Lecture 01 - Social Psych

Theoretical Overview


I. Social Learning Theory (Adapted from Bandura, 1971)

1. Overview

A. Various personality doctrines (e.g. Freudian) said behavior was impelled by inner forces in the forms of drives, needs, and impulses, often operating below the level of the consciousness. Since the principal causes of behavior resided in forces within the individual, that is where one looked for explanation's of human's actions.

The inner determinants were inferred from the behavior they caused, resulting in pseudo explanations. A hostile impulse was deduced from hostile behavior. Reasoning was circular. Most importantly, there was no predictive power to these approaches.

B. Then, researchers repeatedly demonstrated that response patterns, generally attributed to underlying forces, could be induced, eliminated, and reinstated simply by varying external sources of influence. This led to the belief that the causes of the behavior are found not in the organism but in environmental forces. (Extreme behaviorist position.)

People learn through the application of reinforcement. Have stimulus, response, reinforcement.

2. How we learn

A. Direct experience. People must deal with situations - some responses are more successful than others. Differential reinforcement causes successful activities to be selected while ineffectual ones are discarded.

1. Informative function of reinforcement - people receive informative feedback, so they develop hypotheses about the types of behavior most likely to succeed. These hypotheses serve as guidelines for future actions. Accurate hypotheses are rewarded with success, inaccurate ones with failure. Hence, reinforcement informs people what they have to do to succeed.

2. Motivational function - Because of prior experiences, people come to expect that certain actions will gain them outcomes they value, while other actions will produce undesirable results. Actions are regulated by anticipated consequences. That is, anticipated future consequences can influence you in much the same way that current consequences can.

3. Reinforcement, though, is somewhat inefficient. It is a lot easier if we have some way of knowing what it is we are supposed to be doing.

B. Learning through modeling. Most of the behaviors that people display are learned, either deliberately or inadvertently, through the influence of example, i.e. Modeling. Why is modeling good?

Mistakes can be costly or dangerous. For example, aggression; life-threatening behaviors. EX: How would you learn speech without a model? You could give rewards for randomly-generated sounds that happened to be right - but that would take forever.

How and why does modeling work?

1. Must first gain attention. Simply exposing people to models does not mean they will pay attention to them. Attention is affected by association (how close and how often do you interact), interpersonal attraction, etc.

2. Must have the ability - amount of observational learning that a person can exhibit behaviorally depends on whether or not he has acquired the component skills. Further complicating things is the fact that it is difficult to see how you yourself are responding. (e.g. what's wrong with our golf swing?)

3. Reinforcement - a person can acquire, retain, and possess the capabilities for successful execution of modeled behavior, but the learning may rarely be activated into overt performance if it is negatively sanctioned.

C. Types of reinforcement.

1. Direct. Directly receive rewards and punishments for our actions.

2. Also have vicarious reinforcement - we see how others act, and we see how they are rewarded or punished. V.R. is informative (we find out what will be approved or disapproved). People will generally do the things they have seen well-received and avoid those things they have seen punished. V.R. can also motivate us because we want to be rewarded in the same way (or avoid punishment).

Of course, if actions were determined solely by external rewards and punishments (either observed or experienced) people would behave like weathervanes to conform to the whims of others. They'd act like segregationists with a racial bigot, John Birchers with a zealous bircher, etc. How can learning theory explain those who show the courage of their convictions, even when they receive no support for their actions???

3. The notion that behavior is controlled by its consequences does not mean that actions are at the mercy of situational influences. We can also have self-reinforcement. Behavior is extensively self-regulated by self-produced consequences for one's own actions. We often push ourself further than is required by any external force.

Studies show that people tend to adopt standards of self-reinforcement displayed by exemplary models, they evaluate their own performance relative to that standard, and then they serve as their own reinforcing agents.

What maintains self-reinforcement systems?

1. Self-reinforcement systems can be externally reinforced, as you draw praise from those you respect.

3. Other important points.

A. Learning does not have to be correct. Disorders can arise from inappropriate stimulus control. Events that happen to occur in the context of traumatic experiences but are in no way causally related to them can sometimes take on aversive properties and produce inappropriate generalization of anxiety reactions. EX:

"Dear Abby,

My friend fixed me up with a blind date and I should have known the minute he showed up in a bow tie that he couldn't be trusted. I fell for him like a rock. He got me to love him on purpose and then lied to me and cheated on me. Every time I go with a man who wears a bow tie, the same thing happens. I think girls should be warned about men who wear bow ties.

