals or groups of people, might decide to go
against the view of majority. In Asch’s research, most of the participants yielded to
social pressure, but only part of the time. Research findings have shown that two
vital factors, account for this ability to resist, even powerful pressures toward
conformity (i) Firstly, most of us have a strong desire to maintain our uniqueness or
individuality. We want to be, like others but not, at the cost of our personal identity.
In short, at the same time, we do not want to lose our personal identity. In other
words, along with the desire to be liked, and to be right, most of us have a desire for
Individuation – to be distinguished from others in some respect (e.g. Maslach,
Santee, & Wade, 1987, Snyder & Fromkin, 1980). And the result is that most people
want to be similar to others generally, but do not want to be exactly like the people
around them. In short, as viewed by Snyder & Endelman, (1979) they want to hold
on to at least a pinch of individuality. It is partly because of this motive, that
individuals sometimes choose to disagree with others or to act in an unusual or even
bizzare ways. In other words, the reason for individuals to behave in an unusual or
strange manner is partly because of their wish to establish their uniqueness, as
individuals. And this kind of unique behaviour may emerge from the need for
individuation. Further, they realize that such behaviour may be costly, especially in
getting approval or acceptance of others, but their desire to maintain a unique
identity is much stronger than several inducements to conformity.
(ii) A second reason, as to why individuals prefer to resist group pressure
reveals their desire to maintain control over the events in their lives. (e.g. Burger,
1992, Burger & Cooper, 1979). Most people want to believe, that they can determine
what happens to them; and yielding to social pressure sometimes runs counter to
this desire. Generally, one might not ordinarily choose to go along with a group, as
that would imply restriction of personal freedom and control.

Everyone seems to have a desire for personal control but in this respect, there
is large individual difference. It seems possible that persons high in desire for control
might react more negatively to being helped by a stranger than persons low in desire
for control. All these research findings lend support to Burger’s (1992) contentions.
That is, persons high in the desire for control do tend to perceive others behaviour
as threatening to their personal freedom and often take active steps to resist such
Minority Influence
Does the Majority Always Rule?
Individuals can resist group pressure. (Wolfe, 1985). Historical events in the
past tend to suggest that minorities are not always powerless in the face of large and
united majorities. But they can sometimes overcome the obstacles and make their
views prevail. In fact, history provides numerous examples of such events. For
example, many giants of the scientific world like Galileo, Pasteur, Charles Darwin
and so on, faced unanimous majorities, who rejected their views, in harsh forms.
However, with the passage of time, they were able to win over many opponents and
ultimately their views prevailed with thumping success. Very recent examples of
minorities influencing majorities are provided by the successes of environmentalists.
In the beginning, such environmentalists have been perceived as wild-eyed radicals,
operating at the fringes of society. But they have succeeded, over time, in changing
the strongly held attitudes and laws, so that society itself has been altered, through
their sustained efforts. Similarly, when RAB bought a small, fuel-efficient car in
1963, that was the but of many jokes from a big majority. However, gradually more
and more people came to share such views, until to-day concern with protecting the
environment, is a majority view – which was a minority view in 1963.
Research findings suggest that minorities are most likely to succeed under
certain conditions. (Kruglanski & Mackie, 1991; Moscivici, 1985). First, members of
minority groups have to be consistent in their opposition to majority opinions;
second such group members must avoid appearing to be rigid and dogmatic (Mugny,
1975). Further they should display a greater degree of flexibility in its stand. Third,
the general social context in which a minority operates is important. Whatever, it
argues should be consistent with current social trends. Finally, it seems that
committed minorities are often effective in influencing larger majorities.

Compliance: The Uderlying Principles: There are a number of different tactics
for gaining compliance. According to Robert Cialdini, the best way to find out, about
compliance is to study compliance professionals – people whose success, financial or
otherwise, depends on their ability to get others to say ‘yes’. These persons include
sales people, advertisers, political lobbyists, fund raisers, trial attorneys,
professional negotiators, and politicians. Even though techniques for gaining
compliance may take many different forms, they all can be confined to six basic
principles (Cialdini, 1994).

1. Tactics Based on Friendship or Liking: Ingratiation: Generally, we are more

willing to comply with requests from friends or from people we like, than with
requests from strangers or people we don’t like. Impression management involves
various procedures for making a good impression on others. Impression
management techniques are often used for purposes of ingratiation – getting others
to like us, so that they will be more willing to agree to our requests. (Jones, 1964;
Liden & Mitchell, 1988). In other words, Ingratiation is a technique for gaining
compliance in which the person first induces the target persons to like her/him,
then try to change their behaviour, in some desired manner.
2. Tactics Based on Commitment or Consistency: The Foot in the Door, the
Lowball, and Others: Experts in compliance, like sales persons, advertisers, fund-
raisers – will often start with a trivial request (Cialdini, 1994). For example, a
salesperson may ask potential customers to accept a free sample or to answer a few
questions about products that they use. When these small requests are yielded, then
the experts move further on this task. Here the basic strategy is much the same –
this basic principle is called foot-in-the-door technique. Briefly, it involves the desire
to be consistent. When a target person says ‘yes’ to the small request, then it
becomes more difficult for that person to say ‘no’ to a larger request subsequently.
This is because, doing so, would be somewhat inconsistent with the first response.
By saying ‘yes’ to this small request, the target person has revealed that ‘ I am a
helpful person, who does try to help others. In this situation, refusal to the second
request would be inconsistent with this flattering self-perception. As a result, the
pressure is on, to agree to the second, larger request. In short, foot-in-the door
technique is a procedure for gaining compliance, in which requesters begin with a
small request and then, when this is granted, they tend to escalate to a larger
request – And this is the one that they actually desired all along.
There is another technique known as the lowball procedure which is also based
on the consistency/commitment principle. This is a technique for gaining
compliance in which, an offer or deal is changed to make it less attractive to the
target person, after this person has accepted it. This is a technique, which is often
used, by automobile salespersons, when a very good deal is offered to a customer.
After the customer’s acceptance, however, something happens, that makes it
necessary for the salesperson to change the deal and finally make it less
advantageous for the customer. For example, an “error” in price list calculations is

noted or the sales manager may reject the deal on some ground. In such a situation,
the totally rational reaction for customers would be simply to walk away. But they
often agree to such changes and tend to accept the less desirable arrangement.
The Lowball Technique in Action has been illustrated below. Sometimes Auto-
dealers prefer to use the lowball techniques. This involves offering of an attractive
deal to customers, to start with. But then, after they have accepted, resort to alter
the deal, in some way. In fact, rationally, customers should refuse, but they often
accept the less attractive deal, because they feel committed to buying the car.

Such informal observations have been confirmed by carefully conducted

studies. For example, college students first agreed to participate in a psychology
experiment. After making this commitment only, they came to learn that it started at
7 AM. (Cialoini, et. al., 1978). In spite of the inconvenience of this early hour,
however, almost all persons in this lowball condition, appeared for their
appointments. We can probably guess, a much lower proportion of students who
knew already about the 7 AM starting time, agreed to take part in the study. In
instances of this kind, an initial commitment seems to make it more difficult for
persons to say ‘no’, even though the conditions under which they said ‘yes’ have now
According to Cialoini, (1994), a third and a closely related technique, is the
notorious bait – and – switch tactic. Here, retailers may resort to advertise some item,
at a special low price. When customers arrive at the spot, they begin to perceive that
the items are sold out or they are of very low quality. Since they have already made
an initial commitment to buy, it is very much easier, for the shop keepers to sell
them something else – a more expensive item now, than it would be otherwise the
case. This is because changing one’s mind and reversing an initial commitment
requires hard work. And many people in such a situation, it appears would rather
prefer to pay a higher price than to change their minds. In short, bait-and- switch
tactic is a technique for gaining compliance in which items offered for sale, are of
very low quality or unavailable. And this leads customers to buy a more expensive
item, that (alone) is available.
To conclude in brief, several tactics used for gaining compliance, take full
advantage of our desire to be consistent and to stick to initial commitments.
Therefore, we should be careful of situations in which we are asked to do something
trivial or are asked to make a commitment to a course of action very early. This kind
of vigilance is essential because in such cases, the persons whom we are dealing
with, may be laying the groundwork for something entirely different.
A basic rule of social life, is reciprocity. Generally, whenever someone does
something for us, we tend to feel an obligation to do something for them in return.
So, the principle of reciprocity, as such is viewed by most persons as being fair and
just. And this principle, serves as the basis for many important techniques, for
gaining compliance.
i) Door-in-the Face Technique
This is quite opposite to the previously learned technique, namely foot-in-the-
door techniques. In the case of door in the face tactic, persons seeking compliance
sometimes start with a very big request and then, after this has been rejected, shift
to a smaller request – the one that they wanted all along. This tactic is called door-
in-the-face technique, because the first refusal seems to stain the door in the face of
the requester. People using this tactic, appear to make a concession after their first
request is rejected; then target persons feel obligated to make a matching concession

in return – a concession that may come to an end, by giving the requester, what he
or she wanted all along.
ii) That’s – not – all Technique
This is a technique for gaining compliance, in which a requester offers
additional benefits to target persons, before they have decided whether to comply
with or reject specific requests in this related procedures, an initial request is
followed, before the target person can make up her or his mind to say yes or no, by
giving something that sweetens the deal – a small extra incentive from the person
using this tactic. For example, auto dealers sometimes decide to throw in a small
additional option to the car, in the hope, that this will help them, close the deal; and
often it really works well. Persons at the receiving end of this view – that’s – not – all
technique, consider the small extra as a concession on the part of the other person,
and so feel obligated to make a concession themselves. Many studies have shown
that this technique, too, really works; throwing in a small “extra” before people can
say no, does indeed increase the likelihood that they will say yes (Binger, 1986).
iii) A more subtle use of the reciprocity principle is noticed in a third procedure
for increasing compliance. Foot-in-the-Mouth Tactic is a procedure for gaining
compliance in which the requester establishes some kind of relationship, no matter
how trivial, with the target person, thereby increasing this person’s feeling of
obligation to comply (Howard, 1990). That is, when people feel that they are in a
relationship with another person – no matter how trivial – they often feel that they
owe this person some consideration, simply because the relationship exists. For
example, friends help friends, when they need assistance. And persons who perceive
themselves as similar in some manner may feel that they should help one another
when the need arises. This subtle use of the reciprocity principle is called by social
psychologists as the foot-in – the – mouth technique. In a sense, the target person
‘puts his or her foot, in his or her mouth’ by agreeing that the relationship exists.
Tactics Based on Scarcity: It is a general rule of life that things which are rare,
scarce or difficult to possess are considered as being more valuable than those that
are easy to obtain. So we are often willing to expend more effort, to obtain items that
are rare than to get those which are common.
i) Let us consider the principle of playing hard to get, for gaining compliance.
This tactic is not restricted to interpersonal attraction or in the area of personal

romance. This is sometimes used by job candidates to increase their attractiveness
to potential employers. And thereby increase the likelihood that the employers will
offer them a job. Research findings showed that the hard-to-get candidates were
rated more favourably than the easy-to-get candidates, irrespective of their grades.
Not merely they were highly qualified but also obtained the highest ratings of all. In
this technique – ‘playing hard to get’ – these are efforts made or taken to increase
compliance by suggesting that a person or object is scarce and hard to obtain.
ii) The Fast – Approaching – Deadline Techniques: This is a technique for
increasing compliance in which target persons are told that they have only limited

time to take advantage of some offer or to obtain some item. This principle is often
used by retailers on the basis of ‘What is scarce is valuable’. There is a specific time
limit, during which an item can be purchased for a specific price. After the deadline
runs out, the price will go up, as per the advertisement. However, in many cases, the
sale is not a real one and the time limit is bogus. To convince customers to buy, they
would propagate, hurry down now before it is too late.
There are many other tactics for gaining compliance. And they involve
complaining and putting others in a good mood. Complaining involves expressions of
discontent or dissatisfaction with one-self or some aspect of the external world as a
means of exerting social influence on others. Studies revealed some intriguing
gender differences (Klotz and Alicke, 1993). Female friends made fewer complaints
about their partners than did male friends or romantic partners. Further, female
friends made more complaints about themselves. (e.g. “I really dislike my hair”).
Finally, female friends made more supportive reactions to partner’s complaints.
OBEDIENCE: Social Influence by Demand
Obedience is another major form of social influence. Obedience occurs when
people obey orders from others to do something. Obedience is less frequent than
conformity or compliance. This is because, even persons who possess authority and
power, generally prefer to exert it through the velvet glove – through requests rather
than by direct order (e.g. Yukl & Fabbe, 1991). However, obedience is still not a rare
phenomenon. For instance, Business executives sometimes issue orders to their
subordinates; similarly showing commands by military officers have to be followed
without any question. Further, parents, police officers, sports coaches and so on
seek to influence others in the same way. They tend to reward obedience while they
punish resistance. In fact obedience to the commands of persons who are in
authority is not a surprise because they have some means of enforcing their orders.
But more surprising is the fact, that often, persons lacking in such power, can also
induce high levels of submission from others. The most dramatic evidence for the
occurrence of such effects was reported by Stanley Milgram (1963, 1965a 1974) in a
series of famous experimental studies.
Destructive Obedience: Some Basic Findings
Milgram in his research (1963) wanted to learn whether persons would obey
commands from a relatively powerless stranger, requiring them to inflict

considerable pain (delivering electric shock) to a totally innocent stranger. Milgram’s
interest in this topic, emerged from the occurrence of tragic events, in which
seemingly normal law-abiding persons, actually obeyed such orders. For example,
during World War II (1939 – 1945), troops in the German Army often obeyed
commands to torture and murder enormous civilians – millions of them. Destructive
obedience was carried to the extreme - the Holocaust – in World War II, when the
Nazis established death camps, where soldiers and even prisoners obeyed
commands to systematically murder millions of innocent victims. These tragic events

are to focus on a new museum, in Wastington, D.C. and that is part of the famous
Smithsonian Institution.
Obedience to the commands of a powerless authority was studied by Milgram.
In fact 65 per cent of the participants in his research were totally or fully obedient.
Milgram, in his subsequent study, also arrived at similar findings. Several
researchers were able to get similar results in their investigations with children and
adults at Jordan, West Germany and Australia (Kilham & Mann, 1974; Shana &
Yahya, 1977).
Destructive Obedience: Its Social Psychological Basis
In the Milgram’s study and in other studies, the experimenters had not used
any power, over the participants. Neither the subjects were rewarded for the act of
obeying nor they were punished for the act of resisting. In several life situations,
individuals who obeyed had the right to protest or refuse, particularly when they are
ordered to indulge in acts of violence against others or any other kind of illegal
trespassing behaviour.
One reason, why the results of Milgram’s studies are so disturbing is that they
seem to parallel many real-life events, involving atrocities against innocent victims.
For example, the willingness of Chinese troops to fire on unarmed civilians in 1989;
the willingness of Saddam Hussein’s troops to murder unarmed citizens of their own
country. Why does such destructive obedience occur? In tragic situations, why many
persons inside the laboratory and outside it, are so willing to yield to this powerful
form of social influence? Several factors seem to play a role:
i) First, in many situations, the persons in authority relieve those who obey, of
the responsibility for their own actions. After obeying the cruel directions, many offer
the defense thus: “I was only carrying out orders.” This transfer of responsibility may
be implicit, in life situations. But, in Milgram’s experiments it was explicit. It is not
surprising, that many tended to obey because they were completely off the hook.
ii) Second, persons in authority often possess visible badges, special uniform or
symbols of their status and power. In such a situation with total visibility of
authority, most people find it difficult to resist. (Bushman, 1984; 1988). For
example, when a stranger was dressed in a fire fighter uniform, more passersby on
the city road complied with an order from him. But when the stranger was dressed
in Shaby clothes, only a fewer passersby complied to him. This was because a few

had complied to the shabbily dressed person, since they wanted to help another
person (Bushman, 1984).
iii) Thirdly, commands are relatively small at first, and later did they increase in
scope gradually as in the case of increasing the intensity of shocks in the laboratory
experiments. Similarly, police officers first question, then threaten the offender and
at a later stage proceed to beat or torture the persons concerned.
iv) Finally, events in several situations involving destructive obedience move
very quickly – that is, demonstrations turn into riots, or arrests turn into mass
beatings – or murder – suddenly. The first pace of such events, gives participant

little time, for reflection (no time to think) – and people are ordered to obey and –
almost automatically – they do so. And such conditions prevailed in Milgram’s
research, within a few minutes of entering the laboratory. That is, participants found
themselves faced with commands to deliver strong electric shocks, to the learner.
Further, this fast pace operates mainly to increase obedience.
To conclude, several factors contribute to the high levels of obedience, as
observed in both laboratory studies and in real-life situations. All these pressures,
together may merge into a powerful force and as such many persons find it difficult
to resist. The consequences of this compelling form of social influence unfortunately
can be disastrous for innocent and largely defenseless victims.
Destructive Obedience: Resisting Its Effects
We have noted some of the factors that are responsible for the strong tendency
to obey sources of authority. What shall we have to do to resist this type of social
influence? Several strategies seem to help, to reduce such tendencies to obey.
i) First individuals exposed to commands from authority figures, can be
reminded at the very beginning that they are responsible for any kind of harm
produced and not the authorities. Due to this, there is considerable decrease in the
tendency to obey (Hamilton, 1978; Kilhaum & Mann 1974).
ii) Second, individuals can be informed with a clear message that beyond some
point, brutal obedience or unquestioning submission to destructive commands, is
in-appropriate. As a result, they have found it easier to disobey (Milgram, 1965b;
Powers & Green 1972).
iii) Third, individuals can resist the influence from authority figures, if they
question their expertise and motives of these persons. They can ascertain whether
persons at the authority position are motivated towards socially beneficial goals or
towards selfish gains. Such kind of reasoning through such questions may provide a
base for independence rather than blind submission to anything.
iv) Finally, simply by knowing about the power of authority figures, to command
or demand blind obedience may be helpful in itself. Regarding destructive obedience,
there is some hope that knowing about this process, can enhance the person’s
ability to resist. To the extent this is so, Milgram’s study can have positive social
value. As they become widely known, they may bring about desirable shifts within

To conclude, the power of authority figures to command obedience, is certainly
great, but surely it is not irresistible. Under appropriate conditions, it can be
reduced. For example, refusing to obey authority, sometimes may bring about
changes in the world. When Boris Yeltsin (who later on became president of Russia)
defied the soviet government, he helped towards bringing about its downfall – and
the downfall of many other totalitarian communist regimes throughout the world.
Deciding to resist commands of persons in authority, can be highly dangerous. This
is because persons holding power will have facility of weapons and support of other
resources. However, events in Russia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the late

1980’s and early 1990s point out, the result is certain when there are committed
groups of citizens who choose to resist. Finally victory may go to those persons on
the side of freedom and decency rather than to those who possess the guns and
weapons and who wish to control and repress their fellow citizens.
Social influence refers to efforts of one or more persons to modify the attitudes
or behaviour of one or more others. Among the several forms of social influence, the
most important are conformity, compliance and obedience.
First, conformity occurs when persons change their behaviour in order to follow
the existing social norms. Further it increases due to cohesiveness and also with the
number of persons exerting influence. The presence of social support leads to the
reduction of conformity. Studies have shown that there are no gender differences
with regard to the tendency to conform.
The second form of social influence is compliance. It involves efforts of one or
more persons to alter the behaviour of others. There are many techniques used to
gain compliance. Ingratiation is one major technique based on friendship and liking.
Techniques like foot in the door and the low-ball are based on the principle of
commitment or consistency. Several tactics are based on reciprocity, such as door in
the face, the foot in the mouth, and the that’s-not-all approach. There are tactics
based on scarcity. In the pique technique, requests are made surprising, in order to
capture (pique) the attention of target persons.
The final and the most direct form of social influence is obedience – it is yielding
to direct orders from another person. Many persons have a tendency to obey the
commands of those in authority. The outcome of destructive obedience is dangerous.
However, tendencies toward such obedience can be reduced in several ways.
Gender differences in social influence are more apparent (not real) than real.
Earlier studies showed that females are more susceptible to conformity pressures
and other forms of social influence than males. But more recent studies have
pointed out that there are no gender differences in social influence. This is probably
because both men and women tend to enjoy equal – status position in many fields of
activity, unlike the past.
Conformity, compliance; obedience; Bait – and – switch tactic; - Door – in the
Face technique; Foot in – the – door technique – Foot-in-the. Mouth tactics; -
Lowballing; Ingratiation – Individuation.
1. Define the term ‘conformity’. Describe the factors that affect conformity.
2. Examine the concept of ‘compliance’. Explain the techniques designed to
increase compliance.
3. Analyse the nature and causes of destructive obedience.
4. Describe suitable strategies to resist the influence of authority.


PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR (Helping Other People)

After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Describe the nature of pro-social behaviour.
 Understand the significance of by stander effect
 Examine the role of emotions, attributions and altruism on pro-social acts.
 Explain the characteristics influencing altruism.
 Analyse the basic elements of intervention behaviour
 Find out the effect of mood on helping behaviour
Introduction - Responding to an Emergency - Additional Factors That Influence
Pro-social Behaviour - Additional Theoretical Explanations of Pro-social Motivation
Pro-social behaviour became a topic of major interest to social psychologists in
the 1960s. It is not unusual to find ourselves in a situation in which a stranger
requires help and we happen to be a bystander there or in a situation, in which we
may require help from strangers, who happen to be present nearby. Most of the
social psychological research deal with what people do in a sudden, unexpected
emergency - for example, a car accident. Similarly help can sometimes be required
over a long period of time, especially when the need is continuing for a person as in
a chronic illness.
Pro-social behaviour refers to actions that provide benefit to others but this will
have no obvious benefits for the person who carries them out. And this kind of
behaviour can sometimes involve risk, for the person who helps. Many other terms
like helping behaviour, charitable behaviour, and volunteerism are also used to
describe the “good” things that people do, while rendering required help to others.
Inspite of the good intentions of the person providing help, pro-social behaviour,
sometimes, can bring about harm to the helper. Since such behaviour can be risky,

one could safeguard the act of helping other people both wisely and safely with care
and caution at every stage. We shall consider how sometimes bystanders come
forward to help other people during an emergency and why sometimes bystanders do
not respond to help others in crisis. In a variety of situations, external factors tend
to influence pro-social behaviour and likewise the individuals pro-social motivational
factors play a role in the act of helping and all these will be discussed in this lesson.
RESPONDING TO AN EMERGENCY: Are Bystanders Helpful or Indifferent
There are many examples of people helping one another, and sometimes even
acting as heroes who risk their lives to help a stranger in distress. However, this is

not the case always. Studies by Darley and Latane have dealt with the diffusion of
responsibility as the explanation for why bystanders sometimes fail to respond. This
is because, the psychologists hypothesized that when one person sees someone in
need of help, the bystander’s responsibility is clear. But this is different with
multiple spectators. So, the general hypothesis is that as the number of bystanders
increases, the likelihood of pro-social behaviour decreases. The experimenters
Darley and Latane (1991) have labled the inhibiting effect of additional witnesses or
spectators to an emergency, as the bystander effect – “as the number of bystanders
increases, the likelihood of any one bystander helping decreases and more time
passes, before help does occur.” All these clearly reveal the diffusion of
responsibility. That is, decrease in individual’s sense of responsibility for taking
action in an emergency, because of the presence of other bystanders; the greater the
number of bystanders, the less likely each is likely to act. The researchers had
observed that bystanders are not at all, apathetic or indifferent. In fact, when more
bystanders were present, helpfulness was inhibited, but the witnesses however, were
concerned, upset, and confused. In short, the bystander effect shows that more
bystanders means less help is given.
Darley and Latane (1968) had observed from their study, that helping
behaviour becomes considerably less, as the group size increases. In other words,
the greater the number of potential helpers, the less help is provided. Even when the
help was offered, the presence of others led to a considerable delay. Thus a lone
bystanders is more likely to help than a bystander who is part of a group. According
to cognitive model of pro-social behaviour (Latane and Darley, 1970), the person who
is confronted by an emergency situation, should go through a series of decision-
making steps. And at each point in the series, one decision leads to non-altruistic
behaviour. The opposite decision take the person one step closer to a helpful act.
The person in need receives help, only if there is a “Yes” decision, at each of the five


Bystander confronted by unexpected

emergency situation

Step 1
Does bystander attend to the
Help not given because of failure to
pay attention
Step 2
No Does the bystander interpret the

Help not given because of situation as an emergency?

misinterpretation as a non- Yes


No Step 3
Does the bystander assumes
Help not given because of
responsibility for taking action?
assumptions that someone else
should do something Yes

Step 4
Does the bystander have the
Help not given because of lack of knowledge, skills, and training to
knowledge, skills, and/or training provide help?

No Step 5
Help not given because of fear of
Does the bystander decide to
negative consequences or
in helping behaivour?
positive motivation



in helping behaviour

Latane and Darley (1973) conceptualised five steps wherein there is pro-social
action or failure to help. That is, they formulated pro-social behaviour as the end
point of a series of five steps, representing choice points. At each step in the process,

the choices (whether conscious or unconscious) result in either (1) no help being
given or (2) movement to the following step in a progression toward possible helping.
Let us analyse each of the five-steps in detail.
Step 1: The Bystander Must Perceive the Emergency
To take up the first step toward helping, we should shift our attention away
from personal matters and focus toward the unexpected happening. Generally we
tend to be engaged in some activity and thinking about our concerns and easily
ignore an emergency because it is personally irrelevant for us. Studies by Darley &
Batson, (1973) have shown that pre-occupation with time pressure interferes with
perception of emergency. That is, when potential helpers are preoccupied with other
concerns, they are much less likely to help a person in need. As a result, they are
too busy to pay attention to the victim, in an emergency.
Step 2: Correctly Interpreting the Situation As an Emergency
When there is any ambiguity about what is going on, potential helpers hold
back and wait for more information. Suppose the signals given are mixed some
saying that everything is ok and others remarking that there is a serious problem –
then people are inclined to give more weight to the information, indicating that
nothing need to be done (Wilson & Petruska, 1984). The difficulty with interpreting
an ordinary event as an extra-ordinary emergency is that where we can look foolish.
Unless we are quite sure, that we are really witnessing an emergency, we would not
help because there is no reason to help and we prefer to avoid making stupid
Suppose, when the situation is unclear, we will probably engage in social
comparison to validate our impressions by finding out what the other people say or
do. This is not a problem when the bystanders are friends, because they are likely to
convey message to one another, greatly reducing the bystander effect (Rutkowski,
Gruder & Roner, 1983). Suppose the fellow bystanders are strangers and others
around fail to react, or interact, then the inhibition against helping is very strong. A
victim should not expect help from a group of uninformed bystanders, who wrongly
interpret the situation and also hold back to avoid being embarrassed by losing their
cool. This group reaction is called - Pluralistic ignorance – That is, bystanders
misinterpretation of our events, caused by reliance on what others do or say, even
though no one is sure as to what is happening; all hold back and act, as if there is

no problem, then each individual uses this “information” to justify failure to act.
Both fear of making a blunder and social inhibitions about communicating with
strangers are reduced, suppose, a bystander consumed alcohol. Even a modest
amount of alcohol increases the tendency to help, and additional drinking further
enhances the likelihood of pro-social acts (Steele, Critchlow, & Like 1985).
Step 3: Assuming Responsibility to Act
At the third step, the bystander either does assume responsibility or does not
assume responsibility for doing something. In many situations, the responsibility for
providing help is very clear. For example, when a house is in fire, trained fire fighters

are expected to take charge and deal with the problem of extinguishing fire. Suppose
a departmental store is being robbed, then it is the responsibility of the police
officers to render help by arresting the offender or culprit. Suppose somebody is
injured, then the medical assistant takes, up responsibility to cure the patient.
However, when responsibility is less clear, we tend to assume that someone in a
leadership role has to act (Baumeister et. al., 1988). For example, a Professor has to
deal with an emergency in a classroom and render possible help; similarly a bus
driver is responsible for dealing with an emergency on his vehicle and so on. In
many other situations, there is confusion because no one has obvious responsibility.
As a result, there is delay in providing help.
One of the reasons that a lone bystander is most likely to act is, that there is
nobody who could take responsibility. As we had learnt earlier, multiple bystanders
are much less likely to act because of diffused responsibility. Further, even with just
two bystanders, helping becomes less likely unless one among them, for whatever
reason, feels personally responsible for providing help.
Step 4: Knowing what is Do
At the fourth choice point, the bystander should have to ponder whether he or
she knows how to be helpful. Some emergencies are simple. For instance, if someone
slips on a side walk while we see, we help that person with our assistance. But some
other emergencies require special knowledge and skills. For example, when we do
not know how to swim, we cannot render immediate help to someone who is
Step 5: Making the Final Decision to Help
Even though a bystander has passed through each of the first four choice
points with a yes, helping behaviour still may not occur. This is because on the one
hand, helping may be inhibited by fears about negative consequences. Suppose we
try to help a person who slipped on the side walk, we may ourselves fall down in the
process of helping another. Suppose we help a person who is coughing and groaning
on the sidewalk, we may get our clothes dirty or catch a disease. And most serious of
all, remember the man who helped an accident victim, has been later on mistakenly
shot to death by the victim’s son. Altogether, unless one is particularly motivated to
provide help, helping may not occur, because the potential costs simply appear too
great (Mc Guire, 1994).

