Home work Due Sunday Interview Profile

Resources: pp. 176–182 in Ch. 5; pp. 187–200 in Ch. 6; pp. 259–268 in Ch. 8; pp. 353–358 in Ch. 10; and pp. 463–471 in Ch. 14 ofUnderstanding Psychology; Appendix A

Interview a person you feel comfortable asking about their personality and attitudes.

Submit your Interview Profile. You must choose a person who is close to your own age, and interview that person to learn more about them. In addition to the interview, compare and contrast the responses from your interview with your own responses to the same question. You must report your findings in an informative 1,400- to 1,750-word paper, and include the following elements:

· Does the interviewee remember information more accurately if he or she observes the behavior being performed or does he or she prefer to read how the behavior is performed?

· Does the interviewee prefer studying in a library, or at home where there are background noises and some distractions?

· Has the person you are interviewing taken the Myers Briggs test? Report the results.

· Does the interviewee think these results are accurate? Why or why not?
· Which experiences does this person think contributed most in the development of his or her personality? 

· Does this person feel that he or she is self-monitoring in regards to his or her attitudes? How or how not?

· What does the interviewee feel was the strongest influence on his or her attitudes? 
· What role does your interviewee think a person’s race, gender, or ethnicity play when forming that person’s personality and attitudes?

· Does this person feel he or she is better at tasks when intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated?

Format your paper consistent with APA guidelines.

Post as an attachment.


Enduring Issues in

Studying Personality

Psychodynamic Theories
• Sigmund Freud
• Carl Jung
• Alfred Adler
• Karen Horney
• Erik Erikson

• A Psychodynamic View of

Jaylene Smith

• Evaluating Psychodynamic

Humanistic Personality
• Carl Rogers
• A Humanistic View of

Jaylene Smith

• Evaluating Humanistic

Trait Theories
• The Big Five
• A Trait View of Jaylene Smith
• Evaluating Trait Theories
Cognitive–Social Learning
• Expectancies, Self-Efficacy,

and Locus of Control

• A Cognitive–Social Learning
View of Jaylene Smith

• Evaluating Cognitive–Social
Learning Theories

Personality Assessmen


• The Personal Interview
• Direct Observation
• Objective Tests

Projective Tests




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

Thirty-year-old Jaylene Smith is a talented physician whomeets with a psychologist because she is troubled by cer-tain aspects of her social life. Acquaintances describe Jay
in glowing terms, saying she is highly motivated, intelligent,
attractive, and charming. But Jay feels terribly insecure and
anxious. When the psychologist asked her to pick out some self-
descriptive adjectives, she selected “introverted,” “shy,” “inad-
equate,” and “unhappy.”

Jay was the firstborn in a family of two boys and one girl. Her
father is a quiet, gentle medical researcher. His work often allowed
him to study at home, so he had extensive contact with his children
when they were young. He loved all his children, but clearly
favored Jay. His ambitions and goals for her were extremely high;
and as she matured, he responded to her every need and demand
almost immediately and with full conviction. Their relationship
remains as close today as it was during Jay’s childhood.

Jay’s mother worked long hours away from home as a store
manager and consequently saw her children primarily at night
and on an occasional free weekend. When she came home,
Mrs. Smith was tired and had little energy for “nonessential”
interactions with her children. She had always been career ori-
ented, but she experienced considerable conflict and frustration
trying to reconcile her roles as mother, housekeeper, and finan-
cial provider. Mrs. Smith was usually amiable toward all her
children but tended to argue more with Jay, until the bickering
subsided when Jay was about 6 or 7 years of age. Today, their
relationship is cordial but lacks the closeness apparent
between Jay and Dr. Smith. Interactions between Dr. and Mrs.
Smith were sometimes marred by stormy outbursts over seem-
ingly trivial matters. These episodes were always followed by
periods of mutual silence lasting for days.

Jay was very jealous of her first brother, born when she
was 2 years old. Her parents recall that Jay sometimes staged


temper tantrums when the new infant demanded and received a
lot of attention (especially from Mrs. Smith). The temper
tantrums intensified when Jay’s second brother was born, just 1
year later. As time passed, the brothers formed an alliance to try
to undermine Jay’s supreme position with their father. Jay only
became closer to her father, and her relationships with her
brothers were marked by greater-than-average jealousy and
rivalry from early childhood to the present.

Throughout elementary, junior high, and high school, Jay
was popular and did well academically. Early on, she decided on
a career in medicine. Yet, off and on between the ages of 8 and
17, she had strong feelings of loneliness, depression, insecurity,
and confusion—feelings common enough during this age period,
but stronger than in most youngsters and very distressing to Jay.

Jay’s college days were a period of great personal growth,
but several unsuccessful romantic involvements caused her
much pain. The failure to achieve a stable and long-lasting rela-
tionship persisted after college and troubled Jay greatly.
Although even-tempered in most circumstances, Jay often had
an explosive fit of anger that ended each important romantic
relationship that she had. “What is wrong with me?” she would
ask herself. “Why do I find it impossible to maintain a serious
relationship for any length of time?”

In medical school, her conflicts crept into her conscious-
ness periodically: “I don’t deserve to be a doctor”; “I won’t pass
my exams”; “Who am I, and what do I want from life?”

How can we describe and understand Jaylene Smith’s person-
ality? How did she become who she is? Why does she feel insecure
and uncertain despite her obvious success? Why do her friends
see her as charming and attractive, though she describes herself
as introverted and inadequate? These are the kinds of questions
that personality psychologists are likely to ask about Jay—and the
kinds of questions we will try to answer in this chapter.

As we explore the topic of personality in this chapter, the enduring issues that interest
psychologists emerge at several points. The very concept of personality implies that our
behavior differs in significant ways from that of other people (diversity–universality) and
that our behavior in part reflects our personality as opposed to the situations in which we
find ourselves (person–situation). We will also assess the extent to which personality is a
result of inheritance, rather than a reflection of life experiences (nature–nurture). Finally, we
will consider the extent to which personality changes as we grow older (stability–change).

What do psychologists mean when they talk about personality?

Many psychologists define personality as an individual’s unique pattern of thoughts, feel-
ings, and behaviors that persists over time and across situations. There are two important
parts to this definition. On the one hand, personality refers to unique differences—those

• Define personality. Explain the

difference between describing
personality (in particular trait theory)
and understanding the causes of
personality (psychodynamic,
humanistic, and cognitive–social
learning theories).

personality An individual’s unique pattern of
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that persists
over time and across situations.






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

pleasure principle According to Freud, the
way in which the id seeks immediate
gratification of an instinct.

336 Chapter 10

aspects that distinguish a person from everyone else. On the other hand, the definition
asserts that personality is relatively stable and enduring—that these unique differences per-
sist through time and across situations.

Psychologists vary in their approach to the study of personality. Some set out to iden-
tify the most important characteristics of personality, whereas others seek to understand
why there are differences in personality. Among the latter group, some consider the family
to be the most important factor in personality development, whereas others emphasize the
importance of influences outside the family. Still others see personality as the product of
how we think about ourselves and our experiences. In this chapter, we explore representa-
tive theories of these various approaches. We see how each theoretical paradigm sheds light
on the personality of Jaylene Smith. Finally, we will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses
of each approach and will see how psychologists go about assessing personality.

What ideas do all psychodynamic theories have in common?

Psychodynamic theories see behavior as the product of internal psychological forces that
often operate outside our conscious awareness. Freud drew on the physics of his day to coin
the term psychodynamics: As thermodynamics is the study of heat and mechanical energy
and the way that one may be transformed into the other, psychodynamics is the study of
psychic energy and the way that it is transformed and expressed in behavior. Although psy-
chodynamic theorists disagree about the exact nature of this psychic energy, the following
five propositions are central to all psychodynamic theories and have withstood the tests of
time (Huprich & Keaschuk, 2006; Westen, 1998):

1. Much of mental life is unconscious; as a result, people may behave in ways that
they themselves do not understand.

2. Mental processes (such as emotions, motivations, and thoughts) operate in paral-
lel and thus may lead to conflicting feelings.

3. Not only do stable personality patterns begin to form in childhood, but early expe-
riences also strongly affect personality development.

4. Our mental representations of ourselves, of others, and of our relationships tend
to guide our interactions with other people.

5. Personality development involves learning to regulate sexual and aggressive feel-
ings as well as becoming socially interdependent rather than dependent.

Sigmund Freud
When Freud proposed that sexual instinct is the basis of behavior, how
was he defining “sexual instinct”?

To this day, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) is the best known and most influential of the psy-
chodynamic theorists (Solms, 2004). As we saw in Chapter 1, “The Science of Psychology,”
Freud created an entirely new perspective on the study of human behavior. Up to his time,
the field of psychology had focused on thoughts and feelings of which we are aware. In a
radical departure, Freud stressed the unconscious—the ideas, thoughts, and feelings of
which we are not normally aware (Zwettler-Otte, 2008). Freud’s ideas form the basis of
psychoanalysis, a term that refers both to his particular psychodynamic theory of person-
ality and to the form of therapy that he invented.

According to Freud, human behavior is based on unconscious instincts, or drives. Some
instincts are aggressive and destructive; others, such as hunger, thirst, self-preservation, and
sex, are necessary to the survival of the individual and the species. Freud used the term
sexual instinct to refer not just to erotic sexuality, but to the craving for pleasure of all kinds.
He used the term libido for the energy generated by the sexual instinct. As we will see, Freud
regarded the sexual instinct as the most critical factor in the development of personality.

• Describe the five propositions that

are central to all psychodynamic
personality theories.

• Describe Freud’s theory of personality,
including the concepts of sexual instinct,
libido, id, ego, superego, and pleasure
principle versus reality principle.
Summarize Freud’s stages of development
and the consequences of fixation at a
particular stage.

• Compare and contrast Freud’s theory, Carl
Jung’s theory, Adler’s theory, Horney’s
theory, and Erikson’s theory of personality.

• Explain how contemporary psychologists
view the contributions and limitations of
the psychodynamic perspective.

psychoanalysis The theory of personality
Freud developed, as well as the form of therapy
he invented.

unconscious In Freud’s theory, all the ideas,
thoughts, and feelings of which we are not and
normally cannot become aware.

libido According to Freud, the energy
generated by the sexual instinct.

id In Freud’s theory of personality, the
collection of unconscious urges and desires that
continually seek expression.

reality principle According to Freud, the way
in which the ego seeks to satisfy instinctual
demands safely and effectively in the real world.

ego Freud’s term for the part of the
personality that mediates between
environmental demands (reality), conscience
(superego), and instinctual needs (id); now
often used as a synonym for “self.”

superego According to Freud, the social and
parental standards the individual has
internalized; the conscience and the ego ideal.

ego ideal The part of the superego that consists
of standards of what one would like to be.

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

Personality 337

How Personality is Structured Freud theorized that personality is formed around
three structures: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the only structure present at
birth and is completely unconscious. (See Figure 10–1.) Consisting of all the unconscious
urges and desires that continually seek expression, it operates according to the pleasure
principle—that is, it tries to obtain immediate pleasure and to avoid pain. As soon as an
instinct arises, the id seeks to gratify it. Because the id is not in contact with the real world,
however, it has only two ways of obtaining gratification. One way is by reflex actions, such
as coughing, which immediately relieve unpleasant sensations. The other is through fan-
tasy, or wish fulfillment: A person forms a mental image of an object or a situation that par-
tially satisfies the instinct and relieves the uncomfortable feeling. This kind of thought
occurs most often in dreams and daydreams, but it may take other forms. For instance, if
someone insults you and you spend the next half hour imagining clever retorts, you are
engaging in wish fulfillment.

Mental images of this kind provide fleeting relief, but they cannot fully satisfy most
needs. For example, just thinking about being with someone you love is a poor substitute for
actually being with that person. Therefore, the id by itself is not very effective at gratifying
instincts. It must link to reality if it is to relieve its discomfort. The id’s link to reality is the ego.

Freud conceived of the ego as the psychic mechanism that controls all thinking and
reasoning activities. The ego operates partly con-
sciously, partly preconsciously, and partly uncon-
sciously. (“Preconscious” refers to material that is
not currently in awareness but can easily be
recalled.) The ego seeks to satisfy the id’s drives
in the external world. But instead of acting
according to the pleasure principle, the ego oper-
ates by the reality principle: By means of intelli-
gent reasoning, the ego tries to delay satisfying
the id’s desires until it can do so safely and suc-
cessfully. For example, if you are thirsty, your ego
will attempt to determine how effectively and
safely to quench your thirst. (See Figure 10–2.)

A personality consisting only of ego and id
would be completely selfish. It would behave
effectively, but unsociably. Fully adult behavior
is governed not only by reality, but also by the
individual’s conscience or by the moral stan-
dards developed through interaction with par-
ents and society. Freud called this moral
watchdog the superego.

The superego is not present at birth. In fact,
in Freud’s view young children are amoral and
do whatever is pleasurable. As we mature, how-
ever, we adopt as our own the judgments of our
parents about what is “good” and “bad.” In time, the external restraint applied by our par-
ents gives way to our own internal self-restraint. The superego, eventually acting as our
conscience, takes over the task of observing and guiding the ego, just as the parents once
observed and guided the child. In addition, the superego compares the ego’s actions with an
ego ideal of perfection and then rewards or punishes the ego accordingly. Like the ego, the
superego works at the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious levels.

Ideally, our id, ego, and superego work in harmony, with the ego satisfying the
demands of the id in a reasonable manner that is approved by the superego. We are then
free to love and hate and to express our emotions sensibly and without guilt. When our id
is dominant, our instincts are unbridled and we are likely to endanger both ourselves and
society. When our superego dominates, our behavior is checked too tightly and we are
inclined to judge ourselves too harshly or too quickly, impairing our ability to act on our
own behalf and enjoy ourselves.

Figure 10–1
The structural relationship formed by
the id, ego, and superego.
Freud’s conception of personality is often
depicted as an iceberg to illustrate how the vast
workings of the mind occur beneath its surface.
Notice that the ego is partly conscious, partly
unconscious, and partly preconscious; it
derives knowledge of the external world
through the senses. The superego also works at
all three levels. But the id is an enirely uncon-
scious structure.
Source: Adapted from New Introductory Lectures on
Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, 1933. New York:
Carlton House.

Well below the surface
of awareness

Material that
can be easily recalled

Pleasure principle
Unconscious urges
and desires

Reality principle

Ego ideal
Moral guardian

Ideas, thoughts, and
feelings of which we
are aware

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

338 Chapter 10

How Personality Devel-
ops Freud’s theory of personal-
ity development focuses on
the way in which we satisfy
the sexual instinct during the
course of life. As infants mature,
their libido becomes focused on
various sensitive parts of the
body during sequential stages
of development. If a child is
deprived of pleasure (or allowed
too much gratification) from the
part of the body that dominates
a certain stage, some sexual
energy may remain permanently
tied to that part of the body,
instead of moving on in normal
sequence to give the individual a
fully integrated personality. This
is called fixation and, as we shall
see, Freud believed that it leads

to immature forms of sexuality and to certain characteristic personality traits. Let’s look
more closely at the psychosexual stages that Freud identified and their presumed relation-
ship to personality development.

In the oral stage (birth to 18 months), infants, who depend completely on other peo-
ple to satisfy their needs, relieve sexual tension by sucking and swallowing; when their baby
teeth come in, they obtain oral pleasure from chewing and biting. According to Freud,
infants who receive too much oral gratification at this stage grow into overly optimistic and
dependent adults; they are likely to lack confidence and to be gullible. Those who receive
too little gratification may turn into pessimistic and hostile people later in life who are sar-
castic and argumentative.

During the anal stage (roughly 18 months to 31/2 years), the primary source of sexual
pleasure shifts from the mouth to the anus. Just about the time children begin to derive plea-
sure from holding in and excreting feces, toilet training takes place, and they must learn to
regulate this new pleasure in ways that are acceptable to their superego. In Freud’s view, if par-
ents are too strict in toilet training, some children throw temper tantrums and may live in
self-destructive ways as adults. Others are likely to become obstinate, stingy, and excessively
orderly. If parents are too lenient, their children may become messy, unorganized, and sloppy.

When children reach the phallic stage (after age 3), they discover their genitals and
develop a marked attachment to the parent of the opposite sex while becoming jealous of
the same-sex parent. In boys, Freud called this the Oedipus complex, after the character in
Greek mythology who killed his father and married his mother. Girls go through a corre-
sponding Electra complex, involving possessive love for their father and jealousy toward
their mother. Most children eventually resolve these conflicts by identifying with the parent
of the same sex. However, Freud contended that fixation at this stage leads to vanity and
egotism in adult life, with men boasting of their sexual prowess and treating women with
contempt, and with women becoming flirtatious and promiscuous. Phallic fixation may
also prompt feelings of low self-esteem, shyness, and worthlessness.

At the end of the phallic period, Freud believed, children lose interest in sexual behav-
ior and enter a latency period. During this period, which begins around the age of 5 or 6
and lasts until age 12 or 13, boys play with boys, girls play with girls, and neither sex takes
much interest in the other.

At puberty, the individual enters the last psychosexual stage, the genital stage. Sexual
impulses reawaken and, ideally, the quest for immediate gratification of these desires yields
to mature sexuality in which postponed gratification, a sense of responsibility, and caring
for others all play a part.

fixation According to Freud, a partial or
complete halt at some point in the individual’s
psychosexual development.

oral stage First stage in Freud’s theory of
personality development, in which the infant’s
erotic feelings center on the mouth, lips, and

anal stage Second stage in Freud’s theory of
personality development, in which a child’s
erotic feelings center on the anus and on

phallic stage Third stage in Freud’s theory of
personality development, in which erotic
feelings center on the genitals.

Oedipus complex and Electra
complex According to Freud, a child’s sexual
attachment to the parent of the opposite sex and
jealousy toward the parent of the same sex;
generally occurs in the phallic stage.

latency period In Freud’s theory of
personality, a period in which the child appears
to have no interest in the other sex; occurs after
the phallic stage.

genital stage In Freud’s theory of personality
development, the final stage of normal adult
sexual development, which is usually marked by
mature sexuality.

Figure 10–2
How Freud conceived the workings of
the pleasure and reality principles.
Note that according to the reality principle, the
ego uses rational thought to postpone the grati-
fication of the id until its desires can be satis-
fied safely.


in the id

Release of
discomfort by

first available



in the id


in the id



in the id

of ego

Release of
discomfort by

safest and best

in the id
in the id

How the Pleasure Principle Works

How the Reality Principle Works

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

Personality 339

Freud is certainly not without his critics. As we will see, even members of Freud’s own
psychoanalytic school did not completely endorse his emphasis on sexuality. Contempo-
rary psychodynamic theorists tend to put greater emphasis on the ego and its attempts to
gain mastery over the world. Finally, some critics have suggested that male and female per-
sonality development occur in very different ways, and that Freud’s male-centered theory
sheds little if any light on female personality development (Zeedyk & Greemwood, 2008).

Carl Jung
How did Carl Jung’s view of the unconscious differ from that of Freud?

Carl Jung (1875–1961) agreed with many of Freud’s tenets, including his emphasis on the
role of the unconscious in human behavior, but he expanded the role of the unconscious.
Jung contended that libido represents all life forces, not just pleasure-seeking. And where
Freud viewed the id as a “cauldron of seething excitations” that the ego has to control, Jung
saw the unconscious as the ego’s source of strength and vitality. He also believed that the
unconscious consists of the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The
personal unconscious includes our repressed thoughts, forgotten experiences, and undevel-
oped ideas, which may enter consciousness if an incident or a sensation triggers their recall.

Diversity–Universality Universal Human Archetypes
The collective unconscious, Jung’s most original concept, comprises memories and behav-
ior patterns that are inherited from past generations and therefore are shared by all
humans. Just as the human body is the product of millions of years of evolution, so too,
according to Jung, is the human mind. Over millennia, it has developed “thought forms,” or
collective memories, of experiences that people have had in common since prehistoric
times. He called these thought forms archetypes. Archetypes appear in our thoughts as
mental images. Because all people have mothers, for example, the archetype of “mother” is
universally associated with the image of one’s own mother, with Mother Earth, and with a
protective presence.

Jung felt that specific archetypes play special roles in shaping personality. The persona
(an archetype whose meaning stems from the Latin word for “mask”) is the element of our
personality that we project to other people—a shell that grows around our inner self. For
some people, the public self so predominates that they lose touch with their inner feelings,
leading to personality maladjustments. ■ personal unconscious In Jung’s theory of

personality, one of the two levels of the
unconscious; it contains the individual’s
repressed thoughts, forgotten experiences, and
undeveloped ideas.

introverts According to Jung, people who
usually focus on their own thoughts and feelings.

extraverts According to Jung, people who
usually focus on social life and the external
world instead of on their internal experience.

Jung also divided people into two general attitude types—introverts and extraverts.
Extraverts turn their attention to the external world. They are “joiners” who take an active
interest in other people and in the events going on around them. Introverts are more
caught up in their own private worlds. They tend to be unsociable and lack confidence in
dealing with other people. Everyone, Jung felt, possesses some aspects of both attitude
types, but one is usually dominant.

Jung further divided people into rational individuals, who regulate their actions by
thinking and feeling, and irrational individuals, who base their actions on perceptions,
whether through the senses (sensation) or through unconscious processes (intuition).
Most people exhibit all four psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuit-
ing. Jung felt, however, that one or more of these functions is usually dominant. Thus, the
thinking person is rational and logical, and decides on the basis of facts. The feeling person
is sensitive to his or her surroundings, acts tactfully, and has a balanced sense of values. The
sensing type relies primarily on surface perceptions and rarely uses imagination or deeper
understanding. And the intuitive type sees beyond obvious solutions and facts to consider
future possibilities.

archetypes In Jung’s theory of personality,
thought forms common to all human beings,
stored in the collective unconscious.

collective unconscious In Jung’s theory of
personality, the level of the unconscious that is
inherited and common to all members of a

According to Carl Jung, we all inherit from
our ancestors collective memories or
“thought forms” that people have had in com-
mon since the dawn of human evolution. The
image of a motherlike figure with protective,
embracing arms is one such primordial
thought form that stems from the important,
nurturing role of women throughout human
history. This thought form is depicted here in
this Bulgarian clay figure of a goddess that
dates back some six or seven thousand

persona According to Jung, our public self, the
mask we wear to represent ourselves to others.

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

compensation According to Adler, the person’s
effort to overcome imagined or real personal

340 Chapter 10

While Freud emphasized the primacy of the sexual instincts, Jung stressed
people’s rational and spiritual qualities. And while Freud considered develop-
ment to be shaped in childhood, Jung thought that psychic development
comes to fruition only during middle age. Jung brought a sense of historical
continuity to his theories, tracing the roots of human personality back through
our ancestral past; yet he also contended that a person moves constantly
toward self-realization—toward blending all parts of the personality into a
harmonious whole.

Alfred Adler
What did Alfred Adler believe was the major determinant of

Alfred Adler (1870–1937) disagreed sharply with Freud’s concept of the conflict
between the selfish id and the morality-based superego. To Adler, people possess

innate positive motives and they strive for personal and social perfection. One of his earli-
est theories grew out of personal experience: As a child, Adler was frail and almost died of
pneumonia at the age of 5. This early brush with death led him to believe that personality
develops through the individual’s attempt to overcome physical weaknesses, an effort he
called compensation.

Adler later modified and broadened his views, contending that people seek to over-
come feelings of inferiority that may or may not have a basis in reality. He thought that such
feelings often spark positive development and personal growth. Still, some people become
so fixated on their feelings of inferiority that they become paralyzed and develop what
Adler called an inferiority complex. Later in his life, Adler again shifted his theoretical
emphasis in a more positive direction suggesting that people strive both for personal per-
fection and for the perfection of the society to which they belong.

The emphasis Adler placed on positive, socially constructive goals and on striving for
perfection is in marked contrast to Freud’s pessimistic vision of the selfish person locked
into eternal conflict with society. Because of this emphasis, Adler has been hailed by many
psychologists as the father of humanistic psychology (Cain, 2002), a topic we will explore in
greater depth later in this chapter.

Karen Horney
What major contributions did Karen Horney make to the psychodynamic

Karen Horney (1885–1952), another psychodynamic personality theorist greatly
indebted to Freud, nevertheless took issue with some of his most prominent ideas, espe-
cially his analysis of women and his emphasis on sexual instincts. Based on her experi-
ence as a practicing therapist in Germany and the United States, Horney concluded that
environmental and social factors are the most important influences in shaping personal-
ity; and among these, the most pivotal are the human relationships we experience as chil-
dren (W. B. Smith, 2007).

In Horney’s view, Freud overemphasized the sex drive, resulting in a distorted picture
of human relationships. Horney believed that sexuality does figure in the development of
personality, but nonsexual factors—such as the need for a sense of basic security and the
person’s response to real or imagined threats—play an even larger role. For example, all
people share the need to feel loved and nurtured by their parents, regardless of any sexual
feelings they might have about them. Conversely, parents’ protective feelings toward their
children emerge not only from biological forces but also from the value that society places
on the nurturance of children.

A contemporary representation from U.S. cul-
ture of the Jungian archetype of the Wise Old
Man can be seen in Albus Dumbledore (from
the movies based on J. K. Rowling’s Harry
Potter series).

22-time Grammy Award winner Stevie Won-
der, who cultivated particularly acute audi-
tory abilities, illustrates what Alfred Adler
referred to as compensation.

Source: © 2000, Mike Twohy from cartoonbank.com.
All Rights Reserved.

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

Karen Horney, a psychotherapist during the
first half of the 20th century, disagreed with
Freud’s emphasis on sexual instincts. She
considered environmental and social factors,
especially the relationships we have as chil-
dren, to be the most important influences on

Personality 341

For Horney, anxiety—an individual’s reaction to real or imagined dangers—is a pow-
erful motivating force. Whereas Freud believed that anxiety usually emerges from uncon-
scious sexual conflicts, Horney stressed that feelings of anxiety also originate in a variety of
nonsexual contexts. For example, in childhood anxiety arises because children depend on
adults for their very survival. Insecure about receiving continued nurturance and protec-
tion, children develop inner protections, or defenses, that provide both satisfaction and
security. They experience more anxiety when those defenses are threatened.

In adulthood, anxiety and insecurity can lead to neurotic lifestyles that that may help
to deal with emotional problems and ensure safety but only at the expense of personal
independence (Horney, 1937). Some people develop an overriding need to give in or sub-
mit to others and feel safe only when receiving their protection and guidance. Others deal
with basic feelings of insecurity and anxiety by adopting a hostile and domineering man-
ner. Still others withdraw from other people, as if saying “If I withdraw, nothing can hurt
me.” In contrast, well-adjusted people deal with anxiety without becoming trapped in neu-
rotic lifestyles because their childhood environment enabled them to satisfy their basic
emotional needs.

inferiority complex In Adler’s theory, the
fixation on feelings of personal inferiority that
results in emotional and social paralysis.

Stability–Change Is Biology Destiny?
Horney’s conviction that social and cultural forces are far more important than biological
ones had a profound effect on her views of human development. For example, in contrast
to Freud’s view that personality is largely formed by the end of childhood, Horney believed
that adults can continue to develop and change throughout life by coming to understand
the source of their basic anxiety and trying to eliminate neurotic anxiety. Horney also
opened the way to a more constructive and optimistic understanding of male and female
personality. She emphasized that culture, rather than anatomy, determines many of the
characteristics that differentiate women from men. For example, if women feel dissatisfied
with their gender or men are overly aggressive, the explanation is likely to be found in their
social status and social roles, not in their anatomy; and fortunately, social status and social
roles can be changed. Indeed, she was a forerunner of contemporary thinkers who believe
that we can change culture and society and, in the process, transform human relationships
(Gilman, 2001). ■

Erik Erikson, another psychodynamic theorist,
also stressed the importance of parent–child
relationships for shaping personality. His
eight-stage theory of personality develop-
ment is still influential today.

Erik Erikson
Erikson’s theory focused less on unconscious conflict and more on
what factors?

Like Horney, Erik Erikson—a psychodynamic theorist who studied with Freud in
Vienna—took a socially oriented view of personality development. While Erikson agreed
with much of Freud’s thinking on sexual development and the influence of libidinal needs
on personality, he put much greater emphasis on the quality of parent–child relationships.
According to Erikson, only if children feel competent and valuable, in their own eyes and in
society’s view, will they develop a secure sense of identity. In this way, Erikson shifted the
focus of Freud’s personality theory to ego development.

Whereas Freud’s stages of personality development ended with adolescence, Erikson
believed that personality continues to develop and change throughout life. But in contrast
to Horney, he believed that the various stages of life present a variety of different chal-
lenges. Success in dealing with early challenges lays the groundwork for effective adjust-
ment at later stages. Conversely, failure to resolve early crises makes later adjustment more
difficult. In Chapter 9 (“Life-Span Development”) we explored each of Erikson’s stages in
considerable detail. Figure 10–3 provides a concise comparison of Erikson’s and Freud’s
stages of personality development.

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342 Chapter 10

A Psychodynamic View of Jaylene Smith
How would a psychodynamic theorist view the personality of Jaylene Smith?

According to Freud, personality characteristics such as insecurity, introversion, and feelings
of inadequacy and worthlessness often arise from fixation at the phallic stage of develop-
ment. Thus, had Freud been Jaylene’s therapist, he would probably have concluded that Jay
has not yet effectively resolved her Electra complex. Working from this premise, he would
have hypothesized that Jay’s relationship with her father was either very distant and unsat-
isfying or unusually close and gratifying. We know, of course, that it was the latter.

In all likelihood, Freud would also have asserted that at around age 5 or 6, Jay had
become aware that she could not actually marry her father and do away with her mother, as
he would say she wished to do. This possibility might account for the fact that fights between
Jay and her mother subsided when Jay was about 6 or 7 years of age. Moreover, we know that
shortly thereafter, Jay began to experience “strong feelings of loneliness, depression, insecu-
rity, and confusion.” Clearly, something important happened in Jay’s life when she was 6 or 7.

Finally, the continued coolness of Jay’s relationship with her mother and the unusual
closeness with her father would probably have confirmed Freud’s suspicion that Jay has still
not satisfactorily resolved her Electra complex. Freud would have predicted that Jay would
have problems making the progression to mature sexual relationships with other men. Jay,
of course, is very much aware that she has problems relating to men, at least when these

relationships get “serious.”
And what does Erikson’s theory tell us about

Jaylene Smith’s personality? Recall that for Erikson,
one’s success in dealing with later developmental
crises depends on how effectively one has resolved
earlier crises. Because Jay is having great difficulty in
dealing with intimacy (Stage 6), he would have sug-
gested that she is still struggling with problems from
earlier developmental stages. Erikson would have
looked for the source of these problems in the qual-
ity of Jay’s relationship with others. We know that
her mother subtly communicated her own frustra-
tion and dissatisfaction to her children and spent lit-
tle time on “nonessential” interactions with them.

Figure 10–3
Erikson’s eight stages of personality
Each stage involves its own developmental
crisis, whose resolution is crucial to adjustment
in successive stages. The first five of the eight
stages correspond to Freud’s stages of
personality development.
Source: Figure, “Erickson’s Stages of Personality
Development” from Childhood and Society by Erik H.
Erikson. Copyright 1950, © 1963 by W. W. Norton &
Company, Inc. Renewed 1978, 1991 by Erik H. Erikson.
Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
and Random House Ltd., UK.










1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Basic trust


Erikson’s stages of personality development














vs. shame,





vs. role





integrity vs.


Freud’s original theory was based on case studies of his patients; and the lit-erature on psychoanalysis consists mainly of case studies—descriptions ofindividual cases of psychopathology, probable causes, and their treatment.
Today, however, psychological science depends increasingly on experimental
evidence and biological explanations for mental phenomena. Review the five
basic concepts of psychodynamic theory described by Westen on page 336 and
think about what kinds of evidence might convince you that they are indeed cor-
rect. What evidence would lead you to conclude that they are not in fact correct?

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

Personality 343

These feelings and behavior patterns would not have instilled in a child the kind of basic
trust and sense of security that Erikson believed are essential to the first stage of develop-
ment. In addition, her relationship with her mother and brothers continued to be less
than fully satisfactory. It is not surprising, then, that Jay had some difficulty working
through subsequent developmental crises. Although she developed a close and caring
relationship with her father, Jay was surely aware that his affection partly depended on
her fulfilling the dreams, ambitions, and goals that he had for her.

Evaluating Psychodynamic Theories
How do modern psychologists view the contributions and limitations of the
psychodynamic perspective?

Freud’s emphasis on the fact that we are not always—or even often—aware of the real causes
of our behavior has fundamentally changed the way people view themselves and others.
Freud’s ideas have also had a lasting impact on history, literature, and the arts (Krugler,
2004). Yet, Freud was a product of his time and place. Critics who contend his theory reflects
a sexist view of women have pointed out that he was apparently unable to imagine a con-
nection between his female patients’ sense of inferiority and their subordinate position in
society. Psychodynamic views have also been criticized as lacking a scientific basis in that
they are based largely on retrospective (backward-looking) accounts of a limited sample of
individuals who have sought treatment, rather than on research with “healthy” individuals.

Although it is often difficult to translate psychodynamic personality theories into
hypotheses that can be tested experimentally (Cloninger, 2003; Holt, 2003), Freud’s theory has
received limited confirmation from research (Leichsenring, 2005). For example, people with
eating disorders often have oral personalities (J. Perry, Silvera, & Rosenvinge, 2002). Orally
fixated people generally eat and drink too much, tend to mention oral images when interpret-
ing inkblot tests, and also seem to depend heavily on others, as Freud predicted (Fisher &
Greenberg, 1985). Moreover, research confirms an association between specific personality
types in childhood and later development of psychological problems. For example, a child
with an inhibited temperament is more likely to develop social anxiety disorder as an adult
(Gladstone, Parker, Mitchell, Wilhelm, & Malhi, 2005). The effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a
therapy has also been cited as evidence in support of Freud’s theories (Leichsenring, 2005).
Still, as we shall see in Chapter 13,“Therapies,”psychoanalysis does not seem to be any more or
less effective than therapies based on other theories (J. A. Carter, 2006).

Freud’s theories have clearly expanded our understanding of personality, or they
would not still be so vigorously debated today, more than 100 years after he proposed them.
Whatever their merit as science, psychodynamic theories attempt to explain the root causes
of all human behavior. The sheer magnitude of this undertaking helps to account for their
lasting attractiveness.


Match the following Jungian terms with the appropriate definition.


4. According to Alfred Adler, a person with a fixation on or belief in a negative
characteristic has an ___________. They may try to overcome their perceived
weakness through ____________.

5. Horney believed that ____________ is a stronger source of emotional disturbance
than sexual urges.

persona a. typical mental image or mythical representation
collective unconscious b. memories and behavior patterns inherited from

past generations
archetype c. aspect of the personality by which one is

known to other people

Answers:1. c.2. b.3. a.4. inferiority complex; compensation.5. anxiety.

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344 Chapter 10

What are the major ways that humanistic personality theory differs from
psychodynamic theories?

Freud believed that personality grows out of the resolution of unconscious conflicts and
developmental crises. Many of his followers—including some who modified his theory and
others who broke away from his circle—also embraced this basic viewpoint. But in the the-
ory of Alfred Adler, we glimpsed a very different view of human nature. Adler focused on
forces that contribute to positive growth and a move toward personal perfection. For these
reasons, Adler is sometimes called the first humanistic personality theorist.

Humanistic personality theory emphasizes that we are positively motivated and
progress toward higher levels of functioning—in other words, there is more to human exis-
tence than dealing with hidden conflicts. Humanistic psychologists believe that life is a
process of opening ourselves to the world around us and experiencing joy in living. They
stress people’s potential for growth and change as well as the ways they experience their lives
right now, rather than dwelling on how they felt or acted in the past. Finally, humanists also
believe that given reasonable life conditions, people will develop in desirable directions
(Cloninger, 2003; Criswell, 2003). Adler’s concept of striving for perfection laid the ground-
work for later humanistic personality theorists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.
We discussed Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs leading to self-actualization in
Chapter 8, “Motivation and Emotion.” We now turn to Rogers’s theory of self-actualization.

Carl Rogers
According to Rogers, how can thinking of yourself as self-assured help you
to become so?

One of the most prominent humanistic theorists, Carl Rogers (1902–1987), contended that
men and women develop their personalities in the service of positive goals. According to
Rogers, every organism is born with certain innate capacities, capabilities, or potentialities—“a
sort of genetic blueprint, to which substance is added as life progresses” (Maddi, 1989, p. 102).


1. An angry parent imagines hitting a child for misbehaving, but decides instead to discuss
the misbehavior with the child and to point out why the behavior was wrong. After
hearing the child’s explanation for the behavior, the parent feels guilty for having been so
angry. The parent’s anger and fantasy are the result of the ____________; the decision to
discuss the problem is the result of the ____________; and the guilt derives from the

a. ego; superego; id
b. id; ego; superego
c. ego; id; superego
d. id; superego; ego

2. John is a young adult. According to Erikson, the major challenge he faces is
____________, which will be followed in middle adulthood by the crisis of

a. intimacy vs. isolation; integrity vs. despair
b. intimacy vs. isolation; generativity vs. stagnation
c. identity vs. role confusion; intimacy vs. isolation
d. identity vs. role confusion; integrity vs. despair
e. identity vs. role confusion; initiative vs. guilt

humanistic personality theory Any
personality theory that asserts the fundamental
goodness of people and their striving toward
higher levels of functioning.

Answers:1. b.2. b.

• Explain how humanistic personality

theories differ from psychodynamic
theories. Distinguish Rogers’ concept
of actualizing tendency and self-
actualizing tendency, conditional versus
unconditional positive regard, and what
it means to be a fully functioning person.

• Summarize the contributions and
limitations of the humanistic perspective.

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Personality 345

The goal of life, Rogers believed, is to fulfill this genetic blueprint, to become the best of what-
ever each of us is inherently capable of becoming. Rogers called this biological push toward
fulfillment the actualizing tendency. Although Rogers maintained that the actualizing ten-
dency characterizes all organisms—plants, animals, and humans—he noted that human
beings also form images of themselves, or self-concepts. Just as we try to fulfill our inborn bio-
logical potential, so, too, we attempt to fulfill our self-concept, our conscious sense of who we
are and what we want to do with our lives. Rogers called this striving the self-actualizing
tendency. If you think of yourself as “intelligent” and “athletic,” for example, you will strive to
live up to those images of yourself.

When our self-concept is closely matched with our inborn capacities, we are likely to
become what Rogers called a fully functioning person. Such people are self-directed: They
decide for themselves what it is they wish to do and to become, even though their choices
may not always be sound ones. Fully functioning people are also open to experience—to
their own feelings as well as to the world and other people around them—and thus find
themselves “increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which
[they] most truly [are]” (Rogers, 1961, pp. 175–176).

According to Rogers, people tend to become more fully functioning if they are brought
up with unconditional positive regard, or the experience of being treated with warmth,
respect, acceptance, and love regardless of their own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. But
often parents and other adults offer children what Rogers called conditional positive
regard: They value and accept only certain aspects of the child. The acceptance, warmth,
and love that the child receives from others then depend on the child’s behaving in certain
ways and fulfilling certain conditions. In the process, self-concept comes to resemble the
inborn capacity less and less, and the child’s life deviates from the genetic blueprint.

When people lose sight of their inborn potential, they become constricted, rigid, and
defensive. They feel threatened and anxious, and experience considerable discomfort and
uneasiness. Because their lives are directed toward what other people want and value, they
are unlikely to experience much real satisfaction in life. At some point, they may realize that
they don’t really know who they are or what they want.

A Humanistic View of Jaylene Smith
How would humanistic theorists view the development of Jaylene Smith’s

Humanistic personality theory would focus on the discrepancy between Jay’s self-concept
and her inborn capacities. For example, Rogers would point out that Jay is intelligent and
achievement-oriented but nevertheless feels that she doesn’t “deserve to be a doctor,” wor-
ries about whether she will ever be “truly happy,” and remembers that when she was 13, she
never was able to be herself and really express her feelings, even with a good friend. Her
unhappiness, fearfulness, loneliness, insecurity, and other dissatisfactions similarly stem
from Jay’s inability to become what she “most truly is.” Rogers would suspect that other
people in Jay’s life made acceptance and love conditional on her living up to their ideas of
what she should become. We know that for most of her life, Jay’s father was her primary
source of positive regard. Very possibly, he conditioned his love for Jay on her living up to
his goals for her.

Evaluating Humanistic Theories
What have humanistic theories contributed to our understanding of

The central tenet of most humanistic personality theories—that the overriding purpose of
the human condition is to realize one’s potential—is difficult if not impossible to verify sci-
entifically. The resulting lack of scientific evidence and rigor is one of the major criticisms

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actualizing tendency According to Rogers, the
drive of every organism to fulfill its biological
potential and become what it is inherently
capable of becoming.

conditional positive regard In Rogers’s
theory, acceptance and love that are dependent
on another’s behaving in certain ways and on
fulfilling certain conditions.

unconditional positive regard In Rogers’s
theory, the full acceptance and love of another
person regardless of his or her behavior.

self-actualizing tendency According to
Rogers, the drive of human beings to fulfill their
self-concepts, or the images they have of

fully functioning person According to Rogers,
an individual whose self-concept closely
resembles his or her inborn capacities or

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346 Chapter 10

of these theories. In addition, some critics claim that humanistic theories present an overly
optimistic view of human beings and fail to take into account the evil in human nature.
Others contend that the humanistic view fosters self-centeredness and narcissism, and
reflects Western values of individual achievement rather than universal human potential.

Nonetheless, Maslow and especially Rogers did attempt to test some aspects of their
theories scientifically. For example, Rogers studied the discrepancy between the way people
perceived themselves and the way they ideally wanted to be. He discovered that people
whose real selves differed considerably from their ideal selves were more likely to be
unhappy and dissatisfied.


Indicate whether the following are true (T) or false (F).
1. ________ Humanistic personality theory emphasizes that we are motivated by conflicts,

whereas psychodynamic personality theory emphasizes positive strivings.
2. ________ The goal of life, Rogers believed, is to become the best person that we can

inherently become.
3. ________ Our self-concept is our inborn biological potential.
4. ________ When people lose sight of their inborn potential, they are unlikely to experience

much satisfaction.

Answers:1. (F).2. (T).3. (F).4. (T).

Answers:1. b.2. d.

• Compare and contrast the trait theories

of Cattell and Eysenck and the current
five-factor model of personality. Briefly
summarize the research evidence on
the usefulness and universality of the
five-factor model, the stability of
personality traits over time and across
situations, and the biological basis of
personality traits.

• Summarize the contributions and
limitations of the trait perspective.


1. Barbara was brought up with unconditional positive regard. According to Rogers, she is
likely to

a. be vain and narcissistic.
b. feel she is valued regardless of her attitudes and behavior.
c. have self-concepts that do not correspond very closely to her inborn capacities.
d. Both (b) and (c) are true.

2. Your friend has always known that she wants to be a doctor. When you ask her how she
knows that, she says, “That’s just who I am. It’s what I want to do with my life.” Rogers
calls the push toward fulfilling this sense of who she is

a. being fully functioning.
b. engaging in a compensatory process.
c. expressing a high need for achievement.
d. the self-actualizing tendency.

What is the key focus of trait theories?

The personality theories that we have examined so far all emphasize early childhood expe-
riences; and all attempt to explain the varieties of human personality. Other personality
theorists focus on the present, describing the ways in which already-developed adult per-
sonalities differ from one another. These trait theorists assert that people differ according to
the degree to which they possess certain personality traits, such as dependency, anxiety,
aggressiveness, and sociability. We infer a trait from how a person behaves. If someone con-
sistently throws parties, goes to great lengths to make friends, and travels in groups, we
might safely conclude that this person possesses a high degree of sociability.

Our language has many words that describe personality traits. Gordon Allport, along
with his colleague H. S. Odbert (1936), found nearly 18,000 dictionary entries that might
refer to personality traits. However, only about 2,800 of the words on Allport and Odbert’s

personality traits Dimensions or
characteristics on which people differ in
distinctive ways.

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Personality 347

list concern the kinds of stable or enduring characteristics that most psychologists would
call personality traits; and when synonyms and near-synonyms are removed, the number of
possible personality traits drops to around 200—which is still a formidable list. Psycholo-
gist Raymond Cattell (1965), using a statistical technique called factor analysis, found that
those 200 traits tend to cluster in groups. Thus, a person who is described as persevering or
determined is also likely to be thought of as responsible, ordered, attentive, and stable and
probably would not be described as frivolous, neglectful, and changeable. On the basis of
extensive research, Cattell originally concluded that just 16 traits account for the complex-
ity of human personality; later he suggested that it might be necessary to add another 7
traits to the list (Cattell & Kline, 1977).

Other theorists thought that Cattell used too many traits to describe personality. Eysenck
(1976) argued that personality could be reduced to three basic dimensions: emotional stabil-
ity, introversion–extraversion, and psychoticism. According to Eysenck, emotional stability
refers to how well a person controls emotions. On a continuum, individuals at one end of this
trait would be seen as poised, calm, and composed, whereas people at the other end might be
described as anxious, nervous, and excitable. Introversion–extraversion refers to the degree to
which a person is inwardly or outwardly oriented. At one end of this dimension would be
the socially outgoing, talkative, and affectionate people, known as extraverts. Introverts—
generally described as reserved, silent, shy, and socially withdrawn—would be at the other
extreme. Eysenck used the term psychoticism to describe people characterized by insensitivity
and uncooperativeness at one end and warmth, tenderness, and helpfulness at the other end.

Nature–Nurture Is Personality Inherited?
For Allport, traits—or “dispositions,” as he called them—are literally encoded in the ner-
vous system as structures that guide consistent behavior across a wide variety of situations.
Allport also believed that while traits describe behaviors that are common to many people,
each individual personality comprises a unique constellation of traits. While few psycholo-
gists today would deny the influence of the environment in shaping personality, recent evi-
dence substantiating the importance of genetic factors to the development of specific
personality traits supports Allport’s hunch that at least some personality traits are encoded
biologically (Rushton, Bons, & Hur, 2008). ■

The Big Five
What five basic traits describe most differences in personality?

As listed in Table 10–1, contemporary trait theorists have boiled down personality traits
to five basic dimensions: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability,
and culture (Costa & McCrae, 2006; McCrae et al., 2008). There is a growing consensus
today that these Big Five personality dimensions, also known as the five-factor model,
capture the most salient dimensions of human personality (Costa & McCrae, 2006; De
Raad, 1998), although there is some disagreement about whether the fifth dimension
should be called “culture” or “openness to experience” or “intellect.” Recently, each of the
Big Five traits has been shown to have at least six facets, or components, as shown in
Table 10–1 (DeYoung, Quilty, & Peterson, 2007; Jang, Livesley, McCrae, Angleitner, &
Riemann, 1998).

One survey of the literature found that the Big Five dimensions of personality may have
some important real-world applications—particularly as they relate to employment deci-
sions (Bentley-Reed, 2006; Guohua & Jiliang, 2005). For example, one study (Conte &
Gintoft, 2005) found that the dimensions of extraversion and conscientiousness were reliable
predictors of performance in sales. In another study, the measures of agreeableness, conscien-
tiousness and emotional stability predicted employee burnout (Zeng & Shi, 2007). The Big

Source: © Tee and Charles Addams Foundation

Big Five Five traits or basic dimensions
currently considered to be of central
importance in describing personality.

factor analysis A statistical technique that
identifies groups of related objects; it was used
by Cattell to identify clusters of traits.

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

348 Chapter 10

Five personality traits have also been shown to be useful in predicting the job performance of
police officers (Schneider, 2002). In addition, research has shown that absenteeism in the
workplace is related to the conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism scales (Conte &
Jacobs, 2003). Thus, the Big Five dimensions of personality show promise as reliable predic-
tors of job performance, especially when other criteria (such as technical skills and experi-
ence) are also considered (Conte & Gintoft, 2005; R. Hogan, Hogan, & Roberts, 1996).

