Weekly summary: December 8 – 12

This week we introduced compliance techniques.  At the end of this week you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is the difference between compliance and obedience?
  • What is meant by reciprocity?  What is the technique of door-in-the-face?
  • What is meant by commitment?  What are the techniques of low-balling and foot-in-the door?

Here is a good little video that explains “Foot-in-the-door technique.”  Maybe you can use this technique to get the best holiday gift ever from your parents….

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Weekly summary: December 1 – 5

This week our focus was on Social Learning Theory.

Based on this week’s notes, as well as pp. 111 – 116 in your text, you should be able to discuss the nature of Social Learning Theory, research that supports it, and the strengths and limitations of the theory. In addition, you should be able to discuss the research on television violence. In particular, you should be able to discuss which factors are involved in Social Learning Theory (vicarious reinforcement, attention, retention) and why some models may be more influential on our behaviour than others.

Here is an interesting video campaign that looks at SLT. What do you think?

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Weekly summary: November 24 – 28

This week we focused on two things: stereotypes and observations.  For observations, the important concepts this week are:

  • There are different ways to carry out observations.  These include time sampling, event sampling and point sampling.
  • Sometimes you decide what you are looking for before you do the observation. This is a deductive approach.  You define your terms – like “aggression” – before carrying it out.  This is called a priori coding.
  • Sometimes you have a general idea of what you are looking for, but you look for trends in your data in order to draw conclusions, rather than having a list of things to look for.  This is an inductive approach that uses emergent coding.
  • When you use researcher triangulation, the goal in an observation is that you have inter-rater reliability.  This means that when looking at each researcher’s notes, the observations are similar and draw similar conclusions.  If the researchers do not have similar findings, it means that variables may not have been well operationalized.  This could be a lack of construct validity. Or it could simply mean that the team was not well trained.

With regard to stereotyping, you should be able to discuss the following ideas:

  • What is a schema?  How do they help to explain stereotypes?
  • How can Social Identity Theory explain stereotyping?
  • Discuss Staats & Staats’ study how classical conditioning could be used to explain the formation of stereotyping.
  • Be able to explain the biological argument for prejudice.  Refer to the IAT and the research by Susan Fiske.

Here is a video that explains Stereotype Threat – the idea that stereotypes about our in-group actually has an effect on our behaviour.


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Weekly summary: November 17 – 21

This week we focused on Social Identity Theory.  Here is what you should know at the end of this week.

  • Social Identity Theory works on the basic assumption that we have a personal identity and several social identities.
  • Groups are defined as having a common goal, but also having a role on our self-esteem.  Standing at the bus stop and waiting for the 161 does not make us a group.
  • There are three steps to SIT: identification with the group (seeing that you have common traits); social comparison (seeing your group as us and others as them) and then an effect on your self-esteem.
  • In negative situations, groups see themselves as different and “them” as all the same.  This is called in-group/out-group homogeneity theory.  The process is reversed for positive situations.
  • The theory can be used to explain many behaviours – it has high heuristic validity. You should  be able to describe how the theory could be used to explain parentification and sexuality, as well as how it can explain conflict and conflict resolution (The Robber’s Cave, Sherif).
  • One of the problems with the theory is that it does not have high predictive validity.  You should be able to explain this.

Another study for you to consider. In a study by Taylor, Wood & Lichtman (1983), they found that breast cancer patients who engaged in downward comparison (comparing themselves to someone worse off than themselves) had better recovery times and more positive self-esteem; those who engage in upward comparison (comparing themselves to someone better off than themselves) tended to have longer recovery times and were more likely to suffer from depression.

Take a look at this video on football hooliganism. How does this link to what we are talking about in class?

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Weekly summary: November 10 – 14

This week we looked at the role of dispositional and situational factors in the Stanford Prison study.  When discussing the key points of the study, here some key questions to consider:

  • What was the aim of the study?  What was predicted?
  • How was the sample chosen?  Why was this the case?
  • Why were the participants randomly allocated to groups?
  • How did the fact that this was a participant observation affect the study?
  • Is the study naturalistic?
  • What are the implications of the study?
  • What are the ethical concerns about this study?
  • What is meant by deindividuation?  What role does it play in this study?
    • Informed consent – to what extent did the participants really understand what they were in for?
    • Confidentiality of data (public arrests, videotaped)
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Weekly summary: November 3 – 7

This week was spent discussing how we interpret the world around us, trying to understand why things happen.  Our focus was on attribution theory. At the end of this week, you should be able to discuss the following:

  • What is the Fundamental Attribution Error?
  • What is Self-Serving Bias?
  • What is Modesty Bias?
  • What is Defensive Attribution?
  • Can you use the Just World Hypothesis and Cognitive Dissonance to explain these errors?

