Chapter 1 Notes The Weakness of Individual Differences y Introduction to John: -John is a student walking to meet someone on campus - He finds

man slumped in doorway asking for help -Will he stop to help?

-Most people will try and predict what John will do based on things they know about him as a person y Research has shown that even with knowledge of their traits and past behaviour, a person s response to novel situations cannot be predicted with any accuracy predictability ceiling: maximum correlation of .30 between measured individual differences on a given trait dimension and behaviour in a novel situation that plausibly tests that dimension o o y Ex. Using a personality test of honesty to predict how likely people are to cheat on an exam will have a maximum correlation of .30 .30 is not a trivial correlation but leaves the bulk of variance unaccounted for


Dispositionism: most people believe they can predict how people will behave based on individual differences and traits.

The Power of Situations y Back to John: -The circumstances surrounding the encounter are much more predictive of whether or not he would stop to help o e.g. the appearance of the man asking for help (perceived socioeconomic class), whether or not John was in a hurry ^ A study by Darley and Batson (1973) showed that people in a hurry stopped to help significantly less than those who weren t (10% vs. 63%) o Fundamental Attribution Error: People s inflated belief in the importance of personality traits and dispositions, coupled with their failure to recognize the importance of situational factors in affecting behaviour.


The Subtlety of Situations

theories. the principles and intuitions use to make these predictions are unreliable y .g. etc) o Conclusion: The boys home life s made little if any difference on future outcomes y Moral of the story: Situational effects can sometimes be far different from what our intuitions.y Situational factors are not always powerful determinants of behaviour o Even situations intuitively expected to have strong effects (E. mentally ill mother. imprisonment. reliance on financial support. to make sense o o This is not a cognitive illusion The predictability of everyday life is real  However. winning the lottery) can have weak predictive value o A study was done in which boys (average and delinquency prone) were assigned to an experimental group or a control group and were monitored  The experimental group received significant social . and academic supports  Conclusion: treated experimental group were no less likely to become delinquent then control group ^Follow up research on the above study showed surprising noneffects (alcoholic/abusive father. psychological. or even existing psychological theories tell us they should be The Predictability of Human Behaviour -Social psychology will always have limitations in predicting behaviour as behaviour is fundamentally unpredictable The Conflict between the Lessons of Social Psychology and the Experience of Everyday Life y The evidence of empirical social psychology often conflicts with what we know from everyday life The world seems to be an orderly place. sexual abuse.

. The necessity of understanding individual psyches and social groups as tension systems or energy fields characterized between impelling and restraining forces. (Tension Systems) 1. The Principle of Situationism y Kurt Lewin o German emigrant who redefined the field of social psychology  Believed behaviour is a function of life space : the combination of the person and the situation o Conducted an experiment wherein he manipulated the leadership styles (authoritarian vs.y Our intuitive ideas about people and what governs their behaviour is similar to lay physics in that both prove useful in our day-to-day lives but are deficient when it comes to understanding. The importance of people s subjective interpretations of the situation (Principle of Construal) 3. Three important principles (Tripod on which Social Psychology rests) 1.. democratic) of recreation clubs  This was so effective that it produced marked differences in how club members related to each other  Showed that behaviours can be inhibited or promoted through short term manipulation of a person s immediate environment Also did studies on group decision making  When trying to get people to change ways of doing things. The power and subtlety of situational influences (Principle of Situationism) 2. predicting. an informal peer group can be both a powerful restraining or inducing force o o o Main point: social context creates potent forces producing or constraining behaviour Channel Factors : minor but important details of a situation  Behaviour is often produced by opening up some channel (ex: making a public commitment to a course of action)or blocked by closing one (ex: failing to properly plan said action) . or controlling outcomes outside of this context.

