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Chapter 15

PSYA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 15: Fundamental Attribution Error, Availability Heuristic, Impression Formation


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYA02H3
Professor
Steve Joordens
Chapter
15

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CHAPTER 15 SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
Social psychology: 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 information
Schemata and Social Cognition
Major task of social psychology is to understand how we first form impressions of others
To answer how perceptions thoughts and motives of one person become known to other persons they study:
impression formation: the way in which we integrate information about another’s traits into a coherent sense of
who the person is
Schema
Schema: mental framework or body of knowledge that organizes and synthesizes information about a person place
or thing
Central Traits
Central traits: personality attributes that organize and influence the interpretation of other traits
Central traits impart meaning to other known traits and suggest the presence of other traits that have yet to be
revealed
Asch’s tests of this focused on the warm/cold trait dimension
Those told the person is warm had a more positive view of the person than the others who were told the person was
cold.
Polite/Blunt did not result in a difference as above and as such are peripheral traits, not central
The negative effect of the cold trait is stronger than the positive effect of the warm trait because there is bias towards
positivity in impressions of people
The Primacy Effect
Primacy effect: the tendency to form impressions of people based on the first information we receive about them
Webster, Richter and Kruglanski found this was more pronounced for people mentally fatigued than those relatively
alert
Brown and Bassili found that when you first encounter someone, for example a firefighter, who talks about their
heroic rescue, you associate bravery with them in the future, and if you’re eating a banana at the time, you associate
banana with bravery
The Self
Self concept: self-identity. One’s knowledge, feelings, and ideas about oneself
Self: a person’s distinct individuality
At the core of self-concept is self-schema: 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
Self concept is dynamic Markus and Nurius: suggest we should think ourselves as working self-concepts that
change through experience
Culture and Social Psychology
Cross-culture psychology: a branch of psychology that studies the effects of culture on behaviour
If results of a study are replicated through different cultures we can be more confident what has been discovered
applies broadly to our species
Many cultural psychologists believe basic psychological processes may be universal but that the processes are
informed by culture

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Markus and Kitayama conceptualized two construals of the self that reflect cultural differences: independent
construal and interdependent construal
Independent construal are more likely to persist on a task after success while interdependent less likely for those
who are difficult to change attempt for more success, those malleable want to improve their deficiencies
Well-being in eastern students found to be strongly associated with interpersonal attributes such as friendliness
Well-being in western students more strongly associated with individual achievement/success and self reflective
emotions such as pride
Attribution
Attribution: the process by which people infer the causes of other people’s behaviour
Disposition versus Situation
According to attribution theorists, primary classification we make concerning causes of people’s actions is the
relative importance of situational (external) and dispositional (internal) factors
External factors: people, events, and other stimuli in an individual’s environment that can affect his or her
thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviours
Internal Factors: an individual’s traits, needs, and intentions, which can affect his or her thoughts, feelings,
attitudes, and behaviours
Kelley’s Theory of Attribution
Kelley suggested 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, their behaviour is consensual
Distinctiveness: the extent to which a person behaves differently towards different people, events or other stimuli
Consistency: the extent to which a person’s behaviour is consistent across time toward another person, an event, or
a stimulus
Attributional Biases
The Fundamental Attribution Error
Fundamental attribution error: the tendency to overestimate the significance of internal factors and underestimate
the significance of external factors in explaining other people’s behaviours
Jones and Harris told people to read essays supposedly written by other students, some pro Fidel Castro, some
against, and on top of that, half were told the position was assigned, the other half was told it was chosen by the
author. Either way, after reading when asked they attributed the view of the essay to be the view of the author
Victim-blaming is another example, because people tend to subscribe to a:
belief in a just world: the belief that people get what they deserve in life, a fundamental attribution error
Actor-observer effect: the tendency to attribute one’s own behaviour to external factors but other’s behaviours to
internal factors
Jones and Nisbett reason why we commit this: when we view ourselves, our focus is more clear on the world since
we see it clearly, but when viewing others, their behaviours are more dominant
Also, since we have more info about our own behaviour we are more likely to see inconsistencies
Self-serving bias: the tendency to attribute our accomplishments and successes to internal causes and our failures
and mistakes to external causes
False Consensus
False consensus: the tendency of a person to perceive his or her own response as representative of a general
consensus
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