Social Psychology Social Beliefs and Judgments Humans

Social Psychology

Social Beliefs and Judgments

Humans are social beings that automatically make assumptions and judgments based on the observable behavior of others. When walking down a street in the downtown area, I have witnessed homeless individuals begging for money or food. Although empathy arises when I see this, I also unintentionally attempt to explain their behavior by either blaming it on the consumption of drugs or to a lack of family support. I also make personal judgments on these individuals without knowing in actuality what this person's life has been up to this point. All of these mind processes are a part of social psychology.

This chapter explains the main theories behind social beliefs. Myers (2012) introduces attribution theory as the way that people explain other people's behaviors. Without having any proof or any contextual evidence proving anything, individuals explain the behavior of others through either dispositional attribution, which is blaming the person themselves for their situation, or through situational attribution which is blaming the person's environment for their behavior (Myers, 2012). In terms of judgment, the theory of intuitive judgments would explain my aforementioned behavior. My controlled, or conscious, thinking allowed me to come up with explanations for the homeless individual's behavior, while my automatic processing made me feel an automatic empathy and sadness for the individuals (Myers, 2012).

Chapter 4: Behaviors and Attitudes

Individuals sometimes get caught in situations that they never intended on being a part of in the first place. During a visit to a supermarket, I encountered an elderly woman who needed assistance holding the door open so that she could get her groceries through with her cart. After holding the door for her and making that initial contact, the elderly woman then asked me to help her put her groceries in her car for her. A small gesture such as holding the door for her gave her enough confidence to ask me for an even bigger favor and made me feel obligated since I had already held the door for her.

The event described previously is explained through the social behavioral theory of the foot-in-the-door phenomenon (Myers, 2012). This theory explains why individuals agree to do something small, but then end up agreeing to an even bigger notion without really realizing it (Myers, 2012). It is used everywhere from car sales to credit card deals. Although the individual knows that they are currently in a situation where they can get out, the majority of individuals will actually still agree to the bigger task being asked. This correlates greatly with another behavioral theory that explains one's attitudes. Cognitive dissonance theory explains how individuals justify their actions to themselves (Myers, 2012). This occurs mostly when there are two conflicting alternatives, and in choosing one, people go through a mental process where they have to justify to themselves why one choice is better than the other.

Chapter 7: Persuasion:

The act of controlling other people's behaviors is a social psychology phenomenon called persuasion. When watching participants of the most recent presidential campaign, I saw them convince people to vote for their preferred candidates in a variety of ways. They reiterated over and over again the stands, positions, and arguments that made their candidate more favorable than the others. Some individuals seemed to have better luck than others in changing people's mind. The most successful people had solid arguments and a response to every question that was thrown at them, while other successful individuals tended to be more attractive and therefore had more people encounter them. Either way, their tactic for persuasion contributed heavily to the presidential election.

The two types of persuasion techniques introduced were the central route and the peripheral route (Myers, 2012). The central route of persuasion is when individuals use facts and solid arguments to back up their position (Myers, 2012). This was seen previously in the participants' arguments about why their candidate would be the better choice over the other. The peripheral route of persuasion however, is more superficial. It is based on the idea that people will be more convinced or swayed a particular direction because of the presenter's attractiveness (Myers, 2012). Although this is not to say that their arguments are not as good as the individual using the central route of persuasion, but their personal image helps in attracting more people's attention to begin with.

Chapter 8: Group Influence

Throughout adolescence and young adulthood, individuals are heavily influenced by the groups that they are a part of. In high school, I have participated in group projects that have gone really well, while others not so much. One example was working in a group that lacked motivation. They did not want to work together and put minimal effort because of the assumption that someone else in the group would pick up everyone's slack. However, there was also an example of when I participated in a group where we all felt passionate about the issue at hand and we fed off of each other's excitement to the point that we became slightly obsessive about the issue being dealt with.

These forms of groupthink can be explained through the social psychological theories of social facilitation and social loafing. Social facilitation explains the behavior of members of a group that work with each other and become stronger about an issue when together (Myers, 2012). Being around others just as passionate about an issue allows one's own passion to shine. The example mentioned previously also has a mix of deindividuation where as members of a group, we got lost in passion for the issue that we at times could not separate our own thoughts from that of the project (Myers, 2012). However, social loafing is the complete opposite and it is when individuals in a group do nothing because of the expectation that another member will do the extra work (Myers, 2012).

Chapter 9: Prejudice

Being politically correct in today's diverse society is something that does not come easy to many individuals. I have witnessed the country-wide debate on same-sex marriage. This tends to be a touchy topic with many individuals who are too prejudiced to see past the stereotypes and the miscategorization of couples who are just like any heterosexual couple. The idea of two men or two women coming together in marriage and forming a family goes against what everyone has been used to. This change in society causes internal turmoil in individuals who are morally opposed to this issue, resulting in acts of prejudice and misinterpretation of their relationships.

This chapter explains the phenomenon of prejudice. It also made it clear that it is nearly impossible to make prejudice go away completely. The situation mentioned earlier stems from the realistic group conflict theory. This theory states that every group is competing for resources and prejudice stems from the belief that anything different from what one is used to is viewed as a threat (Myers, 2012). In the case of same-sex marriage, the threat is the sanctuary of marriage. The act of allowing just anyone to marry goes against everything that has been indoctrinated into society for hundreds of years. Social identity theory also comes into play in this situation. Myers (2012) explains that everyone views people like themselves as "we," while others that are different, are viewed as "them," creating a sense of separation that eventually leads to prejudice.

Chapter 10: Aggression

Every now and then while driving, road rage tends to take over and my usual calm nature is replaced with uncontrollable rage. It feels as if the other person is completely in the wrong and that my feelings are what are important in that very moment. This aggression can at times either be exacerbated if my friends are in the car with me, since they too tend to get road rage while I'm driving, or having other people in the car, such as children can limit my aggression so as not to display or model inappropriate behavior in front of them. In either situation, it is my aggression that comes forth as a result of a particular action.

Social learning theory can best describe my reaction in this situation. Growing up viewing other individuals attack other drivers verbally while driving has modeled a behavior that I choose to believe is acceptable because it is what I have been exposed to. This is exactly what social learning theory is. As Myers (2012) explains this, this theory depicts that any act that is being observed is also being learned and could be modeled by others. Aggression is also the result of the rewards that are given as a result of this action. When one becomes angry at another person and gets more aggressive the reward arrives in the backing off of the other person. This as a result encourages the individual who is displaying the aggression to continue to do so since they are achieving their desired results (Myers, 2012).

Chapter 11: Attraction

Everyone has a group of friends that they…