Lukas J. Wolf, Geoff Haddock, and Greg Maio
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Attitudes refer to our summary evaluations of people, groups, ideas, and other objects, indicating whether we like or dislike them. The study of attitudes takes a central position in social psychology. Since attitudes were described as the most distinctive and indispensable concept in social psychology more than 80 years ago, decades of extensive research have studied attitudes. This research has revealed how attitudes shape our perceptions and behavior.
One of the key aspects of attitudes is their affective, cognitive, and behavioral content. That is, an attitude may associate an attitude object with affective or emotional reactions, cognitions or knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts, and intentions or past actions. The attitude itself may also have a simple (e.g., positive or negative) structure or a more conflicted, ambivalent (e.g., simultaneously positive and negative) structure, and it may serve different psychological functions (e.g., simplification of knowledge, value expression). In more recent decades, scientists have focused on developing diverse techniques to measure attitudes. On the whole, research has shown that attitudes are moderately predictive of future behavior and that the strength of this link depends on diverse factors, such as how strongly the attitude is held, individuals’ personality, and the environmental context. Overall, the long history of research on attitudes has shown considerable theoretical and practical relevance.
Skylar M. Brannon and Bertram Gawronski
The desire to maintain consistency between cognitions has been recognized by many psychologists as an important human motive. Research on this topic has been highly influential in a variety of areas of social cognition, including attitudes, person perception, prejudice and stereotyping, and self-evaluation. In his seminal work on cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger noted that inconsistencies between cognitions result in negative affect. Further, he argued that the motivation to maintain consistency is a basic motive that is intrinsically important. Subsequent theorists posed revisions to Festinger’s original theory, suggesting that consistency is only important to the extent that it allows one to maintain a desired self-view or to communicate traits to others. According to these theorists, the motivation to maintain consistency serves as a means toward a superordinate motive, not as an end in itself. Building on this argument, more recent perspectives suggest that consistency is important for the execution of context-appropriate action and the acquisition and validation of knowledge.
Several important lines of research grew out of the idea that cognitive consistency plays a central role in social information processing. One dominant line of research has aimed toward understanding how people deal with inconsistencies between their attitudes and their behaviors. Other research has investigated how individuals maintain their beliefs either by (1) avoiding exposure to contradictory information or (2) engaging in cognitive processes aimed toward reconciling an inconsistency after being exposed to contradictory information. Cognitive consistency perspectives have also been leveraged to understand (1) the conditions under which explicit and implicit evaluations correlate with one another, (2) when change in one type of evaluation corresponds with change in the other, and (3) the roles of distinct types of consistency principles underlying explicit and implicit evaluations.
Expanding on these works, newer lines of research have provided important revisions and extensions to early research on cognitive consistency, focusing on (1) the identification of inconsistency, (2) the elicitation of negative affect in response to inconsistency, and (3) behavioral responses aimed to restore inconsistency or mitigate the negative feelings arising from inconsistency. For example, some research has suggested that, instead of following the rules of formal logic, perceptions of (in)consistency are driven by “psycho-logic” in that individuals may perceive inconsistency when there is logical consistency, and vice versa. Further, reconciling conflicting research on the affective responses to inconsistency, recent work suggests that all inconsistencies first elicit negative affect, but immediate affective reactions may change in line with the hedonic experience of the event when an individual has time to make sense of the inconsistency. Finally, new frameworks have been proposed to unite a broad range of phenomena under one unifying umbrella, using the concept of cognitive consistency as a common denominator.
Martijn van Zomeren
The social psychology of collective mobilization and social protest reflects a long-standing interest within this discipline in the larger question of how social change comes about through the exercise of collective agency. Yet, within this very same discipline, different approaches have suggested different motivations for why people protest, including emotional, agentic, identity, and moral motivations. Although each of these approaches first tended toward development of insulated models or theories, the next phase has been more integrative in nature, giving rise to multi-motive models of collective mobilization and social protest that combined predictions from different approaches, which improved their explanatory power and theoretical scope.
