Illusory Correlations & Reasons for Unreason (Text Module 8 & 10)
1. Module 8 discusses “four reasons for unreason.” What are these four reasons?
1. Our preconceptions control our interpretations
2. We often are swayed more by anecdotes than by statistical facts
3. We misperceive correlation and control
4. Our beliefs can generate our own conclusions
2. What evidence does Module 8 provide for the claim that our preconceptions control our
In their study, both proponents and opponents of capital punishment readily accepted evidence
that confirmed their belief but were sharply critical of disconfirming evidence
i. Showing the two sides an identical body of mixed evidence had not lessened
disagreement but increased it
3. What is the availability heuristic and how does it relate to Module 8’s point that we’re more
influenced by memorable events than by facts?
Availability Heuristic – Cognitive rule that judges the likelihood of things in terms of their
availability in memory. If instances of something come readily to mind, we presume them to be
i. The more easily we remember something, the more likely it seems
4. What is an illusory correlation?
Easily associating random events expecting to find significant relationships
People easily misperceive random events as confirming their beliefs
i. If we believe correlation exists, more likely to notice and recall confirming instances
5. How does superstitious behavior arise out of illusory correlations?
If you think of a friend and right when you think of them, they call, you remember that more
6. What are illusions of control? How does it explain gambling behaviors? How can it lead to
overconfidence and superstitious behavior?
Illusions of control – The idea that chance events are subject to our influence
Gambling – People who throw the dice/spin the wheel have increased confidence
i. Will throw softly for low numbers, hard for high
ii. When asked to sell their lottery tickets, those who were assigned numbers asked for less
than those who chose their own number (asked for 4 times as much)
iii. Winning = skill, losing = bad luck
7. What is regression toward the average? Be familiar with textbook examples. Regression toward the average – If their first score is at the ceiling, their second score will most
likely fall back toward their own average than to push the ceiling even higher
i. That’s why a student who consistently does good work ends up at the top
ii. If lowest score on first exam, likely to improve on the next exam
We tend to fall back to our own average
8. What are self-fulfilling prophecies and how might teachers’ expectations influence student
Low expectations do not doom a capable child, nor do high expectations magically transform a
slow learner into a valedictorian
High expectations do, however, boost low achievers
9. How can self-fulfilling prophecies result in “behavioral confirmation”?
Self-fulfilling prophecies – Our intuitive beliefs sometimes lead us to act in ways that produce
their apparent confirmation
Research participants sometimes live up to what they believe experimenters expect of them
Behavioral Confirmation – Erroneous beliefs about the social world can induce others to confirm
i. Their beliefs make them act in a way that will return the response that confirms their
10. How does the David Rosenhan study described in Module 10 demonstrate the hindsight
Called complaining about hearing voices, then told everything true w/ no symptoms. Most
diagnosed w/ schizophrenia and remained hospitalized for two – three weeks. Hospital clinicians
then searched for early incidents in pseudo patients’ life stories and hospital behavior that
confirmed/explained the diagnosis
Prejudice (Lecture & Modules 22, 23, 28, 29)
1. Be familiar with the examples of different types of prejudice discussed at the beginning of Module
Religion – After 9/11, Americans w/ strong national identity expressed most disdain for Arab
immigrants, not inclined to hire/pay well Muslims, one of last it’s ok to publicly demean
Obesity – Overweight ppl, especially white women, face slim prospects for love and jobs. Marry
less, gain entry to less desirable jobs, make less money. Weight discrimination exceeds racial &
gender discrimination. Sexual Orientation – Gay and lesbian teens more likely to be harshly punished by schools and
courts than straight peers, despite being less likely to engage in serious wrongdoing. One in five
British LGBT have been victimized by aggressive harassment, insults, and physical attacks.
Age – Elderly perceived as frail, incompetent, and unproductive. Get patronizing behavior, baby-
talk, leading to them feeling less competent and act less capable.
Immigrants – ppl generally don’t like immigrants
2. What is the basic definition of prejudice?
a. Hostile/negative attitude towards a group or its members based solely on their membership
What are racism, ageism, sexism, ablism, and heterosexism?
o Racism – against a race
o Ageism – Against the elderly
o Ablism – Against handicapped persons
o Heterosexism – Against people of different sexual
What is “old-fashioned” prejudice?
o Explicit Prejudice – Conscious, blatant, out in the open
What is modern prejudice (called “subtle” prejudice in Module 22)?
o Subtle Prejudice – Denial of bias
Appears subtly in preferences for familiar, similar,
Overpraising for accomplishments, overcritisizing mistakes,
failing to warn
Be familiar with Module 22 examples of subtle forms of prejudice
o Crosby – Blacks shocked more than whites when angered or if
o Pedersen – Exaggerating differences, feeling less
admiration/affection for immigrants, rejecting them for
supposedly nonracial reasons
o Crosby – Failing to warn black students as they would whites
about potential academic difficulty
o Harber – Gave white students poorly written essay by “black”
Rated it higher, less criticism
Perhaps avoiding appearance of bias Bend over backward to give positive and unchallenging
3. What are stereotypes?
a. Generalized beliefs about a group and its members, where specific traits are assigned to most
members regardless of variation among members.
