Social Psychology

PSYCH 253 - Fall 2015 - University of Waterloo

Dr. Meghan McCarthy (

Thursdays 12-1PM in PAC 3277 or by Appointment. Not M, W.

3 Multiple choice midterms 50%, final exam 25%, book review - 20%, book quiz - 5%, 4% bonus

Lecture 1: September 15, 2015

What is Social Psychology?

The scientific study of the way of how we're influenced by our social world. Thinking about poeple or groups can affect how you feel or behave, whether these people are imagined or real. The Empirical approach: vary aspects of the social environment and see how this affects thoughts, feelings, or behaviour on average. We're looking at general trends.

Why should we care? It's about us and we want to understand ourselves. We're intrinsically social people.

Central Themes in Social Psychology


2 classes of attirbutions:
Person: We make automatic judgements, but there could have been different factors in the situation. It's not who they are as a person, but situational factors.
Behaviour = f(person traits, situation features) Nazism. Cannot be understood by just looking at the person, but you have to look at the situation as well. Situation We tend to make a Fundamental Attribution Error. We overweight dispositional/internal cuses, underweight situational/external causes. Doesn't mean they're a jerk, just mean that they made a mistake. There are different situational attributions for behaviour.

What about real-world behaviour? Detention centers. Physical, sexual abuse. How do people try to understand this? "It's just a few bad apples." The Standford Prison Experiment (ZIMBARDO). Normal boys. Half guards, half prisons. No differences between 2 groups. Told not to harm them. Designed to create anonymity and degredation. Guards decided on their own to treat them with force (pushups, restrictions, giving priveleges to some and not others). Only afterwards, did they feel guilt. The situation is an extremely powerful force. Normal people can become atrocious. But it's not entirely about the situation. People did behave in ways that were shockin to them, even if they didn't go so extreme.

Subjectivism: construals

Psychological experience is

Naive Realism

We believe that we see things they really are. "Reality is an illusion" (Einstein) Not just our physical world, but our ideas and opinions as well. We're convinced that we are right and that rational others must agree with us and others who don't agree must be uninformed, lazy, irrational, or biased.
Reactive devaluation Peace proposals created by Israeli negotiators then given to Israeli citizens to judge. More favourable if an Israeli plan over Palistinian proposal. Harvard defeats Yale 29:29. Their expectations changed what a "win" was. They redefined what a "win" was because they were supposed to lose. Olympic Medalists. Bronze Medalist happier than Silver Medalist. Third - I made it! Second - Didn't get first.

Motivation: What Do We Want?

Lecture 2: September 17, 2015

3 Major Themes: Situationism (the situation has a powerful effect on our behaviour, independent or interactive with our disposition), Subjectivism, Motivation.
Why do we study the self - we're driven to understand things, we are a bunch of individuals,

The Method: Tools for Studying Social Psychology

Why do we need psychological research? Isn't it just common sense?

We often make wrong predictions. A lot of findings are contrary to what we predicted

The Hindisght Bias

We're over-confident on the outcome after we know it occured. We make it seem like we knew it all along.

Estimation Test: When people are given the correct answer, they think they would've guessed closer to that.

Before we know the answer, we're not that good at knowing the answer. We have ideas that are wrong.

Bias FIltering

Confirmaiton Bias - tendency to search for, interprey, favour, and recall information that confirms our preconceptions. We remember things selectively. We look for things to confirm things. Told that left-handed poeple are creative. When you meet left-handed people who are creative, you will remember them. If they are not creative, you won't remember them.

Capital punishment: Measured beliefs about capital punishment. Whether they support it or not. They were then given evidence equally persuasive from either side. Pro-capitalpunishment favoured the evidence that they wanted to believe. Extraversion: Article that said high or low => happier. People who read High extraversion said they were extroverted. People who read low extraversion said they were extroverted. They changed their perception of themselves. They might have selectively chose parts of themselves that are more extroverted or introverted and said "yeah, that's me."

The Science of Social Psychology

  1. Theory
  2. Search Literature - see what we already know
  3. Hypothesis
  4. Method
  5. Collect data
  6. Analyze data
  7. Report results

Formulating a Hypothesis

The Paradox of Choice (Iyengar & Lepper): How much choice is enough? General belief: the more choice, the better. This is an empirical question. They gave people different levels of choice. The more choices they had, the less happier they were. The less choices, the more likely they would purchase.

Question: Changing Behaviour: Which sign will be successful? How cna we tell? Hotel to give message to not reuse towels. (Goldstein). Gave them 1 of 5 messages. "Join your fellow guest in helping.." was most effective. Social norm. Validating that this is the right thing to do, that other people have the same behaviour. Everyone is doing this.

