Lecture II January 23 2012rd
Thinking about people
People think about other people more than anything else!
People influence our automatic and controlled processes.
This focus on people helps illustrate our social nature, that the social world is important to
us, that we have a great need for our belongingness goals to be met, it assists us in
maintaining strong social relationships and helps keep those relationships long-lasting.
Although we need people to meet our goals (such as belongingness), we also compete with
them for other goals.
We pay attention to other people’s emotions to gauge how we are doing and how we,
ourselves, are feeling.
There are three gaols of social thinking
Getting the right answer
Confirming the desired answer
Reaching this answer quickly
People are cognitive misers. They do not want to think more than necessary and expend
cognitive resources when we don’t have to.
The Duplex Mind
This is similar to Freud’s theory of the dual mind composed of the conscious and
unconscious. There are two systems, that automatic and the conscious.
The Automatic: is like a robot helper that helps you with things you are already good at and
don’t need to think about. It’s all about quick decisions, effortlessness, good with familiar
things, and things you have done often. This is kind of like Freud’s unconscious. Like
counting to ten.
The Controlled: careful, effortful thinking and decision making. Thinking on purpose.
Conscious. Like is someone asked you to list the first ten numbers in alphabetical order.
Lacks intention – we do not do it on purpose
Lacks control – it is outside our control
Lacks effort – there is no effort involved
Efficiency – high degree of efficiency, it is more focused on quick rather than correct.
Representations of objects or categories of them.
Information of concept, attributes, and relationships to other concepts.
For example, the schema of a 2 year psychology course.
Collection of information about what some members of a category might be Includes expectations, past experiences, things we have heard from others, etc
‘Should do’ lists that we follow in certain situations
Expectations about how a certain process should go
Anything different violates scripts and means that we cannot rely on them, thus preventing
the experience from being an automatic process.
For example, we all haves scripts for restaurants, classes, parties, etc.
The activation of a concept in the mind
When you are reminded of something
Can influence subsequent thinking and ideas or concepts that you
When people re primed with similar schemas they answer faster
than those who are not.
This is important for social thinking
It can trigger automatic processing and it, itself, often is.
Bargh, Chen, Burrows (1996)
Randomly assigned participants to a priming condition; rude,
polite, or neutral. Participants where asked to unscramble a
series of words into a sentence and where instructed to go
outside into the hallway and tell the experimenter once they
When the participants would go out into the hallway for the experimenter, they
would find them engrossed in a conversation with another individual. What they
measured was how long it took each person to interrupt the conversation. Those
who where primed with rudeness violated rules of social etiquette. Thus, priming
determined subsequent behaviour that was a part of an unrelated task.
This is something that is extremely hard to do. When we try to suppress thoughts, there are
two processes at play:
The automatic: which scans the mind for information relating to the unwanted thought and
constantly watching to see if you think about the thought you don’t want to think about.
(The White Bear Effect)
The controlled: substitutes other thoughts, tries to direct attention elsewhere, and finds
other things to think about.
When you let go of the controlled, the automatic mind reminds you non-stop of the thing
you do not want to think about. Herman & Mack, 1975
Illustrate some of the
automatic and controlled
processes that influence
eating behaviour. The
hypothesised that dieters
and non dieter’s would
eat different amounts of
food based on their
Participants where asked
to come into the lab
after not haven eaten for
several hours. They
where randomly assigned to eat 0, 1, 2, or 3 milkshakes. After the independent variable
(milkshakes) they where given three large containers of ice cream to taste and rate. The
dependant variable was the ice cream eaten. They found a predictable pattern for non
dieters and a less and counter intuitive pattern for dieters. The non dieters ate the most
amount of ice-cream when they didn’t have any milkshakes. When they where full of
milkshakes, they ate less of it. This pattern wasn’t there for dieters. When they hadn’t any
milk shakes at all, they ate the smallest amount of ice-cream relative to conditions where
they had the milkshakes beforehand. They ate the highest amount of ice cream when they
had more milkshakes beforehand. This seems counterintuitive. They where subject to a
process called counter-regulation. This is where indulging in a behaviour you are trying to
regulate after the failure of regulation. It’s the “I blew my diet phenomenon”. Dieters have
this script and this salient idea that they shouldn’t be eating ice cream. They are constantly
primed with this idea. When they consume the milkshakes another schema comes into play:
the diet has been broken so it’s time to gorge! It’s the notion “well I blew my diet so now I
am going to go crazy”.
These are mental shortcuts for everyday judgement. They are automatic.
The extent to which an instance represents the larger schema or script. This ignores
chances, etc. Consider the William; classics professor or truck driver example. Saying he is
a classics professor based on the information given, ignores the base rate information since
there are more truck drivers than classics professors.
The ease of which things come to mind. Things that seem common. Based on actuality,
frequency, recency, and attention paid. When things fit into the above categories, they
come to mind easily because the automatic system pulls them up, and examples are readily
available. Tversky and Khaneman 1973
“The letter R”
Participants are asked which is more likely and occurs more often, R as the first
letter or third. People say first although it is actually morel likely for it to be third.
This is because we organize letters by first letter. So that is a more salient piece of
evidence. Thus, this also ignores base rate information.
Anchoring and Adjustment
Whatever we chose as a starting point will influence later on thinking and decision making.
It is judging the likelihood of something by using a starting point and adjusting from that
point. This influences the final adjustment.
Tversky and Khaneman 19