CHAPTER 8 SELF & OTHER: SOCIAL COGNITIVE ASPECTS OF PERSONALITY
- We are like computers. We take in, process, store and retrieve information from the
environment. Information comes through our sense organs and we work on it.
- The output of human activity is human behaviour. Humans process information in order to
- Social-cognitive approaches to personality- theories and conceptions of personality that
emphasizes the extent to which humans are information - processing systems who use
schemas, beliefs, values, expectancies, and other cognitive constructs to guide their
behaviours in the social world.
o Focuses on how people make and use mental representations of themselves, their worlds,
and others, which shape and are shaped by perceptions and impressions of ourselves.
o Cognition (schemas, beliefs and values) influence social behaviour & social behaviour
o People differ from one another on the kinds of self-representations & social construals that
characteristically formulate and act upon.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONAL CONSTRUCTS
- Kelly proposed a theory of the person that had no resemblance to class theorys of Freud, Jung,
Rogers, Maslow, Murral, Allport, Eysench, Cettel, & the behaviourists
- Kelly was an overnight celebrity in personality psychology because of his book
- Kelly’s unusual terms became part of the standard lexicon of personality psychology like
personal construct, range of convenience, fixed-role therapy, and Rep Test. He left us with a
provocative view of human nature and a set of stimulating ideas about psychological
individuality, grounded in the image of the person as an inquisitive scientist seeking to
predict, control, and explain the social world.
George Kelly’s Theory
-Other psychologists assigned a central role to human motivation, but Kelly said that the
“problem” of human motivation is not a problem at all. You can't search for reasons why
people do what they do. It doesn't have to do with reinforcement, or motives, or sex and
aggression or goals.
-Theory: a person is motivated to predict or anticipate what will happen to them. What moves
people to act is their desire to know what the world has in store for them. A peson is like a
scientist, seeking to predict and control events.
- Kelly states that each of us classify our worlds by developing personal constructs-
which is a characteristic way of seeing how some things are alike & some things are
different from each other. o Every construct is bipolar- specifying how 2 things are similar (same pole), and
different from a third thing (lying at the opposite pole)
o Ex. you may routinely classify your friends in terms of the personal construct
“serious/funny”. Grant and Jack are serious; Dean differs from them in that he is
funnier. All 3 are similar, yet different from each other.
o These construct will predict how you will act in the future. Ex. you will talk about
serious issue with Grant and Jack but crack jokes with Dean.
-Each person is best understood in terms of their own constructs.
-Each person develops their own construct system that contains a number of constructs
organized into a hierarchy (organization corollary) – one of the postulates of the theory). So
some coordinates are superordinal (important) and others are subordinal (less important)
-Every person’s construct system is unique (individuality corollary), which means that
everybody divides up subjective experience in a different way. To know a person’s construct
system is to see the world through their eyes (sociality corollary)
-Given a person’s construct system, some constructs differ from each other by a range of
convenience (range corollary). Ex friendly/unfriendly construct can guide you through many
experiences while liberal/conservative will have a narrower range of convenience (unless you
are a serious liberal person, then if you see a well suited man, you will assume this guy is a
Republican). You could be wrong so constructs are like hypotheses. It’s a hunch you feel about
a person that provides you with a starting point in you interaction with that person, a way of
anticipating what may or may not happen next. ANTICIPATIONS GUIDE BEHAVIOUR &
o Kelly;s fundamental postulate: a person’s processes are psychologically channelized by
the ways in which they anticipate events.
-Constructs are highly permeable while others are not (modulation corollary). A permeable
construct is open to modification and addition of new elements (a.k.a. open minded person).
But if you can't mofidy your constructs, you are rigid. Complete permeality is not good though
because it wont work well in anticipating events.
-Constructs can contradict each other (fragmented), then they will have a hard time making
consistent sense of the world and anticipating events in an adaptive way (fragmentation
-There is no unconscious, the “unconscious” are just constructs that are nonverbal, submerged or
suspended. They are submerged because they don't fit and/or contradictory, but these can still
channelize behaviour and experience.
-“anxiety” = when we are faced with experiences that our construct are not prepared for. This is
fear of the unknown.
-“guilt” = a perception of one’s apparent dislodgement from their core role structure
-Core role structure is the construction a person has of who they are in relation to significant
people (ex. parents). Its embedded within the person’s general construct system. So guilt follows when you perceive that one is no longer living according to an especially valued aspect
of one’s personal-construct system.
Exploring Personal Constructs: The Rep Test
-Role Construct Repertore Test (REP Test)- a personality assessment procedure designed by
Kelly to explore personal constructs in people’s lives.