Asking a good question develops a good study.

Gottman's Research -

Need to be careful when formulating hypothesis. Psychologoists are biased. Hindsight bias. May ignore alternative possibilities. Biased filtering - confirmation bias., focus on examples when our hypothesis is true. Need to keep ourselves in check.

Hypothetical Caffeine Experiment: caffiene effect on persistence. 1 group drinks decaf, 1 group drinks caffienated beverage. IV - caffeine amount (present vs. absent). DV - how people perform, their persistence (time spent on a difficul puzzle).

Lecture 3: September 22, 2015

Correlation =/= Causation

Once we have the correlation, we can explore if there's causation.

Do couples who argue in relationship also tend to feel dissatisfied with that relationship?
Causality Issue:
X may cayse Y (arguing causes dissatisfaction)
Y may cause X (dissatisfaction causes arguing)
Z may cause X & Y (kids cause couples to argue and be dissatisfied)
Experimental Design:
Does discussing a conflict lead to more negative views on one's partner? (Holmes & Rempel) Discuss OR think about conflict. Measured perceptions of partner's motives and behaviour. Manipulate whether they were talking/arguing about the conflict. When they were talking about it, they had more negative perceptions of their partner. => arguing causes dissatisfaction


Selecting people. 1 group - wanted to be selected. 1 group - didn't volunteer. They knew which group they were in. Non-random sampling. Self-selection - may be more xxxx. Hand-picked - researcher bias. Not blind to condition - may influence how they behave. LAck of informed consent. Facebook: Manipulated users' emotions. It was legal, but was it ethical? No counter mood boost. Didn't ask for consent. Didn't say they would delete stuff. Negative implications.

What are IVs and DVs? Independent variables and dependent variables. Independent - the variable that changes. Dependent variables depend on the independent variable. These don't change. How do experiemnts help us make causal claims? If we find a correlation between two variables, we can ask questions to see if we have a cause. You hear about a new social psych finding, but it seems obvious to you. Even your grandmother could have told you that. What do we call this experience and what does it tell us about the importance of empirical research? Hindsight bias. When we say afterthefact that it seemed obvious to us. We need to do empirical research because oftentimes we are wrong, but think we were more right once we know the answer.

Social Judgment: Intuition and Bias

Real world example... Polio. Paranormal Beliefs. Conspiracy Beliefs. How are these beliefs able to be maintained? These beliefs have health, social outcomes.

Ideal Scientificic vs. Intuitive Thinking


Thinking strategies to let us make snap judgements. Useful for living in a complex social world, but problematic because they lead to faulty beliefs.


Organized set of knowledge about a stimulus. We perceive that attributes are all related together. Allow us to fill in gaps when missing information, shape our attention and memory of that specific situation, guide our interpretations of ambiguous information, accelrate

We use schemas to fill in gaps, shape attnetion and memory,

Heuristics and schmeas are adaptive. Intuition can "make us smart". Gut feeling. Can be good and useful. They can be dangerous because they can causes us to overlook things and ignore things that don't fit it.

Police office dilemma. Background scenes. White or black male target. Holding gun or other object. Decide whether or not to shoot. Error rate: higher for unarmed black targets. more likely to fail to shoot a white target. Using stereotype that black people are more violent. Blacks are more likely to be shot.

Confirmation Bias

Interpret evidence to fit their preconceived conception. Consequences: Hypothesis testing, Belief perserverance - keeping belief even if evidence is shown to oppose it.

Hypothesis Testing & Question Selection

endency to tseek information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Selected questions that would confirm what they originally thought. Not giving the other person to refute the idea.

Belief perserverance- suicide notes - judge suicide notes. Half were told they could identify really well, half told were really bad. Then told it was a lie. Positive -> continued to believe they were really good. Negative -> continued to belief they were really bad. They contnued to believe it even though they were told it was a lie. They develop a schema for themselves that's difficult to eradicate.

Lecture 4: September 24, 2015

Attribution and Person Perception

Review Session - Mon Oct 5th - Q&A session.

Book Review: Evaluate claims and evidence. Analyze strengths and weaknesses using everything we've learned. Think about other theories that you've learned. Maybe they didn't use a theory that you learned that would do a really good job. Provude secific research example. At least 1 specific study in the book. Maybe there was another interpretation that they didn't make. Compare and contrast. Critical Analysis. APA style.

