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Chapter 7

PSYC12H3 Chapter 7: Chapter 7


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC12H3
Professor
Nick Hobson
Chapter
7

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Chapter 7 Cognitive PROCESSES
COGNITIVE PROCESSES
- Cognition inevitably implicates affect, motivation, behavior, and neural processes within perceivers, plus
social structure and intergroup relations outside the perceiver
COGNITION IN BIAS: CLASSIC RESEARCH
- This natural inclination toward categorizing objects and people also leads people to group themselves and
others into categories, creating us and them.
- Intergroup generalizations enable stereotyping and prejudice.
- Although Allport’s analysis (that everyone has prejudice its inevitable) was ground-breaking, active
empirical follow-up awaited the 1970s, during the ‘cognitive revolution.’
- Cognition research, previously eschewed in favor of an anti-mentalist behaviorism, now resurged, figuring
prominently in psychology.
- Cognitive methods and theories affected various traditional topics, including bias research
- In the 1980s, cognitive approaches continued focusing on categorization, and developed the ‘cognitive
miser’ perspective: People’s limited mental resources compel cognitive shortcuts, such as
categorization, to most efficiently use such scarce cognitive capital.
- As a cognitive shortcut, social categorization easily leads to stereotyping and prejudice.
- Categorization;
o (a) tags information by physical and social distinctions such as race and gender,
o (b) minimizes within-group differences and exaggerates between-group differences, and
o (c) causes group members’ behavior to be interpreted stereotypically.
- Increased familiarity with an outgroup, however, can
o (d) encourage perceiving within-group distinctions and
o (e) subtyping, to accommodate stereotype-defying group members as exceptions, without
changing overall stereotypes.
- As an empirical example, people confuse people within social categories such as race and gender, more
than between such categories
- Cognitive shortcuts increase the perceived homogeneity of group members, encourage misperceived
correlations between minority categories and negative behaviors, and bias memory for stereotype-
consistency, all falsely confirming expectancies
- The cognitive shortcuts viewpoint continues in current thought on bias.
- In the 1990s, the cognitive-miser metaphor shifted to appearing as merely one cognitive option among
others.
- The ‘motivated tactician’ metaphor: the naïve perceiver as a strategist managing cognitive resources.
o People engage cognitive shortcuts as a default, unless motivated to go beyond these shortcuts
and use more effort.
o Motivated opening and closing of the mind reflects individual differences in motivation and
situational pressures that influence the need for cognitive closure (i.e., closing of the mind).
o People high in need-for-closure urgently seek definitive answers and thus rely on stereotypes.
o By contrast, people higher in tolerance for ambiguity (low in need for closure) recruit more
deliberative cognitive strategies.
- Impression formation ranges along a spectrum from stereotypic, category-based through individuated,
attribute-based impressions
o This continuum model explains that perceivers automatically rely on category-based judgments
unless the target does not match the stereotype or unless motivated to individuate.

