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The Power of Social Movements
ocial progress in the United States is shaped by social movements. Groups of people can do more than any individual
acting alone. Rosa Parks (1913–2005) became a heroine of the civil rights movement when, on December 1, 1955,
inMontgomery, Alabama, she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a White man. From a broader perspective,
Ms.Parks was part of a larger social movement that pushed for—and, over time, effected—urgently needed civil
rights reforms.
Groups of people today, aided by social media, are having a major impact across the globe. Consider some of the
recent headline-grabbing events. December 2010 saw the birth of the Arab Spring. In this surge of civil activism,
countries in the Middle East and northern Africa erupted in protests, rallies, marches, strikes, and demonstrations in
the name of social progress, leading to the ouster of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and to unrest
elsewhere. In the United States, bold, new social activism—including the Tea Party and the Occupy movement—has
drawn much attention.
Whether for critically needed policymaking or leadership change, or simply for saving a favorite TV show from can-
cellation, groups of people who share a common interest band together to make a difference. The power and workings
of such social groups are a major area of interest in social psychology, our focus in this chapter.
n t
, new soc
ng t
arty an
ccupy movement—
r to m
e a
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Social Cognition // 401
The chapter begins by examining humans’ social cognitive nature and then explores social
behavior, zeroing in on its extreme forms: altruism and aggression. We next look at the
two-way street of social infl uence: how we infl uence others and how they infl uence us. Then
we consider how the groups to which we belong shape our interactions with other groups.
The discussion concludes with a look at close relationships, including attraction and love.
Social psychology is the study of how people think about, in uence, and relate to other
people. There are probably few issues reported in the news today that social psycholo-
gists have not studied. Social psychologists take many of the topics we have covered so
far—including perception, cognition, emotion, and personality—and examine them in a
social context.
Social cognition i s t h e a r e a o f s o c i a l p s y c h o l o g y t h a t e x p l o r e s h o w p e o p l e
select, interpret, remember, and use social information (Forgas, Fiedler, &
Sedikides, 2012). Essentially, it is the way in which individuals think in social
situations (Eiser, 2012; Koerner, 2012).
Person Perception
Person perception refers to the processes by which we use social stimuli to form
impressions of others (Semin & Garrido, 2012). One important social cue is the face
(Waenke, Samochowiecz, & Landwehr, 2012). The power of the face is demonstrated in
research by Alexander Todorov and his colleagues (2005), who examined the ways that
perceptions of faces can in uence political elections. These researchers asked people to
rate the competence of individuals from photographs of their faces. The faces were of
candidates in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 U.S. House and Senate elections. Respondents’
ratings accurately predicted the outcome for about 70 percent of the elections. Those
faces gave away information about the candidates that was meaningful to the perceivers,
including how competent the perceivers felt each of ce-seeker would be (Mattes & oth-
ers, 2010). Other aspects of faces can also have important implications for social percep-
tion, as we now consider.
P H Y S I C A L A T T R A C T I V E N E S S A N D O T H E R P E R -
CEPTUAL CUES P h y s i c a l a t t r a c t i v e n e s s h a s b e e n r e c o g -
nized as a powerful social cue (Harter, 2012). Judith Langlois
and her colleagues found that even infants as young as 3 to 6
months of age showed a preference for looking at attractive faces
versus unattractive faces, as rated by adults (Hoss & Langlois,
2003; Ramsey & others, 2004). Attractive individuals are gener-
ally assumed to have a variety of other positive characteristics,
including being better adjusted, socially skilled, friendly, likable,
extraverted, and apt to achieve superior job performance (Langlois
& others, 2000). These positive expectations for physically attrac-
tive individuals have been referred to as the “beautiful is good”
social psychology
The study of how people
think about, infl uence, and
relate to other people.
Social Cognition
We v e l o o k e d a t c o g n i t i o n
in previous chapt ers. Some
ex per t s have ar gued t hat
cogn i t i on
—t h i n k i n g a b o u t o t h e r
peopl ei s mor e f undament al t han
thinking about anything else.
The face is a powerful social cue.
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402 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
A stereotype is a generalization about a group’s characteristics that does not consider
any variations from one individual to another. Stereotypes are a natural extension of the
limits on human cognitive processing and our reliance on concepts in cognitive process-
ing (Gaines, 2012).
W e s i m p l i f y t h e t a s k o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g p e o p l e b y c l a s s i f y i n g t h e m a s m e m b e r s o f
groups or categories with which we are familiar. It takes more mental effort to
consider a person’s individual characteristics than it does to label him or her as
a member of a particular group or category. Thus, when we categorize an
individual, the categorization is often based on stereotypes.
Is there any truth to the “beautiful is good” stereotype? Research has shown
that attractive people may indeed possess a number of positive characteristics
(Langlois & others, 2000). Does that mean that attractiveness is naturally related
to, for example, better social skills? Not necessarily.
O n e w a y t h a t s t e r e o t y p e s c a n i n uence individuals is through the phenomenon of
self-ful lling prophecy . In a self-ful lling prophecy, expectations cause individuals to act
in ways that serve to make the expectations come true. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore
Jacobsen conducted the classic self-ful lling prophecy study in 1968. The research-
ers told grade-school teachers that ve students were likely to belate bloomers”
that these students had high levels of ability that would likely emerge over
time. In reality, the students had been randomly selected by the researchers.
Nonetheless, a year later, the researchers found that teachers’ expectations for
the late bloomers were re ected in student performance—the academic per-
formance of the late bloomers was beyond that of other students. Self-ful lling
prophecy effects show the potential power of stereotypes and other sources of
expectations on human behavior.
How might self-ful lling prophecy effects apply when people interact with physically
attractive versus unattractive individuals? Consider that attractive people may receive
differential treatment from others throughout their life. This special treatment increases
the likelihood that the attractive individuals might well develop enhanced social skills
and be more self-con dent than others.
Another relevant question is, what makes a face attractive? People m a g a z i n e s M o s t
Beautiful People” issue might lead you to conclude that attractiveness is about being
exceptional in some way: Think of Jennifer Lopez’s sensuous lips and Zac Efron’s
unusual blue eyes. Research has examined what speci cally makes a face attractive, with
surprising results. Using computer technology that allowed them to average together
digitized photographs of a large group of individuals of varying attractiveness, Langlois
and her colleagues (1994) created composite faces. A large sample of college students
then rated the individual faces and the composites. The results showed that individual
faces were less attractive than faces that were created by averaging 8, 16, or 32
other faces. The researchers concluded that attractive faces are actually “just
average. Although “averageness” is not the only predictor of attractiveness,
Langlois and her colleagues suggest that being average is an essential com-
ponent (along with variables such as symmetry and youthfulness) of facial
F I R S T I M P R E S S I O N S When we rst meet someone, typically the
new acquaintance quickly makes an impression. That rst impression can
have lasting effects (North & Fiske, 2012). Recall the primacy effect from
Chapter 6—people’s tendency to attend to and remember what they learned
rst (N. H. Anderson, 1965). The power of rst impressions is likely due
to just such an effect. How quickly do we make these initial impressions of
others? In one study, judgments made after just a 100-millisecond exposure
time to unfamiliar faces was suf cient for individuals to form an impression
(Willis & Todorov, 2006).
Of course, once you become acquainted with someone, you have a lot more
information with which to form an opinion of the person. The process by which
A generalization
about a group’s
that does not
consider any
variations from
one individual to
Recal l f r om Chapt er 7
how we use con c ept s t o si mpl i f y
the world. However, when we use
concept s t o und er st an d
gr oups
of peopl e,
we ar e st er eot yping.
How d o y ou t hi n k t h e
teachers influenced the late
bl oomer s? What ki nd of behavi or s
led t o t he kids enhanced
per f or mance?
Check out this website to see how
the averaging of faces works: www. Pick
some faces you consider unattractive.
What happens when you average
them together? If you have a digital
photograph of yourself and some
friends, see what happens when you
average those faces. Do you agree
that average faces are more
attractive than any single face?
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Social Cognition // 403
we come to understand the causes of others’ behavior and form an
impression of them as individuals is called attribution.
T r y i n g t o u n d e r s t a n d w h y p e o p l e d o t h e t h i n g s t h e y d o i s a p u z z l e
that fascinates all of us. We can observe people’s behavior and listen
to what they say, but to determine the underlying cause of their behav-
ior, we often have to make inferences from these observations. Mak-
ing inferences means taking the information we have and coming up
with a good guess about who someone is and what the person is likely
to do in the future (Manusov, 2012; Todorov, 2013).
Attribution theory views people as motivated to discover the
underlying causes of behavior as part of their effort to make sense of
the behavior (Heider, 1958; Kelley, 1973; Weiner, 2006). Attributions
vary along three dimensions (Jones, 1998):
Internal/external causes: Internal attributions include causes inside
and speci c to the person, such as his or her traits and abilities.
External attributions include causes outside the person, such as
social pressure, aspects of the social situation, and the weather. Did
Beth get an A on the test because she is smart or because the test
was easy?
Stable/unstable causes: I s t h e c a u s e r e l a t i v e l y e n d u r i n g a n d p e r m a -
nent, or is it temporary? Did Aaron blow up at his girlfriend because
he is a hostile guy or because he was in a bad mood that day?
Controllable/uncontrollable causes: We perceive that we have power over some causes
(for instance, by preparing delicious food for a picnic) but not others (rain on picnic day).
A T T R I B U T I O N A L E R R O R S A N D B I A S E S I n a t t r i b u t i o n t h e o r y , t h e p e r s o n
who produces the behavior to be explained is called the actor. The person who offers a
causal explanation of the actor’s behavior is called the observer. Actors often explain
their own behavior in terms of external causes. In contrast, observers frequently explain
the actor’s behavior in terms of internal causes. Susannah might explain that she honked
her car horn at someone who was slow to move when the light turned green because she
was in a hurry to get to the hospital to see her ill father, but the driver she honked at
might think she was rude.
In committing the fundamental attribution error , observers overestimate the
importance of internal traits and underestimate the importance of external situ-
ations when they seek explanations of another person’s behavior (Gilbert &
Malone, 1995; Jones & Harris, 1967) (Figure 11.1). For example, news cover-
age of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast
locales in 2005, conveyed grim images of individuals who had not evacuated
and were left homeless and helpless in the storm’s aftermath. An observer might
have concluded, “They were foolish not to get out in time. In fact, situational
factors, including lacking nancial resources and a means of transportation, may
have prevented them from leaving.
S o m e h a v e w o n d e r e d j u s t h o w f u n d a m e n t a l t h e f u n d a m e n t a l a t t r i b u t i o n e r r o r i s .
Cross-cultural studies indicate that although Westerners tend to attribute causes
of behavior to the person, those from more collectivistic cultures are more likely
to look to the situation to explain the behavior of others (Imada, 2012; Morris &
Peng, 1994; Rips, 2011). Indeed, recent research has shown that even among
people in the United States, attributions can vary as a function of religion. A
recent series of studies showed that Protestants were more likely than Catholics
to attribute behavior to the person rather than the situation (Li & others, 2012).
attribution theory
The view that
people are moti-
vated to discover
the underlying
causes of behav-
ior as part of
their effort to
make sense of
the behavior.
attribution error
Observers’ over-
estimation of the
importance of
internal traits and
of the impor-
tance of external
situations when
they seek expla-
nations of
another person’s
Observer Tends to give internal,
trait explanations of actor’s behavior
Actor Tends to give
external, situational
explanations of
own behavior
“I’m late
with my report
because other people
keep asking me to
help them with
their projects.”
“She’s late with
her report because
she can’t concentrate
on her own
FIGURE 11.1 The Fundamental
Attribution Error In this situation, the supervisor
isthe observer, and the employee is the actor.
Its challenging to
remember how much
sit uat i on
can inf luence behavior .
Tr y a v o i d i n g t h i s a t t r i b u t i o n a l
er r or f or j us t one day: When you
see someone do somet hi ng, t hi nk
about t he s i t uat i onal f act or s
that might cause their behavior.
The i nv est i gat or s suggest
that this difference was due
to the ways Protestants and
Cat hol i cs con cei v e of t he s oul .
Wh a t d o y o u t h i n k ?
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404 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
H E U R I S T I C S I N S O C I A L I N F O R M A T I O N P R O C E S S I N G H e u r i s t i c s , a s
described in Chapter 7, are cognitive shortcuts that allow us to make decisions rapidly.
