Learning can be defined as any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of practice or experience


·       learning does not apply to temporary changes in behavior

·       it does not refer to changes resulting from maturation

·       it can result from vicarious as well as from direct experience

·       the changes produced by learning are not always positive in nature

·       learning is a key process in human behavior
















Pavlov`s early work on classical conditioning


·       classical conditioning is a basic form of learning in which one stimulus comes to serve as a signal for the occurrence of a second stimulus.

·       Stimulus: a physical event capable of affecting behavior

·       Unconditioned stimulus (UCS): a stimulus that can elicit an unconditioned response the first time it is presented

·       Unconditioned response (UCR): the response elicited by the unconditioned stimulus

·       Conditioned Stimulus(CS): the stimulus that is repeatedly paired with tan unconditioned stimulus

·       Conditioned response (CR); the response to the CS















How does conditioned behavior come about? To begin our discussion, let's look at an example--Pavlov's original experiment.

Drawing of Pavlov's experimental set-up

The experimenters first performed a minor operation on a dog to relocate its salivary duct to the outside of its cheek, so that drops of saliva could be more easily measured. The dog, which was food deprived, was then harnessed in an apparatus (see diagram above) to keep it steady. Periodically, a tone was sounded, followed shortly thereafter by meat powder being placed in the hungry dog's mouth (each pairing of tone/meat powder is referred to as a trial). Meat powder causes a hungry dog to salivate, whereas tones have little effect. The dog's salivation to meat powder is an unconditional reflex--it is in-born, in that dogs do not have to learn to salivate when food is placed in their mouths. Initially, the dog shows little responsiveness to the tone. Over time, however, the dog comes to salivate at the sounding of the tone alone. When this occurs, Pavlovian conditioning has occurred, in that a new, or conditional, reflex has developed.


















Classical Conditioning: Some basic principles


Acquisition: the process by which a conditioned stimulus acquires the ability to elicit a conditioned response through repeated pairings of an unconditioned stimulus with the conditioned stimulus


Extinction: the process through which a CS gradually loses the ability to elicit CR when it is no longer followed by the US


Spontaneous recovery: Following extinction, return of CR upon reinstatement of CS-UCS pairings


Stimulus generalization: the tendency to react to stimuli that are different from, but somewhat similar to, a CS


Stimulus discrimination: learning in which the subject learns to make one response to one stimulus and a different response, or no response, to another stimulus












Theories About classical Conditioning


Stimulus Substitution:

* the CS as a result of pairing with the US, acquires the capacity to substitute for the US in evoking the response

*An association is formed between the CS and the US so that the CS becomes the equivalent of the US in eliciting the response

*Two areas of the brain one for the Cs and one for the US become activated

*Due to repeated pairings the CS acquired the ability to excite the US area


Information And Expectation:

*The Cs becomes a signal for the US

*thus when the CS is presented the US is expected

*an association is always found in between the memory trace of the CS and the US

*the CR is made in anticipation of the US















·       also referred to as instrumental learning-some action of the learner is instrumental in bringing about a change in the environment that makes the action more or less likely to occur in the future

·       when a response operates on the environment it may have consequences that can affect the likelihood that the response will be made again

General Principles

There are 4 major techniques or methods used in operant conditioning. They result from combining the two major purposes of operant conditioning (increasing or decreasing the probability that a specific behavior will occur in the future), the types of stimuli used (positive/pleasant or negative/aversive), and the action taken (adding or removing the stimulus).


Outcome of Conditioning



Increase Behavior

Decrease Behavior




(add stimulus)

Response Cost

(remove stimulus)




(remove stimulus)


(add stimulus)



·       reinforcer: an environmental event that is the consequence of an instrumental response and that makes the response more likely to occur again

·       positive reinforcer: is a stimulus or event, when it follows a response, increases the likelihood that the response will be made again

·       negative reinforcer: is a stimulus or event which, when its cessation or termination is contingent on a response, increase the likelihood that the response will occur again; it causes the termination of the event

·       punisher: is a stimulus or event which, when its onset is contingent on a response, decreases the likelihood that the response will occur again


















Examples of Positive reinforcement:


Thorndike`s experiment

The Cat Box Experiment

      Cats placed in box and observed

      When cats get out they get freedom and food

      Independent variables:

   drive, food (or not)

      Dependent variable

   time taken to get out of box


The Law of Effect


“The Law of Effect states that behaviours followed by positive consequences are strengthened, while behaviours followed by negative consequences are weakened.”

E. L. Thorndike



Skinner’s Experiment

      Rat placed in box with a lever

      The task was to train the rat to push the lever to receive a reward

      This was done with “reinforcement” and “shaping”













“Shaping refers to a procedure in which an experimenter successively reinforces behaviours that lead up to or approximates the desired behaviour.”




Steps in lever training

      Rat put in box


   rat trained to food dispenser

   rat faces the lever - R

   rat approaches the lever - R

   rat touches the lever - R

   rat presses lever - R


Types of Events

Primary and Secondary Reinforcers


   innately satisfying in themselves: (ie food, sex, water).  Subjects don’t need to learn that these events are pleasurable


   acquire their reinforcing power through experience, that is after being paired with a primary reinforcer.  (ie praise, money, grades)









Schedules of Reinforcement

Fixed Interval

      reinforcer occurs following the first target response after a given amount of time

      pay-check at end of the week

      slow responding at beginning of cycle, faster as time for reinforcement approaches

      Fast extinction











Fixed Ratio

      Reinforcement occurs after given number of responses

      Piece work is good example

      Steep rate of learning





Variable Interval

      Reinforcement after first response after a variable amount of time

      Bus schedule

      More regular patterns of responding, slower response rate











Variable Ratio

      Reinforcement occurs after a variable number of responses

      Slot machines

      Fast rates of responding

      Very resistant to extinction









Stimulus Generalization


Stimulus Discrimination


Negative Reinforcement And Escape Learning


Avoidance Learning


Punishment refers to the use of punishers to suppress or stop a response from occurring in the future


When does punishment work?

