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Chapter 5

Social Psychology (Cdn Ed) Sanderson & Safdar Chapter 5

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University of Toronto St. George
Ashley Waggoner Denton

Chapter 5: Social Cognition Describe findings from research on how we think about the social world -ppl often rely on automatic thinking: a type of decision making process that occurs at an unconscious or automatic level and is entirely effortless and unintentional • Relies on heuristics: mental shortcuts that are often used to form judgments and make decisions -controlled or effortful thinking: thinking that is effortful, conscious and intentional -social cognition: how people think about the social world and in particular how ppl select, interpret, and use information to make judgments about the world How Can Shortcuts Leads to Errors in Thinking about the World? -participants in study asked to form beliefs about similarity and attraction most influenced by title of the articles • Articles w/ salient titles “opposites attract”, very influential on judgments; even though information in each research summary was the same • Showed the availability heuristic: particular type of shortcut, ease with which an idea comes to mind Intuition -intuition: a decision-making shortcut in which we rely on our instinct instead of relying on more objective information -drinking lemonade with real sugar more likely to choose the “right” apartment (less likely to rely on quick heuristics) than those who drank w/ splenda (sugar increases blood sugar, might increase energy to brain leading to more careful decision making) -changes from wrong to right more frequent in psychology midterm exams; should probably rethink relying on first instinct when you aren’t sure of answer Availability -availability heuristic: a mental shortcut in which ppl make a judgment based on how easily they can bring something to mind (e.g. believing there are more words that start w/ letter k or have k as third letter) -people are biased by information that are easy to recall, vivid, well publicized and recent Factors that lead to the use of availability heuristic: • Impact of Past Experiences: -past experiences activate particular schemas: mental structures that organize our knowledge about the world and influence how we interpret people and events -stereotypes are an example of schemas -Person Schema: belief about other people, their traits, and goals -Self Schema: our memory, inferences, and information about ourselves -Role Schema: behaviors that are expected of ppl in particular occupations or social positions (e.g. role schema for musicians is to play music) -Event Schema: refer to scripts that we have for well-known situations; also known as scripts -Content-Free Schemas: rules about processing information (e.g. if A is greater than B and B is greater than A, A is greater than C) • Role of Unconscious Priming -priming: increase accessibility to a given concept or schema due to a prior experience; can occur at unconscious or subliminal level -can influence physical behavior (e.g. Performance of motor task, seeking help in an interpersonal context) • Information Available -study asked ppl to recall either 12 examples of their own assertive behavior or 6; participants who only had to give 6 examples reported higher assertiveness than those who had to recall 12 (participants use the ease of their recall asguide to determine whether that trait describes them) Representativeness -Representativeness heuristic: tendency to perceive someone or something as belonging to a particular group on the basis of how similar this object is the a typical object in that category -e.g. with no information about the occupation of someone given, you should base your judgment (about the person’s occupation) on the % of pilots, librarians or physicians there are in society but ppl tend to base judgment on how representative the person is to the stereotype of the occupation Base-Rate Fallacy -Base-Rate Fallacy: an error in which people ignore the numerical frequency, or base rate, of an event in estimating how likely it is to occur -explains why ppl are nervous about dying in a plane but rarely concerned about dying in car accident; explains why ppl make errors when they use representative heuristic Anchoring and Adjustment -anchoring and adjustment: a mental shortcut in which ppl rely on an initial starting point in making an estimate but then fail to adequately adjust from this anchor; ppl even fail to adjust when the initial anchor is wrong -e.g. students guessing how old Gandhi was when he died; students guess an older age when given a question anchor of 140 vs. 9 -home sellers get higher prices when they provide precise number than rounded number (like 250000); when ppl are bidding on something that costs round number, they think in terms of dollars; but more precise number leads ppl think in smaller denominations (whether it’s worth to $19.90 or $19.75, etc.); final price for the object ends up closer to the initial price when precise anchor has been given Counterfactual Thinking/Simulation -Counterfactual thinking: the tendency to imagine alternate outcomes to various events -amount of delight/regret you feel depends on how easily you can imagine different outcome -e.g. silver medalists can easily imagine different and better outcome and regret actual outcome; bronze medalists happier because they almost won no medal at all -ppl who feel that they could have ”undone” negative event experience more distress -students who received 87 in psychology felt happier w grade than those who earned higher grade of 89 (narrowly missed 90) -self-esteem influence use of counter factual thinking: ppl w high self-esteem more likely to engage in counterfactual thinking in the successful outcome scenario and could suggest more alternative actions for themselves (they have their perception confirmed by good outcome and find it easy to exaggerate their perception of their own part in good outcome); ppl w low self-esteem found it easier to generate alternative actions for themselves under conditions of failures -but counterfactual thinking can be beneficial (negative aspects of counterfactual thinking was illustrated w/ association w regret): simply asking someone to imagine how a negative event could turn out differently in the future reduces negative feelings How Does Presentation Influence How We Think About the World? -contrast effect: the relative difference in intensity between two stimuli and their effect on each other • Heavy object seems lighter if you lifted an even heavier object beforehand; explains why men who just viewed females in Playboy report feeling less love and less attraction for their current partner -framing: the tendency to be influenced by the way an issue is presented • More ppl in study saw food as healthy when it was described as “95% fat free” vs “has 5% fat” • When a message’s goal is to get people to adopt new behavior that will help them to detect health problem, framing message negatively
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