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PSYC 215
John Lydon

Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary CHAPTER 4 - Social Cognition: Thinking about People and Situations (pgs. 108-149) WHY STUDY SOCIAL COGNITION? - Social Cognition: the study of how people think about the social world and arrive at judgments that help them interpret the past, understand the present and predict the future o Social psychologists have been interested in cognition: social judgments are important in everyday life o However, our judgments are always perfect but they still help us figure out how to do better in the future.  They provide particularly helpful cues about how people think about other individuals and make inferences about them  They give psychologists hints about the strategies or rules people follow to make judgments - both those that are successful and disastrous  Whether rate or common, mistakes often reveal a lot about how a system works by showing its limitations - Thus, researchers in social cognition have often explored the limitations of everyday judgment THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE FOR SOCIAL COGNITION - Social cognition depends first of all on information - Understanding other people depends on accurate information o Sometimes people have little or no information on which to base their assessments o Sometimes the available information is misleading o Sometimes the way that they acquire information overly affects their thinking - Each of these circumstances presents special challenges to achieving an accurate understanding of others Minimal Information: Inferring Personality from Physical Appearance - in an empirical study demonstrating “snap judgments”, Janine Willis and Alex Todorov showed participants a large number of faces (in photos) and had them rate how attractive, aggressive, likable, trustworthy, and competent each person seemed o What they did: some participants were given as much time as they wanted to make each rating, and their estimates were used as the standard of comparison o Other participants were asked to make the same ratings, but after seeing each face for 3 different time intervals: 1 sec, half a sec, or a tenth of a second o What they found: a great deal of what we conclude about people based on their faces is determined almost instantaneously (Table 4.1) Perceiving Trust and Dominance: - What is it that people so quickly think they see in another’s face? o Todorow et al. ventured to find out  Participants were asked to rate a large number of photographs of different faces, all with neutral expressions, on the personality dimensions people most often spontaneously mention when describing faces  When they looked at how these judgments correlated with one another, they found two dimensions that stand out: Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary • 1. Positive-negative dimension involving such assessments as whether someone is seen as trustworthy or untrustworthy, aggressive or non-aggressive • 2. Centers around power involving such assessments as whether someone seems confident or bashful, dominant or submissive  It appears that people are set to make highly fictional judgments about others: • (Dimension 1): whether they should be avoided or approached • (Dimension 2) where they are likely to stand in a status of power hierarchy  Todorov used computer models to generate faces that represent various combinations of these two dimensions, including faces that are more extreme on each trait dimension than what we’d encounter in real life (Figure 4.1) • In these faces, we can see the hypermasculine features like a pronounced jaw that make someone look dominant and the features such as the shape of the eyebrow and eye socket that make someone look trustworthy • The faces that are seen as trustworthy and non dominant tend to look like baby faces o Leslie Zebrowitz et al. showed that adults with such baby-faced features as large round eyes, a large forehead, high eyebrows, and a rounded, relatively small chin are assumed to possess many of the characteristics associated with the very young  They are judged to be relatively weak, naïve and submissive  Whereas, with small eyes, a small forehead and an angular, prominent chin tend to be judged as strong, competent, and dominant o Konrad Lorenz (renowned ethologist) speculated that the cuteness of the young in many mammalian species triggers a hardwired, automatic reaction that helps ensure that the young and helpless receive adequate care  The automatic nature of our response to infantile features makes it more likely that we would overgeneralize and come to see even adults with such features as trustworthy and friendly  These assessments have dramatic implications: • Baby-faced individuals receive more favourable treatment as defendants in court but have a harder time being seen as appropriate for “adult” jobs such as banking The Accuracy of Snap Judgments - How accurate are the snap judgments we make of peopled based on their appearance or upon witnessing very brief samples of their behaviour? Are the facial features people associate with different personality traits valid cues to those traits? o A question that has not satisfactorily answered o Some investigators report moderately high correlations between the judgments made about people based on their facial appearance and those individuals’ own reports of how approachable, extraverted and powerful they are  Similar studies have found no connection between judgments based on facial appearance and self-reports of agreeableness and conscientiousness Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary o When behavioural observations rather than self-ratings are used as the criterion of accuracy, evidence that people can accurately assess other people’s personalities based on facial appearance alone is even harder to find o The fairest summary of current research: people’s snap judgments about facial appearance may hold some truth, but very small. - Sometimes, it is more important to predict not what a person’s true personality is, but rather what other people in general think o Then you’d ask, how well do snap judgments predict more considered consensus opinion. Evidence indicates that they predict rather well o Todorov et al.  