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Chapter 7

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McGill University
PSYC 473
Mark Baldwin

Reading Notes – PSYC 473 ← CHAPTER 7 – CORRESPONDENCE BIAS & SPONTANEOUS TRAIT INFERENCES ← ← INTRO • Will now look at the role subjectivity and deviations from rational processing play in perceiving others • Have already touched on one such deviation: tendency for people to overattribute the cause of another person’s behaviour to that person’s stable qualities (disposition) and to ignore the role played by situation o We see and attribute behaviour to the stable qualities of the person even if a reasonable situational pressure could be the cause o Ex: US military brutality at Abu Ghraib prison during occupation of Iraq in 2004  Their actions may be due to an underlying disposition to be cruel – but also MAY be due to well-known social pressures operating in prisons • Heider = Identified this tendency as arising from the fact that behaviour engulfts the field o Research on this tendency has revealed that there are multiple ways in which information processing can give rise to it • Lee Ross = Robustness of it led him to call it the Fundamental Attribution Error (aka Correspondence Bias) o Correspondence Bias = Perceivers blame behaviour on the person doing the behaving – often at the expense of considering real external pressures that force the person to act this way EVIDENCE FOR CORRESPONDENCE BIAS • 3 factors drive perception of others: o 1) Situation  Broadly = Norms of the culture  Specifically = Specific context one is in o 2) Self  Motives, goals, expectancies, prior information, values o 3) Other person’s behaviour • Power of the situation alone is often strong enough to determine behaviour of others – this is obvious since in many situations a wide array of people behave identically • Jones = Correspondent Inference Theory = Assumed that people in the process of perceiving others are similar to social psychologists – they recognize the power of situations to determine how people act o The belief of Jones & David that perceivers understand the power of situations and use this type of info when judging others is evidence in the factors they claimed to promote/inhibit correspondent inference:  Behaviour under free choice conditions is more diagnostic than behaviour under constraint Correspondent inference should decrease as the power of the situation increases • Jones & Harris = They sought to tests Correspondent Inference based on 2 factors thought to affect it: o 1) Freedom one has to act as one chooses (lack of situational constraint) o 2) Extent to which ones behaviour is unusual (different from what other people do) • Expected to find that people use info about obvious situational pressure in deciding how to determine the cause of a person’s actions THEY WERE WRONG The Jones and Harris Attitude Attribution Paradigm • Jones & Harris = Constructed essays that were either pro- or anti-Castro (pro/anti desegregation) o Participants were asked to read an essay, believing either that the person who wrote it was free to choose a position or was given a position as a course assignment o Logic = If writers weren’t free to choose their actions, then perceivers shouldn’t be forming correspondent inferences  Correspondence should be high not only when perceived choice is high, but also when the prior probability of the act’s occurring is low o Particpants recorded their estimates of writer’s true opinions on the subject  ½ were told the writer had choice  ½ were told the topic was assigned by an instructor o What they measured was the “pro-Castroness” of the target persons’ attitude Results: Table Expected Results - Essay Direction 2 Pro-Castro Anti-Castro Choice 60 15 No-Choice 20 20 Actual Results Essay Direction Pro-Castro Anti-Castro Choice 59.62 17.38 No-Choice 44.10 22.87 *Attitude scores from 10-70, higher # = stronger pro-Castro attitude Results: The Importance of Freedom of Choice • Was expected that there should be more correspondent inference when there was choice – Findings showed that scores in the choice condition were more extreme • When a pro-Castro essay was believed to be freely written the person was rated very pro-Castro (59.62) and when an vice versa for anti-Castro essays freely written (17.38 Results: The Importance of the Direction of the Essay, Regardless of Choice • 2ndfinding was that the direction of the essay played a huge role, regardless of choice • If a person supported Castro in the essay, participants assumed the person to be pro-Castro, and vice versa Results: The Surprising Emergence of Correspondent Inference Under Situational Constraint • The theory would predict no effect for essay direction in the no-choice condition – THIS WAS NOT FOUND • Participants rated the essayist’s true attitude as corresponding to the essay regardless of whether there was choice = Failed to consider the situation • People were paying some attention to the situation: o In the anti-Castro condition everyone expected writers to be anti-Castro to begin with, but we can still see the effect – Made less extreme judgements (22.87 vs 17.38) indicating that they were sensitive to