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PSY 221

Planted 02022-08-25

Social Psychology


Social psychology is the scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.

Textbook: Social Psychology by Gilovish, Keitner, Chen, Nisbett

Exam 1

Week 1

Moderation: When the relationship between 2 variables relies on a third variable

Individualistic culture: self-sufficiency, uniqueness, autonomy, independence

Collectivistic culture: social rules focus on promoting selflessness, working as a group, doing what’s best for society, families and communities have central role

Construal: Interpretations or inferences about the people, places, and events we confront

Independent variable: The predictor variable manipulated by the researcher

Dependent variable: The outcome variable measured by the researcher

Internal validity: experimental/situational control (random assignment)

External validity: extent to which the results of the study can be generalized to other people and places.

B = f(P, E) represents: Behavior is a function of person and environment

How personality and situations interact to predict thoughts, feelings, and behavior:

Construct vs operationalized variables:

Strengths and weaknesses of different types (e.g., self-report, behavioral) measures:

Why correlation does not equal causation:

Week 2

Self-concept: the sum total of an individual’s beliefs and attitudes about his or her personal attributes

Self-complexity: Some people see themselves in an endless number of highly specific categories. Some people see themselves in a small number of broad categories.

Self-concept clarity: The extent to which the self is clearly and confidently defined and internally consistent

Interdependent vs. Independent self-concept: Interdependent self-concept: Defined primarily in relation to other people and groups. Independent Defined primarily by unique characteristics, abilities, thoughts, and feelings.

Downward vs. Upward social comparison: Downward = Comparing to worse than you (preferred), Upward = Comparing to people better than you (best if just slightly better)

Self-esteem: A person’s evaluation of their own self-worth

Self-enhancement: Self-serving attributions for success and failure

BIRG-ing and CORF-ing: Basking In Reflected Glory and Cutting Off Reflected Failure

Self-verification theory: Accuracy of self-views is desirable because people rely on them to guide behavior and predict others perception of them.


Self-handicapping: when people anticipate failure by engaging in behaviors to make failure more likely

Self-monitoring: the extent to which you look to the situation to guide your behavior

Self-regulation: Processes by which people initiate, alter, and control their behavior to pursue goals.

self-concepts that vary in complexity and clarity: low-complexity = outgoing/reserved/mature/mature , high-complexity = creative/adventurous/individualistic/artistic

when we are more vs less accurate about our traits: more accurate about our internal traits (e.g., emotions, cognitive traits), observers are more accurate about external traits (e.g., social behaviors, social traits (extraversion))

psychological consequences of having an independent vs interdependent self-concept:

when people engage in different forms of social comparison and the resulting effects:

who will have higher vs. lower self-esteem based on demographic and social factors:

how self-verification and self-esteem influence social interactions:

Identify domains where we see self-enhancement effects:

how self-handicapping contributes to positive self-presentation:

strategies to improve self-control:

Week 3

Emotion: A brief, specific response, both psychological and physiological, that helps people meet goals, including social goals

Mood: last hours or days, are more positive vs. negative

Affect: are more positive vs. negative

Empathic accuracy: Accurately judging other people’s emotions

Social intuitionist model of moral judgments: The idea that people first have fast, emotional reactions to morally relevant events and then rely on reason to arrive at a judgment of right or wrong

Affective forecasting: Predicting future emotions, such as whether an event will result in happiness or anger or sadness, and for how long (e.g., how happy or unhappy we’d be after a romantic breakup)

Immune neglect: People underestimate their capacity to be resilient in responding to difficult life events (e.g., Painful, difficult experiences are often less upsetting than we expect them to be)

Focalism: A tendency to focus too much on a central aspect of an event while neglecting the possible impact of associated factors or other events (e.g., a happy wedding day doesn’t guarantee a satisfying marriage)

Eudemonic vs hedonic well-being: Eudemonic well-being:

  • Feel your life is meaningful
  • Feel you have a purpose
  • Experience self- actualization

Hedonic well-being:

  • Experience pleasure
  • Avoid pain
  • Lots of enjoyable experiences

Emotion regulation: The processes by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express these emotions

Situation selection: Choose to avoid situations that elicit negative affect

Situation modification: Change a situation so it no longer elicits a particular emotion

Attention deployment: distraction moves attention and negative emotion away all together,

Cognitive change: Reappraisal:

  • Negative reappraisal: View a negative event less negatively
  • Positive reappraisal: View a negative event more positively

Response modulation: Directly influencing physiological, experiential, or behavioral responding

Suppression: Restrict emotional experience and expression

5 components of emotion with examples:

