Evaluation and Judgment


Evaluation and Judgment

Resource: Ch. 14 of Psychology: An Introduction

Answer the following questions in 100 to 200 words each:· What are the different ways in which we evaluate people?

· How do these factors play a role in our expectations of other people?

· What are the disadvantages of these expectations?

Social Psychology14

Enduring Issues in Social

Social Cognition
• Forming Impressions
• Attribution
• Interpersonal Attraction

• The Nature of Attitudes
• Prejudice and Discrimination
• Changing Attitudes
Social Influence
• Cultural Influences
• Conformity

• Compliance
• Obedience
Social Action
• Deindividuation
• Helping Behavior

• Groups and Decision Making
• Leadership




Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

On September 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks onthe Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Sher Singh, atelecommunications consultant from Virginia, managed to
catch a train home from Boston where he had been on a busi-
ness trip. “With the horrific images of the terrorist attacks still
fresh in my mind,” Sher Singh recalls, “I was particularly anx-
ious to get home to my family” (Singh, 2002, p. 1). Singh was
very much like any other shocked and sorrowful American on
that day—except for one small difference: As a member of the
Sikh religion, Singh, unlike most Americans, wore a full beard
and a turban.

The train made a scheduled stop in Providence, Rhode
Island, about an hour outside of Boston. But oddly, the stop
dragged on for a very long time. Singh began to wonder what was
wrong. A conductor walking through the coaches announced
that the train had mechanical trouble. However,
when passengers from neighboring coaches
began to disembark and line up on the platform,
Singh became suspicious that this was not the
true story. He didn’t have long to speculate
about the genuine cause of the problem,
because suddenly law-enforcement officers
burst into his coach and pulled him off the train
at gunpoint. They were searching for four Arab
men who had evaded authorities in a Boston
hotel. A Sikh, however, is not an Arab. A Sikh
belongs to a Hindu sect that comes from India,
not the Middle East.

On the station platform, Singh was
abruptly handcuffed and asked about his citi-
zenship. Assurances that he was a U.S. citizen
did not satisfy the officers. They asked him if
he had a weapon. Singh informed them that,
as a devout Sikh, he is required to carry a
miniature ceremonial sword. They promptly


arrested Singh and pushed him through a crowd of onlookers to
a waiting police car. According to news reports, as Singh
passed by, some teenagers shouted, “Let’s kill him!” while a
woman yelled, “Burn in Hell!”

As a terrorist suspect, Singh was photographed, finger-
printed, and strip-searched. He was held in custody at police
headquarters until 9:00 PM. While he was jailed, news media
nationwide had displayed a photo of him side by side with a
photo of Osama bin Laden. Although all charges against Sher
Singh were eventually dropped, he never received an apology
from the law-enforcement officers involved.

How could this blatant case of mistaken identity have hap-
pened? Why were police so convinced that Sher Singh could
be a fugitive terrorist? Researchers who specialize in the field
of social psychology help provide some answers. Social psy-

chology is the scientific study of how peo-
ple’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are
influenced by the behaviors and character-
istics of other people, whether these
behaviors and characteristics are real,
imagined, or inferred. Sher Singh was
clearly a victim of imagined and inferred
characteristics formed on the basis of his
ethnic appearance. As you read about the
findings of social psychologists in this
chapter, you will discover that Singh’s
experience is far from unique (Horry &
Wright, 2009). Every day, we all make judg-
ments concerning other people that are
often based on very little “real” evidence.
The process by which we form such
impressions, whether accurate or not, is
part of a fascinating area of social psychol-
ogy known as social cognition. We turn to
this topic first.

A key issue throughout this chapter is the extent to which a particular behavior reflects per-
sonal characteristics like attitudes and values, versus situational ones like the behavior of
others and social expectations (person–situation). And especially prominent in this chapter
is the extent to which there are differences in social behavior among people in different cul-
tures (individuality–universality).

social psychology The scientific study of the
ways in which the thoughts, feelings, and
behaviors of one individual are influenced by
the real, imagined, or inferred behavior or
characteristics of other people.

Police never apologized for arresting
Sher Singh as a terrorist after the
September 11, 2001, attacks in the
United States.






Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

456 Chapter 14

What do forming impressions, explaining others’ behavior, and
experiencing interpersonal attraction have in common?

Part of the process of being influenced by other people involves organizing and interpret-
ing information about them to form first impressions, to try to understand their behavior,
and to determine to what extent we are attracted to them. This collecting and assessing of
information about other people is called social cognition. Social cognition is a major area
of interest to social psychologists (Shrum, 2007).

Forming Impressions
How do we form first impressions of people?

We have all heard the expression “You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first
impression.” Surprisingly, research indicates it only takes about 100 msec. or 1/10 of a sec-
ond for an observer to form a durable first impression (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Despite
the speed with which we make a first impression, the process is more complex than you
may think. You must direct your attention to various aspects of the person’s appearance
and behavior and then make a rapid assessment of what those characteristics mean. How
do you complete this process? What cues do you interpret? How accurate are your impres-
sions? The concept of schemata, which we first encountered in Chapter 6, “Memory,” helps
to answer these questions.

Schemata When we meet someone for the first time, we notice a number of things
about that person—clothes, gestures, manner of speaking, body build, and facial fea-
tures. We then draw on these cues to fit the person into a category. No matter how little
information we have or how contradictory it is, no matter how many times our initial
impressions have been wrong, we still categorize people after meeting them only briefly.
Associated with each category is a schema—an organized set of beliefs and expectations
based on past experience that is presumed to apply to all members of that category
(Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005). Schemata (the plural of schema) influence the infor-
mation we notice and remember. They also help us flesh out our impressions as we peg
people into categories. For example, if a woman is wearing a white coat and has a stetho-
scope around her neck, you could reasonably categorize her as a doctor. Associated with
this category is a schema of various beliefs and expectations: highly trained profes-
sional, knowledgeable about diseases and their cures, qualified to prescribe medication,
and so on.

Over time, as we continue to interact with people, we add new information about
them to our mental files. Our later experiences, however, generally do not influence us
nearly as much as our earliest impressions. This phenomenon is called the primacy effect.

Schemata and the primacy effect reflect a desire to lessen our mental effort. Humans
have been called “cognitive misers” (Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Madon, 1999). Instead of exerting
ourselves to interpret every detail that we learn about a person, we are stingy with our men-
tal efforts. Once we have formed an impression about someone, we tend not to exert the
mental effort to change it, even if that impression was formed by jumping to conclusions or
through prejudice (Fiske, 1995).

Sometimes, schemata can even help us create the behavior we expect from other
people. In a classic study, pairs of participants played a competitive game (M. Snyder &
Swann, 1978). The researchers told one member of each pair that his or her partner was
either hostile or friendly. The players who were led to believe that their partner was hos-
tile behaved differently toward that partner than did the players led to believe that their
partner was friendly. In turn, those treated as hostile actually began to display hostility.

primacy effect The fact that early information
about someone weighs more heavily than later
information in influencing one’s impression of
that person.

social cognition Knowledge and
understanding concerning the social world and
the people in it (including oneself).

• Describe the role of schemata,

stereotypes, and the primacy effect in
impression formation. Explain how
impressions of others can become self-
fulfilling prophecies.

• Summarize the way in which
distinctiveness, consistency, and
consensus affect our judgment about
whether a given behavior is due to
internal or external causes.

• Explain what is meant by the statement
“the causal attributions we make are
often vulnerable to biases.” In your
answer, include the actor-observer bias,
the fundamental attribution error, and
defensive attribution (including the self-
serving bias and the just-world

• Briefly summarize the five factors that
influence attraction and the tendency to
like another person.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 457

In fact, these people continued to show hostility later, when they were paired with
new players who had no expectations about them at all. The expectation of hostility
seemed to produce actual aggressiveness, and this behavior persisted. When we bring
about expected behavior in another person in this way, our impression becomes a self-
fulfilling prophecy.

Considerable scientific research has shown how teacher expectations can take the form
of a self-fulfilling prophecy and can influence student performance in the classroom
(M. Harris & Rosenthal, 1985; Rosenthal, 2002b, 2006; Trouilloud, Sarrazin, Bressoux,
Bressoux, & Bois, 2006). That finding has been named the Pygmalion effect, after the myth-
ical sculptor who created the statue of a woman and then brought it to life. Although the
research does not suggest that high teacher expectations can turn an “F” student into an “A”
student, it does show that both high and low expectations can significantly influence stu-
dent achievement. One study, for example, compared the performance of “at risk” ninth-
grade students who had been assigned to regular classrooms with that of students assigned
to experimental classrooms that received a year-long intervention aimed at increasing
teachers’ expectations. After 1 year, the students in the experimental classrooms had higher
grades in English and history than the students who were not in the intervention class-
rooms. Two years later, the experimental students were also less likely to drop out of high
school (Weinstein et al., 1991).

Stereotypes Just as schemata shape our impressions of others, so do stereotypes. As
a set of characteristics presumed to be shared by all members of a social category, a
stereotype is actually a special kind of schema—one that is simplistic, very strongly
held, and not necessarily based on firsthand experience. A stereotype can involve almost
any distinguishing personal attribute, such as age, sex, race, occupation, place of resi-
dence, or membership in a certain group. As Sher Singh learned after the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001, many Americans developed a stereotype suggesting that
all males who “looked” like they were from the Middle East were potential terrorists
(Horry & Wright, 2009).

When our first impression of a person is governed by a stereotype, we tend to infer
things about that person solely on the basis of some key distinguishing feature and to
ignore facts that are inconsistent with the stereotype, no matter how apparent they are. For
example, once you have categorized someone as male or female, you may rely more on your
stereotype of that gender than on your own observations of how the person acts (Firestone,
Firestone, & Catlett, 2006). Recent studies indicate that sorting people into categories is not
automatic or inevitable (Castelli, Macrae, Zogmaister, & Arcuri, 2004). People are more
likely to apply stereotyped schemata in a chance encounter than in a structured, task-
oriented situation (such as a classroom or the office); more likely to pay attention to indi-
vidual signals than to stereotypes when they are pursuing a goal; and are more likely to
suppress stereotypes that violate social norms.

self-fulfilling prophecy The process in which
a person’s expectation about another elicits
behavior from the second person that confirms
the expectation.

Suppose you are a new teacher entering this
classroom on the first day of school in Sep-
tember. Do you have any expectations about
children of any ethnic or racial groups that
might lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy?

stereotype A set of characteristics presumed to
be shared by all members of a social category.

Person–Situation Interpreting Behavior
The study of attribution, or how people explain their own and other people’s behavior,
focuses on when and why people interpret behavior as reflecting personal traits or social
situations. Suppose you run into a friend at the supermarket. You greet him warmly, but he
barely acknowledges you, mumbles “Hi,” and walks away. You feel snubbed and try to figure
out why he acted like that. Did he behave that way because of something in the situation?
Perhaps you did something that offended him; perhaps he was having no luck finding the
groceries he wanted; or perhaps someone had just blocked his way by leaving a cart in the
middle of an aisle. Or did something within him, some personal trait such as moodiness or
arrogance, prompt him to behave that way? ■

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

458 Chapter 14

How do we decide why people act as they do?

Explaining Behavior Social interaction is filled with occasions that invite us to make
judgments about the causes of behavior. When something unexpected or unpleasant
occurs, we wonder about it and try to understand it (Krueger, Hall, Villano, & Jones, 2008).
Social psychologists’ observations about how we go about attributing causes to behavior
form the basis of attribution theory.

An early attribution theorist, Fritz Heider (1958), argued that we attribute behavior to
either internal or external causes, but not both. Thus, we might conclude that a classmate’s
lateness was caused by his laziness (a personal factor, or an internal attribution) or by traf-
fic congestion (a situational factor, or an external attribution).

How do we decide whether to attribute a given behavior to internal or external causes?
According to another influential attribution theorist, Harold Kelley (Kelley, 1967, 1973;
also see B. Weiner, 2008), we rely on three kinds of information about the behavior:
distinctiveness, consistency, and consensus. For example, if your instructor asks you to stay
briefly after class so that she can talk with you, you will probably try to figure out what lies
behind her request by asking yourself three questions.

First, how distinctive is the instructor’s request? Does she often ask students to stay and
talk (low distinctiveness) or is such a request unusual (high distinctiveness)? If she often
asks students to speak with her, you will probably conclude that she has personal reasons
for talking with you. But if her request is highly distinctive, you will probably conclude that
something about you, not her, underlies her request.

