Enduring Issues in Social Psychology

Social Psychology14

Enduring Issues in Social Psychology

Social Cognition • Forming Impressions • Attribution • Interpersonal Attraction

Attitudes • The Nature of Attitudes • Prejudice and Discrimination • Changing Attitudes Social Influence • Cultural Influences • Conformity

• Compliance • Obedience Social Action • Deindividuation • Helping Behavior

• Groups and Decision Making • Leadership



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On September 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks onthe Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Sher Singh, atelecommunications consultant from Virginia, managed to catch a train home from Boston where he had been on a busi- ness trip. “With the horrific images of the terrorist attacks still fresh in my mind,” Sher Singh recalls, “I was particularly anx- ious to get home to my family” (Singh, 2002, p. 1). Singh was very much like any other shocked and sorrowful American on that day—except for one small difference: As a member of the Sikh religion, Singh, unlike most Americans, wore a full beard and a turban.

The train made a scheduled stop in Providence, Rhode Island, about an hour outside of Boston. But oddly, the stop dragged on for a very long time. Singh began to wonder what was wrong. A conductor walking through the coaches announced that the train had mechanical trouble. However, when passengers from neighboring coaches began to disembark and line up on the platform, Singh became suspicious that this was not the true story. He didn’t have long to speculate about the genuine cause of the problem, because suddenly law-enforcement officers burst into his coach and pulled him off the train at gunpoint. They were searching for four Arab men who had evaded authorities in a Boston hotel. A Sikh, however, is not an Arab. A Sikh belongs to a Hindu sect that comes from India, not the Middle East.

On the station platform, Singh was abruptly handcuffed and asked about his citi- zenship. Assurances that he was a U.S. citizen did not satisfy the officers. They asked him if he had a weapon. Singh informed them that, as a devout Sikh, he is required to carry a miniature ceremonial sword. They promptly


arrested Singh and pushed him through a crowd of onlookers to a waiting police car. According to news reports, as Singh passed by, some teenagers shouted, “Let’s kill him!” while a woman yelled, “Burn in Hell!”

As a terrorist suspect, Singh was photographed, finger- printed, and strip-searched. He was held in custody at police headquarters until 9:00 PM. While he was jailed, news media nationwide had displayed a photo of him side by side with a photo of Osama bin Laden. Although all charges against Sher Singh were eventually dropped, he never received an apology from the law-enforcement officers involved.

How could this blatant case of mistaken identity have hap- pened? Why were police so convinced that Sher Singh could be a fugitive terrorist? Researchers who specialize in the field of social psychology help provide some answers. Social psy-

chology is the scientific study of how peo- ple’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the behaviors and character- istics of other people, whether these behaviors and characteristics are real, imagined, or inferred. Sher Singh was clearly a victim of imagined and inferred characteristics formed on the basis of his ethnic appearance. As you read about the findings of social psychologists in this chapter, you will discover that Singh’s experience is far from unique (Horry & Wright, 2009). Every day, we all make judg- ments concerning other people that are often based on very little “real” evidence. The process by which we form such impressions, whether accurate or not, is part of a fascinating area of social psychol- ogy known as social cognition. We turn to this topic first.

ENDURING ISSUES IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY A key issue throughout this chapter is the extent to which a particular behavior reflects per- sonal characteristics like attitudes and values, versus situational ones like the behavior of others and social expectations (person–situation). And especially prominent in this chapter is the extent to which there are differences in social behavior among people in different cul- tures (individuality–universality).

social psychology The scientific study of the ways in which the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of one individual are influenced by the real, imagined, or inferred behavior or characteristics of other people.

Police never apologized for arresting Sher Singh as a terrorist after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.


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SOCIAL COGNITION What do forming impressions, explaining others’ behavior, and experiencing interpersonal attraction have in common?

Part of the process of being influenced by other people involves organizing and interpret- ing information about them to form first impressions, to try to understand their behavior, and to determine to what extent we are attracted to them. This collecting and assessing of information about other people is called social cognition. Social cognition is a major area of interest to social psychologists (Shrum, 2007).

