CH 3: SOCIAL COGNITION
Sept 23/2011 – Pg 58 - 87
- Social cognition is the ways in which people think about themselves and the social world,
including how they select, interpret, remember and use social information.
On Automatic Pilot: Low-
Effort Thinking - Automatic thinking is thought that is nonconscious, unintentional, involuntary, and effortless.
Automatic Thinking with
- Automatic thinking helps us understand new situations by relating them to our prior
Schemas - People use schemas , which are mental structures that organize our knowledge about the social
world. They are very general encompassing our knowledge about other people, ourselves,
social roles and specific events.
Stereotypes about Race and Weapons
- Stereotypes are schemas applied to members of a social group.
o Ex. In a study to test the Diallo tragedy, nonblack college students saw pairs of
pictures in rapid succession
o First picture was of a face, whereas the second picture depicted either a tool or a gun.
o Participants paid attention only to the second picture and to press one key if it was a
tool or a gun.
o People were significantly more likely to mistake a tool for a gun when it was
preceded by a black face
o In another study, participants were instructed to shoot if the man in the picture had a
o People were likely to pull the trigger when the people in the pictures were black,
whether or not these people were holding a gun.
The function of Schemas: Why do we have them?
- Useful for helping us organize and make sense of the world and fill in gaps of our knowledge
- People with Korsakov’s syndrome can’t form new memories so they fill in their experiences
with delirious inventions
- Schemas are important when we encounter information that can be interpreted ina number of
ways because thy help us reduce ambiguity.
o Ex. Kelley told a class section that a guest lecturer is ‘warm, industrious, critical,
practical and determined’
o He told another section that the lecturer was a ‘cold person’ instead of ‘warm’.
o After the lecture, students rated their impressions of him – students who expected
him to be warm gave him higher ratings than the ‘cold’ students.
Schemas as Memory Guides:
- Help people fill in the blanks but the memory reconstruction is consistent with people’s
o Ex. Carli made participants read a story about Barbara and Jack – in one condition
Jack proposed to Barbara, in another, Jack raped her.
o People misremembered details that were consistent with proposal schema like ‘Jack
gave Barbara roses’, likewise, people misremembered details consistent with a rape
schema – ‘Jack liked to drink’
- Schemas become stronger and more resistant to change over time. Which Schemas Are Applied? Accessibility and Priming
Accessibility - Accessibility is the extent to which schemas and concepts are at the forefront of the mind and
are therefore likely to be used when making judgments about the social world.
- Something can be accessible because:
1. Past experience – i.e. if there is alcoholism in the family, traits describing an alcoholic are
more accessible to you
2. Relation to a current goal – i.e. concept of mental illness isn’t accessible to you but if you
are studying for a test and need to learn about mental disorders, this concept might be
3. Recent experiences – primed by reading One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest , you might
assume someone you see is mentally ill.
Priming - Priming: the process by which recent experiences increase the accessibility of a schema, trait
- Priming is an example of automatic thinking because it occurs quickly, unintentionally, and
o Ex. People were flashed words really quickly about hostility or neutral. Then, there
read about Donald’s hostile behaviour. People who saw hostile words rated Donald
as more hostile than people who saw neutral words.
Persistence of Schemas After They are Discredited
- In a task where you have to guess which of the 25 suicide notes are real, you are first told that
you got 24/25 right, then later told that the experimenter just said you got 24 right regardless of
how many you actually got. Likewise, this was also done with a ‘wrong’ group.
- People who received the ‘success’ feedback still thought they got more items correct and