Review of Conjunction fallacy - False assumption that specific conditions are more probable than a single general one. Consequence of representativeness heuristic. Probability of someone being one thing, probability of being two things is less. But once we're given a description of a person, they'll seem like a typical case in that group so we'll assume that they're in both groups.

Driven to make sense of people - already judge someone. We try to present ourselves to create the right impression. We are aware that we make these snap judgements. We are pretty good at snap judgements. Intuition can make us smart. Sam. Warm vs. Cold => Generous or not. one attribute changed the judgement.

Gestalt PErson Perception Model - we form an overall impression based on bits of information.

Precieving sexual orientation - GAYDAR. Can be accurately infer sexual orientation in males? Still images with parts of their face blocked. Entire face, etc - much better to determine. Took away hair, eye, mouth - couldn't infer correctly anymore. People can be accurate in 50ms with very thin slices of information. Hairstyles were more accurate than eyes or mouth. American Politician images. Who was more competent? They could accurately predict how successful those men were in politics.

Small amounts of information but can make accurate judgements about people. WE also want to understand why people do the things they do. We need to understan people's motives to survive. Friend or foe?

Covariation Model - A cause and effect must covary. cAuse and effect tend to go together.

Jerry makes a pass at Elaine. Does jerry always make a pass at elaine? Does everyone make passes to elaine? Does Jerry make passes at everybody?

If the consistensy is low, then there must be some external way. If consistency is high, then we have to look to other two variables. If behaviour is consistent, is it specific to this situation or do they always behave this way in these situations.

Why did Joe kick Fido? Joe kicks Fidoo. Low consensus - no one else kicks fido. High consensus - everyone kicks fido. Distinctiveness: low - joe kicks all dogs, high - joe kicks only fido. Consistency - High - Joe always kicks fido. Joe's personality (INTERNAL) if Joe kicks all dogs and always kicks Fido. Something about Fido (EXTERNAL) if Joe only kicks Fido, evryone kicks Fido.

Keira says to watch Johnny Depp's latest movie. She raves about all his movies. You've relied on Distinctiveness - you might not trust her judgement.

Fundamental Attirubtion Error (FAE) - We make errors with attributions. Tendency to overestimate the extent to which people's bejavjour is due to internal factors and to underistmate the role of certainf actors.

Discounting Rule - If a behaviour is high in consensus, perceiveers should attribute it to the situation. We discoun dispositional attributes because

Castro wirting study - Chose pro or anti Cstro or forced to be pro or anti Castro. They knew hwen the write had the choice or not. Even when they were forced to be anti, they still thought they were anti. Even if they knew they were forced, we're more likely to express something because of who they are. Demonstration - 1 or 2. 1 asks questions. 2 answers. Questioners - seem smarter. Rate intelligence. Questions were not impressed by their own questions. Contestants felt that questioners were more intelligent. People made attrbituions that => intelligence.

When it's us, we trecongize the situation we're in, if it's other eople, we're more critical

Self-srving attribution - tendency to attribute good stuff to us (internal), bad stuff to not us (external).

Why? We understimate the power of situational factors. We overlook situational factors. Perceptual salience - the person is in the foreground, wheras the situation is more in the background. We might not have the resources. to consider them.

Two-step model attribution (gilbert) - if we havet he time and reosurces to look at the situation, we can revise our snap judgement. Effortful second step to change your judgement. Maybe it's not them, but their situation. Evidence: silent video of woman acting nervously during a conersation - talking about sex or vacations. Half were distracted, half were not. If not aniety producing topic, they attributed that she was an anxious person. If talking about sex, they realized that they were not anxious person, but talking about an anxious tpic. If distracted, they said she was an anxious person.

How fundamental is FAE? Poeple in USA make this error more than Indian. Indians notice things in background more than we do.

Lecture 5: September 29, 2015

The Self: Self-Perception

Our expectations and beliefs about a person cause them to behave that way to confirm to those expectations.
Perciever's expectations -> Perceiver's behaviour toward targe -> target's behaviour toward perceiver -> percievers expectations.

Pygmalion/Rosenthal Effect - if we expect how people will preform, it affects how well they perform. Kids got smarter when they were expected to be smarter. 4 things that teachers tend to do to kids - climate (warmer, nicer) in terms of verbal and non-verbal, input factor (teachers teach more material to them), response opportunity factor (get more chance to respond, let them talk longer, help shape their answers), feedback (praised more for getting a good answer, wrong answer - teacher doesn't accept a low-quality answer).Men believing women were more attractive on the phone - more positively. Low self-esteem think their partners will leave them, making them pushing them away. Stereotypes.

