Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Good Samaritan Experiement: Darley & Batson (1973)

Does circumstance and having one's mind occupied by moral/religious thoughts increase likelihood of helping someone in an emergency?

A good Samaritan

In their classic social psychology study the experimenters recruited 67 students from the Princeton Theological Seminary and told them it was a study about religious education and vocations. They were asked to fill in some personality questionnaires and told they were going to give a brief talk in a nearby room. Some were asked to give a short talk about the types of jobs for seminary graduates, while the others were asked to talk about the parable of the 'Good Samaritan'.
While making their way to the other office to give their talk, they would encounter an experimental confederate lying in a doorway, doubled over, eyes closed and coughing. Participants would have to pass the apparently highly distressed man, but would they stop to help?
The experimenters thought it would depend on how much participants were hurried, so they manipulated this by giving them one of the following three instructions:
  1. "Oh, you're late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. We'd better get moving..."
  2. "The assistant is ready for you, so please go right over."
  3. "...It'll be a few minutes before they're ready for you, but you might as well head on over..."
This created three conditions: high, medium and low hurry. Each of these conditions were also split into two: half about to deliver a talk on the Good Samaritan, the other half on job prospects for seminary graduates. This meant that the experimenters could assess both the effect of hurry as well as the talk they were giving on the students' helping behaviours.


On average just 40% of the seminary students offered help (with a few stepping over the apparently injured man) but crucially the amount of hurry they were in had a large influence on behaviour. Here is the percentage of participants who offered help by condition:
  • Low hurry: 63%
  • Medium hurry: 45%
  • High hurry: 10%
The type of talk they were giving also had an effect on whether they offered help. Of those asked to talk about careers for seminarians, just 29% offered help, while of those asked to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan, fully 53% gave assistance.
What these figures show is the large effect that subtle aspects of the situation have on the way people behave. When the effect of personality was compared with situation, i.e. how much of a hurry they happened to be in or whether they were thinking about a relevant parable, the effect of religiosity was almost insignificant. In this context, then, situation is easily trumping personality.

It is important to realise that the 'fundamental attribution error' is especially prominent here. It is the inclination to overemphasize the influence of dispositional factors (e.g. personality) and underestimating the role of situational factors (e.g. weather) on a persons behaviour.

Also, what is it that really defines a good samaritan? Perhaps there may have been a difference in perception between what may have been helping another. There may have been a conflict between helping the experimenter and helping the unknown victim. The perception of what is more important to them could vary.

What are the other characteristics in such a situation that may have caused the results to vary greatly?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Alcohol has been said to be linked to sexual aggression. In this chapter in the textbook, we are informed that gender and alcohol are important factors linked to aggression, especially in college students.

To prove this, Brian Marx conducted an experiment in which Male college students were asked to listen to a synthesized audio tape, designed to sound like a date rape.

"The date rape stimulus [...] consisted of an audio tape depiction of a man and a woman engaged in sexual activity. The couple was described as two college students returning to the man's apartment after a date at the movies. Physical intimacy between the couple was portrayed through dialogue and audible breathing and kissing sounds."

The audio tape ended after rape had occurred. Each individual male participant was asked to indicate the point in which the male character in the audio tape should have stopped forcing intimacy with the female character. The audio was divided into segments in which the woman's refusal escalated, beginning from gently refusing intimacy, to pleading and crying in response to the male's behavior.

To see how aggression could be linked to alcohol, one group of male participants was asked to consume alcohol while undergoing this procedure. As expected, the male participants that consumed alcohol took longer to indicate the point in which the male character in the audio should have stopped forcing intimacy than the sober ones. It is true that alcohol might reduce judgment and the power to recognize certain cues than when one is sober, but this experiment truly showed that "intoxication may weaken inhibitions against aggressive behavior" (Kassin 425) This being said, the textbook states that alcohol makes aggressive behavior seem much more justified. Because of this, we can infer that drinking alcohol is a clearly an important factor in sexually aggressive incidents amongst college students.

