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An Introduction to Social Psychology E-Book

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This definitive resource in social psychology includes engaging study tools designed to help students grasp the underlying theories and the latest research in the field. In the 7th edition of An Introduction to Social Psychology, students will discover a wealth of tools to help them understand the theories and fundamental knowledge in the ever-evolving field of social psychology. With contributions leading psychologists, this feature-rich edition includes Theory Boxes, Research Close-ups, and Lab Boxes to help cement students' understanding of the study material. This essential study guide has been engaging and educating students on social psychology theories and research for over 34 years. For students entering into the world of social psychology for the first time, this book covers foundational topics, such as: * The history of social psychology throughout Europe * Updated research methods and newly developed theories * In-depth looks at social cognition, aggression, prosocial behavior, and relationships * Strategies for changing attitude and behavior * Critical study materials for multiple-choice testing The combination of traditional academic study with cohesion of topics, accessibility of material, and pedagogy in this 7th edition makes it a definitive resource for both instructors and beginning psychology students alike.

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An Introduction to Social Psychology




This edition first published in 2020 by the British Psychological Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Edition HistoryThe British Psychological Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd (3e, 2001; 4e, 2008; 5e, 2012; 6e, 2015)

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Library of Congress Cataloging‐in‐Publication DataNames: Hewstone, Miles, editor. | Stroebe, Wolfgang, editor.Title: An introduction to social psychology / Edited by Miles Hewstone, Wolfgang Stroebe.Description: Seventh edition. | Hoboken : Wiley, [2020] | Series: Bps textbooks in psychology | Includes bibliographical references and index.Identifiers: LCCN 2020027425 (print) | LCCN 2020027426 (ebook) | ISBN 9781119486268 (paperback) | ISBN 9781119486343 (adobe pdf) | ISBN 9781119486374 (epub)Subjects: LCSH: Social psychology. | Social psychology–Europe.Classification: LCC HM1033 .I59 2020 (print) | LCC HM1033 (ebook) | DDC 302–dc23LC record available at ebook record available at

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Notes on Contributors

Felix C. Brodbeck is Chair of Organizational and Economic Psychology at Ludwig‐Maximilians University, Munich, Germany. His main research interests are leadership, group performance, collective information‐processing, economic decision‐making, diversity and cross‐cultural psychology. He has edited or authored several books, including Culture and Leadership Across the World, and numerous research papers. He was until 2018 (Co‐) Editor‐in‐Chief of the Journal of Economic Psychology.

Roland Deutsch is Professor of Social Psychology at Julius‐Maximilians University, Würzburg, Germany. His research covers several areas in social cognition and motivation including dual‐process models, indirect measures, moral and motivational conflicts, and the perception of social inequality.

Catrin Finkenauer is Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science at the University of Utrecht. Her research on interpersonal relationships includes basic research on relationship processes (e.g., trust, understanding) and applied research on interventions targeting children who have been witness to or a target of domestic violence and abuse.

Geoffrey Haddock is a Professor of Social Psychology at Cardiff University, UK. He has published widely on the topics of attitudes and social cognition. His current research focuses on affective and cognitive processes of evaluation.

Miles Hewstone is Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Oxford, and Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford University, UK. His main research topic is intergroup relations and the reduction of intergroup conflict, especially via intergroup contact. He has published widely in the field of social psychology, edited or authored many books, and was founding co‐editor (with Wolfgang Stroebe) of the European Review of Social Psychology. He has received numerous awards for his research.

Johan C. Karremans is Associate Professor at the Behavioural Science Institute (BSI) at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. His research mainly focuses on the processes that benefit or harm interpersonal relationships, especially in the face of relationship threat (e.g., conflict, attractive alternatives).

Barbara Krahé is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Potsdam, Germany. Her research focuses on aggression, especially sexual aggression and the impact of media violence on aggression. She is actively involved in the International Society for Research on Aggression, serving as President from 2018 to 2020.

