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Chapter 2

PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Subliminal Stimuli, Visual Cortex, Palpitations

Course Code
PSYC 215
Mark Baldwin

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Chapter 2: The Self in a Social World
- Social surroundings shape how we think about ourselves: When we find ourselves in a group which
differs from us in terms of culture, race or gender, we tend to notice how we differ from others.
- Self-interest colours our judgements about others and ourselves: When problems arise we tend to blame
others rather than ourselves. When things go well, we see ourselves as more responsible.
- Looking good to others motivates our behaviour: Concern for self-image drives much of our behaviour.
- Our ideas and feelings about ourselves affect
how we interpret events, how we recall them
and how we respond to others.
Self-Concept: Who am I?
- Self concept: a person’s answer to the question
“Who am I”?
Powers and perils of intuition:
- Priming research indicates that the unconscious
controls much of our behaviour.
- Our thinking is partially controlled (reflective, deliberate, and conscious) and partly automatic
(impulsive, effortless and without our awareness)
- Controlled processing: “Explicit” thinking that is deliberate, reflective and conscious
- Automatic processing: “Implicit” thinking that is effortless, habitual, impulsive and without our
awareness. Roughly corresponds to intuition. Automatic thinking includes:
o Schemas: -mental templates- intuitively guide our perceptions and interpretations of our
experiences. Ex: Whether we hear “sects” or “sex” depends on how we automatically interpret the
o Emotional reactions: are often nearly instantaneous, and occur before there is time for deliberate
thinking. Our perceptions often pass through the emotional centre of the brain (amygdale) before
getting a chance to be analyzed by the thinking cortex. Gives an evolutionary advantage.
o Some things (facts, names, past experiences) we remember explicitly, but other things (skills and
conditioned dispositions) we remember implicitly. Ex: A person had brain damage that kept her
from making explicit memories. One day, her physician shook her hand with a tack. The next
day, she couldn’t remember, but intuitively refused to shake the physician’s hand.
o Blindsight (having lost part of the visual cortex) Although they can’t see lines in a certain portion
of their visual field, they can still guess their orientations.
o Subliminal stimuli: Ex: Priming subliminal image of a frowning pope cause self-esteem of
religious women to lower.
Intuitions about the self:
- Experiment: University students were given shocks of increasing intensity. Before hand some were given
a fake pill, and were told these would cause heart palpitations, breathing irregularities ect (symptoms of
being shocked). The students having taken the pill endured 4 times higher shock, and when asked why,
they didn’t think the pill had had any effect on them.
- People feel they have willed an action when their action-oriented thought precedes a behaviour that
seems otherwise unexplainable. The opposite occurs when they do an action they do not think they have
- People err when predicting their behaviour. People overwhelmingly deny their vulnerability to social
influence. People who know you can often predict your behaviour better than you yourself can.

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- Research indicates that you can better predict a person’s behaviour by asking them to predict other’s.
- Experiment: Had people make important decisions such as buying a car or a house either consciously
(rating pros and cons) or unconsciously (by making them too busy with other tasks). They found
decisions made after a delay, without consciously deliberating on the decisions made the person happiest
in the long run.
- Studies of affective forecasting reveal that people have the greatest difficulty predicting the intensity and
duration of their future emotions.
o When not aroused, one easily mispredicts how one will feel or act when aroused. Ex: When male
youths are shown sexually arousing images, they admit they might not “stop” if their partner asks
them to. However, when not aroused they more often deny this possibility.
o When hungry, one mispredicts how gross food might seem when sated. When stuffed, one
mispredicts how yummy food might seem when hungry. Hungry shoppers make more impulse
buying than sated shoppers.
o Occasional smokers mispredict the power of their drug craving in the future.
o People overestimate how much their well-being would be affected by warmer winters, losing weight,
more television channels, or more free time.
- Impact bias: Overestimation the impact of emotion-causing events.
- We are especially prone to impact bias after negative events. When we focus on the negative event, we
discount the importance of how everything else in our lives contribute to our happiness.
- People neglect the speed and power of their psychological immune system, which includes strategies for
rationalizing, discounting, forgiving, and limiting emotional trauma.
- Major negative events (activate psychological defences) can be less enduringly distressing than minor
irritations (do not activate psychological defences).
- When the causes of behaviour are obvious to an observer, they are usually obvious to us as well.
- The mental processes that control our social behaviour are distinct from the mental processes through
which we explain our behaviour.
- Expressed attitudes can predict future behaviour quite well. However, analyzing feelings leads attitude
reports to become useless.
- Compared with reasoned judgement of people with various facial attributes, gut-level reactions are also
more consistent. So first impressions can be telling.
- Dual attitudes: Differing implicit and explicit attitudes towards the same object. Verbalized explicit
attitudes may change with education and persuasion; implicit attitudes change slowly, with practice that
forms new habits.
- Self-reports are often untrustworthy. Errors in self-understanding limit the scientific usefulness of
subjective personal reports.
- The sincerity with which people report and interpret their experiences is no guarantee of the validity of
these reports.
Fitting in: Looking to others
- How we are viewed by others and how we fit into our social groups are central to how we define
- The looking-glass self: We use others as mirrors for perceiving ourselves.
Social Comparison: How we stack up (or believe we would stack up in the future) compared to others is an
important source of how we came to know who we are.
- Social comparison: Evaluating one’s abilities and opinions by comparing oneself to others.
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