Chapter 4: Social cognition Are we rational? Yes Felicific calculus = happiness calculation determine what is good and what is bad underlies modern capitalism People think like naive scientists when explaining others' behavior Consistency of person's actions Consensus (do others behave in the same way?) Distinctiveness of the action (is s/he the only one who behaves this way?) Rational thought requires two conditions 1. Thinker has access to accurate, useful information 2. Thinker has the mental resources needed to process life's data No Don't have the leisure time or motivation to devote a full-scale analysis of every problem I encounter My views are bounded by my own limited perspective We're cognitive misers = forever trying to conserve our cognitive energy Use shortcuts Ignore some info Overuse other info Sometimes accept less-than-perfect alternatives because it's almost good enough Usually good, but has some limitations Social context = the way things are presented and described Reference points = an object can appear to be better or worse than it is, depending on what we compare it with We don't often pay much attention to the influence or validity of the context Decoy = an alternative that is clearly inferior to other possible selections, but serves the purpose of making others look better by comparison Contrast effect = when any object is contrasted with something similar but not as good, that particular object is judged to be better than would normally be the case Social cognition = how we interpret social events usually depends on what we are currently thinking about, as well as what beliefs and categories we typically use to make sense of things Priming = ideas that have been recently encountered or frequently activated are more likely to come to mind and this will be used in interpreting social events Characteristic priming Prime Ps with either positive or negative traits Reading comprehension task The priming influenced how Ps categorized the character Rudeness priming Primed with either neutral words or words related to rudeness More likely to interrupt conversation of experimenter if primed with rude words Old people priming When primed with words related to old people, Ps walked more slowly down a hallway Perceived HIV risk Those who had been instructed to imagine themselves being exposed to HIV on the job subsequently felt that there was a significantly higher risk of their being infected than those who were not primed Mass media Link between which stories the media covers and what viewers think the most important issues are Repeated media exposure and issue importance Ps received a steady dose of news about certain issues Convinced that the target problem was more important for the country to solve than they did before viewing the program Framing = whether a problem or decision is presented in such a way that it appears to represent the potential for loss or for gain People dislike losses and seek to avoid them Energy conservation Condition 1: How much they could save each year How much money each day they were losing Ps in loss condition were 2x as likely to invest in money to insulate their homes Prevention of breast cancer Condition 1: info about breast self-exams and how to do them Condition 2: info + arguments emphasizing the positive consequences of self-examination Condition 3: info + negative consequences of failing to perform breast self-exams Most likely to perform breast self-exam Primacy effect = the things we learn first about a person have a decisive impact on our judgement of that person Personality traits Ps received descriptive sentences about a person. Half positive and half negative traits When positive traits were put first, Ps liked them more Observing person taking an intelligence test Always answered 15/30 correctly Condition 1: Started off hot, worse toward the end Seen as more intelligent Condition 2: started off slow, finished with a band Tutoring Condition 1: promised a reward if they could raise their student's score Rated student as more intelligent if their early performance was good Condition 2: promised a reward for improving the student's enduring ability to solve anagrams Rated their students as more intelligent when they started poorly but ended up doing well Attention decrement = later items in a list receive less attention as the observers tire and their minds start to wander Interpretive set = first items serve to create an initial impression that then is used to interpret subsequent information Dilution effect = tendency for neutral and irrelevant information to weaken a judgement or impression More irrelevant information makes a person seem more average Judgmental heuristic = simple, often only approximate, rule or strategy for solving a problem As opposed to systematic thinking = looking at a problem from a number of angles Require very little thought Representative heuristic = we focus on the similarity of one object to another to infer that the first object acts like the second one Often used to form impressions and to make judgements about other people Gender and ethnic stereotypes Beautiful people Availability heuristic = how easy it is to bring specific examples to mind Sometimes what's easiest to bring to mind isn't typical of the overall pictures Attitude heuristic = assigning objects to favorable and unfavorable categories Attitude = special type of belief that includes emotional and evaluative components Determining what people know to be true People's attitudes toward Ronald Reagan influenced what they thought his college GPA was Halo effect = a general bias in which a favorable or unfavorable impression of a person affects our inferences and future expectations False-consensus effect = tendency to overestimate the percentage of people who agree with us on any issue Sandwich board Those who agreed to wear the sign thought that most other people would too Those who decided against wearing it thought that few others would wear it When do we use heuristics? When we don't have time to think carefully When we're so overloaded with information that it's impossible to process information fully When the issues at stake aren't very important When we have little solid knowledge or information to use when making a decision Categorization Class and inferences about intelligence Video of girl playing in high class or poor neighborhood Then saw her completing an achievement test in which her performance was ambiguous Ps rated her as having less ability when she came from the poor neighborhood When they didn't see her doing the achievement test, they didn't judge her ability Reluctant to apply stereotypes in the absence of solid data Self-fulfilling prophecy = the process by which expectations or stereotypes lead people to treat others in a way that makes them confirm their expectations Bloomers 20% of students in each class were chosen at random to be "bloomers: Gave teachers a false expectancy about them These students did end up doing better Illusory correlation = when we perceive a relationship between two entities that we think should be related, but they're really not Name, occupation, and personality traits Read statements such as "Tom, the salesman, is talkative and boring." Sometimes, by chance, the trait words happened to be consistent with a prominent stereotype Ps overestimated the frequency with which stereotypic words were used to describe each occupation Lesbians and HIV People overestimate the extent to which lesbians are likely to contract HIV Actually, lesbians have the lowest rate of HIV infection Categorizing in an individual into a certain diagnostic category can lead to a perception of a relationship between the individual and behavior consistent with that diagnosis Ingroup/outgroup effects Homogeneity effect = we tend to see members of outgroups as more similar to one another than we see the members of our own group. Sororities Women perceived more similarity between members in other sororities than within their own Lack individualizing information, so they considered them in terms of a group label and saw them all as similar to this identity Ingroup favoritism = the tendency to see one's own group as better on any number of dimensions and to allocate rewards to one's own gropu Minimum group paradigm Strangers are divided into arbitrary groups They behave as if those who share their meaningless label are their good friends or close kin Like those who share their label. THink they're more pleasant. Allocate more money and rewards to those who share their label. Constructive predictions and reconstructive memory Two important processes in social cognition Predicting our reactions to future events Remembering past events Remembering how certain outcomes will make us feel determines the goals we set and the risks we take Overestimate the emotional impact and durability of our reactions to these events We fail to recognize our powers of adjustment When we think about the future, we tend to focus only on the event in question Receiving tenure Assistant professors overestimated how happy or sad they would be after the tenure decision Reconstructive memory process = we cannot tap into a literal translation of past events, but rather we recreate our memories from bits and pieces of actual events filtered through and modified by our notions of what might have been, what should have, and what we would have liked to have been Leading questions = can influence judgement of facts and can affect the memory of what has happened Films depicting multi-car accident "How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?" "How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?" Estimated that the cars were going significantly faster In one slide, a green car drove past Asked, "did the BLUE car have a ski rack on top?" Later, Ps were more likely to claim incorrectly that they had seen a blue car Autobiographical memory Self-schemas = coherent memories, feelings, and beliefs about ourselves that hang together and form an integrated whole Memories get distorted so that they fit the general picture we have of ourselves Toothbrushing Ps received a persuasive message about the importance of frequent tooth brushing Those who received the message recalled that they brushed their teeth far more likely than did students in the control condition False memory syndrome = Being absolutely sure a memory happened, when it really didn't Recovered memory phenomenon = resurfacing of painful childhood memories, usually through intensive psychotherapy Majority of these aren't true May have been unintentionally implanted by therapists Cognitive conservatism = we try to preserve that which is already established (knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, stereotypes) Benefit: Allows us to perceive the social world as a coherent and stable place Costs: may cause us to distort events or to miss important information How to avoid negative consequences of cognitive conservativism 1. Be wary of those who attempt to create your categories and definitions of situations 2. Try to use more than one way to categorize and describe a particular person or event 3. Try to think of people and important events as unique 4. Consider the possibility that you might be mistaken Confirmation bias = the tendency to seek confirmation of initial impressions or beliefs We have a tendency to cling to preliminary guesses Introvert vs.extrovert Ps told that the person they were about to meet was an introvert or extrovery Ps sought to confirm their original hypotheses Asked questions that were related to being either introverted or extroverted Hindsight bias = once we know the outcome of an event, we have a strong tendency to believe that we could have predicted it in advance Do attitudes and beliefs guide behavior? Chinese stereotypes Storeowners said they wouldn't let Chinese people into their restaurants, but in reality they did let in most Chinese people There are usually only weak correlations between attitudes and behaviors Correspondent inference = the behavior of a person is explained in terms of an attribute or trait that is just like the behavior There is a common tendency to attribute the cause of an individual's behavior