Heuristics can be useful in processing social information (Gigerenzer & Gaissmaier, 2011;
McDonald & others, 2011). Indeed, they are sometimes helpful tools for navigating the
complex social landscape, although they can lead to mistakes (Weaver & others, 2007).
Stereotypes can be considered a type of heuristic in that they allow us to make quick
judgments using very little information. Relying on stereotypes can lead to serious errors
in social information processing. For example, having never encountered an Asian Amer-
ican point guard, many college basketball coaches failed to appreciate the skills of Jeremy
Lin. Lin simply did not t the stereotype of a great point guard, and stereotypes of Asian
Americans did not suggest that his abilities would be well suited to success on the court.
Could an Asian American ful ll the leadership role of point guard on an elite basketball
team? Lin had a stellar career at Harvard University; but it was not until 2012 that he
captured the attention of NBA fans everywhere during his streak of amazing games for
the New York Knicks, shattering stereotypes along the way.
A n o t h e r c o m m o n h e u r i s t i c i s t h e f a l s e c o n s e n s u s e f f e c t . A s k y o u r s e l f : H o w m a n y s t u -
dents at my school support the death penalty?” Your answer is likely to depend on whether
you support the death penalty. The false consensus effect is the overestimation of the degree
to which everybody else thinks or acts the way we do. False consensus effects can be
important in social interactions. Imagine for example that someone in a group to which you
belong makes a racially insensitive remark. According to the false consensus effect, that
person is likely to interpret silence on the part of others in the group as agreement.
The fundamental attribution error and the false consensus effect are related to the
special signi cance of our personal thoughts and circumstances as we process social
information. We have ready access to our own thoughts and feelings. Both effects re ect
the vast amount of information we have about ourselves relative to the more limited
information we have about others, and they suggest the special place of the self in social
information processing.
The Self as a Social Object
Each of us carries around mental representations of ourselves. We can think
of the self as our schema for who we are, what we are like, and how we feel
about these perceptions. The self is different from other social objects because we
know so much more about ourselves than we do about others. Although we are more
likely to think that behavior is very important to understanding who other people
really are, we are also more likely to think that our private thoughts and feelings
are most indicative of our true self (Johnson, Robinson, & Mitchell, 2004).
The self is special not only because we have direct access to these private
experiences but also because we value ourselves. One of the most important self-
related variables is self-esteem, the degree to which we have positive or negative
feelings about ourselves (Harter, 2012). In general, research has shown that it is good
to feel good about oneself (Bosson & Swann, 2009).
Individuals with high self-esteem often possess a variety of
positive illusions —rosy views of themselves that are not nec-
essarily rooted in reality (Hansen & Pronin, 2012). Constan-
tine Sedikides and his colleagues have shown that many of us
think of ourselves as above average on a number of valued
characteristics, including how trustworthy and attractive we
are (Gregg & Sedikides, 2010; Hepper & Sedikides, 2010;
Sedikides, 2007, 2009; Sedikides, Gaertner, & Vevea, 2005;
Sedikides & Gregg, 2008; Sedikides & Skowronski, 2009,
2012). Of course, the very de nition of ave r age indicates that
not all of us can be “above average.
false consensus effect
Observers’ overestimation
of the degree to which
everybody else thinks or
acts the way they do.
positive illusions
Favorable views
of the self that
are not neces-
sarily rooted
in reality.
Recal l f r om Chapt e r 4
how i mpor t an t c on sci ousn ess
is t o our sense of self.
Some have ar gue d t hat
sel f -est eem is a bad t hing.
Typicall y such ar gument s f ocus
unr eal i st i cal l y hi gh
unst abl e
self -est eem.
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Social Cognition // 405
Shelley Taylor and her colleagues have demonstrated that having positive illusions
about the self is often related to heightened well-being (Taylor, 2011c; Taylor & Sherman,
2008; Taylor & others, 2003a, 2003b, 2007). Individuals who tend to have positive illu-
sions about themselves are psychologically healthier and more likely to be judged posi-
tively by others. Self-esteem also affects our attributions about our own behavior.
Individuals with high self-esteem, for instance, tend to give themselves breaks when it
comes to judging their own behavior.
Self-serving bias refers to the tendency to take credit for one’s own successes and to
deny responsibility for one’s own failures (Helzer & Dunning, 2012). Think about tak-
ing a psychology exam. If you do well, you are likely to take credit for that success
(“I’m smart” or “I knew that stuff”)—that is, to make internal attributions. If you do
poorly, however, you are more likely to blame situational factors (“The test was too
hard”)—that is, to make external attributions.
S T E R E O T Y P E T H R E A T Stereotypes not only in uence our views of others but
also sometimes in uence the feelings and performance of individuals in stereotyped
groups (Burgess & others, 2012; Stahl, Van Laar, & Ellemers, 2012). Stereotype threat
is an individual’s fast-acting, self-ful lling fear of being judged based on a negative
stereotype about his or her group. A person who experiences stereotype threat is well
aware of stereotypical expectations for him or her as a member of the group. In stereotype-
relevant situations, the individual experiences anxiety about living “down” to expecta-
tions and consequently underperforms (Kerger, Martin, & Brunner, 2011; Weger &
others, 2012). Claude Steele and Eliot Aronson (1995, 2004) have shown that when a
test is presented to African American and non-Latino White American students who have
rst simply checked a box indicating their ethnicity, African Americans do not perform
as well. In situations where ethnicity was not made salient, no differences in performance
R e s e a r c h h a s a l s o d e m o n s t r a t e d t h a t s t e r e o t y p e t h r e a t a f f e c t s p e r f o r m a n c e o n
math tests by women compared to men, even when both groups have equally strong
math training (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999). Non-Latino White men, too, can
fall prey to stereotype threat; in a study of golf ability, non-Latino White Ameri-
can men did not perform as well as African American men when they were told
the test measured “natural athletic ability” (Stone, 2002). Asian women performed
better on a math test if asked rst for their ethnicity, but not as well if asked rst
about their sex (Shih & others, 2007).
R e s e a r c h e r s h a v e b e g u n t o i d e n t i f y f a c t o r s t h a t m a y h e l p p r e v e n t t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s o f
stereotype threat (Stahl, Van Laar, & Ellemers, 2012). For example, in one study, African
American schoolchildren who were asked their race prior to a math test did not perform
as well unless the test was presented to them as a challenge, not as a threat (Alter &
others, 2010). Some research suggests that self-esteem may help buffer the effects of
stereotype threat in women, especially if women are reminded of another aspect of the
self (for instance, “college student”) that is positively associated with math performance
(Rydell & Boucher, 2010).
S O C I A L C O M P A R I S O N H a v e y o u e v e r f e l t a s e n s e o f a c c o m p l i s h m e n t a b o u t
getting a B on a test, only to feel de ated when you found out that your friend in the
class got an A ? Yo u g a i n s e l f - k n o w l e d g e f r o m y o u r o w n b e h a v i o r , o f c o u r s e , b u t y o u
also acquire it from others through social comparison , the process by which individuals
evaluate their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and abilities in relation to others. Social
comparison helps individuals to evaluate themselves, to identify their distinctive charac-
teristics, to build an identity.
Nearly 60 years ago, Leon Festinger (1954) proposed a theory of social comparison
positing that when individuals lack objective means to evaluate their opinions and abili-
ties, they compare themselves with others. Furthermore, to get an accurate self-appraisal,
people are most likely to compare themselves with others who are similar to themselves.
Extended and modi ed over the years, Festinger’s social comparison theory continues to
self-serving bias
The tendency to take credit
for one’s own successes and
to deny responsibility for
one’s own failures.
stereotype threat
An individual’s fast-acting,
self-fulfi lling fear of being
judged based on a negative
stereotype about his or her
social comparison
The process by which
individuals evaluate their
thoughts, feelings, behav-
iors, and abilities in relation
to others.
Wh a t mi g h t h a p p e n t o
scor es i f st andar di zed t est s
di d not ask quest i ons about
sex and et hnici t y unt i l t he
end of t he t es t ?
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406 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
provide an important rationale for how individuals come to know
themselves (Brakel, Dijkstra, & Buunk, 2012; Carrieri, 2012).
Festinger concentrated on comparisons between similar peo-
ple, but other researchers have focused on downward social com-
parisons, that is, individuals’ comparisons with people whom
they consider inferior to themselves. People under threat (from
negative feedback or low self-esteem, for example) try to feel
better by comparing themselves with others who are less fortu-
nate (Caricati, 2012).
Facebook provides a venue for social comparison. Facebook
lets users present their best selves. Think about the photos you
see on Facebook—most of them show people smiling and having
a great time. A recent study of college students found that those
who spent more time each week on Facebook agreed that other
people have better lives than they do and are happier than they
are (Chou & Edge, 2012).
Attitudes are our feelings or opinions about people, objects, and ideas. We have attitudes
about all sorts of things. Social psychologists are interested in how attitudes relate to
behavior and in whether and how attitudes can change (Arpan, Rhodes, & Roskos-
Ewoldsen, 2012; Brinol & Petty, 2012).
C A N A T T I T U D E S P R E D I C T B E H A V I O R ? People sometimes say one thing but
do another. You might report positive attitudes about recycling on a survey but still pitch
an aluminum soda can in the trash. Studies over the past half-century indicate some of
the conditions under which attitudes guide actions (Brinol & Petty, 2012; Schomerus,
Matschinger, & Angermeyer, 2009):
When the person’s attitudes are strong (Ajzen, 2001): For example, senators whose
attitudes toward the president are “highly favorable” are more likely to vote for the
president’s policies than are senators who have only “moderately favorable” attitudes
toward the chief executive.
When the person shows a strong awareness of his or her attitudes and when the
person r e hearses and practices them (Fazio & Olsen, 2007; Fazio & others, 1982):
For example, a person who has been asked to give a speech about the bene ts of
recycling is more likely to recycle than is an individual with the same attitude about
recycling who has not put the idea into words or de ned it in public.
When the person has a vested interest: People are more likely to act on attitudes when
the issue at stake will affect them personally. For example, a classic study examined
whether students would show up for a rally protesting a change that would raise
the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 (Sivacek & Crano, 1982). Although stu-
dents in general were against the change, those in the critical age group (from
18 to 20) were more likely to turn out to protest.
C A N B E H A V I O R P R E D I C T A T T I T U D E S ? J u s t a s a t t i t u d e s g u i d e
behavior, ample evidence also exists that changes in behavior sometimes precede
changes in attitudes. Social psychologists offer two main explanations of why behavior
in uences attitudes: cognitive dissonance theory and self-perception theory.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory Cognitive dissonance , a concept developed by
Festinger (1957), is an individual’s psychological discomfort ( dissonance ) caused by two
inconsistent thoughts. According to the theory, we feel uneasy when we notice an incon-
sistency between what we believe and what we do (Fotuhi & others, 2012). Cognitive
An individual’s opinions
andbeliefs about people,
objects, and ideas—how
theperson feels about
An individual’s
discomfort (dis-
sonance) caused
by two inconsis-
tent thoughts.
Beyond being places to connect and keep up with
others, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
are forums for comparing how we measure up to
other people.
Wh a t a r e y o u r a t t i t u d e s
about s oci al i ss ues s uch as t he
deat h penal t y, gun owner shi p, and
cl i mat e chan ge? How do t hese
vi ews i nf l uence your behavi or ?
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Social Cognition // 407
dissonance is at the root of that uncomfortable feeling of being a hypocrite (McConnell
& Brown, 2010).
In a classic study of cognitive dissonance, Festinger and J. Merrill Carlsmith
(1959) asked college students to engage in very boring tasks such as sorting
spools into trays and turning wooden pegs. The participants were later asked to
persuade another student (who was in fact a confederate) to participate in the
study by telling him that the task was interesting and enjoyable. Half of the
participants were randomly assigned to be paid $1 for telling this white lie,
and the other half were randomly assigned to receive $20. Afterward, all of the
participants rated how interesting and enjoyable the task was.
I n t e r e s t i n g l y , t h o s e w h o w e r e p a i d o n l y $ 1 t o t e l l t h e l i e r a t e d t h e t a s k a s
signi cantly more enjoyable than those who were paid $20. Festinger and Carlsmith
reasoned that those paid $20 to tell the lie could attribute their behavior to the high
value of the money they received. On the other hand, those who were paid $1 experienced
cognitive dissonance. The inconsistency between what they did ( t e l l a l i e ) a n d what they
were paid for it ( j u s t $ 1 ) m o v e d t h e s e i n d i v i d u a l s t o c h a n g e t h e i r a t t i t u d e s a b o u t t h e t a s k
(“I wouldn’t lie for just $1. If I said I liked the task, I must have really liked it”).