Review: Gestalt = integrate and organize perceptual information into meaningfuul wholes. There are bits of informationa nd create an overall perception. With people, we organize information to create an entire impression of a person. Even if we don't have a lot of information.
Covariation Model. If you observe behaviour at multiple points in time, you can see the cause and effect. Cause = there when it occurs, absent when it doesn't occur.
Does this person consistently do this? If no, then we can stop and know it's not a personal factor. It's situational.
If yes, then we know they always do this. But we don't know if it's them or the environment/stimulus. We don't know if they behave that way in other situations or if everyone does it.
Distinctivenes: How distinct is this person's behavour to this situation? Not distinct, this person does this to all stimulus, maybe it's about the stimulus. Distinct: maybe it's the person.
Consensus: does everyone do this? Yes, it's the dog. No, it's the person.
Internal attribution to person vs. External attribution to stimulus vs. External attribution to situation

What is meant by "thin-slice" accuracy? We can take a very thin slice of information and still make an accurate evaluation of someone/something.
What does Heider say are the two main types of attributions we can make? Internal and External.
What is the actor-observer bias? When someone else does it, it's internal, it's their personality. When we do it, it's external, it's situational.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Duality of the Self - William James - Difference between the "I" (the knower, doing the looking) and the "Me" (the known, the self-concept, an object of perception)

The Self-Concept

Set of beliefs about who we are: traits, likes/dislikes, wishes/hopes, social identities & roles, evaluations, emotional states. and things that are tied to us.

We have multiple selves. ABED. This is the Working Self-Concept. We have a lot of parts of ourselves. Some are activated in certain situations. We can't activate all of it at once. Other people can trigger our self-concept. Relationships.

Context determines identity salience. Social distinctiveness - if you are distinct in some place, that distinction will feature more prominently than other features.

Culture is important. Most studied: independent (unique and different) vs. interdependent (relational, groups) self-concept. ME vs. WE.

Survey: 4 out of 200 people expressed something about a group. The rest were about self interests. Asian vs. White participants. Consider self across sutations and relationships. Rated self on 10 traits. Wanted to see cross-context corellations. White: High correlation between self definitions and relationship and situationalcontexts. Asians: less self-concept stability. Relationship contexts had a lower correlation.


Introspection: we look inward and examine our thoughts and feelings. Common sense says we have better insight into ourselves. But it only accounts for about 8% of our thoughts. It may be inaccurate. We're not very good at it.

Random beepers - what were they thinking about? Less than 8% of the time, they were thinking about the self. We often don't think about ourselves that much.

2 strings in a room. Other stuff in the room. Had to tie them together. Were too short. Extension cords to tie together. Next time, had to not use same solution. Myer touched the string to set it in motion to trigger an idea. They put a weight. They had an elaborate story of how they came up with the idea. PEople are not good at recognizing what is influencing their behaviour. There are things that influence our behaviour all the time. We overlook influences on our behaviour.

Panty-hose experiment. Identical. People seemed to choose the one on the right. They were convinced they had all of these reasons as to why they chose it.

Limits of instrospection: People usually think they know and offer. Introspection may lead to resons-generated attitude change. We come up with reasons that seem plausible. They can change our attitude. People in ddating relationships. Reporting reasons changed the person's attitudes about how they felt about the relationship. If just love, you can't explain them. When people can't come up with reasons, it can lead them to feel lest positively against your partner.Generated reasons can shift the way we think and feel.
We thinkn wecan predict our behaviour. Our predictions often don't beat chance. Staistics or other people's predictions about us are often a better predictor. We pick the white person even after the racist comment We suck at predicting emotions. Impact bias - we think events will have a strong impact on us because we focus (focalism) on that event and ignore everything else. Immune neglect - we can actually come back from things really quickly.

Looking glass self - how others see us is how we see us. How we think others see us is not how they actually see us.

Social comparison; how we see other people. Given a score. How did other people do? Did I do better or worse than others? We learn our attitudes and abilities by comparing to other people.

Social comparison theory: upward social comparison - compare yourself to someone better than you. It can be motivating. downward social comparison - compare yourself to someone worse than you. it enhances the self. We often do this intentionally.


Evaluative. How we feel about ourselves. Are we valuable/worthwhile people? Cognitive and affect components. High - feel good about themselves. Low - feel less good or uncertain about the self. Trait self-esteem 0 global feelings of self-worth, over time. State self-esteem 0 short term variations of self-worth.

Self-esteem is not related to academic performance, career success, physical health, delinquency. Strongly related to happiness and well-being, beliefs about the world, interpersonal relationships. Not predictor of all of life's failures.

Sociometer theory: reflects an internal gage that monitors social acception/rejection. Being ostracized, we would die. People had to have a system to monitor how accepted/rejected they were to avoid dying. When rejected, we feel bad so we modify our behaviour. No choice, no influence on self-worth. Choice - rejected, self-worth went down. Make sure we're not ostracized from the group.

Lecture 6: October 1, 2015

If self-esteem is important, why do we get it wrong? People have very low self-esteem even though they shouldn't. Low self-esteem people are no less attractive, successful, likeable, competant than high self-esteem people. Once self-esteem is established, they project their own self concept onto their beliefs of how other people see them. We use our own views to interpret how others interpret us.

Self-esteem vs. Narcissism: I like to do things for other people vs. If I ruled the world, it would be a better place.


##NArcissism## is the dark side of high self-esteem. Generation Me. Grandize one's self worth. They are preoccupied with the self. They're charming at first, but alienate others eventually. Sense of entitlement. Stronger in-group bias - stronger prejudice and discrimination. Hyper-vigilant to threats against self. Bullies have inflated high self-esteem (narcissists).


Philosophers that it's logically impossible. In order to deceive ourselves, we have to have the knowledge to deceive ourselves while not knowing the knowledge.

We have two levels of cognitive processing: conscious vs. unconscious.

##Self-deception## is selective distortion of information to maintain a positive self-view (or protect self from threat). Occurs when we draw self-serving conclusions that differ from conslcusions an objective party would draw given the same information.

Self-serving biases

##Self-serving attributions## - tendency to take credit for our successes and blame others for failures. There has to be some reasonable cause that you can attribute your failure to. Rated manager highly if positive feedback. Rated female manager lower if negative feedback. Tend to see men in positions in power more legitimate, etc. They blamed female manager.

##Distancing from others## Basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) - If someone is successfuly, we bask in their reflected glory. FCutting off reflected failure (CURFing).When someone close to us performs pororly, we want to distance outselves fromt hem so they don't affect us. Must be someone close to us, must not central to own self-esteem. Non-premed student's friend got into med school vs. premed student's friend got into med school. Team clothing. "WE won"/"THEY lost"

##Better-Than-Average## Tend to see themselves as better on average on most positive dimensions and below averahge on most negative dimensions. People tend to overestimate their own skills. Easy tasks - feel like above average. difficult task - feel like below average. People tend to latch onto their own goodness and adjust the comparison group. In general, you rate yourself positively/negatively depending on how objectively difficult the domain is.

##Unrealistic Optimism##More likely to experience positive events, less likelyy to experience negative events compared to others. Everyone gets married thinking that they won't get divorced even though 50% chance. It's unrealistic because of the statistics. Problem: Illusion of invulnerability and risk-taking. Smokers don't think they'll get lung cancer. It will cause you not to take precautions.

##Estimating Base Rates## - False Consensus - when you misestimate how common something is. You tend to believe negative behavoiur/habits are more common than they really are. False Uniqueness - People see their preferences more unique and unusual than theyr eall are.

Can learning about these biases prevent ourselves from using these biases. After learning about them, people think they won't make the biases, but they do.

The Temporal Self

How do we see ourselves over time? People tend to have this belief that they're getting better all the time.

##Temporal Self-Appraisal Theory## - We are motivated to think positively of ourselves. We can change how we perceive our past selves. We want to see our recent selves favourably. We want to see our past selves unfavourably. Describe yourself at 16, who you are now. Now, they describe themselves much more positively now. Same amount of positive/negative comments for 16.

If past self is more recent, less likely to derogate it. More likely to just say, "I'll do better." Can be detremental if you haven't actually made improvements. Heroin addict thinks they still are better than they previously were.

##Subjective Temporal Distance## - Favourable past selves feel recent. Unfavourable past selves feel distant.


We sabotage our performance to provide an excuse for failure. Problem: it protects self-esteem, but increases risk of failure.

Self in Action: Self-Control

Ability to control our behaviours, emotions, desires. Current theories suggest that we need self-control strength for tasks with executive functions. Self-control strength is limited like a tank of gas. Recent research has found that it might be more in people's heads. When people believe they have unlimited self-control, this effect goes away.

Learned Helplessness

Uncontrolable bad events -> Perceived lack of control -> Learned helplessness. Feeling like you have more control: happier, more involved, lower mortality.

Can you be a self by yourself? The self is fundamentally social. How we think about ourselves is influenced by everyone else. The Social self does not exist without the social other.

Lecture 7: October Day, Year