Week 2: Research Methods in Social Psychology – Prosocial Behavior and Social Change
How do researchers study why people do the things they do? At first it might appear difficult, if not impossible, to study human behavior without changing the behavior of the study subjects. After all, people may change their behavior knowing that they are being studied. It may also appear difficult to avoid exploiting subjects for the sake of research. It is true that there are significant challenges in studying social psychology; however, well-designed studies can result in important information about human behavior that can have far reaching benefits to individuals and society. This week, you explore important considerations in how researchers conduct social psychology studies. You also analyze how research on prosocial, or helping, behavior could increase understanding of, or promote solutions to, social issues.
Analyze research in terms of study design, research validity, and ethics
Analyze prosocial behavior using social psychology perspectives and theories
Identify and apply concepts, principles, and processes related to prosocial behavior
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Sommers, S. R. (2019). Social psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Chapter 2, “Methodology: How Social Psychologists Do Research”
Chapter 11, “Prosocial Behavior: Why Do People Help?”“Social Psychology in Action 1: Using Social Psychology to Achieve a Sustainable and Happy Future” (pp. 440-45746)
Resnik, D. (2015). What is ethics in research & why is it important? Retrieved from http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/whatis/
Select and read one of the following articles for this week’s Assignment:
Burnette, J. L., & Finkel, E. J. (2012). Buffering against weight gain following dieting setbacks: An implicit theory intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(3), 721–725.
Forest, A. L., & Wood, J. V. (2012). When social networking is not working: Individuals with low self-esteem recognize but do not reap the benefits of self-disclosure on Facebook. Psychological Science, 23(3), 295–302.
Mischkowski, D., Kross, E., & Bushman, B. J. (2012). Flies on the wall are less aggressive: Self-distancing “in the heat of the moment” reduces aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(5), 1187–1191.
Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E. W., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery. Psychological Science, 24(1), 3–10.
Penner, L. A., Dovidio, J. F., West, T. V., Gaertner, S. L., Albrecht, T. L., Dailey, R. K., & Markova, T. (2010). Aversive racism and medical interactions with black patients: A field study. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(2), 436–440.
Document: Week 2 Study Guide (PDF)
Marsh, A. A., Stoycos, S. A., Brethel‐Haurwitz, K. M., Robinson, P., VanMeter, J. W., & Cardinale, E. M. (2014). Neural and cognitive characteristics of extraordinary altruists. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(42), 15036–15041.
Discussion Spark: Prosocial Behavior
While social psychologists are often motivated by simple curiosity to study social behavior, they are also frequently motivated by the desire to help resolve social problems, such as increasing conservation of natural resources, increasing the practice of safe sex, understanding the relationship between viewing television violence and aggressive behavior, developing effective negotiation strategies for the reduction of international conflict, finding ways to reduce racial prejudice, and helping people adjust to life changes.
In this week’s Assignment, you will explore prosocial, or helping, behavior. Prosocial behavior can be observed in situations ranging from everyday interactions with friends and family to the extraordinary circumstances of natural disasters. Some of these behaviors go unnoticed while others are highly publicized. Some helping behavior is spontaneous, such as when someone helps a person in a wheelchair by opening a door, whereas other helping behavior is highly structured, such as that which takes place within volunteer organizations.
Some social scientists have created taxonomies, or classification systems, for helping behavior. McGuire’s system includes casual helping (small favors, e.g., giving money to a panhandler, lending a pen, giving an acquaintance a ride in the direction you are going); substantial helping (e.g., helping a friend move, a voter goes to a rally to support a political candidate, a celebrity appears in a public service announcement for a charity); emotional helping (providing emotional support); and emergency helping (e.g., giving assistance to a stranger after a car accident) (1994).
Consider the following issues and choose one or more to use for your Spark post:
Negativity on social media
Interactions between minorities and the majority
By Day 2
Post two of your own examples of prosocial behavior associated with any of the issue(s) you selected. (The issues are listed in the full assignment directions). The two examples can be for the same issue or for two different issues. For each prosocial behavior, specify which issue the prosocial behavior is associated with, who would engage in the behavior, and who would benefit from the behavior.
Spark Discussions are intended to generate ideas and spark thoughts before you review the week’s Learning Resources or begin your Assignment. For this reason, your responses may be briefer than a regular Discussion post and are due on Day 2. Responding to a colleague is not required during Week 2.
Submission and Grading Information
To access your rubric:
Week 2 Discussion Spark Rubric
Post by Day 2
To participate in this Discussion:
Week 2 Discussion