Applying Social Psychology: From Problems to Solutions


Abraham P. Buunk & Mark Van Vugt

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  • SAGE Social Psychology Programme

    Senior Consultant Editor

    Michael A. Hogg (Claremont Graduate University, USA)

    Consultant Editors

    Richard E, Petty (Ohio State University USA)

    Marilynn B. Brewer (Ohio State University USA)

    John M. Levine (University of Pittsburgh USA)

    Stephen Reicher (St. Andrews University UK)

    Vincent Yzerbet (Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium)

    SAGE Publications is pleased to announce the launch of a new, international programme of titles in social psychology – both textbook and reference – brought together by a team of consultant editors led by Michael A. Hogg: the SAGE Social Psychology Programme. Featuring books written or edited by world-leading scholars (or younger academics ‘on the rise’) and infused with the latest research in the field, the programme is intended to be a self-contained, comprehensive resource that meets all the educational needs of a social psychology programme beyond introductory level.

    The remit of the SAGE Social Psychology Programme has both breadth and depth. Student textbooks are written by leading and experienced scholars in a style that is carefully crafted to be stimulating, engaging and accessible. They are schoarly, comprehensive and up-to-date, and boast the appropriate pedagogical devices and supplements – thus making them appropriate to build courses around at a variety of levels. Reference works, including Handbooks and Encyclopaedias, survey the landscape with an even broader sweep and should become benchmark volumes for years to come.

    Current and forthcoming titles include:

    • Understanding Social Psychology across Cultures – Peter Smith (University of Sussex, UK), Michael Bond (Chinese University of Hong Kong, China) & Ciĝdem Kaĝitçibasi (Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey)

      Published – December 2005

    • Cognitive Dissonance: 50 Years of a Classic Theory – Joel Cooper (Princeton University, USA)

      Publication date: March 2007

    • The SAGE Handbook of Social Psychology: Concise Student Edition – Michael A. Hogg (Claremont Graduate University, USA) & Joel Cooper (Princeton University, USA)

      Publication date: March 2007

    • The Encyclopedia of Social Psychology: 3 Volumes – Roy F. Baumeister (Florida State University, USA) & Kathleen D. Vohs (University of Minnesota, USA)

      Publication date: September 2007


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    To Yvonne A.B. Werkhoven, a truly applied social psychologist. (APB)

    To Hannie, my parents Leo and Corrie, my son Jamie and to all applied researchers and their contributions. (MVV)

    About the Authors

    Abraham (Bram) P. Buunk has been since 2005 Academy Professor in Evolutionary Social Psychology at the University of Groningen on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. His main current interest is the application of evolutionary theorizing to human social behaviour. He has published widely on applied topics, including professional burnout, jealousy, absenteeism, AIDS-prevention, loneliness, depression, marital satisfaction, well-being among the elderly, and coping with cancer. He was a co-editor of Health, coping and well-being: Perspectives from social comparison theory (Erlbaum, 1997), and Solidarity and Prosocial Behaviour (Springer, 2006). He has served on scientific boards for the Dutch Cancer Foundation (NKB-KWF), and the Dutch AIDS Foundation. Currently he is a member of the Programme Committee on Evolution and Behaviour of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

    Mark Van Vugt is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Groningen and his PhD at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. He has published widely on topics in social and applied psychology, including leadership, social dilemmas, altruism and cooperation, social identity, environmental conservation, transport and water management. He is the chief editor of Cooperation in modern society: Promoting the welfare of communities, states, and organizations (Routledge, 2000). He is a fellow of the British Academy and sits on the editorial board of several journals in social psychology.


    One of the wonderful experiences in life is that of having a problem and calling an expert, who walks in, takes a look, makes reassuring noises, goes to work and hey presto, your central heating system starts spreading comfort and happiness again. When I returned to academia after a stint as management consultant I realized looking back that I might have fallen somewhat short in providing clients with these wonderful experiences.

    Reflecting on what I had actually been using of the knowledge and tools acquired during my training as a social psychologist, I realized that the tools had come in handy but that the application of knowledge/theories hardly figured prominently. I was well equipped to interview people, construct questionnaires and surveys and arrive at an adequate analysis of problems. Yet when it came to providing solutions it seemed I had been mainly relying on common sense combined with the usual role of process consultant. This is a bit like your central heating engineer presenting you with, admittedly, a fine diagnosis of the problem and then offering to hold your hand while you wrestle with finding a way of getting the system to deliver some heat again.

    People, groups and organizations are obviously much more complex than the simple systems that keep the house operating: all the more reason to train future practitioners in using the theories and accumulated bodies of knowledge available. Extensive screening of the literature at the time did not throw up the desired textbook/training manual. So I started out developing my own course, which after the usual evolutionary developments has now taken shape as the PATH (Problem-Analysis-Test-Help) model presented in this book.

    At first sight this model looks the same as every other problem-solving course. The essential differences the PATH model introduces are twofold:

    1. from the very beginning it stresses using theories (plural) that might help to define and delineate the problem and, in the problem-solving phase suggests solutions that consequently have a solid foundation in theory and research; 2. in finding solutions, it examines factors that have a realistic chance of being changed.

    In addition to making better use of the available knowledge, the PATH model has the happy side-effect that practising social psychologists are better protected against confusing themselves or their clients.

    When in later life I was in charge of a large organization, using consultants from time to time, I was often struck by the difference between the business school alumni and social/organizational psychologists. The first category were strong on analysis and practical solutions they claimed had worked for others. The psychologists were strong on analysis and nearly always flavoured their solutions with a whiff of how things ought to be. Both groups succeeded in keeping any reference to research and theory well out of sight. This is actually good practice in an applied setting: the average manager/client does not always want to be bothered with academic trivia.

    Unfortunately, I am pretty confident that empirically-based theories only played a marginal role for both business school alumni and social/organizational psychologists. In essence this means that contributions from both disciplines do not reach beyond common sense supported by analytical tools. Particularly for the applied social psychologist this is a missed opportunity, as there is a wealth of theoretical/empirical material available through the average textbook. It just needs to be applied. This book sets out a methodology and discipline on how to do this.

    When students learn to see the usefulness of the textbook materials and apply them systematically, this will not only improve the craft of the applied psychologist and make for happier clients, it will also contribute immensely to the relevance of the text and the motivation and satisfaction of the students.

    Dr PeterVeen, 2007

    How to Use this Text

    This is the first edition of Applying Social Psychology. The authors recognize the value of including certain learning tools to foster the experience of using a textbook for both students and teachers. Accordingly, the authors have decided to incorporate a range of features to illustrate the PATH method and make the book more user-friendly. Many of these features have arisen from feedback on courses in applied social psychology that we and others have taught over the years. We trust that these features will strike a chord with the readers and users of this text. The authors would like to thank Pieternel Dijkstra for help in preparing these features as well as for editorial assistance.

    Key features in the textbook include the following:

    • Further readings

      If you want to find out more about the social psychological theories and research presented, we recommend a list of key readings in applied social psychology at the end of each chapter.

    • Assignments

      Each core chapter contains various assignments that enable students to practise applying social psychology to a diverse range of real-world problems. Each assignment focuses on a particular step in the PATH method. These assignments can be used by teachers to monitor and evaluate student progress or by the students themselves to monitor their own progress in the course.

    • Summaries

      At the end of each chapter a chapter summary is provided. These summarize the sequence of steps within that particular phase of the PATH method.

    • Figures and tables

      The text contains numerous tables and figures to support information in the text.

    • Updated research programmes

      This text contains a diversity of examples of key up-to-date research programmes in applied social psychology to illustrate the various aspects of the PATH method. We discuss research examples from around the world on a wide range of different social problems.

