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Lecture 18

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McGill University
PSYC 215
Donald Taylor

PSYCH 215 Lecture Oct 17 Attribution Theory : when it comes to how we perceive social objects, social psychologists didn’t know how to do this. They didn’t know how to get behavior into the equation. How do we include behavior? Fritz Heider of the balance theory.  Wrote a paper about a man rowing a boat across the river, and people read it because Heider is well respected.  Enjoyed analysis of the guy. But so what? Sat like this for many years.  Several years letter he was resurrected leading to an explosion at least as big as cognitive dissonance.  What was so ground breaking and no one paid attention?  ANALYSIS: A rowboat is the only object where you’re facing the wrong way from where you’re going: what factors might influence whether or not the guy gets across successfully? Must have talent, must be motivated, need to know about the current o There are a bunch of factors that influence how the boat gets from one side to the other o Heider was bringing behavior into the equation of social judgments  Understanding = CAUSE o When we make judgments we are trying to understand, what makes them tick? o Heider- we are trying to understand another person o If we understand another person we can interact with them effectively, behaving a certain way- we know what to do about it. Are they coming to borrow money, to do a favor, to get closer to me? o All I see is their actions and what they’re doing. o What is it about them I’m trying to understand? Their BEHAVIOR. o We notice with time that we can simplify behavior, when we simplify we can study. o Scientists want to UNDERSTAND their universe/ or don’t live in. Want to know with confidence, the cause of the event. o As soon as we think we know someone is behaving the way they are, you feel you understand and are thus satisfied. We think we have the information that allows us to interact affectively. o We are like junior scientists. o Scientists look through thousands of variables and chose one to focus on: why are grade three kids not doing well o We: want to understand behavior of everyone (even if you don’t know the other person)- EX. how do you do a long distance relationship? They skype. o Whenever confronted with behavior all day long, not only when it’s directed towards me, I want to understand. o But we don’t have time or energy to be a scientist with every interaction- thus we make judgments and causal explanations. EX. I know what caused her to be nice, caused be me… or it might be caused by her being nice to everyone even if I’m a loser. o So we do lots of shortcuts, and we often make judgments with not enough data… the important thing is we think we know the cause.  Possible causes o Whenever we’re confronted by behavior, I’m going to be thinking what are the possible causes? o Make a list of possibilities and assume it’s a certain one o She may be positive towards me: I’m a great guy, she wants a letter of recommendation, she feels pity for me for being a loser FOCUS or arrive at the decision o We don’t have the time to exhaust all the possibilities: must decide right away. o If you’re wrong interaction will go badly, I will start behaving in ways that will turn her off, the misunderstanding of the causes leads to different expectations and will not be an effective interaction. o Internal/ external  Instead of thinking of multiple causes: I can take any behavior and list numerous and be able to divide into two- internal and external  The guy rowing the boat: talent, motivation- INTERNAL- in rower  External- how much current in the water. He doesn’t control this. Hurdle he must overcome. Not his fault.  Fundamental distinctions: internal vs. external  Suppose guy is going to see his love on the other side, he is the cause of not getting there: he doesn’t love her enough  External- he loves her to death and is rowing his heart out, but it’s the current!!  So is it internal or external? o Stable/ unstable  Stable: the guy isn’t very strong, yes he could bulk up and may be strong enough to row, but as far as we can see, his strength is stable  Unstable: how hard he is trying. Lazy or motivated? We value certain things but this is unstable. Do we try hard or just coast?  The wind= unstable. It changes hour by hour. Or it could be steady wind.  If something is stable and external like wind, that’s a hurdle I must overcome no matter when I chose to do it. Can’t wait to the evening, if it is stable there will be wind regardless of time. o Internal stable, internal unstable, external stable, ex
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