Social Cognition-How we think about ourselves and our social world (select, interpret, remember)
Theories in modern social psychology focus on how we think about the social situation so they can
understand why the social environment has a focus on us.
Most theories which have had a large impact have a strong cognitive focus, people before didn’t want to do
anything with the ‘black box’ (our mind). Behaviorists focused on how the environment brought a change to
The influence of cognition and processing models on the study of human behaviour is still used quite
Social psychologists want to learn about subjective experience (how people make sense of events), not just
interested in behaviour but also how we think and feel.
Schemas-Mental structures that people use to organize their knowledge about the world.
Schemas for objects (table, fruit, cars)
Schemas for psychological constructs (love, aggression)
We also have them for ourselves and people. (self-what we like/dislike/who we are.
Others-What they like/dislike/eg. Stereotypes)
Social psychologists are interested in schemas because they influence what we notice, think about and
remember from the social world.
Function-Reduce the amount of information, they help us understand new situations with minimal
information (ambiguity). Fills in the blanks (going on a first date, what to expect). They have a stronger
influence when more ambiguous. Provides continuity, makes possible to relate new to old.
Application-Using schemas as memory guides, how we select depends on accessibility (how often they are
brought to the forefront of the mind) If accessible more likely to use. Priming (process where recent
experiences make certain schemas more accessible.
Priming-Researchers have done studies where it examines how environmental cues can prime social
Williams and Bargh
Hypotheses: Experience of warmth will activate feelings of interpersonal warmth and will then affect peoples
judgments of feelings towards others. (tough cup of hot vs cold coffee; told they were going to being study
after they held the coffee but in reality the study had already started, they then read about a hypothetical
person who they described and asked if they were warm or cold.
Independent Variable: 2 conditions: hot vs cold
Dependent Variable: The impression of the hypothetical person
Hypotheses: Experience of warm will activate feelings of interpersonal warmth
Results-Did affect, not general mood, specific to the study
Concept-Feelings of warmth/cold affects interpretation.
Williams and Bargh
Asked to hold therapeutic pads as part of product testing (hot and cold), given reward for doing the study
Independent Variable: Warm vs cold pad
Dependent Variable: Choice to have reward for self or for someone else
Results: Warm pad more likely to give away, cold pad more likely to keep
Concept: People with warm pad more likely to be more giving
Bargh, Chen and Burrows
Hypotheses: Social behaviour is capable of automatic activation by presence of features in environment
Independent Variable: 2 short studies on language ability. Scrambled sentence task, there were 3 word
scrambles (rude, polite, neutral)
They were then asked to find experimenter in other room to finish the study and the experimenter was talking
to someone else. Tested to see how long it took them to interrupt them.
Dependent Variable-number of seconds it took before interrupting
Results: Participants with rude category took significantly less time to interrupt.
Concept: People with rude surroundings tent to act with them more. Study 2:
Scrambled word task again.
Independent variable: 2 choices, elderly or neutral.
They were then debriefed but they study wasn’t done, they wanted to see how long it took them to walk
down the hall
Dependent: Number of seconds it took to walk down the hall
Results: Participants with elderly scramble had a slower walking speed than with neutral words.
Therefore, this is an automatic activation of schemas, effects were not conscious, outside of participants
This is important because it shows even with best intentions, how we think, feel and behave is influenced by
how we organize our world in our mind.
Schemas are NOT tangible (capable of being touched); They come from experience (direct or observation),
schemas are not set once they are developed.
Persistence of schemas: Perseverance effect: Peoples beliefs about themselves and social world persist
despite other evidence.
Ross, Lepper and Hubbard:
Examined perseverance effect, participants are given 25 cards of fictitious or real suicide notes.
Independent Variable: False feedback, told they are above/below average in judging if suicide notes are
All participants go through same stack and are told if they were ‘right’. In above average people are told
24/25 times that they were right. In below average they were told that 10/25 times they were right. Told
average was 16, they were then told all responses were fake.
Dependent: Participants are asked how many times they actually thought they were right and how many
times they would guess right on another equally difficult test
Results: All above average were more likely to say they did better than actual accuracy and to say they
would be better at a similar future task vs. below average.
Therefore, people held onto schemas even after disproving evidence (telling them feedback is fake)
Concept: People hold onto schemas even after disproving evidence given
Self-Fulfilling prophecy: Person A has expectation of person B therefore influences how person A acts
towards person B, cause person B to act in the way that person A expected, confirms beliefs of person A.
(Customers in suits are better tippers, server offers poor service to person in jeans, gets worse tip)
Rosenthal and Jacobson
Teachers were told some students are “bloomers”
Independent Variable: Students randomly assigned to either bloomers or other students
Hypotheses: Teachers expectations will subtly influence behaviour towards bloomers to get them to have a
higher IQ at the end of the year
Dependent Variable: Watched to see if bloomers had higher IQ at the end of the year
Results: Bloomers displayed increase in IQ vs. the other students
Concept: Self-fulfilling prophecy is true
We take shortcuts by using schemas to fill in the blanks, we also take shortcuts by making judgments and
we like to assume we always make the best choices which isn’t always true
Heuristics-These are mental shortcuts we use to make judgments quickly and efficiently, but not always the
best choice. (availability heuristic=where people base a judgment by how easily they can bring something to
the forefront of their mind)
Schwartz et al.
Independent Variable #1: Ease of generating instances. Asked to generate 6 instances (easy). Asked to
generate 12 instances (difficult)
Independent Variable #2: Trait (assertive, unassertive)
2X2 Factorial Design
Easy Difficult Assertive List 6 instances when you were List 12 instances when you
assertive were assertive
Unassertive List 6 instances when you were List 12 instances when you
unassertive were unassertive
Dependent Variable: Self ratings of assertiveness
You may think that the person who found more instances where they were assertive to think that they are
assertive ‘hey look how many I found, look how assertive I am’
Results: People in easy were more likely to make matching trait rating (more assertive in the assertive/easy
condition; less assertive in the unassertive/easy condition. Reverse pattern occurred for difficult conditions.
People who had to list 6 found it easy to find 6, therefore evidence for availability heuristic.
Representative Heuristic: Mental shortcut where people classify something according to how similar it is to
a typical case. Similarity in one aspect leads to similarity in other aspects, people tend to rely on this and
ignore other base facts (voting; you want someone who is good for the environment, you see them taking bus
and vote and you disregard other information)
Dan Gilbert-Talked about making decisions and although we like to make the best choices we don’t always
do so. He addressed decision making errors by humans: (error of odds (availability heuristic); errors of
Causes of and reactions to violence can be studied scientifically. A lot of the examples may seem o