1)   the more intense the punishment, the more effective it often is

2)   the more consistently the punishment is administered , even if it mild, the more effective it will be, if it is effective at all

3)   the closer the punishment is in time and place to the behavior being punished, the more effective it will be

4)   generally speaking, the stronger the response tendency being punished, the less effective a given strength of punishment will be

5)   people and animal adapt to punishment, and this may weaken its effectiveness

6)   punishment, even when mild, can be quite effective if it is used to suppress one behaviour, while at the same time, positive reinforcement is used to make another behaviour more likely to occur















Applying operant conditioning: Can we make a difference?

·       socialization

·       programmed learning

·       personalized system of instruction

·       business operations

·       behaviour therapy



By way of example, consider the implications of reinforcement theory as applied to the development of programmed instruction (Markle, 1969; Skinner, 1968)

1. Practice should take the form of question (stimulus) - answer (response) frames which expose the student to the subject in gradual steps

2. Require that the learner make a response for every frame and receive immediate feedback

3. Try to arrange the difficulty of the questions so the response is always correct and hence a positive reinforcement

4. Ensure that good performance in the lesson is paired with secondary reinforcers such as verbal praise, prizes and good grades.




1. Behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effective

2. Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced ("shaping")

3. Reinforcements will generalize across similar stimuli ("stimulus generalization") producing secondary conditioning













Cognitive Learning

·       Cognition refers to the processing of information about the environment that is received through the senses

·        Cognitive processes involve:

1)the selection of information

2) the making of alterations in the selected information

3)the association of items of information with each other

4)the elaboration of information in thought

5) the storage of information in memory

    6)the retrieval of stored information

·       Cognitive Learning: a change in the way information is processed as a result of experience a person or animal has had

·       Latent Learning

·       Insight Learning







Latent Learning

Tolman demonstrated that learning could remain latent and not show until it was needed.  He showed that rats could develop a cognitive map, a kind of mental image which they could use when it was needed.

His investigation involved setting up a complicated maze which involved several different sets of T-junctions.  The rats were timed through the maze to the end where a food reward was given.  When a rat could go straight through without taking any wrong turnings it was considered that it had learned the maze.

Tolman used three groups of rats.  One group were given a food reward at the end.  The second group were not given any reward at all but were placed in the maze and allowed to play in it as often as the first group.  The third group were not given a reward for the first 10 days and then rewarded from the 11th day.

Tolman found the average number of errors made by each group was as follows:

Group 1 made consistently fewer and fewer errors with each occasion that they were placed in the maze.  By day 17 they were completing the maze very rapidly with an average of only 2 mistakes per trial.

Group 2 did not show any particular improvement.  By day 17 they were making an average of about 6 errors per trial.

Group 3 showed no noticeable improvement until the point where Tolman began reward them.  Within a couple of days they were performing as well as the rats in group 1.  By day 17 their average number of errors was only just above one per trial.

Tolman explained this as the rats showing latent learning.  They had been learning about the maze whilst exploring it.  When needed to get the reward they used their experience of the maze which formed their mental images


Insight Learning

Sulton making a double-stickWolfgang Kohler, a psychologist trained at the University of Berlin, was working at a primate research facility maintained by the Prussian Academy of Sciences on Tenerife in the Canary Islands when the First World War broke out. Marooned there, he had at his disposal a large outdoor pen and nine chimpanzees of various ages. The pen, described by Kohler as a playground, was provided with a variety of objects-"toys"-including boxes, poles, and sticks, with which the primates could experiment.

Kohler set the chimps a variety of problems, each of which involved obtaining food that was not directly accessible. In the simplest, food was put on the other side of a barrier. Dogs and cats in previous experiments faced with the food in order to reach it, or to move away from the goal to circumvent the barrier. The chimps, on the other hand, presented with an apparently analogous situation, set off immediately on the circuitous route to the food.

But it turns out that the other animals that had apparently failed this same test were not so stupid after all. The earlier experiments that psychologists had run on dogs and cats differed from Kohler's on chimps in two important ways: first, the barriers were not familiar to the pets, and thus there was no opportunity for using any latent learning, whereas the chimps were well acquainted with the rooms used in Kohler's tests. And second, whereas the food remained visible in the dog and cat experiments, in the chimp test the food was tossed out the window (after which the window was shut) and fell out of sight. Indeed, when Kohler tried the same test on a dog familiar with the room, the animal (after proving to itself that the window was shut), took the shortest of the possible indirect routes to the unseen food.

In fact, the ability to select an indirect (or even novel) route to a goal is not restricted to rats, chimps, and dogs; at least some insects routinely perform similar feats. What possessing this ability actually says about the underlying cognitive processing will become clearer when we look at navigation by chimps in a later chapter. For now, the point is that the chimpanzees' abilities to plan routes are not as special as they looked at the time.

Some of the other tests Kohler is justly famous for are preserved on film. In a typical sequence, a chimp jumps fruitlessly at bananas that have been hung out of reach. Usually after a period of unsuccessful jumping the chimp apparently becomes angry or frustrated, walks away in seeming disgust, pauses, then looks at the food in what might be a more reflective way, then at the toys in the enclosure, then back at the food, and then at the toys again. Finally the animal begins to use the toys to get at the food.

