Chapter 4 on Social Cognition
Chapter 4 on Social Cognition

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University of British Columbia
Family Studies
FMST 314
Silvia Bartolic

Chapter 4 Your perceptions will have either sustained or undermined the happiness of your relationship • Social cognition – the process of perception and judgement with which we make sense of our social worlds o Concern = way we think about our relationships o Our perceptions and interpretations of our partnership are of enormous emportance o What we think helps determine how we:  Feel and then how we acts  Shouldn’t be a problem if our judgements were correct o Usually variety of ways to interpret an event –can make mistakes even when we’re confident about the truth First impressions Judgements we make of other people in a brief meeting have an enormous staying power… initial perception continuing months after • Our first impressions are the only impressions we ever get • First impressions continue to be influential even when we do see more of a new acquaintance • Some may last because they are discerning and correct o Doesn’t take long to notice who’s nice and who’s not. If we are right we may never revise perception • We start judging people the first 25 of a second we meet them o To determine whether a strangers face looks angry, nice, etc. • After watching this person chat with someone of the opposite sex for 5 seconds we’ve already decided how extraverted, conscientious, intelligent he or she is • Our snap judgments = influenced by the fact that everyone we meet fits a category of people whom we already hold stereotyped first impressions o Gender role stereotypes leads us to expect different behaviour from men and women o We assume pretty people are likeable people o Stereotypes supply us with preconceptions about what people are like o The judgements that result are often incorrect  Hard to avoid though  Stereotypes influence us automatically (even when unaware)  If we do interact with someone, we continue jumping to conclusions as our interaction unfolds • Offering the same information in a different order can engender two different impressions • Primacy effect – our judgements of others are influenced by this. o A tendency for the first information we receive about others to carry special weight , along with our instant impressions and our stereotypes in shaping overall impressions of them o Our quick first judgement of others influence our interpretations of the later information we encounter o Once a judgement forms, it affects how we use the data that follow –often in subtle ways that are difficult to detect • People ordinarily display a confirmation bias: they seek information that will prove them right more than they look for examples that will prove them wrong o Ex. the experiment: knowledge of her social class contaminated their interpretations of her later actions o Ex. asking questions in a survey, you’d select questions that probe for evidence that your expectation is correct o Problem with confirmatory strategies is that they elicit one sided information about others that fit our preconceptions—result: we rarely confront unequivocal evidence that our first impressions are wrong  We may think we are right about others more often than we are • Most people are overconfident with their beliefs about others –making more mistakes than we realize • You’re not likely to be as well-informed as you think about: o How many past lovers your partner has had o If they have sexually transmitted disease  Because of bias –overconfident when a new relationship began  As relationship developed bias only got worse First impressions because the first things we learn: a. Direct our attention to certain types of new information b. Influence our interpretations of those new facts o We are wrong more often than we realize • Of course we come to know our partners better with time and experience o Our first impression changes of course as we gain familiarity with each other  However: existing beliefs are influential at every stage of a relationship. Even flimsy first impressions typically change less easily than they logically should  It’s because the manner in which they influence subsequent thinking • When you develop a relationship with lots of information about an intimate partner, these patterns continue o Existing beliefs about lovers and friends are more powerful than new acquaintences  We have enormous amounts of information about our intimate partners but because they matter to us, it’s hard to see clearly • Parents = better predictors of your relationship length than you are –people in relationship focus on strengths more and ignore the weaknesses o Roommates and parents are more dispassionate and less confident o Most accurate predictions comes from the women involved  If her friends approve of the relationship, it’s likely to continue, if they think relationship is doomed, it probably is o Same overconfidence, confirmatory biases, and preconceptions of new acquaintances operate in established relationships o When we asses our relationships in a critical, cautious and clear mind we make better predictions than in a romantic mood  But hard to be dispassionate when we’re devoted to a relationship and want it to continue The Power of Perception Our judgements of our relationships seem to come to us naturally, as if there were only one reasonable way to view the situations we encounter Idealizing Our Partners • We want an ideal partner (i.e. attractiveness, trustworthy, warmth, etc.) o When partner fulfill this satisfaction results BUT o We also construct charitable generous perceptions of our partners that emphasize their virtues and minimize their faults • We judge lovers with positive illusions which portray their partners in the best possible light o Such illusions = mix of