some pressure on the person o In the pro-Castro condition people only took situation into account partially – gave lower scores than when essayist was free to choose (44.10 vs 59.62)  But they didn’t give the situation enough appreciation, as indicated by how far 44.10 is deviated from the model’s predicted 20 • Heider = Changes in the environment are almost always caused by acts of persons in combination with other factors – so we tend to ascribe changes entirely to the person 3 • Our behaviour, even if not freely chosen, is believed to be a reflection of our true attitudes and personality o Kassin & Kiechel = Social implications – People can be convinced by authorities that they have committed crimes and once they’ve been falsely forced to admit to the behaviour it’s difficult for a jury to disregard Is Correspondence Bias an Artifact of the Methodology? • Jones = Reviewed several criticisms of the Attitude Attribution Paradigm: o 1) Research participants were being implicitly told by the experimenter to make correspondent inferences  Norms of communication and interaction dictate that people do not typically provide others with totally irrelevant info  If asked to determined the true attitude of the essayist, the implicit communication norm would be that info being provided was probably useful as an indicator of the person’s true attitude o 2) Perhaps the experimenters constructed the essays in such as way as to suggest that the person writing it was truly an expert at these matters  Perhaps the excellence of the essay itself was a cue to aprticipants o 3) Kelley = Suggested that research participants may have perceived the so-called no-choice condition actually to be one where the essayist had plenty of choice • The larger issue here is Convergent Validity = Can the same basic premise be illustrated with a totally different research design The Ross, Amabile, and Steinmetz Quiz Show Paradigm • A primary hypothesis of Correspondent Inference Theory is that as situational constraint increases, people make fewer correspondent inferences o In the Attitude Attribution Paradigm this was tested by manipulating choice o Another type of constraint that limits how people act is the social roles they play • Ross, Amabile & Steinmetz = Participants were asked to take part in a quiz show – one participant was the contestant, one was the quiz master, and another was the perceiver o Perceiver observed behaviour of contestant as they attempted to answer impossible questions written by quizmasters (in their idiosyncratic areas of expertise) o Correspondence Bias dictates that perceivers will attribute poor performance of contestants not to situational constraints but to their own inadequacies – Precisely what they found o Observers didn’t take into account the situation when rating knowledge of the contestant or of the questioner  Rated questioners as more knowledgeable than contestants generally  Correspondence bias thus emerged again in a totally different research paradigm 4 The Snyder and Frankel Sex Tape Paradigm • Snyder & Frankel = Came up with excellent way to illustrate correspondence bias while controlling for Kelley’s criticism o In Jones & Harris the behavioural manipulation was seen as much stronger than the manipulation of the situation o In this experiment the situational manipulation (discussing sex life with a stranger) was obviously stronger (there was no behavioural manipulation) • Snyder & Frankel = Asked male research participants to watch a tape (no sound) of a female target person being interviewed by a strange male o Some were led to think the topic was bland o Others were told she was being asked to discuss her sex life o Assumption: sex tape would be seen as more anxiety-provoking and despite the woman showing no differences in anxious appearance between the tapes, participants in the sex condition would see her as a more anxious person (dispositionally) o Results:  Rather than taking into account the anxiety provoking situation, participants made correspondent inferences to behaviours that weren’t even observed, merely implied by the situation  They assumed the woman on the sex tape was more dispositionally anxious then the woman on the bland tape • Given all of the above converging lines of evidence, it is safe to conclude that correspondence bias is a real phenomenon THE ACTOR-OBSERVER DIFFERENCE • Snyder & Frankel = Although participants knew that the situation was anxiety-provoking, they still believed the woman was dispositionally anxious • Jones & Nisbett = Actor-Observer Difference = Although as observers of others we have a tendency to underutilize info about the situation and overutilize inferences about the disposition of others, such a bias doesn’t occur when we become actors o When we are judging our own actions correspondence bias disappears • What do others see (in judging themselves) that we don’t? o A) Actors are able to see their own internal states – they have Self-Knowledge and Insight  When judging others we are forced to infer their intentions, goals, emotions, etc from their behaviour  When judging ourselves there is a lot more info available to us – we can examine our motives directly and if they’re not