Mark Levine is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Lancaster, UK. His research focuses on the role of social identity in prosocial and antisocial behaviour. He is particularly interested in the research possibilities afforded by new technologies and digital data. This has included analysing CCTV data, using virtual reality environments and studying naturally occurring online data.

Andrew G. Livingstone is Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Exeter, having previously held positions at the University of Stirling and Cardiff University. His research focuses on social identity, emotion and intergroup relations. He is currently a Section Editor of the Social and Personality Psychology Compass and was formerly an Associate Editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology.

Gregory R. Maio is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Bath, UK. He has published widely on the topics of values, attitudes and social cognition. His current research focuses on the psychological properties of social values.

Rachel Manning is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Buckingham, UK. Her research interests include prosocial behaviours such as intervention in emergencies, charitable giving and volunteering.

Antony S. R. Manstead is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Cardiff University, UK, having previously held positions at the Universities of Sussex, Manchester, Amsterdam and Cambridge. He has been Editor or Associate Editor of several journals, the most recent being the European Review of Social Psychology. His research focuses on emotion, attitudes and social identity.

Robin Martin is Professor of Organizational Psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK. He has served on the faculties of the Universities of Aston, Queensland, Cardiff, Swansea and Sheffield. He conducts research in the areas of social influence processes (especially majority and minority influence), workplace leadership, innovation and team working.

Carolyn C. Morf is Associate Professor of Personality Psychology at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Her research focuses on understanding self‐regulatory processes through which individuals construct and maintain their desired self‐views. She also examines the expression of these self‐regulatory processes in personality (in particular narcissism). Her edited books include the Handbook of Methods in Social Psychology (Sage, 2004).

Bernard A. Nijstad is Professor of Decision Making and Organizational Behavior at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His main research interests are individual and group creativity and individual and group decision‐making.

Brian Parkinson is Professor of Social Psychology at Oxford University, UK. His research focuses on the interpersonal causes, effects and functions of emotion. His books include Heart to Heart: How our Emotions Affect Other People (2019), Ideas and Realities of Emotion (1995) and (with Fischer and Manstead) Emotion in Social Relations (2005). He is currently co‐editor of the Cambridge University Press book series Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction.

Richard Philpot is a Research Fellow in Social Psychology at Lancaster University, UK. His research focuses on bystander behaviour in public emergencies and the interplay between social identity and communication technologies.

Jenny Roth is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She uses a social cognition approach to explain social phenomena. Much of her research focuses on social identity, ingroup identification processes, and their antecedents and consequences.

Stefan Schulz‐Hardt is Professor of Industrial, Economic and Social Psychology at Georg‐August‐University Göttingen, Germany. He has published on group decision‐making, escalation of commitment, stress in the workplace and other topics. He was (Co‐) Editor in Chief of the Journal of Economic Psychology until 2018.

Peter B. Smith is Emeritus Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, UK. His research has mostly been concerned with cross‐cultural aspects of formal and informal influence processes, and with cross‐cultural communication. He is author (with Fisher, Vignoles and Bond) of Understanding Social Psychology across Cultures, and a former editor of the Journal of Cross‐Cultural Psychology.

Russell Spears is Professor of Psychology at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His main research interests are in social identity processes, with particular focus on the group emotions that play a role in intergroup relations. He has edited the British Journal of Social Psychology and (with Anne Maass) the European Journal of Social Psychology.

Wolfgang Stroebe is Emeritus Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Utrecht University and, since 2011, Visiting Professor at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Jointly with Miles Hewstone, he was Founding Editor of the European Review of Social Psychology, which he (co‐)edited for 25 years. He has published widely on social and health psychology. His present research focuses on mass shootings and motivational bases of US gun ownership (

Nicole Tausch is Reader in Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews, UK. Her research interests lie broadly in the areas of social identity, intergroup relations, prejudice and collective action. She is a recipient of the British Psychological Society’s Award for Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology.