Participants were shown, for 1 sec, pictures of the Republican and Democratic candidates in U.S. congressional elections and asked to indicate which candidates looked more competent  Those judged to be more competent by most of the participants won 69% of the races  The person judged to be more competent might not actually be more competent. What matters in predicting the outcome of elections is not what is really true, but what the electorate believes to be true o Ambady and Rosenthal  Participants were shown “thin slices” of professor’s performance in the classroom (10 sec silent video clips) and asked to rate the professors on a variety of dimensions such as how anxious, competent, active, professional and warm they seemed  A composite of these quick assessments significantly correlated with students’ evaluations of their professors at the end of the semester Misleading Firsthand Information: Pluralistic Ignorance - The information we have about the world comes to us through direct experience (immediate impressions of others) or secondhand (gossip, news, textbooks, etc.) - Firsthand information o In many cases, this kind of information is more accurate because it hasn’t been filtered by someone else o Can also be deceptive, as when we are inattentive to information about events that occur before our eyes or when we misconstrue certain events o Our own experience can also be unrepresentative, as when we judge what the students are like at a given university from the one student we encounter during a campus tour o Some of it is information we extract from other people’s behaviour (i.e. when the prof asks, “if anyone has any questions” and no one raises their hands. You think you are the only one who’s confused).  ^ Example of 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 • In other words, occurs when people act in ways that conflict with their private beliefs because of a concern for the social consequences Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary o When everyone follows this logic, an illusion is created and everyone misperceives the group norm o People conclude from the illusory group consensus that they are deviant, and this misperception reinforces the difficulty of acting in accordance with what they really believe • Pluralistic ignorance is particularly common in situations where “toughness” is valued, leading people to be afraid to show their kinder, gentler impulses (i.e. gang members) • Nicole Shelton and Jennifer Richeson: examined another form of pluralistic ignorance, one with profound implications for interactions between members of different ethnic groups o Researchers predicted that individuals might worry that someone from another ethnic group wouldn’t be interested in talking to them. Initiating conversation is avoided due to fear of rejection. As a result, no opening gesture is made and no contact is established. o But how do people interpret the missed opportunity?  They asked students a series of focused questions, and found that although the students tended to attribute their own failure to initiate contact to their fear of rejection, they assumed that the other person didn’t initiate contact because of a lack of interest in establishing friendships across ethnic lines  When both people assume the other is not interested, neither one makes the effort. Misleading Secondhand Information - Since many of our judgments are based on secondhand information, a comprehensive understanding of social cognition requires an analysis of the accuracy of this information - What are some of the variables that influence the accuracy of secondhand information? What factors reduce the reliability of secondhand information, and when are these factors likely to come into play? Ideological Distortions - Transmitters of information often have an ideological agenda: a desire to foster certain beliefs of behaviours in others that leads them to accentuate and suppress some elements of a story - Sometimes such motivated distortion is relatively “innocent”: the person relaying the message believes in it but chooses to omit certain details that might detract from its impact Distortions in the Service of Entertainment: Overemphasis on Bad News - One of the most pervasive reasons for distortion in secondhand accounts is the desire to entertain - The desire to entertain distorts the messages people receive through the mass media o Print and broadcast media over-report negative, violent events (“if it bleeds, it leads”) Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary o In the real world as seen through the media, 80% of all crime is violent, in the real world only 20% is violent Effects of the Bad-News Bias - The most frequently voiced concern about the bad-news bias is that exposure to such a view if reality can lead people to believe they are more at risk of victimization than they really are - Investigators conducted surveys that ask people how much television they watch and then ask them questions about the prevalence of crime o Such studies have consistently found a positive correlation between the amount of time spent watching television and the fear of victimization o But it’s difficult to interpret - maybe there’s a relation between the kinds of people who watch a lot of T.V. that make them feel vulnerable? - So, researchers have collected a variety of other measures (income, gender, race, residential location) and examined whether the findings hold up statistically when these other variables are statistically controlled o The correlation between television-viewing habits and perceived vulnerability is substantially reduced among people living in low-crime neighbourhoods, but remains strong among those living in high-crime areas o People who live in dangerous areas and do not watch much T.V. feel safer than their neighbours who watch a lot o The violence depicted on T.V. can make the world appear to be a dangerous place, especially when the televised images are similar to certain aspects of a person’s envmt Differential Attention to Positive and Negative Information - Even if positive and negative information are presented in equal measure, they don’t have symmetrical effects - For example you deliver a speech. 7 classmates say it was good and 1 says your intro sucked. You’re more obsessed with the 1 negative comment than the outnumbered compliments. - We may be more attentive to negative information than to positive information because the former has more implications for our well-being o Some negative events constitute threats to survival, and therefore need to be attended to quickly and thoroughly o Organisms that fail to do so put themselves at risk o Many positive events such as eating, also have survival implications, but they’re usually not as urgent - People may be more vigilant for potential threats than for potential benefits HOW INFORMATION IS PRESENTED - Social psychologists find that slight variations in the presentation of information - how it is presented and even when it is presented - can have profound effects on people’s judgments Order Effects - The order in which items are presented can have a powerful influence on judgment - For example, researchers asked two groups the same two questions in different order o Q1: “How happy are you with your life in general?” o Q2: “How many dates have you been on in the past month?” Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary o When respondants were asked Q1 and then Q2, the correlation between their responses was only 0.32. o When respondants were asked Q2 then Q1, their responses was more than twice as strong (0.67) o Asking about their recent dating history made them very aware of how that part of their life was going, which had an effect on how they answered the second question - Primacy Effect: the disproportionate influence on judgment by information presented first in a body of evidence - Recency Effect: the disproportionate influence on judgment by information presented last in a body of evidence - Solomon Asch asked people to evaluate a hypothetical individual described in the following terms: intelligent, industrious, impulsive, crucial, stubborn and envious o Group 1 read it in this order: the individual was rated favourably o Group 2 read it in the opposite order: formed a much less favourable impression o Substantial primacy effect o Traits presented at the beginning of the list had more impact than those presented later on - Order affect rises for a number of reasons o 1. Some arise because of information-processing limitations  Primacy effects often result from a tendency to pay great attention to stimuli presented early on, but then lose focus during the presentation of later items • In Asch’s experiment, it is impossible to miss that the person described is intelligent and industrious which makes you gloss over the rest  Recency effects typically result when the last items are easiest to recall. Information remembered receives greater weight than information forgotten, so later items sometimes exert more influence on judgment than information presented earlier o 2. Arise because the initial information affects how later information is construed  All of the traits in Asch’s experiment have different shades of meaning, and how each is constructed depends on the information already encountered • For example, when the word stubborn follows positive traits, people interpret it more charitably Framing Effects - Order effects o Are a type of Framing effect: the way information is presented, including the order of presentation, can “frame” the way it is processed and understood o Type of “pure” framing effect. The frame of reference is changed even though the content of the info is exactly the same in the two versions; only the order is different Spin Framing - A less pure form of framing that varies the content, not just the order of what is presented - A company with a competitive edge in quality will introduce information that frames the issue as one of quality. Another company with an edge in price will feature information that frames the issue as one of savings Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary - Participants in political debates try to frame the discussion by spinning of highlighting some aspects of the relevant information and not others o Advocates of different positions talk of “pro-choice” vs. “the right to life” - Politicians (and some polling organizations with a political mission) also engage in spin framing when they conduct opinion polls to gather support for their positions o People are more likely to say they are in favour of repealing a “death” tax than an “inheritance” tax - Shading survey questions in a particular way has been shown to influence public opinion dramatically on a host of policy issues Positive and Negative Framing - The mixed nature of most things means that they can be described, or framed, in ways that emphasize the good or the bad, with predictable