9.00SC | Fall 2011 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Psychology

Social Psychology I

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Session Overview

What is social psychology? What is the relationship between attitude and behavior? In this lesson, we will study how the people around us influence our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and learn “how funny we are as humans in our desire to fit in.” We also will go over two of the most famous experiments in psychology: the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Obedience Experiment. 

Keywords: dispositional versus situational attribution, cognitive busyness, Stanford Prison Experiment, Milgram Obedience Experiment, Pfc. England, conformity, compliance, obedience, the bystander effect

A crowd demonstrating a wide range of social behavior. (Image by Sreejith K on Flickr. License: CC-BY.)

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Check Yourself

Explain conformity and obedience. What are the two famous experiments that demonstrated conformity and obedience?

Sample answer

Conformity is when someone changes beliefs or behavior due to how other people around them are behaving. This may be due to believing the other people’s beliefs and behavior are more accurate or appropriate, or it may be due to wanting to be liked by others. Asch’s line experimented conformity by having confederates give incorrect answers about the comparable length of two lines. When confederates gave the wrong answer, participants were more likely to conform and give an obviously incorrect answer.

Obedience is when people conform to those in authority. Obedience does not need to occur due to believing a person’s actions are correct. Obedience is demonstrated in Milgram’s shock experiment. People obeyed the experimenter and continue to increase the strength of an electric shock given to another participant to the point of extreme pain. There was actually no shock or other participant.

Further Study

These optional resources are provided for students that wish to explore this topic more fully.

Supplemental textbook Principles of Social Psychology (PDF - 6.5MB) Creative Commons-licensed online textbook
Interactive map World Map of Hofstede’s Individualism Scores Interactive map showing worldwide individualism scores mentioned in lecture
Textbook supplement Study materials for Chapter 16, “Social Psychology: Meeting of the Minds” in Study Site for Psychology in Context, 3/e (Pearson Education, 2007) Practice test questions, flashcards, and media for a related textbook by Kosslyn & Rosenberg

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Fall 2011
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