David G. Myers


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Social Psychology

David G. Myers Hope College

Holland, Michigan

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About the Author

Since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, David Myers has spent his career at Michigan’s Hope College, where he is the John Dirk Werkman Professor of Psychology and has taught dozens of social-psychology sections. Hope College students have invited him to be their commencement speaker and voted him “outstanding professor.”

Myers’ scientific articles have appeared in some three dozen scientific books and periodicals, including Science, the American Scientist, Psychological Science, and the American Psychologist.

In addition to his scholarly writing and his text- books, he communicates psychological science to the general public. His writings have appeared in three dozen magazines, from Today’s Education to Scientific American. He also has published general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intui tion: Its Powers and Perils.

David Myers has chaired his city’s Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance cen- ter for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his own experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocat- ing a revolution in American hearing- assistance tech- nology (

He bikes to work year-round and still plays daily pick-up basketball. David and Carol Myers are parents of two sons and a daughter.

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Brief Contents

chapter 1 Introducing Social Psychology 2

Part One Social Thinking chapter 2 The Self in a Social World 34 chapter 3 Social Beliefs and Judgments 78 chapter 4 Behavior and Attitudes 122

Part Two Social Influence chapter 5 Genes, Culture, and Gender 156 chapter 6 Conformity and Obedience 190 chapter 7 Persuasion 228 chapter 8 Group Influence 266

Part Three Social Relations chapter 9 Prejudice: Disliking Others 306 chapter 10 Aggression: Hurting Others 352 chapter 11 Attraction and Intimacy: Liking and Loving Others 392 chapter 12 Helping 440 chapter 13 Conflict and Peacemaking 482

Part Four Applying Social Psychology chapter 14 Social Psychology in the Clinic 524 chapter 15 Social Psychology in Court 532 chapter 16 Social Psychology and the Sustainable Future 590

Epilogue 610

References R-1

Credits C-1

Name Index N-1

Subject Index/Glossary S-1

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Research Methods: How We Do Social Psychology 17 Forming and Testing Hypotheses 17 Correlational Research: Detecting Natural

Associations 18 Experimental Research: Searching for Cause and

Effect 24 Generalizing from Laboratory to Life 28

Postscript: Why I Wrote This Book 30

Part One: Social Thinking

chapter 2 The Self in a Social World 34

Spotlights and Illusions 36 Research Close-Up: On Being Nervous

about Looking Nervous 36

Self-Concept: Who Am I? 39 At the Center of Our Worlds: Our Sense of Self 39 Development of the Social Self 40 Self and Culture 42 The Inside Story: Hazel Markus and

Shinobu Kitayama on Cultural Psychology 46 Self-Knowledge 47

Self-Esteem 52 Self-Esteem Motivation 52 The “Dark Side” of Self-Esteem 53

Perceived Self-Control 56 Self-Efficacy 57 Locus of Control 58 Learned Helplessness versus Self-Determination 59 The Inside Story: Daniel Gilbert on the Benefits

of Irrevocable Commitments 62

Self-Serving Bias 63 Explaining Positive and Negative Events 63 Can We All Be Better than Average? 64 Focus On: Self-Serving Bias—How

Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways 65 Unrealistic Optimism 66 False Consensus and Uniqueness 68 Explaining Self-Serving Bias 69 Reflections on Self-Esteem and Self-Serving Bias 70

Self-Presentation 72 Self-Handicapping 73 Impression Management 73

Postscript: Twin Truths—The Perils of Pride, the Powers of Positive Thinking 76

Table of Contents

chapter 1 Introducing Social Psychology 2

What Is Social Psychology? 4

Social Psychology’s Big Ideas 5 We Construct Our Social Reality 5 Our Social Intuitions Are Often Powerful but

Sometimes Perilous 6 Social Influences Shape Our Behavior 7 Personal Attitudes and Dispositions Also Shape

Behavior 8 Social Behavior is Biologically Rooted 8 Social Psychology’s Principles Are Applicable in

Everyday Life 9

Social Psychology and Human Values 10 Obvious Ways Values Enter Psychology 10 Not-So-Obvious Ways Values Enter Psychology 10

I Knew It All Along: Is Social Psychology Simply Common Sense? 13 Focus On: I Knew It All Along 15

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Contents vii

Focus On: Saying Becomes Believing 134 The Foot-in-the-Door Phenomenon 134 Evil and Moral Acts 136 Interracial Behavior and Racial Attitudes 138 Social Movements 138

Why Does Our Behavior Affect Our Attitudes? 140 Self-Presentation: Impression Management 140 Self-Justification: Cognitive Dissonance 141 The Inside Story: Leon Festinger on Dissonance Reduction 144

Self-Perception 145 Comparing the Theories 150

Postscript: Changing Ourselves through Action 152

Part Two: Social Influence

chapter 5 Genes, Culture, and Gender 156

How Are We Influenced by Human Nature and Cultural Diversity? 158 Genes, Evolution, and Behavior 158 Culture and Behavior 160 Focus On: The Cultural Animal 161 Research Close-Up: Passing Encounters,

East and West 164

How Are Gender Similarities and Differences Explained? 168 Independence versus Connectedness 169 Social Dominance 171 Aggression 173 Sexuality 173

Evolution and Gender: Doing What Comes Naturally? 175 Gender and Mating Preferences 176 Reflections on Evolutionary Psychology 178 Focus On: Evolutionary Science and

Religion 179 Gender and Hormones 180

Culture and Gender: Doing as the Culture Says? 181 Gender Roles Vary with Culture 182 Gender Roles Vary over Time 183 Peer-Transmitted Culture 184

What Can We Conclude about Genes, Culture, and Gender? 186 Biology and Culture 186 The Inside Story: Alice Eagly on Gender

Similarities and Differences 187 The power of the Situation and the Person 187

Postscript: Should We View Ourselves as Products or Architects of Our Social Worlds? 189

chapter 3 Social Beliefs and Judgments 78

Perceiving Our Social Worlds 80 Priming 80 Perceiving and Interpreting Events 81 Belief Perseverance 84 Constructing Memories of Ourselves and

Our Worlds 85

Judging Our Social Worlds 88 Intuitive Judgments 88 Overconfidence 90 Heuristics: Mental Shortcuts 94 Counterfactual Thinking 97 Illusory Thinking 98 Moods and Judgments 100

Explaining Our Social Worlds 102 Attributing Causality: To the Person or the

Situation 102 The Fundamental Attribution Error 105

Expectations of Our Social Worlds 112 Focus On: The Self-Fulfilling Psychology of

the Stock Market 113 Teacher Expectations and Student Performance 113 Getting from Others What We Expect 115

Conclusions 117

Postscript: Reflecting on Illusory Thinking 119

chapter 4 Behavior and Attitudes 122

How Well Do Our Attitudes Predict Our Behavior? 124 When Attitudes Predict Behavior 125 The Inside Story: Mahzarin R. Banaji on

Discovering Experimental Social Psychology 126

Research Close-Up: You’ve Not Got Mail: Prejudicial Attitudes Predict Discriminatory Behavior 130

When Does Our Behavior Affect Our Attitudes? 131 Role Playing 132 Saying Becomes Believing 133

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viii Contents

chapter 6 Conformity and Obedience 190

What Is Conformity? 192

What Are the Classic Conformity and Obedience Studies? 193 Sherif’s Studies of Norm Formation 193 Research Close-Up: Contagious

Yawning 195 Focus On: Mass Delusions 197 Asch’s Studies of Group Pressure 197 Milgram’s Obedience Experiments 199 The Ethics of Milgram’s Experiments 200 What Breeds Obedience? 201 Focus On: Personalizing the Victims 203 The Inside Story: Stanley Milgram on

Obedience 205 Reflections on the Classic Studies 205

What Predicts Conformity? 210 Group Size 211 Unanimity 211 Cohesion 213 Status 213 Public Response 214 Prior Commitment 214

Why Conform? 215

Who Conforms? 218 Personality 218 Culture 219 Social Roles 220

Do We Ever Want to Be Different? 222 Reactance 222 Asserting Uniqueness 223

Postscript: On Being an Individual within Community 225

chapter 7 Persuasion 228

What Paths Lead to Persuasion? 231 The Central Route 232 The Peripheral Route 232 Different Paths for Different Purposes 233

What Are the Elements of Persuasion? 234 Who Says? The Communicator 234 Research Close-Up: Experimenting with a

Virtual Social Reality 238 What Is Said? The Message Content 239 How Is It Said? The Channel of Communication 246 To Whom Is It Said? The Audience 250

Extreme Persuasion: How Do Cults Indoctrinate? 254 Attitudes Follow Behavior 256 Persuasive Elements 256 Group Effects 258

How Can Persuasion Be Resisted? 259 Strengthening Personal Commitment 260 The Inside Story: William McGuire on

Attitude Inoculation 261 Real-Life Applications: Inoculation Programs 261 Implications of Attitude Inoculation 264

Postscript: Being Open but Not Naive 265

chapter 8 Group Influence 266

What Is a Group? 268

Social Facilitation: How Are We Affected by the Presence of Others? 268 The Mere Presence of Others 269 Crowding: The Presence of Many Others 270 Why Are We Aroused in the Presence of Others? 271

Social Loafing: Do Individuals Exert Less Effort in a Group? 273 Many Hands Make Light Work 274 Social Loafing in Everyday Life 276

Deindividuation: When Do People Lose Their Sense of Self in Groups? 278 Doing Together What We Would Not Do Alone 278 Diminished Self-Awareness 281

Group Polarization: Do Groups Intensify Our Opinions? 282 The Case of the “Risky Shift” 283 Do Groups Intensify Opinions? 284 Focus On: Group Polarization 287 Explaining Polarization 288

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Contents ix

What Are the Motivational Sources of Prejudice? 324 Frustration and Aggression: The Scapegoat

Theory 325 Social Identity Theory: Feeling Superior to

Others 325 Motivation to Avoid Prejudice 330

What Are the Cognitive Sources of Prejudice? 331 Categorization: Classifying People into Groups 332 Distinctiveness: Perceiving People Who Stand

Out 335 Attribution: Is It a Just World? 339

What Are the Consequences of Prejudice? 342 Self-Perpetuating Stereotypes 342 Discrimination’s Impact: The Self-Fulfilling

Prophecy 344 Stereotype Threat 345 The Inside Story: Claude Steele on

Stereotype Threat 347 Do stereotypes Bias Judgments Of

Individuals? 348

Postscript: Can We Reduce Prejudice? 350

chapter 10 Aggression: Hurting Others 352

What Is Aggression? 355

What Are Some Theories of Aggression? 356 Aggression as a Biological Phenomenon 356 Aggression as a Response to Frustration 359 Aggression as Learned Social Behavior 362

