Behavioral learning theory

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  • Response-Stimulus-Response model of learning (R-S-R)
  • Behavior produces an environmental effect which affects the likelihood of similar behavior in the future.
  • *Behaviors are shaped by the consequences they produce.

Positive Reinforcement – When stimulus events have the effect of increasing the probability that a response will occur again.

  • Positive Reinforcement – When stimulus events have the effect of increasing the probability that a response will occur again.
  • Negative Reinforcement – Removing a stimulus, usually an aversive one, when this removal makes a specified response more likely
  • to occur.
  • Punishment – Presentation of a stimulus that
  • makes a specified response LESS likely.
  • The bottom line is: We repeat behaviors which have, in the past, produced reinforcement, and we shy away from behaviors which have produced punishment.

Other Important Terms:

  • Other Important Terms:
  • Extinction – A decrease in strength of a conditioned response when it is no longer reinforced.
  • Shaping – Reinforcing successive approximations to some final response.

Social Learning Theory

  • A person learns through conditioning, but also by vicarious reinforcement (i.e., observers increase behavior for which they have seen others reinforced).
  • The heart of this approach says that we learn
  • through observation/imitation. This is a process
  • of:
  • Acquisition
  • Retention
  • Motor Reproduction
  • Motivation


  • Individuals are viewed as trying to maximize rewards and minimize costs.
  • Outcomes = Rewards – Costs
  • (Rewards include anything positive, desirable.
  • Costs include anything negative, undesirable.)


  • One of the most reliable sociological findings is that people’s attitudes and behaviors vary according to the social position they occupy in the social structure.
  • Structural Role Theory would say that people are like actors following a script (role consensus is assumed).
  • Consider the term, role conflict. In essence, this can occur when a person experiences two of his/her roles “colliding”.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

  • The Fundamental Attribution Error
  • The tendency to discount the role of the
  • situation in affecting a person’s behavior
  • and to over-estimate the importance of personal
  • or dispositional factors.
  • Why do we commit this error?
  • A key point of Lovaglia’s: The situation is much more powerful than we think!
  • How might a person use this information?


  • Affirmations
  • Statements about what is good and positive for you.
  • Techniques: making positive statements (in writing and/or verbally); visualizing
  • Can affirmations work?? If so, why?
  • Social Psychology tells us…Affirmations are behavior; we become what we do.

Self-Perception Theory

  • Self-Perception Theory
  • Just as we observe others’ behavior, we also observe our own behavior. We infer how we
  • feel by observing our own behavior.


  • Consider your attitude on an important topic.
  • List the people and experiences that have contributed to the development of this attitude.

What is an “attitude”?

  • What is an “attitude”?
  • A relatively enduring organization of beliefs around an object or situation. (Each attitude is really a package of beliefs).
  • How do we acquire attitudes?
  • Instrumental Conditioning
  • Modeling
  • Direct Experience
  • Genetic Factors

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

  • Cognitive Dissonance Theory
  • Overturns the common sense notion that:
  • Attitudes-------Behavior
  • “Dissonance” is a state of tension produced when elements are in conflict.
  • Think of it this way (Equilibrium Process Model):
  • equilibrium-----------dissonance-producing situation-------------------dissonance ----------attitude change---------equilibrium
  • How can we reduce dissonance?
  • Selective attention
  • Lower expectations
  • Seek support

When is dissonance likely?

  • When is dissonance likely?
  • After making a big decision.
  • When there is inadequate external justification for behavior.
  • (“external justification” is situationally-determined)
  • e.g., Festinger & Carlsmith study, 1957)
  • The key idea: If we can’t find sufficient external justification for our behavior, then we attempt to justify internally, by changing our attitude in the direction of our behavior.


