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Chapter 1

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McGill University
PSYC 473
Mark Baldwin

Chapter 1: Naïve Realism: The Construction of Reality in the Pursuit of Social Knowledge - The way we interpret others is irrelevant to the facts about them. o It is related to what we are prepared to see in them. o E.g., Bush = people person vs. Clinton = intellectual;  Bush wanted to capitalize on anti-intellectualism/elitism population by claiming he was not an intellectual like Clinton despite also having attended a prestigious university. - The creation of an expectancy/stereotype in a perceiver’s mind directs the outcomes of that perceiver’s perceptions. o BUT, we don’t recognize that these perceptions are influenced by these expectations. - Naïve Realism: failure to see how we subjectively arrive at the conclusions we draw about others. o We remain naïve to our biased perception of others, while believing that the image of ourselves is objective. - When making sense of our world, we begin with the perceptions of people and objects that first enter our visual field. o Asch: this is an illusion – our perception of objects/people is transformed/constructed according to the specifications that we bring to meet the world of stimuli that bombard our senses. o Bruner: even simple things require us to make inferences that are not directly revealed by the properties of the thing. - As with objects, we do not have perfect insight into people by simply observing their behaviour. o However, we are not aware of this and refuse to accept that we are often irrational.  Ichheiser: we have processes which distort and falsify our experience of other people. The Constructed Nature of Perception: The Role of Context There is more to perception than meets the eye - E.g., Sunset in horizon & moon creeping in the window – size remains the same; our perceptual system distorts the image. - Perception is not just transcribing data, but of making sense of data. o This is determined by the context in which those data are received. o Our understanding of stimuli is dependent on the background against which objects are seen. - Gestalt psychology gives us examples of some of these distortions. Gestalt Psychology and the Construction of Perceptual Experience Holism - Definition: perception is not a sum of the parts of a series of stimuli taken individually, but the result of the placement of a stimulus in a field from which it derives meaning. o E.g., figure 1.1 – Each individual unit of the picture is a picture. When pieced together by our visual system, it becomes the picture of a building. o E.g., figure 1.2. – Mueller-Lyer illusion: top line appears longer than bottom line due to surrounding context.  >-----< vs. < ----- > o E.g., figure 1.3 -- Ebbinghaus illusion: the identical sized circle look different due to the contrast with immediate context. - With human behaviour, which is not clear cut like an object, perceptions can be distorted by context even more. Closure - Definition: parts must be seen as a functional “whole.” Pieces of information observed are put together by the perceptual system to make sense as a unit. o Drive towards producing “wholeness” and reducing ambiguity when it is not achieved. o E.g., figure 1.4 – we see a triangle rather than discrete lines that have no meaning. - In people perception, we make inferences to fill in the gaps and give meaning to human behaviour. Prägnaz 1 - Definition: we perceive and structure information in the clearest, least ambiguous way. Also, we have perceptual rigidity, intolerance of ambiguity, and view new experiences from the standpoint of an existing set. o Addresses manner in which our perceptual system seeks to provide closure. o E.g., figure 1.5 – young woman/old woman: difficult to see the young woman if we have seen the old woman (and vice versa). Figure and Ground - Definition: aspects of the field which are the focus of our attention = figural; the rest of the situation that fades into the background = ground. o E.g., figures 1.2 & 1.3— illustrates the relationship b/w figure and ground. o E.g., figure 1.6 – shading of circle seems to change as we move around it.  Perception of the figure is determined by ground; changes in ground alter the interpretation of what is figural. - What is seen as figural can alter from person to person depending on where we focus our attention and on the context specifying and limiting what is appropriate. o Figure 1.5 – whether we see the young woman or the old woman depends on what we see as figural. Conclusion: Data we consciously experience are distorted by our perceptual apparatus. YET, we remain naïve to the distortions. Naïve Realism from Ignoring the Social Context - Lewin: emphasized a dynamic approach that reflected holism by stating that action can only be understood within the context of the entire “field” or against a background. - Sheriff (1936): behaviour is determined by culture and norms. - Festinger & Carlsmith (1959): attitude towards a boring task depends on whether the context rewarded the person with 1$ or 20$. - Milgram (1963): shock experiment -- more people than expected gave far greater levels of electric shocks than predicted due to context and authority of the experimenter guiding how participant thought and acted. Participants were not aware that the shocks were not actually being attributed. - Latane & Darley (1968, 1970): The more bystanders were present at the time of a fabricated emergency, the LESS likely they were to help because people look to others to understand what they should do. If others