What Are Some Influences on Aggression? 365 Aversive Incidents 365 Arousal 368 Aggression Cues 368 Media Influences: Pornography and Sexual

Violence 370 Media Influences: Television 374 Media Influences: Video Games 379 The Inside Story: Craig Anderson on Video-

Game Violence 382 Group Influences 382 Research Close-Up: When Provoked, Are

Groups More Aggressive Than Individuals? 384

How Can Aggression Be Reduced? 385 Catharsis? 385 A Social Learning Approach 387

Postscript: Reforming a Violent Culture 389

Groupthink: Do Groups Hinder or Assist Good Decisions? 290 The Inside Story: Irving Janis on

Groupthink 291 Symptoms of Groupthink 292 Critiquing Groupthink 294 Preventing Groupthink 295 Group Problem Solving 295 The Inside Story: Behind a Nobel Prize:

Two Minds Are Better Than One 297

The Influence of the Minority: How Do Individuals Influence the Group? 299 Consistency 299 Self-Confidence 300 Defections from the Majority 300 Is Leadership Minority Influence? 301 Focus On: Transformational Community

Leadership 303

Postscript: Are Groups Bad for Us? 304

Part Three: Social Relations

chapter 9 Prejudice: Disliking Others 306

What Is the Nature and Power of Prejudice? 308 Defining Prejudice 308 Prejudice: Subtle and Overt 310 Racial Prejudice 310 Gender Prejudice 315

What Are the Social Sources of Prejudice? 319 Social Inequalities: Unequal Status and

Prejudice 319 Socialization 320 Institutional Supports 322

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x Contents

chapter 11 Attraction and Intimacy: Liking and Loving Others 392

What Leads to Friendship and Attraction? 396 Proximity 397 Focus On: Liking Things Associated with

Oneself 400 Physical Attractiveness 402 The Inside Story: Ellen Berscheid on

Attractiveness 407 Similarity versus Complementarity 412 The Inside Story: James Jones on Cultural

Diversity 414 Liking Those Who Like Us 415 Focus On: Bad Is Stronger Than Good 416 Relationship Rewards 418

What Is Love? 420 Passionate Love 421 Companionate Love 424

What Enables Close Relationships? 426 Attachment 426 Equity 428 Self-Disclosure 430 Focus On: Does the Internet Create

Intimacy or Isolation? 432

How Do Relationships End? 434 Divorce 434 The Detachment Process 435

Postscript: Making Love 438

chapter 12 Helping 440

Why Do We Help? 443 Social Exchange and Social Norms 443 The Inside Story: Dennis Krebs on Life

Experience and Professional Interests 445 Evolutionary Psychology 452 Comparing and Evaluating Theories of Helping 454 Genuine Altruism 454 Focus On: The Benefits—and the Costs—

of Empathy-Induced Altruism 458

When Will We Help? 459 Number of Bystanders 460 The Inside Story: John M. Darley on

Bystander Reactions 462 Helping When Someone Else Does 464 Time Pressures 465 Similarity 466 Research Close-Up: Ingroup Similarity and

Helping 467

Who Will Help? 469 Personality Traits 469

Gender 470 Religious Faith 470

How Can We Increase Helping? 473 Reduce Ambiguity, Increase responsibility 473 Guilt and Concern for Self-Image 474 Socializing Altruism 475 Focus On: Behavior and Attitudes among

Rescuers of Jews 478

Postscript: Taking Social Psychology into Life 480

chapter 13 Conflict and Peacemaking 482

What Creates Conflict? 484 Social Dilemmas 484 Competition 491 Perceived Injustice 493 Misperception 493 Research Close-Up: Misperception and War 498

How Can Peace Be Achieved? 499 Contact 499 Research Close-Up: Relationships That

Might Have Been 502 The Inside Story: Nicole Shelton and Jennifer

Richeson on Cross-Racial Friendships 503 Cooperation 504 Focus On: Why Do We Care Who Wins? 506 Focus On: Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson,

and the Integration Of Baseball 512 Communication 514 Conciliation 519

Postscript: The Conflict between Individual and Communal Rights 521

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Contents xi

How Do Group Influences Affect Juries? 583 Minority Influence 584 Group Polarization 584 Research Close-Up: Group Polarization

in a Natural Court Setting 585 Leniency 586 Are Twelve Heads Better Than One? 586 Are Six Heads as Good as Twelve? 586 From Lab to Life: Simulated and Real Juries 587

Postscript: Thinking Smart with Psychological Science 589

chapter 16 Social Psychology and the Sustainable Future 590

An Environmental Call to Action 592

Enabling Sustainable Living 595 New Technologies 595 Reducing Consumption 596

The Social Psychology of Materialism and Wealth 598 Increased Materialism 598 Wealth and Well-Being 598 Materialism Fails to Satisfy 602 Focus On: Social Comparison, Belonging,

and Happiness 604 Toward Sustainability and Survival 605 Research Close-Up: Measuring National

Well-Being 607

Postscript: How Does One Live Responsibly in the Modern World? 608

Epilogue 610 References R-1 Credits C-1 Name Index N-1 Subject Index/Glossary S-1

Part Four: Applying Social Psychology

chapter 14 Social Psychology in the Clinic 524

What Influences the Accuracy of Clinical Judgments? 526 Illusory Correlations 527 Hindsight and Overconfidence 528 Self-Confirming Diagnoses 529 Clinical versus Statistical Prediction 529 Implications for Better Clinical Practice 531 Focus On: A Physician’s View 531

What Cognitive Processes Accompany Behavior Problems? 532 Depression 532 The Inside Story: Shelley Taylor on

Positive Illusions 534 Loneliness 536 Anxiety and Shyness 538 Health, Illness, and Death 540

What Are Some Social-Psychological Approaches to Treatment? 544 Inducing Internal Change through External

Behavior 544 Breaking Vicious Circles 545 Maintaining Change through Internal

Attributions for Success 547 Using Therapy as Social Influence 547

How Do Social Relationships Support Health and Well-Being? 549 Close Relationships and Health 549 Close Relationships and Happiness 552

Postscript: Enhancing Happiness 555

chapter 15 Social Psychology in Court 558

How Reliable Is Eyewitness Testimony? 561 The Power of Persuasive Eyewitnesses 561 When Eyes Deceive 562 The Misinformation Effect 564 Focus On: Eyewitness Testimony 565 Retelling 567 Reducing Error 567 Research Close-Up: Feedback to Witnesses 568

What Other Factors Influence Juror Judgments? 572 The Defendant’s Characteristics 572 The Judge’s Instructions 575 Additional Factors 577

What Influences the Individual Juror? 578 Juror Comprehension 578 Jury Selection 580 “Death-Qualified” Jurors 582

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Preface Regardless of background or major, students will see their world reflected in Social Psychology

Students will see themselves, their families, or

their workplaces within the pages of this text.

In barely a century of formal study, significant

insight has been gained into belief and illusion,

love and hate, conformity and independence—

social behaviors that we encounter virtually every

day in all walks of life. In these pages students

will see themselves and the world in which they

live and love, work and play.

Like the study of Social Psychology, I continue to envision this text as solidly scientific and warmly human, factually rigorous and intellectually provocative. In this edition, social phenomena that are important and relevant to today’s students are revealed throughout the narrative, and in enriching elements such as margin notes and chapter-ending Postscripts.

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Understanding that students majoring in psychology, business, law, teaching, or many other areas may be drawn to the study of Social Psychology, this text is written in the intellectual tradition of the liberal arts. As with great literature, philosophy, and science, liberal arts education seeks to expand our thinking and awareness beyond the confines of the present. By focusing on humanly significant issues I offer the core content in ways that appeal to, and draw on applications from, a wide array of behaviors and experiences.

Social Psychology can now offer partial answers to many questions we face in our homes, communities, and societies:

■ How does our thinking—both conscious and unconscious— drive our behavior?

■ What leads people sometimes to hurt and sometimes to help one another?

■ What kindles social conflict, and how can we transform closed fists into helping hands?

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We humans love to feel good about ourselves, and gen- erally we do. Not only are we prone to self-serving bias (Chapter 2), we also exhibit what Brett Pelham, Matthew Mirenberg, and John Jones (2002) call implicit egotism: We like what we associate with ourselves.

That includes the letters of our name, but also the people, places, and things that we unconsciously con- nect with ourselves (Jones & others, 2002; Koole & others, 2001). If a stranger’s or politician’s face is morphed to include features of our own, we like the new face better (Bailenson & others, 2009; DeBruine, 2004). We are also more attracted to people whose arbitrary experimental code number resembles our birth date, and we are even disproportionately likely to marry someone whose first or last name resembles our own, such as by starting with the same letter (Jones & others, 2004).

Such preferences appear to subtly influence other major life decisions as well, including our locations and careers, report Pelham and his colleagues. Philadelphia, being larger than Jacksonville, has 2.2 times as many men named Jack. But it has 10.4 times as many people named Philip. Likewise, Virginia Beach has a dispropor- tionate number of people named Virginia.

Does this merely reflect the influence of one’s place when naming one’s baby? Are people in Georgia, for example, more likely to name their babies George or Georgia? That may be so, but it doesn’t explain why states tend to have a relative excess of people whose last names are similar to the state names. California, for example, has a disproportionate number of people whose names begin with Cali (as in Califano). Likewise, major Canadian cities tend to have larger-than-expected

numbers of people whose last names overlap with the city names. Toronto has a marked excess of people whose names begin with Tor.

Moreover, women named “Georgia” are dispropor- tionately likely to move to Georgia, as do Virginias to Virginia. Such mobility could help explain why St. Louis has a 49 percent excess (relative to the national propor- tion) of men named Louis, and why people named Hill, Park, Beach, Lake, or Rock are disproportionately likely to live in cities with names (such as Park City) that include their names. “People are attracted to places that resem- ble their names,” surmise Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones.

Weirder yet—I am not making this up—people seem to prefer careers related to their names. Across the United States, Jerry, Dennis, and Walter are equally pop- ular names (0.42 percent of people carry each of these names). Yet America’s dentists are almost twice as likely to be named Dennis as Jerry or Walter. There also are 2.5 times as many dentists named Denise as there are with the equally popular name Beverly or Tammy. People named George or Geoffrey are overrepresented among geoscientists (geologists, geophysicists, and geochem- ists). And in the 2000 presidential campaign, people with last names beginning with B and G were disproportion- ately likely to contribute to the campaigns of Bush and Gore, respectively.