After reviewing this study, we can ask ourselves several questions.

Why does alcohol truly impair our viewpoint of sexual aggression? Why is it more acceptable in this scenario?

How is it possible for aggression to be so inconsistent within the same individual?

Is aggression something learned, or something innate?

-Ana Macias

Friday, October 21, 2011


In a study done by Daniel B. Kennedy, Robert J. Homant and Michael R. Homant, the relationship between injustice and workplace aggression was examined. The experiment conducted utilized 139 subjects who were given a questionnaire to answer. The subjects taking the questionnaire were all from different backgrounds. According to statistics the subjects who took the questionnaire were: 69% females, 31% males; 53% African Americans, 37% Whites, 64% single, 27% married, 9% divorced, and 89% had a part time job or worked 15-18 hour jobs (329).

The Questionnaire

The questionnaire had four scenario subjects. Three of the scenarios were types of workplace injustices:
1. Distributive: ex: Restaurant chef denied a promised raise, despite his role in a restaurant.
2. Procedural: ex: Civil service worker, whose promotion was given to a boss’ friend instead.
3. Interpersonal: ex: Shift worker accused of leaving early and forced to stay until a replacement came.
The fourth scenario was a control group, to see how much people were influenced to be aggressive after an injustice. An example of a scenario was a salesman who lost a contest to two fellow workers who potentially could have cheated, but in reality did not cheat. Everyone was given awards, but he was angry because he did not receive the title of champion. The questions were then rated on two scales:
1. Scenario justice scale
2. Aggression rating scale: The scale was rated by choosing one from each category:
a) Direct or indirect
b) Passive or active
c) Verbal or physical
ex.: scenario: Someone helping himself to $100 worth of supplies in office
= someone could rate it by this scenario being: physical, active, and indirect.

The Results
1. Procedural injustice was perceived to have the highest level of injustice and most support for aggression.
2. Interpersonal injustice had more support for aggression than distribution injustice.
3. The control scenario had little support for aggressive behavior or injustice.
4. The greater the perception of injustice, the greater support for workplace aggression

My question is if the results were affected by the differences in the ratio of nationality, or gender. Would it have an affect on the aggressive behavior results? In addition, are there other reasons why there may be workplace aggression, such as one’s environment? How can an unfair situation or injustice, such as one’s raise being given away to a boss’ friend, affect one’s aggression?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gloria Harrell 10-17-11

Elliot Aaronson thought the theory of cognitive dissonance according to Festinger's theory was primitive, however it has a great impact. W. McGuire exhibited in his survey in the Annual Review of Psychology (1966, page 492)dissonance theory generates more hostility and massive research than any other one approach. There has been quite a bit of research and diverse experiments. They have ranged from lab rats to children. The experiments have been general and simplistic in regard to the cognitive dissonance theory. They have been applied towards social psychological settings as well as interpersonal relations. The mind finds adverse thoughts are hard to conceive. In order to accept adverse thoughts, the mind will reduce the situation with an agreeable change of the cognitive thought.

For example, I switched from my old apartment on the 20th floor which was a one bedroom, to an apartment on the 11th floor which has two large bedrooms. The bathroom and kitchen is much smaller though. I was really upset about this but I accent the thought that I have two bedrooms, not speak of how small the kitchen and bathroom is.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance- Why we lie to ourselves.

The social psychological experiment of Festinger and Carlsmith done in 1959 provides insight into why we do things that are contrary to our normal beliefs.

In the study experimenters tell the participants that they are doing a study in which they will see how your expectations affect the experience of the task. They are told that there are two groups, one that has been told what to expect from the experience, but that they are part of the group that has not been given an expectation.

The task that they are given is extremely boring, for half an hour they are to move spoons around in a box, and for another half hour they are to move pegs around a board. After they have completed the task the experimenter tells them that other participants have found the task quite interesting. Then the experimenter explains that there has been a mistake, that the next participant was supposed to have been given an expectation of the task and had not been. They offer the participant either $1 or $20 to tell the next person that the task was interesting.

