Explain how principles that define the sociocultural level of analysis may be demonstrated in research (that is, theories and/or studies).


  • State what you are doing in the essay 
    • This essay will give a brief summary of the principles that define the sociocultural level of analysis (SCLA) 

  • Define the Sociocultural Level of Analysis 
    • SCLOA is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings and thus behaviours are influences by actual, implied or imagined presence of others
    • Thus it is; 
      • Scientific study of individuals and groups in social and cultural conditions 
      • How we think, feel and thus act in the presence of others 
      • And thus how this presence of others affects our behaviour 

  • State the principles of the SCLA 
    • There are four overarching principles of the SCLA 
      • Principle 1: Humans are social animals and thus have the need to 'Belong' 
      • Principle 2: Culture influences behaviour 
      • Principle 3: Humans have a social-self 
      • Principle 4: People's views of the world are resistant to change and developed by the community and culture
  • Purpose of the Principles 
    • These principles are the main ideas that have driven focused research on specific areas of how our environment can influence behaviour in the SCLA.
    • They also allow us to understanding how behaviour can be caused or influenced by social factors. 

  • In the following essay the following principles will further be outlined
    • “The social and cultural environment influences behaviour.”
    • “We construct our individual and social self through our conceptions.” 


  • State principle 1
    • Sociocultural psychologists believe that social and cultural environment influences behaviour.

  • Describe the Principle
    • States that behaviour can be influenced by the social and cultural environment
      • For Example: 
        • Social and Cultural Environment: you eat with a knife and fork whereas in some other places/cultures, you may eat with chopsticks or a spoon and fork 
      • This further reinforces the idea that the real or imagined pressure of others influence behaviours 
      • Culture can be defined as the norms and values that define a society
    • Research into conformity outlines social norms and also how, in the form of internalized standards of behaviour, they regulate our social behaviours 
      • Conformity also shows that strong situational influences may cause us to put our own believes, values and morals to the side in order to fit in and be accepted by our social world (thus influencing behaviour)
    • This principle is further supported by research conducted by Asch (1951)

Supporting Study 1: Asch (1951)

  • To test the extent of conformity in a non-ambiguous task 
  • 1 real subject among 7 confederates 
  • They were asked to judge which of the 3 lines on the right corresponded to the line presented on the left (in regards to length) 

  • Confederates of the study were told to give incorrect answers (that were obviously incorrect) 
  • There was also a separate condition where the participant was told to write down their answers individually 
  • Also, in another part of the experiment, the subject was given a supporting confederate 
  • 32% conformity rate 
  • 74% of subjects conformed at least once 
  • When given a supporting confederate, the conformity rate dropped to 5.5% 
  • When participants were allowed to answer privately, conformity rate dropped again 
  • People change their behaviour in accordance with others 
  • Deception
  • Participant protection (distressed) 
  • Participant bias

Connection of Study to Principle
  • Conducted a study that demonstrated conformity.
  • This study thus shows that our social and cultural environments may affect us thus result in conforming to a group or social norm.
    • May result in a change in behaviour 

  • State principle 2
    • A second principle the SCLA assumes is that we construct our individual and social self through our conceptions.

  • Describe the Principle
    • This social self is how we construct our social identity and is also dependent on the types of groups that we belong and identified with.
      • These identities reflect the influence of society on oneself and have been seen to extensively affect our behaviour.
      • Building who we are around our culture and environment (studies have shown that 'norms' considered in one culture may be completely opposite in another).
        • Further links to the principle discussed above
    • This principle give rise to the fact that people not only have a individual identity but also a collective or social one 
    • Likewise our social identity is important as it defines who we are and these behaviours are determined by social groups (such as memberships, communities, clubs, nationality or family) 
    • A study that supports this principle is Zimbardo et al. (1995) 

Supporting Study 2: Zimbardo et al. (1971) – Stanford Prison Experiment 


  • To investigate how people react in difficult situations. 
  • Zimbardo created a simulation of a prison in Stanford University basement.
  • He randomly assigned the volunteers/participants to be either the guard or prisoner in the prison simulation. Therefore the IV was role (prisoner or guard).
  • DV was behaviour observed through direct observation, video and audiotape. 
  • After a while, the volunteers playing the role of guards started to show acts of empowerment, aggression and a more confident attitude compared to the volunteers playing the role of the prisoners. 
  • Whilst the prisoners became passive, depressed, anxious and experienced loss of control over life.
  • The volunteers acted like what their roles in their situation/predicament would be in real life prison conditions. 
  • Zimbardo"s study is a prime example of how people can use either dispositional situational attribution to explain the behaviours of certain people. 
  • Prison environment had influenced the guards into performing brutal and sadistic behaviours even though none of the guards had shown any previous tendency before the experiment. 
  • People will readily conform to social roles that they are expected to play 
  • The roles that people play shape their attitudes and behaviours 
Connection of Study to Principle 
  • Showing that our social self is constructed by our own conceptions (prisoner or guard) and thus we will act in a way that fits with this conceptions


  • There are 4 main principles that define the Sociocultural level of analysis but the two principles that were outlined in this essay is: 
    • Social and cultural factors affect behaviour
      • Demonstrated by Asch (1951) showing how our social group may affect our behaviour
    • We construct our individual and social self through our conceptions 
      • Zimbardo (1995) as he showed that our conceptions of a prisoner and guard will affect the way we behave towards them 
        • Also introduces authority 
  • However, views from all levels of analysis need to be taken into account before reaching a determined decision on influences on human behaviour, as sociocultural factors such as the environment are not the sole cause of the behaviour, but certainly play a role in the interaction between itself and behaviour.