Second, how consistent is the instructor’s behavior? Does she regularly ask you to stay
and talk (high consistency), or is this a first for you (low consistency)? If she has consis-
tently made this request of you before, you will probably guess that this occasion is like
those others. But if her request is inconsistent with past behavior, you will probably wonder
whether some particular event—perhaps something you said in class—motivated her to
request a private conference.

Finally, what degree of consensus among teachers exists regarding this behavior? Do
your other instructors ask you to stay and talk with them (high consensus), or is this
instructor unique in making such a request (low consensus)? If it is common for your
instructors to ask to speak with you, this instructor’s request is probably due to some exter-
nal factor. But if she is the only instructor ever to ask to speak privately with you, it must be
something about this particular person—an internal motive or a concern—that accounts
for her behavior.

If you conclude that the instructor has her own reasons for wanting to speak with you,
you may feel mildly curious for the remainder of class until you can find out what she wants.
But if you think external factors—like your own actions—have prompted her request, you
may worry about whether you are in trouble and nervously wait for the end of class.

Biases Unfortunately, the causal attributions we make are often vulnerable to biases. For
instance, imagine that you are at a party and you see an acquaintance, Ted, walk across the
room carrying several plates of food and a drink. As he approaches his chair, Ted spills food
on himself. You may attribute the spill to Ted’s personal characteristics—he is clumsy. Ted,
however, is likely to make a very different attribution. He will likely attribute the spill to an
external factor—he was carrying too many other things. Your explanation for this behavior
reflects the fundamental attribution error—the tendency to attribute others’ behavior to
causes within themselves (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; R. A. Smith & Weber, 2005;
D. L. Watson, 2008).

The fundamental attribution error is part of the actor–observer bias—the tendency to
explain the behavior of others as caused by internal factors, while attributing one’s own
behavior to external forces (Gordon & Kaplar, 2002; Hennessy, Jakubowski, & Benedetti,
2005). For example, during World War II, some Europeans risked their own safety to help
Jewish refugees. From the perspective of an observer, we tend to attribute this behavior to

Explore on MyPsychLab

fundamental attribution error The tendency of
people to overemphasize personal causes for
other people’s behavior and to underemphasize
personal causes for their own behavior.

attribution theory The theory that addresses
the question of how people make judgments
about the causes of behavior.

Explore Internal and External
Attributions at www.mypsychlab.com

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 459

personal qualities. Indeed, Robert Goodkind, chairman of the foundation that
honored the rescuers, called for parents to “inculcate in our children the values of
altruism and moral courage as exemplified by the rescuers.” Clearly, Goodkind
was making an internal attribution for the heroic behavior. The rescuers them-
selves, however, attributed their actions to external factors. One said, “We didn’t
feel like rescuers at all. We were just ordinary students doing what we had to do.”
(Lipman, 1991).

A related class of biases is called defensive attribution. These types of attri-
butions occur when we are motivated to present ourselves well, either to impress
others or to feel good about ourselves (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Gyekye &
Salminen, 2006). One example of a defensive attribution is the self-serving bias,
which is a tendency to attribute our successes to our personal attributes while
chalking up our failures to external forces beyond our control (Sedikides & Luke,
2008; R. A. Smith & Weber, 2005). Students do this all the time. They tend to regard exams
on which they do well as good indicators of their abilities and exams on which they do
poorly as bad indicators (R. A. Smith, 2005). Similarly, teachers are more likely to assume
responsibility for students’ successes than for their failures (R. A. Smith, 2005).

A second type of defensive attribution comes from thinking that people get what they
deserve: Bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to good people. This is
called the just-world hypothesis (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Blader & Tyler, 2002;
Melvyn Lerner, 1980). When misfortune strikes someone, we often jump to the conclusion
that the person deserved it, rather than giving full weight to situational factors that may have
been responsible. Why do we behave this way? One reason is that by reassigning the blame
for a terrible misfortune from a chance event (something that could happen to us) to the
victim’s own negligence (a trait that we, of course, do not share), we delude ourselves into
believing that we could never suffer such a fate (Dalbert, 2001). Interestingly, research has
shown that because believing in a just world reduces stress, it may also promote good health,
posttraumatic growth, and a sense of well-being following a traumatic event (T. Lucas,
Alexander, Firestone, & Lebreton, 2008; Park, Edmondson, Fenster, & Blank, 2008).

Attribution Across Cultures Historically, most of the research on attribution the-
ory has been conducted in Western cultures. Do the basic principles of attribution theory
apply to people in other cultures as well? The answer appears to be “not always.” Some
recent research has confirmed the self-serving bias among people from Eastern collectivist
cultures like Japan and Taiwan (L. Gaertner, Sedikides, & Chang, 2008; Kudo & Numazaki,
2003; Sedikides, Gaertner, & Toguchi, 2003), while other research has not (Balcetis,
Dunning, & Miller, 2008). In one study, Japanese students studying in the United States
usually explained failure as a lack of effort (an internal attribution) and attributed their
successes to the assistance that they received from others (an external attribution)
(Kashima & Triandis, 1986). This process is the reverse of the self-serving bias. Similarly,
the fundamental attribution error may not be universal. In some other cultures, people
place more emphasis on the role of external, situational factors in explaining both their
own behavior and that of others (Incheo Choi, Dalal, Kim-Prieto, & Park, 2003; Morling
& Kitayama, 2008; Triandis, 2001).

Interpersonal Attraction
Do “birds of a feather flock together,” or do “opposites attract”?

A third aspect of social cognition involves interpersonal attraction. When people meet,
what determines whether they will like each other? This is the subject of much speculation
and even mystification, with popular explanations running the gamut from fate to compat-
ible astrological signs. Social psychologists take a more hardheaded view. They have found
that attraction and the tendency to like someone else are closely linked to such factors as
proximity, physical attractiveness, similarity, exchange, and intimacy.

Did this accident happen because of poor dri-
ving or because the driver swerved to avoid a
child in the street? The fundamental attribu-
tion error says that we are more likely to
attribute behavior to internal causes, such as
poor driving, rather than situational factors,
such as a child in the street.

defensive attribution The tendency to
attribute our successes to our own efforts or
qualities and our failures to external factors.

just-world hypothesis Attribution error based
on the assumption that bad things happen to bad
people and good things happen to good people.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

460 Chapter 14

Proximity Proximity is usually the most important factor in determining attraction
(Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; J. W. Brehm, 2002). The closer two people live to each
other, the more likely they are to interact; the more frequent their interaction, the more
they will tend to like each other. Conversely, two people separated by considerable geo-
graphic distance are not likely to run into each other and thus have little chance to develop
a mutual attraction. The proximity effect has less to do with simple convenience than with
the security and comfort we feel with people and things that have become familiar. Famil-
iar people are predictable and safe—thus more likable (Bornstein, 1989).

Physical Attractiveness Contrary to the old adage, “beauty is in the eye of the
beholder,” research has found that people generally agree when rating the attractiveness of
others (Gottschall, 2008; Langlois et al., 2000). Even people from different cultures and eth-
nic groups appear to have a similar standard for who is or is not considered beautiful. This
cross-cultural, cross-ethnic agreement suggests the possibility of a universal standard of
beauty (Bronstad, Langlois, & Russell, 2008; Rhodes, 2006). Consistent with the idea of a
universal standard of beauty, brain-imaging studies have found a specific region of the
brain that is responsive to facial beauty (Chatterjee, Thomas, Smith, & Aguirre, 2009).

Physical attractiveness can powerfully influence the conclusions that we reach about a
person’s character. We actually give attractive people credit for more than their beauty. We
tend to presume they are more intelligent, interesting, happy, kind, sensitive, moral, and
successful than people who are not perceived as attractive. They are also thought to make
better spouses and to be more sexually responsive (Griffin & Langlois, 2006; Hosoda,
Stone, & Coats, 2003; Katz, 2003; Langlois et al., 2000; Riniolo, Johnson, Sherman, &
Misso, 2006). We also tend to like attractive people more than we do less attractive people.
One reason is that physical attractiveness itself is generally considered a positive attribute.
We often perceive beauty as a valuable asset that can be exchanged for other things in social
interactions. We may also believe that beauty has a “radiating effect”—that the glow of a
companion’s good looks enhances our own public image (Kernis & Wheeler, 1981;
Sedikides, Olsen, & Reis, 1993).

Our preoccupation with physical attractiveness has material consequences. Research
has found that mothers of more attractive infants tend to show their children more affec-
tion and to play with them more often than mothers of unattractive infants (Langlois,
Ritter, Casey, & Sawin, 1995). Even in hospitals, premature infants rated as more attractive
by attending nurses thrived better and gained weight faster than those judged as less attrac-

tive, presumably because they receive more nurturing (Badr & Abdallah, 2001).
Attractive children are also more likely to be better adjusted, to display greater
intelligence, and to be treated more leniently by teachers (Langlois et al., 2000; M.
McCall, 1997). Similarly, attractive adults enjoy better health, tend to be slightly
more intelligent, self-confident, and are generally judged to be more hirable and
productive by employers (Desrumaux, De Bosscher, & Léoni, 2009; Hosoda, Stone,
& Coats, 2003; L. A. Jackson, Hunter, & Hodge, 1995).

We also tend to give good-looking people the benefit of the doubt: If they
don’t live up to our expectations during the first encounter, we are likely to give
them a second chance, ask for or accept a second date, or seek further opportunities
for interaction. These reactions can give attractive people substantial advantages in
life and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. Physically attractive people may come
to think of themselves as good or lovable because they are continually treated as if
they are. Conversely, unattractive people may begin to see themselves as bad or
unlovable because they have always been regarded that way—even as children.

Similarity Attractiveness isn’t everything. In the abstract, people might prefer
extremely attractive individuals, but in reality they usually choose friends and partners
who are close to their own level of attractiveness (J. H. Harvey & Pauwells, 1999; L. Lee,
Loewenstein, Ariely, Hong, & Young, 2008; D. K. Marcus & Miller, 2003). Similarity—of
attitudes, interests, values, backgrounds, and beliefs, as well as looks—underlies much

Wonderful or just beautiful? Physically attrac-
tive people are often perceived to have a host
of other attractive qualities. The movie Shrek
2 used this premise for humor by presenting
the handsome Prince Charming as a villain.

proximity How close two people live to each

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 461

interpersonal attraction (AhYun, 2002; Sano, 2002;
S. Solomon & Knafo, 2007). When we know that
someone shares our attitudes and interests, we tend
to have more positive feelings toward that person in
part because they are likely to agree with our choices
and beliefs. In turn that strengthens our convictions
and boosts our self-esteem.

If similarity is such a critical determinant of
attraction, what about the notion that opposites
attract? Aren’t people sometimes attracted to others
who are completely different from them? Extensive
research has failed to confirm this notion. In long-
term relationships, where attraction plays an especially
important role, people overwhelmingly prefer to asso-
ciate with people who are similar to themselves (Buss,
1985; McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001). It is
true that in some cases, people are attracted to others
with complementary characteristics (Dryer &
Horowitz, 1997; K. H. Rubin, Fredstrom, & Bowker,
2008). For example, a person who likes to care for and
fuss over others could be compatible with a mate who
enjoys receiving such attention. But complementarity almost always occurs between people
who share similar goals and similar values. True opposites are unlikely even to meet each
other, much less interact long enough to achieve such compatibility.

Exchange According to the reward theory of attraction, we tend to like people who make
us feel rewarded and appreciated. The relationship between attraction and rewards is sub-
tle and complex. For example, Aronson’s gain–loss theory of attraction (2003) suggests that
increases in rewarding behavior influence attractiveness more than constant rewarding
behavior does. Say that you were to meet and talk with someone at three successive parties,
and during these conversations, that person’s behavior toward you changed from polite
indifference to overt flattery. You would be inclined to like this person more than if she or
he had immediately started to praise you during the first conversation and kept up the
stream of praise each time you met. The reverse also holds true: We tend to dislike people
whose opinion of us changes from good to bad even more than we dislike those who con-
sistently display a low opinion of us.

The reward theory of attraction is based on the concept of exchange. In social interac-
tions, people make exchanges. For example, you may agree to help a friend paint his apart-
ment if he prepares dinner for you. Every exchange involves both rewards (you get a free
dinner; he gets his apartment painted) and costs (you have to paint first; he then has to
cook you dinner).