Reading about implicit egotism–based preferences gives me pause: Has this anything to do with why I enjoyed that trip to Fort Myers? Why I’ve written about moods, the media, and marriage? Why I collaborated with Professor Murdoch? If so, does this also explain why it was Suzie who sold seashells by the seashore?

Liking Things Associated with Oneself focus


400 Part Three Social Relations

prefer not only letters from their names but also numbers corresponding to their birth dates. This “name letter effect” reflects more than mere exposure, however— see “ Focus On: Liking Things Associated with Oneself .”

The mere-exposure effect violates the commonsense prediction of boredom— decreased interest—regarding repeatedly heard music or tasted foods (Kahneman & Snell, 1992). Unless the repetitions are incessant (“Even the best song becomes tiresome if heard too often,” says a Korean proverb), familiarity usually doesn’t breed contempt, it increases liking. When completed in 1889, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was mocked as grotesque (Harrison, 1977). Today it is the beloved symbol of Paris.

So, do visitors to the Louvre in Paris really adore the Mona Lisa for the artistry it displays, or are they simply delighted to find a familiar face? It might be both: To know her is to like her. Eddie Harmon-Jones and John Allen (2001) explored this phenomenon experimentally. When they showed people a woman’s face, their

How much do you like your name? In six studies, Jochen Gebauer and his colleagues (2008) report that liking of one’s own name is a reliable indicator of both implicit and explicit self-esteem.

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Engaging research reflects students’ interests and their environment

As we see in the research literature as

well as popular blogs (and, more recently,

“tweets”), social psychology remains a compelling and dynamic area of study.

Readers of this text from around the world have reached out to me, affirming that

this richness is captured in the narrative as well as hallmark features in each chapter.

In addition to part openers, chapter outlines, and summaries, each chapter includes

the following features.

The Inside Story essays capture compel- ling stories of famous researchers in their own words, highlighting the interests and questions that guided—and sometimes misguided—their findings. For example, Chapter 4 offers an essay by Mahzarin R. Banaji on her journey from being a secretarial assistant in India to being a Harvard professor.

Focus On features give students an in-depth explora- tion of a topic presented in the text. The “Focus On” in Chapter 11, for example, describes what Brett Pelham and colleagues call implicit egotism, which is the pre- disposition that we like what we associate ourselves with.

g g

126 Part One Social Thinking

hope, can reveal enough of a microsmile or a microfrown to indicate the partici- pant’s attitude about a given statement. A newer and widely used attitude measure, the implicit association test (IAT), uses reaction times to measure how quickly people associate concepts (Greenwald & others, 2002, 2003). One can, for example, measure implicit racial attitudes by assessing whether White people take longer to associate positive words with Black than with White faces. Across 126 studies, implicit associations measured by the IAT have correlated, on average, a modest .24 with explicit self-reported attitudes (Hofmann & others, 2005). (See “The Inside Story: Mahzarin R. Banaji on Discover- ing Experimental Social Psychology.”) A review of more than 100 studies and of more than 2.5 million IATs completed online reveals that explicit (self-report) and implicit attitudes both help predict peo- ple’s behaviors and judgments (Greenwald & others, 2008; Nosek & others, 2007). Thus, explicit and implicit attitudes may together predict behavior better than either alone (Spence & Townsend, 2007). For attitudes formed early in life, such as racial and gender attitudes, implicit and explicit attitudes frequently diverge, with implicit attitudes often being the bet- ter predictor of behavior. For example, implicit racial attitudes have successfully predicted interracial roommate relationships (Towles-Schwen & Fazio, 2006). For other attitudes, such as those related to consumer behavior and support for politi- cal candidates, explicit self-reports are the better predictor.

implicit association test (IAT) A computer-driven assessment of implicit attitudes. The test uses reaction times to measure people’s automatic

associations between attitude objects and evaluative words. Easier pairings (and faster responses) are taken to indicate stronger unconscious associations.

Mahzarin R. Banaji on Discovering Experimental Social Psychology Graduating from high school in India at age 15, I had but a single goal—to leave my well-adjusted and secure fam-ily to live the patently more daring and exciting life of a secretarial assistant. Proficient at typing scores of words a minute, I looked forward to a life of independence that involved living a block away from my parents. My mother, despite not having attended college, persuaded me to try college—but only for a semester, we agreed, after which I would be free to choose my path. The end of my first semester at Nizam College came and went. Mother didn’t ask about my plans. I didn’t have to swallow and tell. Just before one holiday trip home, I bought the five volumes of the 1968 Handbook of Social Psychology for the equivalent of a dollar apiece (it seemed like a lot of book for the money). By the end of a 24-hour train ride home, I had polished off one vol-ume and knew with blunt clarity that this science, which studied social processes experimentally, was something I had to do.

Doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships enabled me to work with three remarkable people early in my career: Tony Greenwald at Ohio State, and Claude Steele and Elizabeth Loftus at the University of Washington. At Yale, while still interested in human memory researchers, I dis-covered that memories come in both explicit (conscious)

and implicit (unconscious) forms. Might this also be true of attitudes, beliefs, and values? Hesitantly, I wrote the words “Implicit Attitudes” as the title of a grant proposal, not knowing it would become such a central part of what my students and I would study for the next two decades. With Tony Greenwald and Brian Nosek, I have enjoyed an extended collaboration on implicit social cognition that few scientists are blessed with. From the hundreds of studies that have used the Implicit Association Test ( and the millions of tests taken, we now know that people carry knowledge (stereotypes) and feelings (attitudes) of which they are unaware, and which often contrast with their conscious expressions. We know that subcortical brain activity can be an inde-pendent marker of implicit atti-tudes, that people differ in their implicit attitudes, and that suchattitudes and stereotypes pre-dict real-life behavior. Most opti-mistically, we know that implicit attitudes, even old ones, can be modified by experience.

THE inside STORY

Mahzarin Banaji Harvard University

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Postscripts are chapter-ending vignettes that engage students with thought-provoking questions and insights from the chapter. For example, Chapter 8 (“Group Influ- ence”) explores the question, “Are Groups Bad for Us?”

Research Close-Up boxes offer in-depth looks at sci- entific exploration of a fascinating variety of topics, ranging from when people yawn to how pedestrians in different cultures interact. “Research Close-Ups” provide students with a detailed, yet highly accessible understanding of how social psychologists use various research methods,

from laboratory studies, Internet experiments, and creating virtual realities to naturalistic observation and har- vesting archival data. Chapter 12’s “Research Close-up” explores the ingroup similarities and helping behaviors of individuals under certain conditions—one of many “Research Close-Up” topics that generate rich student discourse in classrooms, dorm rooms, or virtual chat rooms.

When I first set out to write this text I engaged the services of Jack Ridl, a poet in residence at Hope College. Little did I know that his guidance, my continual work- ing and re-working of the narrative, and the Liberal Arts foundation upon which it is all built, would lead to a text that continues to be so widely accepted, beyond my wildest dreams. Whether the Internet promotes or hinders social interaction may still be debat- able (see the “Focus On” in Chapter 11!), but it has allowed me to enjoy messages from students around the globe, many expressing genuine surprise at their enjoy- ment in reading a textbook!

Helping Chapter 12 467

Ingroup Similarity and Helping

Likeness breeds liking, and liking elicits helping. So, do people offer more help to others who display similarities to themselves? To explore the similarity-helping relationship, Mark Levine, Amy Prosser, and David Evans at Lancaster University joined with Stephen Reicher at St. Andrews University (2005) to study the behavior of some Lancaster students who earlier had identified themselves as fans of the nearby Manchester United soccer football team. Tak- ing their cue from John Darley and Daniel Batson’s (1973) famous Good Samaritan experiment, they directed each newly arrived participant to the laboratory in an adja- cent building. En route, a confederate jogger—wearing a shirt from either Manchester United or rival Liverpool— seemingly slipped on a grass bank just in front of them, grasped his ankle, and groaned in apparent pain. As Figure 12.8 shows, the Manchester fans routinely paused to offer help to their fellow Manchester supporter but usually did not offer such help to a supposed Liverpool supporter.

But, the researchers wondered, what if we remind Manchester fans of the identity they share with Liverpool supporters—as football fans rather than as detractors

who scorn football fans as violent hooligans? So they repeated the experiment, but with one difference: Before participants witnessed the jogger’s fall, the researcher explained that the study concerned the positive aspects of being a football fan. Given that only a small minority of fans are troublemakers, this research aimed to explore what fans get out of their love for “the beautiful game.” Now a jogger wearing a football club shirt, whether for Manchester or Liverpool, became one of “us fans.” And as Figure 12.9 shows, the grimacing jogger was helped regardless of which team he supported—and more so than if wearing a plain shirt.

The principle in the two cases is the same, notes the Lancaster research team: People are predisposed to help their fellow group members, whether those are defined more narrowly (as “us Manchester fans”) or more inclu- sively (as “us football fans”). If even rival fans can be per- suaded to help one another if they think about what unites them, then surely other antagonists can as well. One way to increase people’s willingness to help others is to promote social identities that are inclusive rather than exclusive.

research CLOSE-UP

FIGURE :: 12.8 Percent of Manchester United Fans Who Helped Victim Wearing Manchester or Liverpool Shirt

FIGURE :: 12.9 Common Fan Identity Condition: Percent of Manchester United Fans Who Helped Victim Wearing Manchester or Liverpool Shirt

Manchester shirt






0% Liverpool

shirt Manchester







0% Liverpool

shirt Plain shirt

• Some studies found a same-race bias (Benson & others, 1976; Clark, 1974; Franklin, 1974; Gaertner, 1973; Gaertner & Bickman, 1971; Sissons, 1981).

• Others found no bias (Gaertner, 1975; Lerner & Frank, 1974; Wilson & Donnerstein, 1979; Wispe & Freshley, 1971).

• Still others—especially those involving face-to-face situations—found a bias toward helping those of a different race (Dutton, 1971, 1973; Dutton & Lake, 1973; Katz & others, 1975).

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c o

304 Part Two Social Influence

When an apt combination of intelligence, skill, determination, self-confidence, and social charisma meets a rare opportunity, the result is sometimes a championship, a Nobel Prize, or a social revolution.