Dispositional Influences on Pro-social Behaviour: Some general dispositional
characteristics (personality traits) also can influence pro-social behaviour across
different situations. Some of the investigators have analysed the effects of single
characteristics, while other researchers have focused at multiple characteristics,
that contribute to pro-social behaviour.
i) Influence of Specific (Single) Dispositions on Pro-social Behaviour: Let us Try
to know well whether people ever help someone in need, on the basis of altruism –
(an unselfish concern for the welfare of others) – or are they always motivated by
egoism – (an exclusive concern with one’s own personal welfare)? In the search about

the characteristics of those who help, it appears that self-centered motives may be
operating. For example, persons who have a strong need for approval are more likely
to help others, particularly because they are specifically gratified, when they get
praise and appreciation. And their helpfulness is most apparent, if they have been
previously rewarded for such behaviour (Deutsch & Lamberti, 1986).
Many studies have been done on the apparently altruistic motives of bystanders
(Clary & Orenstein, 1991; Grusee, 1991). And most of the emphasis has been on
empathy – not mere feeling for but feeling into the sufferer’s suffering (Darley, 1993;
Esenberg et. al., 1991). For example, an empathetic person perceives that someone
else is unhappy and as a consequence, experiences unhappiness. In the words of
President Clinton “I feel your pain.” There are individual differences in empathy. So
the capacity for empathy appears to play a crucial role in differentiating those who
engage in pro-social behaviour and those who do not. And human beings clearly
spread into a wide range, in this characteristic.
Showing distress in response to the distress of others has been observed in
children as young as twelve months (Brothers, 1990) and likewise among monkeys
and apes (Ungerer et. al., 1990) With regard to empathy, human beings are deeply
concerned about any distress experienced by others, and moving to sociopathic
individuals, who are totally indifferent to the distress of others and also unaffected
by the emotional state of those persons around them.
Apart from feeling personal distress, at the distress of others, the empathic
person is also described as having three other characteristics, (i) one is feeling
sympathetic – feeling a kind of concern for another person’s needs to “put one-self in
someone else’s shoes”, and (iii) fantasy – feeling empathy for fictional character
shown by such behaviour like crying at a sad movie (Eisenberg et. al., 1991); Trobst,
Collins, & Embree, 1994). People who are most empathic on these dimensions
respond emotionally, when someone else has got a problem and generally do their
best to render help.
Women tend to score higher than men or measures of empathy, either because
of genetic differences or due to differential cultural experiences. (Trobst et. al; 1994)
studies of non-jewish Germans who rescued jews, from the Nazis, attack (during
Hitler’s autocratic period, in Germany) in World War II also report about consistent
sex (Gender) differences, with 2 to 1 ratio of female to male rescuers (Anderson,
ii) Combining Dispositional Variables to Predict Pro-social Behaviour
Knight and his colleagues (1994) had indicated that any given dispositional
variable is only a weak behavioural predictor. And the reason, they suggest, is that a
pro-social act is complex and hence it may occur only when several different
dispositional variables operate in conjunction. In other words, any single variable
may not predict very well because a combination of relevant variables should be
taken into account.

A broader attempt to identify the altruistic personality was undertaken by

Bierhoff, Klein and Kramp (1991). They had compared the scores (obtained from
earlier pro-social research) of people at the scene of a traffic accident who had
administered first aid, before the ambulance arrived and those who had not done,
such help for the injured. These two groups have been matched with respect to age,
sex, and social class, and then they were compared on the personality traits. And
the two groups were found to differ on five personality characteristics. These
characteristics together identify altruistic individuals. Altruistic personality is a
combination of empathic self-concept, belief in a just world, feelings of social
responsibility, internal locus of control, and low egocentrism. This personality the
increases likelihood of pro-social behaviour.
On five of the tests, those who helped accident victims and those who did not
help were significantly different as given below in Table 12.1.
Those who helped victims Those who did not help victims
Reported self-concepts high in empathy Reported self concepts low in empathy as
as a component. a component.
Believed more strongly in a just world Believed less strongly in a just world.
Felt more socially responsible Felt less socially responsible
Tended to be high in internal locus of Tended to be low in internal locus of
control control
Were less egocentric Were more egocentric

The five components of the altruistic personality are described below:

1. Among those who helped, empathy was an important component of the self-
concept. Further helpers described themselves as responsible and socialised and as
having self-control wanting to make a good impression and also being conforming
and tolerant.
2. Those who provided first aid expressed strong belief in a just world. They
assume that giving first aid is the right thing to do and that the person who helps
will benefit from doing so. They perceive the world altogether, as a first and
predictable place, in which good behaviour is rewarded and bad behaviour
punished. And people get what they deserve.

3. Further, the factor or social responsibility differentiated the helpers from the
non-helpers. A person, who is high on this dimension, believes that we should all do
our best to help others.
4. Altruistic persons were characterised as assuming an internal locus of
control. This is the belief that one can behave in such a way as to maximize good
outcomes and minimize bad ones that the person can make a difference and is not
helplessly at the mercy of luck, fate and other uncontrollable forces.

5. In the measure of ego-centrism, the helpless were lower than that of the non-
helpers. Those who had failed to help, tended to be self-absorbed and competitive in
It is interesting to learn that all these same five dispositional variables were
found to be characteristic of people throughout Europe, who were very active during
the 1940s while rescuing Jews, from the Nazi persecution (Oliner & Oliner, 1988).
Apart from those aspects of the external situation (environmental factors) and
different personality dispositions, other factors that affect a person’s likelihood of
engaging in pro-social behaviour are – exposure to appropriate social models,
various characteristics of the victim and specific motivations to provide help.
The Role of Social Models: When we see someone else make a contribution, by
giving money, then we are more likely to do so (Macauley 1920). Even the presence
of paper money and coins in the collection box, noticed by persons encourages their
charitable response. In other words, collecting money for charity; selling a product
etc. involve many of the same psychological processes.
We have, studied earlier, in an emergency situation, the presence of fellow
bystanders, who fail to respond tends to inhibit helpfulness. Similarly, it is equally
true that the presence of a helpful bystander provides a social model encouraging
helpfulness. That is, what others do in the situation, in effect, helps to create a
social norm. An example in which a young woman (a research assistant) was seen
with her car parked by the side of a road, with a flat tire (car). In such a situation,
male motorists, were much more likely to stop and help, if they had previously
passed a staged scene in which another woman with a car more hand problem was
receiving help (Bryan & Test, 1967).
Pro-social Models on TV and in movies influence pro-social acts. In other words,
television programmes and movies that depict pro-social models are found to
increase the incidence of children’s pro-social behaviour. When pre-school children
watch pro-social programmes, as TV models, they are much more likely to engage in
pro-social behaviour than children who do not watch the shows (Forge & Phemister
1987). All those studies consistently point out that appropriate social models exert a
very positive influence on pro-social responding.
Some victims are more likely to receive help than others: We shall consider the

characteristics of the victim, that are important determinants of helping: We are
inclined to help those we like, including those who are most similar to ourselves,
and those who are not responsible for their plight.
Helping a Liked Victim: The more we like a person, the stronger will be our
tendency to provide needed assistance (Clark et. al., 1987) (Schoerarade et. al.,
1986). Any factor that increases attraction also increases pro-social responses. For
example, a physically attractive victim receives more help than unattractive victim
(Benson, Karabenick & Lerner 1976).

A study was made on ‘helping a heterosexual versus a homosexual stranger by

Shaw, Borough, & Fuik, (1994). Using the “wrong number technique” a male
experimental assistant called a telephone number at random and asked for his
girlfriend or his boyfriend by name. Discovering that he had the “wrong number”, he
apologized, said that he had a flat tire and would be late for their anniversary
celebration but had no more change for the pay phone, and asked the stranger
please to call Lisa or Rick to explain. When the caller was identified as heterosexual,
most people helped out by making the requested telephone call. But when the caller
was identified as homosexual, most people did not help. It seems clear that a
negative attitude about the person in need, can inhibit prosocial behaviour.
However, in some situations there are additional factors at work and let us now
examine, why similarity may not always lead to helping.
In some situations for example, similarity seems to be irrelevant. Bornstein
(1994) studied the effect of the victim’s dependency. The more the victim is
dependent on others for help, the greater the likelihood that others actually will
help. With a very dependent victim, similarity or lack of similarity to the person
providing assistance, cases to matter. Further in certain situations, being dissimilar
is actually an advantage. In some interactions being the opposite gender, from a
potential helper, is an advantage (Piliavin & Unger 1985).
A familiar interaction in old movies depicted a male police officer giving a kindly
warning to an attractive female driver rather than issuing a citation. Research
studies show that police officers both men and women – actually are more helpful to
drivers of the opposite gender. The study by Koehler and Willis (1994) suggest that
giving a warning to an offending driver is a more prosocial response than issuing a
The overall finding showed that both male and female police officers were more
likely to issue citations to drivers of the same gender than to drivers of the opposite
gender. That is, male officers issued a higher percentage of citations to male drivers
than did female officers and female officers issued a higher percentage of citations to
female drivers than did male officers. In deciding whether or not to issue a citation,
both male and female officers seem to be more dominant with drivers, whose gender
is different from their own. In this specific situation, then dissimilarity is an
According to Weiner (1980) if we make the attribution that the victim is
responsible for his or her problem, we often respond with disgust and tend not to
help. This is because after all “the victim is to blame.” However, if the attribution is
that the problem was earned by circumstances, beyond the control of victim, we are
more likely to feel empathy and show an urge to provide help.
People differ in their readiness to assign blame and responsibility to a victim.
Thornton (1992) hypothesized that whenever we encounter a victim, we feel
threatened because it reminds us that we too could be inferred, robbed or whatever.
While dealing with this kind of threat, we often use one of two kinds of defences. One

is repression – the tendency to avoid or deny the threat and the other is
sensitisation, the tendency to worry about the threat and try to control it by focusing
on, why it occurred (Byrne 1964).
Thornton predicted that those who use sensitising defences would be more
likely to blame the victim than those who repress. He reasoned that repressers can
easily reduce the threat, by denying that the problem is serious, forgetting about it
and suppressing any feelings of discomfort. In contrast, sensitizers tend not to deny,
forget or suppress; so they are more likely to reduce the threat, by placing blame on
the victim. “That person is not really like me, because I would have avoided the
situation by being smarter or be more carefull.”
In a study by Thornton (1992), under-graduate women were asked to read
about a fellow student, who had been raped. And the threat of learning about an
attack on a stranger similar to themselves was handled differently by participants,
using different types of defence mechanisms. For example, sensitizers more than
repressers, felt that the victim was responsible for what happened to her. But
repressers more than sensitizers, forgot the details of the crime, after a few weeks.
Pullium (1993) found that people are less empathetic and less willing to help
AIDS patient, who had control over the source of the disease (engaging in a homo-
sexual interaction or injecting drugs with a contaminated needle) as opposed to a
person, who had no control (becoming infected after having a blood transfusion).
Some people report that the costs of working with AIDS patients are too high; they
feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, fearing that the stigma of the disease may “rub
off on them” by association.
The decision to help AIDS patients can be based on (Snyder and Omoto, (1990a
1992b) have identified five different basic motivations) personal values, the need to
understand the phenomenon, concern about the community, the desire for personal
development and/or a need to enhance self-esteem.
Pro-social Acts from the Viewpoint of the Person, who Needs Help
The behaviour of the person who is in need of help, also plays a role in the
interaction, both before and after help is given.
The most direct way to reduce ambiguity is, for the victims to ask for help.
However, this does not always happen. For example, shy persons hesitate very much
to get help from a member of the opposite sex. (De Paulo et. al., 1989). Further,

women find it easier to request help than men; young adults ask for help more than
the elderly, and individuals of high socio-economic status seek help more than do
those of low status (Nadler, 1991).
A major reason not to ask for aid is the belief that others will perceive the
request as an indication of incompetence (De Paulo & Fisher, 1980). The greater the
similarity between victim and potential helper, the greater the reluctance to seek
help (Nadler, 1987; Nadler & Fisher 1986). The explanation is that similarity
emphasizes the possible incompetence of the one needing help. It is O.K to ask for
aid, from someone different from yourself (older, younger, richer, poorer etc.)

because they may have skill or response that you lack. But to ask someone just like
yourself for help suggests that the other person must be smarter, stronger, or more
competent than you.
Western culture places a high value on independence self-reliance as showing
personal strength and adequacy. If we seek help, we may be perceived as dependent,
unable to take care of ourselves and weak. Self-esteem decreases when we receive
help, particularly of a friend or someone similar to our-self is the helper (De Paulo et.
al., 1981; Nadler, Fisher & Itzhak, 1983). For example, help from a sibling (brother
or sister) can be unpleasant. Help from an older sister is least threatening. But it is
very uncomfortable to be helped by a younger brother (Seavey & Eisenberg, 1992).
This is because threats to self-esteem arouse negative affect, the helper can easily he
resented and disliked. Further help from a dissimilar or disliked other, does not
threaten self-esteem, such help does not evoke negative affect (Cook & Pelfrey, 1985).
A person who receives help sometimes responds negatively and sometimes
positively. According to Fisher, Nadler, and Whitcher-Alagna (1982), being helped by
a friend or a similar other on important tasks is threatening, lowers one’s self-
esteem and evokes other negative reactions but may lead to more self-help in the
Being helped by a non-friend or a dissimilar other on unimportant tasks is not
threatening, does not lower self-esteem, and evokes several positive reactions but
leads to less self-help in the future.
Let us consider a possible implication of this research. A business has gone
bankrupt and several persons have lost their jobs. The newly unemployed victims
need support of various kinds. Suppose the help comes from friends, family, and
neighbours, the victims feel inadequate, resent those who help them and will be
strongly motivated to avoid the need for future assistance. Suppose the help comes
from strangers, like a government agency, the victims feel deserving, appreciate the
help, but have no motivation to avoid the need for future assistance.
Theories of pro-social motivation have been formulated. And most of them
involve an interaction between the potential helper’s emotional state and particular
aspects of the emergency situation. The most general assumption is that people
respond in order to maximize positive affect and minimize negative affect. In other

words, pro-social behaviour can be viewed as egoism rather than as pure altruism. A
bystander will help a victim if the helpful act is perceived as leading to a more
positive or to a less negative emotional outcome for the bystander.
The Effect of a Positive Versus Negative Mood on Helping
It might seem obvious that being in a good mood would encourage a person to
be helpful, while in a bad mood would discourage altruism. In fact, research studies
show that the effects of mood on helping are more complicated than that, because
additional variables should be taken into account (Salovey, Mayer & Rosenhan
1991). Effects of a Positive Mood: Sometimes children wait for the magic moment,

especially when their parents are in a good mood, before they proceed to ask for
something. They assume that a happy parent is more likely to grant their requests
than an unhappy parent. In each instance, positive emotions lead to a pro-social
behaviour. Helping was more likely to occur, when a pleasing smell was present,
than when it was not. It is a general finding that suppose the need for help is clear
and if helping does not involve negative consequences, positive emotions result in
pro-social behaviour. But when the need is ambiguous and/or consequences may
occur, positive emotions inhibit helping.
Effect of a Negative Mood
There is a common belief that someone in a negative mood will be unhelpful
(not helpful). And this effect has also been confirmed by research findings. For
instance, when we are experiencing negative affect, through no fault of our own and
concentrating on our own needs and concerns, it is unlikely that we will be helpful
to someone in need (Amato, 1986, Rogers et. al., 1982; Thompson et. al., 1980). A
study of helping in 36 U.S. cities suggests that negative environmental factors like
high population density; high lost of living; and unemployment tend to reduce pro-
social act to a stranger needing help (Levine et. al., 1994). It was observed that the
residents of Rochester Honston and Nashvgille were the most helpful, while the least
help was offered in has Angeles, New York and Patterson, New Jerseys.
Sometimes, negative affect can have the opposite influence. Suppose, the
helping behaviour itself promises to make us feel good, negative emotions actually
increase the frequency of pro-social acts (Cialdini, kenrick, & Bauman, 1982). Such
a response is likely to occur only when our negative feelings are not too intense, if
the emergency is obvious, ad if the act of helping is interesting or fun rather than
difficult and unpleasant (Berkowitz, 1989); Cunningham et. al., 1990)
Possible Alternative Motives Urderlying Pro-social Behaviour
Positive or negative affect can be aroused not only by events external to the
emergency situation but also by the bystander’s perception of the victim and that
person’s needs. The theoretical explanations of why one might provide help for a
stranger in distress, tend to reveal either selfish or self-less motives for altruism
(Campbell & Specht, 1985). As we might guess, people tend to attribute their own
helpful behaviour to selfless motives – “it was the right thing to do”, - While
observers are equally likely to attribute selfless or selfish motives – “He wanted to

make a good impression” – when someone else helps (Doherty, Weigold, &
Schlenker, 1990).
There are four somewhat different theoretical proposals, to explain why people
help. Four somewhat different explanations have been proposed to explain the
motivation underlying pro-social behaviour. Supporting data have been generated
for each proposal, and it is possible that each is correct. That is, helping may be
based on more than one motive, depending on the situation and the individual who

1. Unselfish Motivation: Empathy Leads to Helpfulness: We have learnt earlier

that empathy as the tendency to experience the other person’s emotional state, to
feel sympathy for him or her and to perceive the situation from that person’s
perspective. Based on this conception, Batson et. al (1981) proposed the empathy –
altruism hypothesis. And this suggests that people help because someone needs
help and because it is satisfying to provide help. That is some pro-social behaviour
of a person is motivated solely by the unselfish desire to help someone who need
help (Batson & Oleson, 1991). This motivation to help someone in need can even be
at the expense of oneself and of the group as a whole (Batson, Batson, et. al., 1995).
That is, feelings of compassion may outweigh such consideration as fairness and
justice (Batson, Klein, et. al., 1995). A cognitive component enhances the emotional
effect – the experience of empathy provides information that one values the other
person’s welfare and therefore must want to provide help (Batson, Turk, et. al.,
2. Selfish Motivation: Helping in order to Feel Better: The negative state relief
model suggests that people help in order to reduce their negative affect (Cialdini,
Baumann, & Kenrick. 1981). This model assumes that prosocial behaviour is
motivated mainly by the desire to improve one’s own emotional state by reducing
uncomfortable negative emotions. Regarding the effect of negative moods on helping,
we have learnt that sometimes people act in the prosocial way in order to make
themselves better.
It does not matter whether the negative emotions are already present, when the
emergency is encountered or whether they are aroused by the emergency itself. One
may have unpleasant feelings because that person has argued with a friend earlier
in the day or because that person is upset about seeing a stranger on crutches trip
and fall. Either way, one may engage in a pro-social act because that person wants
to make himself feel better (Fultz, Schaller & Cialdini, 1988). Cialdini and his
colleagues (1987) found that when empathy for a victim is aroused, one of the
accompanying emotions is sadness. When the experimenters were able to separate
empathic feelings from sad ones, they found that sadness alone leads to increased
helping but empathy alone does not.
3. Selfish Motivation: Helping Because It Feels Good to Have an Impact
Another interpretation about the role of empathy, has been offered by Smith,
Keating and tcotland (1989). According to the empathic joy hypothesis, empathy
leads to helping because the helper anticipates feeling good about accomplishing
something. In this model of empathic joy hypothesis the proposal is that pro-social
behaviour is motivated by the positive empathetic feelings that result from helping a
person in need, feel better.
It is possible to label any act of altruism as selfish simply because it feels good
to help someone in need (Williamson & Clark, 1989; Yinon & Landan, 1987). The
positive emotion that accompanies pro-social behaviour is known as helper’s high –
a feeling of calmness, self-worth and warmth (Luks, 1988). In fact, it sometimes feels

so good to be helpful that if a victim refuses help when it is offered, the contrasted
pro-social person becomes angry (Chenk & Rosen 1992).
4. Selfish Motivation: Helping Similar Others to Preserve Your Common Genes
The previous explanation about pro-social motivation are based on the role of
emotions. In the case of the genetic determinism model, the explanation is based on
a more general theory of human behaviour. Here the model proposes that pro-social
behaviour is unconsciously motivated by genetic factors that evolved because they
enhance the ability of our ancestors to survive and reproduce; for example, genetic
similarity. Rushton (1989) and other evolutionary psychologists point out that we
are not conscious of why we respond to genetic influences. However, they
hypothesize that we do so in many situations, including those that involve prejudice,
attraction, mate selection, aggression and helping.
The evolutionary perspective not only suggests why we would help anyone
related to ourselves but also why we help similar others. By helping people like
ourselves, we are actually behaving so as to preserve whatever genes we ere likely to
have in common. According to Buck and Ginsburg, there is no evidence of a gene
that determines pro-social behaviour. However, among humans, there are genetically
based capacities to communicate one’s emotional state and to form social bonds.
These inherited aspects of social behaviour make it likely that we will help one
another, when the need arises. In other woods, people are inherently sociable and
when they interact in social relationships, “they are always pro-social, usually
helpful and often altruistic” (Fiske, 1991).
To conclude, we would probably find it more satisfying if we were able to declare
one of these explanations entirely correct and the other three totally wrong, but that
is not the case. In fact, it seems quite possible that pro-social behaviour is based on
a variety of motives. And it seems that little is gained by labelling some of them as
selfless and calling others as selfish. Irrespective of the underlying reason for being
helpful, it is good to help and good to receive help, when you need it.
Pro-social behaviour refers to acts of helping others. And this will have no
obvious benefits for the person who helps. With regard to responding to an
Emergency, Latane and Darley proposed a series of five steps. A pro-social at will not
occur unless the bystander pays attention to the situation, interprets it as an

emergency, assumes responsibility for taking action, knows what must be done to
provide help, and decides to engage in the helping behaviour. Apart from several
aspects of the situation, that encourage or discourage helping, dispositional factors
are also involved, and a combination of traits make up the altruistic personality.
There are many additional factors that influence pro-social behaviour. Helpful
behaviour is enhanced by the presence of helpful models and which are also shown
in the T.V. media, movies and so on. A victim is most likely to receive help if he or
she is liked by the bystander and also is similar to that person. A victim who asks
for help is most likely to receive it, although the need for help can be viewed as a

stigma. It is often comfortable to receive help and also it is the reasoning to one’s
self-esteem, particularly when the helper is sibling or otherwise similar to one-self.
Most of the explanations about helpfulness assume that the final motivation to
act is based on whether the perceived outcome for the bystander is increased
positive affect or decreased negative affect. Research shows that motives based on
cognitive processing increase with age, while the self-centred hedonistic motives,
decrease. Relatively positive evaluations of cognition based motives and negative
exclamation of self-centered motives are extremely consistent within age groups and
across different nations.
Altruisim – Bystander – Empathy – Pluralistic Ignorance – Repression –
Sensitisation – Egoism – Genetic.
1. Describe the role of bystanders in responding to an emergency situation.
2. Explain the five choice points or the five steps in pro-social action or failure
to help.
3. Examine the role of dispositional influences on pro-social behaviour
4. Discuss the role of “motives” underlying pro-social behaviour
5. Write notes on the following:
a) Diffusion of responsibility
b) Pluralistic Ignorance
c) Role of Social Models
d) Effect of a positive versus negative mood on helping




After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Analyse the varies theoretical perspectives on aggression.
Introduction - Theoretical Perspectives on Aggression: In search of the Roots of
‘Aggression’ has long been a topic of careful research in social psychology,
mainly because of its alarming frequency and its major destructive consequences. In
fact, aggression is a behaviour directed toward the goal of harming another living
being. And violence is a worldwide problem. For example, war-ravaged Somalia
shows the costs of aggression, in terms of human suffering, are often very high and
too high as viewed by most social psychologists. News about waves of wholesale
violence, erupting at frequent intervals, in different parts of the world, in a large
scale manner will certainly make us uncomfortable. All these confirm a basic lesson
of human history: aggression. This is an intentional infliction of some form of harm
on others – is an all – too – common form of social behaviour (Huesinann, 1994).
In this topic of aggression – first we will describe several different theoretical
perspectives on aggression – contrasting views about the nature and origins of such
behaviour. Next, we will review important social determinants of, aspects of others’
behaviour that play a role in the initiation of aggressive outbursts. Third, in order to
balance the picture, then we will turn to several personal causes of aggression –
characteristics or traits that seem to predispose, specific persons toward more than
their fair share of aggressive actions. Fourth, we will turn to two forms of aggression,
that occur within the context of long term relationship: child maltreatment (Peterson
& Brown, 1994) and work place violence (Baron, 1995).
Finally, to conclude on an optimistic note, we will examine several types of
techniques for the prevention and control of human aggression.