do nothing, bystanders believe they shouldn’t do anything either. o Referred to as diffusion of responsibility: the more people present in a context, the less personal responsibility an individual feels and the less likely they are to act. - Asch (1952): participants tended to go along with the erroneous judgements offered by a confederate group concerning the length of lines (small vs. short) despite verifiable evidence provided by their own perceptual experience. Conclusion: The context in which behaviour is observed plays a significant role in defining the construal of the behaviour. The Inherent Meaning of the Data Seems to Change with a Change in Context - The features that are attended to can shift from one situation to the other. - E.g. Car crash occurs and your 1,500$ TV was destroyed. What settlement do you agree to when suing the other driver? o Settlement 1: for sure get 900$ back out of the 1,500$ you spent on the TV. o Settlement2: for sure lose 600$ out of the 1,500$, but for sure not lose the whole amount. o Conclusion: framing of the question determines the decision people make. People are less likely to go to court when the situation is framed one way over the other.  Both settlements are exactly the same in terms of outcomes. The Framing Effect - Tversky and Kahneman (1981): reproduced the car crash scenario described above (figures 1.7a & 1.7B). Found that, despite outcomes being the same, the way they were framed altered the participants’ willingness to take a risk – more likely to take the “sure thing” when options are framed in terms of gain. o Referred to as framing effect: decision to pursue an outcome as determined by whether the outcome is framed as loss or gain.  Risk-aversive: when people try to keep what they already have for sure when a situation is framed in terms of gain.  Risk-seeking: when people are willing to take chances in the hopes of preventing loss when a situation is framed in terms of loss. 2 - Just as with objects, a subtle shift is context can also have an impact on how we interpret people’s behaviour. - Shafir (1993): participants were asked to play the role of a judge and decide which of two parents should be awarded custody of their child -- the “average” OR the “enriched” parent.  Average parent: characterized by average features.  Enriched parent: characterized by both extremely good features AND extremely bad features. o Conclusion: “enriched” parent was both more likely to be awarded custody and rejected custody. Seemingly Useless Information - Even useless information to our context can change the evaluations we make so that the same data change their meaning and have their impacts on us shifted and reversed. - Redelmeiner & Shafir (1995): participants were asked to prioritize patients waiting for surgery. There were 2 groups:  Group 1: read 2 descriptions; 62% prioritizing patient 1 & 38% prioritizing patient 2.  Group 2: read 3 descriptions - description 3 resembled description 1; 58% prioritizing patient 2 (major increase from group 1). o Conclusion: the context alters how doctors attach meaning/evaluate data so that a person who has low priority in one context has high priority in another. When Questions Determine Answers - Factors relating to the context in which a question is asked can alter the types of answers people give. - Schwarz (1999): provide examples of how contextual forces can influence person perception. o Phrasing of the question/answers: more people said that “thinking for themselves” was important when considering the most important thing for children to prepare them for life when the option was presented on the list compared to when it wasn’t on the list (Schuman & Presser, 1981). o Order in which the questions are asked: plays an important role in whether marital satisfaction is an important contributor to life-satisfaction (Schwarz et al., 1991). o Scales provide to answer the questions: high success was reported more often when numerical scale ranged from -5 to 5 as opposed to 0-10 (Schwarz et al., 1991). - Schwarz, Strack, Muller, Chassein (1988): when participants were asked to answer the question “How frequently have you feel irritated?” they answered differently when choices focused on infrequent occurrences (i.e. less than once a year to once a month) than when choices focused on larger frequencies (i.e. once a day = lowest amount). - Strack, Schwarz and Wänke (1991): when German students were asked to give their evaluation of a fictitious education program, the ratings changed as a function of whether the evaluation had been preceded by a question concerning American tuition fees OR a question concerning the Swedish government’s financial support for students. - These things are also true in the perception of people. o E.g., figure 1.8: Ronald Regan would be perceived differently in the 3 photos presented despite his uniform facial expression. - Conclusion: the context determines the meaning the data seems to possess. The Constructed Nature of Perception: The Role of the Perceiver - Another force that directs out perception of people: our subjectivity as perceivers. - The person, who is within the context, is also an important aspect of life space. - Sherif (1936): we rely on reference points when perceiving. o Reference points: we use other elements in the environment as standards.  In object perception: standards are other objects with which the target shares physical space.  