Against Bow Ties"

B. Some offshoots:

1. Behavior modification

2. Programmed instruction

C. Some people object to learning theory and its applications on the grounds that desired activities should be performed for their own sake. Fear that people will become unresponsive without payoffs. Bandura's response:

"The fact that behavior is controlled by its consequences is not a phenomena created by behavioral scientists, any more than physicists are responsible for the laws of gravity...A social commentator might express moral indignation over gravitational control of behavior and denounce it as dehumanizing and degrading. A poetic view of man might be more flattering but it would in no way reduce the likelihood that people will continue to fall should they fling themselves off heights. The major purpose of psychological science is not to romanticize human behavior, but rather to understand it."

4. Problems

A. Doesn't account for creativity, innovation

B. Doesn't explain differential responses to same stimuli.

II. Cognitive theory. (Adapted from Handbook of Social Psychology, ch. 4, "The cognitive perspective in social psychology"). Note that this is more of a perspective than a theory; several theories employ the cognitive perspective.

A. Learning theory is often written as S-R. It tends to ignore the role of the organism. Today, O-S-O-R is more widely accepted. Internal representations mediate between the stimulus and its behavioral consequences. Further, internal states not only mediate between the stimuli and the response (the 2nd O) they also determine what stimuli are attended to and which are ignored. Organism decides what is attended to. Memory, perception, reasoning, other mental processes affect behavior. There is now less interest in the role of the stimuli and more interest in the role of the organism.

B. Research has shown that perceivers to not attend to all available information and are not particularly adept at evaluating, in an impartial manner, the independent contributions of persons and situations to the observed effects. People are selective in what they notice, learn, remember, or infer from any situation. Systematic errors imply systematic origins - there must be cognitive structures.

Cognitive structures - any organization of cognitions. Organizations of conceptually-related representations of objects, situations, events and actions. Cognitive structures are derived from past experience. They simplify where there is too much, making things manageable.

C. Types of cognitive structures

1. Schema - Subjective theory of how the world operates. These theories are derived from generalizing across one's experiences about how the social world operates. EX:

Bill likes Norman, and Norman likes Glen. What is the probability that Bill likes Glen? Studies show that most people think liking is transitive.

2. Prototype - or stereotype - features we associate with members of a category. EX: Jocks, criminals, business people.

3. Script - organized bundle of expectations about event sequence. Stereotype sequence of events such as eating in a restaurant, visiting a doctor.

EX: People were told Mary started the car, drank her coffee, got up, and put on her coat. When asked to recall these events, subjects did so in the usual scripted order.

D. Effect of schemas on information processing.

1. Affect acquisition of info - what we way attention to, how we encode and organize it. EX:

"The procedure is quite simple. First, you arrange things into different groups. Of course, one pile may be sufficient, depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else because of lack of facilities, that is the next step; otherwise you are pretty well set."

Subject who were given the idea of washing clothes beforehand had no difficulty understanding the above, and later they recalled more propositions from it than did subjects who read it without the initial organizing idea.

EX: Subjects watched a videotape of 2 people exploring a room in a house talking about drug use, the police, and theft. Subjects were given one of 3 schemas beforehand: two burglars, 2 students waiting for a friend, two friends attempting to conceal illegal drugs. Subjects given the 2 burglars schema remembered more theft relevant comments than subjects in the other 2 conditions.

2. Affect retention of info. Inconsistent or irrelevant info tends to be forgotten, unless extremely inconsistent.

3. Provide interpretive framework - affect evaluations, judgments, predictions, inferences. Person impressions and judgments are very often influenced by the schemas that were active when information about an individual was initially present.

EX: Suppose you are told someone is a mental patient. If the person is shy or withdrawn, the feature of shyness is likely to be seen as a characteristic of the mental illness.

EX: White subjects interpreted the same event differently when the aggressor was black than when he was white. The same shove was seen as violent when the shover was black, and as playing around when the shover was white.

EX: Misogyny and the college girl - subjects read identical articles, with half thinking the author was male, the other half thinking it was female. Male authors were judged more competent.

