BulletPointsummary per chapter with the 4th edition of Social Psychology by Smith et al.


How did social psychology come about and how was the discipline built up? - BulletPoints 1

  • The presence of others, the knowledge and opinions that others convey to us, and our feelings about the groups we belong to have a great influence on us through social processes, whether we are alone or with others. Our perceptions, memories, emotions and motives also influence us through cognitive processes. Effects of social and cognitive processes are inextricably linked.

  • Understanding these social processes can help us in two ways. It helps us understand why people behave in a certain way, and it helps us to solve important social problems.

  • Social psychology came up late in the 19th century. For the greater part of the 20th century, psychology was dominated by behaviorism. Social psychologists continued to emphasize the importance of thoughts and feelings on behavior. In the 1930s and 40s, many European social psychologists had an influence on the field. During this period important questions were inspired by the rise of Nazism and the Second World War. From the 1950s and 1960s, social psychology has grown significantly.

  • Two basic axioms of social psychology are 1) people create their own reality, and 2) the penetration of social influences. Three motivational principles are the need for control, the search for connectedness, and the tendency to see yourself  related others in a positive light. Three processing principles are the conservatism principle (difficult to change), the accessibility principle (which has the most impact) and the superficiality versus systematic processing principle. Collectively, these eight principles can explain all social behavior.

How do you work with research questions, validity and ethics? - BulletPoints 2

  • A scientific theory is a statement about a causal relationship between abstract constructs. These theories are useful in developing interventions.

  • There are three types of validity: construct validity (do I measure what I want to measure?), Internal validity (is there really a causal connection?) And external validity (generalizability). Each type has its own potential pitfalls. The construct validity can be threatened by the "socially desirable answers" bias. The internal validity is mainly dependent on the research design. In non-experimental (correlational) designs other factors may be responsible for the research result. Experimental research designs, on the other hand, are often characterized by random allocation of participants to groups, and manipulation of the independent variables, in order to be able to say something about causality. With regard to external validity, field studies can limit the potential effects of demand characteristics.To ensure that there is generalizability, it is important that the research results are replicated.

  • Theories are generally accepted when the results of multiple valid studies, often summarized in a meta-analysis, state that this specific theory is superior in comparison with all other theories.

  • An informed consent is required before participants take part in an investigation. Sometimes, however, in order to prevent bias, the participant must be temporarily deceived when examining (bias) sensitive subjects. This is then always carefully explained in the "debriefing".

In what ways can you observe individuals? - BulletPoints 3

  • The perception of others starts with visible cues, including the physical appearance, the non-verbal communication, the environment they create, the environment in which they are located, and the expressed (observable) behavior.

  • Familiarity through the "mere exposure effect" also influences our impressions. This usually leads to the fact that we automatically find a person nice.

  • Especially cues that stand out, are salient, have a lot of influence on our impressions.

  • Cues have no value in themselves, but are automatically interpreted in the context of our mental representations about people, behaviors, characteristics and social situation. A representation that is associated with the cue itself or that is accessible is often used when interpreting cues. Accessibility is influenced by expectation, mood, situational context, and / or "priming" - even when it is subliminal.

  • When people who process superficially often make corresponding interferences, there also exists a correspondence bias.

  • To make a causal attribution for behavior, systematic processing is required. Even impressions made with the help of systematic processing do not have to be accurate (here too, biases are present).

  • An impression forms the basis for judgments and behavior and often leads to a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

  • Impressions are often difficult to change, partly due to the "primacy effect".

How is a self-concept built and influenced? - BulletPoints 4

  • Defining the "self" is often done according to self-perception theory, in which we derive our properties from our behavior. Social comparisons also play a role in this definition. These comparisons can lead to contrast effects or assimilation effects.

  • Our self-knowledge is richer and more detailed than knowledge we possess about others. People often explain their own behavior and other people's behavior differently. This is also called "actor-observer differences in attribution".

  • Self-knowledge is organized in several self-aspects. The number of self-aspects and the diversity of these aspects together form the self-complexity.

  • The self-esteem is strongly influenced by the pressure to think well about yourself. This motivation has a lot of influence through the "self-enhancing biases". Events affect our self-esteem, but we try to include more positive than negative experiences in determining our self-esteem. According to the self-evaluation maintenance theory, we also compare ourselves with others.

  • " Self-enhancement" happens for two primary reasons: by actually improving it yourself (successful self-regulation), or by protecting ourselves from stress and threats to our self-esteem.

  • The self influences many aspects of life, such as emotions and behavior. It is used for one of these two purposes: self-expression or self-presentation. The degree of self-monitoring reflects the extent to which we pursue one or the other.

