Why study social cognition?
-The field of social cognition is the study of how people think about the social world and arrive at
judgements that help them interpret the past, understand the present and predict the future.
The Information available for social cognition
-depends on accurate information
Minimal Information: Inferring Personality from Physical Appearance
-We often judge people using snap judgment based on their appearance.
-Todorov and his colleagues had participants rate photographs of different faces, all with neutral
expressions on personality dimensions people mention when describing faces. There is positive-negative
dimension (whether someone is seen as trustworthy or aggressive or not). There is also the dimension
centred around power (whether someone seems confident or bashful, dominant or submissive).
Trustworthy, non-dominant faces that were voted tend to look like baby faces.
-Some investigators report moderately high correlations between the judgements made about people
based on their facial appearance and those individual's own reports about how approachable,
extraverted, and powerful they are. Other similar studies have shown no correlation. Evidence that
people can accurately assess other people's personalities based on facial appearance alone if hard to
find. These studies are more valuable for gaining information on how people view other people.
Misleading Firsthand Information: Pluralistic Ignorance
-Firsthand information: Information we acquire through experience. Sometimes misleading because we
generalize and conjure ideas.
-Pluralistic Ignorance: Misperception of a group norm that results from observing people who are acting
at variance with their private beliefs out of a concern for the social consequences-actions that reinforce
the erroneous group norm. Example: when you don't understand something in class but are too shy to
ask because you think everyone else understood.
-Shelton and Richeson: When both people assume the other is not interested, neither one makes the
effort to become friends.
Misleading Secondhand Information
-Secondhand Information: Information we acquire through other people (news, gossip, word of mouth).
Can be misleading because it has been filtered through someone else.
-Ideological Distortions: Some elements of a story are accentuated while others are suppressed.
-Distortions in the Service of Entertainment: Overemphasis on Bad News: People exaggerate their
stories to make them seem more interesting. News and media over reports negative, violent and
sensational events ("If it bleeds, it leads"). On the news, 80% of crime is violent while in the real world
only 20% is.
-Effects of the Bad News Bias: People who watch violent TV shows feel less safe. Other measures may
cause this, though. People who live in low-crime cities feel more safe than those in high-crime cities,
even if they watch the same amount of violent TV.
-Differential Attention to Positive and Negative Information: People are more attracted to negatives.
Even if someone gives you 10 compliments and 1 negative comment, you will obsess over the negative
one. This may be because negative comments have more implications for our well-being. Result is that
people may be more vigilant for potential threats than for potential benefits.
How Information is Presented
-Manipulating messages people receive through marketing to increase buyer impulses.
Order Effects -Correlation between happiness and dating=0.32, yet asked in reverse (dating then happiness)=0.67. The
order in which things are presented can have a powerful influence on judgment.
-Primary Effect: The disproportionate influence on judgment by information presented first in a body of
evidence. Initial information affects how later information is construed.
-Recency Effect: The disproportionate influence on judgment by information presented last in a body of
evidence. Usually occurs when the last information presented is the easiest to remember.
-Asch's Study: In list of characteristics, the first ones were the ones that had the greatest influence on
-Framing Effect: The influence on judgment resulting from the way information is presented, such as the
order of presentation or how it is worded.
-Order effects are a type of "pure" framing effect. The frame of reference is changed even though the
content is the same.
-Spin Framing: Less pure form of framing that varies in content. For example, using the words "enhanced
interrogation" instead of "torture" or "undocumented workers" instead of "illegal aliens".
-Positive and Negative Framing: Nearly everything is a mixture of good and bad, and thus can be
described in a way that emphasizes one side of the spectrum. Because negative information tends to
attract more attention and have greater psychological impact than positive information, information is
framed in negative terms tends to elicit a stronger response. People hate losing things more than failing
to have them in the first place.
-Recognize that actions and events come framed within a particular time perspective.
-Construal Level Theory: A theory that outlines the relationship between psychological distance and the
concreteness versus abstraction of thought. Psychologically distant actions and events that are close at
hand are thought about in concrete terms.
-We tend to think of past events in abstract terms and events close at hand in more concrete terms. Far
and near in time can have the same effect with regards to location or even emotions.
How We Seek Information
-When evaluating a proposition, people more readily seek out evidence that would support the
proposition rather than information that would contradict the proposition.
-Confirmation Bias: The tendency to test a proposition by searching for evidence that would support it.
-Evidence consistent with proposition is not enough to draw a firm conclusion because there might be
even more evidence against it.
Motivated Confirmation Bias
-People deliberately search for evidence that confirms their preferences or expectations.
Top-Down Processing: Using Schemas to Understand new Information
-Bottom Up Processes: "Data-driven" mental processing, in which an individual forms conclusions based
on the stimuli encountered through experience
-Top Down Processes: "Theory-driven" mental processing, in which an individual filters and interprets
new information in light of pre-existing knowledge and expectations.
-The meaning of stimuli is not passively recorded; it is actively construed.
-Information is not stored bit by bit, but rather in coherent configurations, or schemas, in which related
information is stored together.
-Schema: Where related information is stored together.
The Influence of Schemas
-Affect our judgment: by directing our attention, structuring our memories, and influencing our
construals. -Attention: Is selective. (Basketball video where gorilla strolls by)
-Memory: More likely to remember stimuli that captured our attention. Librarian/Waitress video
example, where the woman's profession affected what the students remembered from the video.
-Schemas affect encoding and retrieval of information.
-Encoding: Filing information away in memory based on what information is attended to and the initial
interpretation of the information.
-Retrieval: The extraction of information from memory.
-Schemas influence memory through their effect on both encoding and retrieval, but the effect on
encoding is typically much stronger.
-Construal: Schemas affect the way we interpret, or construe information.
-Information stored in the brain can influence how people construe new information, especially when
the stimulus is ambiguous. In these cases, we must rely heavily on top down processes to compensate
for the inadequacies of the information obtained from the bottom up.
-Behavior: Certain types of behavior are elicited automatically when people are exposed to stimuli in the
environment that bring to mind a particular schema. (E