1: Introduction to Social Psychology
2: Our View of Self and Others
3: Obedience and Power
4: The Role of Groups
View of Self and Others
way we look at ourselves plays an important role in how we see the world.
The way we see the world plays an important role in how we see ourselves.
In this sense, our view of self and others is an ever-changing circle of
influence. We know that those who are happy see more positive aspects
of the world than those who are depressed. We also know that living in
an abusive household or an overly restrictive environment can both lead to
depression. This section will explore the social areas of attribution
(how we interpret those around us) and attraction (what we seek in a friend
tend to explain our own behavior and the behavior of others by assigning
attributes to these behavior. An
is an inference about the cause of a behavior. According to the
Attribution Theory, we tend to explain our own behavior and the behavior of
others by assigning attributes to these behavior.
are basically two sources for our behavior; those influenced by Situational
(external) factors and those influenced by Dispositional (internal) factors.
Imagine walking into your boss's office and he immediately tells you, in an
angry tone, not to bother him. An external explanation of this
behavior might be, "He's really a nice guy but the stress is
overwhelming. He needs a vacation." On the other hand, you
might see the same behavior and say, "What a jerk, I don't know why is
is so angry all the time." The same behavior is given two very
factors play a role in how we assign attributes to behaviors.
Obviously our view of the world, our previous experience with a particular
person or situation, and our knowledge of the behavior play an important
role. Other factors can influence our interpretation as well, and
there are two important errors or mistakes we tend make when assigning these
Fundamental Attribution Error.
This refers to the tendency to over
estimate the internal and underestimate the external factors when explaining
the behaviors of others. This may be a result of our tendency to pay
more attention to the situation rather than to the individual (Heider, 1958)
and is especially true when we know little
about the other person. For example, the last time you were driving
and got cut off did you say to yourself "What an idiot" (or
something similar), or did you say "She must be having a rough
day." Chances are that this behavior was assigned mostly internal
attributes and you didn't give a second thought to what external factors are
playing a role in her driving behavior.
We tend to equate successes to internal
and failures to external attributes (Miller & Ross, 1975). Imagine getting a promotion.
Most of us will feel that this success is due to hard work, intelligence,
dedication, and similar internal factors. But if you are fired, well
obviously your boss wouldn't know a good thing if it were staring her in the
face. This bias is true for most people, but for those who are
depressed, have low self-esteem, or view themselves negatively, the bias is
typically opposite. For these people, a success may mean that a
multitude of negatives have been overlooked or that luck was the primary
reason. For failures, the depressed individual will likely see their
own negative qualities, such as stupidity, as being the primary factor.
are we attracted to certain people and not others? Why do our friends
tend to be very similar to each other? And what causes us to decide on
a mate? Many of these questions relate to social psychology in that
society's influence and our own beliefs and traits play an important role.
Research has found five reasons why we choose our friends.:
- The vast majority of our friends
live close to where we live, or at least where we lived during the time
period the friendship developed (Nahemow & Lawton, 1975). Obviously friendships develop
after getting to know someone, and this closeness provides the easiest
way to accomplish this goal. Having assigned seats in a class
or group setting would result in more friends who's last name started
with the same letter as yours (Segal, 1974).
- We tend to associate our opinions
about other people with our current state. In other words, if you
meet someone during a class you really enjoy, they may get more
'likeability points' then if you met them during that class you can't
- On the other hand, imagine that
person above agrees with you this particular class is the worse they
have taken. The agreement or similarity between the two of you
would likely result in more attractiveness (Neimeyer & Mitchell,
Simply put, we tend to like those better who also like us back. This
may be a result of the feeling we get about ourselves knowing that we
are likable. When we feel good when we are around somebody, we
tend to report a higher level of attraction toward that person (Forgas,
1992; Zajonc & McIntosh, 1992)
Physical attraction plays a role in who we choose as friends, although
not as much so as in who we choose as a mate. Nonetheless, we tend
to choose people who we believe to be attractive and who are close to
how we see our own physical attractiveness.
last statement brings up an important factor in how we determine our friends
and partner. Ever wonder why very attractive people tend to 'hang
around' other very attractive people? Or why wealthy men seem to end
up with physically attractive, perhaps even much younger, women? There
is some truth to these stereotypical scenarios because we tend to assign
"social assets" or "attraction points" to everyone we
points are divided into categories such as physical attractiveness, sense of
humor, education, and wealth. If we view education as very important,
we may assign more points to this category making it more likely that our
friends or our mate will have more education. If we view wealth as
more important then we will be more likely to find a mate who has more
rate ourselves on these same categories and, at least at some level, know
our score. We tend to then pick friends and partners who have a
similar score that we do. Hence an attractive person hangs with other
attractive people; or a wealthy older man gets the beautiful younger woman.
Think about your friends and how you would rate them in these categories to
find out what is important to you.