Behavior in a social context Objectives After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following: 1.

Discuss the focus of the field of social psychology and cultural psychology. 2. Describe two controversial studies and discuss how they illustrate the influence of roles on behavior. 3. List and explain the reasons that people obey authority and when they may disobey. 4. Summarize the principles and components of attribution theory. 5. Describe the relationship between attitudes and behavior. 6. Define attitudes and identify important influences on attitudes. 7. List and explain persuasive and manipulative techniques of attitude change. 8. Discuss some reasons for conforming to social pressure in a group. 9. Define diffusion of responsibility, groupthink, social loafing, and deindividuation. Discuss the conditions under which each of these is most likely to occur and their consequences. 10. Discuss the steps involved in disobedience, dissent, and altruistic action. 11. Define ethnocentrism and explain its consequences. 12. Describe some of the effects of competition. 13. Describe ways that stereotypes are useful and three ways which they distort reality. 14. Define prejudice and the psychological, social, and financial functions that perpetuate it. 15. Discuss approaches for reducing prejudice and conflict between groups.

Roles and Rules

Social psychology is the study of people in social context, including the influence of norms, roles, and groups on behavior and cognition. Roles and norms are affected by one's culture. Two classic studies illustrate the power of roles to affect individual actions. In Milgram’s obedience study, most people in the role of "teacher" inflicted what they thought was extreme shock on another person because of the authority of the experimenter. In Zimbardo’s prison study, college students quickly fell into the role of "prisoner" or "guard." Obedience to authority contributes to the smooth running of society, but obedience can also lead to actions that are deadly, foolish, or illegal. People obey orders because they can be punished if they do not, out of respect for authority, and to gain advantages. Even when they would rather not obey, they may do so because they allocate responsibility to the authority; because their role is routinized into duties that are performed mindlessly; because they are embarrassed to break the rules of good manners and lack the words to protest; or because they have been entrapped.

According to the just-world hypothesis. instead of blaming the perpetrators. things. they may blame victims of abuse or injustice for provoking or deserving it.Social Influences on Beliefs  Researchers in the area of social cognition study how people’s relationships and social environment affect their beliefs and perceptions. Attributions A self-serving bias allows people to excuse their mistakes by blaming the situation yet also take credit for their good deeds. Techniques of attitude change include associating a product or message with someone who is famous. Attitudes may be explicit (conscious) or implicit (unconscious). attractive. or expert. To preserve this belief. Some attitudes change through experience. The fundamental attribution error occurs when people overestimate personality traits as a cause of behavior and underestimate the influence of the situation. One powerful way to influence attitudes is through the validity effect: Simply repeating a statement over and over again makes it seem more believable.   People hold many attitudes. Fear tactics tend to backfire. about people. and others result from social influences and are more changeable. which create a generational identity. some are fairly ingrained aspects of personality. One important external influence on attitudes is the shared experiences of a person's age group. others change because of a psychological need for consistency (the discomfort of being in a state of cognitive dissonance). . Their attributions may be situational or dispositional . and linking the product with good feelings. according to attribution theory. For example. most people need to believe that the world is fair and that people get what they deserve. people are motivated to search for causes to which they can attribute their own and other people’s behavior. and ideas.

offering the appearance of unconditional love and acceptance in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. social loafing. Conformity has many benefits for the smooth running of society and allows people to feel in harmony with others like them. crowd norms foster helpfulness and altruism. are under outside pressure. Individuals in Groups     In groups. However. groups can be structured to counteract groupthink. As the famous Asch experiment showed. In some situations. But everyone conforms under some conditions. Most people conform to social pressure because they identify with a group. But they also may conform mindlessly and self-destructively. Deindividuation increases when people feel anonymous. but in others. censor themselves. as in a large group or crowd. the loss of awareness of one’s individuality." Groups that are strongly cohesive. or wish to be liked. the tendency of group members to think alike. . Diffusion of responsibility in a group can lead to inaction on the part of individuals. most people will conform to the judgments of others even when the others are clearly wrong. People in collectivist cultures value conformity and the sense of group harmony it creates more than do people in individualist cultures. The diffusion of responsibility is likely to occur under conditions that promote deindividuation. individuals often behave differently than they would on their own. using entrapment. and feel that their decisions are invulnerable. and controlling access to outside information. in work groups. trust the group's judgment or knowledge.Influence Attitudes  Some methods of attitude change are intentionally manipulative. or when they are wearing masks or uniforms. and have strong leaders are vulnerable to groupthink. crowd norms lead deindividuated people to behave aggressively. violating their own preferences and values because "everyone else is doing it. actively suppress disagreement. are isolated from other views. such as bystander apathy or. Tactics of coercive persuasion include putting a person under extreme distress. Groupthink often produces faulty decisions because group members fail to seek disconfirming evidence for their ideas. hope for personal gain. defining problems simplistically. creating a new identity for the person.