Forming Impressions How do we form first impressions of people?

We have all heard the expression “You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” Surprisingly, research indicates it only takes about 100 msec. or 1/10 of a sec- ond for an observer to form a durable first impression (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Despite the speed with which we make a first impression, the process is more complex than you may think. You must direct your attention to various aspects of the person’s appearance and behavior and then make a rapid assessment of what those characteristics mean. How do you complete this process? What cues do you interpret? How accurate are your impres- sions? The concept of schemata, which we first encountered in Chapter 6, “Memory,” helps to answer these questions.

Schemata When we meet someone for the first time, we notice a number of things about that person—clothes, gestures, manner of speaking, body build, and facial fea- tures. We then draw on these cues to fit the person into a category. No matter how little information we have or how contradictory it is, no matter how many times our initial impressions have been wrong, we still categorize people after meeting them only briefly. Associated with each category is a schema—an organized set of beliefs and expectations based on past experience that is presumed to apply to all members of that category (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005). Schemata (the plural of schema) influence the infor- mation we notice and remember. They also help us flesh out our impressions as we peg people into categories. For example, if a woman is wearing a white coat and has a stetho- scope around her neck, you could reasonably categorize her as a doctor. Associated with this category is a schema of various beliefs and expectations: highly trained profes- sional, knowledgeable about diseases and their cures, qualified to prescribe medication, and so on.

Over time, as we continue to interact with people, we add new information about them to our mental files. Our later experiences, however, generally do not influence us nearly as much as our earliest impressions. This phenomenon is called the primacy effect.

Schemata and the primacy effect reflect a desire to lessen our mental effort. Humans have been called “cognitive misers” (Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Madon, 1999). Instead of exerting ourselves to interpret every detail that we learn about a person, we are stingy with our men- tal efforts. Once we have formed an impression about someone, we tend not to exert the mental effort to change it, even if that impression was formed by jumping to conclusions or through prejudice (Fiske, 1995).

Sometimes, schemata can even help us create the behavior we expect from other people. In a classic study, pairs of participants played a competitive game (M. Snyder & Swann, 1978). The researchers told one member of each pair that his or her partner was either hostile or friendly. The players who were led to believe that their partner was hos- tile behaved differently toward that partner than did the players led to believe that their partner was friendly. In turn, those treated as hostile actually began to display hostility.

primacy effect The fact that early information about someone weighs more heavily than later information in influencing one’s impression of that person.

social cognition Knowledge and understanding concerning the social world and the people in it (including oneself).

L E A R N I N G O B J E C T I V E S • Describe the role of schemata,

stereotypes, and the primacy effect in impression formation. Explain how impressions of others can become self- fulfilling prophecies.

• Summarize the way in which distinctiveness, consistency, and consensus affect our judgment about whether a given behavior is due to internal or external causes.

• Explain what is meant by the statement “the causal attributions we make are often vulnerable to biases.” In your answer, include the actor-observer bias, the fundamental attribution error, and defensive attribution (including the self- serving bias and the just-world hypothesis).

• Briefly summarize the five factors that influence attraction and the tendency to like another person.


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In fact, these people continued to show hostility later, when they were paired with new players who had no expectations about them at all. The expectation of hostility seemed to produce actual aggressiveness, and this behavior persisted. When we bring about expected behavior in another person in this way, our impression becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy.

Considerable scientific research has shown how teacher expectations can take the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy and can influence student performance in the classroom (M. Harris & Rosenthal, 1985; Rosenthal, 2002b, 2006; Trouilloud, Sarrazin, Bressoux, Bressoux, & Bois, 2006). That finding has been named the Pygmalion effect, after the myth- ical sculptor who created the statue of a woman and then brought it to life. Although the research does not suggest that high teacher expectations can turn an “F” student into an “A” student, it does show that both high and low expectations can significantly influence stu- dent achievement. One study, for example, compared the performance of “at risk” ninth- grade students who had been assigned to regular classrooms with that of students assigned to experimental classrooms that received a year-long intervention aimed at increasing teachers’ expectations. After 1 year, the students in the experimental classrooms had higher grades in English and history than the students who were not in the intervention class- rooms. Two years later, the experimental students were also less likely to drop out of high school (Weinstein et al., 1991).