In Search of the Roots of Violence
Why do human beings turn to aggress upon others? What makes them to
indulge in brutal behaviour, against their own fellow human beings.? These
questions have been contemplated for centuries by scientists and scholars from
many different fields. And finally they have proposed contrasting explanations for
the paradox of human violence. In this lesson, we will examine a few of the
influential theories and also newer theories based on modern ideas about human

cognition and human behaviour (e.g. Anderson, 1995; Huasmann, 1994). And some
of the these theories are given below:
i) Instinct Theories: Aggression As an Innate Tendency.
ii) Biological Theories
iii) Drive Theories: The Motive to Harm others
iv) Social Learning Theory:
Aggression As Learned Social Behaviour
v) Cognitive Theories of Aggression:
The Roles of Scripts, Appraisals, and Affect
1. Instinct Theories
Aggression as an Innate Tendency
The oldest and best known explanation for human aggression is that human
beings are somehow “programmed” for violence, by their basic human nature. This
view was originally called the instinct theory of aggression – that is people aggress
because it is part of their essential human nature to do so. The most popular
supporter of this view was Sigmund Freud. In his view, aggression emerges mainly
from a powerful death wish or thanatos instinct possessed by all persons. This
instinct, according to Freud, is initially aimed at self-destruction, but it is soon
redirected outward and toward others. Freud believed that the hostile impulses it
generates increase over time, and when not released, soon reach high levels of
dangerous acts of violence. In other words, instinct theory holds the view suggesting
that aggression stems from innate tendencies, that are universal among members of
a given species.
Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel Prize winning scientist has proposed a related view.
Lorenz (1966, 1974) proposed that aggression springs primarily from an inherited
fighting instinct, that human beings share with many other species. This instinct,
most probably might have developed during the course of evolution since it yielded
important benefits – for example, dispersing populations over a wide area. Further,
Lorenz, contended, that it is often closely related to mating; fighting helps to assure
that only the strongest and most vigorous individuals, will pass on their genes to the
next generation.
Views quite similar to this have been proposed by other scientists, particularly
by Socio-biologists. They contend that several aspects of social behaviour are the
result of evolutionary processes, favouring patterns of behaviour that contribute to

reproduction (to getting one’s genes into the next generation; e.g., Ardrey, 1976;
Barkow, 1989). In fact, Socio-biologists argue that because, aggression aids males of
many species in obtaining mates, principles of natural selection will favour
increasing levels of aggression, at least among males.
Is there any kind of basis, for such views expressed? Do inherited tendencies
toward aggression actually exist, among human beings? Most of the social
psychologists doubt about this, for two main reasons. First critics have voted that
supporters of instinct views like that of Freud and Lorenz have given somewhat
circular reasoning. These theorists have been observing that aggression is a common
form of behaviour. On the basis of this fact, they tend to reason out that such

behaviour must stem from universal, built-in-urges or tendencies. Finally, they use
the high incidence of aggression, as support for the presence of such instincts and
impulses!. And we can note hare, that this is a questionable logic and hence does
not stand to reason.
Second and more important reason to attack this view, is given now. Several
research findings argue against the existence of universal, innate human tendencies
toward aggression. Comparisons among several societies point out that the levels of
at least some forms of aggression differ significantly. In many developed countries,
rates of violent crimes are much lower than those we reported earlier for the United
States, while in many developing nations, violence rates are even higher (Osterman
et. al., 1994). These huge differences in the incidence is strongly influenced by social
and cultural factors. And that even if it stems partly from innate tendencies, these
are literally overwhelmed by social conditions. For these and other reasons, a big
majority of social psychologists reject instinct theories of aggression.
2. Biological Theories
We have remarked earlier that a large number of social psychologists have
rejected the instinct views. However, this does not mean that they also reject the role
of biological factors in such behaviour. On the contrary, there is growing recognition
by social psychologists while giving importance to biological factors, in many forms
of social behaviour (e.g. Buss, in Press; Nisbett, 1990), and aggression is no
exception to this general pattern. There is growing evidence to support the
conclusion that biological factors do predispose some individuals toward aggression
(e.g., Gladue, 1991).
Marazzitti and her colleagues (1993) conducted careful analyses of the blood
chemistry of three groups of persons: (i) ones who had attempted suicide (ii) ones
who had been institutionalised, since childhood due to very high levels of aggression
and (iii) a group of healthy volunteers. Research findings showed that both of the
clinical groups (the attempted suicides and highly aggressive patients – (i) & (ii)]
differed from the control group – (iii), with regard to measures reflecting reduced
levels of serotonin – an important neuro transmitter in the nervous system. These
findings have been interpreted by the researchers as suggesting that both suicide
attempters and highly aggressive persons suffer from reduced ability to control their
aggressive impulses. In other words, in the case of would be suicides, these impulses
are directed at themselves, while in the case of highly aggressive persons, they are
directed outward, at others. On the whole, the study is lending support to the view
that biological factors do, indeed, play an important role in at least some forms of
In this regard, more dramatic evidence is given by a recent investigation
conducted with female transsexuals: females who decided to alter their gender from
female to male (Van Googen, Frijda, & de Poll, 1994). These individuals, as part of
their medical treatment receive regular, large doses of male sex hormones
(testosterone) either by injection or orally. The effects of Testostron on anger was

studied. Female transsexuals who received large doses of testosterone as part of

their sex-change treatment reported higher levels of anger, after the dosage. So, it is
very clear that higher tendencies to become angry felt by the participants after
receiving these hormones.
All these research findings print out that extreme aggression may be linked to
disorders in neural mechanisms that regulate our emotions. (e.g., Patrick, Bradley, &
Lang, 1993). Biological factors do indeed play a role in aggressive behaviour. But at
the same time, there is no evidence to show that aggressive tendencies are inherited in
a simple or direct manner. And as such biological factors are not the main
determinants of human aggression. However, existing evidence reveals that biological
processes exert their effect against a rich backdrop of social and cognitive factors.
Therefore, neither human beings are pushed to harm others by irresistible aggressive
instincts nor are they driven to engage in such behaviour by all-powerful biological
forces. So far as human aggression is concerned, biology may be important but
certainly it is not the final destiny.
3. Drive Theories
The Motive to Harm Others
Drive Theories (of aggression) suggesting that aggression stems from external
conditions, which arouse the motive to harm others. And the most famous of these,
is the frustration – aggression hypothesis. When psychologists have rejected
instinct views of aggression, they encountered with an alternative of their own: that
aggression emerges mainly from an externally elicited drive to harm others. This
approach is reflected in several different drive theories of aggression (e.g. Berkowitz,
1989; Feshbach, 1984).
Drive theories propose that external conditions, entering through frustration
(any form of interference with the goal – directed behaviour) arouse a strong motive
to harm others. This aggressive drive, inturn, leads to overt acts of aggression. And
the most famous of these theories is the well-known frustration – aggression
hypothesis (Dollard et. al., 1939). According to this view, frustration leads to the
arousal of a drive, whose primary goal is that of harming some person or object –
primarily the perceived cause of frustration (Berkowitz, 1989).
Since drive theories suggest that external conditions rather than innate
tendencies are crucial in the occurrence of aggression, they seem to offer more hope
about the possibility of preventing such behaviour. Frustration is a common
experience of everyday life. However, drive theories still seem to leave human beings
to encounter such continuous and often unavoidable sources of aggressive impulses.
4. Social Learning Theory
Aggression as Learned Social Behaviour
Another sharply contrasting, perspective of aggression is called as the social
learning view. According to this approach, aggression is largely learned, just like
other complex forms of social behaviour. (Bandura, 1973, 1986, Baron & Richardson
1994). In other words, social learning theory is emphasizing that aggressive
behaviours are learned either through direct experience and practice, or through
observation of others.

Social learning perspective contends, that human beings are not born with a
large array of aggressive responses at their disposal. They should rather acquire
(learn) these, in much the same way that they acquire other complex forms of social
behaviour: either through direct (personal) experience or by observing the behaviour
(actions) of others in an indirect manner. Thus people in different cultures,
depending on their past experience learn to attack others in many different ways
and also in more subtle ways. Since, aggression takes many different forms, there
are many ways to hurt another person, and some of them are extremely subtle types
of attack.
Further, individuals also learn through direct and various experience as
mentioned below:
i) Which persons or groups are appropriate targets for aggression.
ii) What actions by others either justify or actually require aggressive retaliation.
iii) And what situations or contexts are ones, in which aggression is appropriate
or inappropriate.
The social learning perspective, in short, suggests that whether a particular
person will aggress in a given situation, depends upon a variety of factors, including
that person’s past experience, the current reinforcements (rewards or praise) linked
with aggression, and many variables which shape the person’s thoughts and
perceptions regarding the appropriateness and potential effects of such behaviour.
Since, most of the factors are open to change, the social learning approach is quite
promising, with regard to the possibility of preventing or controlling overt aggression.
To sum up, social learning theory seems to be an appealing approach for social
psychologists because of its certain merits.
5. Cognitive Theories of Aggression
The Roles of Scripts, Appraisals and Affect
Modern cognitive theories of aggression are suggesting that aggression stems
from a complex interplay between cognitive factors, affective states and additional
variables. According to several modern theories of aggression, cognitive factors play
a crucial role in determining, how we will react (e.g., Anderson 1995. Barkowitz,
1989; Huesmam, 1988, 1994).
One of the cognitive factors is known as the scripts – cognitive “programmes”
for the events that are supposed to happen in a given setting. Since our script for
visiting a supermarket does not include getting into a battle with another shopper,

this factor would operate against retaliation on our part in this setting.
Another cognitive factor that will influence our behaviour is our interpretation
of the situation – our appraisal of why the other shopper bumped on us. Had she
done it on purpose? or was it totally an accident? In such a situation, we will do a
quick assessment of available information.
For instance, is the other shopper smiling in glee or apologizing profusely? And
then, very quickly, we would decide whether there was malice on the other person’s
part or not (Anderson, 1995). Further, this initial appraisal may then be followed by
reappraisal, in which we tend to take a little more time to consider the situation and

assess such factors like what would happen if we act in different ways. Suppose we
ram the other shopper, we may get momentary satisfaction but we may not be able
to finish our shopping. She may retaliate and finally we may both be thrown out of
the store. Thoughts like these clearly influence aggression in situations, where
people take the time to consider their actions and the possible results that these will
Finally, it is important to consider our current mood (affect). Aversive
(unpleasant) experiences like being rammed by another shopper tend to produce
negative affect. We have already learnt that our current moods exert strong effects
on our cognitive processes. As suggested by Berkowitz (1989, 1994), the pain that
we experience may lead us to experience not only immediate tendencies to either
retaliate or withdraw (“fight or flight”) but also thoughts and memories related to
other painful or annoying experiences. All these, in turn, could trigger an aggressive
reaction (Berkowitz, 1989).
To sum up, cognitive theories of aggression suggest that such behaviour stems
from a complex interplay between our current moods and experiences, the thoughts
and memories these elicit, and our cognitive appraisals of the current situation.
Modern cognitive theories of aggression suggest that aggressive behaviour is
influenced by complex interactions between cognitive factors (scripts, appraisals of
others) behaviour, memories and associations elicited by aggressive cues) and our
current affective states (Anderson, Anderson & Deuser, in press, Berkowitz 1989,
Zillmann, 1994 and others).
Stating clearly this kind of cognitive framework for understanding the roots of
aggression is more complex than the early ones offered by Freud and Lorenz, or even
more complex than the famous frustration-aggression hypothesis proposed by
Dollard and his colleagues (1939). However, as we could readily note that it is much
more likely to be accurate and useful than these earlier theoretical frameworks.
Theoretical perspectives on Aggression proceed to search about the roots of
violence. Aggression, as an intentional infliction of harm on others, has been
attributed to several different causes. For example, Instinct theories like the ones
proposed by Freud and Lorenz point out that aggression emerges from (or has its
roots on) innate urges. Next Biological theories suggest that aggression is influenced

to some degree, by biological factors like sex hormones and many neural disorders.
Third, Drive theories suggest that aggression stems from externally generated
motives. Fourth, Social learning view, in contrast, emphasizes the role of learning,
by calling attention to the fact that human beings learn how to aggress against
others, through both direct and various experience. Finally, cognitive theories of
aggression suggest that aggression stems from a complex interplay among cognitive
factors, past experiences, and current moods.


Its Nature, Causes and Control
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Explain the social determinants of aggression
 Describe the personal causes of aggression.
Social Determinants of Aggression: How others’ actions or our understanding of
them, influence aggression
Personal Causes of Aggression
SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF AGGRESSION: How others actions, or our understanding
of them, influence aggression
It is very common to note that when people our asked to describe situations
that made them angry, most people refer to something another person said or did
(Harris, 1993; Torestad, 1990). They are much less likely to state purely physical
events like a flat tire, bad weather, or the like. In short, aggression often stems from
several social conditions that either initiate its occurrence only increase its intensity.
In this lesson, we will examine some of the most important of these factors. However,
before doing so, we will first consider a critical preliminary question: How can
human aggression particularly physical aggression – be studied in a systematic
manner, without the risk of harm to the participant, in such research? An important
answer was given by Arnold Buss (1961), in research that many social psychologists
consider to be as creative as it was controversial.
Arnold Buss devised a technique for studying physical aggression under safe
laboratory conditions. He developed this this technique, at almost exactly the same
time that Stanley Milgram was devising his procedures for studying obedience to
authority (Lesson 11). In the Milgram’s study, research participants were ordered to
deliver stronger and stronger electric shocks to an innocent victim. Here the main
question being, would participants obey? That Milgram was developing these
procedures for investigating an important form of social influence. But Arnold Buss

was working a different but related question – How could researchers wishing to
study human aggression do so in a way, that would eliminate the risk of actual
harm to participants? The solution he formulated on the surface, seems to be quite
similar, to the techniques designed by Milgram.
Social psychologists interested in studying human aggression quickly seized on
Buss’s experimental apparatus, called the aggression machine. This machine is used
to measure physical aggression under safe laboratory conditions, without risk of
harm to research participants. Here participants were told that they can deliver

shocks of varied intensities to another person by pushing buttons on this machine:

the higher the number of the button pushed, the stronger the shock.
Before the machine has arrived into the market, studies of aggression were
limited to asking persons how they would respond to several imaginary situations or
measuring their verbal reactions to provocations or frustrations from others (from
experimental accomplices). Here, there was a means of studying not what people
guessed they would do in such situations, but what they actually would do, in terms
of aggressing against another person.
The method devised by Buss does provide a means of measuring aggression.
However, this method and the ones based on it, are far from perfect: some people,
probably do not believe that they can deliver painful stimuli to the victim, and this
situation is, of course, very different from real – life situations, in which aggression
occurs for example, there is no opportunity for the victim to retaliate. However, if
used with care, this method does seem to provide at least, a rough index of the
central concept we wish to measure in research on aggression, people’s willingness
to inflict harm physical or otherwise – on another human being.
FRUSTRATION Why Not Getting What you want (or what you expect) Can sometimes
lead to aggression
The widespread belief that frustration as a cause of aggression stems from the
famous frustration – aggression hypothesis. That is, the suggestion that frustration
is a very powerful determinant of aggression.
This was first proposed by Dollard and his colleagues on the eve of World War II
(Dollard et. al., 1939). According to this theory, frustrated persons always engage in
some type of aggression. And that all acts of aggression, inturn, result from
frustration. Bold statements like these are appealing. However, this does not imply
that they are necessarily accurate. Existing evidence suggests, in fact, that both
portions of the frustration – aggression hypothesis, go too far with regard to the
importance that they assign to frustration.
1. It is clear that frustrated persons do not always respond with aggressive
thoughts, moods, or deeds. Instead, they reveal several different reactions to
frustration, ranging from despair or depression on the one hand, to direct attempts
to overcome the source of their frustration on the other. (2) It is further clear that
not all aggression stems from frustration. It is true that people aggress for many

different reasons and in response to several different factors. For example,
professional boxers in the act of boxing hit their opponents due to their desire to win
valued prizes. And this cannot be due to frustration. Similarly, during war period,
air-force pilots report that flying their planes is a source of pleasure, and that they
bomb enemy targets while feeling elated and not when frustrated. So in many cases,
aggression certainly emerges from factors, other than frustration. Let us now
consider many of these other causes of aggression below:

A few social psychologists hold the view that frustration is the only and the
most important cause of aggression. But, most believe that it (frustration) is one
among many factors that can potentially lead to aggression. Along these lines,
Berkowitz, (1989) proposed a revised version of the frustration-aggression
hypothesis. And this seems to be consistent with a large amount of evidence about
the effects of frustration. In this view, frustration is an aversive, unpleasant
experience and frustration leads to aggression due to this fact. In short, sometimes
frustration produces aggression because of a basic relationship between negative
affect and aggressive behaviour – a relation that has been confirmed in several
different studies (e.g. da Gloria Pahlavan, Duda & Bonnet, 1994).
All these suggestions attempt to explain why unexpected frustration and
frustration which is considered to be illegitimate or unjustified, produce stronger
aggression than the frustration, which is expected or legitimate. This is presumably
so because unexpected or illegitimate frustration generates greater amounts of
negative affect than frustration that is expected or viewed as legitimate. To conclude,
that frustration can be one potential cause of aggression. But, certainly frustration
is not the only factor leading to such behaviour and hence does not play the central
role in human aggression, as many people tend to believe.
Direct Provocation: When Aggression Breeds Aggression
At the fag end of the previous lesson, we have learnt about the shopping cart
episode in a busy supermarket, and our confrontation with another shopper who
rammed her cart into our cart. And this incident illustrates an important point
about aggression. It is often the result of physical or verbal provocation from others.
That is, when we happen to be the victims of some form of aggression from others,
we rarely turn the other cheek. Instead we tend to reciprocate through retaliation by
returning as much aggression as we have received or even slightly more, particularly
when we are quite sure that the other person meant to harm us in some way
(Dengerink, Schneder, & Covey, 1978; Ohbuchi & Ogura, 1984).
Harris (1993) had shown in her study both physical and verbal aggression by
another person were identified by both males and females as the most anger
provoking behaviours they would encounter. However, interesting gender differences
emerged with regard to many other potential causes of anger. Females reported
being more likely than males to be angered by actions, in which their feelings were
ignored by another person.
To sum up, while both females and males reported being angered by various
forms of provocation from others, they did seem to differ somewhat in terms of the
specific form of provocation, they find most anger – inducing. Harris (1993) has
observed that these differences seem to reflect prevailing gender stereotypes that we
had analysed earlier in Lesson 8. And such stereotypes suggest that females must
be kind, nurturant, and sensitive to others’ feelings. In view of these stereotypes, it
is not surprising that they find behaviour contrary to these supposed traits, to be
particularly annoying.

Exposure to Media Violence

The Effects of Witnessing Aggression
Many popular films contain a great deal of violence – much more than we are
ever likely to see in real life. Careful analyses of the contents of television
programmes, failures, and televised sports events show that all contain a great deal
of violence. (Reiss & Roth, 1993; Waters et. al., 1993). One recent study which
analysed the content of commercial for food products – for example, milk, soaps, dry
and hot cereals – found that even these often contained themes of violence. (Rajecki
et. al., 1994). To the question, does exposure to such materials increase aggression
among children or adults, many social psychologists have given the following
answer. The findings of many studies have not been entirely consistent, but taken
together, they point to the following conclusion: Exposure to media violence may,
indeed be one factor contributing to high and rising levels of violence.
Evidence for the Effects of Media Violence on Aggression
Several lines of research, conducted in ever so many ways, are consistent with
this conclusion. First, the results of these experiments show that even very young
children can acquire new ways of aggressing against others from exposure to media
violence. And that exposure to such materials can also increase their tendency to
put such behaviours into practice (e.g. Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963; Geen, 1991).
Second, the more aggressive television programmes and films, that children watch,
the more aggressive their behaviour tends to be (e. g. Bachrach, 1986; Huesmann &
Eron, 1986; Leyens et. al., 1975). Further, in all these studies, the greater the
amount of violent television watched by participants, the greater their subsequent
levels of aggression. In these later studies, further these findings have been obtained
both for females and for males. Not all studies on the potential effects of media
violence have yielded consistent findings. We can conclude that exposure to media
violence can contribute, along with many other factors, to the occurrence of overt
Heightened Arousal
Emotion, Cognition and Aggression
There is growing evidence to show that under some conditions, heightened
arousal – whatever its original source – can enhance aggression in response to
frustration or provocation. In fact, in several experiments, arousal stemming from

such diverse sources like participation in competitive games, (Christy, Gelfand, &
Hartmann, 1971), vigorous exercise (Zillmann 1979) and even some types of music
(Rogers & Ketcher, 1979) has been found to facilitate subsequent aggression. In this
context, an explanation of a compelling type, is given by excitation transfer theory
(Zillmann 1983, 1988).
Excitation Transfer Theory makes a note that physiological arousal, however
produced, tends to dissipate slowly overtime. As a result, some portion of such
arousal may persist as a person moves from one situation to another. So, when we
encounter minor annoyance, that first arousal intensifies our emotional reactions to

be annoyance. As a result, we may become enraged rather than just mildly irritated
(Zillmann, 1988, 1994). In short, this theory has suggested that arousal produced in
one situation can persist and intensify emotional reactions, occurring in later
Let us consider the complex inter-play among emotion, cognition and
aggression. Recently, Zillmann (1988, 1994) has expanded how emotion (arousal)
and cognition can interact in shaping aggressive reactions. First let us consider the
impact of cognition on emotion. Our thoughts can lead us to reappraise various
emotion-provoking events. And as such there will be a lower level of anger on our
part. This is because cognitive activity may well influence our emotional reactions
(Zillmann, 1994). For example, if some persons are informed in advance, that
someone with whom they will soon interact is very upset, then they experience less
anger in response to rudeness displayed by this person, than if they do not receive
such information, or if they receive it only after the person has provoked them
(Zillmann & Cantor, 1976).
As noted by Zillmann (1994) strong emotional arousal sometime produces – a
cognitive deficit – reduced ability to formulate rational plans of action or reduced
ability to evaluate the outcomes of various behaviours. When we are under the grip
of strong emotional arousal more often, there is cognitive deficit. And this can be
easily understood, when we recollect the popular saying, frequently used in the day-
to-day talk. “When emotions run high, reason flies out the window.” In fact, re-
establishing cognitive control over behaviour, can be highly effective in reducing the
likelihood of inter-personal violence (Zillmann, 1993).
Sexual Arousal and Aggression
Are love and Hate Really two sides of the Same Behavioural Coin
It is often contended that love and hate are closely related. Suppose love is
interpreted primarily in terms of sexual arousal or excitement, research by social
psychologists offers some support for this age-old idea. Research findings showed
that those persons exposed to mildly arousing materials revealed lower levels of
aggression than those exposed to the neutral stimuli. These findings suggest that
the relationship between sexual arousal and aggression is curvi-linear in nature. A
two-component model proposed by Zillmann (1984) has given one useful answer.
According to this model, exposure to erotic stimuli produces two effects: It

increases arousal and it influences current affective states – negative and positive
feelings. Whether sexual arousal will increase or reduce aggression, depends upon
the overall pattern of such effects. Mild erotic materials generate weak levels of
arousal but high levels of positive affect. As a result, exposure to such materials
tends to reduce overt aggression. In contrast, explicit sexual materials generate
stronger levels of arousal but also generate considerable negative affect. So,
materials of this type may increase aggression. Findings of several studies support
this two-factor theory (e.g., Ramirez, Bryant, & Zillmann, 1983). Research findings

point out that while sexual arousal and aggression do seem to be related, the nature
of this relationship is somewhat more complex than it was initially believed.
Sexual Jealonsy and Aggression
Do we Want to Hurt the Ones we Love if they Have Been Unfaithful
Sexual jealousy is the perception of a threat to a romantic relationship by a
rival, for one’s partner. And sexual jealousy can be a potent cause of aggression.
Systematic research on this matter has confirmed this view. Individuals who feel
that their lover has “done them wrong” with another person often experience strong
feelings of anger, and frequently think about or actually engage in actions designed
to punish their lover, the rival, or both (Buss et. al., 1992; Parrott, 1991, Sharpsteen
1991). Most of the anger and blame in such situations seems to fall on the partner
rather than on the rival, contrary to informal observation (Paul, Foss & Galloway,
1993). Further, females experience stronger feelings of anger at both the partner and
the rival than males and are more likely to react aggressively to such betrayals (Paul
et. al., 1993).
With regard to gender differences in sexual jealousy, females showed that they
would be more likely to respond aggressively to sexual infidelity by their partner
than males. In contrast, males reported being more likely to react to sexual infidelity
than women, by getting drunk (Weerth & Kalma, 1993).
Exposure to violent pornography seems to encourage toward sexual violence
among both male and females. In short, they get into a tendency to perceive rape as
less serious and to show less sympathy toward rape victims. Findings show that
exposure to scenes of violence, against women may well exert adverse effects upon
viewers and also bring about desensitising effect. And in the case of males,
potentially increasing their willingness to engage in such behaviour themselves (e.g.,
Linz, Donnerstein & Penord, 1988). As some feminists have contended that
“Pornography is the theory and rape is the practice” (Morgan, 1980).
After pornography became readily available in Denmark, Sweden, and
Germany, the incidence of rape did not increase. But rape did increase in the United
States, after pornography became readily available. However, during this same
period, assaults also increased in the United States. All these findings together seem
to argue against the suggestion that pornography stimulates rape (Kutchinsky,
1991). So, rape is primarily an act of violence and not of sexual arousal. The media

as such have powerful effects upon viewer’s attitudes, values, and behaviour. That
is, they do much more than merely reflecting or to mirror society. In fact, they may
both shape and influence it, to a great extent.
Informal observation suggests that some persons are “primed” for aggression,
because of their personal characteristics. That is, some persons are rarely losing
their tempers and seldom engage in aggressive actions. But there are others, who
seem to be forever below from their tops, often with serious consequences. In this

section, we shall deal with many personal traits or personality characteristics, which
seem to play a vital role in aggression.
The Type A Behaviour Pattern
Why the A in Type A could well stand for Aggression
According to what the psychologists, call by the term, the Type A behaviour
pattern, such kind of persons will have the following characteristics. (i) extremely
competitive; (ii) always found to be in a hurry and (iii) particularly irritable and
aggressive. And at the opposite end of the continuum we come across the Type B
behaviour pattern with the following characteristics (who do not show the
characteristics of Type A): (i) not highly competitive (ii) who are not always fighting
the clock (iii) who do not readily lose their temper (Glass, 1977; Strube, 1989).
In brief, Type A behaviour pattern in consists primarily of high levels of
competitiveness, time urgency, and hostility. In contrast, Type B behaviour pattern
consisting of the absence of characteristics that are associated or linked with Type A
behaviour pattern.
Taking these characteristics into account, it is rather clear and hence
reasonable to expect that type A’s would tend to be more aggressive than the Type
B’s in several situations. Further, many experimental findings lend their support
(Baron, Russell, & Arms, 1985; Carver & Glass, 1978) for this categorization.
Further research findings point out that Type A’s are truly hostile people. They
do not merely aggress against others, because this is a useful approach for achieving
other goals. However, they (unlike Type B) tend to engage in hostile aggression - this
is an aggression in which the prime objective is inflicting some kind of harm, on the
victim (Strube et. al., 1984). So it is not surprising that Type A’s are more likely to
engage in actions like child abuse or spouse abuse (Strube et. al., 1984) than Type
B’s. But, Type A’s are not more likely to engage in instrumental aggression – an
aggression that a person performs, not primarily to harm the victim but to attain
some other goal, like having control over or having access to valued resources;
further they want praise from others, for behaving in a “tough” manner.
Perceiving Evil Intent in Others: Hostile Attributional Bias
In many situations, our effort in interpreting others actions is not a simple task
since other’s behaviour is ambiguous. And we cannot easily determine, whether they
meant to harm us or not. For instance, someone’s actions like bumping on us with a
shopping cart, in a busy supermarket, was done with purpose or in an unintentional
way or quite accidentally we have to conclude rather carefully. In such a situation,
however, we are more likely to retaliate by aggression.
We shall find further in such situation, another personal factor known as
hostile attributional bias and that becomes relevant. This is the tendency to perceive
hostile intentions or motives in others actions, when these are ambiguous. In other
words, persons high in hostile attributional bias, rarely give others, the benefit of the
doubt: That is, they would simply assume that any productive action from others are
intentional, and often prefer to react with strong retaliation (Dodge et. al., 1986). It

appears that the tendency to perceive malice in the actions or behaviour of others,
even when it does not really exist, is one personal characteristic closely connected to
high levels of aggression against others.
Irritability, Rumination, and the “Big Five” Dimensions of Personality
People differ in a very large number of ways. However, many of these differences
are related to only five underlying basic dimensions (Costa & McCrae, 1994; Funder
& Sneed, 1993). According to research done by Caprara and his colleagues (1994)
these dimensions are related to aggression. They found that several traits including
irritability (the tendency to react impulsively or rudely to even slight provocations),
emotional reactivity (the tendency to overreact emotionally to frustration), and
rumination (the tendency to think about provocations and seek revenge for them)
are all related to aggression (e.g. Capara, 1986, 1987). These characteristics are
found to be closely linked to two aspects of the “Big five” dimensions of personality6:
agreeableness and emotional stability. (The other 3 aspects of the Big Five are:
Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience).
Individuals who are high in irritability and emotional reactivity tend to fall
toward the hostile end of the agreeableness – hostility “Big Five” dimension, while
those who are high in rumination tend to fall toward the unstable end of the
emotional stability dimension. So, aggression appears to be related to two basic
dimensions of personality and which are linked to many other aspects of social
behaviour. Further, our own experiences with highly aggressive persons point out,
that those persons often do seem to be disagreeable, suspicious, and hostile and
also emotionally overreactive and unstable.
Gender differences in aggression is more complex than we might guess.
Research evidence reveals that males are more likely to engage in physical
aggression than females. But females are more likely to engage in other forms of
aggression, particularly verbal and indirect forms than males. So, there appears to
be some differences between females and males with regard to aggression but all
these are more subtle and complex than informal observation might suggest in day-
to-day life.
Eagly and her colleagues (1987; 1991) offer a social-role interpretation for
gender differences in aggression. That is, many societies expect males to be more
assertive, and masterful and aggressive than females but also expect the females to

be more nurturant, more emotional and more concerned about the well-being of
others, than males. The researchers agree that these contrasting expectations tend
to account for gender differences in aggression.
Some evidence points to the conclusion that biological or genetic factors, too,
play a role in the greater tendency of males to engage in some forms of aggression.
Findings reveal that among males, the higher the level of testosterone (an important
male sex hormone), the higher the level of aggression (Christiansen & Knussman,
1987. Olweus, 1986). In short, genetic factors, Hornonal, factors and social roles do
seem to have an impact upon the origins of gender differences in aggression.

