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Lecture 13

PSYC 1002 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Fundamental Attribution Error, Robert Sternberg, Social Perception

Course Code
PSYC 1002
Kim O' Neil

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Chapter 13: Social Behaviour
Social Psychology
Social psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the way individuals’ thoughts,
feelings, and behaviours are influenced by others. The text focuses on the above six broad topics
in social psychology.
Person perception
Attribution processes
Interpersonal attraction
Conformity and obedience
Behaviour in groups
Person Perception: Forming Impressions of Others
Perceptions of others can be influenced by a variety of factors, including physical appearance.
People tend to attribute desirable characteristics such as sociable, friendly, poised, warm,
competent, and well-adjusted to those who are good looking. Research on physical variables in
person perception indicate that facial features that are similar to infant features influence
perceptions of honesty (baby-faced people being viewed as more honest).
Effects of physical appearance
Cognitive schemas
-People use social schemas, organized clusters of ideas about categories of social events and
people, to categorize people into types.
- Stereotyping is a normal cognitive process involving widely held social schemas that lead
people to expect that others will have certain characteristics because of their membership in
a specific group. Gender, age, ethnic, and occupational stereotypes are common.
Prejudice and discrimination
-Prejudice is a negative attitude toward a person because of group membership, while
discrimination is an action. Memory biases are tilted in favour of confirming people’s
prejudices. Transmission of prejudice across generations occurs in part due to observational
learning and may be strengthened through operant conditioning.
Subjectivity in person perception
- Person perception is a subjective process. Stereotypes may lead people to see what they
expect to see and to overestimate how often they see it (illusory correlation).
Evolutionary perspective
-Evolutionary psychologists argue that many biases in person perception were adaptive in
our ancestral past; for example, automatically categorizing others may reflect the primitive
need to quickly separate friend from foe. Further evidence for the subjectivity of social
perception is shown in the spotlight effect, or the tendency to assume that the social
spotlight shines more brightly on them than it actually does. Research on the illusion of
asymmetric insight, or the tendency to think that one’s knowledge of one’s peers is greater
than peer knowledge of oneself, also supports the subjectivity of person perception.
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Attribution Processes: Explaining Behaviour
Attributions are inferences that people draw about the causes of events, others’ behaviour, and
their own behaviour: Why did your friend turn down your invitation? Why did you make an A on
the test?
-Internal vs. external
-Internal attributions ascribe the causes of behaviour to personal dispositions, traits,
abilities, and feelings. External attributions ascribe the causes of behaviour to situational
demands and environmental constraints.
Biases in attributions
People tend to be biased in the way they make attributions, research indicates.
-Fundamental attribution error
-The fundamental attribution error is an observers bias in favour of internal attributions in
explaining others’ behaviour. In general, we are likely to attribute our own behaviour to
situational causes and others’ behaviour to dispositional causes.
-Defensive attribution
-The tendency to blame victims for their misfortune, so that one feels less likely to be
victimized in a similar way.
-Self-serving bias
-The self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute one’s success to personal factors and
one’s failure to situational factors.
Cultural influences
Research indicates that there are cultural influences on attributional tendencies, with
individualistic emphasis in Western cultures promoting the fundamental attribution error and the
self-serving bias.
-Individualism vs. collectivism
Close Relationships: Liking and Loving
Key factors in attraction
-Physical attractiveness
-Matching hypothesis
-Romantic ideals
Perspectives on love
-Hatfield & Berscheid – passionate vs. companionate love
-Berscheid and Hatfield have distinguished between passionate and companionate love,
with passionate love being a complete absorption in another that includes tender sexual
feelings and the agony and ecstasy of intense emotion. Companionate love is warm,
trusting, tolerant affection for another whose life is deeply intertwined with one’s own.
These may coexist, but not necessarily. Cultures vary in their emphasis on passionate
love as a prerequisite for marriage.
-Sternberg – intimacy and commitment
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