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Major terms and concepts from Unit XIV in Myers Psychology for AP (2e): Social Psychology

social psychology

the branch of psychology that studies persons and their relationships with others and with groups and with society as a whole

attribution theory

the theory that we explain someone's behavior by crediting either the situation or the person's disposition; studied by Fritz Heider

fundamental attribution 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


a relatively enduring evaluation of a person or thing; doesn't always match one's behavior

cognitive dissonance

The theory that we act to reduce the discomfort we feel when two of our thoughts are inconsistent. For example, when our awareness of our attitudes and our actions clash, we can reduce the resulting dissonance by changing our attitudes, often in a self-justifying way.

foot-in-the-door phenomenon

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

door-in-the-face phenomenon

tendency for people who won't agree to a large task, but then agree when a smaller request is made

central route to persuasion

occurs when people think carefully about the message and are influenced because they find the arguments compelling.

peripheral route to persuasion

Occurs when people are influenced by incidental cues, such as a speaker's attractiveness, emotional music or images.


adjusting one's behavior or thinking to coincide with a group standard

normative social influence

influence resulting from a person's desire to gain approval or avoid disapproval

informational social influence

influence resulting from one's willingness to accept others' opinions about reality.

Solomon Asch

conducted an experiment where participants' estimates of line length were influenced by the presence of others giving incorrect answers

Philip Zimbardo

conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment; illustrated the powerful impact of role-playing

social facilitation

improved performance of tasks in the presence of others; occurs with simple or well-learned tasks but not with tasks that are difficult or not yet mastered

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

group polarization

the enhancement of a group's prevailing attitudes through discussion within the group


the mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives


an unjustifiable (usually negative) attitude toward a group and its members


a generalized (sometimes accurate but often overgeneralized) belief about a group of people


unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice


"us"—people with whom one shares a common identity.

ingroup bias

the tendency to favor one's own group


generally, any group that one does not belong to

scapegoat theory

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

just-world phenomenon

the tendency of people to believe the world is just and that people therefore get what they deserve and deserve what they get

blaming the victim

the tendency to blame an innocent victim of the misfortune for having somehow caused the problem or for not having taken steps to avoid or prevent it


any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt or destroy

frustration-aggression principle

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


a perceived incompatibility of actions, goals, or ideas

social trap

a situation in which the conflicting parties, by each rationally pursuing their self-interest, become caught in mutually destructive behavior

mere exposure effect

the phenomenon that repeated exposure to novel stimuli increases liking of them

passionate love

an aroused state of intense positive absorption in another, usually present at the beginning of a love relationship

companionate love

the deep affectionate attachment we feel for those with whom our lives are intertwined


a condition in which people receive from a relationship in proportion to what they give to it


revealing intimate aspects of oneself to others


unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness

bystander effect

the tendency for any given bystander to be less likely to give aid if other bystanders are present

social exchange theory

the theory that our social behavior is an exchange process, the aim of which is to maximize benefits and minimize costs

superordinate goals

shared goals that override differences among people and require their cooperation


Graduated and reciprocated initiatives in tension-reduction; strategy designed to decrease international tensions

Stanley Milgram

conducted experiments where "teachers" were made to shock "learners" under direction from an authority figure


changing behavior in response to a demand from an authority figure

feel-good, do-good phenomenon

people's tendency to be helpful when already in a good mood

approach-approach conflict

Conflict that results from having to choose between two attractive alternatives

approach-avoidance conflict

conflict occurring when a person must choose or not choose a goal that has both positive and negative aspects

avoidance-avoidance conflict

Conflict that results from having to choose between two distasteful alternatives

actor-observer effect

the tendency to make situational attributions for our own behaviors while making dispositional attributions for the identical behavior of others

self-serving bias

the tendency to assign oneself credit for successes but to blame failures on external forces

diffusion of responsibility

reduction in sense of responsibility often felt by individuals in a group; may be responsible for the bystander effect, social loafing, and related phenomena

reciprocity norm

an expectation that people will help, not hurt, those who have helped them

social responsibility norm

an expectation that people will help those dependent upon them (especially those who cannot help themselves)

self-fulfilling prophecy

an expectation (about another person) that causes you to act in ways that make that expectation (of the other person) come true.


the tendency to view one's own cultural group as superior to others and as the standard for judging the worth of foreign ways

hostile aggression

Aggression stemming from feelings of anger and aimed at inflicting pain

instrumental aggression

Aggression as a means to some goal other than causing pain

other race effect

the tendency to recall faces of one's own race more accurately than faces of other races

social scripts

culturally modeled guide for how to act in various situations

implicit bias

unconscious, automatic biases measured by IAT; impacts decision-making and impressions (e.g., of other racial groups) without the person's conscious awareness

mirror image perceptions

mutual views often held by conflicting people, as when each side sees itself as ethical and peaceful and views the other side as evil and aggressive

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