Week beginning [3rd March 2017]

4.1 Socio-cultural level of analysis: socio-cultural cognition

The third option unit that we are studying is the socio-cultural level of analysis.

The Second World War influenced significantly the emergence and development of the cognitive orientation in psychology.  It also had an impact on social psychology, though not necessarily for the same reasons.  Many European social psychologists, acutely aware of social influences on behaviour and trained mostly in ways that still addressed internal processes and cognition, immigrated to the USA.  They became involved in research exploring social influences in the regulation of behaviour.  Soon several researchers were carrying out groundbreaking studies on conformity and other social influence processes.

Another influence from the war was an interest in explaining Nazi atrocities during the war in terms of the prejudiced attitudes that fuelled and supported it.  Entire research programs were initiated in the USA by such and related interests leading to original work on prejudice, discrimination, stereotypes and, more directly, obedience   The beginning of the 21st century finds a vibrant social psychology, confident in its growing knowledge base, influencing, and being influenced by, the cognitive and biological orientations in psychology and reflecting the increasing relevance of a multicultural perspective.  There is a growing realisation that studying psychological phenomena at the socio-cultural level of analysis (SCLOA), that is addressing both their social and cultural determinants and manifestations, is not only necessary but is already proving very rewarding.

The learning outcomes for this unit are as follows. Please revise and revisit as we work through this unit.

  1. Outline principles that define the sociocultural level of analysis
  2. Explain how principles that define the sociocultural level of analysis may be demonstrated in research through theories and/or studies
  3. Discuss how and why particular research methods are used at the sociocultural level of analysis
  4. Discuss ethical considerations related to research at the sociocultural level of analysis
  5. Describe the role of situational and dispositional factors in explaining behaviour
  6. Discuss two errors in attributions
  7. Evaluate social identity theory
  8. Explain the formation of stereotypes and their effect on behaviour

[Week one]

[4.1] Principles of sociocultural level of analysis.

The principles of the socio-cultural level of analysis. Early psychology focused on the role of the individual. Today, psychologists recognise that human behaviour can only be fully understood if the social context in which behaviour occurred is taken into account. One principle that defines the socio-cultural level of analysis is that human beings are social animals and we have a basic need to “belong”.  The biological and cognitive systems that make up the individual are embedded in an even larger system of interrelationships with other individuals and the group is bio-directional: as the individual is affected by being part of a group, the individual can also effect the behaviour in the group.

A second principle that defines the socio-cultural level of analysis is that culture influences behaviour.  Culture can be defined as the norms and values that define society.  In an ever more multicultural society, there is a need to understand the effect of culture on a persons behaviour, because the study of culture may help us better understand and appreciate cultural differences.

A third principle that defines the sociocultural level of analysis is that because humans are social animals, they have a social self.  People do not only have an individual identity, but also a collective or social one. for example, when princess Diana died, people across the UK mourned as if she was part of their family.  In the Czech republic, when the national hockey team won the gold medal in the 1998 winter olympics, one have thought that every Czech had a  brother on the team! social identities are very important to the definition of who we are, and many behaviours are determined by membership of groups, such as a family, community, club, or nationality.

one last principle which is important at this level of analysis is that people’s views of the world are resistant to change.  A world view can be defined as the way the world is understood: how it is supposed to work, why it works the way it does, and what values are essential in the world community.  Clearly, structure helps to shape our world view on our communities instill in us values which have been passed down from generation to generation.  According to social and cultural psychologists, the sense of self is developed within social and cultural contexts.

Access powpoint. Key principles of SCLOA

Principles of SCLOA

[LO. 2,3,4] Research methods at the sociocultural level of analysis.

In sociocultural research, the goal is to see how people interact with each other.  Though experiments are sometimes used, the majority of research today is more qualitative in nature. It is important that the behaviour of the participants is as realistic as possible, to avoid studies that lack ecological validity.  therefore, a significant amount of research is naturalistic – that is  “as it really is”.

(Please read John Crane p102-3 and complete work book assignment. ‘Considering ethical issues, explain research methods used in (SCLOA). Include example of Festinger et al (1956)

[week beginning 8/3/17]

Socio-cultural Cognition

[LO 5] Describe the role of situational and dispositional factors in explaining behaviour.

Click below for word document on this subject.

Situational and dispositional factors

Disposition and Situation in a Famous Social Psychological Study

Sabini et al. (2001) remark that if one were to ask social psychologists what has been the most important finding in social psychology since the 1940s, most would single out the same ‘discovery’: The finding that situations are much more important determinants of behaviour than usually assumed by psychologists and laypeople alike. Two sets of studies, both addressing how different types of social influence can lead to high levels of control by situational factors, are usually discussed in this context.

Milgram’s studies of obedience to authority (Milgram, 1963).

First of all we will watch the original film of the Milgram’s study.  Please watch carefully.  In groups you are going to recreate act and film the experiment.  I will provide the flip-cameras and white coats.  You can be creative and design the rest.  We will post the films for your entertainment.

Key studies for this is as follows;

The role of dispositional factors in explaining behaviour

McCrae and Costa (1999) Five factor model of personality. Supported by Gosling et al (2010) personality and online behaviour.

The role of situational factors explaining behaviour

Milgram (1963;74) Obedience study

One of the most famous studies in psychology is the Stanford prison Experiment.  The web site provides a slideshow account by Philip Zimbardo.  Key questions that I would like us to address are: the ethical considerations; the role of the experimenter; it’s importance to the development of research methodology. It is also interesting to determine what are the key factors that determine the behaviour. The dispositions of both the researcher and the participants and the situation that was created. (a mock prison)

There is a major film to be released soon.  ” The Experiment” Please watch it if you can.

Please click below to access the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Stanford prison experiment

[Week beginning 15/3/17]

[LO,6] Errors in attribution theory

Please click below to access word document.

Heider 1958 Attribution theory

Errors in attribution Ref M, Altmann

Principles of SCLOA FFM & Attribution Attribution – Susan Fiske Attribution Errors + Studies Jones and Harris – 1967 social_cognition Ross 1977 – Fundamental Attribution Error Attribution Biases


Class exercise; watch the slide show and discuss which events display situational or dispositional attributes.

click below to access powerpoint.  Acknowledgement Mandy Wood Psychexchange Shared resources.

situational and dispositional attributions

Errors in attribution [fae][ssb]

Prezzi Errors in attribution.

Please read document Errors in attribution above (Ref: Law, Halkiopoulos & Bryan-Zaykov 2010. Psychology p, 107-9) and  and John Crane p,103-106 in your textbooks. Please refer to the command term [Discuss]at the beginning of your workbook.  

Key studies to support this are:

Fundamental attribution error. (FAE)

Ross et al (1977)Mock quiz

Jones and Harris (1967)

Self-Serving Bias (SSB)

Johnson et al (1964) teaching maths problems to children

Lau and Russel (1980) Study on American football coaches and players.

Kashima and Triandis (1986) Cross cultural study between American and Japenese students.

[Week beginning 22/3/16]

[LO, 7] Evaluate Social Identity Theory, making reference to research studies.

Henri Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory assumes that individuals strive to improve their self-image by trying to enhance their self esteem, based on either personal identity or various social identities.  This means that people can boost their self esteem through personal achievement or through affiliation with successful groups, and it indicates the importance of social belonging . Social identity theory is based on the cognitive process of social catagorisation. . the theory has been used to explain social phenomena such as ethnocentrism, in-group favouritism, stereotyping and conformity to in-group norms. Social identification may in-fact underpin some of these behaviours because social catagorisation can produce competitive intergroup behaviour.

Simply SIT is about:

Catagorising Oneself as a Group Member

Learning about our groups

Accessibility of group memberships

Me, you, and them: effects of social catagorisation

“I” Becomes “we” Social catagorisation and the self

Others become “we” Social catagorisation and the in-group

Others become “they” social catagorisation of the out group.

Essay: Evaluate Social Identity Theory with reference to relevant research studies. We will develop this over the next few weeks.


Click below to access key chapter on SIT.

Social Identity Theory

Access the powerpoint below for all the key studies and information.


Please examine the minimal group paradigm Tajfel (1970), Howarth (2002)and Moscovici (1973) studies to support your essay.

Caroline Howarth (2002) carried out focus groups interviews with adolescents living in Brixton in London.  She wanted to see how social representations of Brixton affected the identity of adolescent girls.

Please click here for the full Caroline Howarth study.

Moscovi (1973) developed the idea of group theory with his concept of social representations. He identified social representations as the shared beliefs and explanations held by the society in which we live or the group to which we belong. He argues that social representations of social cognition- they help us to make sense of our world and master it.