  • The "regulatory focus" theory describes how people maintain their desirable state, or avoid the undesirable state, for example by comparing it with their "ideal self" or the "intended self".

  • Coping strategies are used when people are faced with threats. There are two types of strategies: emotion-oriented strategies and problem-oriented strategies. Personal sources (including self-esteem) and characteristics of the threatening situation determine the best choice.

In what ways can you observe groups? - BulletPoints 5

  • Discrimination and prejudice are everyday problems. Both social and cognitive factors contribute to prejudice. One source is stereotyping.

  • Social categorization is useful because it allows us to deal efficiently and correctly with others. It also ensures that we feel connected to others. But it confines people to similarities and differences, making it the basis for stereotyping.

  • Stereotypes can be positive or negative.

  • Stereotypes can be learned through personal experiences with group members, but can still be distorted by, for example, emotions during inter-group interactions, classical conditioning or the extra attention that is focused on extremes. This can produce an "illusory correlation".

  • Social roles often determine people's behavior, but others often attribute behavior to the inner characteristics of that person.

  • Social learning also contributes to the formation of stereotypes. Stereotypes and discrimination are a social norm of some groups.

  • Stereotypes and prejudices can be activated by clear cues, the use of group labels, or the presence of a group member. Some stereotypes and prejudices form automatically.

  • Stereotypes and prejudices are often examined with implicit measurements.

  • Stereotypes and prejudices can be reduced according to the contact hypothesis. Contact, however, is not always enough. Sometimes a new subtype is created in order to place the exceptions of the stereotype.

What is the influence of group membership on social identity? - BulletPoints 6

  • By categorizing yourself as a group member a social identity can arise.

  • Learning within the own group mainly occurs through observation. Our knowledge of our group membership can be activated by direct reminders (such as group labels), by the presence of out-group members (one is enough), by being in the minority group, or by conflicts between groups.

  • The typical characteristics of the group become criteria for the behavior. The group membership influences the self-concept and self-esteem. Relatively small groups have the greatest effects on the feelings of their members.

  • People like in-group members and treat them in a fair way, because they see them as equal in their goals and interests. You see them as more variable than out-group members. The "out-group homogeneity effect", on the other hand, means that your out-group members are all deemd to be in one place. Depending on how threatening they are for the in-group, you find them less nice and you discriminate against them. If the out-group is only slightly different from the in-group, you will find them only slightly less nice. This effect already takes place in a minimal intergroup situation. The social identity theory states that this in-group bias comes mainly because people derive their self-esteem from their group membership.

  • When there is a stereotypical threat, the negative stereotype of a person's skill can become a self-fulfilling prediction.

  • Being a member of a stigmatized group automatically poses a threat to self-esteem. You can protect yourself against this by attributing the negative evaluation (s) of others to prejudices, or by making the most of social comparisons with other in-group members. If these strategies do not work, individual mobility strategies can be used. Sometimes social creativity strategies are applied. Finally, attempts can be made to bring about social change by entering into the social competition.

How do attitudes form and develop? - BulletPoints 7

  • Implicit attitudes may differ from explicit attitudes.

  • People use attitudes because they are useful. This way attitudes can help in the need for control. This is done through knowledge and instrumental functions, through social identity and through impression management functions.

  • People combine all important and accessible positive and negative pieces of information (cognitive, affective and behavioral) to form an attitude. This combination determines the value (positive or negative) and intensity of the attitude and can create a strong or ambivalent attitude.

  • When people are faced with convincing messages, they often pay little attention to this. An attitude change can be achieved by superficial characteristics of the message. Think of evaluative conditioning, the "mere exposure effect", and conviction heuristics.

  • When people think carefully about convincing messages, it is the systematic (and not the superficial) processing that can effect the change in attitudes. Think of metacognition. A change in attitudes thus created is then more difficult to change than an attitude change as a result of superficial processing.

  • According to several theories, including the "elaboration likelihood model" (ELM), people are only inclined to systematically process information when they have both the motivation and the cognitive capacity to do so. The motivation is high when the message has personal relevance. The cognitive capacity is available when people have the ability to systematically process and are not distracted.

  • Messages that suit someone are motivation and capacity are most convincing. People often use a combination of superficial and systematic processing, which creates an interesting interaction between cues and content.

  • People protect their attitudes by ignoring, reinterpreting or resisting inconsistent information. It is easier to resist convincing messages if you have had to deal with such arguments before and / or have been warned beforehand. Many people overestimate their ability to withstand convincing messages.

