Instead of meeting for a lecture on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, this year our class will watch Social Psychology at the Movies, a set of high-quality educational videos lovingly chosen to form an unusually thought provoking and entertaining holiday "playlist" on topics related to social psychology. These gems were selected from a field of more than 200 videos reviewed by the teaching staff over a period of several weeks. Enjoy!
Are We in Control of Our Own Decisions?
In this TED talk, behavioral economist and bestselling author Professor Dan Ariely opens by showing how optical illusions serve as a metaphor for certain predictable errors in financial, medical, and social decision making. The talk fits well with several lessons from social psychology, including the psychological construction of reality and the power of situational factors to shape choices and behavior.
Secrets from the Science of Persuasion
Influence at Work
This animated video, narrated by famed social psychologist Robert Cialdini and co-author Steve Martin, covers six key principles of social influence: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus. Together, these research-based principles can be used to significantly increase the effectiveness of persuasive appeals.
The Power of a Uniform to Command Obedience
This video, introduced by Professor Philip Zimbardo, illustrates the surprising power of uniforms to command obedience. Whether asking strangers to perform trivial tasks or to guard another stranger with a 40,000-volt taser, an actor in a uniform demonstrates how easy it is to elicit obedience even when people have very little understanding of why they've been asked to perform the act in question.
Can Social Psychology Be Used to Marry Two Strangers?
In one of the most entertaining demonstrations of how situational factors and social norms can influence behavior, the actors in this video succeed in getting people to marry a stranger. In the words of one obedient woman who never intended to be a bride, "Everybody seemed to be in agreement with what was happening, and I was just told to do it, and for some reason I just did." For another striking example of how social norms and behavioral scripts operate in a matrimonial context, see:
Although conformity and obedience are sometimes amusing and many times valuable, this video shows how conformity can turn deadly in emergency situations. The video reenacts the classic "white smoke" experiment on bystander intervention conducted by Professors Bibb Latané and John Darley, and the results are analyzed by British social psychologist Dominic Abrams.
Overcoming Diffusion of Responsibility
Although decades of research suggest that bystanders become less likely to intervene in an emergency when others are present and the responsibility to take action is diffused, there are exceptions in which people do come to each other's aid. This video contains what may be the most inspiring compilation of bystander intervention ever assembled.
Just in Time for Thanksgiving: An Experiment in Gratitude
In this episode of SoulPancake's "Science of Happiness," people were asked to think of someone who had played an influential role in their life, and to write down details about why this person was so important. Then, once they were done writing, they were handed a telephone and asked to read their statement aloud to the person whom they had chosen. This simple expression of gratitude led to substantial increases in happiness (in fact, the person who experienced the largest increase in happiness was the one who started out with the lowest level of happiness).
How to Improve a Marriage in 30 Seconds
Pioneering relationship researcher John Gottman has found that married couples who have at least five positive interactions for every negative one tend to stay together, regardless of how many negative interactions they have (the Magic 5:1 Ratio). In this video clip, he describes something that spouses can do to improve their marriage with near-immediate benefits. One question worth considering: What would happen if his advice were applied to relationships between friends, between parents and children, and between employers and employees?
Psychology, Law, and the Fiction of Memory
NOTE: This last video is intended to set up Chapter 15 of the textbook, "Social Psychology in Court," which is the first assigned reading after Thanksgiving Break.
In this video, former president of the Association for Psychological Science Elizabeth Loftus discusses research showing how memory, like our daily experience of reality, is psychologically contructed. "Many people believe that memory works like a recording device," Professor Loftus says, "but decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn't true. Our memories are constructive. They're reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page. You can go in there and change it, but so can other people."
For additional videos related to social psychology, here are a few good places to look: