10 Quick Facts About Social Psychology

Social Psychology Facts
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Social psychology is a fascinating topic that has yielded a great deal of research on how people behave in groups. In many cases, the results of several famous experiments contradict how you would expect people to act in social situations.

Here are ten things that you should know about social psychology:

  1. When a number of people witness something such as an accident, the more people that are present the less likely it is that someone will step forward to help. This is known as the bystander effect.
  1. People will go to great, and sometimes dangerous, lengths to obey authority figures. In his famous obedience experiments, psychologist Stanley Milgram found that people would be willing to deliver a potentially fatal electrical shock to another person when ordered to by the experimenters.
  2. Most people will go along with the group, even if they think the group is wrong. In Solomon Asch's conformity experiments, people were asked to judge which was the longest of three lines. When other members of the group picked the wrong line, participants were more likely to choose the same line.
  3. Situational variables can play a major role in our social behavior. In the Stanford Prison Experiment, psychologist Philip Zimbardo discovered that participants would take on the roles given to them to such an extreme that the experiment had to be discontinued after just six days. Those placed in the roles of prison guards began to abuse their power, while those in the role of the prisoners became anxious and stressed.
  1. People typically look for things that confirm their existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts what they already think. This is known as expectation confirmation.
  2. When we categorize information about social groups, we tend to exaggerate differences between groups and minimize the differences within groups. This is part of the reason why stereotypes and prejudice exist.
  1. Our attitudes, or how we evaluate different things including people, ideas, and objects, can be both explicit and implicit. Explicit attitudes are the ones that we form consciously and of which we are fully aware. Implicit attitudes, on the other hand, form and work unconsciously yet still have a powerful influence on our behavior.
  2. Our perceptions of other people are often based upon things such as expected roles, social norms, and social categorizations. Since we expect people who are in a certain role or part of a particular social group to behave in a particular way, our initial impressions of a person frequently rely on these mental shortcuts to make fast judgments of how we expect people to behave.
  3. When explaining behavior, we tend to attribute our own good fortune to internal factors and negative outcomes to external forces. When it comes to other people, however, we typically attribute their actions to internal characteristics. For example, if we get a bad grade on a paper, it's the teacher's fault; if a classmate gets a bad grade, it's because he didn't study hard enough. This tendency is known as the actor-observer bias.
  1. In groups, people often go along with the majority opinion rather than cause disruption. This phenomenon is known as groupthink and tends to occur more frequently when group members share a great deal in common, when the group is under stress, or in the presence of a charismatic leader.

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