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PSY220H1 Lecture Notes - Autobiographical Memory, Ingroups And Outgroups, Social Cognition

Course Code
Jennifer Fortune

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Chapter 3 How does the mind work?
Categorization: the process of recognizing and identify something ex common symptoms
of a stroke
- this is the most basic process we use to understand and structure our world
- we match features of an object With our knowledge about the defining
characteristic and once we have categorized the object, we can make informed
Social cognition: the study of how info about ppl is processed and stored
There are 2 basic motives that underlie human information processing
1- to perceive the world accurately- we are more likely to survive if we categorize
objects correctly, draw valid inferences about ppl and predict actions
2- to view the self positively- we want to see ourselves as good ppl who want to
Schemas: the building blocks of the mind
Schemas: mental representation of objects or categories, which contain the central features
of the object or categories as well as assumptions about how the object or category works
- more simply, schemas are mental rep of objects or categories of objects
- we have schemas for television, girlfriends, how you act in a restaurant (relational
schemas) etc
- aka concepts
- schemas/concepts contain the principal features of the object or category s well as
simple assumptions or theories about how the object or category functions
- schema of Ipod: small, white, play MP3, holds many songs,
- when you see an ipod, you compare the object to your schema of ipod, if it
matches, then you have an ipod
Schemas & Categorization
- the basic function is schemas is to categorize objects in ways that gives meaning
and predictability
- when we encounter an object we have to identify it (categorize it) before we
interact with it
Going beyond the info given
- How does categorization impose meaning on the world?
- When we see something and categorize it, we assume that it has characterize of the
schema even it we cannot perceive it directly ie fire is hot
- We go beyond the info given – we infer non visible characteristics on the basis of
our categorization
- Categorization allows us to form impressions and make decisions quickly and
efficiently and allow us to direct our attention to aspects in the environment that are
most important

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- However sometime we make faulty assumptions based on our schemas ie when we
categorize a person into a group ie lawyer, French Canadian and assume that he
possess the a[particular characteristics of that group ie stereotyping
Selective info processing – see page 69
Accessibility: What’s on your mind?
A factor that influences whether a schema will be used is its accessibility
Accessibility: the ease with witch a schema comes to awareness
Priming of Schemas
Priming: the process where activating a schema makes it more likely that the schema will
be activated again in the future
- ex: someone compliments your hair, you will be looking at everyone else’s hair
during the day – the compliment primed the schema of haircut
- if the schema is on your mind, it is more likely to be activated again
- videotape of businessman - 2 variations, one primed hostile and one primed calm
and relaxed then after they read an passage about another man whose actions were
ambiguous and could be taken as hostile or relaxed, afterward participants who
watched the hostile business man said that the second man was hostile and same
with the relaxed man
- if your wife is pregnant you will keep looking at babies and keep wondering if
chubby ppl are pregnant
Chronic Accessibility of Schemas
Chronic accessibility: the degree to which schemas are easily activated for an individual
across time and situations
- in layman terms, how accessible are certain schemas for ppl
ex: a high school basketball coach has height as a chronically accessible schema when
meeting new stuendts ie “O this guy would make a good center”
Stereotypes: Schemas in the social domain
Stereotype: a set of characteristic that a perceiver associates with members of a group; it is
a cognitive structure containing the individuals beliefs that members of a group share
particular attributes
Stereotypes are a kind of schema and guide our perceptions and impression of almost
everyone we meet
They can be positive (doctors, firefighters) or negatives (telemarketers and drug addicts)

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Going beyond the info given
- stereotypes is a type of categorization – we see an object and we try to infer things
about it ex: we learn a person is a lawyer and we expect that she is smart, wealthy
etc and these inferences guide our actions towards her
- however sometime assumptions we make about members of groups are
- a group to which a perceiver belongs is called his ingroup ex mine include
university students, males, Chinese ppl, Canadians
- out-group is a group to which a perceiver does not belong ex mine include women,
black ppl etc
- in-group = positive stereotype vs out-group = negative stereotypes
- perceivers habitually use perceptions of their in groups as implicit standards of
comparison when judging out-groups and since in-gorup is positive, this makes
judgments about out-groups more negative
- ppl have a tendency to overestimate the similarity within groups is much stronger
for out-groups than for ones own in-groups ex everyone in that out-group are the
same however the ppl in my in-group have diverse characteristics. Another example
is yeah Americans are all the same they are all rude, however, Canadians are a mix
of rude and nice ppl
Out-group homogeneity effect: the tendency for ppl to overestimate the similarity within
groups to which they do not belong
Selective info processing
Our stereotypes can change how we interpret ambiguous behaviour
- participants watch a video of a 9 year old white girl named Hannah
- 2 conditions - she was in an inner city vs surbia
- Participants then rated Hannah’s academic ability (baseline condition)
- Other participants watch a 2nd video where Hannah answered general knowledge
questions (performance condition)
- Those who saw Hannah in the inner city focused on her wrong answers and rated
her academic ability poorly vs those who saw Hannah in surbia rated her ability
- The same performances was interpreted differently based on expectancies derived
from social class stereotypes
- Research by John Darley and Paget Gross
Automatic vs Controlled processes
- People do not have full control over all of their mental process, many thoughts and
judgements occur whether we want them to or not. We are not even aware of some
of our cognitive processes
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