The Big Five personality traits have also proved useful in describing and predicting
behavior across a wide range of age groups and social settings. For instance, one 9-year lon-
gitudinal study of grade-school children demonstrated the validity and consistency of the
Big Five personality traits throughout childhood (Asendorpf & Van-Aken, 2003). Other
studies have shown the Big Five can reliably predict alcohol consumption, grade point aver-
age and academic motivation among college students (Paunonen, 2003; Komarraju, Karau,
& Schmeck, 2009).

Are the Big Five Personality Traits Universal? Most studies of the Big Five have
been conducted in the United States. Would the same five personality dimensions be evident
in other cultures? The answer appears to be yes. P. T. Costa and McCrae (1992) developed a
test to measure the Big Five personality dimensions that has since been translated into
numerous languages including German, Portuguese, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, and Japan-
ese. McCrae and Costa (1997) then compared the results from the various questionnaires in
an effort to determine whether the same Big Five personality dimensions would emerge. The
results from the six foreign cultures were virtually identical to the data from American sam-
ples: The Big Five personality dimensions were clearly evident. As the authors noted, “The
structure found in American volunteers was replicated in Japanese undergraduates and
Israeli job applicants. A model of personality rooted in English-language trait adjectives
could be meaningfully applied not only in a closely related language like German, but also in
such utterly distinct languages as Chinese and Korean” (p. 514). Other researchers have
reached the same conclusions using quite different techniques (Mlacic & Goldberg, 2007;
Salgado, Moscoso & Lado, 2003; John Williams, Satterwhite, & Saiz, 1998).

Surprisingly, many of these same personality traits apparently exist in a number of
species besides humans. For example, studies have found that the Big Five, with the two
added factors of dominance and activity, could be used to rate and describe personality
characteristics in species including gorillas, chimpanzees, rhesus and vervet monkeys, hye-
nas, dogs, cats, and pigs (Gosling & John, 1999; King, Weiss, & Farmer, 2005)!

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Traits Facets of Each Big Five Trait

Extraversion Warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness,
activity, excitement seeking, positive emotions

Agreeableness Trust, straightforwardness, altruism,
compliance, modesty, tender mindedness

Conscientiousness/Dependability Competence, order, dutifulness, achievement-
striving, self-discipline, deliberation

Emotional Stability Anxiety, hostility, depression, self-
consciousness, impulsiveness, vulnerability

Openness to Experience/Culture/Intellect Fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas,

Source: Adapted Table 3, p. 1560 in “Heritability of Facet-Level Traits in a Cross-Cultural Twin Sample: Support
for a Hierachical Model of Personality” by K. L. Jang, W. J. Livesley, R. R. McCrae, A. Angleitner, & R. Reimann,
Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 74 (1998), 1556–65. Copyright © 1998 by American Psychological

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Personality 349

Do the Big Five Have a Genetic Basis? Recent evidence shows that not only the
Big Five but also many of their individual facets are strongly influenced by heredity
(W. Johnson & Krueger, 2004; Livesley, Jang, & Vernon, 2003). Although some early
theorists (Eysenck, 1947) suggested that physiological mechanisms underlie basic
personality traits, only recently has solid evidence from twin studies begun to support this
idea (Luciano, Wainwright, Wright, & Martin, 2006; Jang, Livesley, McCrae, Angleitner, &
Riemann, 1998; Rushton, Bons, & Hur, 2008). For example, Jang and colleagues (1998,
2002) tested almost 1,000 sets of twins from Germany and Canada on the 30 facets of the
Big Five. They concluded that genetic effects accounted for a substantial portion of
the differences between people’s scores on 26 of the 30 facet scales. In addition, the genetic
and environmental influences were similar for the Canadian and German samples.

Researchers have also confirmed that genetic factors play a significant role in shaping
abnormal and dysfunctional personality traits. In one study comparing 128 pairs of identical
and fraternal twins on both normal and abnormal personality traits, the influence of genetic
factors was found to slightly outweigh the influence of the environment. In addition, the pat-
tern of genetic and environmental influence was similar for both the abnormal traits and the
normal ones (Markon, Krueger, Bouchard, & Gottesman, 2002). Other studies have confirmed
that genetic factors also contribute to the personality traits that predispose individuals toward
alcohol abuse (Mustanski, Viken, Kaprio, & Rose, 2003), eating disorders (Mazzeo & Bulik,
2009), depression, marijuana dependence, aggression and antisocial personality disorder
(Alia-Klein et al., 2008; Forsman, Lichtenstein, Andershed, & Larsson, 2008; Fu et al., 2002).

What are the implications of these findings? There are several, although it is important to
keep in mind that saying a particular trait such as extraversion has a genetic component does
not mean that researchers have found a gene for extraversion. Nor are they likely to, because
genes represent a code for specific proteins, not complex personality traits. It does mean,
however, that the Big Five traits and their facets may be hardwired into the human species
rather than being cultural artifacts. Many genes—perhaps thousands of them—surely work
in combination to account for such complex traits. Though the precise role that genes play in
personality is still far from clear, most psychologists would agree that biological factors con-
tribute significantly to the development of most personality traits (Livesley et al., 2003).

A Trait View of Jaylene Smith
How would trait theorists describe Jaylene Smith’s personality?

A psychologist working from the trait perspective would infer certain traits from Jay’s behav-
ior. Since Jay chose at an early age to become a doctor, did well academically year after year, and
graduated first in her medical-school class, it seems reasonable to infer a trait of determination
or persistence to account for her behavior. Taking the
Big Five perspective, it seems that Jaylene’s personal-
ity is high in conscientiousness but perhaps low in
emotional stability and extraversion. These relatively
few traits provide a thumbnail sketch of what Jay is
like. It is likely that there is some biological basis for
her unique personality.

Evaluating Trait Theories
What major contributions have trait
theories made to our understanding of

Traits are the language that we commonly use to
describe other people, such as when we say some-
one is shy or insecure or arrogant. Thus, the trait
view of personality has considerable commonsense

Cultural Universals

Is it fair to conclude that the Big Five are in fact universal traits? To answer thisquestion, think about the following questions:
• What types of cultures have so far been studied? What do all of these cultures

have in common? What types of cultures have not been studied?

• How would researchers determine whether the Big Five traits are in fact the
most important ones in the cultures they have studied? Might other, equally
important, traits not be measured? Did the researchers explore what person-
ality traits are important in various cultures or simply confirm that people in a
variety of cultures recognize the Big Five traits?

• What do we have to know in order to say that something is universal?

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

Stability–Change How Stable Is Personality Over Time?
Some psychologists question whether traits describe and predict behavior very well over
time. Are “agreeable” people at age 20 still agreeable at age 60? As we saw in Chapter 9,
“Life-Span Development,” numerous research studies have shown that temperament
remains quite stable over time. Similarly, the Big Five dimensions of personality show con-
siderable stability during early childhood and appear to be “essentially fixed by age 30”
(McCrae & Costa, 1994, p. 173; Asendorpf & Van-Aken, 2003). Though to some extent
adults can vary their behavior to fit the situations in which they find themselves, in general
it seems that when it comes to personality traits, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” ■

350 Chapter 10

appeal. Moreover, it is scientifically easier to study personality traits than to study such
things as self-actualization and unconscious motives. But trait theories have several short-
comings (Costa & McCrae, 2006; Maher & Gottesman, 2005). First, they are primarily
descriptive: They seek to describe the basic dimensions of personality, but they generally do
not try to explain causes. As you can see from the trait view of Jaylene Smith, trait theory
tells us little about why she is the way she is.

In addition, some critics argue that it is dangerous to reduce human complexity to just
a few traits (Mischel & Shoda, 1995). Moreover, although the Big Five model is well
supported by research, some disagreement remains among psychologists about whether a
five-factor model is the best way to describe the basic traits of personality (De Raad, 2000;
Lubinski, 2000; Mershon & Gorsuch, 1988).

The issue of consistency in human behavior has long intrigued personality theorists
who are interested in the interaction between personality traits and the social environment.
In the view of these theorists, behavior is a product of the person and the situation
(Mischel, 2004; Mischel, Shoda, & Mendoza-Denton, 2002). That interaction is the focus of
cognitive–social learning theorists, whom we will consider next.


1. Eysenck stated that personality could be reduced to three basic dimensions: ______,
______, and ______.

2. There is evidence that suggests that personality is almost entirely due to environmental
factors. Is this statement true (T) or false (F)?

Answers:1. emotional stability, introversion–extraversion, psychoticism.2. F.


1. Peter is competent, self-disciplined, responsible, and well organized. In terms of the Big
Five model of personality, he is high in

a. agreeableness.
b. conscientiousness.
c. emotional stability.
d. intellect.

2. Sherry is warm, assertive, energetic, and enthusiastic. According to the Big Five model of
personality, she is high in

a. extraversion.
b. agreeableness.
c. emotional stability.
d. openness to experience.

Answers:1. b.2. a.

cognitive–social learning
theories Personality theories that view
behavior as the product of the interaction of
cognitions, learning and past experiences, and
the immediate environment.

self-efficacy According to Bandura, the
expectancy that one’s efforts will be successful.

performance standards In Bandura’s theory,
standards that people develop to rate the
adequacy of their own behavior in a variety
of situations.

expectancies In Bandura’s view, what a
person anticipates in a situation or as a result
of behaving in certain ways.

locus of control According to Rotter, an
expectancy about whether reinforcement is
under internal or external control.

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Personality 351

How do personal and situational factors combine to shape behavior?

In contrast to personality trait theories, cognitive–social learning theories hold that
expectancies and values guide behavior. This set of personal standards is unique to each
one of us, growing out of our own life history. Our behavior is the product of our cogni-
tions (how we think about a situation and how we view our behavior in that situation), our
learning and past experiences (including reinforcement, punishment, and modeling), and
the immediate environment.

Expectancies, Self-Efficacy, and Locus of Control
How does locus of control affect self-efficacy?

Albert Bandura (1977, 1986, 1997) asserts that people evaluate a situation according to certain
internal expectancies, such as personal preferences, and this evaluation affects their behavior.
Environmental feedback that follows the actual behavior, in turn, influences future expectan-
cies. These experience-based expectancies lead people to conduct themselves according to
unique performance standards, individually determined measures of excellence by which
they judge their own behavior. Those who succeed in meeting their own internal performance
standards develop an attitude that Bandura calls self-efficacy (Bandura & Locke, 2003). For
example, two young women trying a video game for the first time may experience the situation
quite differently, even if their scores are similarly low. One with a high sense of self-efficacy
may find the experience fun and be eager to gain the skills necessary to go on to the next level,
whereas the one with a lower sense of self-efficacy may be disheartened by getting a low score,
assume she will never be any good at video games, and never play again.

In our example, the two young women approach the experience with different expectan-
cies. To Rotter (1954), locus of control is an especially prevalent expectancy by which people
evaluate situations. People with an internal locus of control are convinced they can control
their own fate. They believe that through hard work, skill, and training, they can find rein-
forcements and avoid punishments. People with an external locus of control do not believe
they control their fate. Instead, they are convinced that chance, luck, and the behavior of oth-
ers determine their destiny and that they are helpless to change the course of their lives.

Both Bandura and Rotter have tried to combine personal variables (such as expectan-
cies) with situational variables in an effort to understand the complexities of human
behavior. Both theorists believe that expectancies become part of a person’s explanatory
style, which, in turn, greatly influences behavior. Explanatory style, for example, separates
optimists from pessimists. It is what causes two beginners who get the same score on a
video game to respond so differently. Moreover, studies have shown that a pessimistic
explanatory style negatively impacts physical health, academic and career achievement, and
many aspects of mental health including depression and anxiety disorders. Conversely,
having a positive explanatory style appears to serve as a “protective factor” enhancing an
individual’s experience of well-being (K. K. Bennett & Elliott, 2005; Wise & Rosqvist, 2006).

In a now-famous study, researchers tracked 99 students from the Harvard graduation
classes of 1939 to 1944. The men were interviewed about their experiences and underwent
physical checkups every 5 years. When researchers analyzed the men’s interviews for signs
of pessimism or optimism, they found that the explanatory style demonstrated in those
interviews predicted the state of an individual’s health decades later. Those men who were
optimists at age 25 tended to be healthier at age 65, whereas the health of the pessimists had
begun to deteriorate at about age 45 (C. Peterson, Vaillant, & Seligman, 1988). Another
study looked at insurance agents in their first 2 years on the job (Seligman & Schulman,
1986). Explanatory style predicted which agents would become excellent agents and which
would quit the company (three-fourths of all agents quit within 3 years). Optimists sold
37% more insurance than pessimists in the first 2 years and persisted through the difficul-
ties of the job.

• Explain how cognitive–social learning

theories of personality differ from other
theories. Be sure to include
expectancies, performance standards,
self-efficacy, and locus of control in
your explanation.

• Summarize the contributions and
limitations of the cognitive–social
learning perspective.

According to cognitive–social learning theo-
rists, people who meet their own internal
standards of performance develop a sense of
self-efficacy, a confidence that they can meet
their goals.

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

352 Chapter 10

How Consistent Are We? We have seen that trait theorists tend to believe that
behavior is relatively consistent across situations. “Agreeable” people tend to be agreeable in
most situations most of the time. In contrast, cognitive–social learning theorists believe
that our actions are influenced by the people around us, and by the way we think we are
supposed to behave in a given situation. According to this latter view, although underlying
personality is relatively stable, behavior is likely to be more inconsistent than consistent
from one situation to another.

If behavior is relatively inconsistent across situations, why does it appear to be more
consistent than it actually is? Why is the trait view of personality so compelling? One expla-
nation is that, since we see a person only in those situations that tend to elicit the same
behavior, we tend to assume that their behavior is similar across a wide range of situations.
Moreover, there is considerable evidence that people need to find consistency and stability
even in the face of inconsistency and unpredictability. We therefore see consistency in the
behavior of others even when there is none (Mischel, 2003; Mischel & Shoda, 1995).

A Cognitive–Social Learning View
of Jaylene Smith
How would cognitive–social learning theorists describe
the factors that shaped Jaylene Smith’s personality?

Jaylene developed extraordinarily high performance standards, no doubt because her
father’s goals for her were so high. Although she has succeeded academically and profes-
sionally, in the face of such high performance standards it is understandable that she might
harbor some feelings of low self-efficacy, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty. She might
have been genetically predisposed toward shyness and introversion, but it is also likely that
she was rewarded for spending much time by herself studying. Moreover, long hours of
studying helped her to avoid the discomfort that she felt being around other people for
long periods. Reinforcement may also have shaped Jay’s self-discipline and her need to
achieve academically.

In addition, at least some aspects of Jaylene’s personality were formed by watching her
parents and brothers and by learning subtle lessons from these family interactions. As a
young child, she observed that some people deal with conflict by means of outbursts. That
might help to explain her aggressive behavior with boyfriends. Moreover, as Bandura’s
concept of self-efficacy would predict, Jay surely noticed that her father, a successful
medical researcher, enjoyed and prospered in both his career and his family life, whereas
her mother’s two jobs as homemaker and store manager left her frustrated and tired. This
contrast may have contributed to Jay’s interest in medicine and to mixed feelings about
establishing a close relationship that might lead to marriage.

Evaluating Cognitive–Social Learning Theories
What contributions have cognitive–social learning theories made
to our understanding of personality, and what are their limitations?

Cognitive–social learning theories of personality seem to have great potential. They put
mental processes back at the center of personality, and they focus on conscious behavior and
experience. We can define and scientifically study the key concepts of these theories, such as
self-efficacy and locus of control; that is not true of the key concepts of psychodynamic and
humanistic theories. Moreover, cognitive–social learning theories help explain why people
behave inconsistently, an area in which trait approaches fall short. Cognitive–social learning
theories of personality have also spawned useful therapies that help people recognize and
change a negative sense of self-efficacy or explanatory style. In particular, as we will see
in Chapter 13, “Therapies,” these therapies have helped people overcome depression. Self-
efficacy theory has also been embraced by management theorists because of its practical

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Personality 353


1. In Bandura’s view, the belief that people can control their own fate is known as
________ ________.

2. According to cognitive–social learning theorists, ________ ________ is what separates
optimists from pessimists.

How do psychologists measure personality?

In some ways, testing personality is much like testing intelligence. In both cases, we are try-
ing to measure something intangible and invisible. And in both cases, a “good test” is one
that is both reliable and valid: It gives dependable and consistent results, and it measures
what it claims to measure. (See Chapter 7, “Cognition and Mental Abilities.”) But there are
special difficulties in measuring personality.

Because personality reflects characteristic behavior, we are not interested in someone’s
best behavior. We are interested in typical behavior. Further complicating the measurement
process, such factors as fatigue, a desire to impress the examiner, and fear of being tested
can profoundly affect a person’s behavior in a personality-assessment situation. For the
intricate task of measuring personality, psychologists use four basic tools: the personal
interview, direct observation of behavior, objective tests, and projective tests. The tools
most closely associated with each of the major theories of personality are shown in the
“Summary Table: Theories of Personality” and are discussed next.

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1. Rey Ramos grew up in the South Bronx, an urban ghetto where young males are more
likely to go to jail than they are to graduate from high school. He said, “My father always
said you can’t change anything; destiny has everything written for you. But, I rebelled
against that, and I told him I was going to make my own destiny.” According to
cognitive–social learning theories of personality, which of the following is most
descriptive of Rey?

a. He has an internal locus of control.
b. He has a low sense of self-efficacy.
c. He is compensating for feelings of inferiority.
d. He has an external locus of control.

2. You introduce a friend to a new video game. On her first try, she doesn’t do well but she
says, “This is fun. I have to climb that ladder more quickly to escape the bombs. Let me
try again!” According to Bandura, her optimism reflects

a. positive internal expectancies.
b. environmental feedback.
c. external locus of control.
d. a low sense of self-efficacy.

Answers:1. self-efficacy.2. explanatory style.


• Compare and contrast direct

observation, structured and
unstructured interviews, and objective
and projective tests of personality.
Indicate which approaches to
personality assessment are preferred
by psychodynamic, humanistic, trait,
and cognitive–social learning theorists.

• Describe the three major objective
tests of personality and the two major
projective tests. Include a summary of
their reliability and validity.

implications for work performance. Many studies, conducted over more than 20 years, have
shown a positive correlation between self-efficacy and performance in workplaces, schools,
and clinical settings.

It is still too early to say how well cognitive–social learning theories account for the
complexity of human personality. Some critics point out that hindsight allows us to explain
any behavior as the product of certain cognitions, but that doesn’t mean those cognitions
were the causes—or at least the sole causes—of the behavior.

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354 Chapter 10

The Personal Interview
What are the purposes of structured and unstructured interviews?

An interview is a conversation with a purpose: to obtain information from the person being
interviewed. Interviews are often used in clinical settings to learn, for example, why someone
is seeking treatment and to help diagnose the person’s problem. Such interviews are generally
unstructured—that is, the interviewer asks the client questions about any issues that arise and
asks follow-up questions whenever appropriate. The interviewer may also pay attention to
the person’s manner of speaking, poise, or tenseness when certain topics are raised.

When conducting systematic research on personality, investigators more often rely on
structured interviews (van-Iddekinge, Raymark, Eidson, & Attenweiler, 2004). In these inter-
views, the order and content of the questions are fixed, and the interviewer adheres to the set
format. Although less personal, this kind of interview allows the interviewer to obtain compa-
rable information from everyone interviewed. Generally speaking, structured interviews elicit
information about sensitive topics that might not come up in an unstructured interview.

Direct Observation
What are the advantages and limits of the observational method?

Another way to find out how a person usually behaves is to observe that person’s actions in
everyday situations over a long period. Behaviorists and social learning theorists prefer this
method of assessing personality because it allows them to see how situation and environ-
ment influence behavior and to note a range of behaviors.

In direct observation, observers watch people’s behavior firsthand. Systematic observa-
tion allows psychologists to look at aspects of personality (e.g., traits, moods, or motives) as
they are expressed in real life (Ozer & Reise, 1994). Ideally, the observers’ unbiased accounts
of behavior paint an accurate picture of that behavior, but an observer runs the risk of
misinterpreting the true meaning of an act. For example, the observer may think that chil-
dren are being hostile when they are merely protecting themselves from the class bully.
Direct observation is expensive and time-consuming, and there is always the possibility
that the presence of the observer will affect people’s behavior.

Objective Tests
Why are objective tests preferred by trait theorists?

To avoid depending on the skills of an interviewer or the interpretive abilities of an observer
in assessing personality, psychologists devised objective tests, or personality inventories.
Generally, these are written tests that are administered and scored according to a standard
procedure. The tests are usually constructed so that the person merely chooses a “yes” or

Theory Roots of Personality Methods of Assessing

Psychodynamic Unconscious thoughts, feelings, motives, and conflicts; repressed
problems from early childhood.

Projective tests, personal interviews.

Humanistic A drive toward personal growth and higher levels of functioning. Objective tests, personal interviews.

Trait Relatively permanent dispositions within the individual that
cause the person to think, feel, and act in characteristic ways.

Objective tests.

Social Learning Determined by past reinforcement and punishment as well as by
observing what happens to other people.

Interviews, objective tests, observations.


objective tests Personality tests that are
administered and scored in a standard way.

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Personality 355

NEO-PI-R An objective personality test
designed to assess the Big Five personality traits.

“no” response, or selects one answer among many choices. Objective tests are the most
widely used tools for assessing personality, but they have two serious drawbacks. First, they
rely entirely on self-report. If people do not know themselves well, cannot be entirely objec-
tive about themselves, or want to paint a particular picture of themselves, self-report ques-
tionnaire results have limited usefulness (Bagby & Marshall, 2005; Marshall, De Fruyt,
Rolland, & Bagby, 2005). In fact, some research indicates that peers who know you well often
do a better job characterizing you than you do yourself (Funder, 1995). Second, if people
have previously taken personality questionnaires, their familiarity with the test format may
affect their responses to it. (See “Applying Psychology: Evaluating Your Personality.”)

Evaluating Your Personality

The following scales provide a way foryou to assess your own personalityon the Big Five personality traits. It
will examine the extent to which others
agree with your assessment, the extent to
which your behavior is consistent across a
range of situations, and the extent to
which your personality has been stable
over time. The adjectives correspond to
the six facets for each of the Big Five
traits. (See Table 10–1.)

For each of the adjectives, indicate the
extent to which you think it applies to you.
If you write your answers on a separate
sheet of paper, you can then ask others to do
the same and compare their answers to your
own. Friends, close relatives, and others
who know you well are likely to provide the
most useful information. You also might try
to get ratings from people who see you in
different situations—perhaps some people
who see you only in class, some who see you
only in informal social situations, and oth-
ers who have known you for a very long
time in a wide variety of situations. That
will give you an opportunity to see the
extent to which different situations cause
you to behave in different ways; in turn, this

could lead others, who see you only in those
situations, to conclude that your personality
is different than perhaps it really is.

You might also fill out the form, or
have others fill it out, as you were in the
past, and compare that with how you are
today. It would be interesting to specu-
late on the reasons for any significant
changes over time.

Use the following scales to rate yourself
on each adjective:

1. Very true of me
2. Often true of me
3. Sometimes true of me
4. Seldom true of me
5. Almost never true of me

Efficient 1 2 3 4 5
Organized 1 2 3 4 5
Responsible 1 2 3 4 5
Thorough 1 2 3 4 5
Self-disciplined 1 2 3 4 5
Deliberate 1 2 3 4 5

Outgoing 1 2 3 4 5
Sociable 1 2 3 4 5
Forceful 1 2 3 4 5
Energetic 1 2 3 4 5
Adventurous 1 2 3 4 5
Enthusiastic 1 2 3 4 5

Forgiving 1 2 3 4 5
Not demanding 1 2 3 4 5

Emotional Stability
Tense 1 2 3 4 5
Irritable 1 2 3 4 5
Depressed 1 2 3 4 5
Self-conscious 1 2 3 4 5
Moody 1 2 3 4 5
Not self-confident 1 2 3 4 5

Curious 1 2 3 4 5
Imaginative 1 2 3 4 5
Artistic 1 2 3 4 5
Wide interests 1 2 3 4 5
Excitable 1 2 3 4 5
Unconventional 1 2 3 4 5

Because of their interest in accurately measuring personality traits, trait theorists favor
objective tests. Cattell, for example, developed a 374-question personality test called the
Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire. The 16PF (as it is usually called) provides scores
on each of the 16 traits originally identified by Cattell. More recently, objective tests such as
the NEO-PI-R have been developed to assess the Big Five major personality traits (Costa &
McCrae, 2006). The NEO-PI-R yields scores for each trait and its six facets. For each of over
200 questions, the test taker indicates to what degree he or she disagrees with the statement
made. The primary use of the test is to assess the personality of a normal adult, although
recent studies suggest it may also prove useful in some clinical settings (Bagby, Sellbom,
Costa, & Widiger, 2008).

Warm 1 2 3 4 5
Not stubborn 1 2 3 4 5
Modest 1 2 3 4 5
Sympathetic 1 2 3 4 5

Sixteen Personality Factor
Questionnaire Objective personality test
created by Cattell that provides scores on the 16
traits he identified.

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

356 Chapter 10

Rorschach test A projective test composed of
ambiguous inkblots; the way people interpret
the blots is thought to reveal aspects of their

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) A
projective test composed of ambiguous pictures
about which a person is asked to write a
complete story.


Clinical Scale Symbol Description

Hypochondriasis Hs Excessive concern with physical health and bodily function,
somatic complaints, chronic weakness

Depression D Unhappiness, loss of energy, pessimism, lack of self-
confidence, hopelessness, feeling of futility

Hysteria Hy Reacts to stress with physical symptoms such as blindness
or paralysis; lacks insights about motives and feelings


Pd Disregard for rules, laws, ethics, and moral conduct;
impulsiveness, rebellious toward authority figures, may
engage in lying, stealing and cheating


Mf Adherence to nontraditional gender traits, or rejection of
the typical gender role

Paranoia Pa Suspiciousness, particularly in the area of interpersonal
relations, guarded, moralistic, and rigid; overly responsive
to criticism

Psychasthenia Pt Obsessiveness and compulsiveness, unreasonable fears,
anxious, tense, and high-strung

Schizophrenia Sc Detachment from reality, often accompanied by
hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre thought processes;
often confused, disorganized

Hypomania Ma Elevated mood, accelerated speech, flight of ideas,
overactivity, energetic, and talkative

Social Introversion Si Shy, insecure, and uncomfortable in social situations; timid,
reserved, often described by others as cold and distant

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory (MMPI-2) The most widely used
objective personality test, originally intended
for psychiatric diagnosis.

projective tests Personality tests, such as the
Rorschach inkblot test, consisting of ambiguous
or unstructured material.

The most widely used and thoroughly researched objective personality test is the
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) (Dorfman & Leonard, 2001;
Hoelzle & Meyer, 2008). Originally developed as an aid in diagnosing psychiatric disorders,
the MMPI-2 remains in use as an effective diagnostic tool (Egger, Delsing, & DeMey, 2003)
and for detecting malingering, or faking a psychiatric disorder (Kucharski, Johnsen, &
Procell, 2004; Walters et al., 2008). Respondents are asked to answer “true,” “false,” or
“cannot say” to such questions as “Once in a while I put off until tomorrow what I ought to
do today,” “At times I feel like swearing,” and “There are people who are trying to steal my
thoughts and ideas.” Some of the items repeat very similar thoughts in different words: For
example, “I tire easily” and “I feel weak all over much of the time.” This redundancy
provides a check on the possibility of false or inconsistent answers. Table 10–2 shows the
10 clinical scales that are assessed by the MMPI-2.

Projective Tests
What do projective tests try to measure?

Owing to their belief that people are often unaware of the determinants of their behavior, psy-
chodynamic theorists tend to discount self-report–based objective personality tests. Instead,
they prefer projective tests of personality. Most projective tests consist of simple ambiguous
stimuli. After looking at an essentially meaningless graphic image or at a vague picture, the test
taker explains what the material means. Alternatively, the person may be asked to complete a
sentence fragment, such as “When I see myself in the mirror, I . . .” The tests offer no clues
regarding the “best way” to interpret the material or to complete the sentence.

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

Projective tests have several advantages.
Because they are flexible and can even be treated
as games or puzzles, people can take them in a
relaxed atmosphere, without the tension and
self-consciousness that sometimes accompany
objective tests. Often, the patient doesn’t even
know the true purpose of the test, so responses
are less likely to be faked. Some psychologists
believe that the projective test can uncover
unconscious thoughts and fantasies, such as
latent sexual or family problems. In any event,
the accuracy and usefulness of projective tests
depend largely on the skill of the examiner in elic-
iting and interpreting responses.

The Rorschach test is the best known and one of the most frequently used projective
personality tests (I. B. Weiner, 2006). It is named for Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychia-
trist who in 1921 published the results of his research on interpreting inkblots as a key to
personality. (See Figure 10–4.) Each inkblot design is printed on a separate card and is
unique in form, color, shading, and white space. People are asked to specify what they see in
each blot. Test instructions are minimal, so people’s responses will be completely their own.
After interpreting all the blots, the person goes over the cards again with the examiner and
explains which part of each blot prompted each response. There are different methods of
interpreting a person’s responses to the blots on the Rorschach test, some of which produce
more valid results than others (Masling, 2002; Viglione & Taylor, 2003).

Somewhat more demanding is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). It consists
of 20 cards picturing one or more human figures in deliberately ambiguous situations.
(See Figure 10–5.) A person is shown the cards one by one and asked to write a com-
plete story about each picture, including what led up to the scene depicted, what the
characters are doing at that moment, what their thoughts and feelings are, and what the
outcome will be.

Personality 357

Figure 10–4
Inkblots used in the Rorschach
projective test.

Figure 10–5
A sample item from the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).
In the photo, the person is making up a story to explain the scene in the painting. The examiner then
interprets and evaluates the person’s story for what it reveals about her personality.
Source: Reprinted by permission of the publishers from Henry A. Murray, Thematic Apperception Test,
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1943 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College,
© 1971 by Henry A. Murray.

Projective Tests

Critics of projective tests say that it is the clinician whose personality is actu-ally revealed by the tests, because the clinician’s report is itself an interpre-tation of an ambiguous stimulus (the client’s verbal response).
1. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
2. How might this potential source of error be reduced?
3. What are the real or potential advantages to using projective tests?

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358 Chapter 10

Answers:1. c.2. c.


1. You are consulting a psychologist who asks you to take a personality test. She shows you
pictures of people and asks you to write a complete story about each picture. The test is
most likely the

a. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.
b. Rorschach Test.
c. Thematic Apperception Test.
d. NEO-PI-R.

2. “They are often not administered in a standard fashion, they are seldom scored
objectively, but when interpreted by a skilled examiner, they can provide insight into a
person.” To what does this quotation most likely refer?

a. structured interviews
b. objective personality tests
c. projective personality tests
d. the NEO-PI-R and the MMPI-2

Studying Personality
personality, p. 335

Psychodynamic Theories
unconscious, p. 336
psychoanalysis, p. 336
libido, p. 336

id, p. 337
pleasure principle, p. 337
ego, p. 337
reality principle, p. 337
superego, p. 337
ego ideal, p. 337
fixation, p. 338

oral stage, p. 338
anal stage, p. 338
phallic stage, p. 338
Oedipus complex and Electra

complex, p. 338
latency period, p. 338
genital stage, p. 338

personal unconscious, p. 339
collective unconscious,

p. 339
archetypes, p. 339
persona, p. 339
extraverts, p. 339
introverts, p. 339


1. ____________ tests require people to fill out questionnaires, which are then scored
according to a standardized procedure.

2. In ____________ tests of personality, people are shown ambiguous stimuli and asked to
describe them or to make up a story about them.

Answers:1. objective.2. projective.

Although various scoring systems have been devised for the TAT (Aranow, Weiss, &
Rezikoff, 2001), examiners usually interpret the stories in the light of their personal knowl-
edge of the storyteller. One key in evaluating the TAT is determining who the test taker
identifies with—the story’s hero or heroine, or one of the minor characters. The examiner
then determines what the attitudes and feelings of the character reveal about the storyteller.
The examiner also assesses each story for content, language, originality, organization, con-
sistency, and recurring themes such as the need for affection, repeated failure, or parental

Both the Rorschach and the TAT may open up a conversation between a clinician
and a patient who is reluctant or unable to talk about personal problems. Both tests may
also provide insight into motives, events, or feelings of which the person is unaware.
However, because projective tests are often not administered in a standard fashion, their
validity and reliability, especially in cross-cultural settings, have been called into ques-
tion (Hofer & Chasiotis, 2004). As a result, their use has declined since the 1970s. Still,
when interpreted by a skilled examiner, these tests can offer insight into a person’s atti-
tudes and feelings. Simulate on MyPsychLab

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Personality 359

What do psychologists mean when they talk about personality?
Personality refers to an individual’s unique pattern of thoughts,
feelings, and behaviors that persists over time and across situations.
Key to this definition is the concept of distinctive differences
among individuals and the concept of personality’s stability and

What ideas do all psychodynamic theories have in com-
mon? Psychodynamic theories of personality consider behavior to
be the transformation and expression of psychic energy within the
individual. Often these psychological dynamics are unconscious

When Freud proposed that the sexual instinct is the basis of
behavior, how was he defining “sexual instinct”? According to
Freud, personality is made of three structures. The id, the only
personality structure present at birth, operates in the unconscious-
ness according to the pleasure principle. The ego, operating at the
conscious level according to the reality principle, controls all
conscious thinking and reasoning. The superego acts as the moral
guardian or conscience helping the person function in society by
comparing the ego’s actions with the ego ideal of perfection. Freud
used the term sexual instinct to refer to the desire for virtually any
form of pleasure. As infants mature, their libido, or energy gener-
ated by the sexual instinct, becomes focused on sensitive parts of
the body. A fixation occurs if a child is deprived of or receives too
much pleasure from the part of the body that dominates one of the
five developmental stages—oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.
During the phallic stage, strong attachment to the parent of the
opposite sex and jealousy of the parent of the same sex is termed
the Oedipus complex in boys and the Electra complex in girls.
Next the child enters the latency period, characterized by a lack of
interest in sexual behavior. Finally, at puberty, the individual enters
the genital stage of mature sexuality.

How did Carl Jung’s view of the unconscious differ from that
of Freud? Freud saw the id as a “cauldron of seething excitations,”
whereas Jung viewed the unconscious as the ego’s source of
strength. Jung believed that the unconscious consisted of the
personal unconscious, encompassing an individual’s repressed
thoughts, forgotten experiences, and undeveloped ideas; and the
collective unconscious, a subterranean river of memories and
behavior patterns flowing to us from previous generations. Certain
universal thought forms, called archetypes, give rise to mental
images or mythological representations and play a special role in
shaping personality. Jung used the term persona to describe that
part of personality by which we are known to other people, like a
mask we put on to go out in public.

What did Alfred Adler believe was the major determinant of
personality? Adler believed that people possess innate positive
motives and strive toward personal and social perfection. He origi-
nally proposed that the principal determinant of personality was
the individual’s attempt to compensate for actual physical weak-
ness, but he later modified his theory to stress the importance of
feelings of inferiority, whether or not those feelings are justified.
Adler concluded that strivings for superiority and perfection, both
in one’s own life and in the society in which one lives, are crucial to
personality development.

What major contributions did Karen Horney make to the
psychodynamic perspective? For Horney, anxiety—a person’s
reaction to real or imagined dangers or threats—is a stronger
motivating force than the sexual drive, or libido. Overly anxious
adults may adopt one of three maladaptive coping strategies—
moving toward people (submission), moving against people
(aggression), and moving away from people (detachment). By
emphasizing that culture and not anatomy determines many of
the personality traits that differentiate women from men and that
culture can be changed, Horney became a forerunner of feminist

Erikson’s theory focused less on unconscious conflict and
more on what factors? Erikson argued that the quality of the

compensation, p. 340
inferiority complex, p. 340

Humanistic Personality
humanistic personality theory,

p. 344
actualizing tendency,

p. 345

self-actualizing tendency,

p. 345

fully functioning person, p. 345
unconditional positive regard,

p. 345
conditional positive regard,

p. 345

Trait Theories
personality traits, p. 346
factor analysis, p. 347
Big Five, p. 347

Cognitive–Social Learning
cognitive–social learning

theories, p. 351
expectancies, p. 351
performance standards, p. 351
self-efficacy, p. 351
locus of control, p. 351

Personality Assessment
objective tests, p. 354

Sixteen Personality Factor
Questionnaire, p. 355

NEO-PI-R, p. 355
Minnesota Multiphasic

Personality Inventory
(MMPI-2), p. 356

projective tests, p. 356
Rorschach test, p. 357
Thematic Apperception Test

(TAT), p. 357

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360 Chapter 10

parent–child relationship affects the development of personality
because, out of this interaction, the child either feels competent
and valuable and is able to form a secure sense of identity or feels
incompetent and worthless and fails to build a secure identity.
Erikson proposed that each person moves through eight stages
of development, each involving a more successful versus a less
successful adjustment.

How would a psychodynamic theorist view the personality of
Jaylene Smith? Freud would probably conclude that Jay had not
successfully resolved her Electra complex. Erikson might suggest
that Jay has problems achieving intimacy (Stage 6) because she had
failed to develop satisfactory relations with other people earlier in
her life.

How do modern psychologists view the contributions and
limitations of the psychodynamic perspective? Psychody-
namic theories have had a profound impact on the way we view
ourselves and others, but some of Freud’s theories have been crit-
icized as unscientific and culture bound, based on the anecdotal
accounts of troubled individuals. As a therapy, psychoanalysis
has been shown to be beneficial in some cases but no more so
than are other therapies.

What are the major ways that humanistic personality theory
differs from psychodynamic theories? Freud and many of his
followers believed that personality grows out of the resolution of
unconscious conflicts and developmental crises from the past.
Humanistic personality theory emphasizes that we are positively
motivated and progress toward higher levels of functioning; and it
stresses people’s potential for growth and change in the present.

According to Rogers, how can thinking of yourself as self-
assured help you to become so? Rogers contended that every
person is born with certain innate potentials and the actualizing
tendency to realize our biological potential as well as our conscious
sense of who we are. A fully functioning person is one whose self-
concept closely matches the person’s inborn capabilities, and is
encouraged when a child is raised in an atmosphere characterized
by unconditional positive regard.

How would humanistic theorists view the development of
Jaylene Smith’s personality? Humanistic theorists would focus
on the difference between Jay’s self-concept and her actual capac-
ities. Her inability to become what she “most truly is” would
account for her anxiety, loneliness, and general dissatisfaction.
Rogers would suspect that throughout Jay’s life, acceptance and
love came from satisfying other people’s ideas of what she should

What have humanistic theories contributed to our under-
standing of personality? There is a lack of scientifically derived
evidence for humanistic theories of personality. In addition, these
theories are criticized for taking too rosy a view of human nature,
for fostering self-centeredness, and for reflecting Western values of
individual achievement.

What is the key focus of trait theories? Trait theorists reject the
notion that there are just a few distinct personality types. Instead,
they insist that each person possesses a unique constellation of fun-
damental personality traits, which can be inferred from how the
person behaves.

What five basic traits describe most differences in personality?
Recent research suggests that there may be just five overarching and
universal personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscien-
tiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience (also called
culture or intellect). Research shows these traits have some real world
applications and are strongly influenced by heredity.

How would trait theorists describe Jaylene Smith’s personality?
Trait theorists would probably ascribe Jaylene’s high achievements to
the traits of determination or persistence. Sincerity, motivation,
intelligence, anxiety, and introversion would also describe Jay. In terms
of Big Five factors, she would be considered high in conscientiousness,
but low in emotional stability and extraversion.

What major contributions have trait theorists made to our
understanding of personality? Trait theories are primarily descrip-
tive and provide a way of classifying personalities, but they do not
explain why someone’s personality developed as it did. Unlike
psychodynamic and humanistic theories, however, trait theories are
relatively easy to test experimentally, and research confirms the value
of the five-factor model, referred to as the “Big Five,” in pinpointing
personality. Also, although most personality theories assume that
behavior is consistent across situations and over a lifetime, a number
of psychologists believe that situational variables have a significant
effect on behavior.

How do personal and situational factors combine to shape
behavior? Cognitive–social learning theories of personality view
behavior as the product of the interaction of cognitions, learning
and past experiences, and the immediate environment.

How does one’s locus of control affect self-efficacy? Albert
Bandura maintains that certain internal expectancies determine
how a person evaluates a situation and that this evaluation has an
effect on the person’s behavior. These expectancies prompt people
to conduct themselves according to unique performance stan-
dards, individually determined measures of excellence by which
they judge their behavior. According to Rotter, people with an inter-
nal locus of control—one type of expectancy—believe that they
can control their own fate through their actions. Those who suc-
ceed in meeting their own internal performance standards develop
an attitude that Bandura calls self-efficacy.

How would cognitive–social learning theorists describe the
factors that shaped Jaylene Smith’s personality? These theo-
rists would assert that Jaylene acquired extraordinarily high perfor-
mance standards that almost inevitably left her with feelings of low
self-efficacy, insecurity and uncertainty. She probably learned to be

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

Personality 361

shy because she was rewarded for the many hours she spent alone
studying. Reinforcement would also have shaped her self-discipline
and high need to achieve. By watching her parents, Jay could have
learned to respond to conflicts with aggressive outbursts.

What contributions have cognitive–social learning theories
made to our understanding of personality, and what are their
limitations? Cognitive–social learning theories avoid the narrow-
ness of trait theories, as well as the reliance on case studies and
anecdotal evidence that weakens psychodynamic and humanistic
theories. They also explain why people behave inconsistently, an
area where the trait theories fall short. Cognitive–social learning
theories have also spawned therapies that have been effectively used
to treat depression.

How do psychologists measure personality? Psychologists use
four different methods to assess personality: the personal interview,
direct observation of behavior, objective tests, and projective tests.
Factors such as a desire to impress the examiner, fatigue, and fear of
being tested can profoundly affect the reliability and validity of
such tests.

What are the purposes of structured and unstructured
interviews? During an unstructured interview, the interviewer
asks questions about any issues that arise and poses follow-up
questions where appropriate. In a structured interview, the order

and the content of the questions are fixed, and the interviewer
does not deviate from the format. Structured interviews are more
likely to be used for systematic research on personality because
they elicit comparable information from all interviewees.

What are the advantages and limits of the observational
method? Direct observation of a person over a period of time,
which enables researchers to assess how situation and environment
influence behavior, has the advantage of not relying on people’s
self-reported behavior. However, the observer runs the risk of
misinterpreting the meaning of a given behavior.

Why are objective tests preferred by trait theorists? Objective
tests ask respondents to answer “yes–no” questions about their own
behavior and thoughts. Cattell’s Sixteen Personality Factor Ques-
tionnaire (16PF) provides scores on 16 basic personality traits,
whereas the NEO-PI-R reports scores for each of the Big Five traits
and their associated facets. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personal-
ity Inventory (MMPI-2), originally developed as an aid to diagnose
mental disorders, includes questions that measure the truthfulness
of a person’s response.

What do projective tests try to measure? Psychodynamic
theorists, who believe that much behavior is determined by uncon-
scious processes, tend to discount tests that rely on self-reports.
They are more likely to use projective tests consisting of ambiguous
stimuli that can elicit an unlimited number of interpretations based
on these unconscious processes. Two such tests are the Rorschach
Test and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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.

and Emotion8

Enduring Issues in
Motivation and Emotion

Perspectives on Motivation
• Instincts
• Drive-Reduction Theory
• Arousal Theory
• Intrinsic and Extrinsic

• A Hierarchy of Motives

Hunger and Thirst
• Biological and Emotional

• Eating Disorders and Obesity
• Biological Factors
• Cultural and Environmental

• Patterns of Sexual Behavior

Among Americans
• Sexual Orientation

Other Important Motives
• Exploration and Curiosity
• Manipulation and

• Aggression
• Achievement
• Affiliation

• Basic Emotions
• Theories of Emotion

• Voice Quality and Facial

• How the Brain Reads

the Fa



• Body Language,

Personal Space, and

• Gender and Emotion
• Culture and Emotion





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


Emotion refers to the experience of feelings such as fear,
joy, surprise, and anger. Like motives, emotions also activate and
affect behavior, but it is more difficult to predict the kind of
behavior that a particular emotion will prompt. If a man is hungry,
we can be reasonably sure that he will seek food. If, however,
this same man experiences a feeling of joy or surprise, we can-
not know with certainty how he will act.

The important thing to remember about both motives and
emotions is that they push us to take some kind of action
whether or not we are aware of it. We do not need to think
about feeling hungry to make a beeline for the refrigerator.
Similarly, we do not have to realize that we are afraid before
stepping back from a growling dog. Moreover, the same moti-
vation or emotion may produce different behaviors in different
people. Ambition might motivate one person to go to law
school and another to join a crime ring. Feeling sad might lead
one person to cry alone and another to seek out a friend. On
the other hand, the same behavior might arise from different
motives or emotions: You may go to a movie because you are
happy, bored, or lonely. In short, the workings of motives and
emotions are very complex.

In this chapter, we will first look at some specific motives
that play important roles in human behavior. Then we will turn
our attention to emotions and the various ways they are
expressed. We begin our discussion of motivation with a few
general concepts.

Classic detective stories are usually studies of motivation andemotion. At the beginning, all we know is that a murder hasbeen committed: After eating dinner with her family, sweet
old Amanda Jones collapses and dies of strychnine poisoning.
“Now, why would anyone do a thing like that?” everybody
wonders. The police ask the same question, in different terms:
“Who had a motive for killing Miss Jones?” In a good mystery, the
answer is “Practically everybody.”

There is, for example, the younger sister—although she is
75 years old, she still bristles when she thinks of that tragic day
50 years ago when Amanda stole her sweetheart. And there is
the next-door neighbor, who was heard saying that if Miss
Jones’s poodle trampled his peonies one more time, there would
be consequences. Then there is the spendthrift nephew who
stands to inherit a fortune from the deceased. Finally, the parlor
maid has a guilty secret that Miss Jones knew and had threat-
ened to reveal. All four suspects were in the house on the night
of the murder, had access to the poison (which was used to kill
rats in the basement), and had strong feelings about Amanda
Jones. All of them had a motive for killing her.

In this story, motivation and emotion are so closely inter-
twined that drawing distinctions between them is difficult. How-
ever, psychologists do try to separate them. A motive is a specific
need or desire that arouses the organism and directs its behavior
toward a goal. All motives are triggered by some kind of stimulus:
a bodily condition, a cue in the environment, or a feeling.

The heart of this chapter concerns the ways in which motives and emotions affect behavior
and are affected by the external environment (person–situation). While discussing those key
issues, we will explore the question of whether motives and emotions are inborn or acquired
(nature–nurture) and whether they change significantly over the life span (stability–change).
We will also consider the extent to which individuals differ in their motives and emotions
(diversity–universality) and the ways in which motives and emotions arise from and, in turn,
affect biological processes (mind–body).

How can you use intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to help you
succeed in college?

Early in the 20th century, psychologists often attributed behavior to instincts—specific,
inborn behavior patterns characteristic of an entire species. In 1890, William James compiled a
list of human instincts that included hunting, rivalry, fear, curiosity, shyness, love, shame, and
resentment. But by the 1920s, instinct theory began to fall out of favor as an explanation of

motive Specific need or desire, such as
hunger, thirst, or achievement, that prompts
goal-directed behavior.

emotion Feeling, such as fear, joy, or surprise,
that underlies behavior.

instincts Inborn, inflexible, goal-directed
behaviors that are characteristic of an entire

• Compare and contrast instincts,

drive-reduction theory, and arousal
theory (including the Yerkes-Dodson
law) as explanations of human
behavior. Distinguish between primary
and secondary drives, intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation, and summarize
Maslow’s hierarchy of motives.






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

260 Chapter 8

human behavior for three reasons: (1) Most important
human behavior is learned; (2) human behavior is
rarely rigid, inflexible, unchanging, and found through-
out the species, as is the case with instincts; and
(3) ascribing every conceivable human behavior to a
corresponding instinct explains nothing (calling a
person’s propensity to be alone an “antisocial instinct,”
for example, merely names the behavior without
pinpointing its origins).