Together with this first development toward integration, a second development has also clearly left its mark on the field. This development refers to the rapid internationalization of the field, with studies on collective mobilization and social protest being conducted across the world, leading to very diverse participant samples and contextual characteristics. These studies typically also vary methodologically, including survey, experiment, interview, longitudinal, and other methods. This second trend—toward diversity—fits well with the first integrative trend and will lead to more in-depth and integrative understanding of the social-psychological workings of collective mobilization and social protest. However, this will require innovative conceptual and empirical work in order to map the structural (particularly, political and cultural) conditions under which different motivations matter with respect to mobilization and protest.
The subfield of communication and intergroup relations attempts to disentangle the ways in which human message exchange is influenced by, and itself affects, relations between social groups. Typically, the social groups considered are large scale groups (e.g., national, religious, ethnic groups), but similar processes can also be applied to smaller groups such as families or work groups. Specifically, the field of communication and intergroup relations considers how social interaction is changed when the interlocutors belong to (or perceive themselves as belonging to) specific social groups, and how everyday talk about groups changes perceptions and attitudes concerning those groups. The subfield also considers how broader societal messages relate to group memberships. For instance, how do media messages reflect the macrosocial position of particular groups, and do media messages influence how consumers think about group memberships and intergroup relations? Underpinning all study of intergroup communication is the belief that intergroup relations are forged, perpetuated, and modified in real-life everyday social communication.
Chad R. Mortensen and Robert B. Cialdini
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
It is through the influence process that people generate and manage change. As such, it is important to understand fully the workings of the influence processes that produce compliance with requests for change. Fortunately, a vast body of scientific evidence now exists on how, when, and why people comply with influence attempts. From this formidable body of work, one can extract six universal principles of influence—those that generate compliance in the widest range of circumstances. Reciprocation states that people are more willing to comply with requests (for favors, services, information, concessions, etc.) from those who have provided such things first. Commitment/Consistency states that people are more willing to be moved in a particular direction if they see it as consistent with an existing commitment. Authority states that people are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant expertise. Social Proof states that people are more willing to take a recommended action if they see evidence that many others, especially similar others, are taking it. Scarcity states that people find objects and opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are scarce, rare, or dwindling in availability. Finally, Liking states that people prefer to say yes to those they like, such as those who are similar to them and who have complimented them.
Patricia Elgoibar, Martin Euwema, and Lourdes Munduate
Conflicts are part of nature and certainly part of human relations, between individuals, as well as within and between groups. Conflicts occur in every domain of life: family, work, and society, local and global. Conflict management, therefore, is an essential competency for each person. People differ largely in their emotional and behavioral responses to conflict and need to learn how to behave effectively in different conflict situations. This requires a contingency approach, first assessing the conflict situation, and then choosing a strategy, matching the goals of the party. In most situations, fostering cooperative relations will be most beneficial; however, this is also most challenging. Therefore, constructive conflict management strategies, including trust building and methods of constructive controversy, are emphasized. Conflict management, however, is broader than the interaction of the conflicting parties. Third-party interventions are an essential element of constructive conflict management, particularly the assessment of which parties are intervening in what ways at what escalation stage.
Thekla Morgenroth and Michelle K. Ryan
Understanding gender and gender differences is a prevalent aim in many psychological subdisciplines. Social psychology has tended to employ a binary understanding of gender and has focused on understanding key gender stereotypes and their impact. While women are seen as warm and communal, men are seen as agentic and competent. These stereotypes are shaped by, and respond to, social contexts, and are both descriptive and prescriptive in nature. The most influential theories argue that these stereotypes develop in response to societal structures, including the roles women and men occupy in society, and status differences between the sexes. Importantly, research clearly demonstrates that these stereotypes have a myriad of effects on individuals’ cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors and contribute to sexism and gender inequality in a range of domains, from the workplace to romantic relationships.