Exchanges work only insofar as they are fair or equitable. A relationship is based on
equity when both individuals receive equally from each other. However the role of per-
ceived equity in a relationship is complex. In general, the feeling you are getting out of a
relationship what you put into it (equity) is an important determinant of satisfaction
(DeMaris, 2007). However, as relationships mature, this type of accounting may actually
harm a relationship. For instance, long-term happily married couples rarely think about
the cost and benefit of their relationship (M. S. Clark & Chrisman, 1994). As long as both
parties find their interactions more rewarding than costly, and continue to feel the relation-
ship is equitable, their relationship is likely to continue (Cook & Rice, 2003; Takeuchi, 2000;
Van Yperen & Buunk, 1990).

Intimacy When does liking someone become something more? Intimacy is the quality of
genuine closeness to and trust in another person. People become closer and stay closer through
a continuing reciprocal pattern where each person tries to know the other and allows the other

Intimacy and the Internet

Many of the studies of interpersonal attraction were conducted before theadvent of new Internet technologies.
• What impact (if any) has e-mail, instant messaging, online networking com-

munities like Facebook, and dating services like match.com had on close

• Do these new technology tools make it easier to maintain long-distance rela-
tionships? Influence attributions? Encourage self-disclosure with intimates
and/or strangers? Subtly shape social cognition in other ways?

• In answering the questions above, what did you use as the source of your opin-
ions? Your personal experiences? Articles in the mass media? Reports of scien-
tific research? Suppose you were conducting a survey to collect data on these
questions. What would you ask your participants? How might you determine
whether their self-reports are accurate?

exchange The concept that relationships are
based on trading rewards among partners.

equity Fairness of exchange achieved when
each partner in the relationship receives the
same proportion of outcomes to investments.

Self-disclosure—revealing personal experi-
ences and opinions—is essential to all close

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

462 Chapter 14

to know him or her (Theiss & Solomon, 2008). When you are first getting to know someone,
you communicate about “safe,” superficial topics like the weather, sports, or shared activities.
As you get to know each other better over time, your conversation progresses to more personal
subjects: your personal experiences, memories, hopes and fears, goals and failures. Thus, inti-
mate communication is based on a process of gradual self-disclosure (Laurenceau, Barrett, &
Pietromonaco, 2004). Because self-disclosure is possible only when you trust the listener, you
will seek—and usually receive—a reciprocal disclosure to keep the conversation balanced and
emotionally satisfying (Bauminger, Finzi-Dottan, Chason, & Har-Even, 2008; Sprecher &
Hendrick, 2004). The pacing of disclosure is important. If you “jump levels” by revealing too
much too soon—or to someone who is not ready to make a reciprocal personal response—the
other person will probably retreat, and communication will go no further.


1. Associated with the many categories into which we “peg” people are sets of beliefs and
expectations called _____ that are assumed to apply to all members of a category. When
these are quite simplistic, but deeply held, they are often referred to as _____.

2. When the first information we receive about a person weighs more heavily in forming an
impression than later information does, we are experiencing the _____ effect.

3. The tendency to attribute the behavior of others to internal causes and one’s own behavior
to external causes is called the _____ _____ bias.

4. The belief that people must deserve the bad things that happen to them reflects the _____
_____ _____.

5. The tendency to attribute the behavior of others to personal characteristics is the _____
_____ error.

6. Which of the following is a basis for interpersonal attraction? (There can be more than one
correct answer.)

a. proximity
b. similarity
c. exchange
d. attraction of true opposites
e. all of the above

Answers:1. schemata, stereotypes.2. primacy.3. actor-observer.4. just-world hypothesis.
5. fundamental attribution.6. a, b, and c.


1. You meet someone at a party who is outgoing and entertaining, and has a great sense of
humor. A week later, your paths cross again, but this time the person seems very shy,
withdrawn, and humorless. Most likely, your impression of this person after the second
meeting is that he or she

a. is actually shy, withdrawn, and humorless, despite your initial impression.
b. is actually outgoing and entertaining but was just having a bad day.
c. is low in self-monitoring.
d. Both (b) and (c) are correct.

2. Your roommate tells you she did really well on her history midterm exam because she
studied hard and “knew the material cold.” But she says she did poorly on her psychology
midterm because the exam was unfair and full of ambiguous questions. On the basis of
what you have learned in this portion of the chapter, this may be an example of

a. defensive attribution.
b. the primacy effect.
c. the ultimate attribution error.
d. the just-world effect.

Answers:1. b.2. a.

Quick Review on MyPsychLab

More quizzes and a customized
study plan. www.mypsychlab.com

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 463

Why are attitudes important?

An attitude is a relatively stable organization of beliefs, feelings, and tendencies toward
something or someone. Attitudes are important because they often influence our behavior.
For example, the phrase “I don’t like his attitude” is a telling one. People are often told to
“change your attitude” or make an “attitude adjustment.” Since attitudes can affect behavior,
social psychologists are interested in how attitudes are formed and how they can be changed.

The Nature of Attitudes
What are the three major components of attitudes?

An attitude has three major components: evaluative beliefs about an object, feelings about
that object, and behavior tendencies toward that object. Beliefs include facts, opinions, and
our general knowledge. Feelings encompass love, hate, like, dislike, and similar sentiments.
Behavior tendencies refer to our inclinations to act in certain ways toward the object—to
approach it, avoid it, and so on. For example, our attitude toward a political candidate
includes our beliefs about the candidate’s qualifications and positions on crucial issues and
our expectations about how the candidate will vote on those issues. We also have feelings
about the candidate—like or dislike, trust or mistrust. And because of these beliefs and
feelings, we are inclined to behave in certain ways toward the candidate—to vote for or
against the candidate, to contribute time or money to the candidate’s campaign, to make a
point of attending or staying away from rallies for the candidate, and so forth.

As we will see shortly, these three aspects of an attitude are often consistent with one
another. For example, if we have positive feelings toward something, we tend to have posi-
tive beliefs about it and to behave positively toward it. This tendency does not mean, how-
ever, that our every action will accurately reflect our attitudes. For example, our feelings
about going to dentists may be negative, yet most of us make an annual visit anyway. Let’s
look more closely at the relationship between attitudes and behavior.

Attitudes and Behavior The relationship between attitudes and behavior is not
always straightforward (Ajzen & Cote, 2008; Albarracín, Zanna, Johnson, & Kumkale,
2005). Variables such as the strength of the attitude, how easily it comes to mind, how
noticeable a particular attitude is in a given situation, and how relevant the attitude is to the
particular behavior in question help to determine whether a person will act in accordance
with an attitude.

Moreover, attitudes predict behavior better for some people than for others. People who
rate highly on self-monitoring are especially likely to override their attitudes to behave in
accordance with others’ expectations (Jawahar, 2001; O. Klein, Snyder, & Livingston, 2004).
For example, before speaking or acting, those who score high in self-monitoring observe the
situation for clues about how they should react. Then they try to meet those “demands,”
rather than behave according to their own beliefs or sentiments. In contrast, those who score
low in self-monitoring express and act on their attitudes with great consistency, showing lit-
tle regard for situational clues or constraints.

Attitude Development How do we acquire our attitudes? Where do they come
from? Many of our most basic attitudes derive from early, direct personal experience
(Jaccard & Blanton, 2005). Children are rewarded with smiles and encouragement when
they please their parents, and they are punished through disapproval when they displease
them. These early experiences give children enduring attitudes (Castelli, Zogmaister, &
Tomelleri, 2009). Attitudes are also formed by imitation. Children mimic the behavior of
their parents and peers, acquiring attitudes even when no one is deliberately trying to
shape them.

attitude Relatively stable organization of
beliefs, feelings, and behavior tendencies
directed toward something or someone—the
attitude object.

• Describe the three major components

of attitudes and the variables that
determine whether an attitude will be
reflected in behavior.

• Distinguish between prejudice, racism,
and discrimination. Explain the role of
stereotypes and the ultimate attribution
error in prejudicial attitudes. Compare
and contrast the following potential
sources of prejudice: frustration-
aggression, authoritarian personality,
“cognitive misers,” and conformity.
Describe the three strategies that
appear promising as ways to reduce
prejudice and discrimination.

• Describe the three steps in the use of
persuasion to change attitudes:
attention, comprehension, and
acceptance. In your description, include
the source (credibility and the sleeper
effect), the message itself (one-sided vs.
two-sided, fear), the medium of
communication, and characteristics of
the audience.

• Explain what is meant by “cognitive
dissonance” and how that can be used
to change attitudes.

self-monitoring The tendency for an
individual to observe the situation for cues
about how to react.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

464 Chapter 14

But parents are not the only source of attitudes. Teachers, friends, and even famous
people are also important in shaping our attitudes. New fraternity or sorority members, for
example, may model their behavior and attitudes on upper-class members (McConnell,
Rydell, Strain, & Mackie, 2008). A student who idolizes a teacher may adopt many of the
teacher’s attitudes toward controversial subjects, even if they run counter to attitudes of
parents or friends.

The mass media, particularly television, also have a great impact on attitude formation
(Lin & Reid, 2009; Nielsen & Bonn, 2008). This is why having his photo televised with the
label of terrorist suspect was particularly devastating for Sher Singh. Television and maga-
zines bombard us with messages—not merely through news and entertainment, but also
through commercials. Without experience of their own against which to measure the merit
of these messages, children are particularly susceptible to the influence of television on
their attitudes.

Prejudice and Discrimination
How does a person develop a prejudice toward someone else?

Although the terms prejudice and discrimination are often used interchangeably, they actu-
ally refer to different concepts. Prejudice—an attitude—is an unfair, intolerant, or unfa-
vorable view of a group of people. Discrimination—a behavior—is an unfair act or a series
of acts directed against an entire group of people or individual members of that group. To
discriminate is to treat an entire class of people in an unfair way.

Person–Situation Does Discrimination Reflect Prejudice?
Prejudice and discrimination do not always occur together. A variety of factors determine
whether prejudice will be expressed in discriminative behavior (Crandall & Eshleman,
2003; Monteiro, de França, & Rodrigues, 2009). For example, a prejudiced storeowner may
smile at an African American customer to disguise opinions that could hurt his business.
Likewise, many institutional practices can be discriminatory even though they are not
based on prejudice. For example, regulations establishing a minimum height requirement
for police officers may discriminate against women and certain ethnic groups whose aver-
age height falls below the standard, even though the regulations do not stem from sexist or
racist attitudes. ■

prejudice An unfair, intolerant, or unfavorable
attitude toward a group of people.

discrimination An unfair act or series of acts
taken toward an entire group of people or
individual members of that group.

frustration–aggression theory The theory
that, under certain circumstances, people who
are frustrated in their goals turn their anger
away from the proper, powerful target and
toward another, less powerful target that is
safer to attack.

Prejudice Like all other attitudes, prejudice has three components: beliefs, feelings, and
behavioral tendencies. Prejudicial beliefs are virtually always negative stereotypes; and, as
mentioned earlier, reliance on stereotypes can lead to erroneous thinking about other peo-
ple. The ultimate attribution error refers to the tendency for a person with stereotyped
beliefs about a particular group of people to make internal attributions for their shortcom-
ings (they lack ability or motivation) and external attributions for their successes (they
were given special advantages) (P. J. Henry, Reyna, & Weiner, 2004). Along with stereotyped
beliefs, prejudiced attitudes are usually marked by strong emotions, such as dislike, fear,
hatred, or loathing and corresponding negative behavioral tendencies such as avoidance,
hostility, and criticism.

Sources of Prejudice Many theories attempt to sort out the causes and sources of
prejudice. According to the frustration–aggression theory, prejudice is the result of peo-
ple’s frustrations (Allport, 1954; E. R. Smith & Mackie, 2005). As we saw in Chapter 8,
“Motivation and Emotion,” under some circumstances frustration can spill over into anger
and hostility. People who feel exploited and oppressed often cannot vent their anger against
an identifiable or proper target, so they displace their hostility onto those even “lower” on

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

the social scale than themselves. The result is prejudice and discrimination. The people
who are the victims of this displaced aggression, or scapegoats, are blamed for the problems
of the times.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, many Arabs, Muslims, and even
people who looked Middle Eastern, became scapegoats for some Americans’ frustration
about the violence. Recall the experiences of Sher Singh, whom we described at the start of
this chapter. African Americans have long been scapegoats for the economic frustrations of
some lower-income White Americans who feel powerless to improve their own condition.
However, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, and women are also scape-
goated—at times by African Americans. Like kindness, greed, and all other human quali-
ties, prejudice is not restricted to a particular race, religion, gender, or ethnic group.