sufficient we can look to the situation 5 o B) Differences in consistency and distinctiveness info exist for actors and observers  Observers cant see how actors behave in different situations – causal data are extended over time and not available  Actors knowledge of their behaviour in other situations/times should make them excellent judges of the covariation between behaviour and various situational/dispositional causes • If they detect consistency over time, they can infer dispositional causes • If they detect variability, they can infer situational causes more readily than observers  This extra insight into causes of actor’s own behaviour doesn’t mean that actors judge causes of their own behaviour more accurately however • People see themselves how they want to see themselves o C) Different aspects of the environment that are salient  For actors and observers different types of info are salient because theyre attending to different things • For actors: the situation is salient • For observers: Actors behaviour is salient (figural)  Actors and observers have different perspectives – what is figural to one is ground to the other (Gestalt)  Even people observing blatant situational constraints still exhibit correspondence bias • Possible solution: Perspective taking Perspective Taking • Heider = Successfully taking the perspective of other people is required for accurate attribution to result • The ability to entertain the perspective of another has long been recognized as a critical ingredient in proper social functioning: o Davis = Found that perspective taking was positively correlated with both social competence and self-esteem o Piaget = Marked the ability to shift perspectives as a major developmental breakthrough in cognitive functioning o Kohlberg = Recognized its importance in his classification of moral reasoning • Perspective taking can inspire altruism and its absence can incite aggression 6 • The existence of correspondence bias suggests that perspective taking is difficult and not our default approach Perspective Taking and the Fundamental Attribution Error • Can physically take perspective or psychologically take perspective • Storms = (Physical) Claimed that actors and observers literally have different viewpoints so his hypothesis: If behaviour was videotaped so observers saw it from the perspective of actors and actors watched themselves like observers, the actor-observer difference should be reversed o 2 observers watched a conversation between 2 target actors – each observer instructed to watch one target and the interaction was videotaped o Participants then watched the tape of the interaction:  1 group watched same perspective they had seen in the live version  1 group has perspectives reversed o Participants were then asked to describe either their own behaviour (if they were actors) or the behaviour of the observed person (if they were observers) along several personality dimensions o Participants also had to rate how much they thought personal characteristics and characteristics of the situation influenced the behaviour o Results:  1) Evidence for Jones & Nisbett’s Actor-Observer Difference was found in the normal condition where actor and observer had their typical perspectives • Actors attributed more to situational causes than observers • However: o Observers attributed more to disposition than situation o Actors attributed to a mix of disposition and situation (weren’t overly situational) • Overall point: Actors pay more attention to situation than observers and give it at least equal weight in forming judgements about causality  2) In perspective taking condition things shifted: • Actors became more dispositional in their attributions • Observers became more situational in their attributions • Overall point: actor-observer effects were reversed 7 • Regan & Totten = (Psychological) Research participants were not shown info from the perspective of another person, were simply instructed to take their perspective in some conditions o In perspective taking condition dispositional explanations turned into situational ones THE CAUSES OF THE CORRESPONDENCE BIAS 1 – Situations Lack Salience and Therefore Go Unnoticed by Perceivers • Heider = Behaviour has such salient properties that it tends to engulf the total field o Interpretation of this might be that what is salient captures perceivers attention and what they attend to is what they assume is the dominant causal factor • Taylor & Fiske = Illustrated the predominant causal role that a salient individual plays in shaping perceiver’s impressions o When a participant observing a conversation between 2 men was seated facing one man, that man was seen as more dominant, and vice versa • It is not attention to salient behaviour per se that causes the correspondence bias – it’s the fact that once perceivers have attended to a salient behaviour the role of the situation in causing the behaviour goes unnoticed • Heider = Situation invisible because actors and their actions form perceptual units o Often the situation is not physical, observable, or concrete – its literally not seen 2 – Underestimating the Impact of the Situation • Perceivers may notice the situation and