Chapter 4 – Social Perception
Social perception – how people form impressions of and make inferences about other people.
Heider’s Theory of Naive Psychology
Heider’s theory that people practise a form of untrained psychology as they use cause and
effect analyses to understand their world and other people’s behaviour.
“Father of attribution theory”
Based on three principles:
1. People have the need to explain the cause of other people’s behaviour in order to
understand their motivation.
2. People are motivated to try to figure out why a person acted in a given way so that they
can predict how the person will act in the future.
3. When people make casual attributions, they make a distinction between internal and
external causes of behaviour.
External attribution – seeing the behaviour as caused by something external to the person who
performs the behaviour.
Internal attribution – refers to whether the person’s behaviour is caused by personal factors, such
as traits, ability, effort, or personality.
Jones and Davis’s Theory of Correspondent Inference
Correspondent inference theory – the theory that people infer whether a person’s behaviour is
caused by the person’s internal disposition by looking at various factors related to the person’s
Being tested; submarine (extrovert) or astronaut (introvert); had someone describe their
behaviour while people watched; participants rated the applicant’s personality and degree
of extroversion; those who saw an applicant acting in a predictable way were reluctant to
make this rating; reluctant because they (rightly) attributed the person’s behaviour to the
Three factors that influence the extent to which you attribute behaviour to the person
rather than the situation:
1. Does the person have the choice to engage in the action?
a. If you know the person was forced to engage in a given behaviour, it is reasonable
to assume that the action is due to the situation and not the person. Example: a
psychology major has to take statistics but that doesn’t mean he/she likes it.
2. Is the behaviour expected based on the social role or circumstance?
a. If you see someone wearing a tuxedo at a wedding that doesn’t mean that he is a
stylish and formal dresser. 3. What are the intended effects or consequences of the person’s behaviour?
a. One job has really good pay, in a city, lots of people so you don’t know why they
took that job. Another job pays low, is located in the middle of nowhere but has a
ski mountain so you assume that person took the job because they like to ski.
Kelley’s Covariation Theory
Covariation theory – the theory that people determine the causes of a person’s behaviour by
focusing on the factors that are present when a behaviour occurs and absent when it doesn’t
occur, with specific attention on the role of consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency.
Consistency – information about whether a person’s behaviour toward a given stimulus is the
same across time.
If a person’s behaviour is highly consistent over time and across situations, we’re likely
to make a dispositional attribution. If a given behaviour is unusual for a particular
person, we’re likely to make a situational attribution.
Consensus – the first component of covariation theory and it refers to whether other people
generally agree or disagree with a given person.
Distinctiveness – refers to whether the person generally reacts in a similar way across different
Weiner’s Attribution Theory
People attribute their achievement in terms of three dimensions:
1. Locus – location of the cause is internal or external to the person.
2. Stability – cause stays the same or changes
3. Controllability – person can control or not
People often tend to attribute their own success to internal factors and other’s successes
to external factors.
People attribute their own failure to external factors and others’ failure to internal factors.
They do this because they want to maintain a positive self-image – factors should make
them feel good about themselves.
Three-dimensional model of attribution includes: internal/external, stable/unstable, and
Intergroup attribution – making attributions about one’s own and others’ behaviours based on
group membership. Ethnocentrism – a tendency to attribute desirable characteristics to one’s own group and
undesirable characteristics to outgroups.
Gender differences in attribution:
Observers tend to attribute men’s successes to ability and women’s successes to effort
and reverses in the case of failure.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Also known as correspondence bias is the tendency to overestimate the role of personal
causes and underestimate the role of situational causes in explaining behaviour.
Some people were told that a student chose to write about Castro and another group was
told the professor assigned the topic. Those who were told that a student wrote about
Castro were more likely to assume that the student actually liked Castro.
Example: essays that are described as being in line with their writer’s own attitude are
seen as stronger and more persuasive than essays believed to conflict with the speaker’s
This is the tendency to see other people’s behaviour as caused by dispositional factors,
but see our own behaviour