Another theory locates the source of prejudice in a bigoted or authoritarian personal-
ity (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswick, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950; Altemeyer, 2004). Authoritar-
ian people tend to be rigidly conventional. They favor following the rules and abiding by
tradition and are hostile to those who defy social norms. They respect and submit to
authority and are preoccupied with power and toughness. Looking at the world through a
lens of rigid categories, they are cynical about human nature, fearing, suspecting, and
rejecting all groups other than those to which they belong. Prejudice is only one expression
of their suspicious, mistrusting views (Jost & Sidanius, 2004).

Cognitive sources of prejudice also exist (Cornelis & Van Hiel, 2006). As we saw ear-
lier, people are “cognitive misers” who try to simplify and organize their social thinking
as much as possible. Oversimplification can lead to erroneous thinking, stereotypes,
prejudice, and discrimination. For example, belief in a just world—where people get
what they deserve and deserve what they get—oversimplifies one’s view of the victims of
prejudice as somehow “deserving” their plight. This may be why some people watching
Sher Singh’s arrest jumped to the conclusion that he was a terrorist who “deserved” to
be arrested.

In addition, prejudice and discrimination may originate in people’s
attempts to conform. If we associate with people who express prejudices, we are
more likely to go along with their ideas than to resist them. The pressures of
social conformity help to explain why children quickly absorb the prejudices of
their parents and playmates long before they have formed their own beliefs and
opinions on the basis of experience. Peer pressure sometimes makes it “cool” or
at least acceptable to harbor biased attitudes toward members of other social
groups: Either you are one of “us,” or you are one of “them.” An in-group is any
group of people who feels a sense of solidarity and exclusivity in relation to
nonmembers. An out-group, in contrast, is a group of people who are outside
this boundary and are viewed as competitors, enemies, or different and unwor-
thy of respect. These terms can be applied to opposing sports teams, rival
gangs, and political parties, or to entire nations, regions, religions, and ethnic
or racial groups. According to the in-group bias, members see themselves not
just as different, but also as superior to members of out-groups (K. Miller,
Brewer, & Arbuckle, 2009). In extreme cases, members of an in-group may see
members of an out-group as less than human and feel hatred that may lead to
violence, civil war, and even genocide.

Racism is the belief that members of certain racial or ethnic groups are
innately inferior. Racists believe that intelligence, industry, morality, and other valued
traits are biologically determined and therefore cannot be changed. The most blatant
forms of racism in the United States have declined during the past several decades, but
racism still exists in subtle forms. For example, many Whites say that they approve of
interracial marriage, but would be “uncomfortable” if someone in their family married
an African American. Blacks and Whites in America also have different views on race-
related policies such as school desegregation and affirmative action, with Blacks gener-
ally being more supportive of such policies (Julie Hughes, 2009). In one survey of 1,000
Americans shortly after hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, 66% of African Americans
said that the government’s response would have been faster if most victims had been

Watch on MyPsychLab

Social Psychology 465

Signs like this were common in the South
before the civil rights movement.

authoritarian personality A personality
pattern characterized by rigid conventionality,
exaggerated respect for authority, and hostility
toward those who defy society’s norms.

racism Prejudice and discrimination directed
at a particular racial group.

Watch Acting White Is a
Hurtful Accusation Among Black
Students at www.mypsychlab.com

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

466 Chapter 14

White; only 26% of White Americans agreed. Only 19% of African Americans, com-
pared to 41% of White Americans, felt that the federal government’s response was good
or excellent. When asked about people who “took things from businesses and homes”
during the flooding, 57% of African Americans said they were ordinary people trying to
survive; only 38% of White Americans agreed. (Pew Research Center for the People and
the Press, 2005).

Strategies for Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination How can we use our
knowledge of prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination to reduce prejudice and its expres-
sion? Three strategies appear promising: recategorization, controlled processing, and improv-
ing contact between groups. (See “Applying Psychology: Ethnic Conflict and Violence,”
page 468, for a discussion of how these strategies can be used to reduce ethnic conflict.)

• Recategorization. When we recategorize, we try to expand our schema of a partic-
ular group—such as viewing people from different races or genders as sharing
similar qualities. These more inclusive schemata become superordinate categories.
For instance, both Catholics and Protestants in the United States tend to view
themselves as Christians, rather than as separate competing groups (as has
occurred in Northern Ireland). If people can create such superordinate categories,
they can often reduce stereotypes and prejudice (S. L. Gaertner & Dovidio, 2008).

• Controlled Processing. Some researchers believe that we all learn cultural stereo-
types, so the primary difference between someone who is prejudiced and someone
who is not is the ability to suppress prejudiced beliefs through controlled processing
(Cunningham, Johnson, Raye, Gatenby, & Gore, 2004; Dion, 2003). We can train
ourselves to be more “mindful” of people who differ from us. For example, to reduce
children’s prejudice toward people with disabilities, children could be shown slides
of handicapped people and be asked to imagine how difficult it might be for such
individuals to open a door or drive a car.

• Improving group contact. Finally, we can reduce prejudice and tensions between
groups by bringing them together (Denson, 2008; McClelland & Linnander, 2006).
This was one of the intentions of the famous 1954 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision
in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which mandated that public
schools become racially integrated. Intergroup contact alone is not enough, how-
ever (D. M. Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994). It can work to undermine prejudicial
attitudes if certain conditions are met:

1. Group members must have equal status. When African Americans and Whites were
first integrated in the army and in public housing, they had relatively equal status,
so prejudice between them was greatly reduced (Wernet, Follman, Magueja, &
Moore-Chambers, 2003). School desegregation has been less successful in part
because the structure of our school system tends to reward the economic and aca-
demic advantages of White children, giving them an edge over many African
American schoolchildren (Schofield, 1997).

2. People need to have one-on-one contact with members
of the other group. Simply putting students with
differing racial and ethnic backgrounds together in a
classroom does not change attitudes. Personal con-
tact, like that which occurs among friends at lunch
and after school, is more effective (S. C. Wright,
Aron, & Brody, 2008).

3. Members of the two groups must cooperate rather than
compete. Perhaps because it provides personal contact
as well as common ground and equal status, working
together to achieve a goal helps to break down
prejudice. (van Laar, Levin, & Sidanius, 2008; Wernet,
Follman, Magueja, & Moore-Chambers, 2003).

Ethnic Conflict and Violence

1. Can you think of some examples of propaganda in this country that pro-

mote prejudice toward racial and ethnic groups? How can you distin-
guish “propaganda” from factual information?

2. Using the procedures described here to reduce ethnic hostility and vio-
lence, design a program to reduce ethnic conflict in a troubled inner-city
high school. How could you tell whether your program was effective?

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 467

4. Social norms should encourage intergroup contact. In many cases,
school desegregation took place in a highly charged atmosphere.
Busloads of African American children arrived at their new schools
only to face the protests of angry White parents. These conditions did
not promote genuine intergroup contact. In situations in which con-
tact is encouraged by social norms, prejudiced attitudes are less likely.

In all of these suggestions, the primary focus is on changing behavior,
not on changing attitudes directly. But changing behavior is often a first
step toward changing attitudes. This is not to say that attitude change fol-
lows automatically. Attitudes can be difficult to budge because they are
often so deeply rooted. Completely eliminating deeply held attitudes, then,
can be very difficult. That is why social psychologists have concentrated
so much effort on techniques that encourage attitude change. In the next
section, we examine some of the major findings in the psychological
research on attitude change.

Changing Attitudes
What factors encourage someone to change an attitude?

A man watching television on Sunday afternoon ignores scores of beer commercials, but
listens to a friend who recommends a particular brand. A political speech convinces one
woman to change her vote in favor of the candidate, but leaves her next-door neighbor
determined to vote against him. Why would a personal recommendation have greater per-
suasive power than an expensively produced television commercial? How can two people
with similar initial views derive completely different messages from the same speech? What
makes one attempt to change attitudes fail and another succeed? Are some people more
resistant to attitude change than others are?

The Process of Persuasion The first step in persuasion is to seize and retain the
audience’s attention (Albarracín, 2002). To be persuaded, you must first pay attention to
the message; then you must comprehend it; finally, you must accept it as convincing
(Perloff, 2003).

As competition has stiffened, advertisers have become increasingly creative in catch-
ing your attention (Lalwani, Lwin, & Ling, 2009). For example, ads that arouse emotions,
especially feelings that make you want to act, can be memorable and thus persuasive
(DeSteno & Braverman, 2002; Hansen & Christensen, 2007). Humor, too, is an effective
way to keep you watching or reading an ad that you would otherwise ignore (Michael
Conway & Dubé, 2002; Strick, van Baaren, Holland, & van Knippenberg, 2009). Other ads
“hook” the audience by involving them in a narrative. A commercial might open with a
dramatic scene or situation—for example, two people seemingly “meant” for each other
but not yet making eye contact—and the viewer stays tuned to find out what happens.
Some commercials even feature recurring characters and story lines so that each new
commercial in the series is really the latest installment in a soap opera. Even annoying ads
can still be effective in capturing attention, because people tend to notice them when they
appear (Aaker & Bruzzone, 1985).

With so many clever strategies focused on seizing and holding your attention, how can
you shield yourself from unwanted influences and resist persuasive appeals? Start by
reminding yourself that these are deliberate attempts to influence you and to change your
behavior. Research shows that to a great extent, “forewarned is forearmed” (Wood &
Quinn, 2003). Another strategy for resisting persuasion is to analyze ads to identify which
attention-getting strategies are at work. Make a game of deciphering the advertisers’ “code”
instead of falling for the ad’s appeal. In addition, raise your standards for the kinds of mes-
sages that are worthy of your attention and commitment.

One of the best antidotes to prejudice is con-
tact among people of different racial groups.
Working on class projects together, for exam-
ple, can help children to overcome negative
stereotypes about others.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

468 Chapter 14

Ethnic Conflict and Violence

Since the end of the Cold War,interethnic conflict has becomethe dominant form of war (Mays,
Bullock, Rosenzweig, & Wessells, 1998;
Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998). Bosnia, Croa-
tia, East Timor, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Ire-
land, Israel, Sri Lanka . . . the list of
countries torn by ethnic conflict is long;
and civilian deaths continue to increase by
the thousands. Why does such conflict
arise, and why is it so difficult to resolve?

Ethnic conflict has no single cause. In
part, it “. . . is often rooted in histories of
colonialism, ethnocentrism, racism, politi-
cal oppression, human rights abuses, social
injustice, poverty, and environmental degra-
dation” (Mays et al., 1998, p. 737; Pederson,
2002; Toft, 2003). But these structural prob-
lems are only part of the story, determining
primarily who fights whom. The rest of the
story is found in psychological processes
such as intense group loyalty, personal and
social identity, shared memories, polariza-
tion and deep-rooted prejudice, and societal
beliefs (Phinney, 2008; Tindale, Munier,
Wasserman, & Smith, 2002). In other words,
structural problems don’t have the same
effect when people are not prepared to hate
and fear others. What are some of the
psychological forces at work?

• Propaganda causes opponents to be
painted in the most negative fashion
possible, thus perpetuating racism, prej-
udice, and stereotypes. In Rwanda, for
example, Tutsis (who were almost exter-
minated by the resulting violence with
Hutus) for years were falsely accused in
the mass media of having committed
horrible crimes and of plotting the mass
murder of Hutus (David Smith, 1998).

• When ethnic violence is protracted,
shared collective memories become filled
with instances of violence, hostility, and
victimization. Prejudices are thus rein-
forced, and people increasingly come to
view the conflict as inevitable and their
differences as irreconcilable (Rouhana
& Bar-Tal, 1998).

• Personal and social identity can also con-
tribute. Because group memberships

contribute to self-image, if your group is
maligned or threatened, then by exten-
sion you also are personally maligned
and threatened. If you are unable to leave
the group, you are pressured to defend it
to enhance your own feelings of self-
esteem (Cairns & Darby, 1998). In this
way, what starts out as ethnic conflict
quickly becomes a highly personal threat.

• Finally, widespread societal beliefs about
the conflict and the parties to the con-
flict also play a role in prolonged ethnic
conflicts. Four especially important
societal beliefs are “Our goals are just,”
“The opponent has no legitimacy,” “We
can do no wrong,” and “We are the vic-
tims” (Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998). These
societal beliefs “provide a common
social prism through which society
members view the conflict.

