DOING SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
FORMING AND TESTING THEORIES
A theory is an integrated set of principles that explain and predict observed events.
Facts are uncontested statements about what we observe. A theory, however, is an idea that represents and summarizes facts in a concept that can guide further observation. Theories also contain one or more HYPOTHESIS. A hypothesis allows us to test a theory and validate or invalidate it.
A good theory 1) efficiently summarizes a variety of observations, and 2) makes useful predictions that can be used to modify the theory, show the way how it can be applied practically, and lead to further exploration.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CORRELATIONAL AND EXPERIMENT RESEARCH
CORRELATION RESEARCH: Looking for natural associations.
Is there for example a correlation (repeated observed connection) between longevity of life and status>affluence. How would might we research this?
CORRELATION versus CAUSATION......However, does the coexistence of two factors imply that one is causing the other? Correlation indicates a relationship, but it does not guarantee an explanation of cause. Let us consider wealth and longevity as an example. Do people live longer because they are rich? Or do they become rich because they are living longer and have more time to accumulate wealth? Correlation allows us to predict the repetition of associations, but does not tell us whether changes in one variable will cause changes in the other.
ASSOCIATIVE FALLACY occurs when we jump to the conclusion that two factors appearing together are causing one another. However, coincidence can be the explanation.
Another example.....children with high self-esteem accomplish better academically. Yet, is it the self-esteem that leads to higher achievement or the higher achievement that triggers sentiments of self-worth and self-satisfaction?
DISCUSSION: Will an educational system that promotes self-esteem lead to higher achievement? What role do family situation and social status play?
We test this by playing around with the variable of family status. We then see the connection between self esteem and achievement in a different light.
To repeat, knowing the correlation between two variables helps us predict one as long as we know the other. But it does not prove cause and effect.
EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH SEARCHES FOR CAUSE AND EFFECT
EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH allows us to manipulate variables in order to test their association and relationship with one another. During an experiment, we 'manipulate' variables in order to see their relationship.
By varying one or two factors (INDEPENDENT VARIABLES) we observe how changes in one or a couple affects other variables (DEPENDENT VARIABLES). For example, self-esteem, wealth, and health (INDEPENDENT VARIABLES) can be studies within their effect on achievement (DEPENDENT VARIABLE).
RANDOM ASSIGNMENT consists of placing people in separate experimental modes in order to assure that the experiment is not affecting the results. So we have an experimental group and a control group.
ETHICS AND EFFECTIVENESS: It is important in an experiment to have 'experimental realism.' Subjects should be involved and not be play-acting or simply trying to fulfill the roles they think their experimenters want them to fulfill. An experiment must be reviewed to ensure that it is ethical. The subjects must give their 'informed consent' and be folowed up for 'debriefing.'
Discussion: In an experiment on violence viewing and children what might be the ethical problems involved? What is informed consent and what must it guarantee?
FROM LABORATORY TO OBSERVED REALITY
Social psychology mixes laboratory work and everyday observation.
DID YOU KNOW IT ALL ALONG?
COMMON SENSE is something we use after the fact. Often, we have to search to put together the facts to see how evident they were. I.e. During world war II intellectual soldiers did less well than the tough street-smart types. (Well, of course, it's a war not a library....but we can't make the statement until we collect some evidence).
'Hindsight bias' is the 'I knew it all along syndrome.' But is that the truth? For example, we all knew all along that opposites attracts and that people of similar disposition get along better...which one is a valid statement, however? We tend to not find 'results' surprising. That places us in the danger of thinking we are right or that the right information has been given us when we really are not right or being manipulated.
DISCUSSION: Examples of 'results' that make sense and that seem evident but may not be in reality.
I knew it all along can lead to arrogance and extreme (and extremely unjustified) confidence in ourselves. The same hindsight bias makes us blame ourselves for 'being stupid' when we make a mistake. Yet, during the act we were using our intelligence.
So, common sense can be right or it can be wrong. Remain wary of conclusions that 'seem to make sense.' Check further.
SELF-CONCEPT. Who am I?