Summing Up: The Influence of the Minority: How Do Individuals Influence the Group? • Although a majority opinion often prevails, some-

times a minority can influence and even overturn a majority position. Even if the majority does not adopt the minority’s views, the minority’s speak- ing up can increase the majority’s self-doubts and prompt it to consider other alternatives, often lead- ing to better, more creative decisions.

• In experiments, a minority is most influential when it is consistent and persistent in its views, when its

actions convey self-confidence, and after it begins to elicit some defections from the majority.

• Through their task and social leadership, formal and informal group leaders exert disproportion- ate influence. Those who consistently press toward their goals and exude a self-confident charisma often engender trust and inspire others to follow.

POSTSCRIPT: Are Groups Bad for Us?

A selective reading of this chapter could, I must admit, leave readers with the impression that, on balance, groups are bad. In groups we become more aroused, more stressed, more tense, more error-prone on complex tasks. Submerged in a group that gives us anonymity, we have a tendency to loaf or have our worst impulses unleashed by deindividuation. Police brutality, lynchings, gang destruc- tion, and terrorism are all group phenomena. Discussion in groups often polarizes our views, enhancing mutual racism or hostility. It may also suppress dissent, cre- ating a homogenized groupthink that produces disastrous decisions. No wonder we celebrate those individuals—minorities of one—who, alone against a group, have stood up for truth and justice. Groups, it seems, are ba-a-a-d.

All that is true, but it’s only half the truth. The other half is that, as social ani- mals, we are group-dwelling creatures. Like our distant ancestors, we depend on one another for sustenance, support, and security. Moreover, when our individual tendencies are positive, group interaction accentuates our best. In groups, runners run faster, audiences laugh louder, and givers become more generous. In self-help groups, people strengthen their resolve to stop drinking, lose weight, and study harder. In kindred-spirited groups, people expand their spiritual consciousness. “A devout communing on spiritual things sometimes greatly helps the health of the soul,” observed fifteenth-century cleric Thomas à Kempis, especially when people of faith “meet and speak and commune together.”

Depending on which tendency a group is magnifying or disinhibiting, groups can be very, very bad or very, very good. So we had best choose our groups wisely and intentionally.

Making the Social Connection In this chapter we discussed group polarization and whether groups intensify opinions. This phenomenon will also be covered in Chapter 15

when we look at juries and how they make decisions. Can you think of other situa- tions where group polarization might be in effect? Go to the Online Learning Cen- ter for this book to view a clip about cliques and the influence of the group.


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Updated material in the tenth edition With some 650 new bibliographic citations, David Myers, who subscribes to nearly all English-language social psychology periodicals (including those from Europe), has comprehensively updated Social Psychology. In addition to new margin quotes, photos, and cartoons, new content includes:

Chapter 1 Introducing Social Psychology • Hindsight bias and the world financial crisis • 2008 U.S. presidential election examples • Framing and nudging organ donation and retirement savings

Chapter 2 The Self in a Social World • Chapter opening example • Section on narcissism • Research on self-esteem and self-serving bias

Chapter 3 Social Beliefs and Judgments • Constructed memories and biased perceptions in politics • Research on unconscious information processing • Data on “probability neglect” in judgments of risk

Chapter 4 Behavior and Attitudes • Enhanced coverage of implicit attitudes and Implicit Association Test • Recent studies and examples of behavior feeding attitudes • Updated coverage of dissonance research

Chapter 5 Genes, Culture, and Gender • Research on social norms and rule-breaking • Group conflict and preference for male leader • International data on gender and sexuality, and gender and social roles

Chapter 6 Conformity and Obedience • Examples of suggestibility, conformity, and obedience • Replication of Milgram obedience experiment • Research on cohesion, conformity, and genocide

Chapter 7 Persuasion • Research on effective anti-smoking ads • Examples of political persuasion • Two-step flow of medical information

Chapter 8 Group Influence • Deindividuation effects on the Internet • Group polarization in liberal and conservative communities • The wisdom of crowds, prediction markets, and “the crowd within”

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Chapter 9 Prejudice: Disliking Others • Contemporary examples and data regarding various forms of prejudice • Recent studies of implicit prejudice • Research on prejudice phenomena, including infrahumanization, own-age

bias, just-world thinking

Chapter 10 Aggression: Hurting Others • Updated information on human aggression, including the Congo and Iraq • Studies of testosterone and aggression • Recent research on media influences

Chapter 11 Attraction and Intimacy: Liking and Loving Others

• Studies of social exclusion and social pain • Speed dating experiments • Recent evolutionary psychology-based studies of fertility and attraction

Chapter 12 Helping • Examples of heroic altruism • Research on generosity and happiness • Experiments on priming on materialistic versus spiritual concepts

Chapter 13 Conflict and Peacemaking • Experiments on counterproductive effects of punishment • “The Inside Story” (Nicole Shelton and Jennifer Richeson) on cross-racial

friendships • Cross-cultural and political examples of common enemies and superordi-

nate goals

Chapter 14 Social Psychology in the Clinic • The social construction of mental illness • Trends in close relationships, and implications for health • Neuroscience of supportive friends and partners

Chapter 15 Social Psychology in Court • Fresh examples of eyewitness misidentification • The post-identification feedback effect • Juror expectations of forensic evidence in the CSI generation

Chapter 16 Social Psychology and the Sustainable Future • IPCC consensus on global climate change • Data on public opinion about effects of climate change • Prospects for a “new consciousness” that fosters sustainability

For a more detailed list of chapter-by-chapter changes, please contact your local McGraw-Hill sales representative.

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For the Student

SocialSense Videos Now available at the Online Learning Center, the SocialSense videos are organized according to the text chapters. There is also a video library available containing all of the videos alphabetically. Taking advantage of McGraw-Hill’s exclusive Dis- covery Channel® licensing arrangement, the video segments chosen illustrate core concepts of social psychology and contemporary applications. Each video includes a pre-test, a post-test, and Web resources.

Online Learning Center for Students The official website for the text ( contains chapter out- lines, practice quizzes, a practice midterm and final, and Internet Connections and Internet Exercises updated by Jill Cohen of Los Angeles Community College. Also available are Scenarios, Interactivities, and “What Do You Think?” exercises for each chapter.

For the Instructor

Online Learning Center for Instructors The password-protected instructor side of the Online Learning Center www.mhhe .com/myers10e contains the Instructor’s Manual, PowerPoint presentations, Web links, image gallery, and other teaching resources. Ask your McGraw-Hill repre- sentative for your password.

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Supplements xix

Instructor’s Manual Jonathan Mueller, North Central College This manual provides many useful tools to enhance your teaching. For each chap- ter you will find lecture ideas, assignment ideas, suggested class discussion top- ics, classroom demonstrations and demonstration materials, suggested films, and more.

Test Bank Donna Walsh, Beaufort Community College The test bank includes over 100 questions per chapter, including factual, concep- tual, and applied questions. The test bank can be used with McGraw-Hill’s EZ Test, a flexible and easy-to-use electronic testing program allowing instructors to create tests from the test bank as well as their own questions.

PowerPoint Presentations Kim Foreman Available on the instructor side of the Online Learning Center, these presentations cover the key points of each chapter and include charts and graphs from the text. They can be used as is or modified to meet your needs.

Classroom Performance System (CPS) by eInstruction Alisha Janowsky, University of Central Florida CPS, or “clickers,” is a superb way to give interactive quizzes, maximize student participation in class discussions, and take attendance. The CPS content may be used as is or modified to suit your needs.

Image Gallery These files include all the figures from the Myers textbook for which McGraw-Hill holds copyright.

Annual Editions: Social Psychology Karen Duffy of SUNY–Geneseo This annually updated reader is a compilation of current, carefully selected arti- cles from respected journals, magazines, and newspapers. Additional support for the readings can be found on our student website, An Instructor’s Manual and the guide Using Annual Editions in the Classroom are avail- able as support materials for instructors.

Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Social Psychology Jason A. Nier, Connecticut College This debate-style reader is designed to introduce students to controversial view- points on the field’s most crucial issues. Each issue is carefully framed for the stu- dent, and the pro and con essays represent the arguments of leading scholars and commentators in their fields.

Film Clips from Films for the Humanities and Social Sciences Depending on adoption size, you may qualify for FREE videos from this resource. View more than 700 psychology-related videos at

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xx Supplements

As a full-service publisher of quality educational products, McGraw-Hill does much more than just sell textbooks to your students. We create and publish an extensive array of print, video, and digital supplements to support instruction on your campus. Orders of new (rather than used) textbooks help us to defray the cost of developing such supplements, which is substantial. We have a broad range of other supplements in psychology that you may wish to tap for your introductory psychology course. Ask your local McGraw-Hill representative about the availabil- ity of these and other supplements that may help you with your course design.

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In Appreciation

Mike Aamodt, Radford University

Robert Arkin, Ohio State University

Robert Armenta, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Jahna Ashlyn, San Diego State University

Nancy L. Ashton, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Steven H. Baron, Montgomery County Community College

Charles Daniel Batson, University of Kansas

Steve Baumgardner, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire

Susan Beers, Sweet Briar College

George Bishop, National University of Singapore

Galen V. Bodenhausen, Northwestern University

Martin Bolt, Calvin College

Kurt Boniecki, University of Central Arkansas

Amy Bradfield, Iowa State University

Dorothea Braginsky, Fairfield University

Timothy C. Brock, Ohio State University

Jonathon D. Brown, University of Washington

Fred B. Bryant, Loyola University Chicago

Jeff Bryson, San Diego State University

Shawn Meghan Burn, California Poly- technic State University

David Buss, University of Texas

Thomas Cafferty, University of South Carolina

Jerome M. Chertkoff, Indiana University

Nicholas Christenfeld, University of California at San Diego

Russell Clark, University of North Texas

Diana I. Cordova, Yale University

Karen A. Couture, New Hampshire College

Traci Craig, University of Idaho

Cynthia Crown, Xavier University

Jack Croxton, State University of New York at Fredonia

Jennifer Daniels, University of Connecticut

Anthony Doob, University of Toronto

David Dunning, Cornell University

Alice H. Eagly, Northwestern University

Jason Eggerman, Palomar College

Although only one person’s name appears on this book’s cover, the truth is that a whole community of scholars has invested itself in it. Although none of these people should be held responsible for what I have written—nor do any of them fully agree with everything said—their suggestions made this a better book than it could otherwise have been.

A special “thank you” goes to Jean Twenge, San Diego State University, for her contribution to Chapter 2, “The Self in a Social World.” Drawing on her extensive knowledge of and research on the self and cultural changes, Professor Twenge updated and revised this chapter.

