These are my notes from a brilliant course I took on psychology.

Social Psychology on Coursera

For those of you who are interested, the material for this course is available to view and read till June 2015.

My Notes :

Diff people see & hear same thing differently

Change blindness – Unable to observe changes because of being focussed somewhere.

Hindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it, prior to its occurrence.

Our Attitude and Behavior may not be in sync with each other for various reasons. 

E.G. Though we know global warming is bad, we still continue to use plastic cups.

This is partly because though our behavior is not in sync with one attitude, it is in sync with many other attitudes.

Self Prophecy – pygmalion effect – making a prophecy and then working to make it true
Behavior Confirmation (Social version of Self Prophecy) – People expect certain people to be like certain type and those people actually turn out to be like that
Confirmation Bias – Ignoring theories which challenge our perceptions & knowledge & solidifying what we already know.


Behaviors/actions are generally explained by attributing to:

  • Person
  • Entity or situation
  • Time or occasion

Causal attributions are generally determined based on:

  • Consensus
  • Distinctiveness
  • Consistency

Salience can also look causal
Salient people can become scapegoats
Salient is something sensory attention grabbing


3 ways to persuade :

  • Counter-arguments       : By giving both supporting arguments and counter arguments for your theory and proving how counter-arguments are invalid or ineffective
  • Central Route (fact based) : By giving lot of essential and relevant data to support the argument
  • Fear Appeal : By scaring people and then giving them exact steps on how to avoid the fearful situation

Science of Persuasion => 6 validated methods for persuading people by Robert Cialdini are :

  1. Reciprocity – If u attend a social event of a friend, he/she is obliged to attend yours
  2. Liking – Create honest liking by discussing likes (interests etc)
  3. Consensus – 10K people are using it. will you try it too?
  4. Consistency- Get people into small commitments, then ask for big requests
  5. Authority – People will say yes to Authority – knowledgable experts – Please talk to Mr A who has 10 yrs of exp in Software
  6. Scarcity –  Scarce resources are more valuable to people

We like people:

  1. People like those who compliment them
  2. People like those who co-ordinate with them
  3. We like people who are similar to us

Other methods of social persuasion:

  1. Foot in the door technique – Ask people for a small request (and get them to say yes). Then ask for a large request
  2. Slam in the face – Ask for a very big request for which the person will surely say no. Then ask for a very small request (which will look like a concession) which is like a moderation and get a yes !. Would u like to work for 2 hours a week for a YEAR ! Would you like to work for 1 hour for 2 weeks?
  3. Low Ball technique – First get a yes. Then slide in small requests. Sell A Care for 5,00,000. Then slide in small amounts as conveyance fees etc
  4. Even a penny will do – When asking for a donation, tell people even a penny will do. This will make it very difficult for them to say NO.

Other factors in persuasion:

Mention you name when talking.It increases confidence of people.
Ask to imagine or predict abt something they will do in future like voting.
Talk with people not at people.Engage in dialogue not monologue

Guilt because of hindsight bias:Sometimes we are very sorry (or very hard on us) because we feel that we could have handled a situation much better after knowing its outcome but in reality it can just be a hindsight bias wherein it was actually difficult to determine the output in the beginning.

Injunctive Messages should be used instead of descriptive messages to force people to stop doing wrong activities.
“many people are stealing trees. please stop !” can make people believe that it is normal to steal instead of stopping it.
“stealing is offence”  (injunctive norm) can cause people to deter
“recycling is common” (descriptive norm) is useful when most ppl agree. not otherwise

Blind Obedience:

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs out of blind obedience, and without any hostility on their part can become agents in terribly destructive process.

Confirmity: A change in belief or behaviour due to social pressure.

Majority can cause individuals to confirm.
Even a minority can force majority into “confirmity” if the minority is “consistent”
Women tend to confirm more than men
Confirmity is more to ingroups (people we know) than outgroups
Confirmity is more where collective ideas are cherished (e.g. japan where people value each other and final outcome rather than individualistic selves)
Confirmity increases sharply as majority increases from 2 to 13

Albien Paradox : A group behavior in which all members of a group internally feel that a set of actions/project is not worth following but no one takes initiation in rejecting it because of various reasons

  • Action anxiety : Though  a sensible alternate is known, their is anxiety in taking action
  • Negative fantasy : Full Blown fears and their outcomes are imagined
  • Confusion of fantasy and reality  : Fear fantasies and realities are confused
  • Collusion : People are colluding with each other in this inaction, sometimes knowingly
  • Fear of separation : People fear getting separated from group if they take action or confront
  • Blame the leader : Often, group member start blaming the leader for their own inaction

Confront the group : To stop such kind of losses, the eventual solution is to confront the group and suggest the wise alternate, hopefully, before it becomes too late.

The phenomenon, called belief perseverance , shows that beliefs can grow their own legs and survive the discrediting of the evidence that inspired them.

In the typical experiment, people witness an event, receive misleading information about it (or not), and then take a memory test. The repeated finding is the misinformation effect.
People incorporate the misinformation into their memories: They recall a yield sign as a stop sign, hammers as screwdrivers, Vogue maga- zine as Mademoiselle, Dr. Henderson as “Dr. Davidson,”

Our social judgments are a mix of observation and expectation, reason and passion.

Our thinking is partly controlled(reflective, deliberate, and con-scious) and—more than psychologists once supposed—partly automatic(impul-sive, effortless, and without our awareness).

Our brain knows much more than it tells us.

People also are markedly overconfident when judging whether someone is telling the truth or when estimating things such as the sexual history of their dating partner or the activity preferences of their roommates

Incompetence feeds overconfidence

what others see in us . . . tends to be more highly correlated with objective outcomes than what we see in ourselves.

To reduce planning related overconfidence  bias, the manager should ask the planners to think of atleast 1 reason why their plan will /can fail to reduce their overconfidence.

Representative heuristics : We tend to see what a given description represents and categorize a person / event based on that representation
Availability heuristics : the more easily we recall something, the more likely it seems.

Counterfactual Thinking : Thinking the alternate that could have happened instead of what happened. I could have avoided failing if I just got 1 more marks. Silver medl winners are sadder that bronze because they imagine how happy they ‘d have been had they won the gold medal

Cognitive Dissonance:

Act of holding 2 incompatible thoughts creates dissonance.
People whenever possible try to avoid dissonance


Book mistakes were made. But not by me.

Yes ! By Robert Cialdini

The psychology of interpersonal relations by Fritz