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Chapter 4

TEXTBOOK Chapter 4 - Social Cognition

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Emily Impett

Chapter Four: Social Cognition Thinking About People and Situations  Social cognition and sources of error in judgment in the social world: o Our judgments are as correct as the quality we are basing it off of since the information observed in daily life is not always accurate or complete o The means in which information is presented and how it is framed can affect our judgments o The pervasive bias in actively seeking information out instead of passively taking it in can distort the conclusions we make o Our knowledge, expectations, and mental habits can influence the construal of new information and influence judgment o Intuition and reason underlie social cognition and their complex interplay determines the judgments we make Why Study Social Cognition?  Social cognition: study of how people think about the world and arrive at judgments that help them interpret the past, understand the present, and predict the future.  Although our judgments aren’t perfect all the time, they help us in improving, and also give insight to psychologists on people’s perceptions of other individuals and the inferences we make of them  Perceptual psychologists study illusions to illuminate general principles of perception, and psycholinguists study speech errors to learn about speech production o Mistakes reveal how systems work by looking at its limitations  Researchers in social cognition explore the limitations of everyday judgment The Information Available for Social Cognition M INIMALINFORMATION :INFERRING PERSONALITY FROM PHYSICALA PPEARANCE  Even though we may have little information to base a judgment upon, it rarely stops us from doing so; we form impressions of complete strangers based on the briefest glances – snap judgment  Ex: Janine Willis and Alex Todrow – show participants many faces and rate how attractive, aggressive, likeable, competent, or trustworthy they are. o They saw each face for a second, half a second, and a tenth of a second. The various timings correlated well with each other – so most of what we conclude about people based on their faces is determined almost immediately o Faces vary on two independent dimensions: trustworthiness and dominance; thus people make judgments about others whether they should be approached (trustworthy) or avoided (dominant) o Todorov used computer models to generate faces with combinations of the two dimensions, some more extreme than in real life – hyper masculine features (pronounced jaw) was used for dominance, and shape of eyebrows and eye socket (baby faced) was used for trustworthy o Those with a baby-faced features even in adulthood are overgeneralized and we see them as trustworthy and friendly, so in court they are more favorable but when seeking a job it may be harder The Accuracy of Snap Judgments  Evidence is mixed: some investigators report moderately high correlations between judgments on facial appearance and self-reports of approachability, extraverted and powerfulness, but other studies show no connection  Basically, people’s snap judgments may hold a little truth but not to great extent  However, snap judgments predict a great consensus opinion Ex: looked at pictures of U.S. presidents for 1 second and those judged to be more competent actually won 69% of races, and even though they may not have been more competent it didn’t matter because only what the electorates believe to be true counts  Ex: participants were shown 10-second silent clips of professors teaching in the classroom and their assessments correlated highly with the student evaluations at the end of the semester M ISLEADINGFIRSTHAND INFORMATION :P LURALISTICIGNORANCE  Information comes to us from direct experience which can be: o More accurate since it doesn’t get filtered by people who may slant it in another direction o Deceptive because we are inattentive to information about events occurring before us when we misconstrue such events o Unrepresentative since we judge an entire situation by just one encounter (ex: university from meeting one student) Pluralistic Ignorance: Misperception of a group norm that results from observing people acting at variance with their private beliefs out of a concern for the social consequences – actions that reinforce the erroneous group norm  Ex: After a lecture when the professor asks if there are any questions and although some students are confused but no one raises their hands because they believe everyone else understands the material and they are the only ones experiencing difficulty. o When everyone follows this logic an illusion is created and everyone misperceives the group norm, thinking that they are deviant. M ISLEADINGSECONDHAND INFORMATION Factors of secondhand information:  Ideological Distortions: person relaying information has an agenda wanting to foster certain beliefs and behaviors in others – accentuating and suppressing parts of the story, and although sometimes it may be innocent, people present distorted accounts which are misleading  Distortions in the Service of Entertainment: Overemphasis on Bad News: We desire to entertain, and the media is more likely to overreporting negative events rather than positive information because the public seems more interested in the negative  Effects of the Bad-News Bias: exposure to distorted view of reality can lead people to believe they are more at risk of victimization then they really are. People who live in dangerous areas and watch a lot of television fear victimization since televised images are similar to their environment.  Differential Attention to Positive and Negative Information: we are more attentive to negative information than positive because negative has more implications for our well-being and some even constitute threats to survival so we need to attend to them more quickly and thoroughly. How Information is Presented ORDER E FFECTS  The way in which information is presented can have great influence on judgment Primacy Effect: the disproportionate influence on judgment by information presented first in a body of evidence Recency Effect: the disproportionate influence on judgment by information presented last in a body of evidence  Initial information affects how later information is construed – if you take the word stubborn and follow it with the word industrious you may see the person as charitable or determined but if it follows envious then a negative or close- minded connotation may result FRAMING E FFECTS Framing Effect: the influence on judgment resulting from the way information is presented, such as the order of presentation or how it is worded Ex: ask the question: Are you happy? Followed by the question: How many dates have you had in the past month? The results give a lower correlation, however when asked in the opposite order the correlation is much higher since they consider dating while evaluating how happy they are.  Spin Framing: varies the content favorable to the situation. Ex: company with competitive edge in quality will introduce info that frames the issue as one of quality while another may frame it as savings since they may have an edge in price  Positive and Negative Framing: the nature of most things is mixed so they can be framed in ways that emphasize either the good or bad with predictable effects on people’s judgments ex: positive framing = how much would you pay to grow more trees? Negative framing = how much would you pay to restore what has been lost? o Negative information attracts more attention and has greater psychological impact than positive and negative terms elicit a stronger response TEMPORAL FRAMING Construal Level Theory: outlines the relationship between the psychological distance and the concreteness versus abstraction of thought. Psychologically distant actions and events are thought about in abstract terms; actions and events that are close at hand are thought about in concrete terms.  Events far away are construed in more abstract terms (helping a friend move, or dining out) but events close at hand are construed more concretely (carrying your friend’s chair up the stairs, or chewing your food) How We Seek Information CONFIRMATION B IAS Confirmation Bias: the tendency to test a proposition by searching for evidence that would support it  We propose a theory and search only for evidence that confirms it; finding supporting evidence is relatively easy which can lead to false beliefs o To truly test a proposition, we must look for evidence against it as well as the evidence for it  Ex: Are people more likely to come to harm when there is a full moon? It is easy to find this evidence since there will be people in the ER during the full moon.  Can also lead people unwittingly to ask questions that shape the answers they get providing illusory support for what they’re trying to find out. M OTIVATED CONFIRMATION B IAS  People can deliberately search for evidence that confirms their preferences or expectations, looking through pertinent evidence to uncover confirming info and evidence contradicting their beliefs is subjected to critical scrutiny and often discounted Top-Down Processing: Using Schemas to Understand New Information Bottom-Up Processes: Data-driven mental processing, in which an individual forms conclusions based on the stimuli encountered through experience Top-Down Processes: Theory-driven mental processing, in which an individual filters and interprets new information in
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