and at the same time gives meaning and guides anticipation with respect to similar stimuli and events in the future Tools of construal: cognitive structures (schemas. Failure to recognize the inherent variability of situational construal (making the assumptions one s own construal is shared by others leads to overconfidence in predicting behaviour) 3. models. Failure to realize observed actions and outcomes may prove diagnostic not of the actors unique personal dispositions but of the objective situational factors and the actors construal of them. Experiment which demonstrates channel factors: -attempted to persuade subjects to get tetanus shots -most subjects convinced but only 3% actually go -second group of subjects get same persuasive speech but also given [a map with the health center circled and urged to review their schedule]<channel -second group 28% went and got their shots Channel factors give understanding as to the sizes of situational effects y Big interventions without proper input channels may be less effective than smaller interventions that operate on important input channels  2. . scripts. Failure to recognize the degree to which one s understanding of stimuli is an active interpretative process rather than a passive reception of reality y y 2. their understanding of the situation of a whole y Schema: a knowledge structure that summarizes generic knowledge and previous experience with respect to a given class of stimuli and events. The Principle of Construal y The impact of any objective stimulus situation depends on the persons interpretation of it y To predict the behaviour of a person we must have an idea of their construal. social representations) and strategies (judgemental heuristics tacit rules of conversation) Errors of the construal: 1.

Tension systems y Individuals and the collectivities they belong to must be recognized as systems in a state of tension y Behaviour must be derived from a totality of existing facts y These facts have dynamic field: any part of the field depends on every other part of the field y Contributions to tension system notion: 1. 3 possible outcomes: y y y Attempts to change others opinions Receptivity to others attempts at persuasion Rejection of others from the group of they refuse to move toward the central tendency -Contradictory attitude exists in a state of tension called dissonance and must be resolved .its course can be altered by a man with a shovel 3.3. tension systems provide insight into the sizes of the resulting effects of manipulations Leon Festinger: social psychologist who applied tension system notion to most impressive effect -believed human attitudes are best understood as existing in a state of tension in relation to the attitudes of members of the groups to which they belong -people do not like to be in disagreement with their peers. Similarly to the principle of construal. Systems are sometimes held in equilibrium just on the cusp of change and a small event could have a large effect  Ex: Mississippi river. An analysis of restraining factors can be as important to understanding and anticipating the effects of a newly introduced stimulus as an analysis of the stimulus itself y Quasi-stationary equilibrium: certain processes or levels fluctuate within the confines imposed by certain constraining and impelling forces y This equilibrium can be changed in two ways: reducing constraining forces or increasing impelling forces 2.

g. the world is a reasonably predictable place -Lay psychology is useful despite dramatically mistaken principles . their former beliefs will shift towards the ones in the speech) Predictability and Indeterminacy Prediction by Social Scientists -There are limitations to the social psychologists ability to predict behaviour. but the basis for this consistency may be misunderstood -Despite demonstrable errors and biases. but these do no prevent observations of value to society from being produced -The limits of predictability in the social sciences mirror the limits found in the physical sciences (e.g. if a person is manoeuvred into making a speech that do not reflect their beliefs.Festinger s most dramatic use of tension system was showing that people will realign their beliefs to match their behaviour (e. the weather) Prediction by Laypeople -Predictions by laypeople are often wrong and too confidently made -Too much emphasis is put on individual differences in determining behaviour -Inconsistent data is typically assimilated to produce illusions of behavioural consistency -The discrepancy that arises between the apparent predictability of everyday life and formal research is that in formal research individuals are exposed to fixed situations while in real life the majority of situations are dynamic -Both consistencies and inconsistency in behaviour can be reflections of individual differences in the construal process Overall thesis: -layperson s assumptions about personal consistency and predictability are validated by everyday experience.

whereas if a senator expected to win the primary comes second. we are sometimes forced to rethink well established theories Outcomes can be assessed in terms of their capacity to alter our subjective probabilities o Ex: When a senator expected to run fifth instead runs second.The problem of effect size -Effect sizes are big or small relative to something -Three definitions of relative effect size: 1.5 standard deviations  1.5 standard deviations seems significant but only equates to an additional 6 hours of survival Effects are big or small relative to the obstacles that stand in the way of getting a particular job done and the relative importance of the job y Expectation Criteria of Size y y y Effects may be seen as big or small relative to what we expect them to be If very small effects are found when large ones are expected. we view it as him winning a small fraction of the vote y Success and failure are determined by our prior predictions and beliefs . Pragmatic 3. Statistical 2. Expectational Statistical Criteria of Size y Effect size has very little to do with statistical significance o Any effect size can be made statistically significant by collecting a large enough number of observations o Statistical significance does not equate to theoretical or practical significance Cohen s suggestion: The magnitude of experimental effects should be judged relative to the variability of the measure in question y Pragmatic Criteria of Size y Real world utility needs to be taken into account when judging whether an effect is big or not o Ex: A new drug increases survival time of people with Smedley s fever by 1. we view it as him winning a big fraction of the vote.