Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 1: How the approach of this book reflects an integrative perspective (pp. 1420)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Two Fundamental Axioms of Social Psychology (pp. 1517)
    1. Construction of reality
    2. Pervasiveness of social influence
  2. Three Motivational Principles (pp. 1718)
    1. People strive for mastery
    2. People seek connectedness
    3. People value "me and mine"
  3. Three Processing Principles (pp. 1819)
    1. Conservatism: Established views are slow to change
    2. Accessibility: Accessible information has the most impact
    3. Superficiality versus depth: People can process superficially or in depth
  4. Common Processes, Diverse Behaviors (p. 20)
Two Fundamental Axioms of Social Psychology
Construction of reality

People assume that their impressions are accurate and true, expecting other people to share those impressions.

We shape a construction of reality by cognitive and social processes. Cognitive processes enable us to piece together fragments of information, draw inferences from them, and try to weave them into a coherent whole. Social processes enable us to influence and be influenced by the views of others.

Research activity: Constructing our own reality

Pervasiveness of social influence

The pervasiveness of social influence means that other people influence our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Our thoughts about others' reactions and our identification with social groups mold our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and motives, and our sense of self.

Whether a group is large or small, our membership provides a frame through which we view social events. Sometimes social influence is experienced as social pressure, but most of the time we are not aware of being socially influenced.

Three Motivational Principles
People strive for mastery

People strive for mastery; that is, they seek to understand and predict events in the social world in order to obtain many types of rewards. Achieving mastery is an important incentive in our attempt to form and hold accurate opinions and beliefs about the world, because accurate beliefs can guide us to effective and satisfying actions.

People seek connectedness

People also seek connectedness; that is, they attempt to create and maintain feelings of mutual support, liking, and acceptance from those they care about and value.

Even when conforming to group standards has constructive consequences for others, the need for connectedness is fulfilled.

People value "me and mine"

Valuing "me and mine" means we are motivated to see ourselves, and anything or anyone connected to us, such as our families, teams, nations, or even possessions, in a positive light.

Research activity: Me and mine

Three Processing Principles
Conservatism: Established views are slow to change

Individuals' and groups' views of the world are slow to change, and prone to perpetuate themselves. This is the principle of conservatism: established knowledge tends to perpetuate itself.

Accessibility: Accessible information has the most impact

We consider only a fraction of the potentially relevant information when making judgments or decisions. Whatever information is most readily available to us usually has the most impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This is described in the principle of accessibility.

Superficiality versus depth: People can process superficially or in depth

According to the principle of superficiality versus depth, most of the time people operate superficial processing; that is, they put little effort into information processing and rely on accessible information. However, sometimes people process in depth; which means they put time and effort into processing. This usually happens when something is relevant to them, and when they are motivated to think hard.

Common Processes, Diverse Behaviors

These eight principles can account for all kinds of behaviors, desirable or undesirable. For instance, the ability to shape a construction of reality allows us to add meaning and coherence to our world, but can also lead to bias and misinterpretation. Seeking connectedness and valuing "me and mine" gives us a feeling of belonging, but can also lead to rejections, devaluations, and exclusion. Basing decisions on the accessibility of information can be very efficient, but can also lead to bad decisions.

So what does this mean?

Human social behavior can be understood in terms of a few fundamental social psychology processes, flowing from eight principles. We shape our own construction of reality by cognitive and social processes. Other people influence this construction by influencing our thoughts, feelings, and behavior, which shows the pervasiveness of social influence. In addition, people's motivations to striving for mastery, seeking connectedness, and valuing me and mine influence their social behaviors. Finally, social behavior can be understood in terms of the way people process (superficial processing or in depth), and consider information (accessibility: accessible information has the most impact). And when views are established, the principle of conservatism holds; established views are slow to change.

Back to chapter 1 introduction

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 1 introduction
  2. A definition of social psychology
  3. Historical trends and current themes in social psychology
  4. How the approach of this book reflects an integrative perspective
  5. Fill-in-the-blanks
  6. Multiple-choice questions