In people perception: standards are the norms of our culture. - Internalized norms from our culture exert an influence over our perceptions judgements and behaviours. - Sherif (1936): all our experiences are filtered through culture and different individuals perceive the same information in different ways. Subjectivity in Object Perception - 3 experiments that illustrate the impact of forces emanating from within the perceiver. - Sherif (1935): when asked to judge how far a light traveled in a group, participants gradually converged on a shared norm for how much the light had travelled. This norm persisted even when members of the group were changed and when participants were asked to later make the judgement alone. 3 o Used the autokinetic effect: perceptual illusion whereby a small point of light, through a stationary, is perceived as moving if the individual is in a dark room where there is no frame of reference against which to see the light. - Bruner, Busiek, and Mintrum (1952): Subjects were presented with briefly flashed line-drawn images on a screen. If they were led to expect the image of a specific object by being told that this object would be flashed, their perception would be distorted to fit it. o Follows the New Look research tradition: when people manipulate data unknowingly according to expectancies, prior knowledge, needs, motives and values. - Bruner and Postman (1948): subjects were asked to draw the size of discs that had either negative or neutral symbols OR positive or neutral symbols on them. They found that the discs with positive or negative symbols were perceived as larger than the discs with neutral symbols. o Negative stimuli are more prominent because it warns people about danger and threat. - The influence of these forces is even more present in ambiguous situations, which is the case when judging people. Exactly the Same Person/People Perceived Differently by Two Sets of Observers - Hastorf and Cantril (1954): a movie of an actual college football game was played to students from both colleges and students were asked to check off the number of plays that could be categorized as “dirty.” They found that the movie was perceived differently with students from both colleges seeing more dirty plays on the opposite team. - Even the same person can, at two different points in time can have their perceptions altered. This occurs because goals, affect, expectancies and mood of the perceiver changes. The Mechanism of Naïve Realism Changing the Judgement of an Object - We tend to evaluate information in line with our values and attitudes. - Naïve realism exacts its influence by influencing how we judge an object. - Our affective or evaluative response to a person or object is applied to things associated with that person or object. - Lorge (1936): wanted to see whether attitudes toward a statement change as a function of the whether the messenger was viewed positively (i.e. Thomas Jefferson) or negatively (i.e. Lenin). Some statements were repeated, but attributed to a different messenger. They found that subjects attached the same evaluation to the statement as they did to the author (positive author – positive statement/negative author – negative statement). - Halo effect: the evaluation attached to one trait known to be possessed by a person imposes itself on how we evaluate other behaviour and traits that are also attributed to that person. - Asch (1946): halo effect occurs when this general impression operates as a force (labelled “G”) that shifts the evaluation of each individual trait in the direction of the general impression (see figure 1.9). - Nisbett and Wilson (1977): students watched an interview with a teacher who spoke with an unidentified European accent. Half of the students watched him answers questions in a pleasant tone, and half watched him answer questions in a rigid tone. When asked to evaluate irrelevant characteristics of the teacher (i.e. attractiveness, accent), the way the teacher had answered the questions influenced how students viewed these characteristics (pleasant tone – positive evaluation/rigid tone – negative evaluation). The halo effect occurred. - Asch (1946): when asking people to form an impression of a person described by a list of traits, changing only one of the traits changed the evaluation associated with all the traits (i.e. adding “warm” or “cold” changed the impression of a person with the traits “intelligent, skillful, industrious determined, practical, cautious”). Changing the Object of Judgement - Ash (1946): believed that when “warm” and “cold” were added, the set of traits seemed to be an entirely different person. o Good example of holism: traits are seen as a meaningful constellation and not just a series of individual traits. - If the general impression shifts, the meaning of the entire impression and the individual traits which compose it also shifts. - Ash differentiated two kinds of traits. The meaning of individual traits varies as a function of the context in which those traits are observed. o Central traits: traits that have greater power than others in a constellation of traits and behaviours involved in determining the meaning linked to the set of traits. 4  When altered, has a significant impact on how information is interpreted. o Peripheral traits: evaluation and meaning are dependent on the central traits.  When altered, does not have a significant impact on how information is interpreted. - Why are identical pieces of information evaluated differently by different people? o Because each person believes that he/she has seen a different piece of information. - Ash (1946): half of the participants were asked to form an impression of a person with the traits “intelligent- industrious-impulsive-critical-stubborn-envious” w
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