Several kinds of aggression are trigged by the words or deeds of persons, with
whom the aggressor interact or by social conditions generally. Frustration, caused
by interference with goal-directed behaviour, can facilitate aggression. However,
frustration is not the only cause or determinant of aggression. Direct pro-vocation
from others are also important causes of aggression. Exposure to media violence, in
movies or television shows can increase aggression on the part of the viewers.
Heightened arousal can increase aggression. But the impact of arousal on
aggression depends upon the complex interplay between emotions and cognitions.
Our ability to formulate rational plans can be interfered by strong emotions. This
kind of effect is called cognitive deficit. Sexual jealousy often plays an important role
in aggression. And such reactions are stronger among women than men, according
to research findings. Exposure to violent forms of pornography may also increase
Individuals showing Type A behaviour pattern are more aggressive in many
situations than individuals of Type B behaviour pattern. Persons who perceive
hostile intention behind others’ behaviour, even when this does not really exist, are
more aggressive than those who do not reveal hostile attributional bias. Research
findings point out that several personality traits are related to aggression. For
example irritability and rumination (the tendency to think about real or imagined
provocations) are closely related to the “Big Five” dimensions of personality.
Aggression related traits particularly appear to be linked to the dimensions of
agreeableness and emotional stability. Males are more aggressive than females;
further males tend to show higher levels of physical aggression than females. But
females display higher levels of indirect aggression than males. With regard to
gender differences in aggression, both cultural and biological factors may be involved
to some extent in varied degree.



Its Nature, Causes and Control
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Examine child abuse and workplace violence
 Describe the prevention and control of aggression, with some useful
Child Abuse and Workplace Violence: Aggression in Long term Relationships -
The Prevention and Control of Aggression - Some Useful Techniques
I CHILD ABUSE AND WORKPLACE VIOLENCE: Aggression in Long-term Relationships
Periodical reports about random acts of violence, in which persons are being
attacked by total strangers are disturbing. And much more disturbing than this is,
that individuals are being harmed by persons, whom they know or with whom they
have long-term, intimate relationships. Although aggression takes many different
forms, we will focus upon two important forms of such aggression: (i) child abuse (or
maltreatment); (Peterson & Brown, 1994) and (ii) Workplace violence (Baron, 1995).
Harming the Innocent
Child maltreatment refers to actions, which harm children either physically or
psychologically. In the USA alone, a total of 2.7 million cases of child maltreatment
occur each year, as per the statistical report given by Children’s Defense Fund,
1992. This kind of maltreatment takes many different forms, as listed below:
i) Physical attacks or abuse, that produce physical injuries.
ii) Sexual abuse such as fondling, intercourse and other forced sexual contacts.
iii) Physical neglect, in which, living conditions of children do not help them to
get sufficient food, clothing, medical attention or supervision.
iv) Emotional neglect, in which there is failure of parents or to other adults to
fulfil children’s need for affection and emotional support.

v) Psychological abuse, in which others actions or behaviour tend to damage
children emotionally, such as rejection and verbal abuse.
With regard to the tragedy of child Abuse, each year, large numbers of children
are physically abused by their parents or other adults. Let us now try to learn more
in detail about the culprits or offenders of such undesirable acts.
Who are those persons who commit such acts? We might assume that there are
some kind of molesters – That is there are seriously deranged persons, who had
abused themselves as children and are now perpetuating the cycle, with their own
youngsters. However, research findings show that while many persons who engage

in child maltreatment were those who mistreated themselves, but many were not.
Many persons who mistreat children appear to be quite “normal” psychologically, in
other respects. (e.g., Emery, 1989). In short, there does not seem to be a single
“abusive personality type” against which, we can carefully safeguard ourselves.
We shall try to find out the roots of this disturbing problem. Taking into
account of existing evidence available on this issue, Peterson and Brown (1994) have
recently offered a model of the factors, responsible for many forms of child
maltreatment. This integrative model assumes that instances of child maltreatment
involve socio-cultural variables – factors like poverty, crowded living conditions,
frequent moves, and isolation from others, and caregivers, based variables – factors
relating to caregivers, like having been abused themselves as youngsters, emotional
disturbances, substance abuse, being young and single, and intense needs for
exerting control over their children. Finally, the model calls attention to the
importance of child-based variables - characteristics of children that seem to be
related to maltreatment. These include being highly.

Caregiver based
Socio-cultural variables Child based variables
Variables High Distractibility
Abuse as a child
Poverty Emotional disturbance High activity level

Substance abuse High Impulsiveness

Being young and single Non-compliance with
parents Wishes
Need for control
Frequent moves over children
Ineffective discipline

Risk of child abuse

distractible, showing a high activity level, being impulsive and being resistant to
parental control and discipline. In short, this model based on many different studies
suggests that maltreatment arises out of a complex interplay among several different

The overall picture or portrait that emerge is one, in which parents living in
disadvantaged backgrounds should cope with overactive, resistant children, and
must do so under the burdens of their own emotional problems, youth, inexperience,
and (often) dependence on drugs. This alone is not a pretty picture. However, it
would help to explain why some parents and other caregivers, who should be
delivering love and support to the children in their care, deliver something very
different instead.
In this earlier lesson, we have learnt that poverty, crowding, and stress are all
closely associated to high levels of frustration. And this is one important trigger for
human aggression. Emotional disturbances on the part of caregivers closely relate to
the “Big Five” dimensions of emotional reactivity, irritability, and emotional
instability – all these characteristics have been found to be linked to outbursts of
aggression. And high impulsiveness and disobedience on the part of children may
serve as direct provocations to their caregivers – provocations that induce strong
anger in these adults. In brief, the roots of child abuse are not in themselves,
mysterious: In fact, many of the factors that lead to this repulsive behaviour, also
play a role in human aggression generally. What is unique, is not the variables
themselves, but rather the fact that they occur together, in a devastating
Reflecting the integrative model proposed by Peterson and Brown (1994), these
procedures target the environment, the caregivers and the children. First with regard
to the environment, interventions aimed at providing economic assistance and job
training to the disadvantaged families may prove effective. (Willett, Ayoub, &
Robinson, 1991). Second, with regard to caregivers, programmes formulated to equip
young, single parents with improved parenting skills – (with better techniques for
controlling their children than physical force) – have been developed and found to be
useful (e.g. Wolfe, 1991). Finally with regard to child-related factors, efforts have
been made to alert children to potential dangers, like sexual abuse, and to teach
them better self-control so that they will not push their parents or others over the
edge (Peterson & Brown 1994). All these procedures may help to lessen the incidence
and the tragic consequences of child maltreatment.
Familicide: Extreme Violence Within Families
There are instances in which such behaviour takes even more extreme forms. In
such tragic situations, parents actually murder their own children. Such behaviour
is part of a larger pattern known as familicide – instances in which a person kills his
or her own spouse, and one or more of his or her children. A vast majority of such
actions are perpetrated by males. All the cases of familicide in several countries
during a 16 years period (Wilson et. al., 1995), showed that between 93% and 96%
of such crimes have been committed by males.
Findings suggest that two patterns are common (i) First, the killer expresses
great anger against his wife, particularly with regard to real or imagined sexual
infidelities or the wife’s intention to leave the marriage. Most of the murderers have

put it “If I cannot have her, no one else will.” (ii) Second pattern involves suicide by
the person, who has murdered his spouse (wife) and children, caused by deep
depression. The culprits usually leave behind a suicide note that “this is the only
way out.” And they perform such actions, when their personal lives become too
painful to bear. So, whatever might be the precise reasons behind familicide, it is a
frightening instance of aggression directed and committed on intimate relationships.
Workplace violence: Aggression, on the Job
Work places are becoming violent locations, where disgruntled employees
frequently shoot or otherwise attack one another. Work place aggression – (an
aggression occurring in work settings) – has become very common (Neuman & Baron
in Press). Aggression in work places can take many different forms. And such
aggression can be either physical or verbal, active or passive, and direct or indirect.
Eight forms of covert aggression are suggested by Buss’s (1961) framework. When
asked to rate the frequency of a wide range of aggressive actions in work settings,
individuals reported witnessing verbal, passive, and indirect aggressive behaviours
more frequently than physical, active, or direct aggressive actions (Baron & Neuman,
in press). There is some support for the view that much of the aggression occurring
in work places is indeed covert in nature rather than being overt in nature.
Is workplace Aggression increasing? and if so, why?
Existing evidence does not provide clear-cut answers to these questions.
However, there appears to be some kind of increase has already occurred. In recent
years, many organisations have undergone far reaching changes. And several of
these changes appear to have set the stage for increased aggression. And this is
done by generating condition, known to facilitate such aggressive behaviour.
Among the most important of these changes are downsizing and lay-offs, which
have increased frustration and uncertainty for millions of employees, and increased
diversity in the workforce, which offers fertile ground for the operation of negative
stereotypes. Further due to large budget cuts, the physical conditions existing in
many work settings, have been worsened, thus exposing many employees to
environmentally generated sources of negative affect (Baron, 1994, the Hammer &
Champy, 1993). All these changes in many work places tend to encourage aggressive
behaviour to some extent. However, there is conclusive evidence that workplace
changes have led to such effects.

Aggression is not an inevitable or unmodifiable form of behaviour. On the
contrary, it can be prevented or reduced, since it stems from a complex interplay
between external events, cognitions and personal characteristics. We shall consider
several procedures, which when used properly can be effective in this regard.
An Effective Deterrent to Violence?
In the USA, the former governor Mario Cuomo felt that capital punishment
would not deter criminals from engaging in aggressive acts, while the new governor.

George Pataki felt that it would. We will explain below, that this is a complex issue,
and evidence relating to it, is mixed. And we can not hope to resolve it here (Baron &
Richardson, 1994). Let us furnish a few pertinent facts, about the use of punishment –
delivery of aversive consequences, in order to decrease some behaviour – as a
technique, for reducing overt aggression.
First of all we should note that as per existing evidence, punishment can
succeed in deterring persons, from engaging in many forms of behaviour. However,
such effects are neither automatic nor certain. Punishment can be totally ineffective
in this respect, unless it is administered in accordance with basic principles.
i) First, punishment must be prompt – punishment must follow aggressive
actions as quickly as possible.
ii) Second, it must be certain the probability that punishment will follow –
aggression, should be 100 percent.
iii) Third, it must be strong – it should be of sufficient magnitude to be highly
unpleasant to potential recipients.
iv) Finally, it should be seen as justified if it is perceived in contrast, by
recipients as random or unrelated to their past actions or behaviour its
deterrent effects will be greatly reduced.
But, unfortunately, these conditions are often not present in the criminal
justice systems of many nations. In many societies, the delivery of punishment for
aggressive behaviour is delayed for months or even years; many criminals avoid
arrest and convictions the magnitude of punishment itself varies from one court
room or jurisdiction to another and punishment is often perceived as unjustified or
unfair by those who receive it. In view of these facts, it is not at all surprising that
punishment often seems to fail as a deterrent to violent crime. However, existing
evidence does suggest, that punishment could potentially exert such effects,
provided it is used more effectively. Here again, this would be so, only if it were used
in accordance, with the principles noted above.
Regarding the capital punishment we have to keep aside the ethical issues
involved in this matter. With the existing condition, it is difficult to see how best
capital punishment could be expected to function as an effective deterrent to violent
behaviour. At the same time, we should note that while capital punishment may not
deter others from performing aggressive acts, it does indeed make it impossible for
those who receive it, to inflict harm upon additional defenceless victims. This may be
an important consideration, because it is sad to relate that many crimes of violence
are carried out by repeat offenders – persons who have been previously convicted of
violent crimes but they are now back on the street. To sum up, with the rising side
of violence in the United States and elsewhere, it is very important to examine
carefully and investigate every available means for giving protection to innocent

Catharsis: Does getting it out of your system really help?

According to the catharsis hypothesis, our action of getting it, out of own
system will really help. In this theory, suppose angry persons can express their
aggressive impulses, relatively in a safe manner, then they will be less likely to
engage in more harmful forms of aggression. In other words, it is of the view that if
persons give vent to their anger and hostility in some relatively non-harmful way,
then their tendencies toward more dangerous forms of aggression, may be reduced
(Dollard et. al., 1939).
In that theory really true or not? Existing evidence gives a mixed account
(Feshbach 1984; Geen, 1991). On the one hand, participation in several kinds of
activities that are not harmful to others, such as vigorous sports activities, attacking
a photo, an empty room etc. can reduce emotional arousal emerging from frustration
or provocation (Zillmann, 1979). But such effects, unfortunately, appear to be
temporary. Arousal stemming from provocation may reappear, as soon as persons
think once again about the incidents which made them angry (Caprara et. al., 1994;
Zillmann, 1988).
With regard to the idea of doing “safe” aggressive behaviour, would reduce the
likelihood of more harmful forms of aggression, results about findings in this
respect, are even less encouraging. It appears that overt aggression is not reduced
by (i) Watching scenes of filmed attacking the inanimate objects such as table or cot
or vessel or book (Mallick & McCandless, 1966) or aggressing verbally against others
such as using abusive language. In this context, there is some evidence that
aggression may actually be increased by these activities.
In short, contrary to popular belief, catharsis does not appear to be a very
effective step for reducing aggression. Further, participating in “safe” forms of
aggression or getting into vigorous energy draining activities, may give temporary
reductions in arousal; but feelings of anger may quickly return, when individuals
meet, or merely think about, those persons, who had previously annoyed them. So,
due to this reason, catharsis may be less effective for reducing aggression.
Cognitive Interventions
Apologies and Overcoming Cognitive Deficits
Research findings show that excuses which make reference to causes beyond
the excuse – giver’s control are much more effective than ones, that refer to events

within this person’s control (Weiner et. al. 1987). And we are much less likely to get
angry, when apologies seem to be sincere than when they appear to be an attempt to
conceal true malicious intent (Baron, 1989; Obluchi, Kameda & Agarie, 1989). So
both excuses and apologies can be effective, as cognitive strategies for reducing
Other types of cognitive techniques are related to the concept of cognitive deficit
which we had analysed earlier – We remarked earlier that when we experience strong
anger, our ability to evaluate the consequences of our own actions or behaviour, may
be reduced. As a result, the effectiveness of restraints or control, which normally

serve to hold aggression in check (e.g. fear of retaliation) may be reduced. Any kind
of procedures that serve to overcome the cognitive deficit, then, may help to reduce
overt aggression (Zillmann, 1993).
i) One such technique involves pre-attribution – attributing annoying behaviour
by others, to unintentional causes, before the provocation actually occurs. For
example, prior to meeting (even before seeing) with someone we know can be
irritating, and in such a situation we could remind ourself that she or he does not
mean to make us angry – it is just the result of an unfortunate personal style.
ii) Another technique involves preventing ourself or others – from ruminating
about previous real mistake or imagined wrongs (Zillmann, 1993). This can be
accomplished by participating in pleasant absorbing activities which have no link
with anger and aggression. That is, by involving us from watching a funny movie or
television programme to solving interesting puzzles. All such recreational activities
would allow us to get into a cooling off period, during which anger can dissipate and
also would help us to re-establish cognitive, controls over behaviour – such controls
tend to play a vital role by inhibiting overt aggression.
Exposure to Non-aggressive Models, Training in Social Skills, and Incompatible
Overt aggression can be reduced through many other techniques. However, we
will briefly consider three of these techniques that appear to be quite effective.
i) Exposure to Non-aggressive Models: The Contagion of Restraint
When exposure to aggressive behaviour by others, both in movies, and on
television can increase aggression, it seems possible that exposure to non-aggressive
actions might produce opposite effects. In fact, the findings of several studies point
out that this is so (e.g. Baron, 1972; Donnerstein & Donnerstein, 1976). When
persons who have been frustrated or provoked are exposed to others, who either
display control or urge restraint, the tendency of potential aggressors to lash out is
reduced in such a situation. These findings emphasize that it may be useful to plant
restrained, non-aggressive models in tense and potentially dangerous situations. The
presence of such right models (non-aggressive) may serve well to tip the balance,
against the occurrence of violence.
ii) Training in Social Skills: Learning to Get Along with others

One reason for many persons to get into aggressive encounters is that they are
lacking in basic social skills. For instance, they do not know how to respond to
provocations from others, in such a manner that will soothe or soften these persons
rather than inflame or infuriate them. Further, they do not know how to make their
wishes known to others. As a result, they grow increasingly frustrated, when others
do not take into account of these wishes. So, persons lacking in social skills seem to
account for a high proportion of violence in many societies (Toch, 1985). When
individuals begin to equip themselves with social skills, the incidence, of aggression
can be considerably reduced.

In fact, systematic procedures for teaching persons such social skills do exist.
Further they are not very complex. In this regard, both adults and children can
quickly acquire such improved social skills through the act of watching social
models people who display or exhibit both effective behaviours and ineffective
behaviour (Schneider, 1991). Further, such gains can be achieved through by just a
few hours of treatment (Bienert & Schneider, 1993).
These findings serve to underscore the following points: (i) Highly aggressive
persons – children and adults – are not necessarily “bad” persons, who attack others
due to uncontrollable hostile impulses (ii) Their aggression often begins on account
of deficits in basic social skills and (iii) All these deficits can be readily overcome.
iii) Incompatible Responses
Positive Affect As a Means of Reducing Anger
Let us suppose that we were in a situation, where we felt ourself growing angry,
and then suddenly someone made a joke that made us laugh. A growing body of
evidence reveals that our laughter, and the positive feelings associated with it, might
do well to help to counter both anger and overt aggression. It is difficult, if not
impossible, to remain angry and also experience feelings of amusement at the same
time. This is because it is extremely difficult to engage in two incompatible responses
or emotional states, at the same time.
Research findings show that humour, mild sexual arousal, and feelings of
empathy toward the victim, are all effective in reducing overt aggression (e.g. Baron,
1983, 1893). All these point out that when angry persons are induced to experience
feelings or emotions quite incompatible with aggression, then their tendency to
engage in overt aggression is often reduced. Thus, incompatible responses can serve
as a useful strategy or technique for reducing overt aggression.
Child Abuse and workplace violence: Child maltreatment takes many different
forms, including child abuse – instances in which children are physically harmed by
adults. Child abuse emerges from many different factors – (a) Socio-cultural
variables like poverty, crowded living conditions, and isolation from others;
(b) Caregiver-based variables like caregivers’ having been abused as youngsters
themselves, having emotional disturbances or being young and single; (c) and child-
based variables like high levels of activity, high impulsiveness and being resistant to
parental control. Intervention techniques focused upon these causes may be effective
in reducing this tragic form of aggression.
Workplace violence is alarmingly frequent. But must of these occur in the
context of other crimes, like robberies and so on.
The prevention and control of aggression can be done through several
techniques. Punishment can be effective, if it is delivered immediately and surely, is
severe and is perceived as justified. Capital punishment does not seen to be an
effective deterrent to aggression by other potential criminals. However, it does
prevent highly aggressive persons from harming additional victims. Participation in
Cathartic activities by vigorous, non-aggressive behaviours can sometimes lower

arousal and anger. But such reductions are only temporary because anger may
quickly reappear, especially when individuals begin to think about events, which
previously made them angry.
Direct apologies can sometimes deter aggression. Further, several techniques
help to overcome the cognitive deficits caused by intense anger. These include pre-
attribution – attributing provocative behaviour by others to causes other than
malice, before these provocation occur – and participation in activities that divert
attention away from anger – producing events or situations. Additional techniques
for reducing aggression include exposure to non-aggressive models, training in basic
social skills and the induction of incompatible responses – reactions that are
incompatible with anger or overt aggression through an experience of laughter and
feelings of amusement.
By the by, we shall take into account cultural and ethnic differences in
Aggression. Ostermann et. al., (1994) have observed that African American children
in the United States were more aggressive, both in self-ratings and in ratings by
peers, than Caucasian children in the United States and children in Poland and
Finland. These differences stem from many different factors, including different
cultural norms, regarding aggression.
To sum up, large ethnic or cultural differences in aggression appear to be
present even among young children. It seems that culture sets the “ground rules” for
aggression quite early in life, and once established, these rules tend to exert strong
effects on such behaviour throughout the remainder of adult life.
Aggression – Catharsis Hypothesis – Child Maltreatment – Cognitive Theories –
Drive Theories – Familicide – Frustration Aggression hypothesis – Hostile Aggression
– Incompatible Responses – Punishment – Sexual Jealousy – Provocation –
Behaviour Patterns: Type A versus Type B – Workplace Aggression.
1. Explain the theoretical perspectives on Aggression and the roots of violence.
2. Describe how others’ Actions influence aggression.
3. Discuss the personal causes of Aggression.
4. Examine the ways of preventing and controlling aggression.

5. Write notes on the following
(a) Frustration – Aggression Hypothesis (b) Exposure to media violence
(c) Sexual Jealousy (d) Type A Behaviour Pattern (e) Child Maltreatment



The Consequences of Belonging
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Understand the nature and functions of Groups
Introduction - Groups: Their Nature and Function
Human life is revolving around the axil of interdependence. We want help from
others and likewise others too want our help, on ever so many matters. Further,
there cannot be ‘groups’ without ‘Individuals’ and similarly there cannot be
‘Individuals’ without ‘Groups’. That is, ‘group’ is a collection of individuals. So far as
individual is concerned, no person can live in isolation, like for instance, Robinson
Crusoe. Even with Robinson Crusoe, when his ship was wrecked and when he swam
ashore, and that island happened to be an uninhabited place. And in such a
situation, be had suffered due to ‘the feeling of loneliness’ because individual is a
social animal.
Among the two factors, whether ‘Group’ came first? or ‘Individual’ came first?
are intriguing questions. However, this dilemma can be got over, by answering that
one of the two, must have come first just like in the cases of ‘hen and the egg’ as well
as ‘tree and the seed’.
For a group to form, or exist, there should be a minimum of two persons. The
concept of ‘Group’ refers to two or more persons who interact with one another, share
common goals are somehow interdependent, and recognize that they belong to a
group. Social psychologists are of the view that individuals in a group or a society,
are actually related to each other. And in our day-to-day life, we cannot ignore the
effect of group influence – the effects of being part of (or belonging to) social groups.
Group influence is a pervasive and a powerful force. Each of us as a matter of fact,
belongs to many different social groups, (such as Family circle; Friends, Language,
Nationality, Gender, Religion, Race or Caste; Skin complexion and so on) and the

effects of such membership can be profound. In order to understand the scope and
impact of group influence, we will focus on the following three Lessons 16, 17 & 18
and upon Five important topics, one after the other.
First, we will deal with the basic nature of groups: What they are and how they
exert their effects on individuals.
Second, we will consider the impact of groups on task performance – how our
performance on various tasks can be affected by working with others or merely by
their presence on the scene.

Third, we will examine the question of fairness in groups. Beliefs of individuals

in a group, that they are being treated fairly well or not, can influence several
aspects of their behaviour.
Fourth, we will turn to the factor of decision making style in groups, focusing
on the ways in which groups can affect and sometimes distort, this important
Finally, we will conclude through a discussion of leadership. That is, why
certain individuals become ‘leaders’, while many others remain ‘followers’. And how
persons with leadership traits core are to influence other group members.
To the question, what makes a Group, a Group? The answer is simple. That is,
several criteria have to be met, in order for two or more persons to be formed or
termed a group. For example, in a group photo – in the forefront sitting row a few
persons are conveniently seated. And just behind them all the remaining members of
the group are accommodated in standing, and properly arranged into 1 st row
standing; 2nd row standing and last row standing. Thus, the group photo affair
shows an actual group with order and pattern. This may be taken as a case of
organised group, like a police party or a professional fire-fighters crew or a class
room or worshippers in a religious assembly hall and so on. In contrast, we can
think about a mere collection of individuals, who are not part of a group, like
members of a crowd, as in the case of a disorganised group.
In this context, we should accept a definition of the term group, close to the
one, adopted by social psychologists: “A group consists of two or more interacting
persons, who share common goals, have a stable relationship, are somehow inter-
dependent and perceive that they are in fact part of a group” (Paulus, 1989) let us
examine this definition more closely in detail.
1. First, to be a part of a group, persons should usually interact with each
other, either directly or indirectly.
2. Second, they should be inter-dependent in some manner – what happens to
one should affect what happens to the others.
3. Third, their relationship should be relatively stable; it should persist over
appreciable periods of time (days, weeks, months or even years).
4. Fourth, the persons involved should share at least some goals that they
seek to attain or achieve.
Fifth, their interactions should be structured in some manner so that, each
group member performs the same or similar functions each time, they
6. Finally, the persons involved should recognize that they are part of a group.
While all these conditions are really important, it is crucial to note that there
are varying degrees of groupness. For instance, at the high end groups are
consisting of persons, who have worked together for several years. In fact, they fulfil

all requirements of the definition. At the low end, there are persons who have only a
fleeting relationship with one another – for example, the passengers on an airplane.
These passengers are interdependent to a certain degree: suppose one blocks the
aisle (near, window-seat), others cannot pass or move out. Further, they share
certain basic goals, such as getting to their destination safely. But these passengers
do not expect to interact in the future and usually do not perceive themselves as
part of the group, unless an emergency situation occurs in flight period, which can
change this picture radically. There are many social entities in between these
extremes, and that we might be more or less inclined to describe as groups.
So, in short, deciding whether a collection of persons constitute a true group is
a complex matter, one of degree, rather than a simple Yes/No decision. Having
remarked like this, we should note that many social psychologists feel that the vital
issue is whether the persons involved perceive themselves as part of a group. Only to
the extent they do, it does make sense to talk about a social group (Moreland, 1987).
Why do people join groups?
To the question, why do people join groups, like Recreation clubs; Student
Associations, Religious groups and many informal groups, social psychologists have
arrived at the conclusion, that people join social groups, for several different reasons
(Paulus, 1989).
1. First, groups help us to satisfy important psychological needs or social
needs, such as towards giving attention and receiving attention, and
likewise giving and getting affection or towards attaining a sense of
belonging. All these are subtle, but very real. Let us imagine for a while,
what it would be like, to live in total social isolation. This, we would not
mind it much at first but after a while, we would probably become very lonely.
2. Second, groups help us to achieve goals, which we could not attain as
individuals. In other words, by working with others, we can often perform
tasks, that we could not do alone.
3. Third, group membership often gives us with knowledge and information,
which would not be otherwise available to us.
4. Fourth, groups help us to fulfil our need for security; And in many cases
there is safety, in numbers, and belonging to several groups, on the whole,
can give protection against common enemies. In short, one reason, why
people join groups is for mutual defense. That is, young people join gangs
for many reasons. And one main reason is to gain protection against real or
imagined enemies.
5. Finally, group membership further contributes to establishment of a
positive social identity. And it becomes a part of our self-concept. Further,
the greater the number of prestigious and restrictive groups to which a
person is admitted, the more her or his self-concept is bolstered

How Groups Function

Roles, Status, Norms and Cohesiveness
It is a fact, that groups often exert powerful effects or influence upon their
members. And this will be a basic theme of all these three lessons viz. Lesson 16, 17
& 18. To the question, how precisely do groups affect their members, our answer will
focus upon four aspects of groups themselves, since they play a key role in this
regard: roles, status, norms and cohesiveness.
1. ROLES: Differentiation of Function Within Groups
Different persons performed different tasks and they were expected to
accomplish different things for the group. In short, they have fulfilled different roles.
Sometimes roles are assigned in a formal manner. For instance, a group may choose
a person to serve as its leader, Secretary or President. In other cases, persons
gradually acquire certain roles without being formally assigned to them. However,
roles are acquired and people often internalize them: That is, they link their roles to
key aspects of their self-concept and self-perceptions. When this happens, a role
may exert profound effects on a person’s behaviour, even when she or he interacts
with others, and who are not part of the group.
Roles help to clarify the responsibilities and obligations of the persons
belonging to a group. Further, they provide one important way in which groups
shape the behaviour and thoughts of their members. Sometimes, group members
experience role conflict – stress emerges from the fact, that two roles they play, are
somehow incompatible. For example, role conflict might occur between the
obligations of one role for new mothers and fathers to function as parents and this
will be rather inconsistent with the obligations of another role career, as employees.
Recent findings show that this kind of role conflict can be extremely stressful
(Williams et. al., 1991). When the two roles are made compatible, by a right
approach of balancing between the two roles, there will be little room for role
conflict. For the effective functioning of groups, roles do serve an important function
but they can sometimes exert negative effects and sometimes positive effects.
2. STATUS: The Prestige of Various Roles
Status is social standing or rank within a group – is a serious matter for many
persons. In fact, status may play a key role in our perceptions of whether we are
being treated fairly by others (Tyler, 1994). Suppose we feel, we are getting treatment

that is appropriate to our status, we feel that we are being treated fairly, and all is
fine. But suppose our treatment falls short of what we feel, we deserve in this
respect, we may take strong steps to rectify the situation.
Status is another important factor in the functioning of groups. Different roles
or positions in a group are linked with different levels of status. And people are often
exquisitively sensitive to this fact. Further, since status is linked to a wide range of
desirable outcomes – everything from one’s salary to perks such as the size of one’s
office or the use of a reserved parking spot – it is something individuals frequently
seek. Thus, groups often confer or withhold status, as a means of influencing the

behaviour of their members. And as we know from own experience, such kinds of
tactics can be highly effective.
3. NORMS: The Rules of the Game
A third factor responsible for the powerful impact of groups upon their
members is Norms – these are rules implicit or explicit, established by groups to
regulate the behaviour of their members. That is they tell group members how to
behave (prescriptive norms) or how not to behave (proscriptive norms) in several
situations. In general, most groups insist upon adherence to their norms as a basic
requirement for membership. So, it is not surprising that persons wishing to join or
remain in specific groups generally follow these rules of the game quite closely.
Suppose they do not, they many soon find themselves on the outside.
The Glue that Binds
Cohesiveness refers to all forces or factors, that cause group members to
remain in the group. Cohesiveness factor or force will cause members to remain in
the group, such as liking for the other members and the desire to maintain or
increase one’s status by belonging to a high-status group (Festinger et. al., 1950). At
first glance, it might seem that cohesiveness involves primarily liking or attraction
between group members. However, recent analysis of cohesiveness suggest that it
involves depersonalised attraction – liking for other group members, stemming from
the fact that they belong to the group and represent its key features. The individual
characteristics of the group members play a little role in such attraction (Hogg &
Hains, 1996).
The concept of ‘cohesiveness’ was viewed in the past, as a unitary dimension
ranging from low to high. However, it is often viewed now in multidimensional terms.
In other words, it actually involves several factors, and all these can vary
independently of one another (Zaccaro & Mc Coy, 1988). For example, Cota and his
colleagues (1995) suggest that cohesiveness was two primary dimensions: task –
social and individual – group.
i) The task – social dimension relates to the extent to which individuals are
interested in the goals of the group (task) or in social relationships within it
ii) The individual – group dimension has to do with the extent to which
members are committed to the group or to other members.
Further Cota and his colleagues (1995) suggest that group cohesiveness
involves secondary dimensions as well – that is, dimensions relating to particular
kinds of groups. For example, in military groups, cohesiveness may relate to status
(ranks), with higher – ranking persons, having higher cohesiveness than lower
ranking ones. In sports teams, the roles that individuals play may be more
important in determining cohesiveness.

Additional factors which influence cohesiveness are the following:

(1) The amount of effort required to gain entry into the group – the greater the
costs of joining the group in the first place, the higher members’ attraction to it
(2) external threats or severe competition (Sherif et. al., (1961) and (3) Size-small
groups tend to be more cohesive than large ones.
To conclude that several aspects of groups such as roles, status, norms and
cohesiveness determine the extent to which groups can, and do, influence their
members. Since all these factors play a significant role in group influence, we have
to keep them in mind, while we consider some of the specific ways in which groups
shape the behaviour and thought of the members,
A group consists of two or more persons, who share common goals, whose fates
are interdependent, who have a stable relationship, and who recognize that they
belong to a group. Groups influence their members through roles – members’
assigned functions in the group; status – their relative standing in the group; norms
– rules concerning appropriate behaviour for members; and cohesiveness – all the
factors that cause members to remain in the group.




The Consequences of Belonging
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Describe groups and task performance.
 Examine perceived fairness in groups.
Groups and Task Performance: - The Benefit – and costs – of Working with
others. - Perceived Fairness in Groups: - Getting what we Deserve – or Else!
The Benefits – and Costs of Working with others
Some of the activities like reading, solving complex mathematical problems, or
writing love letters, are best carried out alone. However, most tasks that we perform
are done in co-operation with others, or at least in their presence. Let us learn, what
kind of impact do groups exert upon task performance? In order to answer this
question, we shall deal with two separate, but related issues.
1. What are the effects on performance of the presence of others, even if we
are not actively co-ordinating our efforts with them? And
2. Do individuals exert more effort or less, while working with others in a
Performance, in the presence of others
Let us imagine about a young athlete, like an ice-skater who is daily preparing
for his first important competition. He gets into practice on this routine, alone for
several hours each day, month after month. Finally, when the big day of tournament
arrived, he was to do the task of ice-skating in a huge arena, filled with a big crowd.
In such a crowded situation whether he will do the job better or worse due to the
presence of others.
This had been one of the first topics of research in social psychology. Let us
deal with an early study on it, by F.H. Allport (1920) one of the true founders of
modern social psychology. Early researchers, like F.H. Allport defined the term social
facilitation as one of improvements in performance produceby the mere presence of
others, either as audience or as co-actors – persons performing the same task, but
independently. This term has turned out to be premature: the presence of others
does not always enhance performance. And social psychologists would now
understand why this is so. Further, some of his conclusions were later shown to be
false. Puzzling findings began to appear subsequently. Sometimes, the presence of
others, as audience or co-actors, facilitated performance. But sometimes, it
produced the opposite effect (Pessin, 1933). So, social facilitation was not always
facilitating. In other words, the presence of others, is not a definite plus always. The

question, why did the presence of others, sometimes enhance and sometimes impair
performance remained unresolved, until the mid – 1960s. Subsequently, a famous
social psychologist, Robert Zajonc has offered an insightful answer and let us seek to
have a closer look at his ideas.
The Drive Theory of Social Facilitation
Other Persons as a Source of Arousal
The basic idea behind Zajonc’s drive theory of social facilitation is simple: the
presence of others, produces increments in arousal. And this suggestion agrees with
our informal experience: the presence of other persons, particularly when they are
paying close attention to our performance as an interested audience, does seem to
generate feelings of increased arousal. To the question, how do such increments in
arousal then affect our performance, the answer suggested by Zajonc involves two
i) First, it is a basic principle of psychology that increments in arousal
increase the occurrence of dominant response – the responses a person is
most likely to make in a given situation. Thus when arousal increases, the
tendency to make dominant responses, too, increases.
ii) Second, such dominant responses can be either correct or incorrect for any
given task.
When these two facts are combined with the suggestion, that the presence of
others is arousing, two predictions follow: (1) The presence of others will facilitate
performance when a person’s dominant responses are the correct ones in a given
situation; but (2) The presence of others will impair performance, when a person’s
dominant responses are incorrect in a given situation. Let us see the Figure 17.1
given below for a summary of these points.

If dominant responses
are correct in this Performance is

Presence of
Enhanced tendency to
others either as Enhanced
an audience or arousal Perform dominant
as co-actors


If dominant responses
are incorrect in this Performance is
situation impaired

Figure 17.1: The Drive Theory of Social Facilitation. According to this theory,
(Zajonc, 1965) the presence of others increases arousal, and arousal in turn
increases the tendency to perform dominant responses. If these are correct in a
given situation, performance is enhanced. If they are incorrect, performance is
Another implication of Zajonc’s reasoning is that the presence of others will
facilitate performance in situations where individuals are highly skilled in
performing the task in question; this is because under these conditions, their
dominant responses are correct ones. In contrast, the presence of others will impair
performance in situations, where individuals are not highly skilled – For example,
when they are learning to perform a new task. Here, their dominant responses are
likely to be erroneous.
Initial studies formulated to test Zajonc’s predictions generally, yielded positive
results. (e.g. Matlin & Zajonc 1968, Zajonc & Sales, 1966). Individuals, were more
likely to emit dominant responses in the presence of others than when alone; And
performance on various tasks was either enhanced or impaired depending on
whether these responses were correct or incorrect in each situation (Geen, 1989;
Geen & Ganga 1977).
However, additional research soon raised an important question. Does social
facilitation stem from the mere physical presence of others? Or do other factors, like
concern over others’ evaluations, also play a role? Support for the latter possibility
was given by the results of studies showing that social facilitation occurred when
persons believed that their performance would be observed and evaluated by others
(e.g. Bond, 1982; Cottrell et. al., 1968). Such findings led some social psychologists
to propose that social facilitation actually stems either from evaluation apprehension
– concern over being judged by others, which is often arousing, or from related
concern over self-presentation – looking good in front of others. So, it may be these
factors, and not the mere physical presence of others, that are crucial in determining
the impact of an audience or co-actors upon task performance.
It has been found that animals, even insects, perform simple tasks better in the
presence of an audience than when alone. (Zajonc, Heingartner, & Herman 1969).
Like other explanations of social facilitation, Distraction – conflict theory assumes
that audiences and co-actors increase arousal. However, in contrast to earlier views,
this theory suggests that such arousal stems from conflict between two tendencies
(1) the tendency to pay attention to the task being performed and, (2) the tendency
to direct attention to an audience or co-actors. Such conflict is arousing and such
arousal, in turn, enhances the tendency to perform dominant responses. Suppose
these are correct in a given situation, performance is enhanced; and if they are
incorrect, performance is impaired.
Many findings provide support for this theory. For example, audiences produce
social facilitation effects, only when directing attention to them conflicts in some way
with task demands (Groff, R.S. Baron & Moore, 1983). When paying attention to an

audience does not give rise to conflict with task performance, social facilitation fails
to occur. Similarly individuals experience greater distraction, when they perform
several tasks in front of an audience, than when they perform them alone (R.S.
Baron, Moore & Sanders, 1978). Finally, when individuals have little reason to pay
attention to others present on the scene (e.g. when these persons are performing a
different task), social facilitation fails to occur; but when they have strong reasons
for paying attention to others, social facilitation occurs (Sanders, 1983).
With regard to distraction – conflict theory, one main advantage is that it can
explain, why both animals and people are affected by the presence of an audience. In
short, since animals can experience conflicting response tendencies of the kind
analysed above, it is not surprising that they are susceptible to social facilitation. So,
any theory that can explain similar patterns of behaviour among organisms, ranging
from the tiny cockroach upto human beings is powerful indeed, and worthy of very
careful attention. This theory may not provide a final answer to the persistent puzzle
of social facilitation. However, it has certainly added substantially to our
understanding of this process. Our final conclusion: Social facilitation, once
considered by social psychologists as the simplest type of group influence has
turned out to be far from simple. But systematic research has certainly helped a lot
to clarify its possible roots and to explain why the presence of others is not always
Social Loafing
Letting others do the work in group tasks
This kind of pattern is quite common in situations where groups of persons
perform what is called additive tasks – this is one in which the contributions of each
member, are combined into a single group product. In fact, on such kinds of tasks,
some persons work hard while others may work little or goof off, doing less than their
share, and less than what they might do if they were working alone. Social
psychologists are calling such effects as social loafing. This refers to reductions, in
motivation and effort, when individuals work collectively, in a group, compared to
when they work individually or as independent co-actors (Karan, & Williams, 1993).
In other words, social loafing is a basic fact of social life. That is, when individuals
work together with others on some task, they often experience reductions in
motivation; they make less effort and do less (as individuals) than what they would
do while working alone.
Social loafing has been demonstrated in many experiments. Additional research
suggests that such social loafing is quite general in scope. It occurs among both
males and females; among children as well as adults (Williams & Williams, 1981). It
is stronger in Western Cultures than in Asian cultures (Yamaguchi, Okamoto, &
Oka, 1985) and also under a wider variety of work conditions (e.g. Brickner, Harkins
& Ostrom, 1986; Harkins 1987).

The Collective Effort Model: An Expectancy Theory of Social Loafing

Many different explanations have been formulated for the occurrence of social
loafing. For example, social impact theory has related social loafing to a topic,
diffusion of responsibility (Latane, 1981) which we had studied in Lesson 12.
According to social impact theory, as group size increases, each member feels less
and less responsible for the task being performed. And the result is that each person
exerts decreasing effort on it. In contrast, other theories suggest that in groups,
members’ motivation decreases because they realize that their contributions can not
be evaluated on an individual basis. When this is so, why work hard? (Harkins &
Szymanski, 1989).
The most comprehensive explanation of social loafing is given by the collective
effort model proposed by Karan and Williams (1993). This expectancy value theory
suggests that individuals will work hard on a given task only when (1) they believe
that working hard will lead to better performance (expectancy); (2) they believe that
better performance will be recognised and rewarded (instrumentality) and (3) the
rewards available are one which they value and desire (valence). In other words,
individuals working alone will exert effort only to the extent that they believe, that by
doing so will yield the outcomes they want.
All these links are often weaker when persons work together in groups, than
when they work alone, in the opinion of Karan and Williams (1993). Let us consider
expectancy first. The perception that increased effort will lead to better performance.
This may be high, when persons work alone, but lower when they work together in
groups because people realise that other factors (other members effort) will
determine the group’s performance and not from their own effort. Similarly,
instrumentality – the belief that good performance will be recognised and rewarded –
may also be weaker, when people work together in groups. That is, they realise that
value outcomes are divided among all group members and as such they may not get
their fair share, to their level of effort given. So it is not surprising, that when
persons work together with others, the relationship between their own effort and
performance, and finally getting rewards, is more uncertain than when they work alone.
Figure 17.2

Individuals Working Alone

Effort Performance Outcomes

ANNAMALAI UNIVERSITY Individuals working with others in groups

Effort Group Performance Share of available


The collective effort model (in shortly called CEM) is formulated by Karan &
Williams (1993). The CEM model offers an explanation of social loafing suggesting

that perceived links between individuals’ effort and their outcomes are weaker, when
they work together with others in a group, than when they work alone. In other
words, social loafing occurs because when individuals work together with others, the
links (1) between their effort and the group’s performance their own rewards are
weaker, than when individuals work alone.
The researchers concluded, on the basis of these findings that the CEM offers a
useful framework for understanding social loafing. Further they noted that the
results of meta-analysis show that social loafing is a potentially serious problem: it
is most likely to occur under conditions, in which individuals’ contributions cannot
be evaluated, when people work on tasks which they find boring or uninspiring, and
when they work with others and which they do not greatly respect or do not know
very well. Unfortunately, all these conditions precisely exist in many settings, where
groups of persons work together, as in many manufacturing plants and government
offices. Suppose social loafing poses a threat to performance in many settings, then
we have to focus on the remedial steps to reduce it. We shall turn next to this
important issue.
Reducing Social Loafing: Some Useful Techniques
It is not surprising that many people react negatively to social loafing by others.
That is they experience anger and resentment, when they feel that others are goofing
off (don’t work sincerely, with total involvement); And finally they decide to leave the
group rather than be exploited in this manner (Yamagishi, 1988). So, it seems
important to keep social loafing to a minimum or under check in many situations.
Some useful suggestions are offered by research on social loafing and they are
the following: (1) The most obvious tactic is one of making the output or effort of
each participant readily identifiable. (e.g. Williams, Harkins, & Latane, 1981). Under
these conditions, people cannot sit back and let others do their work. As a result,
social loafing is in fact reduced. (2) Second, groups can reduce social loafing by
increasing group members’ commitment to successful task performance. (Brickner
et. al., 1986). By giving pressures toward working hard will then serve to offset
temptations to engage in social loafing. (3) Third, social loafing can be reduced by
increasing the apparent importance of value of a task (Karan & Williams, 1998) (4)
Fourth, social loafing is reduced when individuals consider their contributions to the
task as unique rather than merely redundant with those of others. (Weldon &
Mustari 1988) (5) And finally, social loafing can be reduced by strengthening group
cohesiveness. Further, “leaders” by virtue of their role are less likely to engage in
social loafing than the “followers” in a group. Social loafing is not an unavoidable
feature of task – performing groups. It can be reduced, especially when appropriate
safeguards are built into the situation. When they are, individuals will perceive
strong links between their effort, the group’s performance, and their own outcomes.
And then the tendency to goof off or cheat, at the expense of others may be greatly

PERCEIVED FAIRNESS IN GROUPS: Getting What we deserve – or else


Individuals want to feel that what they receive from any group to which they
belong is a fair reflection of what they have contributed to the group. (Greenberg,
1993a; Tyler, 1994). In situations, where we feel that we are being treated, unfairly,
we often get into an experience of anger, resentment, and a strong desire to even the
score (Croponazno 1993). So, when faced with unfairness, we engage in a wide range
of behaviour ranging from loud protest through withdrawal from the group or
Social psychologists have long been aware of the important role of perceived
fairness in the functioning of groups (Adams, 1965) and in interpersonal behaviour
generally. We will focus here on two issues: the factors that lead individuals to
conclude that they have been treated fairly or unfairly; and the ways in which
individuals try to deal with hopefully to eliminate unfairness.
Judgements of Fairness
Outcomes, Procedures, and Courtesy
In general, we expect that the contributions individuals make to a relationship
or group and the outcomes or the benefits they receive in return, are to be
proportional as such. That is, suppose someone who makes a large contribution to a
group, receives the lion’s share of the rewards, while someone who makes a small
contribution receives a much smaller share, then everything is fine or O.K: Here
contributions and outcomes are in balance and we perceive that fairness or equity
exists. The concept of “Equity” refers to fairness in social exchange. Judgements of
equity relate to distributive justice and involve comparisons by individuals, of their
own outcomes and contributions to those of other persons. We do base many of our
judgements of fairness on this kind of cognitive equation.

Perceiv ed Distributiv e Justice: Equity

My Cotributions: Small Others Person's

Contributions: Large

My Outcomes: Small Others Person's

Outcomes: Large

Perceiv ed Distributiv e Injustice: Inequity

My Cotributions: Small Others Person's

Contributions: Small

Others Person's
My Cotributions: Small Outcomes: Large


In order to determine whether they have received a fair share of available

rewards, individuals compare that ratio of their own contributions and outcomes
with other person’s, ratios. If these are roughly in balance then they perceive that
equity – fairness – exists. If they are not of balance, then they perceive that inequity–
unfairness – exists. We compare the ratio of our inputs and outcomes to those of
other persons, to determine whether we are being treated fairly. Since such
comparisons involve our assessment of whether we are getting a fair share of
available rewards, social psychologists describe them, as focusing on distributive
justice (Adams, 1965. Greenberg, 1993).
Two more points are worthy to be noted carefully (1) First, judgements about
distributive justice are very much in the eye of the beholder: We do the comparing,
and we decide whether our share of available rewards is fair, relative to that of
others. (2) Second, as we can probably guess, we are much more sensitive about
receiving less (than we feel we deserve) than to receiving more than we feel we
deserve (Greenberg, 1986).
Procedural and Interpersonal Justice: It is not just what you get; Why you get it matters too
Apart from concern over how much we receive relative to others, we are also
very much interested in other things. In particular, we are interested in (1) the
procedures followed in the allocation of available rewards – Procedural Justice; and
(2) the considerateness and courtesy shown to us by the parties, responsible for
dividing the available rewards – interpersonal justice (Folger & Bias, 1989; Shapiro,
Buttner, & Barry, 1995). In other words, to ascertain whether we have been treated
fairly, we do not focus solely on our actual outcomes but also upon how the
decisions to distribute rewards in a particular manner were reached (the procedures
followed) and how we have been treated throughout the process, especially while
being informed about our share (interpersonal factors).
Interpersonal justice refers to judgements regarding the considerateness and
courtesy, that individuals are shown by parties responsible for distributing the
available, rewards to members of a perceived fairness in groups, whether at work or
in other contexts, has shown that such judgement are influenced by many different
factors. Distributive justice refers to how much one receives relative to others, is
important. However, it is not the entire story. Further judgement of fairness are
influenced by factors, relating to procedures and the ‘style’ in which information
about reward allocations is communicated. As it is true with all aspects of social
perception, perceived fairness is indeed in the eye of the beholder. So we have to
keep in mind that many factors shape our conclusions about others’ behaviour.
Reactions to Perceived Unfairness: Tactics for Dealing with Injustice
If dissonance (imbalance) is unpleasant, then inequity – the perception that one
has been cheated is downright obnoxious. Let us deal with some of the most
important strategies that people adopt to reduce unfairness and to restore fairness
by all means.

Alterations in Contributions or Outcomes

First, individuals who conclude that they have been treated unfairly often try to
restore fairness, either by changing their contributions or by changing their
outcomes. Most people in general are far more sensitive to receiving less than to
receiving more, than what is fair. So, in bringing about alterations individuals
usually resort to reductions in their contributions or to take steps to increase their
Other Techniques for Coping with Unfairness
Apart from what has been stated earlier, individuals resort to several other
techniques, for dealing with perceived unfairness. For example, persons can decide
to withdraw from the relationship altogether, such as to leave the group, quit their
job, or leave a romantic relationship, in which they feel they are somehow being
duped or cheated.
Sometimes, individuals alter their perceptions of social reality, so that illusion
of justice (if not justice itself) is restored. Persons who find themselves receiving the
short end of the stick, for example, may rationalize this unpleasant state of affairs,
by concluding, that the other actually deserves to receive more than they do,
because they possess something special such as extra talent, greater experience, a
bigger reputation than the perceiver (Walster, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978) or in a
more bizarre way, persons may conclude that they are actually benefiting in some
strange manner from the unfair treatment they receive: a little suffering is really
good for the soul! Although such kind of thinking may look odd and seem to be
strange, it does allow persons to eliminate the intense feeling of discomfort,
generated by perceptions of unfairness. Thus, it can be adaptive for the persons,
who engage in it.
When Employees Bite the hand, that feeds them: Employees theft as a response to
perceived unfairness
Have we ever taken pencils or paper to our home, from the office, where we
work? Similarly, how about some “overripe” fruit, if we worked in a supermarket? We
need not have to be upset, had we answered ‘Yes’ to such questions. Recent evidence
reveals that more than 75 percent of all employees tend to engage in such activities
(Delaney, 1993). Is this act, a stealing or not? Many of the employees would deny it.
But from a legal stand point, it is stealing. After all, employees are taking company
property, for their own use. Employee theft is very costly for business – houses.
According to the United States Chamber of Commerce report, that employee theft is
ten times more costly to American Companies than street crime (Govom, 1992). One
expert on such kind of theft has put it: “Shoplifting will steal your profits, while
employees will steal your business” (Synder & Blair, 1989).
To the questions, why do employees steal from their companies? – one answer
is, they are selfish and dishonest. And another answer is, it is linked to perceived
fairness. Many people report that they steel from their companies because they
believe, this is justified. In their perceptual vision, their companies are not providing
them with fair outcomes – outcomes proportionate to their contributions, they
simply take company property. (Clarke, 1990). In short, they take anything and
everything they can get away with. And often, all these appear to be viewed in the
total absence of guilt.

Theft, is one reaction to perceived unfairness. Individuals who were given a full
explanation, as to why they were paid less than they expected, state less money than
those who were not given such an explanation. Similarly, those persons who
received apologies for the reduced pay stole less than those did not. These findings
suggest that both factors – information and apologies or statement of regret, - tend
to influence perceived fairness (Greenberg 1993 b).
All these findings have important practical implications. They suggest that
companies can reduce the amount of theft by their employees and to do so, they do
not have to increase rates of pay and other employee benefit. More important than
these factors, is providing proper interpersonal treatment to employees and this will
yield positive results. As it has been pointed out by Greenberg and Scott (in press),
managers should always treat employees with dignity, respect, and trust. This is
quite essential, not simply because this is the right thing to do, but also because it is
far more difficult to steal from a friend, than from someone who does not care about
us. This may sound like enlightened self-interest, but it is also a means of increasing
interpersonal fairness in work settings and can certainly be very beneficial.
Individuals performance of various tasks, is often effected by the presence of
others or by the potential evaluation of their work by these persons. Such effects are
called as social facilitation, even though they can involve both reduced and
enhanced task performance. According to distraction – conflict theory, social
facilitation effects, stem from the arousal induced by conflict between two
incompatible tendencies: paying careful attention to others and paying careful
attention to a task.
When persons proceed to work on a task with others, they may show social
loafing – reduced motivation and effort. Social loafing appears to be influenced by
several different factors. Accounting to collective effort model that social loafing
occurs because when persons work with others in a group, relationships between
their effort and their outcomes become less certain. Many techniques are effective in
reducing social loafing. These include making the output or effort of each group
member readily identifiable, increasing members’ commitment to successful
performance, increasing the apparent importance of the task being performed, and
finally strengthening group cohesiveness.
Generally, individuals want to be treated fairly by others and by groups to
which they belong. Further, they are very much concerned that the ratio of their

contributions to a group and the outcomes they receive be approximately equal to
the same ratio for other members (distributive justice or equity). They are also
concerned that the procedures used to allocate rewards be fair (procedural justice)
and that they be treated in a considerate manner (interpersonal justice). Suppose
individuals conclude that they have not been treated fairly, then they experience
strong negative feelings and generally engage in several kinds of tactics to restore
perceived fairness. These include altering their actual outcomes or contributions,
withdrawing from the relationship or changing their perceptions of the situation, so
that it no longer seems quite so unfair.



(The Consequences of Belonging (Contd..)
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Understand decision making by Groups.
 Explain leadership and patterns of influence within Groups.
Decision Making by Groups: - How it occurs and the Pitfalls It faces -
Leadership: - Patterns of Influence within Groups.
How it occurs and the Pitfalls it faces
Groups are called upon to perform a wide variety of tasks. One of the most
important activities, that groups perform is decision-making – this is the process
through which individuals or groups combine and integrate available information in
order to choose one, out of several possible courses of action. In fact, all social
entities entrust key decisions to groups. Example: Governments, large corporations
and so on. As a result, most of the laws, policies, and business matters that affect
our daily lives are determined by committees and other groups. An important reason
for this being, that most people believe that groups, by utilising the expertise and
knowledge of their members and by avoiding extreme courses of action, usually
reach better decisions than by individuals. To answer the questions of decision
making process whether groups really do better than individuals, social psychologists
have focused on three major topics: (1) How do groups actually go about moving
towards consensus (2) Whether decisions reached by groups differ in any manner
from those reached by individuals? And (3) What makes groups sometimes to take
disastrous decisions, leading to harmful effects?
The Decision-making Process
How Groups Attain Consensus
It is common that when groups begin to discuss any issue, their members will

rarely express unanimous agreement in their views. During a period of discussion,
members convey a wide range of views. However, they usually reach a decision at
the final stage. But, this does not always happen, juries sometimes become hung,
and there may be deadlock and so on. However, in most cases, some decision is
reached. Can we predict the final outcome, based on the initial views held by
members of a group? Group evidence suggests that there is (e.g., Kaplan & Miller,

Social Decision Schemes:

Blueprints for Decisions
It appears that the final decisions reached by groups can often be predicted
quite accurately by simple rules known as social decision schemes. These rules
combine the initial views of the members or their preferences to the final decision of
the group. (1) The majority – wins rule – scheme suggests that discussion mainly
helps to confirm or strengthen the most popular view, which rarely gets reversed
(2) In contrast, a second decision scheme – the truth – wins – rule, - indicated that
the correct solution or decision, will ultimately emerge to the forefront, since its
correctness is recognised by a growing number of members. (3) A third decision
scheme, adopted by many Juries is the two – thirds majority rule. (Davis et. al.,
1984) (4) Finally, some groups seem to follow a first-shift rule. Here members adopt
a decision consistent with the direction of the first shift in opinion shown by any
Many studies point out that these straightforward rules are quite successful in
predicting even complex group decisions. They have been found to be accurate, up to
80 percent of the time (e.g. Stasser, Taylor & Hanna, 1989).
Procedural Processes
When Decisions are influenced by the Procedures Used to Reach Them
We have learnt earlier that the decisions reached by groups can often be
predicted based on the knowledge about the members initial positions. But there are
many other factors, that play a role in this complex process. For example, there are
several aspects of the group’s procedure – such as the rules it follows in addressing
its agenda, managing interactions among members and so on. Many decision
making groups adopt one procedure called the straw poll – in which members reveal
their present positions or preferences in a non-binding vote. While stram polls are
non-binding and allow members of the group to shift to other position. Straw polls
can sometimes affect group decisions. For example, when influential members of a
group display their positions in a stram poll, this can exert strong effects upon the
decision finally arrived at by the group. Some persons, knowing about the opinions,
especially of influential members, they would be inclined to join the majority, and
thereby tilting the decision in this direction. (Davis et. al., 1988; Mac Coun & Kerr,

The Nature of Group Decisions
Moderation or a Tendency to Go Straight off the Deep End
Rarely important decisions are given to or left to individuals. But such decision
are assigned to groups, rather highly qualified, groups of skilled advisers, before
taking major actions. Contrary to popular beliefs, evidence shows that groups are
actually more likely to adopt extreme positions, than individuals making decisions
Group polarization is the tendency of group members to shift toward more
extreme positions than those they initially held, as a result of group discussion

(Burnstein, 1983; Lamra & Myers, 1978). And its major effects can be summarized
as given below: Whatever the initial learning or preference of a group prior to its
discussion, it is strengthened during the group’s deliberations. And the result is
this. Not only does the group shift toward more extreme views – but also individual
members often tend to show such a shift. Here it is better to keep in mind, that the
term group polarization does not refer to a tendency of groups to split apart into two
opposing camps or opposite poles; on the contrary, it refers to a strengthening of the
group’s initial preferences.
To the question, why does this effect occur, research findings have given an
answer. And apparently, two major factors are involved. (1) First, it appears that
social comparisons (studied in Lesson 4) play an important role. It seems that
everyone wants to be “above average.” With regard to opinions are concerned, this
implies holding views that, “better” than those of most other persons, and
particularly better than those of other group members. What does this ‘better’ mean?
This will be based on the specific group. For example, among a group of liberals,
‘better’ would mean “more liberal” among conservative groups, it would mean “more
conservative.” Among a group of racists, it would mean “even more bigoted.” In any
case, during group discussions, some members at least would discover to their
shock – that their views are not “better” than those of most other members. The
result is, after comparing themselves with these persons, they shift to even more
extreme views, and the group polarization effect is off and running – (Goethals &
Zanna, 1979).
2. A second factor involves the fact that during group discussion, most
arguments presented are ones favouring the group’s initial learning or preference. As
a result of hearing such arguments, persuasion occurs, - presumably through the
central route, described in Lesson 4, and members shift increasingly toward the
majority view. Members finally convince themselves that this is the “right” view and
shift toward it, with increasing strength. The result is that group polarization occurs
(Vinokur & Burnstein, 1974).
Disastrous Group Decisions: Why do they occur?
In 1980, Bill Gates President of Microsoft, tried to sell his computer operating
system to IBM. A committee of IBM executives considered this offer then refused.
This was one of the worst business decisions of all time and IBM soon paid the price
for its mistake.
Potential Dangers of Group Decision Making: Group think and the Tendency of Group
Members to Tell Each other what they Already Know
The drift of many decision-making groups toward polarization is a serious
problem, since that can interfere with their ability to make accurate decisions. Some
other most important serious problems are: (1) groupthink, and (2) groups’ seeming
inability to share and use information held by some, but not all, of their members.

When too Much Cohesiveness is a Dangerous Thing
“Group think” is the tendency of highly cohesive groups to assume that their
decisions cannot be wrong: that all members should support the group’s decision and
ignore information contrary to it.
Apart from the problem of group polarization and its catastrophic results, there
is another even more disturbing factor like groupthink – this is a strong tendency for
decision making groups to close ranks, cognitively, around a decision, assuming
that the group cannot be wrong, that all members should support the decision
strongly, and that any information contrary to it should be neglected (Janis 1982). It
appears, groups become unwilling to change their course of action, once the
collective state of mind develops, and even if external events suggest very strongly
that their original decision was a poor one.
According to Janis (1982) who had originated the concept of group think, that
norms soon emerge in the group, that actively prevent its members from considering
alternative courses of action. The group is viewed as being incapable of making an
error, and anyone with lingering doubt is quickly silenced, both by group pressure
and by their own desire to conform. Research findings suggest that two factors play
a role for the groupthink to occur. (1) The first is a very high level of cohesiveness
among group members. Decision-making groups that fall a victim to groupthink,
tend to consist of persons who share the same background and ideology. (2) The
second factor is the kind of emergent group norms – suggesting that the group is
infallible (correct) and morally superior. And as such, there should be no further
discussion of the issues at hand: the decision has been made and the only task now
is to support it, as strongly as possible.
Researchers Kameda and Sugimori (1993) suggested that groupthink may be
closely linked to another important pitfall in group decision making – known as
collective entrapment. This is the tendency for groups to cling stubbornly to
unsuccessful decision or policies even in the face of overwhelming evidence, that the
decisions are bed ones. Entrapment (sometimes known as sunk costs or escalation
of commitment) also occurs at the individual level – (Bobocel & Meyer, 1994);
Brockner, 1992). For example a person owned a car and some kind of repair came,
one after the other. As a result, he spent more money towards repairing the car. And

as such, it became harder for him to sell it (or even to retain that car). Situations like
this are very common and they are called entrapping: the longer we stick on with a
bad decision, the harder it is to admit our error and reverse it.
Let us now consider, Groupthink and Collective Entrapment. Groups in which
opinion was initially split and which originally had to reach a unanimous decision
about, whom to hire showed the strongest tendencies toward escalation of commitment
– promoting the employee even though she had performed very poorly. These findings
show that groupthink, is indeed closely related to collective entrapment. Similar factors
play a role in both processes (Kameda & Sugimori, 1993).

Why groups often fail to pool their resources

Information Sampling and the common Knowledge Effect
The theory of group discussion is called the information sampling model
(Stasser & Titus, 1985). This is a theory of group decision making, suggesting that
group members are more likely to discuss shared rather than unshared information.
And this tendency increases with group size. Decision making groups are more likely
to discuss again and again, information already known to most members, whereas
information known to only one or a few members is discussed much less and likely
to come to the fore. Further the model predicts that the larger the group, the greater
the advantage of shared information over the unshared information. Regarding the
discouraging side, the information sampling model suggests that the leader’s efforts
to increase the pooling of information by urging groups to discuss all information
before reaching a decision may actually backfire: these efforts increase the tendency
for members to discuss information already known to most of them (Stasser, Taylor &
Hanna, 1989).
Further research findings show the existence of a common knowledge effect.
This is the tendency for information held by most members to exert a stronger
impact on the group’s final decision than information that is not held by most
members (Gigone & Hostic, 1993). So shared information is more influential in
determining the group’s decision than the unshared category. Existing evidence
reveals that decision-making groups do not automatically benefit from the fact that
several individual members have unique knowledge and skills.
Patterns of Influence Within Groups
With regard to leadership potential, most people tend to rate themselves, as
average or above average on this characteristic. This suggests that people consider
the phenomenon of leadership, in very favourable terms. Social psychologists define
leadership as the process through which one member of a group (its leader)
influences other group members, toward the attainment of specific group goals
(Yukl, 1994). In other words, leadership has to do with influence – who influences
whom in various groups. We often tend to assume that leaders do most of the
influencing. But, we will perceive soon that leadership, like all other social
relationships, is reciprocal (mutual) in nature. That is, leaders are those who are

influenced by followers, and those who exert influence over the followers.
Who Becomes a Leader
Traits, Situations, or Both?
To the question, are some people born to lead, common sense points out that
this is so. According to the great person theory, great leaders possess certain traits,
which set then apart from most other human beings. For example, eminent leaders
like Alexander the Great, Queen Elizabeth I and Abraham Lincoln. Further this
theory of Great Person (of leadership) suggests that these traits remain stable over
time and across different cultures, so that all great leaders, no matter when they

lived or where they lived, resemble one another in certain respects. In other words,
all great leaders share key traits, which suit them, for positions of authority.
However, in recent years, this situation has altered greatly. More sophisticated
research methods, combined with a better understanding of the basic dimensions of
human personality, have led several researchers to conclude that leaders do indeed
differ from other persons, in many important respects (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991).
Regarding the key traits of leaders, characteristics like drive, - the desire for
achievement, combined with high energy and resolution; self-confidence creativity
and leadership motivation – the desire to be in charge and exercise authority over
others. Perhaps the most important single characteristic of leaders, is a high level of
flexibility – the ability to recognise what actions or approaches are required in a
given situation, and then to act accordingly (Zaecaro, Forti & Kenny, 1991).
Table 18.1 The characteristics of successful leaders. Research findings indicate
that successful leaders show the traits listed here to a greater extent than other
Trait Description
1. Drive : Desire for achievement; ambition; high
energy; tenacity, initiative
2. Honesty and Integrity : Trustworthiness; reliability; Openness
3. Leadership Motivation : Desire to exercise influence over others to
reach shared goals
4. Self-confidence : Trust in own abilities
5. Cognitive Ability : Intelligence; ability to integrate and
interpret large amounts of information
6. Creativity : Originality
7. Flexibility : Ability to adapt to needs of followers and
to changing situational requirements
8. Expertise : Knowledge of the group’s activities;
Knowledge of relevant technical matters.
(Based on suggestions by Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991)

There are certain traits which do seem to be related to leadership. However it is

clear that leaders do not operate in a social vacuum. As a matter of fact, different
groups, confronting with different problems and tasks, seem to require different
types of leaders, - leaders who could display. Different styles, to fulfil the need of the
hour. This basic fact has been recognised in all modern theories of leadership. And
as such modern theories take careful note of the fact that leadership is a complex
role, involving not only influence but many other kinds of interaction between
leaders and followers as well (Bass, 1990; House & Podsakoff 1994; Locke 1991). So
yes, traits do matter where leadership is concerned, but they are only part of the
total picture. Like all forms of social behaviour, leadership can be understood only

interms of complex interaction between social situations and individual

characteristics. Approaches that focus entirely upon one of these aspects, are
appealing in their simplicity. However, decades of research have shown that they are
also not accurate, in many matters.
How Leaders Operate
Contrasting Styles and Approaches
No doubt, that all leaders are not alike. As a matter of fact, leaders differ
significantly from each other, interms of personal style or approach to leadership
(e.g. George, 1995). A large volume of research suggests that differences in
leadership style are both real and important.
Early research by Lewin, Lippitt and White (1939) have first noted the
autocratic – democratic dimension. They described leaders’ style interms of a single
dimension ranging from democratic on one end through autocratic on the other end.
But more modern research suggests, that there are actually many key dimensions,
along which leaders differ interms of their style. We have noted earlier about the
autocratic democratic dimension. Autocratic leaders are those who make decisions
unilaterally while democratic leaders are those who invite input and participation in
decision-making from their followers. However, there is another important
dimension, called the directive – permissive dimension.
That is, the directive dimension refers to the extent to which leaders dictate,
how followers should have to carry out their assigned tasks whereas the permissive
dimension is giving followers freedom to work in any manner as they wish. And the
directive – permissive dimension is cutting – across the autocratic – democratic
dimensions: Thus, leaders tend to show one of the four different patterns,
summarized in Figure 18.2 (Muczyk & Reimann, 1987).


Permissive Directive
democrats democrats

Permissive Directive




With regard to Basic Dimensions of Leadership style, Leaders differ greatly

along the two dimensions shown here: democratic – autocratic as well as directive-
Finally, we should state that leaders’ styles also differ along two other
important dimensions – sometimes called as task orientation and person orientation.
Task orientation refers to the extent to which a given leader focuses on getting the
task done – whatever it happens to be. In contrast, person orientation refers to
leaders’ focus on maintaining good, friendly relations with their followers. In this
context, leaders can be high or low, on each of these dimensions.
For example, a given leader can be (i) high on both, or (ii) low on both, or
(iii) high on one and low on the other, or (iv) moderate on both. These dimensions of
leadership style appear to be very basic ones: And all these have been observed
among thousands of different leaders, in many different contexts, such as business
groups, military groups and sports teams, and so on and in several different
countries (Bass, 1990). In fact, no single style has been the best. And which one is
best or most effective, depends upon the specific circumstances. For example, when
leaders are high on person orientation, they would often have friendly relations with
their followers. As a result, these followers may be hesitant or reluctant to give their
leaders any kind of bad or bitter news. And as such, these leaders (person oriented
category) may get into any serious trouble because they are not receiving vital
feedback, promptly and properly from their followers. In contrast, leaders high in
task orientation often do wring, by high levels of performance, out of their followers.
These people may feel that their leader has no kind of interest in them. And this
inturn, may weaken their commitment to the group.
To conclude, leaders do appear to differ significantly with respect to personal
style, - how do they go about fulfilling the role of leader – and these differences, do
have important effects upon their groups. In fact, leaders’ style is only, one among
many factors influencing leadership. So, it would be rather misleading to suggest
that one style is always, or even usually, the best.
Gender Differences in Leadership
According to the widespread belief, males and females differ in their styles of
leadership. But systematic research on this issue, has totally denied this gender
difference (Rosell, 1990). Female and male leaders appear to differ only in a few

respects. Even these differences are far smaller in magnitude than suggested by
gender – role stereotypes. The findings of Eagly and her associates point out that
female leaders continue to face disadvantages in many settings. And female leaders
continue to receive lower ratings than their male counterparts, even though their
behaviour and style differ from that of male leaders only in a few relatively minor
respects. To sum up, as gender stereotypes weaken and as the number of females in
leadership positions continues to increase, we can hope that this situation will
considerably change in the years to come, by all means.

Transformational Leadership
Leadership through vision and charisma
There seems to be something special about leaders like John F. Kennedy;
Franklin D. Roosevelt, MartinLuther King and so on. These leaders exerted dramatic
effects on many millions of persons and changed their society and even the entire
world. Leaders who accomplish such feats are often termed transformational or
charismatic leaders. These two terms are used interchangeably. Such persons do
indeed transform social, political or economic reality; And they do seem to possess
special skills that equip them for this task. The word ‘charima’ in Greek means ‘gift’.
The Basic Nature of Charisma
Traits or Relationships?
To assume, that transformational leaders are special because they possess
certain traits; In other words, that such leadership can be understood interms of the
great persons theory that we have learnt earlier. There is growing consensus that it
makes more sense to understand such leadership, as involving a special type of
relationship between leaders and their followers. And traits may play a role in
transformational leadership. (House, 1977). It appears, charismatic leadership, rests
more upon specific types of reactions by followers rather than upon traits possessed
by charismatic leaders. These reactions from followers include the following: (1) high
levels of devotion, loyalty and reverence toward the leader; (2) enthusiasm for the
leader and the leader’s ideas, (3) a willingness by followers to sacrifice their own
personal interests for the sake of a larger group goal; and (4) levels of performance
beyond those, that would usually be expected. In short, transformational or
charismatic leadership involves a special kind of “leader-follower relationship”,
where the leader can, in the words of one author, “make ordinary people to do extra-
ordinary things, in the face of adversity” (Conger 1991).
The Behaviour of Transformational Leaders
Transformational leaders gain the capacity to exert profound influence over
others, through many different tactics. These leaders propose a vision (Howell &
Frost, 1989). They usually describe in vivid, emotion provoking terms, an image of
what their nation or group can and should become. More than describing a dream or
vision, they offer a route for attaining the goal. According to Conger (1991) such
leaders engage in framing: They define the purpose of their movement or

organization, in a way that gives meaning and purpose to whatever action, they are
requesting from followers.
Other tactics shown by transformation leader include high levels of self-
confidence and confidence in their followers, a high degree of concern for their
followers’ needs, excellent communication skills and a stirring personal style (House,
Spangler & Woycke, 1991). Finally, transformational leaders are often masters of
impression management, engaging in many actions designed to enhance their
appeal to others. When these forms of behaviour are added to the exciting visions
they promote, the tremendous impact of transformational leaders loses most of its

apparent mystery. In fact, it rests firmly on principles and processes well understood
by social psychologists.
The Effects of Transformational Leaders: A very mixed bag
Transformational or charismatic leaders are not always a plus for their groups
or societies. Many charismatic leaders use their skills, for what they perceive to be
the good of their group or society – Example, leaders like Martin Luther King Jr;
Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Indira Gandhi to mention a few. But others use this
leadership style for purely selfish ends (Howell & Avolio, 1992).
For example, Michael Milken, former head of the brokerage firm Drexel
Burnham Lambert, was described by followers as being extremely charismatic. Yet
he used the trust and loyalty he inspired, for illegal ends and purposes: stock fraud
that cost innocent investors millions of dollars. Likewise, David Koresh, leader of a
religions cult in Waco, Texas, used his position to reserve all females in the group for
himself, including girls as young as ten years old, while insisting that the other
males remain celibate. Finally, Koresh’s charismatic style of leadership resulted in
the death of many of his followers, who set fire to their compound, when it was
besieged by federal agents.
Charismatic Leaders: Good and Evil: Some charismatic leaders like Martin
Luther King use their powerful impact on followers, for what they view as pro-social
ends: changing their societies for the better. However, others such as David Koresh,
use their impact on followers, for purely selfish purposes of worse.
In short, charismatic or transformational leadership is certainty a two-edged
sword. It can be used to promote beneficial social change consistent with the highest
principles and ethical standards or it can be used for selfish illegal and immoral
purposes. The difference lies in the personal conscience and moral code of the
persons, who wield it.
Many important decisions are entrusted to groups. Group discussions often
tend to shift toward more extreme positions – the group polarization effect. That is,
contrary to popular belief, groups may tend to make more extreme decisions than
individuals. Further decision making groups meet with other potential pitfalls. One
of these is groupthink: tendencies for a group to assume that it cannot go wrong,
coupled with refusal to examine relevant information. Recent evidence shows that

groupthink may be related to collective entrapment the tendency to stick on to bad
decisions even in the wildest of increasing evidence that they are wrong. Another
important problem faced by decision making groups is their apparent inability to
pool the resources of members. Groups tend to discuss information shared by all
members, rather than information held; such shared information exerts stronger
effects on group decisions than other information (unshared). And this is known as
the ‘common knowledge effect’.
Leadership involves the exercise of influence by one group member over other
group members. According to the great person theory, all great leaders share similar

traits. Recent evidence reveals that leaders do seem to differ from followers with
regard to several characteristics. However, successful leadership involved a couples
interplay between these characteristics, many aspects of the situation faced by the
group, and leaders’ relationship with group members; leaders differ greatly interms
of personal style. Important dimensions of leadership style include the autocratic –
democratic, and directive – permissive dimensions, besides task oriented versus
person oriented leaders. Male and female leaders do not differ in many respects.
However, with regard to leadership style, female leaders appear to be more
democratic in their style than the male leaders. Transformational or Charismatic
leaders exert programmed effects on their followers. They do this by establishing a
special kind of relationships with their followers, by proposing an inspiring vision
and by the expert use of many tactics of influence.
Social Diversity: Social Loafing: The collective effort model predicts that social
loafing (which emphasize the importance of group performance and outcomes) than
in individualistic cultures (which emphasize the importance of individual
performance and success). Research findings have confirmed this prediction, that
social loafing is more common in the United States of America than in Israel and
China, as observed in three different countries. For example, Americans with
individualistic culture performed far better on a task, when they worked alone, than
when they worked with others. In contrast, persons with collectivistic cultures,
drawn from Israel and China, have performed better when they worked as part of a
group, than while working alone (Early, 1993).
Additive tasks – Charismatic leaders – Cohesiveness – Collective Effort Model –
Collective Entrapment – Consumer Knowledge Effect – Decision Making – Distraction
– Conflict theory – Distributive justice – Drive theory of social Facilitation – Equity –
Evaluation Apprehension – Great Person Theory – Group Polarization – Groupthink –
Leadership – Procedural Justice – Norms – Interpersonal Justice – Role – Social
Loafing – Status – Straw Poll – Transformational Leaders.
1. Examine the nature and functions of Groups.
2. Describe social facilitation, as a performance in the presence of others.
3. Explain perceived fairness in Groups.

4. Analyse how decision making process occurs in groups.
5. Discuss the nature and characteristics of transformational leadership.
6. Explain the potential dangers of Group decision-making.



Social Psychology and Society: Legal and Organisation Applications
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Apply social psychology to the interpersonal aspects of the Legal System
 Understand the link between social psychology and Business
Introduction - The application of social psychology to the interpersonal aspects
of the legal system - Social Psychology and Business - Work – Related Attitudes,
Impression Management in Job Interviews and Conflict.
Modern Social Psychologists of the fag end, 20th century have started applying
their theories and research skills, in real-life settings, like legal system and the
organisations, where we happen to work. And as such the relevance of this field of
social psychology to societal concerns, has now become very clear and obvious.
First, let us consider how social psychology has been applied to numerous aspects of
the legal system – one of the original applied interests of the early social
psychologists. In this context, cognitive and emotional processes are crucial, at each
step in the legal process, from police interrogations and pre-trial publicity to the
behaviour of the participants in the courtroom.
Next, we shall turn to focus upon the applications of social psychology to
business. And this has to be done by focusing on several areas of research, which
rest directly upon the basic principles of the field of Social Psychology – such as
work-related attitudes (job satisfaction and organisational commitment); social
aspects of job-interviews, organisation politics, and conflict, in work settings.
Suppose the real world has lived up to our ideals, then the judicial process
would provide a totally fair set of procedures to reach objective, unbiased decisions
about violators of criminal and civil laws. And at the other extreme, our worst night-
mares would be realized, if the judicial process functioned in a ridiculous manner, in
the courtroom procedure and so on. Throughout history, and even today in many
totalitarian (autocratic) societies, there are many examples of what can happen in
the absence of courtroom safeguards. In the United States, courts have formulated
procedures, designed to ensure objectivity, fairness, and the use of factual evidence.
Social psychological research reveals that we often fail to live up to these standards,
but the goal remains an all-important one.
In fact, the legal system is neither as perfect as our ideal, nor as terrible as our
night mares. Forensic Psychology refers to Psychological research and theory,

dealing with legal proceedings and the law. In short, forensic psychology deals with
the psychological study of legal issues. Research studies in forensic psychology have
shown other the human participants in the judicial process, usually by their best to
do what is right but are inevitably affected by manufactures, other than objectivity
and the unbiased search for truth and justice (Davis, 1989). We have learnt earlier
that our perceptions, attributions, recollections, and interpersonal behaviours are
influenced by our cognitions (thoughts or thinking process, reasoning and so on)
and our emotions (feeling and affect). As a result, there are many kinds of
consequential effects felt like biased judgements, reliance on stereotypes, faulty
memories and incorrect or unfair decisions. These injurious and undesirable
influences operate as strongly in the courtroom, as it is in the laboratory. And
ultimately the consequences clearly affect the outcome of legal proceedings and
bring about legal injustice.
The Initial Steps
Police Interrogation and Pre-trial Publicity
Before a case enters into the courtroom, two major factors influence the
testimony that will be presented and the preliminary attitudes of the jurors: police
interrogation and publicity about the case in the mass media, such as press
(newspaper) and Periodicals; Radio; Television (Small Screen) and so on.
Seeking the Truth or Seeking a Confession?
Williamson (1993) has pointed out that each nation’s criminal justice system
tends to emphasize either an adversarial approach (attempting to prove the guilt of
the person who is accused of the crime) or the inquisitorial approach (attempting to
discover the truth). In spite of differences between nations, both approaches are
commonly represented in interrogations conducted by specific detectives. In this
context, the social interaction between interrogator and suspect (alleged offender or
criminal), thus can have either the biased goal of confirming what the interrogator
already believes to be true or the impartial goal of accuracy.
Most citizens, who are neither detectives nor suspects, point out that, they
prefer that interrogators simply search for the truth. This wide-spread preference
has led to legislation in the United Kingdom, which provides training for police
officers to convince them, about the value of “interrogative interviewing” – obtaining

accurate evidence in a co-operative manner. And a major reason for this emphasis
is, that court rulings in both Great Britain and the United States of America have
repeatedly emphasized the unreliability and inadmissibility of confessions obtained
in a coercive confrontation with an interrogator (Gudlonsson, 1993).
In a Scotland Yard study of the actual practices of detectives, Williamson (1993)
found evidence that many of these officers have adopted the desired investigative
methods of interrogation, although about half are skill oriented toward obtaining a

Police Interrogation
Contrasting Goals and Contrasting Styles
A study of Scotland Yard detectives revealed that interrogations can be
classified according to the goal of the questioning – (to obtain evidence or to obtain a
confession) – and the style of the encounter – (Co-operative or Confrontational). In
spite of the official attempts to institute a policy that stresses the gathering of
evidence, about half of the detectives studied remain oriented toward obtaining a
confession (Williamson, 1993).
Figure 19.1

Interrogation Sty le Co-operativ e

Collusive - 40%
Counseling - 30%
helpful, ingratiating,
Unemotional and
paternalistic, and problem
non-jugemental attempt
solving attempt to get
to gather evidence
suspect to confess

Obtain a confession
Interrogation Goal

Obtain evidence

Business - 21% Dominant - 9%

Brusque, like factual Impatient and
and formal attempt emotional attempt to
together evidence get suspect to confess

Conf rontational

The questioning of a suspect, as shown in Figure 19.1 falls along two

dimensions one dimension is related to the goal of the interrogation: getting the
suspect to confess (adversarial) versus gathering evidence (inquisitorial). The other
dimension involves how the interrogator seeks to achieve this goal: whether in a
friendly, co-operative style or in an angry confrontation. Sometimes, this second
dimension is known as good cop-versus bad cop.
The four styles drawn from the combination of these two dimensions, are
shown in the figure. Among the British detectives studies, 40 percent were identified
as Collusive – using an approach that was helpful, ingratiating, paternalistic, and
problem – solving as a way to elicit a confession. The counselling style was used by
30 percent – a friendly, unemotional and non-judgemental attempt to obtain
evidence. The business style was endorsed by 21 percent of the detectives – a
brusque, factual and formal attempt to gather evidence. And only 9 percent were
classified as dominant – behaving impatiently, and emotionally as a way to get the
suspect to confess.