  • Herbert Blumer coined the term, “symbolic interactionism”
  • Blumer’s Propositions:
  • Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that things have for them.
  • These meanings arise out of social interaction.
  • Social action results from a fitting together of individual lines of action.
  • Two Schools of Thought: the Chicago School and the
  • Iowa School

Symbolic Interactionism

  • This perspective emphasizes the production of society as an ongoing process of negotiation among social actors.
  • Assumptions:
  • 1. Symbols transfer meaning in human interaction.
  • 2. The individual becomes humanized (socialized) through interaction with people.
  • 3. Reality is a process.
  • 4. Human beings have the ability to act upon
  • the environment.
  • What kind of image do we get of the human actor?
  • active, creative, shapers of our own reality, goal-seeking

Symbolic Interactionism

  • Key Terms:
  • Meaning
  • Definition of the Situation – One’s cognitive idea
  • of his/her place in social time and space
  • that constrains behavior.
  • Taking the Role of the Other
  • Application: Labeling

Symbolic Interactionism

  • Distinction between signs and symbols:
  • A sign is directly connected to an object
  • or event and calls forth a fixed or
  • habitual response.
  • A symbol is something that people
  • create and use to stand for
  • something else. (e.g., object,
  • gesture, word)

Symbolic Communication & Language

  • Communication requires 2 things: Speaking & Listening
  • What do we mean when we say to our interaction partner: “Are you listening to me?!”
  • Listening requires our responsive attention.
  • “pseudo-listening” – We really aren’t paying
  • attention to what the other person
  • is saying, although we act as if we are.
  • What are some listening situations that are difficult?

Symbolic Communication & Language

  • Two types of meaning:
  • denotative meaning – The literal, explicit
  • properties associated with a word.
  • (The dictionary meaning)
  • connotative meaning – Cognitive and emotional
  • responses one has to a word.
  • (These meanings are personal)
  • Importance of social context – Who are we with, and
  • what is the situation?

Symbolic Communication & Language

  • Nonverbal Communication
  • paralanguage – All vocal aspects of speech other than words.
  • body language – The silent movement of
  • body parts.
  • interpersonal spacing – How we position ourselves at varying distances and angles from others.
  • choice of personal effects – Choices of clothing, etc.

Fun with images What do you see here?

Two Group Portraits

  • What's that in the middle?

Young Woman/Old Woman


  • The perceptual process involves a sequence of external events followed by internal events.
  • Visual agnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize familiar objects.


  • Data-------------------------Theory
  • physical behavior dispositional traits
  • verbal behavior (personality
  • appearance characteristics)
  • Biases:
  • 1. Primacy Effect – People rely more heavily on the
  • first information they get on a person and tend to discount
  • later information.
  • 2. Implicit Personality Theory – Network of assumptions people
  • make about the relationship among traits and behaviors.
  • 3. Stereotypes – Given a group membership, we assume traits
  • about a person.


  • Attribution – The process of inferring the
  • cause of others’ behavior.
  • Attribution Theory is concerned with how
  • people assign causes to events.
  • 2 types of explanations of behavior:
  • dispositional & situational attributions


  • Biases:
  • 1. Fundamental Attribution Error
  • 2. Actor-Observer Differences – A difference between two points of view (that of the actor and the observer).
  • 3. Self-Serving Bias – The tendency we have to
  • attribute positive outcomes to our own
  • dispositions and negative outcomes to situational causes.
  • 4. Self-Defeating Bias – Undesirable behavior is
  • attributed to negative aspects of the self.

Harold Kelley’s Attribution Theory

  • We use 3 types of information in making decisions about the causation of action in a situation:
  • 1. Distinctiveness – Observe actor in similar situations.
  • (low distinctiveness implies personal cause;
  • high distinctiveness implies situational cause).
  • 2. Consensus – Compare actor’s behavior to others’.
  • (low consensus implies personal cause;
  • high consensus implies situational cause)
  • 3. Consistency – Observe actor’s behavior over time.
  • (low consistency implies situational cause;
  • high consistency implies personal cause)


  • Other factors that are relevant to attribution:
    • Do we like the person whose behavior we are observing?
    • Is there a reward or punishment attached to the behavior?


  • Applications of Attribution Theory:
    • Appraisals (e.g., self/peer/subordinate)
    • Marketing (e.g., advertising – do consumers attribute claims about a product to the company’s desire to sell the product, or to actual, positive attributes of the product?)


