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Joe Kim (987)
Lecture 17

Lecture 17 Forming Impressions Detailed Note.docx

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McMaster University
Joe Kim

1 Psychology Lecture 17: Forming Impressions Introduction  It is difficult to accurately attribute intentions to observed actions because for every observed behaviour, there are many possible motivating factors  An important concept that was encountered in memory was the idea of attribution  How do we assign cause and effect to a given circumstance? Attribution Theories  You can gain a lot of information about a person by simply observing her behaviour  However, how you ultimately interpret the behaviour may lead you to form an impression that may or may not accurately reflect the circumstances  Is the observed behaviour due to a personality trait that is fixed or the present situation the person is currently faced with?  Ex. You are in a supermarket and observe a child and mother engaged in a shouting match o This is clearly a behaviour indicating conflict, but the broader question is “why is this happening?” o You could attribute the mother’s behaviour to mean that she is generally an impatient person or perhaps because she has been too busy lately to get enough sleep so she is irritated  Whether you immediately express it or not you have made an automatic judgement about this person that will influence how you think, feel and behave towards her  Correspondent Inference Theory o Jones and Davis’ inference theory o According to it, you actively analyze a person’s behaviour to make inferences based on three variables  Degree of choice  To understand why a person is behaving in a particular way, it helps to know if he chose to act in the observed behaviour in question  Ex. Imagine that you are in a philosophy class that is debating the ethics of the death penalty and one of your colleagues is arguing strongly in support of the death penalty  If you knew that he had chosen to be on the team that was arguing in support of the issue, you may infer that he truly believed in his message  However, if you knew that people had been randomly assigned to the different sides of the argument, you would have much less basis to make such an inference  Expectation  Considers how expected a particular behaviour is 2  Uncommon behaviour gives us a lot more information than common behaviour  If someone behaves in a way typical to what you would expect from them, you do not have an reason to infer an underlying cause to their behaviour  Intended consequences of the behaviour  What is the motivation behind the behaviour  If you watched a commercial that advocated lower smoking levels which you knew was sponsored by a tobacco company, you may suspect that the motivation behind this message was driven by a hidden goal  Perhaps the company’s real goal is to look like a caring corporate citizen  You would probably not develop the same suspicion if you heard your sister advocating the same position  Covariation Theory o Kelley’s theory predicts how you determine if a given behaviour is due to an individual’s personal disposition or the situation and circumstances o Three variables are considered to determine if a behaviour is dispositional or situational (consider the example in which Chris is having trouble getting his computer to work, is this the problem due to Chris or the computer itself?)  Consistency  Does the individual usually behave this way in this situation?  If the answer is yes, we can continue to seek an explanation for this behaviour (dispositional)  In this case, you might ask, is Chris usually unable to get his computer to work?  Distinctiveness  Does the individual behave differently in different situations?  If yes, then the given behaviour is probably driven by the situation (situational)  If no, then the given behaviour is probably driven by his disposition (dispositional)  In this case, you might ask, does Chris have trouble with other computers or just this one?  If Chris has trouble with every computer, the current problem is likely due to a factor on his end  If he only has trouble with this particular computer, then it may be a problem specific to his machine  Consensus  Do others behave similarly in this situation? 3  If yes, then the behaviour is probably due to situational factors because everyone’s behaviour is similarly influenced by this situation  If no, then the different behaviours observed in a given situation are likely due to each individual’s particular disposition  In this case, you might ask, do other people have trouble with Chris’ computer or is it just him?  If everyone has trouble with this computer, it’s likely due to a problem specific to his computer The Fundamental Attribution Error  When you are trying to interpret the underlying cause of behaviours in others, you often overestimate the role of dispositional factors and underestimate the role of situational factors  Ex. Imagine you are driving in rush-hour traffic and get cut off by another car o Do you think to yourself “what a terrible driver!” or maybe “that’s OK, I understand. He’s probably late for a meeting” o Like most people, you would more likely explain his behaviour by assuming he is an aggressive and inconsiderate driver, rather than considering the stress and challenges that come with heavy traffic  Definition o Your tendency to over-value dispositional factors, while under-valuing situational factors  The term was coined by psychologist Ross, who presented an influential argument for the place of FAE in social psychology  Actor-Observer Effect o You are more vulnerable to making the fundamental attribution error when determining the causes of behaviours of others rather than your own behaviour o When attributing the cause of your own behaviour, you are much more aware of situational influences o This difference is called “actor-observer effect” o In general, you as the actor are better aware of the many situational factors contributing to your own behaviour, but when you observe others, you only have the current situation at hand, so you assume the individual’s behaviour is representative of what would typically be observed o Consider study by Harre and colleagues in which young drivers are asked to explain the reasons for their own and their friends’ risky driving behaviour o Although teenagers were more likely to attribute their own risky driving to situational factors, such as being in a hurry or feeling pressure from peers, they were more likely to attribute their friends’ risky driving behaviours to personal factors, such as having fun or showing off o You consider the situational factors of your own behaviour 4  Cultural Differences o FAE seems to be influenced by culture o Ex. Miller examined how likely American and Indian children and adults were to attribute negative behaviour to dispositional or situational factors  Results showed that American 8 and 11 year olds attributed behaviour to personal and situational causes about equally  Indian children have a tendency to attribute behaviour to situational causes somewhat more than personal causes by the time they were 11 years old  Striking differences emerge in comparing the two older groups  Americans tend to make more attributions to personal/dispositional factors than situational factors which continues to increase into adulthood  In contrast, Indian tendencies moved in the opposite direction  Indian 15 year olds and adults made more attributions to situational factors than to personal/dispositional factors o This data suggests that there are cultural differences in the fundamental attribution error o Comparisons with other differing cultures have shown similar results o Morris and Peng compared attributions made by Chinese and American graduate students and newspapers  Compared to the Chinese, the American students and newspapers were more likely to make the fundamental attribution error  Generally, the FAE is diminished in collectivist societies where there is less focus on individual behaviour and more focus on relationships and roles within society  In individualist cultures, societies focus more on the individual themselves  Therefore, observational studies have shown that American Olympic gold medal winners are more likely to attribute their gold winning performance to their determination and talent, while Japanese gold medal winners are more likely to attribute their performance to the success of the coaching team and organization  The US has an increased probability of making FAE, while China has a decreased probability of making FAE  Self Serving Bias o A special case of misattribution o Refers to your tendency to perceive yourself favourable o The FAE and A-OE can lead to examples of a self-serving bias in specific context which can lead to errors o One of these is the ”above average effect”  Causes you to identify dispositional causes for your successes, but situational causes for your failures, giving you an exaggerated view of your abilities 5  Ex. If you won at a game of cards, you may identify personal strategy as a big contributor to yo
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