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The Nature of Social Psychology

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1 The Nature of Social Psychology
Tom Farsides: 29/09/03 The Nature of Social Psychology

2 The goals of the lecture series
NOT To cover everything in text. Chapters 1 through 11 must be read and learnt. Any part of Chapters 1 through 11 may be examined. TO Illustrate active engagement with the material.

3 Lecture structure Why bother to study social psychology?
What social psychology is. Methods in social psychology

4 Why bother with social psychology?
1. To get better grades. 2. To avoid the pitfalls of specialisation. 3. Because all human science is social psychological, e.g., Orne’s (1971) demand characteristics. 4. Because it will make you a better person and will contribute to a better society.

5 Creating or studying phenomena?

6 Improving you, your grades and your society
Get in the habit of ‘manipulating’ the material you encounter. Start by choosing one or more things you really want to change about (i) yourself, and (ii) society. For everything you encounter on this course, ask yourself, “what use is this to me in promoting my personal and social goals?”

7 Section 2: What social psychology is
“The scientific study of the reciprocal influence of the individual and his or her social context” Manstead & Hewstone (1995, p. 588)

8 Example topics within social psychology
Helping behaviour (altruism) Aggression Attitudes Attraction (e.g., friendship, love) Interdependence Intergroup relations Prejudice and discrimination Social identity and the self Social influence (e.g., conformity, minority influence) Stereotyping

9 Let’s take a closer look at what the individual parts of the definition mean...

10 “…the scientific study of…” (i.e., Uses ‘the scientific method’)
Empirical Systematic study Search for general principles Positive criticism (self-testing) Social and rational (non-subjective)

11 “…the individual…” Psychology is interested in two ‘ABCs’ of the individual. The individual focus distinguishes psychology from related empirical disciplines. e.g., pharmacology e.g., sociology.

12 “ their social context…”
Distinguishes social psychology as a sub-discipline. “Social context” may be actual, perceived, and/or conceived.

13 Section 3: The scientific method in psychology
Scientific psychology Generates literature-aware, empirically testable, and replicable research hypotheses. Employs a variety of methods to repeatedly test them. Communicates and interrogates results. Strives for ever-better theoretical precision and coverage.

14 Key terms and concepts in scientific psychology
Theories Hypotheses Conceptual variables and operational variables Construct validity Manipulation checks Convergent and discriminant validity Reliability (internal, test-retest, inter-rater) Triangulation Replicability External validity Generalisation Utility

15 Correlational research
Correlation assesses the linear relationship between two variables.

16 The correlation coefficient
Shows the strength and valence of a linear relationship between two continuous variables. Ranges from -1, through 0, to +1.

17 Correlation and causation
Correlation does not allow us to ‘locate’ cause and effect. If A correlates with B, there are three causal possibilities. 1. A (amount of violent TV watched) causes B (aggressive tendencies), 2. B (aggressive tendencies) causes A (amount of violent TV watched), or 3. Some other variable, C (extent of family troubles) causes both A (amount of violent TV watched) and B (aggressive tendencies).

18 Experiments Experiments allow us to infer cause-and-effect relationships because of the two essential characteristics of experiments: control of the experimental procedures, and random assignment of participants to conditions

19 Independent variables
An independent variable is one that the experimenter manipulates to examine its effect on participants. They have two or more conditions (or levels). An experiment will have one or more independent variables. A ‘subject variable’... a preexisting difference among participants ...may be used as an independent variable.

20 Dependent variables A dependent variable is an operationally defined measurement employed to see if is affected by the different conditions or levels of the independent variable. There can be one or more dependent variables (DV) for each independent variable (IV).

21 Control in experiments
To ensure that any changes in the dependent variables are caused by differences in the levels of the independent variables. Experimental group(s) receives treatment. Control group Otherwise identical, but doesn’t receive treatment. Any differences attributable to controlled difference (i.v.). Potential extraneous or confounding variables ‘controlled for’ (e.g., held constant).

22 Random Sampling compared to Random Allocation

23 Societies of psychologists
The British Psychological Society (BPS) Our national organisation Low cost student membership (£13) Many sub-sections, e.g., social psychology, student Cheap journals, e.g., BJSP for £10.50 (student rate) Benefits include receiving ‘The Psychologist’ (newsletter) See Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Largest organisation of personality & social psychologist in world Low cost student membership ($25) Benefits include receiving PSPB, PSPR, and ‘Dialogue’ (newsletter) See

24 Important web pages Social Psychology Network My site Psychabilities
Best social psychology site on the www. My site Pages of specific interest to Sussex psychology students, e.g., social psychology, study skills, etc. (Capital U, digit 0) Psychabilities Supplementary resource to core text of Brehm et al. (2002)

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