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Chapter 2

PSYCH 2C03 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Computer Mouse, Explicit Memory, Social Comparison Theory


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYCH 2C03
Professor
Jennifer Ostovich
Chapter
2

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Chapter 2: The Self in a Social World
-social surroundings shape how we think about ourselves: as individuals in a
group of a different culture, race, sex, we notice how we differ and how others are
reacting to our differences (only woman in a exec meeting is likely to be aware of her
gender)
-self-interest colours our judgements about others and ourselves: when problems
arise, we attribute the problem to others (marriages, Nobel Peace Prize)
-Looking good to others motivates our social behaviour: monitor and adjust to
expectations, concern for self-image, diet and cosmetics
-Your ideas and feelings about yourself affect how you interpret events, how you recall,
how you respond shape sense of self
- Self concept (who am I) + self esteem (my sense of self-worth) + self knowledge (how
can I explain and predict myself) + social self (my roles as a student, friend etc)
Self-concept: Who am I?
Intuition: Looking within
Powers and perils of intuition
- unconscious controls most of behaviour
- light turns red: hit the brake before consciously deciding to do so
-thinking is partly controlled, and partly automatic
controlled processing: explicit thinking that is deliberate, reflective and conscious
automatic processing: implicit thinking that is effortless, habitual, w/o awareness,
roughly corresponds to “intuition”
- examples of automatic thinking:
schemas (mental templates) guide our perceptions & interpretations
emotional reactions are often instantaneous (sensory thalamus amygdala before
thinking cortex can intervene)
we remember facts/names/past experiences explicitly, but skills/conditioned
dispositions implicitly [physician introduced name, yet patient with brain damage
with explicit memory deficitsalways forgot: affixed a tack to patient’s hand, causing
him pain when he returned: patient still forgot his name, but was unwilling to
shake his hand]
lost portion of visual cortex partially blind report not seeing any sticks, but got
answers correct they know more than they know they know
subliminal priming of a disapproving pope (vs. frowning of a stranger) lowered
women’s ratings of themselves (after they read a sexually explicit passage)
- many routine cognitive functions occur automatically, unintentionally, w/o awareness
- brain knows much more than it tells us
Intuitions about the self
- much of thinking occurs outside of our awareness, conscious thoughts bear little
resemblance to unconscious behaviour
- do our conscious explanations of our behaviours and our conscious understanding of who
we are bear little resemblance to our unconscious thoughts?
- We may dismiss factors that matter and perceive others that don’t as influential
- Nisbett & Schachter
Ask university students to take series of electric shocks, increasing intensity
Some took a pill, told would produce heart palpitations, breathing irregularities etc
Given the fake pill took 4 times as much shock
When asked why they could withstand so much shock didn’t talk about the pill
Granted that others might be influenced but denied its influence on them ( i didn’t
even think about the pill)
People attributed shock symptoms sot pill tolerate more shock

