PSY220H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Illusory Correlation, Three Steps, Fundamental Attribution Error

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Published on 25 Jan 2013
Lecture 3: Social Perception & Beliefs
January 24th, 2013
How we think about our social world
How we make judgments about the social world
How we explain the social world
Expectations of the social world
Social Cognition
How people think about themselves and the social world; more specifically, how people select,
interpret, remember, and use social information to make judgments and decisions
Two types
o Automatic thinking
Quick, effortless, non-conscious, unintentional, involuntary
o Controlled thinking
Conscious, intentional, voluntary, and effortful
Requires mental energy
One purpose is to check automatic thinking, i.e. when unusual events occur
Thought Suppression and Ironic Processing
The attempt to avoid thinking about something a person would prefer to forget
o Tired or preoccupied
Thought suppression consists of 2 processes
o Automatic: monitoring process
Searches for evidence that the unwanted thought is going to intrude on consciousness
(i.e. you are about to think about it)
o Controlled: operating process
Attempts to distract you by finding something else to think about
They act in tandem
o First the automatic, then the controlled
But, when you are tired or preoccupied, you cannot engage in the controlled part
o The automatic process runs wild
State of hyper-accessibility
Automatic Thinking - Schemas
Mental structures people use to organize their knowledge about the social world around themes or
subjects and that influence the information people notice, think about, and remember
Implicit Personality Theories
o A type of schema people use to group various kinds of personality traits together
o Personality traits that go together
A kind person is also generous
A nervous person is also shy
“What is beautiful is good”- tendency to think that attractive people are good people,
smart, funny, etc.
Multiple schemas for explaining behaviour- to make judgments about people and their behaviour
o Which one will be used?
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Most likely the most accessible schema
Ex. Sitting on transit and the man sitting next to you begins to behave strangely; how do
you explain their behaviour?-depends on accessibility (more likely to be brought to mind
and form basis of judgment)
o The extent to which schemas and concepts are at the forefront of people’s minds and are
therefore likely to be used when making judgments about the social world
o Two kinds
Chronic accessibility-based on repeated past experiences; present in forefront of mind
due to repeated experiences in the past
Temporary accessibility (priming)
Chronically Accessible
o Based on past experience
o Constantly active (i.e. at the forefront of the mind)
o Readily available to interpret ambiguous situations
Ex. History of alcoholism or mental illness in family may influence how you explain
behaviour of the man on the bus
Temporarily Accessible Schemas
o Not usually accessible (i.e. at the forefront of the mind)
o Something happens to bring that schema to the forefront of mind (i.e. something primes that
schema)- i.e. learning about psychological disorders recently and then associating those with
your own behaviour
Ex. Something you were thinking about or doing before the event you are trying to
Ex. Reading a book that featured either mental illness or alcoholism just before the man
next to you began to behave strangely
Priming- bringing a schema to the forefront of the brain
The process by which recent experiences increase a schema or trait’s accessibility
Used in a lot of social psychological studies
o Ex. Higgins, Rholes, & Jones (1977)
Ss memorized a list of positive and negative words
Then as a ‘separate’ study they read a story about “Donald” who is in search of a
new excitement in his life
What were their impressions of Donald?
Ss who memorized adventurous, self-confident, persistent formed a positive
Ss who memorized reckless, conceited, aloof formed a negative impression
Automatic Thinking - Availability Heuristic
Availability Heuristic
o Perseverance effect schemas difficult to change because we come up with some sort of
rationale for it
o A mental rule of thumb whereby people base a judgment on the ease with which they can bring
something to mind
o Mental short cuts that allow us to make decisions
Ex. “is Michael an assertive person?”
It can lead to accurate judgments
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