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Sociology 401 (Week 1 & 2)

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benjamin waddell

on 25 August 2016

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Transcript of Sociology 401 (Week 1 & 2)

College students watching a presidential speech
A second grader answering math questions
A four-year-old getting a drum for his birthday
A 10-year-old eating two bowls of Wheaties
A Montana shopkeeper knowing blacks are lazy
What does Aronson mean by the statement: “People who do crazy things are not necessarily crazy?”
Do you agree or disagree?
What are the broader implications of explaining unpleasant or bizarre behavior as primarily the result of individual “craziness” or “badness”?
Why, in your opinion, is this kind of interpretation of behavior so common in our society?
On the other hand, what issues regarding individual responsibility would be raised if we were to explain all problematic behavior as the result of situational pressures and influences?

Norwood, CO Assault Case (A Culture of Abuse?)
What is Social Psychology
(Discussion questions)
For each set of questions, list as many possible answers as you can think of, based on common sense and your intuitions about social behavior.
a) What makes a person prejudiced? How can prejudice be reduced?
b) Why are two people attracted to each other? What makes two people dislike each other?
c) Why do people engage in violent behavior? Why do people cooperate or help each other?
d) Why do people conform to the behavior and opinions of others? When do they tend to think and act independently?
Share your ideas with other students in your discussion group, noting the similarity and differences in your explanations.
On what basis could you decide the relative merits of these different “hypotheses” about human behavior? Is common sense and evidence gained from personal experience a sufficient basis for deciding the relative merits of these different “hypotheses”? Why or why not?
What is Social Psychology
(Discussion questions to be discussed in groups of 3-4)
What is Social Psychology
People Who Do Crazy Things Are Not Necessarily Crazy
This is
Aronson’s first law
What does he mean by this statement?
The effect of social situations on people’s behavior is sometimes stronger and more pervasive than we realize when evaluating others.
Not paying attention to the impact of the situation may lead us to classify other behavior as abnormal or crazy (e.g., statements and rumors about the slain Kent State University students).

We are too quick at assigning dispositional explanations to others and too slow at recognizing our own susceptibility to situational influences.
Zimbardo’s Stanford “prison” study
Social Psychology: A Definition
Social Psychology
: the influences that people have upon the beliefs, feelings, and behavior of others.
The intersection of the influence of people on others with the environmental context in which they act.
Consider the examples from the last slide through the lens of social influence.
We are all amateur social psychologists to some degree.
The allure of common sense explanations
Hindsight bias
– our tendency to overestimate our ability to have been able to predict an outcome after we know the result.
“I knew it all along that Obama would win the election.”
"I knew all along Jeb was the GOP's real candidate."
The role of research in assessing commons sense
Counterintuitive findings are not uncommon in Social Psychology.
What is Social Psychology
More examples:
High school teacher in Kent, OH says protesters deserved to die
Rev. Jim Jones encouraged his followers to poison themselves
The tragedy of the Columbine High School killings
Mary gets a Suzie Homemaker baking set for her birthday
Change is inevitable but is it not linear and does not always move in humanistic direction (1936 Madrid Bombing vs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
The experiences of George Woods, a boyhood friend of Aronson
-Amos n’ Andy.
What is Social Psychology

Aristotle: “Man is by nature a social animal…”

What does it mean to say that humans are social animals?
Chris Jordan, Subconscious Decisions (Ted Talks)
Science as Art
What is Social Psychology

Professional vs. amateur social psychologists
Professional psychologists go beyond observation.
They can create and
complex social situations.
They can draw conclusions about the causes of behavior.

The role of research in this textbook and in the discipline of social psychology
What is Social Psychology?
Chapter 1 (Aronson)


Overview of syllabus

Soc 401: Social Psychology
Examples of “social animals”:
“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
Mark Twain
Is Todd Akin 'crazy'?
“A great number of apparently insoluble problems disappear at once if we decide to give up the notion that the motives by which people believe themselves to be motivated are necessarily the ones which actually drive them to act, feel, and think as they do”.  
-Erich Fromm Escape From Freedom, pg. 136
Sociology or Psychology?
Juliet: "O be some other name..."
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Steven Pinker: Language and Cognition
Example of El Tiempo in Colombia

Symbolic interactionism (Allegory of the cave)
Psychoanalytic theory: id, ego and superego
Exchange theory (carbon trading)
Social cognition: cognitive misers and schemas (Michael Jordan, for example).

“Bad statistics are potentially important: They can be used to stir up public outrage or fear; they can distort our understanding of our world; and they can lead us to make poor policy choices (55).”
*The study of eugenics and the policy it informed is an example.

We need statistics: “Is the problem widespread? How many people –and which people- does it affect? Is it getting worse? What does it cost society? What will it cost to deal with it? (55).”

“The issue is whether a particular statistic’s flaws are severe enough to damage its usefulness (57).”

