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Chapter 4

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PSYC 215
John Lydon

SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY SOCIAL COGNITION: THINKING ABOUT PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS Social judgements can have serious consequences. Effective action requires sound judgement /b the world around us. Critical aspects of social judgements: 1- our judgements are only as effective as the quality of the info they are based on. The info available for us in everyday life is not always accurate or complete. 2- the way info is presented, including the order in which it is and how it is framed, can affect the way we make judgements. 3- we don’t just passively take in info. We often actively seek it out, & a pervasive bias in our info-seeking strategies often distorts the conclusions we reach. 4- our preexisting knowledge, expectations, & mental habits can influence the construal of new info & influence our judgements. 5- 2 mental syst.: intuition & reason underlie social cognition, and their complex interplay determines the judgements we make. WHY STUDY SOCIAL COGNITION? The study of how ppl think /b the social world & arrive at judgements that help them interpret the past, understand the present, and predict the future. Earliest & fundamental feature of social psych.: construal principle - if we want to know how a person will react in a sit., we must understand how the person experiences that sit. Social stimuli rarely influence ppl’s behavior directly; they do so indirectly through the way they are interpreted & construed. Our judgements are not flawless. Our mistakes are informative to psychologists bc they provide helpful clues /b how ppl think /b other individuals & make inferences /b them. Give hints /b strategies or rules ppl follow to make judgements. Scrutinizing mistakes is a long tradition in psych. Mistakes often reveal a great deal /b how a syst. works by showing its limitations. Explore limitations of everyday judgements. THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE FOR SOCIAL COGNITION All depends on info. To understand ppl need accurate info. Sometimes we have lil’ or no info on which to base our judgements & sometimes the available info is misleading. Sometimes the way we acquire info affects our thinking unduly. Minimal Information: Inferring Personality from Physical Appearance Even w/ no info sometimes to make judgements, we base them on impressions from quick glances. Snap judgements. In a study showed participants w/ a large # of faces and had them rate how attractive, aggressive, likable, trustworthy, & competent they seemed. Some SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY participants were given more time than others to evaluate pictures. All time constraints were close in the judgements of the faces. A great deal of what we conclude /b ppl based on their faces is determined almost instantaneously. Perceiving Trust & Dominance What leads to these face judgements? A study made participants rate lots of photographs of diff. faces, all w/ neutral expressions on personality dimensions ppl most often spontaneously mention when describing faces. All these judgements correlated w/ each other in 2 dimensions - positive/negative dimension = whether someone is trustworthy, aggressive, etc. & power dimensions = bashful, dominant, submissive, etc. Ppl seem set to make highly functional judgements /b others - whether they should be approached or avoided and where they are likely to stand in a status power or power hierarchy. Used computer models to generate faces that represent various combinations of these 2 dimensions, including + extreme faces on each trait dimensions that wouldn’t be encountered in real life. Hypermasculine ft. (i.e. pronounced jaw) = look dominant. Shape of eyebrows & eye socket = trustworthy. Looking trustworthy & non-dominant = baby face. Research shows that adults w/ baby faces have large round eyes, large forehead, high eyebrows, & rounded small chin. Characteristics of the very young. Judged to be relatively weak, naive, submissive. The opposite fts tend to be judged as strong, competent, & dominant. Why do we consider adults w/ baby faces as relatively harmless & helpless? Cuteness of young mammals in many species triggers hardwired, automatic reaction that helps ensure that the young & helpless receive adequate care. The automatic nature of our response to infantile fts makes it + likely that we would overgeneralize & come to see even adults w/ these fts as trustworthy & friendly. Dramatic implications: baby-faced ind. usu have a + favorable treatment as defendants in court but have a harder time being seen as appropriate for serious jobs as banking. The Accuracy of Snap Judgements Mixed results. Some research found correlations, other zero. Theory of being treated as weak & submissive your whole life might encourage smtg of a dependent disposition. Same goes for strong looking ppl. When behavioral observations rather than self-ratings are used as the criterion of accuracy , evidence that ppl can well assess other’s personality on facial fts alone is even harder to find. Ppl’s snap judgements /b facial fts may have some truth, but not much. More imp. to predict what ppl think in general rather than what the true personality is. SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY Snap judgements predict pretty well considered consensus opinion /b a person. In a study, participants were shown pictures of Republican & Democratic candidates in USA and were asked to judge who look + competent. 