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lecture notes

Course Code
Jason Plaks

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Thus far:
Stimulus ๎€ Behavior
Social cognition:
Stimulus ๎€ Cognitive, affective, ๎€๎€‚
motivational mechanisms
What are the building blocks of social thought?
Social cognition (borrowing heavily from cognitive
psychology) has become the dominant paradigm in social
psych in the past 20 years.
Concept: A unit of knowledge (usually about a
What do concepts do?:

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1. Reduce the amount of processing we need to do when
there is too much information available.
2. Add information when there is too little available.
3. Guide attention, interpretation.
The procedure is actually quite simple.
First, you arrange things into different
groups. Of course, one pile may be sufficient
depending on how much there is to do. If
you have to go somewhere else due to lack of
facilities, that is the next step; otherwise
you are pretty well set. It is important not
to overdo things. That is, it is better to do
too few things at once than too many. In the
short run this may not seem important, but
complications can easily arise. A mistake
can be expensive as well. At first, the whole
procedure will seem complicated. Soon,
however, it will become just another facet of
life. It is difficult to foresee any end to the
necessity for this task in the immediate
future, but then one can never tell. After
the procedure is completed, one arranges the
materials into different groups again. Then
they can be put into their appropriate

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places. Eventually they will be used once
more, and the whole cycle will then have to
be repeated. However, that is part of life.
Results of Bransford & Johnson (1973):
# ideas recalled
No instructions:
Washing clothes (before reading):
Washing clothes (after reading):
Bottom line: Category guides your interpretation and aids
in comprehension.
Different concepts applied to the same stimulus input can
lead to dramatically different interpretations & behavior:
a)e.g., features of a house from the perspective of
homebuyer vs. burglar.
b) e.g., Man crying (did a loved one die or did he win
the lottery?
c)Ambiguous behavior of African-American vs.
Caucasian person.
Duncan (1976):
White subjects watched videotape of two men in a
discussion. The discussion gets heated. They begin
shouting. One man shoves the other.
At this point, the tape is stopped, and subjects are asked to
characterize what just happened.
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