The details of the chimps' solutions to the food-gathering puzzle varied. One chimp tried to shinny up a toppling pole it had poised under the bananas; several succeeded by stacking crates underneath, but were hampered by difficulties in getting the centers of gravity right. Another chimp had good luck moving a crate under the bananas and using a pole to knock them down. The theme common to each of these attempts is that to all appearances the chimps were solving the problem by a kind of cognitive trial and error, as if they were experimenting in their minds before manipulating the tools. The pattern of these behaviors-failure, pause, looking at the potential tools, and then the attempt-would seem to involve insight and planning, at least on the first occasion

Imitation and observational learning:

According to Bandura:

1)   You must direct your attention to appropriate models

2)   You must remember what the persons have said or done-retention

3)   You must be able to convert these memory representations into appropriate actions-production processes- this depends on:

*Your own physical abilities

*your capacity to monitor your own performance and adjust it until it matches that of the model

4) motivation plays a role












·       the driving and pulling forces which result in persistent behaviour directed toward particular goals

·       motives are inferences from behaviour

·       behaviour can be driven by unconscious motivation

·       motives are explanations of behaviour

·       motives help in making predictions about behaviour

                          Theories of Motivation

·       Drive theory

·       Described as the push theories of motivation=when an internal driving state is aroused, the individual is pushed to engage in behaviour which will lead to a goal that reduces the intensity of the driving state

·        Motivation is said to consist of:

                       1)a driving state

                       2)the goal directed behaviour

                       3)goal attainment             


·       Incentive Theories-the goal objects that motivate behavior are known as incentives

·       Pull theories



·       Opponent process theory

·       Hedonistic views of motivation say that we are motivated to seek goals which give us good emotional feelings and to avoid those resulting in displeasure

·       Opponent process theory takes a hedonistic view

·       Many emotional-motivating states are followed by opposing or opposite states

·       Optimal level Theories-there is a certain optimal, or best, level of arousal that is pleasurable

·       Just-right theories


·       Biological Motives:

                 Rooted in the physiological state of the body

Triggered by departures from a state of equilibrium(homeostasis)

Sensory stimuli or incentives


·       Social Motives

Are learned in social groups

Are general states that lead to many particular behavious


They differ in strength from one individual to another

Are important components of personality







Measurement of Social Motives

·       Projective techniques

·       Paper & pencil questionnaires

·       Observations

Achievement Motivation:

·       is the desire to meet standards of excellence-to outperform others and accomplish difficult tasks

·       “is task-oriented behaviour that allow`s the individuals performance to be evaluated according to some internally or externally imposed criterion, that involves the individual in competing with others, or that otherwise involves some standard of excellence”

·       How does is develop? Observational learning in early childhood

Parental expectations

Independence training during early childhood

·       how do they behave?

 Prefer to work on moderately challenging tasks

They like feedback

Persist on tasks they perceive as career related

High level of aspiration

Like to work in situations in which they have control over the outcome

Gender differences in achievement motivation :Do they exist?

Achievement motivation and social development

Power motive

·       motivation to be in charge, have high status, and exert influence over others

·       How do they behave?

By impulsive and aggressive action, especially by men in lower socioeconomic levels

By participation in competitive sports

By holding office of status

By drinking and sexually dominating women

By collecting possessions

By choosing high-power occupations

By building and disciplining their bodies

Machiavellianism: people who express their power motivation by manipulating & exploiting others in a deceptive way




Human Aggression

Hostile aggression: has as its goal harming another person

Instrumental aggression is a way of satisfying some other motive

Types of Aggression

Types of Aggression                     Examples

Physical-active-direct                        Stabbing

Physical-active-indirect                     hiring an assassin

Physical-passive-direct                      sit-in demonstration

Physical-passive-indirect              refusing to perform tasks

Verbal-active-direct                         abusing

Verbal-active-indirect                     spreading rumors

Verbal-passive-direct                     refusing to speak

Verbal-passive-indirect               failing to speak up in  

                                                     another’s defense  




Causes of aggression:

*frustration aggression hypothesis-frustration always results in aggressive behaviour



*unpleasant environmental conditions

How does it develop?

*social learning

*mass media


How can it be controlled?

*fewer aggressive models



*incompatible emotions





General Motives

·       Stimulus & Exploration needs

·       Effectance Motivation-a general motive to act competently and effectively when interacting with the environment

·       Intrinsic motivation vs extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic because the goals are internal feelings of effectiveness

Extrinsic because they are directed towards external goals











Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

*In the late 1960's Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchical theory of human needs.

*Maslow focused on human potential, believing that humans strive to reach the highest levels of their capabilities.

*Some people reach higher levels of creativity, of consciousness and wisdom. People at this level were labeled by other psychologists as "fully functioning" or possessing a "healthy personality". Maslow had a more appropriate term for these people "self-actualizing".

*Maslow set up a hierarchical theory of needs in which all the basic needs are at the bottom, and the needs concerned with man's highest potential are at the top. The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Each level of the pyramid is dependent on the previous level. For example, a person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied.




1.   Biological / Physiological Needs. These needs are biological and consist of the needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. These needs are the strongest because if deprived, the person would die.

2.   Security / Safety Needs. Except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting) adults do not experience their security needs. Children, however often display signs of insecurity and their need to be safe.

3.   Social (Love, Affection and Belongingness) Needs. People have needs to escape feelings of loneliness and alienation and give (and receive) love, affection and the sense of belonging.