    • Text boxes

      The book contains several text boxes in which well-known social psychologists around the globe discuss why they got interested in applied social psychology and give examples of their applied research programmes.

    • Tests, measurements and instruments

      The text contains various examples of standard tests and measurement scales that are frequently used in applied social psychology. Examples are the self-esteem scale and the SYMLOG group observation instrument.

    • Glossary of key social psychological theories and concepts

      For best use of the text, we have identified a list of key social psychological theories and concepts and provide brief summaries of these in text boxes. It is advisable to use a core introductory text in social psychology for further details about theories and relevant research.

    • Case studies

      Each core chapter contains an example of research into a particular applied social psychology topic. This example serves as an illustration of how to conduct applied social psychology research.

  • Conclusion: Looking Backward and Forward

    After studying the previous chapters and completing the various exercises, the basic skills for addressing practical problems through applying social psychological theories will have been developed. Nevertheless, it usually takes quite some time and experience before our PATH model can be used in an optimal way. In the beginning you can follow the structured procedures outlined here in a somewhat rigid way. There is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, this is the best way of learning basic skills and of obtaining experience and a sense of competence. Eventually, however, you will learn that the thing that matters most in the end is to get to a theoretically sound, empirically-based intervention.

    Indeed, it is important to be quite flexible in applying the various procedures outlined in this book. The more experience you get, the more likely it is that you can switch between the various steps in the model, and will go back and forth between, for instance, developing a problem formulation and coming up with explanations, or between developing a process model and developing interventions. Gradually, you will become more and more able to ‘play’ with the procedures, will know when and how to switch between stages, and will develop a sense for when and how to skip a stage. Most people will eventually develop their own approach that deviates from the PATH model, but that has proven its value in practice. In fact, our model has as its main goal allowing social psychologists to develop their own effective approach.

    We have said little about how to present the results of one's analyses to the client. This is, however, an important issue. In general, a psychologist should not try to present clients with the outcomes of the various exercises and procedures as they are presented in this book, These exercises and procedures are no more than the tools of the applied psychologist. Just as a carpenter does not reveal all the details of furniture making to his client, but just delivers the end product, a professional who designs interventions for social problems does not present the whole history of the development of the intervention to the client. Usually, he or she would present an analysis of the problem, the major causes that can be addressed in an intervention, and the nature of the intervention. Such a presentation needs to be given in clear and crisp language, without too many scientific terms and without any jargon. Social psychological concepts may be introduced, as far as they clarify the analysis of the problem.

    For example, a concept like ‘the bystander effect’ will be easily understood by an audience and may put a problem in the right perspective. A term like ‘self-efficacy’ may be necessary when presenting an intervention that is aimed at enhancing the control individuals experience over their situation. But you should not generally describe in detail how you generated your explanations and developed the intervention. Even worse would be to focus your presentation on the explication of social psychological theories, with the help of complex diagrams and schemas. The central goal should be to make clear what you are proposing and to convince a client that this is a well-developed and effective approach.

    This implies, among other things, that a psychologist should not constantly bother a client with all kinds of doubts and considerations. There is no need to let clients share in all the deliberations in choosing a given theory or intervention. When you cannot convince yourself, it is unlikely that you can convince others. Of course, a psychologist may explicitly want to present various alternative interventions with their own advantages and disadvantages to give a client various options. But the goal then is to facilitate choice by the client, not to recapitulate the considerations behind your own choice.

    To conclude, this book presents an elaborate procedure for developing theory-based interventions, the PATH method. This PATH method is a tool rather than a ritual that one should go through at all costs. It is our belief that social psychological concepts and theories may help in analysing and solving social problems. The goal of this book is to facilitate that and provide those faced with the problem of developing interventions for a variety of social problems with procedures that may help them to accomplish that task.