Your 'self-concept' is your definition of who you are. Schemas are mental templates we use to organize our way of thinking. Our 'self-schema' affects our social attitudes and behaviors. They are self-defining beliefs.
self-referential effect'...we tend to remember better words and concepts that relate to our image or conception of ourselves. Memory, therefore, is attached to personal interest.
BECAUSE WE SEE OURSELVES AS THE CENTER OF OUR CONSCIOUSNESS, WE MAY OVERESTIMATE THE DEGREE OF ATTENTION THAT OTHERS ARE GIVING US. PARANOIA is the ultimate SELF-ABSORPTION.
EMOTIONS: because we know what we feel we assume that they are evident to others. We expect others to read our minds and bodies. Many relationships collapse because of this faulty assumption and expectation. The stress experienced by people who feel that they must feel the other's state is enormous.
SELF AND CULTURE
People in different cultures use different markers in defining themselves. In communal and individualistic cultures we can expect to receive different answers to the question WHO ARE YOU? Communal: caring, helpful, dutiful; individualistic: smart, funny, daring.
Communal or Collectivist: identity is defined in relation to others. Individualistic: identity is defined in relation to one's own needs. So we can speak of the 'interdependent' and 'independent' self.
INTERDEPENDENT: WE, US (disapproves of egotism (gee, I am so selfless! Wow!) Self-esteem depends on what others think of me.
INDEPENDENT: ME, I, disapproves of conformity (see how COOL I am!), Self-esteem depends on what I think of myself.
DISCUSSION: how might the reporting of positive emotions differ in collectivist and individualistic cultures?.
Self-serving bias is the need and tendency to present oneself favorably. Remember Goffman's discussion of presenting a front and preserving face.
Many experiments indicate that people accept as reality when they told they have succeeded. We attribute success to our own efforts and failure to external factors.
I.e. A car came out of nowhere and hit my car. The glass fell out of my hand.
Trying to preserve our own bias we blame others. High divorce rate? Hmmmm...
QUESTION: would you be just as likely to criticize an exam if you received a good or low grade?.
DISCUSSION 1: VARIOUS TYPES OF BIAS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES: 1) UNREALISTIC OPTIMISM, 2) FALSE CONSENSUS AND UNIQUENESS, 3) OTHER SELF-SERVING TENDENCIES, 4) SELF-ESTEEM MOTIVATION.
DISCUSSION 2: SELF-SERVING BIAS AS AN ADAPTIVE and MALADAPTIVE process.
THE FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR
The central lesson of social psychology is the important influence the social environment has on us.
ATTRIBUTION RESEARCH: research on how explain (or attribute) the behavior of others. DISCOUNTING OF THE SITUATION: (ROSS): the fundamental attribution error. WE ASSUME THAT OTHERS ARE THE WAY THEY ACT.
We attribute behavior to a situation and tend to see identities as cast in stone. We tend to discount social constraints and therefore reach conclusions about our own behavior and those of others.
DISCUSSION: what do we make of people who are friendly and polite and enthusiastic?
WHY DO WE MAKE ERRORS OF ATTRIBUTION?1) Perspective and situation awareness and 2) Cultural differences.
1) Perspectives and situation awareness: Our perspective differs when we observe others than when we act in our own lives. Why? Because when we act we are absorbed by our social environment. When we observe another we are absorbed by the other and our observation. That is why we see ourselves and others in a deferent light.
DISCUSSION: How does our perspective change as we change the angle of our vision. Let us view things from different visual perspectives. Looking at one another.
Our perspectives change over time as an event becomes 'less hot.'
WE FIND CAUSES WHERE WE LOOK FOR THEM. CASE EXAMPLES. We forget to take situation into consideration and attribute causes and associations according to our vision.
2) Cultural Differences: An individualistic worldview will predispose us to view the cause of events and outcomes as as people-driven. You can do it! translated to It happened because of what you did! We explain behavior according to personal characteristics (He's such a sicko!). People in communal cultures are more aware of situations and less predisposed to assume that everything is caused due to personality traits. In Spain, it is acceptable to say 'The clock caused me to be late.' In high-context cultures, excuses are often placed outside the person. Thus, we have a difference between Internal and External attribution.