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- If perceivers need more detail, they use more cognitive effort to attend to the target’s actual behaviors
and to judge based on individual attributes.
- Stereotypes develop via differentiated expectancy-confirming (automatic) versus accuracy-oriented
(deliberative) processing goals
- Two modes of impression formation may include pictoliteral representations, derived from category-
based prototypes, and personalized representations, based on networks of attributes linked to a single
person
REVIEW OF THE CURRENT LITERATURE: STEALTH STEREOTYPING AS BIAS IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
- Today’s multi-racial, global culture has driven out intentional public expressions of bias, as witnessed by a
75% drop in Americans’ reported prejudice
- Despite appearances, bias has certainly not vanished from the American psyche.
- Current research demonstrates that intergroup bias persists, but its face has changed, adopting subtle
manifestations.
Automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent forms of bias
- Biases are automatic when outside conscious intention, awareness, effort, or control.
- Automatic biases result from over-learned group categories and their negative or positive associations.
- Rapid categorization simultaneously activates associated stereotypes, which are then applied to the
individual.
- Following are various relatively automatic biases, then ambiguous and ambivalent ones.
Automatic category confusions
- As previously noted, category confusions occur when people perceive and identify others primarily by
their race, gender, and age rather than as individuals, mixing-up people in the same category.
- The earlier-described manifestation of category confusions is the who-said-what phenomenon, in which
people have trouble distinguishing which category member (e.g., Asian, woman, or teenager) said what in
a group discussion.
- These confusions encompass categories including gender, race, age, sexual orientation, attitudes,
attractiveness, skin tone, and type of relationship
- Category confusions are relatively automatic because they appear unintentional, effortless, and
uncontrollable.
Automatic, indirect racial attitudes
- Indirect priming also measures automatic racial bias, using people’s immediate associations between a
race-related prime (e.g., the word ‘black’) and negative stimuli.
- Most commonly, race-related words appear subliminally (too quick for conscious perception), facilitating
responses to subsequently presented stimuli.
- For example, Dovidio, Evans, and Tyler (1986) subliminally presented either the word ‘black’ or ‘white’ to
white participants during a computer task and demonstrated subsequently faster recognition of negative
or positive attributes, respectively.
- This technique reveals automatic, category-based evaluative content and indirectly measures racial
attitudes.
- Indirect priming predicts nonverbal behavior toward outgroup members, ratings of an essay written by an
outgroup member, affective responses to outgroup members, and various negative outgroup attitudes
Automatic, implicit associations
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- Due partly to its internet presence, implicit associations enjoy considerable attention from popular culture
and news media.
- The implicit association test assesses automatic biases by measuring the strength of positive and negative
associations with attitude objects, such as social categories.
- In a computer task, participants pair positive and negative words with category-relevant cues, such as
black or white faces.
- The test compares speed of responses, to detect faster pairing of positive or negative words with one
group or the other.
- Usually, biased responses favor cultural default groups and disfavor cultural outgroups, showing that
societal ingroup/positive-word pairings prompt more rapid responses, compared with outgroups, more
rapidly associated with negative words.
- Many people find their biases distressing because they would otherwise characterize themselves as
egalitarian.
- Implicit beliefs especially affect nonverbal behavior, whereas explicit beliefs predict verbal behavior, such
as policy preferences
Automatic stereotyping under cognitive load
- Category activation and application are closely related, yet remain distinct.
- Although each is relatively automatic, they depend on perceivers’ current cognitive load
- A person under high load, engaged in a task requiring significant cognitive effort, reduces the attentional
resources available for other cognitive processes.
- Competing cognitive processes require the mind to prioritize, some processes win over others.
o This has direct implications for the activation and application of social categories.
- Category activation happens so rapidly that we encode others by category before fully recognizing their
individual identity.
- However, exposure to a target does not necessarily always trigger automatic categorization
- Under cognitive load, people can perceive cues to multiple social categories, but activate only the
category most currently relevant
- Also, people tend to activate only the most accessible categories
- After activating a category, people can easily process stereotype-consistent information
- Because stereotype-consistent information requires minimal effort, people under cognitive load tend to
devote most attention to stereotype-inconsistent information (i.e., counter-stereotypic behavior).
- Prejudiced people especially attend to expectancy inconsistent information because they seek an
explanation that leaves intact their general stereotype
- During early stereotype application, people must work to assimilate stereotype inconsistent information
into a coherent impression.
- Their attention aids their memory for stereotype-inconsistent information
- However, because they usually find a way to assimilate or explain away counter-stereotypic information,
it rarely changes their overall stereotypic bias toward the group.
- During later stereotype application, people under cognitive load use stereotypes more for judgments than
do people not under cognitive load.
- Besides these processes of relatively automatic stereotyping, next comes ambiguous and ambivalent
stereotyping.
Ambiguous stereotyping
- As aversive racism shows bias is not always obvious; sometimes it depends on interpretation.
- Ambiguous situations allow people to behave in biased ways that they can justify with non-biased
explanations.
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