  1. Appraisal process
  2. Physiological responses
  3. Expressive behavior
  4. Subjective feelings
  5. Action tendencies

basic universal emotions:

when empathic accuracy will be higher vs lower based on target and perceiver characteristics:

historical (e.g., evolutionary, cultural) and current (e.g., relationship, group, informational) functions of emotions:

five major moral domains:

biases in affective forecasting:

positive outcomes associated with happiness and well-being:

strategies for increasing happiness:

which stages in emotion regulation are targeted by different strategies:

  1. situation selection
  2. situation modification: situation
  3. attentional deployment: attention
  4. cognitive change: appraisal
  5. response modulation: response

effectiveness and consequences of reappraisal versus suppression:

Week 4

Internal attribution: Caused by something about the person

External attribution: Caused by something about the situation

Covariation principle: People explain events in terms of things that are present when the event occurs but absent when it does not

Fundamental attribution error: The failure to recognize the importance of situational influences on behavior, and the corresponding tendency to overemphasize the importance of dispositions on behavior.

Self-serving attribution bias: The tendency to attribute failure and other bad events to external circumstances, and to attribute success and other good events to oneself

Entity theorists: People who tend to see personal characteristics (e.g., intelligence, personality) as stable

Incremental theorists: People who tend to see personal characteristics as unstable and changeable.

Just world theory: People are motivated to believe that others get what they deserve.

Counterfactual thinking: Thoughts of what might have been, could have or should have happened “if only” something had occurred differently

how combinations of levels of consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency promote internal vs external attributions for behavior:

situations where someone is making the fundamental attribution error:

differences in how we make attributions about our behavior versus the behavior of others:

why the self-serving attributional bias preserves self-esteem:

a pessimistic attributional style and describe outcomes associated with it:

how cultural factors predict attributional styles: people from collectivistic cultures…

the causes of the fundamental attribution error:

when counterfactual thinking will amplify emotional responses to events:

Themes and Methods

Norman Triplett

Dynamogenic Factors in Pacemaking Competition: found people behaved differently when observed. Behavior was more than reflex, stimulus, and response. Bike riders:

  • against time: slow
  • with pacer: faster
  • competition against pacer: fastest

Kurt Lewin

Founded “social psychology” and argued human behavior is explained by complex dynamic forces acting on an individual—like physical forces shaping the movement of objects.

Competing needs cause tension, and the satisfaction of the need reduces the tension.

function behavior(person, environment) {}

Interpretation & subconscious

Perceptions are subject to interpretation. People are lazy.

Construal is the interpretations or inferences about the people, places, and events we confront.

Social cognition is shortcuts for processing information and making decisions.

Priming is environment cues that guide our interpretation.

Implicit attitudes predict behavior above and beyond explicit attitudes.

Scientific process

  • Research question: What brings people together in romantic relationships?
  • Theory: An explanation for how and why variables are related to each other.
  • Hypothesis: A specific prediction that derives from the theory.
  • Research: A process of making observations to test hypotheses.


  • variable: Any event, situation, behavior, or individual characteristic that can have more than one possible value.
  • construct: Abstract ideas that form the basis of a research hypothesis.
  • Operational variables: the definition of an abstract concept used by a researcher to measure or manipulate the concept in a research study.

Operational variables

There are many operational variables for the same concept. For example, stress:

  • Stress self-report rating on some scale
  • Heartbeats per minute
  • Facial tension, frowning/grimacing, fidgeting
  • Number of daily events experienced


  • Checklist of objective events
  • Likert-type scales


  • easy to collect
  • get perceptions, judgements, motivations, memories,
  • variation along a scale


  • people know what you’re measuring
  • participant burden
  • inaccurate

Behavioral design


  • direct behavior
  • potentially unobtrusive


  • complicated to collect
  • cannot get motivation behind behaviors
  • behaviors may be one-time
  • need clear definitions of behavior

Correlational designs

Look at links between two or more variables as they naturally exist in the world.


  • Correlation between self-esteem and talking in class
  • Correlation between average income in a county and number of charitable organizations in a county Links between gender and importance of physical attractiveness

Correlation does not equal causation

Did x cause y to happen?

Experimental method

Internal validity: experimental/situational control (random assignment)

External validity: extent to which the results of the study can be generalized to other people and places.


  • test causality
  • control


  • complicated
  • internal and external validity tradeoffs

The Self

Self-concept is the sum total of an individual’s beliefs and attitudes about his or her personal attributes.

Self-schema (Markus, 1977): A cognitive structure derived from past experience that represents a person’s beliefs and feelings about the self.

William James (1980): The social me refers to the parts of self-knowledge that are derived from social relationships

Looking-glass self (Cooley, 1902): People can only learn about the “self” when they receive feedback from other people. The self cannot develop in isolation!

Self-complexity: co-existing archetypes

Working self-concept: the aspect of the self that is active in your mind at any particular time.

