Psychology 2035A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Gestalt Psychology, Forced Confession, Fundamental Attribution Error

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November 23, 2015
Psych 2035: Lecture (Chapter 7)
Social Thinking and Social Influence
Today’s Lecture Topic:
Person Perception: Attributions and Errors
To know one’s self is wisdom;
But to know one’s neighbour is genius.
-M Antrim
A member of the opposite sex is staring at you
A friend of yours gets a low mark on an exam that she thought she did well on
You see a homeless man lying on the street downtown
What caused these above events?
-From a psychological perspective, you are thinking about the perception of the events
In each cause, different causal explanations lead to different perceptions
-These causal explanations are called attributes
Part 1: Attribution Theory
Perceiving the Causes of Behaviour
Attributions can be discussed in every chapter of our textbook
All the research in this area was initiated by a single individual…
A. Fritz Heider (1944):
-Perceiving stability in an unstable world that is constantly changing
-Why is a chair always the same no matter what way it is looked at?
-If an intelligent student does poorly on an exam, why do I continue to perceive them as
intelligent?
1. Heider’s Insights:
a) We perceive stability by making attributions
-Person attributions:
-Aka. ‘dispositional’; ‘internal’ attributions
-Reflect stable properties of people
-Ex. attributing friendly behaviour to a friendly disposition
-Environment attributions:
-Aka. ‘situational’; ‘external’ attributions
-Reflect stable properties of environment
-Ex. the person was friendly because of the environment he/she was in
b) We have a need to perceive stability:
- Gives us a sense of understanding, prediction, and control
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November 23, 2015
2. Person attributions depend on perceived intentions
-Equifinality: Person’s behaviour is directed toward a single goal despite changes in the
circumstances (environment)
-Conclude that person intended the behaviour (sets the stage for a person attribution -
cause of behaviour stems from within the person)
-Ex. Suppose you have a person that hits someone else on the head, we don’t know this
person’s intentions but their behaviour can be monitored as he gets ready to hit the other
person
-He intended this behaviour despite the environmental obstacles that got in the way
-As circumstances and environment changes, the behaviour changes
-Ex. walking to go get school bag, and trips over chair and ends up hitting someone else
-This is not equifinality
B. Correspondent Inference Theory (Jones & Davis 1965: From Acts to Dispositions):
How do we make dispositional attributions after observing someone else’s behaviour?
How do we get from acts (behaviour) to dispositions (to understanding their dispositions)?
1. A “Two-Step” process (not same as p. 207)
Step 1: Was the behaviour intended?
-Was the behaviour freely chosen?
-Ex. Someone swerving the car and accidentally drives over a kitten
-Lets say someone held a gun to his head in the passenger seat telling him to do so?
-Person could foresee consequences of behaviour?
-If ‘no’, behaviour is perceived as unintended (can infer anything about person’s disposition)
-If ‘yes’, behaviour is perceived as intended; proceed to step 2
Step 2: Make a dispositional attribution (or “correspondent inference”)
-An inference is correspondent when the same label (or word) can be used to describe both
the behaviour and the underlying disposition
-Ex. Conclude person is dispositionally ‘friendly’ after observing ‘friendly’ behaviour
-How do we do this? There are two approaches:
a) Analysis of non-common effects associated with chosen action
Note:
-For every action we choose to take, there are other actions that we choose not to take
(referred to as ‘chosen’ and ‘non-chosen’ actions)
-Ex. I may choose to see a hockey game next week (chosen action) instead of going to the
opera (non-chosen action)
-All actions (chosen & non-chosen) have potential ‘effects’ (consequences)
-Some will be common to both chosen & non-chosen actions
-Some effects will be non-common (or unique) to the chosen action
-Ex. if I choose to go to the opera, I will get nice relaxing music…I won’t receive this at
the hockey game
-Correspondent inferences are most likely when chosen action has few non-common effects
(a single unique effect)
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