CHAPTER 18 (SUMMARY): SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one
In thinking about others’ behavior and its possible causes, we tend to underestimate the
influence of the situation, thus committing the fundamental attribution error. Our attitudes predict
behavior when other influences are minimized, when the attitude is specifically relevant to the
behavior, and when we are aware of our attitudes. Our actions can also modify our attitudes,
especially when we feel responsible for those actions.
Research on social influence indicates that when we are unsure about our judgments, we
are likely to adjust them toward the group standard. Sometimes, social influences are even
strong enough to make people conform to falsehoods or capitulate to cruelty.
The presence of others can arouse individuals, boosting their performance on easy tasks but
hindering it on difficult ones. When people pool their efforts toward a group goal, individuals may
free-ride on others’ efforts. Sometimes, group experiences arouse people and make them
anonymous, and thus less self-aware and self-restrained. Within groups, discussions can
members’ prevailing attitudes and produce groupthink. A minority committed to a position can,
however, influence a majority.
Prejudice still often arises from social inequalities, social divisions, and emotional
scapegoating. Research shows that stereotypes are a by-product of our natural ways of
simplifying the world.
Aggression is a product of nature and nurture. In addition to genetic, neural, and biochemical
influences, aversive events heighten people’s hostility. Aggressive behavior is also learned
through rewards and by observing role models and media violence. Conflicts are fueled by social
traps and mirror-image perceptions.
Geographical proximity, physical attractiveness, and similarity of attitudes and interests
influence our liking for one another. Passionate love is an aroused state we cognitively label as
love. Companionate love often emerges as a relationship matures and is enhanced by equity
The presence of others at an emergency can inhibit helping. Many factors also influence our
willingness to aid someone in distress, including cost-benefit analysis and social expectations.
Enemies become friends when they work toward superordinate goals, communicate clearly,
and reciprocate conciliatory gestures.
The importance of attribution in social behavior; Dangers of the fundamental attribution error.
Attribution theory states that we tend to give a causal explanation for someone’s behavior. Our
attributions—either to the person or to the situation—play an important role in shaping our social
attitudes. Underestimating situational influences (the fundamental attribution error) can lead us to
unwarranted conclusions about others’ personality traits. For example, we may blame the poor
and the unemployed for their own misfortune.