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Chapter 2

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McGill University
PSYC 215
Donald Taylor

PSYC215 Chapter 2 Notes Definitions: Self-Concept: A person’s answers to the question, “Who am I?” Controlled Processing: “Explicit” thinking that is deliberate, reflective, and conscious. Automatic Processing: “Implicit” thinking that is effortless, habitual, and without awareness, roughly corresponds to “intuition”. Impact Bias: Overestimating the enduring impact of emotion-causing events. Dual Attitudes: Differing implicit (automatic) and explicit (consciously controlled) attitudes toward the same object. Verbalized explicit attitudes may change with education and persuasion; implicit attitudes change slowly, with practice that forms new habits. Social Comparison: Evaluating one’s abilities and opinions by comparing oneself to others. Self-esteem: A person’s overall self-evaluation or sense of self-worth. Social Identity: The “we” aspect of our self-concept. The part of our answer to “Who am I?” that comes from our group memberships. Examples: “I am Australian.” “I am Catholic.” Self-schema: Beliefs about self that organize and guide the processing of self-relevant information. Self-reference Effect: The tendency to process efficiently and remember well information related to oneself. Possible Selves: Images of what we dream of or dread becoming in the future. Learned Helplessness: The hopelessness and resignation learned when a human or animal perceives no control over repeated bad events. Self-serving Bias: The tendency to perceive oneself favourably. Self-serving Attributions: A form of self-serving bias; the tendency to attribute positive outcomes to oneself and negative outcomes to other factors. False Consensus Effect: The tendency to overestimate the commonality of one’s opinions and one’s undesirable or unsuccessful behaviours. False Uniqueness Effect: The tendency to underestimate the commonality of one’s abilities and one’s desirable or successful behaviours. Temporal Comparison: A comparison between how the self is viewed now and how the self was viewed in the past or how the self is expected to be viewed in the future. Self-handicapping: Protecting one’s self-image with behaviours that create a handy excuse for later failure. Self-presentation: The act of expressing oneself and behaving in ways designed to create a favourable impression or an impression that corresponds to one’s ideals. Self-monitoring: Being attuned to the way one presents oneself in social situations and adjusting one’s performance to create the desired impression. Chapter Notes:  Social surroundings shape how we think about ourselves. As individuals in a group of a different culture, race, or sex, we notice how we differ and how others are reacting to our difference.  Self-interest colours our judgments about others and ourselves. When problems occur from a marriage, we attribute it more to our partner. When something good happens at home, we see ourselves as more responsible.  Looking good to others motivates our social behaviour. Concern for self-image drives much of our behaviour.  The traffic between self and society runs both ways. Your ideas and feelings about yourself affect how you interpret events, how you recall them, and how you respond to others. Others, in turn, help shape your sense of self.  Powers of intuition is immediately knowing something without reasoning or analysis. Advocates of “intuitive management” believe we should tune into our hunches. When judging others, we should plug into the non-logical smarts of our “right brain.” When hiring, firing, and investing, we should listen to our premonitions.  Priming research suggests that the unconscious indeed controls much of our behaviours.  John Bargh and Tanya Chartrand explain, “Most of a person’s everyday life is determined not by their conscious intentions and deliberate choices but by mental processes that are put into motion by features of the environment and that operate outside of conscious awareness and guidance.”  Neil Macrae and Lucy Johnston state, “to be able to do just about anything at all (i.e. driving, dating, dancing), action initiation needs to be decoupled from the inefficient (i.e. slow, serial, resource consuming) workings of the conscious mind, otherwise inaction inevitably would prevail.”  Studies of our unconscious information processing confirm our limited access to what’s going on in our minds.  Our thinking is partly controlled (reflective, deliberate, and conscious) and-more than most of us once supposed-partly automatic (impulsive, effortless, and without our awareness).  Automatic, intuitive thinking occurs not “on-screen” but off-screen, out of sight, where reason does not go.  Examples of automatic thinking: o Schemas: Mental templates intuitively guide our perceptions and interpretations of our experience (i.e. word and sounds) o Emotional reactions are often nearly instantaneous o We remember implicitly, without consciously knowing and declaring that we know  Our controlled consciousness attends to the most important, complex, or novel issues, while subordinates deal with routine affairs and matters requiring instant action. This delegation of resources enables us to react to many situations quickly and efficiently. The bottom line: Our brain knows much more than it tells us.  The powers and perils of our intuitions demonstrate that much of our thinking occurs outside of our awareness and that our conscious thoughts often bear little resemblance to our unconscious thoughts that are controlling our behaviour.  When predicting our behaviour, the best advice is to consider your past behaviour in similar situations. To predict our future, consider your past.  Nicholas Epley and David Dunning discovered that we can sometimes better predict people’s behaviour by asking them to predict others’ behaviour.  When allowing our automatic processes to influence our decisions, it usually leads to happier decisions. It seems that our unconscious intuitions might be better guides than we have previously thought.  Studies of “affective forecasting” reveal that people nevertheless have greatest difficulty predicting the intensity and the duration of their future emotions.  Out intuitive theory seems to be: We want. We get. We are happy. In reality, we often “miswant.”  Impact bias is important because people’s “affective forecasts”-their predictions of their future emotions-influence their decisions.  People often neglect the speed and power of their psychological immune system, which includes their strategies for rationalizing, discounting, forgiving, and limiting emotional trauma. Being largely ignorant of our psychological immune system, we accommodate to disabilities, romantic breakups, exam failures, tenure denials, and personal and team defeats more readily than we would expect. Ironically, major negative events (which activate our psychological defences) can be less enduringly distressing than minor irritations (which don’t activate our defences). In other words, under most circumstances, we are remarkably resilient.  When the causes of our behaviour are conspicuous and the correct explanation fits our intuition, our self-perceptions will be accurate. When the causes of behaviour are obvious to an observer, they are usually obvious to us as well.  Timothy Wilson says the mental processes that control our social behaviour are distinct from the mental processes through which we explain our behaviour. Our rational explanations may therefore omit the gut-level attitudes that actually guide our behaviour. In his experiments, he found that expressed attitudes toward things or people usually predicted later behaviour reasonably well.  Compared with reasoned judgments of people with various facial attributes, gut-level reactions also are more consistent. First impressions can be telling.  Our automatic implicit attitudes regarding someone or something often differ from our consciously controlled, explicit attitudes.  The limits of our self-knowledge have two practical implications. The first is for psychological inquiry. Self-reports are often untrustworthy. Errors in self-understanding limit the scientific usefulness of subjective personal reports. The second implication is the sincerity with which people report and interpret their experiences is no guarantee of the validity of these reports. Personal testimonies are powerfully persuasive but may also be wrong. Keeping this potential for error in mind can help us feel less intimidated by others and be less gullible.  The looking-glass self is how sociologist Charles H. Cooley described our using others as a mirror for perceiving ourselves. We see our reflection in how we appear to others.  What matters for our self-concept is not what others actually think of us, but the way we imagine they see us.  Social comparisons can profoundly affect our self-feelings. People who are concerned about their weight feel worse after reading about a thin peer.  Our overall self-evaluation is a psychological gauge by which we monitor and react to how others appraise us. Indeed our self-esteem tracks how we see ourselves on traits that we believe are valued by others.  People believe that social acceptance often depends on easily observable traits, like physical appearance and social skills. Though people say they value communal traits, like kindness and understanding, they recognize that appearance i
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