  • Socialization is the process by which we acquire
  • those modes of thinking, acting, and feeling that
  • enable us to participate in the larger human community.
  • Agents of Socialization are persons or institutions
  • which influence our thoughts and behaviors.
  • Examples?
  • Reciprocal Socialization – Recognizes that socialization
  • is not a one-way process; e.g., kids influence adults.
  • Examples?


  • Developmental psychologist Kenneth Kaye
  • “frames” – Tools that parents/adults use
  • to organize time and space for child.
  • Examples: nurturant, protective,
  • instrumental, feedback,
  • discourse
  • Socialization is like an apprenticeship (i.e., it is
  • a process; it is relational).


  • Social Learning Theory
  • Socialization is accomplished through two processes:
  • 1. Direct Learning – We are first
  • socialized via our parents’ rewards
  • and punishments (i.e., external
  • reinforcement). Over time, we control our
  • own behavior through self-reinforcement
  • (internalization makes this possible).
  • 2. Observation/Modeling


  • Piaget – Cognitive Developmental Theory
  • Socialization is a process by which the individual develops from simple to complex. 4 stages:
  • 1. Sensorimotor
  • object permanence, cause-effect, recognitory schemes
  • 2. Pre-Operational
  • knowledge of symbols
  • 3. Concrete Operational
  • concrete operations such as conservation and serialization
  • 4. Formal Operational
  • abstract thought


  • Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson
  • 8 Psychosocial Stages:
  • 1. Trust vs. Mistrust
  • 2. Autonomy vs. Doubt
  • 3. Initiative vs. Guilt
  • 4. Industry vs. Inferiority
  • 5. Identity vs. Role Confusion
  • 6. Intimacy vs. Isolation
  • 7. Generativity vs. Self-Absorption
  • 8. Integrity vs. Despair


  • Piaget’s Theory of Moral Development
  • 1. The Pre-Moral Period
  • 2. Heteronomous Morality – Strong respect for
  • rules. Child is likely to judge the
  • naughtiness of an act by its objective
  • consequences rather than the actor’s
  • intent.
  • 3. Autonomous Morality – Rules are viewed as
  • arbitrary agreements that can be
  • challenged.


  • Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development – 3 levels:
  • 1. Pre-conventional – Oriented to personal needs.
  • 2. Conventional – Oriented to social rules.
  • 3. Post-Conventional – Oriented toward making
  • autonomous decisions.
  • These developmental models feature stages that are
  • step-wise and sequential – i.e., people go through the
  • stages one after another. But…might individuals
  • regress in their morality? Also, might one’s actual behavior fail to correspond to his/her moral judgments?


  • Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory – The key is the
  • process of identification.
  • Social Learning Theory – Imitation, reinforcement.
  • Cognitive Development Theory – Gender is an organizing scheme for the developing child.
  • Symbolic Interactionism – “doing gender” refers
  • to seeing gender as an activity accomplished through social interaction.


  • Resocialization – The process through which adults
  • learn new values, norms, and expectations when they
  • leave old roles and enter new ones.
  • Total Institutions – Place where individuals are cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period and where together they lead an enclosed, formally administered life.
  • Contact with outside world controlled; new recruits & inmates not allowed to see family, old friends, former associates.
    • Examples: Army, prisons, mental hospitals, convents, monasteries
    • The “Stripping process”


  • Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self
  • The process through which we develop our sense
  • of self based upon the reactions of other people
  • to our actions.
  • G.H. Mead’s Stages to Becoming a Self:
  • 1. The Play Stage
  • 2. The Game Stage
  • 3. The Generalized Other
  • Two aspects of the self: “I” and “Me”


  • self-concept: The sum total of beliefs you have
  • about yourself.
  • self-esteem: The evaluative component of the
  • self-concept.
  • situated self: The subset of self-concepts that
  • constitutes the self we know in a particular
  • situation.
  • self-monitoring: Extent to which people use information
  • about the environment as a basis for modifying
  • behavior.