69% of ppl chose the same person. That person might not actually be more competent; what matters in predicting the outcome of elections is what is rly true, but what the electorates believe to be true. In another study, students were asked to judge professors’ performance at school based on 10 seconds silent videos & rate the prof in various areas. A composite of these relatively quick assessments corr. significantly w/ students’ evaluations of their prof at the end of the semester. Can’t know if judgement right, but it predicted students’ end-of-semester evaluations rather well. Misleading Firsthand Information: Pluralistic Ignorance We get some information by firsthand - from our own experiences - and some secondhand - through all the other ways info gets to us. The info collected firsthand is + accurate bc it hasn’t been filtered by someone else. But they can also be deceptive, when we are inattentive to info /b events that occur b4 our eyes or when we misconstrue such events. Our own experience can be unrepresentative. Some of the firsthand info we have, we extracted from other’s behaviors. However, sometimes other’s behavior is driven by the desire to create an impression that is not a true reflection of their self. It can lead to predictable errors in judgement. i.e.: when teacher explains smtg difficult and then proceeds to a question period where no one asks a question. Doesn’t mean you were the only one who didn’t get it. This is an ex. of pluralistic ignorance - misperception of a gr. norm that results from observing ppl who are acting at a variance w/ their private beliefs out of a concern for the social consequences, actions that reinforce the erroneous group norm. It is embarrassing to admit you didn’t understand smtg if you think everyone else did. When everyone follows that logic, an illusion is created. This concept is particularly common in sit. where toughness is valued. In sit. of gang members of ex. where way more members than admit are against brutal initiation procedures and the lack of concern for human life. Afraid to say it in order to not be ridiculed in front of peers. Another form of it is shown in a study /b profound implications for interactions b/w members of diff. ethnic gr. Ind. might worry that someone from another ethnic gr. would not be interested in them. Initiating convo then is risky bc might fear to be rejected = no opening gesture & no contact. Asked students series of qu. to understand issue, and although students attributed own failure to initiate contact due to fear of rejection, they assumed that the other person didn’t initiate contact by lack of interest for SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY ethnic friendships. Both ppl assumed the other is not interested so no one made efforts. Misleading Secondhand Information Diff. responses have one thing in common: based on large extent of secondhand info. Few ppl have 1st hand info in life. Bc most judgements are based on 2ndhand info, a comprehensive understanding of social cognition requires an analysis of how accurate this info is likely to be. Ideological Distortions Transmitters of info often have ideological agenda- a desire to foster certain beliefs/behaviors in others- that leads them to accentuate some elements in a story and suppress others. Sometimes it is relatively innocent like when the person rly believes in smtg but omits certain inconvenient details that might detract from it impact. Not all of the are innocent. Ppl often consciously provide distorted accounts to mislead purposely. Distortions in the Service of Entertainment: Overemphasis on Bad News Big cause of distortion of 2ndhand info = desire to entertain. Exaggerating stories makes them + interesting. This desire distorts the msg ppl receive through mass media. One way to do it: bad news. They tend to be + newsworthy than good news which provides a distorted view of reality. News coverage of crime doesn’t correlate w/ rise & fall of crime rate. Same amount of coverage during best & worst times. The world presented in television is + violent. 80% of crime in media is violent, in reality only 20%. Effects of the Bad-News Bias Concerns /b the bad-news bias = exposure to this distorted view of reality can make ppl believe they are + at risk of victimization than they rly are. Surveys asking ppl how much tv they watch & asking /b prevalence of crime. Such studies consistently found + corr. b/w amount of time spent watching tv & fear of victimization. However, corr. are diff. to interpret - 3rd variable? So, researchers collected other measures & examined them. The corr. b/w tv- viewing habits & perceived vulnerability is much reduced among ppl living in low-crime neighborhoods but strong for high-crime areas. Therefore, ppl who live in dangerous areas & don’t watch much tv feel safer than the ones who watch a lot. Violence shown on tv can make the world appear + dangerous esp. when it is similar to certain aspects of environment. Differential Attention to Positive & Negative Info SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY Why do media have a bad-news bias? Even if + & - info are presented in equal measures, they don’t have symmetrical effects. Pervasive human tendency w/ implications for our survival: + attentive to - info than + bc the former has more implications for our well-being. Some - events are threats to survival & need to be attended quickly. Many + events like eating have survival implications but usu are not as urgent. Ppl may be more vigilant for potential threats than potential benefits. HOW INFORMATION IS PRESENTED Power of the way info is presented. I.e. marketing & advertising. Stimulate sufficient “need” = larger demand. By manipulating the msg ppl receive /b products, hope of influencing consumer’s impulses. Key? Not