Key studies to support this outcome are as follows:

Tajfel (1970) Experiment in inter group discrimination – the minimal group paradigm.

Cialdini et al (1976) Football supporters

Howarth (2002) Focus group with adolescents girls from Brixton London.

[[Week beginning 27/3/16]

[LO, 8] Explain the formation of stereotypes and their effect on behaviour

A stereotype is defined as a social perception of an individual in terms of group membership or physical attributes.  It is a generalisation that is made about a group and then attributed to members of that group.  such a generalisation may be either positive or negative. For example, women are talented speakers or women are bad drivers. Stereotyping is a form of social catagorisation that effects the behaviour of those who hold the stereotype, and those who are labelled by a stereotype. researchers now explain stereotyping as a result of schema processing.

Amongst other theories and theorists we will be looking at:

  • Stereotype threat: the effect of stereotypes on an individuals performance. Steel and Aronson (1995) Spotlight anxiety. Spencer et al (1977) stereotype threat.
  • The formation of stereotypes Tajfel, social catagorisation. Hamilton and Gifford (1976) illusory correlation and confirmation bias.

To explore many of these issues we will be completing exercises to discuss and understand how stereotypes can be universally formed.  You also need to question your own understanding of stereo-types and how your prejudices are formed.  We will also be looking at some “mind your language’ footage to highlight stereotypical catagorisation.

Assessment participation in group activities.  Complete essay for reference and revision of the learning outcome.

Stereotypes continued.  Please access power-point and key essay from Law et al to help you complete your essay on this learning outcome.

Powerpoint. Click below.


Key chapter for reading. click below.

Stereotypes Law et al

Key studies for this outcome are as follows:

The formation of stereotypes.

Tajfel Social Identity Theory [SIT]

Moscovici (1973) Socio cognitive phenomenon based on schemas.

Hamilton and Gifford (1976) stereotypes are a result of an illusory correlation.

Effect on behaviour: bias occurs when the stereotypes is positively activated, prejudice when the stereotype is negatively activated.

Effect 1 Cohen (1981) stereotypes effect memory – waitresses drink beer: librarians wear glasses.

Effect 2 Bargh et al (1996) .words cause stereotype activation

 We will now be looking at the second section of the SCLOA

4.2 Sociocultural level of analysis: social and cultural norms.

The Learning outcomes for this section are:

  1. Explain social learning theory, making reference to two relevant studies

  2. Discuss the use of compliance techniques

  3. Evaluate  research on conformity to group norms

  4. Discuss factors influencing conformity
  5. Define the term culture and cultural norms
  6. Examine the role of two cultural dimensions on behaviour
  7. Using examples, explain emic and etic concepts.

Introduction: Social norms.

A social norm “is a generally accepted way of thinking, feeling, or behaving that most people in a group agree on and endorse as right and proper” (Smith and Mackie, 2007, p.309).  Thus, norms provide for a group’s appraisal of what is to be viewed as

  • True or false
  • Appropriate or inappropriate.

Given that the majority of people tend to follow norms most of the time, norms are very important regulators of behaviour (Baron et al., 2008).   Furthermore, by generating expectations about people’s behaviour norms make social life fairly predictable.   True insights into the nature of norms are gained by reflecting on expressions like ‘a well-known fact, ‘public opinion” or ‘the way things are’ so often used in everyday speech.  What people are talking about when using such expressions are social norms (Smith and Mackie, 2009). Several social psychologists distinguish between explicitly written laws and regulations (e.g. speed limits) from social norms and point out that deviations from social norms are punished from relevant social groups and not from the legal system (Hewstone and Martin, 2008). Many social norms are implicit such as ‘Don’t stare at others for long periods of time’ whereas others are more explicit (like, for instance, the dress code in a traditional organisation).  Often we may not even be aware of the norms regulating our behaviour and the behaviour of others.  Norms also differ with respect to how restrictive they are.  Thus, norms relevant to group loyalty (i.e., norms relevant to talking badly about one’s ingroup to others) tend to be more restrictive compared to norms that relate to less important aspects of the group (e.g., how many hours of sleep on average group members can get at night).

Ref. Law et al. IB Psychology (2010)

[Week beginning ]

[LO, 1] Explain Social learning Theory, making reference to two relevant studies.