Afterwords, the participant is to fill out a survey ranking how interesting the task was to them. The results discovered that those who were paid $1 ranked the task as interesting, and those who were paid $20 ranked the task as boring.

This result is called the power of cognitive dissonance. It's the way we deal with two thoughts that contradict each other. In this case, how we rationalize telling someone something was interesting that we actually found boring. For those paid $20 dollars it was easy to lie (in 1959 $20 was much more money). The money, in their mind, was worth lying to the next person and so they felt little guilt doing it. For the person paid only $1, however, their brain needed to rationalize a reason for lying and the person therefore convinced themselves that the task was more interesting then it actually was.

This theory applies to many situations in which people can convince themselves to believe something they would have otherwise found false; to think something unimportant is important, or something boring is interesting.

This experiment is a simplification of how people resolve cognitive dissonance through rationalizations. What are some other situations in which people might do this? How much does money play a roll in the outcome? Could there have been another "reward" such as a feeling of inclusion and would that make the experiment more valid? Are we more likely to rationalize because of monetary gain or social pressures?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are Two Heads Better than One? (PDF) is an article by Rebecca Thompson from the Pyschologist Journal that discusses group processes with a focus on Collaborative memory.

Through a series of archival studies she compares group strategies of pooling vs. collaboration and the situations in which each prove to be more successful than other. A study by Taylor et al. (1958) and Dunnette et al. (1963) resulted in the nominal group (from pooling ideas together), brainstorming more solid ideas as opposed to the collaborative group attempting to simultaneously brainstorm together. Similar results were retrieved from studying other tasks including story recalling (Andersson & Ronnberg, 1996).

The ‘social loaf’ (Latane, Williams & Harkins, 1979) provides a theory that is used to explain this observation where individuals within the group experience reduced pressure to perform and assume less personal responsibility towards the task with the attitude that other members will take care of it.

However there are certain situations in which group work could attain a higher level of success. The Zajonc solution (1968) provides the dividing formula where easy tasks are facilitated with the correct response and performance is enhanced. Difficult tasks on the contrary are inhibited with an incorrect response and performance is impaired.

Thompson also continues to explore the effects of familiarity of group members, the type of tasks and other individual differences. She believes it is better to collaborate for general knowledge or shared personal experiences as opposed to memorizing new material (which is done better at an individual level). This conclusion is based on her reasoning and archival research however she did not provide any observational/ experimental evidence to support this.

It is interesting to look back at the posters we made in small groups at the beginning of the semester and realize how many of the ‘Effective Methods to Change Social Behaviour’ were used in this collaborative group setting. When we then attempted to recall these methods as a nominal group, we just had an undocumented experiment conducted on us.

Rebecca Thompson concludes: “With the right cooks and the right combination of ingredients, the broth has the potential to be very good indeed!”

When looking for “right cooks” are there specific characteristics within individuals that make them more suited for collaborative work as opposed to individual work? Or are the same individuals better all round (working collaboratively and individually)? Does the success of a collaborative task reflect the collective strengths or the most dominant strength?

Social Loafing on Cognitive Tasks: An Examination of the "Sucker Effect"

(View PDF)

Social loafing (Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979) or the "Free Rider Problem" is the finding that people reduce effort when working in a group, compared to when working alone in an attempt to keep an equitable division of labor when completing a task at hand. In other words, participants make a great effort to avoid becoming the "sucker." (Schnake, 1991)

In this study, the causes and potential mediators of social loafing on group tasks which require active cognitive effort.

The subjects (70 upper-class undergraduates) arrived and met another participant (confederate). When the experimenter left the room for a moment, the confederate voiced loudly his/her intention of high or low effort on all tasks. When the confederate stated that their would be a low level of effort on his/her part, social loafing occurred.

In the end, it was found that the equity theory may be the basis for this underlying problem in group processes. When the participants believed that their partners would not loaf, significant social loafing did not occur.