Drive-Reduction Theory
An alternative view of motivation holds that bodily
needs (such as the need for food or the need for
water) create a state of tension or arousal called a
drive (such as hunger or thirst). According to drive-

reduction theory, motivated behavior is an attempt to reduce this unpleasant state of ten-
sion in the body and to return the body to a state of homeostasis, or balance (S. Cooper,
2008). When we are hungry, we look for food to reduce the hunger drive. When we are
tired, we find a place to rest.

According to drive-reduction theory, drives can generally be divided into two cate-
gories. Primary drives are unlearned, are found in all animals (including humans), and
motivate behavior that is vital to the survival of the individual or species. Primary drives
include hunger, thirst, and sex. Secondary drives are acquired through learning. For
instance, no one is born with a drive to acquire great wealth, yet many people are moti-
vated by money.

Arousal Theory
Drive-reduction theory is appealing, but it cannot explain all kinds of behavior. It implies,
for example, that once drives are reduced, people will do little. They would literally have no
motivation. Yet this is obviously not the case. People work, play, do Sudoku puzzles, and do
many other things for which there is no known drive that needs to be reduced.

Arousal theory suggests that each of us has an optimum level of arousal that varies
over the course of the day and from one situation to another. According to this view, behav-
ior is motivated by the desire to maintain the optimum level of arousal for a given moment.
Sometimes, as envisioned in drive-reduction theory, that may call for reducing the level of
arousal. But other times, behavior appears to be motivated by a desire to increase the state
of arousal. For example, when you are bored, you may turn on the television, take a walk, or
check for text messages.

Interestingly, overall level of arousal affects performance in different situations but
psychologists agree that there is no “best” level of arousal necessary to perform all
tasks (Gray, Braver, & Raichle, 2002). Rather, it is largely a question of degree. The
Yerkes–Dodson law puts it this way: The more complex the task, the lower the level of
arousal that can be tolerated without interfering with performance (Yerkes & Dodson,
1908/2007). Thus, to perform optimally on a simple task, you may need to increase your
level of arousal. Conversely, you may need to reduce your level of arousal to perform well
on a complex task. (See Figure 8–1.)

Arousal theory has some advantages over drive-reduction theory, but neither one can
readily account for some kinds of behavior. For example, many people today participate in
activities that are stimulating in the extreme: rock climbing, skydiving, bungee jumping,
and hang gliding. Such thrill-seeking activities do not seem to be drive-reducing and do
not seem to be done in pursuit of an optimal level of arousal. Zuckerman (1979,
2007a) accounts for such activities by suggesting that sensation seeking is itself a basic moti-
vation, at least some aspects of which are inherited and neurologically based (Arnaut, 2006;

Primary Drives

Primary drives are, by definition, unlearned. But learning clearly affects howthese drives are expressed: We learn how and what to eat and drink.
1. Given that information, how might you design a research study to

determine what aspects of a given drive, say hunger, are learned and
which are not?

2. What steps would you take to increase the likelihood that your results
apply to people in general and not just to a small sample of people?

3. Would you have to rely on self-reports or could you directly observe

arousal theory Theory of motivation that
proposes that organisms seek an optimal level
of arousal.

Yerkes–Dodson law States that there is an
optimal level of arousal for the best
performance of any task; the more complex the
task, the lower the level of arousal that can be
tolerated before performance deteriorates.

drive State of tension or arousal that
motivates behavior.

drive-reduction theory States that motivated
behavior is aimed at reducing a state of bodily
tension or arousal and returning the organism
to homeostasis.

homeostasis State of balance and stability in
which the organism functions effectively.

primary drives Unlearned drive, such as
hunger, that are based on a physiological state.

secondary drives Learned drives, such as
ambition, that are not based on a
physiological state.

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

Motivation and Emotion 261

Zuckerman, 2005). In general, high sensation seekers, compared to low sensation seekers,
are more likely to

• prefer dangerous sports (Diehm & Armatas, 2004; Eachus, 2004; Zuckerman, 2007b);
• choose vocations that involve an element of risk and excitement (Zuckerman, 2006);
• smoke, drink heavily, gamble, and use illicit drugs (D’Silva, Grant-Harrington,

Palmgreen, Donohew, & Pugzles-Lorch, 2001; Gurpegui et al., 2007; Nower,
Derevensky, & Gupta, 2004);

• engage in unsafe driving (S. L. Pedersen & McCarthy, 2008; Thiffault & Bergeron, 2003);
• have more sexual partners and engage in more varied and dangerous sexual activities

(Berg, 2008: Cohen, 2008); and

• be classified in school as delinquent or hyperactive (though not more aggressive)
(Ang & Woo, 2003; Modecki, 2008).

Figure 8–1
The Yerkes–Dodson law.
A certain amount of arousal is needed to
perform most tasks, but a very high level of
arousal interferes with the performance of
complicated activities. That is, the level of
arousal that can be tolerated is higher for a
simple task than for a complex one.
Source: After Hebb, 195


Low arousal High arousal










Low arousal High arousal



intrinsic motivation A desire to perform a
behavior that stems from the enjoyment derived
from the behavior itself.

extrinsic motivation A desire to perform a
behavior to obtain an external reward or avoid

Nature–Nurture The Evolutionary Basis of Arousal Seeking
Some evolutionary theorists argue that sensation seeking may have an evolutionary basis.
For example, Cosmides and Tooby (2000) propose that risk-taking behavior may have
played an important adaptive role for our ancestors by providing them with opportunities
to develop successful strategies to deal with potentially dangerous situations. Those who
took risks, and who were thereby better equipped to cope with danger and turmoil in their
environment, improved their social status and sexual competitiveness more than those
who did not (Ermer, Cosmides & Tooby, 2008). ■

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Some psychologists further distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic
motivation refers to motivation provided by an activity itself. Children climb trees, finger
paint, and play games for no other reason than the fun they get from the activity itself. In the
same way, adults may solve crossword puzzles, play a musical instrument, or tinker in a
workshop largely for the enjoyment they get from the activity. Extrinsic motivation refers
to motivation that derives from the consequences of an activity. For example, a child may do
chores not because he enjoys them but because doing so earns an allowance, and an adult
who plays a musical instrument may do so to earn some extra money.

Whether behavior is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated can have important conse-
quences (Deci & Ryan, 2008). For example, if parents offer a reward to their young daughter
for writing to her grandparents, the likelihood of her writing to them when rewards are no

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

262 Chapter 8

hierarchy of needs A theory of motivation
advanced by Maslow holding that higher order
motives involving social and personal growth
only emerge after lower level motives related to
survival have been satisfied.

The same activity might be motivated
intrinsically, just for the pleasure of doing it,
or extrinsically, by rewards unrelated to the
activity itself.

longer available may actually decrease. One analysis of
some 128 studies that examined the effect of extrinsic
rewards on the behavior of children, adolescents, and
adults found that when extrinsic rewards are offered for
a behavior, intrinsic motivation and sense of personal
responsibility for that behavior are likely to decrease,
at least for a short time (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999,
2001). However, unexpected (as opposed to contrac-
tual) rewards do not necessarily reduce intrinsic moti-
vation, and positive feedback (including praise) may
actually increase intrinsic motivation (Chance, 1992;
Deci et al., 1999; Reiss, 2005).

A Hierarchy of Motives
Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow (1954)
arranged motives in a hierarchy, from lower to higher.
The lower motives spring from physiological needs

that must be satisfied. As we move higher in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the motives have
more subtle origins: the desire to live as safely as possible, to connect meaningfully with
other human beings, and to make the best possible impression on others. Maslow believed
that the highest motive in the hierarchy is self-actualization—the drive to realize one’s full
potential. Maslow’s hierarchy of motives is illustrated in Figure 8–


According to Maslow’s theory, higher motives emerge only after the more basic ones
have been largely satisfied: A person who is starving doesn’t care what people think of her
table manners.

Maslow’s model offers an appealing way to organize a wide range of motives into a
coherent structure. But recent research challenges the universality of his views. In many
societies, people live on the very edge of survival, yet they form strong and meaningful
social ties and possess a firm sense of self-esteem (E. Hoffman, 2008; Wubbolding, 2005).
As a result of such research findings, many psychologists now view Maslow’s model with a
measure of skepticism although it continues to be a convenient way to think of the wide
range of human motives.

Explore on MyPsychLab

Figure 8–2
A pyramid representing Maslow’s
hierarchy of needs.
From bottom to top, the stages correspond to
how fundamental the motive is for survival and
how early it appears in both the evolution of the
species and the development of the individual.
According to Maslow, the more basic needs
must largely be satisfied before higher motives
can emerge.
Source: From Motivation and Personality by Abraham
H. Maslow. Copyright © 1970. Reprinted by permission
of Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.


Esteem needs

Belongingness needs

Safety needs

Physiological needs

Explore Maslow’s Hierarchy
of Needs at www.mypsychlab.com

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Motivation and Emotion 263

We have reviewed some basic concepts about motivation. With these concepts in
mind, we now turn our attention to specific motives.

• Identify the areas of the brain that are

involved in hunger and describe the
role of glucose, leptin, and ghrelin in
determining a biological need for food.
Distinguish between the biological
need for food and the experience of
hunger (including the role of

• List the symptoms that are used to
diagnose anorexia nervosa, bulimia
nervosa, muscle dysmorphia, and
obesity. Describe the people who are
most likely to develop these disorders
and the most likely causes of them.


Match the following terms with the appropriate definition.

1. ___ drive
2. ___ drive reduction

3. ___ homeostasis

4. ___ self-actualization

5. ___ intrinsic motivation

6. ___ extrinsic motivation

a. The drive to realize one’s full potential
b. state of balance in which the organism

functions effectively
c. theory that motivated behavior is focused

on reducing bodily tension
d. tending to perform behavior to receive

some external reward or avoid punishment
e. state of tension brought on by biological

f. motivation arising from behavior itself

Answers:1. e.2. c.3. b.4. a.5. f.6. d.


1. You are home alone and have nothing to do. You find yourself walking around. You look for
something to read, but nothing seems quite right. Then you check to see if anything
interesting is on TV, but again nothing seems worth watching. Finally, you decide to go
jogging. This kind of motivated behavior that increases the state of arousal is a problem for

a. the instinct theory of motivation.
b. any theory of motivation.
c. the drive-reduction theory of motivation.
d. the Yerkes–Dodson law.

2. While you are working on a complex task, your boss stops by your desk and says, “You’ve
only got 10 more minutes to finish that up. It’s really important that it be done right. I know
you can do it and I’m depending on you.” When you complain that he’s making you nervous
and your performance will suffer, he replies, “I’m just trying to motivate you.” Which of the
following does your boss apparently not understand?

a. drive-reduction theory
b. homeostasis
c. extrinsic motivation
d. the Yerkes–Dodson law

Answers:1. c.2. d.

Why do people usually get hungry at mealtime?

When you are hungry, you eat. If you don’t eat, your need for food will increase but your
hunger will come and go. Moreover, shortly after lunch when you have no need for further
food, if you pass a bakery and smell the baked goods, you may crave a donut or a scone. In
other words, the psychological state of hunger is not the same as the biological need for
food, although that need often sets the psychological state in motion.

Thirst also is stimulated by both internal and external cues. Internally, thirst is
controlled by two regulators that monitor the level of fluids inside and outside the
cells. But we may also become thirsty just seeing a TV commercial featuring people
savoring tall, cool drinks in a lush, tropical setting (W. G. Hall, Arnold, & Myers, 2000;
Rowland, 2002).

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264 Chapter 8

Biological and Emotional Factors
How can external cues influence our desire to eat?

Early research identified two regions in the hypothalamus that served as a kind of “switch”
that turned eating on or off. When one of these centers was stimulated, animals began to
eat; and when it was destroyed the animals stopped eating to the point of starvation. When
the second region was stimulated, animals stopped eating; when it was destroyed, animals
ate to the point of extreme obesity. However, recent studies have challenged this simple
“on–off” explanation for the control of eating by showing that a number of other areas of
the brain are also involved (Olszewski, Cedernaes, Olsson, Levine, & Schiöth, 2008). For
example, research has shown that regions of the cortex and spinal cord play an important
role in regulating food intake. Moreover, the connections among brain centers that control
hunger are now known to be considerably more complex than were once thought (Blundell
& Halford, 1998; Brambilla, Monteleono, & Maj,. 2007; Volkow et al., 2003; Woods, Seeley,
Porte, & Schwartz, 1998).

How do these various areas of the brain know when to stimulate hunger? It turns out
that the brain monitors the blood levels of glucose (a simple sugar used by the body for
energy), fats, carbohydrates, and the hormone insulin. (See Figure 8–3.) Changes in the
levels of these substances signal the need for food. In addition, fat cells within our body
produce the hormone leptin which travels in the bloodstream and is sensed by the hypo-
thalamus. High levels of leptin signal the brain to reduce appetite, or to increase the rate at
which fat is burned.

The brain also monitors the amount of food that you have eaten. Specialized cells in
the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine sense the volume of food in the diges-
tive system. When only a small quantity of food is present, these cells release a hormone
called ghrelin into the bloodstream. Ghrelin travels to the brain where it stimulates
appetite and focuses our thoughts and imagination on food (Näslund & Hellström, 2007;
Schmid et al., 2005).

ghrelin A hormone produced in the stomach
and small intestines that increases appetite.

Figure 8–3
Physiological factors regulating
appetite and body weight.
A variety of chemical messengers interact to
stimulate and suppress appetite. Among these
are insulin, leptin, and ghrelin.


The brain monitors

levels of glucose, fats,
carbohydrates, and


Released by th


empty stomach,
this hormone
stimulates appetite


Secreted by the
pancreas, this
hormone keeps
glucose levels


Fat cells secrete
this hormone.
High levels signal
the brain to reduce
appetite or to
increase metabolism








glucose A simple sugar used by the body
for energy.

leptin A hormone released by fat cells that
reduces appetite.

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

Motivation and Emotion 265

But, as we noted earlier, the biological need for food is not the only
thing that can trigger the experience of hunger. For example, a single
night of sleep deprivation can leave one feeling hungry by increasing
ghrelin levels and decreasing leptin levels (Schmid, Hallschmid, Jauch-
Chara, Born, & Schultes, 2008). Moreover, the mere sight, smell, or
thought of food causes an increase in insulin production, which, in turn,
lowers glucose levels in the body’s cells, mirroring the body’s response to
a physical need for food (Logue, 2000). Thus, the aroma from a nearby
restaurant may serve as more than an incentive to eat; it may actually
cause the body to react as though there is a real biological need for food.
Most Americans eat three meals a day at fairly regular intervals. Numer-
ous studies with both humans and animals have shown that regularly
eating at particular times during the day leads to the release at those
times of the hormones and neurotransmitters that cause hunger
(Woods, Schwartz, Baskin, & Seeley, 2000). In other words, we get hun-
gry around noon partly because the body “learns” that if it’s noon, it’s
time to eat.

incentive External stimulus that prompts goal-
directed behavior.

Diversity–Universality Hunger and Eating
The hunger drive is tied to emotions in complex ways. Some people head for the refrigera-
tor whenever they are depressed, bored, anxious, or angry. Others lose all interest in food at
these times and complain that they are “too upset to eat.” One student studying for an
important exam spends as much time eating as reading; another student studying for the
same exam lives on coffee until the exam is over. Under emotionally arousing conditions,
what one person craves may turn another person’s stomach.

What people eat when they are hungry also varies greatly as a result of learning and
social conditioning. Although most Americans will not eat horsemeat, it is very popular in
several European countries. Yet many Americans consume pork, which violates
both Islamic and Jewish dietary laws. In some parts of South Asia, Africa, and China,
people consider monkey brains a delicacy. And in Cambodia, fried tarantulas are popular
and cheap! ■

Eating Disorders and Obesity
How can you tell if someone is suffering from
anorexia nervosa or bulimia?

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa “When people told me I looked like
someone from Auschwitz [the Nazi concentration camp], I thought that was the highest
compliment anyone could give me.” This confession comes from a young woman who
as a teenager suffered from a serious eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. She
was 18 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, and weighed 68 pounds. This young woman was
lucky. She managed to overcome the disorder and has since maintained normal body
weight. Many others are less fortunate. In fact, Canadian researchers found that over
10% of the young women with anorexia nervosa between 1981 and 2000 died as a result
of the disorder, one of the highest fatality rates for psychiatric disorders affecting young
females (Birmingham, Su, Hlynsky, Goldner, & Gao, 2005; Derman & Szabo, 2006;
Park, 2007).

The following four symptoms are used in the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (American
Psychiatric Association, 2000; Bulik, Reba, Siega-Riz, & Reichborn-Kjennerud, 2005):

1. Intense fear of becoming obese, which does not diminish as weight loss progresses.
2. Disturbance of body image (for example, claiming to “feel fat” even when emaciated).

How and when you satisfy hunger and
thirst depends on social, psychological,
environmental, and cultural influences as
well as on physiological needs. For example,
the Japanese tea ceremony (above) is
concerned more with restoring inner
harmony than with satisfying thirst. Do you
think the office worker (below) is drinking
coffee because she is thirsty?

anorexia nervosa A serious eating disorder
that is associated with an intense fear of weight
gain and a distorted body image.

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

266 Chapter 8

3. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimal normal weight for age
and height.

4. In females, the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles.

Approximately 1% of all adolescents suffer from anorexia nervosa; about 90% of these
are White upper- or middle-class females (Bulik et al., 2006).

Anorexia is frequently compounded by another eating disorder known as bulimia
nervosa (Herpertz-Dahlmann, 2009). The following criteria are used for its diagnosis
(American Psychiatric Association, 2000):

1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating (rapid consumption of a large amount of food,
usually in less than 2 hours).

2. Recurrent inappropriate behaviors to try to prevent weight gain, such as self-
induced vomiting.

3. Binge eating and compensatory behaviors occurring at least twice a week for
three months.

4. Body shape and weight excessively influencing the person’s self-image.
5. Occurrence of the just-mentioned behaviors at least sometimes in the absence

of anorexia.

Approximately 1 to 2% of all adolescent females suffer from bulimia nervosa, though
recent evidence suggests this number may be decreasing (Keel, Heatherton, Dorer, Joiner, &
Zalta, 2006). Once again, the socioeconomic group at highest risk for bulimia is upper-
middle- and upper-class women.

Although anorexia and bulimia are much more prevalent among females than males
(Gleaves, Miller, Williams, & Summers, 2000; S. Turnbull, Ward, Treasure, Jick, & Derby, 1996),
many more men are affected by these disorders than was once suspected (Gila, Castro, &
Cesena, 2005). Both men and women with eating disorders are preoccupied with body image,
but men are not necessarily obsessed with losing weight (Ousley, Cordero, & White, 2008). For
example, a related phenomenon called muscle dysmorphia appears to be on the increase
among young men (Olivardia, 2007). Muscle dysmorphia is an obsessive concern with one’s
muscle size. Men with muscle dysmorphia, many of whom are well muscled, are nonetheless
distressed at their perceived puniness, and spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over
their diet and exercising to increase their muscle mass (C. G. Pope, Pope, & Menard, 2005).

Little is known about the factors that contribute to eating disorders among men
(Crosscope-Happel, 2005), though research has shown that muscle dysmorphia is associ-
ated with low self-esteem and having been bullied as a child (Wolke & Sapouna, 2008).
We know considerably more about the factors that contribute to eating disorders in women
(Favaro, Tenconi, & Santonastaso, 2006; Garner & Magana, 2006). On one hand, mass
media promote the idea that a woman must be thin to be attractive. In addition, women
with bulimia commonly have low self-esteem, are hypersensitive to social interactions, and
are more likely to come from families where negative comments are often made about
weight (Crowther, Kichler, Sherwood, & Kuhnert, 2002; Zonnevylle-Bender et al, 2004).
Many also display clinical depression or obsessive–compulsive disorder (see Chapter 12,
“Psychological Disorders”) and have engaged in self-injurious behaviors such as cutting
themselves (Herpertz-Dahlmann, 2009; Milos, Spindler, Ruggiero, Klaghofer, & Schnyder,
2002; Paul, Schroeter, Dahme, & Nutzinger, 2002). Finally, there is growing evidence that
genetics plays a role in both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, although the two eating
disorders may have a very different genetic basis (Jacobi, Hayward, de Zwaan, Kraemer, &
Agras, 2004; Keel & Klump, 2003).

Anorexia and bulimia are notoriously hard to treat, and there is considerable disagree-
ment on the most effective approach to therapy (G. T. Wilson, Grilo, & Vitousek, 2007; Yager,
2008). In fact, some psychologists doubt that we can ever eliminate eating disorders in a cul-
ture bombarded with the message that “thin is in” (Fairburn, Cooper, Shafran, & Wilson,
2008). Regrettably, in many developing countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, and China,
where dieting is becoming a fad, eating disorders, once little known, are now becoming a
serious problem (H. Chen & Jackson, 2008; Sing Lee, Chan, & Hsu, 2003).

Does the American obsession with
superslimness lead adolescents to become

bulimia nervosa An eating disorder
characterized by binges of eating followed by
self-induced vomiting.

muscle dysmorphia A disorder generally seen
in young men involving an obsessive concern
with muscle size.

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

Motivation and Emotion 267

Obesity and Weight Control According
to the U.S. Surgeon General, obesity is the most
pressing health problem in America (Chamber-
lin, 2008; P. J. Johnson, 2003; Office of the
Surgeon General, 2007). Obesity refers to an
excess of body fat in relation to lean body mass,
while overweight refers to weighing more than a
desirable standard, whether from high amounts
of fat or being very muscular. Obesity has
increased by more than 50% during the past
decade, with more than two-thirds of Ameri-
cans being either overweight or obese. In con-
trast to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa,
obesity is more prevalent among Black women
than among White women (Y. C. Wang, Colditz,
& Kuntz, 2007).

Even more disturbing, the rate of obesity among young people has more than tripled
since 1980, with over 9 million overweight adolescents in America today. (See Figure 8–4).
This problem is particularly serious since overweight children and adolescents are more likely
to become overweight adults who are at an increased risk for serious diseases like hyperten-
sion, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea (American Heart Association, 2009;
Nishimura et al., 2003).

Many factors contribute to overeating and obesity (Hebebrand & Hinney, 2009).
In some cases, people inherit a tendency to be overweight (Frayling et al., 2007;
Ramadori et al., 2008). Neuroimaging studies suggest part of this problem may stem
from an inherited tendency in some people to become addicted to compulsive eating
(similar to the genetic predisposition toward drug and alcohol addiction). As a result of
this predisposition, these individuals are more vulnerable to cravings triggered by food
cues in their environment, and less responsive to their body’s internal signaling of satiety
(Leutwyler-Ozelli, 2007).

Eating habits established during childhood are also important because they determine
the number of fat cells that develop in the body and that number remains fairly constant
throughout life. Dieting during adulthood only decreases the amount of fat each cell stores;
it doesn’t reduce the total number of fat cells (Spalding et al., 2008).

A sedentary lifestyle also contributes to obesity. Children in the United States today
are more likely to watch television and play video games than to play soccer or hockey;
and many adults lack adequate physical activity, too. Abundant opportunities and
encouragement to overeat in American culture also play a role. Several studies have
shown that many obese people eat more than half their calories at night (Mieda,
Williams, Richardson, Tanaka, & Yanagisawa, 2006). Portion size has also increased in
recent years, as has the constant availability of food from vending machines and fast-food

Adding to the medical difficulties accompanying obesity, overweight people often face
ridicule and discrimination resulting in significant economic, social, and educational loss
(D. Carr & Friedman, 2005; Maranto & Stenoien, 2000). For example, overweight women
have reported lowered self-confidence owing to victimization in school and at work
because of their weight (C. Johnson, 2002; Rothblum, Brand, Miller, & Oetjen, 1990). And
obese male lawyers earn less than male lawyers of normal weight (Saporta & Halpern,
2002). Even children who are overweight display increased rates of behavior problems,
including aggression, lack of discipline, immaturity, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depres-
sion when compared with their normal-weight peers (Ward-Begnoche et al., 2009; Q. Yang
& Chen, 2001).

With all of the problems associated with being overweight, many people are constantly
trying to lose weight. There are no quick fixes to weight loss, but the suggestions in “Apply-
ing Psychology: The Slow (but Lasting) Fix for Weight Gain” can help people lose weight
and keep it off.

Figure 8–4
Rising obesity among American youth.
The number of overweight children and
adolescents has increased sharply in recent
years. From 1980 to 2002, the percentage of
overweight adolescents tripled. This trend is
particularly disturbing since overweight
children and adolescents are likely to become
overweight adults, placing them at increased
risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension,
and diabetes.

Notes: Excludes pregnant women starting with
1971–74. Pregnancy status not available for
1963–65 and 1966–70. Data for 1963–65 are for
children 6–11 years of age; data for 1966–70 are for
adolescents 12–17 years of age, not 12–19 years.






1999–02 2003–061988–94 1976–80 1971–74 1963–70





Age in years

6–11 12–19

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

268 Chapter 8

The Slow (but Lasting) Fix for Weight Gain

triggering hunger. Many people find
that if they do their grocery shopping
on a full stomach, it is easier to resist
the temptation to buy junk foods.

5. Set realistic goals. Focus at least as
much on preventing weight gain as on
losing weight. If you must lose weight,
try to shed just one pound a week for
2 or 3 months. After that, concentrate
on maintaining that new, lower
weight for several months before
moving on to further weight loss.

6. Reward yourself—in ways unrelated to
food—for small improvements. Use
some of the behavior-modification
techniques described in Chapter 5:
Reward yourself not only for each
pound of weight lost but also for each
day or week that you maintain that
weight loss. And remember, numerous
studies have shown that losing weight
is much easier than keeping weight
off (T. Mann et al, 2007). The only way
you can keep the weight off is by con-
tinuing to adhere to a reasonable diet
and exercise plan (Adbel-Hamid, 2003;
McGuire, Wing, Klem, Lang, & Hill,

To learn more about weight control, visit
our Web site at www.prenhall.com/morris.

The study of hunger and eating has led tosome compelling insights into the prob-lem of weight control. It appears that
our bodies are genetically “set” to maintain a
certain weight (Hallschmid, Benedict, Born,
Fehm, & Kern, 2004; G. N. Wade, 2004).
According to this set point theory, if you
consume more calories than you need for
that weight, your metabolic rate will increase.
As a result, you will feel an increase in energy
that will prompt you to be more active,
thereby burning more calories. If, however,
you eat fewer calories than are needed to
maintain your weight, your metabolic rate
will decrease; you will feel tired and become
less active, thereby burning fewer calories.
This mechanism was no doubt helpful dur-
ing the thousands of years that our species
lived literally hand to mouth, but it is less
helpful where food is abundant, as in mod-
ern industrialized nations.

An implication of our current under-
standing of hunger and weight regulation
is that a successful weight-control pro-
gram must be long term and must work
with, rather than against, the body’s nor-
mal tendency to maintain weight. On the
basis of studies of the hunger drive and
the relationship between eating and body
weight, here are our recommendations for
weight control:

1. First, check with your doctor before
you start. People want quick fixes, so
they often go overboard on dieting or
exercise, sometimes with disastrous
consequences. Make sure your weight
loss program will be safe.

2. Increase your body’s metabolism
through regular exercise. The most
effective metabolism booster is 20–30
minutes of moderate activity several
times a week. Although only about
200–300 calories are burned off dur-
ing each exercise session, the exercise
increases the resting metabolic rate.
This means that you burn more
calories when not exercising. Thus,
exercise is an important part of a
weight reduction program (Sarwer,
Allison, & Berkowitz, 2004; Wadden,
Crerand, & Brock, 2005).

3. Modify your diet. A moderate reduc-
tion in calories is beneficial. Also,
reduce your consumption of fats (par-
ticularly saturated fats) and sugars. Sug-
ars trigger an increase in the body’s level
of insulin; and high levels of fat and
insulin in the blood stimulate hunger.

4. Reduce external cues that encourage
you to eat undesirable foods. The mere
sight or smell of food can increase the
amount of insulin in the body, thus


1. The level of ___________ in the blood signals hunger.
2. Hunger can be stimulated by both ____________ and ____________ cues.

Match the following terms with the appropriate definition.
3. ___ hypothalamus
4. ___ anorexia nervosa
5. ___ bulimia nervosa

a. recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed by vomiting, taking laxatives, or
excessively exercising

b. contains both a hunger center and a satiety center
c. intense fear of obesity, disturbance of body image, and very little intake of food,

with resulting weight well below normal minimums

Answers:1. glucose.2. internal, external.3. b.4. c.5. a.

set point theory A theory that our bodies are
genetically predisposed to maintaining a certain
weight by changing our metabolic rate and
activity level in response to caloric intake.

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Motivation and Emotion 269

How is the sex drive different from other primary drives?

Sex is the primary drive that motivates reproductive
behavior. Like the other primary drives, it can be turned
on and off by biological conditions in the body as well
as by environmental cues. The human sexual response
is also affected by social experience, sexual experience,
nutrition, emotions, and age. In fact, just thinking
about, viewing, or having fantasies about sex can lead to
sexual arousal in humans (Beauregard, Lévesque, &
Bourgouin, 2001; Bogaert & Fawcett, 2006). Sex differs
from other primary drives in one important way:
Hunger and thirst are vital to the survival of the indi-
vidual, but sex is vital only to the survival of the species.

Biological Factors
How well do we understand the biology of the sex drive?

Biology clearly plays a major role in sexual motivation. At one time, the level of hormones
such as testosterone—the male sex hormone—was believed to determine the male sex
drive. Today, scientists recognize that hormonal influences on human sexual arousal are
considerably more complex (Gades et al., 2008). While moment-to-moment fluctuations
in testosterone levels are not directly linked to sex drive, baseline levels of testosterone are
associated with the frequency of sexual behavior and satisfaction (Persky, 1978). In addi-
tion, testosterone supplements have been shown to increase sex drive in women (Bolour &
Braunstein, 2005). However, unlike lower animals, whose sexual activity is tied to the
female’s reproductive cycle, humans are capable of sexual arousal at any time.

Many animals secrete substances called pheromones that promote sexual readiness in
potential partners (see Chapter 3, “Sensation and Perception”). Some evidence suggests
that humans, too, secrete pheromones, in the sweat glands of the armpits and in the geni-
tals, and that they may influence human sexual attraction (Boulkroune, Wang, March,
Walker, & Jacob, 2007; Keverne, 2004; Lundström, Goncalves, Esteves, & Olsson, 2003). The


1. You are on your way out to a play, and you notice that you are hungry. While you are
watching the play, you no longer feel hungry. But when the play is over, you notice that
you are hungry again. This demonstrates that

a. the biological need for food causes hunger.
b. if you are distracted, primary drives but not secondary drives will decrease.
c. hunger does not necessarily correspond to a biological need for food.
d. primary drives are unlearned and are essential to survival of the individual or species.

2. You’ve noticed that when you are hungry, eating a carrot doesn’t satisfy you, but eating a
chocolate bar does. This is probably because the chocolate bar, to a greater extent than
the carrot:

a. increases the amount of glucose in your bloodstream, which in turn reduces hunger.
b. reduces your biological need for food.
c. is an extrinsic motivator.
d. serves as an incentive.

Answers:1. c.2. a.

• Describe how sexual motivation is

both similar to and different from other
primary drives. Identify the factors
(biological and nonbiological) that
affect sexual motivation.

• Describe the sexual response cycle
and how it differs for men and women.
Briefly explain what is meant by the
statement that “research indicates that
the sex lives of most Americans differ
significantly from media portrayals.”

• Summarize the research evidence for
and against a biological basis for
sexual orientation.

The Sex Drive

The sex drive is said to have no survival value for the individual; its only valueis the survival of the species. Suppose that humans were capable of repro-ducing, but no longer had a sex drive. How would life be different? In
answering that question, would it help to collect data on people alive today who,
for one reason or another, have lost their sex drive? Are there ways in which
information from such people might not be useful to you?

testosterone The primary male sex hormone.

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

brain exerts a powerful influence on the sex drive, too. In particular, the limbic system and
the insula, located deep within the brain, are involved in sexual excitement (Balfour, 2004;
Bianchi-Demicheli & Ortigue, 2007) (see Chapter 2, “Biological Basis of Behavior”).

The biology of sexual behavior is better understood than that of the sex drive itself. Sex
researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson long ago identified a sexual response
cycle that consists of four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution (W. H. Masters
& Johnson, 1966). In the excitement phase, the genitals become engorged with blood. In the
male, this causes erection of the penis; in the female, it causes erection of the clitoris and
nipples. This engorgement of the sexual organs continues into the plateau phase, in which
sexual tension levels off. During this phase, breathing becomes more rapid and genital secre-
tions and muscle tension increase. During orgasm, the male ejaculates and the woman’s
uterus contracts rhythmically; and both men and women experience some loss of muscle
control. Following orgasm males experience a refractory period, which can last from a few
minutes to several hours, during which time they cannot have another orgasm. Women do
not have a refractory period, and may, if stimulation is reinitiated, experience another
orgasm almost immediately. The resolution phase is one of relaxation in which muscle ten-
sion decreases and the engorged genitals return to normal. Heart rate, breathing, and blood
pressure also return to normal. Figure 8–5 displays the pattern of sexual responses for men
and women.

Cultural and Environmental Factors
How does culture influence sexual behavior?

Although hormones and the nervous system do figure in the sex drive, human sexual moti-
vation, especially in the early stages of excitement and arousal, is much more dependent on
experience and learning than on biology.

What kinds of stimuli activate the sex drive? It need not be anything as immediate as a
sexual partner. The sight of one’s lover, as well as the smell of perfume or aftershave lotion,
can stimulate sexual excitement. Soft lights and music often have an aphrodisiac effect. One
person may be unmoved by an explicit pornographic movie but aroused by a romantic love
story, whereas another may respond in just the opposite way. Ideas about what is moral, appro-
priate, and pleasurable also influence our sexual behavior. Finally, as shown in Figure 8–6,
one global survey of reported sexual activity indicated the rate at which couples have sex
varies dramatically around the world (Durex Global Sex Survey, 2005). This survey also
revealed that the frequency of sexual activity varies by age, with 35- to 44-year-olds reporting
to have sex an average of 112 times a year, 25- to 34-year-olds having sex an average of 108
times per year, and 16- to 20-year-olds having sex 90 times annually.

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270 Chapter 8

Figure 8–5
The sexual response cycle in males
and females.
As the illustration shows, males typically go
through one complete response cycle and are
then capable of becoming excited again after
a refractory period. Females have three
characteristic patterns: one similar to the male
cycle, with the added possibility of multiple
orgasms (A); one that includes a lengthy plateau
phase with no orgasm (B); and a rapid cycle
including several increases and decreases of
excitement before reaching orgasm (C).
Source: Adapted from Masters & Johnson, 196


Reprinted by permission of The Masters and
Johnson Institute.







Cycle in Men





Cycle in Women

sexual response cycle The typical sequence
of events, including excitement, plateau,
orgasm, and resolution, characterizing sexual
response in males and females.

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Cycle at www.mypsychlab.com

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Gender equality is also an important cultural factor in how much people report enjoy-
ing their sex lives. For example, heterosexual couples living in countries where women and
men hold equal status are the most likely to report that their sex lives are emotionally and
physically satisfying. Conversely, both men and women in countries where men tradition-
ally are more dominant report the least satisfying sex lives (Harms, 2006).

Patterns of Sexual Behavior Among Americans
Contrary to media portrayals of sexual behavior in publications like Playboy or TV shows
like Sex in the City, which depict Americans as oversexed and unwilling to commit to long-
term relationships, research indicates that most people are far more conservative in their sex
lives. One carefully designed study (Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, & Kolata, 1994) of 3,432
randomly selected people between the ages of 18 and 59 revealed the following patterns in
the sexual activity of American men and women:

• About one-third of those sampled had sex twice a week or more, one-third a few
times a month, and the remaining third a few times a year or not at all.

• The overwhelming majority of respondents did not engage in kinky sex. Instead,
vaginal intercourse was the preferred form of sex for over 90% of those sampled.
Watching their partner undress was ranked second, and oral sex, third.

• Married couples reported having sex more often—and being more satisfied with
their sex lives—than did unmarried persons (see also Waite & Joyner, 2001).

• The average duration of sexual intercourse reported by most people was approxi-
mately 15 minutes.

• The median number of partners over the lifetime for males was 6 and for females 2
(17% of the men and 3% of the women reported having sex with over 20 partners).

• About 25% of the men and 15% of the women had committed adultery.
Extensive research has also documented at least four significant differences in sexuality

between American men and women: Men are more interested in sex than are women;

Motivation and Emotion 271

Annual frequency of sex



0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160



United Kingdom

United States














Figure 8–6
Frequency (annual) of sexual behavior
around the world.
A global survey of reported sexual activity
indicates the frequency that couples have
sex varies dramatically by country.
Source: http://www.durex.com/cm/
gss2005result . Used with permission
of Durex.com.

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

women are more likely than men to link sex to a close, committed relationship; aggression,
power, dominance, and assertiveness are more closely linked to sex among men than
among women; and women’s sexuality is more open to change over time (Lykins, Meana, &
Strauss, 2008; Peplau, 2003).

Sexual Orientation
What are the arguments for and against a biological
explanation of homosexuality?

Sexual orientation refers to the direction of an individual’s sexual interest. People with a
heterosexual orientation are sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex; those with a
homosexual orientation are sexually attracted to members of their own sex; and bisexuals
are attracted to members of both sexes. Recent studies indicate that in the United States
about 3% of young adult males and 4% of young adult females identify themselves as
homosexual, though estimates vary considerably depending on the age of the respondents
and how sexual orientation is defined. Sexual orientation also varies by culture. For exam-
ple, about 21% of adolescent females in Norway report being attracted to members of their
own sex, while less than 2% of Turkish females identify themselves as being homosexual
(L. Ellis, Robb, & Burke, 2005; John Hughes, 2006; Savin-Williams, 2006).

What determines sexual orientation? This issue has been argued for decades in the
form of the classic nature-versus-nurture debate. Those on the nature side hold that sexual
orientation is rooted in biology and is primarily influenced by genetics. They point out that
homosexual men and women generally know before puberty that they are “different” and
often remain “in the closet” regarding their sexual orientation for fear of recrimination
(Lippa, 2005). Evidence from family and twin studies shows a higher incidence of male
homosexuality in families with other gay men (Camperio-Ciani, Corna, & Capiluppi,
2004), and a higher rate of homosexuality among men with a homosexual twin even when
the twins were raised separately (LeVay & Hamer, 1994). Despite these results from family
and twin studies suggesting there is a genetic basis to sexual orientation, researchers have
yet to identify a specific gene that determines sexual orientation (Rahman & Wilson, 2003;
Saravi, 2007). The nature position also derives support from studies revealing anatomical
and physiological differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men
(Fitzgerald, 2008; M. Hines, 2004; Kinnunen, Moltz, Metz, & Cooper, 2004; LeVay, 1991;
Swaab & Hoffman, 1995). Finally, if homosexuality is primarily the result of early learning
and socialization, children raised by gay or lesbian parents should be more likely to
become homosexual. Research, however, has clearly demonstrated that this is not the case
(C. J. Patterson, 2000).

Among other animals, homosexual activity occurs with some degree of regularity. For
instance, among pygmy chimpanzees, about 50% of all observed sexual activity is between
members of the same sex. In zoos, sexual activity between members of the same sex has
been observed in several species including penguins and koalas bears. Even male giraffes
commonly entwine their necks until both become sexually stimulated. And among some
birds, such as greylag geese, homosexual unions have been found to last up to 15 years
(Bagemihl, 2000; Driscoll, 2008).

Those on the nurture side argue that sexual orientation is primarily a learned behav-
ior, influenced by early experience and largely under voluntary control. They criticize
research supporting the biological position as methodologically flawed—sometimes con-
fusing what causes homosexuality with what results from homosexuality (Byne, 1994).
They find support for their position from cross-cultural studies that show sexual orienta-
tions occurring at different frequencies in various cultures.

To date, neither the biological nor the socialization theory has provided a completely
satisfactory explanation for the origin of sexual orientation. As with most complex behav-
iors, a more likely explanation probably involves a combination of these two positions
(Garnets, 2002; Hammack, 2005).

272 Chapter 8

Homosexual activity is common among
animals. For example, male giraffes often
engage in extreme necking, entwining,
and rubbing, becoming sexually aroused as
they do.

sexual orientation Refers to the direction of
one’s sexual interest toward members of the
same sex, the other sex, or both sexes.

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

How are stimulus motives different from primary drives?

So far, we have moved from motives that depend on biological needs (hunger and thirst) to
a motive that is far more sensitive to external cues—sex. Next, we consider motives that are
even more responsive to environmental stimuli. These motives, called stimulus motives,
include exploration, curiosity, manipulation, and contact. They push us to investigate and
often to change our environment. Finally, we will turn our attention to the motives of
aggression, achievement, and affiliation.

Exploration and Curiosity
What motives cause people to explore and change their environment?

Where does that road go? What is in that dark little shop? Answering these questions has no
obvious benefit: You do not expect the road to take you anywhere you need to go or the

Motivation and Emotion 273


1. The sex drive is necessary for the survival of the (individual/species) _______________.
2. The four stages of the sexual response cycle are ____________, ____________,

____________, and ____________.
Match the following terms with the appropriate definitions.

3. ___ pheromones
4. ___ testosterone
5. ___ the limbic system

a. brain center involved in sexual excitement
b. hormone that influences some aspects of sexual development
c. scents that may cause sexual attraction


1. Barbie has just “come out” to her friend Ken, telling him that she is a lesbian. She says
she has known since she was a child that she was different from other girls because she
was never attracted to boys, and she has concluded that this is just the way she is meant
to be. Ken’s reaction, however, is negative. He suggests that Barbie just isn’t trying hard
enough and that counseling could help her learn new patterns of attraction. Barbie is
expressing the ___________ view of homosexual orientation, while Ken’s response
demonstrates the ________ view.

a. interventionist; interactionist
b. interactionist; interventionist
c. nurture; nature
d. nature; nurture

2. You are reading an article in the newspaper when you come across the following
statement: “The extent to which a male is interested in sex is determined by the level of
the hormone testosterone at that moment.” Which of the following would be an accurate
response, based on what you have learned in this chapter?

a. “That would be true only for adolescent and young adult males, not older adults.”
b. “Actually there is very little relationship between moment-to-moment levels of

testosterone and sex drive in males.”
c. “That’s true, but testosterone is a pheromone, not a hormone.”
d. “That’s true, but only during the excitement phase of the sexual response cycle.”

Answers:1. species.2. excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.3. c.4. b.5. a.

Answers:1. d.2. b.

• Briefly describe the major stimulus

motives: exploration, curiosity,
manipulation, and contact.

• Describe the role of learning as a
determinant of aggression including
evidence for gender and cultural
differences in aggressive behavior.

• Identify the components of
achievement behavior and the
characteristics of people who are high
in achievement motivation. Explain the
factors that affect the affiliation motive
and the likelihood that a person will
express their need for affiliation.

stimulus motives Unlearned motives, such as
curiosity or contact, that prompts us to explore
or change the world around us.

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274 Chapter 8

shop to contain anything you really want. You just want to know. Exploration and curiosity
are motives sparked by the new and unknown and are directed toward no more specific
goal other than “finding out.” They are not unique to humans. The family dog will run
around a new house, sniffing and checking things out, before it settles down to eat its
dinner. Even rats, when given a choice, will opt to explore an unknown maze rather than
run through a familiar one.

Psychologists disagree about the nature of curiosity, its causes, and even how to mea-
sure it (Litman, Collins, & Spielberger, 2005; Silvia, 2008). William James viewed it as an
emotion; Freud considered it a socially acceptable expression of the sex drive. Others have
seen it as a response to the unexpected and as evidence of a human need to find meaning in
life. We might assume that curiosity is a key component of intelligence, but research has
failed to confirm that hypothesis. Curiosity has been linked to creativity (Kashdan &
Fincham, 2002). Interestingly, people who score high on novelty-seeking tests have a
reduced number of dopamine receptors, suggesting curiosity and exploration may arise
from a need for increased dopamine stimulation (Golimbet, Alfimova, Gritsenko, &
Ebstein, 2007; Zald et al., 2008).

Manipulation and Contact
Is the human need for contact universal?

Why do museums have “Do Not Touch” signs everywhere? It is because the staff knows
from experience that the urge to touch is almost irresistible. Unlike curiosity and explo-
ration, manipulation focuses on a specific object that must be touched, handled, played
with, and felt before we are satisfied. Manipulation is a motive limited to primates, who
have agile fingers and toes. In contrast, the need for contact is more universal than the need
for manipulation. Furthermore, it is not limited to touching with the fingers—it may
involve the whole body. Manipulation is an active process, but contact may be passive.

In a classic series of experiments, Harry Harlow demonstrated the importance of the
need for contact (Harlow, 1958; Harlow & Zimmerman, 1959). Newborn baby monkeys
were separated from their mothers and given two “surrogate mothers.” Both surrogate
mothers were the same shape, but one was made of wire mesh and had no soft surfaces. The
other was cuddly—layered with foam rubber and covered with terry cloth. Both surrogate
mothers were warmed by means of an electric light placed inside them, but only the wire-
mesh mother was equipped with a nursing bottle. Thus, the wire-mesh mother fulfilled two
physiological needs for the infant monkeys: the need for food and the need for warmth. But
baby monkeys most often gravitated to the terry-cloth mother, which did not provide food.
When they were frightened, they would run and cling to it as they would to a real mother.
Because both surrogate mothers were warm, the researchers concluded that the need for
closeness goes deeper than a need for mere warmth. As described in Chapter 3, “Sensation
and Perception,” the importance of contact has also been demonstrated with premature
infants. Low-birth-weight babies who are held and massaged gain weight faster, are calmer,
and display more activity than those who are seldom touched (Hernandez-Reif, Diego, &
Field, 2007; Weiss, Wilson, & Morrison, 2004).

Is aggression a biological response or a learned one?

Human aggression encompasses all behavior that is intended to inflict physical or psycho-
logical harm on others. Intent is a key element of aggression. Accidentally hitting a pedes-
trian with your car is not an act of aggression—whereas deliberately running down a
person would be.

Judging from the statistics (which often reflect underreporting of certain types of
crimes), aggression is disturbingly common in this country. According to the FBI’s Uniform

This toddler is exhibiting curiosity, a stimulus

aggression Behavior aimed at doing harm to
others; also, the motive to behave aggressively.

An infant monkey with Harlow’s surrogate
“mothers”—one made of bare wire, the
other covered with soft terry cloth. The baby
monkey clings to the terry-cloth mother, even
though the wire mother is heated and
dispenses food. Apparently, there is contact
comfort in the cuddly terry cloth that the
bare wire mother can’t provide.

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Motivation and Emotion 275

Crime Reports, nearly 1.4 million violent crimes were reported in the
United States in 2007. These crimes included almost 17,000 murders,
more than 90,000 forcible rapes, 445,000 robberies, and more than
855,000 aggravated assaults (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009).
Family life also has a violent underside: One-quarter of families experi-
ence some form of violence. Some 3 to 4 million women are battered by
their partners each year. In addition, more than 750,000 cases of child
abuse were confirmed in 2004 (National Clearing House on Child Abuse
and Neglect, 2006).

Why are people aggressive? Freud considered aggression an innate
drive, similar to hunger and thirst, that builds up until it is released. In
his view, one important function of society is to channel the aggressive
drive into constructive and socially acceptable avenues, such as sports,
debate, and other forms of competition. If Freud’s analysis is correct,
then expressing aggression should reduce the aggressive drive. Research
shows, however, that under some circumstances, venting one’s anger is
more likely to increase than to reduce future aggression (Bushman, 2002; Bushman,
Baumeister, & Stack, 1999).

According to another view, aggression is a vestige of our evolutionary past that is triggered
by pain or frustration (Lorenz, 1968; G. S. McCall & Shields, 2008; Mohl, 2006). However,
frustration does not always produce aggression. For example, if frustration doesn’t generate
anger, aggression is unlikely (Berkowitz & Harmon-Jones, 2004). Moreover, people react to
frustration in different ways: some seek help and support, others withdraw from the source of
frustration, some become aggressive, and some choose to escape into drugs or alcohol. Finally,
there is some evidence that frustration is most likely to cause aggression in people who have
learned to be aggressive as a means of coping with unpleasant situations (R. E. Tremblay,
Hartup, & Archer, 2005).

