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Ch 7 Summary

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Western University
Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

Social Thinking and Social Influence  Social cognition- how people think about people, as well as themselves Forming Impressions of Others  Person perception is the process of forming impressions of others  In forming impressions of others, people rely on five key sources of observational information: o Appearance  Multiracial individuals are remembered less well than those whose race is the same as (ingroup) or distinctly different from (outgroup) that of the perceivers o Verbal behaviour o Actions  In impression formation, actions speak louder than words o Nonverbal messages  These nonverbal cues provide information about people’s emotional states and dispositions o Situations  One bad piece of information can outweigh or undo a collection of positive characteristics  A single bad deed can eliminate a good reputation, but one good deed cannot redeem an otherwise bad standing in the eyes of others  In the realm of perception, bad impressions tend to be stronger than good ones  Snap judgements about others are those made quickly and based on only a few bits of information and preconceived notions  Often, interactions with others are so fleeting or inconsequential that it makes little difference that such judgements are imprecise  In forming impressions of those who can affect their welfare and happiness, people make systematic judgements rather than snap decisions  Why the person behaves in a certain way- this deeper level of understanding is vital if one is to make accurate predictions about the person’s future behaviour  Attributions are inferences that people draw about the causes of their own behaviour, others’ behaviour, and events  When people ascribe the causes of someone’s behaviour to personal dispositions, traits, abilities, or feelings, they are making internal attributions.  When they impute the causes of their behaviour to situational demands and environmental constraints, they are making external attributions  Experiment: Even when the information was attributed to situational sources, the women’s expressions were more likely to be characterized as being due to their personalities  It seems that people are most likely to make attributions: o When others behave in unexpected or negative ways o When events are personally relevant o When they are suspicious about another person’s motives  Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek information that supports one’s beliefs while not pursuing disconfirming information  It occurs in casual social interactions as well as in job interviews and in courtrooms, where the interviewer or attorney make ask leading questions  When it comes to forming first impressions of others, the principle is not so much that “Seeing is believing” but rather that “believing is seeing”  Some people’s personalities may predispose them to focus on facts that fit their theories instead of weighing all of the available information more critically  Experiment: people were more likely to recall information that “confirmed” the double standard (pro-male, anti-female) than contradicted it. In other words, “boys will be boys” and they can get away with promiscuity, but women cannot without sullying their reputations  A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when expectations about a person cause him or her to behave in ways that confirm the expectations  Three steps in the self-fulfilling prophecy: o The perceiver has an initial impression of someone o Then the perceiver behaves toward the target person in line with his or her expectations o The target person adjusts his or her behaviour to the perceiver’s actions, which confirms the perceiver’s hypothesis about the target person  When both teens and parents anticipate tension and alienation, for example, they may look for, instigate, or see other behaviours as fitting their respective perceptions  Another source of error in person perception comes from distortions in the minds of perceivers (Cognitive Distortions)  These errors in judgement are most likely to occur when a perceiver is in a hurry, is distracted, or is not motivated to pay careful attention to another person Social Categorization  People frequently take the easy path of categorizing others to avoid expending the cognitive effort that would be necessary for a more accurate impression  People categorize those who are similar to them as members of their ingroup (“us”) and those who are dissimilar to them as in the outgroup (“them”)  People usually have less favorable attitudes toward outgroup members than ingroup members  Individuals usually see outgroup members as being much more alike than they really are, whereas they see members of their ingroup as unique individuals o Known as the outgroup homogeneity effect  Categorizing heightens the visibility of outgroup members when there are only a few of them within a larger group  People are even likely to see outgroup members as looking more like eachother then they actually do o The exception ot this rule is when outgroup members are angry o Angry outgroup members are much easier to identify than angry ingroup members, a result suggesting that the human mind carefully tracks strangers who may pose a threat  Stereotypes are widely held beliefs that people have certain characteristics because of their membership in a particular group  Instead of adjusting or broadening our stereotype, we are likely to categorize exceptions as a misfit or subtype o Subtypes are categories people rely on for understanding people who do not fit their general stereotypes  The most prevalent stereotypes in America are those based on gender, age, and ethnicity o Gender stereotypes, although in transition, remain pervasive  Physically attractive people are believed to have desirable personality traits o This widespread stereotype is termed the “what-is-beautiful-is-good” stereotype o Attractive people do have an advantage in the social arena o They are not any different from others in intelligence, happiness, mental health, or self-esteem  Highly attractive people end up with one another o We are likely to date those who match our own level of attractiveness o Close to the same level of association in rated appearance is also found between male friends  Stereotypes can exist outside a person’s awareness  If people put forth effort to respond in a friendly and open manner to individuals who are different from them on some important dimension (race, sexual orientation), perhaps the positive behaviours will lead to a reduction in automatic biases when reacting to others  Experiment: those who consumed sugar used fewer stereotypes when writing an essay about a gay man than those in the control (no-sugar) condition did o It is possible that sugar replenishes energy and promotes more self-control  Why do stereotypes persist? Because people are deluged with much more information than they can process, the tendency is to reduce complexity to simplicity o Stereotypes also endure because of confirmation bias o People are likely to see what they expect to see o The self-fulfilling prophecy is a third reason stereotypes persist: beliefs about another person may actually elicit anticipated behaviour and thus confirm biased expectations  The fundamental attribution error refers to the tendency to explain other people’s behaviour as the result of personal, rather than situational, factors  Differs from stereotyping in that inferences are based on actual behaviour  Making attributions is a two-step process: o The first step, which occurs automatically, observers make an internal attribution because they are focusing on the person rather than the situation o In the second step, observers weigh the impact of the situation on the target person’s behaviour and adjust their inferences o The first step occurs spontaneously, but the second step requires cognitive effort o Thus, it is easy to stop after step one- especially if one is in a hurry or distracted o Failure to take the effortful second step can result in the fundamental attribution error  In individualistic cultures, where independence is valued, it is assumed that individuals are responsible for their actions  In collectivist societies, conformity and obedience to group norms are valued, so it is assumed that an individual’s behaviour reflects adherence to group expectations  Some experts speculate that different styles of thinking underlie cultural differences in attributional styles o Western mentality is analytical, East Asian mentality is holistic  Defensive attribution is a tendency to blame victims for their misfortune, so that one feels less likely to be victimized in a similar way  Also helps people maintain their belief that they live in a “just world” where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get  When victims are blamed for their setbacks, people unfairly attribute undesirable traits to them, such as incompetence, foolishness, and laziness  Efficiency has two important advantages: people can make judgements quickly, and it keeps things simple  The big disadvantage is that snap judgements are error-prone  Selectivity- the saying that “people see what they expect to see” has been confirmed repeatedly by social scientists  A primacy effect occurs when initial information carriers more weight than subsequent information  Initial negative impressions may be especially hard to change  Why are primacy effects so potent? Because people find comfort in cognitive consistency; cognitions that contradict each other tend to create tension and discomfort  Although the process of person perception is highly subjective, people are relatively accurate perceivers of others The Problem of Prejudice  Prejudice is a negative attitude towards members of a group  Discrimination involves behaving differently, usually unfairly, toward the members of a group  Attitudes don’t always predict behaviour  Prejudice can occur without discrimination  Less common, discrimination without prejudice may occur  Prejudices and stereotypes can be triggered without conscious awareness  “Old-fashioned” discrimination against minority groups has declined  Modern discrimination has become a new phenomenon  While modern racists do not wish to return to the days of segregation, they also feel that minority groups should not push too fast for advancement or receive special treatment by the government  Well-intentioned whites can engage in aversive racism, an indirect, subtle, ambiguous form of racism that occurs when their conscious endorsement of egalitarian ideals is in conflict with unconscious, negative reactions to minority group members  Authoritarian personality, a personality type characterized by prejudice toward any group perceived to be different from oneself- now termed right-wing authoritarianism (RWA)  RWA is more commonly found among political conservatives than among political liberals  Authoritarian individuals tend to score low on openness to experience and conscientiousness  Two key factors that cause RWAs to be prejudiced: o They organize their social world into ingroups and outgroups, and they view outgroups as threatening their cherished traditional values o They tend to be more self-righteous: they believe that they are ore moral than others, and they feel justified in derogating groups that authority figures define as immoral  Exposure to diverse kinds of people and perspectives can reduce RWA  People high in social dominance orientation (SDO) prefer inequality among social groups, believing in a hierarchy where some are destined to dominate others, such as men over women, majorities over minorities, or heterosexuals over homosexuals  Some evidence that exposing those who believe in equality between groups to morally worthy behaviour can make them more open-minded, if only for a short time  Much of prejudice is rooted in automatic cognitive processes that operate without conscious intent  Social categorization pre-disposes people to divide the social world into ingroups and outgroups o This distinction can trigger negativity toward outgroup members  Perhaps no factor plays a larger role in prejudice than stereotyping  Racial profiling, in which law enforcement officers stop motorists, pedestrians, or airline passengers solely on the basis of skin color, is a case in point  People are more likely to make the fundamental attribution error
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