CHAPTER 1: THE FIELD OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY: A WORKING DEFINITION
The scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior and thought in social situations. •
Most social psychologists focus primarily on understanding how and why individuals behave, think, and feel as they do in social situations – ones involving the actual or imagined presence of other persons. •
Social psychology is scientific in nature:
Science refers to 2 things: (1) a set of values and (2) several methods that can be used to force. o
To be considered scientific in nature, 4 of the most important core values are: 1.
Accuracy: a commitment to gathering and evaluating information about the world (including social behavior and thought) in as careful, precise, and error-free a manner as possible. 2.
Objectivity: a commitment to obtaining and evaluating such information in a manner that is as free of bias as is humanly possible. 3.
Skepticism: a commitment to accepting findings as accurate only to the extent that they have been verified repeatedly. 4.
Open-mindedness: a commitment to changing one’s views – even views that are strongly held – if existing evidence suggests that these views are inaccurate. o
“Planning fallacy” – a strong tendency to believe that projects will take less time than they actually do or that we can accomplish more in a given period of time than is really true. •
Social psychology focuses on the behavior of individuals: •
Social psychology seeks to understand the causes of social behavior and social thought: o
The action and characteristics of other persons: we are often strongly affected by other persons’ outward appearance – even if we are unaware of such effects and might deny their existence. o
Cognitive processes: your reactions depend strongly on your memories of the past behaviors and your inferences. We are always trying to make sense out of the social world, and this effort leads us to engage in lots of social cognition. o
Environmental variables: impact of the physical world: physical environment does influence our feelings, thoughts, behaviors, so environmental variables fall within the realm of modern social psychology. o
Cultural context: social behavior is often strongly affected by cultural norms (social rules concerning how people should behave in specific situations), membership in various groups, and changing societal values. Culture refers to the system of shared meanings, perceptions, and beliefs held by persons belonging to some group. o
Biological factors: our preferences, behaviors, emotions, and even attitudes, to some extent, by our biological inheritance. Evolutionary psychology: a new branch of psychology that seeks to investigate the potential role of genetic factors in various aspects of human behavior. It involves 3 basic components: variation, inheritance, and selection. Variation: organisms vary in many ways Inheritance: some of these variations are heritable Selection: variations that are adaptive become increasingly common in the population (this is the crucial outcome of evolution) Short-term mating strategies: how many sexual partners people would prefer to have without commitment Mate poaching: preferences for various ways of attracting persons who are already in a relationship
Evolutionary perspective contends that we inherit tendencies or predispositions that may or may not be translated into reality, depending on the environments in which we live.
These tendencies can be reduced or overridden by cognitive factors and the effects of experience.
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY: ITS CUTTING EDGE
Cognition and behavior: two sides of the same social coin: o
In the past, social psychologists could be divided into 2 groups: social behavior (how people act in social situations) and social thought ( how people attempt to make sense out of the social world and to understand themselves and others) o
In modern social...
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