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1200 Home Page    Contact      Learning Objectives      Term Assignment     
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Lecture 1......
Instructor
Jeremy Jackson
|     May 5, 2014
Location:
NW 3431
|     New Westminster
Carl Sagan: "Science is a way of thinking much more than a body of knowledge"

Key concepts - you will be responsible for knowing a number of definitions of key concepts. You may be asked to give an accurate definition and example of any of the key concepts. Key concepts are in italics, bolded and colored red throughout the notes.

Discussion exercises and class activities - the lecture notes contain a number of discussion questions and class activities. You should conduct these exercises as soon as they are introduced in the notes. Exercises are in italics, bolded and green throughout the notes.

Critical points - there are some points that require extra emphasis because they are fundamental to the example or concept being discussed. Critical points are bolded, in italics and colored orange.

Movies - throughout the notes I have made short videos explaining various ideas.

Let's begin with Lecture 1.......

 

Social Psychology

Has to do with the effect of the social environment on human behavior and attitudes.

Important point: The more social influence on a person's life, the greater the effect of the social environment.

Today, as humans live more and more in very close contact with one another, the effect of the social context increases.

Let's ask....Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you believe?

Now let's ask....How did you come to be this way?

Social psychologists will answer that the effect of the social context or SITUATIONAL factors play a massive role in determining who you are, what you believe and how you behave. So large is the role, in fact, that many social psychologists might say that you really don't have the ability to think for yourself. What you think is what you have been told to think. What you think is determined to a very great extent by your social situation.

So in this course we are going to spend a lot of time asking you to look at what has made you who you are.

We are going to ask you to think perhaps differently than you have thought before by revealing the factors that have determined what you do/think and why you do/think things. We are going to ask you to think that people are much less individually responsible for their behavior than we might believe. We are going to ask you to place less emphasis on individual free will and determination and more on factors over which we have little control such as genetic makeup, childhood experience and the social context. In this sense we are going to suggest that tolerance rather than judgment, understanding rather than criticism and treatment rather than punishment are more appropriate ways to understand and change human nature.

One major factor that influences how we think about the behavior of others (and ourselves) has to do with how we make judgments about the behavior of others and the behavior of ourselves. Why do we do what we do and why do other people behave in the way they do? Attribution Theory gives and account of one aspect of how we ascribe causes to our behavior and the behavior of others.

 

Attribution Theory

Has to do with the way in which we ascribe cause to an individual's behavior.

A set of principles that describe how we determine what caused an individual's behavior and the way in which the situation effects our causal attributions.

 

Exercise one

Survey

Please flip a coin. If you get heads answer the following set of questions (Set "A"). If you get tails answer question set "B" below. To answer the questions go to the "assessments" link and click on "Lecture 1 Survey Set A" if you got heads or "Lecture 1 Survey Set B" if you got tails.

DO NOT READ ON UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE THE SURVEY!!!

DO THE SURVEY BEFORE WEDNESDAY OF THIS WEEK.

You can view set A and set B below. Do you notice the difference?

Set A

Demographic Questions

1) Are you (Circle One):  Male       Female

2) How many years old are you in years? ____________

Content Questions

1) How many hours per week do you work? ____________

2) How many courses are you taking this semester? ____________

3) How often are you late for class (Circle One)?   Never      Rarely       Sometimes      Frequently      Always

4) Relative to other students, you are late for class (Circle One):    Much less often      Less often      About the same      More often      Much more often

5) How often do you attend class (Circle One)?   Never      Rarely       Sometimes      Frequently       Always

6) If you miss a class you should attend, it is usually due to (Circle one):

a) Life circumstances (e.g., work, family, sickness, etc) or

b) Your own fault (e.g., laziness, poor planning, disinterest, lack of motivation)

SET B

Demographic Questions

1) Are you (Circle One):   Male       Female

2) How many years old are you in years? ____________

Content Questions

1) How many hours per week do you work? ____________

2) How many courses are you taking this semester? ____________

3) How often are you late for class (Circle One)?   Never      Rarely       Sometimes      Frequently      Always

4) Relative to other students, you are late for class (Circle One):    Much less often      Less often      About the same      More often      Much more often

5) How often do you attend class (Circle One)?   Never      Rarely       Sometimes      Frequently       Always

6) If another student misses a class they should attend, it is usually due to (Circle one):

a) Life circumstances (e.g., work, family, sickness, etc) or

b) Their own fault (e.g., laziness, poor planning, disinterest, lack of motivation)

 

These two surveys differ in only one way. In survey B we have replaced "If YOU miss a class" in question 6 with "If ANOTHER STUDENT misses a class".