How do attitudes and behavior influence each other? - BulletPoints 8

  • Behavior is an important part of information on which people base their attitudes. When behavior changes, attitudes can also change. When processing is superficial (and people lack the motivation or capacity), attitudes can be based on associations with actions, or conclusions of actions. Think of the "foot-between-the-door" technique.

  • When voluntary actions are in conflict with important attitudes, cognitive dissonance arises. This dissonance can lead you to take actions to have your attitude match the behavior again. Examples are the "insufficient justification" effect, the "effort justification" effect, or the "post-decisional regret" effect. This kind of attitude change requires systematic processing, but is of a long-term nature.

  • Attitudes can directly influence behavior. Attitudes can distort perceptions, with attitude-consistent information being noticed more quickly and attitude-consistent behavior becoming more likely. Attitudes can also indirectly influence behavior through intentions.

  • Attitudes will have an influence on behavior when the attitude is accessible and when it strongly corresponds to the behavior (the right attitude at the right moment). Accessibility can be increased by careful consideration, self-awareness, or frequent use.

  • Implicit attitudes better predict uncontrolled behaviors, while explicit attitudes better predict controlled behavior.

  • Sometimes attitudes are not enough to steer the behavior. The behavior will rather represent attitudes when people believe they have control over their behavior.

How do standards and conformity influence each other? - BulletPoints 9

  • Through interaction and communication between group members, their thoughts, feelings and behaviors become increasingly similar.

  • There are two types of social standards: "descriptive" standards and "injunctive" standards.

  • Conformity occurs mainly for two reasons: because people believe that the group is right, and because they want the group to accept / approve them. Usually there is private conformity to group norms. Sometimes, however, there is only public conformity.

  • Private compliance occurs because we expect to see the world in the same way as others (think of the "false consensus effect"). This gives us certainty.

  • A group can have informational influence and / or normative influence.

  • People are inclined to agree with reference groups.

  • Group discussions often involve group polarization. Sometimes superficial processing is responsible for this. When people systematically process, the positions and arguments of the others work together to polarize the group norm.

  • Majority arguments are often more in number, discussed more, seem more convincing, and more convincing. As a result, the position of the majority is often more convincing.

  • Sometimes a consensus is not validly reached. This is the case when there is dependence on other people's views, pollution of the consensus through shared biases, and / or public conformity. Pluralistic ignorance can be the result. When these factors are circumvented, the need for control and connectedness work together to achieve a valid consensus.

  • Group thinking can be avoided by ensuring that 1) alternatives are not simply thrown out of the table, 2) by being independent of other people's positions, and 3) by private conformity.

  • In order for a minority message to be convincing, the minority must propose an alternative consensus, remain consistent, find a good balance between similarities and differences in comparison with the majority, and encourage systematic processing.

  • Multiple and minority groups influence each other through the same processes. Both can meet the need for control and connectedness, both of which can promote a heuristic or systematic processing of the evidence, and both can bring about public conformity or private conformity.

  • The best way to reach a consensus is to promote standards that focus on critical group thinking.

How do norms and behavior influence each other? - BulletPoints 10

  • Standards must be activated before they can send behavior. They can be activated by direct reminders, cues from the environment, or observations of other people's behavior. In the case of the individualization, it is mainly the group standards that are quickly activated.

  • One of the most common social norms is the standard of reciprocity. Since the making of concessions is also included here, this partly explains the effectiveness of the "foot-between-the-door" strategy. Another common social norm is the standard of social reciprocity. This makes people especially sensitive to the "low-ball" technique.

  • The standard of obedience to authorities is best known in the context of Milgram's study from 1961.

  • Attitudes and norms normally work together in order to influence behavior. Which of the two has more influence depends on their relative accessibility.

How do group members influence each other and the group? - BulletPoints 11

  • Excitement ("arousal") by the presence of others can influence the performance positively or negatively. When it comes to easy, well-trained behavior, the presence of others often leads to an improvement in performance. When it is an untrained task or a complex task, the performance is negatively influenced by someone else's presence. This pattern is called social facilitation.

  • The excitement is the result of two possible causes: we are evaluated by others, or we are distracted by them.

  • Members within face-to-face groups share both task interdependence and social interdependence. Such groups often go through multiple phases in their relationship.

  • To achieve goals, groups must retain their motivation and remain coordinated. "Social loafing" must be avoided. Communication within the group and shared emotions can influence group performance. Developing a shared social identity is probably the most important thing. Sometimes the opposite of "social loafing" can take place: social compensation.

  • Effective leadership improves job performance and retains social interdependence. The ways in which leaders do this differs from situation to situation. Think of the "contingency theories of leadership".

  • Sometimes stereotypical thinking ensures that the best leaders in a group are not appointed as leaders.