In spite of this promising indication, that about half of the British officer’s
studied have learned to seek evidence rather than a confession researchers. Moston
and Stephenson (1993) have raised doubts about the genuineness of this apparent
shift in police goals. They suggest that a great many officers still seek confessions
but have simply learned to carry out their most persuasive questioning, when
recording equipment is not present to document what they do. In recent years,
members of the Los Angles Police Department have experienced problems with such
Less Obvious Techniques to Elicit Confessions
Instead of evading the rules in an illegal and heavy-handed manner,
interrogators who want a confession, can turn to a more subtle approach (Kassin &
Mc Nall, 1991). That is, rather than maximization – (exaggerating the strength of the
evidence and the magnitude of the crime) – an interrogator can resort to utilize
minimization – (playing down the evidence and the seriousness of the charge). The
minimizing interrogator may go so far as to blame the victim, and thus offer an
excuse for what the suspect did. When a questioner downplays the seriousness of
the crime and seems supportive, the implicit promise is that punishment will be
relatively light. This ingratiating technique (Lesson 11) is not only effective but it
avoids the legal problems raised by threatening the suspect. Further, it helps the
police to convince jurors.
In an experiment which compared interrogation approaches, Kassin and McNall
(1991) found that mock jurors tended to discount a confession, obtained through
threats of punishment, whereas conviction rates were significantly higher when the
interrogator used minimization. The experimenters point out that while this soft-sell
technique, may seem to be non-coercive, such impression management simply offers
a less obvious way to elicit compliance, by bulling the suspect into a false sense of
security. Suppose, we were a suspect, we would probably prefer a minimizing
interrogation rather-than maximizing interrogation, but we should keep in mind that
the goal remains the same to persuade us to confess.
Another commonly used indirect technique, to get the desired answer from the
person being interrogated, is to ask him or her, a leading question. Leading
questions asked to witnesses or suspects by police or by attorneys, are being worked
in such a pattern, so as to suggest specific answers. In short, questions are worded
so as to suggest what the answer should be.
For example, an unbiased question might be “could you describe Mr. John’s
appearance, when he returned to the car on the night of the murder? In contrast, a
leading question (biased) could be – “How much blood did you see on the clothing or
dress of Mr. John, when he returned to the car, on the night of the murder? In this
context, a witness is much more likely to “remember” and to testify about bloody
clothing in response to the 2nd question than to the 1st question. As it is with
minimization, leading questions subtly draw the respondent into a role-playing
interaction; in which the interrogation is writing the script.

Leading questions result in inaccurate answers. That is, research studies have
shown that witnesses make more errors in responding to leading questions than in
answering unbiased questions. Further when the questioner (interrogator) is
described as being knowledgeable, and in such cases leading questions result in
even greater inaccuracy (Smith & Ellsworth, 1987).
The usual interrogation is carried out in an intimidating location such as a
police station and it is conducted by a designated representative of the government.
Under the coercive circumstances, three factors encourage compliance with the
interrogator’s indirect, and sometimes subtle suggestions. Whenever, a leading
question is asked, the witness usually feels
i) some uncertainty about the “right” answer.
ii) some degree of trust in the officer asking the question and
iii) an unspoken expectation that he or she is supposed to know the answer. As
a result, instead of saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “I am not sure”
most people tend to provide an answer, even if it is offered tentatively. And once an
answer is given, no matter how tentative it was initially, the person is inclined to
believe what he or she just said, particularly if the interrogator gives approval by
nothing or saying “good” etc. The respondent’s memory quickly incorporates
whatever has been stated and subsequently enforced by the interrogator. This
process is sufficiently convincing that innocent persons are sometimes led to confess
committing crimes and genuinely to believe themselves to be guilty (Kassin &
Kiechel, 1995).
Effects of the Media
General Perceptions about Crime
We are frequently exposed to information about crimes and criminals through
newspapers, Television, Radio and other media sources (Henry, 1991). Crime
information is so pervasive that people easily develop a distorted view of this aspect.
According to polls report that crime is ranked as one of the two or three greatest
problems faced by U.S. society (Blonston, 1993). In fact, record highs for violent
crime in the United States including homicide (murder) and burglary (theft made in
a locked house), were set in the early 1980s and have been dropping ever since.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total number of crimes
dropped from 41.2 million in 1981 to 34.4 million in 1991. Even a very specific and

frightening crime such as the abduction of children is widely misperceived. The
missing children that we see or posters are most often youngsters taken away by one
of the parents involved in a custody battle during or after a divorce.
Effects of the Media
Pre-trial Publicity and Perceptions of a Specific Crime and a Specific Suspect
Suppose distortions about the general incidence of crime are common, what
happens when a specific case is widely publicized? There is a detailed coverage of
the event and background news, about the victims and their families, soon after the

traumatic event like the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma city.
When a suspect is arrested we are given information about that person, most
dramatically in the form of a photo or videotape of the suspect in handcuffs
surrounded by law enforcement officials and police. And each of us form an
impression about the suspect – primary effects (Lesson 2) are likely to create an
impression of guilt. All subsequent information is influenced by this first impression.
Research indicates that the greater the publicity about a crime, the more prone are
jurors to convict whoever has been accused of committing it (Linz & Penrod, 1992).
Moran (1993) has suggested that government representatives like the police, the
district attorney etc. are purposely providing pre-trial crime information to
newspapers and television stations, because they want the public and potential
jurors to form a negative impression of the accused person. The attempt to identify
and excuse prospective jurors who have been exposed to and influenced by media
coverage appears to be hopeless. Even when jury prospects are questioned about
how much exposure they have had to news of a specific crime warned about media
inaccuracies, and told the importance of remaining impartial until clearing all of the
evidence, the biasing impact of pre-trial publicity remains the same. (Dexter, Culter
& Moran, 1992). Potential Jurors either do not realize or are unwilling to admit that
the publicity has caused them to reach premature conclusions about a defendant.
According to O’Connell (1988) asking prospective jurors whether they can be fair and
impartial is “as useless as asking an alcoholic if he can control his drinking.” In
either instance, a yes response is essentially meaningless. What is beautiful is good
revisited: Effect of Defendant’s Physical attractiveness on judicial decision. Through
the physical appearance of a defendant is obviously, unrelated to his or her guilt, a
great many studies indicate a general tendency for jurors to respond more
favourably to an attractive defendant than to an unattractive defendant.
There are reasons for the power of the medias effects on our perception of crime
and criminals. First, people have a very strong tendency to believe what they have
read in print or heard on the radio, or viewed on the television. Suppose we can
comprehend whatever assertions are made, we are also likely to believe them
(Gilbert, Tafarodi, & Malone, 1993). In fact, almost automatically we assume that
“They would not have put it on television, unless it were not true.” There is another
reason for the impact of crime news is that when we make morality judgements –
good versus bad; innocent versus guilty – negative information has a greater impact

than positive information (Skowronski & Carlston, 1989).
Work-Related Attitude,
Impression Management in Job Interviews and Conflict
Most of us spend a majority of our working hours doing some type of job. And
we do not work alone. But most of us work together with other persons, in certain
social situations. The principles and findings of social psychology have often been
applied to the task of understanding what goes on in work settings. Finally this

control part of life has to be made more satisfying and productive. In this context,
the findings and principles of social psychology have been put into use by Industrial
and Organizational Psychologists – Psychologists who specialize in studying all
aspects of behaviour in work settings (Murnigan, 1993): And as such, social
psychology does provide many insights, into the complex world of work.
In this section, we will consider some of the valuable contributions made by
social psychology in this respect. And we will examine more specifically the four
major topics: (i) work-‘related attitudes – employees’ attitudes toward their jobs and
their organizations; (ii) the role of impression management in job-interviews – how
job applicants, attempt to look good to the Interviewers; (iii) organization politics –
tactics used by individuals to further their own ends, often at considerable costs to
others and their company; and (iv) the nature and causes of interpersonal conflict in
work settings.
1. Work – Related Attitudes: Job Satisfaction and Organizational Commitment
Many persons can readily report their attitudes toward their work and also
toward their organization, if they were asked to do so. Attitudes about one’s own job
or work, are generally referred to by the term job satisfaction. It actually refers to a
dimension of reactions, ranging from very positive (high – job – satisfaction) to very
negative (low-job-satisfaction or high job dissatisfaction) (Hulin; 1991). On the
contrary, attitudes towards one’s company, are called as organizational commitment.
This term refers to the extent to which a person identifies with his or her company
and is unwilling to leave it (e.g. Hackett; Bycio & Hansdorf, 1994). Let us have a
closer look at the factors, which influence both kinds of work-related attitudes,
namely (i) Job satisfaction and (ii) Organizational Commitment.
Factors Affecting Job Satisfaction
The concept of “Job satisfaction” refers to attitudes held by individuals about
their jobs. In spite of the fact, that many jobs are repetitive and boring in nature,
large-scale surveys of employees’ attitudes toward their jobs show, that for most of
them, job satisfaction is quite high (e.g. Page & Wiseman, 1993). To avoid lot of risk
and considerable effort often in changing jobs, many persons sometimes report
relatively high levels of job satisfaction and may actually, come to believe their own
ratings, in this respect (e.g. Greenberg & Bavon, 1995).
Individuals do report a wide range of job satisfaction. Regarding, what factors

influence such attitudes, research findings on this issue point out that two major
groups of factors are important: (a) Organizational factors – ones related to a
company’s practices or the working conditions it provides and (b) Personal Factors
are nothing but individual factors, related to the traits of individual employees.
1. Among the organizational factors, a very important one is the company’s
reward system – the way in which raises, promotions and other rewards are
distributed. For most persons, fairness is an extremely important value. And this
value comes into full operation, with respect to job-related rewards. Job satisfaction

is higher, when individuals believe that rewards are distributed fairly and impartially
than when they believe that they are distributed unfairly (Miceli & Lane, 1991).
2. Another organizational factor that plays an important role in job satisfaction
is the perceived quality of supervision – the extent to which employees believe that
their bosses are competent; have employees’ best interest at heart; and treat them
with respect.
3. A third factor influencing job satisfaction is the extent to which individuals
feel, that they can participate in decisions, that affect them. The greater such
participation, the higher the reported job satisfaction (Callan, 1993).
4. Finally, as we can readily guess, the nature of jobs themselves plays an
important role in job satisfaction. Individuals who have to perform boring, repetitive
jobs report much lower levels of job satisfaction than people, whose jobs provide
them a wider variety (Fisher 1993). Recent findings have shown that not only do
boring, monotonous jobs reduce job satisfaction, but also they may undermine
psychological and even physical health.
Turning to personal factors that influence job satisfaction, several interesting
findings have been reported.
1. Job satisfaction is related to several personal traits, such as the Type A
behaviour pattern (discussed in Lesson 14) – (Day & Bedian, 1991). Type A persons
tend to be more satisfied than Type B persons, despite their greater overall
2. & 3. Job satisfaction is also related to status and seniority. The higher a
person’s position within a company, the greater his or her reported satisfaction.
Further, the longer a person has been on the job, the greater his or her satisfaction
(Zeitz, 1990).
4. Fourth, the greater the extent to which jobs are congruent with people’s
interest, the greater their satisfaction (Fricko & Beehr, 1992). In fact very low levels
of satisfaction are often reported by persons working in fields, which do not interest
them at all.
5. Finally, job satisfaction is related to people’s general life satisfaction. The
more individuals are satisfied with aspects of their lives outside work, the higher the
levels of job satisfaction, they report, Judge & Watanabe, 1993). To conclude, several
different factors seem to influence job satisfaction.
Organizational Commitment: Attitudes toward one’s company
There are people who constantly praise their college or organization and
likewise, there are persons who constantly criticize their college or organization. This
range of reactions point out that people hold attitudes, not only toward their jobs,
but also toward their companies. Such attitudes are called organizational
commitment, since they refer to the extent to which individuals identify with; are
involved with; and are unwilling to leave their organizations – whether these are

universities, small businesses, or giant corporations (Meyer & Allen, 1991;

Dunharm, Grube & Castanede, 1994). In fact, a model proposed by Allen and Meyer
(1990) suggest that such attitudes involve three different components such as (a)
Affective component, (b) Continuance component and (c) Normative component. And
all these three components combine to generate an individual’s level of organizational
1. First, the affective component involves emotional attachment to and
identification with the organization. A person high on this component feels good
about her or his company and has made working for it a part of her or his self-
concept. Such a person might state with pride that “I am an IBM person”; “I am a
Tata Group person.” “I am a BHEL group person”, a TVS group person; and so on.
2. Second, there is continuance component as described by Allen and Meyer
(1991). This is related to the potential costs involved in leaving the company. For
example, after working for a company for several years, a person may have a sizable
sum built up in his or her pension fund. Suppose the employee leaves, a part of or
even all of these funds may be lost. Similarly, a person may realize that it will be
difficult to find another comparable job.
3. Third, is normative component. This refers to feelings of obligation to stay
with the company mainly because of norms and values indicating that loyalty is
desirable, that it is wrong to jump from job to job or that the individual owes the
company allegiance. According to Meyer and Allen (1991) these three components
combine to generate a person’s level of organizational commitment.
Impression Management Revisited
The importance of ‘first impressions’ and some of the tactics that persons,
would employ to look good to others, they are meeting for the first time, have been
pointed out by Wayne & Liden, (1995). These tactics are often used in situations like
Job Interviews – interviews that organizational conduct with applicants for various
jobs in order to choose or select the best candidates.
Physical Appearance of Applicants
People preparing for job interviews, dress and groom themselves as carefully as
possible. Everyone “knows” that appearance really matters, where first impressions
are concerned. Research findings suggest that interviewers’ ratings of job applicants,
are sometimes influenced by the applicants’ appearance and factors relating to this.
For example attractive persons often have an edge over (advantage), less attractive
ones; And persons who dress for interviews in a manner considered appropriate by
interviewers – a manner consistent with the style of dress adopted in their
companies – often receive higher ratings than persons who dress in a les appropriate
manner (Forstyle Drake, & Cox, 1985) higher ratings to applicants who emit or
display high levels of non-verbal cues (body language) – persons who smile, nod, and
lean forward frequently during an interview (Riggio & Throckmorton, 1988). In short,
the outcome of interviews is often influenced by aspects of applicants appearance,

over which they exert direct control. And factors over which job applicants have little
control, such as gender (Heilman, Martell & Simon, 1988) and being overweight
(Stout or flaby) – Klesges, 1990).
The strong impact of this latter factor, is clearly illustrated in a study by
Pingitore and her colleagues (1994). Bias against overweight persons in job
interviews has been observed. That is applicants for two different jobs, who appeared
to be overweight received lower ratings from interviewers than applicants, who
appeared to be normal weight. These effects were stronger for female job applicants
than for male applicants.
These predictions have been confirmed by many studies. The overweight
applicants received significantly lower rains. Further it is interesting to note that the
nature of the job made no difference. For instance, overweight applicants, received
lower ratings even for the systems analyst job, one for which appearance is largely
irrelevant. Finally, persons who were themselves pleased with their own bodies and
weight – particularly women, were somewhat harsher in their evaluations of the
overweight applicants. It was as though they have reasoned, “If I am so slim, why are
you not?”
To conclude, the findings of Pingitore and her colleagues (1994) show that there
is indeed a bias against overweight job applicants. And that such bias is particularly
strong, for females. Although these are unsettling findings, still they serve to
underscore a point, we made in Lesson 3. As human beings we are certainly, not
perfectly rational information processing machines. In fact, we are often influenced,
in our social judgement, by factors, that we would be quick to agree, and this should
not play a role in such decisions.
How Interviewers Sometimes Get the Results
They Want: Expectancy Confirmation in Job Interviews
We have already learnt in Lessons 2 & 3 that expectancies often exert a strong
effect on our thoughts and our behaviour. In many cases, it appears interviewers
form expectancies about job applicants, before actually meeting them, from
applicant personnel and human resource forms, letters of recommendation and
other input. Then, they engage in behaviours that tend to confirm these expectation.
For example, suppose they expect to like a particular applicant or to evaluate this
person highly, they may do such things during the interview, like that of asking

supportive questions, agree with the applicant, emit or express positive nonverbal
cues to this person, and focus upon selling their company to the applicant rather
than on asking the applicant to explain, why she or he would be suited for the job in
question. In contrast, suppose they expect to dislike the applicant or evaluate this
person poorly, they may ask more searching questions instead of supportive
questions, may emit negative non-verbal cues, and may focus upon examining the
applicant’s qualifications. Expectancy effects, do actually occur as per an ingenious
study by Dougherty, Turban and Calender (1994).

To sum up, Dougherty and his colleagues have shown from their findings that
expectancies play an important role in job interviews, just like they do in many other
social situations. For instance, applicants, who look good on paper, before the
interview may find themselves facing an interviewer, who is largely on their side and
who engages in actions that help them do their best. In contrast, applicant whose
records are unimpressive may find themselves facing an interviewer who acts as an
adversary; and one who seems to say, in many different ways, “O.K – show me why I
should recommend you for this job.”
Tactics for Getting Ahead – Whatever the Cost to Others
We can recall about “organizational citizenship behaviour” – actions taken by
persons, which benefit their fellow employees or their company, even at some cost to
themselves. On the contrary, organizational politics refers to actions taken by
persons, to further their own goals, often at considerable costs to others or to their
organizations - represents the opposite pattern (Drory & Romm 1990; Ferris &
Kacmar, 1992).
Specific tactics that individuals do often use in organizational politics, and
some of the most important among them alone are given below:
1. Controlling access to information
Persons engaging in organizational politics, tend to manipulate information for
their own purpose. Further they try to withhold information needed by others, so
that these persons flounder around without a clued as to what is happening,
similarly, they attempt to hide information which makes them look bad, and thereby
try to protect their own image. Further, sometimes they try to overwhelm others with
too much information – more than they can handle. The primary goal of all these
related tactics is much the same: Controlling the flow of information in ways that
benefit the politician and, at the same time, harm others (Feldman, 1988).
2. Cultivating a good image
Further, persons who get into organizational politics frequently use tactics,
designed to make them look good – better than their potential rivals. They do this by
linking themselves with successful persons and with successful projects, by drawing
attention to their own achievements and by ingratiating themselves to powerful
persons in their organization (Ferries & King 1991). Persons who engage in such
tactics are sometimes described as being organizational chameleons - they do or say
whatever it takes to make a favourable impression on others and build their own
3. Developing a base of support
Another set of tactics often used in organizational politics involves building a
base of political support within the company. In other words, persons skilled at
organizational politics go out of their way to ensure that others are committed to
them and will support them when push comes to shove. They often do this by using
the principle of reciprocity to their own advantage (Lesson 11). This involves doing

small favours for others and collecting their IOUs. Persons involved in organizational
politics then call in these debts – and others’ support – at just those times when it
will do them most good. The result: They get what they want, often at very little cost.
4. Dirty Tricks
Suppose the tactics listed above are viewed as somewhat unprincipled, then we
should get ready for worse – much worse. Dirty tricks, are actions that most persons
would view as downright unethical. Many of these exist, but one that is particularly
common is the hidden agenda. When the meeting actually occurs, new issues that
were not on the agenda are raised. And this catches many persons unprepared; and
the person using this tactics can then often exert strong influence over the outcome.
Another dirty tick involves spreading false rumours about another organization
member. These can range from rumours about office romances (Pierce, Byrne &
Aguinis) through rumours that the person in question is actively seeking another
job. Of course, the result is causing unfair damage to the target person. Several
other dirty tricks, to mention a few (which are unethical) are – using up needed
resources; withholding information; back stabbing; and falsifying records.
We can protect our-self and others against organizational politics by several
counter measures suggested by careful research (e.g. Velasques, Moberg; &
Cavanaugh, (1993). Even though, politics is a fact of life in most organizations this
does not mean that we should fall a victim to such tactics.
1. Clarfy job expectations: Before we undertake a job, we should ensure that we
fully understand what it involves, and what, precisely is expected from us. By doing
so, we can make it much more difficult for politicians to manipulate us or to demand
more than what is fair.
2. Insist on – (or at least encourage) Open Communication: As we have noted
earlier, control over the flow of information is a favourite tactic of organizational
politicians. By insisting that communication should be as open as possible and it
should be open to public scrutiny or inspection; By doing so, we can totally reduce
the opportunities for such unethical manipulation.
3. Be on the Lookout for, and do not Tolerate, Political Game Players: The
biggest mistake that many of us can make, in many cases, is to stand by while in
many cases, is to stand by while someone uses political tactics, against others. At
present, we may not be involved but there is always the danger of next time turn, is

for us. So, by being a socially responsible member of our organization and refusing
to let out unethical behaviour to go scotch free, we may well protect our own interest
and that of others, in our organization. All these would help us, to protect our own
career and also help our organization to bring about a more ethical social setting, to
achieve organized effectiveness.
4. CONFLICT IN WORK SETTINGS: A Social Psychological Perspective: In
several respects, all persons working in the same organization are interdependent.
And co-operation – working together to attain various benefits, - would be the
dominant mode of interaction in work settings. But, instead of working together in a

co-ordinated fashion, individuals and groups often engage in conflict – they work
against each other and attempt to block one another’s interest. Managers in wide
range of companies have reported that they spend 20 percent of their time, dealing
with conflict and its effects, (Baron, 1989; Kilmann & Thomas, 1977). It is clear that
grudges, the desire for revenge ad other ill effects of intense conflicts can, persist for
months or even years. Such conflicts are related to aggression (Lesson 13, 14 & 15).
And the two concepts are not identical. While aggression refers to intentional efforts
to harm one or more persons, the term conflict is defined as behaviour resulting
from two perception: (1) Our own interests and another person’s interests are
incompatible; and (2) The other person is about to interfere – or already has
interfered – with the interests of the perceiver (e.g. Vande Vliert & Enwema, 1994).
These perceptions may sometimes lead to aggressive acts but in other situations
lead to conflict.
The causes of conflict in work settings: (1) Organizational and (2) Interpersonal
Organizational causes of conflict (Baron, 1993 b) are related to the structure
and functioning of their companies such as (a) competition over scarce resources;
(b) power differentials (c) ambiguity over responsibility or jurisdiction (d) interdependence
with respect to work and (e) competitive reward systems. All these answers reflect a
traditional approach to organizational conflict, done in the past.
However, more recently another perspective, from social psychology has
emerged. In this view, conflict in work settings, like conflict in many other contexts,
stems partly from interpersonal factors – factors that are related to persons or
individuals; their social relationships; and the way in which they think about others
(e.g. Baron, 1990; Hammock & Richardson, 1992); Kabanoff, 1991).
Interpersonal causes of conflict include the following: (a) faulty communication
(b) faulty attribution (c) Stereotypes (d) Prejudice 9e) Grudges and (f) Feelings of
A growing body of evidence offers support for this perspective, focusing on
interpersonal factors. So, it appears to be a useful one for understanding the causes
of conflict.
Strategies for Dealing with conflict: Contrasting Patterns, Underlying Dimensions
Research on conflict, reveals that most people tend to adopt one of five distinct
patterns: (a) competition – get as much as possible for oneself or one’s group; (b)

compromise – split everything down the middle or equally; (c) accommodation
(surrender) – give up and let the others take all the benefits (d) avoidance – avoid
conflict in any way possible, including withdrawal from the situation; and (e)
collaboration – attempt to maximize everyone’s gains. Collaboration which focuses
on maximizing the outcomes of both sides, is often very useful. However, suppose
one is faced with an opponent, who sticks on rigidly to competition, and in such a
situation collaboration cannot be used.
These five basic patterns as reactions to conflicting situations, are contrasting
and they are related to two basic dimensions:

1. Concern for one’s own outcomes and

2. Concern for others outcomes.
Competition is high on concern for one’s own outcomes and low on concern for
others’ outcomes; while accommodation (surrender) is high on concern for others
outcomes but low on concern for one’s own outcomes. So far as compromise is
concerned, it is in the middle on both dimensions. There are large individual
differences with regard to preferences among these patterns (e.g. Rahim 1993). Some
persons tend to prefer confrontation (competition) while others tend to prefer less
confrontational modes of resolving conflicts such as compromise, collaboration
Techniques for Reducing the Harmful Effects of Conflict: As we have observed
earlier, conflict is often a costly process for both individuals, and organization. The
effects are not always negative – sometimes conflict encourages both sides to
examine the issues more carefully and as a result to design more creative solutions
or decisions (e.g. Amason 1996). This is particularly true in cases, where
participants focus on issues and ideas, but emotions like anger do not rise to high
levels (Baron, in Press). However, in many instances conflict is descriptive and
generates negative outcomes. So practical techniques have to be developed for
reducing its negative effects.
1. The most widely used procedure for resolving conflicts and to control their
adverse effects is negotiation or bargaining (e.g. Johnson 1993; Sheppard,
Bazarman, & Lewick 1990). In this process of negotiation, opposing sides to a
dispute exchange offers, counter offers, and concession, either directly or through
representatives. Suppose the process is successful, a solution acceptable to both
sides is attained and the conflict is resolved. That is, negotiation is a key technique
for resolving conflicts in work settings. And the two sides often engage in
negotiation. When it is successful, the given solution is acceptable to both sides.
Suppose, it is unsuccessful, bargaining will lead to a costly deadlock, intensifying
the conflict. In such a situation one of the tactics or specific strategies used for this
purpose, is the suggestion by one side, that it has an “out” (another potential
partner with whom to make a deal). Another strategy is the big bie technique – claims
that one’s break-even point is much higher or lower than it really is. A third
technique often used is making “tough” or extreme initial others. Relatively extreme
offers seem to put strong pressure on opponents to make concession, often to their
own detriment. Finally, there is the Incompatibility Error. This is mistaken
perception by negotiations that their own interests and those of the other side are
totally incompatible. This kind of tendency causes them to overlook interests which
are really compatible. Research findings point out that this incompatibility error
stems from the tendency of negotiators to perceive falsely that the quantity of
available outcome is fixed and that they should seize the largest possible share of
this amount (Thompson, 1993).

2. Second techniques for resolving conflicts, involves the induction of super-

ordinate goals (discussed in Lesson 7 & 8) – goals which are shared by both sides.
This technique is useful for resolving costly conflicts (e.g. Blake & Mouton, 1984;
Kolb & Bartunek, 1992).
3. Finally, the strategy useful in reducing aggression namely the incompatible
response strategy has also been found to be useful in reducing inter-personal
conflicts (Baron, 1984, 1993 b). Since intense conflicts often generate strong anger,
and since strong emotions, in turn, interfere with cognitive efficiency (Zillmann,
1994) getting people to lower the volume by exposing them to events or stimuli that
induce feelings incompatible with anger, can be useful means for getting negotiations
back on trac, and hence for resolving serious conflicts.
To conclude, the findings, the principles and theories of social psychology have
served as the basis for several techniques and for reducing or resolving the conflicts.
The field of Social Psychology has made valuable contributions towards
understanding human behaviour in work settings and also towards making such
work-environments, more pleasant and productive for large number of persons.
Working in another culture is an increasingly consumer experience. As a result of
the expansion of international trade, an increasing number of persons have been
sent by their companies to jobs in foreign countries with varied cultures. All these
expatriate employees can find this experience in foreign countries with different
cultures – rewarding or disturbing – depending upon the kind of support offered by
their organizations.
The legal process and work place each have been the focus of a great deal of
psychological research.
Forensic Psychology has produced extensive evidence that the reality of our
legal system, often fails to live up to its stated ideals. For example, the testimony of
witnesses and defendants, is influenced by interrogation procedures, and judgement
about the defendant by the general public and by potential jurors are influenced by
pre-trial publicity in the media. Eye witness may be inaccurate and the behaviour
(both deliberate and accidental) attorneys and judges can influence verdicts. Jurors
respond in part, on the basis of emotional biases, for and against particular defendants,
as well as on the basis of their own general attitudes, cognitive processing skill, and

assumptions about several physical and behavioural attitudes of the person on trial.
The principles of social psychology have been applied to the understanding of
behaviour in work settings, particularly, within the field of industrial and
organizational psychology. Work related attitudes include employees’ evaluations of
their jobs (job satisfaction) and of their organizations (organizational commitment)
several factors influence such work-related attitudes, and these attitudes in turn
have been found to play a role in important aspects of work related behaviour like
that of performance and turnover.

To choose and select employees, organizations frequently make use of job

interviews. Since these interviews involve social interactions between applicants and
interviewers, they are influenced by many social factors. For example, applicants
appearance, - including whether they are overweight – and influence the ratings,
they receive. Further interviewers expectancies also, play a role. Interviewers tend to
behave so differently toward applicants they expect to evaluate highly or poorly, and
these differences in behaviour, serve to confirm their expectation.
Organizational politics are all too common in many work settings. And tactics
used by persons are to further their own selfish ends. The most disturbing of the
unethical tactics are called dirty tricks. Many counter measures can be effective in
reducing organizational politics and their harmful effects.
These involve clarifying job expectations, insisting on open communication and
refusing to tolerate the political game players.
Another most common problem in organizations is conflict, which occurs from
perceptions of incompatible interest between groups or individuals. And conflict
stems form organizational causes like competition over scarce resources, and from
interpersonal causes like that of stereotypes, prejudices, grudges and ineffective
communication styles. Individuals generally react to conflict, in several different
ways, - and among the most common patterns are competition, compromise,
accommodation, avoidance, and collaboration. All these contrasting patterns reflect
underlying dimensions: Concern with one’s own outcomes versus concern with
others outcomes. Conflict can be reduced or resolved by several techniques, based
on social psychological principles and findings, including negotiation, super-ordinate
goals, and the induction of responses incompatible with anger and conflict.