This new edition retains many of the improvements contributed by consul- tants and reviewers on the first nine editions. To these esteemed colleagues I therefore remain indebted. I have also benefited from the input of instructors who reviewed the ninth edition in preparation for this revision, rescuing me from occasional mistakes and offering constructive suggestions (and encour- agement). I am indebted to each of these many colleagues:


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xxii In Appreciation

Leandre Fabrigar, Queen’s University

Philip Finney, Southeast Missouri State University

Carie Forden, Clarion University

Kenneth Foster, City University of New York

Dennis Fox, University of Illinois at Springfield

Robin Franck, Southwestern College

Carrie B. Fried, Winona State University

William Froming, Pacific Graduate School of Psychology

Madeleine Fugere, Eastern Connecticut State University

Stephen Fugita, Santa Clara University

David A. Gershaw, Arizona Western College

Tom Gilovich, Cornell University

Mary Alice Gordon, Southern Method- ist University

Tresmaine Grimes, Iona College

Rosanna Guadagno, University of Alabama

Ranald Hansen, Oakland University

Allen Hart, Amherst College

Elaine Hatfield, University of Hawaii

James L. Hilton, University of Michigan

Bert Hodges, Gordon College

William Ickes, University of Texas at Arlington

Marita Inglehart, University of Michigan

Chester Insko, University of North Carolina

Jonathan Iuzzini, Texas A&M University

Miles Jackson, Portland State University

Bethany Johnsin, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Meighan Johnson, Shorter College

Edward Jones, Princeton University [deceased]

Judi Jones, Georgia Southern College

Deana Julka, University of Portland

Martin Kaplan, Northern Illinois University

Timothy J. Kasser, Knox College

Janice Kelly, Purdue University

Douglas Kenrick, Arizona State University

Jared Kenworthy, University of Texas at Arlington

Norbert Kerr, Michigan State University

Suzanne Kieffer, University of Houston

Charles Kiesler, University of Missouri

Steve Kilianski, Rutgers University– New Brunswick

Robin Kowalski, Clemson University

Marjorie Krebs, Gannon University

Joachim Krueger, Brown University

Travis Langley, Henderson State University

Dianne Leader, Georgia Institute of Technology

Juliana Leding, University of North Florida

Maurice J. Levesque, Elon University

Helen E. Linkey, Marshall University

Deborah Long, East Carolina University

Karsten Look, Columbus State Com- munity College

Amy Lyndon, East Carolina University

Kim MacLin, University of Northern Iowa

Diane Martichuski, University of Colorado

John W. McHoskey, Eastern Michigan University

Daniel N. McIntosh, University of Denver

Rusty McIntyre, Amherst College

Annie McManus, Parkland College

David McMillen, Mississippi State University

Robert Millard, Vassar College

Arthur Miller, Miami University

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In Appreciation xxiii

Daniel Molden, Northwestern University

Teru Morton, Vanderbilt University

Todd D. Nelson, California State University

K. Paul Nesselroade, Jr., Simpson College

Darren Newtson, University of Virginia

Cindy Nordstrom, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Michael Olson, University of Tennes- see at Knoxville

Stuart Oskamp, Claremont Graduate University

Chris O’Sullivan, Bucknell University

Ellen E. Pastorino, Valencia Commu- nity College

Sandra Sims Patterson, Spelman College

Paul Paulus, University of Texas at Arlington

Terry F. Pettijohn, Mercyhurst College

Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Greg Pool, St. Mary’s University

Jennifer Pratt-Hyatt, Michigan State University

Michelle R. Rainey, Indiana Universi- ty–Purdue University at Indianapolis

Cynthia Reed, Tarrant County College

Nicholas Reuterman, Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville

Robert D. Ridge, Brigham Young University

Judith Rogers, American River College

Hilliard Rogers, American River College

Paul Rose, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Gretchen Sechrist, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York

Nicole Schnopp-Wyatt, Pikeville College

Wesley Schultz, California State University, San Marcos

Vann Scott, Armstrong Atlantic State University

John Seta, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Robert Short, Arizona State University

Linda Silka, University of Massachusetts–Lowell

Royce Singleton, Jr., College of the Holy Cross

Stephen Slane, Cleveland State University

Christopher Sletten, University of North Florida

Christine M. Smith, Grand Valley State University

Richard A. Smith, University of Kentucky

C. R. Snyder, University of Kansas

Mark Snyder, University of Minnesota

Sheldon Solomon, Skidmore College

Matthew Spackman, Brigham Young University

Charles Stangor, University of Maryland at College Park

Garold Stasser, Miami University

Homer Stavely, Keene State College

Mark Stewart, American River College

JoNell Strough, West Virginia University

Eric Sykes, Indiana University Kokomo

Elizabeth Tanke, University of Santa Clara

Cheryl Terrance, University of North Dakota

William Titus, Arkansas Tech University

Christopher Trego, Florida Commu- nity College at Jacksonville

Tom Tyler, New York University

Rhoda Unger, Montclair State University

Billy Van Jones, Abilene Christian College

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Eastern College

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xxiv In Appreciation

Ann L. Weber, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Daniel M. Wegner, Harvard University

Gary Wells, Iowa State University

Mike Wessells, Randolph-Macon College

Bernard Whitley, Ball State University

Carolyn Whitney, Saint Michael’s University

David Wilder, Rutgers University– New Brunswick

Kipling Williams, Purdue University

Midge Wilson, DePaul University

Doug Woody, University of Northern Colorado

Elissa Wurf, Muhlenberg College.

Hope College, Michigan, has been wonderfully supportive of these successive editions. Both the people and the environment have helped make the gestation of ten editions of Social Psychology a pleasure. At Hope College, poet Jack Ridl helped shape the voice you will hear in these pages. Kathy Adamski has again contributed her good cheer and secretarial support. And Kathryn Brownson did library research, edited and prepared the manuscript, managed the paper flow, proofed the pages and art, and prepared the bibliography. All in all, she midwifed this book.

Were it not for the inspiration of Nelson Black of McGraw-Hill, writing a textbook never would have occurred to me. Alison Meersschaert guided and encouraged the formative first edition. Publisher Mike Sugarman helped envision the execution of the ninth and tenth editions and their teaching supplements. Augustine Laferrera ably served as editorial coordinator. Sarah Colwell managed the supplements, and production editor Holly Paulsen patiently guided the process of converting the man- uscript into the finished book, assisted by copyeditor Janet Tilden’s fine-tuning.

After hearing countless dozens of people say that this book’s supplements have taken their teaching to a new level, I also pay tribute to Martin Bolt (Calvin College), both for his writing the study guide and for his pioneering the extensive instruc- tor’s resources, with their countless ready-to-use demonstration activities.

How fortunate we are to have as part of our team Jonathan Mueller (North Cen- tral College) as author of the instructor’s resources for the eighth, ninth, and tenth editions. Jon is able to draw on his acclaimed online resources for the teaching of social psychology and his monthly listserv offering resources to social psychology instructors (see

Kudos also go to Donna Walsh for her gift to the teaching of Social Psychology by authoring the testing resources.

To all in this supporting cast, I am indebted. Working with all these people has made the creation of this book a stimulating, gratifying experience.

David G. Myers

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Social Psychology

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C H A P T E R Introducing Social Psychology


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What is social psychology?

Social psychology’s big ideas

Social psychology and human values

I knew it all along: Is social psychol- ogy simply common sense?

Research methods: How we do social psychology

Postscript: Why I wrote this book

T here once was a man whose second wife was a vain and selfish woman. This woman’s two daughters were similarly vain and selfish. The man’s own daughter, however, was meek and unselfish. This

sweet, kind daughter, whom we all know as Cinderella, learned early

on that she should do as she was told, accept ill treatment and insults,

and avoid doing anything to upstage her stepsisters and their mother.

But then, thanks to her fairy godmother, Cinderella was able to

escape her situation for an evening and attend a grand ball, where she

attracted the attention of a handsome prince. When the love-struck

prince later encountered Cinderella back in her degrading home, he

failed to recognize her.

Implausible? The folktale demands that we accept the power of the

situation. In the presence of her oppressive stepmother, Cinderella was

humble and unattractive. At the ball, Cinderella felt more beautiful—

and walked and talked and smiled as if she were. In one situation, she

cowered. In the other, she charmed.

The French philosopher-novelist Jean-Paul Sartre (1946) would

have had no problem accepting the Cinderella premise. We humans

are “first of all beings in a situation,” he wrote. “We cannot be distin-

guished from our situations, for they form us and decide our possibili-

ties” (pp. 59–60, paraphrased).

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4 Chapter 1 Introducing Social Psychology

What Is Social Psychology? Social psychology is a science that studies the influences of our situations, with special attention to how we view and affect one another. More precisely, it is the sci- entific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another ( Figure 1.1 ).

Social psychology lies at psychology’s boundary with sociology. Compared with sociology (the study of people in groups and societies), social psychology focuses more on individuals and uses more experimentation. Compared with personality psychology, social psychology focuses less on individuals’ differences and more on how individuals, in general, view and affect one another.

Social psychology is still a young science. The first social psychology experi- ments were reported barely more than a century ago (1898), and the first social psychology texts did not appear until just before and after 1900 (Smith, 2005). Not until the 1930s did social psychology assume its current form. And not until World War II did it begin to emerge as the vibrant field it is today.

Social psychology studies our thinking, influence, and relationships by asking questions that have intrigued us all. Here are some examples:

How Much of Our Social World Is Just in Our Heads? As we will see in later chapters, our social behavior varies not just with the objective situation but also with how we construe it. Social beliefs can be self-fulfilling. For example, happily married people will attribute their spouse’s acid remark (“Can’t you ever put that where it belongs?”) to something external (“He must have had a frustrating day”). Unhappily married people will attribute the same remark to a mean disposition (“Is he ever hostile!”) and may respond with a coun- terattack. Moreover, expecting hostility from their spouse, they may behave resentfully, thereby eliciting the hostility they expect. Would People Be Cruel If Ordered? How did Nazi Germany conceive and implement the unconscionable slaughter of 6 million Jews? Those evil acts occurred partly because thousands of people followed orders. They put the prisoners on trains, herded them into crowded “showers,” and poisoned them with gas. How could people engage in such horrific actions? Were those individuals normal human beings? Stanley Milgram (1974) wondered. So he set up a situation where people were ordered to administer increasing

social psychology The scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another.

Throughout this book, sources for information are cited parenthetically. The complete source is provided in the reference section that begins on page R-1.

FIGURE :: 1.1 Social Psychology Is . . .