effects on people’s judgments - No “correct” frame. It is valid to state that a piece of meat is 75% lean as it is to say it’s 25% fat. - These sorts of framing effects influence judgments and decisions of the greatest consequence, even among individuals with considerable expertise on the topic in question o In one study, over 400 physicians were asked whether they would recommend surgery or radiation for patients diagnosed with a certain type of cancer  Some were told that of 100 previous patients who had the surgery, 90 lived through the postoperative period, 68 were still alive after a year, and 34 were still alive after 5 years • 82% of these physicians recommended surgery  Others were given the exact same information but framed in different language: 10 died during surgery or the postoperative period, 32 had died by the end of the first year, and 66 had died by the end of 5 years • Only 56% of the physicians recommended surgery - Since negative info tends to attract more attention and have greater psychological impact than positive information, info framed in negative terms tends to elicit a stronger response o To some extent, the results just described reflect that tendency. 10 people dying sounds more threatening than 90 out of 100 surviving. o More direct support for this idea comes from studies that have examined people’s reactions to losses versus unrealized gains o People hate losing things much more than failing to own it in the first place Temporal Framing - Why do things often seem like brilliant ideas at one time and terrible ideas at another? - The key to understanding these sorts of disagreements within ourselves is to recognize that actions and events come framed within a particular time perspective o They belong to the distant past, the present moment, the immediate future and so on - According to the construal theory, the temporal perspective from which people view events has important and predictable implications for how they construe them o Any action/event can be thought of at a low level of abstraction, rich in concrete detail Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary o Or thought of at a higher level of abstraction, rich in meaning but stripped in detail o It turns out that we tend to think of distant events, those from long ago or far off in the future, in abstract terms and of events close at hand in concrete terms - This difference in construal has important implications for what people think and how they act in their everyday lives, and it explains inconsistent preferences o Things that sound great in the abstract are sometimes less thrilling when fleshed out in all their concrete details, so we regret making some commitments  i.e. deciding to take a hard course o sometimes the abstract level can be less desirable than the concrete, producing the opposite sort of inconsistency  i.e. swearing you won’t eat that much at a buffet before you get there - this influence of near and far events applies to dimensions other than time - things can be close or far in space and close or far socially. Far or near on these dimensions has the same effect on construal as far or near in time HOW WE SEEK INFORMATION Confirmation Bias - Confirmation bias: when evaluating a proposition, people more readily, reliably and vigorously seek out evidence that would support the proposition rather than information that would contradict the proposition - One study examined this tendency o one group of participants was asked to determine whether working out the day before an important tennis match makes a player more likely to win o another group was asked to determine whether working out the say before a match makes a player more likely to lose o both groups could examine any of four types of information before coming to a conclusion  # of players in a sample who worked out the day before and won their match  # of players who worked out and lost  # of players who did not work out the day before and won  # of players who did not work out and lost o all 4 types are required to make a valid determination  must calculate and compare the success rate among those who did not work out the day before the match with the success rate among those who did not  if the first ratio is higher than the second, then working out the day before increases the chances of winning o the participants tended not to seek out all of the necessary information (Figure 4.4)  participants were especially interested in examining information that could potentially confirm the proposition they were investigating  those trying to find out whether practicing leads to winning were more interested in the number of players who practiced and won than those trying to find our whether practicing leads to losing and vice versa - this tendency to seek out confirming information can lead to all sorts of false beliefs because a person can find supportive evidence for almost anything o evidence consistent with a proposition is not enough to draw a firm Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary conclusion because there might be even more evidence against it - the danger of the confirmation bias then is that if we look mainly for one type of evidence, we are likely to find it - to truly test a proposition, we must seek out the evidence against it and the evidence for it - in the social realm, the confirmation bias often leads people to ask questions that shape the answers they get, thereby providing illusory support for what they’re trying to find out - in a particular study, one group of participants was asked to interview someone and determine whether the target was an extravert. The other group was asked to determine whether the target was an introvert o participants selected their interview questions from a list provided o is the target an extravert?  Tended to ask questions that focused on sociability o Is the target an introvert?  Tended to ask questions that focused on social withdrawal o Of course if you people about times when they are most sociable, they are likely to answer in ways that will make them seem relatively outgoing, even if they are not o If you ask about their social reticence, they will almost certainly answer in ways that make them seem relatively introverted, even if they are not - in a powerful demonstration of this tendency, the investigators tape-recorded the interview sessions, edited out the questions, and then played the responses to another, uninformed set of participants o these latter participants rated those who had been interviewed by someone testing for extraversion as more outgoing than those who had been interviewed by someone testing for introversion Motivated Confirmation Bias - people deliberately search for evidence that confirms their preferences or expectations - information that supports what a person wants to be true is readily accepted, whereas information that contradicts what the person would like to believe is subjected to critical scrutiny and often discounted - one examination of this tendency asked proponents and opponents of capital punishment to read out studies of the death penalty’s effectiveness as a deterrent to crime o some read state-by-state comparisons purportedly showing that crime rates are not any lower in states with the death penalty than in states without the death penalty, but they also read about how crime rates within a few states went down as soon as the death penalty was mandated o other participants read about studies showing the opposite o those who favoured the death penalty interpreted the evidence, whichever set they were exposed to, as strongly supporting their position o those opposed to the death penalty saw the opposite o both sides jumped on the problems associated with the studies that contradicted their positions, but readily embraced the studies that supported them o their preferences tainted how they viewed the pertinent evidence TOP-DOWN PROCESSING: USING SCHEMAS TO UNDERSTAND NEW INFORMATION - top-down processes: “theory driven” mental processing, in which an Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary individual filters and interprets new information in light of preexisting knowledge and expectations o filter and interpret bottom-up stimuli o the meaning of stimuli is not passively recorded, but actively construed - bottom-up processes: “data-driven” mental processing, in which an individual forms conclusions based on the stimuli encountered through experience o consist of taking in relevant stimuli from the outside world- text on a page, gestures in an interaction etc. - preexisting knowledge is crucial for understanding, and required for inferences and judgments - understanding and judgment are inextricably linked. They both involve going beyond currently available information and extrapolating from it - one principal psychologists have discovered is that stored information is stored in coherent configurations, or schemas in which related information is stored together The Influence of Schemas - Schemas o direct out attention, structure our memories, influence our construals (interpretation of information), and influence our behaviour Attention - attention is selective: the knowledge we bring to a given situation allows us to direct our attention to the most important elements and to ignore the rest - one experiment shows the extent to which our schemas and expectations guide out attention o participants watched a videotape of two “teams” of three people each passing a basketball back and forth o members of one team wore white shirts, members of the other team wore black shirts o each participant was asked to count the number of passes made by the members of one of the teams o 45 sec into action, a person wearing a gorilla costume strolled in o only half of the participants noticed it. The participants’ schemas about what is likely to happen in a game directed their attention so intently to some parts of the videotape that they failed to see a rather dramatic stimulus that they didn’t expect to see Memory - we are most likely to remember those stimuli that have most captured our attention - the influence of schemas on memory is also important for judgment - and subsequent action - many judgments are made later and are based on information retrieved from memory - Experiments on the impact of schemas: o Cohen: students watched a videotape of a husband and wife having dinner together  Half the students were told that the woman in the tape was a librarian  Other half were told that she was a waitress  The students later took a quiz that assessed their memory of various features  Were the student’s memories influenced by their stereotypes? • Were asked whether the woman was drinking wine or beer and whether she had received a history book or a romance Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary novel as a gift • The tape was constructed to contain an equal number of items consistent and inconsistent with each stereotype  Students who thought the woman was a librarian recalled librarian-consistent information more accurately than librarian- inconsistent information and  those who thought the woman was a waitress recalled waitress- consistent information more accurately than waitress-inconsistent information  this study shows that schemas might influence memory by affecting the encoding of information - how information is filed away in memory because schemas might affect what information people attend to and how they initially interpret and store that information  schemas might also influence the retrieval of information or how information is extracted from a storehouse of knowledge - social psychologists have good reason to believe that schemas influence encoding because we know that they direct attention - one way to find out whether schemas influence retrieval as well would be to provide people with a schema after they have been exposed to the relevant information, when it obviously cannot influence encoding o the typical result is that providing a schema after the relevant information has been encountered does not affect memory as much as providing it beforehand o occasionally, schemas provided after information has been encountered have a substantial effect - schemas influence memory through their effect on both encoding and retrieval, but the effect on encoding is typically much stronger Construal - schemas affect the information we attend to and remember and also the way we interpret, or construe the information - Donald is a fictitious person who has been used as a stimulus in numerous experiments on the effect of prior knowledge on social judgment o Tory Higgins: (study featuring Donald as the stimulus), students participated in what they thought were two unrelated experiments  1. “Perception experiment”: shown a number of trait words on a screen • Half of the participants were shown the words adventurous, self-confident, independent and persistent in a set of 10 traits • other half were shown: reckless, conceited, aloof, and stubborn  2. “Reading comprehension”: read the short paragraph about Donald and rated him on a number of trait scales  Did the words that the participants encountered in the first experiment lead them to apply different schemas and thus affect their evaluations of Donald?  those exposed to the flattering words had more favourable impressions of Donald than those who had the less flattering words  participants’ schemas about traits like “adventurousness” and “recklessness” influenced the kind of inferences they made about Donald - information stored in the brain can influence how people construe new Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary information (most likely to occurs when the stimulus like many of Donald’s actions is ambiguous) o in such cases, we must rely more heavily on top-down processes to compensate for the inadequacies of the information obtained from the bottom-up Behaviour - many studies have shown that certain types of behaviour are elicited automatically when people are exposed to stimuli in the environment that bring to mind a particular schema - a “language proficiency” study asked participants to perform a sentence completion task o they were given 30 sets of 5 words each and asked to form a grammatical English sentence using 4 of the 5 words o for half the participants, embedded within these 150 words were many words that are stereotypically associated with the elderly (chosen to bring the schema of the elderly) o the remaining participants were exposed to neutral words that aren’t associated with the elderly, so their schema of the elderly was not primed o the participants had not realized, but the experimenter also times how long it took each participant to talk from the threshold of the lab to the elevator down the hall  investigators predicted that activating the concept of the elderly would make them walk more slowly (since slow is associated with the elderly) o participants with the words associated with the elderly took 13% longer - further studies of this sort have found that similarly activating the trait of rudeness makes people behave more assertively, and activating the goal of achievement leads people to persevere longer at difficult tasks - playing German music in a liquor store appears to boost the sales of German wine (same with French music and French wine sales) even if customers don’t realize the type of music played - Ap Dijksterhuis and Ad van Knippenberg (Dutch social psychologists) o Exposed students to a stimuli meant to bring the mind the schema for a social group associated with intellectual accomplishment (professors) or the schema for a social group not noted for refined habits of mind (soccer hooligans) o Those exposed to the professor cues subsequently performed better on a test of general knowledge than those shown cues associated with soccer hooligans o Demonstrated that activating the stereotype of professor or supermodel led participants to perform in a matter consistent with the stereotype o but activating a specific (extreme) example of the stereotyped group (Einstein and Claudia Schiffer) led participants to perform inconsistently with the stereotype  they performed worse on the general-knowledge test when Einstein was brought to mind and better when Claudia Schiffer was - these results fit the general tendency for the activation of schemas to produce behaviour in line with the schema in question because the activation affects construal - people think of themselves as more intelligent (and act that way) when viewing themselves - through the “lens” of a professor than they do when viewing themselves through a model Bona Kim PSYC215 Chapter Summary - the activation of specific members of a stereotyped group in contrast, tends to yield behaviour that contrasts with the stereotype in question - individual examples tend to serve as standards of judgment o Einstein = a very high standard, Claudia = a low standard (making people feel smart) Which Schemas are Activated and Applied? Recent Activation - recent activation is one of the most common and important ways that schemas can be brought to mind or activated - if a schema has been brought to mind recently, it tends to be more accessib
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