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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Connie Boudens

PSYB10 Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Perceiving Persons Observation: The Elements of Social Perception  Understanding others is difficult but it’s a vital part of everyday life Persons: Judging a Book by Its Cover  It takes us mere fraction of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face  We judge people on their height, weight, skin color, hair color, tattoos eyeglasses, facial beauty and other aspects of appearance  Physiognomy – art of reading character from faces o Tendency persists today  Full round face, curly hair, long eyelashes, large eyes, short nose, full lips and an upturned mouth o Kind – hearted features  Adults with baby-faced features – large, round eyes, high eyebrows, round cheeks, large forehead, smooth skin, rounded chin – tend to be warm, kind, naïve, weak, honest and submissive  Adults with mature features – small eyes, low browns, small forehead wrinkled skin and an angular chin – seen as more stronger, dominant, more competent o Judges tend to favor baby-faced adults for intentional wrong-doing but not for negligence  We are so quick to judge because we are programmed by evolution to respond gently to infantile features so that real babies are treated with tender loving care Situations: The Scripts of Life  Each of us has preset notions about certain types of situations that enables us to anticipate goals, behaviors, and outcomes likely to occur in a particular setting o The more experience you have in a situation, the more detail your notions will be  Knowledge of social settings provides an important context for understanding other people’s verbal and nonverbal behavior  Scripts influence social perceptions in two ways o We sometimes see what we expect to see in a particular situation o People use what they know about social situations to explain the causes of human behavior Behavioral Evidence  Essential first step in social perception is to recognize what someone is doing at a given moment  People derive meaning from their observations by dividing the continuous stream of human behavior into discrete units o The manner in which people divide a stream of behavior can influence perceptions in important ways o Remember more details this way  Mind perception: The process by which people attribute humanlike mental states to various animate and inanimate objects, including other people  Studies show that people who identify someone’s actions in high-level terms rather than low-level terms are more likely to attribute humanizing thoughts, feelings, intentions, consciousness and other states of mind to that actor  People do not tend to attribute mental states to inanimate objects, but the more human-like a target object is, the more likely we are to attribute to it qualities of “mind” The Silent Language of Nonverbal Behavior  Behavioral cues are also used to determine a person’s inner states  People usually try to hide their true emotions so its hard to know how another person feels  Nonverbal behavior: Behavior that reveals a person’s feelings without words – through facial expressions, body language and vocal cues  Face expresses emotions in ways that are innate and understood by people all over the world o Concept is pan-cultural  Six primary emotions that are recognizable almost everywhere: happiness, fear, sadness, anger, surprise, and disgust o Shame, embarrassment, contempt, and compassion are possible contenders for these basic emotions PSYB10 Chapter 4  Darwin believed that the ability to recognize emotion in others has survival value for all embers of a species o Identify emotions of anger  Disgust also has adaptive significance o When confronted with an offensive stimulus (foul odor, spoiled food) – they wrinkle their nose etc.  Social value of face can be seen to those who communicate online – emoticons were created  We can make quick and a often accurate judgments of others based on “thin slices” of expressive behavior  People use conversational hand gestures (goodbye, thumbs up etc.) o Men and women who have a youthful walking style – sway their hips, bend their knees, lift their feed and swing their arms are seen happier o Those who take shorter steps, drag their feet are not happier  Eye contact/gaze is another common form of nonverbal communication o People are highly attentive to eyes, often following the gaze of others o People who look us straight in the eye quickly draw and then hold our attention, increase arousal and activate key ‘social’ areas of the brain o Some cultures find eye contact to be rude and lowering your gaze is a sign of humility  Touch is another powerful nonverbal behavior o Expression of friendship, nurturance, sexual interest o Can provide us with thin slices of behavioral evidence  In different cultures, different gestures mean different things  Greetings: there are different rules in different cultures Distinguishing Truth from Deception  There are some channels of communication that deceivers/liars can control easily  The face is easy for deceivers to control, it’s the body that givesus away  People are not always accurate in judging truth and deception  Two problems with detecting lies o There is a mismatch between the behavioral cues that actually signal deceptions and those used by perceivers to detect deception  4 channels of communication: face, body, words, the voice  However words are deceiving and face can be controlled  Most liars squirm and are restless o People tend to assume that the way to spot a liar is to watch for signs of stress in his or her behavior  In interrogations however, people are obviously stressed  Also have to notice the quivering voice which can give a person away Attribution: From Elements to Dispositions  We have to identify a person’s inner dispositions before we an predict their future behavior Attribution Theories  Individuals differ in the extent to which they feel a need to explain the uncertain events of human behavior  To make sense of the social world, we try to understand the causes of other people’s behavior  We are motivated to understand others well enough to manage our social lives o We observe, analyze and explain their behavior  Attributions: explanations for people’s behaviors  Attribution theory: a group of theories that describe how people explain the causes of behavior  Two groups of people’s explanations for their behavior o Personal o Situational  Personal attribution: Attribution to internal characteristics of an actor, such as ability, personality, mood or effort  Situational attribution: Attribution to factors external to an actor, such as the task, other people, or luck  Men are more likely to look at societal explanations (situational attribution) and women look at personal attributions  We try to look at people’s perceptions of causality PSYB10 Chapter 4 Jones’s Correspondent Inference Theory  Correspondent inference theory: predicts that people try to infer from an action whether the act itself corresponds to an enduring personal characteristic of the actor  First factor is a person’s degree of choice o Behavior that is freely chosen is more informative about a person than behavior that is coerced  Second factors that leads people to make dispositional inferences is the expectedness of behavior o An action tell us more about a person when it departs from the norm than when it is typical, part of a social role, or otherwise expected under the circumstance  Third, people consider the intended effects or consequences of someone’s behavior o Acts that produce many desirable outcomes do not reveal a person’s specific motives as clearly as acts that produce only a single desirable outcome Kelley’s Covariation Theory  Covariation principle: A principle of attribution theory holding that people attribute behavior to factors that are present when a behavior occurs and absent when it does not o In order for something to be the cause of a behavior, it must be present when the behavior occurs and absent when it does not o Three kinds of Covariation information are particularly useful: consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency  Consensus information: see how different persons react to the same stimulus  Distinctiveness information: to see how the same person reacts to different stimuli  Consistency information: to see what happens to the behavior at another time when the person and the stimulus both remain the same o Is a particular behavior evident throughout many different situations  Behavior that is consistent is attributed to the stimulus when consensus and distinctiveness are also high and to the person when they are low o PAGE 112 FIGURE 4.4  Different ways in people perceive/interpret people’s actions  Two ways in which social perceivers differ  First, individuals vary in the extent to which they believe that human behaviors are caused by personal characteristics tat are fixed/malleable  Second, some individuals are more likely than others to process information in ways that are colored by self-serving motivations Attribution Biases Cognitive Heuristics  People often make attributions and other types of social judgments by using cognitive heuristics: information-processing rules of thumb that enable us to think in ways that are quick and easy but that frequently lead to error  Availability heuristic: The tendency to estimate the likelihood that an event will occur by how easily instances of it come to mind o Our estimates of likelihood are heavily influenced by events that are readily available in memory  Availability heuristic can lead us to astray in two ways 1. False – consensus effect: tendency for people to overestimate the extent to which others share their opinions, attributes, and behaviors  This bias is pervasive 2. Base-rate fallacy: The finding that people are relatively insensitive to consensus information presented in the form of numerical base rates  Availability heuristic is that social perceptions are influenced more by one vivid life story than by hard statistical facts  Why people continue to buy lottery tickets  The base-rate fallacy can lead to various misperceptions of risks  People can also be influenced by how easily it is to imagine events that did not occur  Counterfactual thinking: The tendency to imagine alternative events or outcomes that might have occurred but did not o Different types PSYB10 Chapter 4 o If we imagine a result that is better than the actual result – we’re likely to experience disappointment, regret, frustration o If we image the result to be worse than the actual result – relief and satisfaction  Psychological impact of positive and negative events depends on the way we think about “what might have been” o Usually seen in domains of education and romance  We usually have feelings of regret and “what if” thoughts after negative outcomes  Being on the verge of a better or worse outcome (jut above or below some cut-off point) will elicit these images of “what if” or “could’ve been” The Fundamental Attribution Error  People are profoundly influenced by the situational context of behavior  We are sometimes surprised to find people’s behaviors change in different situations (an angel is a party animal) o These reactions are symptomatic of an aspect of social perception o When we explain the behavior of others, we tend to overestimate the role of personal factors and overlook the impact of situations  Fundamental attribution error: The tendency to focus on the role of personal causes and underestimate the impact of situations on other people’s behavior. AKA correspondence bias o We fall into this attribution error when we are fully aware of the situation’s impact on behavior  We usually make assumptions about persons and fail to appreciate the impact of situations o We first identify the behavior and make a quick personal attribution; then we correct or adjust that inf
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