Sunday, December 2, 2007

"Measure That Emotion"

(Updated April 23, 2015)

In many areas of psychology, attitudes and behavior are assessed by self-report questionnaires. Either in paper/pencil format or, increasingly, via the Internet, participants are asked to respond on a scale from 1 to 5 (or 1 to 7, or 1 to 10, etc.) as to how much they agree with or like some stimulus object or how frequently they engage in some behavior. Participants may, of course, misreport their answers, due either to deliberate falsification or lack of access to inner states.

Naturally, researchers have tried coming up with subtle ways to probe attitudes and behaviors, in order to corroborate or circumvent self-report measurements. The field of emotion/affect research has a long history of working with physiological recording techniques for this purpose.

Today's song, "Measure That Emotion," thus delves into the matter of self-report vs. physiological assessment of people's feelings. Below the song lyrics, I've listed several sources for interested readers to pursue the topic in greater detail.

Jeff Larsen, a who moved from Texas Tech to the University of Tennesseefaculty colleague of mine (he's in psychology and I'm in human development and family studies) studied during his Ohio State graduate school years with prominent psychophysiologist John Cacioppo (now at University of Chicago) and has continued to conduct innovative studies on emotion. As I write, Jeff and his Texas Tech students are designing and implementing psychophysiological affect studies, and I dedicate this song to Jeff...


Measure That Emotion
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “I Second That Emotion,” Robinson/Cleveland)

How do you handle, affect measurement?
What should you do, for your experiment?
Should you invest in, phys-i-ol-o-gy?
Expensive, but probes feelings, with subtlety,

Surveys you can give en masse,
The Affect Grid or the PANAS,

Oh, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever your devotion,
Measure that emotion,

Said, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever fits your notion,
Measure that emotion,

Physio measures come in several forms,
Mini-electrical and blood-flow storms,
Should you record the facial EMG?
What does it have for its validity?

Moods, people can self-report,
But respondents, may distort,

Oh, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever your devotion,
Measure that emotion,

Said, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever fits your notion,
Measure that emotion...


Further Reading

Brian Lickel has a superb online PowerPoint presentation on psychophysiological assessment, entitled “Detecting and Indexing Emotion.” Also, the Society for Psychophysiological Research website has a Teaching Resources component.

Beyond the above web links, several articles -- both contemporary and historical -- deal with assessing emotions:

Cacioppo, J. T., Gardner, W. L., & Berntson, G. G. (1997). Beyond bipolar conceptualizations and measures: The case of attitudes and evaluative space. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 3-25.

Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., Losch, M. E., & Crites, S. L. (1994). Psychophysiological approaches to attitudes: Detecting affective dispositions when people won't say, can't say, or don't even know. In S. Shavitt & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Persuasion: Psychological insights and perspectives (pp. 43-69). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Carroll, J.M., Yik, M., Russell, J.A., & Barrett, L.F. (1999). On the psychometric principles of affect. Review of General Psychology, 3, 14-22.

Collins, B. E., Ellsworth, P. C., & Helmreich, R. L. (1967). Correlations between pupil size and the semantic differential: An experimental paradigm and pilot study. Psychonomic Science, 9, 627-628.

[Barry Collins is the first professor from whom I ever took a psychology course, the introductory undergraduate class, Psych 10, at UCLA, whereas Phoebe Ellsworth was one of my mentors in graduate school at the University of Michigan, in psychology and law.]

Ekman, P., Levenson, R. W., & Friesen, W. V. (1983). Autonomic nervous system activity distinguishes among emotions. Science, 221, 1208-1210.

Guglielmi, R.S. (1999). Psychophysiological assessment of prejudice: Past research, current status, and future directions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 123-157.

Larsen, J.T., Norris, C.J., McGraw, A.P., Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (in press). The evaluative space grid: A single-item measure of positivity and negativity. Cognition & Emotion2009;23:453–480.

Mauss, I. B, & Robinson, M. D. (2009). Measures of emotion: A review. Cognition & Emotion, 23, 209–237.

Russell, J.A., Weiss, A., & Mendelsohn, G.A. (1989). Affect Grid: A single-item scale of pleasure and arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 493-502.

Scherer, K.R. (2005) What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social Science Information, 44, 695-729.

Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of Positive and Negative Affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070.

Watson, D., & Vaidya, J. (2013). Mood measurement: Current status and future directions. In J. A. Schinka & W. Velicer (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychology. Volume 2: Research Methods in psychology (2nd Ed.) (pp. 369-394). New York: Wiley.

Friday, November 23, 2007

"It’s Agapē" (Love Styles)

I hope everyone is having a nice Thanksgiving weekend. Our next song involves the concept of "love styles," which were proposed by John Alan Lee of the University of Toronto and converted into a questionnaire measure by Clyde and Susan Hendrick, to whom I've dedicated the song. Clyde and Susan are colleagues of mine at Texas Tech, although we're in different departments (I'm in human development and family studies, and they're in psychology).

In doing research for this entry, I found a fairly extensive Wikipedia page on love styles, which I spruced up a bit. Specifically, I added the section about the Hendricks' measure and created the References section. Anyone interested in background information and further readings is invited to visit the Wikipedia page.