Social Psychology in Action
Application to Health and Environment
After reading this lesson, you should be able to
 Understand the importance of sound health and attempt to cope with illness
 Examine the significance of Environmental Psychology and the reciprocal
link between Environment and Human Behaviour
Introduction: - Health Psychology: Maintaining a Healthy State and coping with
illness – How environmental Factors Affect Human Behaviour and How Human
Behaviour Affect the Environment.
The topic of “Social Psychology in Action”, deals with the applications to Health
and Environment. In this context, a major interest is research, which is concerned
about the interaction between psychological processes and those of physical
processes, involving health versus illness.
In this lesson, we will first discuss about health psychology and how emotions,
cognitions and behaviour are relevant to several aspects of human health, from the
way we process relevant information to our ability to cope with medical treatment.
Next, we will turn to Environmental Psychology; we will look at research which
points out, some of the ways we are affected by aspects, of our physical and inter-
personal surroundings, as well as research showing how our attitudes and
behaviour, have positive and negative effects on the environment.
Maintaining a Healthy State and Coping with Illness
When we speak about good health or about illness, we are clearly making
reference to a person’s physical state. And whether a person is well or sick, might
seem to involve purely medical issues, and which do not come into the concern of

psychologists. However, of late, it has become very clear that psychological factors
affect or influence all aspects of our physical well-being (Rodin & Salovey, 1989).
Work on these problems is labeled as health psychology – the research specialists of
this area are focusing on the psychological processes, which affect the development,
prevention, and treatment of physical illness (Glass 1989). It is very much necessary
to understand that psychological and physiological processes are interconnected.
Health Psychology, as a branch of study, is concerned about, how psychological
factors influence the origin, prevention, and treatment of physical illness.

Dealing with Health-related Information

1. One obstacle, to take necessary steps to prevent physical disorders, is our
understandable confusion about processing the large quantity of relevant
information, which bombards us daily (Thompson, 1992). Processing of health
related information is a tough task. We are frequently overwhelmed by information
about how to maximize health and prevent illness. Some of the scientific facts are
clear while some of them are not. Further the health related product advertising can
be quite misleading, such as “salt-free sugar.”
2. A second obstacle, is that even when all of the experts agree as to state
precisely which information is valid, we show our extreme reluctance or
disinclination to alter major aspects of our behaviour. For example, there is little
doubt that cigarette smoking is harmful and that exercise is beneficial; but many
smokers resist giving up the habit, and many conch potatoes resist strenuous
physical activity.
Just like overestimating the seriousness of crime, people also overestimate
threats to health, on the basis of the availability heuristic, (Lesson 3). However, in
any event, things are better than what they seem to be. What Information, do we
accept? Those who provide information about health, to the general public and faced
with a basic question, as whether to emphasize factual details or to make an
emotional appeal. The most commonly manipulated emotion, is fear. – the
consequences of engaging in certain behaviour – (for example, smoking) or the
consequences of non-engaging in certain behaviour – (for example, not going to the
dentist) are often described in horrifying detail. Although the results are not totally
consistent across studies, there is evidence, that when fear is induced, people as
such tend to process a health message more carefully, than when fear is absent
(Baron et. al. 1994).
Rothman and his colleagues (1993) propose that a positively framed message
(Lessons 4 & 5) is best for facilitating preventive behaviour – “Eat high-fibre foods to
promote good health and prevent disease”; But a negatively framed message is best
for facilitating detection behaviour – “Get a pap smear annually to avoid the pain
and suffering, associated with uterine cancer.” Whatever be the message, it might
seem obvious to predict that people would be most receptive to information
personally relevant to them. However, this is not always true – We often defend
ourselves against threat, and this defensiveness can be maladaptive. For this
reason, Liberman and Chaiken (1992) proposed that the more relevant a health
threat is to an individual, the less likely that person is to accept the truth of a
message about the threat.
Regardless of how threatening the message was, it was believed less by those,
for whom it was highly relevant, tham by those for whom, it had little relevance.
Liberman and Chaiken (1992) have given their data from the findings. A threatening
health message, if it is relevant, do not believe it. Information about possible health
threats can arouse fear and anxiety; and the more relevant such messages are to

oneself, the greater the tendency to reduce the threat, by not believing that message
– A health message was given about the dangers of coffee. And this was believed less
by those, for whom it was relevant than by those for whom the message was
irrelevant. In an experiment, women received either a low-threat or a high-threat
message, about the dangers of coffee. The high-threat message was more believable,
but at both levels of threat, the coffee drinkers (high relevance) were less likely to
believe the message, than those who did not drink coffee at all (low relevance group).
(1) First it is clear, that a common response, to a message about a self-relevant
health problem is to reduce anxiety, by rejecting that information. For example, a
person feels better if that information is processed as false or “untrue”, (2) A second
“benefit” or reflecting the information is, that there is no need to alter one’s own
current (present) behaviour.
It is to be noted that different people defend themselves against threat, in
different ways. Millar and millar (1993) proposed that response to a relevant health
message, would depend upon a person’s characteristic defense mechanisms
(repressing versus sensitising) – (Lesson 12), the nature of the health message
(emotional versus cognitive) and the content of the individual’s self-focused attention
(on affect – (feeling & emotion) or on cognition). Defense mechanisms are used to
reduce anxiety: persons who use sensitisation, try to control ‘threat’ by thinking
about it and seeking relevant information. But, those persons who use repression try
to control ‘threat’ by avoiding and denying the same.
The experimenters selected the topic of breast cancer, the leading cause of
death among American women, as highly relevant to their female research
participants; and they focused on messages about the importance of breast self-
examination for early detection of a potential problem, since lesser than 25 percent
of American women (alone) regularly engage in this procedure. The general point is,
that the effectiveness of a health message depends on message content, the way a
person characteristically defends himself or herself against threat, and how
attention is focused at the time, the message is received.
Among all the messages directed toward people, on a regular basis, the most
consistent and broadly applied health campaign, over the past four decades has
been to warn against the dangers of cigarette smoking and to curtail (stop) cigarette,

Success in encouraging people not to smoke cigarettes: In USA alone roughly
1200 persons die each day due to cancer, caused by smoking tobacco (Smastein,
1993); And the smoking rate in most other nations like China, Indonesia, Japan,
Korea, Thailand and the United Kingdom is much higher than in the United States
(Jarris; 1991; Shenon 1994; Smolowe 1992). When a pregnant woman smokes, her
offspring has an increased risk of such problems like low birth weight, pre-maturity
and long-term behavioural difficulties. We know that non-smokers run health risks
caused by the smoke (of smokers) and become victims of “passive smoking.” Further
toxins from such smoke can reach the fetus of non-smoking pregnant women, and

the nicotine and other harmful contents of tobacco also show up clearly in their
newborn infants (Passive smoking ……… 1994).
Cigarette Advertising has encouraged young women to smoke. In 1967, tobacco
companies began producing and advertising cigarette brands, particularly designed
for women. During the first six years that such brands were promoted. Further
cigarette smoking among girls aged 12 to 17 years increased dramatically. In spite of
increase in smoking behaviour, the government action has given rise to a startling
decrease in the percentage of Americans who smoke. According to the US report
from Disease control and prevention centre, smoking dropped from 42 percent of the
population in 1955 to only 25 percent of the population in 1992.
Physical Illness, as a Consequence of Stress
Stress is the negative response to physical or psychological events perceived by
the person as potentially causing physical harm or emotional distress. When
confronted by perceived danger, the person feels threatened and tries to cope with
the situation. Such coping behaviour is considered to be successful, if it eliminates
the threat (Taylor, Buunk, & Aspinwall, 1990). This coping behaviour involves
responding to stress, in such a way that reduces the threat and its effects. In other
words, coping includes, what a person does, feels, or thinks in order to master,
tolerate, or decrease the negative effects of a stressful situation. The greater the
stress a person experiences, the more likely that physical illness will occur (Brody,
1989). For example, each of us may have everyday hassles like interacting with a
rude or indifferent spouse or driving an automobile in heavy traffic on a regular
basis can increase the probability of catching a cold or developing the flu; and a
more serious problem like the death of a loved one may make the person becoming
ill, even greater (Schleifer et. al., 1983).
Individual Differences in Vulnerability to Stress
When exposed to the same objectively stressful condition, some persons
experience a high level of stress and become ill, while some other persons experience
much less stress and remain well. For example, men who are perfectionists - “I feel
that I must do things perfectly or not do than at all” – are more depressed than non-
perfectionist, when stress is high (Jonlier & Schmidt 1995).
Although genetic factors explain some of the differences in the effects of stress
(Kossler et. al., 1992), Friedman, Hawley, and Tucker (1994) offer evidence from

many studies showing a difference between disease prone personalities and self-
healing personalities. Let us now find out, how both of these personalities differ from
each other.
i) Disease-Prone Personality: In this category, the persons respond to stress with
negative affect (feeling & emotion) and unhealthy behaviour patterns, resulting in
physical illness and a shortened life span.
ii) Self-healing Personality: In this category, persons are characterized by
enthusiasm, emotional balance, extraversion, alertness and responsiveness; And the

individual tends to be energetic, curious, secure, and constructive and have a

relatively lower incidence of physical illness and longer life span.
When events are beyond our control, we are likely to feel depressed (Brown &
Siegel, 1988) and to become physically till (Lersen & Kasimatis, 1991). In reducing
such stress, an important step is to identify our possible options and then to choose
among them (Paterson & Neufeld, 1995).
Taking Active steps to cope with Stress
Some stress is almost inevitable in our lives. We have to keep note, that not
everyone is blessed with a self-healing personality. What shall we do to cope with
stress and to overcome the negative effect on health? The solution to this problem is
given below: Three strategies have been identified: (a) becoming physically fit.
Exercise as a strategy to cope with stress and prevent illness. Research shows that
fitness (endurance and strength) is an important element in resisting the negative
effects of stress. Regular exercise results in fitness, and people who are fit are less
likely to become ill in response to stress, than those persons who are not fit.
Sensible pattern of DIET; SLEEP & EXERCISE Result Fitness. (b) increasing
positive affect by altering our cognitions, behaviours and environmental surroundings
and (c) seeking social support – physical and psychological comfort given by friends
and family (Sarason, Sarason & Pierce, 1994). Even among monkeys stress leads to
an increase in affiliative behaviour; And affiliation in turn enhances the immune
system (Cohen et. al., 1992).
Responding to health problems
Psychological factors affect each aspect of a person’s physical well being. Even
though psychological factors might influence the probability of becoming ill only
physical factors would be relevant, once illness strikes. In fact, the person who
becomes ill, should process the incoming information, attend to whatever physical
symptoms are present, and correctly interpret them – By noticing the systems, one
can conclude that something is wrong. Next, a series of critical decisions and choices
must be made – whether to do nothing and simply wait for improvement, to rely
upon elf-diagnosis or to seek some type of formal or informal treatment.
ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY: How Environmental Factors Affect Human Behaviour
and How Human Behaviour Affects the Environment
We have learnt in Lesson 1 that one of the five major factors that influence

social behaviour consists of Ecological Variables – the direct and indirect influences
of the physical environment. The study of such variables has developed and
expanded into the field called Environmental Psychology. And this field is a study of
the interaction between human behaviour and our physical surroundings. Much of
the initial research work was about how the presence of other people tend to
influence us – for example studies of crowding. During the 1960s and 1970s interest
was shown on negative behavioural effects, noise, heat, and air pollution.
Subsequently in the 1980s and 1990s environmental research focused on the
negative impact of human behaviour upon the environment and how best this

undesirable and unhygienic behaviour can be altered or changed for the common
good and betterment.
Environmental Effects on Human Behaviour
Earlier, while discussing the effects of stress on health, we have observed that
researchers, initial focus centered upon physical threats. Throughout human
history, people have been threatened by floods, cyclone, earthquakes and several
other natural disasters. However, in more recent times, technological advancement
has brought about new potential dangers. We are regularly exposed to health-related
messages about environmental threats like increased cancer risk, caused by living or
working near power lines – (Gorman, 1992) or talking on cellular telephones (Angier
1993) often followed by research reports assuring us that our fears are unfounded
(Broad, 1995); other environmental dangers seem to be quite real and familiar like
people living or working near the hazardous waste site and higher cancer rates
(Harmon & Coe, 1993).
Since environmental threats are stressful, people should find out ways and
means to cope with the threats. We should reduce environmental threats whenever
it is possible to do so. But when it becomes impossible we should learn how best to
cope with the threats that remain. Perhaps the least effective coping strategy is
wishful thinking – doing nothing but hoping that the problem will simply go away
(Hallman & Wandersman, 1992). Another ineffective response is to attribute
environmental problems to the evil motives of industrial firms or of government
agencies and then to resort to violence against persons connected with these
organizations. The unabomber is a prime example. This anonymous person has sent
mail bombs that killed or injured a series of people as a way to attain his aim: “the
complete and permanent destruction of modern industrial society in every part of
the world.” (The Unabomber speaks, 1995).
The most adaptive approach is to take steps to alter the behaviour of
individuals for example, prohibiting smoking in public buildings or of organizations;
regulating automobile emission standards and so on. Noise as an unwanted sound
create a negative affective response (Baron, 1994) being evaluated as unpleasant. We
tend to react negatively to loudness, even if it is a natural outcome like a loud clap of
thunder or artificial like a jet plane taking off. Unpredictability is the other major
reason for a negative response to sound. We can adapt more easily to a regular,
predictable sound, such as birds that start singing each morning at sunrise or a
clock that chimes on the hour, than to unexpected and unpredictable sound. (Glass,
Singer, Friedman, 1969). Noise, particularly unpredictable noise has negative effects
on affect, work performance reading ability and health. Several devices that have
been invented by Bob Baron, are effective in reducing this source of environmental
High Temperatures: Negative Affect and Negative Interpersonal Behaviour
Research has made it very clear that when the temperature rises to a point,
where it is uncomfortably hot, people interact with one another in less positive ways.

It is to be noted that discomfort is not simply a matter of air temperature but it is

also affected by humidity and by air movement (Sundstorm & Sundstorm 1986). Hot
temperature resulted in hostile affect, hostile thoughts and physiological arousal;
any one of these responses to heat as well as their combined effect can increase the
likelihood of negative interpersonal responses. When the heat is sufficiently intense,
both interpersonal attraction and pro-social behaviour decrease. (Bell, 1990). In a
study of automobile drivers at the inter-section in Phoenix, Arizona, the higher the
temperature, the more the drivers angrily honked their horns, when the car in front
of them remained stationary after the signal light has turned to green – (Kenrick &
McFarlane, 1986).
Data from hundreds of major – league baseball games show that as the
temperature rises, there is an increase in the average number of times, batters get
hit by the ball. In other words, the higher the temperature, the greater the mean
number of batters hit by a ball. This finding provides additional support for the
proposition that heat results in an increase in aggressive behaviour (Reifman,
Larrock, & Fein, 1991). Temperature level has also been linked to still more serious
interpersonal aggression (Anderson & De Neve, 1992). For example, Anderson and
Anderson (1984) found that murders and rapes in two large American cities
occurred more frequently as the temperature increased. And this is true with other
cities. Interestingly the relationship between temperature and crimes, which do not
involve interpersonal aggression, such as burglary and car theft, is much weaker
(Anderson, 1987).
The Negative Effects of Breathing Polluted Air: Although world wide concern
about air quality was expressed at the Rio conference on the global environment in
1992, still pollution remains a problem. On the job, more than half of all factory
workers are exposed to hazardous polluted air (Quinn & Staines, 1979).
Air Pollution invariably brings about discomfort, illness and death. Polluted air
is one of several factors in the environment that has a negative effect on humans.
Impure air, causes negative emotional reactions, increases various health risks and
is responsible for thousands of deaths annually. Most of the particles are released
into the air by industrial plant and a smaller proportion originate in the exhausts of
vehicles powered by diesel engines. In countries that have less restrictive
environmental laws, these problems are even worse.
Pollution is dangerous, but people who are exposed to it on a regular basis
learn to accept dirty air, as normal. For example, newcomers to a heavily polluted
area such as Southern California, North West Indiana, or Eastern. New Jersey
complain about the terrible condition of the air; but those who have lived in the area
for a period of time, seldom ever notice the pollution and do not consider it to be an
important community issue (Evans, Jocabs, & Fraget, 1982).
In addition to polluted particles, odour is also involved in our response to
impure air. In general, bad smells evoke negative feelings and less friendly
environmental behaviour (Rotton et. al., 1979). The negative emotional effects of bad

air are assumed to be responsible for the association between pollution level and the
frequency of family disturbances reported to the police (Rotten & Frey 1985). Air
which has a pleasant smell has the opposite effect such as positive emotions and
friendly behaviour (Baron 1990). He founds that research participants exposed to
the scent of an air freshener while working on a clerical task set higher goals, used
more efficient work strategies, and were friendlier than other participants, who
worked without the air freshener. It seems likely that adding pleasant smells like
peppermint to a work setting could improve both morale and performance (Baron,
1990; Warm, Dember & Parasuraman, 1991).
The Effects of Atmospheric Electricity on Human Behaviour
Natural atmospheric phenomena such as lightning cause air molecules to split
into positively and negatively charged ions, and these ions affect behaviour. For
example, after a thunderstorm, the level of negative ions increases; as a consequence,
people experience an increase in positive affect and show improved task performance.
The Effects of Human Behaviour on the Environment
We defined Environmental Psychology as an interaction between our behaviour
and our physical surroundings. It is really a two-way street; with the environment
affecting our actions and our actions affecting the environment. In fact, almost
everything that humans do has a small but cumulative effect on the world around
us. To start with, anything that we personally do, probably has very little effect, of
course. But, what we do plus the other billions of people living on our planet do, can
be sufficiently so great as to alter the environment and this alteration in turn can
influence the lives of all of us (Stern, 1992).
The more the people, the more Effect they have on the Environment: However, we
should all realize that the land, the water and the air on earth cannot support an
infinite number of human beings. We are making more people, but we are not
making any more land. According to the World Bank, we are not making any more
water either. Now, at least 80 countries of the world have serious water shortages,
with a consequent threat to agriculture field (Lekic, 1995). The threatened areas
include the Middle East, North Africa, Northern China, Southern India, Western
South America and large parts of Pakistan and Maxico. New usable water can be
created by a fairly expensive procedure that purifies ocean water, but even this
source is not infinite.

The birth rate varies considerably across different countries. For example, in
Kenya the relatively high birth rate results in a 4 percent annual increase in
population. And this means that the number of Kenyans doubles every eighteen
years (Kaplan, 1992). In fact, both the optimists and pessimists agree that at some
point, growth must stop either because we rationally decide that the number of
people can not exceed the available resources required to live a good life (Daly, 1991)
or because we more or less ignore the question until catastrophe strikes in the form
of famine, regional wars fought to control drinkable water and arable land and the
spread of fatal diseases (Heilbroner, 1974; Luten, 1991).

Further the decision to halt growth need not involve political control and the
use of coereion. And the most effective way to lower birth rates is by increasing
educational opportunities and raising the level of personal income (Emery, 1994)
making family planning services available (FitzGerald, 1994) and using the media to
increase the general awareness of options (Ryerson, 1994).
If we prefer choice to catastrophe, the task of persuading people to change their
behaviour, convincing people to change their attitudes and teaching billions of
people to interact in mutually beneficial ways, will obviously require the knowledge
and skills of applied social psychologists (Katzev and Wang, 1994).
Some of the Effects of our Actions: Producing Waste, Altering the Climate and Causing
the spread of New Diseases
Even though, most people place a high value on a clear environment (Simons,
Binney & Dodd, 1992) a growing population necessarily means the creation of more
and more waste products. One tangible effect of human beings on the environment
is trash. Perhaps the most obvious by – product of human activity is waste material,
ranging from sewage to garbage. The volume of waste increases corresponding to the
population growth and the problem of how to dispose of the waste has become an
exceedingly different task. The USA alone produces about 180 million tons of waste
each year and more than 70 percent of America’s trash is buried in 5,500 landfills
throughout the country (Rathje, 1991); Most of these sites becoming filled to
capacity and few communities are eager to have new ones located in their vicinity.
There are no easy solutions to the growing problem of waste, but recycling is one
promising approach (De Young et. al., 1995). To the extent that paper, glass, plastic
and metal can be saved and reused, there is obviously less trash (and a decreased
need to use additional raw resources to manufacture new products).
Global warming refers to the probable increase in the temperature of the earth’s
atmosphere and its oceans, brought about partly as a result of, various kinds of
human activities. There is reason to believe that global warming is gradually taking
place: temperature increase in the atmosphere and in the oceans, partly due to
human activity (Stevens, 1995 a). And the consequential effects are an increase
storms and other weather extremes (Stevens, 1995 b) plus a melting of the Ice caps,
both at the North and South poles that will raise the sea level, 2 to 3 feet, during the
next century (Sullivan, 1995).
These effects have already been observed in many parts of the world, since the
oceans are rising about one inch every five years. Three of the islands of the
Republic of Maldives are now under water and the gradual loss of land, has been
documented in Bermuda and in several islands of the Caribbean (Crossette, 1990).
Further about the additional effects of a warmer climate will be changes in the
plants and animals, now living in temperate zone; for example, the sugar maple and
the deer mouse will have to migrate toward the poles. Some animals such as polar
bears and monarch butterflies, may cease to exist (Schneider, 1991; Stevens, 1992).
The cause of this change in climate, is called the greenhouse effect. That is,
heat is trapped in our atmosphere, due to an increase in the levels of three gases –
(Carbon dioxide; methane and chlorofluorocarbons or EFCs used in refrigerators,

airconditioners and many aerosol cans) and finally trap the sun’s heat, turning the
earth into a vast “greenhouse.” Though the problems of waste and global warming
are deadly serious, a third effect of people on the environment and vice-versa is more
immediately terrifying – the development of new diseases (Garrett 1995). Among the
diseases believed to originate in the rain forest are HIV infections that result in AIDs,
dengue (“ or break bone”) fever, and the Ebola virus.
New viral diseases from the Rain Forests, is it a fiction or fact? The emergence
of new and deadly diseases like the Ebola virus has resulted in interesting fictional
presentations but the diseases and the dangers are real. When humans invade and
destroy isolated natural habitats like rainforest, organisms that once infected the
animal inhabitants can adopt to the threat by transferring to human hosts.
It is clear, that what we do can alter our environment. And changes in the
environment, in turn, can affect the lives of each of us. To sum up, the growing
world population directly contributes to the negative effects of human behaviour, on
our physical environment. Among the effects of overpopulation are the annual and a
thinning ozene layer, and the accidental introduction of new diseases. Among the
positive steps to reverse the effects are persuasive efforts to promote family planning,
recycling, control of gases, which have a negative impact on the atmosphere and the
protection of, once isolated habitats.
Health Psychology is concerned with the effect of emotions, cognition, and
behaviour on preventing physical illness, maintaining good health and responding to
medical problem. An important topic is how we process relevant health information –
and sometimes reject it, because it is perceived as threatening. A great deal of
research has dealt with the effects of stress on susceptibility to illness and with the
personality factors which make some persons better than others, at coping, with
physical and psychological threats. Beyond the role and function of dispositional
(personality) variables, coping with stress is aided by being physically fit, maintaining
high levels of positive affect, and receiving social support. When a health problem
arises, the person should take a series of critical choices and decisions noticing and
interpreting the symptoms, deciding what action to take and coping with medical
Environmental Psychology is a field which deals with the interaction between
the physical world and human behaviour. Among the several environmental factors
which influence one’s emotional state, ability to work effectively, interpersonal

behaviour, and health are, perceived technological threats, noise, heat and humidity,
polluted air and atmospheric electricity.
The negative effects of humans on the physical environment are based in part
on the rapid growth of population – the greater the number of people on the planet,
the greater the effects of their actions in the world around them. Attention has been
focused on such issues like the creation of waste material, alterations of the world’s
climate and the disruption of isolated habitats which results in the spread of new
diseases. In each instance, there are steps that can be and have been taken by

persons and by governments to halt the destructive behaviour and to repair the
Differences between Asian and American patients in medical settings led to an
examination of the way, self-concept is shaped by cultural factors. In Asian
countries, the self-concept is tied to other people and centered on one’s extended
family (collectivistic). In the United States of America and other Western societies,
the self-concept is individualistic and independent.
Among the consequences are very different ways of expressing emotions and
communicating with others, and doctor-patient relationships differ as a result.
Another difference is the American belief that life should involve happiness and be
controllable; illness and death contribute to failure and they should be fought. In
contrast, a typical Asian belief is that life involves suffering and is beyond one’s
control; illness and death are the normal result of bad luck or due to our past deeds
and they should be accepted.
Forensic Psychology – Incompatibility Error-Job Interviews - Job satisfaction –
Leading Question – Negotiation – Organizational Citizenship Behaviour –
Organizational Commitment – Super-ordinate Goals. Coping – Disease prone –
Personality – Health Psychology – Environmental Psychology – Global warming –
Greenhouse Effect – Noise – Stress – Self-healing personality – Social support.
1. Explain the application of Social Psychology to the Interpersonal Aspects of
the Legal System.
2. Examine job satisfaction and organizational commitment in relation to
work-related attitudes
3. Write notes on the following
a) Eye Witnesses
b) Job Interviews
c) Organizational Politics
d) Conflict in work settings
4. Describe the role of health psychology towards a healthy state of person
and coping with Illness
Analyse the influence of Human Behaviour on the Environment
Write notes on the following
a) Stress and illness
b) Coping with medical care
c) Global warming
d) Greenhouse Effect


Time: 3 Hours Maximum: 100 Marks
(5 x 8 = 40 Marks)
Answer Any Five Questions
All questions carry equal marks
1. Social psychology is a science – Explain.
2. Discuss the role of non-verbal communication in social perception.
3. Explain the role of schemas in social cognition.
4. Describe cognitive dissonance.
5. Bring out the development of gender identity.
6. Bystander effect – Explain.
7. Discuss the personal causes of aggression.
8. Health psychology – Explain.
Answer Any Three Questions
All questions carry equal marks (3 x 20 = 60 Marks)
1. Describe the potential sources of error in social cognition.
2. Explain how attitudes are formed.
3. Discuss the ways of combating prejudice.
4. Examine the various methods of social influence.
5. Bring out the application of psychology in law and business.




1. Trace out the historical development of Social Psychology.
2. Define social perception and explain the channels through which it occurs.
3. Explain the frameworks for social cognition.
4. Discuss how errors occur in social cognition.
5. Describe how attitudes form.
6. Explain the ways of changing attitudes and the reasons for resistance.
7. Critically evaluate Cognitive Dissonance theory.
8. Bringout the various aspects of self-functioning.
9. Define prejudice and explain the ways of combating it.
10. Examine the factors in interpersonal attraction.
11. Explain the concept of love and its development.
12. Discuss the strategies of social influence.
13. Bringout the factors that influence pro-social behaviour.
14. Discuss the theories of pro-social behaviour.
15. Explain how various theoretical perspectives contribute to our understanding
of aggression.
16. Bringout the social and personal causes of aggression.
17. Discuss the nature of child abuse and violence in the work place.
18. Explain the measures for the prevention of aggression.
19. Define group and discuss its nature.
20. What are the functions of groups?
21. Bringout how groups influence task performance.

22. Examine how perceived fairness influence behaviour
23. Discuss the functions of leaders.
24. Describe the different types of leadership.
25. Explain how Social Psychology can be applied in
a) The Legal systems
b) Business
c) Health Psychology
d) Environmental Psychology.

26. Write shorts notes on

a) Social Psychology
b) Impression management
c) Attitude and behaviour
d) Self-concept
e) Gender identity
f) Discrimination
g) Sexism
h) Bystander effect.