Design an Experiment in Social Psychology –

| January 18, 2016

Design an Experiment in Social Psychology –

Design an experimental study on something of your interest. Decide on an interesting topic in Social Psychology.

Identify your research question.
Identify your hypothesis or specific predictions.
Identify your population and sample characteristics.
State your independent variable, dependent variable, and control variables.
Briefly describe how you would conduct the experiment?
You may post the Assignment here as either a file upload or text entry.

In this section, we will try to understand what Social Psychology is.

But first, reflect on how you expect to benefit from a Social Psychology class.

A scientific definition of Social Psychology is the scientific study of how people think about, influence and relate to one another. So what does that mean?
Social Thinking involves the way we perceive ourselves and others, what we believe to be true about ourselves and others, and our attitudes and judgments about others, whether they are implicit or explicit attitudes and judgments.

E.g., what kinds of attitudes do we have about other races, cultures, about the elderly, about the opposite gender, etc. We might think that our attitudes are reflected in our behavior toward different groups of people, but you’d be surprised to know that our attitudes about people are not always known even to ourselves.

Reflect on some real world examples of how our attitudes to others might influence our behaviors toward them, or their behavior toward us?
Social Influence refers to those aspects of our social world that might impact our beliefs, attitudes, judgments, behaviors to others, and so on.

For e.g., our cultures play a huge role on whether or not we conform, and who we conform to. Whether we are a member of a group or not, the type of group, even the size of the group can influence our social behaviors.

Reflect on real world examples of how social influence can affect our behaviors in the world.
Social relations refer to how we interact with, deal with and relate to others in our social world – how do we treat someone just because they have a different skin color from our self, or maybe even a different eye color? What is the psychology behind who we choose to spend the rest of our lives with, behind who we choose to help, and who we choose to ignore?

For e.g., take the classic case of Kitty Genovese, whose neighbors heard her cries for help as she was being beaten to death, yet no one came to her aid, and very few even called the police. When do we help, and when do we not?
What has social psychology taught us over the years?

Reflect on how much of what you believe to be true is actually true, and how much of it is constructed by your minds?

Is there an objective reality, or do we all just see what we want to see? For e.g., confirmation bias is the notion that we seek our evidence to support our own beliefs and disregard evidence that contradicts our beliefs – it is why we hold onto our religions, our political affiliations and our core values, even in the face of disconfirming evidence.

E.g., if you believe that global warming doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter what Al Gore says to you, you will find a way to critique the scientific evidence in support of global warming. The same is true if you believe that global warming does exist – you will find a way to devalue the evidence that global warming does not exist.
Reflect on what an intuition is. Are our gut feelings often correct? Are they capable of guiding us to make correct decisions?

Psychologists find that people engage in conscious processing of information only in some cases, e.g., when we are forced to consider evidence on a jury, or decide which brand of toothpaste might do a better job of whitening our teeth.

But we probably more often than not also engage in unconscious processing of information; that is, we make a quick and hasty judgment about a situation or a person – if you see a man walking down the street toward you with his hoody pulled low and his hands in his pockets, you might not stop to consider what his situation might be; instead, you make a quick judgment to turn and walk the other way or cross the street. This would be your intuition telling you that something is not quite right.

In this case, maybe our intuition was correct – but the question is, are our intuitions always correct, and can they lead us to make faulty decisions? E.g., may people say they have a gut feeling about not flying, so they drive from Florida to California instead. The problem is that the evidence is overwhelming that flying is much safer than driving, and even safer than being at home, especially with these sink holes nowadays!

Reflect on some intuitions you’ve had that have benefitted you in some way.
Social Psychology has also taught us that we are inherently social creatures and are easily influenced by our social world – from where we live, to our education level to the media we subscribe to, to our culture to our ethnicity – all influence our behaviors. Discuss some specific examples of these in your group assignment.
Finally, social psychology has taught us that even though we are social creatures, we are still also very much influenced by our genetics, our temperament, and our personalities.

For e.g., Eyor is a classic case of someone who has a persistently negative outlook on life. You can imagine that no matter the social situation, Eyor would be able to find something wrong with it, or with him!

On the other hand, SpongeBob is the classic case of a persistently perky individual, who always sees the good in everything – even if you are an old sponge that someone threw out and you ended up at the bottom of the sea, well the world is still a great place!

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