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Social Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Social Psychology

Social Psychology (11th Edition) by Shelley E. Taylor, Anne L. Peplau, David O. Sears (Prentice Hall) presents the basic theories and findings of social psychology, and shows how the principles of this field are relevant to our everyday lives. Written clearly and logically organized, this book presents social psychological theories as a way of understanding current events and social issues, helping the reader to grasp world events as they unfold. The authors of this book have paid special attention to illustrating basic principles of social psychology with topics such as new research on social cognition, attitude formation and change, prejudice, conformity and compliance, social interaction and relationships, the influence of gender in social life, prosocial behavior and aggression, and social psychological perspectives on health, politics, and the law. For those in the fields of psychology and social interaction, and those whose work requires a basic understanding of group dynamics.

 Excerpt: Social psychology is more useful today than ever before. Whether we want to understand ourselves or the social world around us, social psychology offers valuable insights. Social psychologists study our sense of personal identity, our impressions of other people, our beliefs about world events, the pressures we sometimes feel to conform to so­cial groups, and our search for love and meaningful social relationships. Social psychology also helps us to under­stand the stories behind today's news headlines on such topics as international terrorism, school violence, sexual harassment, same‑sex marriage, and energy conservation. Not surprisingly, teachers, health professionals, lawyers, political analysts, business leaders, and people in many different professions find social psychology valuable in their work. In writing this book, we have tried to present the basic theories and findings of social psychology and to show how social psychological principles are relevant to our daily lives.

As we begin the twenty‑first century, we face the chal­lenge of living in an increasingly multicultural society. Television, air travel, and the Internet bring the citizens of the world closer together and make it essential that we take a broader perspective on social life. Social psychologists are increasingly using sociocultural and global perspectives in their research, and we have included the best of this new work in our book. To give these issues the emphasis they deserve, we introduce a sociocultural perspective in Chapter 1. Throughout the text, we present new work on culture and ethnicity.

This new edition of Social Psychology has been guided by certain basic principles and goals:

We believe that social psychology, like any science, is cu­mulative. As researchers push toward exciting new fron­tiers, they build on the accumulated knowledge of the field. The new findings of today are best understood as adding to this core body of knowledge. A primary goal in this text is to present the "basics" of the field‑the classic theories and findings that form the shared her­itage of our discipline.

We have also been sensitive to important advances in social psychology. Over time, the core of the field has gradually shifted. This changing core is reflected in the eleventh edition. For example, there is more emphasis on social cognition, the self, personal relationships and evolutionary psychology. We have also expanded coverage of the role of emotion and the importance of au­tomatic processes. Throughout the book, we have made every effort to include the most recent research and the most up‑to‑date theories in social psychology.

Another goal has been to offer an integrated presenta­tion of the field. As we discuss different topics, we try to keep the main theoretical ideas and traditions of social psychology firmly in view, so that readers can see the underlying conceptual continuities in the field. For ex­ample, we introduce social cognition and attribution theories early in the book and then show how these theories have been applied to such topics as the self, at­titude change, stereotyping, aggression, and bias against women and minority groups.

The application of research methods and theories to the understanding of social issues is a major theme in social psychology. Throughout the text, we highlight ways in which social psychology sheds light on everyday expe­riences and social problems. We conclude the book with a section on "Social Psychology in Action" that explores the most recent social psychological research and the­ory on health, politics, and the law.

The success of any text depends ultimately on its abili­ty to communicate clearly to student readers and to spark interest in the field. Our goal has been to present materials simply, without oversimplifying. The text is comprehensive, but not encyclopedic. We have written a textbook for undergraduate students, not a handbook of social psychology for professionals. We have paid spe­cial attention to selecting examples that illustrate basic principles in a lively way and to sharing our own per­sonal enthusiasm for the field.

Social psychology helps us to understand world events as they unfold around us. So that students can comprehend the relevance of social psychological principles to current events, each chapter begins with a feature called "In the News" that highlights the social psychological questions raised by a front‑page issue. For example, we begin the prejudice chapter by asking what lies behind the inter-group conflicts that led to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the interpersonal at­traction chapter we consider the increasing rates of in­terethnic dating and marriage. The groups chapter reflects on the appeal of the popular television program, Survivor. The health chapter describes how people are increasingly obtaining their information about health and illness from the Internet and considers the risks and benefits of so doing. In the politics chapter, we review some of the po­litical changes that followed the terrorist attacks of Sep­tember 11, 2001. The law chapter describes a case in which an innocent man, wrongly convicted of rape on the basis of the mistaken identification of the victim, gained his freedom based on the results of DNA testing.

We have made every effort to include the newest multi­cultural and global perspectives in social psychology throughout the book. To further emphasize these issues, many chapters contain a "Cultural Highlight" that presents outstanding research on culture and human diversity. For example, in the person perception chapter, we compare the social meaning of smiling in the United States, Japan, and Korea. In the chapter on interpersonal attraction, we con­sider arranged marriages. In the chapter on aggression, we analyze how a historical "culture of honor" may increase certain kinds of violence in the American South. In the pol­itics chapter, we review research on identity issues facing new immigrants to the United States. Research comparing the behavior of people from individualistic cultures and col­lectivistic cultures is also incorporated throughout the book.

Research Focus

To help students learn to "think like social psychologists," we have included throughout the text detailed discus­sions of several key research studies, which describe the research process and the decisions researchers make. In addition, many chapters feature a "Research Closeup," that focuses on a topic at the forefront of contemporary social psychology such as the planning fallacy, the mea­surement of implicit stereotypes, the impact of mood on compliance, the dark side of intimate relationships, the accuracy of gender stereotypes, and the promotion of safer sex behaviors.