  • mutable self: A self-concept that is highly
  • adaptive to rapid social and cultural change.


  • Identity Salience
  • Our identities are organized hierarchically based
  • on salience. Implications?
  • 1. The higher the salience of an identity,
  • the more often we will try to draw
  • on that identity.
  • 2. If a given identity is defined as highly
  • important, we will be more inclined
  • to develop it.
  • 3. Highly salient identities can carry over.


  • Aaron Beck’s concept of “personal domain” –
  • Inclusive notion of what a person’s self consists
  • of; everything that you care about and that is
  • important for you to maintain. For example:
  • self-concept
  • personal goals/motives
  • moral rules/principles
  • possessions
  • significant others
  • groups that have symbolic significance

Appearance and the Self

  • Consider the tee shirt.
    • What gets communicated via tee shirts? (e.g., think about messages of style, politics, status, interests, beliefs, etc.)


  • Depression
  • Characterized by the “cognitive triad” (Aaron Beck, MD)
  • 1. negative conception of self
  • 2. negative interpretation of life experiences
  • 3. fatalistic view of the future
  • The depressed person engages in “selective abstraction” – overinterpreting daily events in terms of loss.

Cognitive Therapy and Depression

  • Cognitive Therapy and Depression
  • What we consciously think is what mainly determines how we feel. 5 tactics:
  • 1. Learn to recognize automatic thoughts (ATs).
  • 2. Learn to dispute the ATs by marshaling contrary evidence.
  • 3. Learn to make different attributions (reattributions) and use them to dispute your ATs.
  • 4. Learn how to distract yourself from depressing thoughts.
  • 5. Learn to recognize and question assumptions that govern much of what you do.
  • For Discussion:

Attributional style of depressed person: He/she attributes bad events to causes that are internal, stable, and global. Good results are believed to result from situational, unstable, and specific causes (e.g., luck).

  • Attributional style of depressed person: He/she attributes bad events to causes that are internal, stable, and global. Good results are believed to result from situational, unstable, and specific causes (e.g., luck).
  • Attributional style of ‘non-depressed” person: He/she takes a bright view of good events, attributing them to internal, stable, global causes, and also a bright view of bad events, attributing them to situational, unstable, specific causes.

Do those who are depressed take an unrealistically dark view? OR, do the non-depressed take an unrealistically bright view?

  • Do those who are depressed take an unrealistically dark view? OR, do the non-depressed take an unrealistically bright view?
  • Consider the studies by Alloy and Abramson in the 1970s -- People who are not depressed distort reality, while those who are depressed judge reality more accurately. Non-depressed subjects had an “illusion of control”.
  • Applications of this knowledge…
  • Langer and Rodin’s study of residents in a nursing home – residents who were given increased control over their lives were more active, sociable, and vigorous than those who were not given increased control.
  • Other applications?

Optimism and Illusion

  • Optimism and Illusion
  • Martin Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness says that when people see that how they respond has no effect on a problem, they learn not to respond to problems in their lives.
  • Seligman distinguishes between a pessimistic and an optimistic attributional style:
  • Pessimistic: permanence, stability, self-blame (these factors lead to helplessness)

3 Crucial Dimensions to your attributional style:

  • 3 Crucial Dimensions to your attributional style:
  • 1. Permanence (permanent vs. temporary)
  • 2. Pervasiveness (universal vs. specific)
  • 3. Personalization (internal vs. external)
  • Good Outcome – the optimist attributes this internally and stable; the pessimist attributes this externally, unstable.
  • Bad Outcome – the optimist attributes this externally, unstable; the pessimist attributes this internally, stable.


  • How can we influence others?
  • * Smile at people
  • * Physical Attractiveness (this is a “central trait”)
  • * Apologize when you offend someone
  • * Self-Disclosure
  • * Impression Management

Impression Management

  • This approach comes from Erving Goffman. It is also
  • known as “self-presentation theory” or “dramaturgical
  • approach.”
  • Front Stage – Where we try to manage our impressions.
  • Back Stage - Where we plan.
  • Use of props – Just as in theater, we use objects in
  • our environment.