We’re not good at introspection:

  1. We are constantly mentally processing information, so we often don’t have the capacity to understand our own thoughts, feelings and behavior
  2. Multiple other forces, unconscious processes
  3. Lies

We are more accurate about our internal traits:

  • Emotions
  • Cognitive traits (e.g., reflectiveness, pessimism)

Observers more accurate about external traits:

  • Social behaviors
  • Social traits (e.g., extraversion)



  • Women more interdependent than men
  • Socialization: Girls typically raised to focus more on emotions and empathy, playing cooperative games
  • Biology: Women in more nurturing, child-rearing roles

Socioeconomic status

  • Low SES associated with more interdependence
  • Greater sensitivity to social context More interdependence
  • Higher SES associated with greater focus on achievement

Festinger’s (1954) Theory of Social Comparison:

  • People want to know where they stand
  • Prefer objective standards of comparison
  • No objective standard available, use a social standard
  • Typically compare ourselves to similar others

More commonly compare to people worse than self: downward social comparison


Self-esteem: A person’s evaluation of their own self-worth

Sociometer Theory (Leary): Self-esteem is an evolutionary metric for how we’re doing socially:

  • System monitors social inclusion, activates social pain if inclusion is low, motivates restoration of inclusion
  • Evidence: Self-esteem is particularly sensitive to rejection (Cyberball Task)

Self-Evaluation Maintenance Model (Tesser): Others’ successes can threaten our self-esteem (or not)

When people think success in a given domain is important, they believe the most important traits to succeed are those that they possess (Dunning, Leuenberger, & Sherman, 1995)—Egocentric perceptions of desirable traits

People over-estimate the extent to which their romantic partners conform to their ideal partners (and are happier for it) – Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996

BIRG: Basking In Reflected Glory

CORF: Cutting Off Reflected Failure

People are motivated to self-verify more than they strive for self-enhancement (Swann, 1997)

People with low self-esteem:

  • When choosing interaction partners, prefer to interact with people who have negative impressions of them
  • When interacting with another person, prefer negative feedback
  • When recalling previous interactions, are more likely to remember negative feedback


A brief, specific response, both psychological and physiological, that helps people meet goals, including social goals.

Emotions last seconds or minutes. Moods last hours or days.

Five components of emotions:

  1. Appraisal process
  2. Physiological responses
  3. Expressive behavior
  4. Subjective feelings
  5. Action tendencies

Paul Ekman basic emotions:

  • Happiness
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Fear

Cultural variation

Affect Valuation Theory: Cultures place value on certain goals; emotions aligning with those goals are more valued as well.

Display rules: How, when, and to whom it is appropriate to express emotions

Moral foundations theory: A theory proposing that there are five evolved, universal moral domains in which specific emotions guide moral judgments:

  • Care/harm: suffering of others
  • Fairness/cheating: justice
  • Loyalty/betrayal: commitments
  • Authority/subversion: hierarchy
  • Purity/degradation: avoid disease

Affective forecasting

Affective forecasting: Predicting future emotions, such as whether an event will result in happiness or anger or sadness, and for how long.

Immune neglect: People underestimate their capacity to be resilient in responding to difficult life events.

  • Overestimate the extent to which life’s problems will reduce their personal well-being
  • Painful, difficult experiences are often less upsetting than we expect them to be

Eudemonic VS. Hedonic

Eudemonic well-being:

  • Feel your life is meaningful
  • Feel you have a purpose
  • Experience self- actualization

Hedonic well-being:

  • Experience pleasure
  • Avoid pain
  • Lots of enjoyable experiences

What makes people happy

  • Helping others
  • Social relationships
  • Appreciating how others help us, or expressing gratitude
  • Exercise

Emotional regulation


Attitude: a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor (Eagly & Chaiken 1993)

psychological tendency: an internal state lasts for a period of time

entity: target of evaluation includes people, things, policies, places, etc. the attitude object

Attitude: affect, cognition, behavior

Functions of attitudes:

  • Utility: Promote pleasure and avoid pain
  • Value-expressive: Attitudes based on moral judgments and values
  • Social-adjustive: Attitudes that help one fit in or gain social standing
  • Ego-defensive: Protect one’s self-esteem from threats
  • Knowledge: Understand the world around us, know things beyond those immediately relevant to our needs

Attitudes are strongest when . . .

  • They are internally consistent
  • We have a lot of knowledge (experience) about the object
  • They are important to us
    • Impact our self-interest and outcomes
    • Impact important others (friends, family, ingroups)

Complex attitudes contain elements that are both:

  • highly differentiated: Number of different dimensions
  • highly integrated: Connections between dimensions

Social Cognition

The three main goals of thinking:

  • Accuracy
  • Confidence
  • Efficiency

Exam 2

How to reduce cognitive dissonance:

  1. Change attitude to reduce inconsistency
  2. Change behavior to reduce inconsistency
  3. Add new thoughts reduce inconsistency

Yale Attitude Change approach: “Who says what to whom?”