Because conflict and violence stem
partly from psychological processes,
attempts to build peace cannot address
only structural problems. Attempts to
redistribute resources more equitably, to
reduce oppression and victimization, and
to increase social justice are essential, but
they will succeed only if attention is

also given to important psychological
processes. Concerted efforts must be made
to increase tolerance and improve inter-
group relations while also developing new,
nonviolent means for resolving conflicts
(M. B. Brewer, 2008). The strategies of
recategorization, controlled processing,
and contact between groups have helped
reduce ethnic conflict in some countries
(David Smith, 1998). But cognitive
changes must also be made: Societal beliefs
must be changed, and new beliefs must be
developed that are more consistent with
conflict resolution and peaceful relation-
ships. In addition, multidisciplinary tech-
niques must be developed if programs are
to be fully effective in addressing conflicts
in different cultures. As one group of
experts put it, “It is both risky and ethno-
centric to assume that methods developed
in Western contexts can be applied directly
in different cultures and contexts. Research
on different cultural beliefs and practices
and their implications for ethnopolitical
conflict analysis and prevention is essential
if the field of psychology is going to be suc-
cessful in its contributions” (Mays et al.,
1998, p. 739).

Conflict among different ethnic groups has led to many years of violence in Africa.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 469

The Communication Model The second and third steps in persuasion—compre-
hending and then accepting the message—are influenced by both the message itself and the
way in which it is presented. The communication model of persuasion spotlights four key
elements to achieve these goals: the source, the message itself, the medium of communica-
tion, and characteristics of the audience. Persuaders manipulate each of these factors in the
hopes of changing your attitudes.

The effectiveness of a persuasive message first depends on its source, the author
or communicator who appeals to the audience to accept the message. Credibility
makes a big difference, at least initially (Ito, 2002; Jain & Posavac, 2001). For example,
we are less likely to change our attitude about the oil industry’s antipollution efforts
if the president of a major refining company tells us about them than if we hear the
same information from an impartial commission appointed to study the situation.
However, over a period of time, the message may nonetheless be influential. Apparently
we are inclined to forget the source, while remembering the content. Not surprisingly,
this is known as the sleeper effect (Kumkale & Albarracín, 2004; Nabi, Moyer-Gusé, &
Byrne, 2007).

The credibility of the source is also important (Ehigie & Shenge, 2000; Putrevu,
2005), especially when we are not inclined to pay attention to the message (Petty &
Cacioppo, 1986a). But in cases in which we have some interest in the message, the message
itself plays the greater role in determining whether we change our attitudes (Petty &
Cacioppo, 1986b). Researchers have discovered that we frequently tune out messages that
simply contradict our own point of view. The more effective you are at generating coun-
terarguments, the less likely you are to be persuaded by opposing arguments (Jacks &
Cameron, 2003). Thus, messages are generally more successful when they present both
sides of an argument and when they present novel arguments, rather than when they
rehash old standbys, heard many times before. A two-sided presentation generally makes
the speaker seem less biased and thus enhances credibility. We have greater respect and
trust for a communicator who acknowledges that there is another side to a controversial
issue. Messages that create fear sometimes work well, too (Cochrane & Quester, 2005; Dil-
lard & Anderson, 2004), for example in convincing people to stop smoking (Dahl,
Frankenberger, & Manchanda, 2003; K. H. Smith & Stutts, 2003), or to drive safely
(Shehryar & Hunt, 2005). However, research has shown that the persuasiveness of fearful
ads is relatively short lived compared to the longer term influence of positive ads (Lewis,
Watson, & White, 2008).

When it comes to choosing an effective medium of persuasion, written documentation
is best suited to making people understand complex arguments, whereas videotapes or live
presentations are more effective with an audience that already grasps the gist of an argu-
ment (Chaiken & Eagly, 1976). Most effective, however, are face-to-face appeals or the
lessons of our own experience.

The most critical factors in changing attitudes—and the most difficult to control—
have to do with the audience. Attitudes are most resistant to change if (1) the audience has
a strong commitment to its present attitudes, (2) those attitudes are shared by others, and
(3) the attitudes were instilled during early childhood by a pivotal group such as the family.
The discrepancy between the content of the message and the present attitudes of the audi-
ence also affects how well the message will be received. Up to a point, the greater the differ-
ence between the two, the greater the likelihood of attitude change, as long as the person
delivering the message is considered an expert on the topic. If the discrepancy is too great,
however, the audience may reject the new information altogether, even though it comes
from an expert.

Finally, certain personal characteristics make some people more susceptible to
attitude change than others. People with low self-esteem are more easily influenced,
especially when the message is complex and hard to understand. Highly intelligent
people tend to resist persuasion because they can think of counterarguments more

Cognitive Dissonance Theory One of the more fascinating approaches to
understanding the process of attitude change is the theory of cognitive dissonance,

For an ad to affect our behavior, it must first
attract our attention. This one also generates
fear, which can sometimes be effective.
Source: © MADD. Used by permission.

cognitive dissonance Perceived inconsistency
between two cognitions.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

470 Chapter 14

developed by Leon Festinger (J. Cooper, Mirabile, & Scher, 2005; Festinger, 1957;
B. J. Friedman, 2000). Cognitive dissonance exists whenever a person has two contra-
dictory cognitions, or beliefs, at the same time. “I am a considerate and loyal friend”
is one cognition; “Yesterday I repeated some juicy gossip I heard about my friend Chris”
is another cognition. These two cognitions are dissonant—each one implies the oppo-
site of the other. According to Festinger, cognitive dissonance creates unpleasant
psychological tension, which motivates us to try to resolve the dissonance in some way.

Sometimes changing one’s attitude is the easiest way to reduce the discomfort
of dissonance. I cannot easily change the fact that I have repeated gossip about a
friend; therefore, it is easier to change my attitude toward my friend. If I conclude
that Chris is not really a friend but simply an acquaintance, then my new attitude
now fits my behavior—spreading gossip about someone who is not a friend does
not contradict the fact that I am loyal and considerate to those who are my friends.
Similarly, one way to reduce the discomfort or guilt associated with cheating in school is
to show support for other students who engage in academic dishonesty (Storch &
Storch, 2003).

Discrepant behavior that contradicts an attitude does not necessarily bring about
attitude change, however, because there are other ways a person can reduce cognitive
dissonance. One alternative is to increase the number of consonant elements—that is, the
thoughts that are consistent with one another. For example, I might recall the many
times I defended Chris when others were critical of him. Now my repeating a little bit of
gossip seems less at odds with my attitude toward Chris as a friend. Another option is
to reduce the importance of one or both dissonant cognitions. For instance, I could
tell myself, “The person I repeated the gossip to was Terry, who doesn’t really know
Chris very well. Terry doesn’t care and won’t repeat it. It was no big deal, and Chris
shouldn’t be upset about it.” By reducing the significance of my disloyal action, I reduce
the dissonance that I experience and so make it less necessary to change my attitude
toward Chris.

But why would someone engage in behavior that goes against an attitude in the first
place? One answer is that cognitive dissonance is a natural part of everyday life. Simply
choosing between two or more desirable alternatives leads inevitably to dissonance. Sup-
pose you are in the market for a computer, but can’t decide between a Dell™ and a Mac-
intosh. If you choose one, all of its bad features and all the good aspects of the other
contribute to dissonance. After you have bought one of the computers, you can reduce
the dissonance by changing your attitude: You might decide that the other keyboard was-
n’t “quite right” and that some of the “bad” features of the computer you bought aren’t so
bad after all.

You may also engage in behavior at odds with an attitude because you are enticed to
do so. Perhaps someone offers you a small bribe or reward: “I will pay you 25 cents just
to try my product.” Curiously, the larger the reward, the smaller the change in attitude
that is likely to result (J. W. Brehm, 2007). When rewards are large, dissonance is at a min-
imum, and attitude change is small, if it happens at all. Apparently, when people are con-

vinced that there is a good reason to do something
that goes against their beliefs (“I’ll try almost any-
thing in exchange for a large cash incentive”), they
experience little dissonance, and their attitudes are
not likely to shift, even though their behavior may
change for a time. If the reward is small, however—
just barely enough to induce behavior that conflicts
with one’s attitude—dissonance will be great, maxi-
mizing the chances of attitude change: “I only got
25 cents to try this product, so it couldn’t have been
the money that attracted me. I must really like this
product after all.” The trick is to induce the behavior
that goes against an attitude, while leaving people

Attitudes Toward Smoking

Most adolescents and young adults are well aware of the dangers ofsmoking cigarettes. Nonetheless a significant number of those samepeople smoke regularly. Based on what you have read concerning atti-
tude change, how would you go about changing people’s attitudes toward smok-
ing? For each technique you would use, explain why you think it would be
effective. How would you demonstrate whether your program was having the
desired effect?

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 471

What are some areas in which the power of social influence
is highly apparent?

In social psychology, social influence refers to the process by which others—individually
or collectively—affect our perceptions, attitudes, and actions (Nowak, Vallacher, & Miller,
2003). In the previous section, we examined one form of social influence: attitude change.
Next, we’ll focus on how the presence or actions of others can control behavior without
regard to underlying attitudes.


1. A(n) _____ is a fairly stable organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavioral tendencies
directed toward some object, such as a person or group.

2. Are the following statements true (T) or false (F)?
a. ___ The best way to predict behavior is to measure attitudes.
b. ___ Prejudice is the act of treating someone unfairly.
c. ___ Messages are more persuasive when they present both sides of an argument.
d. ___ A person who has two contradictory beliefs at the same time is experiencing

cognitive dissonance.
3. The message that most likely will result in a change in attitude is one with

a. high fear from a highly credible source.
b. high fear from a moderately credible source.
c. moderate fear from a highly credible source.
d. moderate fear from a moderately credible source.

Answers:1. attitude.2. a. (F); b. (F); c. (T); d. (T).3. c.


1. You are asked to advise an elementary school on ways to reduce prejudice in an
integrated third grade classroom. On the basis of what you have read, which of the
following is most likely to be effective?

a. Seating Black and White children alternately around the drawing table.
b. Talking to the group regularly about the unfairness of prejudice and discrimination.
c. Holding frequent competitions to see whether the Black students or the White

students perform classroom work better.
d. Assigning pairs consisting of one Black student and one White student to do

interdependent parts of homework assignments.

2. Two people listen to a discussion on why our government should increase defense
spending. John has never really thought much about the issue, while Jane has
participated in marches and demonstrations against increased defense spending. Which
person is LESS likely to change their attitude about defense spending?

a. Jane
b. John
c. Both are equally likely to change their attitudes.

Answers:1. d.2. a.

• Explain what is meant by the statement

that “culture is a major form of social
influence.” In your explanation, include
cultural truisms and norms.

• Compare and contrast conformity,
compliance, and obedience. Describe
the factors that influence conforming
behavior. Distinguish between the foot-
in-the-door technique, lowball procedure,
and the door-in-the-face effect as ways to
get compliance. Describe the factors that
influence obedience.

feeling personally responsible for the dissonant act. In that way, they are more likely to
change their attitudes than if they feel they were blatantly induced to act in a way that
contradicted their beliefs.

social influence The process by which others
individually or collectively affect one’s
perceptions, attitudes, and actions.

Quick Review on MyPsychLab
More quizzes and a customized
study plan. www.mypsychlab.com
Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

472 Chapter 14

Cultural Influences
How does your culture influence how you dress or what you eat?

Culture exerts an enormous influence on our attitudes and behavior, and culture is itself a
creation of people. As such, culture is a major form of social influence. Consider for a
moment the many aspects of day-to-day living that are derived from culture:

1. Culture dictates how you dress. A Saudi woman covers her face before venturing
outside her home; a North American woman freely displays her face, arms, and
legs; and women in some other societies roam completely naked.

2. Culture specifies what you eat—and what you do not eat. Americans do not eat
dog meat, the Chinese eat no cheese, and the Hindus refuse to eat beef. Culture
further guides how you eat: with a fork, chopsticks, or your bare hands.

3. People from different cultures seek different amounts of personal space. Latin
Americans, French people, and Arabs get closer to one another in most face-to-
face interactions than do Americans, British, or Swedes.

To some extent, culture influences us through formal instruction. For example, your
parents might have reminded you from time to time that certain actions are considered
“normal” or the “right way” to behave. But more often, we learn cultural lessons through
modeling and imitation. One result of such learning is the unquestioning acceptance of
cultural truisms—beliefs or values that most members of a society accept as self-evident
(Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Maio & Olson, 1998). We are rewarded (reinforced) for
doing as our companions and fellow citizens do in most situations—for going along with
the crowd. This social learning process is one of the chief mechanisms by which a culture
transmits its central lessons and values.