Social psychology is the scientific study of . . .

Social relations

• Prejudice

• Aggression

• Attraction and intimacy

• Helping

Social influence

• Culture

• Pressures to conform

• Persuasion

• Groups of people

Social thinking

• How we perceive ourselves and others

• What we believe

• Judgments we make

• Our attitudes

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Introducing Social Psychology Chapter 1 5

levels of electric shock to someone who was having difficulty learning a series of words. As we will see in Chapter 6, nearly two-thirds of the participants fully complied. To Help? Or to Help Oneself? As bags of cash tumbled from an armored truck one fall day, $2 million was scattered along a Columbus, Ohio, street. Some motorists stopped to help, returning $100,000. Judging from the $1,900,000 that disap- peared, many more stopped to help themselves. (What would you have done?) When similar incidents occurred several months later in San Francisco and Toronto, the results were the same: Passersby grabbed most of the money (Bowen, 1988). What situations trigger people to be helpful or greedy? Do some cultural contexts—perhaps villages and small towns— breed greater helpfulness? A common thread runs through these questions: They all deal

with how people view and affect one another. And that is what social psychology is all about. Social psychologists study attitudes and beliefs, conformity and independence, love and hate.

Social Psychology’s Big Ideas What are social psychology’s big lessons—its overarching themes? In many aca- demic fields, the results of tens of thousands of studies, the conclusions of thou- sands of investigators, and the insights of hundreds of theorists can be boiled down to a few central ideas. Biology offers us principles such as natural selection and adaptation. Sociology builds on concepts such as social structure and organization. Music harnesses our ideas of rhythm, melody, and harmony.

What concepts are on social psychology’s short list of big ideas? What themes, or fundamental principles, will be worth remembering long after you have forgotten most of the details? My short list of “great ideas we ought never to forget” includes these, each of which we will explore further in chapters to come ( Figure 1.2 ).

We Construct Our Social Reality We humans have an irresistible urge to explain behavior, to attribute it to some cause, and therefore to make it seem orderly, predictable, and controllable. You and I may react differently to similar situations because we think differently. How we react to a friend’s insult depends on whether we attribute it to hostility or to a bad day.

A 1951 Princeton-Dartmouth football game provided a classic demonstration of how we construct reality (Hastorf & Cantril, 1954; see also Loy & Andrews, 1981). The game lived up to its billing as a grudge match; it turned out to be one of the roughest and dirtiest games in the history of either school. A Princeton All- American was gang-tackled, piled on, and finally forced out of the game with a broken nose. Fistfights erupted, and there were further injuries on both sides. The whole performance hardly fit the Ivy League image of upper-class gentility.

Not long afterward, two psychologists, one from each school, showed films of the game to students on each campus. The students played the role of scientist- observer, noting each infraction as they watched and who was responsible for it. But they could not set aside their loyalties. The Princeton students, for example, saw twice as many Dartmouth violations as the Dartmouth students saw. The con- clusion: There is an objective reality out there, but we always view it through the lens of our beliefs and values.

Tired of looking at the stars, Professor Mueller takes up social psychology. Reprinted with permission of Jason Love at .

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We are all intuitive scientists. We explain people’s behavior, usually with enough speed and accuracy to suit our daily needs. When someone’s behavior is consistent and distinctive, we attribute that behavior to his or her personality. For example, if you observe someone who makes repeated snide comments, you may infer that this person has a nasty disposition, and then you might try to avoid the person.

Our beliefs about ourselves also matter. Do we have an optimistic outlook? Do we see ourselves as in control of things? Do we view ourselves as relatively supe- rior or inferior? Our answers influence our emotions and actions. How we construe the world, and ourselves, matters.

Our Social Intuitions Are Often Powerful but Sometimes Perilous Our instant intuitions shape our fears (is flying dangerous?), impressions (can I trust him?), and relationships (does she like me?). Intuitions influence presi- dents in times of crisis, gamblers at the table, jurors assessing guilt, and person- nel directors screening applicants. Such intuitions are commonplace.

Indeed, psychological science reveals a fascinating unconscious mind—an intuitive backstage mind—that Freud never told us about. More than psychologists realized until recently, thinking occurs offstage, out of sight. Our intuitive capaci- ties are revealed by studies of what later chapters will explain: “automatic pro- cessing,” “implicit memory,” “heuristics,” “spontaneous trait inference,” instant emotions, and nonverbal communication. Thinking, memory, and attitudes all operate on two levels—one conscious and deliberate, the other unconscious and automatic. “Dual processing,” today’s researchers call it. We know more than we know we know.

Applying social psych olo



Social relations Social thinking

Social influence s

Some Big Ideas in Social Psychology

1. We construct our social reality

2. Our social intuitions are powerful, sometimes perilous

3. Attitudes shape, and are shaped by, behavior

6. Social behavior is also biological behavior

7. Feelings and actions toward people are sometimes negative and sometimes positive

4. Social influences shape behavior

5. Dispositions shape behavior

Social psychology‘s principles are applicable

to everyday life

FIGURE :: 1.2 Some Big Ideas in Social Psychology

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Intuition is huge, but intuition is also perilous. An example: As we cruise through life, mostly on automatic pilot, we intuitively judge the likeli- hood of things by how easily various instances come to mind. Especially since September 11, 2001, we carry readily available mental images of plane crashes. Thus, most people fear flying more than driving, and many will drive great distances to avoid risking the skies. Actually, we’re many times safer (per mile traveled) in a commercial plane than in a motor vehicle (in the United States, air travel was 230 times safer between 2002 and 2005, reports the National Safety Council [2008]).

Even our intuitions about ourselves often err. We intuitively trust our memories more than we should. We misread our own minds; in ex – periments, we deny being affected by things that do influence us. We mispredict our own feelings—how bad we’ll feel a year from now if we lose our job or our romance breaks up, and how good we’ll feel a year from now, or even a week from now, if we win our state’s lottery. And we often mispredict our own future. For example, when selecting clothes, people approaching middle age will still buy snug (“I anticipate shedding a few pounds”); rarely does anyone say, more real- istically, “I’d better buy a relatively loose fit; people my age tend to put on pounds.”

Our social intuitions, then, are noteworthy for both their powers and their perils. By reminding us of intuition’s gifts and alerting us to its pitfalls, social psy- chologists aim to fortify our thinking. In most situations, “fast and frugal” snap judgments serve us well enough. But in others, where accuracy matters—as when needing to fear the right things and spend our resources accordingly—we had best restrain our impulsive intuitions with critical thinking. Our intuitions and uncon- scious information processing are routinely powerful and sometimes perilous.

Social Influences Shape Our Behavior We are, as Aristotle long ago observed, social animals. We speak and think in words we learned from others. We long to connect, to belong, and to be well thought of. Matthias Mehl and James Pennebaker (2003) quantified their University of Texas students’ social behavior by inviting them to wear microcassette recorders and microphones. Once every 12 minutes during their waking hours, the computer- operated recorder would imperceptibly record for 30 seconds. Although the obser- vation period covered only weekdays (including class time), almost 30 percent of the students’ time was spent in conversation. Relationships are a large part of being human.

As social creatures, we respond to our immediate contexts. Sometimes the power of a social situation leads us to act contrary to our expressed attitudes. Indeed, powerfully evil situations sometimes overwhelm good intentions, induc- ing people to agree with falsehoods or comply with cruelty. Under Nazi influence, many decent-seeming people became instruments of the Holocaust. Other situa- tions may elicit great generosity and compassion. After the 9/11 catastrophe, New York City was overwhelmed with donations of food, clothing, and help from eager volunteers.

Social cognition matters. Our behavior is influenced not just by the objective situation, but also by how we construe it. © The New Yorker Collection, 2005, Lee Lorenz, from All Rights Reserved.

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The power of the situation was also dramatically evident in varying attitudes toward the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Opinion polls revealed that Americans and Israelis overwhelmingly favored the war. Their distant cousins elsewhere in the world overwhelmingly opposed it. Tell me where you live and I’ll make a reason- able guess as to what your attitudes were as the war began. Tell me your edu- cational level and what media you watch and read, and I’ll make an even more confident guess. Our situations matter.

Our cultures help define our situations. For example, our standards regarding promptness, frankness, and clothing vary with our culture.

• Whether you prefer a slim or voluptuous body depends on when and where in the world you live.

• Whether you define social justice as equality (all receive the same) or as equity (those who earn more receive more) depends on whether your ideology has been shaped more by socialism or by capitalism.

• Whether you tend to be expressive or reserved, casual or formal, hinges partly on your culture and your ethnicity.

• Whether you focus primarily on yourself—your personal needs, desires, and morality—or on your family, clan, and communal groups depends on how much you are a product of modern Western individualism.

Social psychologist Hazel Markus (2005) sums it up: “People are, above all, mal- leable.” Said differently, we adapt to our social context. Our attitudes and behavior are shaped by external social forces.

Personal Attitudes and Dispositions Also Shape Behavior Internal forces also matter. We are not passive tumbleweeds, merely blown this way and that by the social winds. Our inner attitudes affect our behavior. Our polit- ical attitudes influence our voting behavior. Our smoking attitudes influence our susceptibility to peer pressures to smoke. Our attitudes toward the poor influence our willingness to help them. (As we will see, our attitudes also follow our behav- ior, which leads us to believe strongly in those things we have committed ourselves to or suffered for.)

Personality dispositions also affect behavior. Facing the same situation, differ- ent people may react differently. Emerging from years of political imprisonment, one person exudes bitterness and seeks revenge. Another, such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, seeks reconciliation and unity with his former enemies. Attitudes and personality influence behavior.

Social Behavior Is Biologically Rooted Twenty-first-century social psychology is providing us with ever-growing insights into our behavior’s biological foundations. Many of our social behaviors reflect a deep biological wisdom.

Everyone who has taken introductory psychology has learned that nature and nurture together form who we are. As the area of a rectangle is determined by both its length and its width, so do biology and experience together create us. As evolutionary psychologists remind us (see Chapter 5), our inherited human nature predisposes us to behave in ways that helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. We carry the genes of those whose traits enabled them and their children to survive and reproduce. Thus, evolutionary psychologists ask how natural selection might predispose our actions and reactions when dating and mating, hating and hurting, caring and sharing. Nature also endows us with an

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enormous capacity to learn and to adapt to varied environments. We are sensi- tive and responsive to our social context.