“…being critical means appreciating the inevitable limitations that affect all statistics, rather than being awestruck in the presence of numbers (58).”
Social Psychology as a Science
What if our Discoveries are Misused?
We are morally responsible for what we discover.
Influencing others
Knowledge of social behavior by the public at large independent of the efforts of social psychologists (e.g., advertising and marketing)
The importance of social psychologists studying social behaviors
Tuskegee Syphilis Case and Stanford Prison Experiment
Social Psychology as a Science
Ethical issues
Three problems with using deception
Deception frequently leads to invasion of privacy.
Experimental procedures often entail unpleasant experiences.

Ethical issues can arise even if deception is not used
Participants confront some aspect of themselves that is not pleasant.
No code of ethics can anticipate all problems.

Do the ends justify the means?
Aronson: cost-benefit analysis needs to be done to determine whether it is appropriate to use an experimental procedure.
How much harm versus how much good will come from the study
Back to Milgram’s obedience study.
Correlation Coefficients

Correlational designs - tests whether there is an association between two variables without experimental manipulation.
Example: A correlation between hours of violent TV watched and number of violent acts towards other children.

“ The sale of ice cream correlates with inner-city murder rate….?”
Main weakness: can’t always draw strong conclusions about causation between the IV and DV.
Social Psychology as a Science
The importance of
random assignment
A more important advantage than
Randomly assign people to each level of the independent variable (two levels minimum).
Minimizes the effect of individual differences between participants in a study for variables such as:
Personality variables
Gender roles
Interpersonal skills
Probability of individual with extreme traits ending up in one condition (level of the independent variable) is equal.
Minimizes the potential effect of subject variables if the sample is large but it does not eliminate the threat (
large N
Social Psychology as a Science
Experimental procedure
Participants expected to join a discussion on sex.
Two of the three conditions (levels of the IV) subjects needed to orally recite was a list of sexual terms as proof they could effectively be a part of a discussion on sex.
All three groups overhead a discussion (taped) after reading the lists which was intentionally boring.
Participants rated the interest and value of the overheard discussion.

People in the mild or no initiation group rated the discussion as boring, but the severe initiation group found it exciting.
Social Psychology as a Science
From Speculation to Experimentation
Example: John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs fiasco
Liking of Kennedy went up after incident (Gallop poll).

Counterintuitive finding (cannot simply ask people)

Need to design an experiment that addresses the underlying phenomenon not the specific example.

Question: Do nearly perfect people become more attractive after committing a blunder while ordinary people become less attractive? (see chapter 8 for details).
Social Psychology as a Science
What is the
Scientific Method
Whether a natural science or social science the method used to uncover lawful relationships is the same.
The basic steps:
Observation (Grumpy waiters get small tips.)
Prediction (Guess at a lawful relationship between two variables.)
The size of a waiter’s tip depends on their mood. The happier the mood the larger the monetary tip they will receive.
Frame the question into a testable
The greater number of times a waiter smiles while serving a customer the larger the tip he will receive from that customer.
Design an
the hypothesis.
Give up the hypothesis if the data collected does not support the prediction (
there are no sacred truths in science

Student: “Every year since 1950, the number of American children gunned down has doubled.”
C.D.F: “The number of American children killed each year by guns has doubled since 1950.”

“But people treat mutant statistics just as they do other statistics –that is, they usually accept even the most implausible claims without question (54).”

“Bad statistics live on; they take on lives of their own (55).”

Joel Best, “Telling the Truth about Damned Lies and Statistics.’’
Social Psychology as a Science
James Kunen article: College level programs in prison
Case studies
were used in the essay for support of programs.
One systematic study cited in the article (20% < recidivism).
Self-section bias
in those participating in program?
Were there differences between those inmates who enrolled in the program from other inmates in important ways before the very first class? Did they differ in their:
Prior education?
Mental health?
Two prison example (one with college/one without)
Psychological and Social Psychology
Social Psychology as a Science
Five Guidelines for conduction research
Procedures that cause intense pain or discomfort should be avoided.
Participants should be provided real options for quitting.
Experimenters should be alert to alternative procedures to deception.
Experimenters should spend considerable time with the participants after the experiment is over in a debriefing session.
Do not perform experiments that use deception “for the hell of it.”
Our Debt to Participants
Advantages and Disadvantages of Correlational Research
Advantage: Easy to conduct

Disadvantage: Unclear relationship, third variable problem

How to increase causality?
Longitudinal design
; effects of order
Conduct true
Correlation and Causation
Pearson correlation coefficient (r):
Describes the direction and strength of the relationship.

1) Direction of relationship
Positive or negative

2) Degree of relationship
The degree of relationship is indicated by the numerical value of the correlation coefficient.
Looking at a scatter diagram gives you a rough idea of the relationship between two variables (

To be more precise, we calculate:
) correlation coefficient
Represented by the symbol r.
Can range from –1.00 to +1.00
Negative correlations
Higher scores in one variable associated with lower scores on a second variable
e.g., goof-off hours and GPA
Social Psychology as a Science
Why are they needed?
Participants are intelligent and curious.

