13 Social Psychology
STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High
As we learned in the chapter on cognition, we form concepts by organizing people and objects in categories or groups. Categorizing people leads to our perception of in-groups and out-groups. In-groups are groups of which we are members, and out-groups are groups to which we do not belong. We tend to favor our own groups, attributing more favorable qualities to “us” (in-group favoritism), and attributing more negative qualities to “them” (out-group derogation). Social psychologists have studied ethnic and racial tensions, searching for causes and potential solutions. If we can halt the more negative tendencies of conflict, and increase cooperation, we will lessen social problems.
Causes of Conflict
Prejudice is defined as an unjustified negative attitude an individual has for another, based solely on that person’s membership in a different racial or ethnic group. Discrimination occurs when those prejudiced attitudes result in unjustified behavior toward members of that group. Both often arise as a result of stereotypes, or mental schemas society attributes uncritically to these different groups. Most are unaware of how these damaging images can lead to both negative attitudes and treatment of others (like the self-fulfilling prophecy explained earlier). Stereotypes about Jews, Blacks, Italians, the rich, or cheerleaders lie dormant in our thought patterns and can easily lead to attitudes and behavior we would label prejudicial and discriminatory.
Bias is prejudice in favor of or against one person or group compared with another. One could have bias toward their own high school over the rival high school or in a negative view against a group of individuals who share different political or religious beliefs.
Implicit bias is the unconscious attribution of particular qualities to members of a particular group. These are highly influenced by modes of socialization (media, family, and friends); people are not aware that they have them, but their language or behavior may clearly demonstrate them. For example, a member of the majority group may never partner with students in a minority group, not on purpose, but it never happens. This concept was explored at Harvard University.
Scapegoat theory offers one possible explanation for these unjustified attitudes and behaviors. A classic example of this is Hitler’s use of the Jews in Nazi Germany. When our self-worth is in doubt or in jeopardy, we become frustrated and tend to find others to blame. Hitler was able to whip up negative attitudes toward Jews (scapegoats) as a result of the frustration Germans felt about the humiliating defeat and reparations after World War I. Ethnocentrism is the basic belief that our culture is superior to others. This can easily lead to an in-group/out-group belief system based on limited information about others. Out-group homogeneity is a tendency to believe all members of another group are more similar than is true. Hitler increased German pride (ethnocentrism) by suggesting Aryan superiority and blaming all problems on the out-group—scapegoated Jews. Since all Jews were thought to be similar, atrocities during the Holocaust could temporarily be justified.
What solutions can social psychologists offer to turn group conflict into group cooperation and lessen tensions between different groups? Contact theory proposes that equal status contact between antagonistic groups should lower tension and increase harmony. Muzafer Sherif showed in his classic boys’ camp study that by creating a superordinate goal (an emergency situation that required joint cooperation of both groups to solve), conflicting groups could lessen their feelings of hostility and get rid of some of the stereotypes that lack of knowledge of the other group had created. Sherif’s camp consisted of 20 boys divided into two groups of 10. Each group bonded together for a week and engaged in competitive games against the other group. In-group solidarity developed among those in the separated groups, and intergroup conflict arose from the competitive games between the groups. Fights between the groups outside of the competitions became increasingly more hostile. Sherif successfully brought the two opposing groups together by having them unite and solve the problems of a breakdown of the water supply and a food delivery truck. By creating the superodinate goal, the boys cooperated and their prior prejudices disappeared. The cumulative effect of working together for a common goal was friendship formation across groups. On the last day, both groups chose to ride home together on the same bus.
“Make flashcards. AP Psychology is ALL about the vocabulary, in both the essay and the multiple choice. Since a lot of the terms are common sense, you want to make sure that you remember the actual definition, not just a vague, layman’s term idea of the particular term.”
—Lizzie, AP student
In friendships, proximity is the primary determinant of who will initially become friends. Long-distance romances can continue, but it is more likely that one of the pair will become attracted to someone he or she sees every day. The mere exposure effect explains some of this. The more we come into contact with someone, the more likely we are to like that person. Certainly physical attractiveness is also a major factor. Most consider the “beautiful” people to be more socially skilled than less attractive others. Studies show that friends usually are rated very similarly in physical attractiveness. Similarity of interests and social background is also likely to determine who becomes friends. Another factor is utilitarian value or complementary needs. If you are less skilled at some activity, getting to know someone who can help you improve in that skill can form the basis of friendship.