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Chapter 16 Social Psychology


an explanation for the cause of behaviors or events

Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE)

misjudging the causes of others' behavior as due to the internal (dispositional) causes rather than external (situational) ones

Saliency Bias

focusing on the most noticeable (salient) factors when explaining the causes of behavior

Just-World Phenomenon

tendency to believe that people generally get what they deserve

Self-Serving Bias

taking credit for our successes and externalizing our failures


learned predisposition to respond cognitively, affectively, and behaviorally to a particular object

Cognitive Dissonance

a feeling of discomfort resulting from a mismatch between an attitude and a behavior or between two competing attitudes

What is social psychology?

Social psychology is the study of how others influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Describe the process of attribution and its two key errors.

Attribution is the process of explaining the causes of behaviors or events. We do this by determining whether actions resulted from internal, dispositional factors or external, situation factors. The two key errors are: 1. the fundamental attribution error (FAE), which overestimates dispositional factors and underestimates situational factors when judging others; and 2. the self-serving bias, which involves taking credit for successes and externalizing failures when judging ourselves.

Describe how culture affects attributional biases.

Collectivistic cultures, like China, are less likely to make the fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias because they focus on interdependence and collective responsibility, whereas individualistic cultures, like the United States, emphasize independence and personal responsibility.

Define attitude and identify its three key components.

An attitude is a learned predisposition to respond cognitively, affectively, and behaviorally toward a particular object. Its three components are: 1. cognitive (thoughts and beliefs), 2. affective (feelings), and 3. behavioral (predispositions to actions).

What is cognitive dissonance, how does it change attitudes, and how does culture affect it?

Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort caused by a discrepancy between an attitude and a behavior or between two competing attitudes. This mismatch and resulting tension motivate us to change our attitude or behavior to reduce the tension and restore balance. Individualistic cultures experience more cognitive dissonance that collectivistic cultures because our emphasis on independence and personal responsibility creates more tension when our attitudes are in conflict.


a learned, generally negative, attitude toward members of a group; it includes thoughts (stereotypes), feelings, and behavioral tendencies (possible discrimination)


a set of beliefs about the characteristics of people in a group that is generalized to all group members; also, the cognitive component of prejudice


negative behaviors directed at members of a group

Ingroup Favoritism

viewing members of the ingroup more positively than members of an outgroup

Outgroup Homogeneity Effect

judging members of an outgroup as more alike and less divers than members of the ingroup

Interpersonal Attraction

positive feelings toward another


attraction based on geographic closeness

Need Complementarity

Attraction toward those with qualities we admire but personally lack

Need Compatibility

attraction based on sharing similar needs

Romantic Love

intense feeling of attraction another within an erotic context and with future expectations

Companionate Love

strong and lasting attraction characterized by trust, caring, tolerance, and friendship

Define prejudice, identify its three key components, and differentiate between prejudice and discrimination.

Prejudice is a learned, generally negative, attitude directed toward members of a group. It contains all three components of attitudes--cognitive, affective, and behavioral. (The cognitive component involves stereotypes, and the behavioral component is called discrimination.)

Discuss the five major sources of prejudice and discrimination.

The five major sources of prejudice are learning (classical and operant conditioning and social learning), personal experience, mental shortcuts (categorization), economic and political competition, and displaced aggression (scapegoating). Mental shortcuts involve viewing members of the ingroup more positively than members of the outgroup (ingroup favoritism) and seeing less diversity in the outgroup (outgroup homogeneity effect).

What are the three key factors in attraction?

Physical attractiveness, proximity, and similarity are the three major factors in interpersonal attraction. Although people commonly believe that "opposites attract" (need complementarity), research shows that similarity (need compatibility) is more important in long-term relationships.

Describe cultural and historical similarities and differences in judgments of attractiveness.

Many cultures share similar standards of attractiveness (i.e. youthful appearance and facial and body symmetry are important for women, whereas maturity and financial resources are more important for men). Historically, what is judged as beautiful varies from era to era.

Discuss scientific research on flirting.

People use nonverbal flirting behaviors to increase their attractiveness and signal interest. In heterosexual couples, women are more likely to use flirting to initiate courtship.