Impression Management

  • Self-Presentation Strategies:
  • * Intimidation
  • * Supplication
  • * Self-Promotion
  • * Ingratiation
  • What happens if we fail in our presentation of self?
  • We feel embarrassed.
  • We help one another save face.

Impression Management

  • Another motive for impression management:
  • self-construction (i.e., constructing a public image
  • that is congruent with one’s ideal self)
  • In our efforts to maintain a positive image, consider the importance of “definition of the situation”.
  • We attempt to align our definitions and actions with one another. We may use techniques, such as:
  • “disclaimers” and “accounts”

What we bring to a social gathering:

  • Clothes
  • Speech
  • Body
  • Companion
    • How do these things affect our presentation of self?

Ethnomethodology – The study of the everyday, common-sense understandings that people have of the world around them. (Harold Garfinkel)

  • Ethnomethodology – The study of the everyday, common-sense understandings that people have of the world around them. (Harold Garfinkel)
  • “breaching experiments” – Disrupt normal procedures.
  • Why do people get so upset when apparently minor conventions of talk are not followed?
  • Why study the common place?

Garfinkel’s “etcetera principle” – We use certain words or phrases in interaction to gloss over possible disruptions or misunderstandings – e.g., “you know,” “and so on”.

  • Garfinkel’s “etcetera principle” – We use certain words or phrases in interaction to gloss over possible disruptions or misunderstandings – e.g., “you know,” “and so on”.
  • Other examples?
  • “Playing the Game” – Conversing with others about topics even though you do not have any expertise in the area.
  • When can this be dangerous?
  • What if we were to refrain from playing the game?


  • In what ways are people “victims” of persuasion
  • every day? (i.e., what are the sources of persuasion?)
  • Are you and I susceptible to persuasion?
    • “the third person effect of communication” – When exposed to an advertisement or some other form of persuasive communication, we commonly think that it has a greater effect on others than on ourselves.


  • What are the factors that make a person persuasive?
  • * Credibility
  • * Attractiveness
  • * Content of message
  • * Maintaining a positive mood
  • * Leading questions
  • * High status


  • The Persuaders (PBS Frontline Program, 2004)
  • Consider the ubiquity of advertising – people trying to figure out how to persuade us what to buy, whom to trust, what to think.
  • What impact is this having on us?
  • The Persuaders program explores the idea that Americans are seeking and finding a sort of identity in buying/joining a brand.
  • What is this about?
  • Is advertising a business or an art form?
  • Structural Role Theory
  • Role is seen as the set of expectations that society
  • places on an individual.
  • Role consensus is assumed.
  • How does the interactionist perspective differ?
  • Role is seen as something that is constantly
  • negotiated between individuals.

Secord & Backman - Negotiated Role Theory

  • Secord & Backman - Negotiated Role Theory
  • >> Roles emerge out of an interactional process.
  • >> Rather than following rules, people are assumed to
  • follow goals.

When is role negotiation an especially important

  • When is role negotiation an especially important
  • determinant of role behavior?
  • * Limits of role are broad
  • * Role expectations held by actors are not in agreement
  • * Actor’s characteristics preclude performing role in
  • usual way
  • * Situational demands interfere
  • * Other roles intrude upon performance
  • * Actor and role partner have relatively equal power

Role-Taking – An imaginative process in which we

  • Role-Taking – An imaginative process in which we
  • evaluate ourselves and our actions from the
  • standpoint of others.
  • How do we acquire role-taking abilities?
  • 1. Social experiences
  • 2. Conventionality of identities and performances
  • 3. Familiarity

Role-Making – Constructing a role performance that

  • Role-Making – Constructing a role performance that
  • fits with the definition of the situation while also
  • remaining attuned to personal goals and inclinations.
  • What is required in role-making?
  • >> self-consciousness (i.e., knowing who you are and
  • in what situation you are operating)
  • >> role-taking

A Challenge: Role Making in Role Exits

  • A Challenge: Role Making in Role Exits
  • What happens when we find ourselves exiting from
  • certain roles? We must disengage from the
  • expectations and self-perceptions with the role.