E. Cognitive biases, errors. We'll cover many of these in more depth later.

a. We often do not know why we do what we do - but we will insist the way we feel now is the way we have always felt. Why? Like to be consistent. Can also say it is rational to think that views have not changed - if you don't remember what your attitudes were, the most rational thing is to assume they were the same as they are now.

b. Preconceptions govern our interpretations and memories. Affect what we pay attention to and how we interpret it. Cognitive schemas operate. One of the functions of attitudes is to simplify things, we can't absorb everything.

c. Overconfidence - we overestimate the accuracy of our judgments. Easier to imagine why we're right than wrong - and we tend to seek out information that confirms our beliefs.

d. vividness - Subjects ignore statistical information in favor of a single highly vivid instance. Anecdotes are disproportionately effective, carry more weight than statistical information. You might see that a particular car is highly rated by a consumer organization. Yet you might hear from your neighbor that she would not buy such a car because her brother in law had all sorts of problems with it, and then decide not to buy the car. Or, might read great reviews of a movie, but not go to see it because your roommate thought it was terrible.

e. illusion of control - think things are correlated when they aren't, think we can control events which are beyond our control. Tend to notice confirming evidence and not notice other facts.

EX: Gamblers think they have control over the dice. People have more confidence in lottery numbers they pick themselves.

f. Perseverance - beliefs persist even when information is shown to be wrong. In one experiment, subjects were asked to perform a task on which they supposedly succeeded or failed. Later, they were told that evaluation was impossible, and that the information they received about their own performance was contrived. When asked how they would have done on the task if there were some way of evaluating it, subjects persevered in their original belief, accepting the prior data as valid and rejecting the subsequent discounting.

III. Symbolic interactionism. (Adapted from Fields; Self and Society, 4th edition, by John Hewitt; Symbolic interaction: A reader in social psychology, 2nd edition)

A. 3 general assumptions

1. People act towards objects according to the meanings they assign to them.

2. Meanings arise out of social interaction

3. Meanings are handled and modified through an interpretative process used by the individual. The situation affects derived meanings.

B. George Herbert Mead's SI.

1. All group life involves cooperative behavior. But for animals, cooperative behavior is physiologically determined. Patterns of association never change. The diversity of patterns of human group life makes it clear human behavior is not just physiologically determined.

2. Animals react instinctively to each other. Human beings respond to one another on the basis of the intentions or meanings of gestures. Gestures are symbols to be interpreted; in the imaginations of the participants, it stands for the entire act.

A symbol is a sign - typically a word or combination of words - that means approximately the same thing to all members of the community. Symbols enhance the capacity to communicate and make humankind a social species.

Symbols make it possible to imagine and respond to things not physically present. For example, if my car isn't working, I can imagine alternative courses of action, involving things not currently in my possession.

3. In order to engage in group behavior, human beings must have consensus on the meaning of gestures. Gestures with shared, common meaning are "significant symbols". EX: The words "open the window" have a shared meaning.

4. Human beings imagine each other's responses - we engage in role-taking. EX: I imagine students will take notes when I lecture.

5. Human beings possess a "self". Individuals can act socially toward themselves, just as toward others. Can blame, praise, encourage oneself. You can do this by taking the role of others - can view yourself as others view you. To do this, we must know the expectations and orientations of the other.

6. Self-development goes through 3 stages.

a. Imitation stage. Infant does meaningless imitation, e.g. reads the newspaper. Does things without knowing why.

b. Play stage. Play at roles - Mother, fireman, teacher. Child "acts back" toward itself - refers to itself in the third person. E.g. "John wants...John is a bad boy". Child is taking the role of others. Configuration of roles is unstable, pass from one role to the next.

c. Game stage. This title is based on an analogy with baseball. In time, the child finds himself in situations where he must take a number of roles simultaneously - have to meet the expectations of several people simultaneously. As in baseball, must visualize the intentions and expectations of several players. Come up with a composite role, called the generalized other. This is a generalized role or standpoint from which he views himself and his behavior. Instead of just responding to each situation, you act in accordance with a generalized set of expectations and definitions that have been internalized.

7. "I" = impulsive tendencies of individuals

p. 54: "In Mead's analysis, there is a spontaneous, biological component to the self, a component he designated as the I. While there has been considerable disagreement about what Mead meant by this term, it seems clear that one of his intentions was to leave open the possibility that social and cultural factors could not account for everything in behavior. There seems to be a spontaneous, unsocialized, and impulsive element in our initial responses to many situations...How we respond to such urges is, of course, a matter shaped by our culture...[Culture and biology] are interactive, not only in the evolution of our species but in our day-to-day conduct."

"Me" = meanings common to the group; it is the generalized other and some particular other.

In the case of lower animals, biological makeup channels impulses toward appropriate actions. With humans, the mere presence of an impulse leads to nothing but mere random, unorganized activity. This is most clearly seen in the behavior of infants. Until the defining actions of others set up goals for it, the human infant's behavior is unchannelled. Common meanings direct, organize, and construct activities.

The I gives propulsion and the Me gives direction to acts.