what info but how shown info. Social psych. confirmed this theory. Even when it is presented is imp. It all can have profound effects on ppl’s judgements. Order Effects Order of presented info has effect on results. I.e.: how happy are u w/ ur life in general? How many dates have you been on in the past month? When these questions were asked, corr. of 0.32 was found b/w them. When asked in opposite order, corr. of 0.67. Asking /b the dates made ppl how is that part of their life going, when they might have not considered it in the original order. When the info presented 1st has + influence = primacy effect. When info presented at the end has + influence = recency effect. Order effects are pervasive in everyday social life. In one study, ppl asked to evaluate an unreal ind. described in various terms. In some cases, the ind. was rated favorably bc 2 first terms were positive. The 2nd group got the same terms but in a diff. order & got less favorable impression bc the first terms were more negative. Substancial primacy effect. First impressions are crucial. Order effects can happen bc of info processing limititations. I.e. often result from a tendency to pay great attention to stimuli presented early on & then lose focus. For ex., in the experiment /b the description of a character w/ terms, once an initinial 1st impression is formed, easy to slide along the rest of characteristics. Recency effects usu result when the last items are easier to recall. Info remembered receives better weight than info forgotten. Framing Effects Def.: the influence on judgement resulting from the way info is presented such as the order & more. SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY “Frame” the way info is processed & understood. Order effects are a type of pure framing. The frame of reference is changed even tho the content of the info is the same in all versions. Smoking while praying example (p.118). Spin framing Ads try to induce consumers to frame a buying decision in terms favorable to the product. Using spin framing - less pure form of framing - that varies content of what is presented. I.e. frame quality of product or savings. i.e. politics. Spin speech bu highlighting certain aspects. Or using certain expressions - pro choice vs right to live, terrorists vs freedom fighters, illegal aliens vs undocumented workers, torture vs enhanced interrogation. The power of these words fram the issues. Using spin framing during polls to support their positions. Shading survey questions in a particular way to influence public opinion on policy issues. Easy to slant public opinion questions in a particular direction. Positive and Negative Framing Mixed nature of things = they can be framed to emphasize good/bad w/ predictable effects on ppl’s judgements. i.e. piece of meat can be 75% lean (sounds better) than 25% fat, or condoms that have a 90% success rather than a 10% fail rate. Same info presented in both but focus is diff. (framing). The is no correct frame, all valid. Framing effects influence judgements & decisions w/ greater consequence for everyone. In one study, 400 physicians were asked if they would recommend a surgery. Some were told that 100 ppl had it, 90 survived & had good postoperative periods and 68 were still alive after a year & 34 after 5 yrs. 82% recommended the surgery. Other group was given the same info but said that 10 died during surgery or postoperative period, 32 died by end of the yr & 66 died after 5 yrs. Only 56% recommended surgery. Since - info tends to attract more attention = greater psychological impact than + info. Therefore, info framed in - terms tends to have a stronger response. Support for this idea comes from studies that looked at ppl’s reactions to losses vs gains. Ppl hate losing things more than not having them in the first place. Temporal Framing Feelings of being at odds w/ a decision you made earlier in life. Your ealier self might have thought an extra course would be great but your present self is hating the decision due to the heavy course load. Actions and events are framed by particular time perspective. Belong to distant past, present moment, and immediate future. SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY Construal lvl theory: outlines the relshp b/w psychological distance & the concreteness vs abstraction of thought. Psychologically distant actions & events are thought /b in abstract terms; actions & events that are close at hand are thought /b in concrete terms. Temporal perspective ppl see things as imp. & predictable implications for how they construe them. Any action/event can be thought of at low-lvl of abstraction, rich in concrete detail - i.e. chewing your food. Can also be thouht of at a higher lvl of abstraction, rich in meaning but stripped in detail - i.e. dining out. We tend to think of distant events in abstract terms and events close in concrete terms. This diff. in construal has imp. implications for what we think and how we act & explains inconsistent preferences. Things that sound great in abstract can b/c less appealing in their concrete details of present = regret of making those commitments. Sometimes abstract lvl can be less desirable producing the opposite sort of inconsistency (i.e. swear to stick to diet but end up piging out). The influence of near/far events applies to other dimensions than time - close/far in space (in college campus vs in barbados), close/far socially (smtg that happens to you vs happens to distant acquaintance). Same effect of construal as for time. HOW WE SEEK INFORMATION Confirmation Bias To evaluate proposition: seek out evidence to support proposition rather than info that would contradict = confirmation bias - tendency