realistic knowledge and idealized perceptions of them o They do not ignore partners real liabilities, they just consider such faults to be less significant than other people perceive them to be o Satisfied spouses do this –they interpret all the facts differently than everyone else  Idealize their partners, judging them more positively than other people do –even more positively than the partners themselves • Is it dangers to hold lover in such a high esteem? –may fail to fulfill such positive perceptions? o Answer depends on how unrealistic the positive illusions are  If we’re fooling ourselves, imagining desirable qualities in a partner that he or she does not possess, we are dooming ourselves to disillusionment • Newlyweds do grow less satisfied if their new spouses turn ot to be les wonderful than they thought to be  If we’re aware of all the facts but are merely interpreting them in a kind benevolent fashion, such “illusions” can be very beneficial. • When we idealize our partner’s we’re predisposed to judge their behaviour in positive ways—therefore more willing to commit ourselves to maintaining the relationship o Bolsters our self-esteem to be loved by others who we perceive to be so desirable o We can slowly convince our partners that they actually are the wonderful people we believe them to be • Clever ways which we protect ourselves from disillusionment: o As we come to know our partners well, we tend to revise our opinions of what we want in an ideal partner, so that our standards fit the partners we’ve got o To a degree we decide that the qualities our partners have are the ones we want • We can increase the chances that we’ll be happy with our present partners Attributional Processes Attributions –the explanations we generate for why things happen – and in particular why a person did or did not do something • Identifies the causes of an event: o Emphasizing the impact of some influences o And minimizing the role of others • Usually several possible explanations for most events in our lives o Internal – ex. person’s personality, ability or effort  Ex. students who do well on exams usually attribute their success to internal causes, but those who do poorly blame external factors o External – ex. persons situation or circumstances faced • Causes of events may be: o Stable – (lasting) as our abilities do o Unstable – (transient) such as our moods that come and go • Causes can be said to be: o Controllable – we can manage or influence them o Uncontrollable – nothing we can do about them • Diverse explanations for a given event may be plausible • In a close relationship where interdependent partners BOTH are partly responsible for much of what occurs, judgements of causes and effect can be especially complicated • Three broad patterns routinely emerge for attributions in relationships 1. Despite their intimate knowledge of each other, partners are affected by robust actor/observer effects: generate different explanations for their own behaviour than for similar actions observed in their partner o Aware of external pressures affecting their own behaviour, but attribute internal causes for others behaviours o Leaf the partners to overlook how they often personally provoke the behaviour they observe in each other  Ex. he thinks “it infuriates me when she does that,” he thinks “she’s so temperamental!” o Bias is so strong that: two people are reasonably likely to agree about what each of them did but disagree of why they did it o They also are unlikely to be aware of the discrepancies in their attributions  Each person is likely to believe the other sees things his or her way 2. Despite genuine affection for each other, partners are likely to display self-serving biases in which they readily take credit for their successes but try to avoid the blame for their failures o Usually think they personally deserve credit when relationship is going well but not to blame if it isn’t  People expect others to be self-serving but don’t feel that they are themselves • We recognize when people make excuses for their failures, but feel it’s accurate when we do it • Partly because we are aware of our good intentions even when we fail to follow through, but judge others on what they do (not what they intended) • Subtle processes like these make self-serving explanations of events routine in social life o Partners are less self-serving towards each other than they are with other people o Still exists though—  If in an argument tend to believe it’s mostly partners fault.  If have an affair assume their affair is innocuous dalliances, but if partner has an affair seems to be grievously hurtful o Tend to believe their partners are source of disagreements and conflict and assume that WE’RE pretty easy to live with • Big factor with relationship satisfaction = couples general pattern of attribution in the relationship o Happy people make attributions for their partners’ behaviour that are relationship enhancing  Positive actions by the partner are judge to be intentional, habitual and indicative of the partner’s fine character; • That is happy couple make controllable, stable and internal attribution for each other’s positive behaviour  Tend to discount one another’s transgressions, seeing them as accidental, unusual, and circumstantial; • Negative behaviour is excused with uncontrollable, unstable and external attributions o Therefore maximize kindness and minimize their cruelties o As long as partner’s misbehaviour really is occasional, these explanations keep the partner happy o UNHAPPY partners do opposite –make distress-maintaining attributions:  Bad actions as: deliberate and routing  Good behaviour: unintended and accidental • Satisfied partners judge each other in kindly ways that are likely to keep them happy, • Distressed couples perceive each other in an unforgiving