Preface to Seventh Edition

This is the seventh time we have sat down to write a preface for this long‐running textbook. As we do so, we realize that a book that has met the needs of students and instructors for more than 30 years must be doing something right, in fact many things. Essentially these involve choosing what information to present in each chapter, and how much of it; balancing the presentation of both key historical landmarks and cutting‐edge developments in terms of theory and research; integrating that information so that each chapter tells a coherent story; and writing in a clear, well‐structured manner that explains in a compelling way.

In the competitive market for textbooks on any subject, against stiff competition, you have to keep up with developments in the scientific literature. In this seventh edition we have once again extensively updated the material and integrated recent theoretical and empirical developments.

The fact that we have regularly undertaken such revisions has certainly contributed to the success of our book. The field of social psychology continues to expand, both in its material and in the number of countries in which it is taught, and any successful textbook will have to move with the times. As a result of the increasing complexity of our field, it has become impossible for any single person to be an expert on all the different areas of social psychology. The fact that we succeeded in persuading internationally leading experts on each of the various topics to contribute to this book – and to regularly revise their chapters – guarantees a level of accuracy that would be impossible to achieve in a single‐author textbook or even a book written by a small team of authors.

This bestselling textbook was always intended to appeal to students as well as to instructors, who teach social psychology at universities throughout Europe and many other parts of the world. As judged by its longevity, its sales and its translations (a dozen languages), we have succeeded. In this case ‘we’ refers not just to us as editors, but to our authors who are all experts on their topics and were willing to work with our necessarily tight editorial control in order to provide a well‐integrated volume, in which the reader quickly knows what they will find in each chapter, where to find it and how to use this valuable resource to the best, in order to provide an excellent course or to excel in their examinations.

Over the seven editions we have never stood still. We have added and removed topics, and we have added and removed authors; the latter has helped to ensure that new perspectives are represented and material does not get outdated. This latest edition contains one completely new chapter, on social cognition, to reflect a series of recent developments in that area of social psychology. Topics that remain are updated in each new edition. This edition provides students and instructors with the core of social psychology – chapters dealing with methods, social perception and attribution, social cognition, self and social identity, attitudes, social influence, aggression, prosocial behaviour, relationships, group processes and intergroup relations. But it also casts a look beyond the Western perspective and includes a chapter on cultural social psychology, emphasizing that social psychology is a global science, but acknowledging the fact that replications of social psychological studies in other parts of the world often result in somewhat different findings. On the topic of replications, the revised methods chapter – as well as the introductory chapter – brings the reader up to date with the controversy surrounding this issue, something that we felt should be studied for the lessons that can be drawn from it.

Each new edition also provides an updated set of examples of relevant social‐psychological phenomena, so that the reader can relate the material in each chapter to the events that they encounter in everyday life, read about in newspapers and on the Internet, and see on their TV screens.

Other than coverage of the material, another feature of each new edition is that we have continuously made didactic improvements and added pedagogical aids to each new edition. Each chapter provides the reader with a very clear and comprehensive presentation of the central theories, concepts, paradigms, results and conclusions in each new area. In terms of structure, the reader will find that each chapter contains specific features, designed to improve learning and enhance the enjoyment of the task:

A ‘route map’ provides a brief overview of the chapter, written in clear English.

A chapter outline reflects the coverage in each chapter.

The definitions of each key concept are covered in each chapter, and provided in special glossary boxes in the margins to aid revision; they are also gathered together in an alphabetical glossary at the end of the book.

The body of the text in each chapter is broken down into clear sections, and the reader is guided by subheadings throughout the chapter. We have sought to avoid long, uninterrupted passages of text, and to punctuate the text with figures, tables and occasional photographs.

Key theories are depicted in special ‘theory boxes’ to aid understanding of more complex processes.

Each main section or subsection of the chapter begins with ‘learning questions’ – these are the major questions that the student should be able to answer having read the chapter.

Each chapter ends with a summary and conclusions in the form of bullet points.

A list of key concepts presents the main terms that a student should know about each topic area.

A list of further reading is suggested, with a thumbnail summary indicating what the student will find in each source.

