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Chapter 15

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Ch. 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
Impression formationthe way in which we integrate information about another’s traits into a
coherent sense of who the person is
Schema – a mental framework of body of knowledge that organizes and synthesizes information
about a person, place or thing
- Schemata aid us in interpreting the world
- i.e. the first time you visited your professor in his/her office, you were probably surprised if
you saw that your prof’s office was filled with soccer trophies, autographed photos of rock
stars – such possessions are probably inconsistent with your impression of professors
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 yet other
traits that have yet to be revealed
- in one study, all participants were provided with the same basic list of traits that were said
to describe a hypothetical person: intelligent, skillful, industrious, determined, practical,
and cautious; some participants were told that the person was also “warm” whereas others
were told that the person was also “cold” – participants who heard the list with “warm”
formed more positive impressions about the character of the imaginary person than those
that heard the trait “cold”
- participants in the “warm” conditions were also more likely to speculate that the person
was also generous, happy and altruistic – when the words “polite” and “blunt” were
substituted for “warm” and “cold” in the trait list, no differences were observed in
- more recent work suggests that the negative e influence of the “cold” trait is stronger than
the positive influence of the “warm trait” – this imbalance may occur b/c of bias toward
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

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- the primacy effect reflects greater attention to trait info presented early than presented late
- more pronounced for participants who were mentally fatigued than for those that were alert
- as we observe what a person does and says we purposefully think about what those
behaviours reveal about his/her personal qualities
- people may generate trait-like labels from observed behaviour and that those labels become
rather automatically associate din memory with whatever stimulus happens to have been
around at the same time the info about the behaviour became available
- most of the time, observed behaviour will be most closely associate with the person (a
stimulus) who performs it and so the associate will be between the person and the trait
- when the observed thinks about the person in the future, he/she will also recall the trait info
- on the other hand, another study showed that trait labels from behavioural descriptions may
become associated with almost any stimulus, including inanimate ones – i.e. they found
evidence that people had associated personality traits to bananas, an outcome in their words
both “illogical and nonsensical” from a person-perception point of vie, b/c people
presumably do not consider bananas to be persons
The Self
Self-Concept - self-identity. One’s knowledge, feelings, and ideas about one-self
Self – A person’s distinct individuality; how you perceive yourself and interpret events that are
relevant to defining who you are
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; it changes with experience
- each of us should think of ourselves in terms of a working self-concept that changes as we
have new experiences or receive feedback about our behaviour
- each of us has potential selves that we might become depending on experience – i.e. person
went through a traumatic event described their future selves as worried, sad, depressed, etc.
- culture plays a powerful role in individual and social development
- i.e. North American parents sometimes encourage their children to eat all of their dinner by
admonishing them to “think about all the starving children in the world and how lucky you
are not to have to go hungry” – western cultures often emphasize the uniqueness of the
individual and an appreciation; in contrast, Japanese and Eastern cultures emphasize paying
attention to others and the relatedness of the individual and others
2 construals of the self that reflect such cultural differences
-independent construal – emphasizes the uniqueness of the self, its autonomy from others,
and self-reliance – person’s self-concept is largely defined independently of others;
relatively stable and difficult to change
-interdependent construal – emphasizes the interconnectedness of people and the role that
others play in developing an individual’s self-concept – what others think of the individual
or do to the individual matter – the person is extremely sensitive to others and strives to
form strong social bonds with them; responsive to relationship demands
- i.e. students from India judge the self as more similar to others, whereas American students
judge the self as more dissimilar to others (difference b/w eastern and western cultures)

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- clarity – 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 those attributes are
- high self-concept clarity more closely matches an independent construal of self, than an
interdependent construal – Cdn. Students expressed greater self-concept clarity than
Japanese students
- western culture – encourages independence and stability of self; well-being and satisfaction
are more strongly associated with individual achievement and self-reflective emotions such
as pride
- eastern culture – value and emphasize changing nature and demands of interpersonal
relations – well-being and satisfaction among eastern students have been found to be
strongly associated w/interpersonal behaviours and socially engaged emotions such as
Attribution – the process by which people infer the causes of other people’s behaviour
Disposition versus Situation
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/her thoughts,
feelings, attitudes and behaviours
- one task of socialization is to learn what behaviours are expected in various kinds of
- once we learn that in certain situations most people act in a specific way, we develop
schemata for how we expect people to act in those situations – i.e. when people are
introduced, they are expected to look at each other, smile, say something like “how are
you?” or “it’s nice to meet you” – if people act in a conventional way, we are not surprised
(dictated by social custom and characteristics of situation)
- as we get to know people, we also learn what to expect from them as individuals – we learn
to characterize them as being friendly, funny, generous, greedy, etc. by observing their
behaviour in a variety of situations; sometimes we make inferences from a single
- if someone’s behaviour is very different from the way most people would act in a particular
situation, we attribute his/her behaviour to internal causes – i.e. a person who refuses to
hold a door open for someone in a wheelchair, we assign that person some negative
personal characteristics
Kelley’s Theory of Attribution
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; behaviour that is enacted in common by a large number of people in a
particular situation – is usually attributed to external causes – i.e. if you hear Bill praise a new
off-campus club and have heard many other people say the same things (high-consensus, you
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