Emotional Aspects of Interaction

  • Arlie Hochschild
  • feeling rules – Prescriptions for how we ought to feel
  • in given situations.
  • emotion work – Attempts to change, in degree or
  • quality, an emotion or feeling (surface acting or
  • deep acting).

Emotions and Role Attachments

  • Role Embracement – Identifying strongly with a role
  • and allowing it to shape how we think, feel, act,
  • and interact with others.
  • Role Distance – Performing role in a detached way;
  • our sense of self is not invested in the role.

Social Structure & Personality

  • Social Structure – Consists of positions, roles, social networks.
    • For any position we identify, there is a role and a set of social networks associated with that position.
    • Status at work – In work settings, there is a hierarchy, just as in society at large there is hierarchy, ranking, stratification.
    • “status characteristics” – Distinctive parts of a person’s
    • identity; include both ascribed and achieved statuses.
    • Our status characteristics are the basis on which
    • others have expectations of us.

Social Structure & Personality

  • Occupational experience varies on three dimensions:
  • Closeness of supervision
  • Routinization of work
  • Substantive complexity of the work
  • Occupational Roles and Physical Health
  • Two key ways in which occupational roles affect physical health:
  • 1) exposing workers to health hazards, 2) stress

Social Structure & Personality

  • We have two kinds of energy:
  • adaptation energy, which is capable of being replenished within a 24-hour period;
  • energy reserves, which are your stores of energy
  • Distinction between “stress” and “stressor”:
  • Stress is the utilization of energy beyond that which can be replenished in a 24-hour period.
  • Stressor is an environmental event which calls for special efforts of adaptation.

Social Structure & Personality

  • David Elkind says that a person’s attitude toward stressors is extremely important in determining whether he/she will experience stress.
  • STRESSOR -----> Interpretation----> Attitude

Social Structure & Personality

  • Gender and Work
    • The way we are socialized as children is reflected in our adult relationships and work experiences.
      • For example, think about what children learn through types of play.
      • Think, too, about types of “talk” (e.g., “report talk” vs. “rapport talk”).

Prejudice and Discrimination

  • Origins of prejudice:
  • Conflict Theory – Prejudice stems from competition among social groups over valued commodities or opportunities.
  • Social Categorization – People generally divide the social world into two distinct categories: “us” and “them.”
  • We may commit the ultimate attribution error, which is the tendency to attribute desirable behaviors by members of our in-groups to stable, internal causes, but attribute desirable behaviors by members of out-groups to external causes.
  • Social Learning – Prejudice is learned.
  • Stereotypes – These generalizations about the typical characteristics of members of various groups exert strong effects on the way we process information.
  • Illusion of Out-group Homogeneity – This is the tendency to perceive persons belonging to groups other than our own as all alike.

Prejudice and Discrimination

  • Ways to combat prejudice and discrimination:
  • Contact Hypothesis – Increase the degree of contact between different groups.
  • Re-Categorization – Eliminate “us-them” boundaries.
  • Reduce the impact of stereotypes

Group Dynamics

  • Primary Groups – Characterized by face-to-face communication, cooperation, permanence.
  • Secondary Groups – Characterized by formality, task-orientation, and being short-lived.
  • Functions of group membership – i.e., why do we join particular groups?
  • Help satisfy psychological and social needs.
  • Help us achieve goals.
  • Provide us with knowledge and information.
  • Contributes to the establishment of a positive social identity.

Group Dynamics

  • Social Facilitation – The finding that the presence of others enhances performance on easy tasks and impairs performance on difficult tasks.
  • Social Loafing – A reduction in individual output.
  • Cohesiveness in groups – Exemplified by the use of “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me”; joking & laughter;
  • early arrival/late departure; nonverbals.
  • Groupthink – Group decision-making style characterized by an excessive tendency among members to seek concurrence.