One way we learn aggression is by observing aggressive models, especially those who get
what they want (and avoid punishment) when they behave aggressively. For example, in
contact sports, we often applaud acts of aggression (C. J. Rowe, 1998). In professional
hockey, fistfights between players may elicit as much fan fervor as does goal scoring.

But what if the aggressive model does not come out ahead or is even punished for
aggressive actions? Observers usually will avoid imitating a model’s behavior if it has
negative consequences. However, as we saw in Chapter 5, “Learning,” children who viewed
aggressive behavior learned aggressive behavior, regardless of whether the aggressive model
was rewarded or punished. The same results were obtained in a study in which children were
shown films of aggressive behavior. Children who saw the aggressive model being punished
were less aggressive than those who saw the aggressive model rewarded, but both groups of
children were more aggressive than those who saw no aggressive model at all. These data are
consistent with research showing that exposure to cinematic violence of
any sort causes a small to moderate increase in aggressive behavior
among children and adolescents (J. P. Murray, 2008).

Aggression and Culture Further evidence that aggression is
learned can be seen in the cultural variations that exist for handling of
aggression (Lansford & Dodge, 2008; Triandis, 1994). For example,
cultures as diverse as the Semai of the Malaysian rain forest, the
Tahitian Islanders of the Pacific, the Zuni and Blackfoot nations in
North America, the Pygmies of Africa, and the residents of Japan and
the Scandinavian nations place a premium on resolving conflicts
peacefully. Most of these are collectivist societies that emphasize the
good of the group over the desires of the individual. Members of col-
lectivist societies are more likely to seek compromise or to withdraw
from a threatening interaction because of their concern for maintain-
ing group harmony. In contrast, cultures such as the Yanomanö of
South America, the Truk Islanders of Micronesia, and the Simbu of

The need for contact, closeness, and
affection goes beyond simply the need
to touch.

Some psychologists believe that aggression
is largely a learned behavior. Professional
athletes in contact sports often serve as
models of aggressive behavior.

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

276 Chapter 8

New Guinea encourage aggressive behavior, par-
ticularly among males. Members of these
individualist societies are more likely to follow the
adage “Stand up for yourself.” Actually, we need
not travel to exotic, faraway lands to find such
diversity. Within the United States, such subcul-
tures as Quakers, the Amish, the Mennonites, and
the Hutterites have traditionally valued nonvio-
lence and peaceful coexistence. This outlook con-
trasts markedly with individualist attitudes and
practices in mainstream American culture.

Gender and Aggression Across cultures and
at every age, males are more likely than females to
behave aggressively. Three studies that reviewed
more than 100 studies of aggression concluded that
males are more aggressive than females both ver-
bally (i.e., with taunts, insults, and threats) and, in
particular, physically (i.e., with hitting, kicking, and
fighting) (Bettencourt & Miller, 1996; Eagly & Stef-
fen, 1986; Hyde, 1986). These gender differences
tend to be greater in natural settings than in con-
trolled laboratory settings (Hyde, 2005a) and
appear to be remarkably stable (Arsenio, 2004;
Knight, Fabes, & Higgins, 1996). Indeed, even his-
torical data that go back to 16th-century Europe
show that males committed more than three times
as many violent crimes as females (L. Ellis &
Coontz, 1990).

Is the origin of gender difference in aggression
biological or social? The answer is not simple. On
the one hand, certain biological factors appear to
contribute to aggressive behavior. As we saw in
Chapter 2, “The Biological Basis of Behavior,” high
levels of testosterone are associated with aggres-
siveness. At the same time, our society clearly toler-
ates and even encourages greater aggressiveness in
boys than in girls (Sommers-Flanagan, Sommers-
Flanagan, & Davis, 1993). For example, we are
more likely to give boys toy guns and to reward

them for behaving aggressively; girls are more likely than boys to be taught to feel guilty for
behaving aggressively or to expect parental disapproval for their aggressive behavior
(D. G. Perry, Perry, & Weiss, 1989). The most accurate conclusion seems to be that, like
most of the complex behaviors that we have reviewed, gender differences in aggression
undoubtedly depend on the interaction of nature and nurture (Geen, 1998; Verona, Joiner,
Johnson, & Bender, 2006).

Is being highly competitive important to high achievement?

Climbing Mount Everest, sending rockets into space, making the dean’s list, rising to the
top of a giant corporation—all these actions may have mixed underlying motives. But in all
of them there is a desire to excel. It is this desire for achievement for its own sake that leads
psychologists to suggest that there is a separate achievement motive. Research indicates

Culture and Aggression

The United States has one of the world’s highest living standards and sendsmore young people to college than most other industrialized nations. Yet wehave a very high incidence of violent crime.
1. Why do you think violence is so prevalent in U.S. culture? Can you design

a research study to test your ideas?
2. How might the problem of widespread violence be reduced? What kind of

evidence would be required to show that your ideas in fact work?
3. This critical-thinking exercise begins with several assertions about living

standards, college attendance, and violent crime. However, no sources
were cited to support those claims. Did you ask yourself whether there is
any evidence to support them and, if so, whether the evidence is clear?
What kinds of data would you want to see in order to determine if those
assertions are correct?

Are males naturally more aggressive than
females? Research suggests that both
biology and culture encourage aggression in
boys more than in girls. Adults often look the
other way when two boys are fighting,
sending the message that violence is an
acceptable way to settle disputes.

achievement motive The need to excel, to
overcome obstacles.

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Motivation and Emotion 277

that there are three separate but interrelated aspects of achievement-oriented behavior:
work orientation, the desire to work hard and do a good job; mastery, the preference for
difficult or challenging feats, with an emphasis on improving one’s past performance; and
competitiveness, the enjoyment of pitting one’s skills against those of other people
(Helmreich & Spence, 1978).

How do individual differences in the three aspects of achievement motivation relate
to people’s attainment of goals? It turns out that excessive competitiveness can actually
interfere with achievement. In one study, students’ grade-point averages (GPAs) were
compared with their achievement motivation. As you might expect, students who scored
low in work, mastery, and competitiveness had lower GPAs. But students who scored
high in all three areas did not have the highest GPAs. It turned out that the students with
the highest grades were those who had high work and mastery scores, but low competi-
tiveness scores. The counterproductive effect of competitiveness has been demonstrated
as well in businesspeople, elementary-school students, and scientists (Morrone &
Pintrich, 2006). What accounts for this phenomenon? In part, highly competitive people
alienate the very people who would otherwise help them achieve their goals; and preoc-
cupation with winning can distract people from taking the actions necessary to attain
their goals.

From psychological tests and personal histories, psychologists have developed a profile
of people with high achievement motivation. These people are fast learners. They relish
the opportunity to develop new strategies for unique and challenging tasks. Driven less by
the desire for fame or fortune than by the need to live up to a high, self-imposed standard
of performance (M. Carr, Borkowski, & Maxwell, 1991), they are self-confident, willingly
take on responsibility, and do not readily bow to outside social pressures. They are ener-
getic and allow few things to stand in the way of their goals.

How do psychologists explain the human need to be with other people?

Generally, people have a need for affiliation—to be with other people. The affiliation
motive is likely to be especially strong when people feel threatened (Rofe, 1984). Esprit de
corps—the feeling of being part of a sympathetic group—is critical among troops going
into a battle, just as a football coach’s pregame pep talk fuels team spirit. Both are
designed to make people feel they are working for a common cause or against a common
foe. Moreover, being in the presence of someone who is less threatened or fearful
can reduce fear and anxiety. For example, patients with critical illnesses tend to prefer
being with healthy people, rather than with other seriously ill patients or by themselves
(Rofe, Hoffman, & Lewin, 1985). In the same way, if you are nervous on a plane during a
bumpy flight, you may strike up a conversation with the calm-looking woman sitting
next to you.

Some theorists have argued that our need for affiliation has an evolutionary basis
(Ainsworth, 1989; R. F. Baumeister & Leary, 2000; Buss, 1990, 1991). In this view, forming
and maintaining social bonds provided our ancestors with both survival and reproductive
benefits. Social groups can share resources such as food and shelter, provide opportunities
for reproduction, and assist in the care of offspring. Children who chose to stay with adults
were probably more likely to survive (and ultimately reproduce) than those who wandered
away from their groups. Thus, it is understandable that people in general tend to seek out
other people.

Whether you express your need for affiliation in a particular situation depends on a
number of factors. Whether you actually talk to the person sitting next to you on a flight
depends in large part on how friendly you normally are (your normal need for affiliation),
what is considered proper behavior in your culture, how friendly your neighbor appears to
be, and how long the flight is likely to last. If the flight is turbulent, then additional factors
enter into consideration such as how scared you feel at the moment, how calm your neigh-
bor appears to be, and how turbulent the flight is. affiliation motive The need to be with others.

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

278 Chapter 8


1. A high degree of ________ may interfere with achievement.
2. A person who is willing to contend with the high risks of a career in sales is probably

motivated by a high __________ motive.
3. Indicate whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F).

a. ___ Curiosity has been linked to creativity.
b. ___ Research shows that low-birth-weight babies gain weight faster with frequent

physical contact.
c. ___ Aggression may be a learned response to numerous stimuli.

Answers:1. b.2. a.


1. Susan scores high on tests of achievement motivation. Which of the following would you
LEAST expect to be true of her?

a. She is a fast learner who willingly takes on responsibility.
b. She seldom deviates from methods that have worked for her in the past.
c. She has a strong desire to live up to high, self-imposed standards

of excellence.
d. She is self-confident and resists outside social pressures.

2. You are watching a children’s TV show in which the “bad guys” eventually are punished
for their aggressive behavior. Your friend says, “It’s a good thing the bad guys always
lose. Otherwise, kids would learn to be aggressive from watching TV shows like this.”
You think about that for a minute and then, on the basis of what you have learned in this
chapter, you reply,

a. “Actually, seeing an aggressor punished for his or her actions leads to more
aggression than seeing no aggression at all.”

b. “You’re right. Seeing aggressors punished for their actions is a good way to reduce
the amount of aggressiveness in children.”

c. “Aggression is an instinctual response to frustration, so it really doesn’t
matter what children see on TV. If they are frustrated, they will respond
with aggression.”

Answers:1. competitiveness.2. achievement.a. (T).b. (T).c. (T).

How many basic emotions are there?

Ancient Greek rationalists thought that emotions, if not held in check, would wreak havoc
on higher mental abilities such as rational thought and decision making. In the past, psy-
chologists, too, often viewed emotions as a “base instinct”—a vestige of our evolutionary
heritage that needed to be repressed. Not surprisingly, emotions received very little atten-
tion from researchers (Mayne & Bonanno, 2001).

More recently, however, scientists have begun to see emotions in a more positive
light. Today, they are considered essential to survival and a major source of personal
enrichment and resilience (National Advisory Mental Health Council, 1995; Tugade &
Fredrickson, 2004). Emotions are linked to variations in immune function and, thereby,
to disease (see Chapter 11, “Stress and Health Psychology”). And as we saw in Chapter 7,
“Cognition and Mental Abilities,” emotions may also influence how successful we are
(Goleman, 1997; Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002). It is clear, then, that if we are going
to understand human behavior, we must understand emotions. Unfortunately, that task
is easier said than done. As you will soon see, even identifying how many emotions there
are is difficult.

• Discuss the evidence for a set of basic

emotions that are experienced by all

• Compare and contrast the James-Lange
theory, Cannon-Bard theory, and cognitive
theories of emotion.

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Motivation and Emotion 279

Basic Emotions
Are there basic emotions that all people experience
regardless of their culture?

Many people have attempted to identify and describe the basic emotions experienced
by humans (Cornelius, 1996; Schimmack & Crites, 2005). Some years ago, Robert
Plutchik (1927–2006), for example, proposed that there are eight basic emotions: fear,
surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation, joy, and acceptance (Plutchik, 1980). Each
of these emotions helps us adjust to the demands of our environment, although in
different ways. Fear, for example, underlies flight, which helps protect animals from
their enemies; anger propels animals to attack or destroy.

Emotions adjacent to each other on Plutchik’s emotion “circle” (see Figure 8–7)
are more alike than those situated farther away. Surprise is more closely related to fear
than to anger; joy and acceptance are more similar to each other than either is to dis-
gust. Moreover, according to Plutchik’s model, different emotions may combine to
produce an even wider and richer spectrum of experience. Occurring together, antici-
pation and joy, for example, yield optimism; joy and acceptance fuse into love; and
surprise and sadness make for disappointment. Within any of Plutchik’s eight categories,
emotions also vary in intensity.

nger Disgust Sadn










Acceptance Fear









Love Subm

ission A


pt Remorse





Figure 8–7
Plutchik’s eight basic categories
of emotion.

Source: From Plutchik, 1980.

Diversity–Universality Are Emotions Universal?
Some scientists challenge Plutchik’s model, noting that it may apply only to the emotional
experience of English-speaking people. Anthropologists report enormous differences in the
ways that other cultures view and categorize emotions. Some languages, in fact, do not even
have a word for “emotion.” Languages also differ in the number of words that they have to
name emotions. English includes over 2,000 words to describe emotional experiences,
but Taiwanese Chinese has only 750 such descriptive words. One tribal language has only
seven words that can be translated into categories of emotion. Some cultures lack words for
“anxiety” or “depression” or “guilt.” Samoans have just one word encompassing love, sym-
pathy, pity, and liking—all distinct emotions in our own culture (Frijda, Markam, & Sato,
1995; Russell, 1991). ■

Because of the differences in emotions from one
culture to another, the tendency now is to distin-
guish between primary and secondary emotions.
Primary emotions are those that are evident in all
cultures, contribute to survival, associated with a
distinct facial expression, and evident in nonhuman
primates (Plutchick, 1994). Secondary emotions are
those that are not found in all cultures. They may be
thought of as subtle combinations of the primary
emotions. (See Figure 8–8.)

Attempts to identify primary emotions have
generally used cross-cultural studies (Ekman et al.,
1987; C. E. Izard, 1994; Yrizarry, Matsumoto, Imai,
Kookenm, & Takeuchi, 2001). For example, one
group of researchers asked participants from 10
countries to interpret photographs depicting various
facial expressions of emotions (Ekman et al., 1987).
The percentage of participants from each country
who correctly identified the emotions ranged from
60% to 98%. (See Figure 8–9.) The researchers used

Figure 8–8
Display of anger in animal and human.
Compare the facial expressions. The human
face is that of a Kabuki player who is simulating
anger. Note how the actor bares his teeth,
copying the mandrill’s display of emotion.

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

280 Chapter 8

1.b (neutral)
2.f (disgust)
3.e (surprise)
4.a (fear)
5.d (anger)
6.c (sadness).

Figure 8–9
Name That Face.
Dr. Paul Ekman believes that facial
expressions are distinct, predictable, and
easy to read for someone who has studied
them. His research involved breaking the
expressions down into their specific
muscular components and developing
programs to help train people to become
more accurate observers of the feelings
that flit briefly across others’ faces. Here,
he demonstrates six emotional states. How
many of them can you match to the
pictures? The answers are below.
a. fear.
b. neutral (no emotion)
c. sadness
d. anger
e. surprise
f. disgust

Source: New York Times, 200





this and other evidence to argue for the existence of six primary emotions—happiness,
surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. Notice that love is not included in this list. Although
Ekman did not find a universally recognized facial expression for love, many psychologists
nevertheless hold that love is a primary emotion (Hendrick & Hendrick, 2003; Sabini & Sil-
ver, 2005). Its outward expression, however, may owe much to the stereotypes promoted by
a culture’s media (Fehr, 1994). In one study in which American college students were asked
to display a facial expression for love, the participants mimicked the conventional “Holly-
wood” prototypes such as sighing deeply, gazing skyward, and holding their hand over their
heart (Cornelius, 1996).

Theories of Emotion
What is the relationship among emotions, biological
reactions, and thoughts?

In the 1880s, the American psychologist William James formulated the first modern the-
ory of emotion. The Danish psychologist Carl Lange reached the same conclusions.
According to the James–Lange theory, stimuli in the environment (say, seeing a large
growling dog running toward us) cause physiological changes in our bodies (accelerated
heart rate, enlarged pupils, deeper or shallower breathing, increased perspiration, and
goose bumps), and emotions arise from those physiological changes. The emotion
of fear, then, would simply be the almost instantaneous and automatic awareness of
physiological changes.

There is some supporting evidence for this theory (R. J. Davidson, 1992; Levenson,
1992; McGeer & McGeer, 1980; Prinz, 2005), but if you think back to the biology of
the nervous system (Chapter 2), you should be able to identify a major flaw in the
James–Lange theory. Recall that sensory information about bodily changes flows to
the brain through the spinal cord. If bodily changes are the source of emotions, then
people with severe spinal cord injuries should experience fewer and less intense
emotions, but this is not the case (Chwalisz, Diener, & Gallagher, 1988). Moreover, most

James–Lange theory States that stimuli cause
physiological changes in our bodies, and
emotions result from those physiological changes.

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Motivation and Emotion 281

emotions are accompanied by very similar physi-
ological changes. Bodily changes, then, do not
cause specific emotions and may not even be nec-
essary for emotional experience.

Recognizing these facts, the Cannon–Bard
theory holds that we mentally process emotions
and physically respond simultaneously, not one
after another. When you see the dog, you feel afraid
and your heart races at the same time.

Cognitive Theories of Emotion Cognitive
psychologists have taken Cannon–Bard’s theory a
step further. They argue that our emotional
experience depends on our perception of a situa-
tion (Ellsworth, 2002; Lazarus, 1991a, 1991b,
1991c; C. Phelps, Bennett, & Brain, 2008; Scherer,
Schorr, & Johnstone, 2001). According to the
cognitive theory of emotion, the situation gives
us clues as to how we should interpret our state of
arousal. One of the first theories of emotion that
took into account cognitive processes was
advanced by Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer
(1962; 2001). According to Schachter and Singer’s
Two-Factor Theory of Emotion, when we see a bear, there are indeed bodily changes;
but we then use information about the situation to tell us how to respond to those
changes. Only when we cognitively recognize that we are in danger do we experience
those bodily changes as fear. (See Figure 8–10 for a comparison of these three theories
of emotion.)

Challenges to Cognitive Theory Although a cognitive theory of emotion makes a
lot of sense, some critics reject the idea that feelings always stem from cognitions. Quoting
the poet e. e. cummings, Robert Zajonc (1923–2008) argued that “feelings come first.”
Human infants can imitate emotional expressions at 12 days of age, well before they
acquire language. We have the ability to respond instantaneously to situations without
taking time to interpret and evaluate them. But some emotional responses are not clear-
cut. When we feel jittery, a cross between nervous and excited, we ask ourselves, “What’s
going on?” Zajonc (1984) believed that we invent explanations to label feelings: In his
view, cognition follows emotion.

Another direct challenge to the cognitive theory claims that emotions can be experi-
enced without the intervention of cognition (C. E. Izard, 1971, 1994). According to this
view, a situation such as separation or pain provokes a unique pattern of unlearned facial
movements and body postures that may be completely independent of conscious thought.
When information about our facial expressions and posture reaches the brain, we automat-
ically experience the corresponding emotion. According to Carroll Izard, then, the
James–Lange theory was essentially right in suggesting that emotional experience arises
from bodily reactions. But Izard’s theory stresses facial expression and body posture as cru-
cial to the experience of emotion, whereas the James–Lange theory emphasized muscles,
skin, and internal organs.

Considerable evidence supports Izard’s view that facial expressions influence
emotions (Ekman, 2003; Ekman & Davidson, 1993; Soussignan, 2002). It is possible
that future research using neuroimaging techniques (Barrett, Mesquita, Ochsner, &
Gross, 2007; Barrett & Wager, 2006) will show with more certainty that a key element in
determining our emotional experience is our own expressive behavior, the topic we turn
to now.

Figure 8–10
The three major theories of emotion.
According to the James–Lange theory, the
body first responds physiologically to a
stimulus, and then the cerebral cortex deter-
mines which emotion is being experienced.
The Cannon–Bard theory holds that impulses
are sent simultaneously to the cerebral cortex
and the peripheral nervous system; thus, the
response to the stimulus and the processing of
the emotion are experienced at the same time,
but independently. Cognitive theorists assert
that the cerebral cortex interprets physiological
changes in the light of information about the
situation to determine which emotions we feel.













cognitive theory States that emotional
experience depends on one’s perception or
judgment of a situation.

Cannon–Bard theory States that the experience
of emotion occurs simultaneously with
biological changes.

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282 Chapter 8

What is the most obvious signal of emotion?

Sometimes you are vaguely aware that a person makes you feel uncomfortable. When
pressed to be more precise, you might say, “You never know what she is thinking.” But you
do not mean that you never know her opinion of a film or what she thought about the last
election. It would probably be more accurate to say that you do not know what she is
feeling. Almost all of us conceal our emotions to some extent, but usually people can tell
what we are feeling. Although emotions can often be expressed in words, much of the time
we communicate our feelings nonverbally. We do so through, among other things, voice
quality, facial expression, body language, personal space, and explicit acts.

Voice Quality and Facial Expression
What role can voice and facial expression
play in expressing emotion?

If your roommate is washing the dishes and says
acidly, “I hope you’re enjoying your novel,” the literal
meaning of his words is quite clear, but you probably
know very well that he is not expressing a concern
about your reading pleasure. He is really saying, “I
am annoyed that you are not helping to clean up.”
Similarly, if you receive a phone call from someone
who has had very good or very bad news, you will
probably know how she feels before she has told
you what happened. In other words, much of the


1. Ralph believes that if you’re feeling depressed, you should smile a lot and your depression
will fade away. His view is most consistent with

a. Izard’s theory.
b. the Schachter–Singer theory.
c. the James–Lange theory.
d. the Cannon–Bard theory.

2. You are on a camping trip when you encounter a bear. You get butterflies in your stomach,
your heart starts racing, your mouth gets dry, and you start to perspire. A psychologist
who takes the cognitive perspective on emotion would say,

a. “Seeing the bear caused the physical changes, which in turn caused you to
experience fear.”

b. “Seeing the bear caused you to experience fear, which in turn caused all those
physical changes.”

c. “Seeing the bear caused the physical changes. When you realized they were
caused by the bear, you experienced fear.”

d. “Seeing the bear caused the physical changes and the emotion of fear at the
same time.”

Answers:1. a.2. c.

• Explain the importance of facial

expressions in communicating emotion
and identify the areas of the brain that
are responsible for interpreting facial
expressions. Describe the role of body
language, gestures, and personal space
in communicating emotions.

• Summarize the research evidence
regarding gender and cultural
differences in emotion, the role of
“display rules,” and whether it is
advantageous to express anger as
opposed to “holding it in.”

Nonverbal Communication of Emotion

Some people are clearly better than others at reading and sending emotionalmessages. The question is, why? How might you determine:
1. if differences in these skills are learned or inherited?
2. the kinds of learning experiences that produce high skills?
3. whether it is possible to teach the skills?


1. Robert Plutchik asserts that emotions vary in _______________, a fact that accounts in part
for the great range of emotions we experience.

Answer:1. intensity.

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Motivation and Emotion 283

emotional information we convey is not contained in the words we use, but in the way
those words are expressed (Gobl & Chasaide, 2003).

Among nonverbal channels of communication, facial expressions seem to communicate
the most specific information (Horstmann, 2003). Hand gestures or posture can communi-
cate general emotional states (e.g., feeling bad), but the complexity of the muscles in the face
allows facial expressions to communicate very specific feelings (e.g., feeling sad, angry, or fear-
ful). Many facial expressions are innate, not learned (Ekman, 1994; H. H. Goldsmith, 2002).
Individuals who are born blind use the same facial expressions of emotion as do sighted
persons to express the same emotions (Matsumoto & Willingham, 2009). Moreover most ani-
mals share a common pattern of muscular facial movements. For example, dogs, tigers, and
humans all bare their teeth in rage, and research has shown that the same pattern of facial
muscles is used to display emotions among most primates, including monkeys, chimpanzees,
and humans (Waller, Parr, Gothard, Burrows, & Fuglevand, 2008). Psychologists who take an
evolutionary approach believe that facial expressions served an adaptive function, enabling
our ancestors to compete successfully for status, to win mates, and to defend themselves
(Plutchik, 2002; Tooby & Cosmides, 1990, 2005).

How the Brain Reads the Face
What parts of the brain are responsible for interpreting facial expressions?

Scientists have known for quite some time that activity in brain circuits centering on the amyg-
dala (Figure 6–4) and insula are critical for the release of emotions (Schafe & LeDoux, 2002;
Philip Shaw et al., 2005). The amygdala and insula also appear to play an important role in our
ability to correctly interpret facial expressions (Adolphs, 2006, 2008). Interestingly some of the
underlying brain processes that are used to interpret facial expression take place so quickly
(less than 1/10 of a second), it is unlikely that they are consciously driven (Adolphs, 2006).

Adolphs and his colleagues (Adolphs, Tranel, Damasio, & Damasio, 1994) reported the
remarkable case of a 30-year-old woman (S. M.) with a rare disease that caused nearly
complete destruction of the amygdala. Although S. M. could correctly identify photographs
of familiar faces with 100% accuracy, and easily learned to recognize new faces, she had great
difficulty recognizing fear and discriminating between different emotions, such as happiness
and surprise. More recent research has also shown that people with amygdala damage have
trouble “reading faces” (Adolphs, Baron-Cohen, & Tranel, 2002; Adolphs & Tranel, 2003).
For example, some patients with severe depressive disorder have an impaired ability to
accurately judge another person’s facial expression of emotion, and this impairment
contributes to their difficulty in interpersonal functioning (Surguladze et al., 2004). In addi-
tion, some researchers have suggested that abnormalities in the brain circuits associated with
the amygdala can, in some cases, make it difficult for people to perceive threat accurately and
that, in turn, can lead to unprovoked violence and aggression (R. J. Davidson, Putnam, &
Larson, 2000; Soo Lee, Miller, & Moon, 2004; Marsh & Blair, 2008).

Body Language, Personal Space, and Gestures
How can posture and personal space communicate emotion?

Body language is another way that we communicate messages nonverbally. How we hold
our back, for example, communicates a great deal. When we are relaxed, we tend to stretch
back into a chair; when we are tense, we sit more stiffly with our feet together.

The distance we maintain between ourselves and others is called personal space. This
distance varies depending on the nature of the activity and the emotions felt. If someone
stands closer to you than is customary, that proximity may indicate either anger or affection;
if farther away than usual, it may indicate fear or dislike. The normal conversing distance
between people varies from culture to culture. Two Swedes conversing would ordinarily
stand much farther apart than would two Arabs or Greeks.

Explicit acts, of course, can also serve as nonverbal clues to emotions. A slammed door
may tell us that the person who just left the room is angry. If friends drop in for a visit and

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When having a conversation, most people of
middle-Eastern descent stand closer to one
another than most Americans do. In our soci-
ety, two men would not usually stand as close
together as these two Arabs unless they
were very aggressively arguing with each
other (a baseball player heatedly arguing
with an umpire, for example).

Simulation on Recognizing
Facial Expressions of Emotions at

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

284 Chapter 8

you invite them into your living room, that is a sign that you are probably less at ease with
them than with friends whom you invite to sit down with you at the kitchen table. Gestures,
such as a slap on the back, an embrace, whether people shake your hand briefly or for a long
time, firmly or limply, also tell you something about how they feel about you.

You can see from this discussion that nonverbal communication of emotions is impor-
tant. However, a word of caution is needed here. Although nonverbal behavior may offer a
clue to a person’s feelings, it is not an infallible clue. Laughing and crying can sound alike, yet
crying may signal sorrow, joy, anger, or nostalgia—or that you are slicing an onion. More-
over, as with verbal reports, people sometimes “say” things nonverbally that they do not
mean. We all have done things thoughtlessly—turned our backs, frowned when thinking
about something else, or laughed at the wrong time—that have given offense because our
actions were interpreted as an expression of an emotion that we were not, in fact, feeling.

Also, many of us overestimate our ability to interpret nonverbal cues. For example, in
one study of several hundred “professional lie catchers,” including members of the Secret
Service, government lie detector experts, judges, police officers, and psychiatrists, every
group except for the psychiatrists rated themselves above average in their ability to tell
whether another person was lying. Only the Secret Service agents managed to identify the
liars at a better-than-chance rate (Ekman & O’Sullivan, 1991). Similar results have been
obtained with other groups of people (Frank, 2006). In part, the reason seems to be that
many behaviors that might seem to be associated with lying (such as avoiding eye contact,
rapid blinking, or shrugs) are not in fact associated with lying; and other behaviors that are
associated with lying (such as tenseness and fidgeting) also occur frequently when people
are not lying (DePaulo et al., 2003). Thus, even the best nonverbal cues only indicate that a
person may be lying. However, despite our apparent inability to accurately detect lies in
other adults, research does show that adults are reasonably accurate at detecting when a
child is lying (Edelstein, Luten, Ekman, & Goodman, 2006).

Gender and Emotion
Are men less emotional than women?

Men are often said to be less emotional than women. But do men feel less emotion, or are
they simply less likely to express the emotions they feel? And are there some emotions that
men are more likely than women to express?

Research sheds some light on these issues. In one study, when men and women saw
depictions of people in distress, the men showed little emotion, but the women expressed
feelings of concern (Eisenberg & Lennon, 1983). However, physiological measures of emo-
tional arousal (such as heart rate and blood pressure) showed that the men in the study
were actually just as affected as the women were. The men simply inhibited the expression
of their emotions, whereas the women were more open about their feelings. Emotions such
as sympathy, sadness, empathy, and distress are often considered “unmanly,” and tradition-
ally, in Western culture, boys are trained from an early age to suppress those emotions in
public (L. Brody & Hall, 2000). The fact that men are less likely than women to seek help in
dealing with emotional issues (Komiya, Good, & Sherrod, 2000) is probably a result of this
early training. In addition, women tend to have stronger emotional reactions to self-
generated thoughts and memories (R. Carter, 1998). (See Figure 8–11.)

Men and women are also likely to react with very different emotions to the same situ-
ation. For example, being betrayed or criticized by another person will elicit anger in males,
whereas females are more likely to feel hurt, sad, or disappointed (L. Brody & Hall, 2000;
Fischer, Rodriguez-Mosquera, van-Vianen, & Manstead, 2004). And, when men get angry,
they generally turn their anger outward, against other people and against the situation in
which they find themselves. Women are more likely to see themselves as the source of the
problem and to turn their anger inward, against themselves. These gender-specific reac-
tions are consistent with the fact that men are four times more likely than women to
become violent in the face of life crises; women, by contrast, are much more likely to
become depressed.

Figure 8–11
Emotion and brain activity in men
and women.
When asked to think of something sad,
women (A) generate more activity in their
brains than men (B).
Source: From Carter, 1998, p. 100. Shading added.

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

Mind–Body Holding Anger In
People who frequently feel anger and hostility may be at a serious health risk if they don’t
allow themselves to express and learn to regulate their anger (Carrère, Mittmann, Woodin,
Tabares, & Yoshimoto, 2005). In a study that tracked a group of women over 18 years,
researchers found that those scoring high on hostility were three times more likely to die
during the course of the study than those who scored low (Julius, Harburg, Cottington,
& Johnson, 1986). However, this higher level of risk applied only to participants who said
they got angry in many situations but did not vent their anger. Other participants who
reported frequent bouts of anger, which they expressed, were in the same low-risk group as
those who said they rarely or never felt angry. ■

Motivation and Emotion 285

Men and women also differ in their ability to interpret nonverbal cues of emotion.
For example, women and young girls are more skilled than men or young boys at
decoding the facial expressions, body cues, and tones of voice of others (Bosacki
& Moore, 2004; Grunwald et al., 1999). Perhaps not surprisingly, research has also shown
that men are more likely than women to misperceive friendliness as sexual interest;
they are also more likely to perceive sexual interest as friendliness (Farris, Treat, Vikden,
& McFall, 2008).

How can we explain these gender differences? One possibility is that because women
tend to be the primary caregivers for preverbal infants, they need to become more attuned
than men to the subtleties of emotional expressions. Some psychologists have even
suggested that this skill may be genetically programmed into females. Consistent with
this evolutionary perspective, research has shown that male and female infants express
and self-regulate emotions differently (McClure, 2000; Weinberg, Tronick, Cohn, & Olson,

Another explanation of gender differences in emotional sensitivity is based on the
relative power of women and men. Because women historically have occupied less powerful
positions, they may have felt the need to become acutely attuned to the emotional displays of
others, particularly those in more powerful positions (namely, men). This idea is supported
by evidence that, regardless of gender, followers are more sensitive to the emotions of leaders
than vice versa (Aries, 2006; Judith Hall, Bernieri, & Carney, 2006).

Culture and Emotion
How can culture influence the way we express emotion?

Does where we live affect what we feel? And if so, why? For psychologists, the key issue is
how cultures help shape emotional experiences.

Some researchers have argued that across cultures, peoples, and societies, the face looks
the same whenever certain emotions are expressed; this phenomenon is known as the
universalist position. In contrast, other researchers support the culture-learning position,
which holds that members of a culture learn the appropriate facial expressions for emotions
(Marsh, Elfenbein, & Ambady, 2003). These expressions, then, can differ greatly from one
culture to the next. Which view is more accurate?

As we saw earlier, Ekman and his colleagues have concluded from cross-cultural stud-
ies that at least six emotions are accompanied by universal facial expressions: happiness,
sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust. Carroll Izard (1980) conducted similar studies in
England, Germany, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Greece, and Japan with similar results.
These studies seem to support the universalist position: Regardless of culture, people
tended to agree on which emotions others were expressing facially. However, this research
does not completely rule out the culture-learning view. Because the participants
were all members of developed countries that likely had been exposed to one another

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

286 Chapter 8

through movies, magazines, and tourism, they
might simply have become familiar with the facial
expressions seen in other cultures. A stronger test
was needed that reduced or eliminated this

Such a test was made possible by the discovery
of several contemporary cultures that had been
totally isolated from Western culture for most of
their existence. Members of the Fore and the Dani
cultures of New Guinea, for example, had their first
contact with anthropologists only a few years before
Ekman’s research took place. They provided a nearly
perfect opportunity to test the universalist/culture-
learning debate. If members of these cultures gave
the same interpretation of facial expressions and
produced the same expressions on their own faces as
did people in Western cultures, there would be
much stronger evidence for the universality of facial
expressions of emotion. Ekman and his colleagues
presented members of the Fore culture with three
photographs of people from outside their culture
and asked them to point to the picture that repre-
sented how they would feel in a certain situation.
For example, if a participant was told “Your child
has died, and you feel very sad,” he or she would
have the opportunity to choose which of the three
pictures most closely corresponded to sadness. The
results indicated very high rates of agreement on
facial expressions of emotions (Ekman & Friesen,
1971; Ekman, Sorenson, & Friesen, 1969). Moreover,

when photographs of the Fore and Dani posing the primary emotions were shown to college
students in the United States, the same high agreement was found (Ekman & Friesen, 1975).
This finding suggests that at least some emotional expressions are inborn and universal.

If this is true, why are people so often confused about the emotions being expressed by
people in other cultures? It turns out that the answer is not simple. Part of the explanation
involves display rules. Display rules concern the circumstances under which it is appropri-
ate for people to show emotion. Display rules differ substantially from culture to culture
(Matsumoto & Kupperbusch, 2001; Safdar et al., 2009). In a study of Japanese and Ameri-
can college students, the participants watched graphic films of surgical procedures, either
by themselves or in the presence of an experimenter. The students’ facial expressions were
secretly videotaped as they viewed the films. The results showed that when the students
were by themselves, both the Japanese and the Americans showed facial expressions of dis-
gust, as expected. But when the participants watched the films in the presence of an exper-
imenter, the two groups displayed different responses. American students continued to
show disgust on their faces, but the Japanese students showed facial expressions that were
more neutral, even somewhat pleasant (Ekman, Friesen, & Ellsworth, 1972). Why the sud-
den switch? The answer in this case appears to lie in the different display rules of the two
cultures. The Japanese norm says,“Don’t display strong negative emotion in the presence of
a respected elder” (in this case, the experimenter). Americans typically don’t honor this
display rule; hence, they expressed their true emotions whether they were alone or with
someone else.

However, display rules don’t tell the whole story. In a comprehensive review of the lit-
erature, Elfenbein and Ambady (2002, 2003) have demonstrated that differences in lan-
guage, familiarity, majority or minority status within a culture, cultural learning, expressive
style, and a number of other factors may also account for the fact that “we understand

Can you identify the emotions being
expressed by this man from New Guinea?
The finding that U.S. college students could
recognize the emotional expressions of
people who had been largely isolated from
Western cultures—and vice versa—lent
support to the universalist position of facial

display rules Culture-specific rules that govern
how, when, and why expressions of emotion are

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Motivation and Emotion 287


1. Cultural differences, particularly ____________, influence how we experience emotion.
2. Two important nonverbal cues to emotions are _________ _________ and _________

3. Men tend to interpret the source of their anger to be in their _________.
4. Research shows that some _________ _________ are recognized universally.
5. _________ _________ are the cultural circumstances under which it is appropriate

to show emotions on the face.
6. _________ Overt behavior is an infallible clue to emotions. Is this statement

true (T) or false (F)?

Answers:1. language.2. facial expression, body language.3. environment.4. facial
expressions.5. Display rules.6. (F).


1. Which of the following would probably be best at “reading” nonverbal
emotional cues?

a. a young man
b. an older woman
c. an older man
d. They would all be equally accurate since gender is not related to the ability to

understand nonverbal cues to emotion.

2. You are studying gender differences in emotion. You show men and women various films
of people in distress. On the basis of what you have read in this chapter, you would
predict that the men will show _________ amount of physiological arousal, and
_________ emotional expression as the women.

a. the same; the same
b. the same; less
c. a greater; less
d. a smaller; less

Answers:1. b.2. b.

motive, p. 259
emotion, p. 259

Perspectives on Motivation
instincts, p. 259
drive, p. 260
drive-reduction theory, p. 260
homeostasis, p. 260
primary drives, p. 260
secondary drives, p. 260
arousal theory, p. 260

Yerkes–Dodson law, p. 260
intrinsic motivation, p. 261
extrinsic motivation, p. 261
hierarchy of needs, p. 262

Hunger and Thirst
glucose, p. 264
leptin, p. 264
ghrelin, p. 264
incentive, p. 265
anorexia nervosa, p. 265

bulimia nervosa, p. 266
muscle dysmorphia, p. 266
set point theory, p. 268

testosterone, p. 269
sexual response cycle, p. 270
sexual orientation, p. 272

Other Important Motives
stimulus motives, p. 273
aggression, p. 274

achievement motive, p. 276
affiliation motive, p. 277

James–Lange theory, p. 280
Cannon–Bard theory, p. 281
cognitive theory, p. 281

Communicating Emotion
display rules, p. 286

emotions more accurately when they are expressed by members of our own cultural or
subcultural group” (p. 228). Since research indicates that learning to correctly identify
emotions of people from a different culture contributes to intercultural adjustment (Yoo,
Matsumoto, & LeRoux, 2006), further research in this area is important as the nations of
the world become increasingly multicultural.

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288 Chapter 8

How can you use intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to help
you succeed in college? The idea that motivation is based on
instincts was popular in the early 20th century but since has
fallen out of favor. Human motivation has also been viewed as an
effort toward drive reduction and homeostasis, or balance in the
body. Another perspective, reflected in arousal theory, suggests
behavior stems from a desire to maintain an optimum level of
arousal. Motivational inducements or incentives can originate
from within (intrinsic motivation) or from outside (extrinsic
motivation) the person. The effects of intrinsic motivation are
greater and longer-lasting.

Abraham Maslow suggested human motives can be arranged
in a hierarchy of needs, with primitive ones based on physical
needs positioned at the bottom and higher ones such as self-esteem
positioned toward the top. Maslow believed that the higher motives
don’t emerge until the more basic ones have been met, but recent
research challenges his view.

Why do people usually get hungry at mealtime? How can
external cues influence our desire to eat? Hunger is regulated
by several centers within the brain. These centers are stimulated
by receptors that monitor blood levels of glucose, fats, and carbo-
hydrates as well as the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Hunger is
also stimulated by incentives such as cooking aromas and by
emotional, cultural, and social factors.

How can you tell if someone is suffering from anorexia ner-
vosa or bulimia? Eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa
and bulimia nervosa, are more prevalent among females than
among males. They are characterized by extreme preoccupation with
body image and weight. Muscle dysmorphia is a disorder generally
seen among young men involving an obsession with muscle size
leading to inordinate worry about diet and exercise. Another food-
related problem, obesity, affects millions of Americans. Obesity has
complex causes and negative consequences particularly for obese
children, who are likely to have health problems as adults.

How is the sex drive different from other primary drives? Sex
is a primary drive that gives rise to reproductive behavior essential
for the survival of the species.

How well do we understand the biology of the sex
drive? Although hormones such as testosterone are involved in
human sexual responses, they don’t play as dominant a role as they
do in some other species. In humans, the brain exerts a powerful
influence on the sex drive as well. The human sexual response cycle,
which differs somewhat for males and females, has four stages—
excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

How does culture influence sexual behavior? Experience and
learning affect preferences for sexually arousing stimuli. What is
sexually attractive is also influenced by culture. Research suggests
a more conservative pattern of sexual behavior in the United
States than is portrayed in popular media.

What are the arguments for and against a biological explana-
tion of homosexuality? People with a heterosexual orientation
are sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex; those with a
homosexual orientation are sexually attracted to members of
their own sex. It is likely that both biological and environmental
factors play a role in explaining homosexuality.

How are stimulus motives different from primary
drives? Stimulus motives are less obviously associated with the
survival of the organism or the species, although they often help
humans adapt to their environments. Stimulus motives, such as
the urge to explore and manipulate things, are associated with
obtaining information about the world.

What motives cause people to explore and change their
environment? A gap in understanding may stimulate curiosity,
motivating us to explore and, often, to change our environment.

Is the human need for contact universal? Another important
stimulus motive in humans and other primates is to seek various
forms of tactile stimulation. The importance of contact has been
demonstrated in nonhuman animal studies as well as in prema-
ture human infants.

Is aggression a biological response or a learned one? Any
behavior intended to inflict physical or psychological harm on
others is an act of aggression. Some psychologists see aggression
as an innate drive in humans that must be channeled to construc-
tive ends, but others see it more as a learned response that is
greatly influenced by modeling, norms, and values. Aggression
differs markedly across cultures, supporting the latter view. Males
generally are more inclined than females to strike out at others
and commit acts of violence. This gender difference probably
stems from an interaction of nature and nurture.

Is being highly competitive important to high achieve-
ment? People who display a desire to excel, to overcome obstacles,
and to accomplish difficult things well and quickly score high in
achievement motive. Although hard work and a strong desire to
master challenges both contribute to achievement, excessive compet-
itiveness toward others can actually interfere with achievement.

How do psychologists explain the human need to be with
other people? The affiliation motive, or need to be with other
people, is especially pronounced when we feel threatened or anx-
ious. Affiliation with others in this situation can counteract fear
and bolster spirits.

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Motivation and Emotion 289

How many basic emotions are there? Are there basic emotions
that all people experience regardless of their culture?
Robert Plutchik’s circular classification system for emotions
encompasses eight basic emotions. But not all cultures categorize
emotions this way. Some lack a word for emotion; others describe
feelings as physical sensations. Cross-cultural research by Paul Ekman
argues for the universality of at least six emotions—happiness,
surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. Many psychologists add love
to this list.

What is the relationship among emotions, biological reac-
tions, and thoughts? According to the James–Lange theory,
environmental stimuli can cause physiological changes; and emo-
tions then arise from our awareness of those changes. In contrast,
the Cannon–Bard theory holds that emotions and bodily
responses occur simultaneously. A third perspective, the cognitive
theory of emotion, contends that our perceptions and judgments
of situations are essential to our emotional experiences. Without
these cognitions we would have no idea how to label our feelings.
Not everyone agrees with this view, however, because emotions
sometimes seem to arise too quickly to depend on mental evalua-
tions. Counter to the cognitive view, C. E. Izard argues that certain
inborn facial expressions and body postures are automatically
triggered in emotion-arousing situations and are then “read” by
the brain as particular feelings.

What is the most obvious signal of emotion? What role can
voice and facial expression play in expressing emotion?
People express emotions verbally through words, tone of voice,
exclamations, and other sounds. Facial expressions are the most
obvious nonverbal indicators of emotion.

What parts of the brain are responsible for interpreting facial
expressions? The amygdala and insula play an important role in
our ability to correctly interpret facial expressions. Abnormalities
in these brain circuits may be a factor in depression and unpro-
voked aggression.

How can posture and personal space communicate emotion?
Other indicators involve body language—our posture, the way we
move, our preferred personal distance from others when talking to
them, our degree of eye contact. Explicit acts, such as slamming a
door, express emotions, too. People vary in their skill at reading these
nonverbal cues.

Are men less emotional than women? Research confirms some
gender differences in expressing and perceiving emotions. For
instance, when confronted with a person in distress, women are
more likely than men to express emotion, even though the levels
of physiological arousal are the same for the two sexes. Also, being
betrayed or criticized elicits more anger in men, versus more dis-
appointment and hurt in women. Women are generally better
than men at reading other people’s emotions: decoding facial
expressions, body cues, and tones of voice. This skill may be
sharpened by their role as caretakers of infants and their tradi-
tional subordinate status to men.

How can culture influence the way we express
emotion? Regardless of a person’s cultural background, the facial
expressions associated with certain basic emotions appear to be
universal. This finding contradicts the culture-learning view, which
suggests facial expressions of emotion are learned within a particu-
lar culture. This is not to say that there are no cultural differences in
emotional expression, however. Overlaying the universal expression
of certain emotions are culturally varying display rules that govern
when it is appropriate to show emotion—to whom, by whom, and
under what circumstances. Other forms of nonverbal communica-
tion of emotion vary more from culture to culture than facial
expressions do.

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


Enduring Issues in Learning

Classical Conditioning
• Elements of Classical

• Establishing a Classically

Conditioned Response
• Classical Conditioning in



• Classical Conditioning Is


Operant Conditioning
• Elements of Operant

• Establishing an Operantly

Conditioned Response
• A Closer Look at

• Punishment
• Learned Helplessness
• Shaping Behavioral Change

Through Biofeedback

Factors Shared by Classical
and Operant Conditioning
• The Importance of

• Extinction and Spontaneous

• Stimulus Control,

Generalization, and


• New Learning Based on
Original Learning

• Summing Up
Cognitive Learning
• Latent Learning and

Cognitive Maps
• Insight and Learning Sets
• Learning by Observing
• Cognitive Learning in





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


define it more broadly. To them, learning occurs whenever
experience or practice results in a relatively permanent change
in behavior or in potential behavior. This definition includes all
the examples previously mentioned, plus a great many more.
When you remember how to park a car or where the library
water fountain is, you are showing a tiny part of your enormous
capacity for learning.

Human life would be impossible without learning; it is
involved in virtually everything we do. You could not communi-
cate with other people or recognize yourself as human if you
were unable to learn. In this chapter, we explore several kinds
of learning. One type is learning to associate one event with
another. When pouched rats associate the smell of TNT and
receiving food or when a person associates the sight or smell of
a food with illness they are engaging in two forms of learning
called operant and classical conditioning. Because psycholo-
gists have studied these forms of learning so extensively, much
of this chapter is devoted to them. But making associations isn’t
all there is to human learning. Our learning also involves the for-
mation of concepts, theories, ideas, and other mental abstrac-
tions. Psychologists call it cognitive learning, and we discuss it
at the end of this chapter.

