Social psychology experiments can explain how thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by the presence of others.
Typically social psychology studies investigate how someone’s behavior influences a groups behavior or internal states, such as attitude or self-concept.
Obedience to Authority
“I was only following orders”
Legal defence by a Nazi leader at the Nuremberg trial following World War II
The aftermath of World War 2 made scientists investigate what to made people “follow orders” even though the orders were horrible. The Stanley Milgram Experiment showed that also non-nazi populations would follow orders to harm other persons. It was not a German phenomenon as many thought.
Milgram’s Lost Letter Experiment
Classic social psychology experiments are widely used to expose the key elements of aggressive behavior, prejudice and stereotyping. Social group prejudice is manifested in people’s unfavorable attitudes towards a particular social group. Stanley Milgram’s Lost Letter Experiment further explains this.
Obedience to a Role – Dehumanization
The Abu Ghraib prison-episode was yet another example on the power of predefined roles. The Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo, demonstrated the powerful effect our perception of expectations in roles have.
Solomon Asch wanted to test how much people are influenced by others opinions in the Asch Conformity Experiment.
Observational Role Learning
Behaviorists ruled psychology for a long time. They focused on how individuals learn by trying and failing. Albert Bandura thought that humans are much more than “learning machines”. He thought that we learn from role models, initiating the (bandura) social cognitive theory. It all started with theBobo Doll Experiment.
Helping Behavior – Good Samaritan
Knowing the story of the Good Samaritan makes you wonder what made the Samaritan help the stranger, and why did he not get help from the priest or the Levite? The Good Samaritan Experiment explores causes of not showing helping behavior or altruism.
Cognitive Dissonance Experiment
The Cognitive Dissonance Experiment by Leon Festinger assumes that people hold many different cognitions about their world and tests what happens when the cognitions do not fit. See also the more in depth article about theCognitive Dissonance Experiment.
The Bystander Apathy Experiment was inspirated and motivation to conduct this experiment from the highly publicised murder of Kitty Genovese in the same year.
Groups and Influence On Opinion
Sherif’s classic social psychology experiment named Robbers Cave Experiment dealt with in-group relations, out-group relations and intergroup relations.
The Social Judgment Experiment was designed to explore the internal processes of an individual’s judgment and intergroup discrimination, how little it takes for people to form into groups, and the degree to which people within a group tend to favour the in-group and discriminate the out-group.
The Halo Effect was demonstrated by Nisbett and Wilson’s experiment. It fits the situation of Hollywood celebrities where people readily assume that since these people are physically attractive, it also follows that they are intelligent, friendly, and display good judgment as well. This also greatly applies to other well-known people such as politicians.
Wegner’s Dream Rebound Experiment
According to studies, thoughts suppressed may resurface or manifest themselves in the future in the form of dreams. Psychologist Daniel M. Wegner proves this in his experiment on effects of thought suppression.
Everyone’s got their own biases in each and every occasion, even when estimating other people behaviors and the respective causes. One of these is called the false consensus bias. Psychologist Professor Lee Ross conducted studies on setting out to show how false consensus effect operates.
Bargaining is one of the many activities we usually engage in without even realizing it. The Moran Deutsch and Robert Krauss Experiment investigated two central factors in bargaining, namely how we communicate with each other and the use of threats.
Understand and Belief
Daniel Gilbert together with his colleagues put to test both Rene Descartes’ and Baruch Spinoza’s beliefs on whether belief is automatic or is a separate process that follows understanding. This argument has long been standing for at least 400 years before it was finally settled.
People lie all the time even to themselves and surprisingly, it does work! This is the finding of the Quattrone and Tversky Experiment that was published in the Journal of Personality and Psychology.
The overjustification effect happens when an external incentive like a reward, decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a particular task. Lepper, Greene and Nisbett confirmed this in their field experiment in a nursery school.
Also called unintentional mirroring, the chameleon effect usually applies to people who are getting along so well, each tend to mimic each other’s body posture, hand gestures, speaking accents, among others. This was confirmed by the Chartrand and Bargh experiments.
Confirmation bias is also known as selective collection of evidence. It is considered as an effect of information processing where people behaves to as to make their expectations come true. People tend to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses independently of the information’s truthness or falsity.
Choice blindness refers to ways in which people are blind to their own choices and preferences. Lars Hall and Peter Johansson further explain this phenomenon in their study.
The Clark Doll Test illustrates the ill effects of stereotyping and racial segregation in America. It illustrated the damage caused by systematic segregation and racism on children’s self-perception at the young age of five.
Selective Group Perception
In selective group perception, people tend to actively filter information they think is irrelevant. This effect is demonstrated in Hastorf and Cantril’s Case Study: They Saw a Game.
Changing Behaviour When Being Studied
The Hawthorne Effect is the process where human subjects of an experiment change their behavior, simply because they are being studied. This is one of the hardest inbuilt biases to eliminate or factor into the design.
To protect our self-worth, even when faced with evidence of our errors, our first impulse is to dig in and justify our position with even more tenacity. We reject any evidence that disconfirms our original beliefs and find alternative explanations to explain why we were right in the first place. The engine that causes us to self-justify is cognitive dissonance — the uneasy feeling that surfaces when we hold two ideas that cannot be reconciled (e.g., the system works, the defendant is guilty, innocents don’t confess versus the system makes mistakes, the defendant is innocent, some innocents can be induced to confess falsely). Dissonance produces mental anguish and causes us to look for a way to reduce it. There are plenty of good external reasons for self-justification (loss of job, reputation, preventing harm to a colleague) but it is the more powerful internal reasons that often are the cause — we want to think of ourselves as honorable and competent.
How do we reduce dissonance?. One of the ways is denial, “the greatest impediment to admitting and correcting mistakes in the criminal-justice system is that most of its members reduce dissonance by denying that there is a problem.” I have seen this in the past year while dealing with the cases I just completed house arrest for.
Using examples from real cases, like my own I can show how cognitive dissonance and self-justification influence almost every decision made by police officers and prosecutors in the course of a wrongful conviction. They single out certain individuals who admitted their mistakes as modern day heroes, including former Indiana prosecutor Thomas Vanes for changing his position on the death penalty after learning that he had participated in a wrongful conviction.
Analyzes how we explain peoples behavior
We often infer a correspondence between actions and internal states
Common sense attributions have three major parts:
Consistency — Does person usually behave this way in this situation?
Distinctiveness — Does person behave differently in different situations?
Consensus — Do others behave similarly in this situation ?
To the extent we answer “Yes” to the questions concerned with distinctiveness and consensus, we are likely to make an External Attribution, that the person is behaving in a particular way due to the situation.
Information Integration — When we here a set of facts or traits associated with an individual, we weight them according to their perceived importance.
Additionally, we may put more weight on the first piece of information given to us. (Primacy effect)
We may put greater weight on negative information, especially if there is only one or two pieces of negative information given with numerous positive pieces of information.
Why do we study errors in attribution?
Errors can help us determine how people normally think about ourselves and others.
By making ourselves aware of the errors we commonly make, we may be able to prevent some of the errors.
In other words, by pointing out our faults, we hope we can improve on ourselves in the future.
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