Group Dynamics

  • Obedience
  • Famous study: Stanley Milgram (1960s)
  • At least 3 factors have been identified as affecting
  • the degree of obedience:
  • 1. the authority figure
  • 2. the proximity of the victim
  • 3. the experimental procedure

Group Dynamics

  • Conformity – The tendency to change perceptions, opinions, or behavior in ways that are consistent with group norms.
  • Well-known social psychological study:
  • Asch’s experiment in 1951
  • Why do people conform? reference groups, informational influence, normative influence, identification, cohesiveness, social support
  • How can we explain non-conformity?

Group Dynamics

  • Compliance – Efforts to influence others through direct requests.
  • techniques: ingratiation, “foot-in-the-door,” and “door-in-the face”


  • Love is not just a private phenomenon; it is part of our public culture. Love is a narrative.
  • 3 components of love:
  • intimacy, passion, commitment
  • What is the difference between love and infatuation?


  • The Romantic-Love Ideal (5 beliefs):
  • 1. Love at first sight.
  • 2. One true love.
  • 3. Love conquers all.
  • 4. Our beloved is perfect.
  • 5. Follow feelings.


  • Love is powerful – e.g., allows people to accomplish things; overcome great obstacles. Also, love is powerful in the sense that, for two people in a romantic relationship, love gives each power over the other. From Social Exchange Theory, consider the terms:
  • Comparison Level (CL) – The minimum level of positive outcome one expects in a relationship.
  • Comparison Level for Alternatives (CLalt) – The
  • minimum level of positive outcome one will accept
  • in a relationship, given his/her alternatives.


  • Sociological conception of deviance:
  • *Deviance is much more than a personal characteristic.
  • *Deviance can be viewed as a form of social control.
  • *Nothing is inherently deviant.
  • *Deviance can be understood in terms of choice,
  • selection, and purpose.
  • *Diversity is often labeled deviance.


  • stigma – Any physical or social attribute or sign that
  • devalues an actor’s social identity such that he/she
  • is disqualified from full social acceptance.
  • Goffman distinguished 4 types of stigma:
  • abominations of the body, blemishes of character,
  • tribal stigma, courtesy stigma
  • 2 basic strategies that deviants use to manage stigma:
  • 1. try to hide or change the stigmatizing condition
  • 2. learn to live with the stigma


  • Deviance in everyday life
  • “Everyday deviances” are occasional slip-ups which
  • temporarily mark individuals as nonconforming or awkward. In an attempt to avoid these everyday deviances, we make an effort to control:
  • Techniques we may need to draw upon: disclaimers,
  • accounts.


  • Social Psychological Theories of Deviance
  • Social Control Theory – The stronger one’s bond to
  • society, the less likely is deviant behavior.
  • When one’s bond to society is weak or broken,
  • then deviant behavior may result.
  • Travis Hirschi identified 4 components of the social bond:
  • attachment, commitment, involvement, beliefs.


  • Differential Association Theory – Deviance is learned
  • through association with others. The likelihood that
  • a person will engage in deviant activity depends on
  • the frequency of association with those who
  • encourage norm violation compared with those who
  • encourage conformity.
  • Labeling Theory – Focuses on the process by which the
  • social audience creates deviance and deviants by
  • so defining the acts and actors that way.

Collective Behavior

  • Collective Behavior – Relatively spontaneous activity, involving a large number of people, that doesn’t conform to established norms.
  • In situations of collective behavior, at least 4 features are possible:
  • free play of emotions (people experience “emotional
  • “contagion”)
  • high degree of personal influence
  • give and take of political competition
  • emergence of transitory opinions and allegiances

Collective Behavior

  • Theories of collective behavior:
  • Contagion Theory – Crowds can exert a hypnotic
  • influence on their members.
  • Convergence Theory – There is like-mindedness
  • before the group comes together.
  • Emergent Norm Theory – Patterns of behavior
  • emerge within the crowd.

