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Attribution and Social Cognition

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University of Alberta
Jeff Schimel

Attribution and social cognition Ex) Michael Jackson – did he marry because of love or because of allegations that he was molesting children? ← Ex) Casey Anthony – there are different ways of interpreting her behavior ← Ex) Who concert disaster – what caused it? • People excited, disorganized, mob mentality, security guards blocking doors, drugs/alcohol, cold temperature, too few ticket takers ← The types of accusations you make in these cases affects how you judge people and their actions. ← ← 3 FACTORS THAT AFFECT SOCIAL PERCEPTION (how we perceive other people) ← 1) CHARACTERISTICS OF THE TARGET • Physical features o Ex) tall people – belief that if you’re taller, you’ll make a better leader (ex: in presidential campaigns) o Ex) facial features – people with glasses are perceived to be smarter. People with baby faces are seen as being more honest, trustworthy and innocent. o Pittinger and Shaw  Added wrinkles to people’s faces. The more wrinkles they added, the more that person was thought of as wise.  We associate wisdom with age ← 1) CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PERCEIVER • The Schema: the ideas we carry about what people are like based on our view of the world. Learned knowledge structure based on our past experiences that helps us interpret new experiences • The Stereotype: schemas that we have about members of certain groups and what traits they possess ← 3) INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONTEXT • Hieder (1958) – Attributions theory o Rational model where people look at the situation and try to make rational judgments as to why people would behave the way they do o Demonstrates how we go from observing people’s behavior to coming up with causes o Attributions: the causes we generate for people’s behavior  Can be grouped in different ways  LOCUS OF CAUSALITY • Internal – coming from within the person (ex: people who go to concerts tend to be more rowdy and prone to behavior) • External – coming from outside the person (ex: Who concert disaster was due to the cold weather)  STABILITY OF CAUSE • Stable – constant/always there • Unstable – varies over time ← EXAMPLE: ← ← Tina says “I studied hard” ← Simon says “I’m brilliant” ← Ted says “Dude, I totally guessed on every question” ← Stacy says “That exam was so easy, what a joke” ← Unstable Stable Internal Tina (effort attributioSimon (ability attribution) External Ted (luck attributes) Stacy (difficulty attribution) ← ← EXAMPLE #1: ← Fred gets into a fight at a bar. If you look at his past behavior and he always gets into fights, you would probably make an internal stable attribution (ex: he’s hotheaded). If Fred only gets into fights when he drinks, you’d make a more external stable attribution (ex: so long as he doesn’t drink, he’ll be fine. ← ← EXAMPLE #2: Concerning O.J. Simpson ← If you make an internal attribution judgment, you might be more compelled to give a harsh sentence. The opposite is true if you make a more external judgment. ← ← Graham, et al., 1997 ← Participants asked to indicate how harsh a sentence OJ Simpson should get and why. ← ← Whites = internal attributions—harsher sentence ← ← Blacks = external attributions—lesser sentence ← ← If you identify with someone, you’re more likely to take their side and justify it by making external attributions. ← ← Kelley’s Covariation principle: ← In order for an attribute to be the cause of behavior, it has to be present when the behavior occurs and not present when it doesn’t appear. ← ← 3 kinds of covariation ← ← 1. Consensus ← 2. Distinctiveness ← 3. Consistency ←
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