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Readings About The Social Animal

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 9 months ago

Notes on Elliot Aronson (Ed.)(1999) Readings About The Social Animal, Eighth edition. New York: Worth (ISBN 978-0716733133)


The edition I have is the eighth: as of October 2007, the latest edition is the tenth (ISBN 978-1429206174).


This is a companion to Aronson's social psychology textbook The Social Animal, and brings together some key papers (this edition has a total of 36). This is useful if you've read some of the popular books about this topic (such as Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice) and are ready to go straight to the research.


Students of bias, influence and human fallibility will be pleased to see the following classics:

  • Milgram's paper on the Yale obedience experiment
  • Asch's paper on conformity to group pressure
  • Zimbardo and colleagues on the Stanford prison experiment
  • Phillips on the 3-day effect on violence
  • Sherif on his classic experiments on rivalry between arbitrarily-created groups
  • Two excellent papers by Aronson on cognitive dissonance and self-image
  • Dutton and Aron (1974) on misattribution in sexual desire (men meeting a woman on a high rickety bridge exaggerate their perception of her attractiveness)
  • Axsom and Cooper (1971) on justification-of-effort bias and its role in psychotherapy and weight loss


There are sections on human aggression, mass comunication, prejudice (including Aronson on the desegregated classroom), and interpersonal attraction. It's particularly good for learning about consistency bias (the self-justification section of the book).


Some studies that caught my eye (this is inevitably subjective) that I was not aware of when I got the book:

  • Kenrick and Gutierres (1980) on contrast effects and physical attraction (men who have just viewed the TV show Charlie's Angels or seen a beautiful actress in a magazine rate a woman (in a photo) as significantly less dateable)
  • Storms (1973) on videotape and the attribution process: how people interpret a conversation differently based on their physical perspective
  • Joshua Aronson (et al.)'s Stereotype Threat experiment where african-american students, made to think about their race just before an exam, scored significantly lower
  • Elaine Walster (et al.)(1973) on playing hard to get: how (men's) flirting behaviour is governed by cost-benefit analysis


There are more papers that I could rave about. In terms of dealing with extremely important topics, applying geniune scientific research (not "pop psychology") and showing you the nuts and bolts of how the research was done, this is a delightful and rewarding book.


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