4.   Ego / Esteem Needs. People need a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others in order to feel satisfied, self confident and valuable. If these needs are not met, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

5.   Self-actualization Fulfillment. Maslow describes self-actualization as an ongoing process. Self-actualizing people are, with one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin. 



Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs











List of 12 Characteristics shared by people who are self-actualized. Note: not all self-actualized persons show all these characteristics.

1. Perceive reality accurately. Not defensive in their perceptions of the world

2. An acceptance of themselves, others,

3. Spontaneity, simplicity, & naturalness. Do not live programmed lives.

4. Problem-centered. Possibly the most important characteristic. SAs have a sense of mission to which they dedicate their lives. Einstein once said "the man who regards his life as meaningless is not merely unhappy, but hardly fit for life".

5. Like privacy & detachment. Enjoy being alone; can reflect on events.

6.   Freshness of appreciation. Don't take life for granted.




7. Mystic or peak experiences. A peak experience is a moment of intense ecstasy, similar to a religious or mystical experience, during which the self is transcended. More currently, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi developed the term "flow experience" to describe times when people become so totally involved in what they are doing that they forget all sense of time and awareness of self.

8. Social Interest.

9. Profound interpersonal relationships. SAs tend to attract admirers or disciples.

10. Democratic character structure. SAs display little racial, religious, or social prejudice.

11. Creative. Especially in managing their lives.

12. Resistance to Enculturation - SAs are autonomous, independent and self-sufficient.







Suggestions for Motivating the Employees

Recognize individual differences
Match people to jobs
Use goals
Individualize rewards
Link rewards to performance
Check the system for equity
Don't ignore money.











How to become self-actualized: Maslow says that SA does not happen overnight. Just like you must do finger exercises before becoming a great pianist, here are some behavioral exercises you might want to try.

A. Pay attention to the world around you. Can you close your eyes and describe the campus?

B. Make risky choices. Try to expand your world, learn from failures.

C. Trust yourself more.

D. When in doubt, tell the truth. This will simplify your life.

E. Recognize the need for discipline. Get the requirements of life out of the way quickly.

F. Cultivate peak experiences (non-chemical variety). Best way to do this is to pay attention of the world and your feelings.

G. Give up your highly-valued pathologies. Experiencing a lot of pain is not sensitivity - it is dumb. Get rid of psychological garbage.




Frustration and Conflict of Motives

·       frustration refers to the blocking of goal directed behavior

·       Sources of Frustration:

Environmental frustration

Personal frustration

Conflict-produced frustration:

Conflict occurs, according to Lewin, when a person experiences demands or desires that are incompatible with each other. In approach-approach conflict we are attracted to two equally desirable goals. In avoidance-avoidance conflict we must choose between two equally undesirable demands. In approach-avoidance conflict we have one goal that has positive and negative aspects. And in double approach-avoidance conflict we experience two or more goals, both of which have positive and negative aspects.























#1 Set a major goal, but follow a path. The path has mini goals that goes in many directions. When you learn to succeed at mini goals, you will be motivated to challenge grand goals.

#2 Finish what you start. A half finish project is of no use to anyone. Quitting is a habit. Develop the habit of finishing self-motivated projects.

#3 Socialize with others of similar interest. Mutual support is motivating. We will develop the attitudes of our five best friends. If they are losers, we will be a looser. If they are winners, we will be a winner. To be a cowboy we must associate with cowboys.

#4 Learn how to learn. Dependency on others for knowledge is a slow time consuming processes. Man has the ability to learn without instructors. In fact, when we learn the art of self-education we will find, if not create, opportunity to find success beyond our wildest dreams.

#5 Harmonize natural talent with interest that motivates. Natural talent creates motivation, motivation creates persistence and persistence gets the job done.

#6 Increase knowledge of subjects that inspires. The more we know about a subject, the more we want to learn about it. A self-propelled upward spiral develops.

#7 Take risk. Failure and bouncing back are elements of motivation. Failure is a learning tool. No one has ever succeed at anything worthwhile without a string of failures.





Social Perceptions, Influences and Social Relationships

Social psychology

The scientific discipline that attempts to understand and explain how the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.


Social perception

The way we seek to know and understand other persons and events.


·         Is the perception of people and their behaviour unbiased?







Impression Formation

·         is a process by which information about others is converted into more or less enduring cognitions or thoughts about them

·         cognitive categorization

·         implicit personality theory

·         priming

·         recency effects

·         information integration

·         stereotypes














·         characteristic traits, intentions, and abilities inferred on the basis of observed behavior


*In the 1970s the field of social psychology was dominated by attribution theorists and researchers. "Attribution theory came to rival cognitive dissonance as one of the most imperialistic theories in social psychology. Attribution theory was seen as relevant to the study of person perception, event perception, attitude change, the acquisition of self-knowledge, therapeutic interventions, and much more" (Ross and Fletcher, 1986).

 *Attribution theory emerged from Heider's (1958) "naïve" or "lay" psychology and subsequent reformulations by Jones and Davis (1965) and Kelley (1967). Heider postulated a set of rules of inference by which the ordinary person might attribute responsibility to another person (an "actor") for an action. Heider distinguished between internal and external attributions, arguing that both personal forces and environmental factors operate on the "actor," and the balance of these determines the attribution of responsibility (Lewis and Daltroy, 1990). Kelley (1967) advanced Heider's theory by adding hypotheses about the factors that affect the formation of attributions: consistency, distinctiveness, and consensus.