In the course of comparing and adapting our own behavior to that of others, we learn the
norms of our culture. A norm is a culturally shared idea or expectation about how to behave.
As in the preceding examples, norms are often steeped in tradition and strengthened by habit.
Cultures seem strange to us if their norms are very different from our own. It is tempting to

conclude that different means “wrong,” simply because unfamiliar patterns of behav-
ior can make us feel uncomfortable. To transcend our differences and get along bet-
ter with people from other cultures, we must find ways to overcome such discomfort.

One technique for understanding other cultures is the cultural assimilator, a
strategy for perceiving the norms and values of another group (Kempt, 2000). This
technique teaches by example, asking students to explain why a member of another
culture has behaved in a particular way. For example, why do the members of a
Japanese grade school class silently follow their teacher single file through a park on
a lovely spring day? Are they afraid of being punished for disorderly conduct if they
do otherwise? Are they naturally placid and compliant? Once you understand that
Japanese children are raised to value the needs and feelings of others over their own
selfish concerns, their orderly, obedient behavior seems much less perplexing. Cul-
tural assimilators encourage us to remain open-minded about others’ norms and
values by challenging such cultural truisms as “Our way is the right way.”

What increases the likelihood that someone will conform?

Accepting cultural norms should not be confused with conformity. For instance, millions
of Americans drink coffee in the morning, but not because they are conforming. They
drink coffee because they like and desire it. Conformity, in contrast, implies a conflict
between an individual and a group that is resolved when individual preferences or beliefs
yield to the norms or expectations of the larger group.

Since the early 1950s, when Solomon Asch conducted the first systematic study of
the subject, conformity has been a major topic of research in social psychology. Asch

cultural truisms Beliefs that most members of
a society accept as self-evidently true.

norm A shared idea or expectation about how
to behave.

Why do Japanese schoolchildren behave in
such an orderly way? How does your answer
compare with the discussion of cultural

conformity Voluntarily yielding to social
norms, even at the expense of one’s preferences.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 473

demonstrated in a series of experiments that under some circumstances, people will con-
form to group pressures even if this action forces them to deny obvious physical evi-
dence. He asked people to view cards with several lines of differing lengths, then asked
them to choose the card with the line most similar to the line on a comparison card. (See
Figure 14–1.) The lines were deliberately drawn so that the comparison was obvious and
the correct choice was clear. All but one of the participants were confederates of the
experimenter. On certain trials, these confederates deliberately gave the same wrong
answer. This procedure put the lone dissenter on the spot: Should he conform to what he
knew to be a wrong decision and agree with the group, thereby denying the evidence of
his own eyes, or should he disagree with the group, thereby risking the social conse-
quences of nonconformity?

Overall, participants conformed on about 35% of the trials. There were large individ-
ual differences, however; and in subsequent research, experimenters discovered that two
sets of factors influence the likelihood that a person will conform: characteristics of the sit-
uation and characteristics of the person.

The size of the group is one situational factor that has been studied extensively
(R. Bond, 2005). Asch (1951) found that the likelihood of conformity increased with group
size until four confederates were present. After that point, the number of others made no
difference to the frequency of conformity.

Another important situational factor is the degree of unanimity in the group. If
just one confederate broke the perfect agreement of the majority by giving the cor-
rect answer, conformity among participants in the Asch experiments fell from an aver-
age of 35% to about 25% (Asch, 1956). Apparently, having just one “ally” eases the
pressure to conform. The ally does not even have to share the person’s viewpoint—
just breaking the unanimity of the majority is enough to reduce conformity (Walther
et al., 2002).

The nature of the task is still another situational variable that affects conformity. For
instance, conformity has been shown to vary with the difficulty and ambiguity of a task.
When the task is difficult or poorly defined, conformity tends to be higher (Blake, Helson,
& Mouton, 1956). In an ambiguous situation, people are less sure of their own opinion and
more willing to conform to the majority view.

Personal characteristics also influence conforming behavior (Griskevicius, Goldstein,
Mortensen, Cialdini, & Kenrick, 2006). The more a person is attracted to the group, expects
to interact with its members in the future, holds a position of relatively low status, and does
not feel completely accepted by the group, the more that person tends to conform. The fear
of rejection apparently motivates conformity when a person scores high on one or more of
these factors.

Figure 14–1
Asch’s experiment on conformity
In Asch’s experiment on conformity, participants
were shown a comparison card like the top one
and asked to indicate which of the three lines
on the bottom card was the most similar. Partici-
pants frequently chose the wrong line in order
to conform to the group choice.


Individuality–Universality Social Influence Across Cultures
In collectivist cultures, community and harmony are very important. Thus, you might sus-
pect that members of collectivist cultures would conform more frequently to the will of a
group than would members of noncollectivist cultures. In fact, psychologists have found
that levels of conformity in collectivist cultures are frequently higher than those found by
Asch (H. Jung, 2006). In collectivist societies as diverse as Fiji, Zaire, Hong Kong, Lebanon,
Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Japan, and Brazil, conformity on tasks similar to those used by Asch
ranged from 25% to 51% (P. B. Smith & Bond, 1994).

The fact that conformity in the Asch situation is relatively high across a variety of cul-
tures suggests that there may be some kind of universal “conformity norm” that is strength-
ened or weakened by a specific cultural context. Further research is needed before we will
know the answers to the questions,“What is universal about social influence?” and “What is
culturally determined?” ■

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

474 Chapter 14

How could a salesperson increase a customer’s compliance
in buying a product?

Conformity is a response to pressure exerted by norms that are generally left unstated. In
contrast, compliance is a change of behavior in response to an explicitly stated request.
One technique for inducing compliance is the so-called foot-in-the-door effect (Matthiesen
& Richter, 2007; Rodafinos, Vucevic, & Sideridis, 2005). Every salesperson knows that the
moment a prospect allows the sales pitch to begin, the chances of making a sale improve
greatly. The same effect operates in other areas of life: Once people have granted a small
request, they are more likely to comply with a larger one.

In the most famous study of this phenomenon, Freedman and Fraser (1966)
approached certain residents of Palo Alto, California, posing as members of a committee
for safe driving. They asked residents to place a large, ugly sign reading “Drive Carefully” in
their front yards. Only 17% agreed to do so. Then other residents were asked to sign a peti-
tion calling for more safe-driving laws. When these same people were later asked to place
the ugly “Drive Carefully” sign in their yards, an amazing 55% agreed. Compliance with the
first small request more than tripled the rate of compliance with the larger request.

Why does the foot-in-the-door technique work so well? One possible explanation is
that agreeing to the token act (signing the petition) realigns the person’s self-perception
with that of someone who more strongly favors the cause. When presented with the larger
request, the person then feels obligated to comply (Cialdini & Trost, 1998).

Another strategy commonly used by salespeople is the lowball procedure (Cialdini &
Trost, 1998; Guéguen, Pascual, & Dagot, 2002). The first step is to induce a person to agree
to do something for a comparatively low cost. The second step is to raise the cost of com-
pliance. Among car dealers, lowballing works like this: The dealer persuades the customer
to buy a car by reducing the price well below that offered by competitors. Once the cus-
tomer has agreed to buy the car, the terms of the sale shift so that, in the end, the car is more
costly than it would be at other dealerships. Although the original inducement was the low
price (the “lowball” that the salesperson originally pitched), once committed, buyers tend
to remain committed to the now pricier car.

Under certain circumstances, a person who has refused to comply with one request may
be more likely to comply with a second. This phenomenon has been dubbed the door-in-the-
face effect (Ebster & Neumayr, 2008; Rodafinos, Vucevic, & Sideridis, 2005). In one study,
researchers approached students and asked them to make an unreasonably large commit-
ment: Would they counsel delinquent youths at a detention center for 2 years? Nearly every-
one declined, thus effectively “slamming the door” in the researcher’s face. But when later
asked to make a much smaller commitment—supervising children during a trip to the zoo—
many of the same students quickly agreed. The door-in-the-face effect appears to work
because people interpret the smaller request as a concession and feel pressured to comply.

How does the “power of the situation” affect obedience?

Compliance is agreement to change behavior in response to a request. Obedience is com-
pliance with a direct order, generally from a person in authority, such as a police officer,
principal, or parent. Several of the studies by Stanley Milgram mentioned in Chapter 1,
“The Science of Psychology,” showed how far some people will go to obey someone in
authority (Blass, 2009; Milgram, 1963; Zimbardo, 2007).

What factors influence the degree to which people will do what they are told? Studies
in which people were asked to put a dime in a parking meter by people wearing uniforms
show that one important factor is the amount of power vested in the person giving the
orders. People obeyed a guard whose uniform looked like that of a police officer more
often than they obeyed a man dressed either as a milkman or as a civilian. Another factor

compliance Change of behavior in response to
an explicit request from another person or group.

obedience Change of behavior in response to a
command from another person, typically an
authority figure.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.


1. A _________ is a shared idea or expectation about how to behave.
2. Many people are more likely to comply with a smaller request after they have refused a

larger one. This is called the ___________ effect.
3. Are the following statements true (T) or false (F)?

a. ___ Research shows that compliance is often higher in collectivist cultures than in
noncollectivist ones.

b. ___ Many people are willing to obey an authority figure, even if doing so means
violating their own principles.

c. ___ Solomon Asch found that people were much more likely to conform in groups
of four or more people.

d. ___ A person is more likely to conform to the group when the group’s task is
ambiguous or difficult than when it is easy and clear.

Social Psychology 475

is surveillance. If we are ordered to do something and then
left alone, we are less likely to obey than if we are being
watched, especially if the act seems unethical to us. Mil-
gram, for instance, found that his “teachers” were less will-
ing to give severe shocks when the experimenter was out of
the room.

Milgram’s experiments revealed other factors that
influence a person’s willingness to follow orders. When the
victim was in the same room as the “teacher,” obedience
dropped sharply. When another “teacher” was present, who
refused to give shocks, obedience also dropped. But when
responsibility for an act was shared, so that the person was
only one of many doing it, the degree of obedience was
much greater.

Why do people willingly obey an authority figure, even
if doing so means violating their own principles? Milgram
(1974) suggested that people come to see themselves as the
agents of another person’s wishes and therefore as not
responsible for the obedient actions or their consequences.
Once this shift in self-perception has occurred, obedience
follows, because in their own minds, they have relin-
quished control of their actions. For example, you may recall that in the aftermath of the
Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the enlisted personnel who were photographed abusing pris-
oners insisted that they did so only on orders from higher authorities.

On a brighter note, some recent studies indicate that the high levels of obedience
reported in Milgram’s original experiment have declined in recent years. In fact, among
males, disobedience has more than doubled since Milgram’s original article was published
in 1963 (Twenge, 2009). The reasons for this decline, and whether it will continue, remain
to be determined.

Nazi concentration camps are a shocking
example of the extremes to which people will
go to obey orders. How do you explain the
behaviors of the people who ran these

Answers:1. norm.2. door-in-the-face.3. a. (T), b. (T), c. (F), d. (T).


1. You answer the telephone and hear the caller say, “Good morning. My name is
_________ and I’m calling on behalf of XYZ. How are you today?” Right away you know
this caller is using which of the following social influence techniques?

a. the lowball technique
b. the assimilator technique
c. the foot-in-the-door technique
d. the door-in-the-face technique

Quick Review on MyPsychLab
More quizzes and a customized
study plan. www.mypsychlab.com
Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

476 Chapter 14

Do we behave differently when other people are present?

The various kinds of social influence we have just discussed may take place even when no
one else is physically present. We refrain from playing music at full volume when our
neighbors are sleeping, comply with jury notices received in the mail, and obey traffic
signals even when no one is on the road to enforce them. We now turn to processes
that do depend on the presence of others. Specifically, we examine processes that occur
when people interact one-on-one and in groups. One of these social actions is called

What negative outcomes can result from deindividuation?

We have seen several cases of social influence in which people act differently in the pres-
ence of others from the way they would if they were alone. The most striking and
frightening instance of this phenomenon is mob behavior. Some well-known violent
examples of mob behavior are the beatings and lynchings of African Americans, the
looting that sometimes accompanies urban rioting, and the wanton destruction of
property that mars otherwise peaceful protests and demonstrations. One reason for
mob behavior is that people can lose their personal sense of responsibility in a group,
especially in a group subjected to intense pressures and anxiety. This process is called
deindividuation, because people respond not as individuals, but as anonymous parts
of a larger group. In general, the more anonymous that people feel in a group, the less
responsible that they feel as individuals (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Zimbardo,
2007). But deindividuation only partly explains mob behavior. Another contributing
factor is that, in a group, one dominant and persuasive person can convince people to
act through a snowball effect: If the persuader convinces just a few people, those few will
convince others, who will convince still others, and the group becomes an unthinking
mob. Returning to the chapter opening vignette, if Sher Singh had not been in police
custody, it is possible that the bystanders who shouted “Let’s kill him!” could have
had their way.