    Social Psychological Theories, Phenomena and Concepts for Explaining Social Psychological Problems
    • affect-infusion model: a model that holds that mood affects the individual's judgment depending on the type of reasoning being used.
    • arousal: cost-reward model: a model that holds that another person's distress causes physiological arousal in an observer which, in turn, initiates the process of deciding whether to help.
    • attachment theory: theory about the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers, that assumes that individuals may develop on the basis of the bonds with their caregivers either a secure and avoidant or an anxious-ambivalent attachment style. This attachment style affects one's capacity for relationships in one's adult life, as well as other aspects in one's life, such as one's commitment to work.
    • attribution theory: a theory that explains the causes of events that happen to one-self or others. The attribution of these causes are known to influence performance affecting reactions etc.
    • balance theory: a theory that holds that people have an innate preference for a harmonious and consistent relationship among their cognitions.
    • cognitive dissonance theory: according to this theory people will experience unpleasant psychological tension if they perceive that their cognitions are psychologically inconsistent with their behaviour (‘dissonance’). Dissonance will motivate individuals to find ways to reduce it.
    • complementarity hypothesis: hypothesis that states that persons with dissimilar but compatible traits will be attracted to each other.
    • contact hypothesis: according to this hypothesis bringing members of different groups into contact with one another will reduce any pre-existing prejudice between them and result in more positive intergroup attitudes and stereotypes.
    • cultural theories: theories that state that, as individuals engage in particular cultural contexts, their psychologies are shaped accordingly.
    • elaboration-Likelihood Model (ELM): a model of persuasion that states that people may follow two routes of information processing: the central route (i.e. elaborate issue-relevant arguments) and the peripheral route (i.e. paying attention to peripheral cues such as the attractiveness of the source).
    • empathy-altruism hypothesis: hypothesis that states that empathy is associated with the selfless desire to benefit another and that empathically-motivated altruistic behaviour is not due to the desire for external rewards, the goal of avoiding guilt, or other selfish desires.
    • equity theory: a theory that states that people are happiest in relationships where the give-and-take are about equal.
    • evolutionary psychology: a theory that aims to explain the origins and maintenance of social behaviour from how that behaviour may have contributed to survival and reproductive success in our evolutionary past.
    • frustration-aggression model: according to this model the interruption of goal-directed behaviour, arising from either the arbitrary interference of other persons or personal inability, evokes frustration which in turn evokes a negative effect and aggressive behavioural tendencies.
    • general Adaptation Syndrome Model (GASM): a model that presents a three stage reaction to stress (alarm reaction, resistance, exhaustion).
    • heuristic-Systematic Model: a model of attitude change that specifies two routes to persuasion: systematic processing (i.e. an analytic orientation to information processing) and heuristic processing (i.e. a more restricted mode of information processing that makes fewer demands on cognitive resources).
    • interdependence theory: a theory that focuses on how individuals weigh the costs and benefits of a particular relationship and how their behaviours are affected by these evaluations. It holds that individuals will be most committed to a relationship when their satisfaction is high, the alternatives for their current relationship are unattractive, and the emotional and practical barriers against leaving the relationship are high.
    • negative state relief model: according to this model a negative mood is accompanied by a corresponding drive to reduce whatever bad feelings are present. For instance, according to this model a bad mood increases helpfulness because helping another person reduces one's own bad feelings.
    • norm theory: theory that postulates that every experience brings its own frame of reference or norm into being, either by guiding memory retrieval or by constraining mental simulation.
    • prospect theory: a theory that describes decisions under uncertainty in which the value of an outcome and its alternatives is calculated as the summed products (n) over specified outcomes (x).
    • prototype theory: a theory that a category's mental representation is based on a prototypical exemplar or prototype.
    • rational choice theory: according to this theory, in choosing lines of behaviour, individuals make rational calculations with respect to the utility of alternative lines of conduct, the costs of each alternative in terms of utilities foregone, and the best way to maximize utility.
    • reinforcement theory: according to this theory reinforcers can control behaviour.
    • self-affirmation theory: according to this theory people seek information about their own goodness as a human being.
    • self-categorization theory: a theory that is concerned with the variation in self-categorization in the level, content and meaning of self-categories, and with the antecedents and consequences of such variations. An important variation is self-categorization at the individual or group level (social identity).
    • self-discrepancy theory: a theory that holds that people are strongly motivated to maintain a sense of consistency between their actual self (how they view they are) and their ideal self (how they want to be), as well as their ought self (how they think they should be).
    • self-Evaluation Maintenance Model (SEM): a model that holds that self-evaluation depends on three variables in relation to other people: performance, closeness and relevance.
    • self-perception theory: a theory that holds that people come to know their internal states partially by inferring them from observations of their own overt behaviour and/or the circumstances in which this behaviour occurs.
    • self-verification theory: a theory that states that individuals seek information consistent with their own self-views, even when that information is negative.
    • similarity-hypothesis: an hypothesis that states that people are attracted to others who are similar to themselves.
    • social comparison theory: a theory about individual’ comparisons with other people and the effects of those comparisons on cognitions, effect and behaviours.
    • social exchange theory: a theory that assumes that how individuals feel about a relationship with another person depends on their perceptions of the balance between what they put into the relationship and what they get out of it.
    • social identity theory: a theory of group membership, processes and intergroup relations, stating that individuals tend to categorize themselves rapidly as a member of a group, which will lead to favouring one's own group over other groups.
    • social impact theory: a theory that claims that all forms of social influence will be proportional to a multiplicative function of the strength, immediacy, and number of people who are the source of influence and inversely proportional to the strength, immediacy and number of people being influenced.
    • social learning theory: a theory that states that people can learn by observing the behaviour of others and the outcomes of those behaviours.
    • social role theory: according to this theory men and women behave differently in social situations and take different roles, due to the expectations that society puts upon them.
    • status-expectation states theory: a theory that holds that individuals make judgments about each other on the basis of status characteristics (for example age, ability, gender, race).
    • subjective expected utility theory: a theory that holds that in choice situations people prefer the option with the highest subjectively expected utility.
    • theory of planned behaviour: an extension of the theory of reasoned action. This theory adds the concept of ‘perceived behavioural control’ so that it also becomes possible to predict actions that are under incomplete volitional control.
    • theory of reasoned action: a theory that aims to predict volitional action and that posits that intentions are the immediate antecedents of behaviour and that these intentions are determined by attitudes towards the behaviour and by the perceived social norms.
    • transactional model of stress: model that defines stressful experiences as person-environment transactions that depend on the impact of the external stressor and the person's appraisal of the stressor and his or her resources for dealing with the stressor.
    • triangle hypothesis: hypothesis that asserts that people with a primary competitive orientation expect others also to be competitive, whereas cooperatively oriented individuals expect more variation from others.
    • actor-observer effect: the phenomenon that actors tend to attribute their actions to situational factors whereas observers tend to attribute the same actions to stable personal dispositions.
    • buffering effect: the phenomenon that having a particular resource or positive quality protects a person against the adverse impact of a stressful event.
    • bystander effect: the phenomenon where persons are less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when others are present than when they are alone.
    • cognitive consistency: the tendency for people to prefer congruence or consistency among their various cognitions, especially their beliefs, values and attitudes.
    • de-individuation: a state of reduced self-awareness associated with immersion and anonymity within a group.
    • diffusion of responsibility: the tendency for people to feel that responsibility for acting is shared, or diffused, among those present. That is, the greater the number of people who are present, the lower the individual's sense of responsibility.
    • distributive justice: the phenomenon that people evaluate the outcomes they receive from others not by their absolute favourability but by their consistency with principles of outcome fairness.
    • emotional contagion: the tendency to express and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others.
    • excitation transfer: the phenomenon that arousal elicited by one stimulus may mistakenly be attributed to another.
    • false consensus effect: the phenomenon that people tend to perceive their own preferences, attributes or behaviour as more common and situationally appropriate than those of individuals who have alternative preferences, attributes or behaviours.
    • false uniqueness: a tendency for people to overestimate the uniqueness of their own attributes, which occurs particularly associated for positive attributes.
    • fundamental attribution error: the tendency for perceivers to underestimate the impact of situational factors and to overestimate the role of dispositional factors in controlling behaviour.
    • gestalt: a whole which is more than the sum or average of individual elements.
    • group polarization: a tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the average of member’ initial positions.
    • groupthink: a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup and that occurs when member’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.
    • halo-effect: phenomenon where a person's positive or negative traits may ‘spill over’ from one area of their personality to another in other’ perceptions of them.
    • illusion of control: the incorrect perception that a person's actions can affect the outcomes of chance events.
    • illusory correlation: the perception that two classes of events are correlated which in reality are not correlated or are correlated to a lesser extent than perceived.
    • illusory superiority: the tendency for people to think they are better and more competent than the ‘average’ person.
    • informational influence: the tendency for people to accept information obtained from another as evidence about reality.
    • just world phenomenon: the phenomenon that people tend to see the world as a just place that leads them to perceive that people receive the outcomes they deserve, especially negative outcomes such as accidents and diseases.
    • mere exposure effect: the phenomenon that repeated, unreinforced exposure to a stimulus results in increased liking for that stimulus.
    • misattribution of arousal: the incorrect attribution of arousal to a cause other than the actual one.
    • negativity effects: the enhanced impact of negative information (relative to positive information) on human functioning.
    • normative influence: the tendency for people to conform to the positive expectations of others, motivated by the desire for approval and to avoid rejection.
    • outgroup homogeneity: the phenomenon that members of a group are seen as more homogeneous and similar to one another by an outgroup relative to ingroup member’ perceptions.
    • positive illusion: the tendency for people to unrealistically assess their abilities.
    • primacy effect: the phenomenon that impressions are influenced more by early rather than later information about a person.
    • procedural justice: the phenomenon that, when evaluating their outcomes with others, people judge the fairness of the procedures by which those outcomes were determined.
    • recency-effect: the phenomenon that later information supplants earlier information. Occurs when the impression concerns an unstable attribute, or when attention is focused on later information.
    • risky shift: the phenomenon that a group which already favours risk to some extent, reaches, through group discussion, a group decision that is even more risky.
    • self-fulfilling prophecy: the phenomenon that an originally false social belief leads to its own fulfillment.
    • self-serving bias: the tendency for people to attribute their successes to internal causes such as ability and their failures to external causes such as task difficulty.
    • social dilemma: a situation in which people's self-interest is at odds with the collective interest.
    • social facilitation: the phenomenon that an individual's performance may be facilitated by the presence of either passive audiences or other persons performing the same task.
    • social loafing: the tendency for individuals to exert less effort on a task when working for a group than when working for themselves.
    • affect: a general term describing mental processes that involve feeling, such as an emotional experience or mood.
    • altruism: a type of helping behaviour with the primary goal of reducing another person's distress.
    • arousal: an organism's level of physiological activation or excitation.
    • associative network: a model of human memory as the connections among isolated items of stored knowledge.
    • attention: whatever occupies consciousness/a person's mental focus at a particular time.
    • attitude: a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favour or disfavour.
    • authoritarianism: an orientation which is overly deferential to those in authority whilst simultaneously adopting an overbearing and hostile attitude towards those perceived as inferior.
    • automaticity: information processing that occurs without conscious control.
    • bogus pipeline: a procedure intended to reduce distortions in self-report measures by convincing participants that the researcher has a valid and reliable means of knowing what their true responses are.
    • categorization: the process of classifying things or people as members of a group or category, similar to other members of that group or category and different from members of other groups or categories.
    • cognition: mental functions such as the ability to think, reason, and remember.
    • collectivism (vs. individualism): circumstances in which the meaning of a person and its realization are expressed predominantly in relationships.