Today's song alludes to the six love styles: eros, ludus, storgē, pragma, mania, and agapē. Enjoy...


It’s Agapē (please pronounce ē like “ay”)
Lyrics by Alan Reifman, Dedicated to Clyde and Susan Hendrick
(May be sung to the tune of “Have a Nice Day,” Bon Jovi/Sambora/Shanks)

What kind of a lover, do you want to find?
Should it be the eros or the storgē kind?
The ludus kind of lover likes to fool around,
The pragma person’s preferences just abound,
The mania type could fall right out of control,
How do you decide, before you get too old?

Ooh, if there’s one trait that I’m drawn to,
So we may rise above,
Selfishness, I know, will surely haunt you,
I want agapic love,

Eros reflects passion, friendship is storgē,
You have to decide, by the end of the day,

What choice will you come up with?
I say, it’s agapē,
It’s agapē…

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Positive Illusions"

The idea that holding overly positive, "rose-colored" impressions of one's spouse/partner seems to improve the quality of relationships may strike some as counterintuitive. It could be argued, for example, that viewing one's partner realistically might be more likely to promote personal improvement in the partner, than would the apparent overlooking of any shortcomings.

However, as studied by the trenchant trio of Sandra Murray (whom I know from my years in Buffalo), John Holmes, and Dale Griffin, such "positive illusions" appear to be beneficial for couples. As summarized by Murray and colleagues (2003, p. 290):

...[individuals] were happier in their relationships when they saw their partner more generously than their partner saw himself or herself. In fact, people were also happier in their relationships when their partner put the best possible spin on the available evidence and idealized them.

Over the longer term, these types of positive illusions had positive, self-fulfilling effects. Specifically, people ultimately reported relatively greater satisfaction, less conflict, and fewer doubts about their partner the more they idealized their partner initially and the more their partner idealized them initially.

Also doing research in this area is Sylvia Niehuis, a new colleague of mine on the Human Development and Family Studies faculty at Texas Tech University. Sylvia's arrival got me looking at the positive-illusions literature again, which in turn, inspired me to write the following song...


Positive Illusions
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “The Grand Illusion,” Dennis DeYoung, for Styx)

How do lovers, view their partners?
Honestly, with warts and all?
Or is it, through glasses tinted rose?

Does inflating, your perception?
Raise your, satisfaction level?
Or does it, contribute to your woes?

Are we fooled by, being in love?
Seeing just, what we want to see,
Getting ideas of, what coupled life should be,
Is it real, or fantasy?

So if your relationship, lacks complete effusion,
Don’t worry, help is on the way,
Thriving couples hold, positive illusions,
And happiness, is here to stay,
It’s here to stay…


Further Reading

Fowers, B.J., Fışıloğlu, H., & Procacci, E. (in press). Positive marital illusions and culture: A comparison of American and Turkish spouses’ perceptions of their marriages. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Fowers, B.J., Lyons, E., Montel, K., & Shaked, N. (2001). Positive illusions about marriage among married and single individuals. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 95-109.

Fowers, B.J., Veingrad, M.R., & Dominicis, C. (2002). The unbearable lightness of positive illusions: Engaged individuals' explanations of unrealistically positive relationship perceptions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 450–460.

Miller, P.J., Niehuis, S., & Huston, T.L. (2006). Positive illusions in marital relationships: A 13-year longitudinal study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 1579-1594.

Murray, S.L., Holmes, J.G., & Griffin, D.W. (1996a). The benefits of positive illusions: Idealization and the construction of satisfaction in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 79–98.

Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996b). The self-fulfilling
nature of positive illusions in romantic relationships: Love is not blind, but prescient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1155–1180.

Murray, S.L., Holmes, J.G., Griffin, D.W. (2003). Reflections on the self-fulfilling effects of positive illusions. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 289-295.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Wegner's Thought-Suppression Dare (Don't Think of a White Bear)"

(Updated April 23, 2015)

For over 20 years, Dan Wegner (who died of ALS in 2013) and colleagues studied what they called the paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Their basic paradigm was to instruct research subjects not to think of some object (a white bear, which is a Dostoevsky reference). Subjects tended not to be able to suppress thoughts of a white bear and, in an open-thought session later in the experiment, they exhibited an increased frequency of white-bear thoughts relative to a control group that did not have to suppress white-bear thoughts earlier.

After you've sung the following song, try not to think about it...


Wegner’s Thought-Suppression Dare
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Living on a Prayer,” Bon Jovi/Sambora/Child)

Want to keep a thought, out of mind?
Actively blocking, ain’t going to work,
You’ll find, you’ll find,

If you try to block, something out,
It’s gonna rebound, harder than before,
There is, no doubt,

You know, we can’t control thoughts, that’s what it seems,
It only helps a little, if you try different schemes,
Yes, it’s futile, to try and block out memes,
They’ll intrude, right into your dreams…

Oh-h-h, Wegner’s thought-suppression dare,
Doh…on’t think of a white bear!
The target, will re-appear,
If you, try to block white bears…



For the most part, the lyrics should be self-explanatory. The phrasing of how cognitive "schemes" can "help a little" refers to a finding in the original Wegner et al. (1987) Experiment 2. Subjects in a variation of a thought-suppression condition were instructed to substitute the thought of a red Volkswagen for the forbidden white bear, and this technique made the suppression somewhat more effective than suppression instructions alone. The part about intrusion "right into your dreams" is based on an actual study (Wegner et al., 2004).

Further Reading

In addition to the articles listed below, there are several websites that provide information related to thought-suppression research. The topic has a Wikipedia entry. A self-report questionnaire measure from Wegner's lab on suppression and control of thoughts, known as the "White Bear Suppression Inventory" is available here. Finally, a news release on the research from Rice University, the home of collaborator David Schneider, is available here.

Wegner, D.M. (1989). White bears and other unwanted thoughts: Suppression, obsession, and the psychology of mental control. New York: Viking/Penguin. (1994 Edition, New York: Guilford Press.)

Wegner, D.M. (1992). You can't always think what you want: Problems in the suppression of unwanted thoughts. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25, pp. 193-225). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Wegner, D.M., & Schneider, D.J. (2003). The white bear story. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 326-329.

Wegner, D.M., Schneider, D.J., Carter, S.R., & White, T.L. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 5–13.

Wegner, D.M., Wenzlaff, R.M., & Kozak, M.. (2004). Dream rebound: The return of suppressed thoughts in dreams. Psychological Science, 15, 232-236.

Wenzlaff, R.M., & Wegner, D.M. (2000). Thought suppression. In S.T. Fiske (Ed.), Annual review of psychology (Vol. 51, pp. 59-91). Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Asch Followed Sherif"

Solomon Asch's (1951, 1955) conformity studies are among the best-known in social psychology. Using a line-length judging task that a control condition of subjects participating alone showed to be quite easy, Asch demonstrated that naive subjects could be induced to answer incorrectly by implicit social pressure. Specifically, by having a unanimous panel of confederates (i.e., shills) give an incorrect answer in the naive subject's presence before the subject's turn to answer, substantial proportions of matching incorrect answers could be elicited from naive subjects.

An inspiration -- if not the inspiration -- for Asch's research was that of Muzafer Sherif (1935, 1936). Sherif had used an ambiguous stimulus -- a visual illusion known as the autokinetic effect -- for his initial demonstrations of conformity in a psychology lab. Asch wanted to see if conformity effects could be obtained even with unambiguous stimuli (i.e., the aforementioned line-judging task), and the rest is history...

The following song conveys the historical sequence.


Asch Followed Sherif
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “I Shot the Sheriff,” Bob Marley)

Asch followed Sherif, in the study of conformity,
Both lines of research, in the field, had great enormity,

Sherif’s light spots were hazy,
And the majority held sway,
Citing this ambiguity,
Asch said he’d go another way,
...said he’d go another way,

Asch followed Sherif, in the study of conformity,
Both lines of research, in the field, had great enormity,

Asch used the lengths of lines which,
With lone subjects, were easy to discern,
But shills still got subjects to accede,
As Asch was soon to learn,
...Asch was soon to learn,

Asch followed Sherif, in the study of conformity,
Both lines of research, in the field, had great enormity...



Saul McLeod's "Simply Psychology" website provides a detailed summary of the evolution of conformity research, from Sherif's study to Asch's.

Further Reading

Asch, S.E. (1951) Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgement. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.

Asch, S.E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, 193, 31-35.

Sherif, M. (1935). A study of some social factors in perception. Archives of Psychology, 27,(No. 187, whole issue) .

Sherif, M. (1936). The psychology of social norms. New York: Harper Collins.

Monday, October 8, 2007


(Updated May 1, 2017)

I'd been working on a song about bystander intervention and helping, when an article by Rachel Manning and colleagues came out in the September 2007 American Psychologist. The article argues that the popular account of the event that spurred bystander intervention research in social psychology -- the murder of Kitty Genovese -- is wrong. Specifically, claim Manning et al., courtroom and other records are inconsistent with the characterization that there were 38 eyewitnesses to the murder, who took no action.

Manning and colleagues make it abundantly clear, however, that questions about the historical accuracy of how the murder has been reported in no way vitiate the scientific validity of the social psychological studies, by Latané, Darley, and others, that followed: "It does not matter to the bystander effect that the story of the 38 witnesses may be misconceived" (p. 556).

Given that bystander intervention research may now receive greater attention, I've gone ahead and completed my song on the topic...


Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Matchmaker,” Bock/Harnick, from Fiddler on the Roof)

Bystander, bystander, will you help out?
You might think so, but research casts doubt,
Latané and Darley identify,
The steps helpers must surmount,

Bystander, bystander, you must decide,
Should you jump in, or move aside?
How you interpret the situation,
Determines if aid is tried,

First, you, must notice what happened,
Decide, next, it's an, emergency,
Am I, the one to take action?
You'll get involved, if you claim all three,

Bystander, bystander, right on the scene,
Something is wrong, that’s what you glean,
How many witnesses, are there with you?
With fewer, you’ll intervene



Latané and Darley's research supported the idea of a decision tree, in which only a constant string of "yes" responses will lead to helping. First, of course, someone must notice the event, then interpret it as an emergency, and then assume responsibility for helping; the presence of many bystanders has been shown to diminish the latter (i.e., diffusion of responsibility). The bystander must also know how to help in the particular situation, and must make the ultimate decision to help.