Our tour of learning begins in the laboratory of a Nobel
Prize–winning Russian scientist at the turn of the 20th
century. His name is Ivan Pavlov, and his work is helping to rev-
olutionize the study of learning. He has discovered classical

This chapter addresses how humans and other animals acquire new behaviors as a result of
their experiences. Thus, it bears directly on the enduring issue of Stability versus Change
(the extent to which organisms change over the course of their lives). The events that shape
learning not only vary among different individuals (diversity–universality) but also are
influenced by an organism’s inborn characteristics (nature–nurture). Finally, some types of
learning can affect our physical health by influencing how our body responds to disease

How did Pavlov discover classical conditioning?

The Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) discovered classical (or Pavlovian)
conditioning, a form of learning in which a response elicited by a stimulus becomes
elicited by a previously neutral stimulus, almost by accident. He was studying digestion,
which begins when saliva mixes with food in the mouth. While measuring how much saliva
dogs produce when given food, he noticed that they began to salivate even before they
tasted the food. The mere sight of food or the sound of his footsteps made them drool. This
aroused Pavlov’s curiosity. How had the dogs learned to salivate to sights and sounds?

• Define learning.
• Describe the elements of classical

conditioning, distinguishing between
unconditioned stimulus, uncondition


response, conditioned stimulus and
conditioned response. Describe the
process of establishing a classically
conditioned response, including the
effect of intermittent pairing.

• Provide examples of classical
conditioning in humans, including
desensitization therapy. Explain the
statement that “classical conditioning is
selective” and illustrate with examples
of conditioned taste aversions.

• In Mozambique, a giant pouched rat the size of a cat
scurries across a field, pauses, sniffs the air, turns,

sniffs again, and then begins to scratch at the ground with
her forepaws. She has discovered yet another land mine
buried a few inches underground. After a brief break for a
bit of banana and a pat or two from her handler, she scur-
ries off again to find more land mines.

• In the middle of a winter night, Adrian Cole—4 years old and
three feet tall—put on his jacket and boots and drove his
mother’s car to a nearby video store. When he found the
store closed, he drove back home. Since he was driving
very slowly with the lights off and was also weaving a bit, he
understandably attracted the attention of police officers
who followed him. When he got home, he collided with two
parked cars and then backed into the police cruiser! When
the police asked him how he learned to drive, he explained
that his mother would put him on her lap while she drove
and he just watched what she did.

• “I just can’t stand to eat shrimp. I don’t like the smell of it, or
the sight of it. Once when I young, I had some for dinner
while vacationing at the beach and it made me sick for the
rest of the week. Now just the thought of it disgusts me.”

The common element in all these stories—and the topic of
this chapter—is learning. Although most people associate
learning with classrooms and studying for tests, psychologists

What do the following anecdotes have in common?







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

156 Chapter 5

learning The process by which experience or
practice results in a relatively permanent change
in behavior or potential behavior.

classical (or Pavlovian) conditioning The
type of learning in which a response naturally
elicited by one stimulus comes to be elicited by
a different, formerly neutral, stimulus.

unconditioned stimulus (US) A stimulus that
invariably causes an organism to respond in a
specific way.

unconditioned response (UR) A response that
takes place in an organism whenever an
unconditioned stimulus occurs.

conditioned stimulus (CS) An originally
neutral stimulus that is paired with an
unconditioned stimulus and eventually
produces the desired response in an organism
when presented alone.

conditioned response (CR) After conditioning,
the response an organism produces when a
conditioned stimulus is presented.

Figure 5–


Pavlov’s apparatus for classically conditioning a dog to salivate.
The experimenter sits behind a one-way mirror and controls the presentation of the conditioned
stimulus (touch applied to the leg) and the unconditioned stimulus (food). A tube runs from the dog’s
salivary glands to a vial, where the drops of saliva are collected as a way of measuring the strength
of the dog’s response.

To answer this question, Pavlov sounded a bell just before presenting his dogs with
food. A ringing bell does not usually make a dog’s mouth water, but after hearing the bell
many times right before getting fed, Pavlov’s dogs began to salivate as soon as the bell rang.
It was as if they had learned that the bell signaled the appearance of food; and their mouths
watered on cue even if no food followed. The dogs had been conditioned to salivate in
response to a new stimulus: the bell, which normally would not prompt salivation (Pavlov,
1927). Figure 5–1 shows one of Pavlov’s procedures in which the bell has been replaced by
a touch to the dog’s leg just before food is given.

Elements of Classical Conditioning
How might you classically condition a pet?

Figure 5–2 diagrams the four basic elements in classical conditioning: the unconditioned
stimulus, the unconditioned response, the conditioned stimulus, and the conditioned
response. The unconditioned stimulus (US) is an event that automatically elicits a certain
reflex reaction, which is the unconditioned response (UR). In Pavlov’s studies, food in the
mouth was the unconditioned stimulus, and salivation to it was the unconditioned
response. The third element in classical conditioning, the conditioned stimulus (CS), is an
event that is repeatedly paired with the unconditioned stimulus. For a conditioned stimu-
lus, Pavlov often used a bell. At first, the conditioned stimulus does not elicit the desired
response. But eventually, after repeatedly being paired with the unconditioned stimulus,
the conditioned stimulus alone comes to trigger a reaction similar to the unconditioned
response. This learned reaction is the conditioned response (CR).



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

Learning 157

Classical conditioning has been demonstrated in virtually every animal species, even
cockroaches, bees, and sheep (Abramson & Aquino, 2002; Johnson, Stanton, Goodlett, &
Cudd, 2008; Krasne & Glanzman, 1995; Watanabe, Kobayashi, Sakura, Matsumoto, &
Mizunami, 2003; Watanabe & Mizunami, 2006). You yourself may have inadvertently clas-
sically conditioned one of your pets. For instance, you may have noticed that your cat
begins to purr when it hears the sound of the electric can opener running. For a cat, the
taste and smell of food are unconditioned stimuli for a purring response. By repeatedly
pairing the can opener whirring with the delivery of food, you have turned this sound into
a conditioned stimulus that triggers a conditioned response.

Establishing a Classically Conditioned Response
If you once burned your finger on a match while listening to a certain song,
why doesn’t that song now make you reflexively jerk your hand away?

As shown in Figure 5–3, it generally takes repeated pairings of an unconditioned stimulus
and a cue before the unconditioned response eventually becomes a conditioned response.
The likelihood or strength of the conditioned response increases each time these two stim-
uli are paired. This learning, however, eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns.
The amount of each increase gradually becomes smaller, until
finally no further learning occurs. The conditioned response is now
fully established.

It is fortunate that repeated pairings are usually needed for clas-
sical conditioning to take place (Barry Schwartz, 1989). There are
always a lot of environmental stimuli present whenever an uncondi-
tioned stimulus triggers an unconditioned response. If conditioning
occurred on the basis of single pairings, all these usually irrelevant
stimuli would generate some type of CR. Soon we would be over-
whelmed by learned associations. Because a number of pairings are
usually needed to produce a conditioned response, only a cue con-
sistently related to the unconditioned stimulus typically becomes a
conditioned stimulus.






f C


Number of trials

Figure 5–


Response acquisition.
At first, each pairing of the US and CS increases
the strength of the response. After a number of
trials, learning begins to level off; and eventually
it reaches a point of diminishing returns.









(Food) (Salivation)


(Bell) (Salivation)

Before conditioning

During conditioning

After conditioning


Followed by

Figure 5–2
A model of the classical conditioning






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

158 Chapter 5

desensitization therapy A conditioning
technique designed to gradually reduce anxiety
about a particular object or situation.

Desensitization therapy is based on the belief
that we can overcome fears by learning to
remain calm in the face of increasingly fear-
arousing situations. Here people being
desensitized to a fear of heights are able
to swing high above the ground without

The spacing of pairings is also important in establishing a classically conditioned
response. If pairings of the CS and US follow each other very rapidly, or if they are very far
apart, learning the association is slower. If the spacing of pairings is moderate—neither
too far apart nor too close together—learning occurs more quickly. It is also important
that the CS and US rarely, if ever, occur alone. Pairing the CS and US only once in a while,
called intermittent pairing, reduces both the rate of learning and the final strength of the
learned response.

Classical Conditioning in Humans
What is an example of classical conditioning in your own life?

Classical conditioning is as common in humans as it is in other animals. For example, some
people learn phobias through classical conditioning. Phobias are intense, irrational fears of
particular things or situations, such as spiders or flying. In Chapter 1, we discussed the
study in which John Watson and his assistant, Rosalie Rayner, used classical conditioning to
instill a phobia of white rats in a 1-year-old baby named Little Albert (J. B. Watson &
Rayner, 1920). They started by pairing a loud noise (an unconditioned stimulus) with the
sight of a rat. After a few pairings of the rat and the frightening noise, Albert would cry in
fear at the sight of the rat alone.

Several years later, psychologist Mary Cover Jones demonstrated a way that fears can
be unlearned by means of classical conditioning (M. C. Jones, 1924). Her subject was a 3-
year-old boy named Peter who, like Albert, had a fear of white rats. Jones paired the sight
of a rat with an intrinsically pleasant experience—eating candy. While Peter sat alone in
a room, a caged white rat was brought in and placed far enough away so that the boy
would not be frightened. At this point, Peter was given candy to eat. On each successive
day, the cage was moved closer, after which, Peter was given candy. Eventually, he showed
no fear of the rat, even without any candy. By being repeatedly paired with a stimulus
that evoked a pleasant emotional response, the rat had become a conditioned stimulus
for pleasure.

In more recent times, psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe (1915–1997) adapted Jones’s method
to the treatment of certain kinds of anxiety (Wolpe, 1973, 1990). Wolpe reasoned that
because irrational fears are learned (conditioned), they could also be unlearned through
conditioning. He noted that it is not possible to be both fearful and relaxed at the same
time. Therefore, if people could be taught to relax in fearful or anxious situations, their
anxiety should disappear. Wolpe’s desensitization therapy begins by teaching a system of
deep-muscle relaxation. Then the person constructs a list of situations that prompt various
degrees of fear or anxiety, from intensely frightening to only mildly so. A person with a fear
of heights, for example, might construct a list that begins with standing on the edge of the
Grand Canyon and ends with climbing two rungs on a ladder. While deeply relaxed, the
person imagines the least distressing situation on the list first. If he or she succeeds in
remaining relaxed, the person proceeds to the next item on the list, and so on until no anx-
iety is felt. In this way, classical conditioning is used to change an undesired reaction: A
fear-arousing thought is repeatedly paired with a muscular state that produces calmness
until eventually the formerly fearful thought no longer triggers anxiety. Desensitization
therapy has been used successfully to treat a variety of disorders such as phobias and post-
traumatic stress disorder (Morris, Kratochwill, Schoenfield, & Auster, 2008; S. M. Silver,
Rogers, & Russell, 2008). More recently, desensitization therapy has taken on a new form
using virtual reality simulation. For instance, a person with a fear of flying may learn to
relax while in a flight simulator rather than actually aboard an airplane. Therapy using vir-
tual reality desensitization is still in its infancy, but the early results are promising (Parsons
& Rizzo, 2008).

intermittent pairing Pairing the conditioned
stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus on
only a portion of the learning trials.

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

Learning 159

preparedness A biological readiness to learn
certain associations because of their survival

conditioned taste aversion Conditioned
avoidance of certain foods even if there is only
one pairing of conditioned and
unconditioned stimuli.

Classical Conditioning Is Selective
Why are people more likely to develop a phobia of snakes than of flowers?

If people can develop phobias through classical conditioning, why don’t we acquire phobias
of virtually everything that is paired with harm? For example, many people get shocks from
electric sockets, but almost no one develops a socket phobia. Why should this be the case?

Psychologist Martin Seligman (1971) has offered an answer: The key, he says, lies in the
concept of preparedness. Some things readily become conditioned stimuli for fear
responses because we are biologically prepared to learn those associations. Among the
common objects of phobias are heights, snakes, and the dark. In our evolutionary past, fear
of these potential dangers probably offered a survival advantage, and so a readiness to form
such fears may have become “wired into” our species.

Preparedness also underlies conditioned taste aversion, a learned association between
the taste of a certain food and a feeling of nausea and revulsion. Conditioned taste aver-
sions are acquired very quickly. It usually takes only one pairing of a distinctive flavor and
subsequent illness to develop a learned aversion to the taste of that food. Readily learning
connections between distinctive flavors and illness has clear benefits. If we can quickly
learn which foods are poisonous and avoid those foods in the future, we greatly increase
our chances of survival. Other animals with a well-developed sense of taste, such as rats and
mice, also readily develop conditioned taste aversions, just as humans do (Chester,
Lumeng, Li, & Grahame, 2003; Guitton, Klin, & Dudai, 2008).

Mind–Body Classical Conditioning and the Immune System
In another example of classical conditioning in humans, researchers have devised a novel
way to treat autoimmune disorders, which cause the immune system to attack healthy
organs or tissues. Although powerful drugs can be used to suppress the immune system
and thus reduce the impact of the autoimmune disorder, these drugs often have dangerous
side effects, so they must be administered sparingly. The challenge, then, was to find a treat-
ment that could suppress the immune system without damaging vital organs. Researchers
discovered that they could use formerly neutral stimuli either to increase or to suppress the
activity of the immune system (Hollis, 1997; Markovic, Dimitrijevic, & Jankovic, 1993).
Here’s how it works: As US, the researchers use immune-suppressing drugs and pair them
with a specific CS, such as a distinctive smell or taste. After only a few pairings of the drug
(US) with the smell or taste (CS), the CS alone suppresses the immune system (the CR)
without any dangerous side effects! In this case, classical conditioning works on the mind
but ultimately affects the body. While the use of classical conditioning to treat autoimmune
disorders shows promise, additional research is still necessary to validate its effectiveness
and evaluate its potential application as a therapy to treat these disorders (Bovbjerg, 2003;
Gregory Miller & Cohen, 2001). ■

Nature–Nurture The Evolutionary Basis of Fear
To what extent does our evolutionary heritage condition our fears; and to what extent are
fears the result of our experiences? Recent studies suggest that the two work in tandem
(Mineka & Oehman, 2002). For example, some stimuli unrelated to human survival
through evolution, but which we have learned to associate with danger, can serve as CSs for

A bird’s nervous system is adapted to remem-
ber sight–illness combinations, such as the
distinctive color of a certain berry and subse-
quent food poisoning. In mammals, by con-
trast, taste–illness combinations are quickly
and powerfully learned.

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

fear responses. Pictures of handguns and butcher knives, for example, are as effective as pic-
tures of snakes and spiders in conditioning fear in some people (Lovibond, Siddle, & Bond,
1993). These studies suggest that preparedness may be the result of learning rather than
evolution. Other studies have shown that people who do not suffer from phobias can rather
quickly unlearn fear responses to spiders and snakes if those stimuli appear repeatedly
without painful or threatening USs (Honeybourne, Matchett, & Davey, 1993). Thus, even if
humans are prepared to fear these things, that fear can be overcome through conditioning.
In other words, our evolutionary history and our personal learning histories interact to
increase or decrease the likelihood that certain kinds of conditioning will occur. ■

160 Chapter 5

How are operant behaviors different from the responses involved in
classical conditioning?

Around the turn of the 20th century, while Pavlov was busy with his dogs, the American
psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike (1874–1949) was using a “puzzle box,” or simple
wooden cage, to study how cats learn (Thorndike, 1898). As illustrated in Figure 5–4,

___ unconditioned stimulus a. bell
___ unconditioned response b. food
___ conditioned stimulus c. salivating to bell
___ conditioned response d. salivating to food


1. The simplest type of learning is called ____________ ____________. It refers to the
establishment of fairly predictable behavior in the presence of well-defined stimuli.

2. Match the following in Pavlov’s experiment with dogs:

3. The intense, irrational fears that we call phobias can be learned through classical
conditioning. Is this statement true (T) or false (F)?

4. A learned association between the taste of a certain food and a feeling of nausea is called
____________ ____________ ____________.

5. Teaching someone to relax even when he or she encounters a distressing situation is called
____________ ____________.

6. In the experiment with Little Albert, the unconditioned stimulus was __________

Answers:1. classical conditioning.2. unconditioned stimulus—b; unconditioned
response—d; conditioned stimulus—a; conditioned response—c.3. T.4. conditioned taste
aversion.5. desensitization therapy.6. loud noises.


1. Which of the following are examples of classical conditioning?
a. eating when not hungry just because we know it is lunchtime
b. a specific smell triggering a bad memory
c. a cat running into the kitchen to the sound of a can opener
d. All of the above are examples of classical conditioning.

2. You feel nauseated when you read about sea scallops on a restaurant menu, because you
once had a bad episode with some scallops that made you sick. For you in this situation,
the menu description of the scallops is the

a. US.
b. CS.
c. CR.

Answers:1. d.2. b.

Seligman’s theory of preparedness argues
that we are biologically prepared to associ-
ate certain stimuli, such as heights, the dark,
and snakes, with fear responses. In our evo-
lutionary past, fear of these potential dangers
probably offered a survival advantage.

• Explain how operant conditioning

differs from classical conditioning.
• Explain the law of effect (the principle

of reinforcement) and the role of
reinforcers, punishers, and shaping in
establishing an operantly conditioned
response. Differentiate between
positive reinforcers, negative
reinforcers, and punishment. Explain
the circumstances under which
punishment can be effective and the
drawbacks to using punishment.

• Explain what is meant by learned

• Describe how biofeedback and
neurofeedback can be used to change

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Learning 161

Thorndike confined a hungry cat in the puzzle box, with food just outside where the cat
could see and smell it. To get to the food, the cat had to figure out how to open the latch on
the box door, a process that Thorndike timed. In the beginning, it took the cat quite a while
to discover how to open the door. But on each trial, it took the cat less time, until eventually
it could escape from the box in almost no time at all. Thorndike was a pioneer in studying
the kind of learning that involves making a certain response due to the consequences it
brings. This form of learning has come to be called operant or instrumental conditioning.
The pouched rat described at the opening of this chapter learned to find land mines
through operant conditioning.

Elements of Operant Conditioning
What two essential elements are involved in operant conditioning?

One essential element in operant conditioning is emitted behavior. This is one way in which
operant conditioning is different from classical conditioning. In classical conditioning, a
response is automatically triggered by some stimulus, such as a loud noise automatically
triggering fear. In this sense, classical conditioning is passive in that the behaviors are
elicited by stimuli. However, this process is not true of the behaviors involved in operant
conditioning. Thorndike’s cats spontaneously tried to undo the latch on the door of the box.
You spontaneously wave your hand to signal a taxi to stop. You voluntarily put money into
machines to obtain food. These and similar actions are called operant behaviors because
they involve “operating” on the environment.

A second essential element in operant conditioning is a consequence following a behav-
ior. Thorndike’s cats gained freedom and a piece of fish for escaping from the puzzle boxes.
Consequences like this one, which increase the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated,
are called reinforcers. In contrast, consequences that decrease the chances that a behavior
will be repeated are called punishers. Imagine how Thorndike’s cats might have acted had
they been greeted by a large, snarling dog when they escaped from the puzzle boxes.
Thorndike summarized the influence of consequences in his law of effect: Behavior that
brings about a satisfying effect (reinforcement) is likely to be performed again, whereas

operant (or instrumental) conditioning The
type of learning in which behaviors are emitted
(in the presence of specific stimuli) to earn
rewards or avoid punishments.

operant behaviors Behaviors designed to
operate on the environment in a way that will
gain something desired or avoid something

reinforcers A stimuli that follows a behavior
and increases the likelihood that the behavior
will be repeated.

punishers Stimuli that follows a behavior and
decreases the likelihood that the behavior will
be repeated.

law of effect (principle of
reinforcement) Thorndike’s theory that
behavior consistently rewarded will be “stamped
in” as learned behavior, and behavior that brings
about discomfort will be “stamped out.”

5 252015
Number of trials









The cat can escape and be rewarded
with food by tripping the bolt on the door.

Cats learned to make the necessary response
more rapidly after an increasing numbers of trials.

Figure 5–


A cat in a Thorndike “puzzle box.”
The cat can escape and be rewarded with food by tripping the bolt on the door. As the graph shows,
Thorndike’s cats learned to make the necessary response more rapidly after an increasing number
of trials.

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162 Chapter 5

Figure 5–5
A rat in a Skinner box.
By pressing the bar, the rat releases food pellets
into the box; this procedure reinforces its bar-
pressing behavior.

behavior that brings about a negative effect (punishment) is likely
to be suppressed. Contemporary psychologists often refer to the
principle of reinforcement, rather than the law of effect, but the
two terms mean the same thing.

Establishing an Operantly
Conditioned Response

How might an animal trainer teach a tiger to jump through a
flaming hoop?

Because the behaviors involved in operant conditioning are voluntary ones, it
is not always easy to establish an operantly conditioned response. The desired

behavior must first be performed spontaneously in order for it to be rewarded
and strengthened. Sometimes you can simply wait for this action to happen.

Thorndike, for example, waited for his cats to trip the latch that opened the door to
his puzzle boxes. Then he rewarded them with fish.
But when there are many opportunities for making irrelevant responses, waiting can

be slow and tedious. If you were an animal trainer for a circus, imagine how long you
would have to wait for a tiger to decide to jump through a flaming hoop so you could
reward it. One way to speed up the process is to increase motivation. Even without food in
sight, a hungry animal is more active than a well-fed one and so is more likely, just by
chance, to make the response you’re looking for. Another strategy is to reduce opportuni-
ties for irrelevant responses, as Thorndike did by making his puzzle boxes small and bare.
Many researchers do the same thing by using Skinner boxes to train small animals in. A
Skinner box (named after B. F. Skinner, another pioneer in the study of operant condition-
ing), is a small cage with solid walls that is relatively empty, except for a food cup and an
activating device, such as a bar or a button. (See Figure 5–5.) In this simple environment, it
doesn’t take long for an animal to press the button that releases food into the cup, thereby
reinforcing the behavior.

Usually, however, the environment cannot be controlled so easily; hence a different
approach is called for. Another way to speed up operant conditioning is to reinforce succes-
sive approximations of the desired behavior. This approach is called shaping. To teach a
tiger to jump through a flaming hoop, the trainer might first reinforce the animal simply
for jumping up on a pedestal. After that behavior has been learned, the tiger might be rein-

forced only for leaping from that pedestal to
another. Next, the tiger might be required to jump
through a hoop between the pedestals to gain a
reward. And finally, the hoop is set on fire, and the
tiger must leap through it to be rewarded.

As in classical conditioning, the learning of an
operantly conditioned response eventually reaches
a point of diminishing returns. If you look back at
Figure 5–4, you’ll see that the first few reinforce-
ments produced quite large improvements in per-
formance, as indicated by the rapid drop in time
required to escape from the puzzle box. But each
successive reinforcement produced less of an effect
until, eventually, continued reinforcement brought
no evidence of further learning. After 25 trials, for
instance, Thorndike’s cats were escaping from the
box no more quickly than they had been after 15
trials. The operantly conditioned response had then
been fully established. Can operant conditioning

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Learning 163

positive reinforcers Events whose presence
increases the likelihood that ongoing behavior
will recur.

negative reinforcers Events whose reduction
or termination increases the likelihood that
ongoing behavior will recur.

influence human behavior? See “Applying Psychology: Modifying Your Behavior,” above, to
learn about how you can use operant conditioning to modify your own behavior.

Remember that the new, more desirable behavior need not be learned all at once. You
can use shaping or successive approximations to change your behavior bit by bit. A person
who wants to become more sociable might start by giving rewards just for sitting next to
another person in a classroom rather than picking an isolated seat. The person could then
work up to rewarding increasingly sociable behaviors, such as first saying hello to another
person, then striking up a conversation.

A Closer Look at Reinforcement
What is the difference between positive and negative reinforcement?
What are some of the unintentional effects that reinforcement can have?

We have been talking about reinforcement as if all reinforcers are alike, but in fact this is
not the case. Think about the kinds of consequences that would encourage you to perform
some behavior. Certainly these include consequences that give you something positive, like
praise, recognition, or money. But the removal of some negative stimulus is also a good
reinforcer of behavior. When new parents discover that rocking a baby will stop the infant’s
persistent crying, they sit down and rock the baby deep into the night; the removal of the
infant’s crying is a powerful reinforcer.

These examples show that there are two kinds of reinforcers. Positive reinforcers, such
as praise, add something rewarding to a situation, whereas negative reinforcers, such as

Skinner box A box often used in operant
conditioning of animals; it limits the available
responses and thus increases the likelihood that
the desired response will occur.

shaping Reinforcing successive approximations
to a desired behavior.

Modifying Your Own Behavior

Can you modify your own undesirablebehaviors by using operant condi-tioning techniques? Yes, but first you
must observe your own actions, think
about their implications, and plan a strat-
egy of intervention.

1. Begin by identifying the behavior you
want to acquire: This is called the
“target” behavior. You will be more
successful if you focus on acquiring a
new behavior rather than on elimi-
nating an existing one. For example,
instead of setting a target of being less
shy, you might define the target
behavior as becoming more outgoing
or more sociable.

2. The next step is defining the target
behavior precisely: What exactly do
you mean by “sociable”? Imagine sit-
uations in which the target behavior
could be performed. Then describe in
writing the way in which you now

respond to these situations. For
example, you might write, “When I
am sitting in a lecture hall, waiting
for class to begin, I don’t talk to the
people around me.” Next, write down
how you would rather act in that sit-
uation: “In a lecture hall before class,
I want to talk to at least one other
person. I might ask the person sitting
next to me how he or she likes the
class or the professor or simply com-
ment on some aspect of the course.”

3. The third step is monitoring your
present behavior: You may do so by
keeping a daily log of activities
related to the target behavior. This
will establish your current “base rate”
and give you something concrete
against which to gauge improve-
ments. At the same time, try to figure
out whether your present, undesir-
able behavior is being reinforced in
some way. For example, if you find

yourself unable to study, record what
you do instead (Get a snack? Watch
television?) and determine whether
you are inadvertently rewarding your
failure to study.

4. The next step—the basic principle of
self-modification—is providing your-
self with a positive reinforcer that is
contingent on specific improvements
in the target behavior: You may be
able to use the same reinforcer that
now maintains your undesirable
behavior, or you may want to pick a
new reinforcer. For example, if you
want to increase the amount of time
you spend studying, you might
reward yourself with a token for each
30 minutes of study. Then, if your
favorite pastime is watching movies,
you might charge yourself three
tokens for an hour of television,
whereas the privilege of going to a
movie might cost six.

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164 Chapter 5

punishment Any event whose presence
decreases the likelihood that ongoing behavior
will recur.

The use of punishment has potential draw-
backs. It cannot “unteach” unwanted behav-
ior, only suppress it. Punishment may also stir
up negative feelings in the person who is
punished or inadvertently provide a model of
aggressive behavior.

stopping an aversive noise, subtract something unpleasant. Animals will learn to press bars
and open doors not only to obtain food and water (positive reinforcement), but also to
turn off a loud buzzer or an electric shock (negative reinforcement).

Both positive and negative reinforcement results in the learning of new behaviors or
the strengthening of existing ones. Remember, in everyday conversation when we say that
we have “reinforced” something, we mean that we have strengthened it. Similarly, in oper-
ant conditioning, reinforcement—whether positive or negative—always strengthens or
encourages a behavior. A child might practice the piano because she or he receives praise
for practicing (positive reinforcement) or because it gives her or him a break from doing
tedious homework (negative reinforcement), but in either case the end result is a higher
incidence of piano playing.

But what if a particular behavior is just accidentally reinforced because it happens by
chance to be followed by some rewarding incident? Will the behavior still be more likely to
occur again? B. F. Skinner (1948) showed that the answer is yes. He put a pigeon in a Skin-
ner box and at random intervals dropped a few grains of food into the food cup. The
pigeon began repeating whatever it had been doing just before the food was given, such as
standing on one foot. This action had nothing to do with getting the food, of course. But
still the bird repeated it over and over again. Skinner called the bird’s behavior superstitious,
because it was learned in a way that is similar to how some human superstitions are learned
(Aeschleman, Rosen, & Williams, 2003). If you happen to be wearing an Albert Einstein T-
shirt when you get your first A on an exam, you may come to believe that wearing this shirt
was a factor. Even though the connection was pure coincidence, you may keep on wearing
your “lucky” shirt to every test thereafter.

In the case of forming superstitions, reinforcement has an illogical effect on behavior,
but that effect is generally harmless. Some psychologists believe that reinforcement can also
lead inadvertently to negative results. They believe that offering certain kinds of reinforcers
(candy, money, play time) for a task that could be intrinsically rewarding (that is, reinforc-
ing in and of itself) can undermine the intrinsic motivation to perform it. People may
begin to think that they are working only for the reward and lose enthusiasm for what they
are doing. They may no longer see their work as an intrinsically interesting challenge in
which to invest creative effort and strive for excellence. Instead, they may see work as a
chore that must be done to earn some tangible payoff. This warning can be applied to many
situations, such as offering tangible rewards to students for their work in the classroom, or
giving employees a “pay for performance” incentive to meet company goals (Kohn, 1993;
Rynes, Gerhart, & Parks, 2005).

Other psychologists, however, suggest that this concern about tangible reinforcers may
be exaggerated. Although the use of rewards may sometimes produce negative outcomes,
this is not always the case (Cameron, Banko, & Pierce, 2001). In fact, one extensive review
of more than 100 studies showed that when used appropriately, rewards do not compro-
mise intrinsic motivation, and under some circumstances, they may even help to encourage
creativity (Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996; Selarta, Nordström, Kuvaas, & Takemura, 2008).
For example, research has shown that rewarding highly creative behavior on one task often
enhances subsequent creativity on other tasks (Eisenberger & Rhoades, 2001).

What problems can punishment create?

Although we all hate to be subjected to it, punishment is a powerful controller of behavior.
After receiving a heavy fine for failing to report extra income to the IRS, we are less likely to
make that mistake again. In this case, an unpleasant consequence reduces the likelihood
that we will repeat a behavior. This is the definition of punishment.

Punishment is different from negative reinforcement. Reinforcement of whatever kind
strengthens (reinforces) behavior. Negative reinforcement strengthens behavior by remov-
ing something unpleasant from the environment. In contrast, punishment adds something
unpleasant to the environment; and as a result, it tends to weaken the behavior that caused

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Learning 165

it. If going skiing during the weekend rather than
studying for a test results in getting an F, the F is an
unpleasant consequence (a punisher) that makes you
less likely to skip homework for ski time again.

Is punishment effective? We can all think of
instances when it doesn’t seem to work. Children
often continue to misbehave even after they have
been punished repeatedly for that particular misbe-
havior. Some drivers persist in driving recklessly
despite repeated fines. Why are there these seeming
exceptions to the law of effect? Why, in these cases,
isn’t punishment having the result it is supposed to?

For punishment to be effective, it must be
imposed properly (Gershoff, 2002). First, punish-
ment should be swift. If it is delayed, it doesn’t work
as well. Sending a misbehaving child immediately to a
time-out seat (even when it is not convenient to do
so) is much more effective than waiting for a “better”
time to punish. Punishment should also be sufficient without being cruel. If a parent briefly
scolds a child for hitting other children, the effect will probably be less pronounced than if
the child is sent to his or her room for the day. At the same time, punishment should be
consistent. It should be imposed for all infractions of a rule, not just for some.

Punishment is particularly useful in situations in which a behavior is dangerous and
must be changed quickly. A child who likes to poke things into electric outlets, or runs out
into a busy street must be stopped immediately, so punishment may be the best course of
action. But even in situations like these, punishment has drawbacks (Gershoff, 2002; B. F.
Skinner, 1953).

Punishment Cannot Unteach Unwanted Behaviors First, it only suppresses the
undesired behavior; it doesn’t prompt someone to “unlearn” the behavior, and it doesn’t
teach a more desirable one. If the threat of punishment is removed, the negative behavior is
likely to recur. This result is apparent on the highway. Speeders slow down when they see a
police car (the threat of punishment), but speed up again as soon as the threat is passed.
Punishment, then, rarely works when long-term changes in behavior are wanted (Pogarsky
& Piquero, 2003).

Punishment Can Backfire Second, punishment often stirs up negative feelings (frus-
tration, resentment, self-doubt), which can impede the learning of new, more desirable
behaviors. For example, when a child who is learning to read is scolded for every mispro-
nounced word, the child may become very frustrated and hesitant. This frustration and
doubt about ability can prompt more mispronunciations, which lead to more scolding. In
time, the negative feelings that punishment has caused can become so unpleasant that
the child may avoid reading altogether. In addition, some studies have shown that children
who frequently experience corporal punishment have a higher incidence of depression,
antisocial behavior, decreased self-control, and increased difficulty relating to their peers
(C. E. Leary, Kelley, Morrow, & Mikulka, 2008; Slessareva & Muraven, 2004).

Punishment Can Teach Aggression. A third drawback of punishment, when it is
harsh, is the unintended lesson that it teaches: Harsh punishment may encourage the
learner to copy that same harsh and aggressive behavior toward other people (Gershoff,
2002). In laboratory studies, monkeys that are harshly punished tend to attack other mon-
keys (Barry Schwartz, 1989). In addition, punishment often makes people angry, aggres-
sive, and hostile (Lansford et al., 2005; Mathurin, Gielen, & Lancaster, 2006).

Because of these drawbacks, punishment should be used carefully, and always together
with reinforcement of desirable behavior. Once a more desirable response is established,
punishment should be removed to reinforce negatively that new behavior. Positive rein-

Corporal Punishment

Some school systems still use some form of corporal punishment, such as pad-dling, for students who misbehave. The justification is that it is an effectivemethod of changing undesirable behavior, it develops a sense of personal
responsibility, it teaches self-discipline, and it helps develop moral character.

Based on what you now know about operant conditioning,

1. under what circumstances (if any) should corporal punishment be used
in schools?

2. what factors, besides the student’s immediate actions, should adults
consider before using corporal punishment?

3. what unintended consequences might arise from the use of corporal

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

166 Chapter 5

forcement (praise, rewards) should also be used to strengthen the desired behavior because
it teaches an alternative behavior to replace the punished one. Positive reinforcement also
makes the learning environment less threatening.

Sometimes, after punishment has been administered a few times, it needn’t be contin-
ued, because the mere threat of punishment is enough to induce the desired behavior. Psy-
chologists call it avoidance training, because the person is learning to avoid the possibility
of a punishing consequence. Avoidance training is responsible for many everyday behav-
iors. It has taught you to keep your hand away from a hot iron to avoid the punishment of
a burn. Avoidance training, however, doesn’t always work in our favor. For instance, a child
who has been repeatedly criticized for poor performance in math may learn to shun diffi-
cult math problems in order to avoid further punishment. Unfortunately, the child fails to
develop math skills and therefore fails to improve any innate capabilities, and so a vicious
cycle has set in. The avoidance must be unlearned through some positive experiences with
math in order for this cycle to be broken.

Diversity–Universality What Is Punishment?
We do not know whether something is reinforcing or punishing until we see whether it
increases or decreases the occurrence of a response. We might also assume that having to
work alone, rather than in a group of peers, would be punishing, but some children prefer
to work alone. Teachers must understand the children in their classes as individuals before
they decide how to reward or punish them. Similarly, what is reinforcing for people in one
culture might not have the same effect for people in other cultures.

In addition, an event or object might not be consistently rewarding or punishing over
time. So even if candy is initially reinforcing for some children, if they eat large amounts of
it, it can become neutral or even punishing. We must therefore be very careful in labeling
items or events as “reinforcers” or “punishers.” ■

Learned Helplessness
In what ways do some college students exhibit learned helplessness?

Have you ever met someone who has decided he will never be good at science? We have said
that through avoidance training, people learn to prevent themselves from being punished,
but what happens when such avoidance of punishment isn’t possible? The answer is often a
“giving-up” response that can generalize to other situations. This response is known as
learned helplessness.

Martin Seligman and his colleagues first studied learned helplessness in experiments
with dogs (Seligman & Maier, 1967). They placed two groups of dogs in chambers that
delivered a series of electric shocks to the dogs’ feet at random intervals. The dogs in the
control group could turn off (escape) the shock by pushing a panel with their nose. The
dogs in the experimental group could not turn off the shock—they were, in effect, helpless.
Next, both the experimental and the control animals were placed in a different situation,
one in which they could escape shock by jumping over a hurdle. A warning light always
came on 10 seconds before each 50-second shock was given. The dogs in the control group
quickly learned to jump the hurdle as soon as the warning light flashed, but the dogs in the
experimental group didn’t. These dogs, which had previously experienced unavoidable
shocks, didn’t even jump the hurdle after the shock started. They just lay there and accepted
the shocks. Also, many of these dogs were generally listless, suffered loss of appetite, and
displayed other symptoms associated with depression.

Many subsequent studies have shown that learned helplessness can occur both in ani-
mals and in humans (G. W. Evans & Stecker, 2004; C. Peterson, Maier, & Seligman, 1993b;

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avoidance training Learning a desirable
behavior to prevent the occurrence of
something unpleasant, such as punishment.

learned helplessness Failure to take steps to
avoid or escape from an unpleasant or aversive
stimulus that occurs as a result of previous
exposure to unavoidable painful stimuli.

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Learning 167

biofeedback A technique that uses monitoring
devices to provide precise information about
internal physiological processes, such as heart
rate or blood pressure, to teach people to gain
voluntary control over these functions.

neurofeedback A biofeedback technique that
monitors brain waves with the use of an EEG to
teach people to gain voluntary control over their
brain wave activity.

Overmier, 2002). Once established, the condition generalizes to new situations and can be
very persistent, even given evidence that an unpleasant circumstance can now be avoided
(C. Peterson, Maier, & Seligman, 1993a). For example, when faced with a series of unsolv-
able problems, a college student may eventually give up trying and make only halfhearted
efforts to solve new problems, even when the new problems are solvable. Moreover, success
in solving new problems has little effect on the person’s behavior. He or she continues to
make only halfhearted tries, as if never expecting any success at all. Similarly, children
raised in an abusive family, where punishment is unrelated to behavior, often develop a
feeling of helplessness (C. Peterson & Bossio, 1989). Even in relatively normal settings out-
side their home, they often appear listless, passive, and indifferent. They make little attempt
either to seek rewards or to avoid discomfort.

Shaping Behavioral Change Through Biofeedback
How can operant conditioning be used to control biological functions?

Patrick, an 8-year-old third grader, was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADD). He
was unable to attend to what was going on around him, was restless, and was unable to con-
centrate. An EEG showed increased numbers of slow brain waves. After a course of 40
training sessions using special computer equipment that allowed Patrick to monitor his
brain-wave activities, he learned how to produce more of the fast waves that are associated
with being calm and alert. As a result, Patrick became much more “clued in” to what was
going on around him and much less likely to become frustrated when things didn’t go his
way (Fitzgerald, 1999; Fuchs, Birbaumer, Lutzenberger, Gruzelier, & Kaiser, 2003; Monas-
tra, 2008).

When operant conditioning is used to control certain biological functions, such as
blood pressure, skin temperature or heart rate, it is referred to as biofeedback. Instruments
are used to measure particular biological responses—muscle contractions, blood pressure,
heart rate. Variations in the strength of the response
are reflected in signals, such as light or tones. By using
these signals, the person can learn to control the
response through shaping. For example, Patrick
learned to control his brain waves by controlling the
movement of a Superman icon on a computer screen.
When biofeedback is used to monitor and control
brain waves, as in Patrick’s case, it is referred to as
neurofeedback (Butnik, 2005).

Biofeedback and neurofeedback have become
well-established treatments for a number of medical
problems, including migraine headaches (Kropp,
Siniatchkin, & Gerber, 2005), hypertension (Rau,
Buehrer, & Weitkunat, 2003; Reineke, 2008), and
panic attacks (Meuret, Wilhelm, & Roth, 2004).
Biofeedback has also been used by athletes, musi-
cians, and other performers to control the anxiety
that can interfere with their performance.

Biofeedback treatment does have some draw-
backs. Learning the technique takes considerable
time, effort, patience, and discipline. And it does not
work for everyone. But it gives many patients control
of their treatment, a major advantage over other
treatment options, and it has achieved impressive
results in alleviating certain medical problems (Olton
& Noonberg, 1980).

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Assume for the moment that you are skeptical about the benefits ofbiofeedback and neurofeedback. What questions would you ask aboutresearch studies that claim to show they are beneficial? To get started,
refer back to Chapter 1 and the section on “Critical Thinking.”

1. What kind of evidence would you look for to support your skeptical posi-
tion? What kind of evidence would cause you to rethink your position?
Are you swayed by reports of single cases (such as Patrick) or would you
be more influenced by studies of large numbers of people? Would you be
interested in short-term effects, or would you want to see results over a
much longer period of time?

2. What assumptions would you need to watch out for? How would you
know whether biofeedback or neurofeedback really worked? (Remember
that you should be skeptical of self-reports.)

3. Might there be alternative explanations for the results of the research
you find? In other words, is it possible that something quite apart from
biofeedback or neurofeedback could explain the results?

4. Once you have formulated your position on the benefits of biofeedback or
neurofeedback, how would you avoid oversimplifying your conclusions?

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

168 Chapter 5

• Describe the importance of

contingencies in both operant and
classical conditioning.

• Differentiate between the four schedules
of reinforcement in operant conditioning
and their effect on learned behavior.

• Describe the processes of extinction,
spontaneous recovery, generalization,
and discrimination in classical and
operant conditioning.

• Explain what is meant by higher order
conditioning and differentiate between
primary and secondary reinforcers.


1. An event whose reduction or termination increases the likelihood that ongoing behavior will
recur is called ____________ reinforcement, whereas any event whose presence increases
the likelihood that ongoing behavior will recur is called ____________ reinforcement.

2. A type of learning that involves reinforcing the desired response is known as ____________

3. When a threat of punishment induces a change to more desirable behavior, it is called
____________ ____________.

4. Superstitious behavior can result when a behavior is rewarded by pure ____________.
5. Any stimulus that follows a behavior and decreases the likelihood that the behavior will be

repeated is called a ____________.
6. Which of the following problems may result from avoidance training?

a. A person may continue to avoid something that no longer needs to be avoided.
b. The effects of avoidance training tend to last for only a short time.
c. Avoidance training may produce latent learning.
d. Avoidance training tends to take effect when it is too late to make a difference in

avoiding the problem situation.

Answers:1. negative; positive.2. operant conditioning.3. avoidance training.
4. coincidence.5. punishment.6. a.


1. Imagine that you want to teach a child to make his or her bed. What kind of reinforcement
could you use to do that?

a. punishment
b. positive reinforcement
c. negative reinforcement
d. both (b) and (c) would work

2. You are hired to make a commercial for a company that manufactures dog food. They
want you to get a dog to run from a hallway closet, under a coffee table, around a sofa,
leap over a wagon, rush to the kitchen, and devour a bowl of dog food. The most effective
way to accomplish this task would be to

a. wait for this chain of events to happen and then use a reinforcer to increase the
likelihood that the behavior will occur again on demand.

b. use shaping.
c. teach the dog to discriminate between the various landmarks on its way to

the food.
d. hire a smart dog. Answers:1. d.2. b.

Can you think of any similarities between classical and operant

Despite the differences between classical and operant conditioning, these two forms of
learning have many things in common. First, they both involve the learning of associations.
In classical conditioning, it is a learned association between one stimulus and another,
whereas in operant conditioning, it is a learned association between some action and a
consequence. Second, the responses in both classical and operant conditioning are under
the control of stimuli in the environment. A classically conditioned fear might be triggered
by the sight of a white rat; an operantly conditioned jump might be cued by the flash of a
red light. In both cases, moreover, the learned responses to a cue can generalize to similar
stimuli. Third, neither classically nor operantly conditioned responses will last forever if

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Learning 169

contingency A reliable “if–then” relationship
between two events, such as a CS and a US.

blocking A process whereby prior conditioning
prevents conditioning to a second stimulus even
when the two stimuli are presented

they aren’t periodically renewed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are totally forgot-
ten, however. Even after you think that these responses have long vanished, either one can
suddenly reappear in the right situation. And fourth, in both kinds of learning—classical
and operant conditioning—new behaviors can build on previously established ones.

The Importance of Contingencies
How can changes in the timing of a conditioned stimulus lead to
unexpected learning? Why does intermittent reinforcement result in such
persistent behavior?

Because classical and operant conditioning are both forms of associative learning, they
both involve perceived contingencies. A contingency is a relationship in which one event
depends on another. Graduating from college is contingent on passing a certain number
of courses. In both classical and operant conditioning, perceived contingencies are very

Contingencies in Classical Conditioning In classical conditioning, a contingency
is perceived between the CS and the US. The CS comes to be viewed as a signal that the US
is about to happen. This is why, in classical conditioning, the CS not only must occur in
close proximity to the US, but also should precede the US and provide predictive informa-
tion about it (Rescorla, 1966, 1967, 1988).

Scientists once believed that no conditioning would occur if the CS followed the US;
this belief, however, turns out not to be entirely true. The explanation again lies in contin-
gency learning. Imagine a situation in which a tone (the CS) always follows a shock (the
US). This process is called backward conditioning. After a while, when the tone is sounded
alone, the learner will not show a conditioned fear response to it. After all, the tone has
never predicted that a shock is about to be given. But what the learner does show is a condi-
tioned relaxation response to the sound of the tone, because the tone has served as a signal
that the shock is over and will not occur again for some time. Again, we see the importance
of contingency learning: The learner responds to the tone on the basis of the information
that it gives about what will happen next.

Other studies similarly show that predictive information is crucial in establishing a
classically conditioned response. In one experiment with rats, for instance, a noise was
repeatedly paired with a brief electric shock until the noise soon became a conditioned
stimulus for a conditioned fear response (Kamin, 1969). Then a second stimulus—a
light—was added right before the noise. You might expect that the rat came to show a fear
of the light as well, because it, too, preceded the shock. But this is not what happened.
Apparently, the noise–shock contingency that the rat had already learned had a blocking
effect on learning that the light also predicted shock. Once the rat had learned that the
noise signaled the onset of shock, adding yet another cue (a light) provided no new predic-
tive information about the shock’s arrival, and so the rat learned to ignore the light
(Kruschke, 2003). Classical conditioning, then, occurs only when a stimulus tells the
learner something new or additional about the likelihood that a US will occur.

Contingencies in Operant Conditioning Contingencies also figure prominently
in operant conditioning. The learner must come to perceive a connection between per-
forming a certain voluntary action and receiving a certain reward or punishment. If no
contingency is perceived, there is no reason to increase or decrease the behavior.

But once a contingency is perceived, does it matter how often a consequence is actually
delivered? When it comes to rewards, the answer is yes. Fewer rewards are often better than
more. In the language of operant conditioning, partial or intermittent reinforcement results
in behavior that will persist longer than behavior learned by continuous reinforcement. Why
would this be the case? The answer has to do with expectations. When people receive only

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

170 Chapter 5

schedule of reinforcement In operant
conditioning, the rule for determining when
and how often reinforcers will be delivered.

fixed-interval schedule A reinforcement
schedule in which the correct response is
reinforced after a fixed length of time since the
last reinforcement.

variable-interval schedule A reinforcement
schedule in which the correct response is
reinforced after varying lengths of time
following the last reinforcement.


Continuous reinforcement
(reinforcement every time
the response is made)

Putting money in a parking meter to avoid getting a ticket.
Putting coins in a vending machine to get candy or soda.

Fixed-ratio schedule
(reinforcement after a fixed
number of responses)

Being paid on a piecework basis. In the garment industry, for
example, workers may be paid a fee per 100 dresses sewn.

Variable-ratio schedule
(reinforcement after a
varying number of

Playing a slot machine. The machine is programmed to pay off
after a certain number of responses have been made, but that
number keeps changing. This type of schedule creates a
steady rate of responding, because players know that if they
play long enough, they will win.
Sales commissions. You have to talk to many customers before
you make a sale, and you never know whether the next one will
buy. The number of sales calls you make, not how much time
passes, will determine when you are reinforced by a sale, and
the number of sales calls will vary.

Fixed-interval schedule
(reinforcement of first
response after a fixed
amount of time has passed)

You have an exam coming up, and as time goes by and you
haven’t studied, you have to make up for it all by a certain time,
and that means cramming.
Picking up a salary check, which you receive every week or
every 2 weeks.

Variable-interval response
(reinforcement of first
response after varying
amounts of time)

Surprise quizzes in a course cause a steady rate of studying
because you never know when they’ll occur; you have to be
prepared all the time.
Watching a football game; waiting for a touchdown. It could
happen anytime. If you leave the room, you may miss it, so you
have to keep watching continuously.

Source: From Landy, 1987, p. 212. Adapted by permission.

fixed-ratio schedule A reinforcement schedule
in which the correct response is reinforced after
a fixed number of correct responses.

variable-ratio schedule A reinforcement
schedule in which a varying number of correct
responses must occur before reinforcement is

extinction A decrease in the strength or
frequency, or stopping, of a learned response
because of failure to continue pairing the US
and CS (classical conditioning) or withholding
of reinforcement (operant conditioning).

occasional reinforcement, they learn not to expect reinforcement with every response, so
they continue responding in the hopes that eventually they will gain the desired reward.
Vending machines and slot machines illustrate these different effects of continuous versus
partial reinforcement. A vending machine offers continuous reinforcement. Each time you
put in the right amount of money, you get something desired in return (reinforcement). If
a vending machine is broken and you receive nothing for your coins, you are unlikely to put
more money in it. In contrast, a casino slot machine pays off intermittently; only occasion-
ally do you get something back for your investment. This intermittent payoff has a com-
pelling effect on behavior. You might continue putting coins into a slot machine for a very
long time even though you are getting nothing in return.

Psychologists refer to a pattern of reward payoffs as a schedule of reinforcement. Par-
tial or intermittent reinforcement schedules are either fixed or variable, and they may be
based on either the number of correct responses or the time elapsed between correct
responses. Table 5–1 gives some everyday examples of different reinforcement schedules.

On a fixed-interval schedule, learners are reinforced for the first response after a cer-
tain amount of time has passed since that response was previously rewarded. That is, they
have to wait for a set period before they will be reinforced again. With a fixed-interval
schedule, performance tends to fall off immediately after each reinforcement and then
tends to pick up again as the time for the next reinforcement draws near. For example,
when exams are given at fixed intervals—like midterms and finals—students tend to
decrease their studying right after one test is over and then increase studying as the next test
approaches. (See Figure 5–6.)

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Learning 171

The slot machine is a classic example of a
variable-ratio schedule of reinforcement. The
machine eventually pays off, but always after
a variable number of plays. Because people
keep hoping that the next play will be
rewarded, they maintain a high rate of
response over a long period of time.

A variable-interval schedule reinforces correct responses
after varying lengths of time following the last reinforcement.
One reinforcement might be given after 6 minutes and the next
after 4 minutes. The learner typically gives a slow, steady pattern
of responses, being careful not to be so slow as to miss all the
rewards. For example, if exams are given during a semester at
unpredictable intervals, students have to keep studying at a
steady rate, because on any given day there might be a test.

On a fixed-ratio schedule, a certain number of correct
responses must occur before reinforcement is provided, result-
ing in a high response rate, since making many responses in a
short time yields more rewards. Being paid on a piecework basis
is an example of a fixed-ratio schedule. Under a fixed-ratio
schedule, a brief pause after reinforcement is followed by a
rapid and steady response rate until the next reinforcement.
(See Figure 5–6.)

On a variable-ratio schedule, the number of correct
responses needed to gain reinforcement is not constant. The
casino slot machine is a good example of a variable-ratio sched-
ule. It will eventually pay off, but you have no idea when.
Because there is always a chance of hitting the jackpot, the
temptation to keep playing is great. Learners on a variable-ratio
schedule tend not to pause after reinforcement and have a high
rate of response over a long period of time. Because they never
know when reinforcement may come, they keep on testing for a

Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery
Can you ever get rid of a conditioned response? Under what
circumstances might old learned associations suddenly reappear?

Another factor shared by classical and operant conditioning is that learned responses
sometimes weaken and may even disappear. If a CS and a US are never paired again or if a
consequence always stops following a certain behavior, the learned association will begin to
fade until eventually the effects of prior learning are no longer seen. This outcome is called
extinction of a conditioned response.

Fixed Ratio Fixed Interval

Variable IntervalVariable Ratio















Figure 5–


Response patterns to schedules of
On a fixed-interval schedule, as the time for
reinforcement approaches, the number of
responses increases, and the slope becomes
steeper. On a variable-interval schedule, the
response rate is moderate and relatively con-
stant. Notice that each tick mark on the graph
represents one reinforcement. The fixed-ratio
schedule is characterized by a high rate of
response and a pause after each reinforcement.
A variable-ratio schedule produces a high rate
of response with little or no pause after each

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172 Chapter 5

Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery in
Classical Conditioning For an example of
extinction in classical conditioning, let’s go back to
Pavlov’s dogs, which had learned to salivate upon
hearing a bell. What would you predict happened
over time when the dogs heard the bell (the CS),
but food (the US) was no longer given? The condi-
tioned response to the bell—salivation—gradually
decreased until eventually it stopped altogether. The
dogs no longer salivated when they heard the bell.
Extinction had taken place.

Once such a response has been extinguished, is
the learning gone forever? Pavlov trained his dogs to
salivate when they heard a bell, then extinguished this
conditioned response. A few days later, the dogs were
exposed to the bell again in the laboratory setting. As
soon as they heard it, their mouths began to water.
The response that had been learned and then extin-
guished reappeared on its own with no retraining.

This phenomenon is known as spontaneous recov-
ery. The dogs’ response was now only about half as strong as it had been before extinction,
and it was very easy to extinguish a second time. Nevertheless, the fact that the response
occurred at all indicated that the original learning was not completely forgotten (see
Figure 5–7).

How can extinguished behavior disappear and then reappear later? According to Mark
Bouton (1993, 1994, 2002), the explanation is that extinction does not erase learning.
Rather, extinction occurs because new learning interferes with a previously learned
response. New stimuli in other settings come to be paired with the conditioned stimulus;
and these new stimuli may elicit responses different from (and sometimes incompatible
with) the original conditioned response. For example, if you take a break from watching
the latest horror movies in theaters and instead watch reruns of classic horror films on tele-
vision, these classic films may seem so amateurish that they make you laugh rather than
scare you. Here you are learning to associate the scary music in such films with laughter,
which in effect opposes your original fear response. The result is interference and extinc-
tion. Spontaneous recovery consists of overcoming this interference. For instance, if you
return to the theater to see the latest Stephen King movie, the conditioned response of fear
to the scary music may suddenly reappear. It is as if the unconditioned stimulus of watching

CS–US paired CS alone Rest CS alone

Number of trials







Figure 5–7
Response acquisition and extinction in
classical conditioning.
From point A to point B, the conditioned stimulus
and the unconditioned stimulus were paired;
and learning increased steadily. From B to C,
however, the conditioned stimulus was pre-
sented alone. By point C, the response had been
extinguished. After a rest period from C to D,
spontaneous recovery occurred—the learned
response reappeared at about half the strength
that it had at point B. When the conditioned
stimulus was again presented alone, the
response extinguished rapidly (point E).

Reinforcement Schedules

Think about how you could apply the principles of behavioral learning to1. design the ideal slot machine–one that would keep people playing overand over again, even though they won very little money.
2. design a reward system for a fifth-grade class that would result in both

effort at schoolwork and in good behavior.
3. design an ideal lottery or mail-in contest.
4. design an ideal payment system for salespeople (you may include both

salary and commission).

For each type of reward system, think about what the reinforcers should be,
what contingencies are operating, and what behaviors you want to elicit. Also
think about how you would demonstrate to a skeptic that your procedures have
actually resulted in a change in the desired direction.

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Learning 173

When reinforcement has been frequent, a
learned behavior tends to be retained even
after reinforcement is reduced. A dog “shak-
ing hands” is an excellent example. Many
previous rewards for this response tend to
keep the dog offering people its paw even
when no reward follows.

spontaneous recovery The reappearance of an
extinguished response after the passage of time,
without training.

“up-to-date” horror acts as a reminder of your earlier learning and renews your previous
classically conditioned response. Such “reminder” stimuli work particularly well when pre-
sented in the original conditioning setting.

Extinction and Spontaneous Recovery in Operant Conditioning Extinc-
tion and spontaneous recovery also occur in operant conditioning. In operant condition-
ing, extinction happens as a result of withholding reinforcement. The effect usually isn’t
immediate. In fact, when reinforcement is first discontinued, there is often a brief increase
in the strength or frequency of responding before a decline sets in. For instance, if you put
coins in a vending machine and it fails to deliver the goods, you may pull the lever more
forcefully and in rapid succession before you finally give up.

Just as in classical conditioning, extinction in operant conditioning doesn’t completely
erase what has been learned. Even though much time has passed since a behavior was last
rewarded and the behavior seems extinguished, it may suddenly reappear. This sponta-
neous recovery may again be understood in terms of interference from new behaviors. If a
rat is no longer reinforced for pressing a lever, it will start to engage in other behaviors—
turning away from the lever, attempting to escape, and so on. These new behaviors will
interfere with the operant response of lever pressing, causing it to extinguish. Spontaneous
recovery is a brief victory of the original learning over interfering responses. The rat
decides to give the previous “reward” lever one more try, as if testing again for a reward.

The difficulty of extinguishing an operantly conditioned response depends on a num-
ber of factors:

• Strength of the original learning. The stronger the original learning, the longer it takes
the response to extinguish. If you spend many hours training a puppy to sit on com-
mand, you will not need to reinforce this behavior very often once the dog grows up.

• Pattern of reinforcement. As you learned earlier, responses that were reinforced only
occasionally when acquired are usually more resistant to extinction than responses
that were reinforced every time they occurred.

• Variety of settings in which the original learning took place. The greater the variety
of settings, the harder it is to extinguish the response. Rats trained to run several dif-
ferent types of alleys in order to reach a food reward will keep running longer after
food is withdrawn than will rats trained in a single alley.

• Complexity of the behavior. Complex behavior is much more difficult to extinguish
than simple behavior is. Complex behavior consists of many actions put together, and
each of those actions must be extinguished in order for the whole to be extinguished.

• Learning through punishment versus reinforcement. Behaviors learned through
punishment rather than reinforcement are especially hard to extinguish. If you avoid
jogging down a particular street because a vicious dog there attacked you, you may
never venture down that street again, so your avoidance of the street may never

One way to speed up the extinction of an operantly conditioned response is to put the
learner in a situation that is different from the one in which the response was originally
learned. The response is likely to be weaker in the new situation, and therefore it will extin-
guish more quickly. Of course, when the learner is returned to the original learning setting
after extinction has occurred elsewhere, the response may undergo spontaneous recovery,
just as in classical conditioning. But now the response is likely to be weaker than it was ini-
tially, and it should be relatively easy to extinguish once and for all. You may have experi-
enced this phenomenon yourself when you returned home for the holidays after your first
semester in college. A habit that you thought you had outgrown at school may have sud-
denly reappeared. The home setting worked as a “reminder” stimulus, encouraging the
response, just as we mentioned when discussing classical conditioning. Because you have
already extinguished the habit in another setting, however, extinguishing it at home
shouldn’t be difficult.

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174 Chapter 5

stimulus control Control of conditioned
responses by cues or stimuli in the

stimulus generalization The transfer of a
learned response to different but similar stimuli.

stimulus discrimination Learning to respond
to only one stimulus and to inhibit the response
to all other stimuli.

response generalization Giving a response
that is somewhat different from the response
originally learned to that stimulus.

Stimulus Control, Generalization, and
How can anxiety about math in grade school affect a college student? Why
do people often slap the wrong card when playing a game of slapjack?

The home setting acting as a “reminder” stimulus is just one example of how conditioned
responses are influenced by surrounding cues in the environment. This outcome is called
stimulus control, and it occurs in both classical and operant conditioning. In classical con-
ditioning, the conditioned response (CR) is under the control of the conditioned stimulus
(CS) that triggers it. Salivation, for example, might be controlled by the sound of a bell. In
operant conditioning, the learned response is under the control of whatever stimuli come
to be associated with delivery of reward or punishment. A leap to avoid electric shock
might come under the control of a flashing light, for instance. In both classical and operant
conditioning, moreover, the learner may respond to cues that are merely similar (but not
identical) to the ones that prevailed during the original learning. This tendency to respond
to similar cues is known as stimulus generalization.

Generalization and Discrimination in Classical Conditioning There are
many examples of stimulus generalization in classical conditioning. One example is the
case of Little Albert, who was conditioned to fear white rats. When the experimenters later
showed him a white rabbit, he cried and tried to crawl away, even though he had not been
taught to fear rabbits. He also showed fear of other white, furry objects like cotton balls, a
fur coat, even a bearded Santa Claus mask. Little Albert had generalized his learned reac-
tions from rats to similar stimuli. In much the same way, a person who learned to feel anx-
ious over math tests in grade school might come to feel anxious about any task involving
numbers, even balancing a checkbook.

Stimulus generalization is not inevitable, however. Through a process called stimulus
discrimination, learners can be trained not to generalize, but rather to make a conditioned
response only to a single specific stimulus. This process involves presenting several similar
stimuli, only one of which is followed by the unconditioned stimulus. For instance, Albert
might have been shown a rat and other white, furry objects, but only the rat would be fol-
lowed by a loud noise (the US). Given this procedure, Albert would have learned to dis-
criminate the white rat from the other objects, and the fear response would not have
generalized as it did.

Learning to discriminate is essential in everyday life. We prefer for children to learn not
to fear every loud noise and every insect, but only those that are potentially harmful.
Through stimulus discrimination, behavior becomes more finely tuned to the demands of
our environment.

Generalization and Discrimination in Operant Conditioning Stimulus
generalization also occurs in operant conditioning. A baby who is hugged and kissed for
saying “Mama” when he sees his mother may begin to call everyone “Mama.” Although the
person whom the baby sees—the stimulus—changes, he responds with the same word.

In operant conditioning, responses, too, can be generalized, not just stimuli. For exam-
ple, the baby who calls everyone “Mama” may also call people “Nana.” His learning has gen-
eralized to other sounds that are similar to the correct response, “Mama.” This is called
response generalization. Response generalization doesn’t occur in classical conditioning.
If a dog is taught to salivate when it hears a high-pitched tone, it will salivate less when it
hears a low-pitched tone, but the response is still salivation.

Just as discrimination is useful in classical conditioning, it is also useful in operant
conditioning. Learning what to do has little value if you do not know when to do it. Learn-
ing that a response is triggered is pointless if you do not know which response is right. Dis-
crimination training in operant conditioning consists of reinforcing only a specific, desired
response and only in the presence of a specific stimulus. With this procedure, pigeons have
been trained to peck at a red disk, but not at a green one. First they are taught to peck at a

The skills a person learns in playing tennis
may also be utilized in such sports as
Ping-Pong, squash, and badminton. This is
an example of stimulus generalization in
operant conditioning.

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Learning 175

higher order conditioning Conditioning
based on previous learning; the conditioned
stimulus serves as an unconditioned stimulus
for further training.

primary reinforcers Reinforcers that are
rewarding in themselves, such as food, water,
or sex.

secondary reinforcers Reinforcers whose
value is acquired through association with other
primary or secondary reinforcers.

disk. Then they are presented with two disks, one red and one green. They get food when
they peck at the red one, but not when they peck at the green. Eventually they learn to dis-
criminate between the two colors, pecking only at the red.

New Learning Based on Original Learning
How might you build on a conditioned response to make an even more
complex form of learning? Why is money such a good reinforcer for
most people?

There are other ways, besides stimulus generalization and discrimination, that original
learning can serve as the basis for new learning. In classical conditioning, an existing condi-
tioned stimulus can be paired with a new stimulus to produce a new conditioned response.
This is called higher order conditioning. In operant conditioning, objects that have no
intrinsic value can nevertheless become reinforcers because of their association with other,
more basic reinforcers. These learned reinforcers are called secondary reinforcers.

Higher Order Conditioning Pavlov demonstrated higher order conditioning with
his dogs. After the dogs had learned to salivate when they heard a bell, Pavlov used the bell
(without food) to teach the dogs to salivate at the sight of a black square. Instead of show-
ing them the square and following it with food, he showed them the square and followed it
with the bell until the dogs learned to salivate when they saw the square alone. In effect, the
bell served as a substitute unconditioned stimulus, and the black square became a new con-
ditioned stimulus. This procedure is known as higher order conditioning not because it is
more complex than other types of conditioning or because it incorporates any new princi-
ples, but simply because it is conditioning based on previous learning.

Higher order conditioning is difficult to achieve because it is battling against extinc-
tion of the original conditioned response. The unconditioned stimulus no longer follows
the original conditioned stimulus and that is precisely the way to extinguish a classically
conditioned response. During higher order conditioning, Pavlov’s dogs were exposed to the
square followed by the bell, but no food was given. Thus, the square became a signal that
the bell would not precede food, and soon all salivation stopped. For higher order condi-
tioning to succeed, the unconditioned stimulus must be occasionally reintroduced. Food
must be given once in a while after the bell sounds so that the dogs will continue to salivate
when they hear the bell.

Secondary Reinforcers Some reinforcers, such as food, water, and sex, are intrinsi-
cally rewarding in and of themselves. These are called primary reinforcers. No prior learn-
ing is required to make them reinforcing. Other reinforcers have no intrinsic value. They
have acquired value only through association with primary reinforcers. These are the
secondary reinforcers we mentioned earlier. They are called secondary not because they
are less important, but because prior learning is needed before they will function as rein-
forcers. Suppose a rat learns to get food by pressing a bar; then a buzzer is sounded every
time food drops into the dish. Even if the rat stops getting the food, it will continue to press
the bar for a while just to hear the buzzer. Although the buzzer by itself has no intrinsic
value to the rat, it has become a secondary reinforcer through association with food, a pri-
mary reinforcer.

Note how, in creating a secondary reinforcer, classical conditioning is involved.
Because it has been paired with an intrinsically pleasurable stimulus, a formerly neutral
stimulus comes to elicit pleasure, too. This stimulus can then serve as a reinforcer to estab-
lish an operantly conditioned response.

For humans, money is one of the best examples of a secondary reinforcer. Although
money is just paper or metal, through its exchange value for primary reinforcers, it
becomes a powerful reinforcer. Children come to value money only after they learn that it
will buy such things as candy (a primary reinforcer). Then the money becomes a secondary

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176 Chapter 5

reinforcer. And through the principles of higher order conditioning, stimuli paired with a
secondary reinforcer can acquire reinforcing properties. Checks and credit cards, for exam-
ple, are one step removed from money, but they can also be highly reinforcing.

Summing Up
Does operant conditioning ever look like classical conditioning?

Classical and operant conditioning both entail forming associations between stimuli and
responses, and perceiving contingencies between one event and another. Both are subject
to extinction and spontaneous recovery, as well as to stimulus control, generalization, and
discrimination. The main difference between the two is that in classical conditioning, the
learner is passive and the behavior involved is usually involuntary, whereas in operant con-
ditioning, the learner is active and the behavior involved is usually voluntary.


1. After extinction and a period of rest, a conditioned response may suddenly reappear. This
phenomenon is called ____________ ____________.

2. The process by which a learned response to a specific stimulus comes to be associated with
different, but similar stimuli is known as ____________ ____________.

3. Classify the following as primary (P) or secondary (S) reinforcers.
a. food ____________
b. money ____________
c. college diploma ____________
d. sex ____________

Answers:1. spontaneous recovery.2. stimulus generalization.3. a. (P); b. (S); c. (S); d. (P).


1. On the first day of class, your instructor tells you that there will be unscheduled quizzes
on average about every 2 weeks throughout the term, but not exactly every 2 weeks. This
is an example of a ____________ reinforcement schedule.

a. continuous
b. fixed-interval
c. fixed-ratio
d. variable-interval

2. In the situation in question 1, what study pattern is the instructor most likely trying to

a. slow, steady rates of studying
b. cramming the night before quizzes
c. studying a lot right before quizzes, then stopping for a while right after them

Answers:1. d.2. a.

How would you study the kind of learning that occurs when you memorize
the layout of a building?

Some psychologists insist that because classical and operant conditioning can be observed
and measured, they are the only legitimate kinds of learning to study scientifically. But oth-
ers contend that mental activities are crucial to learning and so can’t be ignored. How do
you grasp the layout of a building from someone else’s description of it? How do you enter

• Define cognitive learning and how it

can be inferred from evidence of latent
learning and cognitive maps.

• Explain what is meant by insight and its
relation to learning sets.

• Explain the process of observational
(vicarious) learning and the conditions
under which it is most likely to be
reflected in behavior.

• Give examples of cognitive learning in

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Learning 177

cognitive learning Learning that depends on
mental processes that are not directly

latent learning Learning that is not
immediately reflected in a behavior change.

cognitive map A learned mental image of a
spatial environment that may be called on to
solve problems when stimuli in the
environment change.

into memory abstract concepts like conditioning and reinforcement? You do all these things
and many others through cognitive learning—the mental processes that go on inside us
when we learn. Cognitive learning is impossible to observe and measure directly, but it can
be inferred from behavior, and so it is also a legitimate topic for scientific study.

Latent Learning and Cognitive Maps
Did you learn your way around campus solely through operant conditioning
(rewards for correct turns, punishments for wrong ones), or was
something more involved?

Interest in cognitive learning began shortly after the earliest work in classical and operant
conditioning (Eichenbaum & Cohen, 2001). In the 1930s, Edward Chace Tolman, one of
the pioneers in the study of cognitive learning, argued that we do not need to show our
learning in order for learning to have occurred. Tolman called learning that isn’t apparent
because it is not yet demonstrated latent learning.

Tolman studied latent learning in a famous experiment (Tolman & Honzik, 1930).
Two groups of hungry rats were placed in a maze and allowed to find their way from a start
box to an end box. The first group found food pellets (a reward) in the end box; the second
group found nothing there. According to the principles of operant conditioning, the first
group would learn the maze better than the second group—which is, indeed, what hap-
pened. But when Tolman took some of the rats from the second, unreinforced group and
started to give them food at the goal box, almost immediately they ran the maze as well as
the rats in the first group. (See Figure 5–8.) Tolman argued that the unrewarded rats had
actually learned a great deal about the maze as they wandered around inside it. In fact, they
may have even learned more about it than the rats that had been trained with food rewards,
but their learning was latent—stored internally, but not yet reflected in their behavior. It
was not until they were given a motivation to run the maze that they put their latent learn-
ing to use.

Since Tolman’s time, much work has been done on the nature of latent learning
regarding spatial layouts and relationships. From studies of how animals or humans find
their way around a maze, a building, or a neighborhood with many available routes, psy-
chologists have proposed that this kind of learning is stored in the form of a mental image,
or cognitive map. When the proper time comes, the learner
can call up the stored image and put it to use.

In response to Tolman’s theory of latent learning,
Thorndike proposed an experiment to test whether a rat could
learn to run a maze and store a cognitive image of the maze
without experiencing the maze firsthand. He envisioned
researchers carrying each rat through the maze in a small wire-
mesh container and then rewarding the rat at the end of each
trial as if it had run the maze itself. He predicted that the rat
would show little or no evidence of learning as compared with
rats that had learned the same maze on their own through trial
and error. Neither he nor Tolman ever conducted the experi-

Two decades later, however, researchers at the University
of Kansas did carry out Thorndike’s idea (McNamara, Long, &
Wike, 1956). But instead of taking the passive rats through the
“correct” path, they carried them over the same path that a
free-running rat had taken in that maze. Contrary to
Thorndike’s prediction, the passenger rats learned the maze
just as well as the free-running rats. They did, however, need
visual cues to learn the maze’s layout. If carried through the
maze only in the dark, they later showed little latent learning.

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Group A

Group B
Group C

2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16








Figure 5–8
Graph showing the results of the Tolman
and Honzik study.
The results of the classic Tolman and Honzik
study are revealed in the graph. Group A never
received a food reward. Group B was rewarded
each day. Group C was not rewarded until the
11th day, but note the significant change in the
rats’ behavior on Day 12. The results suggest
that Group C had been learning all along,
although this learning was not reflected in their
performance until they were rewarded with
food for demonstrating the desired behaviors.
Source: Tolman & Honzik, 1930.

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178 Chapter 5

Köhler’s experiments with chimpanzees illus-
trate learning through insight. In this photo,
one of the chimps has arranged a stack of
boxes to reach bananas hanging from the
ceiling. Insights gained in this problem-solv-
ing situation may transfer to similar ones.

Stability–Change Human Insight
Insightful learning is particularly important in humans, who must learn not only where to
obtain food and how to escape from predators but also such complex ethical and cultural
ideas as the value of hard work, helping others, or overcoming addictions. In Chapter 7,
“Cognition and Mental Abilities,” we will explore the role of insight in creative problem
solving. As we will see, there are times when all other problem-solving techniques fail to
produce a solution; in such cases, it is not unusual for the solution to suddenly “pop up” in
a moment of insight (Novick & Sherman, 2003). Moreover, to the extent that people gain
insight into their own behavior, they should be capable of changing significantly over the
course of their lives (Bornstein & Masling, 1998). ■

insight Learning that occurs rapidly as a result
of understanding all the elements of a problem.

More recent research confirms this picture of cognitive spatial learning. Animals show
a great deal more flexibility in solving problems than can be explained by simple condi-
tioning (Collett & Graham, 2004). In experiments using rats in a radial maze, rats are able
to recall which arms of the maze contain food, even when scent cues are removed (Grand-
champ & Schenk, 2006). Moreover, when the configuration of the maze is repeatedly
changed, the rats not only quickly adapt but also remember previous maze configurations
(J. Tremblay & Cohen, 2005). Studies such as these suggest that the rats develop a cognitive
map of the maze’s layout (Save & Poucet, 2005). Even in rats, learning involves more than
just a new behavior “stamped in” through reinforcement. It also involves the formation of
new mental images and constructs that may be reflected in future behavior.

Insight and Learning Sets
Do you have a learning set for writing a term paper?

During World War I, the German Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Köhler conducted a classic
series of studies into another aspect of cognitive learning: sudden insight into a problem’s
solution. Outside a chimpanzee’s cage, Köhler placed a banana on the ground, not quite
within the animal’s reach. When the chimp realized that it couldn’t reach the banana, it
reacted with frustration. But then it started looking at what was in the cage, including a
stick left there by Köhler. Sometimes quite suddenly the chimp would grab the stick, poke
it through the bars of the cage, and drag the banana within reach. The same kind of sudden
insight occurred when the banana was hung from the roof of the cage, too high for the
chimp to grasp. This time the cage contained some boxes, which the chimp quickly learned
to stack up under the banana so that it could climb up to pull the fruit down. Subsequent
studies have shown that even pigeons under certain conditions can display insight (R.
Epstein, Kirshnit, Lanza, & Rubin, 1984; Aust & Huber, 2006).

Previous learning can often be used to help solve problems through insight. This was
demonstrated by Harry Harlow in a series of studies with rhesus monkeys (Harlow, 1949).
Harlow presented each monkey with two boxes—say, a round green box on the left side of
a tray and a square red box on the right side. A morsel of food was put under one of the
boxes. The monkey was permitted to lift just one box; if it chose the correct box, it got the
food. On the next trial, the food was put under the same box (which had been moved to a
new position), and the monkey again got to choose just one box. Each monkey had six tri-
als to figure out that the same box covered the food no matter where that box was located.
Then the monkeys were given a new set of choices—say, between a blue triangular box and
an orange oval one—and another six trials, and so on with other shapes and colors of
boxes. The solution was always the same: The food was invariably under only one of the
boxes. Initially the monkeys chose boxes randomly, sometimes finding the food, sometimes
not. After a while, however, their behavior changed: In just one or two trials, they would

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

Learning 179

observational (or vicarious) learning Learning
by observing other people’s behavior.

social learning theorists Psychologists whose
view of learning emphasizes the ability to learn
by observing a model or receiving instructions,
without firsthand experience by the learner.

learning set The ability to become increasingly
more effective in solving problems as more
problems are solved.

find the correct box, which they chose consistently thereafter until the experimenter
changed the boxes. They seemed to have learned the underlying principle—that the food
would always be under the same box—and they used that learning to solve almost instantly
each new set of choices given.

Harlow concluded that the monkeys “learned how to learn,” that is, they had estab-
lished a learning set regarding this problem: Within the limited range of choices available
to them, they had discovered how to tell which box would give the reward. Similarly, Köh-
ler’s chimps could be said to have established a learning set regarding how to get food that
was just out of reach. When presented with a new version of the problem, they simply
called upon past learning in a slightly different situation (reaching a banana on the ground
versus reaching one hanging from the ceiling). In both Harlow’s and Köhler’s studies, the
animals seemed to have learned more than just specific behaviors: They had apparently
learned how to learn. More recent studies confirm learning sets can be formed by other
species of primates such as capuchin and rhesus monkeys (Beran, 2008), and even by rats
(Bailey, 2006). Moreover, research with humans has shown that the prefrontal cortex
(Figure 2–8), which plays a pivotal role in human insight (van der Plasse, & Feenstra, 2008;
Yokoyama, Tsukada, Watanabe, & Onoe, 2005), is also involved in learning set formation in
monkeys (Browning, Easton, & Gaffan, 2007). Whether this means that nonhuman ani-
mals can think is an issue still being debated.

Learning by Observing
Why would it be harder to learn to drive a car if you had never been in one
before? Why is it hard for deaf children to learn spoken language when
they can easily be reinforced for correct speech sounds?

The first time you drove a car, you successfully turned the key in the ignition, put the car in
gear, and pressed the gas pedal without having ever done any of those things before. How
were you able to do that without step-by-step shaping of the correct behaviors? The answer
is that like Adrian Cole, the 4-year-old driver described at the start of the chapter, you had
often watched other people driving, a practice that made all the difference. There are
countless things we learn by watching other people and listening to what they say. This
process is called observational or vicarious learning, because although we are learning, we
don’t have to do the learned behaviors firsthand; we merely view or hear the modeled
behavior. Observational learning is a form of “social learning,” in that it involves interac-
tion with other people. Psychologists who study it are known as social learning theorists.

Observational learning is very common. In fact, recent evidence shows that young
children often “over imitate”—slavishly following what they are shown to do, even when
that is not the most effective way to behave (Horner & Whiten, 2005; Zimmer, 2005). By
watching other people who model new behavior we can learn such things as how to start a
lawn mower and how to saw wood. Research has shown that we can even learn bad habits,
such as smoking, by watching actors smoke in a movie (Dal Cin, Gib-
son, Zanna, Shumate, & Fong, 2007). When the Federal Communica-
tions Commission (FCC) banned cigarette commercials on television,
it was acting on the belief that providing models of smokers would
prompt people to imitate smoking.

Of course, we do not imitate everything that other people do. Why
are we selective in our imitation? There are several reasons (Bandura,
1977, 1986; Whiten, Horner, & Marshall-Pescini, 2005). First, we can’t
pay attention to everything going on around us. The behaviors we are
most likely to imitate are those that are modeled by someone who com-
mands our attention (as does a famous or attractive person, or an
expert). Second, we must remember what a model does in order to imi-
tate it. If a behavior isn’t memorable, it won’t be learned. Third, we
must make an effort to convert what we see into action. If we have no
motivation to perform an observed behavior, we probably won’t show

In observational or vicarious learning, we
learn by watching a model perform a particu-
lar action and then trying to imitate that
action correctly. Some actions would be very
difficult to master without observational

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

what we’ve learned. This is a distinction between learning and performance, which is crucial
to social learning theorists: We can learn without any change in overt behavior that demon-
strates our learning. Whether or not we act depends on our motivation.

One important motivation for acting is the kind of consequences associated with an
observed behavior—that is, the rewards or punishments it appears to bring. These conse-
quences do not necessarily have to happen to the observer. They may happen simply to the
other people whom the observer is watching. This is called vicarious reinforcement or
vicarious punishment, because the consequences aren’t experienced firsthand by the
learner: They are experienced through other people. If a young teenager sees adults drink-
ing and they seem to be having a great deal of fun, the teenager is experiencing vicarious
reinforcement of drinking and is much more likely to imitate it.

The foremost proponent of social learning theory is Albert Bandura, who refers to his
perspective as a social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 2004). In a classic experiment, Ban-
dura (1965) showed that people can learn a behavior without being reinforced directly for it
and that learning a behavior and performing it are not the same thing. Three groups of
nursery schoolchildren watched a film in which an adult model walked up to an adult-size
plastic inflated doll and ordered it to move out of the way. When the doll failed to obey, the
model became aggressive, pushing the doll on its side, punching it in the nose, hitting it with
a rubber mallet, kicking it around the room, and throwing rubber balls at it. However, each
group of children saw a film with a different ending. Those in the model-rewarded condition
saw the model showered with candies, soft drinks, and praise by a second adult (vicarious
reinforcement). Those in the model-punished condition saw the second adult shaking a finger
at the model, scolding, and spanking him (vicarious punishment). And those in the no-con-
sequences condition saw nothing happen to the model as a result of his aggressive behavior.

Immediately after seeing the film, the children were individually escorted into another
room where they found the same large inflated doll, rubber balls, and mallet, as well as
many other toys. Each child played alone for 10 minutes, while observers behind a one-way
mirror recorded the number of imitated aggressive behaviors that the child spontaneously

180 Chapter 5

vicarious reinforcement (or punishment)
Reinforcement or punishment experienced by
models that affects the willingness of others to
perform the behaviors they learned by
observing those models.

After watching an adult behave aggressively toward an inflated doll, the children in Bandura’s study imitated many of the aggressive
acts of the adult model.

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

performed in the absence of any direct reinforce-
ment for those actions. After 10 minutes, an experi-
menter entered the room and offered the child treats
in return for imitating things the model had done.
This was a measure of how much the child had pre-
viously learned from watching the model, but per-
haps hadn’t yet displayed.

The green bars in Figure 5–9 show that all the
children had learned aggressive actions from watch-
ing the model, even though they were not overtly
reinforced for that learning. When later offered treats
to copy the model’s actions, they all did so quite
accurately. In addition, the yellow bars in the figure
show that the children tended to suppress their incli-
nation spontaneously to imitate an aggressive model
when they had seen that model punished for aggres-
sion. This result was especially true of girls. Appar-
ently, vicarious punishment provided the children
with information about what might happen to them
if they copied the “bad” behavior. Vicarious rein-
forcement similarly provides information about
likely consequences, but in this study, its effects were
not large. For children of this age (at least those not
worried about punishment), imitating aggressive
behavior toward a doll seems to have been considered “fun” in its own right, even without
being associated with praise and candy. This outcome was especially true for boys.

This study has important implications regarding how not to teach aggression uninten-
tionally to children. Suppose that you want to get a child to stop hitting other children. You
might think that slapping the child as punishment would change the behavior, and it prob-
ably would suppress it to some extent. But slapping the child also demonstrates that hitting
is an effective means of getting one’s way. So slapping not only provides a model of aggres-
sion; it also provides a model associated with vicarious reinforcement. Perhaps this is why
children who experience corporal punishment are more likely to imitate the violent behav-
ior of their parents when they become adults (Barry, 2007). You and the child would both
be better off if the punishment given for hitting was not a similar form of aggression and if
the child could also be rewarded for showing appropriate interactions with others (Ban-
dura, 1973, 1977; Gershoff & Bitensky, 2007).

Social learning theory’s emphasis on expectations, insights, and information broadens
our understanding of how people learn. According to social learning theory, humans use
their powers of observation and thought to interpret their own experiences and those of
others when deciding how to act (Bandura, 1962). Moreover, Bandura and more recently
others (Duncan & McKeachie, 2005; Schunk, 2005) stress that human beings are capable of
setting performance standards for themselves and then rewarding (or punishing) them-
selves for achieving or failing to achieve those standards as a way to regulate their own
behavior. This important perspective can be applied to the learning of many different
things, from skills and behavioral tendencies to attitudes, values, and ideas.

Cognitive Learning in Nonhumans
Are nonhuman animals capable of cognitive learning?

We have seen that contemporary approaches to conditioning emphasize that conditioned
stimuli, reinforcers, and punishers provide information about the environment. Classical
and operant conditioning are not viewed as purely mechanical processes that can proceed
without at least some cognitive activity. Moreover, animals are capable of latent learning,
learning cognitive maps, and insight, all of which involve cognitive processes. Thus,

Learning 181
















Positive incentive

No incentive

Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls

Model rewarded Model punished No consequences

Figure 5–9
Results of Bandura’s study.
As the graph shows, even though all the chil-
dren in Bandura’s study of imitative aggression
learned the model’s behavior, they performed
differently depending on whether the model
whom they saw was rewarded or punished.
Source: Results of Bandura’s study. From “Influence
of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acqui-
sition of imitative responses” by A. Bandura, Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 592, 1965.
Reprinted by permission of the American Psychologi-
cal Association and the author.

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because all animals can be conditioned, we might reason-
ably conclude that all animals are capable of at least min-
imal cognitive processing of information. Do nonhuman
animals also exhibit other evidence of cognitive learning?
The answer seems to be a qualified yes.

For example, in the wild, chimpanzees learn to use
long sticks to fish for termites by watching their mothers
(Lonsdorf, 2005). Capuchin monkeys show they can ben-
efit from the mistakes of other monkeys they watched
make unsuccessful attempts at opening a container
(Kuroshima, Kuwahata, & Fujita, 2008). Some female dol-
phins in Australia cover their sensitive beaks with sponges
when foraging for food on the sea floor, a skill they appar-
ently learn by imitating their mothers (Krützen et al.,
2005). Meerkats have been observed teaching their young
how to hunt and handle difficult prey (A. Thornton,
2008). And even rats that watch other rats try a novel or
unfamiliar food without negative consequences show an

increased tendency to eat the new food (Galef & Whiskin, 2004; Galef, Dudley, & Whiskin,
2008). These surprising results, along with reports that animals as diverse as chickens and
octopi, whales and bumblebees learn by watching others, further support the notion that
nonhuman animals do indeed learn in ways that reflect the cognitive theory of learning.

182 Chapter 5

1. ___ latent learning a. new, suddenly occurring idea to solve a

2. ___ insight b. learning by watching a model
3. ___ observational learning c. learning that has not yet been

demonstrated in behavior


Match the following terms with the appropriate definition.

Are the following statements true (T) or false (F)?

4. ____________ “Social learning theory broadens our understanding of how people learn
skills and gain abilities by emphasizing expectations, insight, information, self-satisfaction,
and self-criticism.”

5. ____________ “Social learning theory supports spanking as an effective way to teach
children not to hit.” Answers:1. (c).2. (a).3. (b).4. (T).5. (F).


1. An ape examines a problem and the tools available for solving it. Suddenly the animal
leaps up and quickly executes a successful solution. This is an example of

a. insight.
b. operant conditioning.
c. trial-and-error learning.

2. Before Junior got his driver’s license, he rode along whenever his older sister had driving
lessons, watching and listening carefully, especially when she had trouble learning to
parallel park and another driver yelled at her for denting his fender. When Junior’s turn to
drive came, he was especially careful never to bump other cars when parallel parking.
Junior learned to avoid parallel parking collisions as a result of

a. insight.
b. vicarious punishment.
c. trial-and-error learning.
d. higher order conditioning. Answers:1. a.2. b.

Use of sponges as tools among some dol-
phins. Dolphins have been observed using
sponges to protect their snouts as they probe
the sea floor searching for fish. Researchers
believe mother dolphins teach this sponge-
tool technique to their young. See

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Learning 183

learning, p. 155

Classical Conditioning
classical (or Pavlovian)

conditioning, p. 155
unconditioned stimulus

(US), p. 156
unconditioned response

(UR), p. 156
conditioned stimulus (CS), p. 156
conditioned response

(CR), p. 156
intermittent pairing, p. 158
desensitization therapy, p. 158

p. 159

conditioned taste aversion,

p. 159

Operant Conditioning
operant (or instrumental)

conditioning, p. 161
operant behaviors, p. 161
reinforcers, p. 161
punishers, p. 161
law of effect (principle of

reinforcement), p. 161
Skinner box, p. 162
shaping, p. 162
positive reinforcers, p. 163
negative reinforcers, p. 163
punishment, p. 164
avoidance training, p. 166
learned helplessness, p. 166
biofeedback, p. 167
neurofeedback, p. 167

Factors Shared by Classical
and Operant Conditioning
contingency, p. 169
blocking, p. 169
schedule of reinforcement,

p. 170
fixed-interval schedule, p. 170
variable-interval schedule,

p. 171
fixed-ratio schedule, p. 171
variable-ratio schedule, p. 171
extinction, p. 171
spontaneous recovery,

p. 172
stimulus control,

p. 174

stimulus generalization,

p. 174

stimulus discrimination, p. 174
response generalization, p. 174
higher order conditioning, p. 175
primary reinforcers, p. 175
secondary reinforcers, p. 175

Cognitive Learning
cognitive learning, p. 177
latent learning, p. 177
cognitive map, p. 177
insight, p. 178
learning set, p. 179
observational (or vicarious)

learning, p. 179
social learning theorists, p. 179
vicarious reinforcement

(or punishment), p. 180

How did Pavlov discover classical conditioning? Learning is
the process by which experience or practice produces a relatively
permanent change in behavior or potential behavior. One basic
form of learning involves learning to associate one event with
another. Classical conditioning is a type of associative learning
that Pavlov discovered while studying digestion. Pavlov trained a
dog to salivate at the sound of a bell when he rang the bell just
before food was given. The dog learned to associate the bell with
food and began to salivate at the sound of the bell alone.

How might you classically condition a pet? Suppose you
wanted to classically condition salivation in your own dog. You
know that food is an unconditioned stimulus (US) that automat-
ically evokes the unconditioned response (UR) of salivation. By
repeatedly pairing food with a second, initially neutral stimulus
(such as a bell), the second stimulus would eventually become a
conditioned stimulus (CS) eliciting a conditioned response (CR)
of salivation.

If you once burned your finger on a match while listening to a
certain song, why doesn’t that song now make you reflexively
jerk your hand away? Establishing a classically conditioned
response usually is easier if the US and CS are paired with each
other repeatedly, rather than a single time or even once in a while
(intermittent pairing). That is why a single burn to your finger is
not usually enough to produce a classically conditioned response.
It is also important that the spacing of pairings be neither too far
apart nor too close together.

What is an example of classical conditioning in your own life?
In the case of Little Albert, Watson conditioned a child to fear white
rats by always pairing a loud, frightening noise with a rat. Perhaps

you have acquired a classically conditioned fear or anxiety (to the
sound of a dentist’s drill, for instance) in much the same way; or
perhaps you have also unlearned a conditioned fear by repeatedly
pairing the feared object with something pleasant. Mary Cover
Jones paired the sight of a feared rat (at gradually decreasing dis-
tances) with a child’s pleasant experience of eating candy. This pro-
cedure was the precursor to desensitization therapy.

Why are people more likely to develop a phobia of snakes
than of flowers? The concept of preparedness accounts for the
fact that certain conditioned responses are acquired very easily.
The ease with which we develop conditioned taste aversions
illustrates preparedness. Because animals are biologically pre-
pared to learn them, conditioned taste aversions can occur with
only one pairing of the taste of a tainted food and later illness,
even when there is a lengthy interval between eating the food and
becoming ill. A fear of snakes may also be something that humans
are prepared to learn.

How are operant behaviors different from the responses
involved in classical conditioning? Operant or instrumental
conditioning is learning to make or withhold a certain response
because of its consequences. Operant behaviors are different from
the responses involved in classical conditioning because they are
voluntarily emitted, whereas those involved in classical condition-
ing are elicited by stimuli.

What two essential elements are involved in operant condi-
tioning? One essential element in operant conditioning is an
operant behavior, or a behavior performed by one’s own volition
while “operating” on the environment. The second essential

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184 Chapter 5

element is a consequence associated with that operant behavior.
When a consequence increases the likelihood of an operant
behavior’s being emitted, it is called a reinforcer. When a conse-
quence decreases the likelihood of an operant behavior, it is called
a punisher. These relationships are the basis of the law of effect,
or principle of reinforcement: Consistently rewarded behaviors
are likely to be repeated, whereas consistently punished behaviors
are likely to be suppressed.

How might a speech therapist teach the sound of “s” to a
child with a lisp? To speed up establishing an operantly condi-
tioned response in the laboratory, the number of potential
responses may be reduced by restricting the environment, as in a
Skinner box. For behaviors outside the laboratory, which cannot
be controlled so conveniently, the process of shaping is often use-
ful. In shaping, reinforcement is given for successive approxima-
tions to the desired response. A speech therapist might use
shaping to teach a child to pronounce a certain sound correctly.

What is the difference between positive and negative rein-
forcement? What are some of the unintentional effects that
reinforcement can have? Several kinds of reinforcers strengthen
or increase the likelihood of behavior. Positive reinforcers (such as
food) add something rewarding to a situation. Negative reinforcers
(for example, stopping an electric shock) subtracts something
unpleasant. When an action is followed closely by a reinforcer, we
tend to repeat the action, even if it did not actually produce the
reinforcement. Such behaviors are called superstitious.

What problems can punishment create? Punishment is any
unpleasant consequence that decreases the likelihood that the
preceding behavior will recur. Whereas negative reinforcement
strengthens behavior, punishment weakens it. Although punish-
ment can be effective, it also can stir up negative feelings and serve
to model aggressive behavior. Also, rather than teaching a more
desirable response, it only suppresses an undesirable one. After
punishment has occurred a few times, further repetitions some-
times are unnecessary because the threat of punishment is
enough. With this process, called avoidance training, people
learn to avoid the possibility of a punishing consequence.

In what ways do some college students exhibit learned help-
lessness? When people or other animals are unable to escape
from a punishing situation, they may acquire a “giving-up”
response, called learned helplessness. Learned helplessness can
generalize to new situations, causing resignation in the face of
unpleasant outcomes, even when the outcomes can be avoided. A
college student who gives up trying to do well in school after a few
poor grades on tests is exhibiting learned helplessness.

How can operant conditioning be used to control biological
functioning? When operant conditioning is used to control bio-
logical functions, such as blood pressure or heart rate, it is
referred to as biofeedback. When it is used to control brain waves
it is called neurofeedback. Biofeedback and neurofeedback have
been successfully applied to a variety of medical problems,
including migraine headaches, hypertension, and asthma.
Biofeedback has also been used by athletes and musicians to
improve performance and control anxiety.

Can you think of any similarities between classical and oper-
ant conditioning? Despite the differences between classical and
operant conditioning, these two forms of learning have many
things in common. (1) Both cases involve learned associations;
(2) in both cases, responses come under control of stimuli in the
environment; (3) in both cases, the responses will gradually disap-
pear if they are not periodically renewed; and (4) in both cases,
new behaviors can build upon previously established ones.

How can changes in the timing of a conditioned stimulus lead
to unexpected learning? Why does intermittent reinforce-
ment result in such persistent behavior? In both classical and
operant conditioning, an “if–then” relationship, or contingency,
exists either between two stimuli or between a stimulus and a
response. In both these kinds of learning, perceived contingencies
are very important.

In classical conditioning, the contingency is between the CS
and the US. The CS comes to be viewed as a signal that the US is
about to happen. For that reason, the CS must not only occur in
close proximity to the US, but must also precede the US and pro-
vide predictive information about it. If the CS occurs after the US,
it will come to serve as a signal that the US is over, not that the US
is imminent.

In operant conditioning, contingencies exist between responses
and consequences. Contingencies between responses and rewards
are called schedules of reinforcement. Partial reinforcement, in
which rewards are given only for some correct responses, generates
behavior that persists longer than that learned by continuous rein-
forcement. A fixed-interval schedule, by which reinforcement is
given for the first correct response after a fixed time period, tends to
result in a flurry of responding right before a reward is due. A
variable-interval schedule, which reinforces the first correct
response after an unpredictable period of time, tends to result in a
slow, but steady pattern of responding. In a fixed-ratio schedule,
behavior is rewarded after a fixed number of correct responses, so
the result is usually a high rate of responding. Finally, a variable-
ratio schedule provides reinforcement after a varying number of
correct responses. It encourages a high rate of response that is espe-
cially persistent.

Can you ever get rid of a conditioned response? Under what
circumstances might old learned associations suddenly
reappear? Learned responses sometimes weaken and may even
disappear, a phenomenon called extinction. The learning is not
necessarily completely forgotten, however. Sometimes a
spontaneous recovery occurs, in which the learned response sud-
denly reappears on its own, with no retraining.

