52 in 52 Book Summaries

The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson



The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson


The Essence

Popularized for its expert advice in communication, Social psychologist Elliot Aronson covers the need-to-know concerning social interactions, including their effects on the individual. Our behavior is greatly shaped by those around us. However, conformity phenomena are not limited to interpersonal interactions-they exist within ourselves as well. Preserving the image we have for ourselves can create great cognitive weight when external forces press against our self-concepts. To gain a clear understanding of the popular theories for how humans operate, Aronson recalls the experimental designs of many of the foundational works in psychology. It is only through acknowledging the biased faculties of our species that we can disarm them-and as you’ll see, that may not even be enough.

The Social Animal Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of The Social Animal. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

• We often rely on other people as a means of determining reality.
• Growth is an exciting (and often painful) experience-but no one person can ‘grow’ another. A person indicates that he’s ready to grow when he takes that first step on his own, and not because he is being coerced.
• A judgment is nothing more or less than a feeling that is in adequately understood or inadequately expressed.
• In this society, we tend to glide through life protecting ourselves; in effect, each of us wears a suit of behavioral armor so that other people can’t hurt us. This results in a lot of inauthentic behavior-we mask our true feelings from others.
• The goal of conformity is to: Be ‘correct’ stay in the good graces of other people by living up to their expectations.
• 3 kinds of social influence responses:

: Conforming to ideas, beliefs, etc from an outside force. e.g. Laws

: Conforming to ideas, beliefs, etc from someone you relate to (identify if). e.g. Role Model.

Internalization: Conforming to the ideas, beliefs, etc that you conceive as part of your self-concept. e.g. Morals

• Aronson’s First Law: “People who do crazy things are not necessarily crazy” i.e. some situational variables can move a great proportion of us “normal” adults to behave in very unappetizing ways.
• An opinion with an emotional component can be called an attitude. Compared the only evaluative opinions, attitudes are extremely difficult to change.
• To stereotype is to assign identical characteristics to any person in a group, regardless of the actual variation among groups members.
• If a person goes through a painful experience in order to attain some goal or object, that goal or object becomes more attractive.
• If two people are genuinely fond of each other, they will have a more satisfying and exciting relationship over a longer period of time if they are able to express whatever negative feelings they may have than if they are completely “nice” to each other. In the long run, authenticity is essential for the maintenance and growth of the attraction between people!
• Most people are motivated to justify their own actions, beliefs, and feelings.
• Cognitive Dissonance: a state of tension that occurs whenever an individual simultaneously holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent.
• The manner in which they view and interpret information depends upon how deeply they are committed to a particular belief or course of action.
• If an individual makes a statement of belief that is difficult to justify externally, he will attempt to justify it internally by making his attitudes more consistent with the statement.
• Nonconscious Ideology: a set of beliefs that we accept implicitly but of which we are unaware because we cannot even conceive of alternative conceptions of the world.
• Simply because a person thinks that he is immune to persuasion does not necessarily mean that he is immune to persuasion.
• We like to be liked: the more insecure we feel, the more we appreciate being liked and consequently, the more we like someone who likes us.
• Man is a creative who spends his entire life in an attempt to convince himself that his existence is not absurd.
• Use art to enrich your science.

• Groups effective at inducing conformity:
1. Experts.

2. If members are important to the individual.

3. If members are comparable to the individual in some way.

Our understanding of the social animal in all of his complexities rests on our ingenuity in developing techniques for studying his behavior that are well-controlled and impactful without violating the essential dignity of those individuals who contribute to our understanding by serving as experimental objects.

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in The Social Animal.

  1. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
  2. Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini
  3. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

Find the book on Amazon: Print

Check Out More 52 in 52 Challenge Summaries

Note: This page contains affiliate links. This means that if you decide to buy a product through them, I will receive a small commission. This has no additional cost to you. If you would like to support Forces of Habit, please use these links. If you do use them, thank you for the support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *