Social Psychology and Watches
The spotlight effect, cognitive dissonance theory, Lake Wobegon Effect, confirmation bias and how this all relates to watch collecting!
I mentioned a week ago that I am taking a course on psychology, and so this covers some of the material from the course itself. I may end up splitting this into a few parts as there is a lot I want to cover! To me, social psychology is the most interesting field of psychology.
Social psychology is the branch of psychology that deals with how we have social interactions and social thoughts, what we think of ourselves, what we think about other people, how we behave in groups, how we think about different groups, and so on. It’s just extremely interesting because these are intrinsically interesting topics - everybody is interested in themselves. It is also interesting because social psychologists have come up with some really cool findings.
For example, people in certain studies were shown photos of Tony Blair and Barack Obama, and then asked, “Who is more American” - now due to unconscious biases and stereotypes, various studies find that Tony Blair is thought of as more American because, due to the colour of his skin, many people think of him as more American.1
Now, these studies, as of late, have generated a lot of scrutiny, and many have argued that the more sexy findings from social psychology, particularly those involving social priming, are not fully robust. In other words, through no fault, no fraud, nothing wrong in the part of the researchers, but just because of various failures to replicate the results meaningfully.
One of the more popular psychology findings of all the time, is known as the spotlight effect. This is where we tend to think everybody notices us, i.e. the spotlight is on us. This was explored by Tom Gilovich and colleagues.2 In this study, they asked undergraduates to wear t-shirts with photographs on them with very disliked people.
At the time the study was done, people didn’t want to have t-shirts with photographs of Hitler or Barry Manilow. The positive t-shirts were very light figures: Martin Luther King Jr. and Jerry Seinfeld. What happened is, they got students to go to class just to interact with people wearing these t-shirts and then later on they asked the students, “How many people noticed your t-shirts?” They also asked the people, “Did you notice what these people were wearing?” It turned out that the people wearing the t-shirts got it wrong, by a large extent. They felt that the spotlight was on them when it actually wasn’t.