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-Recorded mood and contributing factors little relationship between their perceptions
of how well a factor predicted their mood & how well they actually did so (how much
insight do we actually have to what makes us happy/unhappy?)
- Wegner’s computer mouse/I spy experiment
2 people jointly control a computer mouse that glides over I-spy board with
pictures
Hear objects over headphones stop on picture they want
Even when one person is a confed and forced mouse to a particular picture
participant typically perceived that they willed the mouse to the chosen picture
Predicting our behaviour
-people deny that they will obey demands and deliver shocks in reality, many are
vulnerable
-self-predictions of whether one would be involved in a romantic relationship, being sick
inaccurate compared to average person’s experience
-dating couples predict the longevity of their relationships (feel they will always be lovers)
less optimistic predictions of roommates/families are more accurate
- someone who knows you can probably predict your behaviour better than you can
- better prediction? Consider past behaviour in a similar situation
- can better predict your behaviour by asking them to predict others’ actions
Prior to Cornell’s Daffodil days charity event: asked students to predict whether
they would buy daffodil for charity and how many % of students would do so
predicted 4/5 would buy reality only 43% brought, close to prediction that 56%
of students would buy one
84% participants predicted they would cooperate with another for mutual game in
a lab game played for money only 64% did (close to prediction of cooperation
by others)
- Do intuitions always lead us astray? Instead of deliberating, let time pass, allow
automatic process to influence decisions?
Had people make important decisions right away such as buying car or house
(consciously deliberate, consider pros and cons) vs. let time pass by (allow
automatic or unconscious thoughts to influence decision, instead of actually
thinking about decision)
Months later, people were happiest with decisions (lab or real world) when they
made the decision after a delay
Unconscious intuitions may be better guides than previously thought
Predicting our feelings
- sometimes we know, other times we mispredict our respondes
-most women said they would feel angry if they were asked sexually harassing questions
on a job interview actually reported experiencing fear
-“affective forecasting” studies reveal that people have greatest difficulty predicting the
intensity and the duration of their future emotions
-when hungry, mispredict how gross those deep-fried doughnuts will seem when sated
when stuffed, one mispredicts how yummy a dounught might be
-1/7 predict they will be smoking in five years underestimated
- Overestimate how much well-being would be affected by warmer winters, losing weight,
winning lottery
- When not aroused, one easily mispredicts how one will feel and act when aroused
-“we want, we get, we are happy” false
- We often “miswant”
-Impact bias: overestimating the enduring impact of emotion-causing event
More prone after negative events

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Assistant professors believed a favourable outcome (achieving tenure) was
important to future happiness those denied tenure were just as happy as those
who received it (few years after the event)
predictions of future emotions influences decisions
-when focusing on negative events, we discount the importance of everything else that
contributes to happiness overpredict enduring misery
- east Asians more likely to consider other factors
-people neglect the speed & power of their psychological immune system: strategies for
rationalizing, discounting, forgiving, limiting emotional trauma we actually
accommodate more readily than we think we do
- major negative events (active psychological defences0 can be less enduringly distressing
than minor irritations
The wisdom and illusions of self-analysis
- intuitions are often wrong about what has influenced us, and what we feel and do
- but when the causes of our behaviour are conscpicuous and the correct explanation fits
our intuition, our self-perceptions will be accurate
-when causes of behaviour are obvious to an observer obvious to us as well
-we are more aware of the results of our thinking than the process (artists/scientists don’t
recall the process of that produced their insights, incubate “enlighten”, mental clock
- Wilson: The mental process that control our social behaviour are distinct from the mental
processes through which we explain our behaviour
Rationale explanations omit gut-level attitudes that guide our behaviour
Expressed attitudes usually predict later behaviour well
But when asked participants to analyze their feelings attitude reports became
useless
Rate happiness predicted whether they would still be dating (correlated)
List reasons why they think relation was good/bad rate happiness attitude
reports useless in predicting future of relationship
Gut feelings vs. analyzing poster before purchase those who analyzed were less
satisfied with their choice few weeks later
Gut-level reactions more consistent (first impression can be telling)
-Dual attitude system: differing implicit (automatic) and explicit (consciously
controlled) attitudes toward the same object
Verbalized explicit attitudes may change with education & persuasion (childhood
dislike appreciation)
Implicit attitudes change slowly, practice forms new habits
- Miller & Tesser believe Wilson overstates our ignorance about one self
Drawing people’s attention to reasons diminishes the usefulness of attitude
reports in predicting behaviours that are driven by feelings (agreed)
Get in touch with feelings more useful?
Some decisions are more cognitively driven (picking school based on tuition,
career advancement)
Heart has it’s reasons, but mind’s own reasons are decisive
- Implications
1. Self-reports are often untrustworthy: errors in self-understanding limits the
scientific usefulness of subjective personal reports
2. The sincerity with which people report and interpret their experiences is not
guarantee of the validity of these reports
Personal testimonies are powerfully persuasive, but may be wrong (keeping
potential error in mind can feel less intimidated by others, less gullible)
Fitting in: Looking to others
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