This factor is called the independent variable. It is the one thing that VARIES between the two surveys. So here then the independent variable is the person that misses a class. Now the independent variable has two levels: a) YOU and b) ANOTHER STUDENT.

Notice that we randomly assigned students to levels of the independent variable. By flipping a coin, each student had an equal chance of getting heads or tails and, therefore, had an equal chance of being assigned to group A or group B.

We say we have manipulated the person that misses the class IF WE HAVE RANDOMLY ASSIGNED SUBJECTS TO THE LEVELS OF THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLE. In an experiment, when we say we have manipulated a variable, what it means is that we have randomly assigned subjects to levels of that variable.

Now, the research question we have is whether or not the independent variable will influence the responses given to the question. That is, whether the person that misses the class will influence whether the subject selects option A or option B of question 6. The option the subject selects in this case is called the Dependant variable.

So we are interested in THE EFFECT OF the person that misses the class ON the option they choose for question 6.

Please understand the grammar of this statement.

We are interested in the effect of X on Y. By definition, X is the IV and Y is the DV.

So, if we are interested in the effect of alcohol on risk taking, alcohol is the IV and risk taking is the DV.

Now according to attribution theory, we tend to make:

a) SITUATIONAL attributions for our own behavior and

b) INDIVIDUAL attributions for the behavior of others.

What this means is that we tend to attribute the cause of our own behavior to circumstances such as work, family or sickness; BUT we tend to attribute the cause of another person's behavior to individual or personal factors such as laziness, or lack of motivation.

This means that in our survey, the students that got the survey that asked about why THEY miss classes (survey A) should attribute the cause to situational factors such as work, family, etc. They should make a situational attribution for the cause of their own poor behavior.  In this experiment, the hypothesis then is that students that got survey A should choose option "a" for question 6 more frequently than option "b".

Now, students that got the survey that asked about why ANOTHER STUDENT misses classes (Survey B) should attribute the cause to individual or personal factors such as laziness and lack of motivation. So the hypothesis here then is that students that got survey B should choose option "b" for question 6 more frequently than option "a".

The last time I did this experiment in a class the results were as follows:

Survey A (You miss class): Percent choosing option "A" (situational attribution)=67.5%

Survey B (Another student misses a class): Percent choosing option "A" (situational attribution)=27.7%

So we see that the data confirms attribution theory.

Principles of Attribution Theory

Now, attribution theory has a number of basic principles that we should know:

1) We often make causal attributions for behavior. That is, we often hypothesize about why a person did what they did.

2) We make either situational or individual/personal attributions.

3) We make attributions for our own behavior and the behavior of others.

4) We often make a basic error when making attributions of other's behavior. That is, we often attribute other's behavior too frequently to individual factors rather than situational factors. This is called the fundamental attribution error.

Now, there is a very interesting twist to attribution theory that I want you to know very well. The twist is hinted at in our experiment above.

When we make attributions for bad behavior, we tend to over attribute our own bad behavior to situational factors. However, when we make attributions for the bad behavior of others, we tend to over attribute their bad behavior to individual factors.

The reverse of this is true for good behavior.

EXAMPLES

So why do you do well on tests? Because you are smart, you work  hard, etc. Why do others do well on tests? Because they got lucky, they don't have to work as much as you, the prof likes them, etc.

Why do I have no friends? Because I work too much or I live too far from school. Why do others have no friends? Because they are not nice people, they are anti-social, etc.

Now this is a very powerful psychological mechanism that all clinical psychologists must understand clearly.   It is a powerful SELF PRESERVATION mechanism because it:

1) Helps us to protect our own self-esteem. It helps us feel good about who we are.

2) Elevates us to a position of moral, ethical, & social superiority. For example, we might say: "I am environmentally concerned but I have to drive because my job demands it. Other people drive far too much. Don't they care about the environment"?