Cover stories
A bit of theater
Increase experimental realism
Aronson and Mills
Solomon Ash
Social Psychology as a Science
Problems of using intact groups (e.g., fraternity)
Group self-selects so members may share common attributes (
internal validity
perhaps but not
external validity

and the “third factor problem.”
Cannot assume causality even directionality with a strong correlation
Do highly attractive groups cause severe initiation?
Does severe initiation cause liking for a group?

Without random assignment an apparent relationship between two variables may be due to an unmeasured third variable/factor.
Social Psychology as a Science
real-life initiation
Should Aronson & Mills have used a dramatic real-life situation?
More realistic (and severe) initiation would be possible.
They could avoid ethical dilemmas.
Time and effort would have been less to conduct study.

Why did they use an artificial situation in a laboratory?
Control of
extraneous variables
Allows us to be more certain any differences we find are due to the variables of interest (the severity of initiation).

Example: Fraternities and Sororities.
Alternatives approaches to study?
Social Psychology as a Science
Designing an experiment (Aronson & Mills)
Are laboratory studies too unrealistic to critically examine social behavior?

Experimental question: Do people who extend great effort to join a group like it better than those who demonstrate less effort?

Independent variable
: (Causes systematic differences in participants’ behavior). Has multiple levels:
Level 1: Sever initiation (read list of obscene words)
Level 2: Mild initiation (read list of non-obscene words)
Level 3: No initiation
Dependent variable
: (The behavior of the participants that is affected by the presentation of the independent variable.)
Self-report scale: how interesting the discussion had been

Social Psychology as a Science
Science and art (Semonov)
: look closely at our environment and try to organize the unknown into a sensible and meaningful way.
: reorganize the known environment to create something entirely new.
Social psychology is a blend of both approaches.

We deal with complex and sophisticated human beings.
They respond and change to the other people and environment around them.
They form ideas about themselves and everything they encounter.
Therefore, experiments must reflect the complexity of the people that participate in studies and the researchers will need to employ artistic principles of reorganization to create experimental situations that capture the phenomena of interest to social psychology.
Social Psychology as a Science
Chapter 9
Perspectives in Comparison
Spurious Correlation
Goal: Identify Relationships

Positive correlation
Higher scores on one variable associated with higher scores on a second variable
e.g., study hours and GPA
Correlational Research
Social Psychology as a Science
The Challenge of Experimentation in Social Psychology
Realistic limits to control with human participants.
Large unmeasured individual differences affect our results.
Too much control can make the experimental situation sterile and unrepresentative which might not elicit normal behavior from the participants during the study.
Control Impact
Experimental: People take the experiment seriously and are involved with the procedures.
Mundane: How similar the experimental situation is to events that people may encounter in the real world.
Milgram’s experimental situation
“highs with lows”
Scatter Diagram Examples
Scatter diagrams (plots) used to show visual pattern of relationship.
“highs with highs”
Scatter Diagram Examples
Correlation DOES NOT equal causation!!

E.g., correlation between ice cream sales and urban murder rate…

Three possible directions of causality:

1. X Y

2. X Y

3. Z #3. = third variable problem

Goal: Determine
Carefully controlled settings allow causality to be inferred

Random Sampling
Experimental Research
Experimental group
Control group
Separating the wheat from the chaff.
Enrique Peña Nieto
El Kogui de La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia
In groups of 3-4, design a study that addresses the consumption of plastic cups. Your basic question is: Why do people consume so many cups?
Problems associated with studying this particular phenomenon.
“Telling the Truth about Damned Lies and Statistics" by Joel Best.
Student: “Every year since 1950, the number of American children gunned down has doubled.”
C.D.F: “The number of American children killed each year by guns has doubled since 1950.”

“But people treat mutant statistics just as they do other statistics –that is, they usually accept even the most implausible claims without question (54).”

“Bad statistics live on; they take on lives of their own (55).”
“Bad statistics are potentially important: They can be used to stir up public outrage or fear; they can distort our understanding of our world; and they can lead us to make poor policy choices (55).”
*The study of eugenics and the policy it informed is an example.

-We need statistics: “Is the problem widespread? How many people –and which people- does it affect? Is it getting worse? What does it cost society? What will it cost to deal with it? (55).”

-“The issue is whether a particular statistic’s flaws are severe enough to damage its usefulness (57).”

-Examples of bad statistics?
Group Discussion:
In groups, discuss other examples similar to the ones Aronson brings up in the book. What do your examples have in common?
Group Discussion
In groups discuss the following:
What is the craziest "ice bucket" challenge you can remember?
Why did the ice bucket challenge take off like wildfire?
What is the difference between taxes and events like the ice bucket challenge? (I.e., why do people loathe taxes and yet they freely give money away for charities while embarrassing themselves!?)
What happened to the challenge?
Ocotal, Nicaragua July 1927
1st Dive Bomb Attack to Support Ground Troops
Pro-Sandanista and anti-American stronghold to this date
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