PSY220H1 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Fundamental Attribution Error, Dispositional Attribution, Counterfactual Thinking

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Published on 2 Mar 2015
Chapter 3: Social Beliefs and Judgments
The extent to which we construct social perceptions and beliefs:
oWe perceive and recall events through filters of our own assumptions
oWe judge events by implicit rules that guide our snap judgments, and by mood
oWe explain events by sometimes attributing them to the person or the event
oWe expect certain events which can help bring them about
Our preconceptions guide how we perceive and interpret info
We respond not to actual reality, but to the reality we have construed
Priming: activating particular associations in memory
Our memory is a web of associations
Priming is the awakening or activation of certain associations
Our thinking and acting is often primed by events of which we are unaware
oEx// Psych students reading about disorders may worry more about their headaches or
Priming effects occur even when stimuli presented is subliminal
oEx// being exposed to certain words may cause us to mistakenly see a wrong word that
is related to the exposed word (primed with “bread”, mistaking “bottle” as “butter”)
Much of our social info processing is automatic
oIt is unintentional, out of sight, and happens without our conscious awareness
Perceiving and Interpreting Events
Our perception and judgments are usually accurate but can sometimes falter
Social perceptions are in the eye of the beholder
When social info is subject to multiple interpretations, preconceptions matter
In general, we perceive media and mediators as biased against our position
Our assumptions about the world can make contradictory evidence seem supportive
oEx// a study asked students to evaluate results of two supposedly new studies
oHal the students favoured capital punishment; other half opposed it
oOf studies that evaluated, one confirmed and the other disconfirmed the students’
beliefs about deterrent effect of death penalty
oResults: Both proponents and opponents of capital punishment accepted evidence that
confirmed their belief
oHowever, they were sharply critical of disconfirming evidence
oShowing the two sides of the same body of mixed evidence had only increased their
disagreement (?)
Given the same mixed info, opposing views can take the info and fit it to support their opinions
oEx// being told a picture is of an anti-Nazi leader vs. a Gestapo leader causes us to look
at the same picture and judge facial expression to fit what we have been told
Filmmakers control emotion perception by manipulating the setting in which we see faces
o“Kulechov effect”
Spontaneous trait transference is associating the trait that Person A tells us person B has to
person A
oEx// going around gossiping will give the impression that we are gossip-y
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Bottom line: there is an objective reality but we view it through our own beliefs, attitudes and
They shape our interpretation of everything else
Belief Perseverance
Experiments show it’s very difficult to destruct a falsehood when we’ve already built up
rationale for it
oIn one study students were given a belief and told it was true/shown evidence
oStudents then asked to explain why it is true
oThen told it was false; new belief however survived 75% intact
oThis is called belief perseverance: persistence of your initial conceptions, as when the
basis for your belief is discredited but an explanation of why the belief might be true
Beliefs take on a life of their own
The experiments that give support for this theory show that the more we examine and explain,
the more we become resistant to info that challenges our belief
Our beliefs and expectations powerfully affect how we mentally construct events
Usually our preconceptions are good at guiding us
They do however restrain us so we are prisoners of our own thought patterns
“Two thirds of what we see is behind our eyes”
A remedy for belief perseverance: explaining the opposite
Capital punishment experiment was repeated but with two added variations:
oThey asked some subjects when evaluating the evidence to be as objective and
unbiased as possible
Still made biased evaluations
oAnother group told to consider the opposite
These people much less biased in evaluations
Opposite theory works for any alternative theory, i.e. not just the opposite theory will work
Having people consider different views drive people to become less biased
Constructing Memories of Ourselves and Our Worlds
Our memory is not a chest which contains all our memories
It’s similar to a palaeontologist inferring the appearance of a dinosaur from bones
We reconstruct our distant past by using current feelings and expectations to combine pieces
of info
We are able to revise our memories to suit current knowledge
When a therapist manipulates people’s presumptions about their past, many will construct
false memories
Elizabeth Loftus explored our tendency to construct memories
oPeople witnessed an event, either received misleading info about it or not, and then
took a memory test
oLed to the misinformation effect: incorporating “misinformation” into one’s memory of
the event, after witnessing an events and then receiving misleading info about it
One social experiment had students talk to someone for 15 minutes
oAfter being told the other person liked them, students said that he was happy and
oAfter being told the other person didn’t like them, students said he was nervous and not
so happy
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Reconstructing past attitudes
People who have changed opinions often say they have always felt as they do in the present
In one study, students participated in a survey about student control over the curriculum
After a week, they were to write an essay opposing student control
After the essay, their attitudes shifted toward opposing student control
When asked to recall their attitude before the essay, they said they didn’t feel their opinion
Rosy retrospection is the recollection of a mildly pleasant events as much more enjoyable
With any positive experience, some pleasure lives in the anticipation, some in the actual
experience, and some in rosy retrospection
Also been found that we revise our memories of other people as our relationships with them
oMarriages that have soured see couples recalling that things had always been bad
We haven’t completely forgotten how we’ve felt in the past
We have simply allowed our current feelings to guide the recall
Reconstructing past behaviour
Memory construction enables us to revise our own histories
Hindsight bias involves memory revision
oEx// recalling our voting predictions as closer to the actual results
Our memories reconstruct other past behaviours
oEx// students recalled brushing teeth more often during preceding two weeks after being
exposed to a message convincing them of the pros of brushing
It’s necessary to remember that things happened in the desired way
We all have “totalitarian egos” that revise the past to suit our present views
Sometimes prevent view is that we’ve improved, so we mis-recall our past as more unlike the
oEx// clients of self-improvement programs
Cognitive mechanisms are efficient and adaptive but still error-prone
Sometimes we misjudge others
Last 30 years marks the era of social cognition
Intuitive Judgments
Advocates of “intuitive management” say we should go with our gut
oImportant info is immediately available apart from our conscious analysis
Are they right?
Priming research shows that a lot of our behaviour comes from the unconscious
Everyday life is determined by mental processes that we execute according to our environment
Performing many everyday tasks by consciously initiating them would be very inefficient
Much of what we do is automatic, like driving, dating, dancing, etc.
The powers of intuition
We know more than we know we know
We have limited access to what’s going on in our minds
Thinking is partly:
oControlled: “explicit” thinking that is deliberate, reflective, and conscious
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