Social Psychology


Social Psychology Essay, Research Paper

so-cial (sol) adj. [[ OE secg , man, warrior]] 1 of or having to do with human beings living together as a group in a situation in which their dealings with one another affect their common welfare [social consciousness, social problems] 2 living in this way; gregarious [man as a social being] 3 of or having to do with the ranks or activities of society, specif. the more exclusive or fashionable of these [a social event] 4 getting along well with others; sociable [a social nature] 5 of, for, or involving friends, companionship, or sociability [a social club] 6 offering material aid, counseling services, group recreational activities, etc. to those who need it; of or engaged in welfare work [a social worker or agency] 7 living or associating in groups or communities [the ant is a social insect] 8 [Now Rare] of or between allies or confederates [a social war] 9 Bot. growing in clumps or masses –n. an informal gathering of people for recreation or amusement; party –social-ly adv. psy-chol-o-gy (si kal je) n. , pl. -gies [[ModL psychologia: see PSYCHO- & -LOGY]] 1 a) the science dealing with the mind and with mental and emotional processes b) the science of human and animal behavior 2 the sum of the actions, traits, attitudes, thoughts, mental states, etc. of a person or group [the psychology of the adolescent] 3 a particular system of psychology Fused together these two words carry the title of one of the most exciting, most fascinating, and most frightening schools of psychology. Social Psychology is the scientific study of the influence of other people on personal behavior. The way society influences idea of beauty, the way teachers can influence performance by increasing expectations, and the total influence by Adolph Hitler over Germany are different aspects in life and history that are studied by social psychologists. Dr. Phillip Zimbardo has published others research, and his own in the videos The Power of the Situation , and Constructing Social Reality . VIDEO SUMMARY: Social psychology is defined as the scientific study of the influence of other people on personal behavior. We need a social environment to reach full potential, but can be used to threaten the integrity of human lives. THE POWER OF THE SITUATION: Leaders have a way of controlling their followers. In some cases, dictators have turned individuals into zombie like followers who will do or believe anything the leader says. Hitler is an example of one such leader. He was able to do what he did by changing the social structure in his country. If you feed propaganda to citizens, through the repeated exposure to information, people will tend to start to believe it. Uniforms also change to social structure, rendering human minds numb, and in the control of anyone with authority. Kurt Lewin is a refugee of Nazi Germany and a social psychologist who has done research in the affects of leadership on society. Lewin assembled three separate groups of children and assigned each group a leader. Each leader was instructed to lead in a different style. Autocrat, Lazzez-Faire, and Democratic were the three styles. The autocratic group was hard working when the leader was present, but showed little personal motivation. The Lazzez-Faire group accomplished nothing and showed the least motivation, but did have a lot of fun. The democratic group accomplished a lot of work, had the best quality work, had the most fun, personal motivation, and originality. The democratic group had worked the best for the reason that the children were happy to work. Lewin s conclusion was that human behavior is a function of individual and social environment. Solomon Asch performed an experiment to test social conformity. He assembled a group of men, all but one were part of the experiment. The group was told to analyze and respond to a very obvious display. The results showed that 70% of the test subjects conformed to the group opinion, when it was obvious that they were wrong. The experiment showed that even the most obvious perceptions can be manipulated my social groups. Stanley Milgrim wanted to see weather or not the German attitude had any influence on total conformity and blind obedience. Milgrim s conformity test was set up with a person in the place of a teacher. The teacher was instructed to give an electric shock anytime the wrong answer was given, increasing the voltage for each consecutive wrong answer. Two thirds of the subjects proceeded to the potentially lethal 450 volts. A common response was I m not responsible for this. The experiment s conclusion was that total conformity was not a character flaw in Germans of a part of Fascism, but part of the basic human structure. The importance of the situation can be explained by The Fundamental Attribution Error. Which is an error we have or will all make in our lives. It can be defined as the attribution of unusual behavior of others to personality flaws with out considering the influence of the situation. However, tending to focus on our own mistakes as being caused by the situation at no fault of personality flaws. More on the positive side of situational power, Tom Moriaty s beach experiment proved that good things do come form situational influence. During Moriaty s beach experiment, a man was set up to steal a radio from a woman as soon as she left. No one reacted. However, when the women asked the man to watch her radio, thus changing the situation for the man, he went after the radio thief as he walked by. Ellen Langer was also interested in the positive aspects of situational influence over behavior. Her research at Harvard tested weather or not a situation could actually influence eyesight. All the subjects were tested on an eye examination. Half were given flight uniforms and a real simulation. They were asked to read markings on the side of an aircraft in the simulator, which was actually another eye test. The other half were not given uniforms and were told only a few frames of the simulator worked. They were also asked to read markings on the side of an aircraft in the simulator. Those given uniforms and the real simulation of a real situation actually improved on he second eye exam (the one in the simulator.).