still exhibit correspondence bias because they’ve underestimated the role that the situation plays in shaping behaviour • 2 ways this may occur: o I) Lacking Awareness of Situational Constraints  When the perceiver sees that some situational force covaries with behaviour, yet doesn’t perceive that this situation constrains the individuals’ freedom to act in any particular way  Probably the cause in the quiz show paradigm – despite seeing the situation, cant see the forces of constraint the situation is exerting o II) Unrealistic Expectations for Behaviour of Underestimated Constraints  Gilbert & Malone = 2 way occurs when the situation is underutilized because the perceiver has an exaggerated sense of how powerful the behaviour is and how resistant it would be to the situational force  The situation is seen as not strong enough to influence behaviour 8  Ex: Milgram studies – Expectation would be that people should never shock others and only extreme pressure would lead them to act this way – but situational pressure seemed insufficient for this  Ex: Jones & Harris essay experiment – Perceivers may have assumed essayists had some choice, or if not they could at least have not been so enthusiastic or expert in their opinion  Even if the situation is not invisible, perceivers may unrealistically expect behaviour to be somewhat free of situational constaints = Underestimated Constraints 3 – Differential Memory Decay for Pallid vs Salient Events • Correspondence bias would be caused by forgetting (as opposed to not seeing) the situation = Sleeper Effect o The advantage of using disposition to explain because may not be present as the behaviour is encoded, but its advantage over situational explanations increases over time as the situation is forgotten and the vivid, salient behaviour is stored o This explanation for the bias would be particularly useful when people are explaining past behaviour • Ex: How faculty members evaluate graduate students – some get grants and can just focus on their research, others have to work while doing research o When it comes time to evaluation however the faculty members forget the situational constraints and students who worked for their money now seem lees successful than those who were free of teaching 4 – The Situation is the Person • In many cases the situations we find people in are perfectly constructed by those people to suit their needs, wants, and disposition o Ex: People’s homes and occupations • Prentice = Examined the relationship between a persons possessions and the persons attitudes, disposition, and schemas o Basic conclusion was the possessions an individual has are not randomly acquired, but fill the person’s context with objects that serve some of his/her underlying wants, needs, and beliefs o Noted a similar consistency in the function of the person’s attitudes – attitudes (like material objects) are possessions that serve some function for the individual • Gosling et al = Their research explicitly linked the individual, the context/environment occupied by the individual, and the impressions formed by observers of the context/environment o Brought perceivers to 94 offices in 5 office complexes around the USA for the purpose of trying to form an impression of the people who inhabited each office o 2 dimensions of interest:  1) Consensus of impressions  2) Accuracy of impressions o Results: 9  Significant positive correlations between ratings of observers and self/peer ratings of personality characteristics  Observers relied on cues in the environment (possessions) to allow them to develop fairly accurate impressions of the inhabitants • Gilbert & Malone = Correspondence bias is not an error when people choose their own situations o However, this tendency to see people as having caused or constructed their situations may be inappropriately generalized to other situations people didn’t construct o Thus, even when the situation should be considered a constraint on the individual, perceivers instead ignore it because it is seen as a construction of the individual 5 – Naïve Realism and the False-Consensus Effect • False-Consensus Effect = The tendency to see ones own behavioural choices as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances while viewing alternative responses as uncommon, deviant, and inappropriate o Can contribute to correspondence bias – if people overestimate the extent to which others agree with them, they are likely to think their own beliefs and actions have high consensus – they ware therefore less likely to make dispositional inferences for their own behaviour and more likely to make them for people who behave ‘deviantly’ • Thus actor-observer bias patterns can be produced through a tendency to see false consensus 6 – Anchoring and Insufficient Adjustment • Tversky & Kahneman = Anchoring = Phenomenon in which a persons judgement on some task is biased by an initial estimate o Example 1:  People were asked to guess how many countries from the African continent were represented in the United Nations by replying more or less to a number shown after a wheel spin  Those whose wheel spin showed 10 estimated substantially lower than those whose wheel spin showed 65 as an