We can reduce cognitive dissonance in one of two ways: change our behavior to t
our attitudes or change our attitudes to t our behavior. In the classic study above, par-
ticipants changed their attitudes about the task to match their behavior. Thus, when our
attitudes and behavior are at odds, our behavior can in uence our attitudes. After you
have pitched that soda can, for example, you might feel guilty and relieve that guilt by
deciding, “Recycling is not really that important.
Effort justi cation , one type of dissonance reduction, means rationalizing the amount
of effort we put into something. Effort justi cation explains strong feelings of loyalty
toward a group based on the effort it takes to gain admission into that group. Work-
ing hard to get into an organization (such as a Greek society or the Marines) or
a profession (such as medicine or law) can change our attitudes about it. Accord-
ing to cognitive dissonance theory, individuals in these situations are likely to
think, “If it’s this tough to get into, it must be worth it.
Self-Perception Theory Self-perception theory is Daryl Bem’s (1967)
explanation of how behaviors in uence attitudes. According to this theory, indi-
viduals make inferences about their attitudes by perceiving their behavior. That
is, behaviors can cause attitudes because when we are questioned about our
attitudes, we think back on our behaviors for information. When asked about your
attitude toward exercise, for instance, you might think, “Well, I run every morning,
so I must like it.From Bem’s perspective, your behav-
ior has led you to recognize something about yourself
that you had not noticed before. Bem believes that we
are especially likely to look to our own behavior to
determine our attitudes when those attitudes are not
completely clear, and research has supported this
assertion (Olson & Stone, 2005).
Figure 11.2 compares cognitive dissonance theory
and self-perception theory. Both theories have merit
in explaining the connection between attitudes and
behavior, and these opposing views bring to light the
complexity that may exist in this connection. Another
route to attitude change is persuasion.
P E R S U A S I O N P e r s u a s i o n i n v o l v e s t r y i n g t o
change someone’s attitude—and often his or her behav-
ior as well (Brinol & Petty, 2012; Prislin & Crano,
2012). There are two central questions with respect to
persuasion: What makes an individual decide to give
Bem’s theory on
how behaviors
infl uence atti-
tudes, stating
that individuals
make inferences
about their
attitudes by
perceiving their
Reme mber , r andom
as si gnment i s us ed t o make s ur e
that groups ar e equal i n ever y
way exc ept f or t he i ndepen dent
var i abl ewhi ch i n t hi s s t udy was
how much t he par t i ci pan t s wer e
pai d f or t he l i e. The r at i ng of
enj oyment was t he dependent
var i abl e.
If you have ever played
devi l s advocat e i n an ar gument
(arguing a point just for t he sake
of ar gument ) , you mi g ht have f ound
your s el f r eal i zi ng t hat maybe you
hold t he views you have
pr et e nded t o advocat e . That s
sel f - per cept i on t heor y at wor k.
Barack Obama called on his powers of persuasion when he ran for
presidential reelection in 2012, as well as when, in previous years,
he served as a U.S. senator representing the state of Illinois.
Cognitive Dissonance
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408 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
We make inferences about
our attitudes by perceiving
and examining our behavior
and the context in which it
occurs, which might involve
inducements to behave in
certain ways.
Example: “I am spending all
of my time thinking about
how much I hate my job. I
really must not like it.”
We are motivated toward
consistency between
attitudes and behavior and
away from inconsistency.
Example: “I hate my job.
I need to develop a better
attitude toward it or else
Festinger Cognitive
Dissonance Theory
Bem Self-Perception
FIGURE 11.2 Two Theories of the Connections Between
Attitudes and Behavior Although we often think of attitudes as causing
behavior, behavior can change attitudes, through either dissonance reduction
or self-perception.
up an original attitude and adopt a new one, and what makes
a person decide to act on an attitude that he or she has not
acted on before? Teachers, lawyers, and sales representa-
tives study techniques that will help them sway their
audiences (children, juries, and buyers). Presidential
candidates have arsenals of speechwriters and
image consultants to help ensure that their
words are persuasive. Perhaps the most skilled
persuaders of all are advertisers, who com-
bine a full array of techniques to sell every-
thing from corn akes to carpets to cars.
Carl Hovland and his colleagues origi-
nally identi ed the elements of persuasion
as follows (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953;
Janis & Hovland, 1959):
The communicator (source): Suppose you are
running for student body president. You tell
your fellow students that you are going to
make life at your college better. Will they
believe you? Most likely, that will depend on
your characteristics as a communicator.
Whether they believe you will depend in large
part on your credibility—that is, how much
the other students trust what you say. Trust-
worthiness and expertise are credibility char-
acteristics that help a communicator change
people’s attitudes or convince them to act.
Other source factors include power, attractive-
ness, and likability.
The medium: Another persuasion factor is the medium or the technology used to get
the message across. Consider the difference between watching a presidential debate
live on television or over the Internet and reading about it in the newspaper. Because
they present live images, digital media are generally more powerful than print sources
for changing attitudes.
The target (audience): Age and attitude strength are two characteristics of the audience
that determine whether a message will be effective. Younger people are more likely
to change their attitudes than older individuals. Weaker attitudes on the part of the
audience make attitude change more likely than do deeply held attitudes.
The message: What kind of message is persuasive? Some messages involve strong
logical arguments, and others focus on exciting emotions such as fear and anger in
the audience. Which is more likely to work and when? The elaboration likelihood
model addresses this question.
The elaboration likelihood model identi es two ways to persuade: a central route
and a peripheral route (Brinol & Petty, 2012; DeMarree & Petty, 2007; Petty & Brinol,
2008; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). The central route to persuasion works by engaging
someone thoughtfully with a sound, logical argument. The peripheral route involves non-
message factors such as the source’s credibility and attractiveness or emotional appeals.
The peripheral route is effective when people are not paying close attention or do
not have the time or energy to think about what the communicator is saying
(Brewer, Barnes, & Sauer, 2011). As you might guess, television advertisers
often use the peripheral route to persuasion on the assumption that during
the commercials you are probably not paying full attention to the screen.
However, the central route is more persuasive when people have the ability
and the motivation to pay attention to the facts (Sparks & Areni, 2008).
likelihood model
Theory identify-
ing two ways to
persuade: a cen-
tral route and a
peripheral route.
At t i t udes t hat ar e
changed usi n g t he cen t r al r ou t e
ar e mor e l i kel y t o per s i s t t han
at t i t udes t hat ar e changed
us i ng t he per i pher al r out e.
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Social Behavior // 409
Successful Persuasion S o o n e r o r l a t e r , n e a r l y e v e r y o n e w i l l b e i n a p o s i t i o n o f s e l l -
ing someone something. Social psychologists have studied a variety of ways in which social
psychological principles in uence whether a salesperson makes that sale (Cialdini, 1993).
One strategy for making a sale is called the foot-in-the-door technique (Freedman &
Fraser, 1966), which involves making a smaller request (“Would you be interested in a
three-month trial subscription to a magazine?”) at the beginning and saving the biggest
demand (“How about a full year?”) for last. The foot-in-the-door approach relies on the
notion that in agreeing to the smaller offer, the customer has created a relationship with
the seller, expressing some level of trust.
Robert Cialdini and his colleagues introduced a different strategy, called the
door-in-the-face technique (Cialdini & others, 1975), that involves making the
biggest pitch at the beginning (“Would you be interested in a full-year subscrip-
tion?”), which the customer probably will reject, and then making a smaller,
“concessionary” demand (“Okay, then, how about a three-month trial?”). The
door-in-the-face technique relies on the fact that the customer feels a sense of
reciprocity and obligation: Because you let him off the hook with that big
request, maybe he should be nice and take that smaller offer.
Resisting Persuasion Advertisers and salespeople work their hardest to persuade
us to buy their products. How do we resist their appeals? According to William McGuire,
one way to resist persuasion is through inoculation (McGuire, 2003; McGuire &
Papageorgis, 1961). McGuire proposed that just as administering a vaccine inoculates
individuals from a virus by introducing a weakened or dead version of that virus to the
immune system, giving people a weak version of a persuasive message and allowing
them time to argue against it can help individuals avoid persuasion.
Research has shown that such “inoculation” helps college students resist
plagiarism (Compton & Pfau, 2008) as well as credit card marketing appeals
(Compton & Pfau, 2004). When individuals are warned that they are going to
be hit with persuasive appeals and are given arguments to help them resist these
pitches, they are able to do so.
Cogni t i v e d i s s onance can
al so be a power f ul s al es t ool .
Somet i mes t he har de r we wor k
to buy something, the more we
want i t . Af t er al l , di d you
that strange lamp on eBay
or di d you
wi n
it ?
Con s i d er y our s el f
inoculat ed! Credit card companies
of t e n pr ey on col l eg e st udent s.
1. Stereotype threat refers to
A. the damage potentially caused by
stereotyping others.
B. the strategy of changing someone’s
behavior by threatening to use a
C. humans’ tendency to categorize
people using broad generalizations.
D. an individual’s self-fulfi lling fear of
being judged based on a negative
stereotype about his or her group.
2. In committing the fundamental attribu-
tion error, we overemphasize _________
and underemphasize _________ when
making attributions about others’
A. internal factors; external factors
B. external factors; internal factors
C. controllability; stability
D. stability; controllability
3. Which of the following statements about
positive illusions is true ?
A. Positive illusions are more common in
people with low self-esteem.
B. Positive illusions are accurate.
C. Positive illusions have been linked to
better well-being.
D. Positive illusions are focused on actors
rather than observers.
APPLY IT! 4. Thomas has spent long
hours working to get his candidate elected
president of the student body. When he
talks to his mother on election night,
Thomas is overjoyed to report that his can-
didate won by a landslide. His mom points
out that Thomas never cared about campus
politics before, and she asks him about his
sudden interest. Thomas admits that she is
right, but notes that he now cares deeply
about campus issues and is likely to
continue to be involved in politics. What
theory best explains Thomas’s change?
A. social comparison theory
B. self-perception theory
C. stereotype threat
D. the elaboration likelihood model
We do not just think socially; we also behave in social ways. Two particular behaviors
that have interested psychologists represent the extremes of human social activity: altru-
ism and aggression.
Social Behavior
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410 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
In 2009, Rick Hohl, a Florida man, heard about a sheriffs deputy in dire need of a
kidney transplant. Hohl made an on-the-spot decision to be tested, and he eventually
donated his kidney to Johnnie Briggs, a complete stranger (Farris, 2009). Asked why he
did it, Hohl replied, in tears, “I’m a Christian. He added, And I just want to make a
Such a sel ess act of kindness is a part of our social experience, as are the huge relief
efforts that have followed disasters such as the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan
in 2011. In everyday life, we witness and perform random acts of kindness—maybe
adding a quarter to someone’s expired parking meter or giving up our seat on a bus to
someone in need. We may volunteer for the Special Olympics or serve as a literacy tutor.
What all of these acts have in common is altruism , a n u n s e l sh interest in helping
another person (Burks & Kobus, 2012).
I n e x a m i n i n g p o t e n t i a l l y a l t r u i s t i c b e h a v i o r ( o r prosocial behavior ) , p s y c h o l o g i s t s
have questioned how genuinely sel ess it is. Some psychologists even argue that true
altruism has never been demonstrated (Cialdini, 1991; Maner & others, 2002). True
altruism means giving to another person with the ultimate goal of bene ting that person.
In contrast to altruism is egoism , w h i c h i n v o l v e s g i v i n g t o a n o t h e r p e r s o n t o g a i n s e l f -
esteem; to present oneself as powerful, competent, or caring; or to avoid censure, both
from oneself and from society, for failing to live up to expectations. Egoism may also
entail helping another person because we want to increase the chances that the per-
son will return the favor someday—that is, we may be kind to another person to
ensure reciprocity.
The principle of reciprocity encourages us to do unto others as we would
have them do unto us. Reciprocity lies at the heart of the Golden Rule. Reci-
procity involves an expression of trust for another person, as well as feelings
of obligation and guilt. The principle of reciprocity means that we behave kindly,
as kidney donor Rick Hohl did, under the assumption that
someone will show us the same kindness someday.