The key question of Social Learning Theory is, how does a society or culture pass on its norms to individuals within the group? One of the most prominent theories is Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. This theory assumes that humans learn behaviour through observational learning – in other words, people can learn by watching models and imitating their behaviour. Sometimes  the model is trying to have a direct effect on the learner – for example, when a teacher instructs children how to solve a problem – but often models serve as indirect models, in that they are not trying to influence behaviour.  According to Bandura, social learning involves the following factors.

  • Attention: The person must first pay attention to the model.
  • Retention: The observer must be able to remember the behaviour that has been observed.
  • Motor reproduction: The observer has to be able to replicate the action.
  • Motivation: Learners must want to demonstrate what they have learned.


Motivation to imitate the behaviour of the model is quite complex.  There are several factors which may influence whether or not the observer decides to imitate and learn.

  • Consistency: If the model behaves in a way that is consistent across situations-for example, always being brave – then the observer will be more likely to imitate than if the model behaves in different ways depending on the situation.
  • Identification with the model: There is a tendency to imitate models who are like ourselves – for example, in terms of age and gender.
  • Rewards/punishment: Bandura argues that people can learn from observing what happens to others; they don’t have to experience the consequences themselves.  This is called vicarious reinforcement in Banduras theory and happens when we watch people around us – whether in reality or in movies.  this called observational learning.
  • Liking the model: warm and friendly models are more likely to be imitated than cold, uncaring models.  A study by Yarrow et al (1970) showed that children learn altruistic behaviour better from people with whom they have alreaady developed a friendly relationship than from people they do not know.

Social Learning theory has been used to explain many things but particularly the role of violence in the media on aggression in children.

This you-tube clip from an Australian advertising campaign highlights the point.

Children see children do

[Week beginning]

We will be watching a DVD of Albert Bandura.  Please take notes.  Each group will be role playing and recording the “Bobo Doll experiment”  I have posted a you-tube video to give you an idea of what is expected.

Bobo doll example

Simply psychology social learning theory.
Simply psychology social learning theory

Please complete your workbooks SLT and write up the Bobo Doll experiment.

Application of the social learning theory in real life.

According to the Social Learning Theory, there is a chance that violence on television will lead to more violent children.  But is this so?  (class discussion) The results of studies on the effects of televised violence are consistent.  By watching aggression, children learn how to be aggressive in new ways and that they also draw conclusions about whether being aggressive to others will bring them rewards or punishment. There are two key studies that have been carried out.  Please investigate these and write up in your workbook. Charlton et al (2002) Kimball and (Zabrack 1986)

PDF violence and aggression studies

Key studies for this outcome are as follows:

Bandura & Ross (1961) The Bobo Doll experiment

Wells-Wilbon and Holland (2001) Social Learning Theory and the influence of male role models on African American Children

Charlton et al (2002) Effect of television on aggression in children; follow up study

[LO, 2] Discuss the use of compliance techniques.

By the end of this section:

You will be able to discuss the use of two compliance techniques (the foot-in-the-door, lowballing).

Social influence: Compliance:

Compliance is another important aspect of behaviour within a group.  Conformity occurs when the situation does not exert direct pressure to follow the majority, but the pressure is often perceived by individuals as influencing their behaviour.  Compliance can be defined as a result of direct pressure to respond to a request – for example, when people comply to certain products, even though the direct pressure may not always be apparent to the individual.

One of the leading researchers in the psychology of persuasion, Robert Cialdini, has outlined compliance techniques, or ways in which individuals are influenced to comply with the demands or desires of others.  this is the cornerstone of advertising and marketing, where sales tactics are always carefully examined on the basis of what would most likely persuade customers to buy specific products.  Cialdini  outlines six factors that influence the likelihood that people will comply with a request.

  • Authority: People comply more often with those in positions of some authority.  Advertisers use famous people to brand their products so that people associate the brand with the famous person
  • Commitment: Once people have agreed to something, either by their behavior or by a statement of belief, they are likely to comply with similar requests.
  • Liking: people comply to requests from people they like
  • Reciprocity: People need they need to return the favour.
  • scarcity; Opportunities seem more valuable to people when they are less readily available.  This is why there are so many ‘last chance’ and limited offer sales.
  • Social proof:People view a behaviour as correct if they see other people performing it.  (Crane p,116)
Please access the powerpoint below to access all information.
  • The reciprocity principle.
      • Mr Wilcox carpet stories from around the world.