Where do they come from?
o Peers, family, media, internet
o Salient personal experiences
Loud disruptive german exchange students.
How are they are cognitive source of prejudice leading to “implicit
o Prejudice and discrimination are subconscious and unintentional
o Will not critically think about treatment and automatically do
it not thinking of its racism
How is implicit bias typically measured?
o Computerized test – Implicit Association Test (IAT)
o Positive & negative association w/ word / group
4. What is discrimination? How can it be subtle or blatant?
Negative/harmful treatment of group and members, solely because of group membership
Outright physical blatant “I don’t like u so fuck u”
Subtle - Microaggressions
5. What are microaggressions?
Subtle slights/insults that indicate prejudice to the target.
i. “You speak really good English”
ii. “You’re pretty for a black girl”
iii. “You drive well for an Asian”
6. What is institutional discrimination?
Societal and Organizational practices that perpetuate the subordination of a group
i. Suck ass schools for black kids but rich well-funded white schools??
ii. Hiring practices that always prefer straight white guys
7. What are the consequences of prejudice discussed in your text (Module 23) and in class?
What is minority stress?
o Literally being in pain/stress for being discriminated against
o Negative mental and physical effects What is behavioral confirmation? How can our prejudices lead to self-fulfilling prophecies/behavioral
confirmation? (Be familiar with the Word, Zanna, & Cooper study discussed in class and in the text on
o Behavioral confirmation is when we treat those we are prejudiced against with a certain behavior
that will evoke a response that only re-confirms our own prejudices
o White males interviewed White and Black research assistant applicants
When Black, interviewers sat further away, ended 25% sooner, made them make 50%
more speech errors.
Trained them to treat both the same. Whites acted the same way.
What is stereotype threat? Why does it interfere with performance?
o When aware that others have negative stereotype towards their group, produces their own
performance deficit. Fear of confirming negative stereotypes distracts from the task and creates
anxiety that hurts performance.
How does prejudice and bias place some individuals and groups at a disadvantage relative to
o Unfairly reduces achievements and self-actualization of some groups relative to others
Leads to educational disparities and biases in hiring or promotion
8. What does it mean to say "prejudice is often a social norm"? How can it be encouraged via
normative pressure? How can it be fostered via informational pressure?
Groups often have norms that condone prejudice
i. Norms to hate, contempt, exclude, separate, ridicule
i. Externally conform to prejudice
ii. Don’t call out prejudice
iii. Due to desire for social approval / fear of rejection
i. Ignorance to rely on biased info from peers, family, media, internet
ii. Lack of exposure/segregation often sources of ignorance
9. What is the cognitive (social cognition/social categorization) approach to prejudice?
How do stereotypes operate schematically to create confirmation bias? How does this make it
difficult to change prejudicial attitudes?
o Operate as cognitive frameworks that guide info processing
o Categorize ppl simplifies ppl processing
o Salient features of individuals/minorities trigger stereotype processing o Confirmation bias, implicit bias, stereotype resistance
o Stereotype resistance
Subtype – An “exception” to the rule
Numerous disconfirming cases needed before person abandons stereotpye
How does ingroup-outgroup bias contribute to biased processing of ingroup-outgroup actions
and result in the ultimate attribution error?
o Ingroup – Positive for our group
o Outgroup – Negative for other groups
o Selective memory for ingroup-outgroup, exaggeration of differences, self-segregation
o Group level attribution error that offers explanation for how one person views different causes
of negative and positive behavior in ingroup-outgroup
How does segregation (lack of contact) contribute to the maintenance of our stereotypes?
o Lack of contact prevents people from seeing disconfirming cases and will not change their
How can vivid cases and distinctive events lead to illusory correlations (stereotypes) of other
groups (Module 23)?
o Vivid cases are more memorable and affective, so they make people lead to conclusions about
o We are sensitive to distinctive events, so the co-occurrence of 2 such events is especially
noticeable, more noticeable than when they didn’t occur together
Homosexual man killed another person
Homosexual & kill
Homosexual = violent
What is implicit bias (automatic prejudice in text) and how is it measured by the IAT?
o Implicit bias – Inner prejudices that are automatic, subconscious
o Measured by quickness to associate good w/ white bad w/ black
What is the typical way that people handle cases that contradict their stereotypes? (subtyping
o When faced with disconfirming evidence, creates “exception to the rule”
o Subtype/subgroup – exceptions to the group in general
10. Be familiar with the examples giving in our textbook (Module 23) for the claim that “unequal status
breeds prejudice.” How does it relate to lecture and text discussion of prejudice arising out of just-
world thinking and dissonance due to immorality?