If every psychological event (every thought, every emotion, every behavior) is simultaneously a biological event, then we can also examine the neurobiology that underlies social behavior. What brain areas enable our experiences of love and con- tempt, helping and aggression, perception and belief? How do brain, mind, and behavior function together as one coordinated system? What does the timing of brain events reveal about how we process information? Such questions are asked by those in social neuroscience (Cacioppo & others, 2007).

Social neuroscientists do not reduce complex social behaviors, such as helping and hurting, to simple neural or molecular mechanisms. Their point is this: To understand social behavior, we must consider both under-the-skin (biological) and between-skins (social) influences. Mind and body are one grand system. Stress hor- mones affect how we feel and act. Social ostracism elevates blood pressure. Social support strengthens the disease-fighting immune system. We are bio-psycho-social organisms. We reflect the interplay of our biological, psychological, and social influ- ences. And that is why today’s psychologists study behavior from these different levels of analysis.

Social Psychology’s Principles Are Applicable in Everyday Life Social psychology has the potential to illuminate your life, to make visible the sub- tle influences that guide your thinking and acting. And, as we will see, it offers many ideas about how to know ourselves better, how to win friends and influence people, how to transform closed fists into open arms.

Scholars are also applying social psychological insights. Principles of social thinking, social influence, and social relations have implications for human health and well-being, for judicial procedures and juror decisions in courtrooms, and for influencing behaviors that will enable an environmentally sustainable human future.

As but one perspective on human existence, psychological science does not seek to engage life’s ultimate questions: What is the meaning of human life? What should be our purpose? What is our ultimate destiny? But social psychology does give us a method for asking and answering some exceedingly interesting and important questions. Social psychology is all about life—your life: your beliefs, your attitudes, your relationships.

The rest of this chapter takes us inside social psychology. Let’s first consider how social psychologists’ own values influence their work in obvious and subtle ways. And then let’s focus on this chapter’s biggest task: glimpsing how we do social psy- chology. How do social psychologists search for explanations of social thinking, social influence, and social relations? And how might you and I use these analytical tools to think smarter?

social neuroscience An integration of biological and social perspectives that explores the neural and psychological bases of social and emotional behaviors.

Throughout this book, a brief summary will conclude each major section. I hope these summaries will help you assess how well you have learned the material in each section.

Social psychology is the scientific study of how peo- ple think about, influence, and relate to one another. Its central themes include the following:

• How we construe our social worlds • How our social intuitions guide and sometimes

deceive us

• How our social behavior is shaped by other peo- ple, by our attitudes and personalities, and by our biology

• How social psychology’s principles apply to our everyday lives and to various other fields of study

Summing Up: Social Psychology’s Big Ideas

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Social Psychology and Human Values Social psychologists’ values penetrate their work in ways both obvious and subtle. What are such ways?

Social psychology is less a collection of findings than a set of strategies for answering questions. In science, as in courts of law, personal opinions are inadmis- sible. When ideas are put on trial, evidence determines the verdict.

But are social psychologists really that objective? Because they are human beings, don’t their values —their personal convictions about what is desirable and how people ought to behave—seep into their work? If so, can social psychology really be scientific?

Obvious Ways Values Enter Psychology Values enter the picture when social psychologists choose research topics. It was no accident that the study of prejudice flourished during the 1940s as fascism raged in Europe; that the 1950s, a time of look-alike fashions and intolerance of differ- ing views, gave us studies of conformity; that the 1960s saw interest in aggression increase with riots and rising crime rates; that the feminist movement of the 1970s helped stimulate a wave of research on gender and sexism; that the 1980s offered a resurgence of attention to psychological aspects of the arms race; and that the 1990s and the early twenty-first century were marked by heightened interest in how peo- ple respond to diversity in culture, race, and sexual orientation. Social psychology reflects social history (Kagan, 2009).

Values differ not only across time but also across cultures. In Europe, people take pride in their nationalities. The Scots are more self-consciously distinct from

the English, and the Austrians from the Germans, than are similarly adjacent Michiganders from Ohioans. Conse- quently, Europe has given us a major theory of “social iden- tity,” whereas American social psychologists have focused more on individuals—how one person thinks about oth- ers, is influenced by them, and relates to them (Fiske, 2004; Tajfel, 1981; Turner, 1984). Australian social psychologists have drawn theories and methods from both Europe and North America (Feather, 2005).

Values also influence the types of people who are attracted to various disciplines (Campbell, 1975a; Moynihan, 1979). At your school, do the students majoring in the humanities, the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences differ noticeably from one another? Do social psychology and sociology attract people who are—for example—relatively eager to challenge tradition, people more inclined to shape the future than preserve the past?

Finally, values obviously enter the picture as the object of social-psychological analysis. Social psychologists inves- tigate how values form, why they change, and how they in – fluence attitudes and actions. None of that, however, tells us which values are “right.”

Not-So-Obvious Ways Values Enter Psychology We less often recognize the subtler ways in which value commitments masquerade as objective truth. Consider three not-so-obvious ways values enter psychology.

Different sciences offer different perspectives.

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THE SUBJECTIVE ASPECTS OF SCIENCE Scientists and philosophers now agree: Science is not purely objective. Scientists do not simply read the book of nature. Rather, they interpret nature, using their own mental categories. In our daily lives, too, we view the world through the lens of our preconceptions. Pause a moment: What do you see in Figure 1.3 ? Can you see a Dalmatian sniffing the ground at the picture’s center? Without that preconcep- tion, most people are blind to the Dalmatian. Once your mind grasps the concept, it informs your interpretation of the picture—so much so that it becomes difficult not to see the dog.

This is the way our minds work. While reading these words, you have been unaware that you are also looking at your nose. Your mind blocks from awareness something that is there, if only you were predisposed to perceive it. This tendency to prejudge reality based on our expectations is a basic fact about the human mind.

Because scholars at work in any given area often share a common viewpoint or come from the same culture, their assumptions may go unchallenged. What we take for granted—the shared beliefs that some European social psychologists call our social representations (Augoustinos & Innes, 1990; Moscovici, 1988, 2001)—are often our most important yet most unexamined convictions. Sometimes, however, someone from outside the camp will call attention to those assumptions. During the 1980s feminists and Marxists exposed some of social psychology’s unexam- ined assumptions. Feminist critics called attention to subtle biases—for example, the political conservatism of some scientists who favored a biological interpreta- tion of gender differences in social behavior (Unger, 1985). Marxist critics called attention to competitive, individualist biases—for example, the assumption that conformity is bad and that individual rewards are good. Marxists and feminists, of course, make their own assumptions, as critics of academic “political correctness” are fond of noting. Social psychologist Lee Jussim (2005), for example, argues that progressive social psychologists sometimes feel compelled to deny group differ- ences and to assume that stereotypes of group difference are never rooted in reality but always in racism.

“Science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and our- selves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning.”



culture The enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next.

social representations Socially shared beliefs— widely held ideas and values, including our assumptions and cultural ideologies. Our social representations help us make sense of our world.

FIGURE :: 1.3 What Do You See?

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In Chapter 3 we will see more ways in which our preconceptions guide our interpretations. As those Princeton and Dartmouth football fans remind us, what guides our behavior is less the situation-as-it-is than the situation-as-we- construe-it.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CONCEPTS CONTAIN HIDDEN VALUES Implicit in our understanding that psychology is not objective is the realization that psychologists’ own values may play an important part in the theories and judgments they support. Psychologists may refer to people as mature or immature, as well adjusted or poorly adjusted, as mentally healthy or mentally ill. They may talk as if they were stating facts, when they are really making value judgments. Here are some examples:

Defining the Good Life. Values influence our idea of the best way to live our lives. The personality psychologist Abraham Maslow, for example, was known for his sensitive descriptions of “self-actualized” people—people who, with their needs for survival, safety, belonging, and self-esteem satis- fied, go on to fulfill their human potential. Few readers noticed that Maslow himself, guided by his own values, selected the sample of self-actualized people he described. The resulting description of self-actualized person- alities—as spontaneous, autonomous, mystical, and so forth—reflected Maslow’s personal values. Had he begun with someone else’s heroes—say, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, and John D. Rockefeller—his resulting description of self-actualization would have differed (Smith, 1978). Professional Advice. Psychological advice also reflects the advice giver’s personal values. When mental health professionals advise us how to get along

with our spouse or our co-workers, when child-rearing experts tell us how to handle our children, and when some psychologists advocate living free of concern for others’ expectations, they are expressing their personal values. (In Western cultures, those val- ues usually will be individualistic—encouraging what feels best for “me.” Non-Western cultures more often encourage what’s best for “we.”) Many people, unaware of those hidden values, defer to the “professional.” But professional psychologists cannot answer questions of ultimate moral obligation, of purpose and direction, and of life’s meaning. Forming Concepts. Hidden values even seep into psychology’s research-based concepts. Pretend you have taken a personality test and the psychologist, after scoring your answers, announces: “You scored high in self-esteem. You are low in anxiety. And you have exceptional ego-strength.” “Ah,” you think, “I sus- pected as much, but it feels good to know that.” Now another psychologist gives you a similar test. For some peculiar reason, this test asks some of the same questions. Afterward, the psy- chologist informs you that you seem defensive, for you scored high in “repressiveness.” “How could this be?” you wonder. “The other psychologist said such nice things about me.” It could be because all these labels describe the same set of responses (a tendency to say nice things about oneself and not to acknowl- edge problems). Shall we call it high self-esteem or defensive- ness? The label reflects the judgment.

Labeling. Value judgments, then, are often hidden within our social- psychological language—but that is also true of everyday language:

• Whether we label a quiet child as “bashful” on “cautious,” as “holding back” or as “an observer,” conveys a judgment.

Hidden (and not-so-hidden) values seep into psycho- logical advice. They permeate popular psychology books that offer guidance on living and loving.

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• Whether we label someone engaged in guerrilla warfare a “terrorist” or a “freedom fi ghter” depends on our view of the cause.

• Whether we view wartime civilian deaths as “the loss of innocent lives” or as “collateral damage” affects our acceptance of such.

• Whether we call public assistance “welfare” or “aid to the needy” refl ects our political views.

• When “they” exalt their country and people, it’s nationalism; when “we” do it, it’s patriotism.

• Whether someone involved in an extramarital affair is practicing “open marriage” or “adultery” depends on one’s personal values.

• “Brainwashing” is social infl uence we do not approve of. • “Perversions” are sex acts we do not practice. • Remarks about “ambitious” men and “aggressive” women convey a

hidden message.

As these examples indicate, values lie hidden within our cultural definitions of mental health, our psychological advice for living, our concepts, and our psycho- logical labels. Throughout this book I will call your attention to additional examples of hidden values. The point is never that the implicit values are necessarily bad. The point is that scientific interpretation, even at the level of labeling phenomena, is a human activity. It is therefore natural and inevitable that prior beliefs and values will influence what social psychologists think and write.

Should we dismiss science because it has its subjective side? Quite the contrary: The realization that human thinking always involves interpretation is precisely why we need researchers with varying biases to undertake scientific analysis. By constantly checking our beliefs against the facts, as best we know them, we check and restrain our biases. Systematic observation and experimentation help us clean the lens through which we see reality.

• Social psychologists’ values penetrate their work in obvious ways, such as their choice of research topics and the types of people who are attracted to various fields of study.

• They also do this in subtler ways, such as their hid- den assumptions when forming concepts, choosing labels, and giving advice.

• This penetration of values into science is not a rea- son to fault social psychology or any other science. That human thinking is seldom dispassionate is precisely why we need systematic observation and experimentation if we are to check our cherished ideas against reality.

Summing Up: Social Psychology and Human Values

I Knew It All Along: Is Social Psychology Simply Common Sense? Do social psychology’s theories provide new insight into the human condition? Or do they only describe the obvious?

Many of the conclusions presented in this book may have already occurred to you, for social psychological phenomena are all around you. We constantly observe people thinking about, influencing, and relating to one another. It pays to discern what a facial expression predicts, how to get someone to do something, or whether to regard another as friend or foe. For centuries, philosophers, novelists, and poets have observed and commented on social behavior.

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Does this mean that social psychology is just common sense in fancy words? Social psychology faces two contradictory criticisms: first, that it is trivial because it documents the obvious; second, that it is dangerous because its findings could be used to manipulate people.

We will explore the second criticism in Chapter 7. For the moment, let’s examine the first objection.

Do social psychology and the other social sciences simply formalize what any amateur already knows intuitively? Writer Cullen Murphy (1990) took that view: “Day after day social scientists go out into the world. Day after day they discover that people’s behavior is pretty much what you’d expect.” Nearly a half-century earlier, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1949), reacted with similar scorn to social scientists’ studies of American World War II soldiers. Sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld (1949) reviewed those studies and offered a sample with interpretive comments, a few of which I paraphrase:

1. Better-educated soldiers suffered more adjustment problems than did less- educated soldiers. (Intellectuals were less prepared for battle stresses than street-smart people.)

2. Southern soldiers coped better with the hot South Sea Island climate than did Northern soldiers. (Southerners are more accustomed to hot weather.)

3. White privates were more eager for promotion than were Black privates. (Years of oppression take a toll on achievement motivation.)

4. Southern Blacks preferred Southern to Northern White officers. (Southern officers were more experienced and skilled in interacting with Blacks.)

As you read those findings, did you agree that they were basically common sense? If so, you may be surprised to learn that Lazarsfeld went on to say, “Every one of these statements is the direct opposite of what was actually found.” In reality, the studies found that less-educated soldiers adapted more poorly. Southerners were not more likely than northerners to adjust to a tropical climate. Blacks were more eager than Whites for promotion, and so forth. “If we had mentioned the actual results of the investigation first [as Schlesinger experienced], the reader would have labeled these ‘obvious’ also.”

One problem with common sense is that we invoke it after we know the facts. Events are far more “obvious” and predictable in hindsight than beforehand. Exper- iments reveal that when people learn the outcome of an experiment, that outcome suddenly seems unsurprising—certainly less surprising than it is to people who are simply told about the experimental procedure and the possible outcomes (Slovic & Fischhoff, 1977).

Likewise, in everyday life we often do not expect something to happen until it does. Then we suddenly see clearly the forces that brought the event about and feel unsurprised. Moreover, we may also misremember our earlier view (Blank & others, 2008). Errors in judging the future’s foreseeability and in remember- ing our past combine to create hindsight bias (also called the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon ).

Thus, after elections or stock market shifts, most commentators find the turn of events unsurprising: “The market was due for a correction.” After the widespread flooding in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it seemed obvi- ous that public officials should have anticipated the situation: Studies of the levees’ vulnerability had been done. Many residents did not own cars and were too poor to afford transportation and lodging out of town. Meteorologic assessment of the storm’s severity clearly predicted an urgent need to put security and relief supplies in place. As the Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard put it, “Life is lived forwards, but understood backwards.”

If hindsight bias is pervasive, you may now be feeling that you already knew about this phenomenon. Indeed, almost any conceivable result of a psychological experiment can seem like common sense— after you know the result.

hindsight bias The tendency to exaggerate, after learning an outcome, one’s ability to have foreseen how something turned out. Also known as the I-knew-it- all-along phenomenon.

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You can demonstrate the phenomenon yourself. Take a group of people and tell half of them one psychological finding and the other half the opposite result. For example, tell half as follows:

Social psychologists have found that, whether choosing friends or falling in love, we are most attracted to people whose traits are different from our own. There seems to be wisdom in the old saying “Opposites attract.”

Tell the other half:

Social psychologists have found that, whether choosing friends or falling in love, we are most attracted to people whose traits are similar to our own. There seems to be wisdom in the old saying “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Ask the people first to explain the result. Then ask them to say whether it is “sur- prising” or “not surprising.” Virtually all will find a good explanation for which- ever result they were given and will say it is “not surprising.”

Indeed, we can draw on our stockpile of proverbs to make almost any result seem to make sense. If a social psychologist reports that separation intensifies romantic attraction, John Q. Public responds, “You get paid for this? Everybody knows that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’” Should it turn out that separation weakens attraction, John will say, “My grandmother could have told you, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’”

Karl Teigen (1986) must have had a few chuckles when he asked University of Leicester (England) students to evaluate actual proverbs and their opposites. When given the proverb “Fear is stronger than love,” most rated it as true. But so did stu- dents who were given its reversed form, “Love is stronger than fear.” Likewise, the genuine proverb “He that is fallen cannot help him who is down” was rated highly; but so too was “He that is fallen can help him who is down.” My favorites, however, were two highly rated proverbs: “Wise men make proverbs and fools repeat them” (authentic) and its made-up counterpart, “Fools make proverbs and wise men repeat them.” For more dueling proverbs, see “Focus On: I Knew It All Along.”

The hindsight bias cre- ates a problem for many psychology students. Some- times results are genuinely surprising (for example, that Olympic bronze medal- ists take more joy in their achievement than do sil- ver medalists). More often, when you read the results of experiments in your text- books, the material seems easy, even obvious. When you later take a multiple- choice test on which you must choose among sev- eral plausible conclusions, the task may become sur- prisingly difficult. “I don’t know what happened,” the befuddled student later moans. “I thought I knew the material.”

In hindsight, events seem obvious and predictable.

Is it more true that . . . Too many cooks spoil the broth. The pen is mightier than the sword. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Blood is thicker than water. He who hesitates is lost. Forewarned is forearmed.

Or that . . . Two heads are better than one. Actions speak louder than words. You’re never too old to learn.

Many kinfolk, few friends. Look before you leap. Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.

Cullen Murphy (1990), managing editor of the Atlantic, faulted “sociology, psychol- ogy, and other social sciences for too often merely discerning the obvious or confirm- ing the commonplace.” His own casual survey of social science findings “turned up no ideas or conclusions that can’t be found in Bartlett’s or any other encyclopedia of quotations.” Nevertheless, to sift through competing sayings, we need research. Consider some dueling proverbs:

I Knew It All Along focus


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Confirming Pages

16 Chapter 1 Introducing Social Psychology

The I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon can have unfortunate consequences. It is conducive to arrogance—an overestimation of our own intellectual powers. More- over, because outcomes seem as if they should have been foreseeable, we are more likely to blame decision makers for what are in retrospect “obvious” bad choices than to praise them for good choices, which also seem “obvious.”

Starting after the morning of 9/11 and working backward, signals pointing to the impending disaster seemed obvious. A U.S. Senate investigative report listed the missed or misinterpreted clues (Gladwell, 2003), which included the follow- ing. The CIA knew that al Qaeda operatives had entered the country. An FBI agent sent a memo to headquarters that began by warning “the Bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civilian aviation universities and colleges.” The FBI ignored that accurate warning and failed to relate it to other reports that terrorists were planning to use planes as weapons. The president received a daily briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States” and stayed on holiday. “The dumb fools!” it seemed to hindsight critics. “Why couldn’t they con- nect the dots?”

But what seems clear in hindsight is seldom clear on the front side of history. The intelligence community is overwhelmed with “noise”—piles of useless infor- mation surrounding the rare shreds of useful information. Analysts must therefore be selective in deciding which to pursue, and only when a lead is pursued does it stand a chance of being connected to another lead. In the six years before 9/11, the FBI’s counterterrorism unit could never have pursued all 68,000 uninvestigated leads. In hindsight, the few useful ones are now obvious.

In the aftermath of the 2008 world financial crisis, it seemed obvious that govern- ment regulators should have placed safeguards against the ill-fated bank lending practices. But what was obvious in hindsight was unforeseen by the chief American regulator, Alan Greenspan, who found himself “in a state of shocked disbelief” at the economic collapse.

We sometimes blame ourselves for “stupid mistakes”—perhaps for not having handled a person or a situation better. Looking back, we see how we should have handled it. “I should have known how busy I would be at the semester’s end and started that paper earlier.” But sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. We forget that what is obvious to us now was not nearly so obvious at the time.

Physicians who are told both a patient’s symptoms and the cause of death (as determined by autopsy) sometimes wonder how an incorrect diagnosis could have been made. Other physicians, given only the symptoms, don’t find the di – agnosis nearly so obvious (Dawson & others, 1988). Would juries be slower to as – sume malpractice if they were forced to take a foresight rather than a hindsight perspective?

What do we conclude—that common sense is usually wrong? Sometimes it is. At other times, conventional wisdom is right—or it falls on both sides of an issue: Does happiness come from knowing the truth, or from preserving illusions? From being with others, or from living in peaceful solitude? Opinions are a dime a dozen. No matter what we find, there will be someone who foresaw it. (Mark Twain jested that Adam was the only person who, when saying a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before.) But which of the many competing ideas best fit reality? Research can specify the circumstances under which a common-sense truism is valid.

The point is not that common sense is predictably wrong. Rather, common sense usually is right— after the fact. We therefore easily deceive ourselves into thinking that we know and knew more than we do and did. And that is precisely why we need science to help us sift reality from illusion and genuine predictions from easy hindsight.

“It is easy to be wise after the event.”



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