    Suppose I want to borrow your notes on ‘brain localisation’.  What I can do is ask you and hope you will comply with my request.  Aronson et al. (2007) define compliance as “A form of social influence involving direct requests from one person to another” (p.460).  Psychologists have studied several compliance techniques, that is tactics humans use to persuade others to comply with their appeals (Cialdini, 2009). We will be looking at the “door in the face technique” Cialdini (1975) “foot in the door technique” Dickerson et al (1992) and ‘low-balling’ Caildini et al (1974)

    Click below to access the full chapter. (ref Law et al 2010)

    compliance techniques

Key studies for this outcome are as follows:

Foot in the door.

Dickerson et al (1992) University students conserving water.

Freedman and Frazer (1996) Ugly garden signs


Cialdini (1974) Enthusiastic university students.

Burger and Cornelius (2003) Lowballing with a student scholarship fund.

[Week beginning]

[LO8] Evaluate  research on conformity to group norms

Please access the power-point below to access the key studies and information.


One of the key ways  that a society or culture passes  down its values and behaviours to its members is through an indirect form of social influence called conformity. Conformity is the tendency to adjust one’s thoughts , feelings, or behaviour in ways that are in agreement with those of a particular individual or group.

The key studies that we are looking at is Asch (1951) and Moscovici et al  (1969). We have studied Asch so discuss and write up similarities with the Sherif study.

Please access the link to simply psychology.


Key studies for this outcome are as follows.

Moscovici et al (1969) Mass and Clarke (1984)  Minority Conformity

Asch (1951) Unambiguous situation

[LO9] Discuss factors influencing conformity

Informational conformity: Informational influence: We are subjected to informational influence  when we accept the views and attitudes of others as valid evidence about how things are in a particular situation. Example of research study.  Sherif (1935)

Normative conformity: Normative influence: Normative influence underlies our conformity to the expectations of others.  This type of influence is based on the need to be accepted or liked by others. people have a need for social approval and acceptance. Example of research. Asch (1951)

Referent informational influence: When an individual identifies with a particular social group (ingroup) and conforms to a prototypical group norm increase in similarity between ingroup members as well as the difference to outgroups. 

Situational factors in conformity: group size and group unanimity. Refer to Asch’s study.

Cultural norms as a factor in conformity

Bond and Smith (1996) performed a meta-analysis of 133 studies in 17 different countries on the Asch’s paradigm.  They found higher levels of conformity in collectivist cultures than individualist cultures.

Berry (1967) used a variation on Asch’s conformity experiment to study whether conformity rates among the Tenme of Sierra leone  in Africa and the Inuits in  of Baffin Island in Canada  could be linked to social norms and socialisation practices.  He found that the Temne who had a an agricultural economy had high conformity levels.  the culture emphasized obedience in child rearing practices because the culture is dependent on cooperation and farming.

Key studies for this outcome are as follows:

Informational conformity

Sherif (1935)

Group size

Asch (1951)

Cultural norms as a factor in conformity

Smith and bond (1996)

Berry (1967)

Social identity

Abrams et al (1990)

[LO10] Define the term culture and cultural norm.


Lonner (1995): culture can be defined as the common rules that regulate interaction and behaviour in a group as well as a number of shared values and attitudes in the group

Hofstede (1995) Culture can be defined as a collective mental programming that is the ‘software of the mind’ that guides a group of people in their daily interactions and distinguishes them from other groups of people.

Matsumoto (2004): Culture can be defined as a dynamic systems of rules, explicit and implicit, established by groups in order to ensure their survival, involving attitudes, values, beliefs, norms and behaviours.

Cultural norms

Cultural norms can be defined as the rules that a specific group uses for stating  what is seen as appropriate and inappropriate, behaviors, values and beliefs.

Cultural norms give people a sense of order and control in their lives as well as a sense of safety and belonging. Cultural norms may encompass communication style, whom to marry and wow, child reading practices, or interaction between generations.

Cultural norms  can be explicit or implicit.

[LO 11} Examine the role of two cultural dimensions on behavior.

Dimension 1: Individualism/Collectivism

Smith and Bond (1993)

Berry (1967)

Dimension 2

Hofstede (1980)

Fodor (1974)

[LO12]Using examples, explain emic and etic concepts.

There are two ways to study culture and cultural norms.

Etic approaches to culture aim to discover what all humans have in common.

Emic approaches to studying culture aim to discover phenomena which are unique to individual cultures.

Approaches to the study of depression.

Etic approaches

World Health Organisation (1983)

Emic approaches

Manson et al (1985)

Access power-point

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