As suggested by this Wikipedia entry on the "Bystander Effect," research on helping appears to be known best for the number-of-bystanders aspect. The other aspects, such as whether or not someone interprets a situation as an emergency, are important, too, however.

Further Reading

Darley, J.M. & Latané, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 377-383.

Latané, B. & Darley, J.M. (1968). Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 215-221.

Latané, B. & Darley, J.M. (1970). The unresponsive bystander-Why doesn't he help? New York: Appleton- Century-Crofts.

Manning, R., Levine, M., & Collins, A. (2007). The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses. American Psychologist, 62, 555-562.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment"

(Updates added 4/30/2017)

Phil Zimbardo and colleagues' Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE), though conducted and reported in the early 1970s, continues to stimulate vigorous discussion to this day. Here are some areas in which the SPE comes up today:

1. It is often discussed in conjunction with the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal (2003-04) in Iraq.

2. The SPE sometimes serves as a focal point in larger debates over the person and the situation.

3. Empirical studies on specific aspects of the SPE itself continue to be conducted (e.g., the nature of individuals who would volunteer for a prison study as opposed to an ordinary study; Carnahan & McFarland, 2007).

4. A feature film, "The Stanford Prison Experiment," was released in 2015.

To honor the staying power of the SPE, I've written the following lyrics...


Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," Lennon/McCartney)

It was back ’round 1970,
Phil Zimbardo did a test to see,
What kind of conduct would prevail,
From a made-up college-student jail,
Inmates and guards, a random split,
So real, they didn’t know what hit,
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Exper’ment,


Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Exper’ment,
Life simulated in the hole*,
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Exper’ment,
What happens when you play a role,
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison, ’Bardo’s Stanford Prison,
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Exper’ment,

The guards seemed to be normal,
They passed their pre-screening,
But once they got their billy clubs,
Their treatment became demeaning,
The study careening,

Chaos soon took over like a storm,
Conflict heightened and rebellions formed,
Guards struggled for the upper hand,
Pressure many inmates could not stand…

Back in the news with Abu Ghraib,
The study’s relevance has stayed,
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Exper’ment…

*The term "the hole" appears to be slang specifically for solitary confinement, as opposed to prison in general. The word "hole" fits in so nicely with the rhyme scheme, so I hope everyone will extend me some artistic license.


The song basically presents the conventional situationist account of the SPE. College-student volunteers who "seemed to be normal" were assigned via "random split" to be either prisoners or guards. Prisoners and guards alike, upon assumption of their statuses ("what happens when you play a role" and, on the guards' part, "once they got their billy clubs"), then took on extreme and pathological forms of behavior. The guards, of course, became sadistic, and some of the prisoners experienced nervous breakdowns.

Further Reading

Carnahan, T. & McFarland, S. (2007). Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could participant self-selection have led to the cruelty? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 603-614.

Haslam, S.A. & Reicher, S. (2007). Beyond the Banality of Evil: Three dynamics of an interactionist social psychology of tyranny. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 615-622.

[Discussion of these two articles on Psychology and Crime News.]

Stanford Prison Experiment website.

The Situationist blog. Discussion by Zimbardo and others on person X situation interaction, see postings from late July and early August 2007.

Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer Effect: Understanding how good people turn evil.New York: Random House. (Website)

Zimbardo, P.G., Maslach, C, & Haney, C. (2000). Reflections on the Stanford Prison Experiment: Genesis, transformations, consequences. In T. Blass (Ed.), Obedience to authority: Current perspectives on the Milgram paradigm (pp. 193-237). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (Chapter in manuscript form)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Group Identities"

(Updated April 25, 2015)

One of the things that makes social psychology "social" is the fact that individuals are members of numerous groups, whether by default (e.g., a member of one's family) or by actively joining (e.g., a trade union or university alumni association). For nearly 40 years (1969-2008), Dick McGlynn was the resident groups researcher on the Texas Tech faculty, before his retirement. Today, Zach Hohman, carries that banner. The followimg song alludes to several aspects of group- and social-identity research and is dedicated to Dick and Zach.


Group Identities
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Bare Necessities,” Terry Gilkyson, popularized in the movie, The Jungle Book)

We have our group identities,
Fairly stable entities,
They tell us whom we like, and whom we don’t,
Some groups, we join electively,
And get esteem collectively,
They say whom we’ll befriend, and whom we won’t,

The ways to harsh conflict, are easy to pave,
That’s what Sherif did, with Robbers Cave,
But, groups need not, even be real,
To give opponents, a raw deal,

When you think of, all the groups you're in,
And how you feel, when they lose and win,

And, think of a few,

[Brief interlude]

Your group identities, are important, to you,
They're part of you,

We have our group identities,
Fairly stable entities,
They tell us whom we like, and whom we don’t,
Some groups, we join electively,
And get esteem collectively,
They say whom we’ll befriend, and whom we won’t,

For kids unsure, of their identities,
"Cool" groups will attract them, the "cliques" that be,
But, cool groups, may be unhealthy,
Their behaviors, so risky,

When you think of, all the groups you're in,
And how you feel, when they lose and win,

And, think of a few,

[Brief interlude]

Your group identities, are important, to you,
They're part of you,

We have our group identities,
Fairly stable entities,
They tell us whom we like, and whom we don’t,
Some groups, we join electively,
And get esteem collectively,
They say whom we’ll befriend, and whom we won’t,




The song alludes to five lines of research (intentionally, at least)...