-One version asks you to make a series of comparisons among those people who play important
roles in your life. A role = an understanding or expectation of what particular people in a
person’s life do. The role of mom has a person’s understanding of how moms behave in various
-You write down people’s names who fit certain descriptions and then you take 3 people at a
time and see what makes them similar and the word that contrasts it; these are your bipolar
-People who use many different kinds of constructs have cognitive complexity, they tend to
view the world in a highly differentiated manner. People who use few construct have simpler,
more global construct system
-Research has looked at construct similarity among friends and peers. Students who have similar
construct systems tend to become friends, be very close and stay friends over a long time. It
was a better predictor than traits (they’re close not cuz they act the same way, but cuz they see
the world through the same way). This is cuz they want confirmation from others of their own
conscious meanings. SHARING meanings is more important than DOING the same thing.
COGNITIVE STYLES AND PERSONALITY
- Kelly viewd the person to be like a scientist, continually categorizing experience and
testing out hypotheses as they anticipates and reacts to events in the world. People are
constantly processing info about the world in order to anticipate and adapt to the
challenges of social life.
- Cognitive styles-characteristic and typically preferred modes of processing info, like
field independence-dependence and integrative complexity.
o Exist on borderline on things associated w/ personality & things associated with
- Cognitive styles are not the same thing as cognitive abilities, like verbal and numeric
abilities, measured on intelligence tests. Cognitive abilities assess how WELL a person
performs on cognitive tasks, cognitive styles tap into a person’s characteristic WAY of
- Cognitive style is partly captures in the big 5 (people high in O process info in a
differentiated, abstract manner) - 2 dimensions of cognitive styles are: field independence/dependence & integrative
- Asch & Witkin did a study how people decide whether an object is perpendicular to the
group or tilted. They asked people sitting in tilted chaied in tilted room to adjust their
chairs until they feel like they were upright. Some people tilt to become perpendicular
with the room and some ignore the tilted room and til themselves until they feel they are
o The people who use the room as their reference for their adjustment show a field-
dependent style of problem solving. Their perception/judgement of the
perpendicularity depends on the “field” or environment.
o The people who ignore the field and make their perception/judgement according
to inner cues show a field-independent style.
- The dimension has 2 poles:
o One extreme: highly-field independent people process info in an analytical and
differentiated way. They rely on internal frames of reference that let them act in
an autonomous way.
o Other extreme: high field-dependent people use external frames of reference and
base their perceptions on the external context
Neither is bad or better, most people are in the middle (field
- Field independent people pull info out of an embedding context and can pass embedded
Figures Tests ( locating shapes in a figure of many shapes). To find the shape, you must
need to restructure the perceptual field and field-independent people are good at this.
- Field dependent people are more socially sensitive than independent
o Ex. more eye contact and paying attention
- Field independent people can tune out noises, approach the world as a hypotheses tester,
drawn to careers that need objective analysis of info like math and science
- Field dependent people are more global and intuitive in processing info about the world,
they go through less cognitive restructuring and accept info from the world as it is, they
like humanitarian, social work and teaching careers.
- Women score toward dependent; men score toward independent and are sustained over
- Field independent people say their parents were more easy going and permissive; field
independent say their parents has an emphasis on authority
- Hunting and gathering tribes were filed independent (since they were always on the
move, they always had to be cognitively adaptive to suit their lifestyle); agricultural
farmers were field dependent. Integrative Complexity
- Individual different in field independence-depence refer to the styles of PERCIVING the
world but integrative complexity focus on difference in REASONING about or
interpreting the world
- Integrative Complexity- extent to which a person reasons about issues ina differentiated
and integrative manner
o People high in this make many conceptual distinctions and see many
interconnections when interpreting and making sense of intellectual and social
o People low in this see few distinctions and reason about the world in a holistic
way (as a whole)
- Individual differences are assessed through analyzing written material
- The researchers then rates particular passages in the text with respect to the degree of
differentiation and integration. Things that talk about simple explanations and single
judgements get low scores; things that bring many different perspectives and that balance
different explanations and considerations get high scores for integrative complexity.
o Ex. love letter- low scores
o History essay to explain economic changes- high scores
- integrative complexity is low (present issues in a simple way) while campaigning for
presidency but then rises when elected because they adopt more complex reasoning
patterns after elected
o moderate socialists and liberal Democrats showed higher levels of integrative
complexity than conservatives. Tetlock explains his finding in terms of value
plurality and argues that freedom and equality are the 2 fundamental values upon
western political rhetoric is often evaluated.
Extreme liberals (socialists, communists) value equality over freedom and
a moderate liberal values both. So a moderate liberal is likely to fashion a
more complex ideology to accommodate their allegiance to both freedom
and equality- 2 values that conflict.