Extinction is produced in classical conditioning by failure to
continue pairing the CS and the US. The CS no longer serves as a
signal that the US is about to happen, and so the conditioned
response dies out. An important contributing factor is often new,
learned associations that interfere with the old one. In situations in
which you are reminded of the old association, spontaneous recov-
ery may occur.

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

Learning 185

Extinction occurs in operant conditioning when reinforce-
ment is withheld until the learned response is no longer emitted.
The ease with which an operantly conditioned behavior is extin-
guished varies according to several factors: the strength of the orig-
inal learning, the variety of settings in which learning took place,
and the schedule of reinforcement used during conditioning.

How can anxiety about math in grade school affect a college
student? Why do people often slap the wrong card when
playing a game of slapjack? When conditioned responses are
influenced by surrounding cues in the environment, stimulus
control occurs. The tendency to respond to cues that are similar,
but not identical, to those that prevailed during the original learn-
ing is known as stimulus generalization. An example of stimulus
generalization in classical conditioning is a student’s feeling anx-
ious about studying math in college because he or she had a bad
experience learning math in grade school. Stimulus discrimina-
tion enables learners to perceive differences among cues so as not
to respond to all of them.

In operant conditioning, the learned response is under the con-
trol of whatever cues come to be associated with delivery of reward
or punishment. Learners often generalize about these cues, respond-
ing to others that are broadly similar to the ones that prevailed dur-
ing the original learning. An example is slapping any face card in a
game of slapjack. Learners may also generalize their responses by
performing behaviors that are similar to the ones that were origi-
nally reinforced. This result is called response generalization. Dis-
crimination in operant conditioning is taught by reinforcing only a
certain response and only in the presence of a certain stimulus.

How might you build on a conditioned response to make an
even more complex form of learning? Why is money such a
good reinforcer for most people? In both classical and operant
conditioning, original learning serves as a building block for new
learning. In classical conditioning, an earlier CS can be used as an
US for further training. For example, Pavlov used the bell to condi-
tion his dogs to salivate at the sight of a black square. This effect,
which is called higher order conditioning, is difficult to achieve
because of extinction. Unless the original unconditioned stimulus is
presented occasionally, the initial conditioned response will die out.

In operant conditioning, initially neutral stimuli can become
reinforcers by being associated with other reinforcers. A primary
reinforcer is one that, like food and water, is rewarding in and of
itself. A secondary reinforcer is one whose value is learned through
its association with primary reinforcers or with other secondary rein-
forcers. Money is such a good secondary reinforcer because it can be
exchanged for so many different primary and secondary rewards.

Does operant conditioning ever look like classical condition-
ing? Despite their differences, classical and operant conditioning
share many similarities: Both involve associations between stimuli
and responses; both are subject to extinction and spontaneous
recovery as well as generalization and discrimination; in both,
new learning can be based on original learning. Operant condi-
tioning can even be used, in biofeedback and neurofeedback
training, to learn to control physiological responses that are usu-
ally learned through classical conditioning. Many psychologists
now wonder whether classical and operant conditioning aren’t
just two ways of bringing about the same kind of learning.

How would you study the kind of learning that occurs when
you memorize the layout of a chessboard? Cognitive learning
refers to the mental processes that go on inside us when we learn.
Some kinds of learning, such as memorizing the layout of a chess-
board, seem to be purely cognitive, because the learner does not
appear to be “behaving” while the learning takes place. Cognitive
learning, however, can always affect future behavior, such as
reproducing the layout of a memorized chessboard after it is
cleared away. It is from such observable behavior that cognitive
learning is inferred.

Did you learn your way around campus solely through oper-
ant conditioning (rewards for correct turns, punishments for
wrong ones) or was something more involved? Latent learn-
ing is any learning that has not yet been demonstrated in behavior.
Your knowledge of psychology is latent if you have not yet dis-
played it in what you say, write, and do. One kind of latent learning
is knowledge of spatial layouts and relationships, which is usually
stored in the form of a cognitive map. Rewards or punishments
aren’t essential for latent learning to take place. You did not need
rewards and punishments to learn the layout of your campus, for
example. You acquired this cognitive map simply by storing your
visual perceptions.

Do you have a learning set for writing a term paper? A learning
set is a concept or procedure that provides a key to solving a prob-
lem even when its demands are slightly different from those of prob-
lems you have solved in the past. As a student, you probably have a
learning set for writing a term paper that allows you successfully to
develop papers on many different topics. A learning set can some-
times encourage insight or the sudden perception of a solution even
to a problem that at first seems totally new. In this case, you are per-
ceiving similarities between old and new problems that weren’t ini-
tially apparent.

Why would it be harder to learn to drive a car if you had never
been in one before? Why is it hard for deaf children to learn
spoken language when they can easily be reinforced for cor-
rect speech sounds? Social learning theorists argue that we
learn much by observing other people who model a behavior or
by simply hearing about something. This process is called
observational (or vicarious) learning. It would be harder to
learn to drive a car without ever having been in one because you
would lack a model of “driving behavior.” It is hard for deaf chil-
dren to learn spoken language because they have no auditory
model of correct speech.

The extent to which we imitate behaviors learned through
observation depends on our motivation to do so. One important
motivation is any reward or punishment that we have seen the
behavior bring. When a consequence isn’t experienced firsthand,
but only occurs to other people, it is called vicarious reinforce-
ment or vicarious punishment.

Are nonhuman animals capable of cognitive learning? Research
has shown that many animals, including chimpanzees, dolphins,
whales, rats, octopi, and even bumblebees are capable of various
forms of cognitive learning.

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


Enduring Issues in Memory

The Sensory Registers
• Visual and Auditory

• Attention
Short-Term Memory
• Capacity of STM
• Encoding in STM
• Maintaining STM

Long-Term Memory
• Capacity of LTM
• Encoding in LTM
• Serial Position Effect
• Maintaining LTM
• Types of LTM
• Explicit and Implicit Memory

The Biology of Memory
• Where Are Memories

• The Role of Sleep
• The Biology of Forgetting
• Experience and Forgetting

Special Topics in Memory
• Cultural Influences
• Autobiographical Memory
• Extraordinary Memory
• Flashbulb Memories

Eyewitness Testimony

• Recovered Memories




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

Accounts of people with extraordinary memories raise
many questions about the nature of memory itself: Why are
some people so much better at remembering things than oth-
ers? Why is it that remembering may sometimes be so simple
(think how effortlessly baseball fans remember the batting aver-
ages of their favorite players) and other times so difficult (as
when we grope for answers on an exam)? Just how does mem-
ory work, and what makes it fail?

Among the first to seek scientific answers to these questions
was the 19th-century German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus.
Using himself as a subject, Ebbinghaus composed lists of “non-
sense syllables,” meaningless combinations of letters, such as
PIB, WOL, or TEB. He memorized lists of 13 nonsense syllables
each. Then, after varying amounts of time, he relearned each list
of syllables. He found that the longer he waited after first learning
a list, the longer it took to learn the list again. Most of the informa-
tion was lost in the first few hours. Ebbinghaus’s contributions
dominated memory research for many years.

Many contemporary psychologists, by contrast, perceive
memory as a series of steps in which we process information,
much as a computer stores and retrieves data (Ashcraft, 2006).
Together, these steps form the information-processing model of
memory. In this chapter you will find terms like encoding,
storage, and retrieval, which are convenient ways of comparing
human memory with computers. But we will also consider the
social, emotional, and biological factors that make us human
and that also distinguish our memories from those of computers.

Far more information bombards our senses than we can
possibly process, so the first stage of information processing
involves selecting some of this material to think about and
remember. Therefore, we turn first to the sensory registers and
to attention, the process that allows us to select incoming infor-
mation for further processing.

In this chapter, we will again encounter the “Enduring Issues” in psychology that were
introduced in Chapter 1. We will explore the biological bases of memory (mind–body), the
ways that memory differs among people and across cultures (diversity–universality), and
the ways that memory changes in the first few years of life (stability–change). Finally, we
will consider the extent to which memories can be changed by events outside the person as
well as the importance of environmental cues in triggering memories (person–situation).

What is the role of sensory registers?

Look slowly around the room. Each glance takes in an enormous amount of visual informa-
tion, including colors, shapes, textures, relative brightness, and shadows. At the same time,
you pick up sounds, smells, and other kinds of sensory data. All of this raw information

• Describe the role of the sensory

registers and the length of time
information remains there. Distinguish
between the icon and the echo.

• Compare Broadbent and Treisman’s
theories of attention. Explain what is
meant by the “cocktail-party
phenomenon” and “inattentional

information-processing model A computer-
like model used to describe the way humans
encode, store, and retrieve information.

memory The ability to remember the things that
we have experienced, imagined, and learned.

Most of us remember certain days or moments more dis-tinctly than others. Your first day of school, your firstkiss, a special holiday, the loss of a loved one—these
experiences may be etched so indelibly on your memory that it
seems that they happened just yesterday, rather than many
years in the past. But imagine if you had a distinct memory of not
only your first day of school, but of the second one, too; as well
as the third, fourth, fifth, and so on. Imagine if you recalled not
just the most important events of your life, but, in addition, all of
the tiny, insignificant details of each and every day: what the
weather was like, what you ate for dinner, what you watched on
television. Imagine these visions of the past—some ordinary
and mundane, some comforting and pleasant, others, terribly
painful and sad—ran through your head in a constant loop, a
random compilation of all of the moments of your life assaulting
your consciousness with ceaseless persistence. Jill Price, a 42-
year-old woman who lives in California, need not imagine such a
scenario; for Jill Price, this is life.

In her 2008 memoir, The Woman Who Can’t Forget, Jill Price
recounts a life lived with what psychologist James L. McGaugh
has diagnosed as hyperthymestic syndrome, or “overdeveloped
memory.” If given a date over the course of the past thirty years,
Price can typically recount what day of the week it was in addition
to details about something that happened to her that day. More-
over, according to Price, autobiographical memories, unpre-
dictably summoned by various stimuli—a familiar smell, for
example, or a song on the radio—constantly dominate her
thoughts in a mechanism beyond her conscious control. As Price
contends, her unusual powers of memory are more a burden than
a blessing, forcing her to relive every argument, every disappoint-
ment, every moment of despair she has ever known at arbitrary
intervals. Indeed, as Price’s case illustrates, while the ability to
remember has its merits, so too, it seems, does the ability to forget.







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

188 Chapter 6

flows from your senses into the sensory registers, which are like waiting
rooms in which information enters and stays for only a short time.
Whether we remember any of the information depends on which opera-
tions we perform on it, as you will see throughout this chapter. Although
there are registers for each of our senses, the visual and auditory registers
have been studied most extensively.

Visual and Auditory Registers
What would happen if auditory information faded
as quickly as visual information fades?

Although the sensory registers have virtually unlimited capacity, infor-
mation disappears from them quite rapidly (Cowan et al., 2005; Melcher,

2006; Rainer & Miller, 2002). A simple experiment can demonstrate how much visual
information we take in—and how quickly it is lost. Bring a digital camera into a darkened
room, and then take a photograph with a flash. During the split second that the room is lit
up by the flash, your visual register will absorb a surprising amount of information about
the room and its contents. Try to hold on to that visual image, or icon, as long as you can.
You will find that in a few seconds, it is gone. Then compare your remembered image of the
room with what you actually saw, as captured in the photograph. You will discover that
your visual register took in far more information than you were able to retain for even a
few seconds.

Classic experiments by George Sperling (1960) clearly demonstrate how quickly infor-
mation disappears from the visual register. Sperling flashed groups of letters, organized
into three rows, on a screen for just a fraction of a second. When the letters were gone, he
sounded a tone to tell his participants which row of letters to recall: A high-pitched tone
indicated that they should try to remember the top row of letters, a low-pitched tone meant
that they should recall the bottom row, and a medium-pitched tone signaled them to recall
the middle row. Using this partial-report technique, Sperling found that if he sounded the
tone immediately after the letters were flashed, people could usually recall 3 or 4 of the let-
ters in any of the three rows; that is, they seemed to have at least 9 of the original 12 letters
in their visual registers. But if he waited for even 1 second before sounding the tone, his
participants were able to recall only 1 or 2 letters from any single row—in just 1 second,
then, all but 4 or 5 of the original set of 12 letters had vanished from their visual registers.

Visual information may disappear from the visual register even more rapidly than
Sperling thought (Cowan, 1988; Smithson & Mollon, 2006). In everyday life, new visual
information keeps coming into the register; and the new information replaces the old infor-
mation almost immediately (in about a quarter of a second), a process often called masking.

Auditory information fades more slowly than visual information. The auditory equiv-
alent of the icon, the echo, tends to last for several seconds, which, given the nature of
speech, is certainly lucky for us. Otherwise, “You did it!” would be indistinguishable from
“You did it!” because we would be unable to remember the emphasis on the first words by
the time the last words were registered.

Why does some information capture our attention, whereas other
information goes unnoticed?

If information disappears from the sensory registers so rapidly, how do we remember anything
for more than a second or two? One way is that we select some of the incoming information
for further processing by means of attention. (See Figure 6–1.) Attention is the process of
selectively looking, listening, smelling, tasting, and feeling (Egeth & Lamy, 2003; Knudsen,
2007). At the same time, we give meaning to the information that is coming in. Look at the

sensory registers Entry points for raw
information from the senses.

attention The selection of some incoming
information for further processing.

If you were to walk into this room, your eyes
and your other sense organs would pick up
many impressions of what is to be found
here. How much of this information would
you remember later?

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

Memory 189

page in front of you. You will see a series of black lines on a white page. For you to make sense
of this jumble of data, you process the information in the sensory registers for meaning.

How do we select what we are going to pay attention to at any given moment, and how
do we give that information meaning? Donald Broadbent (1958) suggested that a filtering
process at the entrance to the nervous system allows only those stimuli that meet certain
requirements to pass through. Those stimuli that do get through the filter are compared
with what we already know, so that we can recognize them and figure out what they mean.
If you and a friend are sitting in a restaurant talking, you filter out all other conversations
taking place around you, a process known as the cocktail-party phenomenon (Cherry, 1966;
Haykin & Chen, 2006). Although you later might be able to describe certain characteristics
of those other conversations, such as whether the people speaking were men or women,
according to Broadbent, you normally cannot recall what was being discussed, even at
neighboring tables. Since you filtered out those other conversations, the processing of that
information did not proceed far enough for you to understand what you heard.

Broadbent’s filtering theory helps explain some aspects of attention, but sometimes
unattended stimuli do capture our attention. To return to the restaurant example, if
someone nearby were to mention your name, your attention probably would shift to that
conversation. Anne Treisman (1960, 1964, 2004) modified the filter theory to account for
phenomena like this. She contended that the filter is not a simple on-and-off switch, but
rather a variable control—like the volume control on a radio, which can “turn down”
unwanted signals without rejecting them entirely. According to this view, although we
may be paying attention to only some incoming information, we monitor the other sig-
nals at a low volume. Thus, we can shift our attention if we pick up something particu-
larly meaningful. This automatic processing can work even when we are asleep: Parents
often wake up immediately when they hear their baby crying, but sleep through other,
louder noises.

At times, however, our automatic processing monitor fails, and we can overlook even
meaningful information. In research studies, for example, some people watching a video of
a ball-passing game failed to notice a person dressed as a gorilla who was plainly visible for
nearly 10 seconds (Mack, 2003). In other words, just because we are looking or listening to
something, doesn’t mean we are attending to it. Psychologists refer to our failure to attend
to something we are looking at as inattentionial blindness. Research has shown, for example,
that attending to auditory information can reduce one’s ability to accurately process visual
information, which makes driving while talking on a cell phone a distinctly bad idea
(Pizzighello & Bressan, 2008)!

Figure 6–1
The sequence of information processing.

through decay

Forgetting through
interference or decay






stimulus Attention



Raw information
flows from the
senses into the
sensory registers.

High-capacity sensory
registers briefly store
information in the form
of an icon or echo.

Information that is
rehearsed in short-term
memory is maintained
there; otherwise, it
decays rapidly.

Information that is actively
processed and coded in
short-term memory is
transferred to long-term

Information transferred from
short-term memory to long-
term memory becomes
relatively permanent, comprising
everything we “know”.

Information retrieved
from long-term memory
is transferred to short-term,
or working memory, where
it is available for use.

Attention directs the
extraction of meaningful
information from the
sensory registers,
transferring it to short-
term memory.

Short-term memory,
or working memory, holds
the information we are
thinking about or are
aware of at any given
moment, making it
available for further









This student is working attentively in spite of
other activity in the classroom. If the teacher
calls her name, though, the student’s atten-
tion will be quickly diverted.

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

190 Chapter 6


1. Indicate whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F):
a. ____________ The sensory registers have virtually unlimited capacity.
b. ____________ Some kinds of information are stored permanently in the sensory

c. ____________ Auditory information fades from the sensory registers more quickly

than visual information does.
d. ____________ The filter theory as modified by Treisman holds that attention is like

an on-and-off switch.

• Define short-term memory (STM),

explain why it is called “working
memory” and describe the way
information is encoded in STM.

• Describe the capacity of STM including
the role of chunking and interference,
maintenance of information in STM, and
the effect of stress on STM.


1. You are in a large, noisy group in which everyone seems to be talking at once. In order to
concentrate on the conversation you are having with one of the people, you “tune out” all
the other conversations that are going on around you. A few minutes later, someone
nearby turns to you and says, “Did you hear what I was saying to John?” You have to
admit that even though you were standing right next to her, you don’t know what she said.
Your failure to remember that other conversation is an example of

a. selective attention.
b. the partial-report technique.
c. the cocktail-party phenomenon.
d. masking.

2. A few minutes later in that same group, while talking to someone else, you suddenly hear
someone nearby mention your name. This time your attention is immediately drawn to that
other conversation. This is an example of

a. Broadbent’s filtering theory.
b. the partial-report technique.
c. the cocktail-party phenomenon.
d. masking.

Answers:1. a.(T).b.(F).c.(F).d.(F).

Answers:1. a.2. c.

What are the two primary tasks of short-term memory?

Short-term memory (STM) holds the information that we are thinking about or are aware
of at any given moment. When you listen to a conversation, when you watch a television
show, when you become aware of a headache—in all these cases, you are using STM both to
hold onto and to think about new information coming in from the sensory registers. Short-
term memory has two primary tasks: to store new information briefly and to work on that
(and other) information. Short-term memory is sometimes called working memory, to
emphasize the active or working component of this memory system (Nairne, 2003; Neath,
Brown, Poirier, & Fortin, 2005).

Capacity of STM
How much information can be held in short-term memory?

Chess masters at tournaments demand complete silence while they ponder their next
move. You shut yourself in a quiet room to study for final exams. As these examples illus-
trate, STM can handle only so much information at any given moment. Research suggests

short-term memory (STM) Working memory;
briefly stores and processes selected information
from the sensory registers.

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Memory 191

that STM can hold about as much information as can be repeated or rehearsed in 1.5 to 2
seconds (Baddeley, 1986, 2002).

To get a better idea of the limits of STM, read the first row of letters in the list that fol-
lows just once. Then close your eyes, and try to remember the letters in the correct
sequence. Repeat the procedure for each subsequent row.

1. C X W
2. M N K T Y
3. R P J H B Z S
4. G B M P V Q F J D
5. E G Q W J P B R H K A

Like most other people, you probably found rows 1 and 2 fairly easy, row 3 a bit harder, row
4 extremely difficult, and row 5 impossible to remember after just one reading.

Now try reading through the following set of 12 letters just once, and see whether you
can repeat them:


How many letters were you able to recall? In all likelihood, not all 12. But what if you
had been asked to remember the following 12 letters instead?


Could you remember them? Almost certainly the answer is yes. These are the same 12
letters as before, but here they are grouped into four separate “words.” This way of group-
ing and organizing information so that it fits into meaningful units is called chunking
(Cowan & Chen, 2009; Gobet, 2005; Gobet et al., 2001).

By chunking words into sentences or sentence fragments, we can process an even
greater amount of information in STM (Baddeley, 1994; T. Carter, Hardy, & Hardy, 2001).
For example, suppose that you want to remember the following list of words: tree, song, hat,
sparrow, box, lilac, cat. One strategy would be to cluster as many of them as possible into
phrases or sentences: “The sparrow in the tree sings a song”; “a lilac hat in the box”; “the
cat in the hat.” But isn’t there a limit to this strategy? Would five sentences be as easy to

Chess players demand complete silence as
they consider their next move. This is
because there is a definite limit to the amount
of information STM can handle at any given

chunking The grouping of information into
meaningful units for easier handling by short-
term memory.Source: © The New Yorker Collection, 1997, Arnie Levin from cartoonbank.com. All Rights Reserved.

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

192 Chapter 6

rote rehearsal Retaining information in
memory simply by repeating it over and over.

remember for a short time as five single words? No. As the size of any individual chunk
increases, the number of chunks that can be held in STM declines (Fendrich & Arengo,
2004). STM can easily handle five unrelated letters or words at once, but five unrelated sen-
tences are much harder to remember.

Keep in mind that STM usually has to perform more than one task at a time (Jonides,
Lacey, & Nee, 2005). During the brief moments you spent memorizing the preceding rows
of letters, you probably gave them your full attention. But normally you have to attend to
new incoming information while you work on whatever is already present in short-term
memory. Competition between these two tasks for the limited work space in STM means
that neither task will be done as well as it could be. Try counting backward from 100 while
trying to learn the rows of letters in our earlier example. What happens?

Now turn on some music and try to learn the rows of letters. You’ll find that the music
doesn’t interfere much, if at all, with learning the letters. Interestingly, when two memory
tasks are presented in different sensory modalities (for instance, visual and auditory), they
are less likely to interfere with each other than if they are in the same modality (Cocchini,
Logie, Sala, MacPherson, & Baddeley, 2002; Lehnert & Zimmer, 2008). This suggests the
existence of domain-specific working memory systems that can operate at the same time
with very little interference.

Not surprisingly, stress and worry have also been shown to be a detrimental to the
operation of short-term memory (S. Hayes, Hirsch, & Mathews, 2008). This is particularly
true when the task at hand involves mathematics, because the worry created by stress com-
petes for working memory space, which would otherwise be allocated to solving the math
problem (Beilock, 2008).

Encoding in STM
Do we store material in short-term memory as it sounds or as it looks?

We encode verbal information for storage in STM phonologically—that is, according to
how it sounds. This is the case even if we see the word, letter, or number on a page, rather
than hear it spoken (Inhoff, Connine, Eiter, Radach, & Heller, 2004; Vallar, 2006). We know
this because numerous experiments have shown that when people try to retrieve material
from STM, they generally mix up items that sound alike (Sperling, 1960). A list of words
such as mad, man, mat, cap is harder for most people to recall accurately than is a list such
as pit, day, cow, bar (Baddeley, 1986).

But not all material in short-term memory is stored phonologically. At least some
material is stored in visual form, and other information is retained on the basis of its mean-
ing (R. G. Morrison, 2005). For example, we don’t have to convert visual data such as maps,
diagrams, and paintings into sound before we can code them into STM and think about
them. Moreover, research has shown that memory for images is generally better than mem-
ory for words because we often store images both phonologically and as images, while words
are usually stored only phonologically (Paivio, 1986). The dual coding of images accounts for
the reason it is sometimes helpful to form a mental picture of something you are trying to
learn (Sadoski, 2005; Sadoski & Paivio, 2001).

Maintaining STM
How can we hold information in STM?

As we have said, short-term memories are fleeting, generally lasting a matter of seconds.
However, we can hold information in STM for longer periods through rote rehearsal, also
called maintenance rehearsal. Rote rehearsal consists of repeating information over and
over, silently or out loud. Although it may not be the most efficient way to remember some-
thing permanently, it can be quite effective for a short time.

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Memory 193

• Define long-term memory (LTM)

including the capacity of LTM and the
way information is encoded in LTM.
Explain the serial position effect.

• Differentiate rote rehearsal from
elaborative rehearsal and explain the
role of mnemonics and schemata as
forms of elaborative rehearsal.

• Distinguish between episodic
memories, semantic memories,
procedural memories, emotional
memories, explicit memories, and
implicit memories. Explain how priming
and the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon
shed light on memory.

long-term memory (LTM) The portion of
memory that is more or less permanent,
corresponding to everything we “know.”

What types of information are retained in long-term memory?

Our ability to store vast quantities of information for indefinite periods of time is essential if we
are to master complex skills, acquire an education, or remember the personal experiences that
contribute to our identity. Everything that we learn is stored in long-term memory (LTM): the
words to a popular song; the meaning of justice; how to roller skate or draw a face; your enjoy-
ment of opera or your disgust at the sight of raw oysters; and what you are supposed to be doing
tomorrow at 4:00 P.M.

Capacity of LTM
What is the limit of LTM?

We have seen that short-term memory can hold only a few items, normally only for a mat-
ter of seconds. By contrast, long-term memory can store a vast amount of information for
many years. In one study, for example, adults who had graduated from high school
more than 40 years earlier were still able to recognize the names of 75% of their classmates
(Lindsay & Read, 2006).


1. ____________ memory is what we are thinking about at any given moment. Its function
is to briefly store new information and to work on that and other information.

2. ____________ enables us to group items into meaningful units.
3. Strings of letters and numbers are encoded ____________ in short-term memory.
4. ____________ rehearsal, or simply repeating information over and over, is an effective

way of retaining information for just a minute or two.

Answers:1. short-term.2. chunking.3. phonologically.4. rote.


1. You try to remember the letters CNOXNPEHFOBSN, but despite your best efforts you can’t
seem to remember more than half of them. Then you are told that the letters can be
rearranged as CNN FOX HBO ESPN (four TV channels). After that, you are able to
remember all the letters even weeks later. Rearranging the letters into groups that are
easier to retain in memory is known as

a. shadowing.
b. chunking.
c. rote rehearsal.
d. cueing.

2. Your sister looks up a phone number in the phone book, but then can’t find the phone. By
the time she finds the phone, she has forgotten the number. While she was looking for the
phone, she apparently failed to engage in

a. rote rehearsal.
b. parallel processing.
c. phonological coding.
d. categorizing.

Answers:1. b.2. a.

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

Encoding in LTM
How are most memories encoded in LTM?

Can you picture the shape of Florida? Do you know what a
trumpet sounds like? Can you imagine the smell of a rose or
the taste of coffee? Your ability to do most of these things
means that at least some long-term memories are coded in
terms of nonverbal images: shapes, sounds, smells, tastes,
and so on (Cowan, 1988).

Yet, most of the information in LTM seems to be encoded
in terms of meaning. If material is especially familiar (the
words of the national anthem, for example), you may have
stored it verbatim in LTM, and you can often retrieve it word
for word when you need it. Generally speaking, however, we
do not use verbatim storage in LTM. If someone tells you a
long, rambling story, you may listen to every word, but you
certainly will not try to remember the story verbatim. Instead,

you will extract the main points of the story and try to remember those. Even simple sen-
tences are usually encoded in terms of their meaning. Thus, when people are asked to remem-
ber that “Tom called John,” they often find it impossible to remember later whether they were
told “Tom called John” or “John was called by Tom.” They usually remember the meaning of
the message, rather than the exact words (R. R. Hunt & Ellis, 2003).

Serial Position Effect
Which items in a list are hardest to remember?

When given a list of items to remember (such as a list of grocery items), people tend to do
better at recalling the first items (primacy effect) and the last items (recency effect) in the list.
They also tend to do poorest of all on the items in the middle of the list. (See Figure 6–2.)

The explanation for this serial position effect resides in understanding how short-
and long-term memory work together. The recency effect occurs because the last items that
were presented are still contained in STM and thus are available for recall. The primacy
effect, on the other hand, reflects the opportunity to rehearse the first few items in the list—
increasing their likelihood of being transferred to LTM.

Poor performance occurs on the items in the middle of the list because they were pre-
sented too long ago to still be in STM, and because so many items requiring attention were
presented before and after them that there was little opportunity for rehearsal. The serial
position effect has been shown to occur under a wide variety of conditions and situations
(Neath, 1993; Suhr, 2002; W. S. Terry, 2005).

Maintaining LTM
What three processes are used to hold information in LTM?

Rote Rehearsal Rote rehearsal, the principal tool for holding information in STM, is
also useful for holding information in LTM. Rote rehearsal is probably the standard
method of storing conceptually meaningless material, such as phone numbers, Social
Security numbers, security codes, computer passwords, birth dates, and people’s names.

Indeed, although everyone hates rote drill, there seems to be no escaping its use in
mastering a wide variety of skills, from memorizing the alphabet to playing a work of
Mozart on the piano or doing a back flip on the balance beam. Mastering a skill means
achieving automaticity, or fluid, immediate performance. Expertise in typing, for example,
involves the ability to depress the keys quickly and accurately without thinking about it.
Automaticity is achieved only through tedious practice.

194 Chapter 6

Figure 6–2
The serial position effect.
The serial position effect demonstrates how
short- and long-term memory work together.


Primacy effect

We can easily
recall the first
few items in a list
because the opportunity
to rehearse them increases
the likelihood that they are
transferred into long-term memory.

Items in the middle of the
list are the hardest to recall
because (a) they were presented
too long ago to still be in short-
term memory and (b) so many
items came before and after
them that there was little
opportunity for rehearsal,
limiting transfer into LTM.

We can

recall items
near the end of

a list because they
are still contained in
short-term memory.

Recency effect

Middle End





Position of item in list



Information in LTM is highly organized and
cross-referenced, like a cataloging system in
a library. The more carefully we organize
information, the more likely we will be to
retrieve it later.

serial position effect The finding that when
asked to recall a list of unrelated items,
performance is better for the items at the
beginning and end of the list.

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Memory 195

Research suggests, however, that repetition without any intention to learn generally
has little effect on subsequent recall (Van-Hooff & Golden, 2002). You can probably prove
this phenomenon to yourself: Stop here and try to imagine from memory the front side of
a U.S. penny. Now look at Figure 6–3, and pick the illustration that matches your memory.
For most people, this task is surprisingly difficult: Despite the repetition of seeing thou-
sands of pennies, most people cannot accurately draw one, or even pick one out from
among other, similar objects (Nickerson & Adams, 1979).

Elaborative Rehearsal As we have seen, rote rehearsal with the intent to learn is
sometimes useful in storing information in LTM. But often, an even more effective proce-
dure is elaborative rehearsal (Craik, 2002; Craik & Lockhart, 1972), the act of relating new
information to something that we already know. Through elaborative rehearsal, you extract
the meaning of the new information and then link it to as much of the material already in
LTM as possible. We tend to remember meaningful material better than arbitrary facts; and
the more links or associations of meaning you can make, the more likely you are to remem-
ber the new information later.

Clearly, elaborative rehearsal calls for a deeper and more meaningful processing of
new data than does simple rote rehearsal (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Unless we rehearse
material in this way, we often soon forget it. For example, have you ever been in a group
in which people were taking turns speaking up—perhaps on the first day of class when all
present are asked to introduce themselves briefly, or at the beginning of a panel
discussion when the speakers are asked to do the same in front of a large audience? Did
you notice that you forgot virtually everything that was said by the person who spoke just
before you did? According to research, you failed to remember because you did not elab-
oratively rehearse what that person was saying (C. F. Bond, Pitre, & Van Leeuwen, 1991).
That person’s comments simply “went in one ear
and out the other” while you were preoccupied with
thinking about your own remarks.

In some situations, special techniques called
mnemonics (pronounced ni-MON-iks) may help you
to tie new material to information already in LTM.
Some of the simplest mnemonic techniques are the
rhymes and jingles that we often use to remember dates
and other facts. Thirty days hath September, April, June,
and November . . . enables us to recall how many days
are in a month. With other simple mnemonic devices,
words or sentences can be made out of the material to
be recalled. We can remember the colors of the visible
spectrum—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and
violet—by using their first letters to form the acronym

Schemata A variation on the idea of elaborative
rehearsal is the concept of schema (plural:
schemata). A schema is a mental representation of an

Figure 6–3
A penny for your thoughts.
Which of these accurately illustrates a real U.S.
penny? The answer is on page 196.







1995 1995 19951995



elaborative rehearsal The linking of new
information in short-term memory to familiar
material stored in long-term memory.

mnemonics Techniques that make material
easier to remember.

Elaborative Rehearsal

Elaborative rehearsal requires that you relate new material to informationalready stored in LTM. Sometimes, this requires thinking abstractly, visually,or conceptually about the things you want to remember. How would you use
elaborative rehearsal to store the following information?

1. In Japanese, the word for difficult is muzukashii.
2. The p in pterodactyl is silent.
3. The square root of pi is approximately 1.772.

Now try to develop an elaborative rehearsal strategy for something you are try-
ing to learn, say in this or another class you are taking.

Did using an elaborative rehearsal strategy increase your ability to recall the
material? What types of elaborative rehearsal strategies did you devise?
Which ones seem to work best for you? Why do you think that was the case?

schema (skee-mah; plural: schemata) A set
of beliefs or expectations about something that
is based on past experience.

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

196 Chapter 6

event, an object, a situation, a person, a process, or a relationship that is stored in memory
and that leads you to expect your experience to be organized in certain ways. For example,
you may have a schema for eating in a restaurant, for driving a car, or for attending a class
lecture. A class lecture schema might include sitting down in a large room with seats
arranged in rows, opening your notebook, and expecting the professor or lecturer to come
in and address the class from the front of the room.

Schemata such as these provide a framework into which incoming information is
fitted. Schemata also may color what you recall by prompting you to form a stereotype;
that is, to ascribe certain characteristics to all members of a particular group. (We will
explore the process of stereotyping in Chapter 14, “Social Psychology.”) Thus, becoming
aware of your particular schemata is one way to improve your ability to remember.
(See “Applying Psychology: Improving Your Memory” for more on improving your

To summarize, we have seen that the capacity of LTM is immense and material
stored there may endure, more or less intact, for decades. By comparison, STM has a
sharply limited capacity and information may disappear quickly from it. The sensory
registers can take in an enormous volume of information, but they have no ability to
process memories. Together, these three stages of memory—the sensory registers, STM,
and LTM—comprise the information-processing view of memory, as reviewed in the
“Summary Table: Memory as an Information-Processing System.” (Answer to question
on page 195: The accurate illustration of a penny in Figure 6–3 is the third from
the left.)

Types of LTM
How do types of LTM differ?

The information stored in LTM can take many forms. However, most long-term
memories can be classified into one of several types: episodic, semantic, procedural, and
emotional memories.

Episodic memories (D. C. Rubin, 2006; Tulving, 2002, 2005) are memories for events
experienced in a specific time and place. These are personal memories, rather than histori-
cal facts. If you can recall what you ate for dinner last night or how you learned to ride a
bike when you were little, then you are calling up episodic memories. Episodic memory is
like a diary that lets you go back in time and space to relive a personal experience (Knierim,
2007). For Jill Price, profiled at the beginning of this chapter, every waking moment is char-
acterized by a barrage of episodic memories.



Means by Which
Information Is

Form in Which
Information Is

Organization Storage Duration

Means by Which
Information Is

Factors in

Sensory Register Visual and
auditory registers

Raw sensory

None From less than
1 second to only
a few seconds

Reconsideration of

Decay or masking


Rote or

Visual and

None Usually 15 to
20 seconds

Rote or

Interference or


Rote rehearsal,

Some nonverbal
mostly stored by

Logical frameworks,
such as hierarchies
or categories

Perhaps for an
entire lifetime

Retrieval cues
linked to organized

Retrieval failure or

episodic memories The portion of long-
term memory that stores personally
experienced events.

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

Semantic memories are facts and concepts not linked to a particular time. Semantic
memory is like a dictionary or an encyclopedia, filled with facts and concepts, such as the
meaning of the word semantic, the location of the Empire State Building, the value of 2
times 7, and the identity of George Washington.

Procedural memories are motor skills and habits (A. Johnson, 2003). They are not mem-
ories about skills and habits; they are the skills and habits. Procedural memories have to do with
knowing how: how to ride a bicycle, play a violin, make coffee, write your name, walk across a
room, or slam on a car’s brakes. The information involved usually consists of a precise sequence
of coordinated movements that are often difficult to describe in words. Repetition, and in many

Memory 197

semantic memories The portion of long-term
memory that stores general facts and

What can you do to improve yourmemory? It’s the active decisionto get better and the number of
hours you push yourself to improve that
makes the difference. Regardless of your
innate ability, anyone can improve their
memory by doing the following.

1. Develop motivation. Without a strong
desire to learn or remember some-
thing, you probably won’t. But if
you find a way to keep yourself alert
and stimulated, you will have an easier
time learning and remembering

2. Practice memory skills. To stay sharp,
memory skills, like all skills, must be
practiced and used. Memory experts
recommend exercises such as crossword
puzzles, acrostics, anagrams, Scrabble,
Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and bridge.
Practice testing on the material you
want to learn is also helpful. Several
studies have shown that repeated test-
ing increases retention of material more
than simply studying (A. K. Butler,
Karpicke, & Roediger, 2008; Szpunar,
McDermott, & Roediger, 2008).

3. Be confident in your ability to
remember. Self-doubt often leads to
anxiety, which, in turn, interferes
with the ability to retrieve informa-
tion from memory. Relaxation exer-
cises, experts agree, may substantially
boost your ability to retrieve infor-
mation from memory.

4. Minimize distractions. Although
some people can study for an exam
and listen to the radio simultane-
ously, most people find that outside
distractions interfere with both
learning and remembering. Look for
a quiet, even secluded, setting before
attempting to commit something to

5. Stay focused. Paying close attention
to details, focusing on your sur-
roundings, emotions, and other ele-
ments associated with an event, will
help you remember it clearly.

6. Make connections between new
material and other information
already stored in your long-term
memory. The more links you forge
between new information and old
information already in LTM, the
more likely you are to remember the
new material. Discuss things you
want to remember with other peo-
ple. Think about or write down
ways in which the new information
is related to things you already

7. Use mental imagery. Imagery works
wonders as an aid to recalling infor-
mation from memory. Whenever
possible, form mental pictures of
the items, people, words, or activi-
ties you want to remember. If you
have a sequence of stops to make,
picture yourself leaving each place
and heading for the next. To

remember that someone’s last name
is Glass, you might imagine her
holding a glass or looking through
a glass.

8. Use retrieval cues. The more
retrieval cues you have, the more
likely it is that you will remember
something. One way to establish
automatic retrieval cues is to create
routines and structure. For example,
when you come in the door, put
your house and car keys in the same
place every time. Then when you
ask yourself, “Where did I put my
keys?” the fact that you have a spe-
cial place for the keys serves as a
retrieval cue.

9. Rely on more than memory alone.
Write down the things you need to
remember, and then post a note or
list of those things somewhere obvi-
ous, such as on your bulletin board or
refrigerator door. Put all the dates
you want to remember on a calendar,
and then put the calendar in a con-
spicuous place.

10. Be aware that your own personal
schemata may distort your recall of
events. People sometimes unknow-
ingly “rewrite” past events to fit their
current image or their desired image
of themselves and their past decisions
(Lyubomirsky & Ross, 1999; Mather,
Shafir, & Johnson, 2000). Being on
guard against such distortions may
help you avoid them.

Improving Your Memory

procedural memories The portion of long-
term memory that stores information relating to
skills, habits, and other perceptual-motor tasks.

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

explicit memory Memory for information that
we can readily express in words and are aware of
having; these memories can be intentionally
retrieved from memory.

198 Chapter 6

cases deliberate practice, are often required to master
skills and habits, but once learned, they are rarely com-
pletely lost.

Emotional memories are learned emotional
responses to various stimuli: all of our loves and
hates, our rational and irrational fears, our feelings of
disgust and anxiety. If you are afraid of flying insects,
become enraged at the sight of a Nazi flag, or are
ashamed of something you did, you have emotional

Explicit and Implicit Memory
What are the differences between implicit and explicit

Because of the differences among types of memories, psychologists
distinguish between explicit memory, which includes episodic and
semantic memories, and implicit memory, which includes proce-
dural and emotional memories (D. L. Nelson, 1994). These terms
reflect the fact that sometimes we are aware that we know something
(explicit memory) and that sometimes we are not aware (implicit

Serious interest in the distinction between explicit and implicit
memory began as a result of experiments with amnesic patients.
For example, Brenda Milner (Milner, Corkin, & Teuber, 1968) stud-
ied the now-famous case of patient “H. M.” (Henry Molaison), a

young man who had severe, uncontrollable epileptic seizures. The seizures became life
threatening, so that as a last resort, surgeons removed most of the afflicted area of his
brain. The surgery greatly reduced the frequency and severity of seizures, but it left behind
a new problem: H. M. could no longer form new memories. He could meet someone again
and again, but each time it was as if he were meeting the person for the first time. Old
memories were intact: He could remember things that he had learned long before the
operation, but he could not learn anything new. Or so it seemed!

Then one day Milner asked H. M. to trace the outline of a star while looking in a mir-
ror. This simple task is surprisingly difficult, but with practice most people show steady
progress. Surprisingly, so did H. M. Each day he got better and better at tracing the star,
just as a person with an undamaged brain would do—yet each day he had no recollection
of ever having attempted the task. H. M.’s performance demonstrated not only that he
could learn, but also that there are different kinds of memories. Some are explicit: We
know things, and we know that we know them. And some are implicit: We know things,
but that knowledge is unconscious. (See Table 6–1 for a summary of implicit and explicit

Additional support for the distinction between explicit and implicit memory is
derived from clinical observations of the ways in which strong emotional experiences
can affect behavior years later even without any conscious recollection of the
experiences (Kihlström, 1999; Kihlström, Mulvaney, Tobias, & Tobis, 2000; Westen,
1998). In cases of war, abuse, or terrorism, emotional memories are sometimes so
overwhelming and painful they can lead to a psychiatric disorder called posttraumatic
stress disorder or PTSD (Lasiuk & Hegadoren, 2006; D. C. Rubin, Berntsen, & Bohni,
2008). (We will consider PTSD in more detail in Chapter 11, “Stress and Health

The fact that strong emotional memories can affect behavior without conscious aware-
ness seem at first to give credence to Freud’s notion of the unconscious mind—that
repressed memories for traumatic incidents can still affect our behavior. But implicit

emotional memories Learned emotional
responses to various stimuli.

implicit memory Memory for information that
we cannot readily express in words and may not
be aware of having; these memories cannot be
intentionally retrieved from memory.

Types of Memory

Experts disagree about how many different kinds of memory there are.Recently, some psychologists have suggested that the classification ofmemories into different types is artificial and merely confuses matters. They
suggest that we should consider memory a unitary thing.

What arguments can you come up with to support the practice of making
distinctions among different kinds of memory?

Once skills such as playing tennis have been
stored in our procedural memory, they are
seldom lost.

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Memory 199

memory research suggests instead that people store emotional experiences sepa-
rately from the memories of the experience itself. Thus, we may feel anxiety about
flying because of a traumatic plane ride in early childhood, yet we may not
remember the experience that gives rise to that anxiety. Memory of the event is out
of reach, not because (as Freud thought) it has been repressed, but because the
episodic and emotional components of the experience were stored separately.

Priming Research on a phenomenon called priming also demonstrates the
distinction between explicit and implicit memory. In priming, a person is
exposed to a stimulus, usually a word or picture. Later, the person is shown a
fragment of the stimulus (a few letters of a word or a piece of a picture) and is
asked to complete it. The typical result is that people are more likely to com-
plete fragments with items seen earlier than they are with other, equally plausi-
ble items. For example, you might be shown a list of words, including the word
tour. Later on, you might be shown a list of word fragments, including __ ou __,
and be asked to fill in the blanks to make a word. In comparison to others who had not
been primed by seeing the word tour, you are far more likely to write tour than you are
four, pour, or sour, all of which are just as acceptable as tour. The earlier exposure to tour
primes you to write that word.

The Tip-of-the-Tongue Phenomenon Everyone has had the experience of know-
ing a word but not quite being able to recall it. This is called the tip-of-the-tongue phe-
nomenon (or TOT) (R. Brown & McNeil, 1966; Hamberger & Seidel, 2003; B. L. Schwartz,
2002; Widner, Otani, & Winkelman, 2005). Although everyone experiences TOTs, these
experiences become more frequent during stressful situations and as people get older (B. L.
Schwartz & Frazier, 2005; K. K. White & Abrams, 2002). Moreover, other words—usually
with a sound or meaning similar to the word you are seeking—occur to you while you are
in the TOT state and these words interfere with and sabotage your attempt to recall the
desired word. The harder you try, the worse the TOT state gets. The best way to recall a
blocked word, then, is to stop trying to recall it! Most of the time, the word you were
searching for will pop into your head, minutes or even hours after you stopped consciously
searching for it (B. L. Schwartz, 2002). (If you want to experience TOT yourself, try naming
Snow White’s seven dwarfs.)

The distinction between explicit and implicit memories means that some knowl-
edge is literally unconscious. Moreover, as we shall soon see, explicit and implicit mem-
ories also seem to involve different neural structures and pathways. However, memories
typically work together. When we remember going to a Chinese restaurant, we recall not
only when and where we ate and whom we were with (episodic memory), but also the
nature of the food we ate (semantic memory), the skills we learned such as eating with
chopsticks (procedural memory), and the embarrassment we felt when we spilled the
tea (emotional memory). When we recall events, we typically do not experience these
kinds of memories as distinct and separate; rather, they are integrally connected, just as

tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (or
TOT) Knowing a word, but not being able to
immediately recall it.

Looking into a bakery window, perhaps
smelling the aromas of the cakes inside, may
prime the memory, triggering distinct memo-
ries associated with those sights and smells,
formed many years ago.


Explicit Implicit

Semantic Episodic Procedural Emotional

Memories of facts and

Memories of
experienced events

Motor skills and

Learned emotional

Example: recalling that
Albany is the capital of
New York

Example: recalling a
trip to Albany

Example: ice

Example: recoiling at
the sight of a rat

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200 Chapter 6

• Define long-term potentiation. Identify

the areas of the brain that play a role in
the formation and storage of long-term
memories. Describe the role of sleep in
the formation of new memories.

long-term potentiation (LTP) A long-lasting
change in the structure or function of a synapse
that increases the efficiency of neural
transmission and is thought to be related to how
information is stored by neurons.

the original experiences were. Whether we will continue to remember the experiences
accurately in the future depends to a large extent on what happens in our brain, as we
will see in the next section.


1. The primacy effect accounts for why we remember items at the ___________ of a list, while
the recency effect accounts for why we remember items at the ___________ of the list.

2. If information is learned through repetition, this process is ___________ rehearsal; if it is
learned by linking it to other memories, this process is ___________ rehearsal.

3. A schema is a framework in memory into which new information is fit. Is this statement true
(T) or false (F)?

4. Implicit memories consist of ___________ and ___________ memories, whereas explicit
memories consist of ___________ and ___________ memories.

Answers:1. beginning; end.2. rote; elaborative.3. (T).4. procedural and emotional;
episodic and semantic.


1. You run into an old friend who gives you his phone number and asks you to call. You want
to be sure to remember the phone number, so you relate the number to things that you
already know. “555” is the same as the combination to your bicycle lock. “12” is your
brother’s age. And “34” is the size of your belt. This technique for getting information into
long-term memory is called

a. rote rehearsal.
b. relational rehearsal.
c. elaborative rehearsal.
d. episodic rehearsal.

2. He: “We’ve been to this restaurant before.”
She: “I don’t think so.”
He: “Didn’t we eat here last summer with your brother?”
She: “That was a different restaurant, and I think it was last fall, not last summer.”
This couple is trying to remember an event they shared and, obviously, their memories
differ. The information they are seeking is most likely stored in

a. procedural memory.
b. emotional memory.
c. semantic memory.
d. episodic memory.

Answers:1. c.2. d.

What role do neurons play in memory?

Research on the biology of memory focuses mainly on the question, How and where are
memories stored? Simple as the question is, it has proved enormously difficult to answer and
our answers are still not entirely complete.

