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Chapter 3- Social Cognition-2720 Social Psych

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Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Amanda De Vaul- Fetters

CHAPTER #3­ SOCIAL COGNITION: THINKING ABOUT PEOPLE­ SOCIAL  PSYCH • Categorization: Process of recognizing and identifying something --> the most basic process we use to understand and structure our world • Social cognition: Study of how info about people is processed and stored HOW DOES THE MIND WORK? Schemas: The Building Blocks of the Mind • All complex things are made up of similar or more elementary things • Schemas: Mental representations of objects or categories of objects (concepts) • Relational schemas: We have schemas for specific interpersonal interactions • Schemas contain the principle features of the object or category, as well as simple assumptions or theories about how the object or category functions • Ex. Schema of an iPod --> small, play music, hold songs, various colours • Much of a child's early learning involves the formation of schemas • The basic function of schemas is to categorize objects in ways that impose meaning and predictability (expectancies about what will happen = going beyond the info given) • When we encounter an object we must identify/categorize it • When we categorize something, we assume that it possesses the characteristics of the schema (or most of them) even if we cannot perceive those characteristics directly • Categorization allows us to form impressions and make decisions quickly and efficiently • Allows us to make assumptions about objects and to direct our attention to those aspects of the environment that are most important • Schemas not only impose meaning on the world, they also influence how info is processed • The schema used to categorize an object can influence what is noticed about an object • Schemas also influence the interpretation of info • Schemas lead us to assume that the object possesses particular characteristics and anything that implies those characteristics may be taken as evidence that our assumption is accurate • Although ambiguous info will usually be interpreted as consistent with a schema, anything that obviously contradicts our expectancies will grab our attention Study on Schemas (Holtgraves, Srull, Socall, 1989) • Participants read a fictional conversation between 2 businessmen • Before reading, some participants were told that Robert was the boss and Micheal was his employee, others were told that the 2 men were equal in status, and the rest were told nothing until after the experiment • The schema of either boss/subordinate or co-workers was activated before participants read the convo • Those who believed Robert was the boss recalled more assertive comments and actions than those who believed they were equals, but only when the schema was activated before reading the convo Accessibility: What's On Your Mind? • When a schema is activated it provides expectancies about the object's probable characteristics and influences the processing of info about the object • If 2 individuals categorize the same object differently they may expect very different characteristics • Aschema will be activated when the object's features match the features of a schema • Accessibility: The ease with which a schema comes to awareness (people are more likley to use schemas that are highly accessible to them; these schemas are “on their mind”) • Priming of schema: • The initial event (e.g., hair compliment) activates the schema of haircut or hair, and because the schema is “on your mind”, it is more accessible and more likely to be activated again --> If someone compliments your hair, you may find yourself looking at everyone else's hair • Priming: Recently used schema is more accessible • Ex. When you or your partner become pregnant you begin to see pregnant women and babies everywhere • Chronic accessibility of schema: • Chronic accessibility: The degree to which schemas are easily activated for an individual across time and situations • People differ in which schemas are chronically accessible to them Cultural Differences inAccessible Schemas • Western cultures emphasize in their socialization individuality, freedom, and independence whereas Eastern cultures focus on harmony, obedience, and interdependence --> Western and Eastern individuals differ in the schemas that are most chronically accessible to them • People from different cultures may interpret the same event in different ways Stereotypes: Schemas in the Social Domain • Stereotype: Set of characteristics that a perceiver associates with members of a group, it is a cognitive structure containing the individual's beliefs that members of a group share particular attributes • Aschema that represents human groups • Reflect our attempt to categorize an object and draw inference about it • Our assumptions are often wrong and oversimplified • Ingroup: Agroup to which a perceiver belongs • Outgroup: Group to which the perceiver does not belong (opposite sex, different race) • Stereotypes of the ingroup are generally favorable while those of the outgroup tend to be unfavorable • Stereotypes often include info about how much variability exists in the group • Outgroup homogeneity effect: Tendency for people to overestimate the similarity within groups to which they do not belong • Our stereotypes can change how we interpret ambiguous behavior Automatic Versus Controlled Processes • People do not have full control over all of their mental processes • Automatic process: Judgement or thought that we cannot control; it occurs without intention, very efficiently (demanding few cognitive resources), and sometimes beneath our awareness • Categorization is an example • Relevant schemas, or stereotypes, are activated whether we want them to be or not • Controlled process: Judgement or thought that we command: it is intentional, requires significant cognitive resources, and occurs within our awareness (we can turn it on or off) RECONSTRUCTIVE MEMORY • Reconstructive memory: Trying to cognitively rebuild the past based on cues and estimates • Social psychologists do not see memories as objective, accurate and interchangeable • Researchers propose that memory is subjective and prone to distortion • People often reconstruct memories based on personal theories or cues Study on Reconstructive Memory (Conway, Ross, 1984) • Participants rated their current studying skills via 8 different questions • They attended 3 sessions where they learned how to take notes effectively and study for exams • Aweek after the sessions, they were asked to again rate their studying skills on the same 8 questions • The students did not rate their study skills any higher- self-evaluations did not actually improve • Participants did however recall their original ratings as being significantlylower • Participants assumed their study skills improved because they had completed a workshop • Participants reconstructed their original ratings based on their current ratings • Malleability/changeability of memory Autobiographical Memory • Autobiographical memory: Stored info about the self, such as goals, personality traits, past experiences, and other qualities (compromises our knowledge about the self, including our personal history) • Often involves estimating what we were like in the past because we may not be able to retrieve actual, concrete info --> slippery and involves guesswork which can be influenced by our motives and beliefs • One way to feel good about ourselves is to believe that we are steadily improving over time: we are getting better • [Study] Differences between the ratings of current and past selves do not necessarily reflect actual changes (improvements) • It may be possible to tamper with autobiographical memories --> change them or make them up • Human memory is not infallible --> it is capable of being wrong TheAccuracy of Eyewitness Testimony • The single largest cause of these demonstrably false convictions has been eyewitness error • Rate of erroneous identification has ranged from less than 10% to more than 90% depending on factors such as the duration of the event and the setting in which it occurred • There appears to be an ingroup advantage in eyewitness identification --> members of a particular racial group tend to be better at identifying people from their own racial group • Confidence is not a strong indicator of accuracy in determining who is guilty (small correlation) • Blank lineup: Agroup of individuals that does not include the suspect; everyone in the lineup is known to be innocent (good way to assess credibility) • Sequential lineup: The procedure of showing an eyewitness each individual in the group separately rather than together in a simultaneous lineup (more effective) HEURISTICS AND BIASES IN EVERYDAY JUDGEMENTS • Heuristics: An informal rule or shortcut that is used to make everyday judgements • Heuristics usually work well but can also lead us astray and result in errors • Whenever we make a judgement there is a trade-off between accuracy and efficiency • We want our judgements to be as accurate as possible but don't want to spend too much time and effort on them • Cognitive miser model: Aview of info processing that assumes people usually rely on heuristics to make judgements and only engage in careful, thoughtful processing when necessary • Detailed, deliberate processing is costly or expensive in terms of psychological resources, and our resource capacity is limited • Therefore we try and spend as little time as possible in most cases- we are
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