anchor o Example 2:  Participants were asked to multiple numbers but not allowed to complete the task and asked to make a final guess  Those who saw 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 guessed 2250  Those who saw 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8 guessed 512 • Jones = Proposed that if making an inference about the persons disposition is the most available hypothesis then such a trait hypothesis will serve as an anchor, which then guides subsequent judgement 10 o Furthermore, corrective inferential work may follow such inferences – but it is often not enough because of the anchor o Insufficient Adjustment = Start out with an initial assumption about the persons disposition and attempt to correct for it, but its impossible to invalidate a first impression 7 – Cognitive “Busyness” Yield Incomplete Corrections of Dispositional Inference • There is a distinction between failing to use the situation because you don’t notice it and failing to use the situation even when you notice it and think it might be important • Several reasons why attempts to correct first impressions may not occur: o 1) The fact that people lack an adequate theory of the direction and force of the bias they are correcting for o 2) People lack the mental energy or ability to engage in the correction process – correction is effortful • Making an adjustment to an initial inference requires people to consider info that isn’t salient and then to engage in either discounting or augmenting of their initial impressions to account for this info o This requires mental energy and cognitive effort and sometimes people lack the cognitive resources • Draws from the logic of dual-process models: trait inference is automatic while adjustment is effortful o Thus is correction processes can occur, the situation will be considered, but if they cant occur, correspondent inference should result • Gilbert et al = Tested the idea that the correction stage requires more cognitive resources o Had participants watch videotapes (without sound) of someone allegedly discussing either anxiety-provoking topics (sex life) or non-anxiety provoking topics (travel) o ½ participants were under cognitive load (memorize and repeat discussion topics) and ½ were not o Prediction was that since all participants observed someone acting anxiously, they should all form effortless trait inferences characterizing the person as anxious  However the topics should inform people of situational constraints so they should correct for this in their initial inference  Participants who were cognitively busy shouldn’t be able to perform this correction and should rely on initial impression o Results: Participants failed to adjust their impressions to account for the situation is they were experience cognitive load, even if the load was the act of thinking about the situation (topics) 8 – Prior Information and Context Lead to Inflated Categorizations of Behaviour • A perceiver may notice the situation, correctly estimate it to have an influence and be both motivated and able to engage in correction processes – and still the correspondence bias can emerge o This can occur because noticing the situation can elad to the paradoxical effect of creating expectancies that then alter the manner in which a person is perceived, inflating the extent to which the person is seen as causal 11 • Snyder & Frankel = There participants saw a midly anxious woman and they were told she was discussing a very anxiety- provoking topic o Even though she didn’t act extremely anxiously they situation led people to expect her to be anxious o Noticing the situation led perceivers to assume that her behaviour and emotions were consistent with the situation even though she hadn’t shown any signs of this • Trope = Posited that noticing the situation leads a perceiver to assume that behaviour and emotions exhibited within that situation are prepotent – to exaggerate the force of such factors, and thus develop an inflated sense of that the person is thinking or feeling o This leads to the fundamental attribution error • Trope’s Model: Begins with a stage of Behavioural Categorization produced through a process of identification o This is equivalent to Gilbert’s categorization – where perceiver observes behaviour and arrives at a label for it o Like Gilbert, assumes that this identification process is capable of occurring preconsciously and spontaneously o UNLIKE Gilbert, specifies what sort of factors determine the initial categorization – 3 types of influence on identification:  I) The behaviour you have observed  II) The situation in which that behaviour occurs • Context is used at an early point without conscious intent, to help the perceiver disambiguate or identify the behaviour • Experiment: Showed research participants faces of people who were displaying real emotions – ambiguous emotions o Participants were asked to rate the emotions being felt by the person in the picture o ½ rated the person as angry because they were told that this was coach of a team losing the game o ½ rater the person has happy because they were told that this was coach of a team winning the
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