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construction of a new of¬ce tower.
According to Figure 1.1, our evaluation of the social situation does not translate
immediately into overt social behavior. Instead, based on our evaluation of the situation,
we form a behavioral intention. For example, one family of a 9/11 victim may decide
to sue the owners of the World Trade Center, blaming inadequate safety measures in
the buildings for the loss of their loved one. Another family might form an intention to
direct their energies into raising money to help the children who lost parents on 9/11.
In these cases, the same event yields different intentions. Thus, a behavioral intention
is the immediate, proximate cause for social behavior.
It is important to realize that just because we form a behavioral intention does not
mean we will act on that intention. For example, a person can form the intention of
¬ling a lawsuit but never follow through, thinking that perhaps more harm than good
would be done.
This view of social behavior implies that it is a dynamic process. Our monitoring
of the social situation does not end with an evaluation of the situation, or the formation
of an intention, or social behavior. Instead, we are constantly monitoring the social
Chapter 1 Understanding Social Behavior 7

situation (our own behavior and that of others) and may modify our assessment of it on
a moment-to-moment basis. Thus, we ¬ne-tune our behavioral intentions up to the point
that we engage in social behavior. So, even though the various processes underlying
social behavior are presented in Figure 1.1 in a sequence of discrete boxes, they are
really quite ¬‚uid and involve constant updating of our evaluation of the situation.
One ¬nal aspect of this model needs to be addressed. Notice that in Figure 1.1 there is
a dotted arrow going from social behavior to the social situation. In any social situation in
which we are directly involved, our own behavior in¬‚uences the social environment and
probably will cause changes in the behavior of others. For example, imagine that you are
talking to someone you have just met. Based on the ¬rst thing she says, you determine
that she is not very friendly. Consequently, you become defensive (you fold your arms,
lean away from her) and respond to her in a cold way. She picks up on your behavior and
becomes colder herself. This cycle continues until one of you breaks off the conversation.
How might this situation have played out if you had interpreted her initial behaviors as
nervousness and responded to her in a positive way? You may have made a new friend.
Thus, your own interpretations and behaviors had a profound effect on the situation.



Social Psychology and Related Fields
We have seen that social psychology is a ¬eld of study that seeks to understand and
explain social behavior”how individuals think and act in relation to other people. Yet
many other disciplines are also concerned with the thoughts and actions of human beings,
both individually and in groups. In what ways does social psychology differ from its
two parent disciplines, sociology and psychology? And how is it similar to and differ-
ent from other ¬elds of study, such as biology, anthropology, and history?
To see how these ¬elds differ in their approaches, letʼs consider a single question:
Why do groups of people, including nations, display hostility toward one another?
Although social psychologists are interested in this social problem, they have no
unique claim to it (nor to others). Biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociolo-
gists, historians, and others all have explanations for the never-ending cycle of human
violence. Letʼs consider ¬rst those ¬elds that look for the causes of violent behavior
within the individual and then move on to ¬elds that focus increasingly on factors in
the environment.
Many biologists say the answer to the puzzle of human violence resides not in
our social situations, organizations, or personalities but rather in our genetic structure.
For example, scientists have identi¬ed a tiny genetic defect that appears to predispose
some men toward violence. Scientists studied a large Dutch family with a history of
violent and erratic behavior among many, although not all, of the males. They found that
those males who were prone to violence had an enzyme de¬ciency due to a mutation
of a gene carried by the X chromosome (Brunner, Nelon, Breake¬eld, Ropers, & van
Oost, 1993). Because men have only one X chromosome, they were the only ones who
manifested the defect. Women may be carriers of the de¬ciency, but they are protected
from expressing it by their second X chromosome with its backup copy of the gene.
Geneticists do not argue that genetic defects are the sole cause of violence, but they do
say that these factors play a de¬nite role in determining who is violent.
Another biologically oriented view of this question comes from developmental psy-
chologists (who study the development of human beings across the lifespan). They suggest
that human beings may have an innate fear of strangers. They point out that at about 4 or
Social Psychology
8