E V O L U T I O N A R Y V I E W S O F A L T R U I S M Altruism
has presented a puzzle for evolutionary psychologists (Andre
& Morin, 2011; Van Doorn & Taborsky, 2012). How can a
behavior that rewards others, and not oneself, be adaptive?
Interestingly, kindness is not exclusive to humans. Ethologists
studying nonhuman primates have shown that altruistic acts of
kindness also occur in other species (de Waal, Leimgruber, &
Greenberg, 2008; Horner & others, 2011). Perhaps kindness is
not a mystery but an important adaptation.
Evolutionary theorists note that helping is especially likely
to occur among family members, because helping a relative also
means promoting the survival of the familys genes (Buss, 2012;
Leigh, 2010). Evolutionary theorists believe that reciprocity in
relationships with nonfamily members is essentially the mis-
taken application of a heuristic that made sense in human evo-
lutionary history—to engage in sel ess acts of kindness to one’s
own family members (Nowak, Page, & Sigmund, 2000).
Dale Miller (1999, 2001) suggested that altruism may be
an expression of true human nature. From Miller’s perspec-
tive, although human beings are socialized to believe that the
human species is naturally sel sh, a great deal of research
indicates that humans are not necessarily self-centered and do
not engage in sel sh acts as a natural response (Holmes,
Miller, & Lerner, 2002).
Unselfi sh interest in helping
another person.
Giving to another
person to ensure
reciprocity; to
gain self-esteem;
to present one-
self as powerful,
competent, or
caring; or to
avoid social and
self-censure for
failing to live up
to society’s
An example of animal altruism—a baboon plucking bugs
from another baboon. Most acts of animal altruism
involve kin.
Do y o u t h i n k a l t r u i s m i s a
puzzl e t o be sol vedor a nat ur al
ex pr es s i on of human nat ur e?
Wh y ?
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Social Behavior // 411
P S Y C H O L O G I C A L F A C T O R S I N A L T R U I S M I n a d d i t i o n t o reciprocity,
p s y c h o l o g i c a l f a c t o r s i n v o l v e d i n a l t r u i s m i n c l u d e m o o d a n d e m p a t h y . A s t r o n g
conclusion from the research literature is that happy people are more likely to
help (Snyder, Lopez, & Pedrotti, 2010). Does it then follow that when they are
in a bad mood, people are less likely to help? Not necessarily, because adults
(especially) generally understand that doing good for another person can be a
mood booster. Thus, when in a bad mood, they might be likely to help if they think
that doing so will improve their mood. Furthermore, sometimes those who have experi-
enced distressing traumatic events nd helping others to be an effective and meaningful
way of coping (Staub & Vollhardt, 2008).
A k e y s o c i a l e m o t i o n i n v o l v e d i n a l t r u i s m i s e m p a t h y ( B u r k s & K o b u s , 2 0 1 2 ) . Empathy
is a person’s feeling of oneness with the emotional state of another. Daniel Batson
has spent the better part of his career searching for proof that truly altruistic behavior
does exist (Batson, 2002, 2006, 2012; Batson & others, 2007). The key to such altruism
is the extent to which we can put ourselves in another’s shoes. Empathy for someone
else’s plight moves us to action—not to make ourselves feel better but out of genuine
concern for the other person. Empathy can produce altruistic behavior even toward mem-
bers of rival groups and even when we believe no one will ever hear about our kind act
(Fultz & others, 1986).
S O C I O C U L T U R A L F A C T O R S I N A L T R U I S M Sociocultural research has
examined the characteristics of cultures that are associated with the emergence of altru-
ism and with the belief that everyone deserves fair treatment. A study comparing 15
different cultures examined two particular factors: market economies and investment in
established religion (Henrich & others, 2010).
A market economy is a decentralized system featuring the free exchange of products
and services between producers and consumers. Market economies, such as the U.S. econ-
omy, require individuals to extend the principle of reciprocity to strangers, because the
normal ow of business requires a certain degree of trust. For example, when you order a
book online, you assume a great deal on the part of the strangers who are selling you that
book. You give them your credit card information, con dent that they will not use it to
purchase things and will not share it with someone else. Even though you have no personal
knowledge of these sellers, you assume that they will not take advantage of you.
Another important factor in prosocial behavior across cultures is established religions.
World religions tend to share an emphasis on the Golden Rule and on treating others
fairly. A series of studies conducted with participants in places as varied as Papua New
Guinea, Samburu in Kenya, and the U.S. state of Missouri demonstrated that prosocial
behaviors were more common in communities characterized by market economies and
by investment in established religion (Henrich & others, 2010).
In addition to these two broad cultural factors, social psychologists have examined
other sociocultural variables as predictors of altruism and helping, including gender, the
in uence of bystanders, and the media.
Altruism and Gender Given the role of
empathy in helping, we might think that women
should be more likely to help than men. After
all, stereotypes tell us that women are by nature
more empathic than men. However, as in most
domains, it is useful to think about gender in
context (Biernat & Deaux, 2012). Researchers
have found that women are more likely than
men to help when the context involves existing
interpersonal relationships or nurturing, such as
volunteering time to help a child with a per-
sonal problem (Eagly, 2009). Men, on the other
hand, are more likely to help in situations in
A feeling of oneness with
the emotional state of
another person.
Wh a t w a s t h e l a s t
al t r ui s t i c act you commi t t ed?
Wh a t l e d t o y o u r b e h a v i o r ?
The Samburu people of Kenya are very spiritual, believing in and praying
daily to the god Ngai. The presence of established religions within a
culture is related to prosocial behaviors.
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412 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
which a perceived danger is present (for instance, picking up a hitchhiker) and in which
they feel competent to help (as in assisting someone with a at tire) (Eagly & Crowley,
1986). Interestingly, men and women were equally heroic in helping Jews escape the
Nazi Holocaust during World War II (Becker & Eagly, 2004).
The Bystander Effect Nearly 50 years ago, a young woman named Kitty Genovese
was brutally murdered in New York City. She was attacked at about 3 a.m. in a courtyard
surrounded by apartment buildings. It took the slayer approximately 30 minutes to kill
Genovese. Thirty-eight neighbors watched the gory scene from their windows and
heard Genovese’s screams. No one helped or called the police.
Inspired by the Genovese case, social psychologists John Darley and Bibb
Latané (1968) conducted a number of studies on the bystander effect , t h e t e n -
dency of an individual who observes an emergency to help less when other
people are present than when the observer is alone. Most bystander studies show
that when alone, a person will help 75 percent of the time, but when another
bystander is present, the gure drops to 50percent. Apparently the difference is
due to diffusion of responsibility among witnesses and the tendency to look to
the behavior of others for cues about what to do. We may think that someone else
will call the police or that, because no one else is helping, possibly the person does
not need help.
Media In uences P s y c h o l o g i s t s h a v e l o n g c o n s i d e r e d m e d i a i n uences to be a factor
in aggressive behavior. Researchers are also investigating whether media can elicit prosocial
behavior as well. Studies suggest that the answer is yes. For example, listening to music
with prosocial lyrics can promote kindness (Greitemeyer, 2009), and watching television
shows with positive content has been associated with prosocial behavior (Hearold, 1986).
Thus, exposure to prosocial media may be an important way to spread kindness.
T h i s d i s c u s s i o n o f a l t r u i s m h i g h l i g h t s t h e c a p a c i t y o f h u m a n b e i n g s t o h e l p o n e a n o t h e r ,
whether through a simple gesture like holding a door open for another person or a sel ess
act such as donating an organ. This ability to engage in kindness coincides with other
capacities, such as the capacity to cause others harm. Some evolutionary scientists have
suggested that altruism, especially when it is directed at the members of one’s own group,
may coexist with hostile feelings and actions toward other groups (Arrow, 2007; Choi &
Bowles, 2007; Glasford & Calcagno, 2012). Indeed, research shows that oxytocin, the
hormone and neurotransmitter associated with social bonding, is related not only to stron-
ger allegiance to a social group but also to greater hatred for individuals in other groups
(De Dreu & others, 2010). A soldier may perform sel ess, heroic acts of altruism for his
or her country, but for a person on the other side of the combat, that behavior is harmful
and potentially deadly. Thus, altruism within a group may be linked to aggression.
Aggression refers to social behavior whose objective is to harm someone, either physi-
cally or verbally. Aggression is common in contemporary society. Perhaps the greatest
puzzle of aggression is that a species capable of incredible acts of kindness can also
perpetrate horrifying acts of violence.
B I O L O G I C A L I N F L U E N C E S There is nothing new about human aggression. The
primate ancestors of human beings and the earliest humans are thought to have commit-
ted aggressive acts against others of their own kind. Researchers who approach aggres-
sion from a biological viewpoint examine the in uence of evolutionary tendencies,
genetics, and neurobiological factors (Kenrick & Cohen, 2012).
E v o l u t i o n a r y V i e w s Ethologists say that certain stimuli release innate aggressive
responses (Lorenz, 1965; Tinbergen, 1969). For example, a male robin will attack
bystander effect
The tendency for
an individual who
observes an
emergency to
help less when
other people are
present than
when the ob-
server is alone.
Social behavior
whose objective
is to harm some-
one, either physi-
cally or verbally.
The by st an der ef f ect
is st ill in evidence. I n Oct ober
2009, a 15-year-old California
gi r l was r aped and beat en by as
ma n y a s 1 0 p e o p l e o u t s i d e a h i g h
school dance (Mar t i nez, 2 0 0 9).
Mor e t han 2 0 peopl e wat ched
and no one cal l ed f or hel p.
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Social Behavior // 413
In the animal world, aggression often is ritualistic
and typically involves threat displays, such as a
cat’s arching its back, baring its teeth, and hissing.
another male bird when it sees the red patch on the other bird’s breast.
When the patch is removed, no attack takes place. However, in the
animal kingdom, most hostile encounters do not escalate to killing or
even severe harm. Much of the ghting is ritualistic and involves
threat displays—for example, a cat arching its back, baring its teeth,
and hissing or a chimpanzee staring, stomping on the ground, and
Evolutionary theorists believe that human beings are not much different
from other animals. A basic theme of their theory is the survival of the ttest
(Wrangham & Glowacki, 2012). Thus, they conclude that early in human evolu-
tion the survivors were probably aggressive individuals.
Genetic Basis Genes are important in explaining the biological
basis of aggression (Butovskaya & others, 2012). The selective
breeding of animals provides evidence for genetic in uences in
aggression. After a number of breedings among only aggressive ani-
mals and among only docile animals, vicious and timid strains of
animals emerge. The vicious strains attack nearly anything in sight; the timid strains
rarely ght, even when attacked.
T h e g e n e t i c b a s i s f o r a g g r e s s i o n i s m o r e d i f cult to demonstrate in humans than
animals and may depend on the type of aggression studied (Brendgen & others, 2008).
Speci cally, twin studies have shown that physical aggression that is proactive in nature
may be more in uenced by genes, but more reactive aggression and social aggression
(for instance, starting rumors about someone) may be more susceptible to environmental
effects. Also, genetic in uences may be stronger for males than for females (Baker &
others, 2008).
N e u r o b i o l o g i c a l F a c t o r s I n 1 9 6 6 , C h a r l e s W h i t m a n c l i m b e d t o t h e t o p o f t h e
campus tower at the University of Texas at Austin and killed 15 people below with a
high-powered ri e before he was felled by police bullets. Shortly before the rampage,
he had murdered his wife and mother in their homes. An autopsy revealed a tumor in
the limbic system of Whitman’s brain, an area associated with emotion. Although humans
do not appear to have a speci c aggression center in the brain, aggressive behavior often
results when areas such as the limbic system are stimulated by electric currents (Herbert,
1988; Wood & Liossi, 2006).
The frontal lobes of the brain—the areas most involved in executive functions such
as planning and self-control—have also been implicated in aggression. Research by Adriane
Raine and his colleagues has examined the brains of individuals who have committed the
ultimate act of violence: murder (Nordstrom & others, 2011; Raine, 2008; Yang, Glen,
& Raine, 2008). The results indicate that murderers may differ from others in de cits in
the functioning of these areas of the brain.
Neurotransmitters—particularly, lower levels of serotonin—have been linked to
aggressive behavior (Neumann, Veenema, & Beiderbeck, 2010; Rosell & others, 2010).
In one study, young men whose serotonin levels were low relative to those of other men
their age were far more likely to have committed a violent crime (Mof tt & others,
1998). Similarly, aggressive children have lower levels of serotonin than do chil-
dren who display low rates of aggression (Blader, 2006; Nevels & others, 2010).