    • cognitive appraisal: a mental process by which people assess whether a demand threatens their well-being and whether they have the resources to meet this demand.
    • commitment: the binding of an individual to a specific line of activity/or relationship.
    • comparison level (Cl): an internal standard representing the quality of outcomes an individual expects to obtain in a relationship.
    • comparison level of alternatives (Clalt): an internal standard representing the quality of outcomes an individual perceives to be available outside of the current relationship.
    • construct validity: the extent to which the measured variables accurately capture the constructs of theoretical interest.
    • counterfactual thinking: the thoughts people have about the alternative ways in which an event could have occurred.
    • descriptive norms: perceptions of how other people are actually behaving, whether or not this is approved of.
    • door-in-the-face: technique that obtains compliance to the target request by first obtaining non-compliance to a larger request.
    • drive: a person's internal state that energizes and maintains behaviour.
    • ego-involvement: the extent to which a task or issue is personally significant or motivating to an individual, and hence carries implications for that individual's self-concept or self-esteem.
    • experiment: a type of research in which a researcher randomly assigns people to two or more conditions, varies the treatments that people in each condition are given, and then measures the effect on some response.
    • external validity: the extent to which one can generalize from one particular setting to another.
    • foot-in-the-door: technique that predisposes people to comply to a critical request by first obtaining compliance to a minor request.
    • gender difference: differences between females and males (also called sex-difference).
    • gender identity: individual’ subjective feeling of themselves as males or females.
    • gender roles: the socially assigned roles traditionally associated with each sex.
    • gender stereotypes: beliefs about the behaviours and characteristics of each sex.
    • helping behaviour: voluntary acts performed with the intent of providing benefit to another person.
    • heuristic: a cognitive structure or process that serves the creative function of knowledge enrichment and productive thinking.
    • internal validity: the extent to which the research permits causal inferences about the effects of one variable upon another.
    • implicit personality theories: tacit assumptions regarding people's personality traits and the relationships among them.
    • impression formation: the process of forming evaluative and descriptive judgments about a target person.
    • impression management: the goal-directed activity of controlling or regulating information in order to influence the impression formed by an audience.
    • individualism (vs. collectivism): circumstances in which the worth of a person is predominantly defined as independent of the membership of groups.
    • injunctive norms: norms that state the ideal behaviour and that reflect basic values.
    • intrinsic motivation: form of motivation produced by the experience of free choice and autonomy.
    • locus of control: an individual's generalized expectancies regarding the forces, internal or external, that determine rewards and punishments.
    • loneliness: the unpleasant experience that occurs when a person's network of social relationships is deficient in some important way, either quantitatively or qualitatively.
    • memory: mechanisms by which people store and retrieve the knowledge they have encoded.
    • meta-analysis: the statistical integration of the results of independent studies in a specific area of research.
    • minimal group paradigm: research in which anonymous participants are experimentally classified as members of ad hoc, arbitrary or minimally meaningful categories (e.g. X vs. Y) and respond to non-identifiable members of their own and other categories.
    • minority social influence: a form of social influence in which a deviant subgroup rejects the established norm of the majority of group members and induces the majority to move to the position of the minority.
    • modelling: a process in which human thought, affect and action are altered by observing the behaviour of others and the outcomes they experience.
    • mood: generalized positive or negative feeling states.
    • nonverbal communication: the transmission of information and influence by an individual's physical and behavioural cues.
    • path analysis: the analysis of data to estimate the coefficients of a class of hypothesized causal models.
    • personality: intrinsic human qualities that lead to differences among individuals in their characteristic patterns of behaviour.
    • personal space: the distances and angles of orientation that people maintain for one another as they interact.
    • person perception: the detection of people's ‘internal’ psychological qualities, such as abilities, emotions, beliefs and goals.
    • prejudice: the holding of derogatory attitudes or beliefs, the expression of negative affect or the display of hostile or discriminatory behaviour towards members of a group on account of their membership within that group.
    • priming: the activation of particular connections or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task.
