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Chapter 3

PSYCH 2C03 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Belief Perseverance, Counterfactual Thinking, Confirmation Bias

Course Code
Jennifer Ostovich

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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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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

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- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
-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
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

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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
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,
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
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