Victoria I. Michalowski, Denis Gerstorf, and Christiane A. Hoppmann
Aging does not occur in isolation, but often involves significant others such as spouses. Whether such dyadic associations involve gains or losses depends on a myriad of factors, including the time frame under consideration. What is beneficial in the short term may not be so in the long term, and vice versa. Similarly, what is beneficial for one partner may be costly for the other, or the couple unit over time. Daily dynamics between partners involving emotion processes, health behaviors, and collaborative cognition may accumulate over years to affect the longer-term physical and mental health outcomes of either partner or both partners across adulthood and into old age. Future research should move beyond an individual-focused approach to aging and consider the importance of and interactions among multiple time scales to better understand how, when, and why older spouses shape each other’s aging trajectories, both for better and for worse.
Lukas J. Wolf, Geoff Haddock, and Greg Maio
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Attitudes refer to our summary evaluations of people, groups, ideas, and other objects, indicating whether we like or dislike them. The study of attitudes takes a central position in social psychology. Since attitudes were described as the most distinctive and indispensable concept in social psychology more than 80 years ago, decades of extensive research have studied attitudes. This research has revealed how attitudes shape our perceptions and behavior.
One of the key aspects of attitudes is their affective, cognitive, and behavioral content. That is, an attitude may associate an attitude object with affective or emotional reactions, cognitions or knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts, and intentions or past actions. The attitude itself may also have a simple (e.g., positive or negative) structure or a more conflicted, ambivalent (e.g., simultaneously positive and negative) structure, and it may serve different psychological functions (e.g., simplification of knowledge, value expression). In more recent decades, scientists have focused on developing diverse techniques to measure attitudes. On the whole, research has shown that attitudes are moderately predictive of future behavior and that the strength of this link depends on diverse factors, such as how strongly the attitude is held, individuals’ personality, and the environmental context. Overall, the long history of research on attitudes has shown considerable theoretical and practical relevance.
Skylar M. Brannon and Bertram Gawronski
The desire to maintain consistency between cognitions has been recognized by many psychologists as an important human motive. Research on this topic has been highly influential in a variety of areas of social cognition, including attitudes, person perception, prejudice and stereotyping, and self-evaluation. In his seminal work on cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger noted that inconsistencies between cognitions result in negative affect. Further, he argued that the motivation to maintain consistency is a basic motive that is intrinsically important. Subsequent theorists posed revisions to Festinger’s original theory, suggesting that consistency is only important to the extent that it allows one to maintain a desired self-view or to communicate traits to others. According to these theorists, the motivation to maintain consistency serves as a means toward a superordinate motive, not as an end in itself. Building on this argument, more recent perspectives suggest that consistency is important for the execution of context-appropriate action and the acquisition and validation of knowledge.
Several important lines of research grew out of the idea that cognitive consistency plays a central role in social information processing. One dominant line of research has aimed toward understanding how people deal with inconsistencies between their attitudes and their behaviors. Other research has investigated how individuals maintain their beliefs either by (1) avoiding exposure to contradictory information or (2) engaging in cognitive processes aimed toward reconciling an inconsistency after being exposed to contradictory information. Cognitive consistency perspectives have also been leveraged to understand (1) the conditions under which explicit and implicit evaluations correlate with one another, (2) when change in one type of evaluation corresponds with change in the other, and (3) the roles of distinct types of consistency principles underlying explicit and implicit evaluations.
Expanding on these works, newer lines of research have provided important revisions and extensions to early research on cognitive consistency, focusing on (1) the identification of inconsistency, (2) the elicitation of negative affect in response to inconsistency, and (3) behavioral responses aimed to restore inconsistency or mitigate the negative feelings arising from inconsistency. For example, some research has suggested that, instead of following the rules of formal logic, perceptions of (in)consistency are driven by “psycho-logic” in that individuals may perceive inconsistency when there is logical consistency, and vice versa. Further, reconciling conflicting research on the affective responses to inconsistency, recent work suggests that all inconsistencies first elicit negative affect, but immediate affective reactions may change in line with the hedonic experience of the event when an individual has time to make sense of the inconsistency. Finally, new frameworks have been proposed to unite a broad range of phenomena under one unifying umbrella, using the concept of cognitive consistency as a common denominator.