Here is a short summary of the study of Modesty Bias for you – since I am not sure that I explained it very well. Fahr, Dobbins & Cheng (1991) examining self-reports of 982 Chinese workers in Taiwan found that Chinese employees rated their job performance less favorably than did their supervisors. This modesty bias occurred relatively uniformly across gender, various educational levels, and age groups. These results are contrary to the typically reported U.S. finding that self-ratings of performance are more lenient than are supervisory ratings.  The findings suggest that culture plays a critical role in shaping workers’ perceptions of their own work performance.

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Why join gangs?


Also on Friday we discussed why people join gangs.  Here is a list of reasons.  Notice how they reflect the principles of the SCLOA.

A Sense of “Family” – Young people might feel that they don’t receive enough support or attention at home. They may be trying to escape a negative home life, or may be looking for a father figure.

Need for food or money – Gangs may present themselves as a means of survival to youth who lack basic essentials such as food, clothing and shelter. More and more, gang members use their affiliation to make a profit through illegal activities, such as selling drugs and auto theft.

Desire for protection – Communities with high gang activity often see young people join a gang just to survive. It is often easier to join the gang than to remain vulnerable and unprotected in their neighborhoods.

Peer Pressure – Kids and teens face constant pressure to fit in, and they may not have the support they need to avoid the pressures to join a gang. Peer pressure can come in the form of intimidation, coercion, a dare, harassment, friendly persuasion, or repetitious begging.

Family history or tradition – Families can have gang involvement spanning over multiple generations. This is one of the toughest forms of pressure to escape, as the gang lifestyle is deeply rooted in family traditions and values.

Excitement – Some young people get a rush out of defying authority, or committing crimes. They may be attracted to the gang lifestyle, as it lives outside the law and participates in many illicit behaviors.

To Appear Cool – Gangs have mastered the art of manipulation to attract potential recruits. They wear the latest fashion trends, throw the hottest parties, and drive the coolest cars.

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Weekly summary: October 29 – 31


We did a lot for such a short week.

At the end of this week, you should understand the following vocabulary:

  • Covert vs. overt observations
  • Participant vs. non-participant observations
  • Lab vs naturalistic observations
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Foot in the door technique
  • Dispositional vs. situational factors

You should also be able to describe the Milgram experiment and what it says about dispositional factors and their role on human behaviour.  In addition to all of this, I introduced you to the SAQ.  We are really starting to make some progress now….

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Weekly summary: October 13 – 17

It is finally time to go on holiday.  It seems like a long time since we started the school year! This week was spent wrapping up our first sample IA.  I was impressed at how well many of your did on this assessment.  I think that we are ready to move on to the SCLOA!   This week we wrapped up our study of research methods by learning the following things about case studies:

  • They are holistic – that is, they look at many aspects of an individual or group.  This is in contrast to experimental research that can often be reductionist in nature.
  • Case studies use many forms of triangulation:  source (aka data) triangulation, method triangulation, researcher triangulation and theory triangulation.
  • Case studies may either be retrospective or prospective in nature.  Retrospective case studies have the problem that they rely on self reported data and human memory.  Often data cannot be verified. Prospective studies have the problem of attrition – that is, participants may drop out of the study over time for various reasons.

In addition, we started to peek at the Socio-cultural level of analysis.  We learned the basic principles that define this level of analysis.

Here is a list of the principles that we discussed:

  • Human beings are constantly being influenced by other people, even when they believe that they are acting independently.
  • We have an individual and a social identity.
  • Our behavior is the result of dispositional and situational factors.
  • Culture affects our behavior.

When we get back from break, we will start studying social psychology in depth.  Very exciting.  And no, I didn’t forget about Cialdini’s article on plane crashes that I keep forgetting to discuss in class.  Don’t worry – it will be part of what we do after the break.

If you want to start thinking about gang behaviour for our discussions after the break, you may want to watch this video.  A rather interesting link to animal behaviour….

Relax and enjoy your holidays.

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