Heider's "Naive" Psychology

 Heider believe that people act on the basis of their beliefs. Therefore, beliefs must be taken into account if psychologists were to account for human behavior. This would be true whether the beliefs were valid or not. Heider also suggested that you could learn a great deal from commonsense psychology. He stressed the importance of taking the ordinary person's explanations and understanding of events and behaviors seriously.

Correspondent Inference Theory:

 Jones & Davis described how an "alert perceiver" might infer another's intentions and personal dispositions (personality traits, attitudes, etc.) from his or her behavior. Perceivers make correspondent inferences when they infer another's personal dispositions directly from behavior; for example, perceivers may infer a disposition of kindness from a kindly act. Inferences are correspondent when the behavior and the disposition can be assigned similar labels (e.g. kind).







Kelley's Model of Attribution Theory: Kelley's theory is not limited to interpersonal perception. His theory concerns the subjective experience of attributional validity. He asks the question: "How do individuals establish the validity of their own or of another person's impression of an object?"

Kelley suggested that perceivers examine three different kinds of information in their efforts to establish validity (Ross and Fletcher, 1985):

Consensus information - do all or only a few people respond to the stimulus in the same way as the target person?

Distinctiveness information - does the target person respond in the same way to other stimuli as well?

Consistency information - does the target person always respond in the same way to this stimulus?









Three combinations of this information:

1.   High consensus, high distinctiveness, high consistency: The target person's judgment of the restaurant (it is a good restaurant) should be perceived as valid if the perceiver knows that 1) other people like the restaurant, 2) the target person seldom likes restaurants, and 3) the target person enjoys the restaurant every time he or she goes there. The restaurant is good.

2.   Low consensus, low distinctiveness, high consistency: If a perceiver knows that 1) most people do not like the target person's restaurant, 2) the target person likes most restaurants and 3) the target person enjoys the restaurant each time s/he goes there. Target person's enjoyment at restaurant attributable to something about him/her (likes to eat out) not something unique about the restaurant.

3.   Low consensus, high distinctiveness, low consistency: If a perceiver knows 1) few other people like the restaurant, 2) the target person seldom likes the restaurant, and 3) the target person disliked this restaurant in the past. More than likely the target person's liking this restaurant is attributable to the person liking the company or wine rather than the food.





·         we use much the same process for self-attribution that we use for other attribution

·         we become observers of our behavior

·         we first determine if the environment caused the behaviour or some internal force(Bem)

·         we tend to see our behavior as being controlled more by the situation, while we see the behavior of others as caused more by internal forces

·         we see ourselves as relatively stable personalities interacting with a changing environment

·         when we observe other behaviour we see the environment as stable and the person as variable( Jones & Nisbett)










                                        Social Influence

·         is the change that occurs in an individual because of contact with other people: the process of producing this change

·         Social facilitation: increased motivation and effort arising from the stimulus provided by other people

·         Presence of others increases an individual`s general arousal level, which in turn enhances performance of dominant responses

·         Social facilitation is likely to occur when the people in the group are involved in the same task

·         Imitation: involves changes in the observers behaviour that match or copy the behaviour of the observed













·         Conformity: the changing of individual`s beliefs or behaviours so that they become similar to those of group members

·         Deviance

·         Sherif`s Experiment

·         Asch`s Experiment












Social Influence - Conformity

When we find ourselves in groups we inevitably find ourselves in the minority occasionally. Generally speaking, we will feel a little uncomfortable with that situation, which explains why we generally seek out groups with interests similar to our own. Imagine, though, that you are in a group where you are sure you are right and everyone else is wrong. Would you yield to group pressure and go along with everyone else?


Sherif's experiment involved the so-called autokinetic effect whereby a point of light in an otherwise totally dark environment will appear to move randomly. You may have experienced the effect yourself when looking at the stars. Subjects were invited to estimate the amount of 'movement' they observed. They made their estimates in groups where each member could hear the others' estimates. Ultimately, the group members' estimates converged on a middle-of-the-road 'group estimate'. This would appear to show an urge to conform.

In effect, it's probably about what you would expect, if you remember that much perception appears to involve 'hypothesis-testing'. For example, with the Rubin vase (click here: if you'd like to take a look at it) there is not enough information for us to decide what we are seeing. We form the hypothesis that we're looking at two faces, then the hypothesis that we're seeing a vase. As there's not enough information to decide for one hypothesis or the other, our brains keep switching between the two. So you could argue that all the subjects were doing was to use additional information from their environment (other people's estimates) to aid in arriving at a decision. (see section on Perception)

There is general acceptance that 'social influence' can be seen to consist of two separate components: 'informational social influence', where we gain information from other people's behaviour as a guide to what's going on, and 'normative social influence', where we conform to what we believe to be the norms of the group in order to be accepted by them.

Another experiment, which is more focused on testing normative influence was conducted by Solomon Asch:


In Asch's experiments, a group of people were seated around a table. Of these all but one were actually the experimenters confederates. The group was shown a display of vertical lines of different lengths and were asked to say which of the lines (card B below) was the same length as another standard line (card A).

One after another, the members of the group announced their decision. The confederates had been asked to give the incorrect response. The subject sat in the next to last seat so that all but one had given their obviously incorrect answer before s/he gave hers/his. Even though the correct answer was always obvious, the average subject conformed to the group response on 32% of the trials and 74% of the subjects conformed at least once.

On the face of it, an astonishing result. The correct answer was entirely obvious. Subjects had to override the very clear evidence of their own senses to give an answer conforming to the others'. Why did they do it?