    • prisoner's dilemma: a mixed-motive reward structure in which each of two or more parties must choose between cooperation and non-cooperation.
    • prosocial behaviour: a broad category of interpersonal actions that are positively evaluated with reference to cultural or societal standards.
    • prototype: the most typical member of a category.
    • reactance: a motivational state in response to influence attempts from others, directed towards the reestablishment of one's behavioural freedoms.
    • reciprocity: responding to the positive or negative actions of others in a similar way.
    • reference group: any group that individuals use as a basis for social comparison.
    • reinforcer: any stimulus that, when contingent on a response, serves to increase the rate of responding.
    • relative deprivation: a psychological state in which there is a perceived negative discrepancy between one's current situation and that which was expected or that which is felt as deserved.
    • salience: a property of a stimulus that causes it to stand out and attract attention.
    • schema: cognitive structures that represent a person's knowledge about an object, person or situation, including information about attributes and relationships among those attributes.
    • script: a schema that describes the typical sequence of events in a common situation.
    • self-appraisal: the process of seeking, in a relatively impartial manner, information that facilitates an accurate assessment about (aspects of) oneself.
    • self-awareness: a state in which the person is the object of his/her own attention.
    • self-concept: the composite of ideas, feelings and attitudes that a person has about his/her own identity, worth, capabilities and limitations.
    • self-disclosure: the process by which individuals reveal their innermost feelings and experiences to interaction partners.
    • self-efficacy: people's belief about their capability to produce performances that influence events affecting their lives.
    • self-enhancement: the process of interpreting and explaining information in such a way that has favourable or flattering implications for oneself.
    • self-esteem: a positive evaluation of oneself (also called feelings of self-worth or self-respect).
    • self-handicapping: the act of creating or inventing an obstacle to one's performance in order to avoid looking incompetent.
    • self-monitoring: individual differences in the extent to which people monitor (i.e. observe and control) their expressive behaviour and self-presentation.
    • self-presentation: the conscious or unconscious attempt to control images of the self that are conveyed to audiences during social interactions.
    • social categories: categories individuals use to interpret the social world.
    • social categorization: the process of assigning a target person to an existing social category.
    • social cognition: name for both a branch of psychology that studies the cognitive processes involved in social interaction, and an umbrella term for these processes themselves.
    • social comparison: the process of comparing an ability, opinion or characteristic of one's self to that of another person.
    • social comparison orientation: individual differences in the extent to which people compare themselves with others.
    • socialization: the process whereby people acquire the rules of behaviour and the systems of beliefs and attitudes that will equip a person to function effectively as a member of a particular society.
    • social norm: generally accepted way of thinking, feeling or behaving that is endorsed and expected because it is perceived as the right and proper approach.
    • social support: the existence of positive social relationships that may help maintain or advance one's health and well-being.
    • social value orientation: individual differences in the utility derived from outcomes for others. Three types are distinguished: a prosocial orientation, an individualistic orientation, and a competitive orientation.
    • stereotypes: societally shared beliefs about the characteristics that are perceived to be true of social groups and their members.
    • stereotyping: the use of stereotypes when judging others.
    • stress: people's physiological or psychological response to demands from the environment that either approach or exceed their capacities to respond.
    • subjective expected utility (SEU): the probability of an outcome times the utility of that outcome.
    • survey: systematic data collection about a sample drawn from a larger population.
    • trait: a stable, internal property that distinguishes among individuals.
    • transactive memory: a system shared among group members for encoding, storing and retrieving information such that detailed memories are available to group members without actual physical possession.
    • type A behaviour: behavioural attributes that increase the risk of coronary heart disease, such as striving for achievement, competitiveness, impatience, and hostility.
    • unconscious processes: mental processes that occur without awareness.
    • unobtrusive measure: a non-reactive form of data collection (i.e. it does not require the cooperation of participants).
    • values: trans-situational goals that serve as guiding principles in the life of a person or group.


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