5 months, infants begin to react with fear to novel or unusual stimuli, such as the faces
of strangers (Hebb & Thompson, 1968). Between 6 and 18 months, infants may expe-
rience intense stranger anxiety. These psychologists, as well as some biologists, argue
that fear of strangers may be part of our genetic heritage. Early humans who possessed
this trait may have been more likely to survive than those who didnʼt, and they passed
the trait down to us. On a group or societal level, this innate mistrust of strangers might
be elaborated into hostility, aggression, or even warfare. Other psychologists, however,
are not convinced that fear of the novel is inborn (Hebb & Thompson, 1968).
Along similar lines, anthropologists (who study the physical and cultural develop-
ment of the human species) have documented that some tribal societies view strang-
ers with suspicion and may even attempt to kill them. Some anthropologists argue that
hostility to strangers may have bene¬ted early human groups by helping them unite
against threats from the outside.
Other scientists emphasize the psychological makeup of individuals as a way of
explaining behavior. Personality psychologists suggest that aggressiveness (or any other
behavioral trait) is a characteristic of the individual. The person carries the trait from
situation to situation, expressing it in any number of different circumstances (Derlega,
Winstead, & Jones, 1991). Personality psychologists would argue that some internal
characteristic drove Rick Rescorla to behave altruistically on September 11, just as
some other personality traits affected the behavior of the hijackers.
One researcher studied the aggressive behavior of adolescent boys in Sweden over
3 years (Olweus, 1984). He found that boys who were aggressive (started ¬ghts, were
bullies) in the sixth grade were also physically aggressive in the ninth grade. Personality
researchers take this as evidence that individual factors are an important determinant of
aggression. Over the course of the 3 years, the boys had different teachers, were in differ-
ent buildings, and had a variety of classmates. Yet their behavior remained consistently
aggressive, despite the change in their social situation (Derlega et al., 1991).
Social psychologists study the individual in the social situation. They are concerned
with determining what characteristics of a situation increase or decrease the potential
for violence. In looking at the question of hostility between groups, social psychologists
focus on the forces both in individuals and in situations that lead to this outcome.
Whereas psychology (including social psychology) focuses on the role of the indi-
vidual, other ¬elds look for causes of behavior in more impersonal and general causes
outside the individual. For example, sociologists are concerned primarily, although not
exclusively, with larger groups and systems in society. A sociologist interested in vio-
lence might study the development of gangs. Interviews with gang members, observa-
tion of gang activity, or even participation in a gang as a participant, if possible, would
be potential methods of study.
Although sociology and social psychology are related, there are important dif-
ferences between them. The sociologist asks what it is about the structure of society
that promotes violence; the social psychologist, in contrast, looks at the individualʼs
particular social situation as the potential cause of violence. The social psychologist is
interested primarily in the behavior of individuals or of small groups, such as a jury.
Sociology may be empirical in the sense that it attempts to gather quantitative informa-
tion. A sociologist might compare rates of violent behavior in two societies and then
try to determine how those societies differ. Social psychology is much more an experi-
mental, laboratory-based science.
Historians take an even broader view of intergroup hostility than sociologists. They
are primarily concerned with the interplay of large forces such as economic, political, and
technological trends. Historians have shown, for example, that one nation can express
Chapter 1 Understanding Social Behavior 9

power against other nations only if it has suf¬cient economic resources to sustain armed
forces and if it has developed an adequate technological base to support them (Kennedy,
1987; OʼConnell, 1989). One historian documented the importance of a single techno-
logical advance”the invention of stirrups”in accelerating violence between groups
in the early Middle Ages (McNeill, 1982). Before stirrups were invented, knights on
horseback were not very effective ¬ghters. But once they were able to steady them-
selves in the saddle, they became capable of delivering a powerful blow with a lance
at full gallop. The use of stirrups quickly spread throughout Europe and led to the rise
of cavalry as an instrument of military power.
History and sociology focus on how social forces and social organization in¬‚u-
ence human behavior. These ¬elds tend to take a top-down perspective; the major unit
of analysis is the group or the institution, whether a nation, a corporation, or a neigh-
borhood organization. Psychology, with its emphasis on individual behavior and the
individualʼs point of view, offers a bottom-up perspective. Social psychology offers a
distinct perspective on social behavior. Social psychologists look at how social forces
affect the individualʼs thinking and behavior. Although the ¬eld takes a bottom-up per-
spective, focusing on the individual as the unit of analysis, behavior is always examined
in social situations. Social psychology, therefore, tries to take into account individual
factors, such as personality, as well as social and historical forces that have shaped
human behavior.
As indicated earlier, social psychology is a science. The use of scienti¬c methods is
the primary contribution of social psychology to the understanding of complex, uncer-
tain social behaviors such as intergroup hostility.



Research in Social Psychology
In January 1992, a celebrity basketball game was held in New York City. There was
open seating at a college basketball arena that held slightly more than 4,000 people.
Therefore, the ¬rst people in the arena would get the best seats. As the crowd outside
the arena grew into the thousands, anticipation built. People began pushing and shoving
to get closer to the doors. As the crowd pressed forward toward the arena, the situation
got out of control, and in the crush that followed, nine people were killed.
Even if you only read about this in the newspaper, you probably would wonder
how it could happen and try to come up with an explanation. You might ask yourself,
Could it be that there were thousands of highly aggressive, mean-spirited individuals
waiting to see the game? That would be hard to believe. Well, then, could the fact that
the event occurred in New York City explain it? This also seems unlikely, because
similar things have happened in smaller cities with more benign reputations, such as
Cincinnati, Ohio. Or could it be that the presence of celebrities, the limited number of
good seats, and the excitement of the event somehow in¬‚uenced the crowdʼs behav-
ior, causing them to act in ways they wouldnʼt act as individuals? This seems more
likely, but is it true?
When we devise explanations for events like these, based on our prior knowledge
and experiences, our attitudes and biases, and the limited information the newspaper
provides, we donʼt know if they are accurate or not. Such commonsense explanations”
simplistic explanations for social behavior that are based on what we believe to be true
of the world (Bordens & Abbott, 2005)”serve us well in our day-to-day lives, providing
easy ways to explain complex events. People would be hopelessly bogged down in trying
Social Psychology
10