Extreme conservatives have the lowest
- Integrative complexity DECREASED during times of but INCREASED during periods
of civil unrest. War exerted a simplifying effect on literature correspondence; civil unrest
evoked a more flexible and integrative outlook to increase environment’s info flow.
- Integrative complexity decreased during illness, increased with age, and decreased
shortly before death (drop in cognitive functioning- terminal drop)
- Research shows that high integrative complexity are associated with making more
informed & well-balanced decisions, with open-mindedness and tolerance for ambiguity
in confronting complex issues, and with cognitive self-direction. o They have trouble with making clear decisions based on firm moral principles.
Ex. abolitionists has the lowest scores for speeches on freeing slaves.
o High levels of integrative complexity can cloud your moral vision too
o Children with high levels were rated by their peers as creative (expected), but also
more disagreeable, narcissistic and lacking in conscientiousness.
o Children with low levels were simple and conforming, warm, giving and self-
controlled than kids with high levels.
SOCIAL-COGNITIVE THEORY AND THE PERSON
- Social-cognitive approaches see the person as a rational, planful knower who actively
seeks information in the social world and draws upon a rich storehouse of social
knowledge in order to regulate their behaviour and act on plans and goals in a wide range
of social environments.
- Social cognitive theories also underscore themes of humanistic approaches like Deci &
Ryan’s self-determination theory.
- Cantor and Kihlstrom say that the key to understanding personality coherence is social
intelligence- each person’s set of skills, abilities, and knowledge about certain situations.
People differ in social intelligence because some people have more but they use it in
different ways to interpret and solve current tasks and problems in life.
- In their view, social interaction involves problem solving. The world gives us problems
that call for our social intelligence and we must interpret is and device a strategy for
mastering or coping with it.
- Social intelligence has 3 kinds of organized knowledge:
o Concepts- abstract and categorical things in the store house collected over time
like concepts of who you are and what you typically expect to happen in social
life. Concepts are aspects of declarative-semantic knowledge
o Episodes- concrete and specific things in the storehouse, like memories of scenes
in your life. These make up declarative-episodic knowledge
Concepts and episodes are declarative knowledge – “things” stored in the
information warehouse. These 2 differ in cognitive psychology and may
be processed differently by the brain.
Ex. I am an honest person = declarative-semantic knowledge
o Rules- contrast to the first 2, this is procedural knowledge. Concepts and episode
are stored in the warehouse, but rules are NOT things, they are procedures that
determine HOW things are used. They are rules that let you form impressions of
others, make attributions, encode and retrieve memories and predict social
behaviours - Concepts about yourself are self-schemas, concepts about others are called relational
schemas- mental representations of interpersonal relationships that a person has
experienced (a.k.a working model).
o Ex. relation schema of your relationship with your mom may have her yelling at
you when you’re not conscientious, while the relational schema of your friend
may be cracking jokes are staying up late and having fun.
o These schemas guide and shape our expectations and reactions in social
relationships, and as relationships unfold, they may shape our schemas.
- Declarative semantic knowledge about the self or others may encode our expectations if
human attributes may/may not change over time.
o Ex. I may think that people’s smartness is fixed and they can't get smarter over
time but you may think that people can get smarter over time. These are
contrasting implicit theories about the nature of human attributes. I hold to an
entity theory (attributes are fixed entities) and you hold an incremental theory
(attributes can change incrementally over time).
o People who hold entity-based theories interpret actions in term of traits “I failed
the test because I am dumb” and believe they can't change; while incremental
theorists base it on situational forces “I failed because I didn’t study the right
way,” and believe they can change their ways.
- Incremental and entity theories are part of a broader class of lay theories- people’s
implicit assumptions regarding the nature of human abilities and characteristics. They are
either entity or incremental based.
o Having the entity theory, he thinks he is shy because he can't help it
o Having the incremental theory, she thinks she is shy and she wants to work on it
to improve her social skills.
- Lay theories also influence how people perceive others. Ex stereotyping that women are
o Entity theory: Daryl thinks women will always be weak and will not pay attention
when hearing stories about strong, smart women
o Incremental theory: Michael thinks women are weak, but will pay attention to
stereo-typically opposing information and is more likely to change his stereotype
over time then Daryl
- You may have different lay theories about different aspects of your life:
o You may be an entity theorist when it comes to your intelligence but an
incremental theorist for social skills.
- Lay theories can also be for emotions are relationships: when you are faces with an
obstacle it is meant to be this way (entity), rather than working on the problem to
improve the emotion or relationship (incremental)
- LAY THEORIES ARE G