1. The word "entities" in the first part is a subtle reference to the concept of entitativity, a nearly 50-year-old idea that has been getting a lot of attention from social psychologists in recent years. This vigorous activity can be seen in the list of abstracts for a British conference on “Groups, Politics, and Organizations.” Quoting from the symposium abstract by Lowell Gaertner:

…Donald Campbell (1958) coined the concept of entitativity to convey that social groups vary in the extent to which they are perceived as being an entity or a cohesive whole.

2. The second part refers, a little more explicitly, to research on collective self-esteem. As studied by Luhtanen, Crocker, and colleagues (see References below), individuals can experience high or low esteem as a result of the groups they're in and their evaluations of these groups.

3. The next section cites two classic lines of research. First is the "Robbers Cave" study by Sherif and colleagues, in which the situation was manipulated so that two groups of boy campers formed a rivalry with each other, but then overcame their animosity to cooperate on a task.

4. The other line of research mentioned in that section is Tajfel's "minimal groups paradigm," in which groups are created on arbitrary bases and tested for ingroup favoritism in allocations of rewards. Quoting from Tajfel and colleagues (1971):

…in a situation devoid of the usual trappings of ingroup membership and of all the vagaries of interacting with an outgroup, the [subjects] still act in terms of their ingroup membership and of an intergroup categorization. Their actions are unambiguously directed at favouring the members of their ingroup as against the members of the outgroup (p. 172).

5. Hogg, Siegel, and Hohman (2011) develop a theoretical account of why adolescents engage in so much risky behavior (e.g., substance use). Adolescents uncertain of their identity may be attracted to "cool" cliques (also see Brown, Eicher, & Petrie, 1986), the problem being that such cliques tend to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

Further Reading

Brown, B. B., Eicher, S. A., & Petrie, S. (1986). The importance of peer group (‘‘crowd’’) affiliation in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 9, 73–96.

Foer, F. (2004). How soccer explains the world. New York: HarperCollins.

Hogg, M.A. (2006). Social Identity Theory. In P.J. Burke (Ed.), Contemporary social psychological theories (pp. 111-136). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Hogg, M. A., Siegel, J. T., & Hohman, Z. P. (2011). Groups can jeopardize your health: Identifying with un-healthy groups to reduce self-uncertainty. Self and Identity, 10, 326-335.

Luhtanen, R., & Crocker, J. (1992). A collective self-esteem scale: Self-evaluation of one's social identity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 302-318. (LINK to the Collective Self-Esteem Scale and other measures.)

Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, B. J., Hood, W. R., & Sherif, C. W. (1961). Intergroup conflict and co-operation: The Robbers Cave experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange. (Available online at Psychology Classics website.)

Social Identity Theory (Online Summary)

Tajfel, H., Billig, M.G., Bundy, R.P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 149-178.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Central Route Persuasion"

In the 1980s, Rich Petty and John Cacioppo developed a framework, known as the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), for understanding different types of persuasion processes.

Their key distrinction was between central and peripheral routes to persuasion. The former pertains to logical, rational forms of communication, the arguments of which can stand up to close scrutiny. The latter pertains to factors extraneous to message content, such as the attractiveness of the speaker. The full ELM delineates conditions under which message recipients will or will not attend carefully to persuasive communications and thus, ultimately, what kinds of messages will be successful under what circumstances.

This PowerPoint slide show from Phillip Clampitt at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay describes the ELM in greater detail.

I dedicate this song to Rich Petty, Russ Fazio, and the gang at Ohio State's Group for Attitudes and Persuasion, who've been so friendly to me on my biennial visits to campus.


Central Route Persuasion
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” James/Vale/Gray)

You study attitudes, in psychology,
There’s the ELM theory, Cacioppo ’n Petty,
Multiple ways to convince, and speakers are ranging,
There’s one approach called, Central route persuasion,

Does the receiver, pay close attention?
Oh, does she have a high, Need for Cognition?
If the answers are “yes,” now, then what you will find,
Is attitude change, of the rational kind,

(Instrumental build-up)

Central route persuasion,
It’s the strength, of argu-men-ta-tion,
Central route persuasion,
To guide, experimentation,

Peripheral cues, are outside message content,
They may sway a listener, who focuses on,
The looks of the speaker, or if the room has a scent,
Not the logical kind, to hit your mind, not…

Central route persuasion,


Central route persuasion,
It’s the strength, of argu-men-ta-tion,
Central route persuasion,
To guide, experimentation,

Central route persuasion…
(Fade out)


Further Reading

Petty, R.E., & Cacioppo, J.T. (1986). The Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 19, pp. 123-205). New York: Academic Press.

Petty, R.E., & Cacioppo, J.T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer/Verlag.

