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Lecture 4

PSYC12H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Cognitive Miser, Unintended Consequences, The Automatic


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC12H3
Professor
Michael Inzlicht
Lecture
4

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Reading The Self-Regulation of Intergroup Perception: Mechanisms and Consequences of Stereotype
Suppression
1) People make behavioural choices on the basis of their subjective interpretations of the people and
situations they encounter
2) Our interpretations of objective stimuli DOES NOT EQUAL the actual property of the stimuli
a) A source of this divergence between objectivity and subjectivity is the operation of inferential
process that use detectable characteristics of social stimuli to derive assumed characteristics
that are not readily apparent in the initial perceptual experience
i) E.g., stereotype
3) This paper explore the prospects for successfully avoiding stereotypic thinking
4) The Well-Intentioned cognitive Miser: Mental Dilemmas of Multicultural Societies
a) For many people living in modern societies, the notion of relying on stereotypes to judge others
has developed unpleasant connotations
b) A couple of reasons why stereotyping might appear appealing
i) Individuals can construct a superior image of their own social group
ii) Feel better about themselves
iii) Stereotypes can be used to explain and justify the existence of unequal resource
distributions between groups
iv) To conserve mental resources while still producing structured social impressions
v) Satisfying to perceivers because it confers a greater sense of predictability and orderliness
c) Cognitive miser a metaphor that captures the human tendency to ‘satisfice’ (satisfying the
minimum requirement) rather than optimize by engaging only in the amount of thought
necessary to produce an apparently adequate understanding of others
d) Several criteria for determining whether a metal process can be characterized as “automatic”
i) Occur without the perceiver’s conscious intent or awareness of them
ii) Without the perceiver’s ability to control them
iii) With an efficiency that requires little investment of the perceiver’s limited cognitive
resources
e) Most of the time, stereotypes had unintended effects that perceivers were seemingly unable to
prevent
f) The automatic effects are NOT limited to racial stereotypes
g) Stereotype activation can occur without awareness
h) People most readily categorize others in terms of their race are also the most likely to draw
stereotypic inferences about them
i) The nature of stereotyping is reinforced by the systematic information-processing biases that
contribute to the creation of an illusory mental database supporting stereotypic beliefs
i) Once stereotypic expectations are formed, they tend to bias subsequent information
processing in a confirmatory manner
ii) Stereotype-confirming information tends to be better remembered, whereas inconsistent
information is often neglected
iii) Stereotypic fantasies tend to be misremembered as facts

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iv) Perceivers may react to stereotyped targets in ways that elicit stereotype-confirming
behaviour
j) It is clear that many people have developed explicit egalitarian values that they want to embody
in their thoughts and actions, yet they have been socialized to hold stereotypic views and
prejudiced feelings toward many minority groups; ambivalence of race relations today
k) People that hold egalitarian values tend to become self-focused and direct effort at reducing the
discrepancy between their thoughts, feelings, or behaviours and their egalitarian, non-
prejudiced standards
l) Thus, for most people, there is a fundamental mental dilemma associated with intergroup
perception
5) Governing The Society of mind: Self-Regulation of Mental Processes
a) Cognitive self-regulation may involve a considerable degree of self-deception
b) Some people may suppress stereotype is by simply making direct adjustments to one’s
judgments and conclusions in the direction opposite to the presumed bias
c) A more ambitious perceiver might actively attempt to prevent the stereotypic biases from ever
entering into their deliberations, i.e., suppress their stereotypes
d) A common way for the operating process to achieve its goal is by seeking distracters from the
environment
e) In the case of mental control, there must be a process to monitor mental contents and a process
to operate on mental contents when an undesired thought is detected by the monitoring
process
i) Whereas the monitoring process is largely automatic and unconscious, the operating
process is considered to be effortful and conscious
ii) The operating process is resource-dependent, and can only work effectively when the
perceiver has sufficient attentional resources to devote to the task
iii) In contrast, the monitoring process can occur unimpeded by constraints on mental
resources
f) Research by Wegner suggests that the fact that the very nature of processes involved in mental
control make it likely that attempts at cognitive self-regulation will not only fail under many
circumstances, but also they will produce exactly the counterintentional outcome
6) The Best-Laid Plans of Misers and Men: Ironies of Cognitive Self-Control
a) Because of the resource-consuming nature of the operating process, efforts at mental control
are likely to fail unless cognitive resources are sufficiently plentiful to support the search for
distracters
b) The monitoring process also has an unintended consequence. The monitoring process has to
first “know” what it is looking for, and this paradoxically requires the continuous, low-level
activation of a relevant stereotype criterion
c) If the operating process is short-circuited, however, then the continuing operation of the
monitoring process may simply result in repeated priming of stereotypic concepts that are
ultimately not replaced by distracters
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d) In addition, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that the monitoring process is engaged in a
feature-positive search (i.e., detecting the presence of a specific feature) while the operating
process is engaged in a feature-negative search (i.e., finding an appropriate distracter)
i) The monitoring process is looking for the presence of a feature, and since feature-positive
searches are considered to be easier than feature-negative ones, the monitoring process is
executed with greater ease than the operating process
e) Study:
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