Example of I and Me:

"Suppose a person has been invited to a party, but would really prefer to spend a quiet evening at home. 'If I go', she might say to herself, 'I won't have a good time...But if I don't go, I'll hurt his feelings. Well, maybe he'll understand if I explain that I'm tired. No, he'll remember that I also refused an invitation last week. Perhaps I can go but not stay long...' In this internal dialogue we see the alternation between I and Me that is the self as process. The person imagines how she will feel if she goes to a party, then imagines herself refusing to go, and then imagines various alternative responses and the way in which her inviter might respond to them...This is the essence of the self as process. There is an impulse to act, imagined alternative actions, and some eventual resolution of the dialogue into some overt course of action....

"This ongoing dialogue has a product or result that we call the 'self as object'. Each time we imagine ourselves doing something...we are acting toward ourselves as objects...

"One of the most common misconceptions of the self is to think of it as something concrete and tangible...For example, a common misconception of I and Me is to see these as structures somehow located within the body or mind...They are not. These words designate processes and objects, not things or structures. I and Me are merely convenient words for designating the two phases of a process, and 'self' is the word we use to label the process as a whole as well as the object which this process creates.

[The following relate to Self and Social Control:]

"It is the possession of self that makes it possible for human beings to control their own conduct. We can select the acts in which we will engage because we can imagine ourselves engaging in them and because we can imagine the social responses they will earn...Yet it is the possession of self that also makes human beings susceptible to social controls in a distinctly human fashion...We have choices among various lines of conduct because we participate in a society that has developed and sustained a culture that makes these choices available. Yet there are also limits on what we can choose to do. If we can act toward ourselves as objects, it is only from the vantage points afforded us by society and culture...Culture makes available to us a fairly restricted range of acts from which we can choose...Even when we can imagine a particular act, cultural definitions may lead us to decide against such an act...We want to feel positively about ourselves, to value what we are. Since culture provides the members of society with value preference - that is, it defines what is good and what is not - it follows that one of the ways social control operates is by linking selves to social preferences. If strength and agility are important in a culture, these preferences constrain the actions of people because they seek to behave in ways that demonstrate strength and agility. Thus, cultural preferences are translated into individual acts through the medium of the self and our efforts to enhance it...Finally, we can say that the self incorporates the moral standards of the society as a whole or of that part of the society which one is a member [through the generalized other - see below].

4. Generalized other.

pp. 129-130. "In any situation, the person attends to a set of generalized expectations as well as to the expectations of those others actually present. In any particular situation, the person attends not just to his or her position in that network of roles that mark that occasion, but also to 'position' more generally in the structure of the society as a whole, which transcends the particular situation...The idea that people imagine themselves from such a larger perspective may seem somewhat strange. It is not difficult to see that specific other persons have a 'perspective,' for they have specific roles in relation to us that give them a position from which to view us and which we can imagine and thus be able to take into account in our conduct. But what about a group, a community, or even a whole society? How can it have a 'perspective'?

"The individual who is a member of a group has a sense of its overall organization and goals. If the group is a family, for example, the person knows who is a member and who is not, has ideas about what these people collectively expect, and has ideas about what the family will collectively tolerate and what it will not. The group exists as something the individual thinks about and imagines as a whole, even though the person experiences the group through interaction with specific people. Our imaginations of such groups imbues them with solidity - and with perspectives and expectations. This tendency is reflected in everyday speech, as when we say, for example, that 'my family expects me to succeed' or that 'in our family children are expected to be seen but not heard'...

"We can thus say the person frequently experiences self from the broader standpoint of some larger group or social unit. This social unit functions much as an 'other' in the person's experience...Hence, the generalized other really consists of the commonly shared and presumably deeply felt expectations, sentiments, values, and ideas of which members of the social unit are aware and in relation to which they judge themselves and one another. Brought within the person, the generalized other serves as a kind of conscience, a reminder of those expectations and ideas that are most deeply felt by other members."

pp. 95-96: "To say that we take the role of the generalized other with respect to our own conduct is not to say we always do as it suggests...Neither moral precepts nor the responses of specific others totally control our conduct...Human beings are capable of novel and creative behavior, of conduct that does not simply violate the expectations of others or the principles of the generalized other, but goes beyond them. Our culture does not so restrict our conduct that the only choices open to us are to accept or violate its precepts. Indeed, we can use our symbolic capacity to invent new ways of doing things, new solutions to old problems, even new moral precepts...We can innovate, in part, because we can imagine ourselves doing things in new ways."