Current research indicates that memories consist of changes in the synaptic connec-
tions among neurons (Asrican, 2007; Kandel, 2001). When we learn new things, new con-
nections are formed in the brain; when we review or practice previously learned things, old
connections are strengthened. These chemical and structural changes can continue over a
period of months or years (Abraham & Williams, 2008; Bekinschtein et al., 2008; Lu,
Christian, & Lu, 2008), during which the number of connections among neurons increases
as does the likelihood that cells will excite one another through electrical discharges, a
process known as long-term potentiation (LTP).

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Memory 201

Although learning takes place in the brain, it is also influenced by events occurring
elsewhere in the body. Two hormones in particular, epinephrine and cortisol, have been
shown to affect long-term retention, especially for unpleasant experiences (Korol & Gold,
2007). Another hormone found to influence memory is ghrelin. Secreted from the lining of
stomach when it is empty, ghrelin travels to the brain where it primarily stimulates recep-
tors in the hypothalamus to signal hunger. However, some ghrelin also finds its way to the
hippocampus, where studies with mice have shown it can enhance learning and memory
(Diano et al., 2006; Olszewski, Schiöth, & Levine, 2008). As a result, the hungry mice are
more likely to remember where they have found food in the past.

Mind–Body Effects of Stress on Body and Brain
Epinephrine secretion is part of the “fight or flight” syndrome (see Chapter 11, “Stress and
Health Psychology”), and has the effect of arousing the organism to action. However, the
effect on memory of epinephrine and other stress-related hormones is not merely the
result of general arousal. Apparently these hormones indirectly act on specific brain cen-
ters, such as the hippocampus and the amygdala, that are critical for memory formation
(Vermetten & Bremner, 2002). Increased blood levels of epinephrine probably also explain
improved performance in humans under conditions of mild stress (L. Cahill & Alkire,
2003). Extreme stress, however, often interferes with both the learning and later recall of
specific information. For example, research has demonstrated that when people are
exposed to highly stressful events, their memory for the emotional aspect of the event may
be enhanced (LaBar, 2007) but their ability to recall the nonemotional aspects of the event
is disrupted (Payne et al., 2006). If you are studying for an exam, then, a little anxiety will
probably improve your performance, but a high level of anxiety will work against you. ■

Where Are Memories Stored?
Are STM and LTM found in the same parts of the brain?

Not all memories are stored in one place. Instead our brains appear to depend on large
numbers of neurons distributed throughout the brain working in concert to form and store
memories (Tsien, 2007). However, this characteristic does not mean that memories are ran-
domly distributed throughout the brain. In fact, different parts of the brain are specialized
for the storage of memories (Rolls, 2000). (See Figure 6–4.)

Short-term and working memory, for example, seem to be located primarily in the
prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe (Izaki, Takita, & Akema, 2008; Rainer & Miller, 2002;
Scheibel & Levin, 2004). Long-term semantic memories seem to be located primarily in the
frontal and temporal lobes of the cortex, which interestingly, also play a prominent role in
consciousness and awareness. Research shows increased activity in a particular area of the
left temporal lobe—for example, when people are asked to recall the names of people. A
nearby area shows increased activity when they are asked to recall the names of animals,
and another neighboring area becomes active when they are asked to recall the names of
tools (H. Damasio, Grabowski, Tranel, Hichwa, & Damasio, 1996). (See Figure 6–5.)
Destruction of these areas of the cortex (through head injury, surgery, stroke, or disease)
results in selective memory loss (e.g., H. Damasio et al., 1996).

Episodic memories also find their home in the frontal and temporal lobes (Jackson,
2004; Nyberg et al., 2003; Stevens & Grady, 2007). But some evidence shows that episodic
and semantic memories involve different portions of these brain structures (Prince,
Tsukiura, & Cabeza, 2007). In addition, because episodic memories depend on integrating
different sensations (vision, audition, and so on) to create a personal memory experience,
they also draw upon several distinct sensory areas of the brain. Thus, episodic memory is

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202 Chapter 6

Figure 6–5
PET scanning shows increased activity in
different areas of the brain when people
are asked to recall the names of people,
animals, and tools.

probably best thought of as the integration of memories that are located throughout the
brain into a coherent personal experience (D. C. Rubin, 2006).

Procedural memories appear to be located primarily in the cerebellum (an area
required for balance and motor coordination) and in the motor cortex (Gabrieli, 1998;
Hermann et al., 2004).

Subcortical structures also play a role in long-term memory. For example, the hip-
pocampus has been implicated in the functioning of both semantic and episodic memory
(Eichenbaum & Fortin, 2003; Manns, Hopkins, & Squire, 2003; Rolls, 2000), as well as
being involved in the ability to remember spatial relationships (Astur, Taylor, Marnelak,
Philpott, & Sutherland, 2002; Bilkey & Clearwater, 2005). If the hippocampus is damaged,
people can remember events that have just occurred (and are in STM), but their long-term
recall of those same events is impaired. The amygdala, a structure that lies near the

Figure 6–4
The biological basis of memory.
Many different parts of the brain are specialized
for the storage of memories.

The frontal lobes store
semantic and episodic

The motor cortex is
involved in storing
procedural memories.

The cerebellum plays
an important role in
the storage of procedural

The temporal lobe
is involved in the
formation and storage
of long-term semantic
and episodic memories
and contributes to the
processing of new
material in short-term

The hippocampus
plays a pivotal role
in the formation of
new long-term
semantic and
episodic memories.

The prefrontal cortex
is involved in the storage
of short-term memories.

The amygdala
is vital to the
formation of
new emotional

Frontal lobe

Motor cortex



Temporal lobe

Prefrontal cortex

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Memory 203

hippocampus, seems to play a role in emotional memory that is similar to the role the
hippocampus plays in episodic, semantic, and procedural memory (LaBar, 2007; Payne et
al., 2006; Vermetten & Bremner, 2002). For example, damage to the amygdala reduces the
ability to recall new emotional experiences, but it does not prevent the recall of emotional
events that occurred prior to the damage, though they are often remembered as neutral
facts, devoid of emotional content. This may explain why people with amygdala damage
are sometimes unable to “read” facial expressions, even though they recognize the person’s
face (Pegna, Caldara-Schnetzer, & Khateb, 2008; Pegna, Khateb, & Lazeyras, 2005).

The Role of Sleep
In Chapter 4 (“States of Consciousness”), we noted that sleep appears to play an impor-
tant role in the formation of new memories. One recent study of adolescents, for example,
showed that sleeping less than 8 hours a night negatively impacted working memory
(Gradisar, Terrill, Johnston, & Douglas, 2008). Studies like this have prompted neurosci-
entists to explore precisely how sleep is involved in the formation and storage of new
memories (Rasch & Born, 2008). Brain imaging with animals and humans shows that the
same hippocampal neurons and patterns of neuron activity that accompany initial learn-
ing are reactivated during subsequent deep sleep. Thus, it is not surprising that deep sleep
after learning serves to strengthen new memories (M. P. Walker & Stickgold, 2006). More-
over, high levels of neuron reactivation during sleep are associated with the formation of
the strongest memories (McNaughton et al., 2003; Peigneux et al., 2004; Rasch, Büchel,
Gais, & Born, 2007). Clearly, psychologists have a long way to go before they will fully
understand the biology of memory, but progress is being made in this fascinating area.

Match the following types of memory to the location in the brain where they appear to be
1. ___ short-term memories a. frontal and temporal lobes
2. ___ long-term semantic and episodic

b. cerebellum and motor cortex

3. ___ procedural memories c. amygdala
4. ___ emotional memories d. prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe

Answers:1. d.2. a.3. b.4. c.


1. Oliver Sacks, the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, describes Jimmie G.,
who was an otherwise healthy 49-year-old man whose long-term memory stopped
changing when he was 19. New information in his short-term memory simply never got
stored in long-term memory. Which part of his brain was most likely not working correctly?

a. the prefrontal cortex
b. the hippocampus
c. Broca’s area
d. the occipital lobe

2. Imagine now that you encounter someone like Jimmie G., but in this case, the person
cannot form new emotional memories. He has emotional reactions to things he
encountered early in his life, but he has no such reactions to things he encountered more
recently—no new loves or hates, no new fears, no new sources of anger or happiness.
Which part of his brain is most likely not working correctly?

a. the amygdala
b. the temporal lobe
c. the prefrontal cortex
d. the cerebellum Answers:1. b.2. a.

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204 Chapter 6

Figure 6–6
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A
computerized brain scan taken of a single
patient over time shows the spread of
Alzheimer’s disease throughout the brain.
Diseased tissue is shown as red and white.
Notice how the damaged tissue replaces
normal brain tissue shown here as blue.

What factors explain why we sometimes forget?

Why do memories, once formed, not remain forever in the brain? Part of the answer has to
do with the biology of memory, and another part has to do with the experiences that we
have before and after learning.

The Biology of Forgetting
How does the deterioration of the brain help to explain forgetting?

According to the decay theory, memories deteriorate because of the passage of time. Most
of the evidence supporting decay theory comes from experiments known as distractor stud-
ies. For example, in one experiment, participants learned a sequence of letters, such as PSQ.

Then they were given a three-digit number, such as 167, and
asked to count backwards by threes: 167, 164, 161, and so on,
for up to 18 seconds (L. R. Peterson & Peterson, 1959). At the
end of that period, they were asked to recall the three letters.
The results of this test astonished the experimenters. The par-
ticipants showed a rapid decline in their ability to remember
the letters. Because the researchers assumed that counting
backwards would not interfere with remembering, they could
only account for the forgotten letters by noting that they had
simply faded from short-term memory in a matter of seconds.
Decay, then, seems to be at least partly responsible for forget-
ting in short-term memory.

Information in LTM also can be lost if the storage process is
disrupted. Head injuries often result in retrograde amnesia, a
condition in which people cannot remember what happened to
them shortly before their injury. In such cases, forgetting may
occur because memories are not fully consolidated in the brain.

Severe memory loss is invariably traced to brain damage
caused by accidents, surgery, poor diet, or disease (Roncadin, Guger, Archibald, Barnes, &
Dennis, 2004). For example, chronic alcoholism can lead to a form of amnesia called
Korsakoff ’s syndrome caused by a vitamin deficiency in the nutritionally poor diet that is typi-
cal of people who abuse alcohol (Baddeley, 1987; Hildebrandt, Brokate, Eling, & Lanz, 2004).
Other studies show the importance of the hippocampus to long-term memory formation.
Studies of elderly people who are having trouble remembering new material, for instance,
show alterations in hippocampal functioning and connectivity to other areas of the brain
(Grady, McIntosh, & Craik, 2003). Brain scans (see Figure 6–6) also reveal hippocampus dam-
age in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disorder that causes severe
memory loss (Rapp et al., 2006; Villain et al., 2008). (See Chapter 9,“Life-Span Development,”
for more information about Alzheimer’s disease.)

• Describe the biological factors that

influence forgetting, including the
phenomenon of retrograde amnesia.

• Differentiate between retroactive and
proactive interference.

• Explain what is meant by “state-
dependent memory” and the
“reconstructive” nature of remembering.

decay theory A theory that argues that the
passage of time causes forgetting.

retrograde amnesia The inability to recall
events preceding an accident or injury, but
without loss of earlier memory.

Source: © The New Yorker Collection, 1998,
Mick Stevens from cartoonbank.com. All Rights

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Memory 205

Alzheimer’s may also involve below-normal levels of the neurotransmitter acetyl-
choline in the brain. Indeed, some research suggests that drugs and surgical procedures
that increase acetylcholine levels may serve as effective treatments for age-related mem-
ory problems (Coyle, Geerts, Sorra, & Amatniek, 2007; McIntyre, Marriott, & Gold,

Experience and Forgetting
What environmental factors contribute to our inability to remember?

Although sometimes caused by biological factors,
forgetting can also result from inadequate learning. A
lack of attention to critical cues, for example, is a
cause of the forgetting commonly referred to as
absentmindedness (D. L. Schacter, 1999). For exam-
ple, if you can’t remember where you parked your
car, most likely you can’t remember because you did-
n’t pay attention to where you parked it.

Forgetting also occurs because, although we
attended to the matter to be recalled, we did not
rehearse the material enough. Merely “going
through the motions” of rehearsal does little good.
Prolonged, intense practice results in less forgetting
than a few, halfhearted repetitions. Elaborative
rehearsal can also help make new memories more
durable. When you park your car in space G-47, you
will be more likely to remember its location if you
think, “G-47. My uncle George is about 47 years
old.” In short, we cannot expect to remember infor-
mation for long if we have not learned it well in the
first place.

Interference Inadequate learning accounts for
many memory failures, but learning itself can
cause forgetting. This is the case because learning one thing can interfere with learning
another. Information gets mixed up with, or pushed aside by, other information and thus
becomes harder to remember. Such forgetting is said to be due to interference. As
portrayed in Figure 6–7, there are two kinds of interference. In retroactive interference,
new material interferes with information already in long-term memory. Retroactive
interference occurs every day. For example, once you learn a new telephone number, you
may find it difficult to recall your old number, even though you used that old number
for years.

In the second kind of interference, proactive interference, old material interferes
with new material being learned. Like retroactive interference, proactive interference is
an everyday phenomenon. Suppose you always park your car in the lot behind the
building where you work, but one day all those spaces are full, so you have to park
across the street. When you leave for the day, you are likely to head for the lot behind
the building—and may even be surprised at first that your car is not there. Learning to
look for your car behind the building has interfered with your memory that today you
parked the car across the street.

The most important factor in determining the degree of interference is the similarity of
the competing items. Learning to swing a golf club may interfere with your ability to hit a
baseball, but probably won’t affect your ability to make a free throw on the basketball courts.
The more dissimilar something is from other things that you have already learned, the less
likely it will be to mingle and interfere with other material in memory (G. H. Bower &
Mann, 1992).

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Figure 6–7
Diagram of experiments measuring
retroactive and proactive interference.
In retroactive interference, the experimental
group usually does not perform as well on tests
of recall as those in the control group, who
experience no retroactive interference from a
list of words in Step 2. In proactive interference,
people in the experimental group suffer the
effects of proactive interference from the list in
Step 1. When asked to recall the list from Step 2,
they perform less well than those in the control

Proactive Interference

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

Retroactive Interference

Learn list

of rivers

Learn list
of rivers
Learn list
of rivers




Learn list of
mountains Experimental

group performs
less well on
recalling list

of rivers

group performs

less well on
recalling list of


Rest or
engage in

Rest or
engage in

Learn list of

Learn list of

retroactive interference The process by which
new information interferes with information
already in memory.

proactive interference The process by which
information already in memory interferes with
new information.

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206 Chapter 6

Situational Factors Whenever we try to memorize something, we are also unin-
tentionally picking up information about the context in which the learning is taking
place. That information becomes useful when we later try to retrieve the corresponding
information from LTM. If those environmental cues are absent when we try to recall
what we learned, the effort to remember is often unsuccessful. Context-dependent
memory effects tend to be small, so studying in the same classroom where you are
scheduled to take an exam will probably not do too much to improve your grade. Nev-
ertheless, contextual cues are occasionally used by police who sometimes take wit-
nesses back to the scene of a crime in the hope that they will recall crucial details that
can be used to solve the crime.

Our ability to accurately recall information is also affected by internal cues, a phenom-
enon known as state-dependent memory. Researchers have found that people who learn
material in a particular physiological state tend to recall that material better if they return
to the same state they were in during learning (de-l’Etoile, 2002; Kelemen & Creeley, 2003;
Riccio, Millin, & Gisquet-Verrier, 2003). For example, if people learn material while under
the influence of caffeine, recall of the material is slightly improved when they are again
under the influence of caffeine (Kelemen & Creeley, 2003).

The Reconstructive Process Forgetting also occurs because of what is called the
“reconstructive” nature of remembering. Earlier, we talked about how schemata are used in
storing information in long-term memory. Bartlett proposed that people also use schemata
to “reconstruct” memories (Bartlett, 1932; D. L. Schacter, Norman, & Koutstaal, 1998). This
reconstructive process can lead to huge errors. Indeed, we are sometimes more likely to
recall events that never happened than events that actually took place (Brainerd & Reyna,
1998)! The original memory is not destroyed; instead, people are sometimes unable to tell
the difference between what actually happened and what they merely heard about or imag-
ined (Garry & Polaschek, 2000; S. R. Schmidt, 2004; S. E. Taylor, Pham, Rivkin, & Armor,

We may also reconstruct memories for social reasons or personal self-defense (Feeney
& Cassidy, 2003). Each time you tell someone the story of an incident, you may uncon-
sciously make subtle changes in the details of the story. Consequently, these changes
become part of your memory of the event. When an experience doesn’t fit our view of the
world or ourselves, we tend, unconsciously, to adjust it or to blot it out of memory alto-
gether (Bremner & Marmar, 1998). Such distortions of memory become critically impor-
tant in criminal trials, in which a person’s guilt or innocence may depend on the testimony
of an eyewitness—a topic we will return to later in this chapter.


Factor Effect

Decay Information in memory deteriorates with the passage of time

Retrograde amnesia Storage of new information is disrupted; most often due to injury

Hippocampal damage Damage to the hippocampus interferes with the formation of new memories; often caused by brain
injury, advanced aging or Alzheimer’s disease

Retroactive interference Learning new material interferes with information already stored in memory

Proactive interference Information already stored in memory interferes with learning new material

Situational factors Attempting to remember something in a different situation or internal state may negatively impact

Reconstruction Memories are reconstructed or replaced with incorrect information which is often more consistent
with a current image or perception

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Memory 207

What factors can influence how well you remember a specific incident?

Now that we have reviewed the various types of memory and how our memory for differ-
ent events is stored in the brain, we will turn our attention to some special factors that
affect memory.

Cultural Influences
Are the memory tasks in Western schools different from those in cultures
that pass on traditions orally?

Remembering has practical consequences for our daily life and takes place within a particu-
lar context. It’s not surprising, then, that many researchers believe that the values and cus-
toms of a given culture have a profound effect on what and how easily people remember
(Confino & Fritzsche, 2002; Shebani, van de Vijver, & Poortinga, 2008). In many Western
cultures, for example, being able to recite a long list of words or numbers, to repeat the
details of a scene, and to provide facts and figures about historical events are all signs of a
“good memory.” In fact, tasks such as these are often used to test people’s memory abilities.


Match the following terms with their appropriate definitions:

Answers:1. c.2. a.3. b.


1. You are trying to explain to someone that “forgetting” sometimes occurs because of the
reconstructive nature of long-term memory. Which of the following would be an example
that you might use to support your position?

a. People can distinguish between real and fictional accounts in narratives.
b. People who learn material in a particular setting tend to recall that material better

if they return to that same setting.
c. Rote rehearsal with no intention to remember has little effect on long-term memory.
d. People often rewrite their memories of past events to fit their current view or

desired view of themselves.

2. You are given a chance to earn $10 if you can correctly learn a list of 20 words. You have
5 minutes to learn the entire list. At the end of that time, you can recite the list perfectly.
But before you are given a chance to show what you have learned, you are required to
learn a second list of similar words. When it comes time to show how well you learned the
first list, to your dismay, you discover that you have forgotten half the words that you once
knew perfectly! What is the most likely cause of your forgetting the words on the first list?

a. negative transfer
b. retroactive interference
c. retroactive facilitation
d. proactive interference

• Describe the influence of culture on

• Define autobiographical memory and

describe the several theories that
attempt to explain childhood amnesia.

• Describe examples of extraordinary
memory (including eidetic imagery and
flashbulb memories).

• Discuss the accuracy of eyewitness
testimony and recovered memories.

Answers:1. d.2. b.

1. ___ retrograde amnesia

2. ___ retroactive interference

3. ___ proactive interference

a. forgetting because new information makes it
harder to remember information already in memory

b. forgetting because old information in memory
makes it harder to learn new information

c. can result from head injury or electroconvulsive

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208 Chapter 6

However, these kinds of memory tasks do not necessarily reflect the type of learning, mem-
orization, and categorization skills taught in non-Western schools. Members of other cul-
tures often perform poorly on such memory tests because the exercises seem so odd to them.

In contrast, consider the memory skills of a person living in a society in which cultural
information is passed on from one generation to the next through a rich oral tradition.
Such an individual may be able to recite the deeds of the culture’s heroes in verse or rattle
off the lines of descent of families, larger lineage groups, and elders. Or perhaps the indi-
vidual has a storehouse of information about the migration of animals or the life cycles of
plants that help people to obtain food and to know when to harvest crops.

Look carefully at these cows and try to notice
significant distinguishing characteristics of
each animal. Is this task difficult for you? It
probably is, unless you have been working
closely with cattle all your life, as these two
people have.

Diversity–Universality Memory and Culture
Frederic Bartlett, whose work on memory was discussed earlier in this chapter, anticipated
the intertwining of memory and culture long ago. Bartlett (1932) related a tale of a Swazi
cowherd who had a prodigious memory for facts and figures about cattle. The cowherd
could recite, with virtually no error, the selling price, type of cattle bought, and circum-
stances of the sale for purchases dating back several years. These skills are not surprising
when you know that in Swazi culture the care and keeping of cattle are very important in
daily life, and many cultural practices focus on the economic and social importance of cat-
tle. In contrast, Bartlett reported, Swazi children did no better than his young European
participants in recalling a 25-word message. Stripped of its cultural significance, their
memory performance was not exceptional. More recent research showed that college stu-
dents in Ghana, a culture with a strong oral tradition, were much better than college stu-
dents in New York at remembering a short story they had heard (Matsumoto, 2000). ■

Autobiographical Memory
What kinds of events are most likely to be remembered?

Why do we have so few memories from the first 2 years of life?

Autobiographical memory refers to our recollection of events that happened in our life and
when those events took place (Koriat, Goldsmith, & Pansky, 2000; K. Nelson & Fivush,
2004); as such, it is a form of episodic memory. As Martin Conway (1996, p. 295) contends,
“autobiographical memory is central to self, to identity, to emotional experience, and to all
those attributes that define an individual.”

In general, recent life events are, of course, easier to recall than earlier ones. In a classic
study of autobiographical memory, researchers asked young adults to report the earliest
personal memory that came to mind when they saw each of 20 words and then to estimate
how long ago each event had occurred. The words were all common nouns, such as hall and
oven, for which people can easily create images. In general, most personal memories con-
cerned relatively recent events: The longer ago an event occurred, the less likely people were
to report it (Crovitz & Schiffman, 1974). Other research, however, shows that people over
age 50 are more likely than younger people to recall events from relatively early in life,
probably because many of the most critical choices we make in our lives occur in late ado-
lescence and early adulthood (Janssen, Chessa, & Murre, 2005; Mackavey, Malley, & Stew-
art, 1991).

Exactly how the vast amount of autobiographical information stored in memory is
organized is not fully understood, but research in this area has supported two interesting
theories. It may be that we store autobiographical information according to important
events in our lives, such as beginning college, getting married, or experiencing the death of a
loved one. This view explains why we can usually remember when events occurred relative
to these major landmarks in our lives (Shum, 1998). We may also store autobiographical

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Memory 209

memories in event clusters, which are groups of memories on a related theme or that take
place close together in time (N. R. Brown, 2005; N. R. Brown & Schopflocher, 1998). How-
ever, it is important to remember that like all memory, autobiographical memory is not
always accurate, though its accuracy does increase when distinctive cues are present to help
elicit the recall of information (McDonough & Gallo, 2008).

Stability–Change Childhood Amnesia
Despite the richness of our autobiographical memories, research shows that people rarely if
ever recall events that occurred before they were 2 years old (Howe, 2003). This phenome-
non is sometimes called childhood amnesia, or infantile amnesia.

Exactly why people have difficulty remembering events from their first years of life is
not well understood, although several explanations have been advanced (Q. Wang, 2003).
One hypothesis holds that childhood amnesia is a result of the child’s brain not being fully
developed at birth. Consistent with this line of reasoning, Patricia Bauer and her colleagues
(Bauer, 2008; Bauer, Burch, Scholin, & Güler, 2007) found that memories formed early in
life may not consolidate properly because the specific regions of the brain devoted to mem-
ory consolidation are not yet fully developed, and as such remain vulnerable to interfer-
ence. Childhood amnesia may also be linked to language skills: Young children do not have
the language skills necessary to strengthen and consolidate early experiences (Hudson &
Sheffield, 1998; Simcock & Hayne, 2002). Other research suggests that age-related changes
in encoding, retention, and retrieval processes that accompany the transition from infancy
to early childhood account for childhood amnesia (Hayne, 2004). Still other researchers
contend appropriate cues and repetition are the primary influences on efficient recall, not
age (Bauer, 1996). Further research is needed before we can evaluate each of these alterna-
tive explanations. ■

eidetic imagery The ability to reproduce
unusually sharp and detailed images of
something one has seen.

childhood amnesia The difficulty adults have
remembering experiences from their first two
years of life.

Extraordinary Memory
What is photographic memory?

Some people are able to perform truly amazing feats of memory. From time to time, the
newspaper will carry a report of a person with a “photographic memory.” This phenome-
non, called eidetic imagery, enables people to see the features of an image in minute detail,
sometimes even to recite an entire page of a book they read only once.

One study screened 500 elementary schoolchildren before finding 20 with eidetic
imagery (Haber, 1969). The children were told to scan a picture for 30 seconds, moving
their eyes to see all its various parts. The picture was then removed, and the children were
told to look at a blank easel and report what they saw in an eidetic image. They needed at
least 3 to 5 seconds of scanning to produce an image, even when the picture was familiar. In
addition, the quality of eidetic imagery seemed to vary from child to child. One girl in this
study could move and reverse images and recall them several weeks later. Three children
could produce eidetic images of three-dimensional objects; and some could superimpose
an eidetic image of one picture onto another and form a new picture. However, the chil-
dren with eidetic imagery performed no better than their noneidetic classmates on other
tests of memory.

One of the most famous documented cases of extraordinary memory comes from
the work of the distinguished psychologist Alexander Luria (Luria & Solotaroff, 1987).
For over 20 years, Luria studied a Russian newspaper reporter named Shereshevskii
(“S”). In The Mind of a Mnemonist (1968), Luria described how “S” could recall masses of
senseless trivia as well as detailed mathematical formulas and complex arrays of num-
bers. He could easily repeat lists of up to 70 words or numbers after having heard or seen
them only once.

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210 Chapter 6

“S” and other people with exceptional memories were not born with a special gift for
remembering things. Rather, they have carefully developed memory techniques using
certain principles. For example, Luria discovered that when “S” studied long lists of words,
he would form a graphic image for every item. When reading a long and random list of
words, for example, “S” might visualize a well-known street, specifically associating each
word with some object along the way. When asked to recite the lists of words, he would take
an imaginary walk down that street, recalling each object and the word associated with it.
By organizing his data in a way that was meaningful to him, he could more easily link them
to existing material in his long-term memory.

Developing an exceptional memory takes time and effort (Ericsson, Delaney, Weaver,
& Mahadevan, 2004; Wilding & Valentine, 1997). Mnemonists (pronounced nee-MON-
ists), people who are highly skilled at using memory techniques, frequently have com-
pelling reasons for developing their memories. “S” used his memory skills to his advantage
as a newspaper reporter. As we will see in the next chapter, chess masters also sometimes
display astonishing recall of meaningful chessboard configurations (Campitelli, Gobet, &
Parker, 2005; Haberlandt, 1997).

Flashbulb Memories
Are flashbulb memories always accurate?

A flashbulb memory is the experience of remembering vividly a certain event and the inci-
dents surrounding it even after a long time has passed. We often remember events that are
shocking or otherwise highly significant in this way (Cubelli & Della Sala, 2008; Wooffitt,
2005). The death of a close relative, a birth, a graduation, or a wedding day may all elicit
flashbulb memories. So can dramatic events in which we were not personally involved,
such as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001
(Edery & Nachson, 2004; Talarico & Rubin, 2003): 97% of Americans surveyed 1 year after
the September 11 attacks claimed they could remember exactly where they were and what
they were doing when they first heard about the attacks (Pew Research Center for the Peo-
ple and the Press, 2002).

The assumptions that flashbulb memories are accurate, that they form at the time
of an event, and that we remember them better because of their highly emotional
content have all been questioned (Talarico & Rubin, 2007). First, flashbulb memories
are certainly not always accurate. Although this is a difficult contention to test, let’s
consider just one case. Psychologist Ulric Neisser vividly recalled what he was doing on
the day in 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He clearly remembered
that he was listening to a professional baseball game on the radio, which was interrupted
by the shocking announcement. But professional baseball is not played in December,
when the attack took place, so this sharp flashbulb memory was simply incorrect
(Neisser, 1982).

Even if an event is registered accurately, it may undergo periodic revision, just like
other long-term memories (Cubelli & Della Sala, 2008). We are bound to discuss and
rethink a major event many times, and we probably also hear a great deal of additional
information about that event in the weeks and months after it occurs. As a result, the flash-
bulb memory may undergo reconstruction and become less accurate over the years until it
sometimes bears little or no resemblance to what actually happened.

Eyewitness Testimony
How much can we trust eyewitness testimony?

I know what I saw! When an eyewitness to a crime gives evidence in court, that testimony
often overwhelms evidence to the contrary. Faced with conflicting or ambiguous testimony,

mnemonists People with highly developed
memory skills.

flashbulb memory A vivid memory of a
certain event and the incidents surrounding it
even after a long time has passed.

Millions of people will forever have a vivid
flashbulb memory of planes flying into the
twin towers of the World Trade Center in
New York City on September 11, 2001.

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

jurors tend to put their faith in people who saw an event with their own eyes. However, there
is now compelling evidence that this faith in eyewitnesses is often misplaced (Sporer, 2008;
D. B. Wright & Loftus, 2008).

For more than 20 years, Elizabeth Loftus (1993; Loftus & Pickrell, 1995; D. B. Wright &
Loftus, 2008) has been the most influential researcher into eyewitness memory. In a clas-
sic study, Loftus and Palmer (1974) showed experimental participants a film depicting a
traffic accident. Some of the participants were asked, “About how fast were the cars going
when they hit each other?” Other participants were asked the same question, but with the
words smashed into, collided with, bumped into, or contacted in place of hit. The researchers
discovered that people’s reports of the cars’ speed depended on which word was inserted
in the question. Those asked about cars that “smashed into” each other reported that the
cars were going faster than those who were asked about cars that “contacted” each other.
In another experiment, the participants were also shown a film of a collision and then
were asked either “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” or “How fast
were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” One week later, they were asked
some additional questions about the accident that they had seen on film the week before.
One of the questions was “Did you see any broken glass?” More of the participants
who had been asked about cars that had “smashed into” each other reported that they had
seen broken glass than did participants who had been asked the speed of cars that “hit”
each other. These findings illustrate how police, lawyers, and other investigators may,
often unconsciously, sway witnesses and influence subsequent eyewitness accounts. On
the basis of experiments like these, Loftus and Palmer concluded that eyewitness testi-
mony is unreliable.

Why do eyewitnesses make mistakes? Some research suggests that the problem may
be source error: People are sometimes unable to tell the difference between what they
witnessed and what they merely heard about or imagined (Garry & Polaschek, 2000;
Hekkanen & McEvoy, 2005; Kleider, Pezdek, Goldinger, & Kirk, 2008; Reyna & Titcomb,
1997). This is especially true for young children (Shapiro, 2002; K. L. Thierry & Spence,
2002). Indeed, studies have shown that imagining an event sometimes makes people
believe it actually happened (Garry & Polaschek, 2000; Henkel, Franklin, & Johnson,
2000; Mazzoni & Memon, 2003). Similarly, if you hear information about an event you
witnessed, you might later confuse your memory of that information with your mem-
ory of the original event. For instance, studies have shown that if an eyewitness receives
confirming feedback after picking a suspect out of a police lineup, or has the opportu-
nity to meet with a co-witness who shares their memory for the event, their confidence
in the accuracy of their memory increases (Mori & Mori, 2008; Neuschatz et al., 2005;
D. B. Wright & Skagerberg, 2007). The impact of subsequent information seems to be
particularly strong when it is repeated several times (Zaragoza & Mitchell, 1996), as is
often the case with extensive media coverage, or when it comes from an authority figure
such as a police officer (Roper & Shewan, 2002). Other studies have shown that simply
describing the perpetrator shortly after the incident occurs actually interferes with
memories of what the person actually looked like, thus making it more difficult for the
eyewitness to pick the correct person out of a lineup at a later date (B. Bower, 2003a;
Fiore & Schooler, 2002).

Whatever the reason for eyewitness errors, there is good evidence that such
mistakes can send thousands of innocent people to jail each year in the United States
(Pezdek, 2007). For example, based almost entirely on the eyewitness identification
testimony of a single individual, Steven Avery was convicted of brutally attacking, rap-
ing, and nearly killing a woman in 1985 and was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
Although Avery offered alibis from 14 witnesses and documentation showing he wasn’t
at the scene of the crime, it took repeated legal challenges and new advances in DNA
testing for him to overcome the conviction. Finally, on September 11, 2003, Mr. Avery
was exonerated of all charges and released from prison. Increasingly, courts are recog-
nizing the limits of eyewitness testimony (Kassin, Tubb, Hosch, & Memon, 2001;
E. Rubinstein, 2008).

Memory 211

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

Recovered Memories
Can people be persuaded to “create” new memories about events that
never occurred?

In recent years, a controversy has raged, both within the academic community and in soci-
ety at large, about the validity of recovered memories (Boag, 2007; Cerri, 2005; Geraerts &
McNally, 2008; Geraerts, McNally, Jelicic, Merckelbach, & Raymaekers, 2008; Gerkens,
2005; Loftus, Garry, & Hayne, 2008). The idea is that people experience an event, then lose
all memory of it, and then later recall it, often in the course of psychotherapy or under hyp-
nosis. Frequently, the recovered memories concern physical or sexual abuse during child-
hood. The issue is important not only for theoretical reasons, but also because of the fact
that people have been imprisoned for abuse solely on the basis of the recovered memories
of their “victims” (Geraerts, Raymaekers, & Merckelbach, 2008). Adding to this confusion
is research that shows children’s memories are particularly influenced by negative emo-
tions. Thus, when recalling events associated with an uncomfortable experience, such as
abuse, children are more likely to make factual errors than when recalling neutral or posi-
tive events (Brainerd, Stein, Silveira, Rohenkold, & Reyna, 2008). No one denies the reality
of childhood abuse or the damage that such experiences cause. But are the recovered mem-
ories real? Did the remembered abuse really occur?

The answer is by no means obvious. There is ample evidence that people can be
induced to “remember” events that never happened
(S. M. Smith et al, 2003). Research confirms that it is
relatively easy to implant memories of an experience
merely by asking about it. Sometimes these memories
become quite real to the participant. In one experi-
ment, 25% of adults “remembered” fictitious events
by the third time they were interviewed about them.
One of the fictitious events involved knocking over a
punch bowl onto the parents of the bride at a wed-
ding reception. At the first interview, one participant
said that she had no recollection whatsoever of the
event; by the second interview, she “remembered” that
the reception was outdoors and that she had knocked
over the bowl while running around. Some people
even “remembered” details about the event, such as
what people looked like and what they wore. Yet, the
researchers documented that these events never hap-
pened (Hyman, Husband, & Billings, 1995).

The implication of this and similar research is
that it is quite possible for people to “remember” abu-
sive experiences that never happened. And some peo-
ple who have “recovered” abuse memories have later
realized that the events never occurred. Some of these
people have brought suit against the therapists who,
they came to believe, implanted the memories. In one
case, a woman won such a suit and was awarded
$850,000 (Imrie, 1999; also see Geraerts, Raymaekers,
& Merckelbach, 2008).

However, there is reason to believe that not all
recovered memories are merely the products of sug-
gestion. There are numerous case studies of people
who have lived through traumatic experiences,
including natural disasters, accidents, combat, assault,
and rape, who then apparently forgot these events for
many years, but who later remembered them (Arrigo

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212 Chapter 6

Eyewitness Testimony

T. R. Benton, Ross, Bradshaw, Thomas, and Bradshaw (2006) studied 111jurors drawn from a jury pool in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Using a ques-tionnaire with 30 statements about eyewitness testimony (Kassin et al.,
2001), they found that jurors significantly disagreed with eyewitness experts on
more than 85% of the items. For example, 98% of the experts agreed that “Police
instructions can affect an eyewitness’s willingness to make an identification,”
but only 41% of the jurors agreed. Eighty-one percent of the experts agreed that
“Eyewitnesses sometimes identify as a culprit someone they have seen in
another situation or context”; only 30% of the jurors agreed. And while 91% of
the experts agreed that “Hypnosis increases suggestibility to leading and mis-
leading questions,” only 24% of the jurors agreed with that statement. The
authors concluded that jurors “exhibit important limitations in their knowledge
of eyewitness issues; their knowledge diverges significantly from expert opin-
ion, and it is not high in overall accuracy” (p. 126).

1. What questions might you raise about the authors’ conclusion? For
example, do you think that their sample of jurors is representative of
jurors throughout the United States? If so, why do you think so? If not, in
what ways do you think it differed significantly and how do you think that
might have affected their results?

2. The authors note that “. . . it is not surprising to find numerous and var-
ied reasons offered by courts across the country for excluding testimony
from eyewitness experts. One of the most commonly cited reasons is that
eyewitness memory is common sense to jurors, and thus an eyewitness
expert is simply not necessary.” Do you agree that testimony from eye-
witness experts “is simply not necessary”? Why or why not? Are there
some circumstances when such testimony might be more valuable than
others? How might you go about determining whether, in fact, expert tes-
timony is valuable at least sometimes?

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

& Pezdek, 1997). For example, Wilbur J. Scott, a sociologist, claimed to remember nothing
of his tour of duty in Vietnam during 1968–1969, but during a divorce in 1983, he discov-
ered his medals and souvenirs from Vietnam, and the memories then came back to him
(Arrigo & Pezdek, 1997).

What is needed is a reliable way of separating real memories from false ones, but so far
no such test is available (Gleaves, Smith, Butler, & Spiegel, 2004). The sincerity and convic-
tion of the person who “remembers” long-forgotten childhood abuse is no indication of
the reality of that abuse. We are left with the conclusion that recovered memories are not, in
themselves, sufficiently trustworthy to justify criminal convictions. There must also be cor-
roborative evidence, since without corroboration, there is no way that even the most expe-
rienced examiner can separate real memories from false ones (Loftus, 1997).

Memory 213


Is each of the following statements true (T) or false (F)?
1. Retrograde amnesia is the phenomenon that we seldom remember events that occurred

before our second birthday.
2. A long-lasting and vivid memory for a certain event and the incidents surrounding it is

called a flashbulb memory.
3. Research demonstrates that it is nearly impossible to change a person’s memory once

that memory has been stored.

Answers:1. (F).2. (T).3. (F).

Answers:1. a.2. c.

1. You are talking with someone from a different culture who is not very good at
remembering long lists of random words or numbers, but who can recite from memory all
of his ancestors going back hundreds of years. What is the most likely explanation for this
difference in memory skills?

a. The values and customs of a given culture have a profound effect on what
people remember.

b. The person’s autobiographical memory is stronger than his semantic memory.
c. The list of his ancestors has been stored in flashbulb memory.
d. The list of his ancestors is an example of a “recovered memory.”

2. Your mother is reminiscing about your first birthday party and asks you, “Do you
remember when Aunt Mary dropped her piece of cake in your lap?” Try as you might, you
can’t recall that incident. This is most likely an example of

a. memory decay.
b. retrograde amnesia.
c. infantile amnesia.
d. proactive interference.

Enduring Issues in Memory
memory, p. 187

model, p. 187

The Sensory Registers
sensory registers, p. 188
attention, p. 188

Short-Term Memory
short-term memory (STM),

p. 190

chunking, p. 191
rote rehearsal, p. 192

Long-Term Memory
long-term memory (LTM), p. 193
serial position effect, p. 194
elaborative rehearsal, p. 195
mnemonics, p. 195
schema, p. 195
episodic memories, p. 196
semantic memories, p. 197

procedural memories, p. 197
emotional memories, p. 198
explicit memory, p. 198
implicit memory, p. 198
tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon

(or TOT), p. 199

The Biology of Memory
long-term potentiation (LTP),

p. 200

decay theory, p. 204
retrograde amnesia, p. 204
retroactive interference, p. 205
proactive interference, p. 205

Special Topics in Memory
childhood amnesia, p. 209
eidetic imagery, p. 209
mnemonists, p. 210
flashbulb memory, p. 210

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214 Chapter 6

What is the role of sensory registers? Many psychologists view
memory as a series of steps in which we encode, store, and retrieve
information, much as a computer does. This is called the
information-processing model of memory. The first step in the
model is inputting data through our senses into temporary holding
bins, called sensory registers. These registers give us a brief
moment to decide whether something deserves our attention.

What would happen if auditory information faded as quickly
as visual information fades? Information entering a sensory reg-
ister disappears very quickly if it isn’t processed further. Informa-
tion in the visual register lasts for only about a quarter of a second
before it is replaced by new information. If sounds faded from our
auditory register as rapidly as this, spoken language would be more
difficult to understand. Luckily, information in the auditory regis-
ter can linger for several seconds.

Why does some information capture our attention, while
other information goes unnoticed? The next step in the memory
process is attention—selectively looking at, listening to, smelling,
tasting, or feeling what we deem to be important. The nervous sys-
tem filters out peripheral information, allowing us to zero in on
what is essential at a particular time. Unattended information
receives at least some processing, however, so that we can quickly
shift attention to it if it suddenly strikes us as significant.

What are the two primary tasks of short-term memory? How
much information can be held in short-term memory? Short-
term memory (STM), also called working memory, holds whatever
information we are actively attending to at any given time. Its two
primary tasks are to store new information briefly and to “work” on
information that we currently have in mind. We can process more
information in STM by grouping it into larger meaningful units, a
process called chunking.

Do we store material in short-term memory as it sounds or
as it looks? Information can be stored in STM according to the
way it sounds, the way it looks, or its meaning. Verbal information
is encoded by sound, even if it is written rather than heard. The
capacity for visual encoding in STM is greater than for encoding by

How can we hold information in STM? Through rote rehearsal,
or maintenance rehearsal, we retain information in STM for a
minute or two by repeating it over and over again. However, rote
memorization does not promote long-term memory.

What types of information are retained in long-term memory?
Long-term memory (LTM) stores everything we learn.

What is the limit of LTM? Long-term memory can store a vast
amount of information for many years.

How are most memories encoded in LTM? Most of the infor-
mation in LTM seems to be encoded according to its meaning.

Which items in a list are hardest to remember? Short- and
long-term memory work together to explain the serial position
effect, in which people tend to recall the first and last items in a list
better than items in the middle. The recency effect explains that
items at the end are still held in STM, whereas the primacy effect
describes the extra LTM rehearsal given to items early in the list.

What three processes are used to hold information in LTM?
The way in which we encode material for storage in LTM affects the
ease with which we can retrieve it later on. Rote rehearsal is partic-
ularly useful for holding conceptually meaningless material, such as
phone numbers, in LTM. Through the deeper and more meaning-
ful mechanism of elaborative rehearsal, we extract the meaning of
information and link it to as much material as possible that is
already in LTM. Memory techniques such as mnemonics rely on
elaborative processing.

A schema is a mental representation of an object or event that
is stored in memory. Schemata provide a framework into which
incoming information is fitted. They may prompt the formation of
stereotypes and the drawing of inferences.

How do types of LTM differ? Episodic memories are personal
memories for events experienced in a specific time and place.
Semantic memories are facts and concepts not linked to a particular
time. Procedural memories are motor skills and habits. Emotional
memories are learned emotional responses to various stimuli.

What are the differences between implicit and explicit mem-
ories? Explicit memory refers to memories we are aware of,
including episodic and semantic memories. Implicit memory
refers to memories for information that either was not intentionally
committed to LTM or is retrieved unintentionally from LTM,
including procedural and emotional memories. This distinction is
illustrated by research on priming, in which people are more likely
to complete fragments of stimuli with items seen earlier than with
other, equally plausible items.

What role do neurons play in memory? Memories consist of
changes in the chemistry and structure of neurons. The process by
which these changes occur is called long-term potentiation (LTP).

Are STM and LTM found in the same parts of the brain? Dif-
ferent parts of the brain are specialized for the storage of memories.
Short-term memories seem to be located primarily in the pre-
frontal cortex and temporal lobe. Long-term memories seem to
involve both subcortical and cortical structures. Semantic and
episodic memories seem to be located primarily in the frontal and
temporal lobes of the cortex, and procedural memories appear to
be located primarily in the cerebellum and motor cortex. The hip-

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Memory 215

pocampus seems especially important in the formation of seman-
tic, episodic, and procedural memories. Emotional memories are
dependent on the amygdala.

What role does sleep play in memory? During deep sleep, the
same hippocampal neurons and patterns of neuron activity that
accompany initial learning are reactivated. As a result, new memo-
ries are further strengthened.

What factors explain why we sometimes forget? Both biologi-
cal and experiential factors can contribute to our inability to recall

How does the deterioration of the brain help to explain for-
getting? According to the decay theory, memories deteriorate
because of the passage of time. Severe memory loss can be traced to
brain damage caused by accidents, surgery, poor diet, or disease.
Head injuries can cause retrograde amnesia, the inability of people
to remember what happened shortly before their accident. The hip-
pocampus may have a role in long-term memory formation.
Below-normal levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine may be
implicated in memory loss seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

What environmental factors contribute to our inability to
remember? To the extent that information is apparently lost from
LTM, researchers attribute the cause to inadequate learning or to
interference from competing information. Interference may come
from two directions: In retroactive interference, new information
interferes with old information already in LTM; proactive interfer-
ence refers to the process by which old information already in LTM
interferes with new information.

When environmental cues present during learning are absent
during recall, context-dependent forgetting may occur. The ability to
recall information is also affected by one’s physiological state when the
material was learned; this process is known as state-dependent memory.

Sometimes we “reconstruct” memories for social or personal
self-defense. Research on long-term memory and on forgetting
offers ideas for a number of steps that can be taken to improve recall.

What factors can influence how well you remember a spe-
cific incident? Cultural values and customs profoundly affect
what people remember and how easily they recall it. So do the emo-
tions we attach to a memory, with some emotion-laden events
being remembered for life. Also affecting how well we remember
are the strategies we use to store and retrieve information.

Are the memory tasks in Western schools different from
those in cultures that pass on traditions orally? Many Western
schools stress being able to recall long lists of words, facts, and fig-
ures that are divorced from everyday life. In contrast, societies in
which cultural information is passed on through a rich oral tradi-
tion may instead emphasize memory for events that directly affect
people’s lives.

What kinds of events are most likely to be remembered?
Autobiographical memory refers to recollection of events from one’s
life. Not all of these events are recalled with equal clarity, of course,
and some are not recalled at all. Autobiographical memories are
typically strongest for events that had a major impact on our lives
or that aroused strong emotion.

Why do we have so few memories from the first 2 years of
life? People generally cannot remember events that occurred
before age 2, a phenomenon called childhood amnesia. Childhood
amnesia may result from the incomplete development of brain
structures before age 2, from the infants’ lack of a clear sense of
self, or from the lack of language skills used to consolidate early
experience. Research also suggests it may be related to an adult’s
inability to recall memories that were, in fact, stored during the
first 2 years.

What is a photographic memory? People with exceptional mem-
ories have carefully developed memory techniques. Mnemonists
are individuals who are highly skilled at using those techniques. A
phenomenon called eidetic imagery enables some people to see
features of an image in minute detail.

Are flashbulb memories always accurate? Years after a dra-
matic or significant event occurs, people often report having vivid
memories of that event as well as the incidents surrounding it.
These memories are known as flashbulb memories. Recent
research has challenged the assumptions that flashbulb memories
are accurate and stable.

How much can we trust eyewitness testimony? Jurors tend to
put their faith in witnesses who saw an event with their own eyes.
However, some evidence suggests that eyewitnesses sometimes are
unable to tell the difference between what they witnessed and what
they merely heard about or imagined.

Can people be persuaded to “create” new memories about
events that never occurred? There are many cases of people who
experience a traumatic event, lose all memory of it, but then later
recall it. Such recovered memories are highly controversial, since
research shows that people can be induced to “remember” events
that never happened. So far there is no clear way to distinguish real
recovered memories from false ones.

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

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