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Chapter 15

PSYA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 15: Leon Festinger, Clearcutting, Fundamental Attribution Error

Course Code
John Bassili

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Chapter 15 – Social Psychology
Social Cognition
Social Psychology: The field of psychology that studies our social nature
How the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of individuals are influenced by the actual,
imagined, or implied presence of others
Social Cognition: how people attend to, perceive, interpret, and respond to the social
Schemata and Social Cognition
We form impressions of others through interaction or based on reports with others
We assign characteristics to people - task of social psychology is to understand how
we form these impressions
Impression Formation: the way in which we integrate information about another’s
traits into a coherent sense of who the person is
Schema: a mental framework or body of knowledge that organizes and synthesizes
information about a person, place or thing
They aid us in interpreting the world
Because of schema it makes it easier for a person to interpret a random passage when
the title of a known subject is given (ex. β€œwashing clothes” p. 487)
Central Traits
Certain traits called Central Traits organize and influence our understanding of other
traits of a person to a greater extent than do other traits (they impart meaning to other
known traits and suggest the presence of other traits that have yet to be revealed.)
E.g. Asch’s warm-cold trait dimension: smart, witty, warm is positive and smart, witty
and cold is the total opposite
(peripheral traits)Polite and blunt when substituted for warm and cold had no effect
on the impressions but warm and cold had major effects (central traits)
The Primacy Effect
To determine whether first impressions might overpower later impressions, Asch
presented a list of words to each of two groups of people
When presented with 2 list of words to determine 1st impression
”intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, envious” and
”envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious, intelligent” , the first list gave
impression of someone who was positive, and the 2nd list someone who was negative
Primacy Effect: the tendency to form an impression of a person based on the initial
info we learn about them (more pronounced for people who were mentally fatigued)
We observe what a person does and says and we purposefully think about what those
behaviours reveal about his/her personal qualities - we develop lists about people
People may generate trait-like labels from observed behaviour and that those labels
become rather automatically associated in memory with whatever stimulus happens to
have been around at the same time the info about the behaviour became available

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Trait labels from behavioural descriptions may become associated with almost any
stimulus, including inanimate ones (e.g. ppl associated traits to bananas. An outcome
both β€œillogical and nonsensical” because people don’t consider bananas to be
The Self
Self-Concept: your knowledge, feelings, and ideas about yourself
Self: A person’s distinct individuality
Self-concept = self identity - how you see yourself and interpret events that are
relevant to defining who you are
Self-Schema: at the core of self-concept; a mental framework that represents and
synthesizes information about oneself (cognitive structure that organizes the
knowledge, feelings, and ideas that constitute the self-concept)
The self concept is dynamic and changes with experience
Thinking of ourselves only in terms of the present doesn’t accurately reflect how we
will think in the future
Each of us has many potential selves that we might become depending on experience
Culture plays powerful role in individual and social development
In North America, parents sometimes encourage their children to eat all their diner -
β€œthink about all the starving children and how lucky you are not to go hungry”
Japan - β€œthink of the farmer who worked so hard to produce this rice for you”
Japanese and other eastern cultures stress paying attention to others and the
relatedness of the individual and others
Westerners stress the uniqueness of the individual & appreciation of being different
Two construals of the self that reflect cultural differences (Markus and Kitayama):
Construe = interpret something or explain its meaning
The Independent Construal (US): emphasizes the uniqueness of the self, its
autonomy from others, and self reliance
-person’s self concept is defined independently of others even though other people
have an influence on a person’s behaviour
-it corresponds to a self view of one’s traits and abilities as relatively stable and
difficult to change
-Canadian students of European descent will persist on a task after a successful
experience than after failure
The Interdependent Construal(India): emphasizes the interconnectedness between
people and the role that others play in developing an individual’s self concept
-person is extremely sensitive to others and strives to form strong social bonds with
-yields a self view of traits and abilities as relatively malleable to the extent that they
must be responsive to relationship demands
-Japanese persist after a failure than a success
Clarity: refers to how confident people are that they possess particular attributes, how
sharply defined they believe those attributes are, and how internally and consistent

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they think their attributes are
-clarity of self-concept might differ between Eastern and Western cultures
High clarity of self-concept matches independent construal of self (Canadians rather
than low-Japanese)
Attribution - Disposition Vs. Situation and Kelley’s Theory of Attribution
Attribution: The process by which people infer the causes of other people’s
The primary classification that we make concerning the causes of peoples behaviour
is the relative importance of situational (external) and dispositional (internal) factors
External Factors: stimuli in the physical and social environment (living conditions,
other people, social norms and laws)
Internal Factors: are a persons traits, needs, and intentions
Once we learn that in certain situations most people react in the same way we form
schemata of how we expect people to act in those situations
E.g. when people are introduced they are expected to look at each other, smile, say
something like β€œHow do you do?” and perhaps shake the persons hand
If people act in conventional ways were not surprised & this behaviour is dictated by
social custom (the characteristics of the situation)
By observing people’s behaviour in different situations we characterize them as
friendly, suspicious, etc.
If someone’s behaviour is different from the way most people would act in a particular
situation, we blame it on internal causes (ex. Not holding a door open for someone)
Kelley’s Theory of Attribution: suggested we attribute the behaviour of other people
to external or internal causes on the bases of 3 types of information: consensus,
distinctiveness, and consistency
Consensual Behaviour: a behaviour enacted in common by a large number of people
in a particular situation, usually attributed to external factors (if you hear Bill praise a
club and you have heard lots of other people say the same thing (high consensus) you
will attribute Bill’s praise as caused by the qualities of the club (external attribution).
But if there is a low consensus (every1 disagrees with Bill) you will see bill’s review
as reflecting something personal about him (internal attribution)
Distinctiveness: the extent which a person performs a particular behaviour only
during a particular type of event or toward a particular person or thing (If you never
heard Bill praise a club as highly as he did for the new one, his behaviour is high in
-behaviours that are distinctively associated with a particular situation are attributed
to external cause - the quality of the club = external
-If Bill praise every club the same way as he does the new one it would be Internal to
him (ex. He’s easily entertained)
Consistency information: whether the person’s behaviour occurs reliably over time
(Bill’s behaviour is characterized by high distinctiveness and high consensus - both
signs point to an external entityβ€”the club)
-this is important because low consistency causes confusion; if Bill says he hates the
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