Each chapter contains boxed features of four different types:

Theory Box

Key theories are made accessible to aid the understanding of more complex processes.

Research Close‐Up

Brief summaries of classic and contemporary research studies, explaining clearly why and how the research was done, what it found and what its implications are.

Individual Differences

Illustrative items from scales used to measure variables discussed in the text.


ocial Psychology Beyond the Lab

Descriptions of some ‘real‐life application’ of theory and research described in the chapter.

Features designed to aid learning and help both instructors and students do not end with the material inside the book. Extensive online resources are also provided on the web (, including a bank of over 1000 self‐study and instructor test‐bank questions, links to other useful websites, and PowerPoint presentations and flashcards.

As always when we complete a new edition, we find that we ourselves have also learned a great deal. Our authors have shared their wide knowledge and communicated so engagingly that we ourselves are encouraged to go and read more, as we hope readers of the book will be too. Such a large book cannot, of course, be completed without the help of others, whom we gratefully acknowledge here. First and foremost, we thank our authors for their excellent manuscripts and their willingness to go through repeated revisions in response to our editorial feedback. The final part of the long process from first draft to publication is of course seeing the manuscript typeset, proofread and published. We owe a debt to many in this process. We would like to thank the team at Wiley for producing a beautiful book and Camille Bramall for her careful copy‐editing. Finally, we thank Rachel New once again for her help throughout the editorial process.

Miles Hewstone, OxfordWolfgang Stroebe, Groningen

Guided Tour


Key Terms are listed on each chapter opening page, highlighting the main topic areas for students.

Chapter Outline reflects the coverage of each chapter by main section headings.

A short outline of each chapter, written in clear English, is presented in the Route Map of the Chapter.


Each main section or subsection starts with a ‘learning question’ (coloured purple in the printed book), major questions that the student should be able to answer after reading the chapter.

Each main section ends with a Summary to aid memorizing key segments of the content as students progress through the chapter.

Key Terms introduced in each chapter are listed alphabetically at the end of the chapter. They are printed in bold at the first point of use in the current chapter and appear with their definition at the first main point of discussion in the book. All Key Terms and definitions are collated and arranged alphabetically in the Glossary at the back of the book.

The main chapter text is punctuated by diagrams, graphs, tables and occasional photographs, all designed to improve the reading and learning experience.

Key theories are made accessible in the text by way of Theory Box features to aid the understanding of more complex processes.

Research Close-Ups provide brief summaries of pertinent research studies, both classic and contemporary, as an aid to explain why and how research was carried out and what the results implied.

Individual Differences are illustrative items from scales used to measure variables discussed in the text.

Social Psychology Beyond the Lab boxes feature various ‘real-life applications’ of theory and research applicable to the content of the current chapter.


A list of key learning points are presented in the Chapter Summary to help students consolidate their knowledge and understanding of the chapter’s content.

Each chapter ends with a list of Suggestions for Further Reading indicating key material for further independent study.

Accompanying Online Resources for Instructors and Students


The Book Companion Site contains an extensive support package for instructors and can be found at

On the website instructors will find:

Test bank with over 1000 questions, including true/false, multiple choice and essay questions.

Computerized test bank allowing instructors to create and print multiple versions of the test bank, as well as allowing instructors to customize exams by altering or adding new questions.

PowerPoint presentations containing a combination of key concepts, examples, and figures and tables from the book.

Links to the BBC Radio 4 ‘Mind Changers’ series with contributions from the editors.


The Introduction to Social Psychology student website provides students with support material that will help develop their conceptual understanding of the material. The student website contains:

Self-Study Quizzes including true/false, multiple choice and ‘fill in the blank’ questions to aid students’ learning and self-study.

Links to relevant journal articles that are referenced in the text to encourage further reading and critical analysis of the material.

Flashcards showing key terms and definitions from the glossary.

Links to the BBC Radio 4 ‘Mind Changers’ series with contributions from the editors.