Martijn van Zomeren
The social psychology of collective mobilization and social protest reflects a long-standing interest within this discipline in the larger question of how social change comes about through the exercise of collective agency. Yet, within this very same discipline, different approaches have suggested different motivations for why people protest, including emotional, agentic, identity, and moral motivations. Although each of these approaches first tended toward development of insulated models or theories, the next phase has been more integrative in nature, giving rise to multi-motive models of collective mobilization and social protest that combined predictions from different approaches, which improved their explanatory power and theoretical scope.
Together with this first development toward integration, a second development has also clearly left its mark on the field. This development refers to the rapid internationalization of the field, with studies on collective mobilization and social protest being conducted across the world, leading to very diverse participant samples and contextual characteristics. These studies typically also vary methodologically, including survey, experiment, interview, longitudinal, and other methods. This second trend—toward diversity—fits well with the first integrative trend and will lead to more in-depth and integrative understanding of the social-psychological workings of collective mobilization and social protest. However, this will require innovative conceptual and empirical work in order to map the structural (particularly, political and cultural) conditions under which different motivations matter with respect to mobilization and protest.
The subfield of communication and intergroup relations attempts to disentangle the ways in which human message exchange is influenced by, and itself affects, relations between social groups. Typically, the social groups considered are large scale groups (e.g., national, religious, ethnic groups), but similar processes can also be applied to smaller groups such as families or work groups. Specifically, the field of communication and intergroup relations considers how social interaction is changed when the interlocutors belong to (or perceive themselves as belonging to) specific social groups, and how everyday talk about groups changes perceptions and attitudes concerning those groups. The subfield also considers how broader societal messages relate to group memberships. For instance, how do media messages reflect the macrosocial position of particular groups, and do media messages influence how consumers think about group memberships and intergroup relations? Underpinning all study of intergroup communication is the belief that intergroup relations are forged, perpetuated, and modified in real-life everyday social communication.
Chad R. Mortensen and Robert B. Cialdini
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
It is through the influence process that people generate and manage change. As such, it is important to understand fully the workings of the influence processes that produce compliance with requests for change. Fortunately, a vast body of scientific evidence now exists on how, when, and why people comply with influence attempts. From this formidable body of work, one can extract six universal principles of influence—those that generate compliance in the widest range of circumstances. Reciprocation states that people are more willing to comply with requests (for favors, services, information, concessions, etc.) from those who have provided such things first. Commitment/Consistency states that people are more willing to be moved in a particular direction if they see it as consistent with an existing commitment. Authority states that people are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant expertise. Social Proof states that people are more willing to take a recommended action if they see evidence that many others, especially similar others, are taking it. Scarcity states that people find objects and opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are scarce, rare, or dwindling in availability. Finally, Liking states that people prefer to say yes to those they like, such as those who are similar to them and who have complimented them.
Patricia Elgoibar, Martin Euwema, and Lourdes Munduate
Conflicts are part of nature and certainly part of human relations, between individuals, as well as within and between groups. Conflicts occur in every domain of life: family, work, and society, local and global. Conflict management, therefore, is an essential competency for each person. People differ largely in their emotional and behavioral responses to conflict and need to learn how to behave effectively in different conflict situations. This requires a contingency approach, first assessing the conflict situation, and then choosing a strategy, matching the goals of the party. In most situations, fostering cooperative relations will be most beneficial; however, this is also most challenging. Therefore, constructive conflict management strategies, including trust building and methods of constructive controversy, are emphasized. Conflict management, however, is broader than the interaction of the conflicting parties. Third-party interventions are an essential element of constructive conflict management, particularly the assessment of which parties are intervening in what ways at what escalation stage.
