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Social Psychology: Chapter 5

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University of Guelph
PSYC 2310
Saba Safdar

Chapter 5: Social Cognition Automatic Thinking – a type of decision-making process that occurs at an unconscious or automatic level and is entirely effortless and unintentional Heuristics – mental shortcuts that are often used to form judgments and make decisions Controlled or Effortful Thinking – thinking that is effortful, conscious, and intentional Social Cognition – how people think about the social world, and in particular how people select, interpret, and use information to make judgments about the world Intuition: Decision making short cut in which we rely on our instinct instead of relying on more objective information -Most common short cut we use for decision making - Not reliable when coming to factual decisions (ie: tests, making predictions etc) - Study done about the people who make a living on commenting on political or economic events (ie: predicting the next elected party into power) 284 people in this study each were asked about current events and their predictions and assessed their accuracy predictions for the next 20 yrs for these people were studied results: no more accurate than a non-professional (Tetlock, 2005) - Study done on intro psych midterms for over 1500 students researchers counter # of times students erased answers how it affected their grade 51% changed wrong to right 25% changed right to wrong 23% changed wrong to wrong results: first instinct on multiple choice test isn’t always the best idea (Wirtz and Miller, 2005) Availability Availability heuristic – mental shortcut in which people made a judgment based on how easily they can bring something to mind -Availability heuristics explains why people are worried about things they shouldn’t be ie: parents worry about their children being kidnapped or catching SARS - this information is readily available in media whereas more logical things like their kid not wearing a helmet while biking is far more realistic to be worried about - Availability of heuristics involves automatic processing and uses little cognitive effort Downside: sometimes people make judgmental errors as a result - Controlled cognitive processing is slower and time consuming Advantage: reduces errors ie: Nuclear power plant explosion in Japan, March 2011 worldwide concern of radiation contaminated food from Japan this fear was realistic in Northern Japan, but not in Canada Canadians who relied on available heuristic probably avoided Japanese food for a while where as Canadians who engaged in controlled cognitive processing probably ate no more or no less Japanese food than normal (Winnipeg Free Press, 2011) Impact of Past Experiences: Schemas – mental structures that organize our knowledge about the world and influence how we interpret people and events - Schemas are one factor that leads us to use availability heuristics - Recent experience in particular increase availability which influences our judgments more (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996) - Study done with men & sexist or non sexist words towards women, then interviewed women and rated their competence for a job Results: men who were exposed to sexist words rated the women they interviewed less competent in comparison to the men who were exposed to non sexist words *Even subtle factors can have an impact (Rudman & Borgida, 1995) - Schemas allow us to categorize information around us in an efficient manner Person Schemas – beliefs about other people, their traits and goals [stereotypes are a type of person schemas] Self Schemas – our memory, inferences, and information about ourselves Role Schemas – behaviours that are expected of people in particular occupations or social positions Event Schemas – scripts that people have for well-known situations, which help them prepare for the expected sequence of events Content-free Schemas – rules about processing information, logical formulations about how contents are related The Role of Unconscious Priming Priming – increase accessibility to a given concept or schema due to a prior experience Radel, Sarrazin, & Pelletier, 2009: Participants thought they were participating in two experiments, one with psych and one with physiology 1 they were shown pictures (memory task) but before each picture there was 45 millisceonds of the word of the picture other participants did not have this priming results showed that the subjects with the priming did better - The amount of information we can bring to mind about a given event contributes to the availability effect - Receiving incomplete information can lead to biases in decision making Typically we receive incomplete information from friends or family members, they want to protect us and tend to sugar coat things. Representativeness tendency to perceive someone or something based on its similarity to a typical case - in some cases representativeness can lead to the correct answers, in others we can make errors ie: If you were asked “is an ostrich a bird?” you might take longer to respond than if you were asked “is a robin a bird?” this is because an ostrich doesn’t fit the stereotype of a bird Base-Rate Fallacy an error in which people ignore the numerical frequency, or base rate, of an event in estimating how likely it is to occur - errors in both availability and representative heuristics occur because of this -explains why people are afraid of dying in a plane crash, but they don’t think twice about getting in a car when car accidents are much more frequent. Plane crashes are highly publicized and therefore more readily available and salient to our minds - Reliance on base-rate fallacy can lead to unwise decisions - also explains errors made during representative heuristics - if you are told conservative man likes math puzzles and spends his time alone, you assume he’s an engineer not a lawyer. If you are told there is a group of men who like this, 70% are lawyers and 30% are engineers, you still assume this man is an engineer when logically there is a higher chance of him being a lawyer. This is because his description matches our image of an engineer rather a lawyer. Anchoring and Adjustment mental shortcut in which people rely on an initial starting point in making an estimate but then fail to adequately adjust from this anchor - it has been found that even though peoples initial anchor is obviously wrong they don’t adjust it - peoples anchoring can be beneficial in some way Janiszewski & Uy 2008: Home sellers get higher prices when they provide a precise number instead of a rounded one (ie: $252, 500 vs. $250,000) Why? Because when negotiating, if presented with a round number the increments of the price go down in larger round numbers. Whereas a more precise number makes people think in smaller increments. This leads to the house selling closer to the asking price Counterfactual Thinking/Simulation tendency to imagine alternative outcomes to various events - Accessibility cues not only influence our judgments and decisions about the world, but also our reactions to various events. - This can influence how one experiences certain events (either positively or negatively) - The easier it is to image a certain income the more it will influence us - Explains why people who feel that they could have “undone” a negative event experience more distress; enhances grief - The desire not to feel this regret caused by counterfactual thinking can also influence our behaviour & make us less likely to act at all - People with high self-esteems who had good outcomes more easily exaggerated their contribution to the outcome - People with low self-esteem who had a bad outcome more easily exaggerated their contribution to the outcome - Counterfactual thinking can make people feel better about themselves if they have na
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