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Attribution Theory and Error

Proposed by Fritz Heider. Theory: suggests how we explain someone's behavior-by crediting either the situation or the person's disposition. (Ex. Teacher wondering child's hostility.) Error: the tendency for observers, when analyzing another's behavior, to underestimate the impact of the situation and to overestimate the impact of personal disposition. (ex. Seeing a quiet student at a crazy party.)

Foot-in-door Phenomenon

The tendency for people who have first agreed to a small request to comply later with a larger request.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

The theory that we act to reduce the discomfort (dissonance) we feel when two of our thoughts (cognitions) are inconsistent. For example, when our awareness of our attitudes and of our actions clash, we can reduce the resulting dissonance by changing our attitudes.

Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment

Demonstrated the powerful role that the situation can play in human behavior. Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not normally act in their everyday lives or in other situations. The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control, became passive and depressed. Similar to the real life situation of the events at Abu Graib Prison.

Soloman Asch's Conformity Experiments

Asch examined the extent to which pressure from other people could affect one's perception, known as the line experiment. Even intelligent college students followed to other's wrong answers.

Normative and Informative Social Influence

Normative: influence resulting from a person's desire to gain approval or avoid disapproval. (We are sensitive to social norms-understood rules for accepted and expected behavior-because the price we pay for being different may be severe.) Informative: influence resulting from one's willingness to accept others' opinions about reality.

Stanley Milgram's Obedience Experiments

Measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience
Roles: Teacher and Learner
Punishment: Electric Shock
Result: Many volunteers obeyed and went to the max electrical shock. Wanted to see how the Nazi's could become such heartless people.

Social Facilitation

Stronger responses on simple or well-learned tasks in the presence of others. (Racing)

Social Loafing

The tendency for people in a group to exert less effort when pooling their efforts toward attaining a common goal than when individually accountable.


The loss of self-awareness and self-restraint occurring in group situations that foster arousal and anonymity. To be this is to be less self-conscious and less restrained when in a group situation.

Groupthink and Group Polarization

Groupthink: the mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group Polarization: the enhancement of a group's prevailing inclinations through discussion within the group.

Prejudice and it's components

An unjustifiable (and usually negative) attitude toward a group and its members. Prejudice generally involves stereotyped beliefs, negative feelings, and a predisposition to discriminatory action. It is a mixture of beliefs (stereotypes), emotions (hostility, envy, or fear), and predispositions to action (to discriminate).


Ingroup: "Us"-people with whom one shares a common identity. The bias of this is favoring of one's own group. Outgroup: "Them"-those perceived as different or apart from one's in-group.

Scapegoat Theory

The theory that prejudice offers an outlet for anger by providing someone to blame.

The Just-World Phenomenon

The tendency of people to believe the world is just, and people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.

Aggression: Biological and Biochemical Influences

Genes influence aggression, for example by influencing our temperament. Experiments stimulating portions of the brain (such as the amygdala and frontal lobes) demonstrate that the brain has neural systems that facilitate or inhibit aggression. Students of the effect of hormones (such as testosterone), alcohol (which releases inhibitions), and other substances show that biochemical influences also contribute to aggression.

Frustration-Aggression Principle

The principle that frustration- the blocking of an attempt to achieve some goal- creates anger which can generate aggression.

Video Games Violence?

Violent video games can heighten aggressive behavior by providing social scripts and opportunities to observe modeled aggression and to role-play aggression. Playing these games can increase arousal and feelings of hostility; and (in adolescents) lead to increase participation in arguments and flights and falling grades. Virtual reality games may heighten these effects.

Social Traps and Mirror-Image Perceptions

Social conflicts are situations in which people perceive their actions, goals, or ideas to be incompatible. In social traps, two or more individuals engage in mutually destructive behavior by rationally pursuing their own personal interests without regard for the well-being of others. Helping people to agree on regulations, communicate better, and be more aware of responsibilities toward others can foster cooperation and avoid social traps. People in conflict tend to perceive the worst in each other, producing mirror-images of identical demons. The perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophecies, triggering reactions that confirm the images.

Mere Exposure Effect

The phenomenon that repeated exposure to novel stimuli increases liking of them. (Seeing something more often and then ending up liking it.)

Romantic Love

Associating arousal with a desirable person is a key ingredient of passionate love, the intense absorption we cognitively label as love. Passionate love often matures into the deep affectionate attachment of companionate love. This transition is most likely in relationships characterized by equality and intimate self-disclosure.

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