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PSY220H1 Lecture Notes - Fundamental Attribution Error, Cognitive Load

Course Code
Jason Plaks

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“Why did that person
do that?”
Foundation for more
complex human behavior
(e.g., altruism,
Perception (objects or people):
The phenomenology : one-to-one
correspondence between “what I see” and
“what is out there” (i.e., “feelssimple, direct,
& accurate).
The reality : Perception is not simple,
involves many steps, and is often inaccurate
(though it is generally lawful ).

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Unconscious inferences from built-in
assumptionsfill in the gaps.
Without such assumptions, we would have a
difficult time making sense of the world.
BUT: They can sometimes lead to mistakes,
Person perception is like object perception in
some key ways, different in others.
HEIDER and the Logical/ Attributional
Heider (1958): The inferential processes by
which we understand people based on their
behaviour/appearance are similar to how we
understand objects based on their
motion/appearance .
What do they have in common? Basic
principles of causal analysis.

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3. Attribution extracts dispositions from
People have the implicit understanding
that behaviour often reflects
When people see someone act they
perform an additional step of attribution
that establishes a causal link between
behaviour and disposition.
Principles of Causal Inference
(according to Heider, 1958)
1. Attribution is vital and pervasive. It lends
meaning and order to what would otherwise be
a chaotic array of stimuli.
2. Behaviours express stable dispositions.
Behaviour is a “medium for the transmission of
psychological characteristics.
Heiders approach described what people should do , if
operating optimally.
Accuracy” not measured by comparing subjects’ ratings
to scientific measurement (e.g., on a trait dimension).
Research has been aimed at:
Development of the rules of inferential logic (what
people should do).
Empirical testing of when people do and do not
follow such rules (what people do do ).
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