If the mechanism fails though, this can cause severe consequences for individuals. In some cases, we can view low self-esteem and depression as a FAILURE to make enough attribution errors. The more errors we make, the happier we are. The fewer errors we make, the more depressed we are.

 

Discussion Question Exercise 1

In exercise 1, I'd like you to go to the discussion thread called "Attribution Errors" and talk about how the attribution errors we have discussed here influence work-place relations. You should:

1) Make a post in which you describe a situation in which you or someone else has made an attribution error that has increased work-place conflict. Make sure to describe why the error was an attribution error.

&

2) Take the position of a team manager and identify a way you could increase co-operation and/or decrease conflict in the work-place by doing something to reduce attribution errors.

Your posts must:

a) Be clear and to-the-point. Try not to go on too long but also make sure you make clear why the issue you are addressing has to do with attribution errors and the attribution theory that has been discussed above.

b) DO NOT use colloquial (meaning conversational) language. Please do not use slang or short-forms for words. So don't say things like "This dude at Mickey D's totally messed-up." Do not use acronym's like "lol".

If you would like to contribute to a discussion of someone else's post that is fine. Do not be personal. Address the point that is being made, not the person. So you can say "John's point is interesting. The point was that..........and this is why I think the point is interesting.........".  You can say "John's point made me think of a situation I have been involved in because........" But once you have identified the person making the point, do not talk about the person again. Just talk about the point they made.

Always say why you think something you do. Never just say "I think X" and leave the point hanging. Explain why you think X and not Y. Opinions are not that valuable here - reasons and evidence are.

 

Remember, these posts are for marks so think them through before you post. I will be reading the posts and may make comments from time to time. Good luck.

 

Attitudes vs Behavior

Now it's important to understand that just because we say we believe something does not mean that we will actually act in accordance with our beliefs. Your book discusses essentially two ways in which we can influence a person's attitudes.

1) The foot in the door phenomenon

2) Cognitive dissonance

The foot in the door phenomenon allows us to change attitudes (and behavior) by asking subjects to make minor modifications to behavior. Once we have achieved a change in behavior, attitude change tends to follow.

EXAMPLE

Car dealers often ask you to come down to the store for a free coffee and hot dog. You think this is a nice gesture so you go. But once at the dealership you are then asked to look at some cars. After you are asked to look at cars you are then asked to take a test drive. And finally, the test drive leads to a purchase. This is the foot in the door tactic in use.

In cognitive dissonance theory we start with a situation in which your attitudes and behavior are inconsistent. We can get you to retain your attitude by giving you sufficient justification for the inconsistency or we can get you to change your attitude by giving you insufficient justification for the inconsistency.

To help you understand cognitive dissonance theory, I have prepared a short video. Click on the link to watch the video: Cognitive Dissonanace Video.

You can also watch an excellent video on Cognitive Dissonance here. The host is a very famous psychologist we will meet later in the course - Professor Philip Zimbardo.

Principals of Cognitive Dissonance Theory

1) There must be a difference between what we believe and what we are doing. Otherwise, dissonance would not exist.

So, for example, we don't want to have children but we have children. We are not in love with our spouse but we stay married to them. We go to school but we don't like going to school. We believe smoking is wrong but we smoke.

2) We are motivated to reduce dissonance. This just means that dissonance is unpleasant and we want to avoid unpleasant things.

3) Dissonance can be reduced by changing our attitude.

4) We are most likely to change our attitude when there is no justification for the difference between our attitude and our behavior. However, if there is a justification for the difference between our behavior and our attitude, we are less likely to change our belief.

smile

"A man visits a doctor and explains that his complaint is that he’s dead. The doctor tells him that’s simply not true, that he’s alive, and that he can prove it with a simple demonstration. “Is a corpse ticklish?” the doctor asks. “Don’t be ridiculous,” says the man. “How could a corpse be ticklish?” The doctor raises the patient’s shirt and begins tickling his ribcage. The man screams with helpless laughter. When he recovers his breath he says to the doctor, “Doctor, you’re right! I had no idea! A corpse is ticklish!”

smile

That`s it for lecture 1 material.

 

 

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