Stereotypes Just as schemata shape our impressions of others, so do stereotypes. As a set of characteristics presumed to be shared by all members of a social category, a stereotype is actually a special kind of schema—one that is simplistic, very strongly held, and not necessarily based on firsthand experience. A stereotype can involve almost any distinguishing personal attribute, such as age, sex, race, occupation, place of resi- dence, or membership in a certain group. As Sher Singh learned after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many Americans developed a stereotype suggesting that all males who “looked” like they were from the Middle East were potential terrorists (Horry & Wright, 2009).

When our first impression of a person is governed by a stereotype, we tend to infer things about that person solely on the basis of some key distinguishing feature and to ignore facts that are inconsistent with the stereotype, no matter how apparent they are. For example, once you have categorized someone as male or female, you may rely more on your stereotype of that gender than on your own observations of how the person acts (Firestone, Firestone, & Catlett, 2006). Recent studies indicate that sorting people into categories is not automatic or inevitable (Castelli, Macrae, Zogmaister, & Arcuri, 2004). People are more likely to apply stereotyped schemata in a chance encounter than in a structured, task- oriented situation (such as a classroom or the office); more likely to pay attention to indi- vidual signals than to stereotypes when they are pursuing a goal; and are more likely to suppress stereotypes that violate social norms.

self-fulfilling prophecy The process in which a person’s expectation about another elicits behavior from the second person that confirms the expectation.

Suppose you are a new teacher entering this classroom on the first day of school in Sep- tember. Do you have any expectations about children of any ethnic or racial groups that might lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy?

stereotype A set of characteristics presumed to be shared by all members of a social category.

Person–Situation Interpreting Behavior The study of attribution, or how people explain their own and other people’s behavior, focuses on when and why people interpret behavior as reflecting personal traits or social situations. Suppose you run into a friend at the supermarket. You greet him warmly, but he barely acknowledges you, mumbles “Hi,” and walks away. You feel snubbed and try to figure out why he acted like that. Did he behave that way because of something in the situation? Perhaps you did something that offended him; perhaps he was having no luck finding the groceries he wanted; or perhaps someone had just blocked his way by leaving a cart in the middle of an aisle. Or did something within him, some personal trait such as moodiness or arrogance, prompt him to behave that way? ■


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Attribution How do we decide why people act as they do?

Explaining Behavior Social interaction is filled with occasions that invite us to make judgments about the causes of behavior. When something unexpected or unpleasant occurs, we wonder about it and try to understand it (Krueger, Hall, Villano, & Jones, 2008). Social psychologists’ observations about how we go about attributing causes to behavior form the basis of attribution theory.

An early attribution theorist, Fritz Heider (1958), argued that we attribute behavior to either internal or external causes, but not both. Thus, we might conclude that a classmate’s lateness was caused by his laziness (a personal factor, or an internal attribution) or by traf- fic congestion (a situational factor, or an external attribution).

How do we decide whether to attribute a given behavior to internal or external causes? According to another influential attribution theorist, Harold Kelley (Kelley, 1967, 1973; also see B. Weiner, 2008), we rely on three kinds of information about the behavior: distinctiveness, consistency, and consensus. For example, if your instructor asks you to stay briefly after class so that she can talk with you, you will probably try to figure out what lies behind her request by asking yourself three questions.

First, how distinctive is the instructor’s request? Does she often ask students to stay and talk (low distinctiveness) or is such a request unusual (high distinctiveness)? If she often asks students to speak with her, you will probably conclude that she has personal reasons for talking with you. But if her request is highly distinctive, you will probably conclude that something about you, not her, underlies her request.

Second, how consistent is the instructor’s behavior? Does she regularly ask you to stay and talk (high consistency), or is this a first for you (low consistency)? If she has consis- tently made this request of you before, you will probably guess that this occasion is like those others. But if her request is inconsistent with past behavior, you will probably wonder whether some particular event—perhaps something you said in class—motivated her to request a private conference.