Hormones are another biological factor that may play a role in aggression.
The hormone that is typically implicated in aggressive behavior is testosterone.
Research on rats and other animals has shown that testosterone relates to aggres-
sion (Cunningham & McGinnis, 2007). However, results with humans have been
less consistent (van Bokhoven & others, 2006).
A fascinating study examined how testosterone is in uenced by experience and
how experience and testosterone together might help explain aggression (Klinesmith,
Kasser, & McAndrew, 2006). In this study, college men interacted with either a gun or
a child’s toy. Testosterone was measured before and after this phase of the study. Men
Reme mber t hat behavi or
can i nf l uen ce hor mon e l evel s. So,
hi gher t est ost er one may be an
ef f ect of aggr es s i ve behavi or ,
not i t s cause.
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414 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
who interacted with the gun showed greater increases in testosterone, compared to the
control group. Furthermore, later in the study, the men who had interacted with the gun
were more aggressive (they put more hot sauce in a cup of water they thought someone
else was going to drink). The role of testosterone in this increase in aggression suggests
that testosterone changes may shed light on why some people respond more aggressively
to violent cues than do others (Klinesmith, Kasser, & McAndrew, 2006).
It is worth noting that many of the studies of aggression that have been conducted in
social psychology laboratories rely on a variety of behaviors that may be considered
aggressive even if they do not involve, for example, actually punching someone
in the face. In studies on aggression, participants might have an opportunity to
“aggress” against another, for instance, by subjecting the individual to a blast of
loud noise, dispensing a mild electrical shock, or even, as in the study described
above, administering a large dose of hot sauce to swallow. Whether these opera-
tional de nitions of aggression are applicable to real-life violence is a matter of
much debate (Savage & Yancey, 2008).
P S Y C H O L O G I C A L F A C T O R S Numerous psychological factors appear to be
involved in aggression. They include individuals’ responses to circumstances, as well as
cognitive and learning factors.
Frustrating and Aversive Circumstances Many years ago, John Dollard and
his colleagues (1939) proposed the fru s tration-aggression hypothesis, which states that
frustration —the blocking of an individual’s attempts to reach a goal—always leads to
aggression. However, psychologists subsequently found that aggression is not the only
possible response to frustration: Some individuals who experience frustration become
passive, for example (N. E. Miller, 1941).
Psychologists later recognized that besides frustration, a broad range of aversive expe-
riences can cause aggression. They include physical pain, personal insults, crowding, and
unpleasant events. Aversive circumstances also include factors in the physical environ-
ment, such as the weather. Murder, rape, and assault increase when temperatures are the
highest, as well as in the hottest years and the hottest cities (Anderson & Bushman,
C o g n i t i v e D e t e r m i n a n t s Aspects of the environment may prime us to behave
aggressively (Englander, 2006). Recall from Chapter 6 that priming can involve making
something salient to a person, even subliminally or without the person’s awareness.
Leonard Berkowitz (1993; Berkowitz & LePage, 1996) has shown how the mere
presence of a weapon (such as a gun) may prime hostile thoughts and produce
aggression (Anderson, Benjamin, & Bartholow, 1998). Indeed, in accordance with
Berkowitz’s ideas, a famous study found that individuals who lived in a household
with a gun were 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than those dwelling in a
household without a gun (Kellerman & others, 1993).
A variety of other cognitive factors determine whether an individual responds aggres-
sively to aversive situations (Baumeister, 1999; Berkowitz, 1990; DeWall & others,
2009). For instance, if a person perceives that another’s actions are unfair or intentionally
hurtful, aggression is more likely to occur. Indeed, in the workplace, individuals who
perceive that they have been treated unfairly are more likely to aggress, verbally and
physically, against supervisors (Dupre & Barling, 2006).
O b s e r v a t i o n a l L e a r n i n g Social cognitive theorists believe that aggression is
learned through reinforcement and observational learning (Englander, 2006). Aggression
can be learned by watching others engage in aggressive actions. Perhaps the most famous
example of observational learning is the Bobo doll study (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961).
Albert Bandura and his colleagues randomly assigned some children to watch an adult
model aggressive behavior and other children to watch an adult behaving non-aggressively.
In the experimental condition, children saw the model hit an in ated Bobo doll with a
Thi s cont r over sy
over the operational definitions
of aggr essi on r ef l ect s concer n
over t he
ex t er nal val i di t y
of t hi s wor k.
Thi s i s a cor r el at i onal
st udy. What ar e some t hir d
var i abl es t hat mi ght expl ai n
the association between gun
owner s hi p and mur der ?
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Social Behavior // 415
mallet, kick it in the air, punch it, and throw it, all the while
hollering aggressive phrases such as “Hit him!” “Punch
him in the nose!” and “Pow!” In the control condition, the
model played with Tinkertoys and ignored the Bobo doll.
Children who watched the aggressive model were much
more likely to engage in aggressive behavior when left
alone with Bobo (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961). One of
the most frequent opportunities people have to observe
aggression in our culture is to watch violence on television
(see related discussion below on media violence).
S O C I O C U L T U R A L F A C T O R S Aggression involves
not only biological and cognitive factors but also factors in
the wider social world. Among the sociocultural factors in
aggression are variations in economic inequity, the “culture
of honor,and the extent to which people watch violence in
the media.
C u l t u r a l V a r i a t i o n s a n d t h e C u l t u r e o f H o n o r A g g r e s s i o n a n d v i o l e n c e a r e
more common in some cultures than others (Kitayama & Cohen, 2007). Dov Cohen
has examined the ways in which some cultural norms about masculine pride and
family honor may foster aggressive behavior (Cohen, 2001; Vandello & Cohen,
2004). In a culture of honor, a m a n s r e p u t a t i o n i s t h o u g h t t o b e a n e s s e n t i a l
aspect of his economic survival. Such a culture sees insults to a man’s honor as
diminishing his reputation and views violence as a way to compensate for that
loss. Cultures of honor are obvious in countries where family pride might lead
to so-called honor killings—in which, for example, a female rape victim is slain
by her male family members so that they are not “contaminated” by the rape. In
April 2009, a Jordanian man confessed to stabbing his pregnant sister with a meat
cleaver because she had left her husband and he believed she was seeing other men. He
felt that he had to kill her to protect his family honor (Gavlak, 2009).
Cohen has examined how, in the United States, southerners are more likely than
northerners to be aggressive when honor is at stake. In one study, Cohen and his col-
leagues (1996) had White men who were from either the North or the South take part
in an experiment that required them to walk down a hallway. A confederate passed all
the men, bumping against them and quietly calling them a derogatory name. The south-
erners were more likely than the northerners to think that their masculine reputation was
threatened, to become physiologically aroused by the insult, and to engage in actual
aggressive or dominant acts. In contrast, the northerners were less likely to perceive a
random insult as ghtin’ words.
M e d i a V i o l e n c e Images of violence pervade the U.S. popular media. Moreover,
television shows, movies, video games, and song lyrics usually portray violence unreal-
istically and without showing its lasting effects. It is easy to get the message that aggres-
sion and violence are the norm.
A l t h o u g h s o m e c r i t i c s h a v e d i s p u t e d t h e c o n c l u s i o n t h a t T V v i o l e n c e c a u s e s a g g r e s s i o n
(Savage & Yancey, 2008), many scholars insist that television violence can prompt aggres-
sive or antisocial behavior in children (P. Brown & Tierney, 2011; Bushman & Huesman,
2012; Comstock, 2012). Of course, television violence is not the only cause of aggression
in children or adults. Aggression, like all other social behaviors, has multiple determinants
(Matos, Ferreira, & Haase, 2012). The link between TV violence and aggression in chil-
dren is in uenced by childrens aggressive tendencies, by their attitudes toward violence,
and by the monitoring of children’s exposure to it. Perhaps the strongest predictor of
aggression is witnessing aggression in one’s own family (Ferguson & others, 2008).
Another type of media violence that has interested social psychologists is violent
pornography— lms, videos, websites, and magazines portraying the degradation of
Used by permission of CartoonStock,
Cogni t i v e d i s s onance
coul d l ead t o ev en gr eat er val ui ng
of one s per sonal honor . Th at
hon or woul d hav e t o be r eal l y
import ant for a person t o harm
someone el se physi cal l y or t o ki l l
hi s own si st er .
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416 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
women in a sexual context. Do such media foster violence toward women? Based on
several meta-analyses and research of their own, Neil Malamuth and his colleagues
concluded that pornography consumption does have a small effect on male sexual
aggression and is related to more accepting attitudes about violence toward women
(Hald, Malamuth, & Yuen, 2010; Malamuth, Addison, & Koss, 2000). Yet Malamuth
and his colleagues caution that pornography is only one of a number of factors that
may lead to sexual violence against women (Hald, Malamuth, & Yuen, 2010; Vega &
Malamuth, 2007). The most problematic materials are those that depict women enjoy-
ing being the victims of male sexual violence (Hald, Malamuth, & Yuen, 2010). Such
violent pornography reinforces the rape myth t h e f a l s e b e l i e f t h a t w o m e n d e s i r e
coercive sex.
A s e x p l o r e d i n C h a l l e n g e Y o u r T h i n k i n g , r e s e a r c h e r s h a v e a l s o e x a m i n e d t h e i n u-
ence of video games on social behavior. These games provide an especially powerful
experience in which players perpetrate a wide range of social behaviors while engrossed
in the action.
A G G R E S S I O N A N D G E N D E R Are men or women more aggressive? The answer
depends on the particular type of aggression we are talking about.
Overt aggression r e f e r s t o p h y s i c a l l y o r v e r b a l l y h a r m i n g a n o t h e r p e r s o n d i r e c t l y .
Males tend to be higher in overt aggression than females. As children, boys are more
likely than girls to get in ghts in which they are physically aggressive toward one
another (Underwood, 2011). As adolescents, males are more likely to join gangs
and to commit violent acts. Children and adolescents who are diagnosed with
conduct disorder —a pattern of offensive behavior that violates the basic rights of
others—are three times more likely to be boys than girls (Kjelsberg, 2005). Of the
murders committed in 2010, 90 percent of these were committed by men (FBI, 2012).
W o m e n s s m a l l e r p h y s i c a l s i z e m a y b e o n e r e a s o n t h e y a r e l e s s l i k e l y t o e n g a g e i n
overt aggression. In probing aggressive tendencies in girls and women, researchers have
focused instead on relational aggression , b e h a v i o r t h a t i s m e a n t t o h a r m t h e s o c i a l
standing of another person through activities such as gossiping and spreading rumors
(Underwood, 2011). Relational aggression differs from overt aggression in that it requires
that the aggressor have a considerable level of social and cognitive skill. To be relation-
ally aggressive, an individual must have a strong understanding of the social environment
and must be able to plant rumors that are most likely to damage the intended party.
Relational aggression is subtler than overt aggression, and the relationally aggressive
individual may not seem to be aggressive to others, as the aggressive acts typically are
committed secretly. Research conclusions are mixed on whether girls show more rela-
tional aggression than boys, but one consistency in the ndings is that relational aggres-
sion composes a greater percentage of girls’ overall aggression than is the case for boys
(Underwood, 2011). A recent research review revealed that girls engage in more rela-
tional aggression than boys in adolescence but not in childhood (Smith, Rose, &
Schwartz-Mette, 2010).
Generally, both overt aggression and relational aggression are related to reduced peer
acceptance (Underwood, 2011). Relational aggression in girls is associated in particular
with less acceptance by other girls; in contrast, relationally aggressive adolescent girls
are more likely to enjoy acceptance by boys. This pattern suggests that girls who rela-
tionally aggress toward other girls may do so to improve their standing with boys (Smith,
Rose, & Schwartz-Mette, 2010).
A l t h o u g h r e l a t i o n a l a g g r e s s i o n m a y n o t l e a d t o t h e p h y s i c a l i n j u r y t h a t i s o f t e n t h e
result of overt aggression, it can be extremely painful nevertheless. In 2010, Phoebe
Prince, a 15-year-old who had recently moved from Ireland to the United States with
her family, became the target of unrelenting rumors and harassment from a group of
popular girls at her high school after she had a brief relationship with a popular senior
boy. Prince became so distraught that she hanged herself after school one day. Even after
her suicide, the girls who had harassed her posted rumors about her on the Facebook
page that was set up as a memorial (Cullen, 2010).
overt aggression
Physical or verbal
behavior that
directly harms
another person.
relational aggression
Behavior that is meant to
harm the social standing of
another person.