8. Implications of selfhood. The possession of self makes the individual a society in miniature. Can engage in interaction with oneself just as two or more individuals might. Can come to view yourself in a new way, bringing about changes in himself. Individual is not just a passive agent. You are not just subject to all impulses and stimuli directly affecting behavior; because of the self, you can check, guide, and organize behavior.

9. All behavior involves selective attention and perception. Accept some stimuli and reject others. Individual determines the nature of his environment. Further, humans do not just respond in predetermined ways. Can choose among possible responses. Consequences can be imaginatively "tried out" in advance. Mead refers to the process of doing so as the Mind.) By taking the role of the other, we can arouse in ourselves the responses we call out in others.

10. We don't have to give in to what others want. We can act on the basis of self-interest. We might also misunderstand others. Social controls work most of the time, but by no means perfectly. Creativity, novelty and conflict are all possible.

C. Processual SI - Blumer.

1. Humans respond on the basis of symbolic meanings - meanings not inherent in the objects themselves - individuals act on the basis of their interpretations.

2. Individual becomes humanized through interaction with others. Develop empathetic understanding through interaction with others.

3. Human society is most usefully conceived as consisting of people in interaction - process is stressed, rather than the autonomy of society.

4. Human beings are active in shaping own behavior - they select stimuli, interpret them, etc.

5. Consciousness (thinking) involves interaction with oneself.

KEY CONCEPTS HERE: Generalized other, the self. Imitation stage, play stage, game stage.

6. Humans construct behavior during course of interaction - behavior is emergent, a function of interactions.

7. To understand human conduct must understand covert behavior - need sympathetic introspection.

8. Role definitions don't determine behavior - individual defines situation, develops own course of action

Processual SI tends to be anti-quantitative. It is usually seen as incompatible with role theory - role theory ignores the individual's own definitions of his or her own role.

D. Structural SI - Kuhn

1. Self is more stable - it is always with you. It emerges out of social interaction but also shapes and constrains interactions with others.

2. Distinguishes between consensual (black, white, male, female) and subconsensual categories.

3. Individuals strive to be certain types of people - have self-expectations, want identity confirmation.

4. Behavior is determined by self-definition, role defn. of others.

This approach is more quantitatively oriented.

E. Criticisms of SI.

Overemphasizes rational, self-conscious thought. Assumes individuals are other directed. Too much emphasis on consensus and cooperation, neglects conflict.

IV. Role theory - based on a theatrical metaphor. Behavior is a result of persons carrying out their roles

1. People do not usually live in social isolation - but spend much of lives participating in groups

2. Within these groups people occupy distinct positions

3. Each of these positions entails a role, which is a set of functions performed by the person on behalf of the group

4. These expectations are formalized as norms, which are rules specifying how a person should and should not behave

5. In most instances, individuals perform in accordance with prevailing norms - they are conformists, and try to meet the expectations held by others.

6. Group members evaluate an individuals performance to determine whether it is aligned with the norms and they respond accordingly... The anticipation that sanctions will be applied by others helps insure that persons perform as expected.

Role theory implies that to change a person's behavior, it is necessary either to modify the expectations that define the person's role or to shift the person into an entirely different role.

Role theory maintains that a person's role determines not only behavior, but also beliefs and attitudes - individual bring their beliefs into congruence with the expectations that define their roles.

Role theory has trouble with deviant behavior - behavior that violates or contravenes the norms defining a given role. Sometimes, deviance can be explained by the fact that people are ignorant of norms, or may face conflicting and incompatible expectations.

Role theory does not explain how role expectations come to be what they are in the first place, nor does it explain how role expectations change.

E. Structural SI - Stryker.

1. Behavior is dependent on a named or classified world. From interaction with others, one learns how to classify objects one comes into contact with. Also learn how you are expected to behave towards those objects.

2. Among the things we classify are roles.

3. People recognize one another as occupants of positions. They have expectations with regards to each others behavior.

4. People apply names to themselves as well. They create internalized expectations with regards to their own behavior.

5. When entering interactive situations, person define the situation by applying names to it, to other participants, to themselves, and to particular features within the situation. These definitions organize their behavior.

6. Social behavior is not determined by these definitions, tho behavior may be more or less constrained by these definitions. Behavior is the product of a role-making process. Behavior develops through a sometimes tentative interchange among actors.

7. Extent to which roles are "made" rather than simply "played" depends on the larger social structures. Some structures are relatively "open" while others are relatively "closed" with respect to novelty in roles. Structures impose some limits on the definitions that may be called into play.

8. To the degree that roles are made rather than played, changes can occur in the character of definitions, names that are used, and in the possibilities for interaction. These changes can lead to changes in the larger social structure in which interactions take place.