Fundamental attribution does not always produce error. It may sometimes organize reality and our view of it so that it is comprehensible and, therefore, promote realism. Nevertheless, the way we attribute things affects our attitudes and creates self-fulfilling prophecies.
DISCUSSION: Why are the poor poor?
THE POWERS AND PERILS OF INTUITION
INTUITION: THE MOST CONTESTED ASPECT OF SOCIAL AND INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGY. DO OUR HUNCHES AND SENTIMENTS REVEAL REALITY OR ARE THEY ILLUSIONS?
New Agers and spiritual people ascribe much importance to INTUITION. INTUITION is seen as TUITION that comes from IN-side ourselves (IN-TUITION).
Does the unconscious control us? Are there forces beyond our conscious awareness that motivate our actions?
If we always wanted to act consciously we might become paralyzed. A lot of our behavior is automatic.
WE OVERESTIMATE THE ACCURACY AND RELIABILITY OF OUR JUDGMENTS.
Mechanisms of 'compensation' are involved. It would seem that both authentic self-esteem as well as inferiority complex and being overwhelmed by a task can create sentiments of OVERCONFIDENCE.
The Perils of Overconfidence: Hitler, the Montreal Olympics and Exam predictions (SEE MYERS TEXT, pp. 64-67).
IF something can go wrong might it not? We can present programs that include predictions of what can go wrong and safeguard against them.
DISCUSSION: Some social policies that have created surprising consequences due to overconfidence.
CONSTRUCTING MEMORIES MEMORIES ARE NOT STORED IN SOME BANK IN OUR HEAD. SINCE MEMORY IS BACKWARD REASONING IN TIME, WE CONSTRUCT MEMORIES USING OUR CURRENT FEELINGS AND KNOWLEDGE. CAN AN ADULT TRULY REMEMBER PRECISELY HOW HE FELT AND ACTED AS A CHILD NOW THAT HE IS 'CONTAMINATED' OR 'ENVELOPED BY 'ADULTHOOD' A STATE THAT DID NOT EXIST AT THE TIME"
CRITIQUE: PENFIELD'S STUDIES ON BRAIN AND MEMORY (1959)
RECONSTRUCTING PAST BEHAVIOR, RECONSTRUCTING PAST BEHAVIOR: Memory construction allows us to revise our backgrounds and place them in a narrative that is satisfactory to us.
DISCUSSION: how would one believing 'that there's a good reason for everything' and that 'things happen for a reason' construct a series of unpleasant experiences?
HEALING AFTER AN OPERATION IS VERY MUCH DEPENDENT ON HOW WE CONSTRUCT OUR MEMORY OF THE ILLNESS as WELL AS OUR MEMORY OF TIMES WHEN WE HAVE BEEN FACED BY OTHER CHALLENGES AND OBSTACLE.
Reason for Unreason
We are rational beginning but also capable of irrational thoughts, conclusions and actions.
There are four reasons that facilitate unreasonable conclusions (conclusions that do not meet the criteria of reason and rationality). 1) Our preconceptions control our interpretations, 2) We are swayed more by anectode than statistical facts, 3) We misperceive correlation and cause, 4) Our beliefs bring forth their own conclusions and create a closed circle of reasoning.
Illusory Correlation: We see a correlation when none exists. We perceive random events and then associate them to confirm a belief we hold.
Illusion of Control: This putting together of random events in an associational relationships gives us the 'illusion of control.' Witness how gamblers will vary the way they throw dice in order to create the sentiment that the manner in which they throw it will affect the numbers that come up.
Our beliefs and the way we associate random events can create their own confirmation. The 'self-fulfilling prophecy' occurs when all these associations create an outcome that confirms our expectation.
DISCUSSION: Examples of this process at work. Question: do teacher expectations affect student performance?
Interesting observation: when self-fulfilling prophecies occur, then others are enlisted to confirm our own beliefs. Expectations seem to affect the behavior of others towards others.