Chapter 15

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11 Oct 2010
Chapter 15 Notes – Social Psychology
Social Psychology
the branch of psychology that studies our social nature how the actual,
imagined, or implied presence of others influences our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours
Social Cognition
the processes involved in perceiving, interpreting, and acting on social
Impression formation
the way in which we integrate information about another’s traits into a
coherent sense of who the person is
a mental framework or body of knowledge that organizes and synthesizes information
about a person, place, or thing
They are predetermined frameworks of knowledge about what you think of certain
Central traits
personality attitudes that organize and influence the interpretation of other
traits; proposed by Asch
These are automatic assumptions; usually key focus is on the warm-cold trait dimension
When one describes someone who is warm, it is more likely to speculate that they are
also generous and happy
Traits such as polite and blunt, which can be substituted for warm and cold, are known
as peripheral traits
However research shows that the negative influence of the “cold” trait is stronger than
the positive influence of the “warm” trait
This imbalance may occur because there is already a bias toward positivity in
impressions of people
Primacy effect
the tendency to form impressions of people based on the first information we
receive about people; proposed by Asch
Brown and Bassili suggested that people may generate trait-like labels from observing a
person’s behaviour, and that these descriptions may become associated with almost
any stimulus
self-identity. One’s knowledge, feelings, and ideas about oneself
a person’s distinct individuality
a mental framework that represents and synthesizes information about oneself; a
cognitive structure that organizes the knowledge, feelings, and ideas that constitute the self-
concept; developed by Markus
The self-concept is dynamic; it changes with experience
Markus and Nurius argue that we should think of ourselves in terms of a working self-
concept that changes as we have new experiences; each of us has many potential selves
that we might become, depending on experience
Thinking of ourselves only in terms of who we are at present does not accurately reflect
how we will think of ourselves in the future or the kind of person we might become
Cross-culture psychology
a branch of psychology that studies the effects of culture on
“Culture” is not synonymous with country or continent
Cultures differ with respect to two major classes of variables: biological and ecological
Biological variables include such factors as diet, genetics, and endemic diseases
Ecological include geography, climate, political systems, population density,
religion, cultural myths, and education
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Behavioural differences among people of different cultures result in differences in
biological and ecological variables
Psychologists who do cross-cultural research stress that culture and psychological processes are
fundamentally intertwined
Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, and Nisbett propose that cultural psychology strives to better
understand the psychological principles that inform cultural practice and in turn, how
these practices affect various psychological processes
A good question from the cultural perspective focuses on the formation of the self-
concept, the perceptions one forms of others, and the extent to which others may
influence the development of one’s self-concept
Markus and Kitayama have conceptualized two construals of the self that reflect such
cultural difference
The independent construal emphasizes the uniqueness of the self, its autonomy
from others, and self-reliance
The interdependent construal emphasizes the interconnectedness of people
and the role that others play in developing an individual’s self-concept
Campbell suggested that on the basis of similar reasoning that clarity of self-concept
might also differ between eastern and western cultures
Clarity refers to how confident people are that they possess particular
attributes, how sharply defined they believe those attributes are, and how
internally and temporally consistent they think their attributes are
They proposed that high self-concept clarity more closely matches an
independent construal of self than an interdependent construal
the process by which people infer the causes of other people’s behaviour
We use schemata that often lead us to the correct conclusions
External factors (situational)
people, events, and other stimuli in an individual’s
environment that can affect his or her thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviours
Internal factors (dispositional)
an individual’s traits, needs, and intentions, which can
affect his or her thought, feelings, attitudes, and behaviours
As we get to know other people, we also learn what to expect of them as individuals; we learn
to characterize people as friendly, generous, suspicious, etc. by observing their behaviour in a
variety of situations
Kelley suggested that we attribute the behaviour of other people to external or internal causes
on the basis of three types of information: consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency
Consensual behaviour
behaviour that is shared by many people; behaviour that is
similar from one person to the next. To the extent that people engage in the same
behaviour, heir behaviour is consensual
E.g. if you hear Bill praise a new club and have heard many other people say the
same things (high consensus), you will be tempted to understand Bill’s praise as
caused by the qualities of the club (an external attribution)
If everyone disagrees with Bill (low consensus), you will be tempted to
see Bill’s review as something personal (an internal attribution)
the extent to which a person behaves differently toward different
people, events, or other stimuli
E.g. if you never heard Bill praise a club as highly as he praises the new one, his
behaviour is high in distinctiveness
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If Bill praises every club the same, you would attribute his evaluation to
something internal
the extent to which a person’s behaviour is consistent across time toward
another person, an event, or a stimulus
E.g. Bill’s behaviour is characterized by high distinctiveness and high consensus;
both signs point to an attribution to the external, the club
Bill likes this new club more than he likes any others, and most people
If Bill likes the club every time he goes (high consistency), then your
conclusion is clear; it’s a great club
Bill goes to the club, he tells you that he hates it, but then he goes
again, and tells you it’s the best place he’s ever been
The result of low consistency is confusion
Fundamental attribution error
the tendency to overestimate the significance of internal
factors and underestimate the significance of external factors in explaining other people’s
E.g. when we do something bad, it’s the situation. But when someone else does
something bad, we think they’re terrible people
Belief in a just world
the belief that people get what they deserve in life; a fundamental
attribution error
One result of this belief is that people tend to blame the victim when misfortune or
tragedy strikes because an innocent victim threatens the stability of the perceiver’s just
world belief
Actor-observer effect
the tendency to attribute one’s own behaviour to external factors but
others’ behaviour to internal factors
When trying to explain our own behaviour, we are much more likely to attribute it to
characteristics of the situation than to our own personal characteristics, while we see
behaviour of others as more stable and de to personal causes
Self-serving bias
the tendency to attribute our accomplishments and success to internal
causes and our failures and mistakes to external causes
False consensus
the tendency of a person to perceive his or her own response as
representative of a general consensus
Representative heuristic
a general rule for decision making by which people classify a person,
place, or thing into the category to which it appears to be the most similar
E.g. you see a big, buff middle-aged man in a pool with a bunch of teenagers. He is more
likely a gym professor than a psychology professor
Base-rate fallacy
the failure to consider the likelihood that a person, place, or thing is
a member of a particular category on the basis of mathematical probabilities
E.g. even though the man is buff, he is more likely to be a psychology professor
because there are more psychology professors than gym professors
Availability heuristic
a general rule for decision making by which a person judges the
likelihood or importance of an event by the ease with which examples of that event come to
E.g. there is a terrorist attack on either the Eaton’s centre or the CN tower. People to go
the Eaton’s centre
This is a result of 9-11 media coverage. It is more likely that the terrorist will
attack Eaton’s centre because it is easier to hit, and history dictates
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