Petty, R.E., Rucker, D., Bizer, G., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2004). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In J. S. Seiter & G. H. Gass (Eds.), Perspectives on persuasion, social influence and compliance gaining (pp. 65-89). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

[See also Chaiken and Eagly's Heuristic-Systematic Persuasion Model, which has some similarity to the ELM.]

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Excitation" (Theories of Arousal and Emotion)

Today's song integrates two similar, though not identical, theories positing that physiological arousal in the context of situational cues can lead to (or accentuate) individuals' emotional states.

Schachter and Singer's (1962) studies are probably among the best known in social psychology. Aside from those in a control group, participants were given an injection of epinephrine to get them physiologically aroused. Different subgroups of participants were either forewarned of the correct arousal symptoms they would experience (in which case they would have no trouble figuring out why they felt as they did) or not given an accurate warning (either no information or wrong information). The latter two groups would presumably feel aroused, but not know why.

In different versions of the Schachter and Singer study, after the injections and instructions, participants interacted with a confederate (actor hired by the investigators, also known as a "stooge") who role-played a rampage of either anger or euphoria. The hypothesis was that those participants who felt aroused and had no accurate explanation for why they did, would misattribute their arousal to the emotion being exhibited by the confederate and label themselves as experiencing the same emotion as the confederate. Results were largely supportive of the hypothesis.

Zillmann's excitation transfer theory, as noted above, is similar. The most succinct delineation of the differences between the Schachter-Singer and Zillmann conceptualizations, to my mind, comes from Geen (1990):

...Schachter and Singer dealt with arousal that occurs at the same time as some emotionally relevant stimulus which provides the cognition whereby the arousal is labeled. Zillmann (1978) has described a general situation in which two arousing conditions occur in sequence. Autonomic arousal does not dissipate immediately upon termination of eliciting conditions... Given this fact, Zillmann has reasoned that if two arousing events are separated by a short amount of time, some of the arousal caused by the first event may become transferred to the second event and added to the arousal caused by the latter... (pp. 116-117).

Zillmann has used tasks such as having participants ride an exercise bicycle to create arousal. This fact is alluded to in the following song. The rest of the details pertain to the Schachter and Singer studies.


Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Good Vibrations,” Wilson/Love for the Beach Boys)

Schaaaaaach-ter… and Singer gave ep-i-neph-rine,
While Zillmann had his subjects exercise,
Could the arousal be interpreted,
So the context frames what emotions arise?

Stooge giving mood manipulation,
Anger condition shows big frustration,
Subjects transferring the excitation,
When given no information,

Ex- Ex- Ex- Excitation,
Ex- Ex- Ex- Excitation,

Parrrrr-adigm (SLOW)… won’t work with true disclosure,
Of effects of the arousing agent,
Key is setting up a contradiction,
With stooge actions, the label’s consistent,

Stooge giving mood manipulation,
Euphoric shows exhilaration,
Subjects transferring the excitation,
When given misinformation,

Ex- Ex- Ex- Excitation,
Ex- Ex- Ex- Excitation...



The various studies by Schachter and Singer, and Zillmann, are obviously pretty elaborate. I hope that my introductory description provides a good starting point for discussion of the studies. In the references below, I suggest further sources for examining the studies.

As a side note, another popular study within the arousal-emotion framework is that by Dutton and Aron (1974; summarized here), in which males' attraction to a female confederate was tested either after a male had crossed a high, shaky, scary bridge or a low, solid bridge. Even though a misattribution mechanism is sometimes invoked to account for the findings, an article by Allen and colleagues (1989) appears to put such an explanation of the bridge study in "troubled waters."


Further Reading

Allen, J., Kenrick, D.T., Linder, D.E., & McCall, M. (1989). Arousal and attraction: A response facilitation alternative to misattribution and negative reinforcement models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 261-270.

Dutton, D.G. and Aron, A.P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 510-517

Geen, R.G. (1990). Human aggression. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press.

Reisenzein, R. (1983). The Schachter theory of emotion: Two decades later. Psychological Bulletin, 94, 239-264.

Schachter, S. (1964). The interaction of cognitive and physiological determinants of emotional state (pp. 49-79). In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. New York: Academic Press.

Schachter, S., & Singer, J. (1962). Cognitive, social, and physiological determinants of emotional state. Psychological Review, 69, 379-399.

Zillmann, D. (1971). Excitation transfer in communication-mediated aggressive behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 419-434.

Zillmann, D. (1978). Attribution and misattribution of excitatory reactions. In J.H. Harvey, W.J. Ickes, & R.F. Kidd (Eds.), New directions in attribution research (Vol. 2, pp. 335-368). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Zillmann, D. (1983). Transfer of excitation in emotional behavior (pp. 215-240). In J.T. Cacioppo & R.E. Petty (Eds.), Social psychophysiology: A sourcebook. Hillsdale, NJ: Guilford.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Songs by Joseph McGrath on Group Dynamics

I recently discovered via Don Forsyth's Group Dynamics website that the late Joseph McGrath had written lyrics for roughly a dozen songs pertaining to the study of groups. These include "The Good Old Paradigm" (to "In the Good Old Summertime") and "Adaptive Structuration" (to "Surry with a Fringe on Top"). I am pleased to be able to bring a little more attention to this aspect of McGrath's career, but am sorry I did not learn about this earlier.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Feeling Good" (Affective Forecasting)

Most of the lyrics I've written thus far, for the previous songs posted below and for several that have not yet been posted, pertain to programs of research that go back 40 years or more. I definitely want to incorporate some contemporary topics, and I will do so with the present posting.