Factors affecting conformity

When interviewed afterwards, subjects all said that they had been influenced by the pressure from the rest of the group. This, on the face of it, may appear to be an example of 'groupthink'. However, we normally associate 'groupthink' with those groups where cohesion has already been established - which was not the case in Asch's experiment. What, then, may have been the factors involved?

The need for social respect

Many said that they did not want to appear silly. That ties in with Rom Harré's claim that one of our secondary needs is a need for 'social respect', which includes the need to avoid looking ridiculous in front of others, the need to avoid criticism from others. That need would be likely to motivate us to seek compromise with others (see the section on Motivation) - and seems to be supported by some subjects' reports after the experiment that they wished to avoid embarrassment.

Informational conformity

There is also the possibility, as with Sherif's experiment that subjects were using other persons' responses as guidelines to what was going on - which would appear to be reflected in some subjects' claims after the experiment that they were unaware of having given incorrect responses. We establish hypotheses as to what's going on and will observe other people's behaviour to test our hypotheses against. Asch's results are quite consistent with that.


All the subjects in Asch's experiments were students. Each student would perceive the group as a reference group. We tend to conform with our reference groups, people we like and enjoy being with and by whom we want to be liked. Maybe if all the mebers of the group had been stockbroker, the student subjects would have been less willing to conform.

Group size

Oddly enough, research shows that the pressure to conform does not increase as the groups size increases above around four or five. One possible reason, suggested by Wilder (1977) in Baron and Byrne (1984) is that the subjects begin to suspect collusion amongst the group members once the group goes beyond that number. If that is the case, then that suggests that the best way to influence a person would be to get them to receive the same message from a variety of independent small groups, rather than from a single large group. That seems also to fit with Noelle-Neumann's view that, as the interpersonal support for the deviant opinion decreases, so the deviant opinion will be weakened and the dominant opinion become even more dominant (see the section on Spiral of Silence).

Social support

In Asch's later experiments, he introduced others who disagreed with the consensus. This disagreement led to a marked increase in the subjects' readiness to disagree with the dominant view. Other experiments have also shown that social support can help us to resist conformity, even if the person giving us the support is not particularly competent and even if she doesn't share our views. It seems that any old support will do. However, the support is more likely to be successful if she is competent and does share our views. It also seems to be especially important that dissent, if it is to be effective, should be voiced early on in the proceedings.

Genetic predisposition

It is conceivable that we are genetically predisposed towards social conformism and ethnocentrism (i.e. the tendency to support and conform to the norms of our own group). Such a predisposition would be advantageous in promoting cultural group selection in the same way that in natural selection sharp teeth or the ability to run fast from something with sharp teeth confer an advantage. Sociobiologists found it difficult to account for such behaviours as altruism, co-operation and group loyalty in terms of Darwin's theory of evolution, which would be expected to lead to primarily egocentric behaviour. However, it might be possible to demonstrate (theorists disagree over this) that cultures whose members' behaviour is purely egocentric tend to die out whereas co-operative cultures survive. If so, then it would follow that the surviving cultures are those with the 'co-operation gene'. That would go some way to explaining the behaviour of Asch's subjects.

As an irrelevant aside, I should say that, personally, though this is an interesting idea, I'm inclined to treat it with a measure of caution. Evolutionary psychology is currently rather fashionable and is certainly challenging and thought-provoking, but it does sometimes seem to depend rather suspiciously on finding an adaptive advantage for every human behaviour. Behaviours which are clearly not advantageous are explained by saying that they 'must have' been advantageous at some point in our evolutionary history and then finding a likely scenario. For example, our sweet tooth leads to massive overconsumption of sugar. This is obviously not likely to give our species an evolutionary advantage today, but it 'must have' done so when a sweet tooth meant a predilection for a diet of fruit. Hmmm..... That rather neatly and conveniently shelters the evolutionary psychologists' claim from any possible falsifiability. Evolution here becomes a kind of psychologist's unified 'theory of everything'. The essential difference between the psychologist's theory of everything and the physicist's is that it is not even falsifiable in principle and seems in some of its formulations to have more in common with religion than with science. There is, to put it mildly, a degree of circularity in a theory which depends on the idea that certain characteristics confer an evolutionary advantage, if we begin by assuming that the organisms which have survived the evolutionary struggle are superior because they survived. Whilst there is no doubt much truth in that, it overlooks the rôle played by sheer luck in the struggle for survival and cannot in itself provide justification for the claim that every characteristic of a surviving organism must have contributed to its success. Having sounded that note of caution, though, I should say that in the hands of a Steven Pinker (1994 and 1998)the combination of pyscholinguistics, a computational theory of mind and evolutionary psychology strikes me as having enormous explanatory power, as well as providing a challenge to some of the loopier ideas of some branches of cultural studies.

Criticisms of Asch

Asch's experiment has been criticised for being unrealistic to the extent that in the real world we expect to take decisions on subjects more complex and more important than the length of a line. In the real world, therefore, we might put up more of a fight to defend our point of view. On more complex issues, we could reasonably expect that a variety of shades of opinion might be expressed, giving us more chance to argue our point of view. On the other hand, though, just think what the studies reveal. They suggest that group pressure can be so strong that we are willing to deny the evidence of our own eyes for the sake of conformity with the rest of the group.

There have been other experiments which have tended to confirm Asch's results by and large. Crutchfield's lengthier and more complex experiments seem to confirm a correlation between high intelligence and other personality traits and low conformity.

What should not be overlooked is that these experiments are just that - experiments. It is never easy to know to what extent the results can transfer to the real world with the wide range of variables involved.

Why people conform is open to conjecture. Hirshleifer and his colleagues propose the explanation of an 'informational cascade'. A person who considers what style of clothes to wear can take into account either their own independent judgment or others' judgment, or a combination of the two. In a culture such as ours which has traditionally placed great value on the individual, simply following the herd may be characterized as weak, stupid etc. Whatever, the fact remains that most of us do go along with everyone else, or flared trousers and Afro haircuts would still be worn by many of us old hippies. There are very sound reasons for doing so, which we have internalized over millions of years of evolution. Picture one of our distant ancestors living out on the savannah. If that person goes off to join a group of forest dwellers, it would be pretty stupid to persist in looking for particular forms of succulent and nutritious grass, rather than conforming to the forest-dwellers' norm of gathering berries and fruits. There is a survival advantage in conforming. Over the course of evolution, those groups which have succeeded through co-operation in their established practices are the successful ones. Thus the urge to conform and copy others' behaviour is one which confers an evolutionary advantage. Of course, we don't simply conform to such practical behaviours as gathering food, we also conform to religions, fashions, fads, extremist political movements and so on. And the evolutionary advantage there is not immediately obvious, but you should bear in mind that we are a species which operates in groups, groups which compete against other groups:

... in a small band of hunter-gatherers, it might have been a ... useful habit to obey the fashion. To a large extent, human society is not a society of individuals, as the society of leopards, or even lions, is - albeit the individual lions are lumped together in groups. Human society is composed of groups, superorganisms. THe cohesiveness of groups that conformity achieves is a valuable weapon in a world where groups must act together to compete with other groups. That the decision may be arbitrary is less important than that it is unanimous.


Ridley puts this even more bluntly elsewhere in his book:

Humankind, I suggest, has always fragmented into hostile and competitive tribes and those that found a way of drumming cultural conformity into the skulls of their members tended to do better than those that did not.


When we examine the results of experiments in social psychology, it is worth asking ourselves what, if anything, we consider to have been proven and within what intellectual and social framework the 'proof' has been delivered. Since Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it has been commonly accepted that science does not proceed on the basis of the patient observation of facts, from which general conclusions are then drawn, but, rather, that science operates within the framework of a dominant 'paradigm'. By 'paradigm' we may understand the set of theories and assumptions about the way the universe functions. This paradigm determines what scientists set out to look for in their experiments in the first place and shapes their interpretation of their observations.

If this is the case in the natural sciences, we may reasonably assume that it applies to social psychology as well. What has happened to all those mediæval cases of demonic possession? How come we don't see such cases any more? We don't see any of course because we don't look for them. Demonic possession isn't an item in the pscyhologist's toolkit, it is no longer a part of our paradigmatic conception of human nature and behaviour. More recently, where have all those Freudian hysterics gone? Presumably, they've gone the same way as the paradigm. To what extent did nineteenth century romanticism make Freudian psychoanalysis possible? To what extent is twentieth century modernist rationality responsible for the decline in Freud's fortunes?

So, when it comes to the experiments of social psychology, we need to bear in mind that they too are formulated within a paradigm. The way that people behave is not susceptible of a single ahistorical meaning. People's behaviours are not transparent; they need to be interpreted if they are to acquire meaning and the interpretation which they are given depends on the pre-existing assumptions and theories we have established about the way the world works and the place that people's behaviours have within that world. And

These theories have no basis in fact; any facts about the mind used in their support would have necessitated the use of such theories. In effect, the psychological world so dear to the heart of many social psychologists is a social construction, and the findings used to justify statements about this world are only valid insofar as one remains within the theoretical (and metatheoretical) paradigms of the field. Research findings don't have any meaning until they are interpreted, and these interpretations are not demanded by the findings themselves. They result from a process of negotiating meaning within the community.

Gergen (undated)



Conformity to Norms And Rules

Norms are standards of behaviour that are agreed upon by group members

Can be formal or informal

They serve to coordinate behaviour, reduce conflict

·         Obedience to authority

·         Why do people conform:

 Social information modes vs personal information modes

Social comparison

Social disapproval










                               Social Relationships

Why are you attracted to some people and not to all?

What processes are involved in shaping the nature of relationships as they develop?

Interpersonal attraction:

We like people to the extent that our interactions with them are rewarding or reinforcing

·         Proximity

·         Attitude similarity

·         Physical attractiveness











The Development of social relationships

Social Exchange Theory

·         the quality of the outcomes experienced by two people engaged in a relationship depends on the behavior of both participants

·         Outcomes are the specific acts, the are a joint function of the rewards experienced from a particular set of behaviours and the costs required to carry out those behaviours

·         Reward- any event that results in experience of pleasure, satisfaction

·         Costs- effort, embarrassment, anxiety- that inhibit carrying out of a set of behaviors

·         Outcome=Rewards-costs

·         How a person evaluates the favorableness of an outcome- this is subjective









Comparison level-an internal standard based upon prior experiences in similar relationships

·         Outcomes can be greater or lesser than the CL

·         Higher outcomes-attraction

·         Lower outcomes-dissatisfaction with the relationship

·         Satisfaction with a relationship will increase as the outcomes obtained get better

·         Will decrease as the outcomes obtained get worse














Growth and decline of Relationships

·         Zero contact: two unrelated persons

·         Awareness: unilateral attitudes, or impressions, no interactions

·         Surface contact: bilateral attitudes, some contact

·         Mutuality: some intersection –to major intersection

·          Total unity

 Justuce in Social Relationships

Justice rules arte applied often as standards in making judgements about fairness in social relationships

·         the contributions rule-the investments each person makes in the relationship

·         needs rule-the relative needs of individuals

·         equality rule- outcomes be distributed equitably in the










·         is a learned predisposition to behave in a consistent evaluative manner toward a person, a group of people, an object , or a group of objects

·         three components of attitudes

·         the evaluative/emotional/affective component

·         the cognitive/belief component

·         the behavioural component

·         Do attitudes always reflect behaviour?