to understand events if they didnʼt devise these explanations and move on to the next
concern in their lives. Unfortunately, commonsense explanations are usually inadequate;
that is, there is no evidence or proof that they pinpoint the real causes of events.
The aim of social psychology is to provide valid, reliable explanations for events
such as the one in New York City. Rather than relying on conjecture, rumor, and sim-
plistic reasoning, social psychologists approach the problem of explaining complex
social behavior in a systematic, scienti¬c way. They develop explanations for phenom-
scienti¬c method ena by applying the scienti¬c method, which typically involves the four steps shown in
A method of developing Figure 1.2. First, you identify a phenomenon to study. This can come from observation
scienti¬c explanations of everyday behavior, reading research literature, or your own previous research. Next,
involving four steps:
a testable research hypothesis must be formed. A hypothesis is a tentative statement
identifying a phenomenon
about the relationship between variables. The third step is to design a research study
to study, developing a
to test your hypothesis. Finally, the study is actually carried out and the data analyzed.
testable research hypothesis,
designing a research study, Only after applying this method to a problem and conducting careful research will a
and carrying out the research social psychologist be satis¬ed with an explanation.
study. Throughout this book, we refer to and describe research that social psychologists
hypothesis A tentative have conducted to test their ideas, to gain information about events, and to discover
and testable statement about the causes of social behavior. We turn now to some of the basic principles of research,
the relationship between including the major research methods, the role of theory in research, the settings for
variables.
social psychological research, and the importance of ethical conduct in research involv-
ing human participants.
The principal aim of the science of social psychology is to uncover scienti¬c expla-
nations for social behavior. A scienti¬c explanation is an interpretation of the causes
of social behavior that is based on objective observation and logic and is subject to
empirical testing (Bordens & Abbott, 2005). To this end, social psychologists use a
wide variety of techniques to study social behavior. Generally, they favor two research
strategies in their quest for scienti¬c knowledge: experimental research and correla-
experimental research
tional research. Letʼs consider the characteristics of each of these methods, along with
Research involving
manipulating a variable their advantages and disadvantages.
suspected of in¬‚uencing
behavior to see how that
Experimental Research
change affects behavior;
results show causal One goal of research in social psychology is to understand the causes of social behav-
relationships among variables. ior. The researcher usually has an idea he or she wants to test about how a particular
factor affects an event or a behavior”that is, whether a particular factor causes a par-
correlational research
Research that measures two ticular behavior. To establish a causal relationship between factors, researchers have
or more dependent variables to use the research method known as the experiment. Because experimental research
and looks for a relationship is the only kind of study that can establish causality, it is the method most social psy-
between them; causal
chologists prefer. An experiment has three essential features: manipulating a variable,
relationships among variables
ensuring that groups comprising the experiment are equivalent at the beginning of the
cannot be established.
experiment, and exercising control over extraneous variables.

Manipulating Variables
In an experiment, a researcher manipulates, or changes the value or nature of, a vari-
able. For example, Sturmer, Snyder, and Omoto (2005) conducted an experiment to
determine if individuals would be more likely to help a member of their own group
(in-group) compared to a member of another group (out-group). Heterosexual students
were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the ¬rst condition, participants
were led to believe that they were communicating with a male heterosexual student (in-
Chapter 1 Understanding Social Behavior 11




Figure 1.2 The scienti¬c
method used in social
psychology begins with
the identi¬cation of a
problem to study and then
moves to the formation of
testable hypotheses. Next,
a research study is designed
and carried out.




group condition) who indicated that he just found out that his new female dating partner
had contracted hepatitis. In the second condition, participants were led to believe that
they were communicating with a male homosexual student (out-group condition) who
indicated that he just found out his new male dating partner had contracted hepatitis.
The results showed that empathy was a signi¬cant predictor of intentions to help in the
in-group condition, but not in the out-group condition.
In this experiment, Sturmer et al. (2005) manipulated the type of information
given to participants (communicating with either an in-group or out-group member).
This variable that the researcher manipulates is called the independent variable. The independent variable
The variable that the researcher
researcher wants to determine whether changes in the value of the independent variable
manipulates in an experiment.
cause changes in the participantʼs behavior. To this end, the researcher obtains some
measure of behavior. For example, Sturmer et al. measured the participantsʼ willingness
to help the other student. This second variable is called the dependent variable: It is the dependent variable The
measure the researcher
measure the researcher assesses to determine the in¬‚uence of the independent variable

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