If social loafing in a workplace is a common problem, is there any way that management can come to an amicable yet firm solution?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jane Elliott's Blue Eyes/ Brown Eyes Experiment

[LATimes news article on the experiment]

In 1968, the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, a third grade teacher named Jane Elliott tried to devise a way to make her all-white students understand the power of prejudice from an angle to which they had previously been unexposed. Mrs. Elliott told her students that they would play a game in which the blue-eyed students belonged to an inferior group of lazy, stupid people, and that the next day the rules would be switched around so that the brown-eyed children were inferior.
The children were enthusiastic about this "game". Some of the rules included that the "inferior" group must use a cup to drink from the water fountain, must leave late to lunch and recess, and must not speak to the "superior" group. Almost immediately, the superior group began to act noticeably different towards the others and amongst themselves. They became more confident, arrogant even, and domineering, excluding the other group. Interestingly, children in the superior group who had previously shown slowness in learning to read were now excelling academically, while children of the inferior group displayed angry, resentful, frightened, "stupid", and intimidated behavior.
This experiment was an exercise in the way prejudice and racism work in society. It demonstrated that prejudice does not originate internally or independently, and that it depends on externally introduced notions. Different races or skin colors are unnecessary in an experiment with prejudice and discrimination based on physical differences, which is important because it shows the arbitrary nature of prejudice. The discriminated-against characteristic can just as easily be eye color as skin color.

[Jane Elliott expands on the importance of this experiment in today's world.]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Asch Study Variations

JSTORE: Sociometry, Vol. 30

The Asch study is an experiment where a group of confederates match similar lines (sometimes purposely incorrectly) and then a subject answers last. The subject's response is used to determine if there is group conformity.  This study was conducted again with more variables to consider not only the influence of the group but also that of the experimenter. The experiment was conducted with 4 conditions: 

"I: Neither the experimenter nor the group is in a position to observe the subject, thus only informational influence is possible.

IG: The group, but not the experiment, is in a position to observe the subject; thus both informational and group normative influence is possible.

OE: the experimenter, but not the group, is in a position to observe the subject; thus both informational and experimenter normative influence are possible.

IEG: Both the experimenter and the group are in a position to observe the subject; thus informational, experimenter normative, and group normative influence are possible" (Schulman 29)

The results suggest that there is a varying degree of influence from the group and the experimenter based on the status of the individual. One interpretation is that middle and high status individuals  are equally concerned with the group's evaluation of them, but that high status persons are more influenced based on the evaluations of the authority figures (Schulman 40). 

It's important to note all the conditions that go into group conformity. For example are individuals that know each other more or less likely to conform to the group? It seems that relationship may have a parabolic curve. If the individuals are newly acquainted there may be more conformity. After the friendship has weathered the storm there may be less conformity to the group and thus a stronger influence on satisfying the experimenter. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This study examines the differences between individualism in American culture and collectivism in Eastern cultures. The researchers designed four studies, using abstract figures, pens and advertising and participants from both cultures. In their first study they used Eastern Asians who may have been influenced by living in the USA, so the second study used participants who were living in Korea.

The researchers expected that East Asians would show a preference for conformity and Americans would show a preference for uniqueness, and they found this in the four studies. In the first study, they used abstract figures and although they found the patterns to be consistent with the American cultural emphasis on uniqueness, the found the Asian-American participants to be more neutral than they expected, so the study was replicated using East Asians, who hadn’t spent so much time in the USA.

After the first two studies that related to preferences with abstract figures, they then designed an experiment using the choice of pens, to examine how these preferences converted into action. Although they suggest that the results showed that each cultural value was consistent with what the individuals picked, they were not the same group of participants, which could have an impact on the results.

I wonder if it would have been the same if they had used the same group of participants.

Although most would probably agree that the formation of the most simple preferences is heavily influenced by culture, I wonder if these studies could really be considered to be an effective way of showing that.