to test proposition by searching for evidence that would support it. Study: 1st group asked: determine if working out a day b4 an important tennis match makes a player more likely to win? 2nd group asked: determine if working out a day b4 a tennis match makes the player + likely to lose. Both groups could examine any 4 types of info b4 conclusion - which are needed in order to reach conclusion. Yet, participants tended to seek out info bout own question to prove it - disregarding opposite arguments. Tendency of confirmation bias = lead to false beliefs bc can find supporting arguments for anything. Yet, not enough to form conclusion - might be more evidence for opposite view. Danger of confirmation bias; if look mainly for one type of evidence = likely to find it. To truly test proposition = find evidence against it & for it. In social realm, confirmation bias leads ppl to ask qu. that shape the answer they get = providing illusory support for their evidence. • Study: one group asked to interview someone & determine if they are extravert. 2nd group asked to determine whether introvert. They selected questions from list provided. Ppl seeking if extravert; focus on qu. /b sociability vs ppl seeking introvert; focus on qu. /b social withdrawal. SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY • Obvs if you ask ppl /b social sit. they will talk more /b it = makes them seem + sociable even if not. Same for introversion. • Interviews recorded & shown to another group. Ppl rated the extraversion interviews as more outgoing ppl than introversion interviews. Motivated Confirmation Bias Usu when we accept the confirmation bias, no motivation to confirm particular outcome. Simply testing proposition = engaging in biases, & potentially misleading search for evidence. However, sometimes ppl search for evidence confirming their preferences/expectations. Info that supports it is readily accepted & info that contradicts it is put under critical scutiny & is discounted. Study: Groups of pro/against capital pushnishment. Read /b studies of its effectiveness as deterrent to crime. Some read state-by-state comparisons showing crime rates are not lower where it is installed, & /b how crime rates within a few states went down as soon as penalty was instored. Others read state-by-state comparisions that made look death penalty effective & before/after comparisons made it look ineffective. • Those favoring death penalty interpreted evidence - whatever txt they got - as strongly supporting their position & vice versa. • 2 sides jumped on prob. ass. w/ the studies that contradicted their positions & embraced studies supporting their view. • Preference tainted how viewed pertinent evidence. TOP-DOWN PROCESSING: USING SCHEMAS TO UNDERSTAND NEW INFO “The procedure is quite simple. First you arrange things into diff. gr. Of course, one pile may be sufficient, depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities, that is the next step; otherwise you are pretty well set”. • Don’t know what it is talking about. Imagine “Washing Clothes” as title • Now each sentence makes sense when construed from laundry perspective - understanding paragraph = using what we already know to make sens of new info. Same idea; what we know /b human nature & /b diff. contxts make us determine if another’s person tears are from joy or sadness. What we know /b customs enables us to decide whether a gesture is hostile or friendly. Perceiving & understanding the world = use of bottom-up process - “data- driven” mental processing where an individual forms conclusions based on stimuli encountered through experience (i.e. txt on a page, gestures, sounds, etc.) - & top-down process - “theory-driven” mental processing where individual filters and interprets new info w/ preexisting knowledge and expectations. Meaning of stimuli not passively recorded but actively construed. SOCIAL PSYCH. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY Preexisting knowledge = necessary for understanding, required for inferences & judgements. Involve going beyond currently available info & extrapolating it. How ppl use their stored knowledge? • Info is stored in coherent configurations/schemas where related info is stored together. • Have schemas for various subjects. The Influence of Schemas Our schemas affect our judgements in many ways: by directing our attention, structuring memories, & influencing our construals. Attention Attention is selective. Can’t focus on everything; direct attention to important elements. Study: watch videotape of 2 teams of 3 ppl passing a basketball. One team had white shirts and the other had black shirts. Participants were asked to count # of passes made by the members of one team. 40s into action a person wearring a gorilla costume passes by in the game. Only half of participants noticed it. Participants schemas directed attention so much to a part of the tape that they failed to notice other events. Memory Most likely remember stimuli that have most captured our attention. Memory as “attention in the past tense”. Influence of schemas on memory imp. for judgement & subsequent action. Many judgement not made immediately but later based on info retrieved from memory. Study: Watch video of husband & wife having dinner. One group told the wife was a librarian, the other she was a waitress. Participants later took quiz assessing their memory on various fts of the video. Central qu.: wheter participants’ memories were influenced by stereotypes? Asked qu. combining both stereotypes. Tape had equal # of items consistent & inconsisten w/ each stereotype. • Preexisting knowledge /b stereotypes affect info reca
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