  • who: the source; halo effect, certainty, credibility, sleeper effect
  • what: vividness, fear

Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM):

  • Central route processing: systematic
  • Peripheral route processing: unmotivated audience, influenced by irrelevant characteristics

Six weapons of influence:

  • Liking: mimesis, people like us
  • Authority: trust by default
  • Scarcity: sapiens, Streisand, Status
  • Reciprocity: mimesis, people like us
  • Consistency: cognitive dissonance
  • Social proof: mimesis, people like us
  • Unity: mimesis, people like us

Descriptive norms: what people do

Injuctive norms: what people think people do

Predictors of Attraction:

  • Mere exposure
  • Halo effects
  • Proximity
  • Misattribution of attraction (fear)
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Similarity
    • Attitudes (likes and dislikes)
    • Values
    • Background

Mate values:

  • Intelligence
  • Humor
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Good looks
  • Face attractiveness
  • Values
  • Communication skills
  • Dependability
  • Partner age


  • Proportional
  • High levels of symmetry
  • Need for investment (offspring)

  • Men focus on partner attractiveness and use faster strategies
  • Women focus on partner resources and use slower strategies

Female attractiveness:

  • Baby-faced features
    • Big eyes
    • Small nose and chin
    • Full lips
  • Signs of maturity
    • Prominent cheekbones
    • Narrow cheeks
    • Broad smile
  • 0.7 Waist to hip ratio

Male attractiveness (either):

  • Either
    • Very dominant, masculinized
    • Slightly feminized baby faces
  • 0.9 Waist to hip ratio
  • Broad shoulders and muscles

Exam 3

  • Attraction and Relationships
  • Groups
  • Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination
  • Aggression
  • Prosocial behavior

Attraction and Relationships

Situational and personal predictors of attraction

Features considered physically attractive across time and cultures for men and women

good genes (physical attractiveness) vs good investments (resources)

differences in reproductive pressures in humans compared to other animals (e.g., rabbits, frogs)

When and what kinds of sex differences will emerge in attraction and mating behavior

Why we prefer to be in relationships with similar others

How self-disclosure and responsive behavior build closeness

Three facets of responsive behavior to self-disclosure

Name and describe conflict tactics that fall into the four quadrants of the EVLN model

Potential costs and benefits of social support

Different attachment orientations based on descriptions of a person’s behavior

Name the three predictors of commitment from the investment model, and describe whether each predictor is positively or negatively associated with commitment

How commitment promotes higher relationship quality


Situations when social facilitation should improve vs. impair performance

Why the presence of others is arousing


Strategies for reducing social loafing

Recognize groups that are likely to engage in groupthink

Describe the motivations behind groupthink

strategies to reduce groupthink

Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination

How stereotypes serve as schemas for groups

Who is likely to be aware of, activate, and apply stereotypes to targets

Identify individuals who are likely to experience stereotype threat in a given situation

Classify stereotypes on the two dimensions of the stereotype content model


Classify aggressive acts based on the directness, purpose, and form dimensions

Identify the biological and psychological effects of ostracism

Describe gender differences in different forms of aggression

Recognize situations which are likely to promote aggression

Explain how people learn about aggression from a social learning theory perspective

Evaluate the evidence that exposure to violent media (videogames, TV shows) results in violent behavior

Predict how individuals from a culture of honor will react to perceived slights

Strategies for effectively reducing aggression

Prosocial behavior

Prosocial vs Altruistic behavior

Predict who will be more likely to engage in different forms of prosocial behavior based on demographic factors

Prosocial differences:

  • Male vs female: men more likely to help in emergencies; women more likely to help long term
  • Social class: lower societal-economic score associated with greater prosocial behavior
  • Religion: higher religion tend to have greater prosocial behavior
  • Urban vs. rural: population size negatively correlated with prosocial behavior

Emotions/moods that promote prosocial behavior:

  • Gratitude (others doing something for you)
  • Elevation (others exceeding standards of moral virtue)

Informational Social Influence: Ambiguous situations tend to be socially defined.

Steps required for someone to decide to help in an emergency:

  • Notice event
  • See it as an emergency
  • Take responsibility
  • Know how to help
  • Help

Self-centered motives for prosocial behavior (e.g., reciprocity, affiliation, mood)

  • values, understanding, enhancement, career, social, protective

Identify emotional, cognitive, and motivational forms of empathy

Evaluate the evidence supporting the negative state relief model versus the empathy-altruism hypothesis

Describe evolutionary pressures that promoted prosocial behavior

Predict who is most likely receive different forms of help based on their relationship to the helper

Recognize individuals more or less likely to cooperate in a prisoner’s dilemma game

Understand connections between stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and prosocial behavior