Collective Behavior

  • Examples of collective behavior:
  • Crowds (types include casual, conventional, expressive,
  • acting, and protest)
  • Riots – Characterized as highly emotional, involving
  • violence and destruction, and no clear goal.
  • Stages: precipitating event, confrontation,
  • the carnival phase, siege
  • Rumor – Unsubstantiated information spread informally.
  • Fads & Fashions

Social Movements

  • A social movement refers to a collection of individuals who organize together to achieve or prevent some social or political change.
  • There is a direct link between social movements and social change.
  • Theories:
  • Deprivation Theory – attempting to bring about a more
  • just state of affairs
  • Resource Mobilization Theory – success requires
  • money, labor, contacts with the media, etc.

Social Movements

  • What may draw people into participating in a social movement?
  • Mass Society Theory would say that social
  • movements attract socially isolated people.
  • Social Networks – People may get involved because
  • of relationships they have with others who
  • already belong to the movement.
  • The ideological appeal made by the movement
  • might draw people in to the movement.


  • Understanding Aggression
  • Freud’s Instinct Theory – We have an innate urge to
  • destroy.
  • Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis – When we are
  • frustrated, we become motivated to aggress.
  • Arousal Transfer Model – Arousal in one situation can be
  • transferred to a second situation.
  • Social Learning Theory – We learn to behave aggressively by imitating others.


  • Situational Impacts on Aggression – i.e., What characteristics of a situation might lead to acts of aggression?
  • 1. Reinforcements
  • 2. Modeling
  • 3. Norms (e.g., retribution, revenge)
  • 4. Stress
  • 5. Aggressive Cues


  • Personal Causes of Aggression:
  • 1. Type A behavior
  • 2. Hostile Attribution Bias – The tendency to perceive
  • hostile intent in others, even when it’s totally lacking.
  • 3. Shame


  • How can aggressive behavior be reduced?
  • 1. Reducing Frustration
  • 2. Punishing Aggression
  • 3. Non-aggressive Models
  • 4. Catharsis
  • Plus, cultivating empathy.
  • Empathy is the ability to appreciate the feelings and perspectives of others.

Prosocial Behavior

  • Why people help others:
  • 1. Sociobiological Explanation – Ensure survival of your genes.
  • 2. Social Evolution Explanation – Adaptive for the survival of society.
  • 3. Good Mood Effect – The effect whereby a good mood increases
  • helping behavior.
  • 4. Negative State Relief Model – The proposition that people help
  • others in order to counteract their own feelings of sadness.
  • 5. Guilt – This feeling may lead us to help others in order to feel better
  • about ourselves.
  • 6. Social Norms – e.g., norm of reciprocity, norm of equity,
  • norm of social responsibility
  • 7. Personal Norms – An individual’s feeling of moral obligation to
  • provide help when needed.
  • 8. Characteristics of the person in need.

Prosocial Behavior

  • In emergency situations, people often do not become involved; why don’t people help?
  • Latane & Darley conducted research studies in the
  • 1970s, arriving at the bystander effect, which is the
  • effect whereby the presence of others inhibits helping.

Prosocial Behavior

  • Steps in the decision-making process involved in
  • emergency interventions:
  • Notice that something is happening.
  • Interpret the event as an emergency.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Decide how to help.

Research Methods

  • Basic Methods used in Social Psychology:
  • Experiment
  • Survey Research
  • Participant Observation
  • Consider strengths and weaknesses of each method.


  • Ethics in Research
  • Studies which generated debate (e.g., Milgram’s Obedience Studies, Zimbardo’s Prison Study)
  • Importance of informed consent and debriefing.
  • informed consent – Giving research participants as
  • full a description of the procedures as
  • possible, prior to their participation.
  • debriefing – After the procedure, giving the
  • participants a full explanation of the study.

Review for Final Exam

  • Sandstrom book: Chapters 6, 7, 8
  • Lovaglia book: Appendix
  • Topics:
    • Deviance
    • Collective Behavior
    • Social Movements
    • Aggressive Behavior
    • Prosocial Behavior
    • Methods
  • The exam will consist of:
    • 40 multiple choice (29 from new material, 11 from previous exams)
    • 1 essay (Think about the books for this class. What was each attempting to do?)

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