Finally, what degree of consensus among teachers exists regarding this behavior? Do your other instructors ask you to stay and talk with them (high consensus), or is this instructor unique in making such a request (low consensus)? If it is common for your instructors to ask to speak with you, this instructor’s request is probably due to some exter- nal factor. But if she is the only instructor ever to ask to speak privately with you, it must be something about this particular person—an internal motive or a concern—that accounts for her behavior.

If you conclude that the instructor has her own reasons for wanting to speak with you, you may feel mildly curious for the remainder of class until you can find out what she wants. But if you think external factors—like your own actions—have prompted her request, you may worry about whether you are in trouble and nervously wait for the end of class.

Biases Unfortunately, the causal attributions we make are often vulnerable to biases. For instance, imagine that you are at a party and you see an acquaintance, Ted, walk across the room carrying several plates of food and a drink. As he approaches his chair, Ted spills food on himself. You may attribute the spill to Ted’s personal characteristics—he is clumsy. Ted, however, is likely to make a very different attribution. He will likely attribute the spill to an external factor—he was carrying too many other things. Your explanation for this behavior reflects the fundamental attribution error—the tendency to attribute others’ behavior to causes within themselves (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; R. A. Smith & Weber, 2005; D. L. Watson, 2008).

The fundamental attribution error is part of the actor–observer bias—the tendency to explain the behavior of others as caused by internal factors, while attributing one’s own behavior to external forces (Gordon & Kaplar, 2002; Hennessy, Jakubowski, & Benedetti, 2005). For example, during World War II, some Europeans risked their own safety to help Jewish refugees. From the perspective of an observer, we tend to attribute this behavior to

Explore on MyPsychLab

fundamental attribution error The tendency of people to overemphasize personal causes for other people’s behavior and to underemphasize personal causes for their own behavior.

attribution theory The theory that addresses the question of how people make judgments about the causes of behavior.

Explore Internal and External Attributions at www.mypsychlab.com


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personal qualities. Indeed, Robert Goodkind, chairman of the foundation that honored the rescuers, called for parents to “inculcate in our children the values of altruism and moral courage as exemplified by the rescuers.” Clearly, Goodkind was making an internal attribution for the heroic behavior. The rescuers them- selves, however, attributed their actions to external factors. One said, “We didn’t feel like rescuers at all. We were just ordinary students doing what we had to do.” (Lipman, 1991).

A related class of biases is called defensive attribution. These types of attri- butions occur when we are motivated to present ourselves well, either to impress others or to feel good about ourselves (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Gyekye & Salminen, 2006). One example of a defensive attribution is the self-serving bias, which is a tendency to attribute our successes to our personal attributes while chalking up our failures to external forces beyond our control (Sedikides & Luke, 2008; R. A. Smith & Weber, 2005). Students do this all the time. They tend to regard exams on which they do well as good indicators of their abilities and exams on which they do poorly as bad indicators (R. A. Smith, 2005). Similarly, teachers are more likely to assume responsibility for students’ successes than for their failures (R. A. Smith, 2005).

A second type of defensive attribution comes from thinking that people get what they deserve: Bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to good people. This is called the just-world hypothesis (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Blader & Tyler, 2002; Melvyn Lerner, 1980). When misfortune strikes someone, we often jump to the conclusion that the person deserved it, rather than giving full weight to situational factors that may have been responsible. Why do we behave this way? One reason is that by reassigning the blame for a terrible misfortune from a chance event (something that could happen to us) to the victim’s own negligence (a trait that we, of course, do not share), we delude ourselves into believing that we could never suffer such a fate (Dalbert, 2001). Interestingly, research has shown that because believing in a just world reduces stress, it may also promote good health, posttraumatic growth, and a sense of well-being following a traumatic event (T. Lucas, Alexander, Firestone, & Lebreton, 2008; Park, Edmondson, Fenster, & Blank, 2008).