The book is organized to provide a systematic presenta­tion of the material. A beginning chapter on theories and methods is followed by five major sections that progress from individual‑level topics to dyads and groups, and then to the specific applications of social psychology.

Part I, on perceiving people and events, provides cov­erage of new research on social cognition. Here we explore how people think about and make sense of their social world. Chapter 2 presents research on person perception.

Chapter 3 reviews basic principles of social cognition. Chapter 4 applies these basic principles to understanding how we view ourselves.

Part II discusses attitudes and influence. Chapter 5 re­views research and theory on attitude formation and change. This review is followed by an analysis of prejudice and a chapter on processes of social influence that includes discussions of conformity and compliance.

Part III examines social interaction and relationships. A chapter on interpersonal attraction is followed by a chap­ter on personal relationships that surveys current research in this growing area. We then broaden our focus to study group behavior and the pervasive influence of gender in so­cial life.

Part IV focuses on helping and hurting others. Includ­ed are chapters on prosocial behavior and aggression.

Part V, on social psychology in action, presents social psychological perspectives on three applied topics: health, politics, and the law.

We think this sequence will fit well with the teaching preferences of many instructors. However, each chapter is self‑contained so the chapters can be covered in any order.

Highlights of New Content

This edition introduces a new chapter on social psycholo­gy and the law written by Eugene Borgida and Jennifer Hunt. The chapter describes the important research done by social psychologists on such topics as eyewitness iden­tification, the use of so‑called lie detectors, jury decision making, expert testimony and the current debate about re­covered memories of childhood abuse.

So that students can see for themselves how social psy­chologists conduct their research, we have included addi­tional sample items from measures used to assess an array of concepts, including loneliness, the desire for individu­ation, authoritarianism, implicit stereotypes, and stressful life events.

The many changes throughout this edition reflect new trends in social psychology today. Some highlights of the new material include:

The social cognition section has been reorganized and now includes extensive coverage of automatic inference and evaluation. The person perception chapter presents new research on the importance of emotion in impres­sion formation. The social cognition chapter has greater coverage of work on dual processing models and men­tal simulation. Additional coverage of the affective as­pects of social cognition includes the role of motivation in cognitive processing.

The self chapter introduces new work on terror management theory that investigates how people cope with the fear of death. Expanded coverage of self‑regulation is also included.

The attitudes chapter considers when and why people's attitudes toward such issues as the death penalty can change dramatically. New research is presented on the persuasiveness of emotional appeals and the automat­ic elicitation of attitudes.

The prejudice chapter gives increased emphasis to re­search on stereotype threat, implicit stereotyping, and multiculturalism. It also suggests new ways to reduce prejudice using superordinate or crosscutting categories.

The chapters on interpersonal attraction and personal relationships have been reorganized for greater clarity and coherence. The attraction chapter includes new data on interethnic couples, presents the latest research on adult attachment, and scrutinizes findings on the im­pact of physical attractiveness. A new section on mate se­lection includes both social role and evolutionary interpretations.

The personal relationships chapter provides expanded coverage of cognition in relationships, including "pos­itive illusions," memory bias, resisting tempting alter­natives, sacrifice, and forgiveness. Possible male‑female differences in intimacy are reviewed.

The chapter on groups includes new research on culture and crowding and on the impact of supportive audiences on performance.

The gender chapter presents the latest findings from meta‑analyses of sex differences in social behavior and includes a new section on human sexuality.

The aggression chapter includes expanded coverage of the possible roles of biology, evolution, and culture in aggression. Comprehensive coverage is given to school violence and to intimate violence, including domestic abuse, rape, and sexual harassment.

The chapter on helping has been reorganized to con­sider three major types of helping: bystander interven­tion, volunteerism, and caring for family and friends. New work on mood and helping as well as research on the helpfulness of political liberals versus that of con­servatives is reviewed.

The health psychology chapter presents new evidence that a person's state of mind and social support influ­ence health and illness. The chapter also highlights re­cent findings on habits that can foster good health.

The chapter on politics presents new research on am­bivalence, the rationality of public opinion, and col­lective memories. Expanded coverage of gender and religious conflicts in politics is provided. Attention is also given to the role of the media in shaping public opinion, including the effects of attack ads and the media coverage of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

A new chapter on the law, written by Eugene Borgida and Jennifer Hunt, presents the current research apply­ing social psychological theory to legal issues, including eyewitness identification of criminals, the use of so-called lie detectors, the "story model" of jury decision making, and the impact of race on jury verdicts.

Introducing Social Psychology by Colin Fraser, Brendan Burchell, Dale Hay, Gerard Duveen (Polity) offers an accessible and broadly conceived introduction to social psychology. Written in a lucid and lively style, it assumes no prior knowledge of the field, and is the ideal textbook to get students thinking about the subject.

The volume covers the main issues of social psychology - as well as many classic studies - such as self and personality, interpersonal relations, language and communication, altruism and aggression, group processes, attitudes, and intergroup relations. What sets this book apart is its coverage of less orthodox topics which are often neglected in introductions of this kind. These areas include emotions, social and moral development, social representations, health and illness, employment and unemployment, and the implications of these fields for social policy. The result is an unusually rich and wide-ranging presentation of social psychology, drawing together a deliberately varied range of methodology and theory.

The currently dominant cognitive and psychological approach to social psychology receives systematic consideration in a number of chapters, but its focus on individuals and face-to-face interaction is continually related to broader social concerns and contexts. This is achieved through the use of cross-cultural and historical comparisons, together with an awareness of the contributions that can be made by related social sciences. The authors aim to show that social psychology illuminates the whole of social life, including everyday issues faced by all of us.

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