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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe social roles and how they influence behavior
  • Explain what social norms are and how they influence behavior
  • Define script
  • Describe the findings of Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment

As you’ve learned, social psychology is the study of how people affect one another’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We have discussed situational perspectives and social psychology’s emphasis on the ways in which a person’s environment, including culture and other social influences, affect behavior. In this section, we examine situational forces that have a strong influence on human behavior including social roles, social norms, and scripts. We discuss how humans use the social environment as a source of information, or cues, on how to behave. Situational influences on our behavior have important consequences, such as whether we will help a stranger in an emergency or how we would behave in an unfamiliar environment.

Social roles

One major social determinant of human behavior is our social roles. A social role    is a pattern of behavior that is expected of a person in a given setting or group (Hare, 2003). Each one of us has several social roles. You may be, at the same time, a student, a parent, an aspiring teacher, a son or daughter, a spouse, and a lifeguard. How do these social roles influence your behavior? Social roles are defined by culturally shared knowledge. That is, nearly everyone in a given culture knows what behavior is expected of a person in a given role. For example, what is the social role for a student? If you look around a college classroom you will likely see students engaging in studious behavior, taking notes, listening to the professor, reading the textbook, and sitting quietly at their desks ( [link] ). Of course you may see students deviating from the expected studious behavior such as texting on their phones or using Facebook on their laptops, but in all cases, the students that you observe are attending class—a part of the social role of students.

A photograph shows students in a classroom.
Being a student is just one of the many social roles you have. (credit: “University of Michigan MSIS”/Flickr)

Social roles, and our related behavior, can vary across different settings. How do you behave when you are engaging in the role of son or daughter and attending a family function? Now imagine how you behave when you are engaged in the role of employee at your workplace. It is very likely that your behavior will be different. Perhaps you are more relaxed and outgoing with your family, making jokes and doing silly things. But at your workplace you might speak more professionally, and although you may be friendly, you are also serious and focused on getting the work completed. These are examples of how our social roles influence and often dictate our behavior to the extent that identity and personality can vary with context (that is, in different social groups) (Malloy, Albright, Kenny, Agatstein&Winquist, 1997).

Social norms

As discussed previously, social roles are defined by a culture’s shared knowledge of what is expected behavior of an individual in a specific role. This shared knowledge comes from social norms. A social norm    is a group’s expectation of what is appropriate and acceptable behavior for its members—how they are supposed to behave and think (Deutsch&Gerard, 1955; Berkowitz, 2004). How are we expected to act? What are we expected to talk about? What are we expected to wear? In our discussion of social roles we noted that colleges have social norms for students’ behavior in the role of student and workplaces have social norms for employees’ behaviors in the role of employee. Social norms are everywhere including in families, gangs, and on social media outlets. What are some social norms on Facebook?