Attribution Across Cultures Historically, most of the research on attribution the- ory has been conducted in Western cultures. Do the basic principles of attribution theory apply to people in other cultures as well? The answer appears to be “not always.” Some recent research has confirmed the self-serving bias among people from Eastern collectivist cultures like Japan and Taiwan (L. Gaertner, Sedikides, & Chang, 2008; Kudo & Numazaki, 2003; Sedikides, Gaertner, & Toguchi, 2003), while other research has not (Balcetis, Dunning, & Miller, 2008). In one study, Japanese students studying in the United States usually explained failure as a lack of effort (an internal attribution) and attributed their successes to the assistance that they received from others (an external attribution) (Kashima & Triandis, 1986). This process is the reverse of the self-serving bias. Similarly, the fundamental attribution error may not be universal. In some other cultures, people place more emphasis on the role of external, situational factors in explaining both their own behavior and that of others (Incheo Choi, Dalal, Kim-Prieto, & Park, 2003; Morling & Kitayama, 2008; Triandis, 2001).

Interpersonal Attraction Do “birds of a feather flock together,” or do “opposites attract”?

A third aspect of social cognition involves interpersonal attraction. When people meet, what determines whether they will like each other? This is the subject of much speculation and even mystification, with popular explanations running the gamut from fate to compat- ible astrological signs. Social psychologists take a more hardheaded view. They have found that attraction and the tendency to like someone else are closely linked to such factors as proximity, physical attractiveness, similarity, exchange, and intimacy.

Did this accident happen because of poor dri- ving or because the driver swerved to avoid a child in the street? The fundamental attribu- tion error says that we are more likely to attribute behavior to internal causes, such as poor driving, rather than situational factors, such as a child in the street.

defensive attribution The tendency to attribute our successes to our own efforts or qualities and our failures to external factors.

just-world hypothesis Attribution error based on the assumption that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people.


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Proximity Proximity is usually the most important factor in determining attraction (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; J. W. Brehm, 2002). The closer two people live to each other, the more likely they are to interact; the more frequent their interaction, the more they will tend to like each other. Conversely, two people separated by considerable geo- graphic distance are not likely to run into each other and thus have little chance to develop a mutual attraction. The proximity effect has less to do with simple convenience than with the security and comfort we feel with people and things that have become familiar. Famil- iar people are predictable and safe—thus more likable (Bornstein, 1989).

Physical Attractiveness Contrary to the old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” research has found that people generally agree when rating the attractiveness of others (Gottschall, 2008; Langlois et al., 2000). Even people from different cultures and eth- nic groups appear to have a similar standard for who is or is not considered beautiful. This cross-cultural, cross-ethnic agreement suggests the possibility of a universal standard of beauty (Bronstad, Langlois, & Russell, 2008; Rhodes, 2006). Consistent with the idea of a universal standard of beauty, brain-imaging studies have found a specific region of the brain that is responsive to facial beauty (Chatterjee, Thomas, Smith, & Aguirre, 2009).

Physical attractiveness can powerfully influence the conclusions that we reach about a person’s character. We actually give attractive people credit for more than their beauty. We tend to presume they are more intelligent, interesting, happy, kind, sensitive, moral, and successful than people who are not perceived as attractive. They are also thought to make better spouses and to be more sexually responsive (Griffin & Langlois, 2006; Hosoda, Stone, & Coats, 2003; Katz, 2003; Langlois et al., 2000; Riniolo, Johnson, Sherman, & Misso, 2006). We also tend to like attractive people more than we do less attractive people. One reason is that physical attractiveness itself is generally considered a positive attribute. We often perceive beauty as a valuable asset that can be exchanged for other things in social interactions. We may also believe that beauty has a “radiating effect”—that the glow of a companion’s good looks enhances our own public image (Kernis & Wheeler, 1981; Sedikides, Olsen, & Reis, 1993).

Our preoccupation with physical attractiveness has material consequences. Research has found that mothers of more attractive infants tend to show their children more affec- tion and to play with them more often than mothers of unattractive infants (Langlois, Ritter, Casey, & Sawin, 1995). Even in hospitals, premature infants rated as more attractive by attending nurses thrived better and gained weight faster than those judged as less attrac-

tive, presumably because they receive more nurturing (Badr & Abdallah, 2001). Attractive children are also more likely to be better adjusted, to display greater intelligence, and to be treated more leniently by teachers (Langlois et al., 2000; M. McCall, 1997). Similarly, attractive adults enjoy better health, tend to be slightly more intelligent, self-confident, and are generally judged to be more hirable and productive by employers (Desrumaux, De Bosscher, & Léoni, 2009; Hosoda, Stone, & Coats, 2003; L. A. Jackson, Hunter, & Hodge, 1995).

We also tend to give good-looking people the benefit of the doubt: If they don’t live up to our expectations during the first encounter, we are likely to give them a second chance, ask for or accept a second date, or seek further opportunities for interaction. These reactions can give attractive people substantial advantages in life and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. Physically attractive people may come to think of themselves as good or lovable because they are continually treated as if they are. Conversely, unattractive people may begin to see themselves as bad or unlovable because they have always been regarded that way—even as children.

Similarity Attractiveness isn’t everything. In the abstract, people might prefer extremely attractive individuals, but in reality they usually choose friends and partners who are close to their own level of attractiveness (J. H. Harvey & Pauwells, 1999; L. Lee, Loewenstein, Ariely, Hong, & Young, 2008; D. K. Marcus & Miller, 2003). Similarity—of attitudes, interests, values, backgrounds, and beliefs, as well as looks—underlies much

Wonderful or just beautiful? Physically attrac- tive people are often perceived to have a host of other attractive qualities. The movie Shrek 2 used this premise for humor by presenting the handsome Prince Charming as a villain.

proximity How close two people live to each other.


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interpersonal attraction (AhYun, 2002; Sano, 2002; S. Solomon & Knafo, 2007). When we know that someone shares our attitudes and interests, we tend to have more positive feelings toward that person in part because they are likely to agree with our choices and beliefs. In turn that strengthens our convictions and boosts our self-esteem.

If similarity is such a critical determinant of attraction, what about the notion that opposites attract? Aren’t people sometimes attracted to others who are completely different from them? Extensive research has failed to confirm this notion. In long- term relationships, where attraction plays an especially important role, people overwhelmingly prefer to asso- ciate with people who are similar to themselves (Buss, 1985; McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001). It is true that in some cases, people are attracted to others with complementary characteristics (Dryer & Horowitz, 1997; K. H. Rubin, Fredstrom, & Bowker, 2008). For example, a person who likes to care for and fuss over others could be compatible with a mate who enjoys receiving such attention. But complementarity almost always occurs between people who share similar goals and similar values. True opposites are unlikely even to meet each other, much less interact long enough to achieve such compatibility.

Exchange According to the reward theory of attraction, we tend to like people who make us feel rewarded and appreciated. The relationship between attraction and rewards is sub- tle and complex. For example, Aronson’s gain–loss theory of attraction (2003) suggests that increases in rewarding behavior influence attractiveness more than constant rewarding behavior does. Say that you were to meet and talk with someone at three successive parties, and during these conversations, that person’s behavior toward you changed from polite indifference to overt flattery. You would be inclined to like this person more than if she or he had immediately started to praise you during the first conversation and kept up the stream of praise each time you met. The reverse also holds true: We tend to dislike people whose opinion of us changes from good to bad even more than we dislike those who con- sistently display a low opinion of us.

The reward theory of attraction is based on the concept of exchange. In social interac- tions, people make exchanges. For example, you may agree to help a friend paint his apart- ment if he prepares dinner for you. Every exchange involves both rewards (you get a free dinner; he gets his apartment painted) and costs (you have to paint first; he then has to cook you dinner).