Men wer e al so t he
vi ct i ms of t hes e cr i mes , 7 0
per cent of t he t i me.
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Social Behavior // 417
R E D U C I N G A G G R E S S I O N Social cognitive theorists believe that people who
act aggressively often are rewarded for their aggression and that individuals learn to
be aggressive by watching others behave aggressively. Research has supported this
view (Bandura, 1997). Thus, promising strategies for reducing aggression are to
decrease rewards for aggression and to lessen exposure to it. Parents have been espe-
cially targeted to help children to reduce aggression (Leaper & Friedman, 2007).
ideo games are an ex-
tremely potent medium.
One of the most hotly
contested issues in social psy-
chology is the potential role of
violent video games in promot-
ing aggressive behavior. It has
been suggested that violent
video games engage children
and adolescents so intensely
that they experience an altered
state of consciousness in
which “rational thought is sus-
pended and highly arousing ag-
gressive scripts are increasingly
likely to be learned” (Roberts,
Henriksen, & Foehr, 2009,
p.328). Unlike other media, such as TV shows, video games
allow the individual to play an active role in perpetrating violence.
A recent meta-analysis concluded that children and adolescents
who play violent video games extensively are more aggressive,
less sensitive to real-life violence, more likely to engage in delin-
quent acts, and more likely to get lower grades in school than
counterparts who spend less time playing the games or do not
play them at all (C. A. Anderson & others, 2010).
Social psychologist Craig Anderson has been a vocal spokes-
person against media violence, especially violent video games
(Anderson, 2003; Anderson, Gentile, & Dill, 2012; Anderson &
Huesmann, 2007; Anderson & Prot, 2011; Bushman & Anderson,
2007; Saleem & Anderson, 2012). Critics of the work of Anderson
and his colleagues, however, have pointed out that acts of aggres-
sion studied in the laboratory (for instance, blasting someone with
loud noise) are not generalizable to real-world criminal violence
(Ritter & Elsea, 2005; Savage, 2008; Savage & Yancey, 2008).
Furthermore, they stress that many studies have not measured
important third variables, such as family violence, in predicting
both video game use and aggression (Ferguson & others, 2008;
Ferguson & Kilburn, 2010). Others have argued that action games
can instill more noble motives, among them civic duty (Ferguson &
Garza, 2011).
If video games exert a pow-
erful force on social behavior,
might they be used to foster
kindness rather than aggres-
sion? Although research on this
intriguing question is much less
common than research on ag-
gression, the results of relevant
studies might surprise you. For
example, a series of studies ex-
amined the effects of playing
prosocial video games on be-
havior. In these studies, partici-
pants who had played a video
game such as Lemmings, in
which the player tries to save
the hapless creatures from a
variety of disasters, were more likely than those who had played
either a neutral or a violent game to help an experimenter pick up
a cup of spilled pencils (Greitemeyer & Osswald, 2010). In an-
other study, participants who played a prosocial video game were
more likely to intervene when a confederate posing as the female
experimenter’s ex-boyfriend came in and began to harass her
(Greitemeyer & Osswald, 2010). Prosocial video games foster
prosocial thoughts (Greitemeyer &
Osswald, 2011) and lead individ-
uals to donate more money to a
partner (Whitaker & Bushman,
When we think about the
in uence of video games on
human behavior, it may seem
natural to focus immediately
on the negative effects. But by
comprehensively investigating
and understanding this power-
ful medium, we might gain valu-
able perspective on many
human social behaviors, not
just aggression.
Do Video Games Influence Social Behavior?
What Do You Think?
Would you allow your child to
play violent video games?
Why or why not?
A friend with a child com-
ments, “I never let my son
play video games—they will
make him violent.” Using
theresearch discussed
above, how would you
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418 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
1. Egoism is in evidence when
A. a mother physically protects her chil-
dren from the ravages of a tornado at
risk to her own life.
B. a person donates bone marrow to a
complete stranger.
C. a coffee shop customer pays for the
latte of the stranger in line behind
D. a speaker compliments his staff’s
achievements in order to make
himself look good.
2. The following are ways to reduce
aggression except
A. minimizing the amount of violence
B. increasing empathy.
C. rewarding aggressive actions.
D. not modeling aggressive behaviors
3. With respect to male and female
A. males engage in more overt aggression
than females.
B. females engage in more overt
aggression than males.
C. males engage in more relational
aggression than females.
D. both sexes engage about equally in
overt and relational aggression.
APPLY IT! 4. While driving, Nate sees an
elderly man struggling to change a flat tire.
Nate stops and helps the man and then
continues to his girlfriend’s house. When
Nate tells his girlfriend about his act of
kindness, she says, “I would never have
done that.” Nate suggests that he just must
be nicer than she is. Considering the social
psychology of helping, is Nate right?
A. Nate is right because men are generally
more helpful then women.
B. Nate is right because he engaged in a
selfless act of altruism.
C. Nate is not right because his girlfriend
may not have felt safe stopping to help
someone on a country road at night.
D. Nate is not right because he probably
got a lot of praise from his girlfriend,
rendering his act selfish.
Recommended parenting strategies include encouraging young children to develop
empathy toward others and closely monitoring adolescents’ activities (Dick & others,
2011; Furlong & McGilloway, 2012).
Another topic of interest to social psychologists is how our behavior is in uenced by
other individuals and groups (Levine & Moreland, 2012; Reis, 2012). This section
explores key aspects of social in uence: conformity, obedience, and group in uence.
Conformity and Obedience
Research on conformity and obedience started in earnest after World War II. Psycholo-
gists sought answers to the disturbing question of how ordinary people could be in u-
enced to commit the sort of atrocities in icted on Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities
during the Holocaust. A central question is, how extensively will people change their
behavior to coincide with what others are doing or dictating?
C O N F O R M I T Y Conformity is a change in a person’s behavior to coincide more
closely with a group standard. Conformity takes many forms and affects many aspects
of people’s lives, in negative and positive ways. Conformity is at work, for example,
when a person comes to college and starts to drink alcohol heavily at parties, even though
he or she might have never been a drinker before. Conformity is also involved when we
obey the rules and regulations that allow society to run smoothly. Consider how chaotic
it would be if people did not conform to social norms such as stopping at a red light
and not punching others in the face. Conformity can also be a powerful way to increase
group cohesion. Even something as simple as marching in step together or singing a
song with a group can lead to enhanced cooperation among group members (Wiltermuth
& Heath, 2009).
Asch’s Experiment Put yourself in this situation: You are taken into a room where
you see ve other people seated along a table. A person in a white lab coat enters the
room and announces that you are about to participate in an experiment on perceptual
accuracy. The group is shown two cards—the rst having only a single vertical line on
A change in a person’s
behavior to coincide more
closely with a group
Social Infl uence
Asch’s Conformity
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Social Influence // 419
it and the second having three vertical lines of vary-
ing length. You are told that the task is to determine
which of the three lines on the second card is the
same length as the line on the rst card. You look at
the cards and think, “What a snap. It’s so obvious
which is the same” (Figure 11.3).
What you do not know is that the other people in
the room are confederates working with the experi-
menter. On the rst several trials, everyone agrees
about which line matches the standard. Then on the
fourth trial, each of the others picks the same incor-
rect line. As the last person to make a choice, you
have the dilemma of responding as your eyes tell you
or conforming to what the others before you said.
How would you answer?
S o l o m o n A s c h c o n d u c t e d t h i s c l a s s i c e x p e r i m e n t o n c o n f o r m i t y i n 1 9 5 1 . A s c h
instructed the confederates to give incorrect responses on 12 of 18 trials. To his surprise,
Asch (1951) found that the volunteer participants conformed to the incorrect answers 35
percent of the time. Subsequent research has supported the notion that the pressure to
conform is strong (Fein & others, 1993; Pines & Maslach, 2002)—but why do people
go along with the group even when faced with clear-cut information such as the lines in
the Asch experiment?
Going Along to Be Right and Going Along to Be Liked Two main factors
have been identi ed as contributing to conformity: informational social in uence and
normative social in uence.
Informational social in uence r e f e r s t o t h e i n uence other people have on us
because we want to be right. The social group can provide us with information
that we did not know, or may help us see things in ways that had not occurred
to us. As a result, we may conform because we have come to agree with the
group. The tendency to conform based on informational social in uence depends
especially on two factors: how con dent we are in our own independent judg-
ment and how well informed we perceive the group to be. For example, if you
know little about computers and three of your acquaintances who are IT geeks
tell you not to buy a particular brand of computer, you are likely to conform to their
In contrast, normative social in uence is the in uence others have on us because we
want them to like us. Whether the group is an inner-city gang or members of a profes-
sion such as medicine or law, if a particular group is important to us, we might adopt a
clothing style that people in the group wear or use the same slang words, and we might
assume a certain set of attitudes that characterizes the group’s members (Hewlin, 2009).
Conformity and the Brain C o n f o r m i t y i s a p o w e r f u l s o c i a l f o r c e , b u t w h y i s i t
so important to us to t in with a group? Recent research in social psychology and
neuroscience has provided an interesting answer. Just as the brain is involved in all
human behavior, it is involved in conformity. Researchers have gained intriguing insights
into the ways the brain responds to moments when we do not t in with a group. The
ndings suggest that our brain may actually “feel better” when we t in.
In a study using fMRI, Vasily Klucharev and his colleagues examined what happens
in the brain when people nd out that their opinions con ict with those of others (Klucharev
& others, 2009). Women were asked to rate a variety of female faces for attractiveness,
and their brains were scanned while they received feedback about whether their ratings
agreed with those of the other group members. When participants were told that their
ratings differed from the group’s ratings, they showed enhanced activation in the brain
area typically associated with monitoring for errors. In other words, the brain responded
to judgments that differed from the group judgments as if they were mistakes . Furthermore,
social infl uence
The infl uence
other people
have on us be-
cause we want
tobe right.
normative social infl uence
The infl uence other people
have on us because we want
them to like us.
Standard line
Comparison lines
FIGURE 11.3 Asch’s Conformity Experiment The
gures show the stimulus materials for the Asch conformity experiment
on group in uence.
To f e e l t h e p r e s s u r e o f
conf or mi t y , t he next t i me you
get on an el evat or wi t h ot her
peopl e, do no t t ur n ar ound t o
face the door.
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420 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
when the women’s ratings were different from the group’s ratings, women experienced
less activation in the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area, the brain’s
reward centers. The greater the degree to which women’s brains responded to being dif-
ferent as an error and as not rewarding, the more they tended to conform when given a
chance to re-rate the faces at the end of the study. Klucharev and colleagues suggest that
their ndings demonstrate that humans learn that conformity is rewarding.
I n a s e c o n d s t u d y , t h e r e s e a r c h e r s f o u n d t h a t t h e s e e f f e c t s w e r e s p e c i c to social
conformity. In that study, the women were given feedback about a computer’s ratings of
the faces. Results showed that the brain did not mind being different from a
computer nearly as much as being different from a group of other humans.
Conformity and Culture We have seen elsewhere in this book that cul-
tures often differ as to whether they are individualistic or collectivistic in nature.
Individualistic cultures value individuals and individual accomplishments and
emphasize differences and uniqueness. Collectivistic cultures value the group, emphasize
group harmony, and believe that accomplishments depend on individuals’ carrying out
their roles in the larger social network. It is not surprising, then, that collectivism has
been associated with greater levels of conformity. One research review, summarizing 133
Conformity and the American Strip Mall
ave you had the experience of driving along an unfamiliar U.S. highway and feeling that
you could be almost anywhere? Perhaps it’s because virtually identical clusters of commercial
landmarks, including Walmart, Home Depot, the Gap, and Best Buy, have cropped up everywhere.
And whether it is a suburb of Houston or Boston or Minneapolis, the housing developments look
essentially the same. There’s no escaping that Americans construct look-alike landscapes. This
architectural conformity is puzzling in a nation known for its devotion to individuality. Why would
a culture so invested in uniqueness again and again reproduce an architectural landscape that is
the same? Social psychologist Shigehiro Oishi and his colleagues (2012) suggest that the answer
may lie in Americans’ freedom of movement.