1Introducing Social Psychology

Wolfgang Stroebe and Miles Hewstone











Most textbooks introduce social psychology with examples of everyday experiences of social behaviour or even with a formal definition. We thought that a better way of familiarizing you with our discipline was to present some examples of classic studies. These should give you an impression of the research questions social psychologists address and of the methods they use to tackle these questions. Only then do we give a formal definition of social psychology and discuss the differences between social psychology and related areas. The second part of the chapter is devoted to the history of social psychology, which we trace from its starting years around 1900 until today. As our American colleagues like to point out, much of this history took place in the United States. However, as we Europeans like to point out, this development was strongly influenced by European researchers, even before the establishment of social psychology in Europe during the past four decades.


Some classic studies

How do social psychologists go about addressing research questions?

A proper textbook of social psychology should begin with the discussion of accepted definitions of the discipline. The reason we deviate from this safe course of action is that, when we ourselves began studying social psychology, we found these definitions rather incomprehensible. However, once we had finished the social psychology course and knew something about the subject, we could finally appreciate why social psychologists defined their discipline the way they did. Because presenting the definitions at the end of the book did not make much sense either, we decided on a compromise. We will first give you some examples of classic social psychology research to show you how social psychologists go about their studies. Then, in the next section, we present and discuss some definitions.

In 1954, Muzafer Sherif, who was then Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Oklahoma (United States), conducted one of a series of classic studies with 11‐ to 12‐year‐old boys, who had been sent to a remote summer camp at Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma. None of the boys knew each other before the study. They were divided into two groups, who stayed in cabins far apart from each other and did not know of each other’s existence. For one week, each of the groups enjoyed the typical summer camp life, engaging in fun activities like camping out, transporting canoes over rough terrain to the water, and playing various games. They had a great time. It is therefore not surprising that at the end of the week, group members had grown very fond of one another and the groups had developed strong group identities. Each chose a name for itself (the ‘Rattlers’ and the ‘Eagles’), which they proudly displayed on shirts and flags.

At the end of the week, each of the groups was told that there was another group in the vicinity. As though acceding to the boys’ requests, the staff arranged tournaments of games (e.g., touch football, baseball, tug of war) between the groups. The winning team would receive a cup, and members of the winning team would each be given a new penknife. The tournament started in the spirit of good sportsmanship, but as it progressed, hostilities between the groups began to develop. ‘Soon members of each group began to call their rivals “stinkers”, “sneaks” and “cheats” … Near the end of this stage, the members of each group found the other group and its members so distasteful that they expressed strong preferences to have no further contact with them at all’ (Sherif, 1967, p. 82). A recent book by Perry (2018) presents some fascinating background information on that study.

What was the point of all of this? What can tales about boys in a summer camp tell us about real life? The answer is, a great deal. These Robbers Cave studies actually mark a turning point in the study of prejudice (i.e., dislike for members of an outgroup), because they challenged the then dominant view of prejudice as either an outflow of a prejudiced personality disposition (authoritarian personality; see Chapter 14) or as the result of displaced frustration (scapegoat theory). There was no indication that these boys had prejudiced personalities or needed scapegoats to displace their aggression. And yet, they developed strong dislikes for the members of the other group (the ‘stinkers’ and ‘sneaks’), because they were competing with them for some valued good that only one of the two groups could attain. Sherif interpreted these findings as support for his realistic conflict theory, which assumed that intergroup hostility and intergroup prejudice are usually the result of a conflict of interest between groups over valued commodities or opportunities. Goals were the central concept in Sherif’s theory: he argued that when two groups were competing for the same goal, which only one could achieve, there would be intergroup hostility.

authoritarian personality personality syndrome characterized by a simplistic cognitive style, a rigid regard for social conventions, and submission to authority figures (associated with prejudice towards minority groups and susceptibility to Fascism).

scapegoat theory a theory which holds that prejudice is due to aggression that is displaced towards members of an outgroup (scapegoats), because the group or set of circumstances that was the source of frustration is not within reach.

realistic conflict theory a theory developed by Sherif which holds that conflict and competition between groups over valued resources can create intergroup hostility and prejudice.

