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PSYCH 2C03 (81)
Chapter 3


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McMaster University
Jennifer Ostovich

Chapter 3: Social Beliefs and Judgements Perceiving our social worlds - we react to reality not as it is but how construct it • predispositions & prejudgements  affects how we perceive & interpret info • plant judgment in people’s minds after they have been given info  how after-the-fact ideas bias recalls Priming - unattended stimuli predispose how we interpret and recall events - priming: activating particular associations in memory - Bargh et al. (1996) • Asked people to complete a sentence containing words such as “old”, “wise”, “retired” • Observed people walking more slowly to the elevator than those who were not primed with aging-related words • They were unaware of their walking speed, or of having just viewed words that primed aging - Priming can also affect goals to achieve and to get along with others - Thinking & acting primed by events of which we are unaware of • Dutch students exposed to the scent of cleaner were quicker to identify cleaning-related words, and recalled more cleaning related activities when describing their day’s activities, kept their desk cleaner - Others: • Watching a scary movie alone  activate emotions  interpret furnace noises as possible intruder • Depressed moods  prime negative associations vs. good mood  past & future seems brighter - What’s out of sight may not be out of one’s mind • Imperceptibly flashed word “bread”  detect related words such as “butter” quickly • Invisible image or word primes a response to a later task - Much of social information processing is automatic, unintentional, out of sight, without awareness Perceiving and interpreting events - there are flaws (biases, logical flaws) in how we perceive and understand others  but we’re mostly accurate - first impressions more often right  better we know them, we can more accurately read their minds/feelings - When social information is subject to multiple interpretations, preconceptions matter • Ways of thinking or schemas guide not only our interpretations of our self, but also our understanding of others - Preconceptions are powerful • Both pro-israli and pro-arab students who were shown news segments believed the coverage was biased against their point of view • Sports fans perceive referees as partial to the other side • People everywhere perceive media and mediators as biased against their position - Our assumptions can make contradictory evidence seem supportive • Students were asked to evaluate the results of 2 supposedly new research studies • ½ students favoured capital punishment, ½ opposed • 1 study confirmed and the other disconfirmed the students’ beliefs • Both readily accepted evidence that confirmed their belief, but were sharply critical of disconfirming evidence • Showing 2 sides an identical body of mixed evidence  increased disagreement - Political debates which have no clear-cut winning: • Reinforces predebate opinions • Those who already favoured one candidate perceived their candidate as having won • Report being more supportive of them after the debate • Point: people can perceive and interpret identical arguments quite differently (given the same mixed info, opposing people can assimilate it to their views and find their views strengthened) - Manipulating preconceptions can effect how people interpret and recall what they observe • Given a same picture of a man, tell them 2 different things: Gestapo leader who’s responsible for barbaric medical expts vs. anti-Nazi leader  judge as cruel vs. warm&kind - Film makers can control perceptions of emotions by manipulating the setting in which they see a face: Kulechov effect • Guide viewers inferences by manipulating their assumptions • Identical footage of a face of an actor with neutral expression after being shown 1 of the 3 scenes: dead woman, dish of soup, girl playing  interpretations: sad vs. thoughtful vs. happy - Construal processes also colours others’ perceptions of us • Spontaneous trait transference • Describe someone as sensitive, compassionate  and you may seem more so, people associate that with you - There is objective reality out there, but we view it through the spectacles of our beliefs, attitudes and values - Our beliefs & schemas shape our interpretation of everything else Belief perseverance - it is difficult to demolish a falsehood once the person conjures a rationale for it - experiment - implanted a belief (proclaiming it was true or showing the participants anecdotal evidence)  participants were asked to explain why it’s true  discredited the initial information by telling participants the truth  new belief survived 75% (participants retained their invented explanations) - belief perseverance: persistence of one’s initial conceptions, as when the basis for one’s belief is discredited but an explanation of why the belief might be true survives - Anderson (1980) • Asked people to decided whether people who take risks make good or bad firefighters • 1 group considered a risk-prone person who was successful, and a cautious person who was unsuccessful vs. other group which considered cases suggesting the opposite • Formed theory of whether risk-prone people make better or worse firefighters  wrote explanations for it (risk-prone people are brave or cautious people are careful) • Explanations can now exist independently for the information that initially created the belief • When info discredited  held self-generated explanations  continued to believe that risk prone people really do make better/worse firefighters - The more we examine our theories and explain how they might be true  the more closed we become to information that challenges our belief • Once we consider why someone might be guilty, why a favoured stock might rise in value  explanations survive challenging evidence - Our beliefs and expectations powerfully affect how we mentally construct events • Benefit: theories guide scientists to notice and interpret events • Cost: we become prisoners tour own thoughts & patterns • Germans who believed the introduction of Euro currency led to increased prices overestimated such price increases when comparing actual restaurant menus (prior menu with german marks, new one with euro prices) - Consequences of belief perseverance: • Western media reported and repeated claims during the Iraq war such as Iraqi forces executed coalition prisoners of war  shown false  Americans retained the belief as they fit into pre-existing assumptions, unlike Australians and Germans - Solution? Explain the opposite • Asking students from the punishment study to evaluate as objectively and unbiased as possible  failed • Told them to consider the opposite (would you have made the same high/low evaluations had exactly the same study produced results on the other side of the issue  after imagining an opposite finding  less biased of evidence for/against their views • Explaining why a opposite theory might be true  reduces/eliminates belief perseverance • Explaining any alternative outcome  drives people to ponder various possibilities Constructing memories - psychologists: memories are not copies of experiences that remain on deposit in the memory bank: we construct memories at the time of withdrawal • backward reasoning: infers what must have been given what we now believe or know - we reconstruct our distant past by using current feelings and expectations to combine fragments of information  revise memories to suit our current knowledge - “The june issue of the magazine never came”  shown where it was  “oh good, i knew i’d gotten it” - Asked to vividly imagine a childhood time when they tripped and fell  ¼ latter recall the fictitious event as something that actually happened - Mind sometimes constructs a falsehood - Misinformation effect: incorporating misinformation into one’s memory of the event, after witnessing an event and receiving misleading information about it • Ss witness an event  receive misleading info vs. not  memory test • People incorporate misinformation into their memories • Recall a yield sign as a stop sign, hammers as screwdrivers, breakfast cereal as eggs • Affects our recall of social & physical events • Had students talk to someone for 15 minutes  informed that the person liked them vs. disliked them  recalled person’s behaviour as relaxed, comfortable, happy vs. nervous, uncomfortable Reconstructing past attitudes - people whose attitudes have changed often insist that they have always felt much as they now feel - Bem & McConnell • Conducted survey, embedded question about student control over university curriculum • Week later: wrote essay opposing student control  attitudes became more opposing to student control • Recalled that they hold the opinion that they now held  denied expt had affected them - Rosy retrospection: people recall mildly pleasant events more favourably than they experienced them • People remember their travelling experiences even more fondly after some time, minimizing unpleasant aspects, remembering the high points - With any positive experience, some of the pleasure resides in the anticipation, some in the actual experience, some in the rosy retrospection - We revise our recollections of other people as our relationships with them change • Had university students rate their dating partners  2 months later: broke up- recall partner as selfish, bad tempered vs. still dating- recall love at first sigh • Newly wed couples report being happy  2 years later: those whose marriages had soured recalled that things had always been bad • Biases can lead to a downward spiral: worse current view is  worse memories are  further confirms negative attitudes • When memories are hazy  current feelings guide our recall Reconstructing past behaviours - Asked university students to recall their voting predictions from 2 months ago  hindsight bias: misrecalling predictions as closer to actual results - Our memories reconstruct past behaviours - Exposed some students to message convincing them of the desirability of tooth brushing  students recall brushing their teeth more often during the preceding two weeks than students who did not hear the message - People report smoking less cigarettes than sold, casting more votes than recorded - We revise the past to suite our present views: underreport bad behaviour and over-report good behaviour - Our present view is that we’ve improved- we misrecall our past as more unlike the present than it actually was - Those who participate in psychotherapy and self-improvement programs (weight control, antismoking) often claim beneficial effects, when there are only modest improvements  having spent so much time and money on self improvement, think that they may not be perfect now but were worst before and the therapy did good Summary - our schemas and preconceptions strongly influence how we interpret and remember events - priming: prejudgements have striking effects on how we perceive and interpret information - before-the-fact judgements bias our perceptions and interpretations, after-the-fact judgements bias our recall - memories are formed when we retrieve them, and subject to strong influence by attitudes and feelings we hold at the time of retrieval Judging our social worlds - cognitive mechanisms are efficient and adaptive but error-prone  wrong judgements Judgmental overconfidence - we are unaware of our errors as we interpret experiences and construct memories - intellectual conceit is evident in judgement of past knowledge (i knew it all along) to estimates of current knowledge and future behaviour predictions • we know we’ve messed up in the past  but our expectations for the future are vastly positive • even thinking of realistic obstacles did not dissuade university students form predicting that they would exercise more in the coming month - overconfidence phenomenon: the tendency to be more confident than correct- to overestimate the accuracy of one’s belief • asked to fill in the blanks about some facts  about 30% of the time the correct answer layed outside the range they felt 98% confident about - does overconfidence extend to social judgements? • Game show and told Ss to guess stranger’s answers (for questions such as would you prepare a for a difficult exam with someone else) • Subjects were told of the category of questions  interviewed target  target and subject filled survey + subject rated confidence in predictions • Intervieweres gussed right 63% of the time  but they felt 75% sure of their predictions • When guessing roommates: 68% correct, 78% confident • Most confident people mostly over confident • Similar results in self-confidence and accuracy in discerning whether someone is telling the truth, and people also mark with overconfidence things such as sexual history of dating partner etc - Incompetence feeds overconfidence • People who score low on tests of grammar, humour and logic  most prone to overestimating their gifts at such • Don’t know what good grammar is  unaware that they lack it • Feel smart when you use the letters in “psychology” to form new words  but feel stupid when someone else names the ones you missed • Ignorance of our ignorance sustains our self-confidence • Ignorance of one’s incompetence  occurs mostly on relatively easy-seeming tasks (hard tasks  appreciate their lack of skill - what others see in us tends to be more highly correlated with objective outcomes than what we see in ourselves • based on watching someone walk into a room a read a weather report  their estimate of the person’s intelligence correlated with the person’s intelligence score about as well as did the person’s own self estimate - ability to predict behaviour  poor • 84% of students felt sure of their self predictions (whether they would drop a course, live off campus etc)  they were wrong nearly twice as often as they expected to be (even when 100% sure  15% error) • Give too much weight to current intentions when predicting future behaviour • Students predicted whether they would donate blood based on intentions  did not predict actual donations  did not take into consideration how their schedules, deadlines, forgetfulness would play into the decision • Confidence usually drops near exam day • Confidently underestimate time to complete papers, group projects etc. • Olympic stadium by 1976 olympics in Montreal  roof was not completed till 1989 and roof itself costed what the estimate of the whole stadium would be - what produces overconfidence? Why does experience not lead us to be more realistic? • People recall their mistaken judgements as times when they were almost right • Academic and gov experts were invited to give their views on future governance of soviet union, south Africa, Canada  experts who felt confident 80% of the time were right less than 40% of the time  reflection: i was almost right • Among experts (mental health workers, stock market forecasters)  hard to dislodge Confirmation bias - A tendency to search for information that confirms one’s preconceptions - Watson (1960) • Gave Ss sets of numbers and asked them to guess the rule behind it (stop when you know it)  23 of the 29 people convinced themselves of a wrong rule  typically formed some erroneous belief about the rule and then searched for confirming evidence: believe it’s counting by 2s, so tested a certain set - Explains why our self-images are remarkably stable • Students seek, elicit, recall feedback that confirms their beliefs about themselves • Seek friends who bolster their self views • Self-verification • How someone with domineering self-image may behave: Seek guests who acknowledge her dominance at a party  present views which elicit respect she expects  has trouble recalling conversations where her influence was minimal, easily recalls those where her persuasiveness dominated  party experience confirms self-image Remedies for overconfidence - confidence =/= competence: even when people seem sure they are right, they may be wrong - techniques to reduce overconfidence bias: • prompt feedback: weather forecasters and those who set odds in horse racing  get feedback  more accurate estimates • “unpack a task” (break it into subcomponents) to reduce planning fallacy  more realistic completion time (when think about why a idea might be true  seem true) • Get people to think of one good reason why their judgements might be wrong (consider disconfirming information)  proposals should include reasons why they might not work - do not go extreme either ways: don’t undermine self-confidence to a point where self- doubts begin to cripple decisiveness  realistic self confidence is adaptive Heuristics: mental shortcuts - heuristics: a thinking strategy that enables quick, efficient judgements - form impressions, make judgements, invent explanations - speed promotes survival Representativeness heuristic - the tendency to presume, sometimes despite contrary odds, that someone or something belongs to a particular group if resembling (representing) a typical member - told that from a sample of 30 engs, 70 lawyers  gave description  believe it was lawyer  same even when the ratio was switched - representativeness is usually a reasonable guide, but not always The availability heuristic - a cognitive rule that judges the likelihood of things in terms of their availability in memory. If instances of something come readily to mind, we presume it to be commonplace - do more people live in iraq or Tanzania?  Iraqis readily available in memory - serves us well only sometimes, when it does not: • given list of famous females with equal list of unfamous males  famous names more cognitively available  recall having heard more woman’s names • vivid, easy to imagine events (e.g. disease with easy-to-picture symptoms) seem more likely • fictional happenings in novels, TV leave images that penetrate our judgement - demonstrating the availability of heuristics: • list 6 vs. 12 times when you were assertive  those who successfully wrote 6/6 reported being more assertive - use of heuristics- people are slow to deduce particular instances from a general truth, but they are remarkably quick to infer general truth from a vivid instance • after hearing about rapes and murders  overestimate the percentage of crimes that involve violence - explains why powerful anecdotes are often more compelling than statically information  may cause perceived risks to be higher than real risks (e.g. news footage of plane crash is an available memory  suppose we are more at risk travelling in planes than cars) Counterfactual thinking - easily imagined/cognitively available events influence our experiences with guilt, regret, frustration and relief - if our team loses (or wins) a big game by one point  easily imagine how the game might have gone the other way  greater regret/relief - imagine worse alternatives  feel better, imagine better  prepare and improve - bronze medalist happier than silver medalist at Olympics, B+ student who just missed A- feels worse than B+ student who just got it - counterfactual thinking: imagining alternative scenarios and outcomes that might have happened, but didn’t • occurs when we can easily picture an alternative outcome - barely miss the bus  imagine making it if only we had left our usual time, change exam answer  if only.. i will trust intuition next time (though answer changes are often from incorrect to correct) - underlies feeling of luck  when we barely escaped a bad event, we easily imagine a negative counterfactual  feel good luck - more significant the event  more intense counterfactual thinking (replaying, undoing the event) - live with less regret over things done than over things they failed to do (most common regret: not taking education seriously) Illusory thinking Illusory cor
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