fashion that can keep them dissatisfied no matter how each behaves o When distressed partners ARE nice to one another –each is likely to think of other’s thoughtfulness as a temporary, uncharacteristic lull in the negative routine o When being kind seems accidental and hurts deliberate, satisfaction is hard to come by Look at table page 116 ATTACHMENT STYLES INFLUENTIAL: • People with secure styles tend to tolerantly employ relationship-enhancing attributions • Insecure people are more pessimistic • High neuroticism are more likely than others to make distress-maintaining attributions, o Disappointments of various sorts may cause anyone to gradually adopt a pessimistic perspective • Maladaptive attributions can lead to: o Cantankerous behaviour and ineffective problem solving o Can cause dissatisfaction that would not have occurred otherwise Memories • We assume that our memories are faithful representations of past events. • We’re likely to trust vivid recollections because they seem so certain and detailed o Research: we edit and update our memories –even seemingly vivid ones—  As new events unfold, so that what we remember about the past is always a mix of what happened then and what we know now • Reconstructive memory – describe the manner in which our memories are continually revised and written as new information is obtained. o Influences our relationship  Partner’s current feelings about each other influence what they remember about their shared past • Presently happy = forget disappointments • Presently sad = forget how happy and loving they used to be  These tricks of memory help us adjust to the situations we encounter but leave us feeling that our relationships have always been more stable and predictable than they really were • Can promote DAMAGING OVERCONFIDENCE  Good news is that by misremembering partners can stay optimistic about the future o Partners usually say how they had problems in the past but things have recently gotten better (even if the partners (who were followed) have actually had a decrease in satisfaction) • Like other perceptions, our memories influence our subsequent behaviour and emotions in our intimate relationship Relationship Beliefs People enter their partnership with established beliefs about what relationships are like • These are organized in mental structures called schemas that provide: o A filing system for our knowledge about relationships and o With assumptions on how they work • One set of interrelated beliefs that is evident in our relationship schemas is romanticism: the view that love should be the most important basis for choosing a mate • People that are high in romanticism believe that: a) Each of us has only ONE PERFECT “true” love; b) True love will find a way to overcome any obstacle c) Love is possible at first sight • These beliefs provide a rosy glow to a new relationship o Romantic people experience more love, satisfaction and commitment in the first few months of their romantic partnerships than unromantic people do o BUT these beliefs erode as time goes by  Real relationships rarely meet such lofty expectations • At least romantic beliefs appear to be fairly benign • The same cannot be said for some other beliefs that are clearly disadvantageous o Certain beliefs that people have about the nature of relationships are dysfunctional; (they appear to have adverse effects on the quality of relationships)  Makes it less likely that the partners will be satisfied • DYSFUNCTIONAL IDEAS: o Disagreements are destructive.  Disagreements mean that my partner doesn’t love me enough.  If we loved each other sufficiently, we would never fight about anything o “Mindreading” is essential.  People who really care about each other ought to be able to intuit each other’s needs and preferences without being told what they are  My partner doesn’t love me enough if I have to tell him or her what I want or need o Partners cannot change.  Once things go wrong, they’ll stay that way  If lover hurts you once, he or she will hurt you again o Sex should be perfect every time.  Sex should always be wonderful and fulfilling if our love is pure  We should always want, and be ready for sex o Men and women are different  The personalities and needs of men and women are so dissimilar, you really can’t understand someone of the other sex o Great relationships just happen.  You don’t need to work at maintaining a good relationship  People are either compatible with each other and destined to be happy together or they’re not • These put people at risk for distress and dissatisfaction in close relationships • These beliefs are unrealistic • These people report more interest in ending the relationship than in making effort to repair it Destiny beliefs – they assume that two people are either well suited for each other or destined to live happily ever after, or they’re not • They make inflexible view of intimate partnerships • They suggest that if two people are meant to be happy, they’ll know it as soon as they meet • Thinks that once two soul mates meet each other a happy future is ensured Growth beliefs – good relationships are believed to develop gradually as the partners work at surmounting challenges and overcoming obstacles and a basic presumption is that with enough effort any relationship can succeed. • These different views (destiny vs. growing) can generate different outcomes when difficulties arise • When couples argues or misbehaves, people optimistic that any damage can be repaired than those who do not hold such views o People with growth beliefs can discuss their lovers’ imperfections with equanimity o People who hold destiny beliefs become hostile when they are asked to confront their partner’s faults • Some relationship beliefs = more adaptive than others o These pers
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