We need status, for us to be good status, others need to be below. Crocker – Lower-status sororities more disparaging of competing sororities than were high-status
i. Prejudice is often greater among those low/slipping on socioeconomic ladder
Thinking about death, need to do terror management to shield selves from threat of their own
death by derogating those who further arouse their anxiety by challenging their worldviews.
Just-World thinking – Attribute lower status of some groups to their lack of ability/
Reduces guilt regarding privilege and guilt about benefitting from economic exploitation of
11. What is the justification-suppression model of prejudice?
Justify our prejudice by blaming targets so we can admit we’re not prejudice
12. How can prejudice arise from frustration and displaced aggression? What is scapegoating?
Frustrated group blames its misfortunes on another group
i. Transfers anger to another group that’s disliked, visible, and relatively powerless
13. How does social identity theory explain prejudice? How can social identities motivate prejudice?
What is collective self-esteem?
a. Social Identity Theory – We categorize, identify, and compare.
b. When people’s personal and social identities become fused, the boundary between self and group
b.i. More willing to fight or die for their group.
b.ii. The more important our social identity and strongly attached to group, the more we react
prejudicially to threats from another group
c. Collective Self-Esteem – Strong, proud social identity based on “fraternal deprivation”
c.i. Discriminated groups higher in CSE
c.ii. Allows preservation of self-esteem, comparing of ingroup and rejecting values of
14. What is ingroup-outgroup bias? How do prejudice and ingroup-outgroup bias boost self-esteem
(according to your text, how does it support a “positive self-concept”)?
Exaggeration of differences between ingroup and outgroup
When group is successful, can express that they’re successful too.
15. What is the outgroup homogeneity effect? What is own-race bias? (Module 23 p. 267).
Outgroup homogeneity – They are “all alike” and are different from “us”
Own-race bias – Whites more accurately recognize white faces than black faces, and falsely
recognize back faces never seen before 16. Why do people from traditionally discriminated-against groups often score higher on collective self-
esteem? How do they turn a “mark of shame into a badge of courage”? How can having a shared
group identity based on your group’s “deprivation” relative to other groups motivate equality
struggles? See your notes but see also Module 29 discussion of how despising outgroups can
strengthen the ingroup.
Proud social identity based on fraternal deprivation
i. Preservation of self-esteem
ii. Reject values of the outgroup
iii. Fuels equality struggles but can enhance prejudice and create backlash
17. How does social identity theory explain disparagement/derogation humor (i.e.,
racist/sexist/heterosexist jokes)? Why do they believe we make jokes at the expense of other
groups? Why do social psychologists believe that such jokes are problematic?
Social Identify prides self on being on the ingroup and makes fun of the outgroup to prove
ingroup’s superiority vs outgroup’s inferiority
Jokes that put down others provide a source of downward social comparison
i. Put down other groups to boost self-esteem
18. What is the role of education in prejudice reduction?
Education has the power to decrease prejudice due to social norms
19. What is the role of “controlled processing” in prejudice reduction?
Can override automatic processing
20. What is the role of contact in prejudice reduction? What conditions need to be present before
contact will reduce prejudice? (Lecture and Module 29)
Increased contact predicted decreased prejudice in 94% of studies
Under certain conditions, contact can reduce prejudice
i. Equal Status contact – Contact on equal basis
ii. Personal interaction – Emotional ties and friendship
iii. Cooperation towards a superordinate goal – working together against a big baddie
iv. Social Support
21. What was the Robbers Cave Study (Sherif study at the boys’ camp) and how did it demonstrate the
role of competition in creating intergroup conflict (realistic group conflict; see Module 23) and
superordinate goals in reducing it (Module 29)?
Realistic Conflict – Limited resources and economic competition leads to conflict between
i. Name-calling, prejudice Superordinate goals – Intergroup combined goals helped ease the tension and made the two
22. What is cooperative education? Why does it work? What is the jigsaw classroom?
a. Students meet in ethnically diverse groups of 5-6 for 1 hr a day
a.i. Lesson divided into pies
a.ii. Reduced prejudice in 3 months
a.iii. Increases academic performance of minority students
23. According to Module 23, what is the relationship between prejudice and religion?
Religion can make prejudice and unmake prejudice
Leaders use religion to sanctify the present order.
i. White church members express more racial prejudice than nonmembers
ii. Those professing fundamentalist beliefs express more prejudice than those professing
more progressive beliefs
People who truly believe in the religious deeper than the surface are more likely to welcome
minorities Gender (Lecture & Module 13)
1. What is the gender similarities hypothesis? Is it supported by research? Of the studies that find
differences how big are the differences? Overall, does psychological research support a binary view
Gender Similarities – No psychological differences between genders
o 78% of differences are small/close to zero
o Genders are more alike than different
o Nothing justifies gender discrimination
o Does not support binary
Gender Binary – Femininity vs Masculinity, clear cut, mutually exclusive
o Norms support prejudice/discrimination to ppl nonconforming
o Reality: Gender more complex than binary: intersex, gender fluid, gender identity
Experience of gender intersectional