Questions & Answers

because psychology is a natural science as well as a science. it's a interdisciplinary subject
Kamakshi Reply
yes absolutely we cabt out Psychology completely into science dur to its various measuring aspects
utkarsh
cannot* put*
utkarsh
Assess the relationship between heredity and environment in human development
Newman Reply
जिवन कक्षा विकासाच्या एकूण किती अवस्था आहेत
Digambar Reply
what happened Digambar?
sakshi
?
Reina
Is here anybody exactly awared about the medicine used for the schizophrenia?
Fazil
plz can i know if io psychology in demand ou it's better to continu in human resourses management?
Reina
there are many drugs used to alleviate the symptoms, but none are used for curing the disorder itself.
Rupert
Researchers believe that one important function of sleep is to facilitate learning and memory. How does knowing this help you in your college studies? What changes could you make to your study and sleep habits to maximize your mastery of the material covered in class?
whitecat Reply
Well, for starters, both are entirely different aspect for consideration. As a college student, having an adequate amount of sleep is relatively rare especially on instances where we are totally forced to stay all night (whether for studying or doing academic works).
Rupert
benefits of physcology
Irfan Reply
who define first physcology
Irfan
who define first physcology
Irfan
I think it was either Henry James Or William James are the father of psychology.
James
I haven't read the flash cards and memorized them sense 2015.
James
so iv forgotten some info and some has never left me . I'm very passionate about psychology.
James
I study medical psychology
John
the history of psychology usually traces back to ancient chinese practices. but modern times acknowledge Wilhelm Wundt as the first person to establish a school.of thought in psychology.
Rupert
huh
ANGELICA
is it wrong?
Rupert
please can i know what is the difference about io psychology and human resources managment and which is more in demand ?
Reina Reply
What is psychology
Tayyeba Reply
someone who can observe or understand a person's reactions.
Leanne
It is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes
Enos
Sarah is a 30 year old white female. Her occupation is part time chef. She is recently been divorced and has custody of her three children. She has extreme changes in her mood that began to appear in her 20’s but she never went to see a doctor about them. When family tries to talk to her about her u
Ere Reply
listen very carefully for red flags on both sides
Leanne
what does historical racism mean
Unasumming Reply
Means that racism was present in a group of peoples race in there past and maybe even now. Example is the Native Americans and African Americans also Asian people. Anyone of not caucasian resent. So people who are mixed races also experience rascism.
James
racism meaning I would believe is a negative impact on other separate cultures, causing some serious concerns to the human race.
Leanne
How do counsel someone that is kinda depressed, lonely and stuffs but the person is pushing you away with by saying stuffs you don't like? Your age mate
Ajayi Reply
let them figure themselves out met them come to you and listen more than speak
Jascelyn
don't take anything too personal someone who is depressed has more feelings other than being sad. I have been through it we dont alwaya mean the things we say. just give time and space but be there when they are ready.
Deanna
the person should be first dealt with very patience and understanding.......... person's trust should be won first to treat that kind of state if counsel is the priority..... don't rush small steps will lead to get successful results....... after the patient start trusting you conversate with them.
Amisha
OK..... Thank you very much It makes me look desperate for the person's attention Thanks tho
Ajayi
just let them know even if they aren't ready to tall right now, you will be here for them whenever they are.
Deanna
we need to wait till the stage comes when he/ she is ready at mental level to participate as he is the subject and the core of the part of that particular conscelling session
aaqib
A.Are they saying it in general manner or B.they are saying it cz they know something about you personally If it is A. then remember it's a part of counseling...even if you don't agree with their views..it is theirs.. so don't take it personally
PREETI
if it is B. tell them .. we are here to talk about them not you Also remember people takes time with things.. so it does get difficult at times.. but in counseling it's about them not you. And if it affecting you much .. see why is there .. and try to objective about it OR refer them to someone
PREETI
allow them time to always become comfortable by listening to all sorts of thoughts they all sound scattered but if you ,just let it go until their ready to ask for advice ,my thoughts of counciling would go for a few more sessions of them venting until they've had enough to feel they want geedback
Leanne
what is the trait in the given example?
Maya Reply
what's the given example?
SamieMike
my fat cock
Andrea
o.o u seem like u need to read this txt
SamieMike
learning to understand psychological effects of one's mind thoughts
Leanne
mental state and behavior
Mufakir Reply
Feared ,lethargic, self isolated...
Leanne
because psychology basic is observation asa well as science, so people might skeptical about these two but if we look into it people might notice that it's different because psychology is study about mind and science is study about many thing around us and it's not study about mind clearly.
Karona Reply
empirical method is the method of observation on object rather than do experiment .
Karona
ology is the study of theory .
Karona
psyche means soul as well as butterfly.
Karona
psychology is the the study of mind and behavior
Karona
this is where I'm a little sceptical. we learning psychology based on books. but we ourselves r also human. when we to encounter a real life situation how well can we act accordingly
Aileen
im curious more of myself then others
Aileen
psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. scientific mean it's based on observation and experiments. yeah we can observe behavior easily but can't read mind directly that's why we do observe behavior and apply test and therapies to study mind basically we behave according to our mind
Faiza
educates a humans thoughts to expand and explore more of how far a mind will go if allowed
Leanne
wilhelm wundt studied psychology for the purpose of
Rufai Reply
i dont know, all inknow is that he pioneered the practice of introspective and his school of thought aims to study behavior as structured elements
Rupert
what are the personality traits
Elnestine Reply
1. The theory classified & identifies that there are five personality traits; 1. Openness to experience 2. Conscientious 3. Extraversion 4. Agreeable 5. Neuroticism
Rodney

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Source:  OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 03, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11629/1.5
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