PSYC 333 Dual Modes in Social Cognition, Fiske, Susan T. 1
PSYC 333 Dual modes in Social Cognition
The mind contains a variety of processes, and two models described in this chapter aim to explain the diversity of
people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards each other.
Subliminal Priming PSYC 333 Dual Modes in Social Cognition, Fiske, Susan T. 2
Study1. In a study subjects saw 4 to 20 circles on a series of screens for 3 seconds each time and had to judge whether
they were odd or even in number. After 130 tiresome trials, the computer suddenly beeped and displayed an error
message indicating that none of the data had been saved and that the experiment would have to restart. Participants’
reactions were videotaped as the computer and the experimenter conveyed the bad news. During the trials subjects saw
black-and-white photo of an African American or European American man, shown at subliminal speeds. None of
participants were African American. Their facial expressions were reliably more hostile when they had been exposed to
Study2. Hostility related words displayed at a below awareness level affect impressions of others.
Faces with fearful expressions elicit amygdala responses when presented subliminally.
• Amygdala detects negative cues automatically, whereas the basal ganglia is more focused on automatic
processes related to rewards.
• In the brain relatively automatic social cognitive-affective processes dissociate from relatively controlled ones.
Conceptual priming (not primarily affective) - invokes brain systems particularly involved in pattern matching,
categorizing and identifying processes. This activates inferior-temporal cortex.
Subliminal priming can affect behavior. Non-Black participants primed with Black faces behaved in reliably more
hostile ways when provoked.
A subliminal prime has to pass objective standard of registering on the senses but not exceed the subjective standard
of registering on awareness.
Pure automaticity - unconsciously activated concepts prime related concepts, which then shape the interpretation of
subsequent stimuli, still outside awareness.
Postconscious automaticity-a conscious perception of the prime but there are no awareness of its effects on
• Probably priming the trait of intelligence of a student is helpful to the knowledge test, but priming a soccer
hooligan will not be as helpful.
• Students primed with the word-category “elderly” walked to the elevator more slowly.
Students primed consciously or preconsciously with the word-category “elderly” expressed more conservative
Both pre- and postconscious effects operate similarly, in part because people are unacquainted with priming effects , so
even conscious primes - if subtle and covert - do not typically prompt efforts to counteract them.
People may or may not be aware that they code other people in terms of particular traits. This can be measured by the
frequency of traits used to describe a series of familiar others. The chronically used traits ease people’s impression
formation processes along familiar, well-established grooves. PSYC 333 Dual Modes in Social Cognition, Fiske, Susan T. 3
Proceduralization - a development of automaticity in judgment. With consistent practice speciﬁc and general
judgments become proceduralized, that is, it automates the judgment processes. It matters because a well-practiced
judgment will preempt an equally reasonable but less-practiced judgment. The speed-up of proceduralized judgments
may also have implications for stereotyping.
As practice seems to be the crucial element in developing automatic judgments, it makes sense that trait inferences
allow people to predict what others will do in future encounters.
• Self-relevant knowledge, negative cues as well as threat stimuli would be likely candidates for preconscious
This automaticity is explained by efficiency of taking well-worn short-cuts because people cannot deal with other
people or situations in all their complexity. It can be also explained that similar previous decisions worked well enough
in the past.
- a process in which the perceiver’s conscious intent substantially determines how the process operates.
Goal-Driven Automatic Processes
lack of awareness of the process itself
• No need to monitor the process to completion
• Lack of intending all the speciﬁc outcomes
i.e., On a Saturday morning a distracted parent operating on autopilot feeds
the cereal and the kibbles to the
Varied by the perceiver’s goals, it is partially responsive to intentional control.
Goal-dependent automaticity is not entirely automatic in that it requires intentional processing and depends on the
task undertaken. Conscious intent launches preconscious automaticity, i.e., when bike riders think about getting to the
other side of town, bike-related thoughts become accessible, the same automaticity happens while typing or driving.
The goal-habit linkage drives more of our actions than we like to admit.
When one has the goal to suppress a speciﬁc thought, one sets up an automatic detection –monitoring system, which
keeps the forbidden thought active, making it come to mind more easily. This kind of goal-dependent automaticity
shows how goals can prime automatic processes that defeat the very goals they were intended to serve.
• i.e., many studies showed that a suppression of a thought about white bears usually fails. PSYC 333 Dual Modes in Social Cognition, Fiske, Susan T. 4
When subjects are asked afterward to think about white bears, they showed a rebound effect, thinking about
white bears quite a lot. They thought about white bears even more than did people who had been explicitly
thinking about them all along. Even thoughts about red Volkswagen could not help.
Depression makes negative thoughts more accessible.
Stages of rumination:
• initially intensiﬁed repetition of the interrupted behavior (despite rebuffs, one persists in attempts to contact
the loved person)
• problem solving at lower and lower levels (one tries to calculate details of the person’s schedule and habits to
maximize successful contact)
• -end -state thinking (one fantasizes about the desired outcome of being together)
• trying to abandon the goal (one attempts to give up on the person)
channelized thinking (persisting in thinking along well-worn associative pathways that lead to the thoughts of
• depression from continued powerlessness (impossibility to escape from the preoccupation, one must mourn
the lost ideal)
Features of Control
Intent- to have options to think about it in other ways. Hence, if on reﬂection one understood that another
interpretation were possible, then the way one does think may be considered intentional.
If one’s accustomed way of thinking is the easy way, then making the hard choice is likely to be seen as especially
intentional, by ordinary observers, psychologists and even legal experts.
Paying attention- an implementation of the intended way of thinking.
Perhaps situations automatically cue certain motives, “auto-motives”. In this view, situations determine behavior fairly
directly. Situations trigger goals, and goals trigger actions-all automatically and outside consciousness.
• People often think about an action before performing it, so they infer that the thought caused the action. But
what if something else (e.g., the situation) cued the thought, and the action was independent?
• In a study participants were more likely to experience personal authorship of the outcome when they were
subliminally primed beforehand to think of the effect.
• People can think erroneously that their actions caused outcomes that they demonstrably did not control.
• In extreme, studies show that people even think they can control other people’s outcomes and behavior.
Some cognitive psychologists narrowly deﬁne consciousness as
Simply being aware of (able to talk about) something or, alternatively
o being aware of something only in the sense that it reﬂects one’s behavior even though one might not be able
to report on it. PSYC 333 Dual Modes in Social Cognition, Fiske, Susan T. 5
Another idea is that consciousness is an executive that directs mental structures. When memory contents are
activated sufficiently above a threshold, they are conscious, coming into short-term or working memory.
Another perspective views consciousness as a necessary condition for human understanding and intent.
o Consciousness is a constructed device. It is a state that makes sense of currently activated unconscious
contents using a number of applicable concepts. It is constructed from the accessible concepts. It operates
within the constraints of a limited-capacity system and for the furthering the needs and goals of the moment.
In learning, consciousness allows the formation of new associations in which previously separate things come together
into awareness. It is also necessary for choice, which compares two alternatives held in awarene