Today's lyrics attempt to tell the story of "affective forecasting," a line of research developed by Daniel Gilbert of Harvard and Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia. They have demonstrated that people don't seem to be as good as might be expected, at predicting how some event (e.g., a win or loss by a favorite sports team or political candidate) will make them feel over time.

Gilbert and Wilson's general paradigm is to ask participants how they expect they would feel after a positive or negative outcome to some event. Then, perhaps a few weeks later, after the outcome of the event is known, participants are re-contacted and asked how happy or sad they are. Their actual emotional responses to the event can then be compared to how they predicted they would react under those circumstances.

Events that we think will devastate us don't necessarily do so, nor do we tend to feel as ecstatic as we might have expected, after the occurrence of something good. In this interview about his book Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert gives some background on affective forecasting.



Feeling Good
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “I’m Into Something Good,” Goffin/King, popularized by Herman’s Hermits)

(Back-up vocals in parentheses)

You think we’d know, what makes us happy,
But Gilbert and Wilson say, we can’t see,
What our emotions will be, out in futurehood,
(What our emotions will be in futurehood)
Can we foresee when we’ll be feeling good?
(Can we foresee when we’ll be feeling good?)

Events you think, will make you feel fine,
May end up just being a waste of time,
’Cause we don’t imagine details, as much as we could,
(We don’t imagine details, as much as we could)
Can we foresee when we’ll be feeling good?
(Can we foresee when we’ll be feeling good?)

Oh, Dan and Tim, and their scholarly crew,
Did their studies, and published a slew,
But Gilbert's book, with its style and wit,
Brought the research, to a mass public,
Brought it to a mass public,

Think you can predict, to that you’ll vow,
But forecasts are colored by what’s happenin’ now,
We can’t see the future as well, as you think we should,
(…can’t see the future as well as we should)
Can we foresee when we’ll be feeling good?
(Can we foresee when we’ll be feeling good?)

(Fade out)

[Lyrics revised on December 4, 2007]


The lyrics should be, for the most part, pretty straightforward. Some of the specific points allude to mechanisms discussed by Gilbert in his book, for how our predictions of future emotional states can go awry.

Gilbert notes, for example, that when we look at a distant object such as a building or mountain, we cannot see the fine details and we know we can't. Our imagination of a temporally distant event similarly lacks fine detail, but in this context, we aren't aware of the deficiency of our perception. We thus imagine the parts of our upcoming vacation in which we are eating in restaurants and engaging in recreational pursuits that we expect to give us pleasure. What we don't mentally rehearse are the missed flight connections, delays in getting our luggage, etc.

The other mechanism cited in the song is what Gilbert calls "presentism," or the power of the present situation to sway our impressions of the future. He gives the example of overeating at Thanksgiving and, thinking his discomfort will persist forever, vows to never eat again.

Further Reading

Gilbert, D.T. (2006). Stumbling on happiness. New York: Knopf.

Gilbert, D.T., Gill, M.J., & WIlson, T.D. (2002). The future is now: Temporal correction in affective forecasting. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 88, 430-444.

Gilbert, D.T., Lieberman, M.D., Morewedge, C.K., & Wilson, T.D. (2004). The peculiar longevity of things not so bad. Psychological Science, 15, 14-19.

Gilbert, D.T., Morewedge, C.K., Risen, J.L., & Wilson, T.D. (2004). Looking forward to looking backward: The misprediction of regret. Psychological Science, 15, 346-350.

Gilbert, D.T., Pinel, E.C., Wilson, T.D., Blumberg, S.J., & Wheatley, T. (1998). Immune neglect: A source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 617-638.

Wilson, T.D., Centerbar, D.B., Kermer, D.A., & Gilbert, D.T. (2005). The pleasures of uncertainty: Prolonging positive moods in ways people do not anticipate. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 5-21.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

"Stanley" (A Tribute to Milgram)

Few, if any, social psychologists are better known -- by his studies, if not by his name -- than Stanley Milgram (1933-1984).

What's so interesting is that he is best known in one discipline for one line of research (the obedience studies, within social psychology), whereas his fame in another discipline derives from an entirely different line of research (the small-world/six-degrees-of-separation study, within social-network research). Both of these lines of research have inspired dramatic portrayals, such as movies and plays, and they continue to be analyzed and debated today.

Milgram conducted a number of other clever, off-beat studies that never failed to offer some type of insight into human nature in our social world. One of my favorites, to which one of the verses in the song alludes, is his study of gawking up at tall buildings. The more confederates Milgram and his colleagues stationed at the building and had stare up at the top, the more likely passersby were to start looking up, too (see Item 4 in the following lecture outline).

Milgram also has a website devoted to his work, and now he has a song!