Differentiate between romantic and companionate love, and discuss problems with romantic love.

Romantic love is intense, passionate, and highly valued in our society. However, because it is based on mystery and fantasy, it is hard to sustain. Companionate love relies on mutual trust, respect, and friendship and seems to grow stronger with time.


changing behavior because of real or imagined group pressure

Normative Social Influence

conforming to group pressure out of a need for approval and acceptance


cultural rule of behavior prescribing what is acceptable in a given situation

Informational Social Influence

conforming because of a need for information and direction

Reference Groups

people we conform to, or go along with, because we like and admire them and want to be like them


following direct commands, usually from an authority figure

Define conformity, and explain the three factors that contribute to this behavior.

Conformity involves changes in behavior in response to real or imagined group pressure. People conform for approval and acceptance (normative social influence), out of a need for more information and direction (informational social influence), and to match the behavior of those they admire and want to be like (reference group).

Define obedience and describe Milgram's classic study.

Obedience refers to following direct commands, usually from an authority figure. Milgram's study showed that a surprisingly large number of people obey orders even when they believe another human being is physically threatened.

Identify the four key factors in obedience.

Legitimacy and closeness of the authority figure, remoteness of the victim, assignment of responsibility, and modeling or imitation of others are the four major factors in obedience.


reduced self-consciousness, inhibition, and personal responsibility that sometimes occurs in a group, particularly when the members feel anonymous

Group Polarization

group's movement toward either riskier or more conservative behavior, depending on the members' initial dominant tendency


faulty decision making that occurs when a highly cohesive group strives for agreement and avoids inconsistent information


any behavior intended to harm someone

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

blocking of a desired goal (frustration) creates anger that may lead to aggression


actions designed to help others with no obvious benefit to the helper

Egoistic Model

helping that's motivated by anticipated gain--later reciprocation, increased self-esteem, or avoidance of distress and guilt

Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis

helping because of empathy for someone in need

Diffusion of Responsibility

the dilution (or diffusion) of personal responsibility for acting by spreading it among all other group members

Define aggression, and identify the biological and psychosocial factors that contribute to its expression.

Aggression is any behavior intended to harm someone. Some researchers believe it is caused by biological factors, such as instincts, genes, the brain and nervous system, substance abuse and other mental disorders, and hormones and neurotransmitters. Other researchers emphasize psychosocial factors, such as aversive stimuli, culture and learning, and violent media.

Describe three approaches reducing aggression.

Releasing aggressive feelings through violent acts or watching violence (catharsis) is not an effective way to reduce aggression. Introducing incompatible responses (such as humor) and teaching social and communication skill are more efficient.

Define altruism, and describe the three models that attempt to explain it.

Altruism refers to actions designed to help others with no obvious benefit to the helper. The evolutionary model suggests altruism is innate and has survival value, the egoistic model proposes that helping is motivated by anticipated gain, and the empathy--altruism hypothesis suggests helping increases when the helper feels empathy for the victim.

Describe Latane and Darley's decision-making model, and other factors that help explain why we don't help.

According to Latane and Darley, whether or not someone helps depends on a series of interconnected events, starting with noticing the problem and ending with a decision to help. Some people don't help because of the ambiguity of many emergencies or because of diffusion of responsibility (assuming someone else will respond).

Foot-in-the-Door Technique

a first, small request is used as a setup for later, larger request

List four major approaches useful for reducing prejudice and discrimination

the four key approaches are cooperation and common goals, inter-group contact, cognitive retraining, and cognitive dissonance.

Describe recent research on implicit biases

Research shows that people have hidden, implicit biases that are activated by a mere encounter with an attitude object, and that these biases can be used as a quick guide to behaviors that they are not aware of and do not control. Although these biases were previously thought to be impervious to change, newer studies show that we can reshape them (or at least curb) their effects on our behavior.

Identify six ways to reduce destructive obedience.

To decrease destructive obedience, we need to reexamine socialization, the power of the situation, groupthink, the foot-in-the-door technique, a relaxed moral guard, and disobedient models.

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