PSC 152 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Exxonmobil, Cognitive Load, Castro District, San Francisco

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Published on 15 Jun 2020
Attribution & inference
Common - sense psychology
People strive for control, want to explain & predict others’ behaviors
Ask ourselves - “what potential causes exist?”
Person forces - enduring traits & temporary goals
Why did the person intend to act this way? What are their
Environmental forces - factors outside the person
What would lead the person to engage in a behavior they didn’t
want to happen?
Correspondent inference theory
When is behavior thought to reflect a corresponding trait of the actor?
Factors that promote trait inferences
1 uncommon, norm-violating behaviors
Ex: yelling vs. whispering in library
Argue that normal behavior (like whispering in library) does
not say much about person, but yelling in library would say
a lot about that person
Uncommon norm-violating behaviors tend to promote stronger
trait inferences
2 freely-chosen behaviors - lack of situational constraints
Ex: giving money voluntarily vs. at gunpoint
Freely-chosen behaviors promotes stronger trait inferences
Ex: giving money voluntarily
Discounting & augmentation
Discounting principle
When multiple causes for behavior exist, we discount the impact of any
one cause - less likely to make correspondent trait inference
Ex: politician makes pro-environment speech to Sierra Club
Does the politician have pro-environmental attitudes?
Jones & Davis would argue that is it hard to tell if politician
had these attitudes
Cannot tell if politician is being honest or just telling the
audience what they wanna hear to get support
J & D argues that we should discount the politicians
behavior as reflecting politician’s true attitudes
Augmentation principle
If inhibitory environmental forces exist, person forces are augmented (i.e.,
given more weight) - more likely to make correspondent trait inference
Give more weight to trait if they in a inhibitory context
Ex: politician makes pro-environment speech to Exxon Mobil
Does the politician have pro-environment attitudes?
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Easier to conclude politician has pro-environment attitude
since audience does not
Attribution often doesn’t work like this
Perceivers are not always behaving as rational as these early attribution
theorists suggest when trying to make sense of other people’s behaviors
The “Castro” Study
Ps read an essay supposedly written by another P
Pro vs. Anti-Castro essay
Ps learned writer chose topic vs. had no choice
Rate writer’s true attitude (higher scores = writer likes Castro)
Ps made person attributions even when knowing the writers had no choice
If Ps behaved how a correspondent inference theory would suggest, there
would be no diff between white & black bar in no choice section
Shows people are engaging in discounting a bit
Ps did NOT discount enough
They didn’t discount the strong situational constraint nearly as
much as correspondent inference theory would predict
The “Quizmaster” Study
Flip coin to see who was “quizmaster” & who was “contestant”
Quizmaster generated questions & presented them to contestant
Contestants didn’t do that well
Observers rated quizmaster & contestant on general knowledge
Results (compared w/ avg. student)
Contestant - 48.9 (rated contestants as about avg student)
Quizmaster - 82..1 (rated quizmasters as more knowledgeable than avg
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Classic attribution theory suggests that participants should
discount the fact that the quizmasters generate questions they
already know answer to
This may explain why people believe Alex Trebeck is smart (Jeopardy)
Correspondence bias
Drawing correspondent trait inferences even if behavior is constrained by
situational factors
Also called Fundamental Attribution Error
Underestimation of situational forces on behavior
Why does this happen?
Explaining Correspondence Bias
People are more visually salient than situations; thus, situations go unnoticed
Easier to see people than see situation
Spontaneous trait inferences
Trait info is automatically activated on witnessing behavior -
unintentionally, effortlessly, without awareness
We tend to automatically consider traits when seeing a behavior
Can occur unconsciously & under cognitive load
Situational attributions are effortful
Considering the situation is more effortful than considering trait
The “cognitive Busyness” Study
Ps watch video of woman behaving nervously; form impression of her
Mundane or stressful interview topics
Some Ps also did memory tasks simultaneously
Rate how anxious woman is, in general (higher scores = more anxious)
For (one task) it seems like Ps are engaging in discounting an
augmentation. They are considering the situation
When under cog load, Ps are NOT making distinction between topics &
are NOT engaging in discounting an augmentation
Not taking situation into account
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