Stanley (A Tribute to Milgram)
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “Dandy,” Ray Davies, popularized by The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits)

Stanley, Stanley,
You were so creative,
Oh so innovative,
In the lab and out,
Your studies, without doubt,
Never ceased to surprise,
Oh, they were done by,

Stanley, Stanley,
How people follow orders,
Crossing humane borders,
You did investigate,
A storm did you create,
What we learned did amaze,
And this was done by,

Stanley, Stanley,
Wrote scientific papers,
From gawking at skyscrapers,
Who’d have thought to ascertain,
’Bout something so mundane?
Studies out in the world,
Oh, they were done by,

Stanley, Stanley, Stanley…

Stanley, your legacy will always last,
The studies, you know their time is never past,
Today we, reflect on, your quirky ideas,
And wonder what else would,
Have come from your creative mind,
The field wants to know,
Will there be any more of your kind?

Stanley, Stanley,
How to forward a letter,
Became a real trend-setter,
Transmission showed such ease,
We talk of six degrees,
’Round the globe or down the hall,
The world is so small,

Stanley, Stanley, Stanley…

Your work we’ll always cite,
We will cite,
We will cite…
(Fade out)



The above song should be pretty straightforward. Each of three lines of research discussed in my introduction is the subject of one of the verses, whereas the other sections offer more general impressions.

Further Reading

Many sources are listed in the References section of the Wikipedia page on Milgram and on this special page created by Milgram biographer Thomas Blass. Also see...

Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, L. (1969). Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 79-82.

(Note: A friend of mine, Francine Rosselli, used to have her classes conduct replication studies of the gawking-at-buildings study. The most recent e-mail address I can find for her, if anyone wants further information, is: .)

Watts, D.J. (2003). Six degrees: The science of a connected age. New York: Norton.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Welcome to the Social Psych Lyrics blog! Through an experience in my Spring 2007 graduate course on Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), I learned that a fun way to engage students and help them remember terminology is through music. Hence, our staging of SEM The Musical, where some students and I wrote SEM-relevant lyrics to established tunes and performed them on the last day of class.

Once I got rolling on writing lyrics, I haven't been able to stop. Therefore, I've directed my energies to another discipline, namely social psychology, in which I received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1989. My faculty appointment is in Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University, where I've been since 1997.

Every two weeks or so, I plan to post a new social-psychological song (just the lyrics are really new) on this blog, along with an explanation of the concepts involved and some examples (in the same spirit as how Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire," which features a number of historical references, has been adapted into classroom lessons, such as this one). I've already written lyrics for about 10 social psychology songs, so I have some in reserve for the next few months.

Who knows? Maybe some of these songs can be performed at a future SPSP conference jam session.

A feature that I hope many of you will partake in is the Comments section, below each entry. If you show a given song to your social psych class (or better yet, perform it with them), please use the Comments section to let everyone know how it went. Or what points came up during your class discussion. Guest contributions of songs are also welcome.

For today's inaugural posting, I thought we'd go with a social psychology classic, the late Hal Kelley's "ANOVA cube" model of attribution (also known as his Covariation model). It goes something like this...


The Attribution
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “The Locomotion,” Goffin/King)

How do you explain the cause of someone’s behavior?
The Kelley, cube of attribution,
Internal or external, which do you favor?
The Kelley, cube of attribution,

You must examine factors now, of which there are three,
Consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency,
So look at, the cube, of attribution with me,

You’ve got to ask yourself, now,
How do, others act, in the same situation?
So much for this demonstration…

You also have to view the actor in other settings,
The Kelley, cube of attribution,
Is there variation in the response you’re getting,
The Kelley, cube of attribution,

You’re doing attribution like an ANOVA cube,
Hopefully this song’s gotten your interest renewed,
So look at, the cube, of attribution with me...



This web document provides a nice overview of Kelley's model. Briefly, the observer is said to consider three factors when determining the attribution to make for an actor's behavior: consensus (how other people respond to the same situation), distinctiveness (how the actor responds to other similar situations), and consistency (does the same actor, in the same context, respond similarly on repeated occasions).


Tiger Woods shut an uncharacteristic +6 over par at the recent U.S. Open golf tournament (i.e., taking six more shots than expected, to finish all the holes), although he still finished tied for second. One could attribute Woods's poor score (for him) to internal factors (e.g., his putting was rusty) or external factors (e.g., the course was unduly difficult).

As the linked background/explanation document states, high consistency is required for either an internal or external attribution, as low consistency suggests ephemeral dynamics. If we look at Woods's performance on each of the tournament's four days, we see that he shot over par on three of the four days, so there was indeed some consistency.

Was there high consensus? Absolutely, as the best anyone did was a +5 for the tournament (by winner Angel Cabrera).

Finally, was Woods's U.S. Open performance highly distinctive? Looking at his 2007 record, we see that +6 was clearly his worst performance of the year (purely relative to par), and that he often shoots well below par (i.e., making the holes in fewer shots than expected). So, yes, he exhibited considerable distinctiveness at the U.S. Open.

Again referring to the above-linked background document, a high-high-high profile should lead an observer to make an external or situational attribution (i.e., the course was really hard).

Further Reading

Kelley, H.H. (1967). Attribution theory in social psychology. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 15, 192-238.

McArthur, L.A. (1972). The how and what of why: Some determinants and consequences of causal attribution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22, 171-193.