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Social Thinking: Attitudes


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Title: Social Thinking: Attitudes

Social Thinking Attitudes Prejudice
  • What is an attitude?
  • Our beliefs and feelings about objects, people,
    and events that lead people to behave in certain
  • Has three components
  • Cognitivethoughts about given topic or situation
  • Affectivefeelings or emotions about topic
  • Behavioralyour actions regarding the topic or

Components of Attitudes
  • An attitude is a positive or negative evaluation
    of an object, person, or idea

How Attitudes Develop
  • Conditioning Children are reinforced for acting
    and thinking in ways that are consistent with
    their parents attitudes.
  • Observational Learning We observe others and
    adopt their ways of acting.
  • Cognitive Evaluations Evaluate evidence and
    then form a belief based on that. Do this when
    you have to justify your attitude.
  • Cognitive Anchors beliefs that shape the ways
    we see the world and interpret events. We reject
    things that differ too much from our cognitive

The Effect of Attitudes on Behavior
  • Youre most likely to behave in accordance with
    your attitudes when
  • Attitudes are extreme or are frequently expressed
  • Attitudes have been formed through direct
  • You are very knowledgeable about the subject.
  • You have a vested interest in the subject.
  • You anticipate a favorable outcome or response
    from others for doing so.

Attitudes Affecting Actions
  • Many studies suggest a persons attitudes do not
    match their actions
  • Attitudes can predict behavior if
  • Outside influences are minimal
  • People are aware of their attitudes
  • Attitude is relevant to behavior

Actions Affecting Attitudes
  • Under some circumstances ones actions can
    influence attitudes. They include
  • Foot-in-the-door phenomenon
  • Role playing
  • Cognitive dissonance

Foot-in-the-Door Phenomenon
  • The tendency for people who have first agreed to
    a small request to comply later with a larger

Role Playing
  • Playing a role can influence or change ones
  • Zimbardos Prison Study
  • College students played the role of guard or
    prisoner in a simulated prison.
  • The study was ended after just 6 days when the
    guards became too aggressive and cruel.

Dr. Phillip Zimbardo
Cognitive Dissonance (Leon Festinger)
  • The theory that people act to reduce the
    discomfort (dissonance) they feel when their
    thoughts (cognitions) are inconsistent with their
  • When our attitudes are inconsistent with our
    actions, we change our attitudes to reduce the

How Cognitive Dissonance Leads to Attitude Change
  • When your behavior conflicts with your attitudes,
    an uncomfortable state of tension is produced.
    However, if you can rationalize or explain your
    behavior, the conflict (and the tension) is
    eliminated or avoided. If you cant explain your
    behavior, you may change your attitude so that it
    is in harmony with your behavior.

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Insufficient-justification effect
  • Festinger Carlsmith (1959)
  • gave subjects a boring task, then asked subjects
    to lie to the next subject and say the experiment
    was exciting
  • paid ½ the subjects 1, other ½ 20
  • then asked subjects to rate boringness of task
  • 1 group rated the task as far more fun than the
    20 group
  • each group needed a justification for lying
  • 20 group had an external justification of money
  • since 1 isnt very much money, 1 group said
    task was fun

Cognitive Dissonance A Review
  • If you have a good excuse for a behavior that
    does not go with your attitude then you avoid
  • If you do not have a good excuse for a behavior
    that is against your attitude you must change
    your attitude to fit your behavior.

Dissonance-Reducing Mechanisms
  • Avoiding dissonant information
  • we attend to information in support of our
    existing views, rather than information that
    doesnt support them
  • Firming up an attitude to be consistent with an
  • once weve made a choice to do something,
    lingering doubts about our actions would cause
    dissonance, so we are motivated to set them aside

  • Based on the exaggerated notion that members of
    other social groups are very different from
    members of our own social group
  • An unjustifiable attitude toward a group and its
  • Usually involves stereotyped beliefs, negative
    feelings, and a predisposition to discriminatory
  • Usually involves a negative attitude

Keep in Mind
  • Racial and ethnic groups are far more alike than
    they are different
  • Any differences that may exist between members of
    different racial and ethnic groups are far
    smaller than differences among various members of
    the same group.

  • The tendency to group similar objects
  • May be a means to explain stereotypes

  • An unchanging, oversimplified and usually
    distorted belief about a group of people
  • We assume those different from ourselves must all
    be similar to each other.
  • Because stereotypes sometimes have a kernel of
    truth, they are easy to confirm, especially when
    you see only what you expect to see.
  • When stereotypic beliefs become expectations that
    are applied to all members of a given group, they
    can be both misleading and damaging
  • Creating special cases, or exceptions, allows
    people to maintain stereotypes in the face of
    contradictory evidence
  • Stereotypes limit the possibilities of
    individuals by discouraging them to explore their
    full range of talents.

Studying stereotypes
  • 3 levels of stereotypes in todays research
  • public
  • what we say to others about a group
  • private
  • what we consciously think about a group, but
    dont say to others
  • implicit
  • unconscious mental associations guiding our
    judgments and actions without our conscious
  • See The Hidden Prejudice video clip (Scientific
    American Frontiers (6 minutes)

Implicit Stereotypes
  • Use of priming subject doesnt know stereotype
    is being activated, cant work to suppress it
  • Bargh study
  • have subjects read word lists, some lists include
    words like gray, Bingo, and Florida
  • subjects with old word lists walked to
    elevators significantly more slowly
  • another study
  • flash pictures of Black vs. White faces
  • give incomplete words like hos_____, subjects
    seeing Black make hostile, seeing White make

Implicit Stereotypes
  • Devines automaticity theory
  • stereotypes about African-Americans are so
    prevalent in our culture that we all hold them
  • these stereotypes are automatically activated
    whenever we come into contact with an
  • we have to actively push them back down if we
    dont wish to act in a prejudiced way.
  • Overcoming prejudice is possible, but takes work

Ingroup Us
  • People with whom one shares a common identity

Outgroup Them
  • Those perceived as different or apart form us
    (the ingroup)

Out-Group Homogeneity Effect
  1. Typically, we describe the members of our
    in-group as being quite varied, despite having
    enough features in common to belong to the same
  2. We tend to see members of the out-group as much
    more similar to one another, even in areas that
    have little to do with the criteria for group

Ingroup Bias
  • The tendency to favor ones own group usually at
    the expense of the outgroup
  • We make favorable, positive attributions for
    behaviors by members of our in-group, and
    unfavorable, negative attributions for behaviors
    by members of out-groups.
  • Ethnocentrism - belief that ones own culture or
    ethnic group is superior to others

The Basis for Prejudice
  • In combination, stereotypes and
    in-group/out-group bias form the cognitive basis
    for prejudicial attitudes.
  • Prejudice also has a strong emotional component,
    which is intensely negative and involves hatred,
    contempt, fear, and loathing
  • Behaviorally, prejudice can be displayed in the
    form of discrimination

  • Unfair treatment of individuals because they are
    members of a particular group.
  • Victims of discrimination may see themselves as
  • Low expectations low self esteem low chance
    for success.
  • See clip of Clarks study from Separate but
  • See this modern example (2 min)

Prejudice and Discrimination
  • Play Attitudes and Prejudicial Behavior (606)
    Segment 31 from Psychology The Human
  • Play Ethnocentrism and Prejudice (506) Segment
    32 from Psychology The Human Experience.

Causes of Prejudice
Exaggerating Differences
  • People exaggerate how different others are from
  • We tend to prefer people who look, act and think
    like us and see others as being more different
    than they really are.

Justifying Economic Status
  • People of higher socioeconomic status tend to
    justify it by assuming that people of lower
    economic status are inferior to them.
  • Believe that lower status people are lazy and
    dont work as hard.
  • This is also known as Just-World Phenomenon

Just-World Phenomenon
  • The tendency to believe that people get what they
    deserve and deserve what they get
  • Reflects childs attitude that good is rewarded
    and evil is punished

Social Learning
  • Children will imitate their parents attitudes and
    parents will reinforce these attitudes in their
  • This is how prejudice is passed on from
    generation to generation

  • Victims of prejudice try to gain a sense of power
    and pride by putting down another group that is
    even worse off them.

Scapegoat Theory
  • Individual or group is blamed for a problem that
    is too complex, powerful or remote to be
  • Provides an outlet for anger by providing someone
    to blame
  • Example Nazi Germany blaming the Jews for the
    troubles in Germany after WWI.

Accounting for Prejudice
Accounting for Prejudice Two Theories
  • Prejudice and intergroup hostility increase when
    different groups are competing for scarce
  • People are prejudiced against groups that are
    perceived as threatening important in-group norms
    and values
  • Social psychologists have increasingly come to
    believe 2 is more correct.

Overcoming Prejudice
Reducing Prejudice
  • Initially, researchers thought simple contact
    between conflicting groups would reduce prejudice
    (contact theory)
  • They now think that prejudice can be overcome
    when rival groups cooperate to achieve a common

Social Identity and Cooperation
  • Social identity theory
  • States that when youre assigned to a group, you
    automatically think of that group as an in-group
    for you
  • Sherifs Robbers Cave study
  • 1112 year old boys at camp
  • Boys were divided into 2 groups and kept separate
    from one another
  • Each group took on characteristics of distinct
    social group, with leaders, rules, norms of
    behavior, and names

Robbers Cave (Sherif)
  • Leaders proposed series of competitive
    interactions which led to 3 changes between
    groups and within groups
  • within-group solidarity
  • negative stereotyping of other group
  • hostile between-group interactions
  • A fierce rivalry quickly developed
  • To restore harmony, Sherif created a series of
    situations in which the two groups would need to
    cooperate to achieve a common goal
  • After a series of joint efforts, the rivalry
    diminished and the groups became friends.

Robbers Cave
  • Overcoming the strong we/they effect
  • establishment of superordinate goals
  • e.g., breakdown in camp water supply
  • overcoming intergroup strife - research
  • stereotypes are diluted when people share
    individuating information
  • This idea used in the classroom The Jigsaw
    Method of cooperative learning. (see pg. 514)

Ways to Reduce Prejudice
  1. Increase contact among members of different
  2. Individuals must decide that prejudiced responses
    are wrong and consciously reject their own and
    others prejudiced and stereotyped thinking
  3. Individuals must learn to recognize automatic
    prejudicial reactions and deliberately replace
    them with nonprejudiced responses that are based
    on their personal standards