Compared to people in other parts of the world, Americans are endowed with a high level of
freedom to live wherever they wish. Moreover, unlike individuals in other nations, Americans can
move without learning a new language. Relative to people in those other countries, Americans
move a great deal. Oishi and his colleagues suggest that this residential mobility plays a role in
the uniformity of constructed landscapes across the United States. The researchers propose that the
stress of moving from one place to another may prompt individuals to seek out the familiar. They
have examined this prediction in varied studies.
First, Oishi and his colleagues showed that across the 50 states, the degree of population mobil-
ity is strongly related to the number of chain stores—that is, the more chain stores, the higher the
degree of mobility in a state. Second, they found that college students who had a history of moves
during their lifetime were more likely to have positive attitudes about chain stores and more likely
to prefer them over local stores. Although people generally prefer familiar things, this tendency was
especially true for individuals who had moved a great deal. Experimental studies showed that even
thinking about moving made participants like familiar faces more. These results indicate that one
reason why U.S. constructed landscapes look so similar is that in strip malls and suburbs that
scream conformity, the mobile American population feels a tiny sense of home.
Do y o u t h i n k t h e b r a i n
coul d l ear n t o l i ke bei n g d i f f er en t ?
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Social Influence // 421
experiments following Asch’s design, found that individualism within cultures was
n e g a t i v e l y c o r r e l a t e d w i t h c o n f o r m i t y ( B o n d & S m i t h , 1 9 9 6 ) .
An intriguing question, however, is why people who live in different geographic loca-
tions have developed and preserved different cultural traditions. One important set of
factors is characteristics of the natural environment in which cultures exist, such as the
terrain, the weather, and whether the environment facilitates farming or hunting (Kita-
yama & Bowman, 2010; Murray & Schaller, 2010; Van de Vliert, 2009). These aspects
of the natural world determine what a group must do to survive. Cultural norms provide
clues about how groups of human beings have managed to adapt to life together in that
environment. To read about how another aspect of the natural environment helps to
explain cultural differences in conformity, check out the Intersection.
Social Psychology and Cross-Cultural Psychology:
Why Are Some Nations More Conforming Than Others?
conforming to social norms may be worth this risk if it prevents an
In a provocative study, Murray and his colleagues
examined how pathogen prevalence in a host of nations
related to four indicators of conformity (Murray,
Trudeau, & Schaller, 2011). Among
these conformity indicators were (1)
the ndings from 133 Asch-style con-
formity studies conducted in various
nations (Bond & Smith, 1996); (2) the
percentage of people in each nation
who prioritized the value of obedience
in a world survey; and (3) the scope of personality differences
observed in the countries in a worldwide study of personality
traits in various nations. The fourth indicator of conformity was
the percentage of adults reporting themselves as left-handed. To
this day in some countries, children who show a preference for
left-handedness are trained away from this inclination, sometimes
being forced to use their right hand while learning to write and
perform other tasks. Murray and his colleagues predicted that
nations with a low tolerance for nonconformists would be more
likely to pressure lefties to conform to the dominant right-handed
way of doing things. Interestingly, the study results indicated that
pathogen prevalence was positively related to higher levels of
conformity in laboratory settings and to endorsement of the value
of obedience, and negatively related to the percentage of left-
handers in the adult population.
Many factors beyond pathogens
play a role in the emergence of cul-
tural traditions, of course. But probing
the connections between these tradi-
tions and the natural world is a prom-
ising step toward understanding the
kinds of problems that culture solves,
as well as the functions that cultural
norms serve in survival.
ecently, researchers have
sought to identify the origins
of cultural differences in con-
formity in an unusual place:
germs. That’s right: Scholars have
suggested that one factor that might
in uence cultural characteristics and
help explain the origins of cultural
differences is the prevalence of
pathogens—agents, such as viruses
and bacteria, that cause infectious
disease—in particular locales.
Geographic locations with relatively more pathogens oating
around should have certain characteristics associated with
adapting to these disease-causing agents, researchers say.
Unique cooking traditions are often used to distinguish among
cultures. In particular, some cultures are known for their ery cui-
sine, while others feature blander foods. Why might these varia-
tions exist? To get at the answer, you might rst consider that
some spices can be natural antibiotics. Thus, Damian Murray and
Mark Schaller (2010) proposed that cultures favoring spicier
foods would also be those that emerged in places with relatively
more pathogens, a prediction they supported in a large-scale
cross-cultural examination (Murray & Schaller, 2010). Consider,
too, that surviving in a world in which infectious agents are an
ever-present threat might also mean curtailing those social behav-
iors through which diseases are more likely to spread. Interest-
ingly, extraversion—a trait associated with outgoing sociable
behavior—is lower in nations in which pathogen prevalence is
high (Mortensen & others, 2010).
If pathogen presence impacts social behaviors, might patho-
gen prevalence help to explain the origins of cultural differences
in conformity? Murray and Schaller suggest that establishing
strong cultural norms for conformity might be a way that groups
control the spread of infectious diseases. Although valuing confor-
mity may exact a cost in terms of innovation and novel ideas,
to social nor
n a provocati
examined how p
What other cultural
norms might be related to
How do you think the
prevalence of pathogens
influences your own
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422 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
O B E D I E N C E Obedience is behavior that
complies with the explicit demands of the indi-
vidual in authority. We are obedient when an
authority gure demands that we do something,
and we then do it. Note that in conformity,
people change their thinking or behavior so
that it will be more like that of others, while in
obedience, there is an explicit demand to com-
ply (Blass, 2007).
Obedient behavior, such as that involved in
the Nazi crimes against Jews and others dur-
ing World War II, can sometimes be distress-
ingly cruel. More recent examples include the
obedience of radical Muslims instructed to
participate in suicide attacks against Israelis
and Westerners (McCauley & Segal, 2009), as
well as the behavior of U.S. military person-
nel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, who justi ed
their horrendous abuse of detainees by assert-
ing that they were “just following orders”
(A.G. Miller, 2004).
M i l g r a m s O b e d i e n c e E x p e r i m e n t s A
classic series of experiments by Stanley
M i l g r a m ( 1 9 6 5 , 1 9 7 4 ) p r o v i d e s i n s i g h t i n t o
such obedience. Imagine that as part of an experiment, you are asked to deliver a series
of painful electric shocks to another person. You are told that the purpose of the study
is to determine the effects of punishment on memory. Your role is to be the “teacher”
and to punish the mistakes made by the learner. Each time the learner makes a mis-
take, you are to increase the intensity of the shock.
You are introduced to the learner, a nice 50-year-old man who mumbles something
about having a heart condition. He is strapped to a chair in the next room; he commu-
nicates with you through an intercom. The apparatus in front of you has 30 switches,
ranging from 15 volts (light shock) to 450 volts (marked as “severe shock XXX”).
As the trials proceed, the learner runs into trouble and is unable to give the correct
answers. Should you shock him? As you increase the intensity of the shock, the
learner says that he is in pain. At 150 volts, he demands to have the experiment
stopped. At 180 volts, he cries out that he cannot stand it anymore. At 300 volts,
heyells about his heart condition and pleads to be released. If you hesitate in shock-
ing the learner, however, the experimenter tells you that you have no choice; the
experiment must continue. Eventually the learner stops responding altogether, and
theexperimenter tells you that not responding is the same as a wrong answer. At this
point, the learner appears to be injured or even dead. Would you keep going?
Prior to doing the study, Milgram asked 40psychiatrists how they thought individuals
would respond to this situation. The psychiatrists predicted that most teachers would go
no farther than 150 volts, that fewer than 1 in 25would go as far as 300 volts, and that
only 1 in 1,000 would deliver the full 450 volts. The psychiatrists were way off. As
shown in Figure 11.4, the majority of the teachers obeyed the experimenter: Almost
two-thirds delivered thefull 450 volts.
By the way, the 50-year-old man was a confederate in the experiment. In
Milgram’s study, the learner was not being shocked at all. Of course, the
teachers were unaware that the learner was only pretending to be shocked.
At very strong voltage levels, the learner quit responding. When the teacher
asked the experimenter what to do, the experimenter simply replied, “You must
go on. The experiment requires that you continue. Imagine that with those
simple statements, the experimenter was able to command people calmly to (as far
Behavior that
complies with the
explicit demands
of the individual
in authority.
oltage range (amps) and description
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Percent of subjects stopping
at each voltage level
XXX 435–450
Intense 255–300
Extreme 315–360
Danger 375–420
Very strong 195–240
Strong 135–180
Moderate 75–120
Slight 15–60
FIGURE 11.4 Milgram’s Obedience Study In Milgram’s experi-
ments, the “learner” was strapped into a chair. The experimenter made it look as
if a shock generator was being connected to the learner’s body through several
electrodes. The chart shows the percentage of “teachers” who stopped shocking
the learner at each voltage level.
Mi lgr am s st udi es
became t he s ubj ect of a 197 0 s
TV movie called
The Tent h
The f ilm st arr ed William
Sha t ner as St ephen T ur ner a
char act er based on St anl ey
Mi lgr am.
Milgrams Obedience
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Social Influence // 423
as they knew) shock a man to unconsciousness
and possibly death. Such is the power of obe-
dience to authority.
In variations of the experiment, Milgram
discovered that more people would disobey in
certain circumstances. Speci cally, disobedi-
ence was more common when participants
could see others disobey, when the authority
gure was not perceived to be legitimate and
was not close by, and when the victim was
made to seem more human.
The ethics of Milgram’s studies has been a
subject of controversy since he began them.
The teachers in the experiment clearly felt
anguish; some were very disturbed about
“harming” another individual. Milgram had
deceived all of the participants as part of the
study. Even though they found out that they
had not actually shocked or harmed anyone,
was the anguish imposed on them ethical?
Milgram’s studies certainly revealed a great deal
about human nature, and none of the volunteers
expressed regret that they had taken part.
Under today’s ethical guidelines, it is
unlikely that these experiments would have
been approved. Nonetheless, we are still
learning from Milgram’s data. A recent meta-analysis of Milgram’s experiments sug-
gested that the critical decision was at the 150-volt level, when the learner rst
requested that the experiment be halted. At that point, 80 percent of those who were
going to stop did so (Packer, 2008). Apparently, individuals who were going to dis-
obey were those who responded not to the later anguished cries of pain but to the
learner’s rst request to be set free.
Jerry Burger (2009) recently re-created Milgram’s study at
Santa Clara University in California. Burger’s study was
similar to Milgram’s except that in Burger’s experi-
ment the participants were never allowed to go
higher than 150 volts. At 150 volts, the confederate
asked to conclude the study, and immediately after
participants decided whether to continue, the
experiment was ended. Burger’s participants were
only slightly less likely to obey than Milgram’s had
been (Figure 11.5). In a diverse sample of individu-
als in the California study, 70 percent of participants
chose to continue even when the confederate asked to be
released from the study. Notably, Burger’s study employed
safeguards to protect his participants.
The Stanford Prison Experiment A n o t h e r c o n t r o v e r -
sial demonstration of the power of obedience is provided by the
famous Stanford prison experiment, conducted by Philip
Z i m b a r d o i n 1 9 7 1 . T h i s r e s e a r c h i l l u s t r a t e s t h e p o t e n t i a l l y h o r -
ri c effects of obedience, not only on those who obey but on
those who wield authority. The U.S. military funded the study to
help understand con icts between military prisoners and guards.
Zimbardo and his students created a simulated prison in the
basement of a Stanford University building (Haney, Banks, &
2006 sample Milgram’s sample
Continued after 150 volts
Stopped at 150 volts or earlier
Adapted from Burger, 2009.
FIGURE 11.5 Obedience Now and Then This gure shows,
side by side, the results of Burger’s (2009) study and the results of one of
Milgram’s studies. The vertical, or Y, axis shows the percent of individuals who
stopped or continued after the learner’s rst expression of a desire to end
the study. > Comparing the two sets of results, does the similarity surprise
you? Why or why not? > If you had been a “teacher” in either of these
studies, what would you have done? How does learning about Milgram’s
study in uence your response?
Bur ger had t o excl ude
par t i ci pant s who had hear d of
Mi lgr am s st udi es. I n ef f ect ,
peopl e who had l ear ned t he l essons
of Mi l g r am s wor k we r e not gi ven
a chance t o s how t hei r s t uf f .
A guard keeps a stern and watchful eye on a
prisoner during the Stanford prison experiment.
