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PSY220H1 Lecture Notes - Eyewitness Identification, Cognitive Miser, Hindsight Bias

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William Huggon

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Psy 220 chapter 3: thinking about people
Categorization: the process of recognizing and identifying something.
Social cognition: the study of how information about people is processed and stored.
Schemas: mental representations of objects or categories, which contain the central
features of the object or category as well as assumptions about how the object or
category works.
Relation schemas: People also have schemas for specific interpersonal interactions,
such as how doctors and patients are supposed to interact.
Concepts: schemas or concepts contain the principal features of the object or category,
as well as simple assumptions or theories about how the object or category functions.
this process is virtually instantaneous and effortless for distinctive objects like iPods.
Child’s early learning involves the formation of schemas. An important goal of the
educational system is to expand students’ knowledge of schemas, including some very
specialized schemas.
Categorization: basic function of schemas is to categorize objects in ways that impose
meaning and predictability.
This process occurs automatically and effortlessly with the majority of things we
encounter everyday.
Categorization imposes meaning on the world. When we categorize something, we
assume that it possesses the characteristics of the schema even if we cannot perceive
those characteristics directly.
Categorization allows us to form impression and make decisions quickly and efficiently,
without having to think carefully about every object we encounter.
It also allows us to make assumptions about objects and to direct our attention to those
aspects of the environment that are most important.
Nevertheless, categorization is a necessary and effective process, especially for
inanimate objects.
Schemas not only impose meaning on the world, they also influence how information is
Schemas influence the interpretations of information. Typically, their effect will be that
ambiguous information is interpreted in accordance with the schema.
Schemas lead us to assume that the object possesses particular characteristics, and
anything that vaguely implies those characteristics may be taken as evidence that our
assumption is accurate.
Although ambiguous information will usually be interpreted as consistent with a
schemas, anything that is obviously contradicts our expectancies will grab our
Unexpected actions arouse our curiosity and lead to attempts to understand why the
object is exhibiting characteristics that are inconsistent with its category.
Psy 220 chapter 3: thinking about people
Identify object
This man walking out of a
hotel is probably a tourist.
Function: information
Assume that the object probably possesses the
typical characteristics of the schema.
I bet he doesn’t live in this
Function: rapid,
efficient decisions.
Can decide quickly how to behave toward the
I will ask him if he needs
Consequences: selective
More likely to notice information that is
consistent with the schema ( or that
obviously contradicts it)
I see that he is carrying a
camera and a map.
Likely to interpret ambiguous information as
consistent with the schema.
He looks a bit confused, so he
must be lost.
Schema is used to categorize an object is important, if two individuals categorize the
same object different, they may expect very different characteristics.
Sometimes, schema is directly activated by information.
Important: schema will be activated when the object’s features match the features of
the schema.
Accessibility: the ease with which the schemas come to awareness.
Priming: the process by which the activation of a schema increases the likelihood that
the schema will be activated again in the future.
E.g. being pregnant, or having one’s partner pregnant, makes the schemas for
pregnancy and children very accessible.
Chronic accessibility: the degree to which schemas are easily actiated for an individual
across time and situations.
People differ in the schemas that are most chronically accessible.
Cultures differ in the schemas that are used most often to categorize both self and
others. Western cultures emphasizes in their socialization individuality, freedom, and
independence, whereas eastern cultures emphasize in their socialization harmony,
obedience, and interdependence.
Independence-interdependence (individualism-collectivism) difference between
Western and Eastern cultures.
Individuals from these cultures are likely to differ in the schemas that are most
chronically accessible to them.
These differences in accessible schemas imply that people from different cultures may
perceive the same event or the same person quite differently.
Thus, different schemas appeared to be chronically accessible in the 2 cultures.
Stereotype: set of characteristics that a perceiver associated with members of a group.
It is a cognitive structure containing the individual’s beliefs that members of a group
share particular attributes.
Stereotypes are one kind of schema, schemas that represent human groups.
Sometimes the characteristics that we associate with a group are largely positive
(doctors, firefighters) but they can also be negative (telemarketers, drug addicts).
Social psychologists most interested in the latter, negative stereotypes, especially those
directed at disadvantaged groups, researchers want to understand and reduce the
prevalence of phenomena such as prejudice and discrimination.
Stereotypes reflect our attempt to categorize an object and draw inferences about it.
Psy 220 chapter 3: thinking about people
The assumptions we make about members of human groups may often be
oversimplified or even dead wrong.
A group to which a perceiver belongs is called his or her ingroup.
Outgroup: a group to which a perceiver does not belong.
Stereotypes of ingroups are generally favourable, whereas stereotypes of outgroups can
sometimes be unfavourable.
Stereotypes usually include information about how much variability exists in a group.
Outgroup homogeneity effect (homogeneity:similiartiy or uniformirty):
exaggeration of similarity within groups to which we do not belong.
Selective information processing:
Stereotypes can guide our attention in this manner.
Our stereotypes can change how we interpret ambiguous behaviour.
E.g. experiment: exactly the same performance was interpreted differently based on
expectancies derived from social class stereotypes.
Automatic vs. controlled processes:
We can focus our attention wherever we wish, we can think whatever we wish and we
can make judgments whenever we wish.
Many thoughts and judgments occur whether we want them to or not. We are not even
aware of some of our cognitive processes.
Automatic process: a judgment or thought that we cannot control, which occurs
without intention, very efficiently, and sometimes beneath our awareness.
Thus, we cannot turn on and turn off an automatic process.
Controlled process: a judgment or thought we command, which is intentional, requires
significant cognitive resources, and occurs within our awareness.
Controlled process requires mental resources; it may not occur if we are engaged in
other processes. We are consciously aware of engaging in a controlled process.
This labeling is involuntary, immediate, and effortless.
Categorization must be rapid and effortless so we can assign our limited attentional
resources to more demanding tasks.
Of course, some cognitive processes are controlled, we can initiate them deliberately
and focus them on whatever problem we need to solve.
Reconstructive memory: the process of trying to rebuild the past based on cues and
We begin by thinking about a schema related to our memory goal (e.g.movies), which
then activates other related schemas, which ultimately activate the information you
By reconstructive, we mean that cues or strategies must be used to search memory and
to estimate the correct answers.
They require estimations or interpretations that can be quite subjective. Therefore, the
schemas, goals, and expectations that are active while you try to retrieve the
information and estimate the answer can influence the outcome.
Autobiographical memory: stored information about the self, such as goals,
personality traits, past experiences and other qualities.
Comprises our knowledge about the self, including our personal history, because our
own experiences make up so many of our memories.
Autobiographical memory often involves estimating what we were like in the past,
because we may not be able to retrieve actual, concrete information.