Not surprising, you might say. After all, this is the reason why football supporters beat each other up every so often before and after games between their clubs. And yet, this is not the full story. Nearly two decades later, Henri Tajfel, then Professor of Social Psychology at Bristol University (United Kingdom), and colleagues conducted a series of studies that called into question the assumption that competitive goals are a necessary condition for the development of intergroup hostility (Tajfel, Billig, Bundy, & Flament, 1971). Participants in these studies were 14‐ to 15‐year‐old schoolboys, who all knew each other well and came to the psychology laboratory in groups of eight to participate in an experiment (see Chapter 2) on visual perception. Their task was to estimate the number of dots that were flashed onto a screen. After completion of this task, they were told that they would also participate in a second experiment and, for the ease of coding, would be divided on the basis of the dot estimates they had just made. Half the boys were then (randomly) assigned to the ‘under‐estimators’ group, the other half to the ‘over‐estimators’ group. (In later studies, boys were often divided on the basis of their alleged preference for paintings by Klee or Kandinsky, an equally irrelevant criterion for boys of that age.) The boys then had to assign rewards to other individuals in real money. They did not know the identity of the other individuals, but only their code numbers and their group membership.

experiment a method in which the researcher deliberately introduces some change into a setting to examine the consequences of that change.

This experimental procedure became known as the minimal group paradigm. These groups were minimal, because they were created using arbitrary criteria, involved no interaction between members of the two groups, and group members had no knowledge of who belonged to the group. And yet Tajfel could show that members of these groups displayed intergroup discrimination. When asked to divide money between a member of their own group and a member of the other group, most boys gave consistently more money to members of their own group than to members of the other group (see Chapter 14). These studies were again quite innovative, because they showed that intergroup conflict was not an essential cause of intergroup discrimination (or at least ingroup favouritism). Apparently, the mere fact of division into groups was sufficient to trigger discriminatory behaviour.

minimal group paradigm a set of experimental procedures designed to create groups based on essentially arbitrary criteria (with no interaction within or between them, and with no knowledge of who else belongs to each group) whose members show intergroup discrimination.

You might now believe that you have some idea of what social psychology is all about and how social psychologists conduct their research. You might also think that the approach of Sherif was more in line with what you had expected, but that the studies by Tajfel, despite their artificiality, led to some interesting results. However, you will be somewhat premature in your confidence. A clearer and more appropriate picture of the field of social psychology will emerge after considering some additional studies, described below.

In 1994, Neil Macrae (then at Cardiff University) and colleagues studied people’s ability to suppress their prejudicial thoughts (Macrae, Bodenhausen, Milne, & Jetten, 1994). After all, there is a great deal of evidence that people acquire their prejudices quite early and may not be able to get rid of them later in life, even if these prejudicial thoughts have become inconsistent with their egalitarian values (Wilson, Lindsey, & Schooler, 2000). Thus, if people cannot forget their prejudicial thoughts, it would be good if, at least, they could inhibit them and prevent them from affecting their actions. As the studies by Macrae et al. (1994; see Chapter 4 for related studies on stereotyping) show, this may be more difficult than one would think.

Participants in these studies were students. When they arrived at the laboratory, they were told that they were to participate in an investigation of people’s ability to construct life event details from visual information. They were then presented with a colour photograph of a skinhead and were asked to write a short essay about a typical day in the life of this skinhead (Figure 1.1). Skinheads were chosen here not only because there is widespread prejudice against them, but also because, unlike prejudice towards other minority groups, expressing prejudice towards skinheads is not (yet) politically incorrect. Half of the participants were asked to suppress their prejudice against skinheads in writing this essay. They were told to try to write their essay without being influenced by their stereotypes about skinheads – that is, the beliefs they might have about the characteristics of skinheads in general. The other half (i.e., the control group) were not given this instruction.

FIGURE 1.1How easy is it for people to suppress their prejudice towards skinheads?