Helping Behavior
What factors make us more inclined to help a person in need?

Research on deindividuation seems to support the unfortunate—and inaccurate—
notion that when people get together, they are likely to become more destructive and
irresponsible than they would be individually. But instances of cooperation and mutual
assistance are just as abundant as examples of human conflict and hostility. We need
only to recall the behavior of people all over the United States in the aftermath of the

2. You would like to say something in class. You raise your hand and wait to be recognized,
even though the teacher has not told you to do so. This is an example of

a. compliance.
b. conformity.
c. obedience.

Answers:1. c.2. b.

• Explain how deindividuation and the

snowball effect can contribute to mob

• Explain the role of the following factors
in influencing helping behavior: altruism,
the bystander effect, the ambiguity of
the situation, and the personal
characteristics of bystanders.

• Describe the process of polarization in
group discussion. Identify the factors that
affect whether a group is likely to be
more or less effective than individuals
acting alone.

• Compare and contrast the following
theories of leadership: the great-person
theory, the right-place-at-the-right-time
theory, and contingency theory.

• Briefly summarize cultural and gender
differences in leadership.

deindividuation A loss of personal sense of
responsibility in a group.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 477

September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon to find hundreds of examples of
people working together and helping each other (Ballie,

What are some of the social forces that can promote
helping behavior? One is perceived self-interest. We may
offer our boss a ride home from the office because we
know that our next promotion depends on how much she
likes us. We may volunteer to feed a neighbor’s cat while he
is away because we want him to do the same for us. But when
helpful actions are not linked to such personal gain, they
are considered altruistic behavior (Greg Miller, 2009). A
person who acts in an altruistic way does not expect any
recognition or reward in return, except perhaps the good
feeling that comes from helping someone in need. For exam-
ple, many altruistic acts are directed toward strangers in the
form of anonymous charitable donations, as is often demon-
strated in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Interestingly,
altruism probably played an important role in the early
evolution of humans (Boehm, 2008). Moreover, altruism is not unique to humans since
it is frequently observed in other primates (de Waal, 2007).

Under what conditions is helping behavior most likely to occur? Like other things that
social psychologists study, helping is influenced by two sets of factors: those in the situation
and those in the individual.

The most important situational variable is the presence of other people. In a phe-
nomenon called the bystander effect, the likelihood that a person will help someone
else in trouble decreases as the number of bystanders present increases (Chekroun &
Brauer, 2002; A. M. Rosenthal, 2008). In one experiment, people filling out a question-
naire heard a taped “emergency” in the next room, complete with a crash and screams.
Of those who were alone, 70% offered help to the
unseen victim, but of those who waited with a com-
panion—a stranger who did nothing to help—only
7% offered help (Latané & Rodin, 1969).

Another key aspect of the situation is its
ambiguity. Any factors that make it harder for others
to recognize a genuine emergency reduce the proba-
bility of altruistic actions (R. D. Clark & Word, 1974;
Jex, Adams, & Bachrach, 2003). The personal charac-
teristics of bystanders also affect helping behavior.
Not all bystanders are equally likely to help a stranger.
Increasing the amount of personal responsibility that
one person feels for another boosts the likelihood
that help will be extended (Moriarty, 1975; Ting &
Piliavin, 2000). The amount of empathy that we
feel toward another person also affects our willing-
ness to help (Batson, 2006; Batson, Ahmad, Lishner, &
Tsang, 2002). Mood also makes a difference: A person
in a good mood is more likely to help another in need
than is someone who is in a neutral or bad mood
(Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Salovey, Mayer, &
Rosenhan, 1991). In addition, helping behavior is
more likely to come from people who are not shy or
fear negative evaluation for helping (Karakashian,
Walter, Christopher, & Lucas, 2006). Finally, when
others are watching, people who score high on the

After natural disasters like hurricane Katrina,
which swept New Orleans in 2005, strangers
often reach out to help each other with physi-
cal and financial support.

altruistic behavior Helping behavior that is
not linked to personal gain.

bystander effect The tendency for an
individual’s helpfulness in an emergency to
decrease as the number of passive bystanders

Helping Someone in Distress

On August 18, 1999, 24-year-old Kevin Heisinger was on his way home to Illi-nois from the University of Michigan. In the bathroom of a bus station, hewas attacked and beaten to death. Several people were within earshot
and heard his cries for help, but none of them helped him or called the police.
One person saw him lying on the floor in a pool of blood, but he did nothing.
Another person saw him struggling to breathe, but he also walked away. Eventu-
ally, a 12-year-old boy called for help. The police arrived in less than 20 seconds,
but it was too late to save Kevin’s life.

• What factors might have contributed to the unwillingness of people to help
Kevin during and after the beating?

• One commentator writing for The Detroit News said, “Have our souls been
this coarsened, this deadened, by the daily barrage of real and imaginary
violence? Or have some of us become like a couple of the contestants on
that summer television hit, Survivor, so consumed with winning our own pot
of gold that we really don’t care how we treat others?” (DeRamus, 2000). To
what extent do you think the failure of bystanders to help was due to per-
sonal characteristics?

• Do your answers to the questions above shed light on the question of why a
12-year-old was the only person to call for help?

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

478 Chapter 14

need for approval are more likely to help than are low scorers (Jonas, Schimel, Greenberg,
& Pyszczynski, 2002; Satow, 1975).

Groups and Decision Making
How is making a decision in a group different from making a decision
on your own?

There is a tendency in American society to turn important decisions over to groups. In the
business world, key decisions are often made around a conference table rather than behind
one person’s desk. In politics, major policy decisions are seldom vested in just one person.
In the courts, a defendant may request a trial by jury, and for some serious crimes, jury trial
is required by law. The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court renders group decisions on legal
issues affecting the entire nation.

Many people trust these group decisions more than decisions made by individuals.
Yet, the dynamics of social interaction within groups sometimes conspire to make group
decisions less sound than those made by someone acting alone. Social psychologists are
intrigued by how this outcome happens.

Polarization in Group Decision Making People often assume that an individual
acting alone is more likely to take risks than a group considering the same issue. This
assumption remained unchallenged until the early 1960s. At that time, James Stoner (1961)
designed an experiment to test the idea. He asked participants individually to counsel
imaginary people who had to choose between a risky, but potentially rewarding course of
action and a conservative, but less rewarding alternative. Next, the participants met in small
groups to discuss each decision until they reached unanimous agreement. Surprisingly, the
groups consistently recommended a riskier course of action than the people working alone
did. This phenomenon is known as the risky shift.

The risky shift is simply one aspect of a more general group phenomenon called
polarization—the tendency for people to become more extreme in their attitudes as
a result of group discussion. Polarization begins when group members discover during
discussion that they share views to a greater degree than they realized. Then, in an effort
to be seen in a positive light by the others, at least some group members become
strong advocates for what is potentially the dominant sentiment in the group. Argu-
ments leaning toward one extreme or the other not only reassure people that their ini-
tial attitudes are correct, but they also intensify those attitudes so that the group as a
whole becomes more extreme in its position (J. H. Liu & Latane, 1998). So, if you want
a group decision to be made in a cautious, conservative direction, you should be cer-
tain that the members of the group hold cautious and conservative views in the first
place. Otherwise, the group decision may polarize in the opposite direction (Jerry
Palmer & Loveland, 2008).

The Effectiveness of Groups “Two heads are better than one” reflects the com-
mon assumption that members of a group will pool their abilities and arrive at a better
decision than will individuals working alone. In fact, groups are more effective than indi-
viduals only under certain circumstances (M. E. Turner, 2001). For one thing, their
success depends on the task they face. If the requirements of the task match the skills of
the group members, the group is likely to be more effective than any single individual.
However, even if task and personnel are perfectly matched, the ways in which group
members interact may reduce the group’s efficiency. For example, high-status individuals
tend to exert more influence in groups, so if they do not possess the best problem-solving
skills, group decisions may suffer (Lovaglia, Mannix, Samuelson, Sell, & Wilson, 2005).
Another factor affecting group interaction and effectiveness is group size. The larger the
group, the more likely it is to include someone who has the skills needed to solve a diffi-
cult problem. On the other hand, it is much harder to coordinate the activities of a large

Groups can make decisions and perform
tasks very effectively under the right

risky shift Greater willingness of a group than
an individual to take substantial risks.

polarization Shift in attitudes by members of a
group toward more extreme positions than the
ones held before group discussion.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 479

group. In addition, large groups may be more likely to encourage social loafing, the ten-
dency of group members to exert less individual effort on the assumption that others in
the group will do the work (J. A. Miller, 2002). Finally, the quality of group decision mak-
ing also depends on the cohesiveness of a group. When the people in a group like one
another and feel committed to the goals of the group, cohesiveness is high. Under these
conditions, members may work hard for the group, spurred by high morale. But cohe-
siveness can undermine the quality of group decision making. If the group succumbs to
groupthink, according to Irving Janis (1982, 1989), strong pressure to conform prevents
its members from criticizing the emerging group consensus (Henningsen, Henningsen,
& Eden, 2006). This is especially likely to happen if a cohesive group is isolated from out-
side opinion and does not have clear rules defining how to make decisions. The result
may be disastrous decisions—such as the Bay of Pigs invasion, the ill-fated Columbia
and Challenger space flights, and more recently the decision to invade Iraq in 2004 based
on the presumed existence of weapons of mass destruction (Raven, 1998; U.S. Senate,
2004; Vaughn, 1996).

What makes a great leader?

Leaders are important to the effectiveness of a group or organization (Kaiser, Hogan, &
Craig, 2008). But what makes a good leader? For many years, the predominant answer was
the great-person theory, which states that leaders are extraordinary people who assume
positions of influence and then shape events around them. In this view, people like George
Washington, Winston Churchill, and Nelson Mandela were “born leaders”—who would
have led any nation at any time in history.

Most historians and psychologists now regard this theory as naive, because it ignores
social and economic factors. An alternative theory holds that leadership emerges when the
right person is in the right place at the right time. For instance, in the late 1950s and early
1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., rose to lead the civil rights movement. Dr. King was
clearly a “great person”—intelligent, dynamic, eloquent, and highly motivated. Yet, had the
times not been right (for instance, had he lived 30 years earlier), it is doubtful that he would
have been as successful as he was.

Many social scientists have argued that there is more to leadership than either the great-
person theory or the right-place-at-the-right-time theory implies. Rather, the leader’s traits,
certain aspects of the situation in which the group finds itself, and the response of the group
and the leader to each other are all important considerations (Brodbeck, 2008). Fred
Fiedler’s contingency theory of leader effectiveness is based on such a transactional view of
leadership (F. E. Fiedler, 1993, 2002).

According to Fiedler’s theory, personal characteristics are important to the success of a
leader. One kind of leader is task oriented, concerned with doing the task well—even at the
expense of worsening relationships among group members. Other leaders are relationship
oriented, concerned with maintaining group cohesiveness and harmony. Which style is
most effective depends on three sets of situational factors. One is the nature of the task
(whether it is clearly structured or ambiguous). The second consideration is the relation-
ship between leader and group (whether the leader has good or bad personal relations with
the group members). The third consideration is the leader’s ability to exercise great or little
power over the group.

The contingency view of leadership, which has received a great deal of support from
research conducted in the laboratory as well as in real-life settings, clearly indicates that
there is no such thing as an ideal leader for all situations (Ayman, Chemers, & Fiedler, 2007;
DeYoung, 2005; Graen & Hui, 2001). “Except perhaps for the unusual case,” Fiedler states,
“it is simply not meaningful to speak of an effective or of an ineffective leader; we can
only speak of a leader who tends to be effective in one situation and ineffective in another”
(F. E. Fiedler, 1967, p. 261). We discuss contingency theories of leadership in greater detail
in Appendix B, “Psychology Applied to Work.”

Simulate on MyPsychLab

groupthink A process that occurs when the
members of a group like one another, have similar
goals and are isolated, leading them to ignore
alternatives and not criticize group consensus.

great-person theory The theory that
leadership is a result of personal qualities and
traits that qualify one to lead others.

One theory of leadership holds that the
particularly effective leader is the right per-
son in the right place at the right time. For
the American civil rights movement, Martin
Luther King, Jr., was such a leader.