to characteristics of the individual Fidel Castro essays When the essay writers could choose a position freely, Ps assumed that the content of their essays reflect their attitudes When they weren't able to choose a position, Ps still assumed that the content reflected their attitudes Attitude accessibility = the strength of the association between an object and your evaluation of it Knee-jerk reactions to things Even if we don't really have an opinion of something, we still venture an opinion if asked Attitudes are used to interpret and perceive an object selectively and to make sense of a complex situation When an attitude is highly accessible, it is more likely to be the major things we use for defining a situation Measure of attitude accessibility = speed with which an individual can provide an evaluative response of an object or issue Ronald Reagan voting Those with highly accessible attitudes 5 months before the election were more likely to vote for their favored candidate and to perceive the presidential debates in a manner consistent with their attitudes Attitudes that are made accessible in this manner became predictive of subsequent behavior to a far greater extent than attitudes that are not made accessible Acting on perceptions Word puzzle game increased the accessibility of the concept hostility (saw names of hostile people) Read a description of an ambiguous person, then rated his level of hostility Contrast effects: those who were primed with hostile people rated Donald as less hostile than those who received gentle primes If they thought he was gentle, they played with far more cooperation If they thought he was hostile, they played in a very competitive manner Implicit theories of traits Those who see intelligence as fixed are apprehensive about failure Three possible biases in social explanation Fundamental attribution error = general human tendency to overestimate the importance of personality or dispositional factors relative to situational or environmental influences Correspondent influence = we tend to favor personality explanations over situational ones This leads us to believe that there is more consistency of motive and behavior in the world than there actually is Witnessing a reenactment of the Milgram experiment Ps estimated how many of Milgram's subjects would be obesient Ps underestimated the actual degree of obedience We lose sight of the fact that we play many social roles and that we might be observing only one of them Quiz show Quiz show in which Ps were randomly assigned to either questioner (prepared difficult questions) or contestant (tried to answer them) Ps had to estimate the questioner's and contestant's general knowledge By simpler asking questions, questioner looks smarter Actor-observer bias = the tendency for actor to attribute their own actions to situational factors, whereas observers tend to attribute the same actions to stable personality dispositions of the actors Explaining the world in dispositional vs. situational terms Examples Attributing one's own poor performance on a test to difficulty of the test, but others' poor performance in terms of their ability Think that people will continue acting in a similar manner in the future, but think that they would act differently Due to where a person's attention is focused Actor's attention is usually focused on the environment and on past history Observer's attention is almost always focused on the actor How to overcome this: promote empathy by role-playing the other's point of view Cultural exchange programs The self-biases Egocentric thought = the tendency to perceive themselves as more central to events than is actually the case Illusion of control Condition 1: Ps got lottery ticket numbers assigned to them Condition 2: Ps could pick their lottery ticket numbers Those who chose their own thought their tickets were more valuable (more likely to win) Spotlight effect Ps wore Barry Manilow t-shirt Overestimated the number of students who had noticed We imagine that the world is seeing us the way we see ourselves Barnum statement = a personality description vague enough to be true of almost anyone Most of us feel that a Barnum statement is a perfect description of us If it contains both positive and negative things, we can be swayed even more Phony personality test Fake personality feedback and results Described as either open- or closed-minded Their "new-found personality" influenced their subsequent behaviors We have a superior memory for information descriptive of the self When a person plays an active role in generating information, that information is better recalled There is superior memory for information that is related to the self Self-serving bias = a tendency for individuals to make dispositional attributions for their successes and situational attributions for their failures Examples Do well on test: ability and effort. Do badly: test was unfair or bad luck Gamblers perceive their successes as based on skill and their failures as fluke Married people think they do more than half of the housework People believe they are better than average at various things People accept credit for good scores but assign blame to partners for bad scores Explanation People are more aware of different information as actors and observers We're motivated to engage in attributions that protect and maintain our self-concepts and self-esteem Ego-defensive behavior = defending against things that are threats to positive self-view When do people use self-serving behvaviors? Person is highly motivated in the behavior Person feels responsible for the outcome of his or her action The person's behavior is publicly observed by others Least likely to do it when they think they can't get away with it What are the value of these? People try harder and persist longer to achieve difficult goals when they think that they're the cause of good things Allows losing teams to avoid being psychologically devastated by setbacks People who have near-death experiences have a new lease on life rather than being destroyed
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