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Week 5: Social Psychology and Culture

Put yourself in this scenario: You join an Internet chat group with a random assortment of people participating. No one shares their picture or real name or stops to say much about their background. Nonetheless, in the process of chatting, you learn a lot about the other people online. This is how some of the posts read:

Person 1: “I like to play slot machines. I just lost big time but I’m sure the machine was broken.”

Person 2: “I was in college, but I dropped out. I couldn’t find the time to study.”

Person 3: “I told a Polish joke at work. Some people got mad, but I thought it was funny.”

Person 4: “Everyone on my street is pitching in with money to help our neighbor. I don’t really have extra money, but I’m going to chip in anyway.”

Person 5: “I didn’t date many men because I had an arranged marriage.”

Each of these comments represents a concept in social psychology, which studies how individuals behave in social situations. This week, you will analyze the relationship between culture and social behavior and examine similarities and differences across cultures. As you investigate and share conclusions in your coursework this week, continue to focus on developing your skills in scholarly writing and providing strong evidence to support your conclusions.

Note: Watch for “Just in Time” links for the Learning Resources, Discussion, and/or Assignment this week. When you see a “Just in Time” link, hover to get helpful tips or other guidance for completing your best coursework.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze the relationship between culture and attributional style
  • Analyze the relationship between culture and social influence
  • Assess personal implicit bias

Learning Resources

Required Readings

Shiraev, E. B., & Levy, D. A. (2017). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
Chapter 10, “Social Perception and Social Cognition” (pp. 287–314)
Chapter 11, “Personality and the Self” (read the section on Locus of Control, pp. 321–323)

These chapters analyze critical aspects of social perception, cognition, and interaction, including values, norms, attribution, stereotypes, and generalizations; universal interaction; conformity; obedience; and social influence. There is no Test for Understanding in Week 5.

Project Implicit. (2011). Retrieved from

Note: You must complete at least two demonstration tests to prepare for your Week 5 Assignment 2. For planning, each test takes about 10–15 minutes. You do not need to register; choose the “continue as guest” option. Print your finished web pages to note your results (you are not required to hand them in with your Assignment). The Implicit Association Test demonstrates the divergence between thoughts and feelings that are outside our conscious awareness or control.

The Implicit Association Test demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences between what we think and feel that are outside our conscious awareness or control. (2016). Locus of control and attributional style test. Retrieved from

Note: You must complete this online test to prepare for the Week 5 Discussion. For planning, the test takes about 10–15 minutes. It assesses internal versus external locus of control. You do not need to register to complete the test but must check the box confirming it is for personal use. Print the web page displaying your results.

The following resources can inform your Assignment 1 for Week 5. You have the option to choose one of the following as the subject of your Assignment: Jim Jones and the People’s Temple; David Koresh and the Branch Davidians; or Marshall Applewhite and Heaven’s Gate.

Jim Jones and the People’s Temple

San Diego State University. Jonestown. Retrieved from

This link takes you to an excellent page maintained by San Diego State University with many excellent resources. Note the links along the left side, there is plenty to explore! Also, one of the links is title “Primary Sources,” this includes first-hand accounts from people who were there.

San Diego State University (2017). Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. Retrieved from

Discussion: Attribution

You may not realize this, but you are always explaining things to yourself.  Any time something happens, you reflexively try to figure out why it happened.  The explanations we come up with are called attributions.  If a student—not you, of course—does not do well on a test, that student has to decide why things went poorly.  The student might attribute the poor performance to not studying hard enough, or they might decide that the test was completely unfair.  As you can imagine, the attributions we make are really important!  Explaining poor performance by focusing on lack of studying is an example of making an internal attribution.  The cause is something within the student and therefore something that can be controlled.  If the problem is studying, just study harder for the next test, right?  But if the student decides the test was unfair, that is an external attribution, focusing on a cause that is outside of the student’s control.  You can’t do anything about that, can you?

The test is just an example, of course, but our sense of control is a big part of who we are.  People with a strong internal locus of control tend to see things in light of their own efforts and abilities, while those with a more external locus of control feel that much of what happens is random, or uncontrollable, or caused by other people.   You can see how these different interpretations make a huge impact on how we respond to our life experiences!  For this reason, we want to understand our own attributional style, but of course we also want to be able to understand other people and other cultures.  In order to work with or help others, we have to understand where they are coming from, and that includes their cultural background.  It should not surprise you at this point to find out that culture can impact our sense of control and the types of attributions we make!

This week you will have the opportunity to assess your own locus of control. Then you will consider how locus of control impacts attributions; you will also consider how culture plays a role.

To prepare:

  • Review Chapter 10 of the course text, focusing on attribution, and the Chapter 11 section on locus of control.
  • Complete the locus of control assessment in the Week 5 Learning Resources. It should take approximately 10–15 minutes. You may want to take a screen shot of your results.
  • Reflect on insights you have gained about yourself and how to apply that knowledge toward understanding others.
  • Review the media piece Workplace Attribution in your Week 5 Learning Resources. Think about differences in the two employees and consider how knowledge of attributional styles and locus of control may be applied in a workplace environment.
  •  Consider the relationship between culture and attributional style. Select a culture that you do not know well and research in the Walden Library or other scholarly sources for the culture’s attributional style and expectations of workers. Imagine the video scene taking place in that cultural setting. Be prepared to present your ideas in your Discussion post.

Just like last week, our goal is to generate conversation. Post one question to the discussion and respond to at least two questions (or responses) posed by your peers.

By Day 3

Post your one question with background to the discussion board.

Put your question in the subject line of your post and put your supporting text in the message area of the post.

Discussion Tips:

  • Questions published earlier in the week get more responses.
  • Support your question with at least one reference (textbook or other scholarly, empirical resources) in the message body.
By Day 5

Respond to at least two peers’ main questions (or their response). Colleague replies do not need to be supported by a reference.