Exchanges work only insofar as they are fair or equitable. A relationship is based on equity when both individuals receive equally from each other. However the role of per- ceived equity in a relationship is complex. In general, the feeling you are getting out of a relationship what you put into it (equity) is an important determinant of satisfaction (DeMaris, 2007). However, as relationships mature, this type of accounting may actually harm a relationship. For instance, long-term happily married couples rarely think about the cost and benefit of their relationship (M. S. Clark & Chrisman, 1994). As long as both parties find their interactions more rewarding than costly, and continue to feel the relation- ship is equitable, their relationship is likely to continue (Cook & Rice, 2003; Takeuchi, 2000; Van Yperen & Buunk, 1990).

Intimacy When does liking someone become something more? Intimacy is the quality of genuine closeness to and trust in another person. People become closer and stay closer through a continuing reciprocal pattern where each person tries to know the other and allows the other

Intimacy and the Internet

Many of the studies of interpersonal attraction were conducted before theadvent of new Internet technologies. • What impact (if any) has e-mail, instant messaging, online networking com-

munities like Facebook, and dating services like match.com had on close relationships?

• Do these new technology tools make it easier to maintain long-distance rela- tionships? Influence attributions? Encourage self-disclosure with intimates and/or strangers? Subtly shape social cognition in other ways?

• In answering the questions above, what did you use as the source of your opin- ions? Your personal experiences? Articles in the mass media? Reports of scien- tific research? Suppose you were conducting a survey to collect data on these questions. What would you ask your participants? How might you determine whether their self-reports are accurate?

exchange The concept that relationships are based on trading rewards among partners.

equity Fairness of exchange achieved when each partner in the relationship receives the same proportion of outcomes to investments.

Self-disclosure—revealing personal experi- ences and opinions—is essential to all close relationships.


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to know him or her (Theiss & Solomon, 2008). When you are first getting to know someone, you communicate about “safe,” superficial topics like the weather, sports, or shared activities. As you get to know each other better over time, your conversation progresses to more personal subjects: your personal experiences, memories, hopes and fears, goals and failures. Thus, inti- mate communication is based on a process of gradual self-disclosure (Laurenceau, Barrett, & Pietromonaco, 2004). Because self-disclosure is possible only when you trust the listener, you will seek—and usually receive—a reciprocal disclosure to keep the conversation balanced and emotionally satisfying (Bauminger, Finzi-Dottan, Chason, & Har-Even, 2008; Sprecher & Hendrick, 2004). The pacing of disclosure is important. If you “jump levels” by revealing too much too soon—or to someone who is not ready to make a reciprocal personal response—the other person will probably retreat, and communication will go no further.


1. Associated with the many categories into which we “peg” people are sets of beliefs and expectations called _____ that are assumed to apply to all members of a category. When these are quite simplistic, but deeply held, they are often referred to as _____.

2. When the first information we receive about a person weighs more heavily in forming an impression than later information does, we are experiencing the _____ effect.

3. The tendency to attribute the behavior of others to internal causes and one’s own behavior to external causes is called the _____ _____ bias.

4. The belief that people must deserve the bad things that happen to them reflects the _____ _____ _____.

5. The tendency to attribute the behavior of others to personal characteristics is the _____ _____ error.

6. Which of the following is a basis for interpersonal attraction? (There can be more than one correct answer.)

a. proximity b. similarity c. exchange d. attraction of true opposites e. all of the above

Answers:1. schemata, stereotypes.2. primacy.3. actor-observer.4. just-world hypothesis. 5. fundamental attribution.6. a, b, and c.


1. You meet someone at a party who is outgoing and entertaining, and has a great sense of humor. A week later, your paths cross again, but this time the person seems very shy, withdrawn, and humorless. Most likely, your impression of this person after the second meeting is that he or she

a. is actually shy, withdrawn, and humorless, despite your initial impression. b. is actually outgoing and entertaining but was just having a bad day. c. is low in self-monitoring. d. Both (b) and (c) are correct.

2. Your roommate tells you she did really well on her history midterm exam because she studied hard and “knew the material cold.” But she says she did poorly on her psychology midterm because the exam was unfair and full of ambiguous questions. On the basis of what you have learned in this portion of the chapter, this may be an example of

a. defensive attribution. b. the primacy effect. c. the ultimate attribution error. d. the just-world effect.

Answers:1. b.2. a.

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