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424 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
Zimbardo, 1973; Zimbardo, 1972, 1973, 2007). Newspaper ads recruited men for a two-
week study of prison life for which participants would be paid $15 per day (about $85
today). After undergoing screening to ensure they were psychologically healthy, 24 men
began the study. Each was assigned to the role of either prisoner or guard.
T h e p r i s o n e r s w e r e a r r e s t e d a t t h e i r h o m e s , b o o k e d a n d ngerprinted at the local
police station, and brought to the prison, where they were strip-searched and given uncom-
fortable uniforms of smocks and stocking caps. Prisoners were assigned three to a cell,
where they were to spend most of their time, night and day, for the entire study. The
guards wore uniforms and mirrored sunglasses (to prevent eye contact with prisoners) and
wielded wooden batons. They could leave the prison between their eight-hour shifts.
Zimbardo, who served as the prison superintendent, told the guards that they had all
the power in the prison and the prisoners would have none (Zimbardo, 1989). He
informed the guards that they would be taking away each prisoner’s individuality. Guards
were to refer to the prisoners only by their uniforms’ identi cation numbers.
The course of this study surprised even Zimbardo (2007). Things got ugly very
quickly. Within the rst 36 hours, a prisoner had to be released when he started scream-
ing, cursing, and raging uncontrollably. On the second day, a group of prisoners block-
aded themselves in their cells. Additional guards were brought in to control the uprising.
Some guards attacked prisoners with re extinguishers while not being watched by the
research staff. One-third of the guards behaved in extremely sadistic ways, humiliating
and harassing prisoners, forcing them to stand naked in their cells, or allowing them to
urinate and defecate only in a bucket in their cells. A prisoner who went on a hunger
strike was locked in “solitary con nement,essentially a dark closet. The study was cut
short after just six days, prompted by a graduate student’s concern for participant safety
(Zimbardo, Maslach, & Haney, 2000).
Zimbardo (2007) concluded that situational factors powerfully affect human behavior.
To explain why prisoners did not quit the study, he argued that they had internalized
their roles. To explain the guards’ cruelty, Zimbardo reasoned that when an authority
gure removes personal responsibility, when other people are dehumanized, and when
norms support otherwise horrifying behavior, true evil can emerge. The conclusions
drawn from this work are similar to those of the Milgram obedience studies: Anyone
would do these vile things if put in the same situation, and good people will do evil
things to other good people if the situation supports those deeds (Zimbardo, Maslach, &
Haney, 2000).
Like Milgram’s studies, the Stanford prison experiment has been criticized on ethical
grounds (De Vos, 2010; Fromm, 1973; Savin, 1973). As was the case with Milgram’s
participants, those in the prison experiment did not express regret and felt the study was
worthwhile (Zimbardo, 2007). Perhaps you can see how cognitive dissonance might
explain such responses.
Scholars have questioned whether the study provides evidence for Zimbardo’s por-
trayal of human nature as open to shocking acts in situations that invite evil deeds
(Haslam & Reicher, 2003). One study suggests that Zimbardo’s participants may not
have been representative of people in general. Recall that Zimbardo recruited participants
with an ad that mentioned “prison life.Thomas Carnahan and Sam McFarland (2007)
placed two ads in a newspaper, one that mentioned prison life and one that did not. They
found that individuals who answered the rst ad differed from those who answered the
second: They were higher on characteristics such as aggression and exploitativeness and
lower in altruism and empathy, suggesting that the volunteers for Zimbardo’s study may
have differed from the general public in important ways.
Still, the Stanford prison experiment is an in uential study in social psychology. It
continues to inform our understanding of human behavior in prison contexts (Zimbardo,
1971), including the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (Zimbardo, 2007), and to inspire
controversy (McAdams, 2007).
E X E R T I N G P E R S O N A L C O N T R O L I t i s s a f e t o s a y t h a t a s w e g o t h r o u g h l i f e ,
we are both conformists and nonconformists. Sometimes we go with the ow, and other
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Social Influence // 425
times we stand up and stand out. Our relationship to the social world is reciprocal.
Individuals may try to control us, but we can exert personal control over our actions
and in uence others in turn (Bandura, 2007b; Knowles, Nolan, & Riner, 2007).
Although it may not be easy to resist authority, living with the knowledge that
you compromised your own moral integrity may be more dif cult in the long run.
Group Influence
O n N o v e m b e r 1 9 , 2 0 1 1 , a f r a n t i c 9 1 1 c a l l r e p o r t e d t h a t a m e m b e r o f F l o r i d a A & M
University’s famous Marching 100 (“the marchingest, playingest band in the land”) had
lost consciousness in the band’s bus. The injured man, 26-year-old drum major Robert
Champion, died that day as a result of an alleged hazing. To gain membership in an elite
percussion group in the band, Champion had walked down the aisle of the charter bus
that had taken the band to an away game. That passageway had become a gauntlet of
punches from bandmates that Champion’s body could not withstand. None of the band
members disliked Champion. Certainly, none would have ever hit him or behaved aggres-
sively toward him in any way in their daily interactions. Yet in the context of that bus
on that fateful day, members of the group to which Champion, by all accounts, was
wholly devoted, had beaten him to death. Why do individuals who would never perform
destructive, even murderous, acts when alone perpetrate them when in a group? This
central question has driven research in the social psychology of group in uence.
D E I N D I V I D U A T I O N One process that sheds light on the behavior of individuals in
groups is deindividuation , w h i c h o c c u r s w h e n b e i n g p a r t o f a g r o u p r e d u c e s p e r s o n a l
identity and erodes the sense of personal responsibility (Levine, Cassidy, & Jentzsch, 2010).
The effects of deindividuation are visible in the wild street revelry that erupts after a team’s
victory in the World Series or Super Bowl, as well as in mass civic observances such as
big-city Fourth of July celebrations. Deindividuation is apparent not just in the behavior
of mobs. The Stanford prison experiment described earlier provides a dramatic example of
how social situations and the roles we take on in life can in uence deindividuation.
One explanation for the effects of deindividuation is that groups give us anonymity.
When we are part of a group, we may act in an uninhibited way because we believe that
no one will be able to identify us.
S O C I A L C O N T A G I O N Have you ever noticed that a movie you
watched in a crowded theater seemed funnier than it did when you
watched the DVD alone at home? People laugh more when others are
laughing. Babies cry when other babies are crying. The effects of oth-
ers on our behavior can take the form of social contagion , imitative
behavior involving the spread of behavior, emotions, and ideas (Kiuru
& others, 2012; Poirier & Cobb, 2012). Social contagion effects can
be observed in such varied phenomena as social fads, the popularity of
dog breeds (Herzog, 2006), the spread of unhealthy behaviors such as
smoking and drinking among adolescents (Rodgers, 2007), and symp-
toms of eating disorders among young women (Crandall, 2004;
Forman-Hoffman & Cunningham, 2008).
One way to observe social contagion is to sit in a quiet but crowded
library and start coughing. You will soon notice others coughing. Sim-
ilarly, imagine that you are walking down the sidewalk, and you come
upon a group of people who are all looking up. How likely is it that
you can avoid the temptation of looking up to see what is so interest-
ing to them?
G R O U P P E R F O R M A N C E Are two or three heads better than
one? Some studies reveal that we do better in groups; others show that
The reduction in personal
identity and erosion of the
sense of personal responsi-
bility when one is part of a
social contagion
Imitative behav-
ior involving the
spread of behav-
ior, emotions,
and ideas.
Can y ou t hi n k of a
time when you resisted
conf or mi t y or obed i en ce? Woul d
you have obeyed i n Mi l gr am s
and/ or Z i mbar do s ex per i ment s ?
The Ku Klux Klan demonstrates a variety of ways
that human beings can deindividuate: turning
out in groups, acting under cover of darkness,
and wearing white hoods to conceal identity.
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426 // CHAPTER 11 // Social Psychology
we are more productive when we work alone (Paulus, 1989). We can make sense out of
these contradictory ndings by looking closely at the circumstances in which perfor-
mance is being analyzed (Nijstad, 2009).
Social Facilitation If you have ever given a presentation in a class, you might have
noticed that you did a much better job standing in front of your classmates than during
any of your practice runs. Social facilitation occurs when an individual’s performance
improves because of the presence of others (Mendes, 2007). Robert Zajonc (1965) argued
that the presence of other individuals arouses us. The arousal produces energy and facil-
itates our performance in groups. If our arousal is too high, however, we are unable to
learn new or dif cult tasks ef ciently. Social facilitation, then, improves our performance
on well-learned tasks. For new or dif cult tasks, we might be best advised to work things
out on our own before trying them in a group.
Social Loa ng Another factor in group performance is the degree to which one’s
behavior is monitored. Social loa ng refers to each person’s tendency to exert less effort
in a group because of reduced accountability for individual effort. The effect of social
loa ng is lowered group performance (Latané, 1981). The larger the group, the more
likely it is that an individual can loaf without detection.
Social loa ng commonly occurs when a group of students is assigned a class project,
and it is one reason that some students intensely dislike group assignments. These same
individuals will not be surprised to learn that under certain conditions, working with
others can increase individual effort (J. M. Levine, 2000). For example, a person who
views the group’s task as important (say, a student who strongly wants an A o n t h e
project) and who does not expect other group members to contribute adequately is likely
to work harder than usual—and perhaps to do most of the work himself or herself.
R e s e a r c h e r s h a v e i d e n t i ed ways to decrease social loa ng. They include making indi-
viduals’ contributions more identi able and unique, simplifying the evaluation of these
contributions, and making the group’s task more attractive (Karau & Williams, 1993).
G R O U P D E C I S I O N M A K I N G M a n y s o c i a l d e c i s i o n s t a k e p l a c e i n g r o u p s
juries, teams, families, clubs, school boards, and the U.S. Senate, for example (Nunez,
McCrea, & Culhane, 2011; Sueur, Deneubourg, & Petit, 2012). What happens when
people put their minds to the task of making a group decision? How do they decide
whether a criminal is guilty, whether one country should attack another country, whether
a family should stay home or go on vacation, or whether sex education should be part
of a school curriculum? Three aspects of group decision making bear special mention:
risky shift and group polarization; groupthink; and majority and minority in uence.
Risky Shift and Group Polarization Imagine that you have a friend, Lisa, who
works as an accountant. All her life Lisa has longed to be a writer. In fact, she believes
that she has the next great American novel in her head and that she just needs time and
energy to devote to writing it. Would you advise Lisa to quit her job and go for it? What
if you knew beforehand that her chances of success were 50-50? How about 60-40? How
much risk would you advise her to take?
I n o n e i n v e s t i g a t i o n , r e s e a r c h e r s a s k e d p a r t i c i p a n t s t o c o n s i d e r ctitious dilemmas like
this one and asked them how much risk the characters in the dilemmas should take
(Stoner, 1961). When the individuals discussed the dilemmas as a group, they were more
willing to endorse riskier decisions than when they were queried alone. The so-called
risky shift is the tendency for a group decision to be riskier than the average decision
made by the individual group members. Many studies have been conducted on this topic
with similar results (Goethals & Demorest, 1995).
We do not always make riskier decisions in a group than when alone, however; hun-
dreds of research studies show that being in a group moves us more strongly in the
direction of the position we initially held (Moscovici, 1985). The group polarization
effect i s t h e s o l i d i cation and further strengthening of an individuals position as a
consequence of a group discussion or interaction. Initially held views often become more
social facilitation
Improvement in an individu-
al’s performance because of
the presence of others.
social loafi ng
Each person’s tendency to
exert less effort in a group
because of reduced ac-
countability for individual
risky shift
The tendency for a group
decision to be riskier than
the average decision made
by the individual group
group polarization
The solidifi cation
and further
strengthening of
an individual’s
position as a con-
sequence of a
group discussion
or interaction.
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Social Influence // 427
polarized because of group discussion. Group polarization may
occur because, during the discussion, people hear new, more persua-
sive arguments that strengthen their original position. Group polar-
ization also might arise because of social comparison. We may nd
that our opinion is not as extreme as others’ opinions, and we might
be in uenced to take a stand at least as strong as the most extreme
advocate’s position.
G r o u p t h i n k : G e t t i n g A l o n g b u t B e i n g V e r y W r o n g Group-
think refers to the impaired group decision making that occurs when
making the right decision is less important than maintaining group
harmony. Instead of engaging in an open discussion of all the available
information, in groupthink, members of a group place the highest value
on conformity and unanimity. Members are encouraged to “get with
the program,and dissent meets with very strong disapproval.
Groupthink can result in disastrous