Simulation on Social Facilitation
at www.mypsychlab.com

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

480 Chapter 14

Recently Robert J. Sternberg has proposed a systems approach to understanding
leadership (Sternberg, 2008; Sternberg, Jarvin, & Grigorenko, 2009). Known as WICS,
Sternberg’s theory of effective leadership stresses certain essential traits necessary
for effective leadership: wisdom, intelligence, and creativity, synthesized. According to
Sternberg, creativity is necessary to devise new ideas, intelligence to evaluate and imple-
ment ideas, and wisdom to balance the interests of everyone involved (Sternberg, 2007).
Sternberg stresses that efforts to train new leaders should focus on ways to produce indi-
viduals who embody these traits and learn effective ways to synthesize them. Though
promising, WICS is a relatively new approach to understanding leadership, which has not
yet been fully exposed to the scrutiny of empirical research. Only future research will
enable psychologists to evaluate the usefulness of this new theory of leadership.

Leadership Across Cultures An emphasis on the importance of individual leaders
seems to apply well to most informal and work groups in the United States. Yet, it is not
the only approach to leadership. In a collectivist culture that values cooperation and
interdependence among group members, although one member may be named “the
manager,” it is less likely that individuals will have clearly defined roles as “this type of
leader” or “that type of leader.” All members see themselves as working together to
accomplish the group’s goals.

Interestingly, leadership in American businesses has begun to shift toward a manage-
ment style that has proven successful in Japan and other Eastern collectivist cultures (Dean &
Evans, 1994; McFarland, Senn, & Childress, 1993; Muczyk & Holt, 2008). This approach
emphasizes decision-making input from all group members, small work teams that promote
close cooperation, and a leadership style in which managers receive much the same treatment
as any other employee. In the West, it is not uncommon for executives to have their own park-
ing spaces, dining facilities, and fitness and social clubs, as well as separate offices and inde-
pendent schedules. Most Japanese executives consider this privileged style of management
very strange. In many Eastern cultures, managers and executives share the same facilities as
their workers, hunt for parking spaces like everyone else, and eat and work side by side with
their employees. It is interesting that the Japanese model has effectively combined the two
leadership approaches—task oriented and relationship oriented—into a single overall style.
By being a part of the group, the leader can simultaneously work toward and direct the
group’s goals, while also contributing to the group’s morale and social climate.

Women in Leadership Positions Just as leadership styles differ across cultures,
research has shown that the leadership styles of men and women can also vary consider-
ably. In one 5-year study of 2,482 managers in more than 400 organizations, female and
male coworkers said that women make better managers than men (Kass, 1999). The reason
seems to be that many female managers have effectively combined such traditionally “mas-
culine” task-oriented traits as decisiveness, planning, and setting standards with such “fem-
inine” relationship-oriented assets as communication, feedback, and empowering other
employees; most male managers have not been as successful at combining those two styles
(Chin, 2008; Eagly, 2003). For example, one review concluded that, in contrast to the direc-
tive and task-oriented leadership style common among men, women tend to have a more
democratic, collaborative, and interpersonally oriented style of managing employees (V. E.
O’Leary & Flanagan, 2001). Moreover, a woman’s more collaborate style of leadership is
often able to overcome any preconceived resistance to their leadership (Lips, 2002).

Another large-scale review of 45 studies of gender and leadership found women’s
leadership styles are generally more effective than traditional male leadership styles
(Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van-Engen, 2003). This review found that female leaders
are generally more effective than male leaders at winning acceptance for their ideas and
instilling self-confidence in their employees (Lips, 2002). Results like these have
prompted some experts to call for specialized women-only leadership training programs,
to assist women in developing their full feminine leadership potential independent of
male influence (Vinnicombe & Singh, 2003).

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 481

social psychology, p. 455

Social Cognition
social cognition, p. 456
primacy effect, p. 456
self-fulfilling prophecy, p. 457
stereotype, p. 457
attribution theory, p. 458
fundamental attribution error,

p. 458
defensive attribution, p. 459

just-world hypothesis, p. 459
proximity, p. 460
exchange, p. 461
equity, p. 461

attitude, p. 463
self-monitoring, p. 463

p. 464

discrimination, p. 464
frustration–aggression theory,

p. 464

authoritarian personality, p. 465
racism, p. 465
cognitive dissonance, p. 469

Social Influence
social influence, p. 471
cultural truisms, p. 472
norm, p. 472
conformity, p. 472
compliance, p. 474
obedience, p. 474

Social Action
deindividuation, p. 476
altruistic behavior, p. 477
bystander effect, p. 477
risky shift, p. 478
polarization, p. 478
groupthink, p. 479
great-person theory, p. 479

Listen on MyPsychLab

What do forming impressions, explaining others’ behavior,
and experiencing interpersonal attraction have in common?
Forming impressions, explaining others’ behavior, and experienc-
ing interpersonal attraction are all examples of social cognition,
the process of taking in and assessing information about other
people. It is one way in which we are influenced by others’
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

How do we form first impressions of people? When forming
impressions of others, we rely on schemata, or sets of expectations
and beliefs about categories of people. Impressions are also affected
by the order in which information is acquired. First impressions are
the strongest (the primacy effect), probably because we prefer not
to subsequently expend more cognitive effort to analyze or change
them. This same preference also encourages us to form impressions
by using simplistic, but strongly held schemata called stereotypes.
First impressions can also bring about the behavior we expect from
other people, a process known as self-fulfilling prophecy.

How do we decide why people act as they do? Attribution
theory holds that people seek to understand human behavior by
attributing it either to internal or external causes. Perceptual biases
can lead to the fundamental attribution error, in which we
overemphasize others’ personal traits in attributing causes to their
behavior. Defensive attribution motivates us to explain our own
actions in ways that protect our self-esteem. Self-serving bias refers
to our tendency to attribute our successes to internal factors and
our failures to external ones. The just-world hypothesis may lead
us to blame the victim when bad things happen to other people.

Do “birds of a feather flock together” or do “opposites
attract”? People who are similar in attitudes, interests, backgrounds,
and values tend to like one another. Proximity also promotes liking.

The more we are in contact with certain people, the more we tend to
like them. We also tend to like people who make us feel appreciated
and rewarded, an idea based on the concept of exchange. Exchanges
work only insofar as they are fair or equitable. A relationship is based
on equity when both individuals receive equally from each other.
Most people also tend to like physically attractive people, as well as
attributing to them, correctly or not, many positive personal charac-

Why are attitudes important? An attitude is a relatively stable
organization of beliefs, feelings, and tendencies toward an attitude
object. Attitudes are important because they often influence

What are the three major components of attitudes? The three
major components of attitudes are (1) evaluative beliefs about the
attitude object, (2) feelings about that object, and (3) behavioral
tendencies toward it. These three components are very often (but
not always) consistent with one another.

How does a person develop a prejudice toward someone
else? Prejudice is an unfair negative attitude directed toward a
group and its members, whereas discrimination is unfair behavior
based on prejudice. One explanation of prejudice is the
frustration–aggression theory, which states that people who feel
exploited and oppressed displace their hostility toward the power-
ful onto scapegoats—people who are “lower” on the social scale
than they are. Another theory links prejudice to the authoritarian
personality, a rigidly conventional and bigoted type marked by
exaggerated respect for authority and hostility toward those who
defy society’s norms. A third theory proposes a cognitive source of
prejudice—oversimplified or stereotyped thinking about categories

Listen to an audio file of your chapter. www.mypsychlab.com

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

482 Chapter 14

of people. Finally, conformity to the prejudices of one’s social group
can help to explain prejudice. Three strategies for reducing preju-
dice appear to be especially promising: recategorization (expanding
our schema of a particular group), controlled processing (training
ourselves to be mindful of people who differ from us), and improv-
ing contact between groups.

What factors encourage someone to change an attitude?
Attitudes may be changed when new actions, beliefs, or per-
ceptions contradict preexisting attitudes, called cognitive dis-
sonance. Attitudes can also change in response to efforts at
persuasion. The first step in persuasion is to get the audience’s
attention. Then the task is to get the audience to comprehend
and accept the message. According to the communication model,
persuasion is a function of the source, the message itself, the
medium of communication, and the characteristics of the audi-
ence. The most effective means of changing attitudes—especially
important attitudes, behaviors, or lifestyle choices—may be self-

What are some areas in which the power of social influence
is highly apparent? Social influence is the process by which
people’s perceptions, attitudes, and actions are affected by others’
behavior and characteristics. The power of social influence is
especially apparent in the study of cultural influences and of con-
formity, compliance, and obedience.

How does your culture influence how you dress or what you
eat? The culture in which you are immersed has an enormous
influence on your thoughts and actions. Culture dictates differ-
ences in diet, dress, and personal space. One result of this is the
unquestioning acceptance of cultural truisms—beliefs or values
that most members of a society accept as self-evident. Eating pizza,
shunning rattlesnake meat, dressing in jeans instead of a loincloth,
and feeling uncomfortable when others stand very close to you
when they speak are all results of culture. As we adapt our behavior
to that of others, we learn the norms of our culture, as well as its
beliefs and values.

What increases the likelihood that someone will conform?
Voluntarily yielding one’s preferences, beliefs, or judgments to
those of a larger group is called conformity. Research by Solomon
Asch and others has shown that characteristics of both the situation
and the person influence the likelihood of conforming. Cultural
influences on the tendency to conform also exist, with people in
collectivist cultures often being more prone to conformity than
those in noncollectivist ones.

How could a salesperson increase a customer’s compliance
in buying a product? Compliance is a change in behavior in
response to someone’s explicit request.. One technique to encour-
age compliance is the foot-in-the-door approach, or getting people
to go along with a small request to make them more likely to com-
ply with a larger one. Another technique is the lowball procedure:
initially offering a low price to win commitment, and then gradu-

ally escalating the cost. Also effective is the door-in-the-face tactic, or
initially making an unreasonable request that is bound to be turned
down but will perhaps generate enough guilt to foster compliance
with another request.

How does the “power of the situation” affect obedience?
Classic research by Stanley Milgram showed that many people were
willing to obey orders to administer harmful shocks to other peo-
ple. This obedience to an authority figure was more likely when
certain situational factors were present. For example, people found
it harder to disobey when the authority figure issuing the order was
nearby. They were also more likely to obey the command when the
person being given the shock was some distance from them.
According to Milgram, obedience is brought on by the constraints
of the situation.

Do we behave differently when other people are present?
Conformity, compliance, and obedience may take place even when
no one else is physically present, but other processes of social influ-
ence depend on the presence of others.

What negative outcomes can result from deindividuation?
Immersion in a large, anonymous group may lead to
deindividuation, the loss of a sense of personal responsibility for
one’s actions. Deindividuation can sometimes lead to violence or
other forms of irresponsible behavior. The greater the sense of
anonymity, the more this effect occurs.

What factors make us more inclined to help a person in
need? Helping someone in need without expectation of a reward
is called altruistic behavior. Altruism is influenced by situational
factors such as the presence of other people. According to the
bystander effect, a person is less apt to offer assistance when other
potential helpers are present. Conversely, being the only person to
spot someone in trouble tends to encourage helping. Also encour-
aging helping are an unambiguous emergency situation and certain
personal characteristics, such as empathy for the victim and being
in a good mood.

How is making a decision in a group different from making a
decision on your own? Research on the risky shift and the
broader phenomenon of group polarization shows that group
decision making actually increases tendencies toward extreme solu-
tions, encouraging members to lean toward either greater risk or
greater caution. People deliberating in groups may also display
social loafing, or a tendency to exert less effort on the assumption
that others will do most of the work. And in very cohesive groups
and isolated groups, there is a tendency toward groupthink, an
unwillingness to criticize the emerging group consensus even when
it seems misguided.

What makes a great leader? According to the great-person the-
ory, leadership is a function of personal traits that qualify one to
lead others. An alternative theory attributes leadership to being in
the right place at the right time. According to the transactional
view, traits of the leader and traits of the group interact with certain

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Social Psychology 483

aspects of the situation to determine what kind of leader will
come to the fore. Fred Fiedler’s contingency theory focused on two
contrasting leadership styles: task oriented and relationship ori-
ented. The effectiveness of each style depends on the nature of the
task, the relationship of the leader with group members, and the
leader’s power over the group.

The task-oriented leadership style typical of American businesses
is being transformed through the introduction of a management style
that emphasizes small work teams and input from all members of the
group. Recent research indicates that women in leadership positions
tend to have a more democratic, collaborative, and interpersonally ori-
ented style of managing employees than do men in similar positions.

Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Still stressed with your coursework?
Get quality coursework help from an expert!