It wards off feelings of anxiety and doubt. religion. blow the whistle on illegal or immoral practices. and economic functions. the situation increases the likelihood that the person will take responsibility. The willingness to speak up for an unpopular opinion. provides a simple explanation of complex problems. and other social memberships. the person has an ally. or help a stranger in trouble and perform other acts of altruism is partly a matter of personal belief and conscience. But several situational factors are also important: the person perceives that help is needed. As soon as people see themselves as "us" (members of an in-group). organize experience. and the person becomes entrapped in a commitment to help or dissent. Conflict and hostility between groups can be reduced by teamwork and by interdependence in working for mutual goals. People develop social identities based on their group affiliations. the person decides that the costs of not doing anything are greater than the costs of getting involved. and predict how others will behave. and bolsters self- . and (3) producing selective perception. Prejudice has psychological. Group Conflict and Prejudice  Ethnocentrism. they tend to define anyone different as "them." Dividing the world into "us and them" is often fueled by competition. (2) underestimating the differences within groups. the belief that your own ethnic group or culture is superior to all others. But they distort reality by (1) emphasizing differences between groups. ethnicity. including nationality. Experiment at Robbers' Cave   Stereotypes help people rapidly process new information. A prejudice is an unreasonable negative feeling toward a category of people. promotes "us-them" thinking. social-cultural.

3. 4. or insulted. provoked. People often disagree on whether racism and other prejudices are declining or have merely taken new forms. Four conditions are required for reducing prejudice and conflict between groups: Both sides must have equal legal status. During times of economic insecurity and competition for jobs. implicit prejudice as revealed in emotional associations to a target group. 2. and culture. or. some researchers measure symbolic racism (prejudice disguised in opinions about race-related social issues). Gang members may try to feel better about themselves by proving their superiority over other gangs. people's actual behavior toward a target group when they are stressed. For example. both sides must have opportunities to work and socialize together (the contact hypothesis). These are: 1. and both sides must work together for a common goal. in extreme cases.  Insexuality: in security is defined as lacking confidence resulting . Psychological Social Economic Cultural Psychological sources of prejudice fall under:  Low Self esteem: research shows that some people enhance their self worth by disliking or hating groups they view as inferior. economic standing.  Anxiety: prejudiced persons may transfer their anxiety to the target group. prejudice rises significantly. Sources of prejudice There are four major sources of prejudice. or nonconscious. people who are anxious over their own sexuality may develop hatred of gay people. Prejudice is complex to define and measure. "hostile sexism" is different from "benevolent sexism. Because many people are unwilling to admit their prejudices openly.  esteem when a person feels threatened. to legitimize war. both sides must have the legal and moral support of authorities and the larger culture. For example. But the most important function of prejudice is to justify a majority group's economic interests and dominance. and power. social groups. Prejudice also allows people to feel closer to their families." yet both legitimize gender discrimination.

diffusion of responsibility. too. . deindividuation. stereotyping. the principles of social and cultural psychology show that under certain conditions. and prejudice.The Question of Human Nature  Although many people believe that only bad people do bad deeds. good people are often induced to do bad things. and by the social processes of obedience and conformity. bystander apathy. All individuals are affected by the rules and norms of their cultures. ethnocentrism. groupthink.