·         How can we measure attitudes?

·         Public opinion poll

·         Attitude scales

·         Some physiological measures











Attitude Theories

Learning Theories

·         Classical conditioning

·         Instrumental conditioning

Consistency Theories

·         Balance Theories

-involves a relation between two attitude objects

-the three elements are connected by either favorable or unfavorable attitudes

-the structure formed by the relations among the elements may be balanced or unbalanced

-there is a tendency to maintain or restore balance in one`s attitude structures

Heider's balance theory sees attitude change as involving the maintenance of cognitive consistency: We work to keep our attitudes and behaviors consistent (balanced). Heider sees attitude change as a triad of elements (source, message, and audience - us) connected by affective (emotional/feeling) links.


An affective link has a positive sign if the connection between elements is positive (e.g., liking, believing), and a negative sign if the connection is negative (dislike, disbelief). A triad is balanced if the product of the three signs is positive, as at left: The source believes the message (+); the audience likes the source (+), and the audience agrees with the message (+).


A triad is unbalanced if the product of the three signs is negative, as at left: The source believes the message (+); the audience likes the source (+), BUT the audience disagrees with the message (-). Attitude change only occurs if the triad is initially unbalanced.


Consciously or otherwise, we feel pressure to bring unbalanced triads back into balance. This can be done by changing the sign of any of the three links. Typically, it is the weakest link that changes. If this is the link between the audience and the message, then attitude change occurs.

·         The basic assumption of cognitive dissonance theory is that people are motivated to reduce inconsistent cognitions. Cognition refers to any kind of knowledge or opinion about oneself or the world.

·         Two cognitions can be either relevant or irrelevant. If they are relevant, then they must be consonant or dissonant (i.e. that one does not follow from the other).

·         Dissonant cognitions produce an aversive state which the individual will try to reduce by changing one or both of the cognitions. If, for example, a heavy smoker is exposed to statistics showing that smoking leads to lung cancer, he or she can change the cognition about how much he smokes ("I´m really only a light smoker.") or perceive the statistical data as hysterical environmentalist propaganda and discount it.





·         Cognitive dissonance can be reduced by adding new cognitions, if (a) the new cognitions add weight to one side and thus, decreases the proportion of cognitive elements that are dissonant or (b) the new cognitions change the importance of the cognitive elements that are in dissonant relation with one another. The other way to reduce cognitive dissonance is to change existing cognitions. Changing existing cognitions reduces dissonance if (a) the new content makes them less contradictory to others or (b) their importance is reduced.

·         If new cognitions cannot be added or the existing ones changed, behaviors that have cognitive consequences favoring consonance will be recruited. Seeking new information is an example of such behavior.










Factors in Attitude Change

Source of the Message:

·         Credibility

·         Attractiveness

Content of the Message:

·         Suggestion

·         Appeals to fear

·          One sided vs. two sided arguments

Receiver of the message

·         Infuenceability

·         Selective attention

·         Immunization










Prejudice & Discrimination

* Prejudice is a premature judgment--a positive or a negative attitude towards a person or group of people which is not based on objective facts.

* stereotypes are oversimplified and overgeneralized views of groups or types of people.

* Stereotypes also provide us with role expectations, i.e. how we expect the other person (or group, like all Japanese) to relate to us and to other people.

*Prejudice, in the form of negative put-downs, justifies oppression

 *Discrimination (like aggression) is an act of dealing with one person or group differently than another.

*When we are prejudiced, we violate three standards: reason, justice, and/or tolerance. We are unreasonable if we judge others negatively without evidence or in spite of positive evidence or use stereotypes without allowing for individual differences. We are unjust if we discriminate and pay men 1/3 more for the same work as women or select more men than women for leadership positions or provide more money for male extra-curricular activities in high school than for female activities. We are intolerant if we reject or dislike people because they are different, e.g. of a different religion, different socioeconomic status, or have a different set of values. We violate all three standards when we have a scapegoat, i.e. a powerless and innocent person we blame for something he/she didn't do.

 Sources of Prejudice

 * Contact with Prejudiced people

 * Contact with the object of prejudice

 Supports for Prejudice

 * Needs

 * Perception

 *social consequences

          Changing prejudice

 * Acquaintance Potential

 * Relative Status

 * Social norms

 * Cooperative reward

 * personal Characteristics








·         every society consists of many varied groups and organizations

·         each of us is influenced or constrained by our groups

·         groups may be divided into:

·          Psychological groups: two or more persons who meet the following conditionsL1)the relations among the members are interdependent (2) the members share an ideology

·         Social organization an integrated system of interrelated psychological groups formed to accomplish a stated objective

·         Membership may be externally imposed or freely chosen










Functions of groups:

1)Satisfaction of wants:

* all groups serve to meet the power want of some of the members and the belongingness wants of most of the members

*creation of new wants

*no one group can satisfy all wants and goals

2)group goals:

*unique vs. accessory goals

*individual vs group goals

When are group goals accepted by members?

·         perceived relevancy

·         clarity of goals

·         group cohesiveness

·         participation

3)group ideology

*group beliefs

*group values

8group norms