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Lecture 7

Psychology 2035A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Dispositional Attribution, Social Perception, Confirmation Bias

Course Code
Doug Hazlewood

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“To know one’s self is wisdom; but to know one’s neighbour is genius” M
Person Perception- the process of forming impressions of others
Causal conclusions have an e!ect on our perceptions of other people
Causal explanations are called attribution. Study of attributions is called
attribution theory
Key Sources of Information
In forming impressions of others, people rely on 5 key sources of
observational info
Regardless of accuracy, beliefs about physical features form
oVerbal behavior
People form impressions base on what and how much others
self-disclose, how often they give advice and ask questions
Behaviour gives insights: ex- person volunteers, you infer they
are caring
oNonverbal messages
Facial expressions, eye contact, body language and gestures
Setting in which behaviour occurs gives you hints on how to
interpret others
i.e. crying at wedding vs funeral
Snap-Judgments vs Systematic Judgements
Snap judgments about others “are those made quickly and based on only
a few bits of information and preconceived notions."
oThey are “shortcuts” that rely on automatic processing, and are
used when we are not motivated to form an accurate impression of
another person.
Systematic judgments require more controlled processing and tend to
occur when forming impressions of others that can a!ect our happiness or
oPeople take the time to observe person in variety of situations and
compare it to other’s behaviour in those situations

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Attribution- Inferences that people draw about the causes of their own
behavior, others’ behavior, and events. Applied to the behaviour of other
oInternal attributions – when people attribute the cause of others’
behavior to personal dispositions, traits, abilities, or feelings.
oExternal attributions – when people attribute the cause of others’
behavior to situational demands or environmental constraints.
Attribution happens selectively  likely to make attributions about others’
behavior when:
oOthers behave in unexpected or negative ways
oWhen events are personally relevant
oWhen we are suspicious about others’ motives
Some aspects of the attribution process are logical
oResearch shows that process of person perception is sometimes
illogical and unsystematic, as in case of snap judgments
NOTE: Ch. 6 dimensions, includes stable vs unstable controllable vs
Perceiver Expectations
How we expect others to behave can in9uence our actual perceptions of
Two principles:
(1) Con=rmation bias – the tendency to seek information that supports
one’s beliefs while not pursuing discon=rming information.
oSome people’s personalities may predispose them to focus on facts
that =t their theories instead of weighing all of the available
information more critically
Believing is seeing. NOT seeing is believing
oAlso occurs because individual selectively recall facts to =t their
views of others
oExample- people shown women performing various activities
One group told waitress, another librarian
Remembered activities that =t the stereotypes for waitress or
oCan be used to characterize perceptions of group behaviors
oCan anything be down to reduce conformation bias?
Some evidence that intentionally presenting people with
information that is inconsistent with their perception can
encourage them to engage in more divergent thinking
(2) Self-Ful=lling Prophecies – Expectations about a person cause him or
her to behave in ways that con=rm the expectations
oOriginally used to explain phenomena such as runs on banks during

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Unfounded rumours would circulate that a bank couldn’t cover
deposits and people would rush to bank and withdraw their
oThree steps
1. Perceive has an initial impression of someone
2. Perceive behaves toward the target person according to
their expectations
3. Target person adjusts his or her behaviour to the perceivers
This con=rms the perceivers thoughts about the person
oExample: you think someone is funny, you say “tell a funny story”
then they do.
Both unware of this process
Perceivers unaware of their own expectations and e!ect on
oIn daily life: treat others the way you want to be treated- use
Cognitive Distortions
Social categorizations – cognitive “shortcuts” in which we categorize
people on the basis of nationality, race, gender, etc.
oPeople perceive similar individuals to be members of their ingroup
(us) and dissimilar people to be members of the outgroup (them).
oCategorizing has three important results:
People have more negative attitudes toward outgroup
People see outgroup members as more alike than they really
are (the outgroup homogeneity e!ect).
The visibility of outgroup members is heightened when they
comprise the minority in a crowd.
People likely to see outgroup members as looking more like
each other than they actually do
Stereotypes- Widely held beliefs that people have certain characteristics
because of their membership in a particular group
oKernel of truth underlies them, but not all people follow the
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