Group process refers to the behaviors of the members of small working groups (usually between three and twelve members) as they engage in decision-making and task performance. Group process includes the study of how group members’ characteristics interact with the behavior of group members to create effective or ineffective group performance. Relevant topics include the influences of group norms, group roles, group status, group identity, and group social interaction as they influence group task performance and decision-making, the development and change of groups over time, group task typologies, and decision-making schemes. Relevant group outcomes include group cohesion, process losses and process gains in performance, free riding, ineffective information sharing, difficulties in brainstorming, groupthink, and group polarization. Other variables that influence effective group process include group member diversity, task attractiveness, and task significance. A variety of techniques are used to improve group process.
Victoria M. Esses
Migration is the movement of people from one location to another, either within a country (internal migration between cities or regions) or between countries (international migration). Migration may be relatively voluntary (e.g., for employment opportunities) or involuntary (e.g., due to armed conflict, persecution, or natural disasters), and it may be temporary (e.g., migrant workers moving back and forth between source and receiving areas) or permanent (e.g., becoming a permanent resident in a new country). The term immigration refers specifically to international migration that is relatively permanent in nature. Immigrants are those individuals who have moved to a new country on a relatively permanent basis. Of importance, refugees are a particular type of immigrant, defined and protected by international law. They are individuals who have been formally recognized as having fled their country of residence because of a well-founded fear of persecution, armed conflict, violence, or war. Until they are recognized as such, these individuals are asylum seekers—individuals who have claimed refugee status and are waiting for that claim to be evaluated. Despite the relative permanence of immigration, advances in transportation and communication mean that immigrants are able to travel to, spend time in, and communicate on a regular basis with their country of origin. As a result, what has been termed transnationalism may result, with individuals holding strong ties with, and actively participating in, both the country of origin and the new receiving country.
Migration often results in two or more cultures coming into contact. This contact is especially likely for international migration where immigrants from one national group (the society of origin) come into contact with members of a different national group (the receiving society). Culture may include specific beliefs, attitudes, and customs, as well as values and behaviors. The term acculturation refers to the changes that may occur when individuals from different cultures come into contact, with possible changes in both immigrants and members of the receiving society. Psychological theory and research suggest that acculturation is bidimensional, with changes potentially taking place along two dimensions—one representing the maintenance or loss of the original culture and the other representing the adoption or rejection of the new culture. This bidimensionality is important because it suggests that acculturation is not linear from original culture to new culture, but instead that individuals may simultaneously participate in the new culture and maintain their original culture. The two cultures may be expressed at different times, in different contexts, or may merge to form cultural expressions that have aspects of both cultures. With voluntary and involuntary migration at historically high levels, understanding the drivers of migration and its consequences for migrants and those with whom they come into contact are essential for global cooperation and well-being.
Vincente Martínez-Tur and Carolina Moliner
Traditionally, justice in teams refers to a specific climate—called justice climate—describing shared perceptions about how the team as a whole is treated. Justice at the individual level has been a successful model from which to build the concept of justice in teams. Accordingly, there is a parallelism between the individual and team levels in the investigation of justice, where scholars’ concerns and responses have been very similar, despite studying different levels of construct. However, the specific particularities of teams are increasingly considered in research. There are three concepts (faultlines, subgrouping, and intergroup justice) that contribute to knowledge by focusing on particularities of teams that are not present at the individual level. The shift toward team-based structures provides an opportunity to observe the existence of dividing lines that may split a team into subgroups (faultlines) and the difficulty, in many cases, of conceiving of the team members as part of a single group. This perspective about teams also stimulates the study of the subgroup as a source of justice and the focus on intergroup justice within the team. In sum, the organizational context facilitates shared experiences and perceptions of justice beyond individual differences but also can result in potential conflicts and discrepancies among subgroups within the team in their interpretation of fairness.