How do you create and change friendships and (love) relationships? - BulletPoints 12

  • The disadvantage of studying attraction, relationships and love is that this must be investigated in non-experimental studies, whereby ambiguity continues to exist about the causal relations between variables. Most studies have also focused on romantic relationships between (young) heterosexual couples in individualistic cultures.

  • Our perception of physical attractiveness, which gives us signals of genetic health and access to sources, is quite similar between cultures. Other features that make people more attractive depend on experience, exposure and expectations.

  • Similarities can strengthen the attraction. People are also attracted to those with whom they have positive interactions. People make interactions, offer opportunities for imitation and adaptation and help people in meeting their need for control and connectedness.

  • Most relationships start as exchange relations. Self-disclosures offer the opportunity for sympathetic, supportive reactions. In a close relationship there is interdependence on cognitive, behavioral and affective level. The behavioral interdependency manifests itself in the transition from an exchange relationship to a mutual relationship.

  • Intimacy and dedication are important characteristics that maintain the relationship.

  • People have different attachment styles that affect their close relationships.

  • The social context of a romantic relationship, especially whether it is short or long-term, determines the qualities people seek in their sexual partner. Just like other enjoyable joint activities, sex can strengthen a relationship, but it can also be a topic of conflict.

  • Relationships can be threatened because interdependence inevitably leads to conflicts, and because external factors, social norms and the actual or perceived presence of rivals can cause problems. People have different patterns of accommodation in how they deal with conflicts or negative behavior of a partner.

  • There are many sources that promote constructive accommodations, including a secure attachment style, a high degree of dedication, idealisation of the partner, and positive beliefs about the relationship.

What are the characteristics and causes of aggression and conflict? - BulletPoints 13

  • Aggression is often the result of conflicts or incompatible goals. There are two types of aggression: hostile aggression and instrumental aggression.

  • Aggression can be difficult to investigate experimentally, because people often do not want to behave aggressively when they are observed. Researchers use different techniques to circumvent this problem.

  • Many factors can incite aggression. Sometimes a need for control is the reason for aggression. Potential rewards make this type of aggression more likely, while costs or risks make it more unlikely. Sometimes an observed provocation such as a threat to self-worth or a threat of connectedness is a trigger. Also think of the frustration-aggression theory. Standards, seeing aggressive behavior among others and cues that promote the accessibility of aggression-related thoughts can also make aggression more likely.

  • Groups are generally more competitive and aggressive than individuals.

  • Group conflicts often come through struggles for material sources (according to the realistic conflict theory) or social rewards (such as respect and self-esteem).

  • Groups in conflict often attach much more importance to social rewards than to material rewards.

  • According to the relative deprivation theory, both individuals and groups use social comparisons to determine acceptable levels of sources.

  • If the conflict escalates further, there is a big chance of "reactive devaluation" on proposals from the out-group.

  • Reducing aggression and conflict can be achieved by promoting non-aggression-related norms, minimizing or removing cues that promote aggression, and promoting careful interpretation of (and identification with) others.

  • Achieving a solution through negotiation requires mutual understanding and trust. If the discussion is not productive, for example due to cultural differences, a third party can be called in.

  • Conflict resolution can also be promoted by having groups work together in achieving "superordinate" goals.

  • Under the right circumstances, conflict can be reduced through collaborative inter-group interaction.

How and why does supportive behavior and cooperation arise? - BulletPoints 14

  • Behavior that is meant to help someone else can take different forms (for example help, but also cooperation).

  • Prosocial behavior has multiple motives, such as altruism or selfishness.

  • Providing help is mainly dependent on the extent to which the nurse sees the other person as needing help (the help is needed) and / or earning help. In the latter, people are more likely to help people who are not responsible for their own suffering, and who therefore deserve the help.

  • The skill and motivation to pay attention to someone's needs influences the perception of whether the help is needed.

  • Sometimes people help because social norms or the behavior of others makes them think that helping is the right thing to do. However, the presence of other potential helpers can lead to a diffusion of responsibility. While some standards counteract help behavior, other norms, such as the standard of social responsibility, are pro-support behavior.

  • Evolutionary principles suggest that some forms of assistive behavior, such as reciprocal support behavior or helping their own offspring, are naturally selected because they increase the chance of survival. In humans, however, there are cognitive and social processes that influence such biological drives.

  • Help behavior can be promoted when the helper perceives potential rewards, but can also be depressed when there are risks or costs associated with the assistance behavior. Such rewards and risks can also be emotional in nature.

  • Two theories that go deeper into the why (people show support behavior) are the "negative-state relief" model and the "empathy-altruism" model.

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