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Chapter 3

Psychology 2070A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Autobiographical Memory, Eyewitness Identification, Walter Gretzky


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYCH 2070A/B
Professor
o
Chapter
3

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Chapter 3: Social Cognition- Thinking about People
- Sometimes a matter of life and death to identify what is happening quickly and correctly
to you or someone with you e.g. Walter Gretzky
- Categorization: the process of recognizing and identifying something; most basic process
we use to understand and structure our world
oThe basic function of schemas is to categorize objects in ways that impose meaning
and predictability- automatic with the vast majority of things we encounter daily
oWe go beyond the information given; we categorize something, and assume some
characteristics even if we can’t perceive them directly. E.g. you know a fire will be
hot before you touch it
- Social cognition: the study of how information about people is processed and stored
How Does the Mind Work?
- Schemas: mental representations of objects or categories, which contain the central
features of the object as well as assumptions about how the object/category works
- Relational Schemas: for specific interpersonal interactions such as how a doctor and
patient are suppose to interact
- Much of a child’s early learning involves the formation of schemas
- Selective information processing
oResearchers have shown that the schema used to categorize an object can
influence what is noticed about the object
oStudy: take shown of woman having dinner with her husband. ½ participants were
told she was a librarian, and the other ½ that she was a server. After the video
participants were asked questions, and it was shown that they were more accurate
in their answers about things that fit their occupation label then those that didn’t;
people that believed she was a librarian recalled that she wore glasses vs. People
who thought she was a server recalled that she was drinking beer
oSchemas lead us to assume that the object possesses particular characteristics, and
anything that vaguely implies them may be taken as evidence to support our
assumption e.g. man at night walking can be labelled a “mugger” and any
ambiguous actions by him will be interpreted as threatening
Accessibility: What’s on your mind?
- Accessibility: a less obvious factor that influences whether a schema is used; the ease with
which a schema comes to awareness. People are more likely to use “what’s on their mind”
- Priming: the process by which activation of a schema increases the likelihood that the
schema will be activated again in the future. E.g. if you head about a car accident, you’ll
find yourself driving really carefully for the rest of the day because it’s on your mind. E.g.
showing a video where people act hostile, and then asking them to read an unrelated

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article and describe the person; more likely to describe them as hostile. Also, when you/r
partner becomes pregnant, there seems to be pregnant women and small babies
everywhere
- Chronic accessibility: the degree to which schemas are easily activated for an individual
across time and situations; differs for people.
oStudy: students were asked to describe themselves and 3 friends using a max of 10
traits- ones that were common among them were their chronically accessible to that
participant. Later, they were brought back and asked to read an essay and describe
the person in it. It was found that they were more likely to remember actions that
exhibited their own chronically accessible traits, and it influenced how they
described they student
Cultural Differences in Accessible Schemas
- Western cultures focus on socialization, individuality, freedom, and independence
- Eastern cultures focus on socialization, harmony, obedience, and interdependence
- E.g. Canadians are more likely to categorize someone in terms of personal achievement,
whereas the Chinese categorize people in terms of group memberships (i.e. that family is
religious)
- These differences imply that people from different cultures may perceive the same
event/person differently
- Study: Australian students grouped the 27 events based on competitiveness
(individualism), and Hong Kong students did it based on the number of people
(collectivism)
Stereotypes: Schemas in the Social Domain
- Stereotype: a set of characteristics that a perceiver associated with members of a group-
belief that members of a group share the same particular attributes
- They are schemas that represent human groups
- Guide our perceptions and impressions of almost everyone we meet
- Can be positive (doctors, firefighters), or negative (drug addicts, telemarketers)
- Going beyond the given information; when we learn that a woman is a lawyer we assume
she’s smart and rich, so it guides us as to how to behave around her
- Ingroup: a group that a perceiver belongs to (university students, people in your age
group); favourable
- Outgroup: group to which the perceiver does not belong to (profs, elderly people, opposite
sex)
- Outgroup homogeneity effect: general tendency of people to overestimate the similarity
within groups to which they don’t belong
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Automatic vs. Controlled Processes
- People do not have full control over all of their mental processes; many thoughts and
judgements occur whether we want them to or not, and we are not aware of some of our
cognitive processes
- Automatic process: a judgment or though that we cannot control, which occurs without
intention, effectively, and often beneath our awareness- categorization
- Controlled process: judgement of thought that we command, which is intentional and
requires cognitive resources, and happens within our awareness. May not occur if we are
engaged in other processes- thinking carefully why someone behaved in a certain fashion,
and correcting errors made by automatic processes
Reconstructive Memory
- Social cognition theorists assume that retrieval occurs by using schemas to search
memory
- Reconstructive memory: the process of trying to rebuild the past based on cues and
estimates to answer questions that cannot be answered solely by direct access to
objective, concrete memories
oHow much pop did you drink last month?
oHow good were your study habits in high school?
- Thus, the schemas, goals, and expectations that are active while you try to retrieve the
information and estimate the answer can influence the outcome
Autobiographical Memory
- Autobiographical Memory: stored information about the self, such as goals, personality
traits, past experiences, and other qualities
- Michael Ross demonstrated that autobiographical memory involves estimating what we
were like in the past, because we may not be able to retrieve actual, concrete information-
can be influenced by our motives and beliefs
- Study: rate yourself now vs. When you were 16
oParticipants rated the current self more positively than the past self
oAssumption: they did not have concrete memories of themselves in the past, but
estimated based on a desire to see the current self positively, and that we are
steadily improving
oAssumption: ratings were guided by their beliefs about the effects of time- they
assumed that they improved over time
The Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
- In many cases the eyewitness is the victim of the crime, or must identify the accused.
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