Alison Chasteen, Maria Iankilevitch, Jordana Schiralli, and Veronica Bergstrom
In 2016, Statistics Canada released the results of the most recent census. For the first time ever, the proportion of Canadians aged 65-plus years surpassed the proportion aged 15 and under. The increase in the proportion of older adults was viewed as further evidence of the faster rate of aging of Canada’s population. Such demographic shifts are not unique to Canada; many industrialized nations around the world are experiencing similar changes in their populations. Increases in the older adult population in many countries might produce beneficial outcomes by increasing the potential for intergenerational contact and exposure to exemplars of successful aging. Such positive intergenerational contact could counter prevailing age stereotypes and improve intergenerational relations. On the other hand, such increases in the number of older adults could be viewed as a strain and potential threat to resources shared with younger age groups. The possibility of increased intergenerational conflict makes it more important than ever before to understand how older adults are stereotyped, how those stereotypes can produce different kinds of biased behavior toward them, and what the impact of those stereotypes are on older adults themselves.
Social-cognitive age representations are complex and multifaceted. A common stereotype applied to older people is one of warmth but incompetence, often resulting in paternalistic prejudice toward them. However, such benevolent prejudice, characterized by warm overtones, can change to hostile bias if older adults are perceived to violate prescriptive norms about age-appropriate behavior. In addition to coping with age prejudice, older adults also have to deal with the deleterious effects of negative age stereotypes on their day-to-day function. Exposure to negative aging stereotypes can worsen older adults’ cognitive performance in a number of contexts. As well, age stereotypes can be incorporated into older adults’ own views of aging, also leading to poorer outcomes for them in a variety of domains. A number of interventions to counteract the effects of negative aging stereotypes appear promising, but more work remains to be done to reduce the impact of negative aging stereotypes on daily function in later life.
Issues of attitudes and attitude change are the foundation of many social processes. Psychologists have long sought to understand people’s opinions and evaluations and many studies have sought to understand how, why, and when those attitudes change in the face of persuasive communication. Early persuasion research identified many variables that influence the effectiveness of persuasive messages. These variables include characteristics of the communicator, the recipient, and the message itself. Over the years, however, the evidence for these influences became rather mixed, prompting a new generation of persuasion psychologists to ask whether there was a sensible pattern underlying it.
This question ushered in several new approaches to thinking about persuasion. These “dual process” models proposed key moderators, identifying the conditions under which certain variables would and would not produce attitude change. A particularly influential model has been the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which proposed that the audience’s motivation and ability to think deeply about a persuasive message determines how much a given characteristic of that message will change the audience’s attitude. Other models, such as the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM), have contributed additional insights about the “when” and “why” of attitude change. In sum, these nuanced accounts of attitude change have been demonstrated time and again across cultures and topics of persuasion.
Eric L. Stocks and David A. Lishner
The term empathy has been used as a label for a broad range of phenomena, including feeling what another person is feeling, understanding another person’s point of view, and imagining oneself in another person’s situation. However, perhaps the most widely researched phenomenon that goes by this label involves an other-oriented emotional state that is congruent with the perceived welfare of another person. The feelings associated with empathy include sympathy, tenderness, and warmth toward the other person. Other variations of empathic emotions have been investigated too, including empathic joy, empathic embarrassment, and empathic anger. The term altruism has also been used as a label for a broad range of phenomena, including any type of helping behavior, personality traits associated with helpful persons, and biological influences that spur protection of genetically related others. However, a particularly fruitful research tradition has focused on altruism as a motivational state with the ultimate goal of protecting or promoting the welfare of a valued other. For example, the empathy–altruism hypothesis claims that empathy (construed as an other-oriented emotional state) evokes altruism (construed as a motivational state). Empathy and altruism, regardless of how they are construed, have important consequences for understanding human behavior in general, and for understanding social relationships and well-being in particular.