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Chapter 4

Social Psychology (Cdn Ed) Sanderson & Safdar Chapter 4

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Ashley Waggoner Denton

Chapter 4: Social Perception Describe findings from research on how we see other people and interpret their behavior Social Perception: how people form impressions of and make inference about other people How Do We Think About Why Other People Do What They Do? Four major theories that describe how we think about why people engage in particular types of behavior Heider’s Theory of Naïve Psychology -Heider: father of attribution theory -said that people practice Naïve Psychology (form of untrained psychology as ppl use cause and effect analyses to understand their world and other ppl’s behavior) as they use causal theories to understand other ppl’s behavior; these theories have similar structure to scientific theories so everyone is a naïve scientist -this idea is based on three principles: 1) people have the need to explain the cause of other ppl’s behavior in order to understand their motivation 2)people are motivated to try to figure out why a person acted in a given way so that they can predict how the person will act in the future 3) when people make causal attributions, they make a distinction bw internal and external causes -external attributions: see the behavior as caused by something external to the person performing the behavior (related to something about the situation) -internal attributions: see the person’s behavior as caused by personal factors (specific to the person, like traits, ability, effort, personality); dispositional attribution Jones and Davis’s Theory of Correspondent Inference -Correspondent Inference Theory: the theory that ppl infer whether a person’s behavior is caused by the person’s internal disposition by looking at various factors related to the person’s actions • E.g. Study participants who saw job interview applicant acting in a predictable way: describing his extroversion when he was interviewing for a job on submarine was reluctant to make the rating of the applicant’s degree of extroversion (b/c they attributed the person’s behavior to the situation); participants were willing to make dispositional attribution when people behaved in an unexpected way: extrovert wanting the astronaut job; rated introvert as especially introverted when he wanted the job on the submarine -this theory looks at three factors that influence the extent to which you attribute behavior to the person rather than the situation: 1. Does the person have choice to engage in the action? 2. Is the behavior expected based on the social role or circumstance? 3. What are the intended effects or consequences of the person’s behavior? -we are best able to make a dispositional attribution, and see ppl’s behavior as caused by their traits, when the behavior is freely chosen, not a function of situation expectations, and has clear non-common effects Kelley’s Covariation Theory -Covariation Theory: the theory that ppl determine the causes of a person’s behavior by focusing on the factors that are present when a behavior occurs and absent when it doesn’t occur, w/ specific attention on the role of consensus, distinctiveness and consistency(about person’s behavior) *Ask: so the diff b/w correspondent inference and covariation theory is that the former looks like the situation more, whereas the covariation theory just looks at the person’s patterns of behavior (we have to know the person more?); and these two theories describe how ppl determine cause, and the first theory just says that ppl make causes? 1. Consensus: the first component, refers to whether other people generally agree or disagree with a given person; if many ppl agree with person or behave similarly, more likely to make situational attribution 2. Distinctiveness: refers to whether the person generally reacts in a similar way across different situations; whether it’s unusual; if low distinctiveness, then we can make dispositional attribution 3. Consistency of behavior: if behavior is highly consistent over time and across situations, likely to make dispositional attribution; if it is unusual, then situational -if consensus and distinctiveness is low, and consistency of attitude or behavior high  make internal/dispositional attribution -if consensus, distinctiveness, consistency all high  situational attribution (**why high consistency?) -when person’s attitude or behavior is low inconsistency, unable to make any attributions whether dispositional or situational Weiner’s Attribution Theory -Weinder developed framework for attribution based on achievement -theory says people attribute their achievements (successes/failures) in terms of three dimensions 1. Locus: whether the location of the cause is internal or external to the person 2. Stability: whether the cause stays the same or can change 3. Controllability: whether the person can control the cause -theory says that people often tend to attribute their own successes to internal factors (like skills) and others successes to external factors (like luck) -people attribute their own failure to external factors (task difficulty) and others failure to internal factors (ability) Causes of Achievement Internal External Controllability Stable Unstable Stable Unstable Uncontrollable Ability Mood Task Difficulty Luck Controllable Typical Effort Immediate Effort Teacher Bias Unusual Help from Others Intergroup Attribution -attributions can also be made on an intergroup basis, when individuals make attributions for their behavior based on their membership in a group and attributions about others behavior based on the others being members of a different group) -Intergroup Membership: making attributions about one’s own behavior and others’ behavior based on group membership -Ethnocentrism: one characteristic of intergroup attribution; refers to attributing desirable characteristics to one’s own group while attributing undesirable characteristics to members of outgroups Research Focus on Gender: Gender Differences in Attribution -research found that observers tend to attribute men’s successes to ability and women’s successes to effort -this pattern reverses for failure: observers see men’s poor performance as caused by bad luck or low effort; women’s poor performance as caused by lack of ability -male students attributed their own success to ability more often than female students did; women used effot to explain success more often than men -reflect tendency for women to believe that they have to put in more effort to succeed and tendency for men to be confident in their abilities What Types of Errors Do We Make in Thinking About Other People? Fundamental Attribution Error -Fundamental Attribution Error/Correspondence Bias: the tendency for ppl to overestimate the role of personal causes and underestimate the role of situational causes in explaining behavior (common in Western cultures) -experimenters asked students to read essays that either supported or opposed Fidel Castro, told they were written by students who were given a choice or had no choice; more participants in both conditions said that the writers were expressing true opinions (even when told the write had no choice about topic) -we make this error bc we believe that when ppl behavior is caused by the situation, they will give clues that reflect this external pressure (assume that debate will be weak if they were forced to write about something); also believe that engaging in behavior that is in line w/ attitudes is easier; likely to attribute strong performance to person’s true attitude Health Connections: Role of Attributions in Prejudice against Obesity --obese are rated as less likeable, fewer dating partners, less likely to get married, get lower grades, complete fewer years of education, earnless money, etc. -those obese made less money, less likely to be married, completed fewer years of education -obesity is seen as something within a person’s control ; seen as slow, lazy, lacking in willpower but personality characteristics of obsess and non obsess are similar, research shows Actor Observer Effect -Actor Observer Effect: the tendency to see other ppls behavior as caused by dispositional factors, but see our own behavior as caused by our situation *isn’t this the same as fundamental attribution error? But is it different in that this is now focused on us? Business Connections: Why Disserving Attributions Can Be A Good Idea -in business context, making disserving attributions (making internal attributions for bad events) can sometimes be a good approach -companies that gave internal attributions for negative events reported greater increases in stock prices than those that gave external attributions; bc people expect organizations to be in control of their outcomes, making external attributions for failure can lead to even worse expectations • Access to Internal Thoughts and Feelings -one explanation for why actor-observer effect occurs: ppl can only see other ppls behavior as they don’t have access to others internal thoughts and feelings but when we consider our own behavior, we have access to our internal thoughts -we’re less likely to make actor-observer error with our close friends than with strangers (have greater access to our friends’ internal thoughts and feelings) • Desire to Maintain a Positive Self-Image -explains why women explain the success of attractive women as due to more luck and less to ability when compared to how they explain success of less attractive women -belief in a just world: t
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