CONSTRUCTING SOCIAL REALITY: On November 28, 1978, 900 people committed mass suicide. A cult lead by a man named Jim Jones was responsible for the tragedy. And as the fundamental attribution error states, people assumed that it was a personality flaw, not the situation that had caused the 900 people to committee suicide. The reason for which such an event could occur is due to the second law of social psychology. We all form our own subjective reality based on how we perceive and interpret, and understand the situation. The power of cognitive control is the ability to create as subjective reality, which is so powerful that it overrides our objective reality. And the belief that we see reality and others are wrong leads to conflict and prejudice. Jane Elliot, a third grade teacher from Riceville, Iowa, performed an experiment using eye color as a basis for prejudice. Using anecdotal evidence, she persuaded her 3rd grade students that blue eyed people were better then brown. Elliot s response was Co-operating children became nasty prejudicial 3rd graders in the course of one day. At their 15-year reunion, there was still a level of friendship between the former students, but they all made excused for their behavior. Elliot s conclusion was that once differences lead to indicators of superiority or inferiority, that generalization becomes institutionalized into society and leads to prejudice. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson s research was on the effect of positive expectations on behavior. Teachers were told that certain children showed academic potential. The children who the teachers thought were capable of doing more actually preformed better, when in fact, the children were selected at random. Their conclusion was that a teachers expectations affect performance and children expected to do better, actually do better. There are certain factors that influence high expectations. The climate factor in which teachers create a warmer environment for favored children. Teachers are nicer and friendlier, give non-verbal signs like eye contact and smiles.For the input factor, teachers teach more material to favored children. Why teach dumb children? The response factor, teachers give the favored children more opportunities to answer and respond. In the feedback factor, increased expectations equal increased praise and increased disapproval when wrong. This information concludes that subjective reality of intelligence becomes self-fulfilling. How smart you think you are will influence your actual behavior. Elliot Aronson and Alex Gonzales developed a type of teaching to boost all students self-image of intellect. Jigsaw learning changes the student s outlook on learning. Students move to co-operation to learn instead of competing for the teacher s approval. Students reach higher development, which leads to higher self-respect. Which leads to social respect, and social respect, in turn, leads back to higher development. Advertising is persuasion. And persuasion means changing the attitudes of others. Robert Chaldini of Arizona State studied what is called the principals of successful persuasion. Reciprocation is the feeling of being obligated to return a favor. Scarcity, the smaller or the more limited the item is, the more we tend to want it. Authority, if an expert approves, then it must be the best there is. Commitment, once we take a position we re twice as likely to make decisions in favor of the position. Liking, like in Tupper Ware parties, if we know the person we are more likely to buy. And Consensus, if everyone is doing it of buying it, it must be good. STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT Dr. Phillip Zimbardo set up what he called The Stanford Prison Experiment to observe what would happen when good people are put in bad situations. The subjects that were selected were split into two groups. Half were selected as guards. The other half were chosen to be prisoners, and were arrested in their homes, classes, of anywhere they were. The guards were given uniforms, night sticks, and mirror sun glasses to eliminate eye contact. Nice guys became controlling dictators. The prisoners, who once had high self-esteem, became conforming masses. One of the guards was quoted in saying that the prisoners never stood up for them selves. Dr. Zimbardo and his colleagues were forced to end the experiment less than 7 days into it, although it was originally planned to take two full weeks. Too many of the prisoners were developing serious reactions to their environment. We were unprepared for the speed and intensity of change that occurred as stated by Dr. Zimbardo during an interview. The conclusion to the experiment was that we all have the capacity to do evil depending on the situation. Normal people, given absolute power, abuse it. But because of the extreme conditions the subjects were put though, there is now a review board that looks at cost of subjects vs. potential benefit. REACTION / ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION I thought that the videos were very fascinating. Once again I enjoyed Dr. Phil s presentations of social psychology. Dr. Phil s prison experiment was really interesting, seeing how normal people, classmates at that, can so quickly turn on each other given the right situation. And, years later, they use the same excuses of justifying their behavior that Nazi officers accused of war crimes had after the holocaust. I ve always believed that how a teacher teaches directly affects a students learning. Now I have information that proves me right. The jigsaw learning and teaching style is one I ve always liked. If a student can become an expert at something, than he/she can teach it to someone else, and then better understanding the information better themselves. Hats off to Aronson and Gonzales! But I think what will most affect me is the knowledge of the true power of situations. I think that if a person is aware of the influence of a situation, they are better prepared to deal with that situation with less of a social influence. And acknowledging that we are all influenced by the situation that we may be in gives us a better handle when analyzing others behavior and trying to understand them.

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