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
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
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 &
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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
Recency effects usu result when the last items are easier to recall. Info
remembered receives better weight than info forgotten.
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 &
How ppl use their stored knowledge?
• Info is stored in coherent configurations/schemas where related info is
• 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 is selective. Can’t focus on everything; direct attention to
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.
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
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/
• Preexisting knowledge /b stereotypes affect info reca