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Lecture 1

Psychology 1000 Lecture 1: Cha. 13

Course Code
PSYCH 1000
Derek Quinlan

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Chapter 13 Psych 1000
Behavior in a Social Context
Social Thinking & Perception
Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior
Attributions: judgments about the causes of our own and other people’s behavior
Attributions influence our subsequent behavior + emotion
Personal vs. Situational Attributions
Personal (internal) attributions: infer that people’s behavior is caused by their
e.g., Bill insulted Ethan because Bill is a rude person
Situational (external) attributions: infer that aspects of the situation cause a
e.g., Bill was provoked into insulting Ethan
How do we decide if a behavior is caused by personal or situational factors?
Suppose you ask someone how Kin 3336 is; they say it’s terrible
Is it really bad, or did something abut the person (personal attribution)
lead to this response?
Three types of info determine the attributions we make:
o (1) Consistency: does the person say the same thing as they did last
o (2) Distinctiveness: does the person hate all their courses or just
this one?
o (3) Consensus: do other students agree or disagree with them?
Attributional Biases
Fundamental attribution error: we underestimate the impact of situation and
overestimate the role of personal factors when explaining other people’s behavior
Applies to how we perceive other people’s behavior rather than our own
o Person driving slow in front of you is a “moron”; but, when we are
driving slow, we do not perceive ourselves as a moron
Reasons for this type of thinking:
o (1) We have more info about the present situation when making
judgments about ourselves; e.g., we are driving slowly to follow
unfamiliar directions
o (2) The perceptual principle of figure-ground relations comes into
play; when watching someone, they are the figure… when we are
doing something, we are the background because we don’t watch
ourselves; that is why, when watching yourself on video you begin
to make personal attributions
Is the fundamental attribution error inevitable?
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Chapter 13 Psych 1000
When people have time to reflect on their judgments or are highly
motivated to be careful, the fundamental attribution error is reduced
Self-serving bias: attempt to protect SE by making relatively more personal
attributions for successes and more situational attributions for failures
Strength of self-serving bias depend on one’s psychological state or
cultural norms; e.g., depressed people make opposite attributional patterns
Culture & Attribution
Many studies suggest that the tendency to attribute other people’s behavior to
personal factors reflects a Westernized emphasis on individualism
J.G. Miller:
Fig. 13.5 (p. 479)
Indian and American students attributed causality for several behaviors
With increasing age, Indians made more situational attributions and
Americans made more personal attributions
Culture also influences attributions for our own behavior: e.g., modesty is highly
valued in China’s collectivistic culture
Cultural background also affects the way we go about making attributions
e.g., East Asians are more holistic thinkers; believe all events are
interconnected and therefore cannot be understood in isolation; develop
more complex views about behavior causes and consider more factors than
do Euro-Americans
Relation between holistic thinking and use of info was also found within each
Forming & Maintaining Impressions
Primacy vs. Recency: Are First Impressions More Important?
Solomon Asch:
When listing positive adjectives before negative ones, people will perceive
the person being described as more sociable and happier than if reversed
Participants also read story about Jim, one being outgoing and the other
being introverted; their impression of Jim was influenced more strongly by
whichever story they read first
Primacy effect: our tendency to attach more importance to the initial info that we
learn about a person
New info can change our opinion but it has to “work harder” for 2 reasons:
o (1) We tend to be most alert to info we receive first
o (2) Initial info may shape how we perceive subsequent info
Primacy is the general rule of thumb in impression formation, especially for
people who dislike uncertainty and ambiguity
We seem to make snap judgment for small amounts of info
We are not slaves to primacy; recency effect can kick in where we give greater
weight to the most recent info
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Chapter 13 Psych 1000
Mental Sets & Schemas: Seeing What We Expect to See
Can have same situation, but a different impression
Whether perceiving objects or people, the same stimulus can be “seen” in
different ways
What creates our mental sets?
One important factor = schemas
By saying someone is “shy”, it activates your schema of shyness
Although the host’s behavior can be interpreted in multiple ways, you tend
to “fit” his behavior into particular schema that is already activated
Stereotype: generalized belief about a group or category of people, represents a
powerful type of schema
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Creating What We Expect to See
Self-fulfilling prophecy: occur usually w/o conscious awareness, when people’s
erroneous expectations lead them to act toward others in a way that brings about
the expected behaviors, thereby confirming the original impression
e.g., someone’s observed shyness response could be due to your behavior and not
actually because they were acting shy
In interacting with others, our initial, unfounded expectations can influence how
we behave toward them, thereby shaping their behavior in a way that ultimately
confirms our expectations
Attitudes & Attitude Change
Our attitudes help to define our ID, guide our actions, and influence how we judge
Attitude: a positive or negative evaluation reaction toward a stimulus, such as a
person, action, object, or concept
Fig. 13.7 (p. 481)
Do Our Attitudes Influence Our Behavior?
Richard LaPiere:
Toured U.S. with young Chinese couple and visited 251 restaurants
Was only refused at 1 restaurant
Messaged all the places after asking if they would serve Chinese people
>90% of those who responded stated they would not
The discrepancy between stated prejudicial attitudes and non-
discriminatory behavior seemed so overwhelming that it called into
question the “common sense” assumption of attitude-behavior consistency
